Hearty granola muffins (my first and last granola recipe)

I respect people who eat healthy. I really do. We just don’t subscribe to the same existential philosophy.

After looking death in the eye one too many times, I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to food, sex, and travel, you can’t pull your punches. Life is too short not to take a bite out of that brownie that you crave every day on your way to work. It’s too short not to go bungee jumping or ostrich racing or to try the local food trucks in your area.

Right now, I’m overweight because of the medications I am on. Up until I was put on these medications, I always ate what I wanted and maintained a healthy weight using portion control. If you love butter, eat butter. Just don’t eat a stick of butter in one meal.

So, with that introduction, I’m going to say this. You’re not going to see a lot of healthy eating recipes on my blog. This blog isn’t here to teach you how to count calories. When I post recipes on this blog, I post them because they’re the kind of food that I would give to the people I love on a special occasion. It’s love food. 

That said, today I have a granola muffin recipe that is going to blow your mind. It is totally healthy, chock-full of protein, and tastes amazing. One muffin is filling enough to carry you from breakfast to lunch. It also not too sweet, for those of you out there who hate muffins that taste like cupcakes.

I was inspired by, what I think is the best granola, nay, best cereal in the entire world! It’s Trader Joe’s Organic Granny’s Apple Granola Cereal. You can get it in any Trader Joe’s. I’ve been eating this stuff since I first left college and got my own place and needed a cheap source of protein. It’s filled with nuts, dried apples, raisins, plus all the typical granola stuff. It’s sweet and tart and delicious. It looks like this:

I've tried many cereals and none compare

I’ve tried many cereals and none compare

I was munching on it today and I had the crazy idea that I needed to bake with it. Just the thought of having my favorite cereal baked into a little package that I could take on-the-go made me giddy.

When I get excited about anything, I must try it. It is just the way I am. So, I set out to find a simple way to integrate my favorite granola into a baking recipe. I decided to go with muffins and I settled on this recipe. What I like about the recipe is that the ratio of granola to everything else is very high. I wanted my granola to be the star. The first thing the recipe says is this:

“When you mix together the dry ingredients for these muffins you might think the recipe is a mistake. There is more granola than flour and it looks like the whole mixture might not hold together.

Trust me this is right.”

So I trusted the recipe and mixed all the dry ingredients together.

1 1/2 cups granola
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

What I got was a bowl full of granola that looked like it was dusted with flour:

Say wha?

Say wha?

Interesting.

Then I moved on and mixed the wet ingredients together in another bowl. The original recipe reads as follows:

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

I decided to change it up a bit. All I had in the refrigerator was skim milk and nonfat yogurt, so I knew I would need a little bit more oil. I softened 2 tablespoons of butter and added it. This is because the recipe calls for whole milk and whole fat yogurt so it probably needs some oil or fat.

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I mixed together the wet and dry ingredients until the consistency looked like wet oatmeal of some sort.

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Then, I spooned the batter out into a muffin pan with paper cups in it. You can actually use a muffin pan without the paper cups, just make sure you butter or grease the pan before you spoon in the batter. This recipe is not a high yield recipe. The original recipe only yielded 10 muffins. I was only able to get 8 muffins from my batter. Also, make sure you fill up the cups fairly high. Because there is so much granola weighing down the batter, the muffins won’t “puff” as much (don’t worry, they’ll still be nice and light, though).

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Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-22 minutes until a tester comes out clean. They should look like this (just slightly golden on top):

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At any point in the baking, feel free to throw 1/2 cup of your favorite berries or fruit in. Just make sure they’re washed and well drained. Blueberries would work great. I didn’t do that for mine because my granola already has apple and raisin in it.

Ta da!

Ta da!

And there you have it! The perfect, not-too-sweet, fairly healthy, chock-full-of-protein breakfast muffin that should keep you until lunch…and if it doesn’t, you don’t have to feel guilty about having seconds!

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It’s a boy!

So much cuteness I can barely contain myself!

So much cuteness I can barely contain myself!

So sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. We’ve had quite a whirlwind of news around here.

About 5 months ago Stefan and I decided we wanted to add a new member to our little family. A puppy to be exact. After a lot of research on breeds, we decided to go with a rare breed from the Netherlands called a “Drentsche Patrijshond”. We liked the “Drent” for several reasons. First, the dog is large enough to train as Daphne’s successor service dog (Daphne is 24″ at the shoulder and was about 68 lbs when I got her, which is really the minimum size I need for the mobility work she does). Second, the breed is known for it’s versatile temperament. It’s a great field dog, a hard worker, smart and trainable. On the other hand, it’s a spectacular family dog. It was originally kept by the poorer classes in the Netherlands as an all-around dog that could hunt with the men and then come home and spend time with the women and children. As long as a Drent gets a moderate amount of exercise each day, it can come inside and be a large, lovable, over-sized lap dog.

