Category Archives: Food

The Electric Christmas Card: 2013 (Happy Holidays, ya’ll!)

First things first, let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope your holiday season is fantastic – and you get everything you want, physically or spiritually! Thanks for reading, for being my friend, and for supporting me and laughing at my lame jokes. Mucho amor, ya’ll.

Here it is, Christmas Day, and I haven’t sent out a single card. I had some written, but just like everything else I can’t get done at a computer, they wallow in the bottom of a tote bag somewhere, unstamped.

I did this last year, so yeah, we’ll call it tradition that I’m going to do an electronic Christmas card to all y’all. And I’m sure all y’all were just holding your collective breafs waiting for this.

So wait no more! Exhale! It’s time for the Electronic Christmas Card, 2013 Version.

 Part 1: Aunts Marching

elliottWhile I already had two perfectly acceptable nephews (Jesse and J.T., my sister Lila’s boys) my other sisters took it upon themselves to have more babies and increase the nephew population. Apparently my sisters are incapable of birthing girls, because Natalie, my oldest sister, WANTED a girl and got a boy anyway. I think she’s pretty happy with Elliott regardless. But he is sleeping in a Barbie princess bed.*

 (Key: * = UNTRUE.)

(But seriously, what gives? You can’t pick your baby’s sex nowadays? No flying cars AND only a 50 percent chance of getting what you want? Thanks, Obama!)

Elliott’s pretty great, even though I met him when he was a really-boring three weeks old. I Skyped with him (and Natalie – she just HAD to be there) recently and he appeared much more fun. Natalie didn’t want me to meet him when he was already fun for fear I’d steal him.* I would, too. Natalie says he’s a really good baby, so even I could probably keep him happy, or at the very least, fed.

Anna, my youngest sister, had a boy too, Henry. He’s OK, if you like ridiculously cute babies who love you right back.henry

I don’t know why, but for some reason, Henry really liked me right off the bat – except for the moment he did almost a complete backbend when I was holding him… But otherwise, I think he could tell then, at just under four months, that I’m that aunt who will give him everything he wants. I’ve already got a pony on back-order.

Meanwhile, Lila, the only sister still living in Oklahoma, is very kind and sends me pictures of Jesse and JT even though I never send her pictures of my cats or dog. J.T., her youngest, is having a hard time adjusting to Elliott being the baby. I bet he’ll end up loving his cousin… or maybe they’ll play on opposing professional basketball teams. Elliott will be with the Heat and J.T. with the Thunder… it’ll be epic! (Why yes I do work in sports, TYVM.) Her oldest son, Jesse, is in college (at the unheard of age of 7! Amazing!)* at Bacone in Muskogee. He’s kind of a big deal.

 Part 2: Katydid!

robkateMy middle sister Katy, who lives in Seattle, brought home news on Thanksgiving. Someone wants to marry her! I know! I can’t believe it either! Kidding, she’s fabulous, and her beau/betrothed Robbie is pretty great too. They are getting married in August in Seattle in a swamp or something hippie-dippie like that. And she’s not having a wedding party, which makes me ecstatically happy. I look terrible in every single bridesmaid’s dress ever made. I’m so proud of her, and so happy for both of them. But now I’m officially the old-maid sister.

 Part 3: My Brother the Roommate

My brother, Nick, has lived with me since early January. It’s made life in Connecticut better by a country mile (though I don’t think they say that or even have any nscountry miles here) and I don’t feel like the only weirdo in New England anymore. He graduated with his master’s, didn’t know what to do with his life, and moved to Connecticut. I might have promised him streets paved with gold and water made of wine – I really wanted him to move here. And I’m still glad to have him. He met a great girl who he took to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. She’s still dating him, so I guess she liked our great state. If she didn’t, Nick might have ended it.

We are the biggest Okie-loving people in Connecticut, for sure. We have a full-size Oklahoma flag in the basement. We continually educate people about the Sooner State (no we don’t live in teepees, no we’re not all related to each other, yes there are hills in Oklahoma, yes I’ve met Carrie Underwood/Zach Swon, yes [insert name here] really is from Oklahoma…)  We also spend a great deal of time trying to replicate our home state’s delicious foods. I have become a damn fine biscuit and gravy chef, and I made chicken fried steak a few weeks ago. It wasn’t Hungry Traveler off Highway 40 near Henryetta good, but it cured what ailed me. It’s amazing to me still that you can’t find plum jelly here. And if you want something spicy at a restaurant, it better be Asian or you’d better be packing your own Sriracha.

We also have the NBA League Pass package, which takes me back to when we were kids, watching an NBA game every night. It’s good for my career… or something.

 Part 4: My Phone Autocorrects “Obama” to “Ibaka” and Other Sports Tales

ESPN campus in the fall -- it's really purty.

ESPN campus in the fall — it’s really purty.

Notice that all the love-life updates are about my family? It’s because I’m married to Mickey Mouse. So without further ado, let’s talk shop.

