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As if I wasn’t busy enough already, I decided I needed more obligations and things to do. And so I became… an examiner. For those of you who’ve just woken up from your winter hibernation, or landed from another planet, or for whatever other unfathomable reason never heard of WWW.EXAMINER.COM, here it is. Take a look, make yourself at home, suck on your your welcome candy, and try on the house slippers, as I hope you will come back often. It’s more than just a website. It’s a golden well of information of all kinds, your reference guide, “to go” web address whether you’re into cooking, gardening, scrap-booking, eating out, yoga, celebrity stalking or even if you’re on the market for a new pet. (Note to self: search the examiner.com for info on pet rescue, which has been on my mind for a while now!) In other words examiner.com is your modern day Delphi sans the trans and constant high.

I must admit, my ego was pleasantly tickled when I finally saw my own page on examiner.com this morning. Also, WHAT-HAVE-I-DONE? question dipped in fear torpedoed across my skull. How will I find the time to feed my blog AND a column on examiner.com three to four times a week each? I guess I’ll figure the dirty details out later. I like this too much.

You may consider this cheating, but to my excuse I have some writing to do, then lots of cooking, more cooking, then research and planning, and designing, and then some cooking again, and writing to do later. Hence, I’ll just give you a link to my virgin article on examiner.com with a brand new recipe for delicious summer treat of HONEY-DEW MELON SOUP WITH MASCARPONE.

The very first time I had this chilled soup, I was in heaven. However, upon the second taste it seemed a tad too creamy and rich for my liking. Hence, I tweaked the original recipe, forgone all the cream involved, and substituted it with light coconut milk and non-fat greek yogurt.

I made the amalgam for one of the monthly gatherings of my fellow Los Angeles Food Bloggers, described by Lynne on the pages of her blog (www.CookAndBeMerry.com) back in July. She’s also the author of the below photo, and trust me it does not give justice to her photographic talent you’ll see on her website.

HONEY-DEW MELON SOUP (Photo by Lynne Hemer)

Having said all that, I invite you to check out examiner.com. Show me the love by visiting my page as often as you want/can, by leaving comments and then sharing the link with other peeps through your Twitter/Facebook/StumbleUpon pages, or what-have-you. I will grately appreciate such affection and will reciprocate with more hopefully useful tips and yummy ideas.

And know, it’s not about the money. The examiner.com people do compensate their writers… in pennies. Really. For me it’s all about sharing the joy of finding and cooking with fresh ingredients, whether you live in Hollywood (Hi, neighbor!), or other parts of the U.S. It’s about encouraging one another in our efforts to create a better and healthier way of living for ourselves and our families. It’s about outsmarting the system and giving our hard earned dollars to the local farmers, or farmers period, rather than the mass producers of food-like products with unpronounceable ingredients. Maybe they’ll finally hear our demand, thus improve the quality of the food they put on the market, and the food recalls we hear about every week will become just sad history. Are you with me on that?

Somewhere in between concocting hearty and soulful soups…

WILD MUSHROOM SOUP

baking HERBED POTATO CHIPS with a side of Green Peas Dip…

HERBED POTATO CHIPS

serving LUNCHES to starved for quality home-made food Los Angelenos…

TRICOLOR VEG & CHICKEN DISH

and stalking nearly extinct HORNED FROGS in the woods…

HORNED FROG

my silly food-ish blog ONE MORE BITE celebrated it’s FIRST ANNIVERSARY (July 21st).

I’ve been having so much fun writing all this up to day. Now I’m looking forward to more candles on your B-DAY CAKE each year to come.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY SWEET AND DELICIOUS “ONE MORE BITE”!

Hello, have we met? I’m Agi, or better Agnieszka, also known as

A RTISTIC

G RATEFUL

N ATURAL

I RRESISTIBLE

E ARTHQUAKE-FREE

S TIMULATING

Z ESTFUL

K ICK-ASS

A GELESS

This newfound and boosted self-esteem is a result of doing a few simple exercises with my wonderful and so inspiring circle of women-friends. As the New Moon arrived, Missy gathered us in her cozy abode and guided us as we set our intentions for 2010. Camilla got the energy moving with the above-mentioned fun practice. Writing those down really got me all excited about the POWER OF ME, and only then was I able to write down

MY TOP 10 TRIUMPHS OF 2009:

1.   I ended my slavery to various employers, which brought on the whole theme of reinventing of self along with so-longed-for sense of freedom.

2.   We found and created with Jason our first home together. It’s beautiful, cozy and really does feel like home, at last.

