Retro Spins: Pat Benatar - In The Heat Of The Night

 

Pat Benatar exploded on the scene in 1979, competing with the predominantly male dominated hard rock scene, clawing her way to the forefront to become one of music's leading ladies of the 1980's. With an explosive list of hits, multiple platinum albums, and several Grammy Awards, she is anything but just your average singer.

Inspired one even after taking in a Liza Minnelli concert, she decided to pursue a career in music. Quitting her bank job, she shifted her focus to the night club, The Roaring Twenties, where she worked as a singing waitress. It was here where she met Phil Coxon, and together they formed Coxon's Army.

Benatar had married her high school sweetheart, Dennis Benatar in 1973, and when he returned from the army in 1975, the couple moved to New York so that she could continue her pursuit of music. During this period, she would perform regularly at Catch A Rising Star. Between 1977 and 1978 she would continue to perform at various venues, even recording commercials for Pepsi-Cola. However, it would be her headline at New York City's Tramps club in 1978 that would prove to be the opportunity she needed. The show was heard by representatives of several record labels, but it would ultimately be Terry Ellis of Chrysalis Records who would sign her. Though she would divorce her husband shortly after, she would keep his last name.

Her debut album, In The Heat Of The Night (1979) would serve as her breakthrough album, reaching number three in Canada, and paving the way for future albums, which seemingly only got bigger and better. Throughout her career, she was able to achieve a unique sound, combining both hard rock and pop.

Pat and her guitarist, Neil Giraldo would soon start dating, and by 1982 were married. To date, they remain together, and continue to tour together. A true love story that is so rare these days.

Over her four decade career, Pat Benatar has released twelve studio albums (1979 - 2003), and over twenty compilations of various formats (cassette, CD, VHS, etc.). Though I think it's fair to say her main popularity were her albums released between 1979 and 1991. Yes, sadly, she became another victim of the grunge era, losing popularity in the early 90's as the new sounds of music quickly dominated airways. Despite this, she continues to remain active, touring frequently.

Today, I'm going back to 1979 to revisit that first album which paved the way to her rock-stardom, In The Heat Of The Night.

The album punches you in the face with one of her biggest hits of all time, Heartbreaker, and from there transitions into a subpar rendering of John Mellencamp's I Need A Lover. From there, while it delivers decent tracks, nothing really stands out as amazing by any means.

It wasn't until the tail end of it all, songs seven and eight, X-Rated and Don't Let It Show, that I got interested again. Even then, these are far from "hits". Overall, it was a bit disappointing that for how popular Pat Benatar is that this album was just...Well, adequate. I expected more.

This by no means taints my opinion on her as a singer. She has a ton of hits, and I like a lot of them, if not all of them. I was just hoping to find more to add to my shuffle list than what was already there, which I suppose I did with the two aforementioned tracks.

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Retro Spins: Elton John: Too Low For Zero



I bought Elton John's Too Low For Zero because it contains my all time favorite 80's track from him, I'm Still Standing. I also felt it would be a good introduction for me into the world of this multi-decade artist, who's music I only knew through greatest hits and radio play.

Too Low For Zero was the first album since his 1976 Blue Moves to contain all lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. It marked a comeback for this singer, who reunited with his core backing band of the 70's, producing chart toppers, I"m Still Standing, Kiss The Bridge and I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues.

For me, the album felt a little dated. Even for 1983. It leans heavily on a classic rock 70's style, and while it produces a decent sound, it's not a very memorable one. With a running time of over one hour, it's also too long. I enjoyed I'm Still Standing and I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues. However, beyond that, the rest of the album was very lack luster. Unpolished if you will.

I suppose I have to side with Don Shewey of Rolling Stone, who when originally reviewing the album, said, "Elton John and Bernie Taupin have written some great hit singles, but since the early Elton John LP, they have never produced an album of consistently first-rate material. And although Too Low for Zero is a big step up from losers like Blue Moves and A Single Man, it doesn't hang together, either." This really hits the nail on the head. The album is just okay, and that's not good enough for an artist of John's caliber.

Obviously this didn't slow the artist down much, as he's produced and released several more albums since 1983's Too Low For Zero. Hopefully though, things got better for him. I do plan on checking out a few more of his albums from the 80's, so time will tell (for me) on that.

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The Flintstones (Remco)

 

The Flintstones
Remco
1961

Like The Flintstones? How about motorized wooden or plastic models? Okay, one more question, you enjoy collecting Remco toys? Well, if you said yes to any of those, but hopefully all three of them, then the 1961 line of motorized wooden and plastic models from Remco based on The Flintstones, may be what you're missing in you life. 

