Category Archives: friends

out TODAY: flourless! a book by my BFF nicole spiridakis!

flourless by nicole spiridakis

do you have a best friend? i do. her name’s nicole spiridakis and she’s a kick-ass food blogger, chef/baker, who, as of today, just happens to be a published author.

in lieu of being responsible and writing about the end of our cleanse–which, yes, we finished, and yes, i’m still alive in case you were wondering (which, were you even?)–i’m going to take a moment promote her new gluten-free dessert cookbook, flourless, which is both shockingly beautiful (it really is) and entirely sensible in that it doesn’t depend on weird flours and gums but naturally gluten free ingredients that mingle and merge to create delightfully delicious and very, i may add, delectable desserts. (what i did right there is called alliteration. and you thought i wasn’t a professional writer! *rolls eyes*)

before i share the conversation i recently had with nicole about flourless, i’d like to tell you how we met.

nicole and i met in some kind of introductory journalism class at the university of maryland, college, park. it was the late 90s. i was a jersey girl with a pixie cut, a bad attitude, and a lot pens. she was a northern california girl with long, flowing hair and a backpack featuring a variety of feminist pins. she was quiet. i was not. i basically sat next to her and talked to her until she became my friend. 🙂

although we very rarely see each other, she is my daily supporter and my personal cheerleader and i love her like crazy and am just so friggin proud of her and her accomplishment.

so. *ahem* <<wipes eyes and clears throat>> without further ado, may i present a conversation with the newly published author (!) nicole spiridakis about her fabulous new book, flourless.

jessica: hi nicole! what’s up!? i texted you like five minutes ago but i thought i’d ask again for the sake of my readers.

nicole: I totally texted you back but hi again! I am currently baking some cookies. Shocking, I know.

j: so you’re my bff for life (4LIFE) so i wanted to promote your new book, flourless: recipes for naturally gluten-free desserts, a little bit. it’s also pretty awesome so i think people should know about it.

nicole: Aww, you’re my bff, too! Thanks so much for the shout-out.

j: ok so it’s a gluten-free dessert cookbook (mmmm dessert…). but it’s all naturally gluten-free, right? no weird thickeners, no gluten-free flour, etc. tell us all about it!

n: Exactly! All the recipes rely upon naturally gluten-free ingredients – like oats (note: these are naturally gluten-free but commercial oats are often processed in facilities that also process wheat flours so make sure to buy certified g-f oats if you’re allergic), nuts, fruits, eggs, etc.

j: how did you come up with the idea for flourless?

n: My sister-in-law Emily keeps to a gluten-free diet and I started baking her gluten-free cookies and such, using pretty simple ingredients (and no guar or xanthum gums because I am cheap and those are expensive). We got to talking about gluten-free baking and realized that making stuff that doesn’t try to compensate for regular flour items – i.e. is stand-alone delicious – or use weird substitutes often taste much better and is less intimidating to make. Thus the concept of ‘naturally flourless’.

j: some people are kind of freaked out by gluten-free things, especially desserts, but these recipes seem really appealing. like, you don’t even need to mention that they’re gluten-free to people. they’re just…well, naturally gluten-free. do you get what i’m trying to say? i feel like i’m not saying it right.

n: Yes! That was my aim. I don’t want people to think oh, another gluten-free recipe, ho hum, I guess I will eat it because it’s there but I doubt it will be great. The goal was: here are some amazing desserts that taste SO good and oh yeah, they happen to be gluten-free!                      

j: what are some of your favorite recipes in the book?

n: I’m very partial to the Mexican hot chocolate cake; that was one of my early successes and I’m still really happy with how it turned out. I love the almond butter-chocolate chip cookies, and the vanilla cupcakes with lemon buttercream. Oh and the roasted stone fruit with mascarpone and mint. And the cinnamon molasses cookies, salted caramel pots de crème, pistachio-coffee toffee … I could go on.

j: as you know, i do not pride myself on my cooking nor my baking skills. is this the type of book even someone somewhat dysfunctional like me could follow?

