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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Crab Cakes!

I'm normally a huge seafood lover, but lately I've gone off the deep end. I hope there's shellfish in the deep end! The other day we had moules, and then my mom served scallops one day for lunch and now I'm just hooked. LIKE A FISH

I could keep going on and on forever.

Summer time screams seafood to me, and the other day, that scream manifested itself into these bad boys:

I loved making these because I took advice from several sources and combined them, and they still turned out fabulously. It's nice to learn lessons in cooking while cooking, but those lessons lose a bit of potency when they're mingling with the sting of fucking something up. Unless you never look before crossing the street and get hit by a car. No matter the sting, that is one potent lesson.

Anyways. I hope you all look before crossing the street.

One tip I got from my mom who got it from some famous chef was to use different crab meats. Not just lump, and not just the big piles of "fancy" shredded crab meat either. I used a can comprised of 15% leg meat from Trader Joe's, a can of fancy white crab meat from Bumble Bee and my favorite, the Kroger brand lump crab meat. I think this is hands down they way to go, so if you find yourself with an opportunity to use more than one type, go for it, gibbon.

Panko Crusted Crab Cakes (derived from this recipe)
serves 4

3 tbsp mayo
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tbsp Dijon
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped
1 tbso fresh chopped dill
1lb crab meat (see above)
1/4 cup Panko, plus more for sprinkling
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup olive oil give or take
lemon wedges

First, drain the hell out of your crab. I use the tried and true method of pressing the can's lid hard against the meat while it's still in the can, but then after that I also pressed the crab hard into a sieve with a large wooden spoon.

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients and whisk until smooth. Next, add the parsley, scallions and dill. Whisk again until thoroughly mixed. Fold int he crabmeat and 1/4 cup of the panko crumbs.

Fold, huh. I'm not much of folding, especially when there's a huge mess of crab and a relatively tiny amount of wet ingredients into which it must be folded. So just mix that shit up nice and good. There. Now I'm Jilly-fied this recipe.

Mix it all together and, if you size it like the original recipe did, you will form it into 16 patties. I made 12. We're pigs. Whatever.

Here is where I dovetailed some other tips in with the advice of this recipe. While forming each patty, I placed the patty between my palms and squeeeeeezed the dickens out of it over the sink. Even though we did lots of draining and straining, there was still a whole lot of moisture to these puppies.

Place the formed patties on a parchment lined cookie sheet. When all patties are formed, take your Panko and liberally sprinkle over not just the patties but the cookie sheet as well. When the tops are adequately covered, carefully pick up each patty and sort of lightly pat the Panko crumbs with them. If that makes sense?

Now, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Have some vinho verde, you've earned it. Watch Wheel of Fortune, let your hair down.

In a large skillet (I used cast iron), melt a tbsp of the butter in 2 tbsp of the oil. I love this tip from the recipe I used: when the foam subsides, add four crab cakes and cook over moderate heat until golden crisp, about three minutes a side. When they're done, drain on paper towels and repeat the process, butter + oil + crab cakes, until all of them are finished.

I just love that note, when the foam subsides. What a wonderful visual aid to help gauge when it's best to add your cakes.

This was so delicious! I skipped a sauce because I ruined my saffron sauce (hey, don't add your saffron cream sauce to the skillet you cooked your crab cakes in because you will ruin your sauce and waste that saffron and that is an expensive lesson). Instead I just drizzled a wee bit of Tabasco on each cake and squeezed liberal amounts of lemon juice on them. SO delicous!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Things I'm Into Right Now

Man, what a difference it makes when your contacts aren't messing with you in the morning. Yesterday they were being a pain in the ass all morning, and it made me feel bleary from head to toe. But today, they're clear and in place and not blurry at all, and that feels good. Plus, Alexandra and Todd both woke up when I did before I left for work, and it's so nice to kiss smiling faces instead of sneaking out like a bandit, trying not to wake anyone up.


