Frose is From Jesus (Or Wine Slurpees)

I know I was JUST talking about fall and Halloween decorations, but it’s 86 again and that sort of calls for frozen rose.

Jesus’ first recorded miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding and my first miracle involves a $5 bottle of rose*, 8 oz of strawberries, and my immersion blender.

It’s basically a wine slurpee, and it’s amazing. The link to the recipe is here.

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You need frose in your life. 

Trust me.

*I used Trader Joe’s La Ferme Julian which actually isn’t terrible by itself — especially for a $5 bottle of rose — but it’s even better when you add lemon juice and strawberry simple syrup.

 

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I’m Ready for War (Or the Wreckage of My Calabrian Pork Ribs)

Last night I made myself Spicy Calabrian Pork Ribs from this recipe I found in Bon Appetit. I had high hopes for the ribs, but I have to admit the flavors weren’t life changing.

That didn’t stop me from devouring the dish like a dinosaur, however.

I even got into the cold leftovers for lunch this afternoon.

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And I totally ate them standing up, just like this.

Why?

Because today is Tuesday. And Tuesday is the day to do battle.

I didn’t have time to sit around and have a leisurely lunch. I had to tackle things like a boss.

See, I recently listened to a sermon series Hank Fortener did on the origin of the days of the week, and in it Hank talks about how Tuesday was originally named for the ancient gods of war. The whole series is fascinating (you can find it here), and each talk ends with a guided meditation that is intended to invigorate you. The words that resonated with me in today’s meditation were these, “Thank you, God, for making me for this battle,” and I’m putting action behind the words.

I didn’t wake up looking for a fight because it’s Tuesday. I woke up knowing I needed to fight because the battle has been brought to me, and it’s my job to fight it. My health and my finances have suffered while I’ve been focused writing, so I’m taking action to ensure that I can continue writing with a clear mind that is not distracted by such things.

And even though my hallway looks like a hurricane hit it as I sort through my files, I’m doing the tough stuff necessary to make everything better.

I even have the words of Winston Churchill cheering me on.

It may be frightening my dog, but I have God — and the words of Winston Churchill — cheering me on. 

And even though my body aches, I’m heading out to a park to strengthen my posterior chain of muscles because that’s what I have to do to stop the pain in my back.

I was made for this battle, bitches.

Happy Birthday, Bubba! (Or Paleo Cilantro Chicken for the Birthday Boy!)

Today is my dog’s fourth birthday. And while I’m tempted to get out my glittery markers to make him a hat, I think he’d prefer kisses and a fistful of meat instead.

What's this I'm hearing about a hat?

What’s this I’m hearing about a hat?

Last night I made a super delicious chicken dish, and I saved some chicken scraps for him. Maybe we’ll sing “Happy Birthday” and make it a proper celebration with candles and everything. (I need help. Clearly.)

Or maybe we’ll just go for a hike and snuggle on the couch together.

I hate snuggling. Just give me chicken.

I hate snuggling. Just give me chicken.

If you want to know why he’s so fixated on the chicken, here’s why:

It's somewhere under that pile of pears, cilantro, and celery. I swear.

It’s somewhere under that pile of pears, cilantro, and celery. I swear.

I found the recipe in this great gallery of 22 Paleo-friendly recipes from Bon Appetit.

I’ll be honest, though, I didn’t really follow it closely when it came to the ratio of lime juice, cilantro, celery, or pears. I just piled it all on. (I look at savory recipes like speed limits — polite suggestions for minimizing mayhem and mishaps.)

So basically my version just goes like this.

Celery, Cilantro, and Pear Chicken with Lime

4 celery stalks, sliced
2 Asian pears, thinly sliced
A heaping pile of cilantro leaves
Juice from 1 fresh lime
2 chicken breasts
Olive oil

Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Don’t bother pounding them. I think it yields a negligible benefit, frankly. Cook the chicken breasts in a cast iron skillet with a little bit of olive oil — in the stove at 350 or on the burner — whatever your preferred method. (I’d give you cooking times but my stove is whack so it wouldn’t be useful. Just don’t overcook them. Chicken seriously sucks when it’s dry.)

