zebras and ponies overtake staten island



This video just made my day. A zebra and a pony running through a parking lot, on the run like two fellas without a care in the world. My favorite part of the video is the videographer making kissing noises at them as if they were going to come towards him like puppies.


From SILive.com: Zachary Osher, owner of Metropolitan Drape & Blind, spotted the bizarre scene and shared his video with the Advance and SILive.com.

"I was sitting at my desk at about 9:20 when I saw a zebra and pony run back and forth across the street, almost getting hit by a car," he told us.
But it gets even crazier: "About 30 seconds later, I saw two men in dark black suits carrying lassoes running across the street."
Osher is at a loss to explain such events. "I have no idea how it got there. ... I figured [the men with lassoes] knew what to do.

that "what was I going to say?" moment



There are these moments in life that give you a laugh, that make you feel connected to someone else. This is one of those moments.

You are in a great conversation with your partner, best friend, manager, mom etc. and the conversation is going something like this:

Best friend: "So then Sam and I went to that cafe, you know the one on Madison that serves those incredible Madelines? And it was so sweet, he." and she stops, tilts her head and says.

"Oh my God, I just totally lost what I was going to say," she laughs, furrows her brow and thinks intently. "Oh my God, what was I going to say?" She looks at you for the answer.

You're sipping your coffee waiting for the thought to come back to her. "I, I don't know."

She is still kind of laughing but she's getting insistent. "Come on, Taylor! What was I GOING TO SAY?"

You think for a moment and you, of course, have absolutely no idea what your best friend was going to  say and you tell her "Honey, I honestly have no idea what you were going to say next." You laugh a little and make that "I'm so sorry I wish I could help you figure it out" face.

Side note: Now don't get me wrong. I don't like the fact that someone forgets what they were going to say in mid sentence. Like one moment the thought was there and then on its way from the brain to the mouth it somehow vanishes, takes an early exit ramp into nowhere. No, I don't find that funny. What I find funny and kind of sweet is this next part.

If you're a good friend you'll try and help her get back to where she was so the two of you can finish your intense conversation and then go for that 3.87 mile walk around the park. The conversation continues.

Your friend is staring you and getting irritated that you don't know what she was about to say and the escalation starts to go like this: "Seriously, Taylor. WHAT WAS I GOING TO SAY?"

"I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT YOU WERE GOING TO SAY" is what you start to say but because you love her and she held you hair back in college when you attended that Tau Kappa party your first week on campus, you try and help her.

"OK, so you were talking about you and Sam going to that cafe. . ."

She stares at you blankly and shakes her head no.

"Um, before that you were talking about the fact that your mom sent Sam a handmade scarf. . ."

Nope, that doesn't ring a bell for her either.

"You like Madelines? You and Sam were maybe going to go somewhere after grabbing a bite? Before that we were talking about my blog and I told you I would teach you how to make the hair ties. Anything?"

And then she looks at you and (my favorite part!) you see the light dawn in her eyes.

"YES! MADELINES! He said that if we have a daughter he would like to name her Madeline which would remind him of our Saturday afternoons at the cafe eating Madeline cookies together. Isn't that sweet? I could marry this man!" and she is beaming either because this man makes her heart melt a little or because the two of you together helped her remember what she was going to say.

I love that.

And yes, I have also experienced the moments when I have been talking to someone and I forgot what I was about to say and said "What was I going to say?" and the person I was talking to me looked at me like "I don't know. If you can't remember what you were going to say, you're an idiot."

I don't like those moments as much.

celebrate national bavarian cream pie day with this easy recipe




Bavarian Cream Pie. When I was a little girl, this was known as "Fancy Pie." We would rarely have this but when we did, I knew that it was a special day. Today being National Bavarian Cream Pie Day I had to make this dessert that I haven't thought of since I was 7 years old.

Typically, proper Bavarian Cream Pie is made with eggs, heavy cream and gelatin. This, however, was not how my grandmother made it. She used Cool Whip and instant pudding mix. So, I did a search on these ingredients and happily found a recipe that was similar to what my grandmother used. However, today I added a twist and decided to make a Coconut Bavarian Cream Pie and with that first taste I was back in my grandmother's kitchen and I swear if I closed my eyes, she would be standing right next to me asking me "Good, yes? OK, eat. Good girl."

This recipe is ridiculously adaptable. If you need a dessert that can be made under 15 minutes, tastes incredible and presents well at a dinner party, this is a winner. You can easily use this basic recipe and change it up with coconut, chocolate or lemon instant pudding mix to create different desserts.

