slubs in the city

Slub (adj): Maverick; unorthodox; independent in behavior or thought.


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i can see mt. everest from my kitchen.

 

 

The concept of the learning curve applies to nearly every situation which involves progressing from ignorance to enlightenment. Sometimes the learning curve presents itself as a relatively gentle slope; surprisingly, you find that you are able to adapt quickly to new ideas and can easily catch on to recurring patterns. In these rare moments, you may experience the fleeting and exhilarating sensation that you are in fact a latent genius and quite likely one of the smartest human beings alive.

this is what winning feels like. [image credit: here.]

this is what winning feels like. [image credit: here.]

 At other times, the learning curve is as steep and as cruel as Mt. Everest. Many a brave and talented hero has perished attempting to conquer this zenith of natural creation. When tackling certain life circumstances you may find yourself incapable of grasping even the simplest of concepts or completing the most basic of tasks. This frustrating reality is a telling sign that you are, in fact, catapulting ass-first down the wrong side of the learning curve.The kitchen is my Mt. Everest.

I wish I found more peace in the art of cooking, but I don’t. This doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily the worst cook on the planet. I have been known to make a delicious meal or two, and if I ever find myself living alone I probably won’t starve to death. But cooking, and by extension baking and grilling, does not come naturally to me. I’d rather clean the bathroom than prepare a meal for a party. In fact, I pretty frequently elect this arrangement when the slubs have friends over.

Still, every now and then I contract temporary amnesia and decide I will cook dinner for everyone and furthermore I will have a damn enjoyable time doing it.

A few days ago I strapped on my hardhat to whip up a batch of shrimp risotto. Please take a moment to marvel over this delightful photo I took of the leftovers at work today:

yum yum

Interesting, you may now be thinking to yourself. That actually looks pretty good. I don’t understand why she thinks she’s a moron in the kitchen. Before you make me blush a deeper shade of attractive pink, I must in all good conscience inform you of my learning curve downfall with this particular recipe: I forgot to de-tail the shrimp before they were thrown into the risotto. At first I didn’t think this would be too much of a problem, until I accidentally swallowed a bit of shell and gave myself a minor stomach ache. I’m sure that there is a technique to de-tailing shrimp covered in arborio rice and parmesan with grace, but as of yet it is beyond my grasp.

Dan’s Ultimate Shrimp Risotto

This recipe was submitted by Dan Eiref to cooks.com. See the original here. Also, I doubled the recipe for leftovers but prepared it in halves to make two pots of this dish: one with shrimp for the meat-eaters, and one with extra veggies for the vegetarian housemates.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups chicken broth (low salt if possible). NOTE: I used vegetable broth instead, in part because that made the recipe vegetarian-friendly and in part because I’ve found that chicken broth makes risotto too salty. But that’s just me.
  • ¾ cup dry white wine (might I suggest a chardonnay?)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (I didn’t use this and I don’t think the world ended)
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon (optional)
  • ¾ pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (AND DE-TAILED)
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 ½ cups arborio (risotto) rice
  • 1 cup spring vegetables such as asparagus tips, peas, corn, or broccoli
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan

Instructions:

Warm broth and ¼ cup wine in the microwave.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add half the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté for 30 seconds, and then add shrimp, if you’re using the little buggers. Sauté until shrimp begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup wine. Simmer until shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Do not overcook shrimp or they become tough. Drain shrimp, reserving cooking liquid.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Pause to wonder whose idea it was to make butter so delicious but so bad for you. Add onion and remaining garlic; sauté until onion is pale golden, about 4 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat, about 2 minutes. Add ½ cup broth mixture. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Continue adding broth mixture ½ cup at a time, stirring often and simmering until liquid is absorbed before adding more, about 20 minutes total. Don’t “drown” risotto.

Add vegetables and cream.

Cook until rice is just tender and creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Add a final shot of white wine, or a liberal splash if you subscribe to the slub style of cooking. Stir in reserved shrimp cooking liquid. If you made the uneducated mistake of buying shrimp that weren’t de-tailed for you, make sure to do that now.  Add shrimp. Add parmesan. Remove from heat.

Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley into risotto, and season with salt and pepper.

This portion size would serve 2 ½ slubs, but probably 4 normal people with room for dessert.

con amor,

shan

[Additional photo credit: Shannon’s fabulous instagram talent.]


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cooking, slub style

As you may have gathered, the slubs love to eat. There are few things better than good meals shared with great friends. We firmly believe this.

I also love to cook. I cannot speak for all the slubs here, but I almost like to cook more than I like to eat.

Why I love to cook:

  1. Cooking and baking are great ways to show someone you care.
  2. Cooking is a great stress reliever.
  3. Cooking is a creative process.
  4. Finishing a meal or baking project means I have at least completed one project that day. Some days, I need that empowerment.

