Monday, August 4, 2014

Moroccan Meatballs and Whole30

Yup.  I'm one of "those"people.  I'm partaking in one of those internet phenomenons....Whole30.  No dairy, grains, sugar or ALCOHOL for 30 days.  No cheese.  No cereal.  No pasta.  No peach cobbler.  No WINE!  You heard me.  I'm on day 9.

Click here to get all the deets, but yeah.  Paleo, but in a restrictive (in the most annoying, restrictive) sense.  The first five days were relatively cool.....I grilled a bunch of bison steaks, chicken thighs, shrimp, salmon, hamburgers....real caveman shit, but I'm a meat lover.  So fine.  Then I roasted some veggies....I'm not a huge veggie lover so this is where it gets a tad tricky.  I like my cheese with a side of veggies, if you get my drift.  Anything to cover up the taste.  Fruit?  Easy, peasy.  It's summer in Alabama, dude, so fruit is everywhere......peaches, cherries, melon, peaches, figs, strawberries, peaches.  Those peaches would be great in a cake.  Or Ina's crisp.  Shit.

Not having to make a "recipe" for dinner was liberating for the first five days, really.....grill some protein, roast some veg, slice some fruit.  But by about day six, I was getting bored and wanted something a little more complex.  A recipe.  So I downloaded the Whole30 authors' cookbook, Well Fed.  There are several recipes that caught my eye, but the Moroccan Meatballs screamed at me.  I mean, c'mon......Meatballs!!


These are damn good....earthy and spicy in a flavorful, rich tomato sauce.  Make these even if you're not into the paleo thing and serve them over a big bed of rice.


Which is what I did for hubs (well not rice, because I didn't have any, but some orzo....close enough) because while he agreed to do this experiment with me for 30 days, his resolve came tumbling down quickly.


Here's how that went down....

Me, "Hey, I'm going to do this thing called Whole30, where for 30 days I can't have dairy, grains, sugar or alcohol.  You want to do it with me?"

Hubs (while engrossed in Ebay on his iPad), "Sure.  Wait, YOU'RE giving up wine for a month?  hahahaha."

Me, "Suck it.  Yes.  And CHEESE."

Hubs, "Right.  Yeah.  OK.  Whatever, I'll do it with you."  (He's silently laughing his ass off at this point, knowing by Tuesday this will all be a distant memory.  BTW, this was on a Sunday.)



So after fully compliant dinner that same evening, a mere 10 hours later, he proceeds back into the kitchen to fix himself a rather massive bowl of mint-chocolate chip ice cream then immediately following that......a BAILEY'S ON THE ROCKS.

Thank's for your support, honey.

Meanwhile, here I am on day NINE!!

Before I get the the Moroccan Meatball recipe, here are my observations/experiences thus far on Whole30.

*  It's not hard.  As the website says, "Kicking heroin is hard.  Beating cancer is hard.  This?  Not hard."  As I said, it's restrictive and takes a little preparation and planning.  Bit it's not hard.

*  The planning thing is important and I don't work or have kids.  I'm sure it's even more important if you do.  Especially for breakfast.  While you can eat whatever you want within the guidelines for any of your three meals, I'm not one to eat a steak for breakfast.  I love eggs, so that's how I roll, but variety is challenging.  I've found that pre-chopping some vegetables (mushrooms, bell peppers, etc.) to mix in with your scrambled eggs, saves some time in the morning when you're STARVING!  The website (and cookbook) suggests spending a few hours on Sunday to brown your meats, roast your veg, etc., to make your weeknight dinner prep easier, but that's not an issue for me.

*  I'm not hungry EVER between meals and usually have to force myself to eat lunch.  My breakfast consists of melting about 1/2 tsp of coconut oil into a non-stick skillet, throwing in a handful of spinach and about 1/4 -1/2 cup of whatever other vegetables I have handy (peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, previous nights leftovers) and sautéing until soft, adding two whisked eggs, seasoning and cooking until done.  I top that with with 1/2 an avocado and a side of diced fruit.  This keeps me satisfied through my workout and up to, if not through, lunch.  I assume because it has a good amount of protein and fat combo.  So far I don't hate eggs, but I'm afraid that may happen.  Then what?

*  I'm probably eating too much fruit but as my trainer says, "I've never seen someone become obese from eating too much fruit."  That being said, I need to watch it.

*  I don't think I've lost any weight yet (you're not supposed to weigh yourself until completing the 30 days) but I'm no longer bloated so I feel lighter!  Score.

*  I've been a horrible sleeper for about the past five years (Menopause?) so I've resorted to taking an OTC sleeping med pretty much every night.  Not good.  I usually don't have much trouble falling asleep (Wine.) but staying asleep....not so much (Wine.)  During this 30 days, I also vowed to give up the Unisom.  I'm staying awake longer in the evening (no wine.), falling asleep around 9:30pm fine, but still waking up several times during the night and finally getting out of bed around 5am.  Not optimal, but I'm hoping that will improve.  This girl likes her sleep.  That being said, I'm not tired during the day, so......

