Thursday, August 30, 2007

Moving is for girls

There are two schools of thought about moving.
1) Get it all over as quickly as possible (lets call this the bandaid method)
2) Do a little at a time till its all done (the masochistic method)

I don't really know that one is better than the other. The bandaid method requires you to put in one or two KILLER days. Dusk till dawn. Your body aches. You hate everyone - most especially the person you're moving with. This is what I always think when I decide to choose door number two. Except, after 3 weeks of moving, I can tell you it is also a poor choice. I'm so sick of moving. I still have long days, there's always more to do than you think, and we've been living out of boxes for almost a month now. Some break! The good news is, its almost over. The old place is almost empty - save for a few things we're transporting over to Diane's for a garage sale this weekend (come one, come all! our trash is your treasure!). I spent the entire day scrubbing and cleaning. My hands are raisin-like and swollen from being in water all day. I don't know that I'll ever smell of anything but bleach. I'm tired, I'm crabby, and I keep forgetting to eat and drink. Bah!

The only thing I'm thankful for is that I was smart enough on Sunday to make chili. I put the crockpot on in the morning and we've had dinner this week. Which is nice, considering I'm not home before 8....

Before law school I never used a crockpot. I have vague memories of crockpot stew from when I was younger, but I can't guarantee that wasn't something I saw on television. We weren't a crock pot family (although we had two... one of which I stole when I went off to law school). Once I started pulling law school hours however, the crockpot became my closest friend. Chicken, pot roast, soup, and of course - chili. This is a suuuuuper easy chili recipe (Diane can attest since she watched me make it) but it always turns out really well. I love it because I always have these ingredients on hand, so I know I can make it in a pinch. And for my friends watching their calories, please note there is NOTHING bad in this! It's even a turkey chili for goodness sakes!



Crockpot Turkey Chili
  • 1 lb ground turkey

  • 1 can kidney beans, drained

  • 1 can diced tomatoes and chilies, drained

  • 1 med. onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1 green pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 2 tbsp. chili powder

  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

  • 1/2 tsp. cumin

  • Salt and pepper to taste

1) In a large saucepan brown the turkey and drain off the fat.
2) Put all ingredients in crockpot.
3) Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's Meme time again!

This Meme is brought to you by the letter......
Okay, its actually not brought by a letter at all. Instead its brought to you by a feeling of guilt. See, I was tagged by Aline, and I didn't even know she had a blog! I'm a terrible person. Maybe that should be one of my facts. Since the last meme, the game has grown and now 8 facts are required. 8? I'm not even all that interesting a person!

"Apparently the way the game goes when you’re tagged I have to share 8 random facts about myself and then tag 8 other people to share 8 more other facts about themselves..."

1. I have lived in 5 different states. I was born in New York. When I was 2 we moved to Florida. When I was 5 we moved to Massachusetts. When I was 7 we moved to Pennsylvania. When I was 15 we moved to California where I currently reside. Once in 4th grade, when a teacher asked me why we moved so much I told her it was because my parents were wanted by the FBI.

2. I have a very prestigious, useless degree. When I tell people I graduated from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television they are always impressed. Except when I am looking for a job and then I am treated like I graduated from clown college.

3. I used to have pet rats. Every year at science fair time I would think of a project that required me to get a new pet. One year I decided to do a Skinner box with rats. We went to the pet store and asked for 2 male rats. We brought them home and my brother and I began hand taming them. About 2 weeks after we got them, I was attempting to run one through a maze and the rat was bleeding! I thought they must have been fighting so I went to return him to his cage so he could rest. That's when I saw all the rat babies in the corner (guess hand taming works). Turns out the pet store had given us two pregnant female rats instead of two male rats. We had 14 rats and they kept reproducing. Once we saw what the males looked like, we were especially confused because there is no way to mistake a female rat for a male rat.


4. I have a black belt in karate. My whole family started taking Tang Soo Do (a South Korean martial art) together. We studied for 6 years before getting our black belts. We made the local paper. I actually used to compete (and win) in tournaments.







