Sunday Dinner

Roasted garlic hummus appetizer

Appetizer: Roasted garlic hummus, crudites

Um, you've got a lemon up your hiney
Roast Lemon Chicken

Main course: roasted lemon chicken

Brociflower, saffron rice


Saffron rice

and saffron rice

Man catcher brownies

Dessert: Man catcher brownies

Man catcher brownies

Although they are currently being eaten as an appetizer. And I just had to describe why I was taking photos of the food. Yep, I’m a freak. I love cooking and taking photos of the food (food porn) almost as much as I enjoy eating. Speaking of…


Jars of Renewal: Project 2

Jars of Renewal Tag

So, you are going celebrating a three-day fabulous summer weekend with a BBQ. May I make a suggestion? Take an hour while the meat is marinating, the beer is cooling and the cake is in the oven to make homemade BBQ sauce. This is a family recipe that I can promise BBQ lovers will not soon forget.

Jars of Renewal: Project 2

My grandfather Trevor has been perfecting his BBQ sauce recipe for years, including many spent in Louisiana where he learned to master gumbo, crepes and a variety of other delicious plates we’ve come to expect at our truly eclectic family table. Plus, it freezes well and is another great way to use up some of those jars you’ve got hanging around — you know, the dusty ones in the back of the pantry.
Double the recipe and you’ll have two great Fall gifts ready to go. Just be sure to leave yourself a couple inches at the top of the jar before you stick it in the freezer. If you decide not to freeze your batch, the sauce will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

Jars of Renewal: Project 2

Pap’s BBQ Sauce

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 green bell pepper
1 large celery stalk
1/4 white onion
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1/2 can of tomato juice
Cayenne pepper to taste

Jars of Renewal: Project 2
Jars of Renewal: Project 2
Jars of Renewal: Project 2

Using a three-sided grater, or your food processor, finely grate the bell pepper, celery and onion. Put the oil in heavy pot on medium-high heat. Add the grated vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add sugar, vinegar, sauce and juice. Let simmer for 15 minutes and add cayenne and garlic powder. Taste and see if you want to kick it up with a bit more of each spice.
Let simmer for 40 minutes. If the sauce isn’t the thickness you desire, add 1/4 cup of corn starch to a cup of cold water and mix thoroughly before adding to sauce pot. Bring to a boil, stirring carefully. Take off heat.

Adding a dash of liquid smoke is great too!

Jars of Renewal: Project 2


P.S. Big thanks to Miss Colleen for yet another kind, thoughtful and creative logo! Please feel free to download it here and use it for your own Jar of Renewal projects.

In Spirit

Frida Kahlo

What inspires you? Is it a color? A scent? Scene, food, person, artist, material? Depending on my mood, I am often inspired, or in spirit, thanks to a combination of these.
This week, it’s been the weather, for one. Evening storms have been bombing the Valley floor, snapping tree branches, blowing over power lines, lighting the night sky with an electric show Pink Floyd would stop to admire. Olive and I have spent a fair amount of time cruising around Tempe during the heat of the day this week too. Leaving the iPod behind, I’ve enjoyed listening to the birds, feeling the wind on my face and this morning, watching a young school boy vivaciously play his oboe down the sidewalk on his way to school. Once he noticed my admiration, he stepped it up and it took everything I had not to laugh and cheer him along. By the way he cradled his baby, I could tell that instrument meant the world to him. I won’t soon forget this morning’s show.

Ms. Frida is another inspiration. It isn’t her beauty or art but her story that really grabs me. I can’t adequately explain the connection; Dale Chihuly’s glass exhibits give me the same overjoyed feeling. I am jolted when in the presence of their work, pushed to be creative, to find my voice, color and medium.

Frida as a girl

This long weekend, I’m reconnecting with spirit. A few years ago I created a vision board with images of my future. It was on the back of my bedroom door until the edges started to wear. I took a look at it this week and was pleasantly startled by how many of the visions have come to pass. Instead of creating another board, I’m going to transform a notebook into vision journal and spend some time thinking of new dreams, nakazora, sisu.
Have you heard of this Buddhist term nakazora? “The space between sky and earth, the place where birds, etc. fly. Empty air. Mid-air. An internal hollow. Vague. Hollow. Around the center of the sky. Or, emptiness. A state when the feet do not touch the ground. Inattentiveness. The inability to decide between two things. Midway. The center of the sky (the zenith).”

