Monday, June 20, 2011

Who put a spider in my salad??

I was just washing some veggies from my CSA, (fyi: the longer you wait to wash produce, the longer it lasts!) and I found a new little 'friend.' By friend, I mean a spider that made me jump out of my skin. I can usually handle spiders (and rodents or bugs - except cockroaches) with grace, but this was a bit ridiculous. There's something about black/yellow insects/snakes that rubs me the wrong way.. It's probably the result of all of those years of human evolution and watching others get killed by black and yellow things. Anyway, after it was secured in a fancy homemade, secure trap (read: large, flat fridge magnet under a heavy glass cup), it took me a long time to figure out whether it was poisonous or not (ie, do I kill it or take it outside.) Here's what I found online about my little friend:

Cobweb Spider - Theridion sp.

Rest assured it is not poisonous, the cat enjoyed cackling at it through tupperware, and it is now outside on a bush. If I die within the next 48 hours, then it was poisonous, and I cannot be trusted to identify spiders...

Moral of the story, don't eat your vegetables....

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Last minute sides

I ran out of fresh veggies, and I have no time to go to the store to get some freshens... (read: I'm too lazy to walk to the store, and I don't want to drive because then I'll have to get gas, which I hate more than anything.) What to do, what to do...

More importantly (since I'm the center of the universe on my blog) what did I do? I used stuff that I forgot about.... I mean.... I used food that I bought for this specific purpose that's sitting in the back of my pantry/freezer. I figure this happens to people that aren't just too lazy to go to the store, so I thought I'd share my strategy on the off chance that you find this helpful.

In my freezer I found some frozen artichoke hearts that were on sale at Whole Paycheck a bit ago and some frozen green peas. Feel free to use canned (in water!!) artichoke hearts and possibly? canned peas (I've never eaten them, so I can't vouch for their awesomeness.) In reference to these particular recipes, I also keep capers in a jar and frozen pearl onions (actually those are leftover from my beef bourguignon - actually pronounced boouuuuffff buoulll-ging-yohhhhnnnn by the French. Whoever rendered it into English is a flaming re-tard.) Anyway, onto the recipes!

Le Lemon (fake) Butter Artichoke Hearts with a "Mountain" of La Capers
1 frozen package (or can-drained) of artichoke hearts (not packed in oil! which is gross unless you're making a salad or if you want high cholesterol)
2 T of lemon juice (I also keep this in my fridge)
1/4 cup capers (kept in a jar in the fridge)
<1 tsp of fake butter (or real butter if you prefer)
salt and pepper to taste
*Note* Use a small pan or there won't be enough liquid

If the artichokes are frozen, thaw them in a pan on the stove (add a small amount of water with the frozen artichokes.. boil the water and stir the artichokes (use a wooden spoon if you have it - it's more tender on the 'chokes) until the water is almost gone.
If you have canned artichoke hearts, drain the water and add them to a pan. Get them going on medium heat, add in the lemon juice. Once it starts to simmer add in the fake butter, capers and the salt and pepper to taste. Let this cook until about a minute or two after the fake butter melts away. Make sure all of the ingredients are combined well and turn off the heat (remove from the stove if you have an electric stove.)

Also to go with my leftover beef thing (I'll share that recipe once I alter it to have less meat and more veggies.. let's say it's in the testing stage) I'm making some peas.

Le Frozen Peas a-la-Awesome*
2-3 cups of frozen peas
1 tsp fake le butter (or real le butter)
a few frozen pearl onions (awesome but optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Add peas to a pan with enough water to cover them; bring them to a boil. Once they've boiled for a few minutes (5ish) drain them. Re add the peas to the pan and add in the fake butter, frozen pearl onions and the salt and pepper. Turn the heat on medium and stir it around with a wooden spoon until the butter melts. Once the fake butter covers the peas, turn it off and remove it from heat.
 *Peas aren't really "awesome," per se but they're pretty ok I guess...

Hopefully this helps... If not, you just wasted a lot of time reading about something you'll never eat. 

The annoying people that sit next to me

"This neighborhood has really lost its character," said B, to which I replied "yeah, it is a shame;" While I'm thinking that I actually moved to this neighborhood to be surrounded by snobby foodies that love Whole Foods, farmers markets, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, Lululemon, and Barnes and Noble. Did I mention Williams Sonoma? Ahhh I love my neighborhood... Being surrounded by these people, like myself, is usually ok when I have my headphones on or when I'm running past them in groups walking four wide (how rude is that? unless I'm doing it.)

