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Bye, bye, Year 2009. You have brought us many changes, moments of overwhelming joy … and sheer terror. (Remember the Mashed Rutabaga with Cauliflower?) I have discovered my pyromaniacal tendencies and started to play with fire in the kitchen on a regular basis. Knives excite me just as much.  Bring it on, Angelina! Who knew? All that led to turning our house into a science lab of food making. There have been plenty of experiments (steaks from a toaster oven is just one example), and so far Jason hasn’t complained.

We have serious reason to be concerned about the future of our kids on this planet (Koyaanisqatsi), but there’s still hope with the growing trend of getting fresh produce from local farmers (Feeling Peachy) and turning to alternative energy sources. We can get healthier with every bite of real food we put in our mouths and what we feed to our offspring. Preparing hearty meals with a variety of vegetables is not that difficult, and never boring. Every time I look at the photos of the Butternut Squash Risotto I made for dinner one night, or my Brussels sprouts on a Bed of Quinoa with a layer of Caramelized Onions, I experience such intense drooling that Jason is inclined to run for a stack of towels to cover the floor around me.

Do you want to hear about the best part? I lost about 15 lbs over the last year WITHOUT DEPRIVING myself of any food. There’s no diet plan, no counting calories, NO STRESS! Sometimes I may overindulge a tad, but who wouldn’t when served those scrumptious Veggie Balls over a bowl of Spaghetti Marinara? Duh! I eat whatever the hell I am in the mood for, and whenever my tummy screams HUNGRY. I hate fast foods with a passion. I avoid processed food products like the plague. However, I am on good terms with a bit of butter here and there. Cream poses no threat to me either. There are no sweets lying around the house, but it doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally get in the car and drive to the bakery for a piece of crunchy pastry when the craving strikes.

What I wish for myself, and for every single one of you, in 2010 is to live more in balance with Nature, stress less, laugh louder, breath lighter, and to age slower. Also, let’s not forget to bring the inner monkey out to play more often.

May all of us see a major shift in the collective consciousness and finally learn how to live symbiotically with Mother Earth so our kids and future generations get to experience the joy and innocence we were granted when growing up.

Thank you for being a part of my 2009. I hope we’ll be able to share and interact more in the upcoming year, and beyond.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!

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I can’t believe I’m forced to consume the entire Brownie Pie I made last Wednesday! (By the time I’m done writing this article, it should be just a vague memory.)

After sifting and whipping, and then more mixing and scooping, I placed my baking pan full of chocolaty batter in the deepest depths of our oven with my hopeful heart stomping anxiously inside my chest. I was testing a new recipe while adding my own twist. The twist was of an orange shape, shave, fragrance, and flavor. What came out of the dark and hot chamber was this brilliant fudge brownie with a crisp top, cracking under the slightest pressure as the ice breaking on a river in spring (anywhere east and north from LA, one understands).

Oh, I was so proud and so in love with myself for having completed my bakery challenge. Not wasting any time, I scooped a generous portion out for our friend and her two daughters who stopped by to visit with us. They complimented the cake, mentioned its FRAGRANCE and how INTENSE it was, after which they politely left HALF of the brownie pie on the plate. Next in line was Jason. Taste it he did. The spoon vanished inside his mouth, wiggled its silver tail, and then instantly repelled backwards. I glanced at Jason’s face. His expression was puzzling for a moment. I watched his mouth stretch gently askance, and then mysteriously curve up and down into a zig zag (Yup, just like in a cartoon!) as he spitted “Hmmm…it’s too… orangy!”

I really wanted to stamp my shoeless footprint on that sour grimace of his.

But I didn’t. I took the goods back to the kitchen, wrapped it up neatly, and put away on the shelf. There will be people banging on the door begging for a slice of my famous fudge brownie one day, with Jason leading the crowd. I will make them pay! … a bag of colorful beads, a fan of feathers, and a golden tooth per each slice. That’s right, my cake will be worth as much as the White People paid for the entire Manhattan …or so. Dammit.

A lot of experimenting goes on in my kitchen, clearly. It’s almost like a science lab minus the science part. Just to end that Thanksgiving reminiscing, and in time to start prepping for Christmas (oh, boy), let me quickly walk you through my latest culinary trial – Mashed Rutabaga and Cauliflower.

You see I am not a big fan of mashed potatoes. Even as a kid, I would have my mom call me to the kitchen when the potatoes were ready, so I could put aside a few before my brother beat the crap out of the rest of the guys in the pot. I bet as an infant I was stealing whole carrots when nobody was watching, and fussed around when fed those purees from a jar. I bet I grew teeth overnight after that first tasting.

I should talk to my mother!

Back from talking to The One Who Brought Me To Life. Mama dismissed my theory on premature teething. Moreover, she informed me that whatever food they put in front of my face it would disappear within nanoseconds, apple and carrot purees included. “I don’t like the way this conversation is going. Good night, mother.”

Until this past Thanksgiving, I was a rutabaga virgin. Never before did I have an opportunity, nor desire to mess around with that oddly looking bulb. Since I love cauliflower, I thought I’d cook both together, with a parsnip for company, and to keep the Party in the same color theme. And so she did. (“She” being me. Don’t ask me why I sometimes refer to myself in the third person. It appears at times that I experience my life through narration, as if I was reading about my character. OK, I’ll stop talking before someone calls for the authorities.)