Finally, the Drent isn’t overbred. I was worried about getting another lab because it’s just so easy to think you are working with a good breeder and then later down the line find out that the breeder has been breeding for quantity, not quality. On the other hand, although the Drent is a rare breed around the world, it has quite the following in the Netherlands and so the bloodlines aren’t too limited. The dogs aren’t so rare that they’re inbred.

We found a very responsible breeder through our regional breed club. Our breeder, Rainshadow Drents, is out of Sequim, WA. Before deciding to commit to this breeder we did a few key things:

  • We checked out the parents: Our dam is named Brookelyn v.’t Wijdseland NA I and our Sire is Esp. CH Joksan Nabar the Gloucester a.k.a. “Booker”.
    • Both parents checked out normally when we looked up their health profiles on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website. All good breeders will register their dogs on a website like this (or alternatively, PennHip).
    • Booker has been shown abroad (The American Kennel Club does not recognize this breed in conformation showing) and both parents are good hunters.
    • They are both free of any glaring temperament issues.
    • Perhaps, most importantly, the parents aren’t related. It may surprise you that we actually had to look that up, but you’d be surprised how often breeders breed dogs that are close blood-relatives. Brookelyn and Booker do have a grandparent and a great-grandparent in common, but this is called line breeding and it’s common in the rarer breeds. It’s fine when not done excessively. Correction: I went and looked back at the pedigrees and the parents don’t technically share a grandparent and a great-grandparent. One of my sire’s grandparents is one of my dam’s great-grandparents and one of my sire’s great-grandparents is one of my dam’s great-great grandparents…so, it’s not even as close as I originally posted.
  • We talked to the breeder and her family: After we filled out the puppy application, we interviewed with the breeder. What we found was that the breeder was much more concerned about the welfare of her puppies than about making money. This is important. Breeding dogs is not about making a quick buck. Most good breeders don’t even break even after all is said and done. Good breeders breed for the joy of breeding and to improve on the overall health and livelihood of their breed. If your breeder has any other motivations, they’re probably not doing it right.
  • We read and re-read our puppy contract: A good breeder will want you to sign a puppy contract. Generally, this contract will have something about payment, but that’s not what the puppy contract is about. The contract outlines the responsibilities of the buyer and the seller. An example of a buyer’s responsibility may be: “the buyer may not give the dog away or sell the dog without express consent of the seller”. An example of a seller’s responsibility may be: “The seller will give a full refund if the puppy gets sick within a week of purchase.” Some clauses in a puppy contract can definitely be red flags. If you see any of these clauses in your contract, you may want to consider another breeder:
    •  A clause stating that you cannot criticize the breeder: I have actually heard of puppy contracts where the breeder enjoins the buyer from criticizing the breeder in writing (such as on an online forum, in a letter, or to the Better Business Bureau). Doing so will void all warrantees in the contract. This is dangerous because it means the breeder has quite a lot to hide.
    • A clause stating that you must feed your dog a specific brand of food: Sometimes breeders create their own food brand or get “kick backs” every time one of their buyers also buys a bag of food. When this happens, they might also include a clause in their contract that requires you to use their brand of dog food. Beware. A dog will have different nutritional requirements throughout her lifetime and you want to have the flexibility to change the food as the dog changes. Not to mention, your budget may change throughout the dog’s life and you might have to downgrade her food for awhile. None of this should be the breeder’s business.
    • An arbitration clause: So few people know how disastrous an arbitration clause can be. Almost every form contract we agree to these days has an arbitration clause (think: software agreements, car title transfers, loan agreements, credit card agreements, etc.). When you sign a contract with an arbitration agreement it means that you are agreeing that, if a lawsuit arises, you will go to arbitration before you go to court. What it also usually means is that the party who wrote the contract will choose the arbitrator. You essentially sign away your right to justice.
  • We got references: After we did all of the above, we asked the breeder for references from people who took home puppies from her last litter. I then proceeded to email a handful of the references. The people were ecstatic to talk to me, they were all very happy with their dogs and amazed with how well the breeder had matched them with their puppies. So far, none of the puppies had any glaring health or temperament issues and one of them was even working as a hunting dog and doing fantastically.
  • We notified the neighbors: This is important because we live in close quarters. Our neighbors and housing department were very happy for us!

Once we committed to the breeder, we waited for the call, and on Friday night we got it! Brookelyn had given birth to 3 boys and 5 girls. All were healthy, eating regularly, and all were similar weights (no runts). It had been an easier birth than her first litter and none of the pups were in distress.

