Thursday, August 11, 2016

Get loose with the mousse

(I'm not DEVO...I didn't have the patience to whip it REAL good)

I've got a good one here kids!  Chocolate Coconut Cream Mousse.

Some things on Pinterest can be a total fail.  But not this little gem of a dessert.  Well... it was a total failure the first time I tried it.  Because I bought the wrong ingredient.  But here goes.  Go to your grocery store and get a can of coconut cream.  Don't skimp and buy the "lite" kind.  And do not buy the coconut milk in the dairy section.  (That was my first mistake.)  You need to buy the canned stuff in the Asian section of your market.

Now go home and put your can of coconut cream in your fridge.  Overnight.  Or if you're like me, for 2 weeks.  Either way, the goal is to harden the cream so you can scoop it out, allowing the watery part to sit on the bottom of the can.  You are now aware of the when you go to grab your can from the fridge, do not, I repeat...DO NOT SHAKE THE CAN.  Or you will have to start all over again and this dessert is too good to wait another 24 hours.

Open your can and scoop out the hardened cream into a bowl.  Don't worry if you get a little bit of the water in the bowl, it's not the end of the world.  Now, toss the rest of the coconut water in the sink...or rub it on your face, or hair or feet or gargle it, or brush your teeth with it.  There's a million things it's good for.  Whatever.

With a mixer, beat the cream until well, creamy.  You will know.  You may have to take a little time tending to the harder chunks in the bunch, but we are making a mousse, so make it mousse-like.  Next, add in 1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar.  Not real sugar.  The powdered kind that you would put on French toast.  Beat that until incorporated.  Next...add in 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and beat that until incorporated.  Try not to eat it all right now, like me.  Find a nice little ramekin or bowl and scoop the mousse into it and refrigerate for a few hours.

Serve whenever.  This makes about 2 servings.  So double it if you have more peeps.  You can even reserve some of the coconut cream before you add the cocoa powder and use it as a whipped topping.  It's a pretty decadent dessert.  It's not really as sweet as it is chocolatey.  Which is my kind of thing.  I suppose if you want, you can add in more confectioner's sugar.  Or maybe some vanilla or a liqueur of some kind.  But to me, this a perfect little dessert with a lot of health benefits. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Larb Lovin'

Summertime has arrived.  And with it comes the desire to look good in a bathing suit.  Me?  I am starting to realize that I love food and I'm never going to look like a supermodel with my 5'1" frame.  I'm always going to have a pot belly.  But I do like to eat healthy.  Sure I won't pass up a piece of fried chicken or some biscuits and gravy, but I do try to choose healthier options, seeing as how 40 is quickly approaching.  And I love me a good Asian-style lettuce wrap.  Minced meats, onion, spices and sauces that heat things up.  The fresh crisp of the cold lettuce wrapped around this mountain of melt-in-your-mouth meat.  Sign me up!  And it's healthy.  It really is.  Maybe a little sodium ridden, but damn it... it's good for you.  Salt is a preservative.  When you eat a lot it preserves your insides.  Right?  How can that be bad? (Don't answer that.  I have Google too.)

We recently went to Las Vegas and ate at a Thai Restaurant that I'm sure you've seen on many food shows.  It's called Lotus of Siam.  It's Northern Thai cuisine.  And let me say, it was the best Thai food I have ever eaten, smelled, looked at, photographed, etc.  It was so good.  If you're ever in Vegas go.  But make a reservation.  So me, being the craving-driven person that I am, felt a strong desire to eat something similar once we got back home.  I have made Larb before (Pinterest "Authentic Larb" or Google it).  It entails toasting rice and grinding it into a powder.  This creates a crunchy texture in your meat mixture that I loved, but it was labor intensive.  And I felt that the lettuce was enough crunch for me.  

I've never met an Asian food I didn't like, so I usually have a lot of the staple cooking supplies on hand.  And I'll be honest with you.  After following a recipe one time, you begin to figure out what you like and what you want to add to make it your own.  So I'm going to give you the first recipe I ever tried for Larb in a link, but then I'm just going to tell you what I do when I make this.

This is the recipe I used when I first made this dish. So try this recipe and then you will know what you need to add to make it how you like it.  I personally use this as a base.  But then I tend to be a flavor floozy, so I also add in garlic (a lot), ginger (only about a tablespoon), lemongrass (if I have it, again, a tablespoon), soy sauce (a few squirts), sesame oil (a few more squirts), Thai red curry paste (a spoonful), Thai chilies or jalapeños (enough to make it super spicy)...and I think that's it.  

I often look like a mad scientist when I make this because I'm jumping from the fridge to the spice cabinet to the stove and I'm squirting things here and there and I'm tasting the whole time.  It's a very unplanned process that never fails. I've done it with ground turkey, chicken and pork.  They all work great. Sometimes I forget to add lime or sugar.  So it's kind of fun because each time it tastes different, but it's always delicious.  Serve on some crispy, cold lettuce (I like iceberg or butter), top with some freshly chopped Thai basil, cilantro and some green onion, and then add a little Sriracha or some chili garlic sauce.  If you're a spice slut, like I am, you'll be very happy with this dish. Makes really good leftovers too!  


