Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wild Mushroom Risotto with Peas

My first risotto! I have to admit I knew less about risotto than I thought -- and I'm part Italian! I wasn't able to find all the ingredients to make this dish and I certainly didn't take the time to properly measure everything out so I was hesitant to taste it. But I have to say it was rather delightful. I love how creamy it gets in the end and how well all the flavors blend together. This will not be my last risotto. I'm ready to try new ones!

Messes: So I thought that there was a special type of rice you needed to make risottos but I was able to use the good 'ol Uncle Ben's rice to my surprise. I also didn't have low sodium chicken broth or unsalted butter in the house. I know the whole dish would have been a bit healthier had I used exactly what was called for but I don't think it effected the taste too much. Oh, and I couldn't find any porcini mushrooms either. Ha! It's starting to sound like I shouldn't have even bothered trying to make this, but even with all this "missing" ingredients it came out well. I swear!

Successes: Although the rice takes a lot of care to make, with all the liquids being added and evaporated, I was pleased to see that in the end I had a creamy and tastey meal. Give it a try! It's not as hard as it may sound.

P.S. It's NOT a Rachael Ray recipe!

Wild Mushroom Risotto with Peas [Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis]

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gnocchi with Braised Mushrooms and Peas

I recently discovered gnocchi and love 'em! But the only way I was making them was by boiling and throwing some pasta sauce on them. And I have to say I was getting a little bored with it. So I've been trying to find some recipes that used gnocchi in a whole new way and this one sure did it. I cut down on the ingredients a bit because I always have a ton of leftovers but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this dish can be enjoyed both heated up and cold. It's pretty healthy too. Give it a try!

Messes: Nothing to report today. Except maybe that I skimped out on the thyme. It worked out though.

A healthy mix of veggies and gnocchi. I loved it and I shared some with James. He loved it too!

Gnocchi with Braised Mushrooms and Peas [Rachael Ray]

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Beef and Cheddar Potpie

It's like Sheppard's Pie with a roll on top! I made a few changes to this recipe to make it even easier to make but, as always, feel free to create as you see fit. Here are my thoughts.

Baking the pie-top was going to be a large mess for me so I opted for purchasing some Pillsbury rolls to toss into the oven instead. Mess avoided!

Successes: Super simple and super delicious. I didn't add mushrooms this time but I may try it next time around as I'm sure an extra veggie or two will make this dish even better. Cook up some onions and crushed tomatoes, brown some meat and throw a roll on top. I recommend this one indeed.

Beef and Cheddar Potpie
[Rachael Ray]

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Throw Something Together!

A new fave of mine is the portobello mushroom. A few weeks back I started off with something simple by tossing together rice, portobello mushrooms and onions. This combination has always been something I enjoy because growing up my dad often made steak on the grill with mushrooms and onions on the side. In addition to that, my mom would make some rice to complete the meal since most of my sibilings wouldn't eat the veggies. I would mix all those together and be a happy kid but nowadays I don't have a grill so I have to do without the steak. Still delish.

Then tonight I was sauteing my onions and portobellos in olive oil and about to put the rice on the stove when I noticed a small suggestion the mushroom packaging. "Great with pasta!" Oh really? If you've read through my blog or even just glanced over the pictures you would know I am a huge pasta fan so I just had to try this. I grabbed a jar of tomato sauce, poured it over my veggies and then cooked up some pasta. Once everything was cooked I mixed it all together and wow! How did I not think of this before?! Definitely a winner and to think it was all because I tried throwing something together.

I always read about cooks taking things that are sitting around in their pantries and making a meal out of it but I never thought I would be able to do it because I'm a shop and cook kinda girl. But tonight I even surprised myself. You can do it too -- just throw something together and enjoy! :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pork and Bell Pepper Stir-Fry

Stir-fry is the best, isn't it? You get a mix of veggies, meat, and rice all in one. I'm starting to realize that my dishes never look as great as these photos -- sorry to ruin the illusion, but no, these are not my finished products -- but I guess it's the taste that really counts. And this one is yum!

