A Great Cooking Class and Some New Recipes

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My friend, Courtney, and I went to a great cooking class last week.  We’ve been to quite a few together…San Francisco, Laguna…but this one was different.  The others we’ve been to, and maybe you’ve been to too, usually do a quick presentation on a variety of recipes and then each group or team gets assigned one of the dishes to make.  It’s still very fun, but in this class we were given a quick presentation of three recipes and then the two of us were able to make all three recipes.  It’s just great to get to do the step-by-step hands on kind of cooking to really get the feel of how long a recipe takes and how it can be adapted to your home cooking.

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The facility at Eat Street is great!  It’s in the up and coming area of Anaheim in the historic district near the hip new Anaheim Packing District/Packing House…I still have to make it over to that place. Highly acclaimed and accomplished Chef, Katie Averill has round tables set up, welcoming you to just sit and chat and enjoy some iced tea, water or a glass of wine as you wait for others to arrive.  When everyone is assembled we moved over to the cooking/demonstration area.  Chef Katie did a very quick overview of the recipes, the facilities, what was where and then let us have at it!  She has multiple stations, workspaces, pans, bowls, etc.. lined up so you’re not all sharing the same oven or waiting endlessly for utensils to use.  She specifically instructed us in the art of “mise en place“, French for “putting in place” but as she explained, basically means assembling all of your ingredients first so you’re not running back and forth from cutting board to fridge to pantry.  I had learned this technique/philosophy at the cooking class I took on the Seine on a trip to Paris and it just makes cooking so much more enjoyable and organized.  With bowls & pans at the ready and ingredients assembled we were ready to tackle the recipes.  Here you go….

Deep-Fried Green Olives Stuffed with Sausage
sorry…we ate the finished product so fast that we forgot to take pics

Stuffing…
1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 garlic close, minced
1/8 onion, finely chopped (she showed us a technique that makes this so easy)
1/8 # sausage without casings (we had 2 breakfast size sausages)
1/2 tsp chopped Italian parsley
1/8 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
1/8 c panko bread crumbs

6 brine cured large green olives, pitted and sliced open (we just used our thumbs to open them up a bit)
1/3  c. all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 c. panko bread crumbs

oil for frying

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Place saute pan over medium hat and when it is hot add your olive oil.  Add onion and sausage & cook until the sausage has almost browned, then add garlic (so garlic doesn’t cook too fast and become bitter.)  Off the heat add the parsley, oregano and bread crumbs.  Stuff the olives with the mixture, keeping them kind of tight.

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Prepare 3 bowls with flour, egg and bread crumbs.  Roll olives in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.  Deep fry the olives until the breading is lightly browned…1-2 minutes.
note:  The olive taste over powered the sausage a bit, so we’d need to either stuff them more or come up with an alternative (small colorful peppers??) vessel for stuffing to really enjoy the sausage.  But..they were really good@

Tahini-Marinated Chicken Skewers with Honey, Yogurt and Ginger Sauce

Marinade:
2 scallions chopped
1/2 TBS peeled, minced ginger
1 garlic clove
1 TBS Sesame tahini
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. water

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8 chicken tenders
1 TBS olive oil
s&p to taste

Dipping Sauce:
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 TBS peeled minced ginger
1/8 c. chopped scallions
1/6 c. honey
1/4 c. plain yogurt

To make the marinade blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Pour marinade over chicken and refrigerate for about 20 minutes or so while you make the sauce.

Heat olive oil, add ginger, scallions, and honey and cook 1 minute.  Let cool slightly and add the yogurt.  Set aside.

Pull the chicken out of the marinade and season with s&p a bit.  Cook chicken for about 4 minutes per side until golden on both sides.  Enjoy!

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We also made a Pizzette Bianco…and I may share that recipe at a later date, but I’m a lazy pizza maker and just buy my dough for Pizza Mondays!  They sure were good with the arugula salad on top.

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I would really recommend Chef Katie’s Eat Street.  It was fun & organized and we met some nice people who had already been to two of her classes.  I’m going to go to the “Date Night in Paris” when I get that date someday!!  …or, in the meantime, one of the “singles” classes!
(Recipes re-printed & shared with permission from Chef Katie)

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Crazing Fun Sailing Adventure

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I was standing in the galley, holding on, to take this picture!

