Thursday, May 28, 2009

stepping off the merry-go-round

If until recently you have had the good fortune to live on a tropical island, on which grew groves of mangoes, pineapples and coconuts? Where wild rice flourished and streams of naturally alkalized water flowed freely; or you spent your youth in a remote village in the deepest darkest Peru. Eating indigenous foods and swinging happily from trees on lush vines. Than perhaps this article is not for you.
For all the rest of us, do stop looking longingly back at the previous sentences. Most of us grew up in a civilized society where we did not have to forage for our food and unfortunately because of it we have no connection to our food and very little understanding of our body’s relationship to it. For most of us who slept through health class and showed up to biology only to be able to reconstruct a chicken carcass, we are all a bit surprised when our bodies appear to be rebelling against us and one day we wake up with the sure knowledge that something is definitely not right.
The first indication may have been the ten or twenty pounds that had begun following us around no matter how persistently we attempted to out run or ditch it. Some how it always knew where to find us. Maybe for you it was fatigue that required 18 shots of espresso and two or three cans of red bull to drag you through the day. For some it may have been the familial relationship you felt with every jar of antacids you encountered. At some point you began to realize that you where not the same old you.
The old you was spry and full of hope for the future. The new and not so improved you has no spring in the step and nasty little lines around the mouth. Clearly something has gone awry in your carefully laid plans. Well, my friend, to put it simply, Life has happened.
Now, stop that weeping! I know that until now you felt alone amongst the billions of other consumers in line with their own mugs at starbucks all waiting for a fix. You tried to hide the lines beneath a $120.00 line preventing and repairing foundation made from ingredients that you assumed where real, despite your inability to pronounce any of them. Well, the convenient truth is you are not alone. You are however in luck. It would seem that if you have been drawn to read this far, that you are more than ready to step off the merry-go-round and enter the looking glass. There is hope for change, but as the saying goes, change begins with you.
Do you remember that peanut butter and jelly sandwich on lovely fluffy white bread that you ate every other day for lunch in your formative years? Maybe you recall the hamburger and fries you had for lunch yesterday? Please, don’t make excuses, we’ve all been there. A soda in one hand and a protein bar in the other, trying desperately to satisfy some unknown balance that will achieve the glorious end of…well we are not sure what the glorious end is, but that is completely besides the point.
I say together we must pursue a new route. a more conscience route. It is high time we take responsibility for our health and well being and stand up to the unseen forces of nutritional darkness and say, we are not going to take it anymore! Right after this last triple shot mocha latte.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The whino gets older!

I am just going to start with the apology right up front as I know one is definitely warranted. I have been absent and therefore silent for way to long. Some of you may not think that statement quite true...but, this blog is not for you anyway. I spent the past weekend with the wino celebrating her----th birthday. You didn't really think I would tell you her true age did you. Of course not, as that would reveal mine and due to the fact that I am older we will be having none of that. Needless to say we have had a wonderful time drawing out her distinguished day and stretching it to fit properly over an entire three days. Good news we where successful! We may be slightly sun burned and sandy ( We are in Southern California after all) and some of us may be ready for a good nap. ( Not me) Otherwise we are no worse for the wear. During this festive time we were able to spend much time laughing, sometime eating ( hardly a surprise there.) and the whole time enjoying ourselves. Since this is the first time in a year we have been together in person with our father and his lovely wife and our darling grandparents this was more than just a birthday celebration. Saturday night was spent completely immersed in the intimate fellowship that comes with a life time of memories and love. Also, being celebrated this weekend was the 65 th wedding anniversary of our dear grandparents. Truly this was a beautiful weekend that I personally will remember for a very long time to come. Thank you wino for getting older...someone had to do it and it just wasn't going to be me!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Acapulco and the redemption of Kansas...

As some of you are aware the past week has been spent traveling to the beautiful coast of California. In Kansas we hit an unexpected glitch when the interstate became a toll road with no warning and in order to get off anywhere apparently one had to pay. While this is probably a brilliant move for the state of Kansas, After all someone has to pay for all those devastating natural disasters, This was not our favorite idea and had we known, we would have avoided the state altogether. The good news is, Kansas made driving though Texas seem appealing...Chalk one up for the Lone Star State! On the other hand having already resigned to pay, We wound around and down into the midst of a small town called Newton. Where one sign on the incoming road said ,'local traffic only', as that sign was obviously not intended for us we pressed on and arrived at our lunch destination which was a fabulous little family owned establishment called Acapulco. In business for the past twenty years in this sleepy little town, they are a hidden treasure in the heart of Kansas. I know some of you are at this point rolling you eyes having been geared up to hear tales of Kansas barbecue and the like, but truly this was a perfect find. With delicious fresh salsa and a lunch buffet the was freshly cooked from scratch finding healthy options was a breeze. For $5.99 the same price you would pay for two tacos, you could get the buffet lunch which was filled with homemade re fried beans, fried and steamed tortillas, freshly chopped salad, hand rolled tamales filled with chunks of roasted beef, enchiladas, rice and taco fillings. steamed corn tortillas filled with re fried beans, salad, a sprinkling of fresh grated cheese all drowned in fresh spicy salsa was delicious, satisfying and not altogether an unhealthy choice. Others in our party had the enchiladas which got rave reviews and the tamale which I had to try was fresh tasting and delightful filled with flavorful chunks of slow roasted beef. Despite the rocky beginning to our relationship, Kansas had redeemed herself as we walked out of that restaurant with giant satisfied grins on our faces...until the speeding ticket, but that is another story altogether.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nur's Kitchen