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

My Delicious Balls

So let me tell you a little bit about my balls.  This little sack right here full of balls saves me in many ways.  It saves me when I have nothing made for breakfast and I have 10 minutes until I have to leave for work.  It saves me when I just worked out and I have a million errands to run and don't have time for lunch.  It saves me when I'm dying to make 100 cookies and eat them all in one setting, but I am trying to be good and not eat a bunch of sweets.  These balls are amazing because you can add whatever you like to them... so that they will save your ass too.

Here's What I Did:
1 cup of whole grain quick oats
1/2 cup of peanut butter (you can use any kind of nut or seed butter; i just happen to love peanut and have a ton in my pantry)
1/3 cup of honey
Dash of salt

Now here's the fun part.  The above will be your base.  You can now just add whatever you like.  This time I added toasted flax seeds (about 1/4 cup), toasted unsweetened coconut flakes (about 1/4 cup), 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips (the darker, the better).  But you can add whatever you want.  Dried fruit, nuts, spices, extracts, etc.

Now, mix it all together.  It is going to seem like it doesn't want to form into balls, but it does.  It just needs a little coaxing.  Wet your hands a little, get in there.  You might have to wet your hands each time you make a ball.  The balls will still be good.  Don't be afraid.  When they come together into nice little bite sized balls, put them in a bag and place them in the fridge for an hour.  The colder the better, in my opinion.

There ya go.  Enjoy my balls.  Enjoy your own version of my balls.  Just make the balls for crying out loud.  They go quickly around my house.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Superhero

This is my friend Natalie.  Natalie has been through more shit in her life than you'd ever know just by looking at her.  When I first met her, we were in our early 20s, listening to music in a bar.  This was before I lived in Memphis.  I didn't realize at the time she would become one of my best friends.  I didn't even know that I'd soon be living in Memphis.  I do remember her being strikingly beautiful, with the most gorgeous locks of brunette hair.  The next time I saw Natalie she was wearing a wig, hiding a trach scar, and sitting in a wheelchair. What could have possibly happened to her in 3 months?  She was so young.  So healthy.  So vibrant.  So full of life.  And here she is sitting in a wheelchair.

LUPUS happened to Natalie.  LUPUS tried to kill Natalie.  After trying to shut down most of her major organs, Natalie looked LUPUS in the eye and said, "Nope. Not gonna happen." I had heard of LUPUS before I met her, but didn't really understand it.  It wasn't until we started becoming good friends that I took the time to look it up and find out what this thing living inside my friend was.  If you know Natalie or anyone else with LUPUS, you should learn more about it here. The best way I can describe it to people who don't know, is this...

Natalie's immune system is an overachiever.

When I get sick, my body sees an infection as a foreign invader and my antibodies attack it and kill it.  End of story.  When Natalie gets sick, her body sees everything in its wake as a foreign invader.  Her kidneys, her liver, her heart, her lungs, her skin... Natalie has the Terminator living inside of her.  And it wants everything to die.  So in order for her to keep the Terminator happy, she has to take a lot of meds. One of these medications was an antimalarial drug.  And it was great in the fight against the Terminator.  But it has side effects.  One of them being damage to the retina.  So when Natalie looks at things, she has a bull's-eye pattern of blindness.  Meaning your face will be blurry when she sees you until she is able to get you in the perfect spot of her bull's eye to where you aren't blurry anymore.  So when you see her and wave to her and she doesn't wave back, know that Natalie isn't being a bitch.  She literally can't see you.

Natalie has to take a lot of steroids. This has caused her to have osteonecrosis.  Which means the blood flow to her bones is decreased, causing her bones to die.  Natalie has had both of her hips replaced and her ankle fused due to osteonecrosis.

Natalie has many scars. Natalie has had many surgeries. Natalie has spent a lot of time in the hospital and in doctor's offices. Natalie has a lot of pain and discomfort. Natalie walks with a limp. Natalie gets rashes on her face. Natalie has to walk with a cane. Natalie has to take a lot of medicine. Natalie has had to give up driving. Natalie has had to quit working jobs she loves because she can't see as well or move as fast.

What Natalie DOESN'T have is a bad attitude about having LUPUS.  She has the highest threshold of pain I've ever seen a human being have. Natalie is a real live superhero.  Instead of curling up in a ball and crying and saying, "why me", Natalie wakes up every day just happy to be alive.  You think Natalie can't do something?  Think again.  Natalie can and will do whatever Natalie wants to do.  Natalie will not let LUPUS control her life. Natalie doesn't like talking about LUPUS all the time.  She lives and breathes LUPUS every day. So it's my hope that you understand what Natalie has gone through and continues to go through so that when you see her, you don't have to ask her about it.  You will know.  Natalie doesn't want you to feel sorry for her.  She wants to talk about music, her dog Wrigley, her amazing boyfriend Logan, her beautiful sisters and niece, her love of travel, her thriving garden, and her love of life.

