Mini & Mighty Vegie & White Bean Pot Pie

To be precise: Kale, White Bean, Leek, Carrot and Zucchini Pot Pies!

I’ve been craving Shepard’s Pie since I went to the UK a couple months ago, but since I don’t eat meat, I was out of luck—at least where I was dining. And I’ve been wanting to make chicken-less pot pie, so New Year’s Day, I dug in. And the result? Sensational!

It wasn’t easy, but worth the effort. Which did I like better—pastry or mashed potato topping? Both!! The mashed potato (I used red potatoes with the peel on) is heartier so better on a cold day, but both are splendid.

20200101_173945-e1577946782270.jpgThe beauty with this recipe is options:

  1. Pie crust or puff pastry (easier!) or mashed potato topping
  2. Clean the crisper of all your vegies
  3. Dump in those frozen vegies taking up space
  4. Be intentional with your favorites (like I did—including two types of kale)
  5. Pack a protein punch with white beans or lentils
  6. Pick your favorite spice (I made four versions!)

20200101_181631.jpg

Chop all your vegies and place each in the ramekins you’ll be using for your pot pies—efficient! When you’re ready to sauté them, they’ll all be handy. Hint on the leeks—use only the white and light green part, cut it length wise and break open to rinse. Dirt loves to hide in leeks.

20200101_183437.jpg

 

Hint on the beans: I used one can of Great Northern Beans (GNB) and a third of a can of Cannellini Beans (CB). Both are white beans, but the GNB are smaller and absorb flavor more than the CB, but the two together are nice.

 

Before you start cooking, I highly suggest you have your vegie broth, butter and flour handy for the gravy. It’s hard to open that box of broth when you’re whisking away—trust me.

20200101_173738-2.jpgChop your spices and place in individual dishes also. I decided to try different spices since I had thyme and oregano in my garden, and fresh dill in my refrigerator. Dill and oregano are two of my favorite spices to cook with—along with cilantro. I added each of these to the individual pies at the end and marked each with a spring on the crust.

 

After you mix your cooked vegies and gravy, set it aside and take your puff pastry out of the refrigerator. It should be thawed, but still cold when you roll it out. One puff pastry sheet will fit six ramekins easily when rolled out. Any more, you’ll need a second sheet. Hint: place the ramekins upside down on the pastry, dip your knife in flour, and cut around the edges, giving extra space—about an 1/8”.

This recipe makes eight ramekins, but since I only had six, I used a cute mini loaf pan.


White Bean and Leek Pot Pie with Kale and Zucchini

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil to coat pan
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green part thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot or four small bite sized, finely chopped
  • 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 pinches of kosher or sea salt
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, and chopped or torn
  • 2 cups white beans, rinsed and washed
  • Pepper to taste
  • Fresh herb of choice—thyme, oregano or dill (optional but advise), finely chopped
  • ½ stick butter (or substitute for vegans)
  • 3 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • 3 ½ tablespoons flour
  • Egg white, whisked (optional for vegans)
  • 1 puff pastry sheet (or pie crust or mashed potatoes)
  1. Coat the bottom of a large cast iron skillet with olive oil and heat over medium flame. Drop in the onions, leek, celery and carrots. Stir until onions are translucent. Then add zucchini and stir another two minutes. Add red pepper flakes, garlic and salt, stir another two minutes. (If you are only adding one herb, you can add now—thyme and oregano together are nice as well.) Finally, add the kale. Don’t panic if the pan is full—a few stirs and the leaves wilt and reduce. When they are a bright green (about a minute or two), empty vegetable mix into a bowl.
  2. Time for the gravy. Wipe the pan out, leaving whatever wants to stay behind in the pan. Add your butter and melt over low heat, careful not to burn it. Then toss in your flour and begin whisking—don’t stop! Slowly add the broth, whisking all the while—until you’re out of broth. Your gravy should be forming. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil—still whisking, then reduce the flame to a simmer—still whisking. About ten minutes later you can stop whisking as you should have a nice creamy gravy. Turn the flame off.
  3. Add the rinsed beans to your vegie mix, and then add all to the gravy and stir until well mixed. Add pepper to taste.
  4. If using pastry or puff pastry, now is the time to roll it out, measure around the ramekins, cutting with a floured knife an extra 1/8” around. (Mashed potatoes can be made now, ahead, or while you are cooking)
  5. Fill each ramekin to the inner line, leaving about ¼” for the pastry to puff or the mashed potatoes to brim. If adding herbs to make different pies, mix in a pinch of your choice, remembering which was which spiced pie.
  6. For puff pastry, gently lay it over the top and stretch to edges. For pie crust, flute the edges. Insert knife in center for steam to escape. Place the corresponding herb on top to mark the pies flavor. For mashed potatoes, drop enough dollops to cover the filling completely, sealing the edges with potatoes. Sprinkle the potatoes with garlic or paprika and add your herb indicator.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry/mashed potatoes are golden brown and the pie is bubbling to come out.

