Quick-And-Easy, Even If Not Truly Healthy

In my family, we have a traditional dinner, which is polish sausage, cottage cheese, sliced onions, and roasted/fried potatoes. I’m not sure we all agree on what it’s called, but despite the differences in nomenclature, we are all well aware of what it is and how to make it. Fortunately for me, it takes about ten minutes, and fills me up for the rest of the afternoon, while also filling the little hole in my heart that comes from being so far away from home all the time.

First, I split in half and, in a non-stick pan, heat up a two ounce portion of polish sausage (one serving–and much less that you’d eat of it around the table with everyone there!). Then, adding no more than a tablespoon of butter, I fry some diced potatoes (Sliced is traditional, but I’ve yet to successfully make sliced fried potatoes edible) in the grease that came off the sausage. While that’s going, I slice up half a small onion, drizzle with oil and vinegar, and pepper, and portion out a 1/2 c. serving of small-curd cottage cheese (No low-fat gunk for me, thanks. 4% milkfat minimum!).

Pile everything on the plate, and enjoy! (I’ll add a picture as soon as I have it again, which given how hungry this thought has made me, might be as soon as tonight!)

Tea time!

Tea. The magical beverage of wonder–You have it hot, or iced, or sweet, or bitter, with or without milk, with tapioca bubbles, over rice, mixed with alcohol, mixed with lemonade…! Tea is honestly my best friend, and with all the studies relating green tea to weight loss, there’s little reason not to drink tea.

I will admit, green tea is my favorite. It is the one with the most known health benefits, and there are so many varieties, it’s easy to find a kind you like. I have two green teas in my ‘Tea Shelf’ at the moment–one is Lipton’s Orange, Passion Fruit and Jasmine Green Tea, and the other is Bigelow’s Green Constant Comment. I love them both. Constant Comment comes in two varieties, green and black, and both are lovely for a morning tea in the fall and winter, where the warm, spicy tea works best to wake you up and get you ready for the day. The Lipton variety I have is a perfect afternoon cuppa, and it’s delicious iced with a little bit of agave nectar for extra sweetness.

My eighth birthday was a tea party. I invited the girls to get all dressed up, and we decorated lavender sachets, drank tea from my mom’s gorgeous teacup collection, and played board games in our delicate lace gloves. It was loads of fun. Additionally, in the five or six years when my best friends came over every Wednesday after school, my mom would always let us drink tea from the nice teacups before we did our homework.

In all that time, I’ve sort of ‘acquired’ some tea tips:

  • Black, mint, and herb teas are better sweetened with sugar, fruit teas are better sweetened with honey or agave. My favorite tea is Bigelow’s Plantation Mint, which is spearmint and black tea, and I’ve discovered that it just tastes better with real sugar. It brings out the mint better than honey does. Green teas, on the other hand, plus my Chamomile tea, are lovely with honey, which has a softer sweetness to it.
  • When heating water for tea, don’t use a whistling kettle. It completely boils the water before it whistles, and boiling water makes tea taste sort of dull. Maybe it cooks the tea before it steeps it or something, but it’s just not as flavorful. I use an old kettle that I remember using as a kid for years. When wisps of steam start to make their way up the spout, it’s ready. The water is steaming, it’s heated enough. You get–shock!–a steaming cup of tea, without it being boiling hot. How novel.
  • Steep your tea in a teapot, even if you only plan on drinking one cup. The stacking single-serve teapot/cup sets are lovely for this. It makes it easier to get another cup if you decide you want one (and I always want another, even if I don’t want to want another), instead of pouring more hot water in a mug with a mostly spent tea bag.

I could prattle on about tea for ages. I’ve got seven boxes of tea in my room at the moment, about evenly distributed across the spectrum of tea varieties. I might have to list and ‘review’ them one day soon. Fall is coming–it’s almost Tea Season!

Excuse Me, My Nerd Is Showing.

I got involved in a discussion recently regarding the frequent comparisons between Harry Potter-style Potions, and either Chemistry or Cooking. I’m of the opinion that it is more akin to Chemistry–where something small could make things go horribly wrong, but my debate partner maintained that it was more like cooking–an art–that could come out good or bad, with degrees in between.

Well, we see enough of Neville utterly destroying cauldrons, but I also admit to once destroying a pot (and almost our glass cook top) while trying to boil water (I was 12. Shh.). Nevertheless, food rarely explodes (half-boiled eggs in microwaves hardly count) and you generally don’t cook up Veritaserum in your kitchen. In a chemist’s lab, however, we’ve gotten things like aspirin (Pepper-Up Potions?) and anti-venom (Beazors?).

Severus Snape himself describes Potions-making as a “Subtle science and exact art,” so in deference to the Potions Master, I will concede that it is both? That leaves us with no simple muggle metaphor, though, which makes writing fanfiction far more wordy than it needs to be.

A Little Pampering Goes A Long Way

I’m all about the luxurious life. Unfortunately, my wallet isn’t. So I’ve gotten along with ways to pamper myself without spending oodles of money. Sometimes, it’s little extravagances, like caving to my Starbucks cravings, or buying a fuzzy new pair of socks, but usually it’s more along the lines of a hot cup of tea and some cheesy Harry Potter fanfiction by candlelight. (Don’t judge me!)

