Stop and Eat the Flowers

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Gourmet goodies!

Gourmet goodies!

I know what you’re thinking. That title should say “smell the roses.” ¬†But we’re not talking about perfume or roses today. We’re going to talk about my herby/floral friend, lavender. I’ve previously covered lavender as a dessert ingredient¬†here. This topic came up the other night and the highly intelligent convo went something like this:

Me: “I like lavender in food. You know, because I like French stuff.”

Other person: “I don’t like lavender. I don’t want my food to taste like perfume. Or soap. It can’t be the star player in the dish.”

I could probably recollect more of the conversation had we not indulged in so many cocktails, but I appreciate the perspective. Floral extracts (rosewater, orange blossom water, violet, jasmine and even my favorite St. Germain ingredient, elderflower) have the ability to become overwhelming if not balanced properly. And interestingly, the lavender-tinged herbes de Provence that I enjoy so much really didn’t become popular until the mid 1970s. In fact, I didn’t eat anything featuring lavender while visiting the south of France. I only found it in bunches or in soaps and other toiletries at the market.

So, while on holiday in Florida visiting Crazy Bob, his lady friend and I took a shopping jaunt over to Sanibel Island where we discovered the Sanibel Olive Oil Company in Periwinkle Place (online as Florida Olive Oil here). They had such a variety of unique oil and vinegar flavors that we thought our taste buds were going to explode. After several tastings, I purchased Lavender Balsamic and Key West Citrus Balsamic (I’ll be experimenting with the latter in the near future). She picked up the Habanero-Lime and Walberry (a combination of strawberry and walnut). Sadly, I’m not finding the lavender in their online store so I may call when I run out or try a different vendor. However, if you are in the Fort Myers/ Naples area, you could easily head over to Sanibel and visit the shop to sample yourself. The owner is quite the conversationalist and in addition to oil and vinegar, he also carries flavored salts, spices, sauces, and other “foodie” delights.

Among many other adventures, Crazy Bob and I managed to visit the Edison & Ford Winter Estates where I picked up some local saw palmetto honey in the gift shop. Both are used in the recipe below, but you could substitute with your own local honey and the balsamic vinegar of your choice if you aren’t partial to lavender.

Lady Sensory’s No Soap For You Lavender-Balsamic Glazed Chicken

Old-school mustard seed and spice-grinding

Old-school mustard seed and spice-grinding

1 – 1.5 lbs boneless chicken breasts (I picked up an organic pack of three medium-sized breasts)

2 tsp Herbes de Provence

2 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

2 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressedChicken

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup lavender balsamic vinegar

2 tsp honey (I used saw palmetto, but use what you have)

With a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, combine and grind the mustard seeds, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper together. Apply to the chicken breasts as a dry rub and pop them back in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or while you get the rest of your ingredients ready. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm oil a large pan (that can transfer from stove to oven) on medium heat. Place garlic in and cook until slightly golden. Put the chicken breasts in the pan and brown on each side until you see the breasts just turning from pink to white (about 7-10 minutes, depending on thickness). Remove the breasts from the pan and place on a plate temporarily. Deglaze your pan with the white wine and vinegar and raise the heat to medium high. You are making a reduction so when the mixture comes to a slight boil, ¬†stir in the honey, and turn off the stove top. Return the chicken to the pan and put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, flipping once and keeping an eye the glaze to ensure it doesn’t burn. I served these with a side of roasted asparagus, but they would be equally tasty with Brussels sprouts, potatoes, or any side dish of your choice. You’ll find the lavender gives the chicken more of a lemon/herb flavor that is balanced by the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar and honey. Top the chicken and side dish with any remaining glaze and enjoy!

Lavender-balsamic glazed chicken and roasted asparagus

Lavender-balsamic glazed chicken and roasted asparagus

Dear Mr. Rochester

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This particular "Mr. Rochester" is my great-grandfather, Charles Ranson Carruth. He enjoyed taking the milk money to buy antiques and other collectibles. Some of his treasures can be found at the Memorial Art Gallery and Strong Museum of Play.

This particular “Mr. Rochester” is my great-grandfather, Charles Ranson Carruth. He enjoyed taking the milk money to buy antiques and other collectibles. Some of his treasures can be found at the Memorial Art Gallery and Strong Museum of Play. Now you know where I get my good looks from. Okay fine, Crazy Bob isn’t too shabby either.

Today’s Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) post is on “My Hometown.” I’m an upstate New York gal and while I spent my school years growing up outside of Syracuse, I’ve spent my entire adult life in Rochester. ¬†I decided to focus on the latter for this post. Recently, a new local blog was started called Rochester Love Notes¬†(@RocLoveNotes on Twitter). It’s a great concept and the basic requirement for a submission is roughly 600 words describing what you love about Rochester. Since I couldn’t bear the thought of hindering my creative juices with a word count and my letter results from a love affair with Rochester that has been rather unrequited, I’ll be giving you my rendition here. Fellow literature geeks should appreciate the references.

