Shelly and I met in 2005, through our sorority:
To the most amazing, awesome, brave, caring, smart and funny person I know: My very best friend, Shelly!
Shelly and I met in 2005, through our sorority:
Shelly loves to be silly:
We like to bust moves like champions (Shelly is better than me):
Shelly loves to travel and see the world; she appreciates diversity:
Shelly is smart. She reads and listens and is constantly learning:
Shelly loves good food (and drinks!) and is a great cook!
Shelly is compassionate. She talks the talk, but also walks the walk:
Shelly loves animals - all kinds!
I'm not really sure what I did to deserve the friendship of such an amazing, wonderful person. Shelly is currently finishing up two years of Peace Corps service in Africa and will be coming home in just a few months! I miss her so much and even though we are apart on her birthday, I wanted to wish her a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I love you Shelly - many many many happy returns! To the next seven years - and beyond!
I’m tired, friends.
I’ve actually been tired for three weeks, just in case you wanted to know.
You probably didn’t want to know that, really.
The thing is, I’m back to the 9 to 5 grind and, along with some other things (like my trip to LA), have been totally busy. I feel like I’m in a constant jog.
I want to preface my statements by saying that I really like my job: the people are great, the work challenging (but not too challenging) and the fact that I get a paycheck every two weeks isn’t too bad, either. But man (and I know how cliché this sounds) I wish I had more hours in the day.
Don’t you think it’s strange how we’ve set up a society that requires us to spend a large majority of our waking minutes working at a job, just so we can survive? Doesn’t that seem ironic?
As I’ve said, it’s not that I don’t like work, it’s just that, when I’m done with work, I wish I had a few more hours, ya know?
It kind of reminds me of a Deep Space Nine episode* where they reveal that in the depths of space, where– and you’ve never thought about this, have you? – they artificially create day and nighttime, the average day is actually longer than 24 hours.
I love this. I want this.
But I still only want to have to work for 8 hours in my longer day. Apparently you get used to the longer days. At least according to Star Trek. And oh boy, how I wish it were true. Because I really really want more hours in the day.
And to live in the Star Trek universe. But that’s a different story altogether, isn’t it?
*oh what, you didn’t know how much I love for Star Trek? Deeply and intensely. It’s true.
So, where in the world am I?
Well that’s an existential question, indeed.
But literally and physical I’m in …Los Angeles. Better known as SoCal.
Being back in LA is a strange experience – I went to college here (in Orange County, actually and yes, there is a difference and yes, people down here care about that distinction) and I’ve been back only once, for a quick weekend trip for my twenty-third birthday. And as I got to thinking about it, that was quite a few years ago, which actually, is amazing. Three years feels simultaneously a lifetime ago and then again, just yesterday; it’s funny how life work that way.
Coming back down the grapevine, the geographic division between Northern and Southern California, I started to get a funny feeling –for years I took the seven-hour drive down South and, towards the end of that period of time, became increasingly sure that I was much too NorCal to be able to live in SoCal. (And people wonder why there are constant wars over what seem, to an outsider, like innocuous regional differences). It wasn’t so much that the place was unbearable. In fact, there are many redeeming qualities – the beautiful weather, the ocean, the great food (not only Mexican, but also a general interest in eating good quality, whole foods), the abundance of exciting things happening that you can only get in a big metropolis – to the greater Los Angeles area, but I was pretty sure that if I stayed, all the negative things would probably end up sucking out my soul. You see if you’re not careful, SoCal can get you thinking that things, rather than people are what matter most. You might end up thinking that having a sexy car is important because your car, of course is all about your identity. You may end up thinking you’re not thin enough, well-dressed enough or blonde enough. If you have a tendency, as I do, to getting caught up in aesthetic, it can be a slippery slope.
This isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen in my neck of the woods, but when you’re shopping at WinCo every week, it does have a tendency to keep you grounded in the reality of a variety of different lifestyles.
All that being said, I’m looking at this as a bit of a test. Decidedly, four years after having graduated from university, I’m pretty different.
Well, at least, I’ve a had a lot of experiences that have grown my perspective: seeing so many corners of the world, good relationships, bad relationships, new friends, hobbies, health issues, employment, unemployment, and disappointments. A lot has changed. And all of these things have altered my worldview.
