My “Coming Out” Party

There were gifts, bag

party hats, hat

games, puzzeles

door prizes and parting gifts.mug

Well wishers in abundance. Everything a girl might want but geez, why am I so sore on the morning after? I know I did a lot of drinking, that’s about all I did…and there were drugs involved so there’s a clue.

But mostly it is because I have four new entrances in my tummy from having a date with a robot. And I am missing some major lady parts, (that I really have no use for anymore), and the cancer that decided to move in with them. Yes, you heard that right, cancer, the big C, or in this case maybe a little c. As cancers go, this one is a mopey, slow-growing under-achiever. As my doc said (to lighten the mood, no doubt), “If they put a gun to your head and said, pick a cancer, go with endometrial.”

However, cancer is still cancer. Slow-growing or not, it still grows and is greedy, and if you let it, will remodel your whole house to its liking. So it was eviction time and fortunately we got to it before it started picking out curtains. From the first red flag on Sept 15, it was a quick journey to the day of the party on Oct 15. The main man, the gynecological oncologist said I was slender, thus a good candidate for a laparoscopic procedure, that would be a three-way with me, the doc and Mr. Robot. All I heard was “slender” and I was in. Whatever, do it, fine. Slender? Really? Me? Oh you jest.

After that, things are a bit of a blur. The worst part was the two weeks up to the surgery. Your head does nasty things to you while you wait. Even with all of the assurances of a successful outcome, you still worry about possible party crashers.

But I am home now. All went well. The little c had only just moved in and hadn’t even started unpacking his bags yet. Yes, I’m sore, I’m moving slow and will move slow for a bit and who doesn’t want to be told NOT to do housework, not to lift, push or pull stuff for a while? Also if my homecoming dinner is any indication, my Sweetie, being a great cook, will undoubtedly spoil me.

Bean & beef Tostadas

Bean & beef Tostadas

Final note: Cancer is not a joke and I only make light because that’s my coping tool. Mine was caught early. If you see a sign of any kind…a lump, blood, whatever…don’t think it is nothing. Sure it might be but if it isn’t, seeing a doctor in the early stages will make a big difference. It did for me.

Another Turn of the Page: Lost September

“Elend: I kind of lost track of time…
Breeze: For two hours?
Elend: There were books involved.”
Brandon Sanderson, The Well of Ascension


I apologize for my tardiness. Yesterday we had our October book meeting and I haven’t yet posted September. I have to admit I have been a bit distracted. Health issues. Surprises. Upcoming surgery. Not something I wish to go into detail about right now, especially not in a post about books. I only mention it so you’ll give me grace for my lack of posts. More food, more art, more books will soon be coming your way.

September books were once again very diverse, from a man and a fish, to a street smart cat. Our author of the month was M.C. Beaton. Marion Chesney is in her 70’s and since 1979 has been writing detective novels. The “Agatha Raisin” series and the “Death of a …” series are the most popular.

Our round table discussion opened up with Pete. He’s our guy who finds an author and just reads everything they wrote. Baldacci is his current crush.

sept1. First Family by David Baldacci (2009) 449 pages. #4 in the King and Maxwell series. Another thriller involving two former FBI agents turned private investigators. All Pete could say was “Gee Wilikers! It was good!!” He actually said that.

2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952) 132 pages. This was our classic of the morning. A very small book that could have provided an hour of discussion. Written at a time when Hemingway’s career had begun to lag it ultimately led to the author’s receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1954.

3. SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt (2009) 270 pages. The sequel to the very popular Freakonomics. Smart thinking and great storytelling, a surprisingly entertaining book.

4. Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton (2008) 304 pages. A novel about five women who, over the course of four decades, met every Wednesday at the park near their homes. They form a writer’s group and a bond through their love of literature.

5. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (2014) 373 pages. Set in early 19th C. Charleston, this story is the 35 year journey of a plantation owner’s daughter and the slave that is given to her to be her handmaid.

6. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (2012) 426 pages.This novel follows a family and their connection to the land in the Pacific Northwest. A debut novel with some significant recognition.

7. A Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets by James Bowen (2012) 279 pages. If you liked Dewey you’ll love this story of an unlikely friendship between a homeless man and the ginger cat who adopts him.

8. If I Can’t Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children by Greg Olsen (2014) 336 pages. The tragic story of Susan Powell and her murdered boys, Charlie and Braden, is the only case that rivals the Jon Benet Ramsey saga in the annals of true crime. Reviewed by Ellie, our lover of true crime.

