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

In My Kitchen ~ Spring 2019

In My Kitchen… this salad was SO tasty I want to eat it again soon. A new restaurant opened nearby and everybody raved about their food. Of course I had to go see for myself to “read their menu” (aka: I was hungry and ready for someone else to cook for me) but lately my dining out adventures have been limited by my food allergies. (Hold the croutons and cheese, please!)

Imagine my surprise and delight to find a perfectly grilled salmon filet atop a bed of crisp greens, red pepper strips, grape tomatoes, and black beans accompanied by a wonderful lime vinaigrette. The first thing I said after I got home was: “They sure know how to make a vinaigrette!” (So does Chef Mimi — more below.)

In the meantime I was thrilled to find a local eatery that respects my limitations. (More on that below, too.)

In My Kitchen… I’m ready to dive into Spring and yet another salad: Chef Mimi’s “favorite.” Yes, I realize that favorite recipes are subjective and oft relegated to the dubious best-ever category, but her sense of flavor and texture are spot on in my experience. Her recipe also included ingredients I had on hand, except for the red cabbage. I sorted that out of a “coleslaw kit” before I served it to The Man Of Few Words for supper. (Call it hands-on cooking — I’ve resorted to it more times than I can count when our local grocery store was out of a particular ingredient — and two meals out of one ain’t bad.)

FYI, I also substituted brown rice for the barley. Mimi said that was okay — use whatever combination works for you. DO try her vinaigrette though. It was tantalizing! Still enjoying the rest on spinach salads and such.

Click on the link above for her recipe.

In My Kitchen… my cousin Jeanne and her husband Ken (who’ve hosted me on my many treks to Minnesota) arrived for an overnight stay. She presented me with some “bowl cozies” to keep our soup and cereal  warm (or cold) courtesy of her quilting scraps, and a crocheted potholder, too. What a treat to be the recipient of such handmade love! We enjoyed catching up on the deck and munching on appetizers in front of the lake before I served supper. Thank you, xo!

In My Kitchen… is an Irish Apple Cake I’ve made many times. NOTE: the original recipe may have included a lil’ Irish (whisky instead of vanilla) but it’s just as good without the “heritage.” The crunchy top layer is a lovely prelude to the moist, spice-laden cake below and it keeps well and freezes well, too.

Irish Apple Cake (recipe courtesy of my friend, Denise W.)

1/4 c. butter, softened

1 c. sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp. vanilla (or whisky…)

2 c. diced peeled Granny Smith apples

1/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg (I used less because mine was freshly grated)

1 c. flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease an 8″ square baking pan. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat again. Add apples and nuts.

Combine dry ingredients; mix in with a wooden spoon. Mixture will be thick. Spread evenly into prepared pan and bake 45 minutes or until a pick comes out clean.

Remove from oven, cool on a wire rack, and cut into squares.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. (TMOFW says it’s “just right” plain. :)

Sherry MacKay of Sherry’s Pickings has more In My Kitchen adventures to connect your global hearts and kitchens ever since she took over from her predecessors — Celia, Maureen, and Liz. I’m grateful to all of them for the FUN and friendship — not to mention helping re-establish my kitchen four years ago — but, having said that…

I’ve finally decided that IMK fits best into my life quarterly rather than monthly. Welcome to the Spring edition! For now I have everything I need. It’s also Autumn “Down Under” (where Sherry hails from, as do many of the participants), but Spring has sprung here — and in my heart. I’ve put off too many writing deadlines during the past five years and hopefully you can see how colorful my life has become now. It’s time to make that leap of faith…

Whether you’re looking for food, flavor inspirations, or the latest kitchen gadgets, IMK is a reliable source. Thank you all! As for me, I’ll be back with more thoughts soon. Maybe in a letter? Meanwhile enjoy this glimpse of my surroundings, xo.

Enjoying salads, writing, and possibilities,

~ Kim

In My Kitchen ~ March 2019

In My Kitchen… I’m desperately trying to get used to a new computer. (Apologies for my lack of reply on previous posts — it’s been a long three weeks.) Despite not being able to find photos where they once were,  volumes of writing relegated to “obsolete” files and general mayhem, I’m still having FUN. Isn’t that what life is all about? If I can do it, anyone can! Here’s to learning something new.

