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This recipe came about by accident while in the pursuit of a Tom Collins. I used white tequila instead, resulting in (what I feel) is an even better drink. The tequila blanco is milder, producing a light, fragrant aroma that brings out the best flavors of the fresh strawberries. This has become my go-to summer cocktail.

2 oz. Tequila Blanco
3/4 oz Rose’s Lime syrup
1 tsp sugar
Fresh strawberries, cleaned. Tops removed
Club soda
Crushed ice

Mix first 3 ingredients until sugar has dissolved. Add strawberries, crushed ice and top with club soda.

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I discovered the joy of Indian cuisine about five years ago. Dining with a friend, we wanted to try something new and chose the cute, brand-new Bombay restaurant in town. We began with the veggie sampler: Pakoras and Samosas, and the staple spiced crackers and sweet dipping sauce, before graduating to Curry and Saag Chicken. I wasn’t prepared for my own reaction. It tasted like comfort food, home on a plate, despite never having eaten anything like it before in my life.

Here’s a recipe for an easy tomato curry sauce I make regularly for my family. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Tomato Curry

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp cooking oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, rough chopped

2 16oz cans tomato (I use diced)

2 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1 Tbsp turmeric

1 Tbsp Garam Masala spice (McCormick is good, or make your own)

1 tsp Ground Coriander

1 tsp thyme leaves

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste, I like a little more heat than average)

½ tsp black pepper (or to taste)

½ tsp salt (or to taste, depending on your Garam Masala mix)

Hardware:

Wide skillet, blender.

The Method:

Heat oil over medium-high in wide skillet (12” or wider). When shimmering, add onion and sauté until softened & translucent (around 6-8 minutes). Add garlic and stir constantly, cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Add tomatoes with juices and stir to ensure onions & garlic don’t stick to bottom. Add spices and stir. Lower heat and simmer briskly for approximately 20-25 minutes, checking to ensure no sticking.

Test for seasonings, adjusting as necessary. Remove from heat and allow to cool somewhat while uncovered.

Carefully transfer curry to a blender. Pulse to puree curry to a creamy sauce.

There will be so much more evil in the world that the love of most […] will grow cold.” (Matt 24:12)

This subject has occupied my mind for the last several years. With recent events (public and private) I finally decided I should write about it. I am loathe to begin this post with this verse, simply for the concern readers will view this topic in a religious light. That’s not my intention. In fact, the issue of cold love is so big, this verse merely serves as anchor to provide context. Usually when the verse is read, it invokes thoughts of religious ardor, cooled by worldly cares. Maybe that’s a part of it, but I hardly think that to be the true message of the text.

It’s no secret that the world around us has grown increasingly violent. I needn’t expand on the recent cases of abuse, torture, murder and mass shootings that have made national headlines. Suffice it to say that events that could not have been conceived of even 20 years ago are now constant fears in the minds of many.

What I do want to address is how this has affected us. Consider the reaction to that terrible day at Columbine High School? The national state of grief and mourning? Compared to several more recent events, our reactions pale in comparison.

It is not to say that we simply do not care. Not by a long shot. We have been toughened. Calloused. The frequency of such awful events have changed our response. Why? It is the high cost of caring, which would bankrupt us emotionally if we were to allow our hearts to bleed for one another.

The reality is that the effects come with a price. What limits our pain also limits our joy. When we cauterize ourselves to tears, we lose the ability to rejoice. If I don’t love you enough to cry with you, I cannot love you enough to enjoy all the moments that make life worth the trouble. The truth is what protects us also imprisons us, cheapening our daily lives. Unchecked, we put ourselves in danger of feeling nothing at all, which may be the deepest depravity.

I write not because I have a solution, or any wisdom on the subject, save to say that I know how easy it is to simply turn the feelings off. In light of all the terrible stuff we see and hear daily, it feels like the better option. My aim is just to encourage you, reader, not to give in to that temptation, at least not as often as it calls to you.

Aside from opposable thumbs, love is one of the few things that separate us from most other creatures on Earth. It costs us something. Don’t give it up that easily.

“Gypsy” Style Potatoes

Let me begin by saying I’ve no idea where the name originated, and there’s reasonable doubt that “gypsies” were ever involved. I will say that the style of cooking, either in a skillet over prolonged high heat, or oven-roasted in a similar fashion, has a quaint, country style to it that conjures images of simple folk cooking this dinner over a campfire. It is one of my favorite recipes for its easy form, versatility and incomparable flavor.

