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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.

“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.

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?

Breaking the Glow Stick

Do you remember the first time you saw a glow stick? One of those skinny, clear tubes that are popular at skating rinks, fairs, and rave parties?

When I got my first one, I was rather underwhelmed. I saw everyone else skating under the black lights with the sticks fastened around their necks and wrists; theirs sizzling shades of electric blue, neon green, and hot pink.

Mine was…kind of a light gray, really. Clearly, mine was defective. Now that I had this unremarkable piece of plastic, what was I supposed to do with it?

But just about that point, a couple of my friends came by with theirs, which they were shaking vigorously.

“Mine doesn’t work.” I complained.
“Well, no duh. You didn’t break yours yet. You gotta break and shake them before they’ll work.”
Oh. Like anyone knows that the first time.
So I (carefully) broke mine and began shaking. It was slow to respond at first; but finally, a brilliant purple flowed through the tube.

Under the darkness and glow of the black lights, I joined the party of swirling glowing streams on the skating rink.

We are like glow sticks. Unless we are properly (and carefully) broken and endure the shaking, we will never glow as we are made to.

I think as we do, we allow ourselves to find unique purpose and beauty, becoming part of something bigger; a stellar choreography. 🙂

One of my favorite albums of 2010 has got to be Florence and the Machine’s first album, Lungs.

The entire album is brilliant and breath-taking, and I highly recommend it.

But there is one song that I want to write about in particular. The track Cosmic Love speaks such volumes to me in a deeply personal way.

As the song begins, you’re immediately clued in on a love story between a celestial being and the singer, whom one can assume is either a frail human, or spiritual in nature. Looking up at the beauty of the sky’s expanse, a falling star falls from its heart (God’s perhaps?), so beautiful, but causing tragic, horrifying damage: it blinds the singer, leaving her hysterical and in pain, stumbling in darkness.

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, nor day-I’m always in this Twilight
In the shadow of your heart

The singer can no longer see any heavenly markers to guide her way. She’s panicking, groping for guidance, to know her love has not left her alone. But she finds nothing. You left me in the dark.

And in the dark, I can hear your heartbeat
I tried to find the sound
But then, it stopped, and I was in the darkness
So darkness I became

So sure of her abandonment, she sinks into the darkness. She can’t even be guided by hearing, anymore.

I took the stars from my eyes and then I made I map
I knew that somehow I could find my way back
Then I heard your heart beating
You were in the darkness, too
So I stayed in the darkness with you

Somehow, the singer remembers the power of the very thing that blinded her. The object of her affliction actually gave her a way out: stars provide guidance and light. Which  she can use to return to happiness, where she wants to “go back to,” instead of moving forward.

At that point, our singer hears the heartbeat of her love. Suddenly, getting out of the darkness doesn’t seem so important. Rather, it’s not where she was, it was whom she was with that mattered.

God is this way. We are the frail human staring up at His other-worldly beauty, falling in love. And God does afflict us, but like the stars, those very objects are intended to ultimately guide us to a new place of faith and intimacy.

When we can realize, like our singer, that He has never left us, but has just gone silent, we learn that it isn’t important where we are, it’s Who we are with that matters. I don’t want to be in the light if He is in the dark. We’re never meant to bond with our environment, but bond with the One who placed us there.

 

Creme brulee has recently become one of my favorite desserts. It’s easy, inexpensive, and classic; though it’s still considered somewhat “fancy” in my crowd.

So I’d seen this recipe on the defunct Food Network show, Calling All Cooks, maybe 5 years ago. I’ve always wanted to try it, but never had. Until this week…

It’s no more difficult than regular creme brulee (maybe easier since you don’t need to boil the cream), and the apples are a fantastic addition.
I substituted apple cider for the water, which may make it too rich for you, but everyone enjoyed it.
I may serve this for Thanksgiving. 🙂

So here’s the link. If you try it, let me know!
Calling All Cooks: Apple Cinnamon Creme Brulee

Pesto Roast Chicken

I decided to roast a chicken this week. As I placed it into the pan, considering my options, “Do I make the always-loved rosemary-lemon garlic chicken?” Or do I make something new and different?

In a moment of what I believe to be divine intervention, a stroke of heavenly genius, an idea came into my head: Pesto Chicken.

But I had both sun-dried tomato pesto and basil pesto. So I got a little crazy: I did half and half.

The important thing is to put the goo under the chicken skin. It really saturates the meat and keeps it moist. I also kept the dividing membrane between the two breasts intact, so the seasonings stayed on their own side. 😉

Aside from the pesto, I only added a little pepper and a hint of cayenne. The pesto has enough salt by itself.

