Keep Your Mitts Off My Moola

The Kid calls me a bunny rabbit, and as loathe as I am to admit it, it’s kind of true.  My default setting is to trust. 

My mom will correctly size up a stranger in mere seconds.  It likely comes from being a Jersey girl.  The Kid is a probably much healthier combo of both world views.  But despite protestations of massive amounts of street cred, my sweet child falls much more on the bunny rabbit side of the scale.

Actually, rabbits are probably much more suspicious of people than even my mom.  Have you ever met a bunny in a grocery store and exchanged not only chicken recipes but life stories?  Most of the time the mere sight of you in the frozen food aisle is enough to send them fleeing in terror.  There is very little love and trust for humans on old Watership Down.

But I would much rather live my life leading with my heart and assume that everyone around me is good, and true, and full of the milk of human kindness.

Except.

Except for when it comes to my money.

Then, Gentle Reader, I make Sherlock Holmes look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm on ecstasy.  Every penny that leaves my hand has been run through a rigorous series of checks and double checks.  If you send me a bill or ask for money, you’d better have an airtight case, or you ain’t getting a penny.  You’d have a much better chance of getting a kidney out of me (literally; I’ve offered a kidney more than once to dialysis patients).

You’ve got to deserve my money and play fair.

When my cable goes out, I always call and request a credit for the time I had no service.  The other day one of their representatives said, “It’s not worth you calling us for this outage.  It only comes to sixty-three cents.”

Um, excuse me Miss Spectrum.  When you’re paying my bill, you get to decide that.  But right now, I’m responsible for it, and yes, I want every darn penny of that sixty-three cents.

When we bought our house, I had only lived with my parents, then with Petey in a tiny little mobile home park, and an apartment.  I’d never lived anywhere where I was responsible for a monthly water bill. 

One day, about eighteen months after we’d moved in, I got my first water bill.

For $1300!

The city informed me, when I called in the midst of a financially provoked stroke, that they’d neglected to bill us since we’d moved in, so what I was holding in my trembling hand was for the entire time we’d lived there.

Yeah…nope.

As I politely explained and kept politely explaining over a week-long conversation, I had openly called the city to turn on our water.  My mail box is right in front of our house.  The house is not hidden behind a bush, we were right there, out in the open, using water, every day.  This was 100% on them, and I was not paying.  But they were free to start sending me a monthly bill with new charges, and I’d be delighted to pay it.

I won.

So, if you’re having a dispute with your credit card company, or you think you may have won a trip to the Bahamas from a contest you never entered, or you’re thinking about ordering a brand-new, authentic, Vera Wang wedding dress online for $40, give me a call.

‘Cause you might be all starry eyed and gullible, but I’m a bunny rabbit.

 A bunny rabbit that’ll take you out.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

It’s a Two-fer!

I always forget how much I love eggplant until I eat it.  Then I wonder why I don’t eat it more often. 

There are a few good reasons: eggplant is best in the summer; from the farmers market or your own garden.  It’s uber-delicate, and gets bruised at the slightest bump, or even a harsh word directed its way.  And cooking it’s usually a complicated, messy pain in the keister.   

This week marks the final week of the Local Dish series with two delicious recipes made from NC products. 

First up is a delicious soup with a deceptively fancy name.  The eggplant dish, we’ll get back to.

Le’CHOP Soup 

Servings: 4

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

2 Tbsp. avocado oil

1 leek, light green and white parts, finely chopped

1 cup swiss chard stems, finely chopped

1 habanero pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped

4 cups chicken stock, divided

1 potato, diced

1 cup buttermilk

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

In Dutch oven, heat avocado oil on medium-high heat, then add leek and swiss chard. Cook for 3 minutes until softened. Add habanero and onion and cook until onion’s translucent. Move contents to a bowl.

With Dutch oven still hot, deglaze with ½ cup chicken stock. Add remaining chicken stock and bring to light boil and add potatoes. Cook for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in onion and garlic powder. Add cooked vegetable mixture back into Dutch oven and simmer for one minute. Remove from heat.

Pour half of mixture into a food processor, blend and pour into bowl. Add remaining vegetable mixture to food processor and blend slowly, while adding buttermilk. Pour back into Dutch oven, add salt and pepper, stir then heat on low to warm back up. Or use submersible blender.