I’ve got 223 pages of Novel #1 to read and spell check, house guests to feed and entertain, a desert to hike and photograph, and two books of the Bible to brush up on before church Sunday. Spending some time between sky and earth. Yes, that sounds lovely too.


Gender Bias

I’ve got two house guests arriving tomorrow who will be staying with me for a bit. The father & son pair arrive from central Africa and Australia (respectively) within a few hours of each other. I don’t know them well, but I do know they are guys and they’ll be fresh off several long flights, arriving in Phoenix when she isn’t at her prettiest. Let’s be honest, we’re one step from hell at this point in the summer. The saguaro have their arms out in surrender as if begging the sky for a break all ready.

In preparation for the visit, I put together a simple meal that I hope they’ll love. In a completely stereotypical move, I went with foods I think men universally must love:

Boys coming to dinner: battle of the tastebud sexes

Crockpot pulled beef, which we’ll throw on buns with either salsa or a bit of BBQ sauce.

Boys coming to dinner: battle of the tastebud sexes

Stacked potatoes, with sour cream, butter, salt and pepper.

Boys coming to dinner: battle of the tastebud sexes


Boys coming to dinner: battle of the tastebud sexes

And oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

In the meantime, I’ll be feasting on girl food:

Boys coming to dinner: battle of the tastebud sexes
Boys coming to dinner: battle of the tastebud sexes
Why I need a bigger home

And hoping the cookies distract the guests from noticing my lack of beds for everyone. If nothing else, at least the couch-bound guest will go to bed with a happy belly. (Note to self: time to buy a house.)


Gossip Gumbo

I’ve got about a dozen posts running around upstairs. To wrap up a few loose ends from the last couple of weeks:

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Timely and fantastic health care-package from Ms. Colleen.

~My meeting with the nutritionist was fantastic. She is accepting new clients and if you want her contact info, shoot me an email. Basically we just spent an hour talking about food and my eating habits. She recommended a series of books, including: Intuitive Eating, Appetites, Mindless Eating, Moving Away from Diets and What is Normal Eating. Again, I did not meet with her because I think I need to lose dramatic amounts of weight or have an eating disorder. I have a few silly habits I’m trying to change. I plan on reading a couple of these, meeting with her again, and going forward a healthier woman.

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Shwag bag of Vancouver Olympic goodies from Rachael. LOVE these. I am such an Olympaholic. I miss the summer games already.

~ TDH is NOT the African house guest I am expecting this weekend. Holy moly, no. He is actually starting Stanford medical school this week and while I think he does look a bit like a bald Michael Phelps, he is not on the romance radar. I am rooting for him in this latest amazing academic adventure. The guests are coming from Malawi. I stayed with them on the tea estate; they have some business in Phoenix. I hope to return the hospitality favor, although I’m certain it can’t compare.

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Wine cork trivet from Diane — love the reduce, reuse, repour factor.

~ I finished editing my novel this week, again. I’m sending it off after one final read to the man I hope will be my literary agent. If he doesn’t want to represent me, it is back to the drawing board. I am very excited to move on to a new cast of characters for novel dos. If you have any contacts in publishing, or know of an author who has successfully navigated these waters, I’d love the help. A mentor in publishing would be a wish come true. In the meantime, I think I am going to celebrate with a great bottle of Malbec this weekend.

~ My new job involves refugees. I am planning a series of posts discussing refugees in America. What is a refugee? What is an evacuee? Immigrant? Illegal immigrant? Where do refugees come from? Many public health + refugee living posts to come.

~ Podcasts I am currently loving:
The Splendid Table, This American Life, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Joel Osteen, Speaking of Faith

~ Do you have your jars for the next Jars for Renewal project yet? I’m telling you — this one is finger licking good. Another cherished family recipe I can’t wait to share.

~Did you know Finny is having a big, milestone birthday this week? Go send her some love.


Perfect Ride

Call me a sucker, but lookie what I just bought:

Olive Oil -- the greenest, sweetest ride in town

May I present, Ms. Olive Oil. Aptly named because she is a mean, green, healthy machine. We’ll just call her Olive for short.
Holy guacamole! Isn’t she lovely? Granted, she’s not a Townie and I’m no longer an Electra wannabe. Alas, I rode the Townie and the fit wasn’t right for my height. For $500, you better get a darn perfect ride. I was about to leave REI empty handed — with my Blackberry ringing off the hook with comments reading, “Buy it!” and me laughing, thinking, “I’m trying!” when the cycling stars aligned.