And yes, before you email me with how unhealthy this is. I know. I'm not recommending anyone eat this every day or every week or even once a month, but it IS National Bavarian Cream Pie Day so invite all your friends over and share a slice. 


Bavarian Cream Pie (the easy way)
(inspired by this recipe and my grandmother)

Ingredients

Crust: 
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter

Pie filling: 
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese softened
2  (3 1/2 ounces) packages  instant pudding mix (vanilla for basic Bavarian Cream)
3/4 cup milk
1  16 oz. container of Cool Whip (thawed)

Directions

To prepare crust, in a medium bowl add all ingredients and mix until incorporated. Press into bottom and up sides of a pie plate. Set aside.

To prepare pie filling, mix cream cheese, instant pudding and milk together using a blender at low speed. (Be sure cream cheese is softened or it will be difficult to mix together.) When incorporated, using a spatula, fold in container of Cool Whip until the mixture is smooth. Pour filling into pie shell and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Happy Bavarian Cream Pie Day!

Notes: 

  • Today I used Coconut Cream instant pudding mix instead of the vanilla but you could always use chocolate, banana or strawberry flavored mixes. I also toasted coconut in the oven at 375 degrees for 7 minutes and topped the pie with these crunchy bits of sweetness. 



channeling a nantucket christmas


Today I hung the wreaths outside our home. Simple fresh cedar, mixed green and pine wreaths with red velvet bows. Against the grey and white cedar and blue-tinged copper lanterns they reminded me of Christmas back home in Massachusetts. Sure, we live here in Seattle but I am a girl who yearns for the whip of the salty Atlantic sea spray and the accents of the locals (dropping the r's, of course) that assure me that yes, I am home. Home. Just this small act made me feel connected to our family so far away from here.

What do you do that reminds you of family and friends around the holidays?

review: the perfect guy gift: the nespresso U




My husband reminds me of George Clooney. He does. I realized this the last time I was in the South of France and I saw the bus stop ads featuring George Clooney in the Nespresso ads*. I remember looking at George thinking "Hmmm, L. reminds me of George and he likes espresso too."

And this is what I thought of this weekend as I stood in the middle of the mall feeling like Robert Frost (You know, the poet, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. . .") I was at the mall buying a Christmas gift for my husband. This present had to say "Your wife is so awesome that she knew exactly the right gift that would make you think 'This is just what I wanted! How did you know?'" That kind of Christmas gift. No pressure. 





So, I asked him, of course. "Honey, what do you want for Christmas?"

"You know, I don't need anything," he answered. 

"I know but if I was going shopping for you and you wanted something, what would you want?"

He thought for a moment. "Um, shaving cream?"

"Babe," I said. "I'm not buying your Christmas gift at Safeway."

"No, no, the stuff you got me from Nordstrom, the stuff that smells like lemons." 

"OK, done. What else?" I asked. 

"I'm good, Babe. Love you." And that was that. Shaving cream. For Christmas. Which is why I stood flummoxed by the Crabtree & Evelyn. I was hot. The place was crowded and then it happened. I came up with THE present. 

Here's how the thought process went. 

I'm feeling claustrophobic and hot. ----->Where do I wish I was instead of this mall? -----> Oh, I love sunny Cannes.  -----> Every time I left for a screening I passed by that bus stop with the George Clooney ads for Nespresso ------> I like George Clooney ------> I love my husband.  -----> George loves espresso. -----> L. loves espresso. ----> !Buy L. a new espresso machine and make him happy every morning! ----> Done!

And so, I went to Sur la Table to find L. the perfect espresso machine. We have a beverage bar in our kitchen and while I like my Keurig, L. is a purist. He drinks an espresso straight up from of his favorite glass espresso cups from Nespresso. We've had a Nespresso for YEARS and it has always served up the perfect, hot espresso and with the attached frother, a picture perfect cappuccino. The model we previously had though, was enormous. I looked at the range of new Nespresso machines and chose the Nespresso U, a sleek, compact unit that still had 19 bars of pressure which made the perfect shot every time. 

Some cool things about this machine were: 
  • The Nespresso U has a 24 ounce water tank that can be positioned on either side of the tank or straight behind the machine which will fit any kitchen set-up.
  • There are three settings which can be set for ristretto, espresso and lungo (extra small, traditional or long shots). See the different flavors and variations of capsules here
  • With one touch, you pop in a capsule and the Nespresso U brews the espresso and disposes of the capsule into a container which can hold up to 10 used capsules. 


