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Hospitality in Zermatt ~ Hot Chocolate (via Colton Graub Photography | © 2011)

This is an absolutely phenomenal vision. Wow wow wow!

Hospitality in Zermatt ~ Hot Chocolate Daily Photo ~ Hospitality in Zermatt – Hot Chocolate After traveling to Zermatt all day the day before, I woke up in Zermatt completely refreshed and ready for a good day of exploring.  This is the view that I saw from my hotel room, of all places.  I took it from a couple of angles along the balcony but it really didn't change the perspective that much and eventually I choose that this one showed the scene how I really experienced it.  For those … Read More

via Colton Graub Photography | © 2011

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Church in Florence (via Colton Graub Photography | © 2011)

Just breath taking. Oh Italy!

Church in Florence Daily Photo ~ Church in Florence I seem to be publishing a lot of Europe pictures lately!  This one is from Florence and is of a magnificant church located in the city's heart.  I don't know its name, but it is located next to the museum that houses the famous David sculpture!  The tour guide that was leading us around Europe casually mentioned how you would never expect such a church in Florence, but rather in Rome.  How true that is! … Read More

via Colton Graub Photography | © 2011

Phillipe The Original (via Zestful Lou)

Have to try this place… it’s on my list! Anyone have any other thoughts of obligatory places I need to experience while I’m here in L.A.???

Tell me what you think!

Phillipe The Original I got to cross another “to-do” off my bucket list today.  My bucket list is far too long to share all of it with you right now, but I will share this experience. Travis and I made the short drive into Los Angeles today to eat at Phillipe the Original. It’s an institution here in L.A., serving french dipped sandwiches since 1908. My … Read More

via Zestful Lou

On Dogs with Furhawks, A Hollywood Thing?

Moving to Hollywood one of the first things I noticed is that people here are infatuated with dogs. Your nobody unless you have a little dog with you. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but you get what I’m saying.  Something I’m noticing is that in two of the agencies I’ve visited this week I’ve come across two small wire hair Terrier dogs with Furhawks. Coincidence–maybe.  All I know is, for better or worse; these Furhawks are definitely growing on me. Perhaps it’s something about the heir of the way these little dogs strut their stuff. Either way, I may or may not be hooked.

Cali-chic?

What are your thoughts on the whole “Dog Furhawk” movement? Have you seen any of this where you are, or is it just a Hollywood thing? I’d never seen it before anywhere, and now I’ve seen two dogs in 3 days (at major modeling agencies at that…)

Let me know what your experience and THOUGHTS about the Furhawk are! Ridiculous? Adorable? WTF? Share!

The Furhawk: What do you think?

Thank you Jesus for red, juicy marbled meat.

I love meat. I love love love love love love LOVE meat.  A properly cooked chicken, an excellent cut of lamb, the fat and richness of marbled red meat; it’s simply unending. Many people nowadays are so into “lean” this and that, and I tried that for most of my life, and it simply didn’t cut it for me!  Yeah, your eating a nice low calorie chicken breast, but it’s also dry, and devoid of flavor. I find that after eating bland, flavor deficient food I end up not satiated and end up going for something over the top on something I never even intended on wanting. “Yes, two pumps on that caramel mocha ice blended, please.”

I also learned some rather interesting tidbits of information behind the industry, and the truth behind the health facts of saturated fat.  Everyone has been told saturated fat is what raises your cholesterol, and cholesterol is bad, but is it really? Cholesterol is a naturally forming compound our bodies produce to help absorb vitamins, helps maintain the integrity of our cell membranes, enhances our immune systems, and play vital roles to the health of our bones.

You can read more about it here!

So in CELEBRATION of beautiful, beautiful red meat; and all the other wonderful, beautiful meats of the world I’d like to share the inspiration of it all- our dinner tonight- Herbed Shoulder Roast marinated with Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar!

In theory, shoulder roast is meant for slow cooking since it's known as a tougher slice of meat. However, when your on a budget and need a meal that takes less than 20 minutes to prepare and your SET on red meat, this will more than suffice!

