Extraordinary Times

The hounds of winter (Sting) linger where I live. The north winds blow the warmth from a seemingly sunny day, and the chill cuts to the bone. Relief from the grind of work comes from gathering with friends, family around the table enjoying a slow meal featuring a nice glass of wine.

Since the holidays of winter my joy continues to be hosting family and friends. While conversations and food go hand-in-hand, I find the loving preparation of a meal to be an intense form of love, because I want it just right! Here, I offer some highlights from varying meals along the way, with pictures of food and company.

2021 proved to be a wonderful year for riding the train. In November, we boarded the California Zephr to Salt Lake City. We stopped in Grand Junction Colorado after passing through 31 tunnels in the Rocky Mountain from Denver. My 92 year old mother and her 84 year old husband boarded in Grand Junction. My mother had not ridden the Amtrak until this point. We had roomettes, so the meals were included, and the Amtrak works hard at assuring a great dining experience. Dinners come with a glass of wine, white linen table cloths, and the tables always feature a red rose in a silver vase. I love riding the train. It appears to be the one time that I allow myself to sit and do nothing but watch the world go by. Here, I share some lovely highlights from the trip. We arrived in SLC at midnight and departed for home a few days later at 3:00 a.m.

Early in January, we set out on the train to head to our friends in West New York. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief travels from Los Angeles to Maryland in its entirety. We boarded in Kansas City, MO, and it took us to Chicago for a five-hour layover, which afords the travelers some time for sightseeing in Chicago. Though, its Union Station provides some great history and a lovely environment. The lounges provide quiet or busy areas to relax with snacks and beverages.

I’ve read train reviews by a younger set of riders who appear to be in a hurry and are grumpy about less than perfect accomodations. Like a slow meal that one savors, I find train travel to be a time to savor. Why be in a hurry? I find it a great time to sit back, enjoy the passing scenery, eat lovely meals, and get in some reading or napping. Try it sometime. The life in a cozy roomette is like a gentle hug.

Back to the layover in Chicago. With the lake affect chills, we found it difficult to roam the city, so we made our way to a close restaurant to have a little bite to eat.

Sorry. I can’t seem to make the pictures smaller.

As we made our way to see our friends, we waited until 9:00 p.m. to board the next leg of the trip. We arrived in Erie, PA at 7:00 a.m., and we traveled 45 minutes to the cottage on the frozen lake. How wonderfully delightful that was. After a nice breakfast, we set out snowshowing on the lake frozen so deeply that it serves as a winter paradise of ice fishing.

We enjoyed a delightful time with our friends, with whom we’ve traveled to Alaska, the Gulf Coast, to Puerta Vallerta, and on many camping trips together. I love these friends.

Well, I could go on and on, but I will leave you with a lovely picture of happy hour at 20 degrees Farenheit. Thank you for reading my blog.

Reflecting and Looking Forward

When we think of a year that’s passed, it can be a good time to reflect on the past and to look forward in a new year. We can think about the good things that happened and contemplate any of the negative happenings. Of course, it does not serve us well to focus on our misfortunes, mistakes, losses, and other events that made a negative impact. However, it could serve well to give each of those challenges their due. I want to spend this space for reflecting on the year past and looking forward to year unfolding before us. Every year, I learn something new, and I give myself grace when I come up short. I will share some things I’ve learned and ask you to reflect on your life as well.

Blooming Hibiscus with Eight Blossoms

Reflecting on events of the past takes a Mindfulness approach. In the process, be a neutral observer. Think about what gave such an event a positive or negative impact. Notice how the event or interaction elicited emotions. How was that emotion navigated, or what was the response? The point in this reflection is to remind ourselves to be 1) a neutral observer to each experience, 2) Be patient with yourself: allow each experience to emerge at its own pace, 3) Have a “beginner’s mind” by experiencing the memory as if for the first time, 4) Trust and believe in your intuition and your ability to see things in a new way, 5) Take it as it comes without the need to win or avoid losing. At this points, just be; 6) Accept and see things as they are in the present moment; 7) Let go and detach from your usuall feelings and thoughts. Perhaps this is a way for us to slow down for a moment to recharge our senses.

