Monday, April 25, 2016

It's Sunday In My Heart and In My Stomach

Happy Monday, LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

I swear weekends go by in the blink of an eye.  One second it is Friday afternoon and next second it is Monday morning.  Although I had a very fun weekend, I would have liked it to last LONGER!

I have a giant file of recipes I have seen online that I would like to try one day.  The file is so big I could probably make a new recipe every day for several years.  My cooking intentions are always broader than my cooking reality.  

However today, a recipe that I had printed out months ago popped up on a Facebook feed.  A breakfast tart with baked eggs, bacon and cheese on a grain-free almond crust from Danielle Walker's Against All Grain website.  (The website calls it "Breakfast Pizza with Gruyere, Baked Eggs and Bacon" but I figure anything where I use my tart pan is a tart not a pizza.  LOL!)  

I looked at the ingredient list and I was surprised that I had almost everything on the list.  This NEVER happens.  A typical day in my life is "Ooooh I could make a BLT sandwich - except I don't have bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise or bread."  

But today was not a typical day - I even had FRESH CHIVES in my refrigerator.  It is rare I have fresh anything in my fridge as I eat out a ridiculous amount.  I decided this was the universe's way of saying that even though it was Monday, I should brunch like it's still Sunday.

The recipe for the breakfast tart (a.k.a. Pizza) is here, but I wanted to discuss some modifications that I made.  The grain free crust uses blanched almond flour, salt, egg, melted butter, cold water and chopped chives.  I had almond flour but it was not blanched - so my crust was more mottled in color.  It tastes great to me either way.  I also used smoked salt, but less than the recipe called for.  Instead of melted regular butter, I used melted grass-fed garlic and herb Kerrygold butter to add additional flavor.  I also tripled the chopped chives.  I find almond flour crusts to be a little bland so adding extra herbs really brought a lot of great flavor to the crust.

The almond crust before baking 

For the tart filling, it called for 1/4 c. creme fraiche or Greek yogurt.  I used 1/3 cup - 1/2 sour cream and 1/2 Greek yogurt to add a more savory tang.  If I were living in France, I might have creme fraiche in my fridge on a regular basis.  However here in Tampa, most of my local stores do not carry it.  

I also did not have 1/4 c. shredded Gruyere cheese.  Had I had Gruyere cheese, I would have also added some nutmeg to the filling as I find that is a great Swiss flavor combination.  However, I didn't have any Gruyere cheese (did you really think I would?)  

Instead I used 1/3 c. rough chopped Kerrygold Dubliner Cheddar cheese and added both cracked black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 garlic cloves minced and 1/4 of a small red onion, diced.  I loved the crunch of the red onion in this breakfast tart.  I like really savory flavor profiles.

The cheese filling before baking

The recipe called for 7 strips of cooked bacon to be put on top of the cheese layer.  However my tart pan could only handle 6 slices.  What a crime!

And the result?  A fabulous breakfast tart that looks impressive.  It was incredibly easy to make but looks like it was difficult.  I love recipes like that!  I will definitely make this recipe again, but next time I will rough chop the bacon instead of just laying the strips on the tart.  It was harder to cut into wedges because of it.  Also the tart is supposed to serve 6 but only 4 eggs are used.  If I was making this for a brunch, I'd crack in 2 more eggs so every serving would have a full egg on it.

I made sure to cook the tart for a few extra minutes because while I love a runny yolk, I don't like a runny egg white.  But otherwise this was SO DELICIOUS!  And grain free!  I definitely recommend checking out this recipe from Danielle Walker.  Any day can be like a Sunday brunch with this delightful dish!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Five Hundred Thank Yous and a Raspberry Beret

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

It seems like a million lifetimes since I have last written.  There are two reasons for my lack of blogging - 1) I have been living life robustly with great vigor and enjoying every moment of it.  Instead of writing, I have been using Instagram (@LilyOnTheLam).  Picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps?  Lazy, I know! 

And 2) the second reason it has been MONTHS since I have written is because I had finished 499 blog posts and felt like the 500th blog post should be something "super colossal."  Like Elaine on "Seinfeld" determining if a prospective suitor was "sponge-worthy," I held up all my adventures under the magnifying glass of "Is this 500th blog post worthy?"  And it always seemed to be lacking ... but mostly that was probably procrastination and laziness talking.

But this afternoon, I was taking a break from work and I saw an article on speculating that the musician, actor, producer, artist Prince had died.  Growing up in Minnesota during Prince's rise to fame, meant that I hold a very special place in my heart for the talented musician.

The day before New Year's Eve 2015, I checked in to a Miami hotel.  I was on my way to ring in the New Year in Key West, Florida but I was exhausted from my drive and decided to spend New Year's Eve's Eve in Miami and make the rest of the drive down to the Keys in the morning.  I turned on the TV and "Purple Rain" was playing.  I texted a friend who is an ardent Prince fan and said "I can't think of a better way to close out 2015 than watching `Purple Rain.'"  And I meant it.  