Messes: Well, I let the oil heat up too long before dumping in the scallions and garlic so that serious heat cooked those up really quickly. Then I took too long chopping the red bell peppers and my eggplant got a little too soft while waiting in the pan. I also think the recipe should be renamed to just pork and mixed veggie stir fry because, to be honest, one bell pepper isn't going to give you that many pieces. The eggplant is probably the most abundant in the dish. Oh, and I couldn't find any stir fry sauce at my grocery store (thanks Trade Fair!) so I just added soy sauce instead.

Successes: A delicious dinner and relatively healthy too. I stuck with the pork on this one because I never cook with it but you can use chicken or beef even. And I made whole grain rice. Next time I may decide to throw in some more veggies but either way this was a great meal.

Pork and Bell Pepper Stir-Fry [Rachael Ray, of course]

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Portobello Philly-Style Sandwiches

Portobello mushrooms are my new favorite thing. The other day I needed something quick to make for dinner so I did a search using only the word "portobello" and stumbled upon this gem. A quick and tasty meal that is a healthy twist on a classic sandwich.

Messes: After purchasing all my ingredients I forgot to look at the recipe again. I just went ahead and made it how I felt it should be done. I sauteed the peppers, onions, and portobellos in olive oil, piled it on a hoagie and toasted it in the oven with a slice of cheese over top. It was great but now that I'm looking back at the original recipe I realized that I forgot about the Worcestershire sauce. Next time I'll use that as I'm sure it would make it even better!

Successes: I will absolutely make this again -- and next time preferably for other people because I had way too many leftovers.

Portobello Philly-Style Sandwiches [Rachael Ray]

Monday, July 28, 2008

Beef and Mashed Potato Stuffed Peppers

I think the name says it all for this one. I feel like I keep saying this but I promise this meal is so easy! Can you brown meat? Can you boil and mash potatoes? Can you cut the tops off of peppers? Can you put food in an oven? Then you can do it!

Messes: A little bit goes a long way with this recipe. I had leftover everything (with the exception of the peppers). So you can go easy on the ingredients if you'd like but leftovers are just as good too. My main frustration with this was placing the peppers upright in the dish and moving them to the oven. They kept falling over! I had to prop them against the walls of the dish rather than placing them perfectly in the center as I had wanted to. But once you get them in there you have nothing else to worry about!

Successes: A yummy meal all wrapped up into one pepper. I used more red bell peppers than green because they looked better at the store but either one works or you could even mix it up a bit and go with some yellows or orange bell peppers. Either way this meal will be fully satisfying. I kept trying to think of a good side dish to go with but I really didn't need anything. You've got meat, potatoes, and veggies. Delish!

Beef and Mashed Potato Stuffed Peppers [Rachael Ray]

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pasta Salad with Spinach, Olives, and Mozzarella

My dad loves to make pasta salads. I would have to say it's possibly one of his "signature dishes". So when I came across the recipe, I was excited to have my own to share. And it's pretty healthy too!

Messes: The first time I made this I cut the pieces of mozzarella too large and they ended up sticking together at the bottom. The second time around I made sure to cut them into smaller pieces so they would be more evenly distributed. You will also need a very large bowl for this dish -- or you can cut down on the ingredients. I would recommend using about a half a pound of pasta (trust me, it goes a long way). And don't worry about the "freshly ground pepper". You can just as easily get away with the regular pepper that comes in those little metal shakers.

Successes: Major success! Super easy to throw together and you'll have lots of leftovers for the week. I have never heard a single complaint about this pasta salad. Although, I've accompanied it with chili at parties and I have to say -- make sure you serve this first! People just aren't as interested in chilled pasta salads when there are warm bowls of chili to be had.

Pasta Salad with Spinach, Olives, and Mozzarella [Chow]

Artichoke and Spinach Dip

Here's a really simple and equally delish recipe for Artichoke and Spinach Dip. Who doesn't love that?

Messes: I skipped out on cutting the flour tortillas into fourths and just bought a big ol' bag of chips. If you're feeling really adventurous then by all means, make your own. I also had no idea what "julienned" meant. These recipes and their big words -- ha! So in case you're like me, here's the def: Julienning is a method of food preparation in which the food item is cut into long thin strips.