Brookelyn doesn't look like she thought it was very easy, though

Brookelyn doesn’t look like she thought it was very easy, though

The breeder provided us with photos of the three boys. That’s all the information we’re going to get as far as which puppy is going to be ours until they’re 7 weeks old. We’re actually not going to be allowed to pick our own puppy. We’re going to be given a puppy that is suitable for our needs and our lifestyle after a temperament test is given to all 3 males when they are 7 weeks old. I know we’re putting a lot of faith in having the breeder pick for us, but I do trust that she will make a good decision.This is actually the way most responsible breeders function. Breeders know that they know the puppies better than a buyer ever could, since they’ve raised the puppies from birth. They do their best to match the puppies personalities to the lifestyles of the families that have applied.

So, since we don’t know which of the 3 males we’ll end up with, I’m going to post weekly individual pictures of all three until we know. The puppies are identified by colored ribbons, and they’ll grow into colored collars. The males have yellow, blue, and black ribbons, so I will refer to them as the Yellow, Blue, and Black boys.

Here’s Yellow Boy with a half mustache:

yellow boy week 1a

yellow boy week 1b

Here’s Blue Boy who is spotted like a dairy cow:

blue boy week 1a

blue boy week 1b

And here’s Black Boy with a circle on his butt:

black boy week 1a

black boy week 1b

Keep calm it’s just a service dog

KEEP CALM

Seriously, after all I’ve been through in the past 2 and a half years since I got my service dog, I have considered making this into a t-shirt. While it should be obvious that a person entering a place of business with a well-behaved, often fully-vested or harnessed, dog at their side has a right to be there with their animal, that isn’t always the case.

On March 15th, 2011 the US Department of Justice revised it’s definition of a service animal. According to the DOJ, under Title II (state and local government facilities) and Title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) a service animal is:

  • A domesticated dog (canis familiaris) and in rare instances miniature horse
  • That is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.

A service dog is allowed to go:

  • State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.

A service dog may be excluded from:

  • Residential homes
  • Places of worship
  • Some private clubs

This is not known to many but it should be. It is illegal for any public entity to require paperwork from a disabled person with a service dog. That means, there’s no such thing as a “certified” service dog. Sure, there are certifications out there, but they’re mostly private clubs with their own standards of training (Delta society, Assistance Dogs International) or they’re scam certification sights. It is also illegal for any public entity to require that a service dog be vested, harnessed, or otherwise marked as a service dog. In fact, a public entity can only ask two questions to the service dog handler in order to ascertain whether the dog is a service dog:

  • is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  • what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

After those two questions are answered to the satisfaction of the public entity, the handler must be allowed to continue on his or her way. These rules are to keep random public entities from inquiring about private medical information.

I have only had one physical altercation in my few years of working with Daphne. I was physically removed from The Porto Rico Importing Company in New York, NY. One of the employees there physically removed me and my dog even though I insisted that it was my civil right that I be allowed to shop in peace. Needless to say, I never went back. I considered filing a complaint with the city, but I didn’t have the time or the energy to do it.

A friend of mine, however, had a very harrowing experience in a hospital just yesterday. My friend Lindsay (name changed), works an American Pit Bull Terrier as her service dog. Now, while there is a lot of controversy surrounding the breed, I can personally attest that this dog is impeccably trained, calm in public, and a fantastic, hard worker. Lindsay’s nephew had fallen very ill and she had been sitting in the PICU for six hours supporting her sister and her sister’s sick child. Her service dog was an angel the whole time. He stayed on his mat in the corner and his presence by the child’s bedside seemed to keep the boy calm and happy. The nurses in the PICU all commented on how lovely her dog was and what a joy it was to have the dog there to comfort the sick child.

Time came and Lindsay and her sister got hungry so she, her sister and her service dog made their way down to the hospital’s cafeteria. They had a peaceful meal and made their way back to the elevators and that’s when a hospital administrator threw herself in front of the elevator door, demanding the dog’s “certification and ID”.

Lindsay calmly explained that there was no such thing as “certification and ID” for service dogs and she went to step on the elevator but the woman refused to budge, exclaiming that if Lindsay could not produce her dog’s papers, she would have to leave the hospital. Lindsay then gave the woman a copy of the ADA but the woman said that it was “hospital policy” that the dog should have papers.

The ADA is a civil rights law. Much like the Civil Rights Laws that granted people of color equal rights in the 1960s to have free use of any public establishment, the ADA grants disabled people the rights to have free use of any public establishment they please as long as it is reasonable. Thus, just like a hospital can’t have a “policy” that prohibits people of color from using their facilities, public establishments can’t have “policies” that preempt the rights of disabled people from equal use of their facilities, service dog or not.

