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Fighting the good fight

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Satin Red Shirt- Pretty Little Thing| Bra- UnderArmour| Leggings- Uniqlo| Boxing Gloves- Twins|Tassel Earrings- H&M

Photography by. Bernadette Mira

Assisted by. Garrett Hagen

When I was a young girl I was constantly dancing. I started dancing to keep the traumatic experiences that I was enduring when I was 6 to about 10 years old at bay. I could express my feelings that way without turning it out on myself. All I wanted to do was dance. There was never a moment that I wasn’t thinking about it. While ‘studying’ at school, I would be creating new dance combos in my head. Then as soon as I would get home from school, I would turn on the stereo and dance in the living room until most of my family members came home and there wasn’t enough room to do double turns and leaps. After dinner,  I would then head to actual dance classes till about the late evening. Even though I needed that support from my parents to understand what I was going through, dance was the only thing that I could rely on. It helped me get through the most painful moments. I would dance while tears were streaming down my face and afterwards I can honestly say that I felt refreshed and felt like I was doing something for myself.

There became a point where dancing was put on hold and unfortunately I never seriously got back into it like when I was at 17. So, after years of almost zero physically activity, I found another passion. It’s been about a year and half now that I started doing kickboxing. I never thought that I would find something else that would make me feel the way that I did when I was dancing. Not only does it make me feel great from just the aspect from working out, but I feel like I have family there.

It’s almost like a slap in the face to the people who weren’t there for me when I was younger. I have that now and I’m grateful for that. If I’m down, people notice and they care to ask. The teachers are remarkable and they care immensely about what they’re doing. The past year and a half, I’ve been in and out of kickboxing from getting sick or hurt, which ALWAYS is a bummer during the down times that I’m out, but I’m always coming back to that space when I recover.  I found my family and I’m not going to let that go.

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Spaghetti Bolognese

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 medium onion finely diced

4 large garlic cloves minced

2 tbsp. of olive oil

kosher salt and black pepper to season

1 to 1  1/2 pound of ‘good’ ground beef

1 tbsp. of tomato paste

1 can of puree tomatoes

1/2 cup of water (if needed for sauce)

1/2 tsp. of dried basil

2 tbsp. of dried oregano and fresh oregano to top

1 tsp. of dried thyme 

1 tsp. of red pepper flakes

(More kosher salt and black pepper to taste)

1/2 a packet of spaghetti 

Parmesan cheese 

Directions:

  1.  For Sauce: In a dutch oven or large skillet, saute onion and garlic on medium heat with 2 tbsp. of olive oil until soft. Season with kosher salt.
  2. Then add 1-1 1/2 pound of ground beef and cook until brown on medium-high heat with the onions and garlic. Season with black pepper and kosher salt.
  3. Once brown, add 1 tbsp. of tomato paste and stir into the meat until combined.
  4. Then add one can of puree tomatoes (if there isn’t enough sauce add 1/2 cup of water to the mix and boil off till the mixture has reduced, for about 15-20 minutes)
  5. While the sauce is boiling off  add the seasonings. Basil, oregano, thyme, red pepper, kosher salt and pepper for taste.
  6. While the sauce is cooking on medium-high heat periodically stir so it doesn’t stick to the pan and or dutch oven.
  7. For Spaghetti: For my spaghetti, I add enough water until it fills the pot half way. I then add a dash of kosher salt and about 1-2 tsp. of olive oil. I then bring the water to a boil and add the spaghetti. I like to cook my pasta till al dente, about 15-18 minutes.
  8. Once draining the spaghetti and the sauce has reduced/seasoned to your liking, grab yourself a big plate and dig in. Be sure to add some fresh oregano and parmesan cheese to top it off! Enjoy!

