Country star to take Stockton on his ride

Brantley Gilbert, the Academy of Country Music’s “best new male vocalist” in 2013, brings his Let It Ride tour to Stockton Arena on April 24.
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday.
Gilbert, a 29-year-old native of Jefferson, Ga., is touring with Thomas Rhett (Akins Jr.), from Valdosta, Ga., and Eric Paslay, from Abilene, Texas.
Gilbert, who registered two No. 1 country singles in 2011, releases his third album — “Just As I Am” — on May 20.
“Halfway to Heaven,” a CD that rose to No. 2 on the country charts in 2010, achieved gold status (500,000 in sales) and produced his No. 1 singles: “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do.”
“Bottoms Up,” which will be included on “Just As I Am,” was a No. 4 single last year, when Gilbert won the Country Music Association’s “triple-play award” for his two No. 1 singles and “Dirt Road Anthem.”
He also was the CMA’s “new artist of the year” in 2012 and was included among Country Radio Seminar’s “new faces” in 2013.
Tickets — priced from $27.50 to $34.50 (before surcharges) — are available at and (877) 894-7027.

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Food day leftovers

Sriracha Sloppy Joe Nachos on Waffle Fries offers a flavor twist to the traditional sloppy Joe recipe. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/MCT)

The Sloppy Joe story we are running in Wednesday’s Record had me at hello. I remember being served the canned version and happily eating it as a child; definitely was disgusted by the school cafeteria’s version though. These “grown up” sloppies seem amazing. I love the new food craze of late that twists recipes and throws creative – and sometimes totally strange (Ramen burgers, anyone?) – curve balls.

I can’t believe we didn’t have enough room to print the recipe for the Loaded Sloppy Joe Fries! Thank you Al Gore “for inventing the Internets” so we can share these Wednesday Food Day leftover recipes.

