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52 Books: An Update from 3 Months In

5 Apr

Okay, I will admit it: this sh*t is hard, yo! Turns out that reading a book a week can be tougher than I imagined, what with trying to maintain a 40+ hour a week job, commuting to said job, spending the odd moment with my husband, family and friends so that they don’t thing I’ve become a total book hermit, sleeping, eating, shopping for “fat” pants and all the other things that cut into my reading time.

(P.S. I think there is a definite correlation between increased reading time and my increased waistband. Enough said.)

Here’s where I stand on this day, Saturday, April 5, 2014:

my april book tally

my april book tally

It’s actually not too bad: only 2 books behind (which I still can’t believe – really?? I’m behind 2 books?? How the hell did this happen??), and I’ve read some really amazing stuff.  Continue reading

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52 Books: Poor Man’s Feast by Elissa Altman

4 Jan

Book #1 from my 2014 goal to read 52 Books in 52 Weeks:

i love a good cover

i love a good cover

Another wonderful recommendation from the good folks at Book Larder in Seattle WA (which you should definitely check out next time you’re in the Pacific North West – if only for their amazing and affordable lunchtime cooking classes – genius idea!).

Anyway, back to Poor Man’s Feast by Elissa Altman: if you are a foodie and/or a writer and/or a person who loves good writing and good eating, you will love this book. As her longer title explains, this is a “love story of comfort, desire, and the art of simple cooking.” Altman, a self-professed fancifier of food – the more complicatedly prepared and precariously perched on the plate, the better – falls in love with a fellow foodie and “simple is better” cook who shows her the beauty of uncomplicated food to be shared simply with loved ones.

She mixes in reminiscences of her family and their relationship to eating and cooking, as well as the often fraught dance between two people who have lived long and separately who then want to create a life together. Set mainly in NYC and rural Connecticut, it talks lovingly about the Manhattan food scene as well as the process of acclimating to a less urban hometown, where fresh baked bagels, authentic Chinese food and not-immediately-frozen fish can be hard to come by.

There are recipes as well, very delicious looking ones that I have yet to try, but these two looked the most immediately accessible and delicious to me: “Yellow Split Pea Soup with Ham” and “Braised Lamb Shanks in Red Wine.”

A great first read for 2014, and an exciting start to my 2014 goal of reading 52 books in 52 weeks.

Happy Reading!

Endorsement Monday: Cooking Classes at PREP Kitchen Essentials

22 Jan

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time is take a cooking class. I’ve talked about it, I’ve researched the classes, I even put it on my 101 Things list. And now I can say that I’m a proud cooking class graduate!

CityBoy was roped into this fantasy, being that I found an awesome French-themed class just in time for someone’s birthday (yes, I gave my husband a birthday gift that I would have wanted – don’t judge me).

PREP Cooking Essentials is a clean, modern kitchen store in Seal Beach with a great cooking program. They’re even have “Learn to Cook” and professional chef’s classes!

I signed us up for “December in Paris,” which harkened us back to our recent anniversary trip to Paris. Chef Elizabeth Whitt is a Le Cordon Bleu graduate who is down-to-earth, very knowledgeable and passionate about food and teaching.

we're all ears, Chef!

we’re all ears, Chef!

Continue reading

Endorsement Monday: Gomen Restaurant in Stanton

19 Nov

After an often swelteringly hot summer, cold and rainy fall weather has finally arrived in Southern California. I know, those East Coasters among you are already scoffing. Cold? you say. Rainy? Hah! And yes, given the enormous physical smackdown of Super Storm Sandy, I hear you. But bear with me – relatively speaking for SoCal, it is now winter – otherwise, how could I extol the pleasures of eating ramen in the cold?

New York City has this down to a steamy, slurpy science. The number of ramen shops there is truly astounding, and each one has its own circle of devotees, lauding this one’s combination of salty and soupy, that one’s pork-fat-laden goodness. And the wintery weather, that particular blend of bone-chilling wind and foot-sore travel, help make ramen eating in the city a true reward for those hearty enough to schlep through slush and the crowds to get to their steaming bowl.

CityBoy and I have found our own circle of heaven, here in Stanton, a mere 25-minute drive away at Gomen. It’s in a nondescript strip mall (as are all the wonderful holes-in-the-wall in California), bracketed by a Mexican ice cream shop – that always, always closes before we can finish our ramen – and some sushi place we have yet to try.

