The Joys of the Kitchen

While my feature photo is not that of the kitchen, it’s one of my favorite places. It’s an arch that connects two buildings.  Named after its donors (Bird), the arch connects the Marianna Kistler-Beach Museum to its offices and education department, on the campus of Kansas State University.  I think I had snapped this picture during one of my winter visits to admire the exhibitions.  I like the lines in the photo…

Now, for time in the kitchen, I realize that many people talk and write about food, cooking, and “this is what’s happening to me,” sorts of sharing.  These types of communications illustrate ways that we connect to the world.  I like to write, and I like to cook, so I share these two things with you.  Here are some meals that I have prepared these past few days.

While I’m preparing food for only two of us, of late, I find it interesting to using what I buy or grow to the fullest of the life of the food.  For example, if I by a jar of pickles, and we’ve finished all the pickles, I like to use the brine for preparing another jar of pickles, because there are these lovely garlic bits left behind.  Here’s how you do it.

Refrigerator Pickles: Take one or two English hothouse cucumbers.  Slice the cucumbers, and place them in a bowl.  Sprinkle the sliced cucumbers with two tablespoons (17.06g) of salt.  Toss to mix the salt into the cucumbers. Let the cucumbers sit for 10 minutes.  Then rinse and pat dry, and place the cucumbers in the cleaned, sterilized, and dried jar that held the original pickles.

In the meantime, bring the brine to boil.  Assume that you will not have enough brine, so prepare additional brine with equal parts water and vinegar.  Likely, you won’t need more than one cup (227g) of the additional brine.  Then pour the boiling brine over the cucumbers in the jar.  The brine should, entirely, cover all of the pickles.  Replace the lid, and allow  the jar of cucumbers-about-to-turn-pickles to cool, slightly, before you refrigerate.   They keep in the refrigerator for as long as it takes for you to eat them.

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Also, during our physical distancing, we do cook a lot more, which I was greatly missing when I was, physically, going to the office every day.  Keep in mind, I am thriving working from home!  I’m much more productive in my job, because I can step away for a moment to come back to my computer with a brighter mind to complete the task as hand.  I’ve even lost weight with the decrease in my stress levels from the office.  I, greatly, dread the idea of returning to the, physical, office.  I love my home office!  More recipes…

This has been a week of turning to other proteins, besides beef.  We love beef, but try to vary our proteins.  I prepared pinto beans.  We buy “new crop” pinto from a small farmer in the Arkansas River Valley of Southeast Colorado.  Pinto beans are harvested around October and November.  New crop pintos easily cook in one or two hours, don’t need soaking, and taste wonderful, if you like pinto beans.  I love pinto beans, as do many of my Indigenous peers.  Most of the beans you buy in the grocery store are old, and that’s why you have to soak them to rehydrate before cooking – not so with new crop beans.  I cooked the beans with ham pieces and served them with a sort of “Spanish Rice.”    I didn’t take pictures of that meal, but I did make a luscious breakfast the next day with the beans.  I steamed eggs in a wee bit of butter, added savory green chili to the beans, and put it atop the eggs.  It was quite memorable in beginning the day.

The next night, we had salmon.  First, I sauteed a roma tomato with spring onions, and garlic in butter and sesame oil.  After the vegetables softened a bit, I added the seasoned (with soy sauce and pepper) salmon and place the lid to allow the ingredients to steam and cook the salmon.   I had never used rice noodles, so this was a new one for me.  They are simple.  Pour boiling water over the noodles, and let them sit for 20-25 minutes.  After the salmon reached its cooked temperature, I took it out, and set it aside while I thickened the veggies in the saute.  I added the rice noodles to the vegetables in their sauce.  The rice noodles, in this case, are wide meant for Pad Thai.  I think they could be used for linguini and clam sauce, especially for those with wheat intolerances. Here was our meal.  Oh, we had a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, which made it perfect!

 

One night, I prepared a similar dish with shrimp, but my focus was on garlic (It’s a good thing we are physical distancing, because our garlic intake has increased of late), and I served it with spaghetti and mozzarella pull-apart bread.  The sauce for the salmon and shrimp is rather easy.  I saute the garlic, onion, and celery in butter and olive oil.  Once the vegetables cook, I add white wine and simmer to thicken the sauce.  For the shrimp, I used one tiny Roma tomato.  For the salmon dish, I used red pepper and a bit of spinach.   The garlic shrimp dish required a buttery Chardonnay as its accompaniment.

I will continue to practice a sort of artistry in preparing delicious meals.  Sometimes, there are failures, but I just learn more from them.  Also, I tried making mozzarella.  It was partially successful.  I’ll keep you posted on that, too.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

Gifts from Nature and the Kitchen

Sometime last week, we set out to find some fungi, specifically morels.  On on our way out we saw a neighbor leaving her house. She was headed to another friends to “pick up some mushrooms!”  I asked if her friends had found morels!  “No.”  Well, we took a long walk tromping through the woods near our home.  We returned home to find a brown paper grocery bag on the front door step partially filled with oyster mushrooms.  I have a feeling my neighbor’s friend grows these at home.  That sounds like something I’d like to do!

