Saturday, April 30, 2011

Caturday and Other Thoughts

Well, the A-Z Blogging Challenge is over and I'm finding myself at a loss today for what to write about. Sure, there's always food; but I have to admit, having the alphabetic theme did give me a target to shoot for. Other than today being Saturday (aka Caturday), there was nothing coming to mind. So, I decided to sit and start writing about whatever came into my head. The first thing was to present another grouping of photos of our wonderful, purring fur-shedders.

It has been nice not having to plan for something to write today, yet I also liked the continuity of a daily (or nearly daily) post. I've catnapped several times today. I have the TV on right now to Celebrity Ghost Stories. I even got my laundry done. I'm sitting now at the dining room table with my lap top and my cat top (yes, there is a Baby Cat lying between me and the keyboard, her front legs and chest draped over my left arm while she purrs furiously). 

Last night, my daughter had a friend over and we three watched a couple of really good movies. The first was Disney's "Tangled". I'll have to research it, but it was far more in depth than the story I'd heard of Rapunzel was. I loved the horse. His expressions were priceless! 

Next, we watched "Burlesque", the movie starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. I missed some details of the very beginning about Christina's character, Ali; about where she'd been and what made her decided to leave home when she did, but I remember seeing that she was drawn to putting her whole self into song from the beginning. I've also seen "Chicago" and I have to say that "Burlesque" puts "Chicago" to shame. It is more upbeat, more uplifting, far fewer absurdities and a whole lot less confusing to watch. Of course, Cher's powerful character presence doesn't hurt. It was interesting that she didn't sing often in this movie. But, Christina was amazing! I'm no Aquilera fan, but that girl can BELT IT! If this movie doesn't take her above and beyond what I call "teeny bop pop", it'll be her that keeps it from happening. I like that the movie shows people being people (having relationships, etc.) without needing to show every single inch of skin, sweat, what have you. That events took place is obvious. But, to show them would have detracted from the story line itself. And, I love how it ended with the protagonists using the antagonist's tricks against him. What those tricks are you'll have to see for yourself. And, you won't know what they are until the end. I like that!

Anyway, to bring in the obligatory food commentary, we decided to order out, so we ordered from Dominos. Instead of pizza, we decided to order the three for $5.55 mix and match special of two pasta bowls (they had chicken Alfredo and Carbonara) and a baked sandwich (I ordered the Chicken Pineapple Habanero). I'll have them leave off the jalapenos next time, but I really enjoyed that sandwich. I would recommend it to anyone (if you don't like any heat, I'd suggest the Chicken Bacon Ranch, instead.) 

Tomorrow is May Day (May 1) and will be the beginning of two more challenges. I was only going to do the one (A-Z Weekly YCN article challenge), but I've decided to do the newest blog challenge (the reverse of April's challenge - for May, it will be Z-A in the Month of May). The A-Z challenge will get me writing again in the Associated Content area, if not some other Yahoo areas I've not yet pursued. I'll have a week to get the article written that is associated with the weekly letter of the alphabet. The daily blog challenge will force me to stay consistent with my blog, which is also a good thing. I've also been accepted as a news writer on Gather through Skywriter. No set assignment, but I already have a news item in mind. I just have to find out more about it before getting the article written and submitting it. I'm also doing two other challenges: the Thank God It's Book Blurb Friday microfiction challenge by Lisa Ricard Claro and the Succinctly Yours flash/microfiction challenge on Grandma's Goulash. Each of them is to be submitted once a week, so there is less pressure to get them done.

That's it for today, though. I may not post tomorrow in keeping with the day off aspect of the daily challenge, so here's to everyone who supported my efforts throughout April. I hope you'll stay around for the sequel.

Baby Baby Cat, summer 2010
Tiki at ease on the ottoman, last week
Tiki on my hip and Chloe at my feet, this morning

Zucchini, the Wonder Veggie!

We have all heard stories about people's gardens being overrun by proliferate zucchini, not being able even to give it away because everyone else already has an abundance from other family and friends.

We've all either had or made zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, fried zucchini (my favorite), and more recently, grilled zucchini sandwiches or atop pizza. My goal here is to offer some less commonly seen zucchini recipes to help you find new ways to incorporate this healthy veggie into your and your family's diet.
Cheese and Sausage Stuffed Zucchini
Zucchini Relish
Mock Apple Pie

Mock "Crab" Cakes

Mock "Apple" Cobbler
For other ideas, look back at my eggplant blog. Whatever you can do with eggplant you can do with zucchini.  You will just have slightly different taste and coloring. Try shredding it and adding it to your spaghetti sauce for added thickness and fiber. Slice it and make pickles the same way you would with cucumbers. As you can see, it's one of the most versatile vegetables on the planet!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Yesterday was Dining Out for Life Day. Did YOU Participate?

