Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Graciousness...and The Greatest Show on Earth

"There are five things you cannot recover in life:
(1) The Stone...after it's thrown.
(2) The Word...after it's said.
(3) The Occasion...after it's missed.
(4) The Time...after it's gone.
(5) A person...after they die."
~Author Unknown

My inbox is O-V-E-R-F-L-O-W-I-N-G.
The list of phone calls to return keeps growing.
And so does the amount of time it takes me to respond.

Yep, I'll be playing perpetual "catch up" for quite a while
now that my world has expanded.

One baby ~ a breeze.
Two babies ~ a bit of a juggle.
Three babies ages 3 and under ~ a three ring circus!

That being said...
It truly is "The Greatest Show on Earth!"

At my husband's suggestion, I've carved out a few hours 
one night a week to....decompress.
Tonight, I'm sitting by the window in a coffee shop.
Etta James is crooning in the background,
a steaming rich cup of cafe mocha sits to my right.
Conversations of nearby strangers grow faint as
my thoughts begin to trickle from "the vault."

The new year has taken off in it's usual style.
Full throttle pedal to the metal acceleration.
And as always...there are no repeats.

So what am I thinking about between sips?
Well, funny you should ask...

There's a colleague of mine named Bill McCoy.
He's a true original. 
Understated, yet distinguished.
Well respected in our profession.
A brilliant educator. 
And above all...gracious.

I've sat in numerous classes under his instruction over the years.
His relaxed humorous style always keeps things fresh,
and engages the audience time and again with his ever expanding knowledge.

But without fail, regardless of what class he is teaching,
he falls subject to a variety of outrageous questions and "hypothetical" scenarios.

His knack for restating the facts, walking you through as many times as needed for comprehension,
and helping you gain perspective from a different angle is....well....a gift.
Not to mention his uncanny ability of sensing just how many 10 minute breaks are necessary for survival.

But above all....he is gracious.

No matter how cynical the comment, 
no matter how many times the same question is asked,
he is so. very. gracious. 
warmly courteous.

This is what I'd like to purpose in my heart to do this year...
To be. more. GRACIOUS.
Both to the people I know, and the people I don't.
To give them the grace to be, and the room to become.
To love people where they're at, and give them the space to grow.
Because sweet bellas, let's face it. you can't take it back. Any of it.
We simply do not know what tomorrow holds.
There are no repeats.

Thanks Bill, for being such a cool cat, and reminding me
of what a big impact a little grace can give.
for teaching me that now matter what comes my way, 
with enough 10 minute breaks,
I can tackle anything *wink*
and do it graciously :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Little More Time...and Phyllo Stuffed Stripped Beef w/Baby Bellas & Gorgonzola

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, 
for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:  
it is the time for home."  
~Edith Sitwell

The tree is down.
P90X is rockin' my world.
Spring cleaning has begun.
But dare I say that I'm still not ready for Spring??

I simply need more time...

More time for boots and cute scarves and hats! 
Maybe another snowfall or two? 
A little more cocoa?? 
A few more bowls of hot comforting soup?? 
A smidgen more snuggling on the couch with blankets and a good book while the chill still hangs in the air?? 

This past week I had been rummaging through the pantry and freezer 
trying to use up ingredients before I made my monthly pilgrimage to Trader Joe's.
Was hoping I could dream up something we've never had before with limited stock.
And I must say, some of the best meals are born that way.

Behold, I give you phyllo pastry stuffed with stripped beef, 
baby bella mushroom & gorgonzola
served with a side of creamy spinach & bacon fingerling potatoes
 and some steamed carrots drizzling with honey and a dash of nutmeg
The strip beef was frozen and left over from a delicious roast I made two weeks prior, one that had been simmering in a crock pot 
with Argentinian Malbec, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, cracked pepper,
potatoes, onions, carrots and mushrooms. 
After that wonderful meal, I shredded the roast, saved some 
for stripped beef tacos the next day, and froze the rest.
Imagine my delight when I discovered it hiding in the back of my freezer!

This meal will definitely warm your belly while it's still nippy outside,
but don't worry ya'll, by March I'll be ripe 'n' ready 
for fresh blossoms and new beginnings :)

"The color of springtime is in the flowers, 
the color of winter is in the imagination."  
~Terri Guillemets

Phyllo Stuffed Stripped Beef with Baby Bellas & Gorgonzola
Here's what you need:
12 sheets of phyllo dough
10 oz. of cooked shredded roast
3-4 oz. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
3-4 oz. of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
tbsp of butter, tbsp of olive oil
1/2 cup wine
sea salt to taste
to brush phyllo dough i melted appx 6 tbsp of butter in a bowl 
and made an egg wash with 1 egg and some water in another bowl

Here's how you make it:
preheat oven to 350 degrees
sautee sliced baby bella mushrooms with garlic, butter & olive oil
salt to taste
add wine, cook down
add cooked meat, stir, cook for 1 minute
remove from heat.
spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray
lay 2 sheets of phyllo dough down, brush butter over the entire sheet to moisten
add 2 more sheets of phyllo, brush more butter to cover entirely, then add 2 more sheets of phyllo
brush with more butter to cover sheets entirely
add meat & mushroom filling in to cover sheets entirely
cover evenly with gorgonzola cheese crumbles
then add your last 6 sheets of phyllo in sets of 2, followed by brushing butter over entire sheets
when final layers of phyllo are on and butter is brushed evenly, then add one layer of egg wash over entire sheet
preslice before putting into oven for easy slices
place uncovered in oven and bake for 30 minutes
serve immediately

