Saturday, August 22, 2015

Revamp Winning

I haven't posted in a super long time because things have been an absolute whirlwind. I won't go too much into it because I am so super busy, but in the past month - actually 3 weeks - I got a job, moved to Virginia, began said job, and my third graders to arrive Monday for school to begin.

I am exhausted, super stressed, my apartment is in shambles as I have yet to unpack, I moved in a week and a half ago, but overall I am very very glad. I don't adjust super easily to change so I am proud at keeping up so far, even though I know it will be another month until I feel like this is really home and get into a real routine at school. I am so fortunate though - most of the team in third grade is new this year, and we seem to be meshing well. I feel comfortable with my mentor teacher who isn't in my grade, and overall feel good about asking for help when I need it, which is frequently.

I am not totally panicked for Monday which is a bit of a shock, but I t4hink those few months of subbing really helped prepare me to go with the flow. I don't know the school super well, but the kids will know where to go for most things. I have to walk them through a lunch line and eat with them for the first week, which is new to me. Dismissal and attendance and such are also some adjustment stressors I know I will get used to within the first week. All were my main concerns entering a new classroom to sub each day. I am confident in my ability to teach and manage my kids, particularly getting to know them over time, but the little things trip me up once in awhile.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


After a couple months of plateau, there has finally been some progress on the job front. I have been applying to any position I am qualified to apply to (and a few I am not) in PA, DC, DE, NH, VT, VA, and MD, as well as a few other outlying places as well, that show up on the job sites I have my information on. I have an interview with a school in Virginia for a second grade position, of which there are 2. There are two days of interviews, which makes me believe I am one of 15 at the most (as they are scheduling them in hour increments), so on first look, I do have a fighting chance. The school looks beautiful, the location looks beautiful, and second grade is a great grade for me. It is about an hour and a half from DC, so closer to where a lot of my friends live and about equidistant from my family as where I live now, which I think works well.

I am freaking out. It will be a 5 hour drive down, and a 5 hour drive home, and thanks to pet sitting and subbing I will need to do both drives in one day. I am hoping the drive down will help to subdue and calm me, and the drive home will hopefully feel triumphant. And if it doesn't, as this is my first interview for a classroom job, it will hopefully also help me feel calm. It has been 8 years since I have interviewed for a job that I had no paid experience doing, and the first interview I am sure I will be the most nervous for the first interview.

In less critical news, my tea stash that was once filling a cabinet, half of my dining room table, and a 4 by 2 foot space on the floor has been reduced to the cabinet and the table only. Sounds silly, but it is the first tangible evidence of me consuming more than I acquire that I've had in awhile, and all of my tea that has over an ounce now lives in a tin in its appropriate spot in the cabinet. Particularly if I end up moving home without a job, how much tea I have will matter a lot, as my organization options will be exceedingly limited. If I am in my own place at a new job, I will just have a new cabinet to organize. Maybe the solution is dedicating a larger cabinet/shelf...

Anyone else nap when they get nervous? I suddenly feel like I know absolutely nothing about teaching at all. Dating is so much easier for me, so much less riding on it. I just need to remind myself that this interview is not that different from a first date - if it doesn't work, I have a plan that is still in place that isn't terrible. It will be great practice, the principal sounded friendly on the phone, and even if I struggle with something unexpected, I will be even more prepared for the next time.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Taco Spice and Hot Weather

I feel like I am in a kind of calm before the storm phase right now. My life is basically just me applying to jobs like a fiend, wrangling and herding truly insane children subbing, wondering where I will be going and what I will be doing in three months. Probably herding more insane children in a different location, at this rate. Kids are terrible these days - I don't remember feeling unsafe as a second grader, but I would have been absolutely terrified if I were in class with some of these children. In the meantime, it has suddely gotten hot as Hades out. Bye Spring, it was nice knowing you for all of five minutes. So I have been going back to more lazy dishes that don't involve the oven, or much effort at all. I have been terrible about going on walks, or cleaning, or anything that involves moving from in front of my fan that doesn't pay me money.

