Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Countdown

In one week the week of all weeks will have arrived. Sitting on my counter are three - so far - bags of grocery supplies. Recipes are tucked inside the bag and spices have been gathered. Menus are formed and activities planned. Let the fun begin! This is an incredible time for our family. This week, family will gather from Ohio, Michigan, California, Washington and Colorado. There are four generations to hug and kiss and bask in the glow of shared activities. There will be an Asian grill, a Texas barbecue, a tailgate party, a Beach bums baseball game to be enjoyed and more! Every night over drinks and apps there will be an ongoing cornhole game that pits in ever changing permutations and combinations all family members.

After dinner we'll pit men against women in a gin game called Slip Ass - there I said it! Facing each other across the table a couple plays a gin game. Scores for the round are tallied and whichever side wins slips to face a new opponent. My Dad - The Iron Duke - is the master of the game and teaches the uninitiated. His team of men receives admonishment and coaching from him throughout the evening. Believe me you don't want to let him down. Even the youngest generation participates. Cammie learned years ago and plays well. Eli anticipates the time he can stay up to play. After being snuggled in bed he sneaks down to sit on his dad's lap and help his Dad play. He asks when he can stay up to play. His Momma and Daddy assure him he needs to be older than he is. He goes after playing cards with a vengeance. Mom and Dad have a deck of cards with 26 pairs of trout flies used to play Go Fish. Before he even had hopes of reading Eli learned all of the cards by name! He could look at the card and announce the name of the fly.

Since we have so many little guys aged 6, 3 and 3 months lots of time is spent in child thrilling activities. Gabe and Eli love soccer and baseball so there will be lots of that and Mira will be cuddled and passed from person to person to meet and greet her family. Cammy will bring a friend who has some history with us and knows the drill of the Henry week. We'll have a bonfire one night with somemores. We can canoe and paddle and swim and the sun worshippers will be risking melanoma.

The food is incredible. We start the week with Mimi and Bobo's Tony Packos hot dogs and pickles with beans and Mimi's potato salad and brownies. Various people take nights and plan meals for the family to enjoy. I am generally the culinary risk taker. This year the Asian grill will be my personal challenge. It will be comprised of three entrees with sides and a souffle cake dessert. The entrees will be smaller more so people will have bites of different things rather than a normal portion. Should be great fun. My Dad makes an incredible brie with nuts and sweet topping. I found a recipe for an Asian version with macadamia nuts which should be great. I'll share the recipe later.

So for the people who always require a recipe I'll share a dish I made last week for Lee from the garden. It was a great meal shared with laughter and new tastes. An ode to the week to come with my precious family!

Eggplant with Summer Squash

2 medium eggplants peeled and sliced lengthwise

2 eggs

panko bread crumbs

1/2 salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

vegetable oil

2 summer squash cut in chunks

1/2 onion chopped

1 clove of garlic minced

1 green pepper cut in med chop

2 roma tomatoes cut lengthwise and then sliced in medium chunks

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. capers rinsed and drained

1 tsp lemon zest

juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp. herbes de provence

salt pepper

2 T. butter

Heat pan and add vegetable oil to 1 inch depth in a large frying pan. Bring the oil to a high temp. Beat the eggs and add 3 Tbsp. of water and combine thoroughly. In a shallow dish put the eggs in another dish place the panko and salt, pepper and garlic powder, mix well. Dip the eggplant in the egg mixture then dip in the panko and then fry in the oil. When one side is brown turn the eggplant to the other side. Alternatively you can place the eggplant on a greased pan and spray with a little PAM. Bake in a 425 degree own until done. Flip over once after about 15 minutes. The eggplant is done when a fork easily pierces the crust and eggplant beneath. Keep warm.

While the eggplant cooks, heat a large pan with a Tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion and saute about 5 minutes then add the garlic and squash. Saute until tender. Add 1 tsp of herbes de provence, lemon zest and juice, and capers with pepper and salt. Toss gently and add the knob of butter to melt and combine with the juices and herbs to make a butter sauce.

