Saturday, June 30, 2018

Yet another salad for summer …


With the heat of summer upon us, the quest for side dish salads begins. If that salad is one that is sun safe, all the better. A few weeks ago, our daughter requested teriyaki burgers for dinner. We decided to look for a side dish with an Asian flair to go with it. We like edamame, and we like brown rice so this one seemed reasonable to try. 
Before we proceed to the recipe, here is a quick word about brown rice …
Brown rice is a whole grain rice. Like white rice, it has had the outer hull of the grain removed. Brown rice also retains the bran layer and cereal germ. Retaining the bran layer and cereal germ helps retain some of the B vitamins and iron in the rice kernel. Brown rice also has a nuttier texture than white rice and also provides a nice alternative in some dishes.
Brown rice kernels
Edamame and Brown Rice Salad
Ingredients:
1.5 cups uncooked brown rice
1.5 cups shelled edamame
1 diced red bell pepper
3 carrots, peeled and grated
2 or 3 thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (can substitute cider vinegar)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce (optional)

Directions:
1. Prepare the rice per directions. Note that brown rice requires more water and a longer cooking time than white rice. 1.5 cups is the same as two scoops of rice measured with the cup that came with my rice cooker. I added a little more water than I typically would to cook two scoops of rice and let the cooker do its work. Allow to cool after cooking.
2. Cut up the pepper and onions, grate the carrots, and combine together in a large bowl. Stir in the edamame.
Here is a quick picture of the chopped pepper and onion
For the carrots, I used the baby cut carrots that I had on hand. I estimated what looked to be about 3 large carrots. I used the grater blade in my food processor to shred them.

Here is a picture of the edamame. In case you aren't familiar with edamame, these are immature soybeans. They are quite tasty, and I've written about them in a previous post.
3. Stir in the cooled rice
4. Prepare the dressing in a small bowl. Combine all of the ingredients together and then pour over the rice and vegetable mixture. Adjust seasonings as desired. As I noted above, cider vinegar can be substituted if you don't have any rice wine vinegar on hand. I looked up vinegar substitutions online, and this was the recommendation I received.
Here's a final picture depicting one of our grilled teriyaki burgers with a side of brown rice and edamame salad. We were quite pleased with the outcome.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Marking Occasions

This week, our youngest child will graduate from high school, bringing a chapter of our lives to a close. 2018 also marks 10 years since our oldest graduated from high school. For this post, I thought I would share a little about the quilt that marked this first of three high school graduations for our family.
To be perfectly honest, I don't think that this quilt was initially intended to be a graduation quilt. I had intended to make this quilt earlier in his high school career. At that time in my life, I was also pursuing my third degree while working full time. Spare time for sewing wasn't exactly in abundance. I also made this quilt while we were still living at our previous home. I didn't have dedicated sewing space so I needed to limit my endeavors to a table in a corner of the family room or even a small table in a back bedroom that more or less served as a storage room and study space for me.
In some ways, this quilt marks the occasion of my efforts in creating full size quilts. In previous years, I had tied a few quilts and sewn binding around quilted panels for baby quilts. This one gave me my first opportunity of piecing multiple blocks and then arranging them into a quilt. This quilt features a couple of classic quilt blocks - the 9-patch and the sawtooth star. As you can see from these pictures, in creating these blocks, I took a little liberty in combining different colors to create the blocks - particularly with the star blocks. 
This first quilt was also an occasion to develop my piecing skills, including making flying geese blocks. Unfortunately, I ended up with more chopped triangle points than I would have preferred - all part of this occasion of learning new piecing techniques.
Another occasion that I marked in creating this quilt was working with a professional quilter to determine the machine quilting design. When she asked me how I wanted it quilted, I think I just stood there a bit slack-jawed and said, "I don't know." The notion that I would have to decide on a design as well as the density of the quilting pattern had not occurred to me in the slightest. Fortunately, the quilter was understanding and helped me select a stippled pattern for the main portion of the quilt and then a looped pattern for the border. I was quite pleased with the outcome.
During the past 10 years, our family has marked many other occasions. These include three, soon to be four, additional graduations; a wedding; the birth of a grandchild; and the forthcoming arrival of a second. Before this year comes to a close we will be marking the occasions of sending one of our children to a new job in the Pacific Northwest, and moving our third to a college dorm. 
Through all of these occasions, God has been truly faithful. We have experienced His sovereign grace and sufficiency over and over. I will close this post with a reflection from the psalmist regarding the reason for marking occasions and numbering our days.
So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. 
Psalm 90:12