9. The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust by Edith Hahn Beer (1999) 305 pages. Strange but true. Hiding her identity, this woman lived in constant fear of being discovered.

10. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (2014) 436 pages. I think King just gets better and better. Retired cop, Bill Hodges, suddenly is contacted by the murderer from a cold case.

Here’s hoping you’ll find something in this mix to add to your pile of books.

Comfort Food Saturday



This isn’t going to be a recipe post, this is going to be a salute to comfort food. I knew Curt was going to prepare a duck breast Saturday night but I really never hang around the kitchen so it is mostly a surprise when I come down for dinner. (I’m usually in my studio working on journals or my photographs). And this past Saturday I spent a lot of time in my studio because it was cold (high of 49) and rainy and damp. It was a perfect day for comfort food and to my delight along with the duck were two of my all time favorites, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

I  know cauliflower is not on everyone’s list but I am a big fan of cruciferous vegetables. You can give me broccoli, brussels sprouts or kohlrabi any time. But I think cauliflower is at the top of my list. Mash it, boil it, grill it, curry it, I love it any way it is prepared. For last night’s dinner Curt roasted it in the oven with oil and salt, and then pan roasted with butter. The greens are micro-basil sprouts. I had seconds and thirds.

cauliflowerNext up, sweet potatoes. These were done quite simple but really, sweet potatoes don’t need too much. A little butter and they are heaven on earth. Here are ours. Baked, buttered and perfect. Not very photogenic but very good.

sweet potatoFinally the duck breast. This was started skin side down in a cold dry pan. Once the skin was browned, it was put in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sliced and drizzled with a sauce from duck drippings/honey/red wine vinegar/orange rind cubes. My words cannot express to you how good this was. Swoon.

duckSo there’s my comforting tale. And you know, while we ate dinner, it wasn’t dark or cold or rainy or damp.

Art Gig Done

journalsLast year I took a book making class. No, not betting the ponies as my good friend Pat likes to say, but taking paper and cardboard and waxed linen and turning it into a book. I really enjoyed this class and having worn hats as an art teacher and then later as a librarian, turning a book into an art piece seemed like heaven. In the class we painted paper for our covers but I wanted to make my books my own so I started looking through my photographs. There was a time I was shooting pictures for postcards but that idea dissolved when I realized nobody sent postcards anymore. However I still had a collection of some fine photos so I mined those for possible images for the covers of books. My first book/journal was a tied binding book ( the signatures are tied to the spine with ribbon or special yarn or cord) and the photo on the cover was of a robin’s nest that resided on a pole leaning against our out building. That was a year and a half ago. I also created sewn bindings and have taught myself two new stitches. Since then I’ve created almost 40 books from travel photos and local images, opened a shop on Etsy (HEUERSontheHILL) and have actually sold 8 books. Hey, I do it for the fun, not to get rich…and good thing since I like to eat.

First journal: Robin's Egg Blue

First journal: Robin’s Egg Blue

This past February I was contacted by a local community that hosts artwalks during the summer and September. The organizer explained to me they paired artists with various venues (shops) in the community on four Fridays from 5 – 8pm. We get a chance to sell our work, the shop gets to introduce the residents to maybe a business they wouldn’t normally frequent, and everyone has a fine time walking about, eating, buying art (hopefully), and meeting their neighbors. The organizer found my work on Etsy and invited me to participate. Back in the dark ages Curt and I did our share of art fairs with his ceramics. The, pay a fee to show, pay for meals, pay for somewhere to sleep…not even break even at the end, sit-on-the-blacktop for three days either dying in the heat or battening down the hatches in a freak storm, type of art fair. (We were lucky, just so there wasn’t high wind, we would just empty the water out of bowls and cups when the storm passed and soldier on. The painters weren’t as fortunate). So this deal of sitting inside, dry, with someone else providing the table and no fees, sounded attractive. What the heck! I said I could do June, July and September. I was also secretly flattered that someone had looked at my work and thought it worthy.

In June I was at a tennis Pro Shop, Curt hung around, got me coffee and we went to dinner afterwards.

My table of journals in July at Alpha Delights

My table of journals in July at Alpha Delights

In July, my sister and her husband were in town. My husband, my mother, my sis and her husband were all going to come and visit me. Everyone ended up too tired, so I spent the three hours on my own. I was set up in a restaurant, Alpha Delights, so I had a great dinner and they, the Family, missed it. nyah, nyah!.

