Friday, June 28, 2013

Music Moves The Soul



     What a better recipe for life than music that serves as your soundtrack.  Ever wonder if your life was a movie what your soundtrack would include?  Ever walk into a bar or restaurant and as the music overhead plays it's as if you are on the screen and the song playing is fitting to you as you saunter by?  One of my all time favorite bands has to be the Rolling Stones.  They are rock Gods. Every time that certain Stones song comes on I sing as loud as I can. And trust me, I sound like a bag full of cats being hit with clubs.  Something about certain bands or songs just gets you going.  Certain songs are the perfect accompaniment to a good road trip or nice afternoon drive down that country road, the windows open, the breeze coming into the car, and that one song blaring aloud. 

     Working a full time job handling the stress of others can place a toll on one without some sort of break.  What better break than to go to a live concert.  The Stones have been performing together for 50 years.  This monumental band shouldn't be missed.  I have been a fan since I was a little kid.  To think that a band has been performing together with the same members for 50 years is amazing.  Not too many other bands are still doing that.  Heck, I can't even think of any others. 

     My friend and I decided to take the plunge and buy tickets.  We headed out early Monday morning and drove the 3 1/2 hours into downtown Washington D.C.  We booked our room at the Marriott in the Capitol Hill district.  We arrived early enough that we headed to the Museum of Natural History.  We toured around and headed to a little Thai restaurant to indulge ourselves in a great meal of traditional Thai food. 

     As the hour approached we freshened up and walked to the arena.  All I can say is it was a great experience and one that I will never forget.  Seeing one of your favorite musical groups is amazing in itself, but to see one that has been around for over 50 years is unbelievable.  To be a part of something so legendary is a great feeling.  Sitting there in the very large arena packed completely with people who know how to just relax and enjoy good music is great.  Any live music is a great "recipe" for enjoyment.  What would life be without pure enjoyment?  Something that moves the soul and allows you to relax.  Life cannot be all about work, work, and more work.  There has to be some play.  Seeing and doing something that you enjoy, even for just a day, can solve any stress related to your normal humdrum life. My recipe for this trip: Pure Live Musical Fun With Friends... Period.

**Below is the Thai dish I ordered. Chicken and Basil with Wide Rice Noodles. Delicious!!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thai Basil Chicken or (Gai Pad Krapow)

Thai Basil Chicken

     It's that time again where I venture into Asian cuisine.  Thai Basil Chicken is a famous chicken dish that you can find on the streets of Thailand at any food vendor.  A quick delicious meal that relies on a few key ingredients one of which I was unable to find here in the States.  Thailand has its own varieties of a wonderful herb that is one of my favorites; Basil.  Thai has a couple different types of Basil one of which they call the Holy basil.  Apparently it is much stronger and spicier than your run of the mill Italian Basil. Not that Italian Basil is bad; I grow it year round inside my house along with some other herbs.  So, because I was unable to find Thai Basil, I substituted regular Italian Basil and a bunch of it.  

     This is another one of those dishes that just exemplifies the wonderful variety of flavors that Thai cooking can bring together.  This is simple and quick but so full of flavor.  It is hot, sweet, and fresh.  I added a handful of fresh steamed green beans just to give it some more texture and volume.  This has quickly become a new go to meal. 

Enjoy my take on a Thai classic, Thai Basil Chicken.

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2-2 cups cooked Jasmine rice
  • 1 1/2 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbs oyster sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 chilies
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • bunch of basil
  • green beans
     First slice the chicken breasts into thin slices.  Next mince the garlic and diced chili peppers together.  In a hot wok over high heat pour in some vegetable oil and heat to smoking.  Toss in chicken and cook thoroughly.  Mix in the minced garlic and chili peppers and sauté. Pour in the soy, fish, and oyster sauce.  Mix in the brown sugar and basil leaves.  Mix in the green beans and rice.  Mix around until well incorporated.  Serves 2-3. I may not be from Thailand but I am shortly becoming a great Thai cook.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Banoffee Pie


     During my trip to Ireland I discovered a wonderful dessert that I had never had before.  Being part Irish I was surprised to have never heard of this before.  It turns out that it is traditionally an English dessert but the similarities of the cuisines of the two cultures are much alike.  This pie is so easy and I have found a quick way to recreate this dish.  Remember, I'm not much of a baker, but I had to make this. One bite and you will be in love too.  Its very rich so one slice may be all you need for a couple days.  Luckily it was easily kept in the fridge. Please enjoy my version of Banoffee Pie.


  • 1 graham cracker piecrust, (store bought. I don't bake. Traditionally you should use biscuit cookies)
  • * 1 stick butter
  • * 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • * 1 14oz can of condensed milk
  • 2 bananas
  • whipped cream
  • cocoa

      In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat.  Mix in the brown sugar and stir until cooked.  Pour in the condensed milk and keep stirring.  Bring to a boil while continuing to stir and cook for a couple minutes.  Pour into already prepared piecrust and sit in fridge for at least an hour.  Slice bananas and place on top of cooled toffee.  Cover with whip cream, sprinkle some cocoa, and serve or chill.  This pie is a great combination of flavors that compliment each other perfectly.

