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Ahhh, The Slow Life and Lucca-Style Olives Print E-mail
by Sandra Lewis    Fri, May 25, 2007, 11:23 AM
As a child my favorite piece of playground equipment was the merry-go-round. I would grab on, run as fast as I could, jump on, and then hang on for dear life especially if the merry-go-round had the momentum of several kids giving it a go.

With every dizzying rotation it was a battle; gravity versus me. Sometimes gravity won; sometimes I triumphed making my way to the center and standing triumphantly.

Transition to adult life. It’s busy, hectic, and fast. Traffic. Alarms. Appointments. Meetings. Deadlines. Plane schedules. Rental cars. Rental car shuttles. Airport security lines. Double-booked calendars. Email and the incessant cell phone. Constant noise. Radios. Loudspeakers. Slot machine’s dinging (that one’s random, but I’m in Vegas at the moment).

Sometimes it’s too much. And I feel like that little girl on the merry-go-round losing my grip, one knuckle, two knuckle, three knuckes. Gone!

Except I never really fall off, just down. And without my help the merry-go-round of life just keeps on spinning.

Yet there are moments for me, spent mostly in the kitchen and around the dining table with friends and family when I feel I’m defying the gravitational pull of the fast life.

Fresh ingredients. Alluring aromas. Pleasing tastes. Enchanting wine. Fantastic conversation. Laughs. Smiles. Memories. Refreshing.

Yes, I need more of these slow moments, see the smile?



A year and a half ago I joined Slow Food – an international organization with 80,000 members who share my sentiment. Founded in 1989, Slow Food’s mission is to revive the joy of eating with an emphasis on taste, promote diversity in our food chain, and link artisanal producers with consumers.

It’s a growing movement. The Slow Food Dallas chapter now has more than 200 members.



It takes a slower life to reconnect with our tastebuds, understand where our food comes from, and care about how our food choices affect our planet and ourselves.

So I joined with eight other Slow Food Dallas members for a communal supper this past Saturday night, each of us contributing a dish to complement an Italian-themed meal.

My contribution to the meal was the antipasta: marinated chickpeas, peppered, sliced salami alongside sliced parmigana reggiano, and Lucca-Style Roasted Olives.




My dinner mates’ contributions were a green salad served in individual homemade parmesan crisp bowls, “Braised Pork to Taste Like Wild Boar,” white cannelloni beans with rosemary, and homemade panna cotta with hazelnut praline caramel sauce, and bit of violin music ala Ariel between the main course and dessert.

It felt like we took a step back in time with food, music, and fellowship.



The supper was slow, the conversation engaging, and the food divine.

And on one more evening I triumphed.

I beat back everything that is fast about my life to stand triumphantly and serenely in the middle of the merry-go-round.

Lucca-Style Roasted Olives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, unpeeled, lightly crushed
5 or 6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 pint (about 2 cups) oil-cured black olives
1/2 pint (about 1 cup) Nicoise or Alberquina olives
4 orange zest strips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cook the olive oil and garlic cloves in an ovenproof skillet over moderate heat until the cloves begin to sizzle and carmelize slightly. Add the thyme sprigs and let them sizzle in the oil for about 30 seconds. Add the olives and stir until they are hot throughout, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the orange zest.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake, stirring occasionally, until the olives start to soften, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve warm.

Sandra’s Cooking Notes:
- This is Michael Chiarello’s recipe from his book, Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking.
- If the pork recipe sounds intriguing it can be found in Marlene De Blasi's “A Thousand Days in Tuscany.” I’ve never had wild boar so I can’t compare, but the flavors made my tastebuds dance.
- The rest of the evening's photos can be found here.
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Ultimate Garlic Mashed Potatoes Print E-mail
by Sandra Lewis    Tue, May 15, 2007, 08:32 PM
Having grown up with a mother who was a solid southern cook, there was nothing remotely French about the food on our family dining table except for the fries, usually presented with a steak masterfully grilled by my father.

Never venturing far from their Southern cuisine roots my parents rarely dined out, and if they did it was never French. Mexican, absolutely, French, no way.

As captain of my own personal cuisine expedition in adulthood, I dismissed French fare as expensive (anything French is expensive), form over function (beautiful presentation over fill me up), amazingly difficult (it must be), and mysterious (besides croissants, just exactly what was French food?).

Then I booked a trip to Paris so I sought to better understand this baffling cuisine.

I picked up a copy of Julia Child’s “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” just before my departure to the City of Lights this past March.

It’s as big as a family Bible and is considered a holy book in some cooking circles; certainly it’s a classic. I lugged all 3.2 lbs. of it with me on a recent business trip and pulled it out on the plane. The man sitting next to me asked if I was a chef.

