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Archive for the ‘Side’ Category

To the Tooth

I was the first kid in my grade to get braces and I thought this was immensely cool. As a pudgy girl with glasses and a raging case of acne, one would think the braces would be the final nail in the outcast coffin but for whatever reason I didn’t see it as such.

Braces were welcome as my teeth were monumentally jacked. My top two lateral incisors (those two pointy teeth next to your front teeth) never came in so I was stuck with gaping holes in my smile. Not only was it painful (you try eating an apple with huge gummy spaces where teeth should be) but , frankly, it made me look inbred.

Just like most of you, I went through the tightening and made all those frequent trips to the dentist. I rocked colored rubberbands on my braces (red and green for Christmas! Black and orange for Halloween!) and did my best to avoid gum. After moving my teeth over a whole space, I was left with a weird looking mug; everything looked…off. So then began the capping, filing and bonding in order to make my teeth look normal. As part of my genetic freakishness, I was also gifted with a lack of wisdom teeth. I am thankful I have never had to get them yanked, but you should see the huge empty space in the back of my mouth due to all my missing teeth. It is a site. To this day, it cracks me up when I visit a new dentist and s/he takes a look in and slowly realizes something is amiss.

Obviously Mom will yell at me about my teeth; she invested a fortune in them. I do my best, but I still managed to pop off a huge chunk of bonding in college while I was chewing a pen. Might I remind you that tooth is filed to an inch of it’s life; sans bond it was some sort of scary looking vampire nightmare. NOT HOT. Also, don’t tell her, but I have a very small chip in my top front right tooth thanks to a drunken happy hour and a Corona bottle. I am gangsta, yo.

When I took a bite of these really delicious greens and felt a tiny rock crunch between my molars, I got a little freaked. Let this be a lesson to you; you do not need a trip to the dentist as an accompaniment to your vegetables. I did rinse these greens, but I obviously could have been way more thorough. I recommend dunking them in a bowl of water to make sure all the silt and dirt washes away. These bitter greens really are a treat. Why ruin them with a dental emergency? This is not fun for anyone.

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Sauteed Greens

1 TBSP olive oil

1 large clove garlic, chopped

1/2 smoked andouille sausage, chopped (or two slices bacon)

1 head swiss chard, chopped

A couple shakes tabasco sauce

Squeeze of lemon juice (about a TBSP)

Salt and pepper

Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic. Cook for about a minute and add sausage (or bacon). Cook for about four minutes and add chard. Saute for about one minute and add tabasco, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Saute for another 5 minutes (until wilted) and serve immediately.

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Grown Up

The other night I finally got around to watching “American Teen“. In this compelling documentary, the typical archetypes are presented; the geek, the jock, the hearthrob, the outsider and the queen bee. There wasn’t anything all the different about these kids; they were living in a small town, all doing their best to find their little spot in the world.

As I watched, I couldn’t help but cringe and bury my face in my hands on more than one occasion. The geek was awkward, cursed with a case of raw and angry acne, and painfully resigned to his dorky existence. The jock was crumbling under the pressure from his father to get a scholarship. The queen bee was lashing out–cruelly and viciously–in an attempt to hide some serious pain. The heartthrob was desperately trying to grow as a person, but kept on getting sucked back in to his clique. And the outcast was pretty awesome, but was just suffocating in a small, narrow minded town.

Despite the texting and instant messaging, it was pretty similar to everyone’s high school existence. The thing was, watching it, I was reminded how freaking real that all was. I wished I could tell them “It will get better.” “It won’t always be like this.” “You are cute and I promise your skin will clear.” “Once you leave this town you will see how rad you are.” “Let me show you how to fill out a FAFSA; don’t join the damned Army.”

It is still the same.  Will it ever change, those high school years?  I doubt it, but it was good to be reminded that with time and maturity, it does get better.

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(Sure, potato salad.  I hear ya; not culinary amazingness, but you know you have a zillion BBQs to go to this summer and you will have to bring something.  This is a healthier, more grown up version of the potato salad your mom used to make.  Gone is the mayo and in comes the yogurt.  It is tangy and full of crunch and way more interesting than that stuff with relish in it.  Make sure to liberally salt the water before cooking the potatoes.  And see? While I think bacon is way overused, it does add a depth here.  I am not the anti-Christ, I just think bacon has it’s place…and it is in this.)

