Day Trip to Wineries and a Lebanese Restaurant Near Lubbock, Texas


Yesterday,  Martina, my exchange student from Italy, and I drove to Lubbock so I could say goodbye to Venty, the young woman from Indonesia, whom I co-sponsored at Texas Tech University in conjunction with the teachers’ sorority Alpha Delta Kappa.  She received her Masters in Applied Linguistics recently.  She will return to her home in what used to be called the Spice Islands later in June.

First, we decided to try something new for lunch.  Neither had eaten much food from the Eastern Mediterranean area so we went to Manara.  For appetizers we ordered falafel, dolma, and baba ganoush, none of which they had eaten before.  After enjoying these appetizers, two of us ordered the kafta kabob dinner and one ordered the chicken.  Although the salad was rather ordinary, the saffron rice was heavenly.  The kabobs had somewhat different spices than the kabobs I have previously eaten but were fine.  They were served with two sauces:  garlic yogurt and another which was quite spicy.  We enjoyed both. If you want to try something different while in Lubbock, I recommend this restaurant.  I would go there just to eat the saffron rice.

Second, once I discovered that Venty did not know there are vineyards and wineries near Lubbock, we decided to take a run over to Caprock and Llano Estacado Wineries.  Llano has recently opened an expansive new tasting room.  Caprock is still called Caprock Winery, but the wine produced there is called English Newsom Cellars.  The following photos were taken at Caprock and Venty’s house.

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Cod Loin with Fennel and Lemon


This recipe, one of my favorites, will appear in my soon to be released cookbook full of family and life stories about food, family, and friends.  I made this tonight around eight.  As usual, I made enough for leftovers for another meal. Makes it easier if you work or are really busy.

Two small cod loins or one large cut in half

3 gloves garlic, chopped

1 poblano pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

Fennel essential oil

Lemon essential oil

Vegetables of your choosing cut into bite sized pieces

1 small handful of pepitas

Olive oil

I vary this by using different vegetables, e.g. spinach, Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, beets, carrots.  Tonight I used Brussel sprouts.

Saute garlic in olive oil until golden.  If you use beets or carrots, sauce them with the garlic until nearly tender.  If you use spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, add them last.

Add the cod loins to garlic mixture and sprinkle each one with several drops of lemon and fennel essential oil.  If you do not use essential oil, sprinkle with ground fennel and add deseeded lemons.  If using Brussel sprouts, cut them in slices and add at the same time as the cod.  When the cod is half cooked, add the poblano peppers and cook only until cod is done and the peppers are cooked but still bright green.  If using spinach, etc., add them just before cod and peppers are done and stir until wilted.  Sprinkle pepitas over the rice and vegetables.  Serve over pasta or rice.

Note:  I have also used fresh fennel for this recipe.  If you decide to do this, saute it along with the garlic.

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Almost done.

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Served over Basmati rice.  Salad is red bell peppers, red cabbage, romaine lettuce, radishes, and scallions with roasted sesame seed oil for dressing.

Dinner Parties and Commitments


When I committed to writing daily and then blogging, it never occurred to me that this might entail writing in the middle of the night after hosting a dinner party and then cleaning up.  Some people just go to bed and clean up in the morning.  Yuck!!!  Who wants to wake up to a big mess with bits of food solidified to plates and remnants of red wine looking like dried blood in the bottom of wine glasses.  No me.  So here I am fulfilling my commitment to write daily.

Usually, I invite a lot of people over and work like crazy or give up and do potluck. This time I decided on something simple for six friends (three couples).  One friend is a vegetarian so everyone ate vegetarian.  The menu included homemade refried black bean casserole–the favorite of two of these friends.  The recipe for this dish is on a previous blog post.  In honor of my former exchange student son, Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo, I made one of my best salads ever.  When he lived with me, he made salad almost every night, spectacular, colorful salads.  I made a mixture of Jasmine and several other kinds of rice and the following casserole which has no name so guess I will need to invent one.

Vegetarian Casserole with Soyrizo

Pour enough olive oil into the bottom of a heavy casserole dish to cover it.  Thinly slice purple potatoes (I think they are called blue, but they look purple to me), and cover the bottom with a layer of these.  Cover the potatoes with a layer of chopped onions, then a layer of coarsely chopped poblano peppers–I added a few halved and seeded jalapeños.  The next layer is soyrizo crumbled to completely cover the previous layers.  If you are not vegetarian, use chorizo.  Repeat the previous layers.  Combine 3 T of flour and 1 cup milk.  Pour over the top of the casserole.  Bake until the potatoes are done.  You can make all this several hours in advance and pour the milk mixture over it just before it goes in the oven.  I actually used the grill outside on low to bake it this time–warm day and did not want to heat up the house.  We finished off dinner with chocolate chip mint ice cream with Chambord poured over the top.  We also enjoyed a while dessert wine called Electra.

