Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Everyday eating is too important to leave to celebrity chefs and media personalities

Friday, April 20th, 2012

I once was a food writer for a metro newspaper food section. My beat was writing about food at home. Food for family meals and snacks. Food for parties. Food for holidays. I tested quinoa recipes in 1981. I interviewed a grandmother who baked gluten-free treats for her grandkids. I wrote about the “latest” research linking a high-fiber diet to lower cholesterol levels. One story featured a Minneapolis woman whose particular Greek cookies were considered the best in the local Greek community. Every recipe in every story was tested in my kitchen: brioche, pickles, roll-your-own-rice paper bundles, chicken salad with edible flowers. My editor and my fellow writer did the same with their stories.

The editor-in-chief of said metro daily, decreed that restaurants were entertainment. Our food section supplied ideas for people who went to the grocery store and came home to cook. Any chef recipes we printed were adapted to the home audience.

I say all this to make a distinction between food as entertainment and food as nourishment in every sense, which may include entertainment, but only as an additional factor to health, well being, satisfaction, sharing and making time for and with others.

Every day eating is too important to leave to the celebrity chefs and media food personalities, whose success, creativity, and business savvy, I laud. It just seems wrong to me that culinary education has become a high and holy calling that at best leads to inspiration for the viewer and media and financial success for the star, and at worst glorifies absolutely horrid eating habits.

Celebrity Chef Paula Deen

Everyday eating is really, quite ordinary. It doesn’t have to be ready for prime time.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are the core of your state of health, the basis of your children’s life-long well being, the building blocks of every day of your life.

What if your daily food intake isn’t entertainment, something to keep you distracted from life’s challenges and problems? What if what you eat every day is survival, itself? What if the most commonplace thing you do every day is the most important? Cooking healthy, delicious food has extraordinary implications for the rest of your life.

A Bite of Pineapple, a Glass of Wine, and Friends

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The first Friday of every month, I can always go to a party. It’s a pot-luck soiree of people who work in the creative arts in the Twin Cities–writers, designers, editors, talent in all media.  Kit Naylor and Cathy Madison got it started and Kit is the supreme hostess who makes sure it continues, scheduling hosts and welcoming one and all.

Everybody brings something:  wine, beer, sparkling water, and food, good food. The eclectic dining offerings span every menu possibility from honey-crusted peanuts from a bin at the supermarket to a curry recreated by a man just returned from Malaysia. A marketing writer who aspires to turn her baking arts into a cookbook brings her latest concoctions. In the winter, there are crockpots of stews and soups. During summer, plates of fresh tomatoes with basil and bowls of fresh fruit predominate.

I decided to bake for last week’s bash. Hungry for pineapple upside-down cake, I down-sized to mini-cakes, each with a bite of pineapple and an almond. They were devoured right down to the crumbs on the tray.

Pineapple Upside-Down Mini Cakes

No need for cupcake papers. You may need to trim the cakes to get them out of the cupcake pans.

Makes 24 mini cakes

1 15-ounce can pineapple slices in juice1/4 cup butter, melted

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

24 whole almonds or pecans

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 1/3 cups reserved pineapple juice plus water or milk

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1.  Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Cut six slices into quarters. Use remaining pineapple as desired.

2.  In small glass bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, and water. With non-stick spray, coats sides of each compartment of two 12-serving cupcake pans. Divide butter-sugar mixture among the cups. Arrange 1/4 pineapple slice and one nut in each. Set pans aside.

2.  In medium bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, and baking powder. Stir in juice mixture, 1/2 cup butter, eggs, and vanilla. Mix at lowest speed of mixer just until ingredients are combined. Increase speed to medium and mix 1 more minute.  Evenly divide batter in pans.

3.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Cook pans on wire rack for about 5 minutes. With a table knife, loosen sides of each cake, removing excess cake on top edges, if needed. Invert onto baking pan. Spoon out any topping left in pan. Serve warm.

 

 

 

 

 

Food Friend: Lisa Golden Schroeder

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

 

In cat years, Lisa and I have been friends forever, since the dawn of our food careers.  We’ve collaborated on dozens of food photographs and made each other laugh, many times. She makes it look easy to make food beautiful and she shares her talents as a food stylist, teacher, writer, recipe developer, and lover of the food in general. Learn more about Lisa and food styling at Foodesigns.com and check our her e-zine, Tweezer Times.

 

(New) Friends and Recipes: What Time Doesn’t Change

Monday, June 6th, 2011

For a long time, I’ve been in the habit of imagining what some people I meet may have looked like in their younger days. It started, I think, with a work colleague who was about 15 years older than I. She was elegant and lovely, a very kind and fun person. Her face had aged early and she occasionally commented that she missed being beautiful. In my mind’s eye, I could ‘see’ her as an incomparable beauty in years past. For all she had become and accomplished, she was no longer beautiful in that dewy 20-year old way.