Grown Up Potato Salad

6 lbs baby red potatoes, cubed

8 strips turkey bacon, chopped

1 medium red onion, diced

5 stalks celery, diced

1 –17.6 oz. container Fage Fat Free yogurt, filtered through a coffee filter over a mesh colander

3 TBSP dijon mustard

1.5 TBSP cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

Cube potatoes and add to a large pot of cold water. Liberally salt water (about 3 tablespoons of salt) and bring water to boil. While potatoes boil, place yogurt in coffee filter inside sieve over a bowl. Chop bacon and cook until done over medium heat. Drain on paper towel when done. Chop onions and celery. In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt, mustard and vinegar. When potatoes are cooked, drain them and rise with cold water for about a minute. Mix together yogurt mixture, bacon, celery, onions, and potatoes. Liberally salt and pepper.

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On Health

Now, I must admit, I am pretty awesome at a lot of things. I am sure I can apply liquid liner better than you and I know for a fact that I make the best macaroni and cheese that has ever passed your lips. I can bust the best white girl moves you have ever witnessed and I assure you that my karaoke skills are unmatched.

But my best skill by far is proving how denial reigns supreme. One need to only look at the pile of men in my past to confirm that I hold a PhD in Willful Ignorance.

Several years back–2005 to be exact–I started getting these headaches. They were annoying at first but then they started becoming a weekly occurrence. Before I knew it these headaches were an ever present companion, a problem I had ignored so keenly that I didn’t know what life was like without them.

Then the dizziness started. I had a few moments of confusion and some stumbles I would always explain away.  At times I would stagger and lose my balance. I finally scared myself in to going to the doctor when I was heading to work one morning and had no idea where I was…I looked around, confused and befuddled and finally pieced it together when I peered at my suit and the Capitol.

After a battery of tests it was determined I had migraines, a blanket term for anything wrong with your brain they cannot really explain. My neurologist told me left temporal lobe was firing three times too fast, flooding my brain and confusing it. These moments of confusion and dizziness were my brain resetting.  There  was no explanation as to why these headaches started as a result, if this has been a problem I had had my whole life…nothing.

I was placed on a drug that helped but made my life hell. I had issues with recall; I would forget my own phone number or very basic words. My speech became slurred and my feet would fall asleep for days.  I felt like I was living in a complete haze. I had moments where I wished I had continued denying the problem. I hated those pills.

I stopped taking them. I lied to pretty much everyone–my mom, other doctors.  I just weaned myself off completely.  I loathed not feeling like myself.

Look, I will yell at friends who are sick and avoid their doctors. I will work out and do my best to eat right. But this healthy? The kind of healthy that fixes one part of my brain but makes the other part unbearable? I am not so good at this.

The headaches are back. I have blacked out twice in the past month. Right now I can feel my mother writing me, yelling at me to take care of myself and how this scares her. I am older. I am more responsible and this scares me more than it ever did…I have already called my doctor. I know it is super dangerous and I can no longer deny this.

But this healthy? I hate it. I do condom healthy, cardio healthy…salad healthy. Not this healthy. I hate this healthy.  I don’t want to do it…but, of course I will.

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Easter Salad

Dressing

3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp mustard (I prefer dijon)

1 shallot, minced

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Mix together ingredients through salt and pepper. Whisk in oil and let sit together for 10 minutes before serving.

Salad

Baby Arugula Mix

Toasted walnuts

Figs (or, in my case, rehydrated dry figs)

Blue Cheese (I used gorgonzola)

Chopped proscuitto

Toss salad together and dress.

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Be My Baby

If you know me, I’ve probably called you babe. Or sweetie. Perhaps hun, killer, or baby. Maybe doll, darling or lover. Some of you even get the special ones like honeybee, poptart, and pudding.

I called an ex-boyfriend Princess for most of our relationship which I wholly admit is neither that kind or charming but it really annoyed him. What can I say? I am not always that mature. I have since grown…somewhat.

