a blog about cents, in every form & measure

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

lack of words

The lack of published words here doesn't mean I'm not writing. I am. The truth is, writing is therapeutic. It's not therapy, or else that industry would be on the down & outs. It's therapeutic. My life is great, but there are things that need to be said, written & expressed that shouldn't be made public or published. As such, here's a note - being made public - that I'm still kicking. I'll be posting regularly soon about more generic topics.

...but that can be the problem right? Generic topics. Nevertheless, stay posted!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

baby it's cold outside...

Yes, it's cold outside. And yes, it is April. While your mind tries its best to wrap around that one, I suggest curling up with a steaming bowl of chili! The aroma of chili can also act as a great excuse to take a break from taxes (my explanation for all the beautiful paperwork in the background)!

 I don't know exactly when I decided I would become the self-proclaimed queen of soups, but it certainly began a few years ago when I was living in my teensy apartment in the East Village as a single chick. While roaming Manhattan in my high heels was certainly one of my extra-curricular activities, I spent many an hour buckled down in bed studying for the GRE, drafting admissions essays, and generally plotting my quick ascent to world domination. These activities were exhausting and a girl needs sustenance. Thus soup. It's always been one of my comfort foods - savory, hot, and it can be made with the most humble of ingredients. Not to mention that it's an easy diet-food if you omit cream and heavy starches! Whenever I feel like I need to be more health conscious & trim down a bit, I turn to soup - split pea, minestrone, yellow lentil, cream of corn....mmm.

For a quick weekend dinner, I made turkey chili. I hadn't planned to - I could have sworn I took out chicken to defrost that morning, but on close inspection it was ground turkey. Turkey is a tricky meat - it's entirely lean, but also devoid of flavor.  You need to really pump up the spices! In any case, when tummies are grumbling you must respond - and this yummy chili hit the spot. I always have to dig for compliments around certain people (ahem, J), but with this dish they were given freely! Here's the recipe - and by that, I mean, this is what I remember seeing my mom do in the kitchen ten years ago, revamped. Enjoy!

simple turkey chili

ground turkey
onion & cloves of garlic
one can of green hatch chiles
two small cans of red kidney beans
one large can (28oz) diced red tomatoes
low-sodium chicken broth
cumin, salt, freshly ground black pepper, Italian red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, chili powder

Saute the turkey meat in about two tablespoons of olive oil; add garlic & onion. Watch carefully and break up the turkey as it cooks. Add the spices, and allow to cook for about a minute (this step allows the spices to really get in there). Add the two cans of kidney beans (drained), as well as the tomatoes and hatch chiles. Add chicken broth (I like to add about a 3 to 1 ratio to the amount of turkey used) and simmer at medium heat. This dish can be done in 20 minutes, but feel free to let it simmer while you're taking a shower, catching up on Twitter, etc (not like I would ever do that). Adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve with cheese (I used a low-fat blend), yogurt or sour cream, and/or green scallions. I've served this with tortilla chips, biscuits, and corn muffins...do what you like or skip the carbs. DELISH!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The High Heeled Chef does Brunch

Few things in life make you appreciate time and your loved ones more than brunch. Smooches over plates of pancakes, giggles and omelets - is there anything better? I adore going out for brunch but there's something really special about making brunch at home.

I took inspiration for this cinnamon caramel french toast from a fun blog called 'Crepes of Wrath.' I can't claim it as my own, but I did make it without the recipe, strictly speaking. This was a lovely dish, although very rich and certainly not something you can eat every day! I scaled down the butter/sugar from the original recipe, played with the spices & made it with whole wheat fiber bread and a banana smoothie to make it feel a bit less indulgent!

Cinnamon French Toast

6 slices of your favorite bread (I used a whole wheat fiber blend bread from Trader Joe's)
1 egg
Skim milk
Cinnamon, white sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg, dash of salt, a few pats of butter

To make: Whisk together the egg, cinnamon, a bit of white sugar and some milk; soak pieces of bread in mixture & fry in skillet on stove top. Melt some butter in the microwave and add brown sugar; combine and microwave for about 40 seconds. Whisk in some milk to make a delicious caramel. Spoon caramel on top of the finished french toast and bake in an oven at 350 degrees until the caramel is bubbly and your house is filled with the most delightful scent of caramel and cinnamon! Serve on a plate with powdered sugar and whatever fruit or toppings you might have on hand. OR you can do what I did...and make a smoothie!

Banana smoothie:

Blend one banana per person with ice, skim milk, Splenda and a bit of cinnamon. Blend until frothy and serve - this combination works with just about any fruit!!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The High Heeled Chef - series kickoff!