This "recipe" is kind of a cop out, as I know how to make tacos. They are glorious. But I always find myself needing to go to the store for those spice packets. So I decided to give the recipe from Laura in the Kitchen a go. It took spices I already had, and while those spice packets say they only cost a dollar, this ends up being a fraction of that for several meals' worth.
This was a little over one serving when I made it according to the recipe. It worked out though because after using it, I made two more batches to add to it (which I assume will add up to close to 3 meals' worth) and keep sitting around to encourage even further laziness.
After adding the tomato sauce and water, the only drawback was that this takes a solid ten minutes or so of simmering when the packets seem to take less. Logic tells me if I added a bit less water, I could cut this by a couple minutes without sacrificing anything.
It thickened nicely, and I used the leftover meat for nachos the next day. I like my tacos and my nachos with cheese, sour cream, and taco sauce (or hot sauce). Sour cream on the bottom to act like glue to help hold the meat in place, reducing the wreckage from inevitable taco collapses after the first bite. No space for any stinkin veggies for me. Guac is good too.

Highly recommend.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Long time...Recipe: Light Fettuccini Alfredo

Blogging fail. Since my computer being broken I have been hyper focused on getting my applications re-rolling (as I am discovering there truly is a never ending list of places to apply, given the application takes an hour on average) and getting my computer back to where it was before in terms of preferences and bookmarks and such. Also, subbing is of course a never ending adventure where at the end of most days I shake my head and realize exactly why so few certified teachers without contract jobs are subbing. It is rough work, so far almost as rough as actual teaching, because the pros and cons are so different. I have been exhausted, and taking a day here and there for more stomach trouble which I turn into an application day.

But, I am making good progress and have relooked at DOZENS of recipes I went back to hunt for to restore my to-make list from before. Last night I made this slightly unconventional Light Fettuccini Alfredo recipe from Laura In the Kitchen. She is one of my favorite YouTubers for food, beauty, and to watch vlogs for, which is rare. Don't let the amateurish website with terribly placed ads fool you, she is very good and also has a Food Network show I have yet to see, and a cookbook coming out this fall that I have already pre-ordered. I always find it strange when established brands have websites that look cheap or thrown together, given how easy it can be to find someone to design a site that is attractive, professional, and functional. That being said, I care about her food, not the site, and things are pretty easy to find on there. I tend to only go to the site to search a specific recipe for measurements, I subscribe to her YouTube channel and watch those for my primary instructions. I like that her videos are so easy to follow, as it REALLY helps me to be able to see step by step what things are supposed to look like.

I found this recipe to be easy to follow, very tasty, and pretty darn similar to an alfredo, despite the fact that it isn't made with heavy cream. It also only took me fifteen minutes to make, which is downright miraculous. After a day of teaching, I need things that can be made in a jiffy. It wasn't as creamy when I reheated leftovers, as the pasta absorbed the sauce a lot, but it tasted the same.
Ground chicken was a bit of an odd texture, given that traditionally cut up chicken breast is used, but the flavor was the same, and it did bulk up the dish a lot more. I was concerned I had not added enough flour, but it all worked out in the end.
I have been trying to use up my chicken bouillon cubes, so I used that to make the chicken stock, so I didn't season the chicken with salt when I browned it, and it worked out great.
I was concerned it wouldn't thicken up enough, so I let mine simmer a few minutes longer. My concerns were unfounded, as I underestimated the thickness of the cream cheese. Still had the same great taste, was a bit less saucy because the thicker sauce stuck to the noodles tighter.
I actually used Trader Joe's Garlic Basil Linguine because silly me forgot to buy fettuccini when I went to the store to get cream cheese and parmesan. Good parmesan really does taste better.
Added in the parsley, and that was all it took.

Seriously, fifteen minutes or less to make. Plenty of leftovers, so I would consider making half batches to keep things more reasonable for just me and remaking more fresh the next day so I could keep it saucy, but it was tasty reheated as well.

