Monthly Archives: July 2011

What’s For Dinner?

After scrambling through last week with no menu plan at all  (which I hate because I end up spending hours staring at the fridge wondering what to cook when I could be doing super productive things like watching Bravo or painting my fingernails) I got my act together and made a list for the coming week. There are a few things that I didn’t get around to making from 2 weeks ago so I need to use up ingredients, and of course there is the overflowing garden to contend with so if the vegetable side dishes seem a little repetitive, that’s why.  Also, coincidentally I managed to randomly pick out a bunch of recipes that originated at Simply Recipes.

Here’s what’s on the menu:


Lunch:  Taco Salad
Dinner:  Pesto + Goat Cheese Chicken + Garlic Butter Spaghetti Squash


Lunch: Grilled Chicken Salads (chicken grilled up this weekend!)
Dinner:  Blue Cheese Burgers + Caprese Salad (Garrett is addicted to this salad and it’s basically all he wants to eat.  Good thing I pulled 30 lbs of tomatoes out of the garden last week!)

Lunch:  Chicken Tikka Masala + Broccoli
Dinner:  Flank Steak Stir Fry with Asparagus + Cauliflower Fried Rice


Lunch:  Garam Masala Ground Beef with Cabbage + Onions
Dinner:  Salsa Chicken  (I made an ENORMOUS batch of fresh salsa with a lot of those tomatoes…MUST USE) + Salad

Lunch: Out!
Dinner:  Bison Burgers (Summer Bucket List item!) + Chili Rubbed Squash

Leftovers, pick up meat share.


Go Shopping!  Usually I Sunday nights since I go to the store I make an impromptu dinner based on whatever impulse buy I feel like making.  😉

Ok, it’s YOUR TURN…


Fun Things To Read On A Friday

It’s Friday. It’s been an awesome week and literally every single day, multiple times a day I’ve said to myself –ooh, I need to write a post about that.  My mind is overflowing with ideas and things and but I can’t actually get myself to sit down and put them into words.  It happens.  I have 2 amazingly tasty recipes to post, some thoughts on weight loss, a funny story about why Garrett is NOT in marketing,  ridiculous pictures and  a fitness update all sitting in the queue but no time or motivation to actually finish the task.  This week has kind of been a bear, and I’ve used my free time to do some serious rest and recovery and it always feels good to prioritize that.  I will get there next week but I kind of want to coast into the weekend.

In the meantime, since I’m OBVIOUSLY not contributing anything today but excuses, here are a few interesting reads from around the internet:

How To Make No Churn Honey Cinnamon Ice Cream – I don’t know about you but everywhere I look lately there are awesome summer ice cream recipes, alas I have no ice cream maker and hesitate to buy one lest I find an excuse to eat ice cream three meals a day.  I would have no problem rationalizing that.  I’m thinking of trying this one though since there is no special equipment required.  Plus it just sounds tasty!  Honey Ice Cream always reminds me of Hawaii…ah, wish I was there!

Life is Short Manifesto – I’ve posted this before, but I came across it again this week and I just love every single line.  

Fun Pickling Recipes – I don’t know what you are doing this weekend but I am playing PRESERVE THE FRICKEN HARVEST.  It’s a fun game.  I pulled 14 lbs of tomatoes out of the garden on Sunday only to find 18 lbs the following Wednesday.  You know there will be some tomato canning going on (EEP!  No experience!)  Also, I’m drowning in various different types of cucumbers so I’m just going to roll the dice and see how they pickle even though they aren’t specifically “Pickling Cucumbers.” Wish me luck!

What It Takes – Last but not least I am totally in love with this post that I just read this morning from Liz over at InnerTeub.  I love the way Liz can really tell it like it is about many things, but I found that on this topic, I could really relate.  I actually wrote an entire post over at Bodies in Motivation about the way weight loss conversations can turn real irritating, real quick.  Over the last year I’ve been asked by a million different people about what my Weight Loss Secret was, so much so I dedicated an entire series of posts to that secret.   But the truth is, most people don’t want to know the secret. They want you to tell them that they can keep doing what the want, and get results.  The truth is if you want to change your life, you have to do just that:  Change Your Life.  Don’t keep doing the same workouts, going to the same restaurants, eating the same foods, going to the same happy hours.  Try something new, challenge your mind and body.  Give yourself credit because YOU CAN DO IT.  Wow, I did not think that I was going to get so soapboxy about this.  I guess I just feel like if I can do it, anyone can do it.  But the keyword there is Do It.  It ain’t gonna happen sittin on the couch, ya know?

