Advice From the Meat Case

20 Aug

I was hanging around the meat case the other day, thinking about how much cheaper it would be to convert to veganism. A pleasant interruption from a mom and child duo reminded me I had meat to buy for dinner that night. I assessed the case as a purveyor of diamonds would do, finally latching onto a package of london broil chops with which to make fajitas. I would brush them with cumin, sea salt, cracked pepper, and garlic, with a few lime squeezes for acid.

But for now, my attention had been forced back to the mom and her child. She was standing at the foot of my cart, wielding a very small beef roast, apparently distressed about how to cook it. It was then that she asked me point-blank: “Do you know how to cook a roast?” Did she know I was Kaukab’s flesh-and-blood? I decided to give her a pass and delightfully offered her a resounding “Yes!”

While I did offer her some main recipe tips, I found myself walking about the aisles clicking off all the ingredients I couldn’t remember using in my own roast making. Like the wine. THE WINE! I thought about running after her, but I didn’t want to pose an artificial threat to the poor child, so I headed to the dairy aisle, instead.

Which is where I go when I’m not a vegan.

A Cook Is Born (Eventually)

11 Aug

Last week, violin girl and drummer boy left for Music City. They’re sharing a house. Which means, no cafeteria food. Think of it as both a blessing and a curse. The blessing, we can all concur, is self-explainable. The curse, well, that requires a few words:

Since there’s a kitchen encased within the house, their meals will come by way of this room. Kaukab’s daughter is quite familiar with this room, and to a certain extent, the two musicians are, as well. But, extent can only take you so far.

So, suffice to say, Kaukab’s daughter played Kaukab (a most unenviable task) and fired rounds of recipes, eventually overwhelming the nymph cooks. Unlike Kaukab, her daughter realized the immensity of said actions and instilled a cease fire. But, like any good Middle Eastern (country), “cease” is a very loose term. Later that night, Kaukab’s daughter began channeling the master and another round of recipes were hurled via email. Beset with lines of edits, with a particular focus on tubed tomato paste usage, violin girl decided to part ways with the master and her daughter.

She sized up the eggplant-onion-garlic saute and nixed the tubed paste (once it became apparent that it wasn’t working as ordered), instead substituting it with a jar of spaghetti sauce. A mere mention of using fresh summer tomatoes with a pinch of sugar and some lemon zest was offered and accepted for future sauce making. 

As for drummer boy, it’s gonna be sausage and eggs. All day, everyday. Oh, and Belvita wafers.

Kaukab would be so prou…disappointed.


Tender Chicken Tender

21 Feb

Like Elvis’s ‘Love Me Tender, Love Me Sweet,’ tonight’s dinner answered his soulful call.

Chicken tenders aren’t usually considered sexy or soulful, but rather utilitarian in nature. And yet, that’s exactly what makes them so easy to manipulate into something exceeding the mundane.

Simple ingredients (hopefully, a part of your pantry) are all what’s needed: lime zest, panko bread crumbs, parmesean cheese, and coconut milk (I used the refrigerated kind).

Firstly, I scraped out the tendons. Next, I soaked the tenders in the coconut milk, while I mixed together the bread crumbs, cheese, and lime zest. Then, I heated an iron-cast skillet on medium high and poured a small amount of Canola oil. I coated the chicken with the crumb mixture, patting lightly, and then fried them. I covered the pan once I turned them over, to allow for more even internal cooking. Be sure to add some oil along the way, as you’re adding very little with each batch.

What you’ll get is a crunchy, slightly sweet chicken tender, with hints of fresh lime. And, something Elvis would croon over. Kaukab? She’s not a crooner. A critic? Yes. Crooner? No.


15 Feb

I had a lovely call from violin girl today. The call lasted only a short time, but her 19-year self spoke lifetimes of heart-felt wisdom.

After excitedly describing last night’s events with a group of friends (equal-parts gender, all single), which included playing music for newly-coupled friends and dining out, she went on to remark about what Valentine’s Day truly meant to her.

After experiencing love-loss a couple of years ago, and a friend’s recent suicide, she could not help but be shaped by these events. “Everyone experiences loneliness…you never know who.” She went on to divulge that on this most recent of Valentine’s, she wrote fifteen “love” notes and gave them to her friends. Why did she do it? “Because, I’ve learned it’s important to tell them. So many believe no one cares about them.”

Hubby gave me flowers–three, to mark each child, and some candy. Lovely gesture, for sure. I made us (that would include the boys) a nice steak dinner to commemorate the occasion. But, today’s phone call put the right perspective on the whole Valentine’s thing.

It’s not the day that counts, but the people who matter to us. Everyday.

Fish & Blueberries

14 Feb

This dish reminds me of the book ‘Blueberries for Sal’ that my kids liked me reading years ago. You may have heard that much of the country fell under a massive snowstorm last night, and we southern West Virginians got dumped upon, as well.

This giddy Cleveland girl welcomes snow whenever possible, and dinner celebrated this auspicious occasion with a special twist.

