Friday, June 20, 2014

chocolate coconut granola

I had a lovely, sunny hour to kill between auditions yesterday and decided to treat myself to lunch outside since it was such a glorious day. The restaurant I chose had a lively and full patio and my sandwich and I parked at the only open spot: smack next to a table of two women having the most LA of LA conversations. Look, I am an LA woman and I cop to having LA conversations about gluten and psychics, but I do it with a full-on awareness of how LA I'm being (here's hoping).

The one who held court was brunette. She was tall and willowy and wore a straw cowboy hat. A bandana was tied around her neck and she had lots of beads on her person. Her blonde companion was petite. She leaned forward on her miniature elbows and her small frame was engulfed in a billowy, puffy shirt. Between them sat a cheese plate that they picked at. Which surprised me because dairy.
"I find myself barefoot a lot in my house and around my garden," Bandana said. "I find it really helps me connect to the earth."
Puffy Shirt folded her legs underneath her on the chair. She squinted thoughtfully at her companion and gave a slow nod.
"I'm sure it's because of my heritage," said Bandana.
"What's your heritage?" asked Puffy.
"'What isn't my heritage?' is a better question."
Bandana launched into a several-minute soliloquy about the copious Indian tribes she had a percentage in. Choctaw Nation was dropped multiple times. She then moved on to pontificate about her Great Great Grandfather's connection to other native peoples. Puffy never interjected, she just let Bandana go on and on. I actually half-expected Puffy to have nodded off, but when I snuck a glance, she seemed as riveted as me. Although possibly for different reasons.

My peripheral vision was killing me so I turned my attention back to my sandwich and took a few bites. Just then, Puffy leaned down to pet her service dog, a little weasel with brown eye gunk who didn't seem to be servicing much more than the restaurant's floor. Bandana clocked this.
"You have to meet Mr. Adzuki Bean," said Bandana.
"Who's that?" Puffy asked.
I was hoping it was one of her ancestors.
"My dog," said Bandana as she swiped her phone, finding the right photo to share. 
"Aw, he is adorable."
Puffy leaned in to get a better look.
"He's just a tiny little chihuahua but he has a giant spirit," said Bandana, fingering her beads.
"I can see that." 
"He's been here before," said Bandana, evenly.
"Oh, to [super delicious gourmet LA lunch spot]?" Puffy asked.
Bandana chucked ever so slightly.
"No. He's been on this planet before. He's an old soul."
Puffy looked genuinely interested. She stood corrected.
"His eyes are the color of topaz."
"They sure are."
Obviously, I could've sat there all day but my sandwich was gone and I had to go pretend to need psoriasis medicine at my next audition. But I will say this:

You're welcome.

How about a super-LA snack, coated in a superfood? It's like, so LA. Bonus: legend has it, granola was a staple of the Choctaw Nation.*

Chocolate Coconut Granola
yields about 7 cups

This is great on plain yogurt, ice cream, or just eaten by the fistfuls. Feel free to tinker with the amount of maple syrup if you like it more or less sweet. And you really can use any nuts you like, these are just my faves.

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup sliced or chopped almonds
2/3 cup walnut pieces (these can be halved or chopped)
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t kosher salt
1/3 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup maple syrup (or honey)
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup raw cacao powder

Preheat oven to 300F. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, coconut, nuts, cinnamon and salt. Mix well and set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat, add the oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Melt together and stir well. Add the cacao and whisk until incorporated. Pour this wet mixture over the dry ingredients and stir stir stir until well mixed. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 60-70 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until toasty and golden. Cool on the baking sheet.


*I lied. But here are some actual traditional Choctaw recipes  if you're feeling inspired.

Friday, June 6, 2014

strawberry yogurt pancakes

Guys! It's National Donut Day! And I just heard that Krispy Kreme is giving away FREE DONUTS! Here's how I look at this awesome opportunity: if you opt for pancakes today instead, you're taking the high, healthy road. (No matter that pancakes are also basically fried pieces of dough.) These puppies even have real strawberries and yogurt so you get extra healthy points!

