Spicy Basil Chicken

I made this Spicy Basil Chicken last week for lunch, for my brother and I, because someone on Twitter had been talking about the recipe. It was actually a recipe I had saved and intended to make this summer, but never did for some reason. But I had all of the ingredients, including already cut up chicken in the freezer, so it seemed like an easy lunch.

It was absolutely delicious. Enough so that I’m making it for dinner tomorrow night. However. It was so freakin’ spicy that I was sweating and had tears leaking from the corners of my eyes. So I’ll be adapting it just a little to cut some of the spice. The flavor itself, though, is just lovely.

Original recipe is here, on allrecipes.com

INGREDIENTS

* 2 tablespoons chili oil
* 2 cloves garlic
* 3 hot chile peppers
* 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into bite-size pieces
* 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
* 1 teaspoon garlic salt
* 1 teaspoon black pepper
* 5 tablespoons oyster sauce
* 1 cup fresh mushrooms
* 1 cup chopped onions
* 1 bunch fresh basil leaves

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the garlic and chile peppers until golden brown. Mix in chicken and sugar, and season with garlic salt and pepper. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, but not done.
2. Stir oyster sauce into the skillet. Mix in mushrooms and onions, and continue cooking until onions are tender and chicken juices run clear. Remove from heat, and mix in basil. Let sit 2 minutes before serving.

My notes: What I’d do differently is use only one tablespoon hot oil and substitute one tablespoon olive oil. If you don’t have hot chiles, you can use red pepper flakes instead, but use only a teaspoon or so. You could potentially leave these out, but then I’d use the full amount of hot oil.

In the reviews, I noticed some people saying they’d cut back on the oyster sauce because they made it and it was too salty. This is not the fault of the amount of oyster sauce but actually the fault of the BRAND of oyster sauce you use. If you compare labels, you’ll see that some oyster sauces have twice (yes twice) the amount of sodium of others. So buy an oyster sauce that has less sodium, don’t cut back on the amount of oyster sauce.

Also, I also noted that some people in the reviews said they’d skipped the basil. This is criminal, really. I did a before/after basil tasting and the basil adds another depth of flavor that makes this dish truly outstanding, and not just ordinary. Don’t skip the basil. This is a fairly limited-ingredient recipe, so if you can help it, you don’t want to leave out ingredients (except maybe mushrooms, since some people just don’t like the taste/texture of them).

Golden Heart Critique Giveaway

Two weeks ago I advertised I was doing Golden Heart critiques for a fee. The response was somewhat overwhelming (and flattering) and I had a number of aspiring authors contract with me for Golden Heart critiques. But I also had someone, who wishes to remain anonymous, who felt the fee for the critique might have been a barrier for some writers out there who might have liked to utilize my services. So she generously donated the fee and I’m going to use this post to give away that critique she paid for.

The rules:

1. You must be entering the Golden Hearts this year. Please don’t try to enter to win a free critique of a work in progress that you have no intention of entering into the GHs this year. Clearly, I have no way of knowing this except the honor system, but I’m okay with that.

2. You must promise to pass it on in some way in the future. When or how in the future is up to you. I’m not going to follow up, but again, I’m just going to have faith that you’ll pass on the act of generosity in whatever way you’re able.

3. In the comments below, please paste the first line, and only the first line of your GH manuscript, along with the genre of your book. That’s it. I may choose the line/genre I love the best or I may let random.org do the deciding for me.

I’ll leave entries open until Friday, October 30th and will choose the winner by Monday. Contest is open to everyone who plans on entering the Golden Hearts this year and would like the chance to get a critique before entering. The winner will need to check back on Monday to see if they’ve won. I’ll have you contact me at that time. For the critique itself, the winner will need to send me their complete Golden Heart entry of no more than 55 pages and I will return it by mid-November.

Questions and entries should be made in the comments of this post. Good luck and thank you to the anonymous benefactor. Your generosity is so appreciated.

NJRW

I’m headed for the annual New Jersey Romance Writer’s conference tomorrow morning. I think this is my fourth year! Though this will be the first year not taking pitches or sitting on the editor’s panel (really, you might not think so, but I’m okay with that!), I will be giving a workshop. On Saturday morning at 9:15am, I’ll host an honest Q&A about digital publishing. Come and ask me your toughest questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. Now’s a good time, while I’m publisher agnostic!

Even if you’re not registered for the conference, if you’re in the area you can pop by the Literacy Signing Saturday from 4:00 to 5:30pm. It’s free and there’s a list of authors who will be present here.

Even if you can’t attend my workshop on Saturday, I hope you’ll find me and say hello!

