In Susie’s Kitchen – If You’re Hungry . . . Get Lucky

Posted on by Melissa Burton in Food & Nutrition | 5 Comments

It’s Food Week here at thevalentineRD and to make sure that we do it right, we have “In Susie’s Kitchen” with the low-down on a fun new cookbook!

 

Let’s play word association. When I say “Jackie Collins,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? (I know—sex, right?) You’d hardly think of rich pesto, briny lemon chicken, or luscious, silky butterscotch pie . . . well, maybe that last one!

 

But the ever-fabulous Ms. Collins has put together a cookbook in honor of her most-celebrated heroine, Lucky Santangelo, and there are some tasty recipes to be found in the pages of The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook. I was more than thrilled to receive a copy for review!

Jackie Collins, Lucky Santangelo, cooking, Italian food

 

A bit of background: Jackie Collins has written eight novels about the Santangelo family featuring her ballsy (ahem), sexy heroine, Lucky and her ex-gangster father, Gino. I do have to say that even as a young teenager sneaking CHANCES and LUCKY out of the local library (sorry, mom!), what really made an impression on me about these books—besides the really really racy sex scenes!—was how Lucky Santangelo always stood up for her family and her decisions, whether business or personal.  Collins had developed a female character with strong principles, and she leaped right off the page—and still does!

So, to the cookbook. While I did not have the opportunity to sample as many recipes as I would have liked, I did try three savory dishes, all of which were quite good. However, I did notice some standout copy-editing issues in the recipes that could make for confusion with cooks, and I’ll point them out here.

 

The first recipe I tried—and loved! I’ve since made it again—was the Chicken Breasts with Roasted Lemon, Green Olive and Capers. This was a quite yummy dish—a little briny, perhaps too briny for some (I couldn’t find salt-packed capers, so that likely didn’t help) but personally, I love lemon, so this dish was perfect for me over some rice.

Jackie Collins Cookbook, Lucky Santangelo, chicken, Italian cooking

Chicken Breasts with Roasted Lemon, Green Olive and Capers

 

A bit of a note about the recipe—the directions include a note to add “the chicken broth, olives, capers . . . “ but the ingredients list doesn’t include broth or an amount! I fudged it and used approximately one cup, which seemed to work both times I made the dish, so that would be my suggestion.

 

Next, I sort of divorced two elements—I made Gino’s Favorite Pesto without the Pizza (I tossed it over some whole wheat penne instead.) The first thing I noticed was that the recipe contains 3 tablespoons of butter, which I thought was a little odd as I’d never seen butter in pesto before.

 

I did some searching on the web but couldn’t find anything other than a few threads claiming that butter isn’t traditional. An old Chowhound thread claimed that “pesto” is derived from the vessel in which the sauce is traditionally made—the pestle—so while oil is without question classic, if a recipe adds a bit of butter for a reason (perhaps smoother taste, maybe to soften the garlic a bit?) nothing says that it can’t do so. It simply won’t be a traditional pesto.

 

Well, mine definitely wasn’t since I ended up not using pine nuts either—by the time I found mine, turned out they were a tad rancid (ew) so I used walnuts instead, which I toasted a little for extra flavor.

 

My first taste after mixing in the butter—not bad! It did seem to mellow the garlic flavor, which I usually find sharper, but this might have also offset the balance a little bit. It did make the pesto seem a little richer in mouthfeel. (Sadly, I hadn’t left my butter out long enough to soften as much as it should have, so I had teeny flecks of butter throughout my pesto. I figured they’d melt over the pasta, which they did.)

Jackie Collins Pesto, Lucky Santangelo Cookbook, Italian cooking, pasta
Next up, I went a slightly healthier route with the Sole with Parmesan Crust. Now, I ultimately wound up loving the flavors in the recipe, but I had many issues with this along the way (namely, that the crust wouldn’t stick to the fish. I know—first world problem.)

 

My main issue here – and I’m being very nitpicky, but on behalf of home cooks everywhere, which is why The Valentine RD pays me the no-bucks! ☺ —is that the title calls for Sole. The ingredients list calls for Striped Bass.

