Cinco de…Uh-oh!

My mouth waters as I write this…

Living in Southern California afforded me the chance to not only indulge in your typical homemade Mexican fare on a daily basis, but also to learn how to make it. From salsa to guacamole to refried beans..I learned how to whip up a Mexican Feast in no time flat. Sauces? A cinch. Rolling taquitos or burritos? No problem! Making tortillas from scratch?

Making tortillas from….SCRATCH? HUH?

That WAS my attitude – past tense! Now, I’m proud to say no longer a tortilla-making novice. Not at all! The Kiwi BF and I have been so into making our favorite Mexi-Cali dishes, that we grabbed Tio Pablo’s Instant Corn Masa Mix (ok, not quite from scratch, but close enough!).

We wanted to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, except I wanted to make the tortilla’s from this mix for the authentic vibe we were aiming for with the meal. We rounded out our tortilla making kit with a press and I was good to go.

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This is my new boyfriend…Don’t tell my current one!

This was so easy…as in, ridiculously easy! The mix, which is gluten free, makes life simple: You mix 2 cups of the Corn Masa with one cup of water, mixing the ingredients until they form a firm ball. Separate into 12 smaller balls then …press away!

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So..the beans aren’t quite homemade…This time! They are gluten free, though 🙂

Pressing tip: Use parchment paper on both sides of the dough, and press. This helps keep the tortilas from sticking and makes clean up a lot easier. Lift the press and move the tortilla a quarter turn and press again, repeating these steps a few times to get the tortilla just thin enough, but not too much!

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Seriously, everyone needs a tortilla press!

 

The batch we made gave us 12 tortillas – add some grilled chicken, roasted onions and red peppers, homemade (for real!) guacamole and salsa and you get a perfect Cinco De Mayo – or anytime – meal. The tortillas we made came out soft and pliable, delicious and fresh!

Once you have food this fresh, there is no return 😉

Are you a fan of Mexican food? Share your fave dishes in the comments below..we love hearing what you think 🙂

 

 

FOCUSED, PASSIONATE, INTENSE: MY INTERVIEW WITH TOP CHEF WINNER MICHAEL VOLTAGGIO

In January 2012, I had the honor of sitting down with the owner of ink. Restaurant, ink.sack and Top Chef champ (and fellow Frederick-tonian) Michael Voltaggio. I really wanted to re-post this piece – let’s all get our inner chef’s inspired, shall we? It’s the HOLIDAYS!!!

PS – I have the Voltaggio Brothers (yep, Michael AND Bryan!) homemade applesauce recipe..it’s SO easy to make! I’ll post it in time for Thanksgiving 🙂

 Focused, Passionate, Intense: Meet Top Chef Winner Michael Voltaggio

When entering celebrated Chef Michael Voltaggio’s new restaurant, ink., one cannot help the feeling as if interrupting a conductor who is privately guiding his orchestra through its greatest concerto. With movements that are quick and decisive it’s no wonder three words come to mind to describe Voltaggio: focused, passionate and intense.

It’s this focus, this passion and this intensity that seeps its way out of the kitchen and onto the main floor here in the home of his newest passion project. Tucked away in the corner of a non-descript brick building on famed Melrose Avenue, ink., opened in September in the heart of West Hollywood. LA’s newest eatery boasts an industrial interior with a minimalist vibe and has quickly become a must-stop for foodies and Top Chef enthusiasts alike.

When comparing ink.’s menus from one week to the next, it can be noted that a limited amount of items are part of his regular repertoire. Voltaggio prefers mixing things up weekly. Served on small plates and meant for sharing, his menu is peppered with interesting options that ring of familiar fare, yet with a culinary twist.

A dish such as the jidori chicken and waffles with hot sauce served with whipped maple syrup is his creative spin on the traditional dish of Southern fried chicken and waffles. Voltaggio also expands diner’s minds and palates by offering a kale salad tossed lightly with burrata, Asian pear, pumpkin seeds and a yuzu sauce.

Other menu items that are tempting taste buds to come out of their humdrum shells are the beef tartare that is served with horseradish snow, hearts of palm, and a sea bean chimichurri. There’s also a dish of brussels sprouts, much like a side dish served for a family dinner. Except Votaggio finishes his version with thinly sliced pig ears, house-cured lardo and apple.

