Sunday, March 29, 2009

Friday Night Ethiopian Extravagana (Recipes 15-17)

So my guy Curtis and I had an Ethiopian food night on Friday. We had decided about a week ago that we wanted to get together and cook something new, and we settled upon Ethiopian food because neither of us had ever attempted that at home and there were tons of vegetarian options for Curtis and meat options for me.

The Menu:
Since neither of us had had Ethiopian food for a while, I found a few menus online for Ethiopian restaurants and Curtis picked 2 veggie dishes (Atakilt Wot and Shiro) and I picked 1 beef dish (Tibs Wot) since I had beef in the freezer that needed to be used. In addition to the dishes we, of course, had to have some Injera and I made a little cocktail for us as well.

Ingredients of interest:
Ethiopians use a LOT of spices in their cooking. The only spice that neither of us had ever cooked with was Fenugreek seed. Fenugreek seed seemed to provide an essential flavor to 2 of the staple components of Ethiopian cooking, Niter kibbeh and berbere (more about those later). Fenugreek is native to India and is often used in Indian, Mediterranean and Northern African cooking. By itself fenugreek has a slightly bitter taste. Incidentally I had become familiar with fenugreek a few years earlier when I ordered a "grow your boobs big" kit online. It came with a bunch of herbs and berries that were supposed to make your boobs bigger. One of them was fenugreek! I believe you were supposed to make tea out of the seeds AND use a lotion on your boobies that was infused with fenugreek. Obviously this didn't work out for me, but now that I have stock of seeds I may give it another shot... Anyway moving on...

The Process...
So before Curtis came over I decided to make 2 elements of the meal, the niter kibbeh and the Tef. Niter kibbeh is a clarified butter that is infused with ginger, garlic and a ton of other spices. To make the niter kibbeh I just melted a 1/2 pound of butter with a couple slices of fresh ginger, 2 cloves of garlic, cardamon pods, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and fenugreek, let it simmer for an hour and then strained out the solids. It smelled AMAZING! The smell was very warm and "comforting" (for lack of a better word) from the cloves, ginger and cinnamon, with a certain spiciness from the fenugreek and tumeric. it smelled SOOo good... i wish this blog had smell'o'vision so I could share it.

Tej is a sweet wine that is made from fermented honey and the leaves and twigs from a special kind of hops called gesho. Obviously i wasn't going to be fermenting honey in Bed Stuy so I decided to go with this rough approximation of tej that was basically honey, water and wine. It was tasty... I'm sure it didn't taste ANYTHING like real tej, but it was sweet, refreshing and got the job done. I think I'm going to try and get some real tej sometime soon then just so I can try it.

Curtis came through around 7:30 and we quickly got started on the berbere. The berbere, along with the niter kibbeh, seemed to be the most important, quintessentially Ethiopian, elements of the meal. Berbere is a hot pepper baste (or dry powder) that is made from a TON of spices (cumin, cardamom, allspice, cloves, turmeric, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne, etc etc). Curtis and I had most of the spices on hand in ground form, but we decided to be authentic as possible and purchase the whole form of each spice, and toast and grind it into powder ourselves. The berbere was really easy to make.. we just toasted the spices until they became fragrant, ground them up in my coffee grinder, and then threw them in the blender with some onion, garlic, ginger, oil and water. So easy and so tasty! I can't really describe the taste of the berbere itself it was similar to Indian curry but sharper... not quite as muddled. Ours wasn't that hot, but i don't think I got the right kind of peppers for it. I have about a cup of berbere left over and I'm definitely going to keep it on hand. It would make a fabulous marinate for fish or chicken, or just an additive to stews for an extra kick of flavor. Yumm....

The actual dishes were probably the least excite portions of the meal to make. To prepare Tibs Wat (Beef stew) you cook up some pureed ginger, onion and garlic in hot niter kibbeh, add some paprika and berbere paste, red wine, beef stock, cayenne and beef chunks marinated in lemon and salt and let it cook for about 40 min. Nothing terribly exciting but this mess was hella tasty. I was very concerned because I tasted the mixture after the addition of the paprika and berbere and it was REALLY disgusting. If it weren't for Curtis calming me down I might have chucked it... it was that nasty, but obviously the addition of the wine, stock and beef created some sort of culinary magic because in the end it was fantastic... spicy, complex, creamy, and a tad bitter.

Curtis took the lead on preparing the veggie dishes but they also didn't seem that difficult to make. The atkilt wot was basically a bunch of cut up veggies (carrots, green beens, cabbage) and potato cut up, COVERED in niter kibbeh and baked until tender, buttery and delicious... and it was.. Seriously that niter kibbeh is no joke because those veggies were excellent. The taste was much milder than the tibs wot, but i liked it because it allowed you to really taste the complexities of the niter kibbeh. Also the flavor wasn't so overpowering that it couldn't be combined with other types of cuisine. I would totally make this as a side dish to go along with baked chicken and brown rice... I think a lot of people would enjoy their veggies prepared this way. Not particularly healthy (veggies doused in spiced butter) but definitely delicious.

Lastly Curtis made the Shiro Wot which was spicy green pea stew. As written the Shiro Wot was simply peas, onion, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper. The flavor was obviously really mild and not particularly Ethiopian... I think I dropped the ball on this recipe. I should have looked for a better one. I think niter kibbeh should have been subbed for the oil and there should have been some berbere in there. We ended up adding a few tablespoons of berbere at the end and it really kicked up the dish.

