50/50 Friday Weeks 10-15

It’s been several weeks since I have updated my list of 50 Things to Do Before I am 50.  My progress has slowed to a near grinding halt, since I have been preoccupied with getting everyone back to school, including me. Well, I am not actually in “school,” but I am studying for a big exam, and it leaves me little time to do anything else, including working my 50/50 list.  When I am not working my glamourus full-tim job as a high-powered government attorney, driving carpool, or helping with homework, I am reviewing criminal law and procedure. Bleh.  But, the family still needs to eat, and I still need to have my ocassional glass of wine, so here’s some minor progress on my list:

Iced Coffee.

It was really hot recently. My Colombian husband practically grew up on cafe con leche.  Iced coffee sounded like the best way to satisfy my  husband on a hot end-of summer day, without having to take my clothes off.  Plus, I was tired and needed a jolt of caffeine. I found this recipe on this website. It looked so good and very simple. The problem was that I didn’t have a  container big enough, so I had to cut the recipe in half. That involved some simple fractions. Yuck. Hey, if I was good at math, I would have gone to medical school, not law school. The end result was that I made some really strong iced coffee. Even my coffee addict husband thought it was too strong. After we diluted it a bit, poured in some half and half, it was as good as any baristas’ iced coffee and a fraction of the price.

Cedar Plank Salmon

Over the Labor Day weekend we hosted both sides of the family for a family dinner. When both sides of our local immediate families get together we number 22! Naturally, our celebrations involve pot luck and I assigned myself one of the main dishes, Cedar Plank Salmon.  I have tried cooking salmon wrapped in cedar paper, but it didn’t seem to have enough flavor. This time, I bought some cedar planks at the grocery store and soaked them in water.  I bought the fish at Costco, seasoned it and sprinkled it with brown sugar. I was inspired by this recipe, but, I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I kind of improvised. The fish was a hit, as evidenced by this photo. We couldn’t take the photo fast enough. The crowd was hungry!

Cedar Plank Salmon

Smothered Pork Chops

The next thing I made was Smothered Pork Chops. Last Sunday I was feeling like I wanted some comfort food. I had some pork chops in the refrigerator so I looked on my favorite online cooking resource and found this recipe.  Just what I wanted, and even better because I only had to wash one pot.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

As a side dish I roasted brussel sprouts. I didn’t really need a recipe for this since I have made brussel sprouts before, but I still consulted with a few sources to find a different way to prepare them. I have boiled them and sauteed them before, but never roasted them. First  I cut them in half, then I drizzled some olive oil on them and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I placed them flat side down on a cookie sheet and roasted them in the oven for about 40 minutes at a temperature of 425 degrees. When they were done I sprinkled a little parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes on them.  I thought they came out great, and I will probably always make them this way.  Here’s what the dinner looked like:

Smothered Pork Chops and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

September Wine

During our family gathering we served this wonderful pinto gris. Juan scored this wine for a great price at our local grocery store. It was crisp, light and if I really knew anything about wine I would say it had tones of citrus and vanilla. What I do know is that it was really refreshing, and our guests enjoyed it too. It seems like we weren’t the only ones who liked it, and I am not the only one to blog about it. Check this mom’s post about her review of the same wine.

50/50 Friday – Week 6

Is it Friday already? Well, then I guess it’s time for another update on my list of 50 Things to do Before by 50th Birthday. I have some catching up to do with Number 37 on my list, trying out new recipes, since I did not cook much in Weeks 4 and 5. So, here’s what I did this week: Rosemary with Prosciutto Corn Cakes and Chicken Sausages with Hot and Sweet Peppers.

I made this recipe for several reasons:

1) It was easy.

2) I had nearly all the ingredients. (And those that I didn’t have, I improvised or omitted.)

3) Who doesn’t like a meal that tastes like breakfast?

4) It was easy.

My boys asked me what was for dinner, and I told them we were having “Rosemary with Prosciutto Corn Cakes and Chicken Sausages with Hot and Sweet Peppers. They said “Huh?” And then they saw the corn cakes on the griddle and they said, Yeah! We’re having pancakes for dinner! Well, not exactly. So, I explained they were not pancakes but they were corn cakes. And they said “Yeah!” We’re having corn bread for dinner. Hmm. I started to think they would be disappointed when they ate them and realized that they were neither pancakes, nor corn bread. And to make it worse, the sausages were being served with (gasp) green peppers. So, when I put it all together with the sausages and peppers, I was fully prepared to have to use a back up plan for dinner, i.e. cereal. But, I was surprised. They liked it. Hey, Mikey! In fact, we all liked it. A new meal to add to my repertoire.

The second thing I made is not really a recipe, but it is something new to put into my bag of tricks. That is, the tricks I use to make my kids eat something green that is not artificially flavored or the color of phosphorescence. Kale Chips. Actually, I have my babysitter, Marian Poppins, to thank for this. She’s a whole blog post in herself, but for now let me tell you a bit about her. She is fantastic and has been a lifesaver to me and my family.  She also happens to be a vegetarian who volunteers once a week at an organic produce co-op so she sometimes brings us, ahem, interesting produce to eat. She introduced my kids to Kale Chips one day when she had a surplus of kale and wanted to keep the kids busy with a cooking project. Here’s what she does, and what she told me to do:

Take the Kale.

Wash it and pat it dry and tear it into smaller pieces.

Toss into a bowl. Drizzle olive oil on it, but not too much or it will get soggy. Sprinkle some salt and parmesan cheese on it. Toss it together.

Lay it out on a baking sheet.

