One Of My Biggest Pet Peeves

As I keep telling you, there are five people and the always amazing and precious Bowser Kitten living in this house. Once a week the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend changes the kitty litter, takes out the garbage, and does the recycling. Everyone here does all their own laundry, and for the most part, we do our own dishes. Sometimes we’ll leave something in the sink to soak and someone else will wash it, but we all do that for each other. Even Bowser Kitten does his part, chasing and destroying flies.

So why the hell can’t anyone figure out how to clean the common areas? I mean, it’s like none of them have ever seen a broom before in their lives.

Not How You Use A Broom

In all the years of having roommates, the lack of cleaning in common areas has been one of my biggest pet peeves. I mean, common areas are places in your house/apartment/oversize cardboard box that a bunch (or all) of us use. Everyone in the house eats at some point, so we all use the kitchen. And just like the children’s book taught us years ago, everybody poops. Everybody. Unless you each have your very own individual bathrooms, you share a bathroom with someone else. This ain’t rocket surgery here people. There’s more than one person who uses that room, so logically there should be more than one person cleaning that room.

I swept our kitchen three times today. THREE!!! When I got up to make coffee this morning, there were crumbs and dirt everywhere. When I went to take a shower, someone had tracked dirt and grass all through the house. And when I was reheating my leftover Chinese food later in the afternoon, there was rice and dirt everywhere. Now I know none of that stuff got there on its own. Someone had to track in that dirt and grass, and someone had to spill that rice. And whatever someone did that, did NOT clean it up afterward.

For some reason, grown-ass adults in this house who manage to keep their personal bedrooms immaculately clean can’t be bothered to sweep up their spilled food. They can’t find the time to wipe down counters after they use them. They have no problem spilling pasta sauce all over the stove and leaving it there to bake on.

Since I’ve lived here the longest, I tend to take on the ickier sometimes-jobs. I’m the one who pulls the grates off the range hood to clean up the grease from the fan over the stove. I’m the one who scrubs out the oven. I’m the one who sweeps the cobwebs from the corners, who washed the handprints off the walls, who dusts the cupboard tops and baseboards. I can plan for all of this. But having to drop everything to once again sweep up someone else’s mess in the kitchen and re-mop the floors is just draining me.

And it doesn’t stop at the kitchen, either. As amazingly awesome as the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend is, our bathroom is the root of many fights between us. Even after he “cleans” it, I can run my finger along the side of the tub or on the shower wall and just feel the grime on there. But at least he’s trying. We share that bathroom with another person who has cleaned ONCE. Yes, once. And that was just his sink. In the months he has shared that bathroom with us, he cleaned his sink out once. When it comes to 99% of the cleaning in that bathroom that three people use, I am the one who scrubs the toilet and bathtub. I am the only one who washes the bathmats or the floor. And I am the only one to ever clean the mirrors or wipe filthy handprints off the door and walls.

As I’ve said before, I’m far from perfect. I once had the horrible habit of leaving mostly drank 40oz bottles of malt liquor on the sun porch of a house I shared. At my old apartment, I had to sleep in the living room for quite some time and let my piles of books and study material take over a portion of the room. I learned from all of this though. And I pass on what I learned so you don’t have to make all of my mistakes. I mean if you can’t be a good example, you may as well be a terrible warning, right?

One of the main reasons I hate living with roommates so much is because of the lack of cleaning anyone ever does. I am the only one who sweeps anywhere but the bedrooms. I’m the only one who mops, who vacuums, who dusts, and who scrubs anywhere in this house that is not inside a rented bedroom. No matter how many people live here, I am the one who does 99% of the cleaning here. And it drives me up the wall.

Are you living with other people, Sunshine? It doesn’t matter if they’re family, friends, or perfect strangers. If you’re not living a perfectly solitary existence locked behind the door to your own private abode, then you need to get up off your ass right now and do a bit of cleaning. Make sure you didn’t leave any sort of mess behind. Take a quick walk-through your place and think, “Do these floors need cleaning? When was the last time the countertops were washed? Do I know how to use a toilet brush?”. Clean something you normally wouldn’t, but that you normally use. I don’t care if it’s mopping the floor in the whole place or just cleaning cobwebs out of the corners: if you’re not living completely alone (save for any animal friends), then you need to be cleaning a little bit more.

And if you are living that hermit-life….. I envy you.

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Roommates from Hell: Being mindful of other’s space

As you know, we recently bought a second fridge…… which promptly died a slow, stinky death. I posted a picture of my roommate/ex-boyfriend cleaning the damn thing out , wearing a gas mask. The stench was so bad, I threw up TWICE, and I was a good 6-8 feet away from it when he opened the doors.

