Thursday, March 31, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow... A change of seasons and a change of menu...


There is a cool breeze blowing outside... probably our last one until October. Summer is on it's way. What happened to spring you ask? Well I live in Texas and it doesn't last for long. The weather the past few days has been great for gardening. Just look at my garden a few weeks ago and then look at it now. The diffence is amazing. My basil is 5 times the size it was then. I love the spring, but I am mourning the end of the cool weather, and dreading the heat that will stick around longer than I'd like it to.. the heat that will wither my herbs if I forget for one day to water them.

Don't get me wrong. I love the river! I love swimming and I love the time I have for vacationing and fun. I just wish the cold fronts would show their face more often. So in honor of the cooler temperatures I decided to bake some bread and make some soup. I took a trip out the the garden to gather some herbs and snap some photos... and then back to the kitchen.









Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken Curry

Chicken Curry

I love chicken curry... and this is one of the better recipes I've tried. The basic recipe is from a book called 1000 Indian recipes, but I changed it somewhat to reflect what I had available in my kitchen. I also reduced the amount of chicken and added vegetables to make it healthier. You can make this recipe vegetarian by simply omiting the chicken and adding another cup or two of vegetables. Something like eggplant might be add in in this case.



  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 6 large slices of ginger

  • 1 large onion

  • 2 tomatoes

  • handful of cilantro

  • 2 serano or jalapeno peppers

  • vegetable oil or ghee

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1/4 t. cardamom powder

  • 1/2 t. cinnamon

  • 1 1/2 T. coriander

  • 1 t. ground cumin

  • 1 1/2 t. garam masala or curry powder

  • 1/2 t. turmeric

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 1/2 C. plain yogurt

  • 3 large chicken breasts

  • 1 C. water

  • 2-3 cups chopped vegetables (potato, carrots, peas)
In a blender of processor blend onions, garlic, and ginger until finely minced. Then process together the tomatoes, cilanto, and chiles. Heat the oil in a large pan and then cook the onion mixture along with the bay leaf, cinnamon, and cardamom (if you have whole spices you can use them instead of the powdered spices... I just didn't have any fresh available). Cook until the onion is well browned.

While we waited my daughter and I whipped up a cucumber salad.

Then add the tomato and chile mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally until most of the juices evaporate... about 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the spices. Stir in the yogurt slowly to prevent curdling. Then add the chicken breasts and cook for about 5 minutes to brown them somewhat.


Add the water and the mixed vegetables and then cover. Cook for about 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the vegetales are tender. Remove the chicken breasts and chop into bite size bits and return to the pan. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

I served mine with rice, cucumber salad and melon. MMmmmmmm.
Cheers,

Jenn

Monday, March 28, 2011

Baby Steps at B.O.W.


  • When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. Confucious

  • Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs. Henry Ford

  • Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away. Indira Gandhi

  • Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Lao Tzu

  • He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance. Friedrich Nietzsche

  • I dream of men who take the next step instead of worrying about the next thousand steps. Theodore Roosevelt

  • When I face the desolate impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all that I can permit myself to contemplate. John Steinbeck

  • Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small acts. Tao Te Ching Don't let the night sky intimidate you. Just take it one piece at a time. Start with what you know and build on that. Warren Hart (Astronomy Teacher at B.O.W.)

Many people have said it before, but sometimes it takes an experience like B.O.W. to bring something into focus. Staring up at the night sky and allowing the impossibility of it all to overwhelm me and make me feel small is not my personal road to enlightenment. I have to take baby steps down that road. I need to take it one step at a time. The first night at B.O.W. I did just that. I found the constellation that I know best... Orion... I looked for those three stars that make up his belt and from there I built the story that I had learned in class that day. I spotted his loyal hunting dogs Canis Major and Canis Minor at his side. I also recognized the stealthy rabbit Lepus crouching at his feet who is thankful that Taurus the Bull is there to draw the hunter's attention away. It didn't make me feel small, it made me feel like I was a part of something big.


The next day I applied this to what I learned in my other classes. In my outdoor photography class I decided that I was going to tackle my digital camera one function at a time instead of trying to digest the whole owner's manual in one gulp. In my introduction to hunting class I began formulating my hunting plan rather than feeling like I have to rush to the end. Finally in my last class, geocaching, I decided that rather than moaning and groaning about how I can't afford to buy a GPS receiver I was going to explore the host of opportunities out there that don't need any special equipment. I'll worry about buying stuff when I can afford it and just have fun for now.


