Jen & Em

We're sisters.

  • 25th January
    2014
  • 25

J&EBC Discussion: Flowers in the Attic

by Jen and Em

It’s time to discuss our December (/January) read: the V.C. Andrews classic Flowers in the Attic! We will start things off here, and then you are all welcome to chime in on Facebook.

Jen

I am the one who read this book before, back in the 80s; I want to say I was 15. I’m pretty sure I read it, and its four sequels, more than once. I guess I liked them? Reading it now, well, I was struck by many things. But why don’t we start first with the writing style. The language. It was RIDICULOUS.

Em

So strange. Did you notice that Cathy never said the word penis? It was always couched in euphemisms and I found it very annoying. I can understand a 15-year-old girl not feeling comfortable with saying that word but, considering she’s an adult reflecting on this time period AND she got quite familiar with it, you’d think she could said it. Penis. Penis. Penis! In addition to language, I think I had a problem with the voice of the book. So, it’s supposed to be written decades later, yet the way the narrator was talking it was so immediate. Does that make any sense?

Jen

I guess she was really vividly reliving it. And I did not notice the lack of the word “penis.” I was too distracted by the frequent use of words such as “Good golly day.”

Em

So dumb. Did kids in the ‘50s even say that?

Jen

I don’t really know but I’m going to go ahead and say no, they did not. I’m finding it tough to criticize the story because it’s so crazy, we readers can’t put ourselves into Cathy’s shoes, you know? What happens to those kids would NEVER HAPPEN to us, right? So how can we say, “I would have done this” or “I would have said that” or, you know, “I would certainly never have done THAT” because we can’t really, truly imagine, can we?

Em

Yes but that could be said for any book, right? I say go ahead and criticize.

It’s such a despicable story and unfortunately we can’t regard it as totally far-fetched anymore. The reasons behind locking the kids in the attic — inheriting extreme, obscene wealth — that is unlikely. But kids being abused in such a way is unlikely, yes, but not unheard of anymore.

That’s probably the biggest reason why I hated this book, is because it was such an awful thing to read about and it couldn’t be regarded, in my mind, as a fantasy I guess.

Jen

Yeah, true. But I can’t say I dislike the book. It’s certainly compelling in the “How much worse can it possibly get for these kids?” sense. But their story is just so awful.

Em

Yes, compelling in a weird way. I dreaded picking it up until I was about halfway through it. Then I found that I would pick it up, read it easily for 40 minutes or more (which most days is a long stretch for me to be uninterrupted … and awake) and the time would pass very quickly. But, once I set it down, I wouldn’t really want to pick it up again. Once I did (for the sake of the blog!), I would read for a long stretch again.

Can we also discuss the Grandfather? Was he really supposed to be as evil as Corrine (the mom) said? When Christopher and Cathy were hidden and watching the party, they observed that people interacted with him warmly and he seemed genuinely pleased to be around people, whereas the Grandmother seemed to be very cold and people would kind of make the necessary interactions with her and then split.

Ugh. V.C. Andrews needed a better editor! One who would talk about character development. Ya think?

Jen

Agree about the editor. What I wondered the most about the grandfather has to do with his will, the thing about how Corrine would get nothing if it was revealed that she had children. Um, what? Who thinks like that when putting together their will, unless they already know something? But if he did already know, why pretend he didn’t and make it possible for her to, y’know, poison those kids so she could still inherit? Why not just tell her she’s totally busted and then give her nothing? Did he know about the kids and then decide the best thing to do was kinda-sorta indirectly plan their murder? Or did he not know about the kids at all, in which case…why would his will even say that?

Ugh, I don’t know; let’s talk donuts. What did you think about all that? Did Corrine really try to kill her own children (and partially succeed) like Chris ends up suspecting?

Em

Don’t know. Probably. Clearly, I hated the mother. The grandmother was so one-note and awful that it made it hard for the story to resonate.

Why didn’t the kids ever tell their mom that the grandmother starved them?

Jen

Because at that point the mother was never coming around anymore, so I guess they realized she wouldn’t be any help? Although stupid Christopher was still her apologist then, right? He didn’t change his mind until they escaped or so. They didn’t tell the mother about the tar in the hair, either, did they.

Em

No. They were stupid. (Ok, let me clarify: I know that when people are in abusive situations judgment gets clouded and perspective becomes warped. This abuse was physical, spiritual, emotional, mental … the whole ball of wax. So, it’s unfair for me to throw down judgmental statements like that. BUT. It’s fiction. So, I think it’s ok if I do. For the sake of the blog!)

Jen

Yes…for the blog! I think the mom already sucked so bad by then, they knew deep down it wouldn’t matter if they told her. Corrine already knew that her mother was horrible. Probably the tale of the tar wouldn’t have surprised Corrine and she just would have said something flimsy about it being not much longer now, the father was going to die any day, blah-di-blah. Chris and Cathy already knew she wasn’t going to help them.

