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Archive for May, 2010

Under-rated & Under-appreciated

You know what gets bashed a lot?  Chicken breasts.  They are either boring and boneless and used as diet food, or they are dried out and tasteless when on-the-bone.   Poor chicken breasts.  I feel sorry for them.

I am actually a great fan of chicken breasts, not only because I am a white-meat ONLY kinda gal.  I see them as a sort of blank canvas.  I eat them probably once a week–much to H’s chagrin (he, to no ones surprise, is NOT a white-meat only kinda fellow).

That is perhaps why what H uttered as he was tearing into his dinner the other night (chicken breasts) is so astounding. And I quote:

“This is…AMAZING.  This is the best chicken breast I have ever had. And it’s JUST chicken!”

He was properly floored.  As he should be whenever he’s eating my cooking.

So what did I whip up to garner such a reaction?

Buttermilk “Oven-Fried” Chicken

You’ll Need:

  • Chicken parts of your choice (mmm, doesn’t THAT sound appetizing.  I used breasts, obviously), or a whole cut-up chicken.
  • 1 pint/quart buttermilk (depending on how much chicken you’re cooking)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs)
  • Dashes of Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Paprika, Oregano (or, Mrs. Dash/whatever Poultry Seasoning you have on hand)

*Note: the measurements are approximate.  It’s going to change depending on how much chicken you use, and I had to refill my bread crumb/flour mixture a couple of times to make sure I had enough to coat the chicken.  You can also add whatever spices you want, really.  Cayenne pepper, anyone?

To Do:

  • The night before…wash & dry chicken, place in a ziplock bag with enough buttermilk to cover, salt, and pepper.  Shake bag to coat evenly.  Store in fridge until you’re ready to cook.
  • When you’re ready to cook…pre-heat oven to 425
  • Combine flour, spices, breadcrumbs in a large bowl
  • Remove chicken from buttermilk, shaking off excess
  • Dredge chicken in flour/bread crumb mixture until fully coated…make sure you press the mixture into the chicken to make it stick.
  • Transfer chicken to a roasting pan
  • Brush/spray/drizzle vegetable oil (or oil of your choice) onto tops of chicken
  • Bake for approx 45-55 minutes, or until juices run clear

This obviously wasn’t the same as traditional fried chicken, but my goodness was it tasty.  Baking it makes me feel better about having to put a bikini on this weekend, and the buttermilk just adds this insane tangy/juicy/mind-blowing taste that I don’t think you can get any other way.  And yes, it does take some pre-planning…but I did the chicken at like midnight the night before.  Took me 10 minutes.  You can handle it.

The raspberries added by H "for effect"

I also made zucchini pancakes, from a New York Times recipe that you can find here.  I tweaked it a little (added grated carrot, onion, basil, ditched the feta & mint), but otherwise followed the directions like a good little cook. They were less crispy than I would’ve liked, but at least they were light and fluffy (from, I suspect, the addition of baking powder).  Either way they were yummy, and a good way to sneak some veggies in without noticing that I’m actually eating veggies (am I regressing to 5 years old now? Maybe).

In other exciting food news, I got an email today that our CSA starts on June 9th!  So there will be PLENTY of veggies in my life for the next few months.  Bikini bod here I come.

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It’s been a week since I last posted, and I’m sorry.  When I started this little project my goal was to post twice a week, or more if there was something very post-able going on.  I had no delusions of grandeur…I would NOT be the sort of blogger who posts every day (that would be my hetero life partner, go read her blog at Just Slightly Neurotic).

But things happen.  I host amazing BBQ’s and have a busy social life and I’m sorry, but I can’t hold your hand and give you something witty and interesting to read EVERY DAY.

So in case you haven’t gotten it yet, this post isn’t about anything at all. I don’t have any snarky insights and I don’t want to comment on any current events.

All I want to do is show you guys the baby sloths.  The orphaned baby sloths.  Accompanied by jaunty music (you don’t need sound to watch this but OH does it make the video).

Did you watch it?  No? WATCH IT.  And then try to tell me that you don’t want a baby sloth as a pet and that these things aren’t the cutest weirdest things ever.  They are like muppets.  Except alive.  And those weird claw-hand things?!  You had me at hello, baby sloths.

That’s all I have for you today.  Baby sloths.  WHO ARE ORPHANED.

Where did I find this, you might ask?  Am I sitting at work googling “baby sloth orphanages” just for shits and giggles?

Well no, I’m not.  The thing is, I have developed a rare combination of Adult ADHD and Super-Terrible Procrastination disorder (it’s a real thing, I think I contracted it from my sister, the Procrastination Queen).  Pair that with a slow season in the ole academic publishing industry (read: June to August) and you’ve got so-cute-you-can’t-breath baby sloth videos. Oh, and online shopping.  LOTS of online shopping.