It’s my third Christmas in Connecticut, which is beyond bizarre because it honestly seems like I just got here. Work is all-encompassing, and I don’t mind at all. I love the job still, even though there are times I’m so far-removed from the “real world” that I forget to live in it. I no longer watch any news at all, it seems. I read headlines, AP wires and Bottom Line-style scrollers, but I don’t know what’s going on outside the sports world – at least not in-depth. My phone really does autocorrect our president’s name with the name of the 7-foot center-forward for the Thunder. I’m OK with this.

Regular holidays are work days to me. Having time off means I only check my email 10 times a day, as compared to 100. I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s a blessing to have this job, and this year was exciting. The highlights in news breaks and events:

NBA Draft: Nearly a full week in NEW YORK CITY and I get to go to the draft, serving as an editor? It was a lot – LOT – of work, but it was also an amazing experience. I got to see how live TV happens outside a studio setting. It ain’t easy, folks. The next time you see something weird happen on TV and think everyone’s just out getting stoned or whatever, keep in mind that making television is hard and what you just saw was a tiny crack in the porcelain. It could be so much worse!

mel

Melissa in Greenwich Village

Live TV aside, I got to meet all the top picks in the draft too. Most were gentlemen – Victor Oladipo, the Indiana stud who’s now with the Magic – was a gent in every sense of the word. Our reporter, Andy Katz, was interviewing him when Victor realized I was in the room. He stopped the interview to introduce himself to me and another woman who was there, apologizing for not doing so as soon as he walked in. Right then and there I wished for him to become an All-Star one day. I’m a sucker for a gentleman, especially a really tall one in fantastic clothes.

The trip was great – my wonderful stepmother, Melissa McConnell-Hart, stayed with me most of the week. We went to Little Italy, walked all over Greenwich Village and toured Ground Zero. She traipsed all over NYC while I worked, revisiting her stomping grounds from her early days with American Airlines, when she was based there. It was hotter than hell that week, but we had a great time. I ordered room service like three times. And learned to hail cabs. What a country!

Aaron Hernandez: During the NBA Draft, the Patriots tight end was arrested on homicide charges. Needless to say, that whole thing kinda took over the summer.

Boston Marathon Bombings: It was a dark day, one I felt compelled to work on. It was a very Boston-rich year, with Hernandez and the marathon bombings, then the World Series. I can’t say I’m a fan of Boston sports teams, but I do admire their grit. They take tough situations and use them as fuel. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots ended up winning it all this season too.

Biogenesis: So there was this little steroid sting this year that caused all sorts of chaos in the baseball world, especially with my favorite player, Ryan Braun. He was suspended 65 games for testosterone use. Alex Rodriguez was suspended too but hasn’t yet accepted that. Braun was suspended on the second day of the worst vacation I’ve ever taken (Leon was sprayed by a skunk on the first day, so the rest of it was spent cleaning and pouting) so I just think of it as the dark part of the summer. When A-Rod’s news broke (211 game suspension) I was NOT on vacation, and subsequently worked one of the longest, but more satisfying, days in my career. It’s something I can’t really explain—being a part of the news, watching it unfold, sitting in the control room while it’s happening… it’s just what I always wanted, and I had no idea. Small favors and all that… I’m thankful.

Interesting people I met this year: Besides the whole cast and crew at the NBA Draft, I met a lot of neat people this year.

kenjKen Jeong, from The Hangover and Community fame, was a guest host on SportsCenter this year. He was incredibly gracious, charming and did a really great job on SC.

Lovie Smith, a former University of Tulsa player and coach, was in Bristol shortly after being fired from the Bears. I nearly tackled him (like I did Mike Gundy when he was in Bristol) to talk Oklahoma. He obliged, very happy to talk about his former life in T-Town.

David Koechner, aka Champ Kind from Anchorman: We had to cancel Will Ferrell because of breaking news about Jameis Winston (the Florida State quarterback and Heisman winner). But we still had Champ in-house to make the rounds and shoot some promos for us. He was so nice – and he says he loves going to newsrooms because they all remember his lines from Anchorman!

Part 5: In Closing

A few more bullet points:

  • My group of friends suffered a huge loss this year, with my friend Clark dying unexpectedly right before my NBA Draft trip. Clark and I were planning to go to a Yankees game while I was in town. But he was taken from us so quickly. It nearly dropped me to my knees. I miss him—he was one of those souls who just made the air sweeter, one of those people who never treated anyone like a stranger. I’ve already blogged about him, so I won’t get into details on this Christmas day. It’s too sad. All of us are getting together in Florida in February to memorialize him. There have been a few Big Chill jokes already made… I’m looking forward to it, even if it’s a gathering for a sad event.
  • My parents finally came to Connecticut, and we had a great time. Dad, Melissa and I went to the Hill-Stead museum in Farmington, and it was a beautiful, crisp fall day. This autumn was exquisite, and I’m so glad they got to be here for that week. After they left, the temperatures dropped and it snowed.dadmel
  • My brother and I took a trip to Philly because my fabulous boss gave me her tickets to a Brewers-Phillies series. It was a fun drive, except for when we drove home and somehow ended up on the George Washington Bridge in New York City with my brother at the wheel. It was a complete panic situation for both of us, and I felt like Kevin Nealon in “Happy Gilmore,” giving Nick useless advice the whole time he navigated through NYC traffic… looking back, it was kind of hilarious.
  • When I met Elliott, I did so in his hometown of West Palm Beach, where Natalie moved a few years ago. It is the eppy-tome of gorgeous cities.
  • I went to opening day of the NFL season and tailgated to boot! My fantastic friend Fran, a proud Jets season ticket holder, took me to Bucs-Jets. It was glorious – I get why fans are the way they are about the NFL even though it’s not my favorite sport.jets
  • When I was in Dallas for Thanksgiving, I finally got to go to a real NHL game, and with my Canadian hockey-loving bro-in-law and Sharks season-ticket-holding cousin John. Now I’ve been to every type of pro game (except soccer and cricket… and those other non-‘Murican sports – kidding, kidding…)
  • I didn’t get to go to Oklahoma this year, which is a real travesty. But it only fueled my desire to get there next year!

