Thursday, April 14, 2016

I give a crap; I just don’t give a shit.

My eyes slowly roll back into my head when someone starts off a conversation with, “Oh my gawd, did you see what so and so posted on Facebook.”  Well first of all, I don’t give a shit about Facebook.  That’s when I quickly realize I have to rephrase that last sentence.  I give a crap about the people I know, I just don’t give a shit about most of the nonsensical dribble that is posted most of the time.  Does anyone remember the good ole days of it?  Fancy me a hopeless romantic.

Let’s face it the only one laughing all the way to the bank is the Zuckster.

I mean honestly I adore your kid, but I could really care less that they shit in the big kid toilet today.  If we are being completely honest here, I like to shit in the big kid toilet myself.  Once in awhile though I like to pretend I’m a bear and squat in the woods just for giggles.

It sure is fabulous that you’ve jetted off to Europe again; I so enjoy you complaining about the hotel not being up to par.  The hotel I’m staying in at the moment “Su Casa Express” is a dump, you should stop by and stay here sometime then you’d really have something to complain about. 

Oh that selfie of you and your new boo is so cute (hold on a sec whilst I wipe the sarcasm from my lips).  I must say though he is scarily reminiscent of the previous 4-ex husbands you met online.  Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned method of picking a future potential ex through beer goggles in a bar?  But enough said already. 

The split-personality roller coaster, where one day you are so happy and you are telling everyone that you have the best life and family in the world, the next you are back to complaining in detail about your horrible sucky life.  Slowly back away from someone like that because when his or her shit finally blows the splatter will be felt for miles.

You’re my hero, seriously wow, only 46 miles of rugged terrain with bobcats lunging out at you from above all the while avoiding barbed shrapnel, mild hypothermia, and the need for mustard packets on your walk today.  Fuck, I’m exhausted just from going downstairs and getting more cookies when I ran out while sitting at my desk working. 

Holy soup dumplings that five-star meal your are sharing with me today is totes-mazing, It was only $300 a person and the wine was a steal at $200 a bottle, well I guess me complaining about paying an extra $2 for guac at Chipotle doesn’t sound quiet so ridiculous now. 

If you haven’t experienced Facebook for yourself you really should.  I mean where else in the world can folks get together and act like they like each other online, but don’t talk to each other in real life.  I think it is a lot like looking into a snow globe in the middle of a blizzard when all of a sudden you catch a glimmer of hope.

Disclosure:  I made absolutely zero dollars for writing this post, I accepted zero free products, there are zero affiliate links on this post, zero dollars in advertising revenues were collected from this post. 

Second disclosure:  Shit I just made absolutely zero today, does that make me a zero?  Perhaps I should have spent my time writing a GoFundMe page so people could contribute to a pity fund so I can experience the lifestyle everyone else on Facebook seems to be enjoying.

Third disclosure:  I have my qualms about the effectiveness of disclosures, I mean I may have not been smart enough to make a buck here today, but I'm pretty sure when you name drop 15 times that you are leaving on your road trip in a “Ford, Toyota, Chevy, etc.” or you make sure and name drop the cruise line your sailing, or the hotel you are staying at, etc. that you were being compensated to do so. 

Fourth disclosure:  My apologies to the uninitiated, but blogging innuendo humor never gets old around here.

Fifth disclosure:  The only truthful fact in entirety in this post is that I survived twenty-five years of my life sentence with Hot Dog Dude as of yesterday.  “Hello 1991 and the biggest sleeves on a wedding dress known to man”.  Truth two:  It was so heavy I could barely keep it up and it itched like crazy (I actually had a rash).  The dress sat at my mom’s house for almost 20 years until she forced me to take it off her hands.  When the guilt finally got the better of me that it would be cruel to try and guilt one of my girls into wearing it; off to charity it went.  Had I known then what I know now, it would have been blinged out wedding yoga pants and sparkly running shoes!