 

These are two different types of fish. Sole is considered a “thin” fish and could easily be swapped out with similar types of fish, such as flounder, grey sole or lemon sole, tilapia (feh—though some are now farming this sustainably, so look for this type and buy healthy!) and trout.  Striped bass is considered a thick fillet—not comparable in cooking time to sole, which would be important in this recipe, as it would turn out rather undercooked—and could be compared in thickness to fish such as cod, grouper or monkfish. Even red snapper could be swapped out, despite its thinner appearance.

 

Okay, rant over. I used flounder, since that was freshest that day (and in fact you can—and should—simply buy what looks and smells freshest at your fishmonger’s that day, and adjust the cooking time of the recipe to suit your purchase. Fish is simple that way, depending on the recipe, of course.) In this case, the majority of the searing is done before the crumbs go on (or fall off. Oy, sorry. I’m still not over this!)

 

The crumbs themselves are really delicious! Panko, softened butter (make sure to leave it out until it is really soft for best results), finely chopped onion (I used a shallot—all I had), fresh rosemary, grated Parmigiano and salt and pepper—what could be bad? (Nothing – I literally chased the last crumbs around my plate!)

 

I seared the fish until opaque, then attempted to spread the crumbs on top before putting them in the oven to brown for the final minutes . . . no dice. Those crumbs didn’t want to stick. I finally made it work, but in the end, it all tasted so good, it really didn’t matter. I would absolutely make these again.  They were just delicious!

Jackie Collins Sole
After all the buttery, briny goodness, I really longed for a vegetable . . . and perusing the side dishes, my eye fell on something a little unusual—Jackie’s Green Beans with Cumin for a Crowd (well, in our case, two. We downsized the recipe a bit.) This was FABULOUS!!!!  My husband kept saying “Won’t these be overcooked? I hate overcooked vegetables!”

 

They do cook for a long time—close to twenty minutes all in. But their unusual combination of flavors – the gingery, cuminy, peppery kick with a hint of lime and cayenne – is so good, that it makes sense to have the beans more tender than crunchy, as it helps to mellow the spices and meld the flavors. I highly recommend this one—perhaps alongside the sole!

 

If you’re a fan of Jackie Collins, this might be a fun book to add to your collection. (And I personally cannot wait to try that butterscotch pie!) I just have to wonder, though—if this is really how Lucky Santangelo cooks all the time, how on earth does she stay so fit?!?!

 

Disclaimer from thevalentineRD:  The cookbook link above is an Amazon affiliate link which means if you click the link and buy the book on Amazon, I may make a few pennies to add to my Duran Duran ticket fund for 2015.  Help a girl out, won’t you?

 

To connect with Susie via social media, you can find her on Twitter (most often) or Instagram (my girl could use a few followers so do what you can, please).

 

What is your favorite cookbook of all time?

Tunes For Tuesday – The 70′s With Elvis Costello

Posted on by Melissa Burton in Music | 8 Comments

Welcome to Tunes For Tuesday – The 70′s Edition for July!

Music, Tunes For Tuesday

Image: Daisy

 

Welcome to Week 3 of celebrating the Sounds of the 1970′s.  It’s July, the seventh month of the year so it’s all 70′s for all of July.

 

Today’s tune is Elvis Costello’s “What’s So Funny Bout Peace Love and Understanding”.    I can’t believe that this album was released in 1978.  I listened to a lot of Elvis Costello in the 80′s and 90′s but I still haven’t seen him live.  I know he’s performing at the Hollywood Bowl in September but I’m not sure it’s in the budget (I have a few concerts on tap this summer).

 

I hope you enjoy this tune as much as I do.

 

 

 

PS – I just recently saw “E.T.” and realized that the big brother, Mike, was signing Elvis Costello’s “Accidents Will Happen” during the film.

 

What’s your favorite Elvis Costello tune?

The New Menu at the Hard Rock Cafe is ImPRESSive

Posted on by Melissa Burton in Food & Nutrition | 8 Comments

The Hard Rock Cafe has been iconic since I was a teenager when having a shirt from any (and every) location was a bastion of pride.  Last year, I visited the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood during my own mini LA Duran Duran tour before I ran the Hard Rock Cafe 5K so imagine my delight when HRC invited me to a their Media Dinner previewing their new menu.  Being both a foodie and a music geek at heart, I was more than thrilled that this little blog allowed me to be considered “media” enough to be invited to this dinner.