Nor does it happen taking crappy quality self portraits in your garage, but you know what I’m saying, right? 


Okay!  Since that got a little heavy, how about a dancing cat video. You have to smile at that don’t you?

Hope you all have a good weekend! 

Weekend Recap, Because I Have NO IDEA What’s For Dinner This Week.

Many moons ago — you know, when I was in my early 20s — I used to have to be at work by 5am regularly. Being the socializer I was, I often went out the night before and somehow made it to work bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to take on the day. This ability is no longer my reality.  In fact I packed so much into this weekend that when my alarm went off this morning I couldn’t figure out if my radio was playing music or if I had been hit by a truck and the sound I heard was angels singing.  Then I realized it was Bon Jovi on the radio and while it is many things, Wanted: Dead or Alive isn’t quite what I would call a Pearly Gate Anthem.  And my day began.
You all, I am TIRED.
I realize that all of you with adorable babies and multiple children are probably rolling your eyes and thinking Holly, you don’t know tired – so I won’t make this a post about trying to one up your fatigue. Instead I will show you some pictures and tell you some random things and we will call it a post for the sake of documentation, mmm kay?

For starters I spent the weekend checking a few more things off my summer bucket list  so you know despite my tiredness I am sublimely happy.  Friday my mom came out to visit for the weekend. She actually lives close by, but we both had similar errands to run and we were going to the same party on Saturday so we just made a weekend out of it. It was basically a girls weekend + Garrett.  You know he loved it.  
My mom can shop with the best of them, and Friday we did just that. After a crazy intense workout Friday morning, we headed out for most of the day to take care of business.  Taking care of business with my mom always involves at least one trip to Target where we A to Z every aisle in the store.  This is dangerous and while I love it, I do not recommend it if you are trying to save money.  My mom is a fantastic shopping enabler!  By the time we got home on Friday night we had just enough energy to have some dinner with Garrett, during which my mom got a long overdue lesson about the strategy of Formula One racing, we did a little prep work for the brunch I was hosting on Sunday, and then we all headed to sleep.
On Saturday morning we woke up early and I got to check my first item off the Summer Bucket List: Have a picnic in the Plaza in Sonoma.  My cousin Jim’s birthday was on Sunday so the bulk of my family met up in Sonoma at Sebastiani to eat and celebrate because that is how we roll.  Ok, truth be told we didn’t picnic in the Plaza, but my mom and I did get to see the plaza, because that was where we got sandwiches.  Qucik PSA: The ONLY proper sandwich choice when picnicking up in wine country is The Sonoma Cheese Factory.  They make the kind of sandwiches that God would make if heaven were a deli. Paleo diet be damned, when in Sonoma there must be sandwich consumption. I believe that is written in the epilogue of The Bible.
Then we headed over to have a picnic at a winery so I’m just going step in and call that close enough — CHECK!  I seriously LOVE chilling with my family.
There was lots of wine drinking and baby squeezing and joke-cracking that afternoon. It was a fun, yet too short, visit with my family. All the photos are here if you enjoy that business.
Unfortunately Garrett had to work and miss out on the Saturday afternoon fun which was a bummer, but when we got home he went all out and put together an impromptu scotch/whiskey/bourbon tasting for the three of us while I did a few more things to prep for my brunch.  I don’t even like any sort of brown liquor, quite frankly, but I highly recommend comparative tasting.  That’s probably the coffee/wine geek in me, but it was so much more fun to taste the differences between all the different types rather than just drink a glass of brown stuff.  My favorite at the end of the tasting?
Who knew?  Never thought I would enjoy scotch on purpose.
Saturday night Garrett suggested we bust out some old family movies and all watch them together and if you guessed that this melted my mama’s little heart, then you guessed correctly. That Garrett knows just how to get brownie points, so the 3 of us stayed up way too late laughing and reminiscing about old family stories. Also, about how awful the fashion was in the 90s. I turned off those videos with no clear understanding of what purpose the mock-turtleneck served, and with extreme wonder surrounding why people ever wore matching sweatsuits. Awful, really really awful.
Sunday morning again came too quick, and my mom headed out because she babysits my little cousin Chelsea on Sundays and Mondays. After a whirlwind of a weekend my mom was off to baby wrangle. It’s a good thing I made a huge pot of coffee because you can tell by the look on her face that this little chicky doesn’t want to sit still for long. My mom needed all the caffeine she could get:
After she took off, I checked another thing of the Bucket List: Have a dinner party in my backyard before it gets sweltering. Except I didn’t actually have dinner, I had a brunch, but I’m just going to call it complete anyway because Bobby Brown told me that was my prerogative. CHECK! Since Sacramento is always sweltering I thought my best bet for getting to eat outside was to do breakfast instead of dinner. Sarah, Elizabeth, Amy and Elisabeth came over and I would show you a picture of that lovely afternoon except I didn’t take a single one!  I think that is the sign of good conversation if you can get 5 women in a room who document their lives via blog and not a single one busts out a camera.  Either that, or they thought my tablecloth was ugly.  I’m going to hope for the former.  
We had lots of coffee, cocktails and food — so much food actually that I forgot to even serve the bacon I had cooked.  And no Garrett and I didn’t have bacon for dinner, why would you even think that?????  Actually we didn’t ONLY have bacon, there was also blueberry cake too.  We like to make sure we get in some fruit, you know?  
By the time evening rolled around I basically only had enough energy to play fashion police on the couch while watching my DVR.  For example — WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE:
After contemplating that I was obviously too exhausted to do much else besides go to bed.  And now we are back to the grind on a Monday.  How does that even happen?
How did you enjoy your weekend, peeps?

