Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why I Am Probably in Jail Now

Idea that would be useful if I were a terrorist

1. Board Plane
2. Wait for person sitting next to me go to bathroom
3. Reach into their carry on and turn on their cell phone
4. Get the virgins ready for me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Techniques of Fine Cooking: Entry 3 (Starring Braised Celery!)

The Menu

Mussels Steamed in White Wine or Thai Mussels with Red Curry

YUM. I love mussels and I especially love mussels that come with bread and lots of juice for dipping bread in. This is why I was only able to eat 1/3 of my main plate of food. I don't think I've ever made mussels and this is a huge shame because they are super easy and super yummy -- mostly I think I'm afraid of purchasing any food that is given to me while still alive. The instructor claims that I can make mussel salad out of the left over mussels tomorrow night, which I think might be a trap to kill me off before I ask him another nit-picky question about the difference between Italian and American pine nuts or clarification on the meaning of the word insipid or annoy him with my insistance that everything must be photographed (Also: The mussels were from PEI -- something at least one of my readers will be happy about).

Braised Lamb Shanks with Juniper Berries and Rosemary

Yum again! this recipe truly illustrated the beauty of braising and gives me new ways to use my beautiful new(ish) Le Crueset dutch oven. Call it laziness but I love any meat that fall off of the bone. This is also a nice use for juniper berries, which (in addition to American pine nuts) grow wild near my home town. The instructor said that juniper berries also work well with game (Mom and Dad: Pay attention! you have game and juniper berries! I expect both to be featured in my next welcome home meal. Also: I am now demanding welcome home meals.).

Braised Leeks/Celery/Endive

My group was lucky enough to get assigned the awesome celery in this little exercise in squeezing all the crunchy fun out of vegetables. The instructor didn't do much to sell this situation -- he immediately offered us the option of choosing what mussel variety we wanted to make (we took the standard French variety) as advanced payment for suffering through the celery pain. Because I am a task master who doesn't really trust other people to get shit done most of the celery pain was felt by me (this is probably fair. I should learn to count on people, anyone wanna do some trust falls with me after Mathletes?). So I spent TWO HOURS making soggy celery. Amazingly this dish includes both bacon and booze and yet still fails to be anything but bland. I forced everyone on my team (and Kajal) to eat it and like it *shakes fist.* Most claimed that it was surprisingly "not that bad."

Incidentally: Braised Leeks? kind of awesome. (notably more awesome than the endive which is especially shocking since we coated the endive in cheese).

Warm Lentil Salad

My team didn't participate in making this salad so I feel no qualms about dissing it. The instructor warned us during prep that the salad had a tendency to be a bit bland and that we should taste it at the end and add more vinegar or even some hot sauce to improve the flavor -- I suspect this wasn't done.

Belgian Endive Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette

Were you wondering what I was doing in the 30mins when I was not working on "Celery Does Not Make a Good Side Dish Unless it is Smothered in Peanut Butter"? I was julienning an INSANE amount of endive! Despite the ridiculous amount of time spent chopping this the salad was pretty yummy even though it was just endive with salad dressing. The crunchy bitterness of the envide was a great contrast to the otherwise soft and homey meal.

Chocolate Mousse

Each of the three teams made a variation on this recipe, we added amaretto, one team added kahlua and the third team added kirsch. This recipe expertly illustrated the theory of relativity. Had I been served any of these desserts alone I would have happily licked the bowl clean (chocolate + cream + liquor? Who can complain?) but having all three to taste made it clear that all mousse is not created equal. While I thought the flavor of our amaretto chocolate mousse to be the best the texture was notably grainy and stiff -- we had obviously over whipped the cream or over folded when combining chocolate and cream. The kahlua version was amazingly light and smooth -- clearly one of the teams had a lot less anger to work out. I didn't actually take part in much of the mousse making (See: celery is awesome when cooked for 2 hours) so I obviously cannot be blamed for the cream and/or chocolate abuse. I'm going to try to come up with an excuse (it's March 28th! time for mousse!) to make chocolate mousse at home later this week in an effort to combine perfect texture and taste.

