Thursday, January 29, 2015

Spicy Baked Pork Chops with Butternut Squash

Who doesn't like delicious food? Okay, you can GTFO. Everyone else, this meal was totally scrumptious, as well as warming for a winter night, which it definitely still is here in Chicago, no bones about it. Speaking of no bones, these are boneless pork chops, which I prefer over bone-in. They just always seem to come out juicier.

I served this with some creamed spinach I found in the freezer, but any steamed green vegetable would be an excellent way to add color and extra nutrition to this meal.

Before you set off on the full recipe, you're going to want to whip up a batch of this Shake'n'Bake-style breadcrumb coating. It's damn delicious.

Spicy Homemade Breadcrumb Crust
Makes enough to coat 6 large boneless pork chops
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sugar
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Mix dry ingredients together thoroughly, then add vegetable oil and mix with a fork until oil is distributed evenly and crumbs are a uniform size. This will keep in a well-sealed container for about two week. Not actually, though, because you'll want to put it on everything.

On to the main recipe!

Spicy Baked Pork Chops with Butternut Squash
Makes 6 servings
2 lbs. butternut squash, diced into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
6 boneless pork chops (about 4 oz apiece and 1 inch thick)
1 recipe Spicy Homemade Breadcrumb Crust

Preheat your oven to 400º F. Toss the butternut squash with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast on a foil-lined baking sheet on the middle rack for 18 minutes.

While the squash is in the oven, line another baking sheet with foil. Divide the breadcrumb mixture in half and put it into two gallon size plastic bags.* Rinse the pork chops in cold water and shake off the excess. Working with one chop at a time, place them into the plastic bag and shake vigorously to coat. Remove, being careful not to disturb the coating, and place onto the prepared baking sheet.

After the butternut squash has roasted for 18 minutes, raise the oven temperature to 425º F. Toss the squash a little with a spoon to make sure it's heating evenly. Move it up one rack and place the pork chops on the newly vacant one. Bake for 13-16 minutes, until the chops are firm, but still have a little give in the middle. Remove all food from the over and feast.

*This is to keep the mixture from getting too weird and lumpy to use with all six pork chops.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What I'm Reading, Week 4

Gotta say, I had a real busy weekend, so I didn't get to start much new material. I'm still on A Voyage Long and Strange, which I expected, since I tend to blow through fiction but take a little more time to absorb non-fiction.

One of the irritating things about trying to read 100 books in a year is that, unless you've got the funds to just buy 100 new books, you have to put some of those suckers on hold at the library. Don't get me wrong, I think the Chicago Public Library's e-book collection is just about the coolest thing since DVR, but the most popular reads do tend to have a bit of a wait to get your mitts on them.

Which is how I end up reading things like Red Glove by Holly Black.

This is the second in a series. I read the first one in about five minutes. Unless you're trying to read 100 books and waiting for the good ones to come off hold, skip this. Just skip it. I don't mean to hate on Holly Black, because I read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown last year and liked it well enough. But man, this genre is tired. Maybe because I'm a grown woman reading teen fantasy? Probably.

Hopefully, the coming week will bring me one of the novels I've been waiting to read. Otherwise, I can't even lie, I'll probably read the third one. Gotta keep my numbers up.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Welcome to the 90s

As someone who grew up in the 90s, I occasionally get super nostalgic for the terrible unisex fashion of my early childhood. Loosely inspired by all those insane tracksuits that populated our lives at that time, for this I used a base of Revlon Colorstay 025 Seashell with random brushstrokes of Orly Neon Heat and Julep Linden. I'm really quite pleased with it, though the Orly is showing up way more magenta and less neon in this picture than it looks in real life.

I've been finding that I like to use Julep polishes as accent colors more often than a full nail color, which is somewhat puzzling. I'm considering canceling my Maven subscription just because I haven't been particularly inspired by the color choices the past few months. Are any of you Mavens? What do you think? If you're not and you'd like to become one, feel free to use my referral link.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What I'm Reading, Week 3

You're thinking, "Oh, man, I missed weeks 1 and 2!" Welp, no you didn't, and I'm not a man. It's merely the third week of the year. Herein I will describe what I'm currently reading in my quest to complete 100 books in one calendar year. Accountability, yo.

I'm currently on these two suckers, A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz, and Madeline L'Engle's perennial favorite, A Wrinkle in Time.

Horwitz's book, which I'm only a little ways into, seems to be somewhere between a historical study and a travelogue. His charming writing explores the history of America between Columbus and the Pilgrims, more or less. I'm quite enjoying it so far; and, although I have a weakness for American colonial history, I think it'd be interesting to a wider range of people than just fanatics like myself.

