Monday, December 16, 2013

A Keeper

While growing up, there were several Ann Lander's columns that I never tired of reading--probably why she reran them repeatedly. I'm finding that Carolyn Hax also has wise words worth saving. Like this column from today:

Dear Carolyn:

You often talk about a "best self" and the ways people should either live that themselves or permit others to do so. I can guess what a best self might be, but I wonder what your workaday definition is?

-- Best Self

It's when you like yourself.

Or, when you're getting the most out of your strengths and succumbing the least to your weaknesses. It's highly personal, but here are some ideas for cultivating strength:

Are you doing things that are meaningful to you; well-suited to your interests, skills and talents; and challenging enough to keep you humble?

Are you with people to whom you want to be kind; who reinforce your good choices; and who don't inspire persistent doubts about whether they're dependable, genuinely fond of you, free of ulterior motives, honest with you?

Are you that person to those you love?

Do you take responsibility for your choices and their consequences?

Do you honor your promises and commitments, to yourself and others?

When you are impressed by, grateful to or concerned about someone, do you show it?

Do you forgive?

Are you representing yourself honestly, to yourself and others, creating no facades to maintain?

Do you take care of yourself -- in small ways like flossing, and in big ways like thinking through potential consequences before you act? And do you put yourself first in ways that sustain you, to minimize your burdening of others?

As for taming weaknesses:

Do you realize your needs have the same status as everyone else's? And you're not the hero in every encounter with others?

Are you mindful of your flaws and demons?

Do you make choices that put distance between you and your temptations?

Do you resist the impulse to blame others when things go wrong?

Do you understand the boundary between your and others' business, and stay on your side?

When you're unsure, do you admit that and seek help?

When you're about to express negativity or a criticism, do you ask yourself whether it needs expressing? And imagine how its target will feel?

When you fall short, do you admit that? To those who most need to hear it?

Since all of these questions hinge on solid self-awareness, I'd call Step 1 a brutally honest assessment of what you bring to the party -- and how you're most likely to wreck it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Learning, Always Learning

Thanks to principal Gary Griese, I've worked in kindergarten as an assistant since 1988. During those 25 years, I've had the pleasure of working with over twelve very different teachers, in both Roseburg and Salem, OR.

Lucky me, my first year I was able to work with the teacher who taught my eldest in the first grade--June Kuitert. She'll always be my ideal kindergarten teacher. Well, okay . . . except for my own personal first grade teacher, Mrs. Kane. I imagine Mrs. Kane (Minnie, who taught me to read), would have been an amazing kindergarten teacher.

What a roller coaster these past 25 years have been! I wish I knew how many children's hands I've held--whether it was to hold a pencil or lead a recess line. I've worked with strict teachers, (what we call) loosie goosie teachers, warm hearted teachers, single minded teachers, imaginative teachers, creative teachers, but most fall into the category of "never stop learning" teachers.

I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that my preference are the teachers trained to teach kindergarten. People will try and convince you otherwise, but kindergarten is a specialty. It's a child's first school experience. They learn how to stand in line, hold a pencil and scissors, sit next to another child on the carpet, follow directions and solve problems. And hopefully, if they haven't learned already, that there are other people in the world and consequences for their actions.

Not sure where I was going with this, other than pondering the past years after trying to model something  that I hadn't done for 8 years to my teacher. She was moved (voluntarily) from third grade to kindergarten, at the end of the 2012-13 school year and has been working hard to find both her comfort zone and what's best for the children. Sadly, I forgot several important instructional details and (evidently) hurt the feelings of the person who gave me permission to take over for 20 minutes.

Navigating the puzzle of people has never been my strength. If I ask permission to show a fellow educator something I know will help them and they assure me they're comfortable with it, I tend to believe them. Though I only have the body language and actions of the other person to go by, I'm certain I overstepped today. And so, I'll leave it to the experts from now on.




Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Accidental Dinner to Remember

"Hurry! Write this down before you forget!", I nagged myself.

How it began: I didn't want to forget to use the leftover rotisserie chicken from the night before. Since I was home alone (chef Fran was gone), I used google to find recipes using cooked chicken. The search was over quick, once I spotted the one below. That spinach needed to be finished off yesterday.

