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

 

A not-so-cool chick(en)

If I’m being honest, I’ve never been the coolest kid in school. Or one of the cooler kids. Or cool by any means.

Here’s a photo of me after winning second place in a Texas state science competition:

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As nerdy as this occasion already was, I managed to make it even worse by neglecting to take off my Mickey Mouse sweatshirt when I got on stage. In my defense, I didn’t expect to win anything, but still, I think we can all agree that when it comes to being not-cool, I’m a PRO.

While many transcend their nerdy phase when they escape the clutches of middle school, I did not. I managed to stay very uncool by morphing into one of those really annoying girls who’s way too invested in her high school newspaper.

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Of course I was also a self-proclaimed captain of the backpacking team because as I’ve mentioned previously, I am not anywhere near athletic enough for real sports.

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When you enter college, there’s an expectation that the concept of “coolness” changes radically from what it was in high school. This is definitely true, especially when your freshman floor is full of other former way-too-invested-in-the-high-school-newspaper types.

Yet here I am, standing ankle deep in my senior year of college, still proving to myself and others that I am without a doubt not cool.

On Sunday night, I spent two hours standing in my kitchen keeping watch on a whole roast chicken. With my cat as my sous chef.

(I’m often told that I’m going to become a cat lady, to which I respond: already there, buddy. Case in point.)

So why was a slaving over a whole bird? Because I like to feel fancy from time-to-time. And because Bink’s birthday was last week and I’m trying to spoil him in his old age (that little thing is 17 years old, people.) And for you, my kookie readers.

I’m not going to give you a recipe spiel here because salmonella is a very real thing and I don’t want to be on anybody’s hit list because I’m just not qualified to be directing anyone in their chicken-roasting experience. Instead I’ll just give you a few tips:

-Google “How to roast a chicken,” there’s no shortage of recipes. For starters I’d go for a simple S&P combo **link

-When buying the chicken, don’t be stingy. You’re investing around two hours in this project so you may as well start with quality. Sometimes bargain meat says stuff like “96% real chicken!” and that scares me a lot. What is the other 4%?? Did you expect me not to wonder??

-When you unwrap the chicken, check the inner cavity. There will likely be a small bag of chicken guts in there (yes, chicken guts is the culinary term.) If you forget to take this bag out, you will have a very messy, very displeasing roast.

-Rinsing the chicken is no small task, and if you’re like me you will look like you’re performing a comedy routine. Be ready to deeply sanitize your sink after you’re done cooking.

-Beware of finicky ovens. My cheap college-apartment oven was very temperamental, so I had to keep an extra eye on it. That’s right, three eyes. My kitchen and living room also had a real sultry (read: smoky) vibe when I was done.

– The moment you pull it out of the oven, you’re going to want to dig in. The house smells like Thanksgiving and you’ve been waiting for at least an hour and you’re just tired of being patient. But good things come to those who wait, let the meat sit for at least 15 minutes.

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(You’ll notice in the photo above, despite some strategic angling, that I in fact dug into the skin immediately because it was 9:30 and I was starving. And as I mentioned previously, nothing that I do is cool).

So there you have it, another rowdy night with Megan.

I may not be conventionally cool. But what’s cooler than being able to roast your own chicken? That question is rhetorical, please don’t answer it.

 

 

Challenging the cosmos with cupcakes

According to my sister, Mercury is in retrograde, so “everything is eff’d up.”

You may think that horoscopes are a load of baloney, and most days I would think you’re right. For example, today my Cosmopolitan horoscope said that “a love connection with someone unique and quirky” could “light up” my weekend and quite frankly that weirds me out.

Yet I still know every word to Beyoncé’s “Signs” and check my horoscope at least three times a week because you never know…

Last night I found myself in a terrible mood. Some yucky cocktail of post-game day blues, Sunday sadness, a few personal conflicts, and presumably our buddy Mercury, made me feel like this:

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I’m not a very confrontational person, so instead of facing my problems head on, I decided to make cupcakes.

