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This morning, it wasn’t even 6 yet, I woke up to a strange screeching noise outside our window. At first I thought the stray cats that live around the building are in the middle of another turf war, since it’s a little early for their mating season. A series of whimpers got me confused. Are these quarreling squirrels? Before the sunrise?? They seem too loud and too persistent, unless… they sense an earthquake coming!! That got me out of bed, and with my eyes resenting to open I felt my way to the bathroom.

That’s when Jason’s alarm clock went off and I couldn’t believe it was already 6 AM. I had just fallen asleep, I thought, while those shameless critters are trying to take it away from me. I immediately exchanged notes with Jason on what he thought was making the noise.

“IT’S EITHER SQUIRRELS OR BIRDS. NOT CATS. THEY’RE EITHER FIGHTING OF FUCKING.”

Huh. Birds? How do birds fuck, I wondered, and decided I wasn’t ready to think just yet. Back under the covers I dove, two pillows over my head, and boy, did I try hard to ignore the whinnying and purring that continued outside.

Around 7 o’clock Jason crawled over the bed to kiss me good-bye as he was heading out to work.

Yes, making a hit show that “The Good Wife” is requires both the creative talents of the writers as well as hard work and personal sacrifices of the production and post production team. Jason, being the head of the latter, carries an incredible load of responsibility on his shoulders. And he does not take it lightly.

He headed towards the door, and silence followed. I waited for a few seconds for the sounds of the closing doors behind him. Instead, I heard him tip toe back to the bedroom and whisper:

“BABY, COME. QUICK! SHHH…”

“CAN YOU SEE THEM?” I instantly was on board to find out what was messing with my sleep at this ungodly hour.

“OH, YEAH!”

“ARE THOSE SQUIRRELS?” I breathed out as we approached the wide open door facing our backyard. My eyes scanned the ground, and saw nothing out of ordinary.

“LOOK UP” Jason pointed at the little roof above our neighbor’s Rachel’s front door across the yard from us.

Freezing my half naked self, I glanced in the direction given and was instantly awaken by the view that opened in front of my eyes…

After my initial stupefaction, I collected myself and ran for the camera. The raccoons were fully at it with surprising stamina after about two hours of continuous shagging. They considered us for a moment without losing a beat and went back to their task at hand clearly not impressed by their new audience.

The power of marketing, I thought! When Hallmark announces February The Month of Love, even raccoons comply.

I planned on posting a new recipe today, but suddenly found myself in a pickle. How do I segue from the furry bandits’ forbidden urban loving to my… FORBIDDEN RICE SALAD?  The common ground could be the fact that both myself and the fellow raccoon is an omnivore, and we both find immense pleasure in munching on either berries and greens, or a succulent thigh of a smaller animal, for example.

One of my ever strong guilty pleasures are hearty salads that are obvious for lunch, and brilliant for dinner in the place of heavy meals weighing one down before bed time. Any grain will work here. From quinoa to barley to wheat berries to rice, the sky is the limit. Whether you add greens to the grain, or grain to the greens is up to you. Clearly, the more rice, the more carbs in your plate, but if you’re an active, high-energy creature, you may want to refuel appropriately. We’re all different.

Once in a while I create new dishes from leftovers in my refrigerator. Since, I’ve had a container of cooked wheat berries in my ice-box over the last few days, that’s what I’ve been using in my salads this week. Another time, I pulled out a box of leftover forbidden rice and pondered how to utilize the goods. There was a ripe avocado smiling at me from the counter. Mr. Tomato was no less charming. Skinny cucumber was bored out of its mind in the produce drawer, and spinach threatened to wilt on the spot if not occupied at this instance.

There was no reason to fight, so I gathered the party in a bowl, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with good olive oil (the extra virgin kind), and squeezed that sour smile of the lemon’s face all over the bunch. Toss, again, and once more. And get at it.

You’ll love the medley of textures in your mouth. From crunchy rice kernels to creamy avocado bits it all comes together into the most satiating, health-reviving, energy-boosting, and joy-awakening meal. And its simplicity should be encouraging even to the laziest of us. It’s easy to eat right. It’s just a matter of making one’s mind.

