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always bring a spare sara(h)

i'm the kind of person that likes to think that everything happens for a reason.  let's just say i believe in signs.  and by signs, i don't mean the ones in west hollywood that trick you into thinking you're not going to get a ticket.  and by signs, i don't mean these:

...which warn you that someone is about to steal your purse.

i'm talking about the kind of signs that remind you that you've fallen right into the place that the universe wants you to be at that exact second.  if you read my recent blog post about reaching out into the universe, then you know that i've been graced with the opportunity to help an independent caterer prep for a big event.  even though she enjoyed the witty greeting and whimsical blog posts that i sent her, she of course wanted to meet with me first to make sure that by "i enjoy cooking", i didn't mean "i own an easy bake oven."  as i nervously stepped into the dim lighting of the trendy bar where i would first make the acquaintance of the woman behind belly bliss catering, i couldn't help but wonder...

*hello carrie bradshaw moment*  

what would she think of me?  would she get my sense of humor?  would she think i was talking too much?  would she be impressed with my endless knowledge of food network shows?  as we began to chat, i instantly felt more comfortable.  she even revealed to me that she receives lots of emails from strangers, but hardly ever writes back as there is really not much heart or love behind their words.  i felt even more humbled to be in her presence let alone be asked to participate in one of her foodie adventures.  just as she began to fill me on the details of the event...there it was.  right smack dab in front of my face, instantly blanketing my entire being with a sense of calm.

my sign.

"other than my small staff of five who help me with the prep work, i have someone who does beautiful flower arrangements for the tables.  
oh!  and then of course there's chocolate sarah."

as she began to dive into the details of her close friend whose entire career is based around making handmade chocolates, i couldn't seem to wipe the smile off of my face.  let me explain.  my great grandmother was fannie ginsberg, and i have the honor of carrying her name around today.  her sister's name was sarah--which was bestowed upon my older sister just thirty short years ago.  it's not just that we're the second generation of "fanny and sarah", it's that i believe it was in my destiny to have a sarah by my side at all times.  about four years ago, at a very unhappy place in my life--my sister i were separated by thousands and thousands of miles.  even though we talked constantly and remained as close as ever, my sarah wasn't as near as i would have liked.  coincidentally, it was at that very point that another sara (this time without the H) fell into my world and turned it upside down in the best way i could have ever imagined.  this sara came in the form of a best friend, but was as close to my heart as someone i had known for lifetimes.  all of that being said--the name sara(h) has always been somewhat magical to me.  it finds me at times when i need it most, even if i don't realize it.  on the scary first day of a job or hanging out with a brand new group of friends.  on the day i decide to stand up to my boss or the first meeting with someone letting me into their professional kitchen.  it's as if the universe always knows that an anxious fear will hold me back until the name sara(h) is sprinkled over the conversation and my walls come completely down.  the moment that sacred word came tumbling out of anna's mouth, i knew that everything would be okay.  i was no longer worried about what she thought of my scarf or if i was saying the words giada delaurentiis too much.  i was no longer intimidated by my lack of experience or the fact that i still call my dad to ask how to boil an egg.  she could have said "sardine sarah" and i still would have felt that rush of tranquility.  to me, that one comforting word was like a giant hug from one of my sara(h)s--who are now both thousands of miles away--telling me that i was exactly where i was supposed to be.  so, my piece of advice for all of you today is to find your magic word.  find whatever it is that brings you peace, and know that when it does make an appearance, it's completely on purpose.

speaking of advice, my "recipe" for you today is all about tips.  this is a food blog you know!  geez fanny.  the reason for the quotation marks is because i've decided that instead of giving you a full recipe today--i would like to offer you some of my most valuable everyday foodie tips.

let's begin!

if you're the kind of person who desires a yummy crunch in your salad or an extra pop in your granola, but would break out in hives if a-salted (get it?!) by a peanut then this tip is for you.  i have recently found myself with a slight sensitivity to nuts, yet i refuse to give up on having that crunchy texture in my salads.  what's my back-up plan, you ask?  no.  it's not olive's dry food.  it's sunflower seeds!  not just plain old sunflower seeds.  those are for birds and boring people.  i'm talking about homemade honey-roasted sunflower seeds.  it's as easy as this: toss plain sunflower seeds with a good drizzle of honey (or agave), brown sugar, and a sprinkle of salt.  roast at 350 for 3-5 minutes.  your nose will certainly tell you when they're done, but keep an eye on them.  nobody likes burnt things.  try them in a salad with goat cheese or on top of your favorite yogurt.

