Friday, June 22, 2012

Runner's Bread

I've run three marathons.  Mind you, this sounds like I'm a stud.  I am not.  I don't run fast.  I do a run-walk the whole time and usually complete a marathon in around 5 hours.   Still, finishing my first marathon was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.  I always remember the feeling I had as I crossed the finish line.  I was so impressed with myself and so happy that it was OVER.  I felt like, if I could do that, I could do anything.  I know a lot of people say that but they say it because it's true.

One thing that people who run marathons know is that, when you are training it is as much about running as it is about food.  When you are running for 5 hours, you get hungry.  You burn massive amounts of calories and you loose electrolytes as much as you sweat.  Before any run, I eat toast and peanut butter with sliced banana, a cup of coffee (which I know is not good, thank you) and a big fat bottle of water.  Most runners actually eat while they run.  It's totally counter intuitive to the old adage that was drilled into us as kids to "wait 20 minutes after eating before you exercise."  But when you run a marathon you have to learn to eat while exercising.  I eat a power bar, 2 goos, a banana, pretzels and anything else, my family and friends bring along the way.  When I am done with a run, I want to get something in my body right away.  I always crave savory foods after a long run, like a chicken sandwich and of course a ton of fluids.

In between marathon day and the beginning of training, there are a lot of medium runs.  I like those runs the best.  They are work but without the extreme physical burden of race day.  My favorite of these runs is the 7 mile run.  This is because I live 7 miles from the beach.  There is a bike path that takes you down to the ocean along the Ballona Creek (which, thanks to the army corps of engineers, is now a huge concrete drainage basin).  At no point do you cross traffic just the occasional cyclist, so it is the perfect 7 mile run for me.  When I get down to the ocean, it's so rewarding.  The marina opens up and the ocean breeze rushes in, cooling me off and telling me that I am almost done.

I haven't run a marathon in 4 years.  I remember asking The Husband (when he was still The Boyfriend) if he would wake up early on a Sunday morning to pick me up at the beach after one of my runs.  It was sort of a litmus test for our early relationship, and of course it worked out just fine.  I would ask him to pick me up in the little town of Playa Del Rey at a coffee shop where I finished my runs.  I would stretch and go inside for a huge glass of ice water and a muffin.  They served these insane muffins there that I called "Everything Muffins" because they seemed to have every kind of fruit, veg and nut inside them that you could imagine.  They were so hearty and delicious that I remember feeling like no muffin had ever been more delicious that they were.  Of course, endorphins will do that to you but still they were pretty damn good.

I have been thinking about training for a half marathon recently maybe in the fall and I thought that I would attempt to recreate the Everything Muffin on my own.  Also, I have a surplus of zucchini in my garden and it's a good way to use them up.

I've modified a few recipes to create this one.  Muffins seem fussy to me unless I'm cooking for a party so I made bread.  The bread is very hearty and dense.  It's more "healthy" than the original Everything Muffin.  If you wanted to add 1/4 cup more sugar and use white flour instead of white/wheat they would probably be more like the original.  And I'm sure it would be even better with cream cheese frosting but that's more like cake at that point.  Here is the version that I like.  It's good for an every day breakfast or for an post-run recovery snack.

Runners Bread

3 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
1 t Salt
1 t Baking Powder
1 t Baking Soda
3 t Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Milled Flax (I have one with dried blueberries from Trader Joes that I like)
1/4 Cup Shredded Coconut (I used unsweetened but it doesn't matter either way)
1/2 nuts (I prefer walnuts but used almonds because that is what I had)
3 eggs
1 Cup Grape Seed Oil
2 t Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Cup Turbinado Sugar
1 Heaping Cup Grated Zucchini
1 Heaping Cup Grated Carrots
1/2 Cup Yellow Raisins

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon,  flax, coconut and nuts and set aside.  Then in a separate bowl, combine eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar whisk together.  Add zucchini, carrots and raisins to wet mixture.  Add dry ingredients to wet.  But into a parchment lined bread pan and bake on 350 degrees for about an hour.

White whole wheat is a great substitute for regular white flour.  You usually don't have to modify the recipe like you do with whole wheat flour and you still get some fiber.
Combine dry ingredients.  My dry ingredients included flax seeds with dried blueberries.  I bought it on accident and it was a great mistake.
Oil and eggs.
Add vanilla and sugar.
Add in the vegetables and then the dry ingredients.
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
Fill loaf pan with batter.  Slam down on the counter a few times to get the parchment in it's proper place.
Bake for about an hour at 350 degrees.  Use the ole toothpick test because it can take as little as 50 minutes depending on the oven.
Enjoy (with or without the run).

