A Summer of Cooking & Writing

Summer has, so far, been a real whirlwind.  It is typically my writing time, and it has been again, to a degree. But it’s also been about family, vacations, travel, and food. Here’s a couple photos to prove the last point. I love cooking, you know, so when family gets together, there’s all kinds of good stuff going on.

Ribs on the 4th of July. How I missed ribs! Oh, and there’s bacon in the baked beans. How I missed bacon!

Cheesecake for my son on birthday. How I missed berries! This is a very simple glaze. Berries, tiny bit of water, sugar. That’s it. I was delighted to find black raspberries and so I thought I’d merry black and red together on one cake. It was a good idea.


Cherry pie for my dad’s birthday. Full disclosure, my sister made the crust, but I made the filling and I picked the cherries myself. So that counts, I think.

Now that some of the family reunions have subsided, I’m back in full writing mode. Packed away a good 3700 words today on novel 9 and I have a full week of writing ahead of me, so here’s hoping for some great productivity.

Hope you are having a great, productive, and creative summer too!



A Blissful Week of Cooking

I got to take a break from my drama teaching, directing, and producing hats this weekend and cook!

I organized a Week Without Walls cooking experience called Hot, Spicy, & Sasse. Yeah, I like the name too. I had twelve students, most of which had never cooked before, and I helped them build their cooking skills and techniques over the course of the week. It was a blast, and we ate a ton of good food.


Here’s a look at our set-up. We had four booths installed in our loading dock. They were wired for lots of small hot plates, an oven, refrigerator, and, of course, rice cooker. Then I started with a demonstration and let them go at it, walking around to give them guidance as needed.

It was fun to see students who had never cooked before gain some experience, and more importantly, confidence that they don’t have to rely on anyone else for delicious food. They have the power! And now the skills.


Here are two students making our final dish of the week: garlic butter stuffed crust pizza. Yeah, it was phenomenal.

Here’s the menu boards of ingredients we used for the week. I hope to do it again next year.




My Hobby – Cooking (Today’s recipe: chicken broccoli stir fry)

When I’m not writing or doing drama-related stuff, I cook. Here’s one I did yesterday.: chicken broccoli stir fry. Super easy. Super delicious and very nutritious! Skip the Chinese take-out and try this. It doesn’t take long to prepare. Here are the ingredients:p_20190104_163940

Listed from left to right: green onions, chopped garlic (4 cloves), chopped ginger (1 inch), 1 medium chopped onion, 1 chopped chili pepper, 1 med head broccoli. In the bottles: sesame oil, oyster sauce, chili sauce, and go ahead and add some soy sauce.

You’ll also need a pound of thinly sliced chicken breast.



Large wok: add sesame oil and all chopped vegetables. Let stir-fry on high heat for a minute or so. Add broccoli. It will start to steam and turn dark green.

Once mainly cooked, push to side, add more oil to empty side of pan and add half chicken. Stir fry to mainly cooked, push to side with vegetables and cook other half of chicken.  (That’s what is happening in the photo above.)

Now for the sauces: splash in some soy sauce, a couple table spoons of chili sauce (I use an Indonesian variety, but something like Siracha would work as well) and about 1/4 cup of oyster sauce. (if you want to thin out sauce, add a little chicken broth)

Stir fry on high heat until well mixed. Remove from heat. Add green onions and lightly stir. Serve over white rice. (I like Thai rice, personally.)

Enjoy! It’s super delicious and very easy. Here’s my meal from yesterday.


All right, now back to book editing.


The Sasse Food Challenge: How to Motivate Actors

It’s become somewhat of a ritual for me over the past few years: The Sasse Food Challenge.

It’s a way to, hopefully, motivate my actors to memorize their lines by the date I want them memorized.

On the day of the challenge, if they ALL know their lines, approximately 95% or so, then I will invite them to my house to cook for them. I’ll cook something special like my gourmet pizzas (stuffed crust with toasted garlic and homemade spicy sausage, for example) or Mexican (homemade Enchiladas with my own salsa and pickled peppers.)

