Trying to find calm in a world of worry

I worry too much. I worry that I am not there enough for my family; I worry that I have missed something at work; I worry about how others view me. I worry that I am not a good enough wife. I worry that I hover over my children too much. It’s the worry of I woulda…shoulda…coulda…

Surprisingly, I don’t worry about my life after death. I know I am not perfect, but I believe that, even in my imperfections, I am doing what I can to be a good person. My intentions are good and I strive to be better.

My favorite Bible verse is Luke 12:48. I was not as familiar with the first sentence as I was with the last part of the verse. After I had taken in the first sentence, I felt so much better about my past. You see, there were things I did as a younger person that I felt pretty confident when I did them. As I grew older, I was not so sure that my actions would be pleasing in the eyes of God. But this sentence, the first in Luke 12:48 set my heart at ease…”But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows…” It is contrary to the statement “Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law,” which is a statement I use. What the Bible says is that doing wrong, when you don’t know it is wrong, will not receive the same punishment as someone who is intentional and knows.

The rest of the Bible verse is what I write about now; “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted much, much more will be asked.”mini chocolate chip

There are many things I like to do, and because of that, I have put the time and effort to work towards perfection in those things I like.lemon cupcakes

I enjoy cooking and baking. Growing up, my mom did the cooking of the meals AND the clean up as well. If we wanted to help, we could, but it was not required. I, too, am that way. If you come to my home for dinner, you are not expected to help with the preparation or the washing of dishes after the meal. I will generally clean up as best I can, load the dishwasher and then organize, as best I can, the remainder of the dishes for later care. I will finish up cleaning when my guests have gone home.

Strawberry glazed

Strawberry glazed

prom cupcakes

When I became an adult, I asked my mom why it was we were never expected to clear the table or wash the dishes. What I remember her saying was this, “This is what I can give. Cooking from start, and working and working until the last dish is washed, is an act of love and service.” For me, I work hard to make sure that I do my best when showing love in the kitchen.

I love to capture life in photographs. I don’t like staged shots of people; I like natural shots, of action, of stillness, of love. Some of my favorite photographs are of the skies. The sky can tell so many stories. I think clouds can convey love, joy, fear, anger. There are times I have to pull off to the side of the road and take a photo of a sunrise, or a cloud formation. I believe I have an eye for telling stories through a camera lens. There are times I miss an opportunity for a story because the image is there, and in a second, it is gone.

And I love to write. I do not take the opportunity to write as often as I would like. Maybe I don’t feel inspired, or I am too engrossed in other things, or maybe I am too exhausted and can’t think of doing anything but recovering and re-energizing.masquerade

purple velvetWhat if that recovery or re-energizing is writing, or cooking/baking or quilting? That is what I am trying to figure out now.

Maybe I should work at finishing my quilting projects when I feel tired. There are times when I know I could be productive but instead, I choose to do nothing but catch up on the TV shows on the DVR. I also know there are times when I am so tired that if I tried to accomplish something, it would resort in mistakes and re-do’s. It is finding when I should really relax and when I should work at projects and use my gifts wisely that need to be done.

I truly believe that I have been blessed with talents that need to be shared. I believe that God has given me a voice-words to share on paper and in front of people-verbally. I share that talent as a lay speaker with the United Methodist Church and as a voice for camping ministry with my job at Camp Fontanelle.graduation

It gives me great joy to feed people. While I can’t do it as much as I once could, I love to bake doughnuts for my daughter to share at school. I love to entertain and make food for people that is special, something they may not make for themselves. I have started sharing my love of cooking/baking at a different level. I have started soft selling items. I am not advertising, but how fun would it be if I could make it into a full-time business!

My love of photography will always be my personal joy, to be shared with family and friends.lightning in the night sky

I am so lucky that I am able to share my gifts with others. It is what I am directed to do In Luke 12:48.