Also, I can’t decide about the donut perpetrator. I mean, I guess it really was the mom like Chris said, mainly because it didn’t make much sense that this super-Christian grandmother would commit actual murder. But then again, she had no problem with abuse and with being an evil bitch, so who knows. It’s hard to think their own mother would really poison them. But I no longer remember if this was settled definitively in any of the sequels. Perhaps one of our readers who actually read “Petals on the Wind” after this one can chime in on the Facebook discussion.

Em

If Corinne loved her uncle/husband enough to go into exile for him, then I think it’d be hard to just pretend the children of uncle/husband didn’t exist, much less poison them ESPECIALLY since Christopher was so handsome and smart and wonderful and such a spitting image of uncle/husband. But, Corinne was such a selfish, immature basket case then I suppose anything would have been possible. Maybe? Seems like she would have been more likely to pack the kids up with money and ill-fitting clothes (that were too tight on Cathy’s blossoming bosom, good golly day!) and set them to an orphanage or something. Maybe? Oh, hell. Who knows?

Jen

Right? Right! I mean, those kids were such perfect dolls (even bratty Carrie)! How could anyone…oh, never mind, now I kind of want to poison them.

And we really can’t close this discussion without mentioning the Big Scene. Some call it a sex scene, some call it an incest scene, but wow, no: it’s a rape scene. I think when I read it as a teen I believed Cathy with her “It wasn’t rape because I wanted it too” justifications, but reading it now as my wise, adult self, I was taken aback by just how rapey it was. Dang! This crap is messed up.

Em

Yes. And I knew it going into this, but still. I do think that a brother and sister at their ages of imprisonment and, uh, release (on the mattress and their escape) could have controlled their urges. Don’t you think?

Jen

I should hope so! I mean, if any of us were in that kind of situation with our brotherOHGOODGODNO, I can’t even finish the thought. Just, no God no!

Should we discuss the Lifetime movie? I have it on the DVR and have watched about half of it, but doubt I will watch it all before finally erasing it. It was terrible. Heather Graham gave a junior-high-level performance of just reciting lines without putting any meaning or feelings behind them. I was actually surprised at how bad she was, even knowing that it was Heather Graham.

Em

Not surprised. I have an irrational hate for her. Don’t know why. So, really, for me – perfect casting! I read a review somewhere saying that Ellen Burstyn’s final scene of the Grandmother (crying/praying in bed) was the best and/or only good thing in the movie. I would love to kind of fast-forward watch it.

Jen

Maybe I’ll have to skip to that part.

Now Jen and Em say: Okay, time to take the discussion to our vast readership, over on the Facebook page!

Hmmm. Tumblr’s link-adding feature is not working, which just figures. Okay, the page is https://www.facebook.com/TheJenAndEmBlog. We
know at least three of you read Flowers in the Attic along with us! What did you think? What’s the worst part: the starvation, Cory being killed, Mama’s response to Cory being killed, the brotherly love…or Bart Winslow’s mustache?

  • 29th November
    2013
  • 29

Announcing the Jen and Em Book Club!

by Jen

We hinted at this in our last post, and here it is: we are starting a book club! Woooo!

Now, clearly, Em and I and all of you can’t all get together to discuss a book at a common location, since there are thousands of you scattered across the globe. Rather, maybe a dozen of you, mostly in DFW plus a couple of relatives in some other states.

Either way, it means this book club will be virtual, and it will be easy. Here’s how it works.

  1. We announce the book that will be read by us and by whomever of you would like to read along.
  2. We all take some time to read the book. Perhaps a month; perhaps longer. There’s to be little to no pressure in the Jen and Em Book Club.
  3. After the period of reading time has passed, we post a new blog entry about the book, and our thoughts and feelings about it.
  4. Then we will invite those of you who read along to add your thoughts and feelings to our Facebook page.
  5. We will reply to Facebook comments with additional brilliant insights and witty sarcasms.
  6. That’s it.

Simple, eh?

And, now that you’re clear on the procedure, I am happy to announce our very first Jen and Em Book Club selection!

You may recall that we previously hinted that our selections would fall under categories such as “celebrity tell-alls” and “trashy 80s fiction.” Well, Selection #1 is a Trashy 80s Fiction piece, and hoo boy is it ever.

I am SO EXCITED about this, guys:

We’re gonna read Flowers in the Attic!

Okay. You guys. Have you ever read this book? (For the record, I have; Em has not. YET.) It is amazing. Written in 1979—okay so technically it’s not an 80s book but close enough—FitA is the first of a five-part series about the twisted, extremely messed-up Dollanganger family. Our protagonist is daughter Cathy, who only wants to be a pretty, pretty ballerina. But some SERIOUSLY TWISTED SHIT gets in the way.

