Quinoa Salad


Quinoa Salad

Cooked quinoa

Add chopped:
 cucumbers (I used English)
onion (green or white or red)
bell pepper (red, yellow, green)
tomato (fresh or sun-dried)
olives (black or Kalamata)

Salt and pepper
Vinegar and Oil dressing

I had Quinoa Salad (KEEN-wah) at a rehearsal dinner and loved it.  It looked different than mine pictured above, because the cook very finely chopped the veggies in her salad.  I’m a coarse-chop girl. I understand that  Quinoa is a complete protein and is gluten free.  I’m delighted to add to my meager repertoire of  GF recipes.  Quinoa only takes 15 minutes to cook, it’s a whole grain and very versatile. 

As I made this salad it dawned on me that, aside from the quinoa, it features all the ingredients for a lovely stir-fry.  So this is my summer stir-fry dish!  When I eat it, I pretend I’m Lebanese.  (I know that’s neurotic, but there it is.) I could make a large bowl of this salad and have lunches for a week.  Yum!


Rice Pudding Reflections

It’s a jolly good laugh when the opposites of deprivation and bounty take you to the same dish. 

When we were feeding, clothing and educating our sons on a shoestring budget, peasant food was the menu du jour. I liked calling it peasant food: it gave it a romantic, bohemian flair. Peasant has a nicer ring than poor.  I bought potatoes in fifty pound bags, sacks of beans, sacks of rice, sacks of wheat, sacks of oats.  One son recalls us eating a lot of rice pudding.

Lately I’ve had the dilemma of abundance.  A local farmer delivers milk weekly and we’ve had too many gallons of milk spoil for lack of consumption.  Reluctant to reduce our order (and support of our farmer friend), we felt rotten throwing away good food.  Yogurt and cheese were options; I wasn’t consistent in making them and the demand for them was low.

I tried to think of foods that use milk.  “Remember when I used to make rice pudding?”  I combed through my cookbooks for a recipe which required the most milk.  One took a quart of milk; I doubled it.  It uses so much milk because you cook the rice in the milk instead of water.  My high-metabolism husband loved it.  He’s always looking for sweets to eat.

I doubled that recipe, tinkered with how to prepare it and now I make a gallon of rice pudding every week.  One man, my husband, eats a gallon of rice pudding every week! It’s become a game. 

Me:  You’re gonna get sick of rice pudding.
Him:  I will outlast you.  You will get tired of making rice pudding before I get tired of eating it.
Me:  I’ll keep making it! 
Him: I’ll keep eating it!

Enough Rice Pudding

1 gallon whole milk
4 cups rice
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Mix ingredients and simmer on low heat until thick, 2-3 hours.
Stir when you can. 

In another bowl beat 6 large eggs together.
Add the hot mixture gradually to eggs to warm them up.
Add egg mixture to pudding and cook 5 minutes.

Remove from heat.
Add a few glops of vanilla (2T?).

Serve warm or cool in refrigerator.
Optional: sprinkle with cinnamon

Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia follows the true story to two women: Julia Child in France, 1949, and Julie Powell, who cooked and blogged her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 2002 from her apartment in Queens.  It is an interesting technique to put two memoirs into one film, but it works.

If you like period pieces, you’ll especially enjoy the French parts of the movie.  I wouldn’t have thought post-WWII Paris could have looked so luscious.  My husband was salivating from the beginning of the movie…over the wood paneled blue Buick station wagon.

Meryl Streep delivers an award-winnable performance as the jaunty Julia Child.  She captures the voice, the mannerisms and the joi de vivre that is signature Julia.  One cannot help but love this woman who is so at home in her own skin.  Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, a cubicle worker and aspiring writer, restless and riddled with angst.  Julia becomes Julie’s role model.

Paul Child and Eric Powell, the husbands, play supporting roles.  The film portrays the Childs’ relationship as stable and secure, tinged with sadness at their inability to conceive; Julie and Eric’s marriage is threatened by the blogging project and her focus on it.  It is refreshing to see a movie with two married couples for whom fidelity is a given. 

The main message that I extracted is that Julia Child was her joyful, unflappable self because she was a woman adored by her husband.  His love “beautified” her.  We admire this woman who is plain and tall, with a voice that grazes the ceiling, because of her passion and zest and joy in cooking. The security of being  loved meant she didn’t have to edit the fiascos out of her television shows.  That woman could laugh.

My strongest criticism is that the intimacy of both couples was overstated and brought on screen.  Less is more.  The scene where Julia and Paul exit their Paris house holding hands until their fingertips part communicates their sexual sizzle better than the bedroom scenes.

