Mystery Pear: Beckham’s Triumph Red Five

I call them the Iffy Grocer. Just outside of my subway exit, they have colorful produce piled up high on makeshift stands encroaching on the sidewalk. Commuters are drawn to the small green grocer by the festively colored produce and cheap prices. Upon closer inspection, though, you realize that the produce can be beyond questionable: Their corn might be 99 cents a ear, but they might be (seemingly) a month or two old, their kernels shriveled, husk dry and brown; $1.29 bunch of asparagus might have the withered spear tops crumbling off the stalks, if not practically melting off in rotten ooze.

I’ve wondered in earnest, more than once, how in the world they think they can sell dried out blueberries, rotting zucchini, moldy tomatoes and peaches that are nothing but bruises and [fill in the blank]. Shopping there certainly takes open eyes, but I do stop by there occasionally, mainly for convenience–and for the things that are okay, which is about half the stuff they have. (I guess that’s the Iffy Grocer’s business model.)

The other day, I stopped in for a 99-cent pack of strawberries. (Ugh, this was a bad idea that looked okay–these strawberry had a strange chemical sting that I couldn’t have known from their looks. Hubby was unhappy; so was I.) While waiting in the line for the cashier, I picked up a pear I’d never seen before, out of curiosity. It had the yellowish green skin similar to D’Anjous, but was much, much bumpier, which gave it the look of an heirloom fruit from an old gnarly tree in an old farmer’s backyard in rural France or something. Except it was from Argentina. Whatever. It smelled good, so I took a bet on it.

It took almost a whole week on the counter to fully ripen, but once it got there, it was phenomenal.

The “Beckham’s Triumph Red Five” (as the little tiny PLU sticker on it proclaimed) was pretty similar to my favorite pear variety, the Comice. It was soft, super-juicy, sweet and full of peary perfume. It didn’t taste as distinctive as the bumpy surface suggested, but it was delicious nonetheless. I went to Dr. Google to see what this pear’s weird name was all about, and got this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 9.00.25 AM

Helpful. I tried various other combinations of search terms, and came up with exactly zero (other than learning that yes, the British soccer star likes his Triumph motorcycle). I have absolutely no idea what this pear variety is, whether it’s something I’ll have another chance of encountering, and what other varieties it’s similar to, etc. It’s a tasty mystery.

Breakfast today:

  • Peanut butter toast
  • Scrambled eggs with bacon, roasted eggplant & roasted peppers
  • Mystery pear (Beckham’s Triumph Red Five)

“Uniformizing” the Work Clothes: Toying with the Idea

In the Japanese minimalist circle, making one’s outfits into “uniforms” appears to be a common thread these days. (Dare I say, a fad?) I don’t know where this minimalist approach to work clothes all started, but the basic idea is to come up with a couple of set outfits for the coming season, and just wear those, every day. Some apply the principle to work clothes while others use the “seasonal uniform” strategy for their personal, non-work clothing.

Image by Hanna Morgan via Unsplash.

I’ve been thinking about pros and cons of minimalist work clothes, and I must say, this “uniformization” strategy for work clothing has certain appeal.

Merits of Minimalist Approach to Work Clothes

  1. Theoretically, your “uniforms” consist of pieces you really like wearing, while having more clothing usually means you have some that aren’t on your “A list.” With the “uniform” approach, you get to wear your favorite pieces every day, rather than rotate through a mixed bag of favorites and so-so’s. And you get to wear your favorite pieces more often, because you don’t wear (or even own) the so-so ones at all.
  2. Your outfits are already constructed, ready to go; in the morning, you just need to grab one and throw it on. No need to stand in front of the closet and spend 5 minutes trying to figure out what to pair with what.
  3. That means you save time, and far more importantly, you aren’t expending your precious brain capacity on clothing choice for the day. (Decision fatigue is a real thing; see Jobsian black turtle necks.)
  4. It also follows that you don’t have “ugh, this outfit doesn’t quite work but I gotta go now; I feel kinda crappy” days.
  5. Thinking about a few people in my daily life who seem to have just a couple of outfits that look pretty similar to each other, I think of them as “the cool people who knows what their personal style is,” not as “the sad people who have to rely on just a few pieces of clothing.”
  6. No closet space issues. A minor but nice bonus for space-constrained New Yorkers.
  7. You aren’t constantly on the lookout for the next cool piece to add to your work wardrobe. This saves time, money and again, your brain capacity. One person described this benefit as “never feeling hungry for more” because you know by default that you already have all the pieces you need. This seems like a great place to be. (She actually used a slightly stronger word than “hungry,” more like “famished.”)
  8. There’s too much produced on sweatshop labor, shipped with fossil fuel and discarded in landfill. If I purchase fewer pieces, I might contribute marginally less to that global problem.