I encourage you to find your joys and talents and develop them to share with others. I don’t know whether I am in my position because of my talents, or I have taken my talents and fit them into my life. Either way, I have so much joy in sharing. If you are able to fit your gifts into your career, do so. If you have a love or a talent that does not fit into your career, find time to share your love and talent somehow in your life.whale in the sky

1 Peter 4:10 says, “God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use then well to serve one another.”

Today, I worry because my brand new cell phone fell in water. Worrying will not get it fixed. Hopefully a bag of rice will take those worries away. If not, there will be another new phone. For now, I WRITE!

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Poor man’s coffee connoisseur

I love coffee! I love good coffee! But I cannot afford Starbucks’ or Scooter’s or Jidders’ Coffee House coffee for two reasons: 1) I live out-of-town and do not go into town every day and 2) while Jidders, a local coffee establishment, has reasonably priced coffee, it would still cost me over $35.00 a week, with tip and that over 52 weeks totals $1800+.  I know that I can think of more ways to spend $1800.00 than in someone else making me coffee.

SO….I needed to find a way to create that same coffee, whenever I wanted it, at a reasonable price. Having lived in Spain made the first step to my solution simple. When living in Spain our family adopted the philosophy that we needed to become Spanish and live as the Spanish. While I had purchased an auto-drip coffee maker, I decided that since the Spanish thought American coffee as ‘dirty water’, I needed to invest in a more proper coffee maker.

I purchased a stove top espresso maker. In Spain it is just called a coffee maker because they do not categorize their coffee as espresso; you can purchase cafe’con leche, cortado, cafe’ solo or carajillo (coffee with milk,  coffee with less milk, coffee with no milk and coffee with brandy). In Spain all coffee is based on what we would call espresso. My 24 oz. coffee mug is unheard of and the largest cup would be 8 oz.

When we moved home I wanted to continue on with my Spanish coffee style. The stove top coffee maker moved home with us and my auto-drip coffee maker was relegated into storage.

For years, I would make my coffee, add milk and sugar but still head to the coffee shops for my latte’ fix. Now I had owned an espresso/frother machine in the past but I really liked the stove top method and decided against purchasing a new espresso machine. But I needed a solution to my coffee predicament.

As I was walking through a Target Store one day, I saw a hand frother and new that I was on my way to becoming independent. I purchased the frother and then got about to testing  the heating of milk to the proper temperature in my microwave. I determined that 2 minutes gave me the proper heat and frothing ability. I did discover that freshly opened milk froths better than milk that has been opened for a couple of days.

I was disappointed this week when I was reading a magazine and there was a quote about swapping out those unwanted, useless gadgets, ‘like the frother you received from Uncle Fred‘! I love my frother and would not exchange it for the world. It saves me money and helps start my day right.

The last step was to find syrups that were sugar-free and reasonably priced. I went to the internet and searched and searched and searched and found  http://www.lollicupstore.com. This website has a great variety of sugar-free syrups and when you add in the shipping,  it might average out to $8.00 per bottle of syrup (a guess). The bottles range from $4.50-4.85 a bottle. Shipping is expensive, but worth it because of the variety and it is delivered UPS to your door. I usually stock up once or twice a year and order 12-15 bottles at a time. It is definitely less expensive than $1800.00 a year and the sugar-free varieties are greater in my home coffee shoppe than any coffee shoppe I have ever visited.

I am not a coffee expert but I like good coffee and a great latte’. People who know me, know that I carry my Mickey Mouse Mug where ever I am in the morning. I have approximately 13 oz. of coffee and 8 oz. of frothed milk. My variety ranges from ‘Almond Joy‘ to ‘Bing’ candy bar to caramel pumpkin to Peach Melba.

My new discovery is added syrup to the milk prior to frothing. I add sugar-free vanilla syrup. It adds another layer of complexity to the coffee and it reminds me of homemade vanilla ice cream as I sip through the froth to get to the coffee.

While this system may not be for everyone, if you like a good coffee but don’t like the expense, I would invest in my system and enjoy what you like, when you want it and not worry about needing to get out of your automobile or sitting in a drive-thru.

