This post is about my amazing sister-in-law Erika! She is gorgeous, bright, determined and has a vision. She is currently working on her MBA at Columbia University in New York alongside building a brilliant, fitness business.
Beyond what she has accomplished in her career, she’s had a bumpy few years finding her way. I’m amazed by her resilience working for some real jerks in the business world. More importantly, after her realization about her future and her dreams- she went after it.
Her dream was to create the first high intensity, butt specific fitness machine. If you’ve never met Erika, she has one of the hottest bodies that I’ve ever seen. Yup- jealous, party of one! She built this machine for women just like her — she was tired and frustrated with doing boring exercises and not seeing the results. She made it her mission to create something that would actually work… a machine that she could use on her time, at her convenience, but most importantly something that gave her the results she was looking for… a toned, tight, lifted derriere. This machine didn’t exist and she wanted to create it.
Oh and boy did she! She worked with numerous professionals and created the perfect machine. One that the whole family would try out numerous time in my families living room(…after eating my mother in law Birgitta’s world famous Swedish meatballs!)
After many years and prototypes, The Dream Butt is the ultimate lower body strength and toning machine focused exclusively on the butt. This is the only bio-mechanically correct device that easily sets the body in the correct form to do the perfect modified squat.
She may call it The Dream Butt but I call it the Butt Kicker! I can honestly say it works. I have bad knees and a proper squat is not happening for me but using her machine was a cinch. I felt muscles working that I didn’t know existed. They quivered hours later.
I’m really honored that I was able to work with her on this project. I’m absolutely blown away by what she’s achieved. She’s really a rock star and her product is brilliant! Her machine is now being funded via KickStarter and more details are available at http://kck.st/1FjyoYg should you be interested in taking a look and supporting her.
But beyond that, I wanted to share:
Find your dream. If you lose it, find another one. Maybe even another one after that…
I love greasy spoons and this little 7 table diner in Delray Beach on the corner of Lake Ida and Congress (Commerce Center) will not disappoint. I’m addicted to Al’s HEAVENLY corned beef hash but actually ventured out this morning and tried his spinach omelet. It was amazing. The ratio of spinach, fresh tomatoes, creamy feta cheese and onions seriously outweighed the eggs. The potatoes on the side were extra crispy and complimented by caramelized onions. Shall I talk about his corned beef hash? Let’s just say it’s magical. Real sliced beef, sautéed onions and potatoes dusted with a bold bunch of spices is just $7.25 but that heaping portion also includes 2 eggs, potatoes and toast. I dive right into those flat top charred pieces.
The little one loves his fluffy silver dollar pancakes and extra crispy bacon and Jason is thrilled that he serves grits. Lunch is a little bit more busy but who doesn’t love burgers, shrimp Po-boys and Cuban sandwiches for less than $7?
I’ve been a fan of Al & Paul for nearly a decade and I’m so happy that they moved back to my hood and I plan to keep them here. If you’re looking for good diner food and you don’t mind venturing off the Ave- head to Commerce Center Diner and tell them Ali sent you!
If you are looking for an amazing dinner to impress guests- then look no further. This lamb chop, spinach with turnip puree was absolutely divine. Or if you’re not that fancy- finger licking good. The lamb roasts on a bed of thyme to infuse the meat which compliments the Marsala wine sauce. From start to finish this meal takes about an hour to make but it’s simple to prepare and worth every minute. The herb infused lamb was tender and buttery with a nice crust. I’ve never had turnip mash before and it was so flavorful- I may never go back to mash potatoes again. It was rich and indulgent and one of my new favorite side dishes. Just make sure to serve with a nice bottle of red! Just an F.Y.I. I found a great deal on lamb and wine at Costco. The quality was much better then my local supermarket.
2½pounds rack of lamb (1 or 2 racks), bones frenched
Freshly ground black pepper
5 sprigs thyme, divided
1 cup dry Marsala
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 bunches flat-leaf spinach, trimmed
Preheat oven to 400°. Cook turnips in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water until tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain. Return to pan; add cream. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until cream coats turnips, about 4 minutes. Purée turnip mixture in a food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth. Cover and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Cook fat side down until brown, 5-8 minutes.
Turn lamb over. Tuck 4 thyme sprigs under; place in oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 125° for medium-rare, 15-25 minutes. Let rest on a plate for 10 minutes.
Drain fat from skillet; add Marsala. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring and scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet, until reduced by half, 5-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and remaining thyme sprig; stir until beginning to brown, about 1 minute; discard garlic and thyme sprig. Add spinach by the handful, tossing and allowing it to wilt slightly between additions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes.
