The Gemini Kitchen!

Michele with Chef Susan Feniger
Greetings, dear meows! One of the things I love about writing this blog is being able to show off some of my most talented friends, such as this lovely lady I’m about to introduce you to.

I first met Michele Stueven a little over a year ago when she and her son, Erik Glode filmed an  interview with me at The Northridge Farmer’s Market here in Los Angeles. We became fast friends and bonded over our mutual love of farmers market fare, and of course… COOKING! She started out her career path in the world of journalism, and now Michele has her own catering business called The Gemini Kitchen, and has quite the following on social media. From her enticing photographs of the dishes she creates, to showcasing the flora and fauna that captures her eye on her adventures throughout Southern California, Michele has a keen sense and artistic style, with a knack for being extremely creative in the kitchen.


Michele is a true Cali girl with a unique perspective and connection to its landscape. She graciously let me pick her brain a bit and walks us through her journey into how she became the culinary maven she is today. She even gave us a wonderful dinner menu with recipes that embrace the warm weather months perfectly! Enjoy! 😊

MM:  Tell us a bit about yourself, Michele? How did you first get started in the field of journalism? How has that industry managed to keep up with the ever changing ways in which we receive information? 

MS: I’m a native Angeleno and have lived here all my life. I grew up on the beach in Santa Monica, only child to German immigrants. We spent summers in Germany and traveling Europe, a tradition I’ve continued with my two sons. Spending most of my time at a relative’s restaurant in Bavaria – the Tuscany of Germany – I became fascinated and obsessed with food and cooking. My love for salads and and seasonal ingredients actually sprouted from the country of beer and sausage.

I was a journalism major at Cal State Northridge and went on to work for the Associated Press as a photo editor, a German Media Group asst. correspondent and then photo editor/video producer and reporter for People Magazine. With the slow death of the magazine world, I ventured out to see what the internet could do for me. My love of food, flowers and photography gave birth to the Gemini Kitchen almost exactly one year ago. I never seem to run out of subjects and am giddy about the fact that I don’t have to run anything by layers of editors. I have the final say in everything, can post what and whenever I feel like it. The final decision is always my own and not by result of committee. Don’t miss that at all.The crazy irony here is that the same social media explosion that resulted in the death of print media and journalism is the reason I’ve even been able to do this and reinvent myself. Sometimes you have to embrace the enemy to find your peace.

MM:  The Gemini Kitchen is a great name! How did you come up with it, and what lead you to finally turn your lifelong passion for cooking into a catering business? Who are some of the Chefs that inspire you? 

MS: To supplement and inspire the blog (and hello, to make money) I decided to put years of catering family and school functions for hundreds of people to some use and get cooking. My best friend (a fellow Gemini) was going through a horrid divorce at the time and has never cooked a day in her life. She needed food and I needed a job, so I became her personal chef. I began catering events for her and soon by word of mouth, started gathering a stable of regular clients.
Having grown up with the dawn of California cuisine, I’m most inspired by women chefs like Suzanne Goin, Alice WatersSusan Feniger, Nancy Silverton. I also like Giada De Laurentiis a lot, because she cooks healthy and sensibly and is a local Angeleno like me. Even though I do need my occasional cheeseburger and fries, I’m not much for over the top food.

 

Michele with Chef Giada De Laurentiis

MM: You also take beautiful photographs of the things you come across at various farmers markets, and have a great eye for details in nature. I love the pictures of the flowers you see on your travels that you post on social media. Is photography another way for you to express your artistic side?

MS: Photography has been a part of my life forever. In fact my Journalism career started when a local newspaper photographer took a picture of me on the beach in a bikini (still have that foto.) I hounded him to introduce me to his editor for an internship which lead to my first paying magazine job. I like to treat my blog like a magazine layout , from my many moons in the print world.

MM: You document your culinary travels and film quite a bit of what you do. Ever consider having your own show? If so, what would you want it to be like?  Any plans on writing a cookbook in the future?

MS: I would love my own show and I’ve already been toying with some book ideas. I’d like them to be very visual and sort of a combination food ingredient and travelogue theme. I’d like to be the Huell Howser of Food – picking strawberries and tomatoes in Oxnard, chasing pigs in San Diego, fishing for ling cod in the channel islands. Then offer recipes from those adventures.

MM: What are some of your favorite go to types of cuisine to cook? As a caterer, what would you say are some of your greatest hits on the menu? 

