Beyond Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

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!

Cheers, hugs & meows!

Xo, Nikki 💕

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Cuchifritos!!!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Growing up in The Bronx the food landscape represented the people who lived there. From Chinese food to Pizzerias, Jamaican to Chino Latino, Irish Pubs and good old fashioned Diners that served the best breakfasts and burger platters to satisfy your cravings day or night, there was always a place to go to get your comfort food fix, or a taste from your homeland or cultural background. On a side note, did you know that The Bronx is the only one of the 5 boroughs that’s part of the U.S. mainland? 😛

The diversity of the Latin food culture in The Bronx is something that I’ve grown to miss very much since I moved to California many moons ago. There are a few stand out Colombian and Cuban restaurants here in Tinseltown, but there is, at least to me, a lack of the Puerto Rican cuisine that I grew up eating. In particularly, Cuchifrito restaurants. What the flip is or are cuchifritos you ask? Allow me to explain…

Cuchifritos are various types of fried foods that originated in Spain and Puerto Rico, although most Latin and Afro Caribbean cultures have their own variations of them. Cuchi is short for pig or concino, and frito means fried. It was referring to the combination of fried pork prepared with a wide range of ingredients typically prepared in small bite portions and nowadays refers to the types of restaurants that serve this kind of food and frituras.

You’ll also find offerings of Pernil ( roast pork shoulder ) Arroz Con Guandules ( yellow rice with pigeon peas ) P.R. style Fried Chicken, Soups and Stews, Mofongo ( fried plantains mashed up with garlic and chicharron ) and Pasteles ( think tamales made with yuca, potatoes, and plantains instead of corn masa ) just to give you an idea.

It’s basically a full blown starch fest of the most delicious and epic proportions! Some of my favorite cuchifritos are Rellenos de Papa, mashed potato balls filled with seasoned ground beef or cheese and deep fried. So good! Then there’s the various types of Epanadillas that have all kinds of meat and vegetable fillings fried to crispy perfection. And how can I forget Alcapurrias, which is a fritter made with plantain and yautia filled with ground beef and yes… Fried! Absolutely delicious!

Some would say that most of these are an acquired taste, which I suppose is true. But I’m telling you… Once you taste any one of these you’ll be craving them just like I am today. These flavors remind me of my childhood in The Bronx, and both of my Abuela’s cooking. Now that I cook for a living, I have a better understanding and appreciation for it, and I find myself wanting to prepare the food I grew up with for my own family to keep those flavor memories alive and relevant. If you google Cuchifritos, you’ll see what I’m talking about as well as a ton of recipes that I know I’m going to try my hand at and I hope you will, too! Happy Cooking and happy eating!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki 💖✨

Follow Mystic Meals on Instagram!

All photos courtesy of google images 😉

Sack Lunch PDX – Chef Chris DiMinno Rides for No Kid Hungry

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

This time around I write about a very dear friend of mine who is doing something extraordinary and magical for a most worthy cause. Feeding children in our schools.

Sack Lunch PDX is a non-profit organization consisting of a team of 19 hospitality industry professionals based in Portland, who work together to raise money for Chefs Cycle an annual event that goes to benefit No Kid Hungry.

It’s extremely rare that one can combine all of their passions into something and help make an impact with it, and that’s exactly what Chef Chris DiMinno is helping to do. Having grown up on the East Coast in a large Italian family, food was the focal point of all of his family gatherings instilling the importance of nurturing and nourishment.

Chris honed his skills and learned the art of practicing sustainable farm-to- table cooking under some of New Yorks most renowned Chefs, such as Tom Valenti, Bill Telepan , and Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, just to name a few.

He moved to Portland, Oregon where he was able to embrace his love and passion for cycling since the landscape provides the perfect environment for riding, enjoying the outdoor lifestyle, and encouraging the culture. It wasn’t long before he found others in the culinary scene that had the same love and enthusiasm for riding that he has.

Eventually, Chris was offered the opportunity to combine his two passions of cycling and cooking while he was the Executive Chef and Event Producer for King Cycling Group’s Gourmet Century Events, where he first heard of and became involved with Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry a few years back.

NKH is striving to end childhood hunger, currently focusing on working with Public Schools to improve, and in some cases reinstate meal programs all over the country, including Oregon. When I asked Chris what it was about this cause that means so much to him, his answer was heartfelt and to the point.

“When I was growing up, my parents worked their asses off to make sure I never went without a meal. 1 in 6 children in this country go to school every day hungry… and the fact that this is an issue is an abomination. It’s a solvable problem. As a chef who’s job it is to feed people, it is my obligation to help, especially in such a fun way.”

