the art of alone time

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being a raging ENFP, I’m not terribly good at being by myself, especially for long stretches of time. the uncomfortable feeling I’m told introverts get after being social for too long is what i get when i’m alone for too long – insufferable cabin fever. this used to manifest itself hugely around exam time, where hours spent being silent studying in the library would drive me cuckoo. frankly put, i want to be around (friendly) others most of the time.

however, as I get older, i’m learning to appreciate time spent alone. this was put to the test when my mum and sister went away for the easter weekend, and i had the house to myself for 4 days. Now, i was working for two of them, (hence why i didn’t join the trip to my favourite place), but two days and three evenings is quite sizeable for this extrovert.
but anna! I hear you ask. just because your mum and sister were away, don’t you know anyone else in christchurch? well yes, i do, but easter is a time of going away/spending quality time with your family that i feel like it would be weird to try and arrange social activities during it – not to mention that my two days off were good friday and easter sunday, on which nearly everything closes. popsicle date at the petrol station, anyone?

so – what have i been up to? relishing my time! while typically i greatly dislike cooking for one, we had lamb shanks in the freezer, which i just love. I used a great annabel langbein recipe to make them and also whipped up baked apples with custard. i hadn’t made the latter before, but we had cooking apples and i was intrigued – and they turned out great! the skin of the apple gets crunchy and flaky, kind of like a baked potato, and the inside turns to pure tangy fluff. and i guess the custard doesn’t hurt either ;)

my mum, feeling guilty at abandoning me, also left me lots of other treats, so come monday i may have trouble fitting into my work clothes!

to accompany this supreme comfort food, i read a dear katie fforde book, who i can always rely on for a sweet heart warming read, watched nz bachelor (i’d saved two episodes expressly for the purpose), and discovered a new web series (to make up for the hole in my life after finishing the lizzie bennet diaries and emma approved).

……i would also like to point out that i did laundry, went for a few runs, cleaned my room and vacuumed the house for when my mum reads this post ;)

my alone time also doubled as learning time. it’s very easy to get by without knowing how to do maintenance things around the house when you live with a. parents or b. boys, and as I have spent my entire life with one or the other, i duly know very little about all this.

BUT! the gods evidently decided this weekend i would learn real life adult skills, when the gas (that powers our stove) ran out on me one day, and a fuse tripped the next. to youtube i turned initially, before admitting defeat and phoning my mum. however, next time these things occur, i will be equipped and ready – i’ll even volunteer to be the one to sort it out! i’m still a little hazy on the whole tire changing thing (despite observing it being done twice), but, as I’m still on my learners, I have no doubt the time will come the very first time I’m driving alone (when i finally get my restricted licence).

i also took the opportunity to give the fridge a going over. with my food bag, we use up the majority of our groceries at the end of each week, unless we have leftovers from the recipes or bought extra stuff. I found beetroot, broccoli and radishes in the fridge and decided a salad was in order. riffing on a couple of ripe recipes, and stuff i’d seen online, i made this creation for my lunches this week.

i really like it – i prepared the beetroot in both raw slim juliennes and soft roasted cubes, plus blanched broccoli and edamame, sliced radishes, toasted sesame seeds and a tangy dressing (pomegranate molasses is amazing). i initially planned to make quinoa to go in it, but then i came to my senses.
However, if you like quinoa (i just don’t), feel free to toss it in – i’ve seen quite a few recipes which include it.

now, i’m off to enjoy what’s left of my alone time before my family gets back – i’ve enjoyed my weekend off so much that it may be a blow to have company!

enjoy what’s left of the easter weekend friends – my love to you all.

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beautiful beetroot salad

five beetroot, peeled
4 radishes, finely sliced
1 head of broccoli, chopped into 1cm bits
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
350g edamame beans, defrosted
optional extras that would also be nice: mint, kale, spinach, dried cranberries

dressing:
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp olive oil

preheat the oven to 180C. take two of the beetroot and dice them. roast in the oven with a little olive oil for 30 mins or until caramelised and tender.
julienne the three remaining beetroot. i used a mandoline – if you don’t have one, it may be easier just to coarsely grate them – it’s up to you. know that you will end up with red stained hands no matter what, and gracefully accept this. definitely make at least one bad joke about getting caught red handed (if you are alone while making this, there will be no one to groan despairingly at your lame humour).
boil the kettle. put the chopped broccoli in a large heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water. put a plate or lid on top and let cook for 3 mins or so. get a piece of broccoli out and taste to test the done-ness. if tender drain the broccoli, and try to get it as dry as possible.
to make the dressing, just mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

toss together beetroot, broccoli, radishes and edamame. pour over some of the dressing – you don’t want to drown it. you can always add more later on if the salad needs it. scatter over sesame seeds and toss again to combine.

enjoy! i think spinach or kale would be nice, if you feel you need more greenery in your life. i’d be happy either way.
good served for lunch by itself, or dinner accompanied by chicken, fish or tofu.

