Mom’s Pumpkin Pie


Mom made fantastic pies of all sorts so much so that when she took a pie to a potluck, people would rush to get a piece even before they acquired any other food.  The only pumpkin pie my grandson likes is Mom’s.  He seems to like the idea that he is eating something his great grandmother created.  Today, I taught him to make homemade pie crust and Mom’s pumpkin pie.  Here he is crimping the edges after rolling out the dough and placing it in the pie pan.

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We made two pumpkin and one pecan today.  Here is the recipe for Mom’s pumpkin pie.  He ground the cinnamon–pieces of bark from a friend’s mom’s tree in Ethiopia–using an old fashioned, wooden grinder.

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin

1 1/2 cups milk and cream or evaporated milk  ( I use 1 can evaporated milk)

3 eggs

3/4 cup brown or white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg ( I grated this fresh)

1/2 teaspoon ginger

Dump everything in a blender.  Place your hand on the lid before starting the motor.  Blend a few seconds, until smooth, and pour into pastry-lined pie shell.  Bake at 450 for ten minutes, then bake at 350 for 30 minutes longer or until firm in the center.

Placed with Mom’s original typed recipe is this note:  “Juliana, if you use half evaporated milk it gives a wonderful flavor and I like white sugar best.” I use white sugar.

The finished product looks like this.

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This recipe makes a lot of filling so if you do not have a large pie pan, you will need to bake some of the filling in another pan.  Since we made two today, we baked the left over without a crust in another oven proof dish–pumpkin pudding.

Colorful Cabbage Salad


This bright salad not only looks lovely, it also packs a lot of nutrition, is easy, and can be made in advance.

1 medium head purple cabbage, finely chopped

1 cup thinly sliced baby carrots

1 cup chopped broccoli

handful of rings from leek stalk (optional)

equal amounts of olive oil, sweet chili sauce, and mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine) to fill 1/2 cup measure

Mix all the above ingredients.  Chill.

This is an easy salad to make in smaller or large quantities.  It also keeps well in the refrigerator.

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Today I will serve this with the following:  black beans with caramelized onions, Persian rice, and salmon topped with garlic, olive oil, and bebere.  There will be plenty for vegan and vegetarian guests without the salmon.

 

A Week of Gratitude (cont.)


Although I intend to continue with gratitude thoughts and lists, this is my last post of this one week exercise.

Saturday’s list includes:

-Cooking for and enjoying the company of close friends.

-Listening to music I love–Angelique Kidjo, Rokia Traore, Cesaria Evora, Conjunto Primavera.

Sunday’s list includes:

-Enjoying springlike weather with birds singing.

-Accomplishing spring cleaning in my xeriscape flower beds.

-Trying a Japanese sauce I never tasted before–yakiniku.  I used it with chicken and bok choy over Jasmine rice.  This included marinating grated carrots in mirin, another Japanese sauce which I especially like.

-Watching a deer disappear through the junipers.

-Enjoying the warm weather from my patio.

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A Week of Gratitude (cont.)


Each day I made a list of things for which I feel grateful, sometimes more, sometimes less.  Tuesday’s list includes:

-Endless sunsets streaked with orange, vermillion, purple, lavender and colors with no name.

-An ability to sing the world’s greatest chorale music with a group of experienced singers who even occasionally sings with the symphony.

Wednesday’s list includes:

-Books I love.  My favorite is “Storyteller” by Leslie Marmon Silko.  I must have read her story “Yellow Woman” at least 50 times.

-The ability to write myself.  I entered a flash memoir contest on Wednesday.

Today’s list includes:

-A short but fun experience with my grandson whom I picked up at school.  He told me all about what he is learning in science class–he is in seventh grade.  We discussed genetics and Punnett Squares.  I recently explained them to some high school biology students.

-Driving my tractor, grading the steep drive down to my cliffside house.  I grew up on a farm and love driving the tractor.

-Cooking dinner.  Here’s the recipe:

Fillet of salmon–keta

4-5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 poblano pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1/2 medium beetroot, thinly sliced and then diced

Bebere to taste or other spice if you do not have this

Several bunches kale, spine removed, and coarsely chopped.  I used two kinds–one green and one purple.

