Steals and Deals at a July Farmer’s Market

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July is my favorite season to go  to the Farmer’s Market. It’s like stepping into a wonderland of brightly colored apples  and berries – that is also adjacent to Zeke’s Coffee and Ethiopian Cuisine. There’s something for everyone – and I mean, everyone – at the Farmer’s Market.

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The  farmer’s market is the best place to go for a flavorful soil-grown food fix. Vegetables and fruits often taste particularly flat directly from chain grocery stores, and nothing ruins a good tabbouleh dish like a tomato that doesn’t taste quite like a tomato but a red rubbery reminder  of what a tomato might have been.  It’s moments like those that  I become wistful for the summer Farmer’s Market season.

And if you’re a smart enough shopper, going to the Farmer’s Market can be very cheap. To  scoop out the best deals, make sure you walk through  the entire market at least once before making a purchase and keep a mental inventory of the different prices different vendors offer. It seems self-defeating for one  vendor to offer a quart of vegetables for two dollars more than another down  the street – but most vendors actually do differ in prices for roughly the  same quality product.

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And you certainly don’t have to be a haggling master to get good deals (thank god, because I couldn’t talk a price down in my life). Many vendors keep  a few fruits and vegetables  with a few brown patches sold in  separate quarts for considerably cheaper prices. Thanks  to these deals, my grocery bill is drastically reduced every week. Today, I bought a total of 15  flavor-packed peaches for $1 thanks to just a few brown spots. And then a similarly large quantity of apricots for another dollar. I may have just found  my favorite fruit vendor of all time.

On an unrelated note, nothing invites questions and conversation more than bringing an over-sized  camera to the Farmer’s Market. One Morrocan vendor caught me snapping pictures of his wide array of vegetables and asked me about my ethnic background. When he  found out I was also Middle Eastern, he sweetly asked if I needed onions in addition to the zucchini and spinach I was purchasing, and grabbed a few to put in my bag before I even responded. It made my morning!

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the nice man who gave me free onions!

Basil Pesto and Tomato Pizza (and the goat cheese conundrum)

Nestled deep into the Mount Vernon concrete forest lies a beautiful cove of pizza heaven known as Iggie’s. For years, I only heard whispers of this place. It wasn’t until my friends dragged me over after a particularly dreadful midterms week that I understood the power this pizzeria held- my midterms drifting further away as my teeth sunk into each slice of pizza.

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In truth, I fell in love.

And with a wide-range of pizza options, many others are likely to do the same. If you’re in a particularly cheesy mood, you can get the Cinque Formaggi – a combination of roasted garlic, mozzarella, parmigiana, goat cheese, fontina asiago. Or, if you believe pizza without tomato sauce is a most vile form of blasphemy – there’s always the Salsiccia E Finocchio (sausage, pickled fennel, tomato ragu, mozzarella tallegio) to restore your faith.

My personal favorite, however, is “the Alice.” This pizza is a combination of basil pesto, mozzarella, fresh tomato, garlic spinach, goat cheese, and parmigiana – and it tastes incredible.

More recently, I had an insane Alice craving but didn’t have the funds or the time to venture to Mount Vernon for a quick bite. So what’s a girl with a pizza craving to do? Make her own!

ImageIn some sense, I also cheated because this is not the most authentic Alice there ever has been. However, it is truly not a hard recipe to mimick on your own. I used a tortilla as the bread, covered it in basil pesto, added mozzeralla cheese and fresh tomato, and finally sprinkled some black pepper on top. To make a completely authentic Alice, add garlic, spinach, and goat cheese as well as everything else I’ve listed! This one hit the spot, regardless of a few missing ingredients.

Ingredients:

1 Tortilla

2 tablespoons of Basil Pesto

1/2 cup of mozzeralla cheese

1/4 fresh tomato

black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place aluminum foil over cookware and spray with cooking spray.

2.  Cover tortilla with basil pesto.

3. Sprinkle mozzeralla cheese over the pesto.

4. Slice up the tomato and add on top of tortilla.

5. Sprinkle black pepper over everything.

6. Pop pizza into oven for about 15 minutes.

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Maybe one day, I’ll actually make a goat cheese investment. Until that day, this guy hits the spot nicely whenever I need a small Iggie’s fix!

On the Importance of Dessert

I have a deep mistrust  of people who claim they’re not “dessert people.” First of all, everyone is a dessert person. Your body is literally programmed to respond like a rabid monkey to anything that is loaded with sugar and smells like heaven. Second, walking away from  a delectable pastry without any remorse clearly reveals a few psychological problems). You just can’t go  to a coffeeshop and not have your soul quiver for at least one cookie on display. More importantly, “desserts” encompasses a wide breadth of foods from scones to parfaits to ice cream. There’s a dessert for everyone, whether you like it or not. So I’m sorry, sir, but I will not entertain your notion that you are not a “dessert person” because  I don’t even know what that means.

