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Friday, December 30, 2011


I know, I know, I've posted a lot about Bingley and Patton and they're blossoming bromance. But when moments like this happen, I have no choice but to bring it up all over again:

It makes me so happy, and oddly proud when I see moments like this. Not that I did anything necessarily, except own grown cats when we got Patton as a nine week old puppy. And Bingley was obviously predisposed to like dogs as a baby, since he was fostered in a home that was full of all kinds of critters.

But still. I'm proud. Mostly, I'm proud of Patton, for being sweet to a 1.5lb kitten when he tips the scales at 100lbs (and as a lover of big dogs, I'm strangely proud of his weight too). I think it shows off Patton's intelligence and sensitivity.

For, whether or not you like dogs, everyone should know that German shepherds are not just smart, highly trainable cop dogs that are scary as hell and can make you crap your pants if you're being chased by one (a line from my dear friend Charlotte). They're also insanely emotional, sensitive and loving. They want to be close to you, to fawn all over you, to stick their goddamn faces in your face, to put their slobbery snouts on your sheets to gaze adoringly at you first thing in the morning as you blearily peek out from under the covers. They want to follow you wherever you go. "Oh are you going over here now? Here by the toaster? Wait for me, let me just get my ball."

And as the picture above shows, they're also keenly perceptive of who is considered a family member. This kitten, this crazy ass kitten Bingley who doesn't seem to give a shit about stealing the bed from a 100lb dog (thusly making mama proud), is now a family member, and so Patton not only declines to eat him, but also licks him clean, horses around gently with him, and curls up with him on the sofa.

Now that's a good dog. Except for the whole being on the sofa business.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Words of Wisdom.

Some people might not recall Stuart Smalley, but he was a character on SNL many, many moons ago. And while his over the top self-affirmation skits were, well, over the top, there is some truth to his catch phrase above: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and doggone it, people like me!"

The other day I was struck, out of nowhere, by the blues. In the matter of an hour I went from tired but happy to tired, depressed, uncreative, unattractive and shabby.
What happened? I'm not sure. I am my own worst critic and harshest judge. I like holding myself to lofty standards and when I don't feel like I measure up, instead of focusing on bright spots or silver linings (sure the kitchen is dirty at night but the dinner was delicious or, sure you missed being there for Alex's dinner but you had to do your long-ass workout to prep for the triathlon), I just sink into a quagmire of guilt and regret over not managing to do everything on my to do list and to do it all perfectly with manicured nails and a fresh hairdo.

But I loathe that sort of self-pitying, self-criticizing bullshit. After a long evening of me moping around and feeling like crap about myself, I woke up the next day a new woman. Here I am, in a loving, supportive, passionate marriage, with a perfect little girl who lights up our lives. We have a roof over our head, are healthy, athletic and energetic, we eat well and live comfortably despite a budget. We have our family and friends around us and they are all incredibly kind, generous and supportive. We are actually incredibly happy.

So what the hell do I have to mope about? I am who I am and I love myself despite and including all my faults. I may forget the laundry in the washing machine all the time, and I may not have the latest fashion trends or a fresh mani/pedi. I may be too tired at the end of the night to put the dishes in the washer and turn it on, I might not make Alex's food from scratch and I might not want to walk the dog after a 90 minute workout and running errands after work.

But you know what? None of that matters. For every negative, there's a positive. I won't list them here because it would sound rather self-serving. The point of this post is not to pat myself on the back but to remind everyone out there not to get down on themselves.  So let's just sum it up with Stuart's rally: I'm smart enough, I'm good enough, and doggone it, people like me. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Do you see what I see?

No, not the unfolded laundry. No, not the sloppily-made bed. No, not the cheap nightstands. What.... what is that thing in there?

There, between the pillows...

Well hello there, kitty kitty (or "dee dee" as Alex would say):

I gotta admit, it looks like an awesome place to nap.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Split Pea Soup with Pork Tenderloin

Note: this recipe actually calls for ham hocks, and while I do include ham hocks in the first hour of cooking, this time instead of removing the meat (read: mostly fat) and adding it back to the pot to cook another 30 minutes, I removed the ham hocks after the first hour, cut up the pork tenderloin and added it to the pot. It was a lot tastier and a lot leaner, with loads more actual meat than rendered from the hocks. but I will say that the ham hocks by themselves make a very thrifty meal. We had half a pork tenderloin in the freezer so I took advantage of that little boon.