Just to make it up to you vultures I’ll even post later on this week, but be forewarned: it’s going to be a food post.  There are a few chicken breasts marinading in buttermilk in my fridge as we speak.  Beware.

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You know something is up when the highlight of your meal is not dessert, but rather the vegetable. And you further know something is up when all you have to do is add some olive oil and sea salt to make said vegetable so memorable.

What’s my secret?

Well!  Lucky lucky me has a boyfriend who has a nice family who has a really nice garden.  And even more lucky, we get to take home all sorts of goodies from said garden when we go to visit them in Massachusetts. I don’t know if many of you get to experience fresh, just-plucked-from-the-dirt garden veggies…I have always been lucky (again! I’m very lucky apparently) to have extremely good gardeners around who generously share their harvests.  Even my Mom, with her notorious “black thumb”, comes up with the occasional home-grown tomatoes.  The difference between these gems and the sad produce sitting on grocery store shelves is astounding.  Seriously.  One bite of anything home-garden grown and you will be a CSA/garden/farmers-market/organic convert, fo’life.

H asked me to cook the asparagus his dad had given us to take home tonight, so after a quick jaunt to the grocery store for some salmon, I opened up the crisper to get out the asparagi…and nearly died.

Because unbeknownst to me, H’s dad had not given us simply regular asparagus, oh no.  He had given us the most incredible, MUTANT (in a good way), asparagus-on-steriods I’ve ever seen.  I am not kidding.

Purple Asparagi

I know what you’re thinking.  “Mary, you’re a whacko.  It’s nice and stuff but it’s not blowing my hair back.”

And to you I say, take a second gander.

Not an Optical Illusion

THAT ASPARAGUS.  IS THE SIZE.  OF A WINE BOTTLE.  I wasn’t planning on blogging tonight, but come on…you can’t pass something like this up.

Also, on a side note, what are your thoughts on this photograph?  I may or may not have (I did) purchase a fancy iPhone app that takes old-timey photos.  Yes? No?  Lame? Artsy?

Anyway.  The asparagus, you guys.  Please…just gaze in awe.

I didn’t want to do much to these, lest I tarnish the pure asparagusness of them.  So I tossed them in olive oil, salt and pep, with a dash of garlic powder, and grilled ’em in the grill pan.

The giant mother-of-all-asparagus (above) obviously took a little longer to cook than it’s smaller but still delish brothers and sisters, but oh my.  It was worth the wait.

Oh yeah, I also made some salmon.

Rosemary & Lemon Salmon (again ‘en papillote’ which is my new fave way of cooking fish)

– 1 lemon, sliced

– 1 medium sized salmon fillet

– 2-3 Springs of fresh Rosemary

– drizzle of Olive Oil

– Splash of white wine

This is so easy it’s hardly a recipe:

– cover salmon with slices of lemon and rosemary

– Drizzle with olive oil and splash with white wine

– Wrap it up in parchment paper, seal tight, bake for 15-30 minutes.

Din for 2 on 1 plate, cause I hate washing dishes

It was simple and, according to H, “one of my better meals,” which just goes to show you that it’s all about ingredients.  Fancy cooking doesn’t hold a candle to fresh ingredients.

And for my last trick, I actually attempted dessert.  I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (I have a ‘salt tooth’, actually), but today I found a recipe that I just couldn’t resist (um, because it has the word SALTED in the title).  I got it from the website “Sarah’s Cucina Bella” which is adorable and girlie and oh, also has some ridiculous recipes.

I can’t take one once of credit for these bars.  Just trust me.  They are TO DIE FOR.  If you like that sweet/salty thing.  Which, if you don’t, I don’t want to be your friend.

Let’s see if I can figure out how to link it…

Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares

Success!  It really is worth a visit.  Go.

H’s Dad also gave us a big bunch of rhubarb and a big bucket of freshly dug Duxbury Bay littleneck clams.  Yeah, I know.  Going up there is like going to the world’s best FREE farmer’s market.

Confession time: I don’t think I’ve ever eaten rhubarb.  Not in a pie, not in a chutney, not in anything.  Guess there’s a first time for everything.  Pie intimidates me, but I do have some other ideas in the works…

And as for the clams, I’d tell you what I’m doing with them, but H’s Dad told me I would be excommunicated if I broke his super-secret baked clams recipe to the world.  So, sorry.  None for you.

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It’s May, and that means one thing: college graduation time.

Okay, well actually it being May means lots of things (Spring! Memorial Day! Sandals & sundresses!), but for purposes of making this post relevant I’m going to pretend it’s allllll about Gradu.

