french fried friendsgiving

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Whenever I have a Friendsgiving (for those unfamiliar—like Thanksgiving, but with people you actually enjoy spending time with) to plan, I always opt to make green bean casserole. Why? Because it’s probably the easiest thing you could possibly make, aside from shaking cranberry gelatin out of a can, and it tastes like what Jesus would have for breakfast.

At least, the first few bites do. Then you start to feel kind of nauseous, but you just have to keep eating because it’s Thanksgiving and we love America.

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Here’s how the classic and ubiquitous green bean casserole was invented back in the early 17th century:

Squanto: Hey, Pilgrim Joe. Happy…Thanksgiving.

Pilgrim Joe: That’s an interesting word. I like it.

Squanto: Cool. Once you finish burying that fish with all the corn kernels, I have a question for you.

PJ: What’s up, man?

Squanto: OK. So I have a bunch of green beans, and I’m not sure what to do with them. Let’s play a game. How do you think we could turn something relatively nutritious into the most unhealthy and nutritionally void food imaginable?

PJ: Uh…add smallpox?

Squanto:

PJ: Hey, man, I’m just messing with you. I would say, like, deep fry them and mix them with—I don’t know, condensed milk?

Squanto: That sounds disgusting. But I was thinking about the next closest thing. We could fry some onions until they can no longer be classified as such, add them in and then top it all off with heavy cream.

PJ: Holy crap. I think you’re on to something.

* * *

And so it was: essentially, the first Friendsgiving. Now grocery stores sell everything pre-cooked and pre-fried in cans to make it even easier for us. No growing or harvesting—just pull the top off the can and viola.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

• A couple cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup (I literally have no idea how they manufacture this)
• A couple cans of pre-cooked, cut green beans
• One of those big ol’ cans of french fried onions
• Some salt, black pepper
• 1/2 c milk (I used soymilk…should still be OK, right?)

Mix together the green beans (drained, obvi), the mushroom soup (I used one full 10.75 oz can and half of another one, so about 15 oz total), the milk, and some salt and pepper to taste. Then add in, like, half of the onions.

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Pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. I’m not sure what baking does since everything is pre-cooked; I even tasted it before I baked it, and it was pretty much the same afterwards, only warmer. Pull it out, sprinkle on the remaining onions, and then bake it for another 5 minutes or so, until the onions on top are crisped. I mean—more crisped. Browner. Or, you can do what I did and just wait until one of your friends calls out from the kitchen, “It smells like burning.”

To compensate for the unhealthiness and sodium content of the casserole, I whipped up a salad with all my fave salad ingredients: baby spinach, goat cheese, pecans, craisins, strawberries (note: spinach and strawberries are two foods that you want to try to buy organic because they usually have the most pesticides. I know, this is a departure from my usual focus on not burning things), and blush wine vinaigrette. We also had mac ‘n’ cheese, potatoes, and beef for the carnivores.

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Happy Friendsgiving to all! My family recently started a turkey-frying tradition where we submerge the bird in scalding-hot oil, and all the men sit around it outside drinking scotch and smoking cigars and talking about how cool it is to fry a turkey. My mom stays inside and talks about how the turkey will probably explode and decimate everything within a 5-mile radius.

I’ll keep y’all posted.

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pretend-healthy comfort food

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I haven’t been as diligent about updating this as I’d hoped, but I’m feeling more motivated than I was. So, let’s get to it!

I made this recipe a while ago, and I’ve made it before. I originally got it from an old roommate and college friend of mine, Becca, who really should have her own cooking blog because she can actually cook. The food prep is quick, cook time is less than an hour, and the results are really a crowd-pleaser (I think I’m still in magazine-writing mode from this morning’s internship…I need a beer or something).

I had my friend Stephanie take some lovely photos of this meal, which I cooked for a couple of friends. I also just realized that WordPress provides suggestions of photos from the web to include with each post. Here’s one they suggested for today:

Some chicken, pork and corn in the barbeque

Some chicken, pork and corn in the barbeque (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can find a version of the recipe here, which I used as a guideline. I serve this dish—garlic roasted chickpeas and swiss chard—over cheese grits, because they are probably the most unhealthy thing you can make or eat, aside from chocolate cake with icing made of french fries.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 15oz cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 10 garlic cloves, whole and peeled (I cook with garlic so often, I don’t think I’ll ever get the smell off of my hands. Tip: supposedly rubbing your fingers on stainless steel removes the scent.)
  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 6 minced garlic cloves
  • 4 sliced shallots
  • 2 bunches Swiss chard (never heard of the stuff? Don’t fret. I hadn’t, either, until a few years ago. I also pronounced quinoa “Kwin-oh-ah” until a few years ago, when someone overheard me and kindly asked if I had been locked in a basement for the duration of my life. Chard is just a leafy green plant that’s used a lot in Mediterranean cooking. It’s a good source of vitamins A, K, and C, as well as fiber and protein. With this recipe, it helps fool you into thinking you’re being healthy.)
  • 1 1/2c vegetable broth

