Monday, February 21, 2011


For those who don't know, I love to cook.  Growing up, the men were usually the ones slaving away over a hot stove, grilling choice cuts of meat and whipping up delicious desserts.  It all started with my Grandpa Pete, my dad's father, who, after immigrating to the United States from the Philippines, was a cook in the army and a chef for Will Rogers.  I remember as a kid, excited to head to my grandparent's house for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I learned to love our native food but also appreciated a well cooked steak.  As time went on my father did much the same in our house.  We, including my mom, became spoiled when it came to meals.  But after watching two generations of men create memorable meals, I learned how to experiment with cooking.  Now I am not a chef my any means, but I seem to get alot of requests from friends and family for my recipes.
This is the first of many recipes I will be sharing.

This recipe will serve 2 to 4 people.

4    6.5 oz canned chopped clams separated from the juice.  Reserve juice*
2    lbs of freshly shucked clams
1    8 oz clam juice
3    Large russet potatoes cubed into 2" pieces
1/3 lbs baby carrots whole
4    large stalks of celery, cleaned and sliced into 1" pieces
1    8 oz can corn, drained
1    large garlic clove, minced
2    sprigs of fresh dill, minced
1    tablespoon of unsalted butter
2    tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1    small yellow onion, minced
1    tablespoon of all purpose flour
2    cups of whole milk AND
1    cup of heavy cream**
1    pinch of cayenne pepper OR dried red pepper flakes (optional)
      salt and pepper to taste

*Substitute canned clams with 2 lbs freshly shucked clams and increase the clam juice to 12 oz
**Substitute the whole milk and cream with 3 cups of 2% or 1% milk

  • Heat a large pot, nothing smaller than a 5 quart, over medium-high heat
  • Add the butter and olive oil.
  • Once the butter has melted and the two have combined, add in the onions and garlic.  Cook until the onions turn translucent.
  • Add in a pinch of both salt and pepper.
  • Add the potatoes and cook until they are almost soft.  Don't overcook them.
  • Add in the carrots and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add celery and cook until they become soft.
  • Slowly add in the flour, about half a teaspoon at a time.  Make sure to incorporate the flour with the rest of the ingredients and eliminating any chunks of lumps of flour. 
  • Add in the clams and cook for about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add about half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add in the reserved clam juice from the can and the additional 8 oz.  Bring to a simmer.
  • Add in the milk and heavy cream.  Bring to a full boil.
  • Add in a pinch each of salt, ground black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Stir.
  • Add in most of the minced dill.  Reserve some for garnish. 
  • Add in corn
  • Lower the burner to low heat and cover.
  • Slowly cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  Checking every 10 to 15 minutes.
  • The longer it sits the better so you can actually leave it on the stove longer.
  • Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the reserved dill.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

INTERIOR IDEAS. Penny Pinching is a Good Thing: Inexpensive Ways to Fill Your Home

Craigslist.  Ebay.  Antique Stores.  Sidewalks.
From the internet to street corners, it's not very hard to find bargains.  But I'm not talking about airfares or designer bags.  Instead I am referring to chairs, floor lamps and yes even crystal glasses, all at rock bottom prices or better yet, many people's favorite word, FREE.  In today's economic climate we are all finding ways to save or stretch a buck.  We buy combo meals because it's cheaper than buying each item individually.  We go to Happy Hour for cheaper drinks.  But our homes are the places we try to save the most:  Lowering the utility bills by turning off electronics when we leave the house, saving water by sweeping the driveway or switching to mobile service only and ditching the landline. 

What happens when you want that floor lamp you saw on DWR's website or a new coffee table and you just paid PG&E, AT&T and other acronyms you write a check to every month?  The first place you should hit, and we all know this, is Craigslist (  You never know what you'll find.  If you dig long enough you'll find some great pieces and my partner and I can attest to that.  Our best find was the Artemide Mega Tolomeo floor lamp (sold at DWR for upwards of $775 we randomly found one day a few blocks from our place.  The seller had just gotten it, didn't like it (God knows why) and didn't want to go through the hassel of returning it.  Instead he posted it on CL and we ran right over.  Why?  He was selling it for $100.  SCORE!  It was in great condition and looked great in our living room (pictured).  Of course there is the ever popular Ebay where we found the Kartell white ghost chair that we won for $200, there was no tax and shipping was included (DWR sells the chair for $410). 

But if you don't have the patience to sit in front of a computer for hours on end or hate venturing into thrift stores with its mix of used jeans merchandised next to grandma's old sofa with that musty, weird smell that lingers even after you've left the store, there is an alternative:  a hotel liquidation center.  When hotels, motels and resorts renovate, the existing furniture just can't be sent to landfills.  That's a waste.  Instead, the pieces are sold to stores who then resell them at great prices.  For example to stage a home in Los Angeles last year, we found Hotel Surplus Outlet ( that sells furniture from properties like The Peninsula Hotel of Beverly Hills.  After finding them online, we ventured out to the San Fernando Valley where we found a huge warehouse of furnishings of all types.  With a limited budget, we found it cheaper to purchase pieces from them than trying to rent the furniture.  For the living room (pictured below) we were able to find a $200 microfiber sofa, 2 lounge chairs for $80, a wall mirror for $75, a glass and chrome coffee table for $75 and 2 chrome floor lamps for $150.  The drapery panels and hardware were picked up from Target for around $45 and the bookcase in the corner was a discard from another client.  In total $625 (plus tax) for a new living room.

The outlet came in handy for the dining area also where we found the table for $150 and splurged on 4 chairs for $500.  The chandelier was $150 from Lamps Plus ( and again the bookcase was a discard from another client.  The result wasn't bad at all for $800.

Speaking of staging, many staging companies turn their inventory when they need or want to.  If you head back to Craigslist in any city, click on "furniture" under "for sale" and type in the word "staging", you'll find these companies.  The up side to this is that since the pieces were used for staging, chances are they would be pretty near new condition.  You can also visit and click "Directory" to find the closest staging company to you.

Yet another place to find slightly used furniture are consignment stores, which sells merchandise for people of which the store gets a percentage of each sale.  Pieces can include designer and high-end furniture from an estate where a couple is getting divorced or someone who has decided to redecorate their home and doesn't want to use sites like Craigslist.  In Chicago, Berry Hill Home Furniture Consignment ( sells designer sofas for half or more off of retail prices.

If you don't have a hotel liquidation place near you or you prefer brand new furniture, then don't discount retailers that have outlet stores like Crate & Barrel ( who has outlets in 8 states and Restoration Hardware that has 11 outlet stores nationwide (  Just like clothing outlets, these stores have an array of merchandise of outlet only type items or slightly damaged pieces discounted from 20% to 50% or more.  Another great tip about retail stores is at the end of year they perform inventory and the less to count the better.  So at "end of year sales" or "after Christmas sales", you can pick up furnishings at outlet prices, mostly in the stores but retailers sometimes post them on their sites. 

When it all comes down to it, our homes are our castles.  But we don't have to spend a king's ransom to furnish them.