It had everything I wanted so I bought the Nespresso U and I couldn't wait. I had to give it to L. as soon as I got home.  He was a little surprised that I said "Happy Saturday!!" and handed him the bag from Sur la Table but he's also a techy guy. He immediately unboxed the machine and within three minutes the machine was on our beverage counter ready to make the perfect espresso. And it was perfect. Seeing L. close his eyes as he took that first sip, made me so happy as a wife, as corny as that sounds.  Perfect gift. Yes. I think George would approve. 

*The Nespresso ads featuring George Clooney ran in Europe. They did not (unfortunately) run in the United States.

Notes
  • Making espresso sounds complicated, doesn't it? I think that's because we watch the baristas tamper the espresso grounds. With the Nespresso machine, there are no espresso grounds. Everything is self contained in the capsules (which are recyclable when you bring them back to the store.)
  • Making your own coffee beverage in the morning is economical. You'll spend no more than $1 making a perfect cup each morning. 
  • Nespresso capsules can be purchased in Nespresso stores or online. We order our Nespresso in bulk, usually 10 sleeves at a time including decaffeinated. Each holiday Nespresso features flavored capsules. This season is Coconut, Macadamia Nut and Hazelnut. I went a little crazy buying the Coconut.


review: "life of pi"




From the exquisite trailers of Academy Award winning director Ang Lee's ("Brokeback Mountain" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") new film "Life of Pi" it would be fair to say that this new film is breathtaking with imagery so realistic and sparkling that it practically glows off the screen. One would expect that, of course,  given the lovely, feel-good, beautiful clip from "Life of Pi," the film based on the beloved novel by Yann Martel. Yes, it is beautiful but what the trailer doesn't show are the disturbing scenes that caused me to apologize  several times to my guest at the recent screening who started crying after the first half hour of the film and didn't stop until the credits rolled. 

"Life of Pi" is the story of Pi (newcomer Suraj Sharma) who lives an idyllic existence with his family on the property of their charming zoo in India. The opening of the film indeed is magical, from the music to the scenes of animals scampering amidst the beautiful habitat with blooming vegetation. His parents, however, deciding on a better life for their sons, decide to close their zoo and take Pi and his brother to Canada along with the animals. It's when they board an Asian cargo ship that the film takes its dark turn. Imagine the Titanic sinking with animals. And this is when I closed my eyes. The images of people and animals desperately trying not to drown in the middle of a storm  in the Pacific was disturbing. I looked away from the screen and tried to remember that this was just a movie. Pi does make it onto a lifeboat along with a zebra who flings itself off the sinking ship into the boat along with several other animals. Surprised? Because in the trailer you only see a Bengal Tiger curiously named Richard Parker and none of the other animals? Right? True. It's what happens to those other animals that make some of the scenes almost intolerable to watch. If you have any sensitivity to animals, parts of this movie may be very disturbing to watch. They were to me. I thought of my three young nieces (ages 9-13) and I knew that they would be burrowing their heads into my chest during some of the more aggressive scenes.




I get it. I do.  It's a story of  Pi's survival as a boy lost on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific and well, things need to happen in order for the film to have an arc. To help move the story along, the film cuts back and forth between Pi (and his nemesis, the tiger) on the lifeboat and his desperate quest to  survive to Pi in the present day (Irrfan Khan) relating his story to a journalist (Rafe Spall). It is heart-wrenching watching Pi on the lifeboat, struggling to survive against not only the unforgiving sea but also a giant, powerful predator as he rages against God, against Richard Parker and against his circumstances. As a juxtaposition, there are some scenes, however, that are magnificent (especially the underwater scenes). They are what you would expect from a director like Ang Lee. There is great beauty and great loss. There is strength when things seem hopeless. Like in life. As the credits rolled and teary sniffles were heard throughout the theatre I thought about what I had seen. I appreciated the cinematography and the extraordinary acting on behalf of Suraj Sharma (who was brilliant) but I felt a bit melancholy and introspective. This was a film that was going to take some time to leave me.

the guide to the best homemade mac & cheese recipe


I am in the middle of a wicked chestcold. I'm fairly miserable and all I wanted for dinner last night was a little comfort food. Sure, I've been eating super healthy but nothing sounded at all appetizing until I hit on the idea of a little mac & cheese made with real Vermont Sharp Cheddar and Gruyere.

I made this recipe for the first time last night (without the crumb topping) and it was exceptional. Follow this recipe from Martha Stewart and in less than an hour you'll be doing the "This-is-the-best-mac-and-cheese-I've-ever-had" dance too.





