Sunday, April 27, 2014

Eating Clean - Blueberry Banana Spinach Pancakes

Happy Sunday (Brunch Day), Kittens!

For a while now, I've been collecting some really fabulous Brunch recipes.  While there are many wonderful things about living alone, one of the drawbacks is pancakes.  Pretty much any recipe will leave you with 10 or 15 pancakes (and I'm certainly not about to cut the recipe in half and go to a bunch of trouble for 5 pancakes), so I've been trying to host more Brunches at  home so that I can try some of the recipes that I've found and have help eating the yield.

A few weeks ago, I planned a morning of yoga and Brunch for my friend Bridget and myself.  And it was fabulous!  After a lot of stretching and sweating and cursing and somewhat inappropriate groaning (we were working places we didn't even know we had), our relaxed, euphoric selves popped a bottle of bubbly and started making the green pancakes that I've been eyeing for a while.

Fascinated by the idea of a green pancake?  You should be!  I start most days with green smoothies, so I know that the mild flavor of spinach can easily be masked by other ingredients.  I almost thought about this pancake recipe as a green smoothie in fluffy, solid form and was intrigued!  These little babies were so good and I wanted to share the recipe that I found at FitSugar with you.  I deviated from the original recipe slightly (the next time I make them, I'll probably even add more blueberries) and decided to pass on the banana cream sauce from the original recipe as I'm more of a maple syrup kinda girl myself, but if you decide to try these tasty little beauties, do whatever feels right to you.

-1 cup organic raw baby spinach, tightly packed
-1/2 cup organic blueberries
-1 large (very ripe) banana
-1 cup vanilla almond milk
-1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (I might have used a bit more if I'm being honest)
-1 egg
-1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

(I've been eating as clean as possible and incorporate a lot of organic foods for a while now.  While you can make the choice to go that route or not for yourself, the only non-organic ingredients I used in the pancakes were the banana, baking powder, and salt.)

1.  Put the spinach, banana, blueberries, almond milk, and syrup in a blender and puree.

2.  Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the egg.
3.  In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients and add to the wet mixture a little bit at a time.  (Or you can be a rebel and simply mix in the dry ingredients without combining them beforehand!)

4.  Place a skillet over medium heat and spray lightly with cooking spray.
5.  Drop 1/4 cup full of batter per pancake onto the skillet and cook as you would a normal pancake (until it starts to bubble and then flip).

 6.  Makes approximately 12 pancakes.

We had a fabulous Brunch with coffee, beautiful mimosas, cheesy scrambled eggs, our fantastic green pancakes, and some fruit!

The pancakes taste a lot like banana bread, so if that sounds appealing, perhaps these super healthy little green babies are for you!  I'm pretty sure that you won't have as fabulous a pancake helper as I did, but you know, Bridget can't come to EVERYONE'S Brunch.  So, you're going to have to find your own helpful friends.

If you're looking for a new pancake to try, you may want to consider this one.  I highly recommend having these with a few mimosas after some really amazing yoga.  It's a fabulous way to spend a Sunday morning!

Namaste, Kittens!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Cinematic Experience - Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday, 1953

Oh hello Darlings, it's nice to see you again!

When I first declared that April was to be Audrey April, I knew that the first movie I would watch would be Roman Holiday.  Little did I know how perfect that was...this was the first studio film that Audrey Hepburn was in!  So, if you ask me, it's a pretty great place to start.  In 1999, Roman Holiday was also added to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry and holds the 59th slot on AMC's list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.  It's not hard to see why!

watch the trailer
If you've never seen this film, I'm pretty sure you'll love it.  I most certainly did!

The film opens with Princess Ann, played by Audrey Hepburn, who is from an unidentified European country.  Over and over they refer to 'her country' or 'her kingdom,' but which European nation she presides over remains a mystery throughout the film.  Whichever one it is, it is keeping her busy on an extensive European tour.  Princess Ann's itinerary is so jam-packed that even the viewer gets tired.  She makes one personal appearance after another, giving interviews, and attending balls thrown in her honor.  She is sublimely unhappy and it's not difficult to see why.