Oh..the food!  Lots of butter, lots of whisking, chopping, and plenty of eating.  It’s delicious.

The Tale of Two Restaurant Critics

Last night this line from T.S. Eliot kept running through my head.  It’s from the Four Quartets. ‘Garlic and sapphires in the mud…’ I remembered that when you got into this it was almost a spiritual thing with you.  You love to eat, you love to write, you love the generosity of cooks and what happens around a table when a great meal is served.  Nothing that went on last night had anything to do with that.  ~ Reichl’s husband criticizing the critic

The Palm smelled of hope and garlic and grilling meat.  p. 108

Ever since I stumbled upon Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, I have been a Ruth Reichl fan.   Her second memoir Comfort Me with Apples cemented my opinion.  Garlic and Sapphires tells the story of her tenure as the restaurant critic at the New York Times.  All three books have excellent recipes (New York Cheesecake, Risotto Primavera, Thai Noodles, Hash Browns, a ten-minute Spaghetti Carbonara, Gougères – cheese puffs, Aushak – an Afghan dish, are just some in this book) decorating the narrative.  

An entertaining bit of Garlic is the story of Ruth’s disguises and the persona she adopts with each wig and outfit.  Ruth wears her departed mom’s dress and becomes Miriam; a champagne wig, nails, heels and a sexy suit create Chloe;  a carrot red wig, large glasses, lipstick and a vintage silk jacket evoke the cozy and crumpled Brenda;  Betty was an old sorry lady in oxfords so bland that she blends in to the crowd.   Reichl tells the back story, how it went down, and then we get to read the actual review that was printed in the Times.  Most of the food reviewed isn’t food *I’m* used to ordering: foie gras, wild hare stew, steamed skate, raw tuna and caviar, risotto with black truffles. But I am enjoying myself (calorie-free!) through Ruth’s remarkable descriptions.  Currently Reichl is my favorite food writer. 

When I realized that Mimi Sheraton had previously held the same job and wrote her own memoir, I decided to read the two books back to back. 

Where Reichl drew me in, Sheraton pushed me away.  It reminded me of the self-absorbed drivel you sometimes endure from a stranger at a party.  Example: So whenever I am asked, “How can I become a food critic like you?” I am always tempted to answer, “Live my life.”   There were many references that only residents of NYC could catch. 

I had a head cold; in the grips of a passive indecisive misery, I kept plodding along.  Lo, during the last fifth of the book, I started to perk up.  I was compelled to write down a few quotes.  Here are a few.  Enjoy them, skip this book and read Reichl.

Not to taste while cooking is much like
choosing a color scheme with closed eyes. p.219

Wrinkled ripeness in fruits, as in people,
seems anathema to many Americans.  p. 229

It is better to be good
than to be original.
~ Robert A. M. Stern, architect

Just as some women gather jewels that they contemplate
occasionally to cheer themselves up,
so I can unwrap memories of favorite meals,
a far less fattening pursuit than eating them.  p.237


How to Cook a Wolf


“Nothing seems particularly grim
if your head is clear
and your teeth are clean
and your bowels function properly.”

The problem is how to characterize How to Cook a Wolf.   

~  It is a cookbook, but one with only 75 recipes added like seasoning to the prose.  Along the way you will learn how to cook fish, eggs, fritattas, polenta, gravy, bread and War Cake.

~  It is a book on frugality.

~  It is a survival book including a basic recipe for a gruel/sludge that will keep you alive.

~  It is sort of a social history, illuminating life at home during the second world war.

~  It is a dialog between the author and herself.  She wrote the book in 1942 and revised it in 1954.  The original is kept intact and revisions added in [brackets].  This is one of the most entertaining features.  As any writer knows, reading your work at a later date can make you alternately wince or nod your head.  Fisher, an opinionated writer, tends to argue with herself, retract a statement or two; but she admits at the end of one chapter that she is pleased with what she wrote. 

~   It is a book worth reading for its delightful prose.  W. H. Auden wrote about M.F.K. Fisher “I do not know of anyone in the United States today who writes better prose.”  Here’s what I want you to do: click on the link above, click on the picture of the book “Click to Look Inside” and read the table of contents.  I don’t know any other book with better chapter titles. 

If you are curious about the wolf in the title, it comes from the ditty by C.P.S. Gilman: There’s a whining at the threshold.  There’s a scratching at the floor.  To work! To work! In Heaven’s name! The wolf is at the door! 

