Albus and I Hit the Road Again (Or Big Dogs and the Salmon Cooler Taco Adventure)

OK, I’ve been gone for a while because WHOA, there’s been a lot happening.

Last week I was cleaning up after Thursday’s Beef Brisket dinner party and prepping for Friday’s Salmon Taco dinner party when I received a last-minute rental request for my place. The money was too good to turn down, so I accepted the request even though the timing wasn’t amazing considering I had a fridge full of leftovers and whatnot.

I mean, I wasn’t about to leave this salmon situation behind.

I'm selfish like that.

I’m selfish like that.

In addition to the logistical challenge presented by copious leftovers, accepting the request also meant that my dog and I would have to be out of our home within 24 hours and would have to find a place to stay for TWO WHOLE WEEKS.

Um… not exactly easy.

See, if you’ve been following along for a while, you know my dog looks like this:

He doesn't exactly fit in my purse.

He doesn’t really fit in my purse.

I can’t sneak him into places where he’s technically not allowed because he’s enormous, enthusiastic, and just generally about as subtle as a hurricane, so I have to be legit about our arrangements. (Also, being legit is less stressful for my soul and stuff.)

That place? Also needs to be cheaper than my nightly rental rate or our adventure ends up being purely for the sake of anecdotes because it’s a wash financially.

Albus has been a trooper this year while I’ve been on a writing adventure that has virtually upended every aspect of our lives, but I think he may have been starting to lose his shit a little when I was packing us up to hit the road yet again, ‘cuz this happened.

Look Lady, I gave up my venison food so you could save a lousy $7 a month serving me lamb, but you had better bring it with us because lamb is the last straw.

Look, lady, I gave up my venison so you could save a lousy $7 a month serving me lamb, so you had better bring it with us because this tin of lamb is the last straw.

The poor beast. I kissed his head and told him my salmon might have been farm-raised instead of wild-caught. I mean, we’re ALL making sacrifices here.

ANYWAY…

Our first night out of our place, we stayed at the Motel 6 in Thousand Oaks because all Motel 6 locations are dog-friendly and because my first friend’s home would not be available until the following day.

Motel 6 also does not require pet deposits, and they don’t have size, breed, or weight restrictions. (If you’ve ever been on a road trip with a big man-dog, you will know this policy is a rare and wonderful combination.) I picked the Thousand Oaks location because it was close to my next destination in the valley, was still less expensive than my nightly rate to rent my place, and because it was cheaper than the LA locations. Besides, I like getting out of the city for a minute whenever I can.

Also?

It was kind of cute for a Motel 6.

(Like the Santa Barbara locations, it has recently been upgraded.)

How long are we staying here? But more importantly, when do I get some of the leftover salmon tacos you stashed in here?

How long are we staying here? But more importantly, when do I get some of the leftover salmon tacos you stashed in our cooler?

A few nights later, I finally got into the leftover salmon. Somewhere between my first and second salmon cooler taco, I started to question the wisdom of eating fish that had been on the road with me for days. I happened to be texting with my friend and shared my concerns.

His response?

“When in doubt, eat it.”

Since I was pretty much past the point of no return on the tacos, I was glad he helped me rationalize my questionable decision. I figured if I was vomiting the next day at least we’d BOTH be wrong. (I’ll spare you the suspense: I was fine.)

I’ve had many other moments when I’ve questioned myself on more than the tacos this week, but so many amazing people have come through for me in so many ways that I am not sure I will ever be able to properly put that into words.

So anyway…

I might write more about the who, what, when and where of our unfolding adventure or I may just need to hug all of the fabulous people in my life, throw them a massive thank you dinner when this is all over, and never speak of this again. We’ll see.

But for now?

I leave you with this: salmon cooler tacos are awesome, Motel 6 is the cheapest, easiest place to stay with a big ass dog, and I think you should listen to this song because I love it.

Goodbye.

I’m off to finish the script that I had to put on hold during the where-the-eff-are-we-staying-for-two-whole-weeks?!? fire drill that has been the last five days.

Taste Testers and My Easterelle App (Or Mint, Leek, and Pea Puree in Parmesan Crisp Cups)

OK, one more Easterelle post and then I’ll get back to the Taco Bell fiesta discussion.

In addition to the inside out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes I told you about yesterday, I also made two appetizers for our Easter beach soiree because I’m an over-achiever like that.

