Sunday, March 28, 2021

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 9 - To Keto or Not To Keto...

 ... that is the question.

Richard making a spaghetti squash supper

When the god/desses introduced me to Richard, I was young, and tho I was no longer modelling or dancing (other than club-type dancing), nor was auditing Luigi's jazz dance classes along w/ Bob Fosse on occasion, I was thin and could eat cheeseburgers w/ a side of fries or pizza or a bowl of fettuccine alfredo everyday and not gain an ounce.  

In the beginning of our love affair, I was the main bread winner and cook in the house, but that didn't last ... Richard's career took off as did his culinary skills.  He won an Emmy and was nominated for more AND became our 'chef in residence' when we entertained - I made "pretty" and did clean-up.  

As we got older, his cooking prowess grew, but, sadly, so did my waistline.  My dress size went from 4-6 to 8 to 10 to 12 (I had 3 sets of jeans - from thin to 'menopause-aly plump'... you get the picture.  I was not a happy camper.  I went on Fen Fen (remember Fen Fen?) and returned, if not to my "model/dancing" weight, close to it.  I bought clothes again.  Looked and felt great...  but Richard had discovered these wonderful pasta recipes, learned to make bread, as well as rich, creamy sauces.  It was  then I started this blog shortly before we went to Europe in 2001 right after 9/11.  He was writing and producing a series of show for the Food Network about the best chefs, foods and wines in Europe (I tagged along and ended up doing set design and various other little jobs to "pay my way").  See my "Five Guys & Me" series written in 2001-2002.

Well, as you've probably guessed, I began to gain back the weight.  (Yeh, it's all Richard's  fault - not the cheeseburgers, french fries, hot dogs, pizza, as well as Richard's meals I wolfed down.)  Then  a couple of years ago, I discovered NuAtkins which morphed into Keto, and I lost most of the weight.  As a meat, chicken and fish lover, not to mention a cheese-aholic, this was the perfect diet for me and Richard was happy to oblige.  I haven't lost all the weight I want to (do we ever?), and this pandemic isn't helping, as I 'graze' a lot during the day, but I've maintained, pretty much, with a little cheating now because Richard has been making amazing NuAtkins/Keto meals.  He hates cleaning up and doing dishes, I don't mind - so as we've sheltered in place this past year, he's made most all of our dinners.  

Here are some of my favorite of his "eat fat to lose fat" low carb suppers.

I'll start with bangers and cauliflower mash w/ a side of broccoli...

Speaking of cauliflower -- cauliflower mac & cheese - yup - my mouth is watering...

 ... and

Cauliflower carbonara

Moving on to chicken dishes - he's made a zillion over the pandemic - here are just a few of my favorites...

Joanna Gaines' chicken Florentine

Chicken in a creamy tarragon sauce

Chicken & arugula w/ summer squash in an orange/butter sauce

Let's go fishing...

grilled cedar plank salmon w/ a brown sugar (just a tad) and mustard sauce

plated w/ mashed broccoli

shrimp scampi w/ spinach

Golden bass Piccata 

Jamie Oliver's roasted white fish wrapped in bacon in lemon/mayo sauce

sheet roasted salmon Nicoise 

scallops in lemon/basil sauce & mashed broccoli

shrimp w/ garlic, spinach and spaghetti squash

swordfish Piccata

tilapia w/ crushed almonds in a butter/orange sauce

Besides grilled steak or lamb chops w/ veggies (favorite meals always) here are a few of Richard's NuAtkins/Keto low carb meat meals...

rack of lamb w/ mint, mustard crust and sauce

roast pork shoulder baked in cream and milk

grilled pork chop in garlic, butter/orange sauce

So to answer the age old question - To Keto or not to Keto - hell, yes!!!



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 8 - 2021 Begins



2021 Begins


I don't know anyone who wasn't happy to say good bye to 2020.  Sheltering in place has been challenging, especially for the families I know with children who needed to be schooled online as they worked from home.   For Richard and me, it was less stressful.  Though Richard was in the middle of co-directing a revival production of "Harvey" with Broadway director/producer, Craig Anderson, that was a week away from opening when theaters doors were closed, we are basically writers.  Translation, we are used to 'sheltering in place,' writing days, weeks, even months on end - hunkered at home.  Of course, as you know by now, we do entertain a lot, but we've managed to entertain ourselves with explorations into a cocktail world (which I've blogged about earlier in this Pandemic Diary) and Richard has been challenging himself in the kitchen as he's become our "chef in chief" - many of his meals I've also blogged about. We also walk/hike and he plays tennis and golfs, so exercise and fresh air are not absent.

Wanting to support our local restaurants, we did have a few dinners out during 2020 when outside dining was open, and I had lunches with girlfriends (one at a time, of course) at some of our favorite Ojai watering holes...  but, outside dining was shutdown again at the end of 2020, and, since we're not normally big New Year's Eve celebrants, we planned an intimate dinner at home.  I tried to make pretty...

 while Richard planned our dinner... a pork roast rack at my request.

 It was his first foray in pork roasting and it couldn't have been more delicious.

We enjoyed dessert (assorted nuts and peppermint tea) in front of the fire and our lighted, downsized, very dead, Christmas tree (it's last hurrah).   

A few weeks into 2021, outdoor dining in Ojai returned, so we decided to celebrate the year's romantic holiday by going to the 6:30 seating at Ca Marco, our favorite Italian neighborhood restaurant.  It was a beautiful evening... being out sipping a nice wine...

