Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Two Girls, One Crockpot

Ok, so remember how I was dreading having to work day shift for the rest of the week? Well, sometimes life throws a hanging curveball, and you get lucky.

For me, it was last night--work called, looking for somebody to come in and deal for a few hours. Of course, I reminded them that I was scheduled for 11:00 in the morning. But the counter-offer was for me to come in at 9:30 on Tuesday night, and they'd give my Wednesday day shift to somebody else. It took me about half a second to say SOLD! I'd *much* rather work the late swing/graveyard shift than any day shift.

And it was a lucrative one--I pushed six tables in a row before getting a break, which was great, and the room pretty much died after I was there for four hours. But in that four hours I made more than I would've working eight on day shift. Woot!

Oh, and on the other hand, I got my envelope from that 12-hour tournament I dealt the other day, too. For doing 13 downs, I made whopping $37 in tips. Yep, that works out to less than three bucks a down. Just for perspective's sake, this past shift I just came home from--I pocketed over $30 per half-hour down. Now you understand why all the dealers bitch about getting stuck working that tournament--most people's free time is more valuable than that.

Anyhow, lemme tell you about Tuesday at the homestead. First of all, I need to come up with a nickname for this apartment. There was the 'Stripper House' back when I first moved here, and we can't forget 'Reuben's House', either. And Rob and I lived in the 'Man Cave' for a year over on GV Parkway--and my old house I just moved out of, I'll just refer to it as the 'Dog House'... This place, nothing springs to mind quite yet... So I'm open for suggestions.

But I was kickin' around here on Tuesday morning, hungry, so I made a damn fine breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and coffee, but I cooked up a whole mess of extra bacon so that I could 1) get more drippings to cook with, and 2) have some real bacon bits for my spinach salad I intended to make later that evening. Breakfast was great, of course, and I left the latest batch of drippings in the pan for a bit--that cast iron is a bitch to handle when it's hot. It's heavy as hell, unwieldy, and well, flat out dangerous to pick up. So I chose to let it cool on the stove while I ate and then puttered around for a bit.

Eventually, I found my way back to the kitchen to clean up the breakfast mess and get my spaghetti sauce going. The first thing I did was heat up the cast iron skillet so the bacon drippings would pour a little faster than cold molasses, and while that was going, I diced up a large onion and a large green pepper. About halfway through the onion, I realized that something was missing--you can't cook Italian food without listening to Dean Martin, so I dug out a two-disc set of his greatest hits, turned it up, and got down to business. I think everyone should listen to Dino when cooking pasta and such. It makes the Italian food taste better, I'm convinced.

So once the veggies were diced up, I poured off the bacon drippings from the cast iron skillet, but didn't wash it--I gave it a splash of rather expensive olive oil, and set to sauteeing my onions and peppers. That was a brilliant move on my part, I've got to admit. Those little bits of bacon did wonders... Once they got a little 'sweaty', I added a healthy dose of minced garlic to the mix. But you can't leave that in there very long on the heat--nothings f*cks up recipe like scorched garlic. But after a few minutes, I deglazed the pan with about a third of a cup of good Merlot. Oh man, did that ever smell tasty!

I let that simmer down, and while that was going on, I sliced up about a half a pound of baby Portobello mushrooms. In the meantime, I used a couple of jars of Prego as a base. Normally I'd just use regular tomato sauce and doctor it up, but whenever I see Prego or Hunt's or any of the other canned or jarred red sauces on sale, I grab them up and then add a few things of my own.

So I dumped two jars of Prego into the crock pot, and instead of rinsing out the jars with a quarter cup of water to get all the sauce out, I used a couple of splashes of that same Merlot. I screwed the lids back on, gave it a shake, and then poured out the remainder of the sauce into the crockpot. I also added a generous squirt of that hot Thai 'Sriracha' sauce to give it some zing, along with a few pinches of stuff like dried basil and oregano. The sliced mushrooms went in after that, followed by the onion, pepper, and garlic mixture from the stove.

Once the veggies went into the crockpot, I used the same skillet to brown a half pound of sweet Italian sausage and a pound of seasoned ground beef. Once the meat was cooked through, I drained it and spooned it into the crockpot. I gave the whole thing a good stir, set the temp on low, put the lid on, and left it for several hours.

I had a bunch of errands to run, so I got dressed and headed out while the sauce cooked. The first thing I did was go over to Costco and fill up the tank for $2.44 per gallon (it's about $2.63 everywhere else). Once that chore was done, I decided to go over to Ashley Furniture and have a look around. I'm sorry--I just can't have company until I get some living room furniture, so I have to start shopping.