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Salad a la Gaston

 

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Good friends.

 

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Pretty ladies

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.

On a cold winter evening


This post displays my occasional propensity for pensiveness and reflection.  The highest temperature today was 8 degrees.  The weather forecaster predicted a low of zero, very cold for here with more snow.  In  a few months, it is likely we will hit 100.  Who would want to live in such a place?  Yet people do, worldwide.  Some in places much colder and hotter.  How and why did they all get to wherever they are?  Millennia ago we all migrated from Africa and look at us now.  We think we are smarter, better, but are we?  Perhaps technologically, but psychologically??  War rages over differences in ethnicity and religion.  Clashes for thousands of years change little, just the nature of the weapons, the use of advanced technology.  The intent remains the same.

Sunday, I finished a book by the Turkish writer, Elif Shafak.  I have read all her books translated into English.  This, her latest, Honor, details the effects of the belief in honor of above all else.  To paraphrase one of the main characters, a poor man:  rich men possess money, fancy cars, lavish houses, travel, but poor men have nothing but their honor.  Acting on this belief leaves one family devastated.  For those who desire to learn about other cultures and to understand the behavior of the individuals in them, I highly recommend this novel.

Earlier, I donned two pairs of gloves and socks, four layers of clothes, and ventured out.  If you own horses, you have to feed them regardless of the weather.  Unlike me, my dog, Isabella, fares well in this weather.  Her part wolf blood gives her an undercoat perfect for winter extremes.  Inside, I viewed my larder–what to cook on a frigid winter night?  A simple chicken curry with onions, brussels spouts, jalapeño peppers, and chicken with Jasmine rice, red, white, and black.  And a glass of red wine, cabernet franc, from a local winery, the only wine I have ever seen from only this one grape.  It is usually added to blends.  Definitely haram–still thinking about that book.

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As the temperature drops, building a fire in the wood stove seems like a reasonable endeavor.  I love fires but hate to build them.  Nevertheless, sitting in front of the fire reading brings a silent joy, a paradise.  I feel at peace:  chores done, warm house on a frigid winter night, satisfying dinner homemade, and the knowledge that my book of poetry lays in its final stages with the editors and photoshoppers who will make it publication ready.  I feel extremely grateful, looking forward to dazzling dreams on the rim of wonder.

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Red Snapper with Chorizo and Mixed Rice


Last Sunday evening I invited three friends over for dinner.  They come to my house all the time so I decided to try something different.  Red snapper was on sale at the market so I bought one big fillet and one smaller one, thinking they would fit perfectly in the heavy cast iron fish pan I have.  I use this particular cast iron pot because I can put it on the grill in the summer and avoid  heat in the house.  In my refrigerator I also found some soyrizo–chorizo made from soy instead of pork.  Since one of the friends is Muslim, I make sure never to feed him pork–he does not want me to go to hell, he says.  Since the fish and the chorizo made for rather sizable servings, I did not expect all of it to totally disappear.  Wrong.  They ate all of it and asked for the recipe.

Approximately 1 1/2 pounds red snapper or similar firm fleshed fish

Enough soyrizo (or chorizo) to cover the fish in a thin layer sprinkled over the fish

1 onion finely chopped

1 large poblano pepper, seeded and chopped

Olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 small can tomato sauce

Pour enough olive oil into a heavy pan to cover the bottom

Lay the fish in the bottom of the pan and cover with chorizo

Saute the onions and poblano pepper in olive oil until onions are translucent

Spread the onion/pepper mixture over the top of the chorizo

Stir the cinnamon into the tomato sauce

Pour the cinnamon/tomato sauce mixture over the top

Place a lid on pan and bake on the grill at medium heat.

It takes the cast iron a long time to heat up so once it was heated, I baked the dish for approximately 20 minutes or until the fish was done and everything was bubbling.

I served this with my favorite rice:  1/3 Jasmine red rice, 1/3 Jasmine white rice, combined with 1/3 black rice.  I used one half cup each, sauteed with 1 TBS. finely chopped garlic in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large sauce pan.  Saute until the rice appears to be sticking slightly, then pour water double the total amount of rice.  Stir in 1 tsp. bouillon, cover with six paper towels and then the lid, turn down to low, and cook approximately one hour.  The red and black rice take at least twice as long to cook as white rice.