My sister sent me a video of the crowd in front of First Avenue in Minneapolis this evening.  People mourning, slightly swaying as "Raspberry Beret" plays on speakers.  The song is bubbly and effervescent but the hearts of the people standing on the sidewalk seem to feel hollow and empty.  Hearing the song on the video reminded me of a long ago memory.  When my sister was seven years old, I took her to Sea World in San Diego, CA (no haters, please - this was a long time ago.  Yes, everyone should see "Blackfish.")  

Now if you know me well, you know that I love a good gift shop.  Sea World did not disappoint.  They had a literal wall of stuffed animals.  My sister went running toward a wall of stuffed seals.  I shouted "Just one!  You can only get one!"  My sister happily selected one seal from what seemed like hundreds.  In the car on the drive back to Los Angeles, we were listening to Prince's song "Raspberry Beret" and my 7 year old sister decided to name her new stuffed seal "Mary Beret" in tribute.  I can still picture her sitting in the back seat of a rental car making the stuffed seal dance to Prince's light-hearted song.

Thinking about this moment reminded me of another memory with a Prince soundtrack.  I was visiting a friend at Hamline University.  He was a major Prince fan, so of course Prince was playing non-stop in the background.  I was in college - although I don't remember what year.  I was very scared for my future.  I think I might not have picked my major yet.  I just remember thinking that life was this giant avalanche sweeping me along into a black abyss and I was helpless to stop it.  

Instead of being hopeful for all the potential opportunities that my future might bring me, I was absolutely scared.  My friend and I listened to so many Prince songs that day as we talked about our hopes for the future.  I remember when Prince first became mainstream famous, I was so proud.  Somebody from Minnesota was internationally famous!  If Prince could rise up from nothing, surely there was hope for the rest of young Minnesotans too.  

But on this particular day, with Prince songs hypnotically streaming; I was feeling more scared than hopeful.  I wish I could go back to that younger me and say "Don't worry so much!  Everything is going to be just fine.  Sit back and enjoy the journey - don't get so caught up about the destination."

I have so many memories that revolve around Prince songs.  Quentin Tarantino once opined that in your heart you are either a Beatles fan or an Elvis fan - you can appreciate both but one speaks to you more than the other.  I think the same can be said for Michael Jackson and Prince.  You may appreciate both, but in your heart you know which one you hold more dear.  When Michael Jackson died, I was sad for many reasons.  But when I learned Prince died, I felt like I had been stabbed in the heart.

Prince accomplished so much in 57 years, but I am greedy.  I want more years.  I want to wake up tomorrow and hear that this has been some elaborate hoax.  Denial is real.  However as Prince said: "Life is just a party and parties weren't meant to last."

So for this my 500th blog post, I wanted to give 500 thank you's to Prince - for being an inspiration on so many levels.  Growing up in Minnesota, Prince was like pure energy and pure magic to me.  Even in death, he has inspired me that I should be strong, enjoy the moment and not give in to fear.

I end with another Prince quote:

"There are no accidents. And if there are, it's up to us to look at them as something else. And that bravery is what creates new flowers."

Be brave.  Thank you, Prince Rogers Nelson ... for everything.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Autumnal Nerd: Trader Joe's Butternut Squash and Creamed Spinach Gratin

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers!

For the record, I am a nerd.  A nerd for all seasons, in fact.  For today, I am an autumnal nerd.  I just returned home from a wonderful family reunion in honor of my father's birthday in Chicago, Illinois.  

Upon returning home, my refrigerator and cupboards were bare.  A trip to my beloved Trader Joe's was required!  This is my favorite time of year at Trader Joe's - PUMPKIN SEASON.  When Trader Joe's brings out everything and anything in PUMPKIN FLAVOR.  

I decided that everything I would buy at Trader Joe's would need to have a pumpkin or autumnal theme.  I am such a nerd!  But I have been having a blast trying all these new pumpkin products!  So stay tuned to because I will be posting several Trader Joe's product reviews in the next couple weeks!

My first Trader Joe's product reviews is one of my absolute favorite autumnal products:  The Butternut Squash and Creamed Spinach Gratin.  The package describes it as a spinach lasagna but with butternut squash instead of noodles.

The refrigerated food item does not look as pretty as the picture on the box, but the taste is delicious.  Al dente, fresh tasting butternut squash cut into long ribbons with a tasty, creamy spinach filling inbetween with a hint of nutmeg.  It is perfect hearty food for cold weather (or in my case 70 degree weather in Florida).  Like the packaging says, it is good for both a vegetarian entree or a side dish.  I could eat pans and pans of this delicious, hearty stuff!  

Well done, Trader Joe's!  You've made this autumnal nerd's stomach very happy!  This product may get a C for looks but an A+ for flavor!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Teachable Moments

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

I hope you have been enjoying the plethora of blog posts I have been writing lately.  After avoiding my blog for a good part of 2015, I am trying to make up for it before the holiday season begins.  