3.   Living together only strengthened and enriched our relationship.

4.   I unleashed my creative “monster”, as I truly believe that nothing can stop me now from creating whatever I want in my life. I do have a shit load of confidence in myself all of a sudden. Yee-haw!

5.   I created “One More Bite” – the blog you’re reading, which was a pretty kick-ass idea and quite a bold move considering the commitment. I love it!

6.   I mastered my culinary skills, which is and forever will be a work in progress as it’s nothing like riding a bike, kid yourself not.

7.   Hey, I became a PERSONAL CHEF! Hello! Give yourself the gift of being served a homemade, delicious and organic meal that will make your hair shine and a bod so fine – send me an email through facebook or twitter.

8.   I chopped off my hair, thus marking the end of my healing process from various pains of my 20s (that manifested with miserable eating disorders and such, now just a vague and sad memory) and embracing my commitment to living in balance with nature and loving myself for I rock my world!

9.   I built many new and wonderful friendships, and boosted the existing ones, which is HUGE considering my ALIEN status with a green card. My kinfolks, for the most part, are all on the other side of the BIG POND, a.k.a. Atlantic. Hence, my friends are my immediate family over here.

10.  I felt GREAT for the most part of 2009. Let’s see: 365 days – 12 days (PMS) = 353 days of pure, nauseating, daring HAPPINESS.

Yup, it was a good year. Now you go. Stop whatever it is you’re doing, put that doughnut down, stop reading nonsense on the Internet, don’t scratch yourself there!, leave the dishes for later, stop worrying about the bills for a moment, ignore your meowing companion (whoever it is) and take a 10 minute break to write down, hence see with your bare eyes, how successful your 2009 was, how powerful being you are, and feel the energy flowing through your temple of a body.

Done? Feeling MIGHTY? Purrfect. Now take that elevated spirit and translate it into a hearty and comforting meal you deserve right now. Here’s an idea – SPANISH RICE a’la Agi that will punch you in the face with its rich and robust flavor.

Here I used this fancy-shmancy blend of rice grains mixed with black barley that added to the drama of the final look of my dish.

You can use leftover rice that you don’t know what to do with. Or just as well get yourself a pot full of brown rice, or any other unbleached, husk-on variety, and plan on feeding your lovely self and all your neighbors for weeks to come. I don’t care. All I want from you is a batch of cooked rice that you will now flavor to your liking.

Let’s begin with infusing olive oil with yummy flavors. Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan; drop in a handful of peeled and crashed garlic cloves, one or two branches of fresh thyme, and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Keep the pan over low heat thus letting everyone get comfy in the warmth of the oil for about 2 minutes.

Next, remove the herb and smash the garlic with a fork, enforcing it even deeper into the oil. Now, instantly add the rice (about 3 cups of cooked grain) and stir and fold it to ensure everything gets coated evenly with your flavored olive oil. Open a small can of tomato paste and empty it into the pan. Season it with a touch of kosher salt and one tablespoon of dry paprika. If you’re going for that smashing HIT in your mouth, feel free to add cayenne pepper as well. Once again, shuffle the rice and spread the paste all over it. When the mass is of a coherent color, spread it evenly over the surface of the pan and let it sit there over low heat for about 10 minutes, until the bottom gets a little crispy.

In the end, add a touch of Mother Nature in the form of fresh parlsey and/or dill, roughly chopped and sprinkled like snowflakes over the tip of Mount Everest.

I love my SPANISH RICE on its own, however for Jason I stir-fry a few chicken tenders that later tend to his six-pack, biceps, and those delicious cheek muscles (my favorite cut).

Working from home turned me into a Neanderthal woman.

Now, what does working from home entail? The fact whether you get paid for it or not is an irrelevant technicality. Remember that money never defines you. My new trade consists of whipping out versatile dinners for at least 5 nights a week, tossing loads of dirty clothes through the laundry machine (most of it Jason’s since, you know, the Neanderthal factor), vacuuming the three area rugs spread across our apartment twice a day of all the nasty little wooden shells that have been falling off the trees surrounding our apartment and consequently dragging themselves inside our chamber of love underneath ours shoes for the last MONTH. Gasp for air. Other activities of a house worker involve watching Oprah and Food Network, Skyping with Mother, Cousin, and our handsome gay neighbors, scrubbing the bathroom floor with a toothbrush (oops, nope, that’s Jason), and writing.

