Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Other vacation treats (Baltimore)

While we were on the East Coast we tried several places on the recommendation of a friend and lucky for us they turned out to be delightful.  If you find yourself in the Baltimore area try these two places out and you will be grateful.

{Greg's Bagels}
Greg's bagels: My friend worked here during high school which added to the charm as I tried to picture her behind the counter but the real pull was the l-o-n-g chalkboard list of salmon varieties and the incredible flavor we experienced after we'd ordered.  Jenette had said to introduce ourselves to Greg, the bagel maker, and we did.  He was effusive and charming even as he bumbled about the kitchen, laughing with young employees and restocking bagel baskets.  My sister-in-law was with us and experienced the deliciousness and plans to take her husband back soon. She's lucky she lives only a short 30 minute drive. We only head back every few years but this will be on our repeat list.

Captain James Seafood Palace:  I remember when I was in high school our family had a fantastic East Coast trip where we gorged ourselves at oyster bars and crab houses and I wanted to share the same experience with our 20-year-old son. He loves seafood like many of us but we rarely eat at seafood restaurants because my husband has a shellfish allergy. We ordered the all-you-can-eat crab at $31.99 and it came complete with corn-on-the-cob, bread, and crab soup.  It was cool to watch my son attack the pile of crabs with his mallet, cracking and picking out every little piece of meat. There was not a lot of talking from him.

My husband tried the wings, we shared a plate of calamari, and a cold pitcher of summer shandy.  Sitting outside on the bay, which was beautiful even with the floating trash, watching the boats and hum of people activity made for a perfect evening in Baltimore for the 3 of us.

He made it through almost the entire pile of crabs and the last three I snuck home in a large napkin. Cheating, I know, but I knew Groovy Girl would want to try one as well.

I love to experience new places and it helps when you have a solid recommendation from a trusted source.  Thanks Jenette for your last minute long list of places to eat!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Weekly Recipes 6 (the vacation files)

We've been on vacation for a few weeks in the Baltimore/DC area staying with Greg's family. Every time we make it out here we try and explore something new in the capital.  This time we went to The Building Museum and National Museum of the American Indian; both were fantastic.  My husband and I walked through the Hirshhorn by ourselves one afternoon which had a fantastic display by Shirin Neshat, an Iranian artist.

Exploring Takoma Park area with my my husband's brother and his wife we tried an amazing restaurant, Republic, that we could walk to from their house.  Love that accessibility.  Our dinner was extremely good. Expensive but worth it.  I would eat there again on our next visit.  Hopefully it stays put.  We shared a mix of delicious appetizers; squash blossoms, oysters, and the crispy shrimp with kimchi. They brought out a basket of crusty bread with a bean dip.  I ordered a salmon app for dinner and it was just the right amount. While the dessert menu looked appealing we were too full. Luckily with our bill we received a plate of bite-sized house brownies! Thank you to Matthew for the excellent service that night.

Fish Tacos-my sister-in-law Jayne made this for us one night.  They were delicious and I loved all the variety of toppings she had for us. We ate after sitting on their lovely front porch for an hour or so enjoying the weather, the view, and a beverage or two.

Cherry-Apricot Crumble-Jayne served this for dessert and it comes with an interesting story. She keeps a notebook of guests and what she served to them and to her surprise when she flipped back to early entries she found she'd served this exact dessert to our family when our oldest two were young and Groovy Girl had not yet graced us with her presence. She remembered Teenage Boy exclaiming that it was the "best dessert he'd ever had" in his 6-year-old voice so she decided to make it again for us. It was delicious and this time I asked for the recipe.

Stuffed Peppers-recipe from my mother-in-law Phyllis, I prepared it for everyone though as she had Groovy Girl and her cousin off on an adventure.  The peppers plus a salad made a great easy dinner.  My mother-in-law is an excellent cook and I love to share recipes with her. She made us quite a few great meals including her famous taco salad. I appreciate all the recipes she shared with me over the years.