Garnish with chives and small dollop of sour cream.

Lisa’s Notes: This is a great way to use leeks and chard. If you aren’t a fan of the heat, leave out the habanero or try a jalapeno. The stems can be a little bitter so try using the leaves instead. We liked leaving some potatoes chunky when blending. Domino Ireland won first place with this delicious soup in the NC Vegetable Growers Contest at the NC State Fair.

And, finally, the eggplant.  This is the easiest to make eggplant recipe I’ve had the pleasure to eat.  It’s also the most forgiving.  It’s cut into cubes and roasted, so it doesn’t need to be perfect, blemish-free, straight from the garden eggplant.  You could make this in the middle of February and the dish would be just as tasty as mid-August.

Debbie’s notes: If you enjoy them, capers are a terrific addition.  The briny Mediterranean flavor is perfect with this recipe.  And when cold, the dish makes for a perfect bruschetta.  

Roasted Eggplant

1 Eggplant, diced ¼”-1/2” thick with skin on

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsp. kalamata olives, sliced

2 Tbsp. green olives sliced

2 Tbsp. Feta, crumbled

1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In medium size bowl, combine eggplant, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour onto baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.

Once done, return to bowl and toss with remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lisa’s Notes: The dish can be enjoyed hot or room temperature.

I hope you enjoyed my adventures with television.

I’ll be back next week with the best dish I’ve invented in years.  And it’s made with only things I had on-hand. 

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

True Confessions

I’m a terrible boss.

The entire world should rejoice every morning that the only things I am the boss of are my dog and myself, and even that’s hit or miss at best.  The dog still won’t do calculus, and would the boss of herself have eaten their weight in cake last night?  Possibly, but if they did, they wouldn’t feel guilty about it.

And, FYI—when you eat your weight in something, you double your weight.

When I was in the second grade, I was in the Brownies.  This was back when the gas currently in your car was roaming Pangaea, looking for a fellow T-Rex to share its life.  When the troop voted for a leader, I was elected.  It seemed easy, and natural.

Until junior high, I was a leader in my classes and among my friends.  In the seventh grade, I ran for class representative to the student government.  I assumed I’d be elected, no prob.

It was one of the biggest shocks of my life when I lost.  My whole world view shifted, and things were never the same. 

Then growing up did what it does to everyone, especially women.  It knocked the heck out of my ego, and made me question and at times abandon, the confidence that was an intrinsic part of me like my buck teeth (now fixed) and widow’s peak (still there).

I retained parts of that gutsiness inside me, but it was fractured, with large chunks of it damaged or missing.  Sadly, like a pitcher in a slump, I got all caught up in my own head, second guessing every instinct.

For five years in the 80s, I managed a clothing store.  That’s what utterly convinced me that although I’m great at being bossy, I’m horrible at being the boss.  Some of my badness had to do with immaturity and the cure has come with advanced age.

Yup, that’s me, circa 1986…

But some things are just part of me, things that, until the day I die, make me singularly unsuited to be in charge of paid employees.

A boss should be willing and able to make the tough, unpopular decisions.  If you’ve ever had a boss, you have, at some point during your association, been unhappy with them.  They have to tell you no, or you can’t have that week off, or your work isn’t good enough.

I hate, hate, hate it when people are mad at me.  It makes me feel like a kicked puppy.  And I spent too much time worrying about whether or not my employees liked me—sometimes to the point of something close to paralysis.  Somehow, with The Kid and our dogs, I’m able to be the bad guy when really needed; I guess deep down, I know the stakes are so much higher.

A boss needs to know when to just back off and let an employee do their job.  Petey, when he was a charge nurse at Duke was awesome at this.  His co-workers adored him and always gave their very best.  I asked him what his secret was.

He didn’t quite understand the question.  “If they work here, I assume they know how to do their job, and I let ‘em do it.”

With a sad combo plate of little trust in my staff and no trust in my ability to teach and inspire, I was a micro-managing Matilda.  I exhausted myself, so I probably brought my poor, bedeviled employees to the edge of violence.

So, give thanks.

Give thanks that you can look at that questionable photo of me in the paper, and say with feeling, “You’re not the boss of me!”

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

The Great Zucchini

Think of it as a versatile, delicious little black dress.