Meanwhile, slice the pear and celery. Squeeze lime juice over the sliced stuff, throw in cilantro, and season with salt and pepper to taste. (This limey salad can be made the night before if you’d like. It’s almost better the next day, actually.)

Remove chicken from heat, cover in fruity, veggie lime mixture. Devour.

And maybe save some of the chicken scraps for your birthday boy.

You owe me more than scraps for this, woman.

You owe me more than scraps for this, woman.

Already Getting My Happy Bunny On! (Or Fresh Pea Soup for Easter… Maybe)

Wanna know something?

Caspari paper products make me happy — particularly their holiday themed hankies. When I noticed that they had Easter options at the grocery store today, I got giddy… and bought some.

Duh.

Bunnies! I die.

It’s going to be like carrying Peter Rabbit in my purse for the next month!

YAY!!!

Wanna know something else?

I prefer Easter to Christmas.

There. I said it. That probably sounds whacked, but whatever. I don’t care.

It all started in 2002….

It was my first Easter in Los Angeles, and my first Easter away from home. I didn’t have actual biological family to celebrate with, so my roommate and I decided to throw a family dinner for our friends.

We both gave stuff up for Lent and couldn’t wait to let loose when it was over. She gave up chocolate, but I swear I suffered more because I gave up alcohol AND went to Vegas with her for St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not even kidding. It was my first time EVER in Vegas, and I didn’t have a drop of anything — not even communion wine — even though St. Paddy’s fell on a Sunday that year.

For 24 hours I watched all of America chain smoke, binge drink, and gamble away their 401Ks — sober. On a stool. I felt like an anthropologist studying monkeys that were flinging poo at the zoo. If I’m being honest with you, I think the hardest part of the trip may have been surviving the sheets at the Stratosphere stone. cold. sober.

Anyway… I digress.

Family dinners! That’s where I was. We decided to throw one for our friends because we were away from our own families, and that dinner marked the beginning of a beautiful tradition celebrating the friends who have become family. It’s a tradition I love. Deeply.

BTW.. and just for the record… I know the season is not entirely about the end of my suffering because nothing I give up could ever come close to the sacrifice that we celebrate this time of year, so I really look at it as a celebration of my amazing friendships and a chance for new beginnings for all of us. ❤

Since I’m trying to keep my philosophizing to a minimum on this blog, you can find more of my thoughts on Easter/religion/life/death/sex/and/basically everything in between on my other blog here.

Back to Easter dinner…

Over the years the menu and the venue has has gone through many iterations, but the one thing that has remained constant is that I make a lot of food as a way of saying, “I super like you. Want me to show you how much by force-feeding you pig products?”

This year my friend Nicole and I are talking about doing a traditional spread with a spiral ham, my fennel scalloped potatoes, and her darling lamb-shaped butter! It’s all still TBD, but it’s never too early to get excited about eating PIG!

Since ham can be salty and heavy, I want to have some light, fresh dishes to accompany it. I recently made a fresh pea soup with mint, and I’ve been thinking it might be a fun, fresh addition to the menu this year.

A confession…

I don’t love peas by themselves, but for some reason I SUPER LOVE them in this soup.

See?

Mmm, minty peas!

Mmm, minty fresh peas!

Here’s the recipe, just in case you want to get into it….

Minty Pea Soup

3 T unsalted butter (it’s also good with 3 T coconut oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 16-oz packages of frozen peas
4-6 C of chicken broth
1/2 C of mint
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter. Cook onions until tender but do not allow them to brown. (About 6-8 minutes.) Add 2 C of broth. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer. Add peas. Cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Add mint and puree with remaining broth. Add broth by 1/2 C to achieve desired consistency. (I recommend an immersion blender for this.)

Salt and pepper to taste. Can be served hot or cold. I add extra mint for garnish.

