In which she appears for a brief life update

Ugh, that Molly. She’s the worst. She started a blog and then disappeared for two weeks with no good excuse.

No but for serious, I owe a life update at the very least. The past however-long-its-been has consisted of bras, emails, phone calls, homelessness, business cards, podcasts, music (of the Folk Variety–get at me Hardly Strictly Bluegrass), Craigslist, a stomach bug, and a cooking extravaganza.

I’ve been busy working (bras, emails, phone calls, business cards), and it’s awesome being actually busy during the days. I wake up, listen to some NPR on the way in (podcasts), and don’t think about my own personal life until the end of the day. After 22 years of never really getting a break from my own life, it’s kind of nice. The only problem with that is that it leaves me with very little desire to come home and pimp myself out to people with rooms to rent (Craigslist, homelessness). It’s been a good month and a half here now and I’m no closer to having a place to live, which is frustrating on a good day and rip-your-hair-out anxiety-inducing on a bad day. Luckily I’ve still had time to do fun things with the boyf (brunch, music), and have still had time to vom my brains out due to the aforementioned stomach bug. Nothing like a Saturday night of Arrested Development and head-in-toilet.

I bet you so regret reading my blog right about now.

That said, I will have more updates to come, from my favorite current idea for a Halloween costume (get back off the edge of your seats everyone) to the bake-stravo-ganza I had last night (I SAID SIT BACK DOWN, YOU CAN’T HANDLE MY EXCITING LIFE).

I leave you with proof of my life as a semi-real person: a business card.

All businessy and whatnot

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Butternut Squash Quesadillas

In the smallest state in the country in a small town named Pawtucket (don’t you dare pronounce it PAW-tucket, it’s P’tucket), there’s a small restaurant called Garden Grille. On the menu at Garden Grille there is an inconspicuous looking little item: the butternut squash quesadilla. As anyone who has ever ordered the quesadilla can tell you, that tasty treat will take you as close to heaven as a vegetarian Mexican-inspired menu item can. Crispy tortilla filled with creamy avocado, smooth butternut squash, black beans and, of course, cheesy goodness. About halfway through you have to make an important choice: do you eat yourself into a food coma, savoring the crunchy, creamy quesadilla, or do you take half home to enjoy for lunch the next day. It’s an important choice, and not one to be made lightly.

Having (temporarily?) left the small state of Rhode Island I’ve found myself craving that butternut squash quesadilla like no other. So naturally I set out to recreate the meal I so badly wanted. I feel the need to include the disclaimer that due to limited funds and poor planning I didn’t make them exactly the way the master chefs at Garden Grille do. Jack cheese just isn’t versatile enough for me to buy it for one recipe, so I got a shredded jack and cheddar combo. I forgot to get an avocado, and made do without. In its place I included some red onion since that was pretty much all I had. But alterations aside, it still turned out to be a pretty tasty meal. Plus it put me oh so on trend with the whole “meatless monday” deal, and made me feel very autumnal.

Started out with some butternut squash.

Roasted the butternut squash.

Cried while chopping onions. Put the onions on the stove as punishment for making me cry.

Beans, meet onions. Onions, meet beans. And have you met my friend butternut squash?

It’s not mexican food without tortillas and cheese cheese cheese.

I usually make my quesadillas on the stove, but I put these ones in the oven and I was glad I did since it made much less of a mess (no flipping and trying to keep the squash inside the tortilla while also trying not to burn my fingers).

Sadly, quesadillas aren’t exactly beautiful at the end, and don’t make for great pictures. They are, however, delicious with a little bit of salsa. If you’re a sour cream kind of person, by all means add some of that too. Perhaps some avocado as well. Get wacky.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, and now I’m pretty sure I’m going to devote myself to recreating the entirety of the Garden Grille menu. Korean Tacos, I’ve got my eye on you.

Butternut Squash Quesadillas

  • 2 cups butternut squash, cubed (all amounts are flexible–add as much or as little as you want)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 6 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, either Mexican blend, cheddar or jack
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place squash on a pan and coat with 1 Tbs of olive oil. Season to taste with salt. Roast the squash 45 mins to an hour, depending on the size of your cubed squash, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and onions, cooking until the onions are cooked, 3-5 minutes. If using red pepper flakes add these as well, to taste. Add the beans & butternut squash, and cook until heated through, stirring.