Lindsay’s sister suggested they just take the stairs, but as they headed towards the stairwell, they were intercepted by hospital security. The security guards claimed that if the dog didn’t have papers, he had to go because he had “scared” a nurse simply by looking at her. Another DOJ regulation states that fear of dogs or allergies is not a reason to remove a legitimate service animal and both the disabled person and the fearful or allergic person must be accommodated. The only way a service animal can legitimately be removed by a facility is if the dog is causing a disturbance like toileting in a public place or barking incessantly. Lindsay’s dog had done none of these things.

Long story short, Lindsay was escorted out of the hospital by two formidable male security guards and was not allowed to go back inside to retrieve her medication which she had left with her purse in the PICU. She was literally kicked to the curb, in a torrential downpour, across the hospital from her car. Since Lindsay was disabled, there was no way for her to walk that far to her car without help, but the hospital security threatened to call the police if she entered the building again. Her sister was forced to leave her sick child in the PICU to help Lindsay find her way to her car.

This sort of abuse happens every day. Service dog handlers are one of the few openly oppressed minorities left in America and, despite the existence of Federal laws that protect our rights, we often don’t have the money to hire attorneys to fight the abuse.

So, the next time you see this abuse occurring, whether you are a service dog handler, a friend of a handler, or a bystander who is now educated because you have read this post, please stand up for the rights of this vulnerable minority. The disabled community asks very little from the general public. Only that we be treated with dignity and given the most basic accommodations.

Think about it.

ETA: Lindsay, or rather, my friend Amanda Figueroa, took this story public. The resulting news story went viral in the service dog community. Not only did the state attorney Willie Meggs refuse to prosecute the hospital on the misdemeanor of wrongfully removing her and her service dog, his comments were ignorant, dismissive, and offensive. Here’s the link:

http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/Service-Animal-Thrown-Out-Of-Hospital-242494921.html

Puffy Poffertjes

Stefan came back Saturday from his annual trip home to the Netherlands. He brought me a special surprise. A poffertjes pan!

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Poffertjes are a traditional dutch foodstuff. They’re a lot like American silver dollar pancakes. In the Netherlands, Poffertjes aren’t really eaten as a breakfast food. They’re served as brunch or lunch or as a dessert. Since maple syrup isn’t indigenous to Europe, poffertjes aren’t traditionally eaten with syrup either. They’re served with powdered sugar, butter, and sometimes lemon.

The poffertjes pan looks like this:

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It generally comes in two designs: cast iron and non-stick. Stefan got me the non-stick type, which I was really thankful for because it would have been a bitch to stick pieces of butter into each indentation before pouring the batter. Also, the cast iron is probably really heavy and unwieldy. Now, the poffertjes pan is not to be confused with an evelskiver pan which looks like this:

Aebelskivers are Scandinavian fried dough balls. The aebelskiver pan has much deeper indentations so you can actually fry the dough in each individual indent. An aebelskiver is quite delicious and it comes out almost spherical and tastes like a doughnut (here’s a recipe). However, if you want pancake-like poffertjes and you use an aebelskiver pan, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

As this traditional recipe for poffertjes shows, they’re not a classic pancake mix, either. The batter is made with yeast instead of baking powder and uses buckwheat flour instead of refined, all-purpose flour. However, being that I am a lazy American chefette, I decided that for my first foray into the world of poffertjes, I would use the traditional American Aunt Jemima pancake mix (thank goodness my Dutch fiance had all ready gone to work because if he had tasted this abomination of his cultural icon, his head may have exploded).

There really wasn’t much to it. I just waited until the pan got hot, gently spooned the pancake mix into the indents on the pan, and used a small espresso spoon to flip each one individually once the edges were cooked:

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Once they were on the plate, I buttered them and added powdered sugar to taste (which for my tastes was A LOT):

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My parents and I enjoyed a delicious Dutch delight!

Oh, and if you’re interested in making your own poffertjes, you can actually try making them on a skillet. However, I would recommend getting your own pan. You can buy them from Amazon.

Slammin’ Stuffing Roll-Ups

I figured it’s high time I learned how to cook. I mean, I already bake, my mother was a professional cook for a good portion of her adult life, I already spend way too much of my time watching competitive cooking shows on the Food Network, and seeing as I am disabled and don’t have a job right now, I have a lot of time on my hands to learn this valuable life skill. So, when my mother came home from work and wanted to cook a fairly complicated dinner, I decided that I would look over her shoulder, take pictures, and pester her with way too many questions. I would like to think that I helped, but I think I slowed her up more than anything else.