Last summer I had the unique, fun, opportunity to be part of the crew on a sail boat in the Thursday night “Beer Can Races” in Newport Harbor.  My neighbor at the time, Suzanne, has been sailing for years and is the captain, I guess you’d call her, of a beautiful large sailboat…I’m not sure the exact size (…and Suzanne would not be happy that I don’t have the specs) but it’s under 40 feet with a little galley and place to sleep.  It’s gorgeous, with it’s unique magenta hull and magenta lips printed on it’s main sail.

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When Suzanne asked me if I wanted to go I was so excited!  We ventured out a bit after 5 pm to get to the start around the 6 pm starting time (they start the really big boats first and go down in size/class from there.)  It was so much fun just meandering over to the start, past the Harborside Pavilion and the Balboa Island Ferry.  Then as we passed the check in/start boat it was time to jockey for position at the start….WOW!!!

Let me back up a little and give you a little history and explanation of the name “Beer Can Races.”  They are historically very informal weekday races, as opposed to the very competitive ones that take place on the weekends out in the ocean.  Legend has it that the name came from the inexperience of the racers who didn’t know about markers and just followed the trail of beer cans thrown over board by their competitors out front.  I have no idea if that’s the real reason?…but I have no other reasonable explanation.  Basically, just fun races on a Thursday night from mid- Balboa Island down the channel past Lido Island and back.

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Neck and Neck!!

Well, as we jockeyed into position for the start we did some heavy tacking (or zig-zagging) back and forth across the harbor, missing other boats by inches.  It was crazy and it was exceptionally windy this particular Thursday night!  There were 4 or 5 experience people on the boat and I really thought I might just sit in the back and go from side to side as we tacked and just watched my head as the boom went by.  That was not the case!!  Suzanne instructed me to sit on the side of the boat with my legs dangling and one of the guys sitting next to me would let me know when to get up and go over to the other side of the boat, repeating my leg dangling and keeping my body on deck, my arms behind the wire “railing” (I’m sure there’s a more technical term for that.)  As we tacked back and forth the guy next to me says “follow me” and “get ready to go” to which we both crouched down in preparation for going over to the other side of the boat.  At this point the boat is deeply pitched toward starboard and as he says “GO!” I had to run up and hold onto the mast in order to keep from literally falling over the starboard side of the boat…and he had to hold on to me to keep me from falling.  It was a literally frightening, but as we sat back over on the port side it was such an adrenaline rush…and I knew, with this wind, there was more to come.  Yikes, it was hairy getting down that channel, but so much fun!  The sail back up the channel was a bit more relaxed and I just had to stand with my body against the boom just helping to keep the sail forward as the wind died down a bit.  What an amazing ride!  When we were done with the race, we leisurely sailed back to our dock as the sun was setting and then sat eating hors d’oeuvres and enjoying some wine.

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you can see the wind and the pitch in this pic…crazy fun!

I’m hoping I get invited back some day this summer!  It was an amazing experience….with some bruises to show for it!

 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Pure Americana

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The parade starts with the singing of the National Anthem

As I sit on my bed reading the NY Times this morning (it’s Sunday…even though you’re reading this on Wednesday) …have I mentioned how much I love Sunday morning?….the activity out on Marine Ave starts to come alive!  The annual Balboa Island parade doesn’t start until 11, but the excitement outside my window is palpable.  Children squealing, chairs lining the street since last night, balloons and speakers being set up.  After a few mic checks…and halfway through my reading of the Times….I hear “What a Wonderful World”  blaring over the loud speakers and I’m kind of overcome with emotion.  Wow, this is so schmaltzy, corny Americana…and I LOVE IT!!

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The theme this year was Anchors Away!

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USC cheerleaders and marching band made an appearance

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swing dancing in the streets

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one of the many “dog” category entries

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Mr. Irrelevant, Gerald Christian, made an appearance

I went to a party up in my old/new ‘hood last night to say farewell to the amazing Habing family as they begin their journey back to their hometown and family in Florida.  They will be missed.  It was such a fun, warm (as in loving & warm) party that only that neighborhood can convey.  As I’ve said before…a little piece of Shangri-La!