So one more time, Merry Christmas, ya’ll! Let’s talk more next year, OK?

–Sarah

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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, Family, Food, Friends, Fun!, General Nonsense, Kevin Durant, Love, New York, Oklahoma, Sports, Travel, Tulsa, TV, Uncategorized

My long overdue tribute to ‘Downtown’ Clark Brown

Vacation, as a rule, especially in New England, involves going to some sort of shoreline and dipping your toes in some sort of water, be it fresh, salty, moving or still.

I did not do any of these things on my vacation this summer. Last summer’s trip to upstate New York to see my entire Hart family and Troll relatives was so much fun, it only makes sense that this year’s vacation would be a little bit of a letdown. We do the family reunion every other year – makes sense, really, for balance’s sake. Makes you miss it when you don’t have one.

Anyway, I spent this vacation in Bristol, Ct., doing lots of things I needed to do – shopping, cleaning, paying bills, going to the doctor/dentist… and trying to rid my house of the stench of a skunk who crossed my dog’s path on the first day of my vacation.

I kind of had a blah Friday. A doctor’s appointment wasn’t very enlightening, and I was just all-around feeling down. No real reason. When I got up, I realized I had Grateful Dead’s “Bertha” randomly stuck in my head. I didn’t really acknowledge it.

Then on my way to the doctor, I was flipping through the radio stations and lo and behold, one of the “high 80s” stations – you know the ones, the experimental and NPR-ish public stations – was playing a live version of “Bertha.” Weird, I thought, but was so wrapped up in getting to New Haven for my doc visit that I didn’t pay it much mind.

I go to the doctor, leave and head back for a dental appointment in Farmington. Teeth cleaned, I head back to Bristol for home. Again, this time on my mp3 device, Grateful Dead reared its head. It was “Cassidy,” which is my favorite Dead song. I started taking notice then.

clarkfishThe Dead makes me think of a lot of really great people in my life – my cousin John, my old roommate/gay husband Erin, and Clark Brown, may he rest in peace.

We lost Clark in early June to a freak health issue. I was supposed to go to a Yankees game with him later in June. He was there one day, the next gone.

So yesterday, when I heard all the Dead songs, I realized I hadn’t truly dealt with Clark’s sudden death. I like to think of myself as someone who deals with her problems and moves on. But my tendency is to compartmentalize these types of problems into “deal with this later” moments. Clark happened one day, and the next, ESPN laid people off. It was a double whammy and I just kind of pushed it aside.

But emotions have a propensity to need to be expelled. “Cassidy” made that happen. Clark made that happen.

A bit about Clark, who can’t be summed up by a lowly writer like me – Clark was a cool guy. That’s the easy way to put it. Clark was friends with literally everyone who met him. I never heard him disparage another person. He defended those who were being disparaged. If anyone embodied Good Guy ‘til the end, it was Clark.

Clark was both friendly and mysterious at the same time. Not a jaded kind of mystery, but one where you were always surprised by what he knew, the depth of his feelings and understanding, what he’d been through in his life.

He didn’t wear his problems on his sleeve. You had to roll up his sleeves – up to the bicep – to get him to talk about himself.

We had a rainy afternoon in Manhattan a few months back where we talked about his family. I learned things about him I’d never thought to ask. It made me ashamed for not asking him more about himself. I felt selfish.

It wasn’t the first time I’d felt selfish around Clark, like I was using him for something and not being a good friend in return. Clark could get you… things. Concert tickets, backstage passes and beyond. One Thanksgiving, when we were all still in our early 20s, I threw a Thanksgiving feast and invited Clark. Oddly enough, it was the first time he’d come to one of my real parties as a guest. He was always invited after that. He came to all our reunions – including one we had in 2011, which was the last time many of my friends saw Clark.

But he’d made so many plans to see us all – he was really close to a lot of us, and we all have this weird arc of Clark friendship. One minute he’d be in Oklahoma visiting Amy Lee at a wedding, the next in Colorado with Gretchen Crowe. He’d tried to convince me to come to a Leon Russell concert in New York, but I was too lazy to go. I regret that.

