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The Misadventures of Mrs. B

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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: 2011-01-09

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Was A Baby Beauty Queen

Have you ever seen Toddlers and Tiaras? You know, the show that features little girls (and some babies, from what I've seen on commercials) getting all dolled up and prancing around and crying because their scalps hurt from their hair getting teased so much?

Yeah.  That show.

And no, I've never seen a whole episode.  Just commercials.  Because I think that's all I could take in one sitting.  It hits too close to home and reminds me of my own painful pageant days.

What? You didn't know that I was a baby beauty queen? Oh yes, I was, when I was 4 years old.  I still remember those days.  Training, all the time.  My face hurt from constantly smiling, my feet hurt from going tippity-tap for hours.  The gowns.  The hairspray.  The bathing suit competition.

Okay...maybe it wasn't like that.  Maybe I only appeared in one pageant and didn't even win.  But the experience has stayed with me for 27 years.

Photo courtesy of

If you live in the Philadelphia area, you're probably familiar with Al Alberts.

Good old Uncle Al.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Uncle Al, he was a singer back in the...50's? 60's? with an quartet who released some albums or something.  Anyway, he had his own show on our local ABC station called "Al Alberts Showcase", and he'd feature kids doing all sorts of singing and dancing and whatnot.  He would banter with his wife, Stella, and would eventually sing at least once over the course of the program.  It was local TV at its cheesy finest.

And every year he held two contests, one for girls (Little Miss Showcase) and one for boys (Little Mr. Showcase).  Parents sent in a picture of their utterly adorable child and would then cross their fingers that a letter would come in saying that their kid had made the cut and would appear on TV for literally hundreds of people to see and make judgements over from the comfort of their living rooms.

Needless to say, my parents sent in my picture.  And I was picked to appear.  I was just gorgeous like that.

I still remember getting all dolled up the night of the pageant (I didn't understand that the shows were taped in advance - it took me a minute to get over the fact that we were going in at night when the show aired on Saturday mornings).  My mom's side of the family was there, too - it was a big deal, you know? I remember to this day how positive I was that I was going to win.  I had a grandmother who doted on me, after all, and that sort of positive reinforcement is difficult to ignore. 

Then there were my two teenaged cousins who waited til the three of us were alone in the living room to mutter "You're not going to win, you know that, right?".  Angels.  They were just jealous that I was a pretty pretty princess and they weren't.

Moving on.

We went to the studio for the taping.  I don't remember much of it, just a blur of activity as we were told where to sit on a set of risers.  I sat next to a nice little girl and I'm pretty sure I told her I was going to win.  She still talked to me after that, though I don't know why. 

Then the pageant.  It went on and on.  We didn't have to, you know, perform or anything - though there was talent lined up for the event in the form of at least one little girl who sang a song or something.  It's a blur.  I was 4 years old - not so much with the attention span.  I was most likely concentrating on forcing myself to sit still.

Then it came time for the announcement of the winner and her court.  As each name got called, I became more excited - after all, I was going to WIN! Hadn't I been assured of my WINNING ever since the letter came in the mail telling me I'd been chosen to appear? And WIN?

Alas, my name was never called and the show came to a close.  My eyes searched the crowd for my parents' faces.  I was desperate for someone to help me understand this travesty.  Then I started crying.  Boy, did I cry.  And cry.  And...cry.  Again, I was 4 years old.  I truly believed I was going to win from the botton of my little heart.  But my heart was broken for the first time.

The much more level-headed little girl next to me stroked my arm and consoled me until my parents made their way through the audience and on to the stage.  I can only imagine how much it hurt them to see me so distraught.  See, they believed too.  They weren't the beaten-down parents of 4 that they are today.  They were still two crazy kids who really believed that their little girl was special enough to win.  Oh, youth.

For many years worth of Saturday mornings after that fateful night, we booed and hissed every time the little girl who beat me appeared on the show.  Because evidently, winning Little Miss Showcase means that you have to appear, like, every week or something and show off some stupid talent or whatever and pretty much rub it in the faces of the little girls who didn't win. 

Boo.  Hiss.

