Thursday, February 28, 2013

OKMH February 2013 Reveal

MY FIRST OKMH!! This is a big deal. To me, at least.

How beautiful are these women??
The out-pour of love and support from this group (really before I was "one of them") has been earth altering to me. I know people say that. And most people mean it. I don't mean it in a "I wasn't loved enough as a child so now I have internet friends" (because I was loved plenty, still am). But I feel like this is more than a group of just "internet friends". They baked for me before I really knew them. And the friendship has grown from there. Just a couple of strangers. Tweeting each other, reading a few blogs, then last year the first OKMH started and it was the first event of "more than just internet friends". I had a whole year of reading up on what the lovelies sent each other - so let me tell you that the pressure was ON! And then Jeanne sent me a box that was more "me" than even what I could have told someone to pack for me. The theme was Winter Essentials and she went above and beyond! Wanna see??

This is the first face I saw when I picked the box up. The lid was COVERED in mustaches. I knew it would get better inside. Also - how maniacal is that baby?? I practically couldn't drive back to our apartment what with being so giddy.

My first peek inside!
This screams Texas winter to me.
Mustaches. EVERYWHERE!! I started making weird yipping/squeely noises at everything. Hubs kept came over a few times to check on me, before just leaving the room altogether.


With notes on the back!! I die.
Y'all? The mustaches are tags! With notes!! They explained everything! I saved them. Because who knows when you'll need a large scrapbook mustache tag? You don't know that!!

Awesome shirt and cutie-patootie socks
I changed my outfit immediately to accommodate.
For the record, I was not creeped out that she would creep around on my Pinterest. Frankly, isn't that we even have Pinterest?? She made the shirt, guys. Okay, she put the letters on it. I have been obsessed with this shirt. I don't care that I'm cutting back on coffee - it will always have a weird obsessive corner of my heart. /Tangent: my boss wandered past my cube with a cup of fresh coffee yesterday and I interrupted her mid-sentence to talk about her coffee. Woops. Single focus. /End tangent. I immediately put the shirt on (and the socks, honestly) before I unwrapped the rest of the box. It's really long (like a night shirt!!) so I was just playing with scrunching - don't worry, Jeanne!

Homemade matching neck wrap and infinity scarf

Wearing both. Also immediately.
Next up? Hand stitched neck-rice warmer in fleece. And because she was concerned about my office wardrobe, she even included a matching infinity scarf to go over it (I'm wearing both in the photo!). First of all, I love it. Second of all - awesome, right?!? Also - super warm. And, it's like a Northwest requirement that you wear flannel. It's like they send it to you with your "Welcome to WA" package. So obviously perfect.

I am Godzilla.
Meet Tea-Rex. TEA-REX - GET IT?? I have laughed about this at least a dozen times. Practically every time I see the thing. It is a tea infuser! His little head pops off and the loose leaf goes in his body. There are holes along his back and head to steep. His arms are perfectly short. And a fully-intact Houston Starbucks mug (have you heard I'm obsessed?). There was also tea. For with to brew in the miniature dinosaur (*giggle*). The tea (pictured below) is a super tasty basic black tea. Each tea bag comes individually wrapped in a sealed pouch for maximum freshness. I have been trying to find it locally - because I will be adding it to my permanent tea rotation.

Someone sent this to from the interwebs. It is perfect in every way.
As far as winter essentials, this is as basic and utterly practical as they come. Basically my mitts have been impeccable since I got this box. Guys, if you need a good winter hands cream, the Carmax lotion is AMAZING stuff. I'm picky with my lotion because I have terribly dry skin and hate the greasy feeling... this absorbs quickly and lasts all day! I need to buy in bulk. I love this Burts Bees cuticle cream - I've been using it for years! And I'm a nail polish hoarder, so this is just perfect (have I said "perfect" enough yet?).

All the loot!
Also (as if that all weren't enough?) there were black and white prep bowls (in the back there) which I have used DAILY, and hidden at the bottom was a huge tub of sugary treats. Despite promising the Hubs that he would lose limbs should he touch anything, I have shared the treats with him. I've had most of them - but it was a huge box!! A huge, delicious box...

I know I've said it to her a few times over, but let it be written here in internet history - thank you SO much, Jeanne!!

