Pancakes + Paczkis = A Fat Tuesday Indeed

18 Feb

The success of a party can usually be figured out by the mess you have to deal with the next day. Yes, we filled up the garbage can. Yes, we’ve already put a load of dishes in the dishwasher. However, these remnants are what I’m cleaning up today:

The bottle of fish oil and the Japanese picture dictionary did play a role in the festivities last night, believe it or not. Our group has apparently hit the age where “vitamin chat” is an important topic of conversation. One guest started talking about how she used to take fish oil and saw great results, though she’d stopped taking it. That, of course, meant a beeline to the cabinet to pull out the fish oil and try to foist it on people. We needed the book to show some important point–or perhaps it just got to the point in the night where it’s time to pull out books for show and tell purposes. You know what it’s like, right?

You foodies, though, may really only care how the food turned out. Well, the mess in the kitchen is mainly due to me starting prep late and throwing things together quickly. I did not use a sieve when making British pancakes, nor did I let the flour “get a good airing.” I threw ingredients in a bowl, mixed them together, then realized that the recipe really needed to be doubled, so I threw another batch into the same bowl, “well in the centre” and “adding milk gradually” be damned. An actual European who knows a little something about making crepes was on pan duty, so they turned out all right. I’m sure that if I’d followed the recipe to the T, the pancakes’ texture might have been slightly different, but nobody complained–perhaps because it’s been a year since we’ve all had them. It’s all about the fillings anyway, and we had some lovely beef with raisins, a creamy mushroom, fruit, Nutella, lemon juice, powdered sugar, and multiple varieties of jam. Nothing to complain about!

Next on the docket was buttermilk pancakes, which was on the menu for the pickier eaters in our group. The Boy has a really good dairy-free pancake recipe that calls for orange juice, but I went with straight buttermilk, because I thought the slight orange flavor those cakes acquire might have not played well on a picky eater’s palate. Did I make the right call there? At any rate, the batter was fine, but since I’m not that practiced with cooking pancakes, they got a little scorched. To make up for it, we also cooked a couple of packages of bacon, which cures all cooking issues.

Our last pancake was okonomiyaki, cooked up by our Japanese friend. I haven’t had this dish in a while, and it was so good! Light, fluffy eggs, onions and cabbage, sauce, perhaps some mystery ingredients (don’t ask, just eat). Delicious!

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The hard thing about three types of pancakes is that you need to have room for dessert, and as it was FYOP (Fill Your Own Paczki) night, that stomach space was essential.

Dude, can I just say that Jenny Jones has a good recipe? Sure, I fried them (she bakes), and I didn’t do the final steps to coat them in sugar because I’m used to a dusting of powdered sugar. They’re on the small side because I don’t have a proper cutter and was cutting them out with a 1/2-cup measure, but the German in our group loved the fact that they were the proper size for the German version of a Fat Tuesday donut. By next year I may have to acquire some sort of pastry syringe [as used in the latest episode of “The Great British Baking Show,” which coincidentally also feature donuts this week!] so we can do some proper injection. Me? I just cut the whole thing in half, to get in as much filling as possible.

So there you have it. I pulled off Pancake Day without being British…and without a Brit there for guidance, as ours was sick. A bunch of cooks in the kitchen made it happen, and a bunch of happy guests made for a nice jolt to the week–and I’m sure a jolt to my waistline. On to the austerity of Lent!

Get Your Flip On!

17 Feb

Happy Pancake Day! Yes, today is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday too, but in England it’s Shrove Tuesday, and you eat pancakes. My Brit friend Angwa is pretty keen on the day, so there’s always a celebration with British crepe-like pancakes and tons of fillings (I think the idea is to clean out your pantry in preparation for Lent). This year we’ll also do American flapjacks, for those who aren’t fans of crepes, and our Japanese friend will make up some okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake/pizza type dish.

And for me it’s also Paczki Day.

This year, instead of going on a big paczki hunt, I’m going to attempt to make my own for the first time, thanks to a Jenny Jones recipe. I know! Jenny Jones! She’s still around and putting things out into the world (read her bio–she’s done some pretty cool stuff in her lifetime). And she has a paczki recipe. How can I not try it?!

Tonight we eat–whether you’re eating pancakes or paczkis or celebrating with a drink or two, eat well. Tomorrow we share pictures.

Tracking the Moves

16 Feb

It’s Monday, which means it’s time for a “Jill Moves” update. Still streaking? Check, although I’m tracking some mighty, mighty slow walks due to shuffling through snow (which, at times, has been up to my upper thighs).

This week, though, I thought I’d talk about tracking and some of the tools I use to keep track of my workouts. Keeping a log is useful–you can see what you’ve accomplished and can use that information to make improvements. I’m gonna be honest though, I’ve not historically been good at looking over past workout logs and examining the information they give me. If I did, perhaps I’d be able to optimize my performance when it counts.

