Foods Shared by Family and Friends

Food seems to be one of the easiest things about which to write, and it’s no secret that much of my socializing happens around food sharing, laughter, and the occasional drink.

Since we last visited, several months ago, I had the pleasure of partaking with several friends and our son, Stevie, each of whom are fabulous in the kitchen. I don’t know whether to call them “cooks” or “artists”. I’ll begin with the most recent and go backwards.

Our friends, Mark and Kathy have a cottage on a lake in New York. A most memorable meal was the evening that Kathy prepared the Walleye fish that Mark caught on preceding evening. Upon catching fish, Mark immediately filets the fish. I’ve eaten his fresh fish on the Gulf Coast, in Alaska, on a lake in Kansas, and now on a lake in New York. Kathy takes the freshly-caught fish, dips them in milk, rolls them in seasoned flour and then finely crushed saltines before placing them in hot shortening. The result is tender, flaky fish with a crunchy breading. Kathy served the fish with homemade tarter sauce brought by the neighbor, and I prepared corn muffins to go with the sour cream and Iceland caviar as an appetizer. The neighbor also shared his homemade white wine. I neglected to take pictures of the process, but I did remember to take one.

Here’s a fine shot of our fisherman as he launched on the successful fishing trip:

Before our trip to New York, we stopped in to see Stevie and Paige. Stevie’s innovative cooking was featured in this blog some months back. This time, he created a wrapped hamburger. He described the procedure as taking seasoned ground beef patties that he browned first. He had prepared his usual bread dough prior to preparing the beef (I realize that I am not writing the process in chronological order). He wrapped each browned pattie in a rolled-out round of bread dough. He place a sprinkling of baking salt before baking at 375 degrees (190.6 C). Also, he prepared thin slices of potatoes and lined them on a baking sheet sprinkled with the baking salt, too. He presented the tasty result to us, and we enjoyed with a glass of oatmeal stout. Delicious!

A few weeks ago, we returned to the community in which we lived for 30 years (We moved to another town to be near my job about two months ago) for a wedding (Mark and Kathy’s daughter). We made good use of our time by seeing some of our best friends. It was impossible to see all of our best friends as the weekend was far too short! Our friends, Carole and Larry invited us to breakfast at their beautiful. Besides being one of my favorite artists, Carole is a wonderful baker and cook. Larry, retired from a career as an expert in all things electric, passes his retirement as a wood artisan. Larry has built wonderful frames for my art collection, some of which were created by his wife. He’s now creating rolling plant bases for large planters. I don’t have a picture of the one he made for me.

The breakfast began with a wonderful asparagus frittata accompanied by the most wonderful sour cream coffee cake. We had mimosas and coffee with a splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream. I’m not sure if I am allowed to share the recipe, but I want you to see the picture. You may notice that Carole possesses an artist’s eye even in setting a table. We visited and ate the lovely breakfast slowly so as to savor the occasion to the fullest. We took our coffee on the deck overlooking the prairie so famous in Kansas.

Finally, I leave you with one final meal for this blog entry: a first meal in our new home. I am sure I’ve written about one of our favorite breakfasts, “eggs and soldiers”. Nearly two months after moving in, we have plenty of unpacking to do. However, we found some of our boxes of kitchen dishes among which were the egg cups and my butcher block. Our usual practice is to have breakfast on the butcher block. Our previous house had a “breakfast nook”, a small space in a kitchen where a small meal was often served in older homes. In the new kitchen, there is a small dining space, which I will call a “nook”. We, happily, ate our eggs and soldiers with hot Earl Grey tea looking out onto the deck, and, thus, we came “home”.

I love making our meals special, and I like to savor our conversations as well as our meals. I wish the same for you.

Thank you for reading my blog posts. I always love hearing from you.

Changes and More Changes

We are in the process of moving. As of this writing, we have moved from our beautiful home to a town 4.5 hours away. I have been working in a different job, for the same university, these past four months.

We put our home on the market and finally closed on it this past Thursday. We loved our home. It was perfect for us, because we are consummate entertainers (so I’m told), and we have the absolute pleasure of having our grandchildren with us at least one month during the summer. We’ve had that pleasure since each was four months old.

I do realize that, it’s not the actual structure of a house that makes it a home. Though, that adds greatly to how one uses the structure. What matters most are the memories we build in our homes. Friends and families help us make those memories, so I have no doubt that when we find a new home, we will begin to build new memories. In some cases, with friends and family, we pick up where we left off, only in a different location.

For one month, until the house that we plan to rent while we make decisions on the purchase of a “new” home becomes available, we are sort of homeless. I will continue to stay at the AirBnB at which I’ve been housed since November, and my spouse will live in town from which we’ve moved, as he wraps up his job of many, many years.