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So, as I leave this week for my son’s wedding, I am very emotional about how lucky I am, to have an amazing, beautiful wedding celebration to look forward to with family and friends…and so grateful for the this past weekend…old friends and new and the experiences past and yet to come.  Bring it on!!

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We’re celebrating the union of these two fabulous people this weekend!

 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

 

Motivational Mondays….Strength

Just a couple of quotes that I thought were great….

quoteI’ve become a little obsessed with these very trendy “saying cubes.”

elizabeth gilbert quoteThanks to my friend, Marsha, for sharing this one!

 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

 

Invite People Over This Weekend!

peonies.roses.hydrangea2I love entertaining and have continued doing so in the small spaces I’ve occupied these past three years….not so much in this little place the past year, but I’ve had the privilege of using my sister’s home down the street to entertain when I wanted/needed to.  I get so much joy from making new recipes (or old?), setting the table and sharing my space with those I cherish, whether family or friends.

I think a lot of people have become intimidated by Martha Stewart and her grandiose way of entertaining and feel that they don’t live up to people’s expectations, and therefore don’t entertain….which is so sad.  I, too, have a couple of Martha’s books, which are fine and have some great recipes, but one of my favorite entertaining/cookbooks that I’ve had for many, many years is called Effortless Elegance by Colin Cowie, a Hollywood event planner (out of print, but you can find used copies on ebay, etc.) (If you do need an event planner check out my friend (owner of Coast Concierge,) Rena’s book about entertaining titled “The WOW Factor”…she’s an amazing entertainer and event planner!)  In his book, Cowie enthusiastically shows you how to entertain with ease and really enjoy your guests.  One of the things that stuck with me from his book, even though he’s a hoity toity event planner to the stars, is that he says people just want to be invited over and enjoy your company, to which I say “AMEN.”.  Everything doesn’t have to be perfect!  He continues…if you hate baking there’s a bakery or store where you can just buy dessert.  …or if you don’t have time to fuss, there’s a party idea that can come together in an hour.  Heck, just have pizza or Chinese food delivered and enjoy the company of your friends and/or family.  Pizza Monday is all about throwing ingredients on the counter and having everyone make their own…nothing fancy about it!

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My parents were very relaxed entertainers and always insisted that nobody get up and start cleaning dishes when everyone was finished eating.  They might bring the plates over to the kitchen sink, but would sit back down and enjoy the people that they took the time to prepare a meal for.  It wasn’t about the meal per se, it was about sharing their home and hearts with their friends, relaxing and chatting after their appetites satiated.  Apparently I was paying attention, because that’s the way I like to entertain.  Okay, I hate doing the dishes, but I just leave them in the sink and do them in the morning, or load the dishwasher after everyone leaves.  Unless you have the threat of rodents or ants, the dishes aren’t going anywhere and will be happy to be cleaned in the morning if you’re too tired.  I have many friends who like having the dishes done, which is totally understandable (…and I’m not judging) and can be a fun thing to do while chattering away in the kitchen helping one another get things in order…assuming you’re kitchen isn’t isolated from your guests.

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Besides the company of my guests, my favorite part of having a party is setting the table.  I love a theme!  ….but in the end I’m setting that table to enjoy the company of those I love.  Invite your friends or family over this weekend and enjoy their company!

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You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

In the Company of Men

Let me start by saying how much I LOVE my daughter, sisters, soon to be daughter-in-law, girlfriends…and all the women in my life in general (miss you Mom!)  They’ve held me up & supported me. We’ve listened to each other, laughed and cried together and I don’t know how I’d survive without them!  .…..BUT

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A few weeks ago I had two fun opportunities…a Duffy ride around Newport Harbor with a few couples and having cocktails with my brother-in-law and his two long-time friends (shout out to the two Michaels!)  These two experiences…along with others in the past few years…have made me realize how much different it is to be in the company of men.  The banter is different!  It’s not better or worse, but, for me, it’s fun and interesting to see and hear that difference of opinion, that difference in a guys take on things, that difference in their humor. I’ve lived alone now for three and a half years, and as I said earlier, have been held up by the women in my life, but it’s also made me really appreciate the times I get to spend with men….and it’s just friends I’ve known for a long time, nothing romantic about it.  Sure Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus  , (okay some dispute that assertion), and their differences are definitely worth studying in order to understand and relate to one another more clearly as couples (hindsight is always 20/20 right?), but merely being in the company of men has made me truly appreciate and enjoy our differences.  Not that I didn’t appreciate it before, but I’ve definitely taken more notice of it….as I’ve had less of those interactions.