Natalie is not alone.  There are more than 5 million people with LUPUS.  There is no cure for LUPUS.  Natalie would love for there to be a cure for LUPUS.  You can donate to help find a cure for LUPUS here. May is LUPUS awareness month.  So I wanted to tell the story of my amazing, courageous, beautiful, friend Natalie.  Please help spread awareness so we can find a cure for Natalie.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cream of Chihuahua

Image from Google Images

Kids get attached to things.  A stuffed animal.  A toy.  Whatever.  

My sister had a blanket as a kid that she LOVED.  It was (as I recall) a light yellow blanket, soft as can be, with a silk edge.  She called it her "Spotty blanket".  And it was the only thing that she wanted when she was sleepy or sad or sick or just needed a moment to herself.  She would suck her thumb and rub the silken part of Spotty against her nose and it would calm her. I had my sister.  She was my attachment.  Much to her dismay!  

Well, we had a babysitter who lived across the street named Sally.  We loved Sally.  We loved her kids, we loved her house and we loved her dogs.  She had these 2 chihuahuas.  Chico and Muffin.  Chico was like the Taco Bell chihuahua and Muffin was a black and white chihuahau. They were cute.  We always like them.  But they were ALWAYS getting busy.  I mean all the time.  Gettin' it on.  

When we were bad, Sally would punish us with cream of mushroom soup.  She would force us to eat it.  That was our punishment.  And it worked.  I never wanted to do anything stupid enough to be fed that crap.  

But of course, one day, we did something stupid.  I'm sure it was me.  My sister was usually the good one.  But she ended up having to also be punished for all my wrongdoings.  Sorry sister.  Anyhow... one day I remember sitting at the table, unable to move until we finished our bowls of soup, whining because the last thing I wanted to be doing was eating this horrible soup that tasted like a dead skunk.  

Next thing I know (or remember), Leigh is kind of freaking out and trying to get away from the table.  She noticed that Spotty had become a third party in the Chico and Muffin love fest.  A Chico, Muffin and Spotty threesome if you will.  But we were being punished.  So Sally wouldn't let her get up from the table. And that was very unfortunate for Spotty.  Because Spotty ended up getting some cream of chihuahua soup all up on her.  When we finished our soup, we were able to leave the table.  Leigh rushed over to save Spotty.  But it was too late.  The damage had been done.

Leigh had to give up Spotty that day. It's impossible to get the smell of cream of chihuahua out of anything. She was devastated. There was no replacing Spotty. And still to this day we have a sour spot in our hearts for Chihuahuas and Cream of Mushroom Soup.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

MTV, GN'R and other ramblings

Me as Axl, Halloween 2009 with one of my favorite partners in crime.

I've always been a fan of music.  You might think it's odd to say that, because who doesn't love music?  But there are actually people out there who don't.  My parents named me Jessica after the Allman Brothers' song. My sister and I used to hang out with our babysitter's older daughter and stand around a record player singing Funky Town by Lipps Inc. at the top of our lungs. And then, we heard about Music Television aka MTV.  Our neighbors told us if we turned the dial on our tv enough, we could tune in MTV.  So we rushed home, took over the television and began turning the knob round and round and round and round and round, for what seemed like an eternity.  It was probably only a few minutes in reality, but to a 4 and 8 year old it seemed like a day.  But eventually it worked and music television would be on our tv all day long.  I mean ALL DAY long.  We would sit in front of the tv, enamored by all these musical geniuses and their video creations.  I would study these songs.  I would write down the lyrics.  I would make dance routines.  I wanted to be each and every one of them.  In fact, I was Madonna or Cyndi Lauper interchangeably for practically every Halloween.

When I got a little older, I would hold singing competitions in the neighborhood.  I invented The Voice.  You had to be able to sing (on perfect pitch) Sheena Easton's part in U Got The Look by Prince to be in my special club.  I was a little tough on all the kids, but team Jessica had to be the best.  And we were.  I continued my love of music and all things music when hair bands became popular.  I knew every word to every Motley Crue, Skid Row, Guns N' Roses, Cinderella, and Poison song.  Then I got into rap.  Dirty rap.  The dirtier the better.  The more vulgar, the better.  And my mom was ok with me blasting Easy E and 2 Live Crew when I was 14.  Thanks mom!

Then came grunge.  Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam. Then I went back to Classic Rock.  Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Beatles.  Then I moved away to college and discovered Phish, Dave Matthews, Widespread Panic.  Then came my chick phase... Indigo Girls, Natalie Merchant, Tracy Chapman.  I got my ass kicked at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and I kicked a girls' ass at a Phil & Friends show.  You tell me a time we were together and I will tell you what kind of music we were listening to. And I haven't even touched the surface of all the music out there.  There is so much!

