Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Cookie Fallout

You know how apparently everyone is supposed to be either a cook or a baker? I'm definitely more of a cook, mostly because I would rather eat soup than cupcakes and I don't like the whole suspense/faith thing you have to have if you're going to stick defenseless little gobs of dough in a blazing inferno for ten minutes.

On the other hand, surviving Finals always makes me want to carb load. So I pretty much did nothing but read Chekov and bake Christmas cookies for the first three days of break.

Some of the results:

I accidentally switched the eye and nose candies for this next little reindeer, so he got ostracized by the others. And since his nose doesn't glow or anything, he didn't get to pull a Rudolph and save Christmas. Sad.

There's an important break here between the Christmas cookies that actually look like they would theoretically taste good and the one batch that looked like...well, nevermind. Let's just say, if I had to describe how they looked, I wouldn't start with "edible."

So I stuck glaze and Christmas sprinkles on the end of them and, ta-da!, they looked a little more like food.

Fun Fact: These were actually by far the tastiest because they had two teaspoons of instant coffee in them. I made another batch of them, but made them round out of aesthetic concerns and put caramel glaze on them (caramel glaze: melt a handful of caramels, pour in about a tablespoon or two of milk, heat it up again, get annoyed that it looks more like sticky glue than glaze, accidentally knock over about half of the powdered sugar into the mixture (maybe a cup), whisk the whole thing until it stops being goop, slop it on cookies).

In the end, my dad, aunt, uncle and I ate three batches of them in about two days. That's roughly 20 cookies per person. Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Insert clever pun on the word "flight" here

The above goop is future quinoa burger which I made with a friend (non-Mary). It looked pretty unappetizing at this phase, but we decided to take a photo anyway. Brooks is there for perspective.

We made quinoa burgers using this recipe. Why on earth anyone would make quinoa burgers is only answerable when you consider that she's gluten-intolerant and I'm vegetarian, so there are basically three things both of us can eat, one of which is the following.

After being fried, the goop ended up tasting pretty yummy. Funny how that works.

The fork looks gross because I used it to move cottage cheese around. The only thing we changed about the recipe was adding lime juice, cayenne pepper, and cajun seasoning. I think my tastebuds are dying, because I have to add tons of seasoning to everything. What a curse. Also, we dumped lots of cottage cheese on the burgers because:

1) It is delicious, especially if you get the full-fat kind. (Skim cottage cheese is a joke. I mean, come on; it's basically curdled milk; what's the point of protecting your arteries and staying alive if you have to eat garbage like that?)
2) Nobody really wants to eat a lonely naked burger, quinoa or not.
3) We had extra cottage cheese.

Fun Facts about Quinoa: It's a complete protein and you can make tasty burgers out of it. Who knew?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Food Therapy

I wrote this paper for my Prose Style class a few weeks ago. It seemed appropriate for the blog, so here it is -- edited to be internet-friendly.

But before that, let me add that while this gives a brief summary of the Toledo internship, Dirt Cheap Delicious has a long and tasty future ahead of it. Check back this week for another update, maybe with photos.

On the Potential of Food Therapy to Solve a Multitude of Woes

From the wild and wonderful world of psychiatry, most proposed therapies sound ridiculous. Living in the wake of Freud and Jung, we face a huge variety of approaches to healing the human psyche, including music therapy, primal yell therapy, body talk system and dyadic development psychotherapy. According to a friend of mine, a new form of therapy is emerging: food therapy. It’s simple: A therapist teaches a patient how to follow a recipe to make a dish, walking her through the steps in her own home. Then the patient makes the recipe without as much help. Eventually, she makes the recipe all by herself. Apparently this helps patients who suffer from autism, schizophrenia, hypertension, anorexia, and a variety of other mental disorders.

At first, this sounded pretty hokey to me. How on earth would teaching a paranoid schizophrenic how to make spaghetti solve any of his mental problems? After considering the theory a bit more, though, I have become confident food therapy has promise. This is because last summer, my roommate and I underwent food therapy unintentionally.

We worked at a small weekly newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, known as the Glass City –– or, as I call it, the City of Lost Dreams. We worked long hours, ate peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day, and didn’t get paid much. The interview subjects –– including mayors, auto mechanics, Army Corps of Engineers public relations peons, and senile old people –– provided constant miscommunication, offense and stress.

And once a homeless man asked me if I was a call girl.

It was a stressful summer. Rewarding, challenging, and worthwhile, but stressful.

So, unintentionally, Mary and I engaged in food therapy. Every day when we got home from work, we would kick off our high heels and scamper to the kitchen, where we would chop, mash, stir, simmer, boil, taste, season, and bake until the stress evaporated with the steam.

But that’s not all. See, Mary and I slept on the floor next to each other, drove to work together, worked at neighboring desks, drove home from work together, ate dinner together, and went to bed at about the same time. After the first week, we knew everything there was to know about each other. The only thing left to talk about? Food.

We planned a weekly menu every Sunday night and updated it through the week. We discussed the value of organic produce. We organized grocery lists. We debated over our favorite kind of leafy greens, concluding that rainbow chard was the best. We had only one relationship-threatening fight, and it was over food: I thought Mary was far too slow to sample new foods, and I told her this bluntly and often. She, on the other hand, felt perfectly happy living in a world without hummus, Indian food, beans, and guacamole. At one point, voices were raised.

But we didn’t just talk about food; we let it take over our lives. We went to the farmers’ market twice a week. Once we drove 30 minutes to get antibiotic- and horomone-free eggs from a local farm. We perfected a tomato soup recipe (Mary would sneak into the kitchen after I’d gone to sleep and eat all the leftovers), questioned a neighbor about vegetables and gender roles, and kept a blog -- which you are reading -- about our exploits.

In that sense, food doesn’t seem particularly therapeutic if it makes you obsessive-compulsive. But it gave us a constant source of entertainment, a creative outlet, a topic for debate, and a productive way to vent our frustration. I discovered that at the end of a stressful day, nothing blows off steam like hacking up a carrot.

So we perfected the science of frittata, sauteed broccoli, enchiladas, and food therapy. We cooked ourselves to sanity. That’s why I have hope in this new method; if it worked for us, it can work for anyone.

And, to get you started, I leave you with “Betsy and Mary’s Original Recipe for Sauteed Broccoli of the Gods”

1. Pour about a tablespoon of canola or olive oil into a large frying pan. Let it heat for a bit and add some salt, a minced clove or two of garlic, and some freshly-ground black pepper.

2. Add a small handful of chopped green onion. Let it fry for a few minutes, until it starts to look a little darker.

3. Add a head of broccoli, chopped. Push the broccoli around and flip the pieces over so it cooks evenly.

4. With a spatula, push down on the broccoli so it gets a nice sear.

5. Once the edges of some of the broccoli pieces are a little blackened, turn off the heat and divide it among two or three plates. Eat it immediately. Go back for seconds.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

vanilla ice cream

It's important to have bourbon, or at least the pretend bourbon that comes out of the kitchen tap and can be made colder by frozen pretend-bourbon cubes, on hand if you're going to be up late writing.

