Archive | April 2011

Carbonara!

Today’s guest post is from my darling cousin Lori, who’s getting married on Halloween to the Rockstar she affectionately calls Future Husband on her awesome and hysterical blog that is full of hilarity Diary of a Rockstar’s Girlfriend! This is the meal she made while she was here to visit our g-ma recently, and Oh. Em. Gee. is it ever delish.

I can’t believe I just said that on my blog.

Anyway . . . I give you Lori and her Carbonara recipe of awesomeness.

Carbonara


Okay, I was planning on having this recipe be for the debut of my own food blog, “This is Why I’m Fat,” but since I can’t get my lazy ass to actually finish building it, let alone take better quality pictures, I figure I’ll send it over to my dear cousin Jinxie.

Now, all of these measurements are approximate. I’ve been cooking since I was three years old, when I surprised my bedridden pregnant mother with a bowl of Kraft Mac n Cheese. No, I did not burn the house down or set myself on fire. Somehow. Point is, after 22 years, I don’t need to measure. I can eyeball pretty well. So here’s my advice – taste it, smell it, watch it. Cooking is a contact sport, you gotta get up in there.

I started making this recipe one night after Future Husband had a show. I brought him and the Drummer back to the small duplex the band, the two wives and one kid were living in. I looked at what I had to work with, and then typed ‘bacon, eggs, spaghetti’ into www.supercook.com. The result was Carbonara.

I tweaked the recipe a bit that night, and over the next few months until it was second nature. It’s since become a staple in my social circle. Birthday dinner? Carbonara. Family gathering? Carbonara? Is it Wednesday? Carbonara.

Ingredients:


1 lb. Spaghetti or Angel Hair pasta
4-5 slices of Bacon
1 head Garlic (or about 12 cloves)
1 small Onion
3 Egg Yolks
6 tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 oz. Shredded Parmesan Cheese (divided 6oz. and 2oz.)
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
1 small Tomato (optional)
2 Green Onions (optional)

Equipment

1 large Cereal Bowl or small Mixing Bowl
1 large Pot (for pasta)
Pan for Carbonara (deep skillet, sauce pan, pot – whatever you’re comfortable with)
Measuring Cup or Coffee Mug
Cutting Board
Knife
Colander
Kitchen Shears
Tongs
Spoon or Spatula
Ladle

The beauty of this dish, is that you can customize it however you’d like, once you’re comfortable with making the sauce. One of my favorite ways to do it is to dice a boneless, skinless chicken breast, and add some fresh spinach. For G’s birthday Carbonara, I added scallops, shrimp and crab, white wine, broccoli and extra red pepper flakes.

To begin, separate the egg yolks into the bowl. You can discard the whites, or save them for scrambled eggs in the morning. Your call. Let the yolks sit on the counter while you prep the vegetables, so they reach room temperature.

Begin prepping your garlic. Peel all of them, and dice (however finely you’d like) about half of them. I usually dice the big ones, and keep the smaller half of the batch whole. Chop your onion into pieces however large or small you’d like. Just keep in mind that you want them to be soft, and be able to twirl up with the pasta.  Dice your tomato, and set aside for later. This is garnish.

With your kitchen shears, cut up the green onions. This goes much faster than trying to saw through them with a knife. These are also for garnish, to you can set them aside with the diced tomato.

Begin heating your Carbonara pan, as well as the pot of water for the pasta. (Make sure to salt your pasta water! About a tablespoon will work.) In the Carbonara pan, drizzle EVOO and let it heat up for a moment, before adding your onion. While the onion’s getting started, use your kitchen shears to cut up the bacon into pieces. I usually do about half an inch, but you can to it a little smaller, if you’d like. I cut the bacon directly into the pan, so it can start cooking while I wash my hands.

If you’d like, add a dash or two of red pepper flakes, or black pepper. DO NOT add any extra salt to the sauce!

After a few minutes, add the whole garlic cloves. Let the bacon, onion and garlic cloves cook for a few more minutes, until the onions are transparent, and the bacon is cooked, or almost cooked. There should still be EVOO, in addition to any bacon grease that has accumulated. If there’s not enough oil/grease to cover the bottom of the pan, add a little more oil.

By now, the water should be boiling. Add your pasta! Use the tongs to move the pasta around periodically. If you let it sit in the water, you’ll end up with clumpy, unevenly cooked pasta. No one likes that. Keep an eye on it, periodically stirring and checking for doneness.

