putting the meat in meatloaf

Thursday, May 26, 2011

At age eleven, without any say in the matter, I became an overnight vegan. The short-story reason for this drastic change is that my parents divorced. And after a time living with our Father, my brothers and I moved from the Midwest to California to live with our Mother. She had fallen in love and married a guy who happened to be VERY opinionated when it came to diet and health. Mom had stars in her eyes and love in her heart which made her forget how much she liked pepperoni pizza in her stomach so we all had to go along with it.

I recall an adjustment period for most of 7th grade where I was vegan only at home and in the presence of my Mom and new Stepfather. And despite being the ultimate Good Girl, that didn't stop me from sneaking weekly to Carl's Jr. between ballet and jazz to scarf a Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger. Still, I was so afraid of getting caught that once, while walking home after school with a frozen yogurt on my person, I spied my Mom and SF driving toward me and sprained my ankle jumping into a ditch.

It wasn't just me, either. My brother Josh made fast friends with a meat-eating kid down the street whose family took him in like their own. I found out years later that they used to hold Thanksgiving dinner for him. He'd high-tail it to their house and eat a second Holiday meal after picking at his Tofurkey with mushroom gravy at ours.

At some point I made peace with the vegan lifestyle. Or maybe I was just tired of living a lie. I made my way through High School and then to New York at 19 and kept up the meatlessness without much thought until one night: I was at Ollie's Chinese restaurant when a giant wave of intense meat craving washed over me. I didn't even remember what it tasted like but my body had to have it NOW. I gave in to some General Tso's Chicken and it felt so good, so right.  I was back. From then on, while I was secretly eating meat, my guilt was eating me. I lied to my Mother and SF, devouring cheese pizza and greasy burgers only to eat vegan when they came to visit. I felt terrible. And then? I started taking birth control pills behind their back. AKA evil pharmaceuticals. Some kids had booze, pills and weed. I had whole milk, potstickers and OrthoTriCyclen.

I wrestled with my own food guilt while a few more years passed, and then after 15 meat-free years together, my mom and SF went through a brutal divorce. When the dust had finally begun to settle, a particularly vivid dinner stands out to me, the first we three kids had with Mom alone in years. We met at a place famous for its delicious roast chicken and without discussing it, each of us ordered a 3-piece-meal with sides. My brother Tyler broke the silence when the food arrived. "I never thought I'd say this," he said, "'s your chicken, Mom?"  

We laughed for ten minutes solid. And that was that.

I don't feel guilty anymore for what I eat. Sometimes it's vegan and gluten-free, sometimes it's seriously not. I love cooking and eating it all. I'm equal opportunity all the way. So today I give you a recipe involving meat AND dairy AND gluten. Loud and proud. No apologies. You won't see me jumping into a ditch about it.

Turkey Meatloaf

You can also make this with lean ground beef.  It's delicious either way.

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 t finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 t kosher salt
a few twists of freshly ground black pepper
2T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
5T ketchup
3t worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey (not all white meat or you'll be bummed)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 t kosher salt
additional ketchup for squeezing on top before baking and also for serving

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment and drizzle with olive oil.

Saute the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay, thyme, 1/2 t salt and pepper in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low for another 5 minutes. Stir often. Remove from heat.  Discard the bay leaves. Stir in the parsley, ketchup and worcestershire sauce. Set aside.

Mix the ground turkey with the milk, breadcrumbs, eggs and 3/4 t salt and pepper. Add the cooled vegetable mixture. Form into an oval-shaped loaf on the prepared parchment, zigzag some ketchup all along the top (alternatively brush it on if you lack a squeeze bottle) and bake for 50-55 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reaches 170. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. With leftovers, use a nonstick pan to saute individual slices in olive oil until hot. Serve with more ketchup.


sesame & seaweed brown rice

Sunday, May 22, 2011

This week was nuts.  Nuts, I tell you:

I elbowed a venti Starbucks cup of sweet black tea onto my desk and it emptied out, saturating my keyboard, mouse, and several important wire connections.  By miracle of God, it's all okay.  Every now and then I punch a less-used, crunchy key that requires a bit more finger power but it is still in basic working order.  As I write this, the only too-sticky and unusable key is CONTROL.  Figures.

I was also felt up by my cleaning lady.  Word of advice: don't mention to a strong, matriarchal, outspoken woman/cleaning lady you plan on someday getting pregnant lest you wish to be asked every subsequent time they see you if you are pregnant yet.  They will then emit a clucking disappointed sound and sad head shake when you're not. And they will then speculate what your body might look like when you are with child, which inevitably leads to boob-feeling.  In her defense, she does have a history of breaching personal boundaries.  I shoulda known better.