1. Cooking is kind of zen. I have a really hard time shutting off my mind and just being. I realized last night that I can get into a bit of a cooking groove where I am not using up 20% of my mind thinking about work or obsessing over what I wore yesterday or making lists of things to do over the weekend. My therapist is going to throw me a party when I mention this.

2. You may not know this but I am a big fan of efficiency -- the amount of time I spend thinking about ways to speed up my commute or multitask while getting ready for work ("If i could just combine putting on my socks with brushing my teeth I could sleep for 5 more minutes!") is truly shocking. This little personality flaw serves me well when it comes to pretending I'm a chef!

3. Cooking is DIRTY! Overheard while in cooking class: "Oh wait, the tip slipped out."And then there's that picture on the left (that's Joey of "hot gay boy" fame.).

For more cooking goodness see Kajal's blog here.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"On Losing my Identity" or "Who Moved my Boobs?"

It has been way too long since I’ve written anything about my boobs and I know that I am sorely in danger of losing my readers. For those of you that come here every few days looking for more information on my battle with bras and heartfelt analysis of the breasts of reality TV stars – it’s your lucky day. For those of you who work with me? Hit the Back button.

Once upon a time I was a 34DD, today I am a 32C. When a girl loses weight she tends to lose at least a little in her boobs. Women tend to fear this loss. Girls who have always been a little chubby have a tendency to fall into the trap of thinking that their breasts are their only attractive feature. It’s easy to see why – the world hates big thighs and big bellies and big arms and generally big girls – but the world loves big breasts.

I’m mostly fine with my decrease in cup size. While I used to consider my ample chest a possible strategic asset when it came to attracting boys it never served me very well. It sat out there – young, perky, propped up and on display but this almost never resulted in boys actually talking to me (and when it did, they were, unsurprisingly, never the right boys). I prefer to believe that men are less shallow than society gives them credit for and breasts just don’t mean all that much but it’s entirely possible that I just didn’t know how to work it (still don’t.). Either way no big loss to me, I wasn’t attracting men with my boobs two years ago and I’m still not today, the only difference is that now I can buy bras in styles other than "Extreme Grandma." And seirously, have you seen some of my skinny girl hot parts? My clavicles and hip bones stick out just so and I find them much more amazing than my breasts ever were. Though, it should be noted that these assets aren’t exactly delivering the goods either.

In theory I’m fine no longer being a busty girl -- except when it comes to self identification. It’s hard to change a key word that you’ve been tagging yourself with for 15 years so I find myself making jokes about being busty or bemoaning the pain of button down shirts as if I were still rocking a plus sized rack. Usually mid self disparaging comment I remember that I lost 40lbs and oh look! I can see my toes! Then I realize that no one is getting the joke and probably they are thinking “crazy girl, you have normal sized boobs, stop talking.” At this point I feel a little sad, I had some really great big boob related jokes in reserve that are now just going to waste. I can only hope that someday I’ll get pregnant and get my boobs back. Having to raise a messy little cheerio muncher will be a small price to pay for releasing my jokes from the prison of my average sized chest.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Techniques of Fine Cooking, Class 2

The Menu


Arborio Chicken soup with Escarole

For this we learned how to make chicken stock – something I’m already well versed in but should really do more often. I did appreciate the instructions for “quick” chicken stock and how to turn your chicken stock into a glace. The instructor told us that we can put a pot of chicken pieces and water on the stove before going to bed and wake up to finished stock, I suspect he may have omitted the part where I wake up in the hospital with third degree burns covering my body.

Rosemary Roast Chicken

I had some chicken roasting experience but I learned a lot from this practice. I am now very much wishing for an expensive heavy duty roasting pan. We also got a lesson in the very messy art of chicken carving. I have to admit that in the past my version of carving has been closer to gnawing meat off of bone but I now feel fairly confident about my abilities to present my guests with some very pretty looking poultry.