But, let’s be real. I am not the world’s best cook. I have had my fair share of horrible meals. Luckily, my housemates are kind enough to not say anything. (Side note: I have never had a batch of baking powder biscuits rise. Ever. I have never had yeast bread fail. My cakes always rise to perfection. But baking powder biscuits? The fail proof recipe for delicious homestyle goodness? I can’t do it. Anybody willing to show me what I am doing wrong, I would greatly appreciate it). Hence, it is always nice to have recipes on hand that you know that everyone loves and that are hard to ruin.

Today, I wanted to share with you some of the wonderful, nearly fail-proof, recipes that the slubs love. That we make all the time. Most importantly, all of these can be made on a budget, from stock pantry ingredients, and often from leftovers. Oh yes. The slubs know how to deliciously stretch a buck.

Quesadillas, Enchiladas, Breakfast Burritos

slub food

Okay, maybe not all of you have the following ingredients on hand all the time. The slubs do. Our go-to dinners tend to be Tex-Mex themed. We always have salsa, tortillas, and cheese. And when I say always, I mean when we actually remember to grocery shop. We also usually have green bell peppers and onions on hand. Bam! Dinner.

For Quesadillas, heat up a large nonstick skillet. You don’t even have to grease it, which means no added fat. You’ll get enough of that if you use the proper amount of cheese. Put a large tortilla in pan. It may have first been smothered in refried beans. If it was from the slubs, it definitely was. Place this side facing up.

Cover in lots of cheese: cheddar,Monterey jack, queso fresco, cotija, Chihuahua, mozzarella, feta, or a combination thereof. Slub commandment: Love all cheese. For example, after a night out dancing we put fresh chevre into a quesadilla and served it with pesto. YUM. Lesson: don’t discriminate against your cheese.

Add your favorite ingredients like diced green peppers, onions, scallions, tomatoes, summer squash, black beans, corn, cooked ground beef, and/or jalapenos. Sprinkle with just a tad more cheese. Add another tortilla. When the bottom browns, flip the quesadilla. Let the second tortilla brown. Flip onto large dinner plate. Cut. Enjoy with salsa.

Enchiladas. Put all or some of these above ingredients in a large tortilla. Fold tortilla around ingredients so it forms a snuggly pocket for the delectable ingredients. Put in a baking dish. Smother in enchilada sauce. Bake in 350 degree (400 if you are impatient, which I often am) oven until sauce starts to bubble. Serve with rice and beans. Slubs often make two enchiladas each. Usually because we think we can each eat two. We can’t. Enchiladas make excellent lunches.

Breakfast burritos. Wrap up favorite ingredients plus freshly scrambled eggs in a tortilla. You may even add leftover rice and beans from the enchiladas earlier on in the week. You would be right to do this. Enjoy on a Saturday morning or a lazy weeknight.

Homemade Pizza

our pizza always looks this good

Ordering pizza can be expensive. Especially when one of our favorite pizza joints is Galactic Pizza. Heavenly. Definitely not cheap. So we often make homemade pizza. This is great because it allows everyone to specialize their own individual pizza and use ingredients we already have in the house.

Because we usually make last minute plans, this is the best dough recipe I have found. 30 minutes and you have pizza crust:

Dissolve 1T of yeast, 1 tsp of sugar, and 1 tsp of salt into 1C of warm water. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Frothiness ensues. Add 2T of oil and 2 ½ C of flour. Slubs usually make this crust with whole-wheat flour. If using all wheat flour, replace the sugar with honey. Trust me. Combine and knead for about 5 minutes. Let rest for about 5 minutes. Roll out into individual pizzas (this makes about 4-5 decent sized individual pizzas). Bake at 450 for about 5 minutes or until the dough is no longer outwardly dough-y. I know. It was like I was born to write recipes.

Add sauce. You can use homemade or store-bought pesto or red sauce. We often used left over spaghetti sauce. An easy red sauce can be made by sautéing onions, garlic, and carrots in olive oil. Add a can of plain tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. Simmer. A little bit of sugar, butter, salt, pepper, basil, and oregano finish this sauce off.

Sprinkle with your favorite toppings and cheese. We like artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, spinach, feta/goat cheese, green peppers, onions, summer squash, pepperoni, tomatoes, olives, etc.

Bake until cheese is melty and starting to brown. If you’re feeling flush that month, enjoy with a spinach salad topped with pears, cranberries, sugared walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette. If not, enjoy with a spinach salad minus the fussy parts.

