Frozen burritos

For the past few days, the state of my kitchen has been…mostly disgusting. But between working Thursday night, partying Friday night, and then working my tail off Saturday night to the point of exhaustion, I just couldn’t manage to do dishes. Every time I thought about the dishes, I just wanted a nap. I wanted anything except for doing dishes. I posted on Facebook:

“Sometimes I…I just wish there was a clean dishes fairy. Like, if I leave all of them under my bed and promise to sleep all afternoon, will they get washed? If I leave forty bucks under my pillow, will the dishes fairy come? Looking at my kitchen has now exhausted me and I need a nap.”

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Unfortunately…no fairies or elves showed up. Not one. Instead, over a foot of snow arrived, starting during my late, late Saturday night shift. I worked so hard during my shift that, after only a few hours, I was doubling my painkillers. I could barely walk or stand, but I had to keep going. It was busy and the money just kept rolling in. Beyond that, some voyeurs showed up from the party I’d attended the night before. I’m never shy about letting people know what I do, but I surely don’t tell them where I work. I felt like, because of those voyeurs, I had to try even harder. What if my friends heard I was a terrible dancer? The night went on, and I was in more and more pain. Being an athlete for a living is no cakewalk…and for as much as people think the money is “easy,” the permanent injuries throughout my entire body can surely tell you that it is anything but “easy.” Fast, maybe. But never, ever easy.

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By the end of the night, some drunks came in, demanding dances with me and berating me for telling them that I just couldn’t do it. I physically, absolutely, couldn’t make my weak, powerless, exhausted body zapped of sleep and nutrients take one more step in stilettos. Not only was I sore to start the night, but I knew there was no way I was cleaning the kitchen at five in the morning to make whatever the hell I could think up with such a cloudy, starved brain. Plus, I still had to shovel my driveway, and my neighbors’ while it was snowing and sleeting heavily. And then over and over and over again, I lifted hundreds of pounds of watery, wet, slushy, frozen snow gunk until our driveways were clear, just for a minute as the snow kept coming.

I’ve been trying so hard and sticking to the spirit of this cooking thing, but after work, I hit the grocery store with the intention of buying a bunch of prepackaged garbage food to microwave and wolf down. And you know what? I did. I found a package of way, way overpriced and questionable grocery store sushi, corn chips, frozen gluten-free burritos, goat cheese, and three rolls of 100% recycled paper towels. I barely ate much, and fell asleep quickly. A second burrito served as an okay breakfast at 3pm today, just until I could start cleaning up the mess.

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Cleaning the kitchen has so far taken me almost two hours, and I’m still not done. I’m boxing up two sets of dishes to give away, and trying so hard not to see the real convenience of paper plates. I’ve even cooked again, making a mess of several pans, plates, and utensils that I’d just cleaned. The dishes will never end. On December 31st, when someone asks me how the year went without restaurants, I’ll just have to say: “I don’t know. I couldn’t quit doing dishes long enough to eat.”

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Buffalo bagel

This one was something I just dreamt up at the last second before heading out the door to work on Thursday. It kept me full and satisfied for something like eight hours. It was so simple: gluten-free bagel, cream cheese, feta, green onions, raw spiralized yellow sweet pepper, and the second of the special bison ribeyes I’d cooked a few days prior. The spiralizer is a new gadget I’ve never used before and still don’t know how to use. The instructions are mostly in Swedish, and I’ve never seen anyone use a spiralizer. I think I’ll just have to experiment and see what goes through it and what doesn’t.

I’m pleased with my creativity and the flavor was just fucking awesome on this one, but I ate it just as fast as I made it — in the five minutes it took me to figure out from the foreign language directions how to put the spiralizer together, wind the pepper through it, and reheat the ribeye in a skillet to keep the nice rare/medium rare temperature.