Successes: It won't look as good as when you order it off a menu but I promise it tastes as good. Maybe even better since you made it yourself! Try it out first and then when you're feeling confident, invite some friends over and serve.

Artichoke and Spinach Dip [Emeril]
(this one isn't from Ray-Ray! Can you believe it?!??!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

BBQ Beef Sandwiches

Summer Time!!! Break out the bbq and heat up some beans. It's time for some tasty summer meals. This one comes together pretty quickly but does not lack the feeling of a grand grilled meal.

Successes: I'm always nervous the first time I make a dish. I get worried that no one is going to like it. But I ended up making this at a family party and it was LOVED! My concerned went from no one liking it to there not being enough. It's super easy -- I even convinced my friend (who was complaining that she doesn't know how to make things) to recreate it.

Messes: Just be careful when you're cooking the meat. It will cook all the way through a LOT faster than you think and the longer it cooks the tougher it becomes.

BBQ Beef Sandwiches [Rachael Ray]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sirloin Veggie Stir-Fry

A favorite in my house! And by house I mean James and I. I know what you're thinking...another stir fry can it be any different? Oh but it is! This one uses beef and a variety of strong flavored veggies. At first I didn't think they would blend together well but when it's all stirred up the flavors are perfect!

Messes: As much as I love love love this meal, it is a little bit of a challenge to make. Everything cooks so quickly. If you notice in the recipe, each step is timed out at only a few minutes each. You gotta be really quick to get everything just right and not over cook them. The broccoli rabe cooks for 3 minutes, beef for 3, pasta for 3, onions for 2, etc. It all comes at you really quick so I would suggest having everything chopped up and ready to go before you turn on the heat. James and I have this deal where I cook and he cleans and although this is one of his favorites, the dishes are always a nightmare. I have so many bowls waiting in the sink for him -- poor guy. At least he's got a full tummy. haha

Successes: Eating this is your success. Every time I try a new recipe I get nervous about how it turned out. I don't always measure things out exactly or time them just as the recipe calls or I'll leave out an ingredient I don't like (such as hot peppers) so it makes me worried about how the end product will be. But, I have to say, the second I try a bite all my worries vanish. I guess you'll have to try this one to find out but take my word for it, all your hard work on this one will be worth it.

Sirloin Veggie Stir-Fry [Rachael Ray]

Pork Spaghettini

Total YUM! This dish reminded me of one of my favorite restaurants in Boca -- Stir Crazy. It's known for a make-your-own stir fry bar and it always goes down smooth. I changed this recipe up a bit but the variation still came out quite well if I do say so myself. Definitely recommend this one!

Messes: Hmm...can't really think of any for once. I couldn't find any regular roasted peanuts for some reason at my grocery store; any other type of nut you wanted but roasted peanuts. I bought some honey roasted ones in hopes that it would make the dish have a little sweeter kick to it but in the end I decided against the garnish. Might have been good for that extra little crunch but you can choose what you'd prefer.

Successes: I actually substituted chicken for the pork in this one as I'm a much bigger fan of the latter. I also had no idea what "spaghettini" was so I just grabbed some regular ol spaghetti, whole wheat actually. It seems more brands are jumping on the 'whole wheat wagon' so there's more of a variety now. I'm not sure how much better it actually is for you but I'd like to think it's a lot so I'll stick with the whole wheat these days. And it doesn't change the taste at all! This dish was fun to make and smelled and tasted delish. I will certainly be stirring some up again soon.

Pork Spaghettini
[Rachael Ray]

*UPDATE* Spaghetti vs. Spaghettini
Spaghettini is the thinner form of your typical spaghetti, aka angel hair

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Steakhouse Shepherd's Pie

A comfort food favorite. This recipe is great because you can add as many vegetables to it as you'd like and it will still turn out great. There are always lots of leftovers and it's a crowd pleaser. I mean, who doesn't like steak and potatoes?

