December 26, 2010

My Top Ten of 2010

So it is almost the end of the year.

Not sure how that happened but it seems to have really come out of nowhere. It feels like just yesterday I was chumming it up with our customers at Banana Republic about playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving had even hit and now Christmas is over! With 2010 coming to a close I, like may others, am reflecting on the year. There have been many highs and lows, if I were to sum it into one word I think I would call it bipolar. I think that once 2011 hits I'll have to stop telling people I've just graduated from UCLA when they ask me what I'm up to. Just implies recently, like in the past month or so and truthfully it has been over six months now. Oye, that's mildly frightening. I cannot express how thankful I am to be going into the new year with a job lined up and prospects for more on the horizon. I think it is a good omen of a better year to come. Although I'm not sure if that's a fair statement. I don't think 2010 was by any means a bad year, I think it was more than anything a transitional year, and I don't think I was the only person who felt that way.

Although I am more than ready to waive goodbye to this year and give 2011 a good sturdy handshake, first impressions really matter you know, I've compiled a list of the top 10 moments of the year. These are in no particular order and to be honest I am positive I will leave out many magnificent moments only to be added to some other list perhaps in a different post.

Number 1 (This should be quite obvious) : Graduating from college! I have a Bachelor in Theater Arts, Check me out, cause I'm super fancy.

Number 2 : Sweet Charity. Dream role, amazing show with amazing people. I couldn't have asked for a better way to close out my time at UCLA.

Number 3 : Discovering I actually like, who'd-a-thunk, yoga! And I use the term "like" very loosely because I think the more appropriate description may be that I'm completelyandutterlyobsessed.

Number 4 : Landing an agent, and my first job post college assisting at the Goodspeed Opera House in the same week, before even graduating. And attached to that my entire Goodspeed experience. Period.

Number 5 : Having the opportunity to assist a Tony nominated director on How to Succeed and a Tony nominated Broadway Diva on Cabaret simultaneously.

Number 6 : Sloppy Senior Day, my birthday, and cast party debauchery.

Number 7 : Getting the best graduation gift a foodie like myself could ask for...My bright orange kitchen aid mixer. I named him Nemo. He is currently the love of my life. If he had a facebook we'd be in a relationship.

Number 8 : Although it stressed us all out to no end, Senior Project and the fact that we actually pulled it off! That's right we rock.

Number 9 : Gaff-taping my La Duca's to avoid standing out while swinging in Cabaret. The rush of performing in front of a live audience after rehearsing each number only twice on my feet the day of the show was in a word exhilarating.

Number 10 : Sharing another amazing year with so many new and old friends. Couldn't ask to be surrounded by more amazing people.

*Number 11 (for good luck) : Here's to many more good memories for 2011

Cheers and Happy Holidays

December 1, 2010

Autumn Foodie Creations

As promised I am double posting today, only because I have so many amazing recipes to share. Many of these recipes come from Cooking Light Magazine and when possible I have attached the links.

My autumn food adventures began with a small feast a friend and I made in early November. The feast consisted of Rosemary Sweet Mashed Potatoes that were supposed to be topped with caramelized shallots but I ended up mixing them into the sweet potatoes so that every bite had that bit of sweetness to it. I also altered the recipe slightly by adding a few tablespoons of brown sugar to the potatoes and I believe a dash of cinnamon. Truly scrumptous. Also I would suggest caramelizing the shallots last, after boiling the potatoes instead of first as it suggests in the recipe. We did it first and the shallots hardened before the potatoes were ready.

Also on the menu that night was Brussel Sprouts Gratin. The name of the dish is a little deceiving. When I think of a 'gratin' dish I immediately think of thinly sliced potatoes baked with lots of cheesy creamy goodness, but there is no cheese to be found in this dish. The recipe is pretty simple, and I've already made it again since. I used turkey bacon which doesn't give off the same amount of fat or flavor, so if you can spare the calories I suggest using full-fat, pig bacon. Also be sure to really toast your bread crumbs. I got lazy and didn't the second time around and it made what should have been a crispy crust quite soggy. 

As Thanksgiving approached it was time for me to tackle what has become one of my favorite days of the year. A Thanksgiving feast for my closest girlfriends which allows me to make and experiment with a giant turkey for the past 3 years straight. This year my project was brining the turkey. I was inspired by the Food Network's Sunny Anderson and used her Daddy's Game Changing Turkey recipe as a guideline for my brine and gravy. The brine, or as my roommate and I joked, my turkey's over night spa consisted of water, a whole lotta salt, thyme, sage, rosemary, lemon and some peppercorns. After letting it soak in a styrofoam cooler in my kitchen overnight I let it come to room temperature and got to work on the rub. I used lots of thyme, rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper of course, olive oil, and my secret ingredient, honey! Inside the bird I followed Sunny's lead and put some sage, thyme, lemon, onion and garlic, along with onion garlic and broth in the pan to get those gravy drippings going. Here's what it looked like precooking:

And here is what it looked like after a mere 4 hours in the oven. I credit the gorgeous golden brown color to the honey in the rub, the dark pieces are the fresh herbs that couldn't quite take the heat. I think next year I'll use dried herbs in the rub. 

The gravy, although not pictured was Sunny's recipe from the link above and it came out DELICIOUS. It was the first year I made a successful gravy and I think it was because I finally curbed my anti-recipe, I can figure it out on my own, voice and followed tried and true directions. Like i said, I was very proud. 