Making the Bechamel sauce 



Bechamel and Farfalle pasta topped with shaved Gruyere before finishing it off in the oven

a simple, elegant intermezzo: poached pears with rosemary syrup



The call came from "Chef Joy."

"Intermezzo*. Pears and Rosemary. Can I come over?"

The answer is, of course, always yes to this question because with the question comes something that tastes and smells amazing.

A few minutes later Chef Joy popped in with a full wicker basket. We threw on some Sinatra and Chef Joy taught me how to make a simple intermezzo course that would be appropriate for Thanksgiving or any other dinner which needs a simple, elegant nod.

*Intermezzo is a palate cleanser that can be served between a salad and main meal or between the main meal and the dessert. It's basically a short break in the action.



Chef Joy's Simple Poached Pears With Rosemary Syrup Recipe

Ingredients

3 firm (but not hard pears) 
3 cups of white grape juice
1 package of fresh rosemary (found in the produce aisle)



Directions

Pour grape juice into medium size pot and  bring to boil. 

Remove stems and peel pears. Cut pears into chunky slices and remove any core/seeds from each slice. 

Add pear slices to boiling grape juice with 6 small sprigs (or 1/2 the package) of rosemary. Lower heat to simmer for 10 minutes until pears are soft. 

Remove pears from juice and set aside. Remove rosemary from juice and discard.

Raise heat on grape juice and reduce juice by 1/2 until it becomes a thicker syrup. 

Serve pears in a small bowl with a drizzle of the reduced syrup. Can be served warm or cool.


Notes
  • You may initially be turned off by the idea of rosemary with pears. I was but the rosemary seems to just amp up the flavor of the pears. It isn't too rosemary-ish.
  • Try serving these warm over vanilla ice cream with chopped walnuts.
  • Serve the pears warm over hot oatmeal for breakfast.



the "breaking dawn - part 2" interview with maggie grace and mia maestro


maggie grace as irina

mia maestro as carmen


On a recent morning I sat down with two of the vampires from "Breaking Dawn Part 2" Maggie Grace (Irina) and Mia Maestro (Carmen).

The Happygirl: Let's talk about the flash mob on the set. 

Maggie Grace: The architect of the flash mob is sitting right here. (laughs)

Mia Maestro: (laughs) Right. "Sweet Dreams are Made of This. " It was our go-to karaoke song that we would sing every Wednesday in Baton Rouge. After being there for 6 weeks working against a green screen morale was low. I knocked on everyone's trailers. I decided we needed a dance off with the Volturi. Some people were immediately on board and some were not. We did choreography. Then when Bill (Condon, director) said "Action" "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This" started playing instead. 

The Happygirl: What was Bill's reaction to this?

Mia Maestro: He was so happy. I think he may have been getting bored too. (laughs)

Maggie Grace: Well, it was just grueling. The most exciting scene in the world if you repeat it over and over and over again many times a day for six weeks can get repetitive . . This was really everyone's favorite scene to see because it was just magnificent. 

The Happygirl:  Which scene was it?

Mia Maestro: It was the final scene between the Volturi and the Cullens and other vampires. The battle of all battles. 

Mia Maestro:You know the whole dance off scene actually happened because my character has no special powers whatsoever. The book says my character is very motherly and warm. Lee Pace who plays Garrett used to joke that Carmen has the power of dance and she will kill the Volturi by the power of dancing. She will make everyone dance. That was the seed of the flash mob, dance off. 

The Happygirl: That would be a whole other movie, wouldn't it? "Dancing with the Coven" rather than "Dancing With the Stars"?

Maggie Grace:  I have written the beginning of "Twihards the Musical." The seed has been planted.  (laughs)

Mia Maestro: She has and it's wonderful. She has the pitch. (laughs)

Maggie Grace:  I don't have the rights but I think it would be a great musical.






The Happygirl: One of the more interesting places I find onset is craft services. I imagine on your set you would have the vampires and werewolves wandering around in full makeup and costumes. 

Maggie Grace: You mean like the awkward high school cafeteria moment where I'm like "Oh my God, do I put my tray down with my coven or do I set down with the werewolves? "

The Happygirl: So, there was intermingling? (laughs)

Maggie Grace: Yeah, oh yeah.  (laughs)

The Happygirl: What was your favorite moment on set? Happiest moment?

Mia Maestro: Meeting friends. 

Maggie Grace: There was one moment when we were off trying to go cross country skiing and Mia's dog River was with us bouncing around. It started snowing for the first time and it all came together. It was like the perfect moment for me. I thought "I am really lucky to be here right now."

