Monthly Archives: February 2012

:-D

It’s my Birthday!
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Well, at least it was yesterday. Today was the day I was kept up all night by tiny coughs, peed on when the tiny cougher was allowed into our bed, thrown up on when trying to give the gasping wretch her medicine, spit on when attempting again (because apparently, it didn’t taste “yummy” enough), and then forced to clean up dog vomit. You know, because that’s a thing one of the dogs needed to do today.

26, it’s on.

Still, it was pretty awesome as far as Birthdays go. My friend Sarah knit me this awesome infinity scarf:
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It’s so cozy, I could die!

And my friend Angela got me a jar of roasted red pepper pasta sauce! I am going to eat the HELL out of that!

Since it’s my Birthday, I have a gift for you. But, since it’s my Birthday, it isn’t something nearly as interesting as a recipe. Like I had to cook anything this past weekend. Instead, it’s…

Crunchy, Hip, and Broke Celebrations!

A practical guide to celebrating cheap but awesome.

1. It’s your birthday, not your wedding.
I’ve worked really crappy retail long enough to have seen, at least twice a week, some girl buy herself an entire new outfit just to go out in for her Birthday. Don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with getting yourself fancied up for a special day, but there is a difference between fancy, and fancy. Repeat after me: I don’t need a two hundred dollar dress. Liberating, right? Besides, I don’t care what day of the year it is, those eighty dollar pumps aren’t going to make a whole hell of a lot of a difference. Instead of shopping around for fancy clothes try the clearance racks, or the thrift store. Even better, check out your own racks. I’m almost positive most of you have some kind of dress that you only wear sometimes because it isn’t particularly practical for daily use. Well, it’s your birthday so throw practical to the wind! I went with my Valentines Day ensemble minus the pumps. Because it was my Birthday, not Mike’s.

2. You can give your guests a drink, but don’t try to get them drunk.
Aside from the fact that getting your guests completely wasted is a bad idea for safety, legal, and social reasons (remember that party where someone got drunk and decided to declare their love for the Birthday boy in front of his girlfriend? Yeah, me neither.), having more than a few drinks on hand for people is just expensive. You know what’s not cheap? Decent booze. You know what you shouldn’t even bother spending your money on if you want everyone’s evening to remain vomit free? Cheap booze. I can not BEGIN to stress this enough–buy enough good booze that everyone could have a drink, maybe two, if you even buy booze at all. Because you’re definitely not obligated to provide anyone with anything, and you certainly can have a dry party. Now, if you’re celebrating elsewhere, the booze situation isn’t your problem. We ended up elsewhere for the night, but rest assured that we had a 12 pack Great Lakes Sampler and a bottle of wine, and that was it. We were prepared!

(Another good reason to not serve your guests too much booze is the reduced risk of property damage. Years ago I knew a guy who got so drunk that he went outside to throw up and killed a shrub. By puking. Don’t let your friends be that guy.)

3. I don’t care what anyone says, everybody loves board games.
This one’s pretty self explanatory, but I can’t imagine cheaper entertainment than a rousing game of somewhat drunken Scrabble (not to be confused with completely sober Scrabble, which is fun, but far less creative). One of the best Birthday parties I ever had involved about ten of my favorite people and a game called “In a Pickle.” It’s a good way to go.

Don’t pretend you’re too cool for board games. We both know that’s not true.

4. Bake your own damn cake!
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Doesn’t that look yummy? I made that! And boy oh boy do I wish I’d come up with that recipe so I could give it to you and receive all your love and admiration, but it was from a cookbook written by this lady. If you search for “mango cupcakes” you’ll find the cake, but not the icing. The icing is part of the cookbook, and the book is very worth having.

Now, if you’re not particularly crunchy, I’m sure you’re happy with that…”cake”…you can buy in the…”bakery”…section of any major grocery store. Go ahead. Enjoy your hydrogenated oils and eight different kinds of sugar. Go have a few fig newtons while you’re at it. If you’re crunchy though (and you know, have a high enough opinion of yourself to feed yourself something decent on your own Birthday) you want to do better.