First of all.  It has been 2 years since I myself donned those non-breathable polyester robes and funny looking hat (seriously, where did that hat come from?  Who invented that?), and I think the 2 year mark is a pretty big deal.  You can no longer say that you “just graduated from college” –and trust me, that allows you to get away with a lot.  You are firmly in the Real World, both feet planted.  You should be, in anyone’s estimate, a responsible adult.

Graduating college is probably one of the most terrifying things I’ve done (second place: skydiving).  Unlike graduating High School, there is no obvious next step.  There’s nothing really super fun and exciting to look forward to (unless you think joining the workforce is fun and exciting, which if you do…God help you).  You are unceremoniously evicted from the home you’ve had for the last 4 years, the friends that you have been with for literally 24-hours a day for years are suddenly gone from your life, and oh yeah, here’s some debt to throw on top of THAT party.  Congrats!

I sound a little whiny and bitter, but guess what, I AM whiny and bitter.  Going to this graduation ceremony this weekend marks the first time that I’ve really been forced to recognize a few sad facts: 1. how far I’ve come since college, 2. how much my expectations have changed since then, and 3. how much more awesome my life was two years ago.

Up until now I’ve been so focused on the day-to-day details of life that I haven’t really taken the time to meditate on my first couple of  post-collegiate years.  All in all they were pretty good.  I got a job right after graduation, which, in the current economic climate, is pretty freaking unbelievable.  And sure, it’s not a glamorous job.  It’s not fabulous (actually it’s the opposite of fabulous).  But I have a desk and a computer and a salary, and a nice boss who treats me like a human being, and a cupcake truck that sometimes parks in front of my office. So life ain’t so bad.

I lived with my parents for a year after graduating, a topic which could be its very own post.  It was….well.  It was necessary.  I’ll leave it at that (not to knock you, mom & dad.  You are wonderful parents.  But do you have any idea how hard it is to come back to home and parents after 4 years of utter freedom??  Betcha don’t).  But it was thanks to that year at home that I now happily live in my own apartment and even have an extremely tiny savings account.  Small miracles.

As for expectations, well.  Doesn’t every fresh-faced 21-year-old graduate college thinking they are about to embark on a fabulous new chapter of their lives, where they can be anyone, do anything, change lives, improve society?  Thanks to the world we live in, bombarded by images of independent 20-somethings living sophisticated lives, I think you’d be hard-pressed finding a college grad who doesn’t think this way.  It also doesn’t help that we’ve spent the last 8 years being told that we can do anything if we put our minds to it.  Well, thanks for your support parents and teachers!  I put my mind to making $500,000 a yr and living in a Soho townhouse.  Sooo…if we can get on that…it’d be great.

Eek.  Again with the whiny bitterness.  Sorry readers.  I guess I’m not taking my 2 year anniversary so well. Do you blame me?  Instead of sleeping til noon, getting up for one 1-hour class, then napping til dinner, I get up early and go to work (which, by the way, doesn’t have a very lenient attendance policy).  Instead of breezing through my assignments, I am faced with difficult tasks at work, with no kind professor to guide me through them.  Instead of an unlimited meal plan, a free gym, a cheap bar where everyone knows your name, and ample green space for outdoor lounging I get…New  York City. Enough said.

So hey, if you’re going to be at the Bentley College graduation ceremony tomorrow, keep an eye out for me…I’ll be that weirdo in the back who is alternately sobbing and scowling at everything in sight. Conflicting emotions, people.  It’s gonna be ugly.

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My boyfriend turned 25 last week.  That’s a big birthday, so I wanted to do something special.  So I bought tickets to a Broadway musical.

*insert sound of record screeching to a halt here*

Literally every single person that I told this to has had the same reaction: “Uhh…WHAT?  You’re taking H to a musical?!

Well yes.  Yes I am.  Because here’s the thing, guys.  H LOVES MUSICALS.

This is shocking news, I know.  And he’s probably going to be pissed that I’m blowing up his spot right now.   Because H is the epitome of Manly, with a capital M.  He likes sports.  He likes to shoot things for fun.  He likes to drink beer.  He has approximately 3 feelings in his emotional spectrum: hungry, tired, and annoyed (at me, usually, for being slow/late/acting dumb). Oh, and happy.  When the Red Sox or the Patriots are winning.  Or when he’s playing corporate softball.  Or when I unexpectedly clean the apartment.  So, four emotions.  He’s a complex individual.

I kid.  He has more than 4.  He maybe has 5, when he tries.

Anyway…the musical.  Let me first say that I am a sucker for a good deal.  And you know what has good deals?  Broadway shows that haven’t opened yet.  Because no one really knows if they are going to be awful or not, tickets are usually fairly cheap.  And thanks to some broadway ticket discount website, they were even cheaper.

