Kitchen Adventures

I rarely start the morning without breakfast. And in general, I prefer to eat eggs or something with a lot of protein (lest I find myself utterly famished at, like, 9:30 a.m.).

The only problem? A full breakfast can take a lot of time to prepare. And when you’re already waking up before the sun to make it to work on time, the last thing you want is to have to get up earlier to factor in cooking time.

I’ve shared my TOP SECRET (not) recipe for the 2-Minute Egg Sandwich, and while this is still one of my favorite meals (weird, I know), sometimes a girl needs a bit more. Like, you know, a vegetable.

I try to sneak in as many servings of produce throughout the day as I can. I never make a smoothie without throwing in a few handfuls of kale or spinach, and my afternoon snack almost always includes a piece of fruit. So while the egg sandwich dominates in terms of ease and heartiness, it’s kind of a failure in terms of vitamins and minerals.

Which is why I was pretty excited to learn about egg cups.

I’m certainly not the first person to make egg cups or egg muffins, as they’re sometimes called on Pinterest, so I claim no culinary genius here, but I figured I’d share my favorite (and super simple) way to make them.

Super-Simple Egg Cups

Ingredients:
12 eggs (I use veggie-fed, cage-free eggs…because I’m a tiny bit of a hippie.)
2 red bell peppers
1 white onion
3 cups of spinach, chopped
Hot sauce (optional…but recommended)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the above ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir to combine.
3. Lightly spray a muffin tin with cooking spray or canola oil.
4. Distribute the egg mixture in the muffin tin cups and bake for 30-50 minutes. Serve warm with a couple dashes of hot sauce if desired.

BAM. Breakfast is served.

You can serve them all at once if you’re having company, or the egg cups will keep for about four days in a sealed container in the fridge. Microwave two at a time for 40 seconds to reheat for breakfast all week.

Not bad, eh? What would you put in your egg cups?

 

You asked for more single-girl meals (well, some of you did…), and that’s exactly what you’re going to get.

For those of you that aren’t single or girls, you can just call this a budget meal for people who don’t have time to cook anyway. It’s just less catchy.

The key to a good SGM is that is has to only require ingredients you probably already have on-hand, serve roughly one person (two if it can keep until lunch the next day), and cost less than $5 to make.

Challenge…accepted.

I give you:

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Super-Simple Chickpea Salad
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion
2 T feta cheese
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste

Y’all ready for this? Combine the above ingredients. Welp, you’re done.

Here’s what I like about this recipe, besides the fact that its cheap and simple and tasty:

1. It can be a snack, a side dish, or even a meal. (I mean, when you’re eating for one, whom do you have to impress?)

2. On the off chance you do want to impress someone with this salad, you just have to throw in a few extras, like wilted spinach, chopped tomatoes or cucumber, or even some cold chicken pieces if you’re feeling extra ritzy.

So there you have it. You’re welcome.

Whenever Joey and I are running low on groceries and lacking the funds or motivation to buy more, we’re forced to get a bit more creative with what we eat for dinner. The result?

For one, we clean out our fridge and pantry, which makes me feel better about using what we have instead of over-buying. Go, responsible consuming!

For another, we eat a lot more of what I have affectionately dubbed “Single Girl Dinners.”

I’ve discussed the gist of Single Girl Dinners before, but I feel like the topic has been coming up a lot lately as more and more of my friends pair off and get married or move in with their dudes.

Basically, it’s anything you would eat as a meal but would never serve to a guest. I’m willing to bet at least three different weird things you have eaten for dinner but never bragged about just popped into your brain.

The point is, I’ve decided to embrace the Single Girl Dinner (and possibly just amend it to the Low On Groceries Dinner). Especially since, for the last week, Joey has been taking a night class, so in general, I’m on my own for how I feed myself.

It’s weirdly…liberating. And I get a little nostalgic for my poor, single girl days. Don’t get me wrong; I love being married and love cooking real, would-serve-to-a-guest meals, but curling up on the couch eating tuna salad and crackers and watching Bravo by myself inspires a feeling I can only describe as decadent.

