Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Fresh: Weekly Wal-Lah

     It's a flavor infusion mania of fresh herbs with the right blend of spicy, tangy, savory and sweet for an amazing dinner . . . . . Ready, set, go. . . .Get your taste buds ready!

Dish #1 Smoky and Savory Potato Salad:    I started off halving the bag of mini red potatoes and throwing them in a pot of boiling water with a bit of sea salt. While the potatoes were cooking, I threw some diced thick hickory smoked bacon in the skillet with diced onion and minced garlic, cooking the mixture until bacon is crisp. I drained the potatoes when moderately tender (take them out before the point of falling apart), added some graded parmesan, a handful of sunflower seeds, chopped fresh dill weed, fresh coarse ground black pepper, "garlic and herb no salt seasoning", and the cooked bacon mixture. Then I added the special the sauce, which consisted of about 1 cup of Mayo, 1 Tbs of Splenda, 1 Tbs Vinegar. ***Hint: do not stir until EVERYTHING is added or your potatoes will fall apart and you'll have mashed potatoes***

Before adding the top crust, the more crust the better!
Dish #2  Tangy and Spicy Tomato Pie:   The oven was preheated to 350F, I sprayed my pie dish with a little Pam Butter Flavor, added my refrigerated Pillsbury Pie crust and unnecessarily made it pretty around the edges. I then pulverized carrots and onion 2:1 proportions and laid it down as the first layer of the pie. Next I pulverized fresh Italian parsley, basil leaves, and about 4 pickled hot chili peppers all together and laid it down as the next pie layer. I then graded a block of pepper jack cheese placed it down as the next layer, saving about 1/4 of it to the side for later. I sprinkled a layer of capers on top of the cheese and placed sliced green tomatillos, roma tomatoes, and medium firm red tomatoes (all thinly sliced, 1 complete layer of each type of tomato= about 2 of each kind). I seasoned the top with celery salt and garlic power to taste, added the remaining grated pepper jack cheese and sliced another pie crust in strips to lay on top for my lazy lattice work. A quick spray of butter Pam on top of the crust and it's ready to cook in the oven on the top shelf until crust is golden brown and flaky.  ***Hint- to rewarm the left overs, place slice on baking sheet in on botton rack with oven on broil for few minutes and it will be as crispy at the first day you cooked it!***
If you make fun of my lazy lattice work, I'll come find you.  :)
Dish #3   Hearty and Sweet Steak Salad:  I placed some "organic spring arugula and spinach mix" and halved yellow grape tomatoes in a bowl. Then I mixed Balsamic Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive oil 1:2 in a shake-able 4oz container, added about 1 Tbs of brown sugar and mixed the heck out of it. I drizzled the home-made dressing on the salad and topped it all off with sliced thin Rib-eye steak. (My wonderful husband made the steak: seasoned with Paprika and Montreal Steak seasoning, seared for 30sec on each side in a cast iron skillet that was pre-heated in the oven to 500F, then placed back in the oven --steak in skillet-- and cooked for 1 minute each side of steak, which makes for a perfect tender medium rare steak.)

     Follow my farily vague instructions and you can have a Wal-Lah, all smiles dinner moment, just we did! Good luck!

Proof of Rejection

     As it goes with most good things in life, our vacation's end caught up with us too quickly. Not only did our friends have to return to work, but with our real life responsibilities soon to follow, we packed the bags smarter than before and set forth to the airport entirely too early. Patrick was a paranoid maniac with a one track mind that morning. His mission: making our trip home as boring as possible.
     I convinced him with my sweetest-most-pathetic-wife-in-the-world-face-if-I-don't-eat-NOW-I-will-disintegrate-into-bone-dust-and-blow-away-look to stop for breakfast in Culver City on the way to LAX. Pinche's Tacos, an charmingly hot pink building with a 4 of 5 star rating by consumers on my locater APP. He ordered the smallest taco ever known to man-kind, and then proceeded to pace the building with his eyes while waiting for the food to arrive to our table. He refused to take more than a single bite of the chips and salsa I ordered (a Texan sin), quickly ate his tiny taco, mentally paced the building some more while I slowly chewed my breakfast, and said little more than these six words through the entire process, "I just want to get there." Ugh, what a worry warted bump on a log.
     We still had 1.5 hours until take off after completely checking our luggage and breezing through security, and I even got to keep my liter of Whipped Vodka I had purchased, which I thought I might have to toss out if our bag was over the weight limit. Better to throw away $20 of liquor than to spend $100 in overweight luggage! I decided to get a Starbucks coffee to celebrate, only wishing I actually had my sweet whip creme vodka within grasp to spike it. Maybe that would spice things up. Patrick accompanied me this time, not as quick to let me out of his site after our last departing incident, and finally started to relax enough to order himself a treat as well.
     As soon as the plane started hovering into Texas territory, a tickle formed in my sinus', followed by sneezing fits, accompanied with annoying dribbles from my nose. "What the deuce?" as Stewy from Family Guy would say. My body was rejecting the transition. This continued for roughly the next three hours, as I was further welcomed back home by the immediate onset of sweating as soon as we stepped foot outside.   
     Awesome. I guess it's back to the real world; whatever that means.

