Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Drink of the Week: Rishi Organic Chai

Sorta looks like coffee?

In economics we talk about subsitute goods, which means goods that can easily replace each other. A common example is coffee and tea. They are both warm drinks, usually with caffeine and usually a morning ritual. The idea is that if the price of coffee goes up, people will drink more tea in place of their coffee and vice versa.

I always thought this was the stupidest example ever. Correct me if I'm wrong, but everyone I know who drinks coffee or tea does not see them as even close to the same thing.

Unfortunately, I've had to give up coffee for an unknown amount of time and when faced with starting mornings without coffee, I started drinking tea as a way to get caffeine, although I don't drink it every morning like I did with coffee. I definitely don't think they are substitutes for each other, but when tea is your only option you have to make do.

My major beef with tea is that its watery and doesn't always have a lot of flavor. To tackle the flavor issue, I started drinking chai tea almost exclusively since its got a lot of spice. However, unless you're going for a super sugary latte, the watery-ness is still there.

Then I found this stuff:

You make it sort-of like a chai latte, but you can add as much milk and as much sugar as you want. This is a huge deal for me because I find those pre-made chai mixes wayyyyy too sweet.

There is so much more flavor in this stuff than in those little powdery tea packets. Unfortunately, you can't just steep it in some hot water, you need to boil it with milk/water and then simmer for five minutes to get the full effect.

It also tends to foam over the top if left unattended. Aaron may be wondering why the stove top has been so dirty. It is worth it all of the trouble, but this only works for me on weekends or mornings when I'm sitting around doing homework. Luckily for me, that's about 5 days a week!

It comes in a lot of flavors. So far I've also tried this one:

The Chocolate Chai is really delicious. The chocolate isn't very strong, its more of a compliment to the chai and thickens up the mixture a bit. I love it. As you can see, its almost gone.

The only issue with this tea as compared to coffee is it costs a pretty penny. $10 bucks for one container! The only reason I have two is Aaron went grocery shopping and decided I deserved a treat for doing all of my homework, because I probably wouldn't spend that much on tea right now. But if you think about it, it is cheaper than buying a bunch of $4 chai lattes at a coffee shop, and better tasting and better for you too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wisconsin vs. South Dakota

Today Aaron and I went our first game at Camp Randall. We have been wanting to go all month and were lucky enough to get free tickets through Aaron's office. Even though we are Michigan State fans, the Badgers have been growing on us since we moved here.

We didn't tailgate beforehand, but that wasn't a problem because we were in a box with a full bar and food menu.

We had a great view and enjoyed watching the Badgers destroy South Dakota. While the student section below us looked fun, I was pretty happy to be sitting in a comfy chair surrounded by somewhat drunk adults versus totally drunk and crazy college students. Plus our waitress was happy to bring us whatever we wanted... no yelling at some guy to pass you some popcorn. We also got to stay warm and dry when it started to rain!

Its unlikely we'll be in these seats again any time soon. We'll have to go back to being normal fans, baking in the sun or freezing in the cold while fighting for your space on the bleacher. There's nothing like Big Ten football and Camp Randall does not disappoint. I still plan to cheer for MSU when they play Wisconsin, which Aaron finds shocking since UW is now "my school." Old loyalties die hard though and pictures of a tiny me in MSU jerseys can't be forgotten.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mussel Memories

Recently, Aaron and I shared this dinner of mussels in white wine broth. The mussels were on sale at Whole Foods so we snapped them up. The fish guy told us any shellfish is better as it gets into the colder months, so they would probably be delicious (they were). He also told us the new thing is to use beer instead of wine, which we will definitely be trying next time (who wants to buy a whole bottle of white wine, anyway?).

Enjoying them got us talking about all of the different mussels we've had and where we were. One of my first mussel memories is with Aaron at The Hopleaf in Chicago. We went back many times to enjoy them (and their great beer selection) while I still lived nearby.

Most of our best meals have involved mussels. We are more likely to order them at a celebratory dinner than dessert. Its the kind of people we are.

(If any one is interested, we sorta followed this recipe that is supposedly based off the Hopleaf's mussels. We doubled it because we each can easily eat a pound. The lack of garlic was noticeable, so definitely add some in and also go very easy on the celery, we had too much.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Apple Crumb Pie

The first semester of graduate school is in full swing. After two weeks, we are all starting to get an idea of what is in store: lots of hours trying to understand statistics and economics, with a large dose of reading about public policy. Since the only re-assurance second year students can offer is "it's just going to get harder," its time to accept that I can't continue doing everything I did before.

Fitting in work that pays money is hard enough, so things like looking at every picture onFoodGawker and cooking elaborate meals on week nights (or any night...) just aren't going to happen for the next two years. Luckily, I have Aaron around to ensure I'm eating more than canned soup and that dirty dishes don't consume the kitchen. He also is really handy with an apple peeler, which is how we cranked out two apple pies in under an hour.

The McIntosh apples from our trip to Epplegarden were perfect for pie.

