Monday, December 31, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

I'm not the biggest soup connoisseur  Not at all. Perhaps it's because I grew up in the South where a warm cup of hot soup soothing down the throat on a cold winter night is something that is rarely needed around here. It was 75 degrees and humid on Christmas Eve last week! So as you see, soup is not in my repertoire As a child the only soup I can recall ever eating was minestrone soup with rice. (Yes, pasta, potatoes and rice in my soup, I was starch obsessed and still am.) I recall my brother loving tomato soup and wonton soup and I kept far, far away from both. And no, I was not that person in college who horded all of  the top ramen from HEB, I preferred Uncle Ben's frozen rice bowls when it came to high sodium/processed foods. It was my way of exerting my high brow on quick and easy food.

Maybe I've stayed away from soup because I'm more of a salad person than soup.As long as there is no cheese or cream based dressing, I'll consume any salad. Which is fitting for the climate I love in, isn't salad  meant for the summer while soup is for the winter. Perhaps that's why Hubby loves him some soup, he is from the North?

It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I first had Butternut Squash soup at a friend's house that I fell in love. I believe it was a cool day and thus the warm, rich flavor gliding down my throat tasted amazing! Come to think of it, I don't believe I had consumed butternut squash before this. (Perhaps I did in some indian dish but didn't know the English name for it. It's possible.) It was superb. I was convinced that it had a dose of cream in the recipe because it tasted so good. So as soon I went home I went looking for recipes and was surprised that there were many a recipe that had no cream, just butternut squash and broth! So of course I had to make it.

Unfortunately, the first time I made it I didn't keep the recipe! Uggh! So I went back to make it again and found a low calorie version on Ellie Krieger's Food Network page (She takes classic, rich recipes and makes them healthy.)  Her version had curry powder in it, which as an Indian I stay away from. (it's the Western version of combining every Indian spice into one powder. In India we don't say something tastes like curry, because curry powder doesn't exist.) But I did have the powder in my pantry which I purchased in naive, amateur cooking frenzy and tried the recipe. That taste wasn't the best, but I did like the flavor of honey in the recipe. And so I took the same recipe sans the curry powder and it was a huge hit! Even Bambina loved it dipped with some fresh, warm, crusty ciabatta bread.

Click here for the original recipe.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 butternut squash seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
6 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste
2 tablespoons honey

1. Heat oil on medium heat in a large pot. Add onions and garlic and saute.

2. Add butternut squash, broth and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender. (I put the squash in the pressure cooker to cook and then added it to the broth, but next time I will probably try this way to save a step.)

3. Remove from heat, stir in honey and blend with an immersion blender. (I don't have an immersion blender so I just put the whole thing in the blender.)

4. Season with salt to taste, as needed. Yum!

Amateur Difficulty Cooking Scale: 3
This soup is pretty simple to make, not too many steps, but cutting up the butternut squash is a pain! You have to have a really sharp knife to get into it. You could always cut the squash in half and roast it in the oven and then scoop out the pulp and throw it into the broth and let simmer.

And it freezes well! So don't think you're going to make too much soup, you can easily save it in individual servings in the freezer!

Overall, amazing soup! I like to eat it alongside the chickpea salad sandwich or just a plain ol' veggie burger.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Navigating my way through Pinterest: Getting Started

I feel it's time to join Pinterest. Much like Facebook five years ago, I'm finding that every female I know in her late 20s and 30s are on Pinterest. How do I know this? Other than the pins posted on Facebook, so many other mothers telling me of recipes, craft ideas and home decor they have found on Pinterest. At first I figured since I'm not gifted when it comes to all items sold in Hobby Lobby that I should steer clear (Seriously, I feel intimidated and defeated whenever I walk in that store!), but now I feel like the little kid who couldn't go to Mikey's birthday party because I had to visit the grandparents and they got to go to Chuck E Cheese and brought home a Chuck E Cheese balloon and I didn't get to go! Thus, I feel like I'm left out.

And so begins my journey into Pinterest. As you know, I'm far from adept when it comes to anything that relates to technology and cyberspace so this will be quite the journey so why not share my experience, if anything it will be comical for you? Or perhaps you can relate?

Step 1: Create Your Account. Connect on Facebook or Twitter? Oh, so you want to invade my privacy and have access to all my friends, followers and followees? Negative. Oh look, if you scroll down there it says how to log in with an email. If I wasn't so thorough I would have handed over all my private information for you to add on to your site for your advantage. Sneeky sneeky, marketing exes at Pinterest!

Ok, email placed, name placed and photo uploaded. Now I have received the confirmation email and off to start pinning! So it says some stuff on my email, but I'm not a reader, I'll just figure my way through and when I can't figure something out I just yell at Hubby who is completely unaware but will come do the reading for me. And then if that doesn't work I email my tech guru, my brother who was a programmer in a past life who will first respond with some biting humor comment and then actually help. Fingers crossed I'm going to do this on my own.

Step 2: Helping Pinterest personalize my Interests. Ok, so I have to click on a few of these icons so they can get an idea of my interests. What are some of these photos? A tattoo? Cher circa 1970? A woman lifting up her shirt and checking out her highly toned abs? Oh, when did you get here?

Ok, here's what I chose.

I expected a lot more crafts, food and fashion, but some of these images were just bizarre!