I did end up making the melon with mint and prosciutto app (recipe here) because it’s easy and it involves pig. (You absolutely can’t do Easter without pig. I mean, that’s the whole point of Jesus coming to earth. He died so I can eat bacon. Duh!)

OK, maybe not really, but ANYWAY.

I also made a mint, leek, and pea puree and put it in parmesan crisp cups because it just sounded good and Easter-y to me. (I also liked that both apps involved mint. I like overlapping ingredients for cost-saving and menu coherence purposes.)

I was still suffering from the lingering effects of my nuclear germ assault at the time, so I had to call in the reinforcements to test the recipe because I couldn’t taste ANYTHING.

Luckily, I had plans to watch the Michigan Spring Game with my friend Mike the day before, so I made him try the app to tell me if it was a mess. He’s a really good cook, and he’s honest with me when I screw things up in the kitchen, which I appreciate. You can’t have a taste tester who is too “nice” to tell you when there’s too much mayo in the deviled eggs and whatnot because it’s just not nice to serve things that suck. I do NOT need a bunch of sycophants patting me on the head and telling me I’m marvelous when my food actually isn’t amazing. (What is the point of THAT?!?)

So anyway, the app passed the Mike test, and then it totally passed the test at Easterelle Day too.  People DEVOURED it at the picnic.

Along with all of our other great food.

Along with all of our other great food.

My crew knows how to rock a beach picnic. For real.

And here’s a close up of the pea puree situation in case you’re wondering what pea puree looks like.

Boom!

Leek and pea puree in parmesan cups.

SO parmy and cute, right?

I’m planning a few picnics for May and June, and I think I may make these again.

I’m totally looking forward to being able to taste them next time too!

Here’s how I made them just in case you wanna…

Leek and Pea Puree with Mint
Serves 12

2 T Olive Oil, divided
2 Leeks, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
1/4 C Water
1 C Frozen Peas
1/4 C Grated Parmesan
20 Mint Leaves, 12 reserved for garnish
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper

Heat 1 T of olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium. Add leek and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add water and reduce heat to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more water by 1 T, if necessary, if the pan becomes dry and the leek isn’t soft yet. Cook until the water evaporates.

Meanwhile, blanch the peas in boiling water for 3 minutes, or until still bright green but softened. Strain the peas and add them to the leeks and stir.

Transfer peas and leeks to a food processor. Add remaining 1 T of olive oil and pulse until coarse. Add the parmesan and mint and pulse again. The mixture should remain a little chunky.

Parmesan Cups

3 C Freshly Grated Parmesan
Non Stick Olive Oil Spray

Preheat oven to 350. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spray muffin tins with non-stick spray.

Put 1/4 C scoop-fulls of parmesan onto the parchment paper. Pat the piles down a little so the parm is evenly distributed. It will spread, so make sure you leave enough space between the piles. (You will need to do this in batches or use two baking sheets.)

Bake for 3-5 minutes or until bubbling. Remove baking sheet from oven. Allow discs to cool slightly before placing them into the muffin tin.

Assembly

Scoop the pea puree into the parmesan cups, garnish with mint leaves and fresh cracked pepper.

Devour.

And now I will leave you with this song I’m crushing on while writing. It’s “Pink Medicine” By Bearson. Consider it my gift to you today. It was my medicine while I was sick. I looooooove it.

OK, I’m off to make Paleo Porn’s Beef Brisket for my dinner party tonight.

Yee haw, brisket, ya’ll!

#texasforever

Peter Rabbit and the Peanut Butter Cupcakes (Or Chocolate Ganache-Filled Peanut Butter Cupcakes)

I need to pause this Mexican fiesta conversation and go back in time for a minute.

OK, maybe not like 1955 far back… but back to Easter because the chocolate ganache filled cupcakes I made for our beach picnic were 1.21 gigawatts of amazing (or so people said), and I promised you the recipe.

Peter Rabbit was all about them.

Don't you just love his little blue jacket?

Don’t you just love his little blue jacket?

I do. And Obviously it wasn’t an accident that the Reese’s Pieces egg on top matched the jacket. I did that shit on purpose.

The boys were way into them.

The boys totally noticed too.

OK, that’s probably a lie, but whatever. At least they liked the cupcakes so much that I didn’t have to take any home, which is the basically the whole point of baking.

So here’s the recipe.

Chocolate Ganache-Filled Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 18

Preheat Oven to 350. Place cupcake liners into muffin pans.

