Cook Your Dang Fruit

food

Last weekend was a blur of eating greasy meals and understanding that I certainly can’t drink like I did in college. I desperately needed to eat a vegetable so on Sunday I bought kale, carrots, peppers and squash. When I came home I realized I still had some fruit in my crisper. I thought, “oh shoot, I have to eat this.” When I reached in the crisper the plums felt fine. The apples mostly were okay, except for one squishy, mealy monster. If I wasn’t in my current mindset, I would think to just throw it away. But that would be insane. This post should really be called “eat your dang fruit” but that would be too easy. No, when your fruits sit in your fridge for just a little too long think to cook them instead of throw them away.

I chopped up the apple and threw it into my new (spiffy) little red pot with just a little water so the sugars don’t burn to the bottom of the pot. I added cloves, cinnamon and honey and let it just simmer and spatter until the apples transformed into gooey goodness.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to cook fruit. It’s truly smart, especially when you clearly abandon your fruit for lack of interest. Cooked fruit tastes delightful in oatmeal or over greek yogurt and creates the illusion that you’re eating something new. It tastes special, like dessert. And what’s better than dessert on a weeknight?

Success, failure and what really happens

lifestyle

Let’s start with a walk down memory lane: you’re 14 and watching 27 Dresses with your best friend. You’re both shoveling chocolate into your mouths thinking that James Marsden is the cutest guy ever. You idolize Katherine Heigl’s humble, selfless character and think “wow I’m not going to be like her selfish sister, I’m going to be like her!” Well, kids, it happened. You’re 22 years old and your notebooks are falling apart with to-do lists and calendars. You’re saying “yes” to almost everything. And finally, you’re running between jobs to make everyone happy. What is the price of your 27 Dresses lifestyle?

People offer advice and help but what do you say when someone says you need to take a break?

All joking aside, I’m learning each day how crucial it is to take care of yourself. I read a quote earlier today: “you don’t have to be stressed or busy to be important.” And while I struggled to find the words of wisdom to help me through this time, those were them. I’m putting myself in difficult situations because working every day and being hopelessly tired every night means I’m important. Wrong. It means I’m stretching myself too thin and compromising other elements of my life: relationships, physical health, mental health, and even job performance. I realized today that due to my tiredness and lack of concentration last week, I really let some of my responsibilities slide. It affected so many other people involved in my job, and while I wasn’t obligated to work my main job while I was at my second job, I felt it was my duty as a decent person to not let more work slip through the cracks. I somehow worked two full days over the course of one normal work day. I slid behind doors that I knew blocked security cameras to answer emails. I ate cold pizza from a Tupperware container perched on my knees while I drove from the museum to my office to pick up some materials and have a short meeting. I mean, I tried living two days in one and that was insane.

Success isn’t defined by your lack of sleep. Failure isn’t defined by your attention to self care. Success isn’t characterized by skipping meals. Failure isn’t the picture of you in your blue bathrobe. The reality is, each of us defines success and failure in our own thoughts and actions. “Everyone is on their own unique path in life.” That’s been my mantra since embarking on this journey. My path is the road I’ve been on, but I’m driving the car.

I need to put myself first. I’m at a point where I need to feel confident in my abilities to an extent and feel like I can work hard and sleep hard, not just work hard and feel like vomiting all the time. Sorry for that visual, but I’m about telling the truth here.

So this Katherine Heigl martyr character shall be no more, and while I won’t undertake the identity of the inauthentic, selfish, wedding-crazy younger sister, I will stop being the star of my own rom-com.

Day 13 and some

drink, lifestyle

This weekend was incredible. The end to my 13 day nightmarish week felt like a celebration. While my physical body was exhausted on Friday night, mentally I was ready for fun. Here’s some real-time footage of my last day and a recap of my weekend.

I visited 2 cideries in the New Paltz area: Kettleborough and Brooklyn Cider House. Kettleborough exceeded my expectations. I found them by searching “cider houses” on Google and after not recognizing the name I admit, I did not have the highest hopes. How wrong I was. The cider was delicious, to start. Just the qualities I like: tannic, dry and effervescent. Unlike commercialized ciders, that are not bad in my eyes by the way, these ciders display the true transformation in the fermentation process. The flavors are more akin to a white wine than they are to a common cider. And yet the most incredible part of Kettleborough was the scenic view from around the cider house. Suddenly you were perched on top of a hill looking out on the Shawangunk ridge in it’s vibrant autumnal glory. If we weren’t freezing, we could’ve sat there forever. But like I said we were cold, and apple cider donuts beckoned.