Monday, April 11, 2016

Birthday Chocolate Chip Cookies


I had a chance to take my sister-in-law out for dinner and help her celebrate her birthday this weekend. It was so much fun going out, wandering about the city, and just having a small little celebration. I love celebrating as much as the next person, but it usually involves days upon days of prep work, cleaning, shopping, decorating, and more clean up. We have already had several events here this year and helped celebrate some monumental occasions.


Oh Ted, the ever shameless party animal.

We kicked off January right helping my mom celebrate 72 years with 72 mini cupcake trifles. 


I'd explain how to make these little masterpieces but after delving into three different cake batters, three fillings, and three different buttercreams, I just figure I lost you after three different cake batters.  I won't dare scare you with the amount of dish washing required.

February rolled around and so did the decade ticker for my sister.  Hey, it's not everyday your younger sister turns 40 and you stay 39. It's a complicated algorithm I'm working on the patent for at the moment. 


March stormed in and it was birthday after birthday including helping "Beer" and "Old Spice" (my brother-in-law and dad) whoop it up in grand style. By-the-way, "Beer" said his beer cupcakes were the best cupcakes ever and demands I make them again soon for him, so when that happens I will write down the recipe so I can actually share it.


Today I was supposed to be on vacation (which has been rescheduled for the third time already) but instead I'm in my office working.  Just sitting here daydreaming about when I'll get to take off and lace up my hiking boots up and about why I didn't hold back some of those cookies for myself. Good thing there is still plenty of time left this month to fix both. 

Birthday Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pretzels and Peanuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup bread flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
10 tablespoons butter (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup roasted and salted peanut halves
3/4 cup sourdough pretzels, crushed into pieces

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 2-3 minutes. Add egg and mix well. Stir in the vanilla.  Turn mixer off and add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Fold in chocolate chips, peanuts, and pretzel bits. 

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat and scoop 1 1/4-ounce mounds (small golf-ball size) of dough onto baking sheet a couple inches apart (about 12 per sheet). Bake 13-15 minutes until golden brown but still soft. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling. Repeat with remaining dough.

Yield: 25-30 3-inch cookies

Enjoy,

Gina




Monday, March 28, 2016

Pineapple, Coconut, Lemon Bars


I knew it was an eventful week and that I've had a ton on my mind, but when I found myself curled up in a little ball under the blankets at 2 o'clock this afternoon I had to accept the fact I was indeed wore out.  I think work, prepping for Easter, getting ready for vacation, and too much stress in general finally got the better of me.  We had a lovely Easter and I hope all my guests enjoyed themselves, but each year it seems to get harder and harder to do what I've done in the previous years.  

There were goodies galore and savories to spare.  If I must come clean here you should know the dessert menu always gets written first and the savories are just an afterthought.  I felt a Lemon-Blueberry Flan Bundt Cake was in order, and that Brownie-Chocolate Mousse Trifles couldn't hurt, it wouldn't be the same without Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Buttercream.  The little ones would probably love some chocolate dipped Krispie Treats covered in sprinkles.  Hopefully you are beginning to sense my affliction here.  Only when I've fully engrossed myself in pounds of butter, bars of chocolate, and bags of sugar do I start to ponder that people may actually want some food to go with their dessert.  Folks tend to show up over here like starved animals and expect the full spectrum, you know real people food like ham, quiche, lasagna, stuffed chicken breasts, salads, etc. and I usually oblige.

I used my meditation session this afternoon to contemplate the fact that I may indeed need to make some contingency plans for the years to come.  Why can't I just be one of those folks who grabs the boxed ham dinner at the supermarket and goes on her merry little way?  Why not, indeed?

On to some much lighter and lovelier happenings; my sweet friend Becky of Baking and Cooking a tale of two loves celebrated a birthday last week and after us discussing some great uses for freeze dried fruit, I thought I'd hook her up with some packs of the stuff and some of these Pineapple, Coconut, Lemon Bars to go with.  I found a lovely recipe over on Averie Cooks and adapted it to highlight the dried fruit I've been eating by the shovel full these days.


