Monday, January 26, 2009

I LOVE the 90's- Chicken Cacciatore edition

I realized today that I haven't really made a new recipe since my holiday party last month, so I figured I'd try a few new things this week. I've been hunkering for home a bit lately (yes I said hunkering) so I was very pleased when I saw Giada De Laurentiis' chicken cacciatore recipe while I was browsing the Food Network site. I haven't had chicken cacciatore in YEARS, but I think it was one of those dishes that was really popular in the midwest during my elementary and middle school years.... Chicken Cacciatore, Salisbury Steak.... that nasty cassarole made out of chicken and cream of mushroom soup... All staples of a good midwestern home cooking. My memory of the cacciatore my mom made was a thick tomato-y chicken stew that she served over rice. (As I'm writing this I realize that maybe what she called "chicken cacciatore" might have been just regular Ghanaian chicken stew with a little orgegano... but I digress....). Here is the basic recipe:


  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken breasts with skin and backbone, halved crosswise
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Basically all you need to do is season up the chicken with salt and pepper, dredge (dip :-p) the chicken pieces in flour and brown the chicken in medium-hot oil. You then remove the chicken and sautee the onion/garlic/red pepper mixture in the oil until the onions are soft and then add the rest of the ingredients and let the mixture simmer until the chicken cooks through.

Super easy. I think the hands on part of the meal took about 30 min, and then I went out and walked Leroy for about 25 minutes while the stew was simmering. I didn't really make many changes to the recipe except I didn't add the capers and I added some olives and red pepper flakes. I would give the recipe, with my very minor changes, a solid B. It was tasty... comfort-y, butt the flavors weren't really that complex or exciting. I think this would be a great dish to make for company, especially guy company, as it is good, simple, comfort food. the next time I make it for myself I will make the following changes.

1- Use less onion. I used 1 nice large onion, but I think the freshness and the size of the onion imparted WAY too much sweetness to the dish.
2- Add some tomato paste to the softened onion mixture. I really missed the tomato paste-y taste of the chicken cacciatore that I remember. As I stated early, I have a feeling that my mom probably Ghanafied her chicken cacciatore by adding a bunch of tomato paste (Ghanian chicken stews are often very thick with lots of tomato paste), but I'm going for less authenticity and more homey-ness, so I think I'll add tomato paste next time.
3- If I'm making this for company with more complex tastebuds I'll probably add the capers. I felt like the dish was just too sweet and it was mising an element of savory-ness. I tried to fix it by adding the tomato paste and even though about splashing a bit of lemon juice, but I didn't want to fluck it up and figured I'd just add the capers next time.

I didn't really want to eat Italian food on brown rice, and I couldn't really justify to myself eating white rice, so I decided to pan fry up a little bit of polenta from Whole Foods and call it a meal. Here's a pic

I really need to learn how to take better pictures of food. My photographer friend Curtis told me that food needs lots of light... but for some reason I always turn off my flash when photographing food... I don't like the way the artificial shine looks in my viewfinder.... but I guess it looks much better when you actually look at the pictures:

I honestly might try Salisbury Steak next month...


Clear skin in 30 days? *WARNING! Extreme closeups of bad skin!*

Is it really possible? I've always wanted really clear skin... not just acne free, but that beautiful, soft, never had a blemish, mosquito bite, scratch, just slid out of the womb type of clear skin.

Skin like Gabbys... I just spent like 15 minutes looking for a pic of Gabrielle Union where her skin looks as flawless as it does in my mind.... Couldn't really find one, but here's the closest I could get :-p

I just liked this pic.... She's fabulous.... I might have to get a vacation weave that looks like this for Miami
<------ Moving on.... So starting last week I embarked on my 30 day skin challenge, which is to follow a real face regimen for 30 days. My current face regimen, at least for the last few months, has been to wash my face with Neutragena Clear Pore face wash or Neutragena Blackhead eliminating acne wash. I ran out of moisturizer a while ago so I just threw some Palmer's cocoa butter on my face or used some jojoba oil. Needless to say my skin wasn't in the best shape. It was horrible, but I was getting more acne (and thus more dark marks), my skin was dull, and my pores looked like craters. So I figured I'd see how good I could get my skin to look JUST from taking care of it properly at home. One of my goals is to get a facial, so I might get the facial to top off the 30 days... we'll see :-) Here are my goals: 1- Reduce my dark marks and even out skin tone 2- Significantly brighten my skin (not bright like lighten, but brighten like revitalize and get all the dead skin dullness off. ) 3- Tighten and cleanse my pores (I think that helps with brightness) 4- Reduce acne and learn how to quickly treat any bumps that pop up. 5- Soften and moisturize Here are the players: The Clinique 3 step system for Acne:
Step 1: Cleanse with Acne Solutions Cleansing Foam
Step 2: Exfoliate with Acne Solutions Clarifying Lotion
Step 3: Moisturize with Acne Solutions Clearing Moisturizer Oil-Free

I chose this because the reviews were really good and it took care of the 3 main skincare steps in one easy to find kit.