I am a hair behind schedule with all the sickness and stuff with my goal of cooking 50 new dishes this year, but that's ok. I am not on a schedule. 11 down, 39 more to go, and hopefully two more this week.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Recipe: Spiced Rice

Stomach bug again today. I really don't know why it is that I have been sick more in the past 6 months with colds and allergies and stomach issues than I have my whole life combined. I am hoping (sort of) that it is just stress. But I've been more on top of cooking again, which is good. This recipe was inspired by a recipe I saw on Budget Bytes, for Yellow Jasmine Rice. Except I don't like cinnamon in savory dishes and I didn't have bay leaves and I decided to go bonkers with the other spices. It still tastes fantastic. I had learned the gloriousness of using broth to make rice to give it amazing flavor, I am not sure why I never thought to cook it in spices before.

First, I melted a couple tablespoons of butter.
Then, I added the spices. I added turmeric, cumin, paprika, garlic, a little curry powder, and black pepper. I let them toast up a little and the house smells AMAZING at this point.
Then, I added in the dry rice. I have never made rice this way, but cooking it in the oil dry toasts it up and definitely changes the flavor some. 
I added the water in after a few minutes, adding a bouillon cube as well to create a broth. I normally would use cans or something of higher quality except I have so damn many of those cubes. It still tastes great at the end, and needs no salting at any other point.
The finished product.

I think I might never make rice the regular old way again. This is good as a side dish, it would be amazing as a base for any Indian inspired dishes (or any sauce recipe that normally goes over rice), and it would be very easy to mix in veggies and meat to make it a more complete meal. The best part is that there are infinite ways to tweak this to suit any taste or any meal.

I know my rice game has totally changed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Computer Issues Resolved....Again

I am finally able to be back again, after another bout of computer woes. A brand new hard drive and a couple weeks later, I am back on track. Now to do the obnoxious task of reformatting things, reuploading application documents, and getting things generally in order.

I finally began subbing, a couple days last week, and will sub a few days this week. My thoughts on it are mixed. I love and hate the freedom. I love that no one will bother me if I need/wish to take a day off. The only one who suffers if I take a day is my wallet. If I feel sick, which is a lot lately (I haven't been sick as much in my whole life as I have been the last 6 months), or need to catch up on sleep, or an event comes up, I just don't sign up to work. But the curse of that is that it can be very difficult to force myself to go in when I don't feel like it. I didn't sleep a wink night before last, and was exhausted and took the day to deal with my computer stuff. I had every intention of waking up at 5:30am to look for a job for today...but I woke up at 8:30, having apparently slept through three alarms. Luckily (and unfortunately), a pet sitting issue came up that kept me busy, so it worked out for the best.

Having time off isn't too bad. So far, I've found that on days I sub I end out the day so tired I am incapable of being productive. I was in two pretty good rooms last week, but there were some meltdowns. On Monday I was in a room where the teacher had plans that had me directly teaching two different groups of kids two different subjects at the same time, saying all the kids were lovely when there were a couple that had clear behavioral issues that needed constant monitoring. One thing I learned about subbing: you can learn a lot about the type of classroom the teacher runs, structure-wise, by asking the students what normally is done in ________ situation. In both of the rooms last week, the second and first graders I was with all told me the same procedures if I asked about them. They knew what the rules were, respected them, and wished to help me genuinely. On Monday, when I asked the children what the procedures were for small things not described in my plans from the teacher, I got about 10 different answers from 16 children. I don't believe they were trying to lead me astray, they are in second grade. Young children generally try to please. I really believe they were not sure, from the teacher not emphasizing strict routines or not having them. Too bad I can't inquire about those things in advance before accepting a job.

I am applying for jobs, but feeling kind of aimless. The issue of there being so many places I would be willing to go makes the process extremely unfocused. I got some great leads on jobs in this area, but I am pretty ready to be done with this area and try somewhere new.

Dating is a hot mess, one I am sort of taking a break from. One observation I can make is that the men who match with me on OkCupid at 90% or above tend to be extremely not right for me. I am not totally sure how that happens, but how is it that an empathetic, emotional person like me gets matched 97% with a guy who quite literally could have an autism diagnosis if he went to get tested, and was incapable of caring enough about people to make a real friend? We got along great on many levels, so it isn't out of nowhere. But my ex had emotional challenges as well that caused major problems...95% match at the time. Just an interesting observation. I would love to understand how the algorithms work to cause such a disparity.