Anyone who’s ever tried as much as to write a letter understands that the task is unlike riding a bicycle – once you’ve written something good it doesn’t mean you’ll now produce quality pieces with ease happily ever after. And it never gets easier. True, there are days I shoot out articles in no time, as if I dissolved 3 tablespoons of verbal Metamucil in a glass of aloe vera juice with a heavy drop of senna extract and washed it down my throat. However, quite commonly I just sit in front of my laptop and glance at its blank screen with such intensity I make myself run to the bathroom even without drinking the above-described concoction. That helps putting down the first paragraph on the page. Then nothing, nothing for a long time, and a little more nothing before the next paragraph sees daylight. Sometimes I find myself walking Cosmo, washing dishes, and knitting a sweater between single sentences. So when people (women especially) tell me “Don’t talk to me about pain till you give birth”, I scorn the challenger with the ole good “Been there. Done that. Three times a week, at least.”

Yes, art requires sacrifices. First went the manicure and pedicure. Next, I killed make up. I take that back. I never leave the house without a few touches a concealer on my skin and brushing my eyebrows. The latter is especially crucial if I want to avoid causing any traffic accidents when women faint and children scream terrified by my sight, while old people gawk at me thinking “I thought I had seen it all…” It also takes an effort to ensure I have a fresh shirt on my back every morning. I suspect I could save money on heating the apartment if I finally got the nerve to burn all my bras. My boobs haven’t seen one in months, because, why bother? There are days I forget to shower. It’s gotten so bad in fact that lately I started having nightmares where my various …uhm… [I’m whispering that one] hairy parts are being exposed in public.

Irrefutably, crazy love and pure exhaustion keep my boyfriend from running away, maybe even blinded. When he comes home and hands me “You look beautiful. I love you” like a bouquet of flowers, I instantly look behind me expecting to see Eva Mendes stretching her baby-oiled body against the wall and sporting the Calvin Klein underwear. Is he really talking to me?

Such an image inevitably brings forth fear and motivation. For instance, I have already showered three times today, filed my nails, put on some make up even though the only things we had planned for the day was a quick trip to a coffee shop and a walk with our dog around the block. I applied all sorts of grooming, which I shall NOT describe. My efforts paid off faster than I thought when Jason and I walked by a Victoria’s Secret’s store and left with three new pairs of lace unmentionables.

All that pampering made me feel like a woman again, the modern variety with manicured hands, waxed unthinkable places, and trying to fit in clothes two sizes too small.  As such, I couldn’t fathom feeding my body with anything more than a simple salad.

MÂCHE WITH AVOCADO AND MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

The name of the salad pretty much says it all. If you’re not familiar, mâche is also known as cow grass. Its leaves are very delicate and it is mild in taste.

Empty a bag of mâche into a large bowl; dice a ripe avocado and spoon it out on top of the greens. Feel free to add chopped scallions and diced tomato if you crave some color. It will all go swimmingly together. Now drizzle your salad with the dressing (recipe below). Gently toss everything around, and voila! Enjoy the treat and feel healthy, light, and beautiful. Size does not matter …in this case.

MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

-       3 parts of good quality extra virgin olive oil

-       1 part of white balsamic vinegar

-       1 tsp of Dijon mustard

-       1 tbsp of honey

-       sea salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk it in a small bowl, or shake it up in a closed jar, or best – mix it together in a blender (or Magic Bullet) until the vinaigrette is evenly emulsified. It’s that simple. And so delightful!

Smacznego!

Sometimes a craving hits me in between meals, and I am not one to ignore that angry stomping and loud cussing in my tummy. I swear, sometimes I’m convinced that inside there must live one vicious little Belly Brat who jabs tiny spoons into the membrane of my stomach screaming at the top of his lungs: “FEED ME! FEED ME! FEED ME!”

Just like NOW.

What is Agi to do? I can’t focus on a single thought. I stare at a computer screen, but in fact, with my mind’s eye I’m scanning the inside of our refrigerator. On the top shelf rests an almost empty jug of Aloe Vera Juice (Jason puffs at me: “You don’t love me!” every time I hand him a glass with a 4 oz shot of the swill. “Yeah, I know baby, it’s pretty nasty, but SO GOOD for you!”). On it’s right, the last drops of almond milk in a carton box. One floor below, I see a bowl of raw chicken that’s been leisurely marinating itself for tonight’s dinner. Right beneath the chick rests a large container with a green lid – those are my herbs. Three lazy lemons keep them company. I pull the door wide open and on its inside shelves I find two eggs and jars full of all kinds of things: pickles, low fat mayo, Dijon mustard, capers, sun dried tomatoes, sesame oil, flax seed oil, and almond butter. Downtown, the veggie compartment is almost empty, and there are certainly no baby carrots to be found to save my life.