As if one restaurant wasn’t enough, Voltaggio also opened a culinary sandwich shop, ink.sack, in August. In his own way, he has made the ordinary sandwich quite the opposite. The menu at ink.sack offers sandwiches such as a beef tongue Reuben and the “CLT”, his take on the traditional BLT. Voltaggio’s version has the lettuce and tomato but the similarity ends there. The “C’ is a chicken liver mousse topped with crispy chicken skin as the bacon substitute.

Voltaggio also makes sure to tip his hat to his Maryland roots, by including Maryland Crab Chips on ink.sack’s daily menu. Homemade deep-fried potato crisps dusted with Old Bay seasoning adds a new spin on the BBQ potato chip for resident Angelinos. This is definitely not your run-of-the mill sandwich shop.

Sitting down with Michael Voltaggio, you begin to understand his rise to stardom amongst other culinary favorites such as Thomas Keller or James Beard. Food enthusiasts think nothing of including his name among lists of the best. The reason?

He’s becoming one of the greats himself.

“I work the line, I cook the food, I order it, I wash the dishes if I have to. I want to be in my restaurant cooking, not be the guy that is never (there),” said Voltaggio.  “I want to focus, right now, my time in LA.”

How does he spend his time when he owns and operates not one, but two restaurants? Well, there’s a consulting gig for a to be announced project in India on the agenda and don’t forget about the cookbook, VOLTink, which he’s been on the road promoting with his brother Brian. One thing is for certain; Voltaggio’s schedule is not for the faint of heart.

In fact balance is something he finds himself struggling with on a daily basis.

“Lately, it’s been all traveling, so I really haven’t had much time to have a lot of  “fun” at all. I used to go hiking a lot. When I had time, I did things like normal people do: I’d exercise and surf, I went outside. I’d like to be able to go outside again,” he said with a grin.

In the midst of his hectic schedule, there is some light though. “I do go out to eat, I ride my Harley and I like to go to shows and concerts when I can.”

Voltaggio’s talent and passion became properly introduced when he was as a teenager, living in Frederick, Maryland, attending Thomas Johnson High School, playing football and working part-time at the Holiday Inn.

“I was in school full time, going to football practice then going to work. I think out of the whole course of my day, the part I looked forward to the most was going to work, and it wasn’t just because I was getting paid. It was fun. I was working on the line cooking food. I couldn’t wait to get there everyday.”

This education helped as he began planning his restaurant after his Top Chef win in 2009.

“I think Los Angeles is a city that has never been taken seriously as a food town. Within the past five years, (we’ve seen) this small food community start to get bigger and bigger, and grow and grow because there is a need for it. People are interested in going out to eat in LA. Food is big, but it hasn’t been as chef-driven or chef-branded.”

When asked what restaurants or nightlife he likes to imbibe in when traveling home to Frederick, Voltaggio’s grin widened as he shared, “Olde Towne Tavern and of course, I’m going to always go check out Volt.”

And where will Chef Voltaggio be in the next few years?

“Hopefully, still in LA, still running ink, maybe with a couple smaller restaurants around,” he said thoughtfully. “I missed my twenties and most likely am going to miss my thirties, so I’d really like to enjoy my forties.”

Photo credit: Alex Horner (for LA Times Magazine)

Photo credit: Alex Horner
(for LA Times Magazine)

 

 

 

The Company We Keep: In search of like minds…

We’re all Late Bloomer’s at heart aren’t we? I needed to make sure I was keeping good company – not just good. AMAZING. Yes, AMAZING company.

Here’s who I found – if you can think of anyone else and want to share, leave a note in the comments! 

 

1. Stan Lee was in his early 40s when he created Spider-Man  – and artist Jack Kirby, Lee’s partner, started drawing The Fantastic Four when he was 44

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2. Rodney Dangerfield didn’t get his first “big” break until he was 42.

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3. Julia Child published “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” when she was 49. She was on TV by her early 50s.

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4. Charles Bukowski was 49 when his first book was published.

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5. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first book – “Little House in the Big Woods” – came out when she was 65.