It's also important to have vanilla ice cream on hand, because you can do anything with it.

Example One.
Vanilla ice cream with cinnamon and nutmeg is a good idea.

Example Two.
Two summers ago, I walked into the admin building (slash dining hall, slash staff hangout) at my summer camp and found that Nathan had just put maple syrup on Justin's ice cream, and it was apparently really good. They were trying to tell me this, but they had no vocabulary: all they could do was gesture wildly and sputter a little bit. I might have understood had they been Italian, but alas, they both have sandy-colored hair and it took me a long while to figure out what they were saying.

When I did, I rolled my eyes at them. "You know what's really good on ice cream is --" I glanced up at the spice/condiments shelf. "Ketchup. Ketchup is good on vanilla ice cream."

I was about to walk away when Nathan (tall, thin, track runner) bounded and flailed from his chair to the spice/condiments shelf and brought the ketchup back to the table. Justin took a spoonful of ice cream, topped it with ketchup, and ate. And sprinted to the cooler to get a mug of grape cool-aid to get rid of the taste.

I blinked. Blinked and watched.

You can't try ketchup on ice cream without also trying mustard. And mayonnaise. And garlic. And chili powder. And one by one, everything else on the spice/condiments shelf. Every time it was the same: Justin topped a single spoonful of vanilla ice cream with something from the shelf, tasted it, made a face, chugged the grape cool-aid. Basil was bad. Tobasco sauce was bad. Pepper was bad. Salt was...

Justin cocked his head. "Actually, other than being a little crunchy, it's not that bad," he said.

"Kind of like eating your own boogers," Nathan said.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

so, about those vegetables...

Betsy and I went out for ice cream after dinner today. As I slurped through most of my one (giant!) scoop of coconut ice cream in a waffle cone and Betsy her two (giant!) scoops of cookie dough ice cream, I had two important thoughts.

Important Thought #1: Coconut ice cream is one of the best ideas ever.

Important Thought #2: Before the project, all we talked about was food, and how healthy food can taste really good. During the project, all we talked about was the project. After the project, we realized with delight that we were talking about food again just like the good old days.

But it isn't the good old days. Things are winding down: we'll be out of Toledo in less than a week. Relief, nostalgia, and perseverance are blending together like salt, pepper, and garlic in our sauteed vegetables. We're just plugging through these last few days, trying to eat up all our perishables and ration the amount of produce we buy at the market.

We aren't even eating healthy anymore. Sure, we're eating pasta primavera and tomato soup for dinner. But we've learned that we can eat plenty on $10-$15 per person for the week, and we're still both putting $20 into our food money jar every Saturday. And we're spending the extra on ice cream and chocolate.

We went out for ice cream this evening after dinner. We went out for ice cream yesterday, too, at about 5:30 p.m. somewhere between Maumee and Perrysburg. Having ice cream before dinner is kind of like... well, it's not a good sign.

A grocery store in Toledo sells champagne grapes and plays classical music; its employees wear green polos. It also sells bulk candy, and we were always careful to have a good supply of chocolate during the project -- when you're stressed, you need chocolate. As soon as our project was done, we went back to this grocery store and came back with a nutmeg grinder and a big bag of dark-chocolate-covered peanuts. To celebrate. We finished them today while we watched most of 30 Rock Season 3 Disc 1.

I sauteed carrots for a snack this afternoon. Didn't think anything of it. I made tomato soup the other day and I was pleased but not in the least surprised that it tasted like... how do you say it? my taste buds were dancing in a completely joyful and utterly wholesome way, like swing dancing without freshmen. And it didn't matter; I just ate. Good food, really good food has become mundane here at 605 Heatherdowns (not our real apartment), and we've resorted to chocolate and ice cream. And the worst part is: there are two or three other ice cream shops we've made mental notes about all summer and we only have a week to hit them all up.

Analysis? I don't know, but this is weird.

Friday, July 30, 2010


It's summer. Two college students are sharing an apartment in Toledo. The $12 bookends cost more than any of the furniture in the apartment. The closet door is open and hanging over it is a beach towel -- both students are too stingy to pay for the dryer. Washrags are draped over rungs of chairs and dress clothing lies flat on the floor for the same reason. The vinyl tablecloth is masking-taped under the table and the fan clicks as it spins. Two sunhats flop over a chair.

On the windowsill: an assortment of pots (origins, left to right: antique store, flea market, Mom's garage, brother's beer mug collection, thrift store; contents, left to right: dead basil, rosemary, empty because the spider plant got spilled, live basil, ivy), two tomato paste cans (one with quarters, one with pens), a pile of receipts, a glass of water, and a mason jar.

On the floor: a Mac, a PC, six pairs of shoes, one pair of socks (about four feet apart), two mugs, a pair of sunglasses, a mixing bowl, Early Christian Writings, a DVD of 30 Rock Season 2, a laundry bag, a pile of newspapers, a postcard from an indie/hippie store, a camp hat, a mirror, and a draft of a big project.

On the walls: a drawing of Ernest Hemingway, a map of Michigan, and an art print that looks like horses if you're a girl and dinosaurs if you're a guy. No curtains. A broken air-conditioning control.

On the bookshelf: a pen and a pencil, a crochet hook and an unfinished project, a few stamps, a pair of cheap binoculars, a 4x6 file box, a copy of the lease, a box of frog notecards, a coaster with a parrot on it, a pile of bulletins from several churches, a flyer for the art museum's psychadelic 60s exhibit, a long receipt listing now-overdue books from the public library, craisins, and the little thing that broke off from the air-conditioning control.

On the other bookshelf: overdue library books (lots), a frisbee, and a little cardboard box.

In the cupboard and drawer: three forks with blue paint on the tips, five knives from various thrift stores, too many spoons, a borrowed set of (matching! china!) plates/saucers/teacups, four bowls from somebody's Greek grandfather's restaurant, four boxes of South Beach Diet Strawberry Harvest cereal, one empty box/jar/food container that Betsy hasn't found yet, and too many frying pans.

What are they eating for dinner?

a) pizza
b) macaroni and cheese
c) hamburger helper
d) salmon and vegetables sauteed with spices and a hint of lemon on top of farfalle with olive oil

it's good to be back

We used to be really proud of our refrigerator. "Most college fridges, it's just beer and maybe an onion. But look at our fridge! We've got a pound and a half of leafy greens from the farmers market, a gallon of milk, lemons, hummus, farmers market eggs, carrots, minced garlic, homemade vegetable stock, homemade jam (credit to my mom), and serial commas!" (Betsy and I both like serial commas. We don't actually have any in our refrigerator.)

