One lump, or two?

I wish I had a place to hang a hammock now.

Relax. Now there’s a word for you. I love that word: Relax. I love it like one loves anything that seems unattainable. Like a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting while on a diet. Like North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner when on a Shaefer budget. Like High Tea at The Plaza when you’ve got Lipton and a gas station tuna salad sandwich.

The only way I’ll reach that dreamy state of Nirvana where my blood pressure drops below panic level and I don’t have that ever-so-slightly crazy look in my eyes is if I manage to at least triple my income and find a way to afford lessons once again so I have access to those heavy bags. I never had to picture anyone while round housing, jabbing and crossing, or my favorite, throwing a good, wound-up back-hand. Just kicking the crap out of them left me with a dreamy, blissful feeling afterwards. I’m a simple, slightly off, but simple lady.

Since my stress level has been unusually high this month, here are a couple of ways I enjoy (trying) relaxing and lowering my heart rate with a little culinary comfort.

Milk, or lemon? I did both once. It got real ugly.

Would you like to join me for a cuppa?

I’ve always enjoyed a good cup of tea, but let’s be frank here. Until recent years, you couldn’t find a good cup of tea in most parts of the United States for love nor less than a lot of money at a British tea shop. There are a few places to get some very nice tea, or you can just buy a box of Barry’s . Also, you really should learn how to properly brew tea. This tea bag in a cup of water in the microwave thing is just wrong. This restaurant bringing you hot water out of the coffee maker for you to pour over your own cheap Lipton tea bag at the table after the water cools off thing is really wrong. This non-dairy creamer in anything thing is just so very wrong. Use milk or cream for the love of all that’s caffeinated!

My new favorite tea vendor is Adagio Teas. They have wonderful teas from all over the world, lots of flavors, their tea bags are some of the best I’ve tried, and they are not expensive at all, especially considering the quality you get. They also love to give you a deal. If you know someone with an account, that person can give out $5 gift certificates every 24 hours: hello, cheap? You can also try any of their teas by buying very generous sample sizes for $2! Hot tea samples are usually enough for 10 cups (10 cups is a sample? Yummy!) Iced tea has a $6 size – enough to make 6 quarts, which is pretty cheap, too. Combine this with a $5 gift certificate from your buddy, and that’s how they get ya. Addicted.

I just love their Blood Orange tea iced, and the Mango served hot with milk is about as yummy and comforting as you could ever want. Better than a stupid blanket with sleeves. My only suggestion about the iced is for the non-black teas, I let it steep longer than 8 minutes. Black and green teas should not steep longer than they suggest or it gets bitter. Also don’t squeeze your tea bag when you take it out of the cup! It also makes your tea bitter. Just take it out, lay it on a plate or in the trash and forgo those extra drops.

Oh, how I love thee, sable cookies!

C is for Cookie and that’s good enough for me

Nothing is as comforting as smelling fresh-baked cookies and making a cup of tea to enjoy with them while they cool. Buying good cookies is expensive. Buying cookie dough at the store usually means high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and other preservatives, plus it’s not all that cheap for what you get.

In summer I hate turning the oven on, and because I live with a non-cookie-eating cat, baking a whole batch is silly. What I do is make dough that will keep in the fridge and then I cut a couple and bake them in the toaster oven as I want them. I did it at work last weekend. There were some very happy men eating little French cookies in the studios. Also, I must point out to the guys: this is easy to make, and if you want to impress someone and make them feel special, baking up a couple of cookies for them as an impromptu treat will win major points. If you tell them you make it to keep in the fridge for a treat, they might even be impressed with your practical take on comfort food. And come over more often.

I have been experimenting with one of my favorite cookies, Chocolate Sable. They’re lovely salty-sweet French cookies that are delectably rich and flavorful (and full of butter). I haven’t quite perfected my personal take on them, yet, but I’ll share when I do. It may never happen. It’s a simple recipe that is already near perfection. Meanwhile, try that recipe up there. You won’t disappointed.

Running at break-neck speed through life can get awfully exhausting. Keeping the spirit whole and emotions light and happy is even harder when keeping your head above rough financial waters is your overwhelming concern. Make sure you take time for yourself. Saying that you just don’t have time is a bad excuse. It is easier to budget in a sacred “me” time a couple of times a week, or every day if you can, than it is to trudge along with empty batteries. Or without cookies.

Cheap, relaxed Love,

Gloria

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I admit it. It’s too hot for me, so I go straight to the kitchen!

It’s called Tangerine Tango. Have I told you how much I adore Tango?

Remember when you were a little kid, and you counted the days down to summer starting at about April? The days got longer, hotter, sunnier, and for me, at least, a lot muddier. Somehow, I always managed to come home covered in dirt, mud, grass, leaves, scrapes and bruises. I fell out of trees. I fell off skateboards. I fell off of my bike while trying to dirt bike with the guys on my Schwinn 10-speed. I just fell over. Oh, and I stubbed my bare toe on the sidewalk. I spent most of the summer falling off, down, or onto things. I wasn’t all that much of a tom-boy, though. That was my friend Shelly. She could beat up any boy whenever she wanted to. It was just that much like today, I had the occasional Superman complex and would think jumping off of tall (okay, backyard shed) buildings was a good idea. After you fall and hurt yourself a lot, eventually you learn falling=bad. When I hit freshman year in high school is when I realized up high is scary. I’m slow.