Origins "Have a Nice Day" Super charged Moisture cream. This is the cream that I used to use. It's really good in the winter. I originally was just going to use the moisturizer in the 3-step kit, but my skin was really really dry and I needed an additional moisturizer... The chick at the Clinique counter told me I'd probably need one, but I didn't listen.

Origins "Clear Improvement" Active Charcoal mask. I also used this mask in the past. It's supposed to help deep clean pores. Apparently when pores get clogged your skin looks "cloudy". We don't want that. I recall I liked it in the past... plus it's just fun to play with masks.

So these are the tools. I started this about a week ago, but the actual 30 day challenge started yesterday February 1. I took my pics of my skin the day I started using the products so we'd have an accurate "before" shot. Warning... my skin is a mess... but I will embarrass myself in the name of science:

So above you can see my head on shot: notice all the dark marks on my forehead and general tight, dryness of my skin. Ignore my 'flicted expression... I was tryna smile with my eyes. :-p

The next shots you can see my trouble areas, my big chipmunk cheeks. I always get blemishes there and because of the blemishes I also get dark marks. You can see an example of both and my large crater pores in better detail in the disturbing macro photo here ------ >

So this is what I'm looking like know... My skin SHO ain't lookin like Gabby's...

I'll update around 15 days

N :-)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

15 pugs and counting!

Many of you who know me or have been following my blog are aware of the long, and oftentimes infuriating, road I took trying to adopt a pug. I have been filling out applications for pets on for as long as I can remember and really kicked my application game into high gear around September and started volunteering for a pug rescue, PPRA (Precious Pugs Resucue and Adoption), and got my first real taste of pug life with my beautiful foster pug Bruno and the goal culminated with me purchasing my little crazy, sweetheart pug puppy Bruce Leroy --->

Despite the fact that I'd committed the cardinal sin of buying a puppy, I still was very committed to working with PPRA doing home visits or calling references when they needed me to. I wasn't going to be able to foster for a while until Leroy started to get the hang of house training and got all his shots, but I was happy to continue to help out. Soon after I got Leroy there was a coup of sorts in the organization and the woman that I had been working primarily with left to start her own Pug rescue with another former PPRA member. The new rescue org was called "Curly Tail Pug Rescue" and I was pretty happy to join them because I thought the org was going to be younger, fresher, more flexible, more creative, and probably just more fun to work with than the old organization.

I signed on to volunteer as the application coordinator which essentially meant that I answered all of the emails that came in about the pugs on our page. Look my name and Curly Tail Email are in the middle of the adoptions page!

Ok... so you can't see it from my crappy screen shot.... moving on.... I was really interested in that particular position because of my frustration with sending hundreds of emails to other rescues and never, or hardly ever, receiving a response. So I took on the job of being kind of the first point of contact when people were interested in one of our pugs.

So far it's been fun but it's also been a WHOLE LOT of work and I have been instrumental in the placement of about 15 pugs! Most of the pugs that come into rescue are adults or seniors. We sometimes get young pugs, and very rarely get puppies. Most of the dogs that we get are surrendered from owners who can no longer take care of them. Owners surrender dogs for a variety of reasons, some because their work or family situation has changed and they can't take care of the pug like they should. Sometimes a pug falls ill and the family can't afford it's medical care.

The most recent dogs that came into the rescue came from a puppy mill bust. Puppy mills are essentially massive commercial breeding facility where dogs are caged and bred constantly until they can't breed anymore. Most dogs that are in Pet Stores come from puppy mills. It's a pretty miserable existence, so when a large puppy mill in the midwest closed we, along with some other rescues, agreed to take the pugs. We got 8 pugs from the puppy mill rescue. The rescue effort is detailed on our webpage. "Working with" these pugs has been really extraordinary. These pugs came from a life where they had little to no human interaction and are just the sweetest little dogs. They fell into "normal" life quicker than I would have imagined and were even fairly easy to house train. We knew the pugs were coming so we tried to line up a bunch of potential homes for them prior to them getting here. I cut and pasted the below from the Curly Tail Pug Rescue Blog... but I wrote it so I don't think she'll mind ;-)

Angel was adopted on Sunday January 12th by a great couple and will live out the rest of her life with her new pug sister in an uber-fabulous house in Ogunquit, Maine.

