Saturday, September 26, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 22

We are certainly swinging into more autumnal temps lately! I'm ready for some non-90 degree days, but I can do without the 40 degree mornings already. Fall DOES mean pumpkin though, and if you're a pumpkin fanatic like me, it's a very exciting time. Trader Joe's is stocked to the brim with new, seasonal items for fall, including this Speculoos Cookie Butter Beer that I couldn't resist trying. It was sweet, but surprisingly smooth. The spices were nice and not too overpowering. If you like interesting beer and love Speculoos, I recommend trying it out!


I was never a fan of Chicken Marsala, until I had good chicken marsala. Most restaurants cook the chicken to death and drizzle it with a too-thin sauce, so it has never been my bag. Then I found a recipe and made it at home and it opened my eyes to the beauty of this dish. I'll probably still never get it in a restaurant, but I make this at home quite frequently now. Unfortunately, as you've probably come to realize, I've become one of those home cooks that doesn't measure like she should and is vague with instructions. I'll do my best to tell you how I make this dish, but you can also find recipes online if you want to be more precise.

-1 TB olive oil
-2 chicken breasts (I prefer skin off but if you want crispy skin, by all means, get it with the skin on!)
-1 small shallot, diced
-8oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
-1/2 cup or so chicken stock
-1/2 cup or so Marsala wine
-1/4 cup or so white wine
-a few sprigs of thyme
-1 bay leaf
-dash of heavy cream
-cooked pasta or other starch to serve
-Parmesan cheese to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Pound your chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap until they're about 1/2" thick and season with salt and pepper. Sear your chicken breasts for a few minutes on each side, until a nice brown crust appears. They won't be fully cooked, but remove them and put on a plate for now.

Using the same skillet, add your shallot and mushrooms and let cook a few minutes. Then pour in your stock, Marsala and white wine. Let this come to a boil and add your thyme and bay leaf. Continue to let this simmer, and add your chicken back in. Use a meat thermometer to tell when the chicken is done. The sauce will thicken and reduce, so feel free to add more liquid if things look a little too thick. When the chicken is done, remove the herbs and add a dash of heavy cream. Serve over pasta or any starch of your choice, and top with shaved Parmesan!

Chicken Marsala

From Dusk Til Dawn (1996) - I'm a big Tarantino fan, so this film has been on my list for a long time. It wouldn't be a Tarantino film without a few bloodbath scenes, and you don't have to wait long for the first one, which pops up about 5 minutes in. Q and George Clooney star as thieves on the run, heading to the Mexico border when an unassuming family get involved. What begins as an engrossing story with great character development kind of fizzles into a silly sci-fi tale with vampires. Big fan of the first half of the film.

Captain Phillips (2013) - This movie gives me anxiety! The film does a great job of making you feel as if you're truly there, with Captain Phillips (played by the always lovable Tom Hanks) and his Somali captors. Barkhad Abdi gives an incredible performance and was nominated for an Oscar for this, his first film ever. You'll want to look away, but you won't be able to. It's a thrill.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Farm to Fourth at Home

I love dining for a good cause. Winston-Salem's annual Farm to Fourth Fundraiser to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina followed the lead of many events this year, and went virtual. Farm to Fourth at Home still provided people the opportunity to taste some fabulous dishes from local chefs, and raise money while doing it. Chefs from The Katharine Brasserie, Spring House, The Porch, Providence and more prepared dishes. I wish there was an event like this once a quarter! 

I couldn't have been more impressed with the organization of the fundraiser - everything from the ease of picking up the meal, to the ability to re-heat items, to the outstanding quality of the food. I appreciated the cohesiveness of the meal too - there were Southern through lines (sweet potatoes, shrimp, sausage) and everything complimented each other well. To kick things off, we had a craft cocktail featuring Winston-Salem's Broad Branch Sungrazer Rum, Fire-Roasted Pineapple, Lavender, Ube Extract and Vanilla Bitters. This was a welcomed burst of flavors to the palate - subtle spice from the roasted pineapple and warmth from the vanilla - and it was a vibrant purple hue from the ube (which is a purple yam!) Quite slurpable.

Just look at that color!

Our first of two appetizers consisted of NC Shrimp and Sausage, slathered with a Hot Honey BBQ Sauce, roasted Purple and Orange Sweet Potatoes and a Candied Bacon Crumble. The shrimp were perfectly cooked (not easy for a take-home item!) and the sausage had a notable amount of heat, which I dug. It also provided a nice smoky flavor, to match the smokiness in the bacon. The sweet potatoes were tender and a nice echo from the starter cocktail. Shrimp, sausage and bacon, what's not to love?

Shrimp, Sausage and Sweet Potatoes

I flipped out at how delicious this next item was - Texas Pete Chicken Flautas. I am forever changed. It was like a cheesy chicken egg roll, stuffed to the brim so you weren't left with a bunch of excess tortilla. It was served with fresh pico that I could eat by the spoonful, and a spicy Texas Pete CHA sour cream. And the crispy shell maintained its crunch - again, not easy to do for a take home item!

Texas Pete Chicken Flauta with pico and spicy sour cream

A refreshing salad of Mixed Greens, Pickled NC Shrimp, Candied Pecans, Pearl Onions and a Honey Cider Vinaigrette was a welcomed break from the heat of the previous two dishes. This course was a substantial size and protein-packed from the shrimp and the pecans. I liked the acidity in the vinaigrette, too. And apologies - I didn't get a photo of this course, or of the flavorful bread from Bobby Boy Bakeshop, which was a hearty, artisanal whole wheat, with a ton of flavor and a nice chew on the crust.

Now onto the main events. Yes, plural. As if there hadn't already been enough delicious food! Beef lovers would rejoice at tender Short Ribs, accompanied by Bordelaise Sauce and Gremolata, but the Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin stuffed with Collard Greens, Smoked Gouda and Andouille Sausage stole my heart. This pork trio (bacon - pork loin - Andouille) was sensational, and the tangy collards broke up the richness. It's clear that a lot of time and effort went into this dish, and truly, every dish of the night. To accompany the proteins, we had another serving of those delicious, buttery collards and the best Sweet Potato Hash I've ever had. There was a Mexican flare, adding Corn and Black Beans to the mix, and a bright Cilantro Cream. YUM!

