About Mads

Living life with a smile...and chocolate

Reading Roundup

Hello folks,

I’m just starting to get past my winter slump of mainlining Netflix series directly into my veins.  Something about cold weather and “winter break” makes it impossible not to watch 6 seasons of Gossip Girl over the course of 2 weeks.  It’s not just me, right?  (Disclaimer: I realize Gossip Girl is a terrible show with mostly unlikable characters, but I can’t turn away from the Chuck and Blair storyline.  It’s my guilty pleasure. #ChuckandBlair4Evah)

Getting past the tv slump, simply means books have replaced my favorite shows because LEARNING.  I feel like my brain function is slowly returning to me, one little neuron fire after another.

I started slowly by reading Heat Wave, by “Richard Castle”, which is actually a book based on a tv show.  I told you, I was in a Netflix stupor!

Heat-Wave-book-cover

If you hate reading, but love watching tv, the Richard Castle books are for you.  It reads more like a script than a novel, with so many pop culture references and grammatical errors, it’s almost impossible to read.  One sentence actually used the term “cray-cray”.  I thought the whole book was a joke, but diehard fans of the show (Jonathan) will probably need to own all books in the series.  Not that I know anything about that…*cough*.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

handmaids tale

I thought I would love this book.  It has everything I usually love: a dystopian future, a female author, and strong feminist themes.  However, the execution was a heavy-handed and boring, despite great reviews on Amazon.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.

gone girl

The perspective and narration were totally unique and unexpected for a who-dun-it.  It was definitely a page turner and took me by surprise.  However, I was still hoping for a bit more complexity…I don’t know how to describe what was lacking, but I would give it a 3 out of 4 stars.

The Rule of Four, by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.

The_Rule_of_Four

This book was heady and elitist, in part because it was set at Princeton University, but it was still intriguing.  It had a lot of similarities to the Dan Brown series, but I have to say I prefer Dan Brown.  Overall, it was a decent historical adventure.

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, by Stephen King.

different seasons

This was my first time reading Stephen King, but I knew the story from the movie.  I was surprised to discover the story was actually a novella and only 150 or so pages long.  It’s incredible how well you know the characters in that amount of time.  The writing was impeccable.  I’m in the middle of his second novella in the Different Seasons series entitled, Apt Pupil, which is equally enthralling.

After all of that reading, I was a little disappointed that I only really liked Gone Girl and Shawshank.  I clearly need help picking out my next book.

Do you have any recommendations?  What are you reading right now?
-Mads

Beef Empanadas

beef empanadas

Jonathan and I went to a Spanish tapas bar for our date night last week and it was delicious!  I love grazing on my dinner like cattle…truly I do, and tapas give me an excuse to try a bit of everything. I’ve been scheming ways to make some at home every day since.  While our schedules don’t currently allow for hosting a tapas party, I knew I needed to make something at home to satisfy my urges.

Enter stage right: beef empanadas.

empanada filling

I tend to shy away from making pastries or frying food at home because it can be a lot of work.  However, I happened to have a few pie crusts hanging out in my freezer that needed love and attention.  You can easily use Pillsbury crescent rolls if you want to cut out a few steps and save time.  As for the frying?  Well, you can bake these puppies instead, but why would you do that to yourself?

dough

These beef empanadas are packed with flavor and have a perfect flaky and buttery crust.  I love that they are only three bites, which makes me feel a little better about eating fried foods.  So if I’m doing my math right, eating 6 of them is practically a health food.  Math is hard!

Beef Empanadas

Makes approximately 20 empanadas with beef filling to spare!

