Monthly Archives: January 2011

Memories From July… Because I Need To Think About Warmth

A Codeine-Induced Slumber or A Lack Of Sleep?

After waking up at 11 am from a codeine induced slumber, I stumbled down the stairs with Bailey walking in between my legs and Peaches already sprawled out in the middle of the hallway downstairs.  I still sound like sh** from all the congestion but can’t seem to shake this sinus thing.

Ah!  Hairball.  That’s nice.  I’m so happy to be cleaning up after the cats as soon as I staggered downstairs.

Ah!  Dirty dishes in the sink.  That’s nice.  I’m so happy to be cleaning up after my husband as well.

I fed the cats and checked the outside temp.  Wow!  Way too hot again.  Looks like I’ll be staying in all day again today. I hope my AC cools off the house – yesterday it didn’t do such a hot job.  I made coffee though I think that’s it’s too hot, but I don’t want a caffeine withdrawal headache.  I flipped on “The View” – why do I torture myself?  I hate that loud-mouthed loser Joy Behar.

Damn!  It’s already noon.  Peaches!  Stop eating the flowers! I guess she found the bouquet.  I’m so sleepy.  Wait a minute!  Why?  Was it the codeine infused cough syrup or….?  Dammit!  I just remembered what happened last night.

It was around a quarter to one in the morning and I was just dozing off hoping for some cough free shut-eye.  I heard John come in.  It took him a few minutes to come upstairs and start his nightly routine.  All of a sudden I heard him screaming, “Bailey!” and then the banging and bitching started.  Evidently the cat couldn’t make it to his litter box downstairs and deposited a small amount of diarrhea in the bathroom sink.  Better the sink than the floor.

I got up (now fully awake) and started cleaning up the mess.  It took me 2 minutes to clean and disinfect the soiled area.  Wow.  Big deal.  Now I was awake, the cats were scared and HE was still complaining.  I tried to unsuccessfully resume my sleep.  No luck.  I went downstairs and swallowed another teaspoon of cough medicine and hoped for a miracle.  Did I mention that I was coughing now from all the commotion?

I headed upstairs into my room and crawled in bed.  Peaches was already snuggled up waiting for me to spoon with her.  I laid down, coughed, took a throat lozenge and coughed some more.  Two ‘o clock rolled around.  Then 3:45.  I must have conked out by 4 am.  I had to wake him up at 5:30 – so much for a good night’s sleep.  I rang the intercom as a wake-up-call, snoozed the alarm and waited to see if he got up.  Seven minutes later I rang again, greeted by a screaming “WHAT?”.  So nice.

By the time I actually stirred (shockingly the cats didn’t bug me) it was after 11 am.  Did the codeine give me an opposite reaction or did the late-night chaos impede my snooze?  I may never know until the repeat performance tonight.  Hopefully the cat won’t sh** in the sink.  Maybe I will.  Just kidding.

Image: Filomena Scalise /

© 2010 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010.


Coca Cola Pot Roast… Yum!

Growing up, my mom was a great cook.  She was creative, inventive and cooked every day.  My only BEEF with my mom’s cooking was the way she cooked cow – pun intended.

Steak, london broil and roast beef were all overcooked beyond recognition.  No pink allowed.  When Mom made pot roast, she bought the leanest, most-expensive cut of meat (for pot roast that is) without a lot of fat or marbling, so when it cooked it turned into something resembling rubber.

Since those days, becoming a fabulous cook myself, I have learned a thing or two about cooking beef.

On Wednesday I bought  2 chuck roasts from Costco intending to make a pot roast or a Boeuf Bourguignon but totally forgot about buying mushrooms or carrots or celery for that matter.  So in a frantic Internet search I came across a recipe for Cola-Braised Pot Roast courtesy of Emeril Lagasse.

