It’s Time to Return to Blogging

Too much time has passed since my recent blog dating back to September when I paid tribute to our deceased daughter.  Since that time, I visited by home town, as the featured photo shows, and I’v had a life-changing event: a new job!

Now, I have been on my new job, which was a move from one department to another at the university where I work for nearly one month.  I have gone from social researcher and community educator to another exciting job that works to ensure the success of multicultural students.  Now remember, “multicultural” means all cultures!  One thing that I’ve realized in my work with the many cultures, ethnicities, and dominant populations these past 25 years is that many think the word, “multicultural” means anyone who is not White and middle-class (in the United States).  That means finding common definition or understanding to assure that 1) Every human is from a culture, 2) Everyone has an ethnicity (belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural traditions), and 3) Every human can find common ground from which to build a relationship.  As you can see, I have my work cut out for me.

One thing I didn’t report, here, is that my former work was at an agricultural experiment station in SW Kansas.  Now I am on the campus, which is 4.5 hours away.  That means sell a house and buy a house.  Wish me luck.

So, in terms of friendships that change because they have become long-distance, I have wonderfully close friends in my former town.  I will see them often, for now, because I go “home” on the weekends. I am making new friends, too.  I will return to my soon-to-be former home this weekend to eat, drink, and be merry with my friends.  I love them dearly.  I have gone to a few dinner gatherings since being in the town of my new position.  Since many of our readers like food, I will share a newly-created appetizer that I took to one of the gatherings.

It’s a fruit, cheese, and nut medley, and I’ve named it, “Fall Colors”.

1 bag of fresh cranberries

2 oranges

1/2 cup (64g) coconut sugar

2 teaspoons (8.5g) Chinese 5 spice

One “log” of goat cheese

1 cup (28g) shelled walnuts

Brandy or vanilla is optional (brandy would be added during cooking and vanilla added when removed from the heat)

To make the compote, chop the oranges (peeling and all) and combine with the other ingredients in a saucepan to cook gently until the liquid comes out of the cranberries and oranges and the compote is thickened.  Remove from the heat.  If you use vanilla, add it now.

After the compote has cooled, place the goat cheese on a plate, and arrange the compote around the cheese, and top with the walnuts.

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When you scoop it up, make sure you have a nice distribution of the cheese, compote and the nuts so that you have the advantage of all the flavors.  It goes well with nut crackers, and enhances the taste of red wine.  I call it “Fall Colors”, because cranberries and oranges are fresh at this time in the Northern Hemisphere.

Enjoy, and thank you for reading.

A Beautiful Young Lady

On September 27, 1981, a lovely little girl came into this world in last hour of the day.  We called her Riki Lee.  She was extraordinary in so many ways.  A natural leader, Riki was often called, “bossy”, because the world isn’t used to girls who lead naturally.  She went through school as a popular girl who gathered her peers at the house, or where ever young people gathered.

Riki tried everything, once.  She played bass guitar in a band and tried her hand at skating boarding.  She competed on the swim team, and did well.  She played basketball, and was the high score-maker that year.  What ever she tried, she did well.  Riki worked as a waitress during high school, and came to love food and cooking.

At the age of 22, Riki married her childhood sweetheart, Jonathan.  They had been best friends since the age of 12!  In their 14 years of marriage, they had three lovely children.  Riki worked as the director of nutrition for a school where she and her family live.  Riki made friends quickly, and she was known as “Mama Bear” to her large group of friends she lovingly called, “The Village”.   The Village gathered every Wednesday for Riki’s famous “taco bar”.  She was known as a bread-maker and a cook of extraordinary talent.  She was known for her homemade noodles, too.  Her sons said they’d never find someone who cooks better that “Mom”.

It would take pages and pages to talk about Riki’s extraordinary life, and it was cut too short.  On December 18, 2015 at 10:05 p.m., our son-in-law called to tell us Riki had a heart attack (She was 34), we jumped in the car and drove 9 hours through the night to get to her.  She was on life supports.  When we arrived at the hospital the next morning, The Village was in the waiting room of the intensive/critical care unit of the hospital.  There were about 8 couples waiting.  The men were openly weeping, and the women had the most frightened looks on their faces.  “What was happening to their beloved ‘Mamma Bear’?  I could feel such great love for our daughter in that room.

