Workin with whatcha got

One of the things I’ve learned, in both commercial and home kitchens, is how to work with what you have. When you’re single like me, and you’re only cooking for yourself, following a cute recipe you found on Pinterest can be annoying and a waste of money, especially when you’re left with random odds n ends of vegetables and proteins, and no idea how to use them. So they inevitable rot in your fridge, destined to become pseudo-science experiments until you throw them out in disgust. Or! You can get creative with it.

Since I am not only single but broke as fuck, I opt for the latter. Luckily, this is where my line cook chops come in handy: I know how to cook most proteins and am comfortable working within several flavor profiles, independent of a recipe. Without further adieu, here are the results from my Saturday experiment:

Assess the sitch: what leftovers do I have in the fridge that gotta go….

Leavings... and a weird, but awesome print inherited from my grandparent's kitchen.
Leavings… and a weird, but awesome print inherited from my grandparent’s kitchen.

Ok, that’s like 1/2 an eggplant, 1/3 of a red bell pepper, some Italian flat leaf parsley, garlic, and an onion. I’ve seen eggplants, peppers, squash in all kinds of Italian/Mediterranean inspired menu items, usually in the form of a grilled veggie combo, usually served in some sammy or in antipasto-esque variation. I also had a couple strips of bacon and some boneless, skinless chicken breast too… So… what to do…. Fuck it, let’s stuff ’em!

So, first off, cut shit up, to roughly the same size, a-like-so….

FullSizeRender (10)

Then, heat up a pan over medium heat with your fat of choice (I opted for a butter/EVOO combo), and toss in the eggplant/pep/onion. Hit it with some s and p, and let it soften for a bit, eehh like 4-5 minutes. Then, throw in the garlic, cook for another 2 minutes or so, turn off the heat and hit it with the chopped parsley:

Everybody in the pool!
Everybody in the pool!

Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 375 and prep your chicken, aka butterfly it. This basically is running your knife along the thick end and slicing into the breast, so you’re opening it up like a book:

Veritable page turner
Veritable page turner

If it’s an especially thick piece, sandwich it in between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound the shit out of it. This particular breast was ok though, so I didn’t go the the trouble. Salt and pepper both sides of the breast and fill ‘er up with your stuffing. Then, roll ‘er up and wrap that chicken joint in some bacon strips:

I didn't have enough bacon to wrap the other one... such is life as a single gal on a budget.
I didn’t have enough bacon to wrap the other one… such is the life of a single gal on a budget.

That chicken’s gonna take easily 25 minutes in a 375 oven (15 on reggae heat, and about 5 under the broiler to crisp up that bacon), so I perused my fridge once again for a quick, slap-together side… enter that squash shout out from earlier:
FullSizeRender (9)

Ok: we got zucchini noodles (zoodles!), some parm chi, and some chickpeas. Use that same pan from your chicken stuffing (cause why make more work for yourself down the road??). In terms of timing, it depends on how hungry you are/how much you tolerate burning the roof of your mouth on hot chicken. When I’m good I wait until the chicken is out of the oven: gives it time to cool, and besides we’re essentially just heating the zucchini concoction through. At least, wait until you’re on the last 5 minutes of the chicken (when it’s in broiler mode), before starting this. Put your pan on medium to medium high heat, and throw in some butter. Once the pan is hot again, toss in your zoodles and chickpeas:

Fryyyyyy my pretties
Fryyyyyy my pretties

Hit it with some s and p, and just, ya know, cook it. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes, depending on the crisp level you want on your zoodle. When it’s good, throw it on the plate with your bird and garnish with that parm.

Well lookie there!!

Fuckin' low-carb-A.
Fuckin’ low-carb-A.

Bon appetit, baes.

Wee! Food = Good!
Wee! Food = Good!