Meanwhile I acquired a few more kitchen essentials — never mind stating I’ve almost reached my limit. Along came this Aroma multi-purpose vessel in pristine condition. Cook, steam, bake, fry, woohoo! Although it isn’t their latest digital version, it works. I also added two salad bowls, a trio of stainless steel ramekins, and a few more meals for The Man Of Few Words and moi.

In My Kitchen… is a quintet of California Olive Oils. To me, they’re like good wine. Their flavor only improves with age. My hubby has also gotten used to my “experimenting.” :)

In My Kitchen… another dear friend asked when I was going to finish my story about Minneapolis. Here ya go, Stan!

Minneapolis is special to me because of so many “firsts” there: First symphony concert. First taste of good wine. (Gotta love those wine-tasting parties in the ’80’s.) Dedicating the plaza at Orchestra Hall to the strains of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man.” (Yes, I actually went to band camp three times; I was also privileged to perform onstage there and shake Hubert Humphrey’s hand.) First walkabout with my son in Minneapolis’s one-of-a-kind skyline (a big thrill for this small town girl) — Brit’s Pub was our favorite haunt with its rooftop seating, lawn bowling, and stellar menu –food or otherwise. (Mary Tyler Moore’s nearby statue was also a mandatory stop — life is so much better when you throw your hat in the air and do the “twirl!”) First dueling piano performance. First train ride from the Mall Of America to “downtown.” First of many late-night airport pickups when I was in caretaker mode and winter was in full swing (-50 below zero) and our only thought was how to survive the two-hour trip back home. (Walking about was not an option!) I soooo don’t miss the snow and cold. I could go on, but you get it. Great city. Great memories.

Please feel free to click on or join Sherry’s monthly frolics to peruse posts from around the world for more In My Kitchen adventures. Next up…  Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup with Fresh Rosemary, Thyme, and Granny Smith Apples. (Will let y’all know how that turns out with a few tweaks.) Be adventurous. Learn something new!

Enjoying old memories and new recipes,

~ Kim

Scotch Eggs ~ The Ultimate Pub Food

Plaid

Just when I was ready to start writing again, my computer died. Argh! Such is life. Apologies for not replying to your comments on my last post — loved ’em all, xo! — but I had to wait until my I.T. guy recovered from the flu to rescue what was left of my hard drive. (I’ve also been acclimating to a new computer/screen/skill set since then.) Every day is a new adventure at the lake.

Allow me to share a flavor memory. The first time I experienced the pleasure of Scotch Eggs was at Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis a few years back. Actually, it may have been more than a few… there was Scotch involved, too. (Their single malt menu was sublime and my favorite was called Sheep Dip.) Anyhoo…

Begging your pardon for the repeat photo from my last post, a sweet friend asked: “Did you make your own Scotch Eggs?” The answer is YES, Chef Mimi — but not before I did a lot of research to recreate that memorable flavor. There seems to be an ongoing debate as to when and where Scotch Eggs originated (even though the name implies Scotland) and I never did find out. If anyone knows, enlighten me. However, judging from the number of recipes posted in recent years, this one-of-a-kind delicacy remains a “cult classic.” The consensus that came up most often was: Ultimate pub food!

After perusing dozens of recipes, comments, and reviews (lots to learn there), I finally settled on Proper Scotch Eggs by Jamie Oliver. Who can argue with proper — or Jamie Oliver, for that matter? One bite of that crisp, golden coating followed by an herb-infused savory sausage layer encasing its creamy interior and I was convinced I could make “proper” Scotch Eggs at home any day. Hope you try ’em, too! It was almost like being at Brit’s Pub again — minus the Scotch. ;)

Enjoying flavor memories,

~ Kim

In My Kitchen ~ February 2019

In My Kitchen… things have been more verbal than visual these days. My camera is always at the ready, but I tend to eat the evidence (winter survival mode?) or talk about food rather than take photos. One day I felt artsy and compelled to snap a picture of the vintage serving plate I recently acquired at the church thrift store. (Loved the light and shadow!) Truthfully, I’ve nearly reached my limit for kitchen paraphernalia to “show and tell” but one can always use another serving plate. :)

In My Kitchen… I’m blessed to eat good food. What constitutes “good food?” Flavors that make your soul smile. Dishes you want to share. Recipe requests!