Monday, June 18, 2012

White Peach Jam

I've known some major canning queens.  You know, the people who have pantries that are filled with jars of various sizes and colors.  People who have pantries that make them look like a 15th century alchemists.

I am not one of those people, but I know a lot of them and subsequently have amassed a little stockpile of my own.  Pickles and peppers, jams and jellies.  All made with love and given to me as Christmas gifts or thank you gifts or just for the sake of not having to compost the bounty of an over abundant Summer garden.

But when my cousin's white peach tree bent over with the weight of the most succulent, drippy and flavorful peaches I'd ever tasted, I thought how incredible it would be to taste them all year long.  The alchemist in me wanted to play.

People who are drawn to nostalgia and dreaming are the people who can.  It's like scrapbooking but with flavors instead of images.  I just like the idea of keeping a little time capsule of sweet summer peaches from June 2012 in my pantry.

I ended up making half of this low sugar recipe (except, I used turbinado sugar instead of white refined sugar).  The flavor of the peaches was what made the jam so unbelievable.  Their tender white flesh melted in my hands if I struggled with the pit for too long.  The skins came right off without even needing blanching.  They were at the height of ripeness. 

So far the lids have not popped which bodes well for me not poisoning The Husband when we eat it.  The little Italian-made jars tempt me every time I open the cupboard for dry beans.  I only made 3 jars and gave one to my cousin.  So, I am going to use them on special occasions.  Perhaps I'll wait until the Fall.  I know that by then, I'll be missing the heat and stone fruit of summer and the contents of these little jars will taste even better... if the lids don't pop.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ray Bradbury - Our Friend

Ray Bradbury was a friend of mine.  I'm not saying this figuratively, in that way, everyone was his friend, I mean this literally.  Our family was lucky enough to know him personally and we loved him.  He was a great ally to us, our belief systems and our Santa Barbara bookshop (The Earthling). 

As a child, I remember the white linen suits that he wore on hot summer days.  I remember thinking that I'd never seen such a well dressed man.  He almost glowed.  When he came to visit, he would drink a tumbler of scotch that my Dad would fetch from the bar across the street as he sat by the unlit fireplace signing hundreds of copies of his books.

When we were surrounded by both a Boarders and a Barns and Noble and the sad fate of the independent bookstore cast it's shadow over the Earthling, Ray made the trip up to Santa Barbara to try to breath some life back into our sales.  He held a marathon signing once, where the line stretched around the city block.  He didn't leave until the last person was greeted and even then he stayed to sign a few extras for us.  To me, he was like a jolly ghost, who would appear in our shop, making my parents happy, making sales go up and reinforcing the belief that independent bookstores were nurtured by and nurtured, independent minds like his.

My Mother wrote the following article for the Santa Barbara View upon hearing about Ray's death.  She sent it to me last night and it made me nostalgic.  I guess I had forgotten that "Fahrenheit 451" was the reason that she wanted to own a bookstore.  In a way, it seems that Ray was the reason that I was raised amung the canyons of bookshelves and surrounded by the smell of paper.  Ray was the reason that I was breast fed in a bookstore's receiving room and that I took my naps under the sale table.  He was the reason that when Salman Rushdie wrote the "Satanic Verses," that my Mother refused to take it off the shelf despite death threats.  Apparently, Ray was one of the reasons that my family was inspired to be so brave.  And for that, I cannot put into words how grateful I am to that man.

I hope his spirit is flying somewhere over the surface of Mars in a freshly pressed white linen suit, tumbler of scotch in one hand, typewriter in the other.  I sure will miss him here on Earth.

Memories of Ray Bradbury
by Penny & Terry Davies (my Mom and Dad)
Hearing about Ray Bradbury's death was certainly a shock. The Earthling Bookshop and we, Penny and Terry Davies, owed him a lot.  He came to our bookshop at least once a year between 1974 and 1998. He not only was our favorite, among all the authors we hosted, but he was a good friend and supporter of The Earthling.

When we opened a shop in San Luis Obispo, he said he and his driver would be happy to go up there for a signing. (Ray never drove himself anywhere, he was uncomfortable driving.  He always had his driver bring him up to Santa Barbara to see us, and to Barnaby Conrad's Writer's Conference). 

