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

Fall Means Football and The Race for the Rescues (Or Why We Walk)

Labor Day is rapidly approaching. And even though the oppressive heat isn’t really waning, fall is technically on its way. And while I will defy my strict WASP upbringing by wearing white well after the 3rd, I am preparing for the two events that define fall for me: college football and the Race for the Rescues.

See, I love football. Like, my mood for the entire week is determined by the performance of a pack of 19 year old boys in spandex, love football. So this is basically going to be me until December.

Photo courtesy of someecards.

Not only does football mean yelling at my television for four straight hours every Saturday, but it also means football parties. Be on the lookout for great game day recipes in the coming weeks. And I will absolutely do my best to be a lady and not subject you to my rants about bad play calling and interceptions. I will save those for Facebook where my college friends and I come together to publicly mourn, berate, and celebrate our boys in blue.

The other event that means fall for me? Is the annual Race for the Rescues at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It’s a 10 K benefiting 12 non profit animal welfare organizations in Los Angeles, and I do it with my dogs every year. You can read more about it here. The participating organizations rehabilitate wildlife, provide low cost veterinary care for low income families (including free spay and neuter clinics), and also place adoptable animals in loving homes.

Why do we walk?

Because 400 dogs and cats are euthanized in Los Angeles shelters each week. That means more than 20,000 adoptable animals die in Los Angeles shelters every year. Because approximately 3-4 million animals are euthanized nationwide. Because 60% of dogs and 70% of cats who enter shelters will never find a home. And because I can’t close my eyes and wish those statistics away.

I do not mean to make anyone feel guilty for obtaining their loving pet from a responsible breeder, and I understand that pet adoption is not for everyone, but it is for me. I have adopted four dogs in my adult life and each one has enriched my life immeasurably.

So, October 7, my two red rescues and I are walking in honor of Woodley’s littermate, Peyton, who has brought joy to her new mommy. (That’s a long story for a different post. Just know it’s not advisable to adopt litter mates.)

Peyton was adopted in December and even though I miss her, I know she has a safe, loving home.

And we’re walking in memory of Brady, Hunter, Rocco, Max, and Bella who are all playing together in Dog Heaven.

This photo was taken the last Christmas Brady and I spent together. On December 29, 2007, he lost a long battle with congestive heart failure.

Hunter was Brady’s best friend, and I was by Huntie’s side when he died. Hunter and his mommy have a special place in my heart. Forever.

Rocco was a beloved big brother and family member. He was skilled at unwrapping presents and making everyone smile. He loved his family and his soap operas. We miss you, Mister Roccos!

Bella put up a valiant fight against cancer, but lost her battle last week. Blake, Audrey, Matt, and Kelley miss their beautiful girl. So this is me giving them a huge internet hug because my arms aren’t long enough to reach to Chicago.

Max was by his mommy’s side for so many adventures including a move to Mexico last year. He died suddenly this summer, and now this little angel has real wings to match his amazing ears.

I need to make myself an event shirt to honor the pups. If you have any ideas, please send them my way!

If you live in the Los Angeles area and want to participate, it’s not too late to register! If you are interested in making a tax deductible donation to our walk, you can do so here. Please don’t feel obligated, though. We all show support for the causes we care about in our own ways.

If you or a friend is mourning the loss of a furry family member, Bella’s mommy recommends the book Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant.

Wag on, guys.

I know I owe you all kinds of recipes for things like pina colada cupcakes and pollo con rajas. I haven’t forgotten. I promise!

Beat the Heat with a Little Help from Ann Arbor (Or How to Make Dominick’s Constant Buzz)

My Mason jar full of Constant Buzz offers a taste of college — only now I have a palm tree backdrop — and a much lower tolerance for alcohol.

11 years ago today, my dad and I rolled into LA after a harrowing cross country trip that involved a three day delay in Ann Arbor (something about trailer hitch?), a tire blow out in Oklahoma City repaired by a guy bearing a striking resemblance to Jerry Garcia, and me crying in a Dairy Queen in Texas. (Don’t ask.)

It’s hard to believe it has been 11 years. In some ways I’m the same kid who once camped out on a futon in Westwood. In others, I hardly know her.

In honor of the college town (and the life) I left behind, it seems fitting that today I am posting the recipe for Dominick’s Constant Buzz.

See, Dominick’s is an Ann Arbor institution — kinda like Zingerman’s — only nothing like it at all. Zingerman’s is a high-end deli famous for its amazing bread and a Reuben that will change your life. Dominick’s is clear on the other side of campus (not far from the Big House) and is synonymous with day drinking. Sure, they serve food, but it’s not the reason anyone heads to Dominick’s. (I mean, what college kid can’t make their own quesadilla?)

