Monthly Archives: June 2012

Grilled Pasta Primavera

It’s only June 29th and I’m running out of summertime food fare.

I’m sick of grilled meat and fish, so I decided to throw this together.  I hope I remembered everything!

Jacqui’s Grilled Pasta Primavera

1 or 2 packages of asparagus-gruyere ravioli (I used 2) or 1 lb pasta
3 slices of bacon, chopped
1 zucchini cubed
1/4 – 1/2 package of fresh mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 – 1 1/2 c assorted bell peppers coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c grape tomatoes
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves 1/4 c roasted garlic
a squirt of agave syrup
1/2 c marinated bocconcini
a handful of mixed fresh herbs, chopped – I used basil & oregano
a handful of grated cheese – Pecorino Romano
x-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, whole garlic cloves with salt and pepper, agave and a drizzle of olive oil.  Toss.
Meanwhile cook ravioli or pasta according to directions.

On a grill in one of those pans with the holes in it, grill bacon until starting to brown.  Add vegetable mixture and grill until cooked to your liking.  Place back into the bowl.

Add roasted garlic, bocconcini, herbs, grated cheese, cooked ravioli and some olive oil.  Mix gently.  Adjust seasonings and olive oil.  Mix well.

Serves 4-8.

Enjoy!

© 2012 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010.

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Israeli Couscous Salad

Here’s a great side dish for the summer.  So simple and easy.

Let’s see if I can remember how I made it…

2 cups Israeli Couscous cooked according to package directions – cooled
1 can cannellini beans – drained & rinsed
1 cucumber – chopped into small wedges or chunks
1 garlic clove, minced
approx 2 tablespoons of chopped onion
1-2 cups grape tomatoes
2 mangos cubed
1 handful of fresh herbs, chopped – I used parsley, basil, oregano & mint
1 handful of grated Pecorino Romano
X-Virgin olive oil to moisten – I used only a couple of tablespoons
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine vegetables, fruit, garlic, onion & herbs in a large bowl.  Add couscous, cheese, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Mix well and adjust seasonings.

Serves 4-6.

Give it a try and let me know how you like it.  Remember season, season, season!

© 2012 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010.

Summer Tomato Salad

Yesterday I grilled a marinated pork tenderloin and needed a side dish that was light and summery.  Instead of an ordinary tomato salad with olive oil and basil and garlic I decided to try a new twist on the usual suspect.  I raided my garden for fresh ingredients and was delighted at the results.  I actually wrote it down.  I rarely write my recipes down;  1.  because I don’t measure and 2.  because it rarely crosses my mind to put it down on paper.

I must say that it was delectable!  I had a hard time not eating the entire bowl.  I begrudgingly left some for my husband’s lunch and tucked it away in the fridge so it didn’t tempt me anymore.  John called me this morning to tell me that the salad was delicious and asked if I could make it again.  Good thing I wrote it down!

Jacqui’s Summer Tomato Salad

Salad:
3 – 4 tomatoes cut into chunks
a handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden
2 – 3 slices of Italian bread, toasted or grilled and rubbed with a garlic clove – cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cucumber, peeled and chunked
a hunk of fresh mozzarella, diced
fresh herbs from garden:  basil, oregano, thyme – chopped
a handful of grated romano cheese
salt & pepper to taste
a pinch of sugar

Dressing (you may have extra):
1/4 c x virgin olive oil
a splash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
fresh thyme – a pinch

Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl.  Toss.  In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine dressing ingredients and whisk well.  Pour over salad and mix together.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4-6

The bread soaks up the dressing and transforms into a mouth-watering delight.  Let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

© 2012 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010. Reblogged.

Does Life Begin At 40?

My mom used to say, “I’d like to meet the asshole who said life begins at forty and punch him in his face!”

I always got a kick out of that.  My poor mom’s life went downhill health-wise at forty:  cancer, diabetes, you name it.  So I always “understood” why she said it.

After she passed away, I was going through her “stuff” and found a button in her drawer that said, “Life is like a shit sandwich and every day I take another bite.”  Again – I understood.

Botox

Botox (Photo credit: AJC1)

When I hit 40 five years ago, I flipped out and was amidst my own mid-life crisis.  I was afraid I was going to end up sick like my mother.  I was in total fear.

I went on a diet, lost 50 pounds in 5 months and booked a trip to Paris for a month in the summer.  It was a blast!

At 41 I finally got my convertible BMW but all the birthdays have been lackluster since then.

