It is prime time for all of those luscious berries right now and what better way to enjoy them, besides eating them by the handful, than making jam! Strawberry preserves and jam is one of my favorite spreadable sweet treats. Perfect on oatmeal, toast, biscuits, pancakes, waffles… Ice cream! The possibilities are endless!
My recipe is quick, simple, and of course… easy. You’ll be seeing those words a bunch with my food blogs. Making a jam is a great way to make use of the berries that are super ripe and ready to eat right away. This recipe also works with other fruits such as peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries. If using peaches, I would quickly blanch them in boiling water for no more than 1 1/2 minutes to easily remove the skin before cutting. But let’s get to the Strawberries!!! 🍓🍓🍓
Now, I tend to use way less sugar than most other recipes call for, and I also don’t use pectin because the method for this particular recipe is basically a reduction. It creates a nice, thick, and concentrated strawberry flavor. The use of lemon juice is up to you, but I also usually don’t add that either. It’s pretty much the strawberries, and sugar. That’s it! It thickens as it cools and is spreadable and insanely tasty. Here we go!
Easy Peasy Strawberry Jam 🍓
2 pounds ripe strawberries, washed and hulled
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1/8th cup of lemon juice ( optional )
1. In a large bowl, add the strawberries and sugar, and proceed to mash the berries with a fork or wire whisk.
2. In a medium sized pot, add the mashed strawberries and cook on medium low heat and to help dissolve the sugar. Taste for sweetness and adjust by adding more sugar in small batches if you need to.
3. Once the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat to medium high and bring to a nice rolling boil, stirring constantly as not to burn the berries. At this point, you’re pretty much reducing down the sauce. The amount of time this takes will depend upon the pot you use and your stove. Usually about 20 to 25 minutes from the start of the rolling boil. Be sure to stay with it and stir it constantly.
4. You’ll be able to gauge if the jam is at the right consistency by the way it feels with a spoon as you’re stirring it. It’ll feel thick and of course you’ll be able to see how it looks on the spoon itself… Check out the video to see what I mean… 😉🍓
5. Cool completely and put into a jar or container, and refrigerate until ready to eat!
Since we typically eat the daylights outta this stuff in a matter of days, I just put the jam in a container and forgo the canning process. And I like that I can make more jam whenever I feel like it because this recipe is so simple and easy. As I said before, this Strawberry love fest of yumminess is great on just about anything! Peanut butter and Strawberry jam on toast makes a great little snack for the little meows! Even makes a beautiful base for a vinaigrette! Strawberry Balsamic, anyone?
That’s what I love about ingredients and how they’re like the gateway drugs to other recipe creations! 😝One thing leads to another. Use the jam for smoothies, lemonade or iced tea… Jazz up your sparkling water or add to your mimosas! I can go on and on, but you get where I’m coming from… 😉✨
Please let me know what tasty creations you come up with if you decide to give this recipe a whirl, dear reader! Thanks so much for stopping by! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!
Cheers, hugs, and meows!
Xo Nikki 💕✨
Follow Mystic Meals on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! 🔮✨
Ok. I’m not in any way vegan or vegetarian, but as a Chef who loves to eat, um… almost anything, I’ve really grown to love the Beyond Meat line of plant-based products and am super excited to try their latest offering Beyond Beef, which tastes, looks like, and can be used just as you would ground beef.
I’m already a fan of the Beyond Burgers, meat crumbles and chicken strips, and recently my local grocery store started carrying the Beyond Sausage Hot Italian flavor and I grabbed it like a mad woman! I was super excited to try it and immediately my creative brain went to work on the countless variations of yumminess I could prepare with it. Hence the title of this here blog post 😉
When I go grocery shopping, I usually have a list of the things I actually need, but mostly I just wander the produce and meat aisles and see what jumps out and inspires me. I spotted some gorgeous looking Crimini ( baby bella ) mushrooms and knew exactly what I was going to make. I grabbed some spinach and a chunk of deliciously nutty Pecorino Romano cheese and off I went.
So here it is, dear reader… My recipe for these absolutely tasty morsels that I hope you make and enjoy as much as I did. If I didn’t have to share them, I could have easily devoured them all by myself! Meow!
Beyond Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
12 large mushroom caps ( reserve the stems)
7oz. (2 links) Beyond Sausage
1/2 cup small diced onion
1 large clove chopped garlic
3 cups fresh chopped spinach
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup small diced fresh Pecorino Romano cheese
2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Wash the mushrooms thoroughly. Remove the stems and chop them up as small as you can. In a sauté pan or skillet, add the olive oil or butter on medium heat. Crumble the 2 sausage links and add it to the pan along with the chopped mushroom stems, onions, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring and breaking up the sausage, cooking until the onions become translucent.
