Browse Month: February 2011

Throwback Friday: Acid wash jeans

Acid wash jeans: an idea whose time has passed. Like, really. We may have donned a pair and admired their faux-distressed look, but they point to a distinctly bizarre era of fashion. For a process that made so many articles of clothing look so ridiculous, the acid wash was pretty well thought out, involving chlorine and pumice stones (only die-hard slaves of fashion need apply!). The pumice stones were soaked in chlorine, then the denim clothing (jeans, jean jacket, vest, etc) could be doused with some spritzes of the chemical, then scrubbed with the bleachy stone, or put into a machine to wash with the bleachy stones to achieve that crazed, porous pattern. This process stripped the top layer of denim of its blue color, making it white and allowing the colored threads underneath to show through for that…”look.” Acid wash on blue denim was bad enough, but the process was done to jeans of all colors. And it was best if you had a matching jacket.

The full acid wash shebang

The acid wash didn’t really die in the early ’90s. It’s still here and what’s changed, of course, are the articles of clothing. It is often more subtle today, as the chemicals have shorter contact with the clothing, allowing for a more nuanced pattern. But you can still find bold patterns achieved by deliberate manipulation of the lightening chemicals, which can look nice on a modern cut of pant, such as these skinny jeans here by denim company YMI:

Acid wash skinny jeans from YMI

But don’t you even think of putting on a pair if they’re anything like this pair I’m sporting here–baggy, high-waisted, sewn-in cloth belt, seams all over. It may be of interest to the reader that I’m sporting a New Kids on the Block t-shirt (de rigueur at the time) along with that self-satisfied expression on my face. What did I know, anyway? So tell me…did you wear them proudly in the 80s and 90s? I won’t judge you ūüėČ

My jeans of yesteryear.

Twix lamentations & the $3 Kit Kat bar

Some chocolate bars are flawless in their composition. My case in point: the regular Twix bar. That nice sweet-ish neutral cookie center, coated with just the right amount of caramel, then wrapped in a thin layer milk chocolate. Many bars overdo it on the chocolate to caramel to cookie ratio, but not Twix. That’s why it’s my favorite chocolate bar. That’s also why it’s so unfortunate for me that in the ’90s, Mars, Inc. decided to start manufacturing these magic bars in facilities that also processed peanut products–not ideal for those of us who suffer from fatal peanut allergies. Oh, the disappointment. There I was, a high school student on my break, holding my Twix bar, just wrestled out of a vending machine hellbent on giving me nothing for my money. I took a bite. Seconds later, the painful tingling in the throat. ‘What the hell?? This is regular Twix.‘ I thought. I took meds to stop the reaction and looked at the packaging, puzzled. Boldfaced writing near the ingredients caught my eye: “May Contain Peanuts.” Well that wasn’t there before…

This was the very beginning of the tell-all label era. While I was red-hot pissed that Mars, Inc. couldn’t keep peanuts out of their peanut-less candy bars, I did appreciate the clear labeling that was popping up on more food products. Of course, the labels have become ridiculous over the years. Out of all the chocolate candies sold in the United States, maybe one or two don’t have the statements “May Contain Peanuts” or “Manufactured in a Facility that Processes Peanuts.” Trust me, I’ve looked. I’m convinced that every single chocolate/candy company that makes their stuff in the US puts these statements on their labels to cover their asses whether their products are processed with peanut or not. Eyeroll.

Hershey, which makes the US’s Kit Kat bars (Nestle makes Kit Kat for the rest of the world), also started pulling the same crap on peanut allergy sufferers by putting the same statements on its Kit Kat labels (these damning statements have yet to appear on Hershey Hugs; thank God for small favors).

So I gave up my beloved Twix along with my well-liked Kit Kats during the mid-90s. I did, however, discover a window of opportunity that I would exploit for years to come: Twix and Kit Kat manufactured outside the US were peanut-free! I’d pick up one of these bars during my trips and vacations out of the country and savor it, comfortable in the knowledge that no allergic reaction would follow. Where were they made, exactly? I couldn’t say. All I knew was that the ingredients were written in English, French, Italian, Polish, Russian, Serbian and Arabic, and the word ‘peanut’ was never anywhere to be found (if you’re wondering how I know, I’ve memorized the word for the offending legume in many languages). Every time a relative comes back from a trip to Europe, they know to bring me a few Twix bars, but I worry that eventually even the Old World will catch onto using peanut as filler.