Betsy was in Hillsdale last weekend and my brother visited Saturday, so we didn't make it to Saturday's farmers market. We were desperately awaiting Wednesday so we could go to the Wednesday market. But something came up Wednesday evening and we missed the Wednesday market. Our refrigerator looked pathetic. I ate a bowl of Cookie Crisp for dinner.

When we got back from work Thursday, our big project was done. We went out and bought chocolate and a can of tomato sauce, then chopped up tomatoes and made soup. After dinner and dishes, we sat on the couch with our chocolate and watched about six episodes of 30 Rock.

It's good to be back to normal.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

necessity's child

Betsy was out for the night -- this was a while ago -- and I was having dinner by myself. This meant... shells! (I have some weak evidence for Betsy not liking shells.) This meant... red sauce! (We had some left and I was happy not to share. It is really good.) This meant... ricotta cheese! (Not actually my favorite, but I couldn't think of any other way to stuff shells.)

I set the shells to boil, and when they were almost ready, got the ricotta cheese from the fridge.

"There was a huge thing of mold in the ricotta cheese!" I told my brother later. "It was the size of... well, my pinky fingernail."

He laughed. Well, okay, that was dumb, so I laughed, too.

"But if it's in your food, any mold is huge," he said.

I agreed.

I threw the ricotta in the trash. What else to stuff in the shells, already irredeemably boiled?

NB: Tossing the ricotta cheese in the trash turned out to be a poor decision. I didn't notice the smell emanating from the cupboard until the next morning when I was scrambling to get ready for work. I should have scooped the cheese into the sink or taken the whole thing to the dumpster outside.

First, the Swiss chard. That was going in anyway.

Um, onions? I chopped up some onion and threw it in the bowl.

Parmesan cheese, too. I put the lid on the bowl and shook it up. The parmesan dusted the leaves nicely, like frost that's sort of clumpy-roundish and comes from a green cylinder. So, yeah, maybe not really like frost.

The shells came out and looked floppy, pathetic, and sad. It was going to be a floppy, pathetic, and sad dinner.

Wait! Olive oil! So I drizzled olive oil into all the shells, and things improved significantly. Then I added some generous shakes of basil flakes (make that into a Dr. Seuss poem, someone) and the red sauce. It wasn't going to be fantastic, but I could eat dinner with red sauce.



It was pretty much amazing. I was surprised. I'd make these over the ricotta ones any day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mary is Not Stingy

Today the apartment smelled funny, so we went over to the stove to see if we'd left it on and something was burning. Nothing was burning, but I told Betsy there was a dime under one of the burners. I had seen it a couple days before when she was out. Betsy took a knife and started poking around under the burner, trying to get the dime out.

"We can put it in our farmers market fund," she said.


I would like to point out that Betsy's hypothesis is incorrect. It's silly to waste all this energy dichotomizing (that's a horrible word, just for you, Betsy) food. Food doesn't (and shouldn't) come with an immutable "like" or "don't like" tag.

For instance, I don't really like cake. If we're at so-and-so's birthday party, it's a lot easier just to eat cake like everyone else than it is to politely (and awkwardly!) excuse myself from the cake-eating bit. So it's probably better if I don't bother telling you I don't like cake, which means there's no reason for me to think about whether or not I like cake.

So mostly I just eat food and don't think too much about whether or not I like it.

To get to Betsy's argument:

First off, I don't have any problem with pasta primavera. Betsy and I have had conversations that go something like this:

Betsy: I bet we could sautee [list of vegetables] and put it on [specific type of pasta].
Mary: Isn't that the same thing as pasta primavera?

How that translates into not liking pasta primavera, I don't know.

Second, beans. I don't really like beans (in general). Betsy loves beans (in general). Black beans and pinto beans taste pretty much the same to me (mushy) and black beans don't start with P. I have put pinto beans in things, though, voluntarily, without prompting from Betsy. (I do like green beans, though, especially fresh/raw. You pop them in your mouth and they go crunch, crunch.)

Third, pesto. Greens and nuts aren't supposed to go together. I also don't really like almonds. I like cashews, pecans, and peanuts (two of which, by the way, begin with P), but what makes them good is the soft munch, munch in your mouth. If you grind them into pesto, they don't go munch, munch the same way. (I do like peanut butter and basil sandwiches, a desperate I'm-out-of-almost-everything college discovery I made last year.)

Fourth, I like peaches, pears, plums (probably - it's been a while since I've had plums), potatoes, pasta, pepper (as a seasoning), pecans, pancakes, and lots of other things that start with P.

I don't really like penne pasta, though (score one for Betsy), because I don't really like tube pasta much. I don't really like popcorn, either, but that's because I almost choked on a kernel once. Popcorn doesn't really taste like anything, anyway, unless you put salt, butter, or cheese on it. Then it tastes like salt, butter, or cheese. I don't really like pop, either, but Betsy doesn't get a point here because it's soda where she comes from.

I also like tomatoes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pesto for Paupers

I think I've figured out Mary: She doesn't like foods that start with the letter "p".

Por ejemplo:
-Pinto beans
-Pasta Primavera

I think this could be based on some weird Freudian association with her last name, which also starts with the same letter.
She makes a few exceptions, of course, including pork and peanut butter. But everyone likes those, so they don't really count.

So with that said, Mary has not endorsed this pesto; it is for the penniless, not the picky.

The reason I can say it's cheap is that it's made with cheap grocery store green tube parmesan, swiss chard (the whole bunch was $1.50; I used literally 1/10 of it), a little Kroger-brand olive oil –– you could substitute canola if you wanted to save even more money –– and cashews.

To make it, I threw all these ingredients in a blender, starting off with the oil:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup torn swiss chard
1/4 cup cheapo parmesan
1/6 cup cashews

Then I blended it all until it turned into magical velvety green mush.

Because the cashews were salted, I didn't add any seasonings. Garlic and black pepper probably would have been tasty, but this was fine on its own. The entire process took less than 10 minutes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

dry potato soup

You need to read this first.

Essentially, we cut up a bunch of vegetables and sauteed them.

Three potatoes. Couple carrots. Some squash, green onions, regular onions, Swiss chard.

Swiss chard we threw in at the end. It looked great. Bright green went well with everything else.

We put in a lot of sage (a lot a lot of sage) and some of our homemade vegetable stock. We let the vegetable stock boil off, then tasted the potatoes, poured more vegetable stock on and let it boil off, ad tasteum. And added more sage. Pepper. Some minced garlic and salt.

Mmm, warm food on a rainy day.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

vegetables and gender philosophy

A heat wave had crashed into our beloved Toledo, leaving us sweat-soaked and grumpy all week – I even let Betsy turn the air conditioning on. Thursday was an especially busy day, and when we got back to the apartment, we crashed into our beloved couch and chair.

Then the rain started.

We made a dry potato soup (recipe forthcoming) and sat on the porch to eat. The food was good – warm, uncomplicated, spooned from my grandfather’s bowls, comforting. The rain cooled the air and our bare toes curled around the wet stone porch steps. We laughed and reminisced (already?) about how much we’ve grown in the past month.

