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.

 

Pasta with Sardines, Walnuts, and Figs


pasta of your choice–I use conchiglie

5 dried mission figs, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

olive oil

1/2 cup broken walnuts–I used black walnuts tonight

1 can sardines in olive oil

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

Saute garlic and walnuts in just enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan until garlic is lightly browned.  Add figs and sardines.  Do not drain olive oil from the sardines. Add balsamic vinegar.  Stir and heat through.  Add to drained pasta.  Stir to combine.  Serve with grated pecorino cheese and a simple salad.  This recipe serves 2-3.

 

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Note:  Why sardines?  There are good reasons to add sardines to your food choices.  First, they are near the bottom of the food chain and have little to no chemical residue as a consequence, e.g. no mercury. Second, small amounts have lots of protein and omega oils.  One little can has 22 grams of protein.  1/2 cup walnuts has 12 grams of protein.  I use pasta from an ancient Italian monastery.

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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lazy Day and Dinner


Cool and cloudy reigned today.  Now tornado warnings west of here glide across the TV screen I’ve turned on mute.  About now, the severe thunderstorms are supposed to start.  A repeat of yesterday when I took these photos from my patio.

 

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Fed Rosie earlier to beat the predicted storm, swept the dirt and little rocks from yesterday’s storm off the drive, and strolled around to get some exercise.  After several hectic days of no cooking, decided to cook something vegetarian.

1 medium sized purple onion coarsely chopped

6 medium brussels sprouts cut in half

1/2 large red bell pepper coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon chana masala (East Indian spice)

1 teaspoon berbere (Ethiopian spice)

Olive oil

Pour enough olive oil in 8-10 inch skillet to cover the bottom.  Saute the onions in the oil until translucent.  Add the brussels sprouts and spices.  Stir and cook until the brussels sprouts are cooked but still crisp.  Add the red pepper and sauté.  Do not over cook.  Serve over Jasmine rice.

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Not quite ready but almost.

 

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Berbere on left sent from Ethiopia by my friend’s mother.

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Jasmine rice ready to serve.  Here is how I cook the rice:

Pour enough olive oil in the bottom of the saucepan to barely cover it.  Add 1 heaping tsp. finely chopped garlic and briefly sauté.  Add one cup rice (here I used white but sometimes I mix red, black and white evenly) and sauté a little bit more.  Add two cups water and 1 tsp. vegetarian bouillon (I prefer Better Than Bouillon).  Stir and cover with several paper towels or one thick tea towel.  Place lid on top and turn down to low.  Cook 1/2 hour if using only white rice.  Other rice requires double the time.

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The finished product ready to eat.

 

Now I am going back to reading while awaiting the lightning and thunder.  About 1/3 way through a light but entertaining read:  “Coyote Cowgirl” by Kim Antieau.

 

Trivia


This marks week one of my commitment to write for at least twenty minutes every day.  A good way to “force” myself to do this is to blog daily.  In this past week I have heard from new people and received more comments than usual.  I had something already written out and then decided against posting it.  Because I am at least one hour behind on what I planned to do when I arrived home from work, this blog may be a bunch of trivia, depending on what you consider trivia.

I had not planned on cleaning my barn in preparation for fifty 100 pound bales of hay, but when they told me they would deliver Wednesday instead of Friday, it changed this evening’s plans dramatically.  I had to move the remaining hay from last November’s delivery to a different spot because I do not want “old” and “new” hay mixed.  100 pound bales do not weigh all that much less than I do so moving them is not all that easy.  Once moved, I sweep the loose hay up, lay down pallets, and sweep up everything.  I do not like hay to lay directly on the cement floor of the barn.  All that took over an hour.  Then it dawned on me that I should probably eat something.  Time mandated simplicity so I made a salad. Suddenly it reminded me of salads Gaston used to make.  Gaston lived with me for six months–a handsome exchange student from Argentina, who rode horses, played the piano while I cooked dinner, and then when I gave the word, made beautiful salads, kaleidoscopes of color, orange, red, green, yellow, purple.  Tonight, in a rush, I finally managed to make a salad as beautiful as Gaston’s.  In addition to his other assets, Gaston’s name is a song for the ears and the heart:  Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo.  I love his name so much that it is the title of one of the poems in my new book of poetry, “On the Rim of Wonder”.  His counselor at school here loved it so much that she insisted on practicing it over and over and over to get it right when she announced it at graduation.