The cemetery that sits about one quarter mile from our house is a favorite place for us to walk. I found a nice patch of wild garlic, so I picked a small bunch (about 10 little shoots).  I had those in my hand when when we found the bag containing the lovely fungus.   I remembered that we had a rice cooker with a new batch of cooked rice,  Also, I remembered that I had some chicken broth with little strands of chicken.  That meant I had everything I needed to whip up a nice mushroom soup! I sauteed spring onions from the garden, rosemary from my window pot, celery, and the chopped mushrooms!  The chicken broth, thawed from the freezer, added to the saute, made a most delicious soup.  We poured the soup over rice.   We added a crisp romaine salad with an Asian dressing.

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Asian Dressing:

1/4 c (59.15mL) sesame oil

1/4 cup (59.15mL) seasoned rice vinegar

Finely minced: garlic, spring onion, fresh ginger to taste.  Add 1 tablespoon of pure maple syrup and roasted, crushed sesame seeds.  Shake well before using.  It’s quite delicious and makes a simple romaine into something quite sublime.  Actually, the lettuce is just a vehicle to get the dressing into  your mouth, because it’s rude to drink salad dressing!

Two things are happening to us as we physical distance from community while working from home.  I am experiencing less stress.  I work longer hours, but those hours are not stressful, because I can step away to the garden, to the kitchen, or to a book to get a quick recharge.  I am actually more productive at work, because I can do all my meetings and teaching virtually!  It will be interesting to return to campus, physically.

Right now, I take great delight in getting my garden ready with sprouted seedlings I’ve begun in the house.  This is my yard’s first garden in decades, I think.  We have been in this house almost one year.  The soil is heavy clay with lots of limestone deposits.  We have a large populations of bunnies, woodchucks, squirrels, and deer in addition to multiple species of birds.  I will have to write a blog submission on the great birds in my yard!  With a garden, I get to spend lots of time in the kitchen creating dishes from the bounty.  More about all that later. Here’s a picture of my embryonic garden.

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Shortly after the Easter holiday, I wrote about our leg of lamb.  Being only two in the household, we had leftover lamb.  I cubed what was left of the lamb and stuck it in the freezer.  I took it out this week.  It made two more meals.  The first evening, we had lamb tacos.  I forgot to take a picture.  Suffice it to say that I took half the thawed lamb from the freezer container, and placed it in the frying pan.  Though I added no grease or oil, I did add green chili made from roasted Anaheim green chili peppers.  They are a wonderfully, savory chili that is not hot.  On a scale from one to 10, I’d put Anaheim at 2 or three.  Though, I think they are being bred to be much hotter these days.  It was a simple taco with a warmed corn tortilla, the meat, and the green chili.  The tacos were great with a lime enhanced light beer.

The next night, we had lamb curry prepared with the other portion of the lamb.  Here’s what I did, I think.

One quarter of a diced yellow onion

Three cloves minced garlic

1 Tablespoon minced ginger

I sauteed the first three ingredients in a mixture of sesame and sunflower oils

I added one can of stewed tomatoes with its liquid

I added a prepared curry powder and a spice mix my Ghanaian student brought from his home country for preparing Jollof Rice.  That was the winning combination, though I may never be able to create this dish again.  Of course, we served it over rice and ate it with naan bread prepared the night before.

Sometimes, we eat at the dining room table.  Now that it’s warm, we eat outside on the deck.  We may even consume our meals in front of the television with a movie.  The most important thing is that we enjoy the food, and savor the convivial moments.

Thank you for reading.

 

My Favorite Words

I snapped the featured image at my former house in another part of the state in which I lived.  I love the way the foliage framed this bird, which now I can’t remember if it is a robin.  The color is not there, and I am looking at backside of the feathered creature.  Of course, my featured images do not necessarily have anything to do with my story.  I just like to post interesting pictures.  Today, I shall discuss language.

Language is a beautiful thing, no matter the mother tongue. I continue to be amazed at the sounds, the phonemes of languages. The way the words tumble in the throat, the mouth, on the tongue, and over the teeth are like music to me.  One time I was at an international bike race in Madrid, Spain.  I stood in a crowd of spectators.  I heard Castilian,  French, German, Portuguese, and Italian!  Total ear candy to hear and experiences all those wonderful languages.  That was more than 10 years ago, and that was about the time I began to collect words.  I have a little book in which I often write some of those words.  I don’t always have the book with me, so it’s missing many great words.  Most of the words are in English, but many are in other languages.  Then, the English language dictionary is a product of, roughly, 75 different languages.  I learned this phrase from a friend, Linda, who is a writer: “English doesn’t borrow from other languages.  English follows other languages down dark alleys, and knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar!”  I don’t know who originated this thought, but it does explain why speakers of other languages often struggle with phonetics and grammar when learning English.

When I collect words, often, I write them in this little book I carry in my hand bag.

Words book

Here are some of my words.  Say them, and think of how they sound, and what parts of your mouth, tongue, throat, lips, or teeth you use when saying them.

Clostridium Botulinum – the bacteria that contributes to food poisoning

Senegalese – People from Senegal (Beautiful people from a Francophone country in Africa)

Evapotranspiration – The process of water transferring from land to the atmosphere, from soil, surfaces, and plants.

Heuristic – Hands-on learning

Agitized Dolomite – Simply, flint.  There is a great place north of Amarillo, Texas, called the Alibates Flint Quarries.  It’s a great place to see this lovely mineral.

