Tomorrow is Thursday (actually it’s going to be Thursday in about 30 minutes), so that means I have almost made it to vacation. I cannot wait to have a full week off of work… I haven’t had more than a few days off since last summer when I went on an *almost* three-week vacation.
I cannot wait to be off work, first and foremost. Being out of the city and in Maine is secondary. Is that sad?! Probably. I just really cannot wait. I don’t want to do anything I don’t want to do (I will be on my own schedule, I will not be conned into eating breakfast (I don’t do breakfast, darling), or even worse, conned into eating a breakfast at 8 a.m.). Life is about to be so good for 7 days.
I’ve been off and on fake tanning for the last week or so. I did a heavy application of St. Tropez self bronzing mousse last weekend and loved the result, but then went to my friend’s house where I marinated in a hot tub all night, and as a result, lost the entire tan.
As you can see, there is always some discoloring on the palms and around the ankles, but for a redhead who is pale as fuck and doesn’t tan…. it’s totally worth it to have a few splotches. I get so jealous in the summer when every single person is tan as fuck – everyone looks better tan! You automatically look thinner and your muscles look more defined when your skin is darker. However, I must admit that I feel self-conscious walking around in broad daylight with my fake tan, because I feel like I look orange (like Donald Trump orange) and people are staring at me. Than again, it could all just be in my head…. I don’t know.
I do know the tan photographs well, but that might be about it. I also know my legs look way better in shorts when they’re tan and/or orange. It makes it hard to choose between the lessor of two evils… white and bruised, or fluorescent orange and thinner…
Anyhow! I cannot wait for Maine. I am going to go sea kayaking, and biking, and eat seafood chowder, and just fucking relax. It’s really hard for me to relax….
I cooked this awesome Cacio e Pepe on Monday night, with shrimp on top. I was inspired by an Italian food blog I follow on Instagram, although I couldn’t locate the post again to share here. The recipe that follows is my own, made-up version, as the blog I follow doesn’t post recipes.. only pictures.
Pecorino Romano (whole wedge/block which you’ll grate a full cup of)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 box farfalle (the Italian term for pasta “bow ties”)
1 lb. fresh or frozen shrimp
Fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
pasta water (water taken from pasta pot)
2 Tbs. butter
1/3 cup olive oil
Peel and rinse shrimp (thaw first, if you’re starting with frozen), and then chop into fine pieces and set aside in small bowl
Squeeze juice from one lemon over onto the shrimp, and add some salt and pepper to taste, along with 2 Tbs. olive oil; mix together and set aside.
Put on a large pot of heavily-salted water onto high heat and bring to a boil (for pasta)
While the water heats up…
FOR THE SAUCE:
In separate bowl, add 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grate in 1 full cup of fresh Pecorino Romano, add one egg, 1/4 cup olive oil, and a GENEROUS amount of black pepper (1 Tbs. plus some)
Whisk the above mixture together until thick and uniform – set aside!
Once the water is boiling, add in the box of pasta and stir occasionally
Boil pasta for recommended length of time (according to instructions on box)
BEFORE YOU DRAIN THE PASTA, ladle out 1/2 cup of pasta water using a measuring cup or ladle, and pour directly into your sauce mixture and whisk IMMEDIATELY until uniform!
Drain the pasta and add back to pot and place over lowest possible heat setting, stir in the sauce, remove from heat, and set aside
You would have an amazing Cacio e Pepe at this point if you wanted to call it a day and/or you don’t want to cook or don’t actually like shrimp… the shrimp just brings it to another level of heavenly-ness and makes the dish look better
FOR THE SHRIMP:
Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil over low heat in a saute pan
Add in shrimp and stir around until cooked through (shrimp turns orange when cooked)… DO NOT over cook. Since the shrimp is chopped so finely, it should only take a couple of minutes max.
Plate your pasta, and top with a couple spoonfuls of shrimp
Chop the basil and sprinkle fresh basil on top to finish
Update: I stopped writing last night because I was too tired to finish the recipe. It is now Friday at 12:19 a.m. and I have only one more work day until I am home free and on vacation. Hallelujah!
I have a great idea for my next blog… how to survive a recession from someone who has already been there and done that. I have the ultimate tips for surviving on no money, minimal food, and the stress of being in a recession without a steady job or paycheck.
