Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Circumstantial Evidence

In the fall of 1988, women living in Chattanooga waited in fear and anticipation as law enforcement sought to apprehend those responsible for wreaking criminal havoc throughout the area.  A string of rapes and the murder of my roommate in our home, appeared to be related, but leads were few and the cases were far from being solved.

Meanwhile, folks in Monroeville, Alabama, were still reeling from the senseless murder of their hometown sweetheart 2 years earlier.  The accused had been promptly identified, tried, convicted, and he now occupied a cell on death row, but Ronda Morrison's death still didn't make sense, and the conviction of Walter McMillian was being appealed on every side.

In his book, Circumstantial Evidence, investigative reporter, Pete Earley, meticulously recounts the principle events and characters in this real-life drama, demonstrating how very difficult and muddied the task of uncovering truth can be.  Human frailty begets forgetfulness, carelessness, bias, assumptions, and false trust, which, in turn, lead to mistakes and missteps that further mask the truth.  Human depravity begets lying, revenge, hatred, and outright wickedness that intentionally buries the truth under a mountain of irretrievable lies, which, when believed, can result in a profound miscarriage of justice. 

I found Earley's research and reconstruction of this story both riveting and highly disturbing.  Even now, it seems impossible to know with certainty what happened to that young lady.  But...seeing how the desperate need to solve a crime for the community's sake, coupled with human frailty and depravity, can lead to grave errors, brought old fears home to me.  

Though Harold Wayne Nichols was tried and convicted for the death of my roommate, and waits out his days on death row, I can't help but remember every appeal that has been made on his behalf in the past 20 years: he was bribed for his confession, his alibis were not investigated, his confession was coached to match the evidence, evidence was constructed to fit Nichol's story, etc.  Nearly all of these same circumstances existed in the Monroeville case, and seem to have been proven in the process of appeals (leading to the release of the accused).  I have always assumed the goodwill and truthfulness of the investigators, prosecutors, and judges in the Nichol's trial - and I am not necessarily calling them into question now - but I can't help but be slightly unnerved by how easily the authorities in the Alabama case were self-deceived and actually believed they had the right man...they were blinded by the tragedy of Ronda's death, their own prejudices, and the need to bring about a resolution.  I can't help but ask, "Could it be...?"  

However, I do not allow myself to meditate on those questions because they quickly give rise to a fear that is biological and irrational.  What I mean is, I actually begin to physically feel the fear as much as I did just after the murder (intense fear manifests itself in a very biological way that can not be described, only experienced), and the subsequent idea that the real perpetrator might still be at large has the potential to send me into a state of mental and emotional panic.  

So...I pray.  I pray that truth has prevailed, that God's justice really is being done and if it isn't, that it will be brought to light...and then I discipline my mind away from the questions to a place of rest.

All of that is a really convoluted way of recommending this book!  Not only does Earley make this investigative report read like a mystery novel, he provides insight into human nature, community and systems.  Well worth your time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From The Gulag

Partway through his imprisonment, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was identified as one of those "valuable" prisoners from whom the state could benefit, so he was transported to a more liberal facility where he could engage in intellectual work on the state's behalf.  His passage took him through a public train station where he was suddenly "submerged in freedom" and where he overhead civilians bemoaning their rather trivial concerns.  He says this:

Why has life been given to you?  In the deep, deaf stillness of midnight, the doors of the death cells are being swung open  - and great souled people are being dragged out to be shot.  On all the railroads of  the country this very minute, right now, people who have just been fed salt herring are licking their lips dry with bitter tongues.  They dream of the happiness of stretching out one's legs and of the relief one feels after going to the toilet.  In Orotukan, the earth thaws only in summer and only to the depth of three feet - and only then can they bury the bones of those who died during the winter.  And you have the right to arrange your own life under the blue sky and the hot sun, to get a drink of water, to stretch, to travel wherever you like without a convoy.  So what's this about unwiped feet?  And what's this about a mother-in-law?  What about the main thing in life, all its riddles?  If you want, I'll spell it out for you right now.  Do not pursue what is illusory - property and position: all of that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night.  Live with a steady superiority over life - don't be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn't last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing.  It is enough if you don't freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don't claw at your insides.  If your back isn't broken and your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes see, and if both ears hear, then whom should you envy?  And why?  Our envy of others devours us most of all.  Rub your eyes and purify your heart - and prize above all else in the world those who love you and wish you well.  Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it might be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted in their memory!