During the past week I have been a bit remiss in delivering, straight to your screen, delicious options in take -out . So let us take a moment and flash back to Nur's Kitchen. Now that I can relax in the passengers seat and describe for you the delight that came with each bite of this meal I will. Nur's Kitchen is in Covington ,Louisiana.
In an old house ,set right off w. 21st street, culinary magic occurs at the finger tips of a delightful husband and wife team. Billed as Old World Mediterranean dishes, it is all that is fine in food. Healthy ingredients such as Spinach, artichoke hearts ,basil, olive oil, onions, black pepper and feta are stuffed generously into whole wheat or white tortillas ,wrapped and baked to create a perfect hand held pie. After tasting one of these glorious creations, one will have to display intense will power, as you may be tempted to consume thirteen of these a day. However, one will make a perfect and heart healthy lunch. At four dollars a piece these are a steal.

The navy bean salad and humus are perfect for dressing any self respecting whole grain pita. At four and six dollars each your pita can brag it's attire is a bargain.

Now ,to address the Pesto. I make this freesh sauce myself in large quantities when the garden 'runneth' over with basil and frankly , I thought I had the corner on the market as far as superior taste goes, but once again Nur's pulls through with a perfect pesto, good enough to make any one return repeatedly to supply their addiction for basil. ( yes I am a basil junkie! Six children later it could be worse, so don't judge.) Basil is known for it's healing properties and particularly for it's role as an anti-depressant. In other words Nur's pesto is bound to make you break out into song.

There is a variety of dishes to choose from, whether you crave an organic salad or Lamb sish Sandwich. You will not be disappointed. Side dishes are consistent with the health conscience theme and are as follows, A baked sweet potato, small house salad or Brown rice. daily specials are served with brown rice and a salad or whole wheat pita with a salad for $8.00. The only downside here is that you can only go in a pick-up these items Tuesday through Friday from 11:00-6:00. If you can't bear the thought of being three days with-out...They are at the Covington Farmers Market on Saturday morning. However, a word to the wise, get there early as by ten o'clock last Saturday they where sold out of pies and there were a number of people asking for them. Thank you to Nur's for being so friendly and I highly recommend that you find a boat ( totally possible in my neck of the woods), a car or any other mode of transportation and find your way to Nur's kitchen you will definitely thank me for this find!

The Great escape

No sooner had we hit the vague area between Alexandria, Louisiana and Shreveport than we observed an most interesting scenario. Miles of flat land with rectangular and square ponds etched in them. Being insatiably curious we pulled over under the guise of 'getting gas'. After questioning the bewildered attendant we got a rye answer of ,"We farm Craw fish". Some of you who have read previous blogs, will attest the craw fish has nothing to fear from me and as a matter of fact needs only to ask and I would be more than happy to help them escape their future spicing Jacuzzi.

However, since our job is to fully inform you, the reader, off we went to take pictures. Along a barren road we walked chattering excitedly and stopping to take pictures of both "Craw fish farming" and pretty spring flowers, when low and behold we stumbled upon the daring escape.
At this point, dear reader, I must tell you that my heart was filled with admiration for the brave little soul which had planned and executed such a monumental task. Hidden amongst the weeds maybe two hundred feet from the 'Craw fish pond" and across a two lane road was a small hill with a breathing hole. This hill resembled a very tiny volcano and we all bent to get a closer look. Very carefully with the tip of my Nike running shoe, ( in an adorable pink and silver, mind you.) I lifted the hill and turned it over. Much like an escape hatch in a submarine, it's well constructed self fell to the side to reveal an under ground current. We all stood staring in shock. Somewhere, a crustacean has hit the road in search of a better life. I hope you will all join me in wishing for his future happiness and dream fulfillment. Perhaps he will open a restaurant somewhere and serve only chicken or maybe he will become a lobbyist for the plight of the poor Craw fish on capital hill. Hopefully he is steering clear of anything resembling a steaming bath or drawn butter.

We carefully put down the ' hatch' on this little tunnel and walked back to our van. If we see him or her on our journey , I would like to believe we would offer him assistance but in reality we won't, After all he does smell a bit fishy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A wandering wind...

