Archive - May, 2008

Food Friendly May: Fill Your Pie Hole

As Food Friendly May comes to an end, it’s only right and fitting that I do my best to pass on what I know about one of the most universally frustrating challenges faced by cooks the world over: pie crust.

I honestly don’t know if what I have to say will do the trick for you or not because I am one of those revolting people who just plain has The Touch for pies. I made my first pie crust at seven. My mother nearly cried. Pie crust was her culinary Achille’s heel and somehow she’d produced a daughter who seemed incapable of turning out a bad pie crust.

This is why I rarely attempt to explain to anyone how I do it: because it comes to me so easily that I don’t know why what I’m doing works so well. It just does.

Still, I can pass on what I do in hopes that someone will find it helpful. There are a few hints I know that might be useful to somebody. For one thing, start with very cold ingredients. The colder the better, as long as you can still work them. I even put my flour in the fridge before I start work, because it’s always produced a better result. I don’t know why this works, only that it does for me. The other really important one – and I cannot stress this enough – is not to overwork the dough. Once it almost holds together, stop fussing. Once you get it about the right size, stop rolling and get it in the pan. Pie crust is never improved by extra efforts, but can be by a quick hand.

So what’s my recipe? It’s simple enough. Here’s hoping it works for you:

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Food Friendly May: Let Us Eat Cake

My friends, this is the final weekend of this particular May, and so tomorrow will mark the end of my Food Friendly May posts. That means it’s definitely time to roll out the desserts! I’ve had cake on my mind a lot of late, so I thought today I’d share one of my favorite cake recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks: The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. This is the recipe that makes me dance gleefully in the fruit and vegetable aisle of my friendly neighborhood grocery store when really, really ripe bananas go on mega-sale. In fact, it’s been known to produce drooling of a Pavlovian nature when I tell friends ‘bananas were on sale today,’ because they know what wonders lie in wait when they come to visit.

Cordon Rose Banana Cake:

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Wonderful shoes for the weekend

Alas, they are not available in wide-widths, but these beauties by Elie Tahari have a snakeskin upper and a subtle, marbleized floral pattern in the wedge heel!

Best of all, they are now at a deep discount at Bluefly, down 40% from $495 to $297!

Happy weekend!

xoxo, Francesca

The Big Question: How Long is Too Long?

It may surprise you –say, if you’ve been living in a cave in Borneo for the past year– that I tend to have what might be gently called strong feelings. When I do not care for something, I don’t merely dislike it; rather I have murderous urges towards it, its designer, wearer and anyone who was remotely involved in the conception, production and purveyance of the offending article. I won’t go so far as to say that I want to sing comic songs on their graves like Harris from Three Men in a Boat, but I’m not far off.

I have strong feelings about extra-long hair. To my delicate eyes, anything longer than bra-band length on women whose prom days are behind them looks off to me. Get to waist length and I’m secretly wondering what happened in her childhood, and did her father not hug her enough. I am of the opinion that hair that long isn’t a style (and is rarely stylish) it’s a security blanket.

Maybe I’m over-reacting because many of the women I know who keep what my friend R. calls “polygamy cult hair” because their husbands just luh-huv it and of course there is nothing more repulsive to me than doing things that makes other people happy.
So what do you think? Is ultra-long hair unprofessional looking? What message does it send? For those of you who love your long-long locks why do you keep it? Would you ever cut it?

Links that may amuse

(or inspire, or educate)

28 Days to a Bikini Mind!

It made me hungry for more butt room, more shoulder room, more room on the arm divider so that my neighbor and I wouldn’t be forced into a game of passive-aggressive elbow war the entire flight.

I was all weird and nervous when I bought it because I was paying full price, and it wasn’t even an entire shirt and and it didn’t even have buttons and and and. But I did it, and it basically turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Little attention has been given to these young people whose lives and futures are endangered now, today, and for real.

The most important thing for me is to have a home where I feel respected, safe, and valued. 

Another woman, the largest of the group, had this sage advice to offer to the slighted woman.

We stared. We poked it. We discussed how odd and weird and smelly cauliflower can be.

Sale at Nordstrom!

Nordstrom has taken 40% off many of their items, including a good selection in their plus-size section. Coats, pants, sweaters, fancy dresses, oh my! Also, you get free shipping if you order $200 or more. Mmmm

This beaded dress, which Francesca may have recommended in the past, is very good for Apples (perhaps without the belt, which can be removed). It is still available in size 14 and is down from $170 to just 99 American dollars!

