I just had the nicest conversation with a lady from Sally Mae student loan servicing about a student loan that had come due that I didn’t know about. Sally Mae has been calling me for months, but it’s always a pre-recorded thing that says “call us back at blah blah blah.” Of course I’m not going to call them back. OF COURSE NOT. I find those calls so unbearably obnoxious that I will go out of my way not to call them back. And if I’m so curious that I can’t bear not knowing what they want (this happens to me a lot—I cannot live without KNOWING things), then I will call using Chris’s phone and a pseudonym to try and ascertain what type of company is calling me. And then I’ll hang up on them.

This nice lady, “Amy,” seemed very understanding about my inability to call them back. She then asked if I’d received the thrice-per-week mailings. The answer is “probably,” but that I immediately recycled them. I’m sorry, but if your mailing doesn’t come with a free panty coupon or in the form of a Sur La Table catalog, the chances of it even making it in the house, let alone getting opened, are slim. That’s why I participate in online bill pay and I have an email address. Gah.

Back when I used to be completely insolvent, I used to get bills and collections and crap en masse from the post office. Getting the mail was about as pleasant an activity as gargling with drain cleaner. Especially because the letters would always be increasingly threatening, and it wasn’t like I was sitting at home on an armchair stuffed with $100 bills, just not paying them out of spite. And then they’d start calling, and I’d say “well, I’m still in college and I can’t afford that payment right now.” And they’d tell me I needed to pay anyway, and I’d be like “well, I’m assuming that you’re expecting American currency and not a handful of polished seashells, so you’re still out of luck.” The end result of this nasty business is that I don’t like to open bills or answer the phone. Same phenomenon as how I don’t answer the door when the bell rings because historically it means that I’m going to be arrested for something stupid, like having my dog off his leash and forgetting to pay the fine (true story–happened to me).

When we finally blazed past my irresponsibility, riding the white steed of my own insouciance, everything was very cordial. Because now that I’m a grown up and I have a bank account with black numbers and I pay all of my bills on time, there has been very little cause for anyone to send me letters. In this case, it was because all of our student loan payments just march out of our bank account automatically each month, so I assumed they were all in good order. I’d forgotten this one existed.

When she told me I was in arrears, I just said “Oh. Hang on. Let me get my wallet.” And then I paid her. And she was friendly. And nobody threatened anybody. And then I was all caught up. It was the most satisfying thing in the world, really. Then she sent me a thank you email, which was a nice touch.

You know what else is satisfying? Sometimes eating a meal that is made entirely of calories and fat grams and cheese and little else.

Have you ever had those days where you wake up and think “Criminy. I’m looking way too thin. I really need to gain some weight, and stat!”? No? No…I haven’t either. But that doesn’t stop me from occasionally waking up and having a whale of a time with food, regardless of whether I feel like Kate Moss or a Manatee on the day in question. I figure, I behave most of the time. I eat organic food and I don’t eat very much meat and I shop the perimeter of the store and I have fiber cereal every morning for breakfast.

So when you see the pasta recipe below, try not to judge too harshly. It’s a small sin out of a person who tries very hard to be clean in matters of the gullet.


It’s not really a recipe, per se. More of a technique.
-Take a good, strong pasta (not something flimsy like angel hair or whatever) and cook it until it is on the firm side of al dente.
-While it’s cooking, deeply caramelize some onions, garlic, mushrooms, and/or whatever vegetables you have on hand that want to go into a pasta dish.
-Then grab a handful of fresh basil, maybe a bit of fresh parsley, a few chunks of parmaggiano, a couple of fresh garlic cloves, and a generous hurling of pine nuts. Put them in a food processor with a enough olive oil to form a paste. Not a pesto—a paste. It’ll be light green and milky-ish looking.
-When the pasta is drained (but still wet and maybe holding a bit of liquid inside its folds), toss it in with your caramelized vegetables.
-Then stir in your basil paste and pour in a good, generous slosh of cream or half and half. Maybe also a small pat of good, European butter. Stir it over medium-low heat until the cream is absorbed. Taste and add a bunch of sea salt to give it oomph.
-Add another good slosh of milk or half and half. When it’s formed a thickish coating on the pasta, but hasn’t been absorbed, throw a few handfuls of finely grated parmaggiano in the mix and serve it with crusty bread and olive oil.
-Add some spicy sausage pieces if you feel like it. Niman Ranch makes a great one that’s organic, humane, and found at Target!

The pasta is so creamy and flavorful, with a shockingly pleasant bite of fresh garlic and a robust sweetness from the caramelized onions. The cheese melts down into the sauce and isn’t visible at all, but makes the cream salty and savory and so pleasant. And yes, the butter matters. And no, you can’t do this with just milk (unless it’s a rich, European-style whole milk MAYBE). It’s not supposed to be calorie conscious. It’s like a fleece blanket on the floor in front of a roaring wood fireplace. It’s comforting and soft, but clearly smacks of earthiness and sex. You’ll like it. I promise.

Then go for a brisk run, possibly to the mailbox. Because a) it’s a bajillion calories and b) there are probably bills in there that you’ve been ignoring for weeks. And maybe a free panty coupon.