Cola-Braised Pot Roast

  • 4 1/2 pound boneless chuck roast – I think mine was a little smaller maybe 3 lbs
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves – I used dried
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil – I used olive oil
  • 2 cups beef stock or low-sodium canned beef broth
  • 12 ounces cola soda – I used COKE
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Season the roast well on all sides with 2 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper. On a cutting board combine the remaining salt, minced garlic and rosemary and, using the side of a knife, mash against the board repeatedly to form a paste. Using a small paring knife, make thin slits into the roast on all sides, about 2 inches apart, and fill the holes with the garlic-rosemary paste. Repeat until you have used all of the paste.

Heat a Dutch oven over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the roast and cook until very well browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the beef stock and cola and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any browned bits. Add the tomato paste and stir to blend. The liquid should be about 1/2 way up the sides of the roast. Cover the Dutch oven, place in oven, and roast until the meat is fork-tender, about 3 1/2 hours (I cooked it for 2 1/2 – 3 hours because my roast was smaller), turning the meat every hour and adding extra water if necessary to keep the liquid level at about 1/3 up the sides of the roast.

When the meat is fork-tender, remove the roast from the oven and carefully transfer the roast to a serving platter. Cover loosely to keep warm.

Skim off as much of the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid as possible. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the fat in a small bowl and add the flour. Stir to make a smooth paste. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cooking liquid to the bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk this mixture into the hot cooking liquid that remains in the Dutch oven and place over high heat on the stove top. Cook, whisking frequently, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and any floury taste is gone. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Serve the roast with the hot gravy.

Serves 6.

This recipe was delicious!  The meat was like butter and the gravy was tasty.  My only complaint is that, like the reviews, I found it to be a little salty – so maybe I’d use less next time.

This is a great go-to pot roast dish.  It’s simple, flavorful and doesn’t require a ton of ingredients.  Give it a try.  I did and I loved it!

© 2010 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010.



rouge blanc poupre vert


rose rouge blanc vert

magenta jaune blanc vert



bleu pêche blanc vert

I love color.   I finally got rid of my stark white walls and replaced them with green, purple and chartreuse.

Color is your friend.  There is so much inspiration in nature.

Try it out at home.  Try it out in your wardrobe.


If you don’t like your walls, you could always re-paint them.

© 2011  J. H-M and CultureChoc2010

Looking At The Week Ahead

Aside from the status quo:  wake up, shower, go to work, call Daddy, cook and sleep… I have ambitious agenda this week to which I would LOVE to actually adhere.

The list gets less ambitious as the week progresses… but that all can change.


  • Cook pork tenderloin stuffed with gorgonzola and figs for dinner.  A recipe from an old issue of Cucina Italiana.
  • Marinate Tuesday night’s dinner.
  • Review items on my catering menu and start writing descriptions.
  • Work on my first jewelry project:  a necklace with velvet hearts and glass and metal beads.
  • Come up with my first silk-screening idea.
  • Watch DVRed Jerseylicious.


  • Stop at the store and pick up bananas and mini marshmallows.
  • Pick up crimp tubes and head pins.
  • Cook Beef Braised in Wine.
  • Go through the fridge – purge and freeze.
  • Blog.
  • Read.


  • Cook Chicken Milanese.
  • Bake Banana Split Brownies.
  • Finish or almost finish 1st beading project.
  • Read.


  • Cook
  • Print out silk-screen transparency.
  • Blog.


  • Go to Happy Hour!
  • Not cook.
  • Do whatever I want.


  • Sleep late.
  • Burn image onto silk screen.
  • Go to Angelina’s on The Water in Staten Island for a night of dinner and dancing with my husband.


  • Do nothing.
  • Read.
  • Blog.

Maybe not ambitious – but for a procrastinator like me……  What does your week look like?

Image: renjith krishnan /

A Lifestyle Change… Is It Permanent?

Veuve Clicquot bottle - Champagne - France

Image via Wikipedia

Affected by the terrible economy of late, my husband and I must undergo necessary lifestyle changes that will affect our finances now and in the future.