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penniless pad thai

EXAMS EXAMS EXAMS!

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ok let that suffice as to why this place has been a bit quiet lately ;) the crazy thing is is that these are my last ever Otago exams (unless i fail, and have to come back next year… oh please no). we’ve successfully migrated to our favourite library to study for them, with a regular 10am standing coffee run at our favourite local café. while exam leave is never fun, i’m trying to, if not enjoy the experience, at least appreciate it for what it is. there are plenty of positives – studying alongside my best friends, the aforementioned daily flat whites, eating yummy snacks (and absolutely refusing to feel bad about eating chocolate or baking because it’s for my brain ;)

my cooking is definitely less imaginative/challenging lately as i’m saving my brainpower and decision making for study purposes, so i’m making tried and true classics i could cook with my eyes closed – not fun for blogging purposes! however, a few weeks ago i made pad thai and it was soooo good so i decided i had to share it with you (and indeed, i made it again for flat dinner a week later and no one was complaining!)

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i went into this with fairly low expectations haha – i cobbled together a few recipes and eliminated quite a few ingredients that i would usually like to add like bean sprouts, coriander/mint, spring onions, lime juice and prawns to fit with the student budget. i figured that worst case scenario, my flatmates could deal with a dinner of chicken and noodles.

i finished it and no one else was home, and i was starving, so i dished myself up a bowl and went to sit on the couch. i had a bite and was astounded by how delicious it was! my flatmate walked in and asked how’s dinner and i excitedly told him it was divine (gosh i’m modest..)
but it really is stunningly good, even without lots of the aforementioned yummy ingredients. of course, do add them if you can… i would never discourage coriander or prawns action!! but no one will complain if you don’t! tangy, moreish, fresh, satisfying, it simply is a perfect spring dinner.

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i used chives cause we have them in the garden, and lemon, because it’s cheaper, but feel free to put their more authentic counterparts in the place. they get the job done though – the oniony green of the chives and the sour tang of lemon works well here.
finally, you could definitely change veges up (just whatever you’d add to a stirfry) and chicken could be subbed for prawns, beef or pork, or just do away with it entirely. obviously don’t add the peanuts if you have a nut allergy, but i would highly recommend otherwise – they are beautiful here.

thanks for bearing with me while i live it up at the libs – see you in november when i’m done xoxo

cheap chicken pad thai

400g rice stick noodles (i used 3mm)
3tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 lemon/lime, juice
bunch of chives/spring onions, chopped roughl

750g chicken breasts, in fairly small bits
2 tbsp ginger
2 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp chilli

3 large carrots, julienned finely (you could defs do more veges… we only had carrots so carrots it was)
5 eggs, beaten with a little milk

100g peanuts, dry roasted in a medium oven and chopped roughly

Soak the rice stick noodles in warm water for 30 mins or longer. Marinate the chicken with the ginger, garlic and chilli, for an hour or so.
Heat a little oil in a large wok and add the carrots. Allow to cook for five mins or so or until they have softened a little.
Boil the noodles in a large saucepan according to packet directions. Drain when done. While noodles are cooking, add the chicken to the wok and brown on all sides. Add the noodles, fish sauce, soy and brown sugar and toss. Make an omelette with the eggs in another pan then chop into strips and add to the noodles. Squeeze over lemon and add herbs. Serve with peanuts. Enjoy!

healthy eating on a student budget: two tasty salads

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hi sorry for my absence! uni is heating up and i have lots of pressing big assignments on at the mo along with tons of tiny ones too. however in better news, we have enjoyed stunning weather which has made everyone so happy! we got up to 23ºC (73F) the other day which is incredible for the start of spring. we had to celebrate so enjoyed a cheeky G&T sitting in the sunny backyard that afternoon – bliss!

although we seem to be back to arctic conditions again, i’ve been enjoying two tasty lunches that i wanted to chat to you about:
vegetarian soba noodle salad and falafel bowls!
the fact that i should be writing an essay right now has nothing to do with this haha …

they are both cost effective, filling, don’t involve much wheat, have protein and include a bit of prep upfront but easy after that! i was so sick of soup, roast vege salads were feeling too heavy and dense and one note. i was craving asian/middle eastern flavours and they can both be doused with chilli which i both love and find it satisfies my hunger really well.