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Five Questions: Lia Davis (and a giveaway!)

Today, I’m hosting author Lia Davis on my blog! Lia’s latest book, Death’s Storm: A Divinities Novel, was released just a few weeks ago. Lia is not only the mother to two young adults and two very special kitties, but she is also a wife to her soul mate, a paranormal romance author, graphic designer, and co-owner to Fated Desires Publishing, LLC!

Um, and you thought YOU were busy?

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I caught up with her long enough to ask her a few questions and to learn that she’s planning on a special giveaway that’s detailed after her interview. Read on for the book blurb, info on where to get the book and how to find Lia!!

Five Questions with Lia

 1. What inspired you to write Death’s Storm?

Death’s Storm is the second book in my Divinities series. So everything just fell into place. By the time I finished with Forgotten Visions, I know what Khloe needed to throw her off balance. And her death demon does that.

 2. When did you start writing?

I’ve always loved creative writing and making up stories since I was elementary school. It wasn’t until I started reading paranormal romance about four years ago, that I decided to dive in and start writing to be published.

3. If you had one piece of advice you could share with beginning authors, what would it be?

 Never stop writing. Write for yourself and write what you love to read. Also join a critique group.

 4. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

 I started out as a pantser, but now I’m a hybrid. LOL. I have to develop my characters and create chapter outlines before I sit down to write the story.

 5. Favorite holiday food?

 Sweets! Fudge, iced sugar cookies and other holiday treats.

 

~~ GIVEAWAY ~~

 

Lia is giving away a swag pack to two randomly chosen commenters. Please leave your email address in your comment to qualify. 

Want to keep up with Lia? Try her at any one of these places:

Author website | Fated Desires Publishing | Books Amour | Heartthrob Haven

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | G+

 

Blurb for Death’s Storm:

Technical genius and demi-goddess–aka Divinity–Khloe Bradenton relies on no one for help, and she definitely doesn’t need comfort from anyone other than her twin. After her parents died by the demons’ hands over two years ago, she has graciously stepped up to her place in the war between demons and witches. When a creature far more dangerous than the ones responsible for killing her parents claims he is her guardian, she is torn between her desires for the dark predator and the painful loss she has endured at the hands of her enemies.

 

One of the last death demons still in existence, Jagger has pledged his life to the Goddess Hecate. Charged with the guardianship over the Divinities, he is never to approach them, but to aid them from a distance. When the firestorm, Khloe, sacrifices herself to save her twin and best friend and becomes the prey, he has no choice but to reveal himself to her. He is taken by surprise when the need to claim her as his own emerges. A desire he has never felt before could be more dangerous than the demons out to destroy them.

 

Now Available at Amazon | B&N | ARe | Kobo

 

Need Some Help? How to Design on a Budget!

I’ve decided that Tuesdays for the month of October will be themed with budget-friendly ideas for those of us who either don’t want to spend a ton of money OR who don’t have a ton of money to spend!

(Jump back to last Tuesday’s post about budget-friendly date ideas f you need some or missed it!)

Today I’m sharing with you an article I found on the HGTV website: 11 Ideas for Designing on a Budget. Most of the advice is simple and really, it’s the kind of advice you’d give a close friend if they were in the middle of this type of at-home project. However, we forget how easy it is to change our homes with little to no money to spend!

Enjoy this article and feel free to post a comment here or send me a note with YOUR idea of how to get creative with your home-decor design budget – I love your feedback!!

Relationship Advice? Don’t Ask Cosmo!

People who dole out dating advice usually aren’t folks that are actually dating..right?

Maybe I’m stretching the truth a bit here, but I’m not the only one. Dear ole Cosmo has been outed a time or two for suggesting/publishing/advising some of the dumbest crap I’ve ever read.

And we wonder why girls these days are growing up with issues…GET THEM AWAY FROM THE MAGAZINE STAND!!

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about with diets, celebs and their DUI’s making headlines, or other “news”, we also seem to forget that magazine’s insist on offering advice for the ladies in the way of sex, dating, rituals, etc. that just SUCKS. It’s one thing to give advice in YOUR opinion, from YOUR POV (point of view, that is) but it sure as hell is another to give advice like Cosmo did in some of their past articles.

