Back to Basics

Well, friends, June is almost over and I’m staring at July like “Where the fuck did you come from?!” Probably because I took it upon myself to mostly ruin June. And some of May. And in case the pale skin and extra 5-7 pounds from binge eating and even more binge drinking wasn’t motivation enough, I’m actually kind of bored and totally ready to leave this particular party. I’m ready for a different kind of summer fun. (Yes, it still includes rosé and books and omg maybe boys!) Just 86ing too much booze and then drowning my sadness in a GIANT bowl of pasta with butter and cheese because being a graduate student in English might be the least lucrative thing ever.

Anyways, things got messy. Never got out of that post-finals feeling of over-scheduled and too much sugar and not enough sleep. So it is finally time to clean up.

There are a few rules when shit gets messy. First, so many things are out of your control – but many also that are all on you. Small thing: shower. Oh my gosh when I’ve been kind of sloppy and rushed and hungover and busy sometimes I just don’t shower enough. You’d think I’d remember after all of these years that a hangover is deeply improved by a long hot shower. But, sometimes I’m lazy and don’t feel like getting wet. So there.

Point being,  probably the simplest way to change your day for the better is wash/put on fresh sheets and then hop in the shower, shave your legs (shave your neck if you are a dude) and and curl up with your soft, fresh smelling self in bed. See! The world is not that terrible! (Just kidding b/c yes, it is.)

Another easy thing to feel adult is to floss. Yeah some of you do it daily, and everyone tells their dentist that they do – so if you really want to get out of a funk, actually do it!

More on Adulting 101:

  • groceries (healthy snacks and fruit so you don’t reach for junk)
  • start on the other laundry (it feels good!)
  • delete all phone and text history from your bender (if you don’t remember, no sense wondering about it and ruining a whole other week!)
  • make a list (I don’t care what is on it, just make one.)

This week I’m all about going back to basics (because next week I’m doing some crazy diet cleanse shit) and cooking and living simple.

A few weeks ago I met my favorite breakfast partner for bagels and we both decided to also grab a hard boiled egg. Protein, you know? They were a bitch to peel. I don’t eat the yolk unless its egg salad or a deviled egg (see the difference?) so having big chunks of the egg white torn away with the shell while I cursed over a tiny trashcan was not ideal.

But it did inspire me. At home my mom always keeps a dozen boiled eggs and she is really good at it. You can always peel them. The peeling issue has prompted me, on many occasions, to take to the internet for research. Alas, after all that searching, my mom’s way is the best. Sometimes, when I’ve worked out an need to just shower and get dressed, I look for an easy, nutritious breakfast to send me on my way.

Break Fast with this Open-face Egg Salad 

Step One: Turn on a pot of water and bring it to a full boil. (Pour enough to make sure the water can cover the eggs.)

Step Two: Add eggs to boiling water, one at a time, with a large spoon. Kind of close a lid over it between eggs to keep the water boiling. Make sure the water is back up to a complete boil before securing a lid tight and then turning off the burner.

Step Three: Walk away. If you go all day the yolk might get a little greenish tint (but still tasty) 15 minutes is the sweet spot. If you walk away to get dressed and come back in 15, this is what you get:

Hello, egg!

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Me, peeling an egg.

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And look how cute they are!

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I made egg salad – under a Tbsp. of mayo (because the eggs are super fluffy), sea salt, fresh ground pepper on a toasted English muffin. Eggs are still a bit warm. It is V yummy.

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Sometimes egg salad makes people gassy. Try this perfect Tuesday morning breakfast at your own risk/if you don’t care that you may bombard your coworkers with egg-farts, you hate you significant other, you love your significant other – OR, if you are like me – eat it because you are born alone and die alone and if you must eat breakfast alone you might as well enjoy something that is really simple but really fucking tasty and has enough going on that you aren’t starving again at 9:30 a.m. thinking about diving into your lunch.

 

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Repent/Purgatory (And 20 Min. Dinner)

Well, the last ten days have been hellish. I believe the phrase that was sent my way was “Odd how vengeance does not make one feel better. Just vengeful.” Pine over that for a few minutes. I certainly did.

