Derby Hats, Dark Books, and Easter Desserts (Or Things that Make Me Smile)

Here are some things that make me smile:

#1 I got my dog’s biopsy results back, and his cancer didn’t spread to his lymph nodes. Sure, the tumors were level 2, which means they COULD return, but they didn’t spread, so there’s that. We are consulting with a veterinary oncologist, but it’s mostly good news for now.

#2 I’m going to Vegas for the Kentucky Derby with two of my besties from college. We’ve been scheming about hats in a group text all morning.

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This little nugget from Nordstrom is my front runner.

Part of me is tempted to have a flower crown made for the Derby, like this fabulous one I’m wearing here:

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I don’t actually know who this guy is.

He just liked my cakeandpunch crown, so we posed for a pic at Malibu Wines. (I think ranunculus are everything. Apparently he agreed.)

#3 In addition to conspiring about hats, we’ve been discussing poolside reading. Kelley and I shared book suggestions all morning and have basically started our own long distance, two-person book club. Most of my friends would recommend me for a padded room if I told them to read these books, so I’m grateful for a kindred spirit in the land of the macabre. (Pretty Girls, The Missing, The Murder Room, and I’m Thinking of Ending Things are our first orders of business for discussion.)

#4 It’s almost time for Easter at 816, an annual tradition that brings the best people on the planet together for food, wine, and fun at our favorite Santa Monica beach house.

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Here are a few of my beautiful bunnies from last year’s festivities.

I’m trying to decide if I want to make the same fennel scalloped potatoes I made last year or if I want to branch out.

This gorgeous geode cake from Buttercream Bakeshop in DC gives me ideas.

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Couldn’t you just DIE from the pretty?

I think I’d put ice cream in the inside instead of cake if I made it. I’ve been scouring this link for ice cream inspiration.

Cake bores me as much as a bad book.

True story.

Taste Testers and My Easterelle App (Or Mint, Leek, and Pea Puree in Parmesan Crisp Cups)

OK, one more Easterelle post and then I’ll get back to the Taco Bell fiesta discussion.

In addition to the inside out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes I told you about yesterday, I also made two appetizers for our Easter beach soiree because I’m an over-achiever like that.

I did end up making the melon with mint and prosciutto app (recipe here) because it’s easy and it involves pig. (You absolutely can’t do Easter without pig. I mean, that’s the whole point of Jesus coming to earth. He died so I can eat bacon. Duh!)

OK, maybe not really, but ANYWAY.

I also made a mint, leek, and pea puree and put it in parmesan crisp cups because it just sounded good and Easter-y to me. (I also liked that both apps involved mint. I like overlapping ingredients for cost-saving and menu coherence purposes.)

I was still suffering from the lingering effects of my nuclear germ assault at the time, so I had to call in the reinforcements to test the recipe because I couldn’t taste ANYTHING.

Luckily, I had plans to watch the Michigan Spring Game with my friend Mike the day before, so I made him try the app to tell me if it was a mess. He’s a really good cook, and he’s honest with me when I screw things up in the kitchen, which I appreciate. You can’t have a taste tester who is too “nice” to tell you when there’s too much mayo in the deviled eggs and whatnot because it’s just not nice to serve things that suck. I do NOT need a bunch of sycophants patting me on the head and telling me I’m marvelous when my food actually isn’t amazing. (What is the point of THAT?!?)

So anyway, the app passed the Mike test, and then it totally passed the test at Easterelle Day too.  People DEVOURED it at the picnic.

Along with all of our other great food.

Along with all of our other great food.

My crew knows how to rock a beach picnic. For real.

And here’s a close up of the pea puree situation in case you’re wondering what pea puree looks like.

Boom!

Leek and pea puree in parmesan cups.

SO parmy and cute, right?

I’m planning a few picnics for May and June, and I think I may make these again.

I’m totally looking forward to being able to taste them next time too!