some of my favorite foodie tips involve interesting ways to make foods lower calorie, but without sacrificing any of the flavor.  i don't know about you, but i never have heavy cream on hand.  unless i'm making a white russian, which is.....0% of the time.  that being said--i still love the flavor and the look of sauces with a creamy, velvety texture.  i generally keep light cream cheese on hand, which is also great for stirring into your favorite marinara sauce.  however, some plain greek yogurt is another wonderful way to put some oomph behind your homemade salad dressing or chicken marsala.  you don't need much to achieve that luscious texture, and nobody will ever know that you weren't out back milking a cow to amp up your dinner.

there is a leprechaun sitting with a bowl of parsley.  i truly believe that a little color can change the entire atmosphere of your dinner.  have you ever gone out to a nice restaurant and been so hypnotized by the bright twists and twirls of sauces on your plate that you forget you're even at a table with other people?  no?  anybody?  just me?  anyway, the point is that by simply dusting some fresh herbs or a reduced balsamic drizzle over your dish you can achieve that restaurant-quality looking meal.  wait, hold on.  put that lunchable back in the fridge.  i'm not telling you to sprinkle basil over your bologna and cheese lunchable--some classics are meant to be left alone.  i'm just suggesting that the next time you prepare dinner for a friend, or a parent, or a significant other--take the time to really assess your plate.  if you're serving chicken and spinach and all you have is green and white, imagine how it would look with some diced tomatoes spread over the top.  i once again blame my mom for this silly habit--as she's known for hopping up from the dinner table with her plate (loveseat in front of the TV) and shouting the words "it just needs some green!"  

that's it, you're officially schooled.  now go out, find yourself a sara(h) and a bunch of fresh herbs.  just watch out!  there's a lot of nuts out there.

speaking of nuts, olive would also like to share with you her favorite tips:





oh hayyy fall!

fall means a lot of different things, but first and foremost--
it means vanilla peppermint lattes from coffee bean.

and gingerbread lattes from starbucks.

while we're on the subject of fall, i'd like to "fall" back a little and update you on the last few weeks! having a job is great for paying the rent, but not so great when you're too tired at the end of the day to update your blog. on the plus side...i've been doing a lot, i mean a LOT, of cooking recently. i've started doing weekly posts on my friend jen's website "talk nerdy to me lover." i'm the local food nerd and each thursday i put out a story and a recipe or two that came from my very own kitchen. seeing as olive is the only person who gets to experience my food in person, she happens to be the audience for my pretend cooking show--hence the title "the adventures of fanny and olive." to see my posts on TNTML, just search for my name. or click here!

well, other than turning
exactly a month ago, 
here are the other highlights.

cereal boxes...knife...angry look on my face...
can you guess what i am?

here's a hint.
brought to you by:
tony the tiger.

and then just last weekend i accomplished the tremendous victory of locking myself out...and then breaking in through my very own window using a pebble, a tube of lipgloss, and a pen.
need a visual image?
don't worry, i had a camera.

wednesday finally arrived which meant one thing.

i tagged along with my good buddy loryn to pacific beach in san diego.  her friend jess graciously invited us into her home and let me invade her kitchen with all of my OCD tendencies like trying to clean her dishes and sweep the floor. 
not to sound like a pilgrim--but this was technically my first thanksgiving. 
of course i've celebrated thanksgiving for the last 26 years, but for the first 24--my dad cooked--and for the last one, i was invited to eat my turkey day feast restaurant-style in hollywood. this was the first thanksgiving meal i was ever counted on to prepare the most important part. 
and i don't mean the stuffing...even though we all know that's everyone's favorite.
i'd be lying if i said i wasn't nervous. i had three people including myself relying on me to not only correctly cook a giant turkey, but make it delicious as well. 
what did i do?

pardon my french,
but i made that bird my bitch.

after putting on my lucky flannel,
i rubbed it with a sage garlic butter and then stuffed it with all kinds of fresh herbs. i told it good luck, bathed it with tender love and care...

and what do you know...

it turned out pretty damn good!
our feast was beautiful. everyone chipped in with the cooking, cleaning, and drinking of the hot bourbon apple cider. after they popped a pumpkin pie in the oven--loryn whipped up an awesome sweet potato casserole and jess was in charge of the sausage, cranberry, and apple stuffing. i made the garlic roasted green beans with red pepper flakes and lemon zest, the cranberry sauce with orange and vanilla, and the gravy--which was possibly the thickest, richest, most luscious gravy i've ever come into contact with.

thank you giblets.
.......sorry turkey. 
if it makes you feel any better, i was as uncomfortable as you were.
maybe not.

and of course no thanksgiving feast is complete without a coma.

and feelings of regret.

as we headed back for LA the next morning, i was greeting with the most wonderful surprise! it's not like i stumbled upon a bojangles or anything, but i still had no idea that this existed on the west coast...

it was like a little reminder of home.
...for my belly.

i also encountered something else unexpected on the way home.
anyone notice anything odd giant boob about this picture?

once i finally got my face out of my bagel, i realized there were some pretty gorgeous views from the backseat.

want to see more of my recent ventures with food?
click here!
and don't forget to check out olive's updates here

gobble gobble!

since it's been a good long while since my last blog post--i figured i would start from today and then move backwards. two days ago was turkey day, which means that today is leftover day! instead of preparing the traditional thanksgiving sandwich, i opted for something a little different this year.

rosemary potato pancake with a turkey, onion, anaheim pepper, sweet roasted delicata squash, and maple-smoked jarlsberg hash--topped with a parmesan sage sunny side egg.