In Canada, where plenty of peanut-free chocolate candies are available to the public, I can find peanut-free Kit Kat. But in the US, still not available. The last time I was in Orlando, I found myself wandering a little fake patch of British soil (read: UK Pavilion at EPCOT, Disney World). I walked into a shop selling UK goods, and on my way out my eye caught a flash of red: a stack of Kit Kats at the register. I turned to my husband and wondered aloud, “Ya think they import those Kit Kats?” I picked one up and read the label. Sunny Global Diva 1, Peanut 0. Of course, this Kit Kat bar that normally costs around ¬†80 cents in the US cost $3 in “England.” Then again, these 3-dollar Kit Kats won’t send me to the hospital. I grabbed a pair and happily overpaid for my peanut-free candy. It’s true what they say about Disney World–happiest place on Earth.

My Kit Kat, blessedly free of peanut.

Happy 1st Birthday!

We only turn one once. The parental units, siblings if applicable, extended family, and friends make a big to-do about the 365th day of your life. It’s too bad we can’t remember our first birthdays. But I’m blessed to celebrate a new first birthday–today, February 18, 2011 marks one year since I put out my first post. Over the last year, I’ve watched my baby creep out into the world. She’s taken up lots of my time, she’s kept me creative and busy, and she’s forced me to rethink certain parts of my life. Some days, I don’t know what to do with her, but she’s brought me joy and a unique sort of personal growth, and I’m all the better for it.

I get to share my thoughts and life’s interesting times, along with a bunch of random crap (and by ‘random crap’ I mean ‘wonderful stuff’). The icing on the cake is that a bunch of people I love as well as people I’ve never met, will celebrate these things with me. The bright bubblegum pink sprinkle on the icing on the cake is that every so often, someone will understand my randomness and connect with it.

So I thank you, dear readers both sporadic and regular, for stopping here during your busy days to read to my stories, and for your support and interaction. I do hope that you’ll keep following as I figure it all out, and I welcome all communication, feedback and suggestions. I appreciate all the ways you’ve warmed my heart during this first year of blogging as Sunny Global Diva.

The morning of Sunny Global Diva's 1st Birthday--spent in a suburban office parking lot. Bring glamor and love everywhere, I say...

Flavor Trips: Little birds

I spent this past Monday playing with quail in the kitchen. The experience yielded some interesting things. First of all, they’re so damn tiny and delicate. Your thumb and forefinger move ever so slightly while the bird is in your clutches, and you feel SNAP, CRACKLE, POP while its little bones break and bend. I eat quail often, but had never prepared it myself. I chose a recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc book; it involved marinating the bird in a pomegranate-juice-based marinade, then cooking it either on the grill or by pan. I chose the pan-roasting cooking method.

The recipe was good, but a tad flawed because it left out some helpful pieces of information. First of all, the recipe didn’t call for a defined amount of salt, nor did it even call for “salt to taste.” It’s bad when recipes fail to mention salt–I ended up seasoning them just before they went into the pan, but a recipe should state when to season because it does matter, and it’s a helpful reminder to home cooks (how many contestants on¬† Top Chef get reprimanded for under-seasoning? And those are professional chefs with extensive training–I cook at home). Removed from marinade, bits wiped off, briefly dipped in oil, then into a pan warmed to medium they went, breast-side down. But because these birds are so small and have tiny fronts that puff up, they don’t lay down easily on the breast-side; they want to flop over. As I found out after through research, that’s why it’s good to butterfly them for pan cooking–it helps them sit and cook evenly and quickly. The recipe would have been better with that step. So the birds were too-darkly browned on the outside on certain parts, and still slightly raw on the inside as opposed to the medium rare that I wanted. I had to finish them in the oven to fix the raw, and was then satisfied with the taste. Despite the missteps, the birds were good–we loved the flavor that the marinade gave them, which were flavors of pomegranate, serrano pepper, shallot, onion and sage. Next time, I’ll butterfly the birds; that should help a lot.

In the meantime, I continue to hone my risotto skills. Fortunately my bird’s accompaniment–flavored this time with a light saffron broth–went off without a hitch and was quite good, and creamier than the last batch. I find that I thoroughly enjoy making risotto. The transformation of the grains in the pot is mesmerizing…

Risotto: early toasting stage

Early liquid additions

Yellowed with saffron and stock

Final stir!

Weaving its way through the evening–before, during, and after the meal–was a Caymus Special Selection Cabernet. It was with a happy and heavy heart that this cheap date swallowed the last drop of her Nth glass.

The birds, rice and Cab were followed by 10-year-old tawny port, and sweets picked out by my other half from Hollywood’s Chocolada Bakery & Cafe. All in all a fun way to spend the 14th of February.

Sweets
Bottle, cradled and admired the next day. Empty, sadly...

Roses are red, tulips are blue

A rose can be red
A tulip, bright blue;
All kinds of flowers can say “I love you” ~ Me.