Add the chopped spinach and sauté until it becomes wilted. Lightly season with salt and pepper, being careful not to over-season the mixture since you’ll be adding the cheeses at the end, which are salty on their own. 😉
Add the breadcrumbs and Parmesan, mix until well-incorporated and remove from the heat. Add in the diced Pecorino cheese and mix well.
Taste and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Take a heaping Tablespoon of the stuffing and start spooning the mix in your mushroom caps, being very generous with the filling, You might have a bit of the mixture leftover depending on how many mushrooms you make.
Place the mushrooms on a sheet pan or baking dish and bake them uncovered for about 15 to 20 minutes depending how large or small the mushrooms are. Once they’re cooked, remove from the oven and take about 1/4 cup water and deglaze the sheet pan before plating the mushrooms. This will create a nice pan sauce for the shrooms. Plate them up, add a touch of salt to the pan sauce, pour over the mushrooms and serve!
I have to tell you that these were really, REALLY delicious! This by far is my favorite Beyond Meat product to date. The flavor and texture was just like pork sausage, and I’m glad I chose the ingredients the way I did, especially the Pecorino. ( Pats self on the back 😉)
I do hope you give these a try cause they are sooooo worth it and easy to prepare. Until next time… Happy eating and happy cooking!
Recently I was given the opportunity to submit an article to LA Weekly about some fellow Chef friends of mine who have recently started their own Mexican inspired weekend pop up, Tortilla Con Amor based out of North Hollywood, Ca. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have something I’ve written published in a mainstream publication, and I hope you meows give it read and enjoy the story.
Even if you don’t live anywhere near California, be sure to follow Tortilla Con Amor on social media and watch their food journey unfold, just as my own is blossoming in unexpected ways. I will continue to write for myself, and whoever wants to read about the people, meals, ingredients, and experiences that have and continue to make their impression in my life. You can also keep up with me at Mystic Meals on Instagram!
Greetings, dear meows! One of the things I love about writing this blog is being able to show off some of my most talented friends, such as this lovely lady I’m about to introduce you to.
I first met Michele Stueven a little over a year ago when she and her son, Erik Glode filmed an interview with me at The Northridge Farmer’s Market here in Los Angeles. We became fast friends and bonded over our mutual love of farmers market fare, and of course… COOKING! She started out her career path in the world of journalism, and now Michele has her own catering business called The Gemini Kitchen, and has quite the following on social media. From her enticing photographs of the dishes she creates, to showcasing the flora and fauna that captures her eye on her adventures throughout Southern California, Michele has a keen sense and artistic style, with a knack for being extremely creative in the kitchen.
Michele is a true Cali girl with a unique perspective and connection to its landscape. She graciously let me pick her brain a bit and walks us through her journey into how she became the culinary maven she is today. She even gave us a wonderful dinner menu with recipes that embrace the warm weather months perfectly! Enjoy! 😊
MM: Tell us a bit about yourself, Michele? How did you first get started in the field of journalism? How has that industry managed to keep up with the ever changing ways in which we receive information?
MS: I’m a native Angeleno and have lived here all my life. I grew up on the beach in Santa Monica, only child to German immigrants. We spent summers in Germany and traveling Europe, a tradition I’ve continued with my two sons. Spending most of my time at a relative’s restaurant in Bavaria – the Tuscany of Germany – I became fascinated and obsessed with food and cooking. My love for salads and and seasonal ingredients actually sprouted from the country of beer and sausage.
I was a journalism major at Cal State Northridge and went on to work for the Associated Press as a photo editor, a German Media Group asst. correspondent and then photo editor/video producer and reporter for People Magazine. With the slow death of the magazine world, I ventured out to see what the internet could do for me. My love of food, flowers and photography gave birth to the Gemini Kitchen almost exactly one year ago. I never seem to run out of subjects and am giddy about the fact that I don’t have to run anything by layers of editors. I have the final say in everything, can post what and whenever I feel like it. The final decision is always my own and not by result of committee. Don’t miss that at all.The crazy irony here is that the same social media explosion that resulted in the death of print media and journalism is the reason I’ve even been able to do this and reinvent myself. Sometimes you have to embrace the enemy to find your peace.
MM: The Gemini Kitchen is a great name! How did you come up with it, and what lead you to finally turn your lifelong passion for cooking into a catering business? Who are some of the Chefs that inspire you?
MS: To supplement and inspire the blog (and hello, to make money) I decided to put years of catering family and school functions for hundreds of people to some use and get cooking. My best friend (a fellow Gemini) was going through a horrid divorce at the time and has never cooked a day in her life. She needed food and I needed a job, so I became her personal chef. I began catering events for her and soon by word of mouth, started gathering a stable of regular clients.