*foodie note: delicata squash: a sweet winter squash with a flavor similar to a sweet potato or butternut squash. no need for peeling this guy--the skin is edible and yummy.*
split, seeded, diced, tossed with olive oil, rosemary, cinnamon, and salt and roasted in a 425 oven for fifteen minutes.

for the hash:
leftover sage turkey, garlic, onions, anaheim peppers, roasted squash.

for the potato pancake:
parboil (partially cook) the potato. i used a redskin because i like their size and flavor. cover the potato with cold water, once boiling, turn the heat off and let it sit for five minutes. shred the potato, mix with fresh rosemary and thyme. flatten into pancake shape in a non-stick pan with olive oil and butter.

flip the pancake once it's golden brown on the bottom, cook for 2-3 more minutes in the pan and then finish cooking in the oven at 300 while you prepare the hash and egg (about five minutes).
sautee hash ingredients and sprinkle over the crisped potato pancake.
top with grated maple-smoked jarlsberg cheese

 you don't really need the cheese, but come on--maple smoked jarlsberg? YUM.
*foodie note: jarlsberg is a mild, buttery, nutty cows milk cheese with a slightly sweet flavor*

top hash with sunny side down (or up, depending on what you like) egg.
sprinkle with chopped sage, parsley, and parmesan.

happy thanksgiving leftovers!


"there are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same."
~chinese proverb

today i needed to get away.
so i did.
i looked up far away places where i could be outside, put in my headphones, start at a bottom...and make it to a top.

sometimes it's nice to set a goal for yourself, even if you have no idea if, or how, you're going to conquer it.
i decided i wanted make it to the top of eagle rock. i wanted to be one of those tiny people i could see all the way from the bottom.
so i did.

i stepped out of my car, into the park, and walked uphill for three miles.
and that was all it took--putting one foot in front of the other and not looking back.

i didn't say it was a piece of cake...
...did someone say cake?

there's only one place i know higher than the clouds.
i was damn near expecting to see wilbur and mango walking around up here...

i once joked to my best friend that the song "hold us together" by matt maher is what i listen to when i take my sunset walks through beachwood canyon and "ponder my life." the truth is that the reason i enjoy doing things like this by myself is because it gives me time to think. 
well, it's not that i don't have time to think. i spend most of my time watching food network. there are plenty of commercials if i needed to make any important decisions. 
okay, joking aside--the reason i escape to the outdoors recently is because the fresh air allows me to breathe and clear my head in a way that i can't do when i'm just sitting on my couch. 
i think that big life decisions involve taking time to allow yourself to consider all of the options and consequences. as i sat on this mountain in the clouds, i decided to stop analyzing my thoughts and hopes and dreams and fears for the long-run. right now all i have is today, and if i'm lucky enough to not get eaten by a mountain lion, hopefully tomorrow too.
so as i embark on what is about to be a brand new year in my life--year #26 to be exact...
i decided to ask myself what i really want.
what are the things that i really want in this life?
i only get one so i might as well choose wisely.

i want to find my happiness--not in a place, or a guy, or a sandwich--but in myself.
i don't want to let people down. ever.
i want to figure out what it is inside of me that is sometimes SO full of determination that nothing will stand in my way.
i want to remind myself that life can always change. no decision is infinite.
i don't want to keep seeing sunsets that aren't shared with people i love.
i want to feel sure of things more often.
i want to be able to eat dinner with my parents whenever i feel like it.
i want to be able to wake up on a sunday and meet my best friend at starbucks to split a pumpkin scone.
"i want to be more adventurous like my sister,
"i thought to myself as i sat on top of a mountain..."

i looked down at the faded bracelet i once bought with my best friend. i'm pretty sure we both paid about 49 cents for them, but it's something i still treasure very much. i had put it on today because i was hoping it would feel like she was right there with me. looking at this dirty old bracelet was one more reminder of the things in my life that are important to me, and how it's not familiarity or comfort that i long for--it's the simple small joys that make me feel fulfilled and more complete. it reminded me that maybe it's the people, not the places, you surround yourself with that make life worthwhile.

...then i got up, tripped over a few pebbles, and headed back down to the bottom.

"the great lesson…is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s back yard.
~abraham maslow