Cut lamb between bones into chops and serve with spinach, turnip purée, and Marsala sauce.
I was super sad not to have made my way to In-N-Out during our last trip to Los Angeles. It’s one of our rituals to stop by the location right outside LAX but we landed at 10 am and that would have been too early for a burger unless I was hung over. To add insult to injury when I was returning the rental car, I was picking up all the paperwork from Enterprise that had landed at the bottom of the car, I noticed that the sheet of directions had In-N-Out as their first stop.
So upon returning to the east coast, I remembered this recipe for Animal Style Grilled Cheese Bruschetta. In case you were late to the party, there is a secret menu for this amazing fast food chain. Don’t worry…I’ll post some of the important items at the bottom of this post. Animal style means pickles, extra spread, grilled onions instead of fresh onions and mustard fried onto each meat patty. These alternative vegetarian bruschetta really hit the spot. Forget serving this an appetizer. It’s filling enough as a main course with some extra crispy fries.
I would like to say that I followed the instructions that I’ve added below but it wouldn’t be true. I’m sure it would have been equally good but I turned on my oven and plugged in my Cuisinart Griddler and had dinner ready lickity split. Jason is not a fan of American cheese so I swapped it with a nice thick slice of cheddar which he loved. Go animal style crazy and let me know what you think.
For the Spread: combine mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, sugar, and vinegar in a bowl and stir until homogenous. Set aside.
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate.
Drizzle the sliced tomatoes and onions with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then lightly season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Using a metal spatula, place the sliced tomatoes and onions on the hottest part of your grill, taking care to keep the onion rings together and not separated. Grill the tomatoes just until they are nicely charred with grill marks on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Grill onions until they soften and caramelize with grill marks on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer grilled tomatoes and onions to a large platter and set aside. It's ok if the onions separate after grilling.
Brush one side of each baguette slice with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then smear the other side of each baguette slice with the prepared spread. Place the baguette slices, spread side-up, on a large platter.
Place two dill pickle chips on the spread-side of each baguette slice. Fold each slice of American cheese in half over itself, then place each cheese slice on top of the dill pickle chips on each of the baguette slices. Place a single tomato slice on each baguette slice, then evenly distribute the onions over each baguette slice.
Place the topped baguette slices on the cooler side of the grill and cook until the bottom of the bread is toasted and the cheese is completely melted, 3 to 5 minutes. If some of the bruschetta are cooking faster than others, rearrange them on the grill as necessary. Remove the bruschetta from the grill and serve immediately.
Animal style is the most popular “secret” style. In addition to the standard toppings, animal style burgers include:
grilled onions instead of fresh onion
mustard fried onto each meat patty.
Protein style, popular among Atkins dieters, no/low carb eaters and people who just like lots of lettuce:
replaces the hamburger bun with large leaves of lettuce.
It can be combined with other special orders, e.g., animal protein style.
Lettuce is generally colder than buns, so beware of quickly-congealing beef grease in the sandwich.
3×3, 4×4, or generally M × C refers to a burger with a varied number of meat patties (first number, M) and slices of cheese (second number, C). For example, the popular Double-Double would be 2×2 (pronounced “Two-by-two” when you order it), while a burger with 3 meat patties and 1 slice of cheese would be a 3×1 (a “three-by-one”).
As of August 2006, the largest burger that can be ordered is a 4×4. Only four slices of cheese maximum may be permitted on a single burger. That may be a Davis-specific rule, as somebody checked and officially the largest you can order is a 4×6. If you are wondering about ordering a 20×20, look at this link to deter you. It is a photo essay of the terrible 20 patty journey. Or, to even better satisfy any curiosity you may have, the 100×100.
Double-Meat (a.k.a. 2×0) is a Double-Double with no cheese.
By definition a Double-Double automatically includes two slices of cheese; for two patties without the cheese, a double meat burger must be ordered.
The Flying Dutchman:
Two meat patties
two slices of cheese
Note: other condiments (including lettuce, tomato, spread, and onions) are not included unless you request them.
This is a great way to circumvent the burger size rules. i.e.: order a 4×4 and two Flying Dutchmans and you have essentially an 8×8
a sandwich with two slices of cheese
the grilled cheese comes stock, with spread, tomatoes, lettuce, and onions if you would like.
Like most orders, this can be combined with other styles such as animal style.
