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Posts Tagged ‘boring stuff I spend way too much time thinking about’

I’m a reformed coffee drinker. Otherwise known as a tea fan.

Ally posted recently about her assortment of tea flavors, and it reminded me that I have… a lot of tea in my house. 

Since I cannot remember my origin story as a tea drinker, I will instead give you a tour of my tea. 

I have so much tea, it has to live in two places. This is the tea drawer in the red cabinet in the dining room.

It was so fun to read about how many of you have strong thoughts on herbal vs. black tea, and I will say that I have equally strong feelings about tea. The first feeling is that I don’t really understand what herbal tea is! Which is probably pretty understandable, considering that I drink black tea 95% of the time. 

My favorite is Earl Grey, and its variations. I love me some bergamot. The very best Earl Grey tea I have ever had was at a little brunch place in Montreal. I ordered a pot of Earl Grey and it was so floral and delicious that I wrote down the name of the tea they served and have asked for it for Christmas every year since. (It’s called Uncle Grey and its made by Tea Squared in Canada.) 

Extreme close up of my tea drawer! I have a bunch of Double Bergamot and then some regular Earl Grey as a backup. There’s also a lovely, fragrant lavender rooibos in here… but it makes my tongue feel funny when I drink it, so I stopped drinking it.

Because Uncle Grey is pricey, it’s not really reasonable to drink every single day. (That’s why it makes a great gift.) So I’ve had to come up with some acceptable alternatives. There is a lot of bad tea out there, folks. My favorite is Double Bergamot Earl Grey by Stash. I can often get it at a local grocery store, and if not I can order it by the 100-bags from amazon. 

My mugs are there on the right. The ones with cats. Also the one about being a writer; I will write about that later. I have a third giant mug, but it’s in the dishwasher.

I drink an enormous cup of tea every morning, and I use two tea bags to make it strong enough. I read somewhere that you do not strengthen tea by steeping it longer, you strengthen it by using more tea bags. (Steeping it longer can make it bitter.) If memory serves, I read this years ago in the first Cormoran Strike novel by Robert Galbraith/J. K. Rowling, so I’m not sure if you should take it as gospel; it is advice that has served me well, however. 

This hastily snapped photo does not quite adequately capture how enormous my mug is. I think the mug on the left holds 8 ounces; mine holds TWENTY.

Despite liking my tea strong, I don’t like it black. When I make Earl Grey or Chai, I always add sweetener and half-and-half. I use about two tablespoons of half-and-half, so my tea is a lovely tan.

My second-favorite tea is matcha. But the way to make matcha good, in my opinion, is to make it with milk rather than with water, and that is sometimes usually more of an effort than I care to make. You will note that my matcha is encased in a resealable bag inside a Zip-loc bag, because I have learned from bitter experience that it is a bitch to clean up matcha powder that has spilled all over my pantry. 

My third-place tea drink of choice is probably a tie between Chai and green tea. If I order tea from Starbucks, for instance, I almost always order a Chai latte. But if I am having a second cup of tea during the day, I will make green tea. I like the grassy taste, although I sometimes add a little plop of honey. I enjoy jasmine green tea quite a bit; I guess I like flowery tea in general.

My tea collection includes a wide variety of teas other than Earl Grey, matcha, chai, and green tea. Sometimes I browse the shelves and shelves of teas at the store and think, “Hmm, perhaps I am a rooibos person!” (I am not.) or “What I need is a tea with winter spices!” (I do not.) Then I buy them and try a cup and hate it and go back to drinking my same old, same old. 

My husband enjoys some of the winter-spice teas, but contrary to my original assumption, which was that the winter-spiced teas I am posting here are his, he actually has all “his” tea in the same drawer where he keeps his coffee. So this is all tea I have purchased in hopes that I will magically become a different person.

I requested these for Christmas one year, and got them. They were fun to try, but I did not enjoy them. I think I got them two, maybe even three years ago and I only had two of them before deciding they weren’t worth it. I threw them out after taking this photo. The little box is cute though. Carla rescued it from the trash and has Big Plans for transforming it into something.

