Smoked Salmon Snow Peas

Smokes Salmon Snow Peas

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Trader Joe’s? Roughly 3000 times you say? Well, brace yourself, here’s yet another reason why TJ’s is my favorite starving artist go-to. I love me some smoked salmon. In heaven I will eat a toasted bagel with cream cheese and lox every single day of eternity. Unfortunately, back in the mortal realm, smoked salmon is one of those pricey pay day items that requires a paycheck and some serious convincing. At least that’s what I thought until I discovered Trader Joe’s smoked sockeye salmon in a single pack for $4.99. At around 100 calories for the entire pack, it’s small enough to eat as the star of one’s dinner, but big enough that you could stretch it out for a tray of appetizers for a few friends.

For me I would just eat it straight from the package for an afternoon snack or throw it into some scrambled eggs for a light and protein-filled dinner. As an appetizer my default would be to reach for the Carr’s table water crackers, Philadelphia cream cheese, and capers… but I am far more conscious of my health these days and am always looking for ways to snack without too much danger (i.e. dairy and wheat). So, when I discovered that I had a bag of snow peas (also from TJ’s) in my fridge I thought, yes: crunch, flavor, nutrition, zero guilt, done. I simply took one or two peas and wrapped them in one of the thinly sliced pieces of fish. Cheap elegance. Now of course you very well could smear some cream cheese on these bad boys and no one would be upset. Or you could skip the cream cheese and dip them into soy sauce just like sushi…. or both…. mmmm….. And the good news is if you have more than a few friends to feed, it’s only $5 to buy a second pack. How could you go wrong? This is all yet more evidence that Trader Joe’s is likely a front for human trafficking or giant drug empire, but it’s so fantastic and affordable that we’re all just not questioning it.

Any other quick healthy snack ideas out there?

**Disclaimer: TJ’s is notorious for randomly not having items for indiscriminate spans of time (at least at the location near me). I’ve definitely gone for weeks without seeing the single, but it always comes back. The price may also go as high as $5.99 – still a bargain in my book.

Granulated Vice

Granulated Vice

Speaking of coffee, my roommate has a new vice. I don’t think my new culinary profession is to blame, but it probably is entirely to blame. He’s had more than a few Blonde Cubans. It started fairly innocently with his tiny little coffee maker and its tiny little coffee pot. The entire time he’s gushing over how good it feels to be jolted up on coffee and how it’s helping him get through a span of long days and nights of recordings. And honestly, I can’t argue with him. As someone who never used to drink any real coffee, it’s almost alarming how much it effects my internal chemistry. It’s what I would imagine it feels like to snort cocaine – my heart rate rises, I start talking really fast (which, as my parents would tell you, is really saying something), I can practically feel the blood pumping through my veins, and I have the inexplicable desire to stand on a balcony ledge wearing terrible eye liner while listening to 70s rock (Forrest Gump). Once after one of my first lattes, I woke up in the middle of the night, 12 hours post latte, my heart racing, sweating, anxious… Panic attack? Nervous breakdown? Schizophrenic onset? No, just espresso. And then I think of all the people who frequent my shop and/or Starbucks multiple times per day. Those who “can’t function” without it and get headaches when they miss a dose. I never ever want to be one of those people, but now I totally understand how it can get there. Just like any drug, you get used to it. Addicted. You need that fix to keep you going.

My roommate’s innocent little habit quickly turned into 3-4 tiny little coffee pots a day. I kept giving him shit for it, but more just for the sport…. until I noticed my sugar jar. You see, my roommate doesn’t just simply drink black coffee, he drinks his coffee on ice with tons of half and half and spoonfuls of sugar. The jar you see pictured above is my sugar jar, which holds just under two pounds. When the roommate first started he was using the extra sugar in the bag that I couldn’t fit into the jar. After working his way through that, he moved to the jar. As you can see, the jar is now over half empty… and it has been less than a month since he started his vice. When I saw the jar, it really hit me just how much daily habits add up. This half-empty jar indicates over a pound of sugar and untold amounts of cream he wouldn’t have otherwise been ingesting were it not for the coffee. When seen from this perspective, it’s pretty harrowing to consider just how much seemingly small habits add up to enormous quantities and consequences. Not to mention all the havoc the effects of the caffeine and the high acidity are wreaking on his body.

