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Friday Flavor: Kombucha

27 Apr

If you ever want to drink something that smells like straight vinegar, tastes like the early stages of moonshine, and has something floating in it called “the mother,” than Kombucha was made for you.

I first heard about Kombucha at a fascinating seminar about the small intestines and other various wonders of the human body. And since I just happened to find Kombucha at Wegmans…I figured I would give it a test drive.

Okay…so I didn’t just happen to find it at Wegmans. The description of Kombucha at digestion class (LOLLLLLL digestion class) was so intriguing I immediately careened to the Nature’s Marketplace at Pittsford Wegmans to purchase some.

So why the hell would I want to drink a berry-flavored vinegar water?

Well, for those of you not hippie-dippie enough to have heard of Kombucha before (like me), here’s the 411.

Kombucha is a fermented tea.

And before you get all excited thinking that I’ve discovered a new-age bootleg liquor, it’s not that kind of fermentation. Kombucha is a fermented tea that is full of probiotics.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “I’m down with probiotics. I get those daily when I have my go-gurt.” Yeah…about that…

Yogurt has extremely low-levels of probiotics. And if it’s not organic, then it’s probably made from conventional dairy, which is full of antibiotics. And what if you don’t like yogurt? But those are topics for another time and place.

Back to the Kombucha. It tasted sort of like…wine that wasn’t quite there yet? Juice that was a bit stale? It definitely didn’t taste bad, but it didn’t have that same yum flavor as a raspberry ginger ale. The BAO Kombucha didn’t have as much floaty-mother stuff as other brands, which was a huge plus. And, it was only 80 calories for the entire bottle.

The downside? Almost $4 for one bottle. And it smelled like vinegar. Which was not appetizing.

I don’t know if I’ll add these into my diet on a regular basis, but I might grab one every once in a while. It’s probably better for me than the saccharin-filled Diet Cokes and Vitamin Water Zeros that I usually grab.

If you want to try Kombucha for yourself, look for it in the natural food or organic section of your grocery store.

And don’t worry. I have no plans to stop shaving my armpits and go totally brown rice anytime soon.


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The Most Delicious Lasagna. Ever.

22 Apr

Did I mention that it comes with from scratch red sauce? On a creamy bed of from scratch béchamel sauce? And that it also involves eggplant and ricotta and prosciutto? Like I said.

Most. Delicious. Lasagna. Ever.

Step 1 of most delicious lasagna ever is sauce. It’s also step 1 of a variety of other delicious Italian meals.

Start with a chopped onion and some olive oil.

Add in some garlic.

Then Italian seasoning (duh), basil, crushed red pepper and tomato paste.

Stir in the tomatoes and when the sauce bubbles, you’re done.

If at this point you’re saying something like “But I just don’t have time to make sauce” or “Sauce in the jar is just as good” I have two thoughts.

One, it doesn’t take that long to make sauce. You can even do things like make a double batch and then freeze it, ensuring that you’ll always have red sauce on hand, like every good Italian cook does.

Two is that jar sauce does not taste the same. It tastes like jar sauce. If you do have a good reason for buying jar sauce (although the only two I can think of are sudden loss of blood or death), make sure you check the ingredients–whole tomatoes should be listed first. And whatever you do, don’t ever buy sauce that costs less than a dollar for the entire jar, or has a name like ‘ragu,’ ‘prego,’ or ‘franscico rinaldi.’

Moving on from my jar-sauce-hating rant…

Once you’ve got the sauce going, start on the lasagna part. Slice an eggplant lengthwise and lightly brush each side of the slices with olive oil. Season with salt & pepper and bake at 450 for 12 minutes. The eggplant goes in looking like this.

And comes out looking like this.

While the eggplant is cooking, start the bechamel sauce. Bechamel is just a fancy name for white cream sauce. You don’t need to make it for this recipe…but I think it’s really what tips this dish towards delicious.

Start by melting butter.

Whisk in some flour and then whole milk. Continue to whisk over medium heat until the sauce bubbles and thickens. Add in a pinch of nutmeg and you’re done. Use a generous layer to coat the bottom of your lasagna pan.

Next you need to make the filling. Ricotta, eggs, parmesan, and spinach. Just mix it all up together. No fancy technique needed.

The rest is easy. Layer a slice of prosciutto, some filling, and grated mozzarella on top of the eggplant slices.

Roll up each eggplant slice, and arrange in your bechamel-coated pan. Top with the red sauce, and more grated mozz.

One more thing. Do yourself a favor and not use mozzarella that comes in a plastic bag. Go to the cheese department, buy some good whole milk mozz, and grate it by hand. You’ll thank me for this later.

Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let set for five minutes.

Then victoriously enjoy the most delicious lasagna ever.

I’d also highly recommend getting a sweet baking timer like this one.

Not only is it super cute and way sexier than using your microwave kitchen timer feature, it’s mobile. So you can do fun things like bring the timer outside and drink wine on the porch.

And yes, I did just describe my kitchen timer as sexy.

What is this, 1990?

19 Apr

Do you ever have those moments when someone says, “Yeah, it was like 10 years ago” and you think they mean the 90’s, when really they are referring to 2002?

