Monday, February 27, 2012

Cooking, Now With More Whipped Cream!

Now will you stop and look at those....golden brown, softly crunchy on the outside and tender melt in your mouth on the inside, decorated with butter, syrup, sweet ripe macerated strawberries and real whipped cream on top. Oh, sweet lord, this is what breakfast should be everyday.

Mrs. Schmidt's Waffles

Ok, everyday is unlikely and unhealthy and just beyond decadent, plus think of all the dishes, but weekends and special occasions call for waffles and bacon. They insist upon it. So for a belated Joe birthday last weekend I dusted off the waffle iron and went to town. And we have the best waffle recipe. I mean it. The best. Plus, thick cut bacon baked in the oven, until it's just crispy enough to break off and melt on your tongue like the porky salty answer you've been looking for. Did I mention I love the bacon. Anyway, you were asking, nay begging me, for the recipe. Oh, you weren't? Well, you will be.

For a very sweet wedding present, 10 years ago, Joe and I received this cute little waffle iron packaged along with a recipe for waffles from Joe's Aunt Nancy's mother-in-law, Mrs. Marilene Schmidt. We received a lot of wonderful gifts for our wedding, but this is one of our favorites. So much so that at least three times, we've copied her idea and given a waffle iron with the recipe as a wedding gift to our friends. It's just a classic. Mrs. Schmidt sadly passed away a couple of years ago, but her legacy of amazing waffles lives on and I'm here today to help spread the legacy. Because anything this delicious needs to be shared. This recipe is simple and only slightly more time consuming than making waffles from a mix. But you will be rewarded greatly for your time and attention to splitting egg yolk from white. I sometimes add cinnamon or vanilla to the batter, but it doesn't need it. Not at all. Why do I even do that? Silly me. So here it is. Top with whatever you like. I like popping one in the toaster the next day, with just a little butter so you can taste the flavor of the waffle without all that pesky ornamental syrup and whipped cream. But do what you like. You always do.

Mrs. Schmidt's Waffles

1 3/4 cups Flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
3 teaspoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 Egg Yolks beaten
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 cups Milk
3 Egg Whites beaten stiff

Measure dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Blend. Combine beaten egg yolks and milk. Stir into dry ingredients. Add vegetable oil. Carefully fold in beaten stiff egg whites. Do not overmix. Pour approximately 1 cup of batter onto the preheated grid (which has been conditioned according to directions with your waffle iron.) Close and bake. Makes 4 waffles.

Do hope you enjoy. We were so happy to be able to attend your wedding. Love, Marilene Schmidt

Working on dinner and this glass of wine.

Oh, I cooked other stuff last week too. Healthier more reasonable things to balance out the whipped cream and bacon gluttony. I drank some wine and make a quick sauce for some Costco ravioli one night. Mostly for the wine, I mean, I had to open the bottle for the sauce and I had to try it first, right? They say you shouldn't cook with wine you wouldn't drink, so I hold steadfast to that rule. The sauce was good, the wine better.
Kielbasa Spinach Potato Skillet

And then I made this dish, Potato Kielbasa Spinach Skillet, which my friend Wendy posted on Pinterest a few weeks ago. And it was staggeringly good, even though I switched out the regular kielbasa for turkey kielbasa, much to Joe's chagrin. He even said it didn't make that big a difference. Plus a new way to eat spinach, mixed in with a spicy sweet sauce and meat and potatoes. Who wouldn't like spinach this way? The cable guy was here until very late the night I made this for dinner and I could tell by his face that he wanted some. It was too good to share with him though. Sorry, sir, thanks for taking 5 hours to install our cable, no kielbasa for you! I should mention that the best part of having the cable guy around for 5 hours, he was very nice by the way, was when he was out on our deck installing some new wiring and something must have gone wrong, because as Joe and I sat in the living room, we suddenly heard a string of fiery expletives rolling out of the cable guy's mouth, all wrapped in his slightly Southern Missouri accent. We froze for a minute waiting to see if the deck would catch on fire or if a huge hole had been drilled into the wall. But nothing happened. We struggled to not laugh out loud and then it just got really quiet. And three hours later he was done.