Penny told him that "Fahrenheit 451" was the book that inspired her to become a bookseller. He liked hearing that. He loved independent bookshops and did everything he could to support and advance them. We were amazed that he offered to drive from Venice, where he lived, to appear in our brand new satellite Earthling in San Luis Obispo. Four hours up and four hours back, and, as always, he filled the new store with thrilled fans.

Ray never just sat at a table to sign books. Invariably he gave a little talk first. The store was always packed when we announced his coming. He would relay the following story over and over again because he loved imitating John Huston:

John Huston: Ray, I want you to come to Ireland and write the screen play for "Moby Dick".

Ray: But John, I've never read "Moby Dick".

John Huston: Don't you think you'd better get a copy?

Ray went to Ireland, but didn't stay with Huston on the hill.  A couple of miles from Huston's mansion was  the village pub with accommodations upstairs. Ray stayed there where he mixed with the locals and drank plenty of the local booze. They amused him by telling stories of the Banshee who haunted the hills around the village. One night, he was walking back from the big house and heard the wails of the Banshee. He was laughing at himself, saying that he ran all the way back to the pub, all the while wondering if he had had too much Irish drink, or was there really "Something Wicked This Way Comes".

He always opened the SB Writer's Conference, advising perspective writers in very positive terms.  He told them about his comic book collection when he was a child. Ray looked back on his childhood and said those comic books opened his imagination for the books he would write when he was a man.
He lamented the fact that someone told him to destroy those 'useless' comic books, and he mistakenly took their advice.  His theme at the Writer's Conference was: "Everything is a Metaphor". At first, we were never sure what he meant, but by the time he was finished, we knew he was right.

After a signing one Sunday afternoon, we offered to take Ray to dinner down the street at his favorite Indian restaurant.   He, in turn invited all his entourage to come along. These were admirers that always came to see him when he came to the Earthling. Ray enjoyed himself enormously, eating huge amounts of very spicy Indian food. His face was very flushed and we asked him if he was worried about his blood pressure. "I've never had a sick day in my life", was his reply.  We thought he would live forever.

The Earthling closed both locations in 1998 and we moved to North Carolina in 2008. When Ray died this week, all the good memories of Ray in Santa Barbara came rushing back.

Ray Bradbury was not only a gifted writer, he was a kind, happy man who enjoyed his life enormously. Thanks for coming into our lives, Ray, and making it richer for having known you.

Penny and Terry Davies
(somewhere in politically disgusting North Carolina)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cleveland International Film Festival

Our movie has taken us all around the country.  In the last four months we've taken "Missed Connections" to Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Boston and Ann Arbor.  There have been too many wonderful memories for me to mention all of them.  But I am going to attempt to share some of the highlights with you and I'm starting with Cleveland....

We premiered here, it was our first festival and probably one of the greatest times of my life.  The Husband and I joked that it was better than our wedding day, but we may not have been joking.  Here, we screened to four sold out 250+ seat houses.  They just kept adding screenings.  One day we had to turn away a hundred people who had waited in line for an hour.  That day the line wrapped all the way down the multiplex's corridor and around the corner into the food court.  This was taken at the premier...
We sat in the audience with our parents as the Festival Programmer, Bill Guentzler introduced the film. "This came as a submission," he said "which is really unusual.  Finding movies like this is the reason that I do what I do.  I really love this movie and I hope you do too."  The four of us held hands, cried a little and then the movie started. 

All of what I just said still seems untrue or like something that you dream about when you are a child but then you become jaded and accustomed to never attaining it as an adult.  It still hasn't really settled in, even now, four months later.  At one point, my father said to my mother, "This is the kind of thing that you hope for, for your children."  Uh....yeah.  It was unbelievable.
I love this picture above because it looks a little like a framed album cover that I have of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players.  At the closing night gala, we stepped into a grand pavilion where two thousand people stood.  It looked like this...
We were certain that although, our film had done well, that there would be no actual awards for us.  That seemed impossible.  There were bigger movies with bigger budgets (200 times bigger), they had stars and important subject matter and did I mention the budget?  We were small potatoes with our cast of friends, our stolen locations and our budget of 25K.  Who would give us an award?  