I felt like a rich woman as my husband carried all the luggage in (may I should tip him). I even had a fan waiting at the door to greet me (Lucie).
P.S. Speaking of bodily rejections, I have these weird bug-bite like whelps that have come out of no where the last couple days at work; a few more in different places each day. Each elbow, right wrist and forearm, and left knee . . . . . now my side is starting to itch too. I'm about 99% positive it's hives. I feeling like screaming from frustration so loudly, people on other continents may be able to hear me. But first, I guess I'll take a Benedryl, go to sleep, and see how I feel this afternoon.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Topic #3: Food, Get in my Belly!

I just love all the vine covered buildings and fences. . . . . .
     Hardly anyone you ever meet in L.A. is actually from L.A. it usually seems. People of different cultures from around the world flock there, fall in love, and fail to ever leave. It's no wonder the surrounding cities can charge so much for housing . . . . . it IS a wonder how the government could be bankrupt, but that's a whole 'nother bag of Doritos. Due to the blending colors of skin, there's such a variety of authentic cultural food to be consumed in such a dense area. One doesn't have to travel far to eat like they're in another country, and I LOVE that. When Patrick and I lived there before, in what seems like another lifetime ago, we had to be extremely frugal on one paycheck, and living like poor folk doesn't leave much change in the pocket book for extravagant culinary explorations. So, we decided to play up the "when in Rome" forte last week.
     With the exception of our hot dog and fried cheese binges at the beach, which if I say so myself is a MUST, we maintained our taste buds in an exploitative cultural heaven. Amy's boyfriend Danny was born in raised in the area and we utilized their combined knowledge to the utmost advantage.

Is that a big burrito on your plate, or are you just happy to see me?
     Friday morning, we actually had the pleasure of sharing some of our knowledge and introduced Amy to El Tepeyac Cafe, merely a updated shack located on the very humble streets of East L.A., this place is only equipped with authentic California Mexicans who know how to put together a slow cooked, souped pork, 5lb burrito! This was the 3rd time in kpLOVE history to attempt tackling the monstrous "Manuel Especial", but the huge pieces of fresh avocado, tender pork, beans, rice and tortilla took rein yet again. I'll never regret defeat to such a winning dish, and it kept us full until dinner too!
I teach chop stick lessons . . . . . on  how NOT to use them. No one told me I was holding them the wrong way . . .
     When night fell upon us, we ventured to little Korea town to indulge ourselves with classic Korean BBQ and more Sake. At first glace peering from the street, ChoSun Galbee looks like a regular old crappy building, but once you walk around the back, onto the patio and inside, it transforms into a beautiful and tastefully decorated restaurant. (As with most places in L.A., you can never judge a book by it's outside cover . . . . . why spend money on the outside when everything around it looks like crap? Its the inside that matters most.) I think it's so fun to cook your own meat at the table, and the little Korean women stayed true to form, coming frequently to "help us", basically treating us as if we've never cooked meat in our entire lives. Their dishes are so different with interesting textures, temperatures, and flavors. You become aware of how important rice is to their culture when in such an environment. Rice as a side dish. Rice liquor. Cold rice punch for dessert, which we all decided tastes like liquid corn bread. It was delicious! . . . . . . . And we got to eat out on the patio.
No that's a spread!
Never pour your own sake! That Sake jar some how ended up in our bag as a souvenir . . . . weird stuff like that happens sometimes.
     It was a pleasure to roll out of bed Saturday morning for breakfast at The Griddle! It will probably forever be my favorite breakfast joint of all time. If a girl could have wet dreams about anything, mine would be about breakfast at The Griddle. It's small and they pack in customers like sardines, blues music charms your ears to drown out surrounding conversations as the aroma of coffee and maple syrup radiate through the air;  there's always a line out the door for justified reason. We consistently order the same thing; the Mom's French Toast is like none you've ever had. Rich. Jam packed with flavors of butter and vanilla on some sort of thick yet tender homemade bread. The Poached y Papas, slang for eggs Benedict is a true original. It's a thick slice of smoked ham, served over a bed of hollowed halved crispy, maybe even battered, potato skins, covered with a decadently creamy hollandiase sauce with perfectly cooked eggs. Order a side a bacon and it comes out thick, smokey, wholesome, and strangely soft but crisp at the same time. Am I drooling again????