For other Winter Essentials from the group, check out the other ladies:
Jeanne at Inside NanaBread's Head
Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World
Mads at La Petite Pancake
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic
Megan at Wanna Be a Country Cleaver
And Finally! See what I sent to Kat over at Tenaciously Yours

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Fashion

Not that I owe the blog an explanation, but I've been sick. Started as a strong cold, something I hadn't truly gotten over since Thanksgiving, and ended with a bronchitis-like cough. Luckily, it is resolving much sooner than bronchitis and just as my 7-days-sick-call-the-doctor timer ran out, I started to sleep through the night again, and to breath without wheezing.

Coughing fits are hard to work through. They are so draining. But I'm sure my abs got a good workout from all the fits! As a result, I have not been eating much. Or cooking for that matter. Frankly, barely functioning is accurate until this weekend. And I felt better just in time for a mini-Mommy-visit.

Stay with me as I get back into my routine - I have a few posts coming this week, and I am trying to get some Passover experimentation out of the way before my Israel trip in 12 days (maybe some packing narratives, as well).

For now... Here's my Monday fashion. I work in a business-casual environment, but have been concerned that chambray is even too casual. Today, I paired it with nice slacks, heels, and a chunky necklace and it was perfect for the work place.

How do you feel about chambray?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sweet Week: Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pudding Cookies

As if this cookie title weren't long enough... right?

Anyway - I really get into Valentine's Day. I hate that I like it. But I do. Always have. I love the idea of it. And people may say that you don't need a special day created by the card companies to tell someone that you love them. But even though we shouldn't need a special day to phone our mom or take her out to brunch, we have Mother's Day. And so we have Valentine's Day. Love it or hate it, it persists. Even the people that abhor the day acknowledge that it exists by hating it. And so I love it.

And as much as I love Valentine's Day and the mush and the chocolate and the flowers, I love peanut butter and chocolate. Like macaroni and cheese. Like Rose and The Doctor. Like baseball and Cracker Jack. They just go together. Reese's is just about my favorite thing, ever. And so when I saw this cookie recipe on Pinterest, I had to try it. The hubs still complained that these weren't Snickerdoodles (coming soon, dear), but he ate these quicker than anything. I had to make a second batch in order to get enough to actually dip in chocolate. And then I had to hide half the batch in order to have enough to take pictures.

These are a great treat to make for your favorite sweetheart this Valentine's Day. And if you want to find any other delicious treats to win over your LUVAH, then check out the other shexay posts all this week for Sweet Week!

Red Velvet Vanilla Marble Cupcakes by Kristen at Comfortably Domestic
Retro Raspberry Divinity by Jeanne at Inside NanaBread's Head

Mini Meringue Strawberry Pie by Katie at The Hill Country Cook

Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti by Madeline at Munching in the Mitten
Samoa Crack Dip by Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama

Avocado Peppermint Chocolate Mousse by Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain
Cherry Garcia Chocolate Bark by Megan at Wanna be a Country Cleaver

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting by Mads at La Petite Pancake
S'more on a Stick by Kat at Tenaciously Yours

Lemon Marshmellows by Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World
Mini Chocolate Mouse Pies by Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic

Berry Smoother Ice Cream Pie by Anne at From My Sweet Heart

Happy Valentine's Day, Lovers!

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pudding Cookies
Recipe from Something Swanky
I got just over 4 dozen cookies 

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup flour
1 3.4 oz package instant cheesecake pudding mix
2-3 cups melting chocolates (I used Wilton in light cocoa, red, and pink)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat together the peanut butter, shortening, and both sugars until creamy and fluffy.
2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition.
3. Add the vanilla and baking soda and mix briefly. 
4. Add the flour and pudding mix and mix well.
5. Scoop in rounded tablespoons on a parchment sheet or silicon baking sheet. Use a fork to create a criss-cross pattern onto the dough.
6. Bake cookies for 8 - 12 minutes, or until the edges are just barely starting to brown. Allow to cool on a cooling rack. Repeat until all dough is cooked.
7. Melt chocolate according to package instructions. Dip cookies or drizzle chocolate on top. Allow the chocolate to set on wax paper.
8. Give to your sweetie.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Blasphemy Stack

If you're looking for a rabbi to send you to Jewish culinary hell... put pork on latkes. Cover it in dairy. I mean... the only way it could have been less Kosher was if I added shrimp and ate in a church. But you want to hear a secret...? It. Was. Incredible.