Cracked.com posted this write-up entitled “Seven Psychotic Pieces of Relationship Advice from Cosmo” and I insist that anyone who can get eyes on this does! It’s hilarious and will make you shake your head. To me, the fact that people can get away with this BS (Please reference Psychotic Tip #6, scrolling to the part about “Consequences He Can Expect) is absolutely crazy. Was this shit really in print?

Yep. I’m so irritated I said shit. I also now have a conspiracy theory where Cosmo is in cahoots with every divorce lawyer in the USA. Not kidding.

Anyway, take a read. See what you think. Then post here and let me know YOUR thoughts…Maybe you agree. That’s totally fine. I respect opinions and want to hear all of it!

I love and welcome your feedback, so feel free to bring it on!

Lights, Camera…Action! A tour of LA for Oscar season

I love awards shows! I really do, so when the Frederick News-Post asked me to write a travel article that worked in the theme of Oscar season, I gladly took the challenge!

Please, jump to the story here and have a read. I even took the picture of the Kodak which is featured 😉

I love getting to write love letters (or articles as some say), and this is one that I penned to MY city . . . Los Angeles!

 

How You Can Optimize Your Online Shopping Experience

I know I spend a lot of time online – you, too, right? And I have finally managed to get addictions like Facebook and Twitter under control by making myself set up times to go online and play with those sites, then log back off ASAP (they can be such time sucks, but fun time sucks!!) Things are good as far as internet land goes…

I found a cool website recently called  Swagbucks (www.swagbucks.com). Have you heard of this? It’s a site that you sign up for (yes, another email to hit the inbox…but wait. There’s more!!) which will you, the user, earn virtual currency and real-life rewards while you are performing everyday actions online from playing games to searching the web or maybe even taking a survey. By going here and messing around for a few minutes everyday, there is an opportunity to get for-REALS prizes and rewards!

The time it takes to fill out the form is minimal, and the information you provide helps them to lump you into groups for taking survey or signing up for polls. You have to go on and check it out, maybe play a bit. I was impressed with the ease of the site and how little time it took for me to get registered…I did peek at a few of the survey times and noted it would take about 15-30 minutes to take a survey. Not sure if I’m ready to give up that much time.

They have daily deals where they highlight specials in your area. I recognized some of them from Tippr and Groupon, sites that I already subscribe to, but Swagbucks has this information all compiled on one page, which does have the possibility of making my inbox that less full (OCD Anne likey!!).

There is a page devoted to “SwagTV) with hints for style, weddings, decorating…You name it! I only had a few minutes to really look this over, but I’ve bookmarked this site and will be focusing on using it a little more often. In my opinion it’s a good one-stop-shop for online purchases, lifestyle information and current trends  – All while having the added bonus of giving you a chance to earn REWARDS!!! Who doesn’t love that?

Have tried it? What do you think of Swagbucks?

Have a good weekend XOXOXO

F*%k-Yeah Friday: What is Success?

I know..it’s Friday. And guess what? It’s time for MY opinion!! This week, for my first official “F*%k-Yeah Friday”,  I have a question for you…What is success?

I know, broad question, huh? Some folks define it through money, objects, trinkets and other “things”. Others will tell you that success is when they can get out of bed in the morning and make their own meal because they are so ill.  Success is subjective, it’s not something we can define as a  “get there moment”. ..Success is what matters to us – to you – at the time it’s experienced. Success is on our terms.

My personal successes have ranged from buying my first car (on my own) to landing a part a I really wanted to receiving a rejection for my book. Stop gasping. Yes..I can view rejection as success – it has taken me years to see that and LOTS of fabulous therapy, but I can.

With rejection comes the lesson…for me it was getting past the “no” part of the email or letter and then reading the other things the rejecter had to say. Sometimes people don’t want to reject something as much as we don’t want it to be rejected. And guess what? IT TOTALLY IS NOT PERSONAL! (soak this in…ok?) I know right? I feel like my eyes opened and I’m seeing the world from a different angle. It’s taken me a loooong-ass time to get that you can’t take the BS personally.

So tell me…How do you define success?

Have a good weekend you guys – look forward to hearing some answers 😉