Electronic tracking might help. I’ve downloaded a bunch of apps for that purpose:

  • MapMyRun – GPS tracking puts your run on a map, and it logs mileage and time (and some other stuff, if I delve into it further). Since I don’t have a fancy tracking watch or gizmo, I use this every day.
  • Runtastic’s Sit Ups, Push Ups, Squats and Pull Ups apps – These apps use your phone to track your movements to see if you’ve done a complete rep. I’ve been doing the sit ups and squats workouts fairly regularly. I’ve tried push ups (oy, I’m out of practice on those), and pull ups are a little lost on me now (see: out of practice + poor upper body strength)
  • 7 Minute Workout app – I like the 7 Minute Workout because, well, it’s short. Some websites and apps are better than others. The version I’ve downloaded is very good at telling me I haven’t worked out for the umpteenth day in a row.

I also use a couple of paper products:

  • Believe Training Journal – The Boy got me this for Christmas, and it’s a detailed journal put together by runners Lauren Fleshman and Róisín McGettigan-Dumas. It contains a lot of info on setting goals, and it does a nice job of trying to help you break down your goals into manageable pieces. I’ll be honest–I need to sit down and spend more time with it, but I like this because it’s a tool that encourages along the way; it’s not just at the front of the book. I’m hopeful about this product.
  • Bill Pearl workout log – This is a template in one of Pearl’s weightlifting books. Tried and true, and easy to use in the gym. I just should go back and look at my workouts over time.

This is what I’m using now. So far, I’m using it. Using these to take my fitness to the next level is an ongoing process though–I’ll have to touch base about that at a later date. I am curious about getting a GPS watch/Fitbit type gadget. Do you love them? Not use them? Are they worth it? Any other apps or products that are great? What else is out there that’s the bomb when it comes to tracking fitness?

Warning: A New Fever May Be on the Loose

13 Feb

Last week I came across a rather subtle announcement: Birmingham, Alabama, will be hosting the World Games in 2021.

Stop the presses! World Games? Is this an international spectacle of sports that could be fever-inducing?

From what I’ve been able to tell, the World Games seems to be the cast-offs of the Olympics. They’re held every four years, in the year after the Olympics, so summer sports and no competition from the granddaddy of international sports showcases, although the two organizations do cooperate. From what it seems, most of the sports on the World Games programs are being tested for their viability to be included in the Olympic program, so it seems like not just an elite global competition for a more obscure sport, but also an Olympic training ground.

The other big difference from the Olympics is that at the time a city bids, its plan may not call for any new structures to be built solely for these games. They have to either currently exist or be in the works for a non-World Games purpose. That’s particularly interesting, since there are so many issues surrounding construction for the purpose of the Olympics. Even temporary structures cost a fortune. This “use what you’ve got” scenario appeals to the DIYer in me.

But let’s get back to the sports, because this is the key. Let’s look at the sport program for Wroclaw 2017. If you’re sad that tug of war was removed from the Olympic program, you can find it here, along with:

  • billiards
  • bowling
  • fin swimming
  • fistball
  • floorball
  • korfball
  • orienteering
  • sport climbing
  • air sports (parachuting, glider aerobatics, etc.)
  • beach handball
  • canoe polo
  • ultimate frisbee (or “flying disc”)
  • squash
  • water skiing
  • sumo
  • and more!

A few Olympic sports do find their way in–archery, gymnastics, powerlifting–but for the most part, the program consists of obscure sports that need some attention. As someone who’s involved in the obscure sport of roller derby, I know just how much a global stage can help bring much needed exposure, which leads to more participation, which leads to more sponsorship dollars, etc. Obscure sports show just how many interests people have and how much they’re willing to participate in an activity.

ESPN would have you believe that the only sports that really should be shown on TV are football, baseball, hockey, and golf–with about a million hours of recaps and commentary (because that’s likely much cheaper to produce. Sometimes soccer. And CrossFit Games (though it probably helps that a major sporting goods manufacturer is the money behind it). And the X Games, to show some edginess. NBC’s cable network does show some different stuff–they’ve had skiing and biathlon, cycling, etc. But there are so many more sports that deserve to be discussed regularly. We shouldn’t dust them off every four years. Give them a shot and see how they can change ordinary people’s lives.

The Boy and I have discussed going to Rio for the 2016 Games, but honestly, I kind of want to go to Poland in 2017 to catch this fever instead.

Tell Me What Fun Is

12 Feb

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The Boy and I were out to eat the other night, and our booth had a keno monitor. I don’t really get keno, though after this meal, I realized it’s because there’s not much to get. You pick some random numbers (and slots and multipliers), you fork over your money, and you watch the screen to see if you’ve won. And apparently, you have fun doing it.