1. Kiss My Face shampoo and conditioner in Green Tea and Lime.

It's light and refreshing, doesn't have all those nasty things like SLS and parabens, and from what I could tell, some pretty spot on ingredients. One thing I've learned from ingredient checking is that the first ingredients are the most abundant. Here is the list right off their website:

Aloe Barbadensis*, Rosemarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract*, Chamomilla Recutitia (Chamomile) Flower Extract*, Melissa Offcinalis (Lemon Balm) Leaf Extract*, Urtica Dioca (Nettles) Leaf Extract*, Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract*, Calendula Officinlis (Marigold) Flower Extract*, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract*, Lavendula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Extract*, Olefin Sulfonate, Cocomidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride (Sea Salt), Caprylic Acid, Glycine, Lavendula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Oil, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Tocopherol, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid. *Organic

Now, nearly all of the run of the mill commercial shampoos out there like Pantene or whatever, will have water, then SLS as the first two ingredients. Which is why when I realized the first NINE ingredients listed were all organic plant matter or extracts, I was like hell yes. Both of the weirder ingredients, Olefin Sulfonate and Cocomidopropyl Betaine, are components or derivatives of coconut oil, so while it could be synthetically created (and lacks the telltale organic asterisk), I really don't give a shit. They're not stripping agents like SLS and other detergents, so Imma let it slide.

I will stop a moment and bitch that the shampoo calls itself Green Tea and Lime but those ingredients are pretty close to the bottom. However, I think they're mostly there to perform as fragrance, and since there is no ubiquitous and suspicious "Fragrance" listed, Imma let that slide too.

Jesus Jil, way to write an essay about a shampoo. Anyways, you can find this stuff at Whole Foods or even better, on Vita Cost.

2. Neutrogena Body Oil

And now for below the neck! I have a feeling I've posted about this stuff before, but back then it was used more sporadically in my moisturizing routine (I was hooked on Jason products then but something changed in their formulas for both lotions and hair care and I'm no longer as impressed). Now, however, I use this oil, and only this oil, every single day. I LOVE IT. The scent is light and slightly exotic thanks to the sesame, but never overpowering, never cloying. I never ever get sick of it, and when I hang my towel up after getting dressed and get a whiff of the scent, I smile involuntarily. That's how lovely it is. It never mingles with your perfume either. Just make sure to apply when your skin is still pretty damp. I just lightly pat my skin after showering or bathing and then apply the oil very promptly. One thing I've found though is that after shaving your legs, apply a second time after your skin is fully dry, and that will keep moisture on your gams.

3. It's Always Sunny in Philedelphia

Oh, man. Okay, look, I know that humor is subjective, and perverse, shameless humor like this is VERY subjective, but my God this is some of the funniest shit I have ever watched in my life. Just when you're fairly certain they won't go there, they go there, balls out (Dee Dates A Retard is an actual episode title). It's kind of like Seinfeld in which no one is truly likeable, they're all horrible people, and they all seem to hate each other deep down, so even for me this show is best in smaller doses (I could, however, do an hours-long marathon of How I Met Your Mother). It's like a super rich sinful dessert, and nothing caps off a night of mild mannered television like a show where in order to stay on welfare, Dee and her brother Dennis actively choose to get hooked on crack.

4. Mussels!!

Or moules au vin blanc, which is my absolute favorite way to make them. Nothing compares to a big bowl of these delicious critters, steamed in wine, shallots and garlic. They're also insanely quick and easy to make for a romantic dinner for two:

3.5lb mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded (absolutely crucial to the flavor)
1 cup wine
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 Turkish bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 tbsp butter

Bring wine to a boil in a six quart pot and let simmer a few minutes. Add your mussels, put the top on your pot and let them steam for about five minutes. Give the pot a good shake to redistribute the mussels, and then open up and give them a quick stir. If they're all open, they're done and should be removed promptly into large serving bowls. If they're not open, have no fear and just steam a little longer, two minutes more. After placing the moules into the bowls, add the parsley and butter to your wine and stir to melt the butter. Once that happens, turn off the heat, pour the delicious broth over the moules (making sure to spoon up all those delicious shallots and garlic pieces), and serve with crusty bread and a couple of glasses of the same wine you used to steam them.

An added bonus: you don't need utensils. Just use the shell of one mussel like mini tongs and pluck the meat from another mussel.

SO GOOD. Todd is always mildly reluctant when I start clamouring for these, and every single time I serve them he's like, damn, these are so good. We had them Saturday and we're sitting there, happily digging into our bowls, and Todd just goes "Well, you and your lousy moules! These are delicious!" and proceeded to devour the entire bowl.