At this point we are ready to head home with great new memories, a few treasures tucked away, and very full bellies.  Hope your weeks have been just as full.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Weekly Recipes 5

I've been pretty low maintainance on making actual recipes this week as most of my family is out of town.  Teenage Boy and I have had the week to ourselves and it has been lovely.  We've watched a few movies together.  I've watched a binge-worth of Parenthood and I am finally on season 4.  Yeah for Jasmine and Crosby! A little worried about new adoptee Victor.  My son thought it best if I turned it off as I was cleaning and watching like my 7th episode, tears running down my face. Pitiful.

The son and I also went thrifting this week.  We both found clothing items we liked and while he continued to browse I headed to the book section.  I found several fiction titles I was mildly interested in but not enough to add to my already huge piles at home but as I kept browsing my treasure came to me: a Jamie Oliver hardcover cookbook.  I have a foodie crush on Jamie and I love a good revolution.  This book is one of his first though and tackles easy-to-prepare recipes.  I've not made one yet but I've loved reading through the pages and listening to his stories.

I'm thankful for this week with my son.  It's been a blessing and I've also tackled mounds of clutter.  I did make time to visit with friends yesterday and Kay made a rhubarb Prosecco cocktail that was perfect.  I don't have her recipe YET.

I also experimented with some bread again.  I wanted something yeasty and quick.  This 5-minute Artisan bread did not take long to put together but it didn't rise quickly.  I gave it some time. Meditated over it and kneaded it again.  I love the way the dough feels in my hand; it's very calming.  I baked it around 11 pm (late for me), went to bed after I took the steamy loaves out of the oven.  The smell drove me crazy while I was desperately trying to get to sleep.  I gave up and went down stairs and cut myself two slices-luckily it was still steamy. Amazing.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Found this in my draft box and it's too good not to still share: National Book Award Finalist; Louise Erdrich

I ordered this book for my mom for Christmas (hello, mom) and while it sat on my present shelf it spoke to me.  "Read me" it said as I would pass by the shelf several times a day.  So I did.  I pulled it down and started to read.  The fact that I finished it all has to do with how good the story was.  While I read the book I posted several times how much I was enjoying the book and my mom kept texting me "I want that book!"  I couldn't say to her "I know you want that book; that's why I got it for you for Christmas!" but I am saying that now in my blog post as the book is now wrapped in pretty green paper and on its way to you.  Merry Christmas Mama.  I previewed the book for you and yes, it is a wonderful story.

The Round House 
Louise Erdrich
317 pages


One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked.  The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe.  In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed.  He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude.  Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.

The story is told from Joe's point-of-view which makes it so much more heart-felt.  Within the first few chapters Joe's mom changes from the happy mom, ready with dinner, holding the family together kind of mother. The kind of mother most of us can relate to and then quickly she is the opposite of that as she lays crumpled in her bed unable to recover from the attack.

This story gives the reader an inside look at life on a reservation; the daily ins and outs as well as the way tribal law works.  Bazil torments Geraldine with questions of where, where, where did the attack occur even as she is unable to talk about any of it to her family.  His sole purpose is to decipher if the attacker can be prosecuted. He wants to know so he can solve the crime and she can't tell as she does not want to relive even one second of that moment.

Joe tries to help with his mother, by tending to her, but she slaps him once as he tries to wake her and that moment he is scared for what the future holds for his family.  Joe shifts his attention to trying to stay out of the house, away from his mother.  Filled with great minor characters, like Sonja, his white aunt, all trying to help Joe in one way or another.   The story shares a few jagged twists that eventually feed us and Joe back to his mother.  There is hope that their family will prevail.

From a female perspective this story tells a crushing tale of male dominance in our society as a whole.  Erdrich's story shows us how a native woman has even less of a chance for salvation through the courts as Geraldine's attacker was aware of the complexity of tribal law. Salvation must come through by other means then and that in itself is its own difficult journey as Joe shares with us.