MS:   I like to cook seasonal and healthy. I roast and bbq a lot. People love vegetables these days and I’ve noticed that clients are interested in finger foods and more about grazing and having a variety of items to choose from. My antipasti platters are a huge seller, a combination of veggies, meats and cheeses and whatever happens to look good at the farmers market. Kabobs and finger sandwiches are big right now: Tarragon Chicken Salad Finger Sandwiches with Cranberries, Salmon Mousse Finger Sandwiches.

Antipasto Plates

MM: With summer rapidly approaching, I’m sure you’ve got some yummy tricks up your sleeve! I would love it if you’d share some recipes with us! What would you suggest as a 3 course menu that celebrates the season? And what wines or drinks would you recommend? 

MS:  Gazpacho, Cedar Plank Halibut with Black Lemon Brown Rice, Strawberry and Plum Crostada. J Vineyards Pinot Gris and some homemade Limoncello with the Crostada.

MM: Here’s Michele’s recipes for Cedar Plank Halibut with Black Lemon Brown Rice! 



Cedar Plank Halibut

Serves 6

6 pieces of halibut (salmon works too)
Olive Oil, Sweet or Spicy Paprika, Garlic Salt, 

2 lemons

2 cedar or other wood planks, available at most hardware and grocery stores including Whole Foods


Soak the planks in water according to package directions for about an hour, while you are heating up the BBQ on one side of the grill.


Rub the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika and garlic salt. Once the grill is hot, dry the planks and place the seasoned fish on top. Place planks on the side of the barbecue that is not on fire. Cover and roast for about 15 – 20 minutes, until the halibut is firm to the touch. Check on it now and then. Just before you carefully remove from the grill, squeeze with generous amounts of fresh lemon juice.


Black Lemon Rice
2 cups rice
4 cups water

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. butter or olive oil

1 black lemon (also known as loomi, can be found at any market that specializes in Middle Eastern spices. It’s actually a lime that has been boiled and then left out in the sun to dry.)


Bring all ingredients to a boil and cover. Cook 20 minutes for white rice and 45 minutes for brown rice.)

 

MM:  Thank you so much! Sounds amazing! Can’t wait to try my hand at it! Yum! Speaking of courses, if you could describe yourself as a drink, appetizer, entree, and dessert, what would they be and why? 
MS: I’m a Greyhound (fast and nimble,) Ceviche (spicy and cool) Roasted Branzino (warm and delicate) Strawberries Macerated in Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar topped with Sour Cream (the two sides of a Gemini.)
MM: Great answers! Now… If you could have a dinner party with 10 guests, living or dead, famous or not, who would be on the guest list and what would you be serving? 

MS: My mom, dad, husband, sons, Father Paul, Maya Angelou, Mother Theresa, Joni Mitchell, Alfred Hitchock. All vegetarian, Indian-inspired.

MM: What a fantastic dinner party that would be! Alright, so if you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be? 

MS: Lake Tahoe
MM: Nice! Tahoe’s a beautiful place. Ok. It’s top 5 time! Name your top 5 favorite: fruits, vegetables, and drinks!

MS: Fennel, Arugula, Onions, Grapefruit, Sapphire Gibson
MM:  Fried chicken, pizza, or cheeseburgers? 

MS: Cheeseburgers. That said, my favorite food is Mexican. Can eat it everyday and is a huge part of my inspiration, growing up in Southern California. Ole!

Thanks again Michele! Be sure to check out her Facebook page, The Gemini Kitchen to keep up with all of her latest info and social media posts! You can also find her on Instagram & Twitter! I hope this inspires you to get out there, take some risks, embrace the changes that come your way and turn those lemons life hands you into limoncello! And go check out your local farmers market! You never know what you’ll find… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs & meows! 

Nikki Meow 💖✨😻

All photographs courtesy of Erik Glode Productions & Michele Stueven 😉

The FANtastic Horror Film Festival!


October is upon us and it’s that time of year to celebrate all the things that go bump in the night! Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday! Of course, every day is Halloween in our spooky abode! Scary films, creepy creatures, ghoulish delights… Tons of Frights! Ok… that’s enough of that…😛 

We also LOVE horror films and so does my friend, JoAnn Thomas! She and her husband Mike love horror films so much that they created a film festival to celebrate the indie horror genre and the fiends that make those films so freaking awesome! For the 3rd year in a row, The FANtastic Horror Film Festival will be held in San Diego on Halloween weekend, October 28th, 29th, & 30th. They’ll be handing out awards in various categories, and what better way to showcase the amazing people who are keeping the indie horror scene at the forefront of cinema for today’s terror hungry maniacs! 