Having grown up with the dawn of California cuisine, I’m most inspired by women chefs like Suzanne Goin, Alice Waters, Susan Feniger, Nancy Silverton. I also like Giada De Laurentiis a lot, because she cooks healthy and sensibly and is a local Angeleno like me. Even though I do need my occasional cheeseburger and fries, I’m not much for over the top food.
MM: You also take beautiful photographs of the things you come across at various farmers markets, and have a great eye for details in nature. I love the pictures of the flowers you see on your travels that you post on social media. Is photography another way for you to express your artistic side?
MS: Photography has been a part of my life forever. In fact my Journalism career started when a local newspaper photographer took a picture of me on the beach in a bikini (still have that foto.) I hounded him to introduce me to his editor for an internship which lead to my first paying magazine job. I like to treat my blog like a magazine layout , from my many moons in the print world.
MM: You document your culinary travels and film quite a bit of what you do. Ever consider having your own show? If so, what would you want it to be like? Any plans on writing a cookbook in the future?
MS: I would love my own show and I’ve already been toying with some book ideas. I’d like them to be very visual and sort of a combination food ingredient and travelogue theme. I’d like to be the Huell Howser of Food – picking strawberries and tomatoes in Oxnard, chasing pigs in San Diego, fishing for ling cod in the channel islands. Then offer recipes from those adventures.
MM: What are some of your favorite go to types of cuisine to cook? As a caterer, what would you say are some of your greatest hits on the menu?
MS:I like to cook seasonal and healthy. I roast and bbq a lot. People love vegetables these days and I’ve noticed that clients are interested in finger foods and more about grazing and having a variety of items to choose from. My antipasti platters are a huge seller, a combination of veggies, meats and cheeses and whatever happens to look good at the farmers market. Kabobs and finger sandwiches are big right now: Tarragon Chicken Salad Finger Sandwiches with Cranberries, Salmon Mousse Finger Sandwiches.
MM: With summer rapidly approaching, I’m sure you’ve got some yummy tricks up your sleeve! I would love it if you’d share some recipes with us! What would you suggest as a 3 course menu that celebrates the season? And what wines or drinks would you recommend?
MS: Gazpacho, Cedar Plank Halibut with Black Lemon Brown Rice, Strawberry and Plum Crostada. J Vineyards Pinot Gris and some homemade Limoncello with the Crostada.
MM: Here’s Michele’s recipes for Cedar Plank Halibut with Black Lemon Brown Rice!
Cedar Plank Halibut
6 pieces of halibut (salmon works too) Olive Oil, Sweet or Spicy Paprika, Garlic Salt,
2 cedar or other wood planks, available at most hardware and grocery stores including Whole Foods
Soak the planks in water according to package directions for about an hour, while you are heating up the BBQ on one side of the grill.
Rub the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika and garlic salt. Once the grill is hot, dry the planks and place the seasoned fish on top. Place planks on the side of the barbecue that is not on fire. Cover and roast for about 15 – 20 minutes, until the halibut is firm to the touch. Check on it now and then. Just before you carefully remove from the grill, squeeze with generous amounts of fresh lemon juice.
Black Lemon Rice 2 cups rice 4 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. butter or olive oil
1 black lemon (also known as loomi, can be found at any market that specializes in Middle Eastern spices. It’s actually a lime that has been boiled and then left out in the sun to dry.)
Bring all ingredients to a boil and cover. Cook 20 minutes for white rice and 45 minutes for brown rice.)
MM: Thank you so much! Sounds amazing! Can’t wait to try my hand at it! Yum! Speaking of courses, if you could describe yourself as a drink, appetizer, entree, and dessert, what would they be and why? MS: I’m a Greyhound (fast and nimble,) Ceviche (spicy and cool) Roasted Branzino (warm and delicate) Strawberries Macerated in Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar topped with Sour Cream (the two sides of a Gemini.) MM: Great answers! Now… If you could have a dinner party with 10 guests, living or dead, famous or not, who would be on the guest list and what would you be serving?
MS: My mom, dad, husband, sons, Father Paul, Maya Angelou, Mother Theresa, Joni Mitchell, Alfred Hitchock. All vegetarian, Indian-inspired.
MM: What a fantastic dinner party that would be! Alright, so if you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be?
MS: Lake Tahoe MM: Nice! Tahoe’s a beautiful place. Ok. It’s top 5 time! Name your top 5 favorite: fruits, vegetables, and drinks!
MS: Cheeseburgers. That said, my favorite food is Mexican. Can eat it everyday and is a huge part of my inspiration, growing up in Southern California. Ole!
