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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!

I’M BACK!

It is March 1st and my first Monday off in about five or six weeks. I fulfilled my duties on “How To Make It In America” and today I’m only going back for a group hug and to drop off my parking pass. I had fun, but I missed filling out these pages with silly nonsense and my experimental recipes. I’m so thrilled to be back in the kitchen.

Last Sunday I spent tucked under a blanket and surrounded by my cookbooks. As I leafed through the pages time stood still. Cosmo curled up on my pillow and rested his chin on my shoulder with a gentle sigh. A tiny spider treaded by whistling quietly not to disturb. I was as captivated as a 7-year old reading fairy tales and stories by Hans Christian Andersen.

Our dinner table hasn’t seen much meat over the last couple of months, which I am proud of. However, the cook in me longs to explore new culinary regions and foreign territories. I know I won’t be discovering new lands. Nevertheless the thrill will be of the same magnitude as if traveling to an exotic country, whatever that means to you – Vietnam, Zimbabwe, or Poland. Hence, I’m thinking Pork Chops with Roasted Beets, Cornish Hens and Dill-dusted New Potatoes, Duck with Madera Sauce, Leg of a Lamb with Caramelized Endives and Frisée with Lavender-Honey Dressing. Somebody pinch me, HARD, for I’m drooling dreaming.

Certainly, I won’t whip it all out in a day, or even one week. Those dinners are coming up, I assure you. It’s time to sharpen your knives and fast for the upcoming feast.

Look what I did last night – SWEET POTATO AND PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM CUPCAKE. Ok, it is not a cupcake, but one could be fooled.

After making out with the cookbooks I was so powered up and inspired I was buzzing. Jason came in to the bedroom and asked me:

WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

Before he realized what happened I was stuck in our refrigerator head first plotting the menu. When he followed me to the kitchen he stumbled upon a headless body sticking out of the icebox accompanied by various food articles shooting out and landing on the kitchen counter. There were 2 GIANT MUSHROOMS (which my Jason HATES), fresh sage, parsley, gorgonzola cheese, chicken stock, 1 egg, and a box of diced pancetta. From a veggie basket I grabbed 2 shallots, a couple of garlic cloves and 4 sweet potatoes.

The potatoes got peeled, washed, cubed and tossed into a pot with chicken stock and a touch of salt. When those cooked I minced garlic and shallots, and chopped a handful of sage. I tossed pancetta onto a hot skillet, let the fat render and added my minced and chopped goods. Seasoned with a touch of salt they sautéed for a couple of minutes, until cooked and drained potatoes arrived. Everything was mixed together, seasoned with more salt and black pepper to taste, and then crushed and mashed.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes were done.

In the meantime, I wiped the mushrooms with a damp paper towel, as it’s not a good idea to wash them under running water. Mushrooms soak it up, and their flavor gets compromised severely.

Two small bowls came out of a cupboard. In one bowl I beat the egg; the other one was for flour, which I seasoned with salt and pepper and a few springs of fresh thyme. The mushroom hats were dusted in the flour, then coated with egg and gently set onto a hot skillet with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. I let them cook topside down first for about 10 minutes over a low heat, then flipped over and covered with a few slices of gorgonzola. The guys cooked until the cheese began to melt.

I was ready to plate. First I scooped my MASHED SWEET POTATOES with shallots, sage and pancetta. Then I topped the mound with my beautiful PORTOBELLO HAT. The “muffin” was then showered with chopped parsley and the plate landed in front of Jason’s face.

WOW!

My cheeks were the color of roses due to the heat and excitement over my new creation. The church bells rang in the distance and a hummingbird got trapped inside my chest. I was terrified that Jason would take a bite and spit it out across the room. Then he would throw his fork at me and thus nail me to the wall behind my back. Have I mentioned he HATES MUSHROOMS?

Why would I even take my chances, you ask. It’s obvious! I’m from Poland, where mushroom picking is a common hobby and people take it seriously. I grew up picking, cleaning, drying and cooking varieties of mushrooms you’ve never heard of. I LOVE MUSHROOMS. My mother sends me boxes of dried wild mushrooms in mail. My cousin smuggled a bag of those stinkers for me in her backpack across the US border. I am compelled to find a way to help Jason overcome his fear of fungi.

Luckily, it’s more about the texture than the flavor itself. He’s an enthusiast of my MUSHROOM-BARLEY SOUP, where the hero of the day gets chopped up in a food processor. However, a PORTOBELLO STEAK is a different story. I stood motionless by the table, keeping a safe distance, while Jason was testing the waters. The first bite in and down. Nothing. No sirens. No thunders. No knives in the air.

I DON’T KNOW YET.

Another morsel of food went into his mouth.

HM… I THINK I LIKE IT.

Phew! A giant swig of air I was subconsciously holding in my lungs escaped with a loud and uncontrolled whistle. I could not believe my eyes. Jason was eating away his MUSHROOM MUFFIN, his ears striking and tail wiggling in full contentment.

THIS IS YUMMY!

I must have done something right. I can’t wait to take Jason mushroom picking in Poland. That will be a trip in its own right.

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