 

#thisishardrock, Hard Rock Cafe, food, trends, foodie

Hard Rock Cafe Media Dinner

 

While the Hard Rock Cafe may mean little more than a tourist destination for many of my generation (the theme restaurant chain has been around since 1971), I can attest that HRC takes their “Love All, Serve All” mission to heart with food that is delicious and more on trend than you might expect!  I was definitely imPRESSed by the new menu (odd capitalization intended – read on!).

 

HRC Hollywood

Executive Chef Leonard Delgado at Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood

 

Our gorgeous 9 course meal (yes, 9 courses!!!) began with appetizers which included Balsamic Tomato Bruschetta (see collage photo) Spinach Artichoke Dip, Nachopalooza and Rockin’ Wings.  While the apps may be a bit dated in terms of being trendy, there’s a reason why you can find these dishes on menus everywhere – people love them!  The appetizers I tasted were all delicious (I don’t eat wings).  The food was fun and familiar which made socializing with everyone at the table (including some of the key members of the HRC team) feel like you were with old friends.

 

Hard Rock knows people like their drinks and so they offered 3 drink courses during our evening.  The Magical Mystery Mojitos (see collage photo) and the Air Mexico were a fun way to begin the night.  You may have seen the photo below in my Instagram feed.  This flight of 3 mini margarita drinks all included AVION Tequila and came in flavors like Wildberry, Pomegranate, Watermelon, Blue Curaçao, Mango and Cucumber. I loved the Blue Curacao and the chips and salsa side.

 

Tequila flight, @thisishardrock

Oh Air Mexico with AVION Tequila! Turtle, I’m thinking of you!

 

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that AVION was a real tequila.  I thought the TV show “Entourage” made it up.  If you already knew that AVION was a real tequila, I hope you’re not laughing at me.

 

The next drink absolutely blew my mind – take a look at the Red Berry Press (below)!  Yes, that’s a French Press used for an alcoholic drink.  This gem of homemade lemonade, SVEDKA Clementine Vodka, fresh lemons, strawberries and raspberries was pressed tableside.  Not only was this drink right up my alley taste wise, I now have another use for my coffee French Press (which has seen very little action since the Krups K-cup machine took up residence).  I am definitely stealing this idea for my next summer get together!  Is this not brilliant?!?  Color me imPRESSED (see why now?)!

 

Red Berry Press, Hard Rock Cafe, #thisishardrock

OMG, a French Press for an alcoholic drink? YES!

 

If it were up to me, I would have finished all the drinks but then my 9 courses would have ended at 2.  I was saved by a salad.

 

Grilled Chicken Arugula Salad

Grilled Chicken Arugula Salad

 

The Grilled Chicken Arugula Salad was close to everything I want in salad when I have one made at the “choose your own” salad places – grilled chicken, arugula, dried cranberries and feta cheese.  In addition, this salad also had spicy pecans, fresh oranges and a lemon balsamic vinaigrette.  I know salad is easy to make at home but I’ve said it many, many times but a salad is always better when someone else makes it and this one was no exception.

 

Course number 4 was Grilled Norwegian Salmon.  This fish was wrapped in cedar paper, grilled and had a barbecue sauce drizzled on it.  As a dietitian who knows that salmon is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids (known for proven cardiovascular benefits), seeing this selection on the menu made me happy.  I did forget to ask if the salmon was wild or farmed but I’m hoping the former.

 

Salmon

Grilled in cedar paper. Yum!

 

For the next two courses, I had to rely on my friend Elizabeth@FlourishInProgress for help because I don’t eat red meat.  I don’t avoid red meat (or pork) for health reasons, I have never cared for the taste.  Elizabeth gave me the thumbs up on the following meat courses:

  • The SmokeHouse course included a Hickory-Smoked BBQ Chicken & Ribs Combo and a Smoked Beef Brisket.
SmokeHouse, HRC

Meat!

 

  • The Legendary Burgers course was a flight with the Legendary Burger (smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and a fried onion ring), the Fiesta Burger (roasted jalapeño salsa, melted Jack cheese, guacamole and pico de gall0) and the Tango Burger (two sloppy joe patties with American and Jack cheeses, barbecue sauce, blue cheese and horseradish mayo).  My picture came out nice and I can confirm that the fries were yum!

