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Strain then Stir (Episode 2): How to be Ingredient Conscious

Hello and welcome back to another episode of Strain Then Stir, a no-cameras, diary-esque cooking show blog where I attempt to transform myself from a two-meal Tina into a full course Frank…or at the very least, be capable of feeding myself more than cereal and pasta.

On our last episode, I dove into the depths of Kayla Itsines’ cookbook The 28-Day Bikini Body Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Guide. I learned how to bring toast to the next level, how yogurt and sweet potatoes can make sweet sweet food children, and how to better utilize my Panini maker to its full potential. If you haven’t already, read all about those adventures here, then come back and dive in for episode two!

Coming off last month’s installment I have been an overwhelming amount of B-U-S-Y. Most prominently, I went on a weeklong trip with my best friend at the end of September. Since I knew I’d be away, I was less than motivated to go to the grocery store, so I decided that since I did a little bit of an overbuy on my last shopping trip, I’d make it last. I scrounged and got creative, using as much as I could with what I had leftover. Let’s just say I had a lot of cheese and crackers for lunch and I made a lot of rice and pasta for dinner.

Once I got back from my trip, I went grocery shopping again. And with all the recipes I recently learned swirling around in my head, I felt much better equipped to buy things that went together rather than a bunch of things that looked good. I quickly came to learn however, that this knowledge is only half the battle when it comes to being both a good cook and a responsible eater.

As a single person mostly making meals for one, I’ve become well acquainted with having leftover meals. However, in going through Kayla Itsines’ book, I also became familiar with leftover ingredients. Oftentimes a recipe only called for half a can of diced tomatoes or 1/3 of a sliced zucchini, etc. etc. As a result, I would store the extra ingredients in the refrigerator and then try to find a recipe for the next night that would put them to use.

This past month, I tried to utilize that same mindset. Even though I wasn’t following a specific cookbook, I tried to my best to be ingredient conscious and would do everything I could to incorporate last night’s leftovers into tomorrow’s recipes. As a result, almost nothing went to waste!

So for this month, even though I didn’t learn any new recipes per say I did discover some creative twists on recipes I already knew. For example, after remaking the sweet potato pizza recipe I learned last month, I threw the leftover sweet potato and red onions in an omelet which, spoiler alert: was DELICIOUS!

I also learned that our tendency to look around our kitchen and say, “I have nothing to make,” is often as truthful as a bad morning’s proclamation of “I have nothing to wear!” Oftentimes there is something to make, you just have to look a little closer and get a little more creative. These two lessons, I believe, are key to becoming any sort of cook. And so as I continue to improve my cooking skills, I too will further my practice of using what I’ve got and ensuring as little as possible goes to waste.

Here’s to next month’s cooking adventures!

Swipe-tember: What I Learned from Spending a Month on Dating Apps

After recently turning 27 I had the normal rush of emotions, as well as a few new, introduced-in-the-late-twenties specific ones. For example: ARE MY EGGS DYING?

This was more or less a ticking time bomb. With friends in every direction getting married and having babies and then more babies, as I sit on my couch watching Food Network eating another re-microwaved meal for one, I was destined to start hearing the clock tick. And if that didn’t do it, the now normal tendency of family, friends, and acquaintances alike to graze over the “are you seeing anyone?” territory as often as they can, just in case a two week period we go without seeing each other might provide me a husband and vicious fertility, surely would.

I consider myself to be kind of old fashioned. With a string of well-set examples in my family, I fully believe there is someone wandering around the world that is meant for me. It’s also fair to say that while I’m not against dating apps, I often doubt their credibility, mostly because I assume everyone on the Internet is a serial killer. Amongst this paranoia however, also lies curiosity. Multiple friends have asked me why I won’t give dating apps a try, and while the “everyone’s a catfish waiting in the wings to kill me” excuse usually ends the conversation, there have been a few that remain persistent, quoting some form of the “don’t knock it til you try it” variety.

So, I decided to try it. “One month”, I said. “I’ll log on and sell out for one month, just to see what it’s all about.” Thus, on September 1st I downloaded Bumble, giving life to an experiment I was calling “Swipe-tember.”

While creating my profile, I felt like I was back in 9th grade creating a Myspace. Back then, besides AIM, Myspace was the best way to showcase who you were both to strangers and, more commonly, the classmates you saw all day, every day. Being an awkward kid with wiry braces and low self esteem, I was desperate to create an impressive profile, so I dove headfirst into the world of coding, providing myself the skills to add music, graphics, and a well written, well organized, yet fittingly brief autobiography.