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes Provencale

This recipe was a bit bland, probably owing to the out of season tomatoes. I’m planning to practice the vegetable roasting techniques later this week, as our class materials include some interesting options (including roasted artichokes and corn).

Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf

Kajal's Special Sprinkle

This dish was awesomely constructed almost entirely by Miss Kajal who rocked it. I try to use brown rice as often as possible but have to admit that it often tastes a little like cardboard this pilaf recipe is the anti-cardboard.

French Style Spinach Salad with Bacon, Mushrooms and Curry Vinaigrette

Spinach Salad

Another big winner – I don’t usually like raw spinach or mushrooms and the idea of curry flavored salad dressing was less than appealing. Either all of these elements can be redeamed with proper technique or adding bacon makes everything palatable! We used slab bacon which was cooked on a rack in the oven so we could all pretend it was healthy.


Clafouti Trio

The dessert whose name I will never be French enough to pronounce was awesome. The batter was incredibly easy to prepare and resulted is a moist and impressive looking cake. The recipe could be made with a variety of fruit options -- our team used blueberries and the other two teams make cherry and apple versions and all were yum-a-rific.

My Observations

  1. I am a huge liar. Periodically throughout the cooking class our instructor will ask if I have completed some step in the recipe. He will only ask this when it is too late to correct any mistake and often the “step” he refers to is something he made up on the spot just to torment me. “Have you salted your sauce?” “Did you add the herbs to the soup?” “Did you remember to mix me a martini?” In all of these cases the answer is almost always no (usually because I forgot the step but sometimes because a girl can’t afford to share her vodka). If I hadn’t been practicing the "fake it til you make it" philosophy for 29 years I might be capable of answering honestly but in reality I can only managed to slur “of course!” and avert my eyes.
  2. Sauces as hard. At first I felt like a failure when the sauce for our chicken was pronounced insipid by the instructor (after I half lied about tasting it by claiming that another team member *TOTALLY* tasted it). But then he proceeded to call all of the sauces insipid (he’s got a bit of a Gordon Ramsey mean guy thing going on but it mostly works for him) and our sauce the LEAST insipid. GO TEAM! I’m not sure what we could have done to improve on the sauce – we probably could have used some extra reduction time and we did somehow manage to lose our herb butter between the soup course and sauce preparation but the other teams had herb-y reduced sauces that also tasted weak. When making a sauce at home my answer to lack of flavor is usually to add butter or booze but the sauce in question already had both so I’m all out of ideas.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ten Books (Really Just Nine)

Lisa tagged me on this a week ago but I’ve been putting it off. Despite feeling pretty passionate about books in general I’m having a ridiculously difficult time answering these questions. I think this is supposed to get at what my favorite books are but it doesn’t do that at all – I had nowhere to put Middlesex or Carter Beats the Devil or A Short History of Nearly Everything. The books I finally settled on listing here don’t really seem important enough for a stint on my blog (you’ll note that I usually write about very important stuff). I guess part of the problem is that I want my book selection to somehow explain who I am and so I feel like I have to make the best selections to show everyone just how awesome I am. That’s a tall order for a silly internet meme.

1. One book that changed your life?

See? How am I supposed to answer this? Changed my life? Do people often feel like books change their life? I mean I guess I was very affected by reading things like The Demon Haunted World and The Beauty Myth and A Revolution from Within but I have a hard time pinpointing something as life changing – it just seems like such a tall order.

2. One book you have read more than once?

I reread The Great Gatsby a year ago. My first reading had been junior year of high school and I hadn’t been that impressed. I got through it and didn’t actively hate the book (which is much more than can be said about The Scarlet Letter or Frankenstein) but it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. As a goody goody teen my only form of rebellion had been to roll my eyes at most assigned text, I loved to read but I hated almost every book that was forced upon me by a teachers. I’m older now and supposedly more open minded and every hipster in the city raves about their love for Gatsby so I thought I’d give it another go. My god are the people in that book shallow and annoying.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

Like a true dork I immediately jumped to the survival guide answer but I think that’s probably antithetical to the purpose of this survey. Then I thought “well, ideally something really big that I haven’t yet read so it will at least get my mind off of things for the first few weeks.”