FYI: The grilled cheese used to be cooked on the side of the grill that was reserved for toasting buns (so that it wouldn’t get contaminated from being cooked on the same surface used to cook meat). They now have two separate grills, one for meat, and the other for bun toasting. However, the bun grill is coated with a special non-stick surface that doesn’t allow them to cook grilled cheeses on it any longer, and they have to cook them on the same surface as the meat.
Veggie Burger or Wish Burger:
A sandwich containing only vegetables, and no meat or cheese.
“Wish burger” is a reference to Rubber Biscuit, which was a massive cult hit due to Dan Aykroyd’s performance of it as Elwood Blues. The song is a lament about not having enough money for food, and going hungry. The majority of the lyrics are nonsensical vocal sounds, with one of the four actual lines being: “Have you ever heard of a wish sandwich? A wish sandwich is the kind of a sandwich where you have two slices of bread and you — hum hum hum hum — wish you had some meat!”
If you ever have access to fresh ricotta- buy it! It’s one of the most wonderful accoutrements. Put a dollop of it on meatballs or schmear on a toasted baguette with a drizzle of honey for you to reach nirvana. It’s that good. This salad hits all the right notes. Quickly grilling kale makes it crispy and smoky. Pairing it with fresh plums and rich, cloud like ricotta transforms it into an amazing, simple summer salad.
Whisk 3 Tbsp. oil, vinegar, thyme, and honey in a medium bowl. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper. Add plums and toss to coat; transfer plums to a plate.
Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Brush kale leaves with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil; season with salt. Grill kale, turning once, until crispy and charred at edges, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a work surface; let stand until cool enough to handle. Remove large center stems with a knife and discard (just trim the tough ends from smaller, more tender kale stems).
Divide ricotta among plates; season with salt and pepper. Stir vinaigrette again. Tear larger kale leaves into pieces (leave smaller leaves whole). Place leaves in a large bowl and toss with some of the vinaigrette. Divide leaves among plates. Top with plums and drizzle some vinaigrette over.
As much as I’m ready for the fall and the holidays, the summer has been pretty awesome. It was nice to light up the grill and spend the days at the pool. It the easy, breezy time of year. I’m sucking it all up like my vodka lemonade!
I figured that now that Brooke is 18 months old, I would see if she was allergic to shellfish. Which, I’m proud to announce she is not. I made these simple yet perfect, Charred Texas Pete Fiery Sweet Shrimp on Sunday for the adults and a few plain ones for her. She didn’t care for it as much as the fresh grilled corn that she annihilated. She put her new teeth to work. Frank’s RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce is a righteous dipping sauce for the plain, grilled shrimp. I would grill up a bunch of these shrimp and serve with cold beer for the next outing for a real deal, southern food experience.
Let me just start of by saying that the name of this dish is quite flat considering the flavor of hands down the best meal that I’ve had this summer. If you try this dish and come up with a better name please email it to me or make a comment below. Jen Altman is a wonderful artist and mother whose websites are magical. Every image and post is perfection mixed with whimsy. She recently went on a picnic and needed a special, portable meal. Below is the dishes she served with chocolate covered frozen bananas for dessert for her super adorable family.
This meal can be easily thrown together with the help of a store-bought rotisserie chicken. I’m highly allergic to quinoa so I used plain couscous. Another great time saver since it only takes 5 minutes to cook. The succulent chicken is shredded and tossed with ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, ponzu, sesame oil, chili oil, honey, red pepper flakes and fresh lime. Is your mouth watering yet? The quinoa/rice or couscous gets a little jazzing from ginger, garlic and pungent scallions. Then to “summer”ize it tangy grapes take a swim in a bowl of ginger, lemon and spinach. It’s spectacular.
She also create an awesome play list. To quote Jen, “Its a magical time and I think these songs help me do that. You can listen to these songs while preparing the meal, or while eating – or both!”
Asian chicken and quinoa with a zingy grape and ginger salad
For the quinoa:
1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. minced ginger
1 green onion (finely chopped)
For the chicken:
rotisserie roasted chicken
1 T. crushed ginger
1 clove of garlic
5 T. grape seed oil
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. ponzu
1 T + 1 t. sesame oil
1½ t. chili oil
2 T. honey
½ t. red pepper flakes
zest and juice of 1 lime
For the grape salad:
1 bag of green grapes, rinsed and cut into halves
2 large handfuls of spinach, cut chiffonade
zest and juice of ½ lemon
2 T. fresh minced ginger
For the quinoa:
Place the water, quinoa, garlic, ginger and green onion in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a slow boil. Once it begins to boil, stir a bit, cover and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook 15 - 20 minutes until the water is absorbed and you see a white, spiral like thread around each grain. Pour out the quinoa into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
For the chicken:
Pull the white meat off the bird in bite-sized pieces and add to the quinoa in the mixing bowl. Discard the bones, or better yet - create a stock for later use!
