‘Hot Mess’ teaches frugal, food-minded millennials to cook

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September 27, 2017 By Heidi Knapp Rinella

They’re life events any millennial — or anyone who remembers that era of their lives — will recognize: One week until payday. My ex is engaged. All my friends are married. And so on.

Gabi Moskowitz and Miranda Berman have experienced them all, but they turned those life experience into a cookbook, “Hot Mess Kitchen: Recipes for Your Delicious Disastrous Life” (Grand Central Publishing, $19.60). It contains recipes for One Week Till Payday Pasta, My Ex Is Engaged Enchiladas, All My Friends Are Married Mud Pie and more than 60 others, plus kitchen how-to’s on making sushi, cleaning cast iron and more.

Even the way the book came about is right out of the millennial playbook. They had never met and live hours apart — Berman in Los Angeles, where she’s a writer for the comedy series “The Mindy Project,” and Moskowitz in San Francisco, where she edits the Brokeass Gourmet blog and has written three previous cookbooks. They first contacted each other through a friend’s app, The List, whose users were able to request recipes from Moskowitz.

”I would request things like ‘The Easiest Home-Cooked Meal to Trick a Guy into Falling in Love with You,’ ” Berman said. “All of the recipe titles had to do with my life, but could be helpful to other people.” Pretty soon they had the beginnings of a collection.

“We talked, sort of off the app, about how fun it would be to do a cookbook that Miranda wrote the titles for and I wrote the recipes for,” Moskowitz said. They realized that they did, indeed, have a book — and sold the proposal without meeting in person.

“And we don’t get along at all,” Berman quipped.

“We joke about how lucky we are that we actually do get along,” Moskowitz said. “When you don’t know somebody and you enter into a project with them …”

In the book, they come across like old friends.

“The stories are mostly true, about times when our lives were somewhat disastrous,” Moskowitz said.

Which isn’t the case anymore. They do all the things that established professionals do — like visit Las Vegas, which Moskowitz did in May for her sister-in-law’s bachelorette party. Berman said she’s been here three times with “Mindy Project” star Mindy Kaling.

“We stayed at Encore at the Wynn,” she said. “And it really was so much fun I don’t want to go back to Vegas without her, because we won’t have so many perks.”

But they remember the bad old days — and besides sharing their funny stories, the book has a practical purpose.

“I feel like millennials have an interest in food,” Moskowitz said. “Millennials, especially, don’t have a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of cooking experience. I think that can make food and cooking a little intimidating.”

Brett Ottolenghi, owner of Las Vegas-based Artisanal Foods, which sells upscale food and food-related items to Strip chefs and at the retail level and offers a line of cooking classes, agrees that the interest is there.

“In our classes, we do see it,” he said. “A good portion of our classes are couples, and a lot of those couples are younger.”

Ottolenghi said recent research has found that millennials are twice as likely to cook at home as Baby Boomers. That’s especially true, he said, for those 25 to 35.

“They’re spending $250 a year less than the same age group in 2007 on restaurants,” he said. “Instead, what we see happening is an increase in home cooking appliances, of which about a third are bought by millennials.”

About 60 percent of millennials who cook at home do it with the aid of their smartphone, he said, and more than 90 percent think it’s worthwhile to cook at home even if they make a mistake.

“There definitely is this trend,” he said. “A lot of it seems to stem from the fact that millennials have grown up with less money because of the recession, so they’re a little more frugal.”

Moskowitz said one thing they hope to do with “Hot Mess Kitchen” is instill a little confidence.

“What our book is sort of trying to do,” she said, “is bridge the gap between an interest in food and a desire to be self-reliant. We’ve written recipes that are simple, super-straightforward and approachable.”

They want millennials to know, she said, “that they are not alone, and that food and cooking are easier and more accessible than they might think.”

I Created a Relationship in My Mind Cupcakes

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk (any fat percentage will work, or use nondairy milk)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup raspberry preserves
  • Frosting of your choice
  • Fresh raspberries, for garnish
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Fill two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper liners (or grease the cups with butter or cooking spray).
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Alternately, use a whisk and beat for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the flour, milk, oil, baking powder and vanilla extract and beat for another minute, just until the batter is smooth and creamy. Fill the prepared cups two-thirds of the way.
  5. Place a teaspoon of raspberry preserves into each cupcake and swirl with a spoon.
  6. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean.
  7. Let the cupcakes cool completely in the pan, then frost as desired. Top each one with a fresh raspberry.
  8. Go outside. Talk to a real human.

Makes 2 dozen.

Someday I’ll Be Rich Rice and Beans

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • Sour cream, guacamole, avocado or cooked chicken, beef or tofu (optional, for toppings)
  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the carrots, garlic, peas and three-quarters of the diced onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the rice, stir well and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in 4 cups of water and the salt.
  5. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the beans and 1/2 cup of water in a pot over medium heat or in the microwave, until heated through. Drain the beans before serving.
  7. Once the rice is cooked and the beans are hot, transfer both to a serving bowl.
  8. Top with the reserved diced onion and the cilantro, plus any optional toppings.

Serves 1.

Steak Your Claim

For the compound butter:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, rosemary, oregano, thyme or a combination), chopped
  • Pinch each of salt and pepper

For the steak:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (18- to 20-ounce) boneless rib eye steak, 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches thick
  • Salt and pepper

To make the compound butter: In a small bowl, stir together the butter, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper until mixed. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the steak:

  1. Heat a griddle or frying pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Brush it with a little olive oil.
  2. Sprinkle the steak liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Cook the steak for 4 to 4 1/2 minutes on each side (longer to cook it past medium-rare).
  4. After cooking, transfer the steak to a cutting board and top it with the compound butter.
  5. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Slice the steak and serve immediately.

Serves 2.

Eat Your Enemy Crispy Treats

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to coat the pan (or use cooking spray)
  • 1 (10-ounce) package marshmallows (or use 4 cups miniature marshmallows)
  • 6 cups crispy rice cereal
  • Miniature candy-coated chocolate pieces or chocolate chips, for decorating
  1. Grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with butter or line with parchment or wax paper.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Add the crispy rice cereal to the saucepan. Stir until the marshmallows and cereal are combined.
  4. Using a buttered spatula, parchment or wax paper, or your buttered hands, evenly press the mixture into the prepared pan. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  5. Use a sharp knife to trace the outline of a person (don’t worry if it’s not perfect — the person you’re replicating here obviously isn’t perfect either).
  6. Create a face with the candy-coated chocolate pieces or chocolate chips, as desired.
  7. Poke all over with toothpicks or other sharp tools until you feel better.

Serves 8 to 10. 

Excerpted from “Hot Mess Kitchen: Recipes for Your Delicious Disastrous Life,” by Gabi Moskowitz and Miranda Berman. Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing.

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