To store your yummy pies, wrap in aluminum foil or Tupperware and tuck in the refrigerator for up to three days. You can also store in the freezer—but I’ve not tried it!

 

For the love of Hydra: Greek Bruschetta

I fell hard for bruschetta when I went on a fast and furious trip to the Amalfi Coast and Capri seven or so years ago. The fresh, plump tomatoes, the fragrant basil and the olive oil. Oh, the olive oil.

20191114_124922

But in November, I went to Hydra (pronounced he-dra, not hy-dra), the small Greek Island off Athens where no cars (except the mini garbage truck), motorcycles, scooters and bikes are allowed. Where Leonard Cohen once lived. Where the elite park their yachts in high season.

But in November, little is open, the island is at its sleepiest, and locals get to know you quick—wondering why you are visiting at this off-season time. Here, I fell in love with the welcoming people, the chanting monks, the soothing water, the plentiful cats, the fresh seafood, and the ever-present oregano.

20191116_154038-e1577688446121.jpg

At one of my favorite restaurants (not many were open), I had a surprising bruschetta type dip. What made it different? Subbing oregano (of course) for basil, adding green peppers, and all were finally chopped, almost like a tapenade. Pair it with a cold Greek beer, red wine and grilled calamari and we have a little piece of island heaven. (My mouth is watering thinking about this bit of love.)

 

 

So obsessed I was, I made it for an appetizer at Thanksgiving and for a neighbors Candy Cane Lane party. Both times, it was devoured. Now, I’m sharing it with you. (How holiday does this platter look!)

20191222_175141

To maximize the flavor, get those tomatoes in the olive oil with the oregano and garlic. I chop all organic and ripe tomatoes into small pieces first. If you have access, get a mix of grape tomatoes for the color and tomatoes on the vine, roma or heirloom. Just make the pieces small, no bigger than your pinkie nail (assuming your pinkie nails aren’t dragon nails).

20191127_163133

Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with a little sea salt and enough quality olive oil to coat. Then mince that garlic and chop the oregano and drop it in, stirring in that yummy flavor. While it’s marinating, chop your green pepper and red onion as small as you can, and if you want to add a bit of basil, now is the time.

20191127_164620.jpg

 

After adding these final ingredients, drizzle more olive oil over the mixture. You should have enough olive oil and tomato to create a nice juice. Give it a taste and add more salt (I’m heavy on the salt!) And pop it in the refrigerator. It’s ready to go now, but I like it best after it has settled for a couple hours or even overnight.20191222_165851.jpg

When you are ready to serve, slice the baguette in 1/3 inch rounds. My trick to evenly broil with flavor is to pour a small layer of olive oil in a Tupperware dish, sprinkle in some garlic powder and dried oregano. I drop the rounds in the olive oil (they don’t have to be evenly coated with oil, but mostly), then turn olive oil side up on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil. Pop under the broiler long enough to brown.