Dear Mr. Rochester,

I can’t say that I never thought we’d reach this point. Alas, I think the moment is upon us.

I remember when we first met. I was just a child, but when visiting my grandmother, I recall the sense of dangerous attraction I felt overlooking High Falls from the revolving top of the First Federal Building in the early 1980s. ¬†We would not meet again until I was 16 and in search of colleges. ¬†In 1994 I arrived and began to make a life with you. Yes, Mr. Rochester, we’ve actually been together for nearly twenty years.

In my mid-twenties, my father warned me about your arrogance and your beautiful but damned existence. “I don’t know who these Rochester people think they are,” he said, forgetting he had married my born-Rochesterian mother. True to his Syracuse roots, I labeled him as resentful of the place that I thought could offer me more both culturally and economically.

You seduced me with your sophisticated and educated charm, Mr. Rochester. I fell hard for your proximity to water, your museums, and rich history. The trappings of high-end retailers, fine dining, country clubs with beautifully maintained golf courses, fundraisers, and personalities bigger than their britches certainly have provided a lot of social entertainment. There have been nights we’ve happily celebrated successes together and nights where you’ve managed to make a drunken fool of me. You’ve¬†even dressed up as a woman for me on several occasions, but that was all in good fun.

I think that sometimes you forget that I’ve also seen your darker side, that flawed side of you that causes people to turn off the news at night. ¬†I worked with the last of your Holocaust survivors drawing pictures of German soldiers. I walked door to door in neighborhoods ridden with poverty, filing missing person reports on your children. I’ve found¬†razor blades lodged in my windshield wipers in said neighborhoods where, at the time, home tutors were being raped. ¬†I’ve experienced “good-old-boy,” top-heavy, glass-ceiling management. I’ve seen your elders fall short of funds in senior housing communities only to be sent¬†somewhere where medicaid payment is accepted but laden with state deficiencies and questionable care. I’ve had five car accidents here. I’ve been stalked, stolen from, yelled at, harassed, snowed in, and ice-stormed with no power for five days. Truth be told, I wouldn’t change any of it because you have made me stronger. In fact, you have made me who I am.

Despite all of the ties that bind us together, lately I’ve noticed we seem to be drifting apart. ¬†I suppose I can’t blame you entirely. ¬†We’ve had our share of indiscretions. ¬†There was that time in 2003 when I contemplated leaving you for Arizona. Then again in 2006 when the vapid narcissism of southern California called my name. Neither could offer me the commitment I wanted and so I stayed out of loyalty and sadly, fear of the unknown. ¬†I started to feed the urge to leave you by¬†traveling halfway around the world and back, but ultimately you couldn’t fulfill the financial resources it would take for me to continue that hobby. Over the past few years I traveled less and tried to make a life worth living here. I became more involved in volunteerism and community¬†service at organizations that I believe make a difference in your well-being but ultimately, I’m¬†just not sure it’s enough. I suppose I could do even more for you. I could sport a myriad of apparel or accessories¬†proclaiming my love and adoration for you. ¬†But you and I both know I’ve never been one for public displays of affection; and I’m certainly not into something previously enjoyed by one of your other women.

I’ve questioned your fidelity because you’ve been reckless with me, Mr. Rochester. You’ve left me jobless three times now, and broken-hearted more times than I care to recall. ¬†Thankfully, I’m resilient enough to wind up on both feet and better off each time, but I’m forced to wonder when my luck will run out. We’re both aware of my intelligence and talents; and I’m certainly more Cathertine Linton vs. plain Jane Eyre in the looks department. ¬†And yet, sometimes you look right through me as if I don’t exist. At¬†37 years old I’m without a husband, children, or a career that fulfills me. ¬†I’ve given you the best damn years of my life, Rochester.¬†Why must you continue to deny me of the very basic needs that could keep me here forever?

I implore you to give me a reason to stay, Rochester. Now please forgive me as I throw your own words back in your face while I question the fate of our future together and know that this is not about hating you or falling out of love. It’s simply knowing when it’s time to let go: “Since happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure out of life: and I will get it, cost what it may.”

(Quote from Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre by¬†Charlotte Bront√ę)

Lawd Jesus, It’s a Faaaahre

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BonfireAdmittedly, I’m oblivious to today’s Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) topic which is “Bonfire Night.” This is apparently tied to Guy Fawkes, an English historical figure who apparently fought for the Spanish and came up with some “gunpowder plot.”

