Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cinnamon Dulce Loveliness

blog by: Alisa

Remember the old Coke commercial about teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony? A pretty, Utopian, pipe dream...... *shakes off reverie*

I'm not that ambitious. Not by a long shot. And besides, I'd rather sing to myself (sparing the innocent) and drink coffee.

While running errands yesterday, I realized I was at that precarious point where my blood sugar was about to spiral to my shoes. I stood in the checkout line, considering my options. Pizza? Nah, the place would be swamped at that time of day. They have my favorite Brown Cow cherry vanilla yogurt at the Vitamin Cottage next door, but still, too much time spent with a spoon. That left me with the Starbucks that was not 30 feet away from where I stood. Couldn't think of a single reason why not. Except for the cost. Don't get me wrong, when I'm on the verge of kissing my ability to think clearly 'Good-bye,' that cardboard-ringed paper cup is worth every penny. But not today.

Today, while shopping for sundry items, I spied a bag of Starbucks Espresso for less than six bucks, including the tax. *looks upward and counts on fingers* Never mind the math. I'd probably muck it up anyhow. Suffice it to say that I was feeling absolutely sure that I could figure out how to turn that bag into multiple cups of the cinnamon-y goodness known as a cinnamon dulce latte. If I can procure all the necessary ingredients, who can stop me? 

Nobody, that's who. Not even the lack of a steaming method for the milk.

First, I prepared a couple cups worth of espresso. More than I needed, but it was brewed with a coffee siphon, and that would be the bare minimum I would brew that way. Otherwise, it percolates much too fast & the resultant espresso would be nothing more than dark water. Eww. To the espresso grounds, I added a 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Smells like heaven when it brews.

While that was under way, I filled my 12 ounce mug halfway with milk. Poured that into a sauce pan, added another 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, a splash of caramel sauce, and brought it up to almost a simmer. Another heavenly scent.
Fill your mug halfway with the hot espresso, and then add the hot milk. If you want the complete 'pretty drink' experience, top with real whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.

It's a lovely drink for Fall, and you didn't have to endure a single note of my infernal caterwauling.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Far East Eats

blog by: Alisa

It's no secret: I love to cook. Most of the time, the results are great. There are those times when the meal is just comme ci, comme ça. *gives hand gesture for 'so so'* And sadly, there are those times when I just cannot manage to hit anywhere near my expected mark. Grrr... Those are the times when I feel like I've wasted every cent that went into the meal. Such are most of my attempts at cooking Chinese food. I just plain suck at it. I have a couple dishes that turn out great every time: sweet & sour pork or chicken,  shrimp stir-fry, and fried rice. Still, those don't outweigh the countless Chinese dinners I have shoved down the disposal. So, I was taking a pretty big risk when I decided to make a go of Thai curry, but it was a risk well worth taking. It turned out amazingly good & if my family would have let me, I would have cooked it every night afterward until I got sick of the flavor. Why? Because I love curry. Green, red, yellow... I'd even be game for a pink curry, and pink is not my color. Interestingly enough, when you mix white coconut milk with red curry, you do not get pink curry. Thank goodness, because I was kidding about being open to pink curry.

The following recipes are for Firecracker Shrimp and Thai Chicken Curry. The shrimp appetizers satisfy my Southern-bred adoration of all things deep fried. I know it's the worst way to cook things, but sometimes it's the only way to cook things. These babies would not be the same if they were baked or steamed. Besides, it's not like I served my family deep fried Twinkies or Snickers bars. I do have some discipline. Not much, but enough to live to see another day.


1/4 cup coconut milk *
1/4 TSP red curry paste
1/2 TSP minced garlic
1/2 TSP minced ginger
1/2 TSP fish sauce
1/8 TSP curry powder