It definitely works for me and it makes me, not a poor man’s coffee connoisseur but an economical alternative to the expensive coffee shoppes.

ENJOY! Today was Caramel Pumpkin Latte’ with Vanilla Bean Froth. I am getting ready to make my second up.

Cooking to Clear My Head

My head is just spinning from everything that happened last week. I look at my poor boy (see previous post) and the matted hair on his legs that are tinged red because of the blood. I look at his nose that is clotted with blood and I just feel nothing but pain. The vet told me today that clotting is good so I just keep his nose clear enough to breathe. No big test results back yet; hopefully they will know something tomorrow.

I spoke with my friend who is a nurse and she explained what could be causing his low platelets. While his eating has slowed down (probably from the yucky blood taste in his mouth), his tail still wags and he looks bright in his eyes.

BUT….on to my day.

To get my mind off of things, I decided I needed to clean up my frig and freezer. And what I mean by that is, I needed to get those old bananas baked up; I needed to use the pumpkin that I baked earlier this month; I needed to make something with the fresh corn that I froze. It was going to be a baking/creating day.

I used a base quick bread recipe and then added my mix-ins. The base recipe is as follows:

  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. oil
  • 4 eggs

Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and any spices; set aside.

Combine the sugar and oil; mix until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Slowly add the dry ingredients.  Beat for 2 minutes.

Depending on the type of bread you are making, will determine when you add your mix-ins. If you add pumpkin or bananas, add to the wet ingredients before adding your flour mixture. If adding chocolate chips, raisins (dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc…) or nuts, add after the flour mixture.

Your main add-ins should equal 2 cups: 2 cups bananas (6 medium), 2 cups pumpkin, 2 cups, applesauce, or any combination there of. You can then add nuts, chocolate chips, raisins. Your spices should equal 2 teaspoons. (For the pumpkin muffins: add pumpkin pie spice, bananas: cinnamon and ginger) (And yes, I know that I do not have the popular KitchenAid Mixer but this was a Wedding Gift from my grandparents [previous post], so I cherish it)

This recipe made enough to be put in 3 – 10″ greased loaf pans. Bake for 50 minutes @ 325 degrees. I have a convection oven so you may have to adjust your baking times.

This recipe is not a sticky topped bread. The top has a nice crust on it which is what I prefer.

I was a busy girl; I made 10 large loaves and 11 small loaves of bread. My types were: Pumpkin, Banana, Banana Nut, Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip (I used the peanut butter as the oil and then added a little oil to get the correct consistency), Chocolate Chip – Dried Cherry(I adjusted this recipe and added milk to make the batter more moist since there were no moist additions. With this recipe, grease and flour the loaf pans).

                                                                                        I also made a 10 X 15 pan of Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting and a Chicken Corn Chowder.

I wish I would have done a better job with remembering the recipe for the Chicken Corn Chowder. I know I used 2.5 large chicken breasts that I cooked in water. In the same water I added fresh frozen corn (probably about 3 cups) and then added 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed. The spices I used were salt, pepper, coriander, dried mustard, minced onion and ground thyme. When the potatoes were cooked, I added 2 T. of butter and milk (1 or 2 cups). The only thing I would have done different is frying the potato cubes in oil so they would have stayed firmer. It was very good, don’t get me wrong but next time, I will get a crisp layer on the potatoes before putting them in the soup.

This all day cooking did help my mood. And while I know it meant nothing to Copper, since he was isolated at the time of my cooking, he does have a bounce in his step that he hasn’t had for a few days. I heard him bark today which hasn’t happened for a while.

My head is definitely getting cleared and my family has a lot of home cooked food to bring them comfort. I hope that this is all good karma and news will come tomorrow from the laboratories. If not, I still have 2 cups of pumpkin and probably 3 cups of bananas that I can create some more …maybe a black bean pumpkin soup or a Cuban black bean banana something; my choices are endless. I hope that I can create out of love instead of stress on my next baking/cooking day.

I will keep you updated.

