In My Kitchen ~ December 2019

Happy Holidays everybody! Welcome to In My Kitchen (winter edition.) Couldn’t help but festoon my baker’s rack to celebrate the Season and the fabulous bunch of friends I’ve met from all over the world thanks to “IMK.” For a glimpse of their gadgets, goodies, and global adventures, click on our congeinal hostess’s link: Sherry’s PickingsWhether you peek or participate you’ll find a warm welcome.

In My Kitchen… I’m pretty set with cooking implements, other than a serving plate or two. (The better to entertain with, my dears.) Lately I’ve been focusing on ingredients — some for me, some to share with friends — and some The Man Of Few Words keeps sneaking! He’s been very polite about asking (and asking) until I finally told him to “have at it.” Let’s just say I’m a good sport about sharing my chocolate and/or blueberry fig bars, plus the fact he prefers them over his usual snacks is a testament to how good they are, not to mention good for him. Shhh…

It’s doubtful he’ll tuck into my Decaf Ginger Peach Tea, Pad Thai Rice Noodles, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, or Sriracha sauce (heaven forbid!) but I recently noticed that “my” Sicilian Orange Marmalade has disappeared by the spoonful every time I hear the toaster pop up. Good thing I have jars of Fig Tangerine and Wild Berry (not pictured) on reserve. True love comes in new flavors and sharing is part of the plan. What a blessing to inadvertently introduce someone to a “new” way of enjoying life simply by restocking the pantry to suit me.

And sharing.

In My Kitchen… is the sweetest lil’ teapot. Okay, it probably qualifies as a gadget, but I knew I had to have it the minute I saw it. No more running to the big tea kettle on the stove to refill another cuppa while reading or watching TV. (Some days I feel more ambitious than others.) Nestled in the cute polka dot “bowl cozy” — a gift from my cousin Jeanne, previously pictured — it offers immediate recliner-side relief from the cares of this world. Is there anything more soothing than a cup o’ tea? (And homemade, hand-made love?)

In My Kitchen… is one of my favorite plates. I’m sure I’ve shown it to you before, but it bears repeating: Promise. Peace. Possibilities. Patience. Words to live by.

Words I LOVE and have lived by most of my adult life — even when somebody is sneaking my snacks. :) Happy Holidays!

Enjoying The Reason For The Season,

~ Kim

Bleak Friday at the Lake

Yes, you read that right. Today is “Bleak Friday” at the lake. God bless the folks who brave early morning risings and long lines on Black Friday, but I’m not one of them. Especially when it’s raining, thanks to a continuation of Thanksgiving Day’s 24-hour drizzle. The sky is overcast (not to mention dripping) so I opted to stay put. Ahhhh… it’s been a productive day.

Thanksgiving leftovers bagged, tagged, and in the fridge or freezer for future use? Check. House cleaned and festooned for Christmas? (Paltry though my decorations may be…) Check. Music perused, practiced, and in place for a memorial service on Saturday and two church services Sunday morning? Check. Dishes and laundry done? Check. Airplane ticket booked for a holiday in New Hampshire? WOOHOO!

You get the idea. I don’t sit around or shop much. (Unless it involves following my heart to visit my daughter on the East Coast between Christmas and New Year’s — the first holiday we’ve spent together in over a decade — plus I get to meet my son-in-law to be and his family!) Some things are worth the wait or long overdue. Decide what’s important to you! Even if it means standing in line.

Below is a synopsis of Thanksgiving dinner. (After the fact I know, but it was wonderful.) Hope yours was as equally magical, colorful, and tasty! Smiling about the empty “pumpkin without the pie” dish, thanks to TMOFW and his Mom. After 50+ years of rolling out pie crusts for family dinners, she decided to bake the filling (or in my case, the overflow filling) in a separate dish. No fuss, no muss. Russ ate the whole thing before dinner! Who says dessert can’t come first?

Although that turkey breast may resemble Ol’ Mother Hubbard’s shoe, it was the perfect size for the two of us. After it was stuffed, skewered, and roasted I served it alongside a very small ham with a few side dishes. We felt blessed (and stuffed) beyond measure! Thanksgiving was good at the lake — hope yours was, too. And if you’re still standing in line to snag more Black Friday deals, God bless you.