Saute the garlic and beetroot in olive oil until nearly cooked.  Add the poblano pepper and salmon.  Sprinkle a coating of bebere to cover the salmon.  Saute until salmon is nearly done and pepper is cooked but still bright green.  Add kale, occasionally stir, and saute until kale is slightly wilted. Serve over rice.  I used basmati from Pakistan.

Note:  bebere is a spice from Ethiopia.  I use homemade from my Ethiopian friends who have it special made.  Her blend is complex but not very hot.  Some commercial blends are mostly hot.

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Overweight and Poorer


Today I planned to post a lovely poem.  However, I was so engrossed by an article on the Internet that I decided to discuss that topic instead.  Why are so many people in this country overweight?  Why do people complain about being poorer?

The article in question, which I could not download and post here, claims that the biggest item on which people in the United States overspend is eating out at restaurants.  It is also a major cause of obesity.  On average when a person eats in a restaurant they eat 200 calories more than if he or she ate at home.  If that person eats out three times a week, that adds up to more than 30,000 extra calories a year.  Even if he or she eats fast food, which probably adds even more calories, the extra expenditure at even a low 8.00 per meal, would  add to nearly 1300 dollars per year.  If it is a family, multiply that by the  number of people in the family.  For 8 dollars, they could go to the grocery here in Texas and buy a delicious already roasted chicken that would feed at least four.

Personally, I find few restaurants that can actually create a meal better than one I can cook myself.  Others say who wants to cook for oneself.  I live alone and I cook for myself all but a couple of times a month.  Being a bit of a health nut and not much of a meat eater (I eat quite a lot of fish, usually cod or salmon), that 8 dollars would turn into much bigger amounts.  Plus I do not want to waste the time eating out.  I can create a much healthier meal, cheaper, quicker at home.  Restaurant food tends to be much saltier with fewer herbs and spices than I prefer as well.

I am curious to find out why others eat out all the time.  It mystifies me.

 

PS.  Curious as to what sorts of foods I create, what spices I use?  I have posted lots of recipes here on my blog.  Take a look.

 

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Blue Apron: Is It Worth a Try


My daughter gets it off and on–yes, you can cancel weeks when you do not want what they have, etc.  Although I cook yummy, nutritious meals for myself, I realized I was in a food rut of sorts and decided it might be worth a try to explore new food horizons.  To date, I have made two of week one recipes, Crispy Catfish and Five-Spice Chicken.

Crispy Catfish??  Boring?? The title seems quite inaccurate to me.  No deep frying, nothing like that.  Unusual, yes!  Besides cat fish, it includes kale, semi-pearled farro, Thomcord grapes ( I know, I never heard of them before either), rosemary, along with some more ordinary ingredients.  Catfish is not my favorite fish but ok.  Would I have ever gone out and bought farro?  Probably not.  Would I ever have thought to cook grapes to put over fish?  No.  The recipe calls for cooking the farro, sautéing the kale with garlic, then mixing the two together.  Rosemary and chopped almonds sautéed together with the grapes made an incredibly savory-sweet relish.  I had some left over so later cooked a cod loin and served the relish and faro/kale salad with it.  I will definitely saute rosemary, almonds, and grapes together again.

Tonight I made the Five-Spice Chicken.  I remain uncertain as to whether I have seen cremini mushrooms in the stores here.  The ingredients included those, baby fennel, collard greens, Chinese five-spice powder, hoisin sauce, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and vermicelli rice noodles.  The only thing not included I had to also use was olive oil which I buy in the largest containers because I love the stuff. Would I ever have made this dish without Blue Apron?  Probably not.  It was delicious and since I cook for one and everything comes for two or, if you choose, a family, I have leftovers for later in the week.

What is the down side?  You may not like all the combinations provided for a certain week so you cancel.  I am quite concerned about the packaging and how to recycle all this stuff.  Their website says everything is made to recycle.  However, to do that you have to live where recycling is available.  I do not except for the box.  The recipes are detailed but not all that speedy so it does take more time than I normally take to cook.

Will I try this again?  Yes, when I like all the combinations in a week.  I still have to try the vegetarian option for this week, a Thai curry.  What showed up with that?  A very lovely looking little squash I never heard of before.  You can choose various options including vegetarian.  What will I repeat?  While I might not be able to find this special kind of grape, I will saute grapes with rosemary and almonds again.  I will use collard greens and fennel more often.

