"A dessert by choice is always the last course." My grandmother always used to tell me: "Always eat your dessert first, cause' ya' never know when ya' gonna' die." Words from a wise woman. She was right in many areas, especially desserts. This is the day I dedicate to her. Chocolate is the subject again. At times, life is a broken record. Saying the same thing over and over again. Have you ever eaten chocolate air with molten chocolate inside. Life is chocolate to me. Taking chocolate to new directions has been challenging at times. The melting process. The shaping of chocolate into delicate molds and curves. Your mind and memory is a beautiful thing when playing with chocolate. Ever had those chocolate bars that cost $3 a shot? Being frugal? Let me tell you, "You get what you pay for." Chocolate is like a hurricane. The harder the winds blow, the depth of intensity gets stronger. I used to think I was allergic to chocolate. What I found out eventually is that I was a Type 2 Diabetic and I didn't know it. Migraines muddled my head so hard that it made me cry for hours. The pain was so intense. I usually had to make myself throw up to relieve my pain. What I didn't know was that this was a precursor for diabetes. Doctors did many tests on me. Life was not pleasant for many years. Then 1+ 1= 2 was complete. Diabetes! Type 2! I know things had to change. I did exactly what my doctor told me to do and I lost 47 pounds in 47 weeks. Things were working out, but the only problem with all of this, is that you are now a diabetic for life. You might not have to take medicine forever, but your blood is still diabetic, and you have to think and eat food in a whole new way. They told me that dark chocolate is the best for you. Bittersweet is not bad also. I'm not really for that sugar-free stuff. I like the real thing! But remember this: when you're a diabetic you can get drunk off of pasta, ice cream or wine! It's all about carbohydrate consumption. Too much, you OD on sugar overload. Too little, you melt into the sidewalk like a Slurpee spilling out of your hand. Diabetes comes with all types of issues. Too much of anything is bad for you. The hot. The cold. The wind. The humidity. Summers in Florida can suck the glucose right out of your body. It's really not too fun. Chocolate has saved my life on more than one occasion. So here's to diabetes and chocolate! Enjoy life to it's fullest!
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Italian Fare. What does it really mean anymore? It's so funny when I hear people order "Lasagna, please" off the menu of some overpriced Italian food chain. Here's what they don't know: It's not even made there! Do you actually think that they make it there? This is not your mothers kitchen or even your grandmothers kitchen. This is society today. Face it people: Things are not the way they used to be! Even at home, microwaves are part of our lives. We live in such a ho-hum society, that getting a wave in a passing car is a thing of the past. Check this out! Pasta with Tomatoes and Beans! This is real Italian Food! Nothing glamorous. Nothing fly-by-night. The way true Italian fare should be. I'm giving you this recipe because I care about you and your loved ones. Don't freak out on me! I know. I said, "I CARE ABOUT YOU." Here's the recipe. You can thank me later. Pot of boiling water. Add some salt and let it go. I usually use angel hair in this recipe, but if you have something like linguine or fettuccine, it's okay. Cook it to labels direction. While this is going on, in a large saute pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to medium heat. Chop 2 cloves of garlic to a rough chop and add with 1 regular sized can of chopped tomatoes with liquid to the now heated oil. Add 1 can of cannelloni beans, drained; some salt & pepper and fresh basil. Let this cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. By this time, your pasta is done. Drain it off well and add to your tomato and bean mixture. Stir to combine and just add a touch of balsamic vinegar. Pile on plates and enjoy! Don't forget the grated Parmesan or Asiago Cheese on top. True Italian Fare! Come on people, "Let's Eat!"
