Friday, July 30, 2010

easy peanut noodles

I have the day off today.  I know what you're thinking. Cool... a Friday in July... a long weekend.  Nah.  My husband is moving his office... to the building right next door.  (Don't ask.) He and his staff have been working on packing and moving some things, but today is the expensive big Professional Movers day.  I'll be helping physically, but really, I am there for his mental support mostly. We've recruited our three teenage boys and at least one friend.  It should be an adventure.


I planned to make this recipe for dinner tonight because it's pretty easy and it tastes so good.  The day hasn't started yet, but already I am leaning towards pizza and a few beers.  I'll have to let you know.  In any case, if you are looking for something a little different give my Peanut Noodle dish a try.  



PEANUT NOODLES 

INGREDIENTS 

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced (white parts only)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until done. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, combine oil and onions in a small skillet. Saute over low heat until tender. Add ginger; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in peanut butter, soy sauce, water, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Remove from heat.
  3. Toss noodles with sauce, and serve. Ready in about 25 minutes. (Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 15 minutes)


I am not a fan of peanuts (although I love peanut butter) but you could add chopped peanuts on top for a nice garnish.  I also always add more ginger and red pepper flakes than the recipe calls for because that's how I like it.  Substitute udon noodle or anything other long pasta for the spaghetti. Experiment and make it yours.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: i learned the hard way

The last few years have given us a revival of the sound of the late 60s/early 70s... a healthy blend of gospel, soul and funk. If thoughts of Amy Winehouse, Duffy or Adele come to mind, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  But long before these ladies graced the airwaves, there was Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.  If Jones' voice, slightly gritty, echoing of a well-worn life, doesn't hook you once she starts belting out songs of lament and heartache, the rich, full sound of the Dap-Kings horns and strings will. Her latest album, I Learned the Hard Way, has gotten a lot of buzz and has been selected as one of the NPR's All Songs Considered, "Listeners Picks 2010's Best Albums So Far".  Those of you who are tempted to think this is just a rehashing of 1960's soul music, should have a listen before making up your mind.  Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are the real deal.


Here's the video of the title cut off their newest album.  I love the nod to early 70's culture and cinematography.  The music actually starts at 1:15, so stick with it. (It's worth the wait.)  Let me know what you think.  Do you think this genre really has had it's day in sun or do you find it as refreshing as I do?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

not your grandma's doilies: jennifer cecere

If you are like me and live on the East Coast (or even remotely close to the East Coast) you have been obsessed with the weather.  It's hot, it's dry, it's stormy.  You've given up dreams of a green lawn but still water the tomatoes in hopes they don't die. You're afraid to open your utilities bill. I am not so sure I am ready for winter to return (being snowed in sounds like fun but it really wasn't) but cooler weather would be nice.  The best we can do is keep cool and think frosty thoughts. (A nice cold beer helps, too.)












Since I can't control the weather, but I can control my thoughts, I thought it would be fun to share  the very cool work of New York artist Jennifer Cecere. Cecere creates giant doilies that remind me of snow flakes (or spider webs, but I'm sticking with the snow flakes).  These are definitely not your grandmother's doilies! Ranging in size from 4 to 20 feet and made from ripstop nylon and acrylic, these stunning creations are delicate and delightful.  (And in spite of last winter, you have to admit snow is pretty much beautiful).














Cecere says, "I see Doilies hanging between office buildings, off bridges, over construction sites transversing spaces indoors and out, growing from the ground-up, occupying urban spaces, parks, fields, mountains, museums, sports stadiums and anywhere you might not expect to see a giant Doily. 
I was inspired about taking something intimate and handmade and making it into something large and public. Cities need Doilies!"








I couldn't agree with her more.  

Thursday, July 22, 2010

don't eat the mushrooms

Poet Samuel Johnson said...


Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.

For the most part, I agree with this.  I love the (good) unexpected.  These are the little gems that add spice to our lives.  

Countrymouse and I routinely take our weekend morning coffee on the front porch (in our pajamas) when the weather permits. It's one of my favorite parts of the weekends, especially summer weekends. Before heading out to the porch Saturday morning, we spotted these in our backyard (psst... ignore the really tall (crappy) grass)...







I was pretty tickled because they seemed to have sprouted overnight.  What a nice way to start the morning. 

I really didn't give much more thought to the mushrooms.  I like mushrooms a lot but I would never consider eating any that I hadn't bought from a proper market.  My parents had always said, "Don't eat the mushrooms", as they warned against eating wild mushrooms... and being the obedient child that I was, I heeded.  (The horrific stories about poisoning yourself may have had something to do with it.)  Thinking back on it now, I am not sure how many mushrooms, let alone poisonous mushrooms, grow wild in New York City, where I grew up.