The bittersweet process of selling our home last Thursday was compounded by another sad and heartbreaking event: the loss of our Scottish Terrier, Fiona. Here she is.

Fiona has just turned 14 years old. I wondered if the commotion and frenzy around moving confused her, but she became ill and died about fours hours later. Scotties are a special breed. They have wonderful behaviors and can be very possessive of their family members, a.k.a. “Owners”. We are crushed by her passing, but we have the fondest of memories.

Right now, I’m eager to find a home to call our own and to begin the process of settling into normalcy of cooking, entertaining, and sharing good times with my spouse and our dog, Jitsu. She’s a sheep dog: 3/4 Border Collie and 1/4 Australian Shepherd. Here she is:

Here, Jitsu, is pictured with a young admirer who will have nothing to do with me, but love my dog! Most people love this dog, because she is friendly, loving, and funny. She even smiles! Yes. Jitsu talks, too. Here’s her famous smile:

I have a lot to catch up with more writing about foods, intercultural relationships, and life. Hopefully, I will catch up with the bloggers who have been busy writing.

Back later…Thank you for reading.

Mac and Cheese: One of my Favorite Comfort Foods- What’s Yours?

It snowed about 13 inches (33.2 cm) in my neck of the woods, so it seemed like a good time to make one of my favorite comfort foods: macaroni and cheese. It seems that I love cheese. And I love pasta! I hope this blog can be an interactive one. So, I’m asking you to share with me, in your comments, about what is one of your favorite “Comfort Foods”. Would you be willing to share your recipe? You know, that favorite dish that gives you the feeling of being completely satisfied by the aromas, the textures, the feel in your mouth as you chew it. What is is about macaroni and cheese?

My recipe varies, but this is what I did last Saturday. I began with four tablespoons of butter (56.7g) in a hot pan. I sautéed about one-fourth of a cup (56.7g) of diced onions. Then I added 1 strip of bacon (diced) and cooked until crisp. Then I added 2 tablespoons (28.3g) of rye flour (I didn’t feel like using white flour). Once my liquids had absorbed the flour and I had a smooth paste, I added milk, about 2 cups (500ml), and stirred to cook until it began to thicken. Oh, yes. Before I added milk, I added about one-half cup (125ml) of dark stout to the thickening sauce. It added, yet, another dimension to the aroma of the sauce.

Once the béchamel was becoming thick, I added 4 cups shredded cheddar (450ml) and 1 cup shredded mozzarella (225ml). To that I added one 16 ounce (454g) of shell pasta, which I had cooked al dente in salted water. I combined the pasta and the béchamel in a buttered glass pan, and baked at 350 degrees F (180 C ) for about 30 minutes until the Mac and Cheese was bubbling. It went well with a sparkling Viognier wine. We loved it and were greatly satisfied.

Some our other comfort foods include homemade bread, beef stroganoff, linguini and clam sauce, and salmon and rice (I will do another story on salmon and rice, a specialty of my deceased mother-in-law). One of our favorite breakfast comfort meals includes “Eggs and Soldiers”: soft-boiled eggs and toasted bread cut into strips. We love it with Earl Grey tea.

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your comfort foods. If you can, share a recipe and a picture. I love to share!

Thank you for reading my blog.

My New Book – Cook Book!

My dear friend, Carole, gifted me, her Indigenous friend, a wonderful book of stories about my Indigenous ancestors and traditional recipes using ingredients of the hunter/gatherer culture that marked their existence. The recipes, some of which I remember from my grandmothers, include wild game, such as venison; which is the only meat in my freezer next to lamb; and juniper berries; used to tame the “wild flavor” when deer have to resort to lichens and sage for food during the long winters of Colorado and depleted fresh browse.

The author, Chef Sean Sherman (Lakota), who grew up on Pine Ridge Reservation, empowers the gentle reader, and would-be cook, to explore his or her own backyard to see what’s there. I remember my Grandma Margaret (May she Rest In Peace) using purslane, a delicious, succulent-type green that grows in gardens and along sidewalks. She would fry it with squash and corn to serve with pinto beans. We call that trio, The Three Sisters. Sherman says that purslane packs more vitamin E than spinach. Here’s the book:

Don’t you love his play on the French word, “sous” meaning “under” and often referring to the chef working with or “under” the master chef. In Sherman’s case, he’s referring to his lineage of Lakota Sioux. I love the book because he combines food history, or the concept of “food sovereignty” (Eating as our ancestors rather than the government commodities given to us when we were removed from our lands and put onto reservations) along with recipes. We eat quite delicious food! My friend, Nancy says when I prepare “Grandma’s food, which features the Three Sisters, she could likely “sell tickets” to the event, because of the “great food”!

