To Thai or Not to Thai

We may have food in our new apartment’s fridge (which has an ice-maker… holy upgrade, Batman!) but we still have yet to do our usual BIG grocery-shopping trip. I’ve been food-shopping twice to get things my CSA didn’t bring me (onions, eggs, milk, avocado, meat, etc.), as I’ve already mentioned, but we haven’t done a trip to “stock up”. Back in Cincinnati, we would only do one real grocery-shopping trip per month, no more than $115 worth of stuff. It usually was composed of meat, dairy, frozen stuff (Eggo’s for the boy, veggies for me!), chips, pasta, pasta sauce, loads of fruit, canned stuff… and being a savvy coupon-cutter, I could usually knock the total price down 15% or so.

I have two problems at the new place: First, things are so expensive in the northeast! I’ve always known this, from relocating from 22 years of living in the northeast to the amazingly affordable Ohio River Valley… but still! We did just an “essentials” shopping trip when we were in our temporary apartment, getting just some meat, dairy, bread, butter… and spent over $100!

I miss my coupons.

Secondly, we’re so freaking busy with everything from insurance to furniture to job-hunting (for the boy) that going grocery shopping during the week is out of question, and on the weekends we just want to go into the city and relax away from it all.

One day last week, I had nothing to bring to work for lunch. Usually my lunches are leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, or just some random assortment of stuff. (For example, one day I had a can of sardines, a hard boiled egg, and about half a bag of baby carrots… don’t you dare judge me!) But, this time I had nothing.

I stumbled upon a website many friends seem to love: Grub Hub. There were two options: Thai or Indian. Honestly, I went for Indian first because I absolutely adore Indian food. After living in CA, Indian cuisine beat out the former champion, Japanese, to reign supreme in my palate. It didn’t come to fruition because the restaurant didn’t tell Grub Hub that they were closed for the holiday week, so my order was cancelled and I was refunded… and given a $10 credit on my account! Yay!

So, Thai it was.

The only thing I know about Thai is pad thai, but trying this paleo thing means no noodles. Luckily the Grub Hub menus are really intuitive and have a great user interface, so I could read thorough descriptions of each dish. I chose Kaeng Koong (or Gaeng Goong) and Chicken Coconut Soup. The former, as I learned, is a spicy curry dish with veggies, bamboo shoots, and prawns. This is the best article/recipe I could find that would explain exactly what was in this awesome dish. Mine looked different… a bit more oily and redder… maybe they used red or yellow curry…?

The coconut soup was nothing short of orgasmic. It’s apparently more awesome than Kaeng Koong, as it has its own Wikipedia article! It wasn’t spicy (nor did it have mushrooms like the photo on the Wikipedia page) but it was so, so, so good. It tasted like coconut milk, but savory, with chunks of chicken and decorated with plenty of herbs. It was absolutely delectable and next time I think I’ll just order that soup. Paleo-friendly and delicious. Win all around.

Speaking of paleo, I may not be able to follow it very strictly as I’d planned for the whole month. I finished out a week, but to spare you the details, I’m having all sorts of tummy issues since starting this paleo trial. I do enjoy not getting over-filled with breads and starches, but I’d like to feel better from the navel down! 😉 So, from now on, I’m not going to be as strict and start consuming things with more magnesium like beans (not paleo), yoghurt (not paleo), and almonds.

Not a failure – just a reassessment of what I need to function better!

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New Food #2: Leeks

New Food #1 was tea… and I think it’s going to stick! I just drank tea with my breakfast! Goodbye, coffee, perhaps…??

On to day two!

At the local market, I bought a lot of veggies: some that I enjoy (carrots, spinach), some that I don’t (onions), and some that I’ve never had before (leeks).

I bought leeks because I’ve read some good leek recipes lately that I’d like to try. I’m not a huge onion fan (I only enjoy them when they’re cooked down to the point of not being crunchy anymore) and leeks have always reminded me of onions. The mind is sometimes irrational!

Firstly, I had no idea what a leek looked like, other than it kind of looks like green onion or a big bunch of chives. I asked a local produce vendor if they had leeks so that they could actually point them out to me… I wonder if they caught on that I was clueless! I learned online to look for a few things with your leeks:

  • roots still in tact
  • strong stalks
  • strong green tops that don’t droop

Also, leeks are dirty veggies, but unlike other dirty veggies like potatoes, yams, onions, etc. you can’t just scrub the outside. Leeks get dirt in between each of the leaves, so cleaning them is a bit more involved… but not hard!

First, I cut the roots off, removed the outer one or two leaves and rinsed them under cold water in a colander.

Next, I cut the leeks lengthwise starting about an inch and a half from the root (white part) all the way to the tips. Now it’s much easier to get in between each of the leaves to get it all clean!

Recipe time!

