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

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