avocado dip

Avocado Smash

This is my grandfather, the late Frank Lujan. This photo was taken when he was somewhere in his twenties, which seems so bizarre to me. How could he have ever be younger than I am now?

Without fail, I think of my grandfather every year on New Year’s Eve. We spent a handful of New Year’s Eves with my grandparents and we’d have the same jokes each year. He was the first to introduce my brothers and myself to the “I’m not changing my underwear until next year” NYE joke. About a thousand different jokes would follow, all about what we won’t be doing until next year (brushing our teeth, sleeping.)

For those who lost someone this year, I wonder if New Year’s Eve is a nice chance to let go of a hold on a loved one who has passed, or if it is something different. I am blessed enough to say that I have not had a loved one leave the world this year. Time marches on, relentlessly and without pause. I hope you take a couple of minutes tonight to reflect on all the blessings you have been given in 2011. I also hope you can keep those who have not had many blessings in your thoughts and prayers tonight. Let 2012 be a year of hope and peace for those who need it. Tonight, my prayers are for a blessed year for Mandi Lee-Han, who still waits for news about her father after his fishing boat was hit by a rogue wave this past summer. Go here to learn more.

Ready to talk food? I am loving hearing what all my Facebook friends are eating for dinner tonight. So many traditions and types of celebration food out there. What are you eating?

I had no plan for tonight’s dinner as I strolled through the grocery store this afternoon.  At the last minute I decided to give carnitas a go. Honestly, I couldn’t remember if carnitas was pork or beef. (It’s pork.) As I brought home the big chunk of pig, I realized that I probably didn’t have much in the way of taco fixings. So, I threw together all the Mexican spices I could think of and roasted the meat for about 4 (maybe more) hours at 325 degrees.

I can’t think of pork without thinking of the old commercials naming it, the other white meat. Once I think of the other white meat, I can’t help but think of a Saturday Night Live skit called, “The Other Boleyn Girls.” This is the only place online I can find the skit where Kristen Wiig plays the other…other Boleyn girl is on a fan site for Ellen Page and it’s worth the visit! 

Here’s my mix of chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper and onion powder. 

I drizzled a bit of olive oil over the meat and dumped what seemed like 1/3 cup of spice mixture over the pork. Most recipes suggest cutting carnitas into chunks before cooking. I didn’t do so this time, but I will ask the butcher to do it next time I buy such a large chunk of meat.

After a family trip to the soccer field across the street, we came home to a well spiced and settled meat. We piled the carnitas on top of black beans and sliced bell pepper, then scooped on plenty of avocado smash and cilantro. Total taqueria flavors, totally made in pajamas. And…I don’t know why I am saying we. I made the dinner, it was me.

Avocado Smash
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dips & Spreads
Ingredients
  • 2 avocados, smashed
  • 1 T. cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 lime
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Mix and smash together all the above and smother over meat, chips, tortillas or just your face. It’s just so good. To take avocado smash all the way to guacamole, add minced garlic, red onion, jalapeno pepper and diced tomatoes.
avocado dip

I picked up two blue cookies with 2012 frosted on top for Max and Dallas to enjoy tonight. Jy and I are going to give the chocolate gelato I found a whirl; it claims to be handmade in Italy and I’m hoping it tastes as expensive as it was. Not that $8 is a great loss, but that is a lot for what is essentially chocolate ice cream!

So, off to celebrate the last night routine of 2011. I hope Dallas doesn’t quite figure out what midnight really means! Thank you all for reading and making this year a fantastic one for me. Happy and safe New Years Eve to everyone and I’ll see you next year!

New Year’s Eve – Kid Style

Tomorrow will end 2011, the year that Time Magazine awarded “The Protester” as Person of the Year. I think that if it was up to Jy, I would share that title as there has been much ousted from our pantry over the past 12 months, due to my fake food protests. When I told Jy that I would be making our next batch of laundry detergent out of my stock of soapnuts, he sorta-gently reminded me that not everything needs to be made from scratch.