If you aren’t broke, you can go to a place like this and order the most yummy-tastic vegan baked good in the history of baked goods. You could also go to an honest to god bakery and still do much better than that…”cake”…you were considering in the grocery store. I’ve eaten at both places. They taste like joy and are well worth the price…if you’re only getting a cupcake or a muffin. Do you have any idea how five bucks per cupcake translates when you’re trying to order an actual cake, though? Oh yes, it will be a fine cake eating experience, and for it you will pay dearly. WITH YOUR IMMORTAL SOUL. Or like, forty bucks.

I can’t afford that, so I made my own. They tasted heavenly, were kind of gourmet, and my dad can’t stop eating them. Hahahahaha–joke’s on you dad! Those are actually good for your heart! But uh, don’t chase them with bacon maybe and lay off the soda because I mean, you know, diabetes and all that being a thing in America…

The cake philosophy can actually be used to cut all sorts of expenses such as “cut your own damn fruit” and “chop your own damn veggies” and “make your own damn dip.” If you’ve gotta feed your guests, a little extra work helps a ton.

5. Try not to think about it too much

I’m a big believer in Birthday’s being the only day out of the entire year where you are given a complete pass to not give a @#%$. Seriously, get what you need done, and go have a good time! Don’t worry about the food, your clothes, how much fun your guests are having, or any of that. Have fun, eat yummy food, and have a few drinks (if you want). What’s important is being with the people who make you happiest, because any excuse to do that is an excellent one.

I’m not going to even lie, I usually have really, really awesome Birthdays even though I’m almost always completely broke. Why? I use the list! Hooray for the list! So you should use the list, too. It’s a well known fact that receiving a really awesome list from a really awesome Birthday Girl is a good omen. It’s been documented and everything, you know.

Happy Monday, readers. 🙂

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Running is Better than Sex, and 92% Less Likely to Give You an STD

Here’s the deal readers, I have been a bad, bad healthy person lately. I’ve been skipping runs using, “I’m too stressed,” “I’m too busy,” “I have a headache,” and “I am currently asleep” as excuses. These are poor reasons to not get some exercise. No matter how busy my schedule is I should always have time to fit in just 30 minutes of exercise, whether that’s a run, Yoga, or just some jump roping (not that I can jump rope for 30 minutes straight, and if you can I don’t want to hear about it).

Today, I had a headache and pages upon pages of Ovid to go through. So I went for a run. A 30 minute, thoroughly painful run. I felt so amazing afterwards I thought I was going to die from concentrated joy rushing through my muscles. It was heaven. AFTER the run, that is. I can not stress enough that these were not the feelings I had DURING the run.

In the past couple of years a lot has changed. I started losing weight when I stopped eating meat and a good fifty pounds fell off just from better eating habits. Then a year and a half ago I started going on jogs and ever since I’ve gotten myself to a fairly healthy place. I am not a vegan marathoner, nor will I ever be, but I get a 30 minute run in about four days a week, sometimes three, and Yoga in between (I don’t like to brag, but I sure do have a ton of exercise DVDs). I am not perfect, and neither is my body, but I’m taking care of it and it’s rewarding me for it. Part of that reward involved not being horrified when I went swimsuit shopping last year. The other part got me absolutely stupid on endorphins.

If you’re just starting to get into exercising, like I was not long ago, be kind to yourself now and in the months to come. A lot of other people will be talking about their fitness levels but this is NOT a competition. You don’t have to fit into their mold of what healthy is anymore than they do yours. Don’t let being afraid of not being able to hit certain achievements hold you back. Seriously, just try it. It feels great.

Totally won’t knock you up either.