(View from my kitchen window)

I am Ready for a Storm

There has been a lot of coverage of Hurricane Sandy, and rightfully so. This was a devastating storm for the East Coast. It appears that things are being taken care of and citizens are trying to get back to a life of normalcy. That will take a long time, years in fact but just trying to find some kind of routine is important.

The Today Show, this morning, made me laugh and made me re-think my blogging for the day. Matt Lauer announced that they were going to discuss the things you need in your pantry to be ready for the next storm. The reason I laughed is because my friends know that if there is a storm, they want to be at my home because I have enough food in my pantry to feed an army.

It all began years ago when my husband worked at Lozier Corp. Lozier is a manufacturer of store shelving. If you walk into Walgreens, Auto Zone, Kroger’s/Baker’s, Target or Toys R Us, those are Lozier shelves. Once a year, Lozier would hold a sale for employees. They would sell obsolete, scratch n dent items. My husband over the years purchased many shelving components. Thus, we had sturdy shelving that could hold our “stuff”.

I purchase things on sale and things that my family likes. I always want to make sure that I have enough to feed my family and “drop-ins”, if that happens. Sometimes, in a flight of fancy, I go overboard on purchasing. Thankfully, it is always something that we would eat. I do want to be prepared if I feel like making Thai food or throwing together a Nacho Night.

Now on to the photos and then the explanation.

 

In the first photo, those are the Lozier shelves filled with purchased and homemade goods. There are a lot of soups, vegetables, starches, beans and condiments that were purchased. For the things that I made from the garden, there is salsa, pickled hot peppers, canned meat, and numerous jams and jellies. I also have plenty of sugar and flour for baking.

In moving to the freezer, there are also purchased items, homemade items and game. Yes, I have a family of hunters. I did not grow up in a hunting family but after years of being worried about eating game, I have come to really like food that is provided by my family. I still do not hunt but everyone else does. Everything that is hunted is eaten. I do not condone hunting for the kill. That is wrong, in my opinion. And for those of you who think game meat has a “gamey” taste, for some reason, the venison we eat does not taste gamey. Many cannot tell the difference between our venison and beef. (OK, I will now step down from my soapbox!) The homemade or home-grown items would include soups and vegetables from the garden. There are times that I have make-a-head meals in the freezer but in this photo.

The third photo is the new addition to our family, a wine room. This was my gift to my husband for his birthday. My father constructed it and did a great job. Not only is there wine in the room but as it is temperature controlled, I also have potatoes from our garden stored there. (Maybe some day I will learn how to make vodka). The other thing stored in there are my coffee flavorings. Why a wine room? We like wine and want a variety. It is much cheaper to buy wine in bulk so before the wine room we had cases of wine, wine stored under shelving, wine here, wine there. It was everywhere. This was we know exactly what wine we have on hand.

So you can see why I would laugh about being prepared for a storm. Our home is gas so if we lose electricity, we can start our stove burners with a match. If that is a problem we can use our outdoor grill to cook. Camping is also something that we do so we have a camp stove and a Dutch Oven that we could use. We have a gas fireplace so we can keep warm. We have plenty of food (and drink). We keep plenty of batteries around and we have chargers that can be plugged into cigarette lighters. I would say we are set.

While I did not watch the segment on being prepared for a storm, I can enlighten you on how to be prepared. Here are just a few pointers:

1) Have non-perishable food on hand and make sure you have a hand can opener. If all you have is electric, you are sunk.

2) Have water available. If you know a storm is coming and you can prepare, fill a bathtub with water or use the water from your water heater (make sure to turn off the flame).

3) Make sure you have batteries. Make sure those things that need to be charged, have a full charge.

4) If you do lose electricity, open your refrigerator and freezer sparingly.

5) If you have young children, keep them occupied with games and books. Be strong for them.

6) If you have a land line, make sure one of your phones is corded/doesn’t use electricity. A portable phone will not work when there is no electricity. (Ours is in the laundry room)

AND FINALLY,

6) Don’t panic. Listen to the officials about what to do and DO WHAT THEY SAY!