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In a baking dish (mine literally won’t fit into my EZ-bake because it’s too big, so I used a small, disposable casserole dish), combine the chickpeas, whole cloves of garlic (peeled—of course), and two of the sliced shallots. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper, and then drizzle your olive oil over the concoction. I used my hands to incorporate everything before wrapping it in foil and sticking it in the oven, preheated to 350 degrees. Bake this for about 45-55 minutes, or until the garlic and shallots are nice and soft, like an oven-baked baby’s bottom.

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Heat some olive oil in a pot on the stove, over medium heat. I say “some” because only an OCD person would measure for this kind of thing. Add the remainder of your shallots and cook them for about 10 minutes. Add in the Swiss chard, which, I forgot to mention, you need to tear into strips, and let it cook down. Pour the broth over the chard. Since I did not have vegetable broth, I dissolved a veggie bouillon in hot water.

Cook the chard until it looks done. If you have eyes that function, you should be able to tell. Once the chickpeas are finished roasting, add them into the chard and blend. I cooked some grits on the side with sharp cheddar and Monterrey jack cheese and plated the food in bowls—first the grits, then a healthy heap of chard and chick peas.

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Next on the cooking to-do list: coffee cake cookies. (So much for cutting out sweets…)

thai, take two

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I kind of wish I knew how to add MSG to things, because then this dish might have tasted better. The good thing about it, though, is that it’s a little bit gross, so after one serving you’re good to go and will probably feel nauseated for another hour.

I didn’t follow a recipe this time. Instead, in an uncharacteristic burst of culinary confidence, I winged it. So this shit’s original.

Here are things I purchased at a local, overpriced organic grocery store:

• one green bell pepper
• one shallot (what are shallots? They’re like tiny onions pretending to be garlic. ALSO, I just looked up a picture…are scallions the tops of shallots? My mind is blown)
• one clove garlic
• Pad Thai sauce (premade. That’s right. They don’t call me Sandra Lee for nothin’)
• brown rice noodles
• hydroponically grown alfalfa sprouts (that just means the place where I was shopping is pompous)

Here are things that I used and already had:

• some parsley (to help the plant feel like it has a purpose in the world aside from almost dying and then being brought back to life in a rain shower)
• an egg (you know how you always find pieces of egg in your takeout, and you kind of like it? That’s why)
• olive oil

Boil the nooders. I mean, noodles. Only for like five minutes. Don’t touch them once you drain them because not only are they flaming-lava hot, they’ll also stick to your fingers and continue to burn them even after you shake your hand furiously.

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While the noodles are draining somewhere else, pour some olive oil into your pot and add in some minced shallot and a few cloves of minced garlic. You might want to add in a hefty amount or cook them for less time, because as soon as I added in the noodles and other ingredients, the shallot and garlic disappeared. Like, fully disintegrated or something.

I cooked the minced stuff for about 5 minutes before adding in some parsley, in an attempt to make the dish taste more—fresh? Then I added in chopped green pepper, cooked that for about 5-10 more minutes, and then added in my premade Pad Thai sauce.

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Scramble an egg or two in a nearby pan, and kind of overcook it to mimic the chewy eggness found in restaurants. Add the egg in towards the end.

I added in the noodles, which had solidified into a single block much like their original packaged form. This took some finagling to fix. I’d recommend making exaggerated stirring motions with a metal fork.

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I tasted the dish, was unimpressed, added in some soy sauce and cayenne pepper, and then decided that I didn’t care. What’s that slightly sweet, slightly tangy artificial taste found in packaged Asian foods? Do you know what I’m talking about, or do I have a brain tumor? I can’t get that taste out of my mouth.

Top the dish with your alfalfa sprouts, which I can only assume are the same thing as bean sprouts. I now have no money and way too many bean sprouts. I don’t recommend adding chopped peanuts, and here’s why:

A list of things that peanuts belong with

1. Jelly, when they’re mashed up
2. Elephants in a circus
3. Raisins and other nut varieties in trail mix
4. Chocolate, on top of them
5. Whatever’s in a Snickers bar

A list of things that peanuts do not belong with

1. Anyone with a peanut allergy
2. Strangers’ greasy fingers when the nuts are sitting in a communal trough at a bar
3. The travesty that is circus peanuts, which don’t actually contain peanuts—just Styrofoam
4. Small, dumb things like children who choke easily
5. Savory dishes, such as noodles

So, please, forget the peanuts, unless you like an unexpected and horrifying crunch that is impossible to extract with any utensil, fingers included. They’re almost as bad as raisins in cookies or bread pudding, but that’s another post entirely…

ermergerd, fersh tercers

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Fish tacos are probably my favorite food, next to Thai takeout and pineapple pizza. Oh, and wine/chocolate. (My aspirational self loves celery and anything gluten/sugar-free!)