I am really happy right now because I found a pair of my favorite Hollister boyfriend-style, super-low rise jeans, in mint condition for only $10. This is the only thing “giving me life” (as the kids nowadays like to say…) on a Monday evening. What a fucking steal!
My favorite light-wash, destroyed boyfriend jeans from Hollister (*which I have had for the past 5 years), I have literally worn to pieces. They were already “destroyed” when I bought them, but now the holes that they came with are basically the entire length of the jeans, and I’ve worn them so much that they are loose around the waist because every thread of elastic has been worn out. It’s a miracle I was able to find the same pair again since they’re no longer carried in stores. Thank God for second-hand, online retailers! It’s the small things in life….
I didn’t go home for Easter this year. I hate missing family holidays… especially now that my parents are getting older, I’m getting older, and I’ve realized I am not and they’re not as immortal as I once upon a time thought when I was in my early twenties. It’s hard to go home for a “weekend” when you’re not off on Friday or Monday however, and therefore would either have to request off one of the aforementioned days, or take public transit and then come home same day. Easter is a holiday that falls on a Sunday every year – it doesn’t make sense to not be granted the following Monday after off, even if it’s a religious holiday – travel time people!
I made do given the circumstances and prepared a delicious meal for two. I know most people have an Easter ham or some sort of roast, but since It was only the two of us, and I’m still trying to refrain from eating land animals (***there have been a few slip ups when intoxicated) I decided to make seafood instead. I’ve realized that everything looks fancier when it’s served over a puree or sauce, so in order to make this meal special for the holiday, I decided to make a split-pea puree to accompany the scallops. I also made mussels in a white wine sauce, and a salad for some greens/fiber.
This is a meal to cook if you want to impress someone – whether it’s a significant other, your mother, your father, a good friend, or someone you really care about and generally just want to treat well. It not only tastes fucking amazing, but it’s also a filling meal, which I find important, and the presentation is what makes it especially impressive when served in the comforts of your own home.
FOR THE SPLIT-PEA PUREE
1 cup of dried split-peas
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 small Idaho or white potato (peeled and cut into cubes)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
3 cups chicken stock
3 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup frozen, green peas
sprinkle of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbs. heavy cream
Heat the olive oil over low-heat in a saucepan/small pot
Add in the minced garlic and cook over low heat for about a minute and a half
add in the celery, split peas, cubed potato, and the stock and raise the heat to medium-high
bring to a boil and cook until the peas and the potato are tender (you’ll need to taste test)
Add in the frozen peas and cook for another minute
at this point, most of the liquid should be absorbed, but not all of it! Some liquid is important for the process of blending… but you’ll be able to add more as necessary
Once the peas are soft and the potato is cooked through, turn off the heat and let cool for a few minutes
Place contents of the pot into a blender, along with a dash of cayenne pepper and some salt and pepper
Blend on low-medium setting, until the consistency becomes thick and uniform
Add some heavy cream and/or more chicken stock as necessary (you’ll probably need a bit more liquid)
Make sure to taste-test to determine whether more salt, pepper, or cayenne pepper is needed
Puree should end up being a smooth, thick consistency
Set aside while you prepare the scallops and mussels
Please note: I suggest doing the mussels and salad next and saving the scallops for last, since you’ll want to serve them hot.
FOR THE SALAD
I went basic AF for the salad here, so it’s pretty much just pure roughage
I used: Arugula, alfalfa sprouts, and grape tomatoes
For the dressing: 1/3 cup mayo, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, juice from one lemon, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 3 tsp. white vinegar, freshly ground black pepper – whisk together in small bowl and voila!
FOR THE MUSSELS
1 finely minced shallot
2 dried or fresh bay leaves
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. butter
3 cloves of finely minced garlic
1 lb. (1 bag) of fresh mussels
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. thyme (dried or freshly chopped)
juice from one lemon
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt/pepper to taste
1 Tbs. freshly chopped parsley
Toast to serve (tastes like heaven dipped in the mussel sauce!)
In a wok or large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over low heat
Add in the minced shallots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add in the minced garlic and cook for another minute
Add in the bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and butter and cook for another minute
Add in the mussels and increase the heat to low-medium
As soon as you’ve added the mussels and turned up the heat, add in the wine!