 

I hope that we never had to take advantage of our ability to be fed and stay safe but I know that we are as prepared as we can be. I know, that without even trying on purpose, I am ready for a storm.

Bless those people who are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy!

I am a foodie/Am I a foodie? cont…

From the Merriam Webster website, a foodie is “a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads.”  The Collins English Dictionary writes, “(Cookery) a person having an enthusiastic interest in the preparation and consumption of good food.” In the light of those definitions, I am definitely a foodie.

Sometimes, I think my avid interest in the latest fads set me a part from most in my community. Years ago (maybe 17 yrs), a restaurant opened in my town of 8000 people. This was a dream come true for me. They served Portobello mushroom burgers, bruschetta, foods that were on the cutting edge back then. I loved it and thought,’ finally a restaurant in my town that I can really enjoy.’ It stayed open less than 6 months. Residents of the community said that they just couldn’t grasp eating a “burger” made of a mushroom. My heart sank. I was once again relegated to driving to Omaha for foods that excited me. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good steak on the grill or tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on a cold winter day. But to have something unique, something that I would not make on an average day, does get me excited.

After living here for 21 years, I have come to the realization that the only unique foods are going to come from me. And that is what I have set out to do, serve unique, not your normal run of the mill food, when we have guests. I also make it for my family when we have a little time to share the dinner spread.

My most recent venture was during the Annual Progressive Dinner that our church holds as a fundraiser for special programs . The money generally goes to the residence facility (retirement home) that is associated with the United Methodist Church (UMC) in our community, the church camp sponsored by the UMC  and a homeless shelter where one of our parishioners works.

The dinner is all about the 3 F’s ; fun, fellowship and fundraising. On average 100 people participate annually. There are numerous homes that provide the first course, the main course and then we all meet up at someone’s home for dessert.

Over the year’s we have done the main dish but my favorite part of the meal is the first course. In the explanation of the dinner, it is usually called the salad course but I very rarely serve salad so I always refer to it as the first course.

This year my theme was mini’s. I purchased mini bowls, tasting spoons, mini plates to provide a variety of flavors but still not fill my guests so they are too full for the main course. My goal was to provide four cold soups that did not fight each other for taste and a “bite” to go with the soup. The bowls were three ozs. so there would be about 1.5 c. of soup with one bite each of 4 items. I would have extras of everything so if someone wanted more, it would be available.

The search was on for soup ideas. I decided on two savory soups and two sweet soups. My idea for the first soup actually happened in July when I was visiting my husband who was working in California. When there we ate lunch at Sides Hardware and Shoes, a Brothers Restaurant in Los Olivos. Our soup was a chilled sweet corn soup with chipotle sorbet. I decided I would do my best to copy it so I at least got the ingredients for the soup from them and then created the sorbet myself.

The second savory soup needed to be colorful. Since the corn soup would be pale, the second soup needed to POP! I chose a roasted red pepper soup. The sweet soups were fairly simple, a pale and a bright soup. The pale soup would be an apple and pear and the bright would be a mixed berry soup.

Chilled soups are fairly easy to create. Find flavors that you like, put them together, puree’ them and then strain. That really is as simple as it gets but it is time-consuming. To strain properly, it takes time. At the end of my blog I will share the ingredients for the soups.

After picking out the soups I needed to find good pairings. I already knew that with the berry soup I wanted chocolate, I decided on a chocolate mousse with fresh berries. That was the easy decision.

Next I thought of the corn soup. I wanted something like cracker sticks. Instead my thoughts went to a cracker recipe that I have used for years using cheddar cheese and Rice Krispies. I decide instead of making the crackers round, I would make them look like pfeffernusse. Pfeffernusse is a ginger-type cookie that my grandmother made at Christmas time.

 Two down and two to go. I started thinking of the apple pear soup and thought, ‘something with nuts’ oh ‘and cheese’. I then created a brie wedge with a sugared walnut and homemade caramel drizzled over the brie.