I admit that baking is not my forte. My kitchen demeanor is just a bit too undisciplined (read: sloppy). Because of this, I am a slave to cake mix. But the options are so endless, how do you possibly pick just one?

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I knocked out white and yellow right off the bat because those are colors not flavors and I didn’t want to reward the lack of creativity by Betty Crocker’s marketing department. Also I’d like to start a petition to remove the word “moist” from literally everywhere.

Next out were carrot, spice, and gingerbread because I knew they would just remind me that the holidays are still a ways away (104 days until Christmas, yes I’m already counting down).

The remaining contenders were an array of chocolates and of course, Funfetti. I got the chocoholic gene from my dad, so I couldn’t go wrong there. At the same time, Funfetti is the most deliciously whimsical cake flavor out there. So I bought a box of both (Devil’s food as my chocolate choice, you know why *wink* ).

In the interest of restraint, I decided to make the Funfetti box first and leave the Devils Food box for a later bad mood.

Staring into a bowl of confetti-filled batter, my icy attitude began to thaw. I think I may have found a prescription for grumpiness.

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I’m really terrible at A) waiting for cupcakes to cool before icing them and B) actually icing them, but their final appearance didn’t matter since 10/12 of them were gone within 20 minutes after my roommates smelled the sugar and swarmed the kitchen.

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While I’m not going to assert that cupcakes can fix everything, they sure don’t hurt. I’m raising a cupcake to what’s sure to be another crazy week.

Mercury will be in retrograde until September 22nd, so whether you subscribe to horoscope mumbo-jumbo or not, keep calm and eat refined sugars.

Happy Monday!

You can go home again: Pt 2

I came home, but left a lot of my heart across the pond.

I know I KNOW y’all are tired of hearing that I miss Europe. But I do. A ton. And this blog is my party so I’ll cry if I want to.

What exactly am I crying about? Here’s an itemized list!

  1. BREAD: There was a certain period of time that I said I would fill my luggage with bread when I went home. That passed because I realized that I love my clothes too much but seriously the bread in Europe was insanely delicious. On several occasions I stopped by Delhaize on a Friday afternoon for groceries and would leave ripping my warm baguette from the bag as I walked. So darn good. Also, shout out to Hanna Knutson for always being the one to ask “Is there free bread?” at restaurants across the continent. You are the real MVP.
  2. Haribo Golden Bears- I’m a bit of a candy fiend. I’ve been getting into candy-related trouble since the third grade when I stole my sisters’ Halloween candy (it was a dark period in my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever escape my reputation as The Candy Thief). In my daily life, I try to avoid candy altogether because I’m an addict and there’s no such thing as “moderation” between me and refined sugars. But in Belgium, I faced my biggest tempter yet: authentic Haribo Golden Bears. These little treats are addictive in the US, but something about the Belgian version (perhaps the proximity to their birthplace, Bonn) was no match for my self-control. I went through at least a bag a week.
  3. The architecture: Walking from my apartment to Place Flagey, there was a certain point where an old church came into view. It’s not a particularly attractive landmark, but for some reason whenever I saw it I took a minute to think “Wow, I’m really here.” I got a similar feeling as I looked out the train window when traveling to and from small towns in Belgium, counting the dozens of little chapels that dot the countryside. I could sense the depth of history behind each casually-placed structure. For locals, I’m sure these buildings are just stacks of old bricks, but they continually made my heart swell. 13173587_10209048632475120_1555362490146672070_o.jpg
  4. Accents: I was abroad for so long that I guess I stopped noticing foreign accents and became more sensitive to hearing American accents. Now that I’ve had my feet firmly on US soil for a few weeks, every time I hear a European accent my heart hurts a little. For some reason words are just so much more interesting when they don’t sound like my own.
  5. European style: Europeans just know how to dress. Even when wearing sweatpants they still looked cooler than I think I ever will.
  6. Walking: I can say with a high degree of certainty that I would have gained 30 lbs this semester had it not been for all of the walking. I remember when my parents flew to BXL at the end of my program and I gave them a walking tour of the city, they almost couldn’t keep up. This is shocking because they’re both in excellent shape and I’m boasting a pair of grade-A chicken legs. Yet an entire semester of romping around different European cities on foot (mainly out of stinginess) made me into an excellent walker. Now I feel like a dingus as I get in my car every morning and drive one mile in three minutes to my internship.
  7. Public transportation: Don’t get me wrong, I missed my car, Satan (named affectionately), a lot. He’s the only one who ever gets to hear me sing. But gas costs money and parking is hard and sometimes I find myself wanting to hop on the 71 Delta bus.
  8. Euros: Seriously, America, why is our money so boring? I want colorful bills. And I want deceptive $1 and $2 coins that make me feel like I’m not spending as much as I am.
  9. The ability to run away for the weekend: I keep getting email marketing from RyanAir and Vueling telling me how easy it is to get to another city this weekend! Ha ha…maybe if I had a couple grand to spare. Which after five months at an unpaid internship, I most certainly do not.
  10. Confidence: I know it’s cliché, but studying abroad did have a profound, lasting impact on my character. I’ve always been pretty introverted, and I’ve always enjoyed existing inside my comfort zone. But from the moment I hit the tarmac in Brussels in January, I began to transform into someone who isn’t afraid to speak up, isn’t afraid to take a leadership position, isn’t afraid to walk up to a stranger for whatever reason, and most importantly, isn’t afraid to stand alone in the middle of a bustling city. I’ve found that having settled back into my comfort zone in the past couple weeks, I feel that confidence a lot less, but that’s just motivation to get back out there and see the world ASAP.