Bake at 250 degrees until it crisps and browns but doesn’t burn. About 20 minutes. It shrinks up quite a bit, and it ends up looking like it’s a lot less than when you started, especially when you eat it as it comes out of the oven and before you can take a picture of it.

I am still one recipe short for my project but I will work that out over the weekend and post it next time.

The next thing I did for the month of July, was visit another local attraction/landmark, number 21 on my list.  I went to the Los Angeles County Arboretum. Actually, I have been here before, with my cousins and sister, when I about 7 years old.

At the LA County Arboretum, 1970.

It’s really silly because I drive past it all the time and it’s only 10 minutes from my house, but I have not been back in over 40 years. I needed some time to put my thoughts together to write my grandmother’s eulogy and I thought a walk would do me good. The trouble was, it was hot outside and I also wanted to sit down somewhere. I remembered my grandmother bringing me here. She loved botanical gardens, so I thought it would be the perfect place for a walk, and be inspired by the memory of my grandmother. I was right. The grounds were beautiful.

It was hot, but I found a nice shady porch to rest and write.

Recognize it? It was used in the 1980's TV series, Fantasy Island.

And then I saw this.

It’s a wickiup, or a kiy. It’s set up in an area of the arboretum where there are other early California structures. Even though it had been over 40 years since I was last here, the wickiup was familiar to me because I had recently seen a picture of it among my grandmother’s photos.

Me and my sister in a Wickiup, circa 1970.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wickiup via Instagram

50/50 Friday – Week 3

Week Three of my 50 Things to Do Before 50 list and I made little progress, although I did manage to stay on track by trying out a new recipe.  This week was Father’s Day,  so in keeping with our hollandaise tradition I decided to make Eggs Benedict for Juan.  I mentioned before that this dish requires precision timing and coordination, and with me cooking solo, I needed to find a simple hollandaise sauce recipe. I looked online and found this one. I was not disappointed. The sauce was easy to make and it came out great. I added more lemon because I like my hollandaise tangy like that. I also halved the recipe so I would not have too much and it was a perfect amount for four eggs. Juan loved it. He especially liked the fact that I served it to him on a tray, in bed.

Diego was up early and crawled in bed with Juan so I brought Diego his own tray too.

Even though it's not his day, Diego gets breakfast in bed.

The thing about Eggs Benedict is that no matter how hard I try to clean my kitchen as I go, when I am done cooking, my kitchen ends up looking like this.

Number 36 on my list, “Get another dog,” has also gotten some attention this week. As I write this Juan is looking online at photos of adoptable dogs at the local animal shelters. I am not sure I am ready for another dog yet, but I may have little say in the matter. Juan seems to think a trip to an animal shelter in on our list of things to do this weekend. Check in next Friday for an update on my 50/50 list, and to see if we have a new addition to the family.

50/50 Friday – Week One

Last week, on my birthday, I posted 50 things I wanted to do before my 50th birthday, which is still a couple of years off, thank goodness.  I am happy to report that one week into my project and I am making some progress.

The funny thing about list-making, is that the act of writing it down, somehow makes it more likely that the task will get done. The really funny, like strange, thing that has happened, is that now that I have sent out a message to the Universe about what I would like to accomplish,  the Universe is sending messages back to me. For instance, I listed that I want to contact some former teachers and thank them. Well, the other day, I received a Facebook message from some of my high school friends about an informal reunion. This led me to find one of my favorite former teachers. We are now friends on Facebook! Number 32 on my list states, “Take a sunset horseback ride.”  Last week I received an email offer to take a sunset horseback ride in nearby wine country!  Needless to say, I bought the offer and  during the coming months I will be able to check that off my list too. In the meantime, here’s my progress, so far:

I spent my birthday at the beach.  We went to Paradise Cove in Malibu. This stretch of Southern California coastline is a local landmark that I have never visited before. So, I just completed the first month of  Number 21 on my list. Paradise Cove was perfect location for relaxing on my birthday,  and I can now understand why it is a Southern California favorite. There was a small pier,   lounge chairs and cabanas, it had a nice restaurant. I don’t know why it’s taken me 47 48 years to visit.

The restaurant makes a great place for meal or people watching.

Diego on a stretch of Paradise Cove.

I have also been replacing my coffee with green tea, number 28 on my list.  I really only drink coffee in the morning, when I need it most. I miss the taste of coffee in the morning and I guess my body is missing the caffeine kick too, since I seem to take longer to get going now that I am drinking green tea instead of coffee.

I noticed that I was a little slower on the uptake the other morning, as I was practicing speaking Spanish, number 50,  on my list. Juan, is fluent spanish speaker. He is helping me out by speaking more and more Spanish around the house. I am not a fluent Spanish speaker, but I notice a dramatic improvement after a margarita . Anyway, I felt like the extra practice was helping until Juan tried speaking Spanish to me in the morning, after I had cut out the coffee. No caffeine or margarita at 6:30 a.m., and I couldn’t understand a word he said, nor could I form a cohesive sentence. Note to self: Do not attempt to speak spanish without having caffeine or margaritas.

The last thing I did to make some progress on my list was to buy a new food and use it in a new recipe, numbers 19 and 37 on my list.  I went to a farmer’s market and bought Black Kale.   Then,  I went home and made Tilapia and Escarole, a recipe I found here. The recipe called for esarole but I substituted kale. When Erica and Juan saw I was cooking with kale they were not sure they’d like it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would like it either. But the recipe was healthy, easy and  it got great reviews, so I thought I would try it. It turned out great.

The Farmer's Market vendor told me that this was Black Kale even though it looks green to me.

It may not look good but it tasted good.

So, that’s my update on my 50 Before 50 list.  I’ll be posting more here as soon as I have checked more off my list.