A Valentine’s Day (and Everyday) Reminder

A Valentine’s Day (and Everyday) Reminder

Hi all. I know it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted. Life…am I right?

I just wanted to post a thought here because we’re constantly reminded, but fail to really see the signs and it hit me like a semi-truck a little while ago.

I had run into Hwy 55 to order my lunch and then run next door to Lowe’s Foods to get everything I needed to make dinner for my wife for Valentine’s Day and some roses as well. I got the pork chops from the butcher (special cut), grabbed the green onions, apples, and potatoes from produce. I grabbed the hard cider from the beer isle and then the stone ground mustard. That’s right…she wanted Irish Pork Chops with Champ potatoes (one of her favorites). I grabbed some roses and paid the cashier.

Anyway, I went back to pick up my lunch and I hear the waitress talking to the cook about the elderly woman that just left. The waitress said, “I really just want to cry now. That was so sad.” I listened as she said that the elderly woman, we’ll call her Emma, was sitting in a booth, eating her lunch alone. As Emma stood up to leave, she spoke to the waitress and expressed sadness that she had no one to cook for her for Valentine’s Day anymore. It turns out, her husband had just died 6 months ago.

The waitress said, “I’m sure our cook would cook for you!” to which Emma replied, “I wonder if he really would if I asked.” Emma then just walked out he door and left. The cook said, “I would have cooked for her, of course I would have!” but Emma was long gone.

I heard this and started to tear up, thinking about spending my Valentine’s Day without my wife; not just alone like some friends I have who have not found someone with whom to spend their lives, but without my other half; without my soul mate, who had passed away and left me alone to live out the rest of my days.

I can’t imagine how that feels and I hope I never have to find out, but I had wished that I had been there a few moments earlier to offer to cook dinner for Emma in addition to my wife. I would have loved to have heard about her life and her life with her husband if it comforted her to talk about him. All I know is, that this was a life-lesson hitting me in the face and screaming, “Even if very few people read your blog, post this and remind them to remember what’s most important in life.”

Family. Family is the most important thing in life. Remember, today and every day, to not only love and appreciate those you love, but to show them how you feel. Life is fickle and human beings are fragile. A blink of an eye and it could all be gone. Life is too short not to spend it showing those for whom you care so much, just how much you love and care about them whether it be through food, drink, conversation, poetry, or something completely different.

Love your family and show them how much they mean on Valentine’s Day and every day for we will be gone far sooner than we realize.

Sláinte.

Advertisements

Hurricane Matthew Relief – Donations

Hi all. I don’t know why I didn’t think to do this before, but as you know, a couple of weeks ago Hurricane Matthew made its way up the east coast. It caused a LOT of damage and flooding to southeastern North Carolina, specifically Robeson County and surrounding areas including Pembroke, Lumberton, Goldsboro, and Fayettville.

For those who don’t know, Robeson County is the poorest county in NC. The people there didn’t have much to begin with and they most certainly don’t have flood insurance to replace what they’ve lost. My wife and I took down 2 truckloads and 1 5×8 trailer load of clothing, food, water, toiletries, diapers, formula, books, shoes, coats, and anything else that we could gather from our local community to the distribution centers in Lumberton to aid these people who need help. And they need whatever they can get.

In an effort to help as much as we could, not only did we get those donations of necessities, but we also raised $1,000 through PayPal by contacting our employers and community to help in any way they could.

This post is to ask that if anyone reads this that can help these people, please do so. Below is the name and address of the organization to which we gave the monetary donations and the clothing etc. I am also leaving links to two other non-profits in addition so you can choose to whom you would like to aid. Feel free to comment below if you helped out!! Thank you all so very much for reading and caring!

