Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Worshipping at the Grill

A week ago Lee and I received a wonderful invitation. Mr MW and his sweet bride purchased a new grill and wanted some grilling lessons. We arranged to cook for a week on Sunday. Mr. MW chose chicken and pork to learn to grill. Ms. MW purchased a whole chicken, pork tenderloins and chicken breasts. She purchased 8 WHOLE boneless chicken breasts! The breasts could have floated Tom, Huck and Jim down the Mississippi! They were huge! The MWs opted to cook 5 whole breasts and freeze the rest for later use. Fabulous decision.

To prepare for the grilling event I consulted my favorite grilling master - my Dad. Dad's grilling is a wonderful process that consistently delivers the goods! Fabulous to be his daughter. I worship at the feet of this Grillmaster! Dad reviewed his basics: Control temperature, bring meat to room temperature before grilling, don't fuss with the meat on the grill, use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Armed with the basics I prepared two rubs to use and share with the MW's for future use. One is a spicy rub that can be used for any meat and a sweet rub with spices for pork.

We arrived and admired the new altar to summer food at its finest. It is very nice with two burners and a side burner for pots. Warms sauces for basting meats or cook a side dish exing the need to mind the stove and the grill. Lee showed MW how to connect the grill to the propane and we had liftoff! After letting the grill heat for 15 minutes per manufacturer's instruction we rubbed a whole chicken with the spicy rub and mounted it avoirdupois on the beer can. The can should be 2/3 full so Ms. MW took some beer in her OJ in the style of Germany. This was new for me. After the chicken cooked over indirect heat (one of the two burners was turned off and the chicken placed on the unheated side) it roasted to a delectable brown juiciness. After that we grilled two pork tenderloins rubbed with the sweet rub and the aforementioned huge breasts. Ms MW and I speculated on the size of the chickens that surrendered those beautiful breasts ( I was jealous of those bubbies). Clearly they were huge chickenzillas! The MW's marinated some of the breasts in an Asian marinade with sesame and soy and a creamy marinade that was suspiciously white! I didn't go there because if we enter the debate over MW or mayo a certain gentleman is rendered senseless in his many diatribes against mayo. The poor thing just doesn't understand that one chooses appropriate ingredients based on the dish. Oh well I don't want anything to rear its ugly head again.

Finally Ms. MW prepare beautiful peppers to be grilled with olive oil. Lee peeled small potatoes that were cooked almost to doneness skewered on some bamboo skewers and grilled until brown then bathed in a honey lemon sauce. It was all very good! Mr MW made a beautiful salad with grape tomatoes, lettuces, strawberries and avocado with a mandarin orange vinaigrette. It was so delicious. For dessert I made Rose Levy Berenbaum's Canyon pie. The pie had a chocolate wafer crust with chocolate ganache, fresh raspberries, chocolate chip whipped cream with grated chocolate and finely ground bland almonds and capped with cocoa meringues that simulated boulders. It was such a yummy meal and so fun with great companions.

Lest you think I am under the influence of a weed or drug - yes, Mr. MW tormented me throughout in his own style. Every time I said something to Lee I was condescending . If I talked about cooking I was accused of being perfectionistic. I smiled and told him I was giving him something to aspire to! At other points he said you are such a "4" referring to my enneagram. The MW's are dear friends and they balance this with caring conversation and affirmations of one's gifts of spirit and love to them. I rejoice over this teasing as it means MW is feeling good and ready to play! It was a wonderful time for all.

One-derful Rub for Meats (Adapted from Smoke and Spice)

Blend together:
3/4 C. paprika
1/4 C. gr. black pepper
1/4 C. salt
1/4 C. sugar
2 T. ancho chili powder
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. onion powder
2 T. Dorothy Lane Market Cajun seasoning
2 tsp. cayenne (adjust to less if two spicy)

Store in a cool place in an airtight jar or sealed plastic bag.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

As I agonize over color and the egg and I

When my college buddie (feminine form) and her bro came to visit we went to my old house in the Oregon District. We were actually able to go inside my former home. Going back and seeing it again made me fall in loft with the soft soothing colors I chose for that space. The mossy greens, of the main rooms, the colors of the canyon in the little family room were wonderful spaces. It made a lovely haven for me for five years.

After seeing those colors, my current home looks a little light and not my tonal comfort zone. The living room and dining room and two of the bedrooms are fine. Lee is ready for a change in colors and is a believer in freshening up. Lee and I decided on some creamy colors with a hint of brown for kitchen and sunroom. The hall and the big bedroom will be heavy cream. Perfect for a cook. A note on Miss Lee. Lee is getting revved up for projects. She's dug a 70 foot oval trench to prevent bamboo from migrating through the yard. She's doing 12 yards of mulch and now is taking on painting. The tree man came as we lost part of a tree in last week's storm. We have suffered with our current sink and faucet in the kitchen. We are putting in a composite sink in slate and a brushed nickel faucet. Lee will have helpers of course. She cannot climb trees and she has an aversion to plumbing.

