Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Contemplation

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!”
                                                   ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Love Letter to my Cosmic Daughters

If you follow my blog you already know how crazy I am about my son and darling daughter-in-law. However, you may not know that I also happen to be blessed with the most amazing young women in my life. Through the grace of God I am surrounded by a lovely cadre of girls I have known since their teens (now women) who I affectionately refer to as my "cosmic daughters". Women I adore, my "fierce chicks" living their lives with passion and purpose, bringing more to the table than they are taking, and leaving their mark by raising the collective consciousness of the world through their own willingness to truly know themselves. I continue to school and be schooled by them. Bound forever by spirit and our true loving connection, today I am missing them; their physical energy, their creative spirit and the sheer beauty of their lovely selves. Here are my girls. I miss you darlings.

 ...and I am so grateful for the opportunity you have given me to know you to share in your lives. Thank you, with all my heart, thank you. Love, Victoria

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Puerco Con Chile Verde

It's been a busy week of Spring cleaning and yard work so I have needed dinner meals that meet the, "We can live on this for three days" test. Which usually means some time spent on the front-end prepping so I can breeze through a few blissful nights of great leftovers. Enter, Puerco Con Chile Verde!

The cubed pork in this dish, combined with this beautiful green chile sauce is cooked for hours in your crock pot to a heavenly tenderness, so plan ahead for the cook time. The piquant tomatillos (wouldn't recognize a tomatillo if it bit you? See one here) gives this dish it's superb authentic Mexican flavor. The heat is mild but full of flavor. Of course, if you want to turn up the heat you can use hot green chile and leave the seeds and core in the peppers. Oh so satisfying, this recipe was also nice to my wallet. Pork butt is $2.50 or less per pound these days and I was able to stretch this into three dinners and a breakfast of huevos rancheros for the two of us.

The first evening I served it with a cold black bean salad (an easy mix of quality canned black beans (drained and rinsed) and chopped sweet red and orange peppers, sliced red onions, sliced cherry tomatoes, a couple shakes of ground cumin, salt and pepper a squeeze of lime and dash of olive oil. The next night we ate it atop arborio rice and the third dinner, we stuffed it in a warmed flour tortilla and finished with a side-salad of greens. I have plans to make this again and freeze half for impromptu Mexican!

This recipe comes from Espino's Mexican Bar and Grill in Chesterfield Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. Who knew I'd find this great Mexican recipe in the mid-West, but here it is, authentic, delicious and memorable.

Puerco Con Chile Verde
Recipe courtesy Artemio Espino, Espino's Mexican Bar and Grill
4-6 servings (?)

3 pounds pork butt, cubed (with fat) (I like to cube just a bit larger than bite-size)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups Salsa Verde, recipe follows
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 small cans green chiles, minced (I use Hatch mild)
1 large yellow onion, chopped

In a large skillet (one with sides), add the pork butt, salt, black pepper, lemon pepper, oregano and garlic (rub it with clean hands all over the meat) and cook for 10 minutes. Add the prepared Salsa Verde to the pan, cilantro, cumin, green chiles and onions and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 30 minutes, and then turn down to low and cook for 3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes. (This recipe fit into my 30 year old original Crock Pot)

Salsa Verde
12 tomatillos, husks and stems removed (I also rinse them, they're sticky)
4 cloves garlic
2 jalapenos, stems removed (I removed the core and seeds for a milder heat, USE GLOVES)
1 serrano pepper, stem removed (Again, remove the core and seeds, protect your hands)
1 small yellow onion, chopped (reserve half)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan, boil the tomatillos, garlic, jalapenos, serrano pepper and half of the onions in 2 cups of water until the mixture floats to the top of the saucepan, about 30 minutes. (If you are using a shallow pan, your mixture will not just cook it about 30 minutes, also, I needed more water to cover the mixture) Strain out the pulp and reserve the liquid. In a food processor, (I think you could do this in a blender, in batches, just watch so that the heat doesn't make the mixture explode) blend the pulp with the remaining onions, the cilantro, salt and 3/4 cup of the reserved liquid. I used the remaining reserved liquid to make the rice the next day.

The result of all your hard work is several meals of this delicious tender pork in a bright and beautiful sauce, bringing authentic Mexican flavor right to your table. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

You KNow It's Spring WHen...

Pup Zen rolls around in the dry grass and bushes and embeds his cotton-candy like coat with a million tiny twigs and burrs!! Arrrggghh!

 Twig head!

His favorite activity? Rolling, digging and sitting in, dirt, grass, mud. He is oblivious too! So the direction of our morning changed radically.