Ah, ha! I wasn’t alone in my twisted thinking that only those with formal culinary training can reckon with French cuisine!

As I read, absorbed, and explored its 752 pages, that which I had once considered beyond reach of my simple, American kitchen skills seemed surprisingly doable and delectable.

With “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” as their guide, Ariel and Emily (below) took on the task of cooking dinner on a Saturday night a couple of weeks ago. It was the first run anyone had made at French cuisine in my kitchen.



There was a buzz of activity in the kitchen. And, oh, the aroma that wafted up the stairs that drew me down the stairs. My tastebuds danced in anticipation and were not disappointed when we gathered around the dining room table.

Flavorful, Flavorful. Flavorful. And delightful.



It was a steak and potatoes night French style – “Biftek Saute Bercy and Puree De Pommes De Terre a L’Ail” – simply translated - “Pan-broiled steak with Shallot and White Wine Sauce and Garlic Mashed Potatoes.” English peas flavored with rosemary rounded out the meal and made for a beautiful presentation.

It was like Julia’s words leaping to life from the pages of her book, “’Mastering the Art of French Cooking’” is just what the title says. It is how to produce really wonderful food – food that tastes good, looks good, and is a delight to eat.”

My standard for garlic mashed potatoes was ratcheted up several notches that evening; it’s going to have to be Julia’s way or no way in my kitchen.

No longer baffling or mysterious, my affection and respect for French cuisine began when the first crumbs of a crusty baguette fell to my plate in Paris. With Julia's help, I'm looking forward to a life long love affair.

Puree De Pommes De Terre A L’ail
(Garlic Mashed Potatoes)

2 heads garlic (about 30 cloves)
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup boiling milk
1/4 teaspoon Salt
pinch of pepper
2 1/2 lb. baking potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
3-4 tablespoons whipping cream
4 tablespoons minced parsley

Separate the garlic cloves. Drop into boiling water, and boil two minutes. Drain. Peel

Cook the garlic slowly with 4 tablespoon of butter for about 20 minutes or until very tender but not browned. Blend in the flour and stir over low heat until it froths with the butter for 2 minutes without browning. Off heat, beat in the boiling milk and 1/4 tablespoon salt and pinch of pepper. Boil, stirring, for one minute. Rub the sauce through a sieve or puree it in a blender. Simmer for 2 minutes more.

Peel and quarter the potatoes. Drop in boiling salted water to cover, and boil until tender. Drain immediately and put through a potato ricer. Place the hot puree in a saucepan and beat with a spatula or spoon for several minutes over moderate heat to evaporate moisture. As soon as the puree begins to form a film on the bottom of the pan, remove from the heat and beat in 4 tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon at a time. Beat in salt and pepper to taste.

Shortly before serving, beat the hot garlic sauce vigorously into the hot potatoes. Beat in the cream by spoonfuls, but do not thin out the puree too much. Beat in the parsley. Correct the seasoning if needed.

Sandra’s Cooking Notes:
- I’ve taken some liberties with Julia’s recipe. The ingredient list is complete but I’ve pared down her instructions. Almost overwhelming at first read, she mixes excruciating details of the size and type of pots, pans, and cooking instruments along with the basic recipe instructions. But remember that her original audience was the 1961 American cook and you’ll love her for the attention to detail.
- This dinner is a fond memory. It was the last meal Emily (pictured below) prepared in my kitchen before she returned to Utah, her home state. After she finished her nursing degree at Baylor this spring, her family, and her first nursing job beckoned her home.



- Hannah and I had a lovely time in Paris. It is a beautiful city filled with never-ending wonder at each twist and turn of its lovely streets. If you’re interested in seeing our photos, click here for a video montage.

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Lennox Lewis Goes the Distance at Fight Night Print E-mail
by Sharon Adams    Sun, Apr 29, 2007, 12:28 PM
The Real Estate Council’s 19th Annual FightNight: 007 on May 3, 2007 benefits The Real Estate Council Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by The Real Estate Council, dedicated to community development.
Lennox Lewis courtesy The Real Estate Council
 
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A Special Evening with Dionne Warwick presented by Alliance Data Print E-mail
by Sharon Adams    Wed, Mar 28, 2007, 04:46 PM

Join us for an evening of favorites with musical icon Dionne Warwick

Her luminous voice will fill the Meyerson Symphony Center

at A Special Evening with Dionne Warwick hosted by Alliance Data benefiting Special Care & Career Services

warwick_dionne_1_v2.JpgDon’t miss the legendary Dionne Warwick perform at the upcoming A Special Evening with Dionne Warwick hosted by Alliance Data. This songstress will bring an entourage of musicians and fill the stage with energy as she sings your favorite tunes. Her luminous voice will be complemented with strings and other beautiful instruments that will make the evening truly magical.

