what’s on my kindle, part 15

Inferno by Dan Brown. I unabashedly love these Robert Langdon books. They are so entertaining and, after a string of really boring books that I forced myself to get through, it was refreshing to read something that I couldn’t put down. The premise of this one is overpopulation, and I loved it. Now I want to go back and re-read Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

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Pillows for your feet from Ikea. Best purchase ever.

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker. This is about a 15 year-old-girl who is raped, and given a treatment to make her forget the event. It’s told from the perspective of the pyschiatrist who starts treating her after this, and tries to help her remember the event. It starts a little slow but then it gets SO GOOD. If you’re into this ‘controversial therapies for PTSD’ theme- you should also listen to the Homecoming podcast.

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. This is the sequel to My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. I was not into it. I get why it’s supposed to be charming, but there were too many characters and I was just bored. Just stick with A Man Called Ove.

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Valentine’s Day dinner by the GS- swordfish with yucca and leeks!

Nutshell by Ian McEwan. Okay so, this is told from the perspective of a fetus inside the womb. And the fetus figures out that his parents are terrible people. But imagine the fetus has the intelligence and diction of a 57-year-old Ivy League professor who teaches art history or philosophy or something. It’s really bizarre but it’s a quick read and I weirdly loved it.

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet. This is about teenage girls growing up in a convent during the WWII era. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed it, but it was a bit too long. Mainly I just really enjoy the cover of the book and I want to re-create it and hang it in my apartment somewhere.

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Another Ikea purchase- Baltimore skyline.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith. I checked this out because it was compared to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson which is one of my all-time favorite books. And yes, it’s about a girl who gets raped in high school. But I couldn’t get past the incredibly poor writing so I quit after about 15%. I would recommend Speak or Catalyst if you’re looking for teenage angst.

The After Party by Anton Disclafani. This was described in The Skimm as somewhat analogous to the Serena van der Woodsen/Georgina Sparks relationship from Gossip Girl. I guess I see that, but it’s set in 1950’s Houston so obviously the backdrop is a bit different. And also the narrator (the best friend) is not a sociopath. And also this is my confession that I’ve seen all of Gossip Girl.

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One of the BodyPump 100 classes! Team teaching with Jaye

Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand. I read Winter Street a while ago, so I downloaded this audiobook. I recognized the same family as before, but it wasn’t until I finished it that I realized this was book THREE. Whoops. So then I listened to Winter Stroll (book 2). These are kind of mindless but still enjoyable. And I do recommend reading them in order.

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick. This was stupid don’t read it the end.

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Buredo in DC- Sushi inside a burrito. No chopsticks needed. This one had braised pork and shrimp tempura and I almost passed out from the joy.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. Rich people taking a private plane from Martha’s Vineyard to New York and it crashes into the ocean. There are two survivors, but that’s all in the first ten minutes. Then you find out everything that happened leading up to the crash. I thought the timeline of this was really interesting and it was a great read.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson. Sheila recommended this as an audiobook and I really liked it, too. It’s a little sick and twisted but that’s what we’re into these days, I guess. I feel like I can’t discuss the plot without giving something away, so just listen to it.

 

thonet chair rehab

This post was made possible exclusively by the time and energy of my dear mother rooting around warehouses for hidden gems.

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I wish I could say that I would have looked at this chair, dirty and amidst all sorts of other junk, and felt like it was a diamond in the rough. But I think my mom is unique in that respect.

(PS, when you’re envisioning this warehouse that she dives through, think about it like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter where he hides the Half Blood Prince’s textbook and eventually finds the lost diadem of Ravenclaw. But dirtier, and policed by a kind gentleman missing several of his teeth who goes by “Old Dave.”)

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My mom did the hardest part- removing the upholstery and sanding it down. She saved the outside cushions to use as templates.

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I chose a gray stain, because I wanted it to be modern but also show the wood grain coming through. I actually had to mix the gray with some black stain to get it to be the right color- the one I bought looked a little too blue on its own.

And yes, I stained this inside my apartment which was a really idiotic thing to do and resulted in a headache that lasted for several hours. I don’t understand how people get addicted to sniffing glue.

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I agonized over a fabric choice for the cushions. Did I want to go neutral, or with something really wild? Should I choose something really soft and comfy, or go with something retro like vinyl?