Make the ganache before starting cupcakes; the ganache will need time to cool.

Chocolate Ganache Filling

1/2 C Heavy Whipping Cream
3/4 C Bittersweet Chocolate Chips or Chunks (do not exceed 61% cacao)

Bring the cream just to boil in a heavy sauce pan and remove pan from heat. Put chocolate in a bowl. Pour hot cream over the chocolate. Allow the mixture to sit for one minute before whisking until smooth. Let stand at room temperature until it has set up, about two hours.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

1 C (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 C Granulated Sugar
2 C Cake Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
4 Large Eggs
1/2 C Buttermilk
1 C Creamy Peanut Butter (NOT natural)

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, mixing until combined. Pour the buttermilk into the batter and blend. Add the peanut butter and mix. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the baking cups and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Remove pans from the oven, transfer the cupcakes to a rack, and allow them to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 C Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 8 oz Package of Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 C Creamy Peanut Butter (NOT natural)
Dash of sea salt

Mix butter, cream cheese, and peanut butter together. Add dash of salt. Sift in the powdered sugar and mix until fluffy.

Assembly

After the cupcakes have cooled completely and the ganache has set up, take a spoon and remove a small, circular section from the top of each of the cupcakes. Fill the cupcakes with the ganache and then top with frosting.

Decorate as you see fit, and then feed them to your friends.

Peter Rabbit and friends.

They’ll probably love you for it.

Pastel es Buena (Or Pablo Escobar, Manuel Noriega, and My Tres Leches Cake)

Friday I promised to hook you up with the recipe for the tres leches cake I made for Nicole’s Taco Bell themed birthday party if it wasn’t a disaster. I only had one bite because I generally consider cake to be a complete waste of calories, but I didn’t hate it.

Also?

A few people sought me out to tell me I should open up a bakery so I’ll take it as a sign that it didn’t seriously suck….

I must tell you, though: it absolutely resembled Manuel Noriega’s* pock-marked face at one point in the baking process.

Remember him from the 80s?

Dictator from Panama?

De Facto ruler of Panama? Source

Infamous drug trafficker and CIA informant?

Embroiled in the Iran/Contra scandal?

No?

Oh well.

He was super infamous back then, and his face totally looked like my cake.

See?

Do they make Accutane for cakes?

Do they make Accutane for baked goods?

Sorry, cake, the skewering was necessary to get the tres leches to sink into you properly.

Manuel, I really don’t know what else to say except that when you make a lot of money working with Pablo Escobar and the Medellin, sometimes you end up rotting in prison (but Jesus and your mom still love you, so that totally counts for something.)

Besides, we ALL had awkward pasts.

I know I did….

Second grade was not a good year for me.

Second grade was not a good year for me.

The fact that this is my father’s favorite picture from my childhood leads me to believe one of two things: 1) Love TRULY makes a person blind or 2) The man was hoping his only child would die a virgin. (If you know my dad either of these would be plausible hypotheses, by the way.)

I digress.

We were talking about cake.

Once you cover it up with whipped cream and toasted coconut, everyone forgets about the cake’s awkward adolescence.

When doesn’t whipped cream, toasted coconut, and a smattering of edible flowers fix everything, though?

Edible flowers and talking Taco Bell dogs make everything better.

Everything that isn’t fixed by a bottle of Bacardi and the talking dog from Taco Bell, I mean.

So, anyway, I know I’m saying all this stuff about how I basically hate cake and that it looked like an imprisoned Panamanian at one point, but the truth is that I scoured the internet for a tres leches recipe that would be as addictive as the cocaine that caused Noriega’s problems, and this one truly, truly sounded SO much better than the others.

And that’s why I picked it.

In the end, the birthday girl LOVED it.

Toasting with tres leches.

And that’s all that matters.

So here’s the recipe. I found it on Chow.

Get some.

*There’s also a Mexican field hockey player named Manuel Noriega, and a Mexican actor named Manuel Noriega Ruiz, or so the internet says. Just in case you were wondering….

Nostalgic About Nicole and Paint Fumes (Or A Gift Wrap Round Up)

I had this funny moment while I was wrapping my friend Nicole’s birthday present today: I realized when I started this blog three years ago, I was high on paint fumes from a bathroom remodel gone wrong, and I was WRAPPING NICOLE’S BIRTHDAY PRESENT. (My first post ever is HERE.)

Crazy, right?

