I find that more often than I would like to admit, dinner at home is a random concoction of whatever I have around. My weekday routine involves me taking out a package of frozen meat to thaw in the morning for that evenings meal, and most of the time I just thaw whatever freezer bag my hands reach for first. Therefore, by the time I get home after work, I don’t always have a set meal in mind. I do however, always want to cook something healthy, using whole foods whenever possible. To make the stuffing for this chicken, I used a few different ingredients I had in my refrigerator, and you can really use any combination of vegetables you may have in yours. This recipe is low carb, and really simple to make, especially after a long work day.
2 Chicken breasts (slightly pounded)
1 Cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 Cup sundried tomatoes
1/2 Cup artichoke hearts (quartered)
2 Cups Swiss chard (roughly chopped)
1 Garlic clove (minced)
1/2 Cup red table wine
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Add mushrooms to a food processor and roughly grind. In a skillet, heat up the olive oil and add minced garlic. Saute garlic until lightly browned, and add Swiss chard. Let the chard cook for about a minute, then add artichokes and tomatoes. Add mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste.
Let the vegetables cook for about 5 minutes, then add wine. Simmer vegetables for a few more minutes, until all vegetables are soft and the wine has been absorbed.
Add a couple of big dollops of the vegetable mix to the center of each chicken breast. Roll the chicken breasts, and secure with toothpicks. Bake chicken in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool, and remove toothpicks before serving. Top chicken breasts with leftover vegetables.
About two years ago we took our first long distance road trip together, with James’ brother and his now fiancée. The four of us headed towards Austin, Texas to watch James and his brother Robert’s short film, ‘Machines of the Working Class,’ play at the SXSW Film Festival.
It was a relatively short trip, but we embraced the opportunity to do some sightseeing around the state capitol.
It poured pretty much the entire time we were in Austin, nevertheless we made the trek to the Capitol building and were also able to visit the University of Texas campus.
Luckily, the capitol building was open that day, despite it being a weekend. The inside of the building was stunning, and it was a pleasant get away from the hustle and bustle of the film festival.
We were completely drenched, but I remember us laughing a lot the entire time. Sadly, that yellow umbrella in the photo above broke shortly after this was taken.
After the festival in Austin, James proposed we take a detour and visit San Antonio, and I am so glad he thought of it! Thankfully, the weather was much more forgiving in San Antonio, and we absolutely loved walking around this pleasant city. Here we are in front of the Tower of the Americas at HemisFair Park.
We strolled along the lovely River Walk, had a nice lunch, and even saw a couple get engaged.
Here James is standing in front of the Bexar County Courthouse.
My personal favorite part of the trip was going to The Alamo! We were able to go inside and take in the history, but unfortunately were unable to take any photos inside.
Had it not been for the film festival, and James’ wonderful sense of adventure and curiosity, we would not have had this great opportunity. There were many hours of driving through the desert, but having good company along the way, and the memories of the places we got to visit made it all worth it.
As all our friends know, James and I love legos. We have a few sets, and thoroughly enjoy spending our free time playing with legos. A couple of months ago, James started thinking of making our own stop-motion lego brickfilm, and decided that it would be based off the classic Lego Pirates theme from 1989-1993. Luckily, we already had a lot of the pieces we needed and found the other pieces on ebay to bring the project to fruition.
The entire ‘set’ was created on our coffee table, and we shot the whole project right in our living room. The base of the island was created using an array of random pieces we already had, and covered with gray and tan pieces we purchased on the lego website. Working primarily weeknights, after work, and weekends when time allowed, we were able to complete the shooting process over the course of three weeks.
We used most of the official ‘Sabre Island’ set for the soldier’s watch tower, and created another structure that was based on sets that James and his brother used to own when they were children.
This second structure was a prison that also provided lodging for the Governor.
Once we had our base for the entire set, we had fun covering it with rocky terrain for the one main angle it was to be seen from.
Here you can see the completed model, including the pieces we used to create the effect of distant land masses, and moving water. The digital cloning and morphing of this one water piece would prove to be the most difficult part of the entire process.
The actual shooting was much more tedious than the construction. In most cases, the different moving elements were shot separately. Those passes were then composited, and in some cases frames were re-ordered to alter the animation.