So good! These nacho-like sloppy Joes are perfect for any game day – or the Oscars, or like, right now.
1 pound ground beef
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons sriracha
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons teriyaki sauce
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon vinegar
24-ounce package waffle cut fries
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 green onions, sliced
Cook ground beef in skillet over medium heat. Drain. Reserve 1 tablespoon pan drippings. Cook bell pepper and onion in reserved pan drippings until softened, about 5 minutes. Return ground beef to pan.
Add remaining ingredients except cheese and green onions. Mix well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
While sauce is simmering, cook fries according to package instructions. You want them crispy so they won’t get soggy underneath the sauce.
Turn oven to broil.
Spoon sloppy-Joe mixture over top of cooked french fries. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil just until cheese is melted. Sprinkle green onions on top. Serve with additional sriracha sauce, if desired.
Serves 6 to 8.
Don’t eat meat? This vegan Joe substitutes tofu. But no worries — it’s just as flavorful and messy, thanks to a rich, delicious tomato-based barbecue sauce. Jalapeno slices add zing.
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 small sweet onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, and diced (1/2 cup)
2 small cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces extra-firm tofu, crumbled (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups Kansas City Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows; you’ll need to double it)
8 gluten-free (or regular) burger buns
12 jarred thin sweet pickle slices
16 pickled jalapeno slices
In large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and pepper and saute for about 6 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.
In same skillet, saute tofu and sea salt for about 8 minutes or until browned.
Add cooked onions, peppers and garlic to pan, and pour in Kansas City barbecue sauce. Stir to combine, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Divide tofu mixture among buns and top each with 2 slices sweet pickle and 2 slices jalapeno.
Serves 8.
— “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Low-Fat Vegan Cooking” by Bo Rinaldi (DK, 2012, $18.95)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon garlic powder
In high-speed blender, combine ingredients and blend on high until completely smooth. Transfer to an airtight glass container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Makes about 11/2 cups.
— “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Low-Fat Vegan Cooking” by Bo Rinaldi (DK, 2012, $18.95)
This flaky, one-skillet savory pie isn’t really a pie at all, in that it just has a top crust. But no one will miss the buns, guaranteed.
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on box
1 1/2 pound bulk turkey or pork sausage
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup chunky-style salsa
1/2 cup chili sauce
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
4 1/2 ounce can chopped green chiles
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, if desired
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Unroll pie crust on ungreased cookie sheet. With sharp knife, cut into a circle to fit the top of the pie pan. Cut out squares for a checkerboard pattern. If desired, place cutouts on crust to decorate, securing each with small amount of water.
Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until crust is light golden brown.
Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, cook sausage and onion over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until sausage is no longer pink. Stir in remaining ingredients except cilantro. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until corn is cooked and sauce is desired consistency.
Stir cilantro into sausage mixture. Carefully place warm baked crust over turkey mixture in skillet.
Makes 4 servings.
— Adapted from “The Big Book of Pies & Tarts” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, $19.99)
This is the vegetarian answer to sloppy Joes, made with black beans and mushrooms.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 cup trimmed and diced mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup prepared tomato sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Salt and pepper
6 whole-wheat hamburger buns
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and carrots and saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, cumin, and paprika. Stir everything together and allow mushrooms to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add beans, tomato sauce, vinegar, mustard and syrup, and allow to simmer and thicken for about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if you like.
Toast hamburger buns (to make Joes a bit less sloppy). Spoon a generous amount of bean mixture onto the bottom half of each bun and sprinkle with a good pinch of shredded cheese. Put hamburger lid on top and serve.
Serves 6.
— “How to Feed a Family” by Laura Keogh & Ceri Marsh (Random House, Sept. 2013, $27.95)
This is a fairly traditional recipe that’s a little on the sweet side until you add the Crispy Slaw.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 onion)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1/2 pepper)
12 ounces lean ground beef
2 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 to 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 small hamburger buns, toasted and buttered
Crispy Slaw (recipe follows)
Warm oil and butter in a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and ground beef, stirring to crumble and brown the meat. Add tomato sauce, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 15 minutes.
Place a toasted bun, open face, buttered side up, on each plate, and spoon the meat mixture over top. Spoon crispy slaw on top or serve alongside the sloppy Joes.
Makes 4 servings.
— “Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook” by Sharon Kramis and Jule Kramis Hearne (Sasquatch, 2013, $)19.95
1/2 head green cabbage, finely sliced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
1/4 cup red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed and cut into thin strips
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place cabbage in a large bowl. Cover with cold water and 8 to 10 ice cubes. Let crisp for 15 minutes. Make dressing by mixing vinegar, mayonnaise and sugar together. Drain cabbage in colander. Transfer to a serving bowl, add carrots and bell pepper and gently toss with dressing to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
— “Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook” by Sharon Kramis and Jule Kramis Hearne
This recipe is extremely rich, but a great way to introduce your family to eating game. You can find venison at Strip District Meats ($7.99 and up, depending on the cut) as well as at Giant Eagle Market District stores. I cut up loin chops.
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds venison meat from the leg, shoulder, and/or shank, cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt
2 cups small-diced red onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chipotle powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
750-milliliter bottle dry red wine
6 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
24-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes, with their juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
10 to 12 soft buns
Put a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pot and let it get hot. Pat the venison meat dry and season liberally with salt. Begin browning the meat, about 2 minutes per side. You may need to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pot. When browned on all sides, remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion and garlic along with a pinch of salt, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chipotle powder, cayenne, paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and allspice and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add the red wine, being sure to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Once it has reduced by half, about 5 minutes, add the vinegar, Dijon, sriracha, and brown sugar and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice and bring to a simmer.
Return the meat to the pot and add the oregano and granulated sugar and simmer until the meat is tender, 3 to 4 hours. If the sauce still is a little loose, continue simmering until it reaches optimum sloppy-Joe consistency! Serve on buns.
Serves 10 to 12.

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A secret that’s really not

A recent study, which is published in today’s Record on Page A2, finds children need a consistent bedtime basically or else they will go cray cray on you. Um, yes. Rocket science, right?
These, I’m sure highly paid, scientists behind this study say a majority of behavioral problems are stemming from kids going to sleep at random times, which leaves the kidos with a feeling similar to jet lag, and the longer the erratic pattern continues, the worse it gets.
If you are a parent who does this, I’m sorry, there is no hope for your groggy, maniac kid.
No, I’m kidding, there is hope really. But if you do not know this information already, you might need some zzzz’s yourself and I urge you to phone a friend to help you out.
The experts, who I hope are not banking on a medal for this study, say the craziness from an erratic sleep pattern is reversible.

On that note … Yes, it’s past my bedtime ;)

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Fun bites

Ensuring my 3-year-old grazer was eating in balance was starting to become a bit of a challenge. She’d eat a decent amount for breakfast and ate well at dinner, but lunch was sometimes tricky. I’d keep track mentally of all that she stuffed every so often into her little chipmunk cheeks. Her half sandwich would sit out all day and get dry.