Patrick treating his bacon like a fine cigar
     Saturday night came too quickly, but we celebrated the evening with Persian food and wine. It's always the right occasion for wine, am I right?!? We devoured the bread and olive oil/pesto dip, inhaled the empanada appetizers, and slowed down just in time to savor the skirt steak dishes. Patrick was the only rebel, ordering a dish of seafood ravioli's, which were perfect and delightful. He usually rightfully counts on me to over-eat on preliminary foods, so he has a backup for seconds when I push the remainder of my entree to his side of the table . . . . . .Did you guess that we ate on the patio? If you did, you'd be correct, and it was extremely romantic out there! 

This was prior to me donating my jacket and scarf to the wimpy Californians

     By Sunday evening we were exhausted, but our stomachs didn't get the memo and Amy needed at good dose of an alcohol induced coma after studying all day, so we went out in search of a decent patio drink. After driving by an old place that had unexpectedly shut down, being rejected to a casual place because we had on flip flops, and feeling the pressures of frustration starting to set it, we found it . . . . .or maybe it found us. Either way, it was The Spanish Kitchen (we still considered this ethnic since it had a Spain derived menu instead of Mexico), and it was just what the doctor ordered.  The mood setting with just right, the outdoor patio vacant, the chips and salsa free, and the drinks inventive. I had a Ginger Tequila Cosmo . . . . . only one, because it was so strong I wouldn't have remember dinner if I'd had a second.

They were so sweet here, and didn't even kick us out, even though the restaurant had closed and they were cleaning up around us! We stayed and enjoyed our meals.
     By the time we ate two baskets of chips and salsa, we probably could have skipped dinner, but my heart was set on Vietnamese soup. Have you ever tried Pho? Well we did, at the cleverly named restaurant Absolutely Pho-bulous. It's a very light and fresh concoction served in a ginormous bowl with meat, broth, and noodles, accompanied by an equally large plate filled with uncooked bean sprouts, basil leaves, and fresh lime. Then you mix it all into your soup as desired. As an outsider observing our group of 4, you may have thought we were deprived a few meals in days prior with the way we were consuming the spring rolls and egg rolls served with fresh mint leaves as our appetizer. Minus the fact that I ate so much my intestines were pushing up my diaphragm, therefore inhibiting my lung's ability to expand to full capacity, I walked out feeling pretty satisfied with my healthy food choice. It's a good thing we parked an 11minute walk away, because I had some homeostasis digestion to take care of.

Amy and Danny giving a genuine example of what you should look like after a weekend packed with good eats.
    I'm truly going to miss eating out on the patio. Looks like the Texas weather has pushed me indoors until fall.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Topic #2: Ocean

     I love the mountains, but my passion doesn't halt there.    
     As you drive through Old Topanga Canyon Road, you wind along the asphalt among the modest village of homes, schools, eateries, and shops tucked beneath the trees. Then out of nowhere, you find yourself peering dead-on to the ocean shore, seeing little more than the color blue. Blue skies, blue water. . . . .with nothing between you and the Pacific but your car and the traffic light. The temperature drops almost 10 degrees with each transition from valley, to canyon, to beach, and the air changes from city smells, to trees and dirt, to salty sea aromas.

Muscle beach exercisers

Patrick icing his joints after the hike
     There are miles of seaweed free beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway, and the choice is at your finger tips, depending on the type of environment you desire to surround yourself with. I'm always impressed with the beauty of rocky boulders wedged into the shore sands with the white capped waves crashing up around them. It's a peaceful feeling spending a day on one of the secluded areas with the perfect opportunity to close your eyes and focus on the sounds of the ocean, then opening them to see the occasional dolphin, looking back to admire the mountains behind you. But one of our favorite places to spend an afternoon of fun is Santa Monica, especially when we aren't equipped with supplies, like when we used to bike there once a week.
It's amazing what you can do with a backpack and self timer-- still mad I forgot my tripod!

