2017: In Abridged Format

18 Dec

The year started out with roughly half the nation enthusiastic about a new President, while the other half resisted. 

Countless Marches persisted: Winter turned to Spring and the voices grew stronger.

By Summer, I had grown weary of the angry voices, my mind turning inward to creating new dishes. The Market was fresh with the season’s produce and I was on a kick to use them in different ways.

Vinaigrette of various acids and oils would be paired in ways to bring out the freshest results: Lime, honey, poppy seed, sea salt, a few drops of hot sauce & grape seed oil drizzled over arugula, radish slices, diced cucumber, & grapefruit wedges.

Summer turned to Fall, where butternut squash and brussel sprouts came to play. End-of-the-season onions combine nicely with both, all spread about a cookie sheet to roast, lightly doused in olive oil, sea salt, & a smidgen of nutmeg.

End of the year holidays allow us to enjoy preparing Thanksgiving dressing using locally-made bread comprised of rosemary, fennel, hazelnut, & fig. Roasted green beans & garlic cloves drizzled in olive oil & sprinkled with ramp sea salt (made about 30 minutes from our WV home) will sit beside the ham and scalloped potatoes on Christmas Day.

It’s been a while since I last posted here & a lot has happened. As years always do. Homeschooling, high school graduations, one college graduation and another two on the horizon. Birthdays, work, & new places all reached new milestones for my 3 birds. 

The year has manifested in unusual and challenging ways, yet Kaukab’s daughter carries on–cooking for sustenance and pleasure. But, mostly, for Kaukab’s unreachable approval.



The Experiment Is Over.

11 Oct

It’s been two-and-one-half years since completing my experiment. As experiments go, this one was major.

Unlike grade school science experiments of baking soda volcano eruptions or bean root sprouts in water-filled mason jars, my experiment consisted of three little humans and the whole of their education journey taken upon me–for good or bad.

We started this educational adventure into the unknown in 1999, when my first-born, a beautifully, creative old-soul, not quite old enough to register for ‘real’ school. Two years later, her twin brothers joined the experiment. A house in the woods was our school. The natural world outside our door opened itself to experiential learning, where forest animals foraged among the wildflowers and weather patterns made art of the sky, creating ideal lesson plans for school’s sake. Nature journals elicited untapped skills of art, interpretive thinking, and their love for God’s natural world, where nature’s mathematics could be readily observed: a bee’s honeycomb; the Golden Ratio to a circle in plants, such as sunflowers and pine cones.

There were books, of course. Lots of them. Daily trips to the local library were our field trips. Each time, we’d fill the large, plastic milk crate with a wide assortment of reading material, anything from botany, music composers, historical fiction and non-fiction (oh, how we loved “Little House on the Prairie” series), poetry, math, and art. No book was safe from the grasp of their little hands and thirsty minds.

As they grew and demanded more, their education became more burdensome. On the one hand, we filled their time with traditional school subjects to meet state requirements, but we allowed time for their creative development as human beings. There we no test scores in our school, at least not until they reached upper middle school. Our little school in the woods was more a place for time. Time taken to develop creative skills, for alone time spent mastering origami or a Bach piece, maybe even imagining one’s matchbox cars traversing a large parking lot. Minds were engaged. Hearts were nurtured. And play was a natural part of their day.

Soon enough, high school transcripts, college applications, and FAFSA forms would become the order of the day. My home school was slowly coming to a close. No more spontaneous hot cocoa and toast breakfast gatherings on my bed, as I read to them to start the school day right. Those ended long ago. So have the midday chats about bullying, religious thought, C-span, future uncertainties, and story time, listening to audio books.

The last of the yearly school portfolios I created for a certified teacher’s perusement ended in May, 2014. Our daughter graduated from a wonderful private college this past spring with a degree in violin performance. And, her brothers are currently in their third year at local colleges.

So, here we are. What felt like an experiment many moons ago, actually turned out to be anything, but. What we did was to choose a different path, a different way, despite the loud retorts from naysayers. We were in a special world that only other home school families truly understood, the way families with multiples share that special connection, like a secret badge of honor. In the end, our experiment worked. Not because of any paper transcript of higher learning, but because they show themselves to be life-long learners who follow their hearts, not the status quo. And for that, I am grateful to God and Him, alone. For without his grace and guidance, this little experiment would have never happened.

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.

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