Dining Out For Life is an annual event that raises money for AIDS service foundations throughout the country. Local businesses join the effort to support or to host the fundraiser during which a portion of the proceeds at the participating restaurant are donated to the Dining Out For Life organization. It helps the restaurants by getting their names out to potential customers and helps raise money for service organizations helping those with AIDS. 

It had been a few years since we participated, although we tend to go out to eat fairly often, but yesterday he wanted to go during the lunch hour. Fewer restaurants participate at lunch than at dinner, but we found one nearby and got there just before a thunderous storm let loose in our area.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch at The Tortilla Press on Haddon Ave. in Collingswood, NJ. They donated 33% of their proceeds from yesterday's sales to the DOFL cause. That's proceeds, not profits. The Tortilla Press has another location in Pennsauken and both were participants. In fact, there were a half dozen restaurants in Collingswood that participated, one of which was The Pop Shop, a small retro shop that harkens back to the 50s whose specialty is grilled cheese sandwiches. They were featured a couple years ago on Bobby Flay's Throwdown.

We had originally wanted to go to IndeBlue, another Collingswood participant, but they were only participating during dinner hours and we wanted go to for lunch. The Pop Shop was our fall-back plan if The Tortilla Press was crowded. There were no crowds there, but they did a surprisingly brisk lunch pickup business, many from nearby residents.

Tom and I ordered Chicken Tortilla Soup. He had the beef fajitas for his main course and I opted for the Sonoran Chicken Burrito. I also got a small order of loaded Nachos - loaded with cheddar-jack & chihuahua cheeses, pickled jalapenos (I opted out of these), lettuce, black olives & guacamole with pico de gallo & mexican crème with my choice of taco beef, chicken or chorizo (I chose chicken) and a bottle of Sangria Mexican soda. 

The food was quickly cooked and brought to our table and beyond plentiful! I had barely gotten halfway through my loaded nachos when our meals arrived. I don't think I've ever seen a burrito so large and jam-packed full of rice, beans, chicken, grilled peppers and onions. It took two hands to handle this whopper of a burrito (to borrow an overused phrase from a fairly well-known fast food establishment), which was wrapped in foil. A side of sour cream and pico de gallo were also made available. 

Tom's meal consisted of strips of beef, green and red pepper strips and onion strips all grilled and mixed in a sauce very reminiscent of BBQ sauce (on the sweet side) with a side of rice and beans and several flour tortillas. Although it was very good, the sweetness wasn't something he had expected, so he was somewhat disappointed by that. 

I brought home half of both my burrito and my nachos and I plan to enjoy them again, probably later today. 

But, we not only were able to try a restaurant we'd never tried before, but one-third of our bill went to a good cause. I hope you will be a willing participant in next year's event. After all, you'll only have to do what you would already be doing - eating!

Video of the Restaurant - when this opens, the table immediately behind the chef is the table we sat at last night.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Xtremely Unenthusiastic about Xanthan Gum

Yeah, xanthan gum....the only darned thing I could find related to food. Obviously, it's not something I keep in the pantry. But, it is an additive used for thickening different food products rather than what we might use at home, such as flour or cornstarch and water. And, get this - it is a bacteria that we've all seen at some point. It's causes "black rot" and it can be found on broccoli, cauliflower and leafy vegetables. It forms a slimy substance that science has made use of as a thickening agent in a variety of foods such as salad dressing and as a stabilizer in cosmetics. (Now, if that doesn't get you salivating, I don't know what will.)

Most xanthan gum is grown on glucose or, more recently, whey-based lactose. The lactose-produced xanthan gums are used primarily in shampoos and salad dressings. (Makes you just want to jump into the shower and hit the salad bar, doesn't it?)

For those who must have gluten-free diets, xanthan gum is often substituted for the gluten they cannot have in breads and batters. Believe it or not, though, xanthan gum is often derived from glutenous products, so celiacs must be aware of which products are made with gluten-free xanthan.