September, it rained and was really cool. Curt dropped me, went off to do errands. I was in a salon, The Studio on George. We had very few customers/visitors but the owner was a great gal. I met the massage therapist ( got a 5 minute chair massage), had coffee and cookies and we called it a night at 7:30pm.

Bottom line, I sold two journals in the three nights and gave out about ten business cards.

Would I do it again? Probably not. I met some really nice people, those looking at my work and the owners of the shops, but to do all that transporting and setting up to sell two books. I just don’t have that “hawking my wares” mentality anymore ( truth be told, I don’t know if I ever did).  I’ll stick to word of mouth, and Etsy, and just have fun creating my one of a kind handmade journals….original photograph covers…..make great gifts…..hint! hint! Christmas is coming.

Another Turn of the Page: The Dog Days of August

books-quotes-35Gosh, I’m a sucker for good covers. If I don’t know what to read next (never happens) and I have to browse at the library or the book store (happens even if I have a pile next to my bed), I look at the covers first. Maybe it is because I also have an art background but a publisher with a great design team can get me to take their book home way before some boring cover on a self-published novel (exception: a good recommendation from a trusted reader friend). Sadly, I may have missed a masterpiece because of that attitude. And I definitely have started reading some beautifully dressed up dogs, but that’s the nature of advertising. Our August books have some gorgeous and creative covers but a few were disappointing when it came to the words. Here is the rundown.

August selections from the Whadda Ya Readin'? Book Group

August selections from the Whadda Ya Readin’? Book Group

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro (2013) 464 pages. A lovely tale of a young woman in London who receives a mysterious inheritance that brings her to Paris and eventually to an old perfume shop. Secrets are uncovered as the author takes you into the 50’s and the 20’s of New York, Paris and London.

Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant (2013) 528 pages. A historical novel about the ambitious and ruthless Borgias from Rodrigo, who buys his way to the Papacy, to his daughter Lucretia, famous for her poisons.

Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night by Barbara J. Taylor (2014) 256 pages. Set in Scranton, PA’s coal mining community in 1913, this historical novel of the Morgan family traces their lives after a horrible tragedy .

The Bees by Laline Paull (2014) 340 pages. This book garners lots of positive reviews but our reviewer was lukewarm at best. Think Watership Down with bees. The workings of the hive were fascinating but the anthropomorphization of the bees was hard to accept. Nice cover.

Wild Storm by Richard Castle (2014) 352 pages. Derrick Storm, CIA go-to guy, is flying home from a rock climbing vacation, when the plane he is in spirals into a nose-dive. He uses his climbing gear to tether himself to the wing and heroically save the plane and all the people on board. But what of the three other planes that crash under similar conditions. Adventure ensues!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012) 422 pages. Soon to be a major motion picture, this is the story of the disappearance (and murder?) of Amy Dunne. When questioned, Nick, her husband, is oddly evasive but did he kill her? Story is good, but ending received mixed reviews. You be the judge. Great cover though.

In One Person by John Irving (2011) 425 pages. Irving, in his first novel in over a decade, portrays the life of a boy growing up bisexual in a small Vermont town in the 50’s and his erotic and personal transformations to old age. Our reviewer felt this book was very relevant to our time, and gave her a better understanding of the LGBTQ community. Another cover that is so interesting given the topic.

The Stone Cutter by Camilla Läckberg (2013) 480 pages. Are you a fan of Scandanavian thrillers and mysteries? You know, like Steig Larsson ( …Dragon Tattoo), Henning Mankell (Kurt Wallender), Jo Nesbø. Well Läckberg should be your next choice in Nordic Noir. This happens to be her third so go back and start with The Ice Princess.

Callander Square by Anne Perry (1980) 256 pages. And oldie but goodie. No. 2 in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series ( but can be read out of order) which takes place in 19th century England. Murder and Mayhem within the boundaries of the Morals and Manners of Victorian London.

The Innocent by Taylor Stevens (2011) 331 pages. A thriller about a young girl who was abducted by a cult when she was five years old. Finally, after eight years there is a lead but the cult must be infiltrated first.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (2014) 455 pages. Cormoran Strike #2. This is J.K. Rowling’s 2nd mystery under her pseudonym and it is as good as the first, Cuckoo’s Calling. What makes these stories are the characters, P.I. Cormoran Strike and his secretary/investigator in training, Robin Ellacott.

