Today is my birthday!

Happy Friday, Happy weekend and Happy Mother’s Day to all to whom this applies!

Since the “techie” blog I wanted to post is no where near done, I had to do something. (IDK, virtual cakes just don’t cut it for me. I’m thinking about something from Friendly’s though. Bet you can’t guess. ;))

friendlys -27

Anyway, thought I’d do a quick share of some awesome music by an up and coming star! As life and a small world would have it, I went to school with his dad (who, I am VERY sad to say, passed about three years ago).

Tam’s dad was also very into his music. If memory serves me well, he loved his drums. What I remember most though, was a question he posed: if I had to lose one, would I give up my sight or my hearing?

Tam’s dad would rather not see than never be able to hear music again.

With that, I present to you Tam Justin Garcia. Take a few moments and listen to Liquid Universe. (You’ll be very glad you did!)  Then, if you would be so kind, visit his Facebook and Twitter pages and share about him some more? Thank you!

On a tennis note, Rafa Nadal topped David Ferrer in the quarterfinals at the Mutua Madrid Open! (Just cause it’s my b-day—of course! Last night my older son caught me watching another match and asked if it’s “tennis season” again. With the tennis channel, this is now a very welcome and fun year-round thing! Which also means, you may be constantly in-the-know about tennis whether you share the passion–or not! :D)

Have a great day all!

Joanna

French Toast with Dinner? Try This Spin on a Classic!

Happy Friday and upcoming weekend, everyone. Trying really hard to get back into a blogging groove and ideas that hit due to a no-big-deal error can really be a big help!

I was getting ready to bread chicken cutlets yesterday. Added too much milk to the egg mixture and was about to throw it out when a light bulb flashed: slice up the seeded Italian loaf staring me in the face and fry up as a French-style toast!  Honestly, a recipe doesn’t get much easier than this! (It looked really pretty too. Didn’t think to take a photo b/c I didn’t realize I’d be writing up the recipe and sharing it.)

You will need:

4-6 slices bakery bread cut no about an inch thick (you want the egg inside to cook);

1-2  eggs*, beaten (depends on how much you’re making and/or how eggy you want your bread to be)

salt to taste

fresh parsley, chopped (sometimes I just cut it up with a scissors)

1/4-1/2  cup of milk*

grated cheese* of choice (I always stock Parmesan but Adagio or even crumbled Feta might work nicely here too)

¼ cup (or so) of bread crumbs

*using egg whites and lower fat milk and cheeses might appeal to those conscious of fat and cholesterol)

With a fork or a whisk, beat together the egg, milk, parsley, salt and grated cheese. Dip the bread slices in the liquid mixture then coat on each side with bread crumbs. Fry over medium-high heat in a pan coated lightly with cooking spray until golden brown on each side. (I fried mine in the same oil I used for the chicken cutlet. I tend to be light-handed with the oil so I didn’t feel too guilty about any added fat.) Remove from heat, sprinkle with additional grated cheese and serve immediately. (Hubby wouldn’t try it but the boys and I will be partaking of such yummy concoctions during future meals.)

Topping this with some thinly sliced tomato (sprinkled with a touch of sea salt, oregano and more cheese of course) and putting under the broiler for a few seconds sounds like something I might try another time–maybe even with a fried green tomato.  Hey, this might work as an appetizer, too. Hmm. The recipe idea gears are grinding…

Your turn: what minor cooking gaff have you turned into an unexpectedly delicious meal or side dish idea? What about combinations you’ve tried that haven’t worked? Anyone have any big plans this weekend? Enjoy!

Thanks for indulging me. 😀 Until next time,

Joanna

With Whom Would YOU Sing?

Thanks to the Happiness Engineers at WordPress.com for the prompt for this post. Thought it would be fun to take on and makes for good audience participation, don’t you think?

Of course I’d love to duet with Donny Osmond–any of those wonderful Broadway covers he did on Somewhere in Time would do. So would my dream role: narrator to his Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat).  Go figure: the narrator on the Canadian soundtrack looked so much like me–thinner of course–one of my sons pointed to the photo and said, “That’s you, Mom.” (I wish! He was quite a bit younger then, but I’ll take it. :))

Then there is my birthday buddy, Bono. How cool would it be to share the mike with him on Stuck in a Moment, Vertigo, The Sweetest Thing or my absolute U2 favorite: Walk On?

And I’d so sing with Kevin Bacon on pretty much any cut from any one of their amazing CDs–Tuesday, Old Guitars and the one we all heard first: Only A Good Woman.

So who would YOU sing with? Come on and play along!