We’re planning to write a cookbook, and we talked about how to market the book to everyone, not just thin, vegan, environmentalist, outdoorsy women.

“Guys have to be able to cook from this, too,” I said.

“There’s nothing unmanly about cooking,” Betsy said. Her boyfriend is a stellar cook, from what I hear.

“Right, but there’s a difference a young, respectable Italian man and a big, muscular football player who probably smokes pot.”

Just then, the door opened – we both jumped. We turned around and saw a big, muscular guy with a cutoff gray T-shirt.

“Scared you guys, huh?” he said, and (I bet his little brother adores him) smiled.

A Cottage Inn van pulled up, and we watched the guy pay for the contents of the white Styrofoam box he now held. He turned and came back toward the building as the Cottage Inn van drove away.

“Hey,” said Betsy, just before he reached the door.

He turned around.

“Do you think it’s unmasculine to cook vegetables?”

He smiled and gestured a little with his free hand. “Well, me, I don’t really like vegetables,” he said.

“No, no, but what if they were really good?” Betsy and I were both saying something along these lines. “What if they were really, really good?”

He smiled (I bet he loves his little brother) and nodded a bit, ready to go back inside.

“Do you think,” Betsy clarified, “if a guy cooks vegetables, does that make him less manly? If they were really good vegetables, I mean. Is that beyond gender?”

Neither of us is really sure what he said after that. He mumbled something maybe, still smiling (I bet his little brother is really annoying) and went inside to enjoy his Styrofoam-box dinner from Cottage Inn.

I looked at Betsy. “Beyond gender”?

Score one for the Hillsdale Bubble.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

fococcia fail

If I had a camera, I would take a photograph of the bread I made today and take a survey of the best caption. Choices:

a) Trees poke out from the pale cliffs off the coast of Ireland. The white rocks at top have been causing avalanches in recent years, threatening wildlife.

b) A frog infestation in Nabisco's factory caused crackers and other food products to turn a flaky green and erupt in dandruff and warts.

c) Gertrude Wickems before receiving Botox treatment.

d) After (in an anti-meth ad)

Here are some rules for making bread:

1. Measure out your yeast, sugar, and water. Use the right amount.

2. If you need a little more water, don't put a lot more water in.

3. Cover/dust your hands with flour so the dough doesn't stick to your hands.

4. If you're halving the recipe, don't do cursory math in your head, and don't guess how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon.

5. If you're doing math, use measuring spoons. There's no point in doing the math if you're just going to dump/shake/sprinkle in "probably about that much" anyway.

6. Don't make stuff up unless you know what you're doing. If this is the first time you've made bread without a breadmaker, follow the recipe carefully.

Success post forthcoming.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

officially, not pasta primavera

Today, Betsy had this great idea for a carrot sauce.

I was a little skeptical. After our tomato sauce turned out red and tomatoy, I expected our carrot sauce to be orange and carroty. I figured it would look something like pumpkin pie filling, but taste like carrots.

Whatever. I still had a couple chicken breasts in the freezer in case I needed them.

First, we boiled some butterfly pasta. It's really important that it's butterfly pasta, but I don't actually know why.

Cut up two carrots and sauteed them, also about 2 green onions, a couple slices of squash, and sauteed with oil, garlic, etc. The usual. This time we added a slice of lemon and one of lime. (Squeeze the juice over the vegetables, then toss the rind in, but don't eat the rind.) A bit later we added a can of tuna.

We put the pasta on our plates and dumped the vegetables on top. Just a reminder: this isn't pasta primavera.

--lemon and lime were good, gave the vegetables a different flavor. I prefer the regular way, but this was good, too, and different.
--tuna was good, but we should have added more. If you eat a bunch of pasta and vegetables, you'll feel like you didn't actually eat anything.
--if your pasta looks depressing, mix in a little olive oil and enough basil flakes to make it look nice. It won't really taste any different, but it won't look so pathetic. This works with every kind of pasta, as far as I know.
--this is not actually pasta primavera.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Magical Pasta Salad

Mary and I have picked up this sort of bad habit: Late at night when we’re bored, when reading another chapter of Return of the King seems impossible and watching another episode of 30 Rock feels pathetic, we make food.

Sometimes this food is weird, (like the salty chocolate chip cookies we made –– whatever, we still ate nine of them in two hours), sometimes it is bad (greasy homemade graham cracker crust with melted chocolate and peanut butter spread on it, stuck in the freezer; it may be every 5-year-old’s dream come true, but it was definitely not delicious, and vaguely depressing), and every once in a while, it is awesome.

Like last night.

We’d had this bowl of rigatoni taking up space in the fridge for a while and kept forgetting to eat it. So at about 10:30 p.m. we decided to make pasta salad.

I’ve never done that before, and I don’t think Mary has either. But about $0.30 of pasta was on the line, so we didn’t worry too much about planning ahead of time or anything. This is what we did:

1. Added about a tablespoon of olive oil and maybe 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a bowl of rigatoni.
2. Dumped in everything else in our fridge and pantry.

Well, not exactly. But here’s a list of things we added without any special rhyme or reason:

-chopped sun-dried tomatoes
-green onions
-plenty of black pepper
-a little leftover Caesar salad dressing

And you know what? After about 30 seconds of work, it tasted awesome. I kid you not, this stuff is absolutely delicious.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One of the best things in the world

Frozen spinach is wonderful. It's cheap (about $0.90/brick), good for you (Hello, Iron!), and looks neat when you mix it with other foods. Plus, it's pre-chopped, so all you really have to do is defrost it and throw it into whatever you're eating, whether that's pasta primavera, potato soup, enchiladas, white name it, frozen spinach probably makes it better.

The one downside of frozen spinach is that it doesn't really have any taste and it would probably make an atrocious side dish. But when added to something that already tastes good, it's fantastic.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

dream sauce

Last night, I dreamed that I was in some sort of serious danger and I couldn't scream. I was trying to, but couldn't. Suddenly I woke up and my heels tingled, as if I had just slammed them into the floor.

"Gol-ly, Mary, is everything okay?" asked Betsy.

"Did I just scream?" I asked.

"Yeah," she said.


"What are we having for dinner tomorrow?" asked Betsy.

"I don't remember," I said.

"I think we were having spinach with pasta," she said.

That rung a bell. I scrawled four words on the back of a receipt, rolled over, and went to sleep.

I don't think I was ever completely awake, and I could make a credible case that Betsy was completely asleep the entire time (she sleep-talks regularly and didn't remember any of it over breakfast). The conversation above is the most accurate I can give you -- memory of dreams and half-awake conversations isn't always the best. It wasn't all a dream, though: I saw the receipt, and the four words were there.

After work, Betsy went to sleep and I cooked. I had to pot/pan-shuffle a few times, so I'm going to give you a simplified version of what I did.