noodle salad
150g soba noodles
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp oil (sesame would be nice)
2 tbsp minced chilli
1 tbsp honey/brown sugar
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
julienned carrots
2/3 head cauliflower, in small florets
red pepper/spring onions/broccoli as desired

cook noodles according to packet, blanch carrots and cauli. mix with dressing.

falafel bowls
2 tins chickpeas
juice 2 lemons
2 tbsp olive oil
good handful of parsley/chives
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander

blitz it together in food processor. to make, fry little balls of it for about 5 mins each side. i have them atop shredded iceberg lettuce, grated carrot and with a feta dip and sweet chilli sauce as a dressing. a yoghurt sauce would be super yum too.
note- remember the flour!! i forgot when i originally made them and ended up with stirfried hummus haha absolutely essential! 

i have also been heartily enjoying popcorn, which i just make on the stove. 1 tbsp of popcorn kernels in a little oil with some dried chilli, smoked paprika, and then scattered with little salt when popped is the perfect snack! all this talk of chilli is giving me the sweats- addict much!

also, a list of things to be glad about
(which i need to remember when i look at my planner and see all my assignments for the next few weeks!)

– pretty blossoms around campus
– warm weather allowing summery clothing
– the country being united and excited around the rugby world cup
….(except when its 4 in the morning and the tv wakes me up! time differences..)
– delicious coffees with fellow addict friends who require zero persuading
– beautiful new music and a gripping new podcast
– a fun new restaurant we need an excuse to try out
– downton abbey, mindy project and greys anatomy being back!
– …and possibly my favourite ever tv show being revived for another season!
– remembering that its my last 6 weeks living in dunedin and to just savour every bit of it!

…. i may even look back at the library with nostalgia.. or maybe not.

healthy spinach torte

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i really enjoyed the food at home – fancy bread, gourmet yoghurt, a few g&ts with my mum, my sister’s scrummy baking – it seemed wasteful and pointless to turn any of it down. so i may have put on a little extra padding, which i’m not exactly regretting given the chilly weather lately! however, i am ready to get back into more healthy eating now that i’m back in dunedin and into the routine of lectures, study and work.
i can be a little extreme when i want to eat better – while supermarket shopping i’ll only buy the bare essentials like oats, fruit and frozen spinach. all very worthy, but leaving me with a quandary when it comes to lunching: as i end up only eating a piece of fruit, which then pushes me back into bad habits of bread and so on as i feel hungry and sorry for myself, and justify that i need to eat more to function!
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so after 20 years in this body of mine, i knew myself well enough that if i was going to actually stick to some good eating behaviour, that i would have to make something healthy but also substantial, otherwise the healthy eating train would soon leave the station. i settled on a kind of spinach torte, reminiscent of one we make at home. my mum had supplied me with the spinach, eggs and italian cherry tomatoes, so i really didn’t need much extra to create it. so healthy = whole packet of frozen spinach, lots of onion, mushroom and tomato – but also the more luxurious additions of cheese and eggs, to set it into something healthy, yet filling and tasty!

i’ve sliced it into 8 portions, wrapped them up and frozen them and hoping they last me a while. This is gluten free but doesn’t feel it! the cherry tomatoes aren’t 100% necessary but i always feel like eggy things like this always go really well with tomato relish or something, so they are a streamlined way of adding that sweet tomato flavour! go on, make one today and feel smug as you watch your flatmates hopelessly scrounge round for something to eat at lunchtime, or your friends dash to dispensary (a cute café that does admittedly scrummy food) for a pricey salad!

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healthy spinach torte
4 onions (i used red, but brown are totally fine too), diced
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp dried basil (basil pesto would be a yummy substitution if you have it – maybe 1 tbsp)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
200g button mushrooms, sliced
1 packet frozen spinach, defrosted
150g tasty cheese, grated (other cheddar or feta would be yum too!)
5 large eggs
1 can cherry tomatoes (juice drained)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease a large ovenproof glass or ceramic dish. Sauté the onions, basil and garlic in the canola oil until onion is soft and beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms and let cook until they start to soften. Take off the heat and stir through the spinach. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until thoroughly beaten and add the cheese. Season if desired. Add the spinach mixture and mix to thoroughly combine. Pour mixture into the prepared dish. Arrange the cherry tomatoes on top and push them in to the mixture a little. Bake for 30 mins or until set in the centre. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing. Enjoy!