While the two pots are going simultaneously on the stove, use a fork to break your egg yolks. Using the ladle, slowly spoon in some of the boiling pasta water, constantly beating the egg yolks. If you don’t beat them, the hot water will cook them. This is not our aim. By quickly stirring the boiling pasta water into yolks, you’re tempering them, getting them ready to join the hot greasy goodness in the sauce pot. Slowly pour your tempered egg yolks into the sauce, stirring constantly. Once the eggs are completely mixed with the onions, garlic and bacon, begin sprinkling the 6 oz portion of parmesan cheese into the sauce. Add your diced garlic. Keep stirring!

When you drain the pasta, use the measuring cup or coffee mug to reserve some of the pasta water. Quick tip? Pasta will continue to cook, even though you’ve strained it. Either shock it with cold water to stop the cooking process, or drain the pasta out about a minute before it reaches the doneness you like.

Feel free to leave the pasta in the colander while you finish the sauce. If you want just enough sauce to coat the noodles, you can discard the reserved pasta water. If you’d like a little sauce left over on the plate (this is not a mopping up with garlic bread kind of dinner, no matter what) add some or all of the reserved pasta water.

Once all 6 ounces of the shredded parmesan have been melted into the sauce, mix the pasta and the sauce together.

After plating, sprinkle the pasta with the diced green onions, diced tomato, and some of the reserved 2 oz. of parmesan.

Mangia! Mangia!

Advertisements

Minions Assemble!

I have minions! Yes, I do!

Okay, I only have a few minions, but whatever. I’m looking for more, so . . . do you have what it takes to be my minion? Let’s find out, shall we?

For my minions, I will hold contests! That’s right, you can win things on this here little blog whenever “minions” is in the title of the post, which I’ll attempt to post once a month, minimum.

And yes, there’s a catch. Each contest will be a mission.

* * * * * * *

The requirements for being my minion:

You must follow me on Twitter (and don’t be afraid to talk to me, for the love of God).

You must be a subscriber to my blog (I get an email when you subscribe)

You must like my Facebook page —-> there’s a shortcut on the sidebar. 😀 Or click on Jinxi3G.

* * * * * * *

So, today’s mission is this:

Perform the requirements above (if you haven’t already), and we’re going to have a scavenger hunt. Woo hoo!

* * * * * * *

What we are looking for (images):

A fluffy unicorn

A Tucson sunset

A shrink ray

Burro

Gru’s mom’s glasses (on or off her face)

A cookie robot

Kyle (from Despicable Me)

My Moonbug

Dave and his rocket launcher

Dead me (this is a pic of me where I’ve claimed I’m dead)

*Hint: I twitpic a LOT of pictures. You may find some of what you need in there.

* * * * * * *

The Prize:

The prize for this Minion scavenger hunt is . . . A MINION! That’s right, you can have your very own inflatable minion.

* * * * * * *

Once you have found these items, email the links to me here: jinxieg13 (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t leave them in the comments, please. This way everyone has to look for their own. 🙂

You have until Saturday, April 30, 2011 to finish your hunt.

Good luck!

Go!

A Good Cause

Dearest Readers,

I’m postponing this week’s recipe post because this is more important.

You all know the troubles I’ve faced these past couple of years. Several of you have helped me in many ways, from financial support to emotional support, and I’ve thanked you countless times for your generosity and caring.

I’m asking you once again for help, but this time it’s not for me. Kait Nolan started this wonderful post this morning, and within it, there are several links to click on to help.

A dear friend of mine, Wulfie (aka Cher Dawn) and her husband, are about to be evicted from their apartment, but their landlady has told them if they can raise enough money by the end of the month, they can stay.

Here’s what Wulfie told me last night via email:

What happened that started this was:

I lost my job care-taking an elderly woman because she died. Hubs renovates and flips houses for realtors and others. Generally, we get enough money set aside to cover us over winter or there are inside jobs for landlords. Last year, hubs worked mostly for one investor renovating two houses. The deal was to fix the houses and sell them and we’d get a percentage of the profit. But the guy didn’t sell the houses, so we don’t get our investment back and no cut of the profit.

Shortly after that, a PayPal glitch took out a double payment for a bill which sent us flying into overcharge fees, bounce fees, etc. By the time that was cleared up we were broke. We’ve been struggling since then because there isn’t much work in the winter. Renovations are seasonal because of the freezing temps. We’ve been surviving on odd jobs, selling our things and the landlord hired hubs to plow and would put that toward the rent. That’s managed to keep us here, but not catch us. It’s been like running in place.

Now it’s tax season, so the owners of the complex gave us an eviction notice. They’ve said if we can come up with 1500 we can stay. That puts a big enough dent in what we owe so that they know we’ll be able to catch up because now that spring and summer are here, the work is coming in, but most of these jobs are two and three weeks away because it’s been cold and rainy.