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, FitA was extremely popular back in the day, and sold 40 million copies. It was adapted into a pretty awful movie in ’87, and you may be aware that a new movie version is coming soon on the Lifetime network. I believe it’s airing in January, which is perfect, because our deadline for reading this amazing trashy novel is January 1.

(That is not to say that our discussion blog will show up on New Year’s Day exactly, but it’ll be sometime that week, I think.)

You can see from the Amazon link above that the book is available in paperback and in e-book form. I would think that many local libraries may have it, since there’s a renewed interest with the new movie coming out. As for me, although I almost exclusively read e-books these days, I think this one’s gotta be a paperback experience, just like when I was an impressionable 14-or-15-year-old. I no longer have my original copy (of it plus the other four Dollanganger books, plus all of the Heaven books plus the amazingly horrifying My Sweet Audrina but don’t get me started on that, thank you very much V.C. Andrews for being such a twisted weirdo), so I’ll be purchasing it anew. I want to proudly keep it on my shelf for years to come.

If you are like me and have read this book before, perhaps in your impressionable past, I encourage you to give it a whirl again. It should be interesting to read this as an adult who now has enough sense to wonder how the adults in this book could possibly make the decisions they make.

And if you are like Em and have never read Flowers in the Attic, then now is the time! You will be amazed and probably horrified. But not scared; I should explain this. It’s not a scary book. Creepy, sure. Horror, no.

Flowers in the Attic. You have the month of December to read it, which is plenty of time. Get on it!

  • 14th November
    2013
  • 14

Updates, via Q&A

by Jen and Em

Q. What the heck is going on? Don’t you two ever blog anymore?

A. Well, hardly ever, that’s for sure! Yeah, we are probably the worst bloggers ever. We don’t often write, and when we do…well, it ain’t exactly Pulitzer material. Sometimes I don’t even know why we have a blog, to be honest.

Q. Why do you have a blog?

A. Because one day we both thought, at the same time, that it would be a fun thing to do. And we knew, since we were both awesome on our own and super-awesome* when together, that obviously the world would enjoy our blog immensely. And then one day, Ben (husband of Em) suddenly set up a Tumblr for us and was like, here you go! Get started! So we did. And then eventually reality set in.

Q. What was the reality?

A. You know. Em has three kids to maintain. Jen has a new marriage to pay attention to. We are often busy. And, we also discovered, we often have absolutely nothing interesting to say in blog form.

Q. Yeah, but you could if you really tried.

A. You’re right. One of these days, maybe we’ll try harder.

Q. Especially Em, right? Because she hasn’t written a blog entry since August 2012.

A. …

Q. ?

A. [silent treatment]

Q. Hey, let’s not fight. I have more questions.

A. Okay, then. Shoot.

Q. Well, how are those kids doing?

A. Ah, those kids. They’re great. Primo is now in the second grade. He has lost many baby teeth and has the big ones coming in. He enjoys Star Wars a lot. Secondo is in first grade and is a funny kid. He can make fart noises with his armpit and his knee pit. That’s talent. Terza is in preschool, and is part Princess Ballerina Pink Girl and part bruiser. She enjoys fake-falling down and then declaring, “Ow.”

Q. What about Jen’s cats? You know the Internet loves cat stories.

A. I think the Internet enjoys cat videos more than stories, per se, but whatever. The cats are fine, in that they are still alive, still getting fed every day, and still terribly good-looking.

Q. Any good vacations/trips lately?

A. Em and family went to Lake Erie this summer. Jen and Matt spent the summer selling a house, buying a house, moving, and settling in, so that pretty much scuttled any thoughts of vacations.

Q. What else is going on?

A. Oh, gosh. Well, Em has been on the board of a local theater company for the past year, which keeps her busy from time to time with fundraising efforts. She’s also a room mom for Primo’s class. Jen still works for a large, large corporation that shall remain nameless. And she’s on the board for her local library’s fundraising group. And both of us are singing at our respective churches these days.

Q. Anything else wit—

A. OH, WAIT, WE ALMOST FORGOT!

Q. What???

A. WE HAVE AN EXCITING IDEA!

Q. Wow, great! What is it?

A. The Jen and Em Book Club!

Q. (silence)

A. TA-DAAA!

Q. Are…you serious?

A. Well, sure! Why? You don’t like the book club idea? You haven’t even heard the details yet!

Q. It’s just that, we’ve already established that you guys hardly ever blog. So how are you gonna..?

A. We know, we know! But we like this idea, so we’re going to try it.

Q. I see. Okay, then, go ahead: details.

A. Well, tell ya what. The details are COMING SOON in a separate post! But keep these snippets in mind: book club, easy timelines, Facebook, celebrity tell-alls, trashy ‘80s fiction! It’ll be a blast.