Lastly we tried our hand at injera... injera is a spongy, sour, crepe-like flat bread that is used as a utensil for eating the stews. Proper injera is made from teff (a cereal grain indigenous to Ethiopia) flour mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days. Because of the fermentation, injera is very sour. After fermentation the injera is baked into large flat pancakes. Soo... we decided on our Ethiopian theme late Wednesday and I didn't figure out how to make injera until Thursday so obviously the fermentation was out. Instead we decided to make this "quick injera" recipe that I saw online which was basically a batter made from whole wheat and white flour, baking powder, club soda and a little lemon joice. This was not injera. These were very bland pancakes. They definitely LOOKED like injera and were spongy like injera... but they tasted like very bland pancakes. Thankfully neither of us really like injera so we were pleased with our pancakes.

Overall I give the meal a solid A and the company an A+. Although we didn't actually eat until 11:00 we had a great time cooking and chatting and it was just really nice to be able to share an activity that I like so much with someone who enjoys it just as much as I do. By the end of the night i was EX.HAUSTED but the learning and company was totally worth the effort. Hopefully we can make this a monthly or bi-monthly activity. Here are a few shots of our finished products:
My Plate...

Curtis' Plate...

The table:

I think I'm going to use my leftover berbere to make some doro wat next weekend or later on this month and try to make a proper injera. If anyone interested in coming over for dinner just let me know. :-)


Monday, March 23, 2009

Oh My Damn....

OKAY Eric Benet... I see you... I watched this video at work... probably shouldn't have.... Whoo wee..... That's all I'm going to say...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

2 More Best Picture Movites- Platoon and Out of Africa

I watched 2 more movies on my "picture of the year list". I watched both of these last Saturday during my failed DIY kinky twist experiment... Even though I wasted 3-4 hours last weekend trying and failing to put in my twist extensions, the day wasn't a complete loss because i got to see 2 really good movies!

The first movie I watched was Platoon. I didn't think I would really like this movie, since I'm not that into war movies but it turned out to be a pretty decent flick. The movie centered around the lives of 13 soldiers and specifically 1 new soldier who had volunteered to go to Vietnam (he was a wealthy, white guy who dropped out of college) in an effort to personally recify the injustice of only the poor having to go to war (something the other "poor" soldiers thought was really idiotic). The movie kind of followed his change from a shared shitless newbie to a "real" soldier and showed his struggle to not let the atrocities that he saw committed in Vietnam turn him into a monster as well.

The movie was violent, but not in a gratuitous way, and had that late '70s, grimy, M.A.S.H type visual effect... like the movies i used to watch on Sunday afternoons on FOX growing up. Overall I really enjoyed the movie To me, the main theme of the movie seemed to be the struggle not to let Vietnam eat the soldiers alive... Stress, fatigue, disease, often leads soldiers to do things that they wouldn't normally do (rape, kill innocents, pillage villages) and it seemed like there was a real struggle within all of the characters around what Vietnam was making them become. There were 13 or so "supporting" characters and I really appreciated the fact that each of the 13 had their own personality with depth... it wasn't just like, "this is the evil guy ann this is the good guy..." they each had their own struggle, which Oliver Stone was able to get across quite skillfully despite the fact that no one had that many lines. Also it was also just kind of cool to see all of the young actors, Charlie Sheen, Johnny Depp, The guy from Scrubs, Willem Defou, Forrest Whitaker, the bad guy trying to take over Ice Cube's shop in Barbershop... Good times all around. I don't know if I'd watch the movie again, but i give it a solid B.

The second film I watched was Out of Africa. I was NOT excited about watching this... from the previews it seemed like it was going to be one of those beautiful, sweeping, but mind-numbingly boring pics... like the English Patient. Also the movie is about colonial Kenya and the main characters were all rich white people.... I was not excited about this movie. But it turned out to be REALLY great! The main character, played by Meryl Streep, was an "aging" (probably late 20's... but I guess that's old for a single woman in the early 1900s) single woman with family money who married her best friend, a poor Baron, in exchange for a title and had to relocate to Kenya to be with her new husband.

When she arrived at her new place it was made pretty clear to her that her marriage wasn't real and her new husband wasn't really going to be around much and of course at first she was put off by all the black faces she saw. She didn't trust anyone... she looked at all the natives like they were dirty and were going to steal her stuff...( needless to say I was getting annoyed at this point.) With no friends or family in the remote area where she lived, the Baroness decided to throw all of her energy into making sure her farm prospered and creating actual relationships with the people who worked on the farm and lived in the neighboring villages. During this time she met and fell in love with a man, played by Robert Redford, who seemed to be sort of a wandering/jack of all trades type... but with money. LOL He was sexy and funny and they had a true connection and fell in love.. aWWW but he was also a man and didn't want to be "controlled" by calling it a relationship or actually getting married.