Each set, sold separately of course, featured a slew of pieces for kids to put together, including cardboard characters and animals to adhere to each one. If that weren't enough fun in the box, each set came with a comic book style instruction sheet, with full color illustrations.

Remco released three individual sets, Paddy Wagon, Sports Car & Trailer and Yacht. Ironically, if you've seen the sown, you know that neither Fred nor Barney could afford a yacht or sports car. Also not sure what they could have done to end up in the back of a cop car...er...dinosaur. Perhaps they stole the other two vehicles, and ended up arrested in the end?

While I dig the premise of these toys, I'd be lying if I said they were for me. I'm not a fan of building things, not even toys.

Then again, even if I did, the $200.00 complete in the box price is pretty rich for my blood for something like this. Still, they're pretty darn neat.

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Homemade German Pork Schnitzel With Spatzle And Mustard Cream Sauce

 

If there's one thing German's know, it's good cooking. Mind you, there's nothing healthy about a heaping plate of pork schnitzel and spatzle. Between the oil for frying, and the butter for sauteing, it's all about fat, which equates to flavor.

Well, if you haven't guessed it by the title, today I'm going German with a homemade recipe of pork schnitzel and spatzle. To top it all off, I'm whipping up a delicious mustard sauce which will accompany it all perfectly.

True to most of my recipes, this isn't something you're going to throw together in a few minutes. So you're going to want to give yourself at least the morning of to start, which is what I did. This was so I could prep the pork.

Ingredients

2 Pounds Thick Pork Chops
Zest From One Lemon
Juice From Half Of One Lemon
2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 Cups Unseasoned Breadcrumbs
1 1/2 Cups Unseasoned Panko Breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Pepper
Five Eggs
Additional Salt And Pepper To Taste

Starting with four thick pork chops, I'm using the flat side of a meat mallet to pound out each one to about 1/4 of an inch thick. As a tip, it's incredibly helpful to fold over a piece of wax paper, and place it over top of the meat when striking it. This helps to eliminate damaging the meat. Additionally, you can put a towel under your cutting board to dampen the sound a bit.

Ignoring the rolling pin, which didn't work as I intended it to, keep flipping the meat over as you pound each side, until you have the desired thickness. The fact that this one came out looking like a Superman insignia is what we'll call a happy bonus.

For comparison, here's a side by side of the first chop I flattened, next to one I have yet to touch.

As you get done with each one, move it to a plate with a piece of wax paper on the bottom, and cover each piece with another sheet of wax paper. You'll be using these pieces a few times throughout this process, so don't thrown them away. As for the piece you're using to cover your meat while pounding it, replace as needed, as it will get damaged.

You'll need a large dish, which is big enough to hold each piece of meat flatly for this next step. I'm personally using a large casserole dish for this. In said dish, I'm combining two cups of flour with 1 tablespoon of salt, two tablespoons of pepper, and as much zest as I can get from one lemon.

Stir it up, and if you like, let it sit for about thirty minutes to release some of the zest into the flour. However, if you also like, simply move on to the next step, which is to dredge each piece of pork in the flour mixture, coating it thoroughly.

Give it a little shake when done to remove any excess flour, and place it back on its respective piece of wax paper. Repeat with each remaining piece.

Now you're going to need two large containers which can hold an entire piece of pork. For this, I rinsed out my dish holding the flour, and also grabbed a large glad plastic container. Whatever you use, like I said, you need two.

In a large bowl, add five eggs, and salt and pepper to taste. Juice half of one lemon into the egg, and whisk until fully scrambled. When finished, transfer your egg mixture to one of your large dishes. You don't want to scramble your eggs in your large dish, because the size of it will make it more difficult than utilizing a bowl.

In your second large dish, combine 1 1/2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs, and 1 1/2 cups unseasoned panko bread crumbs. Gently shake the dish to incorporate them together.

Starting with your first piece of pork, dredge it on both sides through the egg mixture, rotating it a few times to evenly coat. Don't leave any areas of meat without egg, otherwise your breadcrumbs will not adhere to it.

Immediately transfer it to the breadcrumb mixture, and coat it thoroughly with crumbs, pressing gently to adhere them.

Transfer this back to its piece of wax paper, and repeat until finished.

Cover the top piece of pork with another piece of wax paper, and place it in the fridge to set. You want to give this at least one hour, but all day is fine if you're off to work, or something like that. 