n: Absolutely. (Although I think you’re a better cook than you let on.) My goal was to write recipes that would be accessible to the home cook of varying levels of experience – from seasoned gluten-free bakers to those who only bake gluten-free once in awhile (or not at all). I truly hope I have accomplished this.

j: is there anything else you’d like to say? i mean, this is your big chance to reach my 200 readers. no i’m kidding. it’s 300. NO ACTUALLY: 10,000. TEN THOUSAND READERS. 5 MILLION READERS.

n: I wholly loved working on this cookbook and I am truly grateful for the opportunity. I can’t say how/why/when I really got into cooking and baking but it’s something I’ve been doing for years and now it’s just a regular part of my life – it’s true that I rarely let a week go by without baking at least something (often more than one thing). I feel so lucky that I can share some of my efforts with a wider audience, and I so hope people enjoy and benefit from this cookbook.

j: are you going to make me any of these desserts when i come visit you in morocco? is there anything really chocolately in there? omg i loooove chocolate. remember that flourless chocolate cake you made for my 23rd birthday party back in the day? omg it was soooo good. you’ve been such an amazing baker for so long. i should have guessed you’d do a book like this one day.

n: You’re so lovely. Thank you. I will of course bake you lots of delights when you visit me in North Africa. And make mint tea. Who am I kidding: coffee.

j: i’m really proud of you, btw. i love how you’re an author now. i think you’re the best. i’m going to text you in five minutes to say hi.

n: … sorry, what? I was writing you a text. Right! We’ve come a looong way from those days at UMD but I still think you’re the best thing I gained from that journalism program! Oh, other than some sweet Diamondback bylines 😉

(jessica’s note: omg the diamondback, umcp’s very own student newspaper, where i thought i was the bomb-diggity for making $10/article, which, hello, you could totally get some pretty decent shampoo and/or conditioner at cvs for $10 back then.)

if you’re in the san francisco area, you can meet nicole and have her sign your very own copy of flourless this sunday! details are here.

nicole, i love you and congratulations!!!!!! when i gain five to eight pounds from eating all these desserts, i’m going to text you a bunch of angry emoticons followed by a bunch of hearts 😉 XXO

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this is why i don’t watch horror movies

don't do it! she's evil!!!

 i remember the first time i saw a horror movie. it was the late 80s. jon bon jovi’s hair was still huge and frosted (oooh how i loved him back then). my hair, too, was enormous (tho accidentally) and i didn’t care. i still wore a size 5. i had a walkman with puffy earphones. times were good. 

anyway, freddie krueger, as you may (or may not) recall, was all the rage. and, without knowing any better, when my friend suggested we watch the newest “nightmare on elm street,” during our long-awaited sleepover i was like SURE! i flipped off my white keds and settled in for the show. man, i was dumb back then. 

i sat thru the movie, petrified. then, when my friend turned out the lights in her attic bedroom (it had to be the freakin attic, didn’t it?!), suddenly everything was scary. i remember laying there on the carpeted floor in my sleeping bag, eyes wide open, convinced freddie was going come thru the window or the wall or the plumbing and slash me. i kept hearing these windchimes. oh my gosh, the windchimes. needless to say it was a rough night for me. 

so fast fwd 20-some years to last night. holly and i walked up the street to vote in the maryland primaries. on our way back, she suggested we go relax on our roofdeck. i told her i was feeling too sick. she’s had a terrible cold the past couple days. i’ve had a weird headache i feel might be a cold coming on. in fact, i made us not one but two pots of my late grandmother’s chicken soup (w/matzah balls and egg noodles). we just had a couple bowls before we left to vote. 

“how about we just watch a movie on the couch?” i suggested. 

she agreed. i don’t know if she was on the phone or  playing on her phone or what, but i was fairly unsupervised (never a good thing) as i flipped thru the on-demand movie options. i went to hbo, then movies, then comedy. i come across “jennifer’s body.” hmmm. i had heard of that. i knew it was a vampire movie. but it was under comedy. and megan fox was supposed to make out with some chick. my homosexuality got the better of me (it usually does when it comes to these sorts of things) and i clicked “ok.” i knew it was dumb but i did it anyway. 

the sound came on and holly looked up. “what did you pick?” she said. oh all the sudden she’s interested.     