I'm rambling.  The point is, I love music. I will pay a lot of money to see music.  I am sad that I have missed the opportunity to see some of the greats. So when I heard that Gun N' Roses were going to play again, we jumped at the opportunity to go. Guns N' Roses was the backdrop for a big chunk of my high school career.  I would sit in a friend's bedroom and listen to both Use Your Illusions for hours on end while they played video games. And so we found ourselves in Las Vegas. And when our plane landed we heard that Axl had broken his foot.  So our hearts dropped.  Because Axl has a reputation for being a prima donna.  So we worried that he was going to bail on the show and our trip would have been for nothing.  But yay Axl!  You finally took some responsibility.  And you showed up on time.  And you fucking rocked it!  We had a great time. We met people from Germany, Belgium, Sweden, New Zealand, Brussels. And you know how I know I had fun?  I didn't take a single picture.  Nope.  Because I was tuned in. Just like I tuned in MTV all those years ago.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Big Dreamin' in the Big Apple

Smoked Salmon Everything Bagel with Scallion Cream Cheese from Best Bagel & Coffee, 
225 W. 35th St.

I'm actually surprised that it took me 39 years to get to the Big Apple. So when my mom wanted to do a girls' trip to NYC, I was ecstatic. I am so lucky to have experienced it all with my mom, sister and niece.  And I must say, it was built up in my mind to be this big, beautiful, fast moving, multi-cultured, unforgiving, chew you up, spit you out, hard core city. And half of that is true. It is big. We only touched on two boroughs... Manhattan, and a smidgeon of Brooklyn. It is beautiful. The people, the parks, the architecture, the smells, the tastes... all beautiful (well ok, there were a couple of smells I could have done without). It is fast moving. There are people (a lot of them, around 9 million of them), cars, buses, trains and boats constantly working on getting to their destinations. It is multi-cultured. You will find people from all walks of life in NYC. Every nationality, language, religion and color. They all live here. And they've all brought their culture with them to share!

But what shocked me most about New York, was how friendly, helpful and accommodating people were. You think big city and you think head down, ear plugs in, don't talk to me stature. And that is  true of a lot of people, but most of them are quick to take out their headphones and press pause to give you directions or shoot you a smile on the subway.

Pastrami Sandwich from the Carnegie Deli - Best Pastrami Sandwich I've ever eaten
 854 7th Ave.

My dream when I graduated from college was to work as a writer at Rolling Stone magazine.  I was going to move to New York (on the zero dollars I had saved), get me a job writing about music (cause no one else wants that to be their job, so there wouldn't be any competition), live in a nice little apartment (preferably one with a washer/dryer and no roommate of course), and walk around like Mary Tyler Moore every day.  Yeah.  That was the dream.

The reality was that I would have to have 2 other jobs to even afford an apartment that would most likely not be in a good area.  And with 3 jobs, how was I ever going to find time to see the music I was going to write about? So at least I was able to finally play out my dream.  I went where the Rolling Stone offices are.  Pretended that this was where I would commute to every day.  Walked around talking to myself as though I was a very important NYC music writer.  I even told some kid to go fetch me a cup of coffee (I kid).

But my life today isn't so far from my dream.  I get paid to see live music.  I have the luxury to take off work whenever I want to travel for more music.  I have a nice townhouse in the birthplace of Rock n' Roll where I don't have to share laundry with others and I chose my roommate and he's pretty awesome.  He even takes out the trash.  I wouldn't change my life in a New York minute!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lamb and Laminate

It's been kind of a joke in our house that when any of our friends went to the bathroom we'd say, "Don't pee on the carpet!" We decided after 3 years of people peeing on our carpet (yes, there was carpet in the downstairs bathroom- why oh why people think that's a good idea, I'll never know) that it was time to rip out the old and lay down the new.  So we bought up a bunch of laminate flooring from Costco, ripped out the existing 1990s-esque carpet and made the executive decision to put the flooring in ourselves to save a few bucks.  Of course the week we chose to do said project was the week it rained all week, forcing us to make cuts with powerful saws in our kitchen, spraying sawdust everywhere.

And you would think that I would not make meals during this time, and you would be wrong.  I made the shit out of some meals.  This delicious lamb and pine nut-stuffed eggplant was one.  And it was amazing. They just had an added flavoring of formaldehyde (did you know that formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance in all wood products?  Me either, until now). It didn't really taste like formaldehyde, I promise.

Anyways, this recipe comes from a cookbook I've been dying to use, called Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  I can't wait to cook more out of it.  Just thumbing through the pages makes me drool.  Of course, since our house was in shambles, I had to find the recipe online.  But luckily it wasn't hard.  Here it is.  I didn't have sweet paprika, so I used regular, and I didn't have any parsley that wasn't covered in sawdust, so I left it out.  And I also didn't have the patience to look everywhere for tamarind paste, so I used lime juice instead.  And don't worry, you will see more recipes from this book.  Haven't met one I didn't like yet.

We still have to remodel the actual bathroom.  Decided to also get rid of our seashell sinked vanity and our old, falling apart cabinets. 