I am not a chef. But I do wear high heels around the house (that is, until I found out that I'd been making indents in the gorgeous blonde hardwood floors of my condo...oops)...and I love to eat.

Did you hear me? I love to eat!!! I am also a bit of a picky eater (I prefer organic, healthy, select cuts, seasonal produce, etc. and I sprinkle fiber in almost everything. I'm an old lady). I also love to make people happy - and so it follows, that I love to cook! Because I follow an exceptionally large number of food and cooking blogs and I always think back to my own experiences with cooking, eating and savoring.

My own penchant for 'yumminess' and 'doing good work' (as I like to call it the act of polishing off a plate of awesomeness) is far easier to document than it has ever been before, thanks to my iphone!  As such, I'm going to occasionally feature some of my dishes & "recipes" here. I've put apostrophe marks around the word recipes because I don't use them very often - I look at dishes & will read recipes, but unless I'm baking, I never, never use a recipe! Cook what you like, and season until it's delicious - that's how I cook. I've handrolled gnocci, simmered arroz con pollo, created pasta bolognese, and rolled out biscuits and it's all been a blast. That being said, I'm going to try to photograph my dishes & give you the basics of my 'recipe."

On Monday I made chicken paillard in picatta sauce over warm pureed chickpeae on a bed of sauteed spinach with roasted cinnamon sweet potatoes. What-a-freaking-mouthful...I know! This is basically fancy talk for saying it was cold out and I didn't want to eat cold salad and I had OD on carbs all weekend and needed to feed my body some wholesomeness.

I ate a huge plate. My hubs said "it's good" and ate it without further comment even when I asked him repeatedly if he liked it.

And so here we have it: Chicken Picatta with warm pureed chickpeas accompanied by sauteed spinach and roasted potatoes.

1) Cinnamon roasted potatoes. I 'invented' this dish because j-dawg basically dies a bit inside any time I make anything with cinnamon. SCORE! Peel and slice sweet potatoes; toss in a large bowl with a bit of olive oil, lots of cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne, a shake or two of black pepper and a dash of salt. Bake in a roasting pan in an oven set to 400 degrees.

2) Chicken. Buy thin chicken cutlets, season with pepper & a bit of salt. Dredge in flour and cook until brown in a skillet with olive oil. Remove the cooked cutlets from the pan and place in oven to keep warm (with the roasting potatoes). Swirl a pat of butter in the pan with the chicken bits & olive oil. Add the juice of one squeezed lemon (don't include the pits, smarty pants!) and a dash of wine if you have some laying around. Simma until reduced, then add a few teaspoons of Spanish capers. The term "Spanish capers" sounds lovely - imported and picked under sunshine, but I use Goya capers - same difference! Stir to combine and then add the chicken to your sauce and make sure each piece is thoroughly covered in buttery lemon caper goodness.

3) Spinach. This couldn't be easier - peel and slice some garlic cloves & saute in olive oil. Add clean, washed spinach. Don't add salt - just a dash or two of pepper!

4) Warm pureed chickpeas (fancy hummus for dummies). Open a can of imported Spanish chickpeas (a can of Goya - good stuff). Rinse thoroughly & dump in a saucepan with sliced garlic cloves in olive oil. Add a generous amount of red pepper flakes and pepper. Add salt; cover with water. Simmer until at near boil - when all your other components are done, transfer contents to a food processor and puree until smooth.

To serve: plate a bunch of spinach and then add chickpea puree. Layer chicken on top with plenty of sauce. Surround the serving with sweet potatoes. Drool a bit and then EAT (while watching tv, obviously)!

You're welcome.

Friday, March 25, 2011

just when you thought we were (mostly) broke-

As Wall Street and other investors clamor for a piece of social-networking giant Facebook Inc., Silicon Valley venture capitalists are betting on a new generation of companies that hope to unshackle social networking from personal computers—and shift it to the cellphone.

On Thursday, Color Labs Inc., a phone-based social network founded by veteran entrepreneur Bill Nguyen, is opening its doors. The Palo Alto, Calif., start-up recently secured $41 million from top venture-capital firms including Sequoia Capital even before the company's iPhone and Android apps were ready to debut.

The idea behind Color is that a phone's location-sensing abilities can build a user's social network for them, allowing users to share photos, video and messages based simply on the people they're physically near. The company's view on privacy is that everything in the service is public—allowing users who don't yet know each other to peer into each other's lives.