1. I dumped all the rotini we had left into a pot and set it to boil.

A real adult* I know told Betsy and me that when he was in college, he and his buddies would put empty boxes back in the cupboard so it would look like they had more food than they actually had. In this spirit, I closed the empty rotini box and placed it back on the cupboard shelf.

2. I chopped chicken and set it to boil.

3. I drained the rotini and put it in a bowl.

4. I put oil (not quite enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and minced garlic (half a little spoonful) into a little pan, heated it up, added formerly-frozen spinach, and cooked it.

5. I mixed 1 tbsp butter, too much milk (aim for half a cup maybe?), and too much parmesan cheese (add to taste) in a bowl.

6. The butter wasn't mixing in, so I scooped it out and put it in with the spinach. When it was melted, the spinach was done. I poured the whole thing in with the milk and parmesan cheese.

7. The sauce was too runny, so I added a bunch of parmesan cheese, and that didn't help at all. If your sauce is too runny, I don't know what to do.

8. The chicken was done, so I drained the water.

9. I put three bowls on the table: one bowl of boring rotini, one bowl of sauce, and one bowl of chicken. We put the sauce on top of the rotini and ate it. Betsy thought it was good. I'm not a super big fan of white sauce, but it was good as far as white sauce goes. I added chicken to mine.


Notes regarding spices: the usual (basil, garlic, salt, pepper) is good. I didn't put a whole lot in, and it didn't seem to be lacking much. Make sure you add a pinch of salt to the water when you boil the pasta, though.


*real adult is defined as someone who's married and has kids, has a stable job and home, and/or is at least 30. If you're 21, change your address three or four times a year (dorm, summer camp/job, home, new dorm), and can still speculate about what you want to be when you grow up, you're not a real adult. "But I can vote and drink!" you might protest, but it doesn't matter. Get married, settle down, and you will be a real adult.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Potato Soup Redux

Last night we made potato soup that was almost exactly the same as the other potato soup we made except for a few important -- and controversial -- differences.

The first big difference was that it didn't have carrots and did have celery. That's because we didn't have carrots and did have celery and didn't have the will or dinero to do a grocery run.

The second big difference is a few added ingredients: first, 1/3 a block of frozen spinach, which made it look more delicious and less like cookie dough; second, smoked paprika; third, pinto beans; fourth, chili powder.

I thought it was good. Mary, though, doesn't like beans.

If this was a story a grandfather was narrating to his child (a la Princess Bride), at this point, a small voice would interrupt:

Child: Wait, Grandfather! Mary doesn't like pinto beans?
Grandfather: Yes, my child. It is true.
Child: But how is that possible? EVERYBODY likes pinto beans!
Grandfather: I thought as much, until I met this strange Mary bird.
Child: It can't be true! (wimpers)
Grandfather: (rubs childs head affectionately with a sad look in his eye.)

Now back to the soup:

Mary also thought the chili powder was weird. Granted, it was a little different, but I liked it. The smoked paprika was great. Everything should have smoked paprika.

Basically, potato soup is really hard to mess up and it's probably the cheapest thing you can eat, after Ramen. So I have to recommend it wholeheartedly, pinto beans or not.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

True Life: My First Good Experience with Pasta Primavera


Pasta Primavera is kind of a bad idea -- it's one of those foods with an unnecessarily fancy name based on a vague idea that was probably invented by somebody who wanted to use up leftovers.

I know jack squat about the history, theory, or cultural significance of this finicky dish. All I know is from what I've eaten at my school's cafeteria and read in vegan cookbooks from the 60's, and that wasn't enough to give me any sort of confidence in the dish.

But, like that poor imagined sucker who invented PP by necessity, Mary and I reached a point where we had not a lot of ideas, not a lot of money, and access to some decent produce and pasta. (Curse, you, the letter P! You make everything sound silly with your excessive alliteration and unnecessary lip-pursing!)

So we decided to try out Pasta Primavera. Our first attempt, which I will not discuss, was kind of lame.

But after two weeks, we decided to give it another go (I forget why exactly we made this choice; it's not important). And it turned out pretty durn good. Here's what we did:

A. We sauteed half a head of garlic and a spoonful of minced garlic in canola oil (of course).
B. We added about two carrots, cut in slices, and sauteed them for a few minues.
C. We threw in about two squash, sliced and then cut into little half- and quarter-moons, and sauteed them for a few minutes.
D. Somewhere in there, we added about 1/3 a can of pinto beans and a decent amount of salt and pepper.

All the while, we cooked some spaghetti.

After the spaghetti was done and the vegetables were finished sauteeing, we put the spaghetti on our plates and dumped the veggies over it. Then I added a copious amount of parmesan cheese (important!).

This dish was kind of a bummer for Mary because she doesn't like pinto beans or squash. But I think both of them are awesome, so I really liked it.

I think the key to pasta primavera is making it be about more than pasta and leftover vegetables. The beans helped a ton by making it feel like an actual meal, instead of like something two incompetent college students threw together to fend off starvation.

Also, putting the veggies on top (instead of stirring them into) the pasta was nice. Not sure why, but it was.

When I do this again, I will probably try it with spinach, red peppers, maybe some zucchini, and maybe some black olives.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

how to actually make awesome sauce (and stuffed shells)

This meal was so good, it's gonna take both of us to write this post. Betsy's writing the first part, about how to actually make awesome sauce....

Awesome Sauce

This is my (Betsy's) method for tomato sauce. It was originally based on a recipe I found online, but I ditched that pretty quickly, and this turned out well anyways.

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped up as little as possible
vegetable oil
a spoonful of minced garlic
1/2 chopped onion
1 can of tomato sauce
3 inches of carrot, chopped really really tiny*
1 stick of celery, chopped really really tiny*

This begins exactly the same way that just about every other thing we've made begins: with garlic and onion getting sauteed in vegetable oil along with a little salt and pepper.

Then I added the carrots and celery, sauteed them for a few minutes, and then added the tomatoes and basil, salt, and pepper.

~At this point, I had this bizarro fantasy that I could make a tomato sauce the old fashioned Italian grandmother way, without any canned goods. But it just ended up looking goopy and floppy and sad. I kept simmering it, covered, for about 45 minutes, hoping it would magically transform into a velvety marinara sauce -- but it was not to be. So I gave in and slowly added the entire can of tomato sauce, about a quarter of the can at a time.

And, wonder of wonders, after heating it, cooking it for about 10 more minutes, and checking on the spices, it tasted good! As in, lick-the-spoon good!

One important thing about this is not adding too much seasoning.** Since the tomatoes break down and everything simmers for a pretty long time, anything you put in the beginning will get really concentrated; the last tomato sauce I made had way too much black pepper and ended up getting thrown out after sulking around in a leftover container for two weeks.

Fortunately, this sauce evaded that sad fate and ended up getting sloshed over stuffed shells for a labor-intensive but super delicious meal.