The roses were my last-minute idea for a lil’ shot of color to overcome a soggy Thanksgiving Day. (And today.) So glad I impulse-bought ’em. I’m sure there’s a lot of that going on yet. :) You GO!

Enjoying “Bleak Friday”,

~ Kim

Mixed Berry Crumble Dessert

Once a fixture on kitchen counters everywhere (at least where I grew up) cannisters stored the “basics.” Flour, sugar, coffee, and tea. What do you store in yours?

These days mine house rice in alphabetical order: Arborio, Basmati, Jasmine, and White or Wild. FYI, I eat a lot of rice. Which made me think. Sometimes life can become so compartmentalized that you risk missing the big picture. Reality isn’t organized. Life either. Do NOT attempt this thought process at home.

A few mornings ago my day started out with a shimmering falling star streaking across the sky, accompanied by a stellar cup o’ Joe — followed by a spectacular sunset that evening — followed by a glass of Cabernet. Some events are meant to be random. Unexpected. Divine. Like this dessert. (Even though I had to dig out the “basics” from another set of cannisters in the recesses of my pantry.)

Mixed Berry Crumble

(adapted from Yummly who adapted it from Cooking Classy, with a few adaptations by moi)

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided (plus a lil’ extra)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. lemon zest

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup salted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 cups fresh berries or frozen mixed berries, thawed (I used a combo of frozen blueberries & sliced strawberries w/a sprinkle of sugar so they’d macerate…)

1 Tbsp. raw turbinado sugar (I used granulated sugar; fresh out of turbinado)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and generously butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish; set aside.

Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon peel in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla.

Cut egg yolk mixture and chilled butter cubes into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, fork, or your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. (I tried all three options just for fun.)

Gently press a little over half of the mixture into the prepared pan to form a crust.

Combine cornstarch and remaining sugar in a separate bowl. ( More dishes, but prevail.)

Combine cornstarch mixture with fruit (fresh or frozen) until thoroughly coated.

Pour berry mixture over crust and top with remaining flour mixture.

Sprinkle turbinado sugar (or plain ol’ granulated) over the top.

Bake in preheated oven 35-38 minutes until top is golden brown. (Personally, I was more concerned with the bottom crust over-baking so I adjusted the oven rack to the upper 1/3 of my oven midway through and watched and “smelled ” until it was deemed done.)

Remove from oven, cool completely on a wire rack, and serve as is or with ice cream.

Refrigerate leftovers (if any) in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

SOOOO good! Or at least I’m told.

By the way, here’s that sunset.

Talk about just desserts.

Enjoying pondering cannisters and living an “uncompartmentalized” life,

~ Kim

Jambalaya ~ Past, Present, and Future

The first time I tasted Jambalaya was at a grown-up girls’ slumber party in the late 1970’s. Several of the seven females from the Class of ’76 reunited over dinner at a former classmate’s apartment in Minneapolis (she moved away before junior high but we kept in touch) and as I mentioned earlier, I have fond memories of the Twin Cities. Her Jambalaya was one of them. Never tasted anything like it until I moved South of the Minnesota-Iowa border. Good times and great flavors.

The Magnificent Seven (not including our former classmate) were outnumbered by 29 boys — yes, my graduating class totaled 36 — and although we girls were small but mighty, we were outspoken. Probably the apt word from that era is: dissenting. We weren’t afaid to disagree, protest, or try flavors foreign to our smalltown digs. The boys seemed to like our cooking, too. Memorable moment before we voted to cater subsequent class reunions: mega-batches of potato salad made in my kitchen.

Ditto on good times.

The Girls of ’76 went on to lead lives — culinary and otherwise — beyond the confines of our rural hometown. (Some of the boys, too.) But OH, how I remember that post-high school Jambalaya with shrimp, Andouille sausage, chicken, and the “Holy Trinity of the South” — sautee’d peppers, celery, and onion (hadn’t heard of that before either) — in a flavorful tomato sauce over rice.

Fast forward to present day when Joy The Baker added eggs (her Jambalaya Egg Bake was featured in Better Homes & Gardens where I first spied this recipe — with full credit going to Joy The Baker and Better Homes & Gardens.) Thanks both for featuring this flavor-fest blast from my past. Similar to Shakshuka (also discovered post-high school), it appealed to my beyond-the-border sensibilites and reminded me that there’s a lot left to experience in life — waaay beyond the the Prom floor or the bland Tuna Hotdishes I’d grown accustomed to on previous weekends.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook (thank you!) I recently posted photos of my Chocolate Roux and BBQ. (Different flavors and methods; same South of the Minnesota border spin.) Follow the links.