On the bright side, this dude that got my number without permission from my roommate’s phone one night while they were having drinks after work has finally decided to stop texting me. I guess I could have blocked him, but there was a little bit of astonishment that these messages kept coming, even though I never, ever wrote back.

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There were more… Saturday at 12:14am: “What you doing”

Saturday at 5:33 am : “????????” then “Can i come over”

FINALLY on Sunday at 1:25 am: “Damn I’m done” and then “I’ll delete your number”

Good call, buddy. Seeing as I never gave it to you. Never responded to your texts. And SURE one night we flirted and danced at a late-night spot back in December but then when I bumped into you on Christmas at the bar, you were like “UMMM I have a girlfriend” – Hence why I never had any desire to hang out with you again or dance with you again and certainly give zero fucks whether you guys broke up and now feel compelled to send me unsolicited text messages.

I certainly earned the many, MANY apologies my roommate gave me for allowing his phone to be commandeered.

In other news, I had a midterm last week and am currently sorting out the writing of an epic term paper for a graduate course on “The Novel.” So, as I am trying to manage my 6am workouts and my internship and every now and again check to make sure I’m still a whole person, maybe neurotically check my email for a message from a certain someone, I decided to make my favorite breakfast dish into an early dinner today.

Eggs in Purgatory – Pasta Style! (warning: for high-stress times only)

Oh my god so fucking good. Although, as I said, not something I will make regularly because this constitutes a gluttonous binge-like meal where far too many calories were consumed. But here is the gist of my semi-homemade tasty treat:

Step 1: Boil water and salt liberally.

Step 2: In the meantime, slice about a half of a green bell pepper and two large cloves of garlic. (I skipped the onion today. I might have added mushrooms if I had them, but honestly, sometimes simple is best.)

Step 3: Once the pasta is in (I used penne this afternoon), sautee the pepper and garlic in a little bit of olive oil in a small skillet. *Use a bigger one if you are making for two.

Step 4: Cover with a really (I mean really) simple tomato sauce. I used the Walgreen’s Nice! traditional pasta sauce because it is as simple as they come in a jar. Once the sauce comes to a boil and there is about 3 minutes left on your pastas, crack an egg on top and season with salt and pepper. Place a lid on top.

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Once your egg looks like that, drain the pasta. Pour into a bowl and top with grated Parmesan. Gently top pasta with sauce and egg and then, because this is SAD PEOPLE FOOD, add Mozzerella cheese too.

And then get in bed and flip on your Netflix. Who cares if it is 4:30 pm on a beautiful Friday. I sure as fuck don’t.

See you bitches in hell.

Gimmie Dat Bean

No, I’m not talking about the bean hidden in the King Cake. I’m decidedly not getting the baby either for that matter because (blasphemy) I don’t spend from Twelfth Night through Mardi Gras eating massive amounts of pastry. Why? Because I don’t eat that shit the rest of the year, with the exception of caving on occasion to the ever-present junk food of the Christmas holiday, so you better believe I’m not trying to fatten myself up for another month. I’d way rather eat Chinese food. (Exception being eating King Cake at a parade-watching party because you can eat whatever you want once the parades start and you walk everywhere.)

As a matter of fact, I’m doing a cleanse and I’m slowly trucking through the same ten-day moderate cleanse that I did right before 4th of July over the summer. I think I’m going to try to make it a biannual thing and (weather permitting) cleanse and then hit up the Swan River Yoga retreat again too.

I went with some friends to check out the WWII Museum over the weekend and it was incredibly informative and a heartbreaking mixture of awe at both the act of creation and devastation. Before heading to the final showing of Beyond All Boundaries , we headed over to the attached American Sector restaurant for a snack. No drinks for me and I had to look at the bartender straight in the face and ask if there was anything vegan on the menu. Then, realizing that I can’t eat most things that vegans eat (bread, nuts, salad dressing), I figured I might as well own up to my cleanse and ordered a $9 bowl of lettuce adorned with 2-4 halves of cherry tomatoes and a few shaved radishes. Yippee!! Oh yeah and I did put a little bit of black pepper and a splash of vinegar and a tiiiny bit of olive oil, because…lettuce. I also packed my own nuts… and on the streetcar I enjoyed my packed lunch of BEANS! And sliced cucumbers.