24 large raw shrimp
6 sheets of eggroll wrappers or (preferably) springroll wrappers
Small bowl of clean water
Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Whisk together the marinade ingredients. Completely peel the shell off 12 of the shrimp. For the remaining 12, peel just down to the tail. Devein, if necessary. Add shrimp to marinade and mix til evenly coated. Chill in fridge for an hour. After chilling, remove shrimp from marinade and wipe off excess marinade from shrimp with a paper towel. Make 3 tiny cuts along the underside of each shrimp so that they will straighten out. Take the wrappers and cut them in half diagonally to make 12 triangles. Lay one of the triangles on your clean and dry work surface so that the edge you cut is horizontal in front of you. Starting with the left side, lay down one of the tail-on shrimp so that the tail sticks out past the bottom edge of the wrapper, but the tip does not go past the edge of the upper angle. Take that left corner and fold it over the shrimp and tuck it tightly around the tail end. Lay a tailless shrimp beside the first (fat end toward the bottom, skinny end up) and roll the first shrimp over the second. Lightly moisten the top point of the triangle, and fold it downward til it covers the end of the shrimp. Moisten the remaining portion of the wrapper and then roll the shrimp all the way to the end. If necessary, dab a little more water to the tip of the wrapper to make sure it is secure. Avoid getting any moisture on the outside of your completed shrimp wrap as it will make it stick to the plate that you will lay it on while finishing the other shrimp wraps. If there are any open areas, dab with a little water and pinch them together to seal. Do this for all of the shrimp.

You can cook these in a deep fryer, a wok, or a regular frying pan with enough oil to submerge the wraps. Heat your oil to 350 degrees. Drop shrimp wraps into hot oil and cook for about 3 minutes or until a nice golden brown on the outside. Do not overcook, as shrimp will dry out and become chewy when overcooked.

You can serve these with any sweet & sour sauce that you like, duck sauce, a mixture of 3 TBSP soy sauce and 3 TBSP rice wine vinegar, or with the following Thai sweet chili sauce.


1/2 cup water (divided)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 TSP minced ginger
1/2 TSP minced garlic
1 TSP hot chili sauce (found in the Asian food section of most any grocery store)
1 TSp ketchup
3 TSP cornstarch

In a small saucepan, mix together 1/4 cup water, vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic, chili sauce, and ketchup. Dissolve the cornstarch in the other 1/4 cup of water. Whisk into the saucepan & bring sauce to a mild boil to thicken. Remove from heat & allow to cool. Serve with firecracker shrimp.

*If you buy a 14 oz can of coconut milk, you can easily split it between this marinade and the Thai Red Curry recipe that follows. Seems a terrific waste otherwise. Unless maybe you like pińa coladas. ; )


1 can coconut milk (the remainder of what you used for the shrimp marinade is plenty)
1/8 cup red curry paste (add a little more to increase spice/heat if you want)
1/2 TSP yellow curry powder
1 TBSP fish sauce (found in Asian foods section of most grocery stores)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 TBSP sugar
1/4 lb fresh green beans, ends removed, cut in half, and then sliced down the middle (smaller, younger beans are preferred)
1 bell pepper (I like to use green and yellow for a more colorful dish)
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove minced garlic
1 lb chicken breasts or tenders, sliced thin
Fresh basil

In a saucepan, add coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Stir in curry paste and curry powder, and mix until thoroughly blended. Add fish sauce, lime juice, and taste. Balance the flavor the way you prefer. (More curry for a spicier flavor, more lime for tanginess, fish sauce for salt.) In a large frying pan, saute onion. Add green beans and bell pepper and cook until they begin to get tender. Add garlic and chicken to frying pan, and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Pour the curry sauce over the vegetables and meat. Tear the basil into large shreds and toss in right at the end. Cook only long enough to wilt. Transfer chicken curry to serving dish. Serve with white rice.

Be fearless in the kitchen!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Invisible Bonds, Enduring Ties

Blog by: Kim

Some female friendships are more that just chocolate and chit chat. We as women are more social, more community focused, collaborative, and, above all, we need our girlfriends. Instinctively, women have the need to 'tend and befriend.' We want to tend to our young and be with our friends. As we juggle our not-so-perfect, often crazy- but wonderfully real lives, time with our girlfriends actually reduces our stress levels.  In today’s age of broken families, divorce, and relatives living all over the world,  good girlfriends can become your family. It isn’t written anywhere that a blood bond automatically makes a family member love you or be a part of your life. In some cases, friends can love you more and be there for you in your darkest hour. Take it from me. If your lucky enough to have a strong, close family, great, but that’s not always the case and also not the topic of this blog. So let’s focus shall we?