*Hint-these ingredients make a substantial amount of toffee within the center of the pie.  Half the amounts to make less if you so choose.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A "Recipe" for Relaxation and Fun

     As a small town country boy, (I won’t admit it but I guess it's true), you have to find some of the best ways to enjoy life away from the big cities.  As this blog is about "Recipes for Life", I thought I would share one of my ways of relaxing and enjoying some of the littlest things that you can get out of life.  Especially now that it is summer, my favorite time of year.   I have always been fond of swimming.  I'm a water sign, I was a lifeguard growing up, and I was a fanatic at diving.  Growing up in West Virginia my house was right on the river in our small town.  Not the greatest river, but a river none the less.  A couple miles away was part of the National Park and there were many areas along this river where one could find multiple rope swings and great places to lie along the banks of the river enjoying nature at its finest.

     Each summer many people travel to my area of WV just for its rivers.  Tubing, canoeing, white water rafting, fishing, you name it, we have it.  Our rivers are fantastic.  The clear mountainous water that runs down from above. The fresh summer air with its hint of humidity and floral accents wafting through the air.  What better ways to sit back, relax, and spend a nice summer day outdoors. I try my hardest every weekend to make it down to the river, if not for just lying there soaking up the sun.  I even at times try to get out of work early on Fridays just to have some extra time.  I love the river.  I can float there all afternoon.  Drink in one hand and music hopefully playing around me.  Soaking up the sun and enjoying one of the best places to relax and enjoy nature. 

     I cannot fathom any better way to spend a hot summer day than on the river.  Whether with friends or by oneself, it is truly a great way to vent and let your cares wash away.  I have also found that the river waters can have a sort of "healing" affect on you after a night of debauchery.  My friends and I have started a little tradition each beginning of summer where we go to Tubapalooza.  A fun filled exciting day of many people tying off each other’s tubes, attaching a cooler or ice filled raft, and floating down the river on the rapids singing, laughing, joking, and having a grand ole time.

Tubers waiting to hit the river

Myself waiting to hit the rapids

Hold on tight

Just floating too is relaxing
Swimming at a variety of different holes
Games being played on the banks

     Whether you live in the city or in the middle of now where, find what it is you enjoy that can utilize what nature has given us.  Try to enjoy the things in life that are free and do not cost a dime.  Why not utilize what our surroundings have given us.  Many times nothing beats the littlest thing right out our front door.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chicken Club Pizza

Chicken Club Pizza

     It's that time again, when my craving for pizza comes about.  As posted before I have a dough starter that I keep feeding at least once a month, and can use for the rest of my life. So..... getting the inkling to make pizzas is as easy as opening my fridge and quickly making the dough.  For this time around I was inspired by a commercial on television one late night evening.  I saw an ad for Wendy's Chicken Club Sandwich, and thought, that would be great as a pizza.  Little did I know but once I did a Google search people have already been making this type of pizza.  Anyways, I decided to make it my own.

     So here goes.... I thought about what makes the great flavors of a good chicken club sandwich.  The chicken, the bacon, the lettuce, tomato, the tart cheese, and a hint of ranch flavoring in that sauce some place on it.  Whatever it is, it's just an all around good bite to eat.  Why not make it into a pizza.  So here goes.  My take on a Chicken Club Pizza my way.

Chicken Club Pizza


  • **Standard pizza dough recipe
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 3 Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup shredded Romano
  • 1/2 cup Ricotta
  • 1 tbs Ranch seasoning
  • Handful of fresh Arugula

** See Pizza Dough recipe this blog

     Place your pizza stone in the bottom of the oven and turn on high at 500 degrees.  Let heat up for about half an hour. Meanwhile in a sauté pan cook the chicken over medium heat in a little olive oil.  Brown on both sides until the chicken is cooked.  Remove and cut up into little bites.  Next cook the bacon in the same pan until browned. Remove and cut up into small bits.  Slice the tomatoes into thin slices.  Roll out your already prepared pizza dough recipe. Mix your ricotta and ranch seasoning in a bowl and spread out on the pizza dough.  Lay out the diced tomatoes.  Cover with the chicken and bacon and finally sprinkle the shredded Romano over top of the pizza.  Place in the oven and bake for about 7-10 minutes until nice and golden brown.  About a minute before you remove the pizza from the oven toss a handful of Arugula on top of the pizza.  Remove from the oven and drizzle some olive oil over the pizza. Serve.  Makes about 8 slices.  This pizza was very fresh and delicious.  Give it a try.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bangers and Mash