Gardening Tips From Dummies…er, For Dummies?

Well I’m pretty sure there is more action happening in the garden this week than in all of the combined dressing rooms of New Kids on the Block circa 1989.  By the way, I have a strong memory of once watching an interview with NKOTB only to hear Joey McIntyre say he was “saving himself” for the right girl.  I also have a strong memory of wondering what exactly he was “saving”, but feeling like this obviously meant THERE MIGHT BE A CHANCE FOR ME!  Oh Joey, my 12 year old self could have been the right girl for you!  Ah, youthful naivete. 

You know what, upon re-reading that it sounds kind of creepy, but fret not you guys – it is sooooo the opposite of creepy.  I HAD NO IDEA WHAT HE WAS SAVING, for the love of God. Sheltered, suburban upbringing folks.    

(Oh man this post has already devolved so quickly.)

Well as you can imagine, that naivete still exists in my world — though it goes without saying it is no longer youthful.  Now instead of hoping that some pop star will carry me away on a white horse, I have other ridiculous, Not-Based-In-Fact hopes.  Hopes like:  My tomatoes will totally grow if I don’t cage them.  Why does the world need cages anyway?  Cages are just so…cage-y! 

The lesson in all of this (that all of YOU probably saw coming a mile away) is that messing with Mother Nature is just never the best course of action.  Screwing with “The Right Way” to do things just because you have an overinflated ego or are lazy is a seriously lame thing to do.  Don’t be lame, yo.  You would think this would have been ingrained in my head considering the number of surfing documentaries I have watched in the last few weeks — which clearly ALL have a thematic don’tf*ckwithmothernature kind of undertone — but unfortunately you would be wrong.  This blog is nothing if not a documentary of my shortcomings. 

You see, I did a lot of research on caging tomatoes (read: I googled it once or twice) and couldn’t really figure out why I HAD to do it.  It looked like a pain, tomato cages are expensive, and so I just kept avoiding it in hopes that it would go away.  Who said I HAD to do anything.  I will show you, Mother Nature and Garden Gods all over the world.  Uh, yeah, so that didn’t work out.  Last weekend it became clear to me why caging is necessary — tomatoes are HEAVY, y’all.  And those poor little branches need some help.  Why I insist on always doing things the hard way is still a mystery to me.  