Brush three of the tortillas with oil and place them on a baking sheet. Top each tortilla with the squash mixture. Sprinkle with the cheese, dividing evenly between them. Top each with another tortilla and brush that with olive oil. Put those babies in the oven and bake 12-15 minutes, until the tortillas are golden brown and cheese is melted. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Like I said, I didn’t have avocado on hand, but if you want to include it just slice the avocado and add it on to the tortillas just before you sprinkle them with cheese. You’ll probably need to press down on the top tortillas a little to make them into one coherent, stuck-together quesadilla.

Bibimbap-ing Back to Real Life

I never cease to be amazed at how quickly the summer months can fly by. It’s August now which means the end to my month of travel and a return to the real world (or whatever you want to call my strange life in limbo). I had such a good month spending time with friends, catching up with family, exploring new places and eating my face off. However, after a month that included 4 flights, 2 train rides, 2 bus rides and a 6 hour drive to and from the wedding I must say it feels nice to just sit still for a bit. I got home after a red eye flight and bus ride back to Providence and immediately collapsed into my bed.

The only downside to all my travels? I was in vacation mentality, which meant I was in vacation eating mentality, which obviously meant I ate more than my fair share of tacos and wedding cake and pastries and cheese and everything delicious I encountered, not to mention all the airport food. I was bad to my body. When I woke up from my nap/sleep hybrid I realized my body was screaming for vegetables and water.

My goal: to incorporate as many vegetables as possible into my meal while still forcing myself to be adventurous. Which is how I came to make bibimbap for dinner. Bibimbap, for those who don’t know, is a Korean dish that literally means “mixed rice.” It consists of rice, vegetables and protein in the form of meat and an egg. The nice thing is you can use any vegetables you want, even if it makes the dish a bit less authentic. Traditionally it’s often made to use up leftovers since the vegetables are ones often served as sides with other things.

It took me a while to make because I didn’t have any leftovers, having just returned home, and hot damn is it hard to julienne a baby carrot. I also had to marinate the meat, cook the rice and prepare a few different vegetables. Let’s just say I didn’t plan my time very well (I was almost done with everything else when I realized I hadn’t made any rice).

Damn that girl can julienne a carrot

In the end though it turned out wonderfully, and it had the simple, clean flavors that my body was begging me for. For vegetables I used cucumbers, carrots, spinach and bell peppers, with some baby bok choy on the side. The only real seasonings to the veggies came from a little sesame oil, garlic and sesame seeds, along with a bit of salt at the end. I also used kimchi, which-fun fact-is supposed to be amazing for digestion and health. I wanted some meat too so I used sirloin steak marinated in a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and agave nectar.

When I put it all together it looked so tasty. And I got my rice on my plate in such a nice round shape. …If I sound proud it’s because plating is never my strong point.

Bibimbap in the making

My supermarket didn’t have gochujang, the chili pepper paste traditionally served with bibimbap, so I improvised with some sriracha mixed with a dash of honey, soy sauce and sesame oil (a trick I found on this blog).

Because everything’s better with sriracha

And finally I topped it all off with a sunny side up egg. I’m much more of an over-easy girl myself, so on my first attempt I broke the oh-so-delicate yolk all over the pan. My second attempt, however, resulted in a perfectly sunny-side-up egg to top off my masterpiece with.

My finished bibimbap

As anyone who has eaten bibimbap knows, part of the fun of this dish is that it looks so well composed when you serve it, but then you immediately mix it all together when you eat it. That runny yolk gets mixed in with the beef and rice and veggies and it all comes together into one delicious messy dish.

Eaten with chopsticks whilst getting my Olympic pride on watching gymnastics

There’s really not much to it since the steps are: rice, veggies, meat, egg. If you want a little more direction than that (including which vegetables are most traditional), this post on Living and Eating takes you through the steps.

In the end, I’d call my foray into bibimbap a resounding success. It was more food than I needed (I didn’t finish everything on the plate), left me full for hours, and eased me back into a world of vegetables and simple food.

Date Night Looks

Pardon me while I give a lengthy introduction to my fashion-based post. Last night when the boy got back from a few days at a retreat we got to spend a good chunk of time together. Naturally, I cooked. It’s so much more fun to cook for someone else, especially when that someone has the appetite of a small blue whale (krill on krill on krill). Wanting to try something I hadn’t made before, I searched for some homemade gnocchi recipes. I was pretty focused on not majorly effing anything up, so I didn’t take many pictures, but all in all I’d say it wasn’t a total failure. I made ricotta gnocchi in a sage brown butter sauce and turkey meatballs. Maybe not the most cohesive meal ever but I didn’t get a lot of complaints.