(She’s a dumb whorebitch!)

For good fish tacos, I think it’s all about the perfect balance of ingredients: tender, flaky white fish; crunch from raw cabbage or shredded lettuce; chunky, fresh salsa with mango, tomato and avocado; spicy, smooth chipotle mayo, etc. etc. (I’m such the gourmet! *pretentious fake laugh*)

With my brother David’s guidance (ex: “Don’t use a serrated knife on fish. That’s why it keeps catching.” On what? I asked. “On the meat” he casually replied. What? Why does it have strings?) and a little intentional sobriety, I was able to make fish tacos successfully. And I actually enjoyed the process.

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Speaking of sobriety, I’m on my second dark and stormy right now, so this might not be the most coherent post.

I’ve spent the week with my family at VA beach and opted to cook dinner one night because, you know, this blog content ain’t gonna generate itself. I used one recipe for guidance and also made a spicy mayo/sour cream sauce as an extra accompaniment.

Here’s what you’ll need:

• 2 lbs of any firm, white fish. I wanted to use Mahi, but ended up with cod, which worked fine.
• 3 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
• 1 1/2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
• 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
• 1/2 tsp. onion powder
• 1/2 tsp. oregano
• salt and pepper
• corn tortillas, to wrap up the shit.
• Shredded lettuce or cabbage

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Salsa:

• 1 1/2 mangos, cut into chunks
• 1 avocado, cut into chunks
• 1 roma tomato, chopped
• 1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo
• 1 clove minced garlic
• 1/2 lime, juiced
• 1/4 c fresh chopped cilantro
• salt and pepper

Rub your fish in the olive oil and then coat it in a generous helping of the dry seasonings after blending them all together. Do this on both sides of each fish fillet. Stick all the fillets in a pan and broil the suckers for like 5-7 minutes, or until…cooked.

Mix everything together for the salsa (duh). Serve with the fish.

If you would like another creamy sauce to serve, mix equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream in a bowl. Add in 2 tbsp. of sauce from chipotle in adobo and a few of the peppers, roughly chopped. (At first, I forgot to chop the peppers, so I had to extract them from the sauce. Unfortunately my brother and his girlfriend caught me in the act and snapped a picture.) Squeeze half a lime in there, too, and mix well.

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Set out both sauces, lettuce, tortillas (I was encouraged to grill each one individually on a skillet, which, had I been cooking for one, I wouldn’t have done), fish, whatever, and allow people to serve themselves.

My brother boiled some corn on the cob and coated it in chile powder to serve with the fish. Arriba!

takeout might have been a better call

I love Thai food. My favorite Thai place in town is Ruan Thai—I think I could eat my weight in their Pad See Ew or vegetable curry dishes. The curry is especially satisfying because it is so aromatic.

My aspirational self wants to cook and create all the lovely things found on Pinterest. But any pinner knows that those DIY projects and recipes are often too good to be true (hence why blogs like this exist). A few days ago, though, I spotted a curry noodle dish that looked pretty amazing, and super easy. So, I gave it a shot.

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The result? Pretty lackluster. It smelled way better than it tasted (isn’t that usually the opposite?) So if you want your apartment to smell like curry, well, just heat up some oil and mix in some curry paste, and voila. Just don’t bother continuing with the other steps unless you revel in disappointment. You masochist.

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I made a few changes to the original recipe based on what I had on hand, meaning, I added broccoli and a green bell pepper (I also much prefer green bell peppers to red bell peppers, which is what the recipe called for). Additionally, I had green curry (there were probably more options in the Kroger, but I wanted to move quickly as an older man who was mumbling to himself kept inching closer and closer to me), so my ingredients matched the color scheme. It’s always nice to have a monochromatic meal, right?

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I also did not use chicken broth and instead dissolved one of those mystifying vegetable bouillons in hot water. That probably also detracted from the flavor. Before serving the curry over my microwaveable noodles, I added a good helping of salt because A) I already feel bloated being on my period, but I thought I could kick up the bloated feeling a couple notches and B) it would have otherwise tasted like milky water.

The recipe calls for rice noodles, which you submerge in boiling water to cook. Those would probably taste a lot better in this dish than what I opted for: a cheap block of microwaveable stir fry noodles. Hey, don’t judge. After microwaving, they came out in a nice block shape, much like my mom’s can-shaped cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.