Step 3: Get to Pinning  So this is my homepage. I'm assuming similar to my home screen on facebook or twitter, this is where those that I'm following will have their pins scrolling down. I'm not following anyone, so shouldn't it be blank? But no. These are supposed to be images of what may interest me based on what I had to scower through on the previous page. Nothing looks to fit my personality. Excellent getting to know me page, Pinterest, excellent.

So I see I can create a board and pin items to board in order to properly organize my pins. Thus, I've created my first pin, "Recipes." I know, original. Lets see what I can find. Now, are these things that I am actually going to make or just look good. If so, perhaps I should segregate my recipes to what I will make and what just looks good? Aghh! The stress. Ok, for now I'll just stick with my recipe board.

Wait, so I found a photo of a recipe that looks good, but where do I get the recipe? OH!! Aha moment! So this was pinned from Rachel Ray's magazine. Ohhh, so much like "liking" something on facebook, I'm "pinning" from out there in cyberspace.

So how can I get a Pinterest icon on my blog so you can pin my posts?

Looks like this is going to be quite the fete for me. Have you noticed I'm far from technologically challenge?

Find me on Pinterest, thetiffingirl. Any help, tips, thoughts, epiphanies of Pinterest will help me greatly, so please share! And I'll happily follow you, if I figure out how...


Friday, December 28, 2012

Snickers update!

This is really just a gratuitous photo of the snickers cheesecake I made this past weekend. So admire it, I sure am.

I made snickers cheesecake about a year ago and it was a huge hit, the only problem was that I didn't have a spring form pan (Every time I hear those words I think of the T-Pain song, I'm sprung...out to get you. Yes, I'll admit it, the 16 year old in me still enjoys some hip hop music.) So I ended up using two deep dish pie pans. It was well liked, but wasn't aesthetically pleasing as this one, so I had to re-post the recipe just for bragging rights.

Now, I'm assuming the taste went over as well as its beauty. Everyone who had a taste enjoyed it so hopefully it wasn't out of politeness. Hubby did pose the question, "Why is it in restaurants the cheesecake is smooth across the top and doesn't have that raise on the side?" Of course my rapid fire, defensive, juvenile response after being in the kitchen all day was, "I've seen it that way in restaurants!" The last time I made it it didn't have the bump, so I'm not sure what happened, but I feel it just adds to the beauty as does the lean in the Tower of Pisa. One person's blunder is another person's beauty.

So hopefully the beauty and taste went over as well with the public as it did with myself.

And now I shall sit back and admire my work.

Click here for the original post.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bob Harper vs. Jillian Michaels: a Squat-Off

I love me a workout DVD, call me a fanatic, I just can't believe it took me so long to appreciate its usefulness! I've always enjoyed running and slowly started getting into weight training to diversify my workouts, but had no clue what I was doing. When I was at the gym I would just watch the trainers thain other people with the free weights and copy them. (I know,the cheap way of utilizing a trainer. If they didn't want me to see they should go to a private room!)

And then, at a charity dinner, I bid on some training sessions and won at a really great deal! (I feel guilty at how much of a deal, the money was for charity yet I was more concerned about working out with a trainer for a cheap price. I mean, trainers are expensive, I wasn't going to break the bank to get a good workout! So maybe not so guilty but satisfied with my steal of a deal.) 

From working with a trainer I learned all about the word core. Not, not the center of an apple, but the center of the body. I also learned about the plank and every varation of a plank, the side plank, the elbow plank, the walking plank, the one leg plank, plank on a bosu ball, plank on an exercise ball, etc etc. I had great results from working this trainer and kept all these exercises in my normal workout regimen.

Shortly after my training sessions ended, I was pregnant with Bambina. With it being my first pregnancy I was hesitant to do anything for fear of the baby's health. No more running. No more planks. Nada. Just the cross trainer, step master and walking. And exercising hand mouth coordination, that one was a regular in my routine.

After Bambina made her appearance in the world, there was still quite a bit of her existence left on me and I was ready for a hardcore workout, but the only problem was I couldn't go to the gym. I couldn't even go out for a run, she was too young for a running stroller and the weather was too cold at that point, I was too much of an anxious first time mom to take her out. And so I tried to make up some exercises to do from what the trainer taught me, but somehow it just didn't work.

Around that time a friend asked me, Have you heard of exercise tv on demand? There are some great Jillian Michaels workouts that you can do for free. And thus began my courtship with Jillian. I loved her. Her workouts were amazing, they were weight training, body resistance training and had cardio! There were so many options and the weight shed off. And then we saw the demise of exercise tv. So I was left having to load up on many a workout DVD. Thankfully, Jillian came out with a new DVD every 6 months, so there were many to buy.

And then I was pregnant with Bambino and educated myself a little better on what exercises I could do. I talked to my doc on the regular and informed her of what I was doing and I was able to continue running and doing all my workout videos (even walking planks!) but just had to watch my body and stopped when I had pain or was tired.

And so after Bambino was born my body was in a workout rut. It was used to all the Jillian Michael's DVDs I was doing on the regular so I needed something new. I was at Target and saw a Bob Harper DVD. I should mention that I don't watch the Biggest Loser so I'm not familiar with either ones training style. I figured since Jillian had great workout DVDs and the two work together on Biggest Loser then his must be good.

Well, his are amazingly killer! His workouts really jump started my body and I love them! I needed them to get me out of the same workout that my muscles had gotten into and they did!