So, this leaves us with one fridge for five people, yet again. We have done this before, by using a few ground rule. It’s not an easy thing to do (five random people sharing one fridge is a lot different than a family of five using one fridge, we found out!), but it can be done……..

……. if everyone would just be mindful of the spaces we have to share in this damn house.

We had a pretty good system going with our fridge before. Of the five of us, DG doesn’t cook much, and barely keeps any food here in the kitchen. He throws some chicken in the freezer sometimes, or brings home leftovers from potlucks. So this SHOULD make sharing the fridge a little easier.

The fridge was divided logically: condiments in the door (write your name on them if you want); tall stuff and drinks on the top shelf; veggies in the crisper; Jeff and I share the bottom shelf; UG and AC can share the middle shelf. Each person has their own cupboard for canned goods and spices and cereal. There’s a big cupboard for bulk stuff. And I set up counter space for stuff like bread and bags of chips.

Pretty damn easy, eh? I mean, it’s not rocket surgery or anything.

Well last night, I was curled up on the couch with my wine, a bowl of popcorn, and my ridiculously amazing boyfriend. We were all settled in, watching a bit of old-school SVU before bed (like, Munch wasn’t even totally grey yet). I got up to go to the fridge and grab a little more wine…….

…… and the fucking pita shells attacked. 6 bags of them!  I just got up and counted them again.

What the hell are 6 bags of pita shells doing in the fridge? Well, they’re chilling with all the crap UG has that is taking up one entire fucking shelf in the fridge! In addition to his bags of pita shells (which I never see him eating, btw), there’s a loaf of bread, a carton of eggs with an expiration date of October 2015, a bunch of random stuff in tupperware, and the mystery can. Mystery can looks almost like an open can of tuna or chicken, but it’s in a zip lock bag and has been in there since before Christmas.

So I tried shoving the pita-lanche back into the fridge without spilling my wine (which I needed so so so much more of after this), I took a good look at the dumb-fuckery abounding in my fridge.

You see, UG has taken over the entire middle shelf, mostly with his bread and random stuff he lets rot for months at a time while he orders pizza. AC, therefore, has no room on her shelf for anything. Her solution appears to be to cram as much random shit into the fridge, in any place she damn well feels like. She already took over Jeff’s half of our shelf, and has been cramming me further and further into the back corner of mine. She has tupperware on the top shelf, milk in the door, and packs of tortilla shells fall all over the place.

The worst part, though, is the way things got moved around.

Instead of putting her milk jug on the top shelf, where we all agreed it belongs, she put it in the door of the fridge where the condiments are. To do this, she crammed random condiments all over the place in the fridge.

That jar of garlic with the leaky lid? Thrown on its side on top of my eggs. The Franks RedHot sauce? Crammed into the veggie crisper, OPEN and on its side! My Sunny D for Sunday morning mimosas? Dumped down the sink to make room for more damn pita shells!

You see, this is not how you share spaces with roommates, especially when said space is full of sharp knives.

We divide up things like storage space for a reason: so we don’t piss off the other people around us. And no, it’s not an easy thing to do. Living like this, I can’t buy things in bulk, or make one giant grocery shopping trip. And neither can any of the other people who FREAKING AGREED TO THIS ARRANGEMENT!!!

You see, this pisses me off to no end right now. On top of the ever growing list of things no one but me does around here (like cleaning, or using a broom), I now have to deal with my food getting used, getting tossed, and getting crammed into the far recesses of the fridge.

Right now, I am down to half a dozen eggs, some butter (if anyone left some for me after they used it without asking yet again), a little bit of bacon, and cheese slices. Add to the the box of wine, the milk I share with Jeff, and assorted condiments I’ve split with roommates over the last few months…….. and I can make an omelette. That’s it.

So tonight, when I should have been relaxing in the kitchen, making a stir fry (no room to thaw my meat, and my veggies got all used up somehow), I’ll be grabbing random stuff out of the freezer that has been shoved into the back that I’ve been able to dig out. So, old shrimp, old dumplings, and brocolli it is then.

So, Sunshine, do you have any roommates who do things like this to you? Maybe instead of takin gover the fridge, they use up every last bit of counter space in the bathroom. Or they take over ALL the storage closets, leaving you to cram all of your belongings into your already crowded room. Leave me a comment, let me know I’m not the only one out there dealing with this stuff!