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Turmeric Lemon Drink

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Shirt- Madewell|Trench-American Apparel (Similar)|Earrings- Madewell|Cap- Uniqlo

Jeans- Levi’s

Shoes- Nike (Similar)

Photography by. Bernadette Mira

My adoptive father surrounded the house I grew up in with photographs that he took throughout the years. I admired the rawness and shock that his photos invoked. When it comes to photography, I do have this pain that comes with it. I didn’t know that I would spend the rest of my life without them. I don’t have that family anymore that I grew up with. They aren’t the people who I thought they were and it has taken me a lot of time, but I have come to terms with that.

Even though that pain is there, I still enjoy taking photographs and capturing the human experience. One thing I find true that my adoptive father told me about photography in his most “arrogant stern voice” is, “It doesn’t matter what equipment you have. It all depends on the photographer and the story they want to tell.” That saying makes me frustrated. It’s almost as dumb as the saying, “There are no small parts, only small actors…” BUT it’s true. There are times when I get so hard on myself about not having the ‘best’ equipment or much of it. I mean, I  have been using the same camera for over ten years, which is a hand me down anyway. A Nikon D200, which is old as fuck.  I  grew up poor. Everything I have still and had are hand me downs. It makes me embarrassed yet, I will admit, I have produced some good images even with equipment that isn’t shiny and new.

As artists its easy to convince ourselves that we aren’t “good” enough and compare our work to other people’s’. It’s something I struggle with everyday, but I try to remember why I started taking photos. When I was 16, along with dancing, photography helped me capture the pain and sadness I was feeling then. I stopped when I started pursuing Musical Theatre, but once I opened up about being sexually abused to my adoptive family I started taking photos again to help me through the pain. That’s where I discovered cooking, food and product photography. As silly as it is, photography has saved me in some ways. So, in conclusion I will continue to take photos, even with the pain, even with shitty equipment, because it is a part of me. I’m not going to let that go.

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Turmeric Lemon Drink

(To heal colds and other remedies)

Serves 1

Ingredients

Juice from half of a lemon

1 cup of boiling water

1-3 turmeric ginger iced cubes

1/2 tsp. of turmeric 

5-8 thin slices of fresh ginger

1/2 tsp. of honey (optional)

Directions:

  1. Prepare turmeric ginger iced cubes the night before. Combine 1/2 tsp. of turmeric, 5-8 thin slices of ginger, and 1/2 cup-1 cup of water. Stir well and pour mixture into ice-cube tray. Should make about 5-7 cubes. Let them rest for 8 hours or overnight to freeze.
  2. In a kettle, boil 1 cup of water or more.
  3. Then add turmeric ice cubes, juice from half of a lemon, and honey into a heat proof mug.
  4. Once the water has boiled, pour the hot water over the ice cubes and watch them melt into the water. This should happen fairly quickly, about two minutes.
  5. After the ice cubes have melted, stir the mixture one more time then enjoy slowly or take it as a quick shot to help colds, sore throats, upset tummies and more.

 

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Falling over Bagels

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All I can ask is “Why?” Sometimes life sends you curve balls. Is that the saying that people say? Well, life has sent me quiet of bit of those balls and sometimes I just want to throw them in the fire. For the past month and a half, almost, I have been suffering with colitis. If you don’t know what that is, please do yourself a favor and don’t look it up, it’s terrible. You literally feel like your dying from the pain and all I can say is take care of your gut and don’t take too many antibiotics IF you can help it.

So, Christmas and the holidays were non-existent for me, because I couldn’t celebrate while kneeling over with pain. Even though the pain kept me down, there have been  days where I have felt fine. On one of those days I decided to embark on making bagels.

Now, I have never in my life made bagels and I honestly thought it would be an easy task, but as you can see some of my bagels have a unique shape. Which is fine and Julia Child would probably approve of the attempt. Yet, in future baking, I am determined to create the perfect, circular shape for a bagel.