Thanks again Michele! Be sure to check out her Facebook page, The Gemini Kitchen to keep up with all of her latest info and social media posts! You can also find her on Instagram & Twitter! I hope this inspires you to get out there, take some risks, embrace the changes that come your way and turn those lemons life hands you into limoncello! And go check out your local farmers market! You never know what you’ll find… Happy Cooking!
Cheers, hugs & meows!
Nikki Meow 💖✨😻
All photographs courtesy of Erik Glode Productions & Michele Stueven 😉
One of the many perks of doing my podcast, The Phantom Zone Radio Show was being able to meet amazing people who love all things dark and spooky just like I do. In spite of what most people think, folks in the horror community are some of the best people to know. Creative, resourceful, and just fun to be around, there’s always a willingness to share knowledge and pass it on, whether it be a movie, book, bloody special effects, a scary program, where to find killer clothes… there’s a certain comradery amongst horror lovers that is as genuine as it is unique. This woman you’re about to meet is helping to keep the torch lit and continuing to pave the way for horror hosts and anyone who has love of the genre to throw caution to the wind and listen to your rotting gut and do what you love no matter the odds.
Reyna Gillette a.k.a Miss Misery is a very dear friend of mine and quite a powerful and creative woman. Her passion for the horror genre and her love of music and cinema can be seen in her awesome T.V. show, Miss Misery’s Movie Massacre, which is one of her many productions. She’s a writer, actress, director, filmmaker, musician and all around badass lady who goes beyond the definition of hard work and dedication to her craft.
Her husband, John Gillette is not only her partner in crime with their company, Last Doorway Productions, but he’s also the guitarist and founding member of The San Francisco Bay Area based grunge/punk/metal band, Dammit! And let me tell you meows… If you don’t know, you need to find out QUICK! Their music is head banging good fun and makes you wanna turn it up to 11! 🤘🏻😝🤘🏻
When this dynamic duo is working on something, you know it’s going to be of epic proportions! Reyna and John are one hell of a match! Reyna took the time out of her busy schedule to answer some crazy questions for Mystic Meals and even provides a (very quick) and easy recipe for the ghoul on the go! Enjoy, kiddies! 😛
MM. Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer a few horrific questions! 😛 Here we go…
What was the very first horror film that you remember watching? How did it have an impact on you? Could you name a few of your all time favorite horror actors? RG: The first film was John Carpenters Halloween, it wasn’t so much that I was scared of watching the film, it was more of having a thrill up my spine from watching it. I instantly became not just a fan but became obsessed with horror. Before that though my dad would wake me up Saturday nights to watch late night shows like Monsters and Tales from the Darkside. As for my favorite actors, Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau, Vincent Price, there’s just so many I love… MM: When did you know that you wanted to not only be a horror host and have your own show, but make and direct your own films? Can you tell us a bit about Last Doorway Productions and what we can expect from your show, Miss Misery’s Movie Massacre? Where can we all see it and check it out? RG: I grew up watching Elvira so when I was younger I knew I wanted to do what she did. I grew up acting, doing commercials, and modeling for children’s clothes, extra in films, I did a lot of that but always wanted to be a writer and actress. It wasn’t until I hit my first year of college that I wanted to start directing when a boy told me girls can’t direct. Lol…
Last Doorway Productions was born in 2003 when I started writing scripts and filming shorts. It wasn’t until I met my husband John that I started doing a lot more because he was also into film making. Movie Massacre right now is on Chabot Television out of Hayward, Ca and Roku, but recently been toying with the idea of doing YouTube… MM: Wow! I think Youtube’s a great idea! I know I’d subscribe to your channel and it would certainly broaden your fanbase😉You’re also a published author. Tell us about what you’ve written and where you get your inspiration from. What are some of your favorite comic books? Who are your favorite artists and writers? Any recommendations? RG: I grew up reading Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Goosebumps, anything horror basically with some exceptions like The Babysitters Club, lol. 😋
I have a series out called Monsters through Black Bed Sheet Books, and it’s basically in the heart of Goosebumps. I’ve always wanted to have my own young adult book series and so I started this year and so far two books are out and you can get them on Amazon. I have a novel coming out soon Called When Night Falls which is through Fear Front Publishing. I just signed with them and super excited about it.
I get my inspiration from all around me basically, my imagination never stops. Sometimes I have so much going on that I HAVE to write and I feel like my head is going to explode. I love comic books, I read anything that’s good, I use to be obsessed with Tales From The Crypt comics and still am, lol.
One book I always recommend is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, I’m amazed sometimes that lots of people have not read it.
