Mike’s Smoked Paprika Polenta Chicken

polenta paprika chickenI first created this recipe back in 2009. It’s simple and tasty. The nice thing is that you can make it in whatever quantity you need.

Mike’s Smoked Paprika Polenta Chicken


boneless chicken breast
smoked paprika
spaghetti sauce
provolone cheese (or shredded mozzarella)


  1. Make your favorite polenta recipe. If you don’t have one, I recommend Ina Garten’s.
  2. Cut the chicken breast into pieces. Season it with smoked paprika.
  3. Cook the chicken in a skillet seasoned with olive oil.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the spaghetti sauce.
  5. Put the polenta on a plate. Cover it with the spaghetti sauce. Add the chicken. Cover with a slice of provolone or shredded mozzarella.
  6. Microwave 45 seconds to melt the cheese. Serve.

Becoming a Great Essayist

Becoming a Great Essayist coverBecoming a Great Essayist
Jennifer Cognard-Black, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $24.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back– the sale price will come around again

I very much enjoyed this course. As a blogger I appreciated what Professor Cognard-Black had to say about what makes a proper essay. You can write about your own experience any time you want, but until you include a more universal component, until you work in a perspective to which your readers can relate, you have not written an actual essay.

For anyone desiring to get serious about essay writing, this can be a highly useful course. Cognard-Black discusses a wide variety of essay types: skeptical, reasonable, empathetic, visual, and on and on. She reads from well-written, evocative essays. And she gives assignments. After discussing a particular type of essay she provides instructions how to get started writing one.

There is a lot of valuable material here. I expect to listen to this course again.

Sacred Music Friday: Ubi Caritas

Ubi Caritas. Version by Ola Gjeilo, sung by The CWU Chamber Choir, Gary Weidenaar, director

automated proofing tools and their limitations

I have a long history with automated proofing tools. That history goes back to about 1990, when I experimented with a couple of grammar checkers while working at a small software company. To put this in context, at that time the only people who used Microsoft Windows were those who used graphic or desktop publishing tools that required it. The rest of us used the command line with the C prompt to start our programs, which, you may remember, we had to use one at a time. It was not until 1992 with the release of Windows 3.1 that the graphical user interface came into common use.

keyboardThe results of the testing I did with these proofing tools were disappointing. Things that should have been flagged weren’t and things that did not need to be flagged often were. Sadly, twenty-six years later in the world of Windows 10 little has changed.

In her marvelous Great Courses lecture series, English Grammar Boot Camp, Anne Curzan shows little love for the Microsoft Word grammar checker. She says that it often gets things wrong, and sometimes the rules it tries to enforce are often not even rules. For example, her version flags sentences that start with “and.” Interestingly, my Word 2013 doesn’t complain. In any case there is, she says, there is no established rule on not starting a sentence with “and.” (Mignon Fogarty, the Grammar Girl, says this rule is “one with no historical or grammatical foundation.”)

I certainly have my issues with Microsoft tools. The Word 2013 proofing tools failed to flag a repeated “the.” The grammar checker in Outlook wanted me to lowercase “give” at the beginning of a sentence (perhaps because it was preceded by “p.m.”) and failed to catch a “you” instead of “your” when I used the phrase “your money.”

Microsoft is not the only guilty party, however. The proofing tool for my personal blog has its annoyances. It asked me to replace “thyme” with “time” and “adobo” with “adobe.” I guess it doesn’t have much of an interest in cooking.

The bottom line: Don’t put too much trust in the grammar tools. Proofread carefully. Better yet, get someone to proofread your work for you.

my take on a taco bowl

taco bowlAs you know I’m hooked on the cooking programs on Food Network and the Cooking Channel. Now that we’re past the holidays those shows are back in full force. Last week I saw Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, make a taco skillet. I decided to do my own version, which I’m calling a taco bowl.

Mike’s Taco Bowl
serves 2

½ lb lean ground beef
Penzey’s Bold Taco Seasoning, to taste
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can no-salt-added chopped tomatoes, drained
1 chipotle pepper and a dash of adobo sauce
½ jar salsa
4 corn tortillas
toppings as desired (shredded cheese, sliced black olives, chopped chili peppers, guacamole, etc.)


