Bad Office Coffee, A Short & Creative Rant

The morning coffee I savor at home is nothing like what’s available in the office. I know my office isn’t the only one–it’s an iconic joke in movies and on TV shows. It’s what we complain about with our cube neighbor. Or to the random person in the tiny breakroom that you’ve never met (or seen) before, but claims to work there, too. This thing you are drinking is not coffee, really. It’s some bitter darkly-colored water with a smell less than coffee. It’s the thing you gulp down because you have too many things to do in the morning before lunch. It’s the thing you look at and wonder, is it really worth it? 

Who makes these unruly grounds and believes they’ve roasted something worthy of the morning? This time is for spoiling ourselves with the last thing we are able to make a choice on during an early hour. I say spoil because in my case it’s the first and only thing I can do for myself–to motivate myself–to stay awake. So, I might as well enjoy it!


My Study of Food and Nutrition (Part 1)

How can we think about food in a positive way? How can we think about it in a way that allows us to easily make more healthy and mindful choices?

I’ve been thinking about health and food a lot (I always think about food, though). I believe my relationship with food is positive, but I want to make choosing to eat healthy easier. I don’t want to try to convince myself that eating more vegetables is important and then force myself to do it. I want to just do it because I care about my body and my health. Why is that so hard? Is it because I’m lazy or stubborn? If that’s the case, I don’t want to try to fix that. Fixing that is going to take too long…(Also, I’m impatient.) Instead, I’m just going to try a little experiment on myself to see if I can make myself eat well without forcing it to happen.

I decided, while I was working on writing this, I’m going to sort of scare myself into eating healthy by learning more about the importance of food as an energy source and eating as a life sustaining mechanism for the body, the mind, and yes, the soul. I think those three things are important to focus on together because they seem to be connected.

I bet many other people believe there really is a connection among the mind, body and soul. The best example I have for myself is when my body is hurting, or if I haven’t been taking care of myself, like by eating unhealthy, my mind is not well. I feel tired, worried, sad, or just overall stressed out. Then—what I would like to call my “soul”—my happiness, my energy, my attitude, my whole outlook on life is very low and gloomy. Much like that feeling of melancholy that sometimes manifests when I find myself eating alone. I don’t feel motivated to do the things that make me happy or even feel motivated to want to be happy, which is so weird in hindsight. (It sounds dramatic, I know, but at the time, it is so dramatic!) So, for me, maybe the most important part that needs to function well is my body because then the other aspects of that triad function well, too.

MindBodySoul2

My attempt to visually understand the connection of the Mind, Body, and Soul.

I believe these three things are connected though, but it’s more like they’re stuck in a web together because you must also be in the right state of mind to want to take care of your body. I tried to make some visuals to explain this holy trinity, because I like trying to make odd connections, but none seemed right. It’s fine—that doesn’t really matter. You probably get the point anyway.

The first thing I thought I should scare myself with is the idea of starvation. (The idea, not actually doing it. I thought I’d start with the extreme, but not that extreme.) What would happen if I did not provide my body the nourishment it needed to survive?

I found this video about the phases the body goes through while in starvation. It’s produced by SciShow, which I absolutely adore. It is a great resource that explains complicated things in a fun and understandable way. From the video, I learned:

  • Three very important molecules the body needs are glucose, fatty acids, and protein.
  • Once the body is deprived of food, it begins to burn/use glucose, made from glycogen molecules, as a source of energy.
  • Once most of the glucose is gone, the body begins to burn fat. This phase is called ketosis. In this phase, the liver metabolizes fatty acids into ketone bodies. At this time, ketone bodies take the place of glucose as a source of energy. These ketone bodies move from the liver, to the heart, brain and other tissues to keep the body functioning. (This is the part I’m unsure of. I wonder if the body reserves glucose for the brain and then switches to fatty acids, or does the body and brain use the glucose simultaneously. I did ask the people at SciShow about this, so maybe I’ll be able to share that answer later.)
  • When the amount of glucose in the body is greatly reduced, the brain re-calibrates how much is necessary to function. It goes from needing about 120 grams to 30 grams. Also, the brain now can process the ketone bodies and use them as energy because it “knows” there is less glucose available. (CRAZY!)
  • The last thing that happens (and forevermore) is your body starts breaking down proteins and turning them into amino acids, so the brain can continue to function. This means muscle depletion occurs and other tissues’ functions are reduced rapidly and the body enters catabolysis. (The body is eating itself!) However, the least vital cells are broken down first. This is not good. There is not much time left for the body to survive and almost anything could kill you at this point.

Starvation is so brutal on the body. I imagine if there was a way to listen to what’s going on in the ecosystem of the body, I’m sure it would be total chaos. Alarms blaring, children crying, windows breaking, houses on fire, cars exploding—total chaos!

