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mangia: a grocery list for a grad school budget!

Ahhhh, I’m so excited to get back to being a vegetarian! Although I am as Italian as the sky is blue; when I’m on a vegetarian diet, I rarely eat pasta or soy products. I really want to eat from scratch as much as I can, especially since when I was on my job assignment, I ate take out all of the time.

P.S. If you ever find yourself in Titusville, Florida, (it’s the home of NASA) you will find yourself in the land of amazing restaurants. Kloiber’s Cobbler for lunch, Sunrise Bread Company for coffee and the most delicious bread you’ll ever find, and El Leoncito for Mexican Food and the best Margaritas in Brevard County. 

I feel that when I became a vegetarian, I truly discovered a love for cooking. When I was an omnivore, my dinners were mindless. Somehow, grilled chicken and bacon always found a way into my recipes. I’m not saying that cooking with meat suppresses your creativity in the kitchen, but cooking without it opens the door to so many possibilities that you may have not considered before. For example, I wondered what I could substitute bacon or ham for in a meat, egg, and cheese sandwich. I’ve found out that roasted mushrooms, peppers, eggplant, or avocado are satisfying substitutes and give me that savory, fatty taste I’m craving.

When cooking on a budget, I like to plan my meals out at least a week in advance. This enables me to keep an eye out for deals and see what’s on sale. This is also helpful for vegetarians because you tend to buy a lot of fresh produce and you’re going to waste your money if you buy all these different types of produce, only to have them rot in your refrigerator. Lastly, I plan because I need to keep track of my nutrients. I can’t stress how important it is to take a multivitamin but it can’t solve all of your problems. Take some time to study the nutritional chart and pay attention to your nutrient intake. To make this fun and eliminate waste, I like to do themed weeks, according to what’s on sale.

This week’s theme: Sweet Potato, Chick Peas, and Kale! 

ironchef

(for some reason, I totally felt like the Iron Chef Chairman when I wrote that)

If it’s winter, it’s sweet potato season. This vegetable and I have such a troubled history. When I was little, I was obsessed with sweet potatoes and I would beg my grandmother to make them. She was always happy to and so proud that I would beg for vegetables. Then, when I was a teenager, I stopped eating them. The thought of them made me gag and I only ate them if it was Thanksgiving or Christmas. Those were the dark days.

Thankfully, sweet potatoes and I are back on good terms. Which is good, because they’re a vegetarian’s best friend. They are rich in iron, which is a nutrient that you may lack once you take meat out of your diet. There are two types of iron, heme which is found in meat, and non-heme which is found in plants. You can absorb up to 30% of heme iron, however, you absorb anywhere between 2% and 10% from non-heme foods. We need iron to carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of your body and if you lack it, you may become lethargic. To better absorb non-heme iron, it’s recommended to have a diet rich in Vitamin C.

Kale is another food that is rich in iron and is my go-to green. Why? Check out what WebMD has to say:

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

::drops mic::

Chick peas, and other beans, are high in protein. 1/2 cup of chickpeas has 7 out of the required 56 grams of protein you need everyday.

Recipes and the Grocery List

For breakfast, I am going to switch between broiled grapefruit and kale, egg, and cheese on toast. Both dishes will be accompanied by either Fage or Chobani greek yogurt because their plain yogurts have 18g of protein per 6oz serving. I’ll drizzle a little honey or serve it with seasonal fruit to make it tastier. Add that to the days in which I eat an egg for breakfast (6g) and I’m in good shape for meeting my daily protein value.

As for lunch, I will eat the leftovers from the night before with seasonal fruit.  Breakfast is going to be very filling.

For dinner, I will make my favorite Sweet Potato, Kale, and Chickpea Soup (serves 6), Braised Coconut Chickpeas and Kale with Lemon  (serves 4), and Sweet Potato Burrito Smothered in Avocado Salsa Verde (serves 4).