Our neighbor, Bernard, didn't have such cautious parents.  He grew up in France, where it is not uncommon to forage for edible plants on roadsides and random green spaces.  Bernard continues this practice here in the US and mushrooms seem to be one of his most common finds.  (Think: a French Euell Gibbons.) When we spotted Bernard from our porch Saturday morning, Countrymouse was excited to show him the overnight mushroom crop. Bernard was equally as excited to harvest a few.  Countrymouse listened in awe as Bernard educated him on what to look for when harvesting wild mushrooms.  I could see he had big plans for the mushrooms Bernard left behind. With my parents' admonition of "Don't eat the mushrooms" ringing in my head, I thought I should at least try them. Apparently, motivated by thoughts of the mushroom bounty in the our yard, Bernard went directly home and cooked up his batch and promptly shared them with Countrymouse.  

As Countrymouse entered the house, he was munching on the last few bites of a big bowl of mushrooms.  He offered a taste and I obliged (although I could swear I heard a voice saying, "Don't eat the mushrooms").  It was warm and garlicky, which I liked, but it also was soft and slimy like a raw oyster, which didn't sit well with me.  (I adore raw oysters.  I just don't want my mushrooms tasting that way.)

We all went about our day.  Later in the afternoon, Bernard paid another visit to our house.  He was sweaty and looking peaked. He kept insisting that we should not eat any of the mushrooms in the yard because "it was too hot" and we "weren't use to eating "like that'" (whatever that means).  In spite of what he said not making much sense to me, I agreed. When Countrymouse came hobbling in the house with the single-minded mission of making it to the bathroom before something terrible happened, I found sudden enlightenment.  Let's just say that I lost count of his trips to the bathroom. Eventually, my little taste of slimy mushroomness needed to get out and I spent a portion of my afternoon in the bathroom as well, all the time thinking, "Don't eat the mushrooms".  

All is well now. Nothing like a bit of self-induced food poisoning to make you take notice to what you're eating.  I don't think in the 23 years I've been a parent I have ever told my kids "Don't eat the mushrooms" but it's definitely on the top of my list of warnings now.  They'll probably think I'm giving them a drug talk, but either way it's good.

The obvious moral to my story is, Don't eat the mushrooms, but the behind the scenes lesson is, don't always trust your crazy neighbors.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

greek black-eyed peas

It’s summertime.  We’re all eating lighter, grilling, trying to consume as many fresh fruit and veggies as humanly possible before the long, warm days of summer (and local produce) are but a memory.  And while homemade potato salad may possibly be one of my favorite foods EVER, my taste buds need a change of pace.  With that in mind, I’ve made some interesting salads this summer, many of them centering around beans or some other kind of legume.  With a nice glass of wine and some crusty bread, these kind of salads can be a meal in their own right.  (Countrymouse, however, is one of those guys who doesn’t think he’s had supper unless there is some version of meat on the plate. Whatever.)  


If you live in the South (or quasi-South, like I do), you associate black-eyed peas with Fergie New Years Day.  The truth is these little babies are wonderful all year round and are really great for you.  A one-cup serving provides almost 20 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber and along with the spinach in this recipe, packs a nice dose of vitamin-A.

This recipe is an adaption of a Greek-inspired dish by Hank Shaw.   It’s a really nice combination of flavors. The sweetness of the tomatoes nicely counters the salty, savory tastes of the olives and feta.  The beans provide a satisfying base to the whole salad. I have to admit, this salad was almost better the next day after all the flavors had a chance to mingle.




Greek Black-Eyed Pea Salad
  • 2 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas, rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 package crumbled feta cheese (about 7 ounces)
  • 1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil (about 10 ounces), cut in strips (reserve oil)
  • 1 cup oil-cured black olives, preferably Kalamata (reserve oil)
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 3 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 large bunch of spinach (about 1 pound) washed, chopped
  • Zest and juice of a lemon
1.  Add the spinach to a large bowl. Mix in the feta cheese.
2.  Add tomatoes and olives, including the oil.
3. Add all the other ingredients except the lemon juice. Mix well.
4.  Add the black-eyed peas to the salad, mix well again and serve.
5.  Squirt some lemon juice over each plate before serving. (This helps keep the greens looking pretty and bright.)

Serves 8-10

Notes: Any kind of greens can be substituted for the spinach or perhaps a mixture of several kinds.  Fresh tomatoes can be used in place of the sun-dried, just add a dash of olive oil if the oil from olives isn’t enough for you.