Only it’s very dark brown instead of black, and it’s not a dress, but a cake.  But otherwise…

This is week three of dispatches from my adventures when I joined Lisa Prince and WRAL’s Brian Shrader as they prepared and filmed four recipes for Local Dish, WRAL’s cooking segment that airs each Friday on the noon news.

This week’s chocolate cake, y’all.

In keeping with the summer produce theme, this is a zucchini cake.  And there are two really important things that I need you, Gentle Reader, to take from this essay.

The first is the importance of cooking time.  There is a little butter and four eggs in this cake, but no other fat.  So, most of the moisture comes from the grated zucchini and the applesauce in the recipe.    

Which means, if you overcook it, you will get a dry result that will stick in your throat and make you sad.  It cooks for 60-70 minutes, but you should start checking it at 55 minutes.  As soon as a toothpick comes out clean but moist, get it out of the oven.  And after it’s been out for 10 minutes, get it out of that pan.

The second thing is, once it’s cool you can top it with anything from powdered sugar to a decadent vanilla fudge icing topped with crushed Oreos.  You can go simple and use whipped cream or a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream.  Or let the ice cream melt.  It then becomes a fancy custard sauce called crème Anglaise.  Set the cake on a puddle of that (for crème Anglaise use an ice cream containing only milk, cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and maybe a pinch of salt).

Here are two of my favorite toppings.

Mama Cat’s Vanilla Fudge Icing

½ cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup milk

Heat ingredients in saucepan until it begins to boil.  Let cool slightly and mix in 1& 3/4 -2 cups sifted powdered sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Pour over fully cooled cake and top with crushed Oreos (optional) or anything else you’d like.

Mom’s Fudge Glaze

6 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons cocoa

3 cups powdered sugar

6 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

In saucepan, melt butter.  Stir in cocoa until dissolved.  Mix in sugar.  Add milk and vanilla; whisk until smooth. 

Pour over cooled cake and allow to set.

The cake calls for cinnamon, but you could also tweak it with things like cayenne or espresso powder.

 Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake  

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 cup sugar

½ cup butter, room temperature

4 eggs

¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 Tbsp. vanilla

2 cups shredded zucchini

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat bottom and sides of 9 to 12 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray.

Mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in bowl.  Set aside. Beat sugar and butter with mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, applesauce then vanilla.

Reduce mixer to low. Beat in dry ingredients until blended. Fold in zucchini.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and allow to cool completely before topping.

This cake also travels really well for picnics and potlucks; or wrap a slice and tuck it into a bagged lunch.  With both zucchini and apple sauce in it, you could almost call it healthy with a straight face.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Winner, Winner, I’ve Got Dinner

“You can’t win it if you’re not in it.”\

That’s Petey’s response whenever there’s a lottery jackpot that nears a billion dollars and I start mentally spending it.  And I’m never in it—I don’t know how to buy anything other than the automatic computer-generated ticket or even its price.

But we do both make the occasional appeal to Lady Luck in the form of entering the odd drawing, both online and in person.

I once won a Lindt milk chocolate Easter bunny.  It was delivered in a huge Styrofoam cooler the size of the trunk the Astor’s took on the Titanic.  The candy was the size of my hand.  It was delicious. 

Years ago, the convenience store near our house had a drawing for a child-sized, pedal-powered Oscar Mayer wiener car that Petey entered, and won.  It was just like the one in the commercials that they drive around the country.  But shrunken down for a kid the size of a three or four-year-old.

Unfortunately, The Kid was seven or eight.  Our poor child looked like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stuffed inside a Smart Car.  Can you smell what the Rock is driving?

So, we gave it to the three-year-old daughter of a close family friend.  You should have seen her zooming around the neighborhood in a seven-foot hotdog—it was a sight to behold.

A few years later, I was in a Hallmark shop and registered for another drawing.  It was for a very large stuffed dog, modeled on Coconut, from the American Girl dolls collection. 

In a shocking twist, I won it.

Then the fun began.  This thing was honestly the size of a Shetland pony.  Getting it in the car was an adventure accompanied by much struggle, sweat, and many PG13 to R rated words.  Driving home, we looked like we were trying to smuggle a fat white buffalo.  Then, The Kid had to find a place for this behemoth, although at thirteen or so, my poor child was actually kind of over stuffed animals, even fluffy ones that took up as much space as a circus calliope.

