Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Single Girls Eat... Chili

I know, you're thinking, chili? Really? Chili? Isn't that for fat old fire-fighters and other dudes with beer bellies and mustaches? Not really. Chili is a very healthy veggie-packed way to warm up on cold days.

I like to use lean turkey meat, because turkey is better for the environment, but lean beef is okay, and so is chicken. If you want to keep it vegetarian, use edamame in place of the meat. It'll blend in as another bean and add a ton of protein. I love tomatoes, specifically large chunks of stewed tomatoes, so I use those. If you're not as excited about big chunks of tomato use diced tomatoes.

I use mild peppers, because I'm a wimp. Use your favorite peppers, whether you like it hot or mild. Start with a little bit of olive or canola oil and sweat half a large onion with some garlic. Once the onion becomes limp and transparent, add your peppers, just to heat through. If you're using meat, add it now, salt and pepper to taste, cook thoroughly.

Season your chili with chili powder or any other spices you think would work. It's pretty mellow. If you want sweet chili, add some brown sugar. Next, add your beans. I like to use black beans and kidney beans, but use your favorites, I find that two regular cans work well. If you're using edamame instead meat, add it now, too. Stir everything together until heated thoroughly.

Gently add your tomatoes. I used one giant can of crushed tomatoes and two regular cans of stewed tomatoes (or one big can). Stir it all together and again, heat through. Taste and see if anything is missing, if it is, add it.

Now your chili is ready to eat. You can serve it over chips or pasta, but I like it with a bit of sharp cheddar sprinkled and melted over the top or a spoonful of sour cream.

This veggie-filled lean protein dish is great for a full meal, has the satisfaction of a cream soup and couldn't be better for you.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Marry Him: The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough

So, this book just came out at the beginning of February. (Not a bad plan Lori Gottlieb, to release your book right before Valentine's Day, when all the single women of the world would be crying their eyes out because no one had bought them a bouquet that would die in two days.)

And the title and much of the book is very scary. But it's not really about settling or Mr. Good Enough, its about approaching dating with the idea of getting married and not the idea of dating. This book is like a chocolate center wrapped in deep-fried broccoli. The outside is kind of weird and off-putting and probably not good for you despite it's somewhat healthy parts but the inside is okay, but could have been presented in a much better way.

Ms. Gottlieb wants to get married, bad. But somewhere down the line she was told she couldn't be a smart professional woman and get married before a certain age, which she doesn't specify but is around 30. So now she's 41 and a single mom to a baby with a frozen father (artificial insemination). She blames the way she was dating in her past for her lack of life-long love now. She was a classic check-list chick. She had a checklist for men she would even allow to go on dates with her.

I'm sure there are a lot of women like her out there, but I can't think of any. I don't think I'm one of them, either. I know a lot of girls (and guys) my age (or younger) who are either married or engaged. Acquaintances change their facebook profile pictures from head shots to close ups of their engagement rings for a month, until it changes to their official engagement pictures and then their wedding pictures.

Maybe it's a generational thing. She is 41 and kind of grew up during the 1970s, the height of the feminist movement. Maybe women in her generation really did think that they couldn't get married young and have a good professional life, but somehow these things would come together if they waited until they were thirty.

Maybe my generation is different. Maybe we realize that your life isn't over once you get married.

Or maybe it's a regional thing. A lot of her stories were about people on the coasts, New York and LA. Maybe it's a midwestern thing to get married before 30, and a coastal thing to wait.

One thing I didn't like about her book was that she assumed we were all getting dates and rejecting great guys for bad reasons. I know that's not the case for me, and it's not the case for some of my friends. Women aren't always the ones doing the rejecting. Men do a lot of rejecting.

But Gottlieb does get a few things right:
  • don't have a list, you never know what you're going to fall in love with
  • love isn't just a noun, but a verb, too
  • don't have a "type" women who have types just date the same guy over and over, he's just got a slightly different set of DNA
  • be open

Okay, great. But I'm glad I got the book from the library, and I'm a little sad I read through the bullshit to get these four points out of a book. Gottlieb's general thesis is great, but it's presented in a way that's made to scare, not teach. There were times when I read this book that I thought, I'm going to be just like her, but I know that's not true, because I'm not going to fall for her scare tactics.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Single Girl Spirit

I was thinking I write a lot about the single girl spirit, but I've never really defined it.

