Follow by Email

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Simple Chicken Stew

Simple Chicken Stew

This is another recipe in my continuing effort to get you off pizza and burgers, and turn you into a skillful chef, with simple and delicious fixin’s that don’t require much prep or thought or special kitchen skills.  As a matter of fact, all you need to do is to hustle to the kitchen, pop a cork of your favorite vintage, sip to make sure it didn’t go bad, and tell yourself, if Stroud can do it, anyone can. No need to whimper in the darkness and dream of days gone by, when glorious meals were only a credit card away.

Just trying to help, folks.  This lip smacker is titled:  Simple Chicken Stew

Isn’t that easier to say than Chicken Stew That Carries the Delight of A Parisian Bistro And Brings Romance Back Into Your Pitiful Life?

Take another sip.  This is going to be so easy.

4 Chicken thighs, bone in (If it has skin, peel it off and toss it)
Olive Oil
Roughly chop, a handful of baby carrots, two stalks of celery, an onion, four green onions, three medium potatoes (peeled)
4 Cups of chicken Broth + 2 condensed cubes of Chicken broth
2 Tablespoons Herbes de Provence
Salt and Pepper.

Getting’ to it!

Slosh a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large pot with a lid, or Dutch oven.  Heat the oil, dust the chicken with salt and pepper and sear in the pan until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.

Toss the roughly chopped vegetables in the same pot.  Add a bit more oil if necessary.  Cook on medium heat and stir now and then, until the vegetables are soft.

Add the chicken broth, mix, then add the two cubes of condensed chicken broth.  Stir well.

Debone the chicken, shred or chop the meat and toss it into the pot, along with the thighbones.  Note:  the bones intensify the flavor and the little bits you didn’t get off the bones will flake off while cooking. The bones are easily removed before serving.

Add the Herbes de Provence and more salt and pepper if needed.

Put the top on the pot and set the heat for a low simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Just beginning to simmer

Even more delicious served over rice. Wine? I served a Pinot Gris from Alsace.

Cooked to perfection
See, that was so quick you barely had time to finish that second bottle of wine!  Cheers!  Bravo!  À votre santé!  Who said you couldn’t cook???

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Three Sensational Novels!

Three Sensational Novels!

Ah, the vanity of self promotion.  With most of my faithful readers ensconced in their tidy mansions, with wives or loved ones, living the quietly dull life and eagerly yearning for adventure, I take this brief moment to reintroduce you to the pleasures of reading…specifically my three novels, which Amazon will so thoughtfully deliver to your door in paperback form, or via electronic delivery for fans of Kindle.

The covers of all three are on the right side of this page, and have certain things in common:  They are all southern mysteries….but of course practically every novel is a mystery in the sense of you’re got no idea how it going to end, other wise you’d read the first chapter and quit.    All three take place in Cassarora County, a fictitious place crawling with quirky characters, and blistering secrets. All three are stand-alone plots, but the second and third novels share central characters.

To take them in order:

Cassavora County – local politics, a possible murder, and a tangled school board.  Jake Morgan is running for a post on the school board and is in over his head in a snake-pit.

As one reader wrote:  The whole political mudslinging package comes coated in Southern Fried charms, with an unmistakable whiff of honeysuckle that will keep you spellbound to the end of every antebellum page.  … Edward Rasimus, author of several classic books on the air war in Vietnam

Lowdown. Dirty. Shame. introduces Jack Hudson, a small town writer who volunteers to help a college frat buddy keep tract of a wayward wife, someone with whom Jack is very familiar.  And before he can take a breath, he’s caught up in a wife’s disappearance and surrounded by dangerous secrets at every turn.

A reader’s comments:  A treat for readers…Jack Hudson, a likeable guy in a small town…He’s witty, smart and attractive, a wicked trifecta…If you like to root for the good guy, that at times looks dirty, then Jack is your man and this book is a must read!  William Stroud second novel, Lowdown. Dirty. Shame. is yet another fun read, with wit and charm, just like his debut novel, Cassavora County.   …Stephanie McKee, noted educator and world traveler.

Maybe Murder is the latest novel in the misadventures of Jack Hudson.

As usual, Jack is caught in the sticky business of life and death, kill or be killed.  And he’s being blackmailed. And the body of a girlfriend’s ex is found in his home.  And, his girlfriends, old and new, have their own secrets and agendas.  Such is the life of a small town writer.  The situation in Cassavora County has never been darker, or more confusing, or deadly.  Somehow Jack has got to figure out how to survive the madness, while sorting out his love life, staying out of jail, and most importantly staying alive.