There are definitely a whole bunch of articles offering tips on how to do this:

A Practical Guide to Owning Fewer Clothes

Principles of a Practical and Functional Minimalist Wardrobe

I’m definitely feeling the temptation, but not completely sold yet.

Disadvantages of Minimalist Approach to Work Clothes

  1. During the week, the only things I wear are my work clothes and pajamas. If I stuck to just a handful of preset work outfits, would I be losing the (admittedly dubious) fun of self-expression through clothing?
  2. Wearing uniformized work outfits would eliminate the “Ugh, I feel crappy in this outfit that didn’t quite work out…” days. It can also eliminate the “Wow, this combination totally kicks ass. I feel like a super-capable person!” days. Do I want to lose those moments of triumph?
  3. Given our laundry schedule of about once every two weeks, I’d need far more than 2-3 work outfits, most likely 3-4 pants and at least 5-6 shirts, if not more in summer. That’s not a huge reduction in the amount of work clothes currently in my closet. Is this minimalist approach to work clothes still worth the effort?
  4. How do I deal with weather variations and different indoor/outdoor temperatures I might encounter on different days? Do I need to pre-figure out all the possible weather and A/C combinations in order to construct uniforms for the two-week rotations? Hmmm… this seems like a lot of upfront effort with maybe a dubious payoff…

It seems the points 1 and 2 can become non-essential if I manage to construct work outfits that make me feel great. And, really, I should be feeling great about myself because of the stuff I accomplish at work, not because of how I dress (though I wouldn’t totally dismiss the latter–dress is an integral component of playing a part, which is what work is.)

The real stickler is probably 3 and 4. Just yesterday, I had to throw a shirt in the laundry bag after wearing it just once (I usually wear shirts twice before washing them), because it was so humid out that it was completely soaked through (a few times over, actually–yuck). How do I deal with a curve ball like that?

But You Know What? I’m Going to Try This.

With all that said, though, I’m curious to try. Today happens to be our laundry day, so I can start fresh next week. I could hang the pieces that comprise my “uniforms” in the front of the closet and all the other pieces in the back and see what happens.

Let’s see if this takes me to a happier place!

Huevos con Picadillo (Baked Eggs with Picadillo-Spiced Ground Beef)

I made up the huevos con picadillo label, so that might not exist as a proper dish. (Then again, which of my breakfast egg dishes do anyway?) It’s another leftover-fueled breakfast, essentially skillet-baked eggs with picadillo (spicy Spanish/Latin American ground beef). If that sounds suspiciously familiar, you’d be justified in your suspicion.

baked eggs with picadillo

Picadillo was the last of the leftover from a slightly modified Blue Apron meal: Ground beef stir-fried with garlic, onion, sweet peppers, cilantro and Venezuelan arepa spice mix. I sauteed some more sweet peppers in butter first, added the picadillo mix, topped it with two eggs, Parmesan cheese and some extra Southwestern chili powder. The whole thing baked in the toaster oven for 10-12 minutes, while I made coffee and watered my plants.

Not surprisingly, this was a pretty satisfying meal. I might even say a bit too heavy. Cutting the picadillo with more peppers or other additional veggies like zucchini or asparagus might have been the way to go. Nonetheless, this was better than yesterday’s sugar-loaded breakfast, that’s for sure.

Breakfast today:

  • Baked eggs with picadillo
  • Toast
  • White nectarine & pineapple chunks

On a side note. OMG, can anyone believe that it’s July!? I don’t know where half of the year went. Seriously.

Breakfast Fail

Breakfast today gets an F. Well, maybe a C, because at least I had a breakfast and that was relatively decent? To me and my needs, though, it was far too much sugar. It also wasn’t enough protein. It’s not a disaster, but it was still a breakfast fail. 🙁

breakfast fail

I did fine up to just before noon without a sugar crash or serious nibbliness, but I couldn’t wait for my lunch a minute longer at noon. Maybe the danish’s cream cheese and the yogurt contained just enough protein to carry me over, I don’t know. I had a pretty busy morning, which diverted my attention from how my energy reservoir is doing, so that might have helped. Otherwise I’d have been ravenous by 11.

Breakfast today:

  • Costco cheese danish
  • Strawberry yogurt (also a Costco bounty–13 down, 7 to go)
  • Pineapple & white nectarine chunks

Another breakfast fail: The snapshot came out seriously red. My red pajama (i.e., an old tee shirt) throws off a surprising amount of red light, apparently.