The single girl spirit isn't about being single at all, it's about loving yourself first. You need to think about what's best for you. And what's best for you might be a loving husband and a few kids. It might be devotion to a dog. Staying true to yourself is the most important factor in single girl spirit.

Being able to support yourself emotionally is one of the hardest things to do, but that ability is key to the single girl spirit. That being said, it's totally okay to look for emotional support in friends and family and even boyfriends or husbands. But know that there might be a moment that you need to get through where no one will be available to help or call. The ability to get yourself through is key.

Independence is also key to the single girl spirit. Even if you're married, you should be okay going to a museum or getting coffee (as in, sitting the coffee shop and drinking it) by yourself here and there. Not with your boyfriend, not with girlfriends, but by yourself. Julia Child moved to France with her husband, and while he was at work, she struck out on her own and eventually started an empire. She didn't pout and hide in her apartment all day waiting for him to come home. This is exactly the type of behavior that embodies the single girl spirit, even though she was married.

Embodying the single girl life isn't about staying a single girl, in fact, it's far from it. It's knowing you can do it by yourself if you need to, because you never know when you're going to have to.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A few money saving tips

Monthly bills can add up quickly. $10 hear and $30 there and before you know it those small monthly payments are eating up your hard-earned money. Here's a few tips to save on common monthly expenses.

Power Bill:
  • We've been hearing for years that we're not supposed to leave lights on and switching to energy saving bulbs will cut down on but it's true.
  • Try to only have the lights on in the room you're in.
  • Keep the lights off for as long as possible and open up your blinds and curtains. Natural light is not only free but better for you. If you like to read in the afternoon set up a cozy chair near a window. Place a lamp nearby so you only have to turn on one light to read rather than the lights for a whole room.
  • Let your laptop battery completely drain out before charging. This is not only good for your power bill but it's also good for your computer battery. Make sure you unplug the charger when your computer is not connected to it.
  • Use power strips. These are easy to switch off so you can power off all TV or computer related appliances and so on. It works great in the kitchen for all your breakfast stuff too. Keep the toaster, coffee maker and bean grinder plugged into the same power strip and remember to flip it off before you jet out of the house.
Cable/Internet/Phone Bill:
  • Don't let the cable company jerk you around, they're always offering great promo prices for new customers but treat their loyal customers like shit. Call and ask for a discount. Threaten to go to their competitor, especially if they're advertising against them. If you have Comcast, threaten to go to AT&T. They usually will give you the new customer pricing or something similar. If they don't, go to the competitor and get their new customer price.
  • Completely drop your cable TV. With resources like Netflix and hulu and the new free digital TV you can get caught up on almost all your favorites, even Jersey Shore. MTV offers all of it's shows online for free. I've watched so much TV on DVD that when I do get into a show on regular TV I can barely stand waiting a whole week to find out what happens next.
  • You don't need a landline anymore, unless you live in a VERY rural area where cell reception is non-existent. There's no reason to have more than one personal line.
Wireless Phone:
  • I had a BlackBerry and I loved it, but it wasn't very practical for me. So I downgraded to a simpler phone with a cheaper plan. Take a second look at your phone bill and compare it to your usage. Many services via mobile web are also available via text. In Chicago CTA bus tracker recently became available through text messaging. Each bus stop has a code that you text with ctabus to 41411. Use online bus tracker to look up the code. I have my most used stops saved as quick texts and make a list of other stops I might use in a note in my phone. And Google has been offering a KGB-like service for years for free via text message. Just text G-O-O-G-L-E (466453) with something like temp 60605 to get the weather for Chicago.
  • Minutes and texts: Most of us text more than we talk these days, and with services like those mentioned above, it makes sense to have unlimited messaging. But with increased texting comes decreased talking. Most people my age can get away with the fewest minutes possible, especially if you take advantage of free night and weekends and the"my circle"-type services offered by many carriers. And all major cell companies offer free mobile-to-mobile, which means that all calls to friends that use the same carrier are free. If a good friend or significant other isn't happy with his/her service recommend your company, especially if they've expressed interest in your phone. Your carrier will most likely give you a discount for recommending a new customer.
I hope these few tips help. If you have any other great tips share them in the comments!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Government Assistance

It's no secret I'm addicted to "Teen Mom" on MTV. I'm glad they did this follow-up spin-off of 16&Pregnant because it really shows that having a baby is not all flowers and candy, even if you give that baby up for adoption. On the show Amber ends up going on government assistance (food stamps and what not) and it makes me a little annoyed.