So I finally accepted the need for cages, only to realize that at this point all of our plants were so overgrown that caging them was not even an option.  Elizabeth warned me about this, and yet I still persisted in my laziness.  What can I tell you, I’m an idiot.  

So what were we to do? Well, we came up with an Emergency DIY Solution, obviously.  We decided to craft a makeshift trellis for each plant since that seemed to at least be somewhat feasible.  We headed to Home Depot, scratched our foreheads a great deal, turned down the help of more than 5 earnest employees who were clearly responding to the forehead scratching, and then came home and made this with some pieces of bamboo and some tape.

Why yes I do feel like a White Trash Gardening MacGuyver, thanks for asking!  But hey, the tomatoes are supported!  And look,  they are actually growing instead of sitting on the ground waiting to rot or be eaten by bugs!  It’s amazing how an afternoon of hard work and a vicious sunburn can change your perspective.  Wait, that’s not the most ringing endorsement.  But  I was happy!  I promise!

It’s not the prettiest or most long-lasting solution,  but last night we ate the most delicious Caprese Salad (White Balsamic Vinegar is a game changer) using our tomatoes and our Resurrected Basil (you guys, it didn’t die after all!) and I felt a little ray of hope that maybe our garden really will make it this year.

So shall we recap these helpful DIY Tips:

*Don’t mess with Mother Nature and be lame
*Do what gardening websites (and Elizabeth) tell you to do
*Herbs like to play dead, don’t fret

I know you come here for my highly educational commentary, so I didn’t want to deny you. 

Hey, speaking of Not Dead…I think my Meyer lemon and lime tree are back from the dead as well!  They were crusty and brown and well…dead-looking for months.  Then the other day, I saw this:

Signs of Life, people.  Blurry, off-center signs of life…but who cares!?!?  I thought it was a weed at first but it is totally a new branch of the tree.  What do you know about pruning lemon trees, internet?  I know you have mad skillz!

Everything else is chugging away producing fruit at a pace faster than we can eat (more fun garden photos here), so we have even started giving stuff away.  If you can think of any creative things to do with zucchini, squash, cucumbers, basil, or tomatoes especially, I’d love your input.  I’d like to do a bit more research on creative ways to Can My Harvest (bahahaha), but well…I think we all know how I do research.

What’s For Dinner?

This week the garden and its bounty are dominating the side dishes.  Our house is overrun with zucchini, squash, lemon cucumbers, regular cucumbers, spaghetti squash, basil (RESURRECTION!), and we even have some gorgeous tomatoes that are ready to be eaten!  I barely had to buy produce.  I’m so excited to have fresh, awesome produce right in my backyard.

Reason # 426 of Why Summer Rules!


Lunch:  Taco Salad
Dinner:  Turkey Chili with all the fixins!


Lunch: Grilled Chicken Salads (chicken grilled up this weekend!)
Dinner:  Italian Pub Burgers with Roasted Parmesan Zucchini + Caprese Salad  (Thanks for the inspiration to roast my zucchini, Jessica!)


Lunch:  Chicken Rogan Josh + Curried Squash with Onions
Dinner:  Pork Chops Pizzaiola + Roasted Broccoli + Pizza Squash


Lunch:  Kielbasa + Greek Salad
Dinner:  Pesto + Goat Cheese Chicken + Sauteed Cabbage

Lunch:  Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Dinner: Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

Leftovers, pick up meat share.


Brunch with some of my favorite lady friends!  

Leftovers/Veggie Drawer Cleanout for dinner. 