 My strong empathetic feeling toward native tribes  and the terrible way in which Europeans and then Americans have punished this indigenous group was newly shocked as I learned through Erdrich's details.  Just as books that relay tales of slavery and civil rights help us to understand life as a Black American so to should this book teach us to understand the plight of American tribes.

"How's your mom doing? she said, shaking her head, swiping at her cheeks.
I tried to focus now; my mother was not fine so I could not answer fine.  Nor could I tell Sonja that half and hour ago I'd feared my mother was dead and I had rushed upon her and got hit by her for the first time in my life.  Sonja lit a cigarette, offered me a piece of Black Jack gum.
Not good, I said.  Jumpy.
Sonja nodded.  We'll bring Pearl." (26)

It is always refreshing when a book is awarded a high honor and it is truly good; good for regular people to enjoy. Thank you to Louise Erdrich for writing such a human story.  She owns a lovely little book store in Minneapolis, Birchbark Books.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Weekly Recipes 4

While I visited with Barb and her family I made dinner several nights just to share recipes.  Her kitchen is an excellent place to cook and I like that. She, like me, is an ex-vegetarian who now eats good, local meat.  It was fun to cook for her family.  They like unique dishes just like me.


Quinoa Tabbouleh with chickpeas-It was delicious; light and refreshing, a perfect summer dish.  Simple ingredients all tossed together:

1 cup cooked quinoa
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
½ pound Persian cucumbers or 2 hothouse cucumbers (if using hothouse, seed the cucumbers first), sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup finely chopped green onion, white and green parts
1 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup chopped mint leaves
⅓ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

And I made these black bean burritos with sweet potato added in. They were so yummy; I could have eaten 3 or 4 but I kept it to one.  It's all about eating good food in small quantities.

Once we returned home I made this kid-friendly dish (crock pot enchiladas) on a very busy day so dinner would be ready when the family walked through the door.  I was gone-off to hear music at the Gentleman of the Road tour-and it was fantastic! even though it was a little strange to be away from the family, off doing my own thing at our sacred dinner hour. Every once in while you need to surprise them with a twist.  I made them dinner so they would still love me while I was gone.

Another day I made this berry tart which also turned out great. Barb sent me home with a few pie shells so I didn't have to make the dough, which made it simple.

What did you create this week?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day.

I miss my Dad. I can say it a billion times in a day and it still doesn't change the fact that he's gone. And to all that say he's not really gone I say I can't really have a deep conversation with him, ask him advice and get an actual answer, have him pull me into a deep and warm hug.

I miss him everyday; no more or no less than I do on Father's Day.  We spent the day celebrating my husband; church together, dinner out, and a few interesting kid gifts to celebrate his art of parenting with style. We've been blessed with a gorgeous day weather-wise so we could spend part of the day outdoors, basking in the sunshine.

My husband had a good long chat with his dad, who is an amazing father and grandfather and I'm grateful we have him in our lives but it's that small act of making the phone call that I miss today.  I love you dad.  I wish you were still here.

You would be amazed at how Kaylee has grown into this amazing women off doing her own thing, creating stories of her own. You would be proud of her writing talent.  You would love to see Tristan's big smile and his off-beat, unique look at the world.  You would be surprised at the struggle he is going through finding what he wants to do with his life.  He would love your authentic questions and talent with drawing people in to your circle. He would have a good friend and trusted advisor in you. Groovy Girl would make you smile while you watched her dance, sing, and general entertain those around her.  Her joyful personality would make you proud even as she enters these snippy teen years. It would force you to reminisce about someone else you knew who got a little fiesty in their teen years.  You would do it with humor and grace.

Thank you for all the times you made me feel special Dad.  The notes, the backgammon games, the shoulder rubs, and the laughter.  You made my day many times and I wish you were still here to share our daily lives and since you are not I will make due with my memories.

Happy Father's Day. Hug them while you have them.  So if you've made it through the day without calling or talking to your dad-that's all it takes, one phone call. Go do it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A trip to the bakery

My friend, Barb and her family, own a bakery in Indiana and for the last 2 years Groovy Girl and I have traveled the 5 1/2 hours east to visit her and work in the bakery.  Her uncle owns a strawberry farm and the bakery is attached. It's hard to figure out which draws more; the bakery or the u-pick farm and garden center.