Here’s some morsels of Fisher’s writing to further tempt you:

As for butter and other shortening,
I have always felt that I should prefer
too little of the best
to plenty of the inferior kind.  p. 18

[As an older and wiser frittata cook
I almost always, these richer days,
add a scant cup of good dry Parmesan cheese
to the eggs when I mix them.
Often I add rich cream too.
How easy it is to stray from austerity!]  p.61

I believe more firmly than ever in fresh raw milk,
freshly ground whole grains of cereal,
and vegetables grown in organically cultured soil.
If I must eat meats I want them carved from beasts
nurtured on the plants from that same kind of soil.  p. 71

The doubtful triumphs of science over human hunger
are perhaps less dreadful to the English than to us,
for in spite of our national appetite for pink gelatine puddings,
we have never been as thoroughly under the yoke
of Bird’s Custard Sauce as our allies.  p.152

In the old days, before Stuka and blitz became part of
even childish chitchat, every practical guide to cookery
urged you to keep a well-filled emergency shelf
in your kitchen or pantry.
Emergency is another word
that has changed its inner shape;
when Marion Harland and Fanny Farmer used it
they meant unexpected guests.
You may, too, in an ironical way,
but you hope to God
they are the kind who will never come.  p.187

New Bread

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy and save me!
Let me lie down like a stone, O God,
and rise up like new bread.

~ Tolstoy in War and Peace
quoted by M.F.K. Fisher in How to Cook a Wolf

Isn’t this quote about perfect for Holy Week? 

Also a prayer for our young friend Isaiah, who remains in a coma.  It is a great reminder that we used to be dead in our sins and God has made us alive in Him.

God made this world chock full of pictures–symbols–of death and resurrection.  The more we look, the more we see.  Help me add to the list. 

Night and day: each day dies followed by a new day 
Our sleep is a little death; awaking is a little resurrection 
A seed dies and is buried in the ground; a new plant rises
Tulips turn brown and brittle…and come up green.
A tree becomes a skeleton…until new leaves bud
Hibernating bears
Drowned rice fields
Grapes are killed, crushed, bruised
Yeast is buried in flour and water
An act of repentance, a dying to self, precedes new growth

Thankful, Spring Edition


photo credit: National Audubon Society

Thankful, Spring Edition

Fair sunshine and small flecks of green,
revealing treasures emerging,
an opened window, freshened air,
the deep inhaling of this grace.

Sorrow distilled,
ache and agony
poured in one vessel,
yearning for relief;
You who gather tears in a bottle,
hear our prayer.

For reunions in the produce section,
full-exposure answers to politely worded questions,
so satisfying an exchange
that we wonder
we ever let our friendship drift…

For a cataract of books,
flooding my shelves,
swamping my senses.
I splash
and sing
and scoop them up,
drenched in delight,
mesmerized by the mist
of so many nourishing words.

Balsamic vinegar,
fresh-squeezed lime,
tangy smooth yogurt,
crumbled cashews,
aroma of cilantro,
pan-fried asparagus,
savory lamb,
sweet oranges,
a cup of cold water.

For a well-placed chord or two,
a progression that knocks down
any preconceived notions,
a new way of hearing
a familiar tune.

For nicknames and
the way they bore
through apathy and passivity.
The current that keeps cracklin’
when I hear his voice say
“Hey, Babe!”

The foreshadow of Easter
in the springtime cycles:

The song of the crocus and daffodil,
the squeaks and chirps and outside noises,
The solid joy of this abiding truth:
Winter is past.
Death is dead.

Awake, my soul, and sing!


“Ten thousand thousand precious gifts
my daily thanks employ;
nor is the least a cheerful heart
that tastes those gifts with joy.”*

* Joseph Addison

More Thankful posts.


Food on Vacation


My new friend Lois and I have been holding meetings of our two person button club.  I truly enjoy our time together and come away rewarded with a new story, more information on buttons (you can tell a lot about a button by biting it…no joke!), and a deeper friendship with a woman right around the age my mom would be if she were alive.

This week Lois had this framed piece up.  Three menus from three different motels around Yellowstone Park in July, 1949.  Memories from a vacation she enjoyed with her family.

