Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A quick lesson in the difference between real and pretend


I LOVE Harry Potter.

I’m a full-on, total geek, would-wreck-anyone-in-trivia superfan. I read the books and watch the movies again and again, and may or may not have a teensy bit of a crush on Sirius Black. I have a JK Rowling autograph framed above my desk, have seen her speak at Radio City Music Hall, and was among the legions of fans waiting in line at midnight to buy the new books and see the movies the second they were released.

As much as I love the wizarding world, though, I understand that it’s pretend. I don’t pace in front of the mailbox waiting for my Hogwarts letter or try to perform summoning charms on my glasses from across the room. I don’t try to fly on a broomstick or attempt to apparate in and out of my house.

Like I said, I understand it’s not real. Therefore, I’m not aspiring to become a wizard.

But here’s something that many women and girls don’t understand isn’t real: Magazine covers. Over the past week, un-retouched images of two of the world’s most beautiful women—Cindy Crawford and Beyonce—have leaked online.

The images show things that are familiar to anyone with a face and skin: Pores, bumps, blemishes, stretch marks, sagging, lines. In other words, they show real human bodies (and the ladies still look gorgeous, BTW).

Unlike Harry Potter—which is clearly sold in the FICTION section of every bookstore—glossy magazines are sold as real, and the images in them are presented as real. Except they’re not real—no one looks like that! Even the people who look like that don’t look like that! No one’s skin is as smooth as plastic! It’s fake!

It’s all fake.

And because it’s fake—even fucking Beyonce doesn’t look like Beyonce!—it’s a ludicrous thing to aspire to. Just as it’s ludicrous for me wave a wand and expect magic to happen, it’s ludicrous to try to exercise or face cream or wax ourselves into magazine cover perfection. It’s a fight we will never win because—say it with me—it’s all pretend. Can we please stop aiming for the impossible?

There are no wizards. There are no perfect bodies. It’s all pretend.

Monday, February 9, 2015

10 more ways to make cooking suck less

A few weeks ago, I told you guys that being your own prep cook on Sunday is a great way to make weeknight meal prep a little easier.

Here are some more ways to make cooking suck a little less, with an eye toward the parts that everyone seems to hate the most: Planning, prepping, and cleanup:

1.       Think ahead: It might make for a painful half hour, but take the time each week before hitting the grocery store to meal plan. I usually plan for 5 nights, realizing that one night will probably be leftovers night and one night will we’ll get take out, go to a restaurant, order pizza, etc. If you’re the main chef for a family full of complainers, enlist their help. Ask for a meal request from everyone. And remember, as my friend Brianna pointed out, breakfast for dinner is always a crowd-pleaser.
2.       Drink: Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax.
3.       Use the oven when you can: The more you cook in the oven, the less you have to tend to on the stovetop.
4.       Use a single pan when you can: Roast a chicken in the same pan that you cook veggies in. Do the same for things like pork loin or pot roast, too. This works really well with harder veggies, like carrots, white and sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, and gives them a lot of extra flavor, too.
5.       And when cooking in a single pan in the oven, line that pan with aluminum foil, parchment paper, or a silicon baking mat: Avoid foods sticking to cookie sheets or roasting pans by using one of the above. I like silicon mats (available anywhere, but here they are on Amazon) because they’re reusable, can go in a dishwasher, can withstand crazy-high heat, and nothing—I mean nothing—ever sticks to them. Depending on what you cook, you might not have to wash the pans at all; just wait for the liner to cool and put the pan away (you'll have to wash the liner, though, lazybones!)
6.       Make a lot: Double recipes when you can and freeze the extras. I do this a lot with pancakes.
7.       Think tacos: Whether you have leftover roasted chicken, beef, pork, or veggies (or all four) make leftovers tacos part of your meal plan, and add taco shells and fixins to your weekly grocery list. On taco night, mix your leftovers with taco seasoning or salsa for more flavor.
8.       Learn to love eggs: Eggs are so versatile and easy. You can make everything-but-the-kitchen sink omelets, frittata, scrambled eggs, or quiche by adding whatever leftovers you’ve got hanging around into your egg dish. Throw in everything from leftover deli meat and cheese, veggies, bacon, etc. I sometimes also hard boil a shitload of eggs all at once and save them in the fridge for egg salad sandwiches for dinner (add some of your pre-prepped veggies for sides) or just for snacking.
9.       Screw cookbooks: If you hate to cook, don’t bother buying cookbooks or cooking magazines. Instead, buy a three-ring binder and hit the library. Bring home a couple of cookbooks and experiment. Before you return the books, use the library’s copy machine to make photocopies of the recipes you liked and store them in the three-ring binder.
10.   Embrace the staples: It’s super helpful to have a handful of easy, know-them-by heart, go-to staple recipes that you know your whole family likes for nights when you’re really tapped for ideas. In my house it’s ravioli with mushrooms and spinach; chicken pot pie; and breakfast for dinner!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Making cooking suck less, part one: Be Your Own Prep Cook