Enjoying a hot cup of tea on a crispy morning in front of the outdoor fire place

I’ve written about the “art of hygge.” Hygge is that danish word (Hoo-gah) that denotes comfort at the point of being cozy. Think of a hug! We get to decide on the characteristics of that hug. When the danish speak of hygge, they outline all the situations in which one can practice that coziness: our living spaces, our work spaces, and in outdoor spaces. I have designed my “living room” as a hygge corner.

Cozy Corner

Another way of practicing that sense of being hugged, is looking to the outdoors for rest and relaxation. Viewing nature as if for the first time can be exhilirating! Perhaps asking oneself, “Which season do I like best? Why?” I like to notice what birds are active in which season? For example, I’m seeing more juncos during the winter than in the summer. We see snow geese in the winter but not summer! Those are changes that are only noticed when one looks up or notices changes in nature. It such a thing is new to you, try it sometime. As another example, in the photo, one could ask, “Why is the sunset so red?” The answer: Dust and smoke in the atmosphere from fires and wind (in many cases).

A Kansas Sunset

In a busy world where we are measured by how much we do, how much money we earn, and how we stand out as individuals (an individualistic society). I wonder if we would have less illness if we emulated that of a collective society (group oriented) and took the time to sit and talk, build relationships, and take more collective actions when it comes to governance. The concept of hygge supports that very thing, as does the Mediterranean way of conviviality. So what if we took three hours to consume our meals conversing around the table? Our lives would slow down, and we would take more time for ourselves and our loved one. I love the concept of “hygge with others,” which focuses on our relationships. While we have fewer opportunities to gether during this pandemic, and we’ve had to find new and different ways to connect with people, such as with on line platforms. When I think of “hygge” with others, I tend to think of gathering around meals. Sometimes it may be connecting through interest groups. Sometimes we attend a movie group, which meets online after participants watch the movie on their own. That is one way of connecting during a pandemic time. The meet up consists of questions by the facilitator. We found common themes through which we connected. A few years back, in a town where we spend nearly thirty years, we used to attend what we called, “Second Friday Cinema” at our local library. We picked nine movies for each of the months we met from September through May. We watched the movie together enjoying snack that each of us offered on a table. Unfortunately, that has gone away per safety measures. I miss those time, so I will share some photos of former gatherings and ways of enjoying our environments.

Friends at Table
My Home State

Setting a goal of practicing holistic well-being does take some discipline. For example, I made a pledge to myself to keep my house organized and free of clutter. That takes a lot of work! It seems that we get so involved in making a living, being a good employee, and meeting institutional goals that we forget to take care of ourselves. Now, all this sounds like I’m an expert at such things, I do teach about holistic well-being, but that means that I practice such things, and “practice makes perfect” as the saying goes. That’s the best we can do, and our best needs to be enough for us. That does not mean that we’ve reached a pinnacle. It’s just means that we keep trying. I saw a quote on practice the other day. The gist of it was that someone had asked the great cellist, Pablo Casals about his daily practicing at the age of 90 years. “After a stellar career and now at the age of 90, why do you practice the cello for the minimum of six hours per day?” Casals answered, “Because I think I am seeing progress.” Humans are not perfect. We work toward perfects, but perhaps too much, I wonder? I want to be the best for the world not the best in the world!

Thank you for reading.

Convivial Times

As COVID restrictions begin to ease a bit, we appear to be interacting more often and frequently, without masks. I hope we are not being premature in our ease. I read a quick headline today that said that our isolation for the past 20 months may have taken a toll on our cognitive functions. I think we shall see more on that as we continue to examine the far reaching effects of a pandemic in contemporary times.

I must admit that I have ramped up my interactions across the dining table, both at home and with friends. One of the great opportunities of working at a university gives me the privilege of working with students from a variety of backgrounds, countries, geographies, and traditions.

My “featured image” demonstrates the diversity of my interactions that include dining. Enoch, a city planner, and Elfadil, a soil scientist, hail from Africa: Ghana and Sudan, respectively. These two brilliant young men prepared a feast for hubby and me. Each dish featured chicken, and one dish feature the addition of goat.

