Eggs Florentine

This post might as well be called “sometimes I like to eat two sticks of butter and five eggs.” I was a little cocky, though. My eggs florentine was just too rich to finish. I’ve been wanting to try making this dish since I first made eggs benedict at the beginning of my restaurant-less adventure, and I finally had the spinach and cream on hand to do so. I don’t think I could have possibly packed any more fat or protein on one plate, but since this is AMERICA, I don’t feel bad. Just look at how beautiful this plate is:

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In an attempt to fill my body with the fat and protein it desperately needs after three hard days of dancing, working, and partying, I figured it was about time, and oh boy does making anything with hollandaise take time and both hands. I started by creaming the spinach — about a big cup of torn and fresh big leaves (not the kind from the bag), 3-4 tbsp heavy cream, 2 tbsp butter, and a pinch each of salt/pepper/nutmeg over medium heat until the leaves were just wilted. Each step in the process takes both hands and I still can’t multitask like I usually do while making these things.

Next, I started in on the hollandaise — my least favorite, most tedious thing so far to cook — and repeated the process I used before. After switching off the low heat to let the sauce thicken, I stuck some tomato slices under the broiler for about ten minutes while I started to boil about an inch and a half of water at the bottom of a saucepan. As it boiled, I turned down the heat to simmer, and buttered the slots of this nifty egg poacher. I cracked the eggs into the slots, and dropped the whole thing in to poach for about five minutes or so until the the whites were firm and the yolks were wobbly and still runny.

I turned the heat up and down over and over attempting to keep the simmer going without boiling, which was tricky and time-consuming. Once the eggs were finished, I ended up dropping them both into the shallow water as I tried to lift the tray from the saucepan, but luckily, neither of the yolks cracked open through the whites. I toasted a gluten-free English muffin, and started assembling. As I started topping the tomatoes with the creamed spinach, I realized I hadn’t made quite enough. Plus, the spinach was now cold and the hollandaise was headed that way. Because both have cream and butter and are very sensitive to heat, I hadn’t left the heat on while I’d cooked the rest. I had to reheat the spinach on the stove, but I still wish I’d doubled or tripled the amount of spinach I’d used, added an extra tablespoon of both butter and cream, and an extra pinch of nutmeg (which turned out to be fantastic with the spinach!).

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Over the top, I chopped green onions and topped with some paprika and pepper. It was absolutely as fabulous as it looks on a really snowy night. I’m stuck at home after being blown off and totally unable to work, and animal crackers and eggs florentine were exactly what I wanted to binge-eat on my recovery day. One pro tip, though? Don’t put your animal crackers near your hollandaise. The flavors don’t mix well.

I’m off to get more animal crackers.

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.”

State of the Kitchen: week four

Milestone #1: I made it through one month without using takeout as a crutch for my laziness!

Money spent on food: $130 or so

People fed: 25?

Times I ate out: 1

Alcohol consumed: infinite

At first it was all fun and games. Now the real work of making food, the constant dishes, and the endless trips to the grocery store are no longer novelties. It’s not a cool resolution, anymore; it’s just my oddball “lifestyle.” I’ve noticed that people in my city use going out to eat as an excuse to spend time together, and when that excuse is gone, so is the company. I’ve had to very actively work at roping together friends to come over and eat with me or choose alternate activities. I feel so much better — minus overdoing it on the alcohol — and I look so much healthier. I’ve lost about eight pounds and it’s stayed off easily, without a fight. Even though I was happy with my weight and shape before, knowing that the extra birth-control-fueled weight gain came off while I ate whatever I wanted was reassuring, and gave me an extra boost of pride. I can see the muscles I’ve worked hard over the last several years to build and maintain.

I drove past an Applebee’s last night, and could hardly believe how packed it was. Cars were parking in two adjoining parking lots, and driving around in circles and circles trying to find spots close to the door. I love a good restaurant meal and a real treat out, but holy crap, Applebee’s food isn’t very tasty at all! Why are people driving around in circles trying to get that food? My perspective is surely changing.

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I think even more than the outside observation of an Applebee’s at dinner rush on a Friday was the takeaway that having a body is hard fucking work. Caring for a body well is really, really time-consuming, all-encompassing work. I spend all of these hours every week working out, cooking, cleaning the kitchen (except for when I don’t want to…), grocery shopping, buying new kitchen gadgets, taking vitamins, allotting time for sleep (sometimes), making the cash as a sort of athlete to pay for all of those things, going to the chiropractor and doctor, and recently, even going into a sensory deprivation tank to control pain. That’s before any of the vain stuff — having my nails painted, my hair cut and dyed, tanning, shaving, plucking, flat-ironing, putting clothes on this body. In fact, I feel like I spend most of my time doing something to, for, or with my physical body. It’s exhausting, frankly. Sometimes I don’t have any time to stretch out my brain.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I never want to live in a body filled with junk food, or a body that can’t move and work and bend and stretch and run and play and rest. I never want to drive around an Applebee’s parking lot looking for one single slot closer to the door so I can eat their wilted lettuces and be waited on by the most incompetent staff I’ve ever seen. Food should taste good. And food should be hard to prepare.

Miniature frittatas

After last night’s party, I really, really needed some protein and water in my life. My poor liver hates me and needs a vacation. I woke up just four hours after going to sleep to get to the barn in time to meet the horse chiropractor. My off-the-track Thoroughbred’s shoulders and hip are out…again. I knew I couldn’t let him suffer, even if I totally didn’t want to go stand in the 30-degree weather at the barn after a long night of drinking and dancing. I slept as long as I could, skipped breakfast, and took off.