The name of the recipe that inspired dinner is:
"Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine"

BUT I only used

  • half the mushrooms, 
  • half the spinach, 
  • much less oregano, 
  • traded 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt for the cottage cheese and milk,
  •  used a cup of Gruyere and Parmesan (no cheddar), 
  • NO cream of chicken soup--instead we used about a cup of chicken broth and 
  • a couple splashes of dry vermouth. 


So, yeah.
Pretty much a totally different recipe, but it did provide inspiration. :)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Family History Project

I can't count the number of times I've been inspired to take action (in a small personal way) all due to something I've heard on public radio. This time it was from the Story Corps program. I think it was a special Thanksgiving program I was listening to, where they were urging everyone to share and record family stories over the holiday.

On a whim, I packed our video camera, then enlisted daughter Lise to be in charge. I urged her to find a way to get this started during our visit to my brother and sister-in-law's house on Thanksgiving. Like most of my whims, I was prepared for it not to work out. Whether due to people being uncomfortable with telling their story in front of a camera or just the usual problem with holding anyone's attention during a large family gathering.

I was thrilled with the family cooperation and Lisa's success in getting this started. I urge all of you to give it a try. I suggest you give everyone a warning the day of, find a quiet place and start with the bravest members.

On a slightly different note--how cool would it be to do this city wide? Maybe as a project for CCTV that would last an entire month? People could walk in or make appointments? What do you think?

Here's our project, but we're not finished . . .



KarlaandNorm from K Miller on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spinach Salad with Bosc Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion, and Toasted Hazelnuts

I have mixed feelings about discovering I can search my Google history and come up with what we were looking for a year ago. I'm thankful to have found the following recipe link and yet . . . 
Okay, Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I'll stop at thankful.
This one is a keeper and now we have it for next year:

Spinach Salad with Bosc Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion, and Toasted Hazelnuts
Epicurious | November 2009
by Diane Morgan
The New Thanksgiving Table

yield:
Serves 8
ingredients
Dressing
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
8 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed if needed
2 firm but ripe Bosc pears (do not peel), quartered lengthwise, cored, and cut into long, thin slices
2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted (see Cook's Notes) and chopped
preparation
To make the dressing, in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover tightly and shake vigorously to blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
Place the onions in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes. This crisps the onion and takes away the raw onion taste. Drain well and pat dry on paper towels.
In a small bowl, toss the cranberries with 2 tablespoons of the dressing to soften them. Set aside for at least 20 minutes or until ready to serve the salad.
To assemble the salad, place the spinach, onions, and pears in a large bowl. Give the remaining dressing a last-minute shake and pour over the salad. Toss to coat evenly. Arrange the salad in a large serving bowl or divide it evenly among 8 salad plates. Scatter the cranberries and hazelnuts over the top(s). Serve immediately.

Cook's Notes
Try to buy shelled hazelnuts (also called filberts) with the brown, papery skins removed as well. To toast, spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a preheated 375°F oven. Toast for about 12 minutes until lightly browned. If the nuts still have the skins on, transfer them while they’re hot to a clean kitchen towel. (Use a clean towel that is old or you don’t mind washing with bleach, because the skins tend to discolor the fabric.) Rub the nuts to remove most of the skins (they never come completely off).
You can substitute unsalted cashews for the hazelnuts. Toast cashews, as directed above for hazelnuts, for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned.

Source Information
Reprinted with permission from The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan, (C) October 2009, Chronicle Books
Do Ahead The dressing can be made up to 1 day in advance, covered tightly, and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 2 hours before serving. The nuts can be toasted up to 1 day in advance; store at room temperature in an airtight container. The onions and cranberries can be prepared up to up to 4 hours in advance. Set aside at room temperature.
Epicurious.com © Condé Nast Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.


Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Spinach-Salad-with-Bosc-Pears-Cranberries-Red-Onion-and-Toasted-Hazelnuts-355430#ixzz2lrNrY18m

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sausage & Rice Stuffing -- Oregonian Food Day 1984?