Monongahela – One of the rivers that converge around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It meets the Allegheny (another one of my favorite words), and the Ohio rivers.  Pittsburgh is a lovely city, and the rivers offer a spectacular view!  The names of the rivers likely come from Indigenous languages of the Lenape peoples.

Hamor Gador – This is Arabic for “You big donkey!”  Be sure to roll your “Rs” when you say the term.

Epigentics – (Spell check does not like these words!) – It’s the study of changes in organisms that do not involve alterations to the DNA sequence.

Be assured, that I’m not an expert in all the discipline from which I gather these words.  I have picked them up along the way of my reading.

Forsythia – A lovely, yellow bush that blooms in the spring.  It’s in the olive family.

Crepuscular – For 22 years, I was a volunteer teacher at a zoo.  My specialty was birds and geographical distribution of animals.  Some of our education animals (we called them, “ambassadors”) were active, primarily at twilight (dawn and dusk).  They included hedgehogs and chinchillas.  Other animals, not in our education program, include skunks and bobcats.  I am a hunter, and the best time to harvest a deer is at dawn and dusk.

Geosynchronous – Awww…One of my most favorite, being a geographer, is when a satellite’s orbit is with that of earth’s rotation. (Geo, meaning earth).  Another one of my favorite geography words is, Cartography, map-making.

Shukriya – is Urdu for “thank you.”  It’s pronounced Shoe-cree-yah.  Lightly roll the “r.” It’s a lovely sound.   I learned a few Urdu words from a group of Pakistani farmers visiting the experiment station where I used to work.  It was great fun working with them.

Yikes! – This is American English slang for “Oh, my!”  Perhaps it can be likened to the Swedish, “Ufda!” or the Yiddish, “Oy Vey!”  Some of the others are escaping me at the moment.

Sebastian Cabot – This is the proper name of a British actor who no longer lives among us.  I saw him in a weekly television show called, Family Affair.  He played the butler to the bachelor who inherits a deceased relative’s children.  I just like the poetry in the sound of the name, Sebastian Cabot.

Speaking of names, I have a friend who recently married (I was the officiant of said marriage!). Anyway she took the name of her spouse, and her name became, Christina Rose, and that’s another given name that has a nice rhythm to it.  I feel like one could conduct, with a baton, when one utters this name.

I like the rhythm of names, bi-nomial-ly speaking, especially when there two syllables to one of the names followed by one syllable or vice versa.  For example, my own children’s names are Stevie Dean and Riki Lee (may her name be for a blessing).  I’m not sure that I did that deliberately (since it was nearly 4- years ago), but I know I’ve always liked the rhythm of words and names.

There are all forms of words and their sounds.  Perhaps another blog could focus on words that phonetically imitate sounds that describe them.  One of my favorites is oink! It’s the sound a pig makes, but when one says it, it’s hard not to think of a pig’s, sort of, greeting!

As long as I’m going for random, here’s a picture of another favorite: rock hunting.  I snapped this photo while rock hunting on the Arkansas River in Colorado, not far from the headwaters of this river that starts in Colorado, runs through Kansas to Arkansas (Ar-can-saw).  Kansans call it the “Ar-Kanzaz” river, which took me a bit to get used to when I moved to this state 30 years ago.

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Thank you for reading.   Next time, I will tell you about some of my latest kitchen tests.

Nature, Meditation, and Cooking

I hope you like my featured photo.  I took it on my way home from Nebraska in 2017.  We had traveled there to witness the total solar eclipse.  Of course it was incredible, and luckily, the sun set that day with a spectacular view in Western Kansas.

I have a list of topics on which to write in my series of blog posts.  One thing I thought of was the joy of camping.  My Father used to take us camping when we were young. Of the seven children, all of us continue to enjoy nature and all it has to offer us.  My best memories of camping with my father and siblings were the nature lessons on edible plants, astronomy, mushroom hunting, and fishing.  Cooking what we caught and gathered was the best part, and eating all of the food we prepared was the bonus.  My father used to sing to us while he cooked our camp meals.  Today, our camp sites are a place for gathering (Pre-Corona Virus times), conversing, and enjoying each detail of the natural world around us.

My Father’s favorite and best meal was, “Sheepherder’s Delight.”  Basically, it is a one-pan meal, and was cooked over an open fire.  It was a favorite of Dad’s for camping trips since it was a staple meal for sheep herders who lived in the mountains of Colorado with during the summers, as was my Father’s life as a young boy.  Today, when my family goes camping, we prepare the meal the way Dad did, but when we make it at home, we change it a bit.  Here’s my Father’s recipe for Sheepherder’s Delight prepared in one large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven:

1 pound (0.45 kg) of bacon.  Cook until crisp.  Remove cooked bacon, and set aside.  Cube two to four potatoes, depending on the number people that you will feed.  Figure about one small potato per person or two people for a large potato.  Place the potatoes in the hot bacon grease, and fry until soft with crisp edges.

Next, open a can of prepared baked beans, pork and beans, or beans in tomato sauce.  Pour the beans over the potatoes, and add the cooked bacon.  I don’t have a picture of it, but it’s best served after a hard day of hiking, fishing, mushroom hunting, or what ever you do to enjoy nature.  We have a slightly different take on Sheepherder’s Delight when we’re at home.  We change up the ingredients:

1 pound of ground beef (453.592g) I’m sorry if my metric measurements are not quite right.  I look them up on the web for the conversions.  Cook the ground beef with some diced onions, salt, and pepper.

