Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tunnel vision from the outsider's screen

Grief makes us cognitively impaired. Mid July of this year, my Mom past away due to dementia. The grieving process thus far has made me care less about my mental sharpness and more concerned with my own inner dialogue. I'm temporarily impaired with the swirls of grief.
 Of course, if you have dementia in your family tree, as you age, you start to analyze and over criticize any forgotten task or lost name. It could become debilitating if left to run amuck.

 With my grief, hours turn into days.
 While I've been busy with the tasks at hand, there's always this program running in the background.

The main operating system of my brain is carrying out the daily tasks. Barely noticeable to the observer would be the internal errors my brain is experiencing as I maneuver through my grief.

 It's not sadness exactly, not yet.

 It's as if a short circuit has occurred internally and I'm only partially present. There are silhouettes and ghosts and scents and echos. Running in the background.

 Ohio was devoid of rain for quite some time this summer. I think the intensity of heat and humidity made the matters of Mom's death worse. Being held up in the air conditioning for days on end left my garden to suffer a little. It left me to suffer too because without the release of stress among the plants and weeds, I just sat and stewed.

For more than ten days my poor little garden never saw my shadow or a rain drop or a watering can. Thankfully, quinoa doesn't care about the water and just kept right on growing, tall and triumphant. This lanky tall plant requires less than an inch of a rain during it's growth.

My quinoa is becoming a stunning shade of pink. It's nearly mid August and this crop has been a source of amusement for me all summer long.

 The pepper plants have under produced, except for those jalapenos. I swear, those things must be straight from the hallows of hell because those hot little suckers grow and hang heavy with fruit. As I toiled about the tasks of death and sorrow for those ten days. The garden continued to live.

So, here I am. Less than a month from the day that I became parent-less. I sit, in the air conditioning  shelling my dried lentils.
 Brown lentils.
 From my backyard.
Oh, how I love them. Most are still hanging on the vines waiting for me to pick them. My uncle who is 76 years old told me that back in the day beans during this stage of growth and drying were called
"leather britches" I'm not sure if that was just a family expression or a regional term. I rather like it though!
Before they were leather britches, the lush plants of June looked like this. Brown lentils in their tangled glory.

We picked our corn. Small ears.Without the use of pesticides or miracle growing additives the plants still produced. No, not the humongous ears with giant kernels, like at the grocery store. Just small  ears of pure simple corn.

My chickpea plants are brown. It's time to harvest. That's the thing about planting a crop I've never grown before. I'm clueless. I watched the pods turn from a hard, fuzzy, green crop into something that is ready to shell.

The first time I peaked into one of the pods, I was certain something had gone terribly wrong. Did the seed company mislabel the package? Did a garden gnome stroll into my yard and pull a horrible prank?
 These are not chickpeas, or so I thought!
In my despair of grief, I had wandered out to the garden in hopes of finding some sort of order. Something of normal and right.
 A balance in the cosmos.
 A key stroke of familiar.
 So I plucked a still fuzzy green chickpea pod.
 Busted it open.
What I saw was wrong, completely wrong. I had no idea there were so many varieties of garbanzo beans.
 I expected to see the creamy white, fully rounded chickpeas, you know, like the ones in the cans from the grocery store. Instead I found small little green odd shaped looking things. These are Desi chickpeas.
Nonetheless the plants have turned brown, as they should.
Super food from the backyard.

For now, I miss the little old woman in the nursing home. Denial maybe, I just do not feel as if I'm mourning the loss of my mother. The person whom my Mom had become is the person I have lost. Dementia changed her in many ways. As her dementia progressed, the mother daughter relationship changed. She had begun to call me Mommy. Prior to the extreme changes, she said " I don't feel much like a Mom" That's when my grief process began for the woman whom I had known as my mother. She was gone. She knew this. It's a relationship that is never replaced, for good or bad, this is one person who knew me and had memories of me, from the beginning. Before I even knew who I was, she did. That was fading. And now is totally gone.

My one place of solitude throughout life has always been in the garden. Dirt therapy. Pulling weeds, tidying rows, and turning over the soil. Pure silent therapy.

