What I Read: Feb ’15

Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P Frankel, PhD: I really enjoyed her straightforward approach and the easily divisible sections. She even recommends you don’t read the whole book, but rather focus in on the areas that don’t come as naturally to you. While I could certainly see a debate around institutionalized sexism, especially given how her advice can be perceived as playing into the rules male hegemony has made rather than upending the apple cart, I really enjoyed this book. And let’s be honest, individually none of us are able to completely upend the apple cart of a sexist work environment – but we can all take small, measurable steps towards change. Definitely worth a read.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Uncover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott: Oh man. Where do I even start with this book?! I LOVED it so much – I’m a huge history nerd (always have been) and find myself reading historical fiction set in the era frequently (I Shall be Near to You and The Last Runaway come to mind instantly). I really enjoyed learning these four incredibly brave, fierce women who stood up for what they believed in during the Civil War. Abbott researched this book and these women so incredibly well – there isn’t a bit of dialogue in quotations that isn’t from a written historical record. Even better, this tells the whole story of the war from these women’s perspective and is a vital, inclusionist piece of work.

What I Watched: Big Hero 6, They Came Together, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Along Came Polly, Chef, Field of Lost Shoes, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, King Arthur (2004), Hercules (1997), The Great Muppet Caper, Joe,

Yankee Fish Cakes

While this dish is a bit more work that I’d prefer in a weeknight meal, it is worth every single minute of effort. The outside is crispy and the inside of the cakes are so incredibly flavorful. I served them with a bit of homemade tartar sauce, but they are standouts alone. This recipe comes from my Savuer: The New Classics cookbook I received for Christmas – everything out of here has been SO GOOD and it’s much easier to use than the magazines. There is even a lentil soup recipe I cannot shut up about – I’ll just let that one sink in for a bit.

yankee fish cakes h

You’ll Need:
9 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
1 lb skinnless haddock or cod fillets
1/3 cup heavy cream
1.5 cups bread crumbs
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp fresh dill
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp pickle relish
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp hot sauce (like Tabasco)
1 egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

yankee fish cakes v

You’ll:
In a skillet with deep sides, heat 3 tbsp butter over medium high heat. Add in onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add fish and cream and bring to a boil. Cover and let the fish cook through, about 6 to 8 minutes. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes.

Flake fish in the skillet with a fork and transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add in remaining ingredients, except for the cornmeal. Toss mixture together until well combined. Shape into 12 patties, about half an inch think and three inches round. Dredge both sides of each patty in cornmeal. Refridgerate for 30 minutes (or freeze extra patties at this point for later cooking). Wash skillet for next step.

Heat 3 tbsp butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add in 6 patties and cook, flipping once. They should take between 4-5 minutes a side. Repeat with remaining butter and patties. Serve immediately.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Homemade Buttercream

vanilla cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

For the cupcakes, you’ll need:
1.5 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1.5 tbp baking powder
scant 1/2 salt
1 stick or half a cup butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325. Line cupcake pan with paper liners. Add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to standing mixer. Mix together with the paddle attachment.

Add butter and mix on medium speed until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed until combined. Slowly add milk and vanilla and mix until combine, scraping down the bowl.

Scoop batter into bang cups, filling each about two thirds full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the buttercream frosting, you’ll need:
1 stick, at room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla food coloring, optional

Cream butter on mediam speed in a standing mixer. Add in two cups of sugar, milk and vanilla. Mix on low speed until combined. Gradually add in remaining sugar and mix on low speed until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add food coloring and mix until well blended, if desired. Frost completely cooled cupcakes.

Weekend Recap / What We Ate Feb 16-22

This weekend, M had an unexpected day off so we spent Saturday cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. It was the winter sport hat trick that has been so elusive for us all winter! Columbus got 8 inches of snow between Friday night and Saturday, so the woods were so beautiful and quiet. Skiing is so loud but I’m really snowshoeing lately. You go slower, sure, but you get to see so much of the beauty that is winter in the woods. It was too cold to take my ‘big girl camera’ so I tried to snap a few on M’s phone, protected by the highest water proof tech [a plastic baggie] but everything came out blurry! Just take my word for it!