Bikes are freedom -- agreed
Sweet fenders
Lights that are powered by my chevrolegs
Ride me
Built in back rack

With complete resolve I wasn’t going to make a foolish purchase, I was headed out the door when out of no where, my Kryptonite entered the picture. A beautiful man appeared, chatted with me about bikes, triathlons and if I’d considered a commuter bike instead? He had gorgeous eyes and I became exceptionally self-conscious all of a sudden that I was standing there in yoga pants and a sweaty t-shirt. Didn’t seem to matter though. The Novarta was really nice. Had I ridden it? Would I like to?
Yes please.
Nearly two hours and a lot of eye lash batting later, Ms. Olive Oil and I were riding home. Oy vey I should have looked at the price tag. Thank goodness he wasn’t selling cars. I’d be driving home in something I really couldn’t afford. Regardless, I’m thrilled with the purchase. She’s perfect for what I need. I’ll be giving her a fair shot tomorrow for the first time — riding to the gym, to work, to a few appointments and then to a dinner date with friends. I’m bound to be sweaty (it’s still August in Phoenix) but most happy hippies are. It’s a title I’m loving more and more these days.
Thanks for your encouragement!


Just Call Me Carmen

I’ve been dreaming of buying a new bike. I gave Esme away because the fit wasn’t right and after spending weeks of my life on Ruby, I wasn’t willing to ride with a cramped bike. Riding Ruby to work isn’t practical for a dozen reasons, namely clipping in, leaving her downstairs in the bike rack and having to ride her on the street. Sweet Moses, you wouldn’t believe how many people I know who have been hit by cars lately, including one man in front of my running group this week. A car pulled right in front of him and we watched him hit the pavement. Phoenix must be the worst city for cyclists.

Electra Townie -- new love

So, I haven’t been wishing for just any bike, but a dreamy, pretty, comfortable, stylish ride. Isn’t she glorious? I could ride her on the sidewalk when there isn’t a bike lane and wouldn’t worry as much about losing this investment vs. her older, much more demanding high maintenance sister. She’s also one pricey mama. At $500 after taxes, the basket and lock, it is the equivalent of 12.5 weeks not filling up my car with gas. The inherent frugal monster in me is screaming, “Are you crazy? Go to Target and get yourself a $100 beach cruiser and suck it up.” The realist in me is standing in the corner coolly whispering, “If you don’t love this bike, you aren’t going to ride it. So why bother with some cheap Target bike?” The environmentalist is hugging a tree chanting, “DO IT. You drive less than 15 miles a day. A bike would be a great way to make your carbon emission zero. And the weather is only going to get cooler. Do it!”

What to do. What to do?

Liposuction is My Friend

Wedding apron
Stationery for a new bride
Isaac Misrahi napkin turned easy peasy apron
Handmade wedding gift: initial stationery
Pink love: wedding gift wrapped and ready

A simple cloth napkin turned apron with some stamped initial cards for a new bride. What bride doesn’t want to use her new name? Mrs. Bradley J. Boner, that’s who. I went to college with BJ Boner and I hear through the grapevine he is happily married these days to an awesome girl. But seriously? That’s a crazy married name. Needless to say, this girl got a simple new last name after walking down the aisle. I’m thinking this one will love the paper and domestic love.

These photos don’t have a thing to do with the post. They were floating about on my laptop and I’m too tired to find something more relevant. Today I had to have a tiny lump removed from my side. It had been growing for about 6 months and had recently turned purple and tender. My dermatologist took one look at it pre-Africa trip and her eyes grew wide. She wanted to cut it off immediately. Needless to say, I had other things to accomplish and just got around to getting it removed today.
A couple of shots, a little cut, removal of a gross marble-sized “fatty tumor” and a stitch later I was on my way home. Thankfully, I had a great friend there to hold my hand. I could have driven myself, but am thankful I didn’t have to. Have I mentioned this week how blessed I am by good friends? I would be lost without my circle of girlfriends and this is yet another ode to them. (Could be the anesthesia, but I am feeling more sentimental than usual.) Rebs not only took the afternoon off to transport me, but talked about pop gossip during the procedure to keep my mind off of the scalpel and the such and then took me out for frozen yogurt afterward. Simply put — true friendship. And to keep me humble, she did let me know that my mini-lipo procedure similar to what liposuction Orange County surgeons offer, would be the source of humor after the stitch came out. We laughed so hard at my new form of weight loss, I was crying in the car.
Some girls do pilates. I do fatty tumors.