Anywhoo I'm not going to recap the entire story, but all in all the Baroness grew to really care about her "native" neighbors and friends... not in an annoying, paternalistic type of way, but a real, honest affection for who they were and respect for their ways and culture. Through her relationship with Robert Redford's character (who was RIDICULOUSLY hot in this movie...) she discovered herself, her own self worth. SUCH a great movie! The end was heartbreaking... I was sitting in my apartment crying like a fool. I won't spoil it, but it's definitely worth checking out. I would watch it again in a heartbeat, so i give Out of Africa a solid A.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pasta in Almond Garlic Sauce (recipe #15)

I made a pretty tasty new dish last night- Penne pasta in Almond Garlic sauce. I came across this recipe last week on one of the blogs that I follow and it seemed pretty interesting. It's basically a pasta with a white sauce made of pureed almond, garlic, butter, Parmesan cheese, and lemon, mixed with frozen peas and topped with mint and basil. The idea of pureeing almonds into a pasta sauce was intruiging, and I had basically all the ingredients on hand (except for the mint and Parm) so I figured I'd give it a shot.

According to the recipe, this entire meal (including prep, etc) was only supposed to take 20 min and wonder of wonders, it actually did! This was a super easy meal. There was virtually no prep work. No onions or garlic to chop, no peas to de-shell... Pretty much the only prep type work you had to do was blanch the almonds... but then again you could buy almonds already blanched.

For those of you who aren't cookers, blanching is basically dipping a food into boiling water briefly. Vegetables (asparagus, snowpeas, etc) are often blanced to bring out their color and then placed in ice water. You can also blanch tomatoes to easily remove the skin... but I digress. I generally think of blanching as ONLY dipping the food into hot water, but apparently "blanching" an almond is dipping it into hot water and then removing the skin from each almond. I found this out by mistake... I don't think I've ever blanched almonds, so when they came out of the water and the skin was all bubbly I just figured that's what they were supposed to look like. I was about to throw the almonds in the blender when I saw that the skin was peeling off of a few of them and I realized "OOOOOH maybe I'm supposed to take this skin off so it's not all chunky and stuff in the sauce!" I'm smart :-p So I peeled all the almonds... which was kind of fun.. If you grasp them with your thumb and forefinger at the pointy end, the white inside will kind of shoot out of the skin like a little nut missle... This was great fun for me... because I'm a dork. It was great fun for Leroy as well because he got to eat a few wayward missles.

After I finished with the almonds I threw them in the blender with a little water and a couple cloves of garlic. Next you heat a little butter and olive oil in a pan and add the almond-garlic mixture. The garlic almond mixture will begin to thicken after a few minutes...
It will go from this ---- > To this --- >

After the mixture thickens you add a little bit of the water that you cooked the pasta in. The starchy water will help the mixture thicken. Then you throw in the cheese, peas and lemon juice and lastly you add the basil and mint. When I opened up the basil I had in my fridge I realized it had gone all funky, so I had to use dried basil instead of fresh. Other than that (and not using as much butter) I pretty much followed the recipe. This is what my version looked like!

Overall it was pretty darn good. It wasnt' particularly nutty... the almond taste was really mild. I LOVED the peas and mint combination. Apparently that is a very "spring" combo... according to my boss :-p And honestly even though I didn't necessarily know those 2 were like quintisential "spring" ingredients, when I tasted it, I thought "This tastes like spring..." As written I think I give the dish a solid B+. If I were to make it again, I would obviously use fresh basil. I would also think about using a sharper cheese? I'm not sure if straight Parmesan is sharper than Parmesan-Reggiano, or if there a sharper hard Italian cheese I could sub? I would also probably add far more lemon juice, and more garlic.

Anyway, my Penne with Almond Garlic sauce was QUITE tasty. Please let me know how it turns out if any of you make it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The food of the Garifuna... (new foods 9-10)

So this weekend my homegirl Tania invited me to a wonderful Garifuna cultural affair in the Bronx. Tania is Garifuna and she was born in Honduras. Just a little history on the Garifuna, the Garifuna are mixed race people who are descendants of Carib, Arawak and African peoples. The Garifuna generally live in Central America along the Caribbean Coast of Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua. I kind of thought that the Garifuna were like Black Hondurans.... I'm not sure that's 100% accurate, but the folks at the festival were definitely of African descent and the food was delicious and had definite African inspirations.

Given that it was Tania and I at this affair, obviously the first thing that we did was take a shot. Guifiti is a traditional Garifuna spirit made from rum infused with herbs, nuts and berries. Apparently alcohol was not allowed at this function because after we paid for our shots (actually a scary drunk man paid for them.... but that's another story) we were covertly handed 2 little cups and a half empty bottle of rum and had to pour the shots ourselves under the table while trying to disentangle ourselves (physically and socially) from the scary drunk guy... Anywhoo I have no idea what the rum was infused with, but it was strong and it was tasty. It had a bit of an anise taste to me... a little licorice-y. The guifiti went down fairly smooth, but I think I would like to mix it with something or at least have a chaser next time.

Machuca- The next thing we ate was this DELICIOUS coconut based seafood soup that you eat with a mash of green plantains called Machuca. We actually got to the Machuca right when they ran out, but Tania told her friend, who was making the food, that she wanted to introduce me to the Garifuna culture and I NEEDED to taste the Machuca so she scraped a bit more soup and plantain out for me. And I'm glad she did because it was tasty... coconutty, but not in a heavy way and had notes of cilantro and lime in it. There was only a bit of seafood in my portion, but the broth was nicely infused with seafood flavor. The plantain mash was actually pretty tasty. I'm not usually a fan of starchy mashes (fufu, etc), but the mash actually had a flavor of it's own...