Let me know what you think.  Do you have any other favorite bean salads?  There’s plenty of summer left and I’m always open to trying something new.

Monday, July 19, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: sneakin sally through the alley

Depending on your age, you might have come to know Robert Palmer via his iconic video for Addicted to Love (waaay back in 1996...egads!... A favorite of Countrymouse's I might add, although I am not sure it's for the song... if you know what I mean?!)  

My first exposure to Robert Palmer was the song featured here, Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley.  I'm not sure how or when I stumbled upon it, but the song was originally recorded back in 1974.  I suppose even as a kid, I must have had an ear for blue-eyed soul.  For me, even more than 30 years later, the song is still exciting and musically "pure".  I remember thinking in 2003, when Robert Palmer died of a heart attack at the age of 54 (an age I am closer to than not these days), it was a sad musical loss and I maintain that even today.  

The version featured here is the original mix, featuring Lowell George, of Little Feat, Art Neville, of Neville Brothers fame, and New Orleans R&B singer, Allen Toussaint.  The video is kind of sucky but the song is superior so I hope you'll have a listen. Let me know what you think.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

lil john huff: knucklebuster

In the world of music, there's artists whose life is music and then there's artists whose music is life.  This difference is not lost on Blues DeVille front man, Eric Tipton. Tipton has recently released Knucklebuster, his first solo effort under the name Lil John Huff.  One look at the track list on Knucklebuster confirms this... College Song, Coach's Son, Daddy Daughter, Old Cars... a field day for the musical voyeur. This stuff is the nuts and bolts of life. Tipton loves his wife, his family, his country and good old-fashioned blues music and he serves it up on a silver platter.


Knucklebuster's music and lyrics are all Tipton's original work, with the exception of the Merle Haggard standard, Workin' Man Blues, which Tipton belts out with a raw edginess more reminiscent of the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn than Haggard's version. The other songs on the album range from straight-up blues to pop country and Americana. Tipton plays both bass and rhythm guitar on the tracks and this is where he excels. Rounding out the Lil John Huff sound are Unknown Jay on keyboards and Dee Fylz on horns and fiddles.  Stand outs on Kuncklebuster include It Was the BluesOld Cars and the cover of Haggard's Workin' Man Blues.  It isn't surprising that the Vaughn-esque Thunder Down, a tribute to the US Marine Corps, in which Tipton's brother serves, is the album's most popular download on iTunes. This cut, in particular, showcases Tipton guitar playing skills.





Tipton, ever the workin' man, is a hard guy to catch up with but he was kind enough to chat with me recently about the album.


CityMouse: Let me get this straight, the title of the new CD is Knucklebuster and you're going by the name Lil John Huff (instead of Eric Tipton)? I saw somewhere that you said that your Grandmother Huff called you Lil John and the name was in memory/honor of her. 
Lil John Huff: I know it’s a little confusing but Lil John Huff is the name of the band since this is a solo project, KNUCKLEBUSTER is the name of the album. Lil John is what my late Grandma Huff, on my mom’s side, called me because she thought Eric sounded like a German spy. She was from Georgia and grew up during reconstruction so you could not mention Grant, Lincoln, or especially Sherman. She was special to me, she loved to hear me play music. I could write a book on her!
CM: She sounds like a real character and a real influence.  I think in order to have a heart for music, you have to have colorful people in your life in order to appreciate it all.


CM: Who do you see as your major musical influences? 
LJH: The best guitar technicians I have seen work in music stores but hardly ever play out (in public). I admire the player that cuts loose during a performance, that makes mistakes during a solo but doesn’t care because he is playing above his ability.. ...and has the courage to do so. He will get better in the long run. My "famous influences" are too many to list but Stevie Ray Vaughn is on that list, as is Brian Setzer (Stray Cats) and Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top). All these guys push the boundary…they're not the fastest players but the ones that make their guitars sound so good. I like to say I make a lot of noise with my guitar…I just try to make it sound good! 
CM: I think your style screams Stevie Ray, who's a personal favorite of mine, but I also see some (maybe not so) subtle influences of the likes of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.  Not bad company to keep.


CM: You've been singing with Blues DeVille [which is made-up of Tipton and bassist Denny Stewart and Ron Frederick on drums] for 15 years and have already released an album with them. What was your motivation to do a solo album? Why now?
LJH: Most of these songs where written long ago, i.e., College Song, but I never recorded them due to being a little hesitant because I am not a song writer. I saw a quote, but I don’t know the source, which said (and I am paraphrasing), “Everybody has a song in them…it’s whether you want to bring it out or not”. That quote means a lot to me. I had an opportunity to go into the studio with my friend Roger Lewis at Monkeyboy Studios, so it was now or never.
CM: I like that... it's an interesting perspective to think we each have a story, a song, waiting to come to life.  Your CD reads like a biography of your life.  You definitely have a story to tell and a song to sing!