Thanks to a local tweep's question this morning, I was reminded of an old scrap of newspaper I keep in a recipe binder. It's been a few years since I've made this stuffing recipe. No reason other than forgetfulness.
Just be warned, it's not easy to resist seconds.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Who Else We Saw at RadioLab's Live Show

This was the first time I had heard of Reggie Watts. His improvised songs about our damp climate and obsession with fine coffee, had the crowd laughing. But with RadioLab we were already laughing.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

On Being Respectful

{Really?! It was two years ago? Link to previous post}

I like Christmas and all of the other end of the year holidays. But, and I don't talk about this often, I'm not religious. Never was. My mother tried, bless her heart, but it didn't take. I suppose it didn't help matters that I asked too many questions that the people around me couldn't answer.

Strangely enough, my own lack of religion didn't stop me from promoting Christmas with the students at school. Until last fall-- something clicked for me during a school holiday discussion with @SalemRebekah. I realized that by reading Christmas stories to the wee folk that I was being disrespectful of the different beliefs of the children and their families. That I was promoting the mindset that "my way is the only way". Thanks to @SalemRebekah I began a search for children's books about sharing, caring and giving, because that is the central core at the heart of the holiday season. Plus, sharing, caring and giving, are cross cultural and (hopefully) not offensive to anyone's beliefs.

Here I am, another holiday season and yet another new-to-me teacher to work with. I'm struggling with whether to share my year old epiphany with her, or to just roll with it. I tried to discuss it with another friend/coworker last year, but ended up running head long into the attitude that some people are trying to destroy Christmas. {sigh}

Is it wrong to roll with it or does it make me complicit with the very attitudes I'm trying to escape?
{sigh}
Oh, and are gingerbread men generic enough for all?

Book list I have to date:
One Smile
Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed
The Mitten Tree
Ribbon Rescue
A Circle of Friends
My Most Favorite Thing
The Giant Hug
Nico and Lola
The Carpenter's Gift

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Taco Tuesday!

I was looking for dinner inspiration, after hearing a story about a cookbook that embraces the kids for family dinner night. During my search for the book, I ended up stumbling across a blog called, "Once Upon a Chef", and their recipe for chicken tacos. The recipe reminded me of how Franny cooks, so of course I decided that would be the next day's dinner. Those were some of the best tacos I've ever had.

We only made a few changes:

  1. ground turkey, instead of chicken
  2. only red pepper--we rarely use green
  3. soft artisan shells, not hard


http://www.onceuponachef.com/2011/02/chicken-tacos.

Chicken Tacos
Makes 12 tacos

Ingredients

For Filling
¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup diced red bell pepper (you'll need one small pepper)
¾ cup diced green bell pepper (you'll need one small pepper)
2 medium yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground chicken (not extra-lean all breast meat)
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy)
1-3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (you'll need one small bunch)
12 hard taco shells (I like Old El Paso Stand 'n Stuff)

Suggestions for Garnish
Shredded lettuce or purple cabbage
Shredded Mexican blend cheese

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions, red peppers and green peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and just starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Add garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add ground chicken, paprika, ancho chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne, and salt. Turn heat to high; use wooden spoon to stir and break chicken into small clumps until chicken is partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, then turn heat down to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking chicken into smaller clumps, for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

3. Meanwhile, remove taco shells from package and lay sideways on baking sheet. Pull stack apart, overlapping edges slighly. Bake 6 to 7 minutes, or until crisp. Spoon chicken into shells and serve with suggested toppings.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

. . . Devour A Pumpkin

My mouth was watering while listening to this story with Dorie Greenspan on NPR yesterday.  I'm going to check, but I'm pretty sure my Cinderella Pumpkin is too big for this recipe.

"Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good
by Dorie Greenspan
(click here to read the entire story and see the picture)
Makes 2 very generous servings

1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyere, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped

4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped

About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

About 1/3 cup heavy cream

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that's just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you'll have to serve it from the pot — which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn't so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I've always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I've been lucky.

Using a very sturdy knife — and caution — cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween jack-o'-lantern). It's easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot. Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper — you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure — and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled — you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little — you don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (But it's hard to go wrong here.)

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours — check after 90 minutes — or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully — it's heavy, hot, and wobbly — bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you'll bring to the table.

Serving

You have choices: you can cut wedges of the pumpkin and filling; you can spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful; or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I'm a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls or wedges, it's just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.

Storing

It's really best to eat this as soon as it's ready. However, if you've got leftovers, you can scoop them out of the pumpkin, mix them up, cover, and chill them; reheat them the next day.