Thankfully we've seen a break from the heat and humidity. Our weekend has been filled with rain. As I process the endless tangle of emotions, the leather britches and weeds will remain true and reliable.

Our wonderful little blue cream tomatoes. Mister nurtured the plants from seed. We were skeptical in the beginning that any of the plants would make it, let alone produce their golden and purple and blueish tomatoes. Yet, they did produce. An abundance of sweet uniquely flavored fruit.

Rows are emptying in the garden as we harvest the plants. I'm considering which winter crops to put in the ground. Cooler autumn weather brings the chance for peas, sounds like an ideal way to escape into a healthy inner dialogue. Turning over the dirt and coming to terms with the aftermath of Mom's dementia.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pignoli Biscotti

AKA Pine Nut Biscotti

This recipe makes a lot of fine delicate cookies. These are tender, and I rather like the crunch of the pine nuts. Some biscotti are not necessarily easily eaten unless they're dunked in a cup of coffee or tea. This recipe however produced a cookie tender enough to snack on yet still stand up to a dip in the ole' morning cup. They last for weeks if wrapped in wax paper, refrigerated and stored in an air tight container. The flavor is actually best after about a week. I guess the oils from the pine nuts permeate the cookie and the flavor is more intense. It's just a guess though.

  From the book Biscotti by Lou Seibert available on Amazon (as of the time this was typed). I ordered my copy online. I've made several of the recipes and like them all. There's something incredibly rewarding about taking the time to shape, bake, slice and bake again.

 I bake biscotti on a day when there's time for whimsy.

Yes, it's Ohio.... how can I not mention the Cavs. There, I mentioned them. An athletic achievement which is quite sensational for our state. World Champions, who would have thunk it. Congratulations Cleveland Cavaliers!

And just like that my mind turns to amber waves of grain! Ohio is alive due to the spectacular visions like this one, for me anyways...

 The geek in me is so excited to delve into this little ditty. Dated 1919-1920 The Rural School Lunch has interesting reading. I've done a quick skim. The thing which jumps out the most is a continued reference to placing hot pots on asbestos mats. Hmmm?? this could explain a thing or two! More research is needed. Happy Reading to me and
 Happy Weekend to you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

June in Ohio

Cooler evenings and the sound of a box fan in the window takes me back to childhood. Clearly I remember lying in bed as a child and watching the shadows dance across my bedroom wall as the train sped by interrupting the street lights glow momentarily between box cars. The sound is still comforting to me. In the stillness then, snuggling further under the blanket to ward off the chill of night air, then sneaking out of bed and whispering into the fan blades, only to hear my own voice become broken and scattered into the dark. How remarkable and precious to be carried away off into a time when I was me, a different me, like a black and white movie version of me.

During my childhood there were gardens, pigs, cows, coon hunting, chickens and clothes hanging on the line. The inner workings of a household which formed very much of the me I am today.
For so many years of my adult life I've identified myself as a mother of 4 children. Having had my first child at the young age of 20, I left behind childhood quickly. For the first time since becoming a mother, I'm learning to let go. Coming face to face with myself as I watch my aging mother struggle with dementia brings a greater sense of self, it's playing a role in my own understanding of what I need for me. Finding the black and white sometimes sepia version of me. Cutting the apron strings to my children to discover what's next.

My imaginary world as a child always had me being instructive. From cooking with the bubbles in the bathtub in my imaginary childhood cooking show or lining up blades of grass as if they were rows of corn in the vacant dirt between our two houses. I've always lived this life. Never really wanting more than to share with others about cooking, baking, and gardening. Not in a professional money earning capacity. Just a sharing of ideas and excitement for doing what I love.

This June evening in Ohio, it's cool. The central air is off and the box fan whirs away in the window. I sit back and look over the photographs I've snapped throughout this week. Of course, I come here to share them with you, the world, anyone who cares to know. My own children are grown and well on their way to grown. Their childhood imagination worlds are theirs for keeping. To this, I can only hope they find healthy creative outlets to share and grow from those ideals.