MM: The Haunting of Hill House is a great read! You’re so right about that one. Your husband John is in a band called Dammit! You meows make such an awesome power couple! How did the two of you meet and what’s it like for the two of you to work together? What other bands are you both fans of? RG: We met when I was working at a grocery store and he was a delivery man, we were friends but attracted to each other. I was with someone at the time and he had a girlfriend but eventually he dumped her and I dumped my bf, after that we started going out on dates to rock shows and horror films and we clicked right away. We both love the same bands and bands I didn’t like he didn’t like either, so it was meant to be. We’ve been together for ten years now and still I get butterflies in my tummy over him… 💘 He’s amazing and we just get along so well. We work well together, we listen to each other and there’s nothing but love for all we do. Plus we both play guitar so it’s always fun to jam together. We both love Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, AC/DC and many more. I’m a 90’s girl so anything grunge I still am obsessed over.
MM: If you and John could host the ultimate dinner party with any of your favorite horror or rock icons, living or dead, who would they be and what would be on the menu? RG: Ahhhhhhhhh man I would serve Mexican food lol, and have a couple tables spread out of desserts, mmmmmmmm. We would have Bowie, Cobain, Joplin, Hendrix, so many great icons of the rock world would be there. Plus you can’t forget Vincent Price or Christopher Lee. It would be a huge jam session, man that would be something. MM: Do either of you like to cook? If so what are some of your favorite go to meals to make? Would you mind sharing a recipe with us?
RG: John use to be a cook so he will whip stuff up and I cook a lot of Mexican food so we do split the dinners each week. We both like to cook so it’s no problem – sometimes we do get lazy when we work too much but I make chicken fajitas or enchiladas, he likes to make pastas or chicken with veggies. We try to mix things up, but I love fajitas so it’s easy. Here’s a quick recipe…
Dammit! Those are killer Fajitas! 😝
Cook and chop up your chicken, then put in some fajita mix, I get that at the market.
Then slice and cook up two onions
two green bell peppers
one red bell pepper
heat up some flour tortillas and you’re done! Pretty simple and quick.
MM: I love it! You guys don’t mess around! 😝 In your opinion, what are the top 5 underrated Horror Films?
Alice Sweet Alice
Beast From The Haunted Cave
Silver Bullet (I don’t feel it gets enough attention or any AirPlay during October)
Mr Boogedy MM: Meow, you are so spot on about Silver Bullet! That’s one of my favs and it’s true… It’s almost never played or even talked about. What’s up with that? 😝If you could remake a classic horror film, which one would you choose and why? RG: Lol I don’t like remakes. It if I had the chance to remake a film I would remake Alice Sweet Alice, I just love that film.. Although it would be fun to remake Creature from the Black Lagoon, but if I were to do it I would really wanna make sure I do it right and not let the studios rush me. Lol.. MM: Name three places in the world that you’ve always wanted to either live or visit. RG: I’ve always wanted to visit Paris, London, and Italy. I would want to live in London, plus it would be awesome to visit the haunted areas there.
MM: This one’s for both you and John…Describe yourselves as a drink, appetizer, entree and dessert and explain why? RG: A Shirley Temple (I don’t drink so it’s non alcoholic)
Guacamole with tortilla chips (we love our guac)
And for an entree I would say Burritos because I can’t can’t enough of them!
For a dessert, I’d say ice cream because we do like to cuddle up to a good film and split a bowl of ice cream. 🍧🍨
That sounds like the perfect way to end an evening… Cuddling with your sweetmeow, watching a great flick and sharing a bowl of ice cream. Now that’s love, baby! Unless you start fighting over who gets the last bite… 😉 Thanks again to Reyna & John for being great sports and giving us a little peek into their lives. And thank you meows for hanging with me! Until next time… Cheers, hugs & meows!
October is upon us and it’s that time of year to celebrate all the things that go bump in the night! Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday! Of course, every day is Halloween in our spooky abode! Scary films, creepy creatures, ghoulish delights… Tons of Frights! Ok… that’s enough of that…😛
We also LOVE horror films and so does my friend, JoAnn Thomas! She and her husband Mike love horror films so much that they created a film festival to celebrate the indie horror genre and the fiends that make those films so freaking awesome! For the 3rd year in a row, The FANtastic Horror Film Festival will be held in San Diego on Halloween weekend, October 28th, 29th, & 30th. They’ll be handing out awards in various categories, and what better way to showcase the amazing people who are keeping the indie horror scene at the forefront of cinema for today’s terror hungry maniacs!
JoAnn was kind enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about the festival, some film and book recommendations, and even gave us a delicious recipe for us to savor! Enjoy!
