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.

Fall-Colors-compote-and-goat-cheese.jpg

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.

Love to Cook and Eat with Friends

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

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

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

24 ounces (680.39 g) fresh cranberries

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

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

2 cups (453.59 g) apple cider

1/2 cup (113.40 g) honey

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

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

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

vidalia-onion-dip.jpg

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

  ground lamb kabob tzaziki cabbage and grilled halloumi cheese

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

Thank you for reading.

Cooking with Wild Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Venison Marinara

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

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

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

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

debra-with-rabbit.jpg

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

Thank you for reading.

Eggplant Parmigiana – Made Simply

I might be a little brain dead at the moment, so I’ll just write about this evening’s dinner.  Again, I didn’t set out for this to be a blog only about food, though its preparation wanders into a sort of therapy for me, sometimes.  I have many topics on which I want to share.  I don’t want to be boring, however.  Sooner or later, I plan to discuss food in books a bit more along with other points of interest such as music, film, history, culture, and themes of social justice.  Let’s continue with food, for now.

My all-time favorite cookbook, given to me by my friend, Lynn, is more of a story book, called There’s a Tuscan in my Kitchen, written by restauranteur, Pino Luongo, who hails from Tuscany (Toscana) region of Italy.  Tuscany sits on the same latitude as Corsica (birthplace of Napoleon) and would be considered the upper part of the “boot” (but not the upper flaired part!), that is Italy.  The Tuscan region is on the Ligurian Sea.  Luongo’s book tells a story of each featured dish. My favorite part is that he does not give the reader/cook ratios and measurements for each dish.  He trusts the reader to make his/her own judgement.  He does list the ingredients based on where one might find them: pantry, cold storage, and market.

Yes.  I love Luongo’s book, but my food travel, this evening, goes north to Parma!  This evening’s menu: Eggplant Parmesan on linguine (literally, “little tongues” from the Liguria region west of Parma).

Since my basil garden continues to be quite prolific, I have a goal of incorporating the “mint cousin” into as many dishes as possible.  First, however, I sliced the eggplant, and salted it on each side before laying the slices on paper towel to drain from lunch time to evening.

eggplant-draining.jpg

My sauce:

  1. 1 can whole tomatoes
  2. 1 very large bunch fresh basil leaves
  3. 4 cloves of garlic
  4. ¼ yellow onion
  5. 1 TBS mix of dehydrated and ground onion, celery, and mushroom (my own creation)
  6. Salt and pepper
  7. ¼ cup red wine

Blend all ingredients, then pour into cooking pot and simmer for three- four hours (I put these ingredients in the pot when I came home for lunch and simmered on low until I returned).

Put 2 eggs into a pan.  Dip the sliced eggplant in egg mixture then in flour before placing in hot oil to fry until golden brown.  Place browned slices into a glass cake pan in one layer until all slices have been browned.

Pour your simmered red sauce on the browned eggplant slices, then cover with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella.  Bake in a 350-degree oven until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is browned.

EPP in the pan

Serve the eggplant and sauce on top of linguine or spaghetti.  Enjoy with a salad and a beverage of your choice.

Thank you for reading!

 

 

Saturday at Home and Creating in the Kitchen

We have not been home for many weekends, so this weekend, we stayed home.  Dale mowed the ever-growing lawn because of an unusually wet July.  The wet July also gave rise to ants!  I cleaned shelves, placed oil of peppermint in every nook and cranny to ward off the little creatures. We woke up to clear counter tops and shelves in the kitchen, so those essential oil home remedies work!

All that work in the kitchen did not stop me from cooking.  I love to cook, and the summer’s bounty contributed greatly to locally-sourced meals.

So, Saturday lunch was simple.  Menu:

  • chicken fried venison steaks
  • baked and mashed sweet potatoes
  • Spanish rice made with a wild/sweet/black rice mix.

I live in a region of Kansas popular for its hunting opportunities.  Hunters come from other countries and from different corners of the U.S. to hunt for pheasant, quail, and deer in this region.  Having grown up in Colorado, I know the wonders of great-tasting venison.  However, I am loathe to say, that Kansas venison may be a bit better.  Colorado deer resort to eating sage and lichens when the snows are too high for their usual forage.  When someone says, “This venison is strong!”  He or she is reacting to the tastes of sage and lichens, for example.  My Native grandmothers would crush juniper berries and rub it onto the meat, and that neutralized the “strong” flavor in any wild game and old mutton.  Try it sometime.  It really works.  Kansas venison does not need juniper berries, because this wild game feeds on corn and sorghum, which makes for wonderful tasting meat!