Our family deals too, with the occupy movement. Dallas and Max seem to occupy all of our space, all of our plans and all of our energy. As we try our best to keep up with the 1% on a 99% budget, our family is constantly reminded that a focus on what is really important, is the best way to feel 100%. Curious about our New Year’s Eve plans, Dallas can fill you in. This is usually what it sounds like around here by the way, lots of crazy voices…

So now you know about our rockin’ eve. Dick Clark (or, is it Ryan Seacrest) has got nothin’ on this family! So, bust out the milk and cookies, get some blankets and pillows and let’s party together (until 8 p.m. or so.)

Is anyone else a little sad they didn’t support Blockbuster a little more? If you don’t time your Netflix right, you are stuck in the dreaded in-between day of the movie world! There are some pretty funny movies out there that are meant for kids and aren’t too painful to watch as adults. Despicable Me, Ratatouille and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs are my current favorites. So are a few VeggieTales. What will be on your little screen tomorrow evening?

We did a popcorn practice run this afternoon and tried out a packet of Popcorn Drizzle that Santa had left in my stocking.

The back of the box instructs the powdered chocolate (we tried the chocolate cherry today) be mixed in with melted butter and corn syrup. As we try to avoid all high fructose corn syrup (an ingredient in corn syrup) I changed up the recipe.

If you ever find a recipe which calls for light corn syrup, you can substitute in 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Works perfectly.

Too our drizzle, Dallas decided we would need to add some mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips. I threw in the seriously delicious roasted almonds my Aunt Cindy sent home with me for Christmas. What we ended up with was popcorn so gooey, it needed to be eaten with a fork.

While fun for a blog, this was not the most ideal recipe for a night of NYE movie watching. I’m glad we gave it the practice run! I would stick to the slightly less messy options of mini M&M’s mixed with popcorn for a sweet and salty flavor. For those who like a little more crunch, mixing in a handful of roasted nuts with a sprinkle of sugar over everything is a great, grown up movie treat.

We have movies on the mind right now. I have seen more movies this week than I think I have seen all year! Last night I watched A Day in the Life with Jy. That is next week’s Movies & Munchies flick and it is so good! I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you liked (or even saw) the movie, Baraka, you’ll dig this flick too. Tonight is the penultimate Harry Potter, one left for next week!

How do you like your popcorn? What kind of munchies do you bring to the sofa for movie night? Happy New Year’s Eve, Eve!

Mandel Bread: Life Is Beatiful

I feel like I should apologize for not blogging yesterday, I was out couponing and catching up on chores. Today totally makes up for a funless Wednesday though! My mom came over to watch the boys while Jy and I hit a matinée showing of Mission Impossible 4. I had called it MI5 in a previous post, oops!

Crazy or not, no one can carry an action movie like Tom Cruise. Once again, he was amazing in this movie. Can you think of another action star as big as Tom Cruise? The only one Jy could think of was Matt Damon (a la Bourne Identity.) Damon just looks old and slow now (We Bought a Zoo). My palms were sweating the whole MI4 experience long, it was just so fun!

Now, on to today’s Movies & Munchies. I’ll let Mr. Movie Fuel do the talking here as we talk about Life Is Beautiful.

 Life is Beautiful (1997)

Starring: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi and Georgio Cantarini

Directed by Roberto Benigni

Life can be difficult, life can be spectacular. When life is good, we sometimes take much for granted.  Moreover, only the most optimistic of us can take the bad times and turn them into something positive.

Perspective and attitude are two of our greatest defense mechanisms when times get tough.  Movies for me, are a great source of perspective. During the winter holidays, we are reminded to pay attention to the fruits of life that aren’t materialistic with a film such as, A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life.

A positive attitude, especially when faced with adversity, is a great attribute and source of strength in life.  Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, often tells the story about how growing up as a poor kid in a small town in Ohio, his father would always accentuate the positive.  During the rare occasion when they did have a family car, it was usually a beat up old hooptie on its last wheel, but when they drove it, they got to all be together as a family.  Jim’s father John always had a saying that he would yell out, “Who’s got it better than us!?!” and all of the Harbaugh kids would yell out in unison, “Nooobodddyyy….” Neither party said this with even a hint of cynicism, they truly believed that no one had it better than them, mostly because they were able to maintain an attitude of appreciation for what they did have. He’s used this as the mantra for the professional football team he now coaches, a team which was terrible the previous season before he became head coach, but is now being considered a possible super bowl contender after one year of Harbaugh’s contagious spirit and emphasis on being a team to the fullest extent possible.