One note of caution:  As you desperately prowl Amazon in a frenzied search for these fine, glorious, interesting southern mysteries, use both the author’s name, William Stroud, and the name of the book. There are several William Strouds on Amazon and many similar book titles.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Cornbread Cakes

Cornbread Cakes

Some would call these cornmeal pancakes.  Ok. Your choice.  See, I am a true son of the South.  And with that heritage comes an attachment to cornbread that borders on honoring your parents and the rest of your kin. So, for me, these are cornbread cakes.

Saying you’re from the south is a statement that covers a lot of territory, with a lot of flavors, but cornbread and barbecue and everything fried pretty well covers the field.

Now, in these trying times, I do have to take a step back.  Your pantry may not contain all the traditional ingredients.  But, necessity being the overseer of hunger, you do what you have to do and southerners are pretty well equipped for that.

With all that in mind, I’m going to give you two recipes.  The first is a standard version and the second is a ‘dang, I don’t have that’ version.  The second is the one I made because dang and don’t have that became my watchwords.

Makes about 8 pancakes

1 1/3 Cups all purpose flour
2/3 Cup cornmeal
2 Tablespoons sugar
4 Teaspoons baking powder
1 Teaspoon salt
1 1/3 Cups of milk
2 Eggs
¼ Cup Canola oil

Mix the dry ingredients, then mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then mix them together until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Pour ¼ cup of batter onto a hot, lightly greased skillet.  When bubbles appear on the top of the pancake, flip it over.

Ok, now for my version.  In addition to necessary substitutions, I have to warn you that when cooking, I use the TLAR method, pronounced Tee-Lar and meaning That Looks About Right.

Makes about 8 cakes

1 Cup cornmeal
1 Cup gluten free King Arthur flour
2 Tablespoons of sugar, more or less
1 Teaspoon of salt, I guess
4 Teaspoons of baking powder, I think

About 1 1/3 Cup Almond Milk
2 eggs
A slosh of Canola oil

Do all the things I told you about before.  Almost forgot.  I mixed all the dry ingredients, then mixed the wet ingredients right on top of the dry ingredients.  No one arrested me and they tasted wonderful, so I guess that was ok.

Now you can say what you want about the south, but if it’s not complimentary, just don’t say it around me.  It distracts me when I’m trying to cook.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Throw Together Spaghetti

Throw Together Spaghetti

These days you have all the time in the world to plan a meal, but there’s always a catch.  Today, the catch was I had plenty of stuff on hand, too much to warrant a trip to the grocers. Doesn’t sound like much of a catch, but I also had no plan.

See, I’m a guy who likes to dine, not just eat. So, I searched the cupboards and refig and saw some things that piqued my interest.

I decided on spaghetti, but there was no way to overcome my prideful exuberance and just pour some red sauce over noodles.  Some things just aren’t done in my kitchen.

Didn’t want a cream or cheese sauce either.  Much too much of a cliché.

What I came up with was something that even my fastidious significant other declared to be a tolerable dish.  High praise indeed from someone who eats pizza with a knife and fork and insists that I make salad dressing and bake my own biscuits for breakfast.  Well, it wasn’t breakfast time and there was no lettuce, so that simplified the matter.

I’m a simple man, with exquisitely simple tastes.   But, just to be sure I was on the right track, try this recipe yourself, making your own changes to suit what your pantry holds.

Throw Together Spaghetti

1 Pound ground pork
½ Sweet onion, diced
1 Regular sized colorful sweet bell pepper or a few baby bells, diced
Many good shakes of Italian Rustic herbs (list provided on a photo below)
A full package of whichever spaghetti noodles you have on hand (cooked according to package directions
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Slosh in a goodly amount of olive oil in a medium to large skillet.  Cook the ground pork, breaking it up as much as possible.  Add the diced onions.

When the onion is translucent, add the chopped bell pepper and the seasonings.  Stir repeatedly, then pour in ¾ cup of water to steam the mixture until all the water evaporates.  Take the mixture off the stove.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti.  When done, drain and add olive oil to the pot.  Put the spaghetti back in the pot and stir.  Add more oil if you want, then add the sauce.  Mix well.

Serve with a toss of Parmesan and some sliced green onions.
Now pour yourself some Italian wine, white or red, your choice.

A throw together meal that’s fast and easy and one you won’t forget.


Monday, March 30, 2020

The Song Within Me Sings So Sweet

Fragmented plans of yesterday
Still haunt me as I lie abed
And dream of dreams that went astray
And all the things that went unsaid.