People with corn, soy or wheat allergies also need to be aware of what kind of xanthan gum is being used because they could react to even the minute amounts present in whatever product contains this agent, including toothpastes. Ingredient lists don't generally list the source of the xanthan gums, so it is best to be well researched before trying any product containing them or avoid products containing xanthan gums altogether.

My source of information was Wikipedia.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Who is Wendy and Why does she Write?

Hi! My name is Wendy and I've always hated my name. Especially since I was also Wilkins. I seriously despised being WW. No matter how they called roll in school, I was at the end of the list! My father always told me they should have made my middle name Olivia so he could get me a monogram pin that said "WOW!"

Not that my middle name was much better in my eyes - Irene. I didn't look like an Irene (to me) and I hated Wendy. (I also hated being called "Carrot Top" and the red hair that brought it on - I had lots of issues as a kid!) The only thing I really liked about me was my freckles. Go figure.

My father never even called me by name until I was an adult or unless he was pissed. He used to call me Ajax or Junior, pretty much reinforcing the conflict I had with my name. Not to mention the fact that my parents didn't even have a girl's name in mind when I was born. They were expecting a Sam, not a Samantha.

Add that to the fact that until I was 31, my father made it a point to remind me that when the doctor asked him what he wanted when Mom was in labor his answer was, "Anything but a redheaded daughter" and you can see how I might not have had the greatest self-esteem in the world. 

I escaped into books and dreamed about being Kitten on Father Knows Best. When I discovered music, I listened to that for hours on end, being pulled into whatever storyline was present in the song. 

I began writing in seventh grade. My stories were almost always about me and my best friend. She would always get caught up in something dangerous and I would always rescue her. I became the hero in my stories that I couldn't be in real life. I only shared these stories with my English teacher (not even my best friend knew about them) not yet realizing that I was reaching out for a lifeline that I hoped someone would throw.

Fast forward to an abusive marriage and eventual divorce after which I decided to return to school and get my degree (FYI - I still don't have it.) I began writing again. I found it to be both therapeutic and cathartic. When I entered (and WON!) the college writing contest in poetry, I realized how much I'd been trying to say for so many years. You can read that poem here.

I encouraged my kids to write, to express themselves, whether their pain or their joys or their problems, in the written word. The concept didn't work with my son. If it involved reading and writing, he was dead set against it. But, my daughter filled notebook upon notebook, writing about her anger, her pain, her loves, whatever needed an outlet. She vented about me, about horrific events in her life, about betrayals and fears. She went through some deep depressive periods and I sincerely believe that, if she hadn't had writing as an outlet, her thoughts of suicide might have become actual attempts.

Initially, I only wrote during my darkest periods. That seemed to be the only time I could extract any level of creativity from myself. I wasn't able to maintain a steady period of writing. I tried, but anything other than serious, reflective prose sounded more like the childish drivel I wrote in junior high. As time has gone by, though, the problems of the past have faded enough that I can focus on the present. I can find humor in the past that I didn't before. I can find a normalcy in my life that I never found before. I accept things about myself and my life that I would have hidden from before. For the first time in my life, I LIKE myself. I ACCEPT myself. I present myself as I am. Sometimes deadly serious. Sometimes righteously angry; other times a social or personal advocate for others. Sometimes socially inept and awkward; at other times a screwball comic. But, I am ALWAYS me. And, that ain't half bad!

I want to thank the A-Z Blogging Challenge for helping me find a rhythm with my blog, Marie Anne for pointing out the obvious, and the two other writing challenges (TGIBBF and Succinctly Yours) I've joined for allowing me to find a creativity I was afraid I wouldn't know.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Living La Vida Venezolana (Venezuelan Life)

From the ages of 9 through 11, I lived in Valencia, Venezuela with my parents. My father's job had sent him there to install, set up and train crews to operate the closure department in the Owens Illinois glass plant there. Closure is where caps and lids are made for the bottles already being produced. Dad worked in the closure plant in Glassboro, NJ, and had already gone down in 1962 to discuss the project and, I imagine, work out the viability of the project. They asked him to return in early 1964 and told him they'd pay for his family to join him including tuition for me to attend school and selling their home if they wished. Since he'd built most of the house himself on property my mother's father had given to her, they opted to keep the house. But, Mom and I moved to Valencia along with all of our furniture and our car. Only the dog stayed home. We lived in a hotel for two months while the furniture made its way to port in Caracas, apparently taking a slow boat by way of China.