JoAnn was kind enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about the festival, some film and book recommendations, and even gave us a delicious recipe for us to savor! Enjoy! 

The lovely JoAnn Thomas 😊


MM: Greetings, JoAnn! Thank you for the interview for Mystic Meals! Ok… Let’s get started 😉What was the first horror film that you remember seeing and how did it have an impact on you?
JT: Back in the 1950’s I recall watching some scary sci-fi/horror movies but to be honest I do not remember more than a few scenes that terrified me back then.
MM: Do have any all-time favorite horror films? How about a top 5 favorite horror actor/actress?
JT: Although most of my favorite movies have a thread of horror in them, they are not actually horror movies. That being said, I would have to say that at this point my all-time favorite indie horror movie stars my favorite horror actor, Bill Oberst Jr. The original director’s cut of the film “Children of Sorrow” takes the #1 spot. Some of my other favorite horror movie actors/actresses include Tim Curry, Lynn Lowry, and some newer actresses on the scene who are coming into their own; Kristin WestSheri Davis, and Tiffany Fest
MM:  How did you and your husband/ co-founder of the FHFF, Mike Thomas come up with the concept and name “FANtastic Horror Film Festival“?
JT: The fest started as a casual comment at a very disorganized festival in the Los Angeles area, and if I hadn’t come back to San Diego and ran with it, that is where it would have stayed. Our experiences with screenings, fests, and conventions were varied and sometimes down-right disappointing. Making fans “hurry up and wait” sometimes hours after the film was scheduled to screen, did not create a fan-friendly atmosphere, quite the opposite.
So, the question became ~ what do filmmakers, producers, actors and actresses have in common with their fans? The answer, although, not obvious, was we are all FANS of the genre. Thus the name was selected, with our goal of treating everyone equally. We have had our challenges, but we are proud of our successes.
MM: This is the FHFF’s 3rd year! Congrats! How has running the festival changed things in your lives? What kind of gruesome bits and pieces can we expect from the fest this year?
JT: This year we are screening 12 Feature Films and 27 Short Films. Of those, we can boast 11 International Films from Austria, Canada, Great Britain, India, Italy, and Spain. We have a Seminar/Panel Discussion ~ Get Your Film Distributed! As well as, a fabulous Award Ceremony in store for our filmmakers. In 2014, the first year of our festival we ran into a plot twist that turned out to have become a tradition. We invite our filmmakers, and some of the other attendees to join us in presenting the awards to their colleague’s. It is always a last minute thing and everyone seems to enjoy it.
MM: Being so busy, what do you meows do to help yourselves relax and unwind? Do you like to read? Any book recommendations?
JT:  What does “relax and unwind” mean? 😛The Fest is a year around project and there is always something to do. Mike, however, goes to the movies to relax.

As far as reading is concerned I spend most of my time reading the screenplays that are submitted to the festival’s Screenplay Competition. My favorite writer is Stephen King. My favorite book of his is “The Stand”. There are a couple of writers that have caught my imagination in the past few years that might be of interest ~ Sue Dent , a self-published writer. Nathaniel Jones has a horror novel, “The Coin” available on Amazon.com; and Brian Bowyer, who’s books can be also be found on Amazon.com.
MM: I noticed that you and your husband often post pictures on Facebook of your lunches and dinners. Mostly salads! What are some of your favorite salads and dressings?
JT: Tuesday night is salad night in the Thomas household for the most part, except when Festival priorities come into play. I am a big fan of the 15-minute prep time that my salads take to make. Generally, I go to the market pick up whatever salad fixings that are on sale that day and that is where I start. I prefer to use leaf lettuce, red, green, or romaine which makes for a nice basic presentation and add tomatoes, and whatever colorful things I have in the frig, throw in a few staples I have on hand and “poof” ~ salad. We keep a variety of dressings on hand but I do not make my own.
MM: Are you both vegetarians? If so, when did you stop eating meat and why?
JT:  If I tried to take away Mike’s meat I doubt that I would be here talking about it. Neither he or I are vegetarians, although we do like vegetables a lot.
MM:  What are some of your favorite go to fruits and vegetables? Would you mind sharing a recipe with us?
JT:  I love berries of all kinds, as well as grapes. Veggies include cabbage, carrots, celery, snow peas, red and green peppers, generally speaking whatever is in season.