Pork Loin Roulade, Sweet Potato Hash, Collards

To round out the meal, and to get us excited for apple season, we enjoyed an Apple Almond Tarte with Spiced Vanilla Cream. Perfect for fall. The apples were thinly sliced and spread out beautifully over the not-too-sweet, almond-studded crust. This dessert, like most pastries, clearly took some time and thoughtfulness. I appreciated that it wasn't cloyingly sweet and used fresh apples - none of that canned, gloopy stuff. 
Apple Almond Tarte

Again, I wish there was something like this once a quarter. The team did a tremendous job of piloting this program at home. I can only imagine the logistics it took to manage all of this, and it was executed seamlessly. I look forward to the next one - in-person or at home - I know it will be a success.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 21

For me, summer isn't complete without a trip to the beach. This summer however, it proved to be quite difficult to try and figure out when and how to get to one. Finally, I booked a few days at Carolina Beach, and it was amazing to get a change of scenery, and one that included the ocean. There were very few people on the beach, and we had some pretty terrific weather. And I came home just in time for some 59 degree mornings, prepping me for fall!

My favorite view

I've always loved a Vodka Cream Sauce, and had never attempted one until recently. Homemade pasta sauce might be best, but a doctored up jar of tomato or marinara sauce also works just fine.

-1 jar tomato or marinara sauce
-a splash (or 2) of vodka
-a splash (or 3) of heavy cream
-1 box linguine or other long noodle
-protein, optional

Heat your red sauce in a large skillet and stir in your vodka. Let this simmer for a bit, so the alcohol cooks off. Meanwhile, cook your noodles according to package directions, and if you want to add a protein, get that ready. I sauteed some raw shrimp with olive oil and garlic, and then stirred that into the sauce, but you could also add in some cooked chicken, or even something like Kielbasa might work? Go crazy. Add the heavy cream, noodles and protein to the sauce and get everything coated. And then be prepared, it will be hard to go back to plain red sauce. 

Linguine and Shrimp in Vodka Cream Sauce

The Searchers - A friend and avid reader suggested that I watch this film, and I'm ashamed to admit, that it was my very first Western. This movie introduced me to the iconic, commanding on-screen presence that is John Wayne, and he does not disappoint. Wayne and a fellow cowboy head into the wild west, in search of his kidnapped niece. There are certainly some corny moments (it was filmed in 1956!), but there are several endearing ones as well. At times this film might leave you "searching" for depth, but it's a quintessential American Cowboy classic that will certainly entertain.

Desperados - Another Netflix rom-com that presents a silly plot, but wins you over by the end. Nasim Pedrad heads up a trio of gal pals who jet set to Mexico, to delete a manic email that accidentally got sent to her new boyfriend. This movie will make you want to be somewhere tropical with your friends, but about an hour and change in, you'll probably start to zone out. It might be a bit too long for its own good, but it's a welcomed escape from the real world. 

Friday, August 28, 2020


I turned 33 this week. Like anyone that's celebrated a birthday during COVID, I spent a lot of time outside, and had a lot of wine. I visited some beautiful wineries and stocked up on some good bottles. To top off the celebration, my family and I went to Bernardin's in Winston-Salem. This restaurant is in the historic Zevely House, which also used to be a restaurant (and happened to be my mom's favorite.) The evening was close to perfect, and this post marks my first restaurant review since March. 

I chose Bernardin's for my birthday dinner because they have a beautiful outdoor terrace. In fact, they're only doing outdoor seating right now. The patio is covered, with plenty of space between tables, and ceiling fans add a nice breeze. It backs up to a beautiful garden in the West End neighborhood of downtown. We were one of two tables occupied, so it felt like private dining. Our server was prompt, congenial and made us feel comfortable and right at home. She listed off what seemed like 10 specials that all sounded fabulous - it was difficult to make a decision with so many delicious options. I was especially excited to see the Asian influence in this menu - several items featured wasabi, sweet Chinese mustard, cilantro and kimchi.

I started with a perfect martini (Absolut-dirty-blue cheese olives) and the Tuna appetizer. This dish featured tuna two ways: seared rare and sliced, and tartare, both served with a spicy Kimchi Slaw, Chili Soy Sauce and Wontons. It was certainly peppy from all the spice, but that's the kind of dish I love!  Really bright, punch you in the mouth flavors. Nice crunch from the kimchi and wonton. Next time, I'll order this and a salad and call it a day.

Seared Tuna + Tuna Tartare

Kale Caesar Salads are certainly trendy these days, partly because kale is a superfood and it just tastes better with a yummy dressing, and partly because romaine is a bit unpredictable. The kale is sliced into thin ribbons and tossed with Carrots and Red Cabbage for additional color and crunch. It's tossed with a homemade Caesar dressing, and topped with shaved Parmesan and Garlic Croutons. It was so light and there was no bitterness from the kale. I liked that it wasn't totally drowned in dressing, either. And it was large enough for two people to share, easily.
Kale Caesar

After deliberating on several menu items, I had it narrowed down to the Seabass with a Truffle Vinaigrette, and the Curry Grouper. It nearly killed me to choose, but I opted for the latter. This is my kind of dish. Beautiful, thick grouper is nestled on a bed of Jasmine Rice, topped with an Eggplant "Caviar" and a Curry Tomato Sauce. It's drizzled with a Cilantro and Mint Yogurt Chutney. I mean, WOW. This combination of flavors is a dream to my palate. The curry wasn't overly spicy, but it gave you a warming sensation so you got the heat, and could still taste everything. That's the sign of a good curry. The chutney was essential for cooling things off, and the rice soaked up every bit of the remaining sauce. I'm sure the seabass was great, but the curry grouper was love at first bite.
Curry Grouper