Tomato Soup, It’s Good For Your Soul

When I was a kid, I really, really, really liked playing in the snow. So much so, in fact, that it was often detrimental to my health. This post isn’t about the many, many times I came in soaking wet and half frozen to the point where it took twenty minutes and a blow dryer to get me back to normal, human temperatures. No, this post is about the most soul nourishing, warming, delightful soup in the world that my mom would feed me after lovingly drying me off over the heater vent.

When I was young this soup was typically consumed from a can. The can is probably copyrighted to high heaven, but you can see some lovely Warhol prints of it. My mom used to pop it open, add some water, and serve it with the yummiest, gooiest, most happy inducing grilled cheese sandwiches in the history of foodstuffs. Every time I dipped a delicious, golden triangle into my soup it was like dipping into a bowl of warm love. Of course I wanted to share this experience with Olive. There are only two problems: 1. It really isn’t snowing…at all. It may snow for a few hours, but then it stops, melts, and the tulips start to sprout. Lather, rinse, repeat. How am I supposed to teach Ollie the joy of getting yourself so cold you’re nearly dead, then warming up with a bowl of rich, hot, tomato-y goodness if it’s not going to stay cold? 2. The can, like many other things in life, has let me down, now that I’m an adult. The soup is highly, HIGHLY, processed and filled with such gems as high fructose corn syrup. I really can’t, in good conscience, feed that to my kid.

I can’t change the weather, but I can change the soup.

Better than Warhol Tomato Soup
2 15oz cans diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (soy or dairy are ok, too)
1 tsp Italian seasonings
1/2 tsp thyme
1 piece of whole wheat bread
1 cup spinach
1 bay leaf
3 lbs love

In medium sauce pan heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden.
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Add tomatoes, seasonings, and almond milk.
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Yes, I fully understand how gross this looks. It will taste yummy soon, I promise.
Bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, measure a cup of spinach and add to blender.This is going to up the vitamin content of your soup. It’s not necessary, but it doesn’t hurt anything and it adds loads of good for you things. Add heated tomato mix and pulse to blend. Then comes the special part. Enter–sliced bread:
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This seems weird, I know, but you are going to tear that bread into manageable chunks and add them to your blender. Why? Because that hunk of bread gives it this dreamy, creamy, perfect consistency. Blend until creamy and perfect. Pour back into your pan. Add the bay leaf and let simmer 15 (or more, if you want) minutes. Garnish with love.

Serve with whatever you like. For Olive and my lunch, the choice was very simple. We needed something nourishing, warming, and full of love. We needed the best winter lunch ever. We needed a sandwich. So we split one, and an apple.
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In my house, the bay leaf was special. We added it to every single tomato dish, from soups to pasta sauce. Whoever got the bay leaf in their meal got to make a wish. Well, I got the bay leaf this time, but I put it in Olive’s bowl before I served her.
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All and all it was a pretty perfect lunch.
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Enjoy!
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Someone Invented Cameras to Make Me Sad

Edit: Hey guys, this post was supposed to go up yesterday…and then I fell asleep. So just consider Tuesday the day of two posts!

I am serious, readers. Cameras were invented for the sole purpose of making me sad. So you get no pictures today. You do, however, get a super duper, crazy awesome recipe for sugar free granola. Call me a giver. 🙂

Super Granola!

6 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup if you’re a no honey vegan)

1/2 cup nuts of your choice (I used pumpkin seeds, but they’re seriously all good)

1/2 cup dried fruit (I used raisins, but again, they all taste super)

2-3 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 F

In a small saucepan combine the honey and molasses and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the oats, nuts, and spices. Add the heated molasses and honey mixture and stir to coat. Spread evenly over a baking sheet (you may need to do this in batches) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so to keep the granola from burning. It should be golden, and yummy looking. Let cool before stirring in the fruit (otherwise it will burn and be disgusting!).

Olive and I like to eat this with a little almond milk or yogurt. Mike and my dad love to just nibble on it as a snack. Either way, it’s delicious and filling. Enjoy!