I really love stuffed cabbage but unfortunately I don’t get along well with boiling water so to satisfy my taste buds I came up with this recipe ~


Stuffed Cabbage Casserole 



1 pound of lean ground beef

1 medium Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped

Seasonings to taste, I use celery salt, garlic salt, and parsley If incline replace these seasonings with your favorite taco seasoning for a Mexican flair.

1 head of cabbage, chopped and then wilted in the microwave until it just starts to become translucent

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with celery, onions, and green peppers (if you have the time you can make your own)

Drain the excess grease from the ground beef mixture and then combine the ground beef with the cabbage and diced tomatoes. Place in a 350o oven for approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Top with 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce and shredded cheese ~ Cheddar or Colby-jack and return to the oven for about 15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

If you want to give it a horror twist ~ use a meat cleaver to serve. 😉

MM:  That looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it out! If you could have dinner with a horror icon, living or dead, who would it be?
JT:  Being an organizer of a horror film festival, I must say that I have had many opportunities to hang out with some very impressive horror icons, too many to count. May I also say, with some fantastic up-and-coming folks who will one day become icons in their own right!
If I had to choose, I would choose to have an intimate banquet with Lon Chaney, Jr. & Sr., Vincent Price, Stephen King. Mary Shelley, Elsa Sullivan Lanchester, Tim Curry, Lynn Lowry, Bill Oberst. Jr., and a few others.
MM:  That’s an impressive guest list! This next question’s for both you and Mike. If you could describe yourselves as a drink, entree and dessert, what would they be and why?
JT: For me it would have to be blueberry wine from either Michigan or New Jersey ~ colorful, tasty, and sweet; some homemade soup ~ chicken noodle or beef vegetable, makes me feel like being wrapped in a cozy blanket on a crisp fall day; and for dessert ~ homemade pineapple upside down cake like my grandmother used to make in a cast iron frying pan in the oven, with whipped cream.

Mike on the other hand would be a rip-your-face-off red wine to pair with a medium rare rib eye steak with corn and asparagus, followed by lemon sherbet. He has his reasons.

And of course, we’re left in suspense!!! Very sneaky, JoAnn & Mike… 😏 Be sure to check out the FHFF’s website for more information and purchasing tickets if you’re in the SoCal area! It’s going to be a frightfully fun filled weekend! Thank you meows for hanging with me! Until next time… Cheers, hugs & meows! 😻

Nikki Meow 😊✨

Free Products! 

Hello there! 

If you read my Mystic Beauty blog post, then you’ll notice that I mentioned this little gem called Influenster. What’s that you ask? Well, allow me to tell you all about it! Influenster is a website that you sign up for and they email you surveys for different campaigns that they have promoting all kinds of new and tried and true household, beauty, food, and body products. You agree to review the products and tell everyone on your social media outlets that Influenster sent you these products to try for free. 

Based upon your answers to these surveys, Influenster determines whether or not you qualify for that particular campaign’s voxbox of free goodies. They also don’t usually tell you what the campaign is about until you get the email that you’ll be receiving said voxbox. 


I received the Cottonelle voxbox in the mail a few days ago, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting a 6 pack of toilet paper! I thought, perhaps just a roll. So apparently this is a new product in their line, and it’s the Clean Care Mega Roll pack. A six pack of this is equal to buying 24 rolls of their regular toilet paper. And who doesn’t love free toilet paper? That stuff is expensive! When then heck did that happen? 😜

I’ve recieved some great voxbox’s in the past, and they’ve all been pretty varied. From full sized makeup and skincare products, household items and other toiletries, food and snacks, coffee & tea, as well as coupons for free items at the supermarket. I would say that I average between 4 to 6 voxbox’s a year, and that’s not too shabby! So why not sign up and give them a try? Who doesn’t love getting free stuff in the mail! By the way… I’m writing this on my own and this is in no way being sponsored by Influenster. I just thought it would be a cool thing to write about 😋 I hope you meows get lots and lots of awesome products to try! Thanks for hanging with me! Cheers, hugs & meows! 💖✨Click > Influenster

Nikki Meow 

Hot Sssauce is Top Boss, Baby!