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Are we so lost in the moments of the day that we can't even say "Thank You" anymore? What a shame! We struggle. We work. We drive from one destination to another. We dine when not at home. We eat when we are at home. We feed the dog. We brush the cat. We steal a cookie from the "JAR OF DEATH". We kiss our loved ones from near and from far. We take out the trash. We vacuum the carpet. We stock the shelves of our pantry and refrigerator. We take our showers in the foggy mornings of our lives. We sip the coffee. We wonder at all that lives on the television. We turn it off. The pictures that hang on the wall. Of friends. Of family. Of ones that are gone. We open the blinds to see the light of the new day. The windows are washed. The dishes are clean. Our bodies are filled with the food that makes us whole. THANK YOU. Ever feel that life is just passing you by. Like, you mean well, but everybody spits at you in a mean well. Are we so proud that THANK YOU is now a passing reunion. The flowers in the dirt have all been planted. The waking of a new day is upon us all. I've walked a many of miles in my life. Some were good. Many were bad. THANK YOU. The coffee pot has now been put to sleep. The creamer is coated in sugar. The backs of our lives seem a little smoother. And we sleep more wiser than we have before. THANK YOU.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Valentine's Day. How thoughtful. How heartfelt. How romantic. A day placed seven weeks after Christmas to celebrate the ones we love and hold close to our hearts. Are you hungover today or do you need to do some serious talking to your soul mate? The answer for both of these questions for me is a resounding "NO!". Now, I do have some issues with the world, but at this point in time, I refrain from using any harsh words on paper. Valentine's Day was great! My 20th with my wife. The menu was great! Roasted Chicken with Butter, Lemon and Fresh Thyme. Pine Nut Couscous. Shoe Peg White Corn. Dessert: Double Crackle Cookies. They are a dark chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips on the inside covered in confectioner's sugar. You see, I'm a man who knows how to take care of his woman. In the aftermath of February 14th, what do you remember? The lively conversation. The nostalgia from the wine. The you know what?! No. For me, it was the thrill of cooking dinner for my wife again on Valentine's Day! No waiting in lines of some wanna' be Italian restaurant. No dumb waitress where the only thing she cares about is that fat tip! Never Again! And no second guessing life. It's just so easy to either open up that cookbook or if you know what you're doing: DO IT! Do it for the ones you love! To my wife: I LOVE YOU. HAPPY VALENTINE"S DAY!
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Who Dat? It was Susan. She waved her hands happily in the air as I pulled into the driveway. She then continued to run and scream to the garage door that led into the house saying "Surprise!" As soon as I got out of my SUV, hugs and handshakes filled the air with warmth and detail. I was helped with open arms into their house. The dog ran hurriedly around the house knowing his best friend had just shown up. The aromas of the house now filled with the sweet smell of home-cooked food. There was a little pomp and circumstance happening here. You see, this was about the faith of one brother to another. The families of two turning into one only for an hour. The food! It was good. But more importantly, it was there. Cajun Baked Chicken. Creamy Double Cheese Grits. Black Beans and Rice. Roasted Vidalia Onions. Cinnamon Sugar Pecans. It was all about the faith. Life is so precious. We take a lot for granted. The air. The water. The way things are and the way they used to be make the way of things to be. FAITH. Mark and Christie were happy to see me too. A senior in high school and a middle school- er respectively, Christie and my daughter Savannah ran up the stairs to have alone time like young girls do. Mark talked of deep fried turkeys and cheese grits(I think if know one else was around, he would have eaten them all). Steve walked in the door and the family became one. It wasn't like the "Nelsons" or the "Waltons". It was very deep. There was a lot of soul in this room. Now I will say this: the chicken turned the downstairs into a mini Mardi Gras. The smell of this bird set sparks into all of our hearts. Maybe there was some mystical correlation with Valentine's Day Weekend! I DON'T THINK SO! This moment is few and far between. This is purely a meltdown of two families turning into one. Thoughts were expressed, words were spoken and stomachs were filled. FAITH. Mother was there as well. Graceful. Knowing. Respectful. The sweetness of my own mother's heart. FAITH. We could have talked for hours, but dinner back at my place was ready as a delivery store pizza that my daughter received for free, on being Miss Straight A's. Again! Thanks Savannah!( I still owe you some money.) The meal was superb. No fighting. No mocking. Only lost in the moment. We are all so lucky. To have and to have not. FAITH. The soul presence of friendship. It's not really talked about anymore. Why is that? Do we not care about others like we used to. I THINK NOT! The next time you walk by a puddle: step in it. Make a big splash! Let that rain fall on your house all day and then go run in it! Don't worry about tomorrow! It'll come. One way or another, it'll come. FAITH. Thank you Susan. Thank you Mark. Thank you Christie. Thank you Steve. Thanks Mom. Who Dat? FAITH.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
As I woke from a very well rested night, thoughts of breakfast entered my horizons at a very early time. The English Muffins sat in the corner next to the Sweet Sixteen Powdered Donuts. To my right, sat the candy jar: leftovers from Halloween, Christmas and birthdays all combined to make an unusual looking display to say the least. That got me thinking: SCONES! In a world so full-filling as mine, a scone is a wonderful piece of work. A mixture of flour, butter and milk and the flavorings of your glorious past all rolled into one English biscuit that somehow has been shipped to America and prepackaged by your favorite coffee shop. I THINK NOT! A scone is a work of art that few Americans get right. The lay of the land, the pebbles in the road and the pubs in the village. Biscuits are the Americanized versions of scones: BORING! We silly Americans think that grass is green. We also believe that coffee is supreme. When ships sailed years ago to a new found land, there was no Oregon Trail. There was land, but paths had to be cleared. Tea was King! The British recognized that America needed freedom, so taxes made their way into our lives. And with that tax, creativity leveled the playing field! Rules were broken, mountains were climbed and tea was dumped. Sugar became a polished art form and chocolate became sweet. Little by little, things changed for the better. The tides saw new ships and progress became an institution. Scones are still British; and they always will be. So remember, floured hands need a soft touch and butter should always be cold. My life at times is simple: American British. Or, should I say British American. Either or both: does it really matter? My bet is on the scone! Flaky! Buttery! Give me some dark chocolate and dark rum! A pirate's life for me!
