Lauren and the Apple Cider Donuts

There are so many other things I need to be doing right now. If I look at my planner right now, I’m probably going to have to pencil in when I’m allowed to breathe….. Yet here I am!

Let me just say, I am very disappointed with this so called “autumn” this year. What an impostor, from the heat, to the cold, to the heat again, or the leaves only changing color now at the end of November instead of early October (I guess I should blame human induced global climate change for that). But also no one was all that excited for Halloween, the greatest holiday of them all. I didn’t even carve a pumpkin!

The biggest travesty though was quite frankly the gaping whole in my heart from the absence of apple cider donuts in my life.

This was not for lack of trying though. Almost every day, I checked the local bakery near my house in Columbia, leaving with nothing but emptiness in my soul (I mean stomach, but they are basically one in the same). All of this culminated to the morning I woke up in College Park and said “Damn it, I need them NOW.” Scrolling through my phone, I found a farm thirty minutes away from me where, apparently, they had some beautiful specimens of these baked cake rings.

After recently complaining about how hard my relatively privileged life was without my favorite fall treat to my good friend, Lauren, who felt the pain of this deficiency as much as me, I knew she would be my date for sure.

Before I explain our journey for these gosh darn donuts, I fully disclose that Lauren is easily one of the most amazing people I know. She’s a kind and generous soul, who is sarcastic as hell, and comforting when you need it most. Lauren won’t hesitate to tell you she’d rather be drinking a glass of wine and petting a dog than dealing with your pettiness though. Her hobbies are the coolest on this earth (SHE’S A CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHER).

Truly, I couldn’t have asked for a better someone with whom to go on this adventure. I picked Lauren up in my messy, but organized Honda accord and drove off with the windows down. Naturally, I handed over full creative control to the concert junkie for the tunes on the radio, as we blasted what I can only describe as upbeat, alternative with a little pop kick to it. As cliche as it is to say, you could feel the excitement in the air between the two of us. After that thirty minute drive to the little farm I had found, and about fifteen minutes of searching the shop, the slender, uninterested goth teenager behind the counter broke our hearts in a little over five seconds.

“All the apple cider donuts were sold by noon today, sorry”

I doubted the authenticity of this apology. I was about to lose my mind as I weighed my options. There were no other places I could think of nearby with precisely what I wanted. Lauren and I were rather inflexible, like a spoiled child at Christmas refusing a off brand toy, on our desire for authentic, apple cider donuts. As we contemplated our options while the sun began setting, we were pacing along the grounds of the farm. Only after about five minutes did I realize how charming this farm stand was even without what we were craving.

A very cute miniature orchard was the perfect place to take basic white girl autumn photos and pretend like that’s what we meant to do in the first place. Lauren is going to hate me for posting these, but she’s stuntin so hard here so I absolutely must share.

We were pretending to pick apples, but there were bees around the apples as we found out half way through photos. I was quite excited as you can see, but Lauren, being a normal person, had a normal person reaction.

 

 

and then for the best part. My artistic spirit drew me to this barn where I started taking pictures as the sun set. I was quite proud of myself at first, thinking I had nailed some great photos (so I thought). After reevaluating, I came to the conclusion that I should give up on doing anything ever again. Sure, we got some good photos of the fake apple picking, hiding our despair and disappointment,

but I managed to ruin that when I realized I took a bunch of pictures of a cat licking its genitals in front of my artsy barn. My artistic soul had led me astray…

It was time to go home. With no donuts and only a few good photos that Lauren still doesn’t want me to post, I felt defeated. And then Lauren said the best thing she could.

Let’s go pick up some wine and binge watch Netflix.

So we did, and I had the brilliant idea of trying to make apple cider donuts at home…. AND I didn’t have apple cider of course. Maybe I need to ignore my artistic soul from here on out.  With an alarming lack of apple cider donuts in my life, the lovely glasses of wine the two of us had, as well as each other’s company was all starting to make up for it. They typically say misery enjoys company don’t they? We managed to whip together baked cinnamon sugar donuts and invite a few others over to  taste our donuts made with a little desperation and tipsiness. Might I just say, we did a damn good job of making it seem like these donuts were an acceptable substitute.