P.S. If it’s any grand consolation, you can eat a BIG plate of this and still be consuming far, far fewer calories than a plate of pasta with any kind of dairy-inclusive sauce at a restaurant. Truth.

Anger and Fajitas

We still haven’t heard back on the latest attempted coup to get home to Colorado, so I have no news to report. But I have made a few dinners this week, fueled by immeasurable hope that things are going on in my favor behind the scenes. Plus, I had some rage to release, and it was getting a bit long for Facebook status updates (my usual preferred method for raging). So here I am. Raging. At things.

My number one source of rage is currently that there are only two “high-end” restaurants in Golden, Colorado, and neither of them offer vegetarian options. I am not a vegetarian, but I’m not eating meat right now. It’s a number of factors, really, but much of it boils down to the fact that I can’t find free-range meats at restaurants reliably, so this has become kind of a defense mechanism when I go out to restaurants. It’s easier to be a vegetarian than to try and hound the kitchen to find out where they sourced their steaks and whether or not I’m going to be chomping down assloads of hormones and mutating all of my eggs and having flippered children down the road. Also, I get guilty about sad-faced cows in feedlots. But you know that well already.

Anyway, my brother is having a rehearsal dinner next month, and now I’m yelling at my computer screen a lot while I try to figure out how the fuck it’s possible for two established restaurants to not have a single vegetarian option on their menus. I guess one of them offered to do “pasta with vegetables” when my mom asked, but COME ON. Way to phone it in, chef. There are eight bazillion ways to make interesting, exciting vegetarian food, and you’ve elected to go with the “I’m drunk and it’s 3 am and I only have dried pasta and cheese and red peppers in the fridge so hold my beer while I throw some shit together” option? Naw, son. Not for those kinds of prices.

I’ve been coming up with more interesting ideas than that in the 10 minute breaks I’ve been taking from playing Final Fantasy XIII. Then I’ve been making them in like, 10 minutes. And you can, too. It’s not hard. Maybe I’ll just throw on my hateful chef whites and prance into the kitchen, remove the tongs from the head chef’s hand and be like “Listen, weinerface. This is how it’s done.”

Case in point: yesterday I roasted tomatoes, sweet peppers, garlic, and onions in olive oil until they got all soft and sweet. Then I threw them in the Vitamix with salt, fresh basil, and pepper. I blended for 3 minutes on high and served the soup with cheesy mozzarella toasts and a splash of cream. It was so tasty and healthy, and it took me about 4 minutes of actual effort. Also, I finished chapter two of FFXII while I did it.

Second case in point: the day before yesterday I made vegetarian fajitas that were seriously hearty and delicious, and they used almost all the same ingredients but tasted completely different. Here is the recipe, because I feel like you should try them out, too. Whether or not you’re into steak fajitas (believe me, I usually am), you’ll enjoy these and give your arteries and colon a valuable day off from dealing with animal fats.

Baby Bella Fajitas

.5# sweet peppers, sliced into fajita-sized pieces (these can be multi-colored bell or the smaller ones you get in a giant bag at Costco)
1 large onion, sliced into similar-sized pieces
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1.5# baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T grapeseed oil
.75 t ground cumin (freshly ground if you can)
1 T red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Fajita trimmings (warm flour tortillas, shredded jack or cotija cheese, salsa, lettuce, cilantro, sour cream, or whatever you like best)

-Get out a giant skillet (cast iron is the gold standard if you have it–at least a 16″ size) and heat it until it’s very, very hot.
-Drizzle in grapeseed oil, then immediately add garlic and stir for 10 seconds.
-Toss in peppers, tomatoes and onions, and continue to saute until they’re soft and getting some color in places. Letting them sit for a few seconds between stirs helps ensure you’re getting enough color. The onions should be reaching golden brown when you’re done with this step.
-Toss in the cumin and stir. It’ll release some pungent fumes, so keep a source of ventilation handy–like a window.
-Remove all vegetables from the skillet and return the skillet to the heat. When it’s almost smoking hot again, throw in all of the mushrooms at once. Don’t stir them. Don’t move the pot. Don’t disturb them in any way for at least 30 seconds. Then stir them a bit and repeat the 30 second wait. You’re trying to get a good sear on them, meaning they’re brown and crisp on the outsides but tender in the middle.
-At a certain point in the last step, the mushrooms will release a bunch of fluid. Add a good sprinkle of salt and stir them a bit. Allow them to cook, stirring occasionally, until all the fluid has evaporated. Immediately return the rest of the veggies to the skillet and combine.
-Sprinkle with red wine vinegar and stir well. Then taste and add salt and pepper to get them seasoned to your liking. Cayenne pepper can add zing if you want it.
-Serve hot with your fajita fixings and allow everyone to create the fajita of their dreams.

These could have been photographed a bit better with the EGO light that I have used in the past, but the spring sunlight is too pretty to waste, so I went with that.