So here’s the scoop on this meal- we’re looking for the biggest bang for our buck red meat that was available (at my new favorite grocery store, Ralph’s, more on that later); this cut was a 2 1/2 pound cut at $3.65/pound, so I spent $9.16 for this Shoulder Roast up front. However- this was no ordinary Shoulder Roast. Within this Roast I saw Steak and Eggs, Steak with Vegetables with Dinner, Steak in Stir Fry fashion; this baby had potential, and I was determined to see it come to it’s future glory! You could also say I was absolutely starving for red meat and protein, and this cut was the perfect candidate for my criteria. EITHER WAY, I needed a cut that a) was going to be able to be used interchangeably for different meals, b) would work with the spices I already had available so I wouldn’t have to purchase any outstanding ingredients than what we’d already collected, c) appeared fresh and tasty, not green or discolored anywhere, and d) was the best cut of meat for the lowest do-able price (like I said, none of that green, discolored crazy business.) This shoulder roast was actually less expensive than any of the available ground meat (say whaaat?!), it was currently on sale. So was I going to choose that over ground meat? Heck yeah!! You could bet your buttons on that one! So, here’s what happened- I bought a $1.00 bag of green beans (current sale) to go with this meal. And here’s what happened!

I cut about 10 ounces of meat from the roast ends- so imagine about 2 iPhones worth of meat, and I sliced them about 3/4 of an inch thick so they’d still be medium rare in the middle, and not just cook through super quick (Hub and I are Medium Rare red meat fans), so I had 4 slices of meat, I rubbed and covered the cutlets with about 1 Tablespoon of fine Sea Salt, smashed 2 cloves of garlic and minced them a bit, and then spread them in between the cuts… well here- let me tell you step by step!

Herbed Garlic Shoulder Roast with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction Sauce with Vegetables
Serves two extremely hungry people craving red meat because they’ve been eating beans every meal for four days.

10 ounces from Well Marbled Whatever size Shoulder Roast, sliced into 3/4 inch cutlets (You should have about 4 of these cutlets) ($2.25)

1 Tablespoon Fine Sea Salt ($.03)

2 Garlic Cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped ($.10)

3/4 Tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper (Note: Freshly Ground is the only way to go when using Black Pepper.  The flavors your going to have from grinding your own peppercorns are like night and day compared to fine ground store bought pepper. In fact, there is no comparison. One tastes like nothing, the other tastes like Fresh Spicy Pepper. Always use Freshly Ground Black Pepper when cooking, period.) ($.04)

1/2 Tablespoon Herb de Provence medley ($.05)

1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar ($.15)

1 1/2 Tablespoon Butter (Preferably raw, from the Farmer’s market because it is delicious!) ($.15)

1/4 cup Purple Onion, very finely sliced in slivers ($.18)

1 packet Chicken Broth (meant to be mixed with 8 ounces water, so whatever equivalent you have) mixed with 1/3 cup water ($.15)

1 16 ounce package green beans, frozen veggie medley, or whatever you have on hand! ($.99)

Optional:  2 cups cooked brown rice, if you have a sexy hungry man your feeding who needs the calories!

3 Tablespoons of a Merlot, or even Sherry is nice, if you happen to have it on hand ($.20)

For the meat:

Slice your 10 ounce cut (think surface area of an iPhone, with a thickness of 3/4 inch, now do that twice) into cutlets, place them in a small bowl where they sit together cozy-like, and massage salt throughout each cutlet thoroughly (this helps tenderize the meat.) Peel, crush and coarsely chop your two cloves of garlic, and massage them throughout the cutlets, and place the bits of garlic throughout the cutlets.  Drizzle your balsamic vinegar over each cutlet, and dredge each piece thoroughly through the balsamic vinegar that’s collected at the bottom of the bowl to ensure good coverage! Thoroughly cover your cutlets with your freshly ground black pepper and Herbs de Provence, and let your cutlets sit, relax and soak up the glory while you get your pan ready!

Over medium/medium high heat, in preferably a stainless steel frying pan or skillet, melt your butter and swirl the butter to coat the bottom of the pan well.  (Note: If you don’t have a good stainless steel pan, we’re currently in the same situation; using a good nonstick pan will work fine; Stainless Steel is ideal for searing meat so you get those wonderful bits of crispies which flavor the veggies or sauce you make from the juices.) After the butter has foamed, and just begins to have a golden brown hue, that’s the moment you want to add your meat. Scatter the purple onion around the meat as well to cook with the juices of the cutlets.  Cook the meat for about 2 1/2- 3 minutes, depending on the thickness as well as how you prefer your meat prepared. A good trick: Don’t move your meat around in the pan. Let it stay in the same spot so it can get a nice seared crust of herbs and seasonings. After 2 1/2 minutes or so, flip the meat and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes, depending again on preference for temperature. And remember: When you remove meat from heat- the heat inside it CONTINUES to cook it. So remove the meat about 10-15 seconds before you think it’d be perfect.

