Spicy Chicken Wings

This recipe is fairly self explanatory and comes from I Love Spice. It’s another easy recipe that mostly requires waiting.

I have no good tie-ins today except that the waiting part is the marinating part. Marinating makes me think of how a friend of mine posted on social media recently that he just discovered a pack of hot dogs in his backpack. Apparently they had been there for a few days. I told him it was ok, that he was just marinating them. I’m not sure what he’s got in his backpack, but I bet there’s something in there that would give those hotdogs a nice kick.

Thankfully I marinated my chicken wings in the fridge and it was only overnight.

So what you’ll need is 2 lbs of chicken wings, 11 garlic cloves, finely chopped, juice from 2 limes, juice from 1 orange, 2 tbsp of tequila, 1 tbsp of mild chili powder, 2 dried chipotle chilies that have been soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, drained, and pureed, 2 tbsp of vegetable oil, 1 tsp of sugar, 1/4 tsp of allspice, and pinches of cinnamon, cumin, and oregano.

My first note on this recipe is that if you can’t find dried chipotle chilies, it’s ok to just use the ones that come in cans along with red sauce. It won’t ruin the recipe. I have trouble finding dried chipotle for some reason and have given up the good fight. I’m guessing I should go to a Latin market of some kind, but I felt like for this recipe it wasn’t necessary.

Anyway, what you’re going to do is get a non metallic dish that can hold your chicken and all of these ingredients. Put everything in it, mix it around a bit, cover, and put in the fridge for at least three hours.

Once those three hours are up, you grill the chicken wings. If you don’t own a grill, like myself, you can set your oven to the broil setting. Once it’s heated up, place your chicken wings inside for 15-20 minutes. Be sure to flip the wings halfway through the cooking time as well.

The final result was a success for me. My wings were crisp and juicy. I didn’t think they were spicy, but I have a very high spice threshold so they very well could be for most people.

What I liked best about the taste is the subtle flavor of orange. It’s not overpowering at all, but you can still taste it. It gives the chicken a crisp and light flavor that pairs well with the garlic.

Speaking of pairing, I paired my chicken wings with some leftover friend rice I had made, but feel free to add whatever you wish. Green beans, corn, and mashed potatoes are all staples of barbecue items where I come from.

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Kinda spicy chicken wings

Gin and Dragons

This next “recipe” comes from Cooking Light and this particular issue is a summertime edition. Amidst all these summertime recipes of barbecue side dishes and fruit, they naturally had to have a cocktail in there.

I mean alcoholics deserve a drink for every season right?  For Christmas, its eggnogg, for New Years Eve, Champagne, for Halloween, some weird blood-red jungle juice, and for summer, you get what I’ve coined Dragon juice.

Dragon juice is my name for it, but the proper name is Lemon Verbena Gimlet Cocktail. What you’ll need to make this cocktail is 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of torn verbena leaves, 3/4 cup of gin, 3/4 cup of club soda, 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice and optional garnishes of verbena leaves and lime slices.

The hardest part of this recipe is finding verbena leaves. I went to Von’s, Trader Joe’s, and Lassen’s. No one had it. So what I ended up doing was going to a garden store and buying a Verbena plant. I was dedicated to make this right, ladies and gentleman.

Besides, it’s not an expensive plant and you can also use it to make tea, so I’m hoping it will be a good investment provided I don’t murder the poor thing on accident.

The first step to actually making this cocktail, though, is to heat up the water, sugar, and leaves in a saucepan. Once it’s up to a boil, you count for thirty seconds and then remove it from the stove. Allow it to completely cool before you add it to your cocktail as well.

Once it’s cooled, you can sieve out the leaves. If you have a martini shaker, this isn’t necessary since most shakers have a built in strainer. I have one so I didn’t bother taking the leaves out and my drink turned out fine.

Either way you will add the sugar mixture, gin, soda, and lime juice in some kind of a mixer. Mix, obviously, and then serve.

If you do have a martini shaker, be careful, because the carbonation can cause the lid to pop off like a champagne bottle. I didn’t pay attention in Physics class and I almost had a frightening experience while making this. So, that being said, don’t shake the mixture, just stir it up in the shaker and then strain.

The final result is refreshing. I’m not a fan of gin, myself, but I still liked this cocktail. The verbena leaves give it a slight lemon taste and when you pair that with the lime juice and the soda, you almost feel like you’re drinking a spiked Sprite.

I’m sure now you are wondering. “Ok….what does this have to do with Dragons?”

It doesn’t at all. I just took a picture of it next to a Dragon. If you really want me to place a meaning, I suppose one could say lime and lemon skins are scaly like a dragon. That’s a big stretch though. Let’s just say Dragons really like gin.  I mean, whose to say Dragons don’t like gin? It’s possible friends. Use your imagination, it’s fun. Logic is for losers.

