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.

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…

Um, what? ……….!!!!!!))))))))))

I saw an article today that said you can tell how long a relationship will last based on the way you tell the story of how you met. Or something like that. I didn’t read it. I took it at face value to be true because of the short-lived affair with Hot Chef.

The way I met Hot Chef (the actual way): I was writing an article about a grand re-opening gala at the museum that his new restaurant shares the space with and my editor asked me to also include some information about the adjoining restaurant. When I went to interview him I was pleasantly surprised to find him both attractive and flirty. So, as a lover of food, after my piece was submitted, I casually went to the restaurant on a quiet Tuesday to try the food with one of my best friends (who happens to be smoking hot, and also happens to be in a serious relationship). Crafted plan? Ab-so-fucking-lutely. I’m not stupid. Plus, he was totally flirting with me! Anyway, he walked us to the car and then later *found* my number from our email thread and texted me something sweet about hoping we got home okay. Oh those were the days!  He invited me to be his guest at the gala on Friday. Needless to say, I was stoked. The rest is, well, history.

If you ask Hot Chef: “She stalked me.” (His version is great, isn’t it? So flattering. It is as if he really likes me.)

Did I mention he is funny? So funny.

It also turns out that aside from his brutal How We Met Story he was pretty condescending and mean to me in the day to day, particularly when it came to my work or my evening plans, culminating in one lovely, lovely exchange. You can read about it here.

One of the most notable things about conversing with Hot Chef is his use of punctuation. And capital letters. Is his phone stuck on caps lock or something? Jeeesh. I feel like I want to say, “Calm down and stop yelling at me.”

He was always doing things like this.))))) At first I thought it was cute. And maybe a typo, but it happened all the time. I thought maybe it was his calling card. You know, that way if I deleted his number I’d be sure to know who was texting me. I don’t know, they might be smiley faces? I might never know. As I said, this is history. Recent, but still. Past is past right? Move on already. Maybe not yet. Who can forget gems like this: I was WORKING, not PARTYING!!!!!))))))) <- real text.

Today, I got another assignment kind of on the fly and was email corresponding with my source. Spoiler alert: He’s a dude. He is also the GM at a popular fitness center in town. You can imagine my shock when I get an email from him (a business email no less) with, what I can only assume to be ellipses, except it looks like this……………………………………………………and then he goes on. Um, what? Déjà vu.

Naturally I pulled out my phone and added to the amazing long-running group text with two of my besties and said, “Hey you guys, I met someone who uses more weird punctuation than Hot Chef.” Ha. Who would have thought? Obviously they wanted details. When I explained that I learned about his use of punctuation because I’m writing a story about him/the business, I got a fist bump and a resounding “This gig is great for your dating life!” followed by, “You should send him the blog post preemptively (winky face)”

No winky face! Should you come find me, Sir of the Athletic Club, take a tip from your predecessor and a) be NICE or LEAVE and b) This…………………………………………is not a thing…………!!!!!!!))))) IT IS CONFUSING. AND MAYBE JUST FOR THOSE OVER FORTY??

Seriously. What is that?

Sexy Commuter Sleeping, Breakfast and Other Thoughts

Last winter when I commuted from my parent’s house to my fancy Manhattan job, I started off with the mentality of someone who has never done that daily trek before. I was bright eyed and fresh faced about the extra hours in the morning and was sure that I would be both totally up on current events AND plow through my ever-expanding reading list without requiring the luxurious days of a beach vacation or the free time afforded by not sleeping thanks to a horrible break up to kick it in high gear. Not the case. As it turns out, while I did not mind getting up at 5:30 AM daily to meet my parents in the kitchen for breakfast and coffee, the commute was a different story.

Since I was to have ALL THIS TIME, I was planning on reading The Luminaries as I’d heard great things about it. I picked up a hard cover copy at the bookstore and began on a weekend. About a hundred pages in, I realized that I was carrying the book with me on the bus, to the subway and then to the office and still had not made much progress. Two nights per week I’d leave the office and walk across Central Park to go to Pure Barre before coming home. On those nights I wasn’t at my house until well after ten. That is a long day and a heavy book. (FACT: I am still vehemently against e-books.) But here’s the other part. The bus is a commuter bus. The nice kind of bus that we used to take in middle school when we were going on a fancy field trip somewhere like Washington D.C. It has seats more like an airplane than a bus and has a bathroom in the back. And that means something in the world of New York City commuting. In the morning the lights are out. There is a 100% no talking, no cell phone rule and the driver enforces it. It is great. It is also less conducive to reading or studying for the GRE than say, sleeping. So, while I thought I was going to be DOING ALL OF THE THINGS, as it turns out, I was 100% passed out. Mouth agape, head back kind of asleep. In a blink I’d see the sun coming up over the NYC skyline before we dipped into the tunnel. This was wake up time, and the driver would turn on the lights and rouse his sleeping masses and kindly remind us not to forget things like our cell phones.

There was a Fresh & Co between my stop at Lexington and the office and I’d regularly slop there for second breakfast. This is another joy of the 5:30 AM wake up. Second breakfast. It’s a thing. If you think you can make it until noon or 1 without it, you are crazy. Sometimes I’d bring yogurt and fruit, but I loved and I mean LOVED that they sold hot steel cut oatmeal. MMmmmm They knew me by my order, half milk half water with the tiniest tiniest bit of brown sugar and raisins. I’d pick up a banana as well. It was great. The only problem with the lovely staff starting my oatmeal order before I’d say anything is that if I wanted something else, I’d have to walk to another spot. If I was like “hmm I want a bagel,” no deal at Fresh & Co., I would have to purchase my bagel elsewhere, or buy both. That’s the way it works. And honestly, I’m okay with that.

I’ve made way WAY more progress on my reading list now that I’m back in New Orleans with ample free time to read and write this blog in between my shifts waiting tables and penning articles for local publications. Even so, the funny thing is that I have still not read The Luminaries. The other thing about starting an epic book is that if you’ve gone on and read several, and I mean SEVERAL in the meantime, you only kind of remember and it is nearly impossible to pick up where you left off around page 100-and-something. It is also annoying to start over because you remember enough of it to make it tedious. The only option is really to wait. So here I am, waiting. I think perhaps this summer will be good. Stay tuned.

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.