Joanna

Sunflowers and Home Fries

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you’re all geared up for a fun and/or restful weekend. Our weather  is promising much-needed rain, but so far the sun is having its way.

This photo is for writer-blogger Darlene Steelman (always a great collection of articles at her blog):

This recipe is dedicated to author JT Ellison over at Twitter (a.k.a. @thrillerchick)—she happened on one of my tweets and asked for the recipe. I am happy to oblige!

Joanna’s Home Fries (inspired by hubby*)—serves 4-5.

Sorry, no photo today–will post one as soon as I make them again :)!

You will need: 

5-6 large potatoes (Eastern or Idaho)

2 red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers (one of each works too, and makes for a very colorful dish)

1-2 large cloves of garlic, chopped or minced (optional)

1 large yellow (or Vidalia) onion

canola or olive oil

salt/pepper/paprika/Adobo to taste

Here’s what to do: 

Peel and rinse potatoes before cutting into pieces about 1-inch square (pieces this size cook faster w/o burning).

Wash peppers. Use a sharp nice to cut out the stem and empty the seeds. Slice into strips or cut into pieces, 1-2-inches long.

Peel and slice onion.

Cover the bottom of a large (12-14-inch preferably) non-stick frying pan with oil, but not so much the potatoes are swimming in it. (You’ll definitely need to use more oil–and/or add as needed–to a stainless steel skillet.)

Over medium-high heat, heat oil until one potato dropped in begins to sizzle as soon as it hits the oil.

Add the potatoes and fold until they’re coated with oil. (Add more oil as needed.)  Stir/fold potatoes as needed to keep them cooking evenly. (A silicone/flexible spatula is great for this.) Potatoes should progress from their creamy color to a pink-red brownish color—which would be about the time to add the cut-up peppers and onions.

Use spatula to carefully fold together all the ingredients. Continue cooking, folding mixture as needed so that veggies don’t burn while desired tenderness is reached. (Keep in mind that allowing the veggies to become blackened/caramelized will add some sweetness to your dish.) Add garlic at this point, and cook until golden. (Don’t let the garlic burn!)

Season with salt, pepper, paprika and/or Adobo to taste. If you used canola oil, you might want to top off the dish with a drizzle of (extra virgin) olive oil, but that’s it! Serve with fried eggs or as a side dish for pork chops, chicken—you name it. Leftovers heat up nicely too.

*For a slightly different version—my mom’s—substitute green bell peppers for those above. (You’ll need to cut pieces smaller or cook a little longer; green peppers tend to be harder than the red/orange/yellow variety.)  Skip the onion and add a clove or two of chopped garlic when you’re almost done cooking. Don’t let the garlic burn; unlike onions and pepper, burned garlic doesn’t caramelize. It just tastes bitter.

Next Friday I’ll be sharing my thoughts on historical romance author Mary Reed McCall’s The Crimson Lady, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I have a few choices for earlier in the week so that one is up in the air yet. One last request: if today’s content spoke to you, please take a moment and click a SHARE button. Thanks so much!

Have a wonderful day and a great weekend!

Joanna

Modern American Tragedy: House of Sand and Fog

Good day, everyone!

Anybody out there remember Woody Woodpecker? No, I wasn’t a fan, but my brothers watched it on occasion. I only remember one episode. Woody found a (planted) buried treasure map and took off on a destined-to-fail journey to find it. (No! You don’t say!) He spent all his time (and money) trying to resolve the conflict but only got in deeper every minute.

Meanwhile, a Captain Haddock kept following the action. All he said over and over was,

“If Woody had gone right to the police, this would never have happened.”

That’s the line that kept jumping into my head the deeper I got into Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog.

  http://andredubus.com

Disclaimer: I happened upon this book at my school’s teacher’s lunchroom. In no way was this review solicited nor was I paid to share my thoughts on it. I do so because I felt deeply impacted by this story. 

This conflict-driven thriller grabbed me early on through its first person points of view of the lead characters. Colonel Behrani is an immigrant who has one goal: re-establish the lifestyle his family was accustomed to before their flight from Iran when the Shah’s regime was overtaken. We meet him as a ‘garbage soldier’ (i.e., part of the California highway clean-up committee) and convenience store worker, holding both jobs simultaneously to maintain the façade his wife insists upon, at least until their daughter has married someone from an Iranian family with a lifestyle. The colonel also knows his fourteen year-old son is eventually to attend university and will need funds to see him through. (Neither child knows the colonel’s circumstances. He hides them well.)

The colonel though, is seriously burnt. The American dream appears to have eluded his family and he decides real estate is his escape from the drudgery he lives daily. When he comes upon across a newspaper ad announcing a tiny bungalow being auctioned by the county, he jumps on it. He spends $45K of the $48K left of his savings and purchases the home.