I had read of a cleansing (yet plain) leek soup in the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, but all it is is leeks boiled in water without any seasoning. You drink the broth throughout the day for two days, eating the leeks with lemon juice as snacks. Uh, no thank you!

They had another soup recipe in the book that inspired me to create this really satisfying soup that has flavor, texture, nutrients, and is very versatile. The sweetness of the broth with the tangy-tasting caramelized leeks throughout make this an interesting soup!

Vegetable Soup with Caramelized Leeks
Yield 4-5 servings.

  • 4 large carrots, cleaned, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large sweet (yellow) onion, peeled and chopped in 4 chunks
  • 3 large leeks, cleaned and roughly chopped (white and light green parts only!)
  • water
  • salt, pepper, dried herbs to taste
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter or margerine

Clean and chop all of the vegetables and put them in a pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.

Remove about 1/3 cup of the cooked leeks and let them drain on a paper towel. Set aside.

Using an immersion blender, blend the rest of the vegetables and the water until completely smooth. (You can use a blender if you want, but make sure the vegetables have cooled a lot so you don’t burn out your blender’s motor, or burn yourself!) Season with salt, pepper, and herbs to taste.

Put the reserved leeks in a pan on medium heat, stirring constantly.

Add butter and wine. Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Add salt and pepper if desired.

Serve with a small spoonful of the caramelized leeks in each bowl atop the soup. It looks pretty! You can also just mix in all of the caramelized leeks throughout the soup if you’d like.

I feel that this soup could be made into a meal itself if you add some whole wheat pasta (fusilli, gemelli, ditalini, or other small extruded shape) and/or adding sliced sausage! It’s very versatile!

New Year’s Solutions

A resolution is, by definition…

A firm decision to do or not to do something.

I’ve never been the kind of person to make a list of resolutions for the new year, mainly because I see so many people develop ideas of grandeur to only fall short. Sure, you can make a firm decision to do something, but can you make the same firm choice to finish that something? I have a hunch most of us get a bit soft once January passes.

On the other hand, a solution is…

  1. A means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation.
  2. The correct answer to a puzzle.

So, I’m going to solve things this year, which is honestly something I’ve never been very good at. (For instance, this is my… oh… tenth blog? Maybe twelfth?!) But, 2012 is going to be a pretty epic year for me, and I know it. Not only will my boyfriend be graduating with his Master’s, but as a result we’ll most likely be moving, which means I may need to job-hunt in an economy a lot worse than when I graduated college. With the move comes the possibility of the boy and I house-hunting for the first time in either of our lives! I’ll also be starting grad school to get my MBA (I hope!), therefore taking the GMAT, for which I’ve already started studying. So that I (and the boy) can get the most out of all of these changes, I need to sort out the problems that need solving in my life. Piling up all of my issues on top of life-changing inevitabilities isn’t the way to go!

  1. Problem: Money, money, money.
    Solutions:
    [a] Make a list of stuff to sell by February 2012.
    [b] Sell good, usable stuff on Craigslist and/or Ebay by June 2012. What doesn’t sell gets donated or thrown away, no exceptions! Save the cash in our super-secret-hidden-rainy-day jar and reward ourselves with a vacation by December 2012.
    [c] Sign up for a mint.com account again. Get this set up and going in mid-January 2012.
    [d] Don’t start new projects; instead, finish the projects that exist by the end of the year. Don’t buy new yearn for knitting projects – use the tons of the stuff I already have! Finish the quilt that’s been gathering dust by April 2012 and add the sewing machine to the to-sell list already in the works.
  2. Problem: Our apartment is pretty consistently messy.
    Solution:
    [a] Define chores between the boyfriend and I. (So far all we have is that I cook and he does dishes, haha!) Agree on the chores by February 2012.
    [b] Clean up our patio of all the unused junk out there. Make it a usable space by April 2012. See 1b for what we’ll do with the stuff!
  3. Problem: The boy and I have food/nutrition issues: I obsess over health crazes while he prefers a college-kid diet.
    Solutions:
    [a] I’ll continue taking the reigns in our cooking, since I enjoy it already! But, I want to introduce the boy to one new food every month. Ideally, I’d like him to willingly enjoy a fruit, a new veggie, and/or some kind of seafood by the end of the year!
    [b] I will stop reading diet/wellness books in early January 2012.
    [c] Pizza delivery no more than once per month.
    [d] Shop at the supermarket only once per month and do as much produce, dairy, and meat shopping at the local market starting January 2012
  4. Problem: I want my MBA.
    Solutions:
    [a] Finish my GMAT training course in its entirety by March 2012.
    [b] Don’t reschedule my GMAT exam again! Take it on March 9th, 2012 as scheduled!
    [c] Start filling out MBA applications in May 2012.

I think this is a good starting point for 2012. I noticed most of this is to be done by the first half of the year, which is understandable since we’ll probably be moving by July. I’m sure a whole slew of new goals, dreams, and plans will begin around then!

What are your New Years solutions?