*or you can chop them big and have massive chunks of vegetables floating around in your tomato sauce, but I didn't do that because it sounds gross.

** except basil. I don't think you could put too much basil in this. We would have done oregano too, but we don't have any because we are poor. All you richies out there in internet-land should try oregano.

...and I'm writing the second part, about stuffed shells. This is pretty easy, and it's fancy-schmancy, and is good for snacks or dinner or hors d'eurves, depending on how many you make.

First, get some jumbo shells (pasta) and boil them. While they're on the stove, get a bowl and mix ricotta cheese (with a regular cereal or soup spoon, one good-sized spoonful per shell), frozen spinach (which should be de-thawed by now), and parmesan cheese. If you've cooked some ground Italian sausage or ground beef (preferably seasoned), mix that in as well.

When she shells are cooked, drain the water. Take each shell and fill it up with a good-sized spoonful of your ricotta cheese mixture, then put it on a cookie sheet. When you've got all your shells done, cover them with sauce and sprinkle them with mozzarella cheese. Stick them in the oven until the cheese is melted.

Then, eat them, because they are very good.

Friday, June 11, 2010

why onions are important

Here's one thing Betsy and I don't have to worry about.

tomato soup


The first time we had this soup, Betsy cooked while I was oot and aboot with interviews. Betsy told me it was really easy – “stupid,” she said – but it tasted gourmet. A couple nights ago, I told Betsy I was cooking – she could tell me what to do. Soup turned out well again.

Chapter 1: Garlic and Onion

Cut up an onion, then sautee it with minced garlic in a saucepan. The onion won’t break down in the soup; rather, you’ll have onion chunks floating around, so cut them up to the size you want. (If you don’t like onions or are allergic, skip the onions.) We used half an onion and about a teaspoon of minced garlic.

Chapter 2: Tomatoes

Cut up your tomatoes really small. We used two tomatoes, both about the size of my (rather small) fist. You can use any size or type of tomato (as far as I know), but you want about one fist’s-worth per person. The tomatoes need to be cut small enough that they’ll break down into broth – maybe quarter- to half-inch pieces.

Scrape the tomatoes into the saucepan. If you get all the tomato juice and pulp off the cutting board and into the pan, the cutting board will be easier to clean up. Sautee the tomatoes with the garlic and onion.

Chapter 3: Sauce and Seasonings

Add an 8-oz. can of tomato sauce, and as much garlic, salt, and pepper as you like. Every now and then, eat a spoonful of the soup and see if it tastes the way you like it. Add whatever amount of spices seem appropriate.

Chapter 4: Vegetables

Fresh spinach is good. Cut it up and toss it in. Basil is good, fresh or dried. Thyme is good, too. Oregano would have been good if we’d had it.

Chapter 5: Orzo

Orzo is kind of a scary name, but it’s just pasta, I promise you. It’s small and looks a little like rice but tastes just like spaghetti, and you can find it in the grocery store with the spaghetti.

When the tomatoes are broken down, add as much orzo as you think would be good in soup. I think we used about a cup.

Chapter 6: The Finishing Touches

Continue stirring the soup and tasting it every so often, adding seasonings when appropriate. When the orzo feels cooked and the soup tastes good, turn off the heat, pour into bowls, and eat.

But wait! There’s more!

Garlic bread is really good with tomato soup. Lay out your bread on a cookie sheet drizzle with olive oil, and add garlic, salt, pepper, and basil. Bake at 350 until toasted.

Monday, June 7, 2010

weekend away

On a normal workday, Betsy and I wake up in the same room (about 45 minutes apart), eat breakfast mostly together, drive to work together, make phone calls from desks separated by a small filing cabinet, eat lunch together, make more phone calls from desks separated by a small filing cabinet, drive back to the apartment together, cook dinner together, eat dinner together, do dishes together, and by that time it's dark and we've locked our door for the night.

So far, we haven't had any major fights. In fact, we haven't really had any minor fights. We had something like this once:

Betsy: Do you like guacamole?
Betsy: Have you tried guacamole?
Mary: Um...
Betsy: You haven't even tried guacamole! How can you say you don't like it?
Mary: Um...maybe I have tried it. Is it green? Do people put it on crackers? I think I did, and I think I remember not liking it.
[next day, Betsy orders guacamole at a restaurant.]
Betsy: Mary, try this.
Mary: (dips tortilla chip in guacamole and eats) I guess it tastes okay, but it feels really slimy.
Betsy: Well, you have to not think about snot while you're eating it.

And another one like this:

Betsy: Do you like hummus?
Mary: No.
Betsy: (gives Mary a knowing look) Have you tried hummus?
Mary: Yes.
Betsy: And you're sure you don't like it?
Mary: Yes.

But overall, we're getting along really well, especially considering we're rarely more than 20 feet away from each other. So when I found out I was going home for a family event this weekend, I automatically asked Betsy if she'd like to come along. It hadn't really occurred to me that we could be in separate places.

Betsy suggested that a friend pick her up and take her to Hillsdale for the weekend, and that's what she ended up doing. So I drove home alone.

It was up to my sister and me to make dinner Saturday night. Armed with the confidence I'd gained spending three weeks cooking with Betsy, I scanned the shelves of the refrigerator, looking for food I knew how to cook.

My confidence went kerplunk when I realized we had no broccoli. And we were out of carrots. And basically nothing to make a main course out of except meat, and I didn't learn anything from Betsy about cooking meat.

Our sandwiches that night (lunch meat, sliced cheese and raw tomato) were a testament to Betsy's cooking skillz.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

there will be no unrequited blog promotion!

We've already told the story about a certain 18-to-25-year-old coming over for dinner.

He told his readers to read our blog. So we'll do the same: to all of our readers -- yes, both of you -- go read his blog over at FOX Toledo.

Have a nice day.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

the great debate: social life, produce, or Karate Kid sequel?

Betsy and I were in a pickle of a sort we'd never dealt with before.

We'd discovered someone in the 18-to-25-year-old range and we wanted to have said 18-to-25-year-old over for dinner. But we were booked for two weekends in a row, and we were booked every day during the week, too -- except for Wednesday. But our refrigerator (of which we've become increasingly proud) was completely empty of tomatoes and carrots, and the Farmers Market was only open on Wednesdays.

Betsy summed up our dilemma rather neatly:

"Social life?" she asked, "or produce?"

I polled some friends from school. One said produce. One said social life. They were no help at all.

Fortunately, Betsy's father rescued us by taking Betsy to the grocery store Monday night. She came back with tomatoes and carrots. We'd miss the Farmers Market (one of our favorite places in Toledo), but we could have the 18-to-25-year-old over for Wednesday dinner.

We thought things were going to be fine, but our situation took a turn for the worse on Wednesday afternoon. I discovered that we could get free tickets to see Karate Kid II that night.

I wasn't sure how to handle this one.