Kathy Nicolo, a recovering addict who makes a job-to-job living cleaning homes, is ousted from the one she inherited from her father. Eight months prior, her husband left her, giving her no reason why. Driven by her need to prove to her family (who lives on the east coast) she is not the failure she believes they think she is, Kathy keeps her falling-apart-life to herself.

Lester Burdon is the married deputy sheriff who is present when Kathy is forced to leave her home. Drawn to her for reasons he can’t explain, he begins offering his help and soon finds himself in love. (Not sure how much his judgment was impaired before he met up with her.)

In a nutshell, this story is a collection of characters’ choices that culminate in calamity. I wanted to choke every single one. Each one’s backstory, however, lent me no option but to have compassion and some understanding of what drove their actions. This is a rough story to watch play out, but one you’ll never forget either. Oh, and Mr. DuBos leaves no loose story ends; he ties up every one.

For those who’d rather watch the movie version (which I have not): here’s a link to the trailer. Chances are, you can find it On Demand via your cable service or on Netflix. (Loved the casting of Ben Kingly as the colonel. Nothing against Jennifer Connelly and Ron Eldard, but I’m not sure I agree with them as Kathy and Lester—thought they were a bit young. Ron Eldard, though has a great look for personifying Lester’s underlying insecurity.)

Finally, for the Woody Woodpecker fans, watch Bunco Busters. I loved it today as much as I did then. Hate to say it, but in its own strange way the episode is a great illustration of House’s conflict (minus the installment’s happy ending).

Here’s to a wonderful day to all! If you enjoyed the content, please take a second to click a SHARE button below! Thank you!

Joanna

 

Jenn Nixon can be WILD AND WICKED!

Getting a seriously late-in-the-day start friends, but happy Friday and upcoming weekend just the same. I am SO looking forward to the BNP Paribas Tennis Championships starting tomorrow. I need something to tide me over until the French Open late in May!

Just finished reading fellow Liberty States Fiction Writer Jenn Nixon’s WILD AND WICKED:  Quick, short read, a very fun ride and so NOT LACKING in heat and perfect for getting you through the weekend. (Please note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my thoughts on it.)

In a nutshell, Veronica Chance, goes undercover as a waitress at a “gentlemen’s club.” She is in search of her sister, who appears to have gone missing. On her first night at work, she winds up providing a mini lap dance to none other than the country’s most sought after detective, Mason Storm. Each immediately realizes the chemistry between them. Mason quickly picks up on Veronica being in such a place for more than cash. Veronica senses the ‘good guy’ in Mason. As the night winds down Mason has his first opportunity to play hero and rescues Veronica when he realizes she was drugged at an after-party where hedonism runs rampant, women are used and possibly being trafficked. Mason is also impressed with Veronica’s smarts; most especially how much she’s learned—in one night— about a case he’s been working on for two years. They agree to team up.

The rest you’ll have to read for yourself.

I have to say, author Jenn Nixon packed a whole lot of story into 48 short pages. She had me hooked on Mason by the end of his first scene. (I’m such a sucker for the hero who picks up on the damsel in distress.) Veronica is self-assured, smart, witty and just…happening. Well written, fast-paced; packed with chemistry, humor, vivid language and popping scenes on all levels, WILD AND WICKED did not disappoint. (I take that back. It did too disappoint. It ended. But: CHANCE OF A STORM, the sequel, is available. I’ll be reading–and most likely providing my take on it too!) Read more about all of Jenn’s books at her website!

About the author: Jenn Nixon was born, raised, and still resides in New Jersey . She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Liberty States Fiction Writers. An active blogger and social media participant, Jenn likes to stay on top of what’s hot and popular around the world whether it’s TV, books, movies, or politics.

Like what you read? Please take a second to click a share button or two. You’ll not only be doing me a service, you’ll be promoting Jenn’s work as well! We both thank you!

Have a great weekend and enjoy all your weekend reads!

Joanna

#FollowFriday? No, #FridayFrittata!

Happy Friday everyone!

Ash Wednesday set Lent in motion, so how about a meatless recipe? And in the spirit of Twitter’s #FF (Follow Friday) we’ll call this one #FridayFrittata.

As with all of my recipes, I try to keep things easy. I must say, however, this one might take a little practice to make the way I do. Trust me, experience is the only reason I can flip the thing the way my mom does, but there are ways around that (which I’ll share as we go).

