Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks

Although I'm sure the blogosphere has been chock-full of "posts of gratitude" this week, I'm jumping on the bandwagon anyway.  After all, if we can't give thanks for the stuff that makes life worth living, then we really don't deserve it, do we?  Don't worry, I won't bore you with an itemized list of everything I'm thankful for.  Instead I'm going to give you a show-and-tell about my Thanksgiving this year.

First, I must say that my Thanksgiving was spectacular - full of love and laughs, and the food was, hands down, the bomb biggity of  all Thanksgiving feasts (a huge shout out, a gold star and a tip of the cap to my brother and his extraordinary wife for being such rock star hosts).

So in addition to all that I am grateful for, I am also thankful for Thanksgiving.  It never disappoints.  Here are some of this year's highlights:

This Shopping Cart

Who knew that a shopping cart would save the day?  If it weren't for the quick thinking, resourcefulness and questionable morals of Mr. Bizzle and my dear brother, our Thanksgiving turkey might not have been (or at best, it would have been so-so).  We are serious about grilling turkeys, so when a broken grill grate threatened our quest for a moist and delicious bird, the boys swiped a shopping cart from a bus stop, took it apart with hacksaws and fashioned a new grill grate.  Hey, all the Lowes and Home Depots were closed, so they had to improvise.  Don't judge.  Grilled turkey is delicious.

Hello, Delicious.

Since we're on the subject of DELICIOUS, let's talk about my Dad's cauliflower gratin.  In a nutshell, my dad is to cauliflower gratin what Michelangelo was to the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

My Precioussss

Speaking of Dad, here he is carving the turkey with his fan club waiting patiently for a handout.  Wherever Dad goes, you can be sure there's gourmet food nearby.  I hope that one day I'll be half the chef (and half the person) that he is.

And of course, there's Mr. Bizzle.  In my opinion, he is the greatest candid photo subject on earth.  In this photo, he has a beer label stuck to his forehead and is scanning a bar code on a beer bottle with his smartphone during a game of Pictionary.  And he wonders why he never wins.

...and here he is at the end of the night trying to get some shut-eye.  Awesome.

For me, the best part about Thanksgiving is the warmth of family and friends.  The only gift exchanged is the gift of one another's company, and for that I am truly grateful.
A La Famiglia!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (hold the zombies)

Everyone's got a favorite holiday and a favorite season.  Most people I know are either Christmas or Thanksgiving enthusiasts, and spring/summer seem to be everyone's go-to seasons.  Not me.  Autumn, or more specifically the month of October, is one of my favorite things about being an earthling.  Although the long summer days are over, the flowers and trees are dying, the kids are back in school and frigid weather is just around the corner, October always breathes new life into me.  Foliage & sweaters really do it for me, I guess.

As far as holidays go, I've always loved Halloween and I get seriously jazzed about pumpkins, haunted hayrides and costume parties.  Oh, and Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Lattes - there's no better way to ingest the season.  For me, there's something really magical about Halloween.  I suppose I've always been fascinated by the supernatural and mythical creatures (in a Harry Potter/Twilight kind of way, not in a Dungeons & Dragons/Lord of the Rings kind of way).

But I'll tell you what I don't find fascinating:  ZOMBIES.  Those brain-eating bastards ruin my Halloween spirit.  Unlike vampires, werewolves, ghosts, goblins & witches, there's no magic, mystery or fun with zombies.  They just walk around aimlessly looking for more brains.  I find them boring and totally unattractive, and I take issue with the fact that the networks show so many zombie movies during October.  Unfortunately, my kid LOVES zombie movies and believes that under the right circumstances, a zombie apocalypse is a perfectly plausible outcome to a "vaccine gone wrong" or a "rogue virus" (I blame X-Box).  Debating this issue has proven to be exhausting so I told him that if zombies ever come knocking in our door, I'll tell them that his brain is WAY more tender than mine. FYI, did you know that Ty Burrell (Phil Dunphy from Modern Family) starred in Dawn of the Dead?                                                               
       "YOU take out the garbage, Claire!"          

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Problem with Undercooked Meat

I've got a beef and it's rare.
First, let me give you a little tour through my meat temperature belief system:

Chicken:  cook the hell out of it (at least 180 degrees) or you will get worms and become salmonella-ridden.
Beef (ground):  "      "          "         "           "         "          "         "      "  mad cow/E-coli-ridden.
Beef (steak):  if you are an adult, dealers choice (in my case, just walk it through a warm kitchen).  If you are a child, please see Beef (ground) instructions.
Pork:  I don't care that trichinosis has been mostly abolished in the United States and that the so-called "Pork  Council" says you can have it medium rare.  I'm not going to chance a parasitic infection and I'm sure as hell not going to let my kid chance it.  Cook it til it's dust!
Venison/Elk/Big Game:  Gross. If you eat it, you deserve worms.