Add in the fresh lemon juice
Cover with a lid and wait about 2 minutes or so, until you see the mussel shells opening
Add in the cream and fresh parsley and give a good stir
Add in some pepper and salt and give another good stir
Once mussels seem pretty opened, turn off burner and remove from heat – set aside
FOR THE SCALLOPS
1 lb. fresh sea scallops (patted dry with paper towels… they MUST BE DRY to cook, excess moisture means they won’t brown at all)
3 cloves finely minced garlic
2 Tbs. butter
Salt and pepper
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbs. white wine
sprinkling of alfalfa sprouts
Pat the scallops dry with paper towels
Salt and pepper the scallops on both sides
Heat butter in a shallow, saucepan over low heat
Add in the garlic and cook over low heat for about 1 minute
Add in the scallops and increase the heat to low-medium
Cook for 2 minutes on each side (approximately 4 minutes in total)
sprinkle with lemon juice and white wine, lower heat and cook for another 30 seconds
remove from heat
re-heat the split pea puree (microwave or stove top)
Plate the split pea puree, and plate the scallops with sauce
Garnish with alfalfa sprouts and serve hot
And now I am hungry again sitting here writing about this meal… that’s how good it was!
I also did some painting this weekend:
Tuna (the new kitten) is coming home this next weekend, and I think Mr. Peeper can sense that he’s about to no longer be the only child because he has been extra lovely:
If you’re looking to cook and/or eat the ultimate comfort food, you’ve come to the right place. I don’t know what I would even call this dish – I guess it’s along the lines of a ‘white’ lasagna, but also kind of like a high-end casserole. It combines potatoes (scalloped potatoes, to be specific), 3 different kinds of cheese (goat, mozzarella, and Parmesan), a rich, bechamel sauce, lasagna noodles, zucchini, and prosciutto… how can you possibly go wrong with that combo of ingredients???
I was feeling inspired to make something decadent, and considering that I follow more food blogs than I do people on Instagram (I also follow more animals than I do people, since I hate most people, but that’s a topic for another day), I found plenty of ideas. Most of the food blogs I follow are Italian food blogs, based in and/or around Naples, Rome, Sicily, Puglia, etc.. I also follow a number of what I refer to as ‘gluttony blogs’ (think “pizza stuffed with fried mozzarella, topped with french fries” or like, ‘fried chicken, on top of burger, sandwiched between two soft pretzels, and dripping in cheese’ – I’m sick… I know). Anyhow, I was inspired by the fact that so many of the Italian dishes I see on my IG feed seem to combine potatoes with pasta, or multiple starches and/or carbs in the same dish, which isn’t something I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself.
I don’t think most of these dishes are “traditional Italian” cuisine, per se (although ‘pasta e patate’ is), but DAMN… do they always look enticing when I’m hungry and scrolling down! I’ve seen pizza topped with potatoes, pasta with potatoes, and more pizzas with white sauce than those with typical red sauce. Being the fat bastard I am, and a lover of all of the ingredients I ended up using in this dish on their own, I decided to combine all of them into this masterpiece. I’ll get to the recipe in a bit….
One of life’s greatest quandaries seems to be why the grass always greener on the other side. Lately, my work schedule has been the opposite of my boyfriend’s and half of my friends (since many also work in the hospitality industry). It’s been so awful, that it makes me miss working retail … working retail AT Hollister, if you can believe it. I know… I know what you’re thinking – but hear me out first. You know how shit always seems so bad and awful when you’re actually living it, and then years down the road you look back on that time in your life, and it doesn’t really seem so bad at all in retrospect? Like, yesterday’s problems (the ones I had at 26) were few and far between, considering the problems I have now at the advanced age of 31. The biggest problem I had then was trying to get the fuck out of retail…. and making enough to pay rent since my salary was substantially lower. But in retrospect, the past seems like good times now.
That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. I think maybe it’s the pressure of being in my 30s now, when I have to actually have the future weighing more heavily on my shoulders than I did at 26-28. It takes a while for it to sink in that you’re not going to be young and carefree forever (not that I was EVER carefree, but I certainly wasn’t considering the heavier subjects in life, like if I want to married, whether or not I want to have a kid(s) someday, or saving for retirement, or where I would and would not be willing to relocate based on ageing parents, where my family lives, etc.).
