Mother

To the loved ones that have expressed their bewilderment 

With my decision to remain childless

Is the mothering ability you believe me to have

An aptitude you see that I do not

Or do you believe it my calling

Because for you

Unrequited love and unanswered effort

Seemed to spring so naturally from my untiring body?

Stag Hacks: Trader Joe’s Lobster Mac and Cheese

I really wanted this to be a #PostYourRecipeAndGo post. I did.

However this is a blog about solo living, so I do feel obligated to explain how I arrived at mac and cheese for one.

Angela Davis (at kitchenistadiaries.com) is one of my fave comfort foodies on Twitter, and I adore her site (and e-books! Go buy them!). However, she cooks for family, and I am just one person. So I end up furiously adapting recipes to fit my lack of enthusiasm for the idea of eight servings of leftovers.

Which brings me to mac and cheese.

If you scroll back far enough on my Instagram, you’ll note there was an entire month where it seemed all I posted was mac and cheese. Creamy mac, cheeseburger mac, Cajun mac with shrimp, I did it all (I also gained eight pounds). I became obsessed with figuring out how to shrink the recipe, reduce some of the labor-intensiveness of it (because all that grating for 2-4 servings?) and still make it tasty.

Enter Trader Joe’s, and a random surplus of their “crowd cheeser” cheese platter after having friends over.

I have no idea what made me think “I have just enough for a tiny bit of mac and cheese!”but it was enough to make me try it. I’d long started using sliced block cheese (that I hand-chopped) from the deli for the larger pans, so why not mini-slices from TJ’s? Turns out the entire process was just within my labor intensive comfort range and within my time/pots limit. And since we’re all about hacks here (as in, how do we not have to buy a ton of fresh ingredients that will go to waste), I present what I’m now calling “Trader Joe’s Lobster Mac and Cheese”!

(I’m sure this recipe could be tripled or quadrupled to accommodate larger servings or more people, but please don’t ask me. This is a FUBU production.)

Lobster Mac and Cheese (Click HERE to print)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Servings:  1 Meal-size serving

1 oz Sharp Cheddar (or 2 slices of TJ’s “crowd cheeser” cheddar)

1 oz Pepper Jack  (or 2 slices of TJ’s “crowd cheeser” pepper Jack)

1/2 oz Gouda (I used one slice of TJ’s Sliced Smoked Gouda)

1/2 cup Dried mini Elbow or Mezze Penne noodles

1 tbsp Salted Butter, plus additional for baking dish

1 tbsp All-Purpose Flour

1 cup Whole Milk

1 Dried Bay Leaf

1/2 Shallot, sliced in thick rounds (do not substitute w onion)

1 Packet TJ’s Savory Broth Reduced Sodium Liquid Concentrate (or low-sodium bullion, must be under 500mgs of sodium)

1 pinch dry mustard

1 pinch nutmeg

Black pepper to taste

1 shake of Worcestershire sauce (this is for one, remember!)

1/4 cup TJ’s Langostino Tails

Kosher salt (for pasta water)

Old Bay Seasoning & Chopped Parsely(for garnish/topping)

 

Place cheese slices in freezer for 5-10 minutes for ease of chopping. While the cheese firms up, bring 3 cups of water to boil in a small saucepan. Add kosher salt and dried bay leaf, simmer on lowest heat for 10 minutes or until leaf begins to soften. Turn off heat and cover until ready to boil noodles. While the water boils, slice 1/2 of the shallot into thick rounds and place in a microwave-proof bowl with the milk, microwave on high 2 minutes. Set aside to steep.

Pre-heat your oven to 350. Bring water back to boil, boil noodles till 1 minute short of al-dente (around 5 minutes). While the noodles boil, remove cheese slices from freezer and chop as finely as you can, put back in fridge. Butter your baking dish (I used a mini-ceramic cast-iron pan, but an aluminum mini loaf works well here), set aside. Drain the noodles (reserving the water and bay leaf), rinse in cold water.  Remove shallot slices from milk (the remaining steps go fast and the roux requires your undivided attention, so make sure you get your mise en place!).

In the same saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium-low  heat until foamy. Add your tablespoon of flour and stir with a whisk to combine. Lift the pot slightly away from the heat and continue to stir for two minutes or until the roux turns a little golden and the raw flour smell turns toasty. Once your roux is ready, return pot to heat and add a splash of the pasta water (about 1- 1 1/2 tbsp), continuously stirring. Add the milk in a small stream as you continue to stir. Bring béchamel to a boil and turn the heat to low, stirring often. Simmer until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon (this goes much faster than you think), turn off the heat & grab your cheese. Add the chicken broth concentrate, pepper, dry mustard, nutmeg and Worcestershire sauce. Stir 3/4 of the cheese mix into the béchamel until melted, then add your noodles.