Garbage Soup

I love soup! It warms you up on a winter day, and is perfect to take to work the next day for a delicious lunch. I love the flexibility of soup as well. It is such a great way to use up vegetables that are going bad or grains that have been sitting in your pantry forever. Just throw everything in a pot. Done.

Ingredients you must have: onion and vegetable broth.

Ingredients that would be great to have: garlic, carrots, celery, bell peppers, grain/legume of some sort (I love farro, but you could use brown rice, lentils, quinoa, etc.), beans, kale (you can use spinach or another green, but we have found that kale holds up the best through reheating…also, it is delicious)

Ingredients that you don’t necessarily need, but make the soup awesome: diced tomatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, zucchini, squash, corn, parmesan rind, parmesan cheese (splurge for the real stuff for soup…it melts so well), for meat eaters add turkey meatballs

Sautee things. Add broth. Add grains, beans, tomatoes, and any frozen ingredients. Add parmesan rind for extra flavor. Season with things like basil, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and peppers. Simmer. Serve with grated cheese and homemade bread, preferably fresh out of the oven.

Splurge recipes. Once in awhile the slubs like to make amazing meals when we have extra money. Here are some favorite splurge recipes:

Risotto

Here is the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for risotto. It is wonderful because it uses goat cheese instead of mascarpone. Heavenly. Ree suggests about adding wine if anything goes wrong. This is very true. If you were to happen to add half a bottle of wine, or more, while cooking, you wouldn’t be alone. We’ve done it, too. And it was spectacular.

Cupcakes

We love cupcakes. Check out Laura’s post about cupcakes on her blog. Laura is the best cupcake maker ever. Although her cupcakes usually look too good to eat, we eat them anyway. Here is one of the slubs’ favorite cupcakes from this year:

yes. they taste as good as they look.

It is like a high-class camping trip in your mouth.

Finally, always enjoy your home-cooked meals with friends, a glass of wine, and laughter. Once in a while, eat until you are uncomfortably full and roll into the living room. Turn on 30 Rock, New Girl, Downton Abbey, or Lord of the Rings. Complain about how you are too full to move ever again. Get way too into the program you are watching. And then eat a cupcake.

slub love,

Kat

dear post-graduate: welcome to the real world.

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Today I am officially 61.25% of the way through my year-long fellowship with Thrivent. In honor of this totally arbitrary event I’ve decided to list the top 6 things that I’ve learned during these past 226 days.

1.  Never go to the grocery store at 8:30 at night with the intention of cooking an elaborate meal for 2.This is especially important if you don’t know how to cook in the first place. Nora and I once had fantasies of making King Ranch Chicken when all the other slubs were gone for the night, and after ambling through the grocery store and googling “How do I cook chicken” we finally ate our meal at 10:30. By that time neither of us was really hungry. Extremely late dinners must be the secret to staying European skinny. Meanwhile, the slubs’ secret is laziness.

it seemed like such a good idea at 8:30…

2.  Do not recycle milk or egg cartons. If you do the City of Minneapolis will get mad at you, leave you a snooty note and refuse to take your recyclables for at least a week. Then everything will pile up and your neighbors will find out just how much you like wine and refried beans.

the city of minneapolis would like to point out that “milk cartons” and “egg cartons” are nowhere on this list.

3.  Spend money on the things you value, and scrimp on the things that aren’t important.

  • Things that I value: meals with friends, date nights, and high-quality jeans.
  • Things the slubs value: good wine, supplies and decorations for themed house parties, an assortment of quality cheeses, bridal magazines, celebratory outings, Netflix, expensive mousetraps.

4.  Speaking of mice, don’t use those crappy spring-loaded traps to catch rodent visitors. I encountered a mouse scrambling off our countertop on my birthday, and our attempt to catch her turned into a completely epic disaster. We used an old-fashioned trap, like the one they have in the Tom and Jerry cartoon, and soon enough the mouse was caught – by the foot. It then tried to escape for its life through a crack between our counter and the wall and got irreversibly stuck, and we couldn’t do anything about it for the next two days. It was gruesome. We have since bought a large and expensive trap, complete with a portico and a dial to tell you if the mouse has been caught. Before poor Michelle Bachman the mouse went to mousey heaven she must have told all her rodent friends to stay the hell away from the animal-haters at the slub house, because we haven’t seen any critters since.

avoid.

5.  If you are sad, happy, angry, stressed, loopy, cranky, bored, napping, cooking, doing your makeup, or cleaning, you should be watching one of the following slub-recommended shows:

  • 30 Rock
  • Arrested Development
  • Downton Abbey
  • The Bachelor
  • New Girl
  • Dance Moms

    YES.

MORE YES.