Lame Times

Readers, I am stressed. Incredibly so. So much in fact, that I began to have a nervous breakdown during a Greek test the other day. As you can imagine, this was a problem.

So what did I do? I “finished” the test, left the building, called Mike, and decided that I needed a break between now and the quarter in which I begin my life as a sane person who doesn’t have to become fluent in Ancient Greek. I dropped to half time student status, ate a giant veggie burger, and resigned myself to spending the next month being, essentially, a stay at home mom. It has been one day. I have no idea what to do with myself.

So far, I took Ollie to preschool, let Mike sleep in, ate a super healthy breakfast (homemade granola and green smoothie? Yes please!) and got coffee. I may run later. I don’t know.

What am I supposed to do?

I have no idea what to do with free time! This is the most foreign concept I’ve ever experienced. Since the day Olive has been born my life has been a horrifying mix of either full time employment or the high end of part time employment with full time studies and whatever musical obligations I had, motherhood of course being compulsory. During the summer I would use whatever brief reprieve I had to garden. During Christmas, I would have to work my hook in a frenzy to get gifts done.

Readers, it is the dead of winter (if you can call it winter this year) and I have no gifts to make. The only birthday coming up is mine and I will be…in my mid twenties. I uncluttered my life and removed the stress and now I’m bored. And broke. And bored.

Perhaps, the problem isn’t that I don’t have anything to do, but more that I don’t know how to not do anything. I haven’t learned how to relax or enjoy free time. Instead, I’ve focused on filling every moment I can with a constant stream of work or stimuli. This can’t possibly be healthy and I can’t possibly be alone. These days it feels like everyone is so overworked that once they aren’t they can’t figure out what they want to do and end up mindlessly surfing the internet. Before they know it, it’s five hours later and they’ve mastered Zuma and are purchasing the expansion. Not that that’s ever happened to me…

So you know what? I’m going to focus on the things I really enjoy. I’m going to write more, crochet, and sew. I’m going to take Olive to the indoor playground at the mall on rainy days and the park on the days when it’s nice outside (which are the days between snow fall. This winter has been just absolutely stupid). I am going to invent more recipes to share with you and I am going to READ A BOOK. FINALLY. And sometimes, I am going to do absolutely nothing.

And I really think you should, too. Let’s start a revolution guys. Take a break, even if it’s only an hour, and instead of playing zuma the whole time in your sweats, try taking a bath. Sometimes, nothing important needs to happen at all.

Fig Newtons, You Disgust Me

Fig Newtons, I thought we were bros, or at least friendly acquaintances. I thought that maybe, just maybe, you were different from all the other cookies. I thought you were cool.

Ingredient List for Nabisco Fig Newtons (which I found here): ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), FIGS PRESERVED WITH SULFUR DIOXIDE, CORN SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, SOYBEAN OIL, WHEY (FROM MILK), PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, SALT, BAKING SODA, CALCIUM LACTATE, MALIC ACID, SOY LECITHIN (EMULSIFIER), POTASSIUM SORBATE ADDED TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR.

Et tu, Newton?

Where’s the whole wheat? The wholesome flavors? Are you guys actively trying to see how many different forms of corn syrup you can put into one cookie? Oh man, and hydrogenated AND normal oil, you are aiming for quality right there, Nabisco. And you even threw in some sulfer dioxide with my figs, that was thoughtful.

Ew. Gross. No.

You were my favorite cookie fruit and cake growing up! I could eat a package of you in one sitting, which actually says a lot more about me than it does you, and all you did was poison my tiny body with your “ingredients.” You make me sick.

Fig Newtons, I’m breaking up with you.