On April 1st, sponsors will join co-chairs Nicole Kapioltas and Angie Hubach, along with honorary chairs Anne and Steve Stodghill, and kick-off the evening with a pre-concert reception. The Meyerson’s lobby will be transformed into an orchestration of sensory and culinary delights – a fresh, fun elegant venue in which you will enjoy tasting savory food offerings, sipping refreshing wine and mingling with friends.

Just before the concert begins, experience a fervor that will surround the live auction of an original work of art, created especially for this event, by artist Deanna Kienast. The live auction will follow the presentation of the Milton P. Levy, Jr. Outstanding Volunteer Award to Jim Hanophy, MS, CRC. This award is given annually to an individual who has exhibited leadership in supporting the mission of building independence for children and adults with disabilities, in the community.

Jim is volunteer Executive Director of Special Needs Assistance Partners, and Program Specialist in charge of the new outcomes-based payment system for supported employment launched this year by the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. Past recipients include Robert G. Pollock, Nancy Ann Hunt, Robert L. Blumenthal and former Presidents of the Board of Trustees of this evening’s beneficiary, Special Care & Career Services (SCCS).

Co-chairs Nicole Kapioltas and Angie Hubach are honored to be aligned with such a valuable community agency.

“Angie and I became involved with SCCS because we believe in the valuable services that the agency provides to children and young adults with cognitive disabilities and developmental delays,” Nicole said. “The agency has done an amazing job of working with and developing young adults with cognitive disabilities, and transforming them into vibrant, capable individuals that can find and hold good jobs within the community. And, seeing the smile of an individual who realizes his or her true value is beautiful.”

Angie’s interest in the agency and the Special Evening event also stems from her commitment to and passion for working with children and families. As a Child and Family Therapist employed by Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), she serves families with children who have developmental delays. "I know first hand through my work with ECI the world of opportunity and hope that SCCS provides to these individuals and to their families,” Angie said. “We strive for the same goals, to help our clients lead fulfilling, independent lives. There is great joy in seeing these dreams realized."

Dallas-based Alliance Data has come on board again as host sponsor as A Special Evening celebrates its sixth year as the major fundraiser for Special Care & Career Services, a Dallas United Way Agency. Past featured entertainers include: Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, k.d. lang, Tom Jones and the Doobie Brothers.

“Angie and I are truly appreciative of the continued generous support received from our Host Sponsor, Alliance Data,” Nicole said. “We would also like to recognize the efforts of the SCCS Board, SCCS staff, our fabulous event committee and our illustrious honorary chairs, Anne and Steve Stodghill. And, we would be remiss if we didn’t also thank 98.7 KLUV, The Dallas Morning News, Amegy Bank of Texas, AMS Production Group, Just Brakes, La Quinta Corporation, Park Place Motorcars of Dallas, Mr. L. Frank Pitts, Mr. and Mrs. George Ellison Hurt III and Marinelle and Kip Sowden.”

With the generosity of all supporters, SCCS can continue to provide valuable services to its clients and families, and in turn positively impact their lives and the community.

The concert is open to the public. Tickets begin at $50 and are available at

www.ticketweb.com. Or, contact Susan Spradlin, Director of Development (SCCS) for sponsor opportunities at (972) 991-6777 ext. 121, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or www.specialcarecareer.org

Dallas-based Alliance Data, host sponsor :
Alliance Data (NYSE: ADS) is a leading provider of transaction services, credit services and marketing services, managing over 105 million consumer relationships for some of North America's most recognizable companies. Alliance Data creates and manages customized solutions that change consumer behavior and that enable its clients to build stronger, mutually beneficial relationships with their customers. The company is an active corporate citizen through its "Neighbor of Choice" Program and is committed to initiatives that support education, health and welfare and civic enrichment. For more information about the company, visit its website,
http://www.AllianceData.com.

Special Care & Career Services:

Special Care & Career Services (SCCS) has always been on the forefront in developing programs that promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of the community – where we live, work, and play.

The SCCS mission is to provide services to children and adults with developmental disabilities so that they can lead fulfilling lives in their communities. To that end they provide education, therapy and training to help their clients reach their full potential.

Chartered in 1963, services include Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) for children birth to 3 years old and Supported Employment Services for adults. Both are regarded as model programs by the community.