Finally, a few years later, The Kid was able to pass it on to a patsy, I mean a friend, with a much younger sibling who loved owning it.

Which brings us to my latest win.

A few weeks ago, Petey and I ran into our local Panera.  In the summer, I down gallons of their green smoothies.  They’re healthy, tasty, filling, and I feel particularly virtuous drinking them.  In the restaurant’s entrance, they had a jar for business cards from which they would periodically draw a lucky winner.

So, I tossed in one of mine.

Last week, catering manager Jamonda called and informed me I’d won, and the prize was lunch for my entire office.  Since I work from home, my normal officemates are couch, dog, and Petey.  So, today I gathered together in Greensboro, many of the friends and family that regularly donate time, elbow grease and expertise which facilitate getting this column into print.

And I took up a little something from Panera.  A little something contained in two love seat-sized bags; drinks, soups, sandwiches, salads, crusty baguettes, and a variety of their freshly baked pastries.  It was a crazy generous bounty, and everyone ate like it was Thanksgiving dinner, with leftovers that Petey and I have been snacking on all evening.

So, to sum up; unless somebody wants to give me three quarters of a billion Samolians, I’ll take the Panera spread every time.

Or maybe the chocolate—the chocolate would be good too.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Flipping Out

This week is the second “Local Dish” recipe that I got to help prep and then watch its filming for airing on WRAL noon news. 

Each Friday afternoon, a segment highlighting North Carolina products in the creation of a dish hosted by Lisa Prince and Brian Shrader is shown.  I got to tag along as Lisa and her sister Michele shopped for ingredients at the Raleigh State farmers market, then assist in prepping the recipes.  On the third and final day I hung out while a station photog, Mark taped the duo cook the dishes.

This recipe, Roasted Tomato Upside Down Cornbread was a winner for the House Autry contest at last year’s NC State Fair.  The fair is held in October, and this timing gave Lisa Prince a bit of a curve ball as she was preparing the recipe for TV.

At the farmers market, we chose beautiful, ripe, and juicy summer heirloom tomatoes.  Unfortunately, when cooking, that juice was too juicy, and initially resulted in a wet finished product.

When the dish was invented, it was fall.  There’s a reason why folks don’t get worked up about autumn tomato sandwiches; they aren’t the same succulent gifts of the summer months.  So, the initial roasting dries and sweetens the fall tomatoes the perfect amount for the finished cornbread.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make it in the summer, you just have to take two tiny extra steps along the way.

Roasted Tomato Upside Down Cornbread

1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

Salt & pepper

4 – 5 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick

2 eggs, beaten

¾ cup ricotta cheese

½ cup milk

1 box House-Autry Stone Ground Buttermilk Cornbread Baking Mix

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1 tsp. dried oregano leaves

½ tsp. dried basil

1 Tbsp. fresh minced basil

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Heat the olive oil mixture in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Arrange tomato slices in an overlapping circular pattern in skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the skillet in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ricotta cheese, and milk, then stir in cornbread mix, Parmesan, dried oregano and dried basil until just combined.

Take the skillet out of the oven and spread the batter carefully over the tomatoes. Bake at 425° for 12 – 14 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Rest in pan for 5 minutes then invert onto a serving platter. Sprinkle fresh basil over the top and serve.

Lisa’s Notes: Julia Truelove took home first place with this award-winning cornbread at the 2018 NC State Fair. If using summer tomatoes that are juicy, be sure to remove as much juice as possible after roasting before adding the cornbread mixture.

Debbie’s extra notes: I would also salt the freshly sliced tomatoes and after letting them sit for 15-20 minutes, blot away the surface moisture with a paper towel before layering into the skillet.

 As pretty and delicious as the cornbread is, the recipe gives you one more gift.  The opportunity for a little excitement. 

It’s the flippening. 

The skillet is hot and heavy, and there’s always the possibility that the cornbread will stick, and not come out cleanly. 

But, be brave and soldier on, you can do this.  I have complete faith in you.  And imagine what a culinary hero you’ll look to you family and guests.  Go, you!

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Is There A Ball Pit In Heaven?