Back to regular posts now. I missed writing, even if it is just about tea or beauty. Helps me to connect with myself, my interests, and refocuses my efforts to improve myself.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: Buddha Teas

Awhile back, Buddha Teas offered to send me some tea for consideration. I have now had many cups of each, nearly finishing the chai, and feel I can give my best reviews of each. I selected Chai, and Third Eye Chakra tea so I could try something very loved and familiar as well as something totally new to me.

The company has a beautiful, easy to use website. They seem to specialize in herbal blends of herbs I have never heard of. Each product page describes the health benefits, if that is something that interests you, and other information about the individual tea. Given how many blends there are and how many seem rather rare, this can come in handy. I can attest that the packaging of each tea is absolutely beautiful, and while still a cardboard box, it is surprisingly sturdy. The teabags are individually wrapped, which is convenient, but unfortunately they are fairly flimsy paper, so the packaging overall does not provide an airtight haven for the tea. This seriously affects shelf life, so I would recommend with any tea packaged like this that the bags be placed in another, airtight container.

Let's start with what is familiar: Chai. I love chai, and make it on the stove and brew up blends almost daily. I own about 5 different kinds most of the time, in various forms in order to consume it at any caffeine level.

This chai is well balanced, but weak. The spices are present, but don't overwhelm the tea. However, in order to make a cup as strong as any chai lover would prefer, two teabags are needed. To make a strong brew in order to stand up to a little milk and sweetener, to prepare in a more traditional way, three are required. Granted, I use a bigger mug, maybe 12 ounces, but I think the bag requires more leaf. This would be good for someone who wants to drink chai lite, so to speak.

What this company seems to specialize in is herbal and chakra teas. I don't really know much of anything about chakras, but that was half of the appeal of selecting this. After reading all of the descriptions of the chakra teas, I picked the Third Eye Chakra, described on the website:

"Known as the ajna, the center of insight and intuition, the third eye chakra is located in the middle of the forehead, above the brow. This chakra is the main point of intuition, focus, knowledge and being able to grasp the larger picture behind circumstances. An imbalance of this chakra may lead to poor decision-making, self-doubt and deceiving oneself. When meditating upon this chakra, the phrase focused upon is “I see”." 

Given my state of general life imbalance, making the right choices and being able to focus on the bigger goals of the upcoming year is absolutely critical. I am not sure how much drinking this tea helps, but I find it to be tasty. It includes Eyebright, Star Anise, Jasmine Flower, Passion Flower, and Spearmint leaf and the lot is apparently infused with sapphire essence. I wasn't sure what that meant (am I drinking rocks?) but thankfully, the website explained that the process meant the herbs basically spent some time hanging out nearby some sapphire. Cool. It tastes very herbal and pleasant, and I have much enjoyed drinking this before bed. 

In sum, I think if I were to order from this company, I would stick to the more unique herbals. There are other companies that do bagged traditional tea at the grocery store that is just as good for a lower price. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Battle of the Beauty Boxes: Birchbox, Glossybox, Ipsy February 2015

Time for another box comparison. There were some hits and some misses.

Birchbox - $10 a month, rewards system is AWESOME. 10 points per product review, 100 points = 10 bucks. This month I received six products, and therefore got six dollars of credit to use in the shop. The shop is extensive and amazing - spending money there is no problem for me.
Super sweet packaging that makes me wish that it wasn't cold here all of March, which is when I want spring to begin.

Benefit PosieBalm: Value: appx $6.00. I have no idea the real value of this - there is no size written on the container. Full size is $18, and I am guessing this is about 1/3 of that. I was most excited about this from this box because it is something I will use, from a nice brand, but not something I would have purchased on my own because of the hefty price tag for a tinted balm.

Marcelle Make-Up Remover: Value: $5.00. I normally take off my makeup using a cleansing oil, but dislike traveling with it because it is in a pump form and would make an utter mess in a travel bag. I am glad to get these types of samples for that purpose.