Pour 1/2 of the mixture into your baking pan, add 1/2 of the langostino tails, top with remaining noodles (this recipe makes about 1/8 cup too much cheese sauce, but I won’t tell if you won’t). The mix will go all the way to the top, but I love the look of cheese bubbling over the pan! Top with remaining cheese, place on a baking dish to save your oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and brown in spots. Remove from oven, top with a healthy shake of old bay, remaining langostino tails and parsley. Eat right out of the pan with no regrets, and make sure to take a few pics to make your friends jealous!

How to Be Single: Get your own Sh*t

***This entire post is a petty party, so if this is not your thing please scroll on by to the next post for your inspirational message fix.***

While I am not a big jewelry person I do love the occasional ring. Unfortunately, all of the rings I own are either linked to a relationship or look too relationship-y for me to wear without getting the usual run of intrusive questions. So to treat myself after a particularly rough semester I searched for a good right-hand ring.

This is one of the first things I stumbled upon.

 

*rubs temples*

While I’ve written of the pressures to always look “happily single” before, this particular piece of un-married-un-parent life irks me.

I just want my own shit.

I’m tired of being marketed to as an alternative to a “normal” life. It annoys me that mass marketing packages living unmarried or childless as some sort of consolation prize to find the upside in. I want to set every list of “why being single is awesome” on fire. I do not need to counter every parent appreciation hashtag with a childless version, or every engagement photo with the patriarchal downsides of marriage. I have no interest in living life as a half of a sandwich.

My life is my choice, not an accidental crisis.

One of the things I appreciated about being in a relationship was it took a lot of pressure off me to fit everyone in for the holidays. Because it was assumed I was starting my own family, I was given freedom to start my own traditions. It was the one thing I chose to take with me back into unpartnered life as a hard line item. Why should I only be allowed to have a ritual or tradition of my choosing when I had a husband to share it with?

I want my own shit.

I just don’t want it to be the poor man’s version of a couple’s tradition.

 

 

Scallion-Herb Dutch Baby (Or, How Kingpin Taught Me to Love Eggs)

Ok, so it’s been a while.

Originally this blog was meant to detail how I found myself, one dish at a time. And probably the longest-running theme was learning how I liked my eggs.

Also, pancakes.

Mind you, there was a point where I hated both.

DutchBaby1

I think the latter had to do with the labor and ingredients required. As I am not a baker, this means a trip to the store for baking powder every time I wanted pancakes, to then toss the batch when I used it for exactly nothing else. I also had to time my cravings to fit the leftover buttermilk, so pancakes would always be followed by fried chicken or tandoori. AND? It is impossible to make just four pancakes, so I had to lament having no one to share Sunday mornings with as a pile of pancakes I knew I wasn’t going to finish went wistfully into the freezer.

Before you start, yes my pancakes have to be from scratch.

As the years passed I found out the reason I did not like eggs, or pancakes for that matter, was because I hadn’t found a way to make them attractive for my lifestyle as a person living alone, or suitable for the tastes I was developing.

Enter Daredevil, Season One, Episode 8.

If you have not caught Daredevil for lack of time, interest or a Netflix subscription, this particular episode features the backstory of the main villain Kingpin, all told between his routine preparations of breakfast. It is the most serene minute of omelet-making I have ever seen outside of a cooking documentary, complete with classical music and the hypnotic chopping of herbs.

From the day I have watched that episode; both classical music and herbs have become part of my breakfast routine.

I have since learned the French method for omelets, which have made me fall in love with eggs anew. And my pancake problem was solved by learning how to make them German-style.

Which bring us to our Dutch baby.

DutchBaby2

While most top them with fruit and some form of cream or curd, I have found that they work just as well when you have a savory craving. And with no baking powder or soda needed, my Sundays have become a celebration of tranquility.

Scallion-Herb Buttermilk Dutch Baby (Click HERE to Print)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Servings:  2

3 Room-Temperature Eggs (place eggs in warm water for a few minutes to speed the process)

¾ Cup Buttermilk, Room Temperature (powdered buttermilk shines here)

2 Tablespoons Corn Starch

½ Cup All-Purpose Flour

4 Tablespoons Butter, Divided (Melt and cool 2 tbsp, reserve the other 2)

½ Tsp Salt

Pepper to taste (optional)

2 Tablespoons Chopped Herbs (I used a combination of parsley and chives)

2 Scallions, chopped

 

 Hand-Mixer or Blender

Cast-Iron or Oven-Safe Heavy-Bottomed Skillet

 

Place the skillet in the oven and preheat at 450 for around 15 minutes.