I decided to come up with my OWN fruit and cake, one that contained actual…fruit and cake. They are moist, a bit chewy, sweet and yummy, all while being sugar free and completely vegan. Feel free to cheap out and swap honey for the molasses and prunes, raisins, dates or chopped apples (apple newtons!) for the figs, if you need to. You could use mini muffin trays and cut the figs in half, making twenty four “cookie” sized cakes if you want (which I’d have rather done, but alas, no tiny muffin trays in this house), or use mashed banana instead of applesauce. What matters is, these are real, accessible ingredients that don’t cost too terribly much and were meant for human consumption, not some factory crap with three different forms of sugar in the ingredient list. Also, not having a whole box of cookies makes you far less inclined to eat a whole box of cookies. This is a completely win-win recipe.

And so, without further ado, I present to you…

“Actual Fruit with Realistic Cake” Cakes
Ingredients
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup non dairy milk (or dairy if you have to, but I’m gonna recommend unsweetened almond milk to keep the calories down)
1 tsp vanilla
Sugar or sweetener of choice, to taste (I didn’t use any, but you can if you need to)
12 dried figs, stems removed if necessary

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tray.

The first thing you’re going to have to do is make oat flour. You’re going to need a food processor or blender for this (some hard core bakers are going to yell at me for the blender suggestion, but my food processor sucks anyway, so it’s not like I came out with any better an oat flour than you probably will). You’ll want to give it a go round in either of these devices until it looks a little like this: Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
But if you have a good food processor, you’ll probably have a more “flour” like consistency. (For those food processor-less, it’s no biggie really. You can either buy oat flour OR just use whole wheat flour. It won’t taste quite the same, but whatever. I have suspicions that cornmeal would have been a good idea too, but I’m a bit gun shy about corn ever since watching “Food Inc”) Pour your new “flour” into a bowl. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix well.

Next, combine all the wet ingredients, including whatever sweetener you want (maple syrup is always a good option, but again, I didn’t use any and I think they tasted great) in their own bowl. It will look especially appetizing. Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
But once it’s blended together, it should be less vomit inducing.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and have your fabulous, well dressed helper mix until just combined. Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
If you’re wondering why she’s looking a little rough, it’s because she has a terrible cold. Have no fear readers, because no snot ended up in the batter…that I’m aware of.

Next, take your figs and add one fig to each muffin cup. Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Spoon some batter into each cup over the figs. Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Bake for about 15 minutes. They should be firm and pulling from the tray a bit. Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Get really excited and throw caution to the wind, immediately grabbing a steaming hot cake and nearly getting a second degree burn eating it Cool completely before serving.

Share with a friend. Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
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I think she approves. 🙂

In five seconds, she’s totally gonna sneeze some fig on those princess dolls.

Ewwwwwwwww.

Early Valentines

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Valentines Day is next week and that means tomorrow I get treated to the best dinner ever, he gets treated to a movie, and we both get treated to a night out for no real reason at all. We also get chocolate. So much chocolate…

But because of this person: Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

we have to wait until it’s ACTUALLY Valentines day. Because apparently, we’re supposed to SHARE our chocolate. Thankfully, we have plenty of oranges while we wait.

At any rate, while I’m at a lovely local Italian Restaurant eating homemade spaghetti (for a reasonable price, actually, which is good because we’re poor) or at the movies failing to resist the urge to scarf down popcorn, I’m going to remember one thing: I love Mike. The reason I’m out eating something less than spectacular in terms of health food is because we love each other, and want to enjoy the experience of sitting at our favorite place with our favorite person. We want to share popcorn at the movies, maybe have a few drinks afterward, and hold hands when we walk back to the car together (though we probably won’t because it’s, you know, February, so it’ll be more like an every man for himself sprint to the car).

So while I’m usually self conscious about what I eat, and while I’m usually concerned as to what effect certain foods have on my body, I am going to just sit and enjoy myself. I owe it to Mike not to be preoccupied for our date. After all, we haven’t had one since September. You shouldn’t be preoccupied either. Go out, have a yummy meal, eat chocolate, and be happy.

And if you don’t have a valentine, you should still do those things, but do it under the guise of being really bitter about not having one. If you pretend convincingly enough, someone else might pay for your chocolate!