I also went all the way to the final callbacks at the network for a children's sitcom where I performed a scene that included reading someone's aura, taking a call from Barack Obama and extolling the virtues of a vegetarian diet. Despite a brilliant performance (if I do say so myself), I didn't get it.

If there was ever time for some comfort food, this is it.

This rice recipe was born out of a recent kitchen foraging session.  I bought these seaweed snack things from Trader Joe's a while back and they are DELICIOUS.  On a whim, I crumbled them into some brown rice along with some asian condiments, and in literally four minutes, had a kickass and super nourishing dish.

Eat it solo or serve it on the side with some vegetables and/or meat.  Best thing of all?  It's totally dependable and satisfying.  It won't screw with your electronics, grope you, or make you jump through hoops while judging.

Sesame & Seaweed Brown Rice

2 cups cooked brown rice (I love Trader Joe's frozen organic version.  It comes in two-cup packets. Three minutes in the microwave and it's perfect.)
2 green onions, minced (white, light green and about an inch of the dark green part)
1T toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 t soy sauce or tamari
3/4 t black (or regular) sesame seeds
1/2 to 1 full package Trader Joe's roasted seaweed snacks

Mix all ingredients into the hot cooked rice and serve immediately.  If you let this sit, the seaweed gets soggy fast.  It's still good, it's just loads better if eaten right after tossing.


scenes from my car

Friday, May 20, 2011

If you need a ride to the Shmairport.


rainy tunes

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This is the perfect rainy day introspective song.......

Hope you're having a wonderful day and that you're cozy if it's raining by you.

Happy Tuesday:)

lemony-parmesan bruschetta chicken

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Some seriously crazy shit went down in my spinning class today.  

This particular spinning studio has tons of windows and a door that look out onto Highland Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood. So as you're being tortured spinning, you can see people walking/driving/staggering/uniycling/rollerblading by, staring/gaping/ogling/pointing/laughing. You feel like a zoo resident. Usually the teacher just turns the fans on and keeps the door shut, thereby keeping the crazies outside but occasionally it becomes so sweltering that the door to the world gets propped open. And you never know what you're gonna get.

Today, during a particularly punishing climb, a potentially drunk homeless person took two sheepish steps into the small room. I looked to the teacher, who had his back to the door (and was therefore unaware), and signaled him with my tilty head and bug eyes as if to say, "DUDE. We have a SITUATION!" The teacher quickly hopped off his bike and approached him as one would a wild animal (crouching down with hands raised, freaked out but attempting to appear in control), and gently shooed him out of the room.  

Shortly thereafter, more crazy stuff ensued:
  • An unattended miniature dachshund popped his head and half of his wiener-body in the door before his human intervened.
  • The girl next to me nearly fell off her bike when her shoe came unattached to the pedal in dramatic fashion.
  • Another woman got off her bike to blow her nose with one of the sanitizing gym-equipment wet wipes.
And throughout all of this, several men dressed as priests walked past the window to what I'm hoping was the casting office next door.

What is happening???

It's nuts out there in the world and sometimes you need some normal (but delicious) comfort food to quell the craziness. And the only thing crazy about this chicken is that it is crazy-good (boo).  

adapted from my brain

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, chopped and seeded (just squeeze them gently, no need to eliminate every seed)
5 T chiffonade-cut basil
1 clove garlic, minced
about 1T olive oil or to taste
good drizzle balsamic or to taste
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and set aside.

Lemony Parmesan Chicken
adapted sorta-kinda from Ina Garten

2 chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally to make cutlets (4 total)
1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat but all-purpose is great too)
1t salt
1 egg
zest and juice of one lemon
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs are fine.  I like the ones with automatic Italian seasoning)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
olive or canola oil for frying

For serving:
4-6 cups arugula
extra lemon juice and olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Salt and pepper the chicken cutlets and set aside.  Set up 3 low bowls in a row as follows:

1. flour + 1t salt + pepper to taste
2. egg (lightly beaten) + lemon juice
3. panko + parmesan + lemon zest

Heat a good amount (2T-ish) of oil over medium heat. Dredge the chicken first in the flour mixture (shaking to remove excess), then the egg mixture, then the panko mixture (pressing it on to adhere if necessary). When the pan is super hot but not smoking, fry the breaded chicken for about 4 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of your cutlets). Set aside.

For serving,  divvy up the arugula amongst four plates. Dress the greens with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place a hot chicken cutlet on the salad and top with a generous amount of the bruschetta mixture.


