Chicken and Crab Paella by Miss Cathi and an apology…

I owe an apology to a friend of mine. Not just a simple “I’m sorry.” I owe a public apology to Miss Cathi. Not because I did anything so terribly wrong, but because I thought she was mistaken, in fact, I was sure of it. So sure of it, that I challenged a genuine foodie about one of her ingredients. Never question a foodie when they are in their kitchen. That is their kingdom and they don’t take kindly to foolhardy usurpers questioning their wisdom (or their recipes).

Cathi is a phenomenal chef. Her parents were restauranteurs and she comes from a long tradition of taking what you have on hand and making brilliant meals. When I go to visit, I always up the ante because of my long list of dietary restrictions. For instance I can’t have soy. Trying telling someone who is Asian that they can’t use soy sauce… Not good, and not easy. But Cathi always listens my restrictions and then starts pulling items from the fridge and off the shelf.

Cathi is a wonder in the kitchen. I’ve been cooking for a few years now and I’ve gotten to where I consider myself proficient at least. Maybe even a bit good. But Cathi works with such a familiarity and confidence that I can only sit in awe as she starts gathering, collecting, and preparing. The last time I went to see her, Cathi made a Chicken and Crab Paella with Kale. This was seriously good and I have decided (with her permission) to share the recipe here. But it is this recipe that created my need to apologize. You see, I thought Kale was this dark leafy green stuff that I had purchased not too long ago at the health food store. Cathi was using a lovely green, but it didn’t look like what I bought and so I told her that stuff wasn’t Kale. She’s pretty sure it is, but I, foolishly, am sure it’s not. We banter back and forth over this as she is cooking and I simply won’t give in. No one is ever as certain they are right as the fool who is dead wrong. She laughs and tells me I am going to owe her an apology when we finally settle all this. Not just a “sorry” but a facebook I’m sorry. A public apology.

A few days later I got an email from Miss Cathi’s phone. She at the store and staring at irrefutable evidence of my wrongness. A picture’s worth a thousand words. Kale. On display and clearly labeled. All I can say…Oops.
I called her right after I got the email. We shared a good long laugh over this and she has already accepted my apology and forgiven me, but, I did promise to this… So, dearest friend, I do hereby formally and with great humility, apologize for not believing you when you assured me that you knew what you were doing. I shall never question your culinary wisdom again and I also thank you, one for making such excellent dishes for me, and two, for letting me share this on my blog. I have already made this twice and it has become one of my favorites. Much love and many thanks.

Red bell pepper.


Sushi rice.

Chicken and Crab Paella by Miss Cathi

Extra virgin olive oil (always)
1 lb chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
half lb crab meat
3 cups sushi rice
1 red bell pepper
1 can stewed Italian tomatoes
1 bunch of kale
1tbs turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

Chop onion, celery, pepper and saute in a large pot (with a lid) with EVOO, salt and black pepper.
Add garlic.
Add chicken thighs and brown.
If frozen, defrost crab meat.
Add three cups of sushi rice and cook until the rice becomes translucent.
Season with Turmeric.
Add three cups of water and can of stewed Italian tomatoes (and their juice).
Chop Kale and add.
Add crab meat.
Cover and cook for 20 minutes on medium low heat.
Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes covered before serving and eating.

This was great. I LOVE the color! The turmeric doesn’t have a lot of flavor, but the golden color with the rich dark greens and the reds of the pepper and tomatoes. This just looks vibrant and healthy. And guess, what, it is.

I personally need a larger pot for this. Cathi says this is the kind of thing that you could add olives, peas, corn or mushrooms too (none of which I can have). She also said you could make this with broccoli. That I did try. The second time I made this I substituted broccoli for kale and was even happier with the results.

So here it is, the final photo. Doesn’t it look pretty? This was so good. Thanks again Cathi. I love this recipe and hope others will enjoy it as well.

Brenda’s Perfect Oatmeal

Ok, so time for the New Year’s Resolutions. One of mine is to post more recipes on my blog. I started this last year. My Foodie Fridays, but I haven’t made time this kind of thing since that first post. So today, I have decided to start the year with one of my favorite ways to start the day. Brenda’s Perfect Oatmeal. I know, this is an arrogant name for anything, but really, I’ve been working on this for a while now and I believe I have hit upon the perfect flavor combination for oatmeal.

