Welcome to My New Blog!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! [*brushes dust off chair*] Here, have a seat. And excuse my dust and debris. I’m still doing touch-ups and changes (and a little heavy lifting – those categories are a bear to lift), but I wanted to invite everyone in and get started posting.

So ignore the dust (and please ignore the fact that my daughter and I will be switching a few things out here and there – she and I are making the header a little smaller and working on the rotating photos in the top right) but make yourself at home and have a look around. I look forward to having a nice housewarming party soon! : )

Until then:

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Thanks, all. Remember to watch your step – still some low-lying beams, here. Check out the drop-down category list to the left, or the nav bar at the top. I’m still missing all the Sept. and Oct. posts, but I’ll get those in here soon. Let me know if anything doesn’t work. And please leave a comment and say “Hi!”

I’ll have the place all dusted off soon – And we’ll pass around the hors d’oeuvres and wine and get back to chatting about books, writing, movies, kids, Superman, skateboarding, Twilight, or whatever else you’d like to discuss! Click on the “Home” button above to see the posts we’ve been discussing so far. …

Making Mahogany Beef Stew With Red Wine and Hoisin Sauce

Okay, I’m not exactly Pioneer Woman (who is my favorite blogger ever and does this recipe thing much better than I), but I’m going to try to share a recipe-photo-shoot with you for the dish I made for my dinner party the other night. It’s Mahogany Beef Stew with Red Wine and Hoisin Sauce, a recipe from epicurious.com that came by way of my book-club friend Lauran. (Hi, Lauran!) She’s made numerous dishes for the book club that I must get the recipe for, and all have become big favorites of my immediate and extended family — This one is no exception.

The reason this one is great for dinner parties is that you can make most of it ahead of time, then just turn the stovetop to simmer right when guests arrive to have it warmed up by dinnertime.

One warning, though. It has a LOT of this:


So you might want to make it for an evening when it’s just the girls. Or, um, you know, when you’re not going to be breathing all over someone.

You’re also going to need one of these:


Because no one could possibly cut all those onions by hand without crying all over the place.

Okay. So start by chopping all your onions. The recipe calls for 3.5 cups of onions, but I was doubling the recipe, so I did nearly 6 cups. (I told you it was a lot.) Pulse those babies and set them aside in a bowl.

Then you want to cut your boneless beef chuck roast into 2.5-inch pieces. You can buy it from a butcher already cut into stew-size portions, which saves a lot of time, but sometimes I cut them even a bit smaller. No one at a dinner party likes to gnaw.

Sizzle your beef until it’s brown on all sides (about 10 minutes); then throw those onions in, and the scent of yummy stew starts to waft through the kitchen.

Now comes the fun part. You want to add one cup of this:


Any Cab will do. Note that the recipe calls for only one cup now, then a second cup later. This is very important. It means you can do a little of this:


Because, you know, cooking is hard work! You need a little beverage! But don’t do too much of that because you’ll have to add more in to the pot later. (And if you’re doubling the recipe, as I was, you can come reeeeeeeeeally close to not having quite enough!) (Not that that’s ever  happened.) (Ever.)

Okay, next you’re going to add 1 can of tomatoes with Italian seasonings. I love canned tomatoes! They taste fabulous and work in so many recipes. It’s one canned vegetable that actually tastes better than fresh to me.


Sorry the picture is getting a little blurry. Must be because of this:


Okay, then you’ll add 1/2 cup of hoisin sauce. This is what gives the stew its sweet taste. You can find hoisin sauce at many Asian markets or in the Asian section of your supermarket. Mine looks like this:


Wow, I just noticed that expiration date says it’s best before May 23, 2012? My son will be in college by then. Huh. Hoisin sauce and college. My mind is drifting. … Okay, back to the recipe. You’ll then need 2 bay leaves:


Are my photos getting more and more crooked? (My wine is almost gone.)

Okay, now if things are going well, your stew should look something like this:


And your counter should look like this:


(And note your wine glass should be almost empty.)

