Friday, June 28, 2013

CSA Week 3: Almost didn't happen!

Everything from last week got cooked! Yay!

I went with my friend Abigail to the Cloisters Tuesday afternoon, but when I left, both downtown trains from there were running with serious delays.  For a while I thought I wouldn't make it, and my share partner Chris was unavailable.  I'm usually one of the first to pickup at 5:30, but this week I only made it with 10 minutes to spare before it closed at 7:30!

This week's share included:
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Bok Choy
  • (One pot of cilantro) swapped for more Bok Choy
  • Kohlrabi
  • Broccoli
  • Scallions
  • Garlic scapes
Cooking occurred on Wednesday instead of Tuesday this week, both due to my train issues and because Chris and another friend, Maria, came to dinner on Wednesday. I made sauteed Kale and a new version of the lettuce soup from 2 weeks ago.

The basic lettuce soup recipe is still this one.  I used regular garlic instead of green, and scallions instead of onions.  I also cooked the rice longer, because it didn't get all the way cooked last time so the leftovers from the bottom of the pot had lots of little gritty bits.  Fully cooked rice plus less liquid in the end made for a thicker soup, but it was still really good.

My favorite recipe of the week is definitely White Bean and Garlic Scape Hummus.  Abigail pointed me towards it; it is filling and awesome.  I'm actually eating it with pita bread as I type this post. The recipe was simple and called for ingredients I had around; I used lime instead of lemon juice because my roommate left one behind when she left for the summer.

I boiled half the broccoli last night, and let the rest go.  There weren't any good specimens by the time I got to pickup, and this one was ok but wasn't going to last any longer.  Chris took bok choy and chard, and I've still got bok choy and kohlrabi to cook this weekend.  Anyone have good suggestions for Kohlrabi?  I haven't ever cooked it before.

Monday, June 24, 2013

My "No Moving Home" Fund

Despite knowing the importance of an emergency fund, and growing mine this year, I am pretty confident that I won't need it.  After all, grad school is a stable source of income and support, and I have good medical insurance (seeing as I'm still on my parents' plan for now).  So I thought of my emergency fund as a nebulous thing that I wouldn't need for 5 more years, just in case I can't find a postdoc position or there's a gap between defending and my start date.

But this semester I started thinking about whether I'm going to stick all the way to the PhD.  Maybe I'll leave and just teach? Maybe something else will come up?  Classes have sucked and I know that's a big influence, so I'm not going to make that decision until I have my Master's in hand (another 1.5 years), but the thought is there.

Simultaneously I've been thinking a lot more about my relationship with my parents lately.  And how much I do not want to move home (visiting can even be a challenge).  And then it occurred to me, that this was the reason to have an emergency fund.  So that I can continue to live on my own for several months while I transition to a new position, if my path changes that drastically.  In the same way that some folks build up an "F You" fund so they can leave their job with some security, my emergency fund is my backup plan to stay independent if I choose to pursue non-academic goals.

I feel like the money I'm socking away "just in case" has more of a purpose now, and that gives me more reason to stick money in the account. There's probably some discipline to saving with no purpose, but I'm glad to have an idea of where this might go.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CSA Week 2: More green leafy things

Quick update from last week: I've already failed in my goal to cook everything from the CSA.  Gingery garlicy stir-fried joi choi was delicious, and made over the weekend.  The scallions and some chard stalks went into an omelet yesterday morning.  But the radishes, alas, did not make it. 

This week's share consisted of:
  • Bok Choy
  • (Green Leaf Lettuce) swapped out for more radishes
  • Green Onions
  • Kale
  • Radishes
  • Swiss Chard
  • and a little pot of Cilantro

My share partner Chris took kale, chard, and one bunch of radishes.  I kept the rest.

I have never cooked with radishes before, so the new experiences continue.  At pickup I thought I would cook 2 bunches, which is why I traded the lettuce in, but then I chickened out.   I made 'skilled-cooked radishes with pan-seared radish greens' with my bunch, which turned out to be way too tangy for my taste.  I think I could have handled either the radishes or the balsamic vinegar, but together it was a little much. 

I also made stir-fried bok choy.  One of my roommates is leaving for the summer, and she told me I could take some tofu she hadn't had time to cook.  I haven't cooked tofu before either, so I found a simple recipe for pan frying it in soy sauce.  Paired with the bok choy and some brown rice it was quite yummy. 

Green onions will go into meat sauce tomorrow.  There are probably better ways to use them, but I'm heading out of town for the weekend, so after dinner with a friend tomorrow I need something easily freezable.

Monday, June 17, 2013

That was easy.

