Obsession: Cray for J. Crew + GDL love

Holy Sale, Batman! J. Crew is having a promo where all redline items are an additional 30% off (through Friday, Sept. 7). It’s not like this is the first time J. Crew has had a sale, or even a sale of this nature — but, this is the first time I’ve actually committed to purchasing the boatload of loot I added to my online shopping bag. You see, it started with browsing new button-downs…and falling in love with a shrunken blazer in a cracked-out plaid. And then I saw that the Tippi sweater was part of the sale, too. And the wheels. Completely. Fell off.

Let me explain. The Tippi sweater is the best friend of my best friend, Giada DeLaurentiis. (Clarifications: 1. only in my literal dreams; 2. she doesn’t know; 3. please don’t tell her.) Ok, maybe Giada doesn’t befriend knitwear, but the sweater was heavily recommended as one of her favorite things several GDL email newsletters ago, and being the bosom buddies that we are, I had to have it. How else could we be Tippi Twins at the next Food & Wine fest? Duh.

Fast-forward 45 minutes, and I had checked out with NINE — aiyah! — new garments in my shopping bag:

 

(Top-Bottom, Left-Right: TippiTwinsGiadaLoveSweater; Minnie Pants; Perfect Shirt #1;
Camp Shirt; Jackie Sweater; CrackPlaidBlazer; Perfect Shirt #2; Perfect Shirt #3; Cafe Capri)

So, needless to say, the Back-to-School shopping trip that I’ve treated myself to every year since college graduation is not happening this year in lieu of my Cray Crew spending spree. (Which — did I mention? — was 100% husband-endorsed. Hey-o!) But that’s ok. I’m feeling really good about how all of these pieces will mix into my teensy tiny wardrobe, and the bargain shopper in me is totally titillated.

Hehe.

Going no-sugar-added: take that, eyeabetes!

A few weeks ago, my middle school friend Miriam, aka Amazon Genki Girl, and I were at home for her dad’s (crazy adorable, super fun) third wedding when she broke the following news to me:

Mir: “Em, did I tell you? I have eyeabetes.”
Me: “Oh no! DubTeeEff is eyeabetes?”
Mir: “It’s when the optometrist says I have the eyes of a diabetic because I’ve been literally eating, like, a whole bag of Dove chocolates in one sitting. Every day.”

Oh. Yeah, apparently that’ll do it. So now my eyeabetic friend Miriam is on a slightly modifEYED (oh, snap!) diet that involves avoiding products with added sugar five days a week. With some exceptions. Monday through Friday, baked goods, candy, chocolate, and pretty much all processed convenience foods are OUT. Sauces, dressings and condiments are IN, in moderation (ketchup and hoisin are biggies in Mir’s household, as they are in most Chinese-American kitchens). And of course, foods containing natural sugars, like fruits and veggies, are allowed in abundance. On the weekend, it’s back to normal. Easy, right?

Actually, as far as modified diets go, it IS pretty easy.

Inspired by Mir’s commitment to eyesight, I hopped on the bandwagon four weeks ago, and it’s not a bad way to go. Aside from sounding like that chick in the office who’s on a stupid, self-prescribed no-added-sugar diet (oh wait, that’s me), this No Added Sugar thing has more pros than cons. During the week, it prevents me from chowing down on the cereal bars, jelly beans and ice cream that our office stocks in the kitchen — and on the weekend, I can wisely treat myself to deereeshus sugary splurges like Fat Apples cheese puffs (similar recipe), Love at First Bite cupcakes and The Mix’s fancy Strauss Family Creamery frozen yogurt.

Now, there’s no telling just how long I’ll be able to stay off the (sugar)cane. But as we roll toward the sugariest seasons of all, it can’t hurt to purge a little of the excess glucose from my system. I’m feeling good. I’m even — dare I say — gradually losing a smidge o’ pudge. Best of all, my empty-calorie snacks have been almost completely replaced by tastier, more nutrient-dense whole foods like fresh fruit, almonds and years-old Gouda.

As Ina Garten would say, how bad can that be?

