Saturday, January 10, 2015

Kitchen Adventures! - Spicy Rice and Eggplant casserole

More Kitchen Adventures! This time with eggplant. I can honestly say that eggplant is not a vegetable I'm familiar with when it comes to cooking. My mother attempted an eggplant parmesan once. It didn't really go over that well. After that, we never saw another eggplant on our dinner plates ever again.


Preparing the eggplant for frying

Recently, I decided to try eggplant again. Most of the recipes I came across involved breading, cheese and pasta, but that was not the kind of recipe I was after. After some more searching, I came across a rice and eggplant dish that caught my attention. The casserole was made of fried eggplant slices with a mixture of rice, tomato, onions, green peppers and a white sauce layered between. It sounded simple enough. Sounded being the operative word in that sentence. I was not prepared for what I was about to get myself into.


Chop! Chop! Chop!

Most of the meals that I make are quick and easy. And while this recipe was not complex, it took much more time than I had anticipated it would. I had to make a Bechemal sauce, for heaven's sake. I didn't even know what that was until I made this dish. I don't think there was one part that was more time consuming than the other. It was just the number of things that had to come together to make this dish.

Bon Apetit!

In the end, the dish was absolutely delicious! My parents (who aren't big eggplant enthusiasts) went back for seconds and thirds. That made me very very happy to see. My only complaint is that there was absolutely nothing spicy about this recipe whatsoever. Would I make this dish again? Yes, but I would have very motivated and well rested. It is a tasty vegetarian dish. It's a tasty eggplant dish. The recipe is definitely a keep.

If you would like to make this yourself the recipe is HERE.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's : The Goal


The obligatory New Year's post. It's an exercise that many are going to participate in. We are going to sit and survey the past 365 days of our lives and take inventory. Once that is done, we plot out a trajectory for the next 365 days in whatever direction we see fit.

I started skipping out on this entire ritual, giving a handful of reasons why I wasn't participating. Reasons I am pretty sure that you all have heard before. But this year, I'm reconsidering. I'm reconsidering because, sometimes, our minds hold onto the wrong memories that happened during the past year. And we do not give even weight to the good and the positive. So I am going to make myself remember the good, release the painful, and make plans to move forward down the path that I choose.

My year started with one of the greatest things happening to me, right after the ground had fallen from underneath my feet. And while I was pushing through some of the most challenging days I had ever experienced, I was forging bonds with some of the best and closest friends that I will ever have.


I found myself in a place and around people that I never thought could exist. I was in a bubble outside of the world, with like minded people who had similar stories to mine. We learned together. We studied together. We dreamed out loud and talked about how our worlds had fallen away from underneath our feet. But more than that, we were all slowly putting our dreams back together, with help and not judgement. 

 As cliche as it sounds, diamonds are made under pressure and gold is purified through fire. I am a different person than I was 365 days ago. Different way of thinking, different way of viewing people, different way of viewing the world and myself in it. And all for the better. This is my take from the inventory of the past year.

So what about plans for the future? I plan to simply keep heading down this path. To continue the journey that I started. It's a simple goal, but sometimes "keep moving forward" is what takes all the energy and focus you have. And that is what I want my focus to be on this year. Forward.


I have started working on projects that I have been planning and putting off. I have ended  things that no longer have any place in my life. I have found people who make me laugh and smile, challenge my way of thinking and pushed me to limits I didn't know I could reach. 

I have left people who could only show negativity. Left people who only knew how to take and never give. I became more accepting of myself and shirked the need to conform to any standard in order to be accepted. 

These are small steps along a path that stretches for a lifetime. I have no numbered list.  No sheet of paper with check boxes ready to be ticked. I have only one goal. To keep moving forward down this path of my choosing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Family Traditions: Christmas Cards

Christmas cards were a holiday tradition at my house. In front of our fully decorated Christmas tree, all sparkling with lights, would be a small coffee table. One of those nice ones that I had to polish on the weekends. Around December, it would be overflowing with cards. That was the sign that Christmas was on its way.