 

burgers, Hard Rock Cafe, fries

The Legendary Burger Flight.

 

Next was the Local Craft Beer Flight.   With this course I got to return the favor to Elizabeth and help her out because she is not a beer drinker.  Reed Bowlby, the General Manager of the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood, let us know that each Hard Rock Cafe partners with local breweries to offer a taste of what’s locally available.  We’re talking trendy IPA’s, Hefeweizens, Lagers and Pale Ales in CA (each location is different).  Reed was especially helpful in explaining the properties of each beer and I think may have even converted Elizabeth to (dare I say it?) like beer!

 

The dessert and last drink courses were super decadent!  Fresh Apple Cobbler, Hot Fudge Brownie (with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream) and a Cheesecake Made with Oreo Pieces.  I honestly could barely take a bite of each because I was stuffed but they were quite sinful.  I wish I took a picture of the desserts but instead I was bowled over by one of my favorite dessert trends – Salted Caramel.

Bacon Dessert

Twist and Shout Shake with Rum, Guinness, Salted Caramel, Chocolate and BACON!

 

For those that don’t want to eat their dessert, HRC offers liquid adult (read: alcohol laden) sweet drinks as well.  The Twist and Shout Shake (Bacardi OakHeart Spiced Rum, Guinness, DeKuyper Dark Creme de Cacao, salted caramel, chocolate and bacon – yes BACON!) and the Salted Caramel Cafe (Tia Maria, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Salted Caramel, half and half, whipped cream and caramel corn).  I’m not normally a dessert drinker but these I liked.  I don’t like bacon (it’s true, hold your tomatoes please) but I actually tried it in the Twist and Shout and it was pretty good!

 

Salted Caramel, Hard Rock Cafe

Salted Caramel

 

By the time the eating (and drinking) part of the night was over, I was stuffed.  However, it was nice to talk directly with the Executive Chef of the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood, CA, Leonard Delgado and learn two interesting facts:

  1. There are no “secret” menus at Hard Rock Cafe.  If there’s a special request due to taste preference, allergies or anything else, any and all HRC locations will try to honor that request.  They want all guests to feel like VIP’s every day.
  2. The Hollywood and Highland location is one of two HRC’s that have a special pizza oven.  We didn’t get to try the very famous pizza but it may be another reason to get me to return.

 

Hard Rock Cafe definitely imPRESSed me with their dedication to appreciating good music, interesting people and delicious food and drink.  They even gave me a very cool parting gift (that keychain is a mini flask)!

Hard Rock Cafe

The keychain attached to the glass is a mini flask. Nice touch!

 

I’m happy to say that I look at Hard Rock Cafe in a new light, one that’s relevant to me NOW.  I can see why HRC is using the hashtag #thisishardrock.  I’ve already said that I’m impressed and I really am looking forward to visiting a HRC in the future and I know that I’ll be participating in the Run Hard Rock Cafe 5K in November!

For more information on Hard Rock Cafe, find your local location here or follow them on Facebook, Instagram Twitter or Pinterest.

 

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend this dinner as a member of the media (which still astounds me a bit) but was under no obligation (financial or otherwise) to write about my experience. All opinions and photos are my own.

 

What dish or drink sounds best to you?  If you’re in the LA area, come and join me for the Run Hard Rock Cafe 5K (link above) in November!

Friday’s Featured Female – Nellie@BrooklynActiveMama

Posted on by Melissa Burton in Friday's Featured Female | 29 Comments

Welcome to Friday’s Featured Female!

Friday's Featured Female, #FFF

This weekly series features inspirational stories from admirable women.  IMHO, it’s always good to be reminded of how strength, determination, hard work, heart and ingenuity can impact the quality of one’s life and I’m proud that these women will allow me to share their stories here.

Today’s #FFF is Nellie@BrooklynActiveMama.  I met Nellie at FitBloggin’ 2013 and finding out that she was from Brooklyn was only the first thing that drew me to her. Nellie is a woman whose style, warmth and dedication is easily readable from just her smile – but there’s undeniable sass there too.  There’s a strength about Nellie that’s rare.  She’s sweet but she’s no doormat!