So my mom had a nice packet of fresh, refrigerated chicken breasts (boneless) and a box of Stove Top Stuffing. My mom decided to make this meal, which she had first made when a friend had a famous writer coming over to her house and couldn’t afford to hire a caterer. I would have named this dish something witty having to do with writing, but seeing as how I got unbridled usage of a meat tenderizer during the making of this meal, I couldn’t name it anything else but “slammin'”!

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So there are really 3 components to this dish that all end up coming together and going into the oven in the end.

  • The stuffing: you can really choose to make this from scratch (or from any recipe, really), but my mother likes Stove Top because it’s so easy, it’s tasty and delicious, and, did I mention that it’s easy?
  • The chicken: You’re going to need boneless chicken breasts that are fresh or fully thawed. The chicken gets pounded, salted, dredged, pinned together, browned, and baked. Can you keep up with the steps? I’ll try to make it easy as possible.
  • The sauce: a delightful and easy to make sauce. A welcome relief from the intricate chicken dance

Ingredients:

  • 3 Large boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Stuffing. Stove Top or otherwise. If you use Stove Top, you’ll need: 1 packet of Stove Top Stuffing, 1-1/2 cups water and 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil (in addition to what you use for the stuffing)
  • 1 teaspoon of Emeril Essence (or your preferred spice mix)
  • Cayenne Pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1-1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ok, your next step is to make the stuffing. Since we decided to go for Stove Top and the directions are really very self-explanatory.

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Then, take each chicken breast and butcher them into single pieces slightly smaller than the size of your palm. Note: Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw chicken.

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Place a piece of saran wrap under the chicken and another piece over the chicken. Then proceed to use the flat side of the meat tenderizer to pound the chicken until it is roughly twice the size or a quarter of an inch thick. Try not to mash or break it.

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They call me the tenderizer!

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What’s wrong there, baby, you’re looking a little flat.

As you finish flattening each piece of chicken, lightly sprinkle them with salt and put them aside. If you stack them on top of each other, make sure you separate them with saran wrap so they don’t stick to each other.

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When you are done pounding the chicken breasts, it’s time to stuff them. Have your stuffing handy as well as some wooden toothpicks. Note: these toothpicks stay in the breasts until they are done cooking. Make sure to remove them. It is probably a good idea to alert your guests that there might be toothpicks as well, just to be safe.

Spread flour over your work area so the meat doesn’t stick to your surface. Then, take a piece of chicken breast, spoon some stuffing into the middle, roll-up the chicken breast, and secure it closed with a toothpick.

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The next thing my mom does is dredge the roll-ups (roll them in a flour mixture) and brown them in oil before baking them. Theoretically, you could just bake them at this point, but dredging and browning them gives them a nice firm, light crust. If you skip these steps, they’re going to have the consistency of boiled chicken and, under the heavy sauce that this recipe calls for, they’re just going to taste soggy.

The next step is to dredge the roll-ups. Mix together the dredge mixture in a shallow bowl.

Dredge Mixture:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Emeril Essence or your preferred spice mixture

Gently roll each of the roll-ups in the dredge mixture so the outside is covered with the mixture.

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Next, lightly brown the outside of the roll-ups. In a large, shallow pan, pour just enough vegetable oil for it to just barely cover the bottom. Make sure you are not frying the roll-ups (ie. they are not swimming in hot oil). Wait for the oil to get hot and gently put your roll-ups into the pan, spacing them at least 1″ apart.

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Before

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After

Don’t worry about cooking the chicken all the way through, you’re going to finish off the chicken in the oven. What you want here is a nice golden color. Once you see gold, take the chicken out of the pan, wipe off the excess oil on a paper towel, and place the roll-up in a baking dish. Do this for all your roll ups. Add any extra stuffing to the baking dish if you would like. You can also add raw spinach or green beans to the baking dish at this time.

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Before you put the chicken in the oven, it’s time to make the sauce. The sauce has 4 ingredients.

Chicken White-Wine Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 can Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 can Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1-1/4 cup milk (you can use skim milk if you want)
  • 1/4 cup white drinking wine

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My mother never uses cooking wine. She thinks it’s a waste of money. When my mom uses wine in her cooking, she’ll use a lower-end drinking wine. It has always worked for her.

Add both soups and the milk to a sauce pan. Wisk and put over a medium flame until it begins to simmer. Lower the heat and add the wine. Leave on the lower heat for a minute or two longer. Make sure the sauce is a consistent, creamy texture before taking it off the flame.

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Gently pour the sauce over the chicken in your baking dish.

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Cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until the chicken is fully cooked. Here’s what it looks like when it comes out of the oven:

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It makes a very pretty plate, especially if you serve it with some of the extra stuffing and something green on the side.

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So that’s my first cooked-and-blogged dinner. Bon Appetit!

