Tortilla Soup and Arrachera


This recipe was both my first and last taste of Chicago on my visit in October.

It’s Emeril’s recipe.

My niece substitutes tortilla chips for the homemade corn tortillas.

Good with several squirts of lime.

We also had arrachera (grilled skirt steak marinated with onion, cilantro and lime).



 If only you could smell this photo.
In California, we’ve eaten virtually the same thing, but it was called Carne Asada.

Can anyone explain the difference between Asada and Arrechera?

::  an aside ::
It is on my Bucket List to learn to make refried beans as good as
the Mexican restaurants. I’ve tried, I’ve fiddled, I’ve cooked many
a pinto bean. But, man, it’s never the perfect consistency.
Any suggestions on making the perfect refried beans?
:: close aside ::

I did learn a fun tip. You probably already know it.
But I don’t get the Food Channel.
So new discoveries are still mine to make!
To warm a tortilla, just do this:


I took more pictures of cute kids who share bloodlines with me.

A boy absorbed in a book—yeah, we’re related.

This smile makes my heart thump. Those eyes!

Curls! Sweetness!


Compare young man (half Mexican, half mostly Dutch) on left
with picture of me (mongrel English/Dutch) on the right.
Isn’t that something?

This girl has the name I chose, but never got to use.
She’s a keeper!

Family and food.
The perfect recipe for a memorable trip.

A Mario Moment

When the wind is fierce and furious after the rain has drenched the earth, root systems give way.  This happened the weekend of my son’s wedding near Seattle. Towering trees toppled like toothpicks. A wide swath of cities lost electricity. At the last minute we changed the venue of the wedding, of the rehearsal, of the lodging…and informed all the guests. Without electricity! Flights were cancelled, motels were dark, fuel was scarce, it was a mess. My siblings and I took refuge at The Moore hotel in downtown Seattle. This photo (my sister Margaret is missing) documents our stay.

The morning of the (evening) wedding, we had a parenthetical block of time to spend together. We strolled down to Pike Place Market. It remains, five years later, one of my favorite memories. After 48 hours of adrenaline overload, we relaxed, laughed at the fishmongers tossing salmon across the way, sampled scrumptious food, admired the amazing produce and flowers. We divided into clusters as we browsed the market.

Suddenly, my sister-in-law Val appeared out of nowhere, grabbed my hand, and yanked. That it was urgent for me to follow her was apparent; why was a mystery. No time for words, but pulsing with excitement, we dodged other shoppers, threaded our way around obstacles, ran up stairs, careened across the promenade and skidded to a stop. I looked around.

Business was slow in this section, nothing obvious met my eye. Simultaneously confused and apologetic, I looked at Valeri for a clue. She discreetly nodded to her left. I followed her gaze. There was nothing to see! Well, there was one customer paying for a purchase, one vendor accepting payment, and a whole lot of counter space. The customer was just an ordinary Joe: orange crocs, baggy pajama pants, red hair in a ponytail, and a down vest which expanded his already expansive chest. Panting for breath, I searched the room, trying to see.

Next thing I know, Valeri is approaching the guy, puts her hand on his arm. He glances at her. “Thank you. Thank you for your work. I appreciate it immensely.” He mumbles a reply, we turn and walk away. As soon as we got out of sight, I turned on Val. “What was that about?” The ordinary Joe we saw was a world famous chef with a TV show of his own and a restaurant in New York. I don’t get the Food Channel, so the magnificence of the meeting was lost on me.

This summer Valeri and I were visiting.

“Oh, Valeri, you won’t believe the mileage I’ve gotten out of the time we were in Pike Place Market and saw Emeril. I’ve told that story to every foodie I know.”

“Mario,” she corrected. “It was Mario. Mario Batali.”

More Conversion Stories


From basil…

…to pesto


Pesto Recipe

4 -5 garlic cloves

3 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves

1 cup Parmesan cheese *

1/2 cup pine nuts * (when pine nuts cost the equivalent of gold nuggets, I use 1/3 cup)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil *


Mince garlic in food processor.

Add basil and process.

Add cheese, nuts and salt.

Add olive oil in a stream.


I used to freeze basil in ice cube trays. Now I prefer snack-sized ziplock bags. A friend freezes hers in baby food jars. Unless you have a reason to use this all today, you must freeze pesto. You can keep it in the fridge in a container with a layer of olive oil on top. Air is the bad boyfriend to charming Pesto; she turns dark and ugly after long embraces with that bad boy.

Add pesto to pasta for a perfect side.

Add pesto to pizza sauce for a perfect sauce.

Add pesto to poultry for a savory main course.

Spread on crackers with sun-dried tomatoes and cream cheese.

(From Sheri’s comment, below: Add a dab of pesto to soup to make it amazing.)

Or just Google pesto recipes.


[Side bar: I learned the first year of marriage to always have the ingredients of a quick meal handy. Something easy to put together if you had unexpected guests for dinner. Back in the day, I shudder to say, tuna casserole was my go to dish. Maybe that’s why friends often had “other plans.” Pesto and pasta is an elegant dish to make on the spot.]

 * I buy these at Costco or Trader Joe’s. I store the Parm in the freezer, pine nuts in the fridge.


::     ::    ::



from oats (and friends and relations)…


 …to granola


Granola Recipe

12 cups rolled oats (whole or quick, your preference)

1 cup each, your choice:

Wheat Germ

Sesame Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

Walnuts, chopped

Cashews, chopped

Sliced Almonds

(other grains per your taste. See note on fruit below.)