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Poppy Seed and Parmesan Garlic Bagels

Makes 12

Ingredients 

Poppy Seed Bagels

1 tsp. of active yeast

2/3 cup of warm water

1/2 tsp. of brown sugar

2 cups of bread flour

1 tsp. of kosher salt 

1/2 cup of water

1 tsp. of baking soda 

2 beaten eggs for egg wash

1/2- 1 cup of poppy-seeds (make ahead)

Parmesan and Garlic Bagels

1 tsp. of active yeast

2/3 cup of warm water

1/2 tsp. of granulated sugar

2 cups of bread flour

1 tsp. of kosher salt

1/2 cup of water 

1 cup of shaved parmesan (make ahead)

1/2 cup of minced garlic (make ahead)

 

Extra: flour, oil, damp dish towels, a big pot

Directions:

  1. In two separate bowls add yeast, warm water and sugar. See Notes. Let both mixtures sit for 5 to 8 minutes. Then set aside.
  2. In two big bowls sift flour and salt together till combined. Then create a well into the flour and add the yeast mixture.
  3. Slowly mix the dough and incorporate the 1/2 cup of water for both mixtures. Then knead the dough for 5-10 minutes or until elastic.
  4. Then lightly oil two clean bowls. Let both of the dough mixtures rest for an hour with a damp cloth on top.
  5. After resting shape the dough into bagels. By doing this, cut the two dough mixtures into halves. Then with a sharp knife cut 6 medium size balls–making 12. (6 for the poppy-seed and 6 for the garlic bagels)
  6. Once you have your twelve balls, gently place your ring finger into the middle of the dough ball until your finger pokes through. Then carefully move the dough around in a circular motion with both of your hands pulling on each side as you go around. See shaping bagel video.
  7. After shaping all twelve bagels, on an oiled sheet or plate let the dough rest again with a damp towel for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 F.
  8. Once the bagels are done resting, create your hot water bath. In a big pot add water about half way with 1 tsp. of baking soda then bring to a simmer.
  9. Once the water has start to simmer, gently with a slotted spoon add the bagels one by one. Do this in batches of twos or threes, depending on the size of your bagels. Let each bagel boil for 2 minutes on each side. Then set aside to rest on a clean plate.
  10. Create your egg wash for the bagels and brush all of them till fully coated. At this point add your toppings, poppy seeds for one batch. Then, fresh minced garlic and shaved parmesan for the other. Cover the bagels completely.
  11. On a baking sheet bake the bagels for 30 minutes or until lightly brown. Bake the bagels in two separate batches.

Enjoy!

 

Notes: For the poppy-seed bagels mix the brown sugar into the yeast/water mixture.

 

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Photography by. Bernadette Mira

To my husband…

Today is my husband’s birthday. The most used sentence or thought that runs along the lines of, “I don’t know what I would do without you…” couldn’t be truer in our relationship. I honestly don’t know what I would do without him. He has gotten me through some tough moments in my life.

There are times when I think that he saved me from a bad situation when I was coping with a toxic family. He was the only one that took the time to understand me and genuinely cared about what I was going through. I have never met anyone else like that. Someone that is so kind and patient. He gave himself completely to me on the nights where I was curled up in ball on the bathroom floor contemplating suicide. He helped me out of that dark hole with his love and kindness. I will always be thankful for that.

So today is for him. Life can get in the way sometimes and it’s hard to stop and remember that we have loving people in our lives. It’s important to take the time to remember that. I have a loving husband and friend by my side for the rest of my life which is pretty amazing.

So, Happy Birthday my love. May this coming year bring you joy, growth and success, for you deserve it. Love always, your kitten.

Lemon Poppy-Seed Cake

By. Lady and Pups

Photography by. Bernadette Mira

Christmas Time is Here (Julia Child’s croissants with cranberry jam filling)

I will always remember that Christmas.

That time of year is back again and I can already feel the anxiety setting in. There are times when I can’t help but think about the past. Especially about the time I opened up to my adoptive father about being sexually abused as a child.

