lilacs in bucket

lilacs in bucket

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Stuffed Green Peppers

I love green peppers! And stuffing them is the ultimate peasant comfort food.
Here's how I do it.

6-8 good sized green peppers
1/2 c. onion, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
salt
pepper
1 - 1 1/2 lb. ground chuck
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 c. cooked rice
8 oz. tomato sauce
Oregano
Cumin
Sugar
1 c. corn
Velveeta cheese

Carefully cut the tops from your peppers and immerse them in boiling water for 6-8 minutes. Drain, allow them to cool for just a bit.

In the meantime, throw a little olive oil around your skillet and drop your chopped onions in. Salt, pepper. Let them sizzle for a few minutes before dropping the garlic in (garlic burns easily). Drop in the ground chuck, a little more salt and pepper, season with oregano and cumin. Drain grease from meat. Pour in about half of your tomato sauce, throw a little sugar down to cut the tomato, drain your stewed tomatoes and pour in. Stir in the cooked rice corn. Season again, using salt, pepper, oregano and cumin to taste.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Now, slice up four or five pieces of the Velveeta, yes, Velveeta. I know it's processed cheese but, it melts well. For six peppers, you'll need twelve squares of velveeta. Place one square in the bottom of each pepper. Spoon the meat mixture into the pepper, packing down slightly. Once all your peppers are filled, drizzle the rest of the tomato sauce on top of each pepper, lay another chunk of cheese on top. Cover tightly and bake for 45 minutes. Take the top off, bake another 15 or so minutes.
Yum!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sum, sum, sum, sum, sum, sum, summertime!


Ah, roasted tomato caprese salad, that's what I'm talking about.
Might seem a bit elementary to bigger cooks than me, however. Gotta say it. Knowing it's not really tomato season yet, I'm thinking I'm pretty smart right now. Thinking that roasting these pre-season tomatoes is a darn fine idea.
Roasting your tomatoes (or any vegetable, for that matter) will bring out the natural sweetness, and in this case, tomatoes aren't really in season yet, so they need a little help in bringing out all their natural goodness. So, I vote roasting. I've never seen it fail, with any vegetable.
Here's what I do:
10-12 roma or plum tomatoes - halve these babies. Lay them out, cut side up, on a baking sheet.
Preheat your oven to 275°. Drizzle with about a quarter cup extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle again with 1 1/2 tablespoons blasamic vinegar. Combine 2 large garlic cloves (minced), with 2 or 3 teaspoons of sugar, some kosher salt and some pepper. Sprinkle liberally over tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes for 2 or so hours, or until slightly carmalized. Let them cool.
Bring out a very nice serving dish. Come on now. Summertime!
Here's something about mozzarella, and I'm talking about fresh mozzarella, not the shredded variety - freeze your cheese for about 15 minutes before you plan to slice it. There is something just really gross about trying to slice room-temperature mozzarella cheese. It's seriously icky. All that sliding and buckling under the knife, no way. So, freeze your mozzarella, allow it to get slightly hard before you slice it. Slice your mozarella into thin strips, layer your dish, alternating your cheese with your tomato halves. Julienne about 10 good size basil leaves. Now, don't cheat and sprinkle the dried version here. Just don't do that. Seriously, roll up your basil leaves and slice them. Scatter the basil atop your tomatoes and mozzarella, sprinkle some more salt and pepper, drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Serve. Eat. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Absorb!

Wow, those women over at "What Women Write" are kicking some serious writing butt and, taking no prisoners I might add. I'm not saying that just because Julie Kibler is one of the most unique, talented women writers I know, I'm saying that because ALL of them are unique, talented writers. See for yourself at: http://www.whatwomenwritetx.blogspot.com/. And, p.s. I love Julie. Go girl!

Now, here's something else, something close to my heart, something we've talked about before. New York agent Nathan Bransford wrote a great article recently on voice: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/05/how-to-craft-great-voice.html. You guys know how I feel about voice. I can erect my own soapbox and jump on it anytime but, listen, if you've been told that you, the writer, have no voice, only your characters have voice, skip on over and read what Nathan has to say about that particular subject. Great article.