  1. Brown the beef and season with the taco seasoning. Break up into pieces.
  2. Add the next four ingredients. Stir and mix.
  3. Lightly char the tortillas on a burner, tear into small pieces and add to mixture.
  4. Spoon into soup mugs and serve with toppings on the side.

Ree’s version used turkey rather than beef, the seasonings were different, and she had tomato as a topping rather than as part of the main dish. Her version yields 4 to 6 servings. My version serves 2. Here is her Lighter Taco Skillet recipe. On the television show she treated the tortillas as I do here. The recipe on the web site specifies serving the mixture on top of the tortillas.

In any case, I was very happy with my version. Terry really loved it. And it was an excuse for me to buy a package of guacamole. That’s always a Good Thing.

The Anthropology of Turquoise

anthropology of turquoise coverThe Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky
Ellen Meloy
Vintage, reprint edition (November 26, 2008), 338 pages
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $13.63

Ellen Meloy, when she is known at all, is known for her writing about the Southwest. I knew nothing of her until I listened to a course on writing essays from The Great Courses. It is a shame that she is not better known, and it is a shame that she died all to early in 2004 at age 59. Meloy knew how to vividly describe the Southwest and she knew how to style an evocative sentence. In one essay she writes about her childhood:

quoteAlthough I am certain I swam with my brothers or with friends, I recall instead a solitary, private world of sun and turquoise, leaving behind the sultry summer air, the lulling chorus of cicadas, and an interminable girl-boy geekiness to slip beneath the surface and stroke along the silent bottom of the pool—agile and fearless in water honeycombed with light.

The present volume is a collection of essays. While she writes about the Southwest, she also touches on other topics, including the Caribbean and her discovery of her ancestors there as well as the sex life of flowers.

The Southwest, however, is what she really knows. If you appreciate the Southwest you will enjoy Meloy’s writing.

a neighbor departs

When we moved here to Four Seasons in Hemet in May of 2015 our neighbor to the west was most gracious and welcoming. Sadly, she was not well and died some months back. The folks who bought her house, however, are very nice and we like them.

Our neighbor to the east, however, was another matter entirely. Her name is Glenda, though she likes to think of herself as Glinda. Glinda she is not.

house next doorShe did not like Tasha and her barking. Rather than admitting to that, however, she said, “The neighbors are complaining already.” She didn’t want to say that she was the one who didn’t like the barking. When we tried to get her to sign off on our plans to install artificial turf to replace our lawn in front she ignored all of our attempts to contact her.

Terry managed to enable a sort of reconciliation by asking, “What did we do to offend you?” She gave us credit for keeping Tasha from barking so much, and Terry established a somewhat amicable relationship with her. My relationship with her was, at best, civil.

Last fall she put her house on the market. Her son lives up north on the coast in Grover Beach. He is divorced and has custody of the kids. His situation was such that she felt the need to send him a check to buy them clothes. She thought it would be good to be near them.

Her house finally sold. On Friday, a wet, rainy day, a U-Haul truck showed up with a pair of husky young men.

Terry and I wish her the best being close to family, as we are. She told Terry that the woman who bought her house likes dogs.

We look forward to meeting her.

Sacred Music Friday: Dona Nobis Pacem

Dona Nobis Pacem, Chicago Chamber Choir & Milwaukee Choral Artists, Giulio Caccini, arranged by James A. Moore, conducted by Timm Adams

a thought for today

A thought on this day of sadness, depression, and despair:

quote“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

That is the truth. It is the best we can do for now.

Thanks to my good friend Tahoe Mom for the reminder of this passage.

appreciating our KitchenAid

Kitchen AidI haven’t given our KitchenAid stand mixer enough love. So I have been reminding myself recently of all it can do. It’s not just a mixer with a bowl and whisk, dough hook, and flat paddle blades, as great as those are.

We did the mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas at my brother’s house. At Thanksgiving I used the grinder attachment to go directly from the cooking pan to the crock pot without dirtying up the mixer bowl. I changed strategies on Christmas and used the slicer/shredder attachment, that being easier to clean.

Now we have the spiralizer attachment that my dad gave us for Christmas. It is marvelous, as you have seen here.

I really do appreciate my KitchenAid.