I’m not saying I would ever want to go back to working retail, but there were some very good benefits to be had working in retail management which I was too blind to see or even appreciate at the time.
I could switch my shifts with other managers and usually requested Sunday and Monday’s off, or Mondays and Tuesdays, which was great, since the store closed early on Sunday and I could still do dinner with my boyfriend or go out and party on a Sunday night. I miss those days, since now my window to imbibe is limited only to Friday and Saturday nights when everyone else in the world is out doing the same. You can’t trade shifts working corporate, when everyone works the same damn shift.
I miss having random week days off. It was nice to be one of the few people who had the ability to do their personal shopping, groceries and run errands on days when the majority of people are working, since you have everything to yourself and a calm exists that just isn’t there on the weekend. I also miss (now that the weather is warming up), the ability to grab a glass of wine at 3pm when the sun is out and no one else is there.
I miss having more than one day a week off with my boyfriend. Right now, our only day off together is Sunday, so it’s become sort of a sacred day and I don’t want to make plans with anyone else on Sunday – unless it’s like a party or group dinner or something. When I worked retail, I usually found there was a random weekday I’d have off that would match up with one friend or my boyfriend.
I miss being physically active, moving around, walking, hauling cages of clothes, doing floor sets, folding and doing manual labor – I even miss interacting with customers and helping people. Back then, I didn’t even have to consider how much I was walking in a day, or do push-ups, since my daily work was a workout in itself. Sitting still is awful. I also get bored when every day is the same and I’m not continually meeting new people or training new hires, or interviewing.
That sweet, sweet employee discount.
New Merchandise always felt like Christmas morning – ripping into those boxes and seeing the new clothing before anyone else and trying on/setting aside all of the shit I was about to buy for 50% off…
These things said, I don’t miss working every holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Memorial Day, July Fourth), working on Saturday mornings after going out on a Friday night, and dealing with awful customers or, even worse, dealing with awful district managers or fellow managers.
These thoughts have been floating around my mind all week. I secretly think I just miss the sense of camaraderie I felt then, since I actually worked with with people I built close friendships with outside of work, and we would talk about our lives and work place drama in the stockroom and while closing down the store each night. It was nice to have people to leave work with and grab Dunkin’Donuts with, and ride the subway back to Brooklyn with each night. I don’t have that now and I’m pretty sure I never will if I keep working corporate.
1/2 box of cooked lasagna noodles (you won’t need a full box)
3 large potatoes; washed and sliced into thin rounds
1/2 white or yellow onion, finely minced
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
3 TBS. butter
3 TBS. olive oil
1/3 cup flour
3 cups whole milk
1 log of goat cheese (I believe it’s like 4 ounces)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 lb. of thinly sliced prosciutto
3-4 green zucchini, cut into thin slices, length-wise
1 ball fresh mozzarella
Bring heavily salted water to a boil in a large pot and pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
Cook the lasagna noodles, drain, rinse with cold water, add some olive oil to prevent them from sticking to each other, and set aside
Peel and chop the potatoes, and place the slices in a bowl of cold, salted water (this prevents discoloring)
Slice the zucchini and set aside
Next, you will make the bechamel sauce. Heat the butter and a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan/wok over low heat
Add in the minced onions, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and yellow (about 5 min)
Add in the minced garlic and cook another two minutes
Add in the flour and stir to create a roux (this is the base for your sauce, and the step that makes it thicken while remaining clump-free)
Next, add in the milk, and continue to stir constantly using a wooden spoon, or whisk
The liquid should thicken rather quickly
Now, add in the goat cheese, continuing to stir until fully melted and incorporated
Add in the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and some fresh thyme
Taste test, and add more seasonings if necessary…. remove from heat.
chop the ball of mozzarella or peel apart into thin slices
Now for the fun part – it’s time to assemble the lasagna!
Once the lasagna is assembled, place it into the oven and bake at 400 for 50 minutes to an hour… the cheese should be browning on top and the sauce bubbling around the edges of the dish when you turn the oven off.
Let the dish cool for at LEAST 10 minutes, before cutting and serving
Currently stress eating Bugles and dreading going back to NYC tomorrow after a lovely three days at home (lovely, minus my work inbox blowing up all day…the beauty of work email on your personal phone 🙂 LOVES IT).