Okay, so, I am not going to get in your face tonight about reading. You've heard enough of that to kill an elephant, say, so I'll skip that and just say, cultivate your resources. Tap into other writers, their blogs, their websites, their writings, all of it. Find a hobby, whether it be photography, painting, music, whatever. Absorb, absorb, absorb, all that surrounds you, for good or for naught. Absorb. Breathe in the moment, deeply. When the well is full, put pen to paper, fingertips to keypad, and dump it all out. Empty your soul. Write it all down, no hesitation.

Other than that, I have no more to say but to apologize for the date on the photo. I have FINALLY learned how to take the date-stamp off my photos and I am sorry this one has a date but, I sort of liked it anyway. I hope you'll bear with me regarding my various faux pas.

So, anyway, write on, read on, study on, absorb, absorb, absorb! What would the world be without your stories, seriously?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Talking About Meatballs



Spaghetti and meatballs.



Wow.



Not talking about spaghetti and meat sauce, here. Talking Meat. Balls. In Red Tomato Sauce. That's what I'm talking about. That's what makes me one happy girl.



Spaghetti and meatballs is such a fun food. Seriously. It's just fun. Everybody likes it. Kids love it. Adults find comfort in it. I can't even tell you how many times I've found comfort at the bottom of a steaming bowl of pasta, sauce and meatballs atop. Who doesn't love curling tomato-laden garlic infused linguine around a fork into a lump so big you can't even get it into your mouth without being sort of crude, and the happy sigh that follows the successful shove into the mouth; can't beat that with a stick.



Not sure why anyone would want to beat a meatball with a stick anyway.



Well, my main point with this whole diatribe is the meatball. The Meat. Ball. Yes, indeed. The ball of meat. That beautiful meaty roundness squatting atop a huge mound of pasta and beautiful marinara or, whatever you like, sauce. I'm not picky. I want you to be happy.



Oh boy. Let's make some meatballs. So, grab your apron and a knife and let's get down to it.



My first move is to chop about a half cup of onion and slap that down into some olive oil, salt and pepper and let my onions sweat and get all kinds of tender and pretty in the saute pan.



In the meantime, I get one egg from the refrigerator, I pull out my oregano, nutmeg, bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese, my ground chuck, and my ground italian sausage. I like to use about a pound and a half ground chuck to a half pound ground italian sausage. Dump my meats in a bowl and then I start dropping the rest of my ingredients in. I don't measure anything, sorry, don't count on me for that because I don't do it, so, just watch what you're doing and if your meat mixture starts looking dry, keep in mind, we're going to add some warm water in a minute.



You might wonder about the nutmeg. Well, I used to wonder about that too, until a friend of mine said, just use it. It's the mystery ingredient that will keep people guessing. So, being sort of structured, more or less able to follow command at times (foodie stuff may be the time), I tried it and well, nutmeg seems to add a little question to the palette wherever it's used so, I like to throw it in there just so people will taste it and wonder, what's that edge? What is that anyway? It makes them curious and when they get curious, they tend to taste more, all the while trying to figure out what are we eating here anyway?



So, work all that above-mentioned mixture together with your fingers, adding salt and pepper, and more or less 1/4 cup warm water. It really doesn't matter how much liquid you use as long as your meatballs are moist but firm when you start rolling them up. So, when you're satisifed the increments are right, dump in your sauteed onions as well and then begin rolling up your meat balls. I always make them too big. I know I do this and I can't seem to stop it so, my family has become used to mega-meatballs.



Drop your meatballs into some sizzling olive oil, saute, turn, and once you are satisfied they are browned enough, drop them into your sauce, whether homemade or bottled, and let it go about 20 more minutes on a low simmer. Not a lot more than that because tomato-based sauces tend to become bitter if they're cooked too long or too hard so, in that same vein, don't turn your temperature way up for same reason. Just let it simmer. Throw some linguine, or the pasta of your choice, into a pot of boiling water, cook for 8-9 minutes, drain, coat with sauce and meatballs, grab a big loaf of crusty bread and enjoy!






