My Motto

May the muffin rise to greet you, may your friends be always at your door, and until we meet again, warm a single-malt in the palm of your hand and make something homemade for someone you love.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Easy Irish Soda Bread and Irish Cookbook Giveaway!

"Every St. Patrick's Day every Irishman goes out to find another Irishman to make a speech to."
My blog debuted in July and I've been waiting all the many months since for March to arrive.  Oh, wonderful March, when for one day the whole world turns green.  You know what I'm talking about...St. Patrick's Day! In the US, March has also been proclaimed as Irish-American Heritage Month by US Congress.  It's kind of a big deal around here!
St. Patrick's Day in the U.S.:
Did you know the Irish Society of Boston organised what was not only the first Saint Patrick's Day Parade in the colonies but the first recorded Saint Patrick's Day Parade in the world on 18 March 1737. (The first parade in Ireland did not occur until 1931 in Dublin.) New York's first Saint Patrick's Day Parade was held on 17 March 1762 by Irish soldiers in the British Army. The first celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1766, the parades were held as political and social statements because the Irish immigrants were being treated unfairly. (Wikipedia)
To celebrate, I'm going to post only Irish recipes for the next couple of weeks and a bit about my Irish heritage. For starters, I'm sharing with you my favorite (and easiest) Irish Soda Bread.  It is devoid of raisins, seeds and embellishments because my children don't like them.  I'll be sharing some other Irish soda bread recipes with you as well.  There are many varieties.  After all, it's really like a big scone, isn't it?  This one is slightly sweet, light and addictive!  Warm from the oven with butter melting into of life's simple pleasures.  Very easy to whip up and to give as gifts too.  

Although I don't cook Irish food exclusively, I do love it and to spread some inspiration, I'd like to share a fabulous Irish cookbook with one lucky reader. Here is what Ruth Reichl, Editor In Chief, GOURMET Magazine, had to say about it (from back cover of book):

"Reading this lovely book makes me want to do two things. Get on a plane and go straight to Ireland.  And run into the kitchen and start cooking.  This is an inspired introduction to an overlooked cuisine."

Enter for a Chance to Win this Cookbook!
This is a lovely, hardcover, beautifully written, 383 page book ($50 value) with wonderful Irish recipes that will inspire you. I'll share a few of them here. 
All you have to do for a chance to win it, is leave a comment on any of my blog posts between now and March 17, 2011.  You'll receive an automatic entry for every comment.  If you tweet about it, send a copy to @TheIrishMother and I'll toss in an additional entry for you!
 I'll announce the winner on March 23, 2011.

Easy Irish Soda Bread

3 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Either grease a cookie sheet, or place a piece of parchment paper on it.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking power, baking soda and salt.  Pour in melted butter, buttermilk and egg and stir together JUST until it comes together.  Do not overbeat, or it will give it a tough crumb.
Turn dough onto a floured board and knead lightly, just 3 or 4 folds.  Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet.
In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons melted butter and 2 tablespoons cream.  Brush loaf with this mixture, sprinkle with sugar and using a sharp knife, cut and X into the top of the loaf.
Bake in a preheated oven 40 - 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spicy New England Pot Roast

“Smell brings to mind... a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years.” 
~Diane Ackerman 

This unique version of a beefy classic intrigued me with it's ease and addition of cranberry sauce and horseradish.  The result was a great sweet and sour vibe which we all enjoyed.  It really worked.  Since the juices are not the traditional savory gravy usually served with pot roast, I opted against serving it with mashed potatoes and served it instead with mashed turnip, which can stand on it's own, maybe with a pat a melting butter, no gravy needed.  I'm making all the long-cooking meals I can before spring arrives and my palate turns to the grill and the fabulous in-season vegetables and fruits that will begin to arrive at the market.

