What’s For Dinner


Thinking up new, healthy, creative dinners sometimes poses a challenge.  Last night I stood in the pantry door, looked around, went to the refrigerator to see what I already had available.  Although the vegetable combination is not unusual for me, I decided to use farro instead of pasta or rice.  Farro, a staple in ancient Rome,  has been called “the mother of all wheat”. I buy pearled, organic farro. It is chewy, a good source of fiber, and high in protein.  I do not follow the directions on the bag. Here is how I cook farro for two servings:

1 cup farro

3 cups water

1 Tsp. Better Than Bouillon

Avocado oil

Cover the bottom of a sauce pan with the oil, pour in the farro.  Turn heat on high, constantly stirring, saute the farro in the oil for a couple of minutes, then pour in the water.  Add the bouillon and stir thoroughly.  Turn the heat down but keep the farro boiling.  Do not cover.  Stir at regular intervals.  Do not let it go dry.  It should take about 1/2 hour for the farro to become tender.  Test and if needed, add more water.  Cook until the water is absorbed and farro is tender.

 

Last night’s vegetable sauce:

Cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil.  Add five cloves garlic, coarsely chopped and one medium sized beet, cut into medium sized pieces.  Saute until tender.  Add five to six sliced Brussels sprouts.  When Brussels sprouts are partially cooked, add one large poblano pepper, coarsely chopped, seeds removed.  Saute until pepper is tender but still bright green. Last night I used berbere, an Ethiopian spice, to jazz up the sauce.  Sometimes I use basil or other Italian spices.  I vary the vegetables, sometimes using sliced carrots, broccoli, kale.  Be creative.  Use vegetables you like.  If you want something non vegetarian, add chopped chicken or cod loins.

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Above is a photo of the cooked vegetables ready to serve.

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The vegetables served over the farro.  If you are not vegan, you can grate asiago or parmesan cheese over the top.

 

Covid19–Creative Cooking


This is post number six as I continue to quarantine.  I’ve lost tract of exactly when I last went to the grocery–not for at least three weeks.  In an effort to avoid going unnecessarily, I’ve come up with all sorts of creative cooking by looking to see what I can find in the pantry and refrigerator and inventing recipes, using what I already have.  Here are three of my inventions.

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When I was in Italy last November, I ate pasta with lemon creme sauce in two different restaurants in two different cities.  I have managed to duplicate it using bucatini from Italy, lemons, and heavy cream.  For two servings, cook about 1/2 pound of pasta.  While pasta is cooking, use a potato peeler to peel of strips of rind from one lemon.  Chop these strips into smaller pieces.  Cut the lemon into quarters.  When pasta is al dente, drain.  Turn down the heat and melt 1/4 stick butter in the pan, add drained pasta and lemon rind.  Take the lemon quarters and squeeze the juice into the pasta, add cream to taste–do not add too much. If you do not have cream–this time I had none in the refrigerator, do not worry.  It is yummy without it.

I was out of most salad ingredients so the above salad is chopped cilantro topped with feta cheese, various kinds of olives, and olive oil.

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While scrounging around in the freezer compartment, I found half pound of hamburger. I defrosted that and found a can of kidney beans in the pantry. I sautéed the lean hamburger in olive oil, then added the kidney beans.  I did not have any tomatoes or tomato sauce so I dumped in a little organic ketchup.  After stirring this together, I added berbere, a complex and a little hot spice from Ethiopia.  I served this on top of basmati rice from Pakistan–I buy this in ten pound bags at an international grocery.

The salad ingredients were a gift from a friend who had to harvest all his arugula and lettuce because of freezing weather. While both of us were outside, he handed me a bagful of these goodies.  I added some red cabbage I already had.  Finally, I grated asiago cheese all over the top of everything.  Cheese is a favorite food so I always have lots on hand.

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The other food I always keep in the freezer is fish, usually salmon and cod loins.  For this recipe, I defrosted the salmon and marinated it in teriyaki sauce and chopped up some onions and crystallized ginger.  I sautéed the onions in olive oil, then added the salmon and crystallized ginger.  When the salmon was almost done, I added some chopped, frozen,  poblano peppers (when I knew this stay-at-home order was likely, I bought a lot of poblano peppers and froze them) and arugula.  I served the finished dish over basmati rice.