Incidentally, I just called my mom to tell her that I was writing this.  She said: "Ooooh, we were walking through the parking lot afterward and we were right behind her and her parents, and I said to Dad 'There she is' and he said 'I know!' and I wanted to run over and knock her down and take the trophy and ride off.  Here she is, a little girl, and I wanted to do that".  We both laughed (...menacingly).

Through it all, I take one small consolation: My brother's picture was sent in for Little Mr. Showcase.  But he didn't get picked to appear.

Because I'm cuter than him.

What do you think about little girls appearing in beauty pageants? I'm not talking Uncle Al here - I mean the real deal.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm a Weak, Weak Woman

Friends, I'm struggling.  I know that I've been lighthearted about this in the past, but I'm starting to realize that I have a real issue on my hands.

Normally, if I remove something from my life, I have no problem staying away from it. Now, food can't possibly count of course - it's not exactly something you can remove from your life and continue living. But outside of food I've been generally successful.

For example, smoking.  I didn't smoke for very long - just through college - so I know it might have been more difficult to quit had I been smoking for many years.  I remember the first few days at college, how I could instantly tell who the big kids were.  The cool kids.  They were the ones who would huddle together outside between classes, obscured by an ever-present cloud of smoke.  Smoking was where it was at, so I picked it up and yes, I did make lots of friends during those smoke breaks.  When I left college, I quit smoking.  End of story.  No trouble.

I am usually very good about being disciplined on other matters as well.  I'm up at the same time every morning without using an alarm clock. 

Okay, that's the only other thing I can think of being disciplined with.  Give me time to come up with more.

The point of all of this is: I'm struggling now.  With my Starbucks resolution.

Have I managed to keep it so far? Yes! I haven't purchased a single cup of coffee yet (in fact, it's been since before Christmas!) from Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's...anywhere.  I'm really proud of that, because I walk right past many opportunities to give in every morning.  It would be so easy to give in and take my place in line.

I have to ask myself the real reason behind my problem with these places.  I mean, it's coffee, right? Coffee is coffee is coffee when you get right down to it.  If I need it so badly, I can make a free cup at work.  No biggie.

But it's clearly more than that.  For one thing, it plays into my penchant for instant gratification.  I want it? There it is.  I'm gonna get it.  It's a just another thing for me to waste money on.  It's something to break up the monotony of the morning, a treat which has turned into an expensive habit.

Another underlying issue is, I believe, the fact that overpriced coffee has become somewhat of a status symbol.  Hasn't it in some way? The fact that you can afford to walk around with an overpriced cup of coffee in your hands says something about you.  I wanted to be one of the Starbucks sippers on the train.  I still do. And I just made the connection between this and my college smoking - I want to be one of the cool kids. When will I ever learn that I will never be cool?'s yummy.  I'm a food addict as it is - maybe I should change that to "yummy addict".

Regardless of the "why", some days are most definitely easier than others.  Today was not an easy day at all - but I kept on walking.  Maybe the fact that I can stay strong and stay away from what's really just a money waster can serve as inspiration in quitting some poor eating habits as well.  I'm finding that I'm way better at disciplining myself than I thought I was - it may suck at the moment, but it's not the end of the world.  I'm learning.

One day at a time, right?

Have you ever had to quit something? What's your story? Do you have any advice?


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How I've Scarred Myself For Life

What's that a picture of, you ask? Well, I'll tell ya.  On Saturday night, I got a little ahead of myself while steaming rice.  Instead of using my tongs to lift the foil from the pan, I used my fingers.  Stupid, stupid.  And I got the lovely burn you see above.  Rob was sweet enough to run out and get some burn spray and gauze to wrap them - yes, I cried, but he also brought me chocolates so that made me feel better.

Mama's Losin' It

So it's funny that one of Mama Kat's writing prompts this week is "scarred".  Because I'm fairly sure that sucker's gonna leave a scar.

But then again, that's sorta par for the course with me.  I scar easily and happen to be insanely clumsy.  It's like the perfect storm of potential bodily damage.

