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It’s National Cookie Day! No, I’m serious, it’s a real thing…I’m not just making it up. I Googled it! I don’t think it is the kind of holiday that people get to stay home from work in order to observe (although it should be) but it’s still pretty cool. I mean, I think the cookie deserves it, don’t you? So, in honor of National Cookie Day, I am going to talk about………drum roll………COOKIES! Whoo-ray!!!

I may have mentioned it once or twice (slight understatement…), but just to remind you, my faithful readers, I work a few odd jobs here and there to supplement my acting career. Well, one of the companies I work for is Califia Farms, a beverage company that makes Cuties Juice (yes, that’s juices and smoothies made with Cuties Tangerines) and Almondmilk, among other things. Check out their websites! I mostly do in-store demos (otherwise known as free samples) and special events, but recently I have been asked about incorporating the products in some of my recipes. This is what happens when your boss is also your friend…they invade your whole LIFE! (Just kidding, Sam. Love you!)

Anyway, a few weeks ago I went on a mission to find a cookie recipe that would use our Almondmilk and/or Cuties Juice. Once I found a few recipes that sounded yummy, I went shopping (for ingredients, not clothes or shoes) and then set to work baking. I made 3 recipes, which amounted to what felt like hundreds of cookies, over the course of about a week. Of course I HAD to sample the cookies to make sure they tasted good, but in order to save me from myself, I sent most of the cookies away! Left in my kitchen, I would have eaten them ALL, which wouldn’t have been good for anyone.

Although all 3 recipes were, honestly, delicious, there was one clear winner. The Chocolate Oatmeal Chews. Their chocolaty decadence was made even more perfect when I had the brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) of topping them off with a tangerine infused buttercream frosting. Voila! A yummy cookie recipe that incorporates both our Almondmilk and Cuties 100% Tangerine Juice. Success! I found the recipe in a Betty Crocker cookie book that I checked out of the library (because who needs to buy cookbooks anymore!) but I substituted the Almondmilk for regular milk and I just kind of made up the recipe for the tangerine buttercream. I also added chocolate chips, which wasn’t in the original recipe but it just felt right!

Before frosting...I forgot to get a picture of the final product.

Before frosting…I forgot to get a picture of the final product.

So to celebrate National Cookie Day, be adventurous and make some cookies to share with your friends or just keep to yourself, I won’t judge. At the very least buy a cookie somewhere and EAT IT! It’s a national holiday for cryin’ out loud!

 

Chocolaty Tangerine Oatmeal Cali Chews (Unofficial name)

*Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookie Book

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup Califia Farms Creamy Almondmilk

1 egg

2 2/3 cups quick-cooking oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 package of semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Tangerine Buttercream Frosting

 

Preheat oven to 350. Mix sugar, butter, Almondmilk, and egg in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Drop dough in tablespoon sized mounds onto cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until centers are slightly firm to the touch. Allow to cool 1 to 2 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Once the cookies are completely cooled, frost them with the Tangerine Buttercream.

Tangerine Buttercream

½  cup butter (softened)

2 cups powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon Califia Farms Creamy Almondmilk

1 tablespoon Cuties 100% Tangerine Juice

 

Blend all ingredients until smooth. You may need to adjust ingredients to taste and consistency.

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I am a procrastinator. I know it. And I am not ashamed to admit it. No, it’s not my best quality and I certainly don’t recommend it if you can help it, but at this point in my life there is no denying it. I need a deadline. A concrete day and time that something needs to be done or else it will never get done. This is what caused me to pull so many all-nighters in high school and college, finishing up papers and projects.  This is why I have so many projects at home that I have started and never finished (or ideas in my head about things I would like to do that never even get started). This is why I started crocheting a blanket for my friend’s baby one week before her shower and only, finally, finished it a week after the baby was born. This is also why I will go a whole week (or longer) without writing a post for my blog or end up putting up my “Foto Friday” picture at 11:59pm on Friday! I have a problem…maybe there’s a Procrastinators Anonymous group I can join somewhere.

 

See?! I am CAPABLE of finishing a project!

 

My problem came into focus for me recently because of my move. While packing and unpacking boxes and trying to make room for all my stuff in my new apartment, I re-found all kinds of projects that I had set aside at one point with every intention of finishing them one day. So, I have become re-inspired and I have a plan to help me get some of these projects done! I have made a list of things that I NEED to get done before the end of this summer. Knowing myself full well, I am setting a date for the end of summer to mean September 1, 2012 @ 11:59pm. I am also sharing my list with you, my devoted readers, so that I will have to answer to you in the end if I don’t get them done. So, here it goes…

Just a few of my summer projects

My Summer Projects:

1)      My Eddie & Jean Scrapbook – I started this scrapbook while Eddie and I were dating, hoping to chronicle our time of courtship. I think after almost 4 years of marriage it is time to finish!