Meatballs, Part 2

Once again, I’m hung up on meatballs. Ever since my last post on them, I’ve wanted nothing more than a giant meatball sub, dripping in sauce and cheese. Unfortunately, the only place to get one around my house is at Subway. For some reason, their meatballs have never agreed with me, which is odd because I LOVE Subway. I could eat their roast beef with BBQ sauce, or a pizza sub with extra extra extra peppers and olives, every single day. Their meatballs, though? My body just won’t accept them as food.

So, I’ve been looking at more meatball recipes. I’m hoping that, in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to make a big batch of meatballs and proceed to devour them. I’m talking meatballs on rice, spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, and even meatballs on those tiny little cocktail swords my grandma never let us play with on New Years as kids.

So anyway, here is a great recipe I intend on trying from AllRecipes. This is just a basic meatball and tomato sauce, which gives you room for lots of creativity.

Ingredients

8 h 20 m

Directions

  • Prep 20 m

  • Cook 8 h

  • Ready In 8 h 20 m

  1. In a bowl, mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, onion, and egg. Shape the mixture into 16 meatballs.
  2. In a slow cooker, mix the pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato puree. Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture. Cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

Again, this is just a basic recipe that’s easy yet delicious. This time, instead of baking the meatballs so they get that crispiness to them on the outside, these are just cooked entirely in the slow cooker. That makes these meatballs great for things like sandwiches, but not so great for poking with small swords.

Now, you don’t have to use the Classico sauce used above. There are about 30 different flavours of tomato sauce available in any large grocery store. And you can always make your own, too. I like to get large bottles of tomato puree, or plain sauce. This way, I can season it with whatever I like. I like to add oregano and rosemary for an Italian sauce, or some Sriracha sauce and cayenne pepper for a bit of a kick. Or, you can just add all of that together for a spicy Italian tomato sauce. This is great for spicy subs!

You can also add more to this recipe if you want, too. As you know, I like to pretend to be healthy, so I add veggies to pretty much everything I cook. Sliced or canned mushrooms and diced green peppers are a fantastic addition to any tomato sauce. Get creative, throw you favourite veggies in, or a spice you really love. Half the fun of basic recipe is making it your own, sunshine.

Slow Cooker Three Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

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It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Something as simple as macaroni and cheese can be so basic, and so fancy. Some days, when you can’t even muster up the strength or will to make yourself a whole meal, that box of store brand macaroni and cheese that costs a whole fifty cents just screams out to you. When you’re out for dinner with your friends, the mac’n’cheese screams to you from the menu (it sure is a noisy pasta). You know it’s not the boxed stuff you make at home, and a part of you wants to try it. Maybe sometimes, when you’re feeling fancy, you throw you mac’n’cheese in the oven with some bread crumbs on top, to make it look like the restaurant version.

No matter how or when you eat it, macaroni and cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods. It’s just one of those things that people crave when it’s cold, or they’re feeling down, or they just really want cheese. So why not make a rich, gooey mac’n’cheese in your crock pot, so it’s ready for you when you get home?

Here’s the recipe I found on Fake Ginger. This site, by the way, has some great slow cooker recipes on it, including one for Crockpot Candy that I am definitely going to have to try!

Ingredients

12 oz dry elbow macaroni
1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
10 slices American cheese, chopped
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Spray the inside of the slow cooker bowl with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of the slow cooker, combine the macaroni, cheeses, evaporated milk and skim milk. Stir until combined and the macaroni is almost completely covered by liquid and cheese. Cover and cook on low for 1½ hours.
  3. After 1½ hours, the cheese should be melted and the macaroni should be cooked. Fold and stir in the dry mustard, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Make sure to stir well to make sure all the macaroni is coated with cheesy goodness.

Now, a few tips for everyone.

  • don’t panic if you can’t find gruyere, or it’s too damn expensive for you. It’s a cheese commonly used in fondues, and can be hard to come by in a lot of stores. Swiss and Monterey Jack are also great fondue cheeses that melt very well, and are much easier to come by. They even sell store brand bricks of it in many larger grocery stores.
  • I don’t know who decided that elbow macaroni is the be-all and end-all of macaronis to eat with cheese. I like to find what’s cheap and cute, and use that. Fusilli is great because the shape holds the cheese well, and it’s name is fun to say. Bowtie pasta is just fun to eat any time, same with wagon wheel. And you can always get a cheap package of spaghetti and use that.
  • I like to add veggies to my meals, just to pretend I’m eating healthy. If you can find it cheap, cauliflower is great in pasta and cheese dishes (it’s damn expensive right now though, so I’m not using that). Broccoli is also great, and you can get big frozen bags of it cheap when it’s on sale. I’ve also used canned corn and peas and the past, and it turned out great.
  • if you use frozen veggies, thaw them completely before throwing them in. For canned veggies, drain ALL the liquid from the can before dumping it in. You don’t want any water in this recipe!
  • play around with meat if you want. I like to add hot dogs to my regular mac’n’cheese, and like to buy the “good” hot dogs when they’re on sale (the all beef, name brand, 5 per pack because they’re huge things ones). Chop or slice them up and throw them in there for a “fancy” mac’n’cheese with hot dogs!

