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Monday-shmonday. Someone once told me, and this could just as easily be one of those Polish superstitions that stalk me all the way across the Big Pond, that… like Monday like the Rest of the Week. So far, I’ve cleaned the house, passed a few words of wisdom to my less than 2-years old niece in Poland via Skype, got cranky due to caffeine deficit, made lunch for Jason and sent him off to work, treated myself to Peet’s Americano with a side of Cappuccino Muffin, and struggled settling down at last in order to work.

The biggest challenge was finding a place for my office for the day. While Cosmo got himself comfortable in front of his Doggy TV and started flipping the channels…

… I finally landed back on the bed, laptop tucked right beneath my armpit and Jamie Oliver’s cook book in hand.

Last week, I left off writing about utilizing your organic chicken to the last bit. One of such “byproducts” was an organic chicken broth that we can now turn into a satisfying, delectable, rustic, and very cheap to make soup.

I love soups and cook them ALL THE TIME, which I have mentioned plenty a time before. From velvety BEET SOUP, to hearty MUSHROOM/BARLEY SOUP, to elegant CARROT/GINGER SOUP, to my Polish sentiment of SAUERKRAUT SOUP, to Italian RIBOLLITA, to refreshing HONEY-DEW MELON SOUP W/MASCARPONE (recipe from my business partner Alina that I made for the LA Food Bloggers’ meeting last week), to nutritious LENTIL SOUP, to Mexican classic–chilled GAZPACHO. The list seems never-ending, and that’s why SOUPS play such an important role on our LUNCH MENU.

Since the theme of the cooking today is ORGANIC FOR PENNIES, I chose Jamie Oliver’s ENGLISH ONION SOUP to share with you. All you need to enhance your already made stock are:

– about 2 lbs of onions variety (leeks, shallots, sweet onions, red onions, scallions, etc.)

– fresh sage

– a handful of garlic cloves

– a few slices of rustic bread, ideally 2-3 days old

– Cheddar cheese, freshly grated

– sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

– 1-2 tbsp of butter

– olive oil

See, nothing expensive. Add those extra few bucks to your skinny budget, and you come out with a giant pot of filing and yummy soup. People you’ll feed with it will fall to their knees and kiss your ankles in gratitude. That’s granted.

Making the soup itself is somewhat emotional, if not dramatic. Think about it–all those onions must be peeled and chopped. If you can go through the task without uttering a single tear, I say you’re not a human.

The rest is a piece of cake. Melt the butter in a hot heavy-bottomed, non-stick pan, add a bit of olive oil, chopped garlic and a few sage leaves. Let the guys saute for a minute (and no longer, so the garlic does not burn) and toss all your onions into the pot. Season with salt and pepper, stir, cover with a lid (90% closed), and let it all cook very slowly for about an hour. Next, remove the lid and now you have another 20 minutes or so to add color to your veg. Cooking the onions slowly is the key to achieving that irresistible sweetness that onions offer.

Time to add your organic chicken stock. Bring everything to a quick boil and reduce the heat, allowing the soup to simmer for another quarter of an hour. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

In the meantime, turn the oven on a full whack. Toast your bread on both sides and set aside. When the soup is ready, pour some into individual heatproof bowls and cover with your toasts, as tight as possible. Sprinkle your grated cheddar all over the bread, garnish with an extra sage leaf, drizzle with a touch of olive oil, and set the bowls on a baking sheet. Such arranged, place the sheet in the hot oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and serve immediately.

Jamie also suggests planting a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce (pause… let me untangle my tongue) over the servings, but you follow your own instincts.

Eating Organic, delicious, homemade food on a budget? Totally doable! So… let’s eat better, everybody.

Bon Appetit!

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Working from home turned me into a Neanderthal woman.