Christmas time when I was a younger was all that I waited for with every passing year. I remember decorating the house till every room was filled with some sort of tinsel or sparkling lights. I cherished every second of it. You couldn’t stop me from dancing to the Grinch soundtrack with The Who’s singing “Trim up the tree with Christmas fluff…” That time of year was magical for me. Over the years it unfortunately lost its sense of innocence. That Christmas when I told my father about being abused left me raw and alone. I will always remember that Christmas.

The week before Christmas I had to say goodbye to my husband. We were both celebrating the holiday with our families, me in Virginia and him in Florida. He was my boyfriend at the time, but I still found it difficult to leave him. Maybe it was because I knew that I could confined in him about being abused. As soon as I made it back to VA with my adoptive parents I felt this sense of gloom over the house. Before entering the house that I grew up in, I looked up at it and all the memories of being abused flooded in. How I stayed in that house for years, I still don’t know how.

When Christmas Day came along I kept on contemplating if I was going to tell my father or not. My mother who already knew and saw me get abused said, “It’s up to you Bernadette.” I had to build up my courage throughout the day until by 8 pm or so I sat my father down and told him.

The moment went by so quickly. All I remember is him saying a joke afterwards about me being abused and him getting me a wet wash cloth to wash away my tears. That’s how it was with them. They think by washing away the problems that they will magically disappear. That method never works.

Now, that I am estranged from them, I can’t help but feel that Christmas has to be perfect. It’s not healthy to think that way and I’m slowly working on it. Even though this year has been tough in so many ways politically, socially and personally,  I have a loving husband. I have a silly dog and a new family in my husband’s family. I have met new people who I can consider real friends. I know that 2018 will be better. I know this because I will keep on trying to live for me and not for the family I grew up with.

Julia Child’s Croissants

Volume Two of Mastering the Art of French Cooking 

By Julia Child and Simone Beck 

Makes 12

Ingredients

1 1/4 tsp. of yeast

3 tbsp. of warm water (100 degrees)

1 tsp. of sugar

Second half of recipe

1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour

2 tsp. of sugar

1 1/2 tsp. of salt

2/3 cup of warm milk

2 tbsp. of canola oil

1 3/4 sticks of chilled unsalted butter 

Cranberry Jam

Makes 3/4 cup

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of fresh cranberries

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. of nutmeg

Pinch of pepper and salt

1/2 tsp. of cinnamon

1/3 cup of fresh orange juice

1/2 cup of water

 

Croissant Recipe: Equivalent version of croissant recipe. Here is a video of the master herself making some croissants on the show the French Chef.

Directions for Cranberry Jam:

  1. Throughly wash the cranberries, then pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. In a medium size sauce pan, add all the ingredients and stir on medium to high heat until it starts to simmer.
  3. Once it comes to a simmer, turn down the heat between low and medium. Stirring frequently for 15 minutes or until the jam comes to the wrinkle stage.
  4. Once the jam has come to the wrinkle stage, take off the heat and cool for five minutes.
  5. Pour the jam mixture through a fine mesh sieve with a glass bowl underneath to catch the jam. Do this with a spoon and patience. This should take about 10 minutes to get all the mixture through.
  6. Cool the jam in a glass jar and leave in fridge until ready to use. Keeps up to 2 weeks.

Enjoy!

Photography by. Bernadette Mira

Moroccan Eggs and Rolls

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Moroccan eggs, formally known as Shakshuka is probably one of my all time favorite dishes. It’s something so simple but utterly delicious. The combination of the spices with the sweet tomato sauce paired along with either sauté mushrooms or succulent chorizo is an experience that I always want to come back to. Well, possibly dive into depending on how hungry I am.

