Roasted Asparagus for the “Cooking Challenged”

Today I’ve hijacked Jasmine’s “Adventures in Food and Family” to share with you the easiest, but tastiest recipe I know. I don’t think we’re going to be posting too many recipes, but This and That… is all about information and this is one of those dishes that will make people think you REALLY know how to cook, even if you don’t.  I thought today would be a good day to share this recipe, since it’s a few days after Thanksgiving and the veggies are usually the first leftovers to run out, so here’s a nice and quick side dish that will add a little pop of flavor to that leftover turkey and ham!

If you’ve never had asparagus, I advise you to try this recipe. If you don’t like asparagus, or if you’ve had it prepared other ways and have never tasted it roasted, I advise you to try this recipe. I guarantee you will never eat asparagus any other way again. This is a great fall/early winter veggie and is quite versatile. You can eat it hot, room temp, or even cold. Cut it in pieces and add to a salad – take it to work for a fresh and healthy treat.

Well, let’s get to it…Take a bunch of asparagus (they are sold in bunches) and wash thoroughly in cold water. Asparagus have woody stems which must be removed, but don’t worry about having to cut them off…bend each spear until the end of it snaps off. Even though it might look like a big chunk, trust me, it has broken naturally at the place where the spear has become woody. What you’re left with are nice tender asparagus spears. Place them in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with a little olive oil (or any oil you have), and then sprinkle with a large pinch, or a few twists of sea salt (I like to use the McCormick Sea Salt grinder myself). Here’s how they look before broiling:

Asparagus - prepped and ready for broiler

Place under the broiler for about 10 minutes, shaking them around every few minutes to keep them from burning. Trust me…you’ll know when they are ready. Spears should be lightly charred and a bit shrunken.

The finished product!

Be careful, they can be addictive! Try them and let us know how they came out and how much you LOVED them! LOL

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No New Makeup! (Well…Um…But…)

Urban Decay Book of Shadows IV

Early in the summer, I declared a moratorium on new makeup purchases. Not that I had been buying so much, but now that I was much more comfortable in makeup application and had amassed a fairly diverse palette of shadows and blushes, I decided to focus solely on using what I had. The last major makeup purchase I had made was the Urban Decay 15th Anniversary Eyeshadow Collection, which I bought myself for my birthday. In fact, it was after THAT purchase that I decided on no new makeup. What made the decision even easier was my winning Tamara’s contest (BeautyThesis.net) back in September, when I won a boatload of cosmetic goodies. There was so much good stuff in that package, I had to share it in a blog post, which you can read here.

So when I learned that Urban Decay’s Book of Shadows IV had come out, I declined. And I was okay with that. At $64, I really wasn’t trying to spend that kind of money on more UD. Though I love their shades, one of my pet peeves with UD (and some other brands as well) is that even though their new palettes may have “new” shades, I find them to sometimes simply be slight variations on an existing shade. HOW.EV.ER…what had happened was…I fell into the Black Friday trap and purchased Shadows IV ONLY because I got an email from UD stating that the first 1000 customers could order it for $44.00!! TWENTY DOLLARS off??? You can’t beat that with a stick, as my Momma used to say. There was NO WAY I was passing that deal up. So yeah…moratorium went out the window and I got my shipping confirmation last night! Book of Shadows IV will be in my mailbox next week (insert head nod!)

And then what had happened was…well…um…I was in Rite Aid the other day and they had a 40% off sale on Wet n Wild Color Icon palettes, which are dirt cheap ANYWAY. Who could pass up a $2.99 eyeshadow trio that was now only $1.79? I bought two – Spoiled Brat and Knock on Wood.

Wet n Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Trio in Knock on Wood

Wet n Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Trio in Spoiled Brat

The Color Icon palettes are super fun and really pigmented, and I have not been collecting them as I should. So I had an obligation to buy them, righhht???

In all seriousness, I have not fallen off the No New Makeup wagon – I just couldn’t let these deals pass. My new goal is to get through the New Year without new makeup. The exception is if I get a Sephora or MAC gift card from some wonderful family member or friend! (wink). I do promise to do a tutorial for a Spoiled Brat look I’m trying out, and as soon as I get my Book of Shadows IV, I will post a video or blog review and show it off, er share it with you all!