Next on the list was also one of my favorites, Baleada. Baleada is popular street food in Honduras... it's basically a thick, homemade tortilla filled with refried beans and a slightly sweet cream. It sounds like it would be a bit odd, but it was really tasty. The cream tasted a bit like cream cheese or sour cream but it was a bit sweet. The refried beans were just refried beans, but together it worked. Yummm...

After the Baleada we got a couple cups of hot Atole. Atole is porridge like drink made with corn, coconut (or Carnation evaporated milk I was told... Do any people of African descent NOT love the Carnation?!?), hominy, and spices... i think i tasted nutmeg and maybe cinnamon. It was VERY sweet and heavy. I initially though that it was a soup because, despite the fact it was served in a cup, they gave us spoons, but apparently Atole is actually a drink. It was tasty, but it was so rich I could only have a couple spoonfulls.

Next on our gastronomic tour of Honduras we had some Tamales... They were very much like traditional Mexican tamales... chick wrapped in cornmeal and steamed in leaves. They were tasty, but not my fav.

Tania and I took a few sweets to go. One was a sweet called semitas that looks like a very large, puffy sugar cookie with a braided ring of dough surrounding it. The Semitas (I'm not sure if that's singular or plural :-/) were tasty... They pretty much tasted like sugar cookies... with some nutmeg. Blacks all over the diaspora love them some nutmeg... almost as much as they love the Carnation...

The last thing i tasted was the Garifuna Yucca Bread. It is pretty much what it sounds, like... "bread" made of mashed yucca. It was quite interesting... They cut it off of a big tray, and when I saw it on the tray, I kind of thought it was flan, or something similar... The inside of the bread had that kind of flan-like firm mush look. Upon tasting it, the texture was a little like flan, but much denser and chewier... i can't think of much to compare it with, but it kind of had the consistency of fufu... if you for some reason decided to chew your fufu. It was chewy, firm and kind of elastic. The texture was interesting, but definitely not unappealing. The bread tasted pretty good... it was very sweet and moist and tasted of.... you guessed it! Brown sugar and nutmeg... heh heh... yum..

All in all I really enjoyed my taste of Garifuna! I am going to count it as 2 new foods given the Machuca, Guifiti, Tamales and Semitas were not totally foreign to me. I think I am going to try and make machuca this month... it was really tasty. So look out for that :-p


Friday, March 13, 2009

Recipe #14- Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Peas

I tried one of the recipes from this month's issue of Clean Eating this past week. It was a take on risotto, but instead of using a short grain, sticky rice like Arborio, you use barley. I was intrigued when I first saw the recipe, not only because the picture was so beautiful, but also because I'm always looking to introduce grains in interesting ways into my cooking.

So why try the risotto with barley as opposed to just using the rice (What's wrong with Rice? Right Janet :-p) Well when compared to white rice, barley has almost half the calories (193 v. 242 calories per cup) and fewer grams of total carbs (53 v. 44), but I think the biggest difference between rice and barley is the fiber content. While white rice has a whopping 53 grams of carbs, it only has .6 grams of fiber. Barley, on the other hand, is lower in carbs, but MUCH higher in dietary fiber with 6 grams per serving! Barley even tops brown rice when it comes to calories, carbs and fiber. Anyway...we all need to up our fiber content, and barley risotto sounded WAY better than a glass of Metamucil...

The recipe was pretty simple. You basically saute up some shallots and scallions in olive oil, add the barley and some chicken broth. Let that cook. Add the cut up asparagus and peas, and then stir in fresh basil, parsley and lemon zest.

Overall I REALLY enjoyed my barley risotto! Initially I had planned on putting a little butter in it and maybe throwing in some white wine, but I figured I would try and make it a totally clean meal and see how it tasted. It was really good. Clean and simple, but very very tasty and that was just with the asparagus (I forgot the peas).

The thing I was most worried about was getting the creamy consistency that most risottos have. While it wasn't creamy like a typical risotto, it did have an element of creaminess to it.... I'm not really sure where the creaminess came from... maybe it was cooked in more or less liquid than normal, or maybe barley is supposed to a little creamy when cooked? Either way I was pleasantly surprised by the texture and the taste of the dish. The next time I make it I may try and up the creaminess quotient (without ruining the clean-ness of the meal) by roasting and pureeing some cauliflower to add to the broth... I'll probably also add a little coriander (which I like with asparagus), more lemon zest to brighten up the flavor, and I have to think of a different herb to add... I'm not really a fan of parsley.

Overall I give the dish a solid A

Monday, March 9, 2009

New Blog... come check it out!

Hey Y'all...

I started a new blog. It's just a subset of this blog. One of my goals was to blog 90% of the time. that comes out to over 900 blogs in the 1001 days. It's going to be nearly impossible for me to write 900+ blogs about my 101 goals, and there are lots of other random things I'd like to blog about, so I figured I'd just start a new one. :-)

The new blog is tentatively titled "Pondering Life on the A Train to Utica" I titled it that because most of my brilliance occurs during my 1.5 hour commute everyday. The blog is mainly going to be about things that I find interesting, confusing, beautiful, enlightening, etc.... music, relationships, food, life, hair... I will hopefully put up some poetry and other general creativeness that I'm usually too shy to show folks.

Anywhoo... check it out here and feel free to comment freely.

N :-)

Relationship Ponderings.... Marathon First Dates

I’ve been thinking a lot about marathon dates in the last couple of days. A friend of mine had a first date that lasted 3 days (Friday-Sunday) It was a long distance first date (ie the people lived in different cities), and the person coming from out of town was staying at my friend’s apartment and they were just going to spend the weekend together.

