June 30, 2012

What Not To Wear by Peggy Browning

What Not To Wear…Fashion after 50 
by Peggy Browning

I am the first to admit that I have a problem with fashion. I’ve never been a fashion maven, but ever since I turned 50, I just really don’t care about what I wear. Fashion after 50 is not a big priority for me.
Comfort after 50 is my main priority.
Recently, however, my daughter called me and told me to turn on What Not To Wear, the fashion show that hijacks unsuspecting, poorly dressed women and forces them to confront their un-fashionableness.
She told me I was on the show that day.
Of course, I really wasn’t on the show. I would have remembered that.
Instead there was a woman just like me; a woman who thought she was dressed up when she wore a pair of shorts with a non-elastic waistband. When she really wanted to show off, she added a pair of pearl earrings and pearl necklace to her  Polo shirt and shorts. I can identify.
The show’s hosts, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, worked her over and made her presentable. She looked great when they finished. She professed to feeling attractive and professional.
My daughter suggested I should apply to be a guest on What Not To Wear and get a makeover.
I declined.

June 25, 2012

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas   
Makes 4 large enchiladas 

    2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
    1/2 Tbsp canola oil
    1/2 cup chopped yellow or white onion (about 1 medium)
    1 large garlic clove, minced
    1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles
    1/2 cup salsa verde (tomatillo salsa, or other salsa of your choice), plus additional for serving
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1 tsp chipotle chile powder
    1/4 tsp cayenne
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    2 oz (4 Tbsp) 1/3-less-fat neufchatel cream cheese, divided
    3/4 cup enchilada sauce, homemade or store-bought
    3 large (burrito-sized) or 4 medium flour tortillas
    canola oil cooking spray
    1/2 – 3/4 cup freshly grated 50% reduced-fat cheese, such as monterey jack, cheddar, or pepperjack
    2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
    2% plain Greek yogurt, for serving 
    Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shredded chicken, chopped chiles, salsa and spices. Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and stir in 1 oz (2 Tbsp) of the Neufchatel, reserving the other 1 oz. Set aside. Pour the enchilada sauce into a small saucepan over low heat. When the sauce reaches a simmer, turn the heat off and whisk in the remaining 1 oz Neufchatel until completely melted. Heat the tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until soft and pliable. Lay the tortillas out on a clean work surface. Divide the chicken mixture into 4 equal portions. Spoon each portion onto the lower third of a tortilla. Roll each filled tortilla, burrito-style, tucking in the ends as you go. Lightly coat a baking dish with canola oil cooking spray. Spoon a few tablespoons of the creamy enchilada sauce over the bottom of the dish; spread evenly. Place all of the filled tortillas into the prepared dish. Cover with the remaining creamy enchilada sauce; top with cheese. Bake, uncovered, until enchiladas are hot and cheese is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Serve topped with any enchilada sauce remaining in the dish, extra salsa, cilantro, and Greek yogurt.

June 23, 2012

Bavarian Berry Cream

Crush 1 quart hulled strawberries or raspberries in a large bowl. Add ½ cup sugar and let stand 30 minutes.
Soak 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin in 3 tablespoons cold water and let stand 5 minutes.
Add 3 tablespoons boiling water and stir to dissolve the gelatin, then stir into the berries. 
Optional: add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
Chill the strawberry-gelatin mixture until it's the thickness of unbeaten egg whites.
Whip 1 cup cold heavy cream until firm peaks form. 
Gently fold into the berry mixture. 
Pour into a lightly oiled 1½ quart dish or mold. 
Refrigerate for 8 hours if you plan to unmold the cream, or just scoop into serving dishes.

June 22, 2012

Movie Reviews

I've seen a lot of movies lately but haven't had time to do my usual reviews. Hopefully these short-shorts suffice.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ****   Not a perfect film but a sweet story of a group of older people looking for a retirement community, ending up at a less than spectacular residence hotel and finding a home. There are some unfortunate broadly-drawn stereotypical characters but it's an engaging two hours with a great cast.

The Intouchables ****  Francois Cluzet is one of my favorite French actors and his performance as a wealthy quadriplegic is wonderfully controlled. He moves nothing except his face, and that's enough to tell the story. And his smile lights up the screen. It's an unlikely situation where he hires an unlikeable petty thief to care for him. Not entirely believable but it works pretty well and becomes an odd-couple-turned-fast-friends type of story. Some scenes go too far and feel played just for laughs but if you overlook those it's an appealing movie. 

Marvel's The Avengers *** 1/2   This isn't my genre but it's gotten such great reviews that I had to see for myself, and it was a fun ride, held my interest, had some great comic moments. An entertaining two hours.

Moonrise Kingdom *** 1/2   Funky little movie with a stellar cast, most of whom are playing against type. Cute story, love the kitchy 1965 feel.

Safety Not Guaranteed ** 1/2   Interesting film - kind of funny, kind of stupid, kind of endearing. Goofy ending. And a whole story line is just dropped, unexplained. I wasn't knocked out about Mark Duplass's performance but he seems to be everywhere these days, so obviously I'm in the minority. Worth checking out.