I also sampled the Salmon with Garlic Spinach and Port Wine Sauce, which was excellent, but very rich - that port wine sauce is heavy on the butter! The Filet Mignon with Gnocchi and Goat Cheese is also a solid choice - you can never go wrong with a Filet.
Salmon with Spinach and Port Wine Sauce

Filet with Gnocchi and Goat Cheese

Bernardin's is a staple in downtown Winston-Salem and for good reason. It's technically called "Bernardin's Fine Dining" but the fusion-inspired menu and pop music playlist makes it feel more accessible. The menu features staples, but with a modern twist. I'll be back to get the other 20 items on the menu that called my name.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 20

I have been doing these at home posts for 20 weeks now. That is absolutely insane. Eventually, I'll get back to writing about restaurants and new releases, but in the meantime, this has been super fun, so thank you all for humoring me! I'd love to hear what you've been cooking and any fun recipes you have discovered or been inspired to make. And just in case you were wondering, my bunnies are still hopping around.

I absolutely love French food, particularly a good Croque Madame. I had one for the first time about 10 years ago in Paris, and the magic of that sandwich has stuck with me ever since. I decided to try my hand at it, and it's incredibly comforting and easy. (Side note - if you omit the egg on top, you've made a Croque Monsieur.)

-2 slices white bread (like a Country White, not Sourdough)
-2 TB butter, divided
-2 slices ham
-1 cup of gruyere cheese, shredded and divided
-dijon or whole grain mustard
-1 egg

Melt 1/2 TB of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add both slices of bread, and let them get nice and toasty. Meanwhile, preheat your broiler. Remove the bread from the pan, flip them over, and spread some mustard on the toasted side. (I like to toast the inside of my bread for texture and it helps the cheese melt!) Layer your ham and half of the cheese on one of the mustard-topped slices, then top with the other mustard-topped toasted side. Melt another 1/2 TB of butter in the skillet, and add your sando. Once that gets nice and toasty after a few minutes, carefully lift it to add in another 1/2 TB of butter, then flip and griddle the other side. Once that side is toasted to your liking, remove the sando from the skillet. Top with the remaining cheese and place on a sheet pan. Put it in the oven and broil for about 5 minutes - keep your eye on it. Broilers can deceive you! Meanwhile, melt your final 1/2 TB of butter in the same skillet, and crack an egg in. Season with S&P and cook to your liking - sunny side up is a dramatic presentation, but if your heart prefers fried over medium, do you. Remove the sandwich from the oven, then slide that egg on top. Eat with a knife and fork alongside a glass of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Bon appetit!

This did not have nearly enough cheese, so I increased the amount in the recipe above!

Palm Springs - Definitely a unique concept, and reminiscent of a classic 80s movie I won't mention, so as to not spoil the plot. If you're a fan of Andy Samberg, you'll particularly like the quirky, dry humor. Great supporting cast, and his chemistry with Cristin Milioti is on point. I thought the movie was also shot beautifully - vivid colors, great cinematography - very enjoyable overall.

The English Patient - Yowza. Winning 9 Oscars in 1997, I always remember my family talking about this epic romance being a fabulous, heart-wrenching film, just long AF. I was too young to see it when it came out, but I recently plowed my way through, and thought it was very good, but maybe not 9 Oscars-good? The cinematography was excellent and I thought Juliette Binoche stole the show, but I don't know that it holds up extraordinarily well 23 years later.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 19

 Just a photo of a goat from a friend's farm to brighten your day. That's the latest here!

I didn't get on the Sourdough Bread bandwagon that became a craze earlier this year, but I did decide to try my patience at yeast-raised Cinnamon Rolls. I had been sitting on this recipe from Taste of Home for a long time, and thought now would be an excellent time to try it out. 
My work is NEVER this neat!

Of course, if you know me, you know that I decided to forego the standard powdered sugar glaze and made a Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting from Sally's Baking Addiction which sent these rolls right over the top. Really decadent and rich, just how I like my sweets.

I have to give a shout-out to DJ's Cheesecakes, which you can find in multiple locations throughout the Triad. Owner Daryl Myers is a graduate of Second Harvest Food Bank's Providence Culinary Training Program, a unique program in Winston-Salem. I was so excited to finally find and purchase some of his addicting cheesecake and I couldn't stop eating it. If you see the Banana Pudding Cheesecake, get 3 slices - it's INSANE!

The Tale - This film is a true story by writer/director Jennifer Fox. Laura Dern plays Jenny, a woman coming to terms with the abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her horseback riding instructor. Lots of shifts between past and present, and director Fox does a wonderful job of blurring the lines between reality and imagination. Incredible supporting cast, including Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Ritter and newcomer Isabelle Nelisse. 

Half Nelson - Ryan Gosling stars as an endearing inner-city middle school teacher, who seems to have no problem connecting to his students in the classroom and on the basketball court by day, but can't put down the crack pipe at night. This character seems to be able to balance his work hard-play hard lifestyle, until a student catches him getting high and brings his addiction to the forefront. Gosling is great in this role because he really frustrated me. I rooted so badly for him to get it together, and he grew more and more apathetic as the film went on. Beautiful performance by Shareeka Epps as the young pupil he forms a friendship with.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 18

Thank y'all for continuing to humor me with these at home editions of C&S! It is definitely providing me a fun, creative outlet while my social life is much on hold. This free time at home also gave me the opportunity to work on (and finish!!) this puzzle I ordered from Our State Magazine. It was super challenging but lots of fun, and reminded me of a family trip we took to the Outer Banks nearly 20 years ago. Check out the puzzles for sale here:

I've been on a big Pimiento Cheese kick lately. It reminds me of summers at the beach, when all I would eat for lunch were Pimiento Cheese crackers (I'm not a sandwich gal, see) and while people are VERY particular about their favorite "Caviar of the South," I'll only pontificate briefly about mine.

My favorite Pimiento Cheese is my grandmother's (she's also the one responsible for the recent Okra & Tomatoes post). In my humble opinion, if you're not going to make your own, the only decent store-bought options are Palmetto; MyThreeSons (made in Greensboro!); and the wild card - Food Lion's deli brand (I KNOW!) But this homemade recipe is simple and hard to beat. I did take the liberty of adding an ingredient to give it extra pizzazz, but it's entirely optional.