While I had liked the way I looked, I’d reserved the word beautiful for other people and in turn, I’d rarely been called beautiful in features. I found it fascinating that my friend believed she had lost status as a beauty as she aged. At that time, she was under 40, far from old in any way.

Last week I joined a group of eight women. Each of us knew at least two of the guests. One knew every one of us. We’d all gone to Iowa State University in the 70’s. Each has weathered storms in her life. All were smart, lively, interesting women.

I looked around that table, imagining how each of us had looked as a college freshman or junior and how we’d each embraced our lives. The guest of honor commented to one woman: “You get the award for having changed the least,” while said woman laughed and said, “Really?”

For my part, based on the three women I’ve known since journalism school at ISU, each of us grew into the essence that was wholly apparent then: Raeanne’s

exuberant creativity; Sue’s practical competence and centered joy; Heather’s

creative pragmatism and peerless organizational skills.

I sat there marveling at what each of us had become as fully formed women. Those I knew and those I’d just met, beautiful, every one.

And of course, there was food. Heather, planner extraordinaire, hosted us, made assignments, and offered the appetizers and wine. Liz,

who I’d just met, brought the main dish salad, Liz’s Dijon Chicken Salad. The distinctive Dijon-mayonnaise dressing had layers of flavor. It’s one of the best I’ve tasted. Raeanne and Sue ‘art directed’ the photo. In the next few days, I’ll post two more recipes from a memorable evening

Liz credits the recipe to her friend Doris Fortino, who lives in Lucca, Italy and owns an inn.

Liz’s Dijon-Mayonnaise Chicken Salad

 

 

 

2 to 3 lbs. of boneless chicken breasts

Fresh thyme or other fresh herbs

Lemon pepper

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup blanched pea pods, sliced as desired. Or use sugar snap peas, blanched

In medium saucepan, place chicken, herbs, lemon pepper and water to cover. Cut a sheet of cooking parchment to exact size of pan, using the lid as a template. Cut an X in the middle with scissors to allow steam to escape. Bring chicken and herbs to a simmer. Cover with parchment and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and slice into 3/4-inch cubes.

Drop pea pods into boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove and plunge into ice water to cool. Drain, dry and slice, as desired.

Meanwhile, toast almonds on baking sheet in 300° oven, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In medium bowl, combine cooled chicken and peas. Stir in Dijon-Mayonnaise Dressing (see below). Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve on lettuce leaves, croissants, or bread of your choice. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Dijon-Mayonnaise Dressing

Try this dressing as a dipping sauce for crab or salmon cakes. Change it up by stirring in chopped green onions, chopped red bell peppers, and/or fresh herbs.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup oil
Soy sauce to taste

In small bowl, combine all ingredients. mix well. Makes 1 3/4 cups dressing.

Rhubarb. Spring. Baking.

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

On Sunday, I enjoyed the pleasures available only on a late May morning in a friend’s kitchen, a friend with a huge rhubarb patch and a baker’s white (flour) thumb. Christine and her husband, Scott welcomed me overnight at their home on a cattle ranch in northeastern Nebraska. For supper Scott grilled pork chops from animals raised nearby and asparagus Christine had harvested that morning from their garden. (They would have served their own beef, but their guest, sadly, is allergic.) All delicious, served with generous helpings of warm conversation.

In the morning, I said, “Something smells wonderful!”

“Rhubarb muffins,” Christine told me. She bakes often and does it without fuss. Another pile of slim stalks lay in the kitchen sink. Later in the day, after I left, she’d make and serve a rhubarb dessert to friends. Her main focus, though, these days is completing her PhD thesis in nursing with an emphasis on qualitative care for elders.

We sat down to  warm muffins, hot tea, and cold orange juice. I ate two muffins.  Well, ok, two-and-a-half. Christine had stirred black walnut extract into the batter, adding another layer of flavor.

Prairie breakfast. Prairie air. Plenty fun!

Christine-style Rhubarb Muffins

Christine: friend, baker, experimental cook, gardener, PhD candidate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup buttermilk, fresh or dried  equivalent

1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 tsp black walnut flavoring

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Topping:

2 tsp melted butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

In medium bowl, combine brown sugar, oil, egg, milk and vanilla. Add rhubarb, nuts, and flavoring. Stir in dry ingredients, just until mixed. Spoon into prepared muffin tins, either greased or with paper liners. Combine topping and press gently onto muffin batter. Bake in 350° F for 20 to 25 minutes until wooden pick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Makes 18 muffins.

Nothing like a True Friend

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

A dear friend passed away a few weeks ago. I wrote about Martha in early May (See May 6, 2010). By coincidence, kismet, or simply how things have a way of working out, about the time of Martha’s passing, my octogenarian mom lent me the book, A Walk by the Sea, written by Joan Anderson, known hereafter as ‘the author.’  Mom had received the book from a friend of hers to whom Mom has been a mentor. They are true friends.