I personally was NOT a fan of this plan. Not to say that I haven’t had numerous marathon first dates, and I couldn't’t see the draw in it, but in my old (read: bitter and jaded) age I tend to lean towards the less is more style of first dates and suggested that maybe the date was scheduled on a weekend where the person was coming into town for something else (not JUST for the date) and they could meet up for a few hours on 1 or 2 days.

I feel like marathon first dates have the potential to go south, or even sabotage the entire potential relationship for a couple reasons:

1. One party may feel trapped and not comfortable enough to leave. I can think of one specific date that started out fairly early in the day with brunch, and then we were wandering around for a while and decided to catch a movie… good conversation, having a good time, etc… then the guy invited himself over to watch TV because a reality show that we both enjoyed was on…. I liked him and was having a good time, but honestly just wanted to go home and sit on my couch… but I didn’t really feel comfortable telling him he couldn't’t come watch it, when he knew that that’s what I was going to go home and do (I had mentioned it earlier in the date). I ended up getting really irritated with him, not only because I felt like he was crowding my space, but also just because he kept on making stupid comments during the reality show. LOL. Afterwards he wanted to sit and chat, and I finally just had to tell him that I wanted to go to bed and he needed to go. I don’t think he realized I was irritated (people who know me may question that :-p) but the experience left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and definitely didn’t leave me hungering for more of him… Other than with my case, I feel like this may be more of a danger for girls than it is for guys because, in my experience, a guy doesn’t really like it when girls are all up under them too soon… and guys, (again in my experience) don’t like unpleasantness and try to avoid it at all costs… So they may go along with the long *ss date, and seem totally into it, but in the back of their mind they’re thinking, “This is a needy *ss chick…” and may be put off and never call again.

2. Knowing too much too soon = loss of interest. This is another one that I suffer from… when I leave a date with you I want to be excited to see you again, and hungry for more information about you… I feel like a first date should kind of be like a teaser… you put on your best dress, make sure your conversation is on point, and give the person a glimpse into your life and make them want to get deeper with you…. A 9+ hour date provides WAYY to much time to get too deep too fast. It also provides a false sense of comfort/security. If you spend an entire day or more with a guy you may feel like, “I’m really comfortable with him. I feel really close to him,” and may be tempted to share things that you would usually hold off on sharing (family issues, thoughts about marriage, kids etc)… and then the dude (or girl) could be scared off.

3. Increased length of date = more time for the other person to annoy you, or vice versa. I feel like everyone has had this experience… you’re on a date… he’s looking good, you’re having a good time, joking, and then someone just says something real dumb that throws the whole vibe off. Sure… this can happen during a dinner date… But if this can happen during a 1 hour dinner, imagine the likelihood of someone saying something stupid during the course of a 3 day date. Granted, people are always going to say stupid stuff… but having 3 short dates where you come away feeling like this person is the most awesome guy/girl in the world will give a better buffer when he/she says something idiotic on the 4th date…. Versus you spend 8 hours with someone and they say 2-3 stupid things… you come away thinking “seems like a cool guy/girl, but they sure do have strange ideas on xyz”.

4. Increased likelihood of regrettable slutatiousness- Longer time together = greater opportunity you’ll end up at someone apartment/house = increased probability that you’ll get it poppin = increased possibility of post-sex weirdness = less likelihood that this relationship is gonna work out. If you add alcohol into the mix, the greater opportunity of ending up at someone place turns into an almost certainty and the likelihood that the other person is going to go away from the date thinking “This person is definitely marriage material” decreases to next to nothing. I think this is common sense, but I’m sure some people disagree and think great, long lasting relationships can be born out of first date sex…

Just my thoughts… Thoughts?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Plastic belts? Is that what's hot for spring?

First Lady Obama is sharing the cover of "O" magazine this month with O herself. She looks so cute! She's wearing a red dress with a bright yellow cardigan with the waist cinched with a clear plastic belt.

Are plastic belts what's hot for spring?!? they BET not be charging $100's of dollars for those damn belts... A plastic belt should be $20 tops..

I will be copying this look... I wonder who makes the dress?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors Please

Soo..... this is my second blog. This blog is a spin off of sorts on my 101 goals in 1001 days blog. I found myself blogging about a lot of random crap on that blog... and I really want to keep it more about my 101 goals and not just place a bunch of random crap up there. One of my 101 goals was to blog 90% of the time in the next 1001 days. I honestly don't think I'll be able to have 901 things to say about 101 goals... So I'm going to combine the count over these 2 blogs.

This blog is mainly going to be about things that I find interesting, confusing, beautiful, enlightning, etc.... music, relationships, food, life, hair... I will hopefully put up some poetry and other general creativeness that I'm usually too shy to show folks.

I'm still working on the title for the blog.... The address is because I realize that 90% of my brillant thoughts come to me on the train.... I commute an hour and a half a day and I think the A train has the MOST interesting cast of characters of any train in the city.... Always provocking thoughts in my brain... hence the title.

So that's this blog.... It's just going to be the recepticle for my mental diarrhea. Feel free to leave comments, complaints, etc.

Love y'all!

My new favorite magazine

Hey Y'all... I stumbled across this GREAT magazine and I wanted to share. I've been trying to clean up my diet a bit... halfway in preparation for the bikini/stiletto fest that will be occurring in Miami for my birthday, and partly in preparation for my 20% body fat challenge.

