so today I decided to make tomato bacon pasta

and I started out by changing out of work clothes into my favorite dress and apron because I needed to feel pretty and happy

so I looked like this

SUPER CUTE RIGHT.

Well.

I kept making the pasta except that it’s really annoying to make a double batch of tomato bacon pasta with a wok with six pounds of tomatoes so I got super stressed and halfway through I thought “why the hell am I making a double batch of pasta for three people anyway”

and I just kept getting angry and stressed

mostly because the bacon grease burned me on my sunburn and it STILL HURTS OWW

so this was the end result

And I just finished cleaning the kitchen.

I’m going to just pass out now kthxbai

P.S. Shout out to Jamesha for keeping me company and trying my pasta! Also HUGE shout out to my roomies Catherine and Anthony for letting me be crazy and cook until like 9 pm and then have a friend over. 

Okay seriously I’m going to bed now

Polenta.

I had a really weird interview a few weeks ago. I mean, the interview itself was pretty standard- I won’t go into details or anything, because I’d just bore you to tears- but leaving the interview something weird happened.

I was offered two packages of polenta.

That’s right.

Polenta.

You guys, I really freaking love polenta. I tried to contain my enthusiasm. I wish I could’ve taken more than just the two packages. And in case you were wondering, no, it wasn’t any kind of bribe or anything like that- these was being marked out because of the expiration dates. They weren’t bad yet but they couldn’t be sold.

So that day I brought home a package of polenta with quinoa and a package of polenta with basil and garlic.

***

My maternal grandfather, the grandparent who I saw the most growing up, was Croatian. He also thought that there was some Italian in our family as well, but we don’t know for sure. One day I’d like to do a bit more research about our family, see who all we’re related to. Well, I’d like someone to do the research, anyway, and then tell me everything. I’m no detective, I just like to eat.

Anyway.

My grandfather grew up eating polenta- it was a staple pantry item for the family. For those of you who don’t know, polenta is basically grits- corn meal. And cooked properly, it is so damn good.

(I look nothing like him.) (Also not much has changed appearance-wise for me, in my opinion. I still intend to wear the most glittery paper crown for my birthday this year.) (Also I’m still obsessed with daisies.)

So when I brought home the polenta I got super super excited because though my grandfather rarely made polenta when I was growing up, I still associate it with him and that part of our family. Also I was super excited because it’s delicious especially when it’s fried and then in sauce, which is what I did the first time I made it.

That pre-packaged polenta you find in the store is already precooked, so all you have to do is heat it. (Unless the directions say otherwise.) So I hacked the quinoa polenta into bits and then fried it up and heated some tomato sauce with bacon from a jar that tasted so good but also like corn syrup ketchup with herbs. I love the convenience of jarred sauces but I’ve been making the tomato bacon pasta for so long I’ve spoiled myself on what fresh sauce tastes like.

But I wasn’t making pasta. I was making POLENTA.

Unfortunately I was so damn hungry and excited that I didn’t photograph anything- sorry y’all. Just stare at 7 year old me above and dream of polenta. I like polenta fried because you can get it crispy if it’s cooked just right, although I feel like this is more easily accomplished with freshly made polenta instead of precooked polenta from a plastic tube. And after you fry it you can just throw it in the oven to keep it warm while you fry the other slices.

I wish I could’ve served this with goat cheese on top. It would’ve been good. Oh, and this was served to roomies like a boss. It was okay. I would’ve fried it differently again. Grandpa would’ve appreciated the effort, I think. Maybe.

***

So I still had that other package of polenta, the basil garlic flavored one, and I contemplated frying it up again, but honestly I just wasn’t in the mood. I’ve just been settling into my apartment and into work and I’ve already had to miss out on some swell shindigs with friends because I’m just so tired and overwhelmed from the transition out here that I basically said SCREW IT and threw it in a microwavable container with some milk and sour cream.

Because polenta can be microwaved.

And because my grandpa made polenta with sour cream, to thicken it up, and add a source of fat.