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I still think that if I meet someone it will be organically…because I’m pretty sure I’ll never go as far as this girl to find that special person (never say never, as my mom always said) but she sure is a determined one!!

Of course, I relish and look forward to future events with family and friends….and especially the camaraderie and community of my old neighborhood where there will be more parties and occasions that include some really great men….and their awesome wives, whom I love!

I’m going to garage sales looking for treasures for my new/old home this weekend with the girls in the ‘hood!  ….and I’ll also try to get to this little lighthouse treasure (below) in Laguna Beach too if I get a chance (thanks to Linda for finding it!) Wishing all of you a fabulous weekend!

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You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

The Attitude of Gratitude & the Thank-list

“If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
– Meister Eckhart

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Gratitude is something that needs to be practiced.  Yes, I’m a grateful person most of the time, and maybe you are too, but we all have times where we lapse into feelings of “oh, poor me!”  The great thing is that it’s so easy to turn that frown upside down…silly, but it just came to me & I had to write it!  Robert A. Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, is an expert on gratitude and has done extensive studies, along with some colleagues, on the subject.  He says there is a difference between feeling grateful and the conscious choice of being grateful.  In other words, illness, death, divorce, joblessness are all very stressful events in one’s life and you can acknowledge that they suck, but still cultivate gratefulness and in doing so, help the situation and your feelings about it.  He continues that an attitude of gratitude is essential in getting through tough times and has the power to heal.  “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”  He offers these suggestions….

  • Remember the bad: Think back to when you were at a low point and remember how far you’ve come since then.
  • Re-frame the present: Don’t ignore the negativity of a painful event. Instead, find moments of gratitude — small glimmers of hope — that grew from the experience. This will help you gain perspective and encourage positivity where you least expect it.

….or maybe you’re just going about your daily life, without any turmoil or difficult event, but it’s still important to practice gratitude.  Here are some suggestions that I’ve gleaned from multiple websites (and my own practice)…just doing one will be a positive experience, I promise!

  • Write in a gratitude journal.  Studies have shown that doing this for just 3 weeks can increase happiness by 25%
  • Use a gratitude jar if you’re more of a visual person.  It can be as easy as writing one word or sentence on a little slip of paper and throwing them in a mason jar (read them whenever you need a little boost)….. or throwing your lose change in a jar while thinking about something your grateful for and then donating the money to charity when the jar is full.
  • Practice grateful thinking…maybe while meditating…or just while lying in bed before you start your day…or on your morning walk.  You’d be amazed that by doing this simple thing, consistently, your whole outlook on life will change.

Emmons also notes that practicing gratitude directly correlates with better functioning in life by taking control of happiness.  It also seems to compel people to give back to society, because they are so grateful for what they have.  Basically it’s a win, win for the world in general!

…or if you need more convincing…and sometimes I just learn better from listening instead of reading something… just check out this youtube video from Emmons….

American Greetings has started a movement called the Thanklist where you can publicly thank anyone for just being a part of your life….or any other random Thank You…a tangible gesture of gratitude.  I love the concept, but I’m not crazy about the fact that they have to have access to all kinds of your online info/contacts, etc in order to post a “thank you” (I guess that’s what every website does though, right?)  But the idea is so awesome and why not just send a postcard or letter to someone with the same message.  Not necessarily a “thank you” card, but just a “I’m thinking of you” random card.  Everybody loves to get snail-mail in this highly digital age…and my (soon to be) daughter-in-law, Kate, has taught me (at the age of 54!) that it’s still so great to get a handwritten letter (I got a great one today…thanks Kate!) She has inspired me to try to write more letters…starting today….join me!

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…..read this lovely article Snail Mail: The Art of Correspondence  to inspire you
to put your pen to paper

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!