Well, It finally happened. A mysterious wind blowing from the east and a distinct restlessness. No, it isn't what you are thinking. Mary Poppins did not arrive on the doorstep umbrella in hand, though she would have been welcome. It is that time of year when we get an itch to off we go. Though, wandering has clearly become more difficult as our family has expanded, we still manage. A twelve passenger van and a dozen well packed bags and off we go. Our four tortoise shell cats waved us out of the driveway and I assume did a bit of a happy dance to be left with our brilliant Neighbor Sasha. She has fifteen cats and our cats always seem a bit disappointed upon our return that they are no longer in her care. A drip system on a timer keep the beautiful vegetable garden alive and thriving and make a great boon for Sasha and Bob her husband. ( and the slugs, who are really happy to see the backside of us.)
How long will this wanderlust continue, you ask? I don't know, but if you continue to check back in on us you will know when we do. As for now, the sun has just come up over the Atchafalaya bayou and the promise of adventure lies ahead.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

You wouldn't let me have any cigarettes!

There are mornings when just getting anything going in the proper direction is a challenge for only the bravest of souls. When you are the mother of six children this can seem like an understatement. Then there are the moments that bring all the others into perspective and quietly you are renewed. In my case, this morning, brought one of these moments with my 7 year old. She tends to be where most of my funny moments originate. As I sat on the couch this morning checking my e-mails and doing my make up, my little pixie entered the room. Still dressed in her pajamas and carrying her new game, guess who, she plopped herself on the couch across from me. I looked up briefly, smiled and went back to my e-mailing response. She set up her game, and began to play it, which required asking herself a number of questions about her playing surface. I smiled again, she coughed and I started.
"What was that?" I asked, horrified, as the cough in question was deep and full.
" My cough." She replied.
For a moment I wracked by brain for the origin of the 'cough' and than I remembered she had been around a smoker the day before. Ahh... Now it made sense.
" You were around cigarette smoke yesterday." I explained, in a rhetorical fashion, already back to my e-mail.
" ...But...I didn't have a cigarette yesterday!" I looked up at her sincere and emphatic statement. Her Hazel eyes were wide under her strawberry blond shaggy bangs. " You didn't let me!" I stared at her, momentarily speechless and than I murmured " Good Point...very good point." She smiled sweetly at me and continued the strange game she was playing and I patted my self on the back for being the good parent I obviously was. After all, I had put my foot down and as a result my 7 year old does not smoke.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Fat Lady is Singing...

In my experience there is never a bad time for pasta. I have actively tried to find some waking moment when pasta would not be appropriate, but thus far I have been able to make convincing arguments against all such thoughts. Now I am not talking about just any pasta, Say for instance, mac and cheese. You know the ones, with that dreadful little packet which has more unrecognizable words than a noble prize wining experiment. I am talking about whole grain pasta with a fresh sauce that makes the fat lady want to sing, just to get to the table that much quicker. Well friends, I have just the meal for you, if just reading this paragraph has caused you to begin to drool.

Lets collect all the ingredients. I'll wait here while you get a pen and paper... Alright, kalamata olives ( truly a GOOD THING!) black olives and green olives ( are you starting to see a pattern?) Some chopped Sweet onion and about 8 garlic cloves ( Put down all those heads of garlic, Just the individual cloves.) A large container of grape tomatoes or cherrie tomatoes, fresh basil, artichoke hearts freshly marinated (or from the jar if you must.). A beautiful red or orange bell pepper, 80z to a pound of quartered button mushrooms, some good Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil and Sheep's milk Feta Cheese. Oh, And of course the star of this meal Jerusalem artichoke spinach fettuccine.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and get out a medium ceramic bowl ( ok ,you can use any bowl you want.) Pour your entire tub of tomatoes in and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on the grey salt. Chop your onions and garlic and toss with the tomato mixture to coat. Spread the mixture on a cookie tray and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until caramelized. once this is finished switch your broiler on. Massage your pepper of choice with a bit of the olive oil and set it under the broiler and wait for the skin to blister. Once it does, turn it to the next side and repeat this process. remove the blackened pepper and seal it in tin foil, crimping the edges to allow the little pepper a steam bath. Quarter your mushrooms and brown in a bit of olive oil in a skillet. Let them lay on one side until browned and then turn and brown on the other side. Now, while your pot is boiling with a bit of grey salt in it. Chop your various olives, approximately a 1/2 a cup of each and chiffinade your basil (roll the leaves and cut into tiny little strips) Break up your marinated artichokes, about a cup, and than replace the three that you ate while doing this.

Spend a few minutes, remove the skin and chop the pepper. Now for the second best part, pour the slightly cooled tomato mixture into a pretty bowl and crush with your hands. Add all the other ingredients and a splash of balsamic. Drain your pasta, and pour over the top of the sauce. Now with your tongs turn the mixture until all the lovely ingredients are combined. top this whole thing with 1/2 cup crumbled fresh feta and serve beside a crisp green salad. ( No bread, you don't need it, I promise you.) Not only is this a health food masquerading as a splurge food, but your heart and your family will thank you for a meal that isn't an unnatural shade of orange. The fat lady in you may sing over this dish, but the thin lady in you will be just as pleased.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Tortillas...