Forgive me, but I am not a history buff. That area of expertise lies with my father, Crazy Bob. I did not inherit this trait. However, I did inherit the trait of a steel trap memory and the stubbornness of the “Fighting Irish.” ¬†You don’t want to do battle with me because you won’t win. ¬†I learned from the very best as a child by closely observing spats during holiday family gatherings.

So what do bonfires make me think of?  This woman:

Sweet Brown

For those of you who aren’t familiar, that’s Sweet Brown. ¬†She’s famous for getting up to get herself a cold pop, smelling a barbecue, realizing her apartment complex was burning down, yelling “Oh lawd Jesus, there’s a faaaaahre,” and then running for her life. Then the smoke got her. She got bronchitis and said, “Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!” She’s my favorite YouTube media disaster gone right – she now has advertising deals and her very own line of barbecue sauce. In fact, I love her so much that my friends told me I had a “Sweet Brown tic disorder” and had to do an intervention banning me from using any of her phrases. I totally plan on getting some of her barbecue sauce the near future to spite them. I have high hopes that it will be amazing.

Enough about Sweet Brown. You know what else bonfires remind me of? ¬†They make my hair smell like bacon. That’s ten times better than the awful scent of some John Frieda shampoo and conditioner I decided to sample. I smell like a two dollar teenage prostitute (sorry for any JF fans, but it’s giving me a headache).

Since I’ve already argued with someone today, I’m going to recognize “Bonfire Night” by cooking some fresh hickory-smoked bacon. ¬†Then I’m going to make a sandwich, drink wine, and play around with some graphic design stuff.

Cheers to that!

You Say Tomato, My Father Says Thongs

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I started this blog exactly six months ago today and this is my 50th post.¬† It’s been¬†a fun and¬†interesting experience; and I¬†thank¬†those who have stopped by to visit and/or followed The Sensory Cart for their support and hope it continues.¬†¬†Since I’ve already used up my Fifty Shades of Grey material, I thought I’d celebrate 50 posts by telling the tale of a weekend trip to New York City with my father, Crazy Bob, for my thirtieth birthday.¬† Why?¬† Because in hindsight it’s a funny story and it directly relates to one of my most requested recipes for which I unfortunately cannot take credit.

Prior to my turning thirty,¬†I had only been to New York on business and while I had dined, attended shows, and shopped, I had never experienced the museums¬†despite having¬†spent six years pursuing two degrees as an art major.¬† My father and I decided to fly down to the city and visit the museums, see a show, hit some shops,¬†head to SoHo for some Dark Obsession tea,¬†and experience some tarts at a small cafe called Once Upon a Tart.¬† You see, I had purchased the cafe’s cookbook¬†many years ago¬†after one of the owners, Jerome Audureau, made his mother’s signature apricot tart on the Martha Stewart Show.¬† Yes, it was prior to Martha’s incarceration – don’t¬†you be talkin’ smack about¬†my girl!¬† Not only had I perfected the apricot tart¬†at home, but several other dessert tarts as well. We can discuss dessert tarts at a later date.

So¬†Crazy Bob and¬†I¬†boarded a Delta flight to JFK.¬† We won’t discuss the fact that I put everything, and I mean everything, in my checked luggage and left my carry on practically empty since I was a woman on a retail mission.¬† I’m sure you can envision what happened next.¬† Crazy Bob and¬†I arrived. I¬†contacted the shuttle because I figured that¬†in NYC traffic, it would arrive right around the time our luggage would roll off the conveyor belt.¬† And so we watched the baggage go around, and around, and around, and the shuttle go bye-bye before I realized I was pretty much screwed.¬† Insert big, fat, giant hissy fit here with several nasty phone calls to Delta customer service.¬† We were on a tight schedule¬†since SoHo was slated for that afternoon and The Producers¬†show was¬†planned for that evening.¬† So we¬†ventured over¬†to SoHo and I began to¬†rack up¬†additional expenses¬†for what should have been in my carry on.¬† Our first stop was Aveda, and¬†the next stop was a random Asian market¬†for non-Aveda products like toothpaste, deodorant¬†and a comb (that Delta Sky Mall package wasn’t cutting the mustard).¬† The third¬†stop was Once Upon a Tart.¬† I hadn’t eaten. It was late afternoon and not too much was left.¬† I glanced at the case and decided I’d go with a savory tart, soup,¬†and several scones to have for the hotel the next day.¬† The tart was Tomato Proven√ßal and it was simply delicious.¬† I inhaled it and knew I would have to check my book for the recipe when I returned home.