4. One book that made you laugh?

Man. I don't read a lot of funny books and the ones I do read are so cliche (I refuse to put a David Sederis book here, I am MUCH cooler than that.). I laughed a fair bit in the "you must be kidding!" way while reading Under the Banner of Heaven but probably that just makes me a huge jerk.

5. One book that made you cry?

God-Shaped Hole. I’m not even sure that I think this is a very good book but it’s very pretty and there’s love and death and it all feels very important. I read it when I need to cry (post break ups mostly) and it serves as a comfortable little trigger for the tears.

6. One book you wish you had written?

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowel. She does such an amazing job making serious topics (her father’s mortality, 9/11) hilariously funny. I wish my writing could hit that sweet spot more often but when I try to write about serious things they come out sad and I mostly don’t post them on my blog because I don’t want my readers worrying about me. I really just wish I could be Sarah Vowel, I’d gladly learn to live with the weird voice for a chance to be on This American Life.

7. One book you wish had never had been written?

My immediate thought was “The Bible" which is horribly cynical of me (I blame The End of Faith, which I just finished). I don’t actually think that eliminating the bible would change the world much – we’d still have plenty of silly religions to kill people over.

8. One book you are currently reading?

King Dork is a young adult novel written by Frank Portman, the lead singer for The Mr. T Experience. I’m about ¼ of the way in and so far I’m enjoying it – but probably not as much as I would be if I had been an awkward teenaged boy instead of an awkward teenaged girl. It reminds me of the book Youth in Revolt which I read the summer after college and which touched me more because I think it was the first time that I realized that boys had it tough too (I was a little slow).

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

The World is Flat which is right not taunting me from the bookshelf. “You are such a slacker,” it says, “I’ve sat here since January waiting to educate you about the new economy and instead you choose to gorge yourself on young adult fiction, loser – you deserve to have your job outsourced, Indian girls LOVE reading about global economics.”

10. Now tag five some other people...

See? this question is not about books, so really only 9 book questions in this meme -- silly title that can't count. I'm going to pass on tagging people -- which just means I'm going to spare Mike, because everyone else I know already filled this out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy Pi Day!

Today, March 14th (3-14), we celebrate the only holiday that brings together food and math -- Pi day. Since I make a point of only working at places that strive to be a bastion of salvation for people who were teased mercilessly in 7th grade my company honored the holiday with Bring a Pie for Pi Day. We ate the pies at 1:59 like the good little math geeks that we are (One coworker commented, "Luckily no one brought "e" to the office on 2-7 at 18:28....")

I made a nontraditional (it was more mouse-y and had a whipped topping) Key Lime Pie and an Impossible Taco Pie (Thank you to my dad for introducing me to this recipe and to bisquick for putting it on their box). Both pies turned out exactly as I wanted them. The lime was sharp and creamy and heralded the coming of spring (the 69 degree weather didn't hurt). The taco pie was silly and retro but still edible (actually more than edible, I got at least 3 requests for the recipe). The taco pie won the prettiest pie award (though I actually think the lime is prettier...) and Gillian's Pecan Pie won the Pi-est Pie award. The award for most delicious pie is still up for grabs (voting going on until tomorrow) so I'm hoping for a double win (and double gift certificates to William Sonoma!).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Techniques of Fine Cooking -- Cooking Up Some Harsh Reality

