To me, summer means the time for cooking, the time to explore all of my culinary ambitions that have accumulated throughout the school year.
So, everyday, I cook dinner for my family, and there are always a couple of essentials (ingredients, kitchen tools, etc.) and things I keep in mind.
When I first step into the kitchen, I always venture into the fridge to figure out what it is that I want to cook. My dinners typically consist of some kind of soup, starch (usually rice), and two main/side dishes: veggies and protein or sometimes more veggies. So, I’ll make the rice first in a rice cooker (takes about an hour) so that the rice will be finished when I’m finished cooking.
Then, with the veggies and/or protein that I’ve selected for the meal, I search for recipes. My go-to resources have been The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen, New York Times Cooking, and Food and Wine. If there’s a recipe that I love, I’ll remember it and make slight modifications to ingredients if necessary. I love going to the farmer’s market and buying exotic vegetables so that I can try out recipes on my family!
My favorite recipes have been these caramelized broccoli “steaks” (so soft and delicious!), brocollini, veggie gratin (minus the cheese, I used nutritional yeast instead), and mashed potatoes with root vegetables.
I find that searching for new recipes every night actually helps me be more adventurous in the kitchen. Now, I’m less intimidated by baking vegetables instead of stir frying, broiling instead of baking, and using a variety of spices.
By the time I’m done with my main dishes, the rice is ready. I simply heat up the soup that my dad makes every weekend for the week, and dinner is done! Cooking every night is the most therapeutic part of the day for me, and I can’t wait to try more cooking techniques for the rest of the summer! I’m thinking of experimenting with more beans and grains.
Kombucha. You’ve probably heard about this fizzy, probiotic drink from plenty of food and wellness bloggers. Kombucha is the product of fermenting sweetened tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Kombucha has been lauded for its ability to
Support Immune System
Reduce Joint Pain
But, kombucha typically sells for $3-6 at supermarkets, which can really add up overtime! I decided to brew my own kombucha to see if it actually lives up to its health claims.
I started brewing my kombucha in February and I used a recipe by The Kitchn; it’s super detailed and explains everything step-by-step.
Just as a helpful note:
Batch Size: To increase or decrease the amount of kombucha you make, maintain the basic ratio of 1 cup of sugar, 8 bags of tea, and 2 cups starter tea per gallon batch. One scoby will ferment any size batch, though larger batches may take longer. (The Kitchn)
One of my friends’ sister was brewing kombucha as well, and I used a piece of her SCOBY.
I kept the kombucha in a dark area and let it sit and brew. Every couple weeks, I would give it a taste test to make sure it wasn’t too sweet, but it also wasn’t too sour and vinegar-like. Finally, at the end of April, I decided it was ready!
So, you can see that the scoby grew to be huge and super thick. The kombucha tasted sweet and vinegary, with just the right amount of carbonation. I drank 1/2 cup of kombucha a couple times every week, so here are my observations:
Claims to improve digestion –> From my experience, I was actually more gassy than before!
Increases energy –> I guess the vinegary kick from the kombucha did give me more energy…but the drink is super sugary, and the longer it was left in the fridge, the sweeter it got (something to do with the fermentation process…), and for me personally, the kombucha was too sweet.
In conclusion, I don’t really think kombucha is worth the hype based on how it made me feel. I must admit that I do feel very healthy sipping that ice-cold kombucha, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it is worth the money, or effort and time to make it.
This week has been a bit more low-key but nevertheless crazy week. I’m heading back to boarding school next Saturday so our family is in get ready mode (read: creating lists of what we need to buy, but not really going out and getting those things … does anybody else do that?).
The weather’s been also a lot nicer here in D.C. – my morning runs have significantly become a lot more tolerable.
Being that I’m leaving for school in a week, I’ve been trying to relish and take advantage of every opportunity I can in spending time with my family. While during middle school, I wanted to get out of the house and spend minimal time hearing their nagging and nitpicking, after being 300 miles away from them, I just miss everything about my family – even their nitpicking and anger tantrums.
Therefore, I went to Nordstrom Cafe with my mom the other day because it’s one of our favorite places (super convenient when we’re shopping and need of a pick-me-up). My mom went to the Cafe a few days before with her friends and said she tried a new salad in the Chef’s Special menu and that I NEEDED to try it out. So we did and boy, was it amazing. The mushrooms in the salad are crispy (almost like a kale chip) but has that salty kick of the mushroom … LOVE. We also ordered our perennial favorite the penne bolognese.
And just yesterday, my whole family went to our (or really my) favorite sushi place in DC called Sushi Taro. It was DC Restaurant Week so instead of getting my regular Chirashi order, I ate the lunch special. My mom ordered the lunch special as well, while my dad, another creature of habit (I guess like father, like daughter) ordered Chirashi. Let me tell you, my stomach was on cloud nine that day.
TWO// Indulgences (without feeling guilty)
While my past “health nut” self would gasp and shudder at the sight of my eating “naughty” things, these days, I’ve loosened the grip up when I realized I needed to nourish not only my body but my emotions which includes giving into some indulgences once in awhile.
I’ve had this week: a slice of pizza, a cracker/biscuit sort of thing (pictured above), mochi ice cream, and went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. May not seem much, but for a rigid health nut like me, it is.
Now, my taste in a music is mediocre so please don’t judge, however, for me, I am OBSESSED with it (and that’s what counts right?). The only motivation I have when my alarm rings at 6:20 is to listen to my jams.
FOUR// Healthy lunches on-the-go
This summer has been pretty busy with volunteering, math tutors, viola lessons, golf lessons and practices, running and also catching up with friends from back home. So sometimes, I have to eat my lunches or even dinners in the car.
While this may mean doing “to-go” at fast food restaurants for some, for me, my super super sweet mom packs them for me. They’re exactly what I would eat at home, except all in my mom’s neat Tupperwares. And these are all easy enough to make that I don’t necessarily need my mom to make them, but being at home from school I do take advantage of having my mom around.