It's strawberry season and this past weekend it was strawberry fest on the farm.  They were super busy which in turn makes the bakery busy. As we worked in the back making strawberry donuts and buckwheat pancakes with strawberry syrup we could see the line wind several times through the store and out into the parking lot.  It was crazy!

It's a serious working vacation.  I get to spend time with my friends and help at the same time.  The only time they are not busy is late December, January, and February, right when I'm in school so we make this work. And my back can tell you I worked really hard this week.  I made batch after batch of steamy donuts; measuring out and weighing the ingredients, mixing it, pouring it into the donut hopper so it can drop perfectly into the hot grease where it is a perfect circle of dough.  It makes its way down the small converyer belt; frying and turning to create a golden orb (with the ever important hole) and then tossed into a bowl of sugar and laid out on a tray to be sold.  I made trays, and trays, and trays + +.

I now dream about making donuts. Last year I didn't make quite as many and we were not here for as long.  I'm also a year older and I didn't sleep well this week; I woke up this morning with a terrible pain in my lower back.  Barb and I did about 45 minutes of yoga; deep stretching with modifications for my back and my heart. She's a trained yoga instructor as well. I don't know how she does it all! We did kayak which is one of my favorite things to do but it's been off/on rainy for days and our kayak venture was cut very short.

We did prepare delicious dinners together as well but that is another blog post.  If you get a chance to stop in Hobart, IN be sure to stop by Marilyn's Bakery (her mother started the bakery in 1986). You won't be disappointed and if it happens to be strawberry season you might just glimpse me in the back pouring and dipping donuts.  I need a vacation to help me recover from this intense working...vacation?!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Weekly Recipes 3

In my constant search for new and different foods to lay at our table I made this delicious (say the kids) chicken recipe this week:

Grilled Lemongrass Chicken with Ginger Rice
{weeknight gluten free by Kristine Kidd}
*we are not gluten-free; I only used regular ingredients where it specifies gluten-free

Shallot, 2 T, minced
gluten-free tamari, 2 T.
Sugar, 1 1/2 T.
Asian fish sauce, 1 1/2 T.
Lemongrass stalks, 1 fat or 2 thin, peeled and minced, or 2 tsp lemon zest
vegetable oil, 1 T.
Asian chile sauce, 1/2 tsp
kosher salt, 1/2 tsp
skinless, boneless chicken thighs, 1 1/2 pounds

Ginger Rice
Fresh ginger, 1 1/2 T., minced
kosher salt, 1/8 tsp
uncooked brown basmati or jasmine rice, 1 cup
Gluten-free tamari, 2 tsp
chopped green onions for garnish

1. In a bowl, mix the shallot, 2 T. tamari, sugar, fish sauce, lemongrass, oil, chili sauce, and salt.  Cut any excess fat from the chidken.  Add the chicken to the bowl and toss to coat.  Let the chicken marinate while preparing the rice.
2. To make the ginger rice, in a small saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water, the ginger, and salt to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let stand for at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then mix in the tamari.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the grill for direct-heat cooking over high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to the grill rack, cover and cook until springy to the touch and cooked through, about 6 minutes per side.
4. Divide the rice among 4 warmed plates. Top with the chicken, sprinkle green onions, and serve right away.

My normal habit of not reading the recipe all the way through was a problem here-I did not know about the GRILL-I cooked the chicken in my huge cast iron skillet, added marinade in, put the lid on and let it cook/steam to done.  Also my kids would balk if I cut green onions over the top so avoided that step altogether.  My son said the chicken was wonderful, flavorful, and tender.  I made this meal just so he would eat something while the rest of us were out of town for 2 days.  Over-mothering, yes, but he weighs next to nothing so I do what I have to to get food into him.

Plus I made this amazing rhubarb recipe.  They are tart and just the perfect size!

How was your week of cooking?