We still hadn’t resolved the very obvious problem.¬† I had no clothing – not one single item, including underpants.¬† That didn’t stop us from heading to Mariebelle¬†for tea and chocolates, where I had to ask the sales associate where I could find decent undergarments.¬† She recommended Anthropologie.¬† I knew shopping there was going to impact how much I could spend on other things so I inquired, “Where is the nearest Victoria’s Secret?”¬† She gave me directions and off we went.¬† Now, I had shopped in Victoria’s Secret with my mother while she was alive, but had never experienced one with Crazy Bob.¬† This is how it went down:¬† I told the sales associate what happened with my luggage.¬† I asked her for very specific products and underpants (basically the items that were lost).¬†¬†She gave me 20 different options that they were trying to ‘pimp’ at the time.¬† I became frustrated and told¬†her I needed a minute to look around.¬† Meanwhile, my father was on my heels the entire time.¬† I located a hoodie, black yoga pants, and some fragrance mist and started¬†poking through the undie-bins trying to find my size.¬† The clock was ticking and we¬†had to go to the show.¬† He inquired, “What’s the matter?”¬† I told him that¬†I couldn’t find my size in the color and style that I wanted.¬† He asked¬†what I was looking for.¬† I uncomfortably said, “They don’t have any small black thongs.”

To my horror, Crazy Bob¬†started to yell¬†at the top of his lungs, “SHE CAN’T FIND ANY SMALL BLACK THONGS! DO YOU HAVE ANY SMALL BLACK THONGS AROUND HERE?”

See, you¬†truly haven’t lived until your father¬†requests thongs for you¬†at high volume in the middle of a SoHo Vicky’s Secret.¬† It’s character-building.¬† Tears of embarrassment are good for you. ¬†And, you really haven’t lived until you’ve tried this delicious tart. So without further ado, I give you:

Lady Sensory’s Don’t Get Your Panties in a Bunch Tomato Proven√ßal Tart

(from the Once Upon a Tart cookbook with a minor adjustment here and there – do yourself a favor and buy the book for more tips on how to make great crusts)

Savory Tart Crust (You will need to make this in advance and chill for about an hour – I usually make mine the night before.¬† You’ll want to use the crust within 3-4 days.¬†This makes¬†2 crusts for¬†9-inch tart pans):

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tbsp semolina flour

1 tsp salt

12 tbsp (1.5 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

3 tbsp cold solid vegetable shortening

Small glass of ice water

In a food processor, combine the flour, semolina flour and salt and pulse.¬† Add butter and shortening all at once and pulse until the mixture forms little pea-sized balls – do not let it turn to a paste!¬† Remove blade and place the crumbs into a large bowl.¬† Add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until dough just comes together into a ball – do not¬†let it get so wet that it turns sticky and pasty white!¬† Cut the dough in half and form two disks.¬† Wrap the disks in¬†wax paper or plastic wrap¬†and refrigerate until ready to use.¬† I recommend about an hour to overnight.¬† When it’s time to make the tart, remove the dough from the fridge and place the racks in the center of the oven.¬† Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.¬† For this recipe you will par-bake (half-bake) the crust.¬† On a floured surface, with a floured pin, roll out your disk of dough to about 1/4-inch thick.¬† Carefully place your dough into your tart pan (I recommend the pans with the removable bottoms) and press evenly into the bottom and sides of the pan. Don’t worry if the dough breaks or if you mess up!¬† Trust that it gets easier with practice!¬† As long as you don’t work the dough too much, the crust will still come out flaky and delicious.¬† Using a fork, prick holes into the bottom of the crust (this will help prevent air bubbles).¬†¬†Line the¬†dough with¬†parchment paper or foil and fill with an even layer of dried beans or pie weights.¬† Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet (easier to remove from the oven) and bake for 10 minutes.¬† Remove the foil/paper & weights, carefully, and return the crust to the oven for about 5 more minutes.¬† Remove when toasted and slightly golden brown.¬† Reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit to cook the rest of the tart.

Tomato Provençal Filling

Camellia pattern

9-inch par-baked crust (above)

12-15 plum (Roma) tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick round slices, and drained in a colander

2 tablespoons Grey Poupon Country Dijon mustard (or any grainy Dijon mustard)

1 cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional, my addition to the recipe)

1 tsp Herbes de Provence (or more, depending on your preference РI use 1.5 tsp)

2 large eggs

1/4 cup light cream (you can substitute with half and half)

Salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste

While the tomatoes drain (about 15 – 30 minutes),¬† whisk together¬†the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper in a bowl.¬† Spread the mustard in an even layer on the bottom of the tart shell with the back of a spoon.¬† Sprinkle Gruy√®re and Parmesan cheese over the layer of mustard, then follow with Herbes¬†de Provence.¬† Lay the tomatoes in a camellia-type pattern (overlapping¬†slices in concentric circles)¬†from the outside in.¬† Pour the egg mixture (custard) evenly over the tomatoes until it is approximately 1/4 ” away from the top of the crust.¬† You can drizzle a little more cream if you don’t have enough.¬† Bake the tart on the center rack in the oven at 375 degrees Farenheit¬†for 1 hour to an hour and 15 minutes.¬† Keep an eye on the custard – it shouldn’t jiggle when it is done.¬† Remove the tart and allow to cool a bit before removing the outside ring.¬† I typically place mine on an old tea canister, but you can use any large, sturdy can.¬† This tart is delicious warm or at room temperature.¬† I typically store it in the fridge for a few days and warm¬†slices up in the microwave and serve with a tossed salad and a glass of red.¬† This is wonderful to bring to a brunch, picnic, or pie/tart contest. The presentation is beautiful and it’s always a crowd-pleaser.¬† It isn’t gluten-free, but¬†it is vegetarian-friendly.¬† Whether you buy the cookbook or try the cafe in person, you will not be disappointed.

As a side note, my luggage did arrive the next day after my SoHo VS/ Crazy Bob debacle.¬† If you ever get down to SoHo, please take a little jaunt to 135 Sullivan Street and enjoy a slice of savory or sweet goodness.¬† But whatever you do, don’t forget¬†to pack your underpants in your carry on.¬† This has been a public service announcement from Lady Sensory.

French 75: Lessons in Life, Language, and Liquor

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Throw this in your best stemware. We’re getting French and fancy!

So I’m in the process of teaching myself French for my upcoming jaunt to France.¬†¬†If only¬†I had started it when I bought the darn Rosetta Stone on Cyber Monday last November.¬† Thanks to procrastination, I am now in the home stretch and I’m not even sure I will be able to ask someone¬†the location of the nearest bathroom.¬† Thanks to Patti LaBelle, I’m quite certain I can ask someone to go to bed with me…this evening.¬† I’m hoping the French will be kind to me if I make¬†the genuine effort to speak their language.¬† In all seriousness, the Rosetta Stone is a good product which uses “speech-recognition technology,” visual cues, and association to teach you to speak the language.¬† Within these visual cues, you’ll find¬†photographs of diverse subject matter since Rosetta presently offers about 30 different languages from all over the world.¬† So you’ll enjoy the delicious¬†irony of¬†an Asian¬†or an Indian person in a¬†sari¬†greeting you with, “Bonjour!” and an African¬†person in tribal attire¬†saying, “Au revoir!”¬† Once you get past that,¬†you’ll find¬†Rosetta very useful and possibly fun.

Admittedly, I’m struggling a bit with the verbs, prepositions, and possessives because¬†I’m not¬†learning the hard rules¬†behind the¬†language.¬†¬† I’m also¬†finding that¬†while the¬†microphone that accompanies the set is¬†generally good,¬†it can be hit or miss at times.¬† For example, I know when I have thoroughly¬†effed-up a French phrase and¬†Rosetta¬†tells me¬†I’m correct.¬† Other times, I’m certain I’ve nailed the pronunciation¬†at least four¬†times in a row¬†and¬†Rosetta still tells¬†me¬†I’m wrong.¬† When this occurs, I find myself¬†wishing Rosetta would teach me some obscenities so that I can swear at her appropriately in French.¬† In the end, it all balances out with the scoring; and you can take¬†the lessons again to help improve your scores and overall mastery of the language.¬† I’m confident that by the time I get across the Atlantic I’ll be able to¬†find a¬†bathroom, ask for directions, order some food, and make various purchases.¬† And really, who needs more than that on a vacation?

In the meantime,¬†I’ve¬†gotten into the gin again and¬†mainly in the form of martinis.¬† This¬†never bodes well for those involved.¬† It’s my way of honoring Crazy Bob for a belated Father’s Day, since martinis are his favorite.¬† Through my gin-worship, I like to think that I’m celebrating all the men in my life who will inevitably require mental hygiene or will drive me to pursue some myself.¬†¬† Hey, if you can’t beat them, you can certainly drink to them.¬† A friend of mine won’t touch the¬†stuff unless it’s in the cocktail below because she insists¬†gin¬†makes her¬†go ‘cray-cray.’¬† This¬†cocktail is a little safer than a martini, but it still packs a wallop.¬†¬†So pour¬†yourself¬†this delightful, lemon-fresh classic that you can enjoy on a hot summer evening¬†while fantasizing about handsome French men on the French Riviera…whispering¬†French sweet-nothings that sound very seductive, but¬†probably¬†amount to quality American zingers¬†like:

“I can’t give you what you want.”

“I’m not married.”

“Would you mind turning over so I don’t have to look at you?”

“Sorry I lied to you…again.”

“I’ll tie you up like¬†Christian Grey. The safety word is Freedom-Fries.”