Am I afraid of getting old?  Yes.
Am I afraid of looking old?  Yes.
Will I age gracefully?  I’m NOT sure.

All these things drive me crazy!

My husband cannot believe my maddening obsession with age.  I’m worried about MY age – no one else’s.   As soon as a movies comes on TV, I’m checking out the cast’s ages and compare myself to possibly botox-laden starlets who have more “plastic” injected into them than a Barbie mold.

There are pros and cons to getting older.  I once blogged about my twenties vs. my forties – read it HERE.  The differences are amazing.

So, what are my pros and cons?

PROS

  • I know what I want (usually) and can probably can get it.
  • Many younger men love older women – especially in Europe.  This is not really one of my pros because I’m married but flattered.
  • Being married and sharing my life with someone.

CONS

  • The sagging boobs.  At 40 they dropped ever so slightly.  At 45… I can’t even talk about it!
  • Wrinkles & lines.  Noticeable or invisible.  I am my worst critic.
  • Being married.  Did I already mention that?
  • Losing people you love.  There are more of us in the ground than on the ground now.

I think my con list is going to be longer so I’ll stop now rather than risk an onset depression from life-examination.  

Will I Botox up and filler out?  Will I face lift and boob-job and God knows what else?

Yes.  No.  Maybe.

The truth is that I don’t know.  I think about it then I dismiss it.  I have noticed that I do think about it more now than I did 5 years ago.  Do you?

So my question is… Do you think life begins at forty?

My answer… I guess it depends where you are, how you feel and what you have to look forward to.  I feel strong and confident at 45.  I felt it at 40 too.  Of course there are always way to improve oneself – something I’m constantly striving for.

Has life begun at 40 for me?  It didn’t for my mother.

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What about you?

© 2012 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010.

Is Monday a dirty word?

Now that I’m off for the summer, my days blur into nights, weekends into the weeks and times and dates are virtually non-existent.

Today, I even forgot to feed my cats dinner.  They ate this morning and have dry food out all day, but for some reason I completely spaced.  Maybe because Bailey, my male cat whose stomach can be used as an alarm clock, was snoozing at the top of the stairs all night long and didn’t bug me to feed him.

Anyhoo… besides vacuuming 2 times today, I did absolutely nothing except make 2 cocktails, drink them and pass out.

Yeah – that about sums it up.  My Sunday in a nutshell.

So now it’s 10:30 pm on Sunday night (I know it’s Sunday because Sookie is on and I know it’s 10:30 because I’m on my laptop) and I’m sitting here watching Newsroom, while Peaches snuggles next to me, trying to figure out what to write for my blog tomorrow and I’m coming up with nothing.

Partially because I have a raging sinus headache and partially because I don’t seem to give shit about anything for some reason.

I have nothing to reflect on tonight because my week has been filled with NOTHING.  Say it with me… NOTHING!

N-O-T-H-I-N-G!

Did I learn anything this week?

  • I learned that I have to shave ALL my areas daily.  I mean – who ever heard of 5:00 shadow on their legs?  Spending your summer in a bikini brings out the beast in my ability to grow hair.
  • I learned that like senior citizens, I now keep track of when I poop.  Furthermore I am jealous of people who poop everyday.
  • I learned – rather re-affirmed – that my cats may be the neediest pets on the Earth.  They don’t leave my side for a sec.  Why can’t they be normal cats who hide and hiss?  Not beg and cuddle and cry constantly.  I love them – who am I kidding?
  • I learned that I know nothing that goes on in my neighborhood.
  • I’ve also learned that I don’t care what goes on in my neighborhood as long as it doesn’t directly involve MOI.
  • I learned that with idle time all I can think about is sex and food – and don’t seem to be getting either.  Damn diet!  Damn husband.

But alas… enough of my rantings.  As you can see it’s a short list.

So tomorrow is Monday and I think I’ll go visit my dad and bring him food and pop over to the cemetery to visit my mom.

Monday WAS a dirty word.  It will be one again in September when I head back to work.  I relish my weekends then.

Is Monday a dirty word for you?

Boy!   I hope my next post is back on target…..

© 2012 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010.

The 1980s: Fashion Fierce or Fashion Fail?

With the recent passing of one of the greatest disco icons of my life…

Donna Summer,
I grew up with you and loved you.
Rest in peace.

… I began thinking about the countless fashions I’ve adored and endured in my life.

Since the 80’s were so fun and carefree, I decided to focus on that fabulous decade.  Fabulous for fashion?  Maybe not – but watch any raunchy 80’s movie and discover a whole world of fashion do’s and don’ts that I’d love to revisit.