Short hand: Chicken:

1/2 eggplant, 1/3 red bell pepper, 1/4 yellow onion: diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsps Italian flat leaf parsley chopped

S and P

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

4 strips bacon (if you wanna wrap both of those bad boyz)

-Oven 375, saute stuffing and fill butterflied breasts, wrap in bacon. 20 minutes in oven, 5 minutes under broiler

Zucc:

Approx 2 handfuls Zoodles (1.5-2 cups)

1/3-1/2 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed

S and P

Shaved Parmesan, for garnish

-Saute pan over medium-med high heat, butter. Zoodles/chickpeas/s and p. Cook until HAWT. Garnish with Parm.

Current jam: “Plastic cup politics” LTJ

Today was weird

I just got off the phone with a friend. The conversation was good, but she could tell I was distracted. She asked me how my day went: Not too bad at all. Had RAMP training for the new job at a hard cider bar (check it out here). Then we went out back, grilled up some grub on the open fire wood grill, I learned what a mountain pie was, and I helped transfer some cider to its new barrel-y home. I came home, made some strawberry sorbet, and watched a great documentary on Tig Notaro. But sometimes, there’s this disquiet in my internal monologue; at moments throughout the day I noticed it. It never fails to mildly unnerve me, because normally my mind never stops.

Her insightful compliment on my last blog post fell on deaf ears, and so she asked me, what was up?

I couldn’t really explain it all that well to her. Afterwards,the more I thought about it, the more I realized it boiled down to one word, a word that has inserted itself into my lexicon of late: timing. I can’t say it’s been on a right or wrong side lately. It’s just been present. Perhaps what’s bothering me about it is it’s insistence, it’s determination to be a component for the foreseeable future. It affects my intuition and makes me second guess my choices, where I (dis)place my energy, and then I obsess over how all the minutia may end up compounding.

Maybe the solidification of a work schedule reified the idea that, for a while, this is permanent. Maybe it’s just the dregs left over from two days of imbibing (which, now that I recall, do affect me more when I don’t drink regularly). I dunno. Maybe I was just a little home sick today… that phone call thrust into harsh light how much I miss certain people. I generally appreciate the state of technology, the ubiquity of social media and its ability to keep us all connected, no matter the distance. But it also makes the lack of physical contact that much more tangible…. hmm. The phrase “wish you were here” isn’t cutting it today, and I doubt it’ll cut it tomorrow.

Current Jam: “Stolen Dance” Milky Chance

Time to grow the fuck up

I jokingly said that to a neighbor at my going-away dinner. We were talking about the impending move, and how I was actually excited (mostly), to get outta town. I’d been wading in immaturity for too long, and it was time to move on…

I thought about that today as I looked back at the changes I’ve fostered since I’ve been in PA: my drinking and smoking have dropped substantially, I’m exercising at a pre-graduate school level, and I’m eating pretty damn healthy. I’m engaged in my health at an unparalleled level. I joke with my friends that the culprit is ennui: I have nothing better to do! Not enough work, no friends here, what else but perfect my smoothie game and craft those abs I haven’t had since 22? (and! so far so good: I got into a pair of shorts that have been a liiiiiittle too tight for about 2 years… and gasp! This time, they *weren’t*! WOOT!)

I’m making an unprecedented effort at my mental health too. It helps that I’m not (as) bat-shit crazy, but beyond that milestone, I’ve thrust all those creative or self-fulfilling pursuits I’ve felt too busy to pursue – wanting to read more, to write more, to practice photography more, to (finally) learn another instrument – to the front of the priority line (second fiddle only to finding that second job). I still get a bit scatterbrained when the evening arrives, when I’ve exercised and eaten, and then… well… then what? I still have to take a breath, and remind myself that there is no rush to pick up one c(h)ord or another. I have nothing but time… at least for the time being… ha. I’ve become preoccupied with a self-betterment program (I literally just started calling it that, at this moment), because I realized I was neglecting those parts of myself for so long, mostly because I was trying to find that satisfaction in other people and things.

