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How long can you outstay your welcome in a coffee shop? I’m sure you already know that you can do this without any purchase and not have any of the personnel bother you. You can sit outside and have a smoke, or stay inside, talk to a friend or pretend to wait for your order, or a friend, or a date who never shows up.

But what if you want to stay for a really long time? Whether you’ve got a book to read or papers to study or a laptop to do whatever business you can do with it, you will eventually need to make a purchase of at least their cheapest product—maybe a lollipop or extra syrup.

Right now, I am sitting alone in a Greenbelt coffee shop on a Friday night, and I hope you do not think I am square for hanging out with myself when everyone’s in costume celebrating Halloween tonight. It’s past ten in the evening, I can see people in line for their orders, no seats guaranteed. And here I am, sitting on one of the shop’s woven chairs with aluminum framing, one-third of my espresso pistachio biscotti left, and it’s been more than an hour since. “Ooh, her biscotti’s left alone while she’s doing something else. And look—crumbs all over—she’s made a little mess which means she must be busy or too enthralled with her other activity that she cannot even mind her food that much.” In reality though, I want to mind it more than you think, give it the attention it deserves; it’s food, for crying out loud. But as long as I plan to stay here, I cannot gobble this hard biscuit which we call biscotti.

Now that’s exactly why you cannot consume what you order in a coffee shop at a time like this. There are at least a dozen pair of eyes prying for an empty seat. It’s a tough competition—how do you stay in line AND race to that vacant spot AND leave your bag on the table to mark your territory? You need strategy and a quick response to this crisis, especially without a buddy around. If you already have a table, you are no target for this as long as you leave some food or coffee on your table. Leave your partially bitten cookie or half-eaten cheesecake on the plate. Again, make sure you have crumbs on the table to add some drama, how you’ve ignored your edibles for another. If drinking a frappuccino, make sure there’s some content left and make sure it’s in view. If it’s in a paper cup, then it won’t be a problem. Pretend to sip once in a while to dodge any doubt from unseated customers.

Bottom line is, you have immunity from being kicked out of the place as long as you have your leftovers displayed. Besides, you are only getting your money’s worth, right? You really do have every right to stay where you are, you just need to showcase your evidence if you don’t want the awkward glances that 1. look at you 2. look at the door where you can exit 3. look at the food and drink they are holding 4. look at you again.

Spinach Dip & Crackers

I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, but I never really acknowledged my fondness for spinach dip, even with its presence always made. Whenever I do the grocery shopping, I end up dumping a bottled spinach dip into the cart. When I eat with friends in Italian restaurants like Cibo, it’s always an appetizer. And so far the best I’ve tried is a homemade spinach and artichoke dip made by my best friend’s mom, and I only get to gobble it once a year when my friend celebrates her birthday.

I’ve been messing around the kitchen with fries and chicken and salads and cookies, but it never occured to me to make my own dip until now—a conversation with my friend about artichokes had to do it. Making a dip is easier and faster than watching a stove or oven cook up your preparation, although there are some dips that are also baked.

Below is the recipe I used, with a bit of tweaking depending on the available resources around. I got it off the All Recipes website.

Ingredients

  • 3 bundles of spinach
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 block of grated sandwich cheese (the one that goes with pandesal)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. After washing the spinach, chop off the stems. Pull out the spinach leaves to be used for the dip. Finely chop the leaves.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Gradually mix in the Parmesan and grated cheese. Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Throw in finely chopped spinach leaves into the mixture and slowly mix until ingredients are well distributed in the dip.  Chill for a few hours.
  4. Put a few dollops into a small glass or a dip platter. Serve with a handful of chips, bread or crackers.

A few suggestions:

  • Instead of using the regular “pandesal keso”, cheddar cheese would be better to add sharpness.
  • Use real mayonnaise, not the “lite” version. I find real mayo creamier, as opposed to the lighter one that sometimes looks like a blob.

It looked more like sauce than a dip after mixing, because the consistency was not as thick as I expected it to be, but refrigerating it solved the problem. I did a bit of blending to bring out the green, but the color wasn’t as rich as I wanted it, so more spinach leaves might do the trick next time. This is great for parties or if you just want a bite before hitting the sack.

I’m almost never tasked to make dinner, that’s why I always have to let my mom know beforehand if I plan to make a little mess in the kitchen, just like last Sunday.

Parmesan and Pepper Crusted Chicken

What you need: Chicken fillets, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, flour, eggs, and whatever spices you want to mix in

It goes through the usual coating drill: dipping the chicken fillets in flour, beaten eggs and the spiced breading for the crust. In this recipe, the crusting includes the breadcrumbs mixed with grated Parmesan cheese, crushed pepper and whatever McCormick seasonings we got around the cupboard (you know, those small glass bottles with green caps). Really, it’s up to you what spices you decide to put in; that’s all the difference it makes for any breaded meat. Next is frying ‘em, just a few minutes on each side of the crusted fillet ‘til the meat is cooked and the crust—just like any fried crust is supposed to look like—is golden brown. Finally top it with some edible leaves to make it look a bit ooh la la even if it turns out bad. And also so you’d have a reason to exclaim, “voilà!” right after you put the last leaf.

Realization of the day: I seriously need to invest on some cooking and baking materials. I’ve already got a mental list of kitchen tools that would make my cooking endeavors easier, and all of which I plan to have soon as my property: mortar and pestle, electric mixer, pizza cutter, pepper crusher, and a mezzaluna (it’s a knife with a curved blade and handles on both ends) which I’ve always coveted ever since I saw Nigella using it. Our pepper crusher was broken, so I grounded the whole round black peppers the archaic way—no, not even with a mortar and pestle, but with a mug and a chopping board, which I’d rather not elaborate on. In the meantime, it works!