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Remember my mini garden setting its roots into the breaker box outside of our apartment building? Out of the blue, Mister Dill has shot out into the skies like there’s no tomorrow, however with not many branches to spare for me. Which is OK. I will collects its seeds, plant some more and have a new generation of my own ORGANIC² herbs.

Just look at this tall, handsome gentleman. A bit too skinny for my liking. Don’t get distracted by its size though, as we all know size is just not that important. Pay close attention, as there’s more going on in this picture. Somebody wants to get frisky! I think it’s time we have the birds and the bees talk with my voluptuous young Lady Basil here. She’s clearly getting ready for her prom night!

Now, how will I ever find her the right Mister Bee in that deserted driveway behind our building, away from the jungle we live in, who knows how to drive a limousine? Maybe Mister Dill will jump in, the gentleman that he is, and offer his services as a chauffeur for the evening…?

My Marjoram decided to never grow up, my sweet Peter Pan Marjoram. I look at that miniature sad bush and wonder whether it’s real any more… I keep watering all Three Musketeers. The mother in me still hopes there’s still heartbeat in there, no matter how faint.

My baby Dill and Basil have been growing stubbornly and turning into teenagers with an attitude almost over night. Each day they stretch their limbs higher to the sun and grow in strength like sumo wrestlers in training.

The Marjoram, on the other hand, is as pathetic as it’s been. I may need to reach out to You Grow Girl for a professional advice on how to grow herbs in urban conditions. Or maybe, just maybe, the fact that my Marjoram is so dormant is directly related to the fact that I keep my “garden” on our building’s breaker box cabinet?

I can’t be blamed for being creative. Stop throwing mud balls at me! What else was I supposed to do, knowing all well that these guys live off of the sun and water for the most part, aside from loving to hang out in a pool of nutritious and funky moist dirt?

We live in a jungle, an urban jungle, and I mean it quite literally. Our building is planted in the middle of a tropical garden with hummingbirds gossiping all mornings, nutty squirrels fighting over nuts, and monkeys hanging out on the palm trees’ branches. We have coyotes, polar bears and sharks in there, too! You have no idea how much work Cosmo puts into keeping the madness under control. He may not look that, but he’s a lion at heart.

One thing we’re lacking the most is the sun. It just can’t break through the network of greenery above our heads. These are not the conditions to raise my herbs in. Hence, the breaker box on the southern wall by our garage, which is exposed to the sun for the better part of the day.

Gayla Trail, I need you, girl.

I haven’t so much as peeped about it as I was a nervous wreck when approaching the project. But I can no longer stay mute for there’s life sprouting right outside my window, and I am the reason for it. I wish I could say that it was my own seed that I planted, but somehow it resonates a bit odd. The seed, a whole bunch of them actually, were mine by act of monetary exchange, and no other. Should I go on? Oh, sure, I’ll get to the point then. I’ll cut to the chase and stomp firmly on the bottom line.

I have a garden. My very first and 102% my own.

It’s a mere planter of a garden really, but one must begin somewhere. And with me, it’s been a long time coming. Truth be told, for many months since the idea first sprouted in my head, there seemed to be sprouting other things right along. Those are called OBSTACLES (on my way to becoming a gardener) that I have actually planted myself, turned out.  And I only realized that when I found Gaila Trail’s book “GROW GREAT GRUB” and was instantly enlightened. When I first stumbled upon this crazy wonderful book, that nota bene sounds like it’s been written by my lost twin sister (that no one in my family knows of), I got all so excited about the possibility of growing my own herbs (and later hopefully veggies of all sorts as well) that right then and there I grabbed Jason by the crew-neck of his T-shirt and to the store I dragged him. There, we scooped around, found what we needed and left the place carrying a giant bag of dirt, a rectangular planter, a sachet of organic fertilizer, and seeds.