Learning this did scare me, but it scared me into making sure I eat when I’m hungry and not to purposefully starve myself into oblivion.

With this new knowledge, I now wonder about the act of fasting. This seems to work well for people and it may be because their body is only using all the stored glucose to maintain energy and body function. Then, when all the glucose is close to being completely gone, they eat. However, how would anyone know when that has happened? Maybe there is a time limit to how long one should fast. We are all so different though, so knowing how long to wait before one eats would not be the same for everyone. For me, after three hours I become hungry again. It even happens when I eat a “healthy” helping of a meal, but don’t gorge myself. I’ve always had a fast metabolism and going 12 or more hours of no eating means me, clammy, out of breath, dizzy and starving, longingly wishing someone would stuff a burger in my face. So, fasting for more than a day would not work for me unless I could stay home for the entire fasting period and sit on the couch and watch the food network.

I’ll do some research on fasting verses starving and share my findings. Until then, I will keep posting my study on food and nutrition.


How to Have More Time in the Kitchen (Or Just for Yourself)

This is the first article in a series that I will be writing on saving time with tasks related to cooking. I will be covering:

  • Personal grocery shoppers
  • Subscription meal plans

So, you’re busy. I am, too. (So is that person looking in at you through the window.) But for some reason we both have found time to be right here—at this post (or at the window).

Reading things like a blog post only takes 5 or 10 minutes to read anyway. (Sadly, not 5 to 10 minutes to write one.) It’s the other things that take more energy and time. It’s the other things that we want to not do–that we don’t have “time” to do.

For me, the biggest time-consuming thing is searching for recipes and then going to the store to pick up the ingredients. Strangely, I’ve planned time to cook, just not to gather ingredients for the cooking. I do really like the idea of being the hunter and gatherer type, but not now. Not when I also must be the student, the full-time worker, the friend, the girlfriend, the sister, the daughter, the hobbyist, the writer, the photographer, the part-time laundry attendant, the part-time apartment cleaner, and let’s not forget the amateur chef!..and so on. I bet your list of obligations is similar to mine (or maybe stranger or more obligated), so I won’t explain this to you any further.

Guess what–other people have created things that could help us become be less busy and more fully invested into what we want to focus on. There are people that can help us, like an assistant. Well, sort of. An assistant would be a dream. That’s not really the dreamiest of dreams, so let’s not dream about it. We just need someone to do the little things, like shop for our groceries. Or at least I need them to do that. I’ve tried this with Instacart in the beginning of the summer to reduce the amount of time I spent in the heat. (Yes, I felt bad that I subjected someone else to this, but I also paid them so I didn’t feel so bad.)

Using Instacart saved me time, but after a few weeks of using it, I realized that I missed being the person to choose the reddest looking apple and the firmest tomato. I missed going to the deli and looking at the cheese that I could not eat, sadly sighing, shaking my head at the deli attendant who probably thought I was just a strange teenager pretending she was going to buy high-end cheeses. So, I quit the personal grocery shopper subscription.

I think Instacart offers a good program, though. If you sign up for the Express membership plan, there are two options for payment: Annual and Monthly. Annual is $149, while Monthly is $14.99. You can cancel anytime. Once you sign up, you can get free delivery, shop at any store that is available in your area, and you don’t get charged extra for the busier times during the day. If you think you will be using this membership often, you should buy the Annual. You’ll save a few dollars per year by paying $12.42 a month, but that $149 cost is upfront. With the Monthly, you end up paying a total of 179.88 a year, which isn’t that much more. I did the Monthly because I wanted to test it out first.

Is it really worth the monthly fee?…Is what you are probably wondering. It’s the same conundrum with signing up for Amazon Prime and Club memberships, like Costco. (All the wonderful wine memberships I’ve come across are free, though.) You really have to think about how much you’re going to use the membership and the reason for using it. If you sign up for the Express at Instacart, you don’t have to drive, which saves some gas and miles on your car. You don’t have to take time out of your day to go to the grocery store. And if you are like me, you can avoid feeling uncomfortable in the heat. So, take things like that into consideration. Also, think about the children…

Well, like I said, I canceled my subscription, but I’m thinking about joining again. It’s been about 4 months since I canceled and I am again feeling the annoyance of the obligation to go grocery shopping. Mainly it happens when I walk through those sliding doors and wonder why do I do this to myself during grocery rush hour. Because of that, I started looking for other options to pair with the Instacart membership so I have a variety of options for food. I’ve seen a lot of people on Instagram using Blue Apron, NatureBox and Graze (although those last two is just snacks). So, I wanted to try one of those.

