We wanted to share a few of our favorite things. Some of these things have been our longtime favorites and some we are just realizing are pretty awesome during the quarantine! Leave some comments and tell us some of your favorite items or hobbies!
Kayla - My favorite hobby right now is gardening. Since staying at home and my husband is still able to go to work, my dog and plants are my friends during the day! We started a vegetable garden before the pandemic happened, and thank goodness we did. It's been a great stress reliever and reason for getting outside. Also, we get delicious vegetables from it as well. Lately, the greens have been great! Daily salads are now occurring with kale, swiss chard and lettuce! We also have lots of perennials in the garden, and watching them grow and bloom is something I absolutely love doing. Springtime is the best time!
Michele - As soon as the quarantine started I turned into a true DIY’er! Projects around the home have not only helped me maintain my sanity, they’ve taken on a new life as I realized that I have a hidden talent and ability that I never knew I even had! The instant gratification of seeing the finished project is so satisfying and rewarding. So far there has been a lot of painting. It’s so amazing what a large change of a little color can make! I’ve painted walls, kitchen cabinets, and recently moved onto stripping and refinishing furniture. This is also very cost effective. Rather than buy a new dining room table, why not refinish your existing one, for a fraction of the cost! My advice is to start out with a smaller piece of furniture, like an end table or nightstand. Then once you get the hang of it, move onto the larger pieces. I’ve also learned that the key to a beautifully finished product is following all the necessary steps, no cutting corners! Stripping, sanding, priming and two coats of paint (if repainting and not staining).
Favorite Easy Meal:
Kayla - One of my favorite easy and quick meals has got to be pasta. Most pastas are vegan and throwing together a dinner using pasta is very simple. During a time where cooking is an all day everyday occurrence, a quick meal is something I look forward to every once in a while. You can use any type of pasta you want, add a sauce (homemade or store bought) and throw in some veggies or your favorite vegan meatballs! Obviously, I recommend our Eggplant Meatballs, but if you don’t have a box in the freezer, there are plenty of other options for you! Below you can find an easy recipe for some homemade marinara sauce!
Michele - Lately I’ve been obsessed with Garam Masala. Garam masala is full of antioxidants which help in preventing skin problems, fight inflammation and aid in boosting digestion. My go to simple meal has been a whole roasted cauliflower that I season with Garam Masala. Then I top it with a nice creamy curry sauce made with coconut milk, mushrooms and grape tomatoes. It can be served alone or over rice.
Favorite Relaxing Technique:
Kayla - So, one of my favorite new relaxing rituals is actually tea time! Usually, before being laid off due to COVID, I worked at night as a restaurant server. Only on my days off did I have evenings available to relax after dinner and enjoy a cup of tea. Honestly, this will be one thing I will miss once we all go back to work! One of my all time favorite teas to drink before bed is a Lavender Chamomile by Traditional Medicines. The flavor is mellow and the lavender and chamomile are so soothing. Definitely helps me with sleeping at night. I don’t know about you, but some nights are harder than others to go to sleep. A lot of anxiety and stress from the world and the news can cause restless nights. Try this tea, see if it helps. You can find it at most grocery stores. If Chamomile isn't your style, try our Organic Hibiscus Jasmine Tea. It's also caffeine free so it won't disrupt sleep. It's great hot or cold and available on our website! www.consciouscooksnj.com/store
Michele - Spending time outdoors! The weather in our neck of the woods has been rainy most of the time. Which is typical for this time of year. And I don’t mind the rain, as it helps all my plants, bushes, flowers and veggies grow! But when the sun is shining and it is warmer weather I must get outside. I enjoy doing yard work, relaxing and enjoying time out in my yard, or taking a nice walk along the local bike path. Soaking up that natural vitamin D and breathing in the fresh air is so soothing, grounding and relaxing to me.
Favorite Kitchen Tool:
Kayla - For Christmas last year, my husband got me a cast iron skillet. I have always wanted a good one and for some reason did not own one. I am obsessed with it! I love the easiness of sauteing something on the stove top and transferring it to the oven to finish cooking. I’ve cooked everything from pancakes to breakfast potatoes in that bad boy. Cleaning the cast iron skillet is a little more involved than other dishes. I’ve heard you can use soap on cast iron, I do not. I use very hot water and a clean sponge to get most of the left over debris off of the pan. Then, I will put the pan on the burner and turn it on. This will evaporate the water on the skillet. After that, a little salt sprinkled in and a paper towel to rub down the surface of the skillet concentrating on stuck on food. Wipe out the salt, and drizzle a small amount of olive oil, then wipe down with another paper towel. Now, your skillet is clean and seasoned! It’s ready for your next meal!
I agree with Kayla, I love my cast iron skillet! I have a nice sized 17” large cast iron skillet and make everything from pizzas to cornbread to vegan paella. If you've never had pizza made in a cast iron skillet, you are seriously missing out! You can make your own dough from scratch or simply pick up dough from your local pizza place. It’s super simple! You hear the pan in the oven while preparing your toppings. Stretch and place the dough in the hot pan, add your toppings and return the pan to the broiler to finish it off. It’s absolutely delicious!!
Kayla - There are few cookbooks I’m enjoying right now. I’m using this time to research more cooking techniques and ideas on recipes. These two books are interesting and the recipes I have made have turned out great. The first is the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. It was published back in the late 1970’s and is a vegetarian cookbook. I like to take vegetarian recipes and make them vegan. It has beautiful illustrations and easier recipes that do not require any crazy ingredients. Another is Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook called “Ultimate Veg.” I have made a few of these recipes and they were excellent! Lots of flavor! This book also is vegetarian, not vegan. But try and mess around with omitting some items or using vegan options. For a non-food related book, I just read Flea’s new memoir, “Acid for the Children.” As a Red Hot Chili Pepper fan, it was a very interesting and great story. It’s a bunch of short stories from his life, mainly before creating the famous Red Hot Chili Peppers. All of these books I recommend taking a look at.
Homemade Marinara Sauce
Makes about 6 large servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion finely diced
3-5 cloves garlic crushed (we like a lot of garlic)
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil or small handful fresh basil
¼ red wine (optional)
Start with a large dutch oven or large pot. Heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add your diced onions and let cook until translucent.
Then add in the crushed garlic and let this cook until it’s nice and fragrant.
Mix in the tomato paste with the onions and garlic and let it cook for about a minute.
If you are using red wine, not necessary at all, pour that in now so it has time to cook down.
Scrape up any bits of onion or garlic before adding the crushed tomatoes.
If you are going to use dried basil, now is the time to add it along with the sugar and salt.
Let this all come together and cook for about 20 minutes.
Add in the fresh basil at this point and let it cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Mix in with cooked pasta, use for lasagna, or any other tomato based dish.
Can be stored for 3-4 days in the fridge or can be frozen for up to 6 months.