So now I have quite the library of workout DVDs that I rotate regularly to work different muscles and keep me out of that proverbial rut. But I wonder, is one trainer better than the other? Without watching Biggest Loser, strictly based on workout DVDs, who's the better trainer?

Below is my personal comparison of the trainers based on the DVDs that I have. As you can see, I have seven different Jillian Michaels DVDs and one four disc compilation of Bob Harper workouts. So 7 vs 4. (There's also a Brooke Burke DVD that I forgot to take out. It's pretty good if you add weights in- she does not use them)

Category 1: The Workout Length 
Jillian's marketing gimmick is packing in a punch in a shorter time frame while Bob's workouts are longer using the philosophy that the longer the workout, the more calories burned (Duh!)  Jillian's better for the mother with a newborn who doesn't get a lot of sleep. Who has time for an hour workout when eight straight hours of sleep is like a Christmas miracle?
Winner: JM

Category 2: Intensity
While Jillian's workouts are shorter, are they more intense than Bob's? It depends on the DVD. So, if you take 30 minutes of a BH workout and put it up against any of JM's, Bob's are harder. JM's kickboxing DVD and Shed and Shred are the two that probably can give Bob some run for his money, but still do not surpass that of Bob's workouts.
Winner: BH

Category 3: Number of Repetitions
Because Jillian's workouts are shorter and she tries to throw in as much as possible to get the roughest workout, you aren't quite pushed to your limits because as soon as you get tired she moves on to a new move that works out a different muscle that isn't so tired. While Bob on the other hand will continue the same move over and over continually working the same muscles. And that is the secret (or not so secret) of his workouts, he works each muscle for longer to tire you out thus shedding more calories.
Winner: BH

Category 4: Personality
While both attempt to have their mix of militant trainer and beer buddy you can make cheesy jokes with (or at) it's clear that Jillian has that down much, much better. Bob is a lot more intense, but it goes along with his workout. Jillian has become my bud, I often talk to Jill, telling her when I'm tired or when her jokes are getting on my nerves. (Like in her kickboxing DVD she makes a Danial-san reference and she says if you haven't seen Karate Kid, rent it. Rent it? I know I'm technologically challenged, but for some reason it gave me images of going to Blockbuster, do people do that anymore? Maybe she meant rent it through Netflix.  Ok, maybe that is stilll a contemporary technological term so, if so ignore my comment.)  I just don't have that with Bob, probably because I'm far too tired during his workouts to be chummy.
Winner: JM

Category 5: Back up dancers...err workouters 
Jillian has different work out girls in her videos and they are all sweet and stroke Jillian's ego as seen as they actually laugh at her cheese whiz humor. Whereas in Bob's videos I'm convinced they are actors because they go a little over board in how tired they are with loud moans and sneaking in water breaks. (The men- yes, he has men in his DVDs!- tend to do this more which I think is hilarious!). I Googled one of the back up workouters and I found her resume, she's an actress! Jillian's on the other hand are all trainers. (Yes, I've Googled some of them too. And what is her obsession with Bashira? She's in at least three different DVDs, she's great with those side planks with one leg raised and locked, but I like some variety.) Because Jillian's employees are actually in the fitness business, she gets the win.
Winner: JM 

While it's obvious that Jillian won based on number of category wins, if I weight each category Bob gets the gold medal because above all, intensity is most important to me. While his repetitiveness and lack of fun in his workouts often become dull, they do what they are supposed to do, leave me covered in sweat with sore muscles. But don't think I'm throwing away my Jillian DVDs, I like to mix it up with some JM to keep things exciting. That and I often listen to the Beyonce station on Pandora, nothing like doing jump squats like while whisper singing (I workout early morning when the whole house is asleep)...I've got a huge ego, such a big ego...


Monday, December 17, 2012

Pillsbury Cake Ball Kit: NOT an Endorsement

The first cake ball I ever had the pleasure of consuming was also the first time I learned of its existence. I'm not sure how this happened, I thought cupcakes were still the rage, but now cake balls have taken their place. Or have they? Perhaps cake balls and cupcakes are the Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera of 2000, who shall prevail? Who will go on a manic spree, shave her head only to have a bipolar diagnosis that every clinician saw coming? Suffice it to say, I didn't know what a cake ball was.

So the cake ball...err truffle that I consumed was as a parting gift to a friend's wedding. (I was told it wasn't a cake ball, but a truffle. Not too sure of the difference, maybe the high brow version of a cake ball?) We weren't able to stay for cake, so I was delighted to consume the truffle in its entirety after getting home, into my pajamas watching most likely a rerun of the Housewives of New York City for the umpteenth time. The taste was amazing! So moist,so rich, so yummy! Usually I'm not a big fan of chocolate and when I eat cake the frosting is too sweet for me, but this cake ball was perfect. I think the winning factor of the cake ball is its size. Seriously, cake with frosting and chocolate is very rich, and consuming too much can lead to nausea so a cake ball is the perfect size to get the delicate taste without feeling as if you mirror Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka's Chocolate factory.

A girlfriend of mine told me how her mother often makes cake balls and I wanted to try. I always love a food challenge (executing the food, not consuming a la Joey Chestnut and his hot dogs). So last year for Bambina's birthday I was planning to make an Elmo shaped cake. I found a cake pan that was in the mold of  Elmo. So I baked the cake, but getting the frosting in all the nook and crannies was... I won't get into the Great Elmo Cake Debacle of 2012, you don't want to know the details. So I took the botched cake and decided to make cake balls. And thus continues the saga of the Great Elmo Cake Debacle of 2012. Due to a series of blunders, chocolate not melting properly, chocolate sweating off the cake, the results were at best a C+. (But much love to my Mama for taking the lead with it when she had never even heard of a cake ball!)

