Thursday, August 11, 2016

Get loose with the mousse

(I'm not DEVO...I didn't have the patience to whip it REAL good)

I've got a good one here kids!  Chocolate Coconut Cream Mousse.

Some things on Pinterest can be a total fail.  But not this little gem of a dessert.  Well... it was a total failure the first time I tried it.  Because I bought the wrong ingredient.  But here goes.  Go to your grocery store and get a can of coconut cream.  Don't skimp and buy the "lite" kind.  And do not buy the coconut milk in the dairy section.  (That was my first mistake.)  You need to buy the canned stuff in the Asian section of your market.

Now go home and put your can of coconut cream in your fridge.  Overnight.  Or if you're like me, for 2 weeks.  Either way, the goal is to harden the cream so you can scoop it out, allowing the watery part to sit on the bottom of the can.  You are now aware of the when you go to grab your can from the fridge, do not, I repeat...DO NOT SHAKE THE CAN.  Or you will have to start all over again and this dessert is too good to wait another 24 hours.

Open your can and scoop out the hardened cream into a bowl.  Don't worry if you get a little bit of the water in the bowl, it's not the end of the world.  Now, toss the rest of the coconut water in the sink...or rub it on your face, or hair or feet or gargle it, or brush your teeth with it.  There's a million things it's good for.  Whatever.

With a mixer, beat the cream until well, creamy.  You will know.  You may have to take a little time tending to the harder chunks in the bunch, but we are making a mousse, so make it mousse-like.  Next, add in 1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar.  Not real sugar.  The powdered kind that you would put on French toast.  Beat that until incorporated.  Next...add in 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and beat that until incorporated.  Try not to eat it all right now, like me.  Find a nice little ramekin or bowl and scoop the mousse into it and refrigerate for a few hours.

Serve whenever.  This makes about 2 servings.  So double it if you have more peeps.  You can even reserve some of the coconut cream before you add the cocoa powder and use it as a whipped topping.  It's a pretty decadent dessert.  It's not really as sweet as it is chocolatey.  Which is my kind of thing.  I suppose if you want, you can add in more confectioner's sugar.  Or maybe some vanilla or a liqueur of some kind.  But to me, this a perfect little dessert with a lot of health benefits. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Larb Lovin'

Summertime has arrived.  And with it comes the desire to look good in a bathing suit.  Me?  I am starting to realize that I love food and I'm never going to look like a supermodel with my 5'1" frame.  I'm always going to have a pot belly.  But I do like to eat healthy.  Sure I won't pass up a piece of fried chicken or some biscuits and gravy, but I do try to choose healthier options, seeing as how 40 is quickly approaching.  And I love me a good Asian-style lettuce wrap.  Minced meats, onion, spices and sauces that heat things up.  The fresh crisp of the cold lettuce wrapped around this mountain of melt-in-your-mouth meat.  Sign me up!  And it's healthy.  It really is.  Maybe a little sodium ridden, but damn it... it's good for you.  Salt is a preservative.  When you eat a lot it preserves your insides.  Right?  How can that be bad? (Don't answer that.  I have Google too.)

We recently went to Las Vegas and ate at a Thai Restaurant that I'm sure you've seen on many food shows.  It's called Lotus of Siam.  It's Northern Thai cuisine.  And let me say, it was the best Thai food I have ever eaten, smelled, looked at, photographed, etc.  It was so good.  If you're ever in Vegas go.  But make a reservation.  So me, being the craving-driven person that I am, felt a strong desire to eat something similar once we got back home.  I have made Larb before (Pinterest "Authentic Larb" or Google it).  It entails toasting rice and grinding it into a powder.  This creates a crunchy texture in your meat mixture that I loved, but it was labor intensive.  And I felt that the lettuce was enough crunch for me.  

I've never met an Asian food I didn't like, so I usually have a lot of the staple cooking supplies on hand.  And I'll be honest with you.  After following a recipe one time, you begin to figure out what you like and what you want to add to make it your own.  So I'm going to give you the first recipe I ever tried for Larb in a link, but then I'm just going to tell you what I do when I make this.

This is the recipe I used when I first made this dish. So try this recipe and then you will know what you need to add to make it how you like it.  I personally use this as a base.  But then I tend to be a flavor floozy, so I also add in garlic (a lot), ginger (only about a tablespoon), lemongrass (if I have it, again, a tablespoon), soy sauce (a few squirts), sesame oil (a few more squirts), Thai red curry paste (a spoonful), Thai chilies or jalapeƱos (enough to make it super spicy)...and I think that's it.  