I'm happy to report in this modern day, real, non imagination life of mine, the quinoa has survived and appears to be thriving. Early in the growing process I struggled with thinning the plants. The seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company were exceptional and certainly every seed must have came up because I thinned them several times. Never knowing which plant to sacrifice. None of them seemed insignificant to me. I tried transplanting a few of the tender, thinned out plants with no success. Slow growers they were from beginning to now.

Ditto on my Lentils. I planted 15 seeds and have 13 plants. I think a Robin bird snacked on a few of the seeds the very same day as I planted them.

The chickpeas/garbanzo beans have reared their heads. Every single non-GMO seed is alive and doing fine. Small and fragile still.

No Cumin plants yet. At least I don't think so, I'm struggling with plant identification on the cumin seeds. This is a new crop for me. I planted the seeds in easily identifiable rows, but the weeds wanted a fair shot too. Rather than pull up the wrong thing. I've just let it go to see what happens. I planted more seeds today. In hopes of a better success.

Ditto on my Slo-Bolt Cilantro. Two plantings of the seeds. So far,only two little scraggly looking plants have emerged. Patience....I suppose.

And it wouldn't be real if I didn't remind you of the importance of taking breaks and living life. 
Slow down a minute.
 Have a Biscotti. 
In all of my childhood imaginations I never fathomed photographing food with my telephone. 
I mean, how could I have ever imagined such a thing, right?

Yes, we all know  I'm not talented at photographing food. It's my image though and I didn't stoop to horking some strangers photograph and claiming it as my own. Not perfect, just like me.

 Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti.
 To which all credit goes to my hero and youtube favorite Stephanie Jaworski of Joy of

I've baked many of her recipes with never a disappointment. The Fruit and Nut bars are outrageous. I'm providing this link to her recipe for the Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti. 

I baked this biscotti for the entire recommended time allowed, they're dunkers for sure. Perfect for the cool morning air and my sneaking a cup of coffee. I've fallen off the wagon and had a cup or two lately. Shhh, let's not talk about that!

                                                        Our June in Ohio

Friday, May 20, 2016


Traveling out of state to unique destinations always merits a fanfare. On a whim, Mister, Miss Anna and I stopped into a few touristy type places within our own home state of Ohio. Most of my writings are of travels to historical wonderful destinations, usually with a small focus on local food attractions. This time around we ventured slightly north and wound up in downtown Cleveland, or as the locals would refer to as CLE. I'm not entirely certain the commotion of a fanfare is applicable, still here it is. Take it for what it's worth. To some of you, it's worth very little. Personal blogging is just that. My personal impressions

 We have visited the West Side Market in Cleveland several times. It's an old town staple for a broad selection of produce, meats, and cheeses. I will admit we are little spoiled after having visited Chelsea Market in NYC a few times, so our expectations are probably skewed. Although the market in Cleveland is great and all. I certainly didn't feel the need to photograph the spectacle. Just me, I suppose. No sizzle or pop like the trendy markets of elsewhere. Me, I'm not usually a trendy type of gal. Still it's meh, okay. That said.

Mitchell's Ice Cream is a short walk down the street from the market, technically Ohio City area. There's an air about the place. Something says "this business is built on integrity and care." Unpretentious decor, friendly staff, and fantastic product. With a Toasted Pistachio ice cream that will knock your socks off. No artificial green coloring. Just depth of flavor, a flavor which tells me someone took the time to experiment and really care if the product was good. Mister had two scoops of the Banana Cream Pie flavor. Miss Anna tried a cone of Maple Walnut. Of course, being like the normal family we are (yep) we all had to trade bite for bite. I still cling to that Toasted Pistachio as the king of all ice cream but the Maple Walnut was pretty fantastic. Stop in if you ever have the chance. It's a good product obviously made with care and concern.

These two stops were part of the plan.