CM: How long have you been playing guitar and writing music? You taught yourself how to play, didn't you?
LJH: Yes, I taught myself to play however I have to credit my late uncle, Hayden Eversole, on my father's side, for showing me my first chords. He played bluegrass and is part of my Kentucky kin, of which I am very proud. (So if you do the math, I am a bonafide Hillbilly!) I was about 15 then…late starter for a guitar player but I refused to put it down and wanted to know everything about how to play. To this day, I don’t know the name of half the chords I play and I can't read music. From playing high school and college football (Coach’s Son) I learned you only get better practicing with guys better than you so I would go jam with guys better than me. I still do…to find out how they are getting their sound. My advice to young players is just that…don’t be intimidated by how good someone else is, learn and develop your own style. Another famous quote I follow is from the late Luther Allison. When asked to compare himself with other blues guitarists, he said, “I am as good as I am”!! Make so much sense to me.


CM: Personal favorites on the CD? Any colorful tidbits?
LJH: I don’t know if I have a favorite. You know how if you get a CD and maybe the first three songs are good and you click over the rest? I call this the “click” test. I write and play songs I like. After every session, I would get a copy of the songs completed to that point. If I found myself clicking past a song to the next one, there was something wrong with it (guitar solo, vocals, etc) so part of my next studio session was to fix what I didn’t like, until all songs, according to me, were “unclickable”… listening to all of them without clicking to the next song…does this make sense?


CM: Can we expect to hear any of these songs live at a Blues DeVille show? 
LJH: As you listen to the CD, you will notice that I used many instruments to produce a fat sound. I also used instruments to enhance the theme of the songs, like for Daddy Daughter, I wanted a Cajun progression with those fiddles which has a happy feel which hopefully conveys in the song. Having said that, Blues DeVille is a trio so we would not be able to reproduce these songs exactly as on the CD but we cover many bands that are much larger than us so we will play LJH songs as well.
CM: Blues DeVille shows are always a great time. I'll be looking forward to hearing some Lil John Huff some time soon.


From Knucklebuster....





This CD is a must have for fans of heart-and-soul American blues music. If you're lucky enough to live on Maryland's mid-shore, you'll be able to catch the man behind Lil John Huff live, playing with Blues DeVille.  If not, take a stroll over to Reverbnation, where you can listen to Lil John Huff singing the blues or download the CD from iTunes.  

Friday, July 16, 2010

fancy friday something old

What's that old verse?


Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in her shoe


I know it's in reference to weddings, but of all the many things that could have been included, the first is something old. It's thought to represent the bride's connection with her family... with her past, her history. It emphasizes it's importance.


I love old things (except my Jeep that is... well, I love it too, I just wish it wasn't old). I love knowing that an item has a history, that someone else, in some other life, used and loved it.  Some of the things in my home that I enjoy the most have a past... sometimes with family members, sometimes with strangers.  The lovely ladies over at LoveFeast Table wondered about our favorite antiques and their stories.  I couldn't resist.  Here's a few of my favorite old things....


My house was built in 1903.  The slag light on the right is original to the house.  The one of the left is vintage via eBay.  (I love eBay!)  I am the third owner of my house.  Isn't that amazing?  Sometimes I think about the original owner, Frank Short, and his life in my house.  He would have used my little slag light.  Wondered what it illuminated?  It's in the upstairs hall.  (The other one is downstairs, in my foyer.)  This light gets us safely in our beds at night.


I have crocks all over the place.  I especially like the large ones.  These two have seen better days, but that makes me like them even more.


I have an awesome collection of ceramic pitchers and vases.  They are on display on a server in my dining room.  The server is a pretty snazzy piece on it's own. The growling lion heads on the columns on each side make me smile.  I bought the server from a lady in New Jersey.  We made a wonderful weekend out of it... visiting my brother's family in Philly first and then some cousins in New Jersey.  I've highlighted two pieces from my collection.  The first one is a vintage wine pitcher from Italy.  I didn't buy this in Italy but it always reminds me of my trips there.  The second, smaller pitcher is German in origin but it was given to me by my great-grandmother, who was from Scotland.  Actually, she gave it to my mother for safekeeping when I was born.  It's probably my oldest possession.  I'm thankful my mother saved it all those years.


I think these iridescent pressed glass curtain holders are some of my very favorite things.  I love how they shimmer and how the color is always different.   These came from a local antiques flea market.