The exclamation recurred to me yet again while I was perusing my email this morning and came across a message from my lovely grad school wifey, V. She was forwarding me an article called, “How to Spot an Emotional Grown-up.” Her synopsis read thusly:

“Sometimes I read goop, even though it is often pointless and/or classist. But I like this article on emotional maturity in relationships. It made me think of relationship bingo and my upcoming blog post on tinder messaging.” (Coming soon, gentle readers).

I had some time to kill… literally, I was in a waiting room, so I took a gander. The hosting interface and the debate over it’s intrinsic value aside, this piece was well written, informative, and thoughtful. Naturally it gave me stuff to ponder, an additional level-up on the emotional health: it made me aware that I was very emotionally immature until just recently (I hope and pray). I spent too long agonizing over my breakups, picking them apart like carrion. I was a pendulum of extreme reactions. I would swing from a self-deprecating “it was all my fault” melancholy, to enraged, bitter, shoving all the blame onto them. They weren’t blameless, exactly, but neither was I. I participated in a level of behavior that I abhor in other people: refusing to acknowledge when you’re wrong. And, according to this article, “emotional grown ups own their shit.” So I’m trying to do that these days…

All in all, there were several components to this article that I had gleaned already: EGU’s use language thoughtfully (learned that one from watching my parents: they always fought fair. There was no name calling, no keeping score, no hitting below the belt), EGU’s have empathy for others (I seriously don’t understand people that can’t do this. It’s like, the first thing you learn in kindergarten, the golden fuckin’ rule, ya know?), and there were some nuggets that I needed reminding of, specifically, EGU’s love and care for themselves:

“In the end, people need to be responsible for their own well-being.” Historically I have been pretty selfless, and pretty needy in my romantic relationships. I blame it on a constantly wavering sense of self-worth and a fear of feeling lonely… I think I will always battle with those emotional landmines. I will always struggle a little bit, navigating my social needs with self-preservation, reminding myself that I am worthy of a committed relationship, that I deserve unconditional love. But one of the things that PA has done for me is forcing me to be independent again, and to be content with my own company. The journey began before I got here, but my routine has really solidified it lately. I have a hard time getting myself out there, not being reclusive. I’m not sure why. I like going out and doing shit. I think, sometimes going out and doing shit, though, amplifies the thought that I am alone, and that, right now, I have no one to share those experiences with. And that kind of sucks.

The silver lining, is these days the healthy mind and body changes keep me stable, and they keep things in perspective for me. I kind of look at it like, by devoting this time period to myself, I’m effectively distancing myself from those emotional immaturities. It’s like weening off an addiction; sometimes you gotta go cold turkey. Plus, (and I don’t think this belies my previous statement) I think of it as making myself that much better, that much more deserving, for the next relationship, whenever it comes about…. ‘Cause, ya know, I can’t have a healthy, adult relationship until… well… until I grow the fuck up.

On a lighter, warm and happy note, here’s a whimsical nugget of an article I came across the other day, that made my heart smile: “I Want to be Single – But With You,” by Isabelle Tessier. I felt like it was the heart to the previous article’s head approach to an emotionally healthy relationship. Love and logic, two sides of the same coin.

 

Current Jam: Still obsessed with new Death Cab: “No Room in Frame” (and still “Little Wanderer,” let’s be real).

How to Move from FLA to PA

The short version: It takes a little bit of moxie and a lot of rope.

And now, the Long version: Finally, the time had come. After two months at home, I had to pick up the truck, load it, and set off to the wilderness of central PA. I was apprehensive, to say the least. This would be the second major move of my life, the farthest away from home I’d even been (with the exception of a summer study abroad). I didn’t feel particularly “ready,” but I doubt I ever would have felt that way. The change was imminent, whether I liked it or not.