That’s the whole story.

Wulfie is an amazing writer—one of the most talented I’ve seen so far. She’s been published in my magazine Forever Nocturne. I encourage you to check out her writing and her blog as well. I can tell you right now, she is a future Running Ink Press author! And some of you know how picky I am. 🙂

A writer needs our help, folks. As Kait said, it’s Good Friday. Easter is on Sunday. Hard times have hit us all, but there’s no need for a couple to lose their home. At last update, I saw over $600 had been raised. Let’s continue that!

To help Wulfie and her husband out, click on the button below and it’ll take you directly to the PayPal donation page linked to her account.

*****************************

From Kait’s blog:

These are tough financial times for everyone.  But I am hoping that we can find enough people who are able to donate $1 (or more) to the cause.  Skip that designer coffee for a week or forgo that Super Value Menu lunch one day (you didn’t need the calories anyway).

I implore you to step up and help someone we know and love (and to follow @_Wulfie on Twitter if you don’t know her to find out WHY we love her) this Easter season.  Please donate if you’re able.  A dollar WILL help. $10 will help x10. Passing this along could help even more.  Feel free to snag the text of this post to share on your own blog or Facebook or wherever to spread the word.

Thank you so much for your time, and your help!

Peace,

Jinxie

UPDATE: Since some people are having trouble with the link to donate, Wulfie’s email that’s associated with her PayPal account is wulfshado (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Cooking Tips #2

 

Today’s cooking tip involves something I mentioned in last Friday’s Jinxie’s Kitchen post – pasta!

Instead of rinsing pasta, coat the noodles with some of the sauce you’ve prepared. The reason we don’t rinse the pasta is because the sauce will stick to it better. Basically, rinsing takes the starch off the pasta, which allows the sauce to coat it better.

So don’t do that!

Interview with Sharon Gerlach

Today, I’m interviewing my partner in crime (fighting), in business, and in all things writing. Sharon Gerlach is an extraordinary writer and has always astounded me with her attention to detail and description, an area I’m severely lacking in when I write. Her character development is awesome, her sense of humor is quirky, and her love of tequila . . . oh wait, that’s the next book. *grins*

Let’s move on to the questions, shall we? Sharon has some wonderful advice for aspiring writers!

What types of books do you write; genre and such? And do you read the same genre you write?

I write contemporary romance bordering on Chick Lit, and paranormal romance. I read just about anything I can get my hands on—suspense, mystery, romance, fantasy, general fiction, horror, lots of YA (isn’t the YA these days fantastic?), the labels on shampoo bottles (seriously).

What was your inspiration for your book, Malakh, or how did it come about?

Malakh came about because I wanted to try my hand at a little urban fantasy, but I wanted to do something a little off the beaten path. I didn’t want my heroine to be your normal kick-ass half-human, trained in martial arts, currently possess supernatural abilities, or work in law enforcement of any sort.

So I thought, what if she’d once had supernatural abilities, but they were on loan from a supernatural being who was her lover, and she lost them when he left? That thinking of course led to finding such a creature who possesses supernatural abilities who could also mate with a human. During a random search on the internet, I saw the passage from the book of Genesis about the Sons of God—angels—taking wives among the human women, whom they found beautiful. Aha! I had my supernatural being.

Can you name any books that you absolutely MUST read the moment you see it?

Harry Potter was one such series; I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next book. Right now, Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series has me impatiently waiting for the next book. (I did say I read a lot of YA, right?) There’s really nothing else right now that I MUST HAVE when I hear about it, but sometimes something will jump off the shelf at me, and after reading the synopsis, I simply have to take it home. Usually I’m not disappointed. Richard Russo’s Straight Man was like that—brilliant red cover with the picture of a goose on it, totally appealing blurb on the back. I can’t say enough good about the book. I’m a pretty eclectic reader—I can go from supernatural YA to general fiction to murder mysteries (I’m reading the rest of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels right now) to Harlequin romances (yes, Harlequin. Why not?)

Why do you write in general? What motivates or inspires you to write or is inspiration for your stories?

Haha—a loaded question. Why do I write. I often joke that I write to keep the voices in my head quiet and to stay off Thorazine. Sometimes I’m not so certain that’s not pretty close to the truth. If I don’t write, the stories are still there, knocking around in my head. The characters are still in there too, clamoring to be let out, and they aren’t quiet about it. If I don’t write, I’m still running dialogue between characters and building scenes and devising conflict—and I become a regular bear.