Riki had been on heart medication for the past 11 years.  Because of a switch in insurance, she had to change cardiologists.  The new doctor said, “You’re on strong medicine.  Let’s take you off of it and see how you do.”  Needless to say, that was a reckless call on the doc’s part.

Riki took her last breath New Year’s morning.  So many things run through one’s mind as one witnesses the last breath of a child in a similar setting as the first breath is taken…in a hospital.  The next dreadful step was to tell the children, ages 7, 11, and 12, that their mother was gone.  Watching their little hearts break was excruciating!

Riki loved life, and she loved people.  She was a wonderful mother, and a loving daughter to her parents and to her brother, Stevie.  When we think of her, we think of this smile:

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And this ornery streak:

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When my sister passed at the age of 60, I read the words of Lebanese-American poet, Khalil Gibran, “On Children” to give my mother some comfort.  Now, I read the words and find some comfort in them, too.   If you ever get the chance, listen to the poem as brought to music by a Capella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock.  They bring an exquisite meaning to the words.

On Children by Khalil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

We keep the memory of Riki in our hearts.  We can hear her voice.  We can hear her laughter.  May she watch over her children, and may she rest in peace.  Here is love to your, our beautiful daughter.

 

The Love Language of Food

Remember Gary Chapman’s book about the love languages?  I see truths in it.  Chapman’s premise centers on ways a couple demonstrate love to one another: words of affirmation, quality time, gift-giving, acts of service, and physical touch.  Actually, this communication and service go beyond couples in a committed relationship.  I think one can demonstrate loving language to any one.  Of course, there may be parts that are off limits.  For example, I have a co-worker that gives me vegetables from his garden, but I can’t imagine that we’ll ever exchange hugs!

So why is my featured photo a cauliflower steak?  I think I share the love language of cooking with my spouse.  We certainly share the desire to eat tasty and creative foods.  Cooking together, I suppose, falls into the love languages of “quality time” and “acts of service”.  Our meals together seem to be an affectionate time of the day, so I share our delicious meal tonight: grilled salmon, cauliflower steak, and rice with my ginger-soy-shallots-quince sauce.

First, I made a marinade for the salmon.  In the bottom of a rectangle glass cake pan, I added:

2 tablespoons (28g) sesame oil, 1 tablespoon (14g) grated ginger, 1 teaspoon (4g) garlic powder, grated pepper, 3 Tablespoons (42g) soy sauce, and a splash of teriyaki sauce to assure browning.  Mix it in the glass cake pan.  Then add salmon skin side up.  Smear the salmon in the marinade, and then repeat on the skin side.  Grill on the skin side down, with the grill lid closed, until  it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. (63 C) taken on the thickest part of the flesh.

I cook my rice in a rice cooker, and we usually put start it in the morning, and it stays warm until we’re ready to use it.  For the rice, I made a sauce.  We have a quince tree in the front yard.  It produces about six pieces of fruit on a good year.  Quince, related to apples, adorns a yard quite beautifully.  It blooms a lovely pink blossom in the spring, and turns a pale yellow in the fall.  The quince tree protects itself from predators with long thorns, which make harvesting the fruit a bit perilous.  My harvest take today was one piece of fruit.  Here’s the tree in the spring.

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The fruit packs a wallop in pectin, so it’s prized for thickening jams.  The one tiny, little fruit added pectin to thicken my sauce, and a sort of glutamate  flavor enhancer.  Here’s my recipe for the rice sauce.  I’m not going to call it a gravy, because it’s not heavy.  It’s a light sauce.

2 cloves garlic, 2 TBS (28g) sesame oil, 2 chopped green onions (set one chopped green onion aside for the final garnish), 2 TBS (28g) chopped ginger, 1 peeled and grated quince. (If you don’t have a quince, grate a half small apple), and 3 TBS (42g) soy sauce .  Cook all ingredients until it begins to thicken.  Add 1 cup (.23 kg) water.  Continue to simmer until thickened.