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For the curry, heat up some oil in a pan and then add in about, oh, maybe like…1/2 a cup of curry paste? Let this hang out for a while, and enjoy the delicious scent, because that’s maybe the high point of this experience.

Add a cup of water and a cup of the broth of your choice to the curry. Let this hang out, too. Then add your veggies and a can of coconut milk.

The recipe calls for 1/4 cup soy sauce, which, oops, I didn’t have. So I skipped this step. But I would highly recommend adding something with flavor and a high sodium content.

After all the ingredients have spent enough quality time together, pour the mixture over your noodles, or rice, or whatever you have. Then, try not to fall asleep over the bowl as you eat and wonder why you spent the time cooking Thai food when there’s a marvelous Thai restaurant just down the street.

simple asparagus pasta

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I came up with this simplistic recipe myself after realizing that I needed to cook the asparagus that had been sitting in my fridge for days (I always like to keep some on hand to add variety to the smell of my pee…my life is pretty uneventful). That’s right, folks, I came up with a recipe. Hence the fact that it is so easy, I think a blind paraplegic could do it.

Just kidding, they couldn’t.

All you need for this meal is some asparagus, some pasta, some herbs, maybe some salt and pepper, olive oil, and preferably a lemon.

Cook the pasta while you roast the asparagus in the oven. Spread the stalks out on a cookie sheet lined with foil, drizzle them in olive oil, lemon juice (I had no lemon and was sad about this fact), salt, and pepper. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and cook them for 10-12 minutes.

Once the asparagus and pasta are both cooked through, cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces. This was unexpectedly hard as fuck since the asparagus (asparagi?) were still not very tender, at all. Mix them in with the pasta and add a little extra olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. I’m growing some herbs on my balcony (not just aspirationally, but in real life!), so I tossed in some fresh sweet basil and Italian parsley, too.

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This would be good served with some grated Parmesan, but, alas, I don’t have that, either.

Enjoy! And remember to cite me if you use this recipe, since no one has come up with anything similar, ever. 😉

chickpea and potato picadillo

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I took Spanish in college, enough to realize that I’m terrible at speaking Spanish. So I’m not quite sure how to pronounce this…I’m guessing pee-ka-dee-yo.

Po-tay-toe. Ay-und.

I found this Latin American recipe on a site called the vegetarian times. I’m a fan of anything that involves chopping stuff up and cooking it in a big pot/pan for an indeterminate amount of time. Seems foolproof. And I felt like I needed a little redemption after burning the shit out of that bread.

Today my aspirational self (and chef) was a little more in line with reality. Despite sleeping through a 7:30 a.m. phone call informing me that a spot had opened up for me to sea kayak today with a meetup group, and despite waking up to a text from the aforementioned psychic saying “Hello Sorry I can NOT work with you,” I had a pretty nice day. The weather was perfect for an afternoon run followed by a trip to Kill-Me-Now Kroger and some apartment cleanup (idiot cat puked, twice. It is a useless and disgusting thing).

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This is entirely unrelated, but there is a woman who lives a couple of houses down from me who talks louder than anyone should ever talk, and somehow she’s always outside, talking. Her tone is exactly like those people you hear in supermarkets talking louder and slower to foreigners who can’t understand English. I want to do something abrupt like light my desk on fire and push it off the balcony. Anything to make her shut up for a second.

OK, back to the topic of this post. Killing this woman. I mean, sorry—I can’t hear myself think. Vegetarian picadillo.

Here’s what you need:

A fucking blowtorch

• 2 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 3 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 tbsp. ground cumin
• 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
• 1/3 cup dark raisins (dark raisins, as in, not Craisins? That’s what I assumed)
• 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano (so…I just had regular oregano)
• 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted, and they worked well)
• 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
• 1/8 tsp. ground cloves (oooh, I love the way these smell!)
• 1 c chopped green onions (equivalent to a little bundle you buy at the supermarket)

Put the potato chunks in a medium-sized bowl, fill it 1/3 with water, cover and microwave. This will start to cook them through and save time. Microwave for about 4-5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat (large, meaning, larger than the one you see in my picture—I had to stir carefully to avoid spillage) and add the cumin. Then add in the raisins, oregano, chickpeas and potatoes. Saute for a few minutes, then add in the red wine vinegar, cloves and canned tomatoes with juice. Bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. During the last couple of minutes, add in the green onions (I didn’t end up using all of mine. Additionally, I wished I had had more raisins. This might just be personal preference).

I served mine with brown rice and corn tortillas. I had a few friends over to eat, drink wine and play Cards Against Humanity, aka the best game on the planet (if you’re a horrible person…which, ahem, I’m trying not to be. Sometimes).

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