While the oven heats up chop the herbs and scallions, separating the white and green parts of the scallions.

In a bowl, add the eggs and beat on high until frothy, at least two minutes (alternatively, you can use a blender).

With the blender still running add the buttermilk, then corn starch, flour and the cooled melted butter.

Fold in salt, pepper and chopped herbs.

Remove the skillet out of the oven (CAREFUL, it is very hot!) and swirl the reserved butter in the pan (this step goes quickly). The butter should melt, not brown. Immediately pour the batter in the skillet and top with all of the white and half of the green scallions, and return to the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown. The batter will puff up considerably, but will deflate once you take it out of the oven.

Remove and top with your favorite savory toppings! This works for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

When You’ve Eaten and You’ve Prayed but the Love Ain’t Coming

eatprayluv

This is for those of us whose story is written in frayed parchment with no cover and no happy ending.

Who have celebrated New Year’s alone on their living room floor, surrounded by kisses and confetti.

For those who have long tired of being told to hope, because “look at me! I found love and you can, too!”

For when the Love ain’t coming.

Those of us who have made meals of solitude, feasted in loneliness. For flirty happy hours. For budgets for ubers and allotments for human contact.

For those of us who have done everything right, and learned to love ourselves. For when we’ve stopped looking and just stare. For solo vacations and blessed strangers that catch our good side. For “you should be here” captions addressed to everyone and no one.

For Us that have long held our ceremonial burial for The Dream; that have started new books when closing a chapter just wasn’t enough. For our New Normal, when hope cannot outlive wombs. For those of us sick and tired of celebrating with our circle and hoping the blessing truck has one more stop left.

For those of us who no longer mourn and wish everyone else would stop asking how we can “still be so happy”. For the courage to not be ok. For the times we have died and come alive. For the end of an era. For our new beginning.

For phoenixes emerging from the ashes to discover they are the Sun. For those of us just discovering our gravitational pull. For life after death. For stories that do not end, or begin, with Him. For radical happiness because, in spite of, or however that shit comes because dammit,  WE DESERVE.

For all my mosaics, making beauty of the bits.

Shine on.

How to Be Single: Step Ya P*ssy Up

I am not an inexhaustible resource. I am not the damn sun. I am not self-sufficient. I need help. I need support. I need someone behind me. I need a push. I need someone that does a bit more than nod when I talk about my future. I am completely ok being alone until that is present…because I can’t support myself alone AND be a supportive partner #AtTheSameDamnTime. If that makes me a [insert derogatory term for autonomous female] I will motherfucking BE.THAT. But what I WON’T be is exhausted trying to hold up two grown-ass people with no support in return.

The words flowed out of me in a manner I’ve yet to replicate (of course, on a post that was not mine), and I realized the subject matter had hit too close to home.

It was time for me to stop looking for a relationship.

(I also realized it was time to stop giving my words away, but that’s an entirely different post)

I have a hard rule that I stop when it isn’t fun anymore, and dating had long past its expiration date for me. I was tired of meeting new people. Tired of “putting myself out there”, waiting to be “picked”. Tired of being “the one before THE ‘one’”. Tired of setting standards for what I “deserve”. Tired of wondering why no one agreed with me. But most of all, I was tired of..being tired, and not really knowing why.

Till of course, I emptied my soul onto a comment section (& hit “publish” when I should have hit “cut & paste”).

I was tired because I was doing too damn much and asking for nothing. I was “showing my woman” to build a case while the only thing my romantic interest had to be was a person I liked, a person of envy. Their existence was enough for me, but I insisted on proving my usefulness to them. This is why I could come up with at least one tangible way I improved upon the life of my paramours but came up with nothing but bad skin on my end. So I unceremoniously tossed my lists and quietly cancelled the search for a significant other. If I was never going to be “enough”, there was nothing left for me to prove. My energy was best spent elsewhere.

But where? What now? What was it that I really wanted?

Noting all the “wants” and things I “deserved” centered on a relationship dynamic led me to two quite embarrassing realizations; one-outside of a relationship, men didn’t actually have a whole lot of stock in my life. I hadn’t viewed them as “people” in a while; capable of contributing to my life, or growth or anything, really-aside from proving to the world that I was a person worthy of choosing. And two-and likely the more important realization-part of the reason their existence was enough while I was doing all this work to prove my usefulness was because I confused envy for attraction, and just did not believe my existence enough reason for a person to be around me.

Truth be told, I am the damn sun. I just didn’t believe it yet.