There are some fundamental truths in life, and one of them is this: If you never eat, you will quickly die. Even the dumbest dumbass you can think of has to figure out a way to feed himself.

It’s for this reason that cooking will be part of all of our adult lives. But contrary to what food porn would have you believe, not everyone orgasms at the sight of a perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet.

In fact, a lot of people really, really hate cooking. They find it stressful, boring, and tedious. All the planning and chopping and cleaning totally sucks. Although some people might enjoy parts of the chore, cooking is still a chore. But unlike doing laundry or cleaning the toilet, cooking isn’t a chore that can be put off for very long. True, if you never do laundry, you’ll eventually become Smelly Guy. But that’s small potatoes compared to the consequences of not eating. If you don’t eat, you’ll become Nutritional-Deficiency Guy and eventually Dead Guy.

I conducted a very scientific Facebook poll of my friends and found out there are three things that people who hate cooking (and even people who love cooking) hate the most: Planning, prepping, and cleanup.

My biggest tip for those people, and myself, is BYOPC: Be Your Own Prep Cook.

In a restaurant, the prep cook is the dude who does all of the suck work for the bigwig chef: Chops veggies, grates cheeses, etc., so the fancy chef can do the magic fun parts.

Do your weeknight self a favor and spend an hour or so on Sunday doing all the prep work for the week, since that’s the biggest time sucker for making meals. Grate all the cheese you’ll need for pizza or lasagna. Wash and cut all of the veggies. Chop onions and garlic and herbs. Do it all at once. Just power through it. It might be unfun in the moment, but you will thank yourself later in the week.

I did this last weekend and wanted to make out with my Sunday night self the entire rest of the week. When it was Monday at 6:00 pm and time to roast broccoli, I wasn’t wasting time chopping. I dumped the already washed and chopped broccoli onto a sheet pan, drizzled it with olive oil and salt, and roasted it in a 425-degree oven for 20 minutes. That weeknight veggie prep took 1 minute.

On Tuesday when I wanted to add carrots, onions, and bell peppers to black beans and rice, I took the already diced veggies out of containers and dumped them in the pan. This took 10 seconds.

I did the same thing later in the week for green beans, asparagus spears, Swish chard, sugar snap peas, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Store your chopped, diced, and grated everything in plastic containers in the fridge. The only foods this doesn’t work for are fruits and veggies that will turn brown, like apples, pears, and white potatoes. It’s perfect for everything else.

If you can faithfully find the time to BYOPC every week, you’ll save yourself so much time when you’re hurrying to make dinner after work. The prep time will be less, and the cleanup time will be less, too.


Stay tuned later in the week for more ways to make cooking suck a little less, but until then, what are your favorite kitchen tips? Tell us in the comments below.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Deviled pompous ass eggs


I was at the grocery store the day after Christmas and saw the cutest stinking thing: A box of 18 teeny tiny speckled quail eggs! I floated over to them as if in a trance, wearing a foggy, dazed smile. Quail eggs! At the grocery store! It was a Christmas miracle.

I picked them up and hesitated: Why would I buy quail eggs?

Then, a better question occurred to me: Why wouldn’t I buy quail eggs?

I put them in my cart and skipped off to the register. So surprised, so happy. At home, I flourished them at Brian, Chloe, my grandmother, my sister-in-law, anyone who’d pay attention. Look at them! They’re so little! And speckly! My brother-in-law, Chris, accused me of buying them in the pompous ass section of the grocery store, and although that’s a good guess, no, no. They were just sitting there, looking so dang cute, among the regular ole’ eggs.

But what to do with them? It seemed a tease to fry them, a waste to simply scramble them. These little suckers needed to be showcased. I decided, then, to devil them for a belated Christmas party the next day.