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Nugget Noodles

The topic of this post actually dates back to the days when my boys were in their early elementary school years. As a young family, we didn't often have the time and energy for more elaborate cooking. There were certainly days when we were even known to rely on Hamburger Helper or LaChoy bi-packs for a quick dinner. It was during this time of our family's life, that this dish came into existence. If I remember right, I originally used fettuccini or linguini. Over time, we switched to radiatore, and it took on the name of "Nugget Noodles." To this day, my now young adult children will, on occasion, ask to have nugget noodles with kielbasa for dinner. Given that our youngest child is now on the brink of graduating from high school, I thought I might as well share this recipe from our family's earlier years with you.
As I mentioned above, we now most commonly use radiatore pasta. The most recent time we prepared this dinner, however, we also had some rotini on hand so we used a combination.
Rotini are a type of corkscrew pasta. I haven't been able to identify when this pasta type was invented, however, the name originates from a 17th century Italian word for "small wheels." Rotini supposedly originated in southern Italy with the goal of developing a pasta that would retain sauce better. 
Radiatore are said to resemble radiators and were allegedly developed between the First and Second World Wars. As with rotini, they were developed to better hold sauces. Finding radiatore can sometimes be hit or miss in our local grocery stores. If we do see some, we tend to buy a box or two to keep the pantry stocked.
So now, let's put this dinner together, here is a quick picture of what you will need:

Ingredients:
16 ounce box of pasta - preferably a type like radiatore or rotini that will hold sauce well.
16 ounce bag of frozen California style vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots). Feel free to substitute another preferred vegetable type.
16 ounce jar of prepared Alfredo sauce. Pick whatever style you like. We've used a traditional Alfredo, roasted garlic, mushroom, … you get the idea.

Directions:

  • Prepare the pasta according to directions and drain
  • Prepare the frozen vegetables so that they are warmed through and drain.
  • Toss the pasta and vegetables together and stir in the sauce.
  • Cook over low heat until warmed throughout.
  • Grill a Kielbasa sausage and serve it with the pasta/vegetable mixture.
  • Enjoy a dinner of nugget noodles

Monday, April 30, 2018

Penny (mats) for your thoughts

Although this is a post that I've been contemplating for a while, it's been one that I just haven't been able to sit down to put into writing. Given that we are now at the close of April, this will probably be a rather short post.
As I've shared in several previous posts, I enjoy wool appliqué projects, and I enjoy projects that I can easily tuck into a purse or tote bag to have on hand when I travel. For this month, I thought I would share a couple of small projects that I have complete - one more recently and one a while back. These little mats measure about 8.5 inches across and are "penny mats."
I've come to learn that penny mats aren't necessarily a receptacle for pennies. The name refers more to the size of wool pieces that were originally used to make these mats. According to several folk art-type sites, penny mats date back to about the time of the United States' Civil War. Resourceful homemakers would save even small wool scraps and then sew coin-size pieces together to make decorative mats for their homes. Here is an example of what some of these pieces might have looked like. The person creating the penny mat could stack pieces together and add some decorative stitching.
The pieces could then be sewn to a canvas or burlap back to create a decorative piece that could be used in the home. Here are examples of two different penny mats.

So, back to my two penny mats. Here are a couple of close up pictures. I've placed a few pennies on one of them in part so that you can get a sense of the scale of the wool pieces and in part to keep with the theme of penny mats and penny for your thoughts. Believe it or not, I really do enjoy working with these small pieces of wool, and projects like these are a great way to use leftover scraps from other projects.