And this is why I date my friends.

Tianxin and La Pupuseria

I think it’s a beautiful thing that a Norwegian/Irish white girl and a Chinese girl can walk into a Salvadoran restaurant to get food without even the thought of how none of this would be possible without being so beautifully connected, especially by food. I mean, all of the waitresses still looked at us like “what are these ignorant non-latina girls doing here?” but still, beautiful.

My date, Tianxin, was a talented and genuine person from head to toe.

She’s truly the whole package and she’s going to hate this firm and direct acknowledgement of her greatness because she’s so unbelievably modest. Tianxin is really quite a beautiful soul. Her artistic talent touches upon every aspect of her life, whether it is her photographic eye, the layout of her entire room from top to bottom, her sense of fashion and minimalist outfits; it doesn’t matter (she’s also super sassy but we will get to that later).

Tianxin is also an AVID foodie, who’s cooking at times puts me to shame. It seems an artistic mind and a well trained palette go hand in hand. It’s not hard to imagine two artistic foodies having a good time on a friend date to a poppin’ Salvadoran restaurant.

The two of us go to University of Maryland, making it incredibly easy to get to Washington D.C. However, that’s not where we went, because…..

  1. We are broke college students
  2. We are lazy
  3. It takes too long and we are forever hungry

College Park, Maryland may not be the same type of cultural hub with vibrant, highly rated gastropubs and sushi bars. The vibe is more similar to hungover college students in line for Bagel Place repeatedly saying “I want to die” and “what did I do last night?” (I can’t honestly say that hasn’t been me). But there is a lot of authenticity in the restaurants nearby, especially those with specific cultural fair.The two of us really appreciated this realness… and cheapness. La Pupuseria was the perfect place to be that day.

Authentic Salvadoran pupusas and chicken tamales on a beautiful, hot as hell fall day, were all we needed. If you don’t know what pupusas are, I’m so sorry. It’s not too late for you to enjoy life. Go out and get yourself like three of them at least. So what are pupusas?

Pupusas are corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and usually other ingredients like beans, pork, and even flower bud (which is delicious, I recommend it). Usually these little disks come out with a cabbage slaw,  called curtido, and tomato salsa.

Tianxin and I took a seat in the front of the store, under the TV blaring soccer news in Spanish. La Pupuseria is a small joint, with tables close together making it rather intimate as you can hear practically every conversation or request to a waiter. We went during off hours though, so the place was not bustling to the brim. Unfortunately, upon arrival we were already hungry, on the verge of hangry but nonetheless enjoying our time together, joking around about nerdy artistic things and how we were going to die of hunger soon. The one draw back about La Pupuseria is the food takes FOREVER, hopefully because they are making everything fresh and in that moment that you order.

The best advice I can give you when frequenting a Salvadoran restaurant is to order your pupusas as soon as humanly possible (like before you even walk through the door maybe).

Our waitress approached, and rather excited about practicing my Spanish I was about to order when my date jumped in before I could get a word out. Chicken tamales, pupusas with beans and chicharon (pork, another recommendation). And these were enjoyed along with the wonderful conversation. If the other patrons of the restaurant listened to us, they probably thought we hated one another. There’s no end to the sarcasm and put down fest between the two of us. Tianxin tells me straight when I’m being a whiny b*tch or when I really need to stop opening up my cooking services for everyone on a Saturday night when I’m clearly rather tipsy. This is, of course, only bad in her eyes if she’s not already just as gone as I am. Then it’s the two of us with our wine glasses in the kitchen.

So we chatted along through our meal, but in the end I was still itching to practice my Spanish. If you hadn’t already seen from my blog posts, I really enjoyed my time in Spain which motivated me even further to continue learning Spanish. When our food came out, the waitress forgot to bring two forks. I went up to the counter and said in plain Spanish,

“Tiene un tenedor?” (Do you have a fork?)

She answered in English. All of them looked at me confused, gave me the fork, and watched me walk back to my table, feeling a little defeated and disappointed. As Tianxin can tell you, I didn’t let this go, not even after eating the most amazing five dollar meal I’ve ever had. I don’t think I could have asked for a more perfect date.