I think it was Christmas 2004 when my little girl and I we alone. Just me and her in our small, snow covered house in Michigan. It was my good friend Sherry who insisted we come over and have dinner with them. It was also Sherry who refused to let  Emily and I be alone for Thanksgiving. (not that I couldn’t have made some mean frozen turkey tv dinners) Sherry cooked up a storm and fed us in her warm little kitchen, along with her great family. It was those humble times that I remember the most. I miss her. She did so much for us. In return, I hope I’m able to help my girlfriends in their time of need to. It goes both ways.

Counting on our girlfriends in good times and in bad is what we women do. Those of us blessed with great girlfriends understand implicitly that depending on one another and cheering each other on through both major and minor life crises is the currency of friendship. Good girlfriends talk, listen and simply show up for one another. After all, isn't that what friends are for? 

I found out that girlfriends may play a far greater role in our lives than even the glam gals from Sex and the City - today's poster girls for female friendships -might imagine. Go figure. Studies on women and stress show strong evidence that  gabfests with your girlfriends are vital to your health and may well help prolong your life. Yeah. You heard me.

And how about laying off the jealous/passive/aggressive competitive vibe? You know exactly what I’m talking about. I am guilty of it to, although I’m rarely willing to admit it. We women can be so catty. Truth be told, I still don’t trust many women. But I am working on it and getting better at it over time. Blame it on my lack of having my own mother or perhaps I was dropped on my head as a baby. Whatever the case, no one gets it like another woman can. So even if it’s just one or two, keep a couple of ‘em close. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

I was mulling over my amazing group of girlfriends. I have many. I also have one special group of eight women with whom we share a personal common thread. This thread stretches all over the USA. From as far west as CA to as far east as NYC. We promise to try to get together once a year and remain in contact via emails. What’s so amazing about this group is the fact that  we are all so different. Different ages, stages of life and different personalities. Each brings something a little different to the table. Some are moms, one is not. Some have young kids, some grown. Different tastes and talents. All with wicked sharp senses of humor- a must to hang with us. Get us all in one room  with a glass or two of wine and watch out! We are almost like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, only without those ridiculous pants. We view ourselves differently through other’s eyes, so we each wrote a brief description of one another below:

Martha- (kindred) NYC: the Brazilian, free spirit, kind, funny, loves Mother Earth and gives back as much as she can. Adores animals and people for who they are. Respects diversity.  Great friend, she’s beautiful and never looks her age. Loves music. A vegetarian, and once-in-a-blue-moon muncher of slippery snails. She’s wise , genuine and independent. Seems to drink from the fountain of youth.

AJ- Colorado: extremely smart, a great cook and  talented at all she touches. Not fair. Witty,  open minded, respectful of others thoughts and beliefs, a great mother and wife.  Liberal in politics, but not in parenting. Lovely without a drop of makeup. Nothing escapes her eyes. B.S. doesn't fool her. A hysterically funny, smart mouthed talented lyricist and writer. Marches to the beat of her own drum and does it in a wicked cool way. Thinks outside the box.

Suz- Maryland:  brainy and educated wife and mom, the conservative one in the bunch. Has a strong religious strong faith. Volunteers in her church, she’s fun, loves to read and listen to music.  She's tenacious, a loyal friend and enjoys singing . Extremely caring, lovely and generous to a fault. A rock who’s friendship never waivers or falters. Gives great advice or a shoulder to lean on. Also a whiz in the kitchen.

Kim- (Kimmy) Florida: artist/writer. Open-minded, liberal italiana, strong and loving. A leader, creative, and feisty. A mommy/wife and business woman. The “girly girl” of the group.  Loves  music and all things British. Fierce & devoted. A multi-layered girl and a loyal friend. Caring, independent and good at keeping it together even when she doesn't think she is. Cursed with handsome men falling in love with her (who wrote that part?) Killer aim with a stiletto heel. A caged bird who needs to sing and be free. Despises boredom and mediocrity. A creative, hilarious, sometimes too sensitive, passionate, exotic beauty.

Rosalie- Wisconsin: originally from the Philippines, married with three adorable kids, a very sweet, calm soul. She’s more centered when some of us are whirlwinds. Loves 70's and 80's music, smart, dedicated mama and wife. Kind and loving. Cute, petite and patient – she has to be with a resident doctor husband!  Optimistic and strong. A sense of humor that’s razor sharp, but takes care not to cut anyone who doesn't deserve it. Fiercely devoted to keeping the family ties tied tightly, no matter what the circumstance. Grew up learning how to be tough on the outside, but is truly, at her core, sensitive to not only her pains, but those of the people she cares about.