Here's what I learned in doing our first home DIY remodel:

1. Walking into Home Depot with a vagina is like walking into a casino with a million dollars. 

2. When your man walks into Home Depot he all of a sudden knows this weird language you've never heard him speak.  

3. Big powerful saws are scary.  To me and to cats.

4. The person who works the least hard is the one who ends up needing a tetanus shot and antibiotics.

5. Installing laminate flooring isn't easy.  And you spend a ton of time making it look perfect only to then need to buy a rug to cover up all your hard work!  

Try this lamb recipe.  It's really good and good for you.

Friday, March 04, 2016

A Few of my Favorite Food Things

Apparently, I like lists.  Here's one for ya. A few of my favorite food things:

1.  Sitting on an ocean dock somewhere with a box full of blue crab and some icy cold Corona.

2.  Getting to the choke of an artichoke.  Letting it bathe in some melted butter and then eating it up.  Not sharing a morsel. (By the way, have you ever seen an artichoke flower? Holy gorgeous. Google that shit.)

3.  Sharing a chocolate milkshake with someone you love.

4.  Having the patience to let a Lindor Truffle melt in your mouth until the hard shell diminishes and your mouth fills up with that velvety, creamy, smooth chocolate from the inside.

5.  Chargrilling oysters.

6.  That moment when you discover that tomatoes are at their ripest.

7.  Hovering over a table with close friends at a shrimp and/or crawfish boil.

8.  The decadence that is butter cream icing.

9.  A good hot n' sour soup. (You'd be surprised at how rare it is)

10.  Having the patience to fire roast a marshmallow to the perfect golden brown.

11.  The flavor of perfectly ripened fruit.

12.  Dipping a good piece of chocolate into a jar of REAL peanut butter (not that sugar laden crap) and then chugging it down with some super cold milk.

13.  A perfectly cooked pasta.

14.  Dipping pretzels into hummus.

15.  The smell of freshly ground coffee and that first sip of it in the morning.

16. The flakiness of a croissant.

17.  Turning butter into lipstick.

18.  Homemade whipped cream

19.  Rolling a hard boiled egg on a napkin that has been pre-salted and peppered.

20.  Pulling out a honking piece of crabmeat from its shell and dunking it into lemon butter.

21.  Teaching someone how to get the honking piece of crabmeat from its shell.

22. The smell of bacon in the air.

23. A really good blue cheese dressing

24. Pulling off a perfectly cooked steak.

25.  An olive oil so tasty you could do shots of it.  And want to drizzle it on everything.  Ice cream included.

26.  A sip of a really big, bold red wine.

27. Punching down freshly risen dough.

28. Biting into buttery hole-filled English Muffins.

29. When you finally perfect the meatball.

30.  Biting into cold watermelon on a hot day.

31.  Freshly baked bread. The smell, the taste and the way it feels.

32.  The way a glazed doughnut melts in your mouth.

33.  The popcorn kernels that didn't quite reach their destiny.

34. Eating whole peanuts.  Shells and all.

35.  Opening a beer with a lighter.

36.  A cheese that smells so bad you couldn't imagine eating it, but when you do, it tastes so good!

37.  All things bread.  Eating it, making it, kneading it, buttering it, toasting it, grilling it...

38.  The smell of toasted coconut.

39.  The amount of energy it takes to catch a fish.

40.  The smell of garlic on your hands.  Also, walking into a home that smells of garlic.

41.  Honey.  Cause bees make honey. (inside joke - when my niece was little we used to ask her, "What color are Aunt Jessie's eyes?" and she would always say, "Honey.  Cause bees make honey."

42.  Eating something straight off the vine.  Gardens. Planning them. Planting them. Tending them. Harvesting them. Gardens are awesome.  They remind me of saltwater fishtanks in that you can watch them all day and you will discover that they do so many amazing things throughout the day. Wow.  There are many wow's in gardening.

43. Trying new foods and wondering how you've lived life thus far without them.

44.  The way foods from your childhood make you feel all warm and cozy.

45.  Homemade lemonade

46.  The crispy, fatty pieces of a ribeye.

47.  Charcoal grills.

48.  Experiencing someone experiencing raw oysters for the first time.

49.  The first time you pull off a gourmet meal and don't burn anything.

50.  Watching someone else enjoying eating.  Like seriously enjoying it.  So much so you can see the passion.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Sleeper Menu Item

(Hamachi Kama at Sakura - Memphis)

This, my friends, is hamachi kama.  Hamachi kama is the collar of the yellowtail fish, aka Japanese Amberjack. It is my favorite thing to order at sushi or Japanese restaurants. It's usually listed on the menu as Hamachi Kama or Yellowtail Cheek.  If I see it on a menu, I order it. And so should you.

In Memphis, I have seen it on the menus of Sakura (Midtown), Robata, and Sekisui (Midtown).  Sekisui only orders 2 cheeks/day (or so the wait staff has told us) so get there early if you want to try it there.  Robata only sells theirs during dinner (I believe anytime after 5pm).  Sakura knows the awesomeness that is hamachi kama and they don't hold back.  You can order it for lunch or dinner.  And if they think the collar is tiny, they will give you two!  