I’ve always considered myself “independently wealthy” even though I work hard and have a career.  I never worried about money.

Now that times are tough, triggered by a 2 month job loss last December 2009 – you’d be surprised how much that sets you back – I am diligently TRYING to change my lifestyle.

The first thing I did was to buy Quicken to see where my money was going.  Then I went from there.  The cuts have been do-able with an occasional bail-out from Daddy but I still haven’t seen much cushion yet.

My mother used to tell me that I had Champagne tastes and a beer wallet.  It’s true.  When I buy a $900 dress for $300, I look at it as though I saved $600, not spent $300.  I have – or should I say had – a skewed sense of reality.

Here is a list of changes I / we made, both small and large and my approximate monthly savings (unless otherwise indicated) for each elimination:

  1. I cut my nails off.  No more manicures.  $35 x 2 = $70 + tips monthly.
  2. No more pedicures.  $30 x 3 = $90 + tips monthly.
  3. I shop at Costco and Shop Rite, clip coupons and have stopped my twice-weekly jaunts to Whole Foods.  $200 per visit x 2 = $400 savings monthly.
  4. I stopped buying a case of wine every week.  $150 to $200 x 4 = $600 to $800 monthly.
  5. No more clothes and shoes shopping unless absolutely necessary.  $300 to $1000 or more depending on the fix I need.
  6. We’re eating a lot of pasta.  $$ savings = getting fat.
  7. I stopped going to Happy Hour as often as I did.  $20 x 3 or x 4 = $60 to $80 monthly for a slow month.
  8. I stopped going out for expensive dinners several times per week.  Alone $65 per visit.  With husband $150 per visit.
  9. We stopped going to our favorite restaurant in Staten Island ($300 per visit for the two of us for dinner add $65 for the bar bill before and after dinner) and quit weekly trips to Atlantic City (Anywhere from $150 – $1000 per visit).  We don’t even gamble but we spend so much on food and drink, it’s sickening.
  10. No opera tickets this year.  Boo hiss!  $500 for tickets + beaucoup $$$$$ for parking, tolls and dinner and drinks post opera.
  11. Monthly haircut & color.  Not monthly anymore.  $275 + tips monthly.
  12. Heat.  I keep the thermostat at 65 degrees and hide under a blanket while I’m typing my blog.  $$ but I’m not sure how much yet.
  13. No more frivolous jewelry purchases.  I can’t even put a price on it.
  14. Switched from Starbucks coffee at home to a Costco substitute.  $5 per bag – about $10 – $15 per month.
  15. Cut down on weekly diner breakfasts.  $90 monthly.
  16. I no longer buy bottles of Veuve Clicquot.  I switch to a non-Champagne Champagne.  $40 per bottle savings.
  17. I stay away from stores like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.  $100 to $500 savings monthly.

    I’m sure that I’ve made a few more cuts that I can’t think of now but I think this a good start.  I can believe how much I used to spend!

Spending is always relative.  The more you make, the more you spend.  The more you make, the more they take.  I should have learned a lesson from my father’s generation – no credit cards and pay in cash.  If you don’t have the money for it, you don’t buy it.

Do you have similar problems?  Have you made any sacrifices?  I’m trying not to be a spoiled brat anymore.  I hope will last.  What do you think?

© 2011  J. H-M and CultureChoc2010


    Always Learning Something New… Lifelong Learner or ADHD?

    As long as I can remember once I’ve mastered something, I have to move on to something new.  I’m not sure if it’s sheer boredom, a lust for learning or just ADHD creeping into another facet of my life – but it’s something innate.

    Not to toot my own horn, but I am good at a lot of things.  It seems like almost everything I try, and like, I excel at.  Then I get bored and move on to the next project.

    I think that’s why I like languages.  I speak five and then some.  You’re always learning something new – even in English.  My education has taken me just short of earning a doctorate – so aside from stroking my own ego, going back for my PhD is futile and expensive, for that matter.