And the next day, she didn’t even ghost me.

She even listened to me complain again about my Spanish-less encounter. If that isn’t true friend-love, I don’t know what is.

Eggplant Parmesan in the Tiniest of Kitchens

During spring break, I spent way too much money on food that also happened to be awful for me. The best meal I had though was with my best friend, Holly, in her single loft apartment in St. Augustine, Florida. Holly and I decided to cook dinner at least one night and she was craving Eggplant Parmesan.

I have to sincerely apologize to every student at Flagler, the college in that town. The grocery stores were lacking a lot in the way of fresh produce and quality in general. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Wegmans in Maryland, but it made it difficult to get all the ingredients together. To me, Target isn’t a grocery store. The store didn’t even have eggplant! We took a trip to Win Dixie, as well as Publix, then retreated back to cook dinner.

…and then I remembered I didn’t have bread crumbs. In Holly’s tiny kitchen, I already didn’t have a lot to work with. There was nothing that was going to stop me though; a hungry girl on a mission is an unstoppable force.

Did you know you can make homemade breadcrumbs? I had made them before. I used holly’s whole wheat bread. All you have to do is pulse the bread in a blender or food processor. Once I did that I added some Italian herbs and parmesan straight into my breadcrumbs.

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I cut the eggplant and gave it to holly, who dipped each slice in egg and then the breadcrumbs. She had to move to another room because I had taken over the little kitchen space there was. I looked for a baking pan, only to find an alarming lack of any cookware besides pots and pans. “OH NO NO NO,” was all that was going through my head. How was I supposed to cook them? For those of you that have never made this dish before, it’s baked with cheese and tomato sauce in a sort of deep baking dish, which is so delicious.

Again, hungry megan = unstoppable force. I grabbed a pan and some olive oil. We were going to fry them! I guess it wasn’t necessarily eggplant parm, more like fried eggplant deliciousness.

Once we had fried all of the eggplant, I put some provolone on each and broiled them in the *surprise surprise* small oven on a sheet of aluminum foil. And meanwhile, while doing all of this we cooked angel hair pasta and set the bar table for dinner.

tiny kitchen 4

Everything was set out to eat FINALLY. Once we dished out the pasta and eggplant and sauce, I realized how worth it the entire process was. Even in the tiniest of kitchens, we were able to make a masterpiece, a work of culinary art.

If you’re interested, I’ll post the recipe to this dish. In the times I’ve made it again, I’ve found it honestly very easy to cook and decently healthy if you follow my method.

Eating Healthy is Eating Normal

When you go grocery shopping, what is your cart full of? Where do you spend the most time when you’re there? What do you cook?

If you never cook, you may not even know the answer to those questions. Unfortunately as a student, at least at the University of Maryland, I’m not in close proximity to a proper grocery store. I’m privileged in the fact that I have a car; otherwise I would be eating at restaurants and fast food places all the time. For a lot of people, that’s the standard. Chipotle and Blaze once in a while are okay, but not every day for the sake of your wallet and your body.

I see this as a huge issue among my peers. It’s not that they want to live like this. When you don’t know how to cook though, or what to make even if you can, what other options would you have? Then, what happens when you graduate?

This problem can’t continue to be ignored, and I want to help be part of the solution! I’m investing my time in this blog to help you, either fellow students, graduates, or anyone that just wants to eat normally, get to the point that you can buy the right food and cook for yourself all on your own.

Because eating healthy should be eating normally.

And I don’t mean eating salads for every meal and dieting to the point of pure hunger. I will not allow you to detox. Vegetables are not your enemy. You may have to keep an open-mind to my recipes, but if you test the waters and then dive right in, I promise you won’t regret it.

Odd Thoughts: September 26th

As I sit here on my break at work, I am painfully reminded of the time just a month ago when I wished I was back in school and busy. Oh how young and naive I was at 20 years and 8 months old. With almost no free time, except for when I’m not sacrificing my soul to the almighty gods of homework, I have realized there isn’t much time to plan what to eat. What ever is quick and cheap will end up in my stomach because I honestly don’t have time to contemplate the amount of sugar in that energy bar. I think all students with packed schedules can relate to this. It’s an uphill battle to eat healthy, get enough sleep, get good grades, and stay sane.