According to my momma, Grandpa made his polenta with sour cream and bacon which sounded absolutely divine to me. I’m sure this meal for Grandpa was a way of making a hot meal stretch to provide nutrition for a large family during the Depression, and so maybe he wouldn’t have been too wild about it. Who knows. Anyway, I half contemplated throwing bacon into the polenta for a hot minute, and once again my apathetic, overwhelmed, Tina Belcher self groaned and just hit some buttons on the microwave until it started to heat the polenta.

(Also I’m currently obsessed with Bob’s Burgers and just want to watch all of the episodes with my Annie Noelle, who is too far away and should be here next to me eating Indian take out and talking about boys and indie music. Hence the Tina Belcher nod.)

I also had gone a bit crazy a few days prior to making this particular batch of polenta, at a farmer’s market that happens to be inside my work building. I bought challah. I bought super amazing organic strawberries. I bought the most delicious buttery dates I’ve ever had in my life. And I bought cheese because of course I bought cheese. I have a hard aged goat’s cheese downstairs in my kitchen right now that tastes like a parmesan mixed EVER so slightly with some kind of blue cheese, so it tastes amazing but the smell of it makes me gag because blue cheese is the only thing I can’t stand. And then I also bought the most incredibly fresh cheese curds that were garlic infused and oh mannnnnn when I first bought them I was eating them like they were popcorn.

The point is, my polenta was heating and mixing slowly in the microwave, and I tasted it, and though it claimed to have basil and garlic flavoring it obviously didn’t come through well for me, so I decided OH WHAT THE HELL and threw in the cheese curds and kept heating the polenta so it’d get to be the right consistency.

This may have been the best culinary decision of my life.

Oh man. I was so smart to do this. The cheese was so fresh and garlicky it added enough of a kick to provide flavor- and texture too! I knew the cheese would melt well because the sales girl recommended I try melting the cheese on fries, kind of like a poutine. I may try that again sometime, but honestly I’m planning on just stocking up on polenta and making this over and over again.

I also threw in a pinch of cayenne for a kick (because naturally I’ve been fighting back a cold my whole life) and some salt and then grated some of that aged goat cheese on top to just give it a little bit of tanginess and oh man oh man oh man I’m getting so distracted writing about this right now because my tummy is growling I want my polenta.

Anyway, just to wrap things up for this version of polenta- I blended the prepackaged polenta with some milk, because you need to add some kind of liquid to stir in to get the polenta to the right consistency, and then I also added sour cream to add flavor and thickness for an even smoother consistency. Adding the cheese curds not only added flavor and some sweet cheese melty-ness, but it added some essential protein, which is good because polenta is literally just corn meal. That’s it. That’s why it’s super easy to cook- you can pretty much make any kind of dish with it.

I managed to be really good and not eat the whole dish in one sitting. The whole time I thought of my grandpa and what he’d say. I think he’d like my ridiculously garlicky polenta.

***

I never felt incredibly close to my grandpa growing up- I’d always been tight with my Grammy, his wife and my maternal grandmother, who passed when I was just two years old. We never really connected on things just because we had such different personalities. At that point Grandpa really had a hard time eating solid foods so he was eating a lot of soup. Actually, all I remember him eating was soup. And cherry Jell-o with whipped cream at The Purple Steer in Whiting. I was still obsessed with grilled cheese sandwiches and cucumber slices.

But what little I know of Grandpa and our family and our heritage, I know he’d be tickled to see me being so damn nifty and thrifty with my food. After all, it runs in the family.

Volim te, Djede. Nadam se da ste ponosni.

Only good things and great adventures.

-TheFabFoodGirl

P.S. Apologies for not having a more coherent piece about my family and polenta, I really have been distracted by how delicious the polenta sounds and am about to go destroy something with my mouth and stomach downstairs in the kitchen now.

P.P.S. BAY AREA GET READY IMMA MAKE SO MUCH TOMATO BACON PASTA THIS WEEK YOU’RE GONNA BLEED EVOO AND CAYENNE AND GARLIC FOR DAYS.

I got some more kitchen things shipped from Indiana to MY CALIFORNIA HOME you know nbd
THANKS MOMMA AND FODDER <3 <3 <3

I got some more kitchen things shipped from Indiana to MY CALIFORNIA HOME you know nbd

THANKS MOMMA AND FODDER <3 <3 <3

Some fun, fabulous updates.