Split Pea Soup with Pork Tenderloin
serves 4 (or Todd and Jil)

3 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1 bag split peas
1 package meaty ham hocks (or a meaty ham bone)
1/4 tsp marjoram
1 bay leaf
Pepper, to taste
2 stalks celery, chopped
10 - 12 baby carrots, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
12 oz - 1lb pork tenderloin, diced

The players:

Put the first seven ingredients into your pot:

While that comes to a boil, chop up the next three ingredients.

Perfect timing! Now that it's boiling, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.

After about 40 minutes, I like to turn the ham hocks over. Your soup will look like this, at that stage:

At the one hour mark, remove your ham hocks. Now if you're skipping the tenderloin, this is when you wait for the hocks to cool a bit, then you cut the meat off and return it to the soup. However, this bowl was the end of the road for my ham hocks:

Add your veggies to the soup:

Now let's deal with the tenderloin. Men, you might want to... um... avert your eyes for the next two photos. First slice down the length of the pork:

Then dice it up:

Add the pork to the soup, stir it up, bring to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover once more and simmer for 30 minutes.

After a cocktail and a piping hot bath (in that order), this is what I was greeted with:

Perfection! This soup was just absolutely delicious and is ideal for cold winter nights. We each had a buttered piece of marble rye toast with it. Todd was raving about it and we both sneaked into the kitchen several times for more bites. I think there's probably only a single serving left, if that. We hoovered it!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve, Todd and I hosted an open house and then had a family dinner afterwards.

Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking either. But I have been planning, anticipating and dreaming of it for the past four months. And in a quick hot minute, it was all over, Todd and I were left dazed and alone wondering what the hell happened.

On account of it all, I got quite sick, we're all still exhausted, and in retaliation, I tore off all of our Christmas decorations and had Todd trash the tree this morning, only 24 hours after I staggered, sick and dehydrated, out of bed on Christmas morning to lay on the sofa and wonder what the hell happened.

The party was lovely. We saw tons of our friends, family and loved ones. I put out a great spread, on time like I had planned, every couple of hours. I cooked a good dinner of lamb, potatoes and green beans, an hour after schedule because I apparently forgot that I also have a child who needs to be bathed, read to and put to bed, but still, we all had a good time, Christmas was utterly celebrated.

But I did too much. I made Todd do too much. Alexandra fell ill the day before, I stupidly forged ahead and therefore she did too much as well. She's a great kiddo, and rallies when she's ill. But I didn't anticipate her hanging off me while I tried to put food out, shrieking "mama! mama! mama!" as I tried to flip bacon, pull out phyllo pockets, check the temperature of the lamb (using two temperature gauges, one of which would tell me 70 degrees, the other telling me 385).

Here's how I hope it went:

Here's how it felt:

Anyways, I would like to have posted about my fabulous phyllo treats (another time) or simply how marvelous everything was, but I thought I would take the humble road and be honest. When you host a holiday event it's hard, sweaty and goes by far faster than the host/ess would like. But to try two events is just fool hardy, and now I know better.

Next year it's fast food burritos and a box of wine.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Salmon with Zucchini Scales (plus two Asian-inspired sides)

Ok, so there's this idea I once had. I wanted to basically re-scale salmon with veggies, and naturally zucchini came to mind. So I gave it a whirl, screwed it up the first couple of times, then perfected it into the dish you will be reading about tonight. And might I add, I made a great side dish that we're going to talk about too.

Salmon with Zucchini Scales with Rice
serves 2

1 12-16oz salmon fillet
Sesame oil, a drizzle here, a drizzle there
Sriracha, to taste
1 zucchini, sliced thinly
Garlic powder
Chili powder
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/8 cup sesame seeds

Ok, so I use a mandolin to slice the zucchini, and here's about how thin they should be. Actually, if memory serves correctly, they could stand to be even a sliver thinner. If that makes sense? Maybe thinner sliver? Sliver thinner, THINNER SLIVER! Now I'm just confused.

Anyways, here's what I did:

And apparently I didn't wash my hand first, and didn't give a crap that there was a small SLIVER of zucchini.

Ok, so now, drizzle some sesame oil on your salmon fillet, put a few sprinkles of sriracha and use a basting brush to spread over the entire fillet. Then tile the zucchini on top of it. Like so:

Now, drizzle a bit more sesame oil on top:

Then, sprinkle with the garlic and chili powder, which is essentially sriracha in dried form but who cares, I'm kind of into the overkill these days. Carefully dab a basting brush (plastic if you have it) to spread the oil all over. It will look something like this:

Now pop that puppy in the oven, set to 375, for about 25, 30 minutes. In the meantime, start cooking your rice and then....