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They say some like it hot. Although I don’t take my love of spicy food to the atomic level, I do like a nice kick to certain things from time to time. For example… I love a Gyro or Philly Cheesesteak with Tabasco. I also love me some Frank’s Red Hot on a chicken sandwich or of course, buffalo chicken wings! And then there’s Sriracha to drizzle over some noodles or add the perfect amount of spice when I make my own peanut sauce. And Sambal, and Chipotle, and Cholula, and Green Chili and… Ok. You get my drift, right? There’s a whole world of yummy hot sauce’s out there and they all bring both flavor and heat to the table.
Now my boyfriend Jay takes his love of spice to a whole other level. He’ll eat raw spicy chili’s like Jalapeño’s, Serrano’s, Hot Italian Peppers, Red Chili’s and STILL add more hot sauce on top of that with pretty much every meal. As far as he’s concerned, the hotter the better! What is it about eating spicy food that’s so appealing? I mean, it’s almost punishing if the heat keeps building up as you go, yet it also gives you a sort of rush, doesn’t it?
Here’s a few tid bits I’ve learned along my spicy culinary journey…

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Peppers are members of the Nightshade family and are related to Eggplants and Tomatoes, and although we eat them as a vegetable, technically they’re a fruit. We do that with a lot of produce, don’t we? It’s all in the mind… 😉
Capsaicin is the main bio active compound which provides their unique hot taste and other health benefits. Chili peppers are full of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin C, which helps support your immune system, and is an antioxidant, Vitamin B6 helps to boost your energy and metabolism, Vitamin K1 is important for healthy bones and kidneys, Vitamin A, which starts out as beta carotene in the chilis, Copper, another antioxidant important for strong bones and healthy neurons, and Potassium, which is a mineral that serves a variety of purposes to the body and may help in preventing heart disease.

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Capsaicin also helps to promote weight loss by giving your metabolism a boost. By the way… If you over indulge while eating something spicy, drinking water won’t cool your mouth down. Capsaicin is lipid soluble, so drinking milk, eating rice or even bread helps to break up the heat.
Capsaicin also has this crazy reputation for relieving certain kinds of pain and is even used in topical creams to rub on particular types of wounds and to alleviate Arthritis! How cool is that? Now I’m not saying to start scarfing down raw chilis or taking shot glasses full of hot sauce as a chaser ( although I’m sure we all know someone who would… 😝) but incorporating some spice to your food life might not be such a bad idea.

Make a spicy pico de gallo, or add some sliced Jalapeño’s to your next bowl of soup or chili. Add some to your eggs. Buy some hot sauces to try out and start sprinkling some on your pasta, rice, steak, fish, you name it. Why not? Just remember not to touch your face, eyes and um… other places without washing your hands thoroughly or you’ll be in for quite a spicy, burning surprise!

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It’s the oils from the chili peppers that sticks to our skin. Dish soap actually works really well at getting rid of hot pepper hands 😉
Well meows… I hope this little blog inspires you to be adventurous and gets your mouth watering for something spicy and delicious. I’d love to hear about what some of your favorite hot sauces and spicy dishes are! Thanks for hanging with me 💖 Cheers, hugs & meows!

Nikki Meow

Disclaimer : Some photos courtesy of Google 😊

Mystic Beauty

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Some of My Favorite Eyeshadow Palettes

Ok… I know this isn’t food related, but over the past few years I’ve really become somewhat hooked on the art of applying makeup. From time to time I’ll be writing about my obsession with beauty and skincare because it’s one of the things I absolutely love, aside from cooking.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my skin was super hyper sensitive to EVERYTHING. I mean, I couldn’t put so much as a lip balm on my lips without breaking out. If I put any makeup on at all, my skin would break out in rashes or acne. I chalked it up to my hormones going haywire cause I was knocked up! 😛
I was sooooo bummed out that I couldn’t wear makeup for not only the duration of my pregnancy, but for a few months after that as well. Took quite a while for my skin to get back to normal. Then low and behold I found out I was getting a free voxbox from Influenster. It’s a subscription service that sends you survey’s and qualifies you for FREE boxes of products to try out, as long as you agree to write reviews about it on all your social media platforms. But we’ll get into beauty and other subscription boxes down the road. 😉
The box I received was a Mary Kay beauty box and this thing was chock full of makeup. Mascara, eyeshadow, lip cream, blush, brushes… Everything I needed to help kickstart my new and improved beauty regime. I think that everyone should make sure that they take time out in their daily life to do something that is what most folks call “me time” or “you time”… Whatever you want to call it, I think you know what I mean. Makeup was my way of making sure that I always did something that made me feel good about ME. When I apply my makeup it’s because I like doing it and it makes me happy.
Since then, I’ve grown quite the collection of makeup and skin care related items. So much so that I have put myself on a “no buy” for makeup because I literally have more makeup than I could realistically use! Unless it’s something unique and I don’t have something similar already in my collection, if I don’t need it, I’m not gonna buy it!
K. Enough rambling. Let’s get to the point already, which is talking about some of my favorite shadow palettes! Now keep in mind that these are just a few of the ones I really enjoy using, and I love all of my makeup, child! Here we go…