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The pressure finally becomes too great for Princess Ann to bear as she is getting ready for bed while in Rome.  She can hear music from her window, sees carefree people dancing just outside the palace walls, and has a breakdown - one that no one can fault her for.  The doctor is called and administers a sedative which she is told will take a little time to work.  Not being bothered at all by this 'ineffective' sedative, as soon as everyone leaves her room, she quickly gets dressed and sneaks out.  It does not take much time for the sedative to take effect and she falls asleep on a public bench.  On his way home from a poker game, Joe Bradley, played by Gregory Peck, happens upon her and, believing that she is drunk, ends up taking her back to his apartment when it is obvious that she is unable to tell the taxi driver where she lives.  They're pretty sure she DOESN'T live at the Colosseum!

Audrey Hepburn is so endearing and effortlessly funny when they return to Joe's small studio apartment.  It quickly becomes even more evident just how out of her element she is.  And in, my opinion, this scene has the best lines!
Ann:  "Is this the elevator?"
Joe:  "This is my room!"

She is asleep on her feet and asks Joe, "Can I have a silk nightgown with rosebuds on it?"
"I'm afraid you'll have to rough it tonight.  In these."
"Sorry honey, but I haven't worn a nightgown in years."

Once she has her sleep attire, Joe is about to leave and she slips back into princess mode and tells him, "You have my permission to withdraw."  I may have to start using that line myself...

After all the fun from the night before, Joe oversleeps, leaves 'Anya Smith' in his studio, and rushes to the office.  We learn that he is an American reporter for Rome's Daily American and was supposed to interview Princess Ann that morning.  In the wake of her disappearance, the Royal Family had released the statement that she has fallen ill.  Unfortunately, Joe is unaware of this fact and tries lying to his boss, telling him that he is just returning from the interview.  Once he sees Ann's picture in the paper and realizes who wore his pajamas the night before, he tells his boss that he will be able to get an exclusive interview.
"But tell me, Mr. Bradley, if you are sober, just how you are going to obtain this fantastic interview?"
"I plan to enter her sick room disguised as a thermometer."

I LOVE the humor of these old films!

Joe rushes back to his room only to find that Ann is getting ready to leave.  He is unable to convince her to stay, so he follows her when she leaves and is surprised when she starts roaming the city, exercising a bit of freedom and anonymity that she most likely had never experienced before, and ends up at a small barber shop.  She asks to have her hair chopped off and it ends up looking fabulous!  Wouldn't you agree?

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After Ann's transformation, Joe just 'happens' to run into her on the Spanish Steps and, in the interest of getting his story, he proposes that they spend the day doing whatever she wants to do, stating that "Today will be a holiday."  First stop?  A sidewalk cafe where she has a glass of champagne.  On the sly, Joe calls a photographer friend of his, Irving, brilliantly played by Eddie Albert, so that he can get photographs for the story.  

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After leaving the café, they embark on the famous Vespa tour of Rome!

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One of the stops on the Vespa tour, is the iconic Mouth of Truth which, legend has it, will bite off the hand of someone who tells a lie.  The fact that both characters are lying about who they are (Ann neglects to tell Joe that she is a princess and he neglects to tell her that he is a reporter) makes for an entertaining scene.  Little secret?  Gregory Peck's part of the scene was completely improvised, so Audrey Hepburn's reaction is real!

After a day of fun, our three characters go down to the docks for some dancing.  The chemistry between Joe and Ann has been brewing all day, but is never as strong as in this scene.  And then chaos ensues!  This scene is fun and funny and, much like the rest of the film, it's nearly impossible NOT to get caught up in all the excitement! 

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Like Cinderella, Princess Ann must go home at the end of the night, her fairy tale (her day of freedom) is over.  It's heartbreaking for both characters and the audience wants so badly for her to change her mind.  The next day, the princess' press conference is rescheduled and Joe and Irving stand right up front.  Now that everyone's real identities are out in the open, surely there is the chance that Ann will chose a life of love and adventure over her stifling life of privilege and duty.

What does she chose?  If you haven't seen this film, I'm not about to give it away!

-The part of Joe Bradley was originally written for Carey Grant, but he felt that he was too old to play Audrey Hepburn's love interest.

-The part of Princess Ann was originally written for Elizabeth Taylor, but she was not available.  Which was lucky for Hepburn, since this film launched her career.

-Gregory Peck originally had solo star billing, but partway through filming, he insisted her name appear above the film title, predicting that she was going to win an Oscar.