And then a man on the podium said "and the winner of the best American Independent film goes to..."  and then our name "MISSED CONNECTIONS."  It was so clear and yet, it didn't really sink in.  The words seemed to spill out of his mouth like they were slowly being written in calligraphy in the air.  I could almost see the loopy font hovering above the podium.  The Husband was already on the stage before I even realized what was happening.  Our producer, Lisa Rudin had to turn around and say "Dorien!  Come on!!"  And there it was.  We won.  I cried.

 Cleveland Rocked
I honestly didn't think that the night could get any better and then, I met Wayne White from (best documentary winner) Beauty Is Embarrassing.  This was my favorite doc from all four festivals that I've been to thus far.  You should see it.  He's an artist and he's remarkable.
We left the next day and I swear it felt like we flew home without a plane.  Here's proof...
Cleveland changed me.  The festival was so organized and so encouraging that it set the bar unbelievably high for every other festivals.  The people of Cleveland love independent movies with a feverish passion.  I've never seen anything like it.  It was simply the most rewarding experience I've ever had as an artist.  I cannot thank them enough.  They put such a fire under our asses that we are already working on another movie.  I hope I get to go back to Cleveland one day, even if I don't have a movie to show.  It's just that good.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Missed Connections (the best thing I've ever cooked up)

Most of you know that I'm an actress by trade.  I've mentioned it before, but what you may not know is that I've spent the last year making a feature film with my husband and two amazing partners/friends.  Our movie Missed Connections is premiering at the Cleveland International Film Festival next week and we could not be more happy/proud.  I guess it's one of those moments in life when, you have to take a sec to say 'thank you' and 'wow' and 'holy shit we did it!'

So 'thank you' to all who supported me and 'wow' what the hell am I going to wear and 'holy shit we did it' (I hope this isn't the last time).

If you are interested in seeing Missed Connections at at theater near you, you can like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter as we'll be updating it daily.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

My friend Beth got a little outdoor fire pit for her back yard.  She lives in a beautiful house in Mar Vista, just west of us.  She and her husband have worked so hard renovating their home and installing beautiful drought tolerant landscaping.  They have awesome parties loaded with southern delicacies like sweet tea vodka and 8 hour-smoked, pork butt.  Everyone loves it there, it's just a nice place to be.

A few weeks ago Beth mentioned that she was going to throw herself a birthday party.  As usual, I was super excited.  We brainstormed a little and I said that I would make some homemade marshmallows to roast on her new fire pit at the party.  It made me think about camping trips when I was little and cold winter nights with my friends, circled around the flames.  Who knows, maybe I'd even bring some graham crackers and chocolate...

But then the news came that The Husband and I booked a gig that night and I was going to have to miss all the fun.  I was so bummed to miss the party but I figured I would make the marshmallows anyway.  I mean, I love this girl like a sister and if I can't be there at least my marshmallows can.

I used Martha Stewart's recipe and made the yummiest batch of 'shmallows I've ever tasted.  I toasted and ate like four of them before I had to force myself to walk away (for fear of passing out on the kitchen floor in a diabetic coma).  They had the yummiest consistency.  Not at all like the store bought kind.  The are more substantial and when toasted, they develop an almost creme brule type crust around the outside while turning to pudding inside.

Since I missed the party, I think I should make it up to myself by going 'camping' in my back yard more often.  Maybe I'll spend a little time outside around a flame (even if that flame is a brule torch).  Maybe I'll surround myself with friends and sing campfire songs (or because we're work-a-holics, the 'idea' of friends and our ipod doc).  Perhaps I'll sit under the stars and think about life (or maybe just the moon, because I live in LA and we never see the stars).  It's not perfect dream but it will do.

Happy Birthday Beth! I love you this much...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Robotic Edition)

I think I may have hit the awesome, nerd, Christmas present jackpot.  Well to be honest, I didn't hit it.  Gabe and Etta did.  They are a couple of funny people who cohabitate.  We know them.  They have a dog, an awesome logo and they just made a movie.  Yeah, you could say, we have a lot in common (except, for the logo part I should work on that one).  Gabe and Etta (Diani and Devine) pitched a little project on Kickstarter that went... how shall we say...fuckng crazy.  Here is thier original pitch...

It went so well that their project was funded many times over and now it's DONE.  As a matter of fact, the books are showing up tomorrow morning.  Hard copy, illustrated versions of Huckleberry Finn, except Jim... is a robot.  Here's a peek....

You can buy the robotic edition of Huckleberry Finn here. 

You're welcome.