The Kid and I just returned home from GalaxyCon, a pop culture fan convention in Raleigh.

This convention reminded both The Kid and me of another fan convention that took place five years ago in Illinois, called DashCon.

My child flew up to participate in the inaugural event.

The first night there was an opening night soirée they called a prom.  And, early in the evening a faint whiff of trouble began to circulate.

Suddenly, the music stopped and Megg, one of the organizers, took to the stage and addressed the crowd.  She told them the hotel had suddenly changed the terms of the contract.  Unless $17,000 in cash was given to the hotel within an hour, the convention, Megg informed them, would be canceled.

In addition to requesting everyone present to go online and request their friends and family donate everything they could to a PayPal account, a literal hat was passed around with exhortations to, “please give, anything you can, even a dollar”.

Somehow, the money was gathered, and the convention went on.

It’s important to note, that to this day, the hotel insists that they did not make an eleventh hour change to the contract. 

The next morning, The Kid and friends were headed out to a pancake breakfast, and they ran into organizer Megg, crying hysterically.  Vendors and guests were fleeing the event, there wasn’t enough money, they needed many more staff than they had, and everything was ruined. 

One of my child’s friends, Christine, volunteered The Kid and company to help out.  Breakfast was postponed, and everybody pitched in.

My child ended up working with Megg and assisting the senior staff.  The first item on the agenda was to convince the weekend’s biggest draw to stay.

Welcome to Night Vale was a hugely popular scripted podcast.  One of the first big hits of the genre.  They were at DashCon, and were planning on doing a live episode in front of a large crowd that had purchased tickets.

The arrangement was for the troupe to be paid in full before the performance.

Except, there were no funds available. 

With The Kid in tow, Megg attempted to get them to perform now and get paid later.  Sensing a fiscally troubled theme, the podcast creators declined, and departed.  An hour after the podcast was to begin, a packed room was informed that the podcast was canceled because the cast tried to hold up the convention for more money.

This is the actual ball pit at Dashcon.

At a crisis meeting, one of the staff had a brainstorm.  One of the attractions was a ball pit.  Because of either a mistake, or cost-cutting measure the size of the pit was similar to a backyard blow-up pool.  To appease the hundreds of ticket holders for the canceled Night Vale performance, they were offered an extra hour in the ball pit.

The decision has since become infamous and a symbol for the fiasco that was Dashcon.  If you google, “ball pit dashcon”, it will return 104,000 results.

The infamous Q&A

As day turned into evening, it became clear that the event was a huge flop, and at a hastily convened Q&A which descended into bitter recriminations and tearful excuses it was revealed that there already lawsuits being organized.  The Kid was still assisting, and still had not had pancakes, or anything else to eat.

Freshly arrived home from her disastrous trip to Illinois, my child recounted the weekend’s adventures.  Multiple times during the telling of it, I laughed so hard that I almost fell off my chair at Elmo’s, a diner in Durham, where The Kid was partially hidden behind, finally, a huge stack of pancakes.

Not The Kid.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Breaking Broken Bread

I really dislike being on video.  I feel I have a face and voice for the printed word, and I’m okay with that.

My friend Lisa Prince, though, is both adorable and engaging on the TV.

Every Friday during WRAL’s noon news, she, along with the equally adorable Brian Shrader, host Local Dish, which showcases North Carolina foods.

August’s theme is all about creative ways to use the NC produce available in late summer.

Because nothing and no one in my life is safe from being fodder for this column, I’ve had an ongoing request to shadow the preparation and filming of Local Dish.  Last week I spent three days hanging out watching the creation of five segments that will begin airing this Friday (8/2).

And proving, once again, what a truly nice person Lisa is, she gave me all the recipes and the permission to share.

Tuesday, I met her and her sister Michele at the Raleigh State Farmers market.  Our goal was to buy fresh ingredients for Chocolate zucchini cake, tomato upside down cornbread, a zesty leek Swiss chard soup, roasted eggplant, and panzanella salad.

Lisa’s sister, Michele putting cornbread in the oven of her beautiful kitchen.

Wednesday, we met at the filming location, Michele’s kitchen, and prepped enough ingredients to make a finished dish and create the dishes for the camera.

Thursday was filming day.  Brian and Lisa cooked for photographer Mark in a relaxed atmosphere that was full of laughter and lots of good food to sample.