Messes: I would have liked to brown the tops of my potatoes a little bit more but I didn't want to wait any longer to enjoy my meal. I also skipped on the bacon to try and make it a little bit healthier.

Successes: The first time I made it, it was delicious. The second time I made it, it was even better. I used some more veggies the second time around which helped make it more filling rather than just the plain ol' mushrooms, meat, and potatoes. I actually threw in some spinach and carrots which gave it a nice overall feel. I would certainly recommend it.

Steakhouse Shephard's Pie [Rachael Ray]

Spinoccolini Whole Wheat Pasta

I'm not sure about you but once again I it was the image that drew me in. My family gave me a Rachael Ray recipe book for Christmas this past year and although I don't doubt the deliciousness of the dishes, I was disappointed in the lack of images. In this one here just the color combination itself made me interested in creating this meal myself. This dish is a tasty blend of spinach, ricotta, and pasta and is one that I would recommend making for some company.

Messes: I would have to admit that this recipe is a little more challenging as it takes a while to blend the spinach into a pesto like topping, hence why I suggest making it for more than just yourself. But all the time put into it is well worth it. I was hesitant as to how much spinach to use but it turned out that it was the more the merrier. The pasta will seem a bit dry if you don't have a bunch of spinach mixture to top.

Successes: Very tasty and healthy -- assuming you don't add a ton of ricotta. And it heats up again well.

Spinoccolini Whole Wheat Pasta [Rachael Ray]

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Fusilli alla Caprese

One of my new found favorites! This pasta dish is oh so easy to make and very delicious. I've made it twice now and both times I've had to tell myself to slow down because I'm practically scarfing down everything on my plate. I found this recipe by watching an episode of 'Everyday Italian' on the Food Network. Giada was teaching her (younger) aunt some easy recipes to make and this was one of them. It looked so good on TV that I just had to make it. And this time, my eyes did not deceive me.

Messes: The second time I made this the dish came out even better. I basically gave the tomatoes more time to soften up before squishing them down with a fork. When I first made this dish I found myself fighting with the tomatoes for their juices - they just weren't quite soft enough yet. Another thing I learned after my first attempt was that I should use less pasta and more tomatoes. I felt it could have used more sauce the first time around. I also knew to cut up the mozz into smaller pieces and to use less of it overall. Once it melts down, I tell you, a little bit of mozzarella goes a long way.

Successes: Total success! I love this comfort dish and will continue to whip it together for many years to come, I'm sure. The flavors are great and it's so easy to make - you just can't go wrong here.

Fusilli alla Caprese [Everyday Italian]

Creamy Shells with Tomatoes and White Beans

Sounds (and looks) yum, right? You know, it is the image that makes or breaks a recipe for me. I was very intrigued by this recipe because of this picture here on the right. Shells? Tomatoes? Garlic? Creamy? What could be bad about that?! But after having made the dish, unfortch it is not one of my faves.

Messes: I've decided that anything that includes heavy cream is probably not going to be my favorite thing to make. I'm not sure what it is exactly but heavy cream just is a little too much for me. Don't get me wrong, this dish came out just fine but the overall taste was a bit too strong. Perhaps a little less garlic and a little more parm would help but it seemed the leftovers tasted better than the fresh meal - and, in my book at least, it should be the other way around.

Successes: Definitely a good combination of food but I would cut out the heavy cream and sub in some EVOO perhaps. Anything to lighten it up a bit.

Creamy Shells with Tomatoes and White Beans [Rachael Ray]

Three Bean and Beef Chili

An easy to make chili recipe that can feed a whole family -- mine did. I first made this for a family gathering. We had some other dishes to savor but this was the main one and it was heavily favored. I kept my pot mild by leaving out the chipotle but feel free to add as much of a kick as you'd like. When serving a large group it's always better to go mild then bold. I just made sure to keep a bottle of hot sauce on the table for those interested in some heat.

Messes: Only thing I would suggest is letting it simmer a bit longer. It was definitely cooked but the longer it simmers the more flavorful it becomes. We were all ready to eat it though so I didn't have much time to waste. Once it was cooked I had a line of hungry guests to feed!