Attitude is also the title of my favorite poem by Charles Swindoll. The author emphasizes the fact that we can’t always control everything in life that happens to us, but we can control how we react to what happens. Swindoll states, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

One film that personifies that statement and somehow elegantly blends perspective and attitude into what would otherwise be considered a horrific situation is the Italian picture Life is Beautiful.  Part love story, part historical film, part comedy, part family film, part tear-jerking drama, Life is Beautiful has just about everything. 

Set in Italy during the 1930’s and 40’s, what begins as a sweet tale of a relationship between a man and a woman is quickly contrasted to a story about survival in a Nazi concentration camp.  In an attempt to save his young son from their harsh reality, the same man creates the illusion that the holocaust is all part of a grand game created just for him and the prize for winning that game a real life tank to keep!  The first line of the film sets the tone adequately, “This is a simple story… but not an easy one to tell.”

Roberto Benigni, the star, director and writer of Life is Beautiful has often been described as the Italian Charlie Chaplin and he certainly fits the bill.  Gifted with both the art of physical comedy and the ability to do something completely unexpected at any moment, Benigni makes you forget you are watching a movie about  atrocities in history and envelops your imagination for nearly two hours, while tears roll over your smiling face.

This is not to say that Benigni makes a farce of the holocaust, rather he takes on a daring subject matter and tells it in a way that hasn’t been done before.  He manages to demonstrate how hope can exist during the harshest of situations. We also watch as Benigni shows love through self-sacrifice, the ultimate “hats off” to parental love.  Through one of the most extreme situations possible, Benigni uses a loving lense to see through the story of horror and  find life’s most precious gift, hope.

In the new year, as we find ourselves in challenging situations, we can either try harder to make a bad thing better or when things become too hard, try not to control the situation and focus more on how we can have a healthy reaction to that which is out of our control.  Just maybe, when things are good we can fully appreciate that life is beautiful.

Back to the food…

Have you seen this movie? It’s so wonderful and hard to watch, especially as a parent. Here lies the challenge. How do you pick a food to pair with such a movie? There is no special recipe to go along with a movie like Schindler’s List or The Pianist. I wouldn’t want to disrespect the whole story telling experience of these fwilms by likening them to any other drama you’d want to munch popcorn along with. They are entertaining, but these movies were not made with the sole purpose of entertainment.

Instead, I have pulled my “family” cookbook off the shelf. It is a cookbook that my Aunt Debi put together for Jy and I when we got married. It holds family stories and recipes collected from my Nana (as in banana) and my great grandma, Grandma Ann. They are my Jewish side of the family and the source of homemade and heartfelt, Hebrew recipes.

One of the recipes that has seen much light lately is the Mondelbroit card. My dad has been honing his Mandel Bread (what we call it) skills. Mandel Bread is similar to biscotti. I’d love to share Grandma Ann’s recipes here. While I have not made it yet, I hope you will join me in trying it out soon. According to my dad, it’s not too hard at all. According to me, it’s yummy.

Mandel Bread
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Ingredients
  1. Mondel Bread
  2. Author: Food It Forward
  3. Prep time: 25 mins
  4. Cook time: 60 mins
  5. Total time: 1 hour 25 mins
  6. Serves: 6-8
  7. Ingredients
  8. Mondelbroit
  9. 3 eggs
  10. 1 cup sugar
  11. 6 T. oil
  12. 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
  13. 1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
  14. 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  15. 2 3/4 cups flour
  16. cinnamon sugar
Instructions
  1. Beat eggs and sugar until light. Mix in remaining ingredients. Add sifted flour with baking powder last. Dough should be very soft. Shape two long loaves (with floured hands) directly onto a greased cookie sheet. Loaves should be 3" wide and only 3/4" high. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Tops should be light brown.
  2. Remove from oven and immediately slice diagonally into 3/8" wide slices. Place the cookies back on the cookie sheet (cut side up) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake in oven for 5-7 minutes more.
food it forward http://fooditforward.com/
 
 

Come back tomorrow for some Friday food!