The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife who Brought Polygamous Cult leaders to Justice by Rebecca Musser (2013) 352 pages. Beware, this woman lived these experiences and talks frankly about the abuse and sexual demands put on young girls in Warren Jeff’s cult. Her bravery stirred a backlash from some former members but she testified anyway.

-Whadda Ya Readin’? Book Group August 2014

Blog header photograph, at this writing, was taken from my front porch as a storm moved in.

Lucky or Unlucky?

This morning when I came down to join the living, the TV was on, as usual, and one of the numerous hosts of the Today Show was interviewing someone about raising kids, growing up, nurturing…something like that. The line I heard that made me stop and listen was, ” I was lucky to grow up with a Mom who cooked everyday.”

That bothered me. I listened a bit and the gist was her Mom was a stay at home Mom, she actually prepared food and didn’t just heat it up and she learned a lot from her. And that’s wonderful. But it still hit me wrong. It sounded like if you didn’t have a Mom or were a Mom who cooked everyday you were somehow unlucky or not raised right. I guess I personally was one of the “lucky” ones because my Mom not only worked but as far as I remember cooked everyday. But that was the 50’s and there were no microwaves or a million takeout places and though my Dad “grilled” and occasionally prepared food, he didn’t “cook.”  Frankly for my sister and I, the most exciting special dinner for us was on New Year’s Eve. My Mom usually was working because she was a banquet waitress and that was the night people were out eating and partying. We were home with Dad and got to eat TV dinners that night, which we had picked out earlier in the week. Wow, we thought that was a gourmet meal.

Swanson Turkey Dinner, one of my favorites

Swanson Turkey Dinner, one of my favorites

But in my own home, even though I can cook, I am not THE cook. Sure, I make a mac & cheese favorite, my meat loaf and potato salad are pretty good and if we have dessert it was probably made by me. But Curt’s work schedule was always more flexible than mine and he was usually home first. He wasn’t afraid to cook, liked to cook and wasn’t the kind of guy to wait till his wife came home to “fix dinner.” So he put dinner together most nights. By the time our son was born, Curt was pretty much the established cook in the house. And as Nathan got older, Curt was thrilled that he would eat foods I wouldn’t touch, like fish. The menu expanded and on the night I worked they had Boy’s Fish Night. So was my son lucky or unlucky because his Mom was an occasional cook?

I hope someday when Nathan writes his autobiography he tells the world, ” I was so lucky to have a Dad who cooked everyday.”

The boys anticipating "Fish Night"

The boys anticipating “Fish Night”


A Smokin’ Sunday

sliceA couple of years ago I whined about my husband buying a smoker and how I didn’t think we’d get much use out of it. Well he’s been smokin’ and flamin’ and cookin’ and we’ve been eatin’ some great food ever since. I am happy to say I was wrong.

I am just amazed how basically easy it is, well once you have a smoker. This weekend he decided to do a brisket. Granted, it’s a big piece of meat but once it is done we freeze the remaining meat and have some great read-to-eat meals throughout the winter.

Here’s how it is done with lots of pictures.

Get the fire going. Essential. You’ll need a bunch of wood, now and later, and some hot coals to put under said wood. So put your coals in a starter and once they are ready, so are you. Hot coals first then wood on top.

Wood - Coals - Layered

Wood – Coals – Layered

Fire hot? Okay. Salt and pepper your brisket on both sides. Put it on the grill. Close the top and you are smoking!


Salt - Pepper - On the grill

Salt – Pepper – On the grill

smokerNow, pretty much you wait. Add more wood as it burns down, peek at the meat once in a while, have a taste to see how it’s doing.

Add more wood - Looks good - Tastes good

Add more wood – Looks good – Tastes good

About six-seven hours later (although longer would be better), stick in your meat thermometer and see if you’ve reached 180 degrees.  Once you’ve hit 180˚ the meat is done but not necessarily tender.  Holding it at 180˚ for a few hours will fix that.  The easy way to do that is remove the meat from the smoker, put it in a shallow pan, cover tightly with foil and put into a low (225˚ – 250˚) oven for several hours.

Now comes the best part, bring that finished brisket in, let it rest for about 15 minutes then slice it up and put it on a bun. Add BBQ sauce of your choice ( homemade or bottled, I’m a fan of Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet and Spicy, but Curt likes Famous Dave’s Texas Pit Sauce ), add some slaw or beans on the side and you are good to go.