Right, Mr. Raccoon?

Bon Appetit!

I can’t believe I haven’t been here in so long. I can’t believe you’ve been coming back and checking in all this time. I can’t believe you haven’t given up on me. I bow to you in gratitude while applauding your clearly divine patience.

What’s been going on is delicious and note worthy. December was cooked into a gourmet month in its entirety. Suddenly my name was passed from mouth to mouth and I landed catering gigs and other fun events of sorts that kept me tied to my stove.

To keep the long story short, I’m attaching a few photos from the above mentioned moments of what later turned out to be a great success:

Beef skewers with sweet potato, grape and chimichurri sauce.

Coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate and polished for the party.

One of my brilliant helpers, Molly, working my Goat Cheese Tarts like she means it.

The #1 Crowd Pleaser: Beef Sliders w/ Balsamic Shallots

One bites: Cherry Tomatoes with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Glaze

Those are just the few snapshots I was able to take in the midst of the festivities. As soon as all the parties were over with, I was home in a bath tub filled with hot waters and enhanced with silky oils. The bath was mandatory if I were to get up early the following morning and pack for our trip East.

There, as in Texas, we entered virgin (to me) territories of disc golfing. Having successfully scattered all my discs all over the four adjacent fields, and that’s not what I were to aim for, I decided at last to let the others do the work while I laid in the grass to contemplate. Things seemed to look more interesting from that angle.

Three Musketeers of disc golfing at it.

Also, it was cold. Cold it was. Have I mentioned it was really, really cold out there?

The more so we enjoyed getting back into the warmth of the Harkins’ family’s house right in time for Christmas celebrations. Santa lost his marbles this year, clearly, as the mountain of presents that built up around the tree was making me dizzy just by looking at it. It could only be compared, I imagine, to the impression Uluru Mountain in Australia made on Oprah on her recent trip to Australia. All we wanted to do at the sight of our holy hill of presents was to close our eyes and meditate over its natural beauty.

Not for long. The children soon arrived and the mass destruction began. Neatly wrapped boxes proceeded to fly across the room, ribbons got ripped impatiently, and the wrapping paper torn into confetti.

Don’t be fooled by the innocent faces of those two little munchkins. They know their game, trust me.

It all stil looks neat and sane, doesn’t it? Just wait.

Heavy duty trash bags and oxygen masks were required to bring this war zone back to civilized conditions.

Then, suddenly I realized Cosmo went missing. How could he have not really? My instant reaction was to scream:

FREEZE! NOBODY MOVES. EMPTY THE TRASH BAG RIGHT NOW.

I did it with my inside voice, thank god. I had put that family through enough already with my shopping cart rides across their local Walmart, and then again by asking for vibrators at their local BEST BUY when the nice salesman offered to help us with any electronics we may be in need of. It’s a small town, by the way. I’ll say no more.

At the peak of my panic, I glanced just below my feet (the monkey in me climbed up the couch to take a few shots of the surrounding madness) and saw Cosmo tucked between the cushions… those of the sofa itself and those belonging to Jason’s mom…

I feel like I should end this ramble-o-thon right about now, but then it wouldn’t be complete without Paula Dean, would it?

The Queen of Southern Coking opened the Rose Bowl Parade herself, and Jason and I were there on the crisp morning of the New Year in Pasadena, and our asses we froze, and off the bucket list we took part taking in the thing forever. Alleluia.

Though we also snapped a big bucket of photos, I think I’ve exhausted my audience, my blog space, and my own self with this vomit of stories. Please, forgive my erratic behavior on these pages. I’m just a girl… who likes to cook and then write about it. I can’t control everything else that falls in between.

Happy New Year, Everybody. I’m excited to go through it with you again. Cheers!

Today is a good day.

It’s good despite a certain physical discomfort I’m really trying hard to restrain myself from writing about again. But how not to when my high school classmate contacts me via skype earlier today, and when I say I won’t be able to chat long due to the above mentioned experiencing of pain, she bluntly asks:

“Is that perhaps the famous PMS?”