 

Robeson County Church and Community Center

600 W 5th St., Lumberton, NC 28358

 

Robeson County Emergency Management – PayPal fund

https://www.paypal.com/donate/?token=IflJjii-2Q2vdMs5SBGoQmGaX6koZ4pSZpOdGzC0Z1taE5_tHSQQctC5BTd5TjIjVvnwGW

 

City of Lumberton Disaster Relief Fund – GoFundMe (be advised, GoFundMe takes a portion of the donations)

https://www.gofundme.com/lumberton-nc-disaster-relief-2tyspfpb

img_20161020_204002020

img_20161021_100350116_hdr

img_20161022_095929271

img_20161022_103500532

img_20161022_103507498_hdr

Thank you to all who helped us gather so much to help the people of Robeson County!

Sláinte!

New Ink!

Hi everyone! I just wanted to post a quick update with my new tattoo! It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing. We went up to the western part of the state to see my in-laws for the weekend a couple of weeks ago and Albert Martinez just happened to be working at Ace of Spades Tattoo and Piercing in Asheville, NC. Albert has been travelling around, living the life, and tattooing at different shops around the country. He’s known for his amazing shading and line work, and I told him what ideas I’ve had floating around in my head and sketched up a custom design “blueprint” and then put it on my left forearm.

The tattoo is a Celtic tree of life, which has much meaning in Celtic culture and history, with a Trinity Knot being the base of the roots. There is so much detail in this tattoo (that unfortunately may not show yet in these pictures as it is still healing) in the trunk and limbs; it twists and turns with time as this tree is old and has withstood the test of time and continues thriving.

img_20161016_152059009_hdr

I looked at the above “blueprint” and thought it looked great, but I was worried that it was a little too generic. I don’t want a tattoo that is a fad or that other people have. But I know Albert and I trust him when he says it will look amazing and so much better than the sketch shows.

img_20161018_160022588

img_20161018_160005595

I’d say he was right 🙂

After the redness of my skin fades from the starburst effect around the trunk and the lines heal of the scabbing etc. it will be amazing.

Luck and life to all!

Sláinte!

I’m Such a Slacker – Catching Up

I’m Such a Slacker – Catching Up

Yeah, yeah…I know, I know…where the hell have I been, right? I’ve had a lot going on lately, as I’m sure everyone does, but my work schedule has changed as well. I am now working 12-hour days Mon-Fri so by the time I get off work, I don’t feel like cooking very often and I haven’t gotten the drive to post about the meals we’ve made since my last post. However, tonight is the night that the drive returned after an easier day at work.

Spicy Shrimp and Cheddar Grits

img_20160907_192928376

So this Blue Apron meal was a spin-off of a classic Southern dish, and one of my favorites, Shrimp N Grits. My wife and I agreed, though, that although this looked pretty, it did not taste as good as the real thing. The shrimp was cooked in a tomato paste sauce with some spices and the grits were cooked with cheddar cheese and sweet corn. I liked the corn in the grits a lot, but my wife was not impressed. Basically, we’d rather have the shrimp sauteed with onion, green bell peppers, chilis, creole seasoning, and bacon.

img_20160907_192936822

 

Spicy Hoisin Chicken with Rice and Asian Cucumber Salad

This one was one of the best meals I’ve gotten from Blue Apron. It was great to make sticky white rice the way it’s supposed to be made along with some delicious, spicy, Asian-style chicken and a fresh salad.

img_20160912_133900496_hdr

The salad was made with cucumbers, scallions, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper.img_20160912_133919919_hdr

The hoisin chicken was made with sesame oil, chicken, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, hoisin sauce, scallions, bok choy, and sambal oelek chili paste.img_20160912_133853960_hdr

All together now:

img_20160912_133810906

 

Barbecue Sloppy Joe with Green Bean Saladimg_20160913_205717317

This one was browned ground beef and garlic, all cooked and simmered in barbecue sauce, on a grilled bun. The green bean salad was dressed with diced shallot, apple cider vinegar, diced tomatoes, and whole grain mustard.

 

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted, all. I’ll try to make sure it isn’t a regular thing :p

Sláinte!