About a month or so later here we are. My children are pushing through the ground, and up to the sky they reach out their fledgling arms. My baby DILL, frolicking in the dirt, so strong, so green…

And if you look closely through its skinny branches, there is my other child also raising its head up, standing hight on its tip-toes, and opening its hungry and insatiate mouth for more sun… My fresh and already alluringly fragrant BASIL. Ah!

Joy fills my every cell and I’m bloated with pride when I glance at these two.

However, like in any family, there’s always one kid that goes against the protocol. The black sheep of the family, it’s ugly duckling, that really simply calls for attention and love. That’s what comes to mind when I look at my MARJORAM, still in a fetal position despite the fact its brother and sister are about to graduate kindergarten.

Am I a bad mother??? What have I done wrong? I water you every other day and keep you out in the sun, just like I was told you’d enjoy. I come and visit as often as possible, talk to you gently and read out loud at night. How else can I assist you, my sweet crippled child? Maybe it’s time for your own bedroom, with a twin bed and a small CD player on the corner shelf?

That’s what I think will happen this weekend. All my darlings will get replanted into their own little pots, with fresh dirt and another dose of the organic fertilizer. Say your prayers, everybody, for I am not giving up on my MARJORAM.

I’ll keep you posted!

I know. I know! It’s been too long. You must be thinking that since The Food Network has launched its daughter program, appropriately called The Cooking Channel, I must have gotten lost between the folds of my couch, sitting with my nose glued to the TV 24/7.

I wish! But somebody has got to pay her bills, plus Cosmo’s mani and pedi ain’t cheap. His favorite nail polish is Bulgarian Rose by the way. Don’t ask me where he got that from.

Less than two weeks ago I announced the start of my very own LUNCH DELIVERY SERVICES here, in Los Angeles. Guess what. It’s HAPPENING! I’ve been busy menu planning, then designing labels, then shopping for containers, then grocery shopping, then cooking, and delivering at last. Breathe in, breathe out.

I was also clear-minded enough to snap a few photos in all that chaos. Just imagine me with a chef’s knife in one hand chopping cucumbers, my toes holding tight a wooden spatula and stirring soup in the pot, while my jaws clenched on the camera and took some shots.

ONE MORE BITE Lunches (sides)

As a result of the madness, I was able to produce this CRUNCHY RED QUINOA SALAD with a Medley of Vegetables and BASIL VINAIGRETTE. Also, I made this refreshing FRUITS SALAD sprinkled with Orange Juice and MINT CHIFFONADE.

One of the meals on my Menu for this week is this delicious and healthy PAN-SEARED TUNA Over the Bed of SPINACH with Gorgonzola, Pecans and Cranberries, dressed with POMEGRANATE VINAIGRETTE.

Speaking of dressings, there’s nothing easier than making one. The most basic one is simply oil (olive) and acid (e.g. vinegar, acidic juice) in 3:1 ratio with a pinch of salt and pepper. You can get fancier than that just by adding a touch of a healthy sweetener (e.g. honey), maybe a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, or cucumber (as an emulsifier), whip it together, and just like that you have made yourself a perfectly wonderful vinaigrette.

Once you get the basics, then you’ll want to explore other flavor combinations and possibilities. One of my favorite dressings that I make for our meal ALL THE TIME is Basil Vinaigrette. To make it yourself, follow the steps described above and add a bunch of fresh basil leaves to your blender. WHIZZ. WHIZZ. Done.

ONE MORE BITE Vinaigrettes: Basil, Lemon, Pomegranate

Store-bought dressings are full of fat, sugar, and preservatives. Save yourself money and that unnecessary inch on your waist just by switching to home-made goods like the ones seen above. You’ll satisfy your palette. You’ll exercise your creative muscle. You’ll be healthier and closer to Nature with each bite. And it takes 2 minutes to make it, from scratch.

Go for it. Try this at home!

My balls are shrinking. Age, like cold water, morphs my GUTS into small and shivering little nuts.