Prepare the potatoes for oven baking.  I cut mine into strips, and toss them with salt, pepper, some oil, and some malt vinegar.  Bake the potatoes in an oven set at ~365 degrees Farenheit (185C). Bake until brown and crispy at the edges.

While the potatoes are baking, finish cooking the ground beef.  Drain of any extra fat.  Then you’re ready to add the canned baked beans, pork and beans, or with what you’re familiar.  It should look like this.

Now, to assemble this wonderful comfort food, bring the potatoes out of the oven.  Arrange some of the potatoes on your plate.  Then serve the bean-meat mixture over the potatoes.  We make this for camping trips.  We use one pan by cooking the potatoes first.  Set them aside while you cook the meat.  Add the beans, and serve over the potatoes.  I forgot to take a picture of the finished product until I had but one bit remaining.

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Another thing we do to enjoy nature is hike up to my Father’s fire circle.  It’s in the same mountains of his childhood and that of his children, grandchildren, and the “Old Ones,” our ancestors.  The Fire Circle is a place to drum and sing our songs, and honor our beloved ancestors.  The hike to our sacred fire circle is about two miles from the main forest service road.  We pass stands of quaking aspen trees, scrub oak, pinon pine, and Ponderosa pine trees.  The fire circle overlooks a canyon where my people hid when the U.S. government was removing them from their ancestral lands to reservations in the 1800s.  It is a very sad time in American history, that is not taught in the schools today.  Here’s a glimpse of those lands.  Our grandson enjoys his time there.

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Speaking of “Indian Removal,” there is the reality that the people were moved away from their hunting and gathering grounds, so there was no way to raise their food.  So the government provided commodities, food surpluses, which included white flour, powdered milk, lard, and a variety of canned meats and vegetables.  The food was highly processed, and we can trace obesity and diabetes back to this down turn in our physical health and food sovereignty.  Having only white flour, dry milk powder, and lard, fry-bread was born, out of necessity.   Though it is a symbol of a bad time for my ancestors, we use it today to symbolize that we are resourceful, and we are still here!  Here I am frying bread at my Father’s fire circle.  My grand nephew was learning how to roll out the dough.  It’s never too early to teach the “younguns” as my brother would say.  He was the one hauling the cast iron Dutch oven up to the circle.  The elevation is ~8,000-plus  feet above sea level.  The beauty contributes to the meditative state in which we find ourselves when we visit this place.

It was a good day to be alive and a good day to honor our ancestors while celebrating the children.

Thank you for reading.

Cooking for the Senses

Good evening!  I like to feature pictures of family and friends, though I may not have anything to say about them.  In this case, the featured image is that of my granddaughter placing her late mother’s (our daughter) bracelet at a sacred fire.  It’s one of our Indigenous traditions to honor our ancestors and loved ones who no longer walk with us here on earth.

As many of you are experiencing with physical distancing, my spouse and I are working from home.  It seems that I am more busy now than when I was going to my office on campus.  Teaching, collaborating, and meeting virtually has added another layer of tasks, but I am grateful for a job, to say the least.  As for my time in the kitchen, I continue to create new recipes and search for ideas from magazines and cookbooks.

One of our favorite dishes is spaghetti (often linguine) and clam sauce.  It was a recipe Dale brought to our marriage a few decades ago.  It begins:

One bunch of green onions, three cloves of fresh garlic, a handful of chopped fresh basil leaves, 2 tablespoons (28g) butter, and 2 tablespoons (30mL) olive oil.  Drain two cans of clams (1 can baby clams and 1 can of shredded clams). Reserve the liquid for the sauce. Set the clams aside to add later.

Saute the herbs seasoning vegetables, butter, and oil until soft.

Add 1.5 cup (354.88 mL) of white wine and the clam juice drained from the canned clams.   Simmer the sauce  until thickened.     Cook your pasta, in salted water,  to al dente.  Once your liquids and herbs have thickened, add the clams.  Drain pasta.  Toss the pasta and the clam mixture.

The day before I prepared this dish, I had baked a dense seed bread.  I sliced the bread and toasted it with rosemary butter (the rosemary and basil came from my window herb pots).  We ate this with a simple romaine salad with a sesame-ginger dressing (really!) and a lovely, crisp Sauvignon Blanc.   The aromas of this meal were sublime!  Garlic, basil, rosemary, sesame, and ginger.  Now, you might think that the sesame-ginger dressing would not be a fit.  Somehow, it worked! Cheers!

Medicinal Chocolate?

I went to high school more than 40 years ago.  My high school music teacher, Professor D. W. Bauguess, continues to be a great influence on me these decades later.  We talk about many things from music, philosophy, food preparation to health and wellness.  He shares his recipes for wellness.  The one that catches my eye is his chocolates.  Here’s the recipe. I have modified it a bit, because I don’t need the extra calories, and it’s rich enough!

2 cups (418g) extra virgin coconut oil

1/4 cup (1 stick/57g) salted butter (it calls for one pound!)

1.5 cup (360g) almond butter

16 ounces (452g) 100% cacao powder

5 tablespoons (65g) vanilla extract

1 cup (340g) honey

1 cup (322g) pure maple syrup  (the original recipe calls for 2 cups honey)

Put on low heat until all is melted. I made a double boiler with two pans.  That allowed for a slow melt. Do not let it boil or simmer!