Here’s how I made them just in case you wanna…

Leek and Pea Puree with Mint
Serves 12

2 T Olive Oil, divided
2 Leeks, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
1/4 C Water
1 C Frozen Peas
1/4 C Grated Parmesan
20 Mint Leaves, 12 reserved for garnish
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper

Heat 1 T of olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium. Add leek and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add water and reduce heat to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more water by 1 T, if necessary, if the pan becomes dry and the leek isn’t soft yet. Cook until the water evaporates.

Meanwhile, blanch the peas in boiling water for 3 minutes, or until still bright green but softened. Strain the peas and add them to the leeks and stir.

Transfer peas and leeks to a food processor. Add remaining 1 T of olive oil and pulse until coarse. Add the parmesan and mint and pulse again. The mixture should remain a little chunky.

Parmesan Cups

3 C Freshly Grated Parmesan
Non Stick Olive Oil Spray

Preheat oven to 350. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spray muffin tins with non-stick spray.

Put 1/4 C scoop-fulls of parmesan onto the parchment paper. Pat the piles down a little so the parm is evenly distributed. It will spread, so make sure you leave enough space between the piles. (You will need to do this in batches or use two baking sheets.)

Bake for 3-5 minutes or until bubbling. Remove baking sheet from oven. Allow discs to cool slightly before placing them into the muffin tin.

Assembly

Scoop the pea puree into the parmesan cups, garnish with mint leaves and fresh cracked pepper.

Devour.

And now I will leave you with this song I’m crushing on while writing. It’s “Pink Medicine” By Bearson. Consider it my gift to you today. It was my medicine while I was sick. I looooooove it.

OK, I’m off to make Paleo Porn’s Beef Brisket for my dinner party tonight.

Yee haw, brisket, ya’ll!

#texasforever

Easterelle Day (Or Easter + Elle’s Beach Birthday Celebration!)

I know Easter was so four days ago, but I’m finally ready to write about it. I’ve been in major screenplay mode all week, and I just didn’t have the time or energy to put together a post about my weekend until today.

So…

Here are a few shots.

I started my Easter celebration by attending the intimate, outdoor sunrise service at Bel Air Presbyterian.

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Fire pits are essential before the sun comes up ‘cuz it’s cold in SoCal when it’s dark….

And actually, it’s still cold after the sun comes up….

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Did I mention it was cold?

ANYWAY, After freezing my tukhus off at church, I came home and made an Easter basket for my cousin Maddie.

See?

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So much pink.

I even put a bow on it because everything is better with a bow on it.

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Everyone knows that.

Then I picked Maddie up, and we went to the beach for Easterelle Day. (Easterelle Day = Easter + Elle’s Actual Birthday. Just in case you were wondering.)

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The birthday girl is barely in the pic, but I promise she had fun.

And the food was epic.

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All of the boys thought so.

Actually, everyone thought so. (I’m going to take their word for it; I was still sick so I couldn’t really taste any of it.) We didn’t even get that much sand in any of it either, so that was awesome.

I’ll get to the cupcakes and the leek and pea puree in parm cups later. I need to get back to my script now.

But before I go… here’s one of my favorite songs at the moment. It’s the Mr. Fiji Wiji remix of Tiesto and Kyler England.

Just ‘cuz.

❤ XOXO ❤

 

You Can’t Eat Art (Or Glitter Eggs for Good Friday)

Guys, guess what?

It’s Good Friday!

And nothing says, “Let’s commemorate the crucifixion,” like bows and glitter.

These are going in the sand soon.

Everyone knows that.

ANYWAY

Now that all of you think I’m going to hell, I’ll show you what’s inside those eggs.

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Art.

3-D art…

Stunning work with scissors, right?

I made magic with scissors.

And since you can’t eat art, I also put a little candy in there too.

Art!

It’s hiding in the egg. I promise.