*  I didn't feel much like doing cardio the first week (?) but that's gotten better the last couple of days.   

*  The more water I drink, the more I want.  Maybe that's some of my sleep problems, because I am getting up a couple times during the night for THAT.  OK, lightbulb just turned on.  Slow down on the water after dinner.  

That's all I can think of at the moment.  Feel free to fire any questions my way.  I'm happy to relate my experience.  Oh and please wish me luck on finishing the 30 days.  I'm easily bored.

Here's the meatball recipe:

Moroccan Meatballs
Well Fed, Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat
by Melissa Joulwan

Ingredients:

Meatballs:
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon paprika (I used a hot smoked paprika because I love the flavor and heat)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds ground lamb

Sauce:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 medium onions, diced (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced (about 2 tsps)
2 teaspoons paprika (again, I used hot smoked paprika)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 medium tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 2 tablespoons

Garnish:
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine the parsley, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper with a fork.  With your hands, crumble the lamb into the bowl and knead just until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Moisten your hands with water and shake to remove excess.  Measure a level tablespoon of lamb and roll into a ball between your palms.  Line up the meatballs on a baking sheet until it's time to put them in the sauce. (I simply used a small ice cream scoop and rounded them in my palms)

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or pot.  Add the onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan and stir about 1 minute.  Add the water, tomato paste, and parsley, mixing to dissolve the tomato paste.

Bring the sauce to a boil, then gently place the meatballs in the skillet, cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook 40 minutes covered, then remove th slid and cook an additional 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.  Sprinkle each serving with a few teaspoons of shopped pistachios.




Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fig and Blue Cheese Tart with Honey, Balsamic and Rosemary

I love figs.  Newtons were one of my favorite cookies as a child.....still are.  That cakey exterior with the sweet crunchy filling.  Yum.  But I never associated that cookie with fresh fruit until my first trip to Italy.  We had hired a driver for the time we were in Florence and on about the third day he invited us to his home to taste his wine.  As I got out of the car there was a tree with huge pieces of fruit weighing down the branches.  I had never seen a fig tree before.  I plopped one in my mouth and was smitten.  


So when they start presenting themselves at the summer markets I buy them until they're no longer available.  We mostly eat them raw....sliced on our cheese tray which is frequently our summer dinner outside on the porch with a bottle of Rose'.  We'll wrap them in prosciutto with a hint of stilton stuffed inside or maybe just plain with a bit of honey drizzled on top. 


So when I stumbled across this recipe on Food52 I knew we'd like it.  I added pine nuts for some texture and if I'd had any prosciutto in the house I would have added it to the mix also.


This would be a great for a girls night in (or for your next mahjong party, mama).  I served this with a simple salad of mixed greens with my favorite vinaigrette.  Delicious.

My next house (wherever that may be) will definitely have a fig tree!

Here's the recipe:

Fig and Blue Cheese Tart with Honey, Balsamic and Rosemary



1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed but still cool
1 pound figs
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon thick balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoon honey, depending on the sweetness of the figs (the darker and more flavorful the better)
1/3 cup firm blue cheese (I used Wisconsin, but go more intense if you like)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

With a mortar and pestle, bash a few sprigs of rosemary with olive oil. Set aside.

Using a bit of flour, roll out your dough until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Since it’s a free form tart, any shape is fine. Make a pretty little border by folding over a 1/2-inch on each side (the tart gets a little drippy so it’s nice to have a dam).

Stem, halve, and arrange the figs cut-side up on the dough in any pattern (just make sure they’re tightly nestled). Using a pastry brush, generously paint the cut-side of each fig half with the rosemary oil. Sprinkle each fig with salt.

Drizzle balsamic and the honey all over, making sure each fig gets a little splash. Crumble cheese all over. Drape the bashed and oily rosemary stems anywhere you like on the tart.

Bake until crispy, brown, and bubbling (about 25 minutes). If the figs don’t get enough color, cover the edges of dough with tin foil and place tart under the broiler until desired color is reached. Cool for a few minutes. Eat.

Friday, July 25, 2014

So, here's what's been happening around here......

It's been quite the summer!  I thought it was about time I caught up with y'all.

What I've gotten rid of......

After several last minute hiccups which, according to my real estate agent, I don't know the half of.....WE SOLD OUR HOUSE!!  This shit was two years of some extremely interesting/crazy/bizzare and in the end nice people traipsing through my house so you'll have to excuse my excitement.


I can only hope the new owners and their children enjoy the place as much as we did for the past 12 years.  However, we're really happy to not have to take care of it anymore.  We're currently living in an extremely small rental that I'm loving for the most part.....my closet and bathroom could definitely stand to be a little larger....but until we figure out what we want to do next, it's fine.  We're looking at a few options so I'll keep you posted.