I have a retirement fund! Registered on a whim (sorta) on a Saturday night in less time than it will take me to post about it.  Woo!

It wasn't truly on a whim because I've been thinking about getting my retirement funds off the ground for a while now. This is basically half of my summer savings goal.  For right now, the amount matters less to me than actually starting the account.  Which is a Roth IRA at Vanguard, in case you're wondering.  Their STAR fund has a $1000 minimum and waives the $20/year fee if you register for electronic statements, making it easy for me to jump in and start saving.  

Get Rich Slowly calls the STAR a "mutual fund of mutual funds, a safe choice for beginners."  Right now, I'm don't want to be hands-on with my money.  I want to set it and forget it, as much as possible, because there are so many other things going on in my life.  Plus, I have little desire to get involved with the stock market, and little knowledge* about investing. 

Opening the account was simple and straightforward.  I needed my Social Security Number and bank info (and money in said bank account).  It took me about 10 minutes.  And starting it is the thing.  It's there, its easy to access.  I can set up a regular payment, and start seriously saving.  

This feels like the first big step I've taken into adulthood.  I'm taking control of something that's not school or one of the basic needs in life.  My parents always handled savings.  I knew they were active savers - I saw them meet their financial adviser, and they talked about saving for retirement, and I heard them talk about our college funds - but I wasn't really involved.  Now I'm looking to the long term for myself, which makes me feel kinda weird, actually, because I know most other people my age aren't doing that.  But I feel good about this - I'm starting to take charge of my future and claim my independence.

*a dangerous thing, I know.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

CSA Week 1: New experiences

CSA time has finally arrived! Tuesday night was the first delivery, and I got together with my share partner Chris to cook some of our veggies (well, I cooked, anyway).  Lots of experimentation is involved - I'm not a tremendously experienced cook, and several of the items were new to my kitchen.

This week's share included:
  • Joi Choi
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Arugula
  • Scallions
  • Broccolini
  • and a little Basil plant

Lettuce soup might be the best recipe find of the week.  I strongly dislike lettuce, and typically avoid it.  It appeared in the share, though, so I looked for some way to cook up my least favorite green.  The soup turned out quite tasty: light, herby, and very summery overall.  Not fabulous as leftovers, because the bits of lettuce & garlic are a little tough after reheating in the microwave.  It's also best warm, but not hot.

I also made baked chicken and sauteed Swiss chard with mushrooms to round off dinner.  Leftovers abounded.

The joi choi and the radishes will be cooked this weekend once I've eaten tonight's remainders.   Joi choi is a new veggie to me -  it's kind of like bok choi's big brother from what I can tell.  My CSA newsletter highlighted it as the 'mystery veg' of the week, and I'll be making the gingery garlic stir fry recipe they included.  I haven't decided what I'm doing with the radishes yet.

Boiled kale and assorted leftovers went home with Chris, and he took the broccolini and half the scallions as well.  The basil will be an addition to my burgeoning window garden.

Cooking all that was definitely an adventure.  I don't think I've ever made that many dishes (4 including the kale) in one night.  It was an enjoyable challenge though, even if it did take longer than I thought it would.  I had a lot of fun searching out recipes that were within my skill-set but went beyond boiling or steaming or sauteing.  I knew the CSA would be good for getting more vegetables into my diet, but I think it's also going to be good for my widening my cooking experience. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Shaving update

Several months past the predicted trial date, I've finally tried out my safety razor.  And let me tell you, I'm a huge fan.

For starters, I had to clean the handle, as it once belonged to my grandfather.  I cycled through boiling it, soaking it in soapy water, scrubbing it with a toothpick and an old toothbrush, and soaking it in rubbing alcohol.  I went through that cycle at least twice, I think I boiled it one last time after that.  That seemed to get all the soap scum and gunk out of the crevices, and left me pretty certain that I'd killed any lingering bacteria.

Shaving with a safety razor does take some extra effort, compared to the plastic one with 3-4 blades.  I had to do two passes on my legs to get them smooth, and go more slowly.  I had to do a lot of passes under my arms, primarily because I was trying to get the blade angle right, and not doing short enough strokes.  That led to some irritation, but it faded in less than a day.  The extra time doesn't bother me much, because I shave about once a week so an extra 3-5 minutes isn't that big a deal.

I didn't use any fancy extra equipment, like brushes and special soaps, etc., that I'd read about online.  I lotioned my legs before and after, and I used my normal bar of moisturizing soap for the actual shave.  I also did my complete shower routine before I shaved, so the hair had a chance to soften up.  That system seems to have worked pretty well, in my opinion.

Some fuss, no frills: I think the safety razor is here to stay.