We used tweezers to place several pieces. Here, the tweezers would be digitally painted out to make the sword spin in mid-air.
Sheets of blue and green poster-board served as our green/blue screens and sky backdrops.
For some elements, we shot realtime video and then adjusted the speed, or chose certain frames to use.
The construction and shooting only comprised a small percentage of the production. Most of the time was spent with James using every trick in the book to digitally stabilize the footage during the compositing process. Nudging the pieces so much as one millimeter led to many hours of tracking and rotoscoping, not to mention painting out the occasional kitty cat hair.
Even after dealing with difficult pieces and pained fingers, the results made it all well worth it. Watch our short film ‘Escape from Sabre Island,’ below:
If someone asked me the question ‘do you like meatloaf?’ I truly would not be able to respond yes or no, it’s much more complicated than that. Generally I do not like meatloaf, and by that I mean as it is traditionally prepared. A giant chunk of mushy beef with ketchup only belongs in a burger with bacon and onions in my opinion. James, however, loves meatloaf (coincidentally his first concert ever was musician Meatloaf when he was a pre-teen, but that’s another story). Oftentimes at restaurants he will order meatloaf if it’s on the menu, but I will only have a taste at most. The reason for my disdain towards traditional meatloaf is simple, I have been spoiled (and accustomed) by my mothers meatloaf, filled with vegetables and flavor. Like most American dishes, my mother took the basic structure and idea of the meal, and made-up what she believed was in it (or what she thought would make it taste good). Having grown up in Guatemala, my parents did not experience American cuisine until they moved to this country when they were in their mid-twenties. Therefore, my own initial exposure to American food came in whatever form my mother adapted it. As a result, I now find myself opting for my mothers version and dismissing most other forms. Luckily, James happily accepted my slightly varied meatloaf and thoroughly enjoys it each time I make it. This version is very low in fat, sodium, and you can add any variety of additional vegetables. I like to pair it with even more vegetables on the side (here I roasted squash), but you can make mashed potatoes or rice if you’re looking for something different.
1 lb lean ground beef
3 cups collard greens (that is what I happened to have this time, I also like to use spinach, kale, and chard)
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
Heat oven to 350F. In a saucepan, saute onions and garlic with heated olive oil until onions are translucent. In a bowl mix salt, pepper, egg, and ground beef. Chop greens into small pieces and add to ground beef along with onions, garlic, bell pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix thoroughly.
Place mixture into a glass bread pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake until meat is cooked through but still moist and juicy.
Let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with your favorite meatloaf side dish and enjoy.
Like many couples, I’m sure, James and I love taking weekend getaway trips. Living in Southern California means that most of the time these trips are to local areas that we can drive to in a matter of a few hours. There are so many places in the area we have yet to visit (Hearst Castle, San Luis Obispo, Pebble Beach – here’s looking at you), but we have made it to at least a few. Here are some photos from a couple of our adventures in Southern California thus far.
We have been to San Diego twice now, which I suppose is relatively a very small number considering Los Angeles is so nearby. We most certainly intend to go many more times (we’ve heard the Zoo is a must), as we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Not surprisingly for us we enjoyed the scenic parts of the city much more than the trending metropolitan areas. These photos are specifically from our first trip to the city in 2012.
One of our first stops as soon as we arrived in San Diego was Balboa Park, which was by far our favorite part of the weekend. We spent several hours in the park roaming through the structures and gardens, taking in sunlight, and admiring everything it had to offer.
As expected the park was filled with families enjoying their weekends and playing by the koi ponds.
The detailing on all of the buildings was something to marvel at.
Every single building, big or small, had an incredible amount of detail to contribute to the beauty of the park.
After Balboa Park we walked back to our hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter. We stayed in a lovely hotel where we had rooftop access to admire the downtown area from above.
We spent the rest of that evening exploring the area.
The next morning we headed to Petco Park before heading back to Los Angeles. It has become a tradition to visit the sports complexes of every city we visit, we hope to see many more across the country on our travels.