-8 oz. Cracker Barrel brand Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated*
-4 TB mayonnaise (start with this amount, you can always add more if you need)
-2 oz. jar of diced pimientos (don't drain)
-1 tsp black pepper
-1 tsp vinegar (apple cider, white wine or champagne vinegars work best)
-pinch of salt
-2 TB Mount Olive brand pickled jalapeno slices, chopped (optional)

Combine the cheese and mayonnaise in a bowl. Using the back of a fork, really mash the cheese into the mayo, so that it becomes creamy. Add the pimientos, pepper, vinegar, salt and jalapenos if using. Taste for seasoning. Best enjoyed on crackers, between 2 buttered, grilled pieces of bread or with a spoon.

*Pro tip - let the block of cheese come to room temperature so that it's easier to grate!   
The "Caviar of the South" - my favorite Pimiento Cheese
I've been enjoying exploring mixology more and more these days (what else is there to do?!) and I've been loving these Amaretto Sours. Trust me, they're better than anything you had in college.

-1 1/2 oz Disaronno (amaretto liqueur)
-1 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
-1/2 oz simple syrup
-1 egg white (do not omit this!!)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake for a full 30 seconds, to ensure the egg white gets thoroughly incorporated into the drink. Then, add a handful of ice, shake again and start slurping.

Set It Up - A true Netflix rom-com, meaning it's decent mindless entertainment. Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell have great chemistry as two corporate assistants who try to set up their miserable bosses. Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu both shine as these difficult, temperamental executives, and the end will tug on your heartstrings. Certainly not one to withstand the test of time, but will most certainly do for now.

Blockers - Anything with Ike Barinholtz is pure gold to me. The premise is a bit silly - three parents try anything to stop their kids from losing their virginity on prom night - but there are actually some good laughs. Barinholtz has fabulous chemistry with co-stars Leslie Mann and John Cena, but the real stars might be the young actors, who have terrific comedic timing. Lots of emojis and lots of millennial jargon, though I realized while watching it, I'm closer to the parent character age of 43 than the kid character age of 18! 😱

Friday, July 31, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 17

I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that August 1 is TOMORROW. How did that happen? Sometimes it feels like the days are long and never-ending, but the weeks and months just seem to fly by. I'm desperately trying to find beauty and positivity wherever I can these days, so I was grateful to spot this glimmer of a rainbow on a recent walk. It certainly brightened my day (and it doesn't take much to brighten them these days!)

I have another recipe for you guessed it...the TOMATO. I promise I'll get off them eventually, but they're in peak season right now, so it would be a tragedy not to use them. I used what I had in my fridge and made this up. I realize I should probably try a recipe more than once before I share it with my readers, but I just don't have time for that. Plus I was quite pleased with these results.

Pesto Tomato Tart
-1 refrigerated pie crust (like Pillsbury)
-2 ripe tomatoes, peeled
-1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (plain, or flavored like Chive & Onion or Garlic & Herb)
-1/4 cup cottage cheese
-3 TB pesto
-shredded Parmesan
-salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400. Unroll your pie crust into a pie dish and poke the bottom with a fork, to make little holes. Put it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then let it cool for 5.

Meanwhile, slice your tomatoes 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Salt them and lay them on a paper towel-lined plate, so as to draw out the water. 

In a mixer, combine your cream cheese, cottage cheese and pesto. You could choose to omit the cottage cheese and double up on the cream cheese, but I wanted to add in some extra protein. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Spread this on the pie crust, then top with the tomato slices. Bake for 20-22 minutes, then sprinkle on some Parm and bake for 2-3 more minutes. If the crust starts to get too dark, cover the edges with foil. Let cool slightly before serving, and store the leftovers in the fridge.
Pesto Tomato Tart

*Alternatively, you could slice the tomatoes, drizzle with pesto, sprinkle with salt, pepper and feta cheese and call it a day.

I would be remiss if I didn't share with you my favorite, indulgent, go-to summer drink: Banana Sexies. Years ago, a friend returned from her tropical honeymoon raving about these drinks, and I've been making them ever since. I won't be drinking them anywhere tropical this year, but my back deck works just fine.

-1 tube frozen pina colada mix (I use about 1/2 a tube for 2 drinks)
-Spiced Rum (like Captain Morgan)
-1 peeled banana, cut into 1 inch cubes and frozen for at least 30 minutes
-Baileys Irish Cream
-ice cubes

Put all ingredients into a blender. Eyeball the amounts. Blend. Taste. Adjust as needed. Enjoy. See you tomorrow.

The Disaster Artist - This was a really intriguing and nuanced performance by James Franco. This film tells the story of Tommy Wiseau and his infamous movie "The Room", which I subsequently attempted to find, of course, but had no luck. A lot of mystery surrounds the man behind the "best worst film ever made" - his origin, financial status and age are still pretty unknown to this day. Franco's chemistry with real-life brother Dave, and the fabulous supporting cast of comedic stars makes this a weirdly enjoyable film to watch.

Clueless - One of my favorite films of all time. I watched it at a too-young 8 years old and half of the jokes went right over my head. If you haven't watched it in a while (it had been 10 years for me), it is worth the re-watch every time. Alicia Silverstone is at her peak as clueless teen Cher, living the Beverly Hills dream. The film could not have a better supporting cast, soundtrack, costume design - the dialogue is perfection, I cannot say enough wonderful things about this 1995 classic. And it's on Netflix!!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 16

Is everyone surviving these insane summer temps? The only upside is the plethora of crazy good produce available right now, so I'm sharing 2 of my favorite summer dishes for you this week, spotlighting the honorable TOMATO. By the way, if you're looking for a fun way to beat the heat, check out the New Orleans Snow Cone stand at Country Park - as of right now, they're open Monday-Saturday from 11am-7pm and Sunday from 12-7pm. You can mix flavors, and you'll want to - they have more than just your standard Cherry or Grape (Wedding Cake anyone?)
I mixed Watermelon and Cotton Candy, natch.