Ok, it’s YOUR TURN…


July PRs, Rickshaws and Audrey Hepburn

At my CrossFit gym we track our PRs monthly. Although I am a super anal list maker (you’re shocked, I know) and OF COURSE track all of my workouts, progress and my actual Personal Records — I like to make up superficial PRs for myself too. It’s more fun that way. In June, for example, my PR was Wearing a Tank Top While Being Anywhere Other Than My House. You all know how I feel about this, this was a LEGIT PR. Maybe next month’s PR will be wearing shorts. Yes, that’s right; I’m totally anti-shorts at the gym. Not on YOU, of course, on me. So August, maybe? To be determined. But what I really want to tell you about July’s Superficial PR, because when it finally all came together I was ready to do my best impersonation of this.
Let’s start at the beginning.  We generally we do all of our running outside at the gym. There are predetermined routes and the 400m, 800m, and 1600m routes all involve running on a busy street in town for a short period of time. It doesn’t bother me at all to run out in the middle of traffic for a short distance (there is a sidewalk and you are always running with others) but as you can imagine, running down a busy street during rush hour frequently involves some kind of cat-calling. Do you wonder if anyone has ever successfully made a love connection by hooting and hollering at someone on the street? Because these are the things I wonder about when I’m running and some underage gentleman sitting shotgun in a shiny purple low-riding Oldsmobile hollers that I have a nice ass. Thank you, kind sir! BUT WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH WITH THAT COMMENT?
The other thing I wonder about:  rickshaws.
Yep, those kind of rickshaws.
You see, during a run the other night as my entire group ambled down the street we passed a homeless man riding on a rickshaw – which frankly, is notable enough in itself. End of story. I mean, if someone told me I had to procure a rickshaw immediately as a part of some game show like challenge that all of a sudden just happened to fall in my lap, I would be stumped.  I really would have no idea where to start. So I got to wondering: where does a person with more limited resources find a rickshaw? Was it just strewn about? Did he save up for it? Did someone put their old rickshaw out on the curb in hopes that it would make its way to a good home?  I mean, it’s kind of brilliant when you think about it. It’s a parasol on wheels!
Anyway, I digress.
So obviously I was thinking this gentleman was fairly brilliant, you know right up until he smacked his lips together and told me that I had very nice thighs, and might I perchance, take a moment to wrap them around him? In slightly different words, of course. I mean, I guess there’s no harm in asking, but since my boyfriend was running right next to me, the odds were unfortunately not in his favor. Awkward. I declined (OBVIOUSLY) and ran on my merry way thinking about rickshaws and resourcefulness and what my life would be like if a game show like challenge automatically appeared, but mostly I put the incident out of my mind until I was at Target the other day.
I was looking for a pair of black capris and if you can believe it (I CAN’T!) there were nary a pair in the entire Target clothing section! Not even in the juniors section where they sell things in impossible sizes like 3s or 11s! (So weird.) But lo and behold I found a pair of very darling, Audrey-Hepburn-esque slim-fitting, ankle-length pants.  I’m trying to think of one more hyphenated adjective to throw in there for emphasis but  I’m at a loss.  Some combination of crazy and desperation made me feel like trying them on, and surprisingly they were mostly adorable.  But they were also snugger in the thigh than I am generally comfortable with. Remember I do not have tiny thighs, I am chip off the old block as it were, and the old block was a defensive lineman in the NFL.  No gap between the thighs for me!  Now imagine those thighs in skinny Audrey Hepburn pants and you will realize the conundrum I was in standing alone in the Target dressing room.
WHAT SHOULD I DO???  I mean, the hand-wringing, you know?
And then – like a voice from the heavens, I heard my little rickshaw friend validate how delightful looking my thighs truly are.  And if he could love them, I COULD LOVE THEM!  And with a self-help hug to my pride, I told those Super hot Audrey Hepburn pants to GET IN MY CART IMMEDIATELY! And those Super hot Audrey Hepburn pants now live in my closet thanks to a homeless man riding in a rickshaw.

And if we can agree on nothing else, I think we can all agree this is my Superficial July PR, no?

What’s For Dinner?

God, I love this game.  

The weather is going to be a bit cooler this week around here, so I am taking advantage and cooking some things that use my oven/stove.  Last week that was NOT an option.  

What are YOU having for dinner this week?  Next week’s menu isn’t going to plan itself you know.  Give me some inspiration!  