Rice topping

As featured in the header, the cauliflower was cooked in butter with some added salt and pepper.  Now it’s time to eat!

Salmon and the C steak

We usually eat our Asian-inspired rice dishes with chop sticks.  Here’s the rice.  To finish it, I sprinkled it with the chopped green onion and toasted sesame seeds.  We added a nice white wine, and watched Robin Hood with Russell Crowe (old movie).  Voilà!

Rice with my topping

Thank you for reading!

Loss and Grieving

Loss of a loved one garners emotions that hurt to the very core of who you are.  Humans experience such emotions, because we have the power to love.  We lost our lovely daughter nearly three years ago, and the deep pain never goes away.  We just learn to live with it.  Our daughter, Riki, married her childhood sweetheart.  They had been together since they were 12, and it was a life long love story until her death at the age of 34.  She left behind three bright and lovely children, and the love of her life, Jonathan, and her brother, Stevie, and her parents.

My observation is that people don’t always know what to say when a friend, co-worker, or acquaintance are grieving.  My suggestion is that you ask about it.  Ask about the well-being of the one who is grieving.  Give a loving pat, hug, touch, or anything that establishes a physical presence.  I cannot imagine anyone, in the throes of grief, who would not appreciate such a gesture.  It is a most generous gesture, and it takes nothing from you.

Also, I can tell you what not to say: “Life goes on.”  Not sure why anyone would say such a non-affectionate, heartless thing.  As the news got around about our daughter, several people said that to me.  Okay, I get it.  They simply did not know what to say.  Then, I think, say nothing at all.  Other phrases that I’ve heard, “Aren’t you over it yet?”It boggles my mind.

I can say, here, that grief is not a linear process.  One simply learns a new way of life with its emotional ups and downs while missing the loved one.  Our daughter was extraordinary, and we see it in her children.  She was on this earth, as their mother, just enough to instill her joy for life, her curiosity, and her acerbic wit!  We miss you so very much, Riki.  I’m not posting pictures of her family since the children are young, and Jonathan needs his privacy.

Now, are you wondering why there is a dog in my featured photo.  That’s our Scottish Terrier, Fiona.  She’s in our back yard, and please notice, she is under the watchful eye of St. Francis, patron saint of animals.

Fiona came to us 13 1/2 years ago.  Her parents, Skye and Shamus, and her brother, Tavish, lived with their humans, Jeff and Jo.  We shared furbaby sitting with Jeff and Jo.  We lost daddy, Shamus, in April 2017, mom, Skye, April 2018, and two days ago, Tavish went over the “Rainbow Bridge”.  Loss is never easy, even when it’s our family “pets”.  Our furkids are such a deep part of our lives, especially when those animals belonged to our children.  Here’s Tavish, Fiona’s brother:

Upclose Tavvie

Most people who have dogs or cats know that they are important members of the family.  I have read that children who are experiencing hardship, in any form, are better able to cope if they have a close relationship to a family pet.  I tend to think that dogs are the better choice.  I find that cats are a little too independent to be affectionate when there are high emotions in the home.

Our love of Scottish Terriers began when we bought one for Stevie when he was in 7th grade.  Beth, was affectionate and sweet.  We lost her to heart failure when she was eight.  We had found an abandoned cat, Skippy, who was two weeks old.  Bethy raised that cat with all the parental chores of the “whelping nest”. Here they are:

beth and skippy They were inseparable, and when Bethy died, Skippy screamed while looking for her, for weeks.  Their favorite past time was watching the world go by at the front window when they were not outside.  I have several pictures of the two, and the only thing that changed was the weather!

Skip and Beth at window

Sometimes, Skippy and Bethy even allowed the tabby, Clovis, to share their window-watching space.  Notice the snow.

three at window

We still have Fiona.  Skippy, Beth, and Fiona’s family are gone now.  We know that 13 1/2 is old for a canine, so we dread the day.  Our furkids continue to help us through our grieving for Riki, for which we are grateful.  Here’s Fiona and our sheep dog, Jitsu.  They’re watching it rain from the deck, Fiona looking woolly and in need of a Scottie trim.