Now that we've got that out of the way, tonight's adventure began when Mr. B and I decided that we were going to eat dinner at the table together like a normal family.  It always sounds like a swell idea at the time, but I always forget about the ridicule.  Oh, the ridicule...

Tonight's menu was BBQ pork tenderloin, roasted red potatoes & asparagus.  A simple enough meal, but also fraught with peril.  Mr. B always undercooks the pork.  Always.  He drank the Pork Council Kool-Aid and has become very willy-nilly regarding temperature.  Pull it at 155?  Are you serious????

When it came time to sit at the table, I quickly piled the well-done end pieces of the tenderloin onto our kid's plate before Mr. B had a chance to notice.  I felt victorious knowing that once again, my vigilance would pay off and prevent my only child from contracting some terrible pork-borne sickness.  Unfortunately once Mr. B sat down, he looked at Nick's plate, made a snide comment about chewing on erasers, removed the end pieces and replaced them with (gulp) PINK CENTER PIECES!!!  To my horror, my son gobbled it down in utter contempt of my loud protests and dire warnings of explosive diarrhea.

The remainder of our family meal consisted of Mr. B and my little man snickering and trading comments like, "Oh no, death by FLAVOR!"

Really just so uncalled for.

I believe that the following clip from Pulp Fiction sums up my issue with pork perfectly (although keep in mind  this is a Tarantino film, so.. BEWARE!  POTTY WORDS AHEAD!!!).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Soft-Shell Crabs Meuniere (sort of)

Soft-shell crabs are a controversial crustacean.  Most folks I've polled either: a.) never heard of them, b.) have heard of them but don't want to try them because they sound unappetizing,  c.) think they are completely gross (because why would anyone eat a crab whole?), or d.) OMG,  LOVE THEM!

Let it be known that I fall under category "d".

Because live soft-shell crabs are only available for a few short months out of the year (during the brief time period when the blue crab sheds (molts) its shell in preparation to grow a new one), I relish the opportunity to get my hands on these little guys every chance I get.  Alas, there are many folks out there who feel the same way about them as I do, so they can be tricky to find. "Sorry, we just sold out" is something you'll often hear during soft-shell season, but today I got lucky! Our local fish market had exactly 4 crabs left when I called to inquire and I think I startled the poor girl who answered the phone when I blurted out, "HOLD THEM FOR ME!  I'LL BE THERE IN 10 MINUTES!!!"

This, my friends, is the end result:  insanely delicious soft-shell crabs meuniere, garlic whipped potatoes and roasted asparagus (pay no attention to the ominous shadow in this photo.  I never claimed to be a world-class food photographer).

Let's do this!

This recipe serves two hungry people or four skinny people

1 cup milk
4 live soft-shell crabs, cleaned (ask your fishmonger to clean them for you if you don't know how)
1 cup Wondra (or all-purpose) flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. butter (divided)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
Fresh chopped Italian parsley for garnish (optional)
Place crabs in a single layer in a shallow container and add milk.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1 - 2 hours.

Combine flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne in a shallow bowl or plate and set aside.  When ready to cook, remove crabs from milk, let excess drip off, and dredge in flour.  Knock off excess flour and transfer coated crabs to a plate in a single layer.

Heat olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter in a large nonstick skillet over moderately high heat.  Saute crabs, upside down for 3 minutes.  Turn over and saute for another 3 minutes.  Crabs should be golden brown.
Transfer crabs to a serving plate and cover loosely with foil.

Lower heat to medium, add remaining 2 Tbsp. butter to skillet and cook until golden brown.  Add wine and lemon juice and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until the alcohol burns off.  Taste sauce for seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle sauce over crabs and sprinkle with chopped parsley, if desired.

*Note:  classic Meuniere sauce does not include olive oil or white wine, but I think a splash of wine adds a nice punch of flavor, and replacing half of the butter with olive oil makes it slightly more heart friendly.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Rock

No, not that one.

This one.

Look, there's no way to sugarcoat this so I'm just going to come out with it.  Our pup, Roxy is in love with a rock.  At first we thought she had a strange fixation with rocks in general, but we soon realized that it was just one rock.  It is a smooth, gray medium-sized rock that is generally unremarkable except for the fact that our dog is desperately attached to it (however, for the purposes of this story, the rock's name is Pierre and he speaks with a French accent).