This easily serves four.  I served it with a salad:  romaine, red cabbage, dried cherries, yellow pepper, diced radishes, and feta cheese.  Bon appetit!!

Vegetables with Coriander, Cumin, and Tumeric


SAM_1010Vegetables are my favorite food.  Interspersed with the poems and essays I publish, I try to post unique recipes.  My recipes come from years of interaction and relationships with people from all over the world, husbands, exchange students who enhance my extended family, travels to Asia and Latin America, my international friends near where I live.  Recently, after a dinner party, I had left over vegetables that needed cooking so one evening home from work, I created this recipe.  It is vegan by accident not intention.  One could add fish, chicken, turkey leftovers (see recent post for turkey curry), shrimp…you get the idea.  The options are endless.  I used the vegetables I needed to use up, but take a look in your refrigerator and try what you have on hand.  Experiment.

1 medium sized beet, peeled and cut into half coins

1 poblano pepper seeded and chopped

1/2 purple onion, chopped

Several pieces of Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped, leaves cut into large, bite sized pieces

Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped–amount to your own taste

Olive oil

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground

1/2 teaspoon cumin–or extra to taste

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Saute the beets, chopped Swiss chard stems, garlic, and onions in olive oil until beets are cooked through.  Add spices and poblano pepper.  When  the pepper is nearly done, add the Swiss chard leaves and cook only until wilted.

Serve over rice.  I used equal amounts of black, red, and Jasmine rice.

How to cook rice:

1/3 cup black rice

1/3 cup red rice

1/3 cup brown or Jasmine rice–your preference

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon concentrated broth/bouillon–I use Better Than Bouillon brand which is available Vegetarian as well as Chicken, etc.

Pour enough olive oil into a saucepan to cover the bottom.  Add the rice and chopped garlic.  Saute at high heat until rice starts to stick, stirring constantly.  Add two cups water and the bouillon.  Stir rapidly until bouillon dissolves.  Turn down heat to low, cover the top of the saucepan with four paper towels or a tea towel folded to make several layers.  Put sauce pan lid on the top and cook for approximately one hour.  Red, brown, and black rice take twice as long to cook as white rice.  Do  not peek while rice is cooking.  Lifting the lid to check causes the rice to be mushy.

Turkey Curry


The holidays left me with all this left over turkey, cleaned off the bones, and frozen.  Then I kept wondering what to do with it besides the old standbys.  Recently, a longtime friend from Ohio posted a recipe for curry on Facebook.  Suddenly, it hit me:  modify this recipe and use some of this left over turkey.  I made it tonight for dinner and in all the rushing around after work, failed to take a photo. I am posting it anyway.

Coat the bottom of a skillet with oil

Add 1/2 onion, chopped

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1 cup peeled and diced butternut squash.

Saute until the onions are translucent.

Add approximately ten cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 large pepper chopped–to increase the heat, use a hotter type of pepper

Add 1 Tablespoon curry powder (I have about three to four types of curry; use the one you like)

1-2 teaspoons ground tumeric

1-2 teaspoons ground ginger, to taste

Stir in 1/2 cup cream to make a sauce.

Finally, add the left over turkey cut into bite sized pieces.

Heat through and serve over rice.

My friend’s recipe called for sour cream instead of heavy cream.  I did not have sour cream so used regular cream instead.  Her recipe used eggplant.  I did not have any so used the squash.

The combination of the squash and tomatoes and the red pepper I used made a very colorful, pretty dish.  My dog was so excited by the smell of the turkey that she got a few bites of it as I cooked.

It was a success all around.  Enjoy!!

Vegetarian Chorizo with Potatoes and Black Beans


    This is a quick, simple recipe.  I served it with a very basic green salad of red lettuce, orange and red bell peppers, and a goat feta cheese.  Rice would make a nice addition as would fried ripe plantains.

6 small (petite) potatoes, diced

6 oz. (1 large link) soy chorizo (I used Soyrizo which is also vegan)

1/2 medium red onion, chopped

1 can black beans

Olive oil

Saute the onion and potatoes in the olive oil until tender.  Remove the chorizo from the package and crumble into the skillet with the onion and potatoes.  Stir into the onion and potato mixture.  Rinse the canned black beans and drain.  Add to the mixture and stir.  When black beans are heated, serve.

The portions in this recipe are easy to multiply to serve more people.