Sliced thin

Sliced thin

A nice cold beer would accompany this just fine.

beans and slaw

Summer Soup


soup bannerI love soup.
I love making soup.
Soups make a quick and easy meal.  A few vegetables, maybe some left-over meat, maybe some noodles or left-over rice if you want to add some bulk, an herb or two; and in very little time you can make a delicious and healthy soup.  I like soup so much that I sometimes even make soup for breakfast (I’m not a fan of sweet bakery type breakfast foods).  With a kitchen full of vegetables from the garden and the Farmer’s Market, I recently created a tasty and beautiful soup for our lunch last week. Here it is in all it’s glory.


Summer Lunch Vegetable Soup


Summer Vegetable Soup

1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 small carrots (or 1 large) carrot, copped
1 Tbs. olive oil
4 small (like baby) yellow summer squash, halved length-wise
2 small (also like baby) patty pan squash, scalloped edges only, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 C. fresh mushrooms, chopped (chicken-of-the-woods, shiitake, lobster or other firm mushroom)
1/1 C. dry white wine
1 C. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. summer savory
8-10 small cherry tomatoes, whole
1/2 C. shelled peas (frozen are fine)
3 radishes, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Sweat the onion, celery and carrots in the olive oil for 10 minutes – do not allow to brown.

Add the squashes and mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes.

Add the wine, broth and herbs and simmer 15 minutes.

Add the peas and radishes and simmer just until the peas are tender.

Divide the soup between two shallow bowls.  Place a roasted tomato (see below) in the center of each bowl.  Drizzle with the olive oil and any accumulated juices from the tomatoes.  Serve with crusty bread.  Serves 2

Roast Tomatoes

2 baseball sized fresh tomatoes
4 small garlic cloves, peeled
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400˚ F.  Remove the stem core from the tomatoes.  Poke a small garlic clove into the center of each of the tomatoes.  Place the tomatoes in an oven-proof dish, lightly drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and place additional garlic in the pan.  Lightly sprinkle with coarse salt.  Roast for 15 minutes, until the the skin is blistered and the tomatoes are tender.

Another Turn of the Page: July’s Hot Reads

“Some of these things are true and some of them lies.
But they are all good stories.” ― Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

bookcase3Yikes! Almost everyone was back from vacation. We had a big crowd for the second week in July and it turned out to be a great mixture of fiction and non-fiction. One of our books, Stolen Village, falls into both categories. For me fiction is the only way to go, especially in the summer, but I’ll keep my non-fiction prejudices to myself. Author of the month was James Herriot, veterinarian author of titles like, “All Creatures Great and Small.” Most of us started reminiscing about the BBC television series which began in the 70’s before I dragged them back to the book discussion. Hmm, wonder if I can get those old shows on Netflix?

Siegfried, James, Tristan and Tricky-woo

Siegfried, James, Tristan and Tricky-woo

So get out your notebooks, some of these you will definitely want to put on your  “to read” list. After all there is still a lot of summer left.

JULYThe Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King ( 2013) 432 pages. King is known for her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. This book, set in Paris during the Jazz Age, is the second in a new series featuring private investigator Harris Stuyvesant.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010) 370 pages. Henrietta was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cervical cancer cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. HeLa cells have led to many important advances in medicine like polio vaccine, gene-mapping and in vitro fertilization.

Ask Bob by Peter Gethers (2013) 320 pages. What looks like a fluffy romance is really a funny, touching character study of Bob Heller, a pet doctor. The novel is divided into two parts, before and after a life changing event.

Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors and High Explosives by John Elder Robison (2013) 384 pages. The author, a man with Asperger’s, talks about raising his son who also has Asperger’s.

King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny and the Inspring Story of How She Changed an African Village by Peggielene Bartels, Eleanor Herman (2012) 334 pages.The real-life tale of a secretary (in the Ghanan embassy in Washington) who discovers she has been chosen king of an impoverished African fishing village.

The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates by Des Ekin (2008) 488 pages. In 1631 pirates attacked the small village of Baltimore in Ireland, capturing over 100 men, women, and children. Very few of them were ever heard from again. They disappeared into the slave market in Algiers. From reviews I could not get a handle on whether this was written as historical fiction or a nonfiction account but either way it is quite an interesting true story.

It’s a Wild Life by Bud DeYoung (2014) 256 pages.  DeYoung’s story of how he came to build a huge private zoo around his home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Want to visit? Info at DeYoung Family Zoo.

The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan (2013) 448 pages. A novel about a man found frozen in the Arctic ice for more than a century, who wakes up in the present day.