Thinking about all the ways that I can apply this idea to the projects and goals in my life can be a bit overwhelming... so I won't do that. I'll just start with what I know and build on that. To start a fire first you need a spark. but that's a story for another day... Another baby step...


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nature vs Nutrisse: B.O.W With Bows In My Hair.

I have a vision of myself. I'm wearing jeans that fit me perfectly. My behind looks neither too large nor too small but as Goldilocks would say... just right. My hair isn't coiffed in the fanciest new doo, but it is perfect. My nails while not brightly colored are well manicured. My footwear is practical for a hike in the woods, but also exceedingly stylish. My camo t-shirt is composed of the perfect colors to bring out my eyes. AND I'm packin' heat. I'm on a hunting trip and damn I look good!

Women Fishing (not) Sexy Vintage Hunting Print


I want to bring home the venison, fry it up in a pan, and never let him forget he's a man.

Right now I'm a woman who is caught between two visions of herself.

1. In January I decided that as my New Year's resolution I was going to learn to clean the fish that I catch and that I was going to learn all about hunting. If possible I want to hunt, clean, and cook something totally hands on. This isn't going to be easy for me... I'm not a squeamish person, but I spent 15 years as a vegetarian and I don't take the life of animals lightly. I think that that is the main reason that I want to do it... and if I can't maybe I need to rethink my diet again.

2. The other vision of myself is part of my vow for lent to give up negativity. A big part of that is getting rid of the negative self image that has been creeping in. I am banishing the sweatpants , holey t-shirts, and sloppy doo-rags (the stay at home mom uniform) to the back of the closet and getting back to a more girly me. I went through my closet and ruthlessly threw away the stained, the out of fashion, and the just plain ugly.

I'm sprucing up my clothing, taking care of my skin, reintroducing exercise and just trying to make the best use of this 40 year old body that I can.


So this weekend I'm off on a BOW retreat. There I will be taking classes on astronomy, nature photography, geo-caching... and yes HUNTING. And I will be doing all this with a bunch of women. Perhaps we can trade make up secrets while we hike through the woods looking for game...

So any fashion or hunting tips anyone?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Magnified

Salt magnifies the natural flavors of the food and is an essential part of seasoning. It is so much a part of the foods that we eat that we often take it for granted. Yet it is in our rituals, it is part of our language, and it has even changed history. Salt has been used as a preservative, a medicine, and a currency. It has a role in religious rituals and I dare you to count how many references to it are made in the bible. Salt might just be bigger than Jesus! Salt is so big that it can't be confined to such a tiny blurb on my blog... I could probably write a book on the subject.

Here are just a few expressions and idioms that we use every day:

Salt of the earth
Take it with a grain of salt
Worth his salt
Rub salt on a wound

Salt is also a traditonal housewarming gift in many traditions.

How is salt a part of your history... your lore... or you life?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is probably one of Thailand's most famous dishes worldwide. While it is certainly popular in Thailand, it is even considered by some to be their national dish, it has it's origins elsewhere. It probably first appeared in Vietnam and was brought by merchants and popularized in the 30s in 40s... To find out more about the history of Pad Thai just follow this link. But enough about the origins of Pad Thai... Let's get serious and start cooking!

Pad Thai

12-16 oz rice noodles
oil
4 cloves garlic
1 container firm tofu, cubed
6 T. lemon juice
6 T. fish sauce (there are many recipes and ideas for vegetarian options available... just google it!)
2 T. sugar
3 eggs
4 oz. bean sprouts
6 T. roasted peanuts, crushed
8 green onions, sliced thin
4 T. cilantro, chopped finely


It is important to soak the rice noodles first. The package I bought contained 16oz of noodles so I just soaked the whole package. I didn't end up using it all... but I wanted to make sure I had enough. In the past I've had some difficulty with rice noodles... this time, however, I found this helpful tutorial and they came out just right. Just soak them in hot (not boiling) water for about 15-20 minutes and then drain. They will seem a bit tough at this point... but once you add them to the wok with the sauce they will soften up and become a wonderful texture.


Next you will need to assemble your ingredients. Mix together the fish sauce, lemon juice, and sugar in a small bowl. Dice the tofu and chop the garlic. I also prepared the bean sprouts, peanuts, green onions and cilantro and put them all in a bowl to add at the end of the cooking time.