We all had our Clark experiences. Mine came, surprisingly, in New York City. When I first moved to Connecticut, I was stunned to learn Clark had moved to the area after he’d lived in North Carolina for years after leaving Oklahoma. He met me in NYC for my maiden voyage to the city. I was terrified, but Clark knew his way round and took me anywhere I’d ask to go. We had real Spanish Harlem tacos and real Malaysian food in Chinatown.

Me and Clark at a baseball promotion in Grand Central Station. He loved the Yankees, God love him! :)

Me and Clark at a baseball promotion in Grand Central Station. He loved the Yankees, God love him! 🙂

The next time I visited, we had Katz’s Deli pastrami. We walked in hot August drizzle all over downtown Manhattan, telling stories and stopping to look into store windows. There was nothing but a platonic friendship between us, and it was so comforting and wonderful to talk to someone who not only sounded like me, but had the same friends as me, had been to many of the same parties as me, etc.

We went to shows, texted and got to be really good friends again. It was just pleasant having him around and so close to me. We’d planned a few outings once the weather warmed up and I was to be in Manhattan for a week in June, so we had some plans in place. Unfortunately, those were not to be. And I felt like I’d lost not only a friend, but someone who was on the same journey as me in a new land.

I think he bridged the gap for me between Oklahoma and Connecticut. He – again – was there for me without asking for anything in return.

Clark was more into live music than almost anyone I know. He wasn’t just the guy at the show – he knew the bands. He did work for them. He and I went to see Jane’s Addiction in 2011 and he was passing out information, posters, stickers, etc., to fans because he was working with the record company. He was the king of the odd job – but they were cool odd jobs.

When Clark died, I didn’t believe it for a day or two. I even dreamed that the whole thing was a joke. I woke up hoping I was right. Sadly, I wasn’t.

When Clark died, everyone went to his Facebook page demanding to know what happened.

Clark made me try the pastrami at Katz's. He was absolutely right about that one.

Clark made me try the pastrami at Katz’s. He was absolutely right about that one.

Since Clark died, the messages on his Facebook page haven’t stopped. Bands that he’d worked for held memorial concerts, and still do. Tributes sprung up all over the place and I’ve been truly amazed again at his reach – how many people loved him.  It made me realize how many lives he’d touched and continues to touch.

Mine included.

I don’t know if Clark was controlling my radio yesterday or just trying to get me to pay attention. All I know is, after the Bertha and Cassidy incidents, I played the Dead all day and I felt better.

And when I went to bed, I guess I’d accidentally turned on my music player, because just when I was lying down, “Estimated Prophet” started playing through my Galaxy speakers. I couldn’t help but think he was behind that.

Clark, I get the message. Life is to be lived. You lived it, man. You were a wonderful, pure soul and you made your way through this life collecting friends, experiences and memories, not battle scars. You were beautiful. And I hope you are watching us down here telling tales of the great Downtown Clark Brown.

They won’t make another one like you. And not to get cheesy or switch bands midstream, but to borrow from Neil Young, if you were a miner for a heart of gold, Clark’s would’ve been a place where you’d have been rich.

I miss you, buddy. More than I ever expected to – then again, I thought we’d all die at 80. Thanks for showing up in my day yesterday. We will continue to honor you because you deserve it.

Here’s some of the lyrics that made me sure Clark was in my stratosphere yesterday:

Estimated Prophet:
My time coming, any day, don’t worry about me, no
Been so long I felt this way, I’m in no hurry, no
Rainbows and down that highway where ocean breezes blow
My time coming, voices saying they tell me where to go.
 
Cassidy
Lost now on the country miles in his Cadillac.
I can tell by the way you smile he’s rolling back.
Come wash the nighttime clean,
Come grow this scorched ground green,
Blow the horn, tap the tambourine
Close the gap of the dark years in between
You and me,
Cassidy…
Faring thee well now.
Let your life proceed by its own design.
Nothing to tell now.
Let the words be yours, I’m done with mine.
 
Jack Straw
We used to play for silver, now we play for life;
And ones for sport and ones for blood at the point of a knife.
And now the die is shaken, now the die must fall.
There aint a winner in the game, he don’t go home with all.
Not with all.
 
Attics of My Life
In the attics of my life, full of cloudy dreams unreal.
Full of tastes no tongue can know, and lights no eyes can see.
When there was no ear to hear, you sang to me.
I have spent my life seeking all thats still unsung.
Bent my ear to hear the tune, and closed my eyes to see.
When there was no strings to play, you played to me.
In the book of loves own dream, where all the print is blood.
Where all the pages are my days, and all the lights grow old.
When I had no wings to fly, you flew to me, you flew to me.
In the secret space of dreams, where I dreaming lay amazed.
When the secrets all are told, and the petals all unfold.
When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me.

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Filed under Baseball, Connecticut, Family, Food, Friends, Love, Oklahoma, Sports, Tahlequah, Tulsa

GC’s incredibly easy “That’s Italian!” tomato gravy stuff, or why I love Connecticut grocery stores

Whatever Italian the Garish Chicken has in her mottled bloodline has been ever so present since moving to New England.