Before I get to that, though, the basics: What the fuck is a quail?

Basically they’re just little birds, but don’t they sound so fancy? I imagine that they look—even in the wild—like 18th century zoological lithographs or Audubon prints, like something you’d see at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.


Also a few quail facts, too: Some quails have a feathery little flourish jutting out of their foreheads. Quails are found around the world, from California to New Zealand to India. A group of quails is called a flock, a covey, or a bevy. A bevy. Isn’t that delightful?

Now, a word on deviled eggs: As much as I love them, they present something of an eating conundrum: They’re a bit messy for two bites, but too big for one.

Deviled quail eggs present neither problem. They are one-bite wonders. Chloe and I popped toothpicks in each of them for easy eating.


Since quail eggs are half the size of chicken eggs, I boiled them for 7 minutes instead of 15. Next, I cooled them down in cold running water and peeled them. This was a little tricky; the quail eggshells weren’t as brittle and easy to peel as chicken egg shells. Instead, they felt a little more rubbery. They were also absurdly tiny in my hulking, giantess hands. Seriously, quail eggs will make you feel wild with power.

Once the eggs were all peeled, I cut them in half, wiping the yolk off of the knife blade after every egg to keep things tidy and clean. I gently popped out the yolks, and mashed and mixed them with mayo, salt, mustard powder, and a bit of apple cider vinegar (add what you like until it looks, feels, and tastes good to you), I put the yolk mixture into a homemade pastry bag (a gallon-sized zip-top bag with a teeny piece snipped off the corner) and filled the eggs. It was really easy. Chloe actually did a few of them, too.

Later, at the party, there were two reactions to the deviled quail eggs: “Cool!” or “Eeeewww!”

I can kind of understand both reactions, but in reality, there was nothing earth-shattering about the way they tasted: Like deviled eggs.

Which is to say delicious!  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A field trip to the Anheuser-Busch Merrimack Brewery in which I become the pride of my family

At our Wilson family cookouts, there are two things that can always be counted on: Anheuser-Busch beers and the booming voices of my uncles.

You’d develop a booming voice, too, if you’d grown up in a family of five boys who were separated in age by just seven years. My dad and his four brothers must have felt the need to out-boom each other in order to be heard over the din of pretending to kill one other (a mother-torturing incident involving ketchup, a white t-shirt, a dart, and a little boy sprawled out on the floor) and actually almost killing themselves (metal toboggan runners to the face, a near-drowning in the Saco River, knocked out teeth, bike-riding wipeouts on railroad tracks, hockey pucks to the forehead…the list is a long one).

Five wild boys and their dad, 1965

Brothers and their Bud Light cups 47 years later

So I think the booming is an honest byproduct of that.

As familiar to me as my uncles’ voices—especially in the form of their joyful, unguarded laughter—are the Budweiser, Busch, and Michelob Ultra cans and bottles that are in their hands at every family event. For my Uncle John, it’s Budweiser in bottles; he’ll reputedly walk out of a restaurant that doesn’t serve it. For Uncle Paul it’s Michelob Ultra, and for Uncle Mike it’s Busch.

I admit that I didn’t inherit their affinity for light beer, or their booming voices, either. I’m a craft beer drinker (although not a beer snob) and am actually one of the more soft-spoken members of my family.

That’s why I wasn’t sure what to expect during a Beermaster Tour and food pairing at the Anheuser-Busch Merrimack Brewery in Southern New Hampshire. 


Brian gamely poses at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery

But I was immediately and pleasantly surprised when the tour began with a sample of Shock Top Chocolate Wheat, a beer that I didn’t know was brewed by Anheuser-Busch. We sipped the darkly colored beer, which had notes of vanilla mingled with chocolate, and heard from our tour guide, Chris, about the history of the 162-year-old brewery and the story behind its famous Clydesdales (they were a seriously ballsy gift from August and Adolphus Busch to their father to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition).

Next, we suited up like air traffic controllers in goggles, reflective vests, and headsets that allowed us to hear our tour guide in loud areas of the brewery—we were venturing into a busy factory, after all—and set off.