The Painter by Peter Heller (2014) 364 pages. From the first line, “I never imagined I would shoot a man. Or be a father. Or live so far from the sea.”, this book sucked me in. Jim Stegner is a painter, an avid fly fisherman and a murderer and this is his emotional, haunted story. The author’s first book, Dog Stars, is also a great read.

And finally the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich  (1994 -2014 so far) Our reviewer Pete loves Evanovich and is working through all of her books. He recommends all of them and is having a great summer.



Let’s just have something simple

That’s what I said when Curt asked what I wanted for dinner tonight.

“How about a salad?” I said.

“Oh, I have something planned already. And it’s simple.” He said.

Here’s what he calls simple.

Roasted Tomatoes au Gratin

tomatoes But these are simple!  Preheat an oven to 400˚ F.  Cut a good sized ripe whole tomato in half (around the equator).  In a bowl, mix 2 Tbs breadcrumbs (I use panko style), 1 small clove garlic, finely minced, 1 Tbs minced fresh basil, 1 Tbs minced parsley, 1 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and a light grind of black pepper.  Moisten the mixture with about 1 Tbs or so of good olive oil so the mixture holds its shape.  Put the tomato halves on a lightly oiled oven-proof dish and pack half the mixture on each half of the tomato.  Nestle a grape-sized chunk of some nice melting cheese into the breadcrumb mixture (I used Taleggio but most any soft or semi-soft cheese would work – try brie, camembert, colby, fontina, Gouda, Gruyère, Monterey Jack, or Muenster).  Bake for 15 minutes or until the tomato is soft and the the breadcrumb mixture is lightly browned.

Chicken Thighs w/ Herb Honey Sauce

chickenAgain, this couldn’t be simpler.  This is based on a duck preparation I had at the Auberge de la Reine Blanche  (The Inn of the White Queen).  I boned one skin-on thigh per diner but you cold use boneless, skinless thighs or bone-in thighs just as well – the bone-in thighs will take longer to cook.  Season the meat with salt, pepper and a light sprinkle of thyme, basil, oregano or some commercial herb mix (I used Penzeys’ Fox Point Seasoning mix which contains salt, shallots, chives, garlic onion and green peppercorns).  If using a commercial mix take care to account for any salt already in the mix when adding any extra salt to the meat).  Let rest for 1/2 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. or simply leave the oven on if you just finished making the Roasted Tomatoes au Gratin.

Heat a medium/large oven-proof skillet that’s large enough to hold the thighs in one, uncrowded layer.  Lightly oil the skillet and put the thighs in the pan, skin side down.  Saute the thighs until the skin is nicely browned and starting to crisp (about 8 minutes).  Turn the thighs and put the the pan into the hot oven.  Roast for 10 minutes or until the chicken is just done. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven – TAKE CARE – the handle will be blisteringly hot.  Put the chicken on a platter to rest, covered with a sheet of aluminum foil.  Add a knob (about 1 Tbs) of butter to the hot skillet to melt.  Add 1/2 Tbs honey and 1/2 Tbs malt or cider vinegar to the pan.  Whisk the butter/honey/vinegar sauce to blend, add leaves of two springs of tarragon and one sprig of rosemary (you can substitute dried herbs or other herbs or seasonings like oregano, a little minced chili pepper, lemon zest or minced tart apple.  Heat for a minute or two to reduce slightly.  Pour the sauce over the chicken thighs and serve.

Celery and Mushroom Salad

saladIf you have time to make any salad, you have time to make this one. 

Thickly slice 4 large button mushrooms into 1/4″ slices.  Chop about half as much tender celery (the blanched inner ribs and leaves are best to use) and one small zucchini into similar sized pieces.  Thinly slice 2 cherry tomatoes and a small onion.  In a medium bowl, toss the vegetables and dress with 2 Tbs Extra-virgin Olive Oil, 2 tsp white wine vinegar, a pinch of coarse sea salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.  Toss and serve.

Simple could be tacos or a grilled cheese sandwich and salad.  They are, but not any simpler than what I made.  Our dinner didn’t involve any special cooking techniques or exotic ingredients (or at least there are easy substitutions available if you don’t have everything that I used).

Simple doesn’t mean using fewer or plain ingredients.  It means using standard techniques to cook ingredients to their best advantage and using what you have at hand in interesting combinations.

Well there you have it. Curt’s simple dinner. My idea of simple is a salad, grilled cheese sandwiches or tacos. Was it good?  Yes very good and frankly pretty simple for me, I just had to set the table.

Simple dinner - Curt style.

Simple dinner – Curt style.