So that's what we've been cooking, what have you been up to in the kitchen?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

No, You're a Beauty Tool!

After work last night, as I laid on the couch with my husband Joe, between viewings of that zombie apocalypse show and Olyphant's brutal take down of pimps and meth dealers, we chatted about the fact that I needed to write about my favorite beauty tools for Blogher's Life Well Lived project this week. I laughed and rolled my eyes as I described the task and how silly I felt for having no idea where to begin on this one. He, in his best pretty lady voice, said "Confidence. I think confidence is your best beauty tool." He batted his eyelashes at me and promptly told me that I had his full permission to include this advice in my blog. And you know what, he's right.

A peek into the inner girlie beauty product sanctum. #febphotoaday #youlittlevoyeur

Confidence makes the greasy hair and dirty T-shirt that I'm wearing right now, as I clean the house and finish laundry, not a bad look. Because I feel great. I'm getting stuff done, crossing things off my to-do list, listening to music that revs me up. I know my husband can ignore my morning breath, even at 11am, because he loves me. And that too makes me feel confident and strong and capable. But later this afternoon when I get ready to head out to a party with some friends, after I ditch the T-shirt and house pants, there are a few key beauty tools that I couldn't live with out, especially if I'm leaving the house and other people might actually see me.

There are the thoroughly practical:  like my Cetaphil face wash, a face wash so powerful that my skin has never looked better than it does now at 36 even as the little lines and freckles begin to appear; the Bliss Blood Orange and White Pepper Sugar Scrub that smells like summertime and leaves my elbows actually looking moisturized for about 48 hours, and of course a generous dab of Cover Girl tinted moisturizer that helps hide my red, red rosacea, which will be even more fiery tonight after a couple of glasses of wine. (Totally worth it.)

I have an addiction, sir.

And then the ridiculously fun but totally frivolous tools: glittery nail polish that my friend Bethany sent me simply to cheer me out of my winter blahs, it has the highest glitter to lacquer ratio that I've seen in my life; then the super shiny slightly grape colored L'Oreal lip stain and gloss that helps me recapture those days in middle school 1980-something when I used to color my hair dark purple, do you remember that Pizazz temporary hair dye? This gloss is the same shade, but much better on the mouth than the hair; and finally the thing that is both practical and ridiculously fun, Sephora make up brushes. I feel like an elegant lady dabbing on my shadow and blush with the soft, fluffy little brushes. (Are you supposed to wash these things? Yeah, I probably should wash them. A real elegant lady would know.) Good brushes are magic.

Getting pretty

I'm no beauty maven. I'm not particularly adventurous when it comes to trying new beauty tools. I'm cheap. I like CVS. I wear basic natural looking make up most days. Yellow eye shadow makes my palms sweat.  I've worn Great Lash mascara in blackest black since I was 15 and applied it so thickly that it looked like I had spider legs growing out of my eye lids. I wish I knew how to apply a sexy smoky eye but instead I look like I've recently gotten into a drunken bar brawl when I try. I like what I like. I like what works.  I use spicy ginger lotion in the winter and coconut citrus in the summer. I'm consistent.

I want my beauty tools to do more than make me look good, I want them to make me feel good.  I want them to make me look less tired, less red, less blotchy, less sad, less bland, less wall flower and more *#$*!KABAM$@&(@*!. So if a beauty tool does that for me, I'm hooked. I'll buy twenty, just in case it gets discontinued someday.  But occasionally even a brown eyeliner girl like me needs a little something new to jazz things up. So come join me over at Blogher's Life Well Lived site for some tips from actual experts and share your best tools and advice in the comments section. And if you're cheap like me, you even have a chance to enter to the Life Well Lived sweepstakes for a Kindle Fire and a $50 Amazon gift card, because you can buy a lot of beauty tools for $50!