If anyone needs more healthy points it's me. I've been doing some serious carb/sugar loading lately. I even had a dream last night that I was in a fancy bakery. I was in my sweaty workout clothes, perusing the store, when the owner came up to me. She had a bag in her hand.
"I'd love to give you this bag of fresh cookies," she said, "but on one condition." 
"Okay," I said, intrigued. She ushered me over to an unmarked door and opened it to reveal a full spa bathroom. In the bakery.
"You need to take a shower," she said, "And if you do, I'll give you the cookies." She set them down next to the sink.
"Sounds like a deal!" I said. Then I waited for her to beat it before grabbing the cookies and leaving without holding up my end of the bargain. 


That I need to shower more frequently? That I'm a liar? That I can have my (pan)cake and eat it (a donut) too?

You guys ponder this while I head over to Krispy Kreme.

Strawberry Yogurt Pancakes
makes about 12 3" cakes
inspired by Smitten Kitchen

These super fluffy little cakes are super delicious. And the yogurt is a perfect substitute for buttermilk. Who has buttermilk lying around anyway? I prefer non-Greek yogurt for this recipe but you can absolutely use it. It'll just give your cakes a bit more zippy tang.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
1 T plus 1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
2 T milk, maybe 1-2 T more--see note below
4 T butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 t lemon zest
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 heaping cup sliced strawberries
extra butter or coconut oil for the pan
maple syrup for serving

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients: flours, sugar, baking powder, salt. Whisk well to combine. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk the eggs and then add the yogurt, mixing well. Whisk in 2T milk, butter, lemon zest, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just combined, taking care not to over mix. (If you used Greek yogurt, the batter may feel a little thick. Add 1-2T more milk to loosen it up a bit.)

Preheat a cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1-2 teaspoons oil or butter to the hot pan and ladle about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, spacing them out slightly. Press a few sliced berries into each pancake, flattening the cakes out a little as you do this. Cook a few minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary and flip when golden brown on the bottom. Cook 3-4 minutes more on the other side. Serve immediately with maple syrup or keep warm on a rack in a 200F oven.


P.S. Orange Is The New Black season two is released today!! Celebrate with some orange food:)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

baby cormac's quilt

One of my dearest lady friends, Susan, had her first baby last week (!!) and good thing she did since I made her this little quilt specifically for that reason. It's another one of my friend Alicia's from her Olallieberry pattern and I highly recommend it for beginners. I originally tied it a different way and after washing it, most of the ties untied:/ (Dreadful horrors!) So I texted Alicia a picture of the debacle and said WTF did I do wrong? And she wrote me back this longest text asking me if I buried the tail and hid the knot and a bunch of other stuff that sounded like Japanese. So I asked her if she spoke English. And then (because she's amazing), she made me an instructional video of her sewing these cutest embroidery-floss stars. Not only did they work, they look so so so much cuter than my original plan. I have the nicest, most generous crafty friend. You gotta check out her site if you haven't. I love her. (Thanks, Alicia!!!)

I hope you find a way to be creative today, even just a tiny bit.

P.S. My favorite part is picking out the fabric:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

breakfast pasta (for any time of day)

Oh guys. Thank you a million times over for all your love and support. I am so touched by the compassion and kindness shown not only by my friends and family, but by acquaintances and even strangers. It's so dear to me that Lena was loved even by those who only knew her silly, sweet personality through pictures and stories. Anyway, it has certainly been a hard one over here and I appreciate it with all my heart.

Even though my grief still catches me off guard, I feel like we've gotten through the worst of it. And the cooler temperatures have helped in the relief. It was so oppressively hot here last week. In the movies it's always the rain that is the saddest, but I'd make a strong case for sweltering 100 degree days. They make you feel heavy all over. And they force you to be inside and go slow and turn inward not unlike the rain. I was holed up letting the a/c blow on me while David went on a camping trip that had been planned for months. The house was eerily quiet. You don't realize how accustomed you get to dear little dog sounds until they're gone: sleepy sighs and moans, nails clickety-clacking on the hardwood, squirrel-chase dream sequences.