5. I'm a tv star. Okay, not quite, but I did appear on the children's television show "Great Pretenders" when I was in high school. The show was hosted by Wild Orchid:

(anyone there look familiar? Why yes that IS Fergie!) and was a competition where groups were dressed up to look like rock stars, given choreography and lipsinc songs. Think of it as an early American Idol.

6. I have an irrational fear of cruise ships. I think I was on the Titanic in a past life. When I was in 6th grade as part of a creative writing project I wrote a story about a little girl who survived the sinking of the Titanic by assuming another little girl's identity (like Prince and the Pauper). I found the story years later and the details such as times and visual images are spot on. Creepy? Yup sir.

7. I have one sibling, a brother, and he's the funniest person I've ever met. We didn't always get along, but since we've gotten older we're very close. He's got all the good genes. He's smart, handsome, athletic, and artistic. Everyone who meets him either loves him or is supremely jealous of him.
















8. I was in a sorority in college. 3 of my closest friends were in the sorority with me. I think all of us have been blacklisted from the sorority for one reason or other. We were the "bad" class.







Okay, here are my eight tagees! Chelly, Jill, Erika, Bella, Sarah, Peabody, Jen, Tara. Go forth and conquer.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Grapety Goodness






It's summer. It's hot. It's the perfect time for salads! I decided to use the ingredients for this week's Platinum Challenge to create a great summer salad. Once again, the ingredients are grape, basil, black beans, avocado, and rice.


This salad uses grapes, basil, and rice. I used spinach as a base, because, well, spinach is the best for summer salads. The wild rice added the nutty flavor I love in a salad, and the grapes paired so well with blue cheese! Jon really liked the salad, he took one bite and told me how good it was. Yay for summer salads!




Supplementary, I've been waiting to make a cool drink ever since I saw Sarah's entry in the first Platinum Chef Challenge. She made a strawberry basil cocktail and I thought it was a brilliant idea. In case you haven't picked it up, I'm kinda obsessed with herbs in my drinks this summer (mint, sage, basil...) So I took the baton and headed off. Instead of strawberries I used grapes and basil, muddled together in the bottom of a glass. I topped this with some with some fresh squeezed lime juice, vodka, and 7-up, served over crushed ice. It was yummy!


Summer Spinach Salad
Dressing:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Salad:
1 3/4 cups water
2/3 cup uncooked wild rice
1Granny Smith apple, cut into 8 wedges
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups trimmed spinach
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

Directions:
Dressing:
1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a jar. Cover jar tightly, and shake vigorously; set aside.

Salad:
1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the wild rice; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until tender.

2. Combine apple wedges and 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice in a small bowl, and toss well. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add apple mixture. Cook for 6 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.

3. Combine cooked wild rice, spinach, chicken, grapes, and cheese in a large bowl. Add the dressing, and toss well. Top each serving with 4 apple wedges.

You can take the girl out of Mexico...

Seriously, every time the new Platinum Chef Challenge comes out I immediately think "hmmm that sounds like it would be great in "insert Mexican dish here". I'm not sure if its the California sun that has fried my brain, or if its the fact that I'm still dreaming of Puerto Vallarta. Or maybe I'm just not as creative as my second grade teacher would have be believe.

This week's ingredients: Rice, black beans, avocado, grapes, and basil just SCREAMED Mexican to me. Okay, maybe not the grapes and basil, but the rice, black beans and avocado? Why they can be used in practically every dish! Enchiladas, salads, fajitas, tacos, or burritos! We haven't had a burrito in so long, I thought it was about time. Jon's mom makes black bean enchiladas all the time, so I thought a black bean burrito would be a nice twist on that. I feel kinda cheater-y, because really, this is the easiest thing ever to make, but hey, you didn't make it, I did. So I'm the boss and it is officially my first entry into this week's Platinum Chef Challenge.

