31 March 2017

Lentil + Cheese + Rice = Love

I love lentils and rice all the time, but I also love cheese, and sometimes the two get combined.  I don't know what else to say about this--it's a snap to make, leftovers are delish, and it's super filling. Just go make it. 

Cheesy Lentils and Rice

Serves 4

2-2/3 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup dried lentils, rinsed
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1/4 cup dry white wine or additional broth
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozarella, divided

In a bowl, combine the first 11 ingredients; stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Transfer to a 1-1/2-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover and bake at 350° for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until lentils and rice are tender and liquid is absorbed, stirring twice. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 2-3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Yield: 4 servings.

30 March 2017

Cocktails for These Political Times: And also for the broken hearted

I never gave much credence to Valentine's Day, but I do vaguely remember that it served as a not-so-friendly reminder of my alone-ness whenever I was alone on that stupidest of holidays in my youth (which was often, surprisingly!). I think that's kind of what the Trump presidency feels like so far: I see photos of Justin Trudeau being awesome, and Angela Merkel being a grown-up (reminder: she's got a PhD in physical chemistry), and I just feel so...alone.  Bereft. Totally fucked.  So, I'm going through my Valentine's Day favorites to cope this week.

Just Go HERE.  I can't even.

24 March 2017

Brown Sugar Shrimp and Pasta

Consider this a kind of quick-and-dirty, Italian-ish sweet and sour dish.  And spicy, and garlicky...

Brown Sugar Shrimp and Pasta

Serves 4

12 oz. large shrimp, deveined and peeled
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil
small bunch kale, washed and cut into thin strips
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into a small dice
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
4 scallion, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more)
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
1 package spaghetti-like product of your choice

Bring a salty pot of water to boil. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions.

Place the (thawed) shrimp in a bowl and add the brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Stir to coat thoroughly and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the kale, red bell pepper, garlic, and green onion over medium heat until everything is tender, about five minutes. Push to one side and add the shrimp to the middle of the pan. Cook until golden, about five minutes on each side. Add the crushed red pepper and capers and stir everything together; taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Stir in the vinegar, scraping off any brown bits in the skillet.

Add the cooked, drained pasta to the skillet along with the butter. Stir to combine everything thoroughly and serve immediately in bowls.

23 March 2017

Cocktails for These Political Times: rated R for language

It's hard to come up with a Supreme Court-themed cocktail, you know? But I am your humble servant, and so I try...

GET TO KNOW Neil Gorsuch, Supreme Court nominee. Born in August 29, 1967, this silver-haired fox and virtuous Virgo wants you ladies to ask permission before doing stuff with your bodies (you will be told no), and you truckers can just sarcastically freeze in your trucks, I guess. He is also a steadfast hand-shaker. Get to know what else he stands for with this Denver Post cheat-sheet and drink away your fears with the ...

Rocky Mountain Mother F*cker

Makes 1 drink

1/2 ounce amaretto almond liqueur
1/2 ounce whisky
1/2 ounce lime juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice and chill. Strain, pour into a shot glass, and serve.

17 March 2017

DFT goes to the Mississippi Delta!

March is a great time to visit the Southeast; the flowers are already starting to bloom, and the temperatures/humidity are nowhere near oppressive yet (by May, in this Yankee's opinion, it's best to steer clear of the Mason-Dixon line if you care at all about physical comfort). It's a great place for lovers of blues and its history, Southern Gothic novelists, Roman(ish) columns on EVERYTHING, and of course, barbecue. I went last week on a short master class tour and a visit to the inaugural Music by Women Festival at Mississippi University for Women (a unique experience in itself), and here's what I can recommend:

Cleveland, MS: Home of Delta State University (go Fightin' Okra!) and a (though not theGrammy Museum. The tiny downtown is adorbs and can be walked in about 10 minutes. 

Mississippi Grounds
219 S. Court Street
(662) 545– 4528
Coffee House with great breakfast burritos and a killer cappucino

Mosquito Burrito
301 Cotton Row
(662) 843-4822
Fresh-Mexi Cuisine for the hipster student crowd

Hey Joe's Cafe & Record Shop
118 E. Sunflower Rd, Suite C
(662) 843-5425
I didn't try the gourmet burgers, but the local craft beer menu was impressive.

Starkville, MS: Home of Mississippi State University and a bigger downtown.  They host a film festival March 2-4 (or thereabouts) every year and a restaurant week charity event in mid-April. This place is pretty hoppin', actually. 

Nine-twentynine Coffee Bar
106 E. Main Street
Starkville, MS 39759
(662) 268-8014
Not only beautiful inside, they will make coffee however you can imagine for it to be made.  The pour-over was divine.

UMI Japanese Cuisine
315 Highway 12 W
Starkville, MS 39759
(662) 323-5258
Two tasty rolls for $6.95 for lunch? Yes please.

Lost Pizza Company
325 Highway 12 W
Starkville, MS 39759
(662) 324-0050
Chewy crust and a plethora of toppings, this is a local favorite with several locations across northern MS.