Spicy New England Pot Roast
(from The Essential NY Times cookbook)

3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
One 4-pound boned and tied arm, blade, or bottom round roast
3 tablespoons bacon drippings or vegetable oil
1/2 cup freshly grated horseradish  or drained prepared horseradish (4-ounce jar)
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1 cinnamon stick, broke in two
4 whole cloves
1 cup beef broth
16 small white onions (you can use jarred or frozen)
1bunch carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths

1. Mix the flour with the salt and pepper.  Dredge the meat in the flour, rubbing the mixture into all the surfaces.
2. Heat the drippings in a Dutch oven or other heavy casserole and brown the meat very well on all sides over high heat.  Drain off drippings.
3. Mix together the horseradish, cranberry sauce, cinnamon, cloves, and broth and add to the meat.
4. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 4 hours.  For the last hour, add carrots and onions.  Before serving, remove roast to a platter and cover with foil.  Pour drippings into a pitcher, drain off any fat from the top, and serve.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Campanelle with Broccolini and Sausage

"As long as there's pasta and Chinese food in the world, I'm okay"
~Michael Chang

Recently, I had a workday that was so busy I didn't get a chance to eat lunch.  Therefore, all afternoon I was starving and thinking about dinner.  I daydreamed of something healthy, fabulous and satisfying, yet quick and easy.  When I saw the great-looking broccolini in the produce section, I decided to do something with it and this is what I came up with.  It fit the bill PERFECTLY.  Broccolini is broccoli's milder cousin, and goes so nicely with the hot sausage.  It adds a perfect crunch to the chewy pasta and sausage.  I was inspired by the dish orechiette with broccoli rabe and sausage, and although you could use broccoli rabe, and I don't mind it, the Mister finds it bitter, so it's brocollini for us.  Barilla Campanelle is my favorite pasta and I always have several boxes around, so that was a no-brainer.

Now, usually I don't save pasta for leftovers, but this dish was too good to dispose of.  Since we only ate about half of it originally, two days later I heated the leftovers in a covered dish in the oven (yes, we are the only people on the planet without a microwave...on purpose!)  A few minutes before they were heated through, I warmed some heavy cream, then tossed the hot pasta with it and one-third cup of parmesan cheese.  Sort of dressed it up Alfredo style.  It was a twist from the previous meal and it was delicious.  Yeah baby...nom, nom, nom!

Campanelle with Broccolini and Hot Sausage

I pound hot Italian sausage
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced or run through a garlic press
1 pound fresh broccolini, chopped into 3-inch lengths
10 ounces Barilla Campenelle
1 cup white wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place raw sausages in a pan, prick with a fork and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and slice on the diagonal.  Cover with foil to keep warm.  Place a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Add pasta to rapidly boiling salted water.  Boil for 8 minutes, then add broccolini to boiling  pasta and cook together for the remaining 3 minutes.  While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add garlic, stirring for a minute, but do not let garlic brown (it will turn bitter).  Add wine to skillet and stir, allowing to reduce slightly while pasta finishes cooking.  Before draining pasta, save 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set aside.  Drain pasta/broccolini mixture and add to skillet with garlic, tossing as you go.  If you think it needs more liquid, you can add some of the pasta water that you reserved.  Toss pasta with 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, turn onto a serving platter and then sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and salt and pepper.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chocolate Mousse

"Once we hit forty, women only have about four taste buds left: one for vodka, one for wine, one for cheese and one for chocolate."
~Gina Barreca
February 14, 1986.  That's the anniversary of the first time I made this mousse.  I've made it once a year ever since, either on Christmas Eve or Valentine's Day.

It's got a great light consistency that sets up after it is chilled for a couple hours and it will keep nicely for up to four days, making it a fine dessert for entertaining, since you could prepare it ahead of time.  This perfectly chocolaty dessert is crave-inducing.  Be careful.  

Chocolate Mousse

One 12-ounce bag good quality semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup prepared espresso coffee
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
4 egg whites, room temperature
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
(optional: one cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar to whip and use as garnish)

Melt chocolate chips in a medium bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring.  Do not let the bowl touch the water; stir in espresso and Grand Marnier.  Let chocolate cool just to room temperature.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
In a medium bowl,  whip the cream until slightly thickened, then add confectioner's sugar and beat until stiff.  In a large bowl, beat egg whites with salt until stiff peaks form.  Fold cream into egg whites.  Add one cup of this mixture to the room temperature chocolate and stir in thoroughly to loosen it.  Pour this chocolate over the cream/egg white mixture in the large bowl.  Gently fold in until it is evenly incorporated.
Spoon into 8 to 10 individual dessert cups or a serving bowl.  Refrigerate for 2 hours, or until set.
At serving time, if desired, whip one cup of heavy cream with 2 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar until soft peaks form.  Top each portion of mousse with a dollop of whipped cream.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Country Crust Bread