-The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, but only won three - Best Actress for Audrey Hepburn, Best Black & White Costume Design for Edith Head, and Best Writing for Ian McLellan Hunter.

-In 1992, The Academy corrected their records to finally credit Dalton Trumbo for the screenplay.  Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted for being part of the Hollywood Ten, a group of people who were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947.  He continued to write while being blacklisted and was fronted by Ian McLellan Hunter.  Dalton's widow accepted his Oscar in 1993.

-Frank Capra was originally supposed to direct this film, but refused when he learned that the screenplay was written by Trumbo.

-Roman Holiday was filmed entirely on location, which was very uncommon for the time.  Wilder, the director, insisted on filming in Rome, and this was supposedly the first film to be shot and processed entirely in Italy.  Wilder's location budget was so high that they were forced to film in black and white instead of color.

-In an example of life imitating art, the film was released during the scandal of Britain's Princess Margaret who was considering marriage to Peter Townsend, a commoner.

Have you seen this film?  It's essential viewing for Audrey April!

Happy Viewing, Darlings!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mad Men Cocktail Hour - The Old Fashioned

Good Evening My Lovelies!

Last Sunday, my beloved Mad Men returned for its seventh and final season.  This show got its hooks into me early on and never let go, so I'm VERY sad to know that it won't be long until I have to say good bye to it.  Last season, my trusty Mad-woman In Crime, Bridget, and I started holding weekly Mad Men Cocktail Hours/viewing parties.  Since we had a little finale party which was pretty epic (read epic hangovers from the French 75's), we thought it only fitting that we had another for the season premiere.  But without the hangovers.

And what better way to channel our Don Drapers than with a few Old Fashioneds.

While doing a little research on the Old Fashioned, it seems like we've finally found the original cocktail!  Imbibing Legend has it that in May of 1806, a man sent an inquiry about the exact definition of the word to The Balance and Columbia Repository.  Their published response defined a cocktail as "a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters - it is vulgarly called a bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head."  This may be their definition of a cocktail, but it is also that of an Old Fashioned and this publication was definitely not kidding when they say that it fuddles the head!  It definitely has the ability to do that and also put some hair on your chest.  Proceed with caution!

Like most drinks, there are many recipes out there.  While it's not the most traditional recipe, in my opinion, my sister makes the best Old Fashioned, using Rye whiskey and simple syrup (instead of muddling sugar with water).  She also uses more bitters than I've seen in most recipes.  And the result is incredibly delicious!  Like traditional Old Fashioneds, we also use over-sized ice cubes.  So much fun!!

Since there is no mixer, I find it best to give this cocktail a minute or two and let the ice melt a bit, so that the flavors come together and then you'll see why Don Draper is so fond of them!  And to get all dolled up and have an Old Fashioned in a dark smokey bar with Don Draper?  That sounds like a phenomenal night!

So now, how about we talk about the premiere episode, shall we?

The opening sequence with Don coming out to visit Megan, who is now living in L.A.?  Stunning.  The car, Megan's dress, the entire look was simply gorgeous!

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A couple this beautiful should be illegal.

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As a little bit of trivia, the filming of this scene at LAX was shut down after the shooting there last November.

Another bit of trivia, the restaurant that Megan has her business meeting in is none other than the fabulous Dresden Room, which we paid a visit to for my birthday just last month.  How appropriate was that?

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While we only have a few episodes to look forward to right now - the last season is being split in two, the second half will be aired in 2015 - I was surprised that the show stuck to its formula of not revealing too much in the first episode.  There isn't a lot of room to play and there were SO many things that were left unanswered.  First off - ROGER??  What has he gotten himself into now and will this actually be Roger's final downward spiral?  I sure hope not, what would we do without his one-liners?  But seriously, are six other people REALLY necessary for a good time?  I'd rather him dabble with LSD again, that was fun to watch!

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The interesting thing about this first episode is how starkly different the two coasts seem to be.  Things are dark in New York.  Everyone is profoundly unhappy.

And then there is chipper Pete in L.A.  Even his clothing serves as a billboard that he is no longer in New York.

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When he and Don meet for lunch, Pete picks Canter's.  I haven't been there in ages, but will need to pay it a visit again soon.  Best. Latkes. Ever.