And so I thought cake balls and I were done, but as I was walking through H-E-B a month ago I came across a Pillsbury Cake Ball Kit. Yay, I thought, now if I need to make cake balls, I'll just get this kit and make them. So with our play group Holiday Party coming up I decided to purchase the kit.(I had prepared the group that if the cake balls didn't work I would bring cupcakes, but I didn't want to show up with my tail between my legs and cupcakes in tow. ) I read the instructions thoroughly. And when I mean thoroughly I mean I read the box three times from the top to bottom before starting the project.

Rather than using expletives, as I would love to do, actually, I would like to use an entire paragraph of expletives to describe these cake ball kits.  The cake ball kit was an epic fail. And when I don't succeed in something I get really frustrated and I greatly projected on Pillsbury! (Rightfully so!) After an evening of complete interruption while making these balls and much exasperation on my behalf,  Hubby exercised his logic and explained that the only problem with the kits was that there wasn't enough of anything. And thus the problem with these kits!

Exhibit A: Not enough frosting. You have to mix the crumbled cake with frosting to form a ball. There was not enough frosting and it was difficult to form a ball. Because there wasn't enough moisture, it made it difficult for the sticks to stick. I ended up dunking the balls in milk to get them to stay tightly compressed.

Exhibit B: Not enough chocolate wafers. The first batch of chocolate Hubby overheated by accident. The box specifically says not to overheat. But with the second box I still did not have enough chocolate, so I then melted chocolate chips and used them. I had flashbacks of the Great Elmo Cake Debacle of 2012 and didn't know if it would work. They did, but not as well as the wafers.

Exhibit C: Not enough sprinkles. Granted, the first couple I went a little sprinkle crazy, but thankfully I had sprinkles in my pantry to use.

Exhibit D: It states to use a foam block to keep the sticks in. Well where do you get that? Thankfully I went to Hobby Lobby, unthankfully I bought the cheap disposable box as opposed to the foam block that was $10 each ( I needed 2!).

So in the end I learned that cake balls are too much work and I'd rather take the cupcake side of the great cake ball vs cupcake debate. (And where do truffles fit into that?) Seriously though, these kits are horrible because they don't contain enough of what you need, but I did learn how to properly make cake balls and above all, don't use chocolate chips, use wafers. (And you can get them in all colors at Hobby Lobby!)

I was a little worried on how they would look and taste, but the kids loved them. I was worried I was going to take a ton of leftovers home, but they weren't too many left! (Bambina's ended up on the floor when attempting bite number three. Apparently her stick wasn't properly secure in the ball. Oops.)

 I transported them to the party like this...

The display, and I use the word display very loosely.

After the party...

In the end, the kit did teach me how to make a cake ball, but I could have found instructions on the internet and bought my own supplies. Thanks to my resourcefulness the balls came out halfway decent, no thanks to Pillsbury.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts

I've noticed recently that an old post of mine, cinnamon candied cashews, has been getting a lot of hits recently. I'm assuming with it being holiday time everyone is wanting some candied nuts, but I was surprised that people were getting directed to my page when googling the words "cinnamon candied cashews." Surely there were plenty of other sites that came up when you searched it. And so I put my google skills to work. (And no I was not scroogledBing! How dare you get political and bash your competitor in your ads?! Why don't you create mTunes and sell music for cheaper than $1.29 a song and then maybe we can talk.) And when I googled it, my dinky blog post came up as the top search result! I'm flattered, I'm honored, I'm shocked! Even though it was a recipe that I got from some fancy shmancy food blog that has photos that weren't taken on an iPhone with a small child tugging on your shirt screaming for her Chuck E. Cheese cup, my post comes first. Now if you search the recipe for cinnamon candied cashew cookies (where the recipe for the cashews were found) his site comes first and mine second, but still second to fancy shmanciness!

So anyways, because of all the hits I was in the mood for some candied nuts, but I thought I'd try another recipe, something that was maybe spicy? I searched for spicy mixed nuts and came across a sugar and spice nuts recipe. Sure, why not! So I made the recipe and it was so good! Now, I did not get any spice all sugar, but it quenched the missing sweet spot on my palatte so I loved it. The recipe is very similar to the cinamon candied cashews except for I used mixed nuts, salt and some paprika. I think next time I may throw in more paprika to get more of a mix of sweet and heat.

Click here for the original recipe

1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 lb nuts (I used mixed nuts, but find that it tastes best on the cashews and pecans. Additionally, the recipe doesn't specify raw or roasted, but I used roasted and unsalted.)
1 egg white
1 Tbsp water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, paprika and cinnamon.

2. Beat egg white and water until frothy. Add in nuts.

3. Sprinkle in sugar mixture and mix to coat.

4 Spread nuts on on a single layer cookie sheet. (Recipes says to lay with parchment paper, but I sprayed with cooking spray, but I still had the sugar mixture stuck to the cookie sheet.) Bake for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and separate nuts as they cool.