I admire all the craftsmanship on this table.  I've had it a long time and it's move a few times with us.  I bought it at an estate sale.  It's the first thing people see when they enter my house.


These Goebel figurines were given to me as a wedding gift by my godparents.  They are from 1925.  I'm not sure how my godparents came to own them (I should ask).  They are in perfect condition. They have moved 8 times with me since my wedding day.  I have them on display in my bedroom, mainly because they are somewhat protected there from my kids any harm.  Even though it's been 24 years, I still think about my wedding day every single time I see them.


I don't think anything is as lovely as stained glass.  I have it hanging everywhere I can possibly hang it, including a couple of pieces on my front porch. All of my stained glass is old and some of the pieces are from Europe.  One of my favorite pieces came from a huge flea market in Pennsylvania that my sister and I trekked up to.  It was a great memory and a great find.


Looking at the pieces I've shared, it occurs to me that while most of them are old, they don't have a history or story that I can recount. What they do have is a special place in my life. Their stories will have a new beginning with me and my family. We will pass on their history and our own wonderful tales.


This post is part of the Fancy Friday fun hosted over at LoveFeast Table, where you're invited to share what inspires you.  



the 3/50 project



Even if you live in a big city, everyone has their own little community or neighborhood and if you're like me and live in rural America, that community can stretch for counties.  The 3/50 Project is an initiative to preserve and support locally owned businesses, who are oftentimes the backbone of these communities.

From the 3/50 website: [The 3/50 Project was] created to build loyalty and increased revenue for independent, locally owned businesses. The 3/50 project relies on a simple message: “Pick 3. Spend $50. Save your local economy.”


Here's how it works...
• Pick three locally owned businesses youʼd hate to see disappear, then return to them.
• Spend $50 per month in locally owned businesses. If half the employed U.S. population did so, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.
• For every $100 spent in locally owned businesses, $68 returns to the local community. When spent in a big box, chain, or franchise, $43 remains. Purchases made online return nothing.

The Project isn't an all or nothing endeavor.  We all love Best Buy, Starbucks and Target.  The Project's goal is one of balance and consideration.  It asks you to think about where and how you're spending your money.


Please join me in supporting local business.  We all spend money... make your dollar count.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

romain laurent

Puts a whole new spin on boy in the bubble, huh? (Check out Romain Laurent's other works here.)









Wednesday, July 14, 2010

muesli

When I was a teenager I discovered muesli, a Swiss breakfast cereal made of oats, fruit and nuts.  My dad was a big granola eater at the time and he would buy me my very own bag from Walnut Acres, a now defunct organic food company from Pennsylvania. I've always been a huge fan of oatmeal and farina-type cereals, so this wasn't such a stretch. 


Lately I've rediscovered my love for muesli. While you can find granola in just about every market around, muesli is a different story. I've managed to find small boxes here and there, but I keep eating them up too quickly. I've made homemade granola before, so I thought, why not make my own muesli?


The beauty of muesli is you really can't screw it up the ingredient combinations are endless. I personally am indifferent about nuts most of the time, so they are not high on my list. Fruit, however, is a must-have. Your muesli is just that... yours.  



Because I was feeling kinda lazy, I bought all my ingredients at the Super Wal-Mart (which I despise, but I was in desperate need of a new blow dryer and it was convenient.) I think I will be a bit more selective next time. All-in-all, the muesli turned out yummy and I've been eating it all week and am pretty happy with it.


My muesli included: rolled oats, bran flakes, wheat flakes (aka Wheaties), walnuts, craisins, raisins, coconut, chopped dates, a dried tropical fruit/nut medley (which included pineapple, bananas, apricots, almonds, cashews), wheat germ and ground flax seed. I wouldn't use this type of dates again because they were sweetened. The dried fruit medley was fine but I had to further dice-up/break-up a lot of the fruit to make it easier to eat and I find the dried pineapple to be a little too sweet as well.  


There's really no measurement involved. I tried to keep the oats, bran and wheat flakes equally proportioned, mainly so it wouldn't be heavy on one or the other, but next time I think I will use more oats. (I like the oats the best.) Add as much or as little of the fun bits as you like. Sunflower seeds would have been good in this mix and maybe some dried blueberries. I added the wheat germ and flax seed because I have a special interest in adding more fiber to my diet (colon cancer sucks) but you can leave them out. Fresh fruit makes a nice addition, too. I believe apples are a traditional add-in.  


Recipes like this are fun to make and are great kid projects. I enjoyed making this, but the fact that I can dump it all in a bowl, give it a good mix and have something tasty is pretty awesome in my book.  Check out the cute stop-motion video about muesli below. Making muesli isn't quite this easy, but it's close.