I think warning yellow is our color

On the tour with Brian and me were three other guests: Rob—sporting a “This Guys Needs A Beer” T-shirt with two cartoon thumbs pointing up at his head—his wife, Jennifer, and their friend, Valerie, all of whom were enthusiastic Budweiser drinkers and brewery tour regulars. In fact, Rob said he had “tears in his eyes” the first time he saw the massive Bud Light finishing tanks where the beer rests before being bottled and pasteurized.

This affable guy got a bunch of beer

I didn’t have tears in my eyes, but I was impressed by the precision and care that goes into ensuring that every single bottle of Budweiser tastes exactly like what my Uncle John expects it to taste like. We even got a peek into the mission-control-like room where wall-to-wall computers measure and calibrate every aspect of the brewing process.

The highlight of the tour was getting to sample Bud Light right from one of the finishing tanks, which Jennifer promised would be “the best beer you’ll ever taste.” Chris tapped the tank and gave us each a glass of the unpasteurized, super-cold beer, which was unbelievably crisp and even thirst-quenching.

Chris taps the Bud Light finishing tank

We toasted each other (Jennifer quickly handed her glass to Chris for a refill) and chatted for a while among the gleaming stainless steel finishing tanks before ending the tour by hearing about the 275,000 cases and 10,000 kegs that were stored in the warehouse.

“I know that sounds like a lot of beer, but that’s not even two days’ supply for the New England area,” Chris said.

Why does that not surprise me?

After doffing our protective gear, we were ushered to the hospitality room, where a bar, a crackling fireplace, couches, tables, and chairs welcomed people for a post-tour beer or two.

Get comfy with a beer in the hospitality room

We were greeted there by Otto Kuhn, the Merrimack brewery’s head brewmaster, a Purdue University-educated chemical engineer with an assertive handshake who’s brewed Budweiser everywhere from Argentina to England to Spain.

“When you make a clean, crisp beer like this, all the mistakes come out,” he said, explaining the meticulousness with which Budweiser is brewed. Therefore mistakes are not an option. For Budweiser, that results in a beer that, above all, is easily drinkable and has no lingering aftertaste. And the recipe is unchanged since the brewery’s founding.

“You have to be true to taste and true to style,” Kuhn said.

That’s not to say they can’t embrace the explosion of food and beer culture
, which is why the Anheuser-Busch Merrimack Brewery recently started offering “Brews & Bites,” which are monthly, themed food- and beer-pairing events.

We got a taste of the Thanksgiving-themed Brews & Bites, which included “Budweiser Biscuits” paired with Budweiser; a lovely pork loin stuffed with raisins, sage, and cloves that was paired with a roasty and caramel-noted Budweiser Black Crown; spicy mashed sweet potatoes spiked with Matilda pale ale and paired with Beck’s Oktoberfest; and rich and decadent pumpkin pie bars paired with Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat.

Stuffed pork loin roast paired with Budweiser Black Crown

The food was great, the beer was great, and together they were even better. Unlike wine dinners which come with an intimidation factor and the fear of somehow getting wine “wrong” (Only fools and losers drink White Zinfandel, you oaf!), beer dinners are so much easier and more accessible. Either you like a beer or you don’t, you taste what you taste, and it’s all totally OK. For me, the clove and shallot flavors in the pork loin really popped after a sip of the clean and pleasantly bitter Budweiser Black Crown, and the Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat echoed the flavors of the pumpkin pie bars beautifully. At a cost of $15 for advance tickets, a Brews & Bites event is definitely an easy, fun, and tasty experience that's worth making the short trek to Merrimack for.

Brian and I lingered around the brewery for a little while after the tour and tasting, visiting the enormous chestnut Clydesdales in their stables and buying a four-pack of the Shock Top Chocolate Wheat beer in the gift shop.

I'm deathly allergic to these steeds, so I booked it out of there pretty quickly

And when I posted a picture on Facebook of me and Brian in the hospitality room, my Auntie Jodi replied with a message from one of the guys I’d been thinking about all day: “Uncle John is proud!”

If You Go:


Free tours are offered at the Merrimack Brewery and include beer samples.

The two-hour long Beermaster Tour is a fun, in-depth, and intimate experience that delves deeper into the brewing process. The cost for Beermaster Tours is $25 for adults 21+ and $10 for kids aged 13-20. Reservations are required; call 603-595-1202 or email merrimackbrewerytour@budweisertours.com.

To learn more about the complimentary and Beermaster Tours, visit BudweiserTours.com and click on the Merrimack, New Hampshire tab.