My excitement over beans is that on Day 5 (and for the remainder of the ten) I can add beans to my diet. Hallelujah! I might have been a tad irritable on days 1 & 2 that only allowed for fruits and vegetables but now I’m flying high and it is because of this amazing bean dish I’ve been making.

Here’s the gist: You can’t eat regular hummus so I modified a warm chickpea puree to fit my dietary restrictions.

Step one: Coarsely chop three cloves of garlic.

Step two: Cook garlic in a dollop of coconut oil.

Step three: Add a can of mostly strained chickpeas

Step four: Combine the garbanzo beans, with a little bit of the liquid from the can, with the sautéed garlic.

Step five: Cook, for kind of awhile. You really can’t overcook it? I walked away to get dressed the first time. The point is that it needs to be nice and hot.

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Step 5: Add a little bit of cayenne pepper, fresh black pepper, red pepper flakes and a shake of garlic powder.

Step 6: Puree! If it is too thick add a little bit of olive oil.

Serve with slices of bell pepper, carrots and cucumber. Or, just eat it with a spoon because that, my friends, is delicious.

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Egg-cellent

On a recent trip home, my slightly battered self-esteem was given a nice little boost as I spent time with my parents friends. I love coming home and spent a season here not too long ago working in New York, and many of them remember my cooking skills as being superb. It was quite the topic of conversation at both New Year’s Eve and another dinner at this amazing Greek restaurant a few days later. (Thanks, guys!)

The main point of reference was a pretty substantial dinner party for about 8 people during the end of my NYC project in which I made one recipe from a blog online and another of my own creation. I learned a lot by this dinner party (one time I made a huge plate of short ribs to be served family-style to a bunch of very, very old men and realized later that a) Omg there was so much prune/prune juice in it and they might poop themselves in the middle of the night and b) these guys can’t lift the serving platter to pass it around…awkward) so I was pretty set up for success. I planned the menu, made a grocery list and cleared the kitchen to execute the meal from prep to plating on the large counter in the kitchen and serving our guests seated in the dining room.

The first course was roasted acorn squash with sauteed kale, poached egg topped with small cubes of pecorino romano. Sounded great when I was researching with the tiny caveat that while I love poached eggs, I’d never made them for myself or two people, let alone a party of eight. Hmmm.

So, I went to my favorite blog, Smitten Kitchen, for help. The blog advocated for a splash of vinegar and a whirlpool method. Simple enough? Sure, why not. I gave it a whirl (tee hee) and both my mom and I had poached eggs for breakfast. Success!! Except how do I get 8 of them at the same time while managing the main course and plating the squash and kale while still hot? HMmmm. Fortunately, Smitten Kitchen came to the rescue again with something snarky like “If you happen to be crazy enough to be reading a blog post about how to poach an egg and intend to make several for a party…” (yes, do go on…) And explained that you could cook them just under and place them on a paper towel to and then reheat them briefly just before serving. Woohoo! I’m game.

The entree was my own creation, a swordfish stew, which involved seared cubes of swordfish, a spicy tomato sauce and then spicy toasted chickpeas as a topping served over quinoa. Of course one of the diners was vegetarian so before I added the fish, I separated some of the sauce to do a potato rendition (because I’m cool like that).

Everything seemed pretty good to go. But then one of the neighbors asked if it was okay if their son comes. Cue the scene in Clueless when Cher gives a speech in Mr. Hall’s class about the Hatians (read: Hate-ians) and an RSVP sit down dinner… yadda yadda yaddda… “but it’s like ‘the more the merrier!'” and I figured out a slight adjustment for portions and onward and upward!

But seriously, everyone stay the fuck out of my kitchen because I’m in focus mode and there can be absolutely zero questions asked in my direction. Just assume that yes, if my wine is looking empty, I would LOVE some more. (You’re the best, mom!)

