Friday, January 10, 2014

No, Really. This Time I Mean It.

A year ago, I posted that I was ready to for things to get back to normal.  The holidays always bring about a lot of happiness for me from visiting friends, entertaining and resolution about what the new year will bring.

A year a go I took my first trip in some time and resolved that 2013 would be the year of getting back to traveling regularly, entertaining, building my bag business and most importantly, chronicling it all here.  Little did I know what lay ahead for me when I returned...

Four days after I returned home, I had a house fire that gutted my house the day before my birthday.  I never imagined that my resolution of traveling more would actually manifest itself as crashing at other peoples places for 5 months. I spent the rest of the year replacing my life and my things.

Now, a few weeks before my birthday, I am packing up the salon to move to a new location.  My space that I had for 10 years is being demolished for new construction and I am lucky enough to have found space right across the street.  It turns out we can resolve to do all sorts of things to improve our lives, but the universe can always make different plans for us.  After everything, I feel that living through the last few years has changed my life for the better.  Being forced to adapt has made me see things differently and made me less fearful of change.  I have adopted the motto "things will all work out" rather than clinging to the status quo.  My friend Kitty recently told me that I lead a "horribly charmed life".  Terrible things happen to me and the result ends up being better than the previous situation.

Heres to a horribly charmed 2014!

My first entertaining post last year would have been a dinner made in L.A. for one of my best friends.    I am reminded of it because I made the same thing this New Years Eve for friends.  What better way to ring in the new year - feeding my favorite comfort food to special people.

Photos below are from the Flack Bachelor Pad in L.A. taken with an iPhone, so please excuse the lack of my usual staging.

Caesar Salad

This original recipe concocted by Caesar Cardini is traditionally assembled at the table.  The dressing is made in the bowl, then the salad is tossed in with cheese and croutons.  I like offering anchovy paste mixed into the dressing, or if you like, anchovies on top of the individual finished salads.

3 romaine hearts sliced
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg 
1/4 t salt
1/2 meyer lemon juice
1/2 t worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Fresh ground pepper
anchovy paste or canned anchovies
1 1/2 cups homemade croutons (recipe in my potato leek soup recipe post)

Gently boil the egg for exactly 1 minute. With a garlic press, crush garlic clove into a wooden salad bowl and crack the egg directly into the bowl.  Whisk egg and garlic together with olive oil, salt, lemon, worcestershire and a 2 inch strip of anchovy paste (if desired).  Toss in lettuce, then cheese and top with fresh ground pepper, croutons and anchovy filets.

Serves 6 side salads

Mac & Cheese

16 ounce package of tortiglioni
 (or other corkscrew pasta)
4 T cornstarch
2 t salt
1 t dry mustard
1/2 t ground black pepper
6 cups milk
4 T butter
3 cups shredded Sharp Cheddar
1 cup shredded Gouda
1 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat to 375 degrees
Cook pasta for 6 minutes, drain and place in baking dish.
In a 4 Qt. saucepan, combine cornstarch, salt, dry mustard and pepper.  Whisk in milk until smooth and add butter.  Stir constantly, bring to a boil for 1 minute.  
Remove from heat and stir in cheese, pour over pasta in baking dish and top with breadcrumbs.
Bake for 20-25 minutes

Serves 10

Jim's Manhattan

3 oz. Maker's Mark bourbon
1 oz. Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth
1 t cherry juice
Dash Angostura bitters
Luxardo Cherry
Shake on ice and serve in a martini glass

Manhattan Mocktail

1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 t cherry juice
1/4 t meyer lemon juice
Dash Orange bitters
Luxardo Cherry

Shake on ice and serve in a rocks glass

*I find this recipe to be a tad sweet for me and like to add 1/4 cup seltzer after shaking.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Yoga Matt MerkinBags

The New Yoga Matt Merkin Bag Style is Launched
available now on etsy

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Something to Ward Off Winter Blues

So.  Everyone here is sick with colds and flu and has been for some time now.  I was about to go to L.A. for my first real vacation in years and I refused to lose one minute of it to illness. I got a flu shot and had been eating citrus, hot soup and lemon/honey in my tea everyday for weeks.  This last batch of immune booster remedy I found particularly delightful.

A standard of mine in winter, Potato Leek soup is like a great big delicious hug the minute it hits your taste buds.  I start with Julia Child's formula (equal amounts potato and leek added to same total amount of water) and then doctor it up a bit.  I paired it with a fresh grapefruit martini type drink that I made up on the fly.  Enjoy and be well this flu season!

Potato Leek Soup

3 cups potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cups sliced leeks (the light part)
6 cups chicken stock (or water if you are a traditionalist)
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
Blue cheese for garnish
Croutons for garnish

Boil potatoes, Leeks and stock for about 1/2 an hour, until the potatoes are soft.  Add the creme fraiche and Tabasco and use an immersion blender to blend ingredients to your liking (I like some chunks in my soup).

