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Friday, November 28, 2014

Chile Relleno Casserole

I have oodles of green chiles on hand and made this recipe recently.  It does not require cooking the peppers ahead of time, which is nice if you are still in the summer bounty time of the year, but it works equally well with peppers that have been charred, peeled and seeded.  The dish is delicious as a breakfast buffet item (it can be served with a Mexican tomato sauce or not), and it is very good at room temperature, so it can be taken to a pot luck.
But my favorite way to have it is in a breakfast sandwich--use it just as you would use egg, and you can add bacon or ham or whatever else you would add, and it becomes a portable breakfast that is delicious.

In a 9" x 13" pan,
pack in as many peppers as you can--you can use poblanos, jalopenos, banana peppers, what ever level of heat you want will work.
Seed them and stuff each of them with grated cheese that melts well (I use Chihuahua when I have it, a Mexican blend when I don't).

The egg batter is:
5 eggs
1/4 c. flour
1 1/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Mix in a blender, and pour over the stuffed peppers.  Bake at 350 degrees until the egg is puffy and set, about 30-40 minutes.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Act of Giving Thanks

I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with several of my nieces and nephews recently and they tried to convince me that since Thanksgiving is a day of family that I should really make the trip back East to enjoy it with my extended family.  I let them know that while I loved them all very much, traveling at Thanksgiving is off the table for me.  Just too much craziness with fellow travelers who don't travel often, and shall we say, are not in the mood of the holiday when they are stuck or delayed.  Which in November is bound to happen somewhere.  As a people we have lost the sense of wonder at how quickly we can get places and have replaced it with irritation when that doesn't materialize for us.  So traveling at Thanksgiving is more like hand to hand combat than a celebration.

The fact that we are not together often enough does not change the fact that I love being an aunt.   I am not much of a lover of small children, but I do love teens.  My nieces and nephews are all growing into amazing people doing many cool and different things, and I take neither the credit nor the blame.  It is perfect.  I can just enjoy them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

To Be of Not to Be (1942)

This film is set in Poland during the Nazi occupation.  The depiction of the enemy in WWII while the war was going on by Ernst Lubitsch, a German Jew who had been in the United States almost 20 years by the time the Nazis started to spread out across Europe, is part Casablanca and part Hogan's Heroes, and very good indeed.

The setting is Warsaw, and while there are a fair number of bombed buildings, the movie is generous in it's depiction of Warsaw because the city put up a strenuous resistance and as a result, 85% of the city was reduced to rubble.  Joe and Maria Trura (Jack Benny and Carole Lombard) are Polish actors who become part of the Polish underground resistance.  Maria catches the eye of a young Polish airman (Robert Stack) who is falsely convinced that she will leave her husband for him. So there is the romantic triangle that Lubitsch so loved interwoven into the plot, but there is also the need to stop  a spy from giving all the information that he gathered about the Polish resistance to the Nazi's.  That part of the plot is handled as more of a dark comedy, and very deftly done.  Even with the hindsight of 70 years this film holds up well on many levels, and it is no wonder that Mel Brooks elected to remake it in 1983.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chicken Marbella

This is from a very old cookbook, the Silver Palate, which when I started eating meat again after a long hiatus was one of the ones I started with.  I still don't cook very much meat (my spouse does the lion share of that in our household), this is a favorite.

It is a great recipe for a crowd.  It can be served at room temperature. It can be made ahead of time and heated up.  It calls for chicken pieces, but it is very good with BLSL chicken if you are serving in a location where wielding a knife and fork is a challenge.

4 chickens, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight (can be transferred to a zip lock bag for this phase.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices.  With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Reflecting on Five Years of Blogging

I have been blogging more or less every day for the past five years and while that would be nothing for someone who does it professionally, I am a rank amateur, and so I am going to briefly revel in the glory of the little that I have accomplished.

I started blogging for two reasons.  The first was that I wanted to write more, and to consider writing quite a bit more when and if I get the chance to retire (or at least work part time) in the future.  In order to do that I would need to write more than I was (which was pretty close to zero) and a blog seemed like a great way to get my mind thinking regularly and to practice getting some of those thoughts down on 'paper'.

So that is where I started, but having an idea and actually blogging were fairly far apart in time.  For many years I was a good letter writer and correspondent, but after the advent of email my letter writing slowed to almost nothing.  When my FIL was diagnosed with a serious but not immediately terminal illness the thing that he wanted to do before he died was to get to know the people in his life a little better.  I initially wrote long and hopefully thoughtful emails to him, but found that I was waiting for a response rather than continuing to write more.  That wasn't exactly fair to someone who was trying to empty out their bucket list.  So I decided to start this blog.