Samson was adopted by a lovely couple in Massachusetts who were seeking a nice, cuddly yet quiet pug. Samson was a perfect fit and he will now be living out the rest of his years napping and eating in peace and comfort.

Teddy is another sweet and quiet pug who was adopted Sunday January 12th by a single woman living in New York City. Teddy and his new pug brother Mugsy hit it off immediately and Teddy will live out the rest of his days enjoying long walks in Central Park and longer naps snuggled with his new bro.

Sugar Pie was adopted this weekend by a great woman residing in Rhode Island. The applicant drove all the way to NYC to meet Sugar and was totally enamored by Sugar's sweet disposition and couldn't resist the little pink tongue that's always peeking out of the side of her mouth. Sugar is this applicant's first pug and she has been waiting to adopt a pug for years, so we are confident that sugar will be babied and spoiled silly in her new home.

It was really amazing to me how adaptable these little dogs were. They came from a totally horrible life and within days they were running around with each other, playing with toys, going to the bathroom outside or on pads... it's like the past never happened. I rarely get to meet the dogs because I don't foster, but we have 1 puppy mill dog that is left without any really solid leads. His name is Coy. He is totally my favorite and was my fav from the beginning. I have no idea why he hasn't been adopted. He's so freaking adorable. I think it's this picture that really gets me --------->

On an average day we usually have 2-3 dogs for adoption on our website and on Petfinder/adopt-a-pet. Those posting generate about 10-15 emails a day from people inquiring about the dogs. Most of the time there are 2-3 email conversations that occur before the person gets to the point of turning in an application. This amount pretty much triples when we have puppies. We had 3 puppies at one time in October.... it was a mess... So on a normal day between new inquiries and continuing conversations I probably have to deal with around 25-30 emails a day for Curly Tail. In addition to that I have to send the applications to everyone who turns in an application fee and receive and file the completed applications. 25-30 emails a day may not seem like a lot, but it takes SOOOOO much time. I usually check my Curly Tail email 1x per hour at work and organize the emails so I can reply to them when I get home. I generally spend about an hour to an hour and a half on Curly Tail emails each night. It's a lot of time, but it's nothing compared to what other volunteers put in. Our co-founders both usually have 2 or 3 foster pugs living with them in addition to their own 3+ pugsand they have to meet people for adoption appointments, update the website, work with the fund-raising team and legal team and all the other teams that go into making our organization fabulous. So I'm not complaning (anymore :-p). I feel really privledged to be a part of the organization.

So if anyone is interested in helping out a pug, or just looking at adorable pictures and reading great posts you should really visit our webpage ( or our blog

Oh yeah... And my work with Curly Tail has taken the place of my goal to walk the dogs at B.A.R.C. (Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition). I sho don't have time with that between walking my dog and answering all these daggone emails... :-p

No doctor... This is NOT the time!

Disclaimer! The following post is about a trip to the gynecologist. It will be in no way graphic, but if you are one of those people (*cough* guys) who gets squeamish at the mere mention of stirrups and or speculums then I suggest you stop reading now. :-)

For the rest of you....

So one of the goals on my list was to make sure that I get routine medical care, which basically meant I needed to go to the dentist and gynecologist 1x per year for each year of the challengs. I REALLY wanted to get the gyno portion of this goal done in 2008, and the doctor that I usually visit was booked solid until January 2009 (and I'm not that wedded to my current gyno) so I asked my girlfriends if they had any recommendations for a good gynecologist. Most of my girlfriends were in the same boat as I was; they had a gyno, but weren't super crazy about her/him, but I knew that one of my girlfriends LOVED her gyno. She was always talking about him ("oooh giiiirl! He is soooo fine! Oooooh girl!") Now... I probably should have been a little suspicious that most of our conversations around him centered around his appearance and the fact that "he could get it" and not his acumen with a pap smear, but I guess I was just distracted by the sheer excitement that she expressed when speaking of the Good Doctor and I went ahead and called to make an appointment and was able to get in in December of 2008.

I was actually pretty excited about my visit, first off just because I wanted to see what this dude looked like, secondly because his office was in Brooklyn, so if I liked him he would be very convenient to visit in the future, thirdly the medical assistant who gave my my appointment said I'd be getting a sonogram, which are standard at all his visit, and I'd never had a sonogram at the gyno before. So one afternoon in late December I left work a little early and skidattled off to downtown BK for my appointment. The office was a pretty standard looking office. I got my little sign in clip board and sat down next to a large African-American woman and her clearly ADD, possibly FAS, son and newborn. Glancing around I realized that ever last woman in that office was a quite young and black or Hispanic/Latino.... I guess it would make sense that they were young given that he's a OB, but it seemed strange that EVERYONE there was a woman of color... My girl's voice started to echo in my head (Oooooh girl he is SOO FIONE!)... I looked to the young Latina at my left who was carefully applying M.A.C. lipglass in "Flirt" and across to the middle aged black woman who nervously adjusting her Wonder Bra and I started to wonder if the Good Doctor was giving more than pap smears and breast exams.