I received a coupon for Hello Fresh, which is also a food subscription service, like Blue Apron. There are three plans to choose from. There’s the Classic Plan which has meat and vegetables, the Veggie Plan, and the Family Plan, which is a little larger than the Classic.

Hello Fresh says they are different than their competitors because each recipe is 6 steps and 30 minutes (which I’m sure it depends on your cooking experience), they are able to send out up to 7 meals per week, the menus are customizable with many delivery options and you can cancel or pause your subscription at any time.

Well, I signed up for a Hello Fresh account with that coupon and so far the experience has been fine, although, I haven’t received my first delivery yet. I was able to choose what meals I wanted delivered for next week, though, and I had several options. Each one came with the recipe as well, so that made me think if I didn’t like the subscription itself, I will probably still access the site to see recipes. Check out the recipe menu here.

I should be getting my first box next week and I will document how it goes!

If you’re interested in trying either Instacart or Hello Fresh, I have two coupons you can use that also help me out:

For Instacart: Get $10 when you order.

For Hello Fresh: Get $35 off your first box.

If you try these or have tried any other personal grocery shopping or food subscription services, please share your experience.


5 Ways to Make Eating Alone More Enjoyable at Home

The problem with eating alone arises when you realized you’ve made all this beautiful food and only you are around to eat it.

Food doesn’t seem as good when it’s eaten without company. There are some cases when it is, but then after the food is gone that feeling of quiet sets in—there’s no conversation surrounding the food, no commentary on the newest superhero movie, no laughter, no one questioning dessert (although, that might be a good thing).

We can’t always have good company and we can’t always be found in woe when we eat alone.

When the only good company is my own, I try to improve the mood of the room, occupied by one, and reduce the feeling of melancholy.

Here are 5 ways to make eating alone more enjoyable:

1. Play some music

The best thing you can do, is to turn on some music. It’s so surprising how much music can change the mood of a room or person depending on its genre. I suggest choosing something that is light, refreshing, and delightful. Maybe something with a nice beat to sway to. Something that is calming and internally fulfilling to soothe the ache of a quiet dining room.

2. Listen to conversations

A podcast can make you feel like there are other people in the room, only you can’t see them (which sounds scary). A podcast may be the better option compared to turning on the TV. Moreover, there are plenty of humorous people creating podcasts that you need to check out. A few podcasts that I’ve found entertaining are You Made it Weird, Mysterious Universe, and The Adam Carolla Show. You might not find these funny, but there are plenty out there to satisfy your strange humor, which can be found with a quick online search.

3. Listen to your favorite author

When reading quietly won’t really work while eating, an audiobook can seem like a treasure. Many authors are speaking on their own audiobooks now, which is incredible lovely because they put the emotion and emphasis on the words and the pauses where they were intended. Neil Gaiman is the most applauded, but there are plenty of others, including Elizabeth Gilbert, Stephen Fry, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

4. Eat outside (depending on the weather)

Choosing to eat outside might mean venturing away from home. I envy people who live next to a beautiful botanical garden like, the one in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park because of the picnic space available on the Great Meadow, which welcomes you as you enter the living museum. If you live next to a place like this, or even a park, and the weather is nice, go out and have a picnic by yourself. It’s a great place to sit quietly to savor your meal and enjoy the view.

5. Eat something so delicious you don’t want to share

I know this suggestion is the oddball of the list. Every suggestion before this involved filling the void with other stimulus besides food. If you cook or bring home your favorite food—and I mean your absolute favorite that you hate sharing with someone—being alone while eating it will be an ultimate pleasure. You should probably go all out and make your meal visually appealing while you’re at it. Only you will see it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring out the “special occasion” dinnerware. Hopefully you have a food you feel this way about. Mine is a spaghetti sauce with fettuccine and shrimp. (It used to be alfredo sauce with fettuccine and shrimp, but I became sensitive to lactose—a story for another day—which reminds me I need to begin creating my non-dairy alfredo sauce.)

Next time you’re alone with something delicious and feel that unease of quiet set in, do one of these. Let me know how it worked for you.

Do you already have a tactic? I’d like to hear about it.


Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros means ranch eggs. The meal is suppose to be eggs, salsa, and tortillas. However, if you’ve ordered this in a restaurant you’ll see it also includes potatoes, onions, various peppers, along with eggs, and tortillas. So, maybe huevos rancheros can be almost anything with eggs. Here is my version of it:

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb. chicken
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 6-8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Shishito peppers, roasted/sautéed in soy sauce
  • ½ cup quinoa, cooked
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tsp basil and oregano
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika

Directions:

  1. Sauté garlic, basil, oregano until lightly browned.
  2. While on low heat, green bell pepper, cayenne, paprika, basil and oregano and sauté until the bell pepper is tender.
  3. Add cooked chicken, black beans, roasted Shishito peppers, cherry tomatoes cut in half, and cooked quinoa. Add more basil and oregano (2 1/2 tsp each; trust me).
  4. Let this cook on low for about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Cook eggs separately or in the skillet however you desire.
  6. Enjoy!