After a good year of hemming and hawing over the (admittedly shocking) price tag I finally signed up for the Fine Cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education as a reward for my promotion in November. The class is every Monday night for 5 weeks from 6pm-11pm -- here's what they're promising me:
These are the classes on which our recreational program’s reputation was built. Over 15,000 students have taken this series. Once you master essential cooking techniques, you possess the culinary grounding to cook both classical cuisines and the latest cooking styles. These full-participation classes teach fundamental skills, not recipes. Instead of narrowly focusing on a roast duckling recipe, for example, you’ll master roasting techniques that can be applied to foods from fish to fruit. The curriculum was designed under the guidance of Director of Education Richard Simpson. You’ll learn all the important cooking methods, from simple grilling to mousse making. As you advance through the series, you’ll gradually come to understand each cooking concept. You’ll have a firm grasp of ingredients and equipment; you’ll know why things happen and how to avoid and correct mistakes. Most importantly, you’ll gain the experience you need to cook with confidence and pleasure---without relying strictly on recipes. Each class culminates with a student-prepared meal. Each course consists of five five-hour classes. Fine Cooking 1 is a prerequisite to Fine Cooking 2.
They also give you free wine. They must think I can't possibly drink $575 worth of wine in a mere 5 weeks. Fools. The first class was last night and it delivered on this and so much more....

The Menu

3 Variations on Gazpacho
Sauteed Broccoli
Pomme Persillade
Sauteed Lamb Chops with Herb Butter
Simple Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing
Fresh Fruit Masurated with Liqueur

My Observations

  1. If you're looking to meet a bunch of adorable gay Broadway actors might I suggest a Monday night cooking class in Manhatten? (for those out of the theatre loop: Monday night is Broadway's dark night so all of the actors can roam free) . I am a bit saddened that all of the cute boys appear to be eyeing only each other but I did meet one who knows the hot boy from Spelling Bee (whose homosexuality is now confirmed :() and he hinted that we should all go out sometime which would be awesome because it I love nothing more than taunting myself with yummy eye candy that I can never taste.
  2. I am ridiculously lazy. When a recipe suggests that I chop some vegetables, especially when said chopping is further described using the words "small" and "dice," I am immediatly transported back to age 15, my eyes roll deep into my cerebellum, I make that short little exasperated sighing noise, I slouch, I can hardly keep from bringing up how hot Brandon Walsh looked in his board shorts and oakleys. "Oh god," I think, "this could take as much as thirty seconds! Probably it's fine if I hack the potato in quarters and call it a day." Turns out actually chopping things into the suggested size improves recipes!
  3. I am kind of dense when it comes to really basic knowledge. I can make random unnecessary things like olive bread and ginger ale and klesla and chioppino but I've been struggling with why my broccoli can't stand up to what I order from generic Chinese take out. The answer? Blanching. Blanching *then* sauteeing. thank you again $575 class.

Yes, these are the kinds of thing I pay $575 for. Clearly cooking class is like therapy, it just reminds you that all of the things you are working very hard to believe are unimportant details actually make all of the difference in the world. Bye bye sweet sweet denial, I will miss you.

Note: One should not get the impression from this snotty little entry that I did not enjoy the cooking class -- it was awesome.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

New Orleans Highlights

I took a quick trip to New Orleans last week to visit a friend and play with my new camera (it's a very new camera since the Cassio Exilim broke TWICE and I have now traded it in for a Cannon Elph which is less cute but probably a better camera overall).

I stayed in uptown and located just down the street was a little slice of heaven called The Creole Creamery. This ice cream shop has row upon row of innovative flavors (buttermilk sorbet, spicy creole chocolate, marscapone and lemon zest -- see a complete list here) I settled on a scoop of Orange Honey and Caramel and my friend Sky (who is much more restrained when it comes to ice cream) got one scoop of Lavender Honey. It took us ages to settle on flavors and we wished for the option of a flight of ice cream flavors -- this wasn't an option according to the menu on the wall but after we ordered we found exactly what we were wishing for in the table menu -- next time.

Sky and I talked a lot about if it was better to tour the devastated areas or to visit New Orleans and not acknowledge reality of Katrina. We eventually decided to go visit a few of the neighborhoods that had suffered the most under the hurricane, but I refrained from taking any pictures. It was hard to understand the devastation having never seen the city before Katrina -- I felt like I was looking at houses that had been abandoned 20 years ago and had slowly fallen into decay, my mind could never completely wrap around the idea that all of this wreckage was the result of one event that took place less than 2 years ago. So no pictures of hurricane disaster -- but while walking around uptown (which weathered the storm fairly well) I did come across this wonderful (clearly haunted) house.

