This Little Piggy Ruined Everything

I don’t know if I would have made it to this point in my first Wisconsin winter without hot yoga, which I’ve been practicing regularly since December. When it’s 6° outside and no amount of layering will get me warm, all I want to do is turn the thermostat up as high as it will go and hold a mug of hot coffee in each hand until I thaw. However, we keep getting these pesky gas and electric bills that have a way of discouraging such behavior. Instead, I do hot yoga at a studio that can be as toasty as 100° at all times. Essentially, I cook myself for an hour a couple times a week, and it seems to do the trick.

I’ve never been “athletic” or–okay, fine–even particularly “coordinated,” but I love the deliberateness and precision of yoga, as well as the deep sense of calm it brings. So you can imagine the mellow-shattering horror I experienced the other day when I realized during a lazy, pre class stretch that all those vinyasas have done such a number on my right third toenail that it’s FALLING OFF. Isn’t this only supposed to happen to marathon runners and torture victims?!

In the scope of real global tragedies, this problem is embarrassingly first-world. I am fortunate enough to be able to pay my swollen gas and electric bill every month; to put on my down coat and walk to a yoga studio where I pay for the privilege of doing something good for my body; to come home and complain about all this by writing about it on one of the three computers in my apartment; and to be really, really mad that my plans for a May vacation pedicure seem to be foiled. But I am really, really mad about that.


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Walkin’ on Broken Glass

Fact: I have broken more dishes in the past month than I have in the entire time I’ve had my own dishes to break. Terrible omen or nudge from above to shop for new dishes? I think the answer is clear.

The casualties include

  • 1 dinner plate, but it was cracked and threatening to break for months, I swear. Totally not my fault.
  • 2 (or 3?) juice glasses. Flimsy little things.
  • 2 wine glasses, including the victim pictured above. You may look at the photo and think, MB, if you would wash the glass right away instead of leaving it on the counter, you wouldn’t whack it with your sleeve two days later and send it crashing into the sink. And you would be right.
  • 1 decorative glass. A gift. Irreplaceable. I don’t want to talk about that one.

I’m one shattered cereal bowl away from something a little bit liiiiike this:

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It’s Aliiiiive!

My Kindle love affair continues. I just finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and was completely enthralled from page one. Here’s the link:

I don’t read a ton of nonfiction, but this had all the makings of a great novel, including some of the most vivid characters I’ve read lately. Henrietta Lacks was a black woman who died of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins in 1951. Before she died, her doctor took a sample of her tumor, and the cells from that sample thrived in culture–something human cells hadn’t been able to do until that point. These cells opened a floodgate of discovery, factoring into the development of a polio vaccine as well as research about nuclear weapons and space travel. Today, HeLa cells, as they were dubbed, live on and are used in much of the biomedical research being conducted at a lab near you.

The real story, however, is in Henrietta’s past and the lives of the family members who survive her. Skloot uses Henrietta’s story as a tool to examine complex issues that still plague us 60 years after Henrietta’s death–informed consent, medical and research ethics, health disparities, access to care, race, and donors’ rights.

I flew through this book because I could not put it down, and I would recommend it to anyone. There’s seriously something here for every reader. Plus, you’ll learn a thing or two. I promise!

Don’t skip the foreword or the afterword. And let me know what you think!

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Eat This. Now.

Fine, I’ll say it. If I could eat Mexican food every day of my life, I absolutely would. The really embarrassing part is that I’m not even snobby about it. A breakfast burrito from the brunch place down the street or–God help me–even a Taco Bell gordita can be just as satisfying as something legit.

But let’s never speak of that again.

Thankfully, one of my very favorite Mexican recipes to make at home skews slightly more toward the legit. I’m sure the millions of Mexican grandmothers who aren’t busy hiding out from druglord kidnappers are having heart palpitations thinking of the way I’m bastardizing their carnitas, but too bad. This is delish.

Here’s the recipe I use for Slow Cooker Carnitas.