After you’ve set aside your meat and onions, add 1/3 cup water mixed with your 1 packet of chicken stock concentrate (or equivalent.) I purposefully do less water so the stock flavors are more concentrated when cooking the vegetables.  I want the water to form a steaming effect as well as a conductor of heat around the vegetables.  Throw your package of (or FRESH!) vegetables in the skillet, grind a bit of pepper and add a teaspoon of sea salt, and cook for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are bright, de-thawed and hot.

From here you can either plate your entrees, and simply pour the broth over or with the vegetables- OR you can make a bit of a sauce for your meat and veggies (Highly recommended; these are the tricks that make flavors you become known for!) With a slotted spoon plate your veggies and optional brown rice (optional: this is for the men who are interested in the extra calories), along with your cutlets, arrange them in an appetizing fashion (I’m definitely still learning how to make presentation a priority; so bear with me!) but reserve the chicken broth and juices in the skillet, don’t turn off the heat just yet.  Add the 3 Tablespoons of wine if you happened to have it on hand, if not no worries, let the liquids cook until the wine has reduced by about 1/2. Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan with the broth and wine, and as it begins to melt successfully, turn the heat off immediately. Let the butter melt, stir it with the broth, and then pour THAT over your meat and vegetables.  Pure heaven right there. Rich, sultry flavors, a super easy way to add that extra depth and dimension to your dish! And voilà! You have your Herbed Garlic Shoulder Roast Cutlets with Balsamic Vinegar. Bon appétit!

At $2.15 a person and under 25 minutes from prep to plate this a meal that is truly hard to beat.

This meal comes out to a grand total of about $4.30, $2.15/person, and it takes about 25 minutes to make from prep to plate time.  Our evening started off with us having nothing on hand, and we were wanting something sexy, sultry and flavorful- and actually wanted to try a Moroccan restaurant but didn’t have the time available to thoroughly enjoy their 5-course dining experience, AND us spending around $55 for the both of us, we decided we’d delay that gratification for a special day when we had the time and funds for that special treat. But we went from “Dang we need something awesome but really have nothing on hand, no time available to do anything crazy, and we already used our grocery spending for the week on start up ingredients,” to making a phenomenal full flavored protein packed meal (We’d been craving like craaazy) for roughly $2.15 a pop. The funny thing is even if we had gone out- we would not have been able to find anything around $20-$25 dollars that was that rich and juicy and flavorful; isn’t that ironic? It just baffles me. When I first began cooking at home (properly; emphasis on the properly meaning appropriate technique and instruction from a reputable source.) I literally would be so frustrated that we’d go out for the purpose of getting something special and tasty, and we’d get a $25 chicken entree that was dry and devoid of flavor, and I could make the same thing at home, brined (more on that wonderful trick to come), for about $5 for four people. It made me sick!

ANYWAY, now YOU, dear reader can become EMPOWERED making delicious, vibrant, flavorful dishes for extremely cheap as well! 🙂 Now go and be amazing!

Italians are Some of the Most Wonderful People on the Planet.

The other afternoon I was walking back after collecting cookware to prepare one of our first meals at our new apartment I found myself trailing behind a family on Sunset Boulevard. something about their neutral and off white sweaters tied around their necks told me they were not of American origin.  The father figure of the group stopped to take a picture in tourist fashion, then said something to his group as he caught up with them, now walking at pace with me.  Something about his tone made me smile, and he turned to me and asked (in Italian), “Do you speak Italian?” to which I replied “No,” in an Italian way.  Taking interested in the pot and pan in my bags he asked (still, in Italian), “Are you going home to cook Spaghetti??” which of course I had no choice but to answer “Sì, sì!” and we laughed together now with the rest of his family.  From there we walked a little further, I tried to make out words I understood to be a conversation about the pretty girl carrying the pans to make spaghetti, I tried frantically to make out the sentences in my mind like “Let’s go get a gelato together,” (“Andiamo a prendere un gelato!”)  “Let’s go get a coffee!” (“Andiamo a prendere un caffè) but sadly I had no words.  We soon came to our parting streets and my heart was warmed by the parting good-byes “Ciao!” “Ciao!” and we went our separate ways. I walked for the next two blocks with an undeniably large smile on my face.  What beautiful, beautiful people. I definitely considered throwing out my plans for the rest of the day and going back to catch up with them and play communication charades and land an afternoon of gelato and wonderful conversation with a lovely Italian family. Next time, I think I will.

Wine-Soaked Aged Goat Cheese, Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil with Herbs and a Baguette, all fresh from the Hollywood Farmer's Market.