  • A gallon of Olive Oil. Buy with coupon
    • It’s not worth the money nor the waste to buy the little bottles of olive oil. You’re better off buying the gallon that will last you forever and a day. 
    • We bought it the other day at Sam’s Club.
  • The big carton of Fage or Chobani plain yogurt, whichever is on sale.
  • Honey
  • 2 Grapefruits
  • Seasonal fruit
  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 1 small red onion
  • Cage-Free eggs
  • Pepperjack Cheese
  • Bread
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • Frank’s Red Hot
  • Bunch of Kale
  • 2 Red Peppers
  • 1 jalopeno
  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • 6 cups of low sodium vegetable broth
  • Cayenne Pepper Powder
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 3 inch knob of ginger
  • Lime juice
  • Lemon juice
  • tortillas
  • 2 avocados
  • Coconut Milk
  • Cilantro
  • Orange Juice
  • Almond Milk
  • Freezer safe bags

It’s going to be a little expensive this time around because I’m beginning to stock up on the essentials. How come it always feels like it takes a year to stock up a kitchen? Thankfully spices, oil, lemon juice, lime juice, freezer bags,  and my beloved Frank’s Red Hot are purchases that will last a while. The freezer bags will be used for collecting vegetable scraps because I will be making my own vegetable broth.

There you have it- 21 meals for a fraction of a cost compared to a meal plan.

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the best lunch ever: mushroom sandwich

I found myself running late to work this morning- I had 45 minutes to get dressed, make coffee and lunch, and walk to work. It would have been easy to decide to buy lunch, but that would have been an insult to the beautiful portabella mushrooms and red pepper I bought this week. Good produce is hard to find at the Delaware Avenue Price Chopper and I wasn’t going to waste any of it.

If you are looking to cook mushrooms, I swear by this recipe from Stone Soup. It is so tasty and simple. Except, I was in a rush, so I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. Instead of 400 degrees, I cranked that baby up to 450. I don’t know whether that was a good or bad choice, but it got the job done.

I stuffed my mushrooms with three slices of garlic, a little bit of sliced onions, cilantro, and a slice of mozzarella. Top that off with a few slices of roasted red peppers and put some alumninum foil over it and cook for 15 minutes while you frantically get dressed and ready for work. Bread. Mayo. Done. I find this to be more tasty and savory than any meat sandwich…and I got to work on time to find out that I received a raise =D


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she likes to write about life.

When I was writing this post earlier (blog posts can wait, dinner cannot), there were eggplant steaks sizzling in the pan and I finally got the chance to listen to the new M83 album on Spotify. If you haven’t checked out M83, I suggest you do very soon if you like lush, electronic music. It’s sad that I was only introduced to them this summer and apparently they have been around for a while. 

But yeah- I’m taking a break from my hot date with some GRE review books. This is how exciting life is going to be until December 30th…but as much as it kinda sucks and I miss hanging out with my friends (especially after being away for 2 months!)…it’s all good. From what my career has shown me, your true friends will let you do what you need to do and after your task is done, you’ll pick up right where you left off. 

I’m happy to say that my body is finally getting the hang of my new diet. I decided to cut back on eating meat. Ever since I started this, a lot of people have been asking why I would so such a thing. There are a ton of reasons why I’m doing this:

1. Earlier this year, I started to study commercial slaughterhouse practices after watching this amazing documentary called Kill It, Cook It, Eat It. After viewing it and doing some research, I said that I wouldn’t buy meat that wasn’t humanely raised and killed. In the beginning of the year, I was AWESOME at it- but then life got busy. I was living in Saratoga and was commuting to Albany to work and I fell prey to eating quick and cheap again because it fit my lifestyle. Sometimes I would be too busy in the morning to make lunch and it was so easy to go to Irongate to get a yummy sandwich full of delicious meat. They do have vegetarian sandwiches but I always find them to be so oily and unappetizing. Then when my job assignments came up, I was too busy to start a new diet, and I was on the road a lot, so it was very convenient to eat fast food…especially at Chick-Fil-A.

2. My family has a history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Since I’m already genetically predisposed to my ticker filling up with guck easily, I decided to be proactive and eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Taking red meat and poultry out of my diet seemed like a good way to do it. My job assignments are very stressful and I put my body through a lot. This time around, I would feel chest pains from time to time and I don’t know whether it was because of the stress or the fast food I was eating but my body didn’t feel right. I decided that maybe it’s time to switch things up. 

3. It’s easier on the environment.

At first, it was hell. I would have meat cravings so bad that I would wake up in the middle of the night because I wanted a juicy hamburger. My mornings were worse- I would wake up feeling completely drained of energy, which isn’t me at all. A few friends told me to start taking vitamins and I have to say, that did the trick. Along with coffee, once I take my One a Day for Women, I feel like I can take on the world. Grocery shopping was bad too- I had no idea what to buy and it got so frustrating. I decided a good tactic would be to ask other vegetarians in the vegetarian aisle and that was a good strategy. They were more than happy to direct me to right tofu to buy or tell me what the best meat substitutes were…even though I haven’t broken into the Chik’n Strips or Veggie Sausages yet. 