  • 2 tsp. bacon grease (optional)
  • 1/2 jalapeño minced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste (Please taste it!  Salt and pepper are the key to tasty meat! I used about 1/4 tsp. of each.)
  • 3 Tbsp cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c. shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • No Excuses Pie Crust or Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
  • approximately 20 oz. frying oil such as Canola
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onions, jalapeño, and garlic in bacon grease (or olive oil) for 2 minutes or until slightly soft.
  2. Add beef and cook until brown, breaking it up into tiny bits.  Drain fat from pan and set back on heat.
  3. Mix in the tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Taste the beef mixture and add more seasonings as you see fit.
  4. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. In a heavy-bottomed pot or a dutch oven, heat fry oil until 375 degrees.  Give it at least 10 minutes over medium heat to come to temperature.  Adjust until you get to 375 degrees.
  6. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it’s approximately 1/8 of an inch thick.  Use a large cookie cutter or whatever tool you have on hand (I used an empty 28 oz. can of pumpkin as an empanada cutter) to cut circles out of the dough.
  7. Dip your finger in the beaten egg and spread it around the outer edge of each empanada.  This is the “glue” for the dough and prevents the empanadas from bursting open in the fry oil.
  8. Place approximately 2 tsp. meat mixture, 1 tsp. cheese, and a pinch of cilantro into the center of each empanada.
  9. Gently fold the dough over the filling and crimp the edges together.  You can use a fork or your fancy fingers to crimp it closed.
  10. Fry empanadas three at a time, flipping after about 2 minutes…just keep your eyes on it…when it’s golden brown, it’s ready to flip.
  11. Use a slotted spoon to move the empanadas to a plate with a paper towel to allow it to drain off excess grease and cool.
  12. Enjoy!

Notes on this recipe: I’ve been saving bacon grease in a mason jar in my fridge lately.  It feels a little Howard Hughes-esque, but my life has significantly improved now that I have bacon grease on hand for sautéing vegetables and other things.  If you happen to keep a jar of the stuff (you are a champion), then feel free to use it to sauté the onions, but you could easily substitute olive oil.

You should buy tortillas to go with this recipe because you will have extra filling, but lucky for you, the filling tastes great as tacos too!

empanada cutter

beef filling

empanada collage

One more little note…crimping the edges of empanadas, and any pies for that matter, is my kryptonite.  I would like to show you my two trial run empanadas just to stay humble:

fail

#FAIL They still tasted damn good.

Do not be like me.  Be delicate and graceful and an empanada savant.

Do not attempt to glue the rips in the dough together with more dough.  Your food will look like a burn victim and it will appetize no one.

There’s a solid chance I rolled out the dough too thin.  Don’t do that.

If you are like me (bless you!), don’t worry.  Hot fry oil cures all ails.  Pop those bad boys in their little jacuzzi until golden brown!

frying empanadas

Can you hear them sizzling?

I already miss them.  Their poor little lives were cut too short.  Until we meet again, my fried friends.

-Mads

OKMH: Houston Edition

Hello!

You might remember previous posts about my One Kitchen Many Hearts friends…you know, the ones who mail each other boxes filled with goodies every other month?  Well, we all haphazardly met through our blogs and decided it was kismet and became friends.  In February, we met in person at Jeanne (Inside NanaBread’s Head) lovely home in Houston, TX!

Jeanne made us all feel welcome with hand-crafted monogrammed pillows (see tutorial here), individual coasters, and lip balm.

jeanne party favors

She and her husband, “The Complete Package”, cooked feasts for us for every meal.  I didn’t take a single food picture because I was too busy shoving my face full of deliciousness.  None of my pants fit by the end of the weekend, but that’s precisely how it should be.  Noteworthy favorites: homemade horchata, peach cobbler, ranch beans, smoked brisket, french toast waffles, fried pies, Mexican martinis, and biscuits and gravy.

rental van

After a huge debacle with Thrifty rental company (I will never use them again), we finally rented a molester van from Avis.  I was able to drive it and my pal, Kevin the Donkey, all around Houston for the weekend.

driving kevin

Besides feasting, we also chatted late into the night, shopped until we dropped, laughed until we cried, and hung out with real donkeys!  I’ll show the rest of the weekend in pictures before this post turns into a TLDR post.

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The donkeys who became our fast friends…one was pregnant!