When Enoch comes to our house for dinner, he often treats us to Jollof Rice. He gets the spice blend from his home country, blended by women who specialize. He shared a nice pint sized jar with me. The best I can do is taste and try to decide what’s in it.

I taste the seasoning mix, and then write down what I think: crushed chicken bouillon, garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, onion flakes, chili flakes, black pepper, nutmeg, and thyme. While I am certain that the “spices” contain other ingredients, this is what I think I know, for now.

Let me tell you about the stews, which our hosts served with rice, which they prepared with cardamom pods floating in the water during the cooking process. First the gentlemen offered a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and a cucumber served without dressing. I forget that a salad does not need any type of dressing to be satisfying. Then the stews…

First of all, I love that they offered hot tea with the meal in small glasses. It made the evening so elegant yet simple. We ate around the coffee table in the small, student apartment, which was a celebration of its own.

Both Enoch and Elfadil shared their recipes:

Enoch’s goat and chicken stew:

Brown goat chunks and chicken thighs in garlic, ginger, hot pepper, onion, tomatoes, black pepper and Jollof rice spices. Blend vegetables. Sauté the vegetables, then blend them. Add water. Simmer for the afternoon preceding dinner time. Serve with fragrant rice.

Elfadil’s chicken stew:

Fry onion, add salt, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, curry, mix all together. Add garlic. Add cut chicken to mix. Put lid on and simmer. “Wait for the magic to happen!” (My quote, not Elfadil’s) After cooked, add tomato sauce and let cook for 5 minutes and add garlic. Replace lid for 5-10 minutes before serving. It simmers into a rich thick stew.

Enoch’s goat and chicken, pictured above, is the redder sauce of the two. Both stews tasted warmly rich with the combination of spices most aromatic to the senses. We ate heartily!

I had a geography student live with us five years ago while she gathered data. We lived in another part of the state at the time, and I worked for the same university in another research position. Anyway, when the student returned to campus, and I had to be there, she cooked for me in her tiny, student apartment. She was from China. ” Kathy Su” prepared a feast of meats: beef, chicken, and lamb. She roasted all the meats separately in her tiny oven. She flavored the meats with ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oils. Each meat added its own flavor profile to the similar ingredients. Kathy chopped the meats and then put them back in the oven to finish cooking to tender morsels with crispy edges. She served a big dish of steamed rice, and we enjoyed the meats, which were “finished” with chopped green onions! I wish I had pictures, but I didn’t think I would be writing about it. Once again, simple ingredients for a sublime dining experience.

Next time, more flavors from the kitchen. Thank you for reading me!

Food and Common Ground

This week I am part of a conference called, Cambio de Colores, Change of Colors. The conference focuses on the Latinx diaspora. I presented on topics of adaptive and culturally relevant practices theory and youth development identity. My focus for my workshops in this conference was on Indigenous peoples in the Native diaspora of the United States. The topic idea of this blog came from one of the plenary speakers, Dr. Maribel Alvarez, whose topic was food ways of, mostly, Latinx peoples, but I thought it certainly generalized to me and my Native identity, as it does to other identities. The speaker said, “We [often] use food as a tool to find common ground.” She added, “Sharing food is one of our greatest secular rituals.” Brilliant! That has been my practice since I began my active life in the Kitchen.

My work in the garden this week gave me much to write after having spent much time in the kitchen this week. My featured image today shows the six-lined racerunner (lizard) running through the vegetable and herb garden. It proved to be nice company. Now, I back up to two weeks ago when my neighbor shared oyster mushrooms. She, apparently, enjoys the bounties of a friend who grows these beautiful fungi, so she shares her abundance with me! I so love the umami that edible fungi add to food dishes, so I prepare something immediately when my neighbor shares, and there remains some to preserve for future use.

