State of the kitchen: week two

  • Dollars spent on food: $170
  • Dollars spent on kitchen gadgets: $80
  • Unintentional pounds lost: 1
  • Times dined out: 1
  • People I fed: approximately 25

This week, I blew the money I’d saved by not eating out on one of my favorite charities, Sex Workers’ Outreach Project (SWOP). I’m noticing a very significant difference in the amount of money left in my wallet at the end of the week already, even more so than I’d already thought. Is there any chance I was actually spending close to $500 a week on dining out? How long was I spending almost $2000 a month on luxury food without realizing it? I felt awfully stupid this week when I saw just how much money was left over. I had some great meals last year, but I’m enjoying this year just the same.

I did eat out once — lobster bisque and seared Ahi — with a customer. Even though I ordered smaller portions than I’m used to, I was totally full by the time I finished my cup of soup and started in on the Ahi (an appetizer portion). Sure, my appetite is a little off this week because I’m trying a new supplement, but my appetite in general is much smaller than it was just two weeks ago. My portion sizes meet my needs, now, instead of feeling like I’m wasting food by leaving it behind at a restaurant.

I spent the extra money on food to buy supplies for making chocolate-covered strawberries. I regret nothing. It was easy, elegant, and I really loved the look on my coworkers’ and friends’ faces when they tried my handiwork. I had so much memorable fun making and giving out those strawberries yesterday!

I bought a vegetable spiralizer that I’ve wanted for ages to make veggie noodles with, a double-boiler I went from not knowing how to use to using proficiently, and an egg poacher, because poaching eggs was stupid and I hated doing it the old-fashioned way.

I’m down a total of five pounds now, while literally eating sticks of butter (eggs benedict), sugar (peanut butter cookies and pudding), and anything else my heart desires. I’m not at all trying to lose weight, and it was never the goal of this project.

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My biggest accomplishment this week was learning to make things I hadn’t even dared to try before for fear of screwing them up or helplessness in where to start: macaroni and cheese, the strawberries, and a simple curry. While these things might not be a big deal to someone who cooks regularly, I literally had no idea where to start. I’ve been so disconnected from my food that I had no idea what ingredients (beyond the obvious) I might need. Taking these basic recipes, I hope to expand them into deeper, more complex tastes than I had the first time around.

The Cheerful Bouquet lasted 15 days before I bought a new one — this time, the Happiness Bouquet, which was four times as expensive and quite metaphoric to me. And, check out my new book for the table: Dressage for the Not-so-Perfect Horse, by Janet Fox.

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Chocolate-covered strawberries

When I drunkenly asked a coworker what I should bring to celebrate Benjamin Franklin’s birthday a week prior, I figured she’d ask for one of the store-bought cakes I usually buy, brownies, or cookies. Instead, she immediately popped out with “chocolate covered fruit!” in total excitement. I agreed, and decided I’d take up the challenge anyway. After all, I have mastered some new challenges already, and knew I’d have plenty of time to learn.

So I procrastinated until about five hours before work before even looking up a recipe. How in the world DO you make chocolate-covered strawberries, anyway? Was this going to be my first cheat at the spirit (but not the law) of restaurant abstinence, where I dip over to a local chocolaterie and beg them to expensively do it for me at the last minute? I didn’t even own a double-why-did-they-stack-the-pots(?).

Through patience, YouTube, Google, and about an hour of searching for the one double-boiler Bed Bath and Beyond does carry, I figured it out. As it turns out, dipping strawberries isn’t hard all.

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I emptied three 10oz bags of chocolate chips into the double boiler, and set that sucker to heat up on medium-high. While the chips melted, I washed the strawberries. One blogger advised that the strawberries needed to be very dry, and suddenly I found myself with wet strawberries and melted chocolate. Unsure whether that chocolate would get too hot or change consistency, I decided to go for drying them more quickly…with my blow dryer. What? It makes my hair dry faster, too. It was a stroke of kitchen-genius.

Just as I was blow-drying strawberries, my pal Chad arrived. We’d agreed to hang out, and he sacrificed his time to taste my strawberries. While I ate my real dinner, he even dipped about half of them and didn’t roll his eyes where I could see them when I showed him my picky, perfectionistic ways of dipping. Dip, let it run, tap the extra off on the sides, and turn it upside down before putting it on the parchment paper, okay?

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In a little less than an hour, we’d covered four pounds of strawberries in three-and-a-half pounds of chocolate. I just kept adding chocolate to the boiler until I’d finished all of the berries. Each parchment paper-covered cookie sheet sat in the fridge for about 15 minutes. For the white chocolate decorating, I bought Hershey’s vanilla chips, and heated about four ounces of them in a bowl in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until the stuff was molten. I used a fork to drizzle, quickly moving back and forth over the berries.

As we enjoyed tasting and talking, we popped open a bottle of wine. Despite my lack of posting about it here, I actually drink a fair amount of red wine — usually blends, merlots, cabs, and pinots. Because we’d had a terrible bottle of shitty red zinfandel aptly named “Poizon” before, I’d bought this bottle for us to drink this time:

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So here’s to Benjamin Franklin’s 309th birthday, and more hundred dollar bills in the coming year!