He says that the SLPDX team is holding several events in the Portland area in the next two months, with a 300 mile ride taking place May 14-16 in Santa Rosa, CA with a goal of 275+ chefs riding to raise $2.4M. Pushing their physical limits while raising funds and awareness in support of such an organization is no easy feat. I was curious as to how he prepares himself for such a thing, so I asked Chris what his daily eating regimen consists of.

“Every day I ride I usually start with a protein shake, then eat something small with a lot of fat…. avocado toast with bacon usually works well. During the ride it varies, but every time I stop I eat and drink a whole bottle of water. I’ve been in the situation too many times where I don’t realize I’m undernourished until it’s too late. Dinner will be huge, and usually a lot of vegetables and proteins. I do everything in my power to avoid a ton of bread and alcohol, but I love beer too much to let it go entirely.”

In addition, he says that their Facebook page is setup with a donate button which will bring you directly to the Chefs Cycle website where anyone can contribute. Even $1 can make a huge impact. Click here to donate!

Currently he’s the Executive Chef at Trifecta, a restaurant and bakery that offers seasonal and sustainable cuisine and a bar that serves up old school cocktails like Negroni’s and Sidecar’s with a modern twist, and also has some impressive wines. He’s already working on the Spring Menu, and if you’re in the Portland area, I highly recommend you check the place out.

I have the utmost respect for people who put themselves out there in such a selfless way to help others in need, especially children. This is truly something that we can all relate to and help with. I hope you, dear reader, will consider giving a donation to help the Chefs reach their goal to help stop childhood hunger in our schools!

Be sure to follow Chef Chris on Instagram for more info and updates about Chefs Cycle 2019!

And Chris… As your friend, I am so very proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished so far. Cheers, hugs, and meows to you and everyone involved with Sack Lunch PDX!😻

Follow me on Instagram at Mystic Meals!

Xo,

Nikki Meow 💖

‘‘Tis the season!

Season’s Greetings, dear meows!

Wow! I can’t believe it’s December already! Where did the year go? One more month and then on to 2018! I don’t know about you meows, but 2017 was quite an interesting year for me. Lots of ups and downs, unexpected surprises, a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and a whole bunch of memories! Speaking of memories…

The holiday season is where eating, cooking, and food in general take center stage, at least for me 😉 This year for Thanksgiving, the roasted Turkey I made turned out exceptionally good. Literally picture perfect. See? 😉 ( pat’s self on the back… )

My secret? I dry brined the bird. It’s a great way to impart maximum flavor and ensuring crispy browned skin, while keeping the meat tender and juicy! Here’s a simple and easy dry brine rub that works wonders on Chicken & Turkey! For me, roasting low and slow, then turning up the oven temp towards the end really helps with the end results…

Dry Salt Brine Rub :

3 tablespoons kosher salt 

1 1/2 teaspoons dried herbs, such as thyme, sage, and rosemary, or blend

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (14- to 16-pound) thawed whole turkey (not kosher or pre-salted)

The reason for not using a kosher bird is that they typically have a salted solution added to them. Try to find a bird that has no pre seasoning or solutions injected into it. Use half the amount of rub if you’re using a whole chicken instead of a turkey. Pat your bird dry before adding the rub. They key here is get the dry rub under the skin as best as you can, and using the rest all over the outside of the bird. Then let it rest in the fridge, uncovered for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days max. The process of osmosis will draw out the natural juices from the bird, and then miraculously the meat then reabsorbs them, basically seasoning itself from the outside in. So worth it!

This year for Christmas, I’m not sure what I’m going to make. I’m leaning towards cooking some of the ethnic dishes Colombians and Puerto Rican’s typically prepare around this time of year. Pernil, which is roasted pork shoulder, is always a crowd pleaser and perfect for feeding a ton of meows.

Accompanied by yellow saffron rice, beans, salad and a creamy flan for dessert? Yes, meow! I haven’t made a flan in a while and I hope I haven’t lost my touch!

What are some of your favorite Christmas foods to make? I’ll be back here soon with some more recipes that’ll be great for holidays and beyond! But before I go… Lest we forget to make a yummy cocktail for toasting to the season! I found this one on Pinterest and I’m definitely gonna make a batch of these!

Pomegranate Mules

2oz. Vodka

1oz. pomegranate juice

1 Tbls. pomegranate seeds

1 Tbls. lime juice

1 tsp. honey

1/2 cup ice

Ginger beer or ginger ale

sprig of rosemary

In a cocktail glass, stir together the vodka, pomegranate juice, seeds, lime juice, honey and ice. Top off with the ginger beer and add a sprig of rosemary to garnish.