So I bought tickets to “La Cage Aux Folles.” Didn’t really know a lot about it, so I did some Googling.  Turns out, this play is what one of my fave movies is based on: The Birdcage.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie, the basic premise is that a gay couple’s son (had from a 1 night stand w/a woman) brings home the girl he wants to marry–whose parents happy to be big players in the super conservative family moral values political scene.  Hilarity ensues when the two sets of parents meet.  Now watch the below clip, and try not to die at Robin Williams’ Dance speech (at the end).

Yes.  It’s about gay people.  Actually, it’s about drag queens, which is even better.  And here’s a hint: the play? ALSO about drag queens.

So.  To recap.  Not only did I buy my manly boyfriend Broadway musical tickets for his birthday, I bought him tickets to a big gay men-dressed-as-showgirls jazz hands sparkly sequins sort of show.  Yup.

Exhibit B:

So I know what you are all inevitably asking: Did he like it?

WELL.  As the lights came up and the applause died down during intermission (or “halftime,” as he goonily called it) I turned to my dear boyfriend and asked him what he thought.

And I quote: “It’s great!  I love it.  Mary, you are the best most beautiful girlfriend and I am SO LUCKY to have you.”

OKAY…so the last part he didn’t say.  But he did say he loved the show.  Which is enough for me.

Happy 25th birthday H!  I’ll watch drag-queens with you any time.

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A lot of things changed when I started my big-girl office job.  My dancey-gymy-college-studenty body went adiós (thanks, 8 hrs in a desk chair!), my eyes got progressively worse from staring at a computer screen and/or tiny typed text for extended periods of time, I started brushing my hair on a regular basis (see, not all the changes were bad), and my once hours-long lunch breaks turned into me scarfing food while hunched over my desk in 30 mins flat.

But I realized recently that the biggest change had to do with the weather.  Or, the lack thereof.

Let me paint a picture for you.  Every morning as I am getting ready, my shades stay tightly draw.  My apartment is cave-like and cool.  Also, I am afraid of weirdo neighbors judging my AM routine (so what if I become entranced by Sam Champion & Robin Roberts’ witty banter on Good Morning America!) and my non-morning-person eyeballs just can’t handle outside light at the ungodly hour of 8AM. By the time I actually get outside I am sprinting to the subway because I’m late, and I am too absorbed with composing the perfect commute play list to notice anything occurring around me.  All in all, my daily time spent out-of-doors is roughly 20 minutes.  All 20 of which I am thinking of everything BUT the fact that I’m outside and oh its quite nice out!  Or, whew its breezy today!  Or shoot it’s rainy!

Anyway.  20 minutes.  Maybe less. The rest of my day takes place in a perfectly nice office where I spent all day, every day, basking (or shivering) in florescent lighting and arctic air-conditioning.

It’s one of those things that you don’t notice until it’s gone, and even when it IS gone you spend some time wondering what exactly is missing.  Something feels off….OH!  That’s it! I no longer experience sunlight unless it is filtered through my quadruple-paned tinted office windows!

I’m not even the greatest fan of weather, as it falls under the category of “Nature”, which we all know is not my cup of tea.  But suddenly I find myself inappropriately excited to spend time outdoors on the weekends just to get my fill of sunshine and clouds and stuff.  Especially now that it’s getting nice out.  It’s sad when a nice breeze and a few rays of sunlight become “special.”  Shouldn’t those be part of basic human rights?!  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of blue sky (and even the occasional sun-shower)!

It also doesn’t help that I live in a city where the sky is a pretty scarce sight.  When I look up I see buildings, not clouds.  Sometimes when I’m outside in Manhattan it doesn’t even feel like I’m outside.  It’s really quite sad.  I’m turning into a weird mole-person.  Help me.

My weather-less lifestyle also does not help me having a skewed sense of temperature.  I’ve always been one of those people who is always cold.  But now it’s a zillion times worse.  I am either irrationally freezing or unable to cool myself off, with my hands and feet feeling like they are on fire.  As we speak it’s 78 degrees outside and I’ve got my personal space heater (yes, I have one) at full blast.  I’m wearing a sweater.  At 6pm when I get up to leave I will step outside and the humidity will hit me like a brick wall and I will be instantly overheated.  And then I will get on the subway and freeze again because there is a frigid blast of icy cold air blowing on my sweaty body.  It’s a terrible, vicious cycle.

Dear Sunshine and other weather-related stuff,

Sorry I took you for granted.  Can we please devise an outdoor-style office that becomes the norm for the publishing industry in NYC?  I’ll even wear sunscreen, I swear!  I miss you!

Love,

me

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