It was time for the Red Pepper Soup. My original thought was a mini cream puff with chicken salad. Then I saw a recipe for a red pepper piece with crab salad. My menu was complete!

The interesting thing about the puree’ and straining, you never know what is left. I was straining the apple pear soup and saw that the leftover kind of looked like mush. Just because I am a curious sort, I tasted the leftovers. WOW! What a wonderful surprise. It was a cinnamon-y, luscious taste of apple and pear; in essence an apple pear sauce. Needless to say, it did not go in the trash. My son actually inhaled the concoction. He has a good palette and picked out the pear first, then the apple.

Now was the moment of truth. It was the day of the dinner and I spent most of the afternoon prepping for the meal. I was excited. I had the table setting established and it was just getting all of the items set just right.

Our guests arrived and I received a positive response on the experience. While I don’t know that anyone would do this for themselves, that is what it is all about. I wanted to create an experience that they would not have in their home. Most everyone finished their tastes (there was one teenager. She tasted everything but is not a vegetable fan).

The good thing is, all of these items I would make again. They passed my test which can be rather difficult. I especially like the apple pear soup and will make that again when apple and pear harvesting comes around.

I am giving you the ingredients for the soups. Like the chef at Sides Restaurant told me, ‘I really didn’t use a recipe, but here are the ingredients.’

Chilled Sweet Corn Soup – Sweet corn, onion, water and cream

Apple Pear Soup – apples, pears, Ginger Ale, lemon, sugar, cinnamon, cream

Red Pepper Soup – Roasted Red Peppers, onion, boiling potato, cumin, chicken broth, tomato, water

Berry Soup – Your choice of berries (I used strawberries and raspberries), orange juice, sugar, fruity wine, plain yogurt.

My latte’ for the day was gingerbread.

BTW…Happy Haloween from a proud foodie!  Our three pumpkins…BOO!

I am a Foodie/Am I a Foodie?

I am a foodie. Or am I? Food evokes wonderful memories for me. Everything about food fascinates me. I relish in learning how foods are prepared, the background/history of a recipe and the experience of a new taste. I also am a food snob sometimes. I hate it when a person tries to place their recipe or restaurant in a category that just doesn’t fit. But….they think that some are not well-educated and they think they can get away with their deceit (that explanation later).

I am in no way a gourmet but I do appreciate the finer foods of life. When I have people over for dinner, I try to make a meal that will be memorable for them. I do try to stay away from traditional Midwest cooking, the standard rump roast with potatoes and carrots or chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes. While those are foods I will make for my family, I try to be more creative with guests.

This propensity may come from my upbringing. My grandmother and mother were/are great cooks. New recipes were always just a meal away. When my grandmother died, I was chosen to be in charge of all of her cookbooks. I now have hundreds of cookbooks in my home just waiting for me to peruse. I am to look through them to make sure there are no side bar notes in recipes or loose leaf recipes in the pages. My problem is I want to look at every recipe and see which ones I want to keep.

Family dinners were always something to which I looked forward.  In my family, there were certain foods that were only made during certain holidays. We only get creamed pearl onions on Thanksgiving. Same for mashed sweet potatoes with pineapple. A full turkey was only roasted at Thanksgiving and “real” ham (bone in smoked) was only done at Christmas. Pumpkin pie…only at Thanksgiving.

When I became an adult and was married, my husband and I began our own food traditions. Some from my childhood were gone away. Others were created. For instance, we usually purchase more than one turkey at Thanksgiving so we have one in the freezer for a later roast (or smoke), likewise with ham. No one time a year, for us. Same goes for pumpkin pie, we have it when we want. There are just some foods that are too good to have only once a year. If my family like creamed onions, I would make them. As it is, I have made them only once in the eleven years that we have celebrated Thanksgiving in our home. My husband likes sweet potatoes whole with brown sugar and butter only. No fancy, mashed with pineapple, sweet potato for him. That is fine. While I do like what I grew up eating, I am also fine with undoctored sweet potatoes.