It’s based on this Bon Appetit recipe from Epicurious, which is also very good. My version is more Paleo-friendly.

OK, I’m off to finish my script. My long lost Melissa is back in LA, and I owe her my fourth draft. It’s kinda sorta done. I just need to read through it a few times to do some polishing for her.

YAY!!!

Tom Brady Gets Another Ring (Or Super Bowl, Bitches!)

OK, I know it has been ages. SO my fault. I’m on the fourth draft of my feature screenplay, and I’m in the weeds on an original pilot, and I needed to concentrate on all that fiction for a minute. Now I’m finally in a place where I can sort of split my headspace, so here it is…

My Super Bowl Post.

My besties and I decided to throw a potluck soiree for the Super Bowl, and our amazing friends totally rose to the occasion. They brought everything from shrimp cocktail to chickpea chili. It was all divine. Plus Tom Brady won another ring, and that was just beyond.

I tried to keep my contribution simple, so I went with sides and desserts.

See?

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If I could shape it like a football… I did.

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Deviled eggs are better with bacon… and when they’re decorated like footballs.

My cousin Madison moved to Santa Monica in January, and it made my heart burst with joy that she joined us for the celebration.

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Isn’t she the cutest?

My friend’s boyfriend totally dominated the carne asada situation on the grill.

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Get those jalapeños, Charlie!

I handed out patron shots like a boss.

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Don’t worry – – the cups weren’t completely full.

And our taco bar was beyond.

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Aren’t my besties the best?

If you want the recipes, and… trust me YOU DO… here they are.

Hail, Brady.

Guacamole

Salsa

Salsa Verde

Peanut Butter Dip

Oreo Truffles

Bacon Deviled Eggs

The Issues That Truly Divide: Manhattan versus New England Clam Chowder (Or I Like My Clams with Cream)

OK, now that some of the presidential election insanity has blown over let’s move on to other divisive issues like: Manhattan versus New England clam chowder.

Given my love of dairy and my somewhat complicated relationship with tomatoes, my choice is clear: New England in a landslide.

Last weekend, I defied mother nature and her unreasonable, unseasonable heat, and I made a pot of creamy New England clam chowder while watching football. I’ve tried countless recipes over the years and so far this is my favorite.

The recipe is below.

I have a weakness for New England clam chowder… and boys from Boston. The latter is  probably a problem.

New England Clam Chowder
Adapted from Bon Appetit

3 8-ounce bottles clam juice
1 pound potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 T unsalted butter
3 slices bacon, finely chopped
2 C chopped onions
1 1/4 C chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 C all purpose flour
6 6 1/2-ounce cans chopped clams, drained, juices reserved
3/4 C half and half
1/2 C whipping cream
1 tsp hot pepper sauce

Bring the bottled clam juice and potatoes to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are slightly tender, about 7 minutes, before removing the pot from the heat.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until the bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add onions, celery, garlic, and bay leaf, sautéing until the vegetables soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. (Do not allow the flour to burn.)

Gradually whisk in the reserved juices from the canned clams. Add the potato and clam juice mixture, clams, whipping cream, half and half, and hot pepper sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes to blend flavors, stirring frequently.

Season the chowder to taste with salt and pepper. This chowder can be made one day ahead and also freezes well. If you like your chowder to be thicker, try substituting heavy cream for the half and half or the whipping cream.

Menu Planning for the Free Spirited Chef (Or I Satisfy My Inner Perfectionist and My Inner Flake)

Yesterday I wrote about the power of freezing leftovers to keep yourself on a budget. Another key to the equation is organized menu planning. Now, I’m not going to pretend I have THIS totally figured out, but I have made some serious headway.

Here’s what you need to know about me first, though: I’m equal parts driven-type-A-perfectionist and swayed-by-passion-can’t-stand-feeling-controlled-free-spirit. It’s quite a vexing situation, frankly. I mean, my head and my heart are fighting with each other all day long, and it’s super confusing.