"Mango, Mango, Mango, Mango"

     The Santa Monica Pier is like a year-round fair. The 3rd Street Promenade is only a block away; a lively place filled with performers, restaurants, a mall, and outlet stores. The people-watching is phenomenal, not that other places in L.A. are lacking. Next to the pier is Muscle Beach, equipped with plenty of athletic gatherers practicing their trades: acrobats, cheerleaders, dancers, and gymnastics. It's almost a guarantee to have the opportunity to watch a show of some sort while you sit on the grass eating your hot dog on a stick, fried cheese on a stick and freshly made lemonade found at the cramped stand packed with teeny-boppers dressed in old-school outfits where they literally don't even batter it until you order it. The pleasure comes from a combination of it all. Sounds such as, “Mango, mango, mango", the excited screams from the rollercoaster, laughter, waves, and seagulls singing . . . . . . . . Never depressing. The gathered smells from the ocean water and fried food mixing in harmony are inviting to not only the nose, but also the stomach. And the water? Well lets just say, it will definitely wake up the senses, and then numb your aches and pains!

Adam Sandler went here in "Bedtime Stories", but we were enoying it long before watching that movie!

You can watch them dip your order, form blisters making the lemonade, and the Pepper Jack Fried cheese is amazing!
We all participated in writing an origianl fairy tale story as this one-act-play-lady animated and acted it out! So fun.
Never a dull scenary. . . .
They had little puppet shows here
This guy was serious about strutting his junk, I've never seen a man roll up his shorts. . . .at all. . . .much less so high!
This pretty bird hung from my finger by it's beak. I thought it would hurt, but he was very gentle, and climbed his way onto my arm as a perch. Then his bird friend laughed at me!

Becca becoming a hat-person

     Our first beach day was spent having some much needed girl catch-up time with Amy and Becca in Long Beach on the bay shore. Long Beach is such a cute little town and since Becca had become engaged, married, AND opened a pub with her husband in the last 2 years, we had many things to discuss. She's such a fun and happy spirit and I love being around her. Quinn's Irish Pub is their new baby and it's a great little place worth making a trip to if you're ever in the area.  We then spent the next two afternoons next to the pier in SM soaking in as much sun as we could before it was time to head to dinner. It's dinner time, and you'll have to hold on to the edge of your seat for its description in my next entry.

My california girls in the Bay
Patrick changing on the beach. It was so funny.
At the mall next to the Promanade. I had almost forgot how extreme television advertising is in the L.A. area. It's not only
entertaining, but helps you stay so in-the-know!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Topic #1: Mountains

     I've thought short and hard on a way to describe our trip, contemplating how to explain why we are in love with Los Angeles against the grain of most people I talk to, while avoiding mundane and boring entries at the same time. I've decided instead of writing about each day, to break it up into topics. If you didn't know, I could write an entire book about these subjects, but I'll keep them as short as my enthusiasm will allow. Obviously, I have many reasons, but we were only in the area for 4 days, so I documented 3 topics: Mountains, Beach, Food.
Patrick walking off his burn from the run
     Everyone knows I'm in love with the outdoors, especially the mountains. When I look around and embrace their glory, my heart smiles and it shows on my face. I have a difficult time verbalizing the overwhelming awareness of being surrounded by the vast beauty of God's creations, realizing how tiny myself and my problems really are, but feeling strong and empowered by the challenge that nature has to offer, while the warm sun radiates to my bones and the cool breeze refreshes my skin. I'm alive and so is everything around me.

Hydrated and ready to rumble!