Despite being the daughter of a former florist, I have a thing about red roses for Valentine’s Day. I’m kind of not into them. The sea of red rose in stores is stifling, I don’t care for the jacking up of red and pink rose prices for the holiday, nor do I enjoy seeing the desperation on men’s faces when they shop for the things at the last minute. I have told my husband on most of our Valentine’s Days to get me flowers other than red roses, or to get me some type of interesting plant; he’s smart and creative–I’d rather see his personality shine through his choice than see him give me something pre-chosen that’s being pushed onto the public.¬† I know people say that yellow flowers symbolize friendship and white ones mean purity, and that this flower means this and that flower means that. But ultimately, doesn’t something have whatever meaning you choose to assign it? With so many choices out there, why do so many people confine themselves to one type of flower and two colors? I¬†love flowers (even red roses have a spot in my heart–before and after Valentine’s Day), and think they’re always a beautiful gesture from the heart, but we can show just as much love to some other pretty petals. And should your significant other show creativity in choosing flowers, and surprise you with stems other than red or pink roses: 1.) appreciate the gesture 2.) don’t obsess about the meaning of alternative florals, and 3.) don’t let your friends, relatives or co-workers belittle the gift and convince you that there’s something wrong with it–aesthetics and personal taste probably had more to do with the choice of flowers than hidden messages.

Here are five flowers that I love to see on Valentine’s Day (and on any other day, for that matter). I’ve included some of the traditional beliefs as to what they symbolize.


(1.) Ranunculus; some varieties of this flower are known as “buttercup.” Such a sweet flower. Symbolizes charm. As in the giver of the flower finds you charming.

Ranunculus

(2.) Gerbera daisies; their brightness always makes me smile. They can mean innocence, but also mean cheer. I already know the love and affection is there–adding cheer to the mix is swell.

Gerbera Daisies

(3.) Roses…in other colors; an orange rose conveys desire. My husband often chooses orange for flowers because that’s his color, and that’s fine by me. Lavender roses tell the recipient that the giver has “fallen in love” or “is enchanted” by her/him. Yellow says “friendship,” which in my mind has never been a bad thing between significant others. I love all of these roses.

Yellow-orange Roses

(4.) Tulips; traditional but always dazzling, tulips shout “Get happy.” Yellow ones symbolize “joy,” while red ones represent “perfect love.” White tulips allude to forgiveness, blue ones mean loyalty and unity, and purple says “royalty.” In hoping for a joyful perfect union, wherein lovers forgive each other their wrongs, are loyal to one another, and treat each other like royalty, maybe a multicolored bouquet of these would be best?

Tulips; my mother-in-law's lawn

Tulips

(5.) Sunflowers; I feel like these flowers are smiling at me. They’re also a symbol of adoration, loyalty and longevity. All great qualities in a relationship.

Sunflowers

I challenge the die-hard Rose Party members of the world to change their red-and-pink-rose-colored views of V-Day, but I know roses remain a must for many. Does your significant other get into trouble if the traditional long-stemmers are a no-show? Do your Valentine’s Day flowers have to be red or pink roses?

***Photo credits***
Ranunculus at the Farmers’ Market by Kthread
Gerberas by Marco Raaphorst
Yellow Orange Roses by Kaz Andrew
Sunflowers “Sunshine Daydream” Arrangement by FTD.com

Flavor Trips: Leftover Risotto

I recently posted my first foray into risotto-cooking here on my blog. Encouraged by both my husband and some friends, I’ve decided to post more of my cooking on a regular basis. So without further ado, I give you my leftover lunch: risotto cakes!

In researching different recipes and approaches to making risotto, I came across some delectable ways to use leftover risotto. When the rest of your freshly cooked creamy risotto sits in the fridge for a night or two, it turns into a slightly firmer concoction: still pliable, but harder than a fresh risotto–a perfect consistency for re-shaping with your hands. I shaped the leftovers into two flat round cakes, less than an inch-thick, sprinkling a tiny bit of freshly grated parmesan to the mix to freshen it up. I lightly dredged each side in flour. In a nonstick pan warmed over medium heat, I added a pat of parmigiano reggiano butter and olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Fried them up for about 8 minutes on each side, and ended up with crispy browned mushroomy cheesy goodness. Was oh so good. Is oh so highly recommended!

Crispy, cheesy, mushroomy risotto cake

Throwback Friday: Jello Pudding Pops

I. MISS. THESE. I want the real Jello pudding pops. The ones that Bill Cosby used to plug on TV during the 1980s. The ones that came in a box as chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate-vanilla swirl-flavored. Swirl was my favorite: best of both worlds, mixing of two great elements–the idealist in me, I suppose. The real kicker is that I HATE pudding. Weird, I know. So please, don’t console me with any “You can make them at home!” suggestions about making pudding and freezing it–I know you’re trying to help, but it’ll only make me sadder¬†because it won’t have that same non-replicable flavor that only mass-manufacturing by a food conglomerate like Kraft Foods can achieve. I admit that I mostly avoid processed food. That said, Jello pudding pops, you’re sorely missed, and would be a welcome guest in my house any day.