Asian-style Veggies
Serves 2

1/2 bag of bean sprouts
10 baby carrots, quartered lengthwise
1/3 - 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, SLIVERED
1 yellow squash, sliced and diced
Sesame oil

Put the veggies in a bowl, toss with some sesame oil and put in a skillet on medium high. If you don't like your veggies to have a bite to them, then saute the carrot SLIVERS first, then add the other veggies. And if you don't believe me about the sun dried tomatoes, then let go and dive into the foggy realm of faith, because damn, it's good. Anyways, cook your veg:

Now for the rice. Once your rice is cooked, grab your sesame seeds. Here's what I use:

Dump it in!

Now, lets put these three delicious delights together. First, remove your salmon:

I know it seems scary but just go for glory and cut that bad boy in half. It isn't even that hard! Look, few of the zucchini scales, if any, are super screwed up:

Now plate it up!

I have to be honest here, Todd and I were probably more blown away by the veggie mix than anything else. I've made this salmon dish dozens of times, but have never done this veggie combo. Add a sprinkle or two of sriracha and you've got a spicy little trio! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

These Boots Are Made For Walking, Part 3

This past weekend we went up to Mt. Lemmon with some dear friends to stay in an awesome cabin for two nights. For those who don't live in Tucson, Mt. Lemmon is our respite and relief from the heat, from the traffic and noise and teenyboppers (hey, I turned 32 on Sunday, I can say teenyboppers now).

At over 8,000 feet, it's also where we desert dwellers get to play in the snow after just an hour long drive. That's precisely why we went up there this go round. Well, to play in the snow, yes, but also to eat and drink a lot in an adorable cabin and maybe, just maybe, play charades and have a dance party. But you didn't hear that from me.

Anyways, I don't have a single solitary photograph from the adventure because I was too busy acting out "Gettysburg" or dancing like a psychotic homeless person to Britney Spears, or floundering around in two feet of snow while trying to position myself in an old kiddy pool so I could sled down a non-existent hill.

Then there was the busy feat of having eight people adapt to only one bathroom or Alexandra discovering the thrill and the peril of going up and down long flights of stairs. And then Love Actually or Muppet Christmas Carol or Princess Bride were inevitably playing at one point or another and also on Saturday the champagne started flowing at noon.

Where was I? Oh, right! No photographs. But I do have something to share which is supported by photographic evidence. See, the day before we left for the trip my mommy-freak-out mode was activated in Target by some suspiciously adorable winter clothes and boots. "I can't let my baby freeze! What kind of mother am I? Who cares if these boots are $22.99 and will not fit her next winter? Oh my God, are you serious, I can get leggings AND a velour hoodie for $10?!?!"

Nevermind that she went outside perhaps three times, two of which were only for thirty seconds as we stood on the balcony, and the other time was to walk to the little mountain village of Summerhaven, which lasted 20 minutes, 12 of which she screamed her head off. I still felt good about those purchases. Especially the boots!

They go up halfway to her knee, are brown leather with cute little flowers on the outer sides. They zip up on the inner side and fit her wonderfully. They're a size up so at least she'll be wearing them a bit longer than her regular size fives. And apparently Alexandra loved them as much as I do, because Sunday night, back at our house, after passing out cold against my body as we watched the news, she found the boots. She put them on herself, correct feet and all, and then she zipped them up herself. I was on the phone with my father and started shrieking in delight and either I hung up out of excitement or he hung up out of fear of sudden deafness.

My baby girl had put her new, still-stiff boots on ALL BY HERSELF!

The proooooof!

They're zipped! Halfway only,but still, ZIPPED!!!

Oh my God look at all that dog hair illuminated by the flash. Just so you know I do vacuum weekly on Wednesdays and since it's Sunday in this picture, and since it's been so rainy and cold and miserable and the dog's been cooped up... Oh whatever.

My baby put boots on all by herself!!!

"I sure did mama. Now let's see if I can turn on the oven, open the front door, throw your phone down the toilet and buy stuff online!"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Super, Simple, Scrumptious.

Last week I was sick and tired of eating at 9pm so I figured I'd do something super simple. And I did! It was delicious and so I want to share it with you.