30 in 30: Buffalo Chicken Mini Pizzas

Buffalo Chicken Mini Pizzas
(I forgot to take a photo!)
2 oz. cream cheese
3-4 T. mayo
1 T. garlic, minced
2 t. chicken base

Mix thoroughly.  Spread onto 4 halved SS rolls.

2 T. butter
1/4 c. Frank's hot sauce
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded

Mix well.  Spoon over rolls with sauce.

Sprinkle generously with shredded cheese.  (I tried Mozarella, Colby-jack, and Cheddar w/ Pepper Jack...they all worked but the Pepper Jack was my favorite with the mozarella second.)

Heat at 450 for 5-7 minutes.  Really good stuff!

Monday, August 29, 2011

30 in 30: Veggie Panini

Veggie Panini

Slice SS roll in half, slather each side with Pesto Mayo: 
1 T. prepared pesto
2 T. real mayo
(enough for 2 sandwiches)

For each sandwich, pan fry a portabella mushroom in butter, salt and pepper.  When tender, place on one half of sandwich.

Flash fry a sandwich-size roasted red pepper and place on other half of sandwich.  

Cover mushroom with a slice of Havarti cheese.

Bake at 350 for 6 minutes.  Remove and cool for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Musical Monday: Connor Burrows

One of my favorite Donne poems, "Hymn to God the Father" set to music and performed by boy's choir phenom, Connor Burrows.

Wilt thou forgive that sin, where I begun,
which is my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive those sins through which I run,
and do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou has done, thou has not done, for I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin, by which I won
others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
a year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When thou has done, thou hast not done, for I have more.

I have a sin of fear that when Ive spun
my last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
Swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore.
And having done, that thou hast done, I fear no more.
-John Donne (1573-1631)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

30 in 30: Pear-Bacon-Gorgonzola Bites

Pear-Bacon-Gorgonzola Bites

3 Sister Schubert's rolls, sliced in half (cut into smaller pieces, if desired).

2 oz. cream cheese
2-3 T. gorgonzola (or a favorite bleu cheese)
1 T. heavy cream (use more if needed to thin to spreading consistency)

Spread onto SS rolls.

1 pear, sliced longways, and sauted in butter until tender crisp
6 slices bacon, halved and fried until crisp

Layer pear, then bacon slices on top of cheese spread.

Drizzle caramel sauce over top:
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 T. heavy cream

Place on baking sheet and heat for 6 minutes on 350 degrees.

Serve warm, or at room temperature, OR cold!  These are good all three ways!!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

30 in 30: Pot Pie w/ Leeks & Wild Shrooms

Pot Pie w/ Leeks & Wild Shrooms

Layer the following in 9x13 casserole:

Layer 1
1 c. frozen corn
1 c. frozen green beans

Layer 2
1 c. diced carrots
2 lg. leeks
2 bunches green onion
Saute all 3 in 2T. butter and 2 T. oil until tender

Layer 3
5-6 c. wild mushrooms (any combination of portabellos, shortage, porcini...)
Saute in 4 T. butter and 4 T. oil, until tender

Layer 4 (optional)
2 chicken breasts, fried in butter and oil until almost done and shredded or diced

Layer 5
Cream Sauce:
1/2 c. butter, melt in saucepan, then whisk in:
4-5 T. flour
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 qt. heavy cream
1 T. cracked pepper
1 t. sage
1 t. tarragon

Layer 6
5 Sister Schubert's rolls, sliced in half and turned "upside down" on top of all for "crust".  