My favorite 80’s trends:

  • BIG Hair!  I think we all know why I love the trend…  I still have big hair!  Stiff Stuff & Aquanet abounded.  Now I use Helmet Head.
  • Whorewear.  You could dress like a slut and no one thought that you were a stripper!
  • Parachute Pants.  I loved my red parachute pants!  I haven’t seen any since though.
  • My “O Ring” Bracelets.  Madonna rocked these and so did I!
  • Flash Dance Shirts.  I loved the whole off-the-shoulder sexiness.
  • Zipper Jeans.  Not jeans with zippers!  Jeans with ONE zipper that zipped around the crotch and allowed the pants to split in two.  We had no “stretch denim” back in the day.  Skin tight and dangerous!  AKA:  Easy access pants – LOL!
  • Chinese Shoes.  They only came in black.  It’s probably the last time I enjoyed wearing a flat shoe!
  • High Top Wrestling Shoes.  So comfortable!
  • Work Pants.  Bought at the Army/Navy Store in Bloomfield Center with pockets.  A day later the pockets were sewn shut so they didn’t make you look fat.  Loved them!

1980’s Trends I’m Torn About:

  • Jellies.  So cute but so brutal on the feet!  The blisters were BAD!
  • Neon.  Whether a shirt, pants or chunky 80’s jewelry – I’m split about this one.  Neon seems to be back at your local Joyce Leslie or Mandees.
  • Perms.  Everyone had them.  I have a love/hate relationship with them.  My dad has a picture of me in the living room with a perm.  I was never a fan – but I did re-try the perm in 2007.  Let’s just say I currently have no perm.
  • Leg Warmers or Socks and High Heels.  Let the picture speak for itself.
  • Head Bands.  Different than today’s head bands.

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  • Stretchy Pants.  Leggings to the modern generation.  I lived in these.
  • The Glove.  Whether you modeled Michael Jackson or Madonna, the glove was a huge trend.

Despised 80’s Fashion Trends:

  • The Nylon Purse.  Beige to boot.  I hate beige.  Check out Fast Times At Ridgemont High for a visual.  Yuk!
  • Crimped Hair.  Another way to fry your hair.  I still have a crimper – just in case!
  • High Rise Bathing Suits.  What was that all about?
  • White Keds.  Deemed “nurse shoes” by not-so-nice jerk offs from the 80’s.
  • Army Pants. Harem Pants. Pleated Pants.  So manly.  So MC Hammer and able to carry shoplifted items in your crotch.
  • Power Suits.  That whole Working Girl thing was overrated.  Wearing sneakers to work in the city SUCKED.
  • Shoulder Pads or anything worn on Dynasty.
  • Swatch Watches.  Not my style.

So…. these are a few of my 80’s fashion do’s and don’ts.

I lived it.  I loved it.  I wore it.  And sometimes I regretted it – but it was all good!

Fierce or Fail?  BOTH.  What do you think?

© 2012 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010.

Italian GRAVY! Not sauce.

I wrote this post back in March of 2011 – maybe even before then.

A friend of mine asked for my gravy recipe so I’m going to include it at the end.  Here you go Allie:

Gravy is my comfort food.  When I talk about gravy, I’m talking about the RED stuff you put on macaroni – not brown gravy.  If you’re a North Jersey Italian-AmericanGRAVY is where it’s at.

I was always taught that tomato sauce comes out of a can.  What you put into that tomato sauce makes it gravy.  I firmly believe this with all of my heart.  There was nothing better than a pot of my Grandma’s gravy (or my Mom’s) cooking on the stove on Saturday night and all morning Sunday.  We had our Sunday dinner at 1 pm in our house and the whole house smelled incredible.  Sunday was always macaroni day for my family.

On occasion I remember my mom making roast beef or some other dish on Sunday.  My dad and I were always very disappointed when we didn’t feast on Rotelli or Shells with a big piece of hot Italian sausage and a delicious meatball.  It was torture.

On Saturday night Mommy and Grandma would make the meatballs and brown all the meat in the oven.  My dad and I hung around the kitchen waiting for the meatballs to be ready.  We would grab a small Dixie cup and plop one of those bad boys atop and eat it like a hot ice cream cone.  When Grandma made the Brasciole I would steal the Pignoli nuts that she rolled inside and eat them by the handfuls.  My mother always had to hide the bottle.