Nothing can make or break a fish taco like the tortilla used to cradle all the remaining ingredients...That is how the adventure began for one group of tortillas. Simply a seed of an idea and the dismal lack of freshly made tortillas gracing the state of Louisiana. Shrimp and craw fish we have aplenty, but not a good tortilla. So, In what can only be described as a heroic gesture of love, my dear father in law, offered to pick up some tortillas from an Encinitas Mexican Market and escort them on a plane trip to Louisiana. ( Historically tortillas can not be trusted to travel alone. They rarely make it to their intended destination.) I was delighted and began immediate preparations for a fish taco dinner that would be worthy of such extensively traveled tortillas.

Cod Loins were purchased along with Mangoes and cabbage and the four of us sat down to wait...

Here is the thing... The dear man( my father in law) traveled from California by plane carting with him 18 pounds of tortillas! Now, The very fact that he made it through security with out any questions asked should make you say..HMMMM!
Because it was very late when he came in, we did not begin consuming these delightful treats until the next day when my daughters and I made up a shredded Mexican cabbage salad, mango salsa and guacamole. We warmed the tortillas and stacked them in a tortilla warmer, which true to it's name does just that and sauteed some beautiful cod loins in my cast iron pan, dressing it in lemon, garlic, cumin and grey salt. If you have never partaken of a fish taco...SHAME ON YOU!
Take your steaming, soft, fresh corn tortilla ( unless you live in Louisiana and have no wonderful father in laws in Cali. than you are just plain out of luck.) in you left hand. gently place some fish in the center of said tortilla, fill with cabbage salad and spoon on guacamole and mango salsa. squeeze just a bit of lime over it all and try to make it to your seat before inhaling the entire thing. Truly ,the most challenging part of this meal. You will be impressed, albeit slightly horrified, to note that the 18 pounds of tortillas were gone at the end of the week. There are 9 of us however and we are professionals...Do NOT try this at home, particularly if there is just one of you. To sum up, Tortillas are fabulous travel partners, quiet and respectful of others, although they rarely carry their own weight. Well worth the trip...right through to their delicious end.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Huevos Rancheros

Creating a delicious meal that satisfies both your nutrition needs and your taste buds is not that difficult. For instance if one was to have a few organic brown eggs sitting around and some triple washed spinach from Sam's club or Costco, one might have the back bone of just such a meal. Say you ,who have now ascertained that you do indeed have the afore mentioned ingredients, were to locate a jar of homemade black beans ( or canned) and a couple of avocados begging to become guacamole. From this point you would be mostly there. So, set about getting out your skillet and pouring your beans into a pan to warm. There now, don't you feel encouraged now, dinner is almost completed and you have just begun. Wilt a skillet full of vitamin rich spinach and dress with a smidge of olive oil, grey salt and lemon and create a nest of the same on your plate. Now, carefully ladle your warm black beans into the center of the nest and begin frying your eggs. One or two, which every you choose will do nicely. Hopefully by now, you or someone close to you has mashed those lovely, creamy avocados, with a bit of micro-planed garlic,lemon, grey salt and crystal sauce, this will sit nicely atop those eggs. Since the eggs take only a few moments you are , I am sure , ready to perch them atop the glistening bed of black beans.

PUT DOWN THAT FORK! Really...Do have some control. We are close, so lets finish this off to perfection! Sprinkle no more than a tablespoon full of raw cheddar cheese across those steaming eggs and spread your newly made guacamole across the top of that. Whew! See there, you have neither starved to death nor been forced to continue your rapidly developing friendship with the drive-through attendant at that horrid fast food place down the road. Oh yes, add a bit of fresh salsa to the top of the whole shebang and your taste buds will thank you. So, go on now, don't stand on ceremony. Dig in and thank me later...

Little Known Facts Regarding Strawberries

You may be thinking, What is there to say about the strawberry that hasn't been visited and re-visited in every publication everywhere I look! You may be right, as we are just getting to the end of strawberry season. Ah...but I think there are some little known facts about the mighty strawberry that has been overlooked to often and just maybe some new ideas that will serve you well in the very near future.
To start with the strawberry has been delighting the young and old for well over 2000 years. In the 1714 a french engineer sent to Chile and Peru to monitor the Spanish observed that the strawberries growing in the area where much bigger that the European varieties. With a bad case of strawberry envy, he decided to bring a few plants back to France in the hope of improving the french variety. This plan was a dismal failure until the Chilean strawberry met a North American strawberry and from this destined meet came a sweet, juicy offspring which became the rave of Europe. Whether the American strawberry had been visiting, on a student visa or newly transplanted is unclear. All that aside what we know is love bloomed and the union produced a large fruit that spent much time entertaining royalty and dignitaries until the railroads finally superseded ox cart and shipping made it possible for the masses to partake.
That is just fascinating! you say, but what has this to do with me? Well...frankly not much. However you may be able to find a way to work it into dinner conversation or over a cocktail with friends. The occasion I leave in your very capable hands.
Nutritionally Strawberries are brimming with vitamin c and k,enzymes and flavonoids. They are also a good source of vitamin b1, pantothenic acid, folic acid, manganese and iodine. There is next to no fat and very little sugar and all of it is natural sugar. The Strawberries' vibrant color is due to its anthocyanidin content which in turn makes it a valuable protector against cancer, heart disease and inflammation. If you have allergies to strawberries it is best to just walk away no matter what the purported benefits are.
Enjoy this heroic fruit in smoothies or fresh juices, on wholegrain french toast or straight from the plant. Search your local farmers market and U-Pick strawberry farms for the sweetest picks. The children love to harvest these little gems themselves and in most cases eating on the job is encouraged. If the strawberries make it home make sure to store in the refrigerator immediately and eat with in two days. You can rinse them cut there little tops off and freeze them for longer storage or to add to your smoothies. A final warning, what ever you do, DO NOT leave berries sitting out they will get furry very quickly!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Marathon Part Two ...