This week, the super still house has been replaced with all sorts of noise and banging while we have repairs done on our roof. It sounds like we're under attack by giants. My bathroom window has no curtains since it's on the second storey and only faces trees. Today, without thinking, I walked in there naked, only to see feet standing on a ladder outside. Nothing like hitting the deck in your own home. I didn't know I could move so fast.

I think we can all agree that comfort food is in order. Bonus: apparently carbs help replenish energy stores depleted by fear of roof workers glimpsing one's boobs.


Breakfast Pasta
adapted from Hugo's Pasta Mama
serves 2 generously

There is a killer healthy restaurant here in LA called Hugo's that is one of my favorites. They have these pasta dishes with eggs that are the ultimate. I hope you enjoy my tweaked version. See the bottom for some ideas to make it your own.

10oz dry spaghetti (I used brown rice pasta but any will do)
2T olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 t salt-free seasoning mix such as Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute
1/3 cup chopped parsley
pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan
4 eggs, beaten
lots of black pepper
salt to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, reserving 2T of the hot cooking water before draining. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. Sauté the garlic and seasoning mix for 2 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the parsley, a pinch of kosher salt, then the hot pasta and pasta water. Toss it all together, mixing well. Add the eggs and cheese and stir fast and well until mixed and cooked through. Taste for salt. Serve immediately with extra cheese on top. Optional add-ins include red pepper flakes, broccoli, arugula, bacon, pancetta, sausage and/or chicken. Whatever gives you comfort:)

P.S. Thanks again for all the love...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

lena pagani 2001-2014

With an aching heart and a soggy face, I am beyond saddened to tell you that yesterday afternoon, at home, sweet Lena died in our arms. I still can't believe how quickly it all went down. We got her cancer diagnosis less than two weeks ago and ever since, she went continuously, briskly downhill. After hospitalizing her overnight this week for some fluids and meds, she seemed momentarily better but then stopped eating altogether and just lie there, trembling and having trouble breathing. It was heartbreaking. So we made the decision to help her transition. It was the sweetest and saddest thing I've ever done in my whole life.

I prayed and prayed for her to go in her sleep these last few days. I whispered to her that she didn't need to stay for us, that we would be okay. But being present that moment she took her last breath, surrounded by home and love and kisses and words of gratitude, and the kindest home-euthanasia vet, we got to be there to help her (and us, for that matter) create a graceful completion of her beautiful life. And as hard as it was, she gave us that gift. I'm so glad I got to shepherd her to that edge. She only had to do the very last part of it alone. And then she was free.

"To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn't come with guarantees--these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But I'm learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude, and grace."

-Brene Brown

"…(s)he will be our friend for always and always and always."

-Rudyard Kipling

Monday, May 5, 2014

flourless chocolate cookies

This week has been a Whirl. Wind. After three vet visits, an abundance of assorted tests, and a couple thousand dollars, we found out yesterday that our sweet Lena girl has cancer. We have seen evidence of her age lately but it made us scared when she pretty much stopped eating these last couple weeks. Ugh. So now, post-vet, we have a lot of sad information and a lot of decisions to make. In good news, we are now armed with some drugs to ease her nausea and help her appetite, so she's slowly, gingerly eating and getting a little of her energy back. She mostly still has her bright eyes and spirit but this morning as she rested she just looked depressed. I tested out all her favorite words (ball, walk, cookie) and didn't get any perk out of her. It broke my heart. But then a little while later, David and I took her to the park and felt so happy to see her walk about and sniff around and even smile a little. She found a dirty shard of a tennis ball in a pile of leaves that she wanted us to throw for her and it was the best sign we've seen in a while. So now we're in this little limbo: kissing on her as much as humanly possible while we treat her symptoms and figure out our options. It's a roller coaster of sadness and denial and cookies. I'm enjoying the denial. And the cookies.

Why do the cookies help so much?