Color is just one of a growing number of social start-ups betting on smartphones that are now attracting a venture-funding rush. Many of the companies feature photo taking and sharing at their core, such as Path Inc., founded by former Facebook executive Dave Morin. It received $8.5 million last month from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Index Ventures. It has also had conversations with Google Inc. about a buyout, according to a person briefed on the discussions. Google declined to comment.
Another phone photo-sharing company, Instagram, was barraged by inquiries from nearly 40 investors before settling last month on $7 million from Benchmark Capital.

We would have people show up at our offices every other day wanting to meet while we were trying to get work done," said Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. Since launching in October, the service has nearly three million users, he said.

In addition, Yobongo Inc., a three-week-old iPhone app that lets users chat with people located in their geographic area, said Wednesday it raised $1.35 million. In January a group-texting service called GroupMe said it raised $10.6 million.

The flood of venture capital into mobile social start-ups is the latest sign of Silicon Valley's Web-fueled boom. In recent months, investors have driven up the valuation of Facebook above $60 billion and social-gaming company Zynga Inc. to $10 billion.

Behind the spurt of new services is also the idea that the phone, carried by people at all times, can reinvent the notion of a social network by sharing more real-time information about where people are, what they're seeing and even who they're around.

The phone "provides a platform for developers to build experiences that are more personal in nature," said Path's Mr. Morin. What's different now is the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets. "Now you have an opportunity to create these experiences at scale," he said.

The rush into mobile social companies also comes as Facebook is honing in on phones. Facebook, which has more than 200 million users of its services on cellphones, this week bought mobile-technology company Snaptu and earlier this month acquired group chat room service Beluga.

In both deals, the purchase price wasn't disclosed.

Last year, Facebook also unveiled a check-in service for its phone apps that allow users to volunteer their location to friends, and also find deals from nearby businesses. The company is now at work on efforts to integrate its capabilities deep into phone operating systems, potentially expanding the sorts of things people can do with their Facebook friends on the go.

A Facebook spokesman said the company's platform is used by many phone apps.
"We're excited to be the technology that many of the leading mobile apps are using to help people connect with friends through games, music, photos and commerce," he said.

Unlike Facebook, Color eliminates the acts of "friending" and selecting privacy settings. That's because when it is turned on, Color collects global positioning, gyroscope, ambient lighting and other data from phones to determine who else is in close proximity.

That means users will temporarily join the group of people at a birthday party or rock concert—even strangers on a train. Phones running the Color app automatically share photos and videos taken with other phones running Color nearby.

"Instead of seeing your friends online alone in front of a PC, we allow people to interact with each other in real life," said Mr. Nguyen, who previously founded online music start-up LaLa, which was acquired by Apple Inc. in 2009, among other companies. Of the $41 million that Color raised, $25 million came from Sequoia and $9 million came from Bain Capital Ventures, with the rest from Silicon Valley Bank. "Color is at the confluence of the mobile, social and local phenomena," said Sequoia partner Doug Leone, of the 30-person start-up, which is seven months old.
Services like Color raise questions about how people might use them and deal with privacy. Mr. Nguyen said Color doesn't ever promise that photos, location and other information will be private.

Such capabilities will require good faith from users (for example, to keep public photos G-rated) and could push people to change their social behaviors.

Color's business model, like many free mobile social services, remains a work in progress. Mr. Nguyen said the company might eventually sell premium services to local businesses like restaurants, which might be able to highlight photos of popular dishes or daily specials, or learn more about which Color-using customers come to the restaurant most often.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

discrimination: a curly chick's cry

Today it rained. And snowed. There was even some sleet.

Yes, I kept my head covered, but the inevitable happened - my long, formerly lucious curly locks got frizzy. Not my fault in the least - it just so happens that my "look" is subject a bit more to the elements than some of my co-workers with sleek hair.

As such, I slightly resent this paragraph, as published in an article titled "The Taming of the Curl."

"Some image consultants say professional women with lots of curls often feel pressured to tame them for work. "The women who have the power spots in banking and hedge funds and all of that never wear their hair to extremes," says Susan Sommers, a New York business-image coach who has advised employees at companies including Deloitte and Colgate-Palmolive Co. Their hair isn't too straight, too long or too curly. "People who are being groomed for high potential, and people who are handling a lot of money, have overseers who really understand that they can't look unkempt or ungroomed," she says."

My reaction? A big fat "WAAAA," wailed as loudly as someone can imagine (well, ok - I'm not actually wailing, but you get my drift)...women with curly hair aren't perceived as professional as women with sleek helmet hair? I can concur with the perception that might be true, but it still stings to know that's somewhat of a universal truth.

Feel free to join my pity party, attendee 1. Read the entire article here!