When I think about my favorite recipes that my grandma makes, three immediately come to mind: Pimiento Cheese, Italian Cream Cake and Okra & Tomatoes. A few years ago, I was inspired by the bounty of ripe tomatoes at the farmer's market and decided to master her Okra & Tomato recipe once and for all. I'm pleased to share it with you today. Non-okra fans will be converted.

-3 TB butter
-20 okra (about 2 cups)
-1/2 cup onion, chopped
-3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
-1 and 1/2 tsp sugar

Cut the tip and the base off the okra, then slice into 1/4 inch thick bites. Melt the butter in a dutch oven or other large, deep pan over medium low heat. Add the chopped okra and onion and sprinkle on a little salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and sugar, a little more salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, cover and let it cook for about 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes will soften and stew and release their juices, and it is heaven on earth. Taste for seasoning before serving!
The best.

Another favorite summer recipe to use up your ripe tomatoes is Rynn's Cornbread Salad. My former neighbor Rynn brought this to a potluck and my mom and I lost our minds over it. We begged her for the recipe, and here it is:

Prepare your favorite boxed or homemade cornbread recipe (or shortcut and buy pre-made from the store). Once cooled, cut into 1 inch cubes, and layer in a 9x13 casserole or trifle dish. Top with:

-2 cans pinto beans, drained
-1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
-1/2 cup chopped red pepper
-1 large tomato, peeled and diced
-1 can corn, drained (or 1 ½ cups fresh kernels off the cob)
-any other miscellaneous veggies like edamame, peas, chickpeas, what have you

Pour 8 ounces ranch dressing over the top, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. It tastes WAY better than it looks, but considering the ingredients, what's not to love?! 

Cornbread Salad - it tastes better than it looks!
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga - You might start this film and think, what alternate universe have I walked into, where Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell have agreed to star in this story about an Icelandic musical duo who strive for greatness in the Eurovision Song Contest? But keep watching. It's actually quite entertaining and heartwarming, and will win you over by the end. A musical montage in the middle will have you smiling and singing along. And Dan "Milk Toast" Stevens...out of nowhere! He just crushes it! This film reminded me that Rachel McAdams is one of our generation's best actresses, who hasn't received nearly enough accolades for her work.

2001: A Space Odyssey – If you can get through the first 25 minutes, you should be able to make it through the rest. It clocks in at 2 hours and 48 minutes, but with striking visuals and beautiful music, it’s a classic for a reason. Definitely timely, playing into the world of A.I. and the fear that robots may one day take over. I can appreciate a good sci-fi film, just not one that’s this long!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 15

I’m back to the bird posts, y’all. Here are some shots of my dad's hummingbird feeder, that has attracted male and female Goldfinches like crazy! We love spotting little Goldie!

Such a striking bird!
Going for a dip!

I wanted to revisit a childhood favorite this week - My Dad's Hamburgers. Everyone has their preferred burger seasoning, method of cooking, toppings, bun, etc. But this has been mine since I was in 3rd grade. My dad flexed his culinary muscle when he came up with his signature marinade, back in 1995 when we were living in Greenville, SC. 

-1 pound ground beef
-Store bought teriyaki marinade
-garlic salt
-onion salt

Score the meat to make 4 patties. Shape and flatten, but don't overwork the meat (that makes a tough burger!) Pour the Teriyaki marinade on each patty, then pour more around the patties, directly onto the plate. Don't skimp on this! The beef will absorb the flavor and it is sensational. Sprinkle one side of each patty with garlic salt and pepper, then flip them, and add a little more Teriyaki if it doesn't look wet enough. Then sprinkle that side with onion salt and pepper. Let these sit covered in the fridge for about an hour. 

If you have a grill, by all means, go for it, but I like to cook my burgers in a skillet on my stove, and use my meat thermometer so I can control the heat and retain the moisture and fat in the pan (otherwise it drips down into your grill and you lose all that flavor!) When the burgers are cooked to your liking, top with a good melting cheese, cover and let the cheese melt a minute. Top with any condiments your heart desires (I'm a mustard-ketchup-pickle kind of gal) and serve it on a good bun like a potato roll or buttered, toasted brioche bun. Serving it with the Pickletown Dill Pickle Lager is the right move here. One bite of this immediately transported me to when I was 8 years old. It's crazy how food can do that.

Word's Burger.

One of my favorite summer desserts is made by using Bisquick (or Hungry Jack or any other pancake mix) to make Shortcakes. I follow this recipe for the shortcakes, but I skip the fruit macerating step (fruit this time of year is so good and ripe, it doesn’t need extra sugar.) Pro tip – don’t whip all of the heavy cream – save a little to pour just a bit directly onto the warm shortcake. It makes it super moist and it’s just delicious.

Ibiza: Love Drunk - A friend recommended this to me back when it was released on Netflix in 2018. It's a quintessential girls' trip story, and absolutely hysterical. It made me want to travel and go out and have fun with my friends, so you may want to wait and watch this when we're actually able to go out and do that sort of thing. It tells the story of Harper and her friends who take a life-changing trip to Barcelona. I've never wanted a mojito on the beach so badly.

David Foster: Off the Record – I didn’t realize how important of a producer David Foster is, until I watched this documentary about his life. He was an integral part of some of my favorite songs – Whitney’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” Andrea and Celine’s “The Prayer”, Celine’s “To Love You More”, and countless others, not to mention discovering Michael Bublé and Josh Groban. He is clearly a workaholic, seems to lack empathy and at one point even describes himself as an a-hole, but this film isn't all about the man behind the music - it highlights the music, because of the man. Fascinating, especially if you're a music fan.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 14

Hi everyone! I was grateful to be able to take a few days off work last week. Even working at home during these crazy times, it's important to remember to take care of yourself and unplug every now and then. Since my annual summer beach trip is currently on hold, I decided to take a few fun day trips and it was much needed and appreciated. The best day trip of all, was the one to Chapel Hill. 
The Old Well

The Bell Tower

This week, I wanted to share one of my favorite summer dishes: Tomato Tart. The dish was originally inspired by this recipe, but I've added a lot of shortcuts that I've found make it easier.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
10 TB cold butter (I always use salted), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 egg yolk
3 TB cold water

Combine the flour, cornmeal and S&P in a food processor. Add the cubed butter and pulse until it starts to form small pieces and slightly come together. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and water. Add this to the dough and pulse until it comes together, like a cookie dough. Take this mixture out of the food processor and knead it on a floured surface a few times, then shape into a flat disk. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or you can do this in advance and chill overnight.