Greenspan's Stuffing Ideas

There are many ways to vary this arts-and-crafts project. Instead of bread, I've filled the pumpkin with cooked rice — when it's baked, it's almost risotto-like. And, with either bread or rice, on different occasions I've added cooked spinach, kale, chard, or peas (the peas came straight from the freezer). I've made it without bacon, and I've also made and loved, loved, loved it with cooked sausage meat; cubes of ham are another good idea. Nuts are a great addition, as are chunks of apple or pear or pieces of chestnut."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ted Talk: Everything is Connected

I was made aware of this Ted Talk while listening to Saturday's Morning Edition on NPR today. If you're at all interested in the interwoven effect everything has on nature, you'll enjoy this (click on photo to listen):



Here's George Monbiot's entire talk:

George Monbiot @ 5x15 from 5x15 on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kousa Dogwood Fruit

Franny and I were running errands on Saturday. One errand took us north to Keizer where we spotted a small ornamental tree with small brightly colored fruit. My first thought was "crabapple!", but the leaves looked more like a peach tree.
On Sunday, since we were all in the car, we motored back out to Keizer to show the trees to N. He picked two leaves and one of the fruits. The leaves were definitely dogwood, but the fruit looked other worldly--small, spherical with soccer ball like sections, but with a circular bump in each section. I used my phone to look it up and found this video:

 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Customer Service Email Exchange

I had such a great experience with asking what I considered to be an important question of a motor oil manufacturer, that I wanted to share.
If only every exchange could be like this. No "us", no "them", just the sympathetic facts:


To: James Morrissey
Can you please tell me all of the ingredients in your synthetic oil SAE 10w-40 for gasoline engines?
**************

On Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 1:27 PM, James Morrissey <JMorrissey@royalpurple.com> wrote:
Good afternoon K,

Royal Purple oil formulations are proprietary.
However a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is available here: http://royalpurpleconsumer.com/wp-content/uploads/RP_Motor_Oil_041911.pdf
.....
Thanks for choosing Royal Purple and have a great day!

Best Regards,
James Morrissey
Sr. Automotive Technical Support
****************
K
Thanks for the reply, James.
I should've asked if the motor oil has any polyglycol.
****************

On Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 1:53 PM, James Morrissey <JMorrissey@royalpurple.com> wrote:
Good afternoon K,

No, there are no Royal Purple engine oils that have any glycol in them at all.
What is this going in?

Thanks for choosing Royal Purple and have a great day!

Best Regards,
James Morrissey
Sr. Automotive Technical Support
*****************

To: James Morrissey
Subject: Re: Can you please tell me all of the ingredients in your synthetic oil SAE 10w-40 for gasoline engines?

It took us two days, but we finally realized what our dog got into that made her beard all oily. I realize that it's been long enough that, if there had been anything toxic, she'd already be in dire straits.
I wanted to know for my own peace of mind.
You can be sure that we'll be more careful in the future.
Thanks again!
Your replies mean a lot.
*****************

Good afternoon K,

Oh dear I would be freaking out too. I hope your dog continues to do well.

Not the most nutritious dog snack/treat in the world, but it definitely does not contain glycol or anything considered hazardous. Look through that MSDS and you will see what I mean and perhaps breathe a little easier.

Thanks for choosing Royal Purple and have a great day!

Best Regards, 
James Morrissey
Sr. Automotive Technical Support


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blood Date

The photographer is one in a long line of Red Cross volunteers we've met and bonded with over the years. Kim has a big, fun personality and she gets a kick out of giving N a hard time. Of course, he gives it right back. We'll be thinking good thoughts for her as she goes through her third hip replacement in seven years, due to a recall. I can't even begin to imagine. Thanks for the fun, Kim!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Shellberg Falls

We were lazing about on one of our typical Sunday afternoons, when N and Fran decided we should go on a hike. They researched and printed out a map for a falls a short drive from home.

The trailhead for Shellberg Falls is in the Gates/Silver Falls area, nestled between farm and forest land. The parking area is small and no restrooms are available in the area. Most of the trail is a gravel road with a slight uphill grade and many cattle guards (and cattle). The last half mile, the cattle pasture is replaced by forest--tall conifers with sword ferns covering most of the floor. It's a fairly easy hike with a nice reward at the end (if you start early enough) and access to other trails if you hike beyond the waterfall.



Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cousin Chris: Summer Memories

Not sure if it's because I walked into a cloud of gnats while walking with Sara today, but I was suddenly shot back in time to the late 60's. There we were, my cousin Chris and I, riding bikes around Lake Sacajawea. How old were we, 11? 12?

Sister Karen had wanted company during the summer, while her husband Ken was fishing in Alaska. I'm not positive, but I believe my nephew was just a baby at that time. To keep the antsy, long limbed, pre-teens occupied, Karen had offered us their bikes to ride. Bikes for me equaled FREEDOM. Lovely, glorious freedom! I remember how we tried to ride around the lake at least once a day, until she reminded me that she had wanted us there for company. Oops!

One day, Karen, pulled out her oil paints, a print of Van Gogh's, "Vase with Twelve Sunflowers", and two smallish canvases for Chris and I. She proceeded to give the two of us a lesson and then directed us while we attempted to paint. Chris, always with more artistic talent than I, was given more attention (rightfully so!). When Karen turned to my side of the table, she was stymied as to why I had painted the multi-colored flowers all pink or gold. "Because they are?" Both Chris and I inherited the Weeks' color deficiency gene.

I remember how we slept on Karen's couch, heads at north and south--bristley adolescent legs keeping each other awake. And, I'm not sure why she ever left us alone-- those prank calls. Kids today are so deprived, no thanks to caller ID.

Thanks for the sweet memories, cousin!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Amber's Asian Broccoli Slaw

This is a slaw worth remembering. Thanks, Amber!

2 Green Onion
4 cup Broccoli, grated
1/2 head Cabbage, grated
****add crushed almonds and 1 tsp. raisins****
Dressing
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Braggs liquid amino or soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
2 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger
OR Braggs ginger Sesame & Ginger Salad Dressing

Process
1. Thinly slice 1/2 of a red cabbage using a mandoline or sharp knife.
2. Using a grater or food processor, grate broccoli to uniform small chunks.
3. Chop green onions into 1/4-inch pieces.
4. Toss everything together with the sesame ginger dressing.
5. Serve.
*************
And here's the spicy thai noodle recipe from Lisa:

Spicy Thai Noodle Salad

(Laura Chaffey 4th Grade teacher at Hammond Elementary School)

'l Ib angel hair pasta, Cooked
1/2 C. Canola or sesame oil (l usually use 1/2 of each)
1 T dried red pepper flakes (l typically use less)
6 T Honey
4 T Soy sauce

Heat these 4 ingredients to infuse.
Add sauce to pasta (the longer you let the sauce sit before adding to pasta, the hotter
The sauce gets. | don’t let it sit
Before serving - TOSS onto pasta
2T toasted sesame seeds
1/2 C Chopped green onion
1/2 C Chopped Cilantro
1 C dry roasted peanuts

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Zucchini Fritters - a summer winner

Over my lifetime, I've eaten zucchini in many ways and not all of them were delicious. In the last two years that's been changing. Fran makes a delicious Zucchini Ribbons with Almond Pesto from Smitten Kitchen, niece Dani treated us to Gordon Ramsay's Stuffed Courgette Rolls, I'm always ready to eat any variation of this saute with zucchini, tomatoes and basil and I love to eat and make my own variation of Ina Garten's Vegetable Tian. There are several other summer staples we make regularly, but those are the stand outs.
Here's the latest addition to the list. Forget the dipping sauce, the fritters stand just fine all by themselves.

Zucchini Fritters
from Bon Appetit

Squeeze out as much liquid from the zucchini as possible.
4 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
SOY DIPPING SAUCE
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Crushed red pepper flakes
FRITTERS
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium), grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
1 large egg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup vegetable oil
PREPARATION
SOY DIPPING SAUCE
Mix vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
FRITTERS
Place zucchini in a colander set in the sink and toss with 1/2 teaspoons salt. Let stand 10 minutes, then wring zucchini dry in a clean kitchen towel. Place zucchini in a large bowl and gently mix in egg, flour, chives, and cornstarch; season with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, drop 1/4-cupfuls zucchini mixture into skillet, flattening slightly; cook until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer fritters to a paper towel–lined plate; season with salt. Serve with soy dipping sauce.
DO AHEAD: Fritters can be made 30 minutes ahead. Keep warm in a 200° oven.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Turkey Burgers--a new favorite

I wonder why I bother saving recipes for future use. When deciding what to have for dinner (unless I'm chasing a craving), I end up searching the web 90% of the time. Yup, I only use those carefully chosen cookbooks the other 10%.