I’ll be making all of them again in the future. Hope y’all try ’em, too!

Enjoying past, present, and future Jambalaya — among other things,

~ Kim

Meanwhile Back At The Lake…

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so I’ll try to keep mine to a minimum. It’s just that I love Life On The Lake — even when it’s 98 degrees in the shade.

The long weekend came and went, life returned to normal, and here it is… another lazy Saturday afternoon. Thought about firing up the grill again, but it’s still 98 degrees (or above) and I didn’t feel like breaking into a sweat, plus there’s enough food in the fridge to cobble together a few “inside” meals — a blessing — and I rather like listening to Bossa Nova music in the background. :)

In lieu of anything new, here’s a recap of last weekend’s grilling adventures:

Do you eat corn on the cob or cut it off? (Either way it’s fabulous.)

The Man Of Few Words prefers his sans cob, but I couldn’t help “taste testing.”

Whatever floats your boat.

Last but not least, be sure to celebrate every day — not just on the weekend.

Special moments are only a new perspective away and blessings arrive when you least expect them.

Enjoy your time on God’s green planet!

Enjoying prism moments,

~ Kim

A Labor of Love

Hello, and Happy Labor Day weekend.

Have you ever done something that entailed a lot of work, but it didn’t seem like work at all? Those are the moments that make my heart sing. How about you?

Pictured above is the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon I made for the hard-working folks at The Mission last Monday — yes, that’s moi in the red apron — followed by “re-invented” meals on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Waste not, want not! My initial spread consisted of a salad bar, fried chicken (from a local grocery store deli by request), roast beef, homemade mashed potatoes (peeled 30 pounds at 4:00 a.m. Monday morning), cream gravy (theirs), and beef gravy (mine), which subsequently morphed into biscuits & gravy with a green salad, fresh fruit, and garlic bread sticks on Tuesday; a ham dinner on Wednesday (the food pantry supervisor wanted us to “taste test” the ham she bought before ordering more to give them out in our Thanksgiving/Christmas baskets — two thumbs up!); and ham salad sandwiches (they don’t call me the Queen of Leftovers for nothin’) with homemade cream of veggie soup on Thursday. Oh, and Rice Krispie bars with M’n’M’s because my “Zuppa Inglese” (English Trifle) ran out early in the week… a favorite from the 1970’s… sponge cake layered with strawberries & raspberries, vanilla pudding, whipped cream, and grated dark chocolate. Swoon…

The whole point of this Labor of Love was to show folks how much they’re appreciated — NOT about meal planning, menus, or kitchen stamina — although I heard a few comments about that too, xo. One gal even called me Superwoman. Don’t I wish? :)

Behind The Mission’s philanthropic venture to feed the hungry are many dedicated volunteers, including our backroom staff that tirelessly sorts through the daily donations and carries them to the thrift store (which generates funds to buy more food for the pantry) or packs them into barrels to ship to South America to help the needy there; the fix-it folks who test (or fix) every appliance, lamp, and/or toy before they head to the sales floor in working condition (often inserting batteries at our expense); the guys who run to the food banks in Tulsa, Muskogee, or McAlester on their own time and expense with their trucks and/or trailers to keep the food pantry shelves stocked; the pantry people who order supplies, stock shelves after every incoming shipment, and fill grocery carts for 250+ families/month (elderly, disabled, Veterans, grandparents with newly arrived grandchildren by proxy, and folks facing dire circumstances) plus the “cart runners” who courteously accompany them out to their vehicles and help unload; the front counter staff (good-natured checkout clerks who rely on God’s grace, gut instinct, and common sense to fairly price everything folks bring up to buy because much of it isn’t “priced” — we don’t have time to put price tags on everything!); the gal who takes time to glean and tag “designer items” for our two boutique racks (I’m tellin’ ya, I bought a Calvin Klein purse there for $3…) to generate even more sales for the food pantry; another lovely lady who sorts through the jewelry and updates our display racks every day (she’s also in charge of setting aside/storing select items for holidays, especially Christmas); our “day managers” who troubleshoot as well as tend to the deposit at the end of each day; the Mission Treasurer who keeps our bookkeeping straight; our empathetic intake staff who listens with love and compassion to heartbreaking life-stories inorder to give folks the help they need; and even a “roving reporter” who keeps the community apprised of our goings-on to solicit more support; plus myriad others who keep The Mission functional and viable,  including a sweet lady who designs our display shelves every Monday, one who arranges silk floral displays because she “likes to”, the janitor who cleans the place once a week, another treasured volunteer who takes home Barbie dolls and baby dolls to clean them up on her own time and/or culls through countless children’s books to encourage kids to read, and everybody else who donates “all of the above” — or used shopping bags. Thank you! We couldn’t do it without you.