Friday, February 10, 2012

February Insta-fun

Hey, remember last week when I said I was joining #febphotoaday, this excellent daily photo project for the month of February?  Well, I did. And I've had a blast taking themed photos, commenting on other people's shots, and basically spending too much time browsing the bizarre delights of Insta-gram. (There's some racy stuff on there people, and you don't have to look hard too to find it, plus many many puppy and kitten pictures, many, and who doesn't like that?) Except I forgot to post my photos over here.So here's a week's worth of daily captures for you. Evidently lots of food and lots of color around me, not a big surprise.

February 3 - Hands: These tiny delicious chocolates are perfectly palm sized and for the brief moment before I bit it in half, they were shiny and pretty. And then they are gone. I had three on this day, this was the final victim, right before I gently unwrapped it and shoved it in my pie hole.

February 4 - Stranger: This is the kid that lives next door to us. The house is a rental, now that our very nice former neighbor has moved and there are many random teenagers, a single mom, her here-and-gone-again boyfriend and a lot of cars, and bonus, a lot of young boys smoking next to our driveway. Even on this rainy Saturday morning. I can see in this kid's basement bedroom window every morning when I pull out of the garage. I feel strange looking right into his window when I back out of my garage and I'm considering buying him some curtains.

February 5 - 10am: You've caught me. This is one of my absolute favorite places to spend at least one weekend morning. Lazy. Pajama-ed. In bed. Joe and I taking turns getting coffee refills or a little breakfast when we start to feel peckish. A book and some music and just having a little lie-in with my favorite person and favorite cuddly dog. I can't wait for Sundays.

February 6 - Dinner: We've been doing great eating at home, eating much healthier, losing weight, working out, but occasionally you want to indulge a bit. A little shrimp fried rice and a crab rangoon now and then seems just about perfect. Even better, Happy Dragon delivers. 

February 7 - Button: I blame this on hunger. Yes, it's a button. Yes, this is very literal, but it was dinner time and hunger trumped creativity. I had to heat up chili leftovers from our Superbowl party. By the way, I like the popcorn button best. Second favorite button, steaming mug of something button.

February 8 - Sun: I had high hopes for capturing a sunny, lovely winter day. The weather refused to cooperate with my plans. But instead our nephews and niece brightened up the day via these tiny sweet Valentines that arrived in the mail just in time for our glowing theme. Those smiles slay me every time.

February 9 - Front Door: I love our 1960's front door. The formerly pale green is now transformed into glossy red, with that small diamond shaped window peep hole. It makes me glad to walk into the house. It means I'm home. (Though this isn't my normal entrance since I come in from the basement where our garage is. The garage door is equally cool, with an enormous Pulp Fiction poster with Jules greeting you as you drive into the garage. Samuel L. Jackson means I'm home too.)

Walking to a lunch date with one of my best girls. #febphotoaday

February 10 - Self Portrait: I had a rare lunch with one of my best girlfriends and her daughter today. We met at my favorite little lunch place just a block or so away from my office. I hoofed it up the street, enjoying a chance to get out of my office and into the air. It is in the 20's today and windy, but the sun and the fact that it's Friday and the chance to catch up with my friend and cuddle her 4 month old little charmer in the middle of the day brought this dorky smile to my face. I blame the startled eyes on the cold and wind. This feels like winter all of a sudden and it's cold, damn it.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

I Am a Weird Sister Too

I was chatting with one of my favorite book nerd friends a few weeks ago and mentioned that I was looking forward to reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, for Blogher's Book Club this month. (I received the book for free and will be compensated for my review, but all opinions expressed here are, of course, my own!) She said that she'd tried to read it a few months ago and just never got into it, put it aside and never picked it back up, thought it was kind of boring in fact.  I shrugged my shoulders and said ok, but frankly I let this bit of information dampen my enthusiasm for the book. I respect my friend's opinions on books and we have fairly similar taste in reading materials, so I was rather disappointed to hear her review. But then I started reading The Weird Sisters and suddenly lost all faith in my friend's judgement!