20191222_170157.jpg

This, unlike traditional bruschetta, should be spooned on the bread by the eater—like a dip. If you do in advance, the bread will get soggy. (Note: an alternate to French baguette is fresh pita—how I had it in Hydra—which was more like Naan bread available in America then our pita.)

This colorful dish is perfect for the Christmas table, or a summer barbecue.


Greek Bruschetta

Ingredients

  • 4 sprigs fresh oregano, minced (feel free to add to more sprigs)
  • 4 leaves fresh basil, chopped (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic -minced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (to taste)
  • ¼ green pepper finally chopped
  • 1 small package grape tomatoes (prefer red, yellow, and purple), chopped
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 large red onion, diced
  • 1 French baguette, sliced in 1/3 rounds*
  • Dried crushed coregano
  • Garlic powder

Instructions

  1. In a serving bowl or medium bowl, combine your tomatoes, garlic and oregano with olive oil to coat. Then sprinkle with salt, and add red onion and green pepper. Stir to combine. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve—an hour or 24 hours.
  2. Cut the baguette into 1/3 inch slices. When you are ready to serve, dip each bread round in olive oil spiced with garlic powder and crushed oregano. Arrange into one layer on a baking sheet with olive oil side up. Place under a broiler until the top of the bread is lightly toasted.
  3. Serve with the Greek Bruschetta in a bowl and the rounds placed on a surrounding platter.

Note: an alternate to French baguette is fresh pita—how I had it in Hydra—which was more like Naan bread available in America then our pita.


Confession, I’m not much of a measuring type cook, and I’m not great at writing recipes down… so each time it’s a little different. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

20191117_065735

 

#PimpMyBio #PitchWars

What happens when you only have time to look at Twitter for 15 minutes in the morn? You miss a whole load of good stuff… including the latest on #PitchWars and what?! #PimpmyBio. Yes, I just spent the last two hours reading tweets and bios and fell for two fellow adult writers—hopefully, you know who you are as I followed you and commented. Well done both of you fellow #menteeshelpingmentees.

Wait this is supposed to be about me! (Insert shot here that might win hearts or at least interest.)

Back of the Hudson

Okay, but random quote… like him or not, The Terminator spoke at my company event (I will not insert photo here) and he said that it really bothers him when people say he is “a self-made man,” because he didn’t get where he is today alone. “It’s not about ‘me’, it’s about ‘we.’”  So all you fellow Mentees and Mentors (insert applause/dancing image ) AS

But this is my bio… so now about me… that’s why you are here, right?

The fun and short story can be found above in the “This is what I am About” link. The Blog Bio. I’ll give the #Pimp version… not too repetitive—and some untold, juicy stuff.

My first book was written and illustrated by me, and published by my kindergarten teacher. One copy only and I own it. Someday it will be in the Trinity Library, not just in a box in my garage. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer.

Fast forward to oh, 10ish and I wrote a story about the smuggling of gold into the U.S. from Canada in candy bars. It was brilliant. Well, it was good.

Shout out to that one teacher in high school (love all you English teachers out there) who inspired me—and I majored in communications and journalism in college.

So about college. I was given the choice of writing about squirrels on campus or music, and duh… I became the entertainment editor of my college paper. Made sense—my boyfriend was in a punk band, all my friends were in bands, and I hung out at clubs. Of course. One of my first interviews was a band from Scotland. I could barely understand a word.

So began a near decade “career” in music “journalism”—one that had me (no name dropping allowed!) waking up in Cleveland on a heavy metal band’s tour bus (“Hello Cleveland!”); jumping out of a plane with one of the biggest grunge bands from Seattle (talk about stepping out of the box!); interviewing one of the loveliest voices that ever lived (and passed far too early) while I was standing in my shower (before you say Hallelujah, he was at his house and I was at mine—he just called when he did and I did what I had to); driving around LA and walking around NYC with the godfather of my favorite music; and that only scratches the surface.

