Saturday, October 22, 2011

Random Thoughts on Art

Last night I enjoyed an evening out with friends at a local "Ladies Night Out" event. I ran into an artist friend who shared with me her recent adventures in creativity, chatting briefly about a painting she recently sold and about the commissioned piece she is currently working on...I reflected on our conversation this morning while I was performing my own personal work of art magic tricks - applying makeup, an act that always conjures thoughts of  the transformation from caterpillar into butterfly. Thinking about my artist friend, her career, and the relaxing elements of painting, I remembered a piece I had seen on display at my neurologist's office. One he had created himself - literally, a large glob of bright green paint smeared across two canvases, hung side-by-side and bearing his name in the lower right corner. This led me to the desire to pull out a fresh canvas myself and smear some paint around - a hobby I love to engage in, but rarely find the time and even now must continue to postpone. All of these thoughts left me with the same summation...that art is relative.  The style that each of us finds pleasing can vary greatly from fine detailed landscapes, to portraits, to large globs of paint carefully placed to look as if they were thrown together. I love to look at paintings - initially at a distance to take in the overall picture and then up close, very close, so as to see each brush stroke. The tiring thing about living in my head is how quickly my train of thought can race away from me, finally settling on a new realization or a brief meditation.  All of this pondering resulted in a fresh awareness that a mediocre piece of art could easily yield great sums of money if created by a widely renown individual, artist or no.  If Steve Jobs had been inclined to push some paint around I feel certain a number of his faithful fans would step right up to bid on a piece created by him, if for no other reason, simply to have something he had touched. Don't misunderstand...I love my iPhone and Steve Jobs definitely shaped society as we know it. Simply amazing. Yet I can't help but recognize my possession of the greatest creation ever given to man and how grossly undervalued it has become. Many never touch it or look at it, let alone have it on display in their home. While I don't habitually present it to my guests as my proudest acquisition, still it continues to change the world. Anyone can acquire this work of art in a variety of price ranges, sometimes even for free. Hmm...the Bible. Why isn't it more cherished? Why do Bibles stay covered in dust, sitting in the corner or on the bottom shelf of the bookshelf? Why haven't I examined it up close, taking in each brush stroke? Wasn't Jesus way cooler than Steve Jobs? Aren't his miracles more worthy of display than a Van Gogh? The item that should be my most valued possession is frequently the first thing I pass over, the last thing I show off. is relative.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Omega-3 Bliss

I have no words for the delectable result of this recipe - simply was finger-lickin' good. Since I'm writing this post in the a.m. hours I'm running low on verbiage (catch me at midnight and I'm full of awesomeness). Fry some up tonight for an extra dose of Omega-3 madness. Enjoy!

Pecan Crusted Tilapia

8-9 Tilapia fillets
1 1/2 c. bread fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 Tbs. parsley
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dill
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
vegetable oil

You will need three shallow dishes for the dredging of the fish. I use glass pie plates, but use whatever you have making sure your dishes are large enough to hold a single fillet. Place the flour in one dish, the milk in another and the bread crumbs, pecans, parsley, garlic powder, salt, pepper and dill in the third. Pat dry your tilapia. Working with one fillet at a time, dip first in the flour, followed briefly by the milk and then roll in the bread crumbs until evenly coated. Continue with each tilapia fillet (we had nine fillets in all). Heat about 1 Tbs. of vegetable oil over medium/high heat in the bottom of a skillet or saute pan. I've found that a non-stick pan works best. Working with only 2-3 fillets at a time, fry for about 3 minutes on each side or until a nice, even, golden brown. After about five fillets I've found that I need to wipe out the pan and use another Tbs. of fresh oil to keep from burning the little crumbs that fall from the fish. Remove your fillets from the frying pan to a paper-towel lined cookie sheet to drain briefly before transferring to your serving platter. Or, leave them on the cookie sheet and serve them up from there, right on the back of the stove, like we sometimes do at our house because we're not always fancy....four children under the age of 11 live here...we don't always make it to fancy.  Sometimes, we're just lucky to get dinner done on time. Oi vey.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Not-At-All-Famous Chicken Soup