How could she not be swept away in this beautiful, heartfelt, layered little family drama of a book? Feuding sisters, Shakespearean quotes of magnificent proportion, a first person plural narrator who speaks for all three sisters and tells each of their stories in turn, reporting and judging and explaining for each other all throughout. The romance, the life altering choices, the pain of growing up and failing and moving home. The gorgeous, lush writing filled with distant brilliant parents, the small town, and the books, so many many books. A devotion to the answers and escape and power of books, and this particular book sucked me in and forced me to devour it on one lovely Saturday morning into afternoon. I loved the characters, their flawed reasoning, their mistakes, their frustrations and ultimately their ability to heal themselves and each other and start over in new lives, so different and fulfilling they could not even have imagined for themselves.

After I had finished the book and was having lunch with my friend again the next week, I mentioned how much I had loved The Weird Sisters. And honestly how silly I thought it was that she never finished the book.  I waxed rhapsodic about the writing style, the story line and the sense of familiarity and yet the original and creative approach that the author took with the whole feel of the book. And my friend smiled, closed her eyes and shook her head and said, "Oh, we've been talking about two different books about sisters. I've never read The Weird Sisters." We both laughed and I forgave her judgement and became joyful that now she gets to read this book, because I can't imagine that she won't love it like I did.

That's the power of books, I think, the power in sharing them with other people: sisters, friends, neighbors. Passing the stories that have weight and magic in our lives onto others that we know will eat that magic right up. Absorbing that magic and passing it along to the next sister/friend. And while I don't have sisters, I feel like the other women and men who share my love of books are sort of in a sisterhood with me. We have a respect and passion for stories like The Weird Sisters because we know what can happen when a book touches you so deeply, it can change you, for the better.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Things I've Googled This Week


Is there a difference between polenta and corn meal mush?

Timothy Olyphant hip bone

What the hell is Florence wearing on Austin City Limits?

How to grow kick ass hydrangeas in Midwest

Eye wrinkles how do I stop them

Show me Mr. Bates in street clothes

How to make a ribbon covered tambourine 

Why do my dog's feet smell like Fritos?

February Photo a Day 

Are all these fabric flower brooches I own still in style?

What is the origin of the term dog days?

What is Rhodesia called now and year of independence

Bill Murray moaning

How to jazz up your grant applications

Synonym for hooey

What the hell is wrong with my Kindle?

Superbowl party themed sweets

Easy superbowl party themed sweets

Even easier superbowl party themed sweets

Calories in Rice Krispie treats

Friday, February 03, 2012

Roasted Bits of Cabbage Heaven

Here was the question I asked on Facebook last week: "Do you eat vegetables? And I'm not talking about corn and potatoes, turns out those don't count. What's your favorite vegetable recipe? I'm in need of some new recipes and Pinterest is just filled with cake pops or clever ways to make cupcakes look like lady bugs, or crock pot meals. Help me eat more veggies! I'm bored with salad and green beans."

Turns out my friends do eat and cook vegetables, a lot. And did I get a lot of responses? Heck yeah, I did. Veggie loving creative friends to the rescue. I've got almost 25 new recipes to try. And zero excuses to eat salad all the time. So I'm going to work my way through most of these new recipes over the next few months. And other than an aversion to bok choy, leeks and mushrooms, Joe is up for it too.

I started this veggie recipe extravaganza with something I am familiar with and love on Monday. Because it was a Monday night and I'm notoriously low-key, read lazy, on Monday nights and not up for anything challenging or exciting. So we went with a modified version of Bethany's roasted Brussels sprouts. They were divine. I took her advice to use a little bacon fat on the sprouts and it made all the difference and while I had to cook some bacon to do that, why not toss about three crumbled pieces of bacon and some shallots into the mix? Joe and I devoured them. I had the leftovers for lunch the next day and I groaned in happiness, thankfully I was alone or I might have gotten some weird looks. But these sprouts are groan worthy. Like What About Bob groan worthy.