It is fatty.  But not fatty in a bad way. This is delicate fat that melts in your mouth. It's also very meaty. You will be surprised at the way each nook and cranny yields a big old honkin' piece of fish meat. You will think you have finished this delicious cut of fish and then you turn it over and there's a whole other side of hidden meat crevices. You will find yourself eating the fins and the skin as if you've been stranded on a deserted island for the past year. But you won't care what others think. Because you are picking at your hamachi kama like Edward Chopstickhands, as if there's hidden gold inside. Because there is. Fishy, oily, skin-y, fin-y gold.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

Ha-Tuna Matata

I love tuna, guys.  For me, it's just one of those foods that does it all.  It can be comfort food, it can be refreshing, it can be spicy, it can be easy, and it can be fancy.  This is a fancy jar of tuna:

It's not cheap. It will cost you about $8/jar (and you may have to get it at a specialty store, because the grocery store that must not be named doesn't carry it.) And I would say use fresh here, but I was following orders from the New York Times cooking site (which has some amazing recipes).

I saw a picture of this sandwich pop up in an email and I had to have it. That day. So I made it. That day. And I ate it. That day. And the next day. And the next day. I'm not lying either.  It was so outstanding, that I kept craving it. I couldn't get enough. I tried it on different types of breads. Toasted.  Not toasted. I tried it with different eggs.  Hard boiled. Soft boiled. I tried it with and without Serrano (though, the spicier the better).

I think what turned me on the most about this sandwich was the fact that there was no mayo involved. But let me tell you...there is so much flavor in this sandwich, that you won't miss mayo. And don't get me wrong, I love me a good old fashioned tuna, onion, celery and mayo sammy on some white bread.    But this sandwich is divine.  It's the best tuna sandwich I've ever eaten.

PS - If you're laying off the bread, it would be just as amazing all mashed up together in a bowl and eaten with a fork.
PS2 - Don't let anyone tell you eggs are bad for you.

Try it here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


I remember in high school or college watching MTV while they were in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and thinking to myself, God, that is the last place on Earth I would want to be during that time. What I saw was a bunch of drunk, half-naked people acting like complete idiots, doing things they probably regret and wouldn't want their mothers to find out about, all to get on tv. I decided back then that Mardi Gras was not for me. I was wrong.  I take it all back.  Unless you are looking for that type of behavior, it's really not like that at all.  

I finally went a few years ago (maybe 4) and I LOVED IT!  My experience was more about the parades, the floats, and catching the goodies thrown from the floats.  It was the happiness in the eyes of kids who had just caught something special thrown to them from an elaborately designed float.  It was the cheering on of the creative people everywhere.  It was a city, turned family for the weekend. It was eye candy on every corner. Carnival. History. Tradition. FUN. This year, Mardi Gras (aka, Fat Tuesday) is Tuesday, February 9th.  

It was also during the Mardi Gras celebrations where I first tried shrimp and alligator cheesecake from Jacques Imo's. And it changed my life. You see, I hate cheesecake. The smell of it makes me want to puke. In fact, cheesecake tastes like throw up to me.  I can't explain it. But something in my genetic makeup doesn't allow me to enjoy cheesecake. Unless, it's shrimp and alligator cheesecake. I can get down on on some shrimp and alligator cheesecake.  

I was thumbing through a magazine at work one day and I came across this holy grail of a recipe:

So I ripped it out of the magazine, shocked quite frankly, that Chef would even THINK about giving this recipe away. I mean is nothing sacred? And I held onto it until the next Fat Tuesday, when I would whip it up and serve it!  I was wrong, I take it all back.  

I got home from work around 3 that day and started working on gathering the ingredients I needed, which included a trip to buy a springform pan, cause I didn't have one, and I couldn't find alligator sausage so I went with andouille (pronounced on-DOO-ee, for those of you who don't know). It's now 4:30, so I start the step by step process of making this thing. There is some prep work. Cutting onion and bell pepper.  Getting the cream cheese to a workable temp. Shredding cheese. Peeling and deveining shrimp (my least favorite kitchen task on the planet). None of which I thought about before hoping to have this dinner ready to surprise my biggest New Orleans fan and foodie when he walked in the door. 

It's now 5:30, but I keep chipping away at each step.  And I'm doing it with the New Orleans Funk station blaring on Pandora, so there's really no stopping me now. So the cheesecake goes into the oven around 6:15, and I see that step number 7 says to bake for 90 minutes.  So ok, dinner will be ready at 7:45. That's a little late, but not too late for shrimp and andouille cheesecake from Jacques Imo's on Fat Tuesday. But then I see step 8.  I now have to let this bitch cool for 60-90 minutes and THEN cover and refrigerate it for 3-4 hours???  You have GOT to be kidding me?  I am crushed.  There will be no cheesecake tonight for Fat Tuesday.  So all my previous tasks have been a waste at this point.  