When I got home, I didn’t feel like cooking one bit. Beyond that, nearly every single dish I own is dirty and stacked precariously on pretty much every surface in the kitchen. Why can’t there be a dishes fairy that comes while I sleep? I feel like I spend my life doing dishes, now. I have a new appreciation for the lowest-paid guy in the kitchen, now. That shit sucks. And at least he gets a sprayer and a heated mechanical dishwasher. I’m too feral for this eating-in thing, sometimes.

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Guess what wasn’t dirty? My muffin pan! It made my breakfast decision easy. I’d seen the idea online “somewhere at some point” and figured it couldn’t be too hard to just wing it. It’s like scrambled eggs in a muffin tin, right? This was such an easy creation, I can’t believe I haven’t lazily made it before. It took me 5 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to bake.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Since I live alone, I only made three of these and the recipe reflects that.

Dice desired vegetables and/or fungi. I used about two lady-sized handfuls total of onion, yellow pepper, and portobella mushroom. That’s two handfuls including all three ingredients, not two of each ingredient. Eyeball it. While I sauteed those in some olive oil (mushrooms last, remember — they cook fast), I whisked together three eggs, three tablespoons or so of almond milk (your milk of choice goes here), salt, pepper, a pinch of garlic powder, and about a half cup or more of shredded cheese in a separate bowl. When the veggies were soft, I stirred them into the eggs/cheese, too.

I filled each of my muffin cups (no paper liners) to about two-thirds full, and I used one of those gigantic muffin tins. I let them bake for 20 minutes total, but started checking after about 15 minutes to make sure they weren’t overdone. No one likes crappy eggs, and this was my very last clean cooking pan. When the knife came out clean, they were done.

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On the side: cottage cheese and tomato slices; frittata topped with cilantro. Every once in awhile, I have a meal that just “feels” fresh, light, filling, tasty, and good for me, and today, that was this meal. I could feel my stomach just sucking the nutrients out of my food, gulping and gasping for more vitamins and minerals. Now that I’ve eaten, it’s time for a nap!

Party: Iowa sushi

I was invited to a beach party, and yesterday, I unleashed the summer potluck snack of my childhood on an unsuspecting group of acquaintances: pickle roll-ups. My mom used to make these when I was a kid for just about every single potluck-style family gathering, and I loved them. Mostly, I loved the flavor of the cream cheese and the corned beef and only tolerated the pickle, so I tried to get all of the end pieces as she rolled and chopped these.

My parents cooked quite a bit when I was little, but other than a few family recipes, it wasn’t gourmet stuff. I was a meat-and-potatoes, Lunchables, Kraft mac-and-cheese, Spaghettio’s-lovin’, hot-dog-eatin’ true Midwestern child. Save for thick homemade chicken noodle soup, pickle roll-ups, “Spanish” rice (it just had tomato soup in it), deviled eggs, no-bake cookies, and a few other family treasures, my parents just didn’t have many specialties. But these gems, these pickle roll-ups, were special to me growing up. When they were made, I knew that there was something special coming up, like a family picnic or a holiday, and that I’d get to see my extended family.

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So when I was invited to this party, I tried to figure out what to bring. It occurred to me at the last second that pickle roll-ups would be fast to prepare and require only cheap ingredients, and I needed groceries, anyway. But as I made these, I started to remember. She let the real cream cheese warm up on the counter instead of using Philadelphia’s “whipped-style” and the glue it became held together much better. The cheap Buddig packets of corned beef used to be slightly thicker, and square-shaped, which meant the pickle roll-ups of my childhood didn’t tear quite as easily. She spread the cream cheese on the meat, rolled the pickle, and then let the uncut rolls chill in the fridge, helping the whole thing stick together before she cut them the next morning. I begged her to cut one or two the night before any potluck, and I’d forgotten all about that until I started cutting these rolls and they just started falling apart in my hands.

Needless to say, it was a pickle disaster. I actually gave up on the last half dozen pickles and just threw the unsheathed suckers on the plate because I was ready to be done with the mess! I made two trays of these suckers, and only used up almost two large jars of pickles, one cream cheese tub, and five Buddig packets. I still have to figure out how I’ll use two more tubs of “whipped” cream cheese, one large jar of pickles, and three packets of cheap corned beef sometime in the next hundred years.

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I made the rolls sitting in front of the television for something to do, and forgot to put them up high before I jumped in the shower for a quick rinse. I jumped out of the shower, and it hit me…shit. Sure enough, this little piggy had eaten the cream cheese and corned beef off of about 30-40 pickle slices. My eight-pound dog was so bloated and apologetic after I caught her binge-eating the skins of the finger food, just like when I was a kid. I think I actually hurt her dog feelings when I yelled at her and she crinkled her little forehead.

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The second pan was left untouched, and subsequently made it to the party. I also took three pounds of bacon and spent about an hour cooking it in the hosts’ kitchen — so we could “roast a pig” at the beach party. I had a total blast and danced the night away, drinking and making out with strangers, wearing tiny sunglasses and kicking around tiny beach balls, flipping through a book of pictures gay men drew of vaginas. I learned a new phrase for the potluck dish of my childhood last night from the host: Iowa sushi. It’s perfect.

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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