Mia Maestro: British Columbia was so beautiful. I just loved it there so much. Lee Pace and I would go hiking. I have this amazing memory of one of the days we were filming in Squamish and there was an issue with rain and we were all staying at this hotel and there was this schedule problem that Bill and everyone were all working on but Lee and I come in from Cross County skiing for like five hours and then the Four Seasons for martinis and hamburgers and then soaking in hot and cold and we got to the restaurant in our skiing gear and we were looking all happy and everyone was like "Ugh!"

Maggie Grace: My character sort of comes in betrays people and leaves. (laughs)

The Happygirl: What was the last day on the set like for you? 

Mia Maestro: It was kind of crazy remember? (to Maggie) It was the wedding scene from Part 1. We were shooting all night.  It was stressful because it had been raining. 

Maggie Grace: There was mud to our knees. 

Mia Maestro: It was emotional for people who had been working on the film for all these years. 

The Happygirl: The wedding scene was so beautiful. Did you feel that crackle in the air? 

Mia Maestro: It felt like a real wedding. No one had seen the dress. I loved shooting in the woods. There was the most beautiful river streaming by. It was beautiful. 

The Happygirl:  If you have any kids in your life I imagine taking this role made you very popular. 

Maggie Grace:  My little sister was a teenager at the time and she was very interested to hear what Taylor Lautner was up to. I said "He has a girlfriend!" (laughs)

The Happygirl: We see Kristen's character (Bella) change dramatically  from "Breaking Dawn Part 1" to Part 2. Did you see a change in Kristen? 

Maggie Grace:  Yeah, you really see her strength in the film from girl to woman. I think she carries herself quite differently as well. 

Mia Maestro: It's quite seldom to see a woman's arc through five films. 

The Happygirl: We've also heard that Kristen and Rob (Pattinson) were very nurturing towards their onscreen daughter Renesmee. 

Mia Maestro: Mackenzie Foy was the best child to work with. Her mom was wonderful. Myself or Lee Pace would go and have cocoa with her. She was a great kid to hang out with. She has very special energy. She is sort of magical in her own personality. So, it was natural for Rob and Kristen to gravitate towards her and be so loving towards her. 

The Happygirl:   What was you main reason for wanting to take these roles?

Mia Maestro: Bill Condon.

Maggie Grace:  Bill Condon. Plus, it was so much to be part of something that means so much to an entire generation.

The Happygirl:  What's your happy place?

Mia Maestro: The ocean. Right now, Hawaii. I go there with my boyfriend a lot. 

Maggie Grace: Right now I feel like I have a really amazing day if I get to spend time in the garden I planted last year. Even if it's just for a couple of minutes if I can start my day there it's a great day, a happy day. 

The Happygirl:   Happy food? 

Mia Maestro: I would say slow roasted organic lamb. That's my happy food especially because it's winter time. 

Maggie Grace:  I am a tea fanatic. 

The Happygirl:  What's your happy way to start your morning?

Mia Maestro: I know Maggie's! Tea!!

Maggie Grace:  Poetry is like prayer early in the morning. I am too much of an admirer of poetry to start writing it. 

Mia Maestro: I like to start my day surfing. 

The Happygirl: What word makes you happy? 

Mia Maestro: AMAZING. I say it a lot. 

Maggie Grace: She does say it a lot! (laughs)  It's AMAAAAZZZZING!

Maggie Grace: My word? Kiss. That is my word. Kiss. 

review: "breaking dawn - part 2"


Last night even as the lights started to dim, the cheers started. As each actor's name appeared on screen against morphing white and red graphics the cheers became even louder until finally Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison's names appeared and the cheers became a rolling roar. This was the screening for "Breaking Dawn --Part 2" the final film in the "Twilight" series.

Here's the thing, if you are a "Twilight" fan you already have your ticket and you have already consulted your friends about where you are going to have dinner before the film and how early you need to get the theatre so you can get the best seats. Of course. If this is you, all you need to know is that you are going to LOVE THIS MOVIE. Judging from the clapping, cheering and crying around me last night, "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" was made with you in mind. It was and is everything you hoped that it would be. Last year after you saw "Breaking Dawn - Part 1" you wondered how you could possibly wait a year for Part 2. The anticipation was too much, right? I promise you it will be worth it. Think of it like this. You know that anticipation of waiting for that first kiss from your crush? Then it finally happens and it is better than you could have hoped. That first moment of this film when you see Bella open her eyes as a newborn vampire is just like that. You can stop reading now and go text your BFF's about what they're wearing to the movie tonight.