2 TB butter
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kernels from 1 ear of corn
Any miscellaneous veggies you have - zucchini, squash, okra (optional)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled 
6oz. flavored cream cheese (like Garlic & Herb or Chive & Onion)
Any miscellaneous herbs you have - thyme, basil, cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and a bit of salt and pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and corn kernels (and any additional veggies you like!) and continue cooking for 3 or so more minutes, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, slice your tomatoes about ¼ inch thick. Salt them and put them on a paper towel to absorb some of their water.

Grab your dough from the fridge and place on a floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll it out until it's 1/8" thick or about 12” in diameter. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the cream cheese on the dough, leaving a 1 inch border around the edge. Layer the tomatoes on the cream cheese, then top with the corn mixture. Carefully fold the edge of the dough up, to cover the edge of the tomatoes, then brush the crust with the beaten egg. Bake for about 45-50 minutes (check to make sure the crust isn't getting too dark!) and then let it cool before you slice it. Sprinkle any miscellaneous herbs you have on top as a garnish!

The tart in all its glory.

Summer goodness at its absolute finest.

The King Of Staten Island - A Pete Davidson/Judd Apatow collabo. Need I say more? It's definitely a tour de force by Davidson - love him or hate him, he does a great job in this film. It's based very loosely on his life as a young adult, struggling to come to terms with his firefighter father's death. Marisa Tomei, wonderful as always, plays his mother, trying to do what's best for herself and her troubled son. This film is more in the vein of Apatow's "Funny People", as opposed to the more slapstick "Knocked Up" or "The 40 Year Old Virgin", though there are some comedic moments. Great supporting cast. 

Irresistible - A Steve Carrell/Jon Stewart collabo. Need I say more? Carrell is brilliant (no surprise) as a strategist for the Democratic party, who seeks out a rural activist (Chris Cooper) and molds him to run for office. Rose Byrne is fabulous as the foe, and always hits a home run when she plays an ice queen. This film is timely, and combines comedy with political drama. If you're into "The West Wing" or "House of Cards", give this a watch.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 13

I've had several hummingbird sightings over the past few days - I think the warmer temps are finally bringing them out! I love spotting this little female (male hummers have the ruby throat). If I wasn't one already, I have now definitely turned into a birdwatcher during this quarantine. 

Hummer alert!

Some surf and turf for you this week. Shrimp Ceviche is one of my favorite no oven, no stove, hot weather recipes. It's easy, light, satisfying and you'll ALMOST feel like you're at the beach. 

-½ lb peeled, deveined shrimp (I like NC Coast!)
-Store-bought / pre-made pico de gallo
-8-10 limes (you'll need 1 - 1 ½ cups of lime juice, so buy more limes than you think you’ll need and use the rest for margs)

Cut the shrimp in bite-sized pieces and put in a glass bowl. Pour the fresh lime juice on top (make sure it is all fully covered and submerged!) and add a spoonful or 2 of the pico. Let it sit in the fridge, covered, for about an hour. Give it a stir, and it will have turned pink, so you'll know the acid has fully cooked it! Spoon out the shrimp and top it with additional pico and cilantro. I like to serve it on a bed of romaine, in romaine leaves as lettuce cups, or with tortilla or plantain chips! 

Shrimp Ceviche with Black Beans and Tortilla Chips

For Father's Day, I did another take on a Beef Tenderloin, inspired by one of our old neighbors' recipes. We were quite pleased with the results.

-3 pound beef tenderloin filet, trimmed
-salt & pepper
-garlic powder
-dijon mustard
-prepared horseradish

Let the beef come to room temperature. Rub on salt, pepper and garlic powder (just eyeball it!) Preheat the oven to 400. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron (or other large, thick) skillet to medium high / high and sear the meat for about 2 minutes per side, just to brown slightly. Once browned, spread 1/2 jar or so of dijon mustard all over the beef. Squeeze the water out of the horseradish, and pack 1/2 inch or so onto the mustard. Place it in a roast pan and cook until 120 for rare, 125 for medium rare. Pull it from the oven and tent it with foil. Let it rest 15-30 minutes. Slice and enjoy!

Beef Tenderloin with Sauteed Kale and Blue Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

We were also excited to try the Deep River Brewing/R&R Brewing Pickletown Dill Pickle Lager. We are a dill pickle household, specifically, Mt. Olive Dill Pickles (we have family there). This beer puts a Pickle Back shot to shame. It was so tasty and refreshing and would be great with a hamburger! Buy at Total Wine.

Don't knock it 'til you try it!

The Lovebirds - this was scheduled to be released in theatres back in April, but it's currently on Netflix and definitely one of my favorite movies I've watched so far this summer. Timely, woke, laugh out loud funny - this film combines romance, drama, action and comedy all in one. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are incredibly entertaining as a recently broken-up couple who witness a crime and must deal with the consequences. I would watch these two all day.

Speed - an oldie but a goodie. Released in 1994, it was one of our first introductions to America's Sweetheart, Sandra Bullock. Her chemistry with Keanu Reeves is palpable, and the suspense will have you on the edge of your seat. A mad man puts a bomb on a bus that will explode if it doesn't stay above 50 mph. It's thrilling. Need I say more?