I am a terms of endearment kind of gal which is odd because I can find them pretty annoying unless they come from the right person. Some people can just pull them off without coming off condescending. I guess I have deemed myself one of those people. I think I get it from my mom. She still calls me “Pie”, as in pumpkin pie.

For all the nicknames and verbal ticks of affection I have cultivated over the years, I was left completely stumped when it came to describing this tapenade.  Was it briny? Was it salty? What was it? I loved it, but the power was much more flavorful than most tapenades and it was not for the weak of heart.  It finally occurred to me that it was both…I had mindlessly grabbed salt cured olives (those wrinkly olives) which made the tapendae both powerfully salty and forcefully briny.  For a more mellow spread I recommend regular Kalamata olives or a salt cured/Kalamata combo. This was a pretty big hit at a party I attended last week and besides pitting the olives, it was a snap to make.

So, I guess I’ll call this one “killer”…it packs a punch.

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Olive Tapenade

~1.5 cups black olives, pitted

2 tablespoons capers

1 small garlic clove, minced

Juice from one lemon

2 teaspoons anchovy paste (or one anchovy filet)

1/2 teaspoon herbs de provence

Salt and pepper

~3/4 cup olive oil

Add all ingredients except oil to a blender or food processor. Start pouring in oil slowly. Stop when mixture is blended. It should be the texture of a thick hummus.

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On Clarity

As we get older we find ways to cope with those things–and those people–that have hurt us. Self-effacing jokes are made, drunken outings are planned and memories are pushed down to a dingy and dank places in our hearts that we rarely visit. Of course the pain never goes away, but we cope. You know it shapes who you are and, hell, if you prescribe the the “Eat, Pray, Love” view of the world, you even begin to believe they make you a better person.

These scabs, though…we do our damdest to not pick at them. While physical scars may make for a good party trick or impress our dates, the emotional wounds are best hidden. Ripping them open and revisiting the initial hurt is not a place we should return. It may itch and look disgusting but we do our best to leave it alone, let it heal in peace.  Of course we may have weak moments where we pull at the edges, but it is best let be.

Of course, we cannot control the actions of others.  Outside elements are always the wildcard in these situations. Sometimes something or someone will remind you of the hurt and all the pain comes rushing back. We see it isn’t quite healed; the injury is still there.  More times than not it is the initial perpertrator of the damage, coming back for one last word, desperately trying to get under your skin once again.

But we have a choice.  We’ve been there, we know what it feels like.  The past hurt serves as an armour, an alarm bell to avoid the danger.  Sure, phantom pains are felt but we are smarter, wiser.  Scars may be hot on a bicep, a face, a chest, but they ain’t so good looking on our hearts.  We know it, we’ve learned it, and we walk away now that we can see things clearer after the initial dizzying haze.

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Carrots, full of vitamin E, are great for your eyesight and have the added bonus of tasting really great when roasted. This is barely a recipe at all. Just mix together a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few tablespoons of honey. Toss some carrots with the oil mixture and a pinch of salt and some pepper. Roast at 450 degrees for about an hour. When they come out of the oven sprinkle with more salt. I used a pink Himalyan salt to finish things off and I really think it made a world of difference. These carrots are sweet and homey and serve as a perfect side to chicken or beef.

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Ain’t No Sunshine

I realize saying the weather put me in a good mood yesterday is tantamount to saying “kitties are cute” or “chocolate is delicious” or “orgasms feel good”. Yet, I am gonna go ahead and say it: yesterday was lovely. I went on a long walk, my windows were open. Hell, I was having a good hair day and the scale was kind to me. I went to meet Cindarella for some roof top drinking with an added bounce in my step.