Plus, it makes a great lunch the next day! See?

I don’t know, you guys. Between Joey taking over the weekday cooking duties and me embracing these super easy “meals,” I’m a little worried my cooking muscles will start to atrophy. So for old time’s sake, let’s make this a quick Kitchen Adventure, shall we?

Single Girl’s Fancy Tuna Salad & Crackers
2 cans of tuna, drained
1/2 cup of non-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
Whole wheat crackers

Combine all ingredients (except the crackers) in a small bowl. Spread on crackers. Enjoy. (Keeps in an air-tight container for lunch the next day.)

SEE? Eating whilst single is beyond easy. Also, it’s kind of pathetic I blogged this. Having second thoughts…but it’s been too long since I posted so I’m keeping it. But Lord knows I need to stop scraping the bottom of the barrel sometime soon.

Or at the very least, start eating more dinners that don’t call for crackers.

I’m pretty sure even my husband would have no problem admitting that, between the two of us, I’ve always been more of the chef.

“Chef” used loosely here. I mean, I can cook. But nine times out of ten I’m just throwing things in a pan, incorporating one of my tried-and-true cooking methods, and then just holding my breath and hoping for the best.

One meatloaf mishap aside, I think we could say with a fair amount of certainty that this system has been pretty successful. And in general, I like cooking. It’s a good way to unwind at the end of the day sometimes.

Then I got that pesky new job in the city. (Still accepting postcards, by the way!)

And while so far I love everything about the job, the commute does limit the time I spend at home in the evening. So we were faced with a choice: Either we don’t eat until after nine every night, or Joey learns to cook.

I should clarify that he can cook. The boy makes a mean omelette, and he once whipped up a gorgeous dinner of pork chops, sautéed asparagus, and mashed potatoes. He just doesn’t do it often, and it takes him a while. (The pork chops? I kid you not, took him about seven hours from start to finish.)(They were, however, the best pork chops I’ve ever had.)

I think the main thing holding Joey back was just an unfamiliarity with the kitchen and cooking. He knew the basics, but as soon as he encountered anything new, he got nervous and just had no idea what to do with it.

In the weeks leading up to my new job starting, I tried to incorporate Joey into cooking more. Even if he was just hovering over my shoulder watching how I do things (“This is how you roast broccoli…this is how you make sure the chicken is cooked through…”), the main goal was for him to have a general idea of how to cook just about anything.

Wednesday was his first night in the kitchen since I started the job.

He made baked chicken Parmesan and roasted broccoli.

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Success! it really was delicious, and he will probably be eating the leftovers tonight.

Then Thursday, he took a play from my book and threw a bunch of veggies and some sliced chicken sausage in a pan to sautée. Then he even created his own creamy cheese sauce to put over some whole wheat pasta. I didn’t even teach him that one!

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He even threw together a little spinach salad for a starter.

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So our little experiment has been successful so far. But more important than the actual food, it has made me so grateful to be married to someone who has no problem stepping up when his family needs something. At the risk of getting mush all over this blog, it makes me love him even more every night.

And, you know, not just because he’s handing me a warm plate of delicious food.

I was going to start this post with something like, “Well, let’s talk about something that doesn’t make us all feel grown-up beyond belief: PARTIES.” But then I remembered that the purpose of the party I want to discuss is to announce the gender of my friends’ baby. So…let’s talk about something that makes us feel grown-up beyond belief AND is super fun!

So remember the gender reveal party for my friend Megan I’ve mentioned a few times? Well, it was on Sunday.

{the parents-to-be}

If you’ve never heard of a gender reveal party (first, don’t feel bad; they’ve only picked up in popularity over the last year or so), it’s when the couple has the doctor put the gender of their baby in an envelope, and then they give it to someone who plans an event around announcing the results. Some couples will hire a photographer and open a box with either pink or blue balloons in it, and some people have a pink or blue cake made that they then cut into during the party. We went for that option.