I’d never actually eaten Panzanella salad because I’m not crazy about cucumbers and consider the idea of bread swimming in and soaking up all that juice highly suspect. 

When I’m wrong, my military father has always taught me to own it.  I’m owning this.  I was completely wrong about my prejudice toward Panzanella salad—or, at least Lisa’s Panzanella salad.

Tomato and Cucumber Panzanella Salad

(tentative air date-August 30)

(NC Ingredients: tomatoes, basil, cucumber, cheese – Category: Salad)

Servings: 2

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

1 large cucumber, peeled and de-seeded

1-pint grape tomatoes, mixed varieties, cut in half

4 slices crusty French bread cut into cubes

Salt and Pepper to taste

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup shaved Parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp. fresh basil, shredded

Cut the cumber long way and remove the seeds with a spoon. Then slice long way again and cut into cubes about the same size as the grape tomatoes that are cut in half. In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, tomatoes and bread. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle olive oil mixture onto salad and toss to coat. Add in the cheese and basil and gently toss to combine before serving.

Lisa’s Notes: This fresh light summer salad is perfect on a hot day. The flavors of the ingredients speak for themselves.

Brian (and I) were surprised that the bread used wasn’t toasted first.  But we both learned something that will change the Panzanella salad game forever.

If you’re not serving the salad for an hour or more, toast the bread.  The veggies will release lots of juice which the bread cubes will then suck up and become flavored with lots of garden-fresh flavors.

Brian wanted to use the torch and toast it himself…

But if you serve immediately after assembling, use fresh, soft bread.  It will be coated in liquid and flavored, but it won’t have time to absorb the juice and get gummy and unpleasant. 

And unpleasant is the last adjective I’d use to describe this delicious summery dish.

Thanks for your time, and thanks to Lisa, Brian, and the Local Dish crew for their time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

They seem like fun things.  Everybody else seems to enjoy them.  But my brain has to go ahead and just ruin it for me.  Very often when I watch a movie, that relentless little teacher’s pet inside my head has to ask the perfect question to blow it.

Has there ever been a real live human woman like the heroine in a rom-com?

She’s an orphan who works as a volunteer in an animal shelter, yet lives in a 2000 square foot, professionally decorated apartment in Greenwich Village that looks like it should be in Architectural Digest.  She dresses in a mix of haute couture and vintage designer.  She has what looks like a $500 haircut with perfect highlights but cuts it in her bathroom with a pair of nail clippers.

She wears a size 0, and the only workout she gets is running a bath in her giant porcelain, clawfoot tub.  She also eats like a frat boy; pizza, wings, and lots of ice cream when she’s bemoaning her barren romantic life to her slightly less attractive, funny best friend.

How exactly, does a musical work?

There are two possible answers to this question: the highly choreographed song and dance numbers are occurring only in the main character’s imagination.  In which case, he probably should either go into the music business or adjust his medication.

Or, this is an alternate universe where people burst into song and random strangers off the street join in, with crisp, intricate dance moves, and background singing in harmony while inexplicably knowing all the words.  They also carry just the right, matching props, coordinating costumes and similar hair and makeup.

Honestly, musicals make me highly uncomfortable.

 To all the people in horror movies: what is wrong with you?

It’s never a good idea to wear five-inch heels on a camping trip, and then keep them on when trying to outrun a crazed killer.  Maybe the car you drive to a creepy old supposedly haunted mansion shouldn’t be out of gas, or have almost flat tires, or be a hooptie (a hooptie is a dilapidated jalopy which is not long for the road).

There are no such thing as coincidences and it isn’t just your “imagination” in a horror movie.  That headless corpse you see in the mirror is just that; a headless corpse.  It is not a trick of the light.  The power didn’t go out because of the storm—somebody did it on purpose. 

And the first time one of your companions are horrifically murdered, don’t split up and search the attic and basement.  Stick together and GET OUT! 

In monster movies and superhero flicks, there is always a final, exciting battle between hero and villain.  Giant primates or reptiles stomp around the city, flattening buildings with the flick of a tail, or the swing of an arm.  Evil supervillains turn masonry into dust or brittle frozen heaps of rubble.  Whole neighborhoods fall into the crevasse created by draining the ocean, or transforming all the metal into rubber, or turning the ground under buildings in the Cretaceous period.  Streets are either missing or impassable due to tons of rubble.  Thousands are homeless. 