Oh man, you guys. I have been up to some crazy shenanigans.

I’ll be blunt- I bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco three weeks ago, not knowing what would happen. I had a major interview lined up the day after I got in, and obviously had no clue what would happen after that.

I didn’t really tell too many folks about this, but I had no intention of coming back to Chicago after buying that plane ticket. San Francisco has been my goal since September, and to leave again now when the timing for relocation seems right just didn’t make sense. But that also meant I was essentially moving out on my own without having any actual position or housing set up.

I got really, really, really lucky.

I am fortunate enough to have family in the city and was able to crash with my aunt for the first few nights in town, as well as my entire trip in February. I also am fortunate enough to have some really amazing friends in the area- Amanda, who was living in the Sunset until about a week ago, and Lia, who lives in Oakland but is pretty much in SF all the time.

So, to keep this from getting completely off the topic of food, I’ll shorten everything as best I can.

  • I flew out here three weeks ago, had an interview the next day that went INCREDIBLY well.
  • I stayed with my aunt for the first few nights while I was figuring out what to do.
  • I then stayed with Amanda for not quite two weeks while I job searched and apartment/room searched (okay, San Francisco, you need to figure out your housing game because it’s horrible and you should be ashamed of yourself).
  • While staying with Amanda and Aunt Linda, I met up with Lia who is AWESOME and introduced me to every new friend ever, which is amazing, and I love all of you guys, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to know you all right now, especially while I’m getting settled in the area.
  • I got a job, for all of a week, at a fudge shop in North Beach.
  • I got an apartment with amazing roommates in Alameda! Cannot express my excitement enough for this one. Finding good roommates is always such a daunting task. Oh, and I love the apartment/townhouse/whatever too.
  • I GOT THE JOB OFFER FROM THE BIG INTERVIEW. 

This all just kind of happened in three weeks. And as crazy as this whole experience has been, I have loved every minute of it.

image

(Look at how happy I am. And pretty. I was pleasantly surprised with my makeup that night, given how little sleep I’d gotten the night before. I’m horrible at making myself look human when I’ve only gotten three hours of sleep.)

***

I’ve been thinking back a lot lately on my last food column for IDS, which wasn’t so much my rambling on about what I ate that week as it was a book review. Y’all know my love for Linda Ellerbee, right?

Yes? No?

Okay, well, I love her. She’s my idol. She’s the reason I got into journalism in grade school.

Anyway.

She wrote this book, Take Big Bites, and it’s absolutely my favorite book in the world. I mean, it’s exactly the kind of thing I want to get paid to write. It’s fantastic. I adore it. Anytime I’m having a bad day or need an escape I pick it up and Linda rescues me from my negative mindset.

In my last column I once again rambled and rambled because, naturally, when you suffer through Dead Week, your brain shrivels up into a wad of used chewing gum, lint, wet paper towels and sadness. (The paper towels are wet from tears of frustration, by the way.) But I wrote this right before I was to start the Disney College Program, and I remember being simultaneously scared and excited as hell.

I don’t know, blah blah blah, I wrote something to the effect that even though I was terrified, Linda would want me to go forth and do the program; I had to learn to be fearless and all that stuff, etc.

Man, thinking back on that now, all of my columns were really poorly written. Oh well.

ANYWAY. I’ve thought about that column and that book since coming out here. The title of the book is Take Big Bites, which I always imagined was meant to be interpreted beyond the typical food journey. I mean duh. 

When I wrote that column I was so scared but so ready to leap into something new. Those of you who know me well already understand why I was ready, and then why I was searching for comfort and safety when I returned from the program. tl;dr it was not a great program. Hence me staying at home, figuring things out, for a year and a half after graduation.

But deep in my gut I knew I had to make some kind of leap again, if only to break my cycle of continuously putting myself in a rut. And so I took a chance and flew out here with one carry-on bag and hardly any money to my name. I needed to take that big bite.

***

I can’t say that every time you make a risk or take a leap of faith that the odds will magically work themselves out in your favor. I can’t promise that any good will come of any risk you decide to take. But I know if I hadn’t made this leap, I would’ve regretted it for the rest of my life. And I know that if you don’t decide to make that leap, you’ll never know what could be.