Maybe it’s the people. The people here are different shades than those of Oklahoma. Not that I’m smart enough, I’ve figured out, to determine who’s what. I’m from Oklahoma. I assume everyone’s Indian. Here, we got a lot more Jewish and Italian people. I don’t know the difference. I like to think it’s because I’m a lover of all people, but it probably just means I’m an under-educated hick.

Despite my ignorance, I know there are more Italians here because the grocery stores are jam-packed with delicious Italia. The kind of stuff the foodies talk about. Real pastas, not just American Beauty or Martha Gooch (that WHORE… kidding, I don’t know anything about her). The kind that you cook al dente and go “Oh, that’s what that’s all about.” And then you know how to cook it that way, and never want mushy crap pasta again.

San Freakin' Marzanos.

That's the stuff: If you can't find these, buy them on Amazon. DO EEEEET.

My first trip to the grocery store in Avon, Ct., not far from une casa, I found San Marzano tomatoes, which Giada goes on and on about on her TV show. (I don’t tend to trust skinny chefs, but she’s the exception. I’ve cooked many of her recipes and been pleased.)

That's Amore! Garlic paste.

Amore Garlic Paste: I know it sounds like I'm being lazy, but this stuff is incredible. Trust me.

I’d never seen San Marzanos in Oklahoma. Here, they were $4 for a large can, but apparently that’s fairly cheap.

So I bought a large can of San Marzano tomatoes, thinking I would further adapt one of Giada’s recipes for Little Thimbles Sciue Sciue (hurry hurry) that I adore, but wish it was saucier and a cooked sauce rather than her precious raw sauce. I don’t like raw tomatoes – I know, I’m weird. I could mainline marinara, but raw tomatoes make me gag.

I also found garlic paste at the store. I’d never seen or used it before, but I thought, it’s garlic in a tube, I can’t think how that would be bad. I went to the pasta section and found ditalini from a brand called Sclafini, a Connecticut brand. They had all the pasta shapes I’d dreamed about but were hard to come by in Tulsa. Little hats, tubitini, pasta rings – but the ditalini is what’s called for in this dish, though the little hats are  quite good too.

I next went to produce and found a large container of basil for $3. Enough to curb my basil tooth. Some folks crave sugar, I crave herbs. I use a lot more basil in this dish than you probably have to.

Anyway – I went home and concocted something I thought was pretty amazing. It’s probably breaking some sort of Italian code or is the same thing as Ragu or something otherwise basic.

But this little recipe, since I’ve moved to Connecticut, has been made once, sometimes twice, a week.

The key is to use less pasta than tomatoes. You want the tomato gravy. And that garlic paste? I will die happier having found it. It’s salty and luscious. And I could use a lot of it at a time, but it’s kind of expensive so I’m moderate with it.

This one is so different than my basic sauce, which requires onions, lots of fresh garlic, wine and lots of time. But I think I like this one better, at least for now, and it’s ready in like 15 minutes, counting pasta time.

 

GC’s Ditalini with Fresh Mozzarella

1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes whole tomatoes (find them. Trust me.)

Half-bag (1 cup or so) of ditalini pasta, or some other small pasta (get the good stuff)

Garlic paste, Amore brand is delicious

Basil

Salt and pepper

Herbes de Provence

Dried basil or whatever you like dried-herb wise

1 ball of fresh mozzarella

Fancy or unfancy Parm (your choice. I won’t judge.)

 

Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with olive oil. Like enough so that when you drop in the tomatoes, they will separate from the acid and oil meeting. Like enough to flavor a sauce.

Meanwhile, in a laboratory downtown… kidding, on another burner, get some pasta water a-boilin’. Add salt. I always forget, but I’ll say it this time. ADD THE DAMNED SALT. And some olive oil if you’re so inclined.

Back to the skillet. Heat on low-medium. Add the can of whole tomatoes. Let it heat up a bit, then take a wooden spoon and mash the tomatoes bits. They’ll cook down – I like mine smooth, so I stir them into oblivion. Why not buy tomato sauce you say? The whole tomatoes are so good and when they break down slowly, it tastes so fresh.

Add however much garlic you like. You can, of course, use fresh garlic. I just think this stuff is so flavorful that I can’t match that with fresh garlic. Maybe I’m doing it wrong – but I work 12 hour days and don’t have TIME TO MAKE GARLIC PASTE, OK FOODIES?

I’m sorry. I lost my mind for a minute.

Deep breaths. Squirt in the delicious no-excuses garlic paste. Add your herb mix – I love herbes de Provence, mostly because I bought a shit-ton of it and keep it in my freezer, so I just try to use it in everything. But it goes well in this sauce. Just use a little, like teaspoon or so. Add some dried basil, or if you’ve gone off the deep end like me, buy the Amore Italian herbs in a tube.

But don’t use too much – you don’t want herbs to overpower the general deliciousness of the tomatoes and garlic. Add S&P to your taste, but don’t overdo salt.

Let that simmer slowly. Taste for S&P.

Throw your pasta in boiling water. If you bought good pasta, it will take a bit longer to cook, but you should never overcook it. Every time you overcook pasta, a darling Sicilian grandmother dies. Do the al dente thing and never look back. Again, good pasta doesn’t overcook as fast, so keep that in mind.