The whimsical part came about when we headed to the newly opened restaurant of Chef Michael Symon's. A barbecue place known as Mabel's. Being a generally kind person in my nature, I typically always start constructive criticism with a kind word or two. This time around I'm just going to rip the band-aid off in one swoop. If this restaurant sees a lasting success it will surely be based on the celebrity status of the owner. Or the copious amount of booze which is presented up and front. It's a bar which sells smoked meat.
 I'm not a food critic. I could pick the place apart starting with the serving of our entire table worth of food on one cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. I get it, this is trendy. We have become okay with eating our food out of Styrofoam containers. Every drive thru. Every road stand, tent style rib shack serves up their grub in such fashion. When I sit down to shell out a nice chunk of cash on dinner, I would expect at least a real plate. See, I told you nit-picky.

Fine, I can get past this. The three of us will all dine at one trough. Just slap the smoked meat on a tray and dish up the sides in paper, it's okay. Because I'm about to have food paradise. Only, not so much. We tried the ribs, brisket, and pork belly. It almost made me feel sad for the poor animal that sacrificed it's life for me to have a meal. Sorry, but that is what went through my mind.

For side dishes we chose the potatoes, based entirely on the servers description which made the item sound like something new and unusual. It wasn't. My 14 year old kid could have whipped this up in our home kitchen. Side dish two and three were a coleslaw and bean (baked) dish. The coleslaw was okay, nice addition of poppy seeds. Still though, just not great. The beans were outright wrong. I understand there is suppose to be a take on "European side dishes" and I would still mention it's so far off the beaten path that one has to wonder what kind of trendy vibe has Symon ventured towards. For him to consider this dish as something local people would enjoy is a little surprising. Lima beans in an overly boozy sauce with no real distinguishable flavor aside from a raw lima bean flavor. Big miss.

 Why bother serving bread if the best you can do is offer a few slices of white bread, without even offering a nice quality butter to go along with. Again, nothing outstanding. The ribs were fine, the porky belly was a waste of hard earned money, the brisket was okay too. But not for $13.00 per 1/4 pound. I could have bought an entire brisket for the cost of the meat alone on the cookie sheet. Now, I'm just going off at length.

 Disappointed would be the feeling I had when we left Mabel's. It could be true that Chef Symon put his great care and concern for this place and the menu and the end result. Somehow I have the feeling that his celebrity status is suppose to be sufficient enough to carry this restaurant to longevity. I'm fairly certain he missed the mark. I'm not sure what the foodie critics think or have written. I've never read any reviews. If the foodie world runs true to form then it just all depends if you hope to make friends with the chef.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Quinoa is Up

This Easter day in Ohio we were lucky enough to have beautiful blue skies and temperatures in the upper 70's. Which is pretty outstanding considering snow is not unheard of on Easter, in this neck of the woods.
 We had an average, pretty much okay Easter breakfast. A formality really. Not one of my better days at the stove top. My true mission for the day was to take a cake to my Mom. I baked her a cake which has been her all time favorite Breakfast Bundt Cake since I was a child. We rolled out the door around noon.
Before heading out I strolled back to the garden and found the quinoa had made an appearance just in time for Easter. It made my day actually.

The tiny little red plants have sprung from the tiny little seeds. I hope with my fingers crossed that the plants thrive. As suspected the row is somewhat chaotic. Certainly the thunderstorm on the evening I planted the seeds must have washed them out of their place somewhat. I don't care. Quinoa is growing in my yard. Isn't this fantastic? Further research is needed on the tolerance of cold though. I fear with this ever changing Ohio weather that these tiny little plants could be in for the ride of their life.

Nothing says Happy Easter quite like a daffodil. They make me smile. When I think of the many dynamics that I have had with the human beings in my life, one thing remains honest and true. Plant life.

 I think I've drawn this conclusion before. The real joy of gardening is harvesting or reaping what we have sown. Faith systems often draw a parallel between our human relationships and their outcomes in terms of reaping what we sow, as in if we foster and put forth effort into those relationships then we will surely reap a bountiful harvest. I'm here to tell you people this is not always true. Sometimes we can pour our hearts and souls into those we love and the harvest is meager and disappointing. This Easter my day was filled with the ones I love. My husband, my children, my mother. Surrounded by goodness and love. This has not always been the case.

 In those times, plant life has been the rewards for my nurturing.