I feel creatively repressed and personally stifled just thinking about going back to the office on Wednesday. Hence, the Bugle binge. It was so nice to be out of NYC for a few days, away from the crazies on the subway, the scents of the sewers and trash-strewn sidewalks, dealing with the MTA’s bullshit, the commute into and out of work, and of course, work itself. It’s so nice to wake up and be able to drink my coffee at a leisurely pace while watching daytime TV as opposed to swigging it down while simultaneously applying mascara. The pleasure to be had in taking a long walk while the sun is still up in the sky, or to be able cook or bake at 2pm is insurmountable. It’s so nice to have control over my own daytime schedule and not spend 10 hours a day split between commuting and sitting at a desk. I guess it’s time to become a stay-at-home cat mom, or a SAHCM. I must find a way to make this happen… even if means selling my soul to the devil (oh wait, I already did… JK).
I was able to spend some quality time with my brother and his girlfriend on Saturday, as well as with my parents. I also had a chance to hang out with my cousin at the Super Bowl party he hosted, and took a long walk with my other cousin (his mom) earlier that day. And then of course, there was the quality time spent with the family pets, which is the reason I came home in the first place – to watch them while my parents were away. I got in a couple of long walks with and without the dog, and ate a lot of deliciously unhealthy food – some of which I graciously shared with Ceely (the dog), as she came with me to the Super Bowl party with me.
Saturday night, after grocery shopping with my mom, I decided to make rigatoni Bolognese for my parents – they loved it!!! Such a great dish for the winter (even though the last couple of days were unseasonably warm).
Here is the recipe:
1 lb. of high-quality beef ( you can substitute in cooked brown lentils if you’re a vegetarian, or ground turkey if you prefer a healthier meat)
1/2 cup pancetta (OPTIONAL – I did not add this time, but I have in the past and it elevates to another level)
1 box pasta of your choice (rigatoni, spaghetti, penne, linguini all work great)
1/3 cup olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of a large sauce-pan)
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1/2 of a white or yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup dry, white wine (Pinot Grigio works well!)
1 cup freshly shaved Parmesan (plus more to sprinkle over finished pasta)
1 large can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs. dried basil
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. granulated garlic
Salt and pepper (add to desired taste)
Start by heating the olive oil in a large sauce pan over a low-medium heat
Add in onions and cook until a yellow-y translucent color (about 6 minutes), stirring occasionally
Add in carrots and celery and continue to cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally for another 5 min.
Add in garlic and continue to cook and stir, being careful not to burn garlic
Add in the meat (or cooked lentils) and cook for a couple of minutes over low-medium heat. If you’re cooking ground meat, break it up using the spoon or spatula (should not be left in large chunks)
Add in the white wine and simmer for about 3 minutes
Add in the can of crushed tomatoes along with the granulated garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano, and crushed red pepper; stir together and reduce to low heat
Add in the small can of tomato paste and stir in thoroughly; continue to stir and cook over a low heat.
After cooking over low heat for another 10 minutes or so, add in the heavy cream and stir
Add in the Parmesan cheese and continue to stir and cook, making sure cheese is incorporated into the sauce
Add in the fresh chopped parsley and stir
I advise taste-testing as you go along (make sure meat is cooked through before taste testing!), to ensure the sauce has a good balance – feel free to add more salt, pepper, pepper flakes, oregano/basil, or sugar if needed
Let the sauce continue to simmer over minimum heat and boil a large pot of heavily salted water for the pasta
Cook pasta according to cook time advised on packaging; once pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and either add to sauce pan, if large enough, or back to pot and then add the Bolognese sauce into the pot of pasta – stir well
Serve in bowls with freshly grated Parmesan over-top and a garnish of fresh parsley or fresh basil!
I cannot wait to be reunited with my cat tomorrow – I am going to take him out in his stroller since it is going to be about 60 degrees. I hope that the rest of this week goes smoothly and work isn’t too insane, like it was last week. It will be nice to get back to the city tomorrow and be able to organize myself, clean the apartment, and make a nice meal before going back to work on Wednesday… I’m already thinking about what I can cook. That’s how much I love cooking – I dream of what I will make in advance :p