Now, what does working from home entail? The fact whether you get paid for it or not is an irrelevant technicality. Remember that money never defines you. My new trade consists of whipping out versatile dinners for at least 5 nights a week, tossing loads of dirty clothes through the laundry machine (most of it Jason’s since, you know, the Neanderthal factor), vacuuming the three area rugs spread across our apartment twice a day of all the nasty little wooden shells that have been falling off the trees surrounding our apartment and consequently dragging themselves inside our chamber of love underneath ours shoes for the last MONTH. Gasp for air. Other activities of a house worker involve watching Oprah and Food Network, Skyping with Mother, Cousin, and our handsome gay neighbors, scrubbing the bathroom floor with a toothbrush (oops, nope, that’s Jason), and writing.

Anyone who’s ever tried as much as to write a letter understands that the task is unlike riding a bicycle – once you’ve written something good it doesn’t mean you’ll now produce quality pieces with ease happily ever after. And it never gets easier. True, there are days I shoot out articles in no time, as if I dissolved 3 tablespoons of verbal Metamucil in a glass of aloe vera juice with a heavy drop of senna extract and washed it down my throat. However, quite commonly I just sit in front of my laptop and glance at its blank screen with such intensity I make myself run to the bathroom even without drinking the above-described concoction. That helps putting down the first paragraph on the page. Then nothing, nothing for a long time, and a little more nothing before the next paragraph sees daylight. Sometimes I find myself walking Cosmo, washing dishes, and knitting a sweater between single sentences. So when people (women especially) tell me “Don’t talk to me about pain till you give birth”, I scorn the challenger with the ole good “Been there. Done that. Three times a week, at least.”

Yes, art requires sacrifices. First went the manicure and pedicure. Next, I killed make up. I take that back. I never leave the house without a few touches a concealer on my skin and brushing my eyebrows. The latter is especially crucial if I want to avoid causing any traffic accidents when women faint and children scream terrified by my sight, while old people gawk at me thinking “I thought I had seen it all…” It also takes an effort to ensure I have a fresh shirt on my back every morning. I suspect I could save money on heating the apartment if I finally got the nerve to burn all my bras. My boobs haven’t seen one in months, because, why bother? There are days I forget to shower. It’s gotten so bad in fact that lately I started having nightmares where my various …uhm… [I’m whispering that one] hairy parts are being exposed in public.

Irrefutably, crazy love and pure exhaustion keep my boyfriend from running away, maybe even blinded. When he comes home and hands me “You look beautiful. I love you” like a bouquet of flowers, I instantly look behind me expecting to see Eva Mendes stretching her baby-oiled body against the wall and sporting the Calvin Klein underwear. Is he really talking to me?

Such an image inevitably brings forth fear and motivation. For instance, I have already showered three times today, filed my nails, put on some make up even though the only things we had planned for the day was a quick trip to a coffee shop and a walk with our dog around the block. I applied all sorts of grooming, which I shall NOT describe. My efforts paid off faster than I thought when Jason and I walked by a Victoria’s Secret’s store and left with three new pairs of lace unmentionables.

All that pampering made me feel like a woman again, the modern variety with manicured hands, waxed unthinkable places, and trying to fit in clothes two sizes too small.  As such, I couldn’t fathom feeding my body with anything more than a simple salad.

MÂCHE WITH AVOCADO AND MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

The name of the salad pretty much says it all. If you’re not familiar, mâche is also known as cow grass. Its leaves are very delicate and it is mild in taste.

Empty a bag of mâche into a large bowl; dice a ripe avocado and spoon it out on top of the greens. Feel free to add chopped scallions and diced tomato if you crave some color. It will all go swimmingly together. Now drizzle your salad with the dressing (recipe below). Gently toss everything around, and voila! Enjoy the treat and feel healthy, light, and beautiful. Size does not matter …in this case.

MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

–       3 parts of good quality extra virgin olive oil

–       1 part of white balsamic vinegar

–       1 tsp of Dijon mustard

–       1 tbsp of honey

–       sea salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk it in a small bowl, or shake it up in a closed jar, or best – mix it together in a blender (or Magic Bullet) until the vinaigrette is evenly emulsified. It’s that simple. And so delightful!

Smacznego!

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