Rating the Disney Princesses: From Skinniest to Fattest

Disney-Princess-Kida-disney-princess-30168400-2560-1117

Come on, give me a break! Could you imagine? Oh, wait. It kinda happened. Read Harley Pasternak’s stupid blog, and then come on back real quick-like.

I wrote about it today on The Huffington Post. Read it here. And then let’s you and me make a plan to have Ashley Tisdale’s jaw un-wired shut, okay?

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A Charles Dickens Dinner

When Beef and I decided to host our very first grown-up Christmas dinner for our parents and siblings, we fretted over finding one crucial ingredient: a theme.  First of all, I’m so glad I married someone who agreed a theme was necessary, because it just was.  And it was pretty easy to decide on, using this simple equation:

Nerds + Small Kitchen x Christmas  = A CHARLES DICKENS DINNER!

XmasMenu

If you’re looking for a clever menu for New Year’s Eve or any chilly winter night, here’s what we did: First, I had an idea to make plum pudding.  Then I read what was in it, and it sounded gross, so instead, we found recipes that felt 1800s English-y, and then I Googled quotes about them.  I did not, as my father-in-law wondered, read the entire works of Dickens.  Here’s the rundown and the recipes:

Beverages: While a traditional mulled wine would have been appropriate, I didn’t want to sacrifice a stove burner, so we served a champagne punch: 1 cup Triple Sec, 2 bottles cheap champagne, 3 cans of ginger ale, 2 cups pineapple juice.  The coup de grace was the round tupperware I filled with pineapple juice and fresh cranberries and froze the night before– fancy!

Appetizers: Two approaches here.  My MIL suggested making Artichoke-Stuffed Mushrooms, which sounded great, so I found a mushroom quote.  I gave my dad the classic quote from A Christmas Carol for inspiration:  “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”  And thus, he created Jacob Marley’s Beef Blotz, a crostini topped with a layed of mashed potato and topped with a bite of mustard-crusted filet mignon.  Inspired!

First Course: Ever heard the expression “a pea souper?” It means a day is so foggy that the air’s as thick as pea soup, which Dickens referred to as a “London particular.”  Make this Split Pea with Rosemary Soup, and be prepared to make it for the rest of your life– it’s that good.  We did ours the day before and re-heated before serving. It’s better the second day, anyways.

Main Course:  Molasses Pork Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce.  Marinating the meat the night before meant avoiding dry pork, and tenderloins meant a short cooking time– just about a half hour.  A roast goose would have taken all day!  Serve with Wild Rice and Roasted Root Vegetables (my dad’s favorite): peel and chop up carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and onions into one-inch chunks.  Shake them up in a Ziploc bag with a hefty pour of olive oil, salt, pepper and a generous sprinkle of herbs de provence.  Roast on foil-lined baking sheets at 400 degrees for about an hour, rotating trays halfway through.  We did these in the afternoon, and just reheated at dinner time, although it’s okay to serve these at room temp.

Dessert: Or “pudding,” as the English say.  Martha Stewart’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake with Toffee Sauce was pretty fool-proof, although it only needs to bake about 35 or 40 minutes, not the 55 to 65 the recipe says.  Making a cake was easier than doing individual servings, which is more traditional.  And since this cake needs time to let the sauce soak in, I made it first thing in the morning.  Note: don’t try to serve with leftover Thanksgiving Cool Whip, because it might be moldy.  

Pretty easy, right?  Enough effort that it feels special–  but totally manageable.  We’re already brainstorming next year’s literary theme, and I think I’ve got it: Sweet Valley High!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Gifts for Stay-At-Home Moms: Kitchen Edition

I’ve had a lot of traffic from people searching for this topic, so I’ve got a few more ideas.  I know the old cliché– never give your wife a toaster.  And yet, this list includes a toaster.  So take these suggestions with a grain of fine sea salt, because (as a stay-at-home-mom myself) I might be mad if Beef gave me cooking stuff.  Like he was expecting me to make him dinner every night or something.

Oh, wait.

Breville Panini Press, $99.95

Make regular grilled cheese into fancy grilled cheese with this thing!  Once one of Oprah’s Favorite Things, it became my Favorite Wedding Gift (thanks, Tom).  I also use it to give meat those Sizzler-worthy meat-lines.

Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender (Shop around for best price; this isn’t it)

I have my mother-in-law’s on (permanent?) loan with the expectation I’ll make homemade baby food.  I have, but Posey prefers to eat cat food off the floor, so I prefer using this to make soup with.  Don’t have any soup recipes?  Keep reading…

Williams-Sonoma Collection: Soup and Stew, $11.96

I don’t know about you, but my favorite cooking magazine is the William-Sonoma catalogue.  Everything looks good, half the food is already made for you (hello, Christmas morning croissants!) and the subscription is free.  I checked this book out at the library once and immediately bought a copy.  Which reminds me, I once worked with someone who asked me, “Ooooh!  What’s– The Library?” Like it was some awesome new lounge.  Wait ’til she hears about this amazing new dinner spot I discovered, called “My Couch!”

Trick-Or-Treating Treat

Lately, I’ve been craving the flavors of fall– but not the calories.  Sunday, we took Posey to a Halloween parade, and here’s the pre-winter warmer I invented to fill our travel mugs with.

Chai-Spiced Cider

Voila! A decaf non-dairy treat for 65 calories, instead of a 300-calorie Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks.

Stay warm trick or treating!

First pictures of Bill & Giuliana’s Baby Boy!

Presenting Edward Duke Rancic!

Life  & Style has the exclusive with the proud new parents. Having gone through IVF at the same time they did (and even consulting with their Chicago doctor, Dr. Brian Kaplan at FCI), I was so thrilled to hear their wish was granted via a surrogate. Congrats to the whole family! Hope to have a Edward ‘n Posey playdate soon at their Chicago eatery, RPM Italian! Do they have highchairs?