I'm rather proud of this shot:

We also visited the Lafayette Cemetery which was a boon for great picture taking opportunities.

In addition to row upon row of above full graves we saw this empty tomb -- our guide was kind enough to bring a photo copy of the story about the tomb that ran in the venerable Weekly World News magazine.

More pictures on Flickr

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Random Recommends 4

Rose Salve

I waltzed into Sephora a couple of weeks ago with the intention of buying the Benetint lip balm, I am still in love with the pocket pal and hoped that the lip balm version would give me the same pleasantly pink pout but with more moisture to combat the chapped state that the brutal winter weather has left my lips in. Benetint balm in hand I walked towards the register and saw this salve sitting in a bin on the counter – bigger container, 1/3 the cost… byebye benetint. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for flowery lip gloss and anything with a drop of rose extract would charm my fickle heart but I am in love with this product.

I hate the word salve as it reminds me of icky things like 3rd degree burns and open wounds so I’ll be referring to this product as lip gloss from here on out. The little tin of gloss has been my closest companion since time of purchase. It not only leaves my lips pretty and soft after each application but I’m convinced that my pucker is now softer as a whole – the gloss seems to have soothed the winter blues. The manufacturer claims that the gloss is also good for minor irritations like burns, stings and diaper rash but I’ve yet to have an irritated body part to apply it to – perhaps one of my mommy or daddy readers could experiment with the diaper rash claim and report back. I have, in an emergency stuck on a plane with not liquids situation, attempted to use the gloss as a lotion on dry hands and it did temporarily sooth my aching hands – though it’s hardly a replacement for actual hand cream.

The gloss also comes in mint and strawberry for those of you creeped out by the sensation of eating flowers. I do wish there was a version with a pink tint -- I may experiment with adding a bit of pigment to a tub of gloss to create my own more girly version.

Muffuletta Olive Salad

While in New Orleans this past weekend I was not able to order an actual muffuletta sandwich but I did pick up a jar of olive salad from the grocery store (I can’t find the brand carried at the New Orleans Whole Foods for sale online but this version sounds about the same). This “salad” is really pieces of olives (green and kalamata), carrots, cauliflower and herbs mixed with a LOT of olive oil – yummy it is, low cal it is not. I scooped (it isn’t really spreadable) a few tablespoons of this mixture onto a crunchy baguette and then layered on a few slices of slightly stinky semi soft cheese and was soon in lunch heaven. The salty olives and crunchy veggies made for a great compliment to the creamy cheese and French bread (which is essential). I tried to recreate the sandwich for my flight home using standard sliced wheat bread and while it was still a yummy midair snack the olive oil had seeped through the bread creating a slick mess -- I quickly lost any hope of flirting with the hot boy sitting next to me.

The Time Traveler's Wife

I read this book a few months ago and have been forcing it on friends ever since. I was a bit hesitant to buy the book as it looks like a bit of chick lit fluff but based on Amy’s recommendation (and on the fact that I was seriously hard up for a new book) I popped into Barnes and Noble. This is most definitely the best novel I’ve read in a long time -- if it were not for my “books are for the subway!” rule (enacted in an effort to give me something to look forward to on my hour long commute) I would have zipped through it in a couple of days. A friend recently commented that the book was a good read but not great literature but I enjoyed the story so much that I can't objectively judge it's literary merit. I wish more books would combine modern stories with slight amounts of fantasy and sci fi (another good example of such blended genres are Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake) as I really enjoy having a little scientific mystery mixed in with my love story.

The book does take a bit of getting into due to the very fluid time line; while reading the first 50 or so pages I was constantly flipping back and forth thinking “Wait, how old is he now? Did this happen before the last thing I read? In his life? In her life?” But I soon got used to the story structure and quashed my urge to create a huge diagram of the time line (An urge which probably had more to do with my slightly OCD obsession with organizing things than with the book itself). This is a great book -- you should read it before the movie comes out and ruins everything.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Alia Interview

This is a meme of sorts, my friend Alia was interviewed on her blog and offered to send 5 interview questions to any volunteers and writers block led my hand to shoot into the e-air. If you’d like your own Brianna interview just say so in the comments.

