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Have you ever heard of The Artist’s Way? It seems the book serves as the bible of anyone who desperately longs to express themselves creatively, just doesn’t know how. Shockingly, that includes Cosmo, who clearly had his paws AND TEETH on the book, even though his “artist within” continues to be an ambiguity to us. Your Honor, may the attached exhibit serve as proof #1. Pay especially close attention to the corners of the book. Maybe they make those covers with pigs ears? How else to explain Cosmo’s interest in chewing on the paper, something he hasn’t done since a puppy, now when he was at the legal drinking age? In dog’s years, one understands.

One of the first exercises that the book’s author, Julia Cameron, suggests is writing minimum three pages every day at dawn. Or right after waking. For three months. She calls it The Morning Pages. You can write whatever you want, whatever comes to mind. It’s supposed to be a mindless flow of thoughts, unscripted, uncensored, unpredictable.

A couple of weeks ago, I began scribbling my Morning Pages for the N-th time, and to give you an idea how it goes here are random excerpts from the notebook:

IT’S THE LAST DAY OF AUGUST. TIME GOES BY WITH NO RESPECT FOR OUR PLANS. AND OUR LIVES.

I REALLY DISLIKE THESE MORNING PAGES. THEY REEK DULL!

THESE CANDLES FROM ROSS ARE SUPER FRAGRANT. PUNCH-IN-THE-NOSE FRAGRANT.

THERE’S NOTHING IN MY HEAD WORTH SHARING AT THIS TIME. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

I HAVEN’T EATEN ANYTHING YET AND I’M BURPING LIKE A CLOWN WHO ATE A BAR OF SOAP. ARE YOU SERIOUS, AGI??

TWO AND A HALF PAGES TO GO, HOLLOW BRAIN, THOUGHTLESS MORNING, CRUNCHY RED CABBAGE COLESLAW WITH EDAMAME FOR BREAKFAST.

THIS SALAD LOOKS BEAUTIFUL! PINK, BRIGHT PURPLE AND LIME GREEN WITH A FEW RIBBONS OF DARK GREEN. AND IT WORKS, TOO. I CAN ALREADY FEEL THINGS HAPPEN DOWN IN MY TUBES. JASON BETTER HURRY WITH HIS SHOWER!

I WILL LIVE 235 YEARS.

WHO ARE YOU, PERSON?

THIS IS STUPID. I HATE THIS. STUPID, STUPID MORNING PAGES.

That’s why I haven’t been writing much lately … in here. These stupid, stupid Morning Pages are screwing me up. Three pages of nonsense every morning. Have I mentioned I’m supposed to do this for THREE MONTHS? Getting it down on paper feels like pulling teeth. Or going to the gym. Or like removing my make-up after coming home from a party way past my bed time. Or like waiting around for Cosmo till he stops circling around the lawn and FINALLY decides on the best spot to take a dump. All of the above does one thing–makes me YAWN. Hence, when I think of more writing past dawn… you got it, I YAWN.

However, I do have something cute, delicious and very special for all you Labor Day Entertainers, and will post it shortly. Stand by!

Who’s your muse?

Jason does it for me, with his eyes open or closed, with his clothes off and even on, with his mind in either Beta or Alfa states, with his raw passion for music, with his yin strength and yang tenderness. It is he whom I want to impress first and foremost whether I write a silly blurb for the Internet, roast a duck, shape my eyebrows, or play with a camera.

(The tape on J’s t-shirt is tagged “I LOVE YOU”. Say no more.)

However, there are also artists among our friends that leave me in awe whenever I experience their works. Jason’s BFF Paul, a man of countless talents, takes a camera and ceases the moment to be forever remembered as his eyes had witnessed it. Looking through his photos makes my throat dry and my skin perspire as my heart beat suddenly accelerates. His work torments my ego to some extent, but mostly it leaves me awed. It’s like peeling an onion–very emotional.

Photo by Paul King

And then there’s Laurent, my old buddy Lolo, whom I’ve known for almost as long as I’ve been in the US. He’s a scientist and an artist, a humble man with big pockets, inside which he was able to fit an MBA and a PhD in Chemistry. If you rummage about, you’ll find a patent somewhere in there as well. And then all this… his art.

Photo by Laurent Dambies

When back in my church, the kitchen, I often look for ideas between the many pages of cookbooks I’ve collected. Jamie Oliver’s books are most ragged, though, as I take advantage of them every time I’m in heat… in a culinary sense, one understands.