Davines Minu Shampoo: Value: around $7.50. I will use this, as I tend to lack travel shampoo, but it is exorbitantly priced overall for what it is. The less time a product spends on your skin/hair, the less it is worth spending a bundle on. Splurge on serums or moisturizers and on shampoo. 

Gilchrist & Soames: Value: $4. I am totally unimpressed with the scent of this. As in, it smells like soap. Why anyone would want to pay 18 bucks for a full size is beyond me. It will be used, for travel, but this is super not exciting.

Harvey Prince Hello Perfume: $5.50. I pretty much never appreciate getting perfume samples. That said, once in awhile I will get a great one. This smells lovely, though I probably won't purchase a full size. The ONLY thing that really makes this worth using is the sprayer. Samples that aren't big enough to have a sprayer attached are seriously a waste of time for everyone, and a filler for these boxes.

Harvey Prince Hello Perfume: $0.94. This was a freebie, so I can't be too harsh on it. The dollar I got back in rewards by reviewing it is higher than the value of the sample itself, so I can't say I regret receiving this. It is a so-so product and I hate packet samples like this. 

Overall: 6/6 products will be tried out or have been tried, but it is seriously depressing that only 2 are products I am remotely looking forward to using.
Birchbox: $10 spent. Overall value: $28.94
Glossybox: $21.00 per month, mostly super deluxe sized or full sized products. Very reliably awesome. They give you ten points per review, just like Birchbox, but it takes 1000 points to redeem for a free box. Which means overall, it takes 20 months (there are normally five products per month) to redeem a new box. Almost two years. However, I did notice last month that they awarded me 100 points for being a loyal customer. I am not sure how often that would take place, but it cuts down on the time it would take to receive a free box by two months. Slightly less sucky.

Another adorable box. The Glossybox boxes are the BEST for storing tea samples, give away samples, as drawer organizers, or sturdy boxes for regifting things.

Rituals Foam Body in Yogi Flow: Value: full size at $15.00. I need more soap and body wash like a hole in the head, yet I am SO excited to try this. And super impressed that it is full sized.

Unwash Bio-Cleansing Conditioner: Value: $6.67. I have been dying to try a cleansing conditioner. The Wen ones look great but are so pricey to try. This will be good for travel and good to introduce me to cleansing conditioners, and see if they will work for my hair type.

Royal Apothic Tinties Lip Butter in Pink: Value: full size at $14. This is awesome - just look at the adorable packaging if you need proof. It is actually not very sheer, which I love, and full of great natural ingredients. This will be perfection in the summer once I am not ghostly white.

Julep Color Treat in Heartleigh: Value: Full size at $14. In case anyone wasn't sure, all the supposedly amazing antioxidants in this are likely ineffective because antioxidants tend to be light sensitive, and probably sensitive to the loads of chemicals that make this "5-free". Most of the "free" stuff to me is hella gimmicky. Just chemicals replacing chemicals. I love Julep polishes, but will be rehoming this with a friend I know loves nail art.

Teadora Nourishing Exfoliating Bar in Rainforest At Dawn: Value: Full size at $5. I have way too much soap in my life, but I appreciate the quality of this one, and will enjoy using it.

Overall: 4/5 products to be kept and used. No reject products, even the one to be given away. I love how many were full sized.
Glossybox: $21 spent. Value: $54.70 (rounded to nearest ten cents)
Ipsy: $10 a month, super reliable about providing good brands and makeup items, even if the brands aren't always super luxe. Comes in a makeup bag that is sometimes ugly and useless, sometimes wonderfully shaped and pretty. I do not count the bag as having any value in the box as it is impossible to calculate. Also provides 10 points per review, takes a super long time to gain enough to redeem for free product. Though lately, I've been able to share more on Facebook to earn some extra points, which is nice.

Pretty, but stupid design. Giving this away. I strongly prefer when the zipper is on the top and not on the side.

ModelCo Blush Cheek Powder in Cosmopolitan: Value: $22. I love blush. It is weird because you really don't use much at a time, yet the fact that I have one in every shade of pink, peach, and plum out there is mind boggling. This is matte, and I don't have any matte blushes, as they tend to feel chalky, so I will like giving this a try. 