Black Bean Burritos
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup salsa
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 flour tortillas
2 tablespoons Trader Joe's spicy black bean dip
4 tablespoons shredded cheese (I like the 3 cheese Mexican blend)
1 peeled avocado, cut into 6 slices
4 cilantro sprigs
2 lime wedges

1. Spread 1 tablespoon bean dip over each tortilla

2. Top each tortilla with 1/4 cup rice

3. Combine salsa and black beans in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top each tortilla with 1/3 cup black bean mixture.

4. Add 2 tablespoons cheese.

5. Add 2 avocado slices

6. And 2 cilantro sprigs

7. Roll up. Serve with lime wedges.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's good to laugh sometimes

Today, I loaded up my car and headed to the LBC (Long Beach City for the uninitiated).
What did I load my car up with? Hot girls.
And why were we heading to Long Beach? To meet some more hot girls.

Cat, Diane, Jessica, and I headed up to Long Beach to meet up with some of our LA counterparts - girls who talk sassy, dress cool, love the same people we love, and dislike the same people we dislike. I will leave it to Wee-Mo to give you full details, since she spins a yarn like no other (seriously, does anyone else feel like this blog was taken over by the ghost of a 90 yr. old lady? Who says "sassy" and "spins a yarn"?).

I will tell you the part that WeeMo doesn't know about - the drive up. During which we had to make an emergency pit stop at a McDonalds because a certain person (who was dressed all in black) had to be sick. Have you ever asked a McDonald's employee for a large cup someone could throw up in? I have. Luckily my car was safe, and the trip was without consequence.

The brunch itself was phenomenal. I haven't laughed like that in a long time. Not since some reeeeeaaaalllly old Get Togethers we used to have, back before all the crazies came to town. It was sooo great to meet the LA girls, all of whom I always felt were the hipper, cooler counterparts to us OCers (I mean, they're like our city cousins!)

On the drive home Diane entertained us with stories from an online site she lurked on because it was so weird. Girls on the site talked about how they ate blankets and paper to stay thin. The laughing continued alllll the way home. Sometimes its nice just to have some girl time!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

It's a Boy!

The Knot fosters some very strange relationships. I have heard a rumor that it was not always this way, but my "class" of '06 brides all became very close. I think its because no one understands the stress of being a bride better than other brides. That, and misery loves company.

Now, its not really "strange" to have relationships with people over the internet...as long as it stays over the internet. What is strange is how these online relationships have spilled over into real life (In Real Life, or IRL if you will). Even after our weddings were over, many of us still kept in touch, involved in one another's life.

I met JP on the knot and was immediately inspired by her DIY (Do It Yourself) creativity. She was one of those girls. You know, the ones who did everything by hand perfectly. A little Martha Stewart. And she was impossibly sweet. When she announced she was pregnant, we couldn't have been happier. I think 50 people told her she was going to be an adorable pregnant person (just a side note - she is).

Today was JP's shower. She's having a boy. Mr. JP is going to be sooo thrilled. And the shower was a ton of fun too. There were three of us "online friends" there. (Well 2 1/2 since Jessica knew JP before The Knot). It's always fun to go to weddings and showers where you get to tell the other guests you met the bride/mom online. JP really is just the cutest pregnant person you ever saw. And she's 8 months along! Which according to the Orange County trend means the baby could come ANY SECOND!

Proof that great minds think alike, Sara and I both showed up in matching ensembles, and with matching gifts. But this is a word of warning to never invite us both to the same event.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hot and Spicy

My favorite Indian food of all times is Chicken Tikka Masala. It's a stable when I go out, and I've taken to stocking up on Trader Joe's Masala Simmer Sauce for when I need my fix at home.

But last night, I decided to embark on a cooking adventure. I decided I would make my Chicken Tikka Masala from scratch. Now, this is definitely not an easy feat. Especially when I'm not in my home kitchen (we're house sitting for the 'rents). I actually had to make a trip to our local store because the supermarket by my parents doesn't have garam masala, a necessary ingredient.