I had an epiphany.

I love going to restaurants and getting sampler style meals; small bites with enough variety to keep the taste buds entertained and the stomach feeling light. Why not incorporate that same plating style for the rug rat?

On her bento-style lunch plate: 3-4 squares of cheese, 4-6 grapes, 3-4 crackers, a few bits of orange, a couple carrots and a gallop of peanut butter. She was excited. She ate everything a bit quicker than before then asked for more. Success!

When I was pregnant, a close friend of mine gifted us a toddler cookbook. It had fun, creative ideas to energize picky, grazing kids into eating a little better – and healthy too.

My little girl is more of a veggie like her mama, so getting her to eat meat isn’t easy but we do make sure she gets enough protein even if it’s in other food sources. The other night, we made chili-cheeseburger cupcakes, and she and the hubs, were in heaven. Baby boy, however, gets his in mush form and loved it too. But, it’s not like he can really complain too much yet. Thank goodness. has a lot of neat ideas. Feel free to share some of yours.

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The value of empathy

Syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette of San Diego offers an interesting look at struggling parents and the needs for patience and empathy in our society. I couldn’t agree more — and on so many levels.

Yes, there are a lot of douche-bag “guardians” but there also is a group of caring and loving families taking care of average children who are, well, being children.

I think society often expects children to live up to some tight, controlling and irrational standard when perhaps it’s the adults who could stand to take a chill pill.

Kids are learning to express their emotions and aren’t perfect. They can tire easier than adults, too.

One afternoon before my night shift, I just had to get milk for my family and it was near my 3-year-old daughter’s nap time. She was great the whole time. And then, we were at the checkout. She began crying and screaming. I was taken aback because she’s never like that. Trying to gain a calm control of her as she’s thrashing around and trying to push my cart, holding the milk and my purse … not a good picture and I was completely embarrassed. Of all the people staring and probably making judgments, two men stepped up. One took my cart; the other carried my other items so that I could carry my girl to the car. Both were so nice and shared their empathy. “I’ve got kids and they just sometimes do that. Don’t worry,” one said, who also was a clerk at the SMart we were at.

Right as I drove away, my daughter said she was sorry and then crashed out hard.

Would love your thoughts:
Offer patience, not glares, to struggling parents

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Chowin’ down like Alton Brown

Butternut squash is nutritious and delicious.

Now that my son is eating solid foods, I’ve been getting creative. I occasionally will buy the pre-made baby food, but quite regularly I make his food as I did for our daughter. Now, don’t think I’m all fancy and stuff. It’s not like that. I’m cheap, really. Also, I like to get dirty. Baby food is easy to make, but coming up with a pint-sized menu can be a little challenging if you don’t want to go for the mundane. Doing so — check this fanciness out — will expand your child’s palate. Mm, yeah, you like that, huh!?
~ Cinnamon-dusted butternut squash roasted with garlic, onion, and parsnips; puree in a processor (I use the Magic Bullet – love it) with a splash of formula or breast-milk and a scoop of baby rice. Add water for desired consistency. Viola! So fancy you could put it on a cracker. Serve with a nice Chianti – for yourself, of course.
I do get inspirations from Food&Wine magazine. Kidding. Slightly. Anyway, the kid eats it up. C’mon, that’s way better than giving him sale brand A’s veggie dinner. I once bought one of those “organic” pouches in a “Veggie bake” flavor. It had me with “Mmm … it’s delicious” printed on the package. I should have stuck with my intuition but I took it home anyway.
My son wouldn’t open his mouth. It stank like crusty fish with a wet moldy sock.
He’s such a good boy, though, and he gave it a whirl. He gagged for nearly two minutes. His eyes watery and face a bit pink. I quickly apologized in astonishment and he flashed me an “it’s-ok-mom” smile. I paid nearly $2 for that crap.
The schmancy din din I created in the recipe above was $2 and I had nearly eight servings. I froze the rest for future use. Eat your heart out.

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Teach your children well

When I signed on to do this blog, I had no initial intent to parent bash, because I figure plenty of people on the Internet are better equipped to cover the politics of the child raising industry than I. And Lord knows no one is perfect and everyone has different parenting styles that work for them. But I think about the number of times I’ve considered walking up to someone behaving like a complete jerk toward their child, or worse, with the express purpose of telling them off. I’ll just do it here, though I doubt they read this.