A few months ago, at the beginning of Spring, the thrift store I visit on an almost weekly basis had an extra sale on robes. I picked up a gorgeous white sweatshirt-material knee-length zip-up hooded mess of comfy for three bucks, and that has become my default “Aaaaaahhhhhh” robe. Our apartment isn’t terribly fancy, and most of our candle holders are from the dollar store or thrift shops (there are a blessed ton of them in the area), but lighting them all up, pulling out my actual teapot, and nibbling on some shortbread cookies while reading blasphemous romances online is an unmatched luxury.

When you’ve not got much to go on, it’s the little things that count:

  1. Have a special kind of tea (or coffee, or hot cocoa, or whatever) that you ONLY drink when you’re feeling hedonistic and decadent. My luxury tea of choice is an organic white tea and peppermint blend that I picked up for two dollars at a Big Lots. Since I usually just drink a Lipton or Bigelow green tea, it feels utterly extravagant, regardless of the original price.
  2. Splurge on cookies once in a while. Again, my BFF Big Lots had a sale the other day, and the Pepperidge Farms Pirouette cookies–the long, round wafer sticks with creme inside–were $2 for a canister. Normally, they’re in the realm of $5-$6, so I felt quite giddy picking them up and taking them home to hoard for a few weeks, nibbling on one or two a day with my morning coffee, or my evening tea.
  3. Take a half hour to be lazy sometime. just utterly lazy. Eat something, and just leave the plate somewhere for a bit. Flop on your bed and stare at the clock for five minutes before rolling over and doing something pointless. Play Tetris or Flood-It on your phone. You can tidy back up and everything once your half hour of lazy is finished.
  4. Take a cup of plain, instant oatmeal, put it in a blender or food processor until it’s just dust. Then, draw a bath, pour the oatmeal in, and take a soothing, relaxing bath, with candles and music–the whole shebang. (Men, too! You can be pampered just as well as us ladies.)
  5. Pick a night, and make an appointment with yourself to cook an extravagant three-course meal. Make a soup and salad, a main dish, a few sides, and a dessert. The best part about doing this as a single person, or just as a couple, is the leftovers! Mix and match the soup and sides later, or the main dish and salad, or soup and dessert…! Take it with you to work for lunch, or have “Fancy Dinner Part II” the next evening.

I hope there’s something here that strikes your fancy. Let me know what other things you do to feel rich in today’s economy, I’m always looking for new things to try!

Cooking with my Roommate

Becca and I became roommates when, after a year in our respective pit-of-doom rooms we called living situations at the time, we both got fed up and decided we would work well living together. Obviously, I had some reservations about living with a friend. They say that nothing ruins a friendship like living together, or road trips. Well. We haven’t gone on a road trip, but living together hasn’t seemed that bad so far, and it’s been almost three months, and while we’ve had days where we can’t talk to one another for fear of blowing something up, we haven’t killed each other yet.

Mostly because, if I killed her, I’d lose my own personal chef.

I truly mean this, too. So far, in the two-months-and-some-change we have shared a kitchen, refrigerator, and and sink, she has made: a fantastic ratatouille (twice!), Eggplant Parmesan, a magnificent dinner with curried chicken and apple-vinegar kale, numerous decadent salads, omelets, cinnamon rolls from scratch, fresh bread from scratch, oodles of delicious sandwiches, smoothies, and more. She says her specialty is baking, though, and admittedly her cheesecake is utterly to DIE for. Whenever Becca cooks, I know I’m gonna get something healthy, and I know she’s going to spend half her time plating the dish, then describing it to me. Eating dinner with her makes me feel like I’m a judge on Iron Chef, it’s amazing! :D

A Picture of Becca's Cheesecake

Finished and plated cheesecake, photographed for a project Becca had at school.

Almond Milk, Cookies, and Birdwalks

I come about my ideas in the strangest ways, sometimes.

Two days ago, I was at work, browsing for a good Chai concentrate recipe (don’t freak out, I wasn’t neglecting anything in the process!). I found one on a beautiful website called Tasty-Yummies.com. The Chai recipe had a suggestion to mix the concentrate with Almond Milk, and linked to a recipe elsewhere on the website. I quickly scribbled it down, and then noted that it had another link to a cookie recipe that used the pulp leftover after straining the milk. So I wrote that down as well, and once my shift was over, I hopped on a bus to Whole Foods to pick up Medjool dates and almond flour for the cookies, plus sunflower seeds for my own favorite ramen-cabbage salad (the recipe for which I will post very soon–it’s delicious and quite healthy!). I spent a few hours walking around downtown before my roommate came and picked me up so we could go to Meijer (a chain store similar to Wal-Mart Super-center) for a few extra items.

You see, while sitting in a Starbucks downtown, I got back on Tasty-Yummies to make sure I had everything, and somehow I stumbled across a pickle recipe. Well, I had nothing that I needed for those, so I had to pick up all of the ingredients for the brine, plus cucumbers, and mason jars. I got home exhausted, but I had everything for my culinary escapades for the next few days, which involved making almond milk (an excellent addition to Kashi GoLean Crunch), almond cookies (which turned out no-horrible, but not amazing. I need to work on getting the texture right–vegan cookies aren’t as forgiving as regular ones with eggs and so forth), and pickles!

I haven’t tried the pickles yet. I’m so excited, though. I can’t wait to bite into one and see how it turned out!

The pickles I made

Four jars of my fresh pickles, cooling off on the balcony before I refrigerate them. I can eat them in five days! (I’ll post again when I do!)