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Sipping beers with the pineapple farm and tiki torches. This beer was phenomenal and I need to source it somewhere in California.

photo 2

Buc-ee’s the best place to source all things Texas. I found a lovely American flag beer koozie here and I cannot wait to break it out at the cabin this summer.

photo 3 copy

Jeanne taught us how to make fried hand pies because she is the best woman in the world. #grateful #pieislife #shegetsme

photo 3

These were my traveling partners in crime! They were all so wonderful. I don’t know how we lucked out and found such a normal and fun group of women from across the US.

photo 5

One of many antique/kitchy shops we visited in Houston. Al Porccino, the metal flying pig, was acquired at this particular stop.

photo 5

Holding hands and frolicking like weirdos. Perfectly choreographed by our sorority representatives.

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A creepy prom photo with Kevin. If you look closely, you can see Kevin is crying because we were leaving that day.

On top of the entire weekend of festivities, we were also able to exchange our gifts in person.  Kirsten (Comfortably Domestic) got me such wonderful treats.  Thank you, Kir!

IMG_6466

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She got me a book for my flight, Eden Close, which looks riveting. Isn’t the detail on that scarf beautiful? The James Dean purse cracks me up and the necklace is so fun! She did a great job finding things I will cherish.

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Obviously no gift is complete without a hilarious pug magnet. hahaha

I had an absolute blast and I cannot wait for our OKMH: 2015 reunion.  A year is so long to wait!

Thank you to Jeanne and The Complete Package for letting 7 women descend upon your house!  Thank you to Kirsten for the wonderful gifts!  Thank you to Allison, Kat, Beka, and Megan for being such wonderful travel companions!  And thank you to Katie for meeting us in Brenham for a day of fun!  I seriously loved every minute of our adventure.

-Mads

LA vs. Minneapolis – Major Differences

Hello all,

I’ve been living in SoCal for almost 4 years, and I’ve noticed some major differences between California and Minnesota, particularly LA vs. Minneapolis. There are so many differences, but these stand out to me as the most absurd:

If you go anywhere in LA (including running errands) and you are not in full hair and makeup, you might be suffering from a complete emotional breakdown. In Minneapolis, it is perfectly acceptable to wear sweatpants, boots, and a messy bun almost anywhere.

This leads to my next point…on a scale of attractiveness, if you are a 5 in LA, you are a 7 in Minneapolis. There is an automatic 2 point increase on the “hot or not scale” when in Minnesota. I was hit on more often in my week visit to Minneapolis than my entire 4 years of living in SoCal.

LA is a dog eat dog world where individuals only care about surviving the rat race and will mow you over in the process. The perfect example of this is what happens at bus stops. You can be the only person at a bus stop waiting for 15 minutes, but two minutes before the bus arrives, hoards of people will bust out of the bushes only to budge in front of you and steal the last open seat on the bus. This has happened to me countless times, elbows fly, and no apologies are made, except for perhaps a quietly murmured, “Sorry you weren’t fast enough.”

This is not to say that Minnesotans are any better with their sugary sweet niceties that are often disingenuous. If a Minnesotan ever invites you to “get together sometime”, please know that they have no intentions of getting together with you. Ever. Phrases like “that’s interesting” are the Minnesotan way of saying something is terrible. Merging onto the highway in Minnesota is the most excruciating process because everyone thinks, “You go first,” “No, you go first,” “Please, I insist you go first,” for an eternity.

People in Minnesota talk endlessly and enthusiastically about the weather. It’s not just small talk, it’s whispered between lovers in dark corners of coffee shops. Minnesotans love talking about the weather so much, sometimes it’s the only news reported for weeks on end. Similarly, Californians could talk about traffic until they are blue in the face. What’s happening on the 405? I’ll tell you in lengthy detail and discuss possible alternate routes and the pros and cons of said routes. Are you late to work? Of course you are; let’s chat about it.

Those thin papery toilet seat covers provide almost no protection between your body and whatever butt diseases are on the toilet seat. LA provides them in every restaurant, bar, and public space. If toilet seat covers don’t exist, you might be in a sketchy part of town. In Minneapolis, those seat covers are almost non-existent and
the minuscule bit of OCD relief they provide is sorely missed.

Can you think of any major differences that I missed? What crazy things are different about where you live?

-Mads