Brush tops of rolls with melted butter.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  OR...cover and place in fridge until next day.  Bake at 300 for 30-40 minutes, until edges are bubbly and pot pie is heated through.

Friday, August 26, 2011

30 in 30: St. Andre w/ Brown Sugar & Pecans

St. Andre is a luscious triple cream cheese that is delicious served this way:

Break up St. Andre and distribute evenly in baking dish.  Sprinkle heavily with brown sugar and pecans.  Heat until cheese is melted.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes so cheese can partially solidify (it will look like butter when it comes out of the oven!). 

Quarter Sister Schubert's rolls and heat through - 5-7 minutes.  Dip into and scoop up cheese mixture.  

This dish works well as an appetizer, but even better as a dessert served with a French Sauterne or a German Eiswein.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wordsmith Wednesday

I received some cash for my birthday and I can not decide what to do with it.  Because I want too many things, I am:


Not to mention Wishy-washy. Yep...that's me. 

Here are the options under consideration:

1.  Save it to put toward my first ever laptop - preferably a MacBook Air

2.  Go skydiving.

3.  Purchase all the books in my Amazon cart, which are:

NT Wright
Small Faith -- Great God
Scripture and the Authority of God

Peter Leithart
Deep Exegesis
Against Christianity

Henri J. M. Nouwen 
The Return of the Prodigal Son

Miroslav Volf
Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

Mark Horne
JRR Tolkien

C.S. Lewis
On Stories
The Discarded Image
An Experiment in Criticism
Studies in Words
God in the Dock
The Weight of Glory
The Abolition of Man
The Great Divorce

Eugene Peterson
The Pastor: A Memoir
Practice Resurrection

4.  Hang on to it and spend it slowly on favorite music and concerts.

5.  Go away for 2 weeks and start writing one of the books I keep saying I'm gonna write.

What to do...

30 in 30: Smoked Turkey W/ Pumpkin Marmalade Mustard

Smoked Turkey W/ 
Pumpkin Marmalade Mustard

Pumpkin Marmalade Mustard
(enough for 6-8 sandwiches)

Thoroughly combine:
1 T. Spicy Brown Mustard
4 T. Pumpkin Butter
4 T. Orange Marmalade

Heat 6 Sister Schubert's Rolls according to package directions.  Slice open.  

On each side, layer:
Smoked Turkey to desired thickness
Gruyere, sliced or grated to desired thickness

Broil for 2-4 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.

Remove from oven.  Add a generous dollop of Pumpkin Marmalade Mustard to sandwich and chow down.

I also like this sandwich uncooked, with COLD turkey, cheese and PMM!  Give it a whirl.

Oh, Oh You Will Be Sorry

Oh, Oh, You Will Be Sorry
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
Give me back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,
"What a big book for such a little head!"
Come, I will show you now my newest hat
And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!
Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.
I never again shall tell you what I think.
I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more:
I shall be called a wife to pattern by;
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

30 in 30: Toast w/ Chunky Stovetop Apple Butter

Toast w/ Chunky Stovetop Apple Butter

In saucepan over Medium heat:
Melt 2 T. butter
Saute 2 med Granny Smith apples until tender crisp - 4-6 minutes

Stir in, one at a time:
1 T. flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. water

Bring mixture to boil, then simmer on lowest heat for 20 minutes, or until apples are soggy.  Mash apples with a fork.

1/2 c. water
1/4 c. brown sugar

Again, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until sauce is dark brown and thickened.   Mash any remaining bits of apple.  (If needed, add more water to thin and simmer longer...the times listed here worked perfectly for the texture and color I wanted.) Cool and refrigerate.  

Toast Sister Schubert's rolls, then spread generously with real butter and a healthy dose of Chunky Stovetop Apple Butter!    

Monday, August 22, 2011

30 in 30: Doughnuts to Die For

First of all, let me say that I have a fairly small kitchen with very minimal storage space, so I make it a policy to store precious few gadgets.  Those I choose to own have to be pretty special.  