As with my Belgian one, this isn’t exhaustive. I miss so many things that it’d be insulting if I tried to put them on a single post.

I miss ya terribly, Europe. But I’ll be back!

Pour one out…

This weekend I booked an impromptu trip up to Dublin because I thought it was about time I meet Niall Horan. Unfortunately we had a bit of miscommunication and he was in Asia this weekend but holy cow Dublin was awesome nonetheless.

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Unlike London or Paris, Dublin doesn’t have a laundry list of tourist attractions, which meant the trip was pretty low-key. I checked out the Temple Bar area, walked around the Trinity University campus, and of course went to the Guinness Storehouse.

Warning: What comes next isn’t light and fluffy like a Belgian waffle.

Prior to coming to Belgium, I wasn’t a beer drinker. Perhaps that’s because I hadn’t been introduced to the right beers since your average college student lives by Natty Light and Keystone, which are affectionately(¿) equated with horse urine.

The biggest beer lover I’ve ever known was my best friend Jake. Just last year he taught me how to shotgun PBR like a pro. He had his own beer-making kit but never really mastered it, in fact the first batch he made was so carbonated that there’s a dent in his ceiling from when he opened it. He’d invite me over for Black Velvets (cider and Guinness) and would roll his eyes when I downed all of the cider.

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Jake really loved beer:

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A few hours after this photo was taken on December 12, 2015, Jake committed suicide.

I’m sure at least half of the people who read this will think that’s an over-share, and that WordPress isn’t the place for that kind of candor. But I’m hardly sensitive to the suicide stigma anymore. This post is definitely an outlier compared to my other happy-go-lucky “Look at this cheese!”-esque ones, but I’m determined to document my entire study abroad experience, not just the pretty things.

Europe has been amazing thus far, but it does feel a lot like I’m carrying an elephant with me everywhere I go.

As I walked through the Guinness Storehouse, that elephant was extra heavy. I so desperately needed to text him to tell him that I was there, to brag that I snagged two tasting samples instead of one, and to say I am officially certified to pour my own Guinness.

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I texted a friend back in Columbia who’s held my hand through all of this and he gently reminded me for the millionth time that I’m so lucky to be in Europe.

I could have easily cancelled this study abroad adventure. I almost did. But I could hear Jake’s voice in my head telling me that I had to go. And every day I hear that same voice telling me: “Wipe your eyes and hit the cobblestones, Stinks.”

