The Great RV fire of the early 2000s, redeemed

It’s been crazy busy around here lately. I often feel like I’m standing at the edge a cliff getting pelted with things trying not to get knocked over. Come May, I know I will get pushed over by a sweet lady named ‘Graduation.’

My favorite escape from the crippling anxiety of becoming an adult is food. When I’m hungry: eating it. When I’m bored: cooking it. When I’m exhausted: watching it on Food Network.

One of my least favorite shows, which I still watch from time to time for no reason, is Chopped Kids. First off, the name is a little alarming. You’re doing what to kids? Sorry that was such a dad joke.

In the various versions of this show, they put four kids of similar ages (hopefully all old enough to be holding a knife) into the chopped kitchen and tell them to compete. And darn these kids are impressive.

That wasn’t me. At age 8 my signature dish was a haphazard mix of rotel tomatoes, cream, and pasta.

The darkest point of my culinary childhood, however, occurred in an RV at my grandparents house in Colorado. My best friend Amanda and I had raided the RV’s neglected cabinets and found what must have been some pretty old rice cri and marshmallows. Not knowing any better, we thought we were perfectly equipped to make some rice crispy treats to nom on in secret so no one would try to abscond them.

Fact: Rice crispies, marshmallows, and an old RV microwave are not all the necessary components of a rice crispy treat. They are, however, perfectly good components for a small RV fire and a lot of family embarrassment.

This week I decided to redeem myself.

Your basic recipe has cereal, marshmallows, and butter. I decided to punch it up by adding various candies that I “borrowed” from the leftover Halloween candy at my office.

Biggest takeaways:

A) If you’re looking to avoid a fire, definitely use butter.

B) Don’t be a cheapo like me and go for the bargain brand cereal. Sorry Great Value, but you don’t really measure up to the real deal.

C) Rice crispy treats really aren’t all that impressive. They’re just a filler dessert. Kind of like this is a filler blog post because I know I’m going to be graded one of these days.

Aaron Carter gets me

I have always had a pretty unhealthy relationship with candy.

In fifth grade, I got put on probation from my school production of “Suessical the Musical” because I missed rehearsal twice to walk a mile down to the grocery story to buy candy with my best friend Ilana.

A couple years prior to this probation, I was convicted of being the family “Candy Thief” because for a solid month or so I pillaged my siblings’ Halloween candy stashes.

Nutritionists and neuroscientists alike will tell you that sugar is addictive. The progression of my school photos backs that up—I was pretty pudgy there for a while.

We’ve somehow reached the end October, meaning that a candy-lover’s favorite holiday is only a couple days away. I may be terrible at coming up with costume ideas, but wow am I good at consuming candy.

While it’s no longer socially acceptable for me to go trick-or-treating, I have the distinct privilege of being able to drive a car to the grocery story to buy my own candy because I’m an adult.

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I love candy, so I don’t have the heart to rank it. Instead I’ll give you an orderless list of my candy opinions:

Reeses: Always a solid option. If you don’t like them, there’s a good chance I don’t like you.

Starburst: Unfortunately on Halloween, these come in two packs. I would take the time to calculate the probability of getting one or two yellows in a pack, but I swore off math a while ago. I think we can all just agree that yellow is the stupidest color of Starburst. Pink is best. Orange is second best. Red is third best. Yellow is gross. No discussion.

Lemonheads: This is straight up the only lemon candy that is worth a crap.

Skittles: Try eating a bag of these without hating yourself. Also, try opening a bag and willing yourself not to eat the whole thing. Godspeed.

Hershey’s: I’m a bit of a chocolate snob. I like mine dark and over 70 percent cocoa. If I could change one thing about this world it would be that this crap is called chocolate: After living in Belgium, where chocolate is religion, I can confirm that Hershey’s is hardly chocolate. But yeah okay fine I eat it anyway.

Tootsie rolls: Kind of gross but you know you eat them anyway. Back around my candy thief days when I was a budding young chef, I would cut them into little pieces and call them “Tootsie Bites.” I sent a letting about this idea to the manufacturer but never heard back.

Candy Corn: For some reason there’s a weird pop culture debate about these things right now. I call it weird because generally we don’t quarrel over things that are so cut and dry. Candy corn is disgusting and everyone should know that. Frankly I’m upset that they stole delicious corn’s name. One time I won a whole jar of it in one of those “Guess how many?” competitions. Every single one of those nasty nugs went in the trash. Speaking of nugs…

Milk Duds: What a disgusting name for a candy. While they don’t necessarily deserve the yucky name, they’re just not worth the effect on your waistline.

Snickers: Brilliant marketing campaign, “meh” product.

These are just the candies that came to my mind first, but I know I’ve left out dozens. Got any particularly strong feelings about candy? Sound off in my ever-neglected comment section.

Happy Halloween!

We don’t talk politics at brunch

With November 8 right around the corner, I think a lot of us are wondering if this country is going in the right direction.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to step onto a political soap box. I am, however, going to talk about something that is very near and dear to my heart. Something that makes me proud to be a citizen of this country. Something we call “brunch.”