When the pasta’s done, turn off the heat on the sauce and let the pasta sit for a minute in the hot water – just a minute though. Tear your fresh basil into the sauce. With a slotted spoon, add the pasta directly to the sauce. If you get a bit of pasta water in it, no one would judge you. You can even thin out the sauce if you’re so inclined with a tablespoon of that water. I always keep it aside for such reasons.

Open the fresh mozz and tear it asunder and top the pasta-sauce mix. Stir it all together. The mozz will melt quickly, so serve it quickly. Top with whatever parm you have.

Another weird Connecticut thing – they have Parmeseano Reggiano pre-shredded in bags for less than $10. I’m happy here.

Seriously, this is a fast, delicious meal – I don’t even need bread with it. And I’m sure you could serve some nice sausage or chicken or something on the side, but I’m nearly a vegetarian these days, so do what you feel.

Enjoy!

Love, the Garish San Marzano-chugging Chicken

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Comparisons: 1995 Sarah vs. 2011 Sarah (Introspection 101)

I’m a few months from my 37th birthday. That doesn’t look as bad on the computer screen as it feels in my head.

I realize that 37 isn’t technically old. It ain’t 22, which I’m pretty sure was my favorite year on earth. I say pretty sure because I don’t remember much of it. Ah, college. Ah, Tahlequah. The entire city has an above-the-legal-limit blood alcohol level, I’m convinced.

I’ve been a Tulsan since 2002, after spending 10 years in Tahlequah. This year, especially, has been pivotal, and I have a feeling the Wheel of Fortune hasn’t stopped turning, either for bad or for evil. (I’m not talking about the show, though in my advanced years, I like that a lot now too.)

Events in my life seem to be spiraling quickly. Once you set the ol’ wheel in motion in my life, you have to hold on. I’m slow to motivate, but once I’ve got my mind made up, it’s on. I blame my fiery Aries mama for this.

Some new developments, for those who care: Still waiting to hear from ESPN. Lost my job at the Food Bank. Putting my house on the market. Hopefully doing some freelance work. Minimizing, my stuff and my rotund self.

To kick off this effort (that sound SO MUCH like a press release) I’ve decided to pit 2011 Sarah against 1995 Sarah. It’s a startling contrast, and I’m proud to say that 2011 Sarah wins… not in the Charlie Sheen sense, but still.

1995 Sarah’s job: Manager, Del Rancho restaurant.
2011 Sarah’s job: Assistant editor, Tulsa World.
Advantage: 2011.

1995 Sarah’s bedtime:  5 a.m., or whenever we heard the birds and the streetsweeper, we knew it was time to retire.
2011 Sarah’s bedtime: A much more reasonable 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., but only because I now only have one job and it’s a later start. And I’m a natural night owl.
Advantage: 2011, though 1995 was way more fun.

Oh, Sarah. Where did you get these ridiculous outfits? The hair alone is bad enough. But I thought I was bad-ass. Hilarious. It was 1995. That's my excuse.

1995 Sarah’s clothes: Hippie not-so-chic, cut-off corduroys, flower-print Doc Martens, band T-shirts, no makeup, no hairdryer, no straightener, no jewelry. Sack-like dresses
2011 Sarah’s clothes: Black pants in various cuts, black dresses, solid-print tops with black cardigans, black and more black, a spot of jewelry, hair blown dry every day and straightened, or at least brushed, makeup every day.
Advantage: 2011, by a longshot.

1995 Sarah’s diet: Pasta-Roni, Taco Bell, sandwiches. Chinese food from Grand China.
2011 Sarah’s diet: Whatever I can find, Taco Bueno, homemade Chinese food, lots of soup.
Advantage: Tie. I still eat horrible food on occasion. I really wish my parents would’ve let me have more fast food growing up so I didn’t feel the compulsion to make up for lost time.

1995 Sarah’s fitness: 12-ounce curls, bong-lifting and other recreational “hobbies,”  couch-jumping.
2011 Sarah’s fitness: Lots of walking, active gym membership (just got a new one at the Y, going today for the first time!)… but more than that, an actual knowledge of the need for fitness instead of a general lack of caring.
Advantage: 2011.

1995 Sarah’s relationships: Blah.
2011 Sarah’s relationships: Blah, but don’t really give a shit.
Advantage: Blah.

1995 Sarah’s inner peace: Fabricated by copious amounts of weed and alcohol
2011 Sarah’s inner peace: Somewhat tattered, but at least it can pass a drug test. Lack of paranoia is refreshing.
Advantage: 2011.

1995 Sarah’s ambition: Throwing the Best Party Ever, seeing more shows than you.
2011 Sarah’s ambition: Sky-high. Maybe I can still become a singer (kidding). Entering poetry and short-story contests.  Trying for new job on the East Coast. The Novel isn’t just a dream anymore, it’s rising to the surface.
Advantage: Depends on the outcome. Some days, I really miss the carefree days of college, when I was just accruing debt instead of dreaming about paying it off. I miss going to two shows a week, drinking shots every night, etc. But now, I wake up with more hope instead of hangovers. If I accomplish everything I hope to, then definitely Advantage 2011.