Yesterday was one of those days. I woke up itching to make something new, to develop a brand new recipe I could call my own. I stomped through the house back and fro, scanning my surroundings like a hungry savage animal looking for prey. And then my eyes rested on the shelf with some homemade preserves and such…

What followed can only be described using the language of astrophysics. A Supernova happened in my very own kitchen. A star of an idea exploded, splashing severed parts of my thoughts all over the surrounding walls, and thus I was illuminated. With no further ado, having arranged my still slightly smoky hair back to order, I gathered my gear, rolled up my non-exsistent sleeves (We live in SoCal. I don’t even waste time on wearing a bra most of the time, much less sleeves!), and witnessed a Nova being born–my ROASTED PEPPER SOUP & PORK BELLY WITH HONEY DEMI GLAZE.

Roasted Pepper Soup

It may be nothing new for you. However, my lips have not been in a near proximity to roasted pepper soup ever before. Therefore, I take credit for the entire thing, including placing the bum that blocks your view in the above photo. While hunting for the best angle/light combo, I was running around the table focusing on the target–the bowl–completely oblivious to the bread in the foreground. That’s why I cook for a living, and not take photographs.

That’s not all, folks. Stay tuned to find out what I will do with my NOVA… (In the background you should hear now…. Yes, you must click that link in order to hear it…)

Monday-shmonday. Someone once told me, and this could just as easily be one of those Polish superstitions that stalk me all the way across the Big Pond, that… like Monday like the Rest of the Week. So far, I’ve cleaned the house, passed a few words of wisdom to my less than 2-years old niece in Poland via Skype, got cranky due to caffeine deficit, made lunch for Jason and sent him off to work, treated myself to Peet’s Americano with a side of Cappuccino Muffin, and struggled settling down at last in order to work.

The biggest challenge was finding a place for my office for the day. While Cosmo got himself comfortable in front of his Doggy TV and started flipping the channels…

… I finally landed back on the bed, laptop tucked right beneath my armpit and Jamie Oliver’s cook book in hand.

Last week, I left off writing about utilizing your organic chicken to the last bit. One of such “byproducts” was an organic chicken broth that we can now turn into a satisfying, delectable, rustic, and very cheap to make soup.

I love soups and cook them ALL THE TIME, which I have mentioned plenty a time before. From velvety BEET SOUP, to hearty MUSHROOM/BARLEY SOUP, to elegant CARROT/GINGER SOUP, to my Polish sentiment of SAUERKRAUT SOUP, to Italian RIBOLLITA, to refreshing HONEY-DEW MELON SOUP W/MASCARPONE (recipe from my business partner Alina that I made for the LA Food Bloggers’ meeting last week), to nutritious LENTIL SOUP, to Mexican classic–chilled GAZPACHO. The list seems never-ending, and that’s why SOUPS play such an important role on our LUNCH MENU.

Since the theme of the cooking today is ORGANIC FOR PENNIES, I chose Jamie Oliver’s ENGLISH ONION SOUP to share with you. All you need to enhance your already made stock are:

- about 2 lbs of onions variety (leeks, shallots, sweet onions, red onions, scallions, etc.)

- fresh sage

- a handful of garlic cloves

- a few slices of rustic bread, ideally 2-3 days old

- Cheddar cheese, freshly grated

- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

- 1-2 tbsp of butter

- olive oil

See, nothing expensive. Add those extra few bucks to your skinny budget, and you come out with a giant pot of filing and yummy soup. People you’ll feed with it will fall to their knees and kiss your ankles in gratitude. That’s granted.

Making the soup itself is somewhat emotional, if not dramatic. Think about it–all those onions must be peeled and chopped. If you can go through the task without uttering a single tear, I say you’re not a human.

The rest is a piece of cake. Melt the butter in a hot heavy-bottomed, non-stick pan, add a bit of olive oil, chopped garlic and a few sage leaves. Let the guys saute for a minute (and no longer, so the garlic does not burn) and toss all your onions into the pot. Season with salt and pepper, stir, cover with a lid (90% closed), and let it all cook very slowly for about an hour. Next, remove the lid and now you have another 20 minutes or so to add color to your veg. Cooking the onions slowly is the key to achieving that irresistible sweetness that onions offer.

Time to add your organic chicken stock. Bring everything to a quick boil and reduce the heat, allowing the soup to simmer for another quarter of an hour. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

In the meantime, turn the oven on a full whack. Toast your bread on both sides and set aside. When the soup is ready, pour some into individual heatproof bowls and cover with your toasts, as tight as possible. Sprinkle your grated cheddar all over the bread, garnish with an extra sage leaf, drizzle with a touch of olive oil, and set the bowls on a baking sheet. Such arranged, place the sheet in the hot oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and serve immediately.

Jamie also suggests planting a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce (pause… let me untangle my tongue) over the servings, but you follow your own instincts.

Eating Organic, delicious, homemade food on a budget? Totally doable! So… let’s eat better, everybody.

Bon Appetit!

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”!

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!

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