Thursday, September 29, 2011


Sometimes, I think a little thing is going to make a huge and amazing change in my life.  Like I'm sure if I had that basil lemongrass goat milk soap that smells so lovely, I would be a different person with a different life, the most notable difference being a large amount of independent wealth.

This past week, I had that special feeling about two new habits I decided to acquire.

First, instead of buying $2 for a cookie pack every other day (alright, fine, sometimes every day), I bought a box of the same cookies at the grocery store for only a dollar more.  I was proud of myself, thinking about how much more bang for the buck I was getting--I'm so thrifty! You see where this is going.  Despite my best-laid cookie box plans and the new life that was going to accompany it, I ate the box in two days.  So not only a financially questionable performance, but also calorifically horrendous.

Second, I figured I would stave off munchies during the day by loading up on apples.  The farmers' markets are in the throes of some great, tart apples, and I was going to take advantage of these relatively inexpensive, healthy treats.  You know they always say that fiber fills you up for longer, right? They do say that, and I've discovered that when they say that, they are lying.  Apples do not fill you up for that long, certainly not past the point where you've thrown away the core and walked back to your desk.  Yes, I know that it may just be the power of psychology bulldozing over scientific knowledge here--and by "power of psychology", I mean the type that wants a cupcake. An apple is really not the same as a cupcake.

So I've eaten through the box of cookies, gave up on the apples (at least for a couple of days), and have bought donuts instead.  A winning combination.

Anybody have better ideas for midday snacks?  I can tell this donut thing is not a good long-term solution.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Growing up in Maryland, blue crabs were a big thing. My family would go to the Maine Avenue Fish Market in DC (at least, that's what I think it was--dude, I was young, and just along for the ride) and visit the floating barge stalls, and buy at least a bushel of crabs.  I loved those cantankerous critters and their fresh seawater smell.  At home, my mom would boil a massive pot of crabs with plenty of Old Bay seasoning, and cook some corn on the side to boot.  We'd cover every square inch of the kitchen table with newspapers, set garbage bags at almost every seat, set out a roll of paper towels (to act as napkins), and various crab destruction tools (meat mallet, hammer, nutcracker--you name it).  When the crabs were done, they were brought to the table, nooks and crannies filled with that delicious Old Bay.

If you've eaten a blue crab, you know it's not exactly an easy feat. You have to work at it. There are multiple components, things to discard and things to eat, elusive bits of meat to pry at, methods to learn in order to crack the hard legs but not to shatter them.  You will get microscopic cuts on your hands from those pesky shells, into which the chili from the Old Bay will enter, which will make you feel very spicy.  You will work hard to clean out crab and Old Bay from under your fingernails, yet your fingertips will still carry the scent for at least a day.  

It is, for those who love the process, a ritual.  It is, for those not so into it, a pain in the ass.  It is a ritual for me, one that I love, and that I hope to enjoy again much more often now that I am back in the DC metro area.

All that being said, there is an easier, fancier way to enjoy these AWESOMELY DELICIOUS crabs. Crab cakes!  I made these last month, but with all the limbo purgatory nonsense going on in my life, I neglected to blog about them.

These are adapted from Cook's Illustrated.  

1 pound fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove cartilage or shell
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herb, such as cilantro, dill, basil, or parsley, or 2 tsp dried herbs (which is what I used because I didn't have fresh on hand--I understand that fresh would have been better oh would you leave me alone)
1 ½ teaspoons Old Bay seasoning 
2 to 4 tablespoons panko or plain dry bread crumbs 
¼ cup mayonnaise

2 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and ground pepper (use white ground pepper if you have it) 

1 large egg
¼ cup all-purpose flour or cornmeal
¼ cup vegetable oil 

Serves 4 to 8 (crab is pretty rich, so I can't be exact here, not that I ever am)

I used Phillips brand jumbo lump crab meat, pasteurized and sealed.  It was surprisingly delicious (I had strong suspicions beforehand).

Gently combine the the crab meat, herbs, Old Bay, 2 tablespoons bread crumbs, mustard and mayonnaise in a medium bowl.  You want to try and keep the lumps of crab as intact as possible. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Beat egg in a separate bowl, then gently fold into crab mixture. Gently, please.

Hehe that's not appetizing.

If the mixture is a bit wet and you can't imagine for the life of you how you'd be able to form it into cakes, then add a bit more bread crumbs or panko.  

Divide the mixture into equal parts and form them into patties about 1 1/2 inches high.  How big the patties are (the diameter) is up to you.  The original recipe called for dividing the mixture into 4 portions. I started down that road and got the feeling that I was making a crabcake the size of a birthday cake, and scaled back significantly.  I made 8 patties from this recipe--I found this led to patties small enough that they were easy to handle.  

Place the cakes on a a baking sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours.  

When you are ready to cook the crabbie cakes, put the flour (or cornmeal) on a plate or other shallow dish.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking--a nonstick skillet would be awesome here. While the oil is heating, lightly dredge the crab cakes in the flour/cornmeal (dredge only as many as can fit in the skillet--you can wait to do the others for the next batch).  

Place the dredged crab cakes in the skillet, and fry until outsides are crisp and golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.  

