Dinner Tonight


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

IMG_3969

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.

 

A Litany of Thanks


I heard this poem by Max Coots recited on Sunday and saved it to share today.

 

Let us give thanks:

 

For generous friends…with hearts…and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, plain as potatoes and as good for you;

For funny friends, who are a silly as Brussel spouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you throughout the winter;

For old friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;

And, finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life hereafter.

For all these we give thanks.

 

IMG_2714

 

 

 

 

September 1, on the Rim of Wonder


Sunrise

Dappled clouds

Owl hooting

Wren climbing

IMG_3489

IMG_3486

IMG_3487

Later, I graded papers and watched part of John McCain’s funeral, some of which almost brought me to tears.  I often disagreed with him but never did I question his passionate love of country, his courage, his willingness to buck the norm, to defy convention when he thought it was the right thing to do.  I think he and I shared certain values on which this country is based even if the country as a whole rarely lives up to them.  These include the conviction that all people are equal, that everyone deserves justice, and each person carries the right to find his or her own share of happiness without judgment and condemnation from others who may think differently.

Later, while working on the latest book I am writing, I found handwritten recipes written by my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Nellie Narcissus Duke (Kaiser),whose father came here from Switzerland as a child.  One, for dumplings, remains readable.  The other written in pencil on the front and back of thin paper is fragile.  It is for Strawberry Shortcake.  If Grandmother Duke ever made dumplings, I do not remember it.  Mother did–chicken and dumplings.  I wonder if she used this recipe.  I do remember conversations about the shortcake because Dad did not like strawberry shortcake even though he liked strawberries.  I took photos of these two recipes written decades ago in my grandmother’s handwriting.

IMG_3492IMG_3493

IMG_3494

 

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.

 

IMG_3349

 

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.

 

IMG_1430

 

 

SAM_1568

Chocolate and Personality


Did you know you can be defined by the type and shape of chocolate you eat?  New Mexico State University researchers study how ethnicity, fashion, economic status, and religious practices relate to food. Basically, what you eat symbolizes who you are.

A New Zealand therapist carries this further in his book, “Chocolate Therapy:  Dare to Discover Your Inner Center”. Langham, the therapist, provided a variety of chocolate choices to his patients, began noticing patterns in the shapes and types of chocolates different patients chose.  The book goes so far as to suggest a game you can play with friends when they visit your house.  Provide a wide selection of chocolates, watch them pick one, and then use the book to read what it says about them.  His claim is that they will say, “This is so me.”

To give a couple of examples:

-A lover of milk chocolate likes to live in the past emotionally, loves the sweet smooth feeling this type of chocolate provides, remembering his or her childhood.

-A lover of dark chocolate looks forward, thinks toward the future.

-A lover of bitter chocolate prefers the fine things in life, knows what he or she talks about, specializes.

The book also contains an analysis of shape choices and how the shape you choose relates to your inner self.

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.

 

 

My Mom’s Pumpkin Bread


A couple of days ago, after writing what I think will be my next to last Ethiopian Adventure blog post, I decided to get in the holiday spirit and bake.  For years, each year about this time, I make the pumpkin bread recipe written in my mom’s (Barbara Lewis Duke Lightle) hand writing, a recipe she gave me decades ago.  The recipe card looks a bit worn, but the results are as yummy as ever. Sift together 3 cups flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. cloves, and 1/2 tsp allspice.  In  a large electric mixer bowl combine 1 cup cooking oil, 3 cups sugar (this is the original she used; however, I only use 2 1/3 cups sugar), and 3 eggs.  Beat well.  Add one small can pumpkin, 1 tsp. baking soda,  and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Mix well.  Finally, slowly add the flour mixture.  Pour into three well greased and floured coffee cans–each 1/2 full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 min. to one hour.  Her original recipe calls for adding 2/3 cup walnuts or pecans.  I want to have three kinds of bread so I pour 1/3 into the first can with nothing added, then I add nuts to the rest and pour 1/2 of that into the second can.  Finally, I add 1/2 cup golden raisins and pour the remainder into the last can.  Cool thoroughly before removing from the cans.  It helps to loosen the sides with a knife. Enjoy, share.

Costa Rica 5, Fauna


Costa Rica continued to surprise me.  I did expect some of the animals, photos of which are posted below,  but did not expect so many cattle, especially the dairy cattle, including Jerseys, Guernseys, and Holsteins,  that populated the steep mountain slopes.  They grazed everywhere up to their tummies in grass on even the steepest mountainsides.  I kept wondering how they learned to balance themselves and why they did not fall over, catapulting down the mountain.  Everyone in the group commented on the fat, happy cows.  Such abundance resulted in fabulous steaming milk for morning coffee, rich cheeses, and the creamiest ice cream imaginable.

A cow pen near the top of a mountain on the Caribbean side next to the restaurant that sold cheese and where I ate the raw turtle egg.  Most of the cows roamed free up and down the mountainsides.

In the lowlands on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country, Brahma cattle relaxed or grazed in the lush grass.  It reminded me of the landscape near Veracruz, Mexico, where I lived many years ago.

The most common meat besides fish, most of which is talapia, is chicken.  Near the mountain top where the Jersey cow above was photographed, I saw a huge shed and when I asked about it, was told it was a chicken farm. However, pork is frequently served as well and occasionally beef.  I took the following photograph at a small place on a dirt road.  We stopped there to drink coconut water.  The spotted, pregnant pig was due soon.  However, the fate of the black pig remained less lovely–food.  Their girth resulted from eating coconuts; they constantly gorged themselves.

Birds abound, from the protected scarlet macaws on the Pacific Coast to tiny hummingbirds.  Hundreds of species I had never seen before and many I had seen rather often like various egrets and herons. And then there were the monkeys which I did expect to see but found difficult to photograph with my ordinary camera.

These white faced monkeys roamed everywhere near the beaches at Manual Antonio National Park, begging for food and if that did not work, actually stealing it.

While the white face monkeys remained highly visible, the howler monkeys could be heard easily but were much harder to locate because they tend to stay high in the tallest trees.  Without a good telescoping lens, this was the best I could do.

Look for the dark blob in the middle of the photo.  They also move fast so hard to locate and follow and even harder to photograph under those conditions.

Just as we arrived, walking, at the entrance to Manuel Antonio, a downpour began.  Not fond of drenchings, I stayed back, hoping it would stop, and suddenly saw a small sloth, the grey spot in the nearly leafless tree in the middle of this photo.

Lizards of many varieties abound.  The tree near my hotel room in Jaco contained four iguanas that appeared nearly lifeless since they never seemed to move.  Again, without a better lens I could not really photograph them.  However, at Manuel Antonio many other kinds of lizards ran here and there only slightly afraid and relatively easy to photograph.

When I think back as to what I expected, it never occurred to me that huge, brackish (salt) water crocodiles existed in such abundance or even existed there at all.  Near Jaco, on the Rio Grande Tarcoles the Costa Ricans created a preserve to protect the endangered scarlet macaws and crocodiles.  We arrived early in the morning and floated around the river, into a mangrove swamp, watching birds and crocodiles.  The list of common birds included 58 species and we saw others that the guide referred to as “bonus birds”.  The following photos come from this lovely, relaxing river ride.  Truly, I loved this part of the trip.

Entering the mangrove swamp.

Two months old.

Where the Rio Grande Tarcoles enters the Pacific Ocean.

The boat captain feeding the crocodile in the mud barefoot.  I thought about touching this one he was so close until I was told they could swim as fast as 55 miles per hour.  It occurred to me that he could turn around really quickly and snap off my hand so…