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Softened, silky, creamy butter with added flavors and/or other components… Then set back in the refrigerator to firm. COMPOUND BUTTER that is.

It’s simple, thus brilliant.

SWEET–with cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, maple syrup, even jam… to top pancakes, warm muffins, or Belgian Waffles. Decadence.

SAVORY–with herbs (parsley and chives, dill, cilantro, mint, basil, tarragon, etc); garlic, orange or lemon juice and/or zest, mustard, chilled roasted garlic or pepper; spices (paprika, black pepper, coarse salt…). Euphoria!

There’s no need to gorge on the butter. Just a touch. On the tip. Of your dish. Lamb. Chicken. Fish. Pasta. Veg. Grains’ variety.

One silly trick like this can elevate the flavor of your dish onto a different plane. Maybe even into a different Solar system. Deep, round, soothing flavor in your mouth. Think about it. Feel it. Want it. Do it. Oh… life! You taste so GOOD!

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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!

How was your weekend, Internet? Ours was just as mundane as usual. Or was it?

One slept in whilst the other one went grocery shopping and then carried all four bags into the house all by herself. One got a haircut while the other one was stuck with a bunch of needles all over her body in a room filled with Brian Eno’s tunes. One studied Polish while the other mastered a few new French phrases before our trip to Paris in May. Surprisingly both enjoyed the Chopin concert despite their paralyzing fear of highly potential boredom. One has donated three bags of clothes, shoes and purses to SOJOURN, a charitable organization that supports battered women and underprivileged children in Los Angeles, while the other has only one closet with just enough clothes to cover his back. He also read a very hopeful and BRIGHT GREEN interview with Alex Steffen published in our beloved magazine THE SUN.

What about those needles, you may wonder. A few months ago I met this gorgeous woman Tamara ZumMallen through my dear friend Missy. Even though we haven’t known each other long, already we have shared many laughs and even some tears together.

Tamara happens to be a very knowledgeable and experienced acupuncturist, hence last Saturday I ended up in her bed. Wait, what I mean by that is that I was laying ON her therapist’s bed in her office at the HEALING HANDS WELLNESS CENTER at 414 N. Larchmont Ave, here in Los Angeles. While I rested garments-free under the crisp white sheets, she gently but skillfully inserted two needles into my feet, four more were placed on my belly, one on my chef’s wrist, two in my ears, and one straight into my third eye.

Needles in my Third Eye and both ears respectively

Four needles centered around my belly button, and the rest of the gang

While it may sound like a quickie, it was nothing but. Tamara began the session with sitting me comfortably on the bed; then she conducted a thorough interview. We went through my health history, eating habits, regularity of my menses, the shenanigans I recently got myself into, and my thoughts on Jamie Oliver’s FOOD REVOLUTION in America. The show had aired on ABC the previous night.

Speaking of which, for crying out loud, how is it possible that a six-year old child does NOT know what a potato looks like?? Perhaps a tomato? Anything? Jason and I were watching the program in terror, while tears welled up in our eyes.

In the meantime, the needles were prepped to stand upright around my bellybutton. At Tamara’s request, I stuck my tongue out at her. It was dark and purple-ish, enough for her to determine mild blood stagnation with kidney QI deficiency. She recommended eating black and blue foods to balance out my kidneys. Instantly I asked DOES CHOCOLATE COUNT FOR BLACK FOOD? Luckily it did, as long as it is dark and raw, or at least organic. Next the needles helped me get un-stuck.

It was a thrilling and yet relaxing experience. What I loved about that Chinese healing method is that it has a very holistic approach to one’s health. If you have a headache, the acupuncturist will ask you a series of maybe 20 questions about everything but your head to find the source of pain. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Western medicine adapted the same attitude instead of just curing the symptoms? While I’m not trying to doom our doctors and their astounding accomplishments in the medical field, I think there’s a lot of room for improvement in the system they’ve been taught and have since practiced.

(Oh, I am so getting an email from Jason’s dad, Doctor Jimmy Harkins, with his take on the matter later today. I hope he’ll be kind to me. He always is.)

All that typing made me hungry. While I go pop in a few blueberries and black olives, I suggest you spruce up your chicken dinner with my recipe. How does CHICKEN CORDON BLEU WITH GOAT CHEESE, CRANBERRIES, AND HERBS sound? You can serve it with sweet potatoes or a giant bowl of greens mixed with avocado, tomatoes and dressed with a light, lemon vinaigrette. After the din-din, your mate will kiss your feet in gratitude, and then some. I don’t need to hear about that part of your evening, but you enjoy!

Wash your hands and set your station ready. If making a dinner for two, you’ll need:

–       2 chicken breasts, organic and free-range

–       1 egg + 1 tsp of water, for egg-wash

–       2-3 tbsp of flour (any kind, choose the healthier option)

–       2-3 tbsp of breadcrumbs

–       kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

–       3 oz of goat cheese, soft

–       2 tbsp of dried cranberries, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and then drained and roughly chopped

–       1 cup of fresh basil/dill/parsley/cilantro (use one, two, or all if desired), roughly chopped

–       1 tbsp of fresh thyme

–       1 tbsp of olive oil

–       2 plastic zip-lock bags, large

–       meat-tenderizing tool (could be a rolling pin)

–       4 small bowls

Beat the egg and water with a fork in one bowl, and use another two bowls for flour and breadcrumbs respectively. Season your flour with a solid pinch of salt and pepper, while the breadcrumbs – with a few springs of crushed fresh thyme and your olive oil.

In a separate bowl, mix the goat cheese with herbs and cranberries, and season gently with salt and pepper. Feel free to pimp your filling with the zest of a lemon, too! Mix well.

Place each chicken breast in a separate plastic bag and using your meat tenderizer pound it evenly until it’s about 1/4” thick. Remove it from the bag with a pair of tongs and place on a plastic cutting board (that had been devoted in your house solely to raw meats. I don’t want to mother you, but make sure you keep the raw meat away from EVERYTHING else to avoid possible contamination. That means you must wash your hands and anything the meat has touched in hot water and with soap when done). Season both sides with salt and pepper. Using a small spoon, scoop some of the cheese filling and spread it evenly across the chicken fillet, leaving about 1/2” strip clean around the edge. With your clean hands fold the longer sides of the chicken inwards, and then roll the whole thing making sure all filling is secured inside it. Repeat the procedure with the remaining chicken breast.

Now, dip each stuffed chicken breast first in the flour and coat it lightly on all sides, then the egg-wash, and finish with the breadcrumbs.

Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put into a preheated oven at 350°. Bake about 20 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown. When done, remove from the oven and let the meat rest for about 10 minutes. Cut each piece into 1/2” thick pinwheels and serve as desired.

That’s my take on CHICKEN CORDON BLEU. It’s elegant, creative, delectable and never boring. Bon appetit!

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