It was time for a new list, and some new rules. The reason I was so exhausted was because all of my expectations began at a relationship-anything before that the price of admission was virtually free, and I was doing all the lifting to make sure he knew I was “relationship-worthy”. So what was required for my continued presence if relationships were off the table?

I’m going to have to pause here because I haven’t figured out how to expound on the details without breaking my rules of discretion, and because in the future not all of my words will be free. But I will say this; somewhere along the journey of discovering what it was I truly wanted to take away from affairs-casual, committed or otherwise-dating found a way to be fun again. I stopped walking away feeling drained and exhausted from the exchange, as it became more mutual. I stopped believing my worth lied in my usefulness instead of my presence. And most importantly, I became the person I envied.

 

So what about you? What does your “list” look like these days?

 

When to Fold Em, When to Walk Away

The holidays are upon us, and everyone is talking about Love.

New love, renewed love, the power of love, everyone‘s had love on the brain-and the overwhelming majority of it is romantic love. ‘Tis the season, after all. But for some, this is a season of discovering how strong self-love can be-and they learned it by letting go.

One such example is my friend Danielle, who detailed how she recently found the strength to walk away from a picture-perfect fairy-tale in her brave post “Why It’s Okay To Be Wrong: 7 Signs It Was Time To Call Off The Wedding”. For a bit of history, Danni and I became fast e-friends. We laughed over tales of dating mishaps and planned for the future as fabulous single women (I was of course still in my ‘try too hard’ LivingMyLifeLikeItsGolden single phase). Then Danni met “him”.

It was a tale I’d shared more times than I can count; the “second” you stop looking, love finds you-just look at Danielle! All seemed wonderful as she quickly became an even better version of her lovely self; she had a glow about her, she’d started writing more, she posted bikini pictures on vacation, happy with her hard-earned shape. He seemed quietly supportive of her travels and her creative endeavors. When the proposal happened, though it was quick, it was definitely not surprising. Everyone thought it fate, the natural progression of a fairy-tale.

Within the coming months things got quiet over on her end, a pop up here, a complaint of weight gain there. We made plans to hang but it never worked out, which I attributed to the business of wedding planning. Her blog posts slowed but again-weddings are a lot of work! So I thought nothing of the quiet on her end as I got bogged down with life on mine.

While her latest post was not out of left-field (it happens to the best of us) I couldn’t help but think of the times I stayed true to instincts and walked away when everything seemed perfect. Here’s three ways I knew it was time to stop fighting and walk away:

When it isn’t “fun” anymore

I once walked away from a business that seemed to align with my passions at the moment it became profitable. While all seemed well on the outside waking up to it every morning was a chore; it drained all my energy and going through the motions felt heavy. While no endeavor is going to be smooth sailing every day your commitment to your choice should make you feel light-and it hadn’t for a long time. I have a hard rule about walking away when it isn’t “fun” anymore-meaning, when I examine my core feelings about the project they no longer feel “light”-and while no one understood my choice at the time I have no regrets. In the end trusting my instincts proved to be the best choice-as less than a year later the industry declined and my biggest sponsor went out of business-a development that would have ruined me financially.

When my “whys” were all externally motivated

Most of us can relate to staying in a relationship too long-and mine was a doozy. We had one of those relationships that other people hash-tagged-we moved in unison, we finished not only each other’s sentences but each other’s jokes, and everyone who spent time with us said watching us together brought them peace. No one knew we’d been having the same argument regularly for close to a year and I hadn’t slept right in months. I’d gained weight, my skin looked terrible, I’d withdrawn from my creative projects and my friends. I’d stalled because I was taught you just don’t give up on that kind of connection-even if you’d been the only one fighting for a while. But when I looked around none of my reasons for staying had anything to do with me-it was “time”, “what would they think”, I’d look like a fool after wasting my “good years”.  Letting go was the right thing to do-even if at the time it made sense to no one but me-and the subsequent chapter of self-discovery and acceptance have hands-down been the best times of my life.

When I know I did my best, but still got a “no” from the Universe

This one has been the hardest to accept, but the most fruitful. When I decided I was going to go back to college, I had one school in mind. I compiled a portfolio, spend an untold amount of hours on the application and even enrolled in courses a la carte so they could see I was capable of maintaining a stellar GPA at their institution. My application was rejected-twice-before I decided to move on with my life and attend another school. Fast-forward a year and even with a major change I’ve managed to earn accolades every semester and my academic future has more opportunities than ever.

Walking away is never easy, and I’m not an expert so I can’t tell you what to do about the hard choices you have in your life. But what I can tell you is there is life at the other side of your choices. Just these three examples took you through ten years of my life, and I’m still here. So don’t be afraid to trust your gut and step into the unknown, even if it means walking away from a fairy-tale.