Pretty soon, I’m going to hide the candy filled eggs in the sand for Elle’s Birthday/Our Easter Extravaganza on the beach!

Peter Rabbit's ready to hide his eggs in the sand.

Peter Rabbit’s totally ready to help.

But first… I’m off to make my 90th Orange Julius of the week because I am still sick.

Have a great weekend, and HAPPY EASTER, YA’LL!

More Peter Rabbit for My Purse! (Or Easter Cupcake Inspiration)

It’s another sunny Friday in SoCal, which is a reason to smile even if Buzz Feed says we’re three years into a vile drought.

This drought's for real. Source.

This shit’s for real. Source.

So, that is all terribly sad.

Wanna talk about bunnies instead?

Good, so do I.

I happened upon this darling Peter Rabbit cupcake kit when I was wandering around Pasadena yesterday, and it cried out for me to buy it.

I mean, who could blame me?

Williams Sonoma KNEW I needed a little more Peter Rabbit in my life.

More Peter Rabbit for my purse! Thank you, Williams Sonoma!

I’m going use them for the Easter beach picnic I’m planning with my friend Nicole. It’s her sister Elle’s birthday that day so we’re having an intimate gathering of close friends that will serve dual functions.

When I asked Nicole what flavors should fill my darling find, she requested lemon curd and chocolate peanut butter. (Not together. OBVIOUSLY.)

She loves the lemon curd cupcakes I made for my grandma’s birthday (you can find the recipe here), but I don’t have a go-to recipe for chocolate peanut butter, so I’m doing some research.

See, I’m trying to decide if I want to do peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate filling or chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter filling.

What do you think?

Talk amongst yourselves.

Albus and I are heading out for a walk while our spicy maple ribs slowly get amazing in our oven.

XOXO

P.S. If you want to buy the cupcake kit but don’t want to leave your house, you can find it here.

P.P.S. I do actually care about the planet and if you do too, you should check out Chef Nathan Lyon’s article on the impact of California’s drought on the rest of the country here.

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!!!

Cookie Dough Protein Balls from PaleOMG (Or OMG, Balls for Breakfast!)

Guys, guess what? It’s Ash Wednesday! (Or the day everyone in LA tells me I have stuff on my face.)

See?

Excuse my hair situation. I woke up at 5:30 to get stuff on my face.

Stuff on my face.

It might seem strange that I get excited to let something go for Lent, but I love this time of year. I really do. There’s something about celebrating a season of new beginnings on Easter after 40 days of sacrifice and contemplation that just feels super cleansing. But maybe that’s just me. (More on that here.)

If you’re wondering why I’m wearing a purple Tinkerbell apron it’s because it matches my sweater (true story), and also because the photo was taken moments before I got into some Paleo-approved magic in my kitchen.

My friend Mike sent me this recipe for PaleOMG’s Protein Cookie Dough Balls*, and given that cookie dough is kinda like my kryptonite I figured they were worth a shot.

I’ll spare you the suspense… they were.

They can't stop.

Even my dinos were way into them.

I think these just might be my new breakfast obsession. I’m running the numbers, and I think they win the affordability battle over Luna Bars.

Besides, they’re balls. out. delicious.

*Full disclosure:

I didn’t use the protein powder in the recipe (which is why they’re dark). I opted for Trader Joe’s vanilla flavored hemp protein because everything’s cheaper at Trader Joe’s, and I refuse to go traipsing all over LA to find a protein powder that probably costs 9X as much somewhere else. Hemp is gluten free, so I’m not sure why the protein powder isn’t labeled as such, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.

I also used Kroger mini-chocolate chips because I already had them in the house. (Most semi-sweet chocolate is gluten free anyway.)

Finally, I used 1 1/2 T of coconut oil instead of 2T of coconut butter because I had the former and could not rationalize investing in the latter for just one recipe. 

All of THAT boils down to THIS: my frugality didn’t wreck the recipe. They’re delicious.