Irish Pork Chops with Champ Potatoes

Irish Pork Chops with Champ Potatoes

Ok, now just so you know…being Irish and caring a LOT about how well my food is presented and tastes while trying to make sure that it’s done correctly…this is one of my FAVORITE dishes (to eat and to cook). Make these for your next gathering or family meal and you’ll be sure to impress.

Ingredients:

Kerrigold Irish Butter (unsalted)

4 pork chops (or bacon chops if you’re lucky enough to be near an Irish butcher)

2 cooking apples – peeled and diced (I use Fuji apples, but if you like more tartness, you can try Granny Smith)

3 cloves of fresh garlic – minced

2/3 cup hard cider (I love using Magner’s Irish Dry Cider if I can find it, but any will do)

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp whole grain mustard (I use Lakeshore Whole Grain Mustard with Irish Whiskey)

1 1/2 tsp sugar

Fresh Thyme

Fresh Tarragon

Salt and Pepper

Russet potatoes – peeled and cubed

Heavy Cream or milk (the heavy cream will be a little more rich)

Scallions (green onions) – finely chopped

For the Chops:

  1. In a cast iron skillet, melt a pat of the butter once the skillet is hot (on about 6 or 7 for an electric stove top). Clean and dry the chops with paper towels then season them with salt and pepper on both sides. Brown the chops in the butter until almost done; still a little pink in the middle. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. Leave the pork drippings, or fond, in the pan and melt another pat of butter. Put the diced apples in the melted butter and cook until the apples release their juices and the juice starts to brown.
  3. Put in the minced garlic and sugar and cook for about 60 seconds until the garlic is aromatic.
  4. Stir in the hard cider, apple cider vinegar, mustard, thyme, tarragon, and salt and pepper. Let this boil for a few minutes until it thickens up into a saucy consistency. Stir occasionally.
  5. Put the chops back into the sauce to finish cooking. This allows the chops to take on more of the flavor and warms them back up at the same time. Cover the chops with the sauce and apples to get the most flavor into your chops.

20160725_202410

For the Champ Potatoes:

  1. Put your milk or cream into a pot with the finely chopped scallions. Bring to a boil, slowly, and then turn down the heat to simmer for about 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit while the potatoes cook.
  2. Fill a pot with salted water and put the cubed potatoes in and bring to a boil. Boil the potatoes until they can be pricked through with a fork to show that they are soft.
  3. Mash the potatoes and stir in the warm milk/cream and scallion mixture. Stir in butter and salt/pepper to taste and serve with a pat of butter on top. Garnish with some of the green scallions.

20160725_202855

Sláinte!

A Few Meals to Catch Up

Hi everyone. It seems like I’ve done a few of these “sorry I’ve been a slack-ass” posts lately, doesn’t it? So, to catch up since I’ve been lazy about posting anything, here are a few of the meals I’ve done lately.

Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

20160705_193902

So my wife and I decided to try to start eating healthier and being more active and although spaghetti isn’t the healthiest thing in the world, changing the BIGGEST no-no, the pasta, definitely doesn’t do anything but help one’s cause. So here, I made a homemade Italian-style meat sauce and served it in spaghetti squash halves.

So, first thing’s first. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, drizzle the cut sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put them cut-side-down on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes. Pull them out of the oven and use a fork to shred the insides of the squash, simply pulling the fork down the center and it will come out in strands like spaghetti noodles. Scoop some of the “noodles” out and either discard or save for something else and fill with whatever sauce you’d like. Top with shredded cheese and bake until the cheese is browned and bubbly.