I politely declined. "Sorry, we've already got plans for tonight," I said, then blinked and scrunched up my eyebrows a little bit. Had I really just said that? We'd just spent Saturday afternoon bumming around downtown and Saturday night bumming around the apartment. We couldn't make room in our schedule for a free movie (even if it was Karate Kid II)? Weird.

The 18-to-25-year-old came over, and we all ate dinner, brownies, and sprouts. Now I can't focus on my work because my cheeks hurt from laughing so much.

I guess I didn't realize those muscles were out of shape.

Mary is stingy (but not always), pt. 3 of a series.

Mary went out on a limb and spent two hundred little abe lincolns on a
bathroom trash can. Kudos to her for having the guts to make an investment.

Now I want to write about frittata.

Here are a Few Fun Frittata Facts:

-It is spelled very weirdly. It took me a lot of misguided google searches to
realize that it has one double t and one single t. I can't think of any other words
that do this. So we know right off that frittatas are special.
-If you make frittata, you will feel classy -- in the same way that jazz-listening,
volvo-driving, environment-saving, and latte-sipping do.
-Our frittata cost $3. I am not making that up.

Another fun fact unrelated to frittata: when you put together a string of words
that all start with the same letter, it's called alliteration. Fun Frittata Facts is a
stellar example of that.

Here is a basic explanation of how to make a frittata:

Sautee some garlic and onion in a skillet, of course. Slice up some potatoes
very thinly and lay them on the bottom of a frying pan. Cover it twice. Turn on
the heat and cook them until you can poke them with a fork but they aren't
super soft.

Put some more vegetables on top, from hard to soft. We added onions, red
peppers, and later on, spinach.

In another bowl, whisk together about 5 eggs and 1/3 a cup of milk. Add salt,
pepper, and maybe garlic powder.

Pour that mixture over the vegetables. Put a lid on the pan and cook it all until
the eggs are cooked.

Sprinkle cheese on top.

Slice it into wedges and eat it hot!

Feel sophisticated and cosmopolitan.

In retrospect, frittata probably won't make you feel that classy. But it's fun to
make and you can do pretty much anything with it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

felix culpa

bad idea: leaving a thyme plant in the sunny part of your car if you're going to be away for five hours in the afternoon.

good idea: harvesting dried thyme leaves from a dead thyme plant.

Friday, May 28, 2010

wide-brimmed casserole

Today, Betsy and I went to Goodwill (parked on the roof!), a flea market, and a garage sale and came back with some sweet sunhats.

We cubed potatoes and boiled them, then sauteed carrots in the usual way, then sauteed pinto beans with salmon. The salmon and pinto beans went on top of the potatoes and the carrots went on the plates, too, and kind of got mixed up with everything else.

We donned our sunhats and brought our plates to the front porch to eat. Everything was good, except the potatoes could have used some more herbs and spices. They were better when they were mixed up with everything else and used to sop up excess oil.

Dinner became supremely awkward when a lady in a silver car pulled up right in front of the porch and stopped.

We went inside.

things that are not delicious pt. 2

bugs, especially when they start buzzing and running around in crazy tight circles on the blue-tile floor of your bathroom

Thursday, May 27, 2010

*anybody* can make these enchiladas

Men who play football, have lots of chest hair, and dislike Pride and Prejudice can make these enchiladas.

Vegetarians and vegans can make these enchiladas.

People with no skill can make these enchiladas.

Amoebae can make these enchiladas.

Glow-worms can make these enchiladas.

Bacteriophages can make these enchiladas.

The only things that cannot make these enchiladas are bodiless entities

unless they are angels or God.

There are two types of people who can make these enchiladas but should not make these enchiladas:

(a) those who don't like Mexican food

and (b) those who like Mexican food enough to realize that these are not authentic.

I learned about these enchiladas from my dad, who got the recipe from a (male) friend while a group of them (men) were watching a hockey game. The recipe is easily adjustable for vegetarians and vegans. And it's really, really simple.

You will need:
tortillas (plan on one for each woman and 487 for each man)
enchilada sauce (plan on one can per four enchiladas)
shredded cheese (except vegans)
filler (see below)
cookie sheet or other metal rectangle pan
oven (and of course pot holders)

Lay the tortilla flat. Put the filler on top in a line running the diameter of the tortilla. Fold the two sides over the filler, then flip the entire enchilada over so the "flaps" are on bottom. It should stay shut. Make a bunch of these and line them up on the cookie sheet. Then drizzle enchilada sauce and sprinkle cheese over all of them. Bake at 350 for about half an hour or until the cheese is melted but not burnt.

ground beef or chicken (brown/cook this before making the enchiladas)
enchilada sauce
pinto beans
black beans
refried beans
green peppers
chili powder
cayene pepper
sour cream
lemon juice or peel

You can use pretty much whatever you want. If you don't like beans, don't use beans. If you're vegetarian, don't use ground beef. If you're allergic to onions, don't use onions. If you have a group of some vegans and some football players, make some enchiladas without meat and cheese and some enchiladas with the entire list, plus a cow and three or four whole chickens inside. If they look all the same on the cookie sheet, use frilly toothpicks to label them.

You can't go wrong with a meal that uses frilly toothpicks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Things that are not delicious, pt. 1 of a series

1) Instant coffee with powdered soy milk. It was crumbly and strangely papery. Unless you're a huge Orwell junkie and wish you lived in 1984, I cannot recommend it.

The packaging is deceptive. My coffee looked nothing like the coffee in the picture. It looked like it had little confetti-ish snowflakes of powdered soy product floating in it. Oh wait, that's because it did.

2) stale chewing gum

Monday, May 24, 2010

Potato soup tastes good.

When Mary and I were doing our first uncoordinated batches of shopping before getting to the apartment, we both decided to be health-conscious and get some fresh produce. I bought some terrible apples and two bags of carrots, because I like carrots. Mary bought a bag of carrots too. So we have a lot of carrots in our apartment right now.

And while that's better than having a lot of, say, brussels sprouts or limburger cheese, it does present a special problem:

Q. What do you do with tons of carrots?
A. Potato soup. No, really.

Here's a sort of recipe* for what we did:

Here's what we used:
4 potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled**, 3 cut up into dinky little pieces and one cut into larger cubes for a variety of textures
3-4 carrots, chopped into little skinny cylinders (except one of the carrots was left in slightly larger pieces; same idea as the potatoes)
olive oil
minced garlic
ground garlic (basically, garlic powder)
1/4 of an onion, peeled and chopped up
dried sage
dried basil
a little chicken bouillon (I feel guilty about this; I am a bad vegetarian; also, it was probably unnecessary.)
1 tablespoon of butter
a couple of coarsely chopped leaves from our Charlie Brown Rosemary plant

And here's what we did:

We sauteed the garlic and onion in the olive oil. I'm fairly confident that every delicious thing I have ever eaten began this way. Then we threw in some salt and pepper.

Next, we added the copped potatoes and carrots and sauteed them for a few minutes so they would get a head start on the cooking process.