The chamomile is a different thing, though: I have chamomile because my mom used to make it when we weren’t feeling well. It was part of the Sore Throat Regimen (which also involved gargling with hot salt water). Even though I’m not a huge fan of the taste, it is comforting because it reminds me of my mother, and how tenderly she took care of me when I was sick. 

I much prefer a tea bag to a loose-leaf tea. This is something I continually try to revisit with myself, because the tea bags produce a lot of waste. I have the matcha, I have some micro ground tea, I have some loose leaf tea. I have a little tea brewer apparatus, into which you can pour your tea leaves and your hot water; once the tea is done steeping, you balance the little apparatus on top of your mug and it drains the brewed tea into your mug, leaving the leaves inside. It’s ingenious, really. But it’s difficult to clean (and you aren’t supposed to put tea leaves down your drain) and it doesn’t fit on my mug because it’s too giant. I will continue trying to train myself away from the tea bags though; it’s a terrible, wasteful habit.

Once, I went to a friend’s house for dinner. After dinner, she brought out this beautiful teak box with a hinged lid, inside of which were a dozen different teas I could choose from. It struck me as so fancy, and so hospitable. I, on the other hand, have a plastic bin filled with teas of all sorts that sits in my panty next to boxes and boxes of other tea. If I ever become a fancy person who enjoys having people in my house, I will certainly be getting myself a lidded box in which to offer my guests tea. (In the meantime, maybe it would make a good hostess gift?)

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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I woke up at five this morning after dreaming something ridiculous that I won’t go into here. (It wasn’t salacious, sadly. Just odd.) The key part was that my husband was somehow melded into my high school boyfriend in that weird way of dreams. So that when I woke up my brain decided to replay in gory detail how awful I was to said boyfriend when I went away to college. There’s nothing I can do about it now, and also I don’t think it was really THAT bad, and also we were friendly years afterwards so I don’t think there are lasting scars on his end, plus we are both married and I haven’t thought about him in countless months. But thank you, brain, for steeping me in shame at so early an hour so I can bask in it all day long.

Last night I made an excellent recipe for zucchini noodles. Let me state for the record here that I have no patience for foods masquerading as other foods. I love zucchini, and therefore I enjoy zucchini noodles (although in their noodleishness they are difficult to eat). But I’m not going to try to convince you that they are a good or even fair approximation of noodles themselves. I’m not going to replace them in my recipe for spaghetti and meat sauce, for instance. I am not going to dress them with cheese and pretend they bear any resemblance to macaroni and cheese. They are not noodles. They are zucchini in noodle form. If you don’t like zucchini, you will probably not enjoy them. I discovered this the hard way, by trying cauliflower rice a few years ago. NEVER AGAIN, Internet. Never again. I don’t like cauliflower and spending nearly an hour rasping it against a box grater and getting cauliflower shards all over my kitchen did not change that in the least. I keep hearing about cauliflower mashed potatoes and cauliflower pizza crust and while I am intrigued, I am NOT going to fall for it. STOP PRETENDING, cauliflower. Just be who you are.

ANYWAY. The recipe I tried last night is really good, but it is good in a zucchini way. If you like zucchini you should try it: Easy 10 Minute Asian Zucchini Noodles from Gimme Delicious.

What do you do when you find a recipe you like, and you want to try it again? I’m really curious, by the way. Do you have a list on your phone? A folder on your desktop? A physical file folder into which you stow printed recipes?

I really want to know, because I haven’t found a good system.

As pretty much sole cook for our household, this is the kind of boring thing I spend a lot of time thinking about. As I’ve mentioned previously, we eat a lot of meals that look like Chicken + Vegetable. That is a combination that gets boring realllllllllly quickly, so I am always on the lookout for new, delicious ways to shake up the boring. But there are three problems I’ve run into:

  1. What is the best way to keep track of recipes that look good but I haven’t tried?
  2. What is the best way to separately track recipes that I have tried and want to use again?
  3. What is the best way to avoid re-making a recipe that I have tried and was terrible?

Okay, maybe they are three variations on the same problem. What it comes down to is that I need some sort of filing system. One that is more efficient and comprehensive and located in one, easy-to-access spot than what I currently use.

What I do now is a combination of things. First, I have a folder on my laptop where I bookmark recipes that I want to try. Since I follow a bunch of food blogs on Feedly, it’s really easy for me to put things into my Recipes folder.