A week and a half later, I’m starting to see the benefits. The most remarkable one is that I find that I digest foods better now. When I was 10, I was diagnosed as lactose intolerant. I thought it was the end of the world, seeing that I come from a big Italian family that owns a pizzeria. I never cared about limiting my dairy though- cheese and ice cream are just too good to give up so I decided to live with the consequences for the last 14 years. Now that I’m on this diet, I eat more cheese and yogurt than ever before…and I haven’t felt any symptoms of lactose intolerance, which is insane for me…in an awesome way. Now I’m wondering if it was really lactose intolerance all of this time or if it is because my body doesn’t digest fatty foods well? Whatever it is, I don’t want to change what I’m doing. I have never felt this healthy before. 

However, I will never call myself a vegetarian because I don’t believe I can be one. If anything, I’m a better omnivore. I come from a very traditional Italian family and it would break my Nonna’s heart if I refused to eat something she made. Same thing goes if I’m a guest at another person’s house and there is meat dish. I’m not going to refuse it. Someone took the time to give a meal to me. I’ve got to respect that. Additionally, I can’t see myself giving up seafood. I love mussels, calamari, fish, lobster, crab, and clams too much to take them away from my diet. I was also thinking about my life a few years from now, when I have children. I would not raise them as vegetarians because your body needs to get used to digesting a wide variety of foods. I feel that vegetarianism is a personal choice that one needs to make for his or herself. 

Well- it’s time for bed for me. 


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What happened was that the rain stopped and I did all the adult things and I went all the way down to Greenwich and Spring and the company was amazing but also the owners gave us a tour of their tiny brew setup and sat and ate with us and then comped our ENTIRE MEAL and we drank all the beers and it was amazing and wonderful.

megwhyte:

Moral of the story is sometimes you need to get up off your ass and live, even if there’s weather outside.

I concur =D

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thepumpkinpatch:

conjuringseed:

anyone know how accurate this is? because i’m intrigued…

I’ve seen this before, and what little I remember from my Nutrition classes do stand-up to what’s on this chart. It probably isn’t as strict as the chart makes it seem though. 

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nesting, a segue into competitive eating, and dancing without music.

::waves::

hehe and I bet y’all thought I forgot how to write with all of these pictures and moving gifs I’ve been posting lately.

The day I have been longing for has finally come. I will be moving to Albany ridiculously soon. I can’t even tell you how happy that makes me. Although I love living in Saratoga I just can’t wait to get back to my old neighborhood. Case in Point: yesterday, I was at the All Over Albany birthday party…or should I say blog-day? AOA is honestly my favorite blog for the sole fact that it has so much heart and no matter if you have lived in the Capital Region for all of your life or for a year and a half (gee, I wonder who that could be ;D) the blog always comes up with new, awesome stuff to do and lets you meet new people. For example, through the blog, I found another Albany blogger who is looking to eat the Graveyard burger at the Wagon Train BBQ in Schenectady. 

What is the Graveyard burger?

The Graveyard burger consists of a 1 lb. black angus hamburger, 4 slices of bacon, 2 fried eggs, 6 slices of cheese, 1 lb. of pulled pork, 1/2 lb. of brisket, 1/2 lb. of pulled chicken, coleslaw, mac and cheese, fried jalapeño coins, onion tanglers, and bbq sauce on a supersize bun. It costs $24.99 but if you finish it within a half hour, you get your picture on the Wall of Fame in the restaurant and you won’t be charged for the burger. 

God damn. 

I saw that the blogger was asking the audience what he thought and immediately, my thoughts went back to May 2009, where my college was hosting the annual Resident Student Organization campus barbeque in the quad. I saw that there was a hot dog eating contest and that they were looking for competitors. I may have been 5’2 and around 130 pounds and that my competitors were a little bit taller and larger- but that didn’t stop me. I was in it for the glory. I knew I was going to win. 

Basically- here’s the gist when it comes to competitive eating. You’ve got throw self image out the window. This stuff isn’t pretty and in order to win, you have to be a complete slob. Eating the meat is EASY. It’s greasy. More than likely covered by some sort of sauce. That’s not the hard part. The hard part is the bun. 

(if boy-I-fancy is reading this, I give him full permission to leave me after I write these next paragraphs)

If you want to win a competitive eating contest- you need to dip the bun in water. Otherwise, you’re just going to be wasting time by chewing a bun. Buns aren’t meant to be chewed or savored. They are meant to be swallowed. And to tell you the truth, in a weird, disgusting way- I looked forward to dipping the bun in water because it killed two birds with one stone- I consumed my bun and got a drink of water at the same time. 