Well, this post is making me hungry now, and there’s a box of dollar store fifty cent mac’n’cheese in the cupboard calling my name. Have fun in the kitchen, sunshine!

Fall In Love with a Crock Pot

I was never big on slow cookers. I mean, my parents had one when I was a kid, and sometimes we’d make meatballs in it. They bought two big ones for when they host our big New Years Day party, and they cook ham and keilbasa in them. But that was the only time we ever dug them out.

Even at my house, my roommate bought one and hardly ever used it. Again, it would be hauled out to make meatballs, and that was pretty much it. Why does everyone seem to want to make meatballs the second a crock pot is in the room?

Well, that roommate moved back home at the end of the summer this year, and had to pack all of his things into his car for the cross-country trip. He left behind anything he decided was a non-essential to him. So, while he made room for his pizza stone, he decided to leave the slow cooker behind, giving it to me.

And now I am in love.

It started with a can of refried beans, some chicken, and a very busy week. The boyfriend was working extra and in class, I had picked up some extra shifts, had a tonne of housework to catch up on, and had scored some interviews with a few temp agencies in town. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of coming home at 9:30pm after a closing shift, just to stand in the kitchen over a hot stove and make a whole meal. So, I started throwing random things into the slow cooker that seemed like they’d work well together.  I took a large can of refried beans, some chopped chicken breast, a can of green chillies, a can of corn, a bunch of hot spices, and some rice and just threw it all in there on low while I was at work.

This was probably the best dinner I have ever made in my life, mainly because it was delicious and I didn’t have to really cook it.

Next, I tried a bunch of beef, some mushrooms, and  broccoli.Then I just Googled “broccoli beef slow cooker” and started browsing. I somewhat followed this recipe with a few changes to it. I added all my veggies in the slow cooker right from the start. I also served it over egg noodles instead of rice. But again, an amazing yet simple meal.

I’m now becoming obsessed with my crock pot. I use it at least once a week. This makes me a large and easy meal on Monday nights, and gives me plenty of leftovers. This week I made beef stew, and had enough left over to have it for dinner last night and lunch today! Since I used fresh ingredients, it took me a bit longer to prep than usual (peeling carrots and potatoes is not something I’m particularly quick at). But still, I didn’t have to stand over the stove, keep an eye on anything, or even do anything more than make crescent rolls once the lid was sealed shut and the cooker turned on.

I’ve found that anything can be made in the slow cooker. Thanks to BuzzFeed and Google, I have about 97 million slow cooker recipes to choose from, too! So here’s a few tips on how to get the most out of your slow cooker.

  • trim as much of the fat off your meats as possible, and remove the skin from poultry. Leaving the fat on just makes it melt into your food. While that sounds utterly delicious sometimes, it leaves a runny and greasy mess both in your food and on your dishes.
  • if you’re using seafood, don’t add it in until the last hour of cooking. Putting it in there for hours at a time will just make it come out rubbery.
  • don’t throw in frozen meat. It will take longer to cook, and your sauces will turn out watered down.
  • don’t lift the lid unless a recipe tells you too! The whole point of the slow cooker is that it traps in the heat. Opening the lid lets that heat out. And once it’s out, it adds another 20-30 minutes on to your cook time. So only open it if you’re using a recipe that tells you to (since it will have that built right into the cook time).
  • using cheap cuts of meat works best. They tend to have less fat, they’re cheap (which is always a good thing!), and they absorb more of the flavour.
  • cooking for 1 hour on high is the equivalent of cooking for 2 hours on low. Keep that in mind if you’re trying to cook things a bit faster, or slower.
  • unless a recipe tells you otherwise, don’t add anything dairy until the last 30-45 minutes. Putting dairy in there for hours at a time will cause it to curdle, which is just nasty and totally unappetizing.
  • if you’re using fresh carrots and potatoes (like in my stew) and don’t want them coming out hard or crunchy, put them on the bottom of the pot. This will help them cook all the way through so you get a nice event texture that doesn’t feel raw.
  • if there’s too much liquid in the pot when your food is done, or your sauces didn’t thicken right, there’s a few things you can try. Cook it on high for 30 minutes with the lid off. This lets some of the liquid steam off. You could also try adding flour, corn starch, or potato flakes to your sauce. It will help thicken your sauce without loosing any to steam.
  • only fill the pot 1/2 to 2/3 of the way. NEVER fill it right to the top! Filling it up all the way increases your cook time a lot, and can damage some cookers.