It just seems like some parents don’t want to parent. The lack of responsibility, maturity and brains in some people used to be held secret behind their own doors, but now, they’re letting it run rampant in the general public – and even calling the police to handle their business.

I recently spoke with a couple who work in law enforcement in Kentucky. One specifically works with juveniles and said he can’t count how many calls he’s received from parents asking him to come wake up their kid to force them to go school. He had even more stories similar to that. Really, people? You don’t call the police for that kind of crap.

Kids these days, and parents too for that matter, are becoming more rude and need to understand that they must earn respect, not command it.

What happened to mom or dad being the parent? It seems some just want to be their kids’ friend instead, or perhaps it’s just pure laziness. And kids will mimic their parents’ behavior.

One woman told me she doesn’t like to get mad at her kids and allows them do what they want because she doesn’t see them all day. She works until late evening and is a single mom. She loves her kids, but they are hellions. She was working on gaining a bit more family support, which is always helpful. I told her, I know you love them, but loving them also requires helping them to become good people – ones of which you can be even more proud. Being a parent can be hard work at times, but the end result can be truly rewarding.

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More the merrier

In tomorrow’s Record, page B3, is an article on an interesting study about how kids learn a lot of helpful life skills from being in a family with more than one sibling. Marriages for the children of multiple sibling homes were less likely to end in divorce because the children had learned how to handle their emotions better, had learned to live well with other people and perhaps had a better mindset on the ideals of a commitment.


My husband and I each are the oldest of six children and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. As a kid, sure, I had more responsibilities as I often watched over and took care of my siblings. My youngest sibling, a brother, is 11 years old. I just turned 36. There is quite an age gap between some of us, but my brothers and sisters still call me seeking guidance, we hang out when we can and we have tons of great memories together.


I can’t wait for my kids to have the same – just a little more closer in age.

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Fostering hope

I spoke with a social worker recently about foster care and the details of her job. I certainly admire her strength in dealing with some of the crazy situations she has faced in her job.

I couldn’t believe it when she told me that some people who chose to foster — not even the real parents — had not given the children in their care such basic things as regular baths or even birthdays. It was only later that she had heard from a former foster child that he had never celebrated his birthday while he was living with his foster family, and he didn’t think to tell anyone about some of the neglect he felt because the home was stable and better than anywhere else he had lived. He had come to terms with the fact that they had treated him more like a roommate instead of family.

I was horrified. I cried.

There’s no reason for that kind of behavior – especially from a family that knows how rough these kids have had it and are supposedly offering their home to help nurture these kids.

I’ve never understood how anyone could be so cruel, unthinking and selfish toward a child. No one can control where they’re born and no one should be punished for their imperfect circumstances.

Foster-adoption could be one of the most socially conscious acts anyone can do. Everyone deserves to be loved.
(Adding to this list of famous people who have been adopted: Superman, Babe Ruth and actress Kristin Chenoweth)

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Spinning around

I could have kissed a coworker and I nearly broke down and cried when she gave me a compliment on my hair and dress the other day. “You always look so put together,” she smiled as we passed.

My heart stopped. What!? Ah, please say that again.

For one, I didn’t even remember what I was wearing. I had to look down to make sure there was no crusty squash puree or milk splattered on me. And, these days, squeezing the muffin top into my pre-baby clothes isn’t so pretty, but I can fake it some days. Yes, I have a mirror at home and I run right past it most days. And, I’ll be honest, showering and brushing my hair feels like a luxury. “Calgon, take me away” – for shiz.

From the moment I wake up to “MOM!!! I want cereal …. Please,” I am running. A mom’s job is constant: There is the reading of stories, the making of meals, including diner, putting Barbie’s dress on for the fifth time in the day, cleaning up the house, paying of bills, changing of diapers, possibly time to grab some groceries, exercising, playing hide and seek, and finally, I get around to eating my apple and praying for the clock to tick to naptime. Before I know it, it’s time to throw on whatever I can find, slap on some makeup and pin up my hair or say screw it and let it ride the wind. I get to work just before 4 p.m. most days.(I hope no one looks at me. Do I have matching shoes? Crap, I forgot my lunch again.) Sometimes, it seems like I’m just catching my breath when I sit down to the computer to begin my work day.

What the heck was I doing with all that free time before kids? LOL

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