Now it is time to cook. First you will cook the garlic until it is golden. Next gently stir in the tofu. At this point I also added in a couple of handfuls of chopped up celery, cabbage and carrots to add color. You can add whatever you like.


Reduce the heat and then add in the sauce mixture. Stir until the sugar is totally dissolved. While this cooks you are going to want to scramble the eggs. I made a small omelet in a separate pan and then rolled it up and sliced it into thin strips.


Add your noodles at this point and stir until the sauce is absorbed and the noodles seem fully cooked (but not mushy). Now all you do is add the sprouts, peanuts, green onions and cilantro and stir gently to mix. Top with eggs and garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro.

Enjoy!

Jenn

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kiss My Grits-- Hominy and Soul



Last week the prompt for the Sunday creative was soul... I immediately thought about grits. Not only are grits part of the soul food tradition, but grits are at the very soul of Southern cooking.

My mother doesn't like grits, so even though Texas is on the edge of the grits belt (it stretches from Texas to Virginia), I didn't grow up eating this tasty treat. I don't think I had my first serving until I was in high school... and while I didn't dislike the flavor I didn't fall in love with it either. I cooked some the other day, however, and I glad I did. Grits are great! They are warm and gritty... They lend themselves to almost any flavor, savory or sweet, and they could be a side dish any time of day.
I like mine with butter, salt, and pepper. It was nice how the maple syrup from my pancakes surrounded them giving them just a little sweetness without overwhelming their simple flavor.

Grits are either made of corn or hominy. They can be served as a porridge or they can be formed into blocks and pan fried. You can serve them with cheese, bacon, onions, garlic, sugar, syrup, honey... just about anyway you can imagine. How do you like your grits?



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Break Camping


It is Spring Break here and my husband and daughter have the week off, and as a result I've been taking the week off as well. We went on a wonderful camp out for two nights and now we are back at home. Unfortunately I have come down with viris of some sort and have been in bed with a fever since our return.... but here are some quick pictures of our camp site grub and a few others as well. I will be back to posting regularly next week.





Foil packed potatoes, sausage, and black beans cooked right in the can... Typical camping fare. We served it with warm tortillas and lots of fresh fruit.





Chillin' in the hammock, a chilly dip in the spring, and a game of marbles.
A wonderful time was had by all.
Cheers,
Jenn





Friday, March 11, 2011

Que Fresa! Strawberries, Slang, and $h!+

MMmmmmmm strawberries... I love them. I love them fresh, I love them in crepes and on pancakes. They taste great sliced over breakfast cereal. I even like them with whipped cream, dipped in chocolate, or in cobblers and pie (although with strawberries I prefer a more natural preparation). I've always associated strawberries with love and passion. Sharing a bowl of these juicy fruits with a lover certainly is delightful. If you break a double strawberry in half and share it with the one you desire, legend has it, you'll fall hopelessly in love. Strawberries are shaped like hearts and red in color...the symbol of Venus the goddess of love.

That is why I was particularly disturbed this morning. I was sipping on my coffee and watching "Go Diego Go" with my three year old. I should have known after watching the previous episode, where Dora came to his rescue by producing a bottle of polar bear milk from her backpack (still trying to figure out how to work that one into a blog entry), that just about anything goes in the world of Diego and Dora... The episode in question was titled "Green Iguana Helps Abuelito Plant a New Strawberry Farm!" Sounds lovely right? Little did I know that Diego was going to be using Green Iguana as a "mule" to transport the strawberry seeds across the rain forest in his... drum roll please... DIGESTIVE TRACT.

Sure I know all about manure, fertilizers, and the roll that animals play in planting seeds. I have a garden after all. In fact I read somewhere that birds (and their poop) are almost solely responsible for the spread of wild strawberry seeds. But after watching Green Iguana complain for the last leg of the journey about how bad he needed to go, and then watching him poop out row after row of strawberry seeds for grandpa, I just couldn't see myself sitting down with Diego and Alicia and digging into a delicious strawberry parfait. In Mexico they use the word for strawberry (fresa) to describe someone who is stuck up or has high bred ways or tastes. Does my disgust at iguana poop mingling with my favorite fruit make me fresa? No! I am far from fresa! I didn't say I wasn't going to eat them anymore...but I might have found a way to get my 6 year old to slow down a little and save some for me. Perhaps I should show her this episode tonight and see how she reacts.