For the rice noodle soup, I began by chopping the lovely mushrooms, and adding onions, garlic, celery to sauté in butter and sesame oil. When all was fragrant, I added peas and carrots. While I cooked the mushrooms and veggies, I soaked the rice noodles in warm water. Once all the veggies were smelling most fragrant, I added two cups of vegetable broth. (You can use any type of broth. I just happened to have the vegetable broth in the freezer that I prepared from a windfall of veggies. I let the veggies and broth come to a simmer, and then I added the softened rice noodles. I added soy sauce and let it simmer for one minute, or so. It made a lovely evening meal. To finish my preparation with the mushrooms, I sautéed the remaining mushrooms in butter and put them in the freezer so that I have them for the next meal that calls for mushrooms, such as marinara sauce or in macaroni and cheese, or what ever dish calls for mushrooms.

Well, I wonder if your garden is beginning to produce herbs and vegetables. I am not sure why, but I seem to over plant basil. This year I have giant basil. I took a trip to a community garden plot that went in the ground about two weeks before I planted the one in my yard. This garden, planted by colleagues as a learning opportunity for urban students, is crazy with herbs, squash, and peppers. I picked basil, spearmint, cilantro, and parsley along with a few strawberries (eaten on site!) and three zucchini.

Basil and mint come from the same family of square-stemmed plants. Others in the mint family include thyme, lavender, lemon balm, oregano, and marjoram, to name a few. I began preparations with the mint. I made mint pesto. I thought it would pair well with lamb. Think of preparing the traditional basil pesto.

I took five big hands full of mint. For recipes like this, I rarely measure or weigh the ingredients, so these are estimates for Mint Pesto:

Three packed hands full of fresh mint, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, harissa (combination of peppers), garlic, olive oil, small amount of lemon juice, and two small hands full of mixed, raw nuts (almond, walnut, hazelnut, pistachio, and cashew). Be sure to omit any nut if you have a concern about allergens. I like using raw pumpkin (pepitas) seeds for pesto. Use what ever you have on hand. Blend until smooth and aromatic.

The pesto blended into a beautiful sauce easily frozen to later thaw in the vibrant color it had before freezing.

With the abundance of cilantro and parsley, I made chimichurri sauce, popular in Uruguay and Argentina. The delightfully green sauce pairs well with grilled meats. I like it on fish and shrimp tacos. Actually, it’s so fragrant as I blend it, I can’t help but take a spoon full just like that! I have changed the recipe a bit from what I hear is the authentic recipe from Argentinian ingredients:

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (I like to substitute with sherry vinegar)

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley (In addition to the parsley, I also added about the same in cilantro)

3-5 cloves of garlic (for this batch, I used a combination of onion sprouts and wild garlic, pictured below)

2 small red chilies (I was out of red chilies, so I used 1/2 teaspoon of harissa, which combines chilies with peppers)

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

Black pepper (That is in my harissa)

Now, after I made my Chimichurri, I learned that one does not process in a blender. Oops! I did! Instead, I should have chopped everything and let it sit in the oil and vinegar for a few hours to bring out the flavors. I will do that next time. Here is my finished product, though I will do it “right” the next time. I am told that those in Argentina use it for basting, rather than marinating, as the meat is on the grill. It can be used to finish the meat just before serving. Again, I like it on fish or shrimp tacos. Chimichurri freezes very well and retains its bright green color when thawed. Thaw it in the refrigerator about three hours ahead of intended use.

Farmers markets offer great variety in seasonal vegetables and fruits, if you do not have your own garden. The asparagus in my garden was planted last year, so I did not get any sort of a crop this year. Hopefully next year. Our farmers’ market yielded great asparagus this year. I’ve been playing with it in my pasta recipes. As I play around with different iterations of a recipe for asparagus-based pasta, perhaps this may interest you.

Chop onions, garlic, flowering chives, mushrooms (thawed from the frozen oyster mushrooms previously prepared), a tiny zucchini, for this recipe. I think one can be quite creative in making this.

I start with chopped bacon or ham as my base for flavor. Then I add the veggies. Then I add seasonings including my prepared pesto. Once all the veggies are added and have cooked for a short while, I add a half cup of white wine and cover for a short simmer. Then I added parmesan cheese and cream. Allow to thicken, then serve. It goes well with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. I served the sauce with rotini, this time.