Perhaps you are haunted still ,by the image of a weary Pheidippides crumbling to the earth after proclaiming victory for the Greeks in a history forming battle against the Persian empire. Do you wake from your afternoon nap smug in the satisfaction of having chosen wisely to nap when being tempted to train for your local charity marathon. Heaven forbid some of you have come with in a hairs breadth of climbing onto a treadmill instead of having an afternoon tea and a quick flip through your recently received subscription of Health, Fitness or Natural Healing.
Well...Sigh... I did it...I stepped outside the proverbial box this past Saturday and with heavy steps and beating heart ( and all that before the race began) I signed in along with most of my family to run in the 5k at our very own Smokin Blues and Barbecue challenge. Pheidippides dismal fate weighed heavily on my mind and by the time I finally made it to the starting line I had decided that since the cultural fate of the world was not resting on my shoulders, I would start with the one mile run...This turned out to be a wise choice. If the fate of culture had been balanced precariously on my shoulders there would be far fewer museums in existence and we all might be speaking Persian (?). Nevertheless... I ran. Mostly because the police car behind me might well have rolled right over the top of me had I not, still...I ran...and I finished. My darling son came in first in the 5k and my brave husband and two of my daughters ran and got awards. I feeling victorious to have run and lived to eat barbecue afterwards... nutrition aside for the weekend. I earned every savory bite! Maybe next time I'll run two miles...LOL... Or maybe I'll cheer the real runners from the safety of the sidelines. (less chance of being rundown by the police escort) However, I will probably still need some cute running shoes...

It was a dark and stormy night...

Jacmel Inn...Even the name seems cloaked in mystery and romance. Borrowing it's name from the creole-Italian Pirate befriended by Haitian natives, more than 200 years ago. This is where my darling Husband ,of twenty years, invited me to dine with him for our anniversary. Who was I to say no to such a lovely invitation and besides I had eaten their once before and it was amazing. It was a dark and stormy night which saw us heading two blocks from our humble abode to the moss covered brick steps of an historic old house turned restaurant called Jacamel. over a hundred years old it sits shrouded by lichen draped oaks with large twisted arms and vines which crawled around the house and attempted to find entrance though the many paned window looking out over wild gardens. Just the ambiance alone is worth the visit. After being seated at a small table for two on a converted porch long ago windowed in against the elements, we were brought hot bread and butter and a small tasting of white bean salad. The wooden ceilings glowed richly in the dim lighting and made all of us look at least the age we envision ourselves to be. My handsome dinner date ordered us our meals and a glass of red wine and we chatted about ...well everything and anything we wanted to. My seared yellow fin swimming in a jerk mango salsa and accompanied by herb seasoned and roasted fingerling potatoes, just about sang with each bite. Tall, dark and handsome across from me was just about moved to manly tears by his porterhouse steak and baked potato. Each meal was preceded by a salad of your choice which was both fresh and delicious with just a hint of horseradish. After stuffing ourselves to the point of comfortable laziness we shared our first desert in...well i don't remember the last one. A beautifully executed strawberry napoleon. Our undying gratitude to the chef who made our evening so Delicious. While we didn't outlast the storm, My hero braved the lightening and rain to pull my coach up the curved driveway and help me into my seat. I suggest that you all reserve a table at Jacmel at the first sign of a special occasion...Don't bother waiting twenty years for this amazing experience.
Jacmel Inn:
903 E Morris St.
Hammond, La 70403
Ph# 985-542-0043

Barbeque in the Deep South

Barbecue in the South, need I say more...
You didn't really think you where getting off that easy did you? This past weekend was the annual Smokin Blues and Barbecue competition held in the quaint and historical town of Hammond, Louisiana. Saturday morning as we laced up our running shoes to participate in the 5k run for charity that starts off the day ( more on this in another blog) the heady aroma of barbecue wafted around us enticingly. running parallel to the train tracks and through the center of town, tents, motor homes and giant trucks formed makeshift cook sites. Smokers and barbeque's, some equal in size to a mack truck and others as humble as a Weber, graced each competitors site. Giant professionally printed banners and hand written poster board signs hung side by side. Seasoned veteran competitors and first timers, alike filled their que's with aged hard wood and coals and created magic with fire and meat. Some cooked carefully seasoned chicken and others smoked beef and pork for long hours until perfect tenderness was achieved and than add homemade secret barbecue sauces that would send a grown man to his knees in grateful tears. All of these festivities where wrapped warmly in the sounds of live blues played on a center stage. for two days the town hosted an enormous delicious party that would make the most experienced hostess flush in envy, as every party goer left with a satisfied grin and a slightly larger waist line than when they arrived. All in all it was a raging success. which is no more than should be expected of an area of the country that takes small breaks in between celebrating, everything and anything, just long enough to rest up for the next event...
I'm just not sure I have the stamina to keep up with the laid back South!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Perfect Peace