Sometime in the next month or so–no definite date yet–my memoir/cookbook will come out, “You’re Gonna Eat That!? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends.” It is filled with recipes using ingredients and methods I have learned in travels and growing up with my mom. Many of the recipes are vegetarian and could be vegan with minor adjustments.

Covid19–2


The saga of staying sane, learning new skills, keeping occupied continues.  When I posted Covid19–1 a couple of days ago, the Panhandle of Texas had two cases, now we have ten, one of whom, at the age of 39, has died.  Another 30 something is in critical condition.  A case was announced this morning at Cannon Air Force Base just across the state line.

Yet, I can think of positives arriving from this:  people at home reading, spending more time with family, cooking, playing games, relearning old skills.

What have I done recently?  I teach high school English and Spanish.  Starting Monday, we will be teaching online using Google Classroom.  I have used it before but not for over a year.  Probably overkill, but yesterday I spent something like four hours taking a class on how to use it and relearning.  More to come today.  I have the English lessons hand written, all planned out.  Now I have to convert them to Google Classroom. Perhaps with Spanish I will change course totally and use Duo Lingo for many of the lessons.  Did that last year, but not this one.

Luckily, living out in country, having horses, having lots of gardening to accomplish makes this quite a bit easier.  Horses have to be fed and cared for, weeds require hoeing or mulching, dead wood must be cut out of woody plants, the tasks seem endless.  Since we are having a heatwave and temperatures are considerably above normal, I can hike, walk the long drive to the mailbox, eat lunch on the patio as I did yesterday.  The mustard weeds out by the barn suddenly grew more than two feet tall; it was driving me nuts–I cannot stand mustard weeds.  Yesterday afternoon, I got out the tractor and mowed.  They are tough.  When I fed the horses this morning, I saw a few had regenerated themselves and were sticking up again. I might have to do this over.

In the midst of this crisis, I have noticed far too many people around here seem not to take this seriously.  It appears, looking at the news, that this is a problem in many parts of the country.  Do we want to be like Italy?  I received a message from Martina there.  More and more dying and no end in site.  When I stepped out on the patio this morning to take the photo that appears below, the traffic on the main road was as loud as it is when nothing is happening, when people are not asked to stay home.  Is no one complying?  Why?

Meanwhile I will take advantage of all the positive things I can find in this–communicate with friends and family all over the world, garden, cook, learn more Google Classroom, relearn some pieces on the piano, water before the predicted wind for tomorrow occurs, brush the shedding hair off my horses, read, and perhaps join the online Zumba class in San Antonio at 4.  Life, even in times of crisis, is what you make of it.

Be safe!  Learn something new!  Laugh out loud!

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Covid19–1


Will many record their experiences during this difficult time?  I have no idea.  However, a thought came to me yesterday that I should–not sure why, just that this is something I should do.  Interesting because I am not really into “shoulds.”

Because Martina, the exchange student who lived with me this time last year, lives n Milano, I have realized the seriousness of this for weeks.  She and her family have been quarantined for so long that I have lost track of just how long.  A couple of days ago her mother had to go to the grocery.  It took her four hours to get through the line.  She has a grandfather over 90; they worry about him; he is scared.

Yet, here in the Panhandle of Texas, many fail to realize just how awful this can get.  Until yesterday, when they had no choice due to the statewide mandate, they went out to eat, exercised at the gym, congregated in mass at bars, you name it. Now schools are closed until April 3 when the situation will be re-evaluated.

In the last ten days the only places I have gone are the grocery, the doctor’s office–for an awful allergy attack.  Luckily, I live out in the country, have horses.  They have to be fed twice a day, their runs cleaned.  Today it is 70, the patio doors are open; I might even take a little hike later.  Just me and Athena, my black, standard poodle.

Luckily, it has been spring break so I have had plenty of time to think about what to do with myself as I keep myself quarantined–I am not even going to my daughter and grandson’s house–I really miss seeing them.  What do I do:  have read two books, almost finished crocheting a poncho, worked one warm day in the garden, graded all the papers I brought home and posted them, cared for the horses, cooked, communicated with friends worldwide–Covid19 is everywhere, watched some TV, mostly news and documentaries.  One thing I will do every day is act as if I am actually going somewhere, put on my makeup, get dressed, have a plan for the day.