Serve with a wedge of lemon and whatever else it is that you decided to toss on the plate that night.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Oh, Never Mind

About a year ago, when I finally decided that wearing some makeup on regular basis was a good idea for a 34-year old that looks like an 18-year old, I bought the basics.  Concealer, powder foundation, blush, lipstick, eyebrow pencil, eyeshadow, tools, and...mascara.  One of these might have been a waste of money.

Lemme tell you something about my eyelashes. They are short. They are thin. And they stick straight down onto my oily skin.  So what's a girl to do? Well, if you're like me, you'll spend money on a few expensive mascaras and an eyelash curler only to come to the realization that higher beings just did not mean for you to wear mascara.

I started with this:

It seemed fine on application--I mean, I was 34 and buying mascara for the first time, so really, what did I know.  By the end of the day (or, to be honest, by the end of a few hours), I would have raccoon eyes.  Ironically, the waterproof portion of the mascara would kick in at that point (a little late to the game, aren't ya?) and I'd have a helluva time trying to shmear the hypnotic undereye circles from my face.

After looking for help on the internet, I decided to buy an eyelash curler.  This would solve all my problems, and I would have big batty lash eyes.

No, no, that's not how this story ends.  No matter how I used this, the raccoon eyes would still appear.  Also, a note about me and this curler. I knew I was doing something wrong when I could feel pain, much like someone was tweezing out my eyelashes one by one, when I was using the curler.  The problem was that I didn't know quite how to fix the issue. I then devised an acrobatic method in order for this curler to have effect, but it is my belief that yet again, the shortness of my eyelashes were foiling me, as there just isn't much to work with. I mean, in order to get this to work, I practically had to surgically embed the curler at least 1-inch deep into my face.

So then I thought, Lancome mascara, this is your fault.  I will switch loyalties.  And I bought this:

I think when they sold me the box, they snickered and scratched out the "No" in "No Smudge".  Needless to say, this didn't work either. But I kept at it.  I thought I needed to curl my eyelashes more.  At a certain point I was so agitated that my curling efforts left my lashes going straight out of my face and then taking a sharp 90 degree turn up towards the sky. Not exactly a natural look. 

In the end I gave up, not even finishing the tube of mascara.  And I went mascara-less for a few months.  This was a good time in my life. Then for some reason I got the urge again, seeing that unused rose gold eyelash curler mocking me in the morning, to try another mascara.

So I bought this:

I used this for exactly 1 day.  When I saw the telltale raccoon rings, I knew it was a no-go. I'm trying to think of how not to let the almost full tube of mascara not go to waste. I considered becoming the world's premier mascara artist, where I brush the mascara freestyle against a canvas and sell it for 40 million bucks.

I don't think my mascara foibles speak so much as to the quality of these mascaras (because you will see tons of reviews loving them), but more about the quality of my eyelashes.  As in, not high. Maybe I'm just not meant to be a mascara-wearing lady.  It is a sobering thought to categorize oneself in an exclusionary manner, but I suppose we all must accept truths about ourselves in order to function and not rip the living daylights off our delicate undereye epidermis in efforts to deal with raccoon eyes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gimme My TV

Wow, enough time has passed since I last blogged that I couldn't remember how to create a new post in blogger. It wasn't instinctive, the way it used to be. Soooo looong agooo....

I've been laying low since spring because:
(1) I moved to the DC metro area;
(2) No really, it was just me, not Kevin;
(3) I'm not creative enough to blog about anything that didn't involve me blurting out that I had moved; and
(4) I couldn't blog about moving because of work issues (i.e. Kevin looking for a job).

So there you have it. Oh, there were other reasons, like that I was living in temporary quarters (thanks mom and dad!) and wasn't cooking (thanks mom and dad!).  Seems like I'm not the only making a big transition around here--in the meantime, you people got pregnant and made big moves of your own!

But now I'm back. To let you know. That I can really break it down.

Who remembers that? Who knows where that's from? Here's a hint: the next line, apropos, is Do you LOOOOVE me?

Caveat: when I said I'm "back", I mean sans camera. Which leads me to:

Mina electronics update #1: I am now one of those people who has had her camera fritz out. Now, I suppose that sort of thing will happen when you get a camera, get lazy about buying a case for it, blog for over 1 1/2 years with it, don't bother to wash your hands before taking pictures of your cooking with it, take it to Bali, London, Alaska, the Ukraine (that was Kevin), and every place in between, but it was still a blow.

We are going to get another point and shoot. I've decided against the DSLR.  It's just too much camera for my addled brain. I need something simple. Something that still has access to manual settings, ones that I don't really understand, but exist nonethelss.

Mina electronics update #2: this update assumes that you know a predicate, which is that Kevin and I both now have jobs in DC and have moved into an apartment. Wheee! Moving on. We didn't have cable the first week.  I'd love to say that we realized the benefits of living a TV-free life and that it made us appreciate each other more and we started crafting together and scripting puppet shows, but that didn't happen. We missed our TV. I mean, we survived fine and in certain ways it was nice, but I think it was tolerable because we knew the deprivation was temporary and we compensated by watching DVDs.

So we have been busy unpacking, buying furniture, buying a car, exploring our new town, unpacking, making plans to explore the area, and unpacking.  I hope to share some of these new adventures with you and to get back on the cooking wagon!

Oh, and Halloween is coming up. You know I love Halloween. So so much. I'm so excited for all.

And in case you were wondering, the pugs are as they always are--lazy and adorable.