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Let’s wrap this up, shall we. Do I have all the essentials handy? Coffee, check. Music, check (streaming Xploding Plastix). Cosmo snoring right by my feet, check. Leftover pieces of chicken from our Organic Chicken Cook-out, check!

When I began this mini series, ORGANIC FOR PENNIES, a few days ago, in PART 1 I suggested breaking an entire chicken into several useful elements, all to be later utilized in separate dinner meals. We started with making the ORGANIC CHICKEN STOCK, that was later transformed into this luscious ENGLISH ONION SOUP a’la Jamie Oliver. Moreover, all the meaty parts of the bird–the boobies and legs–got a ROASTING TREATMENT for that extra tan and flavor. Today, I want you to take all the meat you scraped off the chicken carcass, wings, and its neck after cooking them in your stock, and make a brand new dish from the same $12 chicken.

There’s plenty you could do. Mix it with cooked rice, spice it up and use as a filling for STUFFED CABBAGE, or yummy CROQUETTES, or simply mix with your MARINARA SAUCE and serve over a bowl of pasta.

Or not. Want something Asian accented? Here are a few tricks I’ve been using following the idea: FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. I make a somewhat cheated version of PINEAPPLE CHICKEN FRIED RICE.

Cook yourself a pot of rice, whatever amount makes you happy, but use common sense when building your dish later on. Set a large skillet on the stove, heat about 1 tbsp of coconut oil, add 2-4 dried chili peppers (just tear them with your fingers over the skillet), 3-4 garlic cloves (finely chopped), and stir together for 30 seconds. Add the rice and toss it with the flavors in your pan. Give it a few minutes, and empty a can of pineapple (chunks) along with its juices into the same skillet. Season with soy sauce. Stir about allowing all the flavors to get marry. Let it cook  for another 5 minutes or so, until all juices are absorbed by the rice. If you’re feeling shrimp, too, toss a bunch onto the pile. Be my guest. Finish the dish with a handful of chopped green onions and fresh cilantro. That’s All Folks! Easy, right?

I made this dish for one of my clients, when catering LUNCH to all his employees, and it was a hit. I served it to my friends another time, and they were asking for seconds. Jason puts in his request for this entree for dinner on a semi-regular basis. It’s all about the comfort of this rice and chicken combo, where sweet mixes with salty, followed by a mild heating sensation in the back of your throat.

Me likey.

In conclusion, eating ORGANIC FOR PENNIES is doable. We spent about 12 smackers on the bird, plus an extra $10 on veggies for the stock and the soup, and maybe 2 more bucks for the bag of rice that accompanied two other dinner meals. Each time, we were able to feed at least 4 people, or serve the dish more than once in a week. Over all, for about $25 total we fed an army for a week, we ate organic, and we LOVED IT!

Go ahead, be inspired to eat better, live better, and feel the power of CREATION!

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Last week I parted with Da Vinci restaurant in Beverly Hills. Why? I’ll get to that, but first I want to tell you what I was making there during the last few days, even hours…

Jason Fullilove, the executive chef and my mentor, makes one of the best breads I’ve had in my life. First and foremost, his creations remind me of home. Home as in Poland. I don’t know if it’s the water or the quality of grain (must be either one as those are the main components of any bread) in European breads that make them so voluptuous and fragrant. Each loaf slides out of the oven dressed in that brilliant crust all around while it’s slightly chewy yet airy, and perfectly delectable on the inside.

Don’t even think for a second that I am comparing those bakers’ diamonds to the stuff you normally find in your grocery store in America. Those pre-sliced, cotton-like, packed with artificial ingredients and god-knows-what-other-crap “breads” frankly don’t even deserve to be called that. Ask Michael Pollan.

If you ever tasted a homemade bread, especially the French style bread, you get my blues. You hear my music. You understand also why so desperately I wanted to master the skill of making that perfect loaf. Chef Fullilove granted me the space for the exercise. He also crumbled some of his secrets before me. The last few days that I worked at Da Vinci I was making breads. Lots of them. Breads with dates. Dill rolls. Whole-wheat loaves. The most luscious, aromatic, fluffy and almost creamy Focaccia bread with Olives.

These dorky photos, taken with Jason’s iphone, don’t even come close to the true beauty resting on those sheet-pans. Nonetheless, have a glimpse…

Oh, my dear Zeus and the rest of the Olympian gods that must have looked after me from the top of their holy mountain. Between the two languages that I use fluently on a regular basis there are not enough words to express the hedonistic moment of ecstasy that electrified my entire body upon the first taste of that Focaccia. My whole life flashed in front of my eyes in a form of movie clips as well as cartoonish clip-arts, and I saw a light in the end of a tunnel…

AM I IN HEAVEN NOW?

But I was still alive. Though I could not comprehend that I was given a chance to taste such delicacies on this Earth still.

Ok, I am not quite trying to toot my own horn here. This bread was made with a close supervision of the chef and his sous-chef Nichole. Herself, she can whip those babies out in the middle of the night, blind-folded and with a glass of Dirty Martini in one hand, if she chose to. However, it was me who lost her virginity that day, and the Angels Choirs sang to announce my becoming… of a bread maker.

My appetite only grew from here. The following day I arrived at the restaurant and from the door I screamed to the chef:

CAN I MAKE BREAD TODAY????

Thanks to my untamed enthusiasm, I was entrusted with making butter rolls. And a few hours later yet another success! I was on the roll, and hell yes, pun intended!

I know you’re on the edge of getting grossed out by all the sugar-coated descriptions of my personal glory, but wait till you see what I did with those puffy buns of buttery euphoria… I turned it into authentic, very realistic, explosive, steamy and moaning FOOD PORN…

Just imagine the taste of this home-roasted and juicy turkey along with voluptuous avocado, sun-ripened tomato and lots of sweet roasted garlic squeezed in between two legs of that tanned and muscular Butter Roll…

I’ll leave you with that image for a moment.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s also my definition of Lunch With A Happy Ending!

Aaaand back to reality. A few days ago an article on LA Eater made chef Fullilove’s departure from Da Vinci public. Allow me to add my three pennies to the story.

What led to chef’s exit were months of his struggle with the circumstances of this troubled Beverly Hills eatery. The owners’ dearth of experience in running a high-end restaurant became obvious to most parties involved early on. Additionally, the lack of true management only expedited the venue’s fall despite the executive chef’s tireless efforts to promote Da Vinci and attract real enthusiasts of culinary artistry with his extraordinary creations.

I think it says volumes that three other staff members walked away along with their chef, myself included.

Without looking any deeper into the ugly eyes of the monster, know that I deeply cherish the days I spent at the chef Fullilove’s side in that kitchen for I have witnessed and tasted the fruit of his labor. I was lucky enough to observe him at work, and to be so generously offered his secrets and his knowledge in general. Yes, I have learnt a ton. I have enriched my culinary vocabulary and expanded my kitchen horizons. I was taught cooking techniques I only had heard about before. I was given a place to experiment and exercise my passion.

It has nothing to do with respect, but for all the above I am grateful even to the (still) owners for making the space available to me as well.

Chef Jason, I thank YOU! And I look forward to the day (in the near future I hope) when your beautiful food is accessible to public again.

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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