So I’m interested to see how much more the me now can stomach what the me then found so utterly unappealing. It’s an intriguing question, the factor of perspective on our emotional response. I’ll be interested to see what things that irritated me then will pop right back up to the surface and which ones will make me that, nah, it’s not so bad after all.
I’m only here for a week, but it should be plenty of time to get a feel for it again. And, of course, see some friends who unlike me, have managed to maintain a semblance of class and a down to earth nature, despite the potential negative. But what can I say? They must be better people than I. So, we’ll see how the week goes.
KD's Note: I would cut the oil a bit, and double the rest of the dressing ingredients to really up the flavor intensity.
Lemon Garlic Orzo Pasta Salad with Feta, Bell Pepper and Tomato (adapted from Epicurious)
12 ounces orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups crumbled seasoned feta cheese (such as basil and tomato; about 6 ounces)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 cup chopped tomato
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Cook orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Combine lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, oregano, mustard and cumin in small bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper and add to warm orzo. Allow to cool slightly.
Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add crumbled feta cheese, chopped bell peppers, Kalamata olives and tomatoes.
Add dressing to orzo mixture and toss to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Well, I’ll give you a chance to guess in the form of some commonly heard phrases in this region.
Stereotypical phrases from my current geographical location that you hear way, way too often in real life:
“Let’s go to the beach today, brah.”
“¿que pasa hermana?”
“And now, back to Storm Watch, 2012!”
“Oh em gee, it’s like, freezing out!” (Any temperature below 70)
“Have you seen my hoodie?”
“Have you seen my rainbows?”
“That drive is gonna be… 20 minutes. Unless there’s traffic.”
“Let’s go to fro-yo!”
Oh and one more hint: there’s lots of sunshine here – and stars, too!
I woke up this morning, like many people do on a Wednesday, to my alarm. I could hear it, somewhere in the darkness of my bedroom, sounding off its inoffensive reverberation – its docile, yet gentle tone. I upgraded recently to the classic iWhatever dinging, effectively banishing my (at least) thirteen year-old alarm clock and it’s evil, vile, drone to the corner of my bedroom.
I should have gone to the gym. But, having once again fallen asleep with the lights on, perched next to my laptop on my bed, with a full face of makeup and only enough resolve to take my contacts out the night before (clearly this incident is still engrained in my mind), I somehow didn’t quite have the oomph this morning. Instead I found myself groping through the morning darkness, trying to figure out where I’d set my iPod, which conveniently was telling me it was time to get up.
Aha! Under my second pillow, where surely in my exhausted state, I’d mindlessly dropped it down and just as easily forgotten it in myzombie-like state.
I told you friends, I’m a morning person.
Despite my distinct lack of athletic zeal, I was up and decidedly awake (see above morning personness related statement). So I wrote a long note to my Best Friend (who tragically, lives in Africa*) and, finding that there was still more time before I absolutely had to get ready for work, I thought it would be a good idea to take a harried stab at my culinary nemesis.
Actually scones and biscuits. Oh, how you mock me you devilish baked goods.
Ever since I first tried to make a biscuit and added way way too much liquid, I’ve never quite been able to get the texture just right. I’m always afraid that I’m going to add too much liquid, because always always the recipe says not to add too much. Ok, I get it. But I get cautious when I’m told to be cautious and by golly, it always seems to backfire. I don’t add enough liquid and end up over mixing. They’re either too chewy ot hard as rocks. Not ideal.
So this morning, for no reason other than the presence of a carton of buttermilk with a rapidly approaching expiration date, I decided to make some scones before work.
And let me tell you.
They were delicious.
Light and buttery, with a slightly crunchy exterior and a soft, sweet interior, these scones were off-the-hook.
It’s amazing what will happen when you stop thinking too much about something and let your instincts guide you.
30 minutes to pick a recipe, prep, cook, bake and clean up will take away the chance for questioning. To act is of the essence then, to listen to your gut on everything is what will get you through.
The scones are just scones, don’t you see? But the microcosm is the thing; it’s how we see the bigger picture in all
the little things. Let go. Stop worrying. Trust your instincts. Act. But also prepare, research and listen (because I’d certainly been doing those things before I decided to make scones in my free morning moments). I think it was Seneca who said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” and certainly he was right. But success takes action and no amount of opportunity and preparation will bring you to the moment where you find the courage and time to take the first step.