The recipe calls for a 4-lb. pork roast, but I’ve never used anything more than 2 lbs. Mostly because the thought of having 4 lbs. of shredded flesh in my kitchen kind of skeeves me out. 2 lbs? No sweat. 4? Eh… The important thing is that I don’t adjust the seasoning, even though I’m using a considerably smaller hunk of meat. Trust me. Your tastebuds will sing and dance.

1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1 t cumin
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t ground cinnamon
2-ish lb. pork roast
2 bay leaves
2 c chicken broth

Just mix all the spices together and rub them all over the roast. It’s gonna get messy. Just go with it. When your meat is all dressed up, place the bay leaves in the bottom of a slow cooker, plop the pork on top of them, gently pour the broth around the roast, and cook it all on low for 10 hours. Flip the meat halfway through, but otherwise, just leave it alone. Take the meat out of the liquid and use 2 forks to shred it up. It’ll be so tender it will practically collapse when you touch it, so this doesn’t take long. Now, here’s the best part.

Take a warm tortilla (I prefer corn for this), fill it with some shredded pork, top the pork with fresh avocado slices, a little cheese, some fresh cilantro if you’re feeling sassy, and the secret ingredient: PICKLED ONIONS.

The pickled onions make this taco a miracle. Just make sure you put them together a couple of days in advance to give them time to get just as tangy, spicy, crunchy, and wonderful as they need to be. Here’s what you’ll need, mostly following the lead of Evil Shenanigans:

At LEAST 48 hours
1 medium-sized clean, tightly-closing jar
1 c white vinegar
1/4 c sugar
1/2 t salt
A generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for heat (you could also use a hot pepper)
1/2 t cumin
2 whole cloves
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t mustard seeds
1 medium to large red onion, halved and sliced into thin half-moons

Just put everything (except the onion and the jar, natch) into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add the sliced onion and let it boil for another minute or so, then take the pan off the heat and let it cool before transferring everything to the jar. Close tightly and store in the fridge for at least a couple of days before enjoying.

Y’all. These things are magic. They take the tacos to a whole new level, but they’re also great on salads, brats (yep, I’m in Wisconsin), and, as I discovered at lunch today, quesadillas made with leftover filet mignon, cheddar, mozzarella, and diced green pepper.

Now, go forth and gorge, my friends.

Posted in What's Cookin'? | 2 Comments

The More You Know

Okay, first…watch this:

I am not a mother. I am not responsible for any individual’s oral health but my own. However, every time this helpful (?) commercial from the Wisconsin Dental Association airs, I start sputtering objections.

  1. Hi. Welcome to life. Teeth–all teeth–must to be brushed.
  2. The “They’re just baby teeth” attitude is only applicable in the event of minor chippage or crookedness.
  3. Let’s ignore the itty-bitty minor detail that baby teeth can get cavities too for just one quick second and consider the value of developing such a fundamental self-care habit as TEETH BRUSHING as early as possible. Like, I don’t know, from when a child has both teeth and dexterity?
  4. I didn’t lose my last baby tooth until, like, the sixth grade. By this mother’s measure, should I not have started brushing until puberty? Because, really, if there’s anything that can make puberty bearable, it’s halitosis.
  5. My almost-favorite part of this preposterous commercial is how absolutely incensed this mother is that someone is challenging her logic. Good thing the friendly WDA representative overheard and not someone from Child and Family Services.
  6. My favorite part, however, is the time lapse image of where this little cherub will be after a few years under her deadbeat mother’s care. Someone call an exorcist.

But I consider myself an optimist, so as far as silver linings go, I suppose she’ll have Halloween in the bag.

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Side Effects May Include Vomiting…

My parents may remember things differently, but I don’t think I would have been classified as a “difficult” child growing up. I never had a cavity, never broke a bone. When I was bored, I probably whined about it, but then I’d go occupy myself by rearranging my Crayolas in rainbow order or lining up my stuffed animals according to size or taxonomy or something totally normal like that. I even remember an older kid describing me to his mother as “well trained” one time. In short, I’ve always been this much of a bad ass.