This & That This Week: Brown Butter Beauty™

About a month ago, I received a package from Christine Gant, owner of Brown Butter Beauty™. A few weeks earlier, I had signed up to test her products. As a new natural, I was excited to try out new products. For the past month, I have been using the Babassu Cream Deep Conditioner (retails $15 for 8oz) and the Sweet Milk Detangling Leave in Conditioner (retails $12.50 for 8 oz)

Babassu Butter Love Deep Conditioner

Sweet Milk Detangling Leave In Conditioner

First let me say that both products have a nice pleasant scent and are very light to the touch. Upon immediate inspection of the product, it didn’t feel heavy or greasy. I used the deep conditioner right after washing my hair and the end result was a soft and manageable head of hair. I used the hair milk leave in conditioner daily for a month, alternating weeks of using the conditioner at night when my hair was two-strand twisted and then using it to retain moisture in the daytime before leaving the house.

The Results – I only used the deep conditioner twice, but I found it to have similar effects to the deep conditioners my stylist uses. With the leave in, it was more effective for me at night. I have extremely thick hair and so having the product “locked in” to twists/coils and under a satin cap left my hair soft and easy to style in the morning, without leaving my hair feeling weighed down. Now when I just used it in the daytime, I found the product to be almost TOO light and my hair felt dry within a few hours. It is probably just the way my hair drinks up moisture and because I’m testing the product in cold dry weather. I may do better with this in the summertime.

My Final Word – I like the products, but in terms of results, they don’t offer anything different than other products I use in my hair. However what IS different about this line is outlined on the website – www.brownbutterbeauty.com. Christine hand crafts the hair and body products in her line using pure oils and fresh herbal oil infusions. Her products are made in small batches to ensure freshness and she does not use “oils that have been processed through heat intensive hydraulic extractions…” The products contain no parabens, sulfates, silicones, or mineral or petroleum oils – all things that are NOT natural-hair friendly. If you are someone who is especially sensitive to how “natural” your hair care products are or who chooses to make your own products, I would highly recommend Brown Butter Beauty™ to you. I am interested in purchasing some of her skin care products.

Overall, Christine Gant has a product line and professional web presence that cultivates natural beauty. She is certainly someone worth supporting.

Thankful for Creative Cooking…at Christmas!

No, I’m not doing like the department stores and skipping Thanksgiving to go straight to Christmas.  But my original cooking plan was slightly thwarted, so the new dish will be attempted in December.  Yesterday I was talking to co-workers about the Thanksgiving meal and everyone around the table agreed that this is not the holiday to test new dishes.  Folks look forward to the tried and true, whatever those dinner traditions may be.  Inserting a new dish should be done lightly and after much practice so you don’t go down as the relative who served the awful Thanksgiving dish.  Plus, since my father-in-law is hosting by the time I’d talked to him he’d already planned the menu so I just volunteered to make one of the dishes.  And for added pressure we’re having guests; I wouldn’t want to subject them to a newly-tested, never-tasted dish.  I’ll save that for just family so if it’s bad I won’t be too embarrassed.  So this year it’s back to mashed sweet potatoes…

In the same vein as Calandra’s new post and the title of my series, I’m thankful for food and family.  Working in and learning about food access/nutrition I’m fully aware that many families don’t have the ability to eat a nutritious Thanksgiving meal, and many more won’t be eating a Thanksgiving meal at all.  If you can donate some canned/frozen goods or a whole turkey please do it so families across the nation can enjoy this traditional meal with their loved ones.

I’m also thankful for family, both near and far.  My daughter is blessed to have her great-grandmothers still around.  In fact as I type I’m listening to Beverly show my husband’s grandmother how to play a game on the iPod! I love that we’re able to share each holiday with either my family or my husband’s–whether in St. Louis, New York, New Jersey or Virginia.  And lastly, living closer to Calandra the past couple of years has allowed us to reconnect and have Beverly get to know her cousins!  Ain’t nothin like family y’all!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and happy eating!

Giving Thanks

I have never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions. If there is a goal I need to reach, or some affirmation I need to make, I can do that 365 days of the year. In the same way, I can’t afford to wait until Thanksgiving week to “be thankful.” I have been blessed beyond measure all year long, so who am I to wait until someone puts a turkey on the table to give thanks? However, I would like to consolidate my thoughts into one place this week and share with my blog family what I’m thankful for.

First of all, I am thankful for my family – that they are with me and healthy and happy. This is especially significant to me – this time two years ago our daughter was injured and spent 10 days recovering in a burn unit. I stayed with her every day in her hospital room and held her sleeping 20-month-old body in my arms every night because she wouldn’t sleep in the hospital crib. My husband and sister stayed with her for a few hours so I could have Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of our family, but what I wanted most to do was go back to spend time with my baby. And this time last year, I still had trouble talking about it. So to be able to share the story with you THIS year is remarkable. Beside minor scars, she has recovered fully and is a normal, happy, and FEARLESS 3 1/2 year-old preschooler. I am TRULY thankful for my family’s health.