The lovely JoAnn Thomas 😊
MM: Greetings, JoAnn! Thank you for the interview for Mystic Meals! Ok… Let’s get started 😉What was the first horror film that you remember seeing and how did it have an impact on you? JT: Back in the 1950’s I recall watching some scary sci-fi/horror movies but to be honest I do not remember more than a few scenes that terrified me back then. MM: Do have any all-time favorite horror films? How about a top 5 favorite horror actor/actress? JT: Although most of my favorite movies have a thread of horror in them, they are not actually horror movies. That being said, I would have to say that at this point my all-time favorite indie horror movie stars my favorite horror actor, Bill Oberst Jr. The original director’s cut of the film “Children of Sorrow” takes the #1 spot. Some of my other favorite horror movie actors/actresses include Tim Curry, Lynn Lowry, and some newer actresses on the scene who are coming into their own; Kristin West, Sheri Davis, and Tiffany Fest. MM: How did you and your husband/ co-founder of the FHFF, Mike Thomas come up with the concept and name “FANtastic Horror Film Festival“? JT: The fest started as a casual comment at a very disorganized festival in the Los Angeles area, and if I hadn’t come back to San Diego and ran with it, that is where it would have stayed. Our experiences with screenings, fests, and conventions were varied and sometimes down-right disappointing. Making fans “hurry up and wait” sometimes hours after the film was scheduled to screen, did not create a fan-friendly atmosphere, quite the opposite.
So, the question became ~ what do filmmakers, producers, actors and actresses have in common with their fans? The answer, although, not obvious, was we are all FANS of the genre. Thus the name was selected, with our goal of treating everyone equally. We have had our challenges, but we are proud of our successes. MM: This is the FHFF’s 3rd year! Congrats! How has running the festival changed things in your lives? What kind of gruesome bits and pieces can we expect from the fest this year? JT: This year we are screening 12 Feature Films and 27 Short Films. Of those, we can boast 11 International Films from Austria, Canada, Great Britain, India, Italy, and Spain. We have a Seminar/Panel Discussion ~ Get Your Film Distributed! As well as, a fabulous Award Ceremony in store for our filmmakers. In 2014, the first year of our festival we ran into a plot twist that turned out to have become a tradition. We invite our filmmakers, and some of the other attendees to join us in presenting the awards to their colleague’s. It is always a last minute thing and everyone seems to enjoy it. MM: Being so busy, what do you meows do to help yourselves relax and unwind? Do you like to read? Any book recommendations? JT: What does “relax and unwind” mean? 😛The Fest is a year around project and there is always something to do. Mike, however, goes to the movies to relax.
As far as reading is concerned I spend most of my time reading the screenplays that are submitted to the festival’s Screenplay Competition. My favorite writer is Stephen King. My favorite book of his is “The Stand”. There are a couple of writers that have caught my imagination in the past few years that might be of interest ~ Sue Dent , a self-published writer. Nathaniel Jones has a horror novel, “The Coin” available on Amazon.com; and Brian Bowyer, who’s books can be also be found on Amazon.com. MM: I noticed that you and your husband often post pictures on Facebook of your lunches and dinners. Mostly salads! What are some of your favorite salads and dressings? JT: Tuesday night is salad night in the Thomas household for the most part, except when Festival priorities come into play. I am a big fan of the 15-minute prep time that my salads take to make. Generally, I go to the market pick up whatever salad fixings that are on sale that day and that is where I start. I prefer to use leaf lettuce, red, green, or romaine which makes for a nice basic presentation and add tomatoes, and whatever colorful things I have in the frig, throw in a few staples I have on hand and “poof” ~ salad. We keep a variety of dressings on hand but I do not make my own. MM: Are you both vegetarians? If so, when did you stop eating meat and why? JT: If I tried to take away Mike’s meat I doubt that I would be here talking about it. Neither he or I are vegetarians, although we do like vegetables a lot. MM: What are some of your favorite go to fruits and vegetables? Would you mind sharing a recipe with us? JT: I love berries of all kinds, as well as grapes. Veggies include cabbage, carrots, celery, snow peas, red and green peppers, generally speaking whatever is in season.
I really love stuffed cabbage but unfortunately I don’t get along well with boiling water so to satisfy my taste buds I came up with this recipe ~
Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 medium Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
Seasonings to taste, I use celery salt, garlic salt, and parsley If incline replace these seasonings with your favorite taco seasoning for a Mexican flair.
1 head of cabbage, chopped and then wilted in the microwave until it just starts to become translucent
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with celery, onions, and green peppers (if you have the time you can make your own)
Drain the excess grease from the ground beef mixture and then combine the ground beef with the cabbage and diced tomatoes. Place in a 350o oven for approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
Top with 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce and shredded cheese ~ Cheddar or Colby-jack and return to the oven for about 15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and golden.
If you want to give it a horror twist ~ use a meat cleaver to serve. 😉
MM: That looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it out! If you could have dinner with a horror icon, living or dead, who would it be? JT: Being an organizer of a horror film festival, I must say that I have had many opportunities to hang out with some very impressive horror icons, too many to count. May I also say, with some fantastic up-and-coming folks who will one day become icons in their own right!
