Alex in Transit(ion)

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sodium and sustainability.

Oh hey! I know I took an unexpected hiatus but to all of my comrades in grad school, you know how it goes. There’s so much reading and projects that you wonder:

  1. Can you keep up with the reading?
  2. Alright, you’ve done the reading, but does that mean you can understand the material?
  3. Oh yeah! While you’re answering those two questions, you also have papers to write and tests to take. 

 

I’m very happy with my performance and I’m pulling straight A’s but I have a midterm coming  up in less than two weeks. I haven’t taken a test since the GRE in December 2011 so I am crossing my fingers that I will keep up the good work. It’s great getting to know everybody more. One of my colleagues who plans to complete our program in 4 consecutive semesters, while working full time, told me that during the weekends he wakes up at 8AM and does homework until 8PM. He says it’s hell but it will be worth it for him. He’s also made me realize that this is going to be my easiest semester because next semester, I will be taking a lot of quantitative research classes. Next semester I plan to take:

  • Political Economy and Public Administration (required)
  • Analytical Methods (required)
  • Public Budgeting Systems (required)
  • Administrative Transparency (concentration)

I haven’t stopped cooking though and ahh I’m so pumped because today was the first time I made my own homemade broth! Last January, I made soup for the first time and I was SO proud of myself for making such a healthy and delicious meal…until I realized it wasn’t so healthy. I realized that there was so much sodium in it that every time I ate the soup I cringed. It was such a shame that I couldn’t enjoy my soup that I worked so hard to make without fearing that I was one step closer to hypertension with each spoonful. I decided to make my own broth by saving up a gallon of vegetable scraps. Then the job assignment came up and I knew that I’d have to hold these plans until grad school started. 

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Beginning to simmer for a hour…

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And now, we strain. This is probably the most arduous part of the process. I used cheesecloth for the first five minutes, then I realized that my sieve did an excellent job. Don’t worry, I did let it cool a bit before I started straining. One of these days, I hope to get some glass storage containers so I don’t have to wait to strain. Maybe I’ll get a nice Pyrex set for my birthday! Isn’t the color incredible? You would think it’s a beef stock, but it’s really the color of the vegetables! 

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Finally. A gallon of homemade broth. It does have a very strong vegetable taste, so I think that when I use it, I will put one teaspoon of sugar and one teaspoon of salt to make it more flavorful. It’s just so great knowing that I had complete control over this process, it’s sustainable, and I don’t have to worry about risking a heart attack because there’s barely any sodium in it. 

I do want to try to make a clear vegetable broth. It looks like I may have to separate my scraps and keep the light colored veggies away from the dark colored ones. I will be making a Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup this week and I’m a litttttlllleee afraid about what the color is going to be like. 

As for this week’s grocery list, there won’t be one because I have a lot of the ingredients on hand. I think the world of Kate from CookieandKate.com and truly believe she has changed my diet for the better. The greatest thing about her recipes is that they yield so much. Since I was sick for most of this week, I stuck to sleep and take out because I was too lazy to cook, but I just made the Vegetarian West African Peanut Soup this afternoon and it is ready for dinner tomorrow night. Then I will make the Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup and I am really excited for the end of the week because I’ll find out what this Black Beans and Quinoa with Chipotle Raspberry Sauce dish tastes like. I would never think that black beans and raspberries would ever go together, but it looks like I’ll find out! 

 

 


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mangia: a grocery list for a grad school budget

I know that other than  my weekly grocery lists, things have been kind of sparse here, content-wise, but alas- I’m finally in that part of the semester where I need to start preparing for project deadlines, look around for internships, and hopefully find a part time job that will allow me to start saving up for the summer and fall.

This feature is awesome though- I get into a lot of conversations based on what I make for the week and I always love hearing that my friends are making the dishes I post, especially those who are far away. We’re still sharing the same experiences but on opposite ends of I-95.

I love this week because last week provided me with quite a bounty of food! That chili I made last week is still going strong and I haven’t even made that spinach and chickpeas side dish or those enchiladas yet. I have city plans for this weekend so I get to use all of that money I’m saving  from not eating take out or going out to the bars during the week to have fun. Which is good.

Also, it’s crazy that I’ve been eating on my own since 2009 but I didn’t realize until now the merits of canned and frozen vegetables. Yeah, it’s better to go for the fresh, but when you’re in grad school or on a budget, frozen and canned vegetables are AWESOME! They cost less and if you happen to make chili that produces a ridiculous amount of servings, you are good to go my friends!

chili

I’m not complaining about having a ridiculous amount  of this to still go through.

I did learn the hard way about why you should always use the ingredients that are listed. In my house, we barely had white sandwich bread because my mother was a whole wheat fanatic, with good reason. So when I was in the baking aisle, although my recipes called for all purpose flour, I went for the whole wheat since it’s better for you.