And it went just about as well as I could have hoped for. Here’s a break-down of the evening.

How I Decorated

I’m convinced that the key to successful party decor is simply picking a color palette and sticking with it. For Megan’s party, I chose the very gender-neutral palette of black, white, and red. (Don’t think red is gender neutral? Here’s a fun fact for you: Nine times out of ten, when a guy lives alone and wants to add something decor-y to his apartment, he’ll paint a red accent wall. I have no idea why, but this seems to be the go-to.)(I made up that stat, but seriously; dudes love red accent walls.)

Here’s what we started with:

And here are a few detail shots of how I jazzed the place up:

{treat table}

{baby name suggestions}

{place your bets!}

Another motif I used was chalkboards. Everyone voted for whether they thought Baby E was going to be a boy or a girl, there was a chalkboard for the photo booth, and I used mini tags I had painted with chalkboard paint to label the food.

What We Ate

Speaking of food, there was plenty available at the party. Because we had invited about 30-35 people, Megan and I agreed it would be better to keep the party food to appetizers and desserts, along with a few choice drinks. (Click the links for recipes if you’re interested!)

There was a champagne punch:

A non-alcoholic “Megan Punch“:

S’mores bars (Which, it has to be said, might possibly be the greatest thing I have ever eaten. Seriously. Make these now.):

Joey even got in on the excitement and whipped up his first baking adventure ever with these No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars (he subbed in white chocolate chips for the regular chocolate chips because he doesn’t like chocolate…I know, he’s weird), which were also amazing:

And, of course, the cake, complete with homemade buttercream frosting. (I skipped the sprinkles in the cake recipe and added food coloring to dye the inside.)

I created the sprinkle heart on top by cutting a heart out of a piece of paper, laying the outline on the cake, pouring sprinkles in the opening, and then removing the paper.

There were also quite a few other treats contributed by party guests:

There really weren’t any treats that weren’t loved by all, so I can highly recommend all the recipes.

What We Did

A gender reveal party is a little different from a baby shower in that there’s less organization to it. Basically, I just looked at it as a little party where we happened to cut a cake near the end. For the first hour, when they weren’t eating, people would leave their votes for what the baby would be, suggest silly or serious baby names, and pose in our DIY photobooth (if you thought the baby was going to be a boy, you wore the hat and mustache; if you thought it was a girl, you wore the bow):

I thought about organizing a game or something, but in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t. Everyone seemed to be fine with catching up and relaxing until the big moment.

Because the party started at seven on a Sunday night, I planned to have the cake cutting at eight. (Just enough time for everyone to arrive, but not so late that people who had to work the next day would be irritated.)

When the big moment came, Megan and her husband Bill cut the cake, and…

It’s a boy!

I could not be more excited for them — they are seriously going to be the best parents. Plus, I’m SO glad I don’t have to hold that secret in anymore!

Love you SO much, B+M! Can’t wait to meet your little man :)

Have any of you ever planned/attended one of these parties? What did you think? Personally, I think it’s such a great way to celebrate that moment (while still giving Type A people like me time to plan for the baby), but I know some people prefer to keep it a surprise. Share your thoughts in the comments!

I consider myself a fairly decent cook. I mean, I’m not getting super fancy on anything. But Joey and I are always fed and almost always happy with what I make.

More importantly (in my opinion), I’m pretty capable at taking a bunch of random ingredients and throwing together an entree and a few side dishes on the fly.

I’m not kidding. The recipes I “invent” are literally discovered through the thought process of, “Well, I like {insert food} and I like {insert other food}…so I would probably like them together? Maybe?”

Most of my favorite recipes since I started cooking for myself have been happy accidents, where certain foods that I knew would taste okay together have wound up tasting AMAZING. ON ACCIDENT. I love that. I very rarely follow recipes (unless they’re from my momma) beyond glancing at the ingredients to get a general idea of other combinations of food that work for other people.

I guess that’s the difference. I just look at all meals as a combination of food instead of a recipe. Maybe that’s what makes it less intimidating?