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The proper way to serve your gin gimlet

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The Dragon way to serve

Oysters on a Half Shell

Like the mighty Aphrodite, fully formed from Zeus’s brow, the oyster is a symbol of femininity. It is an aphrodisiac too, so I imagine Aphrodite was a big fan of oysters. I am not a fan of oysters. As a child I was even terrified of them. I have distinct memories of my entire family sitting at a round table at some restaurant in Florida staring at a plate full of oysters with amorous eyes. My family, a group of people I should be able to trust were waving the oysters in my face! Tempting me to try them! I just sat in disgust as they slurped and slopped up their oysters with delight. They weren’t going to make me do something I didn’t want to do! I was a stubborn rebel like that.

I’m honestly not sure why I was afraid though. Perhaps I was traumatized by that bit in Alice in Wonderland where the Walrus and the carpenter trick those poor oyster children into their bellies. I mean that was some messed up stuff.

So when I came to this recipe from French Farmhouse Cookbook, I almost skipped it. I tried to justify it to myself even, because it’s not really a recipe. It’s just an intro on how to eat oysters. After much deliberation, I  realized that I needed to be adventurous and try new things because that’s what I love about life. So I took the plunge and ended up buying 6 oysters from LA Fish Mart in downtown LA.

The actual “recipe” calls for 2 dozen oysters, fresh seaweed or Swiss chard, 1 lemon, pepper, and sea salt. I didn’t want to eat nor buy that many obviously.

Anyway, the cookbook mentions to be selective about your oysters and even has a bit about Mareenes-Oleron oysters and how the labeling isn’t always accurate. So, I checked out some reviews on Yelp and discovered LA Fish Market. When I got there, I was shown four types of oysters from all over the world. They had some from Washington, Japan, and New Zealand. The Japanese ones were expensive as were the Washington ones. I can’t remember what the other type was. I just remember it was bigger than the others, so I went with the New Zealand ones since they were a good size and reasonably priced.

My book also recommend shucking my oysters on my own so they would be extremely fresh and I thought I’d try this out as well.

The term shucking,by the way, makes me think of when you buy a Christmas tree from a tree farm and they put it in that machine that supposedly shakes all the spare needles off. So I imagined something similar, only with oysters.

Shucking isn’t anything like that. All shucking is, is prying the shells apart. This process isn’t easy but It’s not too difficult either. It is recommended that you use a special shucking knife, but if you are a tightwad and/or just too lazy to buy one, you can do what I did and use a small curved knife.

Be careful though! I was lucky and didn’t harm myself, but I had to use a lot of force at times and could have easily slipped and cut myself. So make sure you cut away from your hands when you do this. This process also gets messy, so I recommend having a towel handy.

Anyway, to shuck, you just look for any space you can in the oyster shell. Once you do, you stab the knife in and then kind of curve it around until you can pry it open.

After being pried you just open the oysters and break them in half. After that, there’s not much else to do but cut your lemon into wedges and present the oysters on a bed of ice with lettuce or seaweed.

I decided to put mine on Swiss chard, but if you’re not planning on presenting the oysters to impress others, it’s not necessary to get any kind of greens. It’s more for show.

I have to admit the presentation does look nice though.

As I mentioned, I was nervous about trying the oysters. I squeezed a healthy portion of lemon on mine and sprinkled some pepper and sea salt. I closed my eyes, prayed to Aphrodite and took a bite. It wasn’t bad! I didn’t love it, but I wasn’t repulsed either.

In the end, oysters aren’t my thing, but I wouldn’t mind trying a different type in the future. I’m just a pepper and asparagus kind of girl. Sorry Aphrodite!

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Oysters being all sexy and such.

Spaghetti with Anchovy Sauce

I decided to try anchovies again. I must be insane.

This wonderful anchovy recipe is from Louisa Sasso and my town’s cookbook, aka Little Italy Festival Town Cookbook. Every year during Labor Day weekend my town has a festival. As I type, my old hometown classmates, friends, and family are celebrating our town’s heritage.

What this means for me is that Clinton, Indiana is trending on my Facebook. This is all fine and great, but unfortunately I just saw a picture from one of my friends that was upsetting to me.

Let me explain that my town’s festival has been going downhill for at least a decade. Before I was born, there were more Italian themed booths and stands that sold Italian food, but over the years, 75% of the festival has become fried festival food central. We still have a few great Italian food stands though. You can even play salami and cheese roulette!

Anyway, a new addition to the festival is a stand where you can buy flags. I mean that’s ok and all, but the flag this stand decided to showcase was a Confederate flag. Last time I checked, Italian immigrants were not a part of the Civil War and Indiana was a Union state. Apparently I must be having issues with my state of reality.

Now I have heard that for some people, the Confederate flag represents pride of southern culture or being down to earth country people. Ok, lets say you truly aren’t a racist bigot and just like the flag. Let me enlighten you that the Nazi swastika symbol has an origin that is actually peaceful and loving. It originates from India and means good fortune in Sanskrit. Knowing this, doesn’t change the fact that in our current culture, that symbol evokes feelings of terror and sadness.