IMPORTANT: Save one cup of your breadcrumbs for later use.

When you're ready to start cooking, that's when things are going to become a bit hectic for this particular meal. Especially if you're cooking alone. Multitasking is going to be a must.

Let's start by preparing our spatzle, which I've already talked about in a prior post. Same recipe. Same concept. Smaller pieces.

Ingredients

2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
4 Eggs
1/2 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Before you even start mixing anything, start yourself a hot pot of water, seasoned with salt, to boil. You will need a fairly large one to allow your spatzle to move and breath.


Additionally, you want to start your oil for frying the pork. Once again, I'm using my trusty electric skillet to help me moderate temperatures. I'm also using vegetable oil, but you can use canola as well. I would avoid olive, corn, or any other oil that is going to add or alter the flavor.


I'm regulating my temperature at three hundred fifty degrees. I also only use enough oil to cook one side at a time. However, you could deep fry these if you really wanted to save time.

Get your first pork chop going before getting back to your spatzle. However, only add one chop at a time. There's a couple reasons for this. First, you want to make sure your pan can even accommodate two pieces of meat. Second, every time you add something to oil, it reduces the temperature. Meat shrinks as it cooks, so ideally, it's best to ultimately get two pieces in together to reduce cooking time. Each one is going to take about seven to ten minutes per side.


While the pork is getting fried up, in a large bowl combine your two cups of flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Give it a stir to incorporate.

In a measuring cup, measure out your 1/2 cup of cream, and if you have room, go ahead and crack your four eggs into it. Then simply pour it into your flour, and get to stirring up. You can use your hand, spoon, rubber spatula, whichever you like.

By now, you're also probably flipping your pork, and have two pieces in the pan. Additionally, your water is probably boiling.

Take a heaping spoon (or handful) of your spatzle mixture, and start pinching it off in very small pieces, dropping them into the water. Be careful. Boiling water will burn you quickly. Work fast, carefully, and as far away from the steam as possible.

Once it's all in the water,give it a quick stir to spread it around the pot. This is only going to take about three minutes to cook, and when done, you want to drain it immediately into a colander, all while continuing to balance double duties with cooking pork.

Spatzle is versatile, and can be seasoned with any number of things. Today, I'm make a bread and butter sauce, and for that, I need one whole stick of butter melting over low heat. I'm using the same pot I cooked the dough in for this.

When melted, I'm adding my reserved one cup of breadcrumbs, and stirring it around to thoroughly coat it in butter. I'm going to let this get golden brown in the pot.

When it does, I'm going to add a little pepper to taste, but no salt. There is plenty in the butter and spatzle dough. Yes, I'm also still conducting double duties on cooking pork at this time, and you will too if following this recipe.

Turn the heat off, add your spatzle, and quickly stir it together. What you'll notice is that the butter mixture pretty much disappears, and things actually look a bit dry. Not to worry. Move the pot off the heat, and throw another half a stick of butter on top, and cover it with spatzle to allow it to melt on its own. Hey, I said in the first paragraph this dish wasn't healthy.

Now you're going to need a medium sized skillet, which we'll be using for our sauce.

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Flour
3/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 1/4 Cup Chicken Broth
2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1/4 Teaspoon Pepper

Before we jump into the sauce, let's talk about that pork real quick. You'll notice that as I'm finishing mine that I'm moving it to a large sheet pan. You'll also notice that the outer edges are a bit browner than the center. This is intentional. The reason being, I'm double frying these.

Why do we double fry? It's simple really. When you fry things for the first time, the outside gets dry, and the inside layer stays wet. However, as your food rests after the first initial frying, that moisture starts moving outward as it rests for a few minutes, which is why you can see in the photo that the top looks...Well, soggy.

Double frying drys this up, creating a crispier coating. When double frying, you want to return whatever it is you're cooking to oil for three to five minutes to reach a desirable crispness. This works just as well for breaded foods as it does for french fries, or other fried foods that you want to be extra crispy. The second frying will take place once my sauce is done, which will also serve to keep the meat hot when serving.

Okay, so now that we know, let's get back to the sauce.

In your pan, melt two tablespoons of butter.

When melted, add your flour, and use a whisk to stir it up.

Stir it periodically over medium heat, but ultimately, what you're looking for is a nutty brown color.


Give it a good whisking to incorporate everything together, and then add your chicken broth.

Add your heavy whipping cream, dijon mustard and pepper. As you can see from the photo, I had all of these in the same measuring cup.