Put some eggplant on a plate for each person. Top with the squash and serve. It's really yummy and so rewarding thinking that most of this came from your garden!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Garden of My Familiar

As a young child one of my life's greatest pleasures was going to a farm stand. My mom's parents initiated me taking me out into the country surrounding their home in the west end of Toledo to purchase vegetables and fruits. The stand was actually near the farm home and the produce was displayed in baskets on tables. My grandparents loved vegetables and they were pleased when I spied pattypan squash. Pattypan squash are shaped like a flying saucer but with beautiful ruffled edges. They can come as small as a walnut or as large as an egg. Those particular squash were green and were the smallest I've ever seen. Grandma bought some and took them home to prepare for dinner. She trimmed the stem end and the button on the bottom and steamed them. She served them with butter and a little salt and pepper. Their wonderful flavor haunted me and I seldom had pattypan squash.

When Lee and I moved to our home I literally begged for a vegetable garden. What started as 100 square feet of raised bed is now 300 square feet surrounded by a picket fence fortified with chicken wire attached to the picket fence to defend against small critters like rabbits. We grow a host of things and enjoy them all summer long. Like many amateur gardeners we've had both splendid and failed crops. I am the only person who cannot grow zucchini - until this year. We have garlic, green beans, tomatoes, fennel, rhubarb, lettuce, okra, broccoli, collards, peppers- green, jalapeno, poblano, habanero, and eggplant. It's all just too good. Oh and we grow herbs as well.

Every day I go out and see how the plants and their fruits and vegetables are coming along. I am the proud owner of my grandmother's garden basket. It is a long elliptical basket with a sturdy handle. I know it's over 60 years old and it is a treasure to me. Armed with a knife and the basket I pick my rewards from the garden. I bring them inside and plunge them into cold water to remove dirt and any bugs. I treat myself to some sweet tomatoes off the vine or the smell of the basil, oregano and thyme. Then it's on to dinner and a home grown dinner.

Several years ago when shopping for plants for the garden I found my beloved patty pan. I've grown them when I can find the plants and they always take me back to my trips to the country with my grandparents and the joy of beautiful produce in vibrant colors. It is one of the most meaningful ways for me to connect to these two marvelous people I love so dearly.

For the recipe this time I will share one of Lee's favorites. Lee is the worker bee of the garden. Each spring she amends the soil with Posey Power, waters, feeds and debugs the crops. She is a real trooper and loves the garden. It's for her that we plant okra and the garlic we love to cook with. One of Lee's very favorites is Broccoli Rice and Cheese casserole. It isn't fancy but to her it is home and what better way to make it than with the broccoli she worked so hard to grow.

Broccoli Rice Casserole
3 thick stems of broccoli rough chopped
1/2 yellow onion chopped
3 Tbsp. butter
1 large clove of garlic minced
2 C of cooked brown rice
1/2 - 3/4 C. milk
1/2 lb. Velveeta in med cubes (if you're not a Velveeta lover and want to upsacle this dish use a mild cheddar)

Melt the butter and saute the onion until transparent. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds. Add broccoli and saute until wilted. Add the cooked rice, milk and cheese and allow the cheese to melt stirring gently. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole and top with buttered crumbs. Bake at 350 until browned and bubbly.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day Food