It worked great in my Apple and Cheddar Breakfast Bread. As you can see, it was fabulous. I’m making it again for this week!

applecheddar

But with my chocolate cake…it was good, but you could tell there was whole wheat flour used because of the texture. Lesson learned: these food bloggers list ingredients for a reason.

This is going to be an exciting week though! Not because I have an article critique due on Tuesday, but I’m making my own vegetable broth! I’m so excited, I’ve literally been saving up vegetable scraps for weeks! My friends C and E have been making their own broth for months so I’m pretty pumped to join their club of breaking free from the can.

Alright, the moment y’all have been waiting for: this week’s menu…and yeah, after spending a year in Virginia and Florida, y’all is staying. I miss hearing people say it.

Breakfast: Apple Mixed Cheese Bread. Otherwise known as “Alex has cheese to use. Might as well go into bread.”

Side Dish: The Spinach and Chickpeas dish I never made.

Dinner: The enchiladas I never made

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with Homemade Vegetable Stock! (I’m going to base my concoction on these two

recipes from Emeril and Everybody Loves Sandwiches)

Coconut Quinoa and Kale with Tropical Pesto

Dessert: Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake (sounds weird, looks delicious)

The List: 

  • Olive Oil 
  • Vegetable Oil
  • All purpose flour
  • White sugar
  • 1 avocado
  • 8 or 9 tomatoes. I’ll see if canned or fresh are cheaper…
  • 3 red bell peppers. Same deal.
  • 2 small yellow onions
  • 1 small red onion
  • garlic
  • quinoa
  • coconut milk
  • small bunch o’ kale
  • coconut flakes
  • cilantro
  • cashews
  • black pepper (believe it or not, I still haven’t bought some)
  • red pepper flakes (same deal)
  • Thyme. Fresh or dried. Whatever’s cheaper
  • Bay leaves
  • Dried chilis (eh, kinda optional. I’m sure the broth will be alright without them, but if they’re on sale, that’s cool)
  • Eggs
  • Cheesecloth
  • Orange Juice
  • Chobani (I miss New York. Big Chobani is always on sale, unlike New Jersey ShopRite where I pay 6 bucks for it. But it packs a ton of protein…)
  • Some awesome craft beer. I tried Wolhaver’s Alta Gracia Coffee Porter and it was fabulous.

WalMart

I know we all have our opinions about WalMart, But I don’t have a choice since I don’t have a car anymore. It’s all about where the Rutgers shuttle brings me.

  • 2 8 inch round pans
  • Rubber spatula
  • Mixing bowl (it’s become apparent I need one)

Ladies and gentlemen of the internet jury, I’m almost done stocking up my pantry. I’m *this close* to becoming a real grown up. Although real grown ups have jobs and don’t live off student loans, so I still have a ways to go.


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Cooking

So- I’ve made it almost three months where I’ve only cooked pescatarian meals. I’ve never felt better and cooking has become my biggest passion. I still eat meat when I eat out because there are very few restaurants that make outstanding vegetarian meals but it’s very rare when I eat out now because I’ve become so conscious about what goes in my body. I really don’t know what goes on in a restaurant’s kitchen but I know what’s going on in mine. Every time I plan my meals, I’m always looking at how much cholesterol, fat, and sodium I’m taking in. It’s a great feeling- I’ve never felt so in control of my diet before and my body loves it. 

For the most part, I cook from scratch. It’s very time consuming but I don’t mind it- cooking is very relaxing to me. No matter what kind of day I’m having, I can retreat to the kitchen and focus on making a good meal. It’s made me think about what’s important to me in the future: for example, I would love to eventually have an apartment/house where the kitchen is the main star and everyone is helping to prepare a meal. I want to eventually bake my own breads and make my own pasta. I also want to start canning, which I really wanted to do this summer, but since an adventure is coming up very soon, I know I will not be able to. Also, since I’ve become aware about HOW MUCH SODIUM IS IN ANY STORE BROTH (even vegetable!), I’ve been collecting vegetable scraps over this past week to make my own broth. I’m looking forward to it- I can’t wait to have soup again! 

When I was speaking to my doctor about my diet, she asked if I replaced meat with cheese in my diet like some vegetarians do and I said I didn’t, more so because I’m lactose intolerant. The one thing I’m very conscious of is that I try to limit my pasta intake because it’s so easy to fall back on it on a vegetarian diet. When I collect recipes on Pinterest, for the most part I will not add it to my Recipe Board if it includes pasta. I should turn in my Italian card somewhere. I think my ancestors would kill me if they knew what I was doing.

There are some things I refuse to eat. I don’t eat tofu or the meat substitutes. Tofu is so time consuming to prepare that I’ve given up on it. As for the meat substitutes, they freak me out, to be quite honest. I know it’s not meat and my palate isn’t receptive to it. I have to coach myself while eating it and that’s no way to enjoy a meal. 

I really can’t wait to live a life where I can really focus on preparing good, healthy food. I truly feel that’s where I find my bliss.