Tex Mex Casserole
serves 4-6

1 cup cooked Basmati rice
1 can corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1lb uncooked chicken, diced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup milk
chili powder to taste
garlic powder to taste
cumin to taste
2 - 3 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
8oz shredded cheddar (::evil laugh::)

Set oven to 375. Add the first four ingredients to a casserole dish and stir to mix it up evenly. Set aside. 
In a small saucepan, melt your butter and once it's turned to liquid gold, whisk in flour. 
Once it's made a paste, add your chicken broth, stirring to mix the roux with the broth. Add your spice trio. 
Cook until thickened and bubbly and then add milk. 
Pour the sauce evenly over the stuff in the casserole dish.  Stir to saturate. 
Top with the tomatoes and cilantro and then, with that deep, dark sin, 880 calories worth of shredded cheddar. 

Pop in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes.


Thursday, December 15, 2011


What's better than a sweet, warm little kitty, all curled up on your chest while you lounge on the sofa?

Ok, well...

What's better than your only child, snuggled up and lying on you, slurping some milk occasionally as the two of you watch Wheel of Fortune together, bonding over a mutual love and respect for the written word, while she occasionally repeats the letters called out?

Ahh, yes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Super Side #2

Oooh, such a cliff hanger from yesterday! And now, two food posts in a row!

I know! Ok. So in order to get to the end of the green bean dish, we gotta get cracking on our delicious oven roasted potatoes. 

The same great thing about the green beans is also true for these potatoes: the first part can be done in advance. Indeed, I parboiled both tuber and bean one after the other, refrigerated them both and then completed the cooking processes that evening. Anyways, I'm talking too much.

Oven Roasted Potatoes
serves 2

3 small russet potatoes (the recipe usually calls for red skinned potatoes, but this is a recession-proof side dish)
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
fresh rosemary (optional)

Dude, do you see how few ingredients you need for this epicness? Good, I'm glad. Because I took a lot of pictures of the steps and I'm in the mood to share.

Put water on to boil. Take your potatoes and wash them.

Peel those bitches! And, if you're like me, after you peel them you will either be sad that you neither own chickens to feel the scraps to, or the recipe for a potato peel pie:

Now you're going to halve the potatoes lengthwise, but do it down the skinny side, not the fat side. Observe, this is the bad side:

You want this side:

I know, it's subtle, but it makes a difference. So now we have our lovely halved potatoes:

Do you hear the subtle change in you heated water? That's because it's boiling! Yay! Slip the potatoes in along the side of the pot, to avoid painful splashing.

Now give it about seven to ten minutes depending on how big your potatoes are. I used small ones, so I give it seven minutes. Remember too, there will always be smaller, skinnier, shorter halves of the tubers so it's best to have the fatter ones be slightly underdone, than have the runts be absolute mush.

 Anyways, test the taters by pushing in a tooth pick. It sounds snotty and pretentious, but honestly, you'll know when it's just right. A little bit of resistance, but mostly a gently give when you push it in:

See the bits of mushy potato on the bottom of that spoon above? We're flirting with disaster here. Bring on the ice bath!

I'll admit it, I was horsing around, waiting for these damn potatoes to cook, so I stuck a small amount of ice water into the freezer. What you are looking at up there, is completely frozen. I put some more warm water in there, but the heat from potatoes was enough to thaw it. Long story short, don't be an asshole and freeze a small amount of ice water. It wastes time. Moving on: it's ice time.

Once the potatoes have zero warmth in their centers when you press them between your fingers, remove them from the ice, pat them dry on a clean dish towel and, if you're doing this in advance, stack them between layers of paper towel and put them in the fridge:

And cover them up, pop them in the fridge, and take a disco nap:

But if you want to cook them right away, set the oven to 375 and, after you pat them dry, take a foil-lined, and greased pyrex, and arrange the potatoes, like so:

After 30 minutes, take potatoes out. They'll look like this. Don't worry, they won't be browned yet:

Give them a flip, and you'll see something like this:

Put them back in for another 30 minutes. When you take them out the second time, they'll look like this

Delicious and roasted to perfection. Flip them over to see the tops:

Oooh, gorgeous! Now here's where the green beans come back in to play. I said these two are perfect sides and they are even more perfect when they're side by side:

Another perfect thing is serving them with steak au poivre:

I hope you have an opportunity to enjoy these sides for the holidays or if not, sometime soon! Bon appetit!