“Gitchi¬†Gitchi¬†Ya Ya¬†Da Da”

“I seem to have misplaced my 75-millimeter….”

Lady Sensory-Marmalade’s French 75

Yes, it was named after a handgun.  These proportions work best, but feel free to cater it to your preferred gin/champagne ratio:

2 oz gin – I prefer Hendrick’s, but use whatever you like

2 sugar cubes or 1 tsp superfine sugar

1/2 – 3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of about 1/2 lemon)

Approximately 3-4 oz brut champagne or dry sparkling wine (I used Cava)

First, peel yourself a twist or two off the lemon and then juice half of it.¬† Set the other half aside or double¬†the recipe¬†if you have a visitor.¬† Dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice.¬† Add the ice, and pour the 2 oz of gin over the mixture and shake well.¬† Strain into a tall chilled flute, or¬†perhaps a funky white wine goblet like I did¬†(you can also¬†use¬†a Collins glass with more ice if you want to take the edge off – it’s kind of boozy).¬† Top off the glass with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

“Nous buvons en ce moment!”¬†

(Yes, I am¬†fairly certain I’ll use that phrase¬†at some point in my life, and it means: we are drinking at the moment!)

Check out my fun little home bar that I’ve arranged. Que c’est beau!

Purchase-Parties and Fancy Manfood

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Purchase-parties?¬† Oh, you know exactly what I am talking about.¬† It started long ago with Mary Kay and lately it seems that everyone and his or her mother is peddling something.¬† No, thank you,¬†I don’t want to host and I certainly don’t want to be a rep.¬† I’m not even sure I want what’s on my order form, and I certainly don’t need it, but I’m buying it anyway.¬† My invite frequency reached such a high¬†level that I’ve¬†limited my¬†attendance at these to no more than¬†two¬†per year.¬† It’s only May and that attendance¬†quota has already been met.¬† Purchase-parties really aren’t bad.¬† You meet a¬†few people,¬†enjoy¬†drinks,¬†play little raffle games, and try before you buy.¬† However, when you get¬†multiple invites for the same company, you tend to run out of options. ¬†I’d like to discuss the products that¬†I own or have enjoyed¬†from these purchase parties, then¬†we’ll make dinner with one of the less expensive items you can get.¬† As a result, this post will run a tad long, but you’ll¬†get some valuable info.¬† Opinions are my own, so¬†please don’t take any offense if I don’t like a particular company or product.

Mary Kay:¬†Nada. I have never¬†purchased a product from Mary Kay. I carry a similar sentiment for Avon products.¬† I find¬†my response to it very, “Meh,” but I am also very particular about makeup and skin care.¬† At the first Mary Kay party I¬†ever attended, my friend¬†(the host) invited her mother who proceeded to complain about interracial dating. Never you mind that the Caucasian Mary Kay rep was married to¬†an African-American gentleman. ¬†That made for a very nice,¬†socially awkward¬†situation.¬† If tortured and¬†prompted to purchase Mary Kay via a gun to the head,¬†I guess I would pick a Mary Kay Satin Hands kit which features an exfoliant scrub and emollient moisturizer to make your hands look and feel pretty. It vaguely smells like Bain de Soleil (BDS) orange gel√©e (or at least it did years ago).¬† Anything that smells like BDS gets some points in my book.

Tastefully Simple: Again, nada. I’m just not that into cream cheese, dip, and soup mixes.¬† I do think they would make lovely hostess gifts.¬† I recall liking a key lime pie cheese ball and a Greek seasoning, but not enough to drop wad. I also recall someone getting into an argument with Siri on¬†her iPhone about the proper definition of a Dirty Sanchez.¬† It’s probably best not¬†to bother¬†Siri about something you can look up on Urban Dictionary.¬† She¬†can get¬†rather nasty.

Lia Sophia:¬†Earrings. Lots and lots of earrings. So many earrings. Earrings that I have since seen on other people, so I am no longer interested.¬† They just don’t change the product line enough and I got burned on an exchange when it was the rep’s fault.¬† She sent me a necklace instead of (you guessed it!) earrings and I got stuck with credit that I had no¬†desire to use.¬† No, thank you.¬† I have never attended a Silpada party and I do not think I would partake because I have heard it is more expensive than Lia Sophia.

PartyLite:¬†Again, “Meh.”¬† I’ve¬†purchased a candle or three at these. They were okay, but probably wouldn’t repurchase.