Successes: Definitely a success. I made it a second time and had lots of leftovers for lunch that week.

Three Bean and Beef Chili [Food Network]

Friday, May 2, 2008


I've abandoned my blog. I've abandoned MY WORDS!*
*shout out to There Will Be Blood

It's been a while since I've logged on but I have decided to neglect this lovely little blog no more.

I propose an update, a face-lift if you will. I would like to create a focus for this blog and that focus will be food. From here on out I will be sharing various recipes I have tried along with my messes and successes of them. Hopefully it will inspire you to try some good ol' home cooking and get tips and hints as to what works and what could be changed.

Looking forward to hearing your comments! Hope you enjoy :)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New York City Eats!

Lately I've been checking out some restaurants in throughout New York City. James and I have always enjoyed trying new places but I've been doing my research and coming up with a list of restaurants to check out...

Here's a small sample of where we've been recently:

24-01 29th St, Astoria

A smaller place directly across the street from the Beer Garden, of which I have yet to try...Laid back atmosphere with tea lights on all the tables and window sills. They have an impressive beer selection but, given it's location, I would guess they'd have to. The food is generally bar food with limited selection but very good. I had a burger and salad and I must say it was certainly enjoyable. Reasonably priced and worth venturing over there again.

R.U.B. (righteous urban bbq)
West 23rd Street btwn 7 and 8 Ave

As the name suggests, this place is classic bbq. James was skeptical at first but I think even he will admit he was impressed. We both had the meat and 2 sides meal which was plenty of food, let me tell you. I was warned that you leave there feeling incredibly full and content -- this advice couldn't be more dead on. Great stop if you're in the mood for some BBQ.

345 East 12th Street

Hello macaroni and cheese! This unique spot offers a variety of mac'n'cheese dishes with all the combinations you could ever dream of (well, almost). With the portion sizes ranging from 'nosh' to 'major munch' and 'par-tay', you'll be good and full after trying one of these tasty skillets. I had the nosh-sized cheeseburger and James went with the buffalo chicken major munch. We were both pleasantly satisfied with our new found comfort food.

Bushwick Avenue btwn Metropolitan Ave & Devoe St, Williamsburg

Italian at its finest. This small but cozy spot offers some of the best Italian food I have had in a while. Everything was very authentic and true to its roots. Moderately priced, popular on weekends, and impressive dishes makes this one of my favorites so far. All they need now is to get some more comfortable seating.

So that's the list for now but there will be much more to share soon.
Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


James and I finally watched "American Gangster" last night...very well done, interesting characters but I'm not obsessed. I think after all the films I've seen this awards season, the competition is fierce. It's hard for me to compare anything to "There Will Be Blood" and especially working in this business I find myself more critical of the average film.

Nevertheless, "Gangster" is the story of Frank Lucas, the notorious drug lord in Harlem during the 70s. According to the film, which is based on true events, Lucas was a ruthless man when it came to his money but he also showed a lot of love and respect for his family. Lucas employed 30 family members through his drug business and was finally brought to justice in 1975 but his sentence was dramatically shortened due to his cooperation.

Here's a brief bio:

Frank Lucas was born September 9, 1930, in Lenoir County, North Carolina. He moved to Harlem in 1946, becoming the driver and protégé of gangster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson. When Johnson died in 1968, Lucas took over his heroin empire and expanded it during the drug-fueled period of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Lucas was particularly known for the “Cadaver Connection.” He cut out he middleman by establishing his own drug connection in the jungles of Vietnam, tipped off by U.S. soldiers then fighting in the war.

Lucas smuggled huge amounts of undiluted heroin from Thailand into the U.S. in the coffins of fallen American servicemen.

He dumped the heroin on the streets of Harlem, undercut the competition and called it Blue Magic. Lucas claims to have grossed $1 million a day.

Lucas relied on a tightly controlled crew called "The Country Boys." He preferred using relatives and men from his hometown in North Carolina because they were less likely to steal from him.