Where I've been..........

Right as we were in the middle of house negotiations, we took off for Anguilla for a week.  Not the best possible timing, but we'd had the trip planned for a year so off we went.  We stayed at the Viceroy and man does it not suck.

We stayed in one of Exclusive Resorts four bedroom villas that was a perfect place to forget all that was going on back home.  The tequila may have played a part in that too.


The resort is pretty spread out so it seems as if we had the place to ourselves for the week.  The staff is amazing, the resort is immaculate, and the food mouth watering good.  


Put the Viceroy on your bucket list!




What parties I've thrown..........

And because my planning is impeccable, two weeks after arriving home I was throwing my niece and her fiancé an engagement party for about 50 people!  


Since Charlotte is from Ohio and Ben grew up in Alabama, the was the first time meeting for many of the family members. I think everybody had a good time.....I know I did!!




I kept things pretty simple.....beer, wine, iced tea and lemonade.....and then made arguably the best catering decision of any party I've every thrown and hired one of Birmingham's best food trucks.  Who doesn't love gourmet grilled cheese?  Boom!!

And the best part of the food truck idea was that I didn't have to do any food prep or any clean up and I could thoroughly enjoy myself along with every one else.


I may have even hired professional photo bombers...........


How cute is this little one!  She became a big sister to twin brothers just a few short weeks after the party.


And thank you Mother Nature for providing a beautiful evening to celebrate the bride and groom. 


We even got in some family pics.  The first photo is of Ben's family......


And this hot mess is Charlotte's (and mine so I'm allowed to say that!).....it's clear which side is the more photogenic!!!



The party was on a Saturday night and Monday morning the movers were at my front door to start packing and ten days later we were out!  We closed a day after that.  Crazy.

The next couple of months don't look to be any less interesting as we're heading to Colorado over Labor Day to see some great friends, checking out Sun Valley in mid-September, and then the big wedding in Ohio in October.

I promise to post more regularly now that things have settled down.





Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Furniture for sale

So it looks like we've cleared all of the major hurdles and while I know nothing is ever truly complete until that fucking fat lady sings, I say with 65% confidence (I'm a cynic to my very core) that WE SOLD OUR HOUSE!!!

We close on June 27th and I'm having a MAJOR party here on June 14th.  How's that for some damn good timing?  On June 15th I start my freak out and will begin selling practically all of my furniture because we're old and like all old people, we're downsizing and getting rid of all extraneous bullshit in preparation for death.  

I was really smart in my youth and spent a BUNCH of Mr. Buker's hard earned cash on all custom made/high end furniture.  That's the shit I'm selling and will undoubtedly make Mr. Buker cry when we get pennies on the dollar for all of this really NICE STUFF.

Here it is.  Email me at jillbuker@gmail.com if you're interested or need further information like dimensions.  Like I said, I can't get rid of it until June 15th so all of my guest have somewhere to sit on the 14th.

Oh and everything is in GREAT condition because we DON'T HAVE KIDS!!

FYI.....I don't deliver.



Vanguard custom chairs  There are two of these
  $200/chair or $350 for both 






Vanguard custom sofa.  There are two of these
$800/sofa or $1500 for both





Vanguard custom sofa
$800






two rugs
6 x 9 $100
8 1/2 x 12 $150






$500






 Mirror
(this thing is massive...it's hanging in my foyer and it's 9' high and 9' wide...that's 9 FEET!)
I paid $4500, asking $1000






 Japanese style screens
This is four separate screens that could also be used as room dividers, etc
They're heavy and substantial....all four together are 13 1/2 feet wide and 7 feet tall
I paid $6000, asking $1500


$600



Iron bed in dark green - King size
$100 for frame
$175 for frame and mattress/box springs



Desk $200

Custom chair $75
this is slightly faded but great bones
also includes a matching stool


$150



Custom chair
There are two of these
$100/chair or $175 for both


dining chairs 
There are 8 of these
$25/chair or $175 for all

two rugs
6' 1" x 8' 9" (originally $3000) $500
9' 3" x 12' (originally $5000) $800






Bar height teak table and chairs (Kingsley-Bate)
I've had these for about 15 years and they're still in great shape.  We just sanded them all down last week and re-oiled them.
$150 for set including cushions

Kingsley-Bate lounge chair
$50 including cushion

Kingsley Bate lounge chair with arms
$50 including cushion



Kingsley Bate teak rocker, side table and chaise
$50/chair and $15 for table


 

Kingsley Bate teak furniture 
Couch, four chairs, two foot stools and coffee table
$350 for complete set including cushions




Kingsley Bate teak Bench
there are two of these
$50/bench



Adirondack Chair & footstool
I have 8 of these and they're a composite material so they'll last forever you never have to do anything with them.  I love these!
$75/chair



Washer and Dryer
Free to a good home!  They both work but they're 12 years old.


That's it for right now, but there may be more later.
jillbuker@gmail.com for inquiries

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