The Balm- In The Balm of Your Hand Vol.1

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I think this was sold exclusively at Kohl’s because I haven’t seen this puppy anyplace else. I absolutely enjoy this palette for many reasons. It’s a literal greatest hits from most of their product line. Hot Mama, Instain in Argyle, and Cabana Boy. All 3 are shadow/blushes. 1 Bahama Mama bronzer, 2 Shady Lady shadows in Insane Jane and Mischevious Marissa, 1 Nude’tude shadow in Sexy, 1 Balm Jovi shadow in Lead Zeppelin, 1 Mary Lou-Manizer highlight, How ‘Bout Them Apples Cheek & Lip Cream in Caramel and The Balm Girls lipstick in Mia Moore.

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I mean this is the perfect all in one pallete! And I love The Balm’s packaging. Rocking that 50’s early 60’s retro vibe. The quality of their products are great with high pigmentation, easy to blend, minimal fallout and long wearing. If you see this one, I highly recommend grabbing one. Also makes a great gift. I think I payed $39.00, which I felt was a great value considering everything you get in the pallete. I reeeeeaaaallly hope they come out with a Vol. 2. I will break my no buy rule if that one hits the market! Umkay… Moving on to…

L’Oreal La Palette Nude 2

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At first glance I wasn’t that impressed with this one. However there was something about it that kept drawing me to it. I’m really glad I purchased it because it’s become one of my go to palettes. It has 6 matte shades, and 4 shimmer/satin shades.

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It’s plummy brown shade range I find to be really versatile and I can create multiple looks from this one palette, which makes it great for travel. It has nice buildable color payoff, minimal fallout, blends out well and I also like the duel ended application tool it comes with. It has a sponge tip on one side and a small synthetic blending brush on the other that works rather nicely. I think at the time I purchased this it was $9.99 although I think the price is slightly higher now. Still, I think it’s worth picking up if you’re looking for another all in one shadow pallete. Minus any lip products and blushes 😉
And last but not least…

Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette

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It seems like everyone and their mother already owns this thing. I know I certainly was late to the party on this baby 😛 But boy howdy do I LOVE this one! Aside from the fact that all of the shadows smell like chocolate, which is awesome and not too overwhelming if you have a thing against scented products, but it’s got so much to offer. It has 16 shadows that go from mattes to shimmers, pinks, plums, browns, and highlight shades.

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It’s a gorgeous palette and the formula is top notch. With colors to compliment any skin tone, if you don’t ever purchase another palette in your life, you will not be disappointed with this one. It’s also the priciest on this list retailing for $49.00, but again, it’s worth it. I’ve had mine for over a year and have yet to hit pan on anything… Yet!

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into some of my personal eyeshadow faves. I’d love to hear about what kinds of shadows that you favor to wear everyday! I’ll be writing more about my beauty collection in the near future. Thanks for hanging with me! Cheers, hugs & meows!

Nikki Meow

Honey, Hunny, Huhhneee!

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Honey, Hunny, Huhneee!

We absolutely LOVE honey in our house. We’re almost never without it in our cupboard and our daughter, Nia asks for it by saying “huhhhhneeee!” 😋 Just like my little girl, my own fascination with honey began when I was a child learning how to read. One of my favorite books from my childhood was Winnie the Pooh. I enjoyed looking at the illustrations and got a kick out of some of the shenanigans he would get himself into for his favorite food… “Hunny” 😉
I’ve tried all kinds of honey on my culinary travels and some are far better than others. I find myself purchasing organic honey or straight from the beekeeper at my local farmers market. Wildflower, Orange Blossom, Clover, Tupelo… They all have very distinct colors and flavors. It’s kind of difficult to back peddle into buying and consuming anything less than top shelf golden goodness. Organic raw honey just tastes far superior to most of the store brands that I grew up with.
Most brands of honey are mixed and contain corn syrup or other liquid sweeteners and lose a lot of their nutritional value in the heating process of factory bottling. image Although the price may be a bit higher, I’m willing to dish out the extra bucks for better taste and quality of organic or farmers market honey. Especially since, in my household, we use it for more than just sweetening our oatmeal or tea. Honey has a vast array of uses and has a buttload of health benefits.
The use of honey goes waaaaay back. Like 2,500 years and has been used by so many different cultures for its medicinal qualities as well as it being pretty damn tasty! Here’s a small list of some of it’s various uses and health benefits…

Weight Loss: When honey is consumed with warm water, it helps to digest the fat stored in your body.

