Friday, February 28, 2014

Regan Recommends - Sidecars with a Sugar Rim

Regan Worth
A few nights ago, I went to dinner at Hanover's place. Hanover made some steaks on the grill and I brought wine. Toledo brought grapefruit pie for dessert and Mary brought a couple of salads. All in all, it was a fun, relaxing meal, but the big surprise came after we ate.

Hanover brought out a bottle of cognac-- the good stuff Courvoisier VSOP Exclusif. He poured us all a glass and it was nice. It warmed me up inside. But it also got me thinking about one of my favorite drinks: the sidecar.

So I asked Hanover whether he had any fresh lemons. He had lemon juice, but it's just not the same. He didn't, of course. "Why do you want lemons anyway?" he asked.

"To make a sidecar," I said.

"Ruin a good cognac," he grumbled the way he always does when I mention something tasty.

"Whatever," I rolled my eyes and filled my glass with the straight stuff. It was good, like I said, but it was definitely not a sidecar.

Well, last night I got a surprise. Hanover stopped by with a basket of everything you need to make a sidecar. "What's the occasion?" I asked as he squeezed the lemons.

"Does there have to be an occasion?" he asked. "I was just thinking back to that boat we went on. You know...the Mud Imp. Is that what it was called?"

"The A. Neon Mud Imp. What a disaster that night was."

"I wouldn't call it a disaster. We had a good time, didn't we?" Hanover poured some cognac in the shaker.

"Not too heavy on the cognac, Hanover. I like mine a little on the tart side."

"If you want it tart, why do you put sugar on the rim?" He poured  in an equal amount of Cointreau.

Hanover always gripes about my sugar. But the fact is, I invented putting sugar on the rim of a drink. I was fifteen, I think, and I'd hang out at the Owl listening to Daddy play. They'd pour me hooch, if I asked, but it was hard to drink. So I wiped the rim of my glass with a lemon and dipped it in sugar. When I had my first sidecar a few years later, I knew it would go good with sugar. And people copied me and before long, it was all the rage.

"I just like it that way," I said. 

"Ruin a good drink," Hanover grumbled. But he wiped lemon around the rim and dipped it in granulated sugar. 

He poured the mixture into the two glasses -- one with sugar, one without.

"I think we'd better toast," he handed me my glass.

"To what?" I asked. "I thought there was no occasion."

"It looks like we might be going on another adventure?" he said.

"Where?" I asked.

"It's a surprise." He smiled and we touched glasses. Hanover knows how much I like surprises.

If you want to know more about our adventure on the A. Neon Mud Imp, you can read about it in High Rollers. If you want to know more about how to make a sidecar, visit Sidecar Recipe.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Toledo Talks - Apple Cider Vinegar

Toledo Cats
Although my Uncle Jesse is most recognized for his rum, he also brews a fine hard cider. When we were kids, Hanover and I would sometimes visit him at the old house where he and Mama and Aunt Delilah grew up. At harvest time we'd climb the apple trees, picking the apples that grew on the highest branches. His apples are the finest. They have a tart sweet crunch. We still visit now and then, but Hanover won't climb the trees anymore. His tree-climbing days ended when he fell out of one when we were six. Jesse moved away not long after that, but he moved back to the farm in 1922 and he still lives there. He's old, but not too old to brew cider.

Jesse always has a barrel of cider open. He says it keeps him young. I don't argue with him. It wouldn't do any good anyway. Even Mama knew that.

When we were kids, he'd pour me and Hanover a thimble full when Mama wasn't looking. She always wondered why we got so sleepy on the boat ride home. She always brought a few jugs home for herself. One of those jugs was reserved for making apple cider vinegar. After Jesse moved away, we'd go out to pick apples and Mama tried her hand at brewing hard cider. It wasn't like Jesse's, but it was good enough for making vinegar.
Mama made her apple cider vinegar in mason jars. The jars were lined up in the corner of her clothes closet, where she could be sure the sun wouldn't shine and ruin it. She would always use the last bit as the starter for the next batch. Mama never filtered hers. She just shook it up every time she used it, mixing the filmy mother of vinegar in with the clear amber liquid.

I keep mine in the drying shed while it cures. I also filter it. But before I do, I put aside a bit that contains the mother of vinegar so I'll have a starter for the next batch. It takes a couple months for hard cider to turn to vinegar, so I usually have a few batches at different stages in the process. If you're curious about how to make apple cider vinegar, you can find more information here.

Apple cider vinegar is good for a lot of things. It helps improve digestion and can even lower blood sugar. Mary O'Malley keeps some on hand to ease sunburn. Being red-headed and Irish, the sun is lethal to her. Hanover, however, prefers his apple cider hard. If you want to learn more about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, here's a link to apple cider vinegar on WebMD.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Scramble

Mary O'Malley
The answer to last week's scramble was:

Toledo looked into her mama’s eyes, expecting to see only the dark cloak her mama used to hide her true feelings. Instead, she saw particles of sand rise up and transform into a  coyote baying at the moon. The howl resonated with loneliness, pain, and yearning.  

Unfortunately, we did not have a winner.  I'll try to make this week's scramble a little easier. I told you I was new at this.

This week's quote is from Rips in the Weave, the first book in the Dime Store Novel series. It's a prequel to the stories about me, Hanover, Toledo and Regan. It's about Toledo's mother and her sister Delilah.

Here's the quote:

The __________ lashed his white __________ tail and __________, low and __________. “You’ve lost your sister. __________ calls to me.”


This week's winner receives an ebook copy of Rips in the Weave. 

Good Luck!

And remember to check back during the week. If no one has solved the puzzle, I'll add some hints to the comments.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Regan Recommends -- Rabbit Quinn

I grew up with music. My father was Blazing Fingers Worth, after all, one of the top jazz pianists in New Orleans during the first part of the 20th century. I could never play, but I can sure recognize someone who can.