We had roasted asparagus on Wednesday night, but I forgot to take pictures. So you'll just have to trust me that we didn't have boring salad. I figured out the key to making roasted asparagus taste as good as it does in a fancy restaurant. More salt! Like more salt than is dignified or safe for those with high blood pressure. Salt did the trick and the asparagus were perfect. And it really wasn't that much salt, just more than I normally use. And though we did have salad twice this week, the inclusion of avocado, sweet grape tomatoes and some gorgonzola made it delicious. As Joe says, "I want to put avocado on everything."

Next week we are getting more adventurous with the veggies. We are trying green smoothies for breakfast, balsamic glazed carrots and quite possibly something cabbage based, if I can get over my aversion to actual cabbage. My grandfather used to just eat raw cabbage like he was biting into an apple and he made me try it once and I nearly threw up on myself. So cabbage and I are not friends. We'll see if we can work on that relationship. Can you roast cabbage in bacon fat? Because that might work. What are you eating this week?

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (from Bethany)
  1. Preheat oven to 500F. Adjust one rack to lowest position and place baking pan on rack to preheat.
  2. Prepare 2 lbs of brussels sprouts by removing the outer leaves and cutting off the bottom of the stalk on each sprout. Cut each in half from stem to top.
  3. In a bowl, drizzle some olive oil (or melted bacon grease, yum) over the brussels sprouts and stir with your hands to make sure they're all evenly coated.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Mix
  5. Arrange sprouts on a baking sheet. I like to arrange mine so they're all face-down at first.
  6. Roast for 10-15 minutes, turning sprouts halfway if you like. Roast until deeply charred and tender.
  7. (I added this step) Eat and enjoy deeply, possibly moaning inappropriately in mixed company.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

#27 on The List

I like catching sight of the little charming things around me. I can get lost in the monotony and urgency of the day, but the ability to stop for a second, whip out my camera or phone and take a picture of something sweet or ridiculous or lovely is one of my favorite things. It's sometimes the tiny, small, seemingly inconsequential that gets me through the day. I surround myself with little things that I love. Talismans, colorful trinkets or photos of places I want to immerse myself in again. So I thought for the Instagrammy fun of it, I would participate in the February Photo-A-Day put together by Chantelle over at Fat Mum Slim. My January was wonderful. Quiet, focused on some healthy changes, but not particularly creative or adventurous. So this might help mix it up a bit. Plus #27 on my Bravely Obey In Action list is "Take more photos", and though I think I do take more than I ever have in the past, I like the themes of this project a lot, so more photos it is!

The themes are broad and flexible, just guidelines. I'd love you to join me, the more the merrier! And I'll try to post most of my photos with a little writing here, but probably not everyday. The blogging solidly through November and December has burned out my creative writing juices so I'm hoping this will be a gentle and fun way to ease back in. So here we go!

My view- forgot to post yesterday. #photoaday

February 1 - Your View Today: This would be my view on many days. My huge work computer monitor, a self portrait Joe and I took while sitting out on a gorgeous July night waiting for Modest Mouse to start playing, and the very cool calendar I got for Christmas from Joe, filled with some of his favorite Instagram photos that I took. I like this view, though the spreadsheets waiting for me on that screen make me less excited. (And yes, that is a small metal Scotty dog peering over our photo.)

February 2 - Words: I know these words are excessively trendy lately. Supposedly created as World War II propaganda to help keep British citizens calm in case of invasion or while waiting in bomb shelters, I don't know how true that is, but I love the message, the font, and the red and white. Like every other vaguely middle aged hipster in the world, this somehow hits me right where I need it. Framed on my desk at work, it reassures me daily. I also find that my clients really like it and nearly everyone comments on it when they see it. Often with a self deprecating laugh. So keep calm, carry on and smile if you can.