If you look close, you can see a tiny person on top of Eagle Rock, we had just left and already such a difference!
     Topanga Canyon State Park is one of my favorite places on earth thus far. With miles of trails to conquer by foot or bike, your legs have the opportunity to embark a challenge, while your mind has the opportunity to relax. At a couple of high points on the trails are benches with the quote "Rest for the Soul" engraved in them, and the point holds without exaggeration when I take a seat and look at my surroundings.
Patrick filling his body and soul with "rest"
I didn't want to leave, but the ocean was calling my name
     Similar minded people flock to this piece of heaven also, and not once did we pass a person who didn't say hello with a smile on their face, offer to snap a picture, strike up small talk, or extend a helping hand to a fellow biker with their equipment complications. It's easy to lose your peace on the 101 freeway, as Patrick could attest, but once you're here, none of those things matter anymore. It's a short drive out of the hustle and bustle the city has to offer, and as you drive from the Valley through the mountains you may think you're in Jurassic Park, but not to worry, there's no dinosaurs . . . . .only mountain lions.  . . . . . but predominantly squirrels and deer.
On top of Eagle Rock
At the edge of Pacific Palisades
     We only had 2 days to spend in Topanga, so the first day we took the 4.6mi hike to Pacific Palisades, which is completely worth the hard work at the destination point when you walk out to the edge of the mountain and look out over the ocean. I could camp there forever. The second day, we hiked the 1.8mi total incline to Eagle Rock. It's was a tough mental challenge, especially when I made the goal of reaching the top in 30minutes. I'm still proud to say I busted some major booty and made it in 31 min and 24 sec, with Patrick shortly behind me. That was definitely my anaerobic workout for the week with my HR clocking in at 173-178 for almost the entire hike! Never give up! After sitting down for a breather and taking in the view of the San Fernando Valley one direction and the Pacific Ocean in the opposing direction, we headed back down to soak our feet in the cool water, with details awaiting in my next entry.

Get ready beach, here I come!!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Who'd Hike on Purpose?!?!?

And our trip continues . . . . . . . . .

We lived in the yellow building to the left
      After a traumatic beginning to our day, we were relieved to walk off the plane in Burbank, grab our luggage, check out the rental car, and hit the ground running in drama free conditions. We drove to our old neighborhood (surprised at all the new things we saw), equipped ourselves with refreshments from the old local Albertsons and visited the infamous Oberservatory in Griffith Park to enjoy the view before our upcoming hiking adventure. It was while we were walking up the inclining sidewalk that I heard it. A girl walking with her posse said in a disgusted manner, "Why would anyone hike on purpose?!?!?" . . . . . . .ummmm  . . . . Gee wiz. I don't know; maybe because its way more fun, beautiful, and breezier than running on a treadmill? Maybe I'm the weird one.

We had to change in resourceful places

And thought it would be fun to take before pictures!

Patrick taking the lead
      After pretending to be tourists, we changed into our athletic gear and headed for the hills. It was surreal to be back in the California weather and looking out over our old home; I tried my hardest to ingrain every detail into my memory. Our legs forgot how difficult it can be to run up such steep trails and before the workout was over, our shins started talking back, but it wasn't enough to slow us down.

Me Kicking some Griffith Park Butt

Looking out on our old neighborhood

My after . . . . Catching a breath
     On the way back through the old hood, we met face to face with the same old town traffic, which gave me the perfect opportunity to run out of the car while at a traffic light and get Patrick and I some free frozen yogurt samples to replenish our glucose stores. We arrived to Amy's apartment in near perfect timing as she arrived home from work only a few minutes later. She lives on a pleasantly quiet, tree covered, side street in Hollywood and wasted no time making us feel right at home.

     That evening we went to Katana, a sushi restaurant and ate on the beautiful upstairs outdoor patio. Not only was the sushi amazing, but Patrick and I also had our first Sake experience! I'd never had alcohol that was served warm like hot tea! After dinner we decided the 70F weather was too amazing to not thoroughly enjoy, so we walked down the street from Amy's apartment to 3rd Stop for a few drinks. I was feeling adventurous and drank Samuel Adams Summer Ale. . . . . prepared to spit it out if needed, I ended up surprising myself and downed a couple instead. Once we discovered Pringles were served for free, it just got silly from there, and we topped off our belly's with $4 pizza during late night food happy hour. What a way to end the night!

     Did you think it was possible for the rest of the day to end that smoothly? Well it's not over yet . . . . . Amy was amazingly sweet, giving us her apartment keys (one for the outside door, one for the inside door, which I immediately placed on my key chain for safe keeping) for the weekend so we could have our own place and when it was time to turn in for the night, she left with her boyfriend Danny, and directed us back on our way towards our "weekend home". I kept the outside door key in my hand the entire walk and when we arrived to the apartment, unlocked the door and pushed the elevator button, to look down and realize I no longer had the inside door key on the key chain. "Oh no! Why me? Why now?" I thought to myself. I started to panic on the inside this time. Patrick and I both headed outside to hopelessly search for a borrowed black key on a dark street with little expectations. Luckily we found it on the outdoor floor mat. The key chain was loose and the key must have slipped off while unlocking the outside door. What a relief!
     Needless to say, I slept hard that night. Real Hard.

My kicks before picture

They're broken in now!

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