Finally, I leave you with one more of my dishes from the bounty of the garden, already over flowing with basil. Caprese salad appears in a few iterations. Its simplicity makes it a lovely, fresh salad. I like mine ever better when I make the cheese myself. With temperatures hovering in the high 90s (Fahrenheit), I opted not to stand over a steaming kettle of whey and cheese solids. The grocery maintains a nice stock of fresh mozzarella. Large tomatoes are not setting in the garden, either, so this comes from the produce section.

Simple ingredients: Sliced tomato, sliced mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. Look at the size of my basil leaves!

After I arrange my three ingredients (cheese, tomato, and basil leaves) on the plate. I mix a dressing of my prepared pesto with some balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Then, I drizzle the dressing over the salad. I find it to be a heavy salad when eaten prior to a meat-based dish. I tend to have a caprese salad with a lighter or vegetarian pasta-based main course. The gigantic size of my basil leaves hides the other two slices of tomato and cheese.

I hope we found common ground with one another through sharing recipes. My next entry will focus more on sharing such meals with friends and family.

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.

 

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!

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!

Our Granddaughter, a Wonderfully, Gifted Soul!

When one thinks of an 11 year old female, one, often, does not think, “old soul.”  I find myself thinking that often, especially when she requested a weekend with “Grandma and Grandpa.”  “Can we have a, sort of, special Thanksgiving dinner with just the three of us?”  Of course I answered, “yes.”  It was the following  that surprised me.  I suppose I was thinking a traditional U. S. American Thanksgiving meal with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie!  So, I asked “Sammy” about her preferred menu.  “Let’s have grilled beef steak, fried potatoes and asparagus.  Also, I want root beer floats for dessert!”  That’s easy!

We just had one full Saturday with her, so we wanted to make it special.  We began the day with her requested breakfast of Honey Combs breakfast cereal.  I checked the ingredients.  Because of the name of the cereal, the consumer is led to believe that it has honey.  The product lists its ingredients as: corn flour, sugarwhole grain oat flour, modified cornstarchcorn syruphoneysalt, turmeric (color), wheat starch.  We were feeling indulgent, so we allowed her to have this allegedly healthy breakfast food.

After breakfast, we made our way to thrift stores (her old soul showing) and the mall (her pre-teen soul showing).  We followed that with lunch at an Asian themed fast food place having to do with a panda.  We knew we’d have a healthful dinner, so we moved forward.  Here she is by a colorful mural on a wall downtown. Getting both her face and that of the mural’s subject meant that I had to sacrifice a close-up.

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She actually tired of the activity, so we went home for a relatively quiet afternoon to prepare for our feast.

Menu:

Grilled Rib-eye Steaks

Fried potatoes (we mixed bintje and red gold potatoes, thinly sliced)

Buttered asparagus

Sparkling apple juice (instead of wine since the guest of honor is 11 years old)

Root Beer Floats

Grandpas purchased the steaks at a specialty meat shop.  He patted them dry and applied salt and pepper before landing them on the grill.

I sliced the potatoes (with skins) thinly and allowed them to sit in very hot water for 10 minutes.  I patted the tubers dry before adding them to hot sunflower oil.  Salt and pepper were applied along with a lid in order for the potatoes to steam for five to eight minutes.  I removed the lid after eight minutes to allow the potatoes to brown.  Once the potatoes began to brown, I added two pats of butter, which aided further in the even browning.  By the way, I fried the potatoes in a carbon steel wok, which aids in easy stirring.

The asparagus were simply steamed with added butter and salt toward the end of cooking time.

Here we are:

img_4242.jpg Here’s the happy menu planner, ready to tear into her special meal.

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Now, the root beer float has been a topic of discussion and debate.  Do you add the ice cream first or the root beer?  When you put the ice cream in the glass first, adding the root beer causes a great foaming!  Grandpa insisted that we pour the root beer in the tall glasses, first!  Then we added the ice cream.  It worked! No foaming!  Let me know your thoughts on this.  No matter, they were wonderfully creamy and delicious with the soda’s hint of allspice, ginger, sarsaparilla, dandelion root, and vanilla bean.   It foamed, but the foam never ran over the sides of the glass.  A great treat!