Of course, I was accosted by a vulture salesperson as soon as I set foot in the door, but she was a few notches less intense than the clown I had following me around the other day at a different store. Actually, she was quite helpful, and let me wander around for quite awhile without trying to sell me anything. I found two different sectionals that I really liked, but one seemed like it might be a little too much--not as far as price goes, but size. I think it was a bit too big for my needs. And then when I sat in it, it felt like it was too low to the floor. So, I decided on the second one I looked at--it was more comfortable and just a touch smaller, but then, I'm still about two weeks away from being able to cough up a thousand bucks for furniture.

But it's nice, and I've decided that the cocoa-colored microfiber sectional with the chaise lounge is what I'm gonna get. If I have a couple more nights at work like I just had, though, I'll be lounging on it in no time.

I actually spent a good chunk of my afternoon at the furniture store, but then I had to go back over to the Wallyworld SuperCenter and spend some more cash. I had a few groceries to buy, and I looked at a five-shelf bookshelf, but it was a hundred bucks--a little too steep, I thought. And as much as I know I'm gonna need a vacuum cleaner pretty soon, now that I've got the furniture within reach, I didn't want to spend the money on that, either.

But I did, however, spend a few bucks on a new bamboo cutting board. My white plastic one that I've had for years is no longer any good. While sitting in a storage tote out in the hot-ass garage for the last year, it warped, badly. Seriously, I might as well have been using a giant tortoise shell from the Galapagos Islands as a cutting board when I did my veggies--it would've been flatter.

By the time I got home after a few hours away, the spaghetti sauce had time to cook together and get all kinds of tasty--when I opened the front door, I couldn't believe how good it smelled here in the apartment. Man, it made me hungry right then.

I resisted the urge for almost two hours, but by the time Deadliest Catch came on, I had to get busy. So I filled up my new stockpot with water, a splash of olive oil, and a couple of pinches of salt, and set it to boiling. I had so much sauce going (a full crockpot), that I had to cook the whole two pound package of pasta. No problemo--my stockpot can handle it. Just about the time I pulled it off the heat, I cut off a couple of inches of French bread from a fresh loaf, sliced it open, buttered it, sprinkled on some garlic salt, and the covered it with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Into the toaster oven it went, while I drained the noodles and then combined them with the sauce (I'm not one of those people who keeps the sauce and noodles separated--even Alton Brown says to mix them together, so that the sauce will stick to the noodles better).

When the toaster oven went 'Ding!', I got a nice big scoop of spaghetti and had two amazingly good pieces of garlic bread on the side (it was so good that I thought it better than the garlic bread at Triple 7 brewpub, which everyone *knows* is top-notch!). That spaghetti smelled so good that I couldn't wait to dig in, and oh hell yeah, I have to admit, I really outdid myself this time. It was probably the best batch I've ever made, due in no small part to the merlot and the bacon pan sautee. Oh, and using good Parmesan on top helps too.

In fact, it was so damn good, and I had so much anticipation going when I dove into it, that I totally spaced on making the spinach salad! Damn--I love me some spinach salad, but you know what--it didn't matter. Just the spaghetti and garlic bread was a damn fine meal all by itself.

As much as I wanted to, I didn't go back for seconds--it's quite a hearty meal, and I know it's gonna taste even better today. Spaghetti, like stew, always tastes better on the second day.

After dinner, I just sat there rubbing my belly and patting myself on the back for a job well done, when my gal Andrea called! I hadn't heard from her since I was in Phoenix, but I wanted to know where she finally decided to move to now that she's realized that this part of town is waaaaay more cool than Summerlin.

You wanna hear something funny--she's moving in about four houses down from Kimmy. Seriously, when I asked her where her new place was, she gave me the general location, and I said Hey, that's right by Kimmy's house--she lives on 'blankety-blank' street! Then Andrea was like Holy shit! That's the same street my house is on! Amazing. Now the two hottest brunettes in Silverado Ranch not only live on the same street, but they have drunken adventures with Mikey in common, too. If I play my cards right, I'm gonna go over there and see if I can't talk them into stripping down to the lingerie and having a tickle fight... That would pretty much be the highlight of my entire Vegas experience, I think.

That's about as deep in the conversation as we got when I was rudely interrupted by the poker room calling and shocking me back into reality. The rest, they say, is history. And you just read about it.


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