Impromptu International Dinner

To celebrate the return of a dear friend and my Foodie buddy Flyboy, who just returned from the Motherland after a long 3 years, I held an Impromptu dinner with a few friends….some Vegetarian some not. Flyboy is a world traveler by virtue of his ..thank you for your Service…and his love of ethnic food rivals mine.

Many of you know of my tendency to batch cook..usually once or twice a month, on a day when not much is going on. And that is how the rainy- is -it time-to- build-an-ark-Noah day started.

My frig looked like a frozen tundra, and I had just returned from yet another sojourn to ye olde market.

I immediately set to work, pulling out all the contents of the Cold One, meats and fish in the left sink, vegetables in the right careful not to disturb the Breyers, smoothie fruit, or leftover lemon pound cake.

To my delight, the fridge yielded the ingredients for what became an international veggie/ meat eater dinner.

After sending a few texts…I’m cooking. You’re invited. It’s this evening. No, that’s not last minute, that’s impromptu..I donned my Betty crocker apron, fired up my kindle ( to pull up recipes), grabbed a few trusty cookbooks and my own collection of favorite recipes, poured a glass of rose, turned the stereo up loud and entered the world of forget your troubles and let’s get happy.

Two hours later. ..Voila! The aroma of Indian lentil curry, fresh spring vegetables in Masala sauce, garlicky peppery African chicken n collards, cauliflower/brocolli /parmesan bake, roasted curry spiced zucchini and squash, spinach and garlic stir fry, Pad thai (shrimp and veggie), and slow roasted lamb chops permeated the air.

After everything was baking, simmering and roasting, I prepared a few starters: beet and cheese tortellini on a pick, Havarti and cherries, spicy chili lime pecans toasted, and my newest grocery find..creamy dill lentil chips ( a minute in a hot oven brings out all that creamy dill goodness plus a pleasing crunch.

For dessert,  I gathered all the fresh fruit in the crisper, washed it with the Fit organic fruit and veggie wash ( Thank you nice stranger in the veggie aisle (yes, Virginia I talk to Strangers) who gave me 2 tips: cucumbers dipped in natural peanut butter for midday boost and Fit spray…and plated it with what has to be the best yogurt in the dairy, Siggi’s Icelandic cream style black cherry (drop of honey added).

Throughout this entire time, Lil man was staring at me intently, quizzically as only woman’s best friend can, from the hallway adjoining the kitchen. Like his predecessor Lucky, he was hoping against hope that his meager bowl would house the contents of some of this sumptuous feast. Later, after the guests had left and I was busy cleaning up the Mess, a few pieces of perfectly roasted lamb found their way to his aluminum dish.

Yes! He growled, It was worth being secluded in the bedroom while The Humans stuffed their faces!

A picture is worth many words. Here’s what you missed, Reader…

PS the beer, wine and Grey Goose compliments of the guests.

DOG DAYZ…

…..Yes, its August and the weather is its unpredictable hot, sultry, humid, blazing sun in the morning, skies-open-up-in-the afternoon-torrential- rainstorm mode. These almost daily deluges turn downtown and nearby Ghent into the Mississippi and the resulting humidity and dampness beckon the mosquito population to take refuge in everyone’s backyard.

……A couple of years ago when I resided in  Churchland, the mosquitos were so bad swarms of them would follow people from their front door to their car attacking with such ferocity the citizens eventually demanded that the city not just spray the nearby military base but the streets/backyards so the residents could travel safely to their cars. I regularly armed myself with a spray can of windex which a friend from Florida had told me would keep them at bay so I could make the sojurn to my car parked in front of the building.
…..This summer the mosquito population has been kept at bay in my backyard by a combination of citronella plants, lemon grass and orange mint that I strategically planted around the patio near the back door. While this combination of herbs does not seem to deter the flies which still flit around the screen door (probably with memories of the Bring Your Own Meat/Seafood Cookout), I have deployed a number of natural methods to keep them in check as well.

…..My neighbor told me to hang plastic baggies filled with water around the screen as a way to keep down the flies. And indeed the guru of all knowledge essential and insignificant -the internet-was full of folks testifying to the wonders of this hack.