To make my sauce, I diced a red onion and minced 3 cloves of fresh garlic and sauteed them in a pot with hot olive oil for about 60 seconds. Once they were a bit softer and aromatic, I put in a can of tomato sauce, a can of diced tomatoes with basil and olive oil, 1 lb of ground beef, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley. I stirred the mixture well and let the sauce simmer for about 2-3 hours. This was the final result:

20160705_193921

 

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna Steak with Grilled Yellow Squash and Tomato, Cucumber, and Onion Salad

20160704_192259

To marinate the tuna steak, put the following into a gallon-size Ziploc bag: 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, salt, pepper, fresh or dried thyme. Mix the marinade well and put the tuna steaks in the bag, pushing out all of the air and zipping it closed and covering the tuna steaks completely with the marinade. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and grill for about 2 minutes per side, leaving the center rare (as tuna is supposed to be served).

For the salad, just dice half an onion, 2 tomatoes, and 1 cucumber. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, Italian dressing (creamy if you have it), salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and thyme.

For the squash, simply slice the squash however you’d like so that it’s easy to grill, put in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

 

Blue Apron: Thai Chili Chicken with Tinkerbell Peppers Over Rice

20160711_131848

This meal was delicious. Blue Apron provided just the right amount of spice for someone like my wife who doesn’t like lots of heat, while delivering tons of Thai-inspired flavor. This was one of my absolute favorite meals that I’ve gotten from Blue Apron.

 

Blue Apron: Empanadas and Mexican Crema with Tomato, Cucumber, and Onion Salad

20160712_131116

I had never tasted real Mexican empanadas before this dish; the only ones I’d had were the apple ones from Taco Bell haha! So, I was pleasantly surprised when these were filled with ground beef, Mexican spices, tomato paste, fresh diced tomatoes, and scallions all cooked together. The pastry dough was so flaky and delicious when they came out of the oven and the crema cut the spice of the empanada with its dairy and lime flavors. This dish also ranks high on my list of favorite Blue Apron meals.

 

Well, thank you for coming back to read, all! I know I’ve been sporadic with these postings and for that I apologize. I hope I don’t make you think that I’m just not that into this blog because that’s really not the case. I just need to make sure that I make time for it because I really do enjoy writing these posts for you all to read and I hope that I’ve been able to bring some of you some joy in new recipes and delicious food from my table to yours. Until next time…

 

Sláinte!

Alton Brown’s Cheerwine Sangria

Alton Brown’s Cheerwine Sangria

Hey everyone! I’ve been getting slack about posting here, haven’t I? Not much excuse…just enjoying the summer and haven’t blogged much, but I will rebound! Anyway, my wife and I had the pleasure of having a dear friend, at this point, she’s family (Love you Amy!) come to visit us on her excited adventure across the country for the summer.

Anyway, I wanted to post Alton Brown’s recipe for Cheerwine Sangria that he created after having it at a tapas bar in Durham, NC. If you haven’t had Cheerwine…go on Amazon any buy some if you don’t live in North Carolina. If you do live here, what the hell are you doing with your life!? Cheerwine is a cherry soda that is unlike any other. It is not just a cherry soda, it is the nectar of the Gods made right here in NC.

Without further adieu, here is Alton Brown’s recreation of Cheerwine Sangria (it’s delicious):

Ingredients
1 bottle of red wine (any Spanish blend will do but, Rioja is especially appropriate) – [I used garnacha de FUEGO]
4 ounces triple sec
2 ounces brandy
1 teaspoon cherry bitters
4 ounces frozen peaches, chopped
4 ounces frozen mango, chopped
1 small lemon, halved and thinly sliced
1 small lime, halved and thinly sliced
2 (12 ounce) bottles Cheerwine, chilled*

Instructions
Combine the wine, triple sec, brandy, bitters and fruit, and stir to combine.

Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

To serve, spoon a bit of the fruit into large wine glasses, top with 4 ounces of the wine mixture then top that with 3 ounces of Cheerwine.

Drink and repeat (responsibly of course, which means hide all the car keys).

NOTE: If you’re not a big fan of red wine like Amy and my wife, you can add a little more Cheerwine to your glass for a bit more sweetness and fizz.

I hope you all enjoy it on your back porch on a hot summer evening as much as I did!

20160621_165346
Battlefield 4 and Cheerwine Sangria after work!

Sláinte!