THIS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE TIMES.

I received the following at my parents’ house last week.

At this point, you’re probably saying, “BFD. Someone mailed you a letter. You’re just soooooooo  popular.”

But this is not an ordinary letter. It is a gramatically incorrect, poorly punctuated, neatly typed, blast-from-the-past, super creepy LOVE LETTER.

Don’t believe me? I’ve gleefully accurately transcribed it below. Names have been changed to protect the…innocent.

RXXX,

Hey how are things going? I came across your address on something a little bit back and thought I’d write you and say hi. Well right after that I was out for a jog and was hit by a F150 Pick-up truck. Broke 10 ribs puntured lung few other things, Nothing really physically noticeable, incredibly lucky for getting struck at what the driver said he was going 50MPH and threw me into a tree. Going back to work today for a couple weeks then surgery on my ribs.

Anyways, how have things been? What are you doing these days? I’m still doing the police ting and own a few houses. Starting a new business I think soon. Think I’m going to build a house soon, Have a lot of plans for it just have to find the location I want it.

What is new with you? I think the last time I saw you was at Nathanial’s the summer you were working at red wings stadium. You still living in NYS. Sent this to your parents hoping they could forward it to you. How is your family? Lol I remember being over your house after class a couple times and your dad came home and I was all intimidated lol. We were young then eh?

Well Anyway If you want you should get a hold of me, still have the same #…585-XXX-XXX. Maybe we can meet up for a bit or something and catch up. Hope everything is well, and Happy Easter. : )

Okay, I know what you are all thinking. Give this guy a break, he’s just trying to be nice, etc etc.

But let’s be reasonable.

First, a letter to my parents’ house? A letter? What is this, 1990? And ten years later? There are MANY MANY ways to find my contact info…LIKE GOOGLE. Or LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter…the list goes on.

And the fact that he still has my address memorized is just…creepy.

Second, can we discuss the punctuation? And grammar? I work in communications for a living. Good grammar is like breakfast cereal to me. I’d just like to say, the capitals after the commas…SO CONFUSED. And no question mark after the question about living in NYS is just…wrong.

Third, the phrase “LOL” should never be used outside of text message. And the “eh?” I’m all for celebrating my Canadian heritage, but wtf. And he was hit by a pickup truck??? And owns a “few” houses? Are you sh*tting me life?

Don’t even get me started on the ones who say they plan to “start a new business.” UGH times TEN.

AND BEFORE YOU CALL ME JUDGY MCJUDGERSON…which I might be…I’D LIKE TO POINT OUT THE STAMP.

What grown man has a stash of “Love” stamps just hanging around the house? Flag stamps, Liberty Bell stamps, even leftover Christmas or a wedding stamp would have been better. But a “LOVE” stamp? I’m pretty sure this stamp was…intentional. And therefore creepy. VOMS.

Overall, the only redeeming facet of the letter is its choice of font. A sans serif. Thank goodness for the little things in life.

A for effort. And A+ for creep factor.

Make it Live for 32.

15 Apr

It’s been five years, and I wish I knew what to say. I want to say something deep and meaningful and poetic. But I’m not good at that, so I will just write something that is true.

Five years ago, 32 members of the Virginia Tech community were killed. And they are missed every day.

There are two phrases that everyone who was part of the VT community on April 16, 2007 has had their lives shaped by.

We will prevail.

Live for 32.

The first kept us going in the days that followed April 16. The second keeps our lives moving now.

Because what people often forget, what they don’t understand –it’s the living that is the hard part. The getting by, the getting through, the getting over things.

No one ever wants to know about the living. About what happened in the days and months and years after. I always get asked about the dying pieces. Where were you when it happened, was it nearby, did you know anyone, what was it like.

In class, next building over, yes, and it was the worst day of my entire life.

And even though it’s been five years, it hasn’t gone away. It’s there in the times I’m scared that I might miss something really memorable, so I try to do everything. I feel it when I know that I can’t do everything, and when I know that I’m going to miss something. It screams loudly at me when the realization that tomorrow is not guaranteed sets in. It’s there in the moments where I freak out. And it’s there when I find myself becoming angry at stop lights for taking too long to change, because life is short, and that red light is keeping me from the people who I love.

Like I said, sometimes it’s the living that is the hard part.

But live for 32 is not sadness, it is celebration. And it’s there when I cross things off my bucket list. It’s in the back of my mind when I play games with my niece. It cheers me on when I am in impossibly tough situations, and it is the finish line we all race towards. It has been there as I have fallen in love, out of love, and everything in between.

Live for 32 is about living life as much as you can. Because there are 32 people with a view from heaven that don’t have that luxury any longer.

I know today is Monday. And no one likes Mondays. But if you do only one thing today, make it something amazing, memorable, and impactful. Make it Live for 32.

Wait, you made that? DIY Lace & Jersey Scarves

15 Apr

So a few days months ago, I pinned this cool jersey infinity scarf to my “DIY Wow List” pinboard. And like most things I pin (and by most things, I mean almost everything), the scarf pin just sort of…sat there.