If you're on the fence about seeing "Breaking Dawn - Part 2," go. You will like this movie. Whereas the other films in this series seemed to me like films based on books (especially the last film - "Breaking Dawn Part 1"), this last film in the series feels like a well written movie that easily stands on its own. When I watched this film I wasn't seeing the words written on the page, I was engaged completely. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), the innocent, hair-chewing girl with a nervous tick who fell in love with an immortal vampire, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), was now this warrior, this mother who was strong and fierce. Weak Bella was gone and I loved that. In each of the past films I couldn't connect with Bella. She was so mopey. Not anymore. This girl is powerful. The first time this newly super strong wife pulls her husband, Edward, in for a kiss and eventual lovemaking as a vampire, the audience around me  sighed with pleasure that they were finally rewarded with the romance they have been waiting for. It doesn't disappoint. It is hot.

It's after the lovemaking and the hunting that she meets her daughter, Renesmee (played by the ubergifted Mackenzie Foy). It is this superhuman child that this films centers on. A vampire (Maggie Grace as Irina) in their extended family sees Renesmee as an immortal child and reports the Cullen family to the evil Volturi) who come to investigate this greatest of wrongs that could be committed by a vampire. (Immortal vampire children can't control their urges and can risk exposure of their vampire family.) 

Surrounding Renesmee, Bella and Edward is of course, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Bella's best friend (and werewolf) now Renesmee's best friend as well as the entire Cullen family and Jacob's clan. The scenes with the Cullen family just being family, enjoying Christmas, playing piano together are just as rewarding as the fight scenes. There is humor and there is darkness. It is everything that you hope would be a finale of a series. 

Here's the thing--this is one hell of a movie. It's not a Tween movie. It's not a vampire movie. It's just an entertaining, thrilling movie that will make even the most jaded moviegoer searching for a Kleenex as the end credits roll. 


the easy, healthy 5 ingredient stuffed pepper recipe

ramekin bowls in caribbean blue by le creuset

Last night was so cold and rainy during my run that all I could think of was a warm shower and comfort food for dinner. When the sun starts setting at 4:30, my body starts craving mac & cheese and an 8:30pm bedtime. Funny how your body resets itself for the cold days of winter coming soon.

While mac & cheese is and will always be one of my favorite foods, last night I decided to make something that was comforting, filling and healthy. I remembered my easy recipe for Stuffed Peppers that relied on only five ingredients -- peppers, rice, ground meat, marinara sauce and cheese. This recipe is easy and you can scale the calories and fat depending on the kind of ingredients you use.

Healthy Stuffed Pepper Ingredients

4 orange peppers
1 pouch of microwavable brown rice (or two cups cooked brown rice)
1 pound of ground chicken breast
1 jar of Marinara sauce
2 cups of reduced far shredded sharp cheddar cheese






Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add 8 cups of water to a large pot. Bring to boil.

Wash peppers and slice the top off each pepper. Remove seeds and white pith inside pepper. Drop each pepper into boiling water and cook for ten minutes. Remove peppers, drain water from pepper and place in cooking dish, open side up. Set aside.

Brown chicken in a saute pan. Cook through.

Prepare brown rice and add cooked rice to cooked ground chicken. Add jar of marinara sauce to rice and chicken and heat through until incorporated.  Turn off heat.

Add 1 cup of cheese to rice, chicken and marinara and stir until incorporated.

Using a spoon, add chicken/rice mixture into each pepper, filling to the top. When all four peppers have been filled, top with 1/4 cup of cheese.

Place in preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes.


Notes: 

  • Try using orange or red peppers for this dish. Green peppers can taste bland and even bitter.
  • Instead of ground chicken, you can use ground beef or meat substitute.
  • If you have ramekins, try cooking one stuffed pepper in each dish for a nice presentation. 


five things to be happy about this week

1.  Wednesday is National Guacamole Day


Here is the easiest and best guacamole recipe I've ever tried (short of that taco stand on the beach in Baja.) 

Mash three large ripe avocados with 1 cup of prepared fresh pico de gallo (found in the vegetable aisle at your local market). No chopping tomatoes, onions or cilantro!


2.  This video by Florence and the Machine.




Turn up your speakers and listen to the voice that will tickle your little old soul.


3.  The fact that people like Newark Mayor Cory Booker exist


During Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Booker not only stepped into deep water to help his constituents, he even went so far as to invite displaced folks to stay in his home. If you don't already like this guy on Facebook or follow him on Twitter, do it now. You'll be uplifted by the good deeds of this guy who just might very well be President someday. He can even get you Hot Pockets if you ask nice enough.