Here, this stretch-cotton jacket has faux patent trim, and is a good mixture of “now” and “mod.” It is down from $158 to just $94. Available in sizes 14-22, in black and white.

And look!  40 or 50 percent off their shoes and handbags!

Francesca loves the color and texture of this silk clutch by Stuart Weitzman. Its name, “Luxury,” is apt, is it not? And yet it is 50 percent off!
Happy shopping!

xoxo

Francesca must lie down with a cold cloth on her brow

Francesca knows that you think she is always on top of her to-do list and perfectly motivated and organized all the time, but she has a secret for you: Francesca sometimes – not often, mind you, only once every long while — wastes time on the internet.

One of her favorite destinations is the “What’s New” section at Snopes.com, the site where one may investigate the veracity of internet rumours and odd news stories. Each day, in addition to well-researched information that tells you that, no, Bill Gates will not give you a dollar for each person to whom you forward that email, they post a roundup of strange or silly news from around the world.

Today, two articles caught Francesca’s attention with their references to the Big Girls . . . and made Francesca’s head come oh so very close to exploding! Yes, the Francesca has lost her equanimity! It is an occurrence to cause the concern!

First, is yet another frustrating story about a woman who had a real, live health problem, and was grossly misdiagnosed by her doctor, who saw her fat and decided that losing weight was all she needed to do:

The unidentified woman said after visiting a health clinic to complain about a swollen abdomen, she was allegedly told by a doctor to attempt to lose weight to deal with the problem, the Swedish news agency TT reported Friday.

The woman said she returned to the clinic several other times after the problem persisted and was denied when she asked for an ultrasound.

A private doctor eventually conducted an ultrasound and discovered a cyst inside her abdomen which weighed nearly 18 pounds.

The news agency said the Medical Responsibility Board has since been informed about the woman’s initial doctor, who was a temporary employee at the clinic, and his inaccurate diagnosis.

What most angers Francesca is that when a woman comes back repeatedly asking for an ultrasound, it means that she feels, in her body, that something unusual is happening.  Perhaps she had always been thin, and suddenly gained weight even though she had not altered her eating or exercising routines. Or perhaps she had always been overweight, but this time something was different — she could feel it. Either way, if a woman is insisting that there is something going on, then there very well may be something going on. But the “doctors” at this clinic did not consider that possibility, because obviously if the woman is fat, then all she is is fat. Nothing else about her is important, not even the possibility of a cyst, and not even the possibility that she is intelligent enough to know her own body.

Grrrr!

Second, we have here a sad, sad story about a woman in New Zealand who relied on an oxygen machine to breathe, and who died after the utilities company shut down the electricity at her house:

Muliaga’s husband, Lopaavea, told the court that he contacted Mercury Energy in early May 2007 to try to arrange paying their overdue power bill in installments but was unsuccessful.

He made a payment in May but the power was disconnected eight days later. At the time, he testified, he thought he only owed $26.67.

Mercury Energy said at the time that $130.12 was owed.

An emotional Lopaavea Muliaga said he was at work when the power was cut and arrived home to find his wife dead and two ambulance officers at the house.

He said by the time of her death his overweight wife needed the oxygen machine 16 hours a day to help her breathe.

In the wake of Folole Muliaga’s death, the power company said it would review the way it deals with customers with medical dependencies and those in financial difficulty.

Notice that nowhere does the article state why Ms. Muliaga required an oxygen machine. Perhaps the Associated Press reporter who wrote this story believes that by describing her as overweight, he or she has told us all we need to know. As in, “ah, yes, she was overweight, therefore she her entire respiratory system shut down– because, you know, as soon as your BMI goes into the ‘overweight’ category you only have seconds to live– and therefore she died when the electricity went off.”

Of course, we all know that the vast majority of overweight people can breathe on their own just fine, thank you very much. Ms. Muliaga was not a victim of her fat, she was a victim of whatever profound illness caused her to need the oxygen machine (and of the power company). Even if being overweight is a risk factor for whatever illness it was — and the article does not substantiate this assumption — it still does not tell us anything salient.

What is sad is that so many people think it does, including a reporter and a copy editor at the Associated Press.

Grrrrrr.

Francesca will now uplift herself with  one of these darling, darling cotton skirts, available in Woman and Woman Petite sizes at Talbots:

They are adorned with itsy-bitsy dragonflies, palm trees, or flamingos, and are much more useful and smile-making than the stupid reporters. Francesca hath spoken.

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