Serve with blue cheese and croutons (recipe below) on top


This is something I'm never particularly set about.  I save all old bread in the freezer for both bread crumbs and croutons.  I season with whatever I have on hand or what might suit what I'm adding the croutons to.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cut bread into largish pieces
Arrange bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and whatever strikes your fancy - this time it was salt and fresh garlic in the olive oil.

Bake for 10 minutes and toss croutons to coat and turn.
Bake for an additional 10 and let cool till hardish.

Fresh Grapefruit Martini for Immune Boost

1 ounce gin
dash dry vermouth
2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice

Place ice and vermouth in a shaker, shake and pour off excess vermouth.
Add gin and grapefruit, shake again and serve in a martini glass with a twist of grapefruit peel

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Start of a New Year Breathes New Life Into Chickfuel

Geez!  It's been almost 3 years since I last posted.  Ugh.  So much has changed.  I became single, sold my house, bought a new one, started fixing it up, closed the physical storefront of of my retail store, recreated it as an online store, renovated my salon, started another business creating and making vaguely naughty purses (I call them Merkin Bags and have them on Etsy), started working on a men's leather line called "Sackle" and lost my beloved poodle Lazlo.  I feel now like it happened in the blink of an eye, but living through it took an eternity.

I'm ready for a fresh start.  Entertaining and travelling have not been a priority in the last two years with everything else that has gone on, even though they are my favorite diversions from daily life.  I have had people over during the holidays and created some new concoctions.   AND I have booked a trip to L.A. for 3 weeks from now. These are my inspirations for the two things that fuel this blog - they are what is CHICKFUEL.

Ingrid came into town for the holidays. Perfect!  Time to lushly entertain!
I made a champagne cocktail and a tray of charcuterie to nosh on while imbibing.  The champagne cocktail came about because I had some less that perfectly fresh fruit I wanted to use up by juicing in my trusty "Juice-O-Matic" and frankly there's more than likely a bottle of bubbly in the fridge at all times, so it's often a big part of my repertoire.

In went 2 navel oranges and 2 kiwis for a pulverizing.  They yielded 6 ounces of juice total which was a bit chunky from the kiwi.  I liked it that way, but those wishing for a smoother drink can use an immersion blender (or a regular one for that matter) to make a fine blendable puree.

The juice blend was a gorgeous festive green.
The drinks turned out lovely and are a beautiful addition to any holiday table with their bright color and fizzy texture.  Na Zdarovya!

Champagne Cocktail
makes 6 drinks

1 bottle Prosecco, champagne or any other bubbly.  I like mine dry.

6 ounces fruit juice - today was orange & kiwi

Put 1 ounce juice in the bottom of a champagne glass and fill the rest of the way with bubbly.

Bubbly Mocktail
makes 3 drinks

1 litre of lemon fizzy water

6 ounces of fruit juice

Dash of bitters

Put 2 ounces of juice in the bottom of a tall glass, dash of bitters and fill with fizzy water.

The charcuterie platter above was made entirely of groceries from Trader Joes.

- Smoked Salmon
- Smoked Trout
- Prosciutto
- Sopressata Salami
- Gouda
- Boursin
- Stilton
- Triple Cream Brie
- Salmon Spread
- Horseradish Hummus
- Capers
- Olives
- Honeycrisp Apples
- Pita Chips
- Whole Grain Crackers
- Multi Grain Batard

It's an easy, breezy crowd pleaser with no cooking involved and minimal cleanup.  YAY!

Happy 2013 to all my peeps.  May we share another beautiful year together...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

May Not Look Like Much, But WOW!

Ah, the lowly mushroom cap. So unattractive, yet so incredibly tasty!
I was feeling nostalgic this evening for a special Chicks night at the Earle last year during a rare visit from one of my out of state Chicks and a local friend of hers that I have had the pleasure of getting to know better in the last couple of years. They are two lifelong friends who have been generous enough to share their friendship with me and I have a lot to thank both of them for in terms of advice, support and my own personal growth. Along with laughing, sharing and commiserating, we ate mushroom caps that night and ended up ordering a second order because they were SO GOOD and they made us happy. So Chicks, make this recipe and enjoy. They are my own version, but I think that they are as good as the ones we had that night. And Anne, when you finally get back into town, I will make many, many of them for the three us to indulge in.

This recipe is a SNAP if you have a food processor. It takes 5 minutes to prepare and 15-20 minutes to cook depending on the size of the mushrooms. Make lots, as they will be gone in an instant. I made this recipe to prepare one 10 ounce package mushrooms – multiply accordingly. Also, if Trevor is coming over, omit the olives. Kelly says it’s the one thing he can’t stand…

Stuffed Mushroom Caps

10 ounce package of white button mushrooms, stems removed and saved
6 pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano shredded
2 T Pine nuts
2 T Olive oil
1 T Fresh parsley
3 Garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place mushroom caps on a baking sheet and twist out the stems, leaving a hole where they once were. All other ingredients along with the stems go in the processor and pulse until chopped. You may have to scrape the sides once in order to get a good mix.
Use a spoon to scoop the filling into the mushroom crater, creating a small mound on top of each cap.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until toppings are firms and caps are soft.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

So, let’s get started entertaining!