How easy is this? Seriously? Almost no imagination, eight ingredients (if you include the spices) and a few minutes of time out of my afternoon. If I can do this while I’m moping about the possibility of Biloxi, and with very little experience preparing vegetarian foods, then I’m sure the chef of a highly-regarded restaurant can pull a rabbit out of his ass, not slaughter it, and think of a vegetable to feed his guests. In spring. Which is vegetable season, in case he was curious.

I always assume it’s a “he” because I’m sure a woman wouldn’t be like “meat meat meat meat meat meat meat meat pasta meat.” Then again, I’m probably wrong. We have been given the vote now and all, so who knows what type of atrocities we’re committing in the workplace.

Also, and this is the part that really boils my turnip, it costs MARKEDLY LESS to make a good vegetarian dish than to make a good meat dish. Now, I’m in no way assuming that they’re using good meat. All indications show it’s not free-range. But even so, vegetables in that area are cheap and easy to come by and meat costs a lot of money. So if they can find something that sounds and tastes and looks pleasing and exciting, and they charge similar to what they’d charge for a meat dish, then they make more money. But maybe they don’t like money.

Meat meat meat meat meat meat meat meat Biloxi meat.

Confessions

You know when Usher Raymond had cheated on his wife or girlfriend or baby-mama or whatever? And how he then went on to “apologize” by making an album devoted to singing about being a big fat cheater? And then how that album made him a bazillion dollars? I wonder if his wife/girlfriend/baby-mama was pissed off. Because I would be. I’d be like “yeah, thanks for the thought, but it doesn’t seem to be very punish-y that you get to make a bazillion dollars and go on tour and probably tap all kinds of strange while you’re at it. Actually, that feels more like a continued series of offenses.” Then I’d probably ask to co-write his second apology album, and have it full of songs like “Teeny Wienie for a Black Dude” and “VD on a CD” Fewer people would buy that album.

Anyway, the point is that I have some confessions to make to all of you. I’m not actually sorry, so it’s more an album that gives a song-by-song explanation of why I haven’t been blogging for squat, and what I plan to do about it. Pretty sure it’ll go platinum.

Album: Eating My Feelings
Artist: The Spiteful Chef

Track 01: I ain’t been cookin’, nonono
–This song is a jazzy, beat-intensive number about how I haven’t cooked hardly anything in the last few weeks.

Track 02: Grumblin’
–An industrial solo about the sounds my poor husband’s stomach has been making while his wife refuses to cook anything.

Track 03: The Biloxi Blues
–Soulful, sad, and dark, this song talks about how the Air Force has assigned us to Biloxi, MS for the forseeable future, starting July 1.

Track 04: The Punching Song
–This track is an intense, death metal screaming match about how I felt when the Air Force told us we have to go to Biloxi. It ends in a vocal solo that is mostly me screaming “FUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOOOOOOOOU” in my Rob Zombie voice. The music video has lots of clowns and blood, but it’s still in its conceptual stages.

Track 05: I Won’t Survive
–A remake of the famous song “I Will Survive,” only with the words changed creatively to maximize drama.

Track 06: Stand and Fight
–This traditional, Rocky-style anthem is pumped up and full of fierce courage, hope, and determination. It’s all about the sheer number of pieces of paperwork and meetings and strategery that we’ve launched to try and get home (or closer to home).

Track 07: Eating My Feelings
–The title track outlines in a whiny, Counting Crows voice how I’ve been making, ordering, and eating the same few things in rotation because they remind me of home and/or they’re comfort food. I’ve ordered panang tofu at least 5 times. I’ve made corn chowder at least 5 times. Some nights I ate only torn up lettuce with bottled dressing. Other nights I ate dry cereal. On one memorable occasion I made Lipton noodles n’ sauce that I had leftover in the pantry from when I was sick once, then baked some Boca chik’n nuggets and served them to Chris. On a plate. I was so ashamed. I also ate thin-crust pizza with olives twice. A few times I’ve skipped dessert, and that’s pretty much unheard of in these parts.

Track 08: Colonels of Hope
–This is a white-boy rap about how the big brass have noticed our efforts, and are meeting with Chris to discuss it on Monday. Like, the BIG brass. Like, pee-your-pants-scary, in-charge-of-life dudes who rarely descend from their various towers. The end kind of peters out, because who the hell knows how this is going to end?

Track 09: Silencio
–A quiet, low snare tapping…tapping…tapping as we wait to hear what’s going to happen.

Track 10: Epilogue
–This track hasn’t been cut yet. Here’s to hoping it’s full of inspired, creative cooking, happy plans to return home to our families, and a return to some level of normalcy of life. Because that’d be great, you know. And also because if Chris has to eat another Amy’s Burrito instead of real lunch, he’ll probably snap like a stale cracker.

The cover of the cd has a picture of me and a punching bag, to signify that while I may not be eating the way I normally do, I’m still exercising regularly and sleeping regularly. Just so’s you don’t worry too much. And also because I’m not interested in becoming a full-on basket case. Yet.

So I’ll see you guys at the release party, when that last track has been written, produced, and polished. I promise I’ll be back, and when I am, let’s be ready for some new stuff, mmmkay?

Loves,
Me