One the ingredients are fully incorporated and melted, spoon into small muffin cups.  If you have help, you can take the time to shape the chocolates.  I simply dropped them from a teaspoon. Freeze for one hour, then put the frozen chocolates (in their muffin cups) in a sealed bag or lidded container. Place back into freezer.  Enjoy from the freezer, or keep them in refrigerator.  I like them cold and firm!  Each, approximately, 1 teaspoon serving is about 92 calories each.  This makes about 105 pieces.  I added all the ingredients’ calories and divided that by how many pieces I made, so that comes to about 92 calories each.  I could be wrong, though.

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The chocolates are rich and luscious.  I eat one a day.  The cacao is high in antioxidants, and the other ingredients are pure and nutritious!  Go with it, and enjoy!   Thank you for reading my blog.

Dense Foods and Other Interests

No matter where you are on this planet, we share similar circumstances of staying at home because of a pandemic.  I am quite fortunate to have my job as an educator at the university.  We are working at home!  I sit, perched, on a tall stool in my kitchen participating in virtual meetings and virtual teaching.  My favorite place in the house continues to be the kitchen.  This is my creative spot.  I get great vibes in my kitchen environment.  Before the pandemic, people gathered in my kitchen, though it’s quite small for someone who loves to cook.  We have lived in this house only since the previous May.  My former house had three ovens for my baking, and it had more room, but a similar kitchen space.  I have but one oven and cooking range in this house.  I am not deterred, however.  I manage to cook at least once a day, but usually two times. We will sample a few of my dishes of late but first, a digression.

Another great thing about this house is that it has magnificent windows!  I have placed bird feeders and bird baths in my back yard with great views of the birds, and my yard list is growing quickly.  My featured photo, though blurry, is a Carolina Wren that frequents the feeders and bath.  I heard a barred owl last night.  That’s a new one for me, now that I live on the east side of the 100th meridian. Now, for the food.

Yesterday morning for breakfast, we had avocado toast topped with Brisling, a.k.a. bristling,  sardines, packed in two layers.  We came upon this idea from the chef and food scientist, Alton Brown.  I’m not crazy about his method, so I changed it up a bit.

One ripe avocado serves two open faced toasts.  I use dense, seed bread, toasted.

Mash one ripe avocado.  Add salt and pepper, to taste, and mix with fresh lime juice.

Mix two tablespoons (225g) of Sherry Vinegar (I prefer that from Spain.  Not sure if it comes from any other place!) in with the sardines, being careful not to break up the tiny, delicate, nutrient-packed, North Atlantic fishes!

After you toast the bread, assemble your food.  Spread the avocado mixture on the toasted bread. Then lay the sardines side-by-side (head to tail, though there is no head!) on the bread.  It is a nutrient-dense breakfast, and you will be set for a full morning!  We had a nice cup of coffee with our toasts! Here’s the picture.

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Speaking of dense foods, here’s a cake with a dense crumb!  First, I must tell you a back story.   Back in the 1970s, when slow cookers first arrived on the kitchen scene, one of the manufacturers produced a cake pan for the slow cooker.  It makes these wonderful, little dense cakes, which work best for chocolate cakes.  I don’t think white cakes do too well, unless you’re wanting a pound cake!

I was in the right place at the right time when I received the cake pan.  At an estate sale auction, a man had given the winning bid for a kitchen and housewares lot.  He looked at the cake pan with a puzzled expression on his face.  I asked him if he knew the identity of the thing in his hand.  He said, “No!”  I told him that it was a cake pan.  He said, “Here, take it!”  The rest is history.

There is a recipe for a chocolate cake which uses mayonnaise.  That makes the perfect, dense, chocolate cake.  Usually, I cut the cake in two so that I have a two-layered cake. In baking/cooking this cake you are “flying blindly,” because you cannot look at it.  Your sense of smell will tell you when it’s done, which is usually about 2.5 to three hours with the slow cooker set on “high.”  You could likely do the same cooking process with a tin coffee can, assuming you won’t find this cake pan.

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This is the cake pan and how it fits into the slow cooker:

 

Here’s the recipe:

Butter and dust with flour one cake insert for slow cooker (or that tin coffee can), and set aside.

For the Cake:

2 cups (250g) of all-purpose wheat flour

1.5 cups (300g) white sugar

6 TBS (36g) cocoa powder

1 teaspoon (5.69g) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5.69g) salt

Mix all the dry ingredients to blend.  Then add blended wet ingredients.

1 large egg

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup (236.59 mL) hot water (not boiling).  This activates the baking soda, salt, and egg as the leavening agents.

Add vanilla to taste.  Pour the batter into your cake pan or coffee can.

Bake, covered,  in your slow cooker on high for 2-3 hours.  I usually check after 2.5 hours.

Once you take it out of the cooker, invert it on a wire rack to cool.  Slice through at the equator of the cake for a two-layer cake, and frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.  It’s yummy!