5. Indulge!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 2
This is really simple and great to give out as a gift to a hostess of a holiday party. Beware, these will disappear quickly after making. (I'm the only one eating them and they are still disappearing quickly!)

I let Bambina try one and she spit it right out. So not toddler friendly in The Tiffin Girl family!  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Vegan Chicken Salad Sandwich: The Chickpea Salad Sandwich!

For some reason I was in the mood for sometime type of vegetarian sandwich spread to eat. The only problem is that: A.) I don't eat chicken, so there rules out a chicken salad sandwich B.) I don't like egg, so there rules out an egg salad sandwich and C.) I don't eat pimento cheese, so there rules out a pimento cheese spread. (What exactly is pimento cheese? All I remember is that my brother and grandfather loved it as a child, it was one of those items that I locked away in the "all other kids eat it but me" cupboard along with macaroni and cheese. Seriously, can't stand it.)

As a child I did enjoy this particular chicken salad sandwich spread that my mother would buy, it had that mix of creamy and crunchy all spread out on a sandwich. Well, I don't eat chicken and I don't eat mayo, so that wasn't an option. (My mom claims to this day that that specific sandwich spread was the healthiest on the market, but I have my doubts, Mom. Sorry. )

A couple of months ago I made Hubby and Bambina a low fat version of a chicken salad with no mayo (greek yogurt instead!) and both liked it. I took a bite of the celery and thought it was great, but was not interested so much in the chicken part. (What can I say about my relationship with chicken? We've had our ups in downs. Through pregnancy we were tight again, but now that ship has passed and we just aren't right for each other. At least in the latter part of 2012).

So I needed some type of faux chicken salad spread to replace the usual Morningstar Spicy Black Bean veggie burger I eat all the time.  I quickly surfed the net while making my grocery list in the notes section of my new iPhone (which Hubby greatly makes fun of me for. "Find an app. It'll make it easier" he persists. He should just be excited that I'm making a digital list instead of school paper and pencil! This is quite the progression for me!) and found a recipe right away.

The ingredients were a bit...interesting but I was willing to give it a try.The results? Success! It was so good! It had just a tiny bit of fat free mayo, but you couldn't taste it at all, more for binding. The crunchiness of the celery, the sweetness of the raisins and the saltiness of the chickpea were a perfect combination! I ate it with some fresh whole wheat french bread I had made. Neither Bambina nor Hubby had any of this, not too sure what their reaction would be.

Click here for the original recipe

15 oz of cooked chickpea (equivalent to 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup of white onion (I omitted)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tbsp fat free mayo
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp paprika
1/4 cup raisins, chopped
pepper to taste

1. Mix chick peas, celery and onion (if using) together. Mash with a fork so that some chick peas are intact and others are not. Add in all remaining ingredients.

2. Refrigerate or serve immediately over lettuce, bread or crackers.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 1
If you read the directions you can see just how easy this recipe is. I know it sounds a little peculiar but if you're a vegetarian or like eating vegetarian foods, I highly recommend it!

After reading the reviews of the original post, which I've learned my lesson time and time again to do this before executing a new recipe, I plan to substitute the mayo with nonfat greek yogurt next time I make it. I don't know why I didn't think to do this since that's what I did the last time I made chicken salad.

As Bambina and I like to say, yum yum!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Building my dream board: Chanel Red Grand Shopper Tote

My first encounter with a dream board was on Big Brother 14 where Ashley's dream board was the chatter around the proverbial water cooler. Or rather, Ashley's bambiesque-barbiesque persona was the chatter because she made you want to laugh at her and also pat her head at the same time. Self described as "a modern hippie who likes rap music" you just hoped that she truly  was an actress who was going to flip the script on the whole cast and win the game, but unfortunately she was just hippie barbie who made it to the eviction house by hanging on to the coattails of Carrot Frank.

The one thing that I did learn from Ashley was the concept of a dream board. At first I thought it was some big joke. Ashley explained how she puts things that she wants on her dream board and then they come true. For instance, she stated how she put an iPhone on her dream board and it actually appeared! 

When I started thinking more about the concept, I realized that isn't that what Pinterest is? A virtual board where you post what you like, concrete or abstract, but the majority of us know that these items or concepts aren't going to appear in thin air.

So rather than make a Pinterest page, ok, I did, but I rarely utilize it because it makes me feel undomestic. No, I cannot build a bicycle out of PVC pipes and toilet paper rolls, so why expose myself to something that's going to make this competitive women feel less of herself. Instead, I'll just post all material items that I want here in hopes that one day I will open my front door and *poof* it will appear a la Ashley's Iphone? 

Influential: Iris Apfel (pictured), who is 90, has inspired a range of glasses. Created by Eyebobs, a U.S. eye wear brand, the frames are similar to her own

So my first item is this Chanel Red Grand Shopper Tote. In the past I always thought of Chanel as an old lady item. Visions of Iris Apfel came to mind, larger than life glasses, petite frame and an avant guard fashion sense that I could never comprehend. And then came the underground marketing campaign that took young Hollywood by storm. Somehow I missed the advertisements, perhaps because I don't peruse magazines like I'm a Celebutante, what should I wear?

The first young person I saw to don a Chanel handbag was Lauren Conrad on The Hills. What? A young woman can wear a Chanel bag? I don't know, the long gold chain, it's kind of iffy, I'm not sure if I could go with that look. Then Lauren got Heidi a Chanel bag for her birthday. Now, this was pre- "You know what you did. You know what you did," but still it had to have been a pricey gift nonetheless. And then Spencer bought Heidi another Chanel bag for her 21st birthday as they drank champagne sans any friends since they had alienated everyone with their...whoa this is not a Hills recap. I don't want to embarrass myself too much here.