Scentsy:¬† Actually, this was¬†the best purchase-party I attended¬†over the past year.¬† It’s basically a decorative electric tart warmer¬†that¬†melts a scented bar of¬† wax¬†with a¬†lightbulb,¬†which is great for reducing candle soot, etc.¬† The¬†fragrances are long-lasting and¬†reasonably priced.¬† I have found several scents I like¬†and have¬†since purchased refills.¬† While I will need some back-up candles for thunderstorm-induced power outages, it has significantly reduced money spent on very pricey home-fragrances.¬† It¬†also helped that the rep was¬†not local and thus,¬†not at the party.¬† My friend, who has a blog over here, hosted at her home and continued with an online party.¬† So the atmosphere was more relaxed and there was no sales pressure¬†about special deals or hosting.¬† They have a wide range of fragrances (foodie, floral, fresh)¬†which are suitable for any preference.

Pampered Chef:¬† Since I haven’t¬†attended a sex-toy or a purse party yet, we’ll finish up with this one.¬† I’m sure it is no surprise that the majority of my purchase-party fund has been dedicated to¬†Pampered Chef.¬† I currently own: a pizza stone, a springform pan, two metal loaf pans, lidded prep bowls, some doo-dad that holds your food while you cut it (I actually use it to poke holes in acorn squash before I roast it), a garlic press, and several other items.¬† I enjoy most of my purchases, but my favorite of all¬†is probably the Moroccan Rub pictured above. If you can only spend about $5 at a purchase-party,¬†this will help¬†you out tremendously.¬† This rub really turned me on to the more exotic spices I use today.¬† I¬†like to keep¬†one of these¬†on-hand my for when I’m feeling like I just want to keep it simple.¬†I’m not a big red meat-eater anymore, but I occasionally get a craving¬†so¬†I tried¬†my Moroccan Rub¬†on steak¬†with a¬†variation of my traditional steak marinade.

Lady Sensory’s¬†Moroccan Manfood Steak:¬†

1 tbsp Pampered Chef Moroccan Rub

Cracked black pepper and salt, to taste (I’d say about a 1/4 – 1/2 tsp of each)

1 cup of Worcestershire Sauce (I use the Lea & Perrins kind in the paper-wrapped bottle)

1/2 cup full-bodied red wine (Red Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, or a blend of these)

2 cloves of garlic, minced (or pressed with the above-mentioned Pampered Chef garlic press)

2 lean-cut steaks, like top sirloin or filet mignon (beef tenderloin)

1 tbsp olive oil

Rub steaks well with a small amount of oil,¬†Moroccan Rub, salt, and pepper and allow to sit on a plate in the fridge for a half hour to one hour while you mix up your marinade.¬† In a shallow container, combine the garlic,¬†Worcestershire sauce, red wine and remaining oil and whisk together.¬† Place the steaks in marinade and allow to sit in the fridge¬†for about 4 hours, flipping once.¬† Prepare steaks on the grill or under the broiler to your desired¬†temperature (I like mine medium-rare so I do about 4-5 minutes on each side under my broiler; steaks were about 1.5 inches thick).¬† If you like yours more well done, add a minute or two on each side. If you choose to do larger steaks, like strip steak, trim¬†off a bit if the fat¬†and increase the recipe to accommodate the size of the steak. ¬†I think you could probably use a flank or hanger steak but that cut doesn’t appeal to me as much.¬† Once you have removed steaks from the grill or broiler, allow¬†them to rest for 10 minutes.¬† I served¬†steak over salad with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar dressing, alongside mushroom risotto and the sweet potato fries below, but you could totally pair it with¬†your own¬†choice¬†of potato or veggie¬†side dish.

Lady Sensory’s¬†Simple Spiced Sweet Potato Fries

I use one potato per person and this recipe could season 1-2 sweet potatoes, so increase recipe as needed.

1 sweet potato (yam)

1 tbsp Pampered Chef Moroccan Rub

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/8 tsp cloves

1/8 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.¬† Line a cookie sheet with foil and brush with a small amount of olive oil.¬† This will help¬†prevent¬†sticking and makes for easier clean-up.¬† Clean sweet potato and peel if desired. I leave the skin on. Slice in half and cut into wedges. Place wedges into bowl. Combine dry ingredients and sprinkle over potato wedges. Then drizzle with remaining oil. You may need to add a little more oil, depending on the size of your potato.¬† Toss and rub the oil and seasoning mixture onto the surface of the wedges until well incorporated.¬† Place in a single layer on the cookie sheet and allow to cook for about a half-hour, turning the fries over once, and keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn.¬† These can caramelize really quickly!¬† Remove from oven and serve with ketchup if that is your preference (balsamic vinegar also pairs nicely), but these are fine on their own.

Since this is on the healthier¬†side, I wouldn’t classify this as the kind of ‘Manfood’ that my father, Crazy Bob, used to enjoy at random diners while traveling for work.¬† But, I’m pretty sure¬†a¬†dude wouldn’t¬†complain¬†about having¬†a plate of tasty moo-moo meat placed in front of him.¬† And if he does, he gets to¬†wear that dinner¬†home.