……Another friend said I needed to put a penny in the bag… something about the flies not being able to stand seeing their reflection in the water and that kept them away. Huh? I don’t know what the science is behind this but I can add my name to the ranks of believers online. This does indeed work. So do the old fashioned fly paper strips still on the racks at Walgreen. And while peta would probably consider them inhumane…they work. I think seeing all those fellow comrades stuck to that long sticky strip give the rest of the flies pause and make them reconsider whether this yard is one they want to invade.
…….Also, I noticed that since the departure of Lucky, the fly population has decreased significantly. Did she say departure of Lucky?  Yes, Reader, it is true. The Luckster has returned to his family… not in the sky…but up in NOVA. It happened the first weekend in August when youngest daughter and the three grands paid a visit, ostensibly to bring the new baby down for his first trip, and to give the older boys a chance to see the family And badger and harass each other in a location away from home.

…..The visit was full of activity save the oldest grand who was BORED out of his mind from the minute he stepped in the door. When he asked for the password to my computer, I quickly said No and presented him with a challenge….get my old HP laptop up and running and he could use it during the three day visit. No 13 year old can resist such a challenge and within a few hours he was oblivious to everyone and everything as he and the old HP bonded.
……The 9 year old needed no such enticement because he was busy renewing acquaintances (human) and finding ways to try my patience.

I’m not hungry. I ate something yesterday. I just want to go down to T’s house and play with his new nerf blaster 5 foot long plastic gun. What do you mean I shouldn’t aim at people. That’s what you do with a toy gun.

…... Young 2 month old was ecstatic as long as he was being fed and changed regularly. He even graced me with a smile when I sang the eensy weensy spider songI had serenaded him with me during his early days at the hospital. And who says babies don’t have memories?
……Throughout the visit, Lucky was in dog delirium. His Family was Back. He followed daughter/Mistress ecstatically from room to room tail wagging non stop. He even allowed the boys to tussle with him…for exactly a minute.  He’s never been big on the dog/kid playing thing. The family cookout on Saturday probably added to his delirium as he followed me from house to grill waiting for the inevitable dropped hot dog, rib bone, or grilled chicken leg. As Sunday approached, I sensed a noticeable change in the atmosphere. Lucky seemed torn between his loyalty to me and daughter/Mistress and spent Saturday night alternating between keeping watch in the bedroom and the livingroom while we slept.
……At breakfast, elder teen grandson who now towers above and has become a skillful pancake maker, engaged me in a serious conversation between judicious flip.

Nana, we want Lucky to come home with us. We miss him. Well, it’s not my decision. It’s up to your mother. I only brought Lucky here because she said you all weren’t helping to take care of him. I know Nana but we miss him. WE Will walk him and help moma. The 9 year old had wandered into the kitchen and joined the discussion. Yeah Nana, He is our dog. How you just gonna take somebody’s dog?

……I ignored him. And returned to the more sensible 13 year old. Here’s the deal, if you had to choose between my laptop (he had been imploring me to let him take it home as well) and Lucky, which would you take? A couple of expert pancake flips and that thoughtful…I’m-going-to-be-a-man-one-day look came over his face. Lucky, Nana. I would take Lucky. I smiled.
……As daughter/Mistress packed the car (she was determined to depart with the same number of passengers she had arrived with), I had a short conversation with Lucky who had retreated to the garden depressed, no doubt, at the family’s imminent departure. Enough already, I did not want to live with a Depressed dog and these grandchildren who might grow up emotionally stunted because I deprived them of THEIR dog…And We thought you were a Good Nana.
……..I carried Lucky to the car and deposited him in the lap of the 9 year old (he had been bawling since he got in the car), A chorus of nearby birds began singing Hallelujah. And the frown on both his and the 13 year old’s face immediately disappeared. Catastrophe averted. Dog scarring childhood memory erased. I waved goodbye to Lucky, the boys and daughter/Mistress.

adorable blur breed close up
Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

A peaceful Sunday and a mimosa awaited me.

SUMMERTIME…and the livin’ is…

C’mon singalong, you know the rest.

…Easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.  Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good -lookin’. So hush, little baby, don’t you cry. (Ella Fitzgerald)

Well, Memorial Day, the unofficial start of Summer is behind us and although the calendar has not fully reached the ‘official’ start of summer, many of us sun worshippers are in attack mode.

The weather is appropriately hot/humid, mosquitos are abuzzing, flowers are drooping, grass is dying, ice cream trucks are a dingalinging, honeysuckle blossoms perfume the air, long lazy days/ hot, heavy nights, wet swimsuits/towels drying on the porch, lazy afternoons in the hammock/Adirondack, Vacation days circled, car packed with surfboards, jet skis unearthed from garage, crab nets cleaned, sun hat/sunshades and suntan lotion packed (yes, Virginia, people of color burn…just takes longer to get through that God given melanin). free movies/concert on the beach/river/town center lawn, charcoal grills ablaze and starry, whisper filled nights spent out on the patio/front porch.