So what has all this got to do with food. I was reading the New York Times and they are focusing on deviled eggs. Reading the article, the author said most deviled eggs are spicy. That was a revelation as my eggs are not spicy. There is a creamy yolk filling with a hint of mustard and a secret ingredient and the cooked white that has it's firm texture against the smooth creaminess of the yolk filling. To me spiciness would be overwhelming. My mom makes hers with a little bit of sweet pickle relish which is great. However I am in some sense a purist. Let's just say the deviled egg filling reminds me of my living room color. Spicy would be edgy not eggy and wouldn't be the soothing comfort I want from my home or my deviled eggs.

Deviled Eggs

6 eggs cooked starting out in cold water. When the water comes to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes and remove from the heat and fill the pan with cool water. Crush the egg shells against the side of the pan. Peel the egg shell and add to compost.

Cut the eggs in half horizontally if you like your eggs flat or for some real excitement trim a bit from the fat bottom and slice a third off the narrower top. Carefully remove the yolk and place in a bowl of a food processor. The empty white can be placed on a plate traditionally horizontal or top up.

To the yolks in the food processor add:
1/4 C. mayo or MW
3/4 tsp poultry seasoning - secret but obvious don't you think

1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Whirl until smooth. If' it's a bit dry add another tablespoon of mayo and check again.

Spoon or pipe the creamy mixture into the whites. Dust with paprika.

This is really good.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Visitors from the North

Yesterday was a great day for me. My college roomie and her brother came for the day. As with all great times there was a plan afoot. Linda is a genealogist and bon vivant and quite fun. A devoted mother and blogger and an extraordinary person. Her brother Ken is a kindred spirit. A teacher, musician and thinker he is great fun to be with and share conversation.

So they arrived before noon and took the requisite tour of the grounds and the WORKSHOP and met the three dogs. We headed off for lunch at Culp's cafe on the grounds of Carillon Park. Culps is named for an old Dayton eatery. The decor is very 50's and the menu is a salute to food popular in that era as well. We had a great conversation about Texas music and our annual barbecue. Ken loves Texas musicians so he scored many points for that alone.

The plan for the day was to see my former home in the historic Oregon District. While I lived there I shared space with Electra Collins Doren a local librarian and daughter of John Doren publisher of the Dayton Democrat. Well Electra died in 1927 so her spirit made her presence known on many occasions. After the Jackson street viewing we were to go to Woodland cemetery to investigate and locate the graves of relatives of Linda, Dayton luminaries and Electra and her family!

The home on Jackson street is for sale. Seeing us armed with cameras, the owner who was doing yard work and came over to greet us. I shared that I lived here for a number of years and she invited us in to see my former home. I was so touched by her generosity. I was amazed to see that she had retained many of the colors that I used to paint my home. She did say that the upstairs bath was a very dark grey and they changed that to make it lighter. I told her that was me and that I loved the color. I think she was worried she offended me but I assured her that she did not. Not much had changed with the exception of the kitchen. The kitchen which was originally a galley kitchen so narrow that if you fully opened the dishwasher door it would just clear the fridge on the opposite wall. Previous owners removed the wall adjoining the dining room and rotated the cabinets 90 degrees so the line of cabinets was perpendicular to the wall with the refrigerator. I so loved that cozy home but the stairs were and I can confirm this today a killer for these old knees.

I asked the owner if she ever felt that she was living with someone and she put her hands to her cheeks and said I don't want to think that. Then she proceeded to share an experience that attested to some of the strange goings on I experienced. What fun! Ken who has some psychic abilities said he didn't feel anything when he was there. I think Ms. Electra was waiting for me at Woodland Cemetery!

So we traveled to Woodland Cemetery. Woodland Cemetery is an important place in Dayton. It is home to the graves and memorials to Dayton's many inventors and notables. The mausoleum has a beautiful collection of stained glass windows. One window which is a major attraction is a stunning Tiffany window. Our interests were more to the actual cemetery. Our first stops were to locate Linda's relatives. Her husband has a great grandmother and great aunts and uncles interred here. After a walk up a steep hill we were only able to find one head stone and that of another person Linda wanted to see. She didn't get her "money" shot. Many of the grave stones were overturned or may have washed down the hill. Some stones were so worn by weather that the names were unrecognizable. She did get some pictures so she was happy about that. We also looked in the infant section of the cemetery to see if there were any folks there they were related to.