Most people go to sit at the picnic tables on the patio and sip strong drinks from Mason jars while watching drunk B-school boys push each other into the fountain. I’m not sure what that’s all about, but it’s probably some sort of mating ritual — like when deer go all crazy and try to kill each other with their horns.

Imagine these deer are two business school boys named Ryan, and you sort of get the picture. Photo Courtesy of Informed Farmers.

Dominick’s is only open March through November, which absolutely adds to its allure. Those long, cold, football-less months are agonizing, and the reopening of Dominick’s every spring means platform sandals and patio seating are back — and the countdown to college football has officially started.

The sangria and the mystery concoction called Constant Buzz are the cocktail catalysts that kick start epic evenings for many Ann Arbor coeds. (They also explain why packs of future stock brokers set fire to their furniture on nearby Hill Street sidewalks. Incidentally, this penchant for drunken destruction by future Wall Street kids may also explain the state of the US economy….)

At this point in your Constant Buzz consumption, setting fire to your own furniture might actually sound like fun. Don’t say I didn’t warn you….

So, anyway…

I loved Dominick’s, and 11 years ago, I held my going away party there.

Since I’m sort of homesick, and I’m getting all amped up for football season, I was motivated to make myself a batch of Constant Buzz this weekend. Plus it has been so crazy hot in Hollywood lately that I don’t want to do anything except float in my pool and sip on something cool.

Bear in mind, I haven’t had the drink in a while, so this is a rough approximation based on (an urban legend of the ingredients) and memory. If anyone has tweaks – or the inside scoop on the real recipe, hook a Wolverine up.

Bottoms Up!

Constant Buzz

1 C fresh strawberries
2 T sugar
1 T fresh squeezed lime juice
1 C frozen pineapple
1.5 oz tequila
1.5 oz vodka
1.5 oz white rum
1.5 oz gin
1 oz triple sec
1 C crushed ice, optional

Puree the strawberries in the blender. Add sugar and lime juice and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes. Add the alcohol and frozen pineapple and puree the mixture. You can make it ahead of time and return it to the freezer if you wish. The alcohol will prevent it from freezing and will yield a nice, slushy consistency. I generally go this route and skip the cup of crushed ice, but it’s totally your call. If you do add the crushed ice, make sure you mix it thoroughly.

OK, that’s it for me for now.

I’m off to watch that traitor Ryan Mallett air it out on Monday Night football. Just remember, Mallett, you’re the back up to a REAL Michigan man….

(But really, no hard feelings, Mallett, I would have transferred as well. The Rodriguez era was awful for us all.)

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 6 (Or Babies and the Best Banana Cupcakes Ever)

Banana Cupcakes, mateys.

If you’ve been reading my little bloggy for a while, you know I was prepping for a baby shower as well as my birthday party last week. And if you’re starting to feel like I’ve been a total only child by only writing about my Peter Pan Party, let me take you back to last Friday for a moment.

Picture this: It’s August 3. It’s 5 am. And it’s my birthday.

A certain puppy’s plaintive cries rouse me from my sweet birthday slumber. I decide to stay up even though it’s still dark outside because I’m absolutely up to my eyes in sewing owl sachets and baking and whatnot.

We never wake you up before dawn and go back to bed. Ever.

After walking the baby beasts, I settle in with my latte and tear into my stack of birthday presents like a wild dog. After the requisite calls to thank thoughtful family members (who were all in the eastern time zone, where it wasn’t OBSCENELY early), I settle in to do battle with the bobbin on my sewing machine. More on that later….

After sewing 19 owl sachets I decide to switch gears and begin baking the banana cupcakes that would be the base for these owl cupcakes.

I am just about to pour the banana cupcake batter into the owl cupcake liners when I get a phone call from my friend and co-host of the shower saying, “Stop everything! Jody’s water just broke.”

True story.

It was five weeks before our friend’s due date, so we thought we were totally in the clear holding the shower on August 4. Nope.

I pull out my lime green polka dotted liners and decide we will be having banana cupcakes at the Peter Pan Party instead of chocolate ganache-filled cupcakes with seven minute meringue frosting.

See, I had planned to make the chocolate ganache-filled cupcakes for the shower and since the recipe makes 24 cupcakes and is not easily halved, I was going to split the confections between the two parties. (Obviously I was going to wait to frost the second dozen until the next day with a fresh batch of frosting because the frosting looks way heinous if it sits out.)

Change of plans.

I totally switch gears from baby shower prep to birthday prep and go about my day hoping everything is going smoothly for my friend over at Cedars-Sinai, where absolutely everyone has their babies.