Usually food speaks greatly to them. In my many years of offering the challenge, my group only missed the challenge twice. It doesn’t get them off the hook – they still need to memorize their lines, but it does take away a great and fun time of bonding with the cast.

Monday is our challenge this week. They had previously did very well in memorizing Act I, but tomorrow is Act II, and if they can nail it, they’ll have their food on April 10.

We’ll also play some drama games and enjoy some good dessert. I hope they make it. Not because they’ll know their lines on time, but because I like to cook for them. It’s enjoyable,  and I always look forward to it.

So that’s how I motivate my actors. What do you do?

Another Food Blog Entry – Thai Basil

I’m in such a foodie mood lately. Yesterday’s post on the amazing Vietnamese dish “Bun Bo Nam Bo” got me thinking food, so here’s a short follow-up on an essential ingredient in many southeast-asian dishes – Thai Basil.

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Thai basil makes itself known in a couple ways. First, its smell. Just bringing it into the house or fridge gets the minty-goodness of it fragrantly sharing itself with everyone. And if you start chopping it, get ready for comments like, “What’s that smell? It smells so good.” “Thai Basil” is the answer.

Thai basil is stronger. It doesn’t have the more delicate sweet flavor of sweet basil or Italian basil. Thai basil commands to be recognized, and when you try it for the first time, it may slightly overpower you. But the flavor becomes intoxicating and addicting.

The first time I ordered “padprik chicken” here in Malaysia, the flavor took me back a little because it was so flavorful. But oh my, it has become one of my favorite dishes in the world. Many westerners order the tried and true “cashew chicken” from my favorite Thai lady, but I keep insisting for them to upgrade to real Thai taste and try the padprik chicken with its delectable basil.

Ways to eat Thai basil:

Vietnamese soups and salads

Any Asian stir-fry – add it in right as you finish

Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and other noodle dishes

Salads – add some leaves to a regular tossed salad to add some zest and taste

Curries – wonderfully good in a variety of curries – yellow, red, and every color in between


Here it is in my favorite: Thai Padprik Chicken

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If you don’t live in Asia, you might need to track it down at your local Asian mart. Enjoy!

Is Using a Thesaurus Cheating? (And other stupid thoughts.)

Is using a thesaurus cheating? (And other stupid thoughts.)

Sometimes I feel like I’m competing against everyone’s outside perceptions.

Here’s a stupid example. I went through a phase when I thought that good cooks never had to consult a cookbook. When I’m writing this now, I realize how stupid that sounds – as if someone who is an amateur cook for his family would naturally have accumulated every way of cooking known to man in one’s brain so he never needed input from others. It’s ridiculous, I know. But it was like I thought that a cookbook diminished how good my cooking was. It’s like I thought, “Anyone can follow a cookbook, so if I want to be better than anyone, I better not follow a cookbook.”

I remember once when I took this concept to extreme and I decided to make a cake from scratch and from my head. Yeah, stupid, I know. Well, I did it, and it tasted exactly how it should have tasted – bad!

Now what about writing. It’s cheating to use a thesaurus, right? I mean, every writer should already have the Oxford dictionary memorized. All good writers know all of the “literary” words, and we dare not admit that there might be a word we don’t know. It’s logical to think that a writer has such a fantastic memory that he or she can remember every word in the English language exactly at the time when a new sentence demands it.

Maybe there are those brilliant individuals out there, but I’m not one of them. Sometimes my brain feels like mush, and there is nothing but juvenile words jumping forth onto the page. Sometimes I need help. Sometimes I need a recipe to help remind me of the ingredients.

I’m tired of living and writing and cooking like I have to naturally be the best in every given situation. I am human. I need the help of others, and, after all, resources are there for our use. I can’t imagine another reason why a thesaurus exists except to give people additional words with the same meaning.

We need to stop insisting so much from others. We are all who we are, on a journey of discovery, and we all need to continue to learn and grow along the way. Let’s let each other do that, and let’s encourage each other to continue to grow.

I am now comfortable being myself, even if it means that I need to look at a recipe every now and then.