My husband raved, saying it was the “best chicken ever.” And the secret is, it’s so much easier than the hand-made rosemary goop I’d have usually labored over.

I cooked it on 375′ for a little over two hours, and turned the pan halfway through cooking so it would brown evenly.  Pretty much your average package directions.

If you try this, let me know what you think!

 

 

I’ve made this recipe twice in the last month, so I figure that I know it well enough now pass it along. 🙂

As many of you know, I don’t really measure anything. I think measuring sucks. It’s why I tend to avoid baking. Ratios are the most important thing, so I do try to be mindful of how much-to-how much I’m actually putting in. All measurements are really guesswork on my part.

Putting pepperoni on top of lasagna is not a stroke of genius I can claim as my own. I actually saw Guy Fieri do that on his show, Guy’s Big Bite. However, the rest of it was something I threw together. Enjoy!

To make this you’ll need
2 lbs ricotta cheese
About 1- 1 & 1/2 cup chopped, drained spinach (look through it for tough stems before using)
8-12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (Kraft has a kind out now that incorporates a bit of Philly cream cheese. It’s super creamy and delicious)
1/4 lb thinly sliced sandwich pepperoni (the BIG pepperoni)
1 sleeve Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage (I know it may sound weird, but it’s perfect for this. And this is seriously the best all-purpose sausage I’ve seen out there. Of course, you could use Italian instead.)
1 lb lasagna noodles (I don’t use no-bake for this)
3-5 cups quality spaghetti sauce (homemade or good jar brand like Classico)
Garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano/Italian seasoning.
Wooden Spoon.
Wide bowl.
10-12″ frying pan.
1 Tbsp. Olive oil.
9x 13 baking dish.

To begin with, start a big pot (I use my largest, maybe 6-8 quart) of water for boiling. Add a good bit of salt (not too much). Set to high and cover. It’ll save time, but it will still take a while to come to a boil.

In a wide bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with about 2-4 ounces of the mozzarella. I like to do this because it gives the ricotta filling a stringy, cheesy texture which my husband likes. It’s kind of “something extra.” Add in the spinach, crumbling it into smaller clumps. Stir to make sure it’s well-incorporated. Add garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, and oregano to taste (and I do mean taste…it’s one of my favorite parts of making lasagna!). Set aside.

In a wide (10-12″) pan, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add sage sausage (whole sleeve for the whole lasagna pan, or half for just half the pan. I usually do just half because I don’t like meat in my lasagna. My half is veggie.) With a wooden spoon or very stiff spatula, break up the sausage as much as possible during cooking, making the crumbles small so it doesn’t dominate your lasagna layers. Season as you like with garlic, oregano, cayenne, etc. I usually don’t use salt. When sausage is lightly browned and no longer pink, remove from heat and set aside (I just put the pan on a trivet and let it cool. There usually isn’t a lot of fat from this sausage, which is why I add olive oil. It won’t be swimming in grease.)

When water has come to a boil, add lasagna noodles, one at a time, inserting them on a clockwise rotation (12 o’clock, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) to minimize sticking. Cook according to “al dente” package directions (you want it firm—otherwise it will be soggy after oven cooking), stirring VERY gently to insure proper flow and separation. When done, remove from heat and pour off majority of water. Fill pot back up with cold water. Pour off again. Repeat until noodles are cool enough to handle, and remaining water is minimal. I don’t like to use a colander here, as it can damage pasta.

You can transfer pasta from pot to an impeccably clean tea/dish towel to lay flat and dry. Just pat with towel to remove excess water.

This is when I like to preheat my oven to 400 degrees. If you have a convection oven, I’d recommend 375.

In a 9×12 baking dish, add about a cup of sauce to coat the bottom (this prevents tragic noodle stickage.) Add a layer of (patted dry) pasta, overlapping them slightly.
Cover with some of ricotta mixture. Add desired amount of sausage (approx 1/3 – 1/4 of pan). Add approx. 1/2 cup of sauce over pan (not too much or it will be runny. Think “dry.”).

Continue layering, up to 4 layers. Cover remaining layer with pasta, sauce, and remaining mozzarella cheese.

The final step is to layer pepperoni on top of lasagna.

Bake for approx. 35-40 minutes at 400. But if you have a convection oven, start lower and keep an eye on it (pepperoni cooks and curls quickly in convection ovens. Ask me how I know?) 🙂