Despite the evident anxiety, part of me was relieved. As I anticipated, I was back in a routine that wasn’t good for me; too much drinking, not enough healthy living. It’s not that I want to completely leave that part of me behind, exactly… Gainesville is a wonderful place, with wonderful people, and I will never believe otherwise. But it’s also a kind of Neverneverland. You float on in a happy bubble of Sunday Fundays and nightly pool crashing, the accompanying white noise the crush of a beer can or the clink of a bottle as it jostles around in your messenger bag. I don’t have the liver, the metabolism, or the psychological stamina for it, and part of me is thankful for that. As much as I love my time at home, I also waste too much time, too much of myself there.

Well…. it wasn’t all wasted….

Anyways, I tried to stay awake through my last night, since Ed and I were headed out bright and early. I didn’t make it, and fell into a fitful sleep at 2 am… awakening with a panicked start at 6. I had one last hour. It wasn’t enough time. It wasn’t enough… but then it never would be, because it never is. Not when you must pull away from your home, and your family, and your friends… and those who occupy that exciting, and exhilarating, and precarious place between friend and more.

The final embrace, the first time Ed hit the gas, the first turn onto the highway…. all those moments came and went with sudden, painful pulls deep in my rib cage, the dual sadness of loss and the encroaching fear of the unknown. I struggled the first leg of the trip, trying to stay upbeat and positive as Ed and I navigated through a plethora of topics, our conversation bouncing back and forth as it does when best friends are left in sweet solitude to their own dialogic devices.

In totality the drive was beautiful, and fun, and eventful. I was nervous about driving, not so much about the size of the truck itself, but the size of the truck with Greta attached, via a shoddy tow dolly. I kept looking in the rear view mirrors, utterly paranoid that the next time I checked, there just wouldn’t be a car there anymore. Before we even got out of Florida we were accosted by a horn blast and a trucker in the lane next to us, gesticulating wildly. We pulled over, to discover the pin holding in one of the metal ramps to the dolly was gone and the ramp grated against the asphalt….. and in comes the rope I mentioned earlier:

 

 

This is why you keep a length of rope in your car, kids.

Surprisingly, that held strong for the rest of the trip.

We rolled in to Lewisburg around 4 p.m. on July 4th. Amidst the sporadic bursts of firecrackers (which never failed to startle me), we unloaded the truck, hit Target for the essentials, and celebrated the holiday at the closest open bar, as only we Gainesvillians can. The night ended with Community, eating eggs and sausage out of the one clean pan we could find, the stretch of open windows in my living room keeping us connected to the drunken revelry below (reminded me of home right away! I could have been outside of Loosey’s or Boca).

The next day I dropped Ed off at the airport… and continued on solo….

It’s been about two weeks now. I love the job, but my bank account is suffering greatly without a second means of income. I’ve been applying for additional work, but this being a college town, business in the summer slows, so I may not find anything until classes start again… oof… my wallet, it burns!

Aside from the stress associated with my hazardous financial situation, I’ve managed to build a relatively healthy routine. I don’t drink during the week, and I’m working out regularly. I’ve lost 5 lbs already! (Thank goodness, because holy GOD I was a lil’ chunkster when I left; yet another downside to the party-girl lifestyle I indulge in at home). I’ve got some social plans arranged over the next few weekends, which I’m thankful for. This is the second weekend I’ve had to myself. I can’t spend money (duh), which trickles down and creates problems with my normal, tried-and-true people-meeting techniques… well… my main people-meeting technique: bars. As a result, I’ve been very reclusive when I’m not at work.