I see from comments that people are curious as to food over the holiday weekend. All right already! Here is the scoop. On Friday two dear friends came to dine early so we could eat and play games and just have fun. I'll call them the MeMa's as we have two other friends we call the M & M's. The MeMa's are two ladies I have known since my children were young. Like many dear friends we can talk about anything and do and laugh until we just almost faint. Somehow we are always so funny and clever. Could it be the wine? So the MeMa meal went as follows: Greet guest with wild barking and cavorting - the three dogs not us! Walk Lee's beautiful back yard and stand in amazement at her gardening. Back to the patio for appetizers of hummus and olive tapenade with mint and organe on pita crisps. We had riesling and chardonnay. I grilled Mediterranean shrimp and tomato skewers and steak with peppers and onions in a balsamic marinade. I used my grandpa's skewers so I thought about him and happy family times as I threaded the meat and shrimp. I made grilled smashed potatoes, and a salad with lettuce and broccoli from our garden with a homemade lemon vinaigrette and salt focaccia rolls. This was fine except Lee and Ma left me and Me to go on a propane run. We had a lovely chat and they returned and grilling commenced. For dessert I had made strawberry ice cream with a strawberries romanov topping - strawberries macerated in orange, sugar and triple sec. The macerating liquid was reduced to a syrup and then spooned over the ice cream. We played one game and the MeMa's went home with a promise of future engagements. Woo Hoo!

For the Fourth of July we were very traditional. It was raining so I grilled hot dogs inside. We had corn on the cob and the broccoli/lettuce salad from Friday. I dress salad individually so you can make a large salad and have it for several meals. For dessert I made some very awesome brownies that were long on chocolate and short on flour so they were cakey/fudgey. Not quite a confection rather than a cookie. I always add coffee to deepen the flavor and complexity of the chocolate. I guess Emeril would say Bam! but for me it's about the stealth ingredient that makes it complex and rich. Just a lingering flavor you can't quite name.

Thank God it's a three day weekend! Day three launches another meal on the grill. Sticky balsamic ribs with balsamic glaze, zucchini pancakes and broccoli. Lee is just obsessed that the broccoli will "ruin". So I have promised to make yet another broccoli dish. Broccoli three days running. Ay yi yi. It's really a plot to keep George Bush, Sr. from dropping in by parachute. For dessert I might try a peach caramel tart.

So yes I have been my typical self cooking and sharing time with some of those I call friends and thinking of my family. I've been channeling my Dad trying to become a person of his grilling stature. I try to emulate him in other fine attributes as well but this weekend I focused on grilling. Cooking for the MeMa's and Lee is always rewarding. They are so appreciative (as are most of my people I choose to cook for) that it's a sincere pleasure to cook for them.

Happy Holiday y'all! It's not over yet.

Grilled Smashed Potatoes (Before you ask why would she give us this after all of those other things...keep your mouth shut until you make them and taste them. Then I rest my case.)

I will not tell you how many to make. Just estimate the number of potatoes your group can eat.

Boil small red potatoes in salted water until just tender. Let cool about 10 minutes then smash lightly with the heel of your right hand (just plain' I'm right handed) The goal is to compress the potatoes to the point the sides crack and expose some of the tender flesh. Do not destroy the potatoes they are your friend. Four potatoes to serve 4 people I place 1/4 C. olive oil in a boil with 2-3 large cloves of garlic grated or made into a paste. Add 1/2 tsp salt and blend well. Add the potatoes and toss very gently to coat with the oil.

On a hot grill, grill the potatoes until they are hot and the skin is brown. Salt with kosher salt and serve.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offencesFor abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Column 1 Georgia: Button Gwinnett Lyman Hall George Walton
Column 2 North Carolina: William Hooper Joseph Hewes John Penn South Carolina: Edward Rutledge Thomas Heyward, Jr. Thomas Lynch, Jr. Arthur Middleton
Column 3 Massachusetts:John HancockMaryland:Samuel ChaseWilliam PacaThomas Stone Charles Carroll of Carrollton Virginia: George Wythe Richard Henry Lee Thomas Jefferson Benjamin Harrison Thomas Nelson, Jr. Francis Lightfoot Lee Carter Braxton
Column 4 Pennsylvania: Robert Morris Benjamin Rush Benjamin Franklin John Morton George Clymer James Smith George Taylor James Wilson George Ross Delaware: Caesar Rodney George Read Thomas McKean
Column 5 New York: William Floyd Philip Livingston Francis Lewis Lewis Morris New Jersey: Richard Stockton John Witherspoon Francis Hopkinson John Hart Abraham Clark
Column 6 New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett William WhippleMassachusetts: Samuel Adams John Adams Robert Treat Paine Elbridge Gerry Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins William ElleryConnecticut: Roger Sherman Samuel Huntington William Williams Oliver Wolcott New Hampshire: Matthew Thornton