For the gnocchi I loosely followed two recipes from The Kitchn and Italian Food Forever. Making ricotta gnocchi was much easier than potato gnocchi, but still requires some precision. I’d say next time (and there will be a next time when it comes to me and gnocchi) I’d be more judicious in my flour use and try to find an even more flavorful sauce. If you’re pressed for time though the brown butter sage sauce was delicious and easy. After boiling the gnocchi I quickly sauteed them in the sauce so they’d soak up all that flavor. I also left a few plain so that Patrick could opt out of the buttery goodness in favor of red sauce.

The meatballs were made from this Turkey Ricotta Meatballs recipe originally found in Cooking Light. Patrick’s only complaint was that they could use some more seasoning, and I agree. I’d definitely say add more basil, salt & pepper than you think you need, or incorporate whichever seasonings you like in your meatballs.

I did manage to get this picture of the aftermath..

So while our “date night” involved food and curling up for a few episodes of Breaking Bad, a more adventurous date night (i.e. ones in which you leave the house) might require more of a cute look. I thought I’d post a few cute outfits I’ve been eyeing. As always, the images link through to where you can buy them.

Looking for a cute, simple dress? I  love the way this Elizabeth and James dress fancies up a simple silhouette with a metallic shimmer. This would be perfect for a nice dinner and then going out after, perhaps dancing if you’re lucky enough to date someone who dances.

Elizabeth and James Tank Dress

Looking for a little more pizazz? I love this Free People beaded dress. The beading makes it feel very twenties, but the tie dye makes it feel a little more low key. And the hemline and bit of mesh let you show a little skin without feeling like you’re too on display.

Free People Beaded Dress

Of course if you’re like me and jeans are a pretty major staple in your wardrobe, or if you’re going somewhere a little more laid back, pair your jeans and heels with a cute jacket. I’m absolutely in love with this Rebecca Minkoff jacket, and it would be perfect once the summer starts to cool down. Or if you’re in San Francisco like me, perfect all summer. Yes.. I’m going to continue to gripe about the weird San Francisco weather for a long time.

Rebecca Minkoff Becky Printed Jacket

As for jewelry? I’ve recently been on a gold kick, lusting after all sorts of pretty gold jewelry. Strange, since I’ve almost always been a strictly silver girl. Try a big gold bracelet, or maybe go fashion functional with a gorgeous watch.

Jules Smith Bracelet

Sarah Designs All Chain Wrap Watch

And if you’re like me and choose to stay in and cook, there’s always the “sassy apron” route.

The Joy of Ex Foundation’s Kitchen Dancing Apron

So, do you have any good date night looks? I’m always in the mood for a little hypothetical date night shopping with my imaginary money.

Food Adventures

Oh man. I don’t know how I didn’t know about this before, but My Fridge Food is my new favorite website. My life has largely revolved around food for the last week or so (making it, eating it, creating funny shapes on my plate with it), and in the midst of my usual quest for recipes on Pinterest I came across this site.

You can pick which foods you have on hand and it’ll give you recipes based on what’s in your fridge. Many a night I’ve stood in front of my dwindling grocery supply wishing there was something I could make with tuna, potatoes and captain crunch. Those nights usually ended in Domino’s, and will probably continue to. But I love the idea of being able to pick the potential ingredients and have a recipe given to me.

Raw scallops

Excited about my scallops

Continuing with my food-filled week, I started in on my goal of making foods I haven’t made before. I was wandering through whole foods and saw the scallops so I figured why not.

Scallops in the pan

Oops.. smoke galore

I may have inadvertently smoked up the entire kitchen in the process, but the scallops wound up being delicious. Smoke aside, they were also super easy. I’m loving being home and able to cook stuff like scallops because they tend not to fit so well into the college student budget.

Scallops with a side salad

All done

In the end they came out great! I served them (to myself) with a side salad of baby spinach and some french bread. I finished it off with some tiramisu from Whole Foods which I ate in my pajamas in front of an episode 30 rock. Totally channeling my inner Liz Lemon since graduating, right down to the treadmill/exercise aversion.