The stuffing was sort of a no brainer, I cheated a bit here merely because i was too lazy to either buy bread ahead of time and let it get hard or roast a bunch of cut up bread the day of. I use Trader Joe's Cornbread Stuffing as the base but add a few things of my own. I saute LOTS or aromatics, aka about 2 onions and a whole bunch of chopped celery. Add a hefty amount of parsley and let that cook down for about 20 minutes. Just before it's all softened I add salt, pepper and thyme. I toss this mixture with the bread pieces and then proceed to make the seasoning package that comes with the stuffing. I never use all of the seasoning liquid because it makes for mushy stuffing and although mine came out a little drier than I'd like this year, I'd much rather is dry that mushy. Here's the stuffing pre-baking.

Although I could not go home for an actual Thanksgiving holiday I was able to spend it with a dear friend and her family. But since I was barging in last minute to her family's meal I couldn't show up empty handed, also it felt wrong not to be doing something in the kitchen on this festive Thursday in November. So...I made a double batch of Pumpkin Mini Muffins whose recipe also came from Cooking Light to take to Thanksgiving dinner and work the next day. This recipe was insanely easy. I read a few of the comments and altered the recipe just slightly. I substituted 1.5 cups of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour which added a little more nutrition, I also doubled the amount of cinnamon and added about a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the dry ingredients. Like I said these were super yummy, and if I were looking to make them more decadent I think they would taste heavenly with a dollop of cream cheese frosting. 

AND to round out this very long, food filled entry --I imagine you are becoming quite hungry by now, I made a huge pot of chicken soup day before last because I am flirting with a cold that I really wish would go away. The recipe is really simple, and essentially reminds me of my mom like no other. After the soup had been simmering on my stove for about an hour I stuck my nose into the pot, took a big whiff and was immediately transported to my house in El Cerrito eating soup with what we called 'dot noodles' on a rainy day with my mom and dad. But isn't that what food and cooking is all about? Bringing us together, making fond memories, and full tummies?

Nothing like a bowl of mom's chicken soup. Ask me nicely and maybe I'll give you the recipe. Unlike all the above foods this one has no link except that it comes from my home with love. 

Stay tuned to the next foodie entry, for tomorrow, in the spirit of Chanukah I will attempt to make potato latkes from scratch with my good friend Steve! 

Frida Libre!

Okay once again I've waited entirely too long to update my blog. I have many recipes to share and even more exciting news about my big girl life. Try not to judge me as I am sure to write far too much in this entry, if not add a second entry just for all the food I've been making over the past month.

I'm still working at Banana Republic which has managed to fill up my daily schedule quite a bit. I've been yoga-ing less, unfortunately, and feeling a need for the yogi strength and wisdom. But standing for essentially 4-6 hours straight can wear a girl down!  I finally got myself to a late night yoga class day before last and it was quite possibly the best thing I could have done for myself. I have been over eating a tinge since Thanksgiving (but then again who hasn't) and feeling the need to mentally and physically detox. During the class I found myself in a twisting reverse warrior pose, and while exhaling through it I literally felt like I was wringing the gunk out of my internal organs. This may sound strange, but I felt like all the sugar and junk I had been eating was finally being processed out of my system. Dear yoga, I never thought I'd say this; but you are my soulmate. Love Cami

In other news, I landed my very first professional theater job!! The show is called Frida Libre. It is a new children's musical being produced in conjunction with the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego that will tour San Diego county schools. I start rehearsals in San Diego January 11th 2011 (can you believe 2010 is almost over?!) and will be performing from February through early April! I got the news while I was driving up Hwy 5 to visit my fam in Northern California. My caller ID was blinking my agent's number and I just was praying they were going to tell me I had gotten the job, and I did! As soon as I hung up the phone, still driving, I literally began to weep. I have never been so overcome with emotion so instantly. Since graduation I cannot begin to count how many times I have sat down and thought to myself "what the hell are you doing?! You can't do this, this isn't real." But finally landing a job gave mt the validation I needed to remind myself that I'm actually good at what I do, and I love it enough to keep trying no matter what. Holy crap it was a good feeling.

I cannot begin to explain how proud I am of the successes my peers have been fortunate enough to have in these short six months since graduation. I was talking to the amazing Angelica Richie, whose blog can be accessed here, about this today and it truly is fantastic. To think that so many of my friends are working in New York, Los Angeles and all over the county is ridiculous. (To tune into the UCLA c/o 2010 progress click here.) The life we have all chosen to lead is by no means an easy one. We have given ourselves over to the theater and entertainment gods in hopes of finding just a tiny bit of gold at the end of our long and difficult rainbow. Scary thought right? And yet, as idealistic or perhaps egotistical as it may sound I feel that we all belong here. I feel that through the hard work, blood, sweat and many, many tears that we all put in everything will work out in the just the way it is meant to. There were many jobs I was not have been cast in that caused me a lot of heartbreak, but all of those previous jobs would have made me ineligible for Frida. And from what I understand, this is going to be an opportunity to create a title character role in a new musical that will be performed for kids, which we all know are my favorite people! I hate to say that everyone was right when they said the right projects will come along, but in this case I think they were.

I've got lots of recipes to share since it is officially that gluttonous time of year and I've already started cooking and baking up a storm, but I am choosing to put them in a separate post merely for the sake of brevity (and my tummy is rumbling for dinner so I need to take a quick typing break to feed my appetite.)

More fun to come!