Most days I cook on a wing and prayer, depending on what’s in my fridge, freezer, or pantry, and/or how “artsy” I feel. (Generally they defy description, but feel free to ask.) Above are a few of my flavor inspirations. Be sure to click on the link to Sherry’s Pickings to peruse other kitchens around the world or add your own adventures. Always something new thing to learn there! Make your soul smile.

BTW, my intention to “write” more than once a month (recently announced on FB) is still in force. More to follow,  xo.

Enjoying artsy moments and good food,
~ Kim

Life In Small Bites

Sometimes the memory of a flavor is all it takes to rekindle a foodie’s enthusiasm.

Mushroom bouquet

One fine Autumn day as I wandered around our yard, I happened upon an unexpected “mushroom bouquet” and my first thought was food.

They immediately evoked memories of mushrooms past. Slowly simmered in a velvety red wine sauce laced with garlic. Stuffed mushrooms. Mushroom pate’. Manchego mushrooms.

So many possibilities!

Autumn treasures

Lately I’ve been living life in “small bites” — one tentative taste at a time — until I’m ready to jump in again.

Rediscovering flavor.

And that’s okay. Autumn is progressing nicely at the lake. Me, too. 

Loving life,

~ Kim

Arancini Adventures

Arancini (pronounced arrrr-un-cheeni — roll that “r” like a pirate!) are cheese-stuffed rice croquettes from Italy. A friend from In My Kitchen recently chronicled her escapades in the Mediterranean — thanks, Debi — including a photo of Arancini and I couldn’t resist their allure any longer. Game on!

Speaking of games, I love to play Scrabble. It was time to combine that old favorite with a potential new one, and after researching a few recipes I set out on my Arancini Adventures.

The first challenge was a lack of Mozzarella in our fridge, but I had a bag of Italian five-cheese blend left from an ‘Italian’ dish I’d made for The Man Of Few Words the other night. Out of necessity (and/or desperation) I squeezed that shredded cheese into stuffable-size “balls.” Not quite as authentic as Mozzarella cubes, but I’ve been known to do things the hard way.

The next obstacle was Italian bread crumbs. All I had in the pantry were plain, and gluten-free to boot. I wondered if they’d yield the golden, deep-fried results I hoped to achieve? FYI, folks in the South aren’t squeamish about dunking food in hot oil and there’s a first time for everything — plus, I’m blessed with low cholesterol. A sprinkle of garlic powder and a tablespoon of Italian seasoning transformed them into “Italian” bread crumbs in no time at all.

As for leftover rice, I keep it on hand in the fridge at all times. I could very happily live on beans and rice for the rest of my life! But, today’s stash was destined to become Arancini. However, there’s no need to go to as much trouble as I did; see the recipe below. 

Arancini

(recipe adapted from Just A Taste — grazie!)

1 cup cooked sticky white rice (Uncle Ben’s was specified; I used “plain white”)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 large eggs

4 cubes fresh Mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs

Oil for frying

Marinara sauce for dipping

  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan or deep fat fryer to 375 F.
  2. Meanwhile combine rice, Parmesan, and 1 egg. Use your hands to mix.
  3. Form the Arancini by squeezing 1/4 portion of the rice mixture around each Mozzarella cube.
  4. Whisk remaining egg in a bowl, dip the Arancini into it, then roll in Italian breadcrumbs. Shake off excess and set aside.
  5. When oil reaches 375 F, fry two Arancini at a time, turning frequently until golden brown.
  6. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining Arancini.
  7. Serve with warmed marinara sauce. (Or, a glass of Prosecco… heavenly!)

Loving appetizer adventures — authentic or not,

~ Kim