I often look like a mad scientist when I make this because I'm jumping from the fridge to the spice cabinet to the stove and I'm squirting things here and there and I'm tasting the whole time.  It's a very unplanned process that never fails. I've done it with ground turkey, chicken and pork.  They all work great. Sometimes I forget to add lime or sugar.  So it's kind of fun because each time it tastes different, but it's always delicious.  Serve on some crispy, cold lettuce (I like iceberg or butter), top with some freshly chopped Thai basil, cilantro and some green onion, and then add a little Sriracha or some chili garlic sauce.  If you're a spice slut, like I am, you'll be very happy with this dish. Makes really good leftovers too!  


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

My Delicious Balls

So let me tell you a little bit about my balls.  This little sack right here full of balls saves me in many ways.  It saves me when I have nothing made for breakfast and I have 10 minutes until I have to leave for work.  It saves me when I just worked out and I have a million errands to run and don't have time for lunch.  It saves me when I'm dying to make 100 cookies and eat them all in one setting, but I am trying to be good and not eat a bunch of sweets.  These balls are amazing because you can add whatever you like to them... so that they will save your ass too.

Here's What I Did:
1 cup of whole grain quick oats
1/2 cup of peanut butter (you can use any kind of nut or seed butter; i just happen to love peanut and have a ton in my pantry)
1/3 cup of honey
Dash of salt

Now here's the fun part.  The above will be your base.  You can now just add whatever you like.  This time I added toasted flax seeds (about 1/4 cup), toasted unsweetened coconut flakes (about 1/4 cup), 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips (the darker, the better).  But you can add whatever you want.  Dried fruit, nuts, spices, extracts, etc.

Now, mix it all together.  It is going to seem like it doesn't want to form into balls, but it does.  It just needs a little coaxing.  Wet your hands a little, get in there.  You might have to wet your hands each time you make a ball.  The balls will still be good.  Don't be afraid.  When they come together into nice little bite sized balls, put them in a bag and place them in the fridge for an hour.  The colder the better, in my opinion.

There ya go.  Enjoy my balls.  Enjoy your own version of my balls.  Just make the balls for crying out loud.  They go quickly around my house.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Superhero

This is my friend Natalie.  Natalie has been through more shit in her life than you'd ever know just by looking at her.  When I first met her, we were in our early 20s, listening to music in a bar.  This was before I lived in Memphis.  I didn't realize at the time she would become one of my best friends.  I didn't even know that I'd soon be living in Memphis.  I do remember her being strikingly beautiful, with the most gorgeous locks of brunette hair.  The next time I saw Natalie she was wearing a wig, hiding a trach scar, and sitting in a wheelchair. What could have possibly happened to her in 3 months?  She was so young.  So healthy.  So vibrant.  So full of life.  And here she is sitting in a wheelchair.

LUPUS happened to Natalie.  LUPUS tried to kill Natalie.  After trying to shut down most of her major organs, Natalie looked LUPUS in the eye and said, "Nope. Not gonna happen." I had heard of LUPUS before I met her, but didn't really understand it.  It wasn't until we started becoming good friends that I took the time to look it up and find out what this thing living inside my friend was.  If you know Natalie or anyone else with LUPUS, you should learn more about it here. The best way I can describe it to people who don't know, is this...

Natalie's immune system is an overachiever.

When I get sick, my body sees an infection as a foreign invader and my antibodies attack it and kill it.  End of story.  When Natalie gets sick, her body sees everything in its wake as a foreign invader.  Her kidneys, her liver, her heart, her lungs, her skin... Natalie has the Terminator living inside of her.  And it wants everything to die.  So in order for her to keep the Terminator happy, she has to take a lot of meds. One of these medications was an antimalarial drug.  And it was great in the fight against the Terminator.  But it has side effects.  One of them being damage to the retina.  So when Natalie looks at things, she has a bull's-eye pattern of blindness.  Meaning your face will be blurry when she sees you until she is able to get you in the perfect spot of her bull's eye to where you aren't blurry anymore.  So when you see her and wave to her and she doesn't wave back, know that Natalie isn't being a bitch.  She literally can't see you.

Natalie has to take a lot of steroids. This has caused her to have osteonecrosis.  Which means the blood flow to her bones is decreased, causing her bones to die.  Natalie has had both of her hips replaced and her ankle fused due to osteonecrosis.

Natalie has many scars. Natalie has had many surgeries. Natalie has spent a lot of time in the hospital and in doctor's offices. Natalie has a lot of pain and discomfort. Natalie walks with a limp. Natalie gets rashes on her face. Natalie has to walk with a cane. Natalie has to take a lot of medicine. Natalie has had to give up driving. Natalie has had to quit working jobs she loves because she can't see as well or move as fast.

