Archive for the ‘lazy chef’ Category

Hello! Did we all make it through last week’s super heavy but therapeutic (at least for me!) post? Good. Thanks for sticking around. I’m going to talk about my fridge.

It looks like this on the inside:


Not too shabby, right? Probably too much food for a single lady who lives alone, but whatever, it’s my money/house/body, I do/eat what I want! (That includes keeping tomatoes in the fridge, I know it’s a sin, sorry I’m not sorry.)

You’ve probably noticed a plethora of soup in there. I frickin’ love soup so much it hurts. My mom makes the best chicken noodle in the world, and as much as I whined about weeks’ worth of soup dinners as a kid, there is something comforting and easy about a soup lunch or dinner. I’ve been making the magic soup we made in December about once every seven to ten days or so, and then bringing it to work most days. I’m not even bored with it yet! I think there are two reasons for that:

  1. It reminds me of the Polish kitchens of my youth. Aww!
  2. I change it up every day.

Since the base of the soup is super simple (you’ll recall: garlic and onions, any green/crunchy veggies you’ve got around the house, whole cabbage, diced tomatoes) you can play around with it. I’ve been doing half of a spicy chicken andouille sausage some days. Rice every once in a while. I threw an avocado in there a couple of times and it was like tortilla soup without the tortillas! That was pretty great. In the leftovers bowl on the middle shelf there, I’ve got some ground beef (leftover from tonight’s attempt at homemade bibimbap; it was… not the most successful). With a little rice, it’s going to be my lazy woman’s version of golabki (pronounce this go-WUMP-kee), or stuffed cabbage.

You’ll also see a lot of juice in the fridge, left over from my weekend of perpetual sniffles and Patty and Selma voice. Part of my “clean livin'” attempts include healthy breakfasts, so I’ve been doing a smoothie on the way to work, then a small bowl of oatmeal or a Luna Bar once I get there. Don’t worry, I still go to town on Bagel Day at the office. My daily smoothie recipe: plop of yogurt (about half of a little cup or a big ol’ scoop of Greek yogurt, whatever), a handful of strawberries, one small banana, maybe some sorbet (I really like coconut because obviously that’s the least healthy option), and OJ. Blend with immersion blender. 

Also seen but unlabeled: Plum sauce that has been in the fridge since the week I moved into my apartment, sour cream that I only used for mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving and prune juice that I haven’t been brave enough to open yet.

Not pictured: my fruit basket (holds mostly citrus and garlic), cabinet full of baking supplies and the multiple stashes of Gummy Tummies tucked around my kitchen and living room. I promise, real recipes will return at some point. I turn 27 this week so expect some sort of “almost 30!” crisis coming down the pike! I predict: more whoopie pies.



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Ever since I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own pad, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to truly be an adult. There’s a lot of self-sufficient things one can do, but some of them are deceptively childish, in my own, highly subjective opinion.

Some examples:

Adult Activity: getting a credit card

Child Activity: sinking yourself into credit card debt

Adult Activity: Inviting some friends over for drinks

Child Activity: Inviting some friends over for drinks in your messy apartment, but not having enough food/drink/ice/potential sleeping arrangements available.

Adult Activity: Opening a 401k and contributing the max your employer will match

Child Activity: Letting your money languish there after you leave your job… for two years and counting :-/ (oops)

Feeding oneself, I believe, is a big factor in one’s relative adulthood. This isn’t to diss anyone else’s choices, but for me, if I’m being a responsible grown up, that means I am subsisting primarily on real foods that will nourish my body, increase my health and well being, and taste good. This has evolved as I’ve grown older: in college, all I was aiming for is Having Enough Food When I Needed It Where I Needed It, when I first moved here I was mostly concerned with Having Enough To Eat On A Small Budget. But I’ve gained confidence in the kitchen, become more grocery-savvy, and changed some of my values since then, so while I’d still like to have enough to eat when I want it and for a low price, that doesn’t mean I have to eat marinara and noodles for dinner or sip Slimfasts anymore.

I’ve already talked some about how meal planning is a Big Fat Adult Thing To Do. It is. It sucks. It’s hard and complicated and while I think I’m getting much better at it, I still mess it up. See: midweek, over-budget shopping trip because I ran out of non-dinner food on Tuesday. TUESDAY!