Salad eaten, once this post is complete, I must finish the baby blanket I promised today to deliver tomorrow.  More than eight years ago, I taught freshmen English.  One of my students, who has since gone to college, graduated, and now works for the school district where I work will soon be a father.  His wife, through her work as a neonatal ICU nurse, became a good friend of my daughter’s.  Their baby is due in a week or so.  I am running out of time.  I MUST finish this tonight.  Since I have to get up at 5:30 to get to work on time–I work 25 miles from where I live–it would seem that since it is now 7:49, I had better quit writing this and get to work.  Tomorrow I promise more exciting material.

The Story Circle Network Conference and My Commitment: This Is What I Know


ad_scnconfWhen I first started blogging more than two years ago, I committed to blogging once a week.  That I managed for a year or so and then since that time, it became more sporadic.  Full time job, writing poems for my book, visitors, mini vacations, all sorts of stuff got in the way.  Really, I let it lapse, but refused to give up.  Last Thursday, I drove to Austin with my daughter and grandson for the biannual Story Circle Network Conference.  The plan:  while I conferred, they played.  The Story Circle Network is an organization for women which encourages women to write, to tell their stories, to share these stories, and when possible and desired, publish those stories in various forms from memoir to poetry.  This was my second time to attend and my first time to attend as a new board member.  A former mentor/teacher of mine, Len Leatherwood, facilitated  a workshop entitled “Transforming Your Writing Life in Just 20 Minutes a Day”, the last workshop I attended.  She blogs everyday.  I follow her blog.  No matter what, she sits down and writes 20 minutes minimum a day separate from the writing she does with her students–she teaches writing privately in southern CA.  One of her recent blogs has been accepted for publication–a piece of flash fiction.  She nearly begged us to commit to this kind of writing practice.  Previously, I had refused, flat out refused, partly thinking that if I tried it, more than half the resulting writing would be crap.  Nevertheless, she and her workshop convinced me that at least for one month I must try this.  Now all of you following my blog will be inundated with daily blog posts.  I am filled with curiosity as to how people will respond.  Maybe it will be like my Facebook posts–yes, I am an almost addict–the posts I consider most meaningful for the universe at large are the ones people ignore and the ones I consider personal trivia receive the most response.  Maybe I will track what appeals to my readers.  Some I won’t know because with blogging I share to Facebook and to a couple of professional networks, I have no clue who read what.  Once I received an email regarding a poem I posted. Although it never showed up as a like, the lady actually told me she read my poem in church!  Who would have guessed. I forgot to time myself so have no idea how long I have been here writing.

Here I am writing about why I am writing.  On the stove I smell Jasmine rice cooking.  I love Jasmine rice from Thailand.  I am a very picky rice eater and prefer to mix equally white Jasmine rice with black and red.  For one thing, it looks lovely when done–a sort of dark reddish purple.  Since I sautéd chopped garlic in olive oil, then added the rice and sautéd for about 15 more seconds, then added water and some broth just before I started writing this, the smell of Jasmine rice fills the house.  I piled a bunch of paper towels on the top before I put on the lid or you can use some cloth towel–a habit I picked up from my Iranian ex-husband.  Iranians really know how to cook rice.  I am also drinking a glass of Cupcake Shiraz which I bought on the way home from work.  And yes, Shiraz is also the name of a city in Iran where they actually grow grapes or at least used to. But of course, drinking wine is no longer acceptable in Iran or at least not publicly.  Good Muslims do not drink at all.

I did write something worthwhile while in this workshop and will share–doing this last because it won’t count as my daily writing since I wrote it yesterday.

 

This Is What I Know

 

My parents loved me, really loved me.

My mom was proud of my accomplishments.

Dad gave me a love of books, intellectual curiosity, and a

sense of wonder.

Mom gave me a love of music, beauty, and cooking.

Happiness is a choice.

I do not believe in luck.  You make your own luck.

Life is an exciting adventure.

Horses give me joy.

Singing gives me joy.

Dancing gives me joy even if I rarely have the opportunity.

Family relationships can be distressingly complicated.

I am proud of my children and their accomplishments.

Religion matters much less to me than 99 per cent of the people I know.