Vitamins and Minerals: Honey contains Calcium, Vitamin C, and Iron

Skin Care: There’s a reason that milk and honey are often served together. They both help in maintaining smooth, beautiful skin. Add enough honey to taste in either warm or cold milk. You can also sprinkle a few drops of vanilla extract or even better, half of a fresh vanilla bean for added flavor!

Sleep: Honey helps to trigger melatonin and regulate stress levels in the body, allowing us to just simply relax and achieve REM sleep.

There are like a gazillion other uses and benefits to consuming raw organic honey! It’s crazy how great this stuff is for our bodies and can be substituted for white sugar in almost every recipe. The general rule of thumb for doing this is to reduce the amount in 1/4 cup intervals. So if your recipe calls for 1 cup of white sugar, you can use 1/2 to 2/3rds cup of honey.
Honey also makes killer sauces and marinades. Try making your own honey mustard sauce, or a salad dressing with your favorite vinegar or fresh lemon juice and oil. Honey is so versatile and it’s culinary uses are up to you!
So the next time you’re out shopping or even better, at a farmers market, check out the honey booth and ask for some samples. Even if you don’t end up buying anything, at least you’ll have had your honey fix for the day. I hope this encourages you to get your honey on with your hunny, and be creative with how you use your huhhhhneeee! Cheers, hugs & meows!
Nikki Meow

 

Flippity Flap Steak Fajitas

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Forgive the EXTREME close up on this pic, meows…but I really wanted to get up in there! Mission accomplished. I try not to eat red meat too often, although I do enjoy it. But when I do, it’s either in the form of a juicy burger, meatballs, meat sauce for pasta, or a nice tender steak. Now there are many cuts of beef out there and one of my new favorites over the past few years has been Flap Steak, which is often times confused with Hanger Steak and each is even sold as the other at times, so be on the lookout for that or ask your butcher which cut it actually is when buying it because there IS a difference between the two, despite their visual similarities. 

Flap Steak comes from a bottom sirloin butt cut of beef, and is generally a very thin steak. It’s also referred to as Flap Meat which is a rather unflattering name given how delicious it really is. It’s kind of the underdog of the beef world in a way. There was once a time that this particular cut was fairly inexpensive simply because no one was buying it! Not anymore, meows… Very popular in Latin Cuisine from carne asada to various Asian dishes, the market price on the flippity Flap Steak has gone up and up! However, you can find the occasional sale and I do think it’s worth buying. I mean, you’re still going to pay triple the price dining at a restaurant, so think of it that way. 

When cooking Flap Steak I recommend these particular methods for maximum flavor and texture. Grilling, Hard Searing, or Sautéing. If you’re fortunate enough to own some type of flat top grill or Plancha, I’d have fun putting it to use with this cut of meat. Tonight for our dinner I went with a quick hard sear. That’s when your saute pan is nice and hot with a bit of oil,  not scorching. But close! Searing the meat quickly at a high heat will ensure that you get a perfect sear or crust on both sides while keeping the meat tender and easy to chew and break down while eating. Otherwise, as with anything, if you over sear it, it’ll be like a piece of friggin shoe leather and no one wants that… 😛 And another little tip from me to you, meow… Don’t touch the meat at ALL until you’re ready to flip it over. Why you ask? Cause I said so! No really. There is a legit reason. And this is gonna sound corny, but if you interfere, you lose your sear! Meaning, if you play around with the meat too much, you’re allowing the moisture and natural juices to run around the pan, creating too much steam, thus creating water and loosing the whole “frying” action of the sear. You want some sexy caramelization on that meat! This tip pretty much applies to anything that you’re searing. 

Ok. I’ve rambled on long enough about this. So lets get on to how I marinated the meat and what I served it with. I pretty much use garlic in all of my marinades and tonight was no exception. I minced 3 cloves of garlic and used some roasted garlic cloves that I had left in the fridge, adding a sweet nuttiness to it. So lots of garlic. Then I added some fresh cracked pepper, salt, and a dash of soy sauce. Just a dash because I didn’t want it to be too salty. I let that marinate for about 30 minutes and when I was ready, I seared it up! I removed the meat from the pan and let it rest. Which is VERY important for all meats, really. Letting it rest allows the residual heat to permeate through and not only redistributes the juices, but allows the meat proteins to relax and settle. Trust me. 