I know that now you just really WANT THAT EFFIN RECIPE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, HOW MUCH LONGER CAN WE LISTEN TO THAT NONSENSE you’re thinking. Ok, ok… Let’s do it. (I’m such a pushover!)

MASHED RUTABAGA WITH CAULIFLOWER

–       1 whole cauliflower, with leaves trimmed and cut into florets

–       1 rutabaga root, peeled and cut in large cubes

–       1-2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut in big cubes

–       1 tbsp organic butter

–       1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

–       1/4 cup chives, roughly chopped

–       kosher salt

–       freshly ground WHITE pepper

–       2 bay leaves

The fun part begins when all your veggies are in a big pot, covered with water, bay leaves floating about, and seasoned generously with salt (say 1 tbsp or more). Turn off the heat and drain the veggies the minute they are cooked aldente. That’s right, you want them to still have a good bite. Why? Because all these vegetables tend to soak up a lot of water the longer they cook. You don’t want your dish soggy and beyond mushy, do you? When the water is all down the drain of your sink, put the pot back on the stove over a very low heat for a couple of minutes, thus allowing more moisture to evaporate from the potatoes and the gang. But watch not to burn their precious bottoms!

When all the dirty work is done, time for make up and hair. Add the butter and grated cheese into the pot along with another tablespoon of kosher salt and almost as much of pepper. The heat will melt all those goodies while you hit the pot with a potato masher. Bang it good, ensuring that all the gooey, cheesy and buttery goodness is distributed and incorporated among all the vegetables. Don’t bash it too much, though. It’s not supposed to be baby food, ok? Keep it rustic and chunky. Scoop the dish into a pretty bowl and sprinkle your chives all over, just as that green glitter you used to put on your cheeks on the way out to a discotheque… way, WAY back in the day.

The dish came out GOOD BEYOND MY WILDEST DREAMS. I know for a fact that Jason was secretly terrified by the idea of making that meal in the place of traditional mashed potatoes. He always claims he trusts me, and loves 99.8% (precisely) of all the food I make. That doesn’t change the fact that he experiences moments of sheer terror when sporadically I juggle some culinary ideas in front of his face. Let’s thank The Lord for helping me deliver those ideas happily and with no complications… in 99.8% cases.

A Brownie Pie? What Brownie Pie?

After a much needed and quite luxuriously uneventful weekend, I woke up to a Monday Writer’s Block. I don’t recall setting our Tivo to record that program.

In an effort to fulfill my promise to keep this blog fresh and sprouting with new ideas, I rewound the last 48 hours in my head looking for inspiration, and recited everything we DID NOT do:

– socialize

– play Bingo, Backgammon, Cranium, or Monopoly; not even Truth Or Dare

– go shark back riding

– stop global warming (instead we added to it with the multiple trips to local coffee shops)

– fly a monkey

– teach Cosmo to roll over, though he was so, so close

– get kidnapped by an Alien

– learn to speak Urdu, or Spanish (a tad more practical in Baja)

– buy a turkey, eat a turkey, nor visited Turkey

– make out with a dolphin

– solve a single math problem

– patch the four holes in our ceiling before the mice that I’m convinced live in the cracks of our building find out about the openings and decide to come visit

– climb Mount Everest, nor any other hill, not even a road hump.

None of that happened this past weekend.

Looking further for topics I could write about, I browsed through the thousands of photos we took over the last year and a half, to finally stop at the images of Jason’s nephews, Conor and Dylon, which I found highly inspiring… to procreate rather than to bluntly tap at a keyboard with two fingers.

It sounds like a whole lot of NOTHING. Let’s get one thing straight: an uneventful weekend does not mean a weekend free of events. (Wait, huh?) I did some squats around the coffee table during meal times in an attempt to tighten that rump. There was some folding and scrubbing going on as well as a whole lot of licking. Cosmo cleaned both of his front paws after a thorough and urgently needed bath (because what do the humans know about a good bath), while Jason licked his wounds after brutal couple of weeks at work.

One task I managed to complete was a Thanksgiving menu, and that was not a trivial accomplishment. I’m Polish, hence for me this holiday represents a day off, empty streets, and limited access to candy shops and movie theaters since everything closes early. Nonetheless, I wanted Jason to experience the same traditions he grew up with despite living away from his family – the turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy, with a spoonful of cranberry sauce on a side and a wedge of pumpkin pie.

Therefore, I’ll be cooking up a storm and making him a Thanksgiving meal that will take him back the memory lane: pork loin with honey-mustard sauce and wrapped in bacon, mashed rutabaga with cauliflower and caramelized onions, blanched green beans with roasted garlic, and chocolate and orange brownie pie. I’ll be sure to snap a photo of each and every dish, and report back to you with recipes and about five extra pounds hung around my hips. I wish they would settle in my boobs instead. Sigh.

In the meantime, let’s keep it light and healthy. I’ll be BAHK with a fresh salad idea before the Turkey Bell rings.

 

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