Friday, October 24, 2008

Cheap and Easy

Well, I feel like most everywhere you turn, you see news of the economic doom and gloom gripping this country. I’m no economist and, despite working in the philanthropy business, I don’t really understand what’s going on. I have, however, noticed the rising food prices. I’ve even noticed this at the local farmer’s market, which has very reasonable prices. I also got notice in the mail yesterday that my monthly payments for my student loans are being raised because the interest rate went up. Sigh…I can’t wait for the deferment that graduate school (hopefully) will bring.

Anyway, I thought I’d blog about my two most recent meals: meals that I have termed in my head as “cheap and easy.” Which, now that I think about it, sounds a little more risqué than I meant it to.

Cheap and Easy #1:
Quinoa salad! I know I’ve posted about quinoa before, but it’s making another appearance. This little gem is simply made up of quinoa (simmered in chicken broth, but vegetable broth or just plain water would do) and any vegetables on hand. This past week, I added organic carrot, tomato, and red pepper, but one could use almost anything. Chop them in a medium or small dice. Mix with the quinoa. Give it some dollops of olive oil and your favorite vinegar. Finish with salt and pepper. The result? A cheap, simple, transportable meal. One that is healthy too!

Cheap and Easy #2:
For some reason, I was moved to purchase frozen broccoli the other week. I’m not really sure why. I’m usually at a loss with frozen veggies and I find broccoli particularly uninspiring. But last night I wanted something carb-a-licious (damn SAD) but also something that involved vegetables. But I didn’t have much on hand. And I didn’t want a salad. (Apparently, I was very picky). So, as the linguine I put on was boiling I added about half a bag of frozen broccoli to it and sautéed some garlic. I mixed it all together with parmesan cheese and it was delicious. I wish I had remembered that I had dried chili pepper flakes because that would have given a delightful spicy kick to it. So, again, a cheap, simple meal that’s not too unhealthy. (I must admit, I completed the meal with some protein in the form of a guilty pleasure, chicken nuggets. Honestly compels to add that they are not very healthy either.)

I have a feeling that, with the economy the way it is and my student loans, both of these inexpensive dishes will be a long time in my repertoire.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Eating Chicago

Well, astonishingly, there was no pizza consumption in Chicago. But that’s okay; I’ve had it before (though if you haven’t, I recommend fixing that stat). But there was a lot of consumption of other delights during my whirlwind, 4-day visit.

My friends live in different parts of the North Side of Chicago. We didn’t venture into the South (though I really wanted to know where the old Stock Yards are and no one could tell me for sure) and didn’t eat that much inside of the Loop (expensive!). But I went to many parts of Rogers Park and Logan Square and other places that I don’t know the names for. Chicago, let me say here and now, is beautiful. I haven’t been in such a planned city in a long time; many of the wide streets and parks were built after the massive fire in 1871 (I think). It has a very soothing effect on me (much like the area around the Art Museum here in Philly).

So what did I eat in Chicago? I ate vegetarian Indian food (paneer makhani) that was cheap and so good, instant mashed potatoes at 3 am to counteract the ‘drunchies’, a sesame bagel sandwich with sharp cheddar, bacon, and tomato, rigatoni Bolognese with braised pork and veal, homemade pasta and chicken, diner food (Chicago seems to be the land of diners), and the biggest burrito I swear I’ve ever had. And that’s just what I remember off the top of my head.

Oh, there was also the Chicago hot dog, which, in my opinion, is the best version of a hot dog to be had. It has hot peppers on it. Who doesn’t want that? It also has onions, relish, spicy mustard, and pickles. No ketchup, however, which I know is a travesty and a sin in some people’s books. It was delicious! I was so full after this hot dog that I couldn’t finish my fries. When was the last time that happened? (maybe never)

I know that Chicago is just as much a foodie city as New York and, dare I say, Philadelphia, and I’m pretty sure that time and money didn’t allow me to explore it as much as I wanted to. But, as for now…I’m definitely willing to give Chicago an interim 2 thumbs up. You know, until I’ve visited enough to give a final decision!

Oh, P.S. Did you know that Chicago is the home of McDonald’s? I had no idea.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Westward Ho!

Just a short note to tell you that I am Chicago-bound for a long weekend, starting tomorrow. I'm very excited--I am visiting friends that I haven't seen in over a year! So, next week, I hope to have a Chicago-food (omg, deep-dish pizza) full post for you. In the meantime, wish me farewell and I leave you with this food for thought:

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I know that, for a lot of people, fall is a very favorite season. Not so for me. While I welcome cool air after a stagnant August and certainly have a special place in my heart for fall apples (I am from Virginia, after all!), fall is an unwelcome visitor to me. Especially October, when it starts out so beautifully and then dead ends into the cold and dreary darkness of November.

October also says ‘melancholy’ to me, possibly because the trees look so sad as they drop their leafy raiment to the ground, or maybe because everywhere I look, I see people trying to soak in the last bits of outside-time that they’ll have for months. But I’ve also noticed that my own melancholy (when not inducing carb-cravings from crankiness) is making me very nostalgic.

I’ve been re-reading favored books from my childhood (see Jane Eyre and the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters). I’ve been watching shows that I religiously watched as a child (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. anyone? I never realized it was so witty!). I even sat down and watching the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark with my roommate last night. I can’t even begin to say when that last time I watched that was.

In the same vein, I’ve been revisiting a lot of childhood foods. The amount of cheese toast that I’ve eaten could possibly feed a small country. I just take so much pleasure in making it like I did when I still lived in my parent’s house in Virginia: slices of sharp cheddar cheese laid on multi-grain bread and then toasted to slightly less than melting. The cheese still retained its shape, but was just bubbly and melty enough to please me. Also, on a whim on my most recent trip to the grocery store, I picked up a bag of rotelle—the pasta that I know more familiarly as wagon wheels. It is my father’s favorite pasta shape. I remember the evenings when he would make it and we would revisit his childhood as we ate it with ketchup (ewwww, my roommate said. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, especially all you ketchup-lovers out there). I don’t have any ketchup at the moment, but it was nice to have the pasta just the same. I’ve even been craving chocolate milk like I used to have it: cold milk with 2 or 3 heaping spoonfuls of Nestle’s Nesquik powder. Though Nesquik’s website is a little scary now.

What are the foods that *you* are nostalgic for??