One year in Chicago.

Today is my one year anniversary living in Chicago. It’s also my last 5B show at iO which is crazy weird that they are both happening on the same day. I’ve graduated iO. It’s a great anniversary gift.
  For the last week, I’ve been trying to think of something profound to say about how much I’ve grown, how hard it’s been, and how much I miss Arizona but love Chicago. I’ve had trouble trying to find the right words. 
How do you summarize a year of your life? A year that challenged you. A year that forced you out of your comfort zone. A year that made you become a badass woman with a sword (thank you Jana). 
You can’t. I look back at pictures and stories and think wow I did that? And it’s unreal and unpredictable, my life. I think of all the new people I met, and how crazy it is that a year ago I didn’t know them. I also wonder how I made it through winter. 
I do miss Arizona especially when it’s -30, but I miss my family and friends everyday. I wish I could drive to see them when I need a hug or some good Mexican food. I wish I could go to the Torch and dance in the hallways. But I’m also super happy of their support. 
Thank you to my family. Thank you to Katie who has been so patient and kind. Lauren who understood why we can’t and has been simply the best. Thank you to my new friends and the improv community who have helped make Chicago feel like home.
Here’s to another year of what’s to come in Sweet Home Chicago.

  

How Improv Saved Me

Three years ago, I was formally introduced to the art of improv. I say formally because I had dabbled in it as a teen, and was exposed to it throughout the years. However we were formally introduced in August of 2011.

2011 was the hardest year of my life. I finished grad school by the skin of my teeth, I had gotten out of a bad relationship (and replaced it with another), and my dog, grandfather, and uncle passed away within 5 months of each other. It was very hard to be around myself. I tried to escape with partying and jetting off to Portugal, but I could never run fast enough. Soon, I was back home sitting on my staircase wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.  And wondering how I could escape.

Within two weeks of that moment, I had a job doing what I went to school for and doing what was expected of me. As I was fitting in at my new job, my uncle passed away. Although expected, there was always a hope that maybe the cancer would disappear. Maybe then this pain would too. When it didn’t, I felt a part of me was dying as I was “living.”

A few days after my uncle’s funeral, a slightly bearded man named Jose came to my work to do a team building workshop with a focus on improv. I played it off as nothing during the workshop, but inside I felt a burst of happiness I hadn’t felt in I don’t know how long. I was timid and a bit reserved during the workshop, but a part of me knew I wanted to do more of this.

I convinced a friend of mine to come to Jose’s theater, The Torch Theatre, for a free class. It was me, her, and this guy in the class. I was really bad and wondered why did I waste this Wednesday night? Feeling down about the class, I didn’t go back the next month. 

On November 11, 2011, my nephew Luke was born. On that day he was, and still is, perfect. Here was this beautiful life I was holding. So innocent. He didn’t know how bad the world could be, or cared how sad I was. He was happy just resting in my arms. As I held them, I decided that 2012 was going to be my year of growth and change. I wanted to be better for him.

A week before my birthday (November 18), I wrote down new things I wanted to try in 2012. On that list was improv. In December of 2011, I went to the next free class. I was still was bad, but with Level 1 starting soon (and on sale) I decided to give it a go. One class session wasn’t going to hurt. What was the worst that was going to happen?

The first class session was hard for me. I was scared a lot of the time, and people kind of scared me as I had personal space and intimacy issues. I didn’t like people getting too close or touching my face as they would know who I really was and would feel my imperfections. I would like to think I hid it well, but I don’t think I did. I would often go home from class feeling bad, but as the weeks went by and the classes progressed, I started to feel a little less bad about improv and myself.

 It would take months and months of classes and shows to break down walls, but once they did, I started to enjoy the art more, and being around myself. One big breakthrough was when a fellow classmate, and now great friend Andrew, literally touch my face during a scene. He didn’t know about my issues, and I don’t think would have cared. He showed me that I was alright and I can be myself. I was okay.

As I started to attend more shows and perform more, I started to feel comfortable in my own skin, onstage and off. I discovered new things about myself, and didn’t feel scared to express and show them. As a result, improv has allowed me to travel more, have closer relationships with my family and friends, and find happiness that I could create. I started to enjoy being around myself more, and enjoying my imperfections. I’ve also liked to think I’ve gotten better at improv.

Improv saved me. It wasn’t therapy, but it allowed me to express emotions and feelings I would have kept hidden from the world. I’ve met some of the greatest friends and family from improv. It also gave me strength to move from the tiny pond I love of Phoenix, Arizona to the massive lake of Chicago to study this art. Without improv, I don’t where or who I would be.