❤K

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Chicken Bog

There are some times when I find recipes online and I make them exactly as it says. Then, there are other times when I make the recipe my own. This is one of those times.

The recipe I used to make this listed using about ¼ cup of pepper. I used way, less. Maybe a teaspoon or two and then added more on my own serving to suit my tastes.

I also made the broth the same day–and I cheated by using the chicken flavored Better Than Bouillon, but I bet chicken broth could also be used. If chicken broth is used, there’s no need to add water, just use 2 cups of chicken broth.

To make things easier on myself, I made this into a semi-one pot recipe. By semi-one pot I mean, I simmered the vegetables until they were tender, then added everything to the pot.

DSC_0718

 

Another thing I did differently was that I didn’t use sausage, I used bacon, including the grease, which I believe was a very good choice. I only had a little bit of bacon left, but if I had like half a pound, I would have probably used it and not added the grease. I really wanted to simulate or at least try to simulate the taste of pork sausage.

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This simmered for about an hour on low heat, but you may need to cook it longer if you want your rice to be soft. I cooked it until the rice was close to being soft—almost like making pasta al dente. It was perfect.

Next time I’m going to add bell peppers, which was listed in some of the recipes I found. However, I might add a little bit of a spicy pepper, too. Maybe a few jalapeños.

If you change the recipe, too, let me know. It may just become something totally different which would be very interesting to see.

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Chicken Bog

Makes 4 – 5 servings

Ingredients

  • Rotisserie chicken, about ½ pound
  • 3 strips of thick-cut bacon, cooked on the stove (or your preferred way) and the grease saved for use
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • ½ yellow or white onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp Better than Bouillon, chicken flavor
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
  • 3 tsp Basil
  • 3 tsp Oregano
  • ½ tsp Cumin
  • ½ tsp Cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp Paprika
  • ½ tsp Chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt, more to taste
  • 2 tsp pepper, more to taste

Directions

  1. In a medium/large pot, sauté olive oil, celery, carrots, and onion on medium-high heat until tender.
  2. Reduce the pot to low heat and add everything into the pot (including the bacon and the grease, if desired).
  3. Continue cooking for 30 minutes or until the rice is done. Be sure to stir every few minutes to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  4. (Optional) Add more salt and pepper until the chicken bog as reached your desired taste.
  5. Enjoy!

❤K


Marinade for Steaks

I made a wonderful marinade last night with ingredients I already had in my kitchen. You probably have them, too.
I don’t have too many tips for this recipe. It’s pretty straightforward. I will admit that when I made this last night I forgot to add the broth. I added it an hour after it was already marinating, but that didn’t change the outcome. So, that’s good!
Also, I should mention I only let the steaks marinate for about 4 hours. They were very juicy and flavorful.

Soy sauce, garlic, and onion in a 2 liter container

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Steaks covered in herbs and spices

Steaks marinating for a few minutes

Marinade for Steaks
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs beef steak (I used top sirloin)
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • beef or chicken broth
  • soy sauce
  • pepper
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • cayenne pepper
  • basil
  • oregano
  • container with a top to seal and store meat and liquids as the meat marinate.

Directions

  1. Add the onion, garlic, and soy sauce, and broth to the container. It should be just enough for the meat to sit in it almost completely submerged. Set aside.
  2. Tenderize meat with a fork by poking holes into it so the liquid will get inside the meat.
  3. Sprinkle all the herbs and spices to the meat. This part is tricky because I don’t measure how much of the herbs and spices I use. So, if you look at the photo above, you will see it’s quite a lot. I try to cover most of the meat with on herb or spice before adding the next one.
  4. Once you’ve covered all the meat, use your hands, or a fork or spoon, to rub the herbs and spices into the meat. Maybe about 1/2 a minute on each side.
  5. Once you’re done with all the meat, place it in the container with the liquid. Let is sit on one side for 2 to 3 mins, the flip it over on the other side in the liquid.
  6. Cover the container and place in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours. If you have more time, let it marinate over night.
  7. Grill the meat or cook it on the stove AKA Pan-Sear. (For cooking after this point, its easier if I point you to my go-to procedures here  for Pan-Seared steak. My boyfriend grills, but I like to Pan-Sear it sometimes and it’s just as good, or possibly juicier!)
  8. Enjoy!

❤K