Read my “About” to see why I stepped out of that world… and into my next corporate gig. Still writing, but oh so different. Years later, not saying how many, I’m still there…

Because, drum roll (I prefer Sean Kinney or Stephen Perkins to Neal Peart), I have a son, who is about to be 17. Single mom. College tuition. Do the math.

Finally, my writing. I love to write. I could write stories—or read them—all day. As long as I also had my dogs and tea. My first serious book was a memoir. Love it and may or may not revisit. My father passed and it was far too personal for me to continue. So I tucked it away for the moment. (Insert fave shot of dad and son)

Max and Dad tongues

So I started writing another book in a notebook. And then two notebooks, then three, and another. Mostly on planes. Then I transcribed it. And edited it. And sent it out to an editor (love her) and she helped me. I entered it in a writing competition and it won!! But I felt it needed more work (while being perfect is boring, I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and I was too close. So I tucked it away…

Hi #NaNoWriMo—I did it, really. Spent the last year and half on that book—dual POV mother and daughter story, editing and cleansing and perfecting and then thought, I need a break from Losing Oneself. So hello The Other Side of Normal—I’m back and I have missed you… and I love you!

So for #PitchWars I am selecting The Other Side of Normal. Fiction set in 1980s SoCal punk scene—complete with riots, Mohawks, drugs and mosh pits. Frida hasn’t had a great life—lost her father when she was younger, never fit in as a teen, had some pretty cruddy relationships with guys, and just wants to be “normal.” She falls for a guy (Tom) in a punk band, who is really a “normal” guy—no piercings, boring well-to-do home, studying engineering at university. Of course, the boy next door isn’t always all he is cracked up to be, and Frida also falls for the new singer in his band.

Many aspects of this novel that I love, but mostly the scenery/setting and voice. Frida isn’t really that strong in the beginning, but as she finds herself, and learns to accept her version of “normal,” she grows to be a badass—like her best friend, Kelly, who is the take no prisoners type. I feel for both of these women and believe others will too… and that some of the guys in the book are also really likeable—even those that don’t look like the boy next door. (Insert mock up here!!)

Cover shot

10 quick facts (if I still have your attention), plus the Spinal Tap 11:

  1. Tenses aren’t my strength. I admit it.
  2. Foreign languages aren’t either, but I can speak a few words of many languages as I work with people from all over the world (Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, Scottish (I went there), etc.
  3. This year, I’ve been to Austria, Peru and Chile, and by the end of the year will add Colombia and the UK.
  4. I love to travel, but nothing compares to home.
  5. I believe always learning and growing as a person and writer is key to happiness, success, and being a better person/writer.
  6. I don’t mind public speaking, but don’t like to talk about myself (journalism background)
  7. I was in a punk rock cult movie a lifetime ago.
  8. I still buy CDs. And I still buy books. I have a collection of both.
  9. I also have a large collection of Mexican folk art (Day of the Dead, Frida Kahlo, etc.)
  10. I have dozens of stories I want to tell. Where is the time to write them?
  11. I have two dogs, Kira and Joy, both old and not healthy. It hurts my heart. (insert adorable shot here!)

IMG_2039

Good luck all!! And see you on Twitter or on the bookshelves!

 

My, My… Too Many “Mys”

I’ve spent the last three days combing MY manuscript for the word MY. With first person POV, it’s like I, over used. A crutch. MY crutch.

Starting from page one, I found far too many uses, but after seeing MY highlighted so many times in a paragraph that it looked like those annoying caution lights on your way home–road closed due to flooding. MY overused three times out of 10…. that’s three times too many.

MY use of MY sometimes aids in a too frequent I sentence pattern.

In this usage, opt for MY over I.

  • NOW: I rolled over to check the time on my phone; just after one.
  • UPDATE: My phone lit two minutes after one.

Check those Is. Remove when you can. We all know you are watching, hearing seeing, listening, etc.

  • NOW: I watched the white peaks come and go in the ocean, almost glowing as they reflected the moon.
  • UPDATE: The white foamy peaks came and went, glowing from the moon’s reflection.