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This series has been filming all over Los Angeles for the last six seasons and passing the locations off as New York.  While places like Musso & Frank and the Biltmore are hardly a stretch, I'm excited to see the places that they will be using in season seven since they no longer need to be surreptitious about where these locations actually are.

Am I the only one that's super excited for the next episode?

Until next time, Lovelies!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy Audrey April!

Hello there Darlings!

A little while ago, I was speaking with my friend Bridget and she offhandedly made a comment that stuck with me.  She stated that blondes had Marilyn and brunettes had Audrey.  That may not seem like a big or important statement, but it resonated with me.  Something as seemingly insignificant as your hair color can determine many things and one of those things seems to be who, and perhaps even what, you feel connected to.  Sounds kind of ridiculous, right?  But just think of the women you know that are drawn to Marilyn Monroe.  Chances are, they're blonde.  And those women feel that same draw to Audrey Hepburn, I'll bet money that most of them are brunettes.

While I have always been more of a Marilyn girl, myself, Audrey holds a great fascination for me.  She was always cool and elegant, a little tomboyish while being incredibly feminine.  She had this indescribable quality that just drew people to her, something that made her one of a kind.

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Audrey Hepburn landed the number three spot on the lady's side of the American Film Institute's Top 50 Greatest Film Legends list .  While what made this woman so extraordinary spans far beyond her IMDB page, I realized that the only film I'd seen her in was Breakfast at Tiffany's.  So, I thought I would remedy that in April.  I've already watched two more and while I haven't put those posts together yet, I thought I'd give you a little teaser so that you have an idea as to what I've got in store for you.

Perhaps you'll spend the night in with an Audrey film, Darlings, that's my plan!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Brunch 03.30.2014 - Our Corner Googie Coffee Shop

Pann's, Westchester

Happy Sunday, Lovelies!

Have you ever found yourself just craving diner food?  Some good comfort food?  Perhaps after imbibing a bit too much the night before?  No?  Liar.

There's no shame in the fact that we all stray from the clean eating program that most of us strive for from time to time.  It happens.  We're human.  And even most health professionals will agree that indulging occasionally is important for keeping yourself sane and on track.  So, if you're going to stray, make sure that it's worth it.  

Enter Pann's.

Opening its doors in 1958, Pann's has been deemed "one of the last and best of the iconic futuristic coffee shops designed by the prolific firm of Armét & Davis." by the Los Angeles Conservancy.  Armét & Davis, an architectural firm that was integral in the Googie movement of the 1950's and 1960's, designed numerous buildings in Southern California.  If this style looks a bit familiar, perhaps you're thinking about Johnie's Coffee Shop or the Norm's chain.  The Googie coffee shops have been described as "places where George Jetson and Fred Flintstone could meet over a cup of coffee."  And how fun is that?

This style within the more encompassing Mid-Century Modern style is known for its futuristic aspects.  Unfortunately, this style is really only still seen in kitschy coffee shops and gas stations which are few and far between.  Pann's is still owned by the original Greek immigrant family and in 1993, the second generation owner completely restored the restaurant to its original glory - even going so far as to get the neon sign restored instead of replaced, which goes to show how important preservation is to the family.  And that is something that the Los Angeles Conservancy acknowledged with a coveted Conservancy Award.

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Alright, Googie history lesson?  Check.  

Moving on...  Brunch.  At a coffee shop?  Yes!

Even if bottomless mimosas weren't being offered, you can never go wrong with All Day Breakfast.

Especially when you have one or two options to choose from.

Bridget and her husband, Mike, have been to Pann's a few times and I have been excited to try it for a while now.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to join them, since it is just down the street from the apartment.  

Two reasons this was a fabulous Brunch.  We never saw the bottom of our mimosa glasses and these biscuits could be the best I've ever had.  Holy Moly, they are AMAZING!  Seriously.  I can't even talk about it. 

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In addition to the biscuits, I ordered Crusted Fresh Salmon Patties with grits.  So, the patties were great, but I learned that while I LOVE cheese grits, I don't like regular grits.  Not at all.  Good to know.

Bridget ordered Uncle Bud's Mississippi Cheese Eggs while Mike had the Country Fried Steak.  Both were very happy with their choices.