I love that Nellie is all about supporting her community of women whether they be bloggers, health and fitness enthusiasts or parents.   Let it be known that this woman has gotten me to get out my comfort zone not once but twice – in fitness (we had a very special Sweat Date last summer) and as a professional (when I was a featured panelist at A Healthy U, the health and wellness conference she helped co-found) and I’m forever grateful for both experiences.  Nellie is a woman you need to know (if you don’t already) so I’ll stop rambling and ask….

 

Soooo have you met Nellie?

 

Brooklyn Active Mama, fitness, health, parenting, fashion

Brooklyn Active Mama Nellie and her 2 boys

 

Hey yall! My name is Nellie and I blog over at Brooklyn Active Mama. I am so excited and honored to be a featured female in this series as I have personally been so inspired by the women that preceded me.

 

My fitness story is complicated, but whose isn’t? This fitness life is not easy, we are constantly battling outside challenges (like work, motherhood, extremely yummy food) while maintaining the fittest body we can!

 

I began blogging in 2011 because I was 5 months pregnant and frustrated. I couldn’t exercise the way I wanted to due to extreme sciatica, never ending morning sickness and some other complications. Prior to getting pregnant with my second boy I had successfully lost 40 pounds through hard work and exercise. Despite all of that fun morning sickness, I still gained 60 pounds with that pregnancy.

 

When it was all said and done I was 35 pounds over prepregnancy weight. Over the past 2 years I have worked really hard to lose 27 pounds–there was a lot of hills and a lot of valleys but my boys make putting my health first worth it.

 

Brooklyn Active Mama, fitness, health

27 lbs and counting!

 

When my youngest was 9 months old I got inspired to teach Zumba. Being an instructor has taught me so much about myself. I have always wanted to teach dance because it is something that comes so naturally for me. If someone were to do a DNA test of me it would come up “100% Dancer”. To see the impact/dedication from my students is completely humbling.

 

Brooklyn Active Mama, Zumba, fitness, instructor

Nellie teaching Zumba at A Healthy U, the conference she helped co-found

 

Recently I decided to step completely out of my comfort zone and start training for a 10k. I have always loved running races but have never pushed past the 5k threshold. Now that I am in formal training, I am crazy excited about this new journey and can’t wait to cross that finish line. I am being sponsored by Chocolate Milk for my first 10K race in September called Run 10 Feed 10 and I will be taking my first ever racecation to Walt Disney World next February for the Enchanted 10K during the Princess Marathon weekend.

 

Running always seemed like an impossible task for me, yet I am learning along my training that you can do anything as long as you put in the work.

******

To give Nellie your best piece of running advice or to connect further, use these social media outlets:

Blog:   http://brooklynactivemama.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/glamnellie

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/BrooklynActiveMama

Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/bklynactivemama/

Instagram:  http://instagram.com/glamnellie

15 Bingeworthy TV Shows – on Netflix or Amazon Prime

Posted on by Melissa Burton in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

I’m excellent at procrastination and lately the way I’ve been avoiding my work/feeding my insomnia is the rabbit hole known as the Netflix binge.

 

Binge watching television

Clearly not advice that I’m taking.
Image: Duncan

 

I did the “House of Cards” binge (S1 in two nights but S2 took longer), the “Orange Is The New Black” binge (S1 only, I’m saving S2) and I’m currently knee deep in the teen drama “One Tree Hill“.  Don’t judge!  I didn’t watch the show the first time around but it’s reminiscent of the 80′s teen dramas I love so much (like “Dawson’s Creek” which I could watch over and over again…for Pacey Witter NOT Dawson).

 

Since I know that I’m not the only one who gets sucked into to the newest socially acceptable form of bingeing and because I see requests on Facebook and Twitter nearly every day for recommendations of what shows to binge-watch next, I’m sharing some shows you might want to start watching before the Fall TV season kicks in.

 

Because once you’re done with “Breaking Bad“, “Mad Men“, “Sons of Anarchy“, “Dexter“, “Scandal“, or “The Walking Dead” (which I hear is good but I can’t get into), you really do need a next show to watch!