But then I’d get sick.

I’d get strep again or I’d get another ear infection, and then would come the dreaded bottle of medicine. I’m sure I had my not-so-charming moments on normal days, but crack a new bottle of any liquid remedy and you might as well go ahead and call the exorcist. One whiff of that syrupy, antiseptic, vomitocious sludge and I would launch into an episode of histrionics so terrifying that my poor, horrified parents could do nothing but pour the hateful stuff down my throat and run for their lives. I vividly remember standing in the hallway of our house when I was five-years-old, wailing and tearing at my clothes at the prospect of having to swallow a dose of Dimetapp. “Great Grape Taste” my ass. My mother, bless her heart, somehow snuck it down my gullet, and I freaked out to such extremes that I yakked that medicine up all over the floor. Needless to say, for the benefit of all mankind, I learned to take pills very soon after this episode.

With the exception of a few doses of barely palatable Pepto-Bismol, I don’t think I’ve taken liquid medicine in 23 years. You can imagine my horror, then, when Kurt went in the bathroom to take some NyQuil the other day and came out smelling of cherry-flavored hell. I didn’t even consider he’d be taking LIQUID NyQuil, especially when they make those lovely, tasteless (giant) gel caps that glisten like jewels of healthiness in your hand. With that one whiff, I was flooded with memories of epic hissy fits, Triaminic-laced strawberry jelly (what am I, a puppy who won’t take her heartworm pills?), and that feeling you get when you eat something so disgusting your head starts shaking involuntarily. Apparently 23 years is not long enough to heal these wounds.

The good news: There were only two doses of cherry NyQuil left! And I didn’t hurl on him after either one!

The bad news: We replaced it with Walmart brand liquid nighttime cold-and-flu relief, which is flavored like…licorice.

I may die.

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Observations from a Coffee Shop, 2:38 pm

Because my life is awesome, I work from home full-time. I spend my days in yoga pants and I have fresh-made lunches every day. (This morning, I realized I had been reading manuscripts out loud for who knows how long and inserting commentary as I read, but let’s not worry about that.) After polishing off the grilled cheese sandwich and soup I made for today’s lunch, I was flipping through a cookbook for a minute before I had to be back at my desk for the afternoon. Then, suddenly, our power went out. Our entire building’s power went out. A downside to teleworking is that you cannot do it without electricity. So I packed up my laptop and headed down the street to a local coffee shop. I really have been working, but I’ve also noticed a few things over the past couple of hours.

1. A fellow Wi-Fi moocher a couple of tables in front of me is so agitated it’s making ME nervous. His laptop is open in front of him, but he keeps looking out the window, then around the coffee shop, then out the window, then back to the coffee shop. He’s bouncing his knee up and down so vigorously that I can feel it through the base of my own table. Most disturbingly, he’s twisting a section of his hair around his finger with such force that he’s either going to end up with a single dreadlock at the crown of his head or a serious bald patch. Either he’s been here drinking coffee since 8 a.m. or his Ritalin prescription has recently run out.

2. The kind but overly chatty man (no, I don’t want to hear how you went to Belgium to have hip resurfacing surgery before it was FDA-approved here) at the table next to me keeps flipping through a two-inch thick pile of worn business cards and getting “You’ve Got Mail” notifications from the AOL account (yes, that says “AOL”) he has open on his laptop. Apparently he’s a vision from 1997.

3. Union protesters love their coffee. And their signs. I think there is as much space being taken up by protest signs in this shop as there is space being taken up by humans.

4. I do not possess adequate powers of concentration to work productively in a busy, crowded environment. (See items 1-3. And the fact that I’m writing this in the first place.)

5. A dude in a George Washington wig carrying a baby just came in. Tea Party or Union? It’s impossible to tell when he’s carrying a baby and not a sign. Perhaps there’s a lesson here: Deep down, we’re all just Americans with a jones for caffeine. And that’s a beautiful thing.

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