J and F

Thank you for reading.

Love to Cook and Eat with Friends

It’s good to be back.  While away from my blog these past many days, my attentions focused on lots of writing for my job and preparing presentations around building relationships in multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic populations.  My “lessons” and publications target educators who work with multicultural populations.  So, I have not sat down to write in this blog, but I still have to eat, and I still have many friends who stop by for a meal.

My featured photo today is my jammy fruit compote that I call CAOS (sounds like chaos!)  I created this one Thanksgiving as my answer to cranberry sauce that we serve with turkey.  Making more than one jar at a time also assured that I will have fruit to serve during times of our Native ceremonies where we have some fruit of the bounty.

So, what is CAOS? Cranberry, apple, orange, spice.  I love the taste of Chinese 5-Spice, so I used it as my spice.  Here’s my recipe:

24 ounces (680.39 g) fresh cranberries

6 red (any kind) apples – cored and chopped (do not peel)

3 oranges – chopped (do not peel and remove seeds if applicable)

2 cups (453.59 g) apple cider

1/2 cup (113.40 g) honey

1 Tablespoon (140.18 g) Chinese 5 Spice (my version is a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg). Sometimes I use fennel or anise seeds in place of cardamom.

Combine all ingredients, and bring slowly to a boil stirring to a simmer.  Simmer until nice and thick until to a gelling point.  You can test for gelling by checking your stirring spoon.  I like to put a small pat of butter in my jams to reduce foaming.  When the jam is thickened, ladle into hot canning jars leaving 1/4 inch head space, seal with new lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water bath “canner” for 15 minutes.  Remove from boiling water and place on a towel on the counter out of a breeze.  The jammy fruit is ready to store when you hear the little “pop” that tells you it’s sealed.  Let the jars cool completely before you store on the shelf in your pantry.

Now, dinner with friends, Mark and Kathy, which was sort of a potluck since Kathy brought one of her famous appetizers (“appies”), Vidalia Onion Dip.  Rather than serve with the, usual crackers, we ate the dip with pork rinds to make it a low “carb” snack. I can’t remember Kathy’s recipe for the dip other than 1 or 2 whole onions, Swiss cheese, and mayonnaise.  Then you bake it.  Kathy says it freezes well, too.  I think I prefer it with crackers over the pork rinds.

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For the main course, I served ground lamb kabobs, which are really ground lamb with a handful of chopped cilantro, garlic, and salt/pepper.  Form a log or a patty.  Grill the lamb and serve with tzaziki (yogurt, cucumber, and garlic powder).   Lately, we’ve been sauteing red cabbage in butter with a little pepper.  It’s delicious when you allow the butter to caramelize the cabbage a bit.  We served the ground lamb with a dollop of my cilantro pesto (made with walnuts, Parmesan, garlic,and olive oil) and grilled Halloumi cheese.

  ground lamb kabob tzaziki cabbage and grilled halloumi cheese

Delightful flavors await you when you experiment.  Luckily, I have friends who like my experiments.

Thank you for reading.

Time With Friends

I’ve had a very close knit group of friends in this past 25 years. As we’ve aged together, some of us have moved away and some of us have interests in children and grandchildren that live elsewhere, so that takes us away quite a bit. Some of us have aging parents who need attention, so that requires lots of travel that takes time away from the group, too. Phil and Paula moved about 212 miles (341 km), so we are passing a weekend with them. That means eating out and trying new restaurants!

We ate at a small chain Italian cafe. I ordered a burrata. Burrata is fresh mozzarella wrapped around cream and shreds of cheese make from water buffalo milk. The lovely, little pillow of burrata sat plated near a bed of arugula and wood-fired flat bread make from pizza crust dough. Cherry tomatoes gave the plate a cheery look, and a balsamic reduction brought all the flavors together.