The tradition continues

Cards would come from everyone: family members, family friends, co-workers, friends from church. Even people that my parents knew from long ago. We may not have been able to see some people for long stretches of time, but we still received cards from them. And they got cards from us, wishing them a Merry Christmas and blessed New Year.

My favorite card this year

And, since I grew up with this idea of, "giving cards is part of celebrating Christmas", I decided it was finally my turn to take part in the tradition of card exchanging. Honestly, I had no idea how much effort I was going to put in doing this.

First off, I can't remember when was the last time I sent someone anything in the mail. Or sent anything in the mail, period to be honest. So, it took some time to round up all the addresses of the people I was going to send cards to. My friends had spread out far and wide over the years. Thank goodness for Facebook. Then, it took several hours to actually sit down, write in the cards, sign them, and then address and stamp the envelopes. Next time I do this, I am definitely investing in labels. I'm not sure how my mother did this year after year. She made it look so easy.

I really like the glittery ones :)

Personally, I'm not sure how many of my friends mail out cards for Christmas, but I think it is a nice way of letting people know that you are thinking of them during the holiday season. This is a tradition that I plan on keeping for a long time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kitchen Adventures! - Stuffed mushrooms

Any other mushroom lovers out there? The only person who can beat my love of mushrooms in my family is my father. The two of us can put a hurting on anything that involves mushrooms. My father had no idea that I liked mushrooms until I was a teenager. It was sort of a bonding moment.

Getting mushrooms ready for the oven

Until recently, I had only been using mushrooms as a garnish or a topping. I was very naive to all the other things you could do with them. I also discovered using fresh mushrooms instead of those in a jar. The difference was amazing. Coming across a stuffed mushroom recipe was an accident. I feel like this recipe was has been waiting for me to find it. I went ahead and tried it, because why not.

They are the best when they are warm and gooey!

The filling is mushroom stems, garlic, onion, cream cheese and parmesan cheese. My only complaints were the filling tasted a bit too salty, while the mushroom caps tasted a bit too fresh. I blame human error. I added salt when I sauteed  the mushrooms, onions and garlic, not thinking how much salt the cheese had. Also, I think the filling needs a bit more. An herb or something to brighten it up. I added crab meat to the filling, but it wasn't enough for me to notice it, flavor wise. Not sure how I'm going to remedy that in future.

The mushrooms did taste much better the next day. So, all in all, it wasn't a bad recipe. Just one that needs some tweaking. I have a feeling that once I get this right, it is going to become one of my quick and easy go to dishes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Nightfall Saga: Secrets Revealed (Part 6)

Lord Jaias watched as the carriage that had brought his sister and estranged niece to his doorstep finally pulled away. Tobias stood a step behind him. There was an icy silence. Jaias’ normal countenance was marked with agitation, his brow furrowed and forehead wrinkled. But, he only stood there, hands folded behind him.

“What will you have done now, sir?” Tobias asked, watching the carriage disappear into the distance.
 

“For now, we simply sit and wait. Have Matthias watch Cixithara. I’m sure that she will be returning to House Silvacce."

The elven lord turned to head back up the stairs and into the house again, "My niece will come back, Tobias. She knows that she is one of us now.”
 

“The Heads of Council?” Tobias asked, "What will they be told?"
 

“I will do my duty as the head of this House and tell them what I found. Cixithara Daybreaker is a candidate to be the next Vessel and should be treated as such.”
 





The  inside of the carriage was silent. The only sound was the rolling of the wheels against the dirt roads that left Silvermoon City. Both Cixi and Alara had taken off the fancy clothes and make up they had been decorated in for the past several days. It was back to simple clothes and plain faces, but everything between the mother and daughter seemed changed somehow. Cixi didn’t speak to her mother. She didn’t even look at her. She simply stared out the window, pretending to pay attention to the passing scenery outside.
 

“You were never supposed to know,” Lady Alara said in a low voice.
 

“Know what? That I was forced to be something else that I was never any good at in the first place?” Cixi spat out, a tinge of bitterness edging her words.
 