In case this is your first time visiting my blog or you’ve somehow forgotten, I had the privilege of spending the first half of 2016 living in Europe. As magical as that experience was, I spent most of those five months disturbingly deprived of brunch. This is in small part due to the fact that I was very wallet-conscious, and in large part due to the lack of availability of really outstanding brunch food.

In the past few years, America has become obsessed with trendy brunch places. Just a couple weeks ago I went around town with a friend hopping from restaurant to restaurant in Columbia searching for one that wouldn’t involve a two-hour wait. (We settled at Room 38. They have six variations of biscuits and gravy. ‘Nuff said.)

howBrunch is crafty little beast. It someone managed to convince us that it was fair to cobble together two separate meals into a super-spread, nearly giving it a monopoly on the meal scene. I’m surprised the Dems haven’t tried to regulate that.*

One of the key reasons that I’m so enamored with brunch is that it allows me to be a total potato in the morning and still enjoy breakfast-themed food when I wake up at noon, like I did today.

When I did finally extract myself from the covers, I decided to make a classic: sweet potato hash. It’s one of those things that starts with a relatively healthy, simple base that can be altered based on what you have on hand. Since I didn’t even have the potatoes themselves, I ran to the store to stock up on all the things I want on a dirty, sexy pile of hash.

The defining quality of hash that separates the men from the boys, as they say, is the egg. If you’re capable of topping your hash with a sunny, runny yolk, I salute you. Today, I attempted a truly risky feat: the poached egg.

Ever heard the phrase “Walk in on surgery halfway through and it looks like murder”? That’s how I would describe poaching eggs. Just watch this video and you’ll see what I mean.

I would probably guess that the human surgery survival rate is actually higher than the poached egg survival rate, though, especially after my experience today. Don’t even ask how many eggs took the plunge into my simmering cauldron before I succeeded.

After a solid hour of prepping, panfrying, and poaching, I did create the dirty, sexy hash of my dreams. Here’s the rundown:

-3/4 cup sweet potato

-1/4 cup red bell pepper

-1/4 cup sweet onion

-1 clove garlic

-3 slices Canadian bacon

-1/2 avocado

-1/3 cup pico de gallo

-1/2 cup baby kale

-1 egg

-1/2 tbsp Sriracha

Step one: Dice the potato, bell pepper, onion, bacon, and garlic so it’s all ready to go right when you need it. Dicing can be very labor intensive so I get this step done in one swoop before I start any cooking.

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Step two: Fry up the bacon until it’s got a golden color. Remove from the pan.

Step three: caramelize red bell pepper and onion until soft and lightly browned. Add garlic and sauté for a couple minutes.

Step four: Add sweet potato and cover with lid, stirring every five minutes or so until the potato is soft.

Step five: While the potato softens, bring a small pot of water, vinegar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer. Make a little whirl pool with a spoon and then add a fresh, cold egg. Take the pot of the heat and cover undisturbed for five minutes. After five minutes take the egg out with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel.

Step six: Add the bacon back to the hash and mix in some seasoning salt. Optional: I like to get a little texture on my potatoes so I press down on the potatoes with a spatula and crack up the heat for a couple minutes so they get a little crusty.

Step seven: Assemble your hash. I like to lay the greens down first and top them with the hash so that they wilt a little from the residual heat. Top the potatoes with the rest of the fixins: pico, avocado, and (VERY carefully so you don’t prematurely break the yolk) the poached egg. Top with more pepper and Sriracha.

Boom. You’ve got brunch.

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*I would just like to be clear that this is purely a feeble attempt at making a political joke, not an actual statement on my party affiliation

 

This is a big dill…not sorry

I have a confession to make: I really love pickles.

I recently read a Buzzfeed post about how apparently awful pickles are and it offended me on a very deep level. According to whatever trash wrote this article, “there’s nothing more repulsive than sour, wet pickles.”

It’s a sad excuse for journalism. Read it here if you need to get fired up or if you want to have a good cry or if you’re a monster and you for some reason agree with the writer. If you’re a monster who doesn’t like pickles, please exit my blog right now and do something more productive with your life, like developing taste buds.

I apologize for getting so defensive. But I will never apologize for my deep love of pickles. They make so many things so much better! A Chick Fil A spicy chicken sandwich? A BBQ plate? A batch of potato salad? All infinitely better with pickles.

You can also frequently find me standing in front of the open fridge devouring these elusive treats solo. On several occasions I’ve cracked open a jar in the grocery store parking lot because I don’t feel like waiting till I get home.

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My favorite brand is “Wickles,” which I buy at Wal Mart because my parents raised me right. For a while I thought that the label said “weirdly delicious pickles” which I found to be a bit of overkill because if you were to ask me to describe a pickle, I would say “weirdly delicious.”