Jars of Renewal — Limoncello

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The first jars of renewal project requires a bit of time to prepare — hence its place in the lineup. The December 2007 issue of Sunset magazine featured a myriad of ideas on what to do with all those lemons us living in the southwestern US would soon be seeing. Sure enough, John’s tree was brimming. With a rosemary limoncello recipe in hand, I harvested dozens of lemons. I had to laugh out loud when later in the year he mentioned he thought the tree was sick because it didn’t produce as much fruit this year. I reassured him that in fact it produced more than ever. I was, um, just using them.
Hey! He’s a bachelor. It’s not like he was sort for a lemon meringue pie. Plus, I’m thinking he’d love what I turned those golden babies into.

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Rosemary Limoncello
“Italy’s Amalfi Coast and adjoining Sorrento Peninsula are the regions most famous for this intensely lemony liqueur, traditionally served ice cold as an after-dinner drink.”

Prep and cook time: About 1 1/2 hours, plus at least 2 weeks and up to 80 days of infusing time.
Makes: 10 2/3 cups (ten 8.5 ounce bottles)

Notes: Either Meyer or Eureka lemons work in this recipe. To speed up the process, shorten the infusing time in steps 2 and 4 to 1 week each, and you’ll have a fine although less intense liqueur. Limoncello keeps indefinitely in the freezer.

18 lemons, washed and dried
One 4-inch rosemary sprig, washed and dried
2 bottles (750 ml each) 100-proof vodka
4 1/2 cups of sugar

Peel lemons with a sharp vegetable peeler, taking only the zest and avoiding any white pith. Put rosemary in a 1 gal glass or ceramic container with a tight seal. Add zest to jar. Pour 750 ml of vodka over rosemary and zest. Seal container. Let sit undisturbed in a cool, dark place for 40 days. (This is a great time to go to Africa, for example.) In a saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add sugar. Cook, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Leg sugar syrup cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Pour syrup and remaining 750 ml of vodka over lemon-vodka mixture. Stir and seal. Let sit in a cool, dark place for another 40 days.
Pour limoncello through cheesecloth into a large spouted pitcher and divide among gift bottles.

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That’s Sunset’s way. My way includes using what you have — two sprigs of rosemary, a giant tupperware container for the mixing and leaving the lemons in the bottles at the end because I think they are pretty and add character. Oh, and I tried peeling them and it was a disaster including skinned knuckles. So the rind stayed on most of these suckers.

To fill and then jazz up the bottles, you’ll need a couple supplies:
Several wide-mouth jars with tight lids, tongs, a funnel, a ladle, fabric, cards, ribbon, pinking shears and rubber bands.

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Voila — fancied up moonshine ready to go in recycled jars. If lemons aren’t in your pantry at the moment, I’m thinking this would also be great with oranges or even Mexican-style with limes. Spicy! If you try it out, let me know. I’d love to hear how you play with the recipe.

Official jar count: 7



Arroz con pollo
Arroz con pollo
Arroz con pollo

I’m working all weekend at a leadership retreat and spent much of the last week preparing for this event. With a dozen other young leaders from Tempe, we’ll spend the next two days focused on how to best work together to improve the well-being of Arizona’s refugee community. And of course, we’ll eat. My mom’s arroz con pollo recipe beat out the week’s plan of cooking ginger-stuffed chicken breasts. I did, however, bake the vegan chocolate cake as planned. I’d show you a photograph, but then you’d see the missing corner. Not sure where that corner went but I’m thinking it may be in my belly.

The icing on the cake of this weekend, so to speak, is my dad will be here for dinner on Sunday. It has been so long since I’ve seen my papi and I cannot wait to sit down for dinner with him and catch up. Yay!


* Recipe:
Karel’s Arroz con Pollo:

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken, skinned
1/2 cup drained Italian canned tomatoes
3 ounces uncooked long grain rice
1/3 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro
2 chicken bullion cubes
2 cups of water
1/4 tablespoon oregano
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup of chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 tablespoon salt

Combine vinegar, garlic, oregano and pepper in a small measuring cup. Brush mixture over chicken and place in a sealed container in the fridge for at least one hour. Over night is even better.

In a 3 quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat, add chicken and cook turning occasionally until brown (6-8 minutes). Remove chicken and set aside on a place. To same pan, add tomatoes, onion and bell pepper. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until onions are softened (5-7 minutes). Add water, rice, olives, capers, cilantro, broth mixture, salt and 1/4 tablespoon of pepper. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and return chicken to pan. Cover and let simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender (25-30 minutes). Makes 2 services, or if you use 1 cup of rice, 4 servings.)