4.  These magical squares



Honestly, I have no idea how these Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work but when you add water to the sponge, it becomes a supercharged eraser of all grime and dirt. I've used it to erase scuff marks near our front door, rubber marks on the floors and even soap scum in the shower when nothing else worked. I'm afraid if I ever become a hoarder, it will be because I've stockpiled these.


5. This story about two gay penguins becoming dads


IMAGE: ARD JOUNGSMA/ODENSE ZOO Source: odensezoo.dk

You know the story. Boy Penguin meets boy penguin. They fall in love and want a baby penguin so they try everything including attempting to steal another penguin's egg but nothing works. But this couple finally gets their happy ending, their very own baby penguin. May we recommend the name Henry? Awwww.





review: skyfall



Let me go on the record and say that I was not a Bond girl. Sure, I've seen most of the Bond films with L., either in the theatre or on cool nights by the fire at home because my husband is a HUGE Bond fan. Up until, last week I thought the Bond movies were basically guy films but oh, "Skyfall" you got me. I am now a Bond girl. Wholeheartedly. 100%. Bond.

Sure, "Quantum of Solace" and "Casino Royale" were good films, entertaining films but "Skyfall" is BOND. It is a fast-paced, infinitely gripping story that will thrill even the biggest Bond fans (including my husband). When Daniel Craig first appeared as James Bond 007 in "Casino Royal," I said to L. that I didn't prefer him as James Bond because he was so tough, more of a guy's guy. He didn't have that smooth, cheeky, pretty, dry-witted, suave, continental demeanor of Pierce Brosnan or Sean Connery who seemed to be more of a woman's Bond. While this is still true, Daniel Craig has won me over with his extraordinary performance. He shoots, he chases, he loves, he breaks down. There are more facets to this Bond than a perfect conflict-free diamond.





In typical Bond fashion, Bond is involved with one hell of a woman but this time, this Bond Girl is M (Judi Dench), his MI6 boss whose past has come back to destroy her. It's up to 007 to find (and eliminate) who or what is behind the conspiracy to take down M. (If you were looking forward to more traditional Bond Girl eye candy, don't worry, she's still there in the character of Severine (Berenice Marlohe.)

From the very second the screen comes up from black, the action is never ending. From the "How did they do that?" chase scenes through the city and on a train to the powerful scenes with Javier Bardem (Silva) as a blonde criminally insane mastermind, you are in Bond's tight, fierce grip.

OK, yes, this is a Bond movie and James Bond fans will see it and love it, but if you haven't considered yourself a big Bond film in the past, or you went along to the last film just because someone else wanted to see it, go see this movie. "Skyfall" is an action packed, exotic, emotional trip into James Bond-land. I think I want to become a permanent resident.

the guide to cozy berry cobbler (barefoot contessa style)


Every autumn when we set the clocks back and the sun starts setting around 4:30pm, I start getting a cozy nesting instinct. There is something so homey about a cobbler baking in the oven while the fireplace is warming up our home. Earlier this summer I had flagged an Apple Crisp recipe by The Barefoot Contessa. On Monday I wanted to make this recipe for L. but I realized we didn't have enough apples on hand, so instead I made Berry Cobbler with Blackberries, Marionberries and Blueberries which I had frozen from this summer's bounty.

The recipe is easy and this crisp is cozy and delicious even for breakfast. I used only about 1/2 the sugar called for in the berry mixture because the berries were so sweet already. The next time I'll try the recipe with apples and cranberries but this berry cobbler was the perfect recipe for a cold autumn night.

Berry Cobbler Recipe
based on The Barefoot Contessa's Apple Crisp

Ingredients for Berry Mixture
2 pounds of berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries) Defrost if frozen.
zest of one orange plus juice from orange
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon of cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg)

Ingredients for Topping
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of light brown sugar
1 cup steel cut oats
1 stick of cold butter at room temperature (or microwave stick in a dish for 8 seconds)


  • Directions
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl toss the berries, orange zest + juice, sugar and spice. Set aside. 

In another bowl add the topping ingredients. Using your hands, mix ingredients until the butter, flour, sugar and oats are incorporated. The mixture should resemble gravel. Set aside. 

Place one large cobbler dish or several oven safe smaller dishes on a cookie sheet. Pour berry mixture in bowls until 3/4 full and add topping to each one. Place in oven. This cobbler will bubble as it crisps so be sure to place the dishes on a cookie sheet!

Bake for 45 minutes.