We haven’t spoken in a decade, mind you, minus an email here and there. Dumbfounded I utter:

“But how do you know???”

“From your blog!”

Ah. That. Though I haven’t written about this one yet. YET.

The day is good nonetheless. It’s great. It’s FESTIVE & CELEBRATORY. Here’s why. Something happened today, something unprecedented, at least as of the year two thousand and six…

It was one of those exotically warm days in October, back in 2006. It was exotic to me, as I had just moved to Los Angeles from quite positively four-seasoned New York City. Don’t forget also that I grew up in Poland. Four ever changing seasons was all I knew till then. It must have been one of those summery days of Californian fall in 2006 when my ass was wrapped in a pair of my favorite jeans for the very last time. As never after it was able to fit again. Until this day…

Today I pulled the old buddies out of the closet where they sat in the dark corner forgotten and in disgrace since TWO-THOUSAND-AND-SIX. I dug them out from underneath a pile of all those new guys I collected in the meantime. And just like that, suddenly inspired, four years later I tried to reunite the best of me with the best of the blue jean kind. And it worked!

Truth be told, it did require me to HIP-HOP some, and then to CHA-CHA-CHA a little bit more in order to tuck every last bit of me inside of those pants. Nevertheless it WORKED! Not only was I able to zip and button up, but also I am able to sit in those jeans as I type these words. Initially I tried the desk chair first for it’s adjustable, then the couch as it’s lower thus more challenging. In the end I was rolling on the floor exchanging hugs, tears, kisses and stories with my best buds who have returned home at last.

About this photo… May I inform you that my legs go for inches and inches beyond the frame of this photograph, so don’t be fooled by skewed proportions. Also, Cosmo is a very SMALL dog. A miniature really. What you’re looking at are legs… thin and all-the-way-to-my-tuchas long. Note that at the time of taking this photo my tuchas was sitting at the neighbors’ kitchen table.

Well, then. Now you know WHAT. Time to reveal HOW. Let’s omit the part where I skyrocketed three sizes up in the first place, about four years ago. The first two sizes left me shortly after I met Jason and fell in love. They just packed their stuff and went on their own, leaving no letter good-bye. Not that I ever missed them. But that last little size got stuck. Let me assure you that I didn’t even mind it in the end. I was comfortable in my skin at last, for the very first time in my life really, and it didn’t matter that much what the scale underneath me said. I wouldn’t even step on one, because who cares!

Lately, however, Jason and myself found motivation to get back to the gym, as we do every few months or so. Jason was complaining about a few extra pounds he no longer wished on him. I needed to get my core muscles stronger for those long hours of dancing around the kitchen when at work. Every child knows, however, that no exercise will bear results if the diet ain’t right. Hence, following the wisdom of many trainers that crossed my path (whose secret equation for losing weight is: 70% diet, 30% physical torture), we decided to switch dinners and lunches around.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been sending Jason to work with his lunchbox full of hearty and filling goods so he has enough energy for a jog when off duty. And then, after the gym, instead of stuffing ourselves with a bowl of pasta or rice, we simply enjoy a nutritious salad, full of natural vitamins and metabolism-boosting enzymes along with a touch of protein (nuts, chicken, fish, cheese, beans, etc.) and healthy fats (olive oil or walnut oil, nuts, avocados, and such).

This salad-eating also forces me to keep inventing new dishes and re-inventing what’s known and out worn. Above you see a version of a coleslaw. It’s crunchy like the traditional one with slivers of radishes, ribbons of red cabbage, and thin slices of Green Apple. It’s full of toasted walnuts that take the edge off the apple’s tartness. The dressing is somewhat familiar, though made with a non-fat Greek yogurt (like in my slaw recipe I posted here). However, there’s butter lettuce in the place of white cabbage, sprinkled with poppy seeds and thus turning the mix into a brand new experience. And trust me, a plate full of this salad, where you must work out your jaws on each bite, will keep you satiated till you’re ready for bed.