How did I get into this blasphemous position? I had a lot of leftover pulled pork - a position that I should not have been in, in the first place. But then I had a hankering for Hollandaise sauce. And if you give a mouse some hollandaise sauce, they're going to want it in benedict form. And what happens when that mouse is out of English muffins but has a bunch of russet potatoes? Latke benedict. Obviously.

Sorry for the dark photo! Nighttime photography strikes again.
 Seriously, 3.5 lbs of pork to feed two people for dinner (including third servings), and lunch for two days still leaves you with a bunch of left over pork. And I've been in a mood to cover everything in hollandaise sauce (despite the new year and half stick of butter per serving). Okay, so I do feel a little weird about putting it all on top of a latke, so just call it hashbrowns or blinis and we can all get over it. I also have to admit that this makes quite a mess in order to serve two people. It wouldn't make hardly any more mess to serve 4, or even 6 people. While I re-used a frying pan, there are basically 5 separate recipes using at least 3 pans and 2 appliances. And I had leftover latkes and leftover pork, and it was still a lot of work. Delicious, gut-bomb work.

This would be a great option for a rich dinner to stick to your ribs, or a great way to start off a weekend brunch if you don't plan on moving the rest of the day (but do plan on running a lot the day before and after - I refer you to the stick of butter in the hollandaise). In fact, with the runny yolks of a perfectly poached egg, you could possibly skip the decadent hollandaise and this stack would still be delicious.

Pulled Pork Benedict
(for two-ish servings)
The hollandaise recipe was adapted from my favorite cookbook

4 latkes (try about half of this recipe, or english muffins, or hashbrowns...)
2 egg yolks (at room temperature)
2 tsp half and half (not the skimpy fat free kind, either)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
dash of cayenne pepper
10 Tbls butter (melted and heated until bubbling but NOT browned)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice at room temperature
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbl olive oil
2 cups fresh baby spinach
2 cloves of garlic (peeled and sliced very thinly)
Leftover Pulled Pork
4 eggs

1. Heat up the latkes in an oven at 350 degrees. Next, start on the hollandaise.
2. Put the egg yolks, half and half, salt, and cayenne in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth and frothy, 2 - 3 seconds. While the blender is on high speed, add the hot butter in a thin, steady stream (it will start to thicken immediately). Next add the lemon juice, then the white wine vinegar. Season with salt to taste. Transfer the sauce to a microwave-safe bowl.
The next few steps will happen quickly, so get ready!
3. Remove the latkes from the oven and place two on each plate.
4. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for about a minute. Then add the spinach and heat until just barely wilted, but still crisp. Remove from pan and set atop the latke.
5. In the same pan, heat up and add about a cup of pulled pork. Heat the pork for a few minutes, tossing occassionally. Once heated, place on top of the spinach.
6. While the pork is heating, bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Add a capful of white vinegar. Gently break 4 eggs individually into the pan, and poach for 2 minutes, being careful to keep the water at a simmer, not boil. Remove the eggs and put on top of the pork.
7. Microwave the sauce for about 10 seconds and stir the sauce (really, that's all it takes!). Spoon on top of the whole stack.

Indulge Enjoy!

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I'm cold right now. Let me start over. This is not a real post, I have another coming in the morning. But for now, tonight is both hilarious and frustrating. See, I had a terrible day. I was just in an awful mood and the day was much my fault as anyone else's. I see that now. Because after an hour-long commute of 7 miles, and a terrible run where I just couldn't find a good cadence, and tight muscles, and a vodka gimlet, I feel better, and I can reflect on the terrible day.

But I am SO COLD. Literally shivering. Long pants, socks, tank top, long sleeve top, and a blanket and I'm still shivering. Because our heat is turned down to 58 degrees (which is basically off in apartment lingo). So the hubster and I have been playing a little thermostat roulette. Whenever I walk by, I turn it on to a SCORCHING 65 degrees (I mean really?). Whenever he walks by, he turns it off. AND I get a joking glare.

So the whole thing reminded me of this video and I was cracking myself up. Some guys have this same implant with regards to the wallet. Megan knows what I'm talking about...

I'm going to be physically sore tomorrow. There may a small part of my brain that forced it on myself - some sort of physical punishment for letting myself be in a terrible mood all day today. Self-induced karma and all that. As if Crohn's didn't do that for me already... But I needed the run. 