... and eating a nicely cooked meal that Richard didn't have to cook and I didn't have to clean up after, made it a perfect Valentine's Day.


As we both now have had our first vaccination shot - my second is Mar. 1 and Richard's a week or two after that, we are looking forward to entertaining friends again, some of whom we haven't seen since the first lock down.

Please stay masked, safe and healthy - there is now a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 7 - A Christmas Tale


 To quote Anthony Newley in "Stop The World, I Want To Get Off" - "Thirty-five years, Evie, thirty-five years."
As many of you know, I'm a Christmas-holic.  For thirty-five years, give or take, Richard and I have hosted a holiday party for around 35-40 friends (sometimes more, a few times less) - first in our Studio City home and now in Ojai.
When we left Manhattan and moved to California, our party was always on Christmas Eve for all us ex-pat NYers whose families were still back east, and all our other ex-pat friends from across the U.S. who came to L.A. to work in "showbiz"...  We decorated every room (small trees and tall trees, Santas...) and Richard made a feast, many of which I've blogged about over the years.  Our "not native" Los Angelino transplanted friends often provided the desserts or appetizers, but Richard cooked for days... Sometimes he'd make a French peasant cassoulet -- sometimes a huge turkey and ham - or his Deer Valley chili...

... with myriad veggie, salad and pasta sides to "go with."

 Whatever he decided to make, it fed the multitudes. This party was a family affair.  All our Jewish and Gentile friends' kids were included and spent their Christmas Eves with us (sometime coinciding w/ Hanukkah), some started as young as two.  As they grew into adults, they still came.  When our surrogate daughter, Gaby, entered our life (she was around eight), her parents generously shared her with us on that night and she, too, grew up at that party.  Tradition!  
After almost three decades, we sold our home.  Of course, we threw a farewell party and invited all those friends and adult children to say goodbye to us and to the house itself.  The new owners, a young married couple, both actors (appropriately) - came as well.  Those now adult children warned them - they had spent their whole lives at our house on Christmas Eve and they would be knocking on their door come December 24th.  Tradition.  Of course, they were teasing, but it filled our hearts that those parties meant so much to them.

We moved to Ojai during the summer of 2013, knowing only our good friends, Stu and Kyle Crowner.   As fall approached, I dreaded the coming holiday season.  Did I even want to decorate?  To repeat, I'm a Christmas-holic.  I decorate!  And decorate some more!  Now that our surrogate daughter had moved to another state and our friends were no longer in our 'hood, woe was me!  But, as we were settling in, the Crowners had taken pity on us and introduced us to a few of their friends, and Richard had gotten involved in the local theater and was cast, after decades of not acting, in a small roll in a production of  Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night... Or What You Will" - so....

... with hope in my heart, I decorated (and decorated some more) and we invited the Crowners and people we barely knew, to a holiday party in our new home.  No, not Christmas Eve, but a few days earlier.  No three-course meal as in prior years, but a cocktail party leaving folks the opportunity to come early and leave to party hop in case they got other invites. We sent out invitations to around thirty people hoping ten might come.  But, everyone - and I mean everyone - came.  I had actually only met about five or six of our guests, but the evening was a great success - everything Richard made (I've blogged about our Ojai parties, as well) was devoured, from his poached salmon appetizer to his shrimp, cream concoction, as well as the cheese platters, pates and spreads.

I now know all the guests, all friends, and more friends have been included.  The only year we didn't give our Ojai holiday party was the year of the Thomas fire -- that is, until this year.
I again dreaded Christmas arriving while Richard and I were sheltering in place.  Do we decorate?  Why bother?  But as Thanksgiving passed and Christmas approached, I longed for some holiday normalcy.  We didn't buy our usual 7-8 foot tree - but a beautifully shaped four foot tree to put on our front window table.  
Richard hung the lights around our door, and we placed a small tree on our front patio table to give a holiday welcome to drivers-by.  

I need to digress, a bit.  Over the almost three decades of Studio City Christmas Eve parties at our house, we also spent every Christmas day at dear friends, Candace and Craig Anderson (who always came to our party).  Like us, they love Christmas and fill their house with gorgeous decorations.  We'd start the day with frozen cosmos, wines, appetizers, and gift giving, culminating with a perfect rib roast Christmas dinner for us, their beautiful twin daughters, Katie and Liza, and a few of their friends (who became our friends) and kids.  A sit-down dinner for almost 20. Tradition.
 After moving to Ojai, we continued to drive down to L.A. on Christmas Day to be embraced by the warmth of their family and friends -- that is, until this year.

Many of you know that Richard has become the main cook (well, chef, really) in our house during this pandemic. I've certainly written a few blogs about his pandemic meals, so we decided to create a new Christmas Eve.  Knowing how much I love rib roast, Richard decided to make that, along with popovers (his first ever), and an amazing bottle of red wine to complement his dinner.  I set the table, candles always, our Spode Christmas china...
  and sterling silver... we lit the fire, plugged in the tree lights, dimmed the house lights and savored every bite and sip, and each other.  

Christmas day supper, we had rib roast leftovers made divine with new sides and gravy.  Again, served on our Christmas china, candles glowing and toasted the Andersons.

We missed not having our holiday cocktail party.  We missed seeing our friends on Christmas Day, but we made new memories together.  It was a beautiful Christmas. Tradition Adjacent!!!