I ended up choosing this one to pay homage to the original yellow cushions. Re-covering cushions is pretty easy- just try to cut off the old covering on the seams, and then use it as a template when you’re cutting the new fabric. Be sure to leave yourself about 1/2″ extra on all sides for some seam allowance.

I didn’t photograph that part because I was probably still high from the staining.

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AND I found a way to incorporate a little piece of the original.

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These things go for $300-$400 online. Guess what my mom paid? $25. She made sure to preserve the original Thonet tag on the inside so I could prove its authenticity.

I keep hoping if I brag about her enough, my mom will start a website and do this professionally. Although I do appreciate being one of her exclusive clients.

minestrone

Otherwise known as the reason my tongue and roof of my mouth were burned for 10 days straight.

I really have no patience when it comes to a steaming bowl of soup in front of my face.

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It’s odd that I went with a vegetarian soup here, because my initial motivation for soup making was a desire to make homemade chicken stock again. I had a chicken carcass, a thyme bundle, and a couple of Parmesan rinds hanging out in my fridge. What else was I supposed to do??

Note: I don’t actually hang on to chicken carcasses. The timing of this one just worked out quite well.

I did the chicken stock in my slow cooker- chicken, thyme, parsley, celery/carrots/onion, garlic, Parm rinds, and filled it to the brim with water. Cooked it on low for about 8 hours, and then strained it. Perfection.

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Then we throw a bunch of healthy stuff in a pot!

1 sweet onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

about 1 cup carrots, chopped (I used baby carrots)

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

16 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 cups chopped kale

1 can garbanzo beans

1 can kidney beans

1 head cauliflower, chopped

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Start with a little olive oil, stir all this stuff around and season with salt and pepper, then pour your stock in it. You can also make this with pre-made chicken stock or vegetable stock (I would do 2 boxes!) Let it sit on the stove and simmer on low for at least an hour.

I cooked the pasta separately (ditalini, but any small pasta will work) so that I could add it to each bowl. Nothing worse than soggy pasta in your soup.

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This was the point where I was doing 57 other things in my apartment (usual behavior) and left in a rush to go teach Body Pump. I was about halfway to the gym when I realized I had left the stove on.

I immediately called the GS, who was at the golf course at the time, and said YOU NEED TO GO TO MY APARTMENT RIGHT NOW AND TURN OFF THE STOVE.

I think pulling a man off the golf course to do a household chore might constitute a break-up in some relationships. I’m a lucky lady.

His response: “Are you sure you left the stove on? Sometimes you think you do things like that, but you’re not a forgetful person.” Yeah, I was pretty sure I left it on.

Then, “It literally can’t start a fire. You have an electric stove. Worst case scenario, the bottom of your soup is a little burned.”

This was still an unacceptable outcome.

He may have taken his sweet time getting back to my apartment to rectify my mistake. I’ll never know, I was probably mid-squat track by then, worries lost in a haze of exercise-induced endorphins.

And my soup didn’t burn. So all is right with the world.

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papa’s stuffing

Oh, hi February.

I spent this week in California and it was wonderful but I am so happy to be back. I went out to support one of our introductory workshops, where we train audiologists on our products and software. We end up working like 15 hour days but it’s so much fun and makes me fall in love with my job all over again.

Plus I got to hang with Lisa– we did a beach walk and a fun dinner at MB Post before I hopped on a red-eye back to Baltimore.

I was completely useless yesterday. I got home around 6:30 AM and tried to sleep for a couple of hours, but was still loopy. The last time I went grocery shopping after a red-eye, I bought the most random shit. So yesterday I made the GS go with me as a chaperone. And as the driver.

I ended up making this awesome salad but took zero pictures. Did the same thing last week with linguine with clam sauce. Apparently I’m selfish in 2017- all the good food for me, and nothing to share with you.

In 2016, though, I did photograph my food. So here’s the stuffing I made for our Christmas dinner, just about 7 weeks later. No big deal. It’s my grandfather’s recipe but was written down with almost no quantities of anything. So “pork sausage, “bread,” “poultry seasoning,” etc. Luckily I had my dad playing sous chef with me, and we figured it out.