The Little Dooey
100 Fellowship Street
Starkville, MS 39759
(662) 323-6094
If you want a proper plate lunch, this is the real deal.  Suggested by a local, I do not regret the gut-busting plate of spicy pork, potato salad, and turnip greens that kept me full for over 24 hours (see below).

406 Hwy 12 East
Starkville, MS 39759
(662) 323-1639
Upscale local chain (there's one in Columbus, below, too). Known for the broccoli bites, which as far as I can tell are delicious blobs of broccoli smothered in cheese sauce, battered into balls and deep fried.  And the bartender makes a mean Old Fashioned. 

Oxford, MS: I was there to visit the flute studio at Ole Miss, but of course couldn't resist driving by Faulkner's house (disappointingly surrounded by gas stations and other modern crap on the edge of campus, but still...). This is the center of intellectual and artistic activity in northern Mississippi, and it shows.  Oh, and the campus is ridiculously beautiful (below).

Burns-Belfry museum about African American history:
710 Jackson Ave. East
Oxford, MS 38655
Sunday 1:00 to 4:00 and Wednesday through Friday 12:00 to 3:00
Admission is free

Civil Rights Monument on campus:
University Circle,
University of Mississippi,
University, MS 38677

I did more wandering than eating here, but the local chain deli Newk's on campus was actually super delish.  The Square is also a great downtown area for shopping and eating, it would seem, but alas, I had to hurry back to a rehearsal in...

Columbus, MS: Birthplace of Tennessee Williams and home of Mississippi University for Women, now a coed school that prefers to be known as The W. Also an insanely beautiful campus, this one has a certain kind of private school opulence you can only find in the good old South (I think).

There's another Harvey's at 200 Main Street, I can tell you now that the Cajun Pasta (very much like Crawfish Monica) was fantastic.  Still liked the Old Fashioneds here, too. 

Mississippi State Committee of the National Museum for Women in the Arts Exhibition. Visit www.muw.edu/as/art/gallery for information on this and other W exhibits.
Gallery hours are Monday - Friday, 8am-5pm. The exhibits are free and open to the public.
1100 College Street MUW-70 
(662) 329-7291

Other restaurants recommended to me by locals, but which I did not get to try, include

121 S 5th St
Columbus, MS 39701Phone number(662) 327-6500
Cajun/Creole: great fried green tomatoes

Jackson Square Grill
1927 U.S. 45
Columbus, MS 39701(662) 328-8656
Big on seafood and with a great brunch

Hana Korean Restaurant and Market
4226 Mississippi 373
Columbus, MS 39705
(662) 434-8881
Cheap and comforting stone pots and curries.

16 March 2017

Cocktails for These Political Times: Ode to the ACLU

I went through the ACLU's Lobby Training Day in Denver Tuesday, and it was so eye-opening.  We had a brief meeting followed by a morning of wandering around the state Senate and House of Reps offices bugging politicians (and often their aides) not to torture incarcerated minors and to protect free speech  on campus.  In all of my years, and multiple civics classes I was required to take but never took seriously, I never learned so much about how bills are introduced, amended, and voted on. And after seeing up-close how many people are working tirelessly to go through every piece of legislature with a fine-toothed comb to ensure American's civil liberties, I have a renewed sense of appreciation for the ACLU (as do many of you; in Colorado alone, the number of volunteers jumped from 30 before election day to 1700 after their first legislative battles with the so-called Muslim ban).

The ACLU is a non-partisan group invested in calling everyone, on both sides of the aisle, on their bullshit. And if you can't get behind that, then you don't deserve this drink or any other except maybe prune juice.

The Black and White

Makes 1 drink

Ice cubes
2 fluid ounces heavy cream
1 fluid ounce vanilla flavored vodka
1 1/2 fluid ounces chocolate liqueur
Chocolate swizzle sticks, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the cream and vodka. Cover and shake vigorously, or stir, until combined and chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Slowly pour the chocolate liqueur into the center of the drink to make a layered black and white cocktail. Lay a chocolate swizzle stick across the top rim of the glass. Serve. (Stir the layers together with the swizzle stick before drinking.)

10 March 2017

The Better-than-Chipotle Rice Bowl

I don't eat fast food unless I'm travelling and either trying to be cheap or am in a big hurry. But when that is the case, I do like Chipotle.  I love the green rice, and I appreciate the variety of fresh-like ingredients I can add to my nicely cooked black beans.  But it's way too much food! One burrito will keep me full for over 24 hours, and I'm pretty sure that's not good for your system.  

Work a little less hard to digest your food while enjoying that comforting Tex-Mex flavor at home with these fast and easy chicken (if you want), bean, and rice bowls! And as with most of my recipes, you can easily swap out ingredients to make this more your own. Mine, below, is a facsimile of the included recipe, but doused with Tapatio hot sauce, as well. 