Being the coward and picky eater I was in my youth, it was rare for me to try anything "foreign". Yet, it was the move to Venezuela that introduced me to Chinese Food and pizza (honestly - I don't remember eating pizza before moving there.) My parents were more adventurous. I did fall in love with the fruits I found in the country, such as mango, papaya, guayaba (guava) and platanos (plantains or cooking bananas). Mom cooked the platanos regularly. They're much easier to cook than you might think, although I've learned there are also more ways to cook them than I'd known as a child.  

Dad told us of being treated to breakfast once at the cafe in the "Mobil Sheraton" near the plant. To my child's mind, this was the most horrible food I'd ever heard of. What he had was fried octopus tentacles with black beans and rice topped with a fried egg and covered with octopus ink gravy. I know now that what he ate wasn't served everywhere, but it was enough for me to refuse to eat anything I didn't understand! 

He also enjoyed his first escargot and espresso while we were there. The hotel we lived in had a restaurant where the French manager, Madame, would offer both French and Venezuelan food choices. She convinced Dad to try the snails. He actually liked them and ordered them on occasion thereafter. I lived on chicken consomme with a wonderful cheese that was melted into the bottom of the bowl. If we went to the Chinese restaurant, I would only eat tomato soup while my parents ate sweet and sour shrimp and butterflied shrimp. We were such frequent customers that the management gave my parents gifts of porcelain rice bowls and spoons both Christmases we were there.

One of the Venezuelan restaurants we enjoyed was called La Parilla (literally, charcoal grill) where I fell in love with Pollo en Canasta. Not a uniquely Venezuelan food, but a uniquely Venezuelan venue and presentation. Try ordering Chicken in a Basket in the US and actually GETTING a basket with chicken and fries in it!! Plus, the smells of all that meat cooking over an open grill was enough to get even this stubborn eater's saliva glands flowing.

Since I've grown up, my palate has also grown up. I've discovered what food pleasures I missed while living in Venezuela. Some of these things are Hallacas (these most closely resemble Tamales), Arepas, Pabellon Criollo (Black Beans, Rice and Shredded Beef), Carne Mechada (pulled beef - this resembles Ropa Vieja popular in Puerto Rico and Cuba), Pan de Jamón (ham loaf - this reminds me of Pepperoni roll) and this one that I'm going to have to try, Pan Dulce Relleno de Queso y Guayaba (Sweet Bread Stuffed with Guava and Cheese).

I'll leave you with some images of the foods I've mentioned (all with links to recipes) to get your mouth watering and wanting to try something knew. I really regret that I was such a coward when I was there. I missed so many years of meal enjoyment!

Christmas Dinner of hallacas, pernil, pan de jamon and ensalada de pollo
Hallacas -jlastras, Wikimedia Commons
Pabellon Criollo -Taxman, Wikimedia Commons
Arepas -Steven Depolo, Wikimedia Commons
Pan Dulce Relleno de Queso y Guayaba
Pan de Jamon -Rufino, Wikimedia Commons
Platanos Fritos (fried plantains) -Dtarazona, Wikimedia Commons   

Monday, April 25, 2011

Unusual Food Combinations

I'm sure there aren't many people who haven't heard of Elvis's love of grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches or that infamous pregnancy craving, pickles and strawberry ice cream (something I thankfully did not have since I like neither of them!) But, they are far from the only unusual food combinations that people might like.

Photos by zantastic and Antonio Cavallo -Wikimedia Commons
For example, while I was growing up, I loved putting gravy on my applesauce. I also liked (and still do) applesauce with meatloaf. I went through a stage where I liked cheese and jelly sandwiches, but I still love grilled cheese on raisin bread. Speaking of grilled cheese, tomato soup wasn't my only dunking base. I also would dunk in chocolate milk or soda or iced tea if tomato soup wasn't handy. 

My father liked cold hot dogs dipped in mustard, cold baked beans with raw onions on crackers and raw hamburger sandwiches with a big slice of raw onion (if the ground beef was bought from a butcher - not prepackaged meat). He also liked sausage gravy over pancakes instead of biscuits. My mother would add vinegar to the chili on her plate as well as on her green beans. My grandfather would slice donuts in half like bagels and butter them. 
File:NCI butter.jpg
Photos by the US Govt & Evan-Amos -Wikimedia Commons

Did you ever wonder what other unusual groupings are out there besides those you may have? I decided to take a look to see for myself.