1995 Sarah’s lodging: Cheap rent house. At one time, we paid $53/month to rent this cheap little house because so many people lived in it.
2011 Sarah’s lodging: My own house, which I’m about to put on the market. Homeownership is great, some of the time.
Advantage: I wouldn’t be saying this last year, but advantage 1995. I miss renting. I miss the freedom to just up and leave. I hope my house sells.

1995 Sarah’s friends: I saw them every day. I had a lot. I loved them like family.
2011 Sarah’s friends: I don’t see them enough. I have many left. I love them like family.
Advantage: Tie. Damn we had fun. I made the best friends I could’ve ever made in college, and fortunately, most of them are still just a phone call away. The slight tip of the scale would go to 1995, but 2011 is strong in the knowledge that they’re not going anywhere. Love you guys.

 1995 Sarah’s cash flow: I lived paycheck to paycheck, but didn’t hardly have any bills. Always had money for clothes and … well, everything.
2011 Sarah’s cash flow: I live paycheck to paycheck, but I’m doing what I love. Never have money.
Advantage: 2011, though it’s a close call. In 1995, I didn’t even have credit cards. I spent like there was no tomorrow and lived for financial aid’s change checks. At least in 2011 I have some accountability, and am paying off the debt I accrued in the early 2000s.

1995 Sarah’s music: Jane’s Addiction, Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, Nirvana, The Doors, Tripping Daisy, Ween, Hole, Pearl Jam, Flaming Lips, anything “stoner rock” or “trippy rock.”
2011 Sarah’s music: Boundless. Ween (for the win!), Bob Dylan, Professor Longhair, The Modern Lovers, Sex Pistols, Nat King Cole, The Libertines, U2, Jane’s Addiction, Balfa Brothers, Roxy Music, Duran Duran, Morrissey/Smiths, Black Sabbath, Pavement, Norah Jones… the list goes on.
Advantage: 2011. Technology has made my music library swell to unbelievable heights. I don’t get to go to as many shows as before, but I can immerse myself in music so much easier than before. It’s still my No. 1 hobby, which hasn’t changed since 1978, but now it’s all at my fingertips… HUGE advantage 2011.

There are more comparisons, but these are the ones I’ve undertaken. I challenge you to pit yourself against another time and see what era comes out the winner. It’s enlightening to see how far you’ve come, and it makes you realize that you’re got it pretty good.

Advantage: Sarah.

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Hola summer! I ripped off Pam’s pasta salad! Recipe and pic…

Sarah's Pasta Salad

This is the pasta salad I made on my last day of mini-vacation. Im kinda proud of it.

The burn ban is lifted. I’m freakin’ grilling!

I went to church class last week, where Pam Rosser, a dear co-Episcopalian who’s also taking the class, brought this fantastic pasta salad that I’ve dreamed about ever since.

I attempted my own, which of course was more garish (haha…) than Pam’s elegant, delicate salad. Mine was more like a big pasta dish that happened to have dressing on it. And I even added lettuce to mine… but STILL, I’m damned proud of mine. It was all my favorite things, and asparagus, which I’ve come to crave every day.

So here goes, my Rosser-ripped Pasta Salad recipe

1 box Ronzoni high-fiber rotini (NooTreeShus!)
1 pound asparagus
1 squash
1 zucchini
Half a 12-ounce clamshell of grape tomatoes, halved
Garlic (I used a lot… like six cloves)
Chicken tenderloins (I used a little over a pound. You can also use regular chicken breasts, whatever you like)
Olive oil at the ready
Salt and Pepper
Your Favorite Lettuce Mix (I use herb mix)
Balsamic Vinaigrette (I made my own, recipe’s in the instructions)
Adobo seasoning (my favorite all-purpose seasoning, you can find it in the Mexican aisle, or use whatever else you like to season with. Hell, I don’t care. Use whatever you like. Use nothing. I DON’T CARE LEAVE ME ALONE! Sorry, got carried away…)
Feta or goat cheese or gorgonzola… you know where I’m going with this.
Kalamata olives (a handful or so)

This recipe requires bowls and a grill. Or bowls and a broiler. Whatevs. Here’s how I did it…

Place chicken in a big plastic bowl, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and whatever seasoning you like. Set aside. Slice up the zucchini and squash and place in a separate bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, add plenty of salt and pepper and seasoning, and toss. Trim the asparagus ends and put them in yet another bowl, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. And one last part: In a small, grill-proof metal dish (I used a round cake tin) place the grape tomatoes. With a garlic press, press the garlic over the tomatoes. I use a lot because it’s the only garlic I use in the dish, and I love garlic. Add salt and pepper, olive oil, and toss.

Get your grill hot. Once it’s hot, lay the squash and zukes on the cookie cooling sheet. Add more salt over the top if you think it needs it. Place the whole cookie cooling sheet on the grill. Then the tomatoes. I have a double rack on my grill, so I put the squash mix on the bottom, tomatoes on the top.

Back in the kitchen, put a big pasta pot on with water to boil. Add salt. Of course. DUH.