For me the highlight was spending time with Linda, Ken and Lee. Linda is passionate about genealogy and Ken is a devoted brother who not as passionate about genealogy applies his intellect and support to Linda's passion. Electra's grave is located in the same section where we found those of the Wright brothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar. In addition so many names Shaffors, Schantz, Deeds, Mead and on. All founders of Dayton from the 1800's to early 1920's. After much trekking I found Electra, her dad, mom and siblings. All were buried in separate plots adjacent to a huge stone memorial with another family name. Clearly some work lies ahead to unravel these connections. I took many pictures of Doren graves and even had my picture taken on Electra's grave! I cannot describe to you how thrilling it was to find that grave and see more unfold. I am so thrilled to have owned the home of John Doren where his daughter Electra lived. I've felt such closeness to Electra. She was a noted librarian in Dayton and after the flood established the first mobile book "mobile" to outlying areas of Dayton. In her time this was a horse and cart. When I lived in North Dayton the book mobile was a refitted bus. I took my children to the bus where we chose reading material until the next visit. My mom was the person who really instilled the love of reading in us and nurtured my love of books. Thank you Mom for giving me one of life's greatest treasures. One of my fondest memories was Dad reading Treasure Island to us over the course of some weeks. It was heavenly to share that time and closeness with him.

On our way out of the cemetery we saw some memorials to other Daytonions. A statue of a boy and his dog - the boy drowned and his dog visited his grave daily for a long period of time and their connection is memorialized in that statue. There is a bench with two bowler hats placed on one end for the Wright brothers. I think the one that touched me deeply was Erma Bombeck's grave. For all of the words and laughter she brought to so many her grave is marked by a huge piece of stone from Arizona. After she left Dayton she retired to Arizona. Her marker is just that huge beautiful stone. To me it says I have said all there is for me to say the rest is up to your imagination.

After leaving Woodland we went to the memorial of yet another great Daytonian - Esther Price. This was Lee's part of the trip where she found $30 dollars worth of dark chocolate so she could remember Esther and her good works in Dayton. At home we had a very fun dinner together. I had guacamole for apps with wine and sangria and a blueberry spritzer for the celebrants. A meal of skirt steak rubbed with chipotle and spices and grilled was served with chinmichurri sauce, Lee's pinto beans, Mexican Fruit Plate and Mexican Chocolate Cake. A fine and memorable day was had by all.

Chimichurri Sauce adapted from the Joy of Cooking

1/2 C olive oil
1/2 C red wine vinegar
1 small onion minced
1/2 C parsley finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic grated finely
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp mexican oregano dried
1 tsp dried cilantro

Mix together and let rest for at least 3 hours before serving. It keeps overnight in the fridge. Spoon the sauce over grilled meats.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Professor

This is posted early. I am jumping the Father's Day gun. My Dad is an excellent physician. Before his retirement, he had a wonderful career as a pediatrician. He was wonderful with both parents and kids. When we lived in Toledo it was not unusual for the kids to come over to see if "Dr. Henny" could come out. He would go about his gardening while visiting with the kids. He never talked down to them he just chatted away, listening and taking in the child with the stories and conversation. He genuinely enjoys children and I think his career brought him much satisfaction. His great grandsons enjoy his company. Particularly Gabe who is quite comfortable chatting with Bobo and learning to fish at the Slagle cabin. Gabe's sense of humor and easy smile and laugh are quite fun and he can really bring a smile from Dad.

Dad's career was as a physician to me he is and was always a teacher too. He loves nothing more than sharing knowledge or some skills with others so they can enjoy what he knows and he can do. When my youngest niece was young she would travel to Florida to spend time with Mom and Dad. Of course, she missed school and came packed with work to do while she was gone. Dad arranged that he and Cammy would have school together every day. Dad would make sure she kept her promise to her mom and teacher and Dad was able to enjoy time with Cammy getting to see the student side of her personality and sharing his values. They were close then and close to this day.

Dinner with Dad during the week was always a rush job. Mom would spend hours cooking. Dad would race in after office hours and sit down to dinner. He would share his day and ask us about ours. Sue would spill her milk, Dad would be the target and would change clothes before leaving for the hospital or a meeting. I used to think this was his way of connecting and keeping tabs on his girls. But it was so much more. In retrospect I see his desire for connection but more about using experiences to teach us a view of the world and people that was bigger than we were or are and founded in selfless work and generosity and respect for others.