 

15 Bingeworthy TV Shows, Netflix, Amazon Prime

(in no specific order)

If you like gritty, masculine energy dramas:

 

The Shield” – Amazon Prime

The Shield, Michael Chiklis, Bingeworthy TV

This LA based cop-drama shows not only the camaraderie between officers who work and risk their lives together fighting crime (most often drug related crime), it also shows how dirty cops can get.  Michael Chiklis is stellar as Vic Mackey but don’t miss the amazing Walton Goggins (Shane Vendrell).  Kurt Sutter, the producer of “Sons of Anarchy“, was a producer, writer and director on “The Shield“.

 

Rescue Me” – Netflix

Rescue Me, 9/11, Denis Leary, firefighters

I thought I hated Denis Leary until I watched this show.  As a New York based firefighter post 9/11, Tommy Gavin, is guilty at the loss of his cousin during the Twin Tower tragedy, he’s divorced from his wife and kids but he’s married to his job.  You get a bit of wit, darkness, humor and mystery while feeling like you’re one of the guys.  I was sad when I watched the last episode of this show.  A classic IMHO.

 

Oz” – Amazon Prime

OZ, HBO, Chris Meloni, bingeworthy television

Some people love HBO’s “The Wire“, it bored me to tears but “Oz” appeals to my dark side.  This prison drama is beyond dark.  This show is violent, raw and deep and with some stellar dramatic acting.  It also has Chris Meloni naked.  Enough said.

 

 

If you love teen dramas with edge:

 

Skins” (UK S1 and UK S2 ONLY) – Netflix

UK Skins, bingeworthy television, TV

English teen drama with kids that get away with a crap ton.  I only like the first two seasons of this show.  Nicholas Hoult (of “About A Boy” and the recent X-Men movies) has the main role and he’s brilliant.  Once the series starts with his sister in the main role, I got bored.

 

Pretty Little Liars” – Netflix

Pretty Little Liars, bingeworthy TV

Based on the series of young adult novels, PLL, follows four high school girls that seem to have drama and mystery following them (not in a ridiculous Disney TV show kind of way) but in a semi-suspend-disbelief-for-the-sake-of-drama kind of way that’s enjoyable.  These girls are smarter than your average teen and have wardrobes that I would have killed for when I was younger (read: I’d take their wardrobes now too).  Odd tidbit: I have a penchant for interesting character names (without being soap-opera overdone), so I kind of love that there’s a character is named Aria on the show.

 

 

If you like drama that’s not too heavy but isn’t entirely mind numbing:

 

Friday Night Lights” – Netflix and Amazon Prime

Friday Night Lights, TV

Image: tchuntfr

Is it wrong to admit that this show actually taught me about football and I liked it?  I never watched this show when it was on the first time around and a friend kept telling me to try it.  I tried the first episode 3 times and couldn’t get through it.  After skipping the first episode and going straight to the second, I was hooked.   This teen and adult drama set in town in a Texas with one focus – the high school football team.  The actors are all stellar and the story lines (both adult and teen) are compelling.  Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are fabulous and their portrayal of a southern couple (warts and all) is exceptionally compelling.  The series falls a little toward the last season or two but the characters are all very rich.  Landry and Tyra were my favorite characters – these two teenagers were played with more heart, strength and intelligence than I’ve seen on television in awhile.

 

Parenthood” – Netflix and Amazon Prime

Parenthood, NBC, bingeworthy TV

This family centered drama has the same head writer and executive producer as “Friday Night Lights” and it shows.  The characters are multifaceted and the story lines reflect different versions of parenting and being part of a family.  I resisted watching this show because it was (loosely) based on the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin (which I really liked) but after watching “FNL”, I gave it a shot and now I can’t wait for it to return this fall.   Also, you’ll get over Craig T. Nelson as Coach (from the late 80′s/early 90′s TV show of the same name) and Peter Krause as Nate from “Six Feet Under” quickly.

 

Private Practice” – Netflix

Private Practice, Shonda Rimes, bingworthy tv

This was a show I saw no reason for when this “Grey’s Anatomy” spin-off was on the air but once I got into “Scandal”, I decided to give the show a go and was pleasantly surprised.  While Kate Walsh’s Addison remains annoying, I fell in love with some of the characters on this show (Charlotte King and Cooper Friedman).  The Shonda Rimes magic is woven throughout this show…and there’s Tim Daly (who I can watch on screen forever!)