This morning I went to the grocery.  What did I do when I returned home?  I left the bag outside to air–will disinfect it shortly, I took off my clothes in the laundry room and put them to wash.  Then I took a hot shower.  Why all this you ask?  The virus can stay in your clothes for 24 hours.  There were more people in the store in the morning than I expected.  Are they healthy, virus free?  No idea.  In the county where I live, there have been two cases already.  I do not want to risk it.  Although I am healthy, I am in one of the higher risk categories due to my age.  I do not mind dying, but who wants to die from this?  I don’t.

It is a nice spring day outside, the wild flowers are starting to bloom, and I need to relearn how to use Google Classroom because that is how I will be teaching English and Spanish until who knows exactly when.  I have used it before over a year ago.  I need to refresh myself.

Here are a few pictures of the wild flowers around my house.  After this, review Google Classroom and maybe play the piano for a bit.

Take care of yourselves.  Be safe. Be wise.

 

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Dinner Tonight


After several days away from home, I made a quick, tasty, vegetarian dinner this evening.

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Since I am leaving for California early Wednesday morning and did not want to buy more food, I used what I could find in the refrigerator:  Brussel sprouts, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, broccoli, onion.  I found a container of pepitas in the pantry and added some of those as well.

1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 small poblano pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

6 Brussel sprouts, sliced

Several broccoli florets

Olive oil

Basil essential oil or dried basil

Pepitas

Pour enough olive oil in skillet to cover bottom and heat on medium low.  Add onions and saute until carmelized.  Add Brussels sprouts.  When sprouts are about half done, add remaining ingredients and six drops of basil essential oil.  Saute until tender but still bright colored.  Toss in a handful of pepitas.  Serve over pasta or rice.

I served this with pasta and grated asiago cheese on top.  Although I frequently use parmesan for grating, I actually prefer asiago.  Without the cheese, this is vegan.

 

Adventure in Argentina


 

On March 3, I left for a two week trip to Argentina to visit my former exchange student and his family.  On March 4, Gaston met me at EZE airport in Buenos Aires.  I took the red eye from Houston to EZE, ten hours but an easy direct flight.  Little did we expect then that we would be spending a considerable amount of time in an eye clinic in Cordoba, the city where Gaston lives and attends engineering school.  We spent most of three days in Buenos Aires, then flew to Iguassu to see the famous falls. Several days later while waiting on a four hour late plane from there to Cordoba, suddenly I could not see clearly in my left eye; large pieces of black something floated all around and everything was blurry.

At nine the next morning we walked the five blocks from Gaston’s apartment to the most advanced eye clinic in Cordoba, a private clinic open on a Saturday morning. After experiencing multiple eyedrops in both eyes, seeing several doctors,  being subjected to all sorts of modern machines and tests, I found out I could not see because my left eye was quite inflamed with lots of fluid which made it nearly impossible for them to see what they needed to make a definite determination.  They gave me a prescription for the inflammation and told me to return on Monday morning and to be as quiet and calm as possible to facilitate healing.  That nixed the planned road trip Gaston’s parents and I planned to start that same Saturday.

Some blessings are unexpected.  While I would have seen more of Argentina than I did with a longer road trip–ultimately we took a shorter one, I would not have spent a relaxing, fun weekend with the whole family at La Finca, the family place in the country outside of Cordoba–photos later. I became acquainted with family members and friends, lived their typical weekend life, ate Argentinian food, all things I would have missed if we had been able to follow our original plans.

On Monday some of the inflammation had cleared so they could see that I did not have a retinal detachment–my main concern.  The doctors cleared the way for a shorter road trip and told me to come back Thursday morning.  At that time they were able to determine the exact problem and told me to make an appointment with a doctor here in the states because I would not be in Argentina when the final solution needed to occur.

Three trips to the clinic, seeing multiple doctors plus a retinal specialist twice all cost a total of 110 dollars.  Tomorrow morning my left eye receives a laser treatment and then I am told I will be fine; I visited the doctor here on Monday.  He told me exactly what they had told me.  I can only begin to imagine what my Monday trip to this doctor and the laser tomorrow will cost.  At times I wonder if it would not have been better to stay in Cordoba another week, pay the extra flight cost, and receive the laser treatment there.