So The Hills made the Chanel bag hot again, or at least to me. I'm sure Ana Wintour and her band of followers would greatly disagree, but this is how it was to me. And then after watching the Housewives of Beverly Hills it was refreshing to see Kyle Richards carry a Chanel bag, in every size, shape and color, as opposed to the requisite Housewives Birkin bag which made me even more enticed. (Seriously, a Birkin? Did we all not learn our lesson from Samantha using Lucy Liu's name to get her hands on a Birkin? A bag so elitist that it's not good enough for Samantha, how can any Housewives dare to carry such a bag? That and you cost as much as a car? It's seriously the bag any reality star carries right after they foreclose on their house.)

And thus my love for a classic Chanel was born. I'd like to say that I've delved into the world of Devil Wears Prada and all things fashion, but that's not the case. While I did enjoy the movie, the closest that I get to fashion is explained by Meryl Streep's Ana Wintourish character in the movie, lecturing Emily (the Anne Hathaway Emily) about the cerulean blue color of her lumpy blue sweater that was purchased from the clearance bin of Casual Corner. (I wear the lumpy sweater evolved from what was on the runway two years ago.) I've seen the purse numerous times, it's grown on me and I want one. But lets be real, 2 grand on a purse is just not a realistic concept for me. I have two small children, do you know how many diapers I could buy with that kind of money? 

So at the end of the day I'll tack an image of this red Chanel tote on my dream board and maybe it will replace my Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag on the bench by the door. Fingers crossed! 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sausage and Peppers

As I was blowing the dust over my recipe box I knew it was time for some new recipes in there. Hubby never complains about the dishes I make, but I was tired of cooking him the same foods. I remembered hearing about a dish called sausage and peppers. I believe it's something that is commonplace in the lexicon of carnivores, so I figured I would attempt to make it. My only familiarity with it is seeing it cooked on Top Chef All Stars by either Dale Talde or Mike Isabella, I can't remember who. Most likely the Italiano, Mikey.

And of course, my homegirl Giada cooked it on an episode of her show, so I had to execute the dish. In the past, I had once made my own version of sausage and peppers with a little orzo and goat cheese, but after watching the Giada recipe I see that my concoction has very little similarity to the Italian original. At least it tasted good, according to Hubby who frequently requests it.

So I searched for the recipe, and it appeared that every Food Network chef has their version of the dish. I made sure to adhere to Giada's Italian American version since I like to give the skinny mini chef (oxymoron much?) her props.

Hubby recalled once eating the dish as a sandwich (as in in the Giada recipe) so I bought some fresh bread from H-E-B. Overall it was a big hit! Granted, as seen in the above photo he added mass Parmesan (more than what's in the photo), but he ate all the leftovers so that's a good sign!

If you don't like the thought of a messy sandwich, don't let that deter you from making the recipe, you can easily eat this over poletna, pasta or orzo.

I did make some variations from Giada's version, so you can click on the link to the see the differences. I halved the amount of meat called for in the recipe but kept all the other ingredients the same. Also, I omitted the onions (which is actually in the title of the dish) since Hubby dislikes the rooted vegetable.

Click here for the original recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 Hot Italian Sausages
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup Marsala wine
1 roma tomato, chopped
3 sandwich rolls

1. Heat oil on a heavy skillet on medium high heat. Add sausages and cook until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and drain.

2. Add peppers, salt and pepper and cook until browned. Add oregano and garlic and cook about two minutes.

3. Add tomato paste and stir. Add in Marsala wine and scrape up all brown bits from the pan. Bring to a boil and then let simmer.

4.Cut the sausage and add back to the pan. Let the sauce simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.

5. When ready to serve, place in rolls and ring the dinner bell! (Or serve over your starch of choice, or for you Atkins believers, eat it sans anything)

Amateur Difficulty Cooking Scale: 4
I was surprised at just how simple this dish was. It didn't take much time at all to make and it was a big hit. Looks like something that's going into heavy rotation around here!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

HEB, you never disappoint...

If you've read any of my posts you know my love for H-E-B. It's my go to grocery store. I know the staff like they're my own co-workers.  The lady at the deli counter even commented on how Bambino looks just like my husband! (Today I overheard her converse with another lady about her baby and I did get jealous. I thought it was just this customer that the deli lady had friendly conversation with! There goes her holiday tip! No, not really, I'm too cheap to give those out.)

Anyways, so Bambina and I went to H-E-B this morning to do our weekly shopping. Bambino was home asleep with Hubby. As usual, Bambina sat in her hybrid car/shopping cartmobile which made lugging the groceries around a bit harder, but at least I didn't have Bambino in the Bjorn too. (You may be surprised by this, but it is easier chasing after her while I push an easily pushable cart as opposed to pushing what feels like a ton of bricks.) Watching me push her and half the produce section in my cart is like watching a small child try to push their small sibling in a stroller. My body is at a 45 degree angle, using my leg muscles to get the strength to push the stupid car wannabe cart. (While the cart does entice children that they can have fun at the grocery store, it's a bitch to push.)