Better-than-Chipotle Rice Bowl

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 small serrano, thinly sliced (remove seeds for a milder meal)
1 chicken breast, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 large garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup corn kernels
2 15-oz. cans black beans (drain one, use the liquid from the other)

Green rice:
1 cup long grain white rice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
Salt to taste

Small avocado, cut into chunks
1 medium tomato, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan or your rice cooker, cook the rice according to package directions. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil on medium heat in a large skillet. When it shimmers, add the bell pepper, onion, and serrano and sauté until soft, about five minutes. Add the chicken along with the cumin and chili powder and some salt. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the chicken is almost cooked, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic cloves, corn, and black beans, reduce to low heat, cover and let simmer about 15 minutes.

Prepare the garnish: combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

When the rice is done, fluff with a fork while stirring in the cilantro, lime juice, and salt.

To build bowls: place equal amounts of rice into the bottom of each bowl.  Top with equal amounts of the bean mixture and then the garnish. 

09 March 2017

Cocktails for These Political Times: Ladies and Health Stuff

Damnit, do I really still have to do this, America?  Alright, fine...

1. You're all about to lose your healthcare, if you haven't already.  Contact the honorable Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah to find out what kind of trade-in for services you can get with your iPhone.

In the meantime, you may want to start drinking healthier.  But you also need some vodka to drown your salty, salty tears in, so...

The 2017 Healthcare Gimlet

Makes 1 drink

2 oz, Vodka (keep it cheap, as you're going to have to pay for your own surgeries in the future) 2 oz. pineapple juice 
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 sprig fresh tarragon (optional)

Place vodka, pineapple juice, lime juice, and agave nectar in a shaker with plenty of ice.  Shake until you can't stand it anymore, then strain into a martini glass.  Garnish with tarragon, which is supposed to be good for you or some shit (but not as good as free preventative medicine).

2. There was a Day Without Women strike yesterday, because apparently we still need to remember that we all rely on women sometimes, like say for our very existence. I was working along with a kick-ass woman composer in Laramie, but I did wear red. 

The #drinklikeagirl 

Makes 1 drink

1 oz. Rye Bourbon or Scotch 
1 oz. grapefruit juice 
1 oz. pomegranate juice* 
1/2 oz. of ginger simple syrup
dash of orange bitters
brandied cherries** and orange peel for garnish

Place all ingredients except garnishes in a shaker with ice. Shake until you are world weary. Strain into whatever the hell glass you like and garnish with brandied cherries and orange peel. 

* ginger simple syrup: In a small saucepan, bring 12 oz. fresh sliced ginger, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve, discarding ginger. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

**brandied cherries: it's a lot of words.  just go here

03 March 2017

Salad dressing recipes that will have you rejecting the bottle...

Bottled dressings kind of suck, don't they?  They're always off--too sweet, too gloppy, weird fake garlic taste, dead rat parts floating around--and they're certainly not good for you, with all the preservatives and corn syrup meant to make them "good" and long lasting.  If you want to up your salad game (meaning, stop feeling resentful when eating salads), the best thing you can do is keep a couple of jars filled with some tasty, super-easy homemade dressings.  Here are my favorites.

Japanese restaurant-style salad dressing: combine in a blender
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons minced celery
2 tablespoons ketchup
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Tahini Dressing: whisk together
1 cup tahini
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
2 grated garlic cloves
1 cup water
salt and black pepper to taste

Mustard and Caper Vinaigrette: whisk together
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1 teaspoon capers, chopped
1 teaspoon mustard
pinch sugar (optional)
4 tablespoons vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

"Ranch" Dressing: whisk together
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup milk (any kind will do)
½ teaspoon dried summer savory
½ teaspoon dried dill
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon dried onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Green Goddess: combine in blender
half an avocado
¼ cup Greek yogurt
½ cup water (more as needed to adjust consistency)
1 cup cilantro leaves and stems
1 small clove of garlic
½ teaspoon salt
a squeeze of lime juice

02 March 2017

Cocktails for these Political Times: Mississippi Edition

I'm in Mississippi this week (stop by if you're in Starkville, Oxford, or Columbus!) giving some concerts and master classes across the Northern expanse of the state, and I'm enjoying learning about local political woes here (well, enjoy might be the wrong word).  Like Coloradans, they had to just go ahead and have a town hall meeting last weekend without their Representative, Steve Palazzo.  But the ugly bill to kill funding for the Mississippi Arts Commission has been killed (yay), and if you're in the area, you can join the good people of this state at the March 4 March on Mississippi to end voter suppression AND their Women's March for Progress April 22. Like so many places these days, it seems the citizenry is far superior to their elected representatives. You guys deserve some punch!

Mississippi Riverboat Milk Punch

Serves between 1 & 6

6 cups any kind of milk you want
1-1/2 cups bourbon
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

In a pitcher, whisk together milk, bourbon, sugar, and vanilla. Freeze until slushy, 3 to 4 hours. Stir before serving in glasses, finished with a few gratings of fresh nutmeg.

(Urgent PS--you know that little victory for the arts Mississippi just enjoyed? It's meaningless if the NEA, which funds large portions of each state's arts budget, is done away with.  You can sign this fun and easy petition to help see that it isn't!)