In my junior year I thought I would spend the summer in Tiffin instead of going home to work. I knew I would need to make money so I hatched the infamous plot of printing a limited number of raffle tickets and selling them to people in the community. The prize being raffled off was me! I would agree to work for 40 hours at whatever task the lucky winner would assign me too. Because there were no more than 100 tickets for sale at $25.00 a ticket purchasers would have great odds of winning 1 in 100. I would make $2500 when I usually cleared $600-800 in a summer's work. I thought it was brilliant. Dad thought it was ridiculous so I won the grand opportunity to spend the summer working in Dad's office. Lucky Dad.

I worked as a receptionist. Let's just say that the partners and other staff were warm and friendly despite my shortcomings. They were incredibly supportive and I learned a great deal that summer. (I did not make $2500.) I saw where education, self discipline, passion, commitment and caring met laughter, pain, illness, crisis, sadness, hope and humor. Measles, chicken pox, sprains, viruses, broken bones, fevers, bad or questionable behavior and lacerations were the rule of the days. Arising from all of this was one experience that taught me a life lesson that informed my choice of work and how I wanted to pursue it and my relationship with those I served.

One day a mom called and her toddler had a fever that wasn't going away. The mom and child came to the office and were seen by Dad. As things unfolded and testing was required the young one was diagnosed with cancer. Forty-two years ago, the prognosis was poor. As I watched the family come for visits and care the sadness of their experience was overwhelming to me. It caused me to ponder life in a way I had few opportunities to do so in the past. Our family experienced such loss when I was a junior in high school four years earlier and seeing it unfold in a similar way was a huge challenge for me. I needed to talk to Dad. I related the story from my experience and told Dad how sad I was. I could tell it was challenging for my Dad as well. After some discussion I finally said "Dad how do you stand it. Doesn't it make you cry?". He sat back in his chair at the table and looked at me. He said"I can't cry. This family has people who will cry with them. They need me to take care of their child and them. I'm the guy that guides them through this and is strong for them. That's my job." I was shocked by this unexpected response but I knew he was right.

Over the years we've discussed people in crisis and considered choices and actions in their lives and our own. Being my Dad's daughter taught me that helping people offers great personal rewards. However helping them is always about those struggling and not about us. It's about being strong enough to risk taking a stand for someone to help them; to put yourself beside them to see them through a crisis or a long term challenge. It's about the ability to care for someone by listening and affirming their strengths to deal with the challenge. That learning changed my life and brought me great happiness. In my jobs I've experienced the wonder of seeing people live through a crisis and become more than their challenge rather than being defined by it. That learning has enabled me to become a trusted partner sharing the road. It's a huge honor to be trusted and to have someone share that part of their lives and I don't take that trust for granted.

I can say how really blessed I have been to be a member of the family I was born into. They are all great people who have carved wonderful careers of purpose and worth to the world. We're not perfect and we have the same kind of highs and lows that others experience. They are people you can laugh with til you cry or cry with until you laugh! I think my siblings and our progeny would concur when I say we have been taught by great teachers through our Mom and Dad. I would have to name Dad as the tenured professor in life lessons with the highest commendations confirmed upon him. Dad you're the best. Thanks for being willing to teach and helping to make me teachable through some 'splainin'!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Real Reason

As you may or may not know I love Story People by Brian Andreas. I developed this affection for his work almost 20 years ago. In fact there is a connection to the Story People Blog on this blog - so if you haven't been go now! Many of his thoughts presented in his work really resonate with me. Today was particularly true. It is titled Real Reason. The words are as follows:

Real Reason
There are things you do because they feel right & they may make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other's cooking & say it was good.

Okay is this not me in a nutshell - pecan please. The pattern of my life is connection and sharing time and experiences with people who are important to me. Of course when I am hosting or primarily responsible it is an event with - you guessed it food. My goal is to create a shared experience that brings laughter and warmth and all over good feeeling with a tingle in your heart from the love and a tingle in your taste buds.

Several weeks ago I traveled to WA to welcome baby Miriam and help the rest of the family get a little TLC and special Granna/Mama attention. It was splendid. We cooked through the week and made yummy meals. Jen wanted to see some friends so we made Mexican with puffy tacos, pork filling, mexican fruit, mexican chocolate cake and a side or two. We had sangria and guacamole - it was fun and divine.

One of the things Jen and Josh like to have me do when I am there is cook for them. I cook ahead as it were and prepare meals frozen so dinner is just a little easier. So Josh smoked brisket and a pork shoulder, I made spicy pork, marinated flank steaks in 3 different rubs and marinades, eggplant parmesan, chicken cordon bleu, mac and cheese, meat loaves, meatballs and lots of sauce for pasta. Notice that they are "comfort" type foods. Perfect for two stressed out parents who've wrangle work, kids and car pools and smiles and tempers. You just need something that rights the earth and helps you connect to what is normal or what you would like to see. It's hard in the middle of parenting to see light at the end of the tunnel.