Two years ago, this scenario would make me an anxious mess, battling crippling panic attacks, popping medication like tic tacs in a futile effort to cope…. this time… I’m still lonely, but for some reason I’m also not as interested in forging new ties. I’ve been trying to articulate why I feel the way I feel, trying to understand why I’m actively isolating myself. I think there’s a few reasons, which seem to converge around the lifestyle I want to lead, versus the lifestyle I usually end up with…. the same old tune I always sing, about wanting to drink less, mostly. I guess I’m hoping I can build new relationships that aren’t centered around that insidious activity…

Even that explanation though, seems incomplete…. I’m still depressed…. but it’s not over the whole picture. Like I said, the job is great; it’s a pivotal puzzle piece for my future. I’m confident that I’ll learn a lot, and it will prove a huge growth in my career aspirations and professional confidence. Perhaps what I’m struggling with is coming to terms with the way my life is, at 29, and how it differs from the way I imagined it when I was younger…. bear with me for a second, ok?    

…so, I was on Pinterest the other day, absent-mindedly looking over the boards I had, when I came one that I’m sure is nearly ubiquitous to every female on this interface: the future wedding board (mine happens to be called, ‘One day…’). I must have started it years ago, because as I perused it, I saw subtle changes occur in my taste. Not that surprising, when I considered the board’s age. That small variance, though, stuck with me through the rest of the day. I thought about how (maybe this is too pessimistic, but somehow I don’t think so), that life event may have passed me by. At least, the way in which I first envisioned it. If I ever do get married, it will never be how a younger me pictured it, because that time has simply passed. Things change as you grow older; things you used to like no longer retain that same shimmer of appeal. Activities, people, even cocktails you once adored fade in fascination. These changes are necessary and inevitable, of course, and some of them I gladly dismiss as they pass into memory. But at the same time, I feel like I’ve missed out on some of these rites of passage, and I’ll never have that opportunity again, because time, at least as we conceive of it now, is linear. There’s no way to move but forward, and that constant affects every aspect of your life, whether you want it to or not.

That sentiment gives me comfort sometimes, especially when I think about the choices I’ve made regarding my career. I’ve been ambitious, to a degree, and it seems to be paying off (in experience and opportunity, if not in greenbacks yet, haha). My family is proud of me, and I’m proud of me, too. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for certain aspects of my personal life. I know I sound like a broken record; I’m sure several of you roll your eyes, thinking, “oy, not this sob story again. We get it, you’re lonely.” Well, you naysayers can just deal with it, because this is my soapbox and I’ll say what I damn well please.

Anyway, in a roundabout way, what I’m trying to convey, is that my depression probably stems from the very fact that I’m choosing to isolate myself. Historically, I would be obsessed with finding the next guy to fill that emotional void, which is no good, I know. Now, it’s as if I’ve resigned myself to the seclusion. And that resignation is what depresses me. It feels like I’m giving up, like I’ve finally dropped the romantic ideal that I’ve clung to for so long, that he’s out there. That my *best* best friend exists. That timing doesn’t matter; if it’s meant to be, it’ll be. I’ve lost my faith in those meaningless platitudes. Timing is shit. Timing sucks, and I don’t inherently trust that he exists anymore. Even if he does, I’m so jaded, and I’m so distrusting of my intuition now, that I probably wouldn’t even recognize him if he was standing right in front of me. So, instead of putting myself through yet another heartbreak, I’m trying to just… focus on other things… but see, that’s what depresses me, if that makes sense. I’m depressed because I’ve lost that idealistic aspect of my personality, that innate trust in the universe, that it will give me what I desire if I’m a good enough person, if I try hard enough, if I trust, and continue to hope. Time is linear, right? I’ve shed the skin of that optimistic young girl. She’s quickly fading into memory. The pragmatic me that has taken her place has decided, apparently, that staying in and watching Downton Abbey, a peppermint tea by my side, is as good as it’s gonna get, and I might as well get used to it.

Hahahaha. I’m re-reading this, and I have to say sorry, gentle readers. I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer as fuck right now. But these are the thoughts I’ve been mulling over lately. I promise, next time, I’ll post beautiful pics of my new ‘hood (because silver lining, it is actually quite beautiful).

Current Jam: I finally started listening to the new Death Cab album, which I am now obsessed with. Combo of “Little Wanderer” and “Good help (is hard to find)”