The Brooklyn Cider House, while definitely a more well known name, was equally as enjoyable. The cidery’s New Paltz location occupies an orchard, Twin Star Orchard, in addition to a cider house. We chose a bottle of the raw cider which had that farm-y funky flavor that I’ve been really enjoying in farm beers lately. We enjoyed a pizza, a bottle of cider and a walk through the orchard. The full sun made this location a little more bearable in the elements. I stole an apple. No telling.

Really Saturday was wildly special because of my company: I love my boyfriend possibly more than I love myself. He is my best friend, and if you believe in soul-mates he is mine. But Saturday was also special because I took my new-found tasting knowledge out for a spin. I looked past my preferences and prejudices and tried a little of everything, and it yielded new knowledge and a greater variety to choose from in the future. It’s something I’m definitely looking forward to exploring more. I know I can improve on my tasting abilities and descriptions. Maybe a new journal? Who knows.

Waste Not, waste-free snacking

food

I tend to graze throughout the day: a little bit of food throughout the day rather than big meals. I love a good snack, but snacks are not always the most waste-free foods on the planet. Packaging is a huge problem when it comes to cookies, chips and candy. Oreos? A delicious packaging nightmare with plastic trays and wrapping. Chips either come in family sized bags that are too large for one person to consume and smaller bag either provoke the mindset of “I can eat the whole thing” (uh, you shouldn’t) or “I can buy a million of these little snack size bags” producing excessive garbage. Watching chips turn stale hurts me, it does. What is a gal to do? May I introduce you to popcorn.

Popcorn? Popcorn! So, I don’t have a microwave. I don’t know how I do it, but I don’t have a microwave. Thankfully I’m a vintage kind of gal, and popping kernels on the stovetop is exactly my jam. One 32oz bag of kernels costs $2.50 at Shop Rite, which is super cheap considering I’ve made popcorn 3 times and have hardly made a dent in the bag! Popcorn kernels allow better portion control so you’re not always popping enough kernels for either a baby or a family of 4. While the bag recommends instructions for 2 servings, it’s easy to find half measurements online and doubling is simple. Plus, one bag means one piece of garbage! Not ideal, but definitely better considering the amount of food per piece of garbage. If popcorn kernels are available in bulk bins opt for that and reduce your waste completely. Additionally, flavor options are endless depending on spices, oils and sweets on hand. I’ve been making popcorn with salt and cracked black pepper. Sometimes I’ll feel fancy and drizzle a little white truffle oil on top. And chocolate on popcorn? Dare I say, yeet.

As far as snacks go, you could definitely be eating worse food. While popcorn isn’t exactly health food, it won’t be necessary to cut back excessively considering it’s corn. And I can’t stress this enough, it is not health food but it’s better than a bag of potato chips or cheetos. While I miss those two things, I’m getting the most for my money with popcorn.

Last, and honestly probably least, the bag is smaller than air-filled chip bags and takes up less space in my tiny kitchen. In fact, sometimes I leave it on the sliver of counter space that I have because I forget to put it up in my cabinet. I mean perks are endless.

Next time you’re at the store and you’re craving something to munch on, try some popcorn. It’s food waste-free and delicious.

Day 12 10/11/18

lifestyle

Today was bad. Like how I thought the white wine was sweet because I tasted it after a particularly dry rose, today was particularly bad because yesterday was just exquisite. I’m supposed to be at an industry event right now, but I hope you realize that I’m not since I’m publishing this at 7:51pm. I felt like I was hit by a truck today and went home sick. I continued to work, let me tell you. My body literally hates me for my work ethic. But day 12 is the day that got me. Day 12 is also the day that forced me to throw away food. I napped briefly in the middle of bowl of soup number 4 so that sat getting cold and sad on my night table. Whole wheat egg noodles are also low-key gross, but I wasn’t about to get picky with my sick foods. I am thankful, however that I have so many frozen meals that my mom brought me. I need something spicy to really knock the mucus out of my head (sorry). My head feels like a balloon on the verge of popping despite the bowls of hot water that I mulled over with my blanket scarf draped over my head.