So we purchased our usual groceries and did our usual checkout. Now,by usual it means chaotic check out. By the time we get to the cashier Bambina has to get out of the cart and explore the compulsive buys section of the store. She points to the coke refrigerator and calls it, "Papa Water" and then continues to pick up every piece of candy and hand it to me. In response, I loudly state how "we don't eat candy" so that others in line don't think my child is familiar with candy bars because I bribe...err reward her with such things. (She refers to Kit Kat as kitty kat and M&M's as chocolate.)  And even if I did such a thing I would only do so after she has eaten all her dinner. But not that I do such a thing.

So after I paid for our purchases the cashier thanked me and told me to have a good day and to which I responded with a thank you as well. I then looked for the bagger to give him a thank you as well ( I always feel bad for the baggers because most conversation is with the cashier and the bagger is ignored, so I like to keep him/her in conversation and always say thank you for their work.) When I turned around I noticed the bagger was gone so I hauled my horrendously heavy shopping cartmobile out the store. (Yes, Bambina got back in.)

When I got home I unloaded all my groceries and went on with my day. Made the kids lunch and then took Bambina to a birthday party. When I came home I went into the kitchen and realized I was missing the chocolate chips! I like to keep them in the freezer so that they don't go bad. (It's December and my car read 84 degrees, I don't take a risk with melting chocolate). I also realized the nutmeg wasn't there either! I went to check my receipt and saw that there was a third item missing as well! It was a total of $18 missing! 

How dare you, H-E-B?! You kept one of my bags! Then I got upset with myself for not being diligent and ensuring that I had all of my grocery bags! Right away I told Hubby that I was going back to H-E-B with my receipt to get my money back. My mother had once told me that at Wal-mart when that happens they scan those items back in the computer and if you have a receipt they would give you the items back.

I was skeptical whether H-E-B was going to do anything. After scouring the car and the kitchen, to ensure my post pregnancy brain didn't misplace the bag, I was ready to go to H-E-B. I had my angry, don't mess with me face on. The last time I put this face on was circa July 2012. The Ferminator's yard men were doing some work in the back yard and all of a sudden I heard a smash and then a loud cackle. I peaked out the window and saw someone rolling around in the grass. I turned around and giggled and then looked back and saw food from what must have been a taqueria or a taco truck because they had aluminum foil wrapped tacos and some salsaesque sauce in small plastic containers. I was puzzled, were they about to have an early Thanksgiving feast in my backyard? Then I saw a broken rocking chair and then the rage hit! They were arranging their food on my back patio when one of them sat down and the rocking chair broke and the man fell to the ground! Thus the friend/co-worker literally rolling on the ground laughing. Ok, it was funny. But then I thought, why are they having a hen party on my property on my dime?  Oh, I broke that up fast. I opened the door quick and let them know how I felt about them having their lunch on my back porch, on my now broken furniture without even asking! I had never seen men so afraid of me before! Karma's not pretty man, karma is not pretty. 

So when I went into H-E-B rage face was all on. I stood in line at the service desk with my hands trembling. There were two counters open, one with a somewhat young, rather large man and the other with an older lady. Please let me get the lady, please let me get the lady. And then with a deep, masculine voice "Next, please." No!!  By the time I got to the counter all the rage was gone and was crept over with intimidation. "Um, sir, I didn't get these items from my groceries earlier today." He simply responded with telling me to speak to the manager in the blue shirt who was currently bagging groceries. When I spoke to him a calmness came over me when he responded with a quick, "Ok. Give me a second." He came back and told me it wasn't logged in the system so he would go speak with the cashier. The nerves came back, I was worried he wasn't going to do anything about it. He quickly came back and informed me to get the items and he would bag them and then we could leave.

So I went to find the items and when I came back I couldn't find him so the nerves crept back. I found another man in a blue shirt, bypassing any lines, so maybe I wasn't that nervous. I told him the situation and he gave me a bag and said, "have a nice day." 

I'm so impressed with H-E-B, yet again. Kudos, H-E-B, Kudos. I was anticipating them to do nothing and I was already thinking of the scathing post I was going to write and how I would now have to shop at Kroger's but what about the H-E-B brand products that I buy. But no, they came through like they always do. 

Perhaps they know me as a loyal customer, or maybe they treat everyone this way. Regardless, this is why I love you so, H-E-B. 


Friday, December 7, 2012

Brown Rice Pilaf

So I've made the realization that when I concoct my own recipes they come out much better than when I follow a recipe. Perhaps I'm an idiot savant in the culinary world? Or maybe I'm just not good at following directions but when I throw together ingredients that the family likes, they come out great?! I'm going to go with the latter.

With everyone's palate so different in the family, I cook different foods for everyone. Literally, even baby Bambino has started eating so I have to make baby food as well! I rarely cook for myself, but instead eat a bowl of cereal or oatmeal or will throw a veggie burger in the toaster and smother it with some hummus I've made for Bambina.

After making Bambina a carrot and rice pilaf yesterday (and eating what she didn't finish) I had the craving to eat a big bowl of it. I decided to use brown rice instead of white since my vegetarian diet tends to be high in starches anyways. I used the same basic recipe as jeera rice that my mother taught me, except that I used brown rice and whatever vegetables I had laying around.

The result, a great brown rice dish! It was spectacular and I ate a heaping, healthy bowl of it. I actually wanted to use black beans, but all I had were chick peas. I also wanted to throw in some avocado on top, but unfortunately my avocados weren't ripened yet. Bummer. Next time.