But there’s more to Feeding Yourself than planning an expert meal plan and matching grocery list. Adulthood can also be measured in what you do when your Adult System fails.

Child Activity: When your friends come over with little notice, just shrug and laugh off your disgusting living habits.

Adult Activity: At least attempting to pick up a little make sure you clear off the futon and wipe the bathroom sink.

Child Activity: When you know you’re going to come home late from work and not have enough time to cook, just order takeout!

Adult Activity: Learn to cook some things that are as wholesome as they are delicious that you can cook in no time flat.

Jessica’s Pesto Mushroom Sandwiches

I started making these sandwiches, actually, to replicate a favorite panini I like to order at one of our local delis, The Real Deal.

It’s not quite as good, of course, but it stands up against the competition, and save for the mushrooms, it is mostly made of ingredients that I have lying around my house on the average day.


Whole grain bread

Butter or olive oil

One package of mushrooms, white or baby bella (or probably any kind of mushroom you like! I buy them whole and slice them myself, but do what you wish. Presliced shrooms are better than a Big Mac)

One normal-sized onion

Salt & Pepper

Balsamic vinegar

Shredded Cheese (I always have sharp cheddar, but I could see this working with Swiss or Provolone or Mozzerella or something creamy and delish. Don’t get it pre-shredded though. Yuck.)



Step One: Slice up onion and mushrooms. I like to slice the onions into long pieces (fajita-style?) and the mushrooms pretty thin so my sandwich doesn’t get too fat.

Step Two: In a sauce pan or skillet, heat a little olive oil or butter on low-medium- enough  to saute the onions. Then… saute the onions.

Step Three: When the onions are soft, add the mushrooms. Stir and then cover the pan and let cook until the mushrooms let out their liquid and look soft and tasty – a few minutes. Then remove lid and let some of the liquid evaporate – another few minutes. Season with salt and pepper while you wait and toast your bread to get prepared.

Step Four: When the mushroom juice is almost gone, add a splash of balsamic vinegar – not too much, a mid-sized splash goes a long way! Cook until most of that liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are at a good consistency to put on bread.

Step Five: Spoon mushrooms onto toast. Sprinkle cheese on top to melt a little bit. Spread mayo and pesto on the other piece of bread.

Step Six: Unite two pieces of bread into a SANDWICH. Eat. Revel in your ability to feed yourself.

I don’t always plan ahead, I don’t always take the high road, and sometimes when I have perfectly good planned meals ready to make, I answer the siren song of Indian delivery or Anything-to-Go. But I’m also slowly gathering an arsenal of recipes good for different occasions… and I think the Too Busy To Cook occasion is probably a more frequent event than a dinner party or other event.

Simple, tasty meals that don’t take long or require too many ingredients: to me, that’s the fuel for a real adult.

P.S. Full Disclosure: the pesto mushroom sandwich, although delicious, is not TRULY an emergency food… unless you are one to keep your fridge constantly stocked with mushrooms.

When I’m really trapped at home without a meal on the horizon and no time to dream something up, this adult chooses something quintessentially childish:

Boxed Mac & Cheese with frozen peas.

Pro-tip! Throw the peas into the simmering water a few minutes before the noodles are done cooking. They will defrost quickly, the frosty-freezer ice will melt into the water and drain out, and it all ends up in the same strainer anyway!

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My love of beer is well-documented. And by that I mean a quick scan of my Facebook photos show that in my electronically chronicled time on this planet, I frequently have a beer in my hand.

Like here, for instance.

It’s a good thing employers can’t get at my Facebook, although of course this blog is Google-able, so they might find out this way. We only take pictures at parties and ballgames, guys! I can’t help it!

I like plenty of beers, from the cheapy cheap stuff I used to swill at Schuberg’s in Big Rapids to the fine microbrews of Shorts Brewery, my favorite in all the land, to the Natty Bohs I enjoy at local dives now. But I’ve found a better way to enjoy all those carbs: ADD MORE CARBS.

That’s right, I’m makin’ beer bread.

This is really easy, and I made two loaves this weekend that are already out of the house, used as collateral for a swap for homemade strawberry jam. The basic ingredients for beer bread, or 3-2-1 bread, are as follows.