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”
~Robert Browning, (1812-1889) English poet

Some recipes are so good you keep returning to them no matter how many new and delectable gastronomic delights you discover.  This is one of those recipes.  It was the first bread recipe I tried in my 20's, and it's so easy and delicious, that (looking back) I'm sure it did wonders for my baking confidence.  The recipe was clipped off the back of a Gold Medal flour bag over 20 years ago.  
This is bread that closely resembles what would have come out of ovens in this country in the latter half of the 19th century.  
There truly is nothing like home-made bread.  It only takes a few minutes to stir the ingredients together, 8 minutes of kneading (which is easy...just think of it as a little arm workout) and then it's just a matter of letting it rise.  Go shopping.  Go to yoga.  As it bakes, the house fills with an indescribably yummy yeasty aroma. And it is so, so satisfying to pull the golden loaves out of the oven.  I'm telling you,  at that moment, there is nothing else I would rather eat.  Warm bread with real butter.  Slices toasted are irresistible.  Sandwiches made with this are elevated to another level, making even peanut butter something special.  French toast...oh yeah.  If you've never attempted making bread from scratch before, this is a great recipe to start with.  You'll be hooked. 

Country Crust Bread

2 packages active dry yeast (check expiration date for freshness)
2 cups warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 to 6 /12 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Stir in sugar, salt, eggs, oil and 3 cups of th flour.  Beat until smooth.  Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.
Turn dough onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, turn greased side up.  (At this point, dough can be refrigerated 3 to 4 days.) Cover; let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 hour. (Dough is read if you poke it with your finger and impression remains.)
Punch down dough; divide in half.  Roll each half into a rectangle, 18x9 inches.  Roll up, beginning at short side.  With side of hand, press each end to seal.  Fold ends under loaf.  Place seam side down in greased loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches.  Brush loaves with oil.  Let rise until double, about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Place loaves on lower oven rack so that the tops of pans are in center of oven.  Pans should not touch each other or sides of oven.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until deep golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from pans.  Brush tops of loaves with if desired; cool on wire rack.  Makes 2 loaves.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic

"Three nickels will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat"
~New York Saying
I know, I know, you've probably already had this.  The recipe has been around for at least 40 years, and I've always wanted to make it.  The acquisition of my new Le Creuset Dutch oven was a good excuse.  Now, usually I wouldn't serve an untested meal to guests, but I called some good friends and asked them if they would come over and be my guinea pigs.  If it bombed, I could always order pizza, right?  I looked at both James Beard's version and Ina Garten's and married them, tweaking things to my liking.  James Beard's called for only legs and thighs cooked in a Dutch oven for 1 1/2 hours.  I liked that.  But he put in unpeeled garlic and called for vermouth, whereas Ina Garten used peeled garlic and Cognac...two things I preferred.   Do you see where I'm going with this?

This was a fantastic meal that was easy, economical, smelled heavenly while cooking and everybody loved it.  Serve this with good French bread to spread the soft roasted garlic on.  Such a good relaxed dinner to share with friends.  I should have made this years ago.  So many good things to cook, so little time.

Our friends brought dessert from Lucibello's in New Haven, CT.  Let me tell you...these treats are worth a drive from ANYWHERE!
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves
4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium onions, sliced
6 sprigs fresh parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 chicken legs- any mixture of drumsticks and thighs (skin on)
6 tablespoons Cognac, divided
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
a pinch of thyme
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
Sliced French bread, warmed

Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of water for 60 seconds.  Drain the garlic and peel.  Set aside.

Dry the chicken with paper towels.  Season liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat.  In batches, brown the chicken on both sides, about 3-5 minutes on each side.  When a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue browning the chicken, in batches, until all pieces are browned.  Set all chicken aside.