All over the country, people are making the transition from spring to summer and the memories that I have are probably not to different from yours.

Girl, I dunno…you have some weird stuff going on in your life.

It IS time to slow down. Take a break. Leave the hustle and bustle of our technological, I am not a Robot filled lives.  Time to dress lighter, eat healthier, drink sensibly (except h2o, beer, tequila and wine…got to stay hydrated), and for once, truly marvel at the World around us.

The question Reader is how many of you have taken the summer plunge? And how many of you are still in everyday rush, rush, type A, can’t get it all done mode?  No, I’m not advocating wholesale abandonment of your job.  That would be foolish, reckless and a chance for another country to come in and take over…start producing all our goods, buying up all our real estate, outsourcing all our jobs…oops, Damn, that’s already happening…

What I am advocating is that you devote some time in the next 2 months to an activity ( be it solo/with a partner/family) that conjures up/recreates memories from your own childhood.  Some pleasurable memory/experience that means summer to you.  What is that, you ask?

Well, in my best soothing yoga voice, Relax.  Remember a time when life was simple and uncomplicated. When summer meant playing outside with your best friends for hours stopping only for a quick glass of  ice cold lemonade and a baloney sandwich.  Roaming the neighborhood like an Explorer in a Foreign Land squashing beetles, capturing butterflies/ladybugs and swatting mosquitos along the way. Jumping rope, hopscotch, hide and go seek, Marbles, dodge ball, softball, stickball. Kicking rocks. Begging for money for the ice cream man, and  please can we get wet with the garden hose … staying out until the streetlights came on. All because it was Summertime!

Would love to hear your memories in the Comment section below. Love and Light!

Hacking Recipes

Reader, This is part 2 of my abbreviated Foodie post from last week in which I shared some thoughts/pics on Foodism ( not a word).

Lest you think I am only a Restaurant-goer, here are some pics and back stories representing my own home cooking abilities ( all the single men gasp and drop their remotes…dang a woman who can rattle those pots and pans…where is she?)

A few years ago, I learned how to batch cook . In fact, I had been doing this for years, but didn’t know there was a term for it. Simply put, it is the idea of preparing several meals at one time, usually done on the weekend to eliminate that running-in-from-work-at-the-last-minute-trying-to-prepare-a-meal syndrome.

I have learned that in some Foodie circles, it has been elevated to a social event complete with wine pairings where folks gather at individual homes and batch cook and socialize at the same time…kinda like an old school red/blue light in the basement party..but not really).

This ratatouille is a recent product of a batch cooking tequila fueled session. Back story: I was alone. I had insomnia. Food Network episodes ended at 3:00am. I had a crisper full of one week old summer veggies. Voila!

This cinnamon peach bread pudding is actually part of a video I taped for an audition tape to the Food Channel. The recipe was courtesy of one of the Food Network guys and I was attempting to demonstrate how to make this yummy dessert by substituting some of the called for ingredients for those I actually had on hand. What the hell is a cinnamon chip? Who has peach preserves..I thought they only did that with strawberries? 6 eggs..guess they never heard about garbanzo bean juice. Remember cholesterol clogs and kills. Half and half? Okay, here’s some coconut milk… This is, after all, the mark of a good cook…

 

And I must say, it was scrumptious…my taster friends practically licked the pan.

That same batch cooking session ( started as a cleaning the refrigerator moment) yielded a huge pot of creamy black bean soup, fiery jerk chicken wings, a heavenly Greek moussaka, and a baked crab/zucchini dish I would give my first borne for… just kidding T, maybe the second born.

Writing about food, always makes me hungry…guess its a Foodie side effect…so I need to put this tablet down and go rummage through the fridge before I become h-a-n-g-r-y…another Foodie term. Hey, maybe there’s a market for a Foodie dictionary…

I digress…often

Bowls of food have become the latest food phenomenon. I think it has its origins in Asian fare…but all the ethnic food folks are starting to make their version of this space saving, visually appealing, can-be-eaten -with -one -hand -while driving/texting meal.

Even fast food giants have gotten into the act with a glop of potatoes, topped by a glop of corn, topped by those poor genetically manipulated bird parts…all smothered in heart stopping gravy…hmm yum.