Finally, I have to tell you about a virtual cocktail party that I had, recently, with two of my co-workers.  We had made it a practice to meet up after work on Fridays to share a drink and a snack previously.  In this new format of social distancing, we decided to have a virtual cocktail party.  I will only give their initials.  “T” was having jelly beans and a glass of Bourbon.  “M” enjoyed a shot of vodka and some fresh tamales, made by a friend.  I “went all out” and enjoyed Icelandic caviar atop a corn biscuit and sour cream.  Usually, I would have baked small corn muffins for this, but I found these wonderful little corn biscuits on sale.  I chased it with a small shot of vodka in a chilled glass.  We talked about work for a while, but mostly the conversations centered on the future of our lives with family, work, and other social and familial worries.  The important thing is to stay connected one way or another  with out meeting face-to-face with those you esteem and love.  Cheers to you!

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I think we will emerge strong from this pandemic.  Remember to distance from others, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face!  Thank you for reading.

 

Mother’s Visit

My 90 year old mother had not seen our new (to us) home since we moved to a different town, so she wanted to make the 18-hour drive to see us and arrived on Monday, March 9, 2020.  Luckily, her 82 year old husband and 70-something brother were along to do the driving. My mother makes a great drill sergeant,  so she “supervised” the trip.

They arrived the day after my friends left our house for their weekend visit.  Most interesting, also, it was when the COVID-19 stories began to surface in a serious way.  We went out to eat on the day they arrived, but after that, the university where I work and which was in spring break mode, began to think about what to do with 20-thousand-plus students.  Administration decided to extend spring break one week, and then we’d work on turning all of our classes into a virtual format.  Suffice it to say that I have been conducting meetings and teaching schedules in a virtual format called, Zoom (c).  It’s been an interesting way to do business.

My mother likes to eat, though she eats very little save sweets and starches.  The second night of her visit, I fixed grilled chicken and pesto pasta.  I’m still using the 30-plus small containers of pesto that I made last summer from a prolific basil plant.  The lovely thing is that pesto, when prepared and frozen properly, looks as green and lovely thawing from teh freezer as the day you put it in.  I simply seasoned the chicken thighs with seasoned salt and garlic powder, and grilled until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (75 degrees Celsius).  I cooked the pasta until al dente and tossed it with thawed pesto.  I sprinkled it with a little more Parmesan after I served it.  We had a added roasted Brussels sprouts and crusty bread and enjoyed it with a sparkling Cava.  My mother mostly ate the bread with lots of butter.  Last fall, Dale and I took a sparkling wine and Cava tasting class at K-State’s College of Health and Human Sciences’ Hotel and Hospitality department. It was a good lesson.

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Last December when I was home, in Western Colorado, I had noticed a perfect wasps’ nest.  I showed it to my step-father and told him all about such wasps (Bald-faced hornet, actually) being the best of architects!  Low and behold, unknown to me, he had cut it down and presented it to me as a gift.  Please understand that these hornets leave the nests in the cold of winter, but to make sure, I stuck it in the freezer for 24 hours.  Then it became a decoration.  The nest now hangs from my living room ceiling.  Look at its beauty!  The queen builds this paper nest going round and round.  While she builds the walls, she builds the comb, which will hold the workers.  It’s perfect, as many things in nature are.

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Interestingly, we discovered a yellow jacket nest in our yard.  They build underground, and they are perfect until an opossum came along and tore it out.   They like to eat the larvae.  That’s another story for another time.

Well, it was a great time with mother.  I am 63 years old, and she still feels the need to tell me that I’m cooking wrong, cleaning wrong, and she has opinions about my behavior.  She did like the variety of birds feeding at my various feeding stations, so that was entertaining.  Here’s another thing that makes mother think that perhaps I was switched at birth with her “real” daughter, because her own daughter would have better sense.  While she was visiting, I created my seasonal centerpiece.  I found the idea somewhere, but I can’t remember, but the idea is not mine.

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Dale drew the horrified faces on the little guys.  Well, as always, thank you for reading me.

I Love to Cook for Friends and Family!

Hello!  I left you, in my previous blog, with the news that friends were coming to spend the weekend followed by a visit from my 90 year old mother and her 82 year husband.  Let’s start first with the visit from Nancy and Lynn.

Nancy and Lynn have been friends with Dale and me for 40-plus years.  Dale and Lynn working in public radio in California.  Nancy was part of a group that brought public radio the the central high plains of Kansas (later the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles).  Nancy grew up on Southwest Kansas.  Dale came to Kansas from California in late 80s to manage the public radio station.  I began working at that public radio station as a news reporter and classical music radio host in 1980, the year it went “on the air.” Dale hired Lynn to do the morning show in 1988.   Nancy and Lynn became great friends, and Lynn is Nancy’s youngest child’s “godmother.”   Here we are many years later talking about retiring in a self-made commune!  That’s how far we’ve come.  I should also tell you that Lynn and I are fellow geographers, too!

Well, I like to cook, and Lynn and Nancy appear to like my cooking.  They arrived on Friday evening in time for a meal of grilled flat bread, sweet potato – spinach – Halloumi curry served over rice, and hummus.  The curry recipe was one I found in allrecipes.com cooking magazine gifted to me yearly from my dear friend, Mary.  I hope I don’t repeat myself in the blog.  I can’t remember if I’ve given you any of these recipes.  Here’s the curry:

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If you follow the recipe the way it reads, it would be great for vegetarians.  I tend to modify any recipe I read, so I used the turkey broth that I made and froze from Thanksgiving.  It had little chunks of turkey, so not vegetarian.  Here’s the recipe:

2 large sweet potatoes

1 can chick peas (I cook an 8 ounce (226.8g) so that I can use half of the cook peas for this recipe and the other half for hummus.