After 10 days in Seattle Lee was pining for food - cooked by me. Her comfort food is penne with marinara sauce and cheese with a salad and bread. I can take the basic home marina and switch it around with vegetables in it - mushrooms, squash, artichoke hearts - pine nuts, or meatballs which she loves as well. Her absolute favorite Saturday night special is a ribeye grilled with a twice baked potato and an artichoke with a sauce of mayo and lemon juice for dipping. It's hard to go wrong with an appreciative eater like Lee. Just do not serve chef salad with delicately sliced meats and cheeses. She thinks you made dinner with cold cuts and that is a sin in the book of this Texan.

But back to Seattle. The time spent with my children is so dear. Jen and Josh are incredible parents. If we could bottle their patience we could make the world a more peaceful place. The boys are just full of life and adventure. Gabe is so funny and he is truly Mr. Goodtimes. At one memorable meal Eli announced he was going to use number 2 to push waste out. Gabe looked and listened and jumped announcing - not to be outdone - that he would use all the numbers to push out waste.

Part of the fun was a soccer game. Eli is a sports nut and soccer is his game. We went to see the Sounders play the Columbus Crew. Every day Eli would count down the number of days left before he could go. Each day the excitement was a level higher. Day of was most exciting. They donned hats and shirts in Sounders colors. Gabe and Eli had hats and sunglasses and Gabe wore ear phones to drown out the big noises. They were just present to every moment of the game. We took pictures and of course Eli refused to smile to torment his Granna. The game was a tie and much to Eli's chagrin Tyrone "X" was red carded and thus could not play in the game against the arch rival Chivas. Very fun to hear him spout knowledge about the game. Josh shared that he doesn't know where Eli gets his information but he is pretty accurate.

Miriam is a very cuddly baby. She appears to be so small after two brothers over 9 lbs each. She is a lovely blend of both her brothers. You can watch her for a while and see both Gabe and Eli's expressions on her face. She has very full kissy cheeks and her brownish hair is as soft as down against her head. She has a very nice demeanor which makes you want to just hold her and snuggle her all the more. Miriam is perfect for cuddling and nuzzling. What a perfect addition to our family!

It was apparent to me watching Josh and Jen that they are working to create a wonderful life at home for their family. Eating together, trying bites of this and that, thinking of games to keep little ones at the table for chitchat. Suddenly Josh grabs a strip of cloth used to tie the curtains back and announces he is a ninja. The boys jump up in delight and declare themselves ninjas too. The head ninja announces no ninja activities until baths and pj's are in place. The boys scamper upstairs to complete their tasks. I do dishes and after that's complete Jen and I rest on the couch awaiting the ninjas. Josh and Eli bounce down the stairs and then the smallest ninja appears. He is wearing a big magic cape, a fireman's hat and has a hobby horse tucked between his knees with his ninja head scarf in place. No pj's but big smiles and a heart full of play. Chapter two takes a little man back up the stairs for a more appropriate sleepy time costume and the ninjas go to bed.

I have never been so happy or so tired. It was incredible fun and after a rest for a week and a trip to the doc for a cortisone shot in the knee I am ready to go again!

One of the boys favorite treats is an outrageous apple. They are sold at the shops near Pikes Market. It's an easy treat to put together and it is outrageous!

Big perfect apples
short sticks to make a handle for the apples
Bag of caramels melted with 1/3 C. of evaporated milk
12 ounces Dark or milk chocolate melted (if you want to be true to Seattle try Theo chocolate!)
12 ounces white chocolate
Chopped pecans or crushed candy bars 8 ounces or both

Wash and dry the apples thoroughly. Assemble the apples with stick handles in the top of the apples.
Place each topping in it's own separate deep bowl. Carmel, then dark/milk chocolate then white chocolate, then nuts, then candy bars

Dip the apple into the caramel about 2/3 of the way down. Drip and rest is handle down on top of a glass with the uncoated apple touching the rim of the glass.

When firm dip in the milk chocolate not as far down but putting enough on so it drips down the sides of the apple. Rest as before until firm.

Repeat with the white chocolate but before the chocolate is firm sprinkle with nuts of candy or roll it in one or both.

Finally drizzle the chocolates over the top of each apples. Just to gild the lily do not dip.

Let rest until firm and enjoy. We cut each apple in wedges and share.

It really says I love you in the most real way - as if you need a reason for making something for someone you love.