Then, a mistake was made. We decided to see “He’s Just Not That Into You”. I know you may be saying to yourself, “Wow, that doesn’t seem like Lexa”. You are right. I think I just got swept up in the good cheer of the day and my brain temporarily shorted out. I think this picture best captures my response to this film:

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Not my best angle

Binge eating and excessive drinking was the only answer. There are so many questions. What does it mean that I saw this movie? Or that it simultaneously made me want to stab myself in my lady bits and cry? That such a movie, a movie that in it’s essence repelled me, still makes me question myself and my decisions? Or that the character I most related to was Scarlett Johansson’s, the arguably most screwed up and lost of the lot, but the most honest and real? And why was I the only one who threw my middle up at the screen during the horribly contrived ending? This movie was not empowering or honest; it did not touch the truth. It was 90 minutes of tapping in to deep fears and feeding the insecurities that all women carry around. No lessons are learned here, people. Wait, I am wrong. The lesson here is that silly, dim women will give their hard earned money to film studios that make them doubt themselves. We are part of the problem and our own undoing.

One stupid movie riled me up and dimmed all the sunshine the day had brought me. Luckily I at least has this cous cous to reflect on; it was pure sunshine in a bowl.  All the lemon zest (along with the orange craisins) really brightened everything up, making it light and flavorful. I loved the crunch of the almonds and preparing it with chicken broth added a nice depth.  An added bonus? This takes 10 minutes to prepare making it a perfect side dish for a weeknight dinner.

So hey…at least there is some sunshine left.

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Nutty Cous Cous

Splash Olive Oil

1 cup chicken broth (or water)

1 cup cous cous

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/3 cup craisins (I used orange craisins)

zest from 1/2 a lemon

Pinch Salt

Toast almonds and set aside. Bring broth and oil to boil. Stir in cous cous and remove from heat. Let stand for five minutes and stir in craisins, almonds, zest and salt. Let sit for another 2 minutes and serve.

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“I have a vagina in crises, sir. Please, you have to squeeze me in”.

The obviously very fabulous man on the phone sounded horrified. I am sure he scrubbed his brain with bleach and danced to some Scissor Sisters in an attempt to rid himself of the image I had painted.

I was on the phone with the salon where my back-up waxer resides. Yes, I have a back-up waxer. I take my vagina very seriously.  The poor man took pity on me and penciled me in to the last slot of the day. I thanked him profusely but he just seemed to want to get me off the phone.

Ms. Back-Up is good, but seeing her effects my psyche. Many of my friends see her, full time, and we were discussing her one day. I said, “She always tells me I look like a porn star when she is done”. The rest of my girlfriends all replied “Oh, she tells me I look like a supermodel”.

Fucking hell. They are Giselle Bunchin, I am Ashlynn Brooke.

So, they are the supermodels. The good girls, or at least as good as you can be when you are going for the full monty. The ones who come to parties prepared and write thank you notes and have perfect skin and shiny hair. What does that make me? Cracked out and damaged and irresponsible? A social pariah?

My vagina is many things. A porn star she is not. I mean she is kinda a piece of work, a little wild, but a porn star? No.  She really resents Ms. Back-Up.

Or…it seems she resented her. Past tense. Not only did she come through for me this week, she gave me an even bigger gift. When I was done, she grabbed her mirror, pressed my hand on my precious and said, “See?! You look like a supermodel.”

I am a supermodel, a good person. I am an upstanding citizen, a responsible individual, a pal everyone wants at their parties.   I will even remember to bring some dip.

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You will never, ever make onion dip from a soup packet again.  This is seriously delicious.  The depth of the caramelized onions is amazing and it is creamy without being dense because of the addition of the yogurt.

Caramelized Onion Dip

From 101 CookBooks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), finely chopped
3/4 cup sour cream -I used low-fat
3/4 cup Greek yogurt- I used low fat
3 teaspoons dehydrated onion powder/granulates (salt-free, natural)
very scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large thick-bottomed skillet over medium heat saute the chopped onions in the olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt. Stir occasionally with a wood or metal spatula and cook until the onions are deeply golden, brown, and caramelized – roughly 40 or 50 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

In the meantime, whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, onion powder, and salt. The important thing is to add whatever onion powder you are using to taste. Add a bit at a time until it tastes really good. Set aside until the caramelized onions have cooled to room temperature. Stir in 2/3 of the caramelized onions, scoop into a serving bowl, and top with the remaining onions. I think this dip is best at room temperature.

* I am caving and doing this as a one time only engagement for my darling LiLu. I owe her.  Mom, I am sorry.

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