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Yellow curry dinner and pumpkin soup

I’d never attempted a curry before, but this surprisingly didn’t turn out too badly. I was scatterbrained and needed to eat before work without a lot of time to cook. And since I haven’t had Indian food in over a year and I’m trying to branch out a little in my cooking before making any repeats, I thought I’d just wing it. I read several recipes on the interwebz before deciding there wasn’t much use in following one exactly. This curry was just a pleasant hodgepodge of what I had on hand and what I had time to make.

I started with a package of chicken breast tenders cooking in a few tablespoons of olive oil, and flipped them halfway through cooking. I added about 6oz chicken bone broth (packaged), 16oz coconut milk, garlic powder, salt, white pepper, 1/8 cup white sugar, 1 tablespoon lime juice and lemon juice, and two spoonfuls of yellow curry powder (tumeric and cinnamon, mostly). I heated it all over medium-high heat, simmering, until the chicken was definitely done and the sauce thickened and reduced a little. The sauce was pleasantly and surprisingly sweet, and I topped the whole thing with cilantro. I wasn’t expecting it to be very good at all, and it wasn’t like anything I’d ever eaten at a Thai or Indian place, but hell, it was good. And it was good enough to reheat twice for additional leftovers.

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Pumpkin soup is what I make when I really don’t want to be an adult anymore and just want to eat dessert for dinner. See, it looks fancy, and tastes amazing, but at its heart is mostly pie filling. If you wanted, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to top it with whipped cream instead of (or in addition to) walnuts. This stuff keeps very well, reheats like a champ, and is the sneakiest way ever to have dessert for dinner.

For pumpkin soup, heat all of these ingredients over medium-low heat until warm enough to serve. If immediately refridgerating, no need to heat and simply reheat later in the microwave or on the stove.

  • 1 can (15oz) pureed pumpkin
  • fill that empty pumpkin can halfway with your choice of milk (I use unflavored almond milk for cooking in my house, but certainly heavy cream, cow’s milk, oat milk, hemp milk, etc would all be fine — make this vegan if you wish!)
  • add 1/3 can or about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of coconut milk — the higher quality, the better
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup white sugar or agave
  • pinch of salt
  • nutmeg and cinnamon to taste: add slowly, stir well, probably half as much nutmeg as cinnamon
  • top with candied walnuts, available in the salad section of the grocery

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Leftovers: steak salad

This is my dog, patiently waiting for her chance at a trimmed piece of steak while working on her down-stay command for five minutes. “Down-stay” is the toughest for this double-chin Miniature Pinscher. My dogs often help me eat the more healthful leftovers and vegetable scraps as a supplement to their high-quality, high-end dog food. I sometimes wonder why humans can’t get their children to eat certain vegetables; I just told my dogs that every vegetable they encountered was delicious, and in an attempt to please me, the little garbage disposals ate anything I put in front of them as puppies, especially teething carrots. As adult dogs, they stare me down for raw broccoli stems and wolf down the tougher parts of apples.

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Salads are…kind of boring to talk about, huh? Still, I had a leftover strip steak from the night before, and tossed it in a pan for a few minutes on each side to warm. Chopped it, tossed in some greens, added raw mushrooms and pickled onions, and dressed it in blue cheese from a local shop. Bam. Done. Three minutes. Lazy, leftovers cooking, ahoy!

I mostly just wanted to write about my dogs.

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Cheeseburger salad

Cheeseburger salad is…ugly. And while the main point of cheeseburger salad is to ditch the bun and whip up a nutritionally sound meal fairly quickly, it just doesn’t photograph well. I saw this idea a few years back on a paleo* or gluten-free website, and really dug the idea. Gluten-free frozen buns just…suck. I refuse to eat crappy replacement foods for the grains I can’t tolerate. Food doesn’t have to be terrible, even if I have to spend a little time finding creative ways to make the things I love.