Last week, I got a treat. I stopped by the Red Rock Coffee for a latte and was amazed. "Who is that woman on stage?" I asked the guy behind the coffee bar.I pulled a ciggie out of my purse and snapped my lighter.

"Rabbit Quinn," he answered. "You can't smoke in here, by the way."
"Since when?"
"Ummmm....forever. As long as I can remember."
I looked at the guy...well boy, really. He had a fresh face and a blonde bang that fell across his forehead. Kind of cute, but much too young for me. "Oh right. I'm in California, aren't I?"
He looked at me like I was from Mars. "Of course you're in California."
"Hmmm. Hey, are those special brownies?"
"Special?  Oh, you mean pot brownies?  No. You have to go to a dispensary for those unless you drive on up to Washington. Are you planning to order something?"
"A double latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon."

The boy turned his attention to the espresso machine and I focused on the music. Her fingers stroked the keys with an intimacy I have rarely experienced with Hanover or anyone else for that matter. She understood every nuance of its tone. Her voice was soulful and resonated deep in my heart, then it soared, taking me with her to another realm...her realm. Her music was both haunting and true. I realized that like me, she had sensed the others -- the ones that walk this earth without the ability to touch another. She looked young, but so do I. I wondered how much she knew, how many of those shadowy places she frequented in her dreams. I felt a tap on my shoulder and realized the boy had put a steaming cup next to me. I put a five dollar bill on the counter and carried the cup to a nearby table. I knew where I was spending the next hour or so. And for awhile, immersed in the music of Rabbit Quinn, I didn't even care that I couldn't light up.

Rabbit Quinn's debut album Lost Children is available on iTunes and CDBaby.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Toledo Talks -- Celery Root: Ugly but Beautiful

I remember watching Mama cook celery root when I was five or six. I remember being scared of the ugly thing she plopped down on the counter -- all rough and misshapen. I said "I'm not gonna eat that, Mama."

Hanover was there and he said, "Me and Swampy play catch with those things."

Mama said, as I imagine most Mamas do, "You'll eat what I put on the table and you'll like it."

Celery root
I ate it, of course. Mama had a way of making sure I ate my vegetables and it usually involved some fresh-baked pie or cobbler cooking in the oven, filling the room with a fragrant promise for later, after I'd managed to choke down this awful looking monster of a vegetable.

As I grew older, celery root became just part of the meal. Something we ate from time to time, especially when Mama was stressed or if I had an important test in school the next day. I came to enjoy its sweet, spicy flavor and would even sometimes ask Mama to make it.

Sliced celery root
Hanover even likes it, especially when it is cooked up with carrots, onion, beef, and tomato. It turns out he had always liked it and he was just giving Mama trouble. Sure, he and Swampy tossed around the root. Swampy had cultivated some he'd found. Late each autumn, he'd convince Hanover to help him dig it up and toss it in the cellar. Through the winter, Swampy would use the root himself and sell it to the chefs around town. It turns out, some consider it something of a delicacy. They call it celeriac.

Celery root with carrots and onions
I didn't fully appreciate celery root until much later, after Mama had passed on to a life without me. Of course she'd told me of its health benefits -- she knew even before the scientists did -- that it was good for the digestive system and helped calm stressed out teenagers. She knew it helped people to be mentally alert and she'd often take a raw chunk of it along on deliveries if she suspected the labor would be a long and difficult one. But like most kids, I never paid much mind.

Hanover's Favorite
Then one day, I remembered. Hanover was distraught about a case he was working on. He was particularly bothered about how the victims were murdered. I wanted to cook him up something special to help him relax. So I sautéed up some celery root, carrots, and onions. I put a nice small roast on top, along with sliced tomato and let them cook until they were rare -- just the way Hanover likes them. Then I melted a little Parmesan cheese on top. I served it to Hanover along with some red wine.
I'm not saying it worked magic. I've sworn never to work magic on Hanover. But it did help him relax. The next morning, Hanover woke early and reexamined the evidence. He saw something he'd never noticed before -- a pattern he'd never seen. I like to think the celery root had something to do with it.

Do you want to know more about celery root? Here are some links:
Health Benefits of Celery Root
What to Cook Now: Celery Root
What is Celeriac?

I'd like to give a special thanks to Paul's Farm Fresh Produce Market for the organic vegetables and grass-fed beef used in the photo shoot. It was all delicious.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Scramble

I'm Mary O'Malley. I know it's been a long time since I've blogged, so I figured I'd better introduce myself again. I've decided to start something new. You see, I'm a language buff and I have been since I was a kid.

I loved Sunday mornings. Dad would read the funnies and I'd work out the puzzles. Crossword puzzles, word scrambles, find-the-word. Anything that had to do with letters, I snagged it.

So I thought it would be fun to start my own Sunday Scramble. Every Sunday I'm going to post a quote from one of our books. Some of the words will be missing. I'll give you the letters that spell the words and all you need to do is unscramble them and fill in the blanks. I'll give a scrambled version of each word below, but the words won't be in the same order they appear in the quote.

Sound easy?  I hope it won't be too easy.  I always liked a challenge. But remember, I'm knew at this puzzle creation. I'm more a puzzle solver in the books. So make sure to let me know if it's too easy or too hard.

Oh, the best part is...the first person who solves the puzzle gets an ebook copy of the book the quote is from. Ready?

This week's quote is from The Reunion.

__________ looked into her mama’s eyes, expecting to see only the __________   __________ her mama used to hide her true feelings. Instead, she saw __________ of sand rise up and transform into a  __________   __________ at the moon. The howl __________ with loneliness, pain, and __________ 

Scrambled Words