So here goes Joanna’s Momma’s #FridayFrittata:

Ingredients:

4-5 medium-large potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

3-5 eggs, lightly beaten (as if you were to scramble them)

Parmesan cheese*

Salt/pepper*

Parsley* (preferably fresh or frozen and lightly chopped—something about the smell of dried I don’t like)

Cooking spray

Oil (canola or olive)—enough to fry potatoes (I tend to be light-handed and fully coat bottom of pan)

How to put it all together: Spray the bottom of a large (12-inch) fry pan. (Non-stick is best in this case.) Cover bottom of the pan with oil; enough to allow you to turn the potatoes with a spatula and coat them lightly before you start cooking, know what I mean? Fry over medium-high heat, stirring and turning as needed until golden and tender as you like.

While potatoes are frying, prepare the egg mixture. Beat the eggs together with the remaining ingredients. Spread potatoes out so that they cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Reduce heat to medium and pour the egg mixture in, making sure to distribute between and around the potatoes.

Use the spatula to lift the sides and make holes to allow the egg to run to the underside.

Okay, the tricky part*: When the bottom is firm enough, cover the pan with a large plate. Hold one hand firmly over the middle of the plate and grasp the pan’s handle even more firmly with the other hand. Invert the frittata onto the plate. (The less-cooked top should be in contact with the plate.) Slide it back into the pan and continue to cook until the egg is done.

This dish tastes best served immediately but leftovers are yummy too!  Pair it with a salad, soup, toast or even pasta with garlic and olive oil for a light and tasty meal.

*Some folks skip the flipping part. (I just made a mess until I got it, lol.) Though I’ve never done this, another way is to take a large pie dish  and slide the frittata into that, uncooked side up. (Or simply start with a frying pan that has an oven-safe handle.) The whole thing then goes into a 400-degree oven for no more than 10 minutes (or until the egg is firm but not dry).

For a photo (not mine, but a good representation), click here.

Let me know how you make out! And if you like what you read here, would you kindly take a minute to help me spread the word and click one of the share buttons? Thanks so much!

A great weekend to all,

Joanna

Name those Chores You Love (?) and Hate!

Okay, I’m behind this week—probably a bit lazy too, what with recuperating from all that Super Bowl excitement and all. (If, like me, you’re still thinking about it click here for a post on MHO of what it took for the current champions to get to the place where they fought for that ring. And I’m seriously kind of missing having something that much fun to look forward to this week. The French Open Tennis Championships are a long haul away: last two weeks of May. :()

Anyway, typed up a recipe post earlier today but not in the mood to run it. (Must be that lazy part again, which kicked in when I was doing my hair and looking at the dust and lint that seems to collect in both bathrooms daily. (Forced hot air doesn’t help, and yep, I try to wipe down the surfaces in some shape or form minimum every other day. My Italy-based aunts and cousins would be horrified to think a dual full bathroom scrub-down doesn’t take place daily, lol.)

Got me thinking about tossing this one out just for fun: list the Number One chores that top your DON’T MIND and DESPISE lists and a sentence or two why.

http://www.bgorealestate.com/sell/images/housecleaning.gif

DON’T MIND: Handwashing dishes and glasses. (Y’all can keep the silverware, pots and pans, thank you very much.) I like the running water and these items are easy enough to organize on a dish rack. And I rarely dry these items by hand.

DESPISE:  Dusting. And laundry. No matter how often I do either each is right back in my face, taunting me I have to do it again. Soon. Very soon.

http://www.fotosearch.com/CSP044/k0440574/

Sorry. Slipped to a dark place for a second. Your turn!

Have a great weekend,
Joanna

Veggie Pizza: Fresh and Homemade!

Happy Friday, everyone. Haven’t shared a recipe in a while so why not today?

Had some friends over for pizza the other day. Since I’m spoiled by the thin delicious crust I get whenever I buy dough at my neighborhood’s bakery, I always make it fresh. Given the oversized, granite-topped peninsula I now have—courtesy, in part, to an angel; topic for another blog—rolling out a plain pie and getting it into the oven is ten-minute-or-less deal. And inhaling the aroma of fresh pizza in a cozy-warm kitchen with friends perched on stools on the opposite side of the counter chatting while I assemble the pie has its place too.

Those of you who’ve been to my recipe pages (here and at my website) know cooking is not necessarily my favorite pastime. BUT: if I must or choose to I like to get a little creative and have some fun! So here is something I threw together when my friends were over—just because (and just because I remembered that years ago I used to fancy up pre-made crusts this way to change things up at the family dinner table).

Equipment you’ll need:

Round or square or rectangular pizza pan/cookie sheet (~16-inch)

Rolling pin

Cooking spray or extra oil to coat bottom of pan

Latex or food-prep gloves—optional. I use those with a snug fit b/c I wash my hands a gazillion times while I cook. (I wash as if the gloves were my skin; keeps my skin from falling off, lol.) Also handy is one of those long-handled pizza sheets the pizzeria guys use. A friend got me one. Comes in handy when you transfer the pie to or from the oven rack.)