One of the most life-giving things to me about Los Angeles is the omnipresent medley of language and culture. I love that as I sit here in a coffee shop I hear a beautiful young french girl video chatting with her boyfriend (probably in France), I just had a rendezvous with a rush of latino children playing keep away with their red balloon animal at the chairs next to mine, and I currently have three Japanese friends sitting next to me.  After my bout with the Italians I did nothing other than get on iTunes the moment I was able to access internet and download as many Italian podcasts I could get my hands on, along with French, Arabic, Portugese, Japanese, and Mandarin (more on that later.) I came home, revelled in my new stainless steel 2 quart pot and lid, and promptly made some brown rice to go with our improvised Granny’s Beans with Sausage, Rice and Cornbread.  Our evening meal came out to a glorious 17-bean medley with hot italian sausage with brown rice.  We don’t have a stock pot yet, so I made the beans in our Crockpot.  Words cannot describe the unspeakable comfort of finally cooking a meal at home, with the majority of the ingredients needed, and having an afternoon with a meal of our own in a place of our own.  The beans proved to be noticeably more flavorful the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and went fantastically with our baguette, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, Pink Lady apple, and aged merlot-soaked goat cheese from the Hollywood Farmer’s market Sunday morning.  This meal is fantastically budget friendly; I’ve included the costs for all the ingredients up front as well as cost per amount used in the recipe.

This is a perfect meal when you have limited funds, cookware, and ingredients!

The original recipe consists of Pinto Beans and all beef sausage; the Pinto Beans can be soaked overnight (optional), placed in a large stock pot with Pinto Bean seasoning, a can of tomatoes and green chilies, a large amount of water and cooked on low for 4+ hours, refilling the water periodically to prevent burning the beans.  Towards the last hour or so you add the beef sausage (sliced into 1/2 inch rounds); and serve it with your favorite cornbread, and serve it with your favorite rice.  Simple, cheap, makes the house smell like a dream, and has the makings for ample leftovers.  In my improvised Granny’s Beans with Sausage recipe- it’s made in a Crockpot (due to lack of cookware), cooked for about 5 hours, the beans consist of the ONLY dried beans the Trader Joe’s within walking distance to our house carries- a 17-Bean Medley (16 ounces @ $1.79), hot Italian sausage (1 pound/6 links @ $3.69/pound), 1 12-ounce can of tomatoes with green chilies ($1.19 or so), 1/2 of a large purple onion (I received feedback that the onion was phenomenal so I’m modifying 1 purple onion @ $.69/each into the recipe), and 2 packets of concentrated low sodium chicken stock (Note: I’m honestly not a big fan of reduced-sodium products; it just happened to be the only thing Trader Joe’s offered for concentrated Chicken Stock, @ 12Packets in 1 box @ $3.50 or so) ($.60), a medley of spices I had on hand to implement the Pinto Beans pre-mixed seasonings, and I used long grain Brown Rice (3 pounds/$3.25 or so). Being from Texas we like things HOT and SPICY with our dishes, so our beans and rice were garnished with fresh jalapeno slices (A case of fresh jalapenos @ Trader Joe’s $.99 for what I’d define as 10-12 “HOT-AS-BALLS” Jalapenos) and a sprinkle of purple onion (1 purple onion @ $.69 each). We unfortunately had to waive the cornbread due to two things: Trader Joe’s didn’t sell cornmeal (Really? No cornmeal?), and due to buying all the ingredients up front versus having some on hand already, our budget wasn’t conclusive of buying all the necessary ingredients for cornbread (eggs, baking soda, etc.)

A twist on Granny's Classic

A twist on Granny's Classic.

Crockpot 17 Bean-Medley with Brown Rice

For the Beans:

1 16-ounce Package 17-Bean Medley ($1.79)

2 packets chicken broth concentrate (or equivalent of  16 ounces chicken broth) ($.60)

A LOT of water (Precise measurements to come, for now I’m going to explain it as– fill your crockpot to 1 inch below the lid with water.)