But this screen shot puzzled me. Just how much fun is it to pick random numbers?

Is it “watching paint dry” fun?

Is it “annoying co-worker is out of the office” fun?

Is it “enjoying a cocktail” fun?

Is it “fabulous vacation” fun?

Is it another element on the fun scale?

You tell me. I’m insanely curious to know. Or ke-no.

Are You Singing the MBTA’s New Anthem?

11 Feb

If you watch The Weather Channel, you may know that New England has been slammed with snow this year. We’ve had two major snowstorms and one blizzard that have dumped over 72″ of snow on Boston in the last 30 days, and on Thursday we’re supposed to get another storm. You know you’ve had a lot of snow when you think, 4-6″ is on its way? That’s nothing!

Beyond the question of where to put it, the snow has caused all kinds of frustrations for commuters because as the Boston Globe nicely explained, the MBTA, our mass transit agency, has outdated equipment that’s constantly breaking down, thanks to powdery snow that gets sucked into the motor, melts and shorts out the electrical system. On top of that you have switches that freeze up and don’t function. This can affect both inbound and outbound trains because–get this–on the commuter rail, there are portions, particularly around stations, where there’s only one shared track. The switches are vital, and if they don’t work, trains get stuck.

It’s so bad that on Monday night, the MBTA finally threw up their hands and said they’re shutting down the entire system for at least a day so that they can try to fix it. This, of course, is causing all kinds of chaos–and I’m not even talking about the level of chaos that ensues in my brain when the Boy works from home. I’m talking two-hour one-way commutes for people who have to be at their place of work. I’m talking about a friend of mine who doesn’t have a car and has had to cash out $50-70 to get to work in a cab (and let’s not get started on Uber surge pricing).

This means commuters are singing some sad tunes–so here’s another track to add to the playlist:

MBTA

(sung to the tune of “YMCA“)

Commuters, you will just have to wait

Commuters, your train is gonna be late

Commuters, there’s not much we can do

Our very old trains cannot get through

Commuters, train 401 has a glitch

Commuters, the problem is a bad switch

Commuters, for an hour we’ll be stuck

Or even more if we have back luck

(bump! bump! bump! bump! bum!)

There’s a delay on the MBTA!

There’s a delay on the MBTA

We have just too much snow

and the train cannot go

We think this winter really blows

MBTA!

Ingredients Beget Ingredients

10 Feb

I’ve been steadily refilling my friends’ food subscription jars this winter, a project which I’m having a lot of fun with–and noticing a big issue.

One reason I started the project was to go through what I have and see if I need to hang onto it. I have a bunch of cookbooks I don’t use often. I have a big binder full of recipes I keep meaning to try. I have cupboards full of ingredients I should probably use.

I could do all of these on my own, without needing to fill a bunch of jars at random intervals, but I’m finding the subscription helps. The Boy and I don’t need to have a dozen cupcakes on hand. Nor do we necessarily need a quart of BBQ sauce that will spoil more quickly than the stuff you buy in the store. But if I share those with others–which I can’t really do effectively in a home office situation–I still get to see if the recipe’s a keeper, and I (hopefully) don’t consume as much. Having friends constantly request refills means that I’m forced to make sure I keep at my project to make sure I go through my cookbooks and binders, some of which have been full of Post-It flags for a good five years.

One thing I’d hoped to be able to do with the project is use up ingredients that are lingering on my shelves. However, sometimes it turns out that I have to get more random ingredients in order to use the first ones. Case in point: peach schnapps. We acquired a bottle in order to provide fuzzy navels for a 1980’s party, and now we have a lot of peach schnapps sitting around the house. Where to use it? How about a lovely recipe for fuzzy navel cupcakes, courtesy of one of my favorite cookbooks, Booze Cakes? Perfect, right?

Well, to a point. The recipe calls for orange marmalade and peach preserves, neither of which I had on hand–nor can I remember the last time I’ve ever purchased them–if I’ve ever purchased them in my lifetime. The Boy won’t eat them. I’m not big on eating a ton of jellied products, so now what? Yep, gotta find recipes that use orange marmalade and/or peach preserves. Bonus if they also use peach schnapps, because, yep, we’ve still got a fair amount of that. I’d start drinking a ton of fuzzy navels, but I’m busy consuming cosmopolitans because we have a 64 oz. bottle of cranberry juice that we also bought for said 80’s party. And we have a ton of vodka on hand. Did you know that a good cosmo only uses 1 oz. of cranberry juice at a time? I’ll be drinking cosmos until that stuff goes bad, and I bet I’ll still have to dump half the bottle. I am, however, whipping right through the vodka and orange liqueur, for what that’s worth.

I suppose I should start tracking all of the random ingredients I buy for said recipes. At the end of the year, I can see what I end up throwing away or find lurking in the back of the cupboard and/or refrigerator. Or, maybe I’ll be successful and use up everything–which might be another fun challenge in and of itself.