A Wrinkle in Time, published in 1962 and winner of the Newbery Medal for that year, first crossed my path about 13 years ago, sometime in middle school. I loved it upon first reading and I love it even more now, if possible. The story brings up issues both mundane (feeling like an outcast in school) and fantastical (saving one's father from intergalactic enemies) and uses them to probe deeper meanings of life, probably for the first time in the experience of the book's intended audience. Really, though this is my umpteenth re-reading and tinged with more than a little nostalgia, it makes me think a little more broadly. If you never read it, you missed out, so go ahead and just power through. I'm almost done, it's only a good few hours of reading for an adult.

Have any of you read these? What did you think?

Monday, January 19, 2015

300: Revenge of the Blog

Guyssssssss, this is my 300th blog post! Did you think this post was going to be about that awful movie franchise? Then you obviously just found your way here recently. And have probably already departed.

As usual, I digress.

I know it's January here, I know, and I also know that means it'll be real cold for a real long time still. BUT, the magazines have gotten to me, and thoughts of spring nail trends keep popping into my head. Am I practically begging that goddamn groundhog to see its shadow on February 2nd with these thoughts? Probably. But I'm not stupid enough to believe a hibernating ball of fur can keep winter in Chicago from lasting until April. On to nail polish!

As always, pastels will have their time. I love a good chalky green, but I feel petal pink and pale blue turning into a small obsession. Not at the same time, though. I made that mistake once and it looked like a baby shower on my hands. This gradient manicure from the Nanette Lepore Spring 2015 show definitely makes the list of nail looks to try in the coming weeks.

Short nails seem to be coming back around. Fine with me. I don't need any more painful hangnails.


I'm also loving a double tipped French manicure. From the Sophie Theallet Spring 2015 show, I think the sheer base on this makes the whole look so chic, I absolutely cannot wait to try it. There's something about the delicate little pops of color on the nail tip that turn this into a can't-look-away design.

So that's what I'm most excited to jump into as we move through the endless Chicago winter. What nail looks will you take a stab at as we march toward spring (get it? March, spring? ha ha ha)?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Number 7: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Yeah, I'm trying to read 100 books again. I know, I only made it to around 50 last year, but that just leaves room for improvement, right? Anyway, the first big hit on my list comes in at number seven (as in, the seventh book I've finished this year).

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, set in an Australian seaside town, centers itself around three women whose children have all just entered kindergarten. I thought it would be a frivolous little bit of something, some drama about motherhood and ladies who lunch and all that. As such, it took me quite by surprise when allusions to some terrible tragedy combined with a flashback framing device to set up a tense narrative fraught with struggles both large and small.

You all know by now that that's all for plot points I'm going to give you, but believe me when I say that this is worth a read. Moriarty renders her characters in beautiful detail -- though I admit that she succumbs to some rather tired backstories. However, assuming the author's mission was to use an extraordinary tragedy to reveal the everyday tragedies of these women's lives, these backstories emphasize her point nicely.

All in all, a well-crafted read, and worth the time I spent on it. Hopefully, the next 93 will be similarly enjoyable. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

And the Winner is...

Jessica Chastain is a stone cold fox, and she won the makeup game at the 2015 Golden Globes.
Image via Popstop TV
I love the soft shading of her smoky eye combined with lightly flushed cheeks and what is clearly a MLBB (my lips but better) matte lipstick. The subtle cat eye with eyeshadow instead of harsh liner seems destined to become my next eye makeup obsession. Of course, I'll never be such a beautiful ginger, but that's only because I have a violent aversion to dyeing my hair.

I'd love to say I found out who did her makeup, but my Googling game has been particularly weak lately. Anyone know? All I know is that it probably wasn't Bobbi Brown.

 Did you watch the Golden Globes? Who's your pick for best face?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lilly Pulitzer for Target

Hey! Did you all enjoy the holidays? I did, but unfortunately got dreadfully sick right after Christmas. Bummer, right? Good thing I was still visiting my parents then, they took real good care of me, and I'm better now.

At any rate, while the weather here in Chicago continues to make me question all my life choices, I found out something very exciting: Lilly Pulitzer is coming to Target stores in the US and Canada and on April 19th with a 250-piece limited edition collection.

To say I'm excited would be a massive understatement.

Apparently the collection will include 15 exclusive prints featured on items in women and girls apparel, shoes, accessories, home, and entertaining. I know exactly what my summer is going to look like. I'm also hopeful, as someone in the plus size range, that Lilly will stick to Target's more generous sizing range so I can get some good summer dresses. The images from the press event look positively tantalizing and filled with the exuberant colors and patterns the world expects from Lilly Pulitzer, so I'd be extremely disappointed if a small size range limited my purchasing choices to accesories and decor. I remain hopeful.

Anyone else as thrilled as I am?

Picture and info via A Bullseye View.