Unfortunately this time I was at the pool trying to read, when a tall white dude and a short white chick sat next to me. When they began applying their sunscreen to their uber pale bodies, the dude commented on how he received this email about how an ingredient in sunscreen is actually worse for your skin than not wearing sunscreen. (I wonder if that Nigerian prince will ever get back to him...) My super health instinct kicks in, and I grab my sunscreen only to see that Banana Boat is actually trying to poison me, which I don't entirely mind because it was on sale. Anyway, the ingredient on trial is Retinyl Palmitate, which is also an ingredient in anti-aging and anti-acne creams. Since I put this on my skin anyway, I figured that some rat slathered in the cream (at what percentage and over how long??) having a statistically significant raise in tumor growth wasn't scary enough for me to pay $20 for sunscreen. These two (who I assume are together despite the vast difference in dating class) berate their friends for using bad ingredients on their skin... I wanted to put my zinc oxide based sunscreen in his (and her) eyes.

I quickly got over this conversation until they continued talking (loudly for sitting one foot away from one another.) The conversation moved onto omega fatty acids and how the uber white girl cooks artichokes and then drinks the water the artichokes were cooked in.. obviously, she says.. I assume she also eats the artichokes?? But then again, who knows. It's times like this where I wish I was more confrontational (stop laughing!) The girl obviously never works out (ditto for the dude), so I can only assume that the warnings for heart disease didn't have the same effect as lab rats covered in toxic tumor cream. I think if someone wrote a study saying that eating whale fat decreases our risk of cancer, this chick/dude would drop their angst over the cruelty and extinction risks that accompany Japanese (and Icelandic?) whaling.

Anyway, moral of the story, the earphones are staying in at the pool from now on.....

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Favorite Things - Yoga

So I'm relatively new to yoga.. but so far I love it! During midterms this semester I was stressed to the core. I started looking into meditation, and I decided to try yoga (again.)

I first tried yoga a few years ago. I'm not gonna lie... I wasn't a huge fan. And to think someone wanted me to pay for this torture? No... no.. thank you.

I'm not a flexible person to begin with (think lead pipes rather than rubber bands), and running just exacerbated the problem. This made yoga quite uncomfortable, especially while holding these already challenging poses aka death holds. I was also obsessed with weight training and cardio. Not in a Jersey Shore meat head way.. but in an "I can't eat a 16 oz steak for dinner if I don't run a few miles first" way. I just didn't feel like I was getting a great workout with yoga. Now that I'm incorporating yoga as part of my workout routine, rather than it being my workout routine, I'm loving it. I definitely wasn't stretching myself out enough post running/cycling. Yoga made me realize how ineffective my stretching routine was, which really could have caused an injury.

I'm definitely just a beginner (I have no balance!) but it's still fun and very relaxing. I hope that my frequent falling entertains my yoga class as much as it entertained my step aerobics class in college. (Hey, steps are hard!) There's a yava yoga class in my apartment building every Saturday, which is a nice way to start the weekend.

Yoga forces me to take myself out of my life and thoughts for an hour. Running is traditionally where I come up with ideas and think through things. While this is very beneficial, yoga has allowed me to relax. Much needed, especially with final papers due in the next few weeks. Speaking of papers.. I should stop writing blogs..

Namaste, fools! Go enjoy your weekend!

First Recipe: Pasta Bake

Who doesn't love a good pasta bake? It's like a casserole that doesn't suck. I generally dislike casseroles since I can't eat them, but I've altered this one to my anti-cow diet. By anti-cow I mean no cow dairy, which means no cow cheese, milk, sour cream, milk protein, ice cream, cream, etc. I can, however, have sheep and goat cheese! For tonight's dinner, I used pecorino romano  (hard sheep cheese, grated) and daiya vegan shredded mozzarella cheese (unlike other "fake" cheese, it melts well)!

To clarify, I'm allergic to milk, not lactose intolerant (even though my friends like to call me "lactarded"--I love you all, just some more than others :)). For those of you that can take a pill to eat cow dairy, or if you naturally excel at lactase production, you can alter this recipe to your own cow favorites (parmesan and light mozzarella, although I recommend at least trying the pecorino.)

Almost everything in this recipe has a natural substitution. The only exceptions are probably the spices. If you want to use fresh spices, the simmering time for the sauce is lessened.)