The Confederate flag and The Civil War is peanuts comparatively but it’s still a symbol of sadness and terror for some people. Like, I don’t know, Black people come to mind. Of course, we all know they are just all angry, uptight, thugs, though. So, who cares how we affect them right?

I know this will piss off some people from my town, but seriously, why would you want to associate with something that isn’t really a part of your culture anyway?

I want to elaborate more on this subject and talk about these two guys in my high school who were dumber than a box of rocks and drove pickup trucks with Confederate flags on them. I will later, but I realize that this entry is already going far off course as it is.

I could afford some time to rant, because this was a quick and easy recipe. What you’ll need to make it is, spaghetti, 1 small can of anchovies, 1/3 cup of olive oil, and 1/3 cup of Italian bread crumbs.

The first step, (besides boil water to cook your spaghetti in) is to heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add the anchovies next and simmer for 2-3 minutes on low heat. Then you add the bread crumbs and stir vigorously and thoroughly.

The final step is to wait for your past to be ready so you can mix it with the sauce.

This wasn’t half bad and super easy to make. The bread crumbs cover up the anchovy taste, which if you’ve been paying attention to my other posts is good news for me. For my leftovers, I doctored it up by melting Swiss and Gouda cheese on top which turned it into a spaghetti mac and cheese dish.

I know what you’re thinking right now too, and yes, it was real Gouda.

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Not as saucy as it claimed, but good.

You Can Go Now

I’m currently reading House of Leaves and like Johnny Truant does in the book, I feel compelled to rattle off because a passage reminds me of a memory in my own life. What I just read was an entry where a character tells another character they can go now while said character is on their death-bed. I apologize if this counts as a spoiler, but I don’t think it is, because the book is so out there and all over the place. The way it’s written, I could be talking about anyone or anything.

Anyway, this passage reminded me of my grandmother’s own passing. She was on hospice and I had made travel arrangements to go and see her. I was already living in Los Angeles at this point. I only had a couple of days til my flight, but I ended up getting a phone call from my mother while I was shopping at Ikea of all places. My mother explained to me that my grandmother was most likely going to pass that day. She told me she was going to call me in a few minutes so I could say goodbye.

I was shell-shocked. I didn’t know how to react or what to say, so I just said, “Ok.”

I was with the artichoke boyfriend at this point in time. He didn’t know what was going on at all. He just wanted to get a futon for the place we were moving into. I told him I had to step outside, that my grandmother was dying. His response was similar to my own. “Ok.”

So I sat outside, on a bench, in front of the Burbank Ikea. I felt so numb. I learned about death fairly quickly in my life. My other grandmother died when I was six. I had many pets pass over the years. I felt knowledgeable about death. You’re never really prepared for it, though, no matter how well acquainted you get.

I was searching for what to do and say when my phone rang, it was my mother. She explained to me that my grandmother had lost her voice, but she was going to put the phone up to her ear so she could hear me. My grandmother had severe Parkinson’s. Her body slowly fell apart on her over the years to point where she could hardly walk and even eat. I figured her disease had finally affected her voice as well. Despite this, her mind remained quite sharp. I was confident at the very least she’d be able to comprehend who I was.

I could picture my mother placing her phone up to her mother’s ear and I thought of what I wanted to say. I wanted to see her one last time, but I also didn’t want her to suffer anymore. So I told her this, “Hello Grammy. I hear you aren’t doing well. I’m supposed to fly out soon to come to see you and I hope I can. I know you’ll probably try to wait for me too, but if you have to go, it’s ok. I will understand and I love you.”

Telling someone goodbye who can’t talk back is an emotionally deafening experience. Here I am, laying my heart out and I have no means of gaining any response. The silence continued on the other end and suddenly I heard my mom’s voice again. “She heard your message baby. I’ll call you later. Love you.”

When I hung up, I still felt numb, but then a couple of seconds later the tears poured out of me. I found artichoke in the kitchen aisle. He had a dumbfounded look on his face. We quickly got what we needed and headed to our place. A couple of hours later, my grandmother passed.

Mom said the whole family was there, waiting for her to go, but then dinner time was approaching. So everyone left to eat and that’s when she left. She was from Tennessee and a true steel magnolia. She wasn’t going to let her family see her die and so she waited it out as long as possible.

I love that stubborn strength of hers, but I hated that I couldn’t see her one last time. When I got back to Indiana I asked Mom if she thought grandma understood what I had said. She smiled sadly and said, “I know she did, because she had a tear in her eye when you were talking to her. She loved you a lot. She loved all of her grandkids.”

Then we laughed because she was so stubborn that we were a little surprised she didn’t hold out til I got there.

This is why I told her it was ok to let go. I ended up being the only one who didn’t get to say goodbye in person and that’s ok, because I didn’t want her to suffer anymore. She struggled with her Parkinson’s for a decade. It was painful to see her. I regret not spending more time with her when I had the chance more than not making it time to see her one last time.

Life is too short to allow fear to determine your lack of action. I wish I had learned that lesson sooner.