Now if you're a regular reader, you may know that I tend to be cynical, sarcastic, tongue in cheek, self-deprecating and yet egomaniacally egocentric at the same time ... and basically a bit whacky with a side of goofy and a dollop of nerd with a sprinkle of elderly, crazy cat lady.  I might also be somewhat delusional, but the medical community has not issued an official diagnosis at this time.  (By the way, when I am sitting in my Senate confirmation hearing for US Supreme Court Justice, I am going to regret writing the above.)  

Also, if you're a viewer of my LilyOnTheLam Instagram account (or a reader of my blog); you will know that I love RuPaul's Drag Race - the reality television competition show on Logo TV.  

Well one day I was listening to RuPaul's podcast on my iPhone.  I was very excited because RuPaul's Drag Race Season 6 winner, Bianca Del Rio was on the podcast.  I have seen Bianca Del Rio twice - once in the touring show "RuPaul's Battle of the Stars" at the Ritz Ybor in Ybor City (Tampa), Florida.  The other time I saw Bianca in his one-drag queen show "Rolodex of Hate" in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  Bianca Del Rio is a bit of an insult comic drag queen, but the "secret" is that Bianca Del Rio also has a heart of gold.  

I was very excited to see Bianca Del Rio (a.k.a. Roy Haylock) and he did not disappoint!  It was a FANTASTIC show!

Now as I was listening to the RuPaul podcast, a person who I will not name asked me what I was listening to.  This particular person is a business person who provides services and I was her client.  Now I should have been given a heads up when the person (who is 4 years younger than me) didn't know what a podcast was.  (Clue #1 that this person is clueless).

Next, this person didn't know RuPaul had done anything with his life past his 1993 song "Supermodel of the World."  (OK so you're not into drag queens, many are not.)

Needless to say this person had never heard of Bianca Del Rio.  (No shade to Bianca but if RuPaul's not on your personal radar, Bianca probably is not either.)  So I whipped out my Instagram account and showed this person the following picture ...

Bianca Del Rio and Yours Truly

The person looked at this picture of a drag queen with me and sputtered "Wait, are you a drag queen too?"  

OK SERIOUSLY?  This is an educated professional with an advanced degree and she is asking me - IN ALL SERIOUSNESS AND SINCERITY- if I am a drag queen.

A million smart ass remarks went flying through my head.

I like convertibles.  It doesn't mean I am a car.

I thought about RuPaul's quote: "We're all born naked and the rest is drag."  But I thought this particular person would not understand the quote and would then take it as an affirmation that I am a drag queen.

Finally, I decided that this was a teachable moment.  And instead of insulting or shaming the person, I should educate.

OK and maybe shame her just a little.

I adopted a curt tone and said "No, I am not a drag queen. I am a biological female.  So I can't be a drag queen.  If I was a drag performer, I'd be a drag king."

She gasped and started to speak - I quickly cut her off and said "I AM NOT A DRAG KING!"  She quickly snapped her mouth shut, understanding that the Question and Answer portion of the day was now over.  

Seriously, how is this person a professional?  

I know many of my friends may find my love of RuPaul's Drag Race to be bizarre - but I also have friends who obsess over "American Idol" or "The Voice" or cults dedicated to worshipping escargot (OK I may have made that last one up).  I may not see the value or have any interest but I respect their passion.  

This particular person then went on to talk for 20 minutes about how she believes Caitlyn Jenner is not transgender and is only adopting a female persona (and plastic surgery) to make money.  I found it particularly amusing as she made some narrow-minded comments about transgendered people that I was wearing a Human Rights Campaign t-shirt (which advocates for equal rights) that says "Love Conquers Hate."  She was talking very loudly and there were other clients in ear shot.  I wondered if any of her clients had friends or family members who were transgendered.

I am heterosexual but this person did not know that.  I found it curious that she was spewing so many awkward, potentially offensive statements.  But then she started talking about how she wished she didn't get married.  So I figured she had much bigger issues than not knowing about RuPaul's Drag Race.

At times like this, I actually think the biggest teachable moment is what I personally take away from the interaction.  I felt awkward and uncomfortable with her tone and attitudes.  But I also saw it as an opportunity to practice tolerance and compassion.  Not everyone is going to share my views.  Better to approach such situations with compassion versus judgment.

(Oh but it is SO EASY for me to be snippy and judgmental!  It takes stamina to NOT be judgmental!)  

I really want to dismiss this person as an uneducated crack pot but I think that adds to the "us vs. them" mentality that seems to be running center in American politics.  I'd like to think that the world is not so black and white, all or nothing.  And if that is how I want my world to be - tolerant and compassionate - change starts from within.  I need to be more tolerant and compassionate.  Which is NOT easy, but it is a challenge I should embrace.

As always, thank you for reading!