The Fly, Wine, and Fennel


I look .

The fly floats in my glass of Seven Deadly Zins,

full to two golden flowers half way up the rim.

What kind of flowers?

I look.

Unsure, I watch the fly struggle, floundering around

in the deep red, the color that turns tongues

purple drunk.

I look.

Dead.  It floats.

Not poor, frugal.  I debate.

Should I throw the wine out?  Drink it?

I take the silver teaspoon–from the six piece

set Father gave Mother in 1946 on their

first anniversary–dip it in the dark, remove

fly, throw it down the antique copper sink drain.

I pick up the glass.

I look,

swirl the wine around in the bowl, take a sip.

Surely 15 percent alcohol kills germs.

 

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It was past seven, time to fix dinner.  Since I live a lone, I often fix dinner for two, save half, and have dinner ready for a hectic evening after work.  Just warm in the microwave.

Cod with Fennel, Mint, and Lemon

Two cod loins–one if extra large

1 heaping tablespoon chopped garlic

Olive oil

1/2 to 1 cup finely sliced small carrots

1/2 large poblano pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

several cauliflower florets thinly sliced

crushed dried mint

essential oil of lemon and fennel (if you do not use essential oils,

you can use 1 tsp. ground fennel and lemon juice to taste)

 

Pour enough olive oil in a ten inch skillet to totally cover the bottom.  Saute garlic and carrots in the olive oil until carrots are almost tender.  Sprinkle a small handful of mint over the garlic and carrot mixture.  Add cauliflower and poblano pepper.  When poblano peppers are about to change color, add the cod.  Sprinkle drops of lemon and fennel essential oil over the cod–or the ground fennel and lemon juice.  Cook until the cod flakes.    Serve over rice.  I use basmati.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t eat This or Else…


This title showed up as an article in my latest “Yoga Journal”.  We hear warnings all the time about various foods so much so that sometimes I wonder just what I should eat.  The article details research on three foods which may be dangerous to ingest.

The first one is rice which really frightened me at first because I really, really like rice and eat it multiple times a week.  The problem with rice is arsenic, yes, arsenic.  Everyone knows that arsenic is not good.  Due to arsenic containing herbicides and pesticides, harmful levels have been found in rice.  Why?  Rice grows in water and therefore absorbs ten times more arsenic than other grains.  This not only means humans need to be careful about eating rice but also other products such as brown rice syrup found in infant food and energy bars.  Is organic safer?  No.  And forget eating brown rice because it contains 80 per cent more arsenic than white rice.  These rice warnings also apply to products made from rice including crackers, pasta, cereal, even rice milk.

Does this mean eliminate all rice?  Not necessarily.  Some rice has much less arsenic than others.  The safest rice from the arsenic standpoint is white basmati from India, Pakistan, and California.  Lundberg is one company that tests for arsenic so their rice should be safe as well.  Rinsing rice thoroughly helps.  You can also cook it in extra water and drain like you would pasta.  Boiling leaches out the arsenic.

The verdict is still out regarding GMOs.  Some countries have banned GMO foods totally.  According to the article in “Yoga Journal”, the only GMO crops commercially grown here currently are soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and some summer squash.  The FDA has approved an apple that does not turn brown and a potato that produces less carcinogenic compounds when cooked at high temperatures.  If you want to avoid GMO, look at the list above.  Some farmers are growing non-GMO soybeans.  However, they usually go to foreign markets which do not want GMO products, e.g. China.

For me, the worst on the list, carrageenan, remains the most hidden because most people do not even know they are eating it.  Where is it?  In ice cream, yogurt, nut milk, canned whipped cream, cottage cheese, salad dressing.  Why care?  New evidence indicates it may cause all sorts of health problems from gastro-intestinal inflammation to cancer and diabetes.  The only way you will know if this is in a food product is to carefully read the label.  Some zero fat yogurt contain it and some do not.  Silk brand nut milk does not contain it whereas several other popular brands do, e.g the ones that are not in the refrigerated section at the grocery. Some companies are fazing it out of all their products; this includes Horizon and Silk.

The only way to eat for good health and be safe it seems is to keep up on the latest research and read the labels.  Know what you are eating.  Bon appetit.