Lucas was arrested in 1975 and was soon facing up to 70 years in prison. He quickly turned into a government informant, most notably against the then-corrupt Special Investigations Unit of the NYPD. Out of 70 SIU officers, 52 were eventually either jailed or indicted.

Lucas is the subject of the biopic American Gangster, released in theaters on November 2, 2007. [source]

I'm a big Law & Order fan and I find all this criminal "goss" fascinating. Another interesting story I recently came across is that of John Dillinger. What led me to Dillinger? Johnny Depp of course!

J. Depp is slated to portray Dillinger in the 2009 film "Public Enemies". Like Lucas, Dillinger was a legendary American gangster during the 1930s. However Dillinger wasn't so interested in making his money through the drug trade. Rather, he enjoyed bank robbing and was considered a modern day 'Robbin Hood' to many during the Depression. His bio is a little more detailed. If you're interested you can check it out here.

Not that I support bank robbing, drug dealing, and cold blooded murder, but when it's presented tastefully as a true story through film, I have to admit find it intriguing.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Meet Up

Due to the fact that Allison and I have very few friends in Astoria, I decided to join an online networking community called "Meet Up". Outside of work it's extremely difficult to make new friends. In school you're constantly meeting new people whether it be in your classes, in clubs, at social events, apartment/dorm neighbors, etc. But this is no longer the case once you are thrust into the "real world". So sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Hence my piqued interest in "Meet Up".

Now before you go judging me, let me explain how it works. Basically this site is a venue for people to join social networks based on common interests or neighborhoods. You can browse through tons of groups ranging from politics to skiiing and so forth. Each group has a host and that host plans events for the group to attend. For instance, I am part of the Astoria Social Group. The group leader has planned multiple "meet ups" including dinner and drinks and a bar crawl. Anyone can join these groups but the group leader has the choice to be selective at the same time. My group is only open to young professionals ranging from mid-twenties to mid-thirties living in Astoria. After reading the description I thought, 'why not?'.

Since joining Allison and I have attended 2 "meet ups". They've been great events because (1) we're checking out new places in the neighborhood and (2) we're meeting new people. But there is down side to all this seemingly perfect match. After attending our first event, dinner and drinks at Indigo (which was delish by the way), we noticed that everyone in attendance was at least 8 years older than us, ie: in their 30s. Don't get me wrong -- I don't have anything against the 30 years but those lovely individuals residing in their 30s are not usually included in my inner circle of friends. We're often just at really different places in our lives and I'm sure they see Allison and I as "kids". It's been great chatting with everyone but our initial intent of making good friends in our neighborhood might not be going as planned.

Last weekend we participated in the bar crawl which, of course, took place on one of the coldest nights thus far. I'm pretty sure it was in the teens with a wind chill in the single digits. Lovely. Allison and I braved the cold for 3 of the 4 scheduled stops.

The first was Rapture Lounge. I'm not sure why they went with the name 'rapture' but they got the 'lounge' part right. It was a pretty cool place with some comfy couches and pillows. It seemed like it could easily double as a hookah lounge -- it was that type of place with lots of cool lamps and lights included. Their prices were reasonable ($7 for White Zin) and have a decent food menu which serves until 4 AM! I was impressed.

The second stop was my favorite. It's called Bar 36. I had actually passed by it before and thought it was worth a stop inside sometime. It reminded me a lot of 101 Downtown in Gainesville, also one of my favorites. The price menu was almost identical to 101, which easily rival Manhattan prices. $10 for a champagne drink which the bartender whipped up for me. They served food here as well but, of course, a much more delicate list of options with matching price tags. Honestly, just the atmosphere in there alone was enough to make me fall in love.

I found this picture so you can get an idea of what it looks like inside. Apparently they shot a few scenes here as well for the new "Sex and the City" movie.

The last stop that we made it to was Brick Cafe. From the outside, it looks like an Italian restaurant but inside was a different story. Lots of exposed bricks, a bar area, and a separate dining area. It wasn't very large in size but they used their space well. It even had a small stage area although at the time it was being used to host tables. This place served food as well of course but it felt more like Greek snacks than anything else. But I guess that's what you'll most commonly find here in Astoria!

