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Rotini Carbonara

Sometimes a girl comes home a little drunk.

Sometimes a girl waits for her friend who’s running an hour late at a bar and spends that hour drinking dry Sapphire martinis with a twist, and then has half of a rather anemic tuna sashimi plate for dinner, and sometimes that’s just not gonna cut it.

Sometimes a girl needs to do a little drunk cookin’.

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The most beautiful green and yellow wax beans you've ever seen, admit it.

The most beautiful green and yellow wax beans you've ever seen, admit it.

I have become a total vegetable gardening dork. I’m obsessed. I order catalogs, I baby my plants every chance I get, I snarl at my children if they get too close. It’s sad. My husband actually said to me the other day that I’m not a dork until I start taking pictures.

See above.

Those are my first ever pole beans. They are, as is true of everything that you grow with your own hands and eat fresh off the vine, a revelation. Who knew green beans could be almost juicy? I’ve eaten some of them straight up, but I have enough now that I can play around with them and use them in recipes.

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steaksalad

When I was first learning to cook –really cook, not heat up Steakums like I did in college — Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything was my bible. It’s just a really good book for beginners. Bittman’s recipes aren’t fussy and his instructions always leave room for improvisation. These days I don’t have much time to try out new recipes, but there a couple of favorites from How to Cook …. that I still turn to regularly. One of my favorites, especially when I have leftover steak (yes, that happens even in our ridiculously carnivorous household) is the Beef Salad with Mint.

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chicken tortilla

Sometimes I buy those mutant rotisserie chickens at Costco and we end up only eating about half as actual roast chicken. Then we’re left with another half a chicken that nobody wants to eat and I am way too much my mother’s child to just ditch it, so I make one of two things with the meat I strip off the bone: enchiladas or chicken tortilla soup. You don’t need the enchiladas recipe, it’s the one from the bottle of Trader Joe’s enchilada sauce. But you do need the chicken tortilla recipe.

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Cubanos 1

muttonbreath is going to be here any minute to remind me that Che ain’t cool, but hear me out:  A Chicago Irish girl takes the humble Cubano on a whirlwhind tour of Europe in an homage to the emerging global economy… and knocks out some pesky leftovers besides.  Revolutionary indeed!

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Living alone is certainly not without its charm – the pleasures of walking around naked, knowing the dishes will never be left undone unless you left them, and belting out an earsplitting off-key rendition of “Our Lips Are Sealed” in the shower at 6:00 AM cannot be denied.  But living alone also means you eat a lot of the same things, over and over and over and over until you want to “accidentally” squirt dish soap all over them and go see if Popeye’s is really as bad as you remember it.  This is particularly true if you, like me, were raised in an Irish (Italian, Jewish, etc.) household and are incapable of cooking by any other quantity than “truckload.”

To avoid the dish soap garnish, you have to get creative with repurposing.  Like sex in a long-term marriage, it’s not that you don’t love the original recipe just the way it is… but if you get the occasional opportunity to pretend it’s something entirely different, you’re a lot less likely to cheat on it with some greasy fried chicken.  Or, uh, something.

Anyway, got a bunch of leftover Sweet Potato Home Fries staring you down from the fridge?  Read on.

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My fellow Kitchen Dorks are ladies of grace and refinement. They make beautifully lit hummus, gorgeous sorbet, delectable pies, and (inexplicably) small cakes shaped like bugs. Me, not so much. For better or worse, I am one cheap cook, and I am here with my wobbly camera and my generic spices to show you how to make The 43-Cent Burrito.

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