Pineapple, Coconut, Lemon Bars
Crust:
½ cup unsalted butter, (1 stick) – cut into 1-inch pieces
1-cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Filling:
1 large egg
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3-cup sour cream
2 ounces fresh lemon juice (Meyer lemons preferably) (2 juicy lemons should do)
Zest from 1 lemon
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Also need:
6 ounces dried baby pineapple, cut in ½-inch sized pieces
2 ounces roasted coconut chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line an 8-inch x 8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor add ½ cup butter, 1-cup flour, ½ cup sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt and pulse to combine until the mixture is the size of large crumbs.  Or you can use a bowl and two knives cutting the butter to achieve the same result.  Reserve ¾ cup of the crumbs and put the rest in the baking pan and pat down.  Bake crust 10 minutes.

Combine in mixing bowl 1 egg, ½ cup sugar, 1/3-cup sour cream, lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and flour.  Mix well to combine. 

On top of cooked crust layer the dried pineapple and coconut.  Pour the filling over the top and evenly spread rest of crumbs over the top.

Return to oven and bake 35 minutes longer.  Let cool completely before removing from pan and cutting.

I'm not sure which I enjoyed more the nap or these bars, but I think it's a very close competition.

Enjoy,

Gina

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Skillet Chicken Dinner with Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!  Today is your lucky day if you are feeling Irish, by chance sporting a green ensemble, or partook in one too many green beers and can’t muster the energy to think up an easy and fast dinner this evening.  It’s been quite the busy week and despite wanting to represent for the Irish and fix a corned beef with cabbage it’s just not happening around here.

I was working in my office yesterday when I received a phone call from HDD, “Tomorrow is Saint Patrick’s Day, right”?  Me:  “Yes, and your point is”. (Spoken with my eyes rolled back in my head.)  HDD:  “Are we having corned beef”?  Me:  “Hell no, it’s gross and you can’t have it anyways”.  (I thrive on my role as Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest, what can I say.)  HDD:  (Long sigh.)  Fine. Click. 

HDD found out he has gout a few years ago and when he eats certain proteins he gets a flare up and besides the limping around and complaining; I’m the one who really suffers.   So I’ve taken it upon myself to put some reforms into place and put us on a mostly vegetarian diet, with the exception of a little chicken or fish.  HDD has mostly gone along with the plan, but I sense he is headed towards a major breakdown soon.  All he does is drone on and on saying things like, remember how good barbecued steak is, or I could really go for some prime rib tonight.  Dream on Hot Dog Dude; dream on. 

There is an upside to HDD’s gout though; I’ve lost so much weight my mother has made it her business to tell me I’m getting too thin (like there is such a thing).  Also it’s keeping HDD on his toes because I told him if I do make steak he will never know if it’s because I’m pissed or just being nice.   


Chicken, Artichoke, Grains, and Sun-Dried Tomato Skillet
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1-pound chicken breast tenders, boneless and skinless
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-12 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained (discard liquid)
¾ cup shredded carrots
¼ cup sun-dried tomato strips, packed in olive oil
1 ¼ cups mixed grains (I used a mix from Trader Joe’s with couscous, quinoa, orzo, and baby garbanzo beans)
3 cups veggie stock

1.     Add olive oil and butter to a 12-inch skillet and heat on medium-high heat.  Once butter is melted add onion and let cook for 4-5 minutes until starting to get translucent.
2.     Add the chicken pieces, salt, and pepper and cook chicken on one side for 3-4 minutes, flip and cook another 3 minutes.
3.     Spread the artichoke hearts, carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, and grains evenly over the chicken.  Slowly pour the stock over the whole pan and bring to a boil.
4.     Cover the pan with a lid; turn the heat down to medium and cook for 25 minutes.
5.     Serves 4.



Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  I only wish I had a piece of this Irish Car Bomb Cake from Miss Katty to wash down my dinner tonight.