    So my projects have been many but none quite brought to fruition.  Laziness? Probably.  Indecision?  Definitely.

    I love to cook and I’m quite good at it.  I started writing a cookbook.  I started making a brochure for my catering company.  I made up flyers to teach cooking classes.  I even made up personal chef leaflets where I would cook healthy, calorie controlled meals for people.  Did I mention that I’m an expert at losing weight too?

    In any case, to date, I’ve done nothing.

    Last year I bought a silk-screening machine for my new tee-shirt business.  One of a kind, silk-screened, original artwork clothing.  I even made up business cards and a website.  The machine sitting in my home office under a pile of crap and the tee shirts are still in a bag from A.C. Moore.

    I’ve scrapbooked (I could open my own store with the supplies I have), thought about sewing again and designing my own line of clothing, bought canvases so I could paint and even wrote a book (that I never quite finished).

    I’ve even entertained the idea of video editing (as a second career) because I have all the hardware, software and knowledge to edit videos for people.  I’m actually pretty good at that too.  I started a documentary movie – it’s still in the camera….  I even partnered up with a friend to discuss writing, shooting, editing and producing adult movies – if you know what I mean.  I think I’d be great at that!

    I thought about being a personal shopper or stylist.  I love fashion and boy can I shop!  Interior design has also crossed my mind.  I love to decorate and I have great taste – all I need is money.

    Now I have a new pursuit.  Jewelry making.  I bought some books and magazines and I’m eagerly reading about techniques and stitches and other stuff.  It intrigues me.

    So I ask you… Is this another one of my failed attempts to pursue something I find interesting?  Will I actually do anything with it?  Will I get bored quickly like I have with everything else?

    What the Hell am I going to do in the summer?  I’ll need a job.  I may actually have to get a real job to supplement my already real job from September through June.  I can bartend – great personality – great rack – need I say more.

    What’s your take?

    Am I:

    1. A lifelong learner
    2. ADHD
    3. A spoiled brat
    4. An entrepreneur constantly searching for the “right gig”

    I don’t know.  You tell me.  Thanks in advance – by the way.

    © 2011  J. H-M and CultureChoc2010

    Image: jscreationzs /

    Escarole & Beans… Italian Comfort Food

    ‘Scarole and beans is an Italian staple at my house.  My grandmother made it.  My mother made it.  And now I make it.

    Jacqui's Escarole & Beans


    In the Italian tradition of never measuring and NOT writing down your recipes, I think that I have concocted a pretty spot-on recipe from my childhood.

    I hope you enjoy it!



    Jacqui’s Escarole and Beans

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 4 ounces pancetta or prosciutto, diced
    • 1/2 cup diced onion or shallots
    • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
    • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or thyme leaves
    • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1 head escarole, (about 1 pound) trimmed, washed, and coarsely chopped
    • Two 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 tbsp tomato paste
    • 6 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • Grated romano
    • ½ lb sm pasta like ditalini

    Cook pasta and set aside.

    In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat, add the pancetta, and saute until it starts to crisp. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion and saute until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, and pepper flakes; saute for 3 minutes more. Add the escarole, stirring until wilted, about 2 minutes more. Add the beans, tomato paste, broth, and salt; bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the reserved pancetta, romano and season with salt and pepper.  Ladle over some pasta with a drizzle of oil.

    Serves 6

    © 2011  J. H-M and CultureChoc2010

    Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder… Absolutely Delicious!


    Image via Wikipedia

    My cookbook collection is extensive but I think my cooking magazines outnumber them by many.

    I have Bon Appétit, Cucina Italiana, Tastes of Italia, Fine Cooking, Clean Eating, Cooking Light, Eating Well, Italian Cooking & Living and a few others thrown in there for good measure.

    I have every issue of Bon Appétit since 1988 and the others… well… being a shopaholic, you know the deal.

