Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall Re-runs


Today my weekend treat was to re-watch “Julie and Julia.” After about fifteen mouthwatering minutes of the film, I had to rush to the grocery store. Then, my hands smelling of garden-fresh tomatoes and cradling a baguette like a baby, I rushed home to make bruschetta so my taste buds and I could finish the movie together. Every scene is a delight, especially the moment when Julie takes the stuffed duck out of the oven in its perfect crust…that gets me every time I watch this movie.

Julie Powell (whose autobiographical book, Julie and Julia, is the basis for the film) is shown as a rather whiny loser who at 29 finds herself in a dead-end job, living over a pizzeria, feeling like a failure and sinking into hopelessness. But the spark of an idea --the decision to cook her way through Julia Child’s cookbook and blog about it—changes her life completely. I love that concept. And who couldn’t love Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child? After reading My Life in France, I can see even more that her characterization of Child is perfect. Oh, and let’s not forget the Childs’ love story: a gangly and rather comical spinster measuring 6’ 2” meets an older, balding yet dapper man, and they fall madly in love and travel the world together…she adores him and he supports her in everything she does, gives her wings and watches her fly. It’s pure sweetness because it really happened. That concept of delighting in your spouse as a person, of doing everything you can to make their dreams materialize--I see that in my husband, and I love the movie even more for that reason.

Yes, yes, I’ve written about the book and movie before…but darling, I’m rather obsessed. I have the lamentable of habit of becoming immersed in an idea, book, movie, life story, or, of course, a food item. Often the fascination never goes away. My poor husband should be sainted for showing unflagging interest in my babblings about each obsession. I was going to treat you to a list of them, but then I would probably bore you so much, dear reader, and what have you done to deserve that?

Happy weekend, all. I hope your favorite sports team beats the opponent soundly in the skirmish, as Brian Regan would say. :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Stephanie Nielson, A Virtuous Woman

I can't stop reading Stephanie Nielson's blog at http://nieniedialogues.blogspot.com.
Stephanie is amazing. Reading her story has changed my outlook on life, and I pray that she will be blessed for her fortitude and strength.

For anyone who doesn't know her story, Stephanie survived a plane crash in 2008. She was in a long coma, and was badly burned. Her face and body are covered with scars. It is hard for her to do everyday things like open a ziploc bag or take a shower. I watched an interview with Stephanie at http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Blogger-Stephanie-Nielsons-Daily-Struggles-Video. It was truly heartbreaking to hear her adorable little boy saying "Mommy, pick me up. I want you to pick me up," and to hear her say "I can't pick you up, sweetie." I choked up when I saw the Nielson family picture taken before the plane crash--a beautiful mother, handsome father, and four sweet children. I cried when Stephanie (in her blog) told of the day that the carpet cleaning man accidentally saw her naked after she was leaving the shower. Embarrassed and ashamed at the distressing incident and her disfigured body, she cried for thirty minutes and snuck out of the house so that she wouldn't have to face him.

I feel so guilty for any time that I have felt dissatisfied with my appearance for any reason. From now on I want to just be grateful for my normal and therefore beautiful face, my normal and therefore beautiful body, my ability to use my hands, hug a child, kiss my husband. I want to focus on how much God has blessed me, and not concentrate on what I lack.

Stephanie is amazing. Reading her story has changed my outlook on life, and I pray that God will bless her for her strength and fortitude in the face of this devastating trial. Like me, Stephanie belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She says that her love for God has increased, and that He gives her comfort when she has difficulty. Bless you, Stephanie! Bless you for reaching out to others through talks, interviews and blogging when you could just hide away in bitterness and pain. Bless you for sticking with your faith and your God, even when life can be unbearably hard for you. You are an inspiration for all of us, and my prayers are with you during these dark days of your life. Thank you, you wonderful, virtuous woman. "For who can find a virtuous woman? Her price is far above rubies...Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates." (Proverbs 31:10, 30-31)

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Special Sauce

What a weekend! On the first weekend in October and the first weekend in April, we see broadcasted to the world the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We hear the words of the Lord's prophet, apostles and disciples. The words were uplifting and comforting to our souls. It's truly a time of spiritual renewal and personal guidance. If you didn't get a chance to watch it, go to http://lds.org/conference/sessions/display/0,5239,23-1-1298,00.html.

Between Conference sessions, my husband and I enjoyed experimenting with a new recipe for dinner. We made stuffed bell peppers with mole sauce (pronounced "mo-lay", it is a Mexican sweet/spicy mixture). They were excellent, and I had to share the recipe. I found this at allrecipes.com.

Note: Don't have all the ingredients on hand? Never fear, I have a list of excellent substitutions at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!


Stuffed Bell Peppers with Special Sauce
Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
1 cup water

4 large Anaheim chile peppers (I used red, yellow and green bell peppers...yum!!!)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons hot chili powder
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 (1 ounce) square bittersweet chocolate, chopped

8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  • Place the chicken, taco seasoning mix, and water into a resealable plastic zipper bag, seal, and massage the bag with your fingers to mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.
    Cut the stem and top 1/2 inch from the top of each pepper, and carefully remove the seeds without cutting holes or breaking skin of the peppers. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and immerse the peppers in the boiling water for 3 minutes; cool immediately in a bowl of cold water. Drain the peppers and set aside.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, cumin, and cinnamon; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and chili powder, and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and stir in the chocolate until it melts and blends into the sauce. Allow the sauce to gently simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • Drain the marinated chicken breasts, and place into a skillet over medium heat. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes; remove chicken to a bowl, and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat, and lightly mix in a bowl with Monterey Jack cheese, cream cheese, and cilantro. Stuff each pepper with 1/4 of the chicken mixture, and place on a baking sheet.
    Preheat the oven's broiler and set the oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source.
    Broil the stuffed peppers until blistered and hot, about 4 1/2 minutes per side. Serve with sauce.
Substitutions and Additions:
  • If you don't have cream cheese, use 1 cup of plain yogurt.
  • If you don't have cilantro, use parsley and celery salt to taste (mostly parsley with a little celery salt).
  • If you don't have bittersweet chocolate, use 3 tbsp. of cocoa powder with 1 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. of sugar.
  • I also recommend adding red pepper if you like things spicy.