Luxie 504 Large Angled Brush: Value: approximately $6.40. I am excited to get another brush - my angled brush is very very old, and this one feels soft enough to be a good replacement.

Rob Sheppy for Tini Beauty Powder Eyeshadow in Pearl Fizz: Value: $12. Eyeshadow that is a beautiful light pearly tan shade. Perfect for every day in most any eye look. Even though I have a ton just like this, I am happy to have another.

Cargo Lip Gloss: around $8.00. I've already given this away because it is a terrible shade for me. Light milky pinks are super in right now and super ugly on pretty much everyone without porcelain skin. I don't think it is ever attractive to use lip color lighter than your REAL lip color. Just my opinion.

Hey Honey Take It Off Exfoliating Peel Off Mask: Value: $7.00. I like having new masks for when I travel, and I haven't used a peel off mask in years. I am weirdly excited to use this, the peeling is always super satisfying.

Overall: 4/5 products to keep. The give away item is likely good quality, but a personal preference on a shade. Mostly makeup, which is why I like this bag compared to the other two, which tend to focus more on skincare.
Ipsy: $10 spent. Value: $54.40 (rounded to nearest ten cents)
Round Up:
Value Per dollar:
Birchbox$2.89 in product for every dollar spent. (Compared to $4.35 last month)
*If you consider the $6 in credit as money off, it changes to $7.24 for every dollar spent*
Glossybox$4.76 in product for every dollar spent (Compared to $3.38 last month)
Ipsy$5.44 in product for every dollar spent. (Compared to $3.03 last month)

The best products were in the Glossybox, which is pretty typical as it is a more high end box, followed by Ipsy and then Birchbox this time. That said, I am calling Birchbox a major dud. Being excited to use two products from a box is not acceptable these days when there are so many great ones. The best value is Ipsy by far this month, and though Birchbox rewards points make it technically more for the money, the lack of exciting product makes it functionally worth the least. As the Birchbox value per dollar went down compared to last month, the Glossybox went up, and Ipsy was nearly double last month;s value.

Until next month. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Makeup Challenge: Winged Liner

I hate when there are makeup tricks that best me. I typically try my hand at things and get them right pretty quickly. Learning to put a darker shade in the crease, using different brushes, contouring, all of that came pretty easily. False eyelashes were a bit harder but it turned out once I got some decent lash glue, they weren't so hard after all.

But winged, I don't know how anyone gets that right. I've been able to successfully wing one eye. But the other eye tends to not even look like a wing, let alone a matching one. I've been testing out all of my makeup lately, and tossing/rehoming things that I don't love. Almost all of my makeup lives in my bathroom now, and it is all of my very best products. I have been enjoying rediscovering favorites now that I am not focused on using up stuff I don't love. During this process, I found two liquid eyeliners, both which get great reviews online (Urban Decay 24/7 and Stila brands), sitting unused. I tend not to liquid line, I think my pencil liners do a good job and look a bit softer. But I certainly know winged liner is made for liquid liners. I plan to eventually experiment with gels too, but right now I want to focus on using the liquid liners, and mastering this elusive makeup skill that I'd love the option of doing.

So challenge accepted, winged liner. Every day I have makeup already on, at the end of the day before I take it off, I am going to try to do winged liner over whatever I have on already. I won't be messing up any makeup I've already done, no need to take it off and redo anything, but I will be getting practice 3-5 days a week and getting better. As of now, I seem to be capable of doing a not-totally-terrible wing on one eye. Now, I just need to make that one eye a little better and sharper, and be able to do a wing on the other eye with my non dominant hand. And one magical day, maybe they will even match and I can rock the look outside my bathroom at the end of the day.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Recipe: Lentil Soup with Sriracha

I have been doing a lot of cooking these days, and last week was just a rock star cooking week. I tend to only share the recipes that worked super well for me. With the job application process being slow and boring, I feel like I have fewer places for tangible personal development overall. That said, it has been an excellent time to cook a ton, and I have to say I am feeling pretty accomplished lately.