2)      Get prints of our Wedding Photos – This kind of goes along with the first project. I think it is finally time to get some prints of our wedding photos and fill those wedding picture frames that have been lying empty in the closet all this time.

3)      Make Bedroom Curtains-To be fair, this is a new project for my new apartment, but if I don’t include it on this list I will end up with old sheets hanging on my windows until it’s time to move again! This includes little curtains for the kitchen hutch we turned into bedroom furniture.

4)      Chair Cushions-We bought a second-hand dining room table and chairs when we moved into our first apartment and I remember thinking back then that I should make some chair cushions to cover the scratches and ugly marks on the seats. Clearly this never happened, but now I am using the chairs, without the table, in various places throughout the new place. They need cushions!

5)      Guitar Pick Earrings-I know this sounds totally random, but I have had a box of guitar picks for many years now (I am afraid to do the math to find out exactly how long) and I have never put them to use. I hardly play the guitar and when I do I don’t use a pick. At one point I tried to give them away! I saw someone a while back with these really cute earrings made out of guitar picks and I thought, “I can totally do that!” And I will.

6)      Jar Candles for Outside-I’ve been saving glass jars for months now without a specific project in mind but with the thought that someday I would be really glad I saved all of them! I almost threw them all out with the move but something told me to hold onto them. Now, I’m glad I did because I saw a project online for making outdoor candles using glass jars! Plus, we have a mosquito problem in our new backyard and we plan on spending a lot of time grilling and chilling back there this summer. So, I plan to make them citronella candle jars!

7)      T-Shirt Quilt-Eddie has a GAZILLION t-shirts and some of those t-shirts he doesn’t even wear anymore; he just saves them for sentimental value! I have a few also, but the question has always been, “What do we do with all these t-shirts?!” Then I saw this project for a quilt made with old t-shirts and I got excited. Finally, a fun and useful way to hold onto all these memories. But in order to get rid of the garbage bag full of t-shirts under my bed, I have to START and COMPLETE this cool project.

Alright, there it is, in writing. I’m committing to getting these things done before this summer is over. Mom, I’m clearly counting on your help with some of these! So, what about all of you? What will you commit to getting done this summer?

I had every intention of coming home from work today and writing my next blog post, probably something about my move to my beautiful new Hollywood apartment, but sometimes LIFE happens…

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And tonight, life happened in a beautiful way. Instead of lamenting to you all about my slightly dramatic moving experience via my blog, I had a lovely, impromptu dinner with friends out in my new garden. I roasted a chicken (marking the first time I got to use my new stove), boiled some fresh broccoli, and opened a couple bottles of wine. What could be better?! Oh wait I know…finishing the meal off with some ice cream, cookies, and port!

My new apartment rocks!!!

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When I started planning my girlfriend Nicole’s baby shower with 3 of her other lady friends, I tried to act as nonchalant as possible when asking about the cake situation. See, I wanted to volunteer my help without squashing anyone else’s possible plans and without revealing how much I REALLY wanted to do the baking myself. I couldn’t let them know that I would have been CRUSHED if I hadn’t been allowed to make cupcakes! And when it was finally decided that I would take charge of this important aspect of the shower, I casually agreed while somewhere deep in my heart I was doing summersaults and screaming for joy!

I spent lots of time scouring my foodgawker page and searching for the perfect recipe, something fun and different but still super delicious. Finally, it came to me! Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes! I knew Nicole would love them and there were lots of inspiring recipes to be found. In the end, it was the recipe from Tidy Mom that won me over.

I have a suspicious feeling that I will have a new favorite cupcake recipe every time that I try something new because THIS IS THE BEST CUPCAKE RECIPE EVER! I know, I said that after I made my Irish Car Bomb cupcakes but, man! These Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes are out of this world and I was blown away by how much they actually tasted like cookie dough!

The process

I followed the recipe almost exactly as written, with only one exception. I added a little extra vanilla extract to the frosting (to taste) in order to cut the flavor of the condensed milk. It worked perfectly! I ended up with about half of the frosting and filling left over but I don’t think that I would use any more than I did, it was just the perfect amount of sweet as it turned out. Looks like I’m going to have to make another batch of cupcakes for someone this week!