Usually when I try and get a little leaner I go back to the tried and true methods that I learned from my co-worker, Desiree, when I worked at a gym in New Haven, CT. Desiree was an aspiring body builder, (and super creative Sponge Bob Square Pants impersonator), and she was the QUEEN of clean eating, body builder style.... Which essentially meant eating 6-8 times a day and the meals generally consisted of lots of egg whites, oatmeal, brown rice, steamed veggies, grilled chicken, sweet potatoes, and cans of tuna on lettuce. That chick, and many other ridiculously ripped folks at the gym, ate like that EVERY DAY.

I was on the body builder style clean eating plan for a month or so and... that mess WORKS. It's no joke. If you're trying to drop weight quickly, that would honestly be the way to go. I stopped because honestly I was looking a little crackish... I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror one day and though; stop the maddness. It wasn't cute. I think it was around that time some members of my family started whispering about me possibly being anorexic.... Yes y'all... that diet is no joke. LOL

Anyway while I still incorporate a bunch of things I learned from that diet/lifestyle, that particular style of "clean" eating didn't really work for me. Firstly, I need variety and excitement in my food... While it really works for some people, the "food is fuel" viewpoint that a lot of body builders take is completely at odds with my personal "food is fun" viewpoint. Secondly, the diet makes you lose weight pretty quickly, and I'm not trying to really lose weight like that... and Thirdly, eating egg whites, tuna, and grilled chicken and veggies all the time REALLY made your farts stink... and I just wasn't down with that.... heh heh was that too much information?

Anyway... I was looking online last week trying to find some resources on "clean" eating to see if there were any new foods I could add or recipes that would spice things up if I decided to try eating that way for the next few months. That's when I came across Clean Eating Magazine! Although the magazine is from the same people that make Oxygen and Muscle Fitness ( I think), it really isn't about "clean eating" in terms of what fitness fanatics eat, but it's totally dedicated to eating foods in their most natural state... meaning minimally processed, seasonal, fresh foods. The magazine also talks about healthy lifestyle (mind and body) and has a TON of recipes that actually look like they would taste good (unlike the recipes in most fitness/muscle mags).

I LOVE this magazine! It completely speaks to how I try to eat generally (small amount of processed foods, cooking with seasonal ingredients, etc) and it uses a ton of grains and other ingredients that I wouldn't necessarily think about, or know how to use, but it doesn't do it in a crunchy granola, hippy-dippy kind of way. There is this really great looking white pearl barley and asparagus risotto that I want to try this month, and I think they have some recipes with Amarath as well. I'm so excited about this mag. It's a really great resource so far. You guys should check it out. Clean Eating Magazine

N :-)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Daily Wrap up- Wednesday March 4th

Just my little update for today.... not the best of days... woke up hella late, felt like crap, didn't drink enough water... didn't eat too badly except for the white bread, and didn't work out. Um... yeah.... Next.

Status Table:

Wake up time:

Ugh I set my alarm for 6:30 this morning.... I stumbled grogily out of bed at 7:45, my head was pounding and I felt like I had been beaten with wet rags.... I guess that's what I get for hitting snooze 10 times.


Ugh... I wasn't keeping track of this today.... But I know I drank more than none because I bought a gallon of water last night before bed.

3/4 of a banana
8 oz. oatmeal from Starbucks with brown sugar and fruit
3 little pieces of coconut candy from Vietnam
Bowl of white bean and chicken Chili with Lime
Chicken, goat cheese and sundried tomato sammich on White Baugette
Couple glasses of Cranberry wine


Money Spent:
$4.50 on Oatmeal and HORRIBLE, NASTY Skinny Vanilla Latte... bleh I can still taste it.

Shoulda gone to Chick Fil'a... (WTF News of the Day)

So apparently this chick, Latreasa Goodman, was REALLY upset that her neighborhood Micky D's was trying to scam her out of her paper with the old Chicken Nugget switcharoo.... She ordered a 10-piece at the drive- through window, paid for it and THEN was told that they were out of those sweet nuggets... to make matters worse, they would not refund her money. They tried to pawn a nasty McDouble on her... So homegirl took matters into her own hands and called 911, not once... not twice, but THREE times an an attempt to report the travesty that was occuring....According to Goodman, "This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn’t have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don’t want one," "This is an emergency."

I feel her... I rarely eat at McDonalds, but the only thing I've gotten there in YEARS is the chicken nuggets and maybe some fries... I mean the little McDonalds window person really tied her hands in this one....They should have givenLatressa her $6.48 back straight away. That drive through chick should consider herself lucky... you really shouldn't mess with people's food... People are very unpredictable when they're hangry... it's a good thing she called 9-1-1 and didn't just go in and shoot up the employees and ransack the place looking for chicken.... 'cause you know they had some in the back or in the basement somewhere, Little Pookie and them were probably just too lazy to go down there and get it.

Oh well, Latressa was charged with misuse of 9-1-1.... hopefully she has learned her lesson and will just hit up Chick Fil'a next time.

E.T.A. HAHAHA they posted a link to the actual 911 audio on HAHAHA at how earnest she is in....