I'm thankful the quinoa showed up today. It's a constant reminder of how healthy and rewarding gardening can be in our lives. Right in my yard. There's food growing. Hand sown. Hand grown. It's a pleasing sense of accomplishment.

Happy Easter if you celebrate. Happy March 27th if you don't.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


My quinoa seeds arrived from Baker Heirloom Seeds, along with a few other interesting items. The package describes the crop as both edible and ornamental. I'm growing quinoa for the edible side of things. The garden will surely take on a new appearance with what promises to be a beautiful plant as it grows. Double benefit.

 We had a pretty steady rainfall after I planted the tiny seeds. I'm hoping it wasn't enough to wash the seeds away. If the plants come up in a somewhat crooked row then I'm blaming the rain.

The seeds are small. Not as small as carrot seeds, still I planted
slowly to ensure that the seeds stayed in a somewhat tidy row.

On a personal note, one thing which gives this crop a whimsical playful notion is learning that quinoa is related to beets. I'm a huge fan of the television show The Office. Fans of the show know all too well about the antics of Dwight K. Schrute. The proud owner of Schrute's Beet Farm. Of course this fantastic show is no longer in production but, I watch it on Netflix. I never grow tired of the cast of characters. One liners from the show stick with me still to this day. So yeah, there's that tid bit of information. Fact!

The seeds from Bakers are non GMO which makes them near and dear to my heart. I'm not an expert on the subject. I just like plain, ordinary and simple things.

Growing quinoa is completely new to me. I hope you will share the adventure with me and read along as I post updates through out the summer. I equally hope if you are an expert on growing this crop that you will feel free to leave me a comment below and share helpful hints and tips. It's not my hope to grow enough quinoa to stock my pantry for the winter. If the crop is plentiful enough to prepare one nice dish for dinner then I will claim victory and call this new adventure a success.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Heirloom Seeds

I'm excited and watching the mailbox. Seeds are on the way to my door from a pretty cool seed company. The Baker Creek Heirloom Rare Seed Company has fascinating choices. Sadly, quite a few items have already sold out. I would have dearly loved to have planted the black tomatoes. Maybe next time around. I did however manage to snag the chickpeas, lentils and cumin seed.

Every seed we've ordered is new to our garden. I have never grown any of these items before. It's sure to be an adventure.

The garden has become as mundane as the kitchen. This past year we neglected our garden in a tragic way. We still harvested a decent amount of food but, it wasn't pretty. Weeds over took and I dare say I felt embarrassed every time I stood over the tiny plot and looked at the overgrown mess. Oh well ,this year we will do better. Boredom with the same old crops. Aside from onions and of course potatoes, this years garden will be as never before.

Just as I am venturing into cooking Indian cuisine, we are also planting companion foods in our garden. I hope I can find a good rocky soil around my house for the lentils to thrive.

I'm tapping my foot and patiently waiting for the package of seeds and spring to arrive!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

All on a Saturday Night

A solid estimate of over 20,000 meals have been prepared in my kitchen during my adult lifetime. Yes, I did the math. This number accounts for vacations, take out nights, and the rare occasion of someone else cooking. All in all though, it's fair to say I'm on the search for something, anything new, and exciting.
I'm dabbling in Indian cuisine. As a result my spice cupboard has taken on a new light. Cardamom is an exciting flavor which has been under utilized for years in my cooking repertoire. Indian cooking has brought cardamom front and center in the old cupboard.
 Last night I experienced a cross over from savory to sweet as I found myself grinding pistachio nuts with plain all purpose flour to create a beautiful pistachio flour. Mixed with freshly ground green cardamom pods, lemon zest, and the usual suspects of cupcake making, a flavor explosion took place. All on this Saturday night.
Rewarding. Now I'm thinking in terms of smaller numbers. Number 1. A homemade cupcake baked with a new exciting flavor.
A brilliant combination of flavors.