Thank you meows for being here and I hope to hear from you! Happy Holidays and Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs & meows! Nikki 💖✨😻

Photo credits by Jay Luna, Google images, Micha Morton and Pinterest 😉

 The Gemini Kitchen!

Michele with Chef Susan Feniger
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 WatersSusan 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.

 

Michele with Chef Giada De Laurentiis

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.

Antipasto Plates

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

Serves 6

6 pieces of halibut (salmon works too)
Olive Oil, Sweet or Spicy Paprika, Garlic Salt, 

2 lemons

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: Fennel, Arugula, Onions, Grapefruit, Sapphire Gibson
MM:  Fried chicken, pizza, or cheeseburgers? 

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 😉

It’s Miss Misery, Dammit!! 

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? 

RG: 

Alice Sweet Alice

Beast From The Haunted Cave

Silver Bullet (I don’t feel it gets enough attention or any AirPlay during October)

Halloween 3

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! 

Nikki Meow ✨💖😻

Pictures courtesy of Reyna & John 

Fajita picture courtesy of Google 😋

The FANtastic Horror Film Festival!


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 WestSheri 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! 😻

Nikki Meow 😊✨

French Onion Soup! 

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!
Nikki Meow

Top photo courtesy of Google 😉

Hot Sssauce is Top Boss, Baby!

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They say some like it hot. Although I don’t take my love of spicy food to the atomic level, I do like a nice kick to certain things from time to time. For example… I love a Gyro or Philly Cheesesteak with Tabasco. I also love me some Frank’s Red Hot on a chicken sandwich or of course, buffalo chicken wings! And then there’s Sriracha to drizzle over some noodles or add the perfect amount of spice when I make my own peanut sauce. And Sambal, and Chipotle, and Cholula, and Green Chili and… Ok. You get my drift, right? There’s a whole world of yummy hot sauce’s out there and they all bring both flavor and heat to the table.
Now my boyfriend Jay takes his love of spice to a whole other level. He’ll eat raw spicy chili’s like Jalapeño’s, Serrano’s, Hot Italian Peppers, Red Chili’s and STILL add more hot sauce on top of that with pretty much every meal. As far as he’s concerned, the hotter the better! What is it about eating spicy food that’s so appealing? I mean, it’s almost punishing if the heat keeps building up as you go, yet it also gives you a sort of rush, doesn’t it?
Here’s a few tid bits I’ve learned along my spicy culinary journey…

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Peppers are members of the Nightshade family and are related to Eggplants and Tomatoes, and although we eat them as a vegetable, technically they’re a fruit. We do that with a lot of produce, don’t we? It’s all in the mind… 😉
Capsaicin is the main bio active compound which provides their unique hot taste and other health benefits. Chili peppers are full of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin C, which helps support your immune system, and is an antioxidant, Vitamin B6 helps to boost your energy and metabolism, Vitamin K1 is important for healthy bones and kidneys, Vitamin A, which starts out as beta carotene in the chilis, Copper, another antioxidant important for strong bones and healthy neurons, and Potassium, which is a mineral that serves a variety of purposes to the body and may help in preventing heart disease.

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Capsaicin also helps to promote weight loss by giving your metabolism a boost. By the way… If you over indulge while eating something spicy, drinking water won’t cool your mouth down. Capsaicin is lipid soluble, so drinking milk, eating rice or even bread helps to break up the heat.
Capsaicin also has this crazy reputation for relieving certain kinds of pain and is even used in topical creams to rub on particular types of wounds and to alleviate Arthritis! How cool is that? Now I’m not saying to start scarfing down raw chilis or taking shot glasses full of hot sauce as a chaser ( although I’m sure we all know someone who would… 😝) but incorporating some spice to your food life might not be such a bad idea.

Make a spicy pico de gallo, or add some sliced Jalapeño’s to your next bowl of soup or chili. Add some to your eggs. Buy some hot sauces to try out and start sprinkling some on your pasta, rice, steak, fish, you name it. Why not? Just remember not to touch your face, eyes and um… other places without washing your hands thoroughly or you’ll be in for quite a spicy, burning surprise!

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It’s the oils from the chili peppers that sticks to our skin. Dish soap actually works really well at getting rid of hot pepper hands 😉
Well meows… I hope this little blog inspires you to be adventurous and gets your mouth watering for something spicy and delicious. I’d love to hear about what some of your favorite hot sauces and spicy dishes are! Thanks for hanging with me 💖 Cheers, hugs & meows!

Nikki Meow

Disclaimer : Some photos courtesy of Google 😊