Bangers and Mash

     When I decided to plan this wonderful meal I was inspired from an event that occurred on my travels in Ireland last fall.  I was sitting in a nice little pub in Blarney.  A live musician was strumming her guitar as the patrons sat around eating their meals.  I looked across the room from me and sitting at a little bar table on a bench was a young attractive Irish woman.  She was wearing a nice black skirt and white button up dress shirt and gingerly eating her Bangers and Mash.  Watching her, almost so prim and proper like, cut her banger with a knife and gracefully scoop up some mash and gravy with both her knife and fork was quite peaceful.  She would then sit back, take a sip from her Ale, and smile at how relaxed and pleasant she was feeling at that exact moment.  Was it the wonderful hearty Bangers and Mash accompanied by the soothing sounds of the performer?  Or was it a great and relaxing ending to a hard days work?  I like to think it was the Bangers and Mash. 
     Bangers and Mash, the quintessential English/Irish pub grub.  As a man and self proclaimed bachelor, I like to think that meat and potatoes are the perfect, "guy" meal. I love the simplicity of this meal.  Quick, easy, and loaded with flavor.  I indulged myself in this meal.  Sat gladly on my living room floor against my coffee table eating this meal while drinking a nice ale.  I felt like I was back in Ireland even for just a brief moment.  Sadly I was unable to purchase actual English/Irish Bangers as I live in a small town in rural WV.  I substituted with Bratwursts.  This serves only 2 people. 
Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy
  • 5 Bratwursts, (preferably actual bangers)
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1/3 cup ale
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 cups yellow potatoes
  • Milk
  • 1 tbs butter
  • Salt/peppr
For the Bangers-
     In a skillet place the Bangers and cover with just enough water.  Turn on burner and boil the bangers for about 10 minutes.  Drain and pour in a little olive oil.  Brown the bangers on all sides over low to medium heat for about 20 minutes until done. 
For the Gravy-
    Meanwhile in another medium skillet melt 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil.  Cut the onion into slices and sauté over low heat until they start to caramelize.  Add the tsp of sugar and balsamic vinegar and mix to assist in the caramelizing process. Toss in and mix the 2 tbs of flour and stir until the flour has cooked.  Pour in the beef stock and ale and mix in the thyme.  Stir and simmer on low until the gravy thickens.
For the Mash-
     Cut the potatoes into bite size pieces and boil in a sauce pan until fork tender.  Drain and mix in 1 tbs of butter and some milk.  Mash and salt and pepper for taste.
     Now get ready, this meal as simple and unusual as it is will blow your socks off with its taste.  Place a scoop of potatoes on your plate.  Top with a couple of the bangers.  Finish with pouring some the onion gravy over top.  Enjoy!  You are welcome.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The "Spirits" Of Family- Traditional Wine Making

     As I have mentioned before, I wanted my blog to be more than just about food or books.  This blog is supposed to be about my "Recipes I Live By" or recipes for life.  What does this mean you ask? Well it's what makes me, me!  I come from a very large, obnoxious, loud, boisterous, eccentric, creative, tight knit, wonderful family that I would not exchange for anything.  Not even all the money in the world.  My family is amazing.  We are so close that we do almost everything together, from traveling the world, dinners, to even the littlest thing of going to the movies.  We are each other’s best friends. We are each other’s confidants and counselors.  And even when we fight, we are the ones we each turn to when we want to attack back with a vengeance.  Anyways, wine making was in our blood.  Our grandparents made it.  Our great grandparents made it.  Even when we traveled to Italy as a family we discovered our cousins still living there still make their own wine. 

     For years my family has grown grapes in their backyards.  My parents live next door to my uncle and aunt and they too had grapes growing in their yard.  My uncle, my mother's brother, used to take the grapes and follow in his father's footsteps by making homemade wine as well.  It had been years since he had made any and it caught my curiosity to learn this trade that our family has done forever.  I approached my uncle and asked him to teach me the ways of wine making.  He excitedly agreed.  That summers end, him, my aunt, and my parents harvested the grapes off of their arbors to freeze and store for myself and my cousin to learn the trade of "Spirit" making.

     Once the first of the year hit we chose a weekend that was good for both of us and started the smashing process.  My uncle made us some "mashers" and so began the tedious process of mashing grapes for their juice.

          We then strained each bucket of juice into large crocks using cheesecloth as best as we could.  

         Once we had all the grapes smashed, that our little arms could handle, we added some special ingredients to help the fermentation process.  Ingredients such as pectin, wine yeast, and some others.  We covered each crock and kept by the furnace in the cellar for 5 days.

Then came the first round of syphoning, racking, and sweetening.
Cut to two months of sitting in the dark and sealed.

To another round of syphoning and racking and one more month of sitting in the dark.  We added some "finisher" to bring out more of a taste and stop the fermentation process.

Viola! The finished product.  The sweet grape smell just like the streets of Italy.  A beautiful rose color with just the right amount of "spirit" Not bad for my first time of attempting this family tradition.  We were able to get roughly 25 bottles out of 8lbs of grapes.  I have already been drinking on it with the help of family and friends.  Soon, our annual family reunion will be here and we will have plenty to share with everyone. I'd like to think that our grandfather, his father, and so forth would also enjoy our product. Now let's hope this year's grapes do just as well.