I’m especially bummed about missing the industry event, but my friend Kelly put it best: real adults don’t go to work when they’re sick. Since I’ve been working I still find it hard to view my coworkers as peers since I’m the youngest person in the office. I feel as if I constantly need to prove myself and stick through each and every day like my head is on the chopping block. But the reality is, I get sick sometimes. Everyone gets sick sometimes. I wasn’t sick for over 3 months, but this week was the week that got me and that needs to be okay. Taking one day to re-charge was necessary. I even worked from home, which is an option that I’m so grateful to have. Self-care and self-preservation are essential right now. They’re the tools that will enable me to produce my best work once I’m well rested.

 

Day 11 10/10/18

drink, lifestyle

Day 11 has been incredible. After putting in my 2 weeks notice I’ve felt extremely motivated at my main job. I visited an event location and interviewed the owner of a vineyard for an article.

As I approached the vineyard I had a stupid giant smile on my face. Fall in the Hudson Valley is picturesque, but this could make an oil painting look like an elementary school art project. The collage of trees distracted me until the expanse of grape vines appeared, extending back towards a group of barns. Opposite the vineyard is the Shawangunk Ridge, the mountains that occupy the area. My god, it was gorgeous,

I tasted 6 wines today. Yes, I got paid to taste wine. I first tried a Cab Franc, a variety that took extremely well to the area. I don’t think I’ve tried it before and it was a dry and drinkable red. Delightful. When I told the owner of the vineyard that I tried it, she asked if I usually like dry reds. When I said yes, she said that she would give me a list of wines to try that include some dry reds but mostly other varieties. She said the tasting room is exactly that, for tasting. I should feel comfortable enough to get out of my comfort zone and get out of the habit of only buying one type of wine. While I live outside the comfort zone, I understand that most people don’t want to bother spending money on something they won’t like. She made me feel like I was in good hands. Like if I didn’t like a wine I wouldn’t feel guilty because I’m there to discover if I like a wine or not.

When it came down to it and to my surprise, my tastebuds lingered on a light, citrusy white wine. I couldn’t take my mind off of it even as I interviewed the owner. I went back inside and bought a bottle. It’s burning a hole in my fridge as I test my self control and save it for when my boyfriend visits this weekend. The white is their best seller, and has evolved over the years the vineyard has been open.

Today revived me both energetically and inspirationally. I took advantage of my slow morning and enjoyed every second I was out in the field. Usually I bemoan transcribing interviews but for some reason I can’t wait to listen to this half hour masterpiece and write multiple pieces about this phenomenal place. I might even come back this weekend.

I learned so much today. My alarm just went off and I can’t believe it’s already 10PM. I’ve got 2 more days until my day off. Let’s not get too too tired before it’s all over. I’ve got big things coming.

Day 10 10/9/18

lifestyle

My vlog got deleted. In it’s entirety. I’m very sad about this. But anyway I feel as if it is my duty to inform you that I put in my 2 weeks notice at my second job. The moment I hung up the phone after leaving my message I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders. I felt twice as motivated despite approaching the end of the day. I’m so much more inspired. I feel like my thoughts are already more focused. Now that I have a set number of days left, I can anticipate how much more I can accomplish in my primary job.

All day I felt irreparably tired. The skin under my eyes felt especially paper thin with soreness and sag my young face should not feel. For the first time in weeks I bought a mid-day coffee to wake me up. This is day 10 in my 13 day week and I finally felt the consequences of minimal rest: sore throat, sore eyes and a droopy head needing constant hand support only further clogging the pores on the right side of my face.

And yet I’m so excited about the next few days. Being on location and gathering content tomorrow should be invigorating, especially because I’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors. Thursday I’ll literally be at a party for work with no objective other than shaking hands and trying local food. I can’t wait to record and recount the next few days to you all. Hopefully via vlog so I can perfect my recording skills.