I got this recipe from Food and Wine, and aside from the exotic ingredients - it looked pretty easy. So I set to work. Jon helped by making some brown rice to serve with it since, sans rice cooker, I am the world's worst rice maker.

I kept getting more and more excited as I cooked - the fragrant aroma drifting through the kitchen. I was a little concerned about the color because it was so red, but as soon as I added the cream it became the gorgeous orange color we all know and love.

Just as the smell and look matched my expectations, so did the taste. It was exquisitely spicy. Amazingly tasty. Definitely as good as the restaurants and far surpassing the bottled stuff (which I am afraid I can never go back to again). I'm so glad I took the risk, because it was worth all the effort. I can't wait to eat the leftovers!



Chicken Tikka Masala (from Food and Wine)

Ingredients

MASALA MARINADE:
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and freshly ground pepper

CHICKEN:
2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup blanched whole almonds
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons pure chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
One 35-ounce can peeled tomatoes, finely chopped, juices reserved
Pinch of sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Preparation

1. MAKE THE MASALA MARINADE: In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper.

2. PREPARE THE CHICKEN: Using a sharp knife, make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat and refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat the broiler and position a rack about 8 inches from the heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade; scrape off as much of the marinade as possible. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and spread the pieces on a baking sheet. Broil the chicken, turning once or twice, until just cooked through and browned in spots, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut it into 2-inch pieces.

4. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool completely. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.

5. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chile powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Stir in the chicken; simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and serve.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mexico- Part 3














Canopy Tour

One of the reasons we chose to go to Puerto Vallarta was because of my friend Jessica's honeymoon pictures. And the "seal the deal" pictures involved her and her husband on a canopy tour - sailing between trees on cables. I did some research and decided on Los Veranos Canopy Tours because they had the most cables, the longest cables, and the highest cables. We took a shuttle to take us into the heart of the jungle. Unfortunately, because of the rain, there was a mudslide and the road was closed. No fear, we simply walked through the blockage and to the otherside where another shuttle was waiting for us. When we got to Los Veranos, they gave us a demonstration and harnessed us up. Jon and I were both a little scared, but I was the only one babbling. Once I got past the first couple of cables though, I kinda got into the swing of things and I was good to go. I soared over rivers and canyons - it was the coolest feeling. Even with 14 cables it was still over too fast. Jon's nerves started to show on the longest cable and he forgot the instructions to keep his knees pulled in. "Come look at your man" the guide told me. Jon was stuck in the middle of the cable, pulling himself by hand to the end. Poor baby. The guide gave him a lecture after. He managed to do okay after that, though the last cable was a race between the two of us and I won.







After the tour we had lunch beside the river. Then we went to the "animal room" where we got to feed a couple of monkeys and play with a boa constrictor. True jungle living. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

Yelapa
Originally, we had planned on doing a daytrip up to Sayulita so Jon could go surfing. But Jon had a surfing accident the week before we left and his back was in no condition for surfing. Instead, we planned a day in Yelapa - a fishing village only accessible by boat. We caught the water taxi there, and once there we hiked up to the waterfall. It was a great waterfall, thanks to the rain, and we enjoyed swimming in the pool at its base. We ate lunch on the rocks and then hiked through the village to the beach. The village is very small, but brightly colored houses dot the verdant landscape. When we finally made it out to the beach we understood why this has become such a hot spot. The green hills, turquoise waters, and white sands. We laid on the beach for a while before seeking shelter at one of the Palapa stands. We also met the pie lady and had an amazing piece of coconut pie. We were having such a good time, we almost missed the last water taxi home! Luckily we caught it just in time and took it back to Puerto Vallarta for a last walk on the Malecon.




We spent our entire last day laying beside the pool and recounting what a wonderful trip we had. Mexico is beautiful, the people are warm and friendly, and the trip was such a nice break. I definitely recommend Puerto Vallarta because it has something for everyone. Families, couples, and even groups. Maybe All-Inclusive means more than just food and drink!