Two years ago, I stumbled across a turkey burger recipe and used it several times. Oregano, Feta and sundried tomatoes were the delicious stars of those patties. Yesterday, I wanted to make turkey burgers, but I wanted something new, something untried by my tastebuds. And there's the mystery folks: how can someone who is perfectly happy with the same breakfast/lunch everyday, never be satisfied with sticking to tried and favorited dinner recipes?

The only changes I made were...

  • to substitute onion for the scallions, 
  • put all the ingredients (but the ground turkey) in the food processor prior to the final blending 
  • and made wee sliders instead of big burgers.


Here's my new favorite of the moment, thanks to Martha Stewart:

Martha Stewart's Favorite Turkey Burgers

PREP 10 MINS
TOTAL TIME 35 MINS
SERVINGS 4

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (93 percent lean)
1/2 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
FOR GRATES
Oil

DIRECTIONS
STEP 1
Heat grill to high. In a medium bowl, use a fork to gently combine ground turkey with Gruyere, scallions, breadcrumbs, mustard, and garlic; season generously with salt and pepper. Gently form mixture into four 1-inch-thick patties.
STEP 2
Lightly oil grill. Place patties on hottest part of grill; sear until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Move patties to cooler part of grill; continue grilling until cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes per side.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

A short camping trip? We'll take it!

We didn't leave until late morning on Sunday, but we didn't care, we were ready to go camping. Of course, many (including us) wouldn't consider parking a tent trailer in your older sister's front yard true camping. We were just happy to spend time with family. After 4 days (you know, that moment when we all start to smell fishy after overstaying our welcome?), we knew we wanted to keep camping, but weren't quite sure where we were going.

 We ended up turning west from Hoodsport, headed towards the Olympic National Forest and setting up camp at Staircase Campground. So many trails in the area, both challenging and otherwise. Oh and plenty of drama to watch in the campground. One group evidently had more than the 8 people limit in their group. They began to scout the campground and set-up tents and chairs in 3-4 sites. All without paying.

 It seemed everyone in the vicinity was aware of what was happening, but no one stepped up until a young couple arrived with their children and had to make do with a small site--while other larger sites were going unused except for young teens sleeping there at night. But that's another kettle of worms altogether.

Ps. How could I forget to add the trailer hitch story?
Since the intersection is slightly hidden in the visually busy town of Hoodsport, N missed the initial turnoff for the mountains. He did the next best thing--turned and drove through the parking lot of the Model T Pub & Eatery. They've installed a speed bump to ease the speed of folks cutting through and as the truck pulled the trailer over the hump we all heard a loud "thump".

The same time we were hopping out, three folks came running out of the pub. It was obvious I had failed to get the trailer properly secured to the truck's ball and as a result, the trailer's tongue was resting on the speed bump. Everyone sprung into action and we were quickly put back together and heading towards our campground.

We made a point of stopping at the pub for lunch when we returned to town for ice. I have a hunch they've seen their share of accidents on that busy congested highway.




Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hiking with Franny

Lucky us! We have a hiking trail in our neighborhood.

Despite this year's wet June (that remind me of the Junes from my school years), Fran and I have managed to hike the trail at least a few times each week. The trail is about 1.3 miles (one way) with an elevation gain of 374 feet. All in all, it's a nice little daily workout and the dogs love the smells.

Yesterday, the hike was more work than usual for me--either due to a few days break or the humidity. My huffing, puffing, perspiring and trying to keep up with Fran, made me flash back to a much different time. And it wasn't all that long ago. Early 2012?

"Is this the girl I pushed in a wheelchair for 4 plus years? The girl whose lungs were never supposed to regain their youthful capacity? The girl so many doctors decided didn't want to get better?" (Okay, I better stop. I feel the old white coat anger rekindling.)

She still hasn't learned what began that life pausing event and it's still not gone. We may not have found a doctor curious enough to keep on digging, but we did find one who truly wanted to dampen her pain.
And where am I? Trailing along behind her.
As it should be.