Waste Not and what I’ve learned

food

I’m going on my third full week of this challenge and I think it’s important to reflect on a few things I’ve learned thus far:

  1. Eating with little to no food waste is possible with some resources and knowledge of yourself and your own habits. If you know that bulk meal prepping works or does not work for you, then keep it up. I learned that bulk meal prepping really isn’t my jam and if I have an excessive amount of leftovers then those are more at risk to be wasted than perhaps leftovers that could provide two solid meals. I like making enough extra food to provide dinner, lunch and dinner again. That all being said, don’t be afraid of the freezer, but take a peek in there every so often and actually eat the things you have stored. Check once at night before bed and take one thing out to thaw for dinner tomorrow.
  2. Shopping for food is okay! I obviously ate perishable items first so as to not throw away any fruits or vegetables, but I could not maintain a healthy diet with only carbs, frozen meat and beans on hand. When shopping for food thing of needs versus wants. Go back to your inventory and see what you ate and what you threw out. Re-purchase what you ate in its entirety and skip anything that became waste on your behalf. When it comes to take-out or eating at a restaurant save the plastic reusable containers and don’t order more than you need. I like to eat take-out max. twice after the initial meal. Don’t get crazy with your order.
  3. If fresh vegetables or fruits are either not accessible or are sold in quantities too large for you or your family to consume consider canned or frozen fruits and vegetables as viable substitutes. These options can be cheap, convenient and nutritious alternatives to the pricy produce section. Canned tomatoes, canned beans and either rice or pasta as a full meal can be filling, delicious, waste-free and inexpensive. It’s a shame that people like me can buy and often throw away fresh vegetables while a large population can’t afford them to begin with. Less than 10% of Americans can actually afford to eat a balanced diet, according to this article. Everyone can benefit from canned or frozen options. Lets be smarter shoppers so as to not throw away another person’s meal.

At the start of this new week, my fridge is full of fruits and vegetables courtesy of my mom who stopped by while I worked day 8 of my crazy 13 day work week (vlogs to follow). I have leftovers from her in the fridge, which makes for less waste on her part and easier meals for me.

Sharing leftovers…good concept to work in this blog.

Adventures with Aretha

food

Let’s take a break from this ‘waste not’ challenge, shall we? While this adventure turned out to be pretty waste-free, it started as a desire to make my own, delicious bread. I birthed a sourdough starter. It’s a girl. I named her Aretha.

Aretha is about a week old and she’s feisty and a little stinky, but according to various online sourdough starter troubleshoot forums this is normal. It just needs time.

Aretha is teaching me a lot, especially about fermentation. Whether you know it or not, you love fermented foods. Cheese, buttermilk, beer, bread, wine, basically all things good are fermented. Fermentation lends a funk to food. It’s like the bass line in a seventies jam. It’s funky, and you love it. It’s why tangy pancakes and crusty bread make your heart sing. It’s why you put the pickles on your burger. Trust me, it’s all in the fermentation.

She’s also teaching me about patience. In the week that I’ve had the starter I’ve had to discard a lot in order to allow the yeast to mature and reach a stable, active state. This means I can wake up to a full, bubbly jar of starter only to have to dispose or repurpose half of it. The first time I dumped some starter, I looked at the space in the jar and panicked only a little. Man, I just wanted to make bread. But Aretha told me to stick it out for a little longer. And thank goodness she did.

Now in the week I’ve been growing my baby (too weird?) I’ve made some choices about discard. While the discarded starter would not be able to produce enough rise to make a loaf of bread, the discard does add that funk to a wide range of recipes including sourdough pancakes and sourdough biscuits. Adding the discard to pancakes emulates that buttermilk flavor reminiscent of real buttermilk pancakes. The texture may not be quite the same, but the pancakes make a great canvas for layering sweet or savory flavors. I had mine with both avocado and honey and it balanced very well with the funkiness of the batter. Next were the biscuits. Oh, the biscuits. Again, the sourdough created a mock-buttermilk tang in the biscuit, and the butter created those dang perfect layers I love to peel apart. While I maybe ate too many, the biscuits needed an extra oomf to make them really sing. As a trial run the biscuits were fine, but I’d love to see how they fare with cheddar or even honey mixed in.

So why sourdough starter? Well first off, it’s my kitchen and no one can tell me to not turn my countertop into a science experiment. Second, the starter has the potential to provide yeast for years with proper storage and feeding. Harvesting yeast is a simple process at it’s core but takes dedicated thought daily. It’s meditative and introspective to watch something literally come to life in your hands. Basically, sourdough starter is a tiny reminder that magic might actually exist if you’re whimsical enough to believe.