Jillie-(jillie bean) California: on the other coast and too far away from most of us. Two cute sons and a hubby. Liberal, passionate about mother earth, human rights and politics, music lover and critic, history buff, strict parent, not  a girly girl, loves to cook and do things for others, volunteers and loves to self-educate. A supportive friend .The watcher of crazy, off-balance people who require monitoring for the safety and well-being of others. Capable, supportive, warm. A natural beauty who gives great advice about hair and is non judgmental with us (very important in a friend)

 Liz -(Lizzy McLiz)- Nevada: the sweet, caring sensitive one, like Martha, adores animals of all shapes and sizes, hubby travels a lot, she tirelessly takes care of her aging mom, takes care of all of us actually. She’s like a mom/girlfriend wrapped in one. Fun, smart, great energy. Great sense of humor, wears her heart on her sleeve (where she wipes her frequent tears!) The goodness from the inside shines on the outside. Also non judgmental.
The auntie who adores and treats the children of  our group as if they were blood related. Would probably hug the world if she could, whereas Kim would probably smack it.

Kristin- Virginia: Amazingly strong woman, wife and mom.  Enduring and patient. We can't say enough about how much we admire and respect her dedication to her family. Her kids adore her just as much as she adores them. Deadpan funny, sarcastic, witty, smart...multi-layered, private, strong and self-sufficient. Great friend. Does more than any of us together can do. Multitasker. Stands on her own two feet so often when she really should lean harder on us. Patient and level-headed in the most demanding of situations that would bring others to their knees. A survivor. Inspired by the strengths of her children & in turn inspires strength in her children. Perfect sense of sarcastic timing. charming, dedicated, pretty blonde, courageous and devoted.

If you realize how vital to your whole spirit , well being, character, mind and health – friendship actually is, you will make time for it. For so many of us, we have to be in trouble before we remember what’s essential. Remember now.

“Welcome to your life….there’s no turning back" 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

For Better Or Worse?

blog by: Alisa

Last night, I got to thinking about the origins of marriage. They used to be predominately more like business transactions, what with the parents of the bride being given some form of payment in return for their daughter. The girls were married off at young ages to ensure that their husbands were the first to lay with them. No self-respecting man would want sullied goods, and the family of the girl wouldn’t want to risk dishonor. I came to the conclusion that whoever came up with the idea of legally binding unions was either a genius with real foresight or else a real ass who had little hope of convincing a good woman to stay with him til death did they part. I say we go find that guy and shoot him. He’s long since dead and buried, you say? Then let’s dig him up and break his legs. Or tibias. Whatever. You get the drift.

Somewhere along the way, marriages were entered into by two people who actually wanted to be married to one another. What a wonderful concept.

When I was young and growing up in the South, it seemed like girls were expected to be married at a young age. Yes, the threat of spinsterhood is universal, but in the South, marriage was a bit like 4-H or animal husbandry; with the young being raised in the ways of tending crops and caring for undomesticated animals. As soon as some young woman could bake a pan of cornbread, and was tall enough to hang washing on the line, she was of suitable age to be married. I’m being serious. If a girl of 16 wanted to marry Bubba, the most resistance she was met with was, “Well, you’d better let me be the one to talk to Daddy first. He needs some time and a few Budweisers before he’s gonna warm up to this idea.” The cold Bud sitting beside his hot cornbread, and a night to sleep on the idea, would be usually be enough to do the trick. If a girl were younger than 16 and wanting permission to marry,  it  would be granted after rationalizing ‘That’ll teach her to think she’s all growed up!’ and ‘She’d better not come crawling back home when it doesn’t work out.’ Still being serious.
It’s a mixed bag. Some of those early marriages fizzled out before the slice of frozen wedding cake could be retrieved from the freezer for the first anniversary. (Really, people? Year old frost-bitten cake as a form of celebration? Pass.) Some of those marriages drag themselves the entire way to an uncertain destination. And still some of those marriages go strong until the very end. I doubt I would’ve won many shopping sprees to the Piggly Wiggly (grocery chain in the South only) for having placed accurate bets on any of the early marriages that my friends and acquaintances entered into.