All in all we had a great time, met some more nice people, and got to check out a little bit more of our "new" neighborhood.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I'm Not There...

To the talented, laid-back, funny man that is Heath Ledger (1979 - 2008).

I had the privilege of meeting and working with Heath on our film "I'm Not There" and I must say he truly surprised me. He was actually early for his interviews (a rarity among actors) and was so charming and funny. He didn't care what he looked like or rather what other people thought of him. He was so comfortable with himself. He showed up for TV interviews in one of the most interesting outfits I had seen in a long time. His hair was a mess and his clothes didn't even resemble a match. He had these little gloves on which were orange and black striped and he had cut the fingers off them. At one point throughout the press day he lost one of them and my boss and I were on a mission to find it. Towards the end of the day we figured it was long gone but my boss found it dangling off the side of a housekeeping cart and proudly handed it back to Heath the next day.

I just remember so vividly sitting in the ballroom of the Regency Hotel as the film's press conference went on with the actors all sitting at the front of the room. Every answer Heath gave was fresh and light hearted. He made jokes with the press and his fellow cast-mates. Everyone enjoyed him.

Although his portrayal of Bob Dylan was flawless, it is his upcoming flick, "The Dark Knight" that really has me speechless. If you've seen even a glimpse of the trailer or poster art you know what I'm talking about. It's as if it's a whole other Heath Ledger. I remember turning to James and saying, 'Heath! Where did you come from'? I am so looking forward to his role at the Joker and truly morn the loss of such a talented individual.

I guess having met him in person makes me feel a little closer to this tragedy. I cried at work when the news broke and will certainly miss seeing Heath develop into an even stronger leading man.

To Heath. Rest in peace.

Golden Men

Everyone wants one. And why shouldn't they? Those coveted little golden men symbolize the highest achievements in film today.

I was up early for the official announcement of the Oscar nominations this morning and, overall, I'm quite pleased with the results. I've been able to see most of the nominated movies and have my own ideas as to who should win and who has the upper hand. Below is the list of actual nominations along with my personal picks (*) and my predictions (**) for the main categories. Enjoy!

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
(*,**)Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah" (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" (Focus Features)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.)
(*,**)Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War" (Universal)
Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal)
(*,**)Julie Christie in "Away from Her" (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in "The Savages" (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in "Juno" (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
(**)Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There" (The Weinstein Company)
Ruby Dee in "American Gangster" (Universal)
(*)Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement" (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone" (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

Best animated feature film of the year
(*)"Persepolis" (Sony Pictures Classics): Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
(**)"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney): Brad Bird
"Surf's Up" (Sony Pictures Releasing): Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Achievement in directing
(*)"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Julian Schnabel
"Juno" (Fox Searchlight), Jason Reitman
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.), Tony Gilroy
(**)"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Paul Thomas Anderson

Best documentary feature
"No End in Sight" (Magnolia Pictures) A Representational Pictures Production: Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" (The Documentary Group) A Documentary Group Production: Richard E. Robbins
(*, **)"Sicko" (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company) A Dog Eat Dog Films Production: Michael Moore and Meghan O'Hara
"Taxi to the Dark Side" (THINKFilm) An X-Ray Production: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
"War/Dance" (THINKFilm) A Shine Global and Fine Films Production: Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine

Best motion picture of the year
"Atonement" (Focus Features) A Working Title Production: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers
"Juno" (Fox Searchlight) A Dancing Elk Pictures, LLC Production: Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.) A Clayton Productions, LLC Production: Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers
(**)"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
(*)"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers

Adapted screenplay
"Atonement" (Focus Features), Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
"Away from Her" (Lionsgate), Written by Sarah Polley
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
(**)"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
(*)"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Original screenplay
(**)"Juno" (Fox Searchlight), Written by Diablo Cody
"Lars and the Real Girl" (MGM), Written by Nancy Oliver
(*)"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.), Written by Tony Gilroy
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
"The Savages" (Fox Searchlight), Written by Tamara Jenkins

Thoughts: "There Will Be Blood" is ah-maz-ing! Daniel Day-Lewis is unbelievably talented and really owns the entire film. But I'm not sure it's an academy favorite. History shows that they tend to play it safe and I fear that Blood may be slightly in the shadow of "No Country For Old Men". Now, don't get me wrong, No Country is great and I totally agree with all the noms but if I had to choose, I would favor Blood.