If I had to choose, I would choose to have an intimate banquet with Lon Chaney, Jr. & Sr., Vincent Price, Stephen King. Mary Shelley, Elsa Sullivan Lanchester, Tim Curry, Lynn Lowry, Bill Oberst. Jr., and a few others. MM: That’s an impressive guest list! This next question’s for both you and Mike. If you could describe yourselves as a drink, entree and dessert, what would they be and why? JT: For me it would have to be blueberry wine from either Michigan or New Jersey ~ colorful, tasty, and sweet; some homemade soup ~ chicken noodle or beef vegetable, makes me feel like being wrapped in a cozy blanket on a crisp fall day; and for dessert ~ homemade pineapple upside down cake like my grandmother used to make in a cast iron frying pan in the oven, with whipped cream.
Mike on the other hand would be a rip-your-face-off red wine to pair with a medium rare rib eye steak with corn and asparagus, followed by lemon sherbet. He has his reasons.
And of course, we’re left in suspense!!! Very sneaky, JoAnn & Mike… 😏 Be sure to check out the FHFF’s website for more information and purchasing tickets if you’re in the SoCal area! It’s going to be a frightfully fun filled weekend! Thank you meows for hanging with me! Until next time… Cheers, hugs & meows! 😻
If you read my Mystic Beauty blog post, then you’ll notice that I mentioned this little gem called Influenster. What’s that you ask? Well, allow me to tell you all about it! Influenster is a website that you sign up for and they email you surveys for different campaigns that they have promoting all kinds of new and tried and true household, beauty, food, and body products. You agree to review the products and tell everyone on your social media outlets that Influenster sent you these products to try for free.
Based upon your answers to these surveys, Influenster determines whether or not you qualify for that particular campaign’s voxbox of free goodies. They also don’t usually tell you what the campaign is about until you get the email that you’ll be receiving said voxbox.
I received the Cottonelle voxbox in the mail a few days ago, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting a 6 pack of toilet paper! I thought, perhaps just a roll. So apparently this is a new product in their line, and it’s the Clean Care Mega Roll pack. A six pack of this is equal to buying 24 rolls of their regular toilet paper. And who doesn’t love free toilet paper? That stuff is expensive! When then heck did that happen? 😜
I’ve recieved some great voxbox’s in the past, and they’ve all been pretty varied. From full sized makeup and skincare products, household items and other toiletries, food and snacks, coffee & tea, as well as coupons for free items at the supermarket. I would say that I average between 4 to 6 voxbox’s a year, and that’s not too shabby! So why not sign up and give them a try? Who doesn’t love getting free stuff in the mail! By the way… I’m writing this on my own and this is in no way being sponsored by Influenster. I just thought it would be a cool thing to write about 😋 I hope you meows get lots and lots of awesome products to try! Thanks for hanging with me! Cheers, hugs & meows! 💖✨Click > Influenster
Picture of the moon from the Apollo 11 Mission. Photo credit: NASA
How many times in your life have you said or heard the phrase, “It must be a full moon” 😉
Ever notice how crazy things seem to get around the full moon? Electronic gadgets and what not start to act all wonky, or have difficulty working… People start behaving strangely or are either hyper sensitive, really agitated or even angry at the world… Or all of the above! Even Earth’s creatures are effected by the power of the moon. As for me, I tend to start craving sweets like chocolate or cakes and stuff like that. I wonder why? 🤔
What is it about the full moon’s energy that has such an effect upon our planet and its inhabitants? Since it’s September, this month’s full moon is known as The Harvest Moon. And the last lunar eclipse of the year occurs this weekend, coinciding with full moon for a second time in 2016. So the energy level coming from the universe is amped up and emanating some powerful stuff! This is when we need to heed The Caterpillars advise to Alice when he tells her to “Keep your temper”. 😉 And I suppose to ask the universe for whatever help or guidance we may be in need of. Here are some interesting myths and theories about the Mystic powers and occurrences that our full moon provides…
Before modern lighting, the bright light of the full moon was said to keep people up at night and cause sleep deprivation. Ever notice that you have difficulty falling or even staying asleep around the full moon? There’s definitely a biological connection for sure.
They say that injuries and visits to the ER tend to increase around the full moon. Why this is, I have no idea! 😝Police even tend to report a higher amount of criminal activity on or around the full moon. People just start acting crazy, wilder even, or like “lunatics”. The term comes from the Roman Goddess of the moon, Luna, which is from the Latin “lucere”, meaning “to shine”.