Gina

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Model Bakery English Muffins - Baked Not Fried


I’ve been in a reflective sort of mood the last few days after a visit from someone I haven’t seen in some time.  Seeing this person stirred up a storm of emotion, good, bad, and everything in between.  I’ve been trying to move past some uncomfortable feelings about a situation in which I no longer have any control.  I’ve been desperately clinging to past hopes and dreams, while the universe is now the one leading the charge.   It’s unfair and unkind and many ways, but it just is and I have to find a way to be okay with it.

I got a big smile on my face the other day when a friend commented about “oversharing”.  One may think it’s a bad thing, that it may paint one in an unflattering light, I on the other hand think that when done in a positive way is the occasional antidote.  It means you are human and working on the constant chaos that swirls around all of us also known as life.  I know when I see things clear as day I dislike in myself it means I can also see that I need them to change.   Change is uncomfortable but change makes us grow. 

I look forward to the written word and it’s power to stir me, I beg of you; make me feel happy, sad, perplexed, curious, enraged, for goodness sake make me feel something, don’t let the opportunity go to waste.  We all have an opportunity to make a difference even if it’s the smallest one.  I think that is why I found myself drawn back to this space.  Even if it doesn’t make a difference in anyone else’s life it makes a difference in mine, it grounds me back to making a little sense out of a world that seems senseless most of the time.

I happen to believe change isn’t just possible, but probable, an eventuality, a response to our being open to the universe and its offerings.  I’m working on opening my mind to new things, changing the direction I’ve been pointed, it’s a process but if anything comes too easily, it’s probably time to up your game.  

I wasn’t too excited about my first experience making English muffins; actually they weren’t at all what I hoped for.  With a little perseverance and quite a few more tries I did finally land on a version that makes me smile from the inside out.  I’ve been making a ritual out of baking these every few weeks now for the last few months, and one I don’t plan on changing any time soon.  The original recipe calls for frying the muffins in Ghee and after several experiments and lots of smoke alarms going off in my kitchen, I can now say baking them as I’ve instructed is my preferred method.  


Model Bakery’s English Muffins
Biga
1/4-cup water
1/2-cup (75 g) bread flour
3/4-teaspoon instant yeast
Dough
1 1/3 cups water
3/4-teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 1/2 cups (510 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (35 g) yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground
6 tablespoons melted clarified Butter (ghee)

1.  Make biga:  1 day before.  Combine water, flour and yeast in a small bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.  I often forget to make the biga the night before, so if you desire to make the muffins same day, leave the prepared biga on the counter in a warm spot for 2-3 hours and proceed with the recipe as follows.
2.  Make dough:  combine biga, water, yeast, olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Affix the bowl to stand and add dough hook attachment and mix on low speed until combined.  Or mix by hand.
3.  Mix in flour to make soft dough that barely cleans the mixer.  Knead on medium-low speed about 8 minutes. 
4.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit 2 hours. 
5.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, brush with a little clarified butter and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal. 
6.  Using a silicone spatula scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface.  Roll dough out with a rolling pin into a circle about 3/4-inch thick.  Cut the dough with a 4-inch round cutter and place 6 muffins per baking sheet.  Reroll scraps and cut as many as you can get.  Sprinkle cornmeal on the top of the rounds.  Loosely cover the pans with wrap.  Let stand until the rounds have increased by half, about 1 hour. 


7.  Preheat oven to 410 degrees F.  Drizzle the top of the muffins with a little of the clarified butter.  Place one sheet at a time on center rack and cook for 8 minutes, carefully flip the muffins, and drizzle with a little more clarified butter.  Cook 8 minutes longer.  Cook second tray the same way and let cool completely on cooling rack.
8.  To serve, slice muffins in half and lightly toast.  A good way to store the muffins is individually wrapped in plastic wrap and if you have more than you think you will eat in 2 days put the remainder in the freezer.

Makes 10-12 muffins depending on how thick you make them.  


As for me I'm enjoying this Spring, its fickle nature, and some smiling faces I adore.  I'm also reminding myself, it's an evolution; not a revolution.



Enjoy,

Gina
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