  • French Fries dunked in vanilla milkshakes or into honey. (Yeah, really.)
  • Tuna fish and ketchup. (Urp! I thought my daughter's tuna and mustard was bad.)
  • French Fries dipped in Hawaiian Punch. (French Fries sure do get around.)
  • Peanut Butter and bologna sandwiches. (I would never punish PB like that!!)
  • Banana and mayo sandwich. (Yeah - there goes Easter dinner.)
  • Scrambled eggs and grape jelly. (Oops - I was wrong.)

So, as you can see, unusual food combinations aren't all that uncommon. Maybe not overly appealing, but definitely not uncommon. Therefore, the next time I crave some chili cheese fries or a baked potato loaded with chili, cheese, butter AND sour cream, or ask for my dried beef gravy over my potatoes instead of over my toast, I know I'm not alone in the world!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tomato Seedlings are Popping Their Little Heads Up

Despite Baby Cat's previous disruptive efforts (knocking the entire tray of planted seeds to the floor and playing in the dirt), as of this moment (late Friday night) I have six (of 12) seeds beginning to sprout. Not sure why there are no peppers beginning to appear since they were all planted at the same time, but they haven't gone beyond their germination times, so there's still a chance.
Bell Pepper plants -Wikimedia Commons, Forest & Kim Starr, Creative Commons
I planted them in the cardboard bases of egg cartons. Twelve nice and neat potting pots filled with potting soil, just enough to get the roots started. The great thing is that I can plant the entire egg cup, soil & seedling, without having to disrupt the growing process. The paper-based cup/carton is biodegradable and will dissolve into the soil as the roots push their way through. I love it!! (I will have to cut the cup sections apart so that I plant individual holders rather than an entire dozen of tomatoes and peppers, of course.)
Tomato Seedlings -Wikimedia Commons, user cdw victoria
We use lots of tomatoes, green peppers and onions in our recipes. (The meatloaf I made tonight has peppers, onions and salsa in it.) I'd also like to have one zucchini plant and one eggplant plant (is that redundant?) and I know Deb wants watermelons; but if she wants them, she's going to do the digging. I'm going to put mine in containers because that's easier for me to take care of.

The only thing I need to go dig a hole for, much to my dismay, is my rose bush. I'll probably go out this weekend and dig right about sundown to plant it. I know I'll regret it. I  just know it. Every other time I've tried to have a rose bush, something has happened. But, I love rose bushes. They're low maintenance (as far as I'm concerned) and high pleasure (I love seeing them in full bloom). I haven't figured out yet where to get a lilac bush, but I would love to have one of them as well. I'll be happy with the rose bush.

Caturday's Images

A Bowlful of Baby Cat

Stop with the flash already!!

Cowgirl Tiki

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stuffed Pork Chops - This One's a Keeper!

A few days ago, I took a bag of chicken breasts out of the freezer to thaw because I thought I would make a chicken breast recipe I had seen. When the breasts thawed, I learned that they weren't breasts at all, but were boneless pork chops (I guess they really are "the other white meat"!) Well, I didn't have a clue what to do with them since I hadn't planned on them, so I put them in the fridge thinking I'd make them the next night when I had time to decide how. The next night came and went with my daughter going out and not being here for supper. The night after that as well. By then I had found the perfect recipe, but needed to buy stove top (style, not brand) dressing since I didn't have any like I thought. Today was the finally the day that these pork chops were going to be made.

The recipe called for the chops to be pounded, which was unusual. That's usually done for scallopini or cutlets. I've never seen that for stuffed chops before. I got the wax paper out, laid the bottom sheet down, placed two chops on the paper and laid the top sheet over them. Since I still don't know where my mother's meat mallet is, I decided to use my heaviest sauce pan to pound them. I've got to say, it does pretty darned well! After pounding the two (pulling off the excess fat), I set them aside and pounded the third one. Then I made the stuffing. Love it. It takes all of five minutes. That's not to say I don't like homemade stuffing. I make it and I do pretty well, but I don't always want to have celery and onions on hand or a lot of extra bread to use to make it. Plus, that would make too much and it would be drier than the stove top kind. So, I got the stuffing made and put two small scoops on each chop. These weren't the biggest chops, so as I rolled, the stuffing made its escape out the ends. Ugh. But, I didn't let it stop me. I just took my toothpicks (in lieu of the twine the recipe called for that I didn't have) and skewered the chops together around the stuffing and then shoved the escapees back in the ends. The third chop was an odd shape, so it ended up looking like a 3-point Minuteman hat when I was done skewering it (but that actually kept more of the stuffing inside doing it that way). 

