Saturday, May 30, 2020

Mask On, Mask Off

Virginia has entered into its mandatory masks in public phase and I have found yet another use for some fabulous fabrics I initially bought for sewing sensational Spring inspired napkins and tea towels.
After many tutorials and much reading, I settled on one of the many Youtube videos, that made the most out of my on hand materials. It was a useful guide to executing my own.  
I have been making masks for my family members, starting with my children of course and my mom, who's 80 years young, both in the high risk factor portion of the population, including but not limited to asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, and myself, bringing a side of RA to the table. 
I've also come up with a hand sanitizer formula including aroma therapy oils, to soothe the drying  and chaffed hands and the mind.  An added plus of aromatherapy oils is that the essential oils have natural antibacterial and antiseptic properties, fortifying the alcohol even more.
 I feel that even if the masks do not eliminate our risks completely, I am proactively taking charge of the practices we can control, alongside limiting travel and large crowds, vigilant and proper hand washing techniques and consistently decontaminating common areas, door knobs and adding a splash of bleach to the dishes water, something I did already. 
 Although this pandemic leaves no one safe, I like to think that 'we'll be alright, some day', a phrase from a gospel hymn, one that brings me solace in a time of such confusion and burgeoning uncertainty.  
When you return home from interacting with the world, the masks can be removed to enjoy some wholesome and delicious home cooked meals with family and snacks, while we play board games or watch Scooby Doo and the gang. 
 Family is at the heart of why we fight and why we keep going.  The fire in our bellies burn to protect the ones we love and compassion to sympathize with the families in areas most and least affected, the prayers we send out at night or the time we take to volunteer or lend a hand where we can does not go unnoticed and for that one should be grateful.  I know I am.  Amen.

Before I Go...

This is LeMon Grey, I like to call him Kibbeh. He looks like a panda bear in this photo of him chewing on his favorite, sticks!  He's wearing his hair piece, which he loves to toss about and shake.  He's a doll baby and an endless source of entertainment for our family.  He's not our pup, but we love him just the same.  I hope you were able to take a moment to smile and take it easy like this guy, until next time...

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Foraging: Morel Mushroom Toad in a Hole

After my initial motherlode haul of morels last month, I have yet to see anything like it in the areas. For those hunters and gatherers who are  either now in season or winding down your area's season, this recipe  will come in handy.  It's a traditional recipe with a spin and perfect for showcasing the earthy, meaty  nuttiness of a morel. I used one side of a bagel, with the center cut into a square just big enough to hold the egg.

The morels are sauteed lightly in North African olive oil and a scant pat of butter and set aside. 
The egg is then cracked into the center of the bagel in a small nonstick pan,with a turn of the pan of olive oil and the rest of the pat of butter, over medium heat.
SPST. (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Cover with a lid and cook until  desired egg consistency is reached. 
Toast the center of the bagel alongside the cooking egg.
Towards the end of cooking time of egg, arrange the morels along the perimeter of the bagel.
Drizzle the toasted bagel square with Buckwheat honey for a real contrast and complement to the toasty magnificence. 
Garnish with chives and fresh parsley, if desired.
Makes 1 .

Easiest Homemade Spinach and Artichoke Dip, A Chip's Delight

 Nothing beats a creamy, cheesy and delicious dip to go with your favorite chips, crudites and crusty breads. This recipe's main ingredient is courtesy of my little brother Allyn, who brought by some amazingly fresh and super huge artichokes.  I had some chopped spinach on hand for a quiche, but I had yet to deliver it, no stress, and the other ingredients were a perfect match, minus the eggs.  I prepared the artichoke dish in two vessels, each about 1 1/2 inches deep, to aid in cooking time and have one for now and one for later.  We really enjoyed the recipe and it also pairs nicely as a side dish to any protein, ours was the pork loin we had for dinner that night.
  Prep was done in two parts.  I cooked the artichokes the evening before, enjoying the outer leaves with a soy butter and lemon fusion. This is a messy yet delicious way to savor the little tidbits of edible artichoke flesh at the bottoms of each leaf.  Bronwyn and I were the only two up for this high energy partaking. I refrigerated the main portions, removing the choke and fibrous parts and chopped the rest. 
The spinach gives a super boost of substantial vegginess to the dish and compliments the artichoke well.  I used a combination of aged cheeses including Altu and Copper Kettle along with some cream cheese to add depth and flavor.  I made a bechamel to hold the fantastic cheeses and bind the dish together.  I also used a combination of minimal heavy cream and fat free evaporated milk for balance.  After baking for about 25 minutes at 375*F and allowing to stand for about 5 minutes, this versatile dip/side dish was ready to enjoy.