I have been wanting to try a few lentil soup recipes, as I really like lentils and they are inexpensive and nutritious. I also go ga-ga over sriracha. I have had good luck with soup in the past - they are pretty hard to mess up. Or at least pretty easy to fix if you do mess up.

I used this recipe, and didn't need to change a thing, which I appreciated. I made this one a real vampire-repellant...with ten cloves of garlic. It ended up being a great choice for me, though I would be cautious about doing so if I was at risk of being "close" with someone who also didn't eat some. I also used my new chopper, which has totally revolutionized the whole onion issue for me. I can only chop large pieces of a single medium onion before being so teary eyed that I can't safely use a sharp knife. Plus, for this recipe, I liked that I could make it almost pureed.

I am basically obsessed with curry, and I like that this recipe has those flavors in it without being overwhelming. It is flavorful, but definitely not reminiscent of an Indian dish.

I added the tomato and stock and then added the lentils and let it do its thing for an hour.

The finished product.

Then, a generous helping of sriracha. I can honestly say that the soup is flavorful enough without it, for anyone who isn't into heat, but I love the flavor and heat so I go to town.

I personally prefer a chunkier soup overall so I didn't blend this, though I liked that there weren't big chunks of onion or garlic and those flavors were more diffused throughout the soup. It wasn't very liquid at all this way, so if that is something you prefer, don't use as many lentils. Probably even half would make it a more traditional soup consistency.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Recipe: Matcha Chocolate Chip Scones

With all of the new things I am making, a few are standing out as game changers. This is one of them. I don't typically bake all that well, but who knew scones were so easy? Plus, tea and chocolate and baked goods together? Yes, please. I foresee running out of matcha rather quickly now. I adapted this recipe a little bit, as I found the scone mixture to be too sticky on its own. I added a lot more flour in the end, close to another cup's worth. I've made this twice, and it came out really well both times. My first was a hair better, because I spent a bit more time mixing things more thoroughly (my biggest challenge when cooking or baking is impatience), but I'd say this is pretty reliable.

Clearly this is not helping the weight loss a whole lot. I've upped my minimum walking distance to three miles instead of a mile and a half in part because of this exact situation. Whatevs.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Recipe: Sausage and Mushroom Pasta

My overall goal to learn 50 new dishes this year is going super well. I don't plan to share all of them here, just the ones I could see making again. Out of 50 brand new experiments, I consider myself happy if 2/3 are good enough to be repeated, and so far I have done far better. As of today, I am down to 42 more.

This is an Italian style sausage and mushroom pasta - super easy, super tasty. I got the recipe here. Budget Bytes has become a go-to recipe site for me, I have several more bookmarked to try. I only adjusted a couple of things from this recipe. I used fresh oregano and fresh basil, as I am trying to get in the habit of using fresh when I have the opportunity. I really believe it made a huge flavor difference. I also used hot Italian sausage - I prefer the flavor, but I also feel like it seasoned the whole dish super well. I didn't add any extra salt or pepper at all. My sausage was locally made, and less firm, so there was more oil in the bottom of the pan. I also cooked 4 links, but only sliced three for the final dish - one was lunch. More oil = more unhealthy but more flavor. I also sauteed the garlic and onions and mushrooms in the oil a little before adding the tomato. Finally, a friend recommended I partially cook the pasta and add less stock so I could prevent mushiness.

You can see, my sausages are bigger and crumblier. Still yummy.

I sliced mine thickly because it wasn't as firm - it doesn't matter in terms of flavor. I think next time I would consider just removing it all from the casing and browning it like ground meat.

Mixing in onion, garlic, and mushrooms in the oil.

Added tomatoes and partially cooked pasta. I used ziti because that is what I had on hand.

Finished. Not particularly fancy looking or refined...but damn tasty. This turned out absolutely fantastic, and it reheated really well too. I've been on a mission to use up the excessive amount of carbs in my pantry, and this was a great help. Seriously, I have no idea how I got POUNDS AND POUNDS of pasta, rice, and other grains...but I have a feeling I will be spending the next six months using it up.