Kitchen Adventures

My friend (and bridesmaid and fellow blogger) Megan is kind of the ultimate planner. After I askew her to be in my wedding, she bought her shoes about two days later, asked permission to put together a wedding day emergency kit, and has volunteered on multiple occasions to be my “personal assistant” in planning when she’s bored at work.

Basically, if you want something done, you go to Megan.

So when I got the idea to have a dress up party for our friends (total disclosure: I wanted to have the party because I had a dress I really wanted to wear) who else would I turn to to help make it happen?

Thus the Classy Cocktail Party was born. We sent out a fancy evite and everything. We’re pretty legit.

The cocktail party also became the catalyst for trying a few new recipes. I made my first bruschetta, which I was actually quite nervous about, but it came out quite good according to the fiance (who, yes, I realize loves me more than anyone…I’ll still take the compliment). I also made mini cheesecakes.

The recipe was super simple. You make the crust out of graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar, per usual. Then press a couple tablespoons into muffin liners, bake for five minutes, then fill with your standard cheesecake batter:

{creamcheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla with raspberry compote}

The red stuff is a raspberry compote I made out of sugar and (you guessed it) raspberries. Drop a few dots on the top of each cheesecake, swirl with a toothpick, then bake the whole kit’n’kaboodle for twenty minutes. The fiance also enjoyed these. (I believe the exact words were, “You’re going to be a really good wife.” At this point, we would certainly hope so.)

I don’t want to brag, but the party was a raging success. I was worried about people getting into the semi-formal dress code, but it turns out I’m not the only one who likes to clean up now and then. And everyone looked really nice!

{friends, being classy}

Of course, no matter how good you are at planning, you can never control everything. You may notice the fiance is conspicuously absent from the photos. He ended up coming down with a sinus infection and had to miss the festivities. We were both disappointed, but what can you do? Immune systems are the ultimate party poopers.

Illness aside, we may have to make a tradition out of fancy get-togethers. I mean, after this whole “wedding” thing is over, Megan and I are going to need something to plan.

I haven’t been cooking as much lately. It’s not that I’ve lost interested in the idea, I just eat at home a lot less than I used to. Lunch (and often times, breakfast) takes place at work. And when I get home for dinner, The Fiance and I will usually grab something out or eat dinner that his parents’ have made at their house. (Delicious AND cost-effective!)

But Saturday a couple friend of ours had a bunch of people over for breakfast, and I figured it would be a great opportunity to make something new. Frittatas!

The best things about breakfast foods is that they have fancy names, but aren’t actually difficult to make. French toast? Sounds exotic and European, but it’s actually just bread dipped in egg and pan-fried. Omelet? Eggs mixed with literally whatever you throw in them.

And frittatas. Which, in principle are very similar to frittatas, but are baked like a pie. Quiche without the crust is how I described it.

I used a recipe my mom sent me, but then mixed up the ingredients for a second frittata. The first one had red pepper, red onion, chicken apple sausage, and mozzarella. The second one had asparagus, spinach, mozzarella, and feta cheese.

Here’s how it went down:

{saute chopped peppers and onions in olive oil}

{saute chopped asparagus and spinach in olive oil}

{mix a dozen eggs with 1/2 cup of half and half; divide into two parts}

{Combine veggies with egg mixture; pour into greased pie pans and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes}

{ta-da!}

So there you have it. A super simple breakfast treat that will please just about anyone (and is a snap to personalize!). I should do this cooking thing more often.

You know what I haven’t done in a while? A project/experiment. Fortunately, my friend Craig was apparently ALSO concerned with my lack of adventuresomeness and had a plan to fix it in the works.

Craig: i should do that cleanse!
i always wanted to try it
me: those don’t really do anything you know
Craig: i need a partner tho
i just wanna to say i did it
me: ha why?
Craig: mind over matter, makes me feel like i have control
me: but they’re bad for you!
Craig: i mean i know, but its only for a week or two and such an accomplishment
me: why do I get the feeling like you are trying to talk me into doing this with you?
Craig: because i am
just think of how awesome it will be to be apart of that elite smug crew
me: bahaha “We’re not eating…so we’re better than you.”

And that’s basically how I ended up agreeing to forgo food for ten days. Craig googled the basics, I emailed a friend of mine who does this fairly regularly for specifics, and after confirming that we were not pregnant or trying to get pregnant, we began.

Craig was initially VERY skeptical of my commitment.

Craig: are you gonna say no, if you say no it’s a waste of time to do the research
me: I guess I’ll do it, but if you quit midway I will punch you with whatever strength I have left
fair warning
Craig: our bones shall be fragile, so something will shatter

Now, let me preface (well, it’s a bit late for that…preneck?) that I am fully aware that cleanses can be bad for you. I tried explaining this to Craig and he said:

i (heart) how people are against it it makes me want to do it more

Well…that aside, I know several people who have done it with no negative complications, so…that’s all I got. (Basically, please don’t leave nasty comments about how it’s SUPERAWFULHORRIBLEFORYOU, because while I’m aware of the nutritional negatives and in general agree with your skepticism, I think we’ll be fine. It’s for ScIeNcE!)