**Walmart has these Great Value brand Spicy Guacamole Tortilla Chips that are simply amazing and under a buck! They provide the perfect spice level and texture for serving as an appetizer!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Scooby Doo and the Gogosi #ScoobyDooChallenge

This post is dedicated to my love of Scooby Doo and the Gang.  Pictured above is a plate of Gogosi or Gogoshi, a Romainian sweet dough recipe.  From some of my readings, Romainians get offended when we refer to them as donuts, but I would have to say, they are definitely donuts, delicious ones, might I add, especially with a filling! 
The original recipe calls for a dusting of confectioner's sugar. Under the nation's current circumstances, I've been keeping travel to essential, so I didn't run out to get a bag.  Instead, I used my trusty mortar and pestle and hand grinded some pure cane sugar into powdered sugar.  This quickly became taxing effort for my sensitive thumbs, so I opted for a drizzling of Alfalfa Honey, further making this version my own and more nutritious, plus antioxidant rich.  Aestetically, they could stand some improvements on my behalf, especially where the temperature of the oil is concerned, but the taste was enough to win me and the kiddoes over.  When I make them again, this picture will be replaced!
The inspiration came from the Scooby Doo: Frankencreepy. Watching Scooby Doo episodes is one thing we always enjoy.  I have on deck hundreds of episodes and it never gets old, though some fell victim to adolescent scratch bandits!  While visiting the ancestral home of Velma, who is a descendant of  Dr.Von Dinklestein of Transylvania, they end up involved in a mystery, of course. Velma sought to settle her inheritance of a spooky castle, in the small, sleepy, moutainous town, whose residents have a lot of disdain for the Von Dinklesteins. In part, because of Dr. Von Dinklestein's abominable creations.  They happen upon a festival, at the advice of  one of the castle's keepers, Ms.Vanders, where a Gosgoshi eating contest ensues. Ms. Vanders had offered some traditional Nordic fare called Racituri or jellied pigs' feet, on which the crew passed.  One of the gang does actually try this dish before they knew what it was, but you'll have to see the movie to find out who :)  Shaggy and Scooby, ever the hungriest, make way to participate in the eating contest and proceed to decimate the competition.  
I thought it would be cool to cook my way through Scooby Doo and actually try some of their most bizarre creations.  I am calling it the Scooby Doo Challenge and would love for you to play along.  It is as easy as picking ANY episode and preparing one of the recipes Shag and Scoob make or consume, the crazier the better. You must also taste or bite it and swallow. You can share your experience and/or results on social media with the hashtag Scoobydoochallenge. This Gogoshi recipe is a winner and so is the movie.  Stay tuned for more installments of my #scoobydoochallenge scattered about in posts to come. 

Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy

Friday, May 15, 2020

Truffled Chicken Liver Pate, The Beefeater and The Cable Guy

Picture taken among Rosemary and Sage, in my Herb Garden.
This is a photograph of my first Aspic.  An aspic is in essence a meat flavored jelly.
The artwork is achieved by using foraged violets, wild strawberry flowers and fresh chives and sage from my herb garden.  The Pate is sealed below the aspic and the artwork. 
My recipe is simply chicken livers that have been simmered in stock, aromatics like garlic, onion, bay leaves, fresh black pepper and cardamom.  The poached livers are then blended with real butter and some truffle oil to achieve an unctuous and delicious spread, blooming with flavor and perfect for easy entertaining.  Aspics hit their peak in the 50's and 60's, but still appear on dinner tables around the world.  They have roots as far back as the Medieval Ages.  
I remember when a group from our high school went to England during the summer of 1992.  I was 15 at the time and escstatic that my parents were able to let me participate.  Traipsing about England with my class mates and Advanced Science teacher Ms. Cothran and her daughter Dawn was an amazing experience.  Ironically enough, the Queen was visiting the Americas at the time of our trip. We spent about 2 1/2 weeks abroad, touring notable places like Westminster Abbey, The Tower of London, Big Ben and Shakespeare's home with Anne Hathaway where we sat in a beautiful garden full of flowers and swung in a wooden swing, priceless! 
  We had dinner one evening on the Thames at The Beefeater, 'Drink Ale and Wassailing', singing, laughing and eating with our hands, alongside Henry VIII.  As part of the dinner theatre, we dined and fellowshipped in the tavern, lasting around 2 hours.  We had this potted meat appetizer, mild and spice forward, to spread on the crusty bread at our tables.  As a Culinarian, this ranks among my greatest food experiences ever!  I still have the menu as part of my memorabilia from the trip.  I'd love to go back, but will settle for taking the kiddoes to Medieval Times, here in the Americas. 
 There is a scene in The Cable Guy starring Jim Carrey as Ernie 'Chip' Douglas and Matthew Broderick as Stephen Kovacs, written and directed by Ben Stiller, where Chip takes Stephen to Medieval Times for dinner and I was immeditately catapulted back to our night on the Thames, though there was no jousting, nor was there the loquacious and animated tirades, by the dark comedy character.  This location is also where Chip does his rendition of Silence of the Lambs with his chicken skin! Hilarious.
An evening like this would be hard to recreate at home, without enlisting the help of actors, stuntmen, trained animals and animal trainers, arena rentals and lots of sand, so I sure hope we will at least be able to attend within the next several years, before the kiddoes turn 18 and think their mom drags them to lame events, or not. We will just have to see.  In the meantime, I think I'll track down another copy of The Cable Guy and get my laugh on. The one I have is a hot mess of strategic scratches that prevents us from enjoying it.   Interestingly enough, the 1996 character Chip speaks of the coming of an advanced "Information Super Highway" that has replaced most interpersonal contact and a society that does most of its interactions via  televisions and telephones.  Hmm.....curiouser and curiouser!  

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Hip Hip HooRAMEN!

"These are a few of my favorite things..." I probably have about 19 different kinds of Ramen. Aside from being attracted to the colorful marketing, they come in handy if I feel under the weather. My favorite is Kimchi. The kids are completely consumed right now by Anime, especially Boku No Hero Academia and Naruto.  Consumed may be an understatement, they are obsessed! I am the same way about X-Men.  Marvel Comics and everything about it, is my muse.
 The Kids are partial to what the characters eat as well, constantly commenting on what the food illustrations look like,  Onigiri, Sashimi and Ramen bowls being examples. The kids fantasize about how good the dishes must taste.
I made a Ramen Bowl for Bronwyn this weekend past, with the eggs and runny yolks, fresh chives from the Herb Garden, a slice of Prime Rib and lots of broth! She loved it and went right back into her zone, tummy full of edible love and Ramen, looking to the next time I'd present for her again.  The kids love having a chef/mom.  I love that I can accommodate the ideas that pop into their heads.   We even have our sets of chopsticks, not the throw away kind, but custom, personally picked sets from a selection of many.  We get them from the Asian market, where we travel a half hour to go, it's our favorite!

There are so many types of Ramen, it has become somewhat of a hobby.   I am always on the lookout for new and exciting ones, anxious to try and compare to others I've had, but I end up not wanting to eat them.  I like knowing they are in my possession, ready to enjoy and pretty inexpensive.  I've only tried one in particular that I put on the do not ever buy again list.  It came in a small foil container, complete with either an egg or piece of tofu.  I read the ingredient call for sodium, calories and fats and thought there was  no way it was accurate.  I prepared and ate some of it and the nightmare began.  I had a serious anxiety attack from the shock to my system, I thought I was going to die.  There was just too much sodium, fat and calories.  I felt sick to the stomach and out of my mind.  Seriously.  I won't even tell others about them because I care what happens to them. This occurred about 2 years ago, but I will never forget the day I was almost 'Super Saiyoned'
 by a noodle bowl.  
Luckily, there are virtually hundreds more to try and the list keeps growing.  The latest ones I found to be pretty awesome are of the Japanese variety called Sapporo Ichiban.  The ones pictured directly above are Korean, they really delivered on the heat and had a good mouthfeel as noodles go.  I was schooled in Noodle by Maruchan in college and they have a special place in my heart.  The beef version is the only kind my daughter Genesis will eat, sans an occasional Chili flavor.  My daughter Bronwyn is just getting over her head over heels, whirlwind  romance with Yakisoba, she is recovering nicely.  Nowadays, she will just take them plain, no bells, no whistles, just Chicken flavored broth and noodles, don't forget the custom chopsticks, gotta have the chopsticks...and a fork.