1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz./411g)

1 can unsweetened coconut milk (14 oz./396.89g)

1 large hand full of freshly chopped spinach

1 tablespoon (14.175g) hot pepper of your choice.  I use a sprinkling of piri-piri style pepper flakes (birds-eye chili)

1 tablespoon curry powder

It calls for 2-3  teaspoons of chili jam. I made jalapeno jam last summer, so I use that.

1 tsp. cumin

I use 3 -4 cups (0.71 liters) of my turkey stock with bits of turkey, which adds greatly to the overall flavor of the stew.

I fry the halloumi cheese until nicely browned.

Simmer the stew.  Add the browned cheese 2 minutes before you serve the stew

Serve the curry over rice.  I served it with a flat bread and hummus appetizer and a sparkling sauvignon blanc.   We loved it.

The next morning, I wanted to offer Lynn and Nancy one of our favorite breakfasts: Eggs and Soldiers.  I know I’ve written about them before, but it was a new experience for my friends.  There’s nothing like a beautiful -little soft boiled egg, with its top removed, which leaves it open to dip a slivered piece of toast into the eggs gooey yolk!  With a cup of coffee or African tea preparation (black tea brewed with cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and clove buds) with milk and honey).  It’s the best of breakfasts!  We have egg cups I ordered from England!  I just realized that I forgot to take pictures of our breakfast.  It was good.

After breakfast, we spent the day hiking different sites around town.  We live in the Flint Hills of Kansas.  Though I grew up in the mountains of Colorado, I love the rolling tall grass prairie of this region.  Also, we explored a military museum on an army base.

Once we finished our activities of the day, we enjoyed a cocktail while I prepared dinner.  Lynn loves salmon, so I had to prepare our pineapple baked salmon.  We served it with rice (my husband is Hawaiian-Portuguese, and he could eat rice three times a day!) and baked Brussels sprouts.  I’ve showed this recipe previously, but that picture is what it looks like before you put in the oven.  Here’s a shot of it on the plate.

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The beautiful thing about this dish is that there is usually enough salmon for fried rice for breakfast – not to repeat myself.

The next morning, we took Lynn and Nancy to our favorite breakfast spot called, “The Chef.”  After that we did more hiking and then took a nice walk on campus.  Here we are in front of my favorite London plane tree on campus:

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Friends are great, and I have the best!  Thank you for reading.  They left on Sunday, and my mother arrived on Monday.  I was eager to do more cooking.  More later…

Thank you for reading me!

Weekend With Friends….Who Cook!

We spent a fabulous weekend with dear friends who live in a town from which we moved nearly a year ago.  The beautiful thing about dear friends is that they are family one gets to choose!  Over the years, we have made the best of friends.

After working with middle school students on their plans for a academic futures, we headed to Bob and Adrian’s sheep farm in the country.  Bob and Adrian are travel partners.  They are hunting partners, and we share them with other friends, too.  When we arrived for this visit, Adrian had prepared a “happy hour” of roasted vegetables and grilled lamb shank.  She mixed up a delicious red wine sangria with citrus fruits and grapes adding to the delights of the day.  Adrian demonstrates great comfort in preparing and serving food.  She comes from a close family who gathered, often, around food.  We ate, and we laughed.  Bob’s sense of comedic timing both intrigues and frustrates.  I think he likes the rise he gets out of me.  Always a great time with delicious food at the home of  Bob and Adrian! Adrian is one of the most laid back souls I know.  She laughs at her husband, which is lovely.  I failed to get a good picture of them.  I guess too busy taking pictures of the food.   Actually the Price farm, at sunset, is my featured photo for this blog.

We left Bob and Adrian around 6:00 p.m., and headed to Carole and Larry’s lovely home in a rustic sub-division set in the prairie.  Time for another meal!  Carole likes to design a meal.  She created an exquisite meal of meat loaf, green beans, and herb infused mashed potatoes.  Our friend Lynn joined us.  We told stories, gossiped a little, and ate a sublime meal. Carole serve white wine with the meat loaf, and that worked!  Who says one must consume red meat with red wine?  Here’s her spread:

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As if we had not already consumed two meals back-to-back, Carole served tea and apple cobbler for dessert.  We stayed up late to visit, digest our food, and to talk about art, music, movies, and life in our communities.  Carole is one of my favorite artists.  She’s a painter.  Stay tuned.  I will have to offer a blog on art, so I will save that for another time.

Let’s talk about breakfast the next morning.  Have you ever had crème de brûlée oatmeal?  I have the recipe from Carole, but I think I would rather describe what I saw when she cooked it.  When I arose from the late night and a restless sleep (likely from the great eating the previous day), I noticed that Carole was soaking uncooked Irish oatmeal in water in the sauce pot.  Then she added heat, and I noticed sometime during the cooking process, she added brown sugar and cream.  She cooked it until thick.  In the mean time, Carole prepared our bowls by layering banana slices on the bottom.  She had prepared strawberries and blueberries for the topping.  She put scoops of the cooked oatmeal on top of the banana slices.  Then she sprinkled turbinado sugar on top.  The Larry came in with his blow torch to caramelize and “candy” the sugar, in crème de brûlée fashion.  The last step, before we fetched our bowls to the table, Carole topped the candied sugar with the berries.  She served the breakfast with tea, gluten-free banana nut bread, and I poached eggs that went into little blue ramekins.  Pure bliss!

