Cookin’ Time

Cookin’ Time

It’s 9:30 PM the night before my third (and final) in-class test for Anatomy and Physiology II: The Revenge of Anatomy and Physiology. I’ve got an unfinished paper for the same class that’s due on Monday that needs a good chunk of work. And let’s not even get started on the amount of studying that I need to do for my Calculus final. So of course I’m going to sit here and write a blog post. Would you expect less of me? Anything to get out of working.

I, like my mother before me, am a sucker for a grab bag. There’s no shame in it. I like the thrill of the unknown. Maybe there’ll be something awesome in there! Baseball and basketball cards? Was addicted to those for a few years. Magic: The Gathering? More boosters bought than I can count, a few in foreign languages just because.  Never mind the fact that I can only tell what that Korean card is by its artwork, which, in and of itself shows that I’ve played way too much Magic.  Hearthstone?  I’ve bought a booster or three, and those aren’t even real cards, they’re just bits saying that I can use this card in my pretend deck of pretend Warcraft guys.  Lego Minifigs?  Got a few display cases of ’em.  And don’t even get me started on Marvel and DC HeroClix.  I spent more than $500 on those poorly painted superhero minis when it first came out, and barely even played the game ’cause my brother and I would argue for hours about whether or not Cyclops had a clear line of sight to annihilate Gorilla Grodd with an optic blast.  (Raise your hands, everyone who is surprised.)

This has boiled into a new love for me (and KLynne, who I will now proceed to throw under the bus by mentioning that SHE is the person who finds most of these and I am merely an innocent consumer of the things inside of ’em)… subscription boxes.  If you’ve never heard of ’em, basically, they work like this.

  1. You find a box with a theme that you like.
  2. You give the people that send out that box somewhere between $8 and $Eleventy Billion. Give or take.  (We only have ONE really expensive one.)
  3. X number of weeks later, a sealed box of goodies comes from that company.
  4. Open it, exult in the cool things that come in the box, bitch about the “aww, why did they put that in there” crap, and wonder if you can sell/trade/regift the stuff you don’t want.
  5. Repeat from Step 2.

We (OK, mainly I) get a box of nerd stuff that comes with a T-shirt every month.  We’re gonna get a box of random comic trade paperbacks every month. We get a box of little plastic thingies of organic snack mixes (like mixes of dried fruits and granola-ish things) every week or so. KLynne gets a box of makeup samples.  The dogs even get their own box (BarkBox) full of treats and toys.  We have a problem.

The two boxes that I’m gonna talk about today, though, are something that I have really taken to—save for one part. (It’ll be obvious once I start writing.)

We get subscription boxes of food.

(I know.  OH LOOK THE FAT GUY IS TALKING ABOUT HOW HE LIKES FOOD!)

But, smartass hypothetical reader, this is NOT pre-prepped food… these are themed meals that are a) fresh and b) you cook your own damn self.  You do pay a premium for the box of fresh food to be delivered by your long-suffering postal or UPS or FedEx or whatever guy or lady, but you know what?  It’s cheaper than going out to eat somewhere for dinner (no tips, no marked-up-to-infinity-and-beyond dranks).  It has to be healthier, since the focus with these boxes is fresh everything.   And it’s forcing me out of my comfort zone, since I’m actually helping with the prepwork and the cooking on them.  (I have to lean on my long-suffering wife, since she’s not only an excellent cook but I chop about as fast as a snail on ‘ludes).

And the best part is?  For the most part, the food that we’ve made from these boxes has been REALLY FREAKING TASTY.

The first box that we got gives you major components of a meal based on a theme.  Our theme was taco night.  Contained in this box was two bags of organic corn masa (one in blue corn, one in a special blend of white and yellow corns), a little jar of special margarita salt with chipotle peppers (spoiler alert: none of it was used for margaritas, but I’m considering buying a pound of the stuff), a jar of fancy tomatillo salsa, and (the coolest feature of this box)… a tortilla press.

Ja, meinen Freunden, I can now press my own tortillas.  (This box gives at least one piece of kitchenware every time you get one.  I read that the month before us got ravioli presses, which is impossibly cool.) The rest of the box contained recipes (or links online to recipes) for different kinds of taco filling that used the stuff in the box… like a smoky skirt steak, a delicious roast sweet potato and poblano pepper mix, or shrimp with a homemade mango and grilled corn salsa.

I am by no means a great cook.  You’re not gonna see me whipping something up on MasterChef and getting called a donkey and worse by Gordon Ramsey any time soon.  I can cook only a few things well… chicken and pasta.  And pasta with bits of chicken in it. (This is despite the fact that I had not one but two semesters of Foods back in Junior High and High School). It took me quite a while to do some of the work and some of the accessory ingredients were a little pricey (seriously, why you gotta be so expensive, poblano peppers?) but it was a great experience.  I MADE TORTILLAS, YOU GUYS.  A FEW OF THEM EVEN CAME OUT PERFECTLY ROUND.  THEY’RE JUST CORN MASA AND SOME WATER AND SOME EXPLETIVES SCREAMED IN THE AIR BECAUSE YOU HAVE TORTILLA PROTOPLASM ALL OVER YOUR HANDS BUT YOU CAN’T GET IT OFF.

Here are the results, courtesy of KLynne’s Instagram (since I can’t just steal the image directly from her phone)…

A photo posted by Kristen H. (@firelizardqueen) on

WE MADE THAT. WE MADE ALL OF THAT.  The guac? I MADE THAT FROM SCRATCH.  The rice?  MADE THAT.  The Fiestaware?  FIRED AND GLAZED IT MYSELF.  (OK, that’s a stretch.) So the first box was a success.  

The second box is a little bit more of a splurge, but it has everything in there except the stuff to cook it with.  The way that it works is you get to pick a certain number of meals or desserts from their site, they send you the bits on a certain day, and you have a few meals that require no thought other than “let’s grab the bag with all of the stuff to make X”.  The stuff in there is fancy, too.  Stuff I’d never think, “Hey, let’s make this!”  Things like a steak salad using arugula with a homemade horseradish-lemon dressing and garlic bread made by LOVINGLY RUBBING A CLOVE OF GARLIC OVER TOASTED BREAD instead of the way that I usually do it with garlic powder.  Or turkey burgers that I hand-formed the patties on with a bunch of spinach and hand-minced garlic mixed into the ground turkey which, I might add, still has the most disgusting feeling of all of the ground meats, served with a radish salad.

A photo posted by Spin H. (@mrspinch) on

IT WAS SO FREAKING GOOD.

So why am I bragging about this?  Because one of my unstated but often-thought goals floating around in my head is to become a better home chef, be confident in my choices, and try new things.  In the past few weeks I’ve cooked (or helped cook) foods I’ve never DREAMED of making, and the great majority of it has been REALLY GOOD.  (One bad thing: A pesto spaghetti made using wilted dandelion greens.  The greens tasted like bitter ass mixed with a dirt clod, which is a real shame ’cause the pasta was super-high-end and came out perfect.)

I’m not really good with feeling proud of myself about ANYTHING.  Most of you would shudder if you heard the Statler and Waldorf continually yammering on in my head.  But this?  This I can be proud of.  I’m doing something, and I’m doing something well.

But seriously, the number of dishes that cooking at home creates can just go straight to hell.  I need to get training the dogs on how to load the dishwasher.

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