Sunday, May 9, 2010

Reading is Good....


I guess I've said this about 19 times now; however, I feel I must say it again.


Reading is paramount to writing. If you fancy yourself a writer, well, then, read. I'm not meaning to be harsh here. I'm just saying, if you want to write, if you are serious about the craft, you must, you MUST, read. Absolutely. The two cannot be separated.


Besides that, isn't it nice to lay back in your easy chair or your lawn chair and just retreat from everything you have to deal with in your real life? Come on.


Well, listen. You may think of me as a fiction writer, albiet the womens' fiction writer, the light stuff, the fluff, the happy ending stuff. Okay, yes, I do that. I do it with wild abandon. There is something about the idea of finding love, love working out, love being the catalyst for a happy and productive life, that I really like. Yes. I'll stand on my soapbox about that always. But.


Lately, I've been venturing out of my shell. Maybe you've noticed with the post on "Winter's Bone" and a few other works that aren't necessarily in my proclaimed genre. Can I tell you I have a couple of writings, out of my usual realm, for you to consider?


You didn't respond in the affirmative but, nonetheless. I am going to deliver here.


I borrowed a book from a friend recently, "Lucky Jim," written by Kingsley Amis. You know, I don't usually go for so much prose but, in this book, it's well done. The hapless James Dixon, the non-tenured professor, the lovable loser, eternal prankster, well, he's just a great character. The women in his life, his boss, his adversaries, it's all totally hilarious. At first, I thought about putting the book down because, as I said, I don't go for a lot of flowery prose but, out of respect for my friend, I thought I needed to give this book a go and I'm glad I did. It's a great read.


The other book I want to mention is "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave. This story haunted me for days after I put it down. A young woman, a teenager actually, left in a country not her own, with nothing? Nothing but a phone number and a driver's license of someone who may have helped her once but, who bears so much guilt about earlier circumstances that he takes his own life when she shows up at his home out of the blue. Wow. It's a really good book. I highly recommend it.


So, once again, I am imploring you to read. It's been said it's fundamental. I agree. It's fundamental but, if you want to write, please, please read.


That's all folks.

Mom


And so, today is Mother's Day.

So, let's talk.
My mother has been such an extraordinary force throughout my life, and I wish I could give her tribute without sounding cliched or slightly moronic. I fear I can do neither and, so I sit here today saying this: My mother has been the push on my back, the voice in my ear, the conscience speaking, the summons issued, the solid rock I've run to during various times in my life.

I remember this: my mother was way before her time in so many ways. When I was a teenager, or maybe even a pre-teenager, when we lived in southwestern Minnesota, my mother used to talk about things that should be invented and patented; things that would make life easier for all. I can't now remember specifically what she was talking about; however, in later years when things came out that had been patented and were known throughout the world, I do remember thinking that my mother had, at some point, thought about that already. She knew. She just somehow knew. So smart. So right on, she was.


Here is another thing. As an adult, I am not a church-going person; however, my mother has seldom missed a day of church in her life. While I don't follow that particular habit, I respect it. She has an anchor that I don't necessarily see as an anchor, but it's valuable to her. She has a bedrock that I respect, even if I don't quite agree with it.


My mother sees worth in people according to their work ethic, something I hope I am carrying on according to her standards. She was born in 1934; she lived through a truly miserable time in our country and, as a result, she places great value on hard work and persistence and perserverance. She did it. She has no patience for those who expect it all to be done for them. I hope I make her proud in this respect.


Onto something lighter, and I so wish I had a photograph to prove it but, my mother, well, she liked her fashions and hairdos and the like. If I find a photo (I think my sister may have them all), I'll share it but, at present, I don't. Sorry. At any rate, my mother put a lot of store in how one presents. There is a lesson to be learned there, in this age of pants on the ground, for God's sake.

And so, I hope my mother has had the most wonderful of Mother's Days and I hope she knows that her influence is paramount to me and that it is valued.

Thanks, Mom.