Then there’s good old Aunt Flow who likes to come around for a visit once a month, sometimes completely unannounced. RUDE! This doesn’t apply to all women of course… Perhaps it has something to do with the moon’s connection to fertility. The menstrual and lunar cycles are rather similar… 🤔
February is the only month of the year that can occur without a full moon. The full moon happens every 29.5 days.
The full moon is considered to be unlucky if it occurs on a Sunday, but lucky if on a Monday. Don’t ask me why… 😜 In fact, the name Monday is from the Middle English “Monenday” meaning, “moon day”.
I mean, I could go on and on about that celestial satellite of ours. The moon, for whatever it’s purposes helps to bring balance to the force. You can’t have light without dark… Happiness without sadness… And so on. But as I always like to remind myself, knowledge is power. Whether it be fact, theory, or myth… It all helps us be more in tune with the cosmic forces that surround us and have a better understanding of the “stranger things” that happen to us from time to time. Man there are a lot of quotations in this blog, huh? 😝😝😝So next time the full moon rolls around be mentally armed and ready for a bit of restlessness and high energy. That way we’ll be able to deal with whatever gets thrown our way… Maybe. 😉 Thanks for hanging with me, you full moon babies! Cheers, hugs and meows!
Do you ever just get stumped on what to cook for yourself or your family? As a Chef, there are times when I can be really whimsical and creative in my own home kitchen. But when you have a picky 2 1/2 year old it gets a little crazy sometimes to think up meals that they’ll eat. To be honest though, sometimes it’s easier feeding my daughter than it is to feed myself!
I suppose it’s because of the repetitive aspect. The food rut. That’s where we tend to make and eat the same foods on a loop, over and over again because it’s either quick, easy, doesn’t require too much thought, or all of the above. We all need some inspiration to help motivate us, right?
Well here in SoCal where I live, the weather’s starting to go through “the change”. 😛 Meaning that the temperature’s starting to get a little colder. Out of nowhere I had this wicked craving to make French Onion Soup. Does that ever happen to you? You start craving something all friggin’ day long and you just have to have it or make it? So, that’s exactly what I did.
I started by slicing up 4 medium sized onions. 2 yellow and 2 red. That just happened to be what I had on hand, but you can use whatever combo of onions you like, including shallots, scallions, etc. They all have a delicious flavor profile that will add to the end result of your soup if you decide to make some for yourself.
Then I added about 1/4 cup of olive oil to my cooking pot ( at medium heat) and added in the sliced onions to begin caramelizing them and cook them down. My goal here is to brown the onions and release their natural sugars without burning them. This, for me, took about 25 minutes.
Once my onions were nice and sexy, I added 3 cloves of crushed garlic, thyme, ( fresh or dried) 3 cups of beef stock (I just happened to have some) and 3 cups of water, salt and pepper. That was it. I let that cook on a medium low flame for about 1 1/2 hours, reducing the broth by at least a third to help concentrate those flavors. I found myself adding more salt and about 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar to help balance that savory sweet taste I was looking for.
Of course you can also use chicken stock, vegetable stock, or plain water to make this soup. Just adjust the seasonings to your liking. This recipe is by no means a traditional version of French Onion Soup, just my way of making it, especially when you have to make changes based on what you have in your fridge or cupboard.
However, another key element to this soup is cheese and croutons! When you order this at a restaurant it typically comes garnished with a crouton completely covered in thick, melted, glorious, golden brown bubbly broiled Gruyere or Comte cheese! Well… I didn’t have any of that 😏 I did have some Swiss, Mozzarella, and some good old fashioned white bread! So I fired up the oven to 350 degrees, put my bread on a sheet pan, added the cheeses and let them get nice and toasty for about 20 minutes.
Then I ladled my soup into a bowl, cut up the croutons into bite sized pieces and placed them right on top of the soup. Man oh MAN was this a delicious meal! Granted, it wasn’t exactly what I would make in a restaurant setting or even be served as a diner, but that’s not the point. I was able to achieve the flavors and textures I was looking for simply by working with what I had, and not letting the lack of certain other ingredients prevent me from making the soup anyways.
I think that’s what happens to us in our kitchens as well… We’ll look around and go, I don’t have this, or I only have 3 of the 5 things I need to make it, and then we end up making something else instead of just giving it a go and thinking outside the box. Cooking requires a lot of compromise and last minute changes, and it’s in those moments that we create something really unexpected. One of the most important things to do when cooking is to keep it simple. Simplicity.
And of course, cook with lots of love. From the heart. ❤️ I was really happy with the way the soup came out and was glad that I decided to make it! I hope this helps inspire you to get in your kitchen and make a soup, or even order a bowl of French Onion next time you go out to eat and it’s on the menu. Thanks a lot for hanging with me! Cheers, hugs & meows!