note: as you can tell from my copious additions to ingredient list, this really is an anything goes type recipe- as long as you stick to roughly the same amounts of egg, spinach and mushroom (their plush meaty texture really adds something special), you can mix and match however you like according to your tastes and pantry! xx

healthy eating on a student budget: part 2

see! i promised you another of these posts and i delivered!
this part two is kind of a winter edition, because soooooup features, and, i don’t know, the freezing temperatures in dunedin lately aren’t terribly conducive to ice block making or whatever it is i do in summer (i’ve forgotten already, it feels like forever ago).
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^^^ok, not soup, but my yummy lunch today! kumara i roasted over the weekend, spinach and feta. I poured over an egg beaten with a little milk and had myself the fanciest, yummiest spin on a spanish omelette^^^
so without further ado, here are 3 more tips and tricks:
1. Soup! Basically the perfect food, so many different options, so filling and warming but so good for you at the same time!! even if you supplement with a mountain of cheese on toast (not that i would ever do that or anything…) or cheese rolls! southern sushi hehe.
Vegetables are so affordable as long as you buy them in season and shop around a little – i walk past veggie boys (a dunedin fruit and vegetable grocer) every day on my way to uni so i have my finger on the pulse of fruit and vegetable pricing (yes, i have a very exciting life, couldn’t you tell ;)
Here are some of my favourites:
lentil soup with carrot and tomatoes and chorizo
saute onions and garlic, add chunks of carrot, chorizo and brown lentils. Pour in a can of tomatoes and chicken stock and allow to simmer until lentils cooked.
pumpkin soup
saute onion and garlic, add chopped up pumpkin and chicken stock. Simmer until pumpkin is cooked and then puree. I like to add chopped up crispy bacon and grated cheese to top – takes me back to my childhood. my mum used to put creamed corn in too which i am very partial to.
leek and potato
saute onion and garlic, add finely sliced leeks and let soften. add chopped up potato and chicken stock and simmer until potato cooked. Puree. I like to add frozen or fresh spinach to up the vege content.
carrot soup
saute onion and garlic, add dried coriander, paprika and fresh ginger. add chopped up carrot and chicken stock. Simmer until carrot is tender. Puree and top with fresh coriander.
healthy vege soup 
– simmer red lentils and barley, add onions, parsnips, leeks, celery, carrots and pumpkin. puree when cooked.
 
ps- feel free to ask me for amounts in the comments – but the beauty of soup is that there is no need to measure things specifically! approximate amounts will do just fine, and you will feel fancy and very chef-like, just tossing things in the pot with gay abandon!
 
pps – soup is the one thing i absolutely INSIST upon seasoning. If you taste the soup and it’s not quite right, 99 times out of ten (see what i did there) it’ll be because it needs salt. I am very proud of my low sodium intake (generally), but those vegetables need salt, i’m telling you. it doesn’t even make the soup taste more salty, it just brings out the flavours of the vegetables.
2. keep raw almonds in your bag at all times for when hunger strikes! this might be just me, but while i don’t dislike plain almonds, i don’t crave them or necessarily want to just mindlessly snack on them (french vanilla almonds, on the other hand…), which eliminates the possiblity of me just nibbling on them at every opportunity. they are fantastic when you are feeling peckish but are out of the house and know you won’t be eating for a bit longer/want to put off buying anything. a handful of them will satisfy me for a good 30 mins and mean i don’t make silly food choices like buying baking or lunch from a cafe- aiming for a fat bank balance and lean hips, not the other way around!
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3. ditto number 2 but for teabags! if you don’t have access to a kettle or hot water dispenser, most cafes will let you have a cup of hot water for 50c or less – and will even add milk or sugar for nothing! i’ve taken to bringing chai teabags with me, and getting my own keep cup filled up with hot water, a dash of milk and vanilla syrup for only 50c in total. a delicious and comforting beverage which is so much cheaper and healthier than buying a hot chocolate or chai and even nicer in my opinion!
I just got home from my chinese cinema paper’s film screening – we watched Suzhou Road which i actually really enjoyed – i often find the films quite hard going, as i’m more of a romcom gal myself, plus my attention span is so bad these days. anyway, it was about love and loss, very tragic, and i walked home feeling very deep and of awe for this world of ours. it’s so easy to get distracted by study and lectures and petty random things and just go days lost in my little world of work and uni and repeat. but there is this big wide world out there that i will experience – the good and the bad, the love and the loss, just as soon as i get out of this lovely comfortable bubble of being a student in dunedin. raw almonds to chai tea to deep thoughts – what kind of hippy blog is this? don’t worry, i’ll be back to mediocre yarns soon enough.
and just a couple of photos from my birthday to tide you over:
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cheers to that!