Pitching under pressure

Last week I came across this blog post from aspiring author Mercedes M. Yardley. In it, she describes her experience of “pitching” to me and makes me sound pretty nifty. Much more nifty than I actually believe I am. Actually, it’s a great firsthand experience of pitching and learning, so you should read it.

Anyway, since I am currently publisher agnostic (my new favorite term I’ve coined recently. My second favorite is Restless Reading Syndrome), but was committed to attending KillerCon in September, they asked me if I’d be willing to do pitch critiques instead of actual pitches (since I have no way of publishing anything pitched to me).

Now, I must be honest, I don’t like pitch sessions particularly well. I’m always offering to do other things at a conference in exchange for not doing pitch sessions. I’ve had too many experiences of terrible pitches, fantastic writing, and vice versa. I just want to see the submission and the writing. Also, it’s painful for me to be pitched by someone who has no idea who I am, who my company is or what we publish. And that happened a lot. But pitch critiques (which I only reluctantly agreed to do)? I found that I actually enjoyed pitch critiques a tremendous amount. So much so that I’d really love to turn it into a workshop and wish I could do pitch critique sessions for other conferences.

The feedback from those, in addition to Mercedes, who had the benefit of the pitch critiques, was excellent. Universally, I could see a lightbulb moment during our 10 minute session, where something I said connected, though it was different for each of them. And almost all of them told me later that they’d used what we’d talked about in later pitches. Seriously, it was almost as rewarding as acquiring and publishing a book. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’m a fan of new and aspiring authors, and pitch critiquing was a new way for me to help them learn a part of publishing that can be incredibly intimidating and overwhelming.

I think I’ll look more into this idea, maybe there are some groups/chapters out there interested in an online workshop based on the idea, but I’ll also put together a blog post on it if there seem to be people who want one more blog post on querying/pitching (I know there are a sea of them out there!)

Goat cheese with sundried tomatoes

Last weekend I was on Twitter bemoaning a craving for goat cheese and sundried tomatoes (no, I am neither pregnant nor smoking a little ganja). Specifically, I was hungry for a little concoction that Whole Foods has sold in the past. A small round of goat cheese covered with sundried tomatoes.

Lucky for me, my husband was in the area of the closest Whole Foods (about two hours away) but sadly, they were OUT of this miracle food. But again, lucky for me, he rocks and he got the “recipe” for goat cheese with sundried tomatoes and brought it home to me, along with a round of plain goat cheese. Seriously, he’s the best husband, and not just because he brings me cheese.

In reality, he didn’t bring me the recipe, just a list of the ingredients, so I did some trial and error, and what I’m sharing with you below is in no way exact or probably perfect. Don’t be afraid to change the proportions to suit your own tastes, this is a very forgiving recipe.

Making this, I found myself wishing I was a whiz at food photography (and had one of those nice dSLR cameras I’ve been pricing) because the finished product is easy to prepare and elegant to look at.

Ingredients:
A round of goat cheese. Mine was 1/3 lb. You can use bigger/smaller, no problem. Just make more of the below.

Sundried tomatoes in oil. I used 4-5 tomatoes that I pulled from the jar (btw, if you’re looking for these in your store, they’re usually by the pickled items)
1-2 Tbsp good olive oil (I used the oil I usually reserve for bread dipping)
1/2- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley
1/4 – 1/2 Tbsp fresh dill
1 Tbsp green onion
Kosher salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:
Throw all of the ingredients EXCEPT the goat cheese in a mini food processor. What do you mean you don’t have a mini food processor? They’re awesome! Here’s mine. I use it probably four or five times a week.

Anyway! Combine ingredients in food processor for 15 seconds until tomatoes and onions are finely chopped. Put goat cheese round on plate or bowl (you can slightly warm it in microwave for like…five seconds, but it’s not necessary) and top with tomato mixture. Alternately, you can put tomato mixture in a separate container for serving, for those guests/picky people in your house who like goat cheese but not tomatoes.

Serve with crostini, melba toast or crackers. To eat: spread goat cheese on crostini and then desired amount of tomato mixture. Put in mouth. Chew slowly. Close eyes in bliss. Moan. Sip a glass of good wine. Repeat.

A couple of notes: both dill and onion can quickly be overpowering, but sundried tomatoes also have a very strong flavor, so don’t be afraid of the dill and onion. What I would suggest is adding a low amount of each and then tasting, and adding until you like the taste.

This recipe is so easy to make up within seconds, that if you find you’ve run out of the tomato mixture, you can easily whip up more without worry. And the leftovers can be refrigerated and snacked on for several weeks.

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