Until one day I got motivated, went to Jo-Ann Fabrics, and purchased some jersey fabric. With a coupon, of course.

And then the fabric just sort of…sat there. It had the best intentions of becoming a scarf…but just had trouble getting started. (and by trouble, I mean the fabric sat inside its plastic force field of a shopping bag for a few months…)

Until I was having baker’s block. Which was good for the scarves (and my diet).

And that’s how I ended up with this super-cool lace and jersey infinity scarf.

Infinity scarves are meant to be looped around a few times–they are really just one big circle, but it sounds way cooler to call it an infinity scarf. When you wear it, it looks like this. Please withhold judgement on the photo. I would so fail at MySpace due to my inability to take cute mirror cell phone photo pics…

I also made a regular (non-infinity) scarf with a double layer of lace. Which looks like this.

Like I said, I was having baker’s block.

There are many benefits to sewing with jersey, but the main one for this project is that jersey does not need to be hemmed on all sides. Which makes sewing an infinity scarf easy.

If you can sew in a straight line, you can victoriously complete this project.

To make one scarf, you need approximately 1/4 yard of jersey fabric, and then a piece of lace. The length of the lace depends on how much of your scarf you want to be lace–for the infinity scarf above, the lace section is about 1/2 yard. Once you have the jersey, trim the edges to be neat, straight, and clean–and the jersey piece needs to be the same width as the height of the lace. Else, you will have either excess jersey or excess lace hanging off the edge. I didn’t trim the length of the jersey, just went with the standard fabric width.

The photo above shows what I mean by needing the width of the jersey to be the height of the lace. Make sense?

Then, you  just need to pin the lace to the jersey on one side, stitch, pin the other edges together, and stitch. Then, you’re done with the infinity scarf. Two seams, easy breezy!

Make sure you don’t turn your loop when you pin/sew the second seam, else you’ll end up with a Mobius scarf. Which, is also cool. If you don’t know what a Mobius is…you probably didn’t topology in college. 

The blue scarf was also easy–I stitched two pieces of 9 inch wide jersey together along the long edges, to give the scarf a bit more weight. Jersey fabric really doesn’t have a wrong side, but if it did, you want to sew your pieces wrong side together and then turn right side out.

Pin a layer of lace to one end and stitch across the top of the lace and down the edge. Pin a second layer over the first, and stitch down. Repeat for the other edge and you’re done.

Happy stitching!

Good Friday Finds

6 Apr

It’s Good Friday. And these finds are really good. Get it? These are good Friday finds…and it’s Good Friday. LOLLLLLL.

(I should probably file this in the “funnier in my head than out loud” folder…)

My latest share-worthy good find is Of a Kind: Know and Own.

So what exactly is Of a Kind? Each week, the site features a different designer and his or her work. There are photos and stories and interviews and how-tos and the like. Plus the site has a great blog with style ideas, cool places to check out in different cities, and other interesting things to think about.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL…there’s more.

In addition to showcasing fabulous up-and-comers, the featured designer creates a limited-edition piece to be sold on the site. Like these bracelets. Thirty of a kind.

You don’t need a special invitation or anything like that to shop on Of a Kind. And the editions stay up until they are sold out, with a new edition released every few days. Did someone say New Edition?

If you love uniquely beautiful things, good finds, or just like owning pieces that are limited edition, you’ll really enjoy browsing the site. You can few current and past editions here.

Okay, I’m going to cool it now.

Cinnamon Cayenne Pepper Brownies

3 Apr

No, I’m not losing my mind. And yes, I actually did make brownies with cayenne pepper.

They look like this.

They started out looking like this.

And at one point looked like this.

And in the end just looked good enough to eat.

So how did the whole cayenne pepper brownie idea start?

I saw these cinnamon baking chips at Wegmans. And I pretty much had to have them. Like, IMMEDIATELY.

Because…I might have a slight fascination with all things cinnamon and chocolate. And by fascination I mean…mild addiction and/or obsession. I even buy this crazy Abuelita Mexican hot cocoa that Nestle makes because it has cinnamon in it. And don’t even get me started on how much I love cinnamon lattes. I can quit any time, I swear.

Since the cinnamon chips aren’t chocolate, I needed to combine them with something that was chocolate. And since cinnamon has a bit of a kick, it’s the perfect spice to join forces with cayenne pepper.

I also had some semi-sweet chocolate chips left over from the 16 ounces debacle, so I added those in just to make things extra gluttonous yum. Don’t judge. Lent is over in like six days.

If you’re worried that the cayenne pepper is going to make things too spicy, don’t be. It gives the brownies a little something extra, you know, like if my resume was pink and scented.

And besides, when was the last time you got to say “oh, these are spicy brownies” in normal conversation?

Cinnamon Cayenne Pepper Brownie Recipe:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 bag cinnamon baking chips
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips (maybe 6 ounces??)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the butter and them combine with the sugar in an electric mixer. Add in the eggs and vanilla, and mix until well combined. Mix in the cocoa powder. Slowly add the spices, then gradually add the flour and mix until smooth. Stir in the baking chips and pour into a greased 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.