Lunch:  Balsamic Pot Roast and Roasted Cauliflower
Dinner: Jalapeno Popper Burgers (inspired by this recipe) + Grilled Salad


Lunch: Grilled Mojito Lime Chicken Thighs (cooked over the weekend) + Sauteed Summer Squash + Basil
Dinner:  Turkey Satay Sliders (if these are any good, I’ll post my recipe) + Salad (We have a Costco bag of Romaine that needs chowing this week)


Lunch: Grilled Southwest Chicken Thighs (again, this weekend’s work) + Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Bacon (inspired by this recipe)
Dinner: I’m going out with a friend…Poor Garrett, Leftover city — Population: 1, buddy.


Lunch:  Spiced Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples (again, recipe to come if it is good) + whatever looks ready in the garden.  That stuff doesn’t eat itself.
Dinner:  Chicken Breasts with Italian Sweet and Sour Fennel + Sauteed Cabbage (can you tell we have lots of cabbage on hand, too?)


Lunch:  Turkey Larb (inspired by this recipe, Paleo-ified) + Greek Romaine Salad
Dinner:  Pork Chops with Balsamic Peppers (here is a similar recipe) + Squash and Cabbage Warm Bacon Coleslaw.  (Whoa, whoa..wait.  Squash?  In Your Coleslaw?  Yep, it’s divine.)


Lunch:  Chicken Gouda Sausages + Veggie Drawer Cleanout
Dinner:  Ribs — recipe TBD + Surf and Turf Skewers (spicy shrimp + chorizo) and Grilled Veggies


Eat Leftovers and go grocery shopping!

Ok, it’s YOUR TURN…

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June Books

Well, crap.  We’re almost a third of the way through July and I haven’t even told you about the books I read in June!  Let’s talk about them, shall we?  There were six.  And if you are a skimmer make sure to read about the last book because it was A FAVORITE!

So, as the page turns….

A Place of Yes by Bethenny Frankel

Look, don’t judge me.  I like Bethenny.  And if you have read these book recaps long enough, you know I’m a sucker for celebrity books.  In fact this month I actually picked up Jesse James’ American Outlaw and FELT SAD when it was due back to the library because I hadn’t had a chance to read it.  Now that, you can judge.  It was morbid curiosity though, I swear.  I’m Team Sandra all the way.  The thing about celebrity books is that they are rarely all that enlightening.  In other news, water is also wet.  Now that we have gotten the Top Stories out of the way, I feel it is my duty to tell you that despite my love of Bethenny, her show, and of course her Skinnygirl Cocktails — I was sort of disappointed by this book.  It was just a little bit too self help-y for me, but you know, in her defense that is kind of her gig.  At least in this one she wasn’t being self-helpy and telling me I should be eating the whole wheat versions of everything available.  I will say though, that if you like her and you are in that sort of mood, pick it up.  She is hilarious and she does tell a good story, so in that sense it wasn’t a total loss.  I just was in more of A Place of Notsomuch when I read it, you know?

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I hijacked this book recommendation from a post over at All & Sundry where the comments were basically a library-gasm.  It’s a mystery surrounding a troubled reporter living in Chicago who ends up back in the southern small town where she grew up doing some investigative journalism surrounding some grisly murders.  I know the word grisly is cliche but I just love it!  Grisly.  Grisly.  Ok enough of that.  So, the thing about this book is that it is VERY page turning.  And who doesn’t love to read a book that gets to the bottom of a murder mystery?  In that way, it was satisfying.  Also sometimes scary.   The characters were a bit one dimensional though, and there was this somewhat unbelievable psychiatric subplot.  But the thing that ruffled my feathers most was that in the second half of the book people started acting in a way that seemed very disparate from how they had been previously written.  Almost like the author wrote the first half, took a break, and finished the second half.  But it was quick and easy, and mostly entertaining so if you are looking for something pulpy to pick up to tickle the part of your brain that loves a mystery (coochie coo!) — I’d say read it.  I’m basically recommending the book equivalent of a bad Lifetime movie that you watch on a Saturday afternoon KNOWING it’s not going to be great, but enjoying it immensely anyway. 