While the meat was resting, I sliced up one medium sized yellow onion, 3 Pasilla Chili’s I had roasted and frozen ( yes you sure can freeze your peppers once you’ve cooked them) and some red bell pepper. I sliced up the peppers and used the same saute pan that I seared the meat in to add some of that charred flavor to the veggies. Sautéed that for about 5 minutes and was good to go. Sliced up the meat, mixed it with the onions and peppers, adjusted the seasoning and had my flour tortillas at the ready. Garnished with some salsa and sour cream and then… SHOWTIME! I hope that this longwinded post of mine inspires you to run out and get your Flap Steak on one of these days… I’ll have some other yummy recipes using this cut of meat in the future. Thanks for reading this and sticking with me! Cheers, hugs and meows! 

Nikki Meow

Big Shrimpin’!

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Who doesn’t love shrimp? Unless you’re either allergic to it or just don’t get down with seafood. I absolutely  love it. Aside from being tasty and delicious, these yummy morsels  are primarily made of protein. Three ounces of baked or broiled shrimp provides about 20 grams of protein, just a few grams less than a 3-ounce chicken breast. Each jumbo shrimp provides about 3 grams, and contains very little fat and carbohydrate.

Aside from protein, shrimp provide a pretty impressive array of nutrients. Four ounces steamed contains over 100% of the Daily Value for selenium, over 75% for vitamin B12, over 50% for phosphorous, and over 30% for choline, copper, and iodine.  In addition to being a mineral that plays a role in immunity and thyroid function, selenium is an important antioxidant that helps fight damaging particles called free radicals, which damage cell membranes and DNA, leading to premature aging and disease. Another antioxidant, called astaxanthin, which provides the primary color pigment in shrimp, has been shown to help reduce inflammation, a known trigger of aging and disease. See? And you thought it was all going to be fun and games around here, aye? Hey man… Knowledge is POWER! 

There are so many other health benefits to eating shrimps, but we’ll pause it here and get on with talking about the picture posted above of some KILLER Garlic Lime Shrimp! There’s no real measured recipe to this other than a few cloves of minced garlic, the juice of 1 Lime, and salt and pepper to taste. I sauteed them in a bit of olive oil and cooked them for about 2 minutes per side. You always want to be sure not to overcook shrimp cause they become very rubbery, tough and hard to chew. Once the shrimp are cooked, before you remove them from the saute pan, deglaze with a couple tablespoons of water, chicken stock, white wine or butter to make a bit of a pan sauce to collect all of the caramelized, concentrated bits of deliciousness! Then serve them in any way you like. Over a salad, pasta, rice, tortillas… you name it! Cheers, hugs and meows! 

Nikki Meow 

Welcome To My Blog!

Hello there, dear meows!

Welcome to my new blog page where I’ll be posting all kinds of pictures, recipes, and other lifestyle and beauty goodies! A bit about me… I’ve been a professional Chef for almost 20 years now. It’s a bit crazy to think about how long I’ve been in the cooking biz. But I absolutely love to cook and create new dishes, as well as learning as much as I can about exactly what food is all about. Where it comes from, its nutritional benefits to the mind, body and soul and how to incorporate as much of it as I can into my daily life. I also have a podcast on BlogtalkRadio called The Phantom Zone Radio Show , where Ive been fortunate  enough to have had the opportunity to interview some of my favorite  celebrities from all realms of the entertainment industry. I’m also a comedian, a total character and a half, I’m drawn to the darker things that lurk in the shadows and I’m a sucker for anything horror related. I’m also a self diagnosed beauty junkie 😛 I just love makeup and to be honest, own more makeup and skin care products than I’ll ever be able to use! But we’ll get to all of this down the road… 😉

One of the greatest things to ever happen to me was becoming a mother. My daughter Nia is my everything and I just adore her. She inspires me to become a better person in every way imaginable. She’ll be 3 years old in January 2017, and I can hardly believe it. Her father, Jay and I are so proud to be her parents! Jay, the love of my meow is a phenomenal  artist and writer. We’ve been together for almost 8 years now, and you’ll get to see some of his artistic prowess here on this page.

So needless to say I’m on a bit of a journey of self discovery, and I suppose reinventing myself. I’ll be 41 in November and I am loving where I am in my life. I’ve been through quite a bit, as we all have, and feel as though life is just now getting started. But there’s so much more I want to achieve. I’m in the process of creating my first cookbook and developing some really cool projects for the very near future. I hope you’ll tag along with me and check out what I have to offer in terms of, well… whatever the heck I start posting here! Cheers, hugs and meows! 

Nikki Meow