But it’s super unwieldy. I have SO MANY recipes. And there’s no rhyme or reason to them, either. Chicken dishes and veggie sides and frosting recipes and how-to posts for making rainbow layer cakes and the best marinades for steak are all jumbled together in the same folder, and many of those are recipes I’ve tried and either liked or NOT.

Meal planning 3

This blog post is chock FULL of really boring, really poorly lit and off-kilter photos! I know my photography skillz keep you coming back!

You may be thinking, Why not just go in and set up some additional folders? And you would be smart for thinking that, and also I tried that and it isn’t working. First, I had been collecting recipes for about a year before I went in and tried to organize them, so it was already a jumbled mess. Second, the organization tools at my disposal are not particularly user friendly. I can’t easily grab a recipe or ten and drag and drop them into the Veggie Sides folder, for instance. Getting things into the appropriate folder involves a lot of scrolling and it is tedious and time consuming. Third, I still run into the issue of what to do with things I’ve already tried. Sure, I could set up a sub-folder in each category for Make Again and Don’t Make Again… but that gets to be even more unwieldy and also I am kind of lazy.

Meal planning 4

To the left is an example of what’s inside one of my folders. Supposedly, this contains favorite recipes that I should return to again and again. This is the first time I’ve opened this folder in many months, so it’s not really working as planned. Also, you may notice that I occasionally (okay, more often than reasonable) bookmark something I’ve already bookmarked. I REALLY need a better system.

PLUS, I am not always on my computer doing stuff. I do a lot of recipe finding on my phone. So I have a folder of recipes on my phone, too… and getting them to my computer is not simple. I really need a system that works across devices.

The best part of my system is my weekly dinner plan email. Each week before I go grocery shopping, I create an email to myself that lists all the meals and includes links to online recipes. Sometimes I’ll open the email a few days in advance, if I already know that I’ll be making something specific, or if it’s a week where I’m feeding people beyond my own immediate family. I always reply to the previous week’s dinner email, so there’s a single record of everything I’ve ever planned to eat since March of 2017 when I started it.

Then, after the week’s meals, I try to write notes to myself about what worked and what didn’t. So after last night’s zucchini noodles success, I responded the email and wrote, DELICIOUS! MAKE AGAIN.

This email is also really useful for any modifications I do to a recipe. For instance, last year I found this Martha Stewart recipe for crockpot garlic chicken that sounded so good, but wasn’t. But instead of giving up on it, I kept tinkering with it until I got it right. And I put those notes to myself in my dinner planning email. If I get any feedback on the recipe from my husband, I put those in the notes. So it’s all there in one place.

Meal Planning 2

I first tried the Martha Stewart recipe in May of 2017. My reaction was that it was too sweet. Hot tip: “More lemon juice” can solve most of the world’s ills. At least foodwise.

Dinner Planning Email 1

Here is where I recorded the modifications that made the Martha Stewart recipe not only edible but delicious. Ah memories. This is also the day when I discovered my husband — whom I’ve known for SEVENTEEN YEARS — doesn’t really like soup.

(Sometimes, when I have the wherewithal, I post the modified recipe here. Like with the “chicken tikka masala” recipe I revamped to suit my own needs. It got to be too annoying to look at the original recipe and try to remember what I changed each time I made it.)

So my meal planning email is the best part of my meal planning system. But it’s not perfect. Sometimes I have to scroll and scroll through old emails to find what I’m looking for. And, because I haven’t mastered the art of organizing what I haven’t tried, I tend to go back to the same things over and over.

I’ve contemplated doing a weekly meal plan blog post. Many bloggers do this, and I always enjoy reading them. And I could always add notes to myself in the comments. But again, this does nothing for the stacks and stacks of recipes I have yet to try.

There’s got to be an app that handles this, right? But I don’t want to look for and evaluate and try a bunch of them. And honestly, thinking about moving all my carefully curated but as-yet-untried recipes to a new place sounds exhausting. But I WANT something better and I suppose I am willing to do a certain amount of work to make it happen.

How do YOU keep track of what you’re cooking? What’s working and what isn’t? Have you come across a magic app that does it all? If you have a meal planning and tracking system you love, I am HERE FOR IT.

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