Starting from the bottom up...well, there's a round scar on the big toe of my left foot.  Why no picture? Because I haven't gotten an actual pedicure since the last month that started with "A".  Moving on.  That little beauty was acquired when I was around 4 or 5 years old.  My mom let me sit on the front step with her in my bare feet.  My nemesis, Jimmy, came by with his mom.  Jimmy was taunting me and I wanted to chase after him and beat him up, but my feet were bare and it was concrete as far as the eye could see.  My mom told me to stay put while she got my shoes.  Yeah, right.  The second she was in the house I took off running.  I got maybe two houses down before I fell and somehow managed to get a tiny stone lodged in my toe.  You read that right.  The stone is gone but the scar lingers on and reminds me to always listen to my mom.

Both shins are covered in diagonal scars.  They come from falling down the back steps...twice.  Back in the day, those steps were made of the old concrete that was full of stones (are we sensing a pattern with me and concrete and stones?), and those stones left me with the little scars up and down my legs today.  Why no picture? Because they're faint and, well...I need to shave my legs.  I love y'all, but if I don't shave my legs every day for my get my point.

There's a 2-inch scar on the underside of my left arm from when I was cooking for Easter last year and was quickly reaching into a cabinet...with a very sharp cornered door.  Almost a year later, Rob still asks me from time to time where that scar comes from.  Uh, it comes from the fact that the kitchen evidently needs to be Jen-proofed.  Duh.

There's a few faint scars on my decolletage from a huge oil spatter while frying potato pancakes in a tank top.  Instant blistering.  It was monstrous.  Oh, and it was my birthday.  Happy birthday to me.

Oddly, there are no scars on my face.  Knock wood.  Knock wood.

And those are just the biggies.  The major guys.  There are a multitude of other little ones here and there.  All of them compose the road map of my clumsy, clumsy life.  For better or worse.  Well, Rob doesn't seem to mind.  That's all that matters.

Do YOU have a story for every scar? Or are you lucky enough to not have as many as me? ;-)


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Garlicky Grilled Naan

I don't know where naan has been all my life, but I'm glad it finally found its way to me.  I'm determined to make up for lost time now.

Usually, when I buy naan in the store it's...puffy.  Puffier than what I make on my grill pan.  I once baked this and it puffed up like crazy and was very pretty...but I didn't like it nearly as much as I like this.  It's traditionally baked in a tandoori oven, tandoori oven is in the shop (or something).  So the grill pan it is.  But no worries - I would eat my grilled garlicky naan with anything.  Don't like the garlic? Leave it out! Simple!

When grilling, look for bubbles to form on the top of the dough.  This will tell you that the dough is almost ready to be flipped - you'll be able to tell for sure when your tongs can be slid under the bread easily.

Good thing it goes so well with...everything.  Especially chicken tikka masala, which needs a bit of bread to (a) sop up all the delicious sauce and (b) offset the spiciness which hits you in the back of your throat like a sneaky spice ninja.

Plus, the best part: It's super easy to make.  I wouldn't lie to you.

For the dough:
1 1/2 tsps dry yeast
1 cup warm water (around 110 degrees F, no more than 120!)
1 1/2 tsps sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
6 tbsps clarified butter, or ghee (I didn't have any on hand, so I used plain melted)
3 tbsps yogurt (I use Greek)

Garlic Spread:
1/2 stick butter
2 garlic cloves, pressed

In a large bowl (use the stand mixer bowl if you're lucky enough to have one!), pour in the yeast and sugar, then add the warm water.  Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes - it should be frothy.  If it does not froth, either the yeast is too old and therefore no longer active, or the water you used was not the correct temperature.

In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.  Set aside.

To the frothy yeast mixture, add the yogurt and butter and mix gently.  Then add the flour/salt.  Using a large spoon (and/or your fingers) or the bread hook of your stand mixture, mix until a soft dough comes together.  Then turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is elastic and smooth (or, again, use your stand mixer).  Form dough into a ball.  Coat the inside of a large bowl with a few drops of vegetable oil or sprays of cooking spray and place the dough inside. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 90 minutes.