Papa’s Stuffing

1 lb pork sausage

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 celery stalks, chopped

1-2 tsp poultry seasoning

1 loaf white bread

1-2 cups chicken stock

Brown the pork sausage in a large skillet. Once it’s started cooking, add the onions, garlic and celery. Cook until pork is browned and onions and celery are softened/translucent. Season with salt and pepper.

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While this is cooking, break up the bread. We just used a loaf of fresh white bread, but I know a lot of people use stale bread and that’s fine, too.

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Stir the sausage mixture in with the bread. Add the poultry seasoning. Slowly add chicken stock until the mixture is moist (sorry) but not soupy.

Spread in a baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 for an hour, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes.

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I never grew up eating StoveTop stuffing from a box or anything, so this is really all I know in the stuffing/dressing game. But I think it tastes pretty damn good. And if you want to make something that looks a little more romantic this Valentine’s Day…

You’ll have to check my recipe index and figure it out yourself. I’m still tired.

 

eggplant parm sliders

Not just any eggplant parm slider.

THE BUN IS A GARLIC KNOT.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner. As a child I would say one of my top 5 favorite foods of all time was Little Caesar’s “crazy bread” which is basically a garlic knot in stick form. Also topping the list? Oriental chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, chocolate chip cookies, and Velveeta cheese straight from the box.

You knew I was going to throw a wrench in there.

Also my mom is reading this like “Everyone is going to think we ate Little Caesar’s pizza once a week!!” We certainly did not. Actually, their pizza sucks. But the crazy bread is my jam.

And I definitely snuck the Velveeta cheese from the fridge when no one was looking.

Spoiler alert: garlic knots are just pizza dough shaped in a fancy way with a bunch of garlicky butter poured over them. Heavenly. I made them larger than usual for this particular recipe because I wanted to make sure I could fit all the toppings inside.

You don’t have to use eggplant here- you could do meatballs, or chicken parm, or even Italian cold cuts.

for the garlic knots (makes 4 large knots)

1 package dry active yeast

1 cup warm water

1 tsp honey

2 1/2-3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

4 tbs melted butter

4-5 cloves garlic

fresh herbs (I had basil)

Combine the honey and warm water (it can be really warm from your tap) and add the yeast. Let it sit for a few minutes until it’s really foamy. Combine with flour and salt- I usually start with about a cup at a time and stir it together until it’s combined and not sticky anymore. Knead for a few minutes, and then let it rest in an oiled bowl (covered) for about an hour. If you need more time, you can punch it down and let it rise again. This recipe is easily multiplied if you need to make a bunch.

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Shape into a rough rectangle. I cut four long strips because I was making these big, but you could cut the other way for regular-sized garlic knots.

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I tied each of the strips into a double knot (again, because they were big), sprinkled them with a little sea salt, and placed them on a baking sheet to rise again.

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After they’ve risen for about 30 minutes, bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, depending on how big they are. They’ll get slightly golden at the top. While they’re baking, you can make the butter. Melt half a stick of butter on the stove. Add minced garlic and freshly chopped herbs (or dried herbs are okay too). Pour over the knots and let them bake for another minute or two.

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I fried my eggplant with this method. I also caramelized an onion. Stack on some fresh mozzarella cheese, some basil leaves, and either a fresh tomato slice or tomato sauce (we tried it both ways- both delicious).

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Slice open that knot, put all your toppings inside and serve!

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If you want to serve some alternative to the usual pulled pork/meatball/burger/sub varieties that are typically present at Superbowl parties, this is your answer.

Or if you’re short on time, just stop at Little Caesar’s for crazy bread. Either one.

ramen noodles

 

Monday, Monday. My mom visited over the weekend! We had such a great time. We took her to Jack’s Bistro for restaurant week, and then on Saturday night I made chicken parm spaghetti squash for 7. We didn’t get to DC for the women’s march (though I think the marches were absolutely AMAZING and was there in spirit) but we did do a 5 mile stroll around Baltimore. She also brought me an amazing chair that I’m in the process of staining and re-covering the cushions. I’ll post transformation photos when I’m done.

Anyway, I made these noodles a couple of weeks ago but I’m already wondering when I can add it to my weekly menu again. When ramen noodles are 7 for $1, you HAVE to make them.

I was having a moment in the grocery store where I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to go traditional or not, so instead I ended up with neither. Bok choy, but also bacon. Ginger, but also boxed chicken stock. Whatever. It tasted awesome.