In the same pot, lower the heat and saute the peeled garlic cloves for about 5 minutes until they become golden.
Place celery and onion in the bottom of your Dutch oven.  Top with browned chicken and garlic cloves.  
In a small bowl, mix together wine, 1/2 of the Cognac, thyme, chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Pour over chicken.  Cover pot and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees.

Right before serving, using tongs, remove chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.  In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of the hot juices from the Dutch oven and the flour, then whisk this back into the remaining juices in the pot.  Place Dutch oven on stove on medium.  Add the remaining Cognac and the cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil.  Pour the sauce and garlic over the chicken and serve immediately with warm French bread.
Serves 6.
Nothing but crumbs left....

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs

"Beef is the soul of cooking."

~Marie-Antoine CarĂªme (1784-1833)
I got this recipe straight out of the new Williams Sonoma catalog.  Don't laugh.  They were using it to sell a tagine and the picture in the catalog looked so good.  I don't have a tagine, so I adapted it for crockpot cooking.   I figured that would duplicate the tagine closest.  I love braised meats, with their tender, concentrated flavors.  Perfect on a cold winter's night.  Served with fluffy mounds of mashed potatoes for the juices to pool in, or crusty bread to sop them up (or both!).  They were a huge hit.  

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 3/4 pounds bone-in beef short rib (about 6-8 pieces)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup flour
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 large carrots, cut into 1/4 inch dice
3/4 cup minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon crushed Aleppo chili (I used some dried Cascabel chili, but you can use a pinch of crushed red pepper if you don't have any dried chili peppers
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup beef broth
3/4 cup red wine

In a large heavy pan, heat oil over medium high heat.  Season ribs liberally on all sides with salt and pepper.  Dredge in flour and shake off excess.  Brown ribs on all sides.  
This is important: don't crowd the pan, or they will steam instead of brown.  If you need to do them in two batches, take the time, it makes a difference!  
Remove the beef from the pan, turn the heat down to medium, and then saute the vegetables 5-7 minutes.
Put the meat and vegetables in a crockpot.  In a medium sized bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together and pour in the crockpot.  Cook on high for 6-7 hours, or on low for 8-10.  Skim off the fat that rises to the surface.  
Serves 4.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lemon Cake

"Martha Stewart showed up at Manhattan FBI headquarters to have her fingerprints taken and pose for a mug shot.  Then Martha explained how to 
get ink off your fingers using seltzer water and lemon juice."
~Conan O'Brien

I like winter, I really do, but this 6-week succession of snow storms has my mind turning to spring, sunshine and all that goes with it.  Fresh berries for instance.  I can't wait for them to come back in season.  The next best thing that speaks fresh and sunshine, is citrus.  Lemons are plentiful now.  They looked great and were half price at my market.  I'd been eying this recipe in the Essential New York Times cookbook, because it was touted as being seriously lemony and that's how I like my lemon goodies.  The recipe called for two loaf pans, but when I went to pour the batter in, it looked like it would be skimpy divided between the two, so I took my chances and poured all the batter into one loaf pan, for one big, fat loaf instead. The increased loaf size called for 15 extra minutes of baking time as well.  

Everyone was crazy for this and I'll be making it again soon.  It was fantastic alone but otherworldly served with lemon curd and whipped cream.
Lemon Cake 

For the Cake:
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2-sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (from 4-6 lemons)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Lemon Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

For the Lemon Glaze:
2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8 1/2-by-4 1/4-by-2 1/2 inch loaf pans, and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Into a medium bowl, measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar for 5 minutes.  Mixing at medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and then the lemon zest.
3. Combine the lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the pans and smooth the tops.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.
5. Meanwhile, to make the lemon syrup, combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat.
6. When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes, then remove the parchment and invert them onto a rack set over a tray.  Spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes.  Let cool completely.
7. To make the glaze, combine the confectioner's sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a whisk until smooth.  Pour over the top of the cakes, and allow the glaze to dribble down the sides.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Throwdown Winner: Maroni's Meatballs (100-Year-Old Recipe)

"Nothing spoils lunch quicker than a rogue meatball rampaging through your spaghetti."
~Jim Davis

This post was ready a few days ago, but I didn't publish it.  My heart wasn't in it.  I needed to know my son was okay.  And though I had a feeling he would be...even knowing he might be dealing with stuff...anxiety, physical discomfort, etc.  I just couldn't think of anything else.  But all is well;  I can breathe again...and the first thing I did was head to the kitchen, which, next to my family and friends, is where I find my greatest joy.  Never is cooking a chore.  And if I was ever stranded somewhere, hungry, nothing around anywhere to eat....this is a meal I'd start dreaming about.