Now it’s time to let everything simmer for 45 minutes while you run upstairs and try to do something with your hair. (Though you need to run back into the kitchen from time to time to “stir occasionally.”) (Or you could make sure you have a teenage daughter so you’ll have someone to rely on in these crucial kitchen moments.)

Then you have to cut the hair-styling short because you need to come back downstairs and cut some carrots.

I didn’t get a good picture of the carrots. In fact, my brother-in-law cut them for me when I was running around trying to do last-minute cleaning and do something with my hair (not simultaneously, thank the Lord). But the carrots should be cut “on the bias,” so they form long oblongs about 1-inch long. Then throw them into the pot with that last cup of wine that you did not just drink (omgdidyoudrinkallthewine maybethere’sanotherbottleofitinthepantry)

Then cover, simmer for another 30 minutes while you really finish your hair.

At the very end (I did this when the guests had already arrived, darn it — I really do try to have it done beforehand), you add some cornstarch to the mixture to thicken, discard the bay leaves, and add salt and pepper.

Then you serve it over rice.

Or, if you want to be very fall-like and make it look like comfort food, you can serve it in bread bowls like I did for the book club. Here’s the finished product:



Here’s the actual recipe:

from Epicurious.com

Hoisin adds complixity to the flavor of the sauce. You can save some time — and some tears — by chopping the onions in the food processor in two batches.

4 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs, undrained
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 bay leaves

1 pound slender carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Add meat to pot; saute until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Push meat to sides of pot. Reduce heat to medium; add 2 tablespoons oil to pot. Add onions; saute until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Mix meat into onions. Add 1 cup wine, tomatoes with juices, hoisin sauce, and bay leaves. Bring to boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and 1 cup wine. Cover; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover; increase heat to high; boil until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer. Reduce heat to medium, add cornstarch mixture and simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Season stew with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Bring to simmer before serving, stirring occasionally.) Transfer stew to large bowl. Sprinkle with parsley; serve.

Makes 6 servings.
Bon Appetit
Entertaining Made Easy

Good Times With Old Friends

Had a great time at a “family picnic” yesterday with the “oldest” friend I have. I don’t mean she’s the longest in the tooth. I mean we’ve been friends longer than with anyone else I know.

We met as babies, actually. Our mothers were best friends in Ohio, and went to high school together. (Our grandmothers were even friends, living right around the corner from each other.) Our moms married around the same time and had their first children around the same time — and those first children ended up being me and Michelle, born four months apart.

Our parents each moved out to California a few months later. They rented homes across the street from each other in Huntington Beach. That’s when Michelle and I “met,” as tiny little things. We have pictures of the two us as 2-year-olds in our Easter dresses, having brunch at some cute little restaurant, and we have numerous pictures that follow — with our dolls, as kindergarteners going to ballet class, in our little bathing suits, playing with wagons. … Continue reading

Getting Song Lyrics Hopelessly Wrong

We’ve all done it. Singing at the top of our lungs, belting out some line we thought we knew but then suddenly realizing all of our companions have turned to stare – or, sometimes, just flat out laugh – because we’ve completely butchered the line.

My own personal hopeless gaffe came up the other night. It is, and has always been, Blinded by the Light (Manfield Mann’s Earth Band). Since 1977, I think I’ve been singing “blinded by the light … ripped up like inducient, like a runner in the night …” It never mattered to me that “inducient” isn’t even a word. I didn’t care. In 1977, I thought maybe “inducient” was a word and — being  only 11 — I just hadn’t learned it yet. But the other night, my 16yo told me that the real words are “blinded by the light … revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night …”


Well, gee, that does make more sense.

(But I think I need to coin the word “inducient.”)

Jon Carroll at the San Francisco Chronicle calls these gaffes “Mondegreens” (after writer Sylvia Wright’s misperception of “…and Lady Mondegreen” in the Scottish ballad Bonny Earl of Murray instead of “…and laid him on the green”). Carroll has been documenting Mondegreens for some time. (He explains that here.)

Superman’s “Mondegreen” has been Carry On (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young). Continue reading

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