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Do you think my butt looks big?"

I'll never forget an instance last year during which my husband (then fiance) and I encountered a gaggle of girls in figure-hugging mini dresses, sky-high heels & dramatic makeup...out and about at 2pm at a bat mitvah. True story - we were touring a seaside venue popular amongst the NY set for hosting weddings & a variety of other events and occasions. My husband said he literally had to look away because by appearing to look in their direction, he was sure he was breaking some type of law. Curled eyelashes, teetering stilettos - I couldn't for the life of me believe what I was seeing. As such...I may have excused myself to the restaurant's restroom where a group of them were headed..I wanted to get in their heads for one second. Crazy! Beyond the "what did you do Friday night?" conversation - here they were, adjusting their dresses to butt-skimming heights and trading sex tips.

OMG. An article published in this past weekend's WSJ describes a scenario very much like the one I observed, and just barely delves into the tip of the iceberg concerning the phenomena of little girls dressing like Kim Kardashian. I truly wish the author had delved into the subject a big deeper as an emerging tend within the popular conciousness. Why would mothers who embraced the feminism of the 80's allow their girls to imprison themselves as they have? Little girls have always wanted to try mommy's lipstick & go on dates, but when does the innocence end and tales of 'how I went down to Aaaron last night" begin? As a girl (woman, I should say) whose mother still analyzes her hemlines, the fact that tween can moonlight as an extra from the film "Burlesque" shocks me.

For your reading pleasure...

Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?

by Jennifer Moses

In the pale-turquoise ladies' room, they congregate in front of the mirror, re-applying mascara and lip gloss, brushing their hair, straightening panty hose and gossiping: This one is "skanky," that one is "really cute," and so forth. Dressed in minidresses, perilously high heels, and glittery, dangling earrings, their eyes heavily shadowed in black-pearl and jade, they look like a flock of tropical birds. A few minutes later, they return to the dance floor, where they shake everything they've got under the party lights.

But for the most part, there isn't all that much to shake. This particular group of party-goers consists of 12- and 13-year-old girls. Along with their male counterparts, they are celebrating the bat mitzvah of a classmate in a cushy East Coast suburb.
In a few years, their attention will turn to the annual ritual of shopping for a prom dress, and by then their fashion tastes will have advanced still more. Having done this now for two years with my own daughter, I continue to be amazed by the plunging necklines, built-in push-up bras, spangles, feathers, slits and peek-a-boos. And try finding a pair of sufficiently "prommish" shoes designed with less than a 2-inch heel.
All of which brings me to a question: Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we're being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?

I posed this question to a friend whose teenage daughter goes to an all-girls private school in New York. "It isn't that different from when we were kids," she said. "The girls in the sexy clothes are the fast girls. They'll have Facebook pictures of themselves opening a bottle of Champagne, like Paris Hilton. And sometimes the moms and dads are out there contributing to it, shopping with them, throwing them parties at clubs. It's almost like they're saying, 'Look how hot my daughter is.'" But why? "I think it's a bonding thing," she said. "It starts with the mommy-daughter manicure and goes on from there."

I have a different theory. It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, "If I could do it again, I wouldn't even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?"

We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control, the first who didn't have to worry about getting knocked up. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that's certainly the norm among my peers.

So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn't), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We're embarrassed, and we don't want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.

Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don't know one of them who doesn't have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I've ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she'd "experimented" more.

As for the girls themselves, if you ask them why they dress the way they do, they'll say (roughly) the same things I said to my mother: "What's the big deal?" "But it's the style." "Could you be any more out of it?" What teenage girl doesn't want to be attractive, sought-after and popular?

And what mom doesn't want to help that cause? In my own case, when I see my daughter in drop-dead gorgeous mode, I experience something akin to a thrill—especially since I myself am somewhat past the age to turn heads.

In recent years, of course, promiscuity has hit new heights (it always does!), with "sexting" among preteens, "hooking up" among teens and college students, and a constant stream of semi-pornography from just about every media outlet. Varied sexual experiences—the more the better—are the current social norm.
I wouldn't want us to return to the age of the corset or even of the double standard, because a double standard that lets the promiscuous male off the hook while condemning his female counterpart is both stupid and destructive. If you're the campus mattress, chances are that you need therapy more than you need condemnation.

But it's easy for parents to slip into denial. We wouldn't dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: "Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven's sake, get laid!" But that's essentially what we're saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they're still living under our own roofs.
—Jennifer Moses is the author of "Bagels and Grits: A Jew on the Bayou" and "Food and Whine: Confessions of a New Millennium Mom."