Check the Merrimack Budweiser Tours Facebook page for information about upcoming events, including monthly Brews & Bites tours, as well as other events such as the annual Ribfest and the Merrrimack Bierfest.

If you make this for Thanksgiving, you'll be very happy

Tour, travel and other expenses provided by  Anheuser-Busch; all opinions are my own.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Zero-waste week day 4: Leftovers from leftovers and What YOU’VE been up to!

On day four (yesterday), I had lots of leftovers from the week’s meals: Extra ricotta mixture from ravioli making, plus lots of leftover pasta, sauce, and meatballs.

I combined them all! I crumbled the meatballs and mixed them with the pasta, ricotta, and sauce. Chloe got her own mini-dish starring a crumbled lentil ball instead of meatballs. Next, I spooned the mixture into a greased casserole dish, grated the last Parmesan nub over the top, and baked for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees until heated through.

These ugly fellas became a yummy dinner.


Yum! The best meal of the week!

I was also so excited when my friends and family sent me pictures of their OWN no-waste week dinners! Check them out:

From my Auntie Jodi:
"Baked mac and cheese. Used all my leftover cheese and spices.
Yesterday sausage patties in buns from way back in the freezer,
and Monday spaghetti and meatballs."


From my friend Rosie:
"On the menu for tonight: 3 half-empty boxes of different kinds of pasta,
1/2 container of ricotta, Parmesan cheese, shredded string cheese in my food processor
in place of the mozzarella cheese, and hamburger bun garlic bread."


From my friend Brianna:
"I had wild rice, farrow, and barley sitting in the back of the cupboard.
The meatballs are made from ground sausage and crushed stuffing mix that was going stale,
carrots, onions, and garlic from the fridge, chicken stock from the cupboard,
and kale from the freezer! Garlic bread from a loaf that was past its prime as well."


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Zero-waste week day 3: Beer-brined pork chops and English muffin stuffin’


On day three, I realized: “Crap! I don’t have anything for Chloe to bring to school for snack!”

Then I remembered: We had popcorn kernels! So I popped a ¼ cup of kernels with a teaspoon of oil in a sauce pan (HINT: Put the salt right over the oil and kernels before you pop it. Makes the salt stick better!), and sent her off to school happy as a pig in…no that’s an inappropriate thing to say about your little girl. As happy as a kid in popcorn.

On the dinner menu that night: Forgotten, defrosted pork chops and a winging-it stuffing.

First I made a brine for the pork chops in the middle of the afternoon because I work from home. But it would be easy for someone to do it before work. A brine is like a marinade but not. Don’t ask me the difference. I don’t know. But I know they’re really forgiving, and just need salt. In fact, you could really make a brine out of just salt and water, if you needed to. But more flavors are better, so you could use apple juice, vinegar and water, or beer, like I did here.

I dug through the fridge and cabinets and came up with this brine:

A couple of brine ingredients

  • A can of Sam Adams Octoberfest beer
  • About 1 cup of apple cider vinegar (I bought the raw organic kind last month because I’d read it was a witch-doctor-ish cure for kidney stones. Guess what? It’s not.)
  • A couple of smashed garlic cloves
  • A tablespoon of honey that I’d warmed in the microwave so it could be stirred into the cold liquid
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme and sage
  • ¼ cup of salt

I poured the brine over the chops in a large zip-top bag and put it in the refrigerator to do its magic for a few hours.

Try to squeeze out as much air from the bag as you can
When dinnertime rolled around, I got busy making the stuffing out of rescued leftovers:

  • Slice in half and cube 3 almost-stale English muffins
  • Toss the cubes in a pan with a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil and a chopped onion
  • Stir until the muffin cubes get crispy edges and the onions are soft
  • Add chopped fresh sage and thyme and about ½ cup of dried cranberries
  • Cook another minute
  • Add ½ cup of chicken broth a little at a time, letting the bread drink up little bits of broth until it's all added
  • English muffin stuffin'


Next:

  • I put the stuffing into a cooking-oil sprayed loaf pan
  • Drained the chops of their brine and seared them over medium-high heat
  • Baked the chops and the stuffing in a 375 degree oven (the chops for 10 minutes, the stuffing for 20)

I also steamed some leftover carrots and made rice to round out the meal. Ms. Vegetarian Chloe had all the veggie and grain sides with an egg salad sandwich.