    While leafing through a March 2006 issue of Tastes of Italia, I found a great recipe for Porchetta – Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder.  The recipe’s author, Mary Elizabeth Rocco, really got it right.  This beauty is slow cooked in the oven for 6 1/2 hours.  Yes.  I said 6 1/2 hours.

    Last time I roasted pork, it took 4 1/2 hours and I thought that it took forever but it was worth eating at 9 pm.  Note to self:  Start earlier next time!

    I’m including the recipe below.  It’s definitely worth the time it takes to cook.  You won’t regret it.  Let me know how you like it.


    1 boneless pork shoulder butt (6 – 7 lbs) (I used a bone-in)
    1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
    2 tbsp coarse sea salt
    1 tsp freshly ground pepper
    3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
    3 tbsp chopped fresh sage
    3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
    4 cloves garlic, diced
    1 cup dry white wine
    2 bay leaves

    Preheat oven to 425º F.  Cut slits in the skin of the pork shoulder and set aside.  In a food processor, combine 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, sage, parsley and garlic.  Process until a paste forms.  Rub the paste into the pork shoulder slits and all over the meat.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch Oven or ovenproof pot.

    Add the roast and brown on all sides.  Remove the roast from the pot and set aside.  Add wine and bay leaves to the pot and scrape bits of the bottom.  Place a rack in the bottom of the pot (I omitted this step because I didn’t have a rack to fit inside my pot) and place the roast on rack.

    Cover and place in oven.  Cook for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 300º F and cook for 6 hours or until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 170º F.  The roast will be done when the meat falls apart to the touch.  Skim fat off the remaining pan juices.  Drizzle juice over the meat before serving.

    Serves 16 – 20 – although I can probably eat the entire roast myself

    The leftovers can be turned into carnitas, burritos, fajitas and even a great pork ragu over pasta.  I’ll be trying that one tonight.  I’ll let you know how it comes out.

    So next time you’re home or stuck in the house all day, try this Porchetta.  It really is delicious!

    © 2011  J. H-M and CultureChoc2010

    My DVD Collection

    Cover of "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg"

    Cover of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

    Over the years I have amassed quite a VHS and DVD collection.  Some movies I watch over and over and some collect dust on the shelves where they live.  We have On Demand, Netflix, Netflix Watch Instantly and every movie channel on DTV‘s lineup but still there is never anything to watch.

    When I am in desperate need to watch a movie and I can’t bear to watch the Netflix that I’ve had since August, I turn to my trusty collection of films.

    • 2 Days In Paris:  One of my favorite Parisian depictions.
    • Fast Times At Ridgemont High:  An 80’s classic that will never get old.
    • The Devil Wears Prada:  Brutal but great!
    • Amélie:  Typiquement français.
    • L’Auberge Espagnole:  Reminds me of my year abroad.
    • Friday:  An hysterical, acquired taste.
    • Next Friday:  Loving Craig and Dada.
    • Friday After Next:  Again.  It cracks me up.
    • Soul Plane:  Out of control comedy.
    • Laurel Canyon:  Makes me want to move to California with a Whiskey Sour in hand and explore my naughtier side.
    • The Breakfast Club:  Classic John Hughes.
    • Weird Science:  Kelly was so hot and the boys were so not.
    • Sixteen Candles:  Love it!
    • Just One of the Guys:  Typical 80’s.
    • Stripes:  Bill Murray is genius.
    • Gotcha:  Another classic 80’s.
    • Hollywood Knights:  Newbaum!
    • La Vie En Rose:  Great movie!
    • The Pope of Greenwich Village:  A classic.
    • The Good Thief:  Ahhh the south of France.
    • Moonstruck:  John’s fave.
    • Gigi:  One of the few musicals I love.
    • Les Parapluies de Cherbourg:  Ditto.  Catherine Deneuve – so young.
    • Scary Movie:  I just crack up.
    • Scream:  Stupid but never tiring.
    • Running With Scissors:  Bizarre.
    • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun:  SJP before Sex….
    • Jawbreaker:  Mean Girls part one.
    • Murder By Death:  Classic spoof.
    • Valley Girl:  80’s in the Valley – awesome.
    • Fraternity Vacation:  Love this!
    • Heaven Help Us:  Another great flick!  Kevin Dillon and Andrew McCarthy.
    • Dream On Seasons 1 & 2:  Martin Tupper rocks.
    • Weeds:  Nancy rocks in a dysfunctional screwed up way….
    • Sex And The City – The Series:  Always great to watch when I’m home sick and feeling better.
    • Nip/Tuck:  Christian – need I say more?
    • Not Another Teen Movie:  Bwhahahahahaha!