I was an adventurous and stupidly brave kid who would climb trees and roofs of garages with my older brother’s friends, despite an ever-growing collection of bruises and boo-boos all over my limbs. I was the one whose back all the girly girls would use for shelter hiding from the boys who wanted to pinch their arms and pull their plaits when we were all in second grade. I was the one to stand up to a teacher when the whole class felt mistreated and no one would rise to speak for themselves. I was also the one to scratch my Russian teacher’s car (she was an old and grumpy Pole who taught Russian) with my house keys at the age of 11 when the woman called me a STINKY BUM in front of my entire class for not having memorized new vocabulary SHE HAD NEVER TOLD US TO!

No, I’m not so proud of the latter. At least now I’ll know what to teach my kids NOT to do, specifically. Scratching your Russian teacher’s car with your keys will lead to everlasting shame and will potentially ruin your only chance to enter your own house. At least until parents come home. I can always prevent this from happening by NOT enrolling my kid in Russian classes. Instead, let’s focus on mastering your mama’s native tongue my child  – Polish.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the FEAR. The fear that has emerged out of a thick fog as I entered my thirties. Flying has never made me feel like being on top of the world. There used to be a thrill associated with that activity, but frankly, when younger I would get excited just as much when riding a shopping cart across a super market. Ok, that still is a source of a massive glee. In order to fly, however, without breaking into a showering sweat I need a sedative.

Last weekend, when we were flying to San Francisco, one shot of Patron helped me loosen up enough to cheerfully enter the tunnel leading up to the plane. Right at the door of the machine there were standing two police officers and chatting with an older couple. Apparently they were escorting a passenger who got warped in a loop of time and was not sure where he was anymore. However, as I walked up to the group, all I heard was:

HE WAS IN TOKYO TWO DAYS AGO, THEN HE WAS ON TWO OTHER FLIGHTS SINCE AND NOW SUFFERES FROM INSOMNIA. HE HASN’T SLEPT IN THREE DAYS AND IS AWFULLY CONFUSED.

I looked at the police officer TERRIFIED and asked with crawling panic in my chest:

I HOPE YOU’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT OUR PILOT!

An explosive of laughter tore the air around and strangely enough that sound instantly comforted my shaken insides, a loud sigh escaped my wide-open mouth.

After a wonderful and unintentionally romantic weekend in Napa we found ourselves at the airport all over again. Our flight was delayed two hours due to the weather. The only way I knew how to keep my composure was to hit a bar next to our gate and sip on a perfectly chilled Blue Moon with a slice of an orange tucked on the rim of the glass, while I read through Michael Pollan’s food rules he had recently put into a book by the same title. Thirty-two ounces of the golden nectar later I was perfectly joyful and frankly could not stop laughing, for any reason and at anything. I was ready to board.

Before I knew it, Tuesday rolled in and we quietly dispersed back to our offices. Since lunch wasn’t provided at my work that day, as all the big shots (a.k.a. producers) were absent, I drove back home to let Cosmo out and had about fifteen minutes to feed myself. I opened the fridge and heard the wheels turning in my head. It only took seconds and I had the plan.

Two slices of bread with a thin layer of butter, a few slices of Fontina and a tomato went into a toaster oven. Two eggs were cracked, one after another, yolks separated, and then dropped gently onto a hot skilled greased with butter and olive oil. I seasoned the eggs with chili powder, sea salt, black pepper, and let them set. As soon as the bread was ready, I slid one SUNNY-SIDE-UP on top of each toast, garnished it with a fresh basil leaf and a few slices of fresh avocado. A handful of baby carrots completed that landscape art on my plate.

The bread with melted cheese and toasted tomato was embedded within the frames of the perfectly crunchy crust. I broke the egg yolk with the tip of my knife and let it ooze all over that open sandwich like a warm mist on my face during a facial treatment.

Oh, the delectable bliss.

Fifteen minutes on the dot. Prepared and consumed. Done. Haul my arse back to work.

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