Speaking of Nancy, I paid her a visit this past weekend, armed with lamb, mushrooms, green onions (wrong time of year to gather wild onions), and Colorado juniper berries. I cooked the Hunter’s Stew from the book. Don’t think of the famous Italian Hunter’s Stew made with chicken. Not this. This recipe calls for bison, a very lean meat. I’ll get to that later. Here’s some background. Sherman tells the story of the bison hunt of the his people Indigenous to the Central High Plains of the American Midwest. The women processed an entire bison, about 1800 pounds ( ~816 kg). Bison provided food, clothing, tools, other household items, and shelter. One could say it was a “keystone” species for the Indigenous peoples of the Plains. In the U. S. Government’s efforts to annihilate Indigenous people (called “Indians”) it chose to wipeout their source of life: the bison. Bison appear to be making a small comeback: most on ranches, and they run free at Yellowstone National Park.

Okay. Let’s get back to the recipe for Hunter’s Stew. Notice the wonderful ingredients in the list.

I didn’t have sumac or bison stock, so I used a little beef stock and omitted the sumac. I made corn meal mush the previous night so that I had firm corn “cakes” to brown in butter. The corn cakes provided the base for the stew, per Sherman’s suggestion, the stew be served over the corn cakes. I made and served bread to round out the meal. Nancy’ s son, Landon joined us, a handsome young lad who loves my cooking!

I love to cook, and I love to share a meal with good friends. Here, our meal:

I took the picture with an app called “foodie”, and I’m not sure it did the meal justice, but it was delicious, and Landon ate three to four servings. I love it when people eat my creations with hearty appetites! You can see the corn cake peeking out from under the stew. Next time, I will salt the corn meal cooking water just a little more. As usual, experiment with your cooking. As the author of this cookbook says, ” Cookbooks are suggestions “. Create, experiment, have fun, and share with friends.

Thank you for reading.

My Son- Food Lover and Wonderfully Creative Cook!

Stevie loves to cook! Who knows how much a child observes a mother, who loves to cook, to becomes a cook, himself? Or if watching mom in the kitchen was even the reason he fell in love with the creative process of cooking? Well, Stevie loves to cook and bake! I may have already written about his first loaves of bread that came out of the oven perfect, the very first time! “Mom, just tell me what to do.” That was one conversation on the phone. He even went to culinary school for a semester (carpentry is his first love, so culinary became an avocation) where he soon became lead bread baker for the school’s cafe. Keep in mind this was a kid who thought school lunch was wonderful when he was young. He was a favorite of the school cooks, I can tell you! “That was the best lunch, ever”. He’d say on a daily basis. I imagined they thought I gave him “Spagettios” at home, or some other canned stuff. So the first loaves of his fabulous bread turned turned into years of inspiring loaves.

His loaves make people happy, They are simple, tasty, aromatic, and wonderfully satisfying plain, slathered in butter, or with jam. The next day, Stevie’s loaves make the best French toast.

I went to visit our son; and his girlfriend, Paige. He made his newly found favorite, meat and vegetable pie! It wasn’t even Christmas! He would have made Charles Dickens’ character, Mrs. Joe Gargery, proud. Anyway, Stevie made a two-pie crust. Meanwhile, on the stove, he combined ground beef (a quicker version), onions, mixed vegetables, seasonings, and dark oatmeal stout. He simmered it until thickened, and set it aside while he finished the pie crust. When the crust was ready, he poured in the “stew” and topped it off with the other crust. He sealed the crusts, and popped it into a very hot oven for about 40 minutes.

We ate the meat pie heartily, and chased it with more oatmeal stout!

Here’s the happy couple!

I wonder if he’ll make his own wedding cake…hint…hint!

Tomato Soup and Toasted Cheese

Why does a toasted cheese sandwich and tomato soup “hit the spot” in the winter months?  I’m not sure that was a childhood staple for you, but I grew up in the mountains, and when we came home from sledding, skating, or skiing, that particular menu item filled our bellies and warmed our hearts!   Perhaps Mom and/or Dad fed us that because bread, cheese, butter, and tomato soup we cheap and filling to seven hungry children.  To this day, I think my siblings would say that it’s a “go to” meal.  Well, except my sister, Eileen.  She watches her weight.  I just watch my weight…grow.

If this is your first time reading me, I took a different job within the institution of higher education where I once serve as a faculty member for 13 years.  In this iteration, I am now in a different department where I serve as director of intercultural learning (that’s another story).  So, I am living in temporary quarters until we sell a house and buy one.