You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3

A promise to cling to in the tumultuous seas of life ,by the author of the same.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Sake Cafe

Yesterday was a girl luncheon. Just Myself and My three youngest girls spent the day looking for running shoes and dining together at a fabulous Japanese cafe , called The Sake Cafe. We were looking for adventure and living on the wild side. If your 12, 7 and almost two lunching on Japanese cuisine instead of wholegrain peanut butter and honey is the height of adventure and it don't get any wilder than this. So in we went and were quickly seated at a lovely table where we could see the Sushi chefs at work and ooh and aah at the fabulous changing colored lights in the bubbling water wall. We ordered three dishes to share on this epicurean safari. First was a lunch plate which included our choice of two different sushi rolls ( we chose vegetarian and tuna avocado, mmmmm!) then came another lunch plate of pineapple fried rice, sauteed with asparagus tips, broccoli, carrots and various other veggies, for the third and final sampling came a plate of vegetable yaki udon, the most delightful fat Japanese noodles coated in a lemon sauce with delicious shitake mushrooms and again freshly cut and sauteed vegetables. Each luncheon order came with our choice of soup or salad and we all chose salad. The salad was simply butter lettuce and wild greens coated in a ginger dressing. Simply delightful! My six year old informed me no uncertain terms that she was having nothing to do with any raw fish as she munched happily on her tuna avocado roll dipped in soy sauce and dangling precariously from her chopsticks. At her sisters insistence that she was eating fish now, she glared indignantly and paused in her chewing long enough to announce that she was eating tuna not raw fish and after a shake from my head her older sister winked at me at went to work on her veggie roll. I sighed, crisis averted. I turned to look at the two year old ,who was being surprisingly quiet for a moment , just in time to catcher her teetering on the edge of the high chair her shirt half off and a small plate perched on her head, she smiled sweetly at me. This was not exactly as I had envisioned this lunch going, but in all fairness I hadn't really envisioned this far into the thing either. After re strapping Houdini baby, redressing her and removing the ( you guessed it) sticky plate from her head we all partook of the pineapple rice. Hands down fantastic! It was devoured quickly with many raves as we giggled and re strapped baby. Finally, the Yaki Udon arrived and oh, My! Until this moment I hadn't known I was missing Yaki Udon, but alas, the wasted years. After re-strapping baby, we all gingerly twirled fat noodles with our chopsticks (no easy task) and managed to consume every morsel on our plates. In the mean time our waiter was as patient as a saint and obviously unfazed by babies as he brought new cups and plates ,with out my ever having to ask, whenever one became mysteriously unusable. Truly this Dining adventure was a culinary delight for all involved from 2 to well never mind. I hope you will make some delicious memories of your own at this restaurant! It was a raving success!

The Sake Cafe

101 Northpark Boulevard

Covington, La 70433

phone # 985-809-6689

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Curiosity may have killed the cat...but the mint's just fine.

Adversity builds character and strength right? Well I'm sure it does despite mostly being unpleasant in the moment. However if you are a member of the menthol family, commonly known as mint, hardship only makes you more prolific. Garden boundaries are only suggestions and not meant to corral the mint, but rather the lowly plants that haven't got gams. Since propagating my peppermint and spearmint plants, I have met them in the oddest places. At first it was just a casual meeting just outside the garden box and we both looked away and kept going. Than it was the middle of the lawn; me on a mower and it trying to blend with the crabgrass. I sighed ... and then promptly whacked it with the mower. Than it just started to get creepy, a chance meeting in a dark corner behind the house and in a pile of bricks outside the kitchen. I was starting to feel stalked or at the very least watched. It seemed I really couldn't continue to turn a blind eye to this flagrant disobedience. I had to get tough...So I had a cup of tea. Delicious!

You grab a line I'll get a pole...we'll go down to the crawfish hole...

I don't remember discussing a craw fish hole in the living room. Those of you who know me well will appreciate that this is probably something I would remember discussing. Living in a flood plain, below sea level is not helping my overall plan of keeping craw fish holes 'out the house'. After a rain of any kind this is the result and while for most this might seem like a boon...I don't even like craw fish. Not with butter. Not with potatoes and not in a boil. I'm just simply not a fan. However ,this made the dilemma of whether or not to cover such a lovely craw fish hole with a wooden floor , easier and definitely made putting in floor joists much more exciting. Things where getting a bit dull and moving along a bit to quickly on this re-model. So character and the floor were built sitting in the 'craw fish hole'. In the end I was a bit worried that once the craw fish got a good look at my beautiful new floor they would leave the sanctity of their miry home and squeeze through any crack they could find in order to join us upstairs, but after chicken wire , ten inches of insulation, a sub floor and hard woods I do believe I'm out of danger. To be on the safe side... I just won't leave any boiling pots or drawn butter lying about.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Greek inspiration