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Back in May Janssen reviewed Gladwell’s book What the Dog Saw and some of the links to his essays made me fall down a Malcolm Rabbit Hole.  I decided it would be easier, and that my eyes would thank me ultimately, if I just did a little refresher in book form.  I generally enjoy his books, so this was the first one I tackled and you know what?  It was…only ok.  I’m a fan of most of his essays — they generally tackle interesting topics in a light, but somewhat researched, manner —  but this one didn’t keep me quite as riveted as usual.  Also, I feel like I should add the disclaimer that I was forced to read it in one day because it was due back to the library and I couldn’t renew it.  This was probably an influence.  Mostly because it made me painfully aware that he does this annoying thing in many of his essays (which, actually, is probably more the reason it annoys me —  the actual technique itself is not all that annoying) where he opens up with this description of an ordinary person, in an ordinary place, doing ordinary things and then out of the blue mentions– “Oh yes, and his name was Abraham Lincoln” or some other well known person.  And listen, I get that he is trying to humanize the stories that he tells — a sort of historical equivalent to Stars — They’re Just Like Us, but it gets kind of old when you see it over and over. 

Joy School by Elizabeth Berg

I have heard way too much about Berg’s writing ability to have never picked up one of her books.  It was an impulse grab at the library and I’m so glad I picked it up!  This was actually the second in a series but I didn’t feel confused going into it without reading the first.  It was short and sweet fiction about a young girl who has lost her mother and is living with her father and trying to make it through adolescence unscathed.  GOOD FREAKIN LUCK, main character. It was very cute though, and I agree that Berg does have a very emotive quality to her writing that pulls you right in.  I will definitely make an effort to read more of her books.   

Home Cooking:  A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin

This was literally delicious — but you all know I love a good food memoir almost as much as I love a celebrity memoir.  Colwin tells stories of her homes and kitchens, of good meals and bad, and tales of both friends and family.  The book feels a bit dated — it was published in 1988 so some of the nutritional references made me kind of giggle, but her passion for food, observation, and storytelling really still feel relevant.  I’d say if you are a fan of Molly Wizenberg, you will definitely enjoy this book. You may even learn a thing or two, I know I did.

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

I just loved this book!  It’s a memoir centering around a Manhattan journalist who gives up her city life to move out to a farm in upstate New York with her boyfriend.  They starts one of the first “Whole Diet” CSAs and this book details the rocky road to get there.  For about $60/person a week, their farm provides beef, pork, chicken, seasonal vegetables, and dairy to its members.  Um…where  can I sign up?  Too bad it’s not in California.  You would think we would have one of those where I live.  Hippies, what are you waiting for — I WILL PAY!  It’s not your typical cliched City Girl Goes Country and Lives Happily Ever After story though.  This book (and the farm) is complex and fraught with complications.  There are conflicting passions, interesting personalities, and after only one year there Kimball emerges almost a completely different person.  It’s about how love changes you and how nature enlightens you — plus there is so many mouth watering descriptions of meals that you BEST finish your dinner before picking it up to read for the night.  Super enjoyable!  Highly Recommended!  Go forth, and read it and then tell me what you think.

So that’s all for me, folks.  What great page turners did you pick up this month?

Grilled Salad

The first time I ever heard of anyone grilling lettuce was on a Food Network episode that involved The Neelys.  Grilling Salad?  I was pretty sure they were smoking more than just the pork butt in their BBQ Restaurants.  But I did bookmark it in my brain as something to try at another time, and one night — feeling kind of lazy about the idea of chopping up a million ingredients — I tried it; and lo!  The Lazyman’s Salad was discovered.  

Grilled Romaine, specifically, is one of my favorite creative ways to enjoy a vegetables when cooking out.  There is a bit of showstopping appeal when you put a head of lettuce on a BBQ, and who doesn’t love a little showstopping now and again?  You can thank me later for not embedding the video for that similarly titled awful Danity Kane song in this post.  If I promise you one thing, I promise you that this recipe is better than entire Danity Kane oeuvre (and a Rainbow Cadillac, whatever the hell that means!)  

(P. Diddy is such a linguistic visionary.)