I wrote several things, and then I sent the web address to my aspiring writer son--I thought he would be the best judge of whether it was something to do publicly and if it would be unduly embarrassing to him, me, or someone else I cared about.  Once he gave the thumbs up, I sent it to my FIL, and I am very happy to say that he read it regularly.  I know this because his cousin had lunch with him weekly and they talked about it.  So rarely does something fulfill more than one purpose and this alone brought me pleasure.  As does the writing now that I have been at it awhile.  So thanks to all who check in on occasion, and on to the next five years.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Bletchley Circle (2012)

Every so often I feel compelled to divulge yet another in a long series of BBC Crime dramas that I have found enjoyable, adn this is one of those times.  The series opens with a scene from during the war when all four women were code breakers.  Susan and Millie are good with patterns, Lucy has a photographic memory, and Jean has access to people in all the right places.  They were a team that solved things.  Their lives were exciting and they felt like what they did made a difference.  They didn't know it at the time, but when the war ended and the men came home they were going to go back to the status of women, which was significantly less thrilling than the life they had led.  And due to the Official Secrets Act, none of them could talk about what they did during the war.

Fast forward nine years.  Susan is now a mother of two going slightly batty at the lack of intellectual stimulation in her life.  She has been following the story of a serial killer and his victims and thinks that she has spotted a pattern.  Long story short she gets the gang back together to track a serial killer.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pumpkin Seeds and Ricotta Insalata

My spouse ate at the Purple Pig in Chicago recently and came home to recreate this dish.

Brown 1/4 c. of butter.

While you are waiting for the browning to take place (it takes a while, and you really can't go off and leave it), prep the butternut squash by cutting it in half, seeding it, use a vegetable peeler to get rid of the outer skin, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

Toss the squash with salt and pepper, and the browned butter, then roast in a 400 degree oven until it is starting to brown, about 30 minutes.  Check on it often, stirring it a bit when you do so to promote even baking.

Toast the pumpkin seeds, grate some ricotta insalata, and toss the finished squash with them and serve.  It is a slightly sweet, very richly flavored dish that goes with almost anything.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Orfeo by Richard Powers

This is an odd book, which was long listed for both the Booker Prize and the National Book Award this year.  The basic premise is this.  Peter Els is a 70-year old composer who is working to better characterize music through an exploration of DNA.  As the book progresses we discover that Els has a long history of making music his highest priority, more important than his wife and daughter, and therefore the somewhat wacky idea that a do-it-yourself gene therapy set-up he has purchased to further his investigations is just an extension of his life work.  The book is strongest when it is describing music, although the technical aspects of those explanations may make the book less accessible to a broader audience.

The musical theme is woven into a larger commentary on society in the 21st century.  Els comes to the attention of the local authorities when he calls 911 when his dog has a sudden stroke.  They advise him to call animal control as he cannot dispose of the body himself, and when they return to follow up on that they discover his homemade biology lab and bring in the FBI.  Who go way overboard, which spooks Els, who then becomes a wanted fugitive on the run.  The public hysteria about his homegrown virus and its potential for lethality is very believable in the post-Ebola hysteria that was whipped up by a 24 hour news cycle and social media.  That is more or less what happens here, and Els decides in the end that he needs to use social media to fight back. He gets a Twitter account and starts his defense, 140 characters at a time.  It is an unusual but largely enjoyable novel very much set in our time.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Long Way Down (2014)

This movie did not get particularly good reviews, but I found it strangely enjoyable.  Martin Sharp (played very competently and almost compassionately by Pierce Brosnan) had the world in the palm of his hand uo until a year before when the movie opens.  He had a sexual relationship with someone that he claims he did not know was underage, and as a result he lost his long time morning talk show job, as well as his marriage and for a time, his personal freedom as he spent some itme in jail.  He is humiliated and he has decided to commit suicide.  Unfortunately or fortunately, he has chosen a popular building to hurl oneself off of and on New Year's Eve, also a popular night, and before he can accomplish the jump, he is joined by three other people, also suicidal.

They are all impulsively making a choice to end their lives, and having an audience makes them each hesitate, and they form an unlikely alliance whereby they provide support for each other much in the way a support group would act. Toni Collette's performance is pitch perfect, and the movie is ultimately hopeful and at the least enjoyable.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sopa de Chilies

We roasted two cases of Hatch chilies this fall and my husband also ordered 50 pounds of them that came roasted and frozen so we have a significant amount of real estate in the freezer occupied by green chilies.  I love the earthy flavor of soup, and decided to try to make it.  Delicious!

2 lb. poblano chiles
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 large white onion, roughly chopped
1 small potato, diced
1 hot chile (serrano or jalapeno), stemmed, seeded, and minced
4 oz. spinach, roughly chopped
4 cups stock
1-2 cups milk
Salt and  black pepper, to taste


1. Heat broiler to high heat. Place poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet, and broil, turning as needed, until blackened all over, about 20 minutes; transfer to a bowl and let cool. Peel and discard skins, stems, and seeds; roughly chop, and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, the hot pepper, and then the potato, cook until onions are soft. Add chopped poblanos and stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in spinach and milk, and season with salt and pepper; puree in a blender until smooth.  Adding the spinach at the end then pureeing it makes the color of the soup greener.  You can add a dollop of Mexican crema or sour cream when serving.  A cup of corn can be added after pureeing to make a chili corn soup, and strips of fried tortillas acan be sprinkled on top when served.