The thing is, I loved, loved LURRRVED summer. I mean, I’d have married summer if I could have. Not Summer, the other half of Winter, the twins at school, but the long, hot, cicada-song, rippling sheets of heat coming up from the slightly yellowed lawns outside and the screams and splashing at the public pool 10 blocks away we used to walk to every day with our quarter to get in and another one for a snack (Yeah, yeah, get it out of your system. I’m not 21.) Texas days of summer. I used to get tan when I was a kid. Now, I just burn and then tan a little. Maybe get a crow’s foot and another freckle. I’m a sad excuse of a Mexican.

The thing is, I loved the summer, and ignored the heat. Now, I love summer for about 2 weeks and then bitch, moan, complain and melt pathetically in the heat the rest of the time. I go for a run (zoooombies!) and come back 2 ridiculously exhausting miles and thirty minutes later panting, wiping dripping sweat and stinging 40 spf sunblock out of my eyes with a face so bright red from the heat, it looks like I’m about to explode. Perhaps I look radioactive. It’s not pretty. No, I can’t run well in the heat.

Once I finish braving the gross humidity and get sick of sweating and swatting away bees and flies and mosquitos, I am ready to cool the heck down. So I head straight into the kitchen after making a quick stop at one of the local farmer’s markets.

This is me all summer long, cup full with various liquids.

It’s not V-8, it’s not marinara sauce, and it’s not tomato juice. It’s…Gazpacho!

Those sexy Spaniards have a few good ideas. Spanish tortillas, sangria, and one of my favorites, gazpacho. (Also, Antonio Banderas, yum.) It’s a chilled, blended, sometimes spicy tomato and vegetable soup.

Don’t you “Ew” me. It’s delicious, and refreshing, and lots of non-believers have turned. Just try it. When it’s 98 degrees Fahrenheit and you’re hungry but can’t bear to eat something hot, never mind turn the stove on, it is gorgeously delicious to open the fridge, grab the pitcher of ice-cold gazpacho, some crusty bread and be done with it.

First, go to the farmer’s market and ask for bruisers or bruised tomatoes. They’re freshly picked tomatoes with some bruises, marks, etc, are usually quite ripe, and they’re often marked down. I got about 6 pounds of beautiful red, ripe, just-picked Jersey farm tomatoes for $3. Grab some other healthy, fresh veg and head home out of the #*$)*@!&!!!! heat. You can use a blender or large food processor, and make sure to do this in batches and then mix it together afterwards so you don’t overflow.

These aren’t rules, they’re more like…guidelines. Just adjust/change/add/subtract/dowhatevertastesbesttoyou as you’d like. I spent $10 at the market, and came away with not only the vegetables for gazpacho, but a few different kinds of squash, a big bunch of swiss chard, tons of fresh red leaf lettuce and some unworn, vintage 60’s sunglasses from Italy for another $10. Oops.

I had tomatoes left over for salad, etc! Yay, gazpacho!

Gloria’s the veggies they had at the farmer’s market on June 30th, 2012 gazpacho

  • 3 large, ripe tomatoes, marks and stem ends trimmed off, cut into quarters
  • 3/4 large fresh Kirby (pickling) cucumber trimmed and cut into large chunks (Use any cucumber you’d like to taste; there are no rules!)
  • 1 carrot, trimmed and cut into large chunks
  • thick slice of onion, or 1/4 medium onion, peeled
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/3 large bell pepper, any color, de-veined and seeded
  • 1 small Serrano pepper, whole (Optional, you can also use a couple shakes red pepper flakes. If you don’t like spicy, skip this)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used fresh thyme and Chinese parsley, you can try cilantro, parsley, basil, etc)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • A couple healthy glugs of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste. I added celery salt, too

Blend the tomatoes, herbs and other vegetables using pulses. You don’t want this smooth, you want it chunky with lots of texture. I alternate tomato pieces and the other veg and pour into a big bowl as I go so I can mix everything together well when I’m finished. Add your spices to taste, pour into a large, covered glass pitcher, stick in the fridge for at least a couple of hours and then, enjoy! You can serve it with little bowls of chopped hard-boiled egg, cucumber, peppers, ham, ect so that everyone can add as they like, along with slices of crusty bread to dip into it. When I’m really hungry and lazy, I just pour it into a giant cup and drink it with some bread on the side. I do that almost every time I make gazpacho, in case you still don’t know me all that well.

I’m hungry, and guess what’s chilling in the fridge? By the by, I’m mostly over heights=bad. This is not a good thing, as I still fall a lot.

Bruised, cheap Love,

Gloria