Show not tell.

  • NOW: I rested my hand on her hair.
  • UPDATE: My hand rested on her hair.

Back to MY. MY advice, highlight all those MYs and remove those road blocks when you can.

  • NOW: My mom stirred and I rolled back, resting my hand on her back.
  • UPDATE: Mom stirred; I rested my hand on her back.

One more shot at editing MY.

  • NOW: I tucked the dolls into my suitcase with my books, and lifted the fabric of the suitcase to tuck the letter inside. That’s when I found the notebook, worn smooth as if it had been handled hundreds of times.
  • UPDATE: Before resting the dolls beside the books in my suitcase, I slipped the letter in a small tear in the fabric lining of the suitcase, revealing a notebook, worn smooth as if it had been every day for the last thirty years.

What do you think of the rewrites to Losing Oneself? What are your thoughts to the usage of My and I? I’m open to suggestions and thoughts… and observations.

Gimme Danger, once upon a time

gimme-danger

Once upon a time I was teenager hell bent on seeing Iggy Pop at the Hollywood Palladium only I was also hell bent on drinking and missed most of the show, though I saw a lot of the bathroom. No Fun.

Once upon a time I was a teenager hell bent on seeing Iggy Pop at The Whiskey and I didn’t make the same mistake. What a show! Real Wild Child.

Once upon a time I was in my early twenties and was friend’s with Eric, Iggy’s son, as we all hung out at the same dive of a house. And I had seen Iggy several times by now. Gimme Danger.

Once upon a time I was in my early thirties and I interviewed Iggy. We talked about his son and became friends… dinner in LA, dinner in NYC, Austin SXSW, calls before texts, and then lost touch. Real Cool Time.

And then I saw him years later and he said, “I know you don’t I?” Blah Blah Blah.

Ready for my next “once upon a time…” Lust for Life.

 

Amy’s Army: Poem for a Friend

A year ago Friday I lost a dear friend to a cruel disease-cancer. She was gone before her army of friends could process it… and that army is still wrapping their arms around it. She had such a team behind her, a loving family, and a little boy. Cancer didn’t care. I wrote this poem to honor her, our friendship and the team that surrounded her–many putting their lives on hold without a second thought to fight by her side. All because of her generous spirit and beautiful smile.

az-rocks

Amy’s Army

 

I have this friend, her name is Amy.

I met her 25, or so, years ago.

The moment was unremarkable, so much so, I don’t remember when or where.

Maybe some club on the Strip. Maybe over a drink, or five.

No matter, as how is what really matters.

Her best friend introduced us.

I was excited to share.

Jello shots, Thai Elvis, Palm Springs, pantsuits, orchids, Dan Tanas.

Financial advisors and tax accountants.

Baby showers (both ours), bridal showers (not ours), birthdays.

Sweet as Hell, a T-shirt I once made for her in soft pink.

An hour phone call over a man in another land (mine), a brief conversation over a man at a NYC bar (her).

Encouraging talks from one single mom to a hopeful new single mom (her),

Short concerned calls over our mutual best friend (Kat),

Texts and IMs—AmyDeeZ—about shoes and music and stuff that no longer seems to matter.

And finally, a frightened conversation in the early morning hours on a September Sunday…

It takes a village, she said, more than a little embarrassed.

There’s an entire team behind you, Team Amy.

She smiled the beautiful Amy smile we all know.

Remember, you have an army of friends all here for you, I told her.

We all gave to Amy, because Amy gave to us.

To me, Amy is one of my close girlfriends, because that’s how Amy is.

So many years ago, Amy shared Katherine with me.

Then in short time I met more of her best and closest friends, Jill, Cindy and Mindy.

Her loving family—including her beloved Jake.

And over countless drinks and dinners, I heard stories of her Warner Brothers crew, the Palm Springs crowd, her Minneapolis friends, the tennis and UCLA fans, and so many more.

