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.