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Note:  the rice used here is basmati from Pakistan.

My Ideal Audience


The fourth assignment in my newest experiment, Word Press’ Blogging 101 class, is to write a post for my ideal audience. My immediate reaction was, “There is no such person; I do not have an ideal audience.”  I might be able to come up with three or four persons, some of whom might like the recipes, others might enjoy the travel posts, and another group might react to comments on the environment, international politics, and sundry controversial topics.  Finally, a few, perhaps more, might relish the occasional poetry pieces.  After all, my haiku posts attained more readers than I ever expected.  The challenge then might be to write a post combining several of these but how?  Here we go on another adventure.

My idea reader would enjoy literature, especially the serious and more especially literature from other countries and cultures, like to eat hot foot from diverse cultures, travel to other places besides here and Europe, care about the environment, follow international politics, and, even though not previously mentioned, like horses, prefer the country to the city, and enjoy a wide variety of music.  Do such individuals exist?  Where are they and how do I find them?

Here is my first attempt at covering at least two of these topics:

Last summer, as former followers know, I traveled with friends to Ethiopia for three weeks via Dubai.  Because I love the stuff, I brought back an entire kilo of berbere.  Mine follows the special recipe of my Ethiopian friend’s mother.  She had it made special just so we could bring it home.  Actually there were three kilos in my bag but only one for me.  My new favorite salmon recipe involves the use of berbere.  Unlike some, hers is more rich and spicy rather than really hot.  This will serve one to two, just increase the amount of all the ingredients to suit the number of people you plan to feed.

1-2 portions wild sockeye salmon–you could use any type of course

4 medium to large brussel sprouts, coarsely chopped

1/2 purple onion chopped coarsely

Several broccoli florets

1/2 ripe bell pepper, seeded and chopped

Olive oil

Berbere

Cover the bottom of a skillet with olive oil.  Add onions and sauté until translucent.  Add the brussel sprouts and sauté until nearly tender.  Add the peppers and broccoli.  Sprinkle a light layer of berbere over all the vegetables as you cook them.  Stir occasionally.  Add the salmon, skin side down.  Sprinkle berbere over the salmon so the salmon is covered but only lightly.  You can add more to taste.  Continue cooking until the salmon flakes.

I serve this with rice.  The rice in the photo is basmati.  See previous posts for the special way I cook rice.  Sometimes I vary the vegetables using poblano peppers, carrots, Swiss chard–whatever I happen to have or feel like eating at the moment.  Pick what you like.

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This, honestly, is nothing like real Ethiopian food in part because I do not have teff and do not know how to make injera.  The photo below shows me and friends in a restaurant in Gonder, Ethiopia, in my idea of food heaven.

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Rye Bread with Cardamon and Golden Raisins


Every year for so many years I fail to recall, I have made this bread during the holiday season.  Why then, I have no idea because the bread is not just for winter or anything in particular.  It makes three loaves and a good present; maybe that was the original reason.  It also takes more time than ordinary bread; I usually have time off during this season.

2 packages yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 1/2 cups light cream or evaporated milk

2 cups unsifted, unbleached flour

3 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup butter, melted and cooled

2 tsp. fresh ground cardamon

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup milk

2 cups rye flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 – 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour

In a large bowl dissolve yeast in water. Stir in the cream or evaporated milk.  Add the 2 cups flour; beat until smooth.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.  Stir in the eggs, sugar, butter, golden raisins, and cardamon.  Beat until smooth.  Add the milk and rye flour and stir until combined.  At this point using a dough hook makes it easier.  Add the whole wheat flour and enough of the unbleached flour to make a stiff dough.  Sprinkle remaining flour onto a board or granite counter top.  Knead until smooth.  Oil a large bowl, place dough in bowl and turn to grease both sides.  Let rise until doubled.  Punch down and work into a smooth ball.  Divide into three equal portions.  Place in three pans of your choosing (I use one regular loaf pan and two cake pans).  After dough has risen to double in size, bake in a 350 degree oven.  While loaves are still hot, brush with butter.  Allow loaves to cool before removing from the pans.

This bread is especially good with Swiss cheese or other similar cheeses and makes a tasty left over turkey sandwich.