I get that there are people out there who need help, and Amber was certainly one of them. You can tell she genuinely is doing this as a last resort and is using it as a step up, not a step to sleep on for the rest of her life. But at the same time, it can be frustrating to be in my position and see someone in her position have more than me.

Growing up in the '90s a certain protocol was set forth for the children of my generation. You go to school, graduate, go to college, graduate and get a job. Somewhere in there you fall in love and get married or at least move in with someone, but not until after you've secured that degree and job. Then babies come somewhere after that.

If you didn't follow those steps, you fucked up along the way. It feels like people are rewarded for fucking up, and it sucks. There are times when I'm balancing my checkbook and I feel like it wouldn't be so bad if I would have popped out a kid somewhere along the way because I'd have child support and government assistance coming in, too. That lasts for two seconds, because then I realize how much I hate scooping the litterbox and I know diapers are much much much worse. And I always cringe when I hear babies cry at work or on the train. And I can't stand the little bit of fat I have now, stretch marks and baby fat would probably send me over the edge.

I know that people on assistance don't get much, and they can only work so many hours before they are not qualified anymore. But they are still getting money for essentially doing nothing.

And then there are the problems with the food stamp programs themselves, which most states dole out money via debit cards. This money can only be used on items in stores classified as grocery products. Ice cream and chips are classified as grocery items. During college I had friends who worked at grocery stores and would see people buy as much junk food as possible with their food stamp card and then pay cash for things like DVDs.

I'm not saying that just because you're poor you shouldn't get ice cream or chips every now and then, but rather than giving a monetary allowance set amounts of food items should be allowed. Like a family of four can pick out two bags of apples and two gallons of milk and so on and so forth per week. And cooking classes should be part of the program as well. Do you really think a 16-year-old mother is going to know how to cook anything other than mac and cheese and frozen pizza? Teaching people to cook quick nutritious meals with their food allotment would also help out healthcare cost and lower obesity rates, which are higher among people with lower income. And who can blame them when you can get cheeseburgers and fries for $2 from fast food places?

I've done the education part, and I'm sure that job part is somewhere around the corner, same with that love stuff. But right now, I'm struggling with the whole money thing. Yes, I abused credit cards a bit and took student loans, but I also worked through college and grad school and didn't live what anyone would call a lavish lifestyle with said loans and credit cards. The plan was to have a job and be able to pay off that debt in time, while saving money and contributing to society.

It sucks because I really just want to do this life thing on my own, and when I see girls way younger than me that fucked up getting a leg up on me I just want to curl up in a ball and hide in a closet somewhere.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Single girls eat quiche

Mmmmmmm, quiche. It made a splash in the '70s along with fondue, and is amazing. Quiche is a simple dish that looks fancy, and can be served for any meal. Basically, it's filling and egg baked in a pie crust. Its cousin is the frittata, which is the egg and filling without the crust and a few other modifications.

Why is quiche such a good single girl food? Because of it's simplicity and versatility! You can pretty much fill it with anything. I love spinach, feta cheese and mushrooms, but there really are no limits and it can be tailored to any taste.

  • Pick your fillings, a good flavor base is onion and garlic saut├ęd in butter or olive oil.
  • Cook the filling together on the stove in a large pan and make sure anything that needs to be cooked through is (like bacon), mix in anything you don't want to melt last (like cheese)
  • Put your filling in a deep-dish pie crust. I use the frozen kind because pie crust scares me. You can use the pre-made roll-out kind in a tart pan or a round cake pan or make your own, but don't look to me for a recipe. Leave space to pour the egg over
  • Take 1 cup of diary (milk, half&half, cream) and four eggs and whip them together with a balloon whisk.
  • Pour the egg mix into the crust and place into a preheated 375˚F oven for 20 minutes.
  • Top with your favorite melty cheese, like cheddar or mozzarella and bake for 30 minutes more. You actually want it to get crispy to create a crust.
  • Let it set after you take it out of the oven for a bit and viola! a beautiful impressive meal.

The next time you want to impress someone, make them a quiche. It works for snobby friends as well as nit-picky parents and that new guy who wants a hearty breakfast after... well, you know.

Everything up until putting it in the oven can be done ahead of time, or assemble the filling, throw it in the fridge and put it together right before baking. It's one of those dishes that are hard to mess up.