Devil On Horseback

I just learned about Devils On Horseback. Have you heard of these before? There are different combinations, but the main ingredients seem to always be bacon and dates. For those who don’t appreciate dates, prunes turn the appetizer into angels on horseback. Martha Stewart stuffs her dates with fancy cheese, while others opt for smoked almonds in the center of the fruit. I chose cream cheese!

All you’ll need to recreate my version is some good bacon (nitrate free, please), dates (or prunes), cream cheese and a bottle of balsamic vinegar. I thought I’d get a little cah-razy with my vinegar and bought a bottle of black & raspberry balsamic.

  1. Slice open the dates, take out the seed and stuff with cream cheese
  2. Wrap the date in raw bacon
  3. Bake the rolled up fruit for about 8 minutes at 400 degrees
  4. Bring 1/4 – 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar to a near boil (I added 1 T. brown sugar for added sweetness). Then, lower heat and let reduce at least half way at a low temperature. Be patient, the more the vinegar reduces, the better it tastes.

I had some extra figs in my fridge and decided to wrap them in bacon as well. They come out a bit sweeter than the dates and add a little brightness to the plate.

Tip: My bacon looked a little too soft about half way through baking, so I gave each piece a little roll with a spoon. This helped ensure crispy bacon the whole way round, so flip ’em over if needed.

Drizzle balsamic reduction over your little devils and watch them disappear! (Please pray that Jy does not come home from the gym asking to try one. They are g-o-n-e!)

Take Papa John Off of Speed Dial

Did you have a merry Christmas? Are you still busting out a sweet Hanukkah? Are your jeans feeling a little bit tighter? Yeah, me too.

Guess what I opened last night? A bodybugg! No, it’s not some kind virus or bed insect, it’s a vehicle to bring me to the land of bikini body.

Yeah, that is 66 year old Helen Mirren. You know the time to up the health ante has arrived, when you choose a body almost twice as old as your own to emulate. Now that I have a brother who works as a personal trainer, I have a direct line to free workout tips. *If he thinks otherwise, I will remind him how many nights I let him sleep on my floor, after he begged.

I gave Jy a sweaty stocking stuffer this year. He is now an official gym member. It took all that I had to not sign myself up as well. I know that I just can never make it to a gym with both boys. It’s easier to try to sneak in a shot of 30 Minute Shred during naps or head out for a walk after Jy gets home from work.

What the bodybugg does is manage calorie output. It is still up to me to manage calorie imput and log what I eat (bleh.) However, the awesomeness of the bodybugg occurs when I simply check my little Droid phone to see how many steps I have taken during the day, how many calories I have burned, how my workouts affect me after the fact, etc. The mumbo jumbo of the manual says:

The system records and analyzes physiological parameters, and uses algorithms to report daily movement, calories burned, degree of physical activity and steps taken.

This translates to “If you eat the number of calories you are supposed to, according to how many calories the bodybugg records you burning, you’ll go from J. Hud before to J. Hud after.”

I’ll talk more about the bodybugg as I get comfortable with it and learn the ins and outs.

For now, I want to move on to the foods that may be good for us to try and take in during this awkward mid-holiday week.

If you are still celebrating Hanukkah, you have license to eat a fried food for a bit longer. The rest of us are going to have to find a way to make it to Saturday night without further damaging our digestive systems or adding anything to our thighs that is not a new, frangranced lotion we got for Christmas.

What are you eating this week? It is easy to be tired of cooking right now and call a pizza to your door. Don’t do it! Do everything you can this week to make January 1st a bit easier. Yeah, I am totally talking to myself here.

Why not spend the next week making the best recipes of the year. Take 2011 out in gastro-style! Here are few sites that offer up 2011’s most popular dishes. Go visit and get inspired!

Eating Well

Cooking Light

Souther Living

Check out this New Year’s Day Black Eyed Pea Salad recipe!

Sunset Magazine

I think this might be the fourth time I’ll have to hit the grocery store this week. Obviously, I should be doing some better planning. Luckily, Jy is off all this week and I may be able to whip up some fun recipes to share with you. This week we will be going international in our Movies & Munchies segment. Mr. Movie Fuel will be talking about one of my all time favorite movies, Life Is Beautiful, I can’t wait!

Happy last week of 2011!