Q. Ooooh, snap. That does sound intriguing.

A. I KNOW, RIGHT?!

Q. Cool. Then, I suppose I’ll stay tuned for an upcoming announcement.

A. Very good! We look forward to it.

* Keep in mind, we reference this 1976 comedy skit . Often.

  • 30th August
    2013
  • 30

Random thoughts and observations, presented in a bullet list

by Jen

  • I’ve seen some good movies in the theater so far this year but the best one was The Way Way Back.
  • Having moved this summer from the house I lived in for 12 years to a new one, I must say, I don’t miss the old place at all. But I do miss my old Super Target. Not that I don’t have one near me now; I do, but the layout is totally different and that’s a really hard adjustment, apparently.

  • You (whoever you are) should listen to the podcast “How Did This Get Made?”
  • It’s tough to put a pithy, or funny, or ranting, or any other kind of post on Facebook during the day if your boss is a Facebook friend. (Hi Liz! This blog entry happened off-hours!)

 

  • If you make some fruit-flavored green tea—because you’re trying to ease up on Diet Coke and with green tea you can pretend you’re kinda healthy—and steep it for the amount of time as dictated in the directions, but it comes out really weak, like extremely weak, like you can’t even taste the fruit, how bad is it to then make it more drinkable by adding a squirt of cherry Kool-Aid mix-in stuff? I mean, you’re still getting the benefits of the tea, right?

  • I’ve been going to a chiropractor lately for my plantar fasciitis, aka “arch issues and heel pain.” It is an extremely weird feeling to lie on a table while a beefy guy (excuse me: a beefy doctor) basically pinches and squeezes parts of my foot to a highly painful degree, especially when I consider that I am paying for this. But the thing is, I think it’s helping. He talks about the foot pain as something that can go away and I honestly never thought of it that way. You mean I don’t have to have plantar fasciitis forever? Whoa.
 
  • Two years ago, when my wedding was approaching, I avoided all of the reality shows that feature brides being heinous. But now for some reason, I’m bordering on obsessed with Say Yes to the Dress. The one with Randy, though, not that other guy. Randy is the greatest. And it turns out, the brides usually aren’t the heinous ones. Their mothers are.
  • As long as we’re talking about TV: so many commercials are so terrible right now. I am really hating the IHOP one where the perky gal with the bangs yells at us that we “need to get down here and try these waffles at IHOP. NOW!” Shut up, bitch, you can’t tell me what to do. (Side note, I was going to link to the commercial, but you have to watch an ad first before watching it, which is ridiculous! You don’t want to do that! I’m on your side, folks.)

  • However I still love the AT&T guy who talks to kindergarteners. And the kid who tells the knock-knock joke, then makes a gesture like he’s a 70-year-old comedian in the Catskills while he says, “It’s queen, to make it funny”? He kills me, he’s so hilarious. Love that kid.

 

  • 9th August
    2013
  • 09
  • 31st May
    2013
  • 31

What is this, 1987?

by Jen

It was a little embarassing, I admit, to stroll through a Walmart the other day carrying only one item to the check-out area: a hot pink Caboodle.

A what?

A Caboodle! As in, the thing girls put their makeup products in, in the eighties.

Let me explain. Matt and I have been readying our house to be put up for sale, and as part of that process, we have de-cluttered like crazy. Over the weekend, one of my remaining tasks was to get my makeup off of my bathroom countertop and stowed away somewhere. I didn’t have room for it all in the drawer that’s there, or under the sink, and I thought: I need some kind of caddy that I can stick in the closet.

I briefly wondered if Caboodles still exist, but I figured that Wally World would carry something like that. Some kind of makeup tote. And, jackpot. Not only do they carry makeup totes, but they carry actual Caboodles brand makeup totes.

I bought one that looks like this, with one difference — mine has an up-the-embarassment-factor lip-print design on the clasp.

Yes, I felt 15 again as I carried the super-pink wonder to the Self Checkout lane. And not 15 in a good, young way but rather in an awkward, Everything That Happens To Me Is SOOO Mortifying way.

But, let me tell ya something, ladies. Now that my stuff is in that Caboodle, and it stashes away easily in my closet, and I just pop it open to put on a face when so desired? I LOVE IT. Everything is just…it’s right there, easy to see all my powder/pencil/color options, so accessible, so simple. And the bathroom countertop is so clean!

I’m thinking once we get the house sale in place, I won’t bother putting the makeup back out on the counter. And once we move into whatever our next house is going to be, I’m thinking it’s possible that the Caboodle will live on!

Caboodle FTW!

(Note: I am 40. VERRRRY soon to be 41, in fact.)

(and I use a hot pink Caboodle.)

  • 8th April
    2013
  • 08

Recipe Reviews Part II

by Jen

A year ago, I evaluated the various Pinterest recipes I’d tried out. Well guess what, folks; I haven’t stopped. It’s about time for some all-new recipe reviews, dontcha think?