Huevos con Arepa Topping

A Blue Apron meal from a few weeks ago was arepas topped with ground beef, avocado and pickled onion. Partially because we’d added some sweet peppers and cilantro to the beef, which bulked it up a bit, I had some leftover beef, but not the arepa bottoms. (Which was a shame, because the arepas were delicious, full of toasty corn flavor, and would make a pretty good alternative breakfast!) So into the scrambled eggs the beef went: Huevos con arepa topping (ha) for breakfast today.

huevos con arepa topping!

The spice mix that came with the Blue Apron recipe was a bit on the mild side for my taste. I don’t necessarily need every ethnic meal to be spicy, but aromatic elements were also lacking. To bolster the flavor, I added some black pepper and a generous sprinkling of my favorite chili powder. The pickled onion (to which I’d added the remaining radishes) added a refreshing crunch and tang to the bit-on-the-heavy-side breakfast.

Breakfast today:

  • Huevos con arepa topping (ground beef, sweet pepper, cilantro & onion, plus onion-radish pickles)
  • Peanut butter toast
  • Pineapples & strawberries

Scrambled Eggs with Costco Smoked Salmon

Hubby lobbied for a two-pack of Costco smoked salmon and won. Getting home, I realized that the smoked salmon, which comes in two 12-oz packs, had an expiration date only 3 weeks away. Three weeks might not sound that short, but for a 2-people household, over a pound of smoked salmon in 3 weeks is a lot. We had some with crackers on Saturday, but that barely made a dent. Forging ahead, I made scrambled eggs with Costco smoked salmon this morning.

I think we’re about 15-20% down. o_O I’m contemplating smoked salmon cream pasta, but even then, may need to throw the other packet in the freezer!

scrambled eggs with Costco smoked salmon

Speaking of Costco giants, I also have half a packet of Costco bacon left in the fridge (with the other full packet waiting to pounce in the freezer). I do like the volume discounts and reduced frequency of grocery shopping, but in a weird way, the sheer volume of food items does get a bit stressful. I’ll have to find a balance and see if I can adjust to being happy with this new way of shopping, cooking and eating. Hopefully I can make it work, as the savings seem pretty significant!

Breakfast this morning:

  • Scrambled eggs with Costco smoked salmon (plus scallions and sweet peppers)
  • Oat toast
  • Strawberries

Japanese Spring Cabbage & Kale Salad

spring cabbage and kale salad

For some reason I’ve been craving cabbages lately. It doesn’t seem to be a thing here in the United States, but spring cabbages, far more tender and sweeter than the regular cabbages the rest of the year, are a prized vegetable in Japan. Seeing a lot of blog posts about them might be why my head has been full of cabbages these days. I picked up a small Suzuki Farm specimen from a Japanese grocery store on Saturday, and made a quick spring cabbage and kale salad with a Japanese tilt.

Japanese Spring Cabbage and Kale Salad

  1. Tear up cabbage and kale leaves into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Blanch cabbage and kale. Drain, let cool and squeeze out as much excess water as possible.
  3. Mix mayo and yuzu chili paste (yuzu kosho, a delicious and versatile mixture of yuzu zest, green chili and salt) in a bowl.
  4. Add the cabbage, kale and bonito flakes. Season with salt and pepper.

Breakfast today:

  • Spring cabbage and kale salad
  • Boiled egg
  • Costco’s giant cherry danishes (remember the giant Costco cheese danishes?)
  • Strawberries & white nectarine

How to Have Breakfast Every Day (1): Know Yourself Edition

How to have breakfast every day? “You just get up early enough to make it and eat it,” you might say. And you’d be right. But judging from the number of articles offering breakfast tips and how-tos, I suspect there’s more to it than that.

I happen to have breakfast every day, and don’t find it much of a burden (most of the time). So I figured I can share some of what I do to make sure breakfast happens, and in a way that makes me reasonably happy and energized for the day.

how to have breakfast every day
Image by Gregory Bourolias via Unsplash.

First, decide if you actually want breakfast

I’ve skipped breakfast maybe two or three times in my whole life. (And, uh, I’ve been around a while.) And by “skipped,” I just mean I ran out the door without having had breakfast, not that I didn’t eat anything at all until lunch. I’m not sure if that–nothing at all before lunch–ever happened.

That’s because I know I need breakfast to function. My brain is awake pretty soon after I get up, but it seems to want to crawl back into the foggy land of semi-sleep if I don’t feed it. I’d sit in front of the computer at work, just staring at the screen, lost. I don’t like that sense of being enervated, so I always have breakfast.