Irish people are some of the happiest I’ve ever met. From waiters to cabbies to airport gate agents, everyone seemed to have a smile on their face. And that’s not to say that if you live in Ireland you don’t have your dark passengers, because I’m sure they do. But learning to live and thrive in the company of those passengers is an art that apparently the Irish have mastered.

When I look at my life right now, I’m honestly in awe. I have an incredible network of friends across the globe who would drop anything to hold my hand. I have a family that loves and supports me unconditionally. And I’m sitting in my apartment in Brussels writing about a weekend in Dublin.

Two months ago the world lost an incredible person. And I’ll never be okay with that. But there’s still a whole lot of incredible places to see, people to meet, and beer to drink.

Cheers to you, Jakey;

 

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Bonjour, Belgium

 

I have officially survived my first five days in Brussels!

This place really agrees with me. Not only is it beautiful and full of insanely friendly people, the food. is. phenomenal.

On the first night, I tried Lapin a la Kriek, or rabbit in cherry beer at Volle Gas. It was surprisingly delicious, but so heavy that I likely won’t be seeking it out often.

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photo taken by Samantha Kummerer

For the first couple days it felt like I was on vacation. The reality that I’ll be here for four months really sunk in when I sprung for a whole jar of Dijon mustard at what I’m sure will be my regular grocery store, Delhaize.

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t try my first Belgian waffle until my third day, which might mean I’m going to get deported. Those things 100 percent live up to the hype. They have a sticky, crunchy, caramelized exterior with a soft doughy interior. The chocolate sauce certainly didn’t hurt.

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The biggest shock of the trip so far is that yours truly is actually enjoying the beer. We’ve made the trek from our apartment in the uptown neighborhood of Ixelles to Delirium Cafe in downtown a couple of times to check out the bar’s 4,000 beers. I’ve only managed to try four of them thus far, but maybe I will have made a dent by the end of the semester.

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On our third night, the girls and I stumbled upon what the locals consider the best frites in Belgium. While we were waiting in line, a woman came up to our group of seven and handed each of us a frite with Brazil sauce, which seems to be a kind of curry mayo that was outrageously good.

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I’ve been working on my French a little, but I keep accidentally saying “si” instead of “we” which gives me away when interacting with cashiers. That’s what 15 years of Spanish classes will do to ya.

I’m proud to say that all of the locals I’ve talked to have said that they didn’t know my friends and I are American until they hear us talk, so I guess we’re settling in all right.

Tomorrow is day six of 115 in this delicious city, I can’t wait to see what’ll be on my fork next!

Shouting from the stovetops…

The first time I splurged on a black pepper grinder, I told myself: “Because you’re worth it.” Audibly. In the Walmart spice aisle.

When it comes to what’s on my plate, I’m not your average millennial.

Being a foodie hasn’t always been easy. On top of the financial burden of buying fresh instead of canned produce or quinoa instead of ramen, I’ve always felt that there’s a stigma about people my age who enjoy things like roasting a whole chicken once a week.

During my sophomore year of high school, I brought a bagged lunch because I was getting tired of the soggy cafeteria corn dogs. As I ate my chicken salad sandwich and minded my own business, a friend sat down beside me.

“That sandwich looks like barf.”

Word to the wise: Never insult my food. I will spork you.

I cook like a middle-aged housewife. You can find me dirtying all kinds of dishes at least five nights a week. I’m proud of my talent, but every time my roommate comes in the front door and says something like “Ooh so fancy!” it makes me want to crawl into my pasta pot and become one with the penne.

I’m 20 years old and I would rather buy a big ole pack of prosciutto than a ticket to a football game. I tear up a little when I have to throw out a container of ricotta because cooking for one means that I don’t have time to give it the attention that it needs.

I’ve hidden my culinary talent from my peers because I thought it was weird. Not anymore.

I’m shouting it from the stovetop. I’m a kookie millennial.

Step one: Acceptance
Step one: Acceptance