And now that I’m feeling all nostalgic (and a little let down because I’ve run out of things to remodel around here), I thought I’d do a little Nicole-inspired gift wrap round up post.

This was a fabulous Frank Lloyd Wright book I bought her at a vintage book store… and yes, I wrapped it in pages from the Penny Saver and decorated it with a sharpie and painter’s tape.

I told you I was high on paint fumes then.

I told you I was high on paint fumes back then.

I felt like it all tied together in an architecture/design/home-improvment kind of way. (Nicole is an uber talented interior designer, and one of her favorite books of all time is Loving Frank. Her website is HERE, btw.)

And here’s last year’s gift: a copy of All There Is, a collection of short stories about love from the producers of NPR’s StoryCorps. (We were both very into love stories last spring. Who isn’t?!? <3 )

Danny the Dino totally wanted the book.

Eugene the Euoplocephalus totally wanted it.

I deliberately used blue and orange so the gift would match her outfit for our San Diego birthday weekend to a Tigers/Padres game because I’m broken for color-coordination.

See?

Rawr, Tiger!

Rawr, Tiger, you totally match!

I’m not the only one who gets into details like that. This was her birthday gift to me last year.

And this is her gift to me!

Don’t you love how the colors work perfectly together with the lotto ticket and the bag?

I do!!! (This is why Nicole and I get each other.) The bag was also filled with goodies that were color-coordinated with my birthday invite. (True story.)

And now I will leave you with a little sneak peek at this year’s gift wrap for her Mexican-themed birthday party.

No hablo English.

No hablo Ingles, Perras!

On that note, I’m off to work on my rewrite for a few hours before making Nicole’s tres leches birthday cake.

If the cake doesn’t suck, I’ll hook you up with the recipe next week. (And don’t worry: I haven’t forgotten I still owe you the recipe for her sister Elle’s peanut butter Peter Rabbit cupcakes. You can now find that HERE.)

XOXO

Easterelle Day (Or Easter + Elle’s Beach Birthday Celebration!)

I know Easter was so four days ago, but I’m finally ready to write about it. I’ve been in major screenplay mode all week, and I just didn’t have the time or energy to put together a post about my weekend until today.

So…

Here are a few shots.

I started my Easter celebration by attending the intimate, outdoor sunrise service at Bel Air Presbyterian.

IMG_1843

Fire pits are essential before the sun comes up ‘cuz it’s cold in SoCal when it’s dark….

And actually, it’s still cold after the sun comes up….

IMG_1844

Did I mention it was cold?

ANYWAY, After freezing my tukhus off at church, I came home and made an Easter basket for my cousin Maddie.

See?

IMG_1851

So much pink.

I even put a bow on it because everything is better with a bow on it.

IMG_1855

Everyone knows that.

Then I picked Maddie up, and we went to the beach for Easterelle Day. (Easterelle Day = Easter + Elle’s Actual Birthday. Just in case you were wondering.)

IMG_1892

The birthday girl is barely in the pic, but I promise she had fun.

And the food was epic.

IMG_1868

All of the boys thought so.

Actually, everyone thought so. (I’m going to take their word for it; I was still sick so I couldn’t really taste any of it.) We didn’t even get that much sand in any of it either, so that was awesome.

I’ll get to the cupcakes and the leek and pea puree in parm cups later. I need to get back to my script now.

But before I go… here’s one of my favorite songs at the moment. It’s the Mr. Fiji Wiji remix of Tiesto and Kyler England.

Just ‘cuz.

<3 XOXO <3

 

You Can’t Eat Art (Or Glitter Eggs for Good Friday)

Guys, guess what?

It’s Good Friday!

And nothing says, “Let’s commemorate the crucifixion,” like bows and glitter.

These are going in the sand soon.

Everyone knows that.

ANYWAY

Now that all of you think I’m going to hell, I’ll show you what’s inside those eggs.

IMG_1785

Art.

3-D art…

Stunning work with scissors, right?

I made magic with scissors.

And since you can’t eat art, I also put a little candy in there too.

Art!

It’s hiding in the egg. I promise.

Pretty soon, I’m going to hide the candy filled eggs in the sand for Elle’s Birthday/Our Easter Extravaganza on the beach!

Peter Rabbit's ready to hide his eggs in the sand.

Peter Rabbit’s totally ready to help.

But first… I’m off to make my 90th Orange Julius of the week because I am still sick.

Have a great weekend, and HAPPY EASTER, YA’LL!