Ingredients, depending on your tastes, of course. Add or delete at will! 

One whole wheat or white flour pizza dough (*See below.)

Olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pie once you’ve rolled it out—sorry folks, I only measure when I have to)

White or whole wheat flour (either is fine)

Oregano/Salt/pepper/garlic powder/red pepper flakes (to taste)

Fresh tomato slices

One large fresh bell pepper, cut into strips or chopped into pieces roughly half-inch square (depends on how soft you like them on your pie—smaller pieces cook faster)

One onion, thinly sliced

Fresh mushrooms (rinsed, dried, buttons and stems)

Pitted black olives (or any kind you like)

Shredded mozzarella cheese

Grated parmesan

Thinly-cut pepperoni slices (available pre-cut at market or by the pound at your nearest deli)

Fresh basil leaves cut into strips or small jar of green pesto

Preheat oven to 425˚F. (If you have a speed-bake or convection feature, your cooking times will be at least five minutes less.)

Spray pizza pan with cooking spray or coat with oil. (This step is particularly important if you plan on transferring pie to oven rack.)

Make sure dough is at least room temperature before you roll it out. I usually buy it in the morning and let it sit out all day. It will expand a bit in the plastic bag. You can also place it in a bowl, rub olive oil over it and cover it with a cloth before letting it sit. (Little flavor boost from the oil with that move.)

Dust your working surface and rolling pin with flour. Place the dough on the surface, using your hands to coat it with more flour. Roll it out to fit your pan. (One pound of dough makes a perfectly thin 16-inch pie.) Carefully lift dough from the surface and place on pan, tweaking it to fit. If you rolled it bigger than the pan just fold the edge over. If it’s way too big, cut it to size with utility shears. (**See note below.)

Pour at least 2 tbsp of oil onto crust and spread to coat the entire surface. Add more as needed. (If you’re using pesto, you can coat the entire crust in place of the oil and seasonings. Serious flavor-yum when you do that.)

Season the crust with any/all of the seasonings listed above. (You can mix them together up front or add them to the oil before you spread it on the crust).

Arrange cut-up vegetables and pepperoni. Sprinkle with grated cheese and/or mozzarella (you won’t need as much cheese as if you were making a plain pie).

Garnish with basil leaves. (If using pesto, you can eliminate this step.)

Bake in oven for 10-13 minutes. If you want an extra crisp crust, transfer pie onto the oven rack for at about 5 minutes more, or until done to your taste. (If you have a perforated pie pan—i.e., the one dotted with holes—skip this step.) Using a pot holder, carefully slide the pizza pan under the pie—assuming you don’t have the long-handled pizza tool—and remove from oven.

Allow to set a minute or two then cut into slices. Since my pizza cutter isn’t the best, I’ll score it with the rotary cutter then cut all the way through with scissors.

So there you have it! (The one on the right represents the recipe I just posted. :))

Seems like a lot of steps but once you have them down, making your own pizza is easy, more filling and so much tastier than those from the pizzeria. (Much cheaper too, as in about half the price of take-out. (I’ll put up my plain-pie recipe next week.)

*Most bread bakeries sell dough in one-pound bags; the white flour variety—possibly the wheat too—is available frozen at the supermarket. (I’m too lazy to make my own. Two more options: pre-made pizza crust from the bread aisle at the supermarket; making your own from Bisquick or a similar baking mix. Haven’t tried the Bisquick way yet. Will be sure to let you know if I do.)

**Rolling pizza dough does take some practice. Don’t get discouraged. If you need to, you can flip it once and continue rolling. Too much flipping results in a tough crust. Also, each piece of dough handles differently. Some rebound while others hold their shape better. (Next week we’ll go a little simpler with a plain pie!)

Have a great weekend. Let me know how you make out!

Joanna

Two Quick Things (Including a winner!)

Happy Saturday everyone! Tired of clouds outside and hoping the sun makes its way through and has its way for more than a few hours.

1. Yesterday, I posted in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge and let all of you know I’m hoping to do so on a regular basis. FORGOT to ask you all to give me a hand at getting my blog more visibility by taking a minute to show some love and comment on any photos I post!

2. Winner! Winner! Winner! Christine Warner left a comment and gets her choice of a critique or a digital copy of No Matter Why! (Thanks so much to all of you who took the time to comment.)

I’ll be posting Monday and Wednesday (and photo) Friday of next week!

Thanks so much and see y’all then,

Joanna