 

Baby Shake ‘n Bake

Posey has mastered Cheerios and cheese, but we can’t get a grip on banana pieces– literally! They’re too slippery for her little hands. So here’s a great baby finger food idea:

Put a small handful of Cheerios in a Ziploc baggy, and use a rolling pin to crush them into powder. Shake the banana pieces in the bag, and presto! Now not only are you an A+ mom for making a “recipe,” but your baby will have an easier time picking up the pieces.

Korean Barbecue Burgers

I love Korean barbecue, but I hate smelling like roasted, smoky beef after I leave the restaurant. Thanks to Cooking Light, now I don’t have to worry about airing out my coat for the next six months! These burgers taste just like bulgogi and are easy to make at home. Don’t skip the radishes– they were so good!

Korean Barbecue Burgers (Courtesy of Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger (I used the prepared, jarred kind)
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (I used 1 tsp. jarred)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 (1 1/2-ounce) whole wheat hamburger buns, split (I skipped the buns)
  • 6 red leaf lettuce leaves
  • 6 thinly sliced radishes

Preparation:

  1. Prepare grill.
  2. Combine first 8 ingredients. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.
  3. Place patties on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 6 minutes on each side or until a thermometer registers 160°. Remove from grill; let patties stand 5 minutes.
  4. Place buns, cut sides down, on grill rack; grill 1 minute or until toasted. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each bun; top each serving with 1 lettuce leaf, 1 tablespoon radishes, and top half of bun.

5 Snacks To Help Lose the Baby Weight

Poor Jessica Simpson.  She never had a chance.  Baby Maxwell is 10 weeks old, which means the world has continued to call her fat for 70 days.  Despite her reported $4 million-deal with Weight Watchers, it appears the baby weight isn’t melting off the way she… or I…or probably YOU… thought it would.

I’ve been told that women should aim to eat 30 grams of protein for breakfast every day. That’s a lot. Like, five eggs.  Gross.  Who could do that?  So here are five quick and easy snacks that helped get me back on track*.

*But I’m no Jessica Alba. Sigh.

1.  Nature Valley Protein  Bars

Since Posey naps around 10 and around 3, I find that a lot of days we’re out and about during lunchtime.  These bars– which Costco sells in a giant 24 pack– are the perfect snack to keep in your diaper bag. Self-contained, you can eat while driving (just the peanut butter dark chocolate ones– the almond ones are way messier for some reason) and 10 grams of protein.

2.  Light String Cheese

Again, easy to take on the road, portion-controlled and only 50 calories with 6 grams of protein. I’m a Sargento girl.

3.  Stretch Island Fruit Leather

These were an impulse buy at Costco a few months ago, and I’ve never looked back.  45 calories, all-natural ingredients, no added sugar.  I keep them in the diaper bag with the protein bars.  You can’t get enough fiber, you know what I’m saying? Which reminds me, the gummy fiber supplement inventor deserves an award.

4.  Kashi 7 Grain Waffles

I usually have one of these for breakfast, along with two slices of turkey sausage or nitrate-free turkey bacon from Trader Joe’s, but they make a great snack, too.  Remember: no white flour!

5. Protein Smoothie (approx. 220 calories, 16 grams protein)

I started replacing cow milk with almond milk a few months ago.  Some people argue that dairy causes an excess of mucus in the gut– causing belly fat, but science has proven that’s pretty much bunk.  However, I do sort of subscribe to the thinking that lady-cow milk is for hungry baby cows who need to gain 2000 pounds, so I try to limit my intake to the bare necessities: cheese and Skinny Cow ice creams cones.  Therefore, I use almond milk in coffee and smoothies, like this one:

  • 3/4 c. unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla Aria protein powder (I get it at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 banana (or peach, or whatever fruit you have on hand)
  • 3 ice cubes
  • a pinch of cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a blender and enjoy for breakfast or as an afternoon pick-me-up!

Jess, we’re rooting for you.

Melissa & Joey & Me

One of the best worst summer shows has returned to TV, and Beef couldn’t be happier.  Last night, he came home grumpy from an especially hard day’s work.  While most stressed-out dads would pop open a beer to ease the pain– Alas, his wound was one there was no bandage for.

“I wish Melissa & Joey was on tonight.”

Poor guy.  There was nothing I could do for him about that, so I did the next-best thing.  I made him Joey Lawrence’s Sweet and Citrus Summer Fish Tacos , which J.L demoed last week on Live with Kelly!   They were pretty good, and Beef pointed out a better name for them would be:

“Joey Lawrence’s Sweet and Citrus Summer Fish Tac-Whoas”

I’m not entirely sure when our love affair with the 22 minutes of genius that is M&J  began.  Wait a sec, yes I do.  It was after ABC Family unleashed on the world a little film called My Fake Fiance– pairing up the unstoppable  @MellyJHart with the multi-talented Joey L.  Basically, our lives changed, and when we heard they were doing a show together, we were all in.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons you should be watching, too:

  1. She’s a councilwoman.  He’s her lost-everything-in-a-ponzi-scheme manny.  What could possibly go wrong???
  2. Joey’s hairline is different in every episode.
  3. The innuendo is just enough to make you uncomfortable that it’s on ABC Family, and you sort of want to call up the programming director and ask if he or she is sure about all of this.
  4. The pilot script actually refers to them as Hailey & Jack, so you know they weren’t just cast because of their first names.
  5. Franklin & Bash is on Tuesdays, so there’s no conflict.

Melissa & Joey airs Tuesday nights at 8/7c.  You’re so welcome.

…Wait, you didn’t see My Fake Fiance?!  Here’s the trailer.  Finally, a love story you can believe in.