“You are were chosen as Guardian for First Hunt. The Elders recognize you, just like they recognize your brothers and recognized your father. Do not let Lord Jaias’ words poison everything you know about yourself.”
 

“What about Zendier and Taulithran? Are my brothers the same as me?”
 

Lady Alara ran her hand over her mouth before she spoke. The words slowly came past her lips, obvious that she was measuring the weight of every word coming out of her mouth.
 

“They are gifted, but not like you. You were different. Even when you were little, there was something about you and magic that your brothers just didn’t have.”
 

“Why didn’t you give me a choice?” Cixi asked, finally turning her face away from the window, “If you knew what I could do with magic, why did you not give me the choice of being a mage?”
 

“Because I was afraid that you would chose to be one of them,”  Lady Alara answered back, "And you  have no idea what they would have made you become."

"At least they were honest."

Cixi didn’t bother going back home.  She wanted to be by herself for a while, Just to  at least straighten things out in her head. The carriage dropped her off at the front gates of the Silvacce Estate. Cixi didn't smile and wave as the carriage left. Instead, she shoved her hands in pockets and watched as the brightly colored hawkstriders pull the carriage away.

Cixi's mind raced with a thousand thoughts as she slowly walked down the dirt paths that laced the Silvacce estate. Most of them starting with “what if”. Then, it came suddenly. A sharp pain behind Cixi’s eyes. Unlike any headache she had ever experienced before, in a matter of moments, the pain became excruciating. Cixi’s head throbbed, like someone was shoving a spike between her eyes and into her skull. She grabbed the sides of her head and crumpled her to knees. Bright blinding lights streaked across her vision. The only thing she could hear was the thumping of her own racing heart beat in her ears. 

Moments later, Cixi fell over in the grass, writhing, her screams of pain caught in her throat, the piercing pain only going deeper into her skull. The last thing she remembered before passing out was seeing an outline of a woman’s face in the blinding flash of light.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Nightfall Saga: Secrets Revealed (Part 5)

“Lord Jaias has instructed that he not be disturbed at this time, milady. He should be done very soon. If you would come back at that time, I am sure he will take an audience with you.”
 

The servants were not allowed to put their hands on Lady Alara. She knew that and they knew that. But it didn’t keep the servants from trying anything else they could in order to get her to stop. However, all of their efforts were for not. Lady Alara still pushed her way through, towards her brother’s study. As she entered the outer room, she heard something. Something very familiar. What was that? Was it music? Alarra hoped that it was just her frazzled nerves, creating the noise in her own head, playing on her worst fears. She remembered that song, quite well. What felt like a lifetime ago, her father had handed her a toy and told her to open it. She remembered the way he looked at her as those pieces slid across the sides.
 

She grasped the handle of her brother’s study and yanked it, barreling through the door as she did so. There was only quiet afterwards. Quiet that was fringed with a soft melody playing, the music that Alara had hoped she was only hearing inside of her own head. That dreaded song. That terrible song.
 

Cixi stared at her mother’s wide eyes with a startled stare of her own. She dropped the small box on the desk, music still continuing to play. Lord Jaias stood up from his chair and took several steps toward his sister.
 

“What…what have you done?” Alara replied, her stomach sinking with every second.
 

“It’s just a puzzle box…” Cixi started to explain.
 

“How long have you known?”
 

Cixi stopped talking. Lord Jaias had walked around his desk and was facing his sister. There were no pleasantries passed or civility faked. There was nothing but raw reality between the two of them now. It felt as if her mother and uncle had forgotten that she was even in that room. The conversation was now just them.
 

“You had absolutely no right! You had no right!”
 

Lady Alarra’s shouting had no effect on her brother. His voice only became colder and deeper.
 

“How long have you known?” he repeated,”How long did you keep this from the rest of us? How long did you keep it away from Father? From the Heads of the Houses?”
 