But then I think to myself, no way am I going to spend all this time on this thing and not eat it tonight.  So I let it cool for 40 minutes and then I stick it into the freezer for 25 minutes.  Whip up the creole sauce and serve it around 9:00ish.  I hate eating this late.  But it's pretty spot on to the original recipe from Jacques Imo's, minus about 3 hours of time I should have let it sit and refrigerate and subbing the andouille for the alligator sausage.  

The morals of the story are:
1. Always read a recipe from start to finish before diving into it head first hoping to have it ready at a reasonable hour. 
2. Never judge anything by something you first saw on MTV.
3. Always partake in a day that encourages you to eat too much, drink too much, dance too much and laugh too much. Too much is good for you every once in a while!  

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Music. The Verb.

Here's something that might blow your mind.  I moved to Memphis.  On purpose.  I wasn't forced.  I wasn't paid to live here.  I actually moved AWAY from the beach to live in Memphis. Not because I'm crazy. Not because I was running from the law. Because when I came to visit Memphis in 2002, I fell in love with Memphis.

It's the people mostly. Everyone is so friendly and accommodating here. If you're lost, just ask!  People love to give you directions. Need a recommendation on what to do? Again, ask someone. People who live in Memphis LOVE to talk about Memphis. They LOVE to point you to the hidden gems of their city. Nothing is too private or too exclusive. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for you!

Then there's the food. I'm not even talking about the BBQ.  I dig BBQ, and I love the dry rub technique of Memphis, because BBQ sauce is just not my jam. But again, I'm not even talking about the BBQ.  I'm talking about the love that these people put into their food. You can taste every ounce of passion.

And of course, I didn't forget the music! This is the birthplace of Rock n' Roll baby! And I am a rockstar in my dreams. A non-instrument playing, knock you over dead in a karaoke bar singing, dances like Elaine from Seinfeld rockstar in my dreams (ok and in real life too). I remember being at a North Mississippi Allstars show at the New Daisy. The Gamble Brothers Band opened for them. I danced. My ass off. With no worries in the world. And I thought to myself, how have I not heard this sound before? Why was it not all over the radio? It was the most delicious music to my ears! And it was at that show that I told myself I would live in Memphis as soon as I could.

And today I have surrounded myself with beautiful friends and people I love dearly. And we get together to music. The verb, music. We music the shit out of life together! And fortunately we live in a great city to music. So when we find ourselves all off of work and able to get together to music, we go all out. Here's our spread at the Hall & Oates show. Ok, so we music and we food. It's what we do here in Memphis.

It's easy to music and food. You just get a few of your favorite people together. Find some music that you like (it's not hard, at least it's not in Memphis). Assign each couple or person a food item to bring (in this case, a cheese person, a meat person and an olive, nut and condiment person). Sit down and lay out your amazing spread. Pop open your favorite wine or local Memphis beer. Enjoy each other.  Listen to music. Dance. Laugh. Laugh at the people dancing. Dance with the people you laugh at. Make new friends. Food. Music. The verb.

I learned how to Music in Memphis. And here I am. Almost 14 years later. Happy to be here. Fortunate enough to be surrounded by music at my job. Fortunate enough to have many musical playing and loving friends. And it's not perfect. Nothing is. There's crime. There's poverty. There's corrupt politics. But open your eyes people. That shit is everywhere! Ever heard of a place called Manitowoc? Maybe if the people in Manitowoc musiced more often...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Curry Chicken Pot Pie-yi-yi

It's freaking cold! The heat is on. I hate turning the heat on. Normally, I don't turn on the heat until I can see my breath in my house. I hate heaters. They suck the life out of me and out of my skin. But when it starts to get cold enough to wear a cardigan (and if you know me, a cardigan is what I consider a Winter coat), that's when I start craving my favorite winter foods.  Chicken and dumplings, Beef Stroganoff, Beef Stew, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Spaghetti Carbonara, Chili.  You know, those kinds of foods that make you feel like you're wrapped up in a blanket while you're eating them.  Those kinds.

Today, I made Chicken Pot Pie.

Here's What You Need:
Olive Oil
2 tablespoons of butter
Salt and Pepper
2 chicken breasts (or thighs, or rotisserie leftovers, but I had 2 breasts)
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 heaping tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon curry
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 egg (for egg wash)

Pie crust (make you're own. I know you're busy, but mine took me 5 minutes to's so much better tasting and better for you. I even made mine the day before.).

Here's How I Did It:
I roasted 2 chicken breasts with some salt and pepper and some olive oil, at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool, then dice the chicken.