 

The West Wing” – Netflix and Amazon Prime

The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin, bingeworthy tv

Before there was “The Newsroom” on HBO, there was this exceptionally brilliant White House drama.  Aaron Sorkin’s fast moving dialogue and interesting characters made politics interesting (for me at least).  Yes, Rob Lowe is in the show and he’s gorgeous and all but it’s the banter and the characters that make this show a don’t-miss!  Jed Bartlett for President!  PS – For the “Grease” fans, it’s also fun to see Stockard Channing as NOT Rizzo.

 

 

If you appreciate the quirky:

Scrubs” – Netflix

Scrubs, Zach Braff, bingeworthy tv

I heart Zach Braff and this show is what put him and his amazing musical taste on the map (Can you believe it’s been 10 years since “Garden State“?!?).  This hilarious hospital based comedy is a buddy show that isn’t always ridiculous but when it is, it’s fantastic.  Great soundtrack and some phenomenal character angles.  Skip the last season though.

 

Wings” – Netflix

Wings, Empty, bingeworthy

Silly comedy that takes place in a small Nantucket airport focusing on the regional airline operated by two brothers.  There are some wacky characters played by some actors that are now well known like Thomas Haden Church and Tony Shaloub.  If you don’t know who they are, don’t tell me.  This show has one of my favorite television episodes of all time.  All you have to say is “Empty!” loud and with anger and I’ll crack up.  I even found a YouTube video of a mini clip of this episode called “The Houseguest” and I’m laughing as I write this.

 

Dead Like Me” – Amazon Prime only

 Dead Like Me, Showtime, bingeworthy

Before Mandy Patinkin was helping out Claire Danes on “Homeland”, he was in charge of a group of grim reapers who help remove souls before they die to guide them to the afterlife.  The main character is a girl named George who becomes the newest grim reaper after being killed by a toilet seat.  This comedy-drama only ran for two seasons but it was an interesting story and had some interesting perspectives on death and what death is like for the living.  Skip the direct to DVD movie though.

 

If you want to roll the dice and try something completely different (aka a Wild Card):

 

Queer As Folk” – Netflix

Queer As Folk, Showtime

Based on the British television series, this show focuses on a group of gay men and women living in Philadelphia.  There’s a lot of graphic sex and debauchery featured in the series but the show is really about love and friendship.  This is another very character driven show with heart.  Sharon Gless (of “Cagney and Lacey” fame) who plays Debbie, Peter Paige (Emmett) and Gale Harold (Brian) are phenomenal.

 

Absolutely Fabulous” – Amazon Prime

Absolutely Fabulous, Edina, Patsy,

Image: IMDB

This British sit-com is one of my favorite shows.  Little could be funnier than two oblivious middle aged women desperately try to remain hip and relevant by constantly trying to recreate a party atmosphere (at all times) while maintaining a religious adherence to the latest in fashion. Watching Patsy and Edina attempt to muddle through life (accompanied by some zany characters) is hilarious.  The ridiculousness and over-the-top characters definitely take you away from the real world in a way that no other American television show can.

 

**Not available but should be: “Nip/Tuck

Nip/Tuck, Ryan Murphy

Image: Wikipedia

This show used to be available on Netflix and it is usually my go-to repeat show to watch.  The show could be described as a drama focusing on two plastic surgeons in Miami (and later Los Angeles), their families and their patients but that wouldn’t be fully accurate.  This show featured graphic plastic surgery operations, a lot of sex, some drugs, alcohol and many other off the wall things but overall, this show was about two best friends and their lives.   Every episode revolved around one main patient but the patient’s life also had a way of weaving itself into the lives of the two main characters.  Created by Ryan Murphy (“Glee” and “American Horror Story”), the show is slick, strange and definitely interesting. It’s too bad that this show isn’t available for free right now.  It’s worth buying IMHO though.

 

So there you have it.  My picks for your next television binge.  Have you seen any or all of these yet?  Let me know.

What’s the last show you binged on?  What’s your next intended show?

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