My makeshift display at the shower

I was really happy with the way they turned out and they were a big hit at the shower! I won’t admit to the number of cupcakes I ate myself this weekend but let’s just say I’m afraid of what this baking hobby of mine is going to turn me into! But hey! I work out, right?

Don’t you hate it when you lock your keys in your car?! So annoying! You stand outside your vehicle, staring at the keys that would be within reach if not for that irritating glass window in the way! Grrrrrr! I know you all can relate, don’t act like it’s never happened to you. I’ve done it, more times than I would like to admit, and it never gets any less irritating. Yet somehow, it’s just a little more amusing when you are not the one responsible for the incident. Sorry, Eddie!

Yesterday evening, at around 6:30pm, I was sitting comfortably at home with my puppy when I received a phone call from Eddie. “Um, I locked myself out of the car,” he said with a chuckle. I laughed, he had to be joking! Right?! No, no he wasn’t. He actually locked himself out of his car when he stopped to make a deposit at the bank. So, it was “Jean to the Rescue!!” Or so I thought.

Eddie told me where to find the 2 spare keys to our cars and, not knowing which one was which, I grabbed both and headed out to meet him. He wasn’t that far away from home, it wouldn’t take long to get there and get back. Easy! I am SO glad we have those spare keys! Oh, but no…it didn’t turn out to be that easy. Neither of the 2 keys I found were a key to his car. So, it was on to Plan B.

Eddie had noticed A BMW service shop right across the way from where he was stranded. So, I stayed in my car, watching out for Eddie’s car which was parked “in the Red”, while he ran over to see if there was anyone there who could help us out. Of course, the first guy he spoke to was really nice and willing to help out, but he had to ask someone else to get the tools. Well, this second guy was “willing to help” too, for only $150. What?! Unable, and unwilling, to pay that amount of money to get into our car, Eddie kindly declined his offer and walked away. And that’s how we get to Plan C.

I headed back home with the instructions to look in a different drawer for the spare key and bring it back or, if I still couldn’t find it, to come back with a hanger and the tool box. The key was STILL nowhere to be found, so off I went, again, this time with tools in hand.

Eddie in action

To make this long story short, let’s fast forward about an hour. Eddie’s phone had already died after watching YouTube videos about “how to break into your car”, the sun was long gone and it was getting darker, we were both freezing and shivering because of the cold night breeze, and we were not any closer to getting into our car. A friend (who shall remain nameless for their own protection) had offered early on in this adventure to call their “auto club” service (which shall also remain nameless) to help get us out of this mess. Only now willing to admit defeat, Eddie finally agreed we should take him up on this generous offer. It only took said “service” about 10 minutes to arrive and less than a minute to open our car door. The guy didn’t even ask to see our “membership card”, so our friend who was on his way to meet us with the card was able to stay home instead.

So, with a little help from our friends and a $5 tip to the driver (because this was all the cash we had on hand at the moment), we were finally able to get done what could have been done hours before!  Oy vey!

Total savings on this adventure: $145

Total cost: $5 and 2 hours of my life that I can’t get back.

Was it worth it? Hell yes!

As we both climbed into our separate cars to finally head home, we quickly realized the adventure was not quite over. Now, my car wouldn’t start!! The battery had died after leaving the hazard lights on the whole time. *sigh* Lucky for us, it wasn’t anything a quick jumpstart couldn’t fix!

Sometimes, all you can do is laugh!!

My mom would be so proud (or maybe just totally irritated, I can’t decide which)! As a kid, I was one of the pickiest eaters ON THE PLANET!! Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, because I did eat, but it is closer to the truth than I would like to admit. I didn’t like sauces or condiments of any kind. No mayo, no mustard, no ketchup, no ranch dressing…gross! I ate my hot dogs plain, my cheeseburgers plain, my salads DRY, and I preferred my veggies raw and crispy. There were so many things I “didn’t like” and never wanted to try, I must have been a real pain in the “you-know-what”!

This carried on way too long into my young adulthood. I would like to say that I am completely recovered now and have reached a point in my life where I will try anything, but this is still not quite the case (I still prefer my hot dogs plain and don’t even talk to me about ketchup or mustard). HOWEVER, I have jumped a lot of hurtles in this battle with food and my eating habits have become much more mature (if I do say so myself).  Well…at least I can say I am more willing to try new things!