This year, I was blessed to meet several new people, and even make a few new friends, who have really provided inspiration and encouragement to me. I never imagined the contacts I would have made from cracking a few jokes with old friends on Facebook, posting a few blogs and making YouTube videos. A friend started a discussion on Facebook about “online friendship.” It is certainly true that social media outlets can provide a new and expanded network of business and personal contacts. This year has given me the opportunity to strengthen relationships with old school chums, and meet new people whose creativity, entrepreneurship, and just all-around good-natured vibes have been such a great source of enlightenment and even fun! What an interesting year it has been! I have been able to “co-blog” with my cousin, Jasmine Ratliff, start event-planning with my best friend, and begin working on a few new projects that you will be hearing about soon enough!

For those of you following This and That With Calandra, my family, friends, acquaintances and anyone else who has touched my world this year, I am truly grateful. Peace, love and blessings to you all in this Thanksgiving season.

And stay tuned…the best is yet to come!!

The Enigma of Time

If you’ve spent M-F sustaining someone else’s dream then use Saturday’s to build yours! You can rest on Sunday!

I read this tweet this afternoon from @TonyGaskins, as retweeted by my friend @MrFresh. I also read it as I spent another Saturday afternoon multi-tasking – between spending time engaged with my 3- and 5-year olds, updating social media contacts and trying to post a new blog. Oh yeah, and in between I’m trying to relax and de-stress from the week, cook, clean and get things ready for church tomorrow. I found this to be quite a profound statement, and translated it in the context of what we spend time on.

Time is money, a luxury, a gift. It can be well-spent or wasted. How often do we say to ourselves or others, “I just don’t have enough time for—–” You fill in the blank. When I had our first child, I clearly remember that TIME became a totally different animal to me. Because everything revolved around a schedule – when he was fed, when he slept, when I changed his diaper. Everything I did and every move I made revolved around his schedule and his needs. For the first time, someone was totally dependent on how I managed my time. And I had no choice but to manage my time as best I could. The same rings true to this day…and I suspect until the children turn 18! LOL

Now back to the quote…so I spend all week working a full-time job (that I actually enjoy) and come home to be full-time wife and Mommy (which I also enjoy!). I am able to carve out two nights a week when I can focus on me, but the irony is that I usually still end up using that time to run family errands or catch up with things at work. So according to Bro. Tony, I should be able to focus on my dreams on Saturday, right?? Well, it doesn’t always work out that way, but what is true is that we must always spend some quality time on our dreams – especially when we spend so much time on the dreams of others. Now don’t get me wrong, the time I spend with my children may not be “ME” time, but it DOES involve making my dreams come true. My time with my children – watching and helping them grow and develop – is part of this mother’s dream of nurturing children who will be healthy, happy and productive citizens.

But as women, as mothers, we DO have to make sure that WE are taking care of ourselves and tending to our dreams, or else we will be OF NO USE to anyone else! (See Hat’s Off!) Thank you Bro. Tony for reminding me that it is crucial to take time for our dreams.

How do you challenge the enigma of time?

Makeup or Mask?

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes

– Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Last week my best friend and I hosted our first mini-makeup party. We invited women who had been asking me about helping them with makeup, along with a few other women who dropped by. But before I even got into MAC and Urban Decay, shadows and brushes, I made one declarative statement. “If you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin, WITHOUT makeup, then you should leave right now because this party isn’t for you.” Of course I was being dramatic, but my central thought was sincere. True beauty comes from WITHIN. The most beautiful makeup will do nothing for an ugly personality. Now, can makeup help you feel better about your appearance? Absolutely!! I attended a formal function a few months ago and rocked my first real black smoky eye. And yes, I looked in the mirror, grinned from ear to ear and said, “Girl you betta WORK!”

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I feel sorry for women who feel they must cover their natural beauty with a mask of makeup. What encouraged the women last week was not some transformation from plain-Jane to glamour, but how each model’s face was enhanced with a few simple strokes of color and artistic shading.

Ladies, don’t fall for the makeup okie doke. Don’t get me wrong…I love a good “beat” face like the next woman But what I love more is seeing healthy, naturally sun-kissed skin radiating a glow of self-confidence and self-love, whether bare-faced or with a ‘pop’ of color! Be beautiful…be healthy…be YOU!