I started to feel a little odd, and I had been waiting for at 35-40 min so I decided it may be time to take my exit. I informed the receptionist about this and she quickly told me I was next in line for the sonogram tech. I took one last look at the waiting room filled with unnecessarily eager looking women and decided that this would probably be an interesting experience, and honestly... how hard it it to do a basic gyno exam? So I followed the 50ish year old Russian tech into the sonogram room and got prepared for my sonogram. I had never had a sonogram before, and all of the sonograms I'd seen on TV were for pregnant women, so I was a bit surprised when she started to put the lube gel stuff on a long tube instead of putting it on my abdomen like I'd seen in the movies. Apparently this was a different kind of ultrasound. I'll spare you the gory details. While I was laying on the table, the tech was looking at the TV screen for the images from the ultrasound wand thingy. She was totally silent and had a concerned look on her face as she moved the wand thing around to look at different angles and draw on the screen with a little electronic pen. The whole thing looked like static to me, so I asked her, "Is everything ok? What are you seeing." she said, "The doctor will discus your results with you." When she was done with her explorations she sent me back to the waiting room. At this point I was a little freaked out and was glad that the nurse called me back only a few minutes later to see the doctor.

The doctor came in shortly.... My first reaction to the doc was to chuckle slightly because I had been watching this short, simian-looking man in scrubs hanging around the reception desk for the past 45 minutes and had been thinking to myself that this BETTER not be the doctor because 1.) he seemed to have way too much free time, and 2.) His ass was not cute. Well in defense of my girl and all the other women who are under his spell... he's not a BAD looking guy... He has the kind of curly hair, creole, pretty-boy look to him that many women find attractive, and he definitely had some swagger (as the youngins like to say). He glided into the office, introduced himself in a voice that was FAR more Billy D than the situation called for, and told me that he was going to do the basic exam and another "high resolution" ultra-sound and then we would talk. I'm like WTF? I told him that his ultrasound tech's bedside manner left a bit to be desired and I looked forward to talking with him about the ultrasound results. He didn't really respond to that... just told me to get undressed and he'd be back in a minute.

So the doc came back in 5 min and I assumed the position that all women know and love while he made quick work of the pap smear/cervical cancer screening portion of the exam... and I mean QUICK work. I swear he was in there for less than 10 seconds and then he was pulling out his fancy smancy "high resolution" ultra sound, lubing up the wand, and going to town with the ultrasound... So I'm laying on the table looking at the images on the monitor trying to make out something.... anything that may have prompted the Russian lady's worried looks when I feel a hand on my knee. I look up at the doctor and he smiles at me, moves his hand slightly up to my thigh, lightly SCRATCHES my thigh and says, "So... where ya from?" WTF?! This is NOT the time doctor! I mean I know you're supposed to talk to your patients etc to put them at ease, but honestly it came off far more like the creepy guy that sits next to you at the bar, touches your leg, and asks, "Do you come here often". WTF! Anyway that awkward moment was over soon as he started to talk to me about what he was seeing on the screen. He told me to look at a large dark area of the screen and asked me if I knew what it was. I said "Uh... no I don't fucking know what it is. If I did I wouldn't be paying your ass to stick this wand up my vagine. Stop being fucking coy and just tell me what you see.!" Ok I didn't say that. I just said, "Nope. What is it." He told me I had a fibroid. I was like (in my head) whew! Is that is? He went on to say that I needed to come into his other office in the next 2 weeks for a "DNC". He needed to do the second procedure to check to make sure the fibroid wasn't cancerous. Huh? Since when were fibroids cancerous? I mean... don't like 3 out of 5 women have fibroids? I never though of them as something super serious.... just annoying and painful, but I was just relieved to find out that it was just a fibroid and didn't really question him. So after the Good Doctor finished telling me that I needed to schedule a D&C in the next 2 weeks, he then proceded to hand me his business card (my legs were STILL in the stirrups mind you) and told me to check out the website of his new book. I won't tell you what the title was, but it was essentially a guide to financial sucess. I chuckled, again, and told him I would look at it.