When we were first married, we split our fall/winter holidays. If we spent Thanksgiving with one side of family, we spent Christmas with the other. Our small family started celebrating Thanksgiving with just us when we lived in Spain. We liked the time together and found that, after moving home, we missed not having that intimate time to celebrate in our own home. While we have never limited the number of guests in our home at Thanksgiving, we do not go to someone else’s home. There are some years when there are just four of us. Other years may find 8-10 celebrating.

Now I get back to my food snob designation. We lived in Spain just under a year. But in that time, our life was greatly impacted and changed forever. I cannot speak for my other family members, but I found that I am truly a Spaniard at heart. When I am here, I long to live in Spain. When I am in Spain, I do not long to be back here. I often tell my husband that if he dies before me, I will move to Spain.

We immersed ourselves in the Spanish life. Our children went to a local, private school, not an American school. We lived in a Spanish community, learned the language, ate the native food, ate fast food only rarely and learned as much as we could about the history of Spain while we lived there. For all intense purposes, I became Spanish. I actually have a hard time saying Spanish, because we lived in Catalunya where the language is Catalan and it is rather different from most of Spain. (for those of you who do not know, Barcelona is in Catalunya. We lived about 26 km up the coast from Barcelona)

When we moved home, we looked for Spanish wine, Spanish food, anything Spanish and it was not to be found. As the years passed from our life there, Spanish things began to show up in our area. We were so excited when a Spanish restaurant opened in Omaha. We went there one night and found out that the owner had an uncle that owned a restaurant in Catalunya. In fact, my husband would eat there every week on the day they served paella. We had a wonderful time. It was so good that when friends, who lived an hour away from Omaha, came to visit, we made reservations.

We made early reservations so they could get home to their young children at a decent hour. About an hour before we were to arrive at the restaurant, someone calls and says that we had reservations but that we would have to give up our table after an hour! That is unheard of in Spain! Once you are at a table, for the most part, it is yours. In Spain, an evening meal will last up to 4 hours and we had less than an hour to eat (taking into consideration the time to prep the food). I explained to the person that was not the Spanish way and how could they expect us to enjoy a traditional Spanish meal in an hour. They said they didn’t care and we would have to relinquish our table after an hour. I got know where with the manager either, so needless to say, we did not honor that reservation and never went back with that owner. We went back under new ownership and the food was just not that good so now we have never been back.

Years after that fiasco, a lounge opened that touted that they served tapas. My anticipation for a true tapas bar was dashed when I went online and looked at their menu. Now if you say tapas, you should think Spanish, just like when you see an Italian restaurant, you would think pasta. Not the case, this “tapas” bar had french fries, nachos, chicken wings on their tapas menu. Those are not tapas, those are appetizers. As someone who lived in Spain, I can tell you that I never went to a tapas bar that had nachos or chicken wings on their menu. Their menu would have pan con tomate (bread with tomato), aceitunas (olives) almendras (almonds), numerous types of fish/seafood but not nachos! I really was concerned that people in the area would actually think that what they were getting was tapas. Their definition of tapas did not give a proper representation of the true experience. I frankly, was offended.

That is how I knew that I had become a food snob. I believe that if you say that you represent a certain ethnic food, you should be loyal to that country. If you are Mexican, serve Mexican, not Tex-Mex. If you serve Tex-Mex, say so. You can have other items on the menu to appeal to the masses, but don’t say you are one thing and then not have it on the menu.

Maybe that is one reason why I have so many cookbooks because I want to be an informed cook. I would not say that I am a purest because there are many times that I make a modified ethnic food. My daughter says she loves my refrigerator Chinese. That is where I open the refrigerator and see what I have that is fresh and then stir fry it with rice, definitely not authentic Chinese. But I do not represent it as anything other than what it is, using what I have in the frig before it goes bad.

I think I have gotten myself into a food blog mindset so keep checking back for other thoughts on food or foods of thought. I already have streaming in my head thoughts of food from Spain, my “mini’s” theme on a Progressive Dinner in which I had the first course, cookies and oh the list could go on….