Keep whisking, and let it come to a boil over medium heat, but then immediately reduce it to low. It will start to thicken fast, and you want it to be smooth and creamy, not thick and chunky.

Look for a consistency that coats a spoon, but still mostly runs off.

By now your butter in your spatzle is melted, so give it a good final stir. Additionally, your meat is done, and so is your sauce. Simply serve it up.

While I would have normally served up my pork simply with the lemon wedges from my other half lemon, I accidentally dropped this on the floor while cooking. As such, since I had to slice up another lemon, I also went ahead and zested it over top the meat as well. I'm glad I did, and recommend you do as well.

Even if you don't, it's all good. get you a plate, and you know what comes next. Get to digging in.

Mmm, that sauce. It's the true star of the show. It brings out the flavor in both the pork and spatzle, and all around everything just compliments each other so fantastically.

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It's Still My Birthday!

 

George of G.I. Jigsaw stopped by today to hand deliver a brown birthday package. This package.

What's inside you ask? Only the greatest thing ever!

For many of you who have kept up with his recent posts, you know that George has spent a lot of time painting the entire run of vintage Star Wars figures on 10 X 10 canvas. Every time he would so much as whisper about any progress he was making, I was right there to make a pitch for why he should give them all to me. I'm still working on that...

In the interim of making me wait until I cry, he took the time to make these four special ones just for me. It was really awesome of him to take the time to do something like this. These are great!

It all started with a text I wasn't expecting where he told me he wanted to give me four paintings based on action figures, and asked which ones I would want. I quickly fired back that the answer was easy for me. He-Man, Skeletor, Duke and Cobra Commander.

Flipping them over, he not only signed each piece, but wrote a blurb appropriate to each character.

Thanks again, George! These are so incredibly awesome!


These display perfectly behind my action figure displays thanks to a little help from circular Velcro disks on each corner of the back.


George, I have twenty more shelves...You know, if you were wondering for the future.

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Retro Spins: M - New York, London, Paris, Munich

 

Back when we were living overseas, my sister used to introduce my brother and I to all kinds of music. One such artist was M, with his only hit, 1979's Pop Muzik. As it was typical for those days, she played it for us on her series of records from Springbok Hit Parade. Volume 45 to be exact.

This was back in the days when we had no clue that those singing on the albums usually weren't the original artists. However, the tune was good enough that it got and held our young attentions.

M fell off my radar for the longest time, but when I did think back to his one hit wonder, I often considered it a song from the 80's. Ultimately, I would learn that this was incorrect on my part.

Now before I go any further, I should establish here that M is not the name of any one particular artist, but rather the group created by singer Robin Scott, who created the pseudonym as a "project" in 1978. However, prior to this, he had a humble beginning as a college student, who showed a talent for writing and performing topical songs. This led to the release of a solo album, Woman From The Warm Glass in 1969.

Though this didn't garner much attention, it did lead to Scott performing folk songs at various clubs throughout the early 70's, sharing the billing with the likes of an up and coming David Bowie. As his popularity grew, he was given the opportunity to create the multimedia project, The Voice, for the BBC, and from there set off to travel Europe and North America.

Upon returning to England, he began work on a series of demos with other artists, found himself the winner of a Star national talent show. The latter led to an offer of a recording contract, which he ultimately turned down because it did not include his backing band.

Between 1973 and 1978, he continued to work with other up and coming artists, and co-founded the record label, Do It Records, which he released the Roogalator's debut album, Play It By Ear through. However, the label's most noteworthy talent would be Adam And The Ants, who they released the first recordings for in 1979.

Scott would eventually relocate to France around 1979, and it was here that he created M, utilizing session musicians for the group. It was with them that he created and recorded the number one hit, Pop Muzik for the 1979 debut album, New York, London, Paris, Munich. Though it would become their only US chart topper, there were several other songs which charted in the UK. Despite this, M's follow up albums, The Official Secrets Act (1980), Famous Last Words (1981), and Jive Shikisha (1984 recorded, but released in 1998) would all be failures.

Today, I'm going back to my childhood, to relive those times where we sat in a circle around my sister's record player to finally listen to the full debut album of M. The aforementioned 1979, New York, London, Paris, Munich.

Sadly, I can sum this one up relatively quickly. It was difficult to get through. Normally, when I create these posts for my Retro Spins reviews, I type as I listen. I couldn't do this with this particular album. The reason being was that the tracks were very distracting. Almost to the point of annoying. What made this disappointing for me was that the songs themselves weren't actually bad. But, something about them left me unable to focus, and even now, I'm not sure what that was.