No link to reference to as this is a Tiffin Girl Original.

1 cup cooked brown rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used olive since I was all out vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup peas (I used the frozen variety)
1/2 cup corn (Again, frozen)
1 cup cooked chick peas
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes chopped in half
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Once oil is warmed, throw in cumin seeds. (They should start to bubble and pop if the oil is heated properly).

2. Once cumin seeds have popped, add in garlic. Saute garlic until softened.

3. Add in brown rice and coat with the oil mixture. Add in peas, corn and chick peas. Saute until vegetables are heated. .

4. Add in cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are to your liking. (I prefer the tomatoes to be just barely cooked. Or in carnivore terms, rare.)

Amateur Cooking Scale: 2
This is extremely simple, folks. Doesn't get much easier than this unless you are boiling water. It's simple, healthy and tasty what more can you ask for?

You can easily add in any vegetable or bean that you like, just make sure you cook the vegetables through.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I've finally stepped into the Applelution...

What is the Applelution you may ask? And are those Motorola Razors in the photo? Lets take a step back in my life, shall we, and all will be explained.

I've never been one to stay ahead of technological advancement. The rapid pace at which technology upgrades is just unfathomable to me. Wasn't it just yesterday that Back to the Future II was in theaters and adult Marty Mcfly was video chatting? Who thought the ability to do such things would actually exist? (The owners of Skype, apparently.)

SMS from WebmailIf it weren't for my brother, my family probably would not have gotten AOL when I was in the 9th grade. Remember the loud dial-up noise when you logged in? And often times the number you dialed would be busy, so then you would have to change the number your modem was calling. (Is that even the correct lingo?) And of course you could never talk on the phone and use the internet, unless you had a highly advance plan on your cell phone, but cell phones for more than just emergencies? Ha!

I used AOL all through high school and when I got to the college dorm I had what was referred to as Ethernet  So no more dial-up, at least for my freshman year. It was pretty great, I went crazy with napster (when it was free) and downloaded music like it wasn't going to be there tomorrow... which was true, it wasn't, well it was, for a cost.

After moving off campus I would often go to the computer lab in the library to check email or for whatever research I needed and I recall how the computers were divided into Mac and PC. I was deathly afraid of the Mac's, stayed clear of them. You can't right click on Mac, what?!

imageAhhhh, the old debate. Were you a Mac or PC? Noel was going after  Amy Smart and when he realized she was a Mac it caused some undue tension between the two. Aiden told Carrie to right click on her Mac when she saw the big bomb which resulted in a lecture from the Indian tech support man in some broke ass version of the Geek Squad. (Broke ass version of the Geek Squad, who knew there could be one?)

And thus we come to the term Applelution. When did the debate of Mac vs PC turn into Apple is the cool thing? And when did Mac turn to Apple? Perhaps at the advent of the iPod? Or maybe it was a massive PR campaign to make Apple (and Justin Long) a household name, as opposed to a row of computers in a college library that no one wanted to use. Seriously, I remember going to the computer lab and all the PC's were taken and if you got stuck having to use a Mac the last thing you wanted to do was not know how to take your disc out of the computer and have to ask one of the students working in the lab. (Especially if you were a computer science major.)

I was vehemently opposed to joining the Applelution because I like to be an individual. I didn't get my first iPod until 2005, and did so with much resistance What was wrong with my yellow Sony armband that I used to run? So the Velcro on the band was causing some kind of red irritation on my arm, it worked. It worked all though college, graduate school and was still working. Yeah I've gone through 4 of them, but I like it. My husband convinced me to get the iPod, and hey I liked it.

I'm the last person to jump on the newest technological gadget bandwagon because I don't do well with change, of all kinds. When I figure out how to work something, I stick with it. That and the fact that I'm cheap.

So I had my Motorola razor since 2007 and never had problems with it. I watched the creation of the smart phone arise and never felt a need to get one. I was happy with my flip phone which I felt was cool on its own. I could even take pictures with it! Yes, people would often...quite often laugh at me as I would text through the key pad with a loud sounding beep as I pushed each button, bu t it worked for me.

A couple of months ago my phone refused to read the charger, it couldn't charge. I had no phone! My husband who is quite the tech/apple lover was estatic of this. We had a joint plan and here was his chance to get a new phone as well. (Lucky for him he had a work phone so he wasn't toting around a Razor like me.) He decided to get us both iPhones. I actually just wanted an iPhone 4 since they were free, but he kept pushing for me to get a 5. After a bit of compromise I got the 4s and he got the 5.

My phone is the best thing ever! I now understood why people love smart phones. I've gone photo and  video crazy. My poor Bambina is so tired of her papparazo mother that as soon as I pull out my phone she shields her hands in front of her face like she's going shopping on Robertson Boulevard.

So now my family is Mac...Apple crazy. We do have an iPad, my iPhone, hubby's iPhone and hubby's work iPhone. It's a bit crazy. We're in need of a new desktop and we're contemplating Apple, but I worry that when the kids get to school they will only know how to work an Apple and be deathly afraid of the PC's in the classroom. Seriously, when Bambina sits on my laugh to watch Elmo videos on the laptop, she keeps pushing the screen wanting to watch another video and the befuddled look on her face is priceless. Just like her mother.

Fingers crossed my trek into the Applelution will help me blog more. You know you missed me!