A few of my friends join me later for low-key take out and drinks and I force them to watch the Twin Peaks pilot like the spoiled birthday brat I am.

Then the news comes that Connor has arrived. On my birthday.

The funny part is both of his parents went to Michigan with me, and we’re all a little obsessed with Michigan football — like someone should probably check us in for treatment — obsessed. (I should mention Connor’s uncles and grandfather also went to Michigan, and so did the co-host of the baby shower. When you get all of us in the same room together, it’s a little frightening.)

Connor’s dad had been teasing me earlier in the day on Facebook about my love of Tom Brady, the Super Bowl MVP and former Michigan quarterback, with whom I share a birthday. And now his son shares a birthday with him too, which seems absolutely appropriate for the ultimate Michigan Wolverine baby.

So, anyway, the good news is everyone is happy and healthy, and my friend got to skip five weeks of pregnancy while it’s like 100 degrees in LA. Plus the people at my birthday party loved the banana cupcakes even though they weren’t on the original menu.

And now I have a new birthday buddy to add to my list that already includes two of my closest friends – plus Tom Brady, Martha Stewart, and Tony Bennett.

So, here’s the recipe for the banana cupcakes. It’s adapted (err, mostly stolen) from this recipe for the most amazing banana cake ever that I bake absolutely all of the time.

May the cupcakes make your friends go into labor too. Or something.

Banana Cupcakes

2 1/4 C cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about two large bananas)
1/4 cup buttermilk*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting 

1/2 C butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 oz mascarpone

Sliced bananas for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place 16 cupcake liners in cupcake tins.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla in a separate bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to blend after each addition. Add half of the dry ingredients and beat the mixture until just blended. Next add the banana mixture, followed by the remaining dry ingredients, just barely beating after each addition.

Pour the batter into cupcake liners. (Do not fill the cupcake liners to the top. You need to leave a little more room in the liners than you would ordinarily. This is because these cupcakes rise more than regular cupcakes.)

Bake until the tester inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, and the tops of the cupcakes have begun to change color, about 18-20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes completely on wire racks.

For the Frosting

Cream butter and cream cheese with the paddle attachment of your electric mixer. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and mix to blend. Gradually add sifted powder sugar and mix until fluffy. Add mascarpone and carefully mix the frosting. (Mascarpone can curdle if it is whipped too much, so this last step is a bit delicate.)

If you want to skip the mascarpone altogether, just use 8 oz of cream cheese instead.

Place the frosting in the refrigerator until it’s the proper consistency for spreading, about 10-15 minutes.

* I don’t buy an entire container of buttermilk when I only need ¼ C. It’s a colossal waste. I make my own buttermilk instead. You can do this by adding a few teaspoons of vinegar to whole milk and allowing it to sit and curdle, about five minutes. If you don’t have vinegar, lemon juice works as well.

Patience is a Virtue I Don’t Possess (Or How to Make a Dipped Vase)

I share a birthday with Tony Bennett,  Tom Brady, and Martha Stewart. While I can’t sing to save my life, or throw a spiral like a Super Bowl MVP, I do fancy myself rather handy with a glue gun and glitter paint.

Today I decide to make a gold dipped vase I found on You Are My Fave.

I start with Martha’s gold paint left over from my dipped table experiment and a $6 vase from Home Goods. I pop on a little Jay-Z featuring Panjabi MC and get to work. I pour the gold paint into a bowl and dip the top of the vase inside. Then I set the vase on a brown paper bag and wait.

It doesn’t look like enough paint, so I pour a little more around the rim of the vase to create additional drips.

It’s supposed to be easy, but of course I manage to mess it up the first time. (Maybe I’m not much like Martha either….) The good thing about this project is that you can simply peel off the paint and start over if you don’t like the finished project.

Here’s what I learned about dipping vases:

It doesn’t take much gold paint to create the look. I overdid it the first time because I underestimated how far a little paint would travel down the side of the vase. Pouring the extra paint around the rim of the vase made too many drippy bits coming down the side and made the finished product look messy.

In the end, you just have to be patient (not my strong suit) while the paint slowly drips down the side, and it’ll all work out. This is probably some sort of metaphor for life, but I’m not really in the mood to be philosophical today. It’s probably because I’m grooving to a little hip hop Bhangra.

I haven’t decided what to put in the vase yet, but I’ll eventually get around to it when I’m done stenciling tiny birch trees all over my hallway walls. (More on that later…)

I’m leaning toward some sort of white crepe paper flowers so I don’t have to continually update a wilting mess of a floral arrangement.

Suggestions?

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