“Cixithara is a trained hunter, just like her father and his father before him…”
 

“…with Ebonlynx blood running through her veins! Something you can’t erase no matter how badly you want to! There is a reason that your daughter was never able to fit into that excuse for a House that you married into.”
 

“My daughter will never be one of you! Not as long as I have breath in my body!”
 

“Stop shouting!”
 

Alarra and Jaias turned from each other. Cixi stood there, opened puzzle box in hand. Alara half stomped, half marched her way over, reached for the toy and hurled it across the room. The box crashed into the wall. The music stopped, the glowing stopped. The box closed and relocked itself. As Cixi stared at the small toy that was now on the ground, Lady Alara grabbed Cixi by the wrist.
 

“We are leaving.”
 

Cixi yanked back.
 

“No we aren’t," Cixi replied, "Not until someone tells me what is going on.”

Story Finale: Secrets Revealed (Part 6)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Nightfall Saga: Secrets Revealed (Part 4)

“Where you any good at solving puzzle boxes?” Lord Jaias asked, moving the small cube from one hand to the other while he spoke.
 

“The pretty one I lost was simple.” Cixi replied with a smile, hands folded in her lap, “The newer puzzle boxes I got never came as easily to me as that one did. Especially as I got older. I always solved them eventually. It was probably the only thing I did better than my brothers.”
 

“This is going to sound like an odd request," Lord Jaias replied, "but I was wondering if you could do one thing for me.”
 

Lord Jaias stopped passing the puzzle box between his hands and held it out toward Cixi, the black cat facing her.
 

“Do you think that you could try solving this one?”
 

“Oh, Uncle,” Cixi said with a short giggle, “You want to see me sit here and struggle while you know how to solve it.”
 

“I have a feeling that you will probably have an easy time solving this one,” Lord Jaias replied, still keeping his hand outstretched, “Will you try it?”
 

Cixi reached her hand out and let Lord Jaias place the small cube in her hand, “Well, I suppose there is no harm in trying. But you are allowed to give me hints if it starts to take too long. Mother is expecting me out at the carriage pretty soon. She will lose her mind if find out I'm in here playing with puzzle boxes.”

"Of that I have no doubt."


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Lady Alarra clutched her skirt in both hands, sprinting as quickly as her heeled shoes would allow. She ignored the sideways glances from those she pushed her way through the corridors. She had this panicked feeling in her chest. Why hadn’t see been told about the extension? Even the servants knew? He wouldn’t. He couldn’t.
 

Lady Alarra continued running, now catching the attention of the servants that lined the hallways. They tried reaching out and stopping her, asking what it was that she was in such a hurry to get. They would be more than happy to have her wait and they go off and get it for her. But she pushed them aside just as she did everyone else.


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Cixi stared at the shiny moveable pieces, sliding one piece across and then sliding it back.
 

“You are concentrating too hard,” Lord Jaias said, seeing the furrowed lines of frustration starting to crease Cixi’s face, “Why don’t you try closing your eyes while you move the pieces?”
 

“You can’t solve a puzzle if you can’t see it,” Cixi said, still sliding the pieces around to no avail.
 

“Sometimes it’s our eyes that make the puzzle harder than what it is. Come on, Cixithara, close your eyes.”
 

Cixi twisted her mouth in disbelief but closed her eyes anyway. Lord Jaias looked down and watched as the outline of the black mountain cat emblem began to glow softly. This was quite the unexpected turn. She had done nothing more than close her eyes. The glow became brighter and Cixi slowly pulled her fingers away from the small toy. The sliding pieces started moving themselves as the puzzle box sat nested in Cixi’s hand. After a few moments, with her eyes still closed, Cixi pressed the emblem with her thumb and the box came open.
 

“You were right,” Cixi replied, opening her eyes again, “That was simple. You didn’t tell me that it was a magic puzzle box. Those are always easy to open. But if yours was anything like mine, it usually does something after you open it.”
 

“You are correct. This one plays a song. Do you think that you could get it to play?”
 

Lord Jaias leaned forward, a new intrigue sparking in his powder haired niece.


 Story continues: Secrets Revealed (Part 5)