Ethnic and religious prejudice distress me and I do not

understand those kinds of attitudes.

I am a good writer.

I want to make a real difference in the world.

I am happy 99 percent of the time.

Blessings flood my life.

My close friends and children and grandson are more

important to me than they know.

Writing has enriched my life.

I have few regrets:

One I have rectified;

the other I cannot–

my dad is dead.

Curried Vegetables with Quinoa


This recipe originated out of my desire to learn to like quinoa.  Except for some quinoa cakes at a local restaurant, I had never eaten quinoa that I thought delicious.  Actually, I found it a dreadfully boring food.  Nevertheless, I became determined to find a way to like it.  Why?  Nutrition.  It is good for you.  So let’s start with how I learned to cook quinoa so it is actually tasty.

Quinoa

Olive oil

1 cup quinoa

1 3/4 cups water

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic–I am lazy about garlic and buy it by the giant jarful, already chopped

1 heaping teaspoon vegetable or chicken base–I use Better Than Bouillon

Rinse quinoa thoroughly–it requires an extremely fine strainer.  Pour enough olive oil in a medium sauce pan to cover the bottom.  Place the chopped garlic in the olive oil and sauté a minute or so at medium high heat. Add the quinoa, stir quickly to mix with the garlic and oil mixture.  Add the water and base.  Stir thoroughly to combine the base with the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to low.  Cook approximate 20 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid and is fluffy.  Quinoa reheats well in a microwave so you can make extra for meals later.

Curried Vegetables

1/2 medium purple onion, chopped

1 large poblano pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

3-4 portabella mushrooms, sliced

1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 small beet, sliced and cut into smaller pieces

1/2 cup coarsely chopped butternut squash

Olive oil

1/2 tsp. curry powder–I used Malaysian Seven Seas Curry by Spice Appeal

1/2 tsp. masala–I used Chana Masala by Spice Appeal

Use whatever curry you prefer.  This curry is a mite hot.

Saute the onion, mushrooms, squash, and beets in olive oil until slightly tender.  Add spices and peppers and sauté until tender but still slightly crisp.  Serve over the quinoa or rice.

Regarding olive oil:  I use it to make nearly every kind of food from all over the world.  I use a lot because I really like it.  I have even made pie crust out of olive oil.  It is one of those few oils you can use and know it is good for you.

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Holiday Break Fun and Recipes


Because of my job, I am on the last day of a two week holiday break.  What a productive and fun time it has been.  Christmas Eve, my friends, my daughter, and my grandson came over.  For the first time ever, I made ham in a big Crock Pot and it melted in our mouths.  They requested I make my signature Refried Black Bean Cassserole and roasted vegetables so I did.  Other food requests included chocolate spiders for dessert–they are cookies.

Ham in the Crock Pot

Cover the bottom of the slow cooker with a 1/2 inch thick layer of brown or turbinado sugar mixed with 2-3 T tapioca. Place ham on top of the sugar.  Cover the top of the ham with preserves of your choice.  I used homemade pineapple/apricot preserves I had made several years previously.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Note:  I used spiral sliced ham precooked.  You do not need to add any liquid, it will make its own.  If you wish, once some liquid has accumulated, you can periodically baste the ham.

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Christmas Eve dinner, eating and relaxing at the dinner table.

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At the bar before dinner while I am still cooking.

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Lingering and relaxing around the dinner table.

These same friends came over about 1 1/2 weeks later.  The special request that time was for another round of Refried Black Bean Casserole.   This is one of those recipes I invented but never measure anything, just make to taste.  This last time I decided to work at paying attention to what I used so I could share.  It may or may not be exactly what I do every time, but it is close.

Refried Black Bean Casserole

2 cans black beans drained

Enough olive oil to cover bottom of large skillet

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

3-4 Tablespoons organic ketchup

3 Tablespoons cumin–add or subtract to suit you taste

Tortillas

Grated white cheese–I usually use monterey jack

Heat oil in skillet and add onions.  Cook until translucent.  Add black beans, one can at a time.  Take a regular table fork and mash beans repeatedly until most of the beans are mashed–I like to leave some not totally mashed to add a bit of texture.  This is easier to do if you only add one can at a time.  Thoroughly mix beans and onions.  Add the cumin and ketchup and stir thoroughly and keep mixing until the mixture it thick and heated through.  Use a round slow cooker or casserole dish.  Oil bottom of dish and place one tortilla in bottom.  Place enough of the black bean mixture on top to cover the tortilla, then sprinkle the grated white cheese on top.  Repeat layers, ending with grated cheese.  You may use any kind of tortilla.  However, I prefer whole wheat flour, but anything works.  Heat through until cheese is melted.  You may also make the bean mixture a day in advance and refrigerate.  If you do this, it will take longer to heat the casserole.