Stuffed and overflowing
One by one, I placed them in the baking dish (I didn't grease it). I put fresh ground salt and pepper over the chops and then filled all the empty areas around the chops with the remaining stuffing. I sprinkled poultry seasoning over top of everything and added a little chicken broth as well (to keep the stuffing from drying out.

Ready for the oven
I turned the oven on to 350° and put the baking dish in after covering it with foil (to also keep it from drying out or getting to crusty - it's a personal thing. I hate crunchy stuffing.) I took the foil off 45 minutes later and left the dish in the oven for about another 10 minutes. 
Cut in half and tender
I can only say that the one I ate was amazing! Seriously amazing. I often joke that I can tell when something is done when the smoke alarm goes off because cooking just isn't my forte (despite my love of all things kitchen or recipe related). I'm not a bad cook; I'm a lazy cook. I can think of hundreds of things I'd rather do than stand over a stove, and I usually do at least one of them. But, let me put it in the oven or in a crockpot and give me permission to do something else in the meantime and I do pretty well. Today was one of those days. The pork chop was tender and moist, the stuffing was perfect (I'm thinking of adding apple the next time for a touch of sweet), and the poultry seasoning really put it over the top in my book. 

One down, two to go
By the way, if you're ever near a Dollar General, buy their chicken stuffing mix. It was $.85 and it is fantastic! You can actually see and taste the bits of onion and celery in the mix when it's done. Best value for the price I've seen yet! They didn't slack off on taste at all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Real Men Don't - Steal Others' Ideas

I'm deviating from my main topic today to bring to your attention something I learned about in the wee hours today. I hope you continue reading because it is important.

One of my online friends is an actor named Tom Kiesche. As it happens, he is also from New Jersey. While he may not have a name you recognize, you'll probably recognize his face from a variety of commercial efforts: DHL (There's no crying in shipping!), Dominos Pizza (They're statues!) and the famous "Messin' with Sasquatch" Jack Links Jerky commercial called Pickup. He's played the recurring role of Clovis in Breaking Bad on AMC as well as roles in a variety of other shows such as Bones, Monk, NCIS, and others. He also had feature roles in the movies Desolation CanyonAlien Raiders and WMD

Tom has his own production company (Big Quiche Productions) and writes and creates a lot of his own short and playful videos. His versatility literally has no bounds. He sings, acts, directs, screenwrites and produces a lot of different types of film work, including a series called "Real Men Don't". This link takes you to one of Tom's creations that was uploaded to YouTube in 2006, meaning its creation and development was earlier than that.

However, a new series of  Real Men Don't vignettes have been produced by none other than Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore as part of their efforts to fight child sex slavery. While the goal is noble and different than the goal of Tom's own RMD series, the fact remains that the overall look, feel, timing and humor of the shorts being shown by Ashton and Demi are markedly similar to those produced by Tom Kiesche. In fact, Tom has been contacted by a lawyer suggesting that he sue the DNA Foundation (Demi and Ashton) over the intellectual property rights. 

Tom, however, would rather avoid that. It's nice money if you can get it, but he'd rather earn his money the traditional way. He has concerns primarily that he will look like the copy cat rather than the other way around. There are two online articles already about this potential controversy. How long before there are others in the mainstream media?

Tom has asked people who believe he has been wronged to use social media to pass the word on to Ashton and Demi (Twitter, Facebook, wherever they might be accessible) that the comparisons between their efforts and his are too coincidental and need to be either changed or him given credit for creating the concept. He wants the public to continue to support the DNA campaign, for the Ashton and Demi to continue their shorts, but feels they could very easily make things right for everyone by acknowledging and respecting creativity and originality, creating a win-win for all parties. Them, him, and their wonderful campaign. 

So, if you believe, as I do, that there has been a conceptual borrowing of Tom's original series, then please post your concerns wherever the DNA Foundation can see them. There is power in numbers. They need to hear from more than a few that Tom Kiesche's original work needs to be acknowledged. He is a genuinely nice guy who deserves to be treated fairly.

Please read these articles for more information:

'Real Men Don't' Controversy, Exclusive

EXCLUSIVE: Tom Kiesche vs Ashton Kutcher: “Real Men Don’t” Concept Controversy

Please contact Demi and Ashton at the following about this:

Ashton Kutcher (Twitter)

Demi Moore (Twitter)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quick & Easy Meals We've Eaten Through The Years

I did Meals in Minutes recently, but that was more ease of preparation than how soon they'd be ready to eat. I'd like to share with you some meals we've made frequently through the years that don't take long to put together or finish.