IMG_4719

IMG_4718We came home and I baked cupcakes and we made yankee fish cakes and I made him watch Along Came Polly. Sunday, I had brunch with a friend who was in from Chicago and got to meet two of her friends here in Columbus. I even spent the afternoon sewing with my mom. It was quite the full weekend!

This was a really good week for eating in! It’s been cold and snowy so I cooked from the freezer as much as possible. I also tried really hard to restock the freezer as well – cooking four servings and freezing half has really been working for us lately.

Monday- roasted white fish and banana squash roasted with parmesan
Tuesday- enchilada hot dish

enchilada hot dish~the comyn space
Wednesday- chicken marsala (made earlier, I froze half the sauce and grilled more chicken for this meal)
Thursday-turkey tacos
Friday- pizza at my parents house
Saturday- Yankee fish cakes, crock pot black beans
Sunday- gnocchi

Baked: Rye and whole wheat sourdough + homemade vanilla cupcakes (I should not have halved this recipe…live and learn!)

What I Read: Jan ’15

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genvieve Valentine: Set in the 1920’s, this story follows 12 sisters who are locked up like birds in their incredibly wealthy father’s mansion. Each night they sneak out to dance in the speakeasies of Manhattan until he decides it’s time to marry them off. I really enjoyed this book, while not all the scenes were home runs (especially the earlier dance halls scenes felt forced). I’m glad I read it but I’m not sure I’ll seek out any other of Valentine’s novels.

Red Azalea by Achee Min: This was quite the haunting memoir of powerlessness in Mao’s Communist China. I was most surprised by exactly how obsessed the state is with controlling sex and intimacy. I enjoyed this personal peak into this period of history, particularly that it was from a woman’s voice and flew through this short memoir.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier: I picked this up at the library because I loved Girl with a Pearl Earring but boy oh boy was this a slog! I love historical fiction (this is the second one I read this month) and really value that someone is telling the story of these two women scientists, who were discounted and overlooked explicitly due to their gender. I did not enjoy the obsession with class, while probably a player in the historical record, and it left me feeling sort of sad. We have so far to come.

What I Watched: Noah, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Under the Skin, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Interview, Zodiac, Sky Captain the World of Tomorrow, I, Frankenstein

Embracing Winter

I am so incredibly exhausted about people complaining about winter. Complaining about complaining, table for one.

We live in the Midwest, I understand it is practically a competition to complain about which state does winter worse. The weather is one of the three socially acceptable things we can talk about at social gatherings [you know this: football, weather, directions/traffic].

But here’s the rub – we need winter. The plants we like to eat and the animals that eat plants that we love to eat need winter. Mother Nature demands a cooling down, a time to reset. The is so much more to winter than scraping your car windshield and salting your driveway. Of course, getting out requires effort but it’s worth it. It worth it in the summer and it’s worth it in the winter too. Winter is completely natural, even if inconvenient, and it’s been wintering here since the end of the last Ice Age. Plus, what a waste of energy complaining about something you can’t control that manages to come around every year without fail and is a full quarter of the year!

gull lake~brainerd mn~the comyn space

So, enough with the whining. It is our cold winters, our brutal summers, our endurance through whatever the weather throws our way that makes us strong. There is no bad weather, only bad clothes. Put on your snow boots, the good hat and get out and enjoy winter. The woods are never more serene than they are on a cold crisp day. It’s worth it, I promise.

2015: One Little Word

Inspired by oh-so-many bloggers I read who do One Little Word, I’m giving it a try for the first time in 2015.

It just came to me and while I don’t think it’s really ‘sexy’ enough to be my OLW, I can’t shake it. So PUSH, it is. I looked it up and a few of the definitions really stuck out to me.

Push: verb, 1-exert force on (someone or something), 2-move forward, noun, 2- a vigorous effort to do or obtain something.

This will guide my other resolutions, which I’m not really putting out for global consumption, but this will be the year to push myself with making local friends, push myself in my career (I’m finally working on my job goals, woohoo!), push our budget and put in a vigorous effort.

BRING IT ON 2015!