The fridge is sadly vacant and void of any possible snack-worthy objects, which reminds me that it’s time for grocery shopping. What do you know? It’s Friday. The Belly Brat, on the other hand, doesn’t give three flying mosquitoes what day of the week it is, and keeps yapping and moshing about at the bottom of my esophagus as if he was rocking out at a Metallica concert. I’ve had it! At this point I’m desperate to find something, ANYTHING, so I can shove it into his little brash mouth so he shuts up and keeps quiet! …at least till dinner-time, so I CAN FINALLY WRITE!

Wait. Did I say ALMOND BUTTER? Instantly, a bright, energy-saving eco bulb lights inside my skull: FOOD. I unplug my head from the refrigerator’s chamber, crane my neck around, and… realize in wonder that it’s been 20 minutes and I’m still sitting at my desk staring bluntly at the tabula rasa hoping to become my next article for the blog. Wow. …

… What was I saying? Oh, yes, the Almond Butter. FOOD! Please, god, make sure we have at least one green apple on the counter, because desperate or not, I am NOT going to patch my mouth-hole with spoonfuls of a NUT PASTE. Ain’t happening.

I cut corners hustling to the kitchen, air whistling in my ears, and arrive at the fruit bowl, a pearl of sweat sliding down my chin. Alleluia! On the platter there are three Granny Smith apples. One is most likely inedible – judging from the wrinkles, grey hair, and a hump. The other two look perfectly perky, firm and juicy – not unlike the sensual orbs flitting about within the mind of any healthy 16-year old boy or the day dreams of a woman after having breastfed three babies.

With no further ado, I proceed to core one of the apples and cut it into wedges. I catch myself squeaking in excitement. Impatiently, I place the pieces on a flat plate around a small bowl filled with my Almond Butter “dip”. With the first bite I can hear – loud and clear – church’s bells ring!

Green Apples with Almond Butter

I feel I should amend my Spaghetti Marinara story to paint a complete picture. I’m warning you, however, it may slightly affect your viewpoint and perspective of the event. And most importantly, I HOPE you’ll revise a possible judgment you may have formed about yours truly.

Do you remember the giant plate with the enormous amount of pasta on it, all drowned in Marinara Sauce, topped with rolling stones of veggie balls? Remember how I then placed it all in my mouth, bite by bite, to finally have it disappear entirely into my cow’s stomach? And what did you think just then, ha? Now, let me explain one thing – the act of devouring the monstrous serving of Spaghetti Marinara was directly preceded by an intense 2-hour training session at the gym under the strict supervision of my no-bullshit-when-it-comes-down-to-working-out boyfriend. I was STARVING!

Spaghetti Marinara 2

To further plead for your sympathy, I will now attempt to bribe you with the recipe for the infamous Marinara Sauce.

MARINARA SAUCE with AGI’s TWIST

First, arrange for the following:

- half of a large onion

- 3 cloves of garlic

- 1 tbsp of good olive oil

- 30 oz can of crushed tomatoes, or tomato sauce

- 1/2 cup of red wine (the kind you would drink, a good one) or low sodium chicken stock

- 1/3 cup of Mascarpone (not mandatory)

- bay leaf

- 1 tbsp of dry oregano

- 1 tsp of red paprika powder

- 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg

- kosher salt + fresh ground pepper to taste

- fresh flat leaf parsley & basil, 1/4 of a cup of each

Heat the oil in a large and deep skillet. Throw in chopped onions, sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper, and sauté for about 5-7 minutes over medium-low heat. Add minced garlic, stir and cook for another minute or two. Now pour in the wine (or chicken stock, what have you) and continue cooking over medium-low heat, until it reduces a little. Next, empty the can of tomatoes into the skillet, then add oregano, paprika, nutmeg and more salt and black pepper. If you want it extra creamy, now is the time for the Mascarpone. Mix it all well using a wooden spoon, let the cheese melt and incorporate into the sauce. Cook for about 3 more minutes and add freshly chopped parsley and julienned basil. Stir once again, taste, ad more salt and pepper if needed, and turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaf – it is NOT edible.

Your sauce is DONE. It should be of a beautiful, deeply red color (or pinkish if you went the cheesy route). You’ll smell all the spices, and the fresh basil will give your dish a whole new dimension.

Happy cooking!

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