Not far from Athens ,Greece there is a field called Marathon. In approximately 490 B.C. the Greeks fought against the Persians in The Battle of Marathon. They fought to keep the Persians from enslaving them. Imagine the cultural and culinary accomplishments that might have been lost on that field. Fortunately they won and Pheidippides, a Greek soldier and courier ran from Marathon to Athens 26 miles away to deliver the good news, where he promptly fell over dead. This news definitely made me rethink my idea of running a marathon. Perhaps I'll start with a half marathon. marathon's are run in commemoration of this faithful soldiers fateful race to announce peace. I on the other hand just want to challenge myself on my road to building up my health and losing weight. A far less noble purpose I agree. However, I am hoping that maybe that good soldier was injured and worn out from fighting? If not I am probably going to rethink even the half marathon. In the mean time I am training away. Understand I have been obese for about 13 years and suffer with asthma and back and stomach pain. walking has always been my chosen form of exercise. Recently I began to run, grant it it is only four minutes at a time, but one has to start somewhere...right? After Changing our diet completely for our entire family

my Husband and I have dropped collectively 80 pounds. Our girls have lost approximately 30 pounds. So far none of us have re found them. While My husband and I still have a little bit more to lose, we are up to the challenge. Since we are being influenced so much today by things Greek, Well, why not have a little bit of Greece for lunch. The girls and I chopped fresh cucumber, tomato, red peppers and artichoke hearts. Thinly sliced red onion and black olives along with calamatas and marinated mushrooms adorned torn copper lettuce. Dressed casually in about an ounce of fresh sheep's milk feta and garlic olive oil and balsamic. Ezekiel bread pitas anointed with olive oil and garlic toasted lightly and cut in points, perched beside this delicious salad. A half an artichoke completed this meal. Despite flavor that any self respecting ancient Greek would approve of, the meal itself was completely healthy and figure friendly. Eaten outside at my little bistro table in perfect 80 degree weather and surrounded by laughing conversation, This was definitely the best part of my training to date. Now, if only running in any length marathon was even half as appealing as lunch.

The whole Enchilada

Who says Mexican food has to be fattening? OK, so most everyone I know! I will have to respectfully disagree. Black beans are high in protein and Fiber as well as many other valuable nutrients and they lose very little of their afor mentioned glory in the cooking process. Fresh salsa of any kind is filled with enzymes and vitamins (and who doesn't like salsa). Unless, of course the ingredients have been radiated, but lets assume for the sake of this conversation your veggies came from your garden or from a local supplier. Baked tortillas cut in perfect little triangles and carrots sliced on a mandolin make perfect dippers for both salsa fresco or guacamole, which in and of itself is filled with good fats that your brain and joints need to keep lubricated. Mexican food makes you smarter to...brilliant! Thin corn tortillas dipped in the hot coconut milk and green chili, cilantro sauce to soften them , are stuffed with homemade vegetarian black beans, sauteed sliced onions and red and orange peppers. These enchiladas are nestled on a barely wilted bed of spinach seasoned lightly with lime and grey salt. guacamole and mango salsa lend a somewhat carribean flare and complete this meal perfectly. I dare say we all felt that these where hands down the best enchiladas we had ever had.

The pretty maids all in a row

I am all about great food, particularly if the food is real. I have always had a love for everything involved in the preparation of a meal, from the growing to the serving. I am in awe of the beauty that real food offers the diner as well as the many health benefit derived from that same plate. Sadly we seem , only to often, to be willing to settle for less than a dining experience and very few consider the food they put in their mouths to have anything to do with their aching joints, headaches and bad skin. Let alone the major problems from diabetes to heart disease to cancer. Give your body a break! Your body is an amazing creation. The mechanics accomplished in one cell of your body alone is unbelievable, but how can you expect it to continue to run smoothly with out the proper nutrients. Now, before you call me and inform me that your bread has thiamine added and at least 12 other vitamins and minerals are swim enthusiastically through you Gatorade, get real! You are betting your life on the fact that scientists and food company CEO's value your life so highly that they only want what is best for you and yours. That is a pretty good amount of confidence that you show in people who are taking your weaknesses and gaining from them. If your comfortable with that then by all means keep right on eating that fat-free dressing and reduced calorie cookie. As for me and my house we will eat the tomato and basil grown in our back yard or by our local farmer. If that seems like an intriguing idea, than have no fear I will be more than happy to share some of my success in the past few months of changing our lives to a more healthy lifestyle.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mysterious Mycelium or Ordinary Mushroom?