So I go back to the front desk, still kind of shaking my head from the leg scratching,inappropriate questioning, shameless self-promotion episode that I just experienced and went to speak to the girl at the desk. I told her what the Doctor said and she told me that he only operates on 2 days a week. Operates?!? WTF? Who said anything about an operation? So I started to get a bit freaked out again, but I figured she just mis-spoke and told her I would come in in 3 weeks (after the holiday vacay). She gave me an appointment in the late afternoon and told me that I could not eat after midnight on the night before and because I would be under general anestesia I would need someone to pick me up afterwards. HUH? General anestesia? Picking me up? Not eating? What the hell is this D&C thing? I told the woman that the doctor didn't tell me anything about this. She shot a glance at her co-worker, looked up at me kind of sheepishly and then didn't really respond. Why does no one respond to questions here? Anyway I was done with this adventure and needed to get home, so I just made an appointment, left, and promptly called my doctor friends to get their interpretation of the situation.

The consensus: they were all outraged, not at the fact that he inappropriately scratched my leg, but that he was doing transvaginal ultrasounds on all of his patients, which is apparently a completely unnecessary and extremely expensive procedure. And secondly they were even more outraged that he was routinely performing D & C's ( a common but fairly serious surgial procedure) on women who had fibroids but weren't complaining of any discomfort, irregular bleeding, etc. The both told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was NOT to go back to that doctor for a D&C or anything else.

So that was my Gyno visit 2008. See why I don't go! There's always drama. But I guess I don't need to check out the Good Doctor's book now. I already know his secrets to financial sucess: Building up a clientele of Black and Hispanic women (African American women are almost 3 times more likely than white women to have fibroids), screening them all for fibroids regardless of whether they have any complaints of discomfort or bleeding, and then performing, (and charging their insurance companies) a completely unnecessary surgical procedure.

Ugh... my people. I didn't want to mention his name because I don't want to get sued or something, but if you're in Brooklyn and want to know, just ask.

N :-p

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Happy New Year Peoples...

What up everyone! Happy New Year… I know it’s January 13th and I’m hella late, but I whatevs…. It’s the thought that counts, right? Well since it’s damn near the middle of the month, I guess I should post my December wrap up and January plans.

4.) Acquire >2 songs per month for 6 months (2/6)
- Kanye West “Love Lockdown”
- Robert Glasper “Canvas” (album)

10.) Make 100 new recipes (10/100)
- Blue Cheese and Hazlenut Crostini
- Asparagus soup with Lemon Crème Fraiche
- Roast beef with port and roasted shallots

13.) Try 50 foods or types of cuisine I haven't tried (5/50)
- No new foods this month

20.) Watch all the movies that have won Best Picture since I’ve been alive.
- No movies this month….

27.) Walk Dogs at B.A.R.C 10 times (0/10)
- DONE! Didn’t actually walk the dogs at B.A.R.C, but I have put in almost 3 months of CONSISTENT work on behalf of Curly Tail Pug Rescue and I think that is an adequate substitute. Between walking my dog, transcribing, working full time, and answering 5 million emails a day for Curly Tail, I think my helping dogs mission is complete.

34.) Blog on my 101 90% of the days (40/901)
- as of December 31st, I believe 121 days have past since starting the list on September 1 (someone please correct me if my math is off). 90% blogging for that time (ie 1 blog per day) should be 108 blogs.... I'm currently at 33%.... I obviously need to get working.

39.) Be on time or early for everything for a month (0/30)
-*sigh*…. Will this ever really be achieved… I suck.

50.) Drink 1.5 liters of water per day for 2 months (0/60)
-Getting a little better with this one…. Had a few false starts, but I have been drinking enough water that most days I actually use the bathroom at least once during the day. That’s an improvement for me! :-p

60.) Go the gynecologist and dentist once per year (1/4)
-Had one very eventful gyno visit…. Very interesting….

80.) Do 400 "no spend" days (1/400) *UPDATED*
-I honestly haven’t really been keeping track of this…. Which probably means I haven’t been doing it :-p Maybe…. I recall a few weekends this month where I didn’t leave the house on at least one of the days. Oh well… I don’t know if I can make this one, might have to take it as a loss.

83.) Get a professional bikini wax (Brazilian)

90.) Buy a digital piano (casio privia or Yamaha YPG)
-Didn’t have money for this ish this month, but I really want to get on it before my birthday.

98.) Send Christmas cards to at least 20 people for 2 Christmases (0/2)
-I totally missed Christmas. I really wanted to make a card that had Leroy’s picture on it, but didn’t have time to set up the photo shoot and my old camera was dying so I couldn’t take the picture myself…. So instead of just buying cards like a normal person, I procrastinated until Christmas was over…. Oh well.. I wonder if there are 2 Christmases left in the remaining days of the challenge?