“‘jennifer’s body,'” i told her, innocently. 

“WHAT?! WHY?!! that’s a VAMPIRE MOVIE. you’ll never last five minutes!” 

“whatever, babe,” i said. “megan fox kisses a chick. i think i can make it at least that far.” 

well as soon as the scary music started and the camera panned over a backyard in the dark i knew it was a mistake. 

“maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…” i said. but for whatever reason, we could not stop watching. i swear movies like that are such a train wreck. 

have any of you seen “jennifer’s body”? while i suppose it’s kind of tame for a horror movie, it’s pretty gross and pretty damn freaky. in a nutshell, megan fox turns into this demon vampire thing that seduces high school boys and then rips them apart and eats their insides. (silence) yeah, i know. she also scares the begeezus outta you because she keeps showing up all bloody on the side of the road!!! granted, the kiss scene was damn good. but honestly, totally not worth all the carnage to get to it. by the time it ended, i was highly traumatized. highly. cold hands, sweaty palms, the whole thing. and totally scared. as was holly. 

“you feel hot!” holly said, touching my forehead. 

“i know!” i said. “i think the movie gave me a fever!” 

despite my aching head and her bad cold, we both started laughing hysterically. then i proceeded to try to recreate the kissing scene except for i suddenly leaned back, made my hands into claws, let my bangs drop into my eyes, opened my mouth really wide, bared my teeth and hissed which scared the hell outta holly. she screamed like a little girl then i screamed like a little girl and then we both collapsed into laughter. then i did it a couple more times. which i know was mean, but damn it was so funny. i wish you coulda been there. 

“STOP DOING THAT! YOU’RE SCARING ME!” she screamed. “you have black hair!!!! like a VAMPIRE! like MEGAN FOX! I WANT MY WIFE BACK!” 

by that point i had scared myself, too, so i demanded that she go back to the kitchen with me so i could put away the soup, which had cooled by then. i was not going by myself lest megan fox jump out of the oven, trick me into making out and then eat my insides and leave me for dead. 

i took a slotted spoon and started taking out all the vegetables and whatnot so i could just put the broth away. when i was on the second pot (the one we hadn’t eaten), about my third time in i found something red in the spoon. it was kind of big and red. from a distance it looked like a dried chili pepper or something. i looked closer. it looked like a… 

“ohmygosh. OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” 

“WHAT?” holly yelled from the couch jumping up (she had abandoned me in the kitchen after all–thanks, babe). 

“i…i…i think i found a GRASSHOPPER in the soup. or a CRICKET. a BRIGHT RED CRICKET IN THE SOUP.” 

a vampire cricket! 

“get. over. here.” 

as i held back gags, she took a look and screamed. then i screamed. we were both screaming when her mom and twin sister called. while she told them about the movie and how scared we were and then about the huge insect we just found in our CHICKEN SOUP, my gears turned. everyone has mice in this city. rats (and cats) out back. sure, some bugs. but never something like this. hell, crickets don’t even chirp outside, let alone land in your kosher chicken soup on a tuesday night. 

the parsley! i thought. the dill! THE DAMN PESTICIDE-FREE HERBS. (we’ve recently gone organic.) 

“dammit, honey!” i exclaimed. “it was the damn parsley or dill! i soaked them like three or four times but i never separated the leaves. i bet the bug was hiding in there.” 

by that point, heidi (holly’s twin sister; identical twin sister), was on a roll, laughing her head off about how scared we were over some teen vampire flick, and now the giant red cricket in our soup. 

“one, two, freddie’s comin for you,” she whisper-sang over the speakerphone (DAMN THE SPEAKERPHONE). “three, four, better shut the door….” 

i gasped. the freddie krueger theme song! 