Latte’ for the day has no name. I combined some end of the bottle flavorings and ended up with chocolate, white chocolate, toasted marshmallow and coconut. Pretty tasty!

It Takes a Little Kneading

 

 

There are many things that I do for my family, friends and people who I do not even know. One thing that I enjoy doing for others is cooking/baking. While I like the process of taking not very good tasting ingredients by themselves (have you ever tasted plain flour or vegetable shortening, YUCK!) and making them into something that tastes divine, my joy is in the act of giving. I feel that this is one thing that I do well; people can enjoy this gift and it can nourish them both physically and emotionally. Is there a favorite food that you had growing up that when you have it now it takes you back years?

When my family smells those warm, sweet fragrances wafting from the oven, their first question is, “Is this for us, or is it for someone else?” I have to admit that more than 50% of the time, it is for someone else. I do feel guilty and there have been times when I make twice as much so they can enjoy some for themselves.

There is one smell that drifts out the kitchen and throughout our home that everyone knows is for no one else but them, bread. When that light, fresh smell melds in with the other familial scents in our home, they know it is for them and only them.

I have now gotten to the point that I make fresh bread every four or five days. It is the most basic of recipes, milk, bread four, salt, pepper, butter and yeast. How can you go wrong with that? What I have started doing is using the white spongy dough as my canvas. An artist would never leave a canvas blank. It is filled with life, their joys, and sorrows, or poured out on that blank slate. I would not say that I have gone that far, no sorrow in my bread making but I have used a lot of love and joy in this new venture.

Sometimes my bread has a theme. One loaf I named “Four Shades of Red.” (Had a hard time visualizing gray bread!) Then there are breads that are themed based on the week. There was a loaf in honor of the beginning of fall. Then there was the purple and white loaf in recognition of the high school‘s homecoming. My last loaf was orange, white and black in anticipation of Halloween. I did make a completely orange loaf of bread. The family was not very fond of that. They definitely prefer multi-colored bread.

You would think that I would have thought of this when my children were younger. How fun it would have been for them to pick out their colors for their special loaf of bread. But NOOOOO, I had to wait until they were in high school. They have a lot of fun with it though and sometimes they will ask me why I chose the colors I did. It should be noted that my children take a sack lunch to school. With the new government guidelines on school food, they say that the meals are bland and not filling. They relish the thought of taking their own food, chosen for their likes, to school. This also means that all of their friends, classmates and teachers see their artistry bread. (Notice I did not say artisan.) Teachers have walked up to them and asked, “What is wrong with your bread?” My son commented back when asked that question, “My mom is just bored.”

The funny thing is that I am far from bored. It takes a lot of extra time to knead in those colorings. I don’t use gloves so I can go a couple of days with colored hands. While to save time I do use a machine for kneading the bread, I do the last kneading and forming by hand and then bake it in the oven. This does take time out of my already busy schedule. But they are more than worth it.

I do this out of love. If my family didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t continue. They know that I do this especially for them. If they did not know that or appreciate it, I would still bake bread but it would probably be plain ol’ white bread. I would find something that they did appreciate. I would find a gift that would make them feel special. I have thought about marketing my artist bread but realized it would no longer be special for them.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. You can bet there will be more brown, gold and orange bread and green and red bread. I will probably even make blue and white bread as a recognition for Hanukkah. I may have high schoolers for children but I am still that mom who wants to make her family feel special. While I may bake a lot for others, I have found this one thing that is exclusively for them.

What do you do that is exclusively for your loved ones?  Do you have traditions that are a treasure for you? Let’s talk about that. I will share in my next post family traditions from when I was growing up to traditions that have been created for my family. Think hard and I look forward to sharing.

Believe it or not I have only made coffee twice this week. That is why there have been no coffee posts. It is mid afternoon so my first cup of coffee for the day, may have to contain some Irish Creme. I’ll let you know.

Bread ingredients:   4 C. bread flour, 13 oz. warm milk, 2 T butter, 2.5 T sugar, 1.5 t. salt and 2.25 t. active dry yeast.