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's for dinner? Cornmeal Waffles and Franny's chicken chili

Last night Fran found her dinner inspiration in the leftover oven roasted chicken she baked for us the night before. I'm always impressed. A sandwich is what leftover chicken inspires in me. :)

She found the cornmeal waffle recipe below on King Arthur Flour website. Her chili recipe lives in her head, a product of her memory plus years of trial and error. 
I've included an additional link below that includes another waffle recipe without spices, along with a chili recipe that most resembles Fran's.
Enjoy!


from King Arthur Flour

These cornmeal waffles are good if made without the Mexican spices and eaten with syrup, but even better made spicy and served with a simple chili con queso dip. Leave out the "optional" ingredients if serving the waffles with berries, fruit compote or syrup.
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled OR 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives; if using dry, use 3 tablespoons (optional)
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cumin (optional)
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, or 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
3 tablespoons dried tomato or bell pepper flakes (optional)

Chili Con Queso
1/2 cup prepared salsa
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 bunch scallions, sliced (about 1/4 cup)*
10-ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
*Use the white part and part of the green, about 4 inches total of each scallion.

Waffles: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter or oil. In a separate bowl, blend together the dry ingredients, then quickly and gently combine the wet and dry ingredients. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes, to allow the cornmeal to soften. Drop the batter by 1/3-cupfuls onto a hot waffle iron, and bake until the waffle iron stops steaming. Yield: about ten 8-inch round waffles.

Chili Con Queso: Heat together, over low heat, the salsa, cream cheese and grated cheese, cooking and stirring until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the chopped spinach and scallions. Serve in a fondue pot or chafing dish to keep the mixture fluid; it'll thicken as it cools. Refrigerate any leftover sauce; it makes a wonderful dip for tortilla chips, or spread for a wrap sandwich.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

It's what's for breakfast or solo dinner

Call it following a desire to put healthy beans in my mouth while honoring an egg craving at the same time, or call it a lazy slightly uninspired cooking experiment. Personally, I thought it was tasty and I'm still totally convinced it was mostly healthy.

medium to small skillet, preheated
Olive oil
1 can rinsed black beans
chili powder and cumin to taste
2 cloves minced garlic
(possible additions for another time: 2 Tbsp each of diced red pepper and onion)
2 eggs stirred
2-3 Tbsp of favorite salsa (I used Emerald Valley)
1/4 c shredded cheese of choice (I used sharp cheddar)

Preheat skillet over medium high heat. Add just shy of a Tbsp of olive oil, add onion and red pepper. Saute for 1-3 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add drained black beans. Stir until heated through. Add garlic, salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin. Stir for 30 seconds to a minute to release flavors. Turn heat down to medium-medium low before adding eggs. Add eggs and salsa. Stir until cooked to your liking. Remove from heat and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Let sit for a minute or two and serve.

This created a healthy portion for one. Would be plenty for two with the addition of toast and fruit.



Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Drive Your Truck story from NPR

Crying in the car is something I try hard not to do, but sometimes it just can't be helped.

"A Songwriter And An Army Dad Share One Touching Story" by NPR Staff
and here's the link to the story that inspired the song.


.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Curried Chicken and Cauliflower Stir-Fry

The recipe below is what Fran started with.
Here's a list of the changes she made:
She roasted the head of cauliflower, instead of steaming it as directed
Added cumin, coriander, cayenne and upped the curry.
She served it over rice.
Delicious!
(here's a link and another to a few other cauliflower recipes)

Curried Chicken and Cauliflower Stir-Fry
 December 1, 2010
 4 servings Ingredients:
 • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips, about 1 1/2 inches long and 1/4 inch thick
• 1 bunch scallions, white and light-green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices (1 cup)
• 3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 2-inch piece peeled ginger root, finely minced or grated (1 tablespoon)
• 1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste or 2 tablespoons regular tomato paste
• 2 teaspoons mild curry powder, or more to taste
• Salt
• 1 cup low-sodium or homemade chicken broth
• 1/2 head (1 pound) cauliflower, stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces (no more than 3/4 inch)
• Water
• Leaves from about 1/3 bunch cilantro, chopped (3 tablespoons)

Directions: Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok or large, shallow skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add half of the chicken; stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chicken loses its raw look. Transfer to a clean plate; repeat with the remaining chicken and transfer it to the plate.