“STOPPIT HEIDI!” i shouted. “YOU’RE A BAD SISTER-IN-LAW!” 

i drowned her out with the garbage disposal, which i turned on to grind up the vampire cricket. i turned my head away as i poured in the soup, but it was no use. i saw the damn thing out of the corner of my eye. 

at that point i’d had enough. i was ready for the sun to come up. i just wanted to go to sleep. it took a while to make my way into bed, however, since i flipped on every single light in the house after the movie ended. (oh please you’ve totally done that after a horror movie) 

“i’m scared,” i told holly after i got into bed. 

“you see?” she said, flipping on bravo. “i told you not to watch that movie. i told you it was a bad idea.” 

she was right. again. the moral of the story is that i need to ignore the hype and stick to the romantic comedies from now on. also that megan fox scares the sh*t outta me. and always wash leafy herbs carefully.

“it’s your lucky day to be baptized in the greek orthodox church”

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introducing...evan!!!

yes it was evan’s (see above) lucky day yesterday, as rochester ny’s most fabulous new resident was baptized (much to our local delight!) in baltimore’s own greektown. he’s got quite’a set’a lungs, that kid, as he let out some serious howls after he was dipped in holy water a few times. (umm, if you were cold and naked and wet (and most likely hungry) in front of a crowd in a church, you’d probably be crying, too.) then he peed on his godmother, poor kid. ha. it was adorable, tho. we love him.

what i am esp. loving these days is my friends having kids. we have plenty of friends with children, but it’s only recently that some of my very oldest friends are having babies. what i am loving even more is that my very oldest guy friends (greg and simon/simos, that’s you;) are having babies before my girlfriends. and what i am loving even more, if that’s possible, is watching them as new dads.

ok, so i am not just watching, i am, as the jews say (in yiddish), is kveling [say: K (as in: c‘mon!) K-vel (like “bell”)-ing], which basically means (b/c there’s no dictionary translation for yiddish words b/c us jews take so darn long to explain everything) bubbling over with emotion–like…bursting at the seams. they are already the best dads to these little boys (grant & evan). and what’s even cuter is that they’re both really big guys and seeing them hold these little babies and coo all over them is like…….well, i kvel. and then i get a little verklempt. then i plotz. and then i need a nosh. (when don’t i need a nosh?)

ok, WAIT. stop. i have referenced too many funny ethnic things in this post to go on any further b/c 1) i’m laughing too hard and 2) you need to know what i’m talking about if you don’t know already b/c it’s too funny for you not to know.

the title of this post is one of my favorite lines from “my big fat greek wedding” (one of my all-time favorite movies), which is said more along the lines of:

 “it’za your’a LUCKY DAY to be a-bapTIZED in the GREEK [tongue roll] ORTHODOX CHURCH.”

the dad (Gus) said this to the fiancee (Ian) in the movie–b/c he had to be baptized as greek orthodox before he married his daughter (Toula). holly had to whisper “don’t say that to anyone today, ok???”  to me at least three times yesterday at the church and then again at lunch afterwards (you can’t take me anywhere. really, you can’t), esp. since a grown man was being baptized (JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIE!) at the same time (simon’s soon-to-be brother-in-law; it was a two’fer yesterday. total baptism two’fer) as evan.

i wound up breaking down and telling evan it was his a-lucky day to be a-bapitzed in the greek orthodox church at the restaurant after lunch. i was high on greek pastries. luckily he’s three months old and didn’t get it. ha.

in honor of evan and yesterday’s festivities and this blog post and new babies and ethnic ppl in general, i am posting one of my favorite scenes from the movie. (YES. IT WAS MY TWIN. you know the one! ha.)

i am also posting a classic clip of coffee talk with linda richman, she of verklempt. (this is the one with *madonna* and roseanne!!! and BARBARA. like BUTTAH! like two sticks’a buttah!)

simos/lena! love you guys! LOVE EVAN. greg/susan: love YOU guys! LOVE GRANT! love that you guys are dads!!!

love the greeks! love the jews! (WHY ARE WE SO SIMILAR? WHY DO WE TALK SO LOUD?!!)

 turn up your volume & prepare to laugh. these will make your day.