I'm proud of my body for getting to the point where I need activity like this. But when I got to our teeny apartment gym, I had to wait for the treadmill to get free. I decided to do a little warm-up on the elliptical. Except replace "little" with "full" and "warm-up" with "20 minute hill climb work-out" and you would have a better idea of my punishment. And THEN I ran my 28 minute interval schedule. There are a lot of things you could call that. Motivated, getting fit, destressing... I would call it dumb. 48 minutes of cardio while trying to out-run my bad mood? Surprise - I'm going to hurt tomorrow. And the next day. Woops. I'm sore all over right now. Wanna know what's not sore? My ankle. (Jazz Hands)

And that's the win for today. The teeny win that I will take over all the other suck.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mango ColeSlaw on Nom-rritos

I would apologize for not having a creative and witty post title, but then again... I'm not really sorry. I'm lowering expectations, and am excited enough that I managed to post twice this week, let alone added witicism. Sorry I'm not sorry.

If you read yesterday, you may be fresh out of ideas as to what to do with 3 lbs of freshly pulled pork shoulder. Here's just one idea. When I was roasting the pork, it was my second day back from a South American business trip, during which I enjoyed some absolutely tremendous fruits, including pineapple, citrus, and mango. My gawd the mangoes. I'm tardy to the mango party. They're my grandfather's favorite fruit, but he likes his fruit crunchy (practically his bananas, too), so I never quite got on the mango band-wagon.

Until South America. It's different fruit down there. Like Italy is the only place I enjoy tomatoes. I have since found better mangoes here, but they're still quite difficult to find. If you can find them, it turns out they're fantastic in cole slaw. With which I put on top of the pork and wrapped the whole thing in a tortilla. Nom-rrito.

While I'm not a huge fan of barbeque, my favorite part was always slapping the coleslaw onto my pulled pork sandwich. While this pulled pork is rather neutral - missing the sweetness of barbeque, and only seasoned with Cuban spices - I think the mango adds the South American flare I wanted.

Carnitas with Mango Cole Slaw

Pulled Pork 
Tortillas of your choice
1 bag coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots) (alternatively: 1/3 head of green cabbage and a few carrots - all shredded)
1 mango (peeled, sliced into matchsticks)
1/2 cup of your favorite coleslaw sauce (confession: I used a jar)
1 lime

1. Assemble coleslaw: in a large bowl, combine the coleslaw mix and mango. Add the coleslaw dressing. Cut the lime in half, and juice one half. Add the juice to the bowl, and combine everything. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Assemble the Nom-rrito: In each tortilla, add some pork (to taste) and top with coleslaw. Cut the remaining half of lime into wedges and squeeze onto each serving as desired.  

If you make the pork in advance, this is a really quick weeknight fix!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pulled Pork

I'm challenge with tender meats. Searing, braising, baking - it's all somehow beyond my grasp. I can roast a chicken, cook a chicken breast, render fat from a chicken thigh (noticing a theme?), and I can total nail ground meat (That's what... she... said?). I've ruined roast beef (tough), braised brisket (chewy, tough, and overcooked), and that pot roast nearly ruined my dutch oven.

But I am obsessed, stubborn, and determined. 

Food Network magazine to the rescue. I've delayed trying pulled pork recipes in the past because I'm not a fan of smoking meats in my apartment (for obvious reasons) and many of the rubs are so sweet (I'm not a huge barbeque fan for the same reason). And when I saw this very simple recipe in the magazine, I decided that it was high time for me to attempt meats again. And it was a HUGE success! I made tacos the first night, and then a few nights later, I made a super rich, insane hollandaise stack (teaser alert!). Also, this is one of the few recent recipes simple to elicit a coveted "Mmm!" from the husband and have him going back for thirds.

Pulled Pork
Adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 3.5 lb boneless pork shoulder
2 Tbl kosher salt
4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbl McCormick's Cuban Seasoning blend
1 onion roughly chopped
1/2 head (~7 cloves) garlic, peeled and sliced
1 cup white wine

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Rinse the pork and pat dry. Rub all over with salt, pepper, and cuban seasoning. Add the wine to an enamel dutch oven, and place the pork in the wine. Scatter the onion and garlic over the pork.
3. Place a lid on the pan, and place in the oven for about 3 hours. Check for tenderness by placing a fork in the roast and turning the fork. If the meat starts to shred easily, then you're done! If not, return it to the oven and check again in 20 minutes.
4. Once done, remove the roast from the pan and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Then, using two forks, shred the roast. Keep it moist by returning to the pan juices. Use as you wish.