Then the gravy-process started in that giant white, porcelain pot set on top of 2 grates so the gravy didn’t burn.  The browning of the garlic rocked as it wafted through the house and the neighborhood (if the windows were open).  Neither used onion or tomato paste (I do) so spices, herbs, crushed tomatoes, water, grated cheese, sugar and the magic ingredient “pepperoni” were all tossed in the pot, brought a strong simmer and cooked for an hour or so before adding all that yummy browned meat.

I watched like a ravenous dog waiting for a treat to drop on the floor as I stared at the CREATION.  Meatballs, hot sausage, sweet sausage, steak, pork bones (spareribs) and sometimes even a piece of veal were blended together to form, quite frankly, a mouth-watering masterpiece.  My mouth is watering now.  Fortunately I learned how to make a kick-ass gravy and meatballs to boot.  I actually went back to my great-grandmother’s recipe and made it my own.  When my husband tells me that I make the best meatballs and gravy that he’s ever eaten, it makes me glow with pride and happiness.

I miss the days when we spent every Sunday having a family dinner in the middle of the afternoon.  I miss that giant bowl of pasta and an equally giant plate of meat.  I miss the good Italian bread and the salad that we ate with or after our meal.  Those were the days.

It’s before everyone got too busy to make time for family.  Weekly quality time with a family who loved you and who you loved back.  The older I get, the more I long for those days as there are more and more of us in the earth than on it anymore.

Every time I smell my gravy cooking on the stove, it fills me with wonderful memories and actually transports me back in time.  I see it.  I hear it. I smell it and I taste it.
Gravy IS my comfort food.
GRAVY is my time machine.

GRAVY IS RED.

So here’s MY recipe… get cooking!

Grandma’s Gravy Via Jacqui 

x virgin olive oil
5-6 garlic cloves minced or sliced
1 handful of fresh basil torn or much less dried basil
1 handful of fresh oregano chopped or much less dried
1/2 handful fresh thyme or less dried
a pinch of red pepper flakes or more
red or white wine
1 can tomato paste
sea salt or grey salt & pepper to taste
1/2 handful sugar or more depending how sweet you like it
3 -4 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes (I like Tuttarosso, Luigi Vitelli, Whole Foods brand or Rienzi)
water – 1/2 can of each can used
1 large onion minced (red or yellow)

Meat:  meatballs (RECIPE HERE), pork & beef brasciole, 1 stick pepperoni – cut in half then in pieces, sausage – also you can add spareribs or a piece of pork, steak etc.
1 c or more of grated pecorino romano

Salt & pepper all meat (except meatballs).  In a large stockpot or dutch oven heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil & brown meat on all sides.  Set aside in a large bowl.

Deglaze the pot with a little red wine and allow to burn off while scraping brown bits off bottom of pot.  Add 2 tbsp olive oil and heat.  Add onions and stir.  Cook until starting to get translucent.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, any dried spices and a pinch of sugar.  Cook, stirring until garlic starts to brown.  Add can of tomato paste and stir to combine.  Cook for a bit, stirring.

Add crushed tomatoes and approx 1/2 can water per can of crushed tomatoes (for desired consistency).  Add wine (maybe 1/2 c), fresh herbs, salt, rest of sugar, a couple of pieces of pepperoni and grated cheese.  Stir to combine.  Cook until bubbling then lower to a simmer.  Make sure to stir occasionally – do not burn.  Cook for at least a half an hour – ideally 1 hour.

Add all meat and accumulated juices after an hour and cook over low heat – stirring occasionally.  Cook for 1-6 hours.  The longer you cook it, the better it will taste. 

Serve with pasta.

From Jacq’s Kitchen

© 2012 J. H-M. and CultureChoc2010.

WORDPRESS! Stop Screwing with A Good Thing!

Every time I fall into a blogging vacation, WordPress changes something when I come back.

THIS is what I want to see!

I don’t know about you but I HATE that they took away the TAG tab on freshly Pressed.  It’s now located in READER and is so freakin’ cumbersome to use.

Previously you would just click on a topic and get a collage of blogs, easy to read, easy to click on and easy to see many different posts at the same time.  The featured posts were bigger on top and it was totally user-friendly.

Now Dear WordPress, When you click on a tag or a topic you are brought to an annoying and completely awkward, inconvenient list of blogs where you must

And this!

scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll down to find something of interest.  What happened to the pictures?  I don’t want this list!

Many other bloggers and readers don’t like this new, unmanageable system as I was reading in your forums last night.  AND for that matter, no one has given a viable answer to the problem because they don’t understand the problem?  I’m not sure.