How pretentious of people to take a recipe, alter it in some insignificant way, then claim it as their own. My usual approach is to prepare the recipe as written and give the original version a fair shake. Only then will I tweak the basic idea to my own liking afterwards. In this case however, I simply did not want to use my old bottle of ground cardamom and instead used freshly ground green cardamom pods. Unsure, though fairly certain, my guess was the freshly ground pods would be more pungent than a bottled version so I erred on the side of conservative judgement and decreased the cardamom to one teaspoon rather than two. Of course, if you are making this recipe, use your own judgement. Aside from probably over filling my teaspoon slightly when adding the vanilla, I prepared this recipe exactly as written on King Arthur Flour's website. Credit goes where credit is due. Thank you King Arthur Flour for helping me over the slump of 20,000 and leading me into the single digits of new and exciting. All on a Saturday Night.

"Rain dogs howl for the century,
A million dollars a steak."     Gavin Rossdale

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tahini Paste

Tahini Paste

1 package (16 oz) brown sesame seeds
3/4 cup of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the entire bag of seeds on a dry cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, stirring often to make sure they don't burn. Cool the seeds for at least 20 minutes. Once again this is where a food processor would come in handy. Blend up those toasted seeds and slowly drizzle in the olive oil creating a wonderful nutty butter. Makes about 2 cups. Refrigerate and this will keep for about a week.

Super easy to make. I've found that my homemade hummus is all the more rewarding with the addition of homemade tahini. Give this a try!

Just in case you missed it, here's where you can check out my adventures of growing sesame seeds in my backyard. This little crop was one of the most rewarding things I've ever planted.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


What's new in the world of 3D printing? Some amazing stuff. If we consider just the one aspect of regenerative medicine, this alone falls into the category of amazing. Personally I'm astounded by the notion of taking cells from an injured person and using those cells to grow new cell material which can then be manipulated by a 3D printer into becoming a permanent solution to heal their wounds. It's not science fiction. Growing organ and tissue replacements in the laboratory in conjunction with machine made human parts has a chance of becoming a reality for those in need. Of course, as with everything in our world, obtaining funding for the research is a challenge.

Mister and I had a neat glimpse into this world on a much smaller scale this past weekend. In Canton, Ohio at The Cultural Center of the Arts we attended a unique show of sorts. Lauded as a show for the geeks, freaks and weirdos of the universe, Oddmall came to Canton and sat up camp. Yes, we spent our Valentine's weekend among the finest group of reasonably pleasant, down right nice nerdy folks whom all gathered to sell their wares of peculiar oddities. Ohio is wonderful at embracing their farmers, Amish, and those of us who walk to the sound of our own inner dialogue.

One nice fellow had his 3D printer on display to which he was selling the products created by the machine. Not human tissue. Although that would have fascinated me.

Department 100 patiently explained the technology over and over again to the curious onlookers as they watched the machine in action. His enthusiasm was almost contagious. I've been aware of 3D printing and would honestly tell you that aside from knowing it existed, I never gave it much thought. New things make me curious. In a Baby Huey sort of way sometimes.You can read more about Department 100 here and take a look at the products available for purchase online.

If you've read much of this blog, then you know, I never claim to be anything more than just an average human being. I'm not about to attempt to educate you on this fascinating subject. That's up to you to further expose yourself to the nuts and bolts of how it all works. The point of sharing this information with you is simply to peek your curiosity on the subject.

Ohioans are proud people. I purchased a cool OHIO 3D printed object from Department 100 to place in Mister's office. It's a nifty little chachki which serves as a reminder for me of the exciting future in medicine and how healing is addressed.

Cancer is big business and no one seems to be able to find a cure despite a kazillion dollars being donated each year to research. Is it really possible the hope lies within 3D printing of new human parts? What cancer destroys, a machine regenerates. This sounds reasonable.

Department 100 inadvertently and without knowledge made me think of greater and bigger things. Although the planters, cookie cutters, and key fobs were most excellent.What really excites this Ohioan is the progress that will be made in our human evolution with this type of technology.

I hope I've given you things to consider. Consider embracing your inner geek and learn more about the fascinating world of science. Or science fiction. Or the arts. Or buying stuff from people and not buying junk from big commercial fat cat retailers.