 

To make a 9 x 13 tray, you’ll need the following (as well as an oven pre-heated to 425′):

1.5 lbs baby red potatoes, quartered or cut into medium dice
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 medium bell peppers, 1 red and 1 green, diced
6-8 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 oz mushrooms (I prefer baby bellas), cleaned and sliced thin
1 lb tomato of your choice. I like to make a pan of the Best Roasted Tomatoes alongside of the main dish and offer them to whomever wants to add them in.
Olive oil
2 chicken breast halves, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
8 oz cheese of your choice (I like a medley of whatever’s in my drawer, swiss or cheddar or mozzarella. Gruyere would be great, too.)
6 eggs
6 english muffins, split and toasted

Seasonings:

Salt & Pepper, Chicken fajita seasoning

Assemble the first five ingredients (6, with tomatoes) in a 9×13 high-heat proof baking dish. Season with salt & pepper, chicken fajita seasoning (dash) and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake at 425′ for an hour.

30 minutes into bake-time,  saute the chicken in a little olive oil with salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne. A touch of fajita seasoning is good here, too. Be careful not to over-season, since we have a lot of flavor going on already.

50 minutes into bake-time, fry eggs over-easy with a little oil. Season to taste. Toast muffins.

Prior to finish, remove dish from oven, smother in cheese. Place back in oven to allow cheese to melt (about 2-3 minutes).

Serve a heaping scoop of potato hash in a bowl. Top with egg and cap with toasted muffin.

Serves 6.

#CancerSucks

 

Many of you out there have been impacted by this terrible disease. I, myself, have lost a Grandfather to prostate cancer, and my Grandmother battled lymphoma before entering remission.

A fellow writer and force of nature, Lynn Rush (aka Reese Monroe), is raising money to help fund research via the American Cancer Society.   I plan to help reach the goal. I hope you do, too!

Click here to hear from Lynn.

Click here to donate.

About Mondays…

CB_MONDAYS

For reasons I can’t explain, I’m compelled to write a list of my top ten favorite male actors. In my limited experience, the best actors tend to be the most underrated. I assume this is because the best actors, when they’re really doing their jobs, cease to be actors and start becoming the characters they create on-screen.

Apart from the likes of Johnny Depp and Will Smith, who can make a movie better simply by being themselves (or at least the multimillion dollar versions of themselves).

Mandy Patinkin…I’ve loved his work from The Princess Bride to Chicago Hope and beyond. He has a gentle power and softness of heart that makes a role.

Anson Mount…Loved him in Hell on Wheels, but his credits include edgy theatre work like Venus in Fur as well as gritty indie films like Cook County. Not to mince words, the man can act. He’s also possibly the only actor I get googly-eyed over (sorry, Matt).

Common…Also seen in Hell on Wheels. I didn’t know he acted prior to watching the show, but I’ve been paying attention ever since. He’s intense, heavy, with a ton of heart. He’s got a strong potential as leading-man, but just needs the right role to launch him.

Colin Firth…Again, a quiet power that brings a high believability (and sometimes absurdity) to a role. A leading man, but really shines in a group cast, adding depth and dimension as a supporting character.

Eric Schweig…I’ll remember him best from Tom and Huck as Injun Joe, but before that, he was Uncas from Last of the Mohicans and Metacomet in The Scarlett Letter.

John C McGinley…One of the funniest actors I’ve ever seen, hands down. Displays great range from roles as abrasive Dr. Cox and meek, embattled step-father in Identity.

Alfred Molina…Prominent in Chocolat, Spiderman 2, and even Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (stage) Molina can do anything. He has heart and presence.

Don Cheadle…This man has been in everything. Usually serving in an ensemble cast (Oceans 11,12 & 13), Swordfish, or second fiddle as in Iron Man to Robert Downey, Jr., Cheadle’s talents are oft overlooked or underplayed. Something which should have been remedied in the wake of the poignant hit Hotel Rwanda. Don only wants for a proper vehicle to bring him to the forefront, although it could well be said that his body of worthwhile work speaks for itself.

Gary Oldman…He’s been in virtually everything, but you might not know it was him: The Dark Knight, Harry Potter/Prisoner of Azkaban (as Sirius Black), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Fifth Element. While nominated for many awards, he’s yet to win an Academy Award, and has been nominated  for an Oscar only once.

James Wolk…After the fantastically-written but epically under-viewed Lonestar tanked after only 2 episodes, things looked bad for James. But when Mad Men picked him up as mysterious Bob Benson, he just might get the boost he deserves.

What about you? Who would you add to this list?

Easy Beef Stroganoff

A few weeks ago, Matt and I celebrated 7 years of marriage. 🙂

We took a weekend trip to get out of dodge for a few days, and stumbled upon a great little German restaurant called Edelweiss, in Staunton, Virginia.

The food was delicious. Matt had the Jagerschnitzel while I had a long-time favorite: Beef Stroganoff.

I determined I HAD to recreate this at home.

The following recipe is my version:

Hardware:
4-6 qt Crock Pot.
3 qt saucepan, for pasta.