So go ahead. Take big bites.

Only good things and great adventures.

-TheFabFoodGirl

Favorite thing about San Francisco (so far).

Besides the fact that I really love EVERY part of the city?

The gorgeous scent of garlic wafting through North Beach. Man, does that make me feel at home.

I’m so in love with this city.

Only good things and great adventures.

-TheFabFoodGirl

Random business idea of the day.

There should be a bakery where all of the items are named after Beyonce songs.

It would be the most delicious AND fierce bakery in the world.

Who run the world?! Gougères!!!

food52:

We’re so hypnotized, we almost forgot about our caffeine addiction.
Almost.
(via huffposttaste)

Best thing in the world.

food52:

We’re so hypnotized, we almost forgot about our caffeine addiction.

Almost.

(via huffposttaste)

Best thing in the world.

(Source: onepointeight, via ffffood)

Only good things.

I’m not sure exactly when this started, but a while back my family started toasting things with the phrase “Only good things.” Didn’t matter what it was we were toasting, or if times were tough or good or bad or easy or whatever. We would toast to the good that’s ahead, that’s waiting for us. Anyway, I’ve adopted this phrase a bit for my own daily use, particularly with Twitter, as I’m sure some of you have seen. 

Or, if you haven’t, here’s a sample- “So excited to be in San Francisco again! #onlygoodthings #andgreatadventures”

I added the #andgreatadventures thing because… I don’t know. #onlygoodthings didn’t seem like enough for some of what I was writing. And it feels like it fits. ANYWAY.

The reason I’m rambling on about this instead of all the amazing food I’ve eaten, the things I want to try, habits I’ve developed or deserted, is due to what’s up with my life plans right now.

I recently had a trip to San Francisco, which was amazing and unbelievable for so many reasons, and I’m returning very, very soon. The goal is to live there and get back to my cookbook again, and get some seriously creative writing done with some dear friends. There is so much to tell you guys about! Everything is starting to fall into place in my mind, and once I get settled with all the little things I need to work on first, I’ll be able to share more.

For now, let me leave you with these two awesome opinions from me about two very different foods I had in San Francisco.

  1. Lychee cotton candy exists, and it tastes amazing. It’s what I imagine fairies would sleep on if fairies existed. You know, like Titania.
  2. IN-N-OUT ANIMAL STYLE IS WORTH THE HYPE OH MAN YOU GUYS I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW EXCITED I WAS TO TRY IN-N-OUT AHHHHHHHHHHHH

Oh! One last thing, I FINALLY updated my bio page Who Is The Fab Food Girl?. And by updated I mean slightly edit some things to make it seem less like I just graduated from Indiana University. Because the last time I looked at that bio page, I had just graduated from Indiana University. Apologies, for I was busy dissecting truffles and studying social media marketing and analytics for kicks and giggles.

The point is, even though I’ve not been able to provide the highest quality food rambling posts as of late, I will have many for my fine readers soon, and you will be delighted. And pleasantly surprised, I hope.

Only good things and great adventures, kiddies.

-TheFabFoodGirl

Here’s a fun tip from yours truly.

If you ever think you’re going to crave fluffernutter sandwiches at midnight, make sure to have all of the things necessary to make fluffernutter sandwiches, such as a clean grill that doesn’t have little steak remnants in it, and marshmallow fluff that doesn’t need to be melted down.

See, you can make fluffernutters with regular marshmallows easily enough- you just need to slice them and get them on the bread with the peanut butter before you get them warmed enough to melt the marshmallows down. Best way to do this is with some kind of grill, like my handy dandy reliable Foreman grill that’s seen me through college. But! If you’re like me tonight, and didn’t have the grill cleaned, nor did you want to take the time to clean it, you need to find another way to melt down the marshmallow slices.

The microwave comes to mind. It’s helped to soften up/melt down marshmallows in the past for smores, why wouldn’t it work now?

To make a long story short, I tried to heat up the marshmallows enough on the bread just to melt enough without completely soaking into the bread. Which worked fine, but given how cool the house is right now because of the polar vortex the marshmallows cooled instantly before I got the peanut butter on the bread, so I had to reheat the whole thing BRIEFLY before getting it all put together. Which ended up with melted marshmallow AND melted peanut butter all over the kitchen my mom had just finished cleaning.