5. Trader Joe's Block Red Wine

A friend of mine turned me on to this wine because she knows how much I love wine that comes in box form. But this wine is so much more than that. I mean, yes, it is box of wine, and yes it's only $10 which is actually cheaper than the Corbett Canyon box of wine I buy whenever I want pinot grigio. But it's actually a super decent wine. The reason I know this is because A: I drink a lot of wine and can tell and B: Todd, who gave up his wino status long ago after it started kicking his ass, will actually have a glass or three of this with his steak dinner. He does not do that unless it's pretty damn good, so that's why I'm here to tell you that this wine is pretty damn good, only costs you $10 and comes in a cool looking box.

What's not to love?

6. Freesia!

Another delight thanks to Trader Joe's. I've never before gotten freesia until this spring, and my goodness, now I understand why every other lotion in Bath and Body Works is freesia. They're poor attempts at harnessing the light and delicate fragrance of this flower, though. I was absolutely blown away when I got the first batch; it took a couple of days but suddenly every time I'd walk by the vase of flowers on the table, I would be overcome by this teasing, barely there floral scent that is just divine. It reminds me of a far milder version of a magnolia blossom. Anyways, this shade of the freesia flower is what I'm currently hosting at my house, and I just love it. I always get sad when Trader Joe's is out of them; my heart sinks just a bit when I realize they're nowhere to be found. Next time you find yourself with an opportunity to get some freesia, I strongly recommend you take it.

7. Kingdom Rush

So I'm a little embarrassed to be raving over a game app on my smartphone but I JUST CAN'T HELP MYSELF. Plus, again I refer to Todd's enthusiasm as an accurate measure for levels of awesomeness: He was more than happy to watch me play Plants vs. Zombies, but is all too eager to play Kingdom Rush for himself. Last night we had to take turns for God's sake, each playing a battle before reluctantly handing it off to the other person.

It's right up our alley, with knights and archers and mages and artillery, tools and weapons to help boost your fighting power, heroes and fireballs falling from the sky, trolls and wulfs and ogres and shamans and all kinds of cool shit that you're trying to kill in the name of the king. Have at you! Attack! Reinforce!! YAAARRRRRGH.

Plus this shit is free.

8. The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell

Part historical novel, part bodice ripper, this is a 17th century story about one of England's very first actresses, Nell Gwyn. I've gotten about halfway through and what I'm loving so far, apart from some very blushworthy scenes (she started off a prostitute after all, at least in Bagwell's novel), are the historical moments that are brought to life, such as the great fire that took place in the city of London during her lifetime, as well as The Great Plague. I also love the language used to illustrate the time period, and of course I love Nell's brazen wit and her strength and courage to not only become an actress but to simply survive.

And I just love a good historical novel. I love learning about real people who lived so long ago. Thanks to the author's diligent research, I'm able to see into the past, and especially for women in history, this is such a treat.

Plus those love scenes! Whew!!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oh, Patton.

Why doesn't anyone take me seriously?

You know, I sit around here observing and taking everything in, I am a creature who could provide  thought-provoking, life-changing, deeply emotional perspective with an intellectual undercoat.

I am serious. Who better to inform you of life's intricities than the one who never speaks but always listens? Why are you laughing?

I said why are you laughing?!?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rosemary-Orange Pork Tenderloin with Marmalade Sauce

I made this last night and man, was it delicious! I highly recommend giving it a shot. Quick, easy, elegant. I took two recipes and combined them, then altered the hybrid, then changed it last minute, so I am happy to say this is 100% me.

Rosemary-Orange Pork Tenderloin with Marmalade Sauce
serves 4

1 1.5lb pork tenderloin
4-5 sprigs rosemary
Zest of one orange
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Seville orange marmalade
2 tbsp fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 375. Let your pork sit out while it preheats, too. Line a roasting pan with foil.

Strip your rosemary sprigs and roughly chop up the leaves. Toss together the rosemary, orange, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture into the pork and place the pork in a roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil on the meat and rub that in as well.

Roast for 30-40 minutes until pork is cooked through. Remove the foil but return the pork and juices back to the roasting pan. Place the roasting pan on your largest stovetop burner and turn the heat up to about medium, medium high.

Whisk together the marmalade and lime juice, and add it to the juices. See, originally it was to be a marmalade glaze, but when I saw (and smelled) those mouth-watering juices, I could not just dump them out, so I incorporated them. Stir the sauce quickly and turn the pork to coat it.