What vices (food or otherwise) do you have in your life? I could name roughly 37 food-related ones, but I’m determined to keep coffee off that list. I’m reserving it only for those days when I *really* need the jolt – no more than once a week. I think I already have a headache…

The Blonde Cuban

Blonde Cuban

So it’s about time I tell you about my new job…. my new job that I’ve had for almost 4 months. Yes, your favorite starving artist has done the cliche starving artist thing and got a night job working as a barista at a local hipster coffee hang known as the Bourgeois Pig. I have to say, I really lucked out. The shop is literally on the same block as my apartment. I walk 20 seconds to the end of my street and I’m at work. I make people coffee, sass them up, get some laughs, and generally have a great time while making some extra cash. I’ve even met a few producers and film makers – hot damn. It really is the perfect job both for my life (bank account) and my personality. And of course, I get hands on experience in a whole new culinary realm.

Funnily enough I’ve never been a big coffee drinker, particularly not espresso (we are exclusively and espresso bar btw). Generally it’s too intense and bitter for me, but I do love things that TASTE like coffee… like ice cream… and ice cream…. It should come as no surprise that a few weeks in I began to experiment with my own concoctions. The single life-changing discovery that I owe to the Pig is the Cuban Coffee – a shot of espresso that is made with cinnamon and raw sugar layered into the actual espresso. It’s divine. But, being the coffee wuss that I am, I needed to make it into a latte to really be able to enjoy it. Thus, my signature drink was born: the Blonde Cuban. It’s an iced double shot Cuban latte with two pumps of vanilla made with almond milk. Refreshing, a little sweet, with that essence of cinnamon running through. Yum. Stop on by and I’ll make you one. More to come I’m sure…

And yet another beginning….

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I was searching through my computer for something last week and somehow or another came across this old photo of myself. Well, not that old actually; 2008 or 9. I was in my apartment in NYC. Lord knows why I took it. Probably for some dating website (shudder). Honestly it stopped me in my tracks – like being smacked in the face. I was probably around 270 pounds. Today the scale reads 211. The difference is shocking, even for me. Truth be told I’d forgotten. I have been so focused on where I want to be and how much further I want to go that I completely forgot how far I’ve come. When I saw that picture, for a brief moment I remembered what it was like to have all that extra weight on my body – I actually felt it. I’m getting chills just typing this.

I wanted to share this with you all because I think it’s important for all of us to take a moment and remember where we’ve come from, whatever our journey might be (weight, addiction, career, etc). And, even more importantly, we have to use these moments to empower ourselves. If we’ve come this far, just think of how much further we are capable of going. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that all the speed bumps and potholes we encounter are actually lava-filled canyons or craggy unsurpassable mountains. No. We are not Frodo. This is not Mordor. We can handle it.

This was my first week back at boot camp. This time it’s at night, 6pm Mon – Thurs, 1030am Saturday. A MUCH more suitable timeline for me. Because of my new job (more on that soon) I haven’t exercised in months. Time to get serious. Stay tuned.

Happy weekend!

Liquid Ginger

Organic Ginger Syrup A few years ago while visiting Vermont, I was introduced to the most unexpected and, as it turned out, heavenly concoction known as Organic Ginger Syrup, a product made a company called the Ginger People. Think maple syrup, except ginger and not maple. Crazy, right? I can tell you’re intrigued. I honestly don’t know what caused me to think of this product a few weeks ago…. craving? sense trigger? insatiable lust for ginger? Whatever the case, I needed to have it, so on the internet I went. After several weeks of waiting from backorders and shipping, it finally arrived. Three bottles of it! And just as good as I remember.

Now the next hurdle: what to do with it? This isn’t technically *that* difficult of a question since there is a laundry list of things one can do without much of a stretch, the most obvious being to use it wherever you would use maple syrup or honey: pancakes, waffles, sweetener for ice tea, cakes, cookies, frosting. But, as you know, the starving artist thrives on creativity and thinking at least slightly out of the box. And besides, this is a whole new ingredient I’ve invested in – throwing it on pancakes simply was not enough for me. Photo Aug 04, 6 34 09 PM

So, as I always do, I poked around my kitchen and noticed that I had some fresh cherries and blueberries in my fridge. Combined with the peaches on my counter, I do believe I had a fruit salad.  And what better way to dress a fruit salad than with some ginger syrup? I simply prepped the fruit and tossed it altogether with a generous pour of syrup and a few dashes of ground Cardamom. A divine summer breakfast, or a perfect complement to any barbecue/picnic.

But this is only the beginning. With three bottles of this in my cupboard, you can expect this to special ingredient to be popping up again in the future. And do share any ideas you might have in the comments below.