Portrait of Wally **** 1/2   Documentary about a painting confiscated by Nazis in 1938 from a Jewish woman, and the court battle to determine the rightful owner. A lot of facts to sift through and a plethora of people telling their story - difficult to follow in places, but a fascinating story.

Rock of Ages - zero stars   Oh wait, I haven't seen it. That's okay,  I'm certain the combination of a stupid script (I saw the play and walked out) and Tom Cruise is something I'd hate.

June 17, 2012

Political Correctness Gone Berserk

I'm enjoying the book The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach but there's one thing driving me crazy. The story is about a baseball playing phenom in college and the author uses the term freshperson in place of freshman.
Oh my god, really??? Are people using this? Is it widespread? Do college kids even care?
Cuz I have to say it totally makes me want to scream. We've already bent over backwards to be politically correct - backwards and forwards and sideways...and it's enough already. The word freshman doesn't denote gender. It's just a term. Just because there's a 'man' on the end of it does that mean we should ban it from our vocabulary? Stop this madness! How long before we change woman to woperson?
Bogeyman to bogeyperson?
Ottoman to ottoperson?
Human to huperson?
Gentleman to gentleperson?
Talisman to talisperson?
Manhole to personhole?
Manager to personager?
Dismantle to dispersontle?

Alright, enough of this stupidity. I have to get going anyway or else I'll miss my personicure appointment.

June 7, 2012

Save the Date!

On August 11th at 12:30 I'm going to be on the radio! And not just any old radio station, but the BEST, the iconic WGN radio, 5000 watts and all that jazz, and I'm going to be interviewed by the handsome and charming Bill Moller and we're going to talk about my book. Yay! Tune in to 720 on your AM dial (did I say dial???) if you live in Chicago, or click on this link if you don't: WGN Radio Audio Player and you can listen online. Fun!
Save the date: August 11th at 12:30p. 

Low-Guilt Mac 'n Cheese

Make this mac 'n cheese dish. It's deliciously delicious. And healthy. Which I know sounds like an oxymoron but in this case it's not.
Caluiflower Mac 'n Cheese
Serves 6 (unless you're a pig, like me, effectively obliterating its low-guilt factor)
4 oz. (1 cup) whole wheat elbow macaroni
3 cups cauliflower florets (about 1/2 medium head) chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 T. unsalted butter
2 T. flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup 2% milk
1/4 tsp. black or white pepper pinch of cayenne
1 cup grated low-fat cheddar cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs

1. Lightly oil 8-inch casserole dish. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add noodles and cook for 4 minutes. Add cauliflower pieces to noodles and cook for 3 more minutes or al dente.
2. While noodles are cooking, preheat broiler and put oven rack in middle position.
3. Heat butter in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking frequently, until golden, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in broth and milk, and cook at a low boil for 7-9 minutes until thickened. Whisk in pepper and cayenne. Whisk in cheese 1/4 cup at a time, until melted. Taste and season with salt and additional pepper as needed.
4. Add cooked pasta and cauliflower to cheese mixture and stir to coat. Transfer to prepared dish and sprinkle with crumbs. Broil until golden, about 2 minutes.

June 3, 2012

Skinny Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

So delicious. 
Okay, I confess - I used heavy cream in place of skim milk so my version's not so skinny. My philosophy is, if you're going to eat, eat something amazing.
You choose how to make it and then tell me if yours is as delicious as mine. (The Greek yogurt I used was 0% fat.)

4 Servings
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled and cut into chunks (about 2 cups)
2 cups roasted broccoli florets
8 ounces fettuccine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

·        In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Whisk in the flour until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth, Greek yogurt, milk, pepper and nutmeg.

Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring gently, until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup Parmesan.

Add cooked chicken and broccoli to sauce mixture, followed by the cooked pasta. Toss to combine and serve with more Parmesan, if desired.

June 2, 2012

Isaac's Lip-Dub Proposal

I've been married three times and if you sneezed you'd have missed my proposals. Nothing interesting there (unless you count the first one where there was a gun involved...but that's a story for another time).
My proposals went something like this:
Him: "Wanna get married?"
Me: "Okay."
(And I wonder why those marriages failed.)
Watch this adorable marriage proposal. It'll make you smile. (How does one person know so many talented people?)

Really cute. But wait a minute, Isaac. Have you listened to the lyrics to this song?
Here's how it begins:
It's a beautiful night
We're looking for something dumb to do
Hey baby
I think I wanna marry you
"Something dumb to do"?? Great.
Later he says,
If we wake up and you
Wanna break up, that's cool
No, I won't blame you
It was fun, girl
That's not a ringing endorsement for the institution of marriage, Isaac.
To Isaac's girlfriend: You might want to rethink this. I know, I know, how could you say no to a guy whose proposal has gone viral?
So just call me and I'll give you the name of a good divorce lawyer. You know, just in case.