As the beginning of the post might suggest, this all went magically. Woohoo! Okay, one egg was a little over but that one went to me because in reality, I’d eaten my share of eggs that day practicing anyway.

Also, apparently I made quite the impression on the across the street neighbor’s son because he apparently mentioned that he was quite taken by me. Too bad I’m ten year’s his senior and live in another state. It would be nice to have a boy crush on me and like it when I cook dinner.

The other couple offered to bring a traditional dessert from (ahh I am the worst I can’t remember what country they are from but I’m going to guess India) and that was great because it took me off the hook for the finale. But amid requests for a repeat, we will have to host again soon.

No pressure for next time or anything…

How Hard Do You Like It?

Hey, now. Get your hands out of your pants, I’m talking about Jell-O. But not the regular sugar/flavor/water kind either, this is about the fun kind. The kind that you couldn’t imagine in your youth while getting excited about the Jell-O Jigglers recipe that Bill Cosby was singing about. I’m talking about shots. Jell-O shots in case you are not following.

A few years ago a friend of mine was hosting a St. Patrick’s Day party at her house near the Irish Channel parade route and I was more than excited to participate by bringing libations and/or food because I love to cook. I was in the Susie Homemaker stage of post-breakup (this was the first break up of the he-who-would-become Sometimes Boyfriend saga) and I was pretty sure that I was no longer heartbroken and definitely game to create something spectacular for the affair. Fortunately for me, my prayers were answered. Someone found a recipe for Irish Car Bomb Jell-O shots and shared the link on the Facebook event and voila, I was all signed up to make them. Shortly thereafter, I was avoiding screaming children while attempting to navigate my cart down the scary aisles of Wal-Mart because I was told from a friend that I could find the correct size plastic cups with lids there.

Here’s the gist of it. You don’t use Jell-O, you use (gasp) gelatin to get the texture and the whole recipe gets made in two parts. The first part is the Guinness part. You have to let that set in the refrigerator all the way before adding the second part, the Jameson and Bailey’s mixture, that becomes the top layer. Very exciting, I know. But here’s the catch. The recipe gives you a range of gelatin to liquid proportion “depending on how hard you like your Jell-O.” And honestly, I really didn’t have an answer to this. I looked at the recipe again and thought about it. The end result was “I guess pretty hard?” I didn’t want it runny and I really had no point of reference because the Jell-O brand kind gives very specific instructions that I doubt I’ve ever strayed from. (Because it is literally the sugar mixture and hot + cold water.) I know I wasn’t 100% on this but what the hell, its festive and for a party and I’m making them! Wohoo!

It turns out, you do not like Jell-O very hard. You want it less hard as evidenced by the bottom layer of my Irish Car Bomb shots. I mean that part was rough to take down. It was chewy. Ugh. I mean really you had to use some chompers on it. Thanks to everyone who battled through the bottom layer because, well, they did look very cool. On the upside, the top layer was a little runny. This basically came because I had less gelatin leftover in the box than for the first layer and I decided “to Hell with this recipe” and put the whole bottle of Jameson in the recipe thus extra diluting the ratio. This worked out because the bottom hard layer could just get tossed out with the cup and we could all just enjoy the pudding-like Jamo & Bailey’s treat on top. Win.

This brings me to today. Well not actually today, yesterday to be accurate. It is Carnival and last night, my dear friend was in charge of leading a group (again) to make 1,000 Jell-O shots so that we can all have a grand old time while we parade. Fortunately for her, I arrived fresh with a positive attitude because, let me tell you, I probably made 50 (100?) of the others and it seemed like a lot at the time. I just browsed through my phone and social media but I can’t figure it out because even though I know I took a photo, it seems to have been taken before my Instagram account. I’ve told you, technology – not my thing.

Regardless, what I AM good at – is organizing and making Jell-O shots. I fresh attitude and some tunes and a few friends and BAM! 1,000 Jell-O shots fill another New Orleans refrigerator and we keep calm and party on. For all of you newbies out there, it is a 1-1 ratio so get your vodka out and start mixing it with some simmering water and colorful flavoring, I promise it won’t be too hard.