But, yesterday’s a fading dream
Accomplishments and failures too,
The gavel of life’s auctioneer
Has scattered most beyond my view.

And now today, the sleepy child
The newborn babe of my today
Awaits the calling of the wild
Enchanting calls I must obey.

No time to tarry or to wait
New beginnings greet my mind
No time to murmur it’s too late
But, let my eyes to tears be blind. 

All those things once left undone
Strong yearnings of my youthful heart
Still live within me, every one
To start my day, renew my spark.

Shall I paint or write a book?
Shall I breach a foreign wall?
Tread the path I never took?
Cast off fear that I will fall?

Life’s not over while I breathe
I shed the troubles of the past
New ideas within me seethe. 
And not yet have the dice been cast.

The song within me sings so sweet
Each note becomes a clarion call
That leads me on with every beat
Embracing dreams within us all.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Beef Bourguignon: Easy and Delicious!

 Beef Bourguignon:  Easy and Delicious!

Ok, so it’s not exactly the time to be jolly.  Illness is sweeping the globe. You’re stuck in your house. The house is already so clean you can’t stand it.  The clothes are washed and folded and refolded.

But, hey, the wine cabinet is full, n’est pas?  That alone is cause to put on some soft music and think naughty thoughts.  OH, already done that?  You’re way ahead of me!  My apologies for interrupting….  

But, just in case, here’s some unwanted, necessary advice?  Pour yourself some vin de chez vous, suga, put on some soft music, light a few candles, and let’s make some stuck-in-the-house French comfort food.  Before we start, better pour yourself another.  I suggest red, but hey, who am I to spoil a good party?

I promise this recipe is a delicious way to go through a bottle or two of jolly good red on your way to whoopee-land.

And by the way, why is Beef Bourguignon called that?  The dish originated in the French province of Burgundy or in French: Bourgogne.

Easy, Delicious Beef Bourguignon (Biscuit recipe follows)
Note: I changed the traditional recipe to simplify and match what I had on hand.
3 pounds beef roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
Salt, pepper
Enough flour to lightly dust the meat (I used rice flour, but any flour will do)
1 Cup or more of red wine
3-4 Cups beef broth
3 Potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled, cut into chunks
1 Big handful of baby carrots (or large carrots cut into chunks)
1 Stalk celery, cut into bite sized pieces.
Thin sliced green onions for garnish and to lend a fresh taste
3-4 Tablespoons Canola Oil, or another oil that can stand up to high heat
Rice as an accompaniment 
Biscuits also as an accompaniment
Oven to 300ºF or 150ºC

Before you start on the beef, make the biscuits (recipe below).

Put the beef, salt and pepper in a large bowl and dust with the flour.

Using a large Dutch oven, with a lid, put oil in the pan and turn on the heat.  Before the oil starts to smoke, cook the meat a batch at a time, to just brown.  Don’t cook all the juice out!

Put all the meat back on the heat and pour in the wine, scrapping the bottom to deglaze the pan.

With the pan deglazed, pour in the beef broth, add the vegetables and put the lid on the pan.  Pop it in the pre-heated oven and cook for about two hours, or until the meat is very tender.

Remove the pan from the oven and put it back on the stovetop to simmer, and reduce the liquid to a medium thick gravy. 

Serve over rice, garnished with thin sliced green onions.

I also served mine with biscuits.  Here’s the recipe:

And for dessert?  Cheery  Cherry Pie, naturally.  You’re thinking, Cherry Pie?  Really?  Yes, brothers and sisters, in times of ubiquitous illness, others may turn to chicken noodle soup, but I turn to cherry pie. Hasn’t failed me yet.

Now, let’s have another glass of your excellent wine!  Or maybe a Spanish brandy?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Picasso and Paper

My mother said to me, “If you are a soldier, you will become a general.  If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.”  Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.

On my recent trip to London, I visited the Royal Academy of Arts, on the famous Piccadilly Street, right across the street from the equally famous purveyor of fine foods to the Royal Family, Fortum & Mason.

This trip, the Royal Academy offered an exhibit of Picasso and Paper.  I knew a little about the celebrity artist, Pablo Picasso.  Visited the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid to view Picasso’s most famous and probably his most massive painting, Guernica.  Most major museums have had Picasso exhibits and I’ve seen many of them, but it was not until I visited this Royal Academy exhibit that I was able to come to grips with Picasso the man and Picasso the artist.  My simple conclusion is that the two are inseparable.