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By the way, the lovely dandelion, the featured image, was taken by Sammy while playing on her uncle’s farm.  She has a great eye for taking pictures.

Thank you for reading.

Thankful – For Friends, Family, and Food!

For a Native American with a long history of Indigenous ancestry, the holiday of Thanksgiving offers a mixed bag of emotions.  United States history would have you believe Thanksgiving was a time when Pilgrims (colonists) had a meal where they fed the Indigenous souls who inhabited what is now the United States.  Of course, my ancestors were treated as “hostile” because we fought when having our lands taken away from us by laws that excluded us from owning the lands on which we hunted and gathered our food, raised our families, and build our habitats.  Be that as it may, we Natives continue to celebrate a National Day of Mourning to acknowledge an era that would change our lives for ever.

My family celebrated and continues to celebrate a Thanksgiving meal with thoughts that turned to what our ancestors’ experiences and when their lives changed after colonization.  Because of the time of the year, we also used it as a time to honor our Creator for the bounty of food given to us from the land, from the seas, and from all the elements that made life possible.  So I continue that tradition today.

Let’s discuss what was on my table on “Thanksgiving Day.”  A thwarted trip to my home state (Colorado) because of heavy snows, a rock slide on one of the mountain passes, and sloppy driving conditions gave the green light for us to “stay put.” We decided to stay home, cook the big meal, and find someone to feed.  I learned from my Mother’s holiday meals that they had to be vast, take  a long time to cook, and had to have a variety of offerings on the table.  Here’s my menu:

  • Aperitif: Sweet Vermouth
  • Roast Turkey
  • Sauteed, Buttered Brussels Sprouts with Sliced Almonds
  • Savory Dressing
  • Squash “Boats” (recipe follows)
  • Pickled Beets
  • Relish Tray
  • The Ubiquitous Two-layered Jello Salad
  • Baked Beans
  • Cranberry Apple Orange Spice (CAOS) Jam
  • Sourdough Bread
  • Cava (Sparkling Wine from Spain)

Dessert:

  • Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream for Dessert
  • Creme Sherry

I began my own tradition of making my “signature” Cranberry Apple Orange Spice jam, also known as “CAOS” (pronounced, Chaos) because I loved the taste of the combined fruits with the added Chinese 5 Spice, and I didn’t like the store-bought cranberry in a can that came out like a lump!  I love the aroma of my CAOS even more!  Next time you create your “Cheese Board” or your “Charcuterie Board”, I highly recommend pairing CAOS with brie, fried Mexican panela, or with goat cheese.  The flavors come together quite nicely.  Also, I make a Fig Apple jam that goes nicely with cheeses.  I had spoken of CAOS in one of my previous posts.  Let me know if you want the recipe.

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Here’s the recipe for my “squash boats”.

  1. Wash and slice two acorn squash.  Clean out seeds. Assemble on a baking pan.  You should have four “boats” into which you add this mixture:
  2. Two apples: Cored and diced with skins. I like honey crisp.
  3. Two oranges: Diced with peels
  4. 3/4 cup (96g) raisins
  5. 3/4 cup (96g) Walnuts
  6. 2/3 cup (85g) salted butter
  7. 2/3 cup (85g) brown sugar
  8. 3/4 cup (96g) brandy

Preheat your oven to 365 degrees (185 Celsius).

Add ingredients (#2 to #8) in a bowl.  Mix well and spoon into prepared squash.

Put an additional pat of butter on each boat before you put into oven.  Bake until the squash is soft and the fruits are bubbly.  Serve whole boats on table.

I knew I wanted to cook a large meal, but most people we knew had plans, and we’ve only lived in this town since last May.  I called one set of our best friends who live a little more than two hours away.  Their daughters would not be joining them for Thanksgiving, so I said, “Come spend a few days with us, and eat Thanksgiving!”  They agreed, and we had a marvelous time!  I am so grateful for friends.  I miss our children and grandchildren, and my family, and I am so fortunate to have friends.  I see them as “adopted” family, certainly.

 

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Our lovely day, filled with warmth and laughter, ended with turkey sandwiches and more laughter.

Thank you for reading.

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.