Let’s get to it.

Creamy Slow Cooker Spaghetti

You know what I love? Spaghetti. Know what else I love? Creaminess. So this recipe, from Picky Palate, has to be the best of both worlds, right?

Well, I don’t know. It was fine. It was good. I didn’t go bonkers for it, and I haven’t made it a second time.

I think the issue for this one is, it’s easy enough to just boil a pot of water and make spaghetti the regular way. Add some jar sauce and some ricotta, and you have creamy spaghetti. The long, slow cooker process didn’t seem to add anything, in my opinion. I guess it saves one from having to stand at the stove and stir, but really with spaghetti, it’s not a big deal.

Moving on.

Butterfinger Cake

I mean, come on. Look at this.

Butterfinger cake comes to us courtesy of the oft-referenced Plain Chicken. Doesn’t it look awesome?

I didn’t make it exactly like PC’s instructions. I used chocolate cake instead of yellow (although I LOVE yellow cake, don’t get me wrong), and I used hot fudge topping instead of caramel (although I love caramel too). I just felt the chocolate version would go over better with a certain recipient of the cake. So, my cake was good. It definitely turns out super-moist, and it’s very sweet, and Butterfingers are delicious. But I’m not sure I totally love a really, well, wet cake like this. You know, like a dulce de leche or something. There’s a lot of moisture going on here.

But then again, part of me wants to try the yellow cake and caramel version, too. So, I don’t know. I’m torn.

Chicken and Pesto Stuffed Shells

This one is also from Plain Chicken and LOOK, LOOK HOW YUMMY:

(Sidebar: The Plain Chicken lady takes such great food photos!)

I actually have this photo set as the “cover photo” for my Pinterest recipe board, because it’s so yummy-looking and it makes me want to make food and eat food. Uh, because I need a photo to make me want to do those things.

So anyway, you take your basic stuffed shells, except you have shredded bits of roasted (rotisserie) chicken mixed in with the ricotta. And also some basil pesto. Yum. Delicious. I love this. I’ve made it for myself and Matt, and I’ve made it to take a friend as a “You just had a baby so here’s some food!” dish. It works on many levels.

Love it, love it, soooo good.

Slow Cooker Applesauce

This one came from a blog called Mommy Makes it Better. I pinned this one mainly because I liked the picture:

And of course, as you know by now, I like using the slow cooker. And also I like apples and their sauce, so win-win-win-win.

The end result? Was good. I gave some away, kept some, ate it. I haven’t made it a second time but I am not a frequent applesauce eater, I suppose. I’d do it again if I had the inclination. I think I would rather do this than just buy a big jar of store-bought. It’s fun to make something where you actually use a cinnamon stick, for Pete’s sake. How often does that come up? (Answer: Not often.)

Slow Cooker “Chile Colorado Burritos”

Here’s another Plain Chicken recipe and another gorgeous food photo:

I was intrigued by this one because it involves making and using your own enchilada sauce. I’d never done that before and wanted to give it a try. Plus, a burrito stuffed with what looks like roast beef and smothered with melted cheese? Yeah, I’m up for that.

Result? Another winner. You slow-cook a bunch of stew beef in the homemade enchilada sauce (which is delicious), then make huuuge burritos with it, top with cheese and more sauce, and broil. Divine.

Salmon

There’s no fancy stuff here, no additions, just: salmon. But it’s the method of cooking the salmon that I wanted to try out, and that method comes from the venerable Pioneer Woman.

Basically, you take a salmon filet, give it the salt/pepper/olive oil treatment, and put it in a cold oven. Then you follow the Pioneer Woman’s directions as linked above, and in no time you enjoy a perfectly cooked salmon. Perfectly. It’s amazing.

Red Velvet Brownies

Okay…here’s the deal. Pinterest, and therefore the whole Internet, is chock-full of red velvet recipes. There are red velvet versions of almost anything. Cookies, brownies, cupcakes, pancakes, bundt cakes, rice cakes, fish cakes, urinal cakes, it never ends.

And I must admit, I’m not as enraptured with the red velvet concept as a lot of people seem to be. Just because you dump a bottle of red food coloring into a baked good and then attach the word “velvet,” people are supposed to go crazy for it? I don’t really get it.

But then, one day, Matt and I sampled a red velvet brownie at our favorite local bakery (Frost It Café in Frisco, TX, by the way, check it out), and darn if it wasn’t delicious. And then I had a Christmas party coming up, and then good old Plain Chicken posted a recipe, so I got it in my head that I should make the brownies to take to the party.

And the result was: well, they were fine. I think they’re a little more work than I really want to do for a Christmas party take-along. And I think Frost It’s were way better than mine.

But look, Plain Chicken’s are so pretty:

And so festive! Can you blame me for trying?