ANYWAYS, we headed to Trader Joe’s on Sunday to stock up on…lemons. And cayenne pepper and syrup. And tea that apparently gives you “3-4 movements a day.” *Gag/shudder/gag*

{us with lemons...for the record, I'm not a midget; he's just 6'4"}

Craig: cannnnnnot wait, i hope we faint
ive always been very good at not eating all my life, so i should be able to not really care about the feeling hungry portion
me: you sound like you have an eating disorder

And we’re off!

So as you can probably assume, living in one of the most expensive areas of the country requires a fair amount of budgeting when your parents dont own a hotel.

And I’m not talking about avoiding hundred dollar shopping sprees, tickets to lavish events, or all-night benders at pricey clubs (though I avoid those, too). No, for me the guiltless cash-suck is something much more innocuous: lunch.

When I first moved to the city, it was difficult to get to the grocery store regularly. A supermarket with limited hours combined with the added detriment of only being able to purchase what I could carry meant I was often short on packable meals.

So I’d buy lunch. We’re not talking lobster or price rib here — often my meals were composed of lunch meat turkey if any meat at all — but after a while it alarmed me to discover that I could easily drop $10 on lunch without even blinking. Without getting anything fancier than a bowl of soup and a roll.

I’m a journalist, so my math skills aren’t exactly award-winning, but even I can figure that this pattern could mean spending up to $50 a week, $200 a month. And if you wanted to also meet up some friends for dinner or do anything with a price tag on the weekend? Forget it.

Not exactly budget friendly.

But, because I’m me, simply not eating lunch was, of course, not an option. So I started packing lunches. But you can only eat so many cold PB&Js and limp turkey sandwiches before you start feeling like an extra in Oliver. (“Please, sir, can I have some more?” “Sure, that’ll be $8.50.”)

Which brings me to the less depressing part of this post! I’m on a mission, folks, to make lunch (my favorite meal) awesome again, even on a tightened budget. In doing so, I have become quite the master of the toaster oven. For example, for a week or so I was whipping up these out of nothing more than some cheese, a tomato, and two slices of whole wheat bread:

image

And you GUYS. It was so good. Then I started making better use of leftovers. Ahem:

image

Marinated broiled chicken, wild brown rice, and sauteed peppers. Delish. This probably should have been a Kitchen Adventure, but it was one of those meals that I didn’t realize how awesome or pretty it was until I was hunkered in my bed watching Jersey Shore and chowing down.

So, I’m moderately poor. That doesn’t mean I can’t eat well. I think I’ll title my cookbook: The Cheap Girl’s Cookbook: Ladies Who Lunch Without Spending Much.

I’m going to Canada this week! My first vacation in a year! My first time to Canada! I’m really excited!

Phew. Glad I got that out of my system.

Of course, my impending trip also means that you guys will have to sit tight without a blog post for ten days. (Actually, who are we kidding. We all remember where we were during the apartment photo debacle of 2010. You’ll be lucky if you get a post within three days after I get back.)

Anyways, in anticipation of the blogging drought, I bring you THIS! My photo-packed-random-update post! Yay!

First, I had a very domestic evening the other day when I decided to actually USE one of those recipes on the back of a soup label to cobble together the random ingredients I had left in my fridge. (This was before my grocery shopping trip Saturday. Things are less creative now.)

You take cubed cooked chicken and cooked broccoli, slather them with cream of chicken soup (and theoretically milk, but I didn’t have it), sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese (but I honestly think the bread crumbs were more trouble than they were worth)…

{cooked broccoli & cooked chicken on the baby stove}

{Ingredients combined, pre-cooking}

Then pop it in the oven for 20 minutes or so, and viola! Dinner for the next six meals. Plus you can feel like you’re in a Campbell’s commercial. Mm, mm, good.

Next, a list of the new things in my life! First, this:

Air conditioning! Do you guys realize how hot it gets here? It’s insane. The humidity alone will knock you on your behind when you open the door. And what my unit lacks in beauty and youth, it makes up for in…the ability to still pump out cold air. Love.

Next, I got THIS:

A TV! Giving me access to things like FitTV, ABC Family, MTV, and movie channels! (Speaking of which, I KNOW it looks like I’m watching porn, but that’s actually a Jersey Shore rerun. Which should surprise no one.)

FINALLY, the boyfriend is out of town this weekend, but he let me use his car, so I had one of those for a few days, TOO. I went to the grocery store, as mentioned, and the laundromat (Lesson learned: You may THINK there are only two sizes of machines, but there are actually three. And the dryer may have a coin slot, but it’s actually free. Be observant. Save money.), AND I got my haircut!

It’s not really different, it just has more layers and fewer split ends. Win-win!

Ok, that’s enough random (and ALL CAPS) for now.

Ok, so this may be the lamest Kitchen Adventure post ever, but you KNOW I couldn’t not blog about my first cooking expedition in the new apartment.

So anyway, here goes. I made tortellini (store-bought) with marinara (store-bought). And commence photo sequence:

{ingredients}

{Emma always makes fun of the boiling water picture, but in this case, this was the cooking}

{combine tortellini and sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and you're done!}

Maybe not the height of my culinary skill, but I did manage to make dinner in about eight minutes. So, win some, lose some.