Creamy Spinach & Bacon Fingerling Potatoes
Here's what you need:
2-3 tbsp of olive oil
12 oz. of fingerling potatoes, sliced long, and then in half
1/2 yellow onion (I used a maui sweet onion)
1 clove of garlic, minced
6 oz. bacon, cooked & chopped
6 oz. frozen spinach (I didn't have any fresh spinach on hand, but of course would be perfect)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened & cubed
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
sea salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste

Here's how you make it:
over medium heat
cook garlic in olive oil, about 20 seconds
add onions, cook down about 3-5 minutes
add potatoes, stir well, add salt & pepper
cover, cook until potatoes are soft and can be pierced with a fork
stirring every so often
add spinach, stir
add cream cheese, incorporate well
add cheddar, incoporate well
cook about 2 minutes
add bacon, remove from heat
serve hot
*note to self: wait to photograph steamed carrots until AFTER they have been appropriately drizzled with honey and dashed with nutmeg. That is all.

Keep Shining Sweet Bellas!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Moxie...and Pappardelle w/Chicken & Mushrooms in a Red Chile Cream Sauce

"By perseverance the snail reached the ark." 

~ Charles H. Spurgeon

My daughter Sophia's got moxie. 
She doesn't give in.
She doesn't care what anyone else is doing,
she wants to do her own thing.
And all the while, 
she's got a lil Punky Brewster style going on... 
and she totally owns it. 

I couldn't help but think of this simple unpretentious quote the other day.
Without doubt, she has the tenacity and persistence of that snail.

Listen in, see what I mean...

Sophia: Mom, can I have a snack.
Me: no.
Sophia: Just a little snack.
Me: no not now, it's going to be nap time in a few minutes.
Sophia: Just one snack.
Me: noooo.
Sophia: Pleeeease. Just one snack. Oneeeee snack. *holding up one finger*
Me: *smile* oooook, just one.
Sophia: How about one marshmallow.
Me: *holding back laughter* that's not a snack, that's a sweet.
Sophia: Pleeease. How 'bout one marshmallow. Just one. *holding up one finger*
Me: One Marshmallow huh? ok.
Sophia: How 'bout two marshmallows.
Me: *trying not to laugh* One for you. One for brother.
Sophia: How 'bout two for me, two for brother. Just two. I promise. *head tilted, holding up two fingers, eyelashes batting*
Me: Just two?
Sophia: promise.
Me: ok ok. Two for you, two for brother.
Sophia: * beaming smile* oh these are SOOOO wonderful mommy. 
Me: good, ok let's clean up toys and get ready for nap.
Sophia: how 'bout one more snack....

sigh...her passion and steadfastness inspire me. 
I'm reminded me once again that these are all extremely rare 
and valuable qualities to possess 
amidst the predictable, stale and mundane.

Speaking of stale and mundane...time to get out of that dinner rut. No more of the same ol' thing. I insist! Mix it up a bit. A little of this and a little of that, improvisation is the key. Whatever you have on hand. That's what inspired this entree. Since I'm not making a trip to the grocery store for another week, I threw together whatever ingredients were lying around the back corner of the fridge and pantry and breathed this dish to life. 

I diced up 6 oz. of leftover cooked chicken breasts and set aside, sauteed 6 oz. of baby portabello mushrooms with garlic in butter and extra virgin olive oil, a dash of sea salt, 1/2 a cup of white wine, and once cooked down, added 4 oz. of softened cream cheese, a tablespoon of red chile powder, 1/2 cup of chicken broth, and boiled some pappardelle. Once drained, I added the diced chicken to the spiced mushroom sauce, poured that atop of that delicious pappardelle, and topped it with some freshly grated parmiggano reggiano and some italian flat leaf parsely. Steamed some broccoli for the side, and tossed together a fresh tomato salad. voila! Dinner is served. 

And I just may have a marshmallow for dessert. 
Maybe two.....definitely two :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Own it...and Red Chile Tilapia

"If you concern yourself with your neighbor's talents, you will neglect yours. 

But if you concern yourself with yours, you could inspire both" ~ Max Lucado

I love that quote.
We all have an inner critic that can literally
sap every ounce of creative juice from us if we let it.
It makes us doubt ourselves & start frantically trying to "fit in."
Comparing truly is a cancer of the soul.
Unnecessary and unfruitful in every way.
It's so tempting to follow suit though, isn't it?
To do what everyone else is doing...
To try and "keep up" with the masses...
my advice?
no seriously.....don't.

There are gifts and talents that are yours to possess.
and yours alone.
Do not look to the left or the right.
Keep those eyes front and center...and cultivate that amazingness placed inside of you.
The world needs what you have to give.

Tonight, I give you my Red Chile Tilapia. It's ridiculously simple. 
In a baking dish and on each filet, I just squeezed some fresh lemon, 
followed by a pinch of mediterranean sea salt, then a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, 
and a generous sprinkling of red chile powder; 
then I flipped over each filet and repeated the same.
I baked at 425 for 6-8 minutes, flipped, and baked for an additional 4 or 5 minutes. 
The tilapia should be opaque and flake apart but not dry whatsoever. 
I chose to serve this with a side of Israeli Couscous, 
a delicious recipe I came across by the wonderfully talented 
Elisabeth from Food and Thrift Finds that I have been dying to try for months now 
(she is such an amazing cook with the most generous, 
kind and giving spirit you have ever known...
click HERE for the recipe and a chance to discover her marvelous world),
 and a spinach salad topped with pears, gorgonzola, and candied walnuts.
Sweet Bellas, this is a fantastic and healthy meal to start the New Year off with and share with someone you love.

Keep ShiningSweet Bellas!


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