When the sauce is bubbling away, it's time to eat. Remove the tenderloin, slice it up and serve. Pour the sauce into a bowl or gravy boat and apply liberally to the yummy pork.

Enjoy! I don't have any pictures because it went that fast.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Broccoli Salad

I guess there is a reason why chefs and food photographers wipe the sides of the plates and bowls before presentation, huh. Anyhoodle, I came up with this on the fly two days ago while trying to find a filling, yet flavorful and satisfying snack. I've been really trying to watch my calorie intake, which is always a lot easier, in my opinion, in the summer. Fresh veggies are everywhere, it's warmer outside which lends itself to naturally eating lighter, and the word salad just sounds so refreshing. Talk to me about salad in winter and I'm going to hit you over the head with a soup ladle and continue to gnaw on a ham bone. But for now, salad salad salads!

This bad boy rings in around 115 calories, if you aren't counting the calories from the onion. Since a full cup of red onion has 48 calories, I am not bothering to figure out what three slices are. I like to live life on the wild side. I am the Hunter S. Thompson of calorie counting.
Broccoli Salad
single serving

3oz broccoli florets, cut into bite size pieces
Sliced red onion, to taste (I do about 3 thin slices off half an onion)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp blue cheese crumbles
black pepper, to taste

Toss the first two ingredients with the next two, and top with blue cheese and black pepper. Stir around. Devour!

The first time I made this with shredded parmesan but I have to say, the blue cheese really adds a rich dimension to it and I'll not go back. And you know how much I love parmesan. Just so long as this salad doesn't dip too aggressively into my blue cheese stash. Those martini olives aren't going to stuff themselves with air, are they.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My new favorite selfie.

Okay, I know it's not a full on selfie, but I took it myself, of myself. I just also happen to have my child in it with me. But see how happy she makes me? It's such a beautiful shot, to me. The light off her fair skin, my beaming smile, half hidden in her hair, our brunette heads together in solidarity. Besides, taking this photo caused a burning passion in her to wrest my phone from my hands. Hilarity ensued.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review: Vikings Series (The History Channel)

The Walking Dead ended and we're waiting til October. Game of Thrones is nearly over and we'll have to wait a year for that. And quite frankly, I'm sort of checked out emotionally after this past Sunday's episode.

So what are we watching in the meantine? Why, Vikings of course!

It all centers on a well known Norse hero, Ragnar Lodbrok, and, so far where we are, his attempts to sail west instead of east, as his grumpy narrow minded Earl would have him continue to do. He's got a hot bad ass for a wife, Lagertha (played by Katheryn Winnick) a shield maiden who actually accompanies him and his crew on one of the raids to England. He's got loads of bad ass friends, too, who help him to build a better longship and then help him sail it on those raids. He's got an interesting haircut and a couple of fiesty kids (and a farm but even he's bored with that).

It's extremely addicting and wildly interesting. In my opinion it's also very well cast and the acting is great across the board. It's dramatic and violent, sexy and gritty with a bit of romance when you catch a fleeting glimpse of Odin in the forest.

And, okay, the cast is hot. Gabriel Byrne is the only mild disappointment as the Earl (aka chieftan), because he is not the hot BAMF I recall from the movie Stigmata. Age catches up to us all, I guess. Someone who only seems to become more of a badass with age is Vladimir Kulich, the actor who played Beowulf (or a version of him) in The 13th Warrior. The main character Ragnar is played by a smoking hottie, Travis Fimmel, and his brother Rollo (played by Clive Standen) while we're not sure what his end game is, is also a babe (but is hotter in real life). Don't I sound mature!

Anyways, I guess what I  mean is there's something for everyone here. Hot men, hot women, intrigue, fighting, exploration, godlore, adventure. If you don't like at least ONE of those things, then I got nothin' for ya!

I will say there are some issues I have. Mainly, sometimes Ragnar can't understand Anglo Saxon, and other times, without explanation, he and an Anglo Saxon priest can communicate. He did capture a monk from an earlier raid so all I can think is that this monk taught him Latin? But we never saw that. At least I didn't (obviously I got distracted).

We're only four episodes into this bad boy, and it's the last show we watch at night so even though it's bedtime and our heads are not filled with visions of sugar plums but with killing and raiding, we still want to watch more. In fact since we have some catching up to do, I wager we'll watch episode five (and six?) tonight.

Review: A