healthy eating on a student budget: part 1

so after making cinnamon scrolls for the flatties last night (oops that autocorrected to fatties which is a fair call tbh) and a saturday market date this morning which involved a chocolate mousse doughnut, i was in dire need of some vegetables. luckily, past Anna (an overused expression of my sister’s, which i now seem to have picked up) was a thoughtful wee bunny and had prepared cooked lentils, homemade sun dried tomatoes, and feta in the fridge plus some frozen spinach in the freezer so i have just eaten a tremendously healthy lunch which my gluten weary body is thanking me for profusely. now don’t get me wrong – i’m no gluten nazi – but i feel so good when i’m not eating much of it.
eating healthily on a student (or any) budget is hard. bad food is just so cheap! and plentiful! and considering we buy bread as a flat, i could get by so cheaply if i just ate peanut butter toast for every meal of the day. and while that sounds like fun for the most part, not so good for this body of mine.

here are two tips, if you’d like (i will be doing more posts on the subject in the future. here are the two that come to mind for me right now!)

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1. preparation is yo friend
– the key to eating healthy food on a budget is sorting yourself out in the weekends or evenings or whenever you’ve got some free time. it is so so sooooo much easier to eat well if your fixings are sitting there in the fridge, and a mere five minutes away from a good meal. it’s when you’ve got nothing sorted that you resort to takeaways or junk food.

my fave preparations are
– lentils. protein yeeha! if i’m feeling fancy i’ll saute some onion and garlic to begin, add some spices and then the lentils and then stock, and cook it down like a dry dahl. otherwise i’ll just boil them in some salted water. these can be paired with just about anything to form the basis for a meal.
– roasted root veges. obviously a winter time thing. i’ll do pumpkin, kumara, beetroot, parsnip, carrot… basically anything i’ve got on hand, with the exception of potatoes.
– sun dried tomatoes. very cheap in the summer! basically just dribble over some olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or malt if you’re a poor student) and chuck them in a low oven (130 ish) for a few hours or until shrivelled and crinkly. and i don’t even like tomatoes that much, but i love these.
– some kind of good fat – avo, feta, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews.. they add interest and yum to a salad.
– green vegetables. get that chlorophyll in ya! i find it easiest to buy frozen vegetables such as green beans, edamame, or frozen spinach portions. all it takes is a zap in the microwave (or even just popping them in frozen if i’m making my lunch in the morning, as they’ll be defrosted by lunchtime.)

some fave combos
– plain lentils, sun dried tomatoes, spinach and feta
– avocado, sundried tomatoes and a poached egg
– spicy lentils with a fried egg on top and feta/halloumi sprinkled over
– roasted veges, lentils, green beans, feta, and a cashew/cranberry/almond nut mix
– spicy lentils with spinach stirred through
…and much more

psst – if you don’t love lentils, then you can sub Israeli or regular couscous into most of these. which does mean you’ll be eating that wheat we’re trying to avoid, but still pretty healthy!

I also love love roasted cauliflower and broccoli, and will very happily munch my way through a heads over a few meals.
i like…
– cauli roasted with curry powder and mustard seeds, then a quick tangy yoghurt sauce to top
– broccoli with parmesan/ feta and pumpkin seeds/flaked almonds

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2. get on the oat buzz
my weekday breakfast HAS to involve oats in some shape or form – all very well to munch on scones or eggs or scrolls on a weekend, but porridge or bircher is my go to on a weekday. i generally eat bircher in the summer and porridge in the winter. plus they’re so much cheaper than buying breakfast cereal! and i love that you can precisely control the amount of sugar. i bought some stunning rhubarb from the market today which i have already roasted with a little sugar and am looking forward to eating it with my bircher tomorrow!

some toppings/ combos
– cinnamon and fresh pear
– cinnamon and dates
– roasted rhubarb and vanilla yoghurt
– stewed appple made from proper cooking apples
– canned black doris plums and custard
– coconut, linseed and cranberries 
– brown sugar and cream
…yum!

life right now : the word that comes to mind is busy! i’ve just found out i have the dubious pleasure of two midterm tests on my birthday – cheers eco department. however, i’m powering on! i had a brilliant day today and got to spend time with some of my favourite people – had a morning market date and an afternoon tea with Paris tea and scones with cream and jam and gorgeous chats. i sure am a lucky ducky. plus my flatmate’s nana dropped round a ridiculous amount of baking complete with the butteriest shortbread i’ve ever tasted – mmm.
i have cinnamon scrolls to share with you – unfortunately i didn’t manage to take pictures of the finished product as we pounced on them! but my dear friends have kindly volunteered to come over to eat them this week so that i can get more photos – what selfless, charitable gals eh ;)
until next time, friends! have a great sunday! i hope you drink lots of coffee and read the sunday paper and stay in your pyjamas until at least lunchtime. xx