23 Things I Inadvertently Learned From My Mother

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Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there!¬† I’ve been looking through some old photographs lately.¬† It’s amazing what absurdities you can discover about yourself¬†while reflecting on how you became the person you are today.¬† I thought I’d celebrate Mother’s Day by sharing these little¬†gems.¬† Please note, since my mother is no longer alive, and I have no kids of my own, I’ve simply¬†taken the liberty of talking to my childhood-self from¬†a mother’s¬†perspective. Enjoy!

23)¬† Hey kid, you are going to say the phrase, “Talk to the hand,” more often than you’ll ever care to admit. Thanks to my exposing you to Judge Judy, you’ll also say things like, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining,” and, “Hey – beauty fades, but dumb is forever.”

22)¬† You’re smiling now, but when you get older and realize that we dressed you up like this doll, you’re going to be so creeped-out.

21)¬† We were happy to send you to college and grad school.¬† But really, it won’t take two psychology degrees¬†to realize that Sigmund Freud would have a field day with this picture.

20)¬† You’ll be glad your aunt showed you how to high-five.¬† You’re going to use that a lot, even if it’s hella-lame.

19)¬† I’m glad we finally found some interesting headgear for you to wear on that Big Wheel of yours.¬† Safety first!

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18)  Dressing up like Oscar the Grouch allowed you to be grouchy once a year. Please take a PMS pill if you feel the need to be grouchy once a month.

17)¬† Spring break looks good on you.¬†This is precisely why you never¬†went and¬†as a result, never¬†wound up in a Girls Gone Wild video.¬† It was for your own damn good.¬† You’re welcome.

16)¬† Someday you’re going to think that rust-colored vintage Nova you hated¬†was actually cool; and you’ll regret buying that Ginger-Cabbage Patch Kid. Orange car: awesome. Orange hair: not so much.

15)  Most things in life can be accomplished very easily with a great pair of shades and a rabbit between your legs.

14)  Believe it or not, you actually did more constructive things at the New York State Fair than playing I Got It and laughing at mullets.

13)¬† You’re going to learn from your father that it’s perfectly acceptable to get sloppy on a golf course.¬† In fact, you’ll see executives doing¬†just that¬†when you work¬†at your¬†medical equipment sales job.

12)¬† Just because we gave you a book entitled, “The Little Red Caboose,” doesn’t mean you can throw all your money away on Victoria’s Secret crap. ¬†And for God’s¬†sake don’t start¬†calling them panties. I hate that word.

11)¬† The fact that you can be this excited about oral hygiene while being exposed to that hideous wallpaper that looks like it was created¬†by Claude Monet’s starving-artist-friend shows you are one tenacious kid. Either that, or¬†you’re blind. Seriously, why are you not throwing up?

10)¬† By dressing you in this God-awful snowsuit, we’ve basically ensured there will be no teenage pregnancies in this household.¬† You can make as many milkshakes as you want, young lady,¬†but you’ll be bringing no boys¬†to the yard while you’re in that heinous get-up.

9)¬† This picture¬†should teach you¬†that you should always wash your produce and never, never, never buy a romper¬†as an adult.¬† I don’t care if J-Simp and Kim Kardashian have one. You’re going to¬†look ridiculous when you are no longer 6.

8)¬† You’re going to train Santa to give you what you want by first meeting him eye-to-eye, and then beating the living daylights out of him.¬† You go, girl!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

7)  Thanks to me, no matter where you are, you are always going to prefer to be at the beach.  Sorry.

6)  Believe it or not, there are actually waterfalls at Niagara Falls and not just casinos and male strippers.

5)¬† I’m so proud.¬† I can tell by the look on your face that even at the tender age of 9 months, you’ve realized that riding the hobby-horse with a nerd or a short man who prefers¬†loud pants is totally going to ruin your street cred.¬†

4) Your affinity for the Smurfs is totally going to haunt you later in life.  Carrying around that lunchbox and hanging out with that tramp, Smurfette, at the Ice Capades have only set you up for failure. You have creepy 56-year old Papa Smurfs winking at you on match.com.  I should never have let you near those little blue people.

3) This “Irish Goodbye” training below¬†is totally going to help you out in college and at networking events in your professional life.

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2) As you grow older, you are going to need to rethink the placement of appliqués on your attire so that they will not be confused with pasties. 

1) You will never yearn for a pointy hat, ever. Your life is yours.¬† So whether you are 2 or 2+ 30-something years old, your life and your fun¬†will always be what you make of it.¬† And, no matter how crappy it gets or whether you believe it or not, you’ll always have what you need because I gave it to you.