The problem is that it doesn’t exist anymore!  It’s not the browser.  It’s not the

This too!

cache or cookies.  It’s none of that.

To tell you the truth, I read a lot less on WP since the change.  I can’t seem to find anything and whatever I find takes way too long to locate.

So please do your loyal patrons a favor…  bring back the GOOD!  Throw away the bad!

I beg of you WORDPRESS.  Listen to us.  Bring back what you see in these photos!!!!!!

Bring it back!

I want my tabs back!  Pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaasssssssssseeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pales in comparison!

© 2012 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010.

Summer 2012 – Let The Vacation Begin!

Warning…  I swear a lot in this one….

Well, it’s 2012 and I’m off for the summer, soon to be broke and bored yet again.

This is the third day of my vacation and I’ve been pretty damn industrious.  I started DAY ONE on Tuesday with these Facebook posts:

  • Vacation Day One: Woke up with a headache +. Fed the cats, birds, squirrels and chipmunks. Coffee, breakfast, Facebook, Pinterest, Scramble. A little TV. Vacuumed downstairs and steps. Cleaned downstairs bathroom. Making a pot of gravy. Head better. Time 12:26 pm.
  • Vacation Day One Continued: Laundry. Lunch. Scooped kitty boxes. Washed dishes and cleaned kitchen. Brought pile of shoes upstairs. Admired the sun – maybe I’ll go out on the deck…. Made a batch of meatballs. It’s 1:57 pm.
  • Less industrious this afternoon: tasted a meatball. More laundry. Folded towels. TV, FB, Scramble. Downloaded a book. Thinking about a cocktail.

Not bad for a first day off!

DAY TWO on Wednesday went something like this:

  • It’s going to be 96 today!  I’m going to lay out all day (after I vacuum) and read my book, Not Taco Bell Material.  Let me get my Crystal Light lemonade, my phone, my Blackberry and…. oh shit… I need a beach towel.
  • Damn!  It’s hot out here!  Whew!  I’m sweating my ass off.  Maybe I’ll go inside and have lunch.  Maybe a meatball.  Mmmm.  These are good.  Wait.  I need more lemonade.  Hmmmm… maybe a cocktail.  A Vootbeer – yeah, that’s what I want.  Vanilla Vodka & diet rootbeer.  Yum!
  • Maybe I should lay on my stomach.  My back is so white.  No.  The friggin’ squirrels ate my beanbag lounge – what can I lay on?
  • Boy, this metal deck is hot.  The pool still looks like shit – I guess I’ll hose myself down.
  • Ouch!  That fuckin’ water is hot!  What is it boiling?  Lemme wait until it cools off.  I smell musty now.
  • I have mosquito bites all over me!  WTF!  It’s the middle of the day!  GD Jersey Shore!
  • Fuck this shit!  I’m going inside.  It’s too hot out here anyway.
  • JC!  What’s the temperature in here?  It’s too warm.  JCPL probably cut back on the electricity.  Fuckers.
  • Maybe I should get the mail.
  • Screw this.  I’m not cooking.  We’ll have leftovers.

DAY THREE – Thursday:

  • I can’t believe I was dreaming about Scramble all night.  Seriously.  I need coffee.  Maybe I’ll have some cantaloupe.
  • Oh how cute!  The squirrelies want to eat.  Should we throw them some peanuts kitties?
  • I don’t feel like vacuuming.  I’ll do it later.  I’m going outside.
  • Wow!  It’s hotter than yesterday!  Let’s see how long I’ll last.  I’m laying on my stomach today.  This towel should work.  Holy shit!  I think I burnt my boob!  This damn deck is like a frying pan.
  • I think I’m losing a cup-size.  I’m going inside.  This is ridiculous.
  • What day is it?  When’s the last time I showered?  I smell.  I’ll shower later.
  • Oooo… anyone on Scramble?

As you can see my week is deteriorating quickly.  I spent most of the day taking pictures of my pussies and backyard wildlife and posting them on Facebook,  fucking around on Pinterest and looking up recipes for Jello Shots!

It’s too humid to lay out without a swimable pool, work around the house, cook, bake or think!  

I know.  I shouldn’t bitch.  I have the summer off.  How many more days of this?

I really need a summer job!

Can anyone relate?   Teachers perhaps?

I’ll tell you one thing – if it’s only day three and I can’t remember the last time I bathed, I’m already in trouble.  At least I’m not double-fisting Champagne by the pool yet…  just give me a few more days.

© 2012 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010.