A Defense for After-dinner Drinks and Return of the Sometimes-boyfriend

The after-dinner drink is pretty darn great. So what you had a cocktail or two and a bottle of wine and maybe even some champagne or other bubbles over the course of the meal. The joy of the after-dinner drink is that no one can criticize you for it.

If you order an amaro or some other aperitif after consuming all of the above listed beverages over dinner, no one will judge. They might even give you a little respect for solid ordering and general dining know-how.

In case you can’t tell, I’m a fan. I’ve grown to enjoy the slightly herbaceous taste of many amari and seek them out when possible. Mmmmm after-dinner drinks. Yeah!

I went to two separate tastings that featured the Cocchi Barolo Chinato and both were served with a bite of dark chocolate. YUM. In case you are not familiar, it’s a lovely creation from Piedmont, Italy featuring DOCG Barolo and infused with herbs and spices. It’s delicious.

When sometimes-boyfriend had a birthday coming up but was moving and therefore not doing anything for his birthday*, I planned a fun birthday dinner out a few weeks later, followed by champagne and cake-baking at the house to celebrate.

I found this amazing recipe on Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite cooking blogs. It is called “Red Wine Chocolate Cake” and includes ¾ of a cup of wine in the recipe. I thought it would be super fun and classy to substitute the Cocchi Barolo for the wine and also sip on a glass of it while we enjoyed the cake (once it was finished baking.)

A few things: If you decide to give this a whirl, there is cinnamon in the recipe and cinnamon notes in the Cocchi Barolo Chinato, so don’t include the 1/4 tsp of cinnamon. It is a bit overpowering. Also, not going to lie, for a non-baker it is not the easiest to execute a cake when you are full of giggles, kisses, wine and general euphoria. My point being that it is possible that I was a tad sloppy with the measuring of the cinnamon and put more than what the recipe called for.

Nonetheless, the cake came out pretty well. As I mentioned, a little cinnamon-y and perhaps a tad dry because we were distracted and our creation stayed in the oven just a tad too long.

Hey! Don’t judge. Have you ever tried to bake a cake a little bit tipsy with a hot date? Even with the minor hiccups, the cake was a solid recipe and you should try it. Probably do it with your best friend or someone who actually likes you.

*He did go out on his birthday. I just wasn’t invited. (You are shocked, I know.) Cheers to me for planning such an extravagant day to make up for his “lost” celebration.

Quesadilla: The Superlative Grilled Cheese

Tortilla + Cheese + Goodies + Skillet = Delicious.

If you disagree, you are probably a bread person. See all previous posts re: the war on carbs if you are surprised that I do not, in fact, think the best part of a grilled cheese sandwich is the bread.

What I do love, however, is the diversity. OH THE DIVERSITY that you have when making a quesadilla.

The combination described below is a personal favorite because a) it uses kale (kale!) b) it uses goat cheese instead of loads and loads of heavier and higher calorie cheese and c) it can be modified based on whatever is in my refrigerator or yours and impress the shit out of everyone who gets to eat some. (You’re welcome.)

I almost always prefer my version to any that I could ever order out, so I was happy to have the opportunity to enjoy this version for an afternoon lunch with my mama.

I started with a hot nonstick skillet with an extra spritz of olive oil nonstick spray. **Important for getting the right level of toasted without it being greasy.

The large tortilla gets folded in half so basically I made two at once, with the inner parts of each tortilla making what looks like a tepee while I added the fillings on top of the half being heated.

First I grated a small amount of cheddar cheese (the unifier) and then threw on some raw kale, fresh ground salt and pepper. I had leftover spicy black beans (whole tomato, garlic, red onion, black beans and chili flakes cooked together) and threw them on and topped it all with a little fresh goat cheese. I then added a little Cholula hot sauce and a final grate of cheddar to glue it all together and … Ta Da… the bottom side is perfectly toasted and it was ready to be sandwiched and flipped.

This was all finished with a little bit of sour cream and a glass of wine. If you are nice, maybe next time you can come.