 With the wok or skillet still over medium-high heat, add the scallions; cook for 30 seconds, stirring. If the pan is dry, add oil as needed. Add the garlic and ginger; cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Add the tomato paste, curry powder and salt to taste; cook for 30 seconds, stirring.

 Pour in the broth; stir to thoroughly to coat the ingredients, then add the cauliflower pieces and cover, adjusting the heat to medium or medium-low so the liquid maintains a low boil. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower pieces are tender.

 Return the chicken to the wok or skillet; stir to coat with the sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, add water as needed. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cilantro. Serve immediately. 

Recipe Source:From Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick. 240 calories, 9g fat, 2g saturated fat, 65mg cholesterol, 230mg sodium, 11g carbohydrates, 4g dietary fiber, 4g sugar, 31g protein. Tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick for The Washington Post. E-mail the Food Section at food@washpost.com with recipe questions. © 2013 The Washington Post Company

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sweet Potato Love II

I'll admit it--I'm horrible at following exact directions. The first time I noticed, was way back in high school during Home Economics. I did fine when it came to sewing the apron and the drawstring bag, but when it was time to use an honest to goodness pattern to create a skirt with all of the tabs, darts, pleats, seams to clip and press and those dots that needed to be marked and carefully lined up I created something grade-able but nothing I ever wanted to wear. At least not where anyone could see me. I think that's why I nearly gave up on sweet potato hashbrowns.

The first time I made the two recipes I shared here, the experience was tasty and worth putting on the rotating weekend breakfast roster. Alas, the next time I made them for breakfast is when I learned--following their directions exactly was the only way to recreate that tasty experience. So this morning I decided to try my own version. One that made sense for me and I could easily remember.


  • I preheated the oven to 425 degrees. Then diced (1/2" - 1") two medium sweet potatoes/yams, dropped them into a gallon storage bag with a tablespoon of water and microwaved them, using the auto baked potato button on the less cooked setting. Without that option, I would microwave them on high for approximately 4-5 minutes or until they've just begun to get tender. 
  • When done cooking, I poked a hole in the bottom of the bag to drain the water and scattered the diced potatoes onto a SilPat covered cookie sheet drizzled with olive oil, several small pinches of rosemary, a dash of ginger, salt and pepper. 
  • And then used a spatula or turner to toss well.
  • Placed the cookie sheet into the preheated oven for ten to twelve minutes.
  • Remove, carefully toss again and continue cooking for another ten to twelve minutes.
  • At the end, I put them under the broiler for a minute or two to get little more browning.
  • Serve (hopefully with a lovely cheese omelet with bacon and raspberry jam slathered toast on the side) and enjoy! 


Friday, February 8, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Band-aid Cheese aka American Cheese

Sorry American Cheese.
You've never been my favorite.
I tried, really I did.
People told me you were the best as a grilled cheese sandwich.
Nope.
Then during a visit to Canada, there you were calling yourself Canadian Cheese.
You have no shame.
You'd probably rename a family member for a sale, wouldn't you?

So when a co-worker shared with me that her husband calls you Band-aid Cheese?
I had hysterics at your expense.
No, really. I laughed pretty danged hard.

You call yourself cheese?
You ought to be ashamed!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Come on down, to downtown Salem!

Countless times I've driven on Mission, S Commercial, or off one of the other I-5 exits to Salem, and wished we (the collective Salem resident we) had a way of ushering interested traffic to our downtown.

Perhaps an attractive billboard series, with a different historic landmark on each version? And perhaps with a  url to an informative, well designed website or a GPS type app for their phone? An app that would highlight where necessary locations were: parking, bathrooms, gas stations, restaurants. The rest (walking tours, bike paths, parks, events, galleries, shops, museums) would also be included, but farther down the list.


When our family first moved here in 1991, I didn't embrace the area. I'm a small town girl and 4 lanes heading in one direction, or arterials going in directions other than north, south, east or west, were foreign and daunting to me. There were many things I appreciated, though this list changed in tune with the ages of our girls.

But now? Now I love this town. I've discovered a welcoming community, beautiful sights and I think we ought to be willing to admit it and share it.