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Daily Wrap Up- Tuesday March 3

Today went pretty well me thinks.... I almost got up on time... I actually sat up in my bed at 6:30, when the alarm went off, and thought about whether I wanted to get up.... usually I just roll over and smack my nightstand until the music/alarm goes off, or falls off the nightstand... At that point I generally fall back asleep with the music still playing ( a lot of times what's on the radio gets incorporated into my dreams... I've had some fascinating conversationss with Steve Harvey....).... and get up an hour or so later than I had planned. So... yeah, so despite the fact that I still didn't get up on time, I consider today a small victory because I THOUGHT about getting up on time! Yay!

I worked out (YAY), but I ate too much... was doing well until about 10:00 when I started snacking on avocado and wheat tortilla... I also had to douse and dump (ie pour water over and throw away) the rest of my salt water petite brownies... I was just eating WAY too many of them... All in all, not a horrible day, but I can still do better...

Status Table:

Wake up time:

Woke up at 6:40 (or 6:50... i don't remember). I hit the alarm once or twice, I was supposed to get up at 6:30.


About FOUR full glasses of water today!!! YAY!
8oz of Perfectly protein shake (post- work out)
1/2 cup Fage 2%, some honey and GoLean Crunch and a banana (breakfast)
7 mini eggs (snack)
Turkey, Munster and bacon open faced sammich and Small chicken ginger chili from Whole Foods(lunch)
Lil bit'o'Cherry Cobbler ($1.12 portion from Whole Foods... I don't think I've ever gotten ANYTHING from Whole Foods for less than $5, so that should give an indication of the amount of cobbler:-p) (lunch dessert)
1 glass cranberry wine
Bootleg Salmon wrap - Salmon, wheat wrap, lettuce, goddess dressing
5 sea salt petite brownies (dessert.... The remainder of the brownies were doused in water and thrown in the trash)
Wheat tortilla
some avocado
Swig of Bolthouse Farms

Jillian Michael's 30 day crunch level 2
Arms: Push ups, arm curls, tricep kicks, overhead triceps
Shoulders: Shoulder set (military press, boob squeeze, front lift), Shoulder Fly

Money Spent:
$10.22- Expensive, yet quite tasty, lunch from Whole Foods

Monday, March 2, 2009

Daily Wrap up- Monday March 2

It's really funny how much of a motivation it is for me to see little stickers, in a goofy excel table. Numerous times today I was sitting at my desk thinking, "Yo I HAVE to do my dishes tonight or there's going to be NOTHING in today's box!" now granted.... I didn't do shit when I got home other than take out my braids, but it is definintely a motivation to know that everyone (meaning the 3 people that may check this blog) will know how crappy you ate today, or that your sink is filled with crusty dishes and your floor is covered with dirty clothing. While it didn't necessarily work today, I do have a good feeling about this little status update thingie... I forsee strong work this month.... strong work indeed.
Status Table: (heh heh... I really need to figure out how to make this table look better ;-p)

Wake up time:
7:45 Grrrr totally forgot to set my alarm... fell asleep last night with all the lights on and all my clothes on.. :-(

Water: Hmmm no water as of 3:07.... I need to remedy that
-Ok... now it's 5:20pm and still no water... I did drink a cup of honeybush tea with no sugar... I think that counts, no?
-11:45pm- Just took a swig out of the water bottle in my fridge.... This only the 3rd drink of liquid I've had today; coffee, tea and swig'o'water.... I really need to find a way to drink more water. I hate drinking with meals, but maybe I'll force myself to drink at least 8 oz of water with lunch and dinner?

1/2 cup Fage 2%, some honey and GoLean Crunch, and cup of coffee with sugar and half and half (breakfast)
Spinach and Salmon Wrap-salmon, tortilla, spinach, mushrooms, Goddess dressing (lunch)
Apple and 7 mini eggs (Snack-yummmmmmmmmm)
6 Raw almonds (Snack)
Big bowl of White bean Chili and Brown rice (dinner)
3 sea salt petites (dessert)
A few mini sweet peppers (random snacky)

No workout today. I didn't set my alarm, so I didn't wake up on time, and I had to take my braids out, so I couldn't do it when I got home... tomorrow morning.. it's on

Money Spent:
$1.90 Coffee
$25.00 Muscle Milk Powder at GNC
$1.07 Little Mini egg packet
$5.00 Hair pins and Black soap at Beauty Supply Store

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Daily Wrap Up- Sunday March 1

Wake up time: 10:45am

Water: Unknown but more than none :-p

Leftover Garlic Kale from dinner (Breakfast)
Fage 2%, kashi go lean, honey (Pre-workout)
8 oz of Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Perfectly Protein (Post-workout)
Little sample of Trader Joe's Barley Soup (yummy!)
Little sample of Brown Stewed chicken from my landlord (I'm trying to learn how to make proper stewed chicken)
2 glasses of Tempranillo
2 bowls of white bean chili with brown rice
5 sea salt brownie bites

Legs: Basic Squats, Step ups, Split Squats, Jumping Lunges, Dead lifts, dumbbell squat, calf lifts
Back: Back row, Back fly, Back press
Abs: Double crunches, scissors/lower leg lifts, Bicycle

Money Spent:
$7.00 on a Metrocard (my daggone Transit check expired! Grrrr!)
$1.50- water at the gym
$10.00 - 2 magazines
$19.00- Produce at produce stand
$37.00- Grocery at Trader Joes

Good day overall... I ate too much chili, but other than that I'm ok with what I ate today. There were a ton of cute guys at the gym tonight.... Is it tacky to meet guys at the gym? I'm guessing if I have to ask, it probably is.... not that any of them were checking for me anyway, and I was wearing tight ass black pants and doing dead lifts. Oh well... there was this cute dude there with glasses... he had the unfortunate Superhro physique (Big ass upper body and little teeny legs), but he had glasses on and just seemed cute in the geeky "I wear glasses to the gym" kind of way... tee hee... cute.