6.  Driving in Minneapolis requires you to be a hypocrite. You will harshly criticize everyone else’s parking job but will leave your own car parked crooked to the curb and call it a day. You’ll shout profanities at everyone that speeds past you in traffic but will cut people off to make it home faster. You will judge people who blow through red lights but have had your own fair share of close calls. You will fear the possibility of other drivers scraping against your stationary car on the street but will show no mercy when you’re squeezing past moving cars in Uptown. You’ll swear you’re a good driver but in reality become more aggressive every time you’re forced to take 94.

What a thrilling 61.25% of the year it has been. Just yesterday I threw my puffy jacket into the dryer with three tennis balls to keep it from looking like a Michelin Man costume when it was dry – I had no idea that was even possible. The slubs are learning new things every day! Just imagine what excitement the remaining 38.75% of the year will bring…

con amor,

shan


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anything mexican is fine by me. also, tagine.

Confession: I can’t cook.

My experiences with the kitchen are as follows:

  • Beyond macaroni and cheese and Ramen noodles, my ability to create anything edible is negligible.
  • One time, I tried making pancakes. I got the dry ingredients everywhere and accidentally left bits of egg shell in the batter. Also, I tried heating up syrup in the microwave but forgot to open the top of the bottle and it exploded. There was syrup everywhere. The microwave smelled like syrup for quite some time. (Which I argue is not actually a bad thing.)
  • Another time I tried making flan. It burned.
  • If I can’t find a measuring device, I can’t follow through with the recipe. The idea of going rogue in the kitchen is disquieting.
  • I have come to accept leftovers as a necessary part of life, but I have no clue how to combine them creatively into anything savory.
  • Speaking of savory, I constantly crave salt…but only ever feel like baking cookies. I’m sure this contradiction is a large part of the reason I haven’t seen much success in the kitchen.
  • I’m not very creative when it comes to making my own food. Whenever I brainstorm ideas for dinner, the list goes as follows:
    1. Pasta
    2. Sandwich
    3. Pancakes
    4. (dead void where creative brainwaves should be thinking of option 4)

So really, I don’t understand the kitchen. I’m not “domesticated” in that sense and I think my mom considers it somewhat of a maternal failure on her part. Yet there remains hope – while I can’t cook for anything, I have a deep and undeniable appreciation for the culinary arts.

I love food.

I’m a particular fan of Mexican. A few days ago Kat, Anna, Joe and I had quesadillas for dinner, and a comment was made that went something along the lines of “Anything Mexican is fine by me.” This might have been in response to Anna’s love of refried beans, but regardless, the sentiment is there and completely true. My parents raised my brother and I on TexMex and if it has ground beef, cheese, peppers and or/jalapeños, tortillas, and taco seasoning, my tummy is 100% guaranteed to smile.

While abroad in the Middle East, my stomach unfortunately didn’t do much smiling – 24/7 travelers’ sickness will do that to you, word to the wise – but that didn’t stop my experimentation with food. Let me tell you a secret: Middle Eastern food is positively divine. And it was never in short supply, as the people we met on our travels showed their hospitality through feeding us borderline inappropriate amounts of food. Pushing larger and larger amounts of potatoes and vegetables onto my side of the communal plate was a favorite game of my Moroccan host grandma. This tendency was universal to nearly every Middle Easterner who sheltered any of us poor unassuming American students, and as a result my fellow TIMErs and I quickly perfected an eating style fondly known as the Moroccan Hunch. This slightly embarrassing tactic involves leaning over your plate in a Neanderthal- like squat and shoveling extreme amounts of food into your mouth. It is often coupled with a hopping motion if you want or need to quickly make room in an already impossibly full stomach for more food. The Moroccan Hunch is neither graceful nor socially acceptable, but Middle Eastern food is that good that I’m willing to bust it out whenever necessary.

What it all comes down to is this: I can’t cook but I love food. And food is a way to spread happiness and community. I love sitting down to a well-prepared meal with my housemates – it makes our duplex feel like a home. (Slubs in general are food people.) And while Moroccan grandma and I were separated by almost every personal descriptor, including age, weight, language, culture, and standards of hygiene, we both greatly enjoyed a good bowl of couscous and eating a Ramadan cookie every day. (Or maybe 6 on grandma’s part.)

So I would like to make the personal vow to become comfortable in the kitchen. And I vow to chronicle my progress in that endeavor, at the very least so I can look back on this blog and think about what a square I was at 22. I can’t realistically say I’m ever going to be a good cook, and I’ve made the I-will-defeat-you-kitchen speech plenty of times before with zero follow-through, but since moving out and pretending to be an adult I’ve come to realize it’s an important skill to have. Plus my children will hate me if I only ever make them macaroni and cheese.

I leave you with a picture of Moroccan tagine:

con amor,

shan