(Apologies if I forgot anyone… time to rest and relax… hope you are, too!)

My Labor of Love is insignificant compared to all that goes on at The Mission and it seemed important for me to divulge that. Cooking because I love to (and can) is one thing, but VOLUNTEERING to help the helpless is a whole ‘nother level of love.

What makes your heart sing?

Enjoying being chairman of that motley crew (and cooking for them),

~ Kim

Herding Armadillos and An Overdue Letter

How close can you get to an armadillo? Depends on how brave you are. The Man Of Few Words recently got close enough to photograph the hairs on its back, gently poked at them and concluded they’re more leathery than armored (oblivious, too), and grinned at me. We should all be so trusting.

Last week one of ’em almost ran up my leg. After a few “Oh, OH’s!” it scampered into the underbrush. (Didn’t realize they could run so fast!) As a result of that — plus previous encounters with cottonmouth snakes and a stray dog — I’m still a lil’ gun shy and/or photo shy with unexpected “up close and personal” opportunities to document Oklahoma’s wildlife. But, I appreciate “seeing” all of it — even through someone else’s lens — and I’m feeling braver by the day.

Thankfully Mama armadillo wasn’t around. (Not sure what I would’ve done with a full-sized armadillo chasing after me!) Here’s another pic of one of the babies courtesy of TMOFW, followed by a long-promised letter from me. Sometimes words are more forthcoming than photography on my part.

Dear Friends,

I’ve been a letter-writer all my life. Pen pals. Best friends. Family members. Even long distance crushes. (More on that momentarily.)

As long as I have a pen in my hand with access to paper, stamps, and a mailbox, I’m a happy camper. I’d even go so far as to say that if I don’t write something every day I’d be as skittish as an armadillo. (Bet you’ve never heard that comparison before.) Whether or not my thoughts make it to another human being’s mailbox, the fact is: I WRITE every day. Some days I scramble into the underbrush. Tentative. Unsure. Unable to to portray the real “me.” Still, I write nonetheless.

Life’s too short not to be candid.

Speaking of that long-ago long-distance crush, what a humbling moment that was in my letter-writing life. I grew up on a flat, fenced farm in rural Minnesota and the nearest body of water was a tributary named the “creek” (pronounced crick) a quarter-mile away. More of a dribble than a tributary, except during the Spring and Fall rains when it overflowed and chewed away at our rural gravel road with a gaping whirlpool — it served as a convenient get-away after a short hike — a respite and quiet place to think and write. I’ve been looking for the ideal spot all my life and finally found it at “The Lake.” (Thank you, God.)

Round about that time the musical “Oliver” was released. While everyone else was enamored by Mark Lester — the “star” — my girlish notions were captivated by The Artful Dodger, Jack Wild. (For some reason, I’ve always favored the underdog — a life-long habit, ahem.) I wrote a letter to him on the banks of the “crick” and put it in the mail, hopeful of his personal reply. Imagine my chagrin when the mailman returned my letter a few days later due to “insufficient postage.” (Who knew international postage rates applied?!) Appalled and ashamed, I tore up my love letter and tossed them into the flowing waters of the “crick.” Since then, I’ve decided to do a lil’ more research, pay the price (as needed), and continue to let people know how I feel — postage rates or not. Also sorry to learn that he succumbed from cancer at an early age.

I’ve also learned not to mess with Mama!Above is TMOFW’s favorite goulash with corn because that’s the way his Mom made it. Who am I to upset tradition? Ever the faithful wife. :)

Some lessons are learned alongside fledgling waterways, heart-felt love letters returned with insufficient postage, and “the lake.” (Even armadillo encounters…)

I’m grateful for every one of them on the journey toward being “me.”

Enjoying discoveries one day at a time,

~ Kim