Enlightened Streaking

9 Feb

Happy Monday–or if you’re in Massachusetts, Happy Snow Day. We’re getting another foot or so dumped on us right now, and total snowfall for the area this winter is clocking in somewhere around my height (I’m 64″). Oddly enough, I’m still excited about each snowfall that we’ve gotten, though I think my delight has something to do with the fact that I don’t need to shovel a 70′ long driveway, plus a sidewalk and stairs. Plowing services are magical–not perfect, because sometimes they just do a quick once over and don’t always get the sidewalks–but it makes a world of difference in my attitude toward the weather. Sure, we still have to shovel out our car, a feat that can take up to an hour, depending on how much snow we get. That’s proving to be plenty of shoveling for me, thank you very much. If I had to do the entire driveway as well, I’d be crying. Sure, I’d be happy about the exercise I was getting, but I’d be crying at how much of my day was spent outdoors with the shovel.

Monday here on the blog means a Jill Moves update, and as you can imagine, the snow is putting a damper on things. I don’t live in a town that tickets if you don’t shovel your walk, so you can be shuffling down the sidewalk one minute, then the next, have to wade through the slushy snow on the side of the road, hoping that drivers see you walking down the street, because, well, Massholes.

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You Got Your Band in my Book! No, You Got Your Book in my Band!

5 Feb

Every once in a while, I allow myself to visit Coudal Partners home on the web. Coudal’s the genius behind my beloved Field Notes (if you haven’t converted from Moleskines yet, consider doing so), and every time I visit their site I have a couple of thoughts:

  1. Shit! I just spent an hour here looking at all their amazingly creative stuff and feeling envious of the fun they must be having.
  2. If I ever, ever, ever got a job in an office again, I think I’d like to work with them.

Yesterday, I spent just a little too long in the Coudal rabbit hole, but it was worth it to find this gem of a contest that blends band names and book titles. The list doesn’t even include my favorite, which is the teaser on the home page: The Lionel, the Richie, and the Wardrobe. 

At any rate, yesterday’s visit there means I’ve really got to focus on a couple of bridal stories I’m writing, so I’ve got my nose to the grindstone right now. That doesn’t mean you have to. We’re a little too late for the contest, but we can still play here.  Can best my idea of The Steve Miller Band on the Floss or About a Pet Shop Boy?

And if you need some more titles to help give you some ideas, check out who made the annual Tournament of Books for some of the best from last year….and don’t blame me if you’ve just found yourself in a different rabbit hole.

What’s Up With This? Shake Shack Edition

4 Feb

Time to introduce a new feature on the blog called “What’s Up With This?”, a segment where we talk about what in society I just don’t get. It might also be called the “Andy Rooney Audition,” because I’m starting to get old and grumpy. And my eyebrows are getting out of control. Grumblers, welcome!


 

Can someone tell me what’s the big deal about Shake Shack? Well, you don’t really have to tell me–I can read about it for myself.

I’ve been to Shake Shack once–happened to be near one, needed to eat and thought it was a good opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. Plus, I love a good burger joint. What did Shake Shake give me?

  • Good, fresh burger? Check!
  • Tasty shake? Check!
  • The opportunity to buy decent beer? Check (though beer + shake isn’t a good idea)!
  • Good service and a clean restaurant? Check!

So far, so good, right? But then:

  • Shitty crinkle-cut fries? Check.
  • Jaw-dropping calorie counts on the menu? Check.

Fries are a big deal. Shake Shack should know, since they tried to change them recently and all hell broke loose. However, their fries are crinkle-cut, which is the least satisfying fry experience. They have to be done just right–there’s an optimal crispness that a crinkle-cut fry can achieve. They can turn out too squishy, or they can quickly lose that crispness. I wasn’t really impressed with the batch of fries I ate, and since I consider fries as part of the burger joint package, it’s a big turn-off for me.

Likewise with calorie counts. Oh, I definitely appreciate knowing that the meal I ordered (single cheeseburger, small fries, small black and white milkshake) clocked in around 1600 calories, which is a good 100-300 more than I should be eating in an entire day. Thankfully, that meal counted as lunch and dinner, but it was still a major, major indulgence for me, one that I kind of want to avoid in the future. Granted, I rarely order milkshakes–and this one supposedly clocked in at 640 calories (think of the calcium!)–but even if I’d had water or a diet Coke, that’s still a pretty substantial meal for me. Doable, yes, but is it worth it? Eh, I don’t really know about that.

Ultimately, I probably would go again, but I’m in no rush to get in their line, which means no, you won’t see me there anytime soon. Maybe it’s me though–I’m not a big fan of Five Guys either (again, overrated, greasy fries). I like a good burger, most definitely, but perhaps most “good burger chains” aren’t my thing.

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