I was pretty happy with my pie crust, since its the first time I've made it without help from another family member. The crumb topping is there because we made one of the pies for Aaron's co-worker's birthday, and he prefers crumb toppings. It turned out really well, but it is definitely too rich/sweet for my tastes. Maybe on a cherry pie?

I used this recipe for the crumb topping. If you take a look at it you'll notice a stick of butter went on top of each pie, which explains why everyone else loves it and I don't.

I need more fruit with my pie! I'm already planning to make another one with the correct crust one top.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Drink of the Week: Lake Louie Kiss the Lips IPA

The Memorial Union Terrace was one of our favorite places to drink beer this summer. The thing about it is there are three different places (1 inside, 2 out) to buy your drinks and they all have different beers on tap. We discovered this beer from Lake Louie Brewing when we found ourselves inside at a tap without any of our normal favorites. We gave it a try and I loved it!

It is definitely hoppy, but not too hoppy or too sweet. Very easy to drink. As far as I can tell, this is only available in Wisconsin, so that's a bummer for everyone else!

Here's what Lake Louie has to say about Kiss The Lips: "India Pale Ale: Old school version of an IPA. Still balanced; not a ‘one trick pony’ pale. Named after the country song “It’s hard to kiss the lips at night that chew your ass out all day long."

I haven't tried any of their other brews, but based on how much I like this one, I might have to be on the look out for it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Carmel and Apples

Aaron and I picked ten pounds of apples this weekend at Eplegaarden. We've been to orchards before, but actually picking apples was a first for both of us. There were two types of apples available for picking on Saturday: McIntosh and Galas. We started out grabbing a bunch of the McIntosh for pie, but after tasting them and realizing they were sour and probably wouldn't be good for eating plain, we moved onto the Galas.

The apple trees were so full of apples, they looked like over-decorated Christmas trees.

Since we don't have the full secret family pie crust recipe yet, Aaron decided to make some carmel to dip the apples in. This is the most amazing, cheap way to make a delicious snack/dessert for fall.

Some people are afraid to make this because there is a chance that the can will explode and you will have a sticky hot mess all over your kitchen. BUT thats only if you let the water get too low. We aren't afraid of that and we do watch it carefully the whole time.

Take one can of condensed milk and place it in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for 3 hours. Carefully remove with tongs and let cool until its safe to handle.

And then you'll have this glorious can overflowing with deliciousness. Yum. I'm thinking of other ways we can use this stuff, but have to admit its probably best straight out of the jar and into your mouth. The apples are just a vehicle for the sugary, creamy stuff.

I also have to say that maybe this is a better recipe for a cooler day or winter (but the apples won't be as good!). Having a pot of boiling water going for three hours creates some not-so-welcome humidity.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Multi-Vitamin Debate

The debate around vitamins is something I find interesting, so I was happy to see an article about it in this months Nutrition Action magazine. My mom got Ruth and I subscriptions as a gift last year. She must have noticed how we fought over her copy every time we came home.

It got me thinking once again about the why, when, and how much surrounding vitamins. Most studies show people who take vitamins don't live longer, get colds just as often, and in general don't get much benefit (except for pregnant women and older people who need B12). But I also saw a documentary about high doses of vitamins curing cancer, depression, and other illnesses. Plus, vitamin deficiencies are serious, so what's the harm in taking some pre-cautions?

I've taken a lot of supplements at different points in my life, from B-12 to vitamin D. I usually have a hard time remembering to take them, especially at the right time. Don't take with caffeine, do take with food, don't take with your regular multi-vitamin, take at the same time each day.... etc.

Aaron's vitamin (left) and mine (with more calcium)

At this point, Aaron and I both take a multi-vitamin with dinner each night. We leave the bottles sitting on the table so we remember to take them. This has been the only successful method! Our vitamins come from Whole Foods and are kind-of expensive (about $25 for 180), but they have a lot more stuff packed into them. They also make your pee neon greenish, so just a warning.

Here is a Women's multi-vitamin from Whole Foods next to a Meijer one.

Spinach, Kale and beet powder... etc.

Nutrition Action had some interesting things to add to the debate. For example, men who take multi-vitamins should not eat fortified cereal because they will likely get an overdose of folic acid, and that can cause problems. They also said don't waste your money, because most vitamins are the same.

Should we be spending any money on something that might not have a benefit? I'm not sure. We mainly take the vitamins for the extra B-12, which is harder to get in a vegetarian diet. The calcium and vitamin D are probably helpful too, especially in the winter, so I guess we'll keep it up. Of course, TRYING to get all of the essential nutrients from food, first and for most.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

If you put your bike on top of you car.. don't forget it!

Bike seat: no longer attached to bike.

Here's a tip from recent experiences: If you put your bike on top of your car, you need to remember it is there before you drive into your garage. Especially if its a new bike that you just got for your birthday. Especially if it happens to be a somewhat expensive bike. Especially if you really love your bike and don't want to get a new one.