My number one advice is to make a shopping list ahead of time for any parties that you KNOW you are hosting.
I make two lists: a shopping list and an action list. The shopping list has EVERYTHING I need to purchase, right down to ice and flowers to arrange. The action list exists not just for me, but also for my friends who show up early and want to help. It is everything that needs to happen right down to slicing lemons and limes for the bar. This helps you to not forget all the little things once you get overloaded with juggling guests who want to help with trying to get things done.

To avoid my inevitable last minute panic of “I’m running late and nothing is done” (I am famous for ALWAYS being fifteen minutes late – for everything, all the time), I have started setting the table for a buffet a few hours before I do anything else. I pick a serving dish for each menu item and stick a piece of paper on it identifying it. Next, I put out all food that needs no preparation like cheese, fruit, olives, etc., just so it looks like there is food out when people arrive and the rest is still cooking or being sliced. This also helps those showing up at the last minute to help identify what still needs to be done.

This is an old family recipe, which has been simplified by using canned beets and ketchup for almost identical results. The one complication is the meat grinder, which many people don’t have. I say pick one up! I have a fairly cheap Zyliss one that has worked reliably for years, or get one that mounts onto your Kitchen-Aid mixer if you like fancy. I can whip this up in about 10 minutes when I am faced with “no time to cook or shop, what to bring to the party?”. It can be made ahead of time, saving that last minute panic of having to clean up ONE more thing up before guests arrive…

Beet “Caviar”

3 cans whole beets
1/2 cup of Vidalia onion finely chopped
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup ketchup
3 Tablespoons fresh dill (or dried)
Olive oil

Turn on a large cast iron pan on medium with onions, garlic and olive oil to sauté
Grind your beets with a meat grinder on medium, pouring off any extra liquid.
Add to pan with sauté and cook for 3-4 minutes before adding ketchup and dill. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, and PRESTO! It’s done!

Serve with toasted challah bread squares, pita chips or rye crackers.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It all started with a drink.

My friend Parvin was home in Ann Arbor, visiting from Venice, CA. We met up for an evening out after I had an exceptionally draining day - we had a lot to catch up on. I decided on the modified vodka martini on the menu, as it was the only cocktail they offered that wasn't sugary sweet, a trend I don't particularly care for.
We fell into an ages old routine of flipping back and forth between analyzing our personal stuff in the conversation and critiquing everything we consumed; what makes the sauce good, how the sandwich could be better, what was missing from the salad... It was inherent to our relationship. Friendship and food. We have always shared everything. From our personal dilemmas to the food we ate because we always wanted to order the same thing.
The next time we went out was to a red Wings game the night before she left to go back to California. We went to Tom's Oyster Bar, my favorite seafood joint in Detroit and usual stop before the game. After some discussion, I came up with our own version and the name "Chick Fuel"...

I just got back from a visit to Parvin's place in Venice, as she is about to move back here for some most excellent opportunities. We ate our way through so many unbelievably good meals and talked about our favorite simple dishes and how easy it is to throw a great party together, provided you keep the right items on hand. We discussed the role of the hostess, the importance of treating yourself to something enjoyable everyday and appreciating the things and people around you and living life to its fullest. Here we will share with you our versions of simple, yet unusual and enticing appetizers, buffet meals, cocktails (always followed by a companion "mocktail"), entertaining tips and general musings. Expect to see a few of our creative amazing friends/experts to put their two cents in as well, as guests in our blog giving a well rounded perspective.

And the Chick Fuel blog was born...

Chick Fuel Cocktail

-3 jiggers Stoli vodka
-Dry Vermouth
-Generous splash of fresh grapefruit juice
-Dash of Angnostura Bitters
-Meyer lemon slice for garnish - Meyer lemons are typically only available in the winter. Use a traditional lemon in summer.

Fill a shaker with ice and pour in one capful of dry vermouth, shake and pour off excess.
Add Vodka, grapefruit and bitters, shake until frothy. Strain into a martini glass and serve with lemon slice on side

Makes 2 drinks.

Chick Fuel Mocktail (pictured above)

-Fresh grapefruit juice
-Tonic water
-Dash of Angostura Bitters
-Meyer lemon slice for garnish

Fill a tall glass with ice and shake a dash of bitters on to the ice. Fill the glass 1/3 with grapefruit juice and fill the rest of the way up with tonic water. Serve with lemon on side

Makes 1 drink.