Ingredients:
1 Chuck roast approximately 3lbs, cut into 1.5 inch cubes.
2 cups Onion, thinly sliced.
8 oz Baby Bella Mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and quartered.
Salt, Pepper, Garlic powder, and Cayenne powder, to taste.
1 – 12oz bottle Yuengling Lager beer.
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup.
8 oz Daisy Sour Cream.
1 lb Extra-Wide Egg Noodles.

Optional:
Butter.
Asiago/Parmesan cheese medley, shredded.
Crusty bread, toasted.

Place beef cubes and sliced onion into crock pot and season with spices, tossing to coat evenly.
Pour in the Yuengling beer and the can of Cream of Mushroom Soup. Stir to combine.
Cover and cook on high 5-6  hours, or until beef is fork tender.
Add mushrooms and cook for an additional 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare egg noodles according to package directions.
Drain in colander and toss with oil and/or butter.
Once mushrooms are softened to liking, turn off crock pot (or set to warm setting).
Check for seasoning, and add more if necessary.
Stir in sour cream.

Serve beef mixture over noodles with shredded cheese and crusty bread, if desired.

Hey kids! It’s been way too long since I’ve written anything..and actually posted it.

I was moved by the spirit (of awesome food) to share with you an accidental discovery.

But first, a little background: I love roasted tomatoes. Specifically, cherry, grape, or pear tomatoes. They are so sweet and flavorful I routinely use them as a side-dish with fish, chicken, or even a grilled panini sandwich.

I usually pick up a pint at Giant and after a wash, slice them down the middle, throw them in a pie pan with olive oil, salt, and maybe some turmeric and bake them at 400’/425′ until they bubble with deliciousness (about 10-12 minutes)

Well, last night, I forgot about them. I really did. I’d eaten my supper of roasted rosemary garlic chicken and was relaxing…until I smelled tomatoes. Uh oh!

I ran back into the kitchen to “check” them and behold, they were reduced, wrinkly, black in places, and smelled like tomato pesto.

I was intrigued.

When they cooled, I tried one. They had the best, most intense flavor ever, and I immediately ate far too  many of them.

I did the exact same thing I always had except using butter for olive oil, omitting the turmeric, and letting them cook possibly twice as long (to be honest, I’m not certain, it could have been up to 30 minutes).

Applications for this lovely accidental delight include: cherry tomato pizza sauce (puree in blender and voila!), a topping for bruschetta, pasta sauce, or even a tomato soup base (though you’ll want to dilute a bit, the flavor is strong).

Happy Monday!

Tortellini Soup
(Courtesy of Mom)

Since folks are asking, I’m passing along my mom’s excellent Tortellini Soup recipe. 🙂
This makes a lot of soup (which is fantastic). It makes great leftovers and you can freeze and gently heat for later, but you can half the recipe if you don’t need all three-plus quarts. A bonus is that the recipe is easy to make remember, I can usually have it on the table in an hour or less.

Olive oil for pot (2-3 tablespoons as needed)
8-10 ounces Italian sausage rolled into 1-inch meatballs (hot or mild…I’ve even used Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage with great results—very aromatic)
1 large onion, chopped to about ½ inch pieces
2-3 med-large green bell peppers, chopped to approx ¾ inch pieces
(Mom uses chopped carrots as well, but I don’t. Sorry Mom! 🙂 )
2-4 gloves garlic, pressed
12-14 cups beef broth (I use reduced sodium.)
8-12 ounces tomato sauce
Italian seasonings, to taste (approx 1-2 tablespoons)
Cayenne, to taste (approx ¼ teaspoon)
Salt, Pepper
1 “Family size” package of 3 cheese tortellini (Buitoni is good).
1-2 small or medium zucchini, cut into half-moon slices (maybe 3 cups?)

The Extras:
Parmesan cheese for garnish (grated is great, but shaved is even better—it melts more smoothly).
Hearty, crusty bread for dipping

Heat olive oil in large (3.5-4 qt.) soup pot over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add meatballs. Saute, stirring gently to brown evenly. When halfway done, add onions and more oil if needed (this depends on your sausage fat content—I usually need to add a bit more). Add bell peppers, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent.

Add garlic, tomato sauce, beef broth, and Italian seasonings. Stir to combine evenly. Bring to a simmer and maintain for five to ten minutes. Add cayenne, more Italian seasonings, salt and pepper as desired.

Cook for another five minutes. Add tortellini and zucchini. Bring to a low boil and cover. Cook, stirring to cook pasta and zucchini evenly. When tortellini is floats, is soft, and zucchini is soft, remove from heat and taste. If needed, simmer a bit longer until flavors meld.

Cook time: Maybe 40 minutes, give or take.
Prep time: 10-15 minutes