Probably still on that staircase.

May regret posting this, but I found the video from that workshop because Google. I also have bangs. Enjoy?

 

Week 13: From Broke College Student to Chef

Background

The family that cooks together…

Like many families, food is a centralized part of my family. We eat when we are happy, sad, because it is Tuesday; we love food. And this week is no different. My cousin Mike has been trying to make many of his mom’s recipes for the last couple of weeks including salsa, carne asada, and other fine recipes. For this week’s blog Mikey talks about cooking his mom’s chile verde in the video and pictures below. We don’t have a recipe because most of this was done through hear say like “a pinch of this” and you make this with your hand, but if you really want to make it, you can google your own.

Chile Verde

Chile Verde

Just so you know, I decided to end this portion of the blog. If I find recipes I like, I will still post them, but not every week. I will still keep up my blog, but not just with cooking. Thank you to those that followed and sent recipes. I really enjoyed learning to cook, and have found a new love for it. It has helped me during a crazy semester, and couple months.So thank you for reading, enjoying, and whatever else.

Week 11: From Broke College Student to Chef

Background

Red Comfort

It has been a few weeks since I last updated my blog. I know. But life sometimes get in the way, like oh I don’t know a thesis to graduate from grad school. Let me tell you, not the easiest thing to write. Not that I ever thought it was, but thinking about it, and then actually doing it are two very, very different things. So the next couple of blog posts maybe centered around sugar,comfort food, and basically whatever else I want.

This week I baked some red velvet cupcakes.The problem with cupcakes is you can’t have just one. They seem small and not so dangerous. Now, you know it is not at all healthy to make some cupcakes, and eat it yourself. It would be good, don’t get me wrong, however unless you want to gain 500 pounds and have a bad tummy ache, would not recommend it. Therefore, the best solution is to make red velvet cupcakes for someone’s birthday, perhaps a red head if you got one. One of my favorites is my good friend Ginger; ironic I know. I made about 2 dozen red velvet cupcakes for her birthday recently, and although I didn’t get her review on video, as quickly as those went, I am going to assume people may have liked them.

Outside view

Outside view

Inside view

Inside view

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 fluid ounce red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cream Cheese Frosting…yummy
  • Sprinkles because you can

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy( I need to buy one of these. Although, a spoon does work my arms out). Mix in the eggs, buttermilk, red food coloring and vanilla. Stir in the baking soda and vinegar. Combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt; stir into the batter just until blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing evenly.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan set over a wire rack. When cool, arrange the cupcakes on a serving platter and frost with desired frosting.( I find if you watch a bad reality television show, and then put the frosting on, works the same)

I think they turned out very well. I loved them, but probably should only bake them on special occasions. And you don’t always need a red head, but if you do it helps.

Ginger

Ginger

Week 5: From Broke College Student to Chef

Background

Letting a Peacock Fly

Sounds strange that I have been doing this for over a month now. I don’t feel like an expert by any means, however I am having fun cooking. I never thought I would say that like ever. Ask anyone who knows/ dated me. I am not the cooking type, but more of the ordering kind or even observing one. But people can change; I guess I am changing *cue hallmark music* I like receiving recipes, mixing things, and how food brings everyone together. Plus being a picky eater like I am, I actually know what is going in my food. Crazy Thought huh? I would have never thought cooking would be fun.

Well onto this week’s recipe: Lentil Quiche. Another great recipe from my best friend. As I have mention before, Cristalle is a cook who kind of goes by her own rules. But as I go through these recipes and my cooking experiences is showing me that everyone in their own way is a bit like that. Some just show their peacock feathers better than others. And sometimes you got to let that peacock fly. So here is my peacock feathers showing and flying. PS-May not look like it, but mucho healthy for you.

Lentil Quiche

Lentil Quiche

Recipe can be found at allrecipes.com

Prep Time: 15 Min  Cook Time:1 Hr 15 Min Ready In: 1 Hr 30 Min

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils(make sure you know what these look like, and that your local grocery store has them. May or may not have thought they were different beans. Just saying)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (call me crazy,but I have no idea what this is, and figured out too late that we didn’t have any. Just add extra cheese)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (My mom also said that if you put cheese on it, everyone will still eat it. Why do you think they make lactose pills? My point exactly. Note adding cheese may decrease health value)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F  Place the onion and olive oil into a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until onion is tender.(A cake pan will work too)
  2. Place the lentils and water into a saucepan, and bring to a boil.(you are going to need more water than recommended) Cook for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Drain most of the water off, then place the broccoli florets on top of the lentils. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. This will dry the lentils, and cook the broccoli.
  3. Transfer the lentils, broccoli and tomatoes to the pie plate with the onions, and stir to evenly distribute each item. Stir in cheese at this time if using. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.(more milk is not good. Make sure to stick to amount given because it may make it watery) Pour over the ingredients in the pie plate.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the center is firm when the quiche is jiggled. Cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving

I have had lentil quiche before when Cristalle made it, and with different chefs come different results. I remember hers being less watery than mine, and maybe more lentil. Also I hate tomatoes so I don’t think she put them in. I personally think this wasn’t my best outing for cooking. Maybe because I remember I different tasting different. Or maybe used too much milk. Or not enough cheese. BTW I love cheese. I am Juila Child with Butter, but mine is cheese.

I am going to try to cook this again sometime soon to find out. Below is Kevin review on the dish, although it is more about how to shoot the video more than anything, but still funny. Thank you for all those sending recipes, and keep them coming!

Week 2: From Broke College Student To Chef

Background

Make Sure You Come Prepare

I am not sure what is more shocking: That I am actually following through with this whole cooking , or my kitchen has not burned down. For those who know me know this not out of them realm of possibility.

This week I had my roomie, bfffla, and partner in crime Cristalle help me cook, provide today’s recipes, and be the tester. For those who don’t know, Cristalle loves cooking, especially baking (I blame her for the extra poundage…okay not really, but she is a hell of a baker). She also has a style of her own when it comes to well everything which includes cooking. One time she made strawberry flavor shrimp for dinner, and let’s just say she never made it again, but at least she brought her own flavor.

This time is no different when it comes to this week’s dish of Butternut Squash Enchiladas and Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan Cheese. Before starting this, make sure you read ALL of the recipe to make sure you have all the ingredients in your cabinets. Don’t assume because it makes an ass out of you and me or something of that sort. You will see why in a second.

 

Butternut Squash Enchiladas and Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan Cheese

Butternut Squash Enchiladas and Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan Cheese

For obvious reasons,but needs to be said, cook separately and mix at the end.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 8 (5 inch) corn tortillas (Did not read that it was corn instead of flour until oh when we started cooking. If you are serving more than two people, use corn, but big flour tortillas is alright as well. Use 4)
  • 1/2 unpeeled butternut squash, seeded
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (We did not use tomatoes for two main reasons. One, we did not have any. Two, I hate them. However, it might have added to the flavor)
  • 1 cup enchilada sauce (While cooking with Cristalle, we don’t really measure all the time. Therefore if you just so happen to use the whole can, which is like 2 cups, what the hell?)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese(Safeway does not carry this, or at least the one I went to. However Queso Fesco works just the same, and is hell of addicting. We may or may not have used it as our other side dish)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, for topping (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Lay the tortillas flat onto a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Meanwhile, place the butternut squash half into a microwave-safe dish cut-side-down, and pour in the water. Cook in the microwave until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and dice; place into a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. Continue cooking until the spinach wilts. Gently fold the spinach mixture into the diced butternut squash.
  4. Arrange four crispy tortillas on the baking sheet. Divide the squash mixture among the tortillas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of goat cheese over each tortilla, then top with the remaining tortillas. Pour the enchilada sauce over top, and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of cotija cheese.(we did two large flour tortillas)
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until hot, about 10 minutes. Garnish each enchilada with chopped cilantro leaves and a dollop of sour cream to serve.( not a fan of the sour cream, but hey go with it)

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced (we used white because we did not have red, but still good)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and center ribs cut out and chopped together, leaves coarsely chopped separately
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (red works pretty good especially if you drink it while you cook)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste (could have added flavor, however not a huge deal if you forget to buy it)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt to taste (optional)

Directions

  1. Melt butter and olive oil together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic and onion, and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the chard stems and the white wine. Simmer until the stems begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves, and cook until wilted. Finally, stir in lemon juice and Parmesan cheese; season to taste with salt if needed.

Even though it was just the two of us, we thought it turned out well especially if you add a glass (bottle) of red wine mixed with some Queso Fesco and Greys Anatomy. Cristalle did not want to appear on video to give her review, and because she helped me cook and my bfffla, we can give her this pass this one time. No one else. She did offer this review, which has been translated in some way or another:Meal was good. 8 out of ten.

I guess very simple. Keep sending recipes.  Until next week.