One of my roommates, Regan, bakes a fantastic loaf of sourdough bread!  My other roommate has a friend who makes hard cheese (white cheddar), and I like to make tomato soup from scratch.  Together,  served a delicious and simple meal.

My tomato soup:

12 Roma Tomatoes (blanched, peeled, and blended, or chopped finely)

6 ounces (170g) of homemade pesto (I’ve offered my recipe for this a number of entries ago, but you likely have a good recipe yourself).

4 mushrooms of your choice

1/4 of a small onion or 2 shallots

One cup of red wine

1 block of cream cheese (8 ounces/227g)

1 tablespoon (14.2g) olive oil

Begin by heating oil on medium heat.  Add onions/shallots and cook until transparent.  Add mushrooms, and cook until water has evaporated.  Add tomatoes, and cook until liquid has dissipated.  Add wine, and cook until the alcohol has evaporated, but the flavor remains.  Now add the pesto.  You get your salt, more oil, and texture from the pine nuts in the pesto, so you don’t have to add too much more salt, but make sure it’s to your taste.  If you want a smoother soup, you can use an immersion blender, here.  When your soup reaches a thick point, and you are getting close to serving it, add the cream cheese with the heat lowered just a little bit.  Here it is.

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While you’re watching your soup come together, you can build your toasted (sometimes called, “grilled cheese”) sandwiches.  We sliced the lovely sourdough bread, buttered it on the outside, and laid the sliced cheese.  For the two-sided, enclosed sandwich, we buttered two slices of bread to put on the outside so that it made contact with the griddle.  We used a toaster oven for the open-faced, toasted cheese sandwich.  Both are wonderful!  Now, you may think that my tomato soup looks a little like Welsh Rarebit.  I don’t put Worcestershire sauce, or dry mustard, or flour, or stout, but you could modify this recipe to be Welsh Rarebit, which is also quite delicious.  Leave out the pesto, wine, and mushrooms, however.

When we assembled our tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches so that we could dip the sandwiches into the soup.  The next morning, for breakfast, I poured the thick soup over my toasted cheese sandwich.

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As with all meals, eat them with people you love and who allow you to be who you are.

Thank you for reading.

Afghani Baked Chicken and Vegetables Made by Patty

Patty, my temporary roommate, welcomes a variety of people into her home, which she operates as a sort of temporary/long-term “boarding house”. Some of these situations are called, AirBnB.

In a university town, we get multiple opportunities to interact with students and their families from at least 82 countries – not to mention our domestic multicultural students from varying backgrounds. It’s absolutely delightful for this social scientist! Patty, a nurse, has embraced the concept of welcoming many beautiful people in to her home, so it is today that I learn a recipe that Patty learned from her friend, Ariana from Kabul, Afghanistan. Ariana could not come to eat with us since our chicken is not halal, so Patty watched the process with her friend and fetched the spices from Ariana’s house wrapped inside a tissue. Here’s her process.

The spices: whole cumin, masala mix, and black pepper are mixed in a marinade of oil, spices, garlic, and potatoes. The chicken and potatoes should sit in the marinade for at least 45 minutes. Bake it at 325F (~150 – 170 C) for 30-45 minutes. At this point the fresh vegetables are added: onion, yellow sweet pepper, tomatoes. Patty added celery, because she did not have tomato.

While we were waiting for the chicken and vegetables to bake, we chatted about life, our jobs, our families, our preferences, and our varying critiques of political challenges in current news. To keep our appetites whetted, we enjoyed baked Brie topped with my own “signature” fig apple jam and placed on a walnut. Popped in our mouths and chased with a sip of Cabernet Sauvignon, which may not have been the perfect pairing for chicken, but it’s what I like, we waited patiently for the chicken to reach a temperature of 165 F (75 C). It began to smell so rich and savory!

As it turned out, the meal was absolutely delicious! The savory spices mingled in the thickened marinade. Patty plated the meal with a dollop of Ariana’s homemade yogurt. We ate it slowly to savor the flavors, and we toasted with a glass of wine. Patty creatively cooked the long-grain, white rice with onion, small bits of celery, whole fenugreek, whole mustard seed. She added the rice after she brought the spices and vegetables to the point of fragrance. Then she added the rice and water and cooked over medium heat with a cloth-wrapped lid. The rice cooked until somewhat dry. For extra protein, Patty added Urad Dal (split matpe beans). It gave extra body and texture to the rice.

We ended our meal with homemade hard cheese dipped in home-spun, home gathered honey! Patty’s Dad, Dean, is a bee keeper, and the honey is from his hard work. Mmmmm….

Thank you for reading!