Perhaps this is why there is such a vendetta against these delicious little things. They are just weirdly good. If you’ve never read the label on a pickle jar or looked up a recipe, you probably would have very little idea what makes them taste so darn mysterious and AMAZING. P.s. turns out I’m just bad a reading comprehension and the Wickles’s tag line is actually “wickedly delicious pickles.”

This week I set out to unravel the mystery surrounding these green creatures by whipping up my own.

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As is advisable when making anything for the first time, I stuck with a very basic dill pickle recipe, deviating a tiny bit by using apple cider vinegar instead of plain white vinegar because I’m just rebellious like that.

Here’s my recipe:

    • 3-4 salad cucumbers
    • 3.5 cups water
    • 1.25 cups vinegar
    • 1 tbsp salt
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 4 sprigs of dill
    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • 1 tsp mustard seed
Step One: Bring the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil and allow the mixture to reduce for a few minutes, then let it cool completely.
Step Two: Cut the cucumbers into your shape of choice. I went for coins and spears, but you could also leave them whole if you want, just make sure to cut a little bit off the top and the bottom so the pickling liquid gets through the skin.
Step Three: Put the cucumbers, dill, garlic, and mustard seed in a jar. I utilized a jar that formerly held hearts of palm. Pour the pickling liquid in so it covers the tops of the cucumbers.
Step Four: Let the concoction work it’s magic for several hours. I left mine overnight and woke up the next morning with pickles for breakfast.

The Verdict: I was initially a little skeptical about how these would turn out, because watching all of the ingredients come together I was sure that they could never be as good as what I buy in the store. However, I was really pleased with the final product. My pickles turned out pretty mild and super fresh. They didn’t pack the same tongue-pinching punch that I often expect from a pickle, but that didn’t really bother me. I’m giving myself a solid pat on the back for this one.

Unfortunately it’s day three and they’ve already become a little soggier than I like (I know what you’re thinking, ‘Get it together Megan, what kind of wuss can’t crank through a single jar of pickles in three days?’). That being said, I would advise that if your diet doesn’t consist of exclusively pickle-friendly meals, you plan to share these (Isn’t there an old saying that if you share pickles with someone they’ll be your friend for life? Idk).

Okay so I think we’re all tired of the word “pickles” and I’ve said my piece.

#StopTheWarAgainstPickles

*Most recipes say to use pickling salt but I’m cheap so I just used the basic salt in my pantry and it all worked out just fine

**Most recipes also only call for one clove but I really like garlic

Zoodles: I tried…

If you are a user of the internet with any interest in food whatsoever, I would venture a guess that you’ve seen #PinterestFails.

Up until this week, I’ve laughed along with all of you as other people try out Pinterest recipes and fail miserably. This is probably because my older sister, Blair, is a Pinterest pro, and I know I could never live up to that.

As per my usual blog posts, here’s a little fun fact about me: I’m lazily competitive. If I think I’m good at something, I hate losing. For example, I will never back down from an AP style contest because that’s one of my niche skills. On the other hand, if there’s something I know I’m not great at, I’d rather not even try. For example, I consistently tried to be at the end of the kickball line just so I would never have to step up to the plate. Yeah, I’m pretty bad at sports.

Because I don’t like failure, I’ve generally strayed away from involved Pinterest recipes. This week, though, I ventured deep into my archive of Pinterest recipes and decided to be trendy for once by ~spiralizing~ my zucchini.

Zucchini is one of the best vegetables out there, in my opinion. It goes with so many cuisines (think about it: Italian, Asian, Mexican, American).

I was optimistic going into this spiralizing adventure because I think in many instances pasta is just a vehicle for sauce. For example, I think that spaghetti is stupid so whenever I make Bolognese I just eat it out of a bowl like soup (sorry to any Italian readers who may be offended by that).

While some spiralizers can go for upwards of $50, I sprung for the very affordable $10 Vegetti.

I decided to keep this one simple because frankly I haven’t been grocery shopping in a whilleeeee so I had no choice but to stick with olive oil, garlic, tomato, and herbs.

The recipe I skimmed over said that the most important step was salting the zucchini and letting it drain for 20 minutes before cooking it, so I did. The salt drew out the water as well as a lot of the texture that I love so much.

For some reason the first time around I thought that I would be satisfied with half of a zucchini, but was horribly mistaken. By the time it had cooked down, I was left with a very sad little bowl of what I pretended wasn’t reminiscent of worms.

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Although I was #unimpressed, for the sake of experimentation I decided to spiralize the second half of the zucchini and cook it up without presalting it. I concluded that batch number two was better, and scarfed it down before I could even take a picture.

At the end of the day, zoodles did end up being a nice, guilt free way to enjoy sauce. Will I use the spiralizer again? Yes, I paid $10 for that thing. Would I buy the spiralizer again? Nah. Ignoring that conclusion, anyone want to buy the spiralizer from me? I’d charge ya a fair $11 (The extra dollar is tacked on because it’s now kookie-famous)

We’re going to file this experiment under #PinterestMehs