Then there’s venting the frustrations of life. Some people play racquetball to blow off steam; I knock off a bad guy in my books.

As for inspiration, sometimes it’s just a random line that occurs to me, and I write it down and build a story around it. Sometimes it’s a song, or a line from a song. Or an article I read. Or a dream I had. Or a personal experience.

Can you give any hints as to what’s in store for future books?

*grin*  Oh, there’s so much coming in the future!

Two women’s fiction books to be released this year (part of a series)—there will be margaritas and romance! A paranormal series, the first of which is completed and the second is near completion—there are witches and werewolves and demons and yes, a bad guy so appealing you can’t help but fall in lust with him just a little bit. And I’m entertaining the thought of doing a bit more with the angelic urban fantasy. Whether that entails expanding Suzanne’s story or taking up another thread remains to be seen.

Tell our readers what books of yours are available and where they can purchase them.

Currently, Malakh is my only release. It’s available on Smashwords, Amazon, Amazon UK, and direct from Running Ink Press.

The release of my first full-length romance novel (Office Politics) is tentatively scheduled for late summer/early fall.

Any advice to aspiring authors out there on where to start in publishing?

Where to start wholly depends on each individual’s goals. I don’t think there’s a right way or a wrong way to publish in regards to choosing traditional publishing or independent publishing. I think authors like Amanda Hocking have proven that indie publishing can catch the eye of the Big Six publishing houses; anyone who thinks trad publishing has turned a blind eye to the whole indie movement is delusional. They watch, they take note of the successes, they read the samples offered. I think that’s a very important piece: samples. How else will someone know what kind of writer you are or whether they’re interested in following your movements in the writing field?

The best advice I can give is this:

  • Polish your work. Proofread for typos, and proofread again. Read it aloud to find missing words and awkward sentences.
  • Find a beta-reader or three. At least one should be a writer, and at least one should be an avid reader. Make sure they aren’t afraid to tell you the truth. If something doesn’t work, you not only should know—you need to know. And you have to listen to them—they’re your guard; they keep you from committing an unforgivable faux pas before your readership. I have three beta-readers who are writers, one who is an English major, and two who are avid readers. The advice I get from each covers everything from content to mechanics to plot plausibility to characterization, and is invaluable.
  • Find an editor. Writers these days are generally a helpful bunch. I met my editor at an internet writers site, and she literally does not let me put anything stupid or unworkable into my writing. She questions things, marks things for rewording, even puts in comments like “Ummm….WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SAYING?”
  • Build a web presence. Get a Twitter account and start interacting with other writers, agents, and publishers. Get a blog, and blog about your writing. Post a few samples. Enter some blogfests—which are another way of gaining support from other writers. Get a Facebook and link your blog to it so your blog posts automatically post to your FB page.
  • Shop your work. Don’t be afraid of all the negative press out there about the Big Six publishing houses or uncaring, unfeeling literary agents. Their jobs are hard, and they have to wade through a lot of crap. Go ahead and shop your work to them, see what they say. Sometimes you get some great advice when one of them has the rare time to respond to your work on a personal basis. It’s worth the experience, and you never know—you could be one of the lucky ones that get picked up.
  • Don’t be afraid of going indie! It’s a big step, and there’s a lot of work that comes with it. You should know at least some basic HTML. You have to step out and pimp your own work. You have to make sure your work is as polished as it can be before you present it to the outside world.
  • Be able to take criticism. Because it’s coming. Not every piece of writing appeals to every reader, and sometimes reader expectations fail to coincide with what you’ve penned, or their understanding of your writing is flawed.  I know one writer who’s been dinged in some reviews because of strong language when the reader mistakenly thought the piece was YA. I’ve heard of others who received mediocre reviews because the reader simply didn’t like the story. Don’t go nuclear in the public eye like certain readers have recently; you’ll burn down your own career before it’s begun. Have your meltdown in private and then do two things: (1) Research the reviewer. I got a 3-star rating on Malakh from one reader, and my ego deflated really fast until I took a closer look at the average rating this person gives: 3.5 stars. So she rated me right along with everything else she reads, including famous traditionally published writers. (2) This is the hard one. Consider that the review has valid points. Did it point out plot flaws? Shallow characters? Great plot and finely drawn characters, but it’s like they’re walking through an empty world because you give no setting descriptions, or so few that the reader can’t form a visual of the story world? Listen to your reviewers—they’re taking the time to read your work and review it, and they’re usually avid readers who know what they like.

Who’s the best editor in the entire world?  =)

Ha ha!  Why you, of course! Who else?