Enter the blueberries. I had decided to pan fry some pollack fillets in some melted butter and cajun seasoning. Usually, I add a little lemon squeeze near the end of cooking. But, I was out of lemons (and limes). The fish needed something, but what? (I’m sure Kaukab would have told me.)

A quick look-see in the fridge popped up some blueberries and maple syrup. Bingo! I would make a blueberry sauce for the fish fillets. Here’s what I did: After cooking the fish and removing from the iron skillet, I added 4 oz. of blueberries to the butter remaining (I had started with 3Tbl.) and on medium heat, stirred lightly. I added a drizzle of the syrup and about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. (If I had a lemon, I would have added some of the zest, as well.) Cook and stir until berries soften, about 5 – 8 min. Pour over fillets.

This dish really took on a Sweedish feel. Buttery, fruity, savory–all at once. I love dishes like this, where you make due with what you’ve got. Something of a mantra with Kaukab, no doubt.


Be Patient; It’ll Be Here

26 Jan

Be Patient; It'll Be Here

Worth the Wait

Is It Ready, Yet?

15 Jan

It’s the end of day 5 and our water has been deemed “safe” by the water company. The same one which failed to detect and protect the supply.

I made pasta with it last night, after flushing the pipes. Spaghettini w/basil pesto, peas, a bit of marinara and olive oil. Topped it off with some parmesean. It looked safe. Tasted that way, too.

But this morning, a very different result. One of the twins and I had parched throats. At first, I paid no real attention. But after taking my first shower (“chemical shower” as my skeptical twin likes to refer to it) since the water ban last Thursday, I began feeling a burning sensation in my eyes (which continues as of this writing)–one of the chemical symptoms reported.

I should have paid more attention to that little fellow. He did it ‘old school.’ Boiled bottled water and took the pot with him to the shower. The other twin? Apparently, his concern matches up quite well with his Dad’s.

As for that pasta, it’ll be split among the two meagerly-concerned. Maybe, I’ll try boiling some in vegetable broth. Could have some nice possibilities. Sauteed yellow and red peppers in olive oil with some red pepper flakes and black olives tossed through?

I think this water situation may have an upside, afterall.


10 Jan

So vital, yet so, seemingly, ubiquitous. At least, in my part of the world.

At 10:00 a.m. on an average Thursday, this Southern region of WV’s water source was contaminated. A chemical plant leak and just like that, our taken-for-granted water turned un-usable, sans for toilet flushing.

If that wasn’t unfortunate enough, the guilty party decided that “confidence” trumped social responsibility, and only when they realized that confidence alone couldn’t satisfy their massive error did they reveal it to state officials. The reveal: broadcast on the 6:00 p.m. local news.

At precisely 6:01 p.m., Hubby became alarmed enough to go find some bottled water. Kaukab’s daughter, a bit more resigned, thought ‘What’s the rush?’ Good thing Hubby has a thought (or two) of his own. Apparently, the whole of Charleston (and surrounding areas) engaged in group-think. Barely a packet or two were left when he reached the stores–a three minute drive, five max.

Being Kaukab’s daughter, the only relief I could muster was knowing that I hadn’t made a pot of soup today.

What’s All That Stink??

9 Jan

A major revealation was met at my fridge this morning. While searching for breakfast fixings, I noticed a rank odor eminating from somewheres. I checked the surface upon which last night’s reveal of belated catfish nuggets lay. No residue. Several minutes and up-endings of various veggies (the usual culprits) later and the source emerged. Right, smack in front of me. For several weeks, it lay in a flimsy, lousy plastic container that I had bought on-the-cheap, only to betray me. Mashed potatoes. No longer white and fluffy, but dirty-white, with a tinge of pink. (Don’t ask me what that means.)

Kaukab would have cried “foul”! Over and over and…

Breaking Bread

5 Jan

I’ve been a communion-taker all my life. My first experiences consisted of my grandmother’s circa 1940ish double-oven contraption, rolling out heaps of thick-crusted loaves which would eventually become the next day’s communion bread. Her bread was the envy of altar boys and parishoners, alike. So much so, that the congregation was routinely warned (and reprimanded) for sneaking a few extras on the way back to their pews. Wine-soaked bread bits preceding the bread steals were placed in the mouths of young and old–no carding required. The only requirement? One must have met with the priest earlier that morning and “confess” one’s sins–even if one had to improvise. A small soul-payment for a little buzz and great bread.

Years later, I married a Presbyterian. Grape juice replaced wine; crackers for homemade bread. No required fess-up, though. Plus, the tiny juice cups were quite adorable.

Alas, even the juice cups couldn’t keep me there. I knew in my gut something big was missing.

After several more years of “church hopping,” we eventually came to rest at our current church home. Three years in and no looking outward. The communion feels meaningful. No required confessions. No judgements. Only one thing: Follow Christ

And a new offering for this New Year: In addition to the regular bread, which has recently become a bit undesirable, in that it tends to be rather dough-y, they’re now offering a crisp gluten-free choice. Imagine that! Evangelical-Progressives.

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