 Instead, we had to submit to our least favorite activity!

 Giving me the "stink-eye"

This was a different wash day...but they all look pretty much the same. I have an apron on, but I'm drenched anyway, so is my kitchen. At least it was in the 70's today....buds are already on the trees...yes, Spring is officially here, just ask Zen.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Scott's Mind Altering Manhattan

After four grueling weeks of playing catch-up on my 2012 bookkeeping in order to meet a March 11th deadline (such an appropriate word) for my accountant, I needed something wonderful last night to mark the occasion to the end of such suffering. The obvious reward? The perfect Manhattan...or two?

This particular recipe created by my talented mixologist of a brother, Scott, is fantastic. The only way it's better is if he's mixing it for me....although, I do have husband Michael on a fast learning curve!

Scott's Mind Altering Manhattan

1 1/2 ounce Rye Whiskey (I prefer Bulleit, Bourbon will work too)
1 teaspoon dry white vermouth
1 teaspoon sweet red vermouth
Splash of orange bitters
Splash of Angostura bitters
1 teaspoon juice from jarred maraschino cherries

For Garnishing
2 maraschino cherries without stems
Long orange-zest twist

Fill a rock's glass with ice. Measure in the rye and red and white vermouth. Add the bitters and maraschino cherry juice. Stir slightly. Drop in two cherries. Garnish with an orange twist.

Sometimes a girl's just gotta....

Sit back, relax and pray to God you are actually done with your taxes. I did.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday Meditation


 A lie can spread halfway around the world before the truth has time to get its pants on. ~Winston Churchill

Friday, March 8, 2013

Stuffed Flank Steak~Easier Than it Looks!

Yes, I am racing around still working at completing my taxes, but when I saw this Pinterest post and realized I had the ingredients on hand I just had to try my own version and do a quick post to pass it on and yes it was easier than I thought! So stop thinking about it and DO IT!

Stuffed Flank Steak
Makes: 6 servings
Prep: 20 minutes
Roast: at 425 degrees F. for 35 minutes
Broil: 10 minutes


1 flank steak (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 cup crumbled Gruyère cheese
1 jar (7 ounces) roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons seasoned dry bread crumbs
1 egg yolk - slightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

I used Gruyère but you could use blue cheese or even feta. It is also important to squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible (true confessions, this is on the "top of things I hate to do with food" list).  Remember to salt and pepper per the instructions!

Carefully slice flank steak through the thin edge so it opens like a book. (see photo below)
Score meat by making shallow diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals in a diamond pattern on both sides. Place meat between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Working from center to edges, pound with flat side of a meat mallet into 12x8-inch rectangle. Remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle meat with the salt and pepper.

Combine beaten egg yolk, bread crumb and spinach together Spread the spinach mixture over the steak. Sprinkle with the roasted red peppers and Gruyère cheese.  Roll the steak up from a short side. Secure with baking twine and wooden toothpicks at 1-inch intervals, starting 1/2 inch from 1 end.
Place seam-side down in a baking dish. Rub flank steak with olive oil. Bake at 425° for 35 minutes.  Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat to desired color and done-ness, turning once. Watch closely so as not to let the steak dry out. Before serving, remove the toothpicks. ;)

The tricky part is slicing the flank steak to open it up like a book. Have a sharp knife on hand. I did have a few slips and puncture holes, but no worries. Also remember to pound and flatten the thicker areas of the steak.

Tie it all up with kitchen twine. You place the stuffing about one inch from the edges but it will still want to fall out, just stuff it back in, no worries. The recipe doesn't indicate a particular baking pan, this one worked. Also, I turned the temperature down to 420° as my oven runs hot. Adjust to fit your own quirky oven.

I shortened the time under the broiler to keep the flank steak from drying out...glad I did! Just keep an eye on it, you just want to brown it up for presentation. In my photo the outside of my steak looks dry but it was not and the filling was moist and delicious.

The flank steak was cooked perfectly, tender and flavorful. I served it with a side of simple mashed sweet potatoes topped with butter and salt. The potatoes were a nice bit of sweetness with the savory stuffing. Michael gave this dish a triple thumb's up! If I can do this after a twelve hour tax prep marathon, so can you!  Bon Appetit!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tulips = Spring!