Back at the grill,  I added the chicken and asparagus. I turned the squash mix and stirred the tomatoes. They are starting to look delicious at this point. THEY ARE. Grape tomatoes on the grill are more proof that God loves us. And asparagus? Gary Larson said it best: HERE

So while all that’s cooking, I mix up the vinaigrette in a small mustard jar with a lid. Add three tablespoons or so of olive oil, two tablespoons or so of balsamic, salt, pepper, and a squeeze or two of Dijon mustard. Put the lid back on the jar, shake it violently, and set aside. Taste it. It’s better than anything you can get at the store.

OK, so drain the water off the pasta. Let it cool for a minute. The squash/zucchini will get done first, take it off and let it cool. Turn the asparagus and chicken. Come back in the house, add balsamic to pasta. Once all the veggies are done and chicken is off the grill, cut the asparagus spears and chicken into bite-size pieces. Burn off your entire fingertips. It’s worth it. Add everything to pasta. You might need a bit more salt. Toss it all together. Make sure you get all that garlic out of the pan you cooked the tomatoes in… that stuff is GOLD.

In a big bowl, put some lettuce mix on the bottom. Spoon out lots of the pasta mix. Top with kalamatas and feta, drizzle on a bit of olive oil if you’re so inclined.

Holy crap, I just realized I meant to add roasted red pepper. Oh well, didn’t need it.  It might have lacked Pam’s elegance, but it had plenty of punch. And lots of veggies and greens. NOTE NOTE NOTE: You must try these tomatoes on other things. Make a whole mess of ’em, and toss with pasta and pecorino/pepper sauce… a recipe for another time. Just do it. It’s heaven in a cake tin.

So happy to see you summer/grill!

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Leftover chocolate sauce?

Tonight, I made this amazing thing, the cookie-brown-ganache combo masterpiece, for a dinner party I’m going to Friday night. Doesn’t that sound mature and ladylike? Me, the Creature from Public Schools and Regional College, is going to a dinner party (please say that in a snotty accent) in Owasso (that too).

It’s a potluck-kinda deal and I signed up to make green beans and dessert. Green beans are my safety dish. It’s the first thing I ever learned to cook, thanks to my mom’s penchant for making them with every meal. We never complained. They were heavenly. She once told me mine were as good as my Nana’s. That’s the best fucking compliment I’ve ever received. So much that yes, it did need that Eff-bomb.

But I didn’t measure the stuff to make ganache for the top of the brownie-cookie mutant thingee, and I used the German chocolate that  my sainted and wonderful flight-attendant stepmother brings me from Germany and regular crap American chocolate too. So I ended up with an inordinate amount of chocolate sauce/ganache that I hope sets up into some sort of icing-like structure before tomorrow’s swanky meal.

If not, we’ll be havin’ soupy cookie-stuff. But really, how bad could that be?

One weird thing: There’s leftover chocolate sauce, which I thought was like unicorns, not real but really, really desired. And I’m too full from hot and sour soup night Part 2 to eat any of it. Plus, I’m kind of always on a diet, so doing shots of chocolate sauce doesn’t seem like the best idea.

But the night is young.

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My hot and sour soup addiction (plus a recipe!)

My love for hot and sour soup knows no bounds. I’ve been a soup addict for many years now. All year long I eat soup. I don’t reserve it for days that are cold.
Bear Creek H&S

Bear Creek's Hot and Sour soup mix: Add a bunch of flavor, and it's an excellent soup base.

And I don’t believe in cold soups. I guess I’m not very seasonal when it comes to food. I remember telling my mom when I was in college that I was making beef stroganoff for dinner, and I think it was August. She said, “Oh, just a light summer supper, huh?” I laughed, and realized it was weird to make a heavy, sour-cream based dinner during the hottest part of the year.

I don’t think it really matters either way. Comfort food is necessary regardless of what time of year it is.

Sadly, I’ve grown tired of a my old soups. I’ve made Mexican soup and pasta e fagioli about 104 times this winter, mostly due to the fact that people keep giving me ham. They’ve been all, “Here, take this ham… we’ll never eat it all.” Like I will? I hope they think  I’ll make soup out of it, and maybe they want me to bring them the finished product. Yeah, it’s not because I’m pathetic and live alone and they’re worried that I’m eating Alpo, or that by supplying ham, my pets will eat that first instead of me if I drop dead and am not found immediately. It’s not that, surely.

Sorry for calling you Shirley. Back on topic.

I went to the Old Faithful soup well this weekend, and bought Bear Creek Hot and Sour Soup Mix. Two things I should own stock in, (haha stock, get it?) Diet Coke and Bear Creek Soup Mixes. I only buy one variety of Bear Creek Soup, and it’s hot and sour. And then I add a ton of stuff to it: not to mention these flat chow mein noodles that are  more addictive than anything Frito-Lay has ever produced. Anyway, click here for my recipe.

I’ll eat it every night until it’s gone, and that won’t take long because I eat giant man-size portions. It’s vegetarian and relatively low-calorie, just watch the oils and crunchy noodles.

I don’t mean to scare you, but you will become addicted. My family’s already held an intervention, but I failed.

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