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I do love a quality cheeseburger. And back when I was a wee, carefree kiddo, I absolutely loved McDonald’s cheeseburgers. When I was a kid, I swam and rode horses, and my sister figured skated on the opposite end of the city. My parents could barely keep up with shuffling my sister and I to our respective sports practices and school, and homemade dinners were mostly a thing of the past by the time we each started taking our sports seriously in early puberty. On the way home from swimming practice at 7:30, I was always ravenous from simultaneously growing into an adult, swimming hard for nearly two hours, and not having eaten since 11:00. My parents gave up and started feeding me fast food. I don’t remember for sure, but I bet even back then I had a terrible “hangry” (hungry-angry) attitude from hell. I’d almost always order two double cheeseburgers, a large fry, and a large soda. I wolfed them down in the remaining blocks home, and logically, gained a problematic amount of weight that yo-yo’d for years.

I gave up fast food cold turkey when I was 18 after a sleeve of McDonald’s fries failed to rot in the eight months I’d forgotten about them in a fourth-story apartment without air conditioning, but I never lost my appetite for those sweet, sweet cheeseburgers after a good workout.

Cheeseburger salad is as simple as it sounds: all of the ingredients of your favorite cheeseburger, over your favorite kind of lettuce (or more likely, whatever the hell lettuce you have on hand for making this lazy meal). I use lean 93/7 ground beef to avoid much of the fat drippings and having to strain the grease from my meat — an extra step that makes this meal slightly less lazy. Cook the meat completely, and if necessary, strain the grease from the meat and throw away. Add about 3 tbsp ketchup, 2 tbsp mustard, and 1 tbsp barbecue sauce to start, adjusting proportions as desired. With the meat coated in condiments and hot, spoon over a bed of lettuce. Add diced onions, pickles, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and bacon in any combination desired. Add additional ketchup or mustard if desired, or if you dare, throw on a little mayonnaise.

Because I live alone and don’t eat an entire pound of ground beef at once, I save the beef mixture in the fridge separately and will have a few hamburger salads over the next few days. It’s an easy one-minute prep meal if the other toppings are also already diced and sitting in their own Tupperware.

If you find a better way to photograph an assembled cheeseburger salad, feel free to post a link in the comments.

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*Yes, I realize that ketchup and barbecue sauce aren’t strictly paleo (because of the added sugar), but the idea is there. And you, Paleo Police, can certainly eat your salad dry if you prefer (ew), or find some way to make your own paleo-compliant ketchup and barbecue sauce.

Leftovers: breakfast tacos

I had just a little bit more of that taco meat left over from making stuffed tomatoes, and couldn’t stand to not use it and the other ingredients that I either had to use or let expire. The avocado was perfect, the cilantro was use-it-or-lose-it, and the tomatoes and tortillas needed to be used, stat. I was feeling like a big burst of protein and needed the extra fat, so I whipped these up in less than five minutes.

Zapped the tortillas in a skillet for a minute each. Two eggs, scrambled in a skillet with 1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk for fluffy-ness. Reheated taco meat in the microwave. Chopped cilantro and cherry tomatoes. And mushed-up avocado with a touch of lime, cayenne, salt, pepper, and a tiiiiiny bit of white sugar.

While making the eggs, I remembered how my mother used to make our scrambled eggs in the microwave. She’d fill the glass measuring cup with two or three eggs, break the yolks and whisk in a bit of cow’s milk with a fork until they were a bit bubbly. After a minute, she’d stir again and break up the solid egg mass that formed. Another minute, and the easiest scrambled eggs ever came tumbling right on to our plates. I only ate them with ketchup and even then, barely tolerated them. In my most broke years of college, when I had my first studio apartment, I’d make my eggs this way because I didn’t know how to make them any other way, and I couldn’t afford a failed experiment.

It wasn’t until I discovered eggs cooked over hard much later that I began to love the flavor of the yolk of the egg. I put up with the whites occasionally to get to the yolks, but hated their rubbery texture and the lack of flavor. After I spent a few years working in breakfast diners, I no longer wanted anything to do with eggs, or fake eggs, or whatever that smell was from those generic plates. It was several years before my desire to eat eggs came back, but now I happily eat them — my way.

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