This recipe makes enough for one large cobbler dish but I made three smaller cobblers (two to give away to friends and one to keep.) It was a HUGE hit!


happy video: a mash-up of perfectly misheard lyrics

'Scuse me while I kiss this guy.


inspiration at the mall



There is a mall in Seattle that inspires people. Sure, Pacific Place has shops like Lululemon and Tiffany but on the first floor near a side bank of elevators is a wall of tiles designed by local kids. Usually people (including me) are in such a rush to get off or on the elevators that we don't notice the wall of colorful tiles.

Last Wednesday I was in a rush to get to the screening of "Skyfall" but something caught me eye. It was a turn of a phrase that was exactly the right thing I needed to be reminded of at that moment.  So, I stopped and I read all the phrases the schoolkids had painstakingly designed. Here are a few of my favorites.

Where did you find inspiration this week?





why voting will make you happy

this is Paul,  the man with two votes

I'll be honest.

My grumpy, American-loving, WWII grandfather had two votes in every election.

He did. His and my grandmother's.

I remember on election days the small gymnasium  in our grammar school would become the voting poll in our district. If I was lucky I would see my grandparents walk up the pink granite steps dressed in their Sunday finest. In their hands they clutched the notes that my grandfather had prepared for them with exactly who and what they were voting for. I don't think my grandmother minded that she was told who to vote for. She respected my grandfather and I think she thought that after he fought in the war, he knew best. I think he did, actually.





I was thinking about him the other night as L and I were at the kitchen table filling out our ballots. We got to the Marriage Equality vote.

I wondered how my grandfather would have voted. When I was a little girl living with my mom and grandparents in a trailer park, several homes to our right lived a gay couple who I adored. If I was missing, which I often was since I wandered, Mark & J's trailer was the first place my grandfather would check. He would knock on their door and say "Have you seen the kid? She's about this high." He gestured to roughly his hip height. There I would usually be, sitting at their kitchen table enjoying a snack with "the boys" as my grandfather liked to call them. For a fatherless girl, spending time with Mark & J was liking hitting the foster father jackpot. I think my grandfather appreciated the time "the boys" spent with me. I remember my grandmother once saying to him "You know they are what they are, right?" and God bless my grandfather.  "It's none of our goddamn business, Marie. They're quiet, neat and they like her," he said pointing to me. I'd like to think that my grandfather fought so we can live where we want, say what we want and love who we want.  The one thing I do know for certain is how firmly this man believed in the voting process. So vote. Make your grandfather proud. If that's not enough of a reason, one of the reasons above should convince you.



the guide to eating an artichoke (from chef joy)



This was the email I got:


"Chef Joy presents: Intrigue in the Kitchen

If it squeaks when you squeeze it, you have a fresh one.  I have a squeaker... can I come over and cook it up for you? Friday afternoon?"

And there she was. Chef Joy on my doorstep in her chef's jacket. With her wicker basket full of artichokes. 

Chef Joy made her way to the kitchen. "Hi, Taylor! Ready? Today we are making an artichoke. Have you ever made one before?" 

"Uh, no," I said. "I mean we've ordered them at restaurants but it looks like too much trouble to snip the leaves and steam it upside down. . ."

Chef Joy laughed "No! It's so easy! And it's a fun thing to eat together! People seem to be intimidated by this vegetable. No need to be.  It's so easy!"

And this is how she did it. 





The Steamed Artichoke


1 medium artichoke
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Juice from one lemon
1 tbsp. butter (room temperature)

Cut off stem of artichoke and place upright in bowl.  Fill to 1 inch high  with chicken broth and lemon juice.  Save ¼ of lemon the lemon juice.  Cover with Saran Wrap.  Cut a small slit for steam.  Microwave for 10 minutes, To see if artichoke is done, try to pull off a bottom leaf. It should pull off easily.  Cook in 5 minute increments till done.  A large artichoke will take 20 minutes.

In a small bowl add some chicken broth, the rest of lemon juice and the butter to dip artichoke leaves in. 

Artichoke can be prepared in a saucepan too.  Same idea, cover with a lid.  It will take 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Enjoy a bubble bath while it cooks.



How to eat an artichoke: 


Starting at the bottom, pluck one leaf at a time, dip it into the sauce, then draw the meaty end through your teeth to extract the flesh.  Continue till you hit immature prickly pink leaves.  Pull these off.  Use a spoon to scrape off the fuzz or choke.  Underneath is the hidden treasure--the heart.  Cut into pieces and enjoy. 


Notes: 

  • When selecting an artichoke, hold it in your hand and squeeze it a little, it should squeak a bit. It should also look succulent. That's a great word, isn't it? Succulent.
  • In many recipe you will be directed to cut off the point tips. No need to do this, really.