Polar vortex got you down? Make a 3 minute brownie in a mug!

North America is in the deep freeze this week. Even places like Georgia and North Carolina are seeing temperatures below 10 degrees farenheit. Here in New Jersey it was no exception.

I went outside to throw a frisbee for Daphne this morning and my face chapped after 10 minutes. I didn’t think that 6 degrees was that cold, but we have a -16 degree windchill. So, being that most of North America is closed due to cold, I decided to hunker down and stay inside.

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Daphne was not impressed.

Daphne meme walk

I wanted to get something done, and I was craving some creative baking, but I didn’t have much in the house and I didn’t have the energy to make a mess and clean it up. That’s when I found a great recipe on this blog for a 3 minute brownie in a mug! Better yet, I didn’t even need to preheat my oven, worry about mixers, or even crack an egg. I had to try this one.

You only need 6 ingredients…and you don’t need much of each:

  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar*
  • 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of oil**
  • 3 tablespoons of water

*I found that 1/4 cup of sugar isn’t quite enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, but it is good for someone who likes their chocolate dark and slightly bitter or if you’re going to add ice cream. Otherwise, use 1/3 of a cup.

**The original recipe called for olive oil, but I find that vegetable oil is best in baked goods (unless you’re making something that is olive oil flavored). Olive oil has a distinctive flavor that can be odd and distracting unless you are deliberately using it in your flavor pallet.

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Add all dry ingredients to the mug (you will be able to reuse this mug):

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Quickly mix the dry ingredients. Then add oil and water and mix until you get a consistent batter:

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Put in microwave and cook on high for only 1 minute and 40 seconds!

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Be careful because it will be hot when you take it out of the microwave. Let it sit and cool for 5 to 7 minutes.

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After it’s cool, enjoy a nice, warm, gooey brownie out of a mug! Add ice cream or whipped cream to taste!

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Keep warm everyone!

EDIT:

My friend Melinda tried this recipe with a pinch of cinnamon and a bit of vanilla extract and said it came out great!

One problem we both ran into, though, was that if you use 1/3 cup of sugar instead of 1/4 cup, the sugar doesn’t melt entirely and you end up with a bit of sugar “crunch” in your brownie. You may want to try keeping the sugar content closer to 1/4 of a cup and using sweetened cocoa instead if you want to avoid the dreaded “crunch”. Also, the larger the mug that you use, the more surface area you’ll have to bake the brownie and more of the sugar will melt. Try using an extra large mug if you want to use more sugar.

Jellybean-fueled Knitting

This is a little-known fact on this blog, but I happen to be a pretty good knitter. I’ve been taking lessons since I was in high school from an excellent teacher who has been featured in Vogue Knitting.

However, one thing I’ve never learned how to do was knit on a loom. So, I was so happy when I came downstairs Christmas morning and found a whole pile of knitting looms, hooks, and needles as well as two mason jars full of jelly beans.

looms

With help from a friend through the Facebook, I found a pattern on youtube that was beautiful in its simplicity and also helped me learn the basics of loom knitting. It’s a slouchy beanie hat:

For this project I used just over one skein of Lion Brand Hometown USA yarn in classic blue. This yarn is 100% acrylic (I get allergies from wool sometimes) and is really affordable. You can buy it at AC MooreMichael’s, or online.

This pattern calls for 2 knits in between the yarn over and the purl, but I just did one knit. That makes the holes bigger, it made it more slouchy, and I figured it was okay because I was working with really chunky yarn and my 29.5″ loom had 41 pegs. If you’re using medium yarn and/or your loom has less than 40 pegs, I would keep that extra knit in there.

I got started right away. When sugar is combined with knitting, there is almost nothing stopping me. I have to admit though, I am a bit visually impaired, which makes knitting very difficult. In 2009, I was diagnosed with a cornea disorder called Keratoconus or “KC”. This basically means that the proteins in my cornea aren’t shaped right and my cornea is shaped like a cone. What this does is it allows too much light into the eye, causing debilitating migraines and distortion that can’t be corrected with glasses.

KC is a progressive disorder, but there is a treatment that can stop the progression called corneal cross-linking. It can also be cured with a live donor transplant. The effects of KC can also be tempered with hard contacts. I have already had the cross-linking done. It was an extremely painful process. The resources will tell you it’s not, but, it is. The progression of my disorder has stopped, but I still have a moderately-advanced case (a 7 out of 10 on a scale from 1 (no KC) to 10 (transplant time)). I can’t wear the contacts because I have a complex-type migraine that the contacts actually exacerbate. My migraines cause me to have stroke-like symptoms, hence the need for a service dog.

