Cathy Merenda
Cathy Merenda
Cathy Merenda
Cathy Merenda
Cathy Merenda


Oh Baby Baby

Has there been an explosion of babies on the earth?  Or at least in Southern California?   I dunno but seems like everywhere I go, everywhere I look or every person I talk to either has a baby, or is going to have a baby or is thinking of having a baby.   Eep.

Anyhow, I guess I’ve been taking a few baby photos lately.  There will be more but here’s a few from the newly born Taja and Skyler.   Both of their Mom’s are awesome (Dad’s too) and seem to let me do what I want with their kids.

Taja came first.   I did a photoshoot at 10 or so days.   She wasn’t really having it and her older sister Elle really didn’t want me there taking photos of this new person.   I went back a few weeks later to see if I could get some better shots.   I had a new prop, the big fluffy white blanket, which was very cool but did tend to get in the way a bit.   I do like a white background though.    Finally, I wanted to do something else.  For me.  I had an idea to put little Taja “in” an ad for a TV show.   So I had 3 shows to try.

1) HBO’s Girls  where we used stuffed animals to represent 3 of the 4 characters.   Of course Taja was Hanna (Lena Dunham) but Elaine swears that Marnie (Allison Williams) looks like a horse so naturally she’s the horse.   Zosia Mamet plays Shoshanna is represented by the ET doll and of course the character Jessa (Jamima Kirke) is the Cabbage Patch doll.  Elaine’s brother, a trained architect, drew the 3D park bench for me.

2) Orange is the New Black from Netflix. Where Taja plays the main character Piper (Taylor Schilling).

3) Finally, Sex and the City where naturally Taja is Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) surrounded by her favorite things.

Next up was Debra who let me photograph her the day before she gave birth to her daughter Skyler.  I came back a week later to meet Skyler and got a few good shots.

Girls Taja

Girls Taja

Orange is the New Black Taja

Sex and the City Taja






Apple Thing & National Medjool Date Day

Who knew?  Of course the King of Fruit should have it’s own day.  Feb 4th.  Get ready!  It’s going to be HUGE!

I love love medjool dates.  There’s nothing like a big fat fresh one!   Luckily, I live close to the Date Capital of the World in Coachella Valley.   There a many date farms out there and the freshest dates are at hand.

I like to eat them raw.   I discovered a variation of this recipe in a raw lifestyle pamplet in the early 90’s.    Once I tried it I became obsessed and literally ate it every morning for about 10 years.   TEN years.   Literally.   Somehow I got sidetracked with granloa and stopped having it every morning but I still love it.

It’s called Apple Thing for no apparent reason.   It could be called Raw Apple Pie, Apple Hash or something like that but Apple Thing suits and it stuck.    Oh and it’s in my book Sweet Things.  Yeah!


For one serving

1 apple (a sweet variety like Fuji, Braeburn, Gala)
1/4 cup raw whole almonds
1/4 lemon
3-4 medjool dates, pitted
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Slice apple in half, then core. Leave skin on.

Put almonds in a Cuisinart food processor with the blade attachment and pulse about 10 times until almonds have a rough chop.

Add pitted dates and pulse until mixture is crumbly and dates are chopped and incorporated.

Leave date mixture in bottom of Cuisinart but take out blade and insert either grating or french fry attachment.

Put top back on Cuisinart, insert apple into tube and shred. Remove top and blade attachment in Cuisinart. Dump apple mixture into wide bowl. Squeeze lemon juice on top then sprinkle with cinnamon.

Serve immediately.

Apple 005


Apple 013


Apple 018

Vegetarian Paella

Angel requested Paella for her birthday because she’s never had it.  So she threw it out there for someone to make it for her birthday.    I grabbed it because I’ve never made it and if someone else was going to make it I’m sure it would have meat in it.   So I selfishly volunteered so I could eat paella at Angel’s birthday party too!

Research showed me to a ton of postings on the interweb.  They were all a little different but basically the same.   I mean it’s just rice!   So I found myself in Sur la Table to look at paella pans.   Now that I’ve made it, I think it’s a must.   Proper equipment for the job.   Since I wasn’t sure of what I was doing I got the inexpensive $20 pan.   I also got the correct rice, Bomba.   Not sure if aborio rice would do the trick but the Bomba was da bomb!  One final kind of cheat that I got at Sur la Table was a jar of sofritto.  All paellas start with sofritto which is a mix of onion, tomato and garlic.   This is a cheat but man is it gooood.     I already had the smoked paprika which I had on hand from a trip to Penzey’s in Santa Monica and I already had saffron – both of these ingredients are a MUST.

For the “meat” and vegetables I used a jar of roasted marinated artichoke hearts (which were soooo good), red bell pepper, frozen peas and tofu.   The tofu wasn’t that great so next time I make this I’ll try other fake meats.

Vegetarian Paella

12” paella pan

4 cups vegetable broth
3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 jar Matiz Valenciano paella sofrito (or 1 choppped tomato, 10 cloves garlic & 1 onion)

1 large pinch saffron
2 tsp Spanish Style smoked paprika
¼ tsp Turmeric
salt & pepper
1 jar roasted marinated artichoke hearts
2 small red bell pepper cut into strips
1 cup fake meat of your choice (tofu, seitan, etc)

2 cups Bomba rice

½ cup frozen peas

1 lemon cut lengthwise into 6 slices.

Heat ¼ cup olive oil in paella pan, add artichoke hearts, bell pepper and fake meat.    Saute for about 5 minutes until bell peppers are soft.  Remove from pan and set aside.

In the meantime put saffron in ¾ cup hot water to soften.

Back in the hot paella pan add sofrito, paprika, turmeric, garlic, salt & pepper.  Sauté for a few minutes then add saffron with water, rice and stir.   Then add the vegetable broth and stir.  Rice will be covered.

Cook on medium high until the whole thing comes to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.

Place the cooked artichoke hearts, bell pepper and fake meat on top of rice.   Then throw on the peas.  Reduce heat to very low and cover the whole thing with aluminum foil for another 15 minutes.

Squeeze one of the lemon slices all over the paella and place remainder of the lemons on top of paella and serve.
Vegetarian Paella

Vegetarian Paella

Vegetarian Paella

Vegetarian Paella


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