Once dough is risen, punch down and knead once again for 10 minutes.  Divide dough into 6 balls.

Heat grill pan over medium high heat.  

Roll each ball of dough out on counter into a circle - not too thin, as you don't want it to rip.  Transfer each dough round (oblong?), one at a time, to the hot grill pan.  As soon as tongs can slide underneath, flip dough.

Meanwhile, add garlic to butter and melt in microwave - garlic will become very fragrant and softened.  To keep bread warm, stack on aluminum foil with a generous amount garlic butter brushed in between layers.  Once all bread is grilled, wrap stack in foil and keep in warm oven until ready to serve.


We were thinking about serving this with pasta - just like garlic bread! What else would you eat with garlicky naan?

Sharing with Designs by Gollum, 504 Main & Simply Sweet Home - come by and get some super awesome recipe and craft ideas ideas!


CSN Stores Review!

I've worked with CSN Stores in the past - I had the pleasure of hosting a giveaway with them last year.  In case you're not familiar with CSN (I can't imagine that you wouldn't be, though!), they have 200+ stores and cover pretty much the entire gamut of imaginable.  Like...just about anything.

So imagine my excitement when I was contacted and asked to do a review!

The mind boggles...what should I choose? There's so much! Should I go for shoes? I could always use a new pair of shoes - maybe a cute pair of flat boots, since I still don't have any even though everyone else in the world does.  What about some new cookware - I was totally bugging over a fellow blogger's cast iron skillet today.  But I am always complaining about how I don't have enough room for my cookware as it is.  Perhaps some wall art and decor for the kitchen, since the walls are going to be pretty bare once we take off what's currently up there (another thing for the to-do list).  There really is just so much to choose from!

Whatever I decide, I'll let you know - and I'll invite you to check out my review!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala.  According to numerous sources, this is considered Britain's #1 dish.

And there's a reason why: It's freaking phenomenal.

The end result is more than worth any work involved, and it's really not very work-intensive.  It's one of only a few Indian dishes I've eaten and I have to wonder if anything will measure up.  I'm just so in love with it.  I'm also in love with the grilled naan I serve with it - but that's another post.

There are a few keys to the dish.  Make sure the onions are caramelized -  not just translucent.  Getting them nice and brown and sweet is the way to go.  You may be tempted to substitute a lower fat, or even non-fat, choice for the heavy cream.  Half and half or light cream would work well, but fat free half and half turns the texture rather grainy (I know this from experience).  Go for the highest level of fat you feel comfortable with.  If it's too spicy for you, you can always add a little yogurt while simmering.  Cilantro is normally used in this dish, but I can never seem to find any when I need it - if you have it on hand, add 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro to the final dish.  Since I've never used it I leave it out of this recipe.

Let's get to it so you can make it yourself, shall we? But be warned: Once you start making this, it's all over.  Just pencil it into your meal plans from here on out.  Rob has demanded that I make it once a week.  He actually referred to it as a "requirement".  

Darn...well, he's the husband.  I'm only following orders.

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs minced ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp garam masala*
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
3 chicken breasts, trimmed and cubed

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir in chicken pieces, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour (I usually refrigerate for at least 3).

1 large white onion, thinly sliced
2 tbs butter or margarine
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream

Melt butter or margarine in large frying pan on medium heat.  Add onions and reduce heat to medium low.  Allow onions to cook slowly until carmelized, stirring frequently.

Once onions are carmelized, pour in tomato sauce, cream and spices.  Stir to combine.  Pour in all chicken and marinade.  Combine all ingredients, cover, and increase heat to medium high.  Simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked and tender.  Remove lid and simmer to thicken sauce, if necessary.

Serve over cooked rice and garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro and plain yogurt.

*Note: If you can't find garam masala (I purchased at a spice store), increase the cumin and cayenne in the marinade to 2 tsp each.  

As always...enjoy!

Linking up with A Southern Fairytale, Skip To My Lou33 Shades of Green, Simply Sweet Home, 504 Main & Designs by Gollum - check out all the great dishes and projects being linked up!

Do you like Indian food? What's your favorite dish?