The author is a 51-year old woman at a crossroads in her life when she meets Joan Erikson, who with her huband, the psychologist, Erik Erikson, formulated elegant theories of human development. The author met Joan as they each walked on the beach near their homes. Joan, then 91, became a beacon to the author toward how to live the rest of her life.  Joan Erikson’s friendship along with her vibrant outlook and zest for life, helped the author to make bold new choices  and move into a productive, creative tension between action and contemplation. It’s a sweet spot of balance to live into, never to hold.

Martha and I became friends when I was just beginning my professional career as a writer.  She was into her second act as an interior designer. The corporate position she left behind had brought recognition and creative satisfaction. As a prelude to her independent design business, Matha traveled around the world absorbing color, texture, and light.  For the next 37 years, she gave back the color, texture, and light to her clients and to her friends.

Martha was a beacon to me, though as in all friendships, at times, I resisted her wisdom. Long will I draw upon her wisdom and belief in the ‘right idea. as well as knowing when to wait and when to act. But, always, move toward action.

Part of the celebration of a friendship across the generations lies in that the elder can openly receive the younger, not only as a mentee, but as a true friend. The author illuminates this with joy. I am thankful for Martha’s friendship and the lessons of being a friend to her.

Masters in Action

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Among the masters in my midst are Martha Nichols and Susan (Sue) Palmquist.  Martha, an interior designer, is a longtime friend who has helped me make my successive homes more lovely than I could have done myself.  Besides her skills in putting together all the design details, I call her the Color Empress.  To see Martha consider colors for a room is akin to watching Dale Chihuly invent his glass creations or Olympic gold medal figure skater Kim Yu Na soar over the ice.

I’ve recently gotten to know Sue, Martha’s collaborator in many projects and friend of many years. Sue, co-owner of Sawhill Kitchens in Minneapolis, designs kitchens as a maestro who first listens to the client’s vision and then, makes sure the range plays well with the sink, that the backsplash complements the countertop and cabinets, and there will be room to open the refrigerator door all the way to remove the crisper drawers.

I watched these masters in action last week. Imagine an equally supportive game of tennis between two of the very best. Martha and Sue each have true joy in what they do and the highest standards of excellence.

Not only does Susan make kitchens that work, she’s a wonderful cook. She made us a Roasted Vegetables and Orzo Salad and served it with baked chicken breasts.  My contribution to this lunch was bread and chocolate chip cookies. Here’s Sue’s recipe:

Roasted Vegetables and Orzo Salad

Cut the following vegetables into 1-inch cubes, squares, or pieces:

  • 1 eggplant (medium size)
    1 red pepper
    1 yellow or orange (or both) pepper
    1 red onion
    1 cup green beans

3 cloves garlic – minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 pound orzo

Dressing

1/2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice – approx. 3 lemons
1/3 c. good olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Final additions

6 scallions, minced
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts
3/4 lb. feta cheese (crumbled or diced)
20 – 24 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Place eggplant, red, yellow, and/or orange peppers, onion, and zucchini in baking pan. Toss in 1/3 cup olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast about 30 minutes until browned, turning once.

In medium saucepan, cook orzo according to package directions. Drain, rinse lightly, and place in large bowl. Add the vegetables along with all the scrapings from the pan. Meanwhile, make the dressing and add to the warm orzo & vegetables.

Just before serving, add scallions, pine nuts, feta cheese, and basil chiffonade.

Serve with roasted or grilled chicken breasts.  Makes about 10 servings.

Korean Sushi: My Neighbor’s Kitchen

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I have the great, good fortune of living next door to a family that loves to cook and eat as much as I do. They’ve introduced me to Korean cooking. Most recently, I walked into their kitchen to see kimbap (also spelled kimbop and gimbap) under construction from a pot of cooked, seasoned rice, sheets of nori, and long-thin slices of English cucumber, chicken sausage, imitation crab, and fermented daikon radish.

With daughter Hailey nearby prepping the ingredients, the mom, Mary, smoothed the sheet of seaweed, nori, on a bamboo rolling mat.  Then she added a helping of rice seasoned with sesame oil, green onion, and rice vinegar.

 

I took small bites of the kimbap slice. “You must eat it all in one bite,” came the instruction: Mary, Hailey, Dolan, and Jada demonstrated. I did the same with my cheeks bulging, chewing all the way.  Delicious!

“All this and krumkake, too!”