Here is a healthier , life giving version. This mound of fresh veggies and soba noodles became a steaming bowl of stir fry sans protein and seasoned with a mixture of Hoisin, ginger, garlic and red chili oil.

Bon appetit!

 

 

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

20140506_132217.jpgSpring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the flowers is.” This little ditty from my patent leather shoe wearing, crinoline slip showing, pigtails bouncing, hopscotch/jump rope playing days always comes to mind this time of the year. And like most nature loving folks, the balmy weather beckons me outdoors. Those of you who followed my original Blog in 2012 are familiar with my “Tales from the Garden”. So in honor of Daylight Savings Time and the official First Day of Spring (just a week away), I would like to provide you with some New Tales.

Unlike most folks who dig in the dirt, I started gardening for health reasons. Frankly, I was concerned about the food supply and all those unknown dangers lurking in the vegetable aisles of our friendly grocery store. News reports of packaged lettuce laced with bacteria, pesticides coating the gala apples, tomatoes processed in lye…it was enough to make me run screaming into the night. Instead, I decided to revisit a practice I had abandoned years ago…home gardening.

Even though we were city dwellers, my family always had a little home garden plot. My mother, a Southern girl, knew the importance of healthy eating and always made sure there was something good growing in that little plot next to the back door. I remember days spent digging in the rock laden soil, planting precious seeds and counting the days until seedlings pushed through eventually yielding their bounty of heirloom tomatoes, long pole beans, crunchy leafed romaine lettuce, bulbous cucumbers, and savory squash.

Gardening, I later learned, can be more than just producing food and flowers. It can be a cure to many of life’s ails such as depression and anxiety. Digging in the dirt is therapeutic and a lot cheaper than a psychiatrist. The increasing number of men and women city dwellers who are discovering gardening supports this theory. No longer is it necessary to own “the back forty” to grow a garden. Patios, porches, rooftops, window sills, and even ‘rent a plot” gardens make it possible for everyone to engage in this life giving practice.

After a particularly stressful period in my my life for which no amount of Xanax could help, I again turned to gardening. The pleasure I derived that first Spring from digging in the dirt, watching each day as tiny buds appeared and new growth unfurled followed by daily visits from the most glorious butterflies and birds in the area was indescribable.

Suddenly, my life became filled with hope and anticipation as I looked forward to the wonder Nature had bestowed just outside my back door. I started trolling thrift shops looking for gardening how-to-books, visiting Garden shops at 6 a.m., hauling dirt became my daily workout, seed catalogs filled my mailbox, and rainy days that filled my rain barrels (old olive barrels from a warehouse) became the source of quiet joy.

Gardening became the antidote for depression and the colorful bounty of flowers and luscious pesticide free vegetables it yielded… the cure.

 

Beauty Fades, But Healthy is Forever

blksoapBlack soap

Reader, It is March…officially Women’s History Month. The onewhowillremainunnamed remarked over dinner the other night… Women’s History Month is Every month…and there are some men who will readily agree with him. And why not. WE DO GIVE LIFE. Only the Creator can claim that feat.

In light of all the responses I received to the BRAGGing Rights posts, I thought I would follow with a list of a few natural products that most people will want to make sure they have in their toolbox. Like Bragg vinegar, many of these products were ones I used back in the 70/80s and because of their effectiveness they continue to reserve a place in my cabinet.

Black Soap – the best kind comes wrapped in plastic from your local African bookstore or Head shop. It looks like a block of dark brown clay sprinkled with herbs. Those bars sold in the fancy packaging from various companies often contain chemicals. I met someone recently who said that using Black Soap to cleanse her face was not only cost effective but cleared up her skin and literally took years off her face.

Shea Butter – Another product best purchased from said African bookstore/boutique type shop. Or find someone who has recently visited the motherland. I know an airline employee who has stock in this stuff and regularly brings it back as gifts for friends. Stay away from the fancy packaged kind though, as it contains unpronounceable chemicals. When you do find some (usually in a plastic baggie) remember a little goes a long way. The proof as they say is in the pudding. Look at all the commercial products from shampoo to body wash to lotion that now contain Shea Butter.

Henna – Many years ago when gray strands starting sprouting in my mane, I remembered how my former hippie commune friends had utilized henna for not only decorating their bodies, but washing away the gray. This product can be tricky to find, but worth searching for especially in the natural unadulterated powdery state. So far, no study showing any link between this keeper away of the gray and cancer (miz clairol or dark and luvly can’t make that claim).

Coconut Oil – this product has seen a resurgence lately. Not only is it good for your hair and body but can also be eaten! What will Mother Nature think of next?