I love tulips, the way they slowly open over several days, swaying toward the sunshine on sturdy but delicate stems and finally giving a full burst of showiness like the finale of fourth of July fireworks. I love them all, every color. Yes, even the super sweet pink ones. My husband knows this, so this week,  tax week from hell, when I am covered in tax returns, pushing endless piles of tiny receipts around and exhibiting fits of hair-pulling, Michael quietly slipped these beauties into my office.
A simple but sweet gesture that had the desired effect, pulling me out of the depths of tax prep hate, a reminder that this too shall pass and Spring, beautiful Spring in the desert is almost here. Thank you honey. Have a great day everyone! Even if you're shoveling snow today...Spring is on the way!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

It's THAT time!

Here IT is again. Tax time. Look familiar? I am up to my knickers in PAPER!! Check out my blog post for this time last year to view some of my favorite quotes about tax time. Here's another one for you while you consider this; Will Rogers was quoted ages ago and is still relevant!

The difference between death and taxes is death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets.
~ Will Rogers  

Arrrrrggghhhhhh! That's my quote of the day!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Boccalone ~ Foodie Review

There are some moments in life that feel like a little crystal of perfection. For me, this was one of those moments.

Setting the scene:
Saturday, the Embarcadero Farmer's Market, Ferry Building, San Francisco, California, mid-July, gorgeous day, a warm ocean breeze, everyone on the pier happily enjoying themselves.
Bins of brightly colored veggies, fresh-made cheeses, pots brimming with flowers and food vendors, (that scent!) with wares that easily rival that of a five-star restaurant.

The players:
People, right out of an episode of Prairie Home Companion, where all the children are smart and the women good-looking (I paraphrase!)...the men were also good-looking! 

The sound:
Low murmurs of delight from shoppers enjoying the abundance of fresh produce, live music filtering through the crowd.

We are wandering through the crowd, where all are moving in and about each other with ease. With my dear brother on my arm, (an indescribable comfort), I am searching the pier for one of my favorite food vendors, Boccalone (mouth is watering!). I am anxious to share this incredible gastronomic "find" with my foodie brother. We spot Baccalone and happily wait in the long, but well-mannered line and are finally rewarded with a Salame Pepato Chub, (loosely translated, a peppery, chubby, tasty pork, yummy...)  in my language, perfection on a bun. Italian charcuterie divine! With apologies to my non-carnivorous friends, I could eat this amazing little Pepato Chub and depart for heaven with a smile on my face. If you are one of the lucky ones living in SF you must go and brave the line. It is worth it! If you live elsewhere, put this market on your To-Do list with Boccalone at the top!

1 Ferry Bldg #21, San Francisco, CA~ there are potatoes being roasted under the grilling meats!

Each "chub" is hand-cut right before your eyes with juices sopped up by the ciabatta roll, their award-winning, tasty pork, topped with only a smidgen of arugula. 

 With a side of those indescribable drippings-infused rosemary new-potatoes

A sunny spot by the pier, my brother by my side, music in my ear and a salame chub....perfection!
   Homesick for San Francisco just right now! Miss you Scott. Bon Appetit!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday Meditation

"Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love" They reflect a shift in how we think, releasing the power of the mind to the processes of healing and correction. What changes, primarily, is how we hold an experience in our minds-how we experience the experience. ~Marianne Williamson

Friday, March 1, 2013

Thunder Dog

Sonic BOOMS! We've got 'em. Like it or not, we have to live with the nerve-shattering, blast that comes from our local jet-jockeys breaking the sound barrier. Understandably pets, babies and those unfortunate souls on the mid-night shift HATE them. In an effort to find a way to calm my terrified dogs I tried a homeopathic Bach remedy called Rescue Remedy, which would work if I knew when the blasted blast was coming. But I am not on the air force's "need to know" list nor a psychic. So I needed a quick fix for Guinness, who shakes uncontrollably and practically glues himself to my lap. Enter the Thundershirt! Honestly, this is the best product ever. The Thunder Shirt hugs him nice and snug and he relaxes almost immediately, then usually falls fast asleep. Here's the little rascal after today's earth-shattering boom sporting his shirt. Maybe they should make one that will lower my post boom blood pressure?
Notice that relaxed look on his face.
The shirt is easy to put on, with lots of Velcro for a snug but flexible fit. According to the website, it works on the nervous system of your pup. If you have this problem...if you're my neighbor I know you do! Seriously, it works for real thunder and those awful fireworks too, oh and vacuum cleaners and other loud noises. I would like to personally "thunder hug" the inventor of this great product. The best part, no need to ever drug my terrified pup...definitely the best part.

Minutes later....
You can find the Thundershirt on their website , look for their current Free Embroidery promo! No, I am not getting paid to endorse their product, but dang I would go on the road just to pass the word to other dog owners. So, pass the word my friends!! Finally, a product that does what it promises!
Happy Days! Cheers! Victoria, Guinness and Zen

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