Anyway. When making fluffernutters, don’t be an ass and melt the peanut butter everywhere. The end.

P.S. Another good reason to just buck up and use your grill/grilled cheese maker/whatever is to keep the bread from getting weirdly soggy, like when you microwave it.

I’m really off my game tonight guys. Sorry. I’ve been caught up finalizing plans for my trip to San Francisco. (SO EXCITED OH MY GOD)

Here are some fun facts because my stomach is growling.

  • Marzipan and dark chocolate is still one of my favorite combinations in the world.
  • No matter what you eat, there is nothing that will make you feel warmer if a polar vortex is headed your way.
  • The chocolate chocolatey chocolate chip cookies ship well, but are only good for… I want to say… a week.
  • When shipping cookies, it might be a good idea to make sure the person receiving the cookies will be able to have them delivered, and will not be out of town. Otherwise the cookies will be sent back, and might also be stale. (Sorry Aunt Linda!)
  • Chocolate cures many ailments, including nerves.
  • My chocolate supply is seriously dwindling.
  • Apparently I REALLY need to check out El Porteno when I visit San Francisco.
  • I extended my trip to San Francisco! I’ll now be there through the 10th, giving me more time to apartment hunt and just generally be awesome. Also giving me more time to eat.
  • It does not matter how sick I feel. It does not matter what time of day it is. I will always crave a ribeye steak.
  • Polar vortexes are the worst. I am not a penguin. Stop it, weather.
  • Did I mention I’m ready to eat my way through San Francisco?

Only good things and great adventures. And chocolate.

-TheFabFoodGirl

Year in review.

What the what 2013?! This year was insane and…just… insane. Basically everything major I tried to plan just fell through. Oh well. Clearly bigger and better things are in store.

To bring everyone up to speed, my temporary assignment at Groupon was completed the Friday before Christmas, so now I’m back to full-time prepping and searching for employment in San Francisco. It was definitely a different experience, working at Groupon- I haven’t worked for a company that large since Disney or IU. I guess it would be closer to Disney than IU just because IU is a public university and Disney is definitely not that. That job meant yet another change in eating habits- figuring out what to bring for lunch and what to have for dinner given time constraints was a constant battle. But! I did get to once again bake the annual Christmas cookies with Annie Noelle, and even got to bake with my darling Amy-Nicole as she made pizelles and Italian anise cookies for the holidays.

The Italian anise cookies are a favorite of mine. When I was growing up, I had a neighbor in Whiting named Dora, who acted as my adoptive grandmother. She took my mom and me in, as there weren’t many chatty neighbors, and she taught me to make pasta and pizza from scratch. But the anise cookies… ohhh. Mom and I fought over them. And Dora called them the nipple cookies! I think the translation of the name is Venus Nipples or something like that. Every time I’ve tried to look it up, though, it only comes up with chocolate truffle recipes. Anyway, the cookies get their name because Dora made the glaze with a little bit of red food coloring, so it was this light pink glaze on top of this golden round cookie. Dear lord. I ate too many at Amy’s. Oops.

Christmas was simple this year- salmon, spinach gratin, double baked potatoes. And for New Years, since I had no plans or money and was stupidly sick, I ate a ribeye and giant baked potato by myself and loved every minute of it. (After the insanity of 2013, I don’t know how I would’ve found the energy to go out essentially clubbing with everyone else.)

And now it’s a new year with new goals and aspirations. I’ve purchased my plane ticket and will be in San Francisco February 1-7! I cannot wait to see what opportunities await me there. Plus I’ll be reuniting with some very dear friends and family- and meeting the newest members of my family.