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I grew up in a small community, Irene, South Dakota, with many people of Danish and Norwegian descent. Most of the year this fact was most evident by the number of last names that ended in ‘son’ and ‘sen.’ At Christmas, this was most obvious in the plates of krumkake, rosettes, fattigman, and spritz at holiday tables. (A krumkake (CROOM-kah-kah) is a sweet crisp wafer rolled to a crescent as soon as it comes off the griddle. It’s first cousin to the Italian Pizzelle, the delicious flat wafer cookie that uses the same kind of griddle.)

Krumkake

Minneapolis, where I make my home, has more than a nod to the Scandinavian tradition, but it’s more likely that I’ll see krumkake and rosettes in boxes at the grocery stores than on the plates at friends’ homes.

Thus, I’ve become a krumkake maker, purchasing an electric one just before Christmas from Bethany Housewares in Cresco, Iowa, via Minneapolis-St. Paul’s premier kitchen store, Cooks of Crocus Hill. There’s a traditional version that fits over an electric or gas burner. I chose the electric appliance that makes krumkake making almost fool proof.

The recipe adapted from Bethany Housewares:

Krumkake

½ cup butter (1 stick)

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

½ tsp. vanilla extract

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. cornstarch

½ tsp. crushed cardamom seed

Melt butter and set aside to cool slightly.  With mixer or whisk, beat eggs and sugar until thick, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in melted butter and vanilla. Beat until well blended.

Spoon flour into measuring cup and level—this prevents adding too much flour making the krumkake tough. Sift in cornstarch and stir in crushed cardamom. Stir into egg mixture. Batter has a dough-like consistency.  Spoon 1-inch mounds of batter onto hot griddle. Close lid. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions or until krumkake is light golden brown.

Need some work on my krumkake technique, but oh, the results are sweet anyway!

My next-door neighbors enjoyed krumkake for the first time this year and loved them. Friend Karen, steeped in things Norwegian and Danish, took her gift of krumkake and filled them with lemon curd and whipped cream to share with friends.  Friend Kris, of Danish descent, remarked, upon receiving the expected bag of my biscotti along with krumkake: “All this and krumkake, too!”

CareCalendar.org: Help for the ‘Q’ Factor

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

I recently spent some quality time in the health care system. The system came through. Each player being paid did the respective task as promised: the surgeon, the anesthetists, the nurses and aides, the physical therapists, even the guided meditation person who spoke with me just before surgery. No complaints about the insurance company either, though the deductible is insanely high. I did my part by preparing for the process as directed and following instructions afterwards.

The ‘Q’ factor, a variable over which I thought I had least control, turned out to be the care from my friends and family. In theory, it seems obvious, but in fact, I am a rather independent soul who is sometimes under the impression that she is doing many things herself. The implications of needing help with daily life for a while, personal needs, meals, rides to the doctor, left me more than concerned. I just didn’t see how I would manage.

Just when I was resigned to going to a rehab facility for two weeks, my aunt who lives in Washington State offered to come for the surgery and ten days after. I’ve always enjoyed Karen’s company, but it didn’t even occur to me to ask her to come to help me. I was very moved by her offer and accepted.

Then, Kate, an acquaintance, also single and independent, told me about carecalendar.org. She had been kicked in the knee by a horse and had an immediate crisis that included feeding a stable full of horses while she recuperated. Someone told her about CareCalendar and both she and her horses were cared for well during her recuperation.

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CareCalendar is an online service where one can enter ones needs over any period of time. The Bortel family in Stockdale, Texas created and maintains the service. There is no charge, but they ask for donations. After the requests are entered, there’s a code to send to everyone who has offered to help. Each of those people can go into the site and see if the requests fit with their schedules.

CareCalendar, coupled with my aunt’s generosity, made all the difference. I needed about a month’s worth of steady attention. In just a few days, I had promises of a five week’s of meals, rides to the doctor, and, even a crew of friends and their kids to do fall-cleanup in the yard. My aunt loved the results of CareCalendar, too, as she didn’t need to cook much, though she did make a fabulous apple pie.

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I received wonderful dinners, including African Peanut Soup, a divine Chicken and Rice Casserole, several bottles of wine (saved until I was off the pain meds), bouquets of flowers, and even Seasons 1 and 2 of Mad Men. Some of the friends and neighbors who helped were the usual suspects, friends I see often enough. I was very grateful knowing I could rely on them, though I wasn’t surprised at their attention. I sent CareCalendar and the sign-in codes to every person who offered to help, some of whom I didn’t know that well or expect do anything. But, they offered and I honored that.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised. But, I was. And, humbled too. A recent study reported in the New York Times details how children practice giving and helping even before they can talk. The researchers say that we are programmed with the urge to help. It’s biological, they say.

Apart from my appreciation for my friends and family and CareCalendar, one other thing is worth noting.  A handful of the people who helped me have started using CareCalendar, including the church’s ‘Hot Dish Ministry’ and individuals coordinating for friends and family.

Biological? It works. That’s all I need to know!