This also brings me to another dessert-related rant. You don’t have to eliminate sweets for dietary purposes. It is a noble and difficult choice to cut our sugar, but if you’re responsible in how you do it and maintain the right exercise plan, it’s not necessary. Of course, sweets are easy to overindulge on, due to their ability to hit every neurological pathway in our system ( or something like  that). It takes vast fortitude to withstand the temptation of sugar-loaded goodies, so for those making this arduous battle, remember that a little indulgence every once  in a while is not only healthy, it can also save you from more extreme dietary break later. Just something to think about in this world of delectable treats! If you need me, I’ll be over here, where the cake is…

Starbucks in Your Kitchen: Easy Homemade Iced Mocha Coffee

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I spent the first two years of my college career devoid of coffee. Yes, you read that right. No coffee. Two years.

I just didn’t understand this weird, bitter and seemingly over-hyped drink rumored to turn the most mellow individual into a carrot-overdosed jackrabbit. The smell was always so rich and enticing – but anytime I took a sip, I felt an overwhelming urge to spit the weird brown contents back into its cup.

But then Junior Year came along and 9 AM classes became increasingly more difficult to shlump to and obscure political theory articles more frequent in my assigned readings. You could say the years were getting to me. But clearly something needed to change in my life as a tired, winded Junior. And that’s when I turned my attention over to the mysterious brown liquid I had rejected all these years: coffee. And before I knew it, I was another caffeine-addicted collegiate with one hand flipping through notebook pages and another steadfastly gripped to my coffee mug.

Since my conversion to a member of the coffee-driven masses, this phenomenal recipe from HonestlyYUM has caught my eye!

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What’s great about this recipe is that it looks and tastes like an incredibly expensive $5.50 iced mocha from your local hipster coffee shop, but is actually nothing more than a simple three-ingredient drink made with items found in anyone’s kitchen. And as anyone with a caffeine addiction knows, a lot of coffee ain’t cheap. On days that I don’t get to sip on this wonderful drink, I get by with a little help from my Mr. Coffee machine and bulk bag of ground coffee from Costco. If you are in the process of developing a similar caffeine addiction, make sure to invest in these early so you and your wallet don’t regret it later!

Iced Mocha with Coffee Cubes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of your favorite brewed coffee
  • 2 cups of warm milk
  • 4 tsp of cocoa powder

Directions:

1. Brew the coffee. Let it cool for about five minutes, then pour the coffee on your ice tray. Leave them in the freezer overnight.

2. Warm milk in the microwave for 90 seconds. Add cocoa to the bottom of the cup/jar you’re using for the drink, and then add 1/4 of the warm milk. Stir to dissolve the cocoa.

3. Once cocoa is dissolved, put in the coffee cubes. Add more or less depending on how much coffee flavor you’d like.

4. Add the remaining milk. And sip up!

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As you can see, the recipe is extremely simple and fun to make! Oh what’s that? You ask what those beautiful baked goods are next to the coffee? Funfetti Cake Batter Blondies, of course, and they make the coffee particularly phenomenal 😉

Until next time!

Funfetti Cake Batter Blondies

Baltimore can get a little boring in the summer time, so when I heard that my best friend was coming down for the weekend from her big important internship in NYC, I was ecstatic!

Reunited with my fun-loving friend for a weekend before she goes home and then spends fall semester in London?! I’LL TAKE IT.

And what do two busy 21-year-old women need on a summer weekend to wind down from an exhausting week? Funfetti Cake Batter Blondies.

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I’m on somewhat of a “blondies” kick these past few weeks. Blondies, which are just cookie bars, are some of the most convenient desserts to make. They have a low time committment (only 18 minutes in the oven!), involve simple staple ingredients, and are easily stored (just slice them up, put a tupperware container in the freezer, and you’re good for three months). More importantly, there’s something about adding a fistful of sprinkles in a recipe that says – “listen, nothing about this can go wrong.”

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With that in mind, I’ve been meaning to make these babies for a long, looooooong time.

All credit for this recipe goes to the wonderful Averie Cooks. This is certainly not the first, or the last of her recipes that I’ve used. The only difference between the ones I have pictured and her blondies is that I didn’t use semi-sweet chocolate chips or white chocolate chips. I hope I get a chance to make them with additional goodies later!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla extract (or real vanilla extract)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
  • 1/4 cup rainbow-colored sprinkles, for batter
  • 1 tablespoon rainbow-colored sprinkles, for sprinkling top surface

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place aluminum foil over the cookware you plan to use, and then spray with cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter for 60 seconds in microwave. Add sugars, imitation vanilla extract, and egg and whisk to combine.
  3. Mix flour and salt in a separate bowl to combine.
  4. Add dry and wet ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Do not overmix as this changes the texture of the blondies when they bake.
  5. Add in the sprinkles (and if you have them, white and semi-sweet chocolate chips).
  6. Place in oven for 18-22 minutes. (I took them out right at 18 because I love them moist and chewy!)

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Bon appetit! Pour in a nice cold glass of milk and enjoy!

Workout Goals and Unbearable Plateaus

If you read health oriented magazines or keep up to date on fitness-related material at all, you’ve probably read your fair  number of articles about plateaus. I’m of course not talking about mountain scenery, but the frustrating lack of progress in personal workouts. Anytime I experienced plateaus in the past, I sneakily attributed them to this or that particular midterm that I had coming up – time constraints that prevented me from going further than I  did. However, with summer in full swing and a lighter workload, I have run out of excuses for my most recent plateau.