Most of the acting categories are pretty locked up. Or at least I think so. There could always be a huge upset in any of the categories but it seems somewhat unlikely. I think the Actors categories are the strongest, and my favorites. A lot of really talented actors are nominated this year in both Best and Supporting Actor categories. But unfortunately I don't think they stand much of a chance against the favored stars. Day-Lewis puts on hands down one of the best performances I have EVER seen and Javier Bardiem is the one of the SCARIEST villains in the history of film. Between his creepy hair cut, his emotionless demeanor, the air gun, and his chilling accent and tone, he is hard to beat. I don't think I can see him in any other film and not be freaked out by him. When I see real photos of the poor guy I can hardly even believe it's him.

I wish that 3:10 to Yuma earned some more noms. It was a very impressive film -- and a western to say the least. Russell Crow is fabulous as always and who doesn't love Christian Bale? But there was also a very talented supporting actor by the name of Ben Foster who plays Russell Crows right hand man. He was great! I found myself watching him the most during scenes where he was involved.

Another extremely talented actor (again with the men, they're really something this year) is Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I loved loved loved his performance in "Charlie Wilson's War" and totally agree with his nomination. Although it may not have been everyone's favorite film, just to see him in it is well worth it.

I do wish that Will Smith had earned some recognition for his role in "I Am Legend". I realize that there are only 5 slots per category but Will did a great job as the lonely scientist left alone in NYC for 3 years. He drove most of the movie all by himself! I did read a review that said they would have liked to see more of Will's character unraveling, which I agree, but nevertheless his performance was impressive.

And then there is "Juno". I barely want to talk about this film as the more I discuss it, the more I dislike it. I really think that all the hype is mislead. It was cute, sure, but great? Hardly. The dialog was so unrealistic, there were few memorable scenes, the characters were forced, and we are left feeling somewhat obligated to love a story about a poor little 16 year old girl who decides to have sex, gets pregnant, and opts to give up her baby for adoption. Jamie Lynn Spears just announced her pregnancy and we were outraged. But yet, we'll praise a story about a promiscuous 16 year-old wannabe catch-phraser? Lame! This film is NOT the next "Little Miss Sunshine" so let's stop pretending that it is.

So there it is. Thoughts anyone?

Once Upon a Time in New York City

Now that I've officially lived in NY for 6 months, I think it's safe to acknowledge the changes that have taken place.

First of all I find myself walking even faster than I thought I ever could. If you've ever walked next to me, then you know I've always kept to a quick pace but living here has taken me to new levels. There was one night in particular where it was absolutely freezing outside in addition to rain splashing down from the sky. Of course, this was the day I decided my bag was a little too heavy and took out my umbrella. So instead, I was left with the hood of my coat to protect me from the droplets. As soon as I got off the steps of the subway I took off down the street for my 8 minute walk home. This time however, it didn't take as long because I was practically flew home. I impressed myself with my speed -- a speed I had never achieved before. And, unless the conditions are right, I'm not sure I will be able to reproduce on a moment's notice.

Another new addition to my life is cooking. I love it! It is becoming a hobby for me. I asked my family to buy me Rachael Ray cook books for Christmas because I'm very into her 30-Minute Meals right now. I keep inviting people over so I can cook for them (and to try and drag them to Astoria, as most people don't like leaving their boroughs up here) but it's usually just James and I enjoying the meals.

Along with my new cooking obsession, I think I'm becoming a foodie. Haven't heard of this? Foodies are those people who love checking out all the restaurants in town and like to make recommendations for great new places they've tried. I have become almost addicted to a few different blogs which offer restaurant suggestions, reviews, and food photos. It's pretty amazing the extent of the network of foodies. I just need to watch it so I don't become a fatty over it. ;)