My sweet husband, unfortunately, is sick. This, by itself, is not anything catastrophic, but throw in his commitment to sing three French songs as part of a university faculty recital on October 25th and a head cold can become a major concern. We're proactive around here and taking the bull-by-the-horns sometimes often leads me to trouble at a faster rate than normal; however, this time, I knew my preemptive measures would be, in the words of Martha Stewart, "a good thing". Lucky for me, I was prepared, as always big surprise, with several whole chickens tucked away in the deep freeze and quickly thawing one to produce what has now been dubbed the "best chicken soup you've ever made" elevated me to the place of heroine for the evening. A girl does what she can. *sigh* After observing our 20-month-old son devour three full servings, I believed it must be pretty good (kids are, after all, brutally honest) and good things are meant to be shared...

Here's what you'll need:

1 whole chicken, rinsed
1 large onion
2 stalks celery
2 large carrots
1 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Bay leaves
2 Tbs. kosher salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. dried basil
2 sprigs rosemary
1 12oz. package fettuccine

First, cut the skin off of the chicken. Don't skip this step - it seems simple enough to cook the chicken with the skin on, but you want to really maximize your broth with juices from the meat and bones - not the fatty skin! It only takes a minute or two longer to cut/peel off the skin. Place the chicken breast side down in a large pot and cover almost completely with water. Turn the heat on to medium-high.

Now place the onion, celery, and carrots in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until finely chopped. I left a little onion out to coarsely chop by hand just to add texture, but you could easily pulse it all. Add vegetable mixture to your pot with the chicken. Now stir in salt, pepper, garlic, basil, bay leaves and rosemary. After you've compiled everything together in the pot, it should look something like this:
When mixture reaches a low boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for approximately 1 hour. Remove the chicken from your broth, cool and remove meat from the bones. While you are waiting for the chicken to cool enough to handle, add an additional 4 cups of water to your broth, turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Break the fettuccine into 2-inch pieces and stir into boiling broth; cook until noodles are tender, about 10-12 minutes. Then turn the heat off and return the chicken to the pot, stirring well to combine. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

I started this post a good 2+ weeks ago and somewhere after the first sentence or two, life took the reigns and ran away with me. Left me sort of white-knuckling-it, much like how you feel on a super-high-speed and way-too-dangerous roller coaster. I finally jumped from that ride, but merely landed on a runaway train, so I'm really not sure that anything changed; however, somewhere mid-leap I had time to revisit this recipe and throw a few thoughts down. *WHEW* I want to go on record as stating that I've also started a biscotti post that is well over a month old and I may actually finish it this week as well...but don't hold your breath.

When it comes to ingredients, I like to use every bit of every item. So when I recently made two roast chickens for my family, I went to bed haunted by the carelessness of throwing away the bones. Why didn't I save those to boil low and slow into consomme? Why? Oh yes, because at the time it was 100+ degrees outside and the thought of keeping one of my stove burners flaming away for 24 hours adding at least 10 degrees to my kitchen temperature...well, the mere thought of any extra heat trumped my need to be frugal. I did, however, save every last morsel of chicken and chopped it up the next day to make this yummy twist...much like a stroganoff, but with chicken instead of beef and with our leftover steamed broccoli stirred in at the last moment, yielding a huge pot of this scrumptiousness; much to my delight only a small amount remained after three of the males in my home devoured two heaping servings each.

3 cups diced cooked chicken
1 yellow onion chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
1 Tbs. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. corn starch
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cans chicken broth
1 tsp. horseradish
1 Tbs. dijon mustard
16 oz. box farfalle, cooked to package directions
2 cups diced cooked broccoli

Melt butter in a medium size saucepan, add onion, salt, pepper and garlic powder, cooking until onions are transparent. Add corn starch, whisking to avoid lumps. Add chicken broth, sour cream, horseradish and mustard, continuing to whisk until well combined. Keep warm over low heat while cooking pasta. Remember, you want the sauce to be a little thin and plentiful. Pasta is absorbent and much of the sauce will be soak right in, so if at any time the sauce begins to thicken (like gravy) add more chicken broth and thin it back out. After draining your farfalle, return pasta to your pot and stir in the diced chicken and the broccoli, then add sauce to the pasta and stir well to combine. Enjoy!