In between cooking adventures, one of my best friends and I decided to take a quick trip to Albuquerque, NM.  We visited our favorites places in Old Town, ate here and there when we felt like it, and stayed someplace new to both of us, Los Poblanos.  We loved this place.  It is located a bit north of downtown and Old Town, off of Rio Grande Blvd. by the river,  and includes 25 acres of lavender fields, a barn, a solar powered swimming pool–not open in the winter, a restaurant, a farm store, an herb garden, paths for strolling here and there, and an impressive tree lined entry drive.

SAM_1421Looking down the entry drive of Los Poblanos.

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The lavender field.  They offer many lavender products in the Farm Store as well as balsamic vinegar, cookbooks, and various other items related to what they grow and organic farming and cooking.

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A view of the main house and restaurant area.

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A view near one of the many walking paths.

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The fireplace in our room.

Although I have been to Old Town in Albuquerque many, many times, never before did I go inside the beautiful old church on the square.  They allow photography so I took a photo.  It was all decorated for Christmas with a nearly life sized nativity scene.

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Tomorrow I go back to work.  With friends coming over for Christmas Eve, a trip to the local museum with my friend Roberto Borja, his family coming over for dinner again, the trip to Albuquerque with my friend Zuriash, hanging out with my daughter and grandson, it turned out to be one of the best holiday breaks ever.  Here’s to an equally wonderful 2014.

Fun, Food, and Community with Vegetarian Enchiladas


A couple of weeks ago, one of the blogs I follow, getsetandgo, created a post about “community” with photos of an Indian festival where all sorts of people come together to celebrate–a community.  She requested others post photos of their community events.  After reading her blog post,  I decided to tell about my attempt to start a monthly “community” :

Several months ago, I reached way out of my comfort zone and started a monthly potluck.  When and where I grew up, inviting people over for a potluck was socially unacceptable.  If you invited people over, you cooked everything yourself.  If people wanted to bring something, insisted, well, ok, but otherwise, no, no, no.  Because of work, writing, and singing, I invited a number of friends over only every few months.  In September, I decided it would be far nicer to see people  more often and invited some friends over for potluck.  They asked if we could do this regularly so a monthly ritual began.  More and more friends keep asking to join.  It remains a type of hit and miss thing.  Sometimes 16 people show up, sometimes only five.  My most recent event was a week ago.  Because some of these friends are vegetarian, I invented a recipe, vegetarian enchiladas, just for them.  I also made pork roast and chicken enchiladas.  The vegetarian enchiladas disappeared quickly and everyone wanted the recipe.

Vegetarian Enchiladas

Six tortillas (I used whole wheat)

1/2 purple onion, chopped finely

1 large poblano pepper, chopped finely

1/2 medium sized red bell pepper chopped finely

1 package cream cheese

Olive oil

1 tsp Mexican spice mix

1/2 tsp chipotle pepper, ground (I used Spice Appeal-adjust to hotness desired)

Shredded monterey jack cheese

Red enchilada sauce–I used canned because my cooktop is awaiting repair

Saute onions and pepper in just enough olive oil so they will not stick or become too dry.  Mix in cream cheese and spices until thoroughly blended.  Fill the tortillas, roll up, and place in an 8 inch casserole dish.  Cover with a light layer of enchilada sauce.  Sprinkle enough shredded cheese on top to cover.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

In the spirit of the getsetandgo blog, I took photos of my friends as we talked and ate.  The enchiladas were all gone before it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a photo.

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Additionally, I regretted not taking a photo of three of my women friends with long hair.  Another friend who has spectacular, very dark grey, long hair and just turned 70 recently told me a story about how a mutual acquaintance came up to her and told her no woman over 60 should have long hair.  It annoyed me so much in an odd sort of way that I now wear my hair longer than usual.