It's so weird writing down what I do in the kitchen; it's quite the structured experience. Normally if you ask me how much oregano I put in this dish, I just say something like "until it covers half of the top of the sauce," as if that makes any sense...
Anyway... here's my first recipe:

Pasta Bake
1 lb of ground beef (can substitute -- in order of my own preference -- ground buffalo, ground veal, ground pork, ground turkey, soy meat or tofu... maybe even more mushrooms if you dislike meat taste...)
1/2 chopped onion (preferably sweet/yellow onion, but white works too - chew gum while you cut it to avoid mascara runs)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 - 28oz and 1-14 oz tomato sauce/crushed tomatoes (if you like your sauce thicker, add a tomato paste can to this recipe)
6 oz of chopped portobello mushroom caps
1/2 T of salt (less if you want less salt or more cheese, pecorino romano is very salty)
1/2 T of pepper
1 T of oregano
1 T of sweet basil (can use regular basil)
1 dash of red pepper flake (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup of wine (or more if the sauce is too thick)
1 t of sweet agave syrup (or splenda, sugar, etc)
1 lb of whole wheat pasta (or white, brown rice, other pasta type) I used fusilli but use whatever.
1-2 T of pecorino romano cheese (shredded/grated, doesn't really matter how finely it's grated since it will melt)

Start boiling the water for the pasta and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Saute the beef until it is half browned, then add in the onions and the garlic. Once the meat is browned, drain most of the fat off. If you have >90/10 beef, you can skip this step. Don't push on the meat to get more fat off, because you might end up taking out some of the moisture and make the meat too dry. Add in the chopped mushrooms. After a few minutes, less than 10, you'll notice that the pan will get too dry, which is when you should add in the tomato sauce. Once it is all incorporated, add in the spices (oregano, sweet basil, salt, pepper, red pepper flake) and the agave syrup. Don't forget to cook the pasta when the water starts boiling!

After about 20 minutes of simmering (post addition of spices), stir in the pecorino romano. The pasta should be "done" after 5 minutes, rinse, and drain. Because the pasta will be baking with a slightly watery sauce, it should be less done than al dente (whatever that means.) Basically it should be chewy.

After about 10 more minutes of simmering, turn off the heat to the sauce.

In a big casserole dish (lined with aluminum foil or sprayed w/olive oil or PAM), add the pasta, then pour the sauce over the top and mix well.

Bake uncovered @ 400 degrees for 20 minutes (pull out of the oven and stir every 10 minutes or so)
Drop the temp to 350 degrees for 10 minutes (stir again)
Continue cooking at 350 until the pasta mixture is no longer "watery." A little bit of water is ok, but not more than a few little puddles here and there under the noodle mixture.

Add about 2 cups of daiya mozzarella cheese spread evenly over the top (don't mix! or mix... whatever you want.)

Continue baking at 350, checking on the meal every 5 minutes until your desired melt/browning is achieved. For example, mine was ready after 12 minutes (post adding cheese). I like to add in some fresh parsley for a topping since I had it around.

The cooking time will vary depending on the ingredients you choose (especially depending on the cheese topping). This is a very flexible dish, so use what you have around the kitchen to make it 'yours.'


<Beef + onions + garlic, browning

<Tomato sauce from the farmers market, probably about 28+14 oz

<Casserole dish this big.. I have no idea what the dimensions are.

Done and Done!

Friday, April 8, 2011

My First Blog

Couldn't find anything better to do than read my blog? Seriously? I assume that since you're here, you've already googled everyone you know (including your exes and yourself), read everything on your friends facebook walls, read all of the comedic-value internet sites, distracted as many people that you could interact with without actually interacting with them (texting, emailing, chatting, sending someecards), etc. Hopefully this helps kill some time in your day and isn't utterly painful to read. 

I've had this blog for a while, but I was busy with life, love, and work at the time. I didn't even have time to name it. Now that I'm in grad school I have plenty of time to blog (read: procrastinate)! I also have time to assemble furniture, try new recipes, watch instant movies/documentaries on netflix, learn yoga, try new classes at the gym, run, bike, etc. I guess school work fits in there somewhere. I'm not a procrastinator by nature, but grad school brought it out of me. What I learn from my efforts to put off as much as possible I will share with you here. Aren't you excited? I certainly am. This provides me with just one more thing I can do instead of write papers and watch paint dry. Amazingly enough, I also had time to scan in this lovely flow chart from Real Simple magazine that might as well be documenting my days...

I don't even know if you can read that, but it helped me kill another 20 minutes! Exciting.

For those of you that don't talk to me very often, I'll introduce you to a few people that will show up in my blog in the future. Brian - the boyfriend, and Snowflake - the black cat that is being trained to act like a dog. His aversion to getting wet helps with the training as does my trusty water gun.

I'll cut this off now to avoid a really long first blog post. 
Done and done! Everyone have an excellent weekend!