I don’t have any food trends for 2014. I have no idea what will be hot or not, nor do I particularly care. I still haven’t tried a cronut, and I think juicing everything is slightly overrated. Nonetheless, here’s what I’m going to be doing/eating/drinking this year-

  • More elderflower liqueur. Seriously underrated, though I am worried it may get overused, as I’m seeing it more frequently in speak-easy style bars and settings. 
  • More Indian food, and not just frozen Indian meals from Trader Joe’s. TJ, I love you, but I want to be eating leftover Indian the way most people religiously eat leftover Chinese.
  • More exploring. I’m really hoping my transition to San Francisco is smooth and quick, so I can get out there and see everything. I’ve only been to Cali once, and that was only in LA. I want to see forests! I want to see more mountains! I want to travel so much more.
  • More writing. Writing EVERYTHING. Not just on here. Getting more work done on my book. Maybe some freelance. Who knows. I just need to write more.
  • More green veggies- not just for health, but for taste. My hope with moving away from Chicago is to crave more veggies and leaner foods- as much as I love my calorie-dense meats and potatoes, I want to change up my diet. But it’s tough to get away from all of that with extreme weather and whatnot here. 
  • More water. I’ve been pretty good about this already, I’ve hardly been drinking sodas at all. Also, because of how much the furnace has been in use, I’ve been getting ridiculously dried out- chapped lips 24/7. 
  • More reading. Duh. I’m so behind on my To Read list.
  • More dinner parties. I miss cooking for my friends.
  • More dinner parties. I miss having wine with my friends.

This is going to be a fun year.

Only good things and great adventures.

-The Fab Food Girl

My cousins are the best.

My cousins are the best.

family time.

family time.

Quick update

I am super excited and proud to announce I’ll be starting a temporary position in customer service at Groupon next week! I’m curious to see what all I’ll be learning and what skills I’ll be sharpening.

I’m still planning on heading out to the Bay Area in the near future, so readers, feel free to send suggestions, notes, and advice my way. 

That’s all for now. I’ve had a pretty crazy week- six interviews this week, three of which were in one day. So I’m planning on sleeping a lot this weekend. YAY SLEEP. YAY LILY. 

I’m so excited to start the next part of my life. Only good things and great adventures.

-The Fab Food Girl

Pinching my pennies.

I just got back from visiting one of my dearest IU friends, who just moved to Chicago! YAY! SO EXCITED I LOVE THIS GIRL ASJHKASLJDFLAS

Anyway.

We were bonding over our choice of “poor student” meals, which have now become “poor college grad” meals. We both were okay at budgeting and figuring out meals and grocery bills at IU, but because she’s in a new town now and doesn’t start work for a few more days, she’s still figuring out where to go for affordable groceries and food staples. Which led to a whole big discussion about budgeting and rationing for food.

When I was in school, I did okay. I lived in CLLC for three years and had a meal plan, and had a very small wage paid out to me for writing at the IDS. I didn’t have to go grocery shopping, really, but I still went to the C-store regularly for some basic late-night food staples- bread, cheese, milk, fruit, Lunchables. (I really love Lunchables. Don’t judge me.) But my last semester, I was on my own. I had to majorly, MAJORLY budget everything, and my family had to help me way more than I ever wanted them to. Thankfully, I was still able to get the food staples for way cheap, and stretch my meals for a few days.

-Tuna salad. I tried not to make it too much, for fear of mercury poisoning, but this was an easy way to get protein and fat and also eat onion!

-Chicken salad. Again, I tried not to make this too much, but that was because I only had so much chicken. But man, I made a damn good chicken salad. Om nom nom. This would give me about 4 meals.

-Huevos rancheros. I LOVE refried beans. I also love fried eggs. When I would be really, really hungry from rationing a bit too much, I would make this. Throw in a little bit of sausage or ground beef with salsa or cheese or sour cream- I mean, maybe it’s not the absolute healthiest thing in the world, but you definitely fill up.

-Macaroni and cheese. I still have never made this from scratch, but it’s not like I could afford to make this from scratch back in the day. I actually used to stretch this by adding extra ingredients- bacon, mushrooms, onions, broccoli. The nice thing about the bacon is that the fat helps the mac and cheese reheat well, as opposed to with nothing added at all.

-Grilled cheese sandwich. I’ve actually seen a lot of spins on grilled cheese sandwiches lately. You get carbs, you get calcium, you get a little fat and protein- awesome. Add in some spinach or tomatoes, and you’ve got more to eat and fill you and make you feel all warm and happy inside.

What other meals or foods are best on a tight budget? Anyone out there with some ideas or opinions?