So why not try out a slow cooker? There are some fantastic models out there that are cheap. You can also usually find older models in thrift stores (just be sure to check the cord for shorts). Even if you don’t use it weekly like I like to, you’ll be sure to get some fantastic meals out of it, sunshine!

Meat Balls – Part 1

I don’t know why, but everyone seems to make meatballs in slow cookers. Is that what they were invented for? My parents made them when I was a kid. It seems like every pot luck I’ve ever been invited to had at least one slow cooker full of meatballs at it. And the first, and possibly only, thing my roommate ever made in his slow cooker was meatballs. And they’re not even fully done in the slow cooker half the time. You have to prep them in the oven first, so they get that yummy crispiness on the outside first. Then you slow cook them in sauce, so they absorb it and burst with delicious yumminess.

But, since this is like THE thing to make in a slow cooker, I guess I’ll have to try them out some day. I mean, they ARE delicious. I always loved making egg noodles, and pouring on big ladles full of meatballs and sauce. And there’s so many different types of meatballs you can make!

So here’s a basic recipe, showing you how to make the meatballs themselves, and then make the sauce in a crock pot and let them simmer in it. AllRecipes is a great place for beginners in the kitchen, as a lot of their recipes are quite simple, yet impressive and delicious.

Later, I’ll throw on another recipes for one of my all-time favourites, Swedish Meatballs! And later on this month, I’ll throw in a few more meatball recipes. The great thing with these is you can either make your meatballs from scratch using the recipe below, or you can buy a box of them and throw them in the slow cooker. Either way, when someone asks if you cooked this, you can honestly say “yes”!

Your Basic Meatballs

Ingredients

1 h 45 m 

Directions

  • Prep 20 m

  • Cook 1 h 25 m

  • Ready In 1 h 45 m

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, egg, water, bread crumbs, and minced onion. Roll into small meatballs.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once.
  4. In a slow cooker or large saucepan over low heat, blend the cranberry sauce, chili sauce, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Add meatballs, and simmer for 1 hour before serving.

These meatballs are your basic cocktail meatballs. They’re what you would find at a pot luck, with little cocktail swords stuck in them.  If you’re not a big fan of the sauce, that’s ok. The first three steps in this recipe show you how to make the meatballs themselves from scratch. You can now use that recipe with OTHER meatball recipes, in place of store bought meatballs that so many recipes tell you to use.

Now, one of my favourites is the Swedish Meatball. As a kid, I was a HUGE fan of the Swedish Chef. He was one of the many Muppets who started my great Muppet obsession. I was convinced that anything that had Swedish in its name would be as awesome as him. As it turns out, both Swedish Meatballs and the candy Swedish Fish ARE delightful!

These meatballs also helped me through a tough time. My baby brother (he’s in his mid-twenties now, so I should really stop calling him that) moved away to teach in Sweden for a while. He and I have always been pretty close, and his leaving hit me hard. I think that’s why my roommate made meatballs in the first place: to help me handle that.

Anyway, I’m rambling about Muppets and family again. Now this is a delightful Swedish Meatball recipe from the folks at Yummly. You may have to sign up for their website in order to see the recipe, but it’s a free site (as far as I can tell. I’ve never been billed for using it) and has some delicious recipes on it.

Swedish Meatballs

Ingredients
  • 1 (10¾ oz) can cream of mushroom soup
  • ½ cup fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp A1 steak sauce
  • dash of paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (28 oz) bag frozen meatballs (this is around 33 meatballs)
  • 1 c sour cream
  • prepared mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles
Instructions
  1. In your slow cooker, combine the soup, mushrooms, beef broth, onion, garlic powder, steak sauce, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  2. Add meatballs and toss to coat.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  4. Before serving mix in sour cream and serve with mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles. Serves 6.

Again, you can use the meatballs in the recipe above for the meatballs here. Or, you can just buy them frozen if you really want. No one will judge you for not hand-forming 30+ individual balls of meat and then baking them, especially if you are short on time and/or patience.

So, have a little fun with your slow cooker this weekend. Have a (meat)ball, sunshine!