I wish you a non-crazy and wonderful weekend!

some things I learned this past week, volume 2:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

  • Smoking a Sherlock-Holmes-y pipe while driving is just as distracting and dangerous as texting.
  • If you simultaneously sport smokey eye makeup and clogs they cancel each other out.
  • If the driver of a tour bus filled with tourists pulls up next your car and asks you if you're famous, always say yes.
  • On Hollywood Boulevard, it's not odd at all to see Darth Vader and a bicycle-riding Scientologist pass each other and maybe even high-five.
  • Some NYC cab drivers actually say "Fugetaboutit" without any trace of irony.
  • Trying to stay motivated during a spin class while this song is playing only an exercise in futility.
  • Putting exclamation points at the ends of your To Do List items do not make them get done any quicker.
  • Anything you eat while you watch Top Chef is gonna suck.
  • My Mom is awesome.

nyc, then and now

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Part of my heart lives in Manhattan. It leaps back into my chest whenever I visit and takes my breath away.   

At 19, after a year of college in California, I moved there to sing and dance. I was so naive in so many ways and I'm sure that served me. I was mostly fearless, a girl with a dream but without a union card, hungry to figure out everything about city life: the subway and the streets, where to get a good bagel, how to purchase groceries based solely on what I could carry six blocks, how to pretend to look tough, and how to survive in an apartment with 5 mostly-crazy other people.  

I arrived during one of the snowiest winters on record and the blizzards that year came hand over fist. My first week, one particularly hairy storm caused the trains to shut down and I literally climbed giant banks of snow to make it to my first open call. It was for CATS. Those first few months are a snowy blissful blur in my mind. I often cried with awestruck glee on street corners when the realization would hit me that I lived here. Me!

I spent 4 years as a New Yorker and consider it a rite of passage like the college one I never fully had. It is such a blessing to have those kinds of life experiences where you use your own guidance to figure stuff out, hustle, and find your own way apart from your family. Such true self-confidence and self-worth results. My time living in NYC is one of the things I most cherish.

This visit was choc full of new NYC experiences for me, seeing things and going places I've never been, while carrying around my sweet and visceral nostalgia. It was just the best. I had this realization: You know when you can recollect a time in your life and distinctly define it as a "chapter"? Well, someday what you're living right now will be part of a chapter. Doesn't that put it into perspective? It's such a reminder to be fully here in it and not wish for something else. Because another chapter will inevitably begin. Maybe even sooner than you think.

The skies turned black one day in Soho and then it POURED...

So we ducked into Purl Soho. Their new, bigger space is divine!  For me, being amongst fabric and yarn never disappoints:

Alexis Bittar has super cool statement jewelry. And also a statement giraffe.

How can I have never been to The Strand??? It blew my mind. I could get lost in here for hours:

Loved seeing these wedding wishes...

Check out this cafe I found:)...

Some great exhibits @ The MoMA:

The dreamy West Village...(home to Carrie Bradshaw)...

I wish I lived across the street from Jack's Coffee.  The coolest, hole-in-the-wall place with the best java...

I was quite looking forward to checking out the High Line, since it was completed after my last NYC visit. It's an old elevated railroad line (originally constructed in the 30s) that's been converted into a walking garden path spanning twenty blocks or so. What a stunning and original urban nature retreat. I loved it. That's the groovy Standard Hotel straddling the stroll...

Train tracks and flowers...

The Meatpacking District is so cool and lively with new shopping and restaurants among the cobblestone streets and warehouse-y, old-industrial architecture:

I spied a hunky guy:

And a sweet pooch named Madison:)

The threshold to Hogs and Heifers saloon...

Chelsea Market!  I couldn't get enough of all the food food food and those paper lanterns all in a row:

I think somebody started getting a little camera annoyed shy by the end of the trip...

Some other places/things we enjoyed this time:

Babbo-I had truly one of the most delicious meals of my life here.

Morandi-Delicious brunch with lively atmosphere.

Freemans-The coolest space hidden in one of the only alleys in Manhattan.  I only wish they'd get themselves a much needed apostrophe.

Two Boots Pizza-Epic slices.

Joe Allen-A super cool and clubby joint, this is the best and most non-touristy place to have a drink or a burger after a Broadway show.  The place is seriously hopping at 11o'clock at night.  And you'll most certainly see celebrities in the best non-LA way.

Good People on Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club starring Francis McDormand and Tate Donovan-I can't recommend this play more!  Loved it.

The MoMA


P.S.  If you missed it, here's some NYC tunes...
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