High time for a revival, methinks.

Photo by knellotron

Flavor Trips: First Risotto

“An offer they can’t refuse,” an over-quoted phrase from that movie we all know, was also the name of yesterday’s February 2nd, 2011 episode of Top Chef All-Stars. Last Sunday, the husband and I happened to see a commercial for the episode. Scenes from the upcoming episode revealed that it would feature an Italian challenge, and we caught a quick glimpse of lovely Lorraine Bracco’s face among the elimination challenge diners. We decided right away that dinner on Wednesday would match Top Chef’s theme.

For drinking, we had an ’05¬† Bracco Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I chose to make a mushroom risotto as I wanted to prepare something traditional that I hadn’t done before; the husband chose to pair it with pan-roasted cod.¬†We cook at home almost every evening, but planning an impromptu themed dinner inspired by a food show we love was lots of fun. I ultimately experienced much self-doubt however, over the consistency of my risotto, wondering whether I had done the classic Italian rice dish justice. I followed a recipe, but I’m guessing I could have added more liquid than I did, because I don’t think there was enough of that …creamy sauciness… on the plate; I think it should have been a tad more liquidy than it was. We also didn’t eat it right away–hubby prepared the fish afterward, so the risotto did sit longer than we expected. We’ll have to work on timing of the dishes–easier said than done in our tiny kitchen where we often crowd each other out and lack counter space. In any case, it tasted wonderful, had a creamy mouth feel, and had great flavor. It was a worthy first attempt, but I’ve got more practice to do and admit that I’m now hell-bent on getting it right. Dear spouse, consider yourself forewarned. And to my friend dohhead–a pastry chef and food connoisseur who kindly reminded me to add the dry white for the initial liquid addition over the rice–expect questions.

I highly recommend matching your meals to your shows and movies–it’s a fun project. Ideas and suggestions for theme nights are welcome, as is risotto advice. Top Chef themed dinners–I hope to have more of them. That said, I’m trying not to read into the fact that Tre got sent home last night for making bad risotto.

My food was blissfully unaware of my doubts...

On traveling heavy:

I like to be prepared. You know, just in case. A lifelong sufferer of fatal food allergies, preparation was drilled into me: ‘Don’t go anywhere without at least a sheet of Benadryl and your injections, just in case.’ This tendency towards being prepared has ended up spilling over into other parts of my life sometimes. This is a problem if you love travel and travel often. My common thought process: the weather could turn slightly or drastically, so I pack both light sweater plus heavy sweater–these are daytime options, however, as I can’t be expected to wear a sweatshirt with my black cocktail dress at dinner, so I also pack a classic black and white houndstooth coat for evening. My feet might hurt, so I pack options because I want heels for certain outings, but my comfy flats for long walks, plus sneakers for morning jogs. I may get muscle cramps, so I pack Tylenol, but Tylenol doesn’t do anything for the tension headaches I sometimes get, so I pack Excedrin too. While adventuring, I might run into Sean Bean or Andrew Zimmern or some other random Great One, so I carry my camera at all times, but it has to be the full-size good one, not just the point-and-shoot, because if I run into Sean Bean or Andrew Zimmern, I want those pictures to be flawless. I need a clutch bag for dressy outings, but want to be hands-free during day trips, so I also pack a regular purse with long strap that I can wear across my torso. We won’t talk about the hair products. Of course, this desire to be prepared for all situations leads to an inability to travel light. I admire those people who travel overseas with three outfits and make do; I’m totally not one of them.

But I’m inching their way because I’m tired of being saddled with a bunch of gear when I go away. I went on a quick getaway recently with my husband. One morning, still cold from the night before, I dressed in long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a corduroy jacket and a scarf. About to leave the hotel room, I stepped outside onto the balcony to make sure I was properly dressed for the weather–something I never do. It was no longer so cold. We immediately changed our outfits. I stared at one of the many sweaters and sweatshirts I had packed (my “options.” Eyeroll.) and tried to decide whether I should bring one “just in case” it cooled off later. After hemming and hawing, I decided against it; I wanted to be hands-free for once.¬†It was the right move. It was comfortable and breezy outside. Outerwear totally not necessary. And to have my hands empty rather than holding an extra sweater or an extra bag to carry the stuff I might need was a carefree sensation I’m not used to. I did bring a light summer shawl though, just in case…cheating?

So the travelers on the two-week trips to Europe with three outfits and two pairs of shoes that I mentioned above with admiration? Not one of them. Yet. But I’m working on it.

Do you travel light, or do you feel the need for many options?

Me without baggage