Update: I've interview Mike and Gillian

What is your favorite unhealthy recipe, and what's the story behind it?

Recipe kind of implies that this is something I cook not just something I love so I’ve chosen baked macaroni and cheese over my mom’s potato leek soup. There’s no real story behind this recipe or my love for it besides it being a high fat comfort food that involves dairy (the best of the four food groups bringing us cheese and ice cream!). Even the lactose intolerant among us must WISH they could dive into a big bowl of mac and cheese and eat their way out, right? I trick out the regular mac and cheese by augmenting the traditional sharp cheddar with a bit of blue cheese for a more grown up flavor. I can’t say that I have an official recipe for this you just boil some noodles and make a traditional cheese sauce with 2/3s cheddar and 1/3 blue cheese then mix the noodles and sauce in a casserole dish and cover with a hearty dose of bread crumbs and a handful of additional cheese then bake until bubbling. If you’re feeling guilty about not eating your veggies (which often causes me much stress) you can throw a bone to nutrition by either mixing some sautéed spinach in with the noodles and cheese or hiding a layers of tomato slices under the bread crumbs (is suggesting healthy additions cheating on this question? I promise there’s still no way the recipe as a whole is anything other than artery clogging…)

Coney Island: Fun or not? Discuss.

Fun! So some people think it’s not fun? But they have a wooden roller coaster! And ice cream! And the beach! And I always see at least 5 crazy people and another 5 people wearing outfits that amuse me!

Do the people who apparently can’t enjoy Coney Island know that you can play all the skeeball you want and then give your tickets to the least annoying child in the room thus making their day and yours by overwhelming them with more tickets then they ever thought existed? Man those people must have sad lives.

Besides the J Crew online sale, where would you recommend a person shop for clothes online? In Manhattan? Astoria? (As in: when I stop fitting into Lane Bryant clothes [crossing fingers], I'm gonna be nekkid. Where do I go?!?)

I say shoot for skinny by June and go naked for at least one month in honor of all of your time in the gym.

Outside of my jCrew addiction I actually don’t do much clothing shopping online, I do have a few cute online boutiques tagged on but I mostly just browse them and never actually send them money. I would recommend subscribing to the newsletter as they send out occasional shopping tips and notices about craft shows and stuff in the NYC area. For browsing I like

And then there’s always: you be enamored by the truly beautiful clothing and then shocked by the high prices but I have never regretted an Anthropologie purchase (of course I make most of them off of the sale rack).

You have a million dollars to donate to one non-profit of your choice. Who would it be and why?

I am embarrassed about how hard it is for me to answer this question. I don’t actually have a lot of go to charities that I totally trust and if I was giving that large of a gift I’d want to be positive that it would go to somewhere really deserving. There’s a great organization out there called Advocates for Youth that works for honest sex education to teens, I’d probably look into giving it to them or into finding an organization that works to ensure that the government does not contradict science in favor of religion or business interests.

What was your first job?

Technically, though not on the books, it was a summer of babysitting at age 14. Every Monday-Friday morning their dad would pick me up at 7:30 and after 10 minutes of listening to Rush Limbaugh I was dropped off and left alone with two boys, ages 6 and 8. I mostly lied around on their couch and lawn chair reading and moping over boys who would never understand me (I suspect that these particular boys would still be incapable of comprehension even 15 years later) but they did amuse me on occasion with nuggets like this:

Sound of bed springs loudly squeaking in a distinctive rhythm in a distant room…

Brianna: Shawn what are you doing?

Shawn (from somewhere down the hall): I’m having sex!!!!

Brianna (trying not to die laughing): Stop jumping on the bed!

Why haven't you posted to Alpha Astoria lately, and when will it be updated?

Have you been outside lately? It’s way too cold for café-ing! People should be glad I leave the house at all! Also: have you met Amy? Getting her to leave the house is hard in JULY.