Where there is a will… Oh who am I kidding! I want to eat healthy, and I don’t need a cliche to tell you that if you really want to do something, you’ll get it done. Recently, I’ve been prepping meals at 10pm, sometimes until 1am, for the upcoming days. I make incredibly boring, but healthy, dishes that I know I’ll eat no matter what. If I have to eat broccoli and chicken for every dinner, so be it! (Unless there’s pizza) I’ve come to notice that it saves me a lot of money too.

You can definitely do the same thing for yourself; you just have to see the benefit of it. It’s like working out, except more fun because you see the physical fruits of your labor right away. When your fridge is full of prepped meals, it shows your hard work in a weirdly satisfying way. You also start to feel the effects of eating better within days. Trust me, it’s worth it.

ron-eating

 

Odd Thoughts : August 7th

After working two jobs and taking a class this summer, I can proudly claim I am still alive. However, I can’t say I’m unscathed. Being a camp counselor is like being a mom to thirty kids all at once. All the yelling and talking back doesn’t take away from how much fun it really was. Pool every day; arts and crafts with 5 year olds. It certainly brought out the inner kid in me when one of the little girls would look up at me, smiling and proud, to claim she just farted. I don’t know how, but I almost forgot to mention all of the questions I got about marriage and a boyfriend. All of the kids were convinced that I should be married at twenty with three children and a house.

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Overall though, my summer has been an A+ for work, but a C- for a healthy lifestyle. I definitely was active every single day chasing kids around and playing “Catch the Counselor” in the pool. My diet though was like a kid’s dream. I snacked way to often, and I don’t think I’ve ever baked so much in my life. Unfortunately I’ve compromised my healthy lifestyle, even though this was mostly because I wanted to post for this blog and my instagram.

Going forward, I’m not going to be posting as many dessert recipes or snacks. I now have time to focus on the best stuff, my healthy but still damn delicious, meals. I’ll probably work my way down from breakfast to dinner. We’ll see!

Farmor’s Birthday

Today was my grandma’s birthday, a day after my father’s. I can’t imagine giving birth a day before my own birthday. She’s an incredible woman who deserves a lot more credit than she’s given. I’m not talking about giving her lots of gifts and presents. Actions and choices speak much louder than objects and words. Food does too.

I decided to cook Farmor my Norwegian Waffles for brunch and set up a nice table for us to simply enjoy our time together. With fresh fruits, jam, and honey, I don’t know if anything could have made this afternoon better. I must say, they were the best damn waffles I’ve ever made. Not to be cliche, but who cares, they were made with love!

brunch with farmor

Happy Birthday Farmor!

“Mega-Mooch” : The Nickname

Of all the countless nicknames and shortenings of my name, which already is pretty darn short (Megan, it’s five letters people), the one that has stuck the longest is Mega-Mooch. Why couldn’t it just be Meg? I can deal with the childish Family Guy references all day, but not this.

Mega-mooch will probably be on my tombstone.

Me

Now, you may be wondering, what does this even mean? What’s a mooch? WELL, a ‘mooch’ is a name for someone who steals your food, and ‘mega’ means ‘super.’ So, my nickname is, basically, the “super stealer of food.”

You are also probably wondering, how do you even maintain a relationship with any one? Stealing food? WHAT KIND OF PERSON ARE YOU?

I SWEAR it’s not my fault. Eighteen years ago, I’d stand next to the table, unable to see the magnificent beauty atop it. Oh, I know where my addiction started. Now, my tactics were pretty covert. Obviously I couldn’t say “give me food,” so I used a more subtle approach.

I sat with my mouth open next to anyone eating, just to slightly hint that I wanted food. It was a difficult task, but I must have gotten my point across because shortly after, my name became Mega-Mooch. Someday when I become a super hero, fighting for the environment and the people of the world, I just hope this isn’t my name. Darn that’d be lame.

So, yes I am that annoying friend that always wants a taste of your food. If it looks good, I’m in. The fortunate thing for you though is that my other nickname is bird. Although I’ll be the one that steals your food, I’ll only take a little and be on my way.

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