What Natalie DOESN'T have is a bad attitude about having LUPUS.  She has the highest threshold of pain I've ever seen a human being have. Natalie is a real live superhero.  Instead of curling up in a ball and crying and saying, "why me", Natalie wakes up every day just happy to be alive.  You think Natalie can't do something?  Think again.  Natalie can and will do whatever Natalie wants to do.  Natalie will not let LUPUS control her life. Natalie doesn't like talking about LUPUS all the time.  She lives and breathes LUPUS every day. So it's my hope that you understand what Natalie has gone through and continues to go through so that when you see her, you don't have to ask her about it.  You will know.  Natalie doesn't want you to feel sorry for her.  She wants to talk about music, her dog Wrigley, her amazing boyfriend Logan, her beautiful sisters and niece, her love of travel, her thriving garden, and her love of life.

Natalie is not alone.  There are more than 5 million people with LUPUS.  There is no cure for LUPUS.  Natalie would love for there to be a cure for LUPUS.  You can donate to help find a cure for LUPUS here. May is LUPUS awareness month.  So I wanted to tell the story of my amazing, courageous, beautiful, friend Natalie.  Please help spread awareness so we can find a cure for Natalie.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cream of Chihuahua

Image from Google Images

Kids get attached to things.  A stuffed animal.  A toy.  Whatever.  

My sister had a blanket as a kid that she LOVED.  It was (as I recall) a light yellow blanket, soft as can be, with a silk edge.  She called it her "Spotty blanket".  And it was the only thing that she wanted when she was sleepy or sad or sick or just needed a moment to herself.  She would suck her thumb and rub the silken part of Spotty against her nose and it would calm her. I had my sister.  She was my attachment.  Much to her dismay!  

Well, we had a babysitter who lived across the street named Sally.  We loved Sally.  We loved her kids, we loved her house and we loved her dogs.  She had these 2 chihuahuas.  Chico and Muffin.  Chico was like the Taco Bell chihuahua and Muffin was a black and white chihuahau. They were cute.  We always like them.  But they were ALWAYS getting busy.  I mean all the time.  Gettin' it on.  

When we were bad, Sally would punish us with cream of mushroom soup.  She would force us to eat it.  That was our punishment.  And it worked.  I never wanted to do anything stupid enough to be fed that crap.  

But of course, one day, we did something stupid.  I'm sure it was me.  My sister was usually the good one.  But she ended up having to also be punished for all my wrongdoings.  Sorry sister.  Anyhow... one day I remember sitting at the table, unable to move until we finished our bowls of soup, whining because the last thing I wanted to be doing was eating this horrible soup that tasted like a dead skunk.  

Next thing I know (or remember), Leigh is kind of freaking out and trying to get away from the table.  She noticed that Spotty had become a third party in the Chico and Muffin love fest.  A Chico, Muffin and Spotty threesome if you will.  But we were being punished.  So Sally wouldn't let her get up from the table. And that was very unfortunate for Spotty.  Because Spotty ended up getting some cream of chihuahua soup all up on her.  When we finished our soup, we were able to leave the table.  Leigh rushed over to save Spotty.  But it was too late.  The damage had been done.

Leigh had to give up Spotty that day. It's impossible to get the smell of cream of chihuahua out of anything. She was devastated. There was no replacing Spotty. And still to this day we have a sour spot in our hearts for Chihuahuas and Cream of Mushroom Soup.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

MTV, GN'R and other ramblings

Me as Axl, Halloween 2009 with one of my favorite partners in crime.

I've always been a fan of music.  You might think it's odd to say that, because who doesn't love music?  But there are actually people out there who don't.  My parents named me Jessica after the Allman Brothers' song. My sister and I used to hang out with our babysitter's older daughter and stand around a record player singing Funky Town by Lipps Inc. at the top of our lungs. And then, we heard about Music Television aka MTV.  Our neighbors told us if we turned the dial on our tv enough, we could tune in MTV.  So we rushed home, took over the television and began turning the knob round and round and round and round and round, for what seemed like an eternity.  It was probably only a few minutes in reality, but to a 4 and 8 year old it seemed like a day.  But eventually it worked and music television would be on our tv all day long.  I mean ALL DAY long.  We would sit in front of the tv, enamored by all these musical geniuses and their video creations.  I would study these songs.  I would write down the lyrics.  I would make dance routines.  I wanted to be each and every one of them.  In fact, I was Madonna or Cyndi Lauper interchangeably for practically every Halloween.