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 Even though this dish is simple, I wanted to pair it along with something maybe not so simple and adds a little bit more time in the kitchen. I promise you though, with a little more preparation ahead of time, it will be worth the wait. So let me introduce you to today’s dishes…

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Moroccan Egg Dish with Moroccan Rolls

Ingredients

Egg dish

Serves 2-4 

2 to 3 eggs

1 14.5 oz can of puree/crushed tomatoes

half of 1 large yellow onion finely diced

3-4 large garlic cloves minced

2 tbsp. of olive oil

1/2 pound of chopped chorizo (or 1/2 pound of chopped white button mushrooms)

1 tbsp. of honey 

2 tbsp. of tomato paste

1 tsp. of paprika 

1 tsp. of crushed red pepper

1/2 tsp. of thyme

1/2 tsp. of turmeric 

salt and pepper to taste 

fresh oregano to top (optional)

Moroccan Rolls

Makes 6 

Ingredients

1 2/3 cup of white bread flour

1 tsp. of yeast

6.5 ounces of warm water

1 tsp. of sea salt

1/4 tsp. of granulated sugar

 4 tbsp. of toasted sesame seeds

Spice mixture

2 tsp. of cinnamon

1 tsp. of nutmeg

1 tsp. of turmeric 

1/2 tsp. of cardamom 

1/4 tsp. of black pepper

1/4 tsp. of cloves 

(Prepare spices together in a mortar and pestle to combine-keep in glass container till use)

Directions for Moroccan Rolls:

(May make the day before)

1. Gently rub the yeast into the bread flour. Once incorporated add the water, salt and sugar.

2. With either a standing mixer or by hand, mix the ingredients together till it starts to form together. Should take about 4 minutes. The dough will be sticky. Don’t  worry though, the dough will come together in time.

3. I like using the technique where you stretch the dough and fold it back together. For an example, watch here (stretch and fold technique)* While doing this technique, it helps bring the dough together by slapping it onto the work surface then folding over. Continue this technique for 10-15 minutes until the dough starts to come together.  After ten minutes or so, you can start adding some flour to the work surface. While working the dough add the bread spices till incorporated. To form a ball, fold each edge of the bread into the center and pinch together so it holds it shape.

4. Once the dough has been shaped into a ball, in a lightly oiled bowl add the dough ball and cover with a lint free towel to rest for an hour in a warm area.

5. After an hour turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and divide the dough into two. With the palm of your hands create two log shapes. To create the log shapes, use the heel of your palm to flatten the two logs and gently fold one side into the center then continue to do the same with the other side. Pinch both sides together going all the way down the log, so they hold the shape.

6. Turn the logs over with the pinched seem facing downwards, and cut 3 equal slices from each log, creating 6 rolls. To create the rolls into small balls, use the same technique of folding the edges inward into the center then pinch the edges together. Then with the palm of your hand gently smooth the edges out by rolling the ball in a circular motion going counter-clockwise.

7. After forming the 6 balls, brush one side with a little water then dip the rolls into the bowl of toasted sesame seeds. Continue this process with all of them.

8. After brushing the dough, add the rolls to a *baking sheet* or pizza stone. Cover the rolls again to rest for 45 minutes in a warm area until they double in size.

9. While the rolls are resting preheat the oven to 475 F.

10. Once the rolls are done resting, mist the inside of your preheated oven with water, either gently by hand or preferably a spray bottle. Afterwards add the tray of rolls to the oven and bake for 11 minutes or till golden.

11. After baking, rest the rolls on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.

Notes:* If you don’t have a pizza stone, I like to use a baking sheet to create the same type of surface by turning the baking sheet upside down. So, if you don’t have a pizza stone do this before adding the rolls to the sheet for the second proof. See in direction #8.

Directions for Egg dish (Shakshuka):

1. In a medium cast iron skillet, add 2 tbsp. of olive oil, diced onions and garlic and sauté on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until lightly brown.

2. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Gradually add the chopped chorizo or mushrooms and mix with the onions and garlic till brown on medium heat. Then add the tomato paste and mix in well.

3. Once the chorizo has browned add the honey and seasonings and mix well until fully combined.

4. Then add the can of tomatoes and cover the top of the meat or mushrooms by using the back of a wooden spoon so only the tomato sauce is showing.