Love to you,

*has the nerve to (perhaps inappropriately) work dog cancer into cookie-recipe blog posts

Flourless Chocolate Cookies
yields about 30

Have you had the flourless chewy chocolate cookies from Starbucks? They are so crazy good with their crunchy exterior and chewy interior. And super chocolatey-ness. This is my attempt at recreating them. I dare you to try and eat just one. No matter how many you eat, I bet they make you feel better:)

2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (either dutch-processed or not. DP will give you that dark oreo-cookie chocolate flavor. Both are delicious)
1/2 t kosher salt
3 egg whites, very lightly beaten (until just a little frothy on top)
1 t vanilla
1 cup walnut halves, toasted and finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped best-quality dark chocolate or chocolate chips

Line a cookie sheet with parchment and preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa and salt. Ditch the whisk. Stir in the egg whites with a spoon or fork. This will seem futile in the beginning but trust me, just keep gently stirring and it will all come together. Add the vanilla and then fold in the nuts and chopped chocolate. The dough will be like thick brownie batter. Drop by tablespoonfuls (this is important--you don't want these too big or they're hard to remove from the parchment), 2" apart and bake for 13-14 minutes. You want them shiny and cracked on top. Remove from the oven and let cool COMPLETELY before attempting to remove them from the parchment. You can slide the parchment paper onto a rack so they cool faster but this is not necessary. Use a spatula or gently peel them off the paper with your fingers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

chinese foot massage 101: it'll knock you off your feet

{this article also appears in the Huffington Post}

I must be a glutton for punishment. Not only do I frequent the Korean Spa, I often spring for cheap, sub-par treatments at Chinese Foot Massage places. While I'm lying there suffering, I wonder why I had amnesia concerning the torture I endured the last time around. Probably because they cost 25 bucks.

The place near me offers a sixty minute combo that, along with the foot reflexology, includes a full-body massage. The treatments all take place in a giant, dimmed room lined with rows of La-Z-Boy-style recliners. So you're all in it together (and fully clothed). This is just fine and poses zero issues unless one of the following (likely) disturbances occurs:




-clueless patrons using their outside voices

-massage therapists answering personal cellphones

-your husband giggling uncontrollably at the pan-flute rendition of any Elton John song

-they are simultaneously holding a meet-up for beginning jugglers

It's worth noting that these no-pain-no-gain treatments are strictly choreographed. There is no deviation from the routine. For example, try asking them to go easy on your sacrum and you'll be met with a blank-eyed stare and confused nod. Or try stopping a therapist mid-move ("Ooh! Too hard! That hurts!") and your protest will likely elicit laughter. Followed by firmer pressure.

The start of the session requires you to sit and drape your upper body over two pillows placed in your lap. These pillows look plush and fluffy until you put any pressure on them whatsoever, at which point they offer the support of a tortilla. So essentially, you're laying your belly on two tortillas while your back gets pummeled by a couple of pointy Chinese elbows. While there is massage happening, there is tremendous personal effort being spent to remain upright. And avoid pulling something. This is a real treat for the nervous system. The signature moves used by therapists in this portion of the hour include:

-Twist And Shout

-You Gotta Lotta Nerves

-Spinal Tap

-Digging For Clues


(**The Vulcan Death Grip)

When you do get to finally enjoy the thrill of prostration, they swaddle you in a scratchy towel and proceed to work their way down your body. Starting with your head and face, you'll enjoy:

-Say Goodbye To Your Blowout

-Lice Ain't Nice

-Smell My Fingers

-Human Q-Tip

-You Look Better With Dimples

Next, they traverse the arms and legs where you'll experience such popular moves as:

-Whack-A-Mole (the skin lesion, not the subterranean mammal)

-Thigh-Master And Servant

-Knee-Deep In My Full Body Weight

-One Hand Tied Behind Your Back

-I Work My Fingers To Your Bones

After this routine, your entire head is smothered with a towel, Guantanamo-style, in preparation for the anticipated denouement. About now, you may be wondering why all these establishments have "Foot" in their name and yet the foot-rubbing portion only lasts one-fifth of the hour. Not to worry, you'll only ponder this for mere moments before your tattered nervous system shuts down, rendering you temporarily unconscious. Hence, there is no recorded history of any foot massage being administered to any person at any Foot Massage Place. Ever. Legend has it, this is the time when the therapists practice their juggling.


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