I thought I had overcome it by starting to run outside in the lovely Baltimore neighborhoods, but then that got boring. Then I started to run on the treadmill, excited to keep tabs on my pace and time. But then that got boring. Finally, I realized what the problem was: I didn’t have a goal. My goal was to workout. That’s it. Period. No wonder I was getting bored!

Soooooooo….introducing, my goal:

Every week, I will up my running duration by an extra ten minutes. Therefore, if I run 25 minutes max on a day one week, that maximum duration has to be upped by ten minutes one day the following week. The best part of this goal is that it doesn’t mandate that I run every day, or perform at my maximum every day. It simply means that on one day, I completely beast my best.

And it worked! Two weeks ago, I ran a maximum of 30 minutes on the treadmill. A few days afterwards, I upped that by running for 45 minutes on the track! Not only did setting a casual and open-ended goal like this help, it motivated me to do more than my goal. #winning? #winning.image

Here are some great tips from another fitness blogger about breaking through a plateau. I’m curious to see how  this new plateau-buster works out in the long run. If you have any tips and tricks for pushing further in your workouts – shoot me an email or write a comment below and if I use it, I’ll write about it in my next blog!

Catch ya later!

That pernicious summer cold (and a quinoa recipe!)

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Is there anything worse than being sick over the summer? More importantly, is there anything worse than being sick over July 4th weekend?

I have had the misfortune of contracting a summer cold, leaving me enfeebled, sleepy, and coughing throughout the day. Alright, so it’s not that bad. Mostly I’ve been napping a lot and drinking aggressive amounts of tea.

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The worst part of all is having to put all  athletic endeavors on hold while my immune-ravaged body steadily recovers. This means that I’ve been doing a lot less working out and a lot more eating. I know that a cold is supposed to suppress the appetite, but let’s face it, I’m not hungry in any way but miserably bored. Worst of all is that I made a batch of incredibleeeeee chocolate chip, peanut butter chip and snickers blondies right before I got sick  which have all promptly disappeared during my sick bout. (I know what you’re thinking and I love where your head is at – recipe comin’ atcha later!)

Anyway, last night I did manage to whip up something healthy and delicious. Let me preface this by saying, I don’t know what do with quinoa. I’ve had a package of quinoa in my pantry for a year that I’ve left untouched. This is not a joke. I’ve probably seen a million recipes that call for quinoa for breakfast or in desserts or as simple staple grains in meals….but they  seem weird and are often tasteless when I actually make them. Until this guy….let me introduce: Spiced Quinoa with Black and Red Kidney Beans.

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It’s tasty, easy to make, and chock-full of protein! More importantly, it’s also super easy to morph into whatever you want. If you want to use different spices or don’t like some of the ones that I’ve added, just substitute whatever works better for you!

Serving size: 2

Ingredients:

• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1/4 cup onion
• 1/2 cup red peppers
• 1/2 cup diced fresh tomato
• 2 clove garlic, minced
• 2 cup chicken broth
• 1 cup black beans
• 1 cup red kidney beans
• 1 cup quinoa
• 1/2 tsp cayenne
• 1/2 tsp paprika
• 1/2 tsp black pepper
• 1/2 tsp oregano
• 1/2 tsp cumin
• 1/2 tsp chili powder
• 2 tbsp Pace salsa (optional)

Directions:

1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. Then saute the garlic and onion for 3-4 min before also adding red peppers and tomatoes.
2. Add chicken broth and let it reach boiling before adding in quinoa. Add spices.
3. After 15 minutes, add in beans.

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Voila! There you have it: Spiced Quinoa with Red and Black Beans. Just make sure you grab a piece of fruit beforehand to fight off any summer colds! 🙂

Make your own summertime popsicle!

In early June, it seemed like I couldn’t log onto a foodie website without seeing several dozen new popsicle recipes on each page. Here was white wine with raspberries and here was basically an oreo cookie on a stick. It was like everyone wanted to jump into the season with  the most stereotypically summer-y treat of all time. What was this madness?! And how could  I immediately sign up for it?!

Thankfully, popsicles are not difficult to create on your own. Even without those super-cool popsicle trays or fancy wines.

Enter, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Popsicles.

This recipe began as an attempt to mimic someone else’s recipe, and ended up as a spontaneous creation of our own. Many of my favorite recipes have similarly started out that way. Never be afraid to substitute ingredients in your own pantry for items called for in recipes. It might come out terribly (in which case you’ll learn never to try that combination out again) or it might end up better than you could imagine!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

1. Heat milks, sugars, and salt in a saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, let it cool, and then stir in the vanilla.

2. Add half to the chocolate chips to  the bottom of popsicle trays/ cups. Add in the milk mixture and place in  the freezer for about two hours until partially frozen.

3. Take out popsicles and add the other half of the chocolate chips to the cups. Place back in freezer until popsicles are fully frozen.

Check out some more popsicle recipes here!

Just a little ghetto, improvisational popsicle making!

Just a little ghetto, improvisational popsicle making!

So good it hurts.
So good it hurts.