About a year ago, my husband commented that he didn’t think humans were meant to be monogamous, but that we tend to be so because of our consciences. I had that twinge of ‘Oh my gosh, what is he trying to tell me?’ but he assured me that it wasn’t guilt or selflessness that made him stay. He just loves me. He tells me that I am not like other women because I don’t care much about my hair (not true, I’ve just given up), or jewelry, and couldn’t care less about current fashions. In my head I heard him saying, ‘Your hair is a mess, a necklace once in a while wouldn’t kill you, and your momma taught you to dress funny.’ He says he loves me because I’m the smartest woman he knows. Honestly? He should get out more.

It isn’t that I don’t believe marriage can’t be permanent or happy. I do, but I also gave a lot of thought to that comment. Not that the idea hadn’t occurred to me before, it’s just that I hadn’t heard anything of the sort before from the man who professes to love me like no one else (that is entirely true), and often speaks of our future in the Golden Years. It wasn’t the first time I’d thought of us living separate lives. He makes me crazy. I make him crazy. You do the math. So, if we aren’t innately meant to be monogamous, yet we live in a society that all but demands it (the children will be illegitimate and you will not be granted hospital visiting privileges without it), what are we supposed to do when our feet start edging toward the door and our eye is furtively snatching glances at the horizon? There isn’t anyone else for whom I would ditch my current life, or even risk it for that matter, but that’s only because I have a sneaking suspicion that John Cleese wouldn’t be terribly thrilled to find me in his bed. There are those times, though, when I could benefit from a Time Out or a ‘break’ a la Rachel Green (not Ross Geller’s idea of ‘We were on a break!’). It can’t actually be considered selfish if I took the kids along with me, can it? What if he took the kids with him, back to his hometown where his single, high school sweetheart still resides? Alas, it seems that, whichever way you look at it, someone is going to get their feelings hurt. Hurt feelings breed resentment. Resentment breeds divisiveness. Divisiveness leads to divorce. There’s a sense of ‘can’t win for trying’ here.

Which is more reliable – binding marriage or mutual agreement? Someone recently mentioned to me that relationships between couples are made stronger when there is an element of insecurity. The woman maintains an attractive appearance and a strong sense of independence, and her man will think twice about taking for granted that she’ll be tending to their shared lives when he comes home from work. The man is gainfully employed and treats their children like they are the center of his universe, and his woman’s maternal instincts will see this protective behavior as something she would never risk losing. If a husband or a wife could walk out the door at any given moment, with little explanation other than the relationship has run its course, how would that element of uncertainty affect the way they treat one another on a day to day basis? Would they be forever locked into an ongoing state of courtship, or could they find a rhythm and comfortable routine that satisfied both of their needs?

 I suppose the answer is that every couple is different. What works for the Joneses will not work for the Smiths. You weren’t thinking I was about to spill some hard and fast rules or truths, were you? I’m merely thinking out loud. And keeping one eye on the horizon.

"A thousand empty days. 
A thousand empty nights have been so cold.  
I have sacrificed my integrity. 
And as it all falls down in front of me,
throughout the years these truths I tried to hide. 
But at least I tried. 
Our love is a gilded cage."  ~From the song 'Love Is' by De:laQ


Friday, September 17, 2010

My First Five Husbands...and the ones who got away

blog by: kim

“This is about the men I have known, both in  the platonic and biblical senses. Some I knew only slightly, some quite well. Some I’ll love always, some I no longer like very much, and there are a few I’d like to strip naked, tie to a maypole, smear with sweet syrup near a beehive, then stand back and watch. I will describe these men, keeping the nicest man for last. There were times when I wondered, Lord will I ever get it right? Thank god I thrive on variety” ~Rue McClanahan from the book My First Five Husbands…And The Ones Who Got Away

I’m no Rue McClanahan. Did you think I was referring to myself with the five husband reference? No. But I will say that being the wandering spirit that I was through my life, I have had my share of romantic relationships and experiences that even I am a little in awe of. I’m glad I took the leaps of faith for the most part. Some of you were good, some bad, some complete creeps. (what was I thinking?) The following are my own personal, true stories... with names withheld to protect the innocent. There was a husband or two, a couple of fiancés that I’ll remember fondly and boyfriends. I never had a “type” of man. I have had the pleasure of spending a couple of years with a starving artist, my ph.d doctor husband,  a sportscaster and even a semi-rock star sprinkled in for good measure. Each taught me a different lesson. Each a very different man.