So, when I’m coming up with a budget — or a menu plan for the week — I have to satisfy both sides of my personality. This means working some flexibility into my menu and my budget without causing my financial ruin.

I usually start my menu planning process by identifying one or two recipes I want to try in the next few days. These recipes will either be inspired by something I find in Bon Appetit, a craving I’m experiencing, or even by the ingredients I have in my refrigerator that need to be used.

For me, a week doesn’t necessarily need to go from one Sunday to the next because I find that too confining. I might just do it for a three day period and then assess my food (and my money) situation from there. This leaves flexibility to account for new cravings, and I find it makes it easier to stay on budget. Plus, grocery shopping sort of satisfies my need to shop in general, so this way I get to shop a few times a week without buying shoes from Tory that I don’t really need.

Today, I’m craving clam chowder, so I started there. Before making my grocery list, I looked to see if I already had any of the ingredients I will need.

It turns out, I have celery so that was a good start.

Digging around on Pinterest and various blogs today, I also found a copycat recipe for Panera’s cheddar and broccoli soup and decided I wanted to make that as well. The upside here is that both recipes use half and half and bay leaves. I’ve found one of the keys to cutting costs is to make recipes that have overlapping ingredients.

So, step one is identifying the recipes I want to make, preferably recipes with overlapping ingredients.

Step two is to make my grocery list in preparation for hitting the store(s).

Yes, I know there are Christmas lights on my grocery list. My Snoopy Christmas notepad knows no season.

I also like to include the approximate prices for each item to make sure I’m not making too many dishes with expensive ingredients in one week. This is another key to staying on budget in the food department. Let’s call this step three.

You might have noticed I have written a “T” or an “F” next to each price on my list. This notates which store — Trader Joe’s or Food 4 Less — offers better value for the item. I also frequent a high end grocery store in my neighborhood for my deli and fresh fish purchases, but I didn’t need to make any of those this week. I never buy my staples at that store, though, because they are outrageously priced. Paying attention to the prices at various stores is another powerful budgeting tool that can make your money go further for your menu planning. Let’s call this step four.

From here, I kinda sorta let my free spirited side take over. I know I will have items left over from both recipes, and I can get creative. I could use some of the extra potatoes to make baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese because I will have all three of these items left over from making the broccoli and cheese soup as well as the clam chowder. Plus, I also have chili in my freezer in case I want to add that to the potato to make the meal heartier. This is a good option if I need to reign in my spending on food because I don’t need to buy anything new to make this meal.

If I want to splurge a bit and have enough money left in the budget to do so, I could pick up pork chops to make a sour cream and pork chop meal with rice and a side of broccoli. I always keep brown rice in my pantry, I have sour cream left over from a cheesecake I made last week, and I know I’ll have extra broccoli. (The recipe also calls for chicken broth and thyme — both of which I have on hand.)

Another factor to consider in my mid-week menu planning (or any stage in the process for that matter) are the expiration dates on various items in my refrigerator.

No rush on eating this right away. It won’t expire for a while.

Even though I don’t have to use the sour cream right away, I might want to. If the pork chop with sour cream doesn’t sound good to me in a few days, I could pick up some refried beans, grab a slab of cheese, and make bean burritos slathered with sour cream because I already have tortillas and cheese at home. So much cheese…

I usually keep at least four kinds of cheese in my refrigerator because I would die without cheese. For those of you who think cheese will kill me faster than not eating it, you are just wrong. Oh, and yes, that is cheap beer behind the cheese. It’s my football beer.

One of the last keys to my menu planning budget success is to purchase large quantities of items that do not spoil quickly, like canned tomatoes and garlic. I use garlic and tomatoes constantly, so it’s nice to know they’re always handy. They’re also cheaper in bulk.

I’m fending off vampires — and first dates — with this garlic stash.

If you’re more regimented than I am and this amount of flexibility in a menu seems way out of control for you, there are ways to apply the principles of overlapping ingredients, lists, price monitoring, and buying in bulk to help you stay on budget.

If you have other ideas I haven’t though of, let me know!!!