Perhaps you have never considered the origin of every ones favorite fungus. Delicious stroganoffs, robust Italian red sauces brimming with caramelized mycelium and spicy schezwan dishes loaded with our versatile little friends. No matter what your taste in food, I have yet to meet anyone who was not some kind of a fan of the earthy mushroom. But had you really considered their genesis? After much debate and serious soul searching we as a family decided to attempt to grow our own Shitake mushrooms. Having had no professional training in the growth of fungus, outside the shower and the plentiful and varied crop of poisonous 'shrooms I excel at growing everywhere I don't want to, this was a slightly intimidating project. After all, what if a stray spore from a rogue poison mushroom were to somehow elbow its way into my house and set up residence among the innocent shitake crop. After ascertaining that the probability of such an occurrence happening was nil, we set about buying and setting up our Shitake Block. These inoculated sawdust blocks came from a company called Mississippi Natural Products ( Who, conveniently, happened to be selling them at my farmers market) after refrigerating them for a few days we sprayed the block down with water covered it with an included humidity bag and left it to its mysterious Myceliumn self ,on our kitchen counter top. Within days bulges appeared, and shortly there after ,whole recognisable mushrooms took form. This was better than any magic, add water and it grows, toy we ever got as kids. It is a wonder this block grew at all with the amount of watching it got. The good news is Mushrooms are not adversely affected by to much attention. When the exciting day came to harvest, everyone had a hand it. I would say there must have been at least two pounds of mushrooms on this block. Very little cleanup needed to be done before caramelizing these beauties in some coconut oil, worchestshire, garlic and white wine. A spattering of gray salt was added and every mushroom consumed with in minutes of serving. Since then, I have used them in hot and sour soup and spaghetti as well. Everyone is enchanted by the process of culinary mushroom growing and we are now considering broadening our horizons and cultivating button and portabello varieties as well. You have to appreciate a crop of anything that can be grown in a compact space on your counter and provide such entertainment for the whole family to boot. Particularly, when the item in question, merely sits in one spot like a lump on a log.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

That first steps a doozy...

As you can see, that is clearly an understatement. For those of you who have only just gotten past the title of this blog do to the dubious spelling of the word doozy feel free to call me and give me the correct spelling. Lets remember, however, that it will automatically identify you as a member of the over sixty crowd, as the under thirty crowd has never even heard the word before. But.....I digress. To the casual onlooker this staircase may seem to be less than safe and almost impossible to maneuver, however this is an actual improvement. Impossible! you exclaim in horror. I assure you, previous to the removal of the floor, the stairs were like every other stairway in our little town, built for incredibly petite, somewhat anorexic women who had had their feet bound as children in China. Moving furniture up for this select group of inhabitants must have been a piece of cake. If you are unfortunately, of a taller stature somewhat wider and somehow managed to avoid having your feet bound you and your furniture were out of luck. The new stairs currently being built will accommodate feet of all sizes and furniture for full grown people and with any luck the first step will be much less of a doozy.

Way down South...

Way down South stands a beautiful old house...with no floor. Where did the floor go you may even now be asking yourselves. Luckily in this instance we actually meant the floor to come up. If there is one thing that is in no short supply in the South, besides craw fish and shrimp po-boys it would be old houses that haven't had a lick of fixin in forever. So when we bought this gem of a project we knew it would need updating and being head over heal in love with history I was enchanted with the idea. Three years later I am no less enchanted ...just covered in grime. Taking Her , our pretty Victorian Lady down to her skivvies has been dirty work. Upon opening one wall we found the wall constructed from old door jams, still completely intact. You gotta do what you gotta do. I have to respect the ingenuity that is inherent to the American experience that allows us to persevere under whatever circumstances we face. So when you have a perfectly good door jam and limited funds...well it just makes good sense. In the South we have been recycling since before it was cool!

In our neck of the woods houses don't stay where you put them. So after a century of slow migration it was rather imperative that we re-do the floor joists and settle them securely on mostly new piers. That is definitely where the real fun begins. Two jacks...brothers, go husband and a smaller jack ( the non-human variety) spent a frustrating morning driving piers deeply into the ground. Before you set pen to paper in a quest to find out from me why they would spend time pursuing this unclear past time. Let me assure you this was not intentional and therefore involved a lot of spitting ( not my husband) and standing in a group with heads cocked to the side. Before you shake your head in disgust, unless you have tried leveling a house in a swamp...well, enough said. Eventually they either hit the backside of China or a well placed rock and the house was declared level...enough. The good news is the floors are going in faster than they came out and I anticipate a day soon when I will walk the floors without fear of my leg going through to the earth below, sadly an experience we have had. Have no fear in the greatest of traditions we are planing all the floors down and re-using them however there will be no doorways used to re-frame the walls ...we're saving those for the roof.

One should always begin at...well, wherever one happened to leave off.

The truth is, this may be the beginning of this blog, but this is far from the beginning. So, I thought, do I start at the beginning and if so ...which beginning. My childrens, my marriage, my birth the creation of the world. I am sure you will be relieved to know that after much deep thought, a few glasses of iced lemon water and a quick check on the progress at the Cherry St house ( our 110 year old victorian we are currently remodeling), the present seemed the best place to start. I am relativley certain however that during our discourse you will at some point or another be exposed to snippets of any of the above subjects. When you are, you may discreetly yawn and scroll quickly down the page until I get to a more interesting topic. I shan't be the least bit offended since I can niether see nor hear you. For those of you who feel the need to call me and tell me that my memory on the subject of my birth is not accurately depicted ( and you know who you are) ...get your own blog.