On Bumble, while I had less creative freedom in terms of profile design, I had just as much responsibility to present an impressive introduction. This time around however, I felt the responsibility was reversed. No longer did I have as much interest in presenting what I felt was expected or desired, as I did to express an honest depiction of the person doing the presenting.

High school, college, and the corresponding years of self-discovery had provided me with a much more balanced sense of who I was, what I wanted and what I deserved. I had no interest in creating a veiled version of myself, only to meet an Internet stranger in person using a matador style “ta-da!” with who I really was. If I was actually going to do this, even if I didn’t necessarily expect or intend to go on many (if any) dates, I was going to be up front about it. So when it came to profile pictures, I chose a handful that represented the different parts of my personality i.e. a travel hungry, family oriented, Los Angeles Dodger loving fisherman.

And for my bio, I lasagna-ed in a few more.

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In the end, I was happy with who I presented, because at the very least, I knew it was me, and even if this materialized into nothing more than the experiment it started as, I’d walk away regret free.

Next came the swiping.

While I knew the general principle of the act, as I’d seen friends do it to pass the time, determining fates with their thumbs, there was a different kind of pressure associated with being the one behind the screen. If I swiped right, I essentially gave someone the chance to be the love of my life, but if I swiped left, I was banishing them to the confines of an existence separate from my own for the remainder of time. (It sounds dramatic, but it’s true if you think about it.)

In determining who I would offer that fateful right swipe to, I did my best to overanalyze. I understood that it was supposed to be a glance, choose and go type of situation, but the only way I’d been convinced to join the app in the first place was to remove the association I made with people on the internet as devious catfish, thus forcing myself to see them as people, just like me, and in doing so I felt they at least deserved a glance at the entire person they chose to present.

Over the course of the month, I flipped through hundreds of profiles, “meeting” all kinds of guys. Oftentimes I’d swipe through a few batches of profiles, then close the app, only to return a few hours later to find my inbox full of matches. On Bumble, it is the girl’s “job” to make the first move, so as I would scroll through this list of strangers I’d opened the lines of communication with, I realized that I now had the responsibility of entertaining them.

No. Not responsibility. Opportunity.

More than anything, dating and meeting new people is an opportunity, and it’s important to ensure that it is beneficial to both parties. As I sat wondering what I should say to this group of strangers, I realized that unless I wanted to lead with a Google suggested witty comment or joke or internet meme, I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to do anything. And the more I thought about it, the more I started to realize the parallels between both on and offline dating. For no matter what app I was logged into or in-person conversation I was starting with a stranger, I was in control. It didn’t have to be written in the rules, it didn’t have to coincide with the narrative I thought would be most desirable. I have the power to start a conversation and I have the power to stop it. I have the opportunity to let someone get to know me and I have the right to walk away.

I’ve always been very shy when it comes to new people, and as a result have walked away from many conversations feeling like a failure. Oftentimes I’ve felt as if it were my responsibility to keep a conversation going and if I couldn’t, I assumed I wasn’t interesting or worthy of a meaningful relationship with that person.

Talking to the guys on Bumble, I realized how much I relied on them to give back what I offered them, even if that just meant politeness. I didn’t have to accept aggressive sexual innuendos or overly personal questions, and letting those conversations peter out didn’t make me less interesting or worthy of finding a meaningful connection. We were all people looking for something, and it was okay if I didn’t want the same things.

I’ll admit, it’s been a couple weeks since I logged into the app. After making a diligent effort for the first half of September, my busy schedule consumed most of my time and I often didn’t think about Bumble until right before I fell asleep. But while I didn’t put in the time and effort one might need in order to find the rare, yet meaningful connection the online world may have to offer, I’m still glad I gave it a shot. If anything, it was a great reminder that I’ve grown up a lot since high school and I am more prepared now than I ever was then to wander my way into a love story.

And while I don’t know if I’ll continue to pursue the world of online dating, I won’t count it out either, because I think the most important thing to remember when it comes to dating is to be open and honest. Open, that is, to the opportunity to find love anywhere, in a variety of different scenarios, even ones that might seem impossible. And honest in that no matter where you are or who you’re talking to, you are being yourself. Because in many cases, the people you meet on and offline are just like you. They have friends getting married and having babies, they have family members pressuring them to do the same, and they may or may not have eggs that they fear are dying. So give them a chance. Give you a chance. Take a swipe at love and see where you end up.