So, anyway, that is why I rarely knit anymore. However, I could not resist the temptation to learn to loom knit, so, fueled up on jellybeans, I tried out the hat.

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Just started on the hat, halfway into the jellybeans

It has a nice swirly pattern

It has a nice swirly pattern

About halfway done with the hat

About halfway done with the hat

It was an incredibly quick project. It knitted out very neatly. One thing I liked about the loom was that you can easily double back the brim to make it nice and tight and not have to worry about ends or sewing or anything…and it was much easier to do on the loom. When I made a mistake, it was a little harder for me to go back and fix it, because I’m not as familiar with loom knitting. I actually had to borrow my mother’s eyes for awhile (in other words, she had to help me out…thanks mom!). But in the end, I think it turned out pretty nice. Here I am wearing it:

I am not the best model.

I am not the best model.

It’s got a nice pattern from the back:

photo 1 (2)

Also, I figure that since I have a gigantic head I wasn’t doing the hat justice. So, I let my cousin Jacquie, from the French branch of my family wear it beret-style. I think it looks lovely:

c'est si beau!

c’est si beau!

Why getting married in your 20s doesn’t suck

I’ve been reading a blogpost going around on my Facebook feed called “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23”. While I agree that young women should be thinking more about developing their lives and interests than getting married, I found the post to be, well, just insulting.

This is the most self-righteous, pretentious piece of crap I have ever read, and while I agree with the premise, while I was reading this garbage I was kind of rooting for the other side. This person is a moron of epic proportions.

A quote to wet your whistle: “Sure. Some days I wake up and stare at my ceiling thinking: ‘I’m single as fuck.’ But then I realize that [my married] friends are going to get knocked up and fat soon sssoooo in retrospect, who really is winning here?”

I can’t believe this has popped up on my feed more than 3 times.

http://wanderonwards.com/2013/12/30/23-things-to-do-instead-of-getting-engaged-before-youre-23/

This garbage has inspired other angry, more articulate responses like this one: http://kbeauregard.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/my-first-blog-the-result-of-a-close-minded-23-year-old/

So, as a law school drop out, I’m going to play devil’s advocate and argue the pro-marriage side, in order to contradict this piece of crap. I’m going to go down her list and…well…show how moronic this is because, as a soon-to-be bride in her 20s, I’m a little offended:

1. Get a passport. You can do this while married. You can also travel with your partner, which is super fun, I recommend it!

2. Find your “thing.” You can do this while married and unmarried and should do it over and over again for the rest of your life.

3. Make out with a stranger. If you are getting married, at any age, you are publicly stating that this is not your “thing” and you only want to make out with your husband.

4. Adopt a pet. You can do this while married and it’s actually more responsible to do so. More adults in the home means the animal gets more attention.

5. Start a band. You can do this while married.

6. Make a cake. Make a second cake. Have your cake and eat it too. You can do this while married…and you’ll have a husband to help you eat it. Someone loving your cooking/baking always makes it taste better.

7. Get a tattoo. It’s more permanent than a marriage. This is not true if you marry responsibly. Anyone who knows anything about sociology knows that the statistics do not make the individual. Your life does not have to follow the statistics. Also, you can get a tattoo while married. If you’re the kind to gravitate towards getting some ink, you should pick a spouse who’s okay with it.

8. Explore a new religion. You can do this while married. If you are the type to explore other religious persuasions, you should have a supportive spouse.

9. Start a small business. You can do this while married, and you’ll have someone to give you objective advice. This woman seems to miss the entire point of having a life partner. If you want to explore your spirituality, start a small business, or get some ink, your spouse should be supportive to a reasonable degree. Your spouse should also check your decisions to make sure you don’t make a permanent decision that you’ll regret. This is why we have life partners. So we have some reasonable oversight on the important stuff, but mostly support, support, support.

10. Cut your hair. You should be able to do this while married. Again, the last 4 items on this list lead me to believe that this woman thinks that all spouses are unflappable, unsupportive, jerkwads. I fear that in her case it’ll be a self-fulfilling prophesy. If she thinks life-partners act this way, she’ll accept treatment like this.

11. Date two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face. This is unhealthy, attention-seeking behavior and harmful for everyone involved. This woman needs to seriously consider therapy.

12. Build something with your hands. You can do this while married.

13. Accomplish a Pinterest project. You can (and should!) do this while married.

14. Join the Peace Corps. This is the one thing that has merit. If you’re the type to want to join the Peace Corps, you should not marry young.

15. Disappoint your parents. Why? Also, you can do this while married.

16. Watch GIRLS, over and over again. You can do this while married…with your spouse…it’ll be extra hilarious.

17. Eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting. You can do this while married…and still have sex afterwards!