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The next day, I decided to count calories for a while.  My seems of my clothes were screaming!

This weekend, I have friends coming to visit us!  Nancy and Lynn are coming.  I’m fixing curry featuring sweet potatoes and fried Halloumi cheese.   I will let you know how it turned out.  I think I’ll make a lemon cake, too!  Thank  you for reading me.

Experimenting with Recipes

I read in bed every night.  Often, I read books.  One of my favorite authors is Chaim Potok, who wrote wonderfully worded, semi-autobiographies, about growing up in Brookly, New York.  Some times, I read science fiction by Catherine Asaro.  Often, I read non-fiction centering on histories of Indigenous Peoples of, what is now the United States (my ancestry), history of music of the world, and many other topics of my varied interests.  That’s not what this blog is about today, however!

I must admit that one of my all time favorite reads at night, or any other time, is recipes!  Yes.  I’ve written, often, about food.  Cooking or baking is a creative art.  I like to be creative, and I get recipes from magazines, food stories on Netflix, as previously mentioned, and cookbooks.  I like very old cookbooks, because the ingredients are interesting, like boiling a cow’s hoof for gelatin and other such wonders.

My favorite books are those that list the ingredients but do not list measurements.  Instead, they tell a story of the origins of the foods.  I think I’ve mentioned Sean Shermans’, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen and Pino Luongo’s There’s a Tuscan in the Kitchen.  Both of the books were gifts from very thoughtful friends, Carole and Lynn.  Some of my best meals have come from those books.

Lately, I’ve been reading hand-me-down cooking magazines.  In addition, my dear friend, Mary, gifts me with a cooking magazine as a holiday gift these past few years.  So, that means that I’ve been reading cooking magazines.  My friend, Paula, posts recipes on her social media page, and I do web searches on other recipe concepts.

My feature photo comes from this past weekend and a short time with our granddaughter.  When she comes to visit, I ask about a special meal.  She regularly requests, beef steak.  Being doting grandparents, we oblige. She loves asparagus and fried potatoes.  We grilled her rib-eye, and  I made our portions into Steak Au Poivre with red wine pan sauce.  I found this recipe in a Food & Wine magazine from April 2018.  The taste was quite delicious, but I did not have shallots, so a few onions was a bit too powerful.  Here are the ingredients:

One beef rib-eye steak.  (It suggest that it’s tied with butcher’s string)

Salt and Pepper the steak pushing the seasonings into the flesh of the steak (set aside)

Brown the steak in a hot skillet to which a 1 TBS (14.2g) and a little neutral oil (I used sunflower oil)

Sear the steak on both sides (about two minutes each), and sear the sides to render the fat. Thusly:

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Once the steak (I used two steaks for our meal) are browned, drain a bit of the fat and leave the fond (the brown bits from cooking the steak) behind for the sauce.  Now melt another tablespoon of butter (14.2g) in the fond, and sweat 1/4 cup (60g) shallots about two minutes.  Now, deglaze the pan of cooking shallots with 1/2 cup red wine (take a little swig for yourself!).  Simmer until reduced by half.  Then add 1 cup (236.6 mL) of beef broth.  I made beef broth from trimming from a previous beef steak meal.  Cook until thick.  Finally, add 1 more tablespoon (14.2g) butter.  The sauce should be thick.

Slice your steak and arrange on two plates.  Cover your sliced steak with the wine sauce.  This went quite well with a Cabernet Sauvignon.  I like Carnivor from California.

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My main mistake was timing with the asparagus and potatoes.  They finished while my sauce was still cooking, so it was not thick enough when I put everything on the table.  Alas, granddaughter loved her grilled steak, and we loved our steak au poivre.

In an effort to provide interesting food while we had our little visitor, I fixed extra fluffy pancakes the next morning.  I think this recipe came from a Japanese cook posting on YouTube.  I modified the recipe only slightly.

Begin by cutting 8 molds from copy paper.  We wrapped the two inch high paper strips around a wine bottle.  We taped them into round molds for the pancakes.

Separate three eggs.  Set the whites aside for a few minutes.

In the bowl that contains the yolks, add vanilla (to taste) and 1/4 cup (59.15 mL) milk (I use buttermilk). To this mixture, add 1/2 cup (113g) wheat flour and a dash salt.

Mix the yolk mixture (set aside)

Whip egg whites to soft peak, and add 2 tablespoons (25.00g) sugar, little by little.  Then add 2 teaspoons (9.58g) of baking powder.  Whip until stiff peak.

In the mean time, heat a griddle until the butter on it sizzles slightly.  Place the paper molds on the griddle.

Incorporate yolk/flour mixture with the egg while mixture to the batter.  Fold gently so that the whipped egg white mixture holds it shape.

Spoon the batter into the molds.  Cook on one side until brown.  Flip the mold with its batter gently.  When the cakes are finished, transfer them to a plate.  Peel off the mold.

Heat pure maple syrup with butter.  Pour syrup over the pancakes.  Serve with a breakfast meat and a warm cup of coffee or tea.   Yum!

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It’s always fun to share a meal with those you love.   Thank you for reading!