What do you do with the left over cabbage, you ask. It’s a good question. Let me also applaud you for purchasing the whole head in its natural form versus already shredded one and packed in plastic. Use those crunchy ribbons as a color-booster on all the different types of salads. Not only does it add esthetic value, but also texture and anti-oxidants, calcium, potassium, and loads of vitamin C, K and A.

Here’s another variation on a salad that served as post-work out dinner for Jason and moi. As seen above, its an abundance of sautéed kale with shallots, garlic, and tomato over roasted young potatoes, with added crunch of red cabbage, persian cucumber slices and paper-thin slivers of radishes. Needless to say, it is a warm, comforting, and filling plate of … vegetables. Yet it won’t weigh you down just hours before saying sayonara to your day.

The bottom line is this: exercising is undoubtedly good for keeping my butt cheeks closer together, tighter I mean, less jiggly and more bouncy. It also allows my back to stay firm and strong during those 8-10 hour shifts in the kitchen when on my feet at all times. However, it’s those hearty SALADS FOR DINNER that let my bottom jewel shrink enough to fit in my old blue jeans and wiggle woogie-boogie.

I think I won’t be parting with these for a while… My ass can’t be trusted.

Two reason’s for that.

1. I have those photos of Jason. Those photos are very… special. Thus it is mandatory I publish them and let them go viral ASAP.

2. According to MY calendar, tomorrow is the National Lamb Roasting Day. Hence, I know I’ll be rending lots of fat in the kitchen (that of the meat in the oven along with my own) all day Sunday with mediocre chances of surfacing before sunset.

Let me set this up.

It’s Saturday late morning. Jason is doing some manly works around the house. He had patched up some holes in our living-room ceiling a while back, after having a chandelier hung. All there was left to do was to sand them down and paint over. Today is the day.

I’m off to run errands.

Cosmo? Well, he doesn’t give two green grasshoppers about what’s going on around since no one shows any interest in chasing him around the dining table. Off he goes to his room to play video games and watch some free porn online.

Some time later, exhausted, he snoozes off.

I am done with the bank, the grocery store, and a few other irrelevant nuances off my agenda, and I head back home. The sun is frying my brain over-easy. The traffic is irrational. All these people, instead of crowding the streets, should be out on the beach! The key word is OUT.

It’s really hot. Can you tell I’m feeling fragile?

I walk into our house through the back door, and as I approach the living room I am suddenly blinded. Lightning shoots through the air, sinister wind blows through the bathroom window, swirls around the house and swipes me off my feet. And right then, as I bang my delicate seat on the floor and unfold my body into a supine position I have a premonition. A clear vision of what’s coming. The image is so clear I get to learn what my Jason will look like in 50 years…

The experience is bewildering!

And the dust from sanding the ceiling covers every inch of the house. It is E V E R Y W H E R E. The vacuum cleaner can’t stand still in the corner already excited about its upcoming task. I am speechless. Jason looks at me with that innocent expression of a 5-year old who claims: “I haven’t seen any cookies!” with chocolate smeared all over his face. Then ma’ man slowly inches away from the table thus revealing THIS:

An artist I fell in love with, I tell you.

Valentine’s, shmalentines. If he loves you, you better not let him get away with a lousy bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates once a year. I’m saying “HE” as I have a “HE”. Your SHE is to express her love for you just as spontaneously and uncontrollably as my HE. And he does. Jason doesn’t buy me flowers for any specific occasions. He shows up at the threshold of our home with a fragrant bomb of fresh flowers whenever I reach the darkest depth of despair. (In other words, I’m feeling low.)

We also have established a versatile set of I-love-yous: for Good Morning and Good Bye; Thank you, Baby, I-love-you; on the phone: I’ll talk to you later, I-love-you; when experiencing sudden ebb of chest-expanding feelings unrelated to moon phases: I LOVE YOU! And last but not least, at night, after wishing each other sweet dreams back and forth three times and in 2 languages, he whispers into my ear with a perfect Polish accent: KOCHAM CIE [pronounced: koh-hahm tchyeh, more or less].