18. Make strangers feel uncomfortable in public places. You can do this while married, and you can enlist a partner in crime. *shifty eyes*

19. Sign up for CrossFit. You can do this while married, and you’ll have your own personal cheerleader!

20. Hangout naked in front of a window. You can do this while married. Also, attention-seeking behavior. You have no other reason to do this. Seek therapy.

21. Write your feelings down in a blog. You can do this while married.

22. Be selfish. You can be a little selfish while married, it’s a little known fact. Having a life partner is a little like Christmas. You give and you get, but if you’re truly in love, you find more pleasure in the giving than the getting. Still, if you’re the type that LOVES to get and doesn’t really love to give all that much, abstain from marriage all together. It’s not for everyone.

23. Come with me to the Philippines for Chinese New Year. No.

DSC_0649

Traveling with your partner can be way more fulfilling than traveling alone.

Surf and Turf New Years

My family has had a tradition for a few years now that I have lovingly named “Surf and Turf New Years”. Every year on New Years Eve, my mother and her 3 sisters converge on our house, their cooking utensils in hand, and put together a multi-course meal, complete with lobster and caveman-sized steak.

Surf and Turf New Years started when my brother, cousins and I were in high school. My mother and her sisters used these delicacies to lure us into spending time with the family before we dashed off to our respective New Years Eve parties. I have to say, it worked like a charm. Here’s a picture of me back in high school playing with live lobsters before they went into the pot:

The lure of underage drinking in a suburban basement full of teenagers had nothing on this

The lure of underage drinking in a suburban basement full of teenagers had nothing on this

This years smorgasbord was no exception. It was an impressive way to set off the new year. I should start by saying that it was my mother’s hope to finally ditch the tradition since all the kids in the family have flown the nest (except for me, the boomerang child), but her sisters talked her into the whole fiasco for at least one more year. So, my Aunt brought over the live lobsters, which were promptly steamed:

PITA, eat your heart out!

PETA, eat your heart out!

Another aunt brought over 15 pounds of NY strip steaks which were promptly rubbed with Emeril’s Essence, pan seared, and finished in the oven:

Arteries don't fail me now!

Arteries don’t fail me now!

And as the relatives marched in, the sides came with them. Course #1: NY strip with fries from Five Guys, caramelized onions, and my mom’s amazing, addictive mushroom-red wine sauce:

photo 5

Everyone loves my mom’s sauce. It goes great on beef or pasta. Here’s the recipe for those of you who were wondering:

My Mom’s Amazing Addictive Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cup mushroom
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup of any good red drinking wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flour

Slice any type of mushroom and put in a pan with 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook until they soften and brown. Add wine and let it simmer for about 3 minutes. Add beef broth and salt and let simmer on a low flame for 5 minutes. In a separate small pan melt 3 tablespoons of butter and add flour and mix. This is called a roux. Cook the roux for 2 minutes on a low flame, constantly stirring. Add the roux to the simmering sauce and stir until it thickens. And you’re done!

Course #2: The lobster:

Here's looking at you, kid.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

My family doesn’t mess around with lobster. I was raised Jewish but my parents obviously don’t keep a kosher home. My grandparents, however, were strictly kosher. Because they were deprived of shellfish for their entire childhoods, my mother and her sisters all developed a deep love affair with any and all shellfish. In my house, the live lobsters come home, they’re dropped into the boiling, unsalted, filtered water and my mother almost intuitively knows when they’re ready. They always come out tender and delicious and there’s always plenty of melted butter to go around.

Needless to say, it was a great way to start 2014.

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A taste of life with a service dog

Life with a service dog is not all butterflies and gumdrops. You’ll probably read a lot about the struggles I have to endure daily to maintain my dog’s training levels and hygiene, about getting harassed by the public and thrown out of places where I have a right to be, but then, again, there is a warm fuzzy size.

Daphne and I have been working together for almost 2 and a half years now. She is my rock. Many mornings, she is the reason I get out of bed, and the reason I leave the house. I still maintain that if I did not have Daphne, I would not have Stefan because she allows me to take those baby steps into life that are necessary to maintain relationships. I probably wouldn’t have started dating again if I did not have her to support me.

I’m childless and I still live with my parents. Daphne is the closest thing I have to a child and she is all I own in this world. She is my everything. So, when I stumbled upon this song and it reminded me of her, I had to make a tribute video.

The video shows scenes from our life, shots from the past 2.5 years. In it, you will see Daphne supporting me in good times and in bad, in celebration and in illness. It’s true, she is always by my side. She catches every tear and hears every chuckle. She’s an extension of me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“She’s got a way about her/don’t know what it is/but I know that I can’t live without her…”