Ramen Noodles

makes 4 HUGE servings

2 boxes chicken stock

1 split chicken

4 packages of ramen noodles

4 eggs, soft boiled 

1 pound bacon, chopped and cooked

2 heads baby bok choy, rinsed

4-5 scallions, chopped

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp grated ginger

sriracha, for serving

I bought a split chicken (SUPER cheap at all times) and seared it on both sides. Then I put it in my crock pot and covered it with a box of chicken stock. I figured this would add some extra genuine chicken flavor to the stock. I also added about a teaspoon of sesame oil, and a teaspoon of grated ginger.

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On a side note- I did consider using the seasoning packets in the ramen noodles as a dry rub on the chicken, but thought better of it. Salt and pepper all the way.

I let that cook on low for about 2-3 hours, then pulled the chicken off the bones. Then I crisped up some bacon, soft-boiled a few eggs, chopped some scallions, and pulled the sriracha out of the fridge.

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This is so stupid easy that everyone should make it. You could even get a rotisserie chicken to skip the beginning steps!

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So we have chicken, chicken stock, ramen noodles cooked for 3 minutes, baby bok choy, chopped scallions, bacon, an egg, and sriracha. It’s barely any cooking but in this dreary weather we’re having it feels like a hug in a bowl.

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I spy all of our major food groups in this bowl. #healthy2017

what’s on my kindle, part 14

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I loved and hated this. I do really enjoy her shows and I liked the whole idea behind being more open to experiences, but at certain points I found her to be a little self-righteous. I also listened to the audiobook, which she narrates, and her inflection is very Dr. Bailey/Olivia Pope-esq.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. This grabbed my attention right away, but then didn’t end up being that great. Weirdly, this is one of the first books I’ve ever read where I’ve thought, “This would be a better movie than a book.” Maybe because the story line had potential, but the writing wasn’t great.

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New Year’s Eve activities

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee. A recommendation from Sheila! I liked it, didn’t love it. It’s about three American women living in Hong Kong whose lives are vaguely intertwined. The writing was excellent but I just found it to be too long.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. Hands down my favorite memoir since Bossypants. I thought it was so well written and I just love her. It’s funny, but also very genuine and I like her message a lot. I’ll probably end up listening to the audiobook at some point so that I can hear it in her voice.

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Drank a lot of tea at the end of 2016 when I lost my voice.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. My aunt recommended this to me probably 3 years ago but I never got around to reading it. It was interesting- I’m 100% an introvert so I appreciated the praise for our style of learning and interacting with others, but I found it to be a little too anti-extrovert. I also don’t recommend listening to it because it’s pretty long and can get a little dry.

High Dive by Jonathan Lee. This is based on real events in Northern Ireland in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of England. I love the premise of it, but it’s literally 95% character development and the “big event” happens in the last 10 minutes of the book. So it had promise but I didn’t love it.

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My worlds collide.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I feel like The Skimm reads have been failing me lately! I used to love everything they recommended but I couldn’t get into this. I gave it 20% before I called it quits. Kind of similar to High Dive– too much extraneous detail and not enough plot substance.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. I think I put this on hold because BevCooks said she was loving it, but it didn’t resonate with me. Basically it’s about a woman who gets married because she’s pregnant and then has some major issues in her marriage. So maybe if you’re married you would like it? But personally I thought it was a highly extended example of why people should read The Five Love Languages.

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Sibling love.

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens. This kept me company on a day trip to West Virginia- solid 7 hours driving in the rain. I loved it. If you liked Wild, I highly recommend. It’s about a group of people that get lost on a mountain (also on the Pacific Crest Trail that Reese Witherspoon- I mean Cheryl Strayed- hiked). I also recommend it as an audiobook. Partially because the narrator sounds a little bit like Michael C. Hall and there’s nothing about Dexter that I don’t love.

The Inseparables by Stuart Nadler. I read over half of this and just could not get into it. It’s wayyyy too slow and there was no real plot. It’s supposed to be about three generations of women and the individual struggles they’re going through but I was bored.

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Brain Maker by David Perlmutter. Sheila recommended this- it’s basically about how your gut health influences your overall health, including neurological conditions. It’s very technical and neither of us recommend it as an audiobook, but it is really interesting so I recommend at least checking out his website.