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

This was Matt’s birthday dinner. Not only had I never made Chicken Tikka Masala before, I’d never eaten it. But I knew he liked it, based on the fact that he ordered it when we ate at that one place that time, so I saw this recipe on Real Simple’s website and decided to go for it. The “slow cooker” part helped my decision, naturally.

Result? It’s good! I’ll make it again for sure. 

Oh, right: one thing, I totally forgot the cucumber when I made mine, so I can’t speak to how it added to or distracted from the flavor. But the chicken, rice, spices, and stuff were all very nice.

No-Carb Egg Muffins

Sigh. And now we enter the “dark month,” when Matt and I both abstained from carbs. It was a terrible time. But we lost weight.

Anyway, after feeling like I was going to die if I had to eat scrambled eggs for breakfast one more time, I turned to this recipe, from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

And, y’know what? These little “muffins?” They’re eggs. Eggs with some other stuff mixed in, then baked, but they still taste like eggs. Seriously, you guys: I’m going on three months since “dark month,” but I STILL don’t want to taste scrambled eggs ever again.

That’s not the fault of Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen, though. The recipe is just fine if what you want is a bite-sized eggy thing that really can only be called a muffin because it’s baked in a mini muffin tin, but otherwise tastes nothing like a muffin.

Baked Beef and Bean Tacos

Here’s yet another one from Plain Chicken.

This recipe involves making the taco shells out of corn tortillas by draping them on the oven rack and baking for a while. Then you add the beef/bean mixture, top with cheese, and bake some more. The end result was really tasty, but overall it’s rather labor-intensive. However, if these had been made in regular store-bought taco shells, there would be nothing remarkable about them.

Man, you guys. It’s nearing bedtime as I keep writing this post, and I am feeling so super-hungry for some reason. Damn you, beautiful food photography!

“Crazy Cake” aka “Wacky Cake”

This one was all over the Pinterest food boards one day, and it looked pretty good. I had ingredients on hand another day, so I gave the vanilla version a try:

I opted not to make the lovely cup of tea that you see above.

As far as the cake: I don’t know. It was very sweet, but that was from the icing (which I made homemade, but that’s a recipe that will maybe be shared another time). It was okay. Not my favorite cake I’ve ever made. But it was fast to put together, only uses the cake pan (no mixing bowl needed), and…yeah, like the photo says. No eggs, no milk, no butter. What is in there? Well, read the recipe to find out, courtesy of Sweet Little Bluebird.

Bubble Pizza

Those of you who know me on Facebook might have seen the photo of the bubble pizza I made (along with my almost-three-year-old helper) a couple of days ago. The recipe came from The Two Bite Club, and here’s their version:

So, bubble pizza basically is this: cut-up canned biscuit dough with sauce and toppings. Bake it, the dough puffs up a bit, and there you go.

It was good, but y’know what? It tasted exactly like what it was. Store-bought biscuits with sauce, pepperoni, and cheese on them. It’s not a bad thing, but there’s nothing gourmet or even especially impressive going on here. If you need to make something easy and kid-friendly, and pizza-ish, here you go.

And now it’s time for the final recipe! Woohoo!

Balsamic Slow Cooker Roast Beef

I just made this yesterday. Had leftovers today. It is delicious.

This one came from a blog called Add a Pinch, which I might have to check out more often. Slow cooked roast beef with a mixture of balsamic vinegar and other things as the sauce. Guess what I made to go with this, by the way? Roasted Brussels sprouts! That’s right, it all comes full circle.

Wow. I did not think I had that many recipes to cover, but I totally did! This has gone on for a long time! And I really think I need to go eat something before I turn in.

(In all honesty, I really could go for a hunk of that bubble pizza right about now. Too bad there’s none left.)

  • 4th March
    2013
  • 04

In Defense of the Brussels Sprout

by Jen

Vegetables have never really been my thing. I used to dislike all veggies that were not corn, potatoes, or raw carrots. I was a picky eater as a kid, and I never really got any better as I aged. I used to hilariously* joke that the only green food I liked was mint chocolate chip ice cream.

But in recent years I’ve gotten a little better:

  • I accepted avocados into my diet several years ago, and those are now unequivocally my favorite green food.
  • I realized that I don’t hate onions. It turns out, I only hate raw onions. But cooked? Yum. (Especially crispy fried, but there’s no need to dwell on that right now.)
  • I learned to like sweet potatoes, which you’d think I never would have had a problem with, considering the word sweet right there in the name.
  • I can now tolerate broccoli and spinach, either cooked or raw. I can’t say I like them or actively seek them out, but I can make myself have them.
  • Oh, and in January of this year I prepared and tried mashed cauliflower in lieu of mashed potatoes for the first time. You know, all those people who say to do that? They’re not so wrong. It’s not bad, at least not if you load them up with butter and roasted garlic.