When I got a little older, I would hold singing competitions in the neighborhood.  I invented The Voice.  You had to be able to sing (on perfect pitch) Sheena Easton's part in U Got The Look by Prince to be in my special club.  I was a little tough on all the kids, but team Jessica had to be the best.  And we were.  I continued my love of music and all things music when hair bands became popular.  I knew every word to every Motley Crue, Skid Row, Guns N' Roses, Cinderella, and Poison song.  Then I got into rap.  Dirty rap.  The dirtier the better.  The more vulgar, the better.  And my mom was ok with me blasting Easy E and 2 Live Crew when I was 14.  Thanks mom!

Then came grunge.  Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam. Then I went back to Classic Rock.  Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Beatles.  Then I moved away to college and discovered Phish, Dave Matthews, Widespread Panic.  Then came my chick phase... Indigo Girls, Natalie Merchant, Tracy Chapman.  I got my ass kicked at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and I kicked a girls' ass at a Phil & Friends show.  You tell me a time we were together and I will tell you what kind of music we were listening to. And I haven't even touched the surface of all the music out there.  There is so much!

I'm rambling.  The point is, I love music. I will pay a lot of money to see music.  I am sad that I have missed the opportunity to see some of the greats. So when I heard that Gun N' Roses were going to play again, we jumped at the opportunity to go. Guns N' Roses was the backdrop for a big chunk of my high school career.  I would sit in a friend's bedroom and listen to both Use Your Illusions for hours on end while they played video games. And so we found ourselves in Las Vegas. And when our plane landed we heard that Axl had broken his foot.  So our hearts dropped.  Because Axl has a reputation for being a prima donna.  So we worried that he was going to bail on the show and our trip would have been for nothing.  But yay Axl!  You finally took some responsibility.  And you showed up on time.  And you fucking rocked it!  We had a great time. We met people from Germany, Belgium, Sweden, New Zealand, Brussels. And you know how I know I had fun?  I didn't take a single picture.  Nope.  Because I was tuned in. Just like I tuned in MTV all those years ago.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Big Dreamin' in the Big Apple

Smoked Salmon Everything Bagel with Scallion Cream Cheese from Best Bagel & Coffee, 
225 W. 35th St.

I'm actually surprised that it took me 39 years to get to the Big Apple. So when my mom wanted to do a girls' trip to NYC, I was ecstatic. I am so lucky to have experienced it all with my mom, sister and niece.  And I must say, it was built up in my mind to be this big, beautiful, fast moving, multi-cultured, unforgiving, chew you up, spit you out, hard core city. And half of that is true. It is big. We only touched on two boroughs... Manhattan, and a smidgeon of Brooklyn. It is beautiful. The people, the parks, the architecture, the smells, the tastes... all beautiful (well ok, there were a couple of smells I could have done without). It is fast moving. There are people (a lot of them, around 9 million of them), cars, buses, trains and boats constantly working on getting to their destinations. It is multi-cultured. You will find people from all walks of life in NYC. Every nationality, language, religion and color. They all live here. And they've all brought their culture with them to share!

But what shocked me most about New York, was how friendly, helpful and accommodating people were. You think big city and you think head down, ear plugs in, don't talk to me stature. And that is  true of a lot of people, but most of them are quick to take out their headphones and press pause to give you directions or shoot you a smile on the subway.

Pastrami Sandwich from the Carnegie Deli - Best Pastrami Sandwich I've ever eaten
 854 7th Ave.

My dream when I graduated from college was to work as a writer at Rolling Stone magazine.  I was going to move to New York (on the zero dollars I had saved), get me a job writing about music (cause no one else wants that to be their job, so there wouldn't be any competition), live in a nice little apartment (preferably one with a washer/dryer and no roommate of course), and walk around like Mary Tyler Moore every day.  Yeah.  That was the dream.

The reality was that I would have to have 2 other jobs to even afford an apartment that would most likely not be in a good area.  And with 3 jobs, how was I ever going to find time to see the music I was going to write about? So at least I was able to finally play out my dream.  I went where the Rolling Stone offices are.  Pretended that this was where I would commute to every day.  Walked around talking to myself as though I was a very important NYC music writer.  I even told some kid to go fetch me a cup of coffee (I kid).

But my life today isn't so far from my dream.  I get paid to see live music.  I have the luxury to take off work whenever I want to travel for more music.  I have a nice townhouse in the birthplace of Rock n' Roll where I don't have to share laundry with others and I chose my roommate and he's pretty awesome.  He even takes out the trash.  I wouldn't change my life in a New York minute!