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.