The first one is one my ex had me make after we were married. It wasn't anything I'd ever seen before and I did have my doubts about it. But, you know it's really pretty darned good. It doesn't really have a name, so we call it:

Green Beans and Meat

A similar-looking Cuban recipe still in the pan.
All you need is a pound of hamburger, a can or two of green beans and a 15 oz can of tomato sauce. Brown the meat, add the green beans (my daughter likes French style best) with one can undrained and add the tomato sauce. Meanwhile, fry some potatoes - in fact, you could start the potatoes first if using fresh potatoes. You could also use O'Brien style (cubed) hash brown potatoes or even French fries. Once both things are cooked, we're ready to eat and that's usually in less than 30 minutes.

Another one I like that my mother used to make is:

Ham, Green Beans and Potatoes

Green Beans and Ham - PA Dutch recipe
Now I know where my mother got the idea to put vinegar on her green beans.
This would work for after Easter if you have a large piece of ham left from Easter dinner. Put the ham in the pot along with peeled quartered potatoes and a pound of green beans (preferably fresh or frozen) and cook until the potatoes are cooked through and the meat is hot. The potatoes and green beans will be flavored by the ham and the ham will be heated by the cooking process. Eat the potatoes like you would baked potatoes.

Meat Pie

Spicy Beef Stew
An example of what would work in a meat pie.
I mentioned this in yesterday's post. You could call this "stew pie" because it is made from leftover stew. I have deviated from this in that I have bought a tall can of Dinty Moore stew and a pair of frozen deep dish pie crusts, filled the bottom crust and used the second crust for the top. If you're more adept at crust making than I am and have a large family-sized pie plate, you can make a heaping helping of pie to feed your family (one small pie is enough for three people). This is a great way to use leftover stew. Serve with fruit on the side and maybe a salad.

Meat Sauce for Spaghetti from leftover Pot Roast (or steak)

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce -Wikimedia Commons
I've done this several times. If you have a food processor or a meat grinder, run your leftover meat through to a small grind or mince (cut up into smaller pieces so the processor can handle it). When you have lots of minced meat, put your spaghetti sauce together in the pot as you normally would and add the meat to it. The seasonings of the meat will add flavor to the sauce as will the meat itself and it will be wonderful and meaty! 

Chicken Fingers

The method I used to fry mine, but another blogger's recipe.
When I was caring for my mother, I tried to give her variety, meet her wants as well as her needs and get her to eat chicken more often (she would have lived on beef if she could). She liked fried foods, but was supposed to cut back because of cholesterol. One breast of chicken was too much for her to eat, so I decided to try something new. I was already pan frying some things for her using light olive oil. I had also bought some lemon pepper marinade. So, I took a single chicken breast, sliced it across the grain into multiple pieces, dipped those pieces into the marinade and then into bread crumbs. While vegetables were heating up on the stove, I pan fried those pieces in olive oil to give her the texture she wanted with the healthiest oil I could use without actually deep frying. This turned out wonderful! Not only did we have enough pieces to feed my mother and me, but my daughter stopped by and had some as well - just from one single chicken breast. Of course, we also had two vegetables and a fruit plus bread, but that piece of chicken went a long way and didn't take long to put together.

Shepherd's Pie on the Fly

Another blogger's Shepherd's Pie (actually Cottage Pie because it's beef)
Sometimes we're in the mood for Shepherd's Pie but really don't want to put it all in a casserole and put it in the oven when it's already cooked and ready to eat, so we will make a quick pan full of what amounts to a hamburger stew (hamburger, gravy, peas and carrots) in one pan and mashed potatoes in another and serve them just that way, topping the potatoes with the stew.

Finally, there's our all-time favorite:


Vegan burrito filling, but no recipe in the blog.
You can also use what I make as a hot chip dip, which is how I was introduced to it. I just used it a different way.
Again, I'm using hamburger. Sometimes I add onions or onion powder, but I always add salt and pepper. Once the hamburger is finished cooking, I add a can of refried beans and a cup of salsa. I stir it all together. I used to add shredded cheese in the pan as well, but my daughter has limited her dairy intake, so the cheese gets added during the assembly of the burritos. We put our own burritos together rather than have one person assemble them for us. My daughter likes to add diced tomatoes and lettuce to hers. Since I don't, I let her get those ready. It's really all ready to go in under 30 minutes. You can heat the tortillas in the microwave or individually on a flat griddle. No matter what, it's really good!