It has really only been in the last year or so that I have made the biggest strides conquering my food fears and I think it is directly related to my own adventures in the kitchen. The more I explore and take risks in my own kitchen, the more adventurous I become in other peoples kitchens. That and just the feeling of not wanting to be RUDE!

There are countless things my mom made when we were growing up that I would never touch. Recipes I wrote off as “things I didn’t like” and therefore never ate. Most of these dinners I hadn’t even tried in the first place but, once I got it into my head that I didn’t like them, it was over before it ever started. So when I tell her that I made Stuffed Pepper last night for dinner, she may freak out a little bit! I would never eat her Stuffed Peppers and to this day I don’t even know how she makes them! But Eddie came home with like 10 bell peppers the other day and I was trying to find a way to use them all before they go bad. So I thought, “What the heck?”

Yummmm

I didn’t really use or follow any recipe, I just worked with what I had and what I thought would taste good.  So here’s what I did. I cooked some couscous (another thing I never ate until recently) and then in another pan I fried up some turkey sausage, diced tomatillos, and crushed red peppers. I then mixed the couscous with the sausage mixture in a bowl and added half a can of yellow corn and half a can of some jalapeño black beans. I took my cored and halved bell peppers and placed a chunk of mozzarella cheese in the bottom before spooning my mixture into them. I placed the newly stuffed peppers in an oven pan before filling them to overflowing and sprinkling them with shredded cheddar cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper. Lastly, I slid them in the oven and cooked them at 400˚F for about 25 minutes.

They were delicious and so filling! One half of a large pepper was more than enough for dinner and it’s a good thing too because I had 2 unexpected, but very handsome, extra mouths to feed. Good food and good friends, two of my favorite things!

The view from the top of Beacon Hill

One of the advantages to having a sometimes unpredictable schedule is unexpected days off, like yesterday. I was scheduled to work a job with Cuties Juice sampling product at a Bristol Farms in Westwood. However, upon arriving at the store I was told that there had been a mix up with their ordering and therefore they did not have enough juice for me to sample. All that really means to me is, “No Work!”

So there I was, with an entire Saturday afternoon off! What to do?! There are plenty of things I should do, maybe, but nothing that sounded like any fun. Go to the gym? Oh please, no…there must be a better idea than that! I quickly decided that I wanted to take my puppy out somewhere, to the park or something so that she, too, could reap the benefits of this sudden turn in the day’s events.

My friend Samantha suggested Griffith Park and quickly went about searching for a trail that we could explore together. This was the same girl that just moments before had suggested a spinning class at the gym, so needless to say I was skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, Griffith Park is beautiful and HUGE so I knew there would probably be some cool trails, but it can also be very busy on the weekends and the traffic getting there can be terrible! Although Griffith Park often comes to my mind when trying to think of a fun place to take Nina, I usually disregard it because in my mind I have built it up to be such a hassle!

Despite my usual reservations, Sam found a trail that sounded nice and the three of us headed out to Beacon Hill. Yes, there was a little traffic on Los Feliz Blvd. but it still only took us about 20 minutes to get there from Hollywood and it was TOTALLY worth it! The trail was gorgeous and it turned out to be such a beautiful day.

On the way up to Beacon Hill

The sun was shining and the weather was warm but there was this cool breeze that would sweep past us from time to time keeping us from getting too hot. We used Dan’s Hiking Pages as a guide and with the exception of one wrong turn at the end of the trail everything went perfectly. The views on all sides were incredible, giving us full views of Downtown LA, Glendale, Burbank, Silver Lake, and the Hollywood Hills. There wasn’t a ton of other people or dogs there crowding out the trail and it actually felt like a nice retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. I think we found my new favorite hiking trail!

A quiet getaway

Nina was racing around in all directions trying to scope out all the new and exciting smells all around her. We kept Nina on her leash, obeying the signs at the start of the trail, but mostly because she hasn’t quite learned how to come when she is called and I still worry a little too much about her. But she had a BLAST, prancing around with her tongue hanging down to her knees and her tail wagging all around! We stopped for lots of water breaks (not sure who needed it more, me or Nina) but never for very long before continuing on our way.

Nina, the outdoor puppy!

By the end of our 4 or 5 mile journey, we were all feeling a little tuckered out and ready for a nap (or food, whatever came first). What a lovely Saturday it turned out to be! I was looking forward to another day off today and to exploring a new dog park with Nina but shortly after waking up this morning it started to rain and it hasn’t stopped yet. So instead, I’m writing this blog with my sweet little puppy snuggled up next to me taking a nap. She doesn’t like the rain either!

Me

jeans appearances

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