5. On medium heat cook for about 5-10 minutes, while keeping an eye on the meat, onions and garlic underneath to prevent burning.

6. After some of the tomato juice has boiled off, create 2-3 separate holes for the eggs to be placed. By doing this, gently with a spoon create a small opening for the egg to cook, you should see the bottom of the cast iron skillet so it’s able to cook. Do this with all the eggs, by cracking the egg on a flat surface and gently adding it into the skillet.(Without getting shells inside.) Cook for 5-8 minutes or till the egg whites have cooked but the yolk is still runny. Once again, be mindful of the onions, meat and garlic underneath so they don’t burn.

7. Serve dish in cast iron skillet for easy dipping. Top with fresh oregano and Moroccan rolls on the side.

Enjoy and happy eating!

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Photography by. Bernadette Mira

Longing for kitten… (a blackberry fig jam recipe) 

             

Photography by. Bernadette Mira

I grew up with the sheer luck of having at least seven cats at different times through out my childhood. Living in the country these cats tended to roam around the house and in the outside world, which led to most of them ghosting away and never coming back. Yet, there was always another cat to take it’s spot. All of those cats weren’t officially mine and at times I longed for a cat to be only mine that I could take care of.

Yet, there was one exception. A cat we had named Cheeseball who belonged to my middle sister, seemed to grow fond of me over the years. Like my estranged family they ignored most of the pets we had around the house so I watched over Cheeseball like he was my own.

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I remember taking photo shoots of Cheeseball, like he was a dashing model posing for every shot. Surprisingly he was quiet patient when it came to me taking photos of him. There were many mornings that I would come out of the bathroom shower and have him greet me at my feet. But if I didn’t pay every bit attention to him he would bite at my legs until I gave him a pat or kiss.

After moving away to go to musical theatre school in New York when I was 20, Cheeseball ended up running off to the neighbor’s house, because my family didn’t take care of him. Every time I would come back home to visit I would long for him to come over to the house, yet he never would. There were many moments when he would just stare at me from afar. It was hard watching him from a distance and not being able to reach him. I miss him still. I’m sure he is off in cat land somewhere chasing the sun and eating to his heart’s content.

I still long for a cat though. A kitten to raise. Maybe it’s because I can’t have children…? I don’t know, but I hope that I can be a mother figure to a kitten one day and give it all the affection in the world. Taking care of something and watching it grow is the most joyful I have ever been.

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Blackberry Fig Jam

Makes one 16 oz. can

Ingredients

1 cup of blackberries

2/3 cup of finely diced figs (about 3 figs)

3 tbsp and 1/2 tsp. of granulated sugar 

1 cup of water 

1 tsp. of cinnamon

1/4 tsp. of nutmeg

1/4 tsp. of coriander 

1/2 tsp. of lemon zest

juice from half of a lemon

1/4 cup of cold water

2 tsp. of cornstarch 

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Directions:

  1. In a medium sauce pan, add the blackberries, figs, sugar and water and set on medium to high heat till it starts to simmer and the sugar dissolves. Stirring  frequently for about five minutes.
  2. Lower the temperature to low heat and add the spices and lemon zest.
  3. Stir for two minutes until the spices dissolve.
  4. Raise the temperature again to medium heat and add the lemon zest. Let the jam simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. After ten minutes, add 2 tsp. of cornstarch to the cup of cold water and stir completely until the starch dissolves. Then add the starch mixture to the jam.
  6. Stir the mixture into the jam. After a while the jam will start to thicken. Continue to stir for five minutes or so.
  7. After five minutes set the jam mixture off to the side to cool for ten minutes.
  8. After ten minutes, use the immersion blender and blend until the chunks of blackberries have liquified.
  9. Gently pour the jam into a heat safe container, such as a maison jar and close with a tight lid and set in the fridge to cool.

Enjoy this jam along side a creamy hunk of brie and toast.

 

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