I am planning on doing upper body and abs at home tomorrow morning. We're supposed to be getting like 27 feet of snow tonight and I don't want to trek to the gym in the morn.

Nighty night! :-)

In like a Lion and out like a f(cking monster!

So I think I need to kick this goal thing into higher gear and star to actually complete the goals that I say I'm going to start each month and blog on them more routinely. I think one of the issues that I've been having is that I set my sights WAY too high at the beginning of the month... I'm a pretty results oriented person. When I can actually see the results of my work, I am WAY more likely to actually get it done... so this month I'm going to do things a little bit differently. I'm going to focus on actually completing one or 2 goals, and I'm going to do some preparation work for other goals.

Goals I’m going to continue/stick on track with this month
4.) Acquire 2+ new songs (The last few months of failure on this will hopefully have prepared me for success this month.... :-/)
10.) Make 2 new recipes
13.) Try 2 new foods/types of cuisine
20.) Watch 2 movies that have won Best Picture since I’ve been alive.
Read 1 non-fiction book (a new book or one on my shelf)

Here are some things I’d like to start to track in the next month or do the preparation for the actual goal

- Wake up at the same time every weekday: I wake up at different times every day depending on what time I want to be at work or whether I'm working out that morning. I think it would really help me with my timeliness if I had a routine wake up time every morning. In order to take care of my morning dog routine, go to the gym and get to work on time I have to wake up at 6:00am. If I can get an actual set routine for my gym days I should be able to wake up at 1 time for gym days and another time for non-gym days, but until I get my gym schedule set in stone I'm going to shoot for a 6:00 wake up time.

-Find a multivitamin that I’ll be able to swallow
-Record the amount of water I drink each day.
-Record everything I eat. I think I eat pretty well, but I'm trying to clean up my eating habits a bit in preparation for summer and Miami to a smaller extent. I think writing down what I eat everyday and posting it for everyone to see will keep me honest :-p

-Record when I go to the gym and what I do.
-Record all the money I spend for an entire month
-Record the number of days that I go to bed with no dishes in the sink and all clothing hung up.

At the end of each day I am going to write a daily update which will include the time I woke up, whether I worked out, what I ate and drank and the amount of money I spend each day.

I respond REALLY well to tables so at the end of every day I’m going to update my little status table with cute little icons and what not.... I often have tables like this in my apartment... with little stickers or symbols on them... I'm such a kindergartner :-p

Wish me luck

February Wrap up...

February was an “ok” month in terms of my goals. I achieved 1 goal- goal #85- follow a face regimen every day for a month. The skincare goal went REALLY well! I followed the skincare plan that I described in 2 other blogs. I feel like my pores are getting smaller, my skin is getting softer and smoother and the chemical peel might actually help minimize the dark marks. Most importantly I think the skincare goal actually achieved the purpose that I hoped ALL the goals would achieve; taking things that I know I should do for myself and make them a routine part of my life. I really enjoyed the process. It wasn’t difficult and taking the time to go through all 3 steps every morning and night really reinforced the idea that I am worth the time and effort to do stuff like this. May sound corny, but it was really great for me….

So here are the goals that actually had some movement in February (started, continued or failed :-p)
4.) Acquire >2 songs per month for 6 months (2/6)- FAILED! Looks like I’m starting over again. For some reason this is hard… I think I need to make it a point to get out more to listen to music (live or not). I don’t even hear 2 songs per month that I would be interested in having… I know good music is out there… I need to make more of an effort to get to it.

10.) Make 100 new recipes (13/100) Made 3 new recipes this month: a GREAT chicken Tortilla Soup, a kind of nasty White wine, Kale and Pork soup, and my remake of the Shrimp Provencal.

13.) Try 50 foods or types of cuisine I haven't tried (8/50) I tried 3 new things this month; oysters, bone marrow and pigeon. I found the oysters to be… interesting, the bone marrow was kind of booger-y and not that exciting and the pigeon was pretty tasty.

34.) Blog on my 101 90% of the days (40/901) 10 times in February… that’s about 36% of the time.

55.) Go to the gym 500 times (0/400) February was actually a pretty good month in terms of working out. I'm getting back into the swing of routinely hitting the gym... but unfortunately I didn't mark down the number of times I went. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to hit the 400 mark, but starting in March I'm going to actually start documenting when I work out.

Here are the goals that I had planned to start/continue in February…. But didn’t... :-(
20.) Watch all the movies that have won Best Picture since I’ve been alive. (1/25)
31.) Read 6 non-fiction books (0/6)
39.) Be on time or early for everything for a month (0/30)
50.) Drink 1.5 liters of water per day for 2 months (0/60)
56.) Complete 50 military push-ups
35.) Go to bed with all clothing hung and no clothing on bed, floor, etc for 45 days (0/45)
87.) Leave no dishes in the sink overnight for 1 month (0/30)
88.) Make bed every day for 1 month (0/30)

Building on what I learned from my skincare goal (I do better when I can physically see the results of my work) I’m going to try something a little different for March…. More to come soon.