Ph.d  Doctor –you gave me Experience and Culture Thank you for the years of showing me great works of art, traveling the to Europe and other far away places where they drive on the opposite side of the road. Thank you for the stamps in my passport book. Thank you for introducing me to fancy foods I couldn’t pronounce. And thank you for the realization that I could hold my own in a conversation with intellectually superior people who used very large words to make a point. I hope I didn’t embarrass you and I hope you forgive me for my young, carefree spirit and how I eventually moved on. I was all of 23.

Semi-Rock Star- you taught me Reality  “Mr. Guitar Man” we shall call him had the privilege of playing background guitar on a couple of tours with famous bands. (names and dates still withheld to protect the innocent, remember?) I had known him since I was 17 and revisited the relationship again 15 years later. Not smart. The talent he had on the guitar was not there as my “other half”. I have a way of building men up in my head to be so much more than they actually are. Thank you “Mr. Guitar Man” for that cold, hard smack of reality. It was six months in when I realized I still hadn’t gotten it right. And with a heavy heart, I bid you adieu.

Emily’s daddy/Ex husband- you taught me Humility and Strength This is one of the most defining marriages I had. It broke me. At 26, I thought you were a great love. I was never the type of girl that wanted to be a soccer mom. To marry, have 2.5 children, drive a mini van and sell tupperware. My one child with you was my attempt at being a mommy. You gave me Emily and for that I am grateful. She will be the only child I’ll ever have . I love my little "emily sue who" very much. One is enough, thank you.  If i'd known we'd split like we did, I would have thought twice. Pure humility. I didn't see it coming. If only I’d known you wouldn't be there when she took her first step, or say her first word. But from this I found the strength to get up and take care of Emily by myself. I was much stronger than I thought I’d be. I hope you and Emily grow close as she grows up, because we get better as the years go by don't we?

To my sportscaster boyfriend who’s ego was a wee bit too big for his britches, being on tv does not make you a good boyfriend. Why not just date yourself then?  To the Real Estate Mogel who never knew how to relax and to the starving artist, who’s talent has gone unnoticed and who is probably still starving - I thank you for your time and for your hearts. Some of you are happily married now, others are still single. I wish you happiness. And to the assholes whom I should have never looked twice at (you know who you are) your poor excuses of men. Some of you are real head cases. Invest in a good shrink.

I’ll wrap up with this: I don’t like when people say “I have no regrets in my life” That’s nonsense. That means that you either made perfect decisions or your dumb ass didn’t learn from your mistakes. Mistakes? I have had a few with men. I have regrets, yes. I also took a leap of faith and got to experience some great places and people and had the honor of knowing some amazing souls. And I’m still in awe of the 50 year marriages. It's amazing . As I make my way in this world, my ideas of love have evolved and matured. Love is a journey through a beguiling wilderness. We all travel down different paths, so don’t judge one another. We all have different lessons to learn and we are doing the best we can. And we are, perfectly….still.

For the single ladies: My Dating Tip #1
Man Collecting: Men are fun to look at, but some can be temperamental and  some bite. Hold out your hand so they can sniff you first. Some are sweet puppies, others snarling pit bulls. So choose wisely girls and always look for a good breeder. Trust me, I have known a few.