Coming to America - another oldie but goodie. Eddie Murphy's comedic genius is in full effect here. It tells the story of an African prince who decides to seek out his own bride in the US (Queens, NY, to be specific - get it?), instead of blindly marrying the woman his parents chose for him in an arranged marriage. Arsenio Hall is great as the sidekick. You'll definitely be entertained.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 12

Hi everyone! Were you all surprised by this unwelcomed blast of wet, cold weather earlier this week? I will take the heat over this any day. I've been noticing some beautiful hydrangeas in bloom on my walks recently, and my neighbor offered me some of hers! I am living for these stunning blue, lavender and pink hues - they really brightened up my house this week!
Beautiful hydrangeas!

I often seem to forget that I have a crockpot. With the colder temps this week, I decided whipping out the ole thing would be fitting. I also decided I needed to do something about the unrelenting craving for Buffalo Chicken I've been having. I threw in some boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about a pound) and poured some Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce on top (about a 12 oz bottle). Then I turned it on high, and walked away for 6 hours or so. I did a rough shred of the chicken, then built some tasty tacos and lettuce wraps, complete with romaine lettuce, pickled jalapenos, blue cheese and cilantro. YUM. You could even get crazy and put the chicken on a homemade pizza!
Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Tacos

I'm bringing back a classic - Watergate Salad. Complete with pistachio pudding mix, marshmallows, cool whip - there's really nothing natural about it! Save for the few chunks of pineapple. But I've loved it since I was a child and am still obsessed.

-1 box pistachio pudding mix
-1 can crushed pineapple, drained
-1 cup mini marshmallows
-9 oz cool whip
-1/2 cup shredded coconut

Mix and chill. Many people would add pecans, but many people are crazy. I'm anti-nuts in desserts, but do what you want.

Watergate Salad. Isn't she a beaut. 

And finally, a featured cocktail this week. My mom's favorite - the French 75. Combine 1 oz gin (we like Beefeater, but watch your proof, peeps!), 1/2 oz simple syrup and 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Pour into a champagne flute, then fill to the top with your choice of bubbly - prosecco, cava, sparkling wine or champagne will do. (If you choose to fill it to the top with club soda, you've essentially made a Tom Collins.) Garnish with lemon peel.
French 75 (after a few sips.)

Selma - Free to stream this month, along with Just Mercy (which I adored). I highly encourage you to watch these films. They are tremendous and will move you to tears. Selma tells the story of Dr. King's leading of an iconic march, all in the name of equal voting rights for African Americans. It demonstrates the powerful impact of a peaceful protest, and could not be more timely. Why David Oyelowo didn’t receive a Best Actor Oscar nod, and why Director AvaDuVernay didn't either (and why composer Jason Moran didn't either!), I will never know. Tremendous supporting cast, you will recognize many faces. Outstanding. Get more info on where you can stream these movies here

Cocktail – An ‘80s classic that will have you wanting a Pina Colada or a Strawberry Daiquiri. I think society forgets how great of an actor Tom Cruise was (is?) but this will remind you. Great premise, telling the story of a young, wannabe millionaire who makes a career pivot and winds up the best bartender in NYC. Elizabeth Shue plays the love interest, and reminded me that we need to see more of her. Worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 11

Summer is here, y'all. I guess it's technically not here until June 21, but these temps have me longing for days at the beach or the pool. Is everyone else itching to get out of town, but hesitant to do so, like me?
Sprout says "hi!"

If you're not into sweets or seafood, I'm sorry - my blog has been practically nothing BUT seafood and sweets during this whole quarantine. 

I oven-roasted my first ever Sea Bass this week (it melts in your mouth!) Again, if you have a meat thermometer, you cannot lose! I also pan-seared some more scallops because they're one of my favorite foods.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad makes a great summer side, and uses up just about any produce you have on hand. Toss cooked orzo with a variety of veggies - diced cucumber, chickpeas, diced bell pepper, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, roasted broccoli, edamame - squirt some lemon juice, drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle some S&P, garnish with feta cheese and parsley. It's best served cold!
Pan-seared Scallops with Mediterranean Orzo Salad and Sauteed Kale

I've been on a big cherry kick lately, and have always loved the Cherry-Pistachio flavor combo. I raided my pantry to see what I could make work and was pleased as punch with the results of this Cherry Pistachio Cake:

-1/2 box yellow cake mix (+ half of the ingredients it calls for)
-1/2 box pistachio pudding mix
-1 cup chopped fresh (or frozen and thawed) cherries

Combine above ingredients and pour into a greased 9” round cake pan. Bake according to box instructions. Frost with Cherry Cream Cheese Icing:

-4 ounces (half a block) cream cheese, softened
-4 TB butter, softened
-1 ½ cups powdered sugar
-splash of vanilla extract
-splash of almond extract
-sprinkle of salt
-splash of maraschino cherry juice

Beat together the cream cheese and butter, then slowly add powdered sugar. Once combined, add remaining ingredients. Frost the cooled cake, and decorate with pistachios and more cherries, or just eat it already!

Cherry Pistachio Cake

Honey Boy - OMG. Heartbreaking. Say what you may about Shia LaBeouf, the guy is crazy talented. He wrote this screenplay about his tumultuous childhood relationship with his troubled father, whom he plays in the film. Noah Jupe plays young Shia and no doubt has Oscars in his future. Lucas Hedges gives an emotional performance as older Shia, and it is utterly devastating to see the impact this man's childhood has on his adult life. I'm pulling for the real Shia to continue beating his demons, star in more Sia music videos, and keep cranking out work like this.

In The Line Of Fire - I remember seeing this movie about 20 years ago, and it made quite an impression on me. It started my obsession with John Malkovich - he plays such a nefarious bad guy! - and I loved all of his disguises in the film. Clint Eastwood plays a secret service agent taunted by this supposed assassin. At 27 years old, the film is certainly dated, but the premise is excellent. 