The result? Decent. I really like the stuffing, but thought the chops were overcooked. At least the brine gave them a nice flavor.

Also, as an aside, I woke up many, many times last night, and each time it was from the same dream: I was making the stuffing again and writing this blog post. I guess I was pretty excited about it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Zero-waste week day 2: Pasta and ‘balls’


On day two of our use-it-or-lose it cooking project, I defrosted a pound of ground beef that's been in the freezer since the summer and made meatballs for the two omnivores in the house. I got creative and made lentil-balls for our little vegetarian, Chloe.

After staring at a bag of dried lentils for a few minutes like a cat staring blankly at a sink drain, I decided to experiment and make “meatballs” out of cooked and pureed lentils.

First, I boiled ½ cup of lentils in water for about 25 minutes until they were soft, then drained them and buzzed them smooth in a food processor.

Treating the lentil puree exactly as I would ground beef, I added all of the secondary ingredients from my go-to meatball recipe: About 1 cup of panko-style breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, an egg, ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, ½ teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and about a tablespoon of olive oil. I mixed it all together; scooped and shaped the mixture into balls; and baked them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes per side at 350 degrees.

Lentil balls, before baking
I had no spaghetti, (no grocery shopping allowed, remember?) so I used veggie elbow macaroni that I had on hand.

I had no spaghetti sauce either (sigh), so I made that, too, by simmering for about an hour the contents of a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes in heavy puree (why did I ever buy this? I don’t remember buying this.); 2 tablespoons of tomato paste; ¼ cup of red wine (which I somehow always have on hand); ¼ cup of olive oil; 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, a tablespoon of salt, and some garlic powder.

Although Brian and Chloe don’t eat tomato sauce on pasta, we all agreed that the varied balls had a better taste and texture after simmering for a little while in the sauce.

The verdict? It was all a hit! Especially the lentil balls, which got an enthusiastic seal of approval from all three of us. For real...I’m as surprised as you are, to be honest. I’ll definitely make the lentil balls again. It’s a (MUCH) cheaper and healthier alternative to meatballs, and I never would have discovered it without our little project.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Zero-waste week: Day One


The first day of our use-it-or-lose it cooking project brought an ear infection for Chloe and homemade ravioli for dinner.

After rushing around to meet my two Monday article deadlines and bring Chloe to the doctor, I finally finished my work and headed to the kitchen. It was about 4:00 pm, which left me plenty of time to make homemade ravioli.

As I’ve written before, making homemade ravioli isn’t particularly difficult, but it is rather time consuming, mostly because you have to let the pasta dough rest twice in between kneading it and rolling it out.

The rolled-out dough.

I used that time, though, to make the ravioli filling, which consisted of what was left of an already opened tub of ricotta cheese (about 2 cups), some grated Parmesan cheese (I used the rest of a half-used block for about 1 cup of grated cheese), about 10 fresh sage leaves (about 1 teaspoon, chiffonade), and the rest of a box of baby spinach, chopped (about a cup unchopped).

The filling

I stuffed the ravioli, sticking the edges of the dough together with an egg wash (a beaten egg with a teaspoon or two of water). Then, I placed them on a baking sheet in the fridge to firm up while we waited for Brian to get home. They weren’t gorgeous, but they tasted good.

The finished product, before cooking

Digging into the fridge also revealed two packages of long-forgotten chicken sausage, which I must have bought in bulk because of a sale (lesson learned!). Happily, the use-by date was still six weeks away, so I threw those into the oven, too.

Brian, inspired by the week’s mission, whipped up some homemade garlic bread out of hamburger buns that surely would’ve gone stale otherwise (I had to buy 6 buns for a 4-pack of Chloe’s veggie burgers). Brian softened some butter in the microwave, spread it on each of the bun halves, sprinkled them with garlic powder, and crisped them up in the toaster oven.

Yum! It was a feast that didn’t feel like we were eating leftovers at all.

Now, I realize that many people don’t have the time or inclination to spend 90 minutes making homemade ravioli. But that ricotta filling could have easily gone into stuffed shells, lasagna, or baked ziti. And spending a couple of hours on a Sunday doing meal prep for the week using what’s on hand is not only doable for anyone; it’s also a weeknight time saver.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, "what the hell is chiffonade?," this is how the hell to do it:

Stack the leaves, roll them up, and slice into thin ribbons.