Okay.  How did I prepare this meal?

Before frying my venison in a combination butter and sunflower oil, I dusted it with sprouted wheat flour, and sprinkle some seasoned salt.

Chicken fried venison.jpg

I like sprouted wheat flour from my childhood.  The grandmothers used it cooked as a gruel with milk and sugar.  They did the same with ground blue corn, and called it, “chackawe”.  The Spaniards called it, atole. It was said to fixed “what ailed you!”

The sweet potatoes were simply baked.  I scraped the baked flesh into a bowl, added salt, ¼ teaspoon of brown sugar, and butter.  I mashed them and served with a pat of butter.

This version of Spanish rice:

In a tablespoon of oil, sauté onions, yellow sweet pepper, (some of my dehydrated tomatoes, onions, and green chili), and 1 cup of rice until veggies are soft and the rice is browned.  Add about 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for up to 40 minutes until liquid is absorbed.  In the end, I didn’t like the rice mix, because the wild and brown rice took longer to cook than the sweet rice.  It was a little hard to judge.

I looked for the history of “Spanish Rice”, but I just kept finding recipes for “Mexican Rice”.  Having eaten my way through Spain, about 10 years ago, I wonder if what we call Spanish rice, is a form of Spain’s “paella” (pie-yay-yah), which is rice, veggies, fish, sausage, chicken, and flavored with saffron.  So, since saffron was not readily available when Spain was colonizing what is now New Mexico and, a bit later, Meso, Central, and South America. What we cook today, may be a cousin to paella.    I’ll keep looking.  If you know, let me know.

So, that was lunch.  We ate a wonderful supper (dinner), too.

Menu:

  • Fish tacos with marinated cabbage topping
  • quinoa garden salad

Here’s how I prepared it.

2 cod fillets – Sautéed in ghee (clarified butter) and olive oil and seasoned with a dried “fish tacos” seasoning.

I sliced the cabbage and tossed with olive oil, sherry vinegar, smoky salt and garlic powder.

We grilled the locally sourced corn tortillas made freshly on a daily basis.

The quinoa salad:

  • 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa (keen-wah) – a lovely South American grain
  • 3 ears of grilled corn cut off the cob
  • 1 ½ cups black beans
  • 1 large grilled zucchini (not too large!)
  • 5 green onions
  • 2 TBS snips of celery (off my celery plant from my window pot)
  • 1/2 cup thawed sweet yellow and red pepper (I had thawed my chopped/frozen pepper for the noon meal.  This was the other half cup).

My dressing for this salad: olive oil, lime juice, sherry vinegar, seasoned salt, chili powder, and cumin.

Toss and chill before serving.

Fish Tacos and quinoa salad

Try these meals.  Let me know what you think.  If you don’t have one or more of the ingredients, don’t hesitate to substitute.  It’s fun to experiment.  I don’t use a lot of measurements.  Use what works for you.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

Celery and Dehydrated Veggies

Based on what readers are following in this blog, it seems that writing about cooking is a bit more popular, so here goes another entry about food.

If you have a thriving garden, no doubt, you wonder what to do with odds and ends of the vegetable waste.  I have a few ideas for you.

Whether you grow celery or buy it in a store, it can keep feeding you even after you’ve used the stalk, ribs, and leaves for varying recipes.  You can grow your own, for continued use, right in your own kitchen!

Hold your whole celery with the leaves on top.  Cut from the base of the stalks up about 2-3 inches from the bottom.  Put the ribs/stalks in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator.  I like to wrap mine newly cut celery in a clean dish towel for a dryer storage.

Place that cut base in a small jar filled with water.  After a week, or so, you will begin to see roots sprouting from the base in the water.  When you see many small roots coming off the bottom, you will, also, see small leaves and stalk begin to reach up toward the “sky”.  Either you can use snips of the growing stalk to add flavor to your cooking, or you can plant the rooted base in potting soil.  After a week, or so, the celery will begin to grow taller each day.  You can use those growing celery stalks to further flavor your cooking.  I’ve used my growing celery for about six months.  Each time you cut the growing stalks and leaves, they will keep growing.