“I only like two kinds of men.- foreign and domestic” Mae West

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Comforting Foods

What makes comfort food a comfort? Is it just a dish that makes the person eating it feel better? Tonight, I comforted my family with Grilled Bruschetta and a damn fine Chicken Marsala. It was so fine that my daughter, who has always declared popcorn chicken to be the only acceptable form of chicken, was eating the grilled chicken and making these sounds of pleasure that are normally reserved for the likes of warm apple turnovers and my decadent dark chocolate frosting. She makes being a picky eater into a sport where she intends to win the gold medal at every meal. I'm not sure what changed her perception. Maybe it was because I allowed her to slice mushrooms with a sharp knife, or cut up cold butter to stir into to the Marsala sauce, or because I handed her a tiny piece of grilled chicken and told her it would taste just like popcorn chicken without the breading (I've tried that fib on more than one occasion, but she would not be convinced). Whatever it was, she began eating the grilled chicken breast as quickly as she could make room in her mouth for another bite. Six years into her life of eating solid foods, I've discovered that salt and pepper seasoned grilled chicken is as comforting to me as any thick stew or creamy pasta dish that she might one day appreciate.
Today, I listened to my daughter's dentist tell me the good news (it's not a cavity) and then the bad news (might need to pull a perfectly good baby molar to make way for a permanent molar which is causing her pain in its current position). With my yin seriously outweighing my yang, imagine my surprise at finding contentment in something someone else was eating. Now THAT is comfort food.

6  Roma tomatoes, diced small
1 1/2 TBSP fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil (the dark, first-press oil is preferred here)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of kosher salt
Black pepper to taste
Couple twists of Italian seasoning from a grinder (optional, but recommended if you can find it - it's rosemary, oregano, garlic, onion & tomato)
Demi loaf of crusty Italian bread, sliced into 1/2" slices
Except for the bread, mix together ingredients in a bowl. Leave at room temp for an hour to allow the flavors to marry.
Brush the bread generously with extra virgin olive oil on both sides. Grill the bread until toasted.
Top with a generous scoop of the tomato mixture, eat over your plate, and don't miss a morsel.

4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
Salt and pepper to season
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, julienne into thin strips
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons clarified butter, divided *
1 cup dry Marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brush with clarified butter and grill approximately 4 minutes per side or until cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Move chicken to a warm plate. In a skillet add the other half of the clarified butter, onion, prosciutto and mushrooms. Add a little olive oil if you want or need to keep your 'shrooms from sticking. Cook for about  2 minutes, then add the wine and stock, and deglaze the pan. Simmer until Marsala wine and stock is reduced by more than half.
Reduce heat and add cold butter. When butter has melted and sauce is creamy, add grilled chicken to pan and adjust taste for salt and pepper. Serve chicken over hot, buttered egg noodles with mushroom sauce on top.
4 servings

*Over low heat, warm up butter until it melts and separates. Spoon off the milk solids, and divide clarified butter for use. It's the solids that will burn and stick on a grill. Clarified butter keeps chicken looking fabulous.

Be Fearless in the Kitchen!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup. Is it fall yet?

Pardon the fact that our blog is rather naked right now, we are just getting started. We'll eventually prattle on about life, love, food, kids and music. We'll include as many torrid details as we can ! This is our solemn swear.

I live in Florida, Alisa lives in the Colorado mountains. If memory serves, fall hits her sooner than it does us here in the hot south. In the dead of winter, I'm always grateful to live here, but it is my northern friends that I envy in the fall. Being from Detroit, I remember the crisp fall leaves, the smell of autumn bonfires  and warm sweaters. Below is a photo of Michigan foliage. Yeah ...give me a pumpkin spice latte and we are good to go.

I have friends spread out all over the USA. A byproduct of living in multiple states through the years. But it's this time of year I'd like to take a flight up north. Despite our 90 degree heat and the fact that yes, we are still wearing bathing suits...I decided to make a sweet potato coconut soup this weekend. Sure, I'll look like a fool eating soup in the searing heat, but humor me. I am pretending fall is here. I will also set a place for Alisa, in hopes that she'll show up on my doorstep with a bottle of wine and a baguette of fresh bread. But without the fresh bread, I'll refuse to let her in...

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup

1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
1 small red onion, chopped
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes peeled,
 and cut into a large dice
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 tbsp clover honey
large pinch of ground cinnamon

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion
and ginger, cook until soft, 5 min.
Add red pepper flakes, cook for 30 sec
Add stock and water, bring to a boil
Add sweet potatoes, cook to a simmer, cook until
potatoes are soft, 20 to 30 min. Cool
Transfer mixture into a blender and blend until smooth
Return to saucepan and cook on low, whisk in
coconut milk, honey and cinnamon. 
Cook until thickened.
Season with salt & pepper.
Ladle into bowls  and serve with warm, fresh bread.

~post by: Kim