*And by tragic, I mean she is in the Peace Corps, being an amazing, awesome human being. I personally am counting down the 5 months because let’s face it, I’m selfish and I totally want my bestie back.
Simple Sweet Scones (Coffeehouse Scones) (adapted, only for method, from Joy of Baking)
2 cups (260 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
2/3 - 3/4 cup (160 - 180 ml) buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place oven rack in middle of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. In the bowl of a food processor, using the blade attachment, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pulse to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the food processor, blending into the flour mixture until the mixture should look like coarse crumbs. With the processor running, add the buttermilk and vanilla extract to the flour mixture and pulse just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix. t will look a little dry.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and kneadthe dough gently and form into a 7 inch (18 cm) round that is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Use a 2 1/2 inch (6.5 cm) round biscuit cutter to cut the dough into circles. Transfer the scones to the baking sheet and brush the tops of the scones with a little milk.
Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Can be stored at room temperature for a few days.
Makes about 10 -2 1/2 inch (6.5 cm) or 8 wedge-shaped scones.
I’m a morning person. Being a morning person puts you with a special breed of people. A breed of people that non-morning people look at with equal parts confusion and uncertainty. Certainly, their eyes seem to say, there’something off about a person who chooses to wake up at 5:30am to go to the gym. Insanity, they’re sure.
But what those night owls miss out on is this:
The light just beginning to fill up the sky. The rosy and purple cast that’s not quite like dusk and certainly not like day. The film term is “magic hour.” And while it can be used to describe both dusk and dawn, there’s a certain something that, to me at least, makes the dawn so much more magical.
It’s the sound of sleep filling the air, the cast of twilight, the feeling of absolute solitude in the middle of everyday life. As I walk into the dawn, the air is cool and fresh – unsullied by the noise of the everyday. Not a soul is around and yet there’s no one too far away.
My perfect time of day.
So it’s ok by me if the night owls are fast asleep, there’s more morning for me.
To go along with the perfect time of day, how about the perfect boiled egg, which might just be the perfect breakfast to start your day. Things like boiling an egg seem so simple and yet so far out of reach. My favorite. It’s all about technique and getting it juuuust right.
This makes me want Salmon Salad Nicoise.
Perfect Boiled Eggs (by Emeril Lagasse)
1 dozen large eggs (or however many you’re making - it doesn’t matter)
Water to cover
Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Season with a pinch of salt. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover with a lid. Allow the eggs to sit for 11 minutes. Dain and cool the eggs for 2 minutes in ice water. Drain and peel the eggs.
"Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize, just as I did, that there's a difference be knowing the path, and walking the path."
You can go through life knowing a thing. You can prepare for it, think about, decide on it and even come to terms with it. But to arrive at the culmination of all that you know; to arrive at a moment and to then walk through it, well that’s another thing altogether.
Today was one such day; today was the culmination of all the things you might think you know colliding full force into all the things you couldn’t know until you came to this moment. Today you realize that from here on out, you’ll think about your life as before and after this moment, right now.
Life will never be the same. But you knew it wouldn’t be. You knew that life was going to change. You knew it, but now you’re really doing it. Living it. To live through this moment makes you brave. To face this challenge head-on is powerful.
This is life. This is preparation meeting the moment. This is looking fear right in the eyeball and doing what needs to be done anyway. And that’s why you’ll make it through. Because you’re brave and strong and ready to take this moment and seize it.
Cookie Dough White Bean Bundt Cake (adapted from Joy the Baker)
For the Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (15.5 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
1 bag mini semisweet chocolate chips
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Add beans to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Whip until beans are almost to a smooth puree. It’s ok if there are some beans that are not completely pureed. They’ll be well incorporated once they are beaten with the butter and sugar.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add butter, sugar and bean puree. Beat on medium speed until butter and beans are well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes. Beans will break down and create a slightly soupy mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond (if using).
Slow the mixer to low speed and add half of the dry ingredients. Beat until almost completely incorporated, but several white streaks remain. Add all of the buttermilk. Beat until incorporated. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until incorporated. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl. Use a spatula to fold together and make sure all of the wet and dry ingredients are completely incorporated. Fold in the mini chips.
Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake come out clean. Try not to over-bake the cake, as it’s dense and can quickly suffer from dryness. (In fact, mine was a little under cooked, making it taste like cookie dough).
