A (very) poor man’s risotto

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This weekend flew by, and I really didn’t accomplish very much (but I did run 11 miles. Whoo! Go me!), but when I got out of class on Sunday I had one priority for the small window of time between getting home and leaving for the Avett Brothers concert- cook for the week. Sure, I could have used that time to study, but I didn’t know when I’d get another uninterrupted crack at the stove, and I really didn’t want to bring dry ramen noodles for lunch today, so I picked food. I can’t study without fuel anyway, so really cooking helped me be a better student.

I had lots of odds and ends to use up, so I pretty much just dumped everything in my dutch oven and hoped for the best. I’m almost out of olive oil, so I sauteed a large onion in butter, and then things started to get…creative. I was sort of trying to make something that I could live off of for a week that would have protein, and vegetables, and be satisfying enough that I wouldn’t wind up with overpowering carb cravings mid-week- I was essentially creating my own version of nutraloaf. It was originally supposed to be soup, then stew, but it ended up with an almost risotto-like texture. Nevertheless, I’ve dubbed it “Everything Stew”, and it isn’t actually bad, though it isn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It has potatoes, squash, zucchini, lima beans, lentils, brown rice, tomatoes, garlic, cabbage, and chicken stock, and I’ve been eating it on top of kale. Seasoning was an issue, but I got a lot of rosemary in my CSA basket this week, so I used a bunch of that, and some dried thyme, bay leaves, Tabasco, salt, pepper, and lots and lots of vinegar (I used balsamic and apple cider vinegar). It’s a little sour, and I thought about going back and adding some sugar to balance the flavors, but I’ve decided that it’s supposed to be like that.

So. Much. Stew.

I brought some Everything Stew for lunch today and felt very satisfied and full for most of the afternoon (I also had carrots, but they’re a grim snack when I don’t have hummus, especially when my friends are eating pastries. It’s hard not to have food-envy sometimes). Mondays are long days though, and by the end of my last class I was more than ready to come home and have dinner. I pretty literally only have Everything Stew, so I knew it was either that, instant noodles, or Grapenuts for dinner, but I had a secret weapon up my sleeve- local bacon from the farmer’s market. I bought it a few weeks ago, and it had been sitting in the freezer waiting for times of hardship. Things might get worse, and I might regret not saving it, but as I fried it, and the delicious bacon aroma filled the kitchen I felt great about my decision. I ladled up a bowlful of stew, popped it in the microwave, and then sauteed some kale in the leftover bacon grease while it reheated. I felt very connected to my Irish ancestors as I sat down to my dinner of potatoes, cabbage, and bacon, and you know, they were onto something, because it it was a tasty, hearty meal.

I was still a little hungry after dinner, so I had a big mug of hot chocolate for dessert.

I used unsweetened cocoa, and chose to go with semi-sweet instead of sugar-bomb, since really sweet things tend to leave me craving even more sugar. It was a cozy end to my meal, and so good that I ran my finger along the bottom of the mug after I had finished, just so I wouldn’t waste any of the bitter, rich chocolateness.

Things are tight right now, and I’m stressed with school, and unhappy in my home life, but these are also some of my happiest ever times. Seeing The Avetts last night reminded me of just how good I have it. I originally bought the tickets for my friend Josh’s birthday, but he couldn’t get off work, so I improvised, and invited my new friend Alyssa. She’s a very new friend (this was our first time hanging out outside of clinicals), but I like her a lot. I knew I had made the right call when she picked me up for the show and offered me a beer for the ride, and produced a nice pumpkin beer that I enjoyed while she drove us downtown. Alyssa had never heard of the Avetts before I invited her to the show, but she had done her homework and listened to some of their stuff to prepare, and we were both pretty pumped. The show was sold out, and the Ravens were playing, but traffic was actually reasonable, and we found parking without too much trouble.

I had bought lawn seats, but when we were able to get closer by standing on the fringes of the seating, so we were actually relatively close to the stage. There wasn’t any opener- they just jumped right in, and it was awesome. I saw The Avett Brothers at Artpark (last year? Two years ago?), and they were great, but I had never really listened to them before, so last night’s show was more meaningful. It was a great crowd- friendly, enthusiastic, but polite, and very very plaid-clad. I’m not such a die-hard fan that I recognized every song, but they played “Murder in the City”, and “I And Love And You”, so I was happy. I was more than happy really, I was in great spirits all night, bouncing, and singing along when I knew the lyrics, and dancing my heart out. Concerts are honestly the best, and it was nice having someone there to share it with, especially since I had half-expected to go by myself when Josh’s plans didn’t work out.

I have lots of studying to do tonight, but as overwhelming as things are, I can’t help feeling good. Things with my roommates are crummy, but my friends have been incredible, and just having their support makes it feel less dire, and is helping me keep perspective and not sink into total passive-aggressive bitchiness (I won’t be baking my roommates cookies anytime soon, but I can manage polite silence, which seems to work for them too).

I heard this song last night, I think for the first time, and it just worked for me. “If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.” Darn right.

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