(ok, i just watched both of those again and i have tears, i’m laughing so hard. tears. omg i love it.)

i have been a negligent blogger lately

and i feel just terrible about it. there’s so much i want to tell all of you. and yet: i have no time. or have a headache (the transition to springtime is esp. hard for whatever reason, prob. the friggin barometric pressure). or am working on my book proposal (and trying to find an agent), which is proving to be a much bigger endeavor than i realized. (also there is Other Stuff that you won’t find out about until the book is published)

also: passover is kicking my a** this year!!! it’s not so much that i want bread, it’s just that it’s…inconvenient. logistically. trust me, it’s not that i don’t appreciate the exodus from egypt and all, i just want to buy lunch (or just pop something in the microwave) b/c i suck at bringing it/making it. i mean, how much tuna/egg salad and matzah can one really eat? i’m even beginning to tire of the chocolate-covered raspberry jelly rings. last week i twittered that i actually wanted to marry one. (that or a choc-covered passover marshmallow. or both.) now that‘s saying something.

and…one last thing: major blog shoutout at yonat ‘n jason for hosting the BSE (best. seder. ever!) thursday night. HOLLA! srsly. you guys rule. and the fact that your son not only dressed up as pharaoh but did such a good job singing all the awesome passover kids songs (awww i am smiling just thinking about it) made for a casual evening. serendipitously, i sat directly in front of the delicious brisket. also od’ed on yonat’s insanely good homemade choc-chip mandel bread (how do i describe mandel bread? hmm…oh i know. kosher-for-passover biscotti.)  this made for a happy jessica. thanks again, guys! mmmmmwah!

the camera doesn’t just add 10

it adds 20. srsly, ppl.

holly and i watched our wedding video for the first time last night. i’m not one that likes to even look at photos of herself, much less moving images. so let’s just say i wasn’t one of those recent brides who was bubbling over with excitement at the mere *thought* of watching her wedding video.

after viewing it in its entirety, i must say the following:

1. yes, the camera really does add 20. i’m not kidding. this must be why tv personalities are so skinny in real life. b/c if you’re, say, a normal, average-type weight (which i consider myself to be) you will no doubt look like a blimp on the tube.

2. boy i really looked like i was gonna throw up under the chuppah! (that’s the jewish marriage canopy; the couple stands under it during the marriage ceremony) also, my eyes were moving around a lot! i looked a little weird. but it could have been worse: i could have barfed. or fainted. which i didn’t. and for that i give myself three snaps in a z formation.

3. holly and i kept talking to each other during ceremonial things. what were we talking about?! ya got me. (tho, if memory serves me right, we were just trying to keep each other from aforementioned barfing and fainting.)

4. clearly i blanked out. from nerves, i suspect. b/c doggone it! all that stuff the rabbi was saying? yeah, totally forgot what she said. don’t even think i heard it in the first place. nice ceremony, tho!! glad i finally got to hear it!

5. we have good-looking friends!! haha! no, i knew that already. but all you guys, if you’re reading, you looked fabulous. really and truly.

6. for some reason, i didn’t realize the sheer mass of ppl dancing the horah with us and around us (that’s how us jews celebrate–we dance around and around in circles til we’re dizzy. then newlyweds are hoisted up on chairs and bounced around in the air by drunk ppl! i must say, i surprised myself by how much i enjoyed this!) holly and i were in the middle of the circle. then my mom and i linked arms and danced. and it’s funny, i mean, i knew there were ppl around us, but i was so focused on holly, then my mom, that i didn’t notice. our cameraman (our friend peter! hi pete!) must’ve stood up on a chair and he got this spectacular aerial view. and i was awestruck by all the friends circling around us. i mean, it was unbelievable. so much love, so much support. all these bodies and smiles swirling around and around us…finally seeing that on video was worth every wince of actually seeing myself on camera. it really was. thank you, wonderful friends, for surrounding us with so much love.

 happy friday, everyone!

unlawfully wedded

on saturday afternoon we got a phone call. holly picked up, and judging by her side of the conversation, it sounded like a survey. i was surprised when a) she didn’t hang up and even more when b) she handed me the phone.