Independence Day

Another 4th of July dawns and I am up with the sun. The Fourth is a favorite holiday because it's the birthday of our country. As a child of the 60's I demonstrated against the war in Vietnam and worked to change politics and tried to make life better for those less fortunate. There is much criticism of boomers and some of it may be warranted however through Facebook I've connected with classmates. Now in our early 60's I feel gratified to discover that many are teachers, ministers, social workers, and in other professions that continue to seek to create life as better for others. None of these folks are narcissistic or selfish. They intentionally live in community with others and are conscious of the community being created.

My own family enfolds many of the same people working to make the world a better place for others through medicine, education and human services. It's our family passion. I am so pleased to be a part of this family by the happy "accident of birth" When I pause to think about how my generation was created in this way I see it as a natural outcome of World War II. As the children of the greatest generation we were loved and cherished by parents who knew what the world was capable of creating both good and evil. Coming back from the war and seeing its tragedies and triumphs they chose to create a better world of their own choosing that celebrated security and opportunity that was created through the same time war time commitment applied to postwar life . Heroism abroad became as heroism at home as they built families, careers and homes.

In the current global crisis and crisis at home people are revisiting the values and behaviors of a previous generation and going back to basics. Again it's a salute to the parents who created safety and opportunity. Many of my friends and fellow bloggers celebrate the lives of parents and their legacies in their own lives to create home and security like they enjoyed for their own families and others. While the 4th of July is a birthday celebration it's also a celebration of heritage of generations long ago and family remembered for their sacrifice and commitment. We enjoy the benefits of that sacrifice and sometimes we just forget for a while and become more focused on our own lives and that of current generations. I try to take time to connect to the past through my growing interest in genealogy and the lives of my family. I celebrate them in my own way by trying to share my love with them and my appreciation for their hard work and vision and dedication to their families.

There are many heroes among the generations but the ones I know the most are the ones I'm best able to celebrate. I regularly celebrate my wonderful uncle who had a career in the military that spanned many global conflicts. I celebrate him and his family and offer my sincere gratitude for their actions and commitment. This year we lost my sweet Aunt Jimmie who was the soldier at home. Her passing touched us all deeply and made us cherish even more the time we have left with that generation. My Uncle Jack is one of my personal heroes and I am thrilled to enjoy a relationship that gives me so much. I just hope that my love and affection provides something for him. He's a great guy.

My Mom is a shero in my life because she taught me about being a Mom and caring for family and home. She also taught me a lot about fun and being a Granna as my little ones call me. I've never been able to do laundry in the way that my daughter loves as much as her Mimi's . I try to make up for it with cooking love. The other veteran in my life is my Dad. He is not the kind of person who likes to be made the center of attention but he takes great pride in his accomplishments as he should. He served in the Army in the Korean war. We were stationed at what is now Fort Polk in Louisiana. He was a physician and worked hard. He is proud of his military service as we all are. A year ago I visited him in Florida. We went to see the Glen Miller orchestra. At the end of the concert that last song was dedicated to the veterans and they were asked to stand. My heart lept as Dad stood. Looking out at the sea of older men was an awe inspiring experience.

So to all of the veterans in the United States and soldiers thank you for your sacrifice. You are in my heart and I think of you daily with gratitude and hope. I hope and want to create that we don't need soldiers and sacrifice from families like Aunt Jimmie's and Uncle Jack's and my parents in the future and that we all have the opportunity see our nation's Declaration and Constitution lived out in the lives of all.