And because we were at a diner, we kind of HAD to order pancakes.  I ended up taking them home because they definitely do not skimp on the amount of food they give you, so there was no way we were finishing these.  And even hours later, they were absolutely delicious!

Carbfest?  Yes.  Were we running the risk of taking a nap at the table?  Uh huh.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!

If Pann's breakfast options are any indication, this is the place to go if you're looking for really great diner food at any hour.  No question.  And the atmosphere?  You can't argue that it's super far out!

Or that they have a fantastic lighting concept.

While this may not be the same diner used in the opening scene in Pulp Fiction as many people claim (that was a second location owned by the family that has since closed called Holly's which was located in Hawthorne), this restaurant is definitely worth a visit!  Make sure you get a biscuit.  Trust me on this one.

I have an awesome Brunch planned for a little later, so I'll let you go so that you have some time to consider where you'll be Brunching today.  Pann's perhaps?


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Balcony Makeover - Spring Has Sprung

Hello there Kittens!  And Happy Spring (admittedly, I'm a bit late with that one)!

While I'm not a spring or summer kind of girl, preferring autumn and winter's cool days and moody skies, I have accepted that sometimes you simply can't fight the inevitable arrival of spring.  The last time I tended to my balcony, I channeled the spirit of the holidays with a bunch of poinsettias.  While I had to be careful with these plants when I first got them because the temperatures dropped to the point that freezing was a real possibility, these little buggers were incredibly sturdy!  With very little effort on my part, four of the six poinsettias survived for four months and were still going strong when I decided it was finally time for my balcony to bid the last remnants of the holidays farewell.

So, I took a little trip to Home Depot after work about a week ago and picked up new flowers for my fabulous upgraded planters, another jasmine plant after my first foray into balcony gardening killed all my plants - including my amazing jasmine plant, and a few bags of potting soil.  I didn't have time to do much that afternoon, so I took out the poinsettias which were still in their original pots in the planters (which was brilliant if I do say so myself) and placed the new plants into them until I could actually replant the next afternoon.  Unfortunately, while I was at work the next day, the winds picked up and the pots shifted and changed the weight distribution, which made it possible for the winds to pick up the planter and throw it (and its contents) all over my balcony.  It looked like a tornado touched down!  As if my balcony wasn't dirty enough...

Remember when I said that I removed the poinsettias from the planters?  Well, I had just placed them on the ground until I had the chance to deal with them.  And the turbulence didn't budge them in the least.  Despite what you think, this was NOT a staged photo and I'd REALLY like an explanation as to how this is possible...

After I sat dumbfounded for a bit, dreading all the cleaning I had before me, I sucked it up and got to work.  After I repotted my six beautiful geraniums, swept up approximately three pounds of soil that was covering the ground, and Swiffered the patio for far longer than would be considered sane, even by OCD standards, I had a sparkly new patio!  And a perfect spring upgrade!

Okay, so red may not be what most people consider to be a spring color, but these geraniums are beautiful and cheery and bushy and look amazing in my shiny black planters!  (I LOVE a good theme and I'm nothing if not consistent.)

I have a good feeling about my geraniums, so perhaps this will be the last post like this for a while.  Though there could be a few new potted plants in my future...only time will tell.

Sometimes something as simple as a few new flowers can change your perspective.  You know, perhaps spring isn't so bad after all...

Maybe a little planting this weekend will do your mood some good as well.
Happy Planting, Kittens!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

April Book Club Selection

Hello and Happy April, Lovelies!

This year is simply FLYING by!  Even though it seems like I just did this, it's time for a new Book Club selection.  In my excitement for the new season of Mad Men, I thought I would chose another title that has a tie-in to the show.

Since Season 2 of Mad Men, I've been meaning to pick up Frank O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency.  This collection of poetry is said to perfectly capture the pace of New York in the sixties.  And what could be more interesting that that for someone who didn't experience it firsthand?  "O'Hara, a key interpreter of the aesthetics of abstract-expressionism, was a vital presence in New York's dynamic postwar art world, whether as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, a visionary critic, a lushly original and lyrical poet, or an unflagging, often outrageous socialite." -Donna Seaman.

Oh, did I mention that April is National Poetry Month?  Once I learned that, I knew there couldn't be a more perfect choice!

I already have my copy, if you don't have too much on your plate for today, perhaps you'll pick up a copy as well?