• Interesting breakfast options at Mammoth Springs Hotel: 

Eggs: boiled, fried, shirred or scrambled  what are shirred eggs? * eggs placed in small buttered dishes with a dash of cream and baked until whites are set
Omelets: plain, ham or jelly  ever heard of a jelly omelet? Sweet + eggs? No appeal to me!
Toast: dry, milk or butter  I’ve only known milk toast as a metaphor! M.F.K. Fisher calls it “a warm, mild, soothing thing, full of innocent strength”

• Lunch options at Canyon Hotel

Grilled Halibut, Hungarian Goulash or Fresh Alaskan Shrimp Salad   yu-uhmmm!
Cauliflower Polonaise  boiled cauliflower, fried in butter, w/ bread crumbs and chopped boiled eggs
Brown Betty Pudding consists of apples, lemon peel, brown bread, suet (!) and spices

• Dinner menu items at Old Faithful Inn

Chilled Tomato Juice  this makes me salivate.  What a splendid beginning!
Steamed Sweet Rice and Peaches, Coude    ?????
Grilled Cube Steak, Colbert    more ??????
Boysenberry Cobbler  I’m ready to go back in time
Cheese and Saltines   I’m amused that this is in the dessert section

How much fun is that?  What a fine memory to have on your kitchen wall!  My family laughs because every description of a vacation always starts and ends with the food.   One of our rules when we travel is that we don’t eat anything we could get in our hometown.  You won’t find us at Denny’s in Alabama.  (You won’t find us at Denny’s at home either!)  We always try to avoid franchises.  If there is a local specialty (like sauerkraut on pizza in North Dakota) we’re game to try it.

Your turn!  What’s the best food you’ve had on a trip?

Trader Joe’s

If I could import one store and one store alone into my small town, it would be Trader Joe’s.  Good stuff at good prices. The closest TJ’s is 4 1/2 hours away.  But I have friends and kids who always ask before they come, “What do you want from Trader Joe’s?”

Do any of you shop at Trader Joe’s?  What do you like to buy there? 

(We buy 90% of the wine we consume there ($2.99 Charles Shaw), Oatmeal stout, cranberry juice, flax, trail mix, dried apples, shower gel, spaghetti sauce, tomatoes and produce.  We would buy a lot of frozen stuff if we lived closer.)

Thanks to Laurie, one of my TJ’s shuttle-people, who sent me this YouTube.

How Have You Changed in 2008?

Before you make resolutions (or projects as Sherry calls them), take a look back and see how you have changed this year.  It’s kind of fun!  This is a variation of the I Used to Think post.  Poiema’s perceptive comment:

I really do think that the small details of life show forth growth in a far greater way than we normally stop to realize. It feels good to mark something measurable on the growth chart.

We’ve made several changes in our diet this year. 

•  We eat oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning.  My husband recently said, “I can’t believe you converted me to oatmeal, and I honestly can’t believe how much I like it!”   Here’s the difference: we make individual servings in the microwave.  Easy cleanup, fast, and fabulous.  And cheap!  This has made a significant dent in our grocery budget.

1/2 cup oatmeal, cover with water (experiment with amount), microwave 2 minutes.  Add milk and sweetener.

Oatmeal supreme:  add a handful of frozen blueberries to the cooked oatmeal.

•  We stopped drinking soda pop. 

•  We started drinking raw milk and eating locally grown chickens.  These cost about twice what we were paying.

•  We switched to sucanat instead of sugar.  This also costs about twice what white sugar costs.

But, enough about food!  What other changes have we made? 

I joined Facebook, after my kids talked about it on a backpacking trip.  Facebook seems to be the medium many prefer for staying in touch.  It has extended my time on the computer (argh!) but has reconnected me with friends from the past. 

Reconnecting.  Several important people from past decades have resurfaced in our life.  Those reconnections underline ways we have changed (oh yeah, I used to think/like/agree with that; but I don’t anymore!) or ways our friends have changed in areas where we have not.  But it has been a blessing to pick up loose pieces of yarn and weave them back into the fabric of our lives.

So many changes are part of the daily or weekly cycles.  We now worship in a liturgical setting and recite the Apostle’s Creed every Lord’s Day.  I think the repetition of those words “I believe” has made me a more confident woman. 

Last night my husband and I had a disagreement (which we resolved, thankfully).  I realized, though, that the longer we have been married, the fewer quarrels we have.  We must of plowed through the dirt so many times that we are aware of, and compensate for, our differences.  Grace, all of grace.  

Of course, not all changes are positive.  I used to keep a tighter guard on my tongue.  I’ve caught myself gossiping too much lately.  Blech.  So we resolve to change.   

Nancy Wilson has written what I think is the best blog post of the year–simply stellar–about New Year’s here. If you are prone to depression this is REQUIRED READING. 

How have you changed lately?