After they get finished vanquishing evil, the good guy kisses the girl, high-five their comrades, and after uttering a pithy catch phrase rides off into the sunset leaving the still-smoking shell of a once thriving city. 

And as the movie ends and the lights come up, I sit there full of anxiety and completely unable to enjoy the victorious ending.  Because all I can do is wonder…

Who’s going to clean up this mess?

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Rosé The Night Away

Back in April, Durham kicked off their 150th anniversary celebration.  Bars in town created special, original cocktails made from Conniption Gin and Navy Strength Conniption Gin which is produced in the Bull City at Durham Distillery.  I had an assignment from another publication to drink my way through that list—in one night.

Beforehand, I visited the Durham Distillery to get an idea of what went into that gin I’d be swilling.

Founded in 2013 by Melissa Katrincic with her chemist husband and head distiller Lee, the multi-award-winning distillery turns out two types of gin, a light and fragrant cucumber vodka, their three Damn Fine Liqueurs (Damn Fine’s the name of them, and a pretty apt, if racy description), and three canned cocktails. 

In a bright, open space is Gertrude, a gorgeous, shiny copper still that looks more steampunk than mountain moonshine.  She sits in place of pride, next to a piece of scientific equipment that was originally invented to make medicine but is used by the distillery to infuse flavors, like the fresh, ripe cucumber essence in their vodka.

The coffee liqueur is made with Raleigh’s Slingshot coffee, the chocolate uses Videri chocolate, and the mocha is chock full of a heavenly combination of both.  And, they are all delicious as is, in cocktails, or recipes.  For an easy, yet decadent dessert for adults, pour the coffee liqueur over a couple scoops of chocolate sorbet.

Then there’s the canned cocktails.  They started with two: Conniption Gin and tonic, and Cucumber Vodka and soda.  Last week they launched their newest offering, Conniption Rosé Spritz; a light, bubbly drink that reminds me of the pink champagne we served at our wedding.

The view from Glenwood South.

To celebrate, they had a launch party on the roof of Raleigh’s newest high-rise, One Glenwood South.  There were many attractive and sophisticated people attending, and me.  Everyone had chilled cans of the Rosé Spritz to sample, some Conniption Gin swag, and a spread put on by Wegman’s, a grocery chain that is beloved by its customers.  The first of four NC Wegman’s will be opening in September, in Raleigh.

One of the items was gazpacho.  Gazpacho is a cold veggie soup, which unfortunately is usually just V8 juice in a bowl.  Wegman’s version, however, is delicious; fresh, bright, and refreshing with complex flavors.  It was served in shot glasses and garnished with a drizzle of pumpkin oil and charred raw corn.

Chef Rob Santiago will be the executive chef of the new Raleigh location, and generously sent me the recipe, along with permission to share.

Wegman’s Gazpacho

 1 seedless cucumber, peeled, 1-inch dice (about 2 ½ cups)

 1 red sweet pepper, cored, seeded, 1-inch dice

 ½ onion, peeled, 1-inch dice

 3 cloves Food You Feel Good About Cleaned & Cut Peeled Garlic, minced

 1 bottle (46 oz) Food You Feel Good About Vegetable Juice (In the absence of a Wegman’s can substitute V8)

 3 tomatoes on-the-vine, cored, 1-inch dice

 ¼ cup Italian Classics Organic Red Wine Vinegar

 ¼ cup Wegmans Pure Olive Oil

 Juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp)

 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, (wear gloves when handling), chopped

 ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

 ½ tsp salt

Directions

Add cucumber, pepper, onion, garlic, vegetable juice, tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, pepper, cilantro, jalapeno, and salt to stockpot.

Puree with hand-held blender. Chill 2 hours and serve.

If you’d like to visit Gertrude, nerd out at their liquor laboratory, and maybe meet the hands and minds behind Conniption products, they offer tours at the Durham Distillery (711 Washington Street, Durham).  Visit their website (durhamdistillery.com) for scheduling and availability.  Post-tour, you can purchase bottles, cans, and swag.  They’re also sold at some local ABC stores.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.