Surprisingly enough, I won. I ate 7 and a half hot dogs with buns, in two minutes. There wasn’t a prize though. All I got were bragging rights. 

(boy-I-fancy, if you did read this and you still want to be with me, you deserve a gold star)

The blogger replied back to my comment and thanked me but little did I know but a few hours after, I met him because he knew my friend I was at the event with. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I got home that I realized that I met him and pieced it all together. Oh Smallbany. 

That’s funny. Spell check did not prompt me to correct “Smallbany.” Maybe it really is the truth!

I also got to meet the founder of AOA and he was really, really nice! It was awesome, he remembered my blog comment on a post a few days back. To me- that’s the mark of a stellar person right there- a writer who cares about his community of readers. It just made me really happy to follow AOA because, like I mentioned before, I always thought it was a blog that had a lot of heart. Now I know that it does. So if you do live in Albany, and you’re not reading it- oh boy, I suggest you do so. 

Right.

Meow.

http://www.alloveralbany.com

I’ve honestly declared this week “Alex Looks At Crazy Animals Week.” 

Moving on. 

I don’t know- I’ve just been in a really terrific mood these last couple of weeks. Getting pretty excited about the upcoming future. It’s really nice!


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The Adventures of Alex and Brian: Jersey Driver.

If the Most Interesting Man in the World says it, it has to be true. Even if it’s a Microsoft Paint manipulated image. I should really keep my photo editing skills a secret. Who knows, maybe someone will make out big with them and put money in the bank. 

Eh, that’s probably not going to happen.

Alright! Story time! I guess if there’s anything I’ve learned in my eighteen year friendship with Brian is that we tend to get ourselves into shenanigans that typically…don’t happen to many people.

The task was simple enough. I had to pick up my rental car, head to Albany, and pick up Brian at 6 so we could venture back home to Sullivan County. When I arrived at Enterprise Rent-A-Car (they really do pick you up!), they gave me the keys

to

a

Honda

Civic.

(insert the da da dunnnnn music)

Why should this matter to me? After all, a car is a car is a car right? Usually that is the rule- but everyone knows that the Toyota vs. Honda rivalry is as hot as the Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry. Both Toyota and Honda owners are fiercely loyal to their cars. Both owners will drive their cars until the odometer runs out of miles but that’s only similarity. You’ll never see a Toyota owner fawn over a Honda and vice versa. The line is drawn in the sand and we dare not to cross it…

Unless you receive a Civic for a rental car and you don’t have any other options. I would have been fine with a Ford, Mazda, Chevy, or a Nissan but that wasn’t in the cards for me. This is also the second time I’ve received a rental car with Jersey plates which I’m a big fan of…for the fact that if my driving’s a little subpar that day, it’s alright, my car has Jersey plates on it! Every other car with NY plates expects me to be a bad driver anyway, might as well live up to the image. No one let me get away with anything when I had a Toyota Corolla rental car with Virginia plates on back in May 2009. 

As with any car, you have to give it a name. My roommate Zara named my Rav4 the Tyrannosaurus Rav and it has stuck ever since. I just received a Honda Civic though. With Jersey Plates. It was only natural for me to name this car David Paterson. 

However, I noticed something a little off about the car and it wasn’t because it was a Honda. The tire pressure light was on. I told my Enterprise rep about it but he said it was probably because of the weather messing around with the sensors. As I was driving along the Northway, the car was shaking a little bit which was odd to me. One of my best friends has a Honda Civic and I always remembered the ride being very smooth. I dismissed it and thought it was due to the fact that it was a rental car.

I had a hour to kill before meeting Brian at his apartment so I decided to take a little cruise through Albany. I decided to go down Western Ave from South Lake. All of a sudden, two boys from UAlbany are pointing towards me. I pulled down my window and they said:

“We’re not trying to be assholes, but your tire is flat.”

I thanked them and thought. Shit. This is a rental. I have no idea how to change a tire. When the parents taught me how to drive- well they did just that. They only taught me how to drive. 