You’ll need:

3 C self-rising flour (or, alternately, 3 C regular flour with 3 tsp baking powder and 1.5 tsp salt)

2 Tbsp sugar

1 can/bottle of beer (I used a Sam Adams Boston Lager in honor of my co-blogger Jessica and also a sale at Giant)

Mix all these together. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 375 for an hour.

That’s seriously it. Of course, you can dress it up a bit. To one loaf I added fresh basil. To another I added cinnamon, walnuts and a little vanilla. You can go crazy with this. I recommend pouring butter or a butter-like substance over the top about ten minutes before you stop baking, but go crazy and do what tastes right.

And of course, have one on me.

This picture is three pairs of glasses old.

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So, as this blog’s resident vegetarian, Jessica handles most veggie-based entries. However, I’m going to have to pick up the slack because A) it’s farmers market season and B) all baking and no salads makes me pudgier than usual.

I have always liked most veggies, but I never tried brussels sprouts until I moved to DC. Part of that was because we never had them when I was growing up, and part of it was, I think, their reputation as The Worst of the vegetable kingdom. My friend Jessie proved otherwise.

I’ve had the roasted sprouts at Zaytinya, Jose “PUT YOUR NOSE IN THE BOX OF PEACHES” Andres’ small plates place. Mine are not as good as the ones there. But mine are pretty good, and adapted from Ina “The Barefoot Contessa” Garten’s recipe.

You’ll need:

A bunch of brussels sprouts

Olive oil

Maybe some garlic

Tons of salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash your sprouts. Chop off the butt ends and then cut ’em in half. Take off any leaves that look yellow or less than delicious tiny cabbage things.

Ew. See ya, guys.

Toss the good halves in olive oil, salt and pepper. You could add some garlic here if you wanted. Maybe a little onion powder.

Spread ’em on a cookie sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, tossing a couple of times so they don’t stick to the sheet and do get all brown and delicious.

I make these when I’m too lazy to make anything else for dinner. They are delicious as a side or a main course. Get your greens in, friends.


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Get yourself a crock pot.

Seriously, mine is my favorite thing in the wintertime. Dump in some meat, some veggies, some liquid. Go to work. Come home to the greatest smells of all time.

This isn't as flattering as it could be.

When I lived in Big Rapids, I interviewed this phenomenal chef who gave me all kinds of easy-peasy recipes to cook in the wintertime, real comfort food. His recipes were all delicious, but the best one is the one I’ll share here (and the one I make about once a month in the winter).

You’ll need:

A good pork butt, bone-in (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID) (no, seriously, the pork butt is good, but if you keep kosher, you might try a pot roast instead)

Enough dark beer to cover  the meat (I like Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark, but Guiness works too. Pick one that you’ll like so you can finish the six-pack)

Onion, if desired. I bet a carrot would be nice here, too.

Throw everything in the crock pot. Salt and pepper. Make sure the beer is covering your meat completely. Put the crock pot on low and go about your day. Come home and enjoy, preferably with cheesy potatoes and green beans.


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I have a theory that, just like Anton Ego in Ratatouille, the right foods can transport us back in time, to the first or best time we ever tasted something important. Especially under stress, we want these familiar tastes – that’s why we crave simple, wholesome things. Seriously, no one wants an eel roll when they’re sick. Nobody’s crying for lobster thermidor after a long day at the office. We just want something easy and tasty.

In my house, that’s breakfast for dinner.

My mom makes, easily, the best french toast in the world. What is her secret? A little ground black pepper in the dip. It makes all the difference.

You’ll need:

Some bread (here I used a raisin bread from the farmer’s market but seriously any bread will do)

Eggs (however many)

Milk (whatever)

Splash of vanilla

Dash of cinnamon (if desired)

ground pepper (mandatory if you want it to taste good)

Syrup (necessary) and garnish of fruit (who cares at this point; you just want dinner)

Mix up the egg and milk. Throw in your aromatics. Dip a bread slice in, both sides. Fry. Seriously, you’re thinking about it this much? It is BREAKFAST FOR DINNER. You clearly had a crummy day. Why don’t you pop on an episode of 30 Rock and relax. This’ll be ready in no time.

Feel better, champ. Tomorrow’s a new day.


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one part Blue Moon

one part Orangina


one part Two Buck Chuck Sauvignon Blanc

one part Orangina


Because, sometimes, you feel super classy. And you bought an impulse Orangina that afternoon.”

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