Those small stalks are tender, and work well in tuna salad, stir-fry, and that ubiquitous, aromatic trio of carrot, celery, and onion.  French cooks call it “mirepoix” (meer-pwah), Spanish cooks call it, “Sofrito” (so-free-toe), and Italian cooks call it Buttuto (boo-two-toe) or Soffritto. This lovely “trinity” pulls the best of flavors from the other ingredients included in your cooking and makes a lovely base for many soups.

Another thing that I do when I get to the end of my vegetables, if I have more than I need, or if I don’t think I will use the veggies before they go bad, I chop them into small pieces and put them in my food dehydrator. 

 Once the vegetables are dehydrated, I grind them in my coffee grinder (used only for herbs/spices) and process until the dried mixture resembles small flakes. 

I put the vegetable flakes in a small jar with a shaker top (used herb bottle/jar) for use in a variety of food preparations. I have some favorite combinations: 

General Dried Blend: 

  • Celery 
  • Kale 
  • Carrots 
  • Leeks 
  • Orange Peel 
  • Sweet Red Pepper 

This blend goes well in soups, on cottage cheese (for a Bourisin Cheese taste), on eggs, etc. 

 My next favorite blend I like to use in seafood soups, on fish, etc. 

Seafood Blend: 

  • Fennel bulb 
  • Celery 
  • Carrot 
  • Lemon Peel 
  • Sweet Red Pepper 

 Drying veggies takes about 24 to 48 hours to dry on the “dried vegetable” setting of the dehydrator. You can be creative in the kinds of vegetables that you dry for your mix. You can also dehydrate veggies without grinding them for use in soups. 

As mentioned previously, with the Mirepoix, I make a dehydrated Mirepoix, and I add mushrooms to the trio before drying.  The mushrooms add extra glutamate for more enhanced flavor in cooking.  I like to use this mix in my marinara or pizza sauces.

Somehow, I think creating dishes in the kitchen becomes a sort of therapy that feeds my artistic side.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

Traveling Alaska with Friends and Granddaughter!

About four years ago, we set out on an adventure to travel Alaska in recreational vehicles with a total of 16 travelers, one of whom was our, then, 6 year old granddaughter.  I will call her “Ditto”, since she will play an important role in this story.

Well, we have some close friends with whom we have traveled to Mexico, the Texas Gulf Coast, and other place not-so-far-away.  The trip to Alaska was about a year in the planning.  My friend, Kathy, has a knack for organizing trips, for which I”m grateful since I don’t like that kind of detail.

All but four of the travelers flew to Alaska.  The other four drove to do some sight-seeing along the way.  Our flights and car trip converged in Anchorage, where we rented the recreational vehicles and began the drive across the state, as best can be done in two weeks.

This story focuses on our first stop, from Alaska, was the Kenai Peninsula and Resurrection Bay.  It was overcast and cool, which was a nice welcome coming from July the Midwest.  July in southern Alaska was wonderfully wet, and the air smelled fresh and moist!  Part of the group went fishing for halibut and salmon, which was prepared in the smoker that Mark brought from the “Lower 48” in their SUV.  We enjoyed the freshness of the fish prepared other ways, too!

One of the most exciting activities we shared was that of teaching “Ditto” how to harvest mussels during low tide.  After gathering the bi-valve moluscs, we cleaned and “de-bearded” them.  Inspecting the mussels before cooking is important.  Any that are open already, should be discarded.  That indicates a dead organism.  When your mussels are cleaned and inspected, set those aside.  I like to soak them in fresh, cool water as I’m preparing the “soup” in which I cook them.

Put a pot on the stove, saute four cloves of garlic in 3/4 stick of butter.  When the garlic is soft, add two cups of white wine.  Once the wine, butter, and garlic are simmering, add the cleaned mussels to the broth.  Put a tight fitting lid on the pot, and let the mussels simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove the lid, and you should see that all the mussels are opened to reveal the steamed moluscs.  Discard any that did not open.  That means they are not edible.

Eat the mussels with crusty French bread, which sops up the broth!  Our granddaughter is now 10, and still loves having mussels as a treat when she’s with us.  “Ditto” is seen in the feature photo enjoying her third bowl of mussels of the trip.  I love cooking and camping, especially when I get to do those with the people I love.

Thank you for reading.