Dirty Harry - I didn't intend on doing a Clint Eastwood theme, but I had never seen this classic film, and thought I should watch it already. I could have sworn this was a Western (he has done so many Westerns, I just figured this was one of them!) but I was wrong - Clint plays a detective investigating a slew of murders by a rooftop sniper in San Fran. It was cool to see the iconic "do you feel lucky?" scene. If I had watched this in 1971 when it came out, I'm sure I would have loved it. It's entertaining, but I'm not sure how well it holds up over time. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 10

Hi y'all! I hope everyone was able to enjoy a safe Memorial Day weekend. I was grateful to go to the beach for a few days, and was even more grateful that it was practically vacant:

I suppose I could technically start dining out again, but I'm honestly in no rush to do so, and I'm having too much fun doing these home posts. And movie theatres are still closed, so I'm relying on my home screenings more than ever!

I bought a spiralizer to make noodles out of veggies a while ago, and then totally forgot about it. I whipped it out this week to make Zucchini Noodles (aka Zoodles), and tossed them with a jar of Green Curry Sauce from Trader Joe's, Sauteed Scallops, Cherry Tomatoes and Cilantro. It was a really light and satisfying dish, and I totally forgot I wasn't eating real pasta!
Zoodles with Scallops

My baked good for this week was a recipe from Taste of Home. I made these Cherry Coconut Treats and thankfully, halved the recipe, because they are impossible to stop eating. They are very sweet, but very delicious.
Cherry Coconut Treats

Finally, I have another way for you to use up ripe bananas - make quick Banana Pancakes! Take 1 banana, 1 egg and 2 TB flour. Mash together in a bowl, then cook in a skillet sprayed with non-stick spray (or melted butter). Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side. It's really as simple as that, though you could choose to add a dash of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, or even coconut and butterscotch chips. Go crazy!

Uncut Gems - Holy moly. My anxiety levels skyrocketed during this film. It's manic, with jarring music, close camera shots and a lot of tension. Constant dialogue. Adam Sandler is absolutely phenomenal, and unrecognizable as the comedy king he is. This is a tremendous film but it will get your blood racing.

And then I did a bit of a throwback to 2002...

The Pianist - I first saw this movie at the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem, when they had their "Films on Fourth" series. This film really moved me then, and it did again this week. Adrien Brody rightfully won the Oscar for Best Actor - his portrayal of a real-life World War 2 survivor is incredibly realistic and the ending will nearly break your heart. The score and cinematography are both great. Tuck in though - it's a long, emotional ride, clocking in at 2 and 1/2 hours.

The Hours - I remember suffering through this movie in high school, and was so disappointed in it back in the day. But when the 3 female leads (Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore) are 3 of your favorite actresses, I knew I should re-visit. I definitely enjoyed it more this time around - the score, the make-up effects, the performances - it all came together beautifully. While Nic won the Oscar for Best Actress (beating out Renee Zellweger in "Chicago") I really think the 3 leads were equal roles, and that her performance was the least remarkable. I can't believe I'm actually saying that. Julianne Moore's performance was utterly heart-wrenching, and Meryl is always perfection. But, the Academy will do what the Academy will do. Worth re-watching if you hated it the first time, like me.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 9

Howdy, folks! Is everyone ready for a long weekend, and to celebrate Memorial Day inside? Or at least, outside and 6 feet away from everyone else? LOL. I really loved last weekend's high temps, and had fun clipping some of my crazy Lamb's Ear that sprouted up. I couldn't bare to just toss it, so I put it in a vase and have loved it as my centerpiece!
Crazy Lamb's Ear sprouts!

I went a little crazy cooking seafood this week, because it's one of my favorite things to order in restaurants, and I'm not really able to do that these days. I sauteed scallops and roasted halibut in the oven and was SO thrilled with how they both turned out! I've learned that if you have a meat thermometer, you can really cook anything at home. Here's how I did the Halibut:

Place a filet on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Add some halved cherry tomatoes and drizzle everything with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes, or until the internal temp is 135. EASY PEASY.

I served both the scallops and the halibut with the most amazing Cilantro Corn Salad I've ever had, adapted from an America's Test Kitchen recipe:

-3 TB lime juice
-2 TB sour cream or greek yogurt
-1 TB mayonnaise
-1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced
-6 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob
-1/2 tsp salt, divided
-2 TB olive oil + 1 tsp, separated
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 tsp chili powder
-4 ounces feta cheese
-3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
-3 scallions, sliced thin

Combine the lime juice, sour cream or greek yogurt, mayonnaise and jalapeno in a large bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 TB olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the corn and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle over 1/4 tsp salt. Cover and cook about 3-4 minutes, until the corn starts to brown, then transfer it to the bowl with the lime juice mixture. Repeat with the other 1 TB oil, the remaining corn, and the remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Once all the corn is charred and in the bowl with the liquids, stir to combine. Leave the skillet on, and add the final 1 tsp oil, garlic and chili powder. Stir and let this cook for about 30 seconds, then add to the corn mixture. Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes, then stir in the feta, cilantro and scallions. This is great served immediately, but even better the next day after it chills in the fridge overnight. It is utterly addicting, you will be hooked, don't say I didn't warn you.
Roasted halibut, tomatoes and arugula with cilantro corn salad

Finally, I made a Vivian Howard recipe that I've been dying to make for quite a while now, and absolutely loved it. Her Coconut Cornbread Strawberry Shortcake was the perfect balance between sweet and savory, and highlighted beautifully ripe strawberries. Her recipes are pretty intricate, but usually well worth the work:
Coconut Cornbread Strawberry Shortcake

Mystic River - I saw this in high school and it started a thing for Sean Penn that remains to this day. It features an all-star cast, secured Oscars for Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, and if you're a fan of Clint Eastwood-directed films, you're in for a treat. It's part thriller, part drama, with a lot of tension and suspense. On Netflix, highly recommend.

Cats - No, not the 2019 remake that had people wondering "what in the actual..." but the 1998 recording of the 1981 stage version! For a limited time, you can stream some of Andrew Lloyd Webber's greatest filmed musicals, and while this one is certainly a classic, I'm still kind of wondering WTF. (I admit, it was better than the staged version my friend and I went to see in high school that was so bad, we had to pull out her iPod headphones and play something else. Bless.)