The ECI program is recognized as a “Best Practices” study site by the Early Childhood Intervention Services Division of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.

Through the Supported Employment Services program, adults with mental retardation, traumatic brain injury and other cognitive disabilities participate in comprehensive employment services to obtain and keep jobs in the local community.

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GARLIC AND THYME ROASTED PORK LOIN WITH A BRANDY CREAM SAUCE Print E-mail
by Sandra Lewis    Fri, Mar 2, 2007, 11:23 AM
Pork.

Check.

Thyme.

Check.

Garlic.

Check.

I stood in my kitchen last Saturday afternoon taking inventory of everything I needed for my “Open The Bottle Night” with friends where we would share a meal and open a special bottle of wine.
 
My food contribution to the evening was "Garlic and Thyme Roasted Pork Loin with a Brandy Cream Sauce" for which I gathered everything needed and headed out the door.

Yes I was out the door and merged into traffic on I-635 when the startling thought struck me.

My most important offering to the celebratory meal – the reason for the evening – the wine – my Arista Pinot Noir 2003 – was still resting in my wine rack.

I had to laugh.

I had been holding on to this bottle for a year, hesitant to open it, waiting for the perfect moment. Now that the moment was here my pork roast was top of mind.

Nevertheless, I backtracked to fetch the phantom bottle. Tonight was the night.

Claudine, Mark, and I gathered in Mark’s kitchen, and with a clink of our champagne glasses the cooking began.

Eventually an amazing meal emerged, pork tenderloin, roasted vegetable salad, and homemade tiramisu.



In the kitchen we raised a toast to the expectation of a great meal with Claudine’s Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay followed by my Arista Pinot Noir with the meal.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the Pinot. The bottle was special to me whether or not it was good, but I wanted it to be good. And it was delightfully confirmed as so by my dining partners - rich, leathery, and blackberryish.

Joined by Jennifer, Ariel, and Emily at the table we enjoyed the mingling of the flavors and the energy of the conversation.

I learned that both Mark and Claudine know how to play the accordion. This was something neither knew about the other until this evening.
 
I also learned that Jennifer knows how to play the piano, but can only play Christmas carols, that the life of an SMU music student is busier than it needs to be, and that Emily’s family is so embarrassed by their lack of musical talent that one year they considered playing the kazoo at their very musically talented family’s holiday gathering then chickened out.
 
I had nothing to add to this conversation. The only talent I've shown with music is producing a daughter who is a classically-trained violinist.

We finished the meal with the tiramisu and Mark’s 1970 Taylor’s Fladgate Port. Divine.



Where were you in 1970? Half the people at the table weren’t around in 1970. I will politely decline to say which half  were.



Just like the pork tenderloin I had gathered up all the ingredients for, our evening together had the right mix – fantastic food, warm friendship, and fun conversation.

I need more evenings like this.

February 23, 2008, next year’s “Open The Bottle Night”, is already on my calendar.


Garlic and Thyme Roasted Pork Loin with a Brandy Cream Sauce

1 (3 1/2 pound) boneless pork loin
6 large cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup brandy
4 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/4 cup olive oi
1 cup dry white wine

Brandy Cream Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup brandy
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Remove roast from refrigerator 30 minutes before preparing rub for meat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender or food processor, combine garlic cloves with salt, pepper, brandy, and thyme. Add olive oil slowly in a thin stream though hole in the top of the blender or feeding tube of processor. Process to thicken slightly. Place pork roast in roasting pan; coat with the garlic and thyme mixture. Bake in oven with meat thermometer inserted, uncovered. Baste with a quarter cup of wine every 15 minutes for one hour. Roast approximately 1 1/2 hours or until internal termperature reaches 160 degrees. Make sauce while pork is cooking.

For sauce, melt butter and sauté onion 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat and add wine and simmer 15 minutes. Gradually stir in cream. Add brandy, salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring to reduce liquid by 1/3, 5 to 7 minutes. Mix together cold water and cornstarch. Add half of cornstarch mixture to sauce. Continue to simmer until slightly thickened. Use the remainder of thickening mixture if desired. Once meat is removed from the oven, let rest 10 minutes. Slice in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices and serve. Pass sauce separately.

Serves 8.

Sandra's Cooking Notes:
- This ranks high on my all-time favorite recipe list, It's elegant yet simple. You can find the recipe in "Good Friends, Great Tastes." Author Debbie Meyer is a local girl and her book is self-published. My book is filled with liquid-splatters, dog-eared pages, and I've had to tape the cover. You can find it here.
- I am going to twist Mark and Claudine's arm for the tiramisu and roasted vegetable salad recipes and post them as well.
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