But, the fact that I now like Brussels sprouts is the one that still surprises me. I mean, Brussels sprouts! Nobody likes those! 

[Side note: Microsoft is auto-correcting Brussels as I type it, to give it a capital B. Little does Microsoft know I am a nerd and I looked it up on merriam-webster.com in advance. When referring to the vegetable, a capital or a lower-case B is acceptable. But I’m too lazy, I mean, too focused on my blog writing, to change these Bs back, so, whatever, it’ll be capital B here.]

Brussels sprouts have been used as a punch line on countless sitcoms. I can think of two right off the bat: I’m pretty sure there was a reference to the B-sprou (my hip new nickname for it) as an object of derision on a rerun of King of Queens that I saw recently, and I’m also pretty sure The Cosby Show had some kind of joke about them once. So take it from me, a television expert.

But the thing, guys, is, they’re not that bad. In fact, I like them. And if I can like them, so can you.

I first tried a B-sprou a few Thanksgivings ago, maybe five years or so. My mother decided that year to prepare a quartet of roasted fall vegetables, as a new addition to our table o’plenty. She roasted and served beets, parsnips, turnips, and Brussels sprouts.

At that point I was still pretty firmly picky about food. I had accepted sweet potatoes by then, but that was about it. But I decided to be an adult and actually try each of the vegetables, and have an open mind. My prediction was that I’d maybe like the beets, because maybe the roasting would bring out some sweetness, but I figured the others had no chance.

It turned out, I didn’t like the beet at all. There was no sweetness. It tasted like dirt. I can remember sitting across the table from my sister-in-law as we both tried a beet at the same time, and we made the same yuck face at each other. Ah, bonding.

The parsnips were not a hit. I don’t think anyone liked those. I don’t remember much about the turnip but I know I didn’t like it either.

But the Brussels sprout was not bad. I was all, “Hey, this is tolerable. I don’t feel like puking right now.”

And then I didn’t think about them again or taste them again for a few years.

Now, I don’t remember exactly when I tried them again, but it was probably somewhere around the time of my becoming a married person, when I was investigating and trying out new recipes to please my man. (Oh, what do I mean “was?” I still totally do that. Yeah, that’s the ticket.)

I think I saw something in a magazine about roasting Brussels sprouts, and my brain went “Oh yeahhh, I remember that from Thanksgiving that time,” and I just went from there.

As it happens, when I make them my way, Brussels sprouts are awesome. So now, after what we all can agree is a rather long-winded prelude, here is my method for preparing yummy Brussels sprouts:

  1. Roasting is key. You gotta roast them.
  2. I’ve used frozen (and thawed), and I’ve used fresh. The end result is the same.
  3. Cut them in half. This speeds up roasting time and doubles the amount of golden brown outer parts, which is the best part of course.
  4. Do not send them into the oven alone. My mandatory companion is sliced onion. I’ve used sweet yellow onion and I’ve used shallots, and both end up delicious in the end. Whichever onion you use, just slice it up however you like. The photo below is from the batch I made tonight, and those are shallots in there, cut into slivers.
  5. The other companion, less mandatory but very good to have, is garlic. I like to add a bunch of peeled garlic cloves and let them roast along with the veggies, because roasted garlic is one of the most delicious things ever. When you have your finished product, you can eat a soft, wonderful garlic clove along with your B-sprou half, or with whatever meat/protein you’re having, or heck, spread it on a roll or something. (Sadly, I was out of garlic tonight, so I had to live with adding garlic powder to the salt and pepper I sprinkled on.)
  6. Toss these things with olive oil and then add the aforementioned salt and pepper. I don’t measure any of this, of course. Just eyeball it. You can tell by looking that, if you’ve coated your sprouts to the point that you don’t see any green, you’ve added too much salt and pepper.
  7. Usually I make the sprouts when I’m making roasted chicken as my main dish. When that’s the case, I don’t segregate. I use cut-up (bone in, skin on—IMPORTANT) chicken and put the pieces in the same roasting pan with the sprouts/onion/garlic. This way everything roasts together, and the garlic and onion get their deliciousness on everything. And as the kids say, it’s all good.
  8. Into the oven it goes: 425 degrees.  If there’s chicken in with the veggies, it probably takes 30 or 40 minutes. When the veggies are solo as they were tonight and pictured below, it only takes 20, tops. Just check it every once in a while, probably at 15 minutes, to get an idea of how much longer you want your pan in there.
  9. How do you know how long to keep them in the oven? Well, when things get browned, and the onions are either translucent or almost disappeared, you’re good to go. See:

When they’re roasted like this, the sprouts get soft and mild. The onions add some crispy goodness, plus the flavor. Mmm, the flavor.