So back to the salad!  Even though I have only ever grilled with romaine, I am going to assert that it is the perfect Grillin’ Lettuce.  (I believe that’s what’s called Begging the Question.  Miriel, please school me on this.) Idiom debates aside, the only preparation that a head of romaine needs is to be sliced in half, keeping the core in tact, and brushed with a bit of Olive Oil, Salt + Pepper.    (You can brush oil on both sides, but I find that it is really only necessary on the inside)  If you want to get really nutty, you could add other dried herbs at this point too.

In the meantime, light your grill and let’s get that sucker going on a relatively high heat.  While you are waiting for it to heat up, let’s talk toppings, shall we?

This is a salad, so toppings are really up to you.  Ok, that was a good talk.   

Just kidding.  This is where you can customize to meet any of your dietary needs.  Paleo friends, for example — cut the cheese.  You know, um literally.  For the sake of demonstration, today I want to talk about Grilled Cobb-Esque Salad, because really…why not?  It’s a salad full of bacon and stuff and well, I tend to agree with this sentiment:

Found on pinterest.  Thank god there is now a website where I can find blurry, terrible pictures of signs about bacon.  THANK GOD.  

So while taking a break from pinning arbitrary pictures, and waiting for my grill to heat, I chopped up some Avocado, Tomatoes, Blue Cheese (actually Costco chopped that up, Thanks Costco!), Red Onions, and a Hard Boiled Egg.  I also grabbed a stash of bacon bits from my fridge that I pre-cooked over the weekend.  What? You don’t have bacon bits in a tupperware in your fridge?  GET WITH THE PROGRAM AND GET YOURSELF SOME, they will not go to waste!  Well unless of course you are a vegetarian.  Then don’t do it.  That would be weird. 

So we are now about to reach the hardest part of this recipe, but I assure you it is all mental.  We are going to — wait for it — put the lettuce on the grill.  I know, you never saw that coming, did you?
Your brain will say no, but I promise your tummy will say yes!  Just try it!  

I know.  It kind of makes you want to shake your head.  Have faith.  Have I steered you wrong yet?   
So you will be standing at the grill watching all of this go down and wondering what I’ve been smoking (been there) for about 5-6 minutes.   Then your heart will do a little flip.  Well not your heart, the romaine heart.  And actually, you will be doing the flipping.  See what I did there?  That’s what’s called lame comedic wordplay.   
Thank you!  I’ll be here all day.  
Then, Behold!  Grilled Lettuce!  Could you die?  Wait, don’t die.  The ending will totally worth it and this is not the end.  This is the part in an episode of Law & Order where they bring the first and most obvious suspect in and arrest him, even though there is like, 30 minutes left in the episode so it can’t possibly already be solved.

So you will want to go ahead and leave it on for another minute or two just to get everything a bit tender.  The thing about this lettuce is that it doesn’t get all wilty and gross, which — isn’t that what you think when you think about hot lettuce?  But it is the furthest thing from that, I swear.  It’s crunchy, tender, and full of flavor — and that’s even before you add the toppings.  

Ah yes, back to the toppings.  

So when you pull that shrimp off the barbie and put it on the plate, make sure to dress it before you add the toppings.  Let all of that dressing deliciousness seep into the nooks and crannies of the lettuce so that every bite is full of flavor.  For my Cobb-esque Salad I used a blue cheese vinaigrette.  I could bathe in blue cheese vinaigrette, but you can feel free to pick your own favorite salad dressing.  

I’m open minded like that.  

Then, let’s add our toppings.  Feel free to pretend you are a food stylist while you do this, but just for the sake of full disclosure, these salads taste the best when they look like your produce drawer threw up.  It’s not always a pretty dish, but is ALWAYS delivers on the tastiness.

I think P. Diddy would approve!  

Although I chose to put a lot of toppings on this particular incarnation of a Bad Ass Salad, I have also made it really simply with only lettuce + tomatoes or lettuce and thinly sliced red onion — really it works with whatever you have on hand.  It’s an exciting texture experience, plus all you have to do is cut your lettuce in half.  I mean people presume it to be fancy and high maintenance but it’s just lazy and easy masquerading as awesome! 

It is the Ke$ha of the salad world, people.

So go forth!  Grill Your Lettuce!  

And when you do, tell me know how you like it, would ya?


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