Those a few of the meals we rely on to cook up quickly and easily. I hope you like them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pennsylvania Dutch-style PotPie – No Crusts, Thank You

My favorite food of my youth is chicken potpie. I can remember a time when everyone I'd talk to knew what I meant by chicken potpie. If you wanted a dinner pie with a crust, then it was chicken pie or meat pie, NOT potpie. We had meat pie several times a year – always after Mom would make a huge pot of beef stew. She'd serve stew the first night and then make two large meat pies with the leftover stew, one to freeze and one to eat the next night. Although there were only three of us, Mom never seemed to know how to cook smaller portions.

Chicken potpie, however, was the ultimate comfort food. Full of doughy goodness, a carbaholic's dream, it was the result of cooking chicken in water, making a stock, removing the chicken and placing strips of rolled dough into the broth to boil away, to thicken the broth and become tender and full of flavor. The chicken was served on the side (although, honestly, I rarely ate any) along with a vegetable and cranberry sauce or apple sauce. Of course, my parents always had to have bread on the table as well. They could have put many carb lovers to shame. Really – they'd have as many as five different kinds of bread open on the counter on any given day because they just loved eating different kinds of breads and rolls at every meal. The birds in Mom's back yard grew fat and lazy over the years, I assure you.

Anyway, Mom would make potpie in her large aluminum stock pot, although it was probably more of a canning pot. It was huge. Twenty-two quarts of ecstasy that would often last a week. If she made it in winter, the pot would be put on the back step until the next day when it was brought in to be re-heated. Remember – there were only three of us. Her recipe for potpie dough called for 7 cups of flour. That's a lot of dough.

Because Mom spent most of her teen years in the depression, she became well aware of what foods were the easiest to make with the least amount of money and ingredients. She was raised on farms (my grandfather was a tenant farmer until his father-in-law died and they inherited his farm), so they always had chickens on hand. Flour was fairly inexpensive. Benny also raised pigs, so they had lard to make dough with. Chicken potpie was a no-brainer. And, if unexpected guests stopped by, there was always more than enough to feed them. You didn't leave the table hungry in the Postell house.

Chicken potpie is also a Pennsylvania Dutch favorite and is very similar to Southern Chicken and Rolled Dumplings (other than the chicken is served separately). Considering one branch of Mom's family came up from the south and Benny's farming efforts putting him in contact with the Amish when he went to market in Philadelphia, it's anybody's guess how this meal actually came to be so popular in the family.

I have since learned that I can use flour tortillas to make a quick and tasty potpie (although, from scratch really is the best). I cut the tortillas into strips and shake them in a bag with flour and then cook them in the chicken stock/broth until done. The flour helps thicken the stock so there is that wonderful thick gravy I grew up with. Sometimes I make the broth from scratch and sometimes I use other methods of making broth (base, bouillon, boxed broth), but it still provides that comfort factor I occasionally crave.

Here are some links to recipes very similar to what I grew up with. I hope you enjoy them.

NeartoNothing's Chicken Potpie

Chicken Potpie  (I missed this when I was checking out her blog! Mom didn't add egg to her dough and left it in long strips rather than making smaller squares.)

More Chicken Potpie (the broth in this one is more like Mom's, but it's your taste, not mine)

Monday, April 18, 2011

An Award to Forward

First of all, I want to profusely thank Amy for giving me this really great award. It feels great to get an award for my blog from one of my peers. However, this award comes with some rules, but that's OK because you get to pay it forward to other bloggers you admire.

The rules are as follows:

1. Thank and link back to the person giving you the award.
2. Share 7 Things About Yourself.
3. Award 10-15 Blogs Who You Think Deserve This Award.
4. Contact these bloggers and let them know about the award.

7 Things About Me:

1. I actually am not a fan of cooking.
2. I love romantic comedies.
3. I consider myself a diehard foodie.
4. I no siblings and no cousins near my age.
5. I have two grown children one of whom has three children of his own.
6. I like reading mysteries, especially mysteries that touch on food (and have recipes!) or that use cats to solve them.
7. I have been working on my family tree since 1974. Of course, the hardest to locate have been my my and my mother's maiden names.

Bloggers Worthy of Recognition

BTW: To get the badge, right click and copy & paste to your computer.