I should mention, sometimes if you’re roasting chicken along with the veggies, the veggies get really done. Like, if you have chicken breasts in there, their longer cooking time means you’ll probably end up with blackened onion bits. For me, this is not a problem because I like blackened onion bits. But, you’ve been warned. You might want to go with drumsticks and/or thighs if you don’t want the blackness.

“But Jen,” you ask, “Are Brussels sprouts really even that good for me? I mean, they’re just little cabbages, right? How much nutritional value is there?”

Ah, I’m glad you asked. Because I am a nerd, and I’ve looked this up in advance as well.

A website called The World’s Healthiest Foods tells us that the humble B-sprou is “known to top the list of commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables. Their total glucosinolate content has been shown to be greater than the amount found in mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, or broccoli.” And what are glucosinolates? They’re “the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances. All cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates and have great health benefits for this reason.”

Boom! Healthy, cancer-fighting, and yummy with roasted onions and garlic.

Bust out your roasting pan and give ‘em a try. Or come over sometime when I make roasted chicken and veggies.

 

*Joke is not actually hilarious.

  • 18th February
    2013
  • 18

Some Quick Plugs for Some Awesome People

by Jen

Matt and I returned yesterday from another nerd cruise, which you may recall I wrote about last year. This was our second one but JoCo's third one. It was fabulous.

I’m not going to go into a lot of details, because I did that last time. But I do want to share some links related to some of the performers we saw this year, because they were wonderful and I want to share the wonderfulness.

  • Mike Phirman - He does music and is incredibly funny, and everyone on the cruise seemed to agree he’s the nicest guy on the planet. I’d heard of Phirman before last week, but didn’t really know anything of his stuff, and he was the most pleasant discovery of the week for me. I know I use this word too much, but Phirman is truly delightful.
  • The Rifftrax guys - aka Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy. These two gentlemen were the voices of the Mystery Science Theater puppet dudes, and they do Rifftrax, and they are super funny. They did some live Rifftrax-ing to old instructional videos and it was hilarious. I now realize that the only way I’ll be wiling to watch a Twilight movie is to watch it with Rifftrax. I actually hope to do that soon.
  • Paul and Storm - I’ve mentioned Paul and Storm before. They’re musical, they’re funny, they basically plan and run the whole JoCo cruise, and they are awesome. I learned this year that Storm is a maniac on the dance floor. I even got to dance with him for approximately two seconds, which was a highlight of my week. Paul and Storm have a new web series called Learning Town. It is funny. We got to watch the first five episodes on a big screen, poolside, which was cool. Mike Phirman is also on Learning Town. (Learning Town, by the way, looks like a kids’ show but it’s really not.)
  • Randall Munroe - He is the creator of xkcd, and he told us all about how he actually did fill his apartment living room with playpen balls, and he is amazingly smart and highly amusing. And he kindly autographed Matt’s cruise poster, which of course Randall Monroe did the artwork for.

Okay, that’s enough for now. I have today off (I did not accidentally start working at any point this morning) and I have laundry to fold. Happy Presidents’ Day to me. And to us all!

  • 21st January
    2013
  • 21

I’m an idiot, you guys.

by Jen

No, really. I am so lame. I’ve done this before and I did it again! Aarrgh, why am I so stoopid?

Okay, see, I work for this large corporation, one that makes computer and computer-related products, and also does lots of services, and lots of stuff.

You would think that a large corporation like that would make Martin Luther King Jr. day a company holiday, right? And you’d be correct. Because it is a company holiday today, ONLY I DIDN’T REALIZE IT AND STARTED WORK THIS MORNING ANYWAY.

Last week more than one person (Em, for example) asked me if I was going to have Monday a.k.a. today off. So I looked at my Outlook calendar, because this is a job where we all depend on Outlook to keep track of our lives for us, and there was nothing there for Monday (a.k.a. today). No holiday blocked off.

So I was all, “Wow, nope, don’t have it off! It must be one of those deals where they figure people can take their floating holiday for that day, if they want.”

Then this morning I booted up my computer, looked some stuff up, fired off an email with a question I need an answer to…and got the guy’s out-of-office reply back. Off for the MLK company holiday.  “Oh, crap,” I thought.

I checked the company holiday calendar on our intranet site. And yes, there it was, OF COURSE it’s a holiday. I just didn’t have any of this year’s holidays on my Outlook calendar.  (There’s supposed to be an automatic app that takes care of that for me, but obviously it did not happen when the new year dawned.)

So, I’m dumb. I “worked” this morning for nothing!  (In this case, the “work” was writing and sending that one email.)

You’ll all be glad to know that I manually entered the rest of the year’s holidays on my Outlook calendar before shutting down the work PC for the day.

Jeez, what a moron. Is this how I’m to honor Dr. King? I tell ya, I’d make some kind of worthwhile plans for the day, but man, my back is killing me today. I strained it when lugging/emptying/rinsing a bucket of scummy water this weekend. Seriously. I am so lame in so many ways!