The flavors married well, and The joy shone on my face. Since it was lunch, I enjoyed blood orange San Pellegrino as my beverage.

After some vigorous shopping, we went to sample some artisan ice cream. “Churn and Burn” is a coffee and ice cream place. I chose cranberry walnut as one scoop and the other scoop was lavender. Wow!

They make the ice cream and coffee with the use of liquid nitrogen for a quick production. The creamy ingredients go into the bowl, and while the beaters are churning liquid nitrogen is infused, and ice cream or a delicious frozen coffee beverage comes alive!

I love the creativity of small batch restaurants and specialty food shops. I love the passion of the proprietors, as well.

Thank you for reading.

Cooking with Wild Game

First of all, I should tell you about my featured photo, which has little to do with my story today.  The community in which I live hosts a wide cross-section of refugees and other immigrants, so I like to visit their markets.  Keep in mind that my county is 40,000 people, and the city where I live has about 26,000 inhabitants.  Today, I visited the Burmese, the African (I’ve told you about their delicious tea-making), and the El Salvador markets.  From each store, I purchase a variety of cooking ingredients.

Pictured here is the betel nut, which comes from the areca palm (Areca catechu).  The nuts are known their stimulant properties much like coffee and tobacco.  In fact, those who make a regular practice of chewing these nuts expose themselves to a variety of ill-health conditions such as rotting teeth and mouth cancers.  I purchased the half nut that you see here.  I like the patterns.  The convolutions remind me of the brain.

I really want to talk about cooking with wild game today.  I am a deer hunter, because I love the taste of venison.  I hunt white tailed deer.  They are a beautiful animal: graceful and lithe.  Part of me rather mourns before I take the shot, and even more when the animal goes down.  I always thank the creature for giving his or her life so that I have a bountiful table.  Debra Hunting

Today, I made a wonderful marinara sauce for topping a plate of pasta.  My ingredient list:

  • I pound (.45 kg) of ground venison
  • 5 cloves smashed garlic
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 spoonful of OGB (my mixture of olive oil, garlic, and basil). Venison is super lean and needs some oil
  • 4 Tablespoons (56.7 g) tomato paste (I like to purchase large jars of tomato paste at the African Store. It comes from Instanbul)
  • 1/2 Cup (113.4 g) red wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Usually, I add mushrooms, but in the absence of the tasty fungi, I used my dehydrated mix of onions, mushrooms, and celery.

Let simmer on stove top until all ingredients are blended. I like to prepare my sauce in the morning.  Then I place it in the refrigerator.  At noon, we come home and prepare the pasta and re-heat the marinara.  Here’s my sauce:

Venison Marinara

If I would have remembered to take the picture of sauce on the pasta, it would have made more sense.

When cooking with wild game, the flesh often takes on the flavors of what the animal eats.  In Colorado, where I grew up, the high snowfall hinders access to grains, leaves, and other browse.  Consumers of that meat will say, “That’s really gamey!”  My grandmothers used juniper berries to neutralize the strong flavors, which worked beautifully.  It works wonders for mutton, too.  My grandmothers fed us mutton all my years growing up, and I never noticed the strong flavors, thanks to juniper berries (Rocky Mountain or Utah junipers).

In Kansas, where I live and hunt, the deer enjoy farm fields of sorghum and corn, much to the chagrin of local crop producers.  Kansas venison tastes quite delicious!  I hope you get to try it sometime.

Last summer, my friend Bob, when rabbit hunting.  When he returned, he called to ask if I would/could make something out of rabbit.  I said, how about rabbit cacciatore, hunter’s style rabbit?  I use passata (rich, strained tomatoes), garlic, fresh rosemary and basil, mushrooms, and white wine.  I cut the rabbit in pieces as one would with chicken.  Simmer until all ingredients are well blended and the liquids are thickened.  Serve with pasta, white wine, and lots of crusty bread to sop up the rich juices.  Here I am with a skinned rabbit.  My friend, Adrian, is married to the rabbit hunter, Bob.

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Hopefully, I have frightened you with this talk of eating beasts, large and small.

Thank you for reading.