The point is, while there are definitely MUCH better chefs and bakers out there (this girl, this girl, and this girl, to name a few), I think I have a couple of super basic tips that any just-starting-to-cook person can appreciate.

1. The only spices you really need in your cabinet are cinnamon, garlic powder, cumin, and paprika.
Are salt and pepper considered spices? (I told you, I’m not an expert.) I don’t think they are. You should have those too.

But in terms of straight up comes-in-the-spice-rack spices, the four aforementioned spices will be enough for just about anything you’re going to make regularly. Especially the last three. You can add them to veggies, meat, rice — really any savory food — for flavor you didn’t even know you were capable of. (You can also use them to replace taco seasoning packets, which are made up of basically the same mixture plus tons of sodium. You’re welcome.)

And cinnamon is just good on almost everything. Fact.

Occasionally you’ll probably run into a specific recipe that requires something else, but for the day-to-day-I’m-just-going-to-whip-something-up-out-of-whatever-is-in-the-fridge cooking, these four will do ya.

2. The easiest way to cook vegetables.
I have a friend, who is married to my other friend. He love vegetables, but she does virtually all of the cooking and, for whatever reason, is intimidated by cooking vegetables. I’m intimidated by making meatloaf and potatoes (AFTER THE WORST KITCHEN DISASTER IN MY HISTORY OF COOKING), so I don’t judge. We all have our things.

But the thing is, vegetables are quite possibly the easiest thing in the world to cook. Especially if you know how to roast them. Want to know how? Okay, pay CAREFUL attention.

First, set your over to about 375 degrees. Wash your veggies and either cut or slice them into whatever shape seems normal (for example, cut broccoli into chunks, cut tomatoes into slices…but honestly, you can’t mess this up). Toss the cut-up veggies with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (or garlic salt). Spread on a baking sheet and bake. THAT’S IT.

For most veggies, you only need to roast them about 15 minutes. Denser vegetables, like beets or potatoes, can take up to an hour. Check on them a few times to determine the best length of time for your oven.

3. The easiest meal to cook ever.
Are you ready for this? Grab 2-3 vegetables out of your fridge. (Almost anything will work…broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, green beans, spinach, kale, swiss chard, WHATEVER.)(Ok, just not potatoes or beets…as I said, they need special treatment.) Wash and chop them.

While they’re draining, prepare a pot of quinoa or rice or pasta on the stove. Let boil/simmer.

Back to the veggies. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan. Add the veggies and saute for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic powder, cumin, and paprika (told you they’re helpful!) — however much you want, but a couple of shakes of each should do the trick. Or you can get really fancy and throw a few chopped garlic cloves into the mix.

When quinoa/rice/pasta is done, and the veggies are fragrant and soft (but not mushy), combine everything. Add hot sauce or lite soy sauce (for quinoa and rice) or a bit more olive oil (for pasta) if you like. If you want protein, throw in a scrambled egg, pre-cooked chicken or shrimp, or even a tuna from a can. EAT IT.

Speaking of hot sauce…

4. When in doubt, add hot sauce or cheese.
You guys. How did I not know about the wonders of hot sauce until, like, three weeks ago? YOU GUYS. It’s really, really good, in case you didn’t know. And better than that, it covers a multitude of sins.

If you’ve whipped up virtually anything, and the flavor just isn’t doing it for you, add a few drops of hot sauce or a couple tablespoons of feta or parmesan cheese. I don’t know why this works, but it has never failed me. One of those three ingredients has saved many a bland dish in my house. Make sure you always have them on-hand.

In general, the best way to get comfortable cooking is by, well, cooking. Once you’ve cooked a fillet of fish, you know how to cook almost every fillet of fish. Once you’ve learned how to cook vegetables, you know how to cook almost every vegetable.

Remember, you’re just combining foods. Don’t be intimidated!

Okay, opening the floor to people who actually know what they’re talking about. What are your super basic, super general cooking tips that you didn’t really learn until you had been cooking for a while? I wanna hear ’em.