For those of you who don’t know, Jinxie & I met almost five years ago at a writers website. We’ve read just about everything the other has written, edit each other, and are now business partners in Running Ink Press. And we’ve only spoken on the phone once!

That’s right, and we don’t need to go into why we spoke on the phone that one and only time. 😉

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

HE HUNTS, SILENT AND UNSEEN

The string of mutilated bodies points to a madman, but the police are stymied. Trace evidence yields no DNA, animal or human. Male, female, young, old—the victims fall without a struggle to the killer in the shadows.

HIS NEXT VICTIM HAS BEEN CHOSEN

For a brief time, Suzanne Harper wielded supernatural abilities and super-human athletic prowess, but that was while she had been the lover of an angel. The murders point to her former lover, and the trail of bodies tells a terrifying tale: he’s working his way to her.

PREY BECOMES PREDATOR

Icarus, an angel who hunts those of his kind who have fallen from grace, enlists Suzanne’s help to stop the killer, for only one as close as a lover can anticipate his next move. Now she must reconcile her heart’s longing for her lost love with her sense of justice and honor, and she must do it fast … because the next murder could be hers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you, Sharon, and yes, I am the best editor in the world. ;p Kidding, Sharon’s actually better than I am.

Red Clam Sauce

You’ve likely seen me talk/tweet about this recipe quite often, and the reason being is that it’s yummy and quick and easy to make.

I suppose if I’m going to share any Italian recipes with you it might help if I give you the base ingredient to most of them–the marinara sauce. Marinara means “no meat.”

This is the sauce I now use for Red Clam sauce, Lasagna, Spaghetti and Meatballs (or not), Chicken Penne pasta, and pretty much any Italian dish that requires a red/tomato-based sauce. Now, growing up with the British side of my family, I never learned to sauté garlic in the pot first, which is why my Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe is a tad bland. I’ve learned freshly chopped/pressed garlic does change the taste of the sauce dramatically. I’ve also tweaked a few things with this original recipe I got from a once-friend to suit my own taste. I like garlic. What can I say? I also like other spices added to the mix, like onion, marjoram, thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage (the last five being the main spices for Italian seasonings).

First . . .

MARINARA SAUCE

Ingredients:
1 29 oz. can of tomato sauce (it doesn’t have to be a name brand)
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic (or 1-2 teaspoons of minced garlic*)
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic powder
Onion powder (optional)
Italian seasonings (optional)
1/2 teasp. baking soda (optional)

*Note: the minced garlic can be found in a jar at the store so you don’t have to mince a clove or two of garlic yourself. Keep it in the refrigerator. I prefer fresh garlic and it does make a difference in the sauce.

Add a splash or two of extra virgin olive oil to the pan, then add your garlic and sauté it on medium to low-medium heat. You’ll want to sauté it to a golden brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Once the garlic is ready, add the can of tomato sauce and about half a can of water. Depending on how thick or thin you like your sauce, adjust the portion of water.

Bring the sauce to a boil and stir occasionally. As the sauce boils, you’ll see a foam rising to the top.

Skim the foam off. I usually keep the tomato sauce can on the stove just for this purpose. You can dump the foam in there. Continue to boil until it no longer foams – about 15 minutes or so – and stir. After you’ve skimmed the sauce, you can add garlic powder. Allow it to simmer another 15 minutes and add other desired seasonings to taste–onion powder and Italian seasonings.

This sauce takes about an hour to cook. The beauty of this recipe is that the sauce is extremely versatile. You  can use it for any of your Italian dishes and just adjust the ingredients.

Now . . . for the clam sauce.

Red Clam Sauce

During the last 15 minutes of simmering the marinara sauce, add 1 can of minced clams, undrained, and 1 can of white clam sauce. Photos below:

Okay, I don’t have a photo of the minced clams, but you can find them near the tuna in the store. As for the white clam sauce, you can use whatever brand you like. Progresso makes it as well, but I prefer the one pictured above when I can find it. That’s a 10.5 oz. can, by the way.

Angel hair pasta . . .

Cook the noodles according to package directions (or boil them until tender for about 10 minutes). Drain the noodles (DO NOT RINSE) and return them to the pot. Pour two to three ladles of the clam sauce over the noodles and mix. Serve by scooping noodles onto plate and pouring a ladle or two of sauce over the pasta. Top with Parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve with bread.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Why don’t we rinse the noodles? You just don’t. You coat them with the sauce instead to keep them from sticking together. This is your lesson for the day. 🙂

Piacere!

Vive bene, spesso l’amore, di risata molto!

(live well, love much, and laugh often)