Remove the cake from oven. Allow to rest in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While cake cools, make the frosting.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Place butter in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add sugar and cocoa, mixing well. (You may need to add the milk, as it is a dry mixture) Stir in milk in portions, stirring each time. Add vanilla. Spread on cooled cake.
So I got tagged in a meme. I have to admit that I didn’t really know what it meant, though I think it’s something like what we used to do back in the MySpace era, but, well, classy. And much nicer. The lovely and brilliant Karen of Solodialogue, tagged me and said some pretty nice stuff about my bacon cupcakes. And that I’m funny. Boy she sure does know the way to this girl’s heart. If you have the chance, you should check out her blog, which is about her child with autism. But let’s face it, like any great written work, it’s about much, much more. It’s a smart and thought-provoking blog that’s worth the read.
So here I go. It’s long. You’ve been warned.
What or who inspired you to start a blog?
This isn’t my first blog. I started writing my first official blog in 2007 when I studied abroad in Cannes. Later, I expanded to a different blog about traveling. Both of these blogs were to allow people to stay in touch with me, and
quite frankly weren’t that interesting for the average reader. In addition, I often found the blog themes to be limited – what I wanted to write didn’t fit -and I always felt that I would be better suited for a blog that didn’t have so many restrictions. I don’t know why exactly I started this blog, other than the fact that I wanted a space to put my thoughts that wasn’t attached to any one idea or to any other website. I wanted my own space in the Interwebs universe. I realized pretty quickly that I wanted to be writing about me, but I also wanted it to be beyond that; I wanted people to be entertained by it as well. I realized that no one had any interest in what I ate that day, where I went and who I talked to - they wanted a story, entertainment or a unique insight. And in fact, I found that kind of
writing to be more profound in helping me process the challenges in my own life. It’s still all about me.
Who is your foodie inspiration?
If I were going to pick someone that feels more accessible (but let’s face it, she’s still totally big time) I’d have to say Joy the Baker. If you’re into food and you haven’t read her, you’re missing out. There have been so many good things written about her unique voice, cozy photos and delightfully fresh ideas that you could probably write a book just about that. But the thing that I love about Joy the most is that she knows exactly who she is as a blogger. When you pop onto Joy’s site, you know how it’s going to feel and you know how it’s going to look. It’s almost like you’re in her apartment, sitting at her kitchen table, eating cupcakes and drinking tea. The cat is sitting next to you and after you walk along the beach, you and Joy are probably going to have bourbon and eat more cake. It’s that kind of good. I guess you could say that Joy has branded herself excellently and I’m inspired to reach that level of expertise in translating who I am not only on the page, but also on the rest of the site in my photography and web design. I’m complicated (who isn’t?) but I’d love to get to a place where I was self-aware
enough to effortlessly convey the things that I really love, too.
As for my foodie “mountaintop,” I couldn’t possibly love anyone the way I love Jacques Pépin. He makes excellence look effortless. He never, ever sacrifices the quality of food for speed or gimmicks and his knife skills are the most beautiful thing to behold. He’s classic and I love him.
Eric“the Ripper” Ripert because he’s working on throwing out the old convention that working in a kitchen mean you need to bring people down. And he’s fabulously French (do you see how not jaded I am about this, even after all my French strife?). Martha Stewart and Ina Garten for supporting the idea that eating and living wonderfully need not be for the most elite among us. I also love how authentic they are and how they never apologize for it. And of course, my one and only, Anthony Bourdain. I could go on and on about the way I respect and admire Tony. But mainly it’s because he’s a traveler with a conscience and one hell of a writer.
Your greasiest, batter-spattered food book is…
Nonexistent! I get most of my recipes from the internet and then compile them in a binder. If I’m looking for a recipe, I always check if Ina Garten has made it. She’s my go-to maven.
Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it…what was it?
This is a toughie. This blog is not just about food, but also about the places that I’m traveling to, and to be honest, I’ve gotten to travel to many many wonderful, exotic and unique locales. I am fully aware of this extraordinary good fortune and the way it has change my life and allowed me to evolve as a person.