Then we covered all that with water and put it back on the heat to happily boil away, and we added a bunch of spices and the butter.

Intermissioniary comment on spices: Like I said, we didn't really measure how much we used of everything. The only thing we might have used too much of was the chicken bouillon, but probably not. We kept adding seasoning as the soup cooked because as the potatoes broke down, the surface area of the soup increased and we needed more seasonings to balance that out. Especially with the herbs and black pepper, it's hard to overdo it. We really went to town with those.

Okay, then we let everything boil together for probably 30 minutes. The potatoes and carrots broke down to make a thick, creamy, slightly chunky soup. It got a little bit of a kick from the black pepper and a warm, smoky flavor from the sage.

*I say sort of recipe because we didn't write any of this down, and we made it 24 hours ago and I don't remember it perfectly. But whatever.
**Why unpeeled? a) The peel of a potato is where all the nutrition is, including a ton of potassium, b) chunks of potato skin in thick potato soup actually taste pretty neat, c) we're lazy, d) we don't have a potato peeler, or e) all of the above. The right answer is e.
***We use fresh-ground pepper. It's shockingly better than the wimpy pre-ground stuff.

It was good. It would have been better if it hadn't been 90 degrees outside. There's not much else to say.

For dessert, we had some chocolate chip cookies that we made the night before, and we spooned vanilla ice cream onto them to make ice cream sandwiches and froze them for a bit before eating them. It was really easy and stupid, but also tasty.


Betsy moved in after my first day in the office, and after scrambling to get a mattress, a couch, a table, four chairs, and set of pots (including four more frying pans) into the house and out of the rain, we sat on the couch and exhaled. Betsy said we should christen the house, but all we could think of were male initiation rites, which essentially amount to varying degrees and types of eating, fighting, and undressing. We needed a civilized idea.

My mom had sent me with a muffin tin, lemon cake mix, and vanilla frosting. Cupcakes, we decided, could christen the apartment in a more feminine manner.

Batter went into the muffin tin, and the muffin tin went into the oven, and a little while later we pulled almost two dozen cupcakes out of the oven and frosted them. We ate them with all the pomp of sitting barefoot on the couch, staring at a huge, blank, white wall.

Two down. Roughly 22 to go.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mary is stingy, pt. 2 of a series

I was secretly disappointed when Betsy arrived with a shower curtain.

Mary is stingy, pt. 1 of a series.

A few days ago, Mary finished drinking her first gallon of milk, rinsed it out, and suggested we use it as a trash can in the bathroom.

Q. Why don't we have a trash can in the bathroom already?
A. Because Mary refused to shell out $1.00 on a trash can when she first arrived here, and we haven't been to any stores that carry trash cans since then.

Needless to say, our bathroom does not have an empty milk carton in it. I will put my used floss in an old Kroger bag and sleep well, dignity intact.

Miser Tea: Life Before Betsy

I spent two nights in the apartment before Betsy got here, and I was all set to live my own stingy life with two card tables, four folding chairs (think 90s church potluck), one sleeping bag, two mixing bowls, one butter knife, a full set of dishes (borrowed from my mom's friend), three boxes of store-brand pasta, some aluminum foil, a frying pan, and no shower curtain.

I stumbled around town in my little blue Oldsmobile and found a grocery store. I bought some hamburger helper and some ground beef (this would be easy and not too ambitious), some pancake mix (after all, the frying pan couldn't cook my spaghetti), orange juice concentrate, and a pitcher (I thought I was real smart getting a pitcher).

Back at the apartment, I realized I did not have a pot and could not cook my spaghetti. I did not have a saucepan and could not cook my hamburger helper. I did not have a spatula and could not make my pancakes. I was in a pickle.

I had to spite the system somehow without breaking down and spending money. I had two boxes of tea and no kettle. (nb: I didn't spend any money on the tea: one box was gift from my mom and the other a gift from my college roommate.) I filled my frying pan with water, turned on the gas stove, and waited for it to boil. I put my teacup in the kitchen sink and, when the water boiled, I poured it all over the kitchen sink. Fortunately, enough of it landed inside my teacup, so I added my teabag and enjoyed a cup of spiteful tea.

This is a compilation of a couple e-mails I sent to Betsy before she arrived:

I'm at the apartment... some things we could use if you have them:

pot (for spaghetti)
pan with lid (for ramen noodles and other such things)
ice cube tray
trash bins
shower curtain

I took a shower this morning and we could get along without a shower curtain if we really wanted to because if you turn the showerhead toward the wall, it doesn't spill that much on the floor. We'll be fine as long as we don't let our mothers know. Or we could just buy a shower curtain. I've got a full set of dishes, a frying pan, some towels and dish rags, some dish soap, a pitcher, two card tables, four folding chairs.. I went to the grocery store this evening and was too stingy to spend $1 on a trash bin. They had some pots at the grocery store, but they were all state-of-the-art and $99 so I was like... I will boil water on my frying pan before I spend $99 on a pot. We don't have any hand soap in the bathroom. I've just been coming around to the kitchen and using dish soap.

Mostaccioli and Moving In


Mary and I (Betsy) are interning for the Toledo Free Press. After getting to our apartment, moving around furniture, and realizing that between the two of us we had nine chairs, we got hungry. That's when the trouble began.

Our first meal together consisted of jarred tomato sauce and mostaccioli, with a side of raw, unpeeled carrots. It wasn't stellar.

Our next meal together was leftover jarred tomato sauce and mostaccioli, with a side of raw, unpeeled carrots. It was depressing.

After staring down a pantry of Hamburger Helper (oops! Betsy's a vegetarian!), prunes, and South Beach Diet Cereal, we quickly put “frozen pizza” on our grocery list. That made us sad.

Something drastic had to be done -- after all, we're going to be here all summer, and Chef DiGiorno could get old after a while.

Plus, we're not at school; we're not supposed to miss the cafeteria.

The solution? Boiled carrots. Well, not really. We boiled some carrots and were floored to realize that with a little time, effort, and garlic, we could make cheap, boring food taste delicious!

Armed with this new hope, we descended on Toledo's farmers market. The spoils? Broccoli, roma tomatoes, an onion (only $0.35!), and a rosemary plant that would make Charlie Brown ashamed.

Another few grocery runs, and we were set for our first kitchen adventure: sauteed broccoli. It sounds lame, but was the best broccoli I've ever had.

Here's what we did:

1. Heat up a drizzle of oil in a frying pan. Add some garlic, black pepper, and salt.

2. Throw in as much fresh broccoli as you want. Sautee it by stirring the broccoli around, flipping the pieces so the sides get evenly cooked, and press down on the broccoli with a spatula so the edges get a little browned (trust me, this is important).

3. After 3-5 minutes or so, you're done! We like it slightly undercooked.

I'm not kidding when I say this broccoli is incredible. I will never microwave that beautiful plant again.

Up next: Mary's Frying Pan Tea.