It’s impossible for me to do justice to the complete multi media panorama of Picasso’s life offered by the Academy, but I will do my best to show you what I learned about how the man was never separated from his art.  Every person he met left an impression on him, every angle, every color, every substance became an amalgam of his mind and his art.

Guitar, 1912, cut-out cardboard, pasted paper, canvas, string, oil and pencil.

So many times I’ve heard, modern art is shit, or something worse.  I see and understand your point of view, but I advise you to look past the art to the process and the intriguing mind of a man who saw art in everything, whose whole life revolved around a connection to his art.  He is reported as having said, “I learned to draw before I learned to speak.”  The Academy exhibit showed clearly that at a very early age, he created art that even now is impressive.  So, when I write that Picasso’s life revolved around art, I mean his whole life, from childhood to his passing, using every conceivable manner of artistic expression:  canvas, paper of every sort, paints, crayons, dyes, pens, pencils, brushes, clay for both sculpture and ceramics and on and on.

At the age of 9 or 10, the artist hand cut these straight from paper without drawing a line!

Face of a Woman, 1962

He worked tirelessly, throughout his life and like most true artists, he worked without fear and without stagnation of any sort.  His style changed often.  The creations that we know, such as Guernica, were the product of sketch after sketch after sketch, on paper, on canvas, with pen, with oil, with anything else that was handy, as he probed and refined unceasingly toward his masterpiece.

God is really only another artist.  He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat.  He has no real style.  He just goes on trying other things. –Pablo Picasso

Self portrait, 1907

More cut-outs from Picasso's childhood, in the foreground, mounted on clear glass.
The casual person often persists in the misapprehension that all it takes is talent, and you either have it or you don’t.  In my view, talent is merely a blank sheet of paper and what you do with it is what counts. We all have several blank sheets.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order to learn how to do it.  ---Pablo Picasso

In Picasso’s case, working every minute of everyday, closely associating with other artists, wooing women, much of which has nothing to do with art….or does it?  He embraced life and all it has to offer, to the fullest, and all of it he applied to his art.
Notebook after notebook.

Seated Woman, 1938

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.
---Pablo Picasso

One of the points of his artistic compass was to distill and simplify his art, even as it became more and more complicated.

He drew constantly and kept multiple notebooks.

The Smoker, 1962

In the studio.

It took me four years to learn to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. ---Pablo Picasso.

Most impressive was a video showing Picasso at work.  In a unique way, with the camera on one side of thin paper and the artist on the other side, we get to see the drawing appear magically.  I was also impressed with how this world famous artist took directions so guilelessly, almost meekly.  His one concern was his freehand art, content to let others handle the details.  Note also the intensity of his eyes and his concentration.  I had never seen anything like this.  It was so much more than simply a video of an artist at work, the likes of which you can find countlessly on youtube.  This was the soul of the artist captured on film.  But, this is not to say Picasso had no ego.  Quite the reverse, as with many celebrities.  How can you not when everyone near and far proclaims your genius.  His ego showed itself one evening at a dinner with friends, when instead of paying, he simply signed the check. One in his party asked if he was going to pay.   His response was words to the effect of, “My signature is worth far more than any dinner bill.”

I do apologize if the videos do not work. I have given them my best shot.

The exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts was all encompassing and brilliantly presented.  A Picasso fan or not, one could not help but be impressed by the presentations of Picasso’s art and the clear and numerous explanations.   This was an enormous assemblage of both art and a beautifully presented story of Pablo Picasso, the man, the artist.

For better understanding, I offer a very short sketch of Picasso’s life.  He was christened Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, expressing the names of saints and family.  He was born in Málaga, Spain, but the surname, Picasso, comes from near Genoa, Italy.  Picasso’s father was a painter and his first drawing tutor.

The family moved around a lot, as did Pablo as an adult.  Born in Málaga in 1880, he lived most of his adult life in France and died there in 1973.

He spoke both Spanish and French, having moved to France in 1904. He may also have spoken Catalan, since his parents moved to Barcelona when he was four.

Along the way to becoming famous, Picasso studied at a variety of art schools, yet moved in his own directions, the true sign of an artist.

Of course there are more photos! And a video!

Other studies for painting.  He did thousands over his lifetime.

This was done on paper, with ink drawing, changed many times, and then had paper with colorful designs pasted on here and there.

Plare at the Printing Press, 1969

Picasso had a fixation on the Minotaur, the mythical half man, half bull.

Country Dance, 1921, long after he developed Cubism.