Pumice stone – Yes, I have tried all those products that promise to make your feet baby butt soft including the one with the little razors that literally shave the skin from your heels. But nothing works as good as a little pumice stone which literally can be brought for under a dollar at where else…the $ store.

Oils – I could write an entire blog about the virtues of essential oils. Not only can they be used to improve your mood, rid you of headaches, help you sleep, ward off evil spirits in a room, kill mosquitos, soften your skin, massage aching muscles, thicken ones hair, perfume your body…ask an Egyptian. Those of you who are Aromatherapy subscribers already know the healing properties of oils. Just make sure you are getting the purest forms, a little costlier, but a lot goes a long way.
Hope these products become a part of your life. You will be richer and wiser.
As always, your comments are appreciated!  Next Post will be a tribute to the one and only Songstress …Ruth Brown. Thanks for reading/sharing!

BRAGGing RIGHTS

Okay, I hope this doesn’t sound like a commercial, but I’ve been spreading the word about the benefits of the Bragg Vinegar drink to my friends near and far, so I’ve decided to share this with you my dear Readers.

If you find yourself tired to the bone, sluggish, out of sorts, dread getting out of the bed, can’t put one foot in front of the other, wish it was Friday when its only Monday, then you need to learn about Bragg Vinegar. This product has been on the market well over 100 years-since 1912-and is the forerunner of the healthy products movement.

I won’t belabor the point here and bore you with the history, but Reader this is a product you need to add to your grocery list Today. Once you have it at home, the simple recipe to make it into a palatable, energizing drink can be found on the back label.

In a glass, stir together One to two teaspoons of Bragg +8 oz filtered water+ honey+ lemon juice, and chug. Take this upon rising, at lunchtime and for those of you who need an afternoon pick up (instead of heading to the office vending machine), down a glass of this drink.

The results are immediate. You will feel lighter, energized, clear headed. I suppose its that action of the unfiltered apple cider vinegar scrubbing your organs and releasing the antioxidants in your blood stream. Since the time of the Egyptians, ACV has been used for its amazing natural cleansing, healing and energizing health qualities.

I started drinking Bragg vinegar back in the 70s during my heady, almost a Black hippie, what sign are you, free your mind days of L.A. I was in my 20s and working three part time jobs And attending Paralegal School. Bragging as we fondly called it back then was at the forefront of the back to nature movement. And any bonafide card carrying member of the natural food/vegetarian/potsmoking movement was slurping this concoction at least 3 times a day.

As a Baby Boomer, the need to eat healthy, exercise, take supplements ( to avoid purchasing one of those lil pink pill box) has become a constant refrain from the media, AARP and Dr. Oz. I have always subscribed to a healthy lifestyle because it was ingrained in me from childhood. Having a grandmother who lived to be 100 plus and who drank vinegar daily and fasted on Fridays was something I took note of early. And while I would occasionally fall off the wagon (I am a Foodie and luv a good Restaurant), that small still voice would always bring me back to reality.

The ravishes of high cholesterol almost brought me to a crashing halt some  years ago when despite my regime of working out daily at 5 a.m in a fight gym (to fight the menopause 10 (pounds that is), before going off to teach a raucous group of middle schoolers, followed by feasting on copious amounts of bbq at the Extra Billy , I had chart topping numbers. No amounts of niacin, garlic, coq10, red yeast rice, policosanol, would bring those LDL number down below 200. I dreaded the thought of taking statins…the commericals listing all the side effects…that followed the glowing pictures of the healthy couple rowing a canoe… were frightening to say the least.

After much prodding by my trusted physician, I did, however, venture into Lipitorland, then Zetialand, then Pravastatinland only to have my body reject each of these manmade concoctions.

Finally, I had an epiphany…hmph wonder if she saw stars.. returned to my senses and embarked on a regime of healthy eating: more vegetables, less meat (Restaurants only once or twice a month), growing my own seasonal vegetables (fat tomatoes ,hot habaneros/jalapenos, crispy kale/collard/spinach, juicy romaine and spicy arugula, topped off with  fresh herbs- oregano, thyme, sage, lemongrass, mint and MORE),  together with exercising 3 times a week at the local Y or daily walking of the dog …you remember Lucky…and a  glass or two of Bragg every day, I was able to reduce those LDL numbers and keep them down.

Now that’s what I call BRAGGing rights. Feel free to comment with your thoughts/experience on BRAGGing and thanks for reading!

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