Behold, the loveliness:

mmm, mmm, porky goodness

I’m a simple gal, preferring a delicate pork broth, not too salty, and just a few accompaniments: sliced pork, green onions and that all important ingredient: ramen noodles. (Notice how I do not talk about the egg. The hard-boiled egg and I are not friends. He goes immediately to live in CityBoy’s bowl, where, depending on how many of his friends my hubby has already eaten for breakfast, he will be devoured or ignored. I wish him well.)

The bowl depicted shows Gomen’s standard noodle of offering: the curly ramen. It’s pretty good and remarkably yellow. But the true gold standard is the thin, straight noodle, which offers the perfect ratio of noodle to pork and doesn’t flip back at you as you attempt to swallow it.

There’s lots of other stuff at Gomen, other types of non-soup items (though I don’t understand why you go to a ramen place and get fried rice) and plenty of good, inexpensive beer. Our total last night, with 2 bowls of ramen, one large Sapporo to share, and edamame, came to just $21. That makes me smile.

Go. Enjoy. And Happy Thanksgiving!

Long Beach Digs: Southeast Farmers Market

4 Jul

Gorgeous fruits and veggies + Southern California sunshine + handmade tamales = the Southeast Farmers Market, held every Sunday from 9:00AM to 2:00PM in Alamitos Bay Marina, a place near and dear to my heart, so dear in fact that almost every Sunday since we’ve moved to Long Beach, I haul myself out of bed, suit up in my most comfy of comfies, strap on my Guatemalan “shopping purse” and motor on over.

I mean, I love a good farmers market just as much as the next Toms-wearing boho hippie, but honest to god homemade tamales?? And hand-mixed strawberry lemonade?? Hello – get outta my way! In exchange for five of your measly dollars (I can’t get a grande Starbucks mocha in NYC for that little), the lovely man at Me Gusta Tamales will graciously spoon green and red salsa over your piping hot pork tamale (the only way I roll) and expertly eyeball-mix the most perfect blend of homemade lemonade and strawberry juice. If this guy set up shop any closer to my house, I’d be 300 pounds by now.

dude! you and your man purse – outta my way! i need a tamale!

Continue reading

The Logic of Two Ovens…or a Thanksgiving Cooking Manifesto

24 Nov

It’s 8:00am and I’m awake in bed, trying to plot out in my coffee-deprived brain how to most efficiently stage my Thanksgiving cooking. I do this every year (at least the years when I’m responsible for more than one dish) and it strikes me that today, of all days, two ovens is a must-have.

I’m as disturbed (and secretly exhilarated) by American excess, our multi-colored and advertising-drenched aisles of toothpastes and dental floss (whitening, tartar control, pro-enamel, sensitive gums, etc.), the unending shelves of cereal for the sugar junkies and health nuts alike, the thrumming rows of frozen vegetables, microwave meals and bagel pizzas.

But two ovens? Man, you won’t know how much you covet them until a day like today. And I’m not even cooking a turkey this year. Reheating a cooked one for several hours – yes. But starting from scratch – no. Nonetheless, Turkey Day requires copious preparation, the will of a field army general, and the absolute confidence to kick people the hell out of your kitchen (this means you, CityBoy, get your own damn kitchen).

Our motley assortment of serving dishes prepped and ready to go

So far, my Thanksgiving day cooking consist of:

Eggplant caponata (done and chilling in the fridge)

Sweet potato casserole (prepped and ready to go into the oven for 30 minutes)

Mashed potatoes

Roasted Brussel sprouts

Green beans pancetta

Continue reading

First, an Announcement…

10 Oct

So something extraordinary happened a few months ago, in April, to be precise.

CityBoy asked me to marry him.

Out of the blue. On a cold, rainy evening. Surrounded by candles and flowers and Filipino eggrolls. (I told you he was a good man.)

this is a proposal dinner, people!

After I stopped laughing (It was the nerves, I tell you! The nerves!), I said, “yes.”

And then there was a ring. And a book, since it’s CityBoy.

isn't it pretty?

Here we are, as illustrated by my niece Sophia.

it's scary how well this captures us

I’m one lucky lady.