(Click on pics for larger image)

Our first indication that Roxy had gone over the deep end for Pierre was when we repeatedly saw her barking at him, crying and batting him around the yard, only to later find her canoodling with him, napping with him, and even grooming him. Eventually she became so attached to Pierre that she smuggled him into the house every chance she got.  Unfortunately for her, repeatedly dropping a rock on a hardwood floor will attract unwanted attention.

After about a week of observing this bizarre behavior, I came to the conclusion that Roxy's inexplicable aggression/affection toward Pierre could only mean one thing - girlfriend was in love.  And the more I observed this improbable relationship between a dog and a rock, the more I began to understand their story - a complex story of forbidden desire, heartbreak and 80's love songs.  A modern-day West Side Story, if you will.

At first Roxy and Pierre were as happy as could be...

But after a while we noticed that Cooper was becoming agitated by Roxy's newfound friendship, and I believe he intervened.

Musical Interlude...

Suddenly we didn't see Pierre around the house anymore.  Occasionally we'll find him in the mulch by the plant beds or out back by Mr. B's shed, but we haven't seen Roxy and Pierre together in over a week.  I can only assume that Roxy had to let him go.

But very late at night, from somewhere in our back yard I can hear the faint melody of a sad, sad song...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spanish Jambalaya / Bayou Paella?

(Whoops, forgot to take a "before" pic!)

This dish incorporates the flavor two famous shrimp & rice dishes - jambalaya and paella.  For this incarnation, the andouille sausage normally used in jambalaya has been replaced with chorizo (frankly, because I think chorizo tastes better). But, the expensive shellfish and saffron traditionally found in Spanish paella are omitted from this dish to allow for a more economical and user-friendly recipe, like jambalaya.  So call it what you will, but know that this recipe falls under the "smack yo mama" category of delicious.  If you want to impress your relatives, friends and countrymen, I highly recommend whipping up this culinary delight.  Without further adieu, I present to you the recipe for happiness.

This recipe serves 4

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 links chorizo sausage (or 1/2 to 3/4 lb.), casings removed
2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 (14 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. cajun seasoning (recommendation to follow)
1 cup uncooked white rice (not minute rice, people!)
2 cups chicken broth
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the shrimp if setting aside in the refrigerator beforehand)
Salt and pepper, to taste (particularly if Cajun seasoning does not contain salt)
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add chorizo and break up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon as it browns.
Remove browned chorizo with a slotted spoon and set aside (but do not clean the pan!  The browned bits and oily chorizo business at the bottom of the pan will add tons of flavor later on.  Forget about your cholesterol for a minute).
Add butter to the pan and once it's melted, add the onions and garlic and cook until onions are soft.
While onions and garlic are cooking, sprinkle with the flour and incorporate well, stirring frequently.
Add tomatoes with juice and cook for several minutes, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.
Add oregano, Cajun seasoning, rice and broth.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until just a little bit of liquid remains.
Add the shrimp and browned chorizo to the pan, stir well and cook until rice is tender and shrimp is pink and cooked through (about 7 or 8 minutes).

My unsolicited product recommendation:
Now, you can use any ol' Cajun seasoning, but I HIGHLY recommend you run out and buy this little beauty. It's got a little kick to it, it's got depth, it's got rhythm, it's got music (but it's also got salt in it so if you do use it, taste your recipe before adding any salt!).

But most importantly, enjoy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Suspicious Package (a.k.a. How to Psychologically Unhinge Mrs. Bizzle)

It started out innocently enough...

When I was at work on Friday afternoon, Mr. Bizzle called.  We had our usual exchange - said our hellos, he asked what was for dinner, I told him to bite me, the usual.  But right as we were about to hang up, it happened.  Mr. Bizzle said, "Oh, by the way, a package came for you today."  A package?  For me?   "Who is it from?"  I asked.  "It doesn't say, but there's a return address in Tampa, Florida", he responded.  "Were you expecting a package from someone?"  Nope, I wasn't.  I immediately scanned my brain for anyone I know in Tampa and came up blank.  Then I scanned for anything I might have ordered online, which of course, I rarely ever do because of my fear of identity theft.  Blank again.  I said, "Are you sure it's for me?"  After 17 years together, he felt pretty certain of my name and address.  "Well, then what does the package look like?"  He paused for a moment and said, "It's a package, not a box, but it's big and it smells weird."  Smells weird?  Smells WEIRD???  Did I have a faceless enemy who sent me something terrible in the mail (like a flaming bag of dog poo)?  No, I think I'd know if someone hated me that much.  Could it be a terrorist plot involving anthrax?  If so, would I know what anthrax smells like?  Did it even have a detectable odor?  But why would someone send me anthrax?  I can't imagine that I'd be a high-value target, like a senator or Britney Spears.  So, I asked him to define "weird".  He responded, "it smells like that foo-foo flowery crap that girls like."  Ah, well I doubted anthrax smelled like that, so I ruled out a terrorist plot and continued to scan for possible senders.  Was it a really belated birthday gift?  An anniversary of sorts?  Had I done something that warranted an award to be sent to my home (like the "major award" that was the leg-lamp in A Christmas Story)?  The suspense was KILLING me!  But, it was only 3:30 p.m. so I had to wait a couple of hours before I could find out.  Sure, he could have opened the package for me, but that would have ruined everything.