I couldn’t possibly fit it to just one meal. So let me give you a couple of distinct highlights (in no particular order):
Provence, France: During the spring of 2007, while I was studying in Cannes, my parents and I decided to spend my Spring Break traveling to Cinque Terre and Provence. By some strange bout of adventurousness (or insanity) we decided to make all of our hotel bookings on whim. We would be free as birds…. ahem. Or something. While I won’t go into the arguments for or against this traveling technique (or the challenges Ifaced at being the only one who spoke the language in rural France) we did end up in a few completely lovely and quaint corners of Provence. One such corner was a small restaurant with just a few tables inside. There was a roaring fireplace in the “dining room,” the husband was the front of the house, the wife, the chef. The menu was a prix fixe and limited. There are many things about that trip which fade into my memory, but I’ll never forget the wonderful, Provençal specialty soupe au pistou. It’s a warm vegetable soup with a dollop of provincial pesto to round out the flavors. Divinity. A specialty. Made in the region of its origin by an unknown French woman. The best.
Turkey: Chef Mustafa. The power went out. We feasted. It was exactly as it was meant to be, a perfect moment in time.
I certainly hope you go to Southeast Asia some day and when you do, I hope you go to Thailand. You probably will. And when you’re there, you are going to see street vendors on the side of the road. They’ll have big, boiling pots of broth, noodles, meats and varying light greens as accoutrement. Eat there. Please. Go up to the woman, pick the type of each thing you want, watch her throw it into the boiling pot and right into the plastic bowl sitting next to her. She’ll give you utensils. Sit on the tiny plastic stools next to the other people who are eating on the side of the road. It doesn’t matter that it’s 85 degrees and 70% humidity. This soup is special. It’s delicious. It’s what people eat and you’ll never forget it.
What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object, of course):
Gosh, I don’t know. A Cuisinart stand mixer would be interesting, but I kind of enjoy my hand mixer for most of the things I make. I’m not big on gadgets, but I’d love to start working with gum paste and fondant, so maybe tools for that.
Who taught you how to cook?
I’ve watched my mom cook forever. She taught me how to bake cookies and I owe my perfectionist tendencies
for measuring to her. She also taught me the importance of technique. In baking, it’s only worth the time, money, calories and energy if it’s going to be good. Why settle for less than your personal best?
My Aunt Zana taught me how to pipe frosting. Every year we have a lamb cake for Easter. It is a 3D lamb, ornately
decorated in various colors of piped icing. It’s a long and tedious process that culminates in a tradition that makes us all smile. My Aunt has passed down the tradition of making and piping the cake to both my brother, the Scientist, and I. She taught me how to hold the bag, how to apply pressure, how to use color gels. But mostly she taught me to love and value the aesthetic of the food you make. Making things beautiful can be underrated in a time where speed is king. But life is short and it’s nice to put care into these things.
Finally, the Bee. My mom’s BFF. For all the recipe following and perfectionist traits I have, the Bee has taught me the value in trusting one’s instincts in the kitchen. She makes sauces and vinaigrettes fearlessly and always with most wonderful results. She trusts her gut and anyone who’s ever tried to learn to cook knows that it’s the most important quality to becoming a great cook.
I’m coming to your house for dinner. What’s your signature dish?
I don’t have a house. Or a signature dish. So this question is entirely theoretical. It depends on the season, but I’d probably make beef stew and mashed potatoes. They’re hearty and delicious and something that I wouldn’t have to fuss over, which is important, because I’d much rather be having a cocktail with you, than slaving over the stove. I
might also make Salmon Salade Niçoise by Ina Garten because it’s so so good.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
No guilt. But I do love me some Queso Nacho cheese sauce. How delightfully gross is that?
Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn.
Most people are surprised to learn that I’m allergic to avocado. Mainly because avocado seems like the most benign food in the world. I developed the allergy in college and haven’t eaten any (not even guacamole with lime and salt tortilla chips from Chipotle, which may be the best thing in the world) since at least 2008. Maybe even longer. It’s a sad existence I lead.
So there you have it. I’ve never done this before, though I kind of feel like I’ve missed the point and not tagged enough people who are actually on the Internet.
So now I’m supposed to tag people:
I’m going to tag Emiglia, my dear friend and food writer (for realsies) who hangs her hat at Tomato Kumato. I hope she does it because she’s so freakin’smart and interesting.
My darling Kelly at Unenthused and Unemployed in Orange County, because she’s so damn funny, it makes me want to kick in the air just thinking about her. *kick*
Stacy at The Sleepy Peach. Stacy is a beautiful writer who, I believe, is writing one of the great blogs about the challenges and triumphs of our generation. She’s a real writer.