“here,” she said with a shrug. “they want to talk to the second-oldest person in the household.”

intrigued, i got on the phone. turns out it was a maryland department of health & mental hygiene survey (i’ve always wondered about the term “mental hygeine,” (iJs) but anyway) about smoking and tobacco use. so i’m like, ok, this sounds totally legit and as a journalist, i’m down with helping out with statistical info. the survey lasted a while. maybe 10 or 15 minutes. at the end, she asked about my marital status. there were the usual choices, and i was like, in my most polite voice (yes, i can be polite) b/c this nice survey lady has nothing to do with the laws in maryland,

“well, i’m married. i mean, i just had a wedding a month ago. but in the eyes of the state, i’m not married. so yeah, i guess you’ll have to put me down as ‘single.'”

she was like, “oh.”

she put me down as unmarried but living w/someone or something.

honestly, it kinda stung. no, it definitely stung. it was a slap in the face from this state that i live in and that i bleed taxes to. like i said, i wasn’t mad at the nice survey lady, i was just irritated. that after a $XX-thousand-dollar wedding with a rabbi and 150 guests and a handmade wedding dress that i literally bled for (hey, those pins are sharp! ok, i’m being dramatic, but still) and family drama and wonderful best people (i.e. wedding attendents), i’m still considered “single” in the eyes of the state.

it didn’t get me down. i mean, my feathers were ruffled for a couple minutes but i got over it quickly. it just really irks me that i can’t get holly on my health insurance while she’s looking for a new job and we have to hire a lawyer to draw up power of attorney paperwork, etc. b/c G-d forbid anything happens to either one of us, we have no legal rights: can’t visit each other in the hospital, can’t make decisions for each other–nothing.

a couple weeks after the wedding, i joked to holly that we were “unlawfully wedded” and, truly, we are. i’m one of those ppl who jokes around about stuff to feel better, and joking around about our legal “marital status” makes it sting a little less, but it still sucks.

sorry to get all debbie downer on ya on a monday morning. other than that, we had a fabulous weekend.

friday night, we hung out w/some of our favorite boys (including two of my best ppl and closest friends andrew and john) for justin’s photography opening at tangysweet (GREAT YOGURT OMG). saturday night we went to prob. one of the best holiday parties *ever* at this venue called the elm–which is actually someone’s *house*–in baltimore’s hampden neighborhood. august and julie made this kickass winter wonderland backdrop for photos and we were all taking these funny prom-like pics in front of it. of course, the later it got, the sillier the pictures got. (see below!)

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yesterday we bought all this fresh *pizza dough* at our fav little italian deli/grocery (more on that another day; omg. best. italian. place. ever.), went to the mawl to get a pizza stone with one of our wedding giftcards and holly proceeded to make some of the best pizza (w/homemade sauce, YES i married a fabulous cook) i’ve ever sunk my teeth into. this was all for our little ravens (baltimore) vs. steelers (pittsburgh, PEE-AY) get together last night (i will not publicly trash talk but let’s just say we were happy w/the outcome). in between all of that, my bookclub was treated to complimentary tix (thanks, renee!) to see “caroline or change” at baltimore’s centerstage, which was awesome. we took an informal survey and it turns out that, yup, we all cried. hey, us bmore bookclubbers may get loud sometimes (ok, all the time) but we’re big ol softies inside…

remember when i said there’s nothing like a facebook birthday?

to make you feel popular? i’ve also been known to say that that coming out on facebook is the best thing ever. well add facebook weddings to the list! b/c omg. now that the dust has settled i’m reflecting on all the wonderful things ppl said, all the wonderful, forever-and-ever-and-evers we got on m’doggone wall, even from ppl from way back when, folks who i haven’t seen or talked to in years and years, from colleagues, from ppl far and wide, it’s just amazing. (to all of you! thankyoutthankyouthankyou!) i swear, technology can sometimes be a royal pain in the ass. but honestly? sometimes it’s downright heartwarming.