Tomorrow photos of Buenos Aires and our adventures there will appear after I return from the retinal specialist’s office.

Note:  at a lecture last evening I saw a friend who is originally from Germany.  After she heard my healthcare adventure in Argentina, she informed me that she has to use very expensive eye drops.  They are so much cheaper in Europe that she and her husband, she is in her 80s and her husband 92, fly to Europe regularly to get the drops.  Even with the cost of these flights, they save several thousand dollars each time.

Home-made Essential Oil Body Butter


I use essential oils for many things and even cook with them especially cumin, lemon, rosemary, fennel, etc.  I tried so many lotions and none really worked for the dry climate in which I live.  This year remains exceptionally dry–no measurable moisture in over 100 days.  This causes dry skin itching and discomfort.  Therefore, creating my own body butter seemed a good solution.

1/3 cup oil–I use olive oil

5.5 oz. jar of organic shea butter

20 drops frankincense essential oil

20 drops myrrh

20 drops geranium

10 drops jasmine

These ingredients can be adjusted to suit your preferences or whatever essential oils you might have on hand.  I always use frankincense and myrrh.  The last time I made this I did not use geranium and jasmine; I used neroli and sandalwood.  Find out what works for you.  If the jar of shea butter is larger, you can adjust the rest of the ingredients to larger amounts as well.

Warm shea butter in a microwave but do not melt.  Place in a bowl.  Add oil and essential oils and whip until smooth and thoroughly mixed.  I use an electric mixer just as I would for creaming butter and sugar for a cake.  Sometimes in colder weather the shea butter can become somewhat crystallized.  The crystals will melt in the warmth of your hands.

Your skin will love you.

 

 

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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Learn Something New


After grading 45 essays this weekend, it remains a wonder that I learned anything new.  I did, sadly, once again find a few plagiarizers, but I also read some good essays on which students had obviously spent time.

As a person extremely interested environmental issues, I belong to several environmental organizations and read a lot about related issues.  Here are some of the things I have learned either recently or in the last few days:

-June and July were the warmest June and July on record and the 14th and 15th straight months in which such records have been set.

-Thawing permafrost near the Alaskan Highway has caused it to sink in places.

-In Siberia the same thawing has caused the release of deadly bacteria–anthrax to be specific.

-This past summer, toxic algae affected waterways in states as diverse as California and Utah.  It does not smell all that wonderful either.

-In Alaska so many wolves have been killed that naturalists can no longer research them in their natural state.

-The Republican Platform claims coal is a clean source of energy.

-Hot summers have caused Douglas fir trees to quit growing.

 

 

 

Sleep, Fitbit, and Essential Oils


Several months ago I won a Fitbit at work.  At that time my main concern, heath question, was this:  Am I getting enough exercise?  Quite quickly I realized I was concerned about the wrong health issue.  I apparently get more exercise on a normal day than I ever imagined, just doing what I do:  yoga in the morning, walking around the building at work, feeding my horse, chores.  Much to my horror, however, I discovered that I was getting way less deep sleep than recommended by every article I had seen.  It became such a concern that I was getting less, not more sleep.  I decided to investigate.  If you want to track the stages of sleep, forget Fitbit.  You may be able to use it as some sort of general guide but nothing definitive.  To actually know how many hours and minutes of various stages you sleep, you must go to experts and they must measure your brainwaves.  Predictably, once I learned that, guess what, I immediately slept better.

If you have sleep issues or just want to go to sleep in a fabulous smelling atmosphere, try essential oils.  You can go online and find a list from various “experts” outlining the top ten for relaxation and better sleep.  These include lavender, myrrh, Roman chamomile, cedar wood, sandalwood, neroli–the list varies slightly depending on the site.  Plus, everyone differs so experiment to see what works for you.  Here is what I found works for me:  diffuse lavender and melaleuca in a diffuser next to your bed (melaleuca or tea tree does nothing for sleep but is good for so many other things;  I also use doTerra breathe for allergies), rub several drops of cedar wood on both feet, rub several drops sandalwood on your wrists.  This combination has improved my sleep greatly.  I read yesterday that mixing lavender with Roman chamomile is effective, but I have not tried that yet.

I would be interested in hearing from others what works for them.  Happy Dreams!!