I called Brian and he told me that he would walk on over because it turns out that yes, he does know how to change a tire. He told me to pull over to the nearest parking lot because it would be easier to do it there than on the side of the road. I thought I could turn around and go to UAlbany’s downtown campus but it wasn’t going to work out. The nearest parking lot was at the La Salle School. Bri Bri gave it his best shot but he couldn’t jack the car up because the car was so low to the ground. All of a sudden, a student from the La Salle School comes up to us and asks us if we need help. We gladly accepted it however, he couldn’t even jack the car up. His teacher came over to us and brought over his souped up car jack. Finally we were making progress, the car was jacked up, we were taking the bolts off and then we hit a roadblock. 

Apparently Hondas have bolt locks on their tires to prevent people from stealing them. Unfortunately, Saratoga Enterprise was closed by that point so I couldn’t ask them where it was located and we were searching all over the car to find the bolt lock because without it, we couldn’t get the tire off. We almost gave up but then the young 17 year old La Salle student found it in the glove box. Huzzah! We again thought that we were making progress and that we’d have this tire changed in a jiffy!

Well. The car was jacked up. The bolts were off. Yet three strapping young men couldn’t take the tire off the car. We thought that there was a center bolt in the middle of the tire preventing it from getting off. Finally, I decided to call Enterprise Roadside Assistance. They told us that they would be there in 70 minutes. By that time it was 7:00, so we thanked our good samaritans, arranged for our student to get extra credit for doing a good deed, and walked down Western Avenue to search for a place to eat.

Brian suggested D.P. Dough but then I recognized a restaurant called The Ginger Man. Brian and I tried to go there two years ago, right before I left for DC, but it was closed and we went to TGIFriday’s instead. This time it was open! I said “hey man, let’s check it out!”

We walked in and we were the only young kids in there other than the waitstaff. They asked if we had reservations and we said no. I thought that this was going to be one upscale place. I was pleasantly surprised when I went through the menu and saw that their food was reasonably priced! For an appetizer, we ordered Stuffed Mushrooms for $8. They were stuffed with delicious Italian sausage and romano cheese, and had a balsamic glaze drizzled over it. It was delectable.

Then my phone rang and we found that the towing guy came a little bit early. We told the waitress to put our food on hold and I walked back to the parking lot to meet the towing guy. Finally, the mystery was going to be solved!

It turns out that we did everything right. Well, except for thinking that the center bolt had something to do with the tire coming off. Apparently, that holds the axle in place and should never, ever, ever be touched. To remove the tire, we found out that you couldn’t just pull the tire off. You have to kick the tire really hard and then it will come off! After that discovery, the tow guy put the donut on and I was off to The Ginger Man to feast on the Lamb Burger that I ordered.

Yep, I said Lamb Burger. Not Hamburger. For $12, that had to be the best burger I ever ate in my life. I ordered it medium, which was just the perfect temperature. It was topped with tzatziki sauce with radishes, cucumbers, and feta cheese, served on a rosemary foccacia bun. And it only got better with the sweet potato fries. Brian and I determined that we will be back for seconds. 

It wasn’t over yet! We had to go to Albany International Airport and exchange the Civic. Along the way, we were coming up with all the reasons why we hate the Civic. We don’t like how the dashboard takes up half of the car, the blind spots are horrible, and how the car sits so low on the ground. When we got to the counter, we were hoping to exchange it for something better.

As luck would have it, the only car they had in their fleet was another Honda Civic. From Jersey. We groaned in disbelief but what could we do. It’s mine until my car gets out of the shop (March 21st can’t come any sooner). We named it David Paterson’s Second Term. 

We thought the worst was over yet we were still plagued by minor annoyances. Remember when I said that we hated the fact that the car sits so low to the ground? I may be 5’2, but there’s no reason why I have to unbuckle my seatbelt and raise myself up to get a toll ticket. We attempted to get coffee at the New Baltimore exit but by the time we got there, Starbucks was closed. We thought that Kingston would definitely have a Dunkin Donuts open. After all, Oneonta has a 24 hour Dunkin Donuts!

We were wrong. So, so wrong. We tried three different Dunkin Donuts and they all were closed. We found a Stewart’s, which I was more than satisfied with. Back during the campaign days, I always got my coffee from the Stewart’s next to my office. At least during our trek to find DD, we found out that downtown Kingston is very charming! 

We cranked up the Billy Joel and were cruising down 209 until we saw that we had to take a 10 mile detour because half of 209 was flooded out. We should be in the clear after that, right? Nope. It started snowing as soon as we rolled into Sullivan County. 

It only took us six hours, but by 1:30 AM, we finally made it. Unfortunately, I did not receive good news when I got home. 

All I know is that I love you Diesel. And I always will. I just wish I got to say goodbye. ❤ I want the best for you, my friend.