A year ago, in typical selfless Amy fashion, she shared her Army of friends.

And she did it with a sweet smile.

Amy’s Army became TeamAZ

United because of our love for her and her generous spirit, we are all blessed to call one another friend.

Thanks to our American Girl.

 

Inspiration #3 Read, Read & Read

There is only one thing that inspires me more than life: reading.

With every amazing book I read, I’m inspired to write.

With every well-crafted story, I learn.

With every author’s bio, I believe in the possibilities.

If you want to write, READ!

The "H's" and then some

The “H’s” and then some

The following are a few of my favorite books that I have either found 1) inspiring, 2) learned from or 3) thrilled by the author–and in no particular order.

New(ish) as in I read roughly this past year:

Yes, Yes Cherries, Mary Otis (triple threat)

Johnathan Unleashed, Meg Rosoff (love the character building)

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman (character, character, inspiring, inspiring)

Watching Edie, Camilla Way (POV lesson)

Harmony, Carolyn Parkhurst (POV lesson and voice!)

How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran (gritty character and badass author)

Butterflies in November, Audur Ava Olafsdottir (inspiring and characters!)

The Woman who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle (inspiring)

 

Older (as in I read more than a couple years ago, but not in school):

Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

Geek Love, Katherine Dunn

Anything by Raold Dahl

The Stranger, Albert Camus (okay, I read it in high school, but still love)

Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver (I was living in Minnesota)

Lush Life, Richard Price

Love Medicine, Louis Erdrich (I was living in Minnesota)

The Van, Roddy Doyle (my Irish period)

I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai

 

And the list goes on…. Read on while you write on. The two go hand in hand.

The "Ts" and then some...

The “Ts” and “Vs” and then some…

 

 

 

Inspiration #2 Moments in Life

Palm2Lap top in lap, relaxing as the sun is winding down its day, the shadows from the bamboo cooling the backyard, leaning back in the lounger, I look up and a sea of blue greets me, beautifully broken by my palm tree, whose fronds are gently waving in the breeze.

Deep sigh.

Inspiration #2. A moment so natural, simple, quiet. Awe.

Inspiration #1 Being Open

With an open mind, inspiration can be found, uncovered, discovered, and waiting in virtually every waking (and some sleeping) moment of the day.

I truly believe this — with an open mind, open heart, and good memory (or a pen and paper at hand), I can be inspired by a blade of grass, a glass of beer, or a barely spoken word.

IMG_3473

Inspiring in June 2016:  The sunset over Maas in Maastricht.

 

Inspiration #1: Sunset in a foreign city.

Walking across a bridge in a world away from home, pausing to reflect on the beauty seen for the first time by me, but seen by many others for hundreds of years is breathtaking. The thought that millions of other people have crossed this particular bridge and paused at the same spot to drink in the beauty, hold hands, or even light a cigarette doesn’t cross my mind.  To me it is old, yet fresh–as if I am the first to discover its secrets.

 

 

When Life Gets in the Way… Get Lucky and enter a contest

Lucky capture

Dear Lucky Agent

Dear Lucky Blog,

I think about you several times a week. I do, seriously. You’re like a good friend I haven’t seen in years, only its been a few months.

I’ve been busy, honest. But I still care, deeply.

What has pulled me away. I challenged myself and wrote another book. DOVE in headfirst (thankfully, there was water) and just went for it. HARDCORE. And it resulted in a good book. I mean good. Maybe not perfect, but it will be momentarily.

And I am ready to put it out there. In fact, I am entering it in a really cool writing contest. New Year, New You, New Writing Contest. There are all of them out there now, and some goodies — but this one thanks to Chuck Sambuchino and agent Elizabeth Winick Rubenstein of McIntosh & Otis, is right for me (and maybe you writer friend!): Dear Lucky Agent #21 as its on Women’s Fiction. This is how you enter… http://tinyurl.com/z5njvsp

Go for it! I am….

@WritingsofJClay