Importantly, though, not everyone is this way. Some people don’t need to eat until much later in the day, and others say they can’t eat anything in the morning even if they tried. Plus, the common adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day doesn’t really hold up to scientific scrutiny, so it’s really up to what your body needs, and what makes you happy.

Know what your body needs

Now, if you decided that you do want to make breakfast a part of your morning routine, you need to figure out what to have for breakfast. My breakfast almost always involve protein–eggs, bacon, yogurt and the like–because without protein in the morning, I’m hungry way before lunch time, and either end up snacking on unhealthy stuff or space out. I also always have milk. Not because I feel any physical need for it necessarily, but as a (dubious but still reassuring) defense against osteoporosis.

Some experiments may be in order if you have no idea what breakfast makes you happy and tides you over till lunch. Pay attention to how you feel and how you function after breakfast until lunch for a couple of days. Is a particular type of breakfast better at helping you get into gear? Do you get sugar crash if you just have cereals? Observe. Thinking back to how you felt when you had different kinds of breakfast can help, too.

Also, know what makes you happy

Food is not all about nutrition and physiology. For a lot of people (including yours truly), food is a source of happiness and joy. If you are like that, figure out the kinds of breakfast that fill your heart, too. For me, variety is important. I can’t eat the same thing every day and be happy, so I vary my breakfast as much as I can. My mom’s a complete opposite: She knows what she likes to eat (buttered toast, a giant bowl of homemade yogurt topped with bananas, coffee), and she eats them every single day. She’s happy that way; I’d go crazy. The same formula doesn’t work for everyone.

I also love good bread and tasty pastries, even though technically my body should function just the same (or better, maybe) with the same whole wheat toasts every day. So I throw in crusty artisan breads, sweet pastries and delicious scones every once in a while. It’s always a nice feeling to get up in the morning, knowing that there’s going to be something delicious and special on the breakfast table.

What this breakfast tip list is not about

After writing this “how to have breakfast every day” tip sheet up to here, I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable, because frankly, you can argue that these tips are pretty damn classist. When you are struggling to put food on the table to begin with, all this stuff is rather irrelevant. For a lot of parents, logistics of getting the kids out the door on time alone can easily overwhelm any questions around what breakfast item would make them “happy.” So, I admit that what I’m writing here is probably only useful for people who are in similar situation as I–people with enough discretionary income and time (which tend to go together) to have fun with breakfast and derive some extra happiness from it, but haven’t figured out exactly how. With that caveat, I’ll continue this post with practical steps!

Giant Costco Cheese Danishes

Giant Costco cheese danishes for breakfast this morning.

We (re)joined Costco a couple of weeks ago after a 4-year hiatus, to see whether I can save some money on grocery bills if I shopped there more faithfully. Since then, I’ve wanted to give their baked goods a try, but have been hindered by the sheer size of the packages. For a two-people household that likes to switch things around for variety, a tray of 12 humongous muffins or croissants is a serious deterrent. So I’d ruefully glance at them and turn around.

Yesterday, I spotted mix-and-match danishes, which came in a relatively forgiving 8-pack (or rather, two 4-packs). Alright, we can probably manage these, I said, and picked up the cheese ones and cherry ones to try. I individually wrapped 6 of them in plastic wraps and threw them in the freezer in a plastic bag for later use, and we had the two cheese danishes for breakfast.

Giant Costco cheese danishes

To be honest, they aren’t anything to write home about–they taste exactly like they look. The danish dough can be a lot flakier and butterier. The cheese filling can be a bit more interesting–I don’t know how–maybe with lemon zest? I suppose I can grate some on when I heat up the next batch! The crumbles are sweet and junky good, but they also can be better. But you know what? They were “good” in their own junky, super-sweet, guilt-inducing way, and I’m happy about that.

Breakfast this morning:

  • Costco cheese danishes
  • Tomato salad (soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, scallions)

That’s it. (I was out of fruits and didn’t want to add more calories to the meal via yogurts or an egg dish.) On a weekday morning when I’m looking at a full workday, I’ll probably share one danish with hubby and add an egg dish to tide me over till lunch.

Rick Bayless Eggs

To make Rick Bayless eggs, you’ll need the freshest, locally sourced, humanely harvested Rick Bayless.

No, you don’t. You can use his awesome taco sauce instead. Rest assured, Rick.

Rick Bayless eggs

Breakfast today:

This taco sauce (and the red chile enchilada sauce) are awesome, and I’m curious to try this one, too, though I must admit, guacamole shouldn’t need a seasoning mix!

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