1 pound (6 links) of your favorite sausage (I used Hot Italian Pork sausage because that was all that was available, I would have preferred Elgin’s Beef Sausage, but alas we’re not in Kansas Texas anymore.) ($3.63)

1 12-ounce can Tomatoes with Green chilies ($1.19)

1 onion, chopped plus 1/4 onion sliced very thin for garnish ($.69)

2 Cloves Garlic, Crushed and minced ($1.50 for bag of 2 garlic bunches, ($.08)

2 1/2 Tablespoons Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (Any Sea Salt will do) ($.06)

1 1/2 Tablespoons Chili Powder ($.04)

1 1/2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning ($.03)

1/2 Tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper ($.05)

1 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (vary to your tastes) ($.04)

1 Teaspoon Herb De Provence (I wanted Rosemary and this was what I had on hand) ($.03)

1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper ($.04)

1/2 Teaspoon Cumin ($.03)

1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder (Would have used more, that was all I’d packed from Texas) ($.03)

For Garnish:

1 Jalapeno, thinly sliced, for garnish (We used about 1/2 a jalapeno per person per serving, so we’ve gone through about 5 jalapenos thus far.) (1 case of 10-12 jalapenos @ $.99/ $.10)

1/5 Cup Purple Onion Slivers (We like 2 Tablespoons per bowl.) Note: A trick here– if it’s too strong or pungent, slice your onion first and let it sit out for 15 minutes to 30 minutes before serving.  The oxygen in the air neutralizes that intense, pungent bite fresh sliced onion is notorious for. The longer it sits, the more mellow it becomes.

 

For the Brown Rice:

2 cups Brown Rice, rinsed well (Note: Definitely rinse your rice! This makes sure you have good flavor and removes any dirt or impurities.) (3 pound bag@ $3.19, $.95)

4 cups water (I actually add a TEENY bit less due to the fact that when you rinse the rice it retains a little of that water, so adding slightly less is going to make sure you get an appropriate ratio of rice to water: 1 to 2.)

1 Tablespoon Pink Himalayan Sea Salt ($.03)

 

Total Costs: Approximately $9.50

Without Spices Included (If you already had them on hand): $8.30

Number of servings: 15-20 two cup servings.  This equates into: Feeding a young couple for four days.  This comes out to $2.37 a day, $1.19 a person per day.  If you already had the spices on hand it would come out to $2.07 a day, $1.04 per person a day, at 2-3 servings per day.  Not bad, eh?

 

For the Beans:

Plug your Crockpot in and turn it on High and set the time at 4 hours.  Rinse and sort your beans from any dirt or impurities.  Place beans in Crockpot, and fill Crockpot with water to about 1-inch below the lid.  Add everything except your sausage and brown rice. This means your chicken broth, onion, garlic, salt, ground black pepper, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, Herb de Provence, and can of Tomatoes and chilies. Close the lid and don’t mess with it for THREE HOURS.  Towards the last hour throw- okay don’t throw, add your sausage WHOLE- do NOT cut your links up yet! Let them cook for a good 45 minutes, and towards the last 15 minutes, take them out and let cool for a minute or two on a cutting board, and then slice them into 1/4-inch rounds, and add them back to the pot.

For the Rice:

At the THREE hour mark, in a 2 quart pot fill 3 3/4 cups of water and turn the heat on high.  Add your 1 Tablespoon of Sea Salt, cover, and bring to a boil.  Add 2 cups of brown rice, bring rice back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and simmer for 35-40 minutes (I usually set an alarm at 35, and check it at that point.) NOTE: A tip here– If you don’t have a heavy lid for your pot– this is a big deal.  Having a well sealed pot for your rice is a huge factor in making GREAT rice.  If your lid isn’t notably heavy, like the current pot I’m using, I place something with a little heavier on TOP of the lid, to help seal it. Don’t laugh, I set my glass two cup measuring cup on top of my lid, because that’s the only thing I have that’ll balance and sit well.  But the goal here is to have enough weight to SEAL your pot- creating a true steam-cooking effect.

After 35 minutes you check and test if your rice is properly cooked (No excess water at the bottom of the pan), turn the heat off, and KEEP THE LID ON FOR ANOTHER 10-15 MINUTES, until you are ready to serve.  I found out about this trick while googling how to cook rice perfectly from an asian blogger; they explained that having the rice remaining sealed after cooking ensures your rice is fluffy and moist, having all the brilliant characteristics a good rice should have.  So after you’ve checked and your rice looks fantastic, cut the heat, and let it stay sealed for another 10-15 minutes.  The goal here is that they should both be finishing up perfectly at the same time, hence the importance of starting your rice at the third hour, or one hour before the beans finish up.  To serve simply remove the lid from your rice, fluff with a fork (This translates into gently mixing up the rice), and it’s ready to serve!

To plate: Ladle 3-4 scoops of your beans, sausage and bean “juice” (The liquid becomes absolutely phenomenal) into a bowl, then put a scoop of brown rice in the center, or whatever you fancy.  Garnish with thinly sliced purple onion and slices of jalapeno, and enjoy!