When I came home, I didn't bother with pleasantries.  I brushed past everyone and made a beeline for my mystery package.  I smelled it first.  Mr. B was right, it did smell weird.  It had a faint, sweet vanilla aroma, similar to a Cabbage Patch Kid from the 1980's.  Now I was really intrigued.  I opened the package and pulled out two rustic-looking drawstring bags that appeared as if they were made on Gilligan's Island.  The Cabbage Patch Kid aroma was really kicking in now and I was starting to get a little bit freaked out.  I carefully opened the first drawstring bag and pulled out what appeared to be 3 recyclable shopping bags with a palm frond pattern.  I opened the next drawstring bag and pulled out three more.  WTF???  What were these?  Who were they from?  Why were they sent to me?  WHY?

The fact that I was mysteriously sent a total of six weird bags stuffed inside two other weird bags that reeked of my childhood was simply more weirdness than I could handle and my psyche began to crack under the pressure.  I looked at Mr. B and started firing questions at him.  He lowered his head and muttered, "Here we go."  He knew I was on a high-speed, neurosis-fed  freight train and I wasn't getting off until I had some answers.  Then Mr. B said, "Give me the package."  He walked over to his laptop, Googled the return address on it and said, "It looks like it's the headquarters for People Magazine.  Did you recently renew your subscription or something?"  Oh.  Why yes, yes I had.  And come to think of it, I believe there was a free gift involved in my renewal.  So, I looked at Mr. B and said the first thing that came to mind.  "So what did you say you wanted for dinner?"  

MORAL OF THIS STORY:  There are some free gifts that are better left unsent.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Brain Cell Strike Continues...

It's been quite a while since my last post, so I thought it best to check in and let my vast audience know that I'm still kicking (albeit in a very uninspired fashion). You may now all breathe a collective sigh of relief.  I'll wait....

So, I've decided that I'm suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which has somehow replaced my usual spunk and candor with a ravenous appetite for chocolate and the need to watch The Real Housewives.  In all honesty, lately I've had a hard enough time coming up with status updates on Facebook to even think about posting on the blog, but I owe it to myself, and most of all, my adoring fans to at least try to break through this mind-numbing funk.  Did George Washington decide not to cross the Delaware because there was a Jersey Shore marathon on the telly?  Heck no!  He got out there and did it!  Did Orville and his brother (whose name escapes me, so let's just call him Bob) Wright decide not to take flight because they didn't feel like it?  Not a chance!  They took the bull by the horns and flew the hell out of that construction paper and popsicle stick contraption for at least a hundred feet!  Did The Artist Formerly Known as Prince decide not to record Purple Rain because he just didn't feel "purple" enough?  No way!  He sang and danced his heart out in those adorable, purple little lady boots.

Ok, that's really all I've got, but here's a pic of my awesome dog.  And yes, that's an empty bottle of Canadian Club next to her.  Someone told Mr. Bizzle that empty 2-liter soda bottles are great dog toys. He doesn't drink soda.

And here's a pic of the killer chicken I made for dinner tonight.  If you want the recipe, just ask in the comments section, but I will tell you that my secret is putting a halved lemon and some fresh rosemary sprigs in the chicken's hoo-ha.  It makes for a delicious, herby and lemony bird.  I seriously love roasted chicken and I hope you do too.  Unless, of course, you're a vegetarian.  And that's ok, too.

Bizzle out.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Puppy Love

We've recently added a new member to the Bizzle household.  Her name is Roxy and she's a bad-ass, 11 week-old boxer puppy.  This is our first boxer, and let me just say that she is both a joy to have in our lives and a force to be reckoned with.
Allow me to introduce you...



Ah, there we go.  My boot, please?

Saying that she keeps us on our toes would be a slight understatement.  At the present time, the world is her chew toy and her lavatory, but she is sweet, funny and so affectionate.  We are in love.  Except for Cooper and Kitty.  They are most definitely NOT in love...

"Kitty, we really need to do something about her.  Just think about it and let me know."

Cooper and Kitty will come around eventually; but honestly, who can resist a dog who lounges on a sofa like Al Bundy?