With exception of Pop Muzik, which still stands the test of time as a great tune, nothing else was all that memorable. I can't really say much more than that.

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Homemade Beef Stroganoff

 

Today I'm back in the kitchen with the remaining slab of that beef tenderloin, and as I mentioned, I'm making some hearty beef stroganoff.

This isn't the first time I've shown stroganoff here at The Toy Box. That honor goes to my Leftover Makeover post. However, since then, I've worked to hone in on my final recipe, which is what I'm sharing today.

Ingredients

2 Pounds Beef
16 Ounces Mushrooms - Sliced
2 Onions - Sliced
1/2 Cup Sherry
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Spicy Brown or Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Fresh Horseradish
1 Can Beef Broth (15 ounce)
1/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Cup Sour Cream

Starting with my onions, I'm simply slicing them down the center (after peeling them).

Then I'm slicing them up.

For this recipe, I like to use my large electric skillet. This allows me to get everything into one pan, while also regulating temperature. To this, I'm adding two tablespoons of olive oil, and sauteing my onions at 350 degrees. I give them an initial toss to coat them, and then hit them with some fresh cracked salt and pepper. I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of this.

While these are going, I slice my beef up into strips, and then cubes. Sorry, but my cubed photo came out blurry, so I'm not going to use it.

Add this to the pan, and give it a good stir to combine.

Let this brown up a bit, and then rinse and add your mushrooms. I'm using a blend of baby bella and shiitake.

As it all cooks, hit it with some more salt and pepper to taste. Stir it occasionally, and just let it go as you measure out your remaining ingredients. I like to add my sherry, worcestershire, mustard, and horseradish to a single measuring cup, and give it a good stirring to combine.

You may have noticed in my photo of the pan with the meat and veggies in it that there was a pretty poor amount of meat to produce ration. That's because this was only about one pound of meat. As mentioned in my ingredients, this recipe calls for two pounds. To substitute this remaining amount, I'm using a package of ground beef. However, you can use any kind of beef you want, in any combination. Just ensure it's two pounds.

Personally, I like the steak / ground beef combination because it adds different texture, and even flavor, despite coming from the same animal.

If splitting your meat varieties in half, add the ground beef at this point, hit it with some salt and pepper, and brown it up, crumbling it in to bits as it cooks.

While you can drain your liquid at this point, I don't. If you do, you will want to add an extra half cup of beef broth or sour cream. Whichever you choose. Bottom line, you'll need extra liquid.

But first, stir everything in your pan together.

Then add your measuring cup of sherry mixture, plus your can of broth. Add your extra broth as well if you opted to drain your pan. If adding extra sour cream, instead of broth, hold off on adding that for now. Just but the two liquids in.

Give it a good stirring, and let it simmer for a couple minutes. You want the alcohol to cook off.

Now add your heavy whipping cream and sour cream.

Give it another good stirring.

This next step is optional, and as such, I don't measure or include it in the above ingredients. I hit this bad boy with a good shake of cayenne pepper, and give it a final stir. Basically, I just season to taste.

Whether you add the cayenne or not, the next step is to cover the pan and let it go for thirty minutes.

 
 
Since I'm using an electric skillet, I regulate this temperature at 350 degrees. However, if you're cooking this on the stove, you essentially want to let it simmer over medium low heat. No matter which cooking pan you're using, make sure it's covered.

Plan accordingly for this half hour to make whatever it is you're topping with stroganoff. Rice, noodles, mashed potatoes, all of them are great options, and I've tried all three. Heck, you can even skip them, and top it on some slices of bread, like an upgraded S.O.S.
 
Today, I'm using noodles.
 

I prefer these bagged fresh(er) ones over the traditional dry pasta. They not only taste better, but they take so little time to make. I'm using this whole nine ounce bag, which is a perfect amount for this recipe.


Two minutes in boiling water, and it's perfect. And, speaking of perfect, check this stroganoff out after simmering for thirty mintues.


I like mine thick and hearty, almost like a meat sauce. However, if you like you're to be a little more saucier, you can certainly reduce the cooking time to account for the volume of reduction you're looking for. It's versatile.

But again, I like mine thick and rib sticking-ly rich.

I simply toss the noodles in the pan, and give it a good tossing to thoroughly coats them.

You can dish this up as is, but I personally like to sever it over a couple slices of bread.

Regardless of how you get it on your plate (or bowl), you know what's going down. Get to digging in!

This is the perfect comfort meal for a bad day, a rainy one, or a bone chilling snowy one. In my case, it's also great for any day of the week.

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