One of two rarely used appliances I store above the refrigerator is a heart-shaped waffle iron from my mother, which, in addition to making lovely waffles,  carries both sentimental and traditional value.  The other appliance I choose to store is nothing other than..............a Fry Daddy!!  Yep.  I own a gen-you-wine old-fashioned Fry Daddy! And I love it.  It is, afterall, the only way I could make this recipe...and it is SO worth a little lost cabinet space.  

Doughnuts to Die For

Pour your preferred vegetable oil in FryDaddy to fill line.  While the oil is heating, make the glaze(s) for your doughnuts.

Clear Glaze
1/3 c. butter, melted
1 1/2 t. vanilla
2 c. powdered sugar
6 T. hot water

Blend all ingredients on medium speed in small mixing bowl, until smooth.  This is enough glaze to cover 10-12 doughnuts (rolls).  

Chocolate Icing/Glaze
1/3 c. butter, melted
1 scant c. milk chocolate chips, melted with butter
1 1/2 t. vanilla
2 c. powdered sugar
6 T. hot water

OR...if making a small batch of doughnuts, you can do what I did.  Just make one recipe of clear glaze, then separate into 2 bowls.  Add 1/2 scant c. of chocolate chips to one and microwave for 30-45 seconds.  Blend well.

So...there's more than one way to fry a Sister Schubert's roll!  First, choose your size.  I left some of the rolls whole and others I quartered for bite-size morsels.  The little ones were my favorite, but Eric preferred the whole ones. They were both super yummy!

When oil is fully heated, drop bread into FryDaddy.  Watch carefully!  The full-size rolls took about 30 seconds per side, while the bite-size guys took even less. 

As soon as bread is fried to a medium golden brown, remove doughnuts from oil to a cooling rack.  When "dry" looking (takes a few seconds is all), submerge rolls in clear glaze, then return to cooling rack so excess icing can drip off. 

Let cool just a little before serving, but they are best warm.  

I used the Chocolate glaze two ways:  I submerged some of the bite-size doughnuts in it and that was pretty good!  I also dipped the tops of a couple full-size clear-glazed rolls in the chocolate so that they were "iced."  

Have fun and chow down.  These little guys are amazing!

NOTE: Those of you who skipped last night's cookout at PRPC, missed out!  I brought over a hundred of these doughnut holes to share...and they disappeared...QUICKLY!  

Musical Monday: Pokey LaFarge

Sweet Ann recently introduced me to this artist, Pokey LaFarge.  Unfortunately, I missed last week's performance at Off Broadway, but I'll be watching closely for their return to STL.  This is some seriously happy music.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

30 in 30: Blueberries 'N Cream W/ Cilantro-Lime Glaze

So...that's a really long name for a recipe, but the only other I could come up with, used the word "Thingy" which I figured no true Wordsmith Apprentice would EVER use!  So...there you have it.  A very long title.

And I finally will admit what I have known all along.  My food photography stinks.  The lighting in my kitchen is not conducive to good photos and I don't have the time or the will to set up extra lighting in order to take great photos.  Besides, while I believe presentation is important, I also acknowledge it is not my strong suit.  Flavor?  I can DO THAT!

Blueberries 'N Cream w/ Cilantro-Lime Glaze
Serves 4

2 Sister Schubert's Rolls, halved, buttered, and toasted at 350 until crisp and brown - about 10 minutes.

Blend together in mixing bowl:
1/2 c. heavy cream whipped
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. powdered sugar

In a saucepan on medium heat, stir until dissolved:
1/4 c. lime juice
1/3 c. sugar

Whisk in:
2 t. cilantro (I used the pre-crushed cilantro in a tube, found in the produce section of the supermarket)
1 1/2 t. cornstarch

Whisk until thoroughly combined and starting to thicken.  Let cool slightly before serving.

To serve:
Place 1/2 a roll on plate.  
Spoon a large dollop of cream onto bread.  
Top with 1/4-1/3 c. fresh sweet blueberries.
Drizzle cilantro-lime glaze over the top and around edge of plate.

This is one of my favorites so far!  Really good stuff!