A little of the back story. I have hated oatmeal my entire life. I don’t like the texture. More specifically, I can’t stand the texture. I hate oatmeal. But as I am trying to eat healthier, live better, etc. I have finally been convinced of the good that comes from starting your day with breakfast. I’ve always been more of a two meal a day kind of person. Lunch and dinner. Experts say you are supposed to east six small meals a day, but I haven’t made time for that change yet. Right now, I’m doing good with three. Eating breakfast really does seem to help, and it has become my meal for fruit. I don’t eat a lot of fruit. But fruit helps change the texture of the hated oatmeal.
So here it is, how to make Brenda’s Perfect Oatmeal.
Take half a cup of old fashioned thick rolled oats. Put them in a medium microwave safe bowl and add 1 cup of water. The directions on the package tell you to cover while cooking for five minutes. I don’t do this. Every time I cover and cook it spills over and I have a mess on my hands. So rather than covering mine I leave them uncovered and cook at a lower power setting for 6 to 7 minutes. No mess and just as good. Let the oatmeal rest for 2 minutes before you start doctoring it. Oh, and while the oats are cooking you can prep your fruit.
The secret to my oatmeal is two part — part one: Lemon. One add a heaping spoonful of lemon curd. Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. I’m not. The lemon is the perfect undertone. It balances the sweet fruit and adds this unexpected flavor that is simply delightful. Season with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, and lemon peel. I like a light dusting of each of these across the top of my oatmeal so I can’t really give you a measurement. For my personal oatmeal I like a little more cinnamon and a little less ginger. Mix well.
Next add your fruit. Slice a banana thinly and slice four strawberries. Add these to your bowl. Add a handful of raisins and mix well.

Now we come to part two of my secret to great oatmeal. Sea salt. No, I’m still not crazy. It needs salt, not sugar. I tried brown sugar, maple syrup, none of them worked. It has enough sweetness, it need a counterbalance. Salt.

Sprinkle with salt. Say your prayers and eat up. This is now a major part of my morning routine. And a very yummy part at that. : )

The Perfect Start to a Brand New Year!

Dancing in the Streets

One of my favorite parts of 2011 has been the time I have spent working on learning to swing dance. I am still a beginner, but already I love the music because it makes me smile. I love the people. And I LOVE the dancing. I love all of it. I come a way from a dance feeling nothing short of joyous. And I usually come away from a dance wanting to wrap my poor feet in cold cloths when I get home.

Last night the North End Swing crew held a Swing Out the Old Year dance here in Kalispell. I honestly cannot think of a better way to start 2012 than dancing. A night of dancing sets the tenor of the year. Or at least I hope that will be true.

Of course, it wasn’t all dancing for me. For the last dance of the year I had a camera in my hands. Typical. : ) But I put the gear down for the first dance of the year. Our dj Pete graciously took my recommendation and we started the year with one of my favorite songs: Be Careful (If You Can’t Be Good) by Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra. To hear it go to:

Now, make sure you listen to the song before reading what I have to say next, otherwise the following comments might unfairly bias you against this song. …

Did you hear it? Let’s be honest about this, the lyrics are outrageously bad. “Now look here honey, if you want to die, spend my money on another guy. Be careful, careful if you can’t be good.” Is that really the positive message we want to be sending out into the world? Is that really the advice we want to start the year off with? If you can’t be good, be careful? That’s right up there with if you’re going to commit a crime, don’t get caught. But the music is so happy… When I’m dancing I tend to ignore the lyrics as I search for the rhythm, and so the lyrics become irrelevant and truth be told, this has become one of my favorite songs to dance to.

Swing dancing presents a unique challenge for me. It has become one of the few arenas in my life when I am genuinely torn between my desire to photograph the event, and my desire to participate. As a photographer I have had the chance to witness amazing events. I will always count myself blessed for the life this profession has opened up to me. But when you are there to document you must also be there, at least in part, removed. If you are photographing what’s happening, then you aren’t taking part in what is happening. Normally this doesn’t bother me because photography is how I interact with the world. Except in swing dancing. With dancing, I don’t want to always be behind the lens because I want to be out on the floor. You can’t do both.

Most of tonight I danced. But for the last hour or so I got out my gear and started snapping pictures. I did this one out of habit, and two, because I had an idea for a photo. Sparklers. I have these wonderful childhood memories of sparklers. Happiness. Celebration. I remember the sparkles, but I had forgotten how much smoke these create. My idea was simple enough. Buy sparklers and lighters and have everyone come out at midnight and dance in the streets to celebrate 2012! Simple, right? Except for the smoke. Oops. I’m really happy with the photos, but I felt incredibly guilty when we had all the couples out there dancing and coughing. Yes, I know I’m forgiven, but still I’m really hoping these photos will make everyone feel the smoke inhalation was worth it.

Minus the self-inflicted guilt at the end, this was exactly how I wanted to end 2011, a year that has been incredible on so many levels, and how I wanted to start 2012, a year I have exceptionally high hopes for.

Happy New Year to you all! May God bless you in the year ahead.

Okay, to wrap up this post, the last shot of the night, Shim Sham on the streets of Kali. Cheers! And one more link, this time to a video. Last night Kent Halfast was taking some video shots of his nephew and I happened to be dancing with my friend Pete in the background. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time I’ve really been caught on video. I am always behind the camera. Kent was kind enough to share these with me and so I put the clips up on youtube. Here are Pete Milne and I dancing to “I Won’t Dance” by Frank Sinatra.

Shim Sham!