Meatballs with sauce is one of those things that I've never used a recipe for...until now.  I've made it so much that I could just throw it together.  I can remember my mother making big pots of sauce that would simmer all day and I would steal spoonfuls to test it.  Always with meatballs and often with Italian sausage, too.  Never with a recipe, either.  All afternoon I would be dying for dinnertime to arrive.

Last year, I caught the episode of Bobby Flay's Throwdown where he challenged Mike Maroni of Long Island's Maroni Cuisine to see who made the best meatball.  Much attention was paid, since this is one of my all-time-favorite meals and I love a good meatball.  A couple of things surprised me.  Noting that Maroni used 3 times as much egg as I ever did, the next time I made meatballs, I tried it, though skeptical.  Wouldn't you know it made them better?   That would be a permanent change; thank you, Mr. Maroni!  Since I loved them to begin with, you could say any improvement was just gravy....Sunday gravy.

Well, this past Christmas, Keith gave me the cookbook Bobby Flay's Throwdown! with all the recipes from the show.  Yesterday when I went to make meatballs and sauce, as I do about once a month, I pulled out the cookbook and followed the recipe for kicks, just to see.  Best meatballs EVER!  Something I didn't catch when I watched the show was that they also used about 3 times as much cheese and garlic as I've ever put in my meatballs.  They were so good, we ate 5 before they even hit the sauce.  By the time they were all shaped, I realized I had forgotten to put onion in them, but they were so good, I may just leave it out intentionally next time.

Grandma Maroni's Meatballs

1 pound ground beef chuck (I used 1 1/2 lbs)
1 1/2 cups grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley ( I used 2 T. dried parsley)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 small Spanish onion, grated
3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 large cloves)
pinch of salt, or to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon)

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
2. Mix the beef, cheese, bread, milk, eggs, herbs, onion, garlic and salt in a mixing bowl.
3. Roll the meatballs loosely about the size of a golf ball, and place on the prepared baking sheet.
4. Bake until browned, 35-40 minutes.
Sauce is a funny thing.  Everyone usually has their own family recipe and ideas of what great sauce should be.
Here is mine and by the's always better the second day:

Red Sauce (AKA Sunday Gravy)

1/4 cup olive oil
7 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup hot water
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
10 whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon McCormick Italian seasoning
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over low-medium heat.  Add onion and saute until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and stir constantly, one minute (you don't want it to turn brown, it will get bitter).   Add can of whole tomatoes and immediately reach in and squash the whole tomatoes with your hand, smashing them as much as you can.  Add the rest of the ingredients except fresh basil.  Simmer on low for 3-4 hours.  
One hour before serving, add the meatballs and fresh basil.  Serve over hot fresh pasta and provide grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling.
Cook's note:  use the hot water to rinse out the tomato cans, getting every last drop into the sauce.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Comfort Friends....Much Better Than Comfort Food

Meet my son Curtis.  He always seems to be on the edge of a cliff somewhere.  
On January 28, 2011, he flew to AU to start a semester abroad in Cairns.  Two days later, they had to evacuate because of the impending cyclone.  It is the largest, most powerful storm to ever hit that part of the country.  I received a quick call from him on 1/30/11, but was told I may not hear from him for weeks due to the circumstances they will be in.  He and 17 other students are in a hostel on a plateau, out of flood threat.  They have 5 days worth of food and water and at this moment are probably huddled in the basement riding out the storm.  Until I know he's okay, normal everyday concerns seem pretty, well......meaningless.  I'm asking for the collective prayers of my friends for the safety of the group & others in the path of this storm.  Thank you for your prayers and means a lot. 

*UPDATE a/o 5:30*  Just heard from Curtis, the storm shifted to the south and Cairns was spared.  The students are all fine and heading back to classes tomorrow!  Thank you so much for the outpouring of prayer, support and overall good vibes!