Recipe: Braised meatballs with bacon & chard

Braised Meatballs
I. Freaking. Love. Meatballs. In fact, I’m pretty certain 50 Cent knew nothing of fat kids’ loves when he was rapping about cake. Any fat kid that knows what’s up would take a saucy little meatball over a crumbly slice of Duncan Hines hands down. And that’s the truth.

In this version, juicy spheres of herb-studded, organic, grass fed beef are roasted to develop a crisp crust and then bathed in a super fast tomato sauce chock full of bacon and thick ribbons of chard.  Serve over whole wheat or brown rice pasta for a meal that’s as balanced as it is satisfying.

Braised Meatballs with Bacon & Chard
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking time: 50 mins | Serves 4

For the Meatballs

  • 1/2 c panko
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 T chopped fresh herbs (basil/sage/oregano/rosemary/thyme all work well)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • dash nutmeg
  • s&p to taste
  • 1.3 -1.5 lbs ground beef

 For the Sauce

  • 4-6 slices thick cut bacon, roughly diced
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, tough stems removed/leaves chopped
  • 24 oz prepared pasta sauce (scratch or purchased)
  • freshly grated parmesan

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450F. Combine all meatball ingredients except beef in large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Add beef and mix lightly with your hands (or a fork) until incorporated. Roll into golf ball-sized spheres and bake on a rimmed cookie sheet until browned, about 25-30 mins.

Meanwhile, brown bacon over med-high heat in a large pot or dutch oven until crisp. Add chopped chard and saute until greens begin to wilt. Stir in prepared pasta sauce and reduce heat to low while meatballs roast.

Once roasted, remove meatballs to bacon-chard sauce and simmer for 10 mins. Serve over hot, buttered pasta topped with parm.

Gettin’ Judgy wit it

I’ve been saying I should start a blog for God knows how long, but it took purchasing a domain name to finally light a fire under my butt strong enough to motivate movement. As you may learn, I consider every purchase an investment and am highly disappointed when dollars are wasted on fruitless efforts. So how better to kickstart a blog than to pay for one? Sure, the logic is a bit backwards, but we’re here, aren’t we?

And now that we’re here, the question begs: where  do I start? I crack myself up on pretty much a daily basis, yet there’s a whole new sense of pressure, of fear, when the inner monologue becomes external and the critics start circling. But let’s be real. If criticism is just a fancy word for gettin’ judgy — and gettin’ judgy is one of my guiltiest pleasures — then I’ll happily take one for the GJ team. If nothing else, blogging will provide an alternative to the typical weeknight routine of watching Top Gear reruns until midnight and then startling awake (wait, when did I fall asleep?) to the realization that my teeth aren’t brushed and the laundry is still in the dryer. If you have a quicker shortcut to Cranky, let me know. I think my husband would agree that the above process is dialed.

So with this experiment officially in progress, let’s start with setting some expectations, such as…

  1. While I can follow a recipe, I don’t generally write them, so anything that resembles an original recipe is gonna be rough in measurements and practice. If you love to eat as much as I do, it might just be worth slogging through my babble to give it a try. I don’t promise it’ll be great, but I’ll love you for it.
  2. The Chinese half of me is in the driver’s seat when it comes to boozing. I don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype of Asian drivers, but it’s not a smooth ride. I do love a glass of wine with dinner, but when a swig of champs is accompanied by a red face and a racing heart, it’s just not sexy. So a cocktail blog this won’t be. Disappointed? Hit up Emily over at Copper & Thread (ahem, once it’s up and running). In addition to being one of the most genuine beings you’ll ever encounter on the interweb, she makes a killer Moscow Mule.
  3. Please forgive small typos. I’m a hunter and pecker and probably always will be. Toopid puters.
  4. Let’s be frank. I’m blogging for me, but if anyone is reading this, I’m blogging for you, too! So leave me comments. Like, a big bag of ’em.
  5. If I’m going to make a list, it’s going to include five items. No, not really, but it didn’t seem right to end this list with a paltry four things, so…

Here goes nothing!