Our iguana-poop-free strawberry patch... I can't wait to taste some of our own homegrown fruit.
Strawberry Crepes


I found my recipe for batter here...


Cook them in a well oiled skillet.

Kids don't try this at home... My husband is a good cook... but I assure you this was his only contribution to this meal. I am hopeless at flipping things without a spatula.


Dig in!

Cheers,
Jenn







Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Exorcising Dust Bunnies for the Easter Bunny

I was planning on posting about Crepes today... But now for something completely different.


I haven't been a practicing Christian for a long time. In fact I haven't seen the inside of a church since I lived in Mexico and that was just for sight seeing purposes. My kids have never been church goers and until this past year my older daughter thought that Christmas was Santa's birthday and that the angle on top of the tree was a fairy. This year we decided that it was time to start sharing the stories and holidays of our Christian background... and after last nights discussion about lent and Easter she is a bit confused about the old Easter Bunnies connection with the crucifixion of Christ. I assured her that he had nothing to do with it, but she still thinks it's all a little strange and certainly WON'T be giving up her favorite food (spaghetti and meatballs) for lent. This is why I've sheltered my kids from religion for so long... Look at how things turn out when I try to have the BIG talks with the kids. Suddenly Santa is being ushered into heaven by a chorus of Tinkerbells, and the Easter bunny is putting 30 pieces of silver in pastel colored baskets.

But just because I don't go to church doesn't mean that I'm without a moral code. I don't consider myself an atheist. My facebook profile says I'm Druid, but I've always been with Jed Clampet on this one, and I consider myself a golden ruler. I also haven't given up giving stuff up for lent. I've always loved holidays like New Year's and Lent. I love making resolutions and contracts with myself to make changes. Mental and spiritual makeovers rock! In fact I am one of the few people I know who makes New Year's resolutions that I stick to. One year I decided to acquire a green thumb... I've been growing a garden ever since... I learned to knit as a New Year's resolution... and this year I have already cleaned a fish, started researching bread baking, and signed up for a hunting class for my resolution to get closer to the source of my food. I've also been writing songs and preparing myself for my musical resolution. I plan to preform a set of my original music sometime this year. I hope to see you there.

But enough about New Years... let's get on to lent. I've decided that I'm going to give up negativity for lent. And that means that I can't give up anything for lent. Instead I have to do something positive... So let's rephrase... instead of giving up negativity I plan on embracing my positive side. I'm not going to shed extra pounds before summer... I'm going to sculpt a leaner body, eat healthier foods and start doing yoga again. I'm not going to get rid of dust bunnies... I'm going to open up the windows and create a cleaner environment in my home. In essence I plan on looking at the bright side of life.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tale of Two King's Cakes...


I have always been needlessly confused about King's Cake or Rosca de Reyes. I found myself wondering why King's cake was in the store two time a year... Once right after Christmas... and another time early in the spring. Since information is just a click away these days...
I hopped on over to Wikipedia and then took a trip to the public library and found out all I need to know. The thing is that I live 509 miles from New Orleans and 204 miles away from Mexico... and two cultural celebrations just happen to merge here in the heart of Texas... The Gulf Coast traditions associated with Mardi Gras and the whole pre-lenten blow out that occurs... and the traditions of Mexico and their celebration of the Epiphany.
In Mexico Rosca de Reyes (wreath of the king) is used to celebrate Dia de los Reyes (Day of the kings). On January 6th a wreath of bread that is decorated like a Christmas wreath with dried fruits and candies is served. A small baby is hidden inside and whoever finds it has to host the next party in February 2nd and supply tamales and atole for all the guests. I had the pleasure of attending a small party while I was living in Mexico. I didn't find the baby so I was able to enjoy tamales and atole on someone else's dime... Woo hoo!
In New Orleans and other places in the Southern United States the King's Cake is associated with Mardi Gras. Like the Rosca de Reyes a trinket is hidden in the cake and whoever find it is given the responsibility of hosting a party... the difference being that they must host the next Mardi Gras party. We had a king's cake this weekend with friends... but there was no trinket hidden inside... What do you suppose that means? I'm sure it was simply for liability reasons that the store did not wish to include a choking hazard inside the cake... but seriously... I want to know who is suppose to host the next party?
Now that that mystery is cleared up I'm off to make some pancakes and crepes for Shrove Tuesday... Growing up that is the wholesome way that we fattened ourselves up for lent... I think I'll save the beads and the Mardi Gras style throw down for after the kids go to bed...

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