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO:
On a different trip south of Los Angeles we decided to stop by San Juan Capistrano. We did not stay for very long but were very glad to have the opportunity to visit the mission. If you ever find yourself in the area we strongly encourage a stop. We decided to pay for the audio guide tour as we walked through the entire mission.
We are not particularly religious people by any means, but happily admired and reflected upon the hauntingly beautiful history of the mission.
This year with wedding planning it’s likely that we won’t be taking as many weekend getaways but we hope to find time at some point to explore at least a couple of new places in the upcoming months.
Ok – a lot of people have wine and cheese night, or at least have an opinion on whether or not they would ever want to have a wine and cheese night. We have several friends who don’t care much for wine and would call a wine and cheese evening pretentious/snobby. I however, love wine, love cheese, and think indulging in these delicious combinations is more than acceptable and in fact strongly encourage it. Now, wine and cheese can each get pretty expensive if you happen to be very particular about it. We, however, like to keep it simple, relatively inexpensive, and experimental.
We invited a couple of friends over a few weeks ago and instead of going out for the evening we decided to stay in with some treats. It’s turned into a fun evening of chatting away and trying new delectable combinations, and oh what a feast we had.
For the most part we took a ‘poor-mans’ approach to our selections. We wanted to have food that tasted good, even if the true connoisseurs would not agree. For the wines we choose a few different ones from Trader Joes that ranged from $2.00 to $20.00 – I am a true believer that wine does not have to be expensive to taste good. Personally, I am a red wine drinker, but we decided to stick to lighter wines this time around to experiment with flavors while keeping it cohesive.
We wanted an array of textures when it came to the cheeses – we decided on: gouda, sharp cheddar, brie, goat cheese, and burrata, which are all easily found at any super market.
We put a lot of emphasis on the sides to accompany our wine and cheese. These were the real secret ingredients that made the night a success. We had a lot of variety from pates, grilled vegetables, pickles, savory jams, and a selection of sliced deli meats. These are all especially important if any participants are lactose intolerable or sensitive so they may still thoroughly enjoy the food. We used baguette slices and peppered crackers as the bases for all the fun combinations.
The best part for us as hosts was being able to fill up and relax at home knowing that we wouldn’t have to drive home at the end of the night. We will definitely have many more ‘wine and cheese’ nights.
Last night it rained for the first time in months in Los Angeles. While most of the country suffers with cold and snow we have been lucky to enjoy a relatively sunny winter. I was personally very happy with the rain, even though it only lasted a couple of hours it was a pleasant reminder of what other weather feels like. It also reminded me of the last time I felt truly cold to the bone, which happened to be just about a year ago on our trip to Seattle. I go back to New England every winter and it has been cold, but Seattle last year felt icier than New England had the previous month. Nevertheless, we bundled up and had a lovely weekend there.
We went with my soon to be brother in law and his now fiance as we were in town for the Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival where our short ‘Cats in Space,’ was screening. As expected for Seattle in January it was cold and foggy the entire weekend which meant that we were only able to see the top of the space needle for brief time periods.
We walked around a lot both days we were there when ever we did not have film festival obligations.
Of course – us being us – meant that after the Space Needle we were most excited about Seattle’s monorail. We were able to take the Monorail near our hotel room making the lack of vehicle that much easier during our stay. Sigh, if only Los Angeles had a monorail for public transportation…if only indeed.
Our second morning there we headed toward Pike Place (home of the first Starbucks location) to fuel up for our day of tourist sight seeing.
We found much more at Pike Place than we would have initially expected. The Public Market had a wonderful variety of produce/fish stands and novelty stores – one at which we found a great print of the Seattle Worlds Fair poster that has been waiting for it’s perfect frame before going up in our apartment.
After Pike Place we went exploring around the city, as is our custom whenever visiting a new place.
I could not have been more impressed by their public library. A tall intricate building featuring interesting architecture while providing a pleasant atmosphere for its users.
We ended our last night in Seattle by going back to the Space Needle and celebrating the end of the trip and the positive reaction to our short film at the festival. We had a lovely dinner at the Space Needle that night, but unfortunately it was far too foggy to have any view whatsoever. Which brings us back to Los Angeles, and some of the reasons I’m glad to make my home in a sunny city. Seattle, you were wonderful – but I think we can just be friends.