    These are just a few – there are so many more.
    What do you have in your DVD collection?

    © 2011  J. H-M and CultureChoc2010

      Happy To Be Back… A Reblog from 2010

      Bopping back and forth from the bed to the bathroom floor was not my idea of fun these last few days.  Stuck in the house with a stomach virus since Tuesday when I foolishly tried to go to work gave me time to ponder.  Ponder what, I don’t know.  Maybe I should have thought about my idiocy when I got in the car at 7 am to head to work.

      From 2 am to 6 am I spent most of my time with my head in the toilet or my ass in the same place.  Just typing that “skeeves me out”.  Ass – face, ass – face, ass – face.  Our heads should never been where our asses have already been but I get it’s one necessary evil for all of us at one time or another.

      So at 6:30 I got up, showered, dressed and headed up the Garden State Parkway with 2 Ziploc bags as my passengers.  Halfway up the parkway, the cold sweats started and I started to get dizzy and nauseous.  I grabbed my first passenger and drove the rest of the way, Ziploc bag beneath my chin and praying I wouldn’t have to pull over.  Damn John!  I thought I had food poisoning from the Mascarpone cheesecake that he baked the night before.  I couldn’t believe it was getting worse instead of better.

      When I pulled into the Dwight Road faculty parking lot, I didn’t think I had the strength to get out of the car.  I waited a few minutes and mustered up some vigor and staggered into the building, up the stairs and right into the bathroom heading for my stall.  I was sick again!  I must have been crazy for coming in.  What was I thinking?

      I called my friend Barb (who is the school nurse) from my Blackberry while I was sitting on the dirty floor of the handicapped bathroom and explained my predicament.  She met me in the hallway and told me that I should leave and she would let the office know what was going on.  I teetered to my room and starting writing plans.

      Tout a coup a sub was at my side and I was sent home.  I felt like I was in high school again.  I managed to drive directly to the doctor’s office to find out what was wrong.  The doc checked me out, took a couple of samples, gave me a VERY painful shot in my ass, handed me 2 prescriptions and sent me on my way home.

      It took me 3 days to recupe both my health and my dignity but I returned to work today.  I woke up at 5 am and couldn’t wait to leave the house.  Did I mention that John is home all day?

      I got there at 7 and couldn’t believe how happy I was to be at work.  I needed human conversation.  No meowing, no fur, no skid marks on the cat safety sheet.  I needed my routine – surtout, my sanity.  Don’t get me wrong, when I was lying on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night my 2 wonderful and caring kitties were by my side the entire time while my husband was snoring peacefully in his room.  I just needed to be with my kids at work.  All of the kids, even my skootches.  It would be a great day!

      A great day until a few of my 4th period skootches informed me that someone had left my phone number from the fax on their dittos.  “Ooooo.  I have senora’s number.”  Great!  Now the prank calling would start.  I told them, “Big deal, rip it off the ditto and don’t call me.”  They giggled and I forgot about it…

      Until 7:39 pm this evening when I received my first prank call from a “Raul”.  I promptly laughed it off, told them to stop bugging me and not to call again.  They hung up and I dialed *57 to trace the call.  We’ll see what happens on the phone front.  Ugh!

      Did I say I was happy to be back at work?

      © 2011  J. H-M and CultureChoc2010

      Image: zmkstudio /