1 1/2 cup canola oil

1 1/2 cup honey

a glug of milk

a glug of vanilla


Microwave oil/honey mixture for three minutes.

Give it a swirl, and pour it over the oats.

Mix well. Then mix it again. And again.


Turn out onto Jelly-roll pan (a cookie sheet with lip) or onto Silpat. I line cookie sheets with parchment paper, but that is optional.

Bake in oven until deeply tanned, stirring every 15 minutes.


I buy oats in 25 pound bags; I get nuts at Costco or Trader Joe’s.

I just found a 2 pound bag of sliced almonds at Costco. Nice!

Opt: add dried fruit (raisins, Craisins, dried blueberries) AFTER baking. Trust me—after.

Opt: reduce oil and honey to 1 cup each. Just keep the proportion 1:1.


My greatest challenge with granola is baking it to perfection.

My original recipe said Bake 275° for 30 minutes. Eating raw oats does things to you.

Depending on my schedule and my patience, I’ll either bake it at 350° with a close eye or I’ll bake it at 250° until I can smell it, then start stirring in 15 minute intervals. The edges cook faster than the middle, so mix the granola around the cookie sheet. What I’ve found is that you wait and wait and wait…and when it turns perfect you have a 5 minute window. Then it burns. I’m pretty much an expert in how to burn granola. Step 1: Check your Facebook…

 Sheri, in the comments section, makes granola in the crockpot.


Of course!

That’s how I’m making it from now on.


Keen on Quinoa

Quinoa Salad

Here’s the thing regarding quinoa:
it is a base; it will not overwhelm you with flavor.

So you need to bring the zest, the gusto, the tang if you want the salad to sing.

The quinoa by itself is not qualified. It’s healthy. It’s lovely. It has done its job.
But the stuff you add will make people touch their fingertips to their lips and say
Mama Mia, molto bene!

[Ahem. Let’s get this tasty bit of information on the table.
It’s pronounced KEEN-wah.
It is a complete protein, gluten-free, good for you grain.]

Disclaimer: if precision is what you crave, Google a quinoa salad recipe.
This is one of those use-what-you-have recipes.

First you need cooked quinoa. Simple Simon.
1:2 ratio of quinoa to water.
Cook 15 minutes or until quinoa is translucent.

Then you add good flavors.

Onion is not optional. Unless you don’t like onion.
I’m guessing if you don’t like onion, you won’t like quinoa.
Green, red, white, or yellow: just chop it up.

Tomatoes are excellent for their acidity. And flavor.

Bell peppers add crunch, flavor and color.
Red, yellow, orange, or green.

Cucumber is sort of the introverted vegetable.
Doesn’t need the spotlight, but always adds something wonderful.
Peel, de-seed if you must, chop.

Olives are essential.
I think their saltiness completes this salad.
I prefer Kalamata (a very salty Greek olive).
But I only had black olives on hand and the salad was still superb.
Slice or chop and add.

You could add or subtract to this community group:

Artichoke hearts
Feta cheese
Hot pepper e.g. jalapeno
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Diced celery
Anything that strikes you as Mediterranean

When you have all these ingredients mixed together
you are on the verge {[vurj] -noun: the edge, rim or margin} of something spectacular.
You are close, but you are not yet there.
Naked, this salad misses the mark.

The dressing delivers the zest, the gusto, the tang.

Any oil and vinegar dressing will help, especially if you are generous with the vinegar.
If you buy salad dressing, I’d recommend Newman’s Own.

One fine day I had limes I needed to use.
I made a Lime Vinaigrette that will forever be the thing that makes Quinoa ♫ sing ♫.

I use a 1:2 ratio of lime juice to olive oil.
You can skimp on the olive oil. Make it 1:1½

In a jar add lime juice, olive oil,
a few shakes of garlic powder,
a dab of Dijon,
salt and pepper (more than a shake: perhaps ½ t)
Dress that salad, baby.

It looks inviting.
It smells fresh.
It tastes delicious.
 It will fill you up.

Win Some with Winsome Poetry

This is Just to Say

I have
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

~ William Carlos Williams

::     ::     ::

So April is National Poetry Month.
For the five percent of us, that is splendid.
The rest, ho hum.

I’m going to try.
Try to entice.
Give you a taste.
Small bites.

If you can’t read it
in two minutes,
I will only post a part.

But poetry is

More poetry posts.

Going Steady

Chicken broth and me: we’re going steady.

We’re mulling over a long-term relationship.

One of us has commitment-phobia.

Call it a honeymoon, but I can’t go a day without

chicken broth’s kisses.

(Butter is in cold storage. She will forever be my first love.
But I had to abandon butter.)

Garlic and paprika go on double-dates with us.

Basil brags about preempting paprika.

Lemon and dill sometimes feel left out.

Curry keeps begging for a place at the table.

Sage wisely stays silent.

I have no thyme to add to our romance.

Snatching without Snitching



photo courtesy of Diane Wheeler

(This is a bit Seussian.
But, if I were to write a picture book,
it’d be like this.)
The quiche sat on the desk,

my beloved coworker’s quiche.

She left her desk.

I snatched the quiche, but I did not snitch.

I held it close to my nose and sniffed.

I wafted waves of fragrant bacon.

And then I walked away.

My friend came back and I confessed,

“I snatched your quiche, but I did not snitch.”

But still, it was a transgression to waft without permission.

My friend was kind and she replied,

“You can caress my quiche whenever you wish.”