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix for 5 minutes - or until thoroughly combined and thickened.
Pour the sauce over the quinoa and chicken and coat thoroughly. We've tossed in fresh peas or broccoli as well to brighten the dish up a bit. We chill ours thoroughly and toss it into a cooler - it's the perfect all-in-one dish for picnics.
For the grape salad:
Toss everything together and chill. It's that easy.
It’s been a million degrees down here in Southern Florida. I don’t want to cook or really do anything except hang out in the pool or catch up on my Tivo in bed. Being the responsible parent that I am, healthy food is still prepared and made in bulk so snacking can also be done 24/7. This super simple lettuce wrap hits all the right Thai notes: sweet, sour, salty and spicy. This is the equivalent of American Asian comfort food. Cold Boston lettuce leaves are the perfect vehicle for the ground pork, garlic, Thai chile, red onion, basil, mint and cilantro leaves. Instead of using it as a dipping condiment, the sauce was drizzled as a vinaigrette. The sprinkling of the toasted rice adds a little something- something.
In the skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderately low heat, stirring a few times, until golden brown, about 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar and cook for about 20 seconds. Add the ground pork and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat finely, until no pink remains, about 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the fish sauce and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a medium skillet, toast the rice over moderate heat, shaking the pan often, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the rice to a plate and let cool completely. Put the toasted rice in a spice grinder and grind to a powder.
In a small bowl, combine the lime juice with the remaining 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar, two-thirds of the chiles and 1 tablespoon of water. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter with the dipping sauce. Reheat the pork. Remove from the heat and stir in the onion, basil, mint, cilantro and the remaining chile. Sprinkle the pork with the rice powder. Transfer to a bowl and place on or near the platter. Let everyone spoon the pork onto the lettuce leaves and season with the dipping sauce.
There are no words to describe how amazing and super simple this dessert is. I call it a dessert but it ended up being my breakfast, lunch and the best damn snack ever! I’ve had a huge hankering for Montelimar style nougat and I’m not about to locate wafer paper or burn myself with a million degree melted sugar to fill that void. I’d personally like to just fly back to France and eat it 24/7 like I did a few years ago. However, since none of that is happening the Croquant will just have to do. This Provencal sweet is a cross between almond nougat candy and cookies. It’s sticky, crunchy, and totally addictive. Next time I will try it with salted pistachios instead of the raw almonds and tart cherries.
Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, then lightly coat the interior with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine sugar, egg white, honey, and flour. Whisk until white is frothy, about 2 minutes. Add almonds and cherries and stir until they are coated and entire mixture is uniformly combined. Pour mixture into cake pan. Bake until the mixture is golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool in pan at least 1 hour, then cut into wedges.
Yum. Yum. Give me some. I don’t know about you but I’m so bored with chicken breasts! They have no flavor and texture. Give me dark meat! Braised chicken legs with a bright, zesty vinegar sauce is elegant enough for entertaining and easy enough for a simple weeknight dinner. This is another recipe that can be altered for the current status of your kitchen staples. Chicken thighs can be swapped for the legs, sour cream for the creme fraiche and regular balsamic for the white balsamic. I’m not a big fan of mushrooms but what the heck, throw them in too. Make sure you have some crunchy bread to soak up the delicious sauce and a bold Cabernet.
3 large leeks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
One 10-ounce package frozen baby peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ cup crème fraîche
Preheat the oven to 425° and position a rack in the upper third. Turn the chicken legs skin side down on a work surface and cut halfway through the joint. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper.
In each of 2 large nonstick skillets, heat half of the butter and oil. Add the chicken, skin side up, and cook over high heat until browned, 5 minutes. Turn and cook the chicken for 1 minute. Pile all of the chicken into one skillet.
In the other skillet, cook the leeks over high heat until just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into a medium roasting pan.
Set the chicken on the leeks, skin side up; roast for about 25 minutes, until it is cooked through. Turn on the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp. Transfer the chicken to a platter.
Place the roasting pan over a burner and boil over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, herbs and crème fraîche and simmer until the sauce is hot and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.