Lower oven temperature to 375.  I then diced up 2 carrot sticks, 2 celery sticks, 1/2 an onion and the garlic.  I also thew in a handful of diced fennel, because for some reason I had a hankering to buy fennel at the store.  Saute the carrot, onion and celery in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter for about 3 minutes, until they are soft.  Add in the garlic and cook another minute.  Salt and Pepper.  Add in 2 heaping tablespoons of flour and cook another 2 minutes.  Add in 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, 1 teaspoon of Turmeric, and 1 tablespoon of curry.  Mix until thickened, about 3-5 minutes.  If the mixture is too thick, add in more chicken stock.  You want it to be thicker though, not like soup.  Add in the diced chicken and stir to incorporate.

Get a pie pan and fill the pan with the chicken mixture.  Take your crust out of the fridge.  Roll the crust out large enough to cover the pie pan and then some.  Cover the filling with the crust and crimp the edges.  Make these with any leftover crust you might have! Place the pie pan on a baking sheet because shit ALWAYS spills out the sides.  Cut a few vent holes in the crust and brush with an egg wash.  Cook for 25-30 minutes, keeping an eye that your crust isn't burning.

Then cool for 20 minutes.  Then warm your heart with comforting food.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Never Enough Muff

Usually when I go grocery shopping without a plan, I come back with things I don't need.  A block of cheese I've never had.  Chocolate. Chips. A weird fruit or vegetable I've never tried. But the other day I came back with some shit I would never in a million years buy.  I'm not sure what the grocery Gods were trying to tell me, but they took over my body and forced me to buy salami and bologna.  I can't tell you the last time I bought bologna.  My guess is about 20 years ago.  And once I bought that, I found myself in the olive aisle, buying an olive spread.  And that's when it hit me. The grocery Gods wanted me to make a muffuletta. And I don't mess with the grocery Gods. They know what's up.  Maybe I needed some New Orleans in my life. Who knows?  I'll tell you who knows... the GROCERY GODS! So I continued on and bought some provolone and some ham.

And then I got to the bread section and wasn't happy with any of my choices.  So on to another store I went.  And their bread options were better, but still, nothing was really blowing up my skirt, so I ended up with a sourdough baguette.  Now don't get all up in arms that I didn't use the correct type of meat, cheese or bread.  Normally a muffuletta is made with ham, salami, mortadella, provolone and mozzarella on an Italian sesame bread.  But this is a not a normal muffuletta.  This is MY muffuletta.  Not yours.  If you want to tell me how wrong I'm doing it, make your own damn muffuletta.  And please don't get me started on how to pronounce it.  That's a whole argument in itself.  Just eat it, don't dwell on it.

After I gathered all the ingredients, I went home and knocked this bad boy out.  And I must say, it was damn good. So if you get a hankerin' for a muff, all you have to do is this:

Here's What You Need:

Bologna or Mortadella (I used 4 thin slices of bologna cut in half so the meat fit on my bread. I also tried mortadella the next time around and must say, it's way more delicious, buttery-er.)
Ham (I used 3 slices)
Salami (I used 3 slices cut in half)
Provolone (I used 3 slices cut in half)
Olive Salad (Boscoli is my favorite)
Loaf of bread of your choice

Here's What You Do:
Preheat oven to 350.  Cut your loaf in half and scoop out the bread so you have hollowed out bread.  Put the bread in the oven for a few minutes, just to get it a little toasty.  DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE BREAD.  Put your olive salad in a food processor and process it until you have a fine paste.  Take your toasty, unburnt bread out of the oven.  Coat the bottom of your bread with 1/2 of the olive salad (I used a lot because I love olive salad and I like my muffuletta to drip down my arms as I eat it).  Next place the meats and then the cheese or cheeses on.  Top the other half of the bread with olive salad and then place it in the oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese is melty and the bread is crusty.

Another way I do this, is I heat up all the meats first, then assemble the sandwich, then cook for about 5 minutes.  Do what you like.  Either way, you can't go wrong.  It's just a fine ass sandwich.

Monday, January 04, 2016


So look, the reality of it is, I knew I wasn't going to be making myself an authentic Bibimbap today.  But I had a bunch of shit in my fridge that I had to cook.  I am trying to not be as wasteful in the New Year, so here's what I came up with.

And look, don't email me freaking out that this isn't an authentic recipe!  I know all too well you crazy people who get your panties in major wads when people don't make authentic recipes but CALL them by the same name.  That's why I didn't call it a Bibimbap.  Pay attention.

Here's What I Did:
Grabbed everything in my fridge or on my countertop that I wanted to put into this recipe.  This included some leftover cilantro-lime rice, baby corn, carrots, spinach, green onion, rosemary ham, garlic, shallot and brown beech mushrooms.

Then I heated up some coconut oil, cooked the shallot, mushrooms and garlic until browned.  Threw in a scoop of rice, a few drizzles of sesame oil and a tablespoon of soy sauce.  I cooked this until the rice had a slight crunch to it.  I then added in the ham and the spinach and stirred until just warmed through.  Then I plated it, added sliced carrots, baby corn and green onions and cilantro.  Topped it with a fried egg and there you have it.  Not a Bimbimbap, but a Bi Bim Slop that will make you slap your momma!

건배 (That's Cheers! in Korean)