Love has settled like dust in every corner of our house. It oozes out of every steaming pot of food I make, it comforts our bare feet as we walk on our vacuumed carpets, it forgives the dances in the nude, it folds loads of laundry, and it tries really hard to ignore the soundtrack of cheerful and very confident farts in the background after one of those healthy meals. Love is always in the AIR. How timely for Sade to release a brand new album after close to a decade!

See, we don’t really feel the need to exchange Valentine’s cards. We both feel loved twentyfourseven on any given calendar day. It just so happened that we spent the Valentine’s Day this year in one of the most romantic destinations in the US – Napa Valley.

Jason was summoned to San Francisco for work this past weekend, and I simply tagged along. There was no Valentine’s Day plotting involved, no romance a’la carte.

As he was done with his duties on Sunday, we rented a car and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge heading north to visit both Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

It seems as the time stops up north. The Sun and Earth are still happily married and continue to bear their offspring across the golden fields and rolling hills. We stood on the side of a road and witnessed their bond, inhaled the love heavily sprayed in the air by ubiquitous blooming flowers, heard the birds exchange their KOCHAM CIE’s in their own tongue, and we were silent.

Now, do you still need a Valentine’s card? Or maybe that’s just us. I did, however, make a FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE for my coworkers, with a drizzle of RASPBERRY SAUCE. Oh, heavens! Chocolate and fresh raspberries together truly is a marriage made in heaven, or in the garden if you must. The sweet but tart flavor of the sauce strikes against the depth of the chocolate comfort, thus sending a ticklish shiver down one’s spine. If there is food with orgasmic qualities, this dessert certainly represents that group honorably.

Let me walk you through the few steps the cake requires. If you are organized, you will have made the cake and cleaned up the kitchen within one short hour. I use only organic ingredients. If they are not easily available in your area, at least choose the best quality items. It is worth it.

Ingredients:

-       5 egg yolks

-       5 egg whites

-       1 stick of butter

-       5 oz semi-sweet chocolate

-       1/2 cup raw cane sugar

-       1/2 tsp instant coffee

-       1/2 tsp kosher salt

-       1/2 tsp cardamom

-       1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Draw a 9” circle on a sheet of parchment paper and cut it out. Spray the bottom of a 9” round baking sheet with a non-stick spray, place the parchment paper in, and spray once again on its surface. Put aside. Preheat your oven to 325°.

In a double boiler melt together chocolate and butter; then add coffee, cardamom, and vanilla, mix well and don’t let it boil. As soon as the mixture is liquid and coherent, take it off the heat and let it cool until the rest of your cake components are ready.

In a large bowl beat together egg whites, using a hand-held mixer, and slowly add half of your sugar and salt. When the egg whites create soft peaks, they’re done. In a separate, smaller bowl beat the egg yolks together with the remaining sugar until they form a creamy and tick cream, and sugar is mostly dissolved.

Gently combine the egg yolks and the egg whites together, and slowly start adding your melted chocolate mixture in the eggs. Using a spatula gently fold everything together until it is a coherent chocolaty mass. Do not stir. Do not violently mix it. Simply fold all the elements together, patiently, with love, in one direction. It may take you about 5 minutes.

When the mixture is ready, pour it into the prepared baking pan and put in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes and then remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

It’s best when chilled overnight in a refrigerator and served either with fresh strawberries or my RASPBERRY SAUCE:

Thaw out a bag of frozen raspberries, place them in a small saucepan and add 3-4 tbsp of raw cane sugar (depending on the size of the package). Mix with a wooden spoon, throw in a few springs of fresh mint and let it simmer together for 10-15 minutes. About 5 minutes before it’s finished ad a few drizzles of good balsamic vinegar (1-1.5 tbsp) and mix again. When done, pour the raspberries with all the juices through a sieve to remove all seeds and obtain a perfectly smooth and silky RASPBERRY SAUCE.

Sensational!

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