If you do want to get a new one, this could be a handy way to make it happen. Otherwise, avoid at all costs.

That crunching, scratching, metal on brick on metal sound is not something you ever want to hear when you start driving into your garage.

Luckily for us, our bike rack is one where you take the front tire off, meaning the handlebars of my bike were low enough to avoid complete destruction. The seat post wasn't so lucky, but it was lucky to be made of carbon fiber, which means it snapped apart without doing any damage to the frame.

So sad. Apparently the new seat post and seat I got are a step up and better quality, but its not the same. Also, the guy at the bike store seemed really concerned about my rear-end when he found out I don't wear cushioned bike shorts. I'll show him.

The life lesson I learned from this is: do not have Aaron come pick me up. Just ride my bike home, even if its raining, even if I have a stomach ache.

Wollersheim Winery

This past Sunday, Aaron and I decided to get in the car and get out of Madison. We went to the Wollersheim Winery in Prarie Du-Sac, which was recommended as a good picnic place/relaxing afternoon trip.

The wine wasn't really our style (mostly because we have a problem where we only buy Malbec), but its nice to try something different every now and then. We had their red flight ($3 each for four samples), which was in the older part of the winery. It was a beautiful room that smelled like an old school-house you visit in elementary school (wood).

Then we tried the complimentary flight, which included white, red, and rose wine. It also included a port, which was by far the best thing we tried all afternoon. It was just the right amount of sweetness with a little bit of brandy flavor.

The weather was chilly but nice, so we grabbed a glass of wine and some cheese and sat in the wine garden.

The cheese spread has wine in it and was so delicious. We also got some wine mustard.

Being very pensive.

Actually he was trying to figure out what this was. Turns out it is the original wine cellar.

The grapes were in large clumps all over the vineyard. Apparently, now is the time! Only certain types of grapes can be grown in the area and they import some of their grapes from other states and also from a family member's vineyard in Italy.

We bought a bottle of Syrah to enjoy at some undecided time. We didn't go on the tour, so we have a reason to go back!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Drink of the week: Watermelon Mojito

Labor Day weekend is a welcome vacation, but its also a little sad since it marks the end of summer. Classes start on Tuesday, college football has begun, and its going to be 70 degrees or below all weekend. It is time to accept our fate: fall is in the air. I love fall and all of the pumpkin recipes that come with it, but summer is my favorite season. Here's one drink to help hold onto summer for a little longer.

After our wedding, there was one half bottle of rum left, which we happily took to Madison with us. We've been using it to make mojitos and normally we don't mess with the perfect mojito recipe. Sometimes when we go out we will order the flavored mojitos with the idea that they were going to mess it up anyway so we might as well try something new.

However, some summer fruit inspiration came to me, so with the last of our wedding rum we decided to get creative and make a watermelon mojito.

It was a good choice. Extremely refreshing and a good way to say goodbye to summer. Mint for $1 a bunch will no longer be available, so mojitos will have to wait until next May.

Just follow the recipe for our perfect mojito, and add 1/2 cup pureed watermelon to each drink.

FYI: Whole Foods also does high fructose corn syrup-free club soda. We aren't as adamant about buying it because we think of the club soda as more of a garnish instead of a key component to the drink.

Perfect with dinner.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Kitchen Equipment Part 2: Food Processor

I have been wanting a food processor for around 3 years, ever since I graduated from college and the free time left me getting more creative with cooking. A lot of recipes I found sounded perfect, until I got to the step in the directions that said "put it in your food processor..." This was the case for a lot of veggie burgers, pasta recipes, pastries and more. I had to ignore those recipes after finding that my work arounds of trying to cut things up really small just created a mess of really small pieces of food.

Over the years, I've built up a collection of recipes that don't require fancy equipment and most of them are great, but I was always missing some things. As our wedding got closer and the reality of maybe getting a food processor also got closer, I started saving some of those recipes I found. We didn't get the food processor as a gift, but it was the first thing we planned to purchase with wedding money.

Now that we have it, I'm bound and determined to use it all of the time and try out the many recipes that failed without one. Luckily we have room on our counter to leave it out, because this thing is extremely heavy.

The first time we used it, we made a version of pesto. I was loosely following this pasta salad recipe, but wanted to make a pesto instead of just wilting the arugula into the warm pasta. I was nervous that the food processor wouldnt be able to handle a whole bag of arugula with a bunch of walnuts, but it only took a few seconds for it to be obliterated. We added the remaining ingredients: garlic, feta cheese, some basil and olive oil. The pesto was done in no time and was delicious!

We also used it to make the white bean and ricotta sauce for this veggie lasagna/layered veggie bake, which made enough for SEVERAL meals:

Truth be told, we've been using it a lot and many recipes you see us make will involve a food processor from now one. With me starting grad school next Tuesday, anything that makes cooking easier is welcomed. Also, anything with a large motor and sharp blade that makes Aaron more interested in cooking is extremely helpful, as he is going to become our new chef while I spend my time studying statistics!