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Food is thought. It is the concepts and ideas of what has been, what it is now and where it's going in the future. It has been this way for all our lives. It is an individual basis that is passed on to generations with many hills and valleys, traffic jams, intersections, stop signs, accidents and traffic tickets. The meals of our lives are also a reflection of the past. They are driven from our childhood memories: a place deep in our hearts that we can physically and mentally go back to in times of honor, love and respect. I think that for many of us, the father has been the steering wheel for most of our lives. He often determined whether right or left turns were made. The climate controlled vehicles that we travel in today, has made us want to just roll down the windows and let the wind blow. Let it flow. Let it find our past again as a child. The father is often the one who simplified life. "You'll understand one day", my dad would say. The words would go in one ear and out the other. No laughing. No crying. No time for thought. Just Hot Wheels rolling on the tracks. He drove me crazy with his "I told you so's" and "If I had a dime for every time" stories. The intersections of life! Do you stop? Do you keep driving on that highway all night long? The end of the innocence is upon us all. Our fathers taught us well. It was not always the best of times. There was often a place to call your own. The friends over for pizza. The long walks after dinner with distant relatives. Words were spoken. I still have those Hot Wheels. They keep me driving. I've taken a many of wrong turns in my life. We all learn. We all grow. There has been no turning back. I keep driving. Everyday! The padding on my steering wheel is whithered. The oil stains in the driveway are beautiful after a slow rain.A spectrum from the past. We look at it and wonder. We close our eyes and think of nostalgia and circumstances. This recipe is for my father and to many other fathers.
1 pound of northern beans
6 cups of water
1 large piece of salted pork
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak beans overnight or all day in a pot full of water. Drain and then add 6 cups of fresh water. Bring the pot to a boil and add the pork. Turn down to simmer and let the beans cook over low heat for about 90 minutes, with a slightly lidded pot. Make your favorite cornbread. It's your father, so make this as salty or sweet as needed. When the cornbread and beans are done, cut the cornbread in half and place in the center of the plate. Spoon the beans and broth over the cornbread and season lightly with salt and pepper. Enjoy! Thanks Dad.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
6 A.M. Just unload the coffee at full throttle and I'll be just fine. Sometimes coffee is simply an act of kindness that compliments a dessert or a kickback after a great meal. "Would you like a cup of coffee to go with that?" That's one of the great things about coffee. It serves you in time of need. It's not like you want that coffee to go with that meal: YOU NEED IT to go with that meal. You need it with that piece of pie or that slice of cake. You need it to go with that morning sunrise on the beach! The want is not there, but the need is there. "Hey, I could really go for some coffee right now!" When people say that, they don't want it, they need it. A phone call from a distant relative. A letter from an old forgotten friend. It's not wanted. It's needed! The past can be hard to swallow sometimes. It flows in and out of your mind like a river with no end. Coffee in a cup can be a one night love affair or a unexpected fall in the night. It can stop on a moment's notice or it can be annoying. It can be regular or decaf. It can also be half and half. I've drank a lot of coffee in my life: too much I'm sure. In the worst of times and in the best of times, a cup of Joe can be more than just a good friend. It often regulates the moments in times of death and disaster. It is the darkest cup in the coldest night. It is the warmth of solitude in the deepest book. It's the glow of a newborn on Valentine's Day. It's the nail in the coffin of a high school friend. Coffee has made a journey in life like many an explorers. It has travelled down many rivers to parts unknown. It has been picked bean by bean in many a mountain and hills. And don't ever take coffee for granted! "Brother, can you spare a dime?" Words, too close to heart for many of us. Cheers.