Which brings us to the topic of thoughts …
The expression "penny for your thoughts" supposedly dates back to 1535 in England. A paraphrase of the original Old English is as follows, "…when people notice that someone appears disengaged and wish them to rejoin the conversation they ask, 'a penny for your thoughts.'"
Over the past few years, I've found myself contemplating the role of the mind more and more in relation to the Christian walk. So often we think about the role of the heart with an eye to love and compassion. At the same time, both the Old and New Testaments speak to the role of the mind. 
Paul's letter to the Philippians reminds us that God's peace guards our hearts and our minds. Peter tells us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ - growing in knowledge certainly involves the use of the mind. David, in Psalm 1 describes the one who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked as one who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates in it day and night.
A verse that has become particularly intriguing to me is in Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth in which he speaks of "taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." So then, just what does it mean to take thoughts captive? If we back up a few verses in 2 Corinthians 10, we find that Paul is reminding the church not to walk according to the flesh, that our weapons are not of the flesh, and that we are destroying speculations and lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God - seems somewhat reminiscent of Paul's reminder to the Ephesian church to take up the full armor of God and that their struggles were not against flesh and blood.
So then, how are we to take thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ? From a purely practical standpoint, I don't think Paul intends for us to think of nothing else during the course of the day - I do need to give attention to making sound decisions while on the road, decide what to fix for dinner, choosing an outfit for the day - you get the idea.
That being said, do we have occasion to keep thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ even in these situations? For example, what is my attitude towards the other drivers on the road, what is my attitude in serving my family, what are my motives in choosing what to wear? Where might I give the flesh an opportunity, even in these day-to-day situations?
Some other points to consider in keeping thoughts captive to obedience …
  • How am I "feeding" my mind during the day - what am I allowing to distract me and consume my thoughts and time that keep me away from God and meditating on His word?
  • What are my thoughts toward others with whom I disagree or become easily annoyed?
I certainly don't claim to have all of the answers here, and I am certainly on the journey here as well. I do desire that my thoughts be pleasing to God and that I continue to grow in the knowledge of Him.
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.                   2 Corinthians 10:5

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Green Gumbo for St. Patrick's Day

Ok, St. Patrick's Day was 10 days ago. Just the same, I thought I would share the recipe for this green gumbo that we made during the week prior to St. Patrick's Day.
The story behind this vegetarian gumbo is that it was one that became popular during Lent. It features three different types of greens - collard, turnip, and mustard that collectively contribute to its flavor. It's been a recipe that we've been wanting to try for a while and finally made the commitment to do so. We definitely enjoyed this one, and we hope that you will be intrigued enough to give it a try as well. Before I proceed to the recipe, here is a little background on the greens that are featured in the recipe.
Collard greens
Greens is the general expression given to leaves of plants that are eaten as vegetables. In the southern United States, greens are commonly boiled and served with ham or bacon. 
Collards are loose leaf greens that are actually part of the same family as cabbage and broccoli. In addition to the southern United States, they grown in Brazil, Portugal, the Balkans and even Kashmir. Unlike cabbage, collards do not form a head and the individual leaves can be cut. 
Turnip greens
Turnip greens are simply the leaves of the turnip root vegetable. Turnip greens can be harvested once the turnip root becomes established. If you are picking them before the turnips are ready to be pulled, you just need to take care not to pick so many leaves from a given root, that you are compromising its ability to continue to grow. You can see from the picture that turnip greens are a bit more curled than the collards.
Mustard Greens
Mustard greens round out the assortment of greens included in this recipe. The variety available in most US supermarkets have curled leaves which are slightly smaller than the leaves of turnip greens. Mustard greens are also featured in a number of Asian recipes. 
Each of these types of greens is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K. While this recipe features all three types of greens cooked together, each can be prepared individually as well. We've found that we enjoy the blend of the distinct flavors that each type of greens brings to the cooking pot.

So, let's make some gumbo …
As a quick warning, this recipe will feed a crowd. The recipe book indicated that it would feed 20, and that's probably a fair estimation. Feel free to adjust the quantity (or not) as you see fit.
Here are the ingredients:
1 cup olive oil
1 cup flour
2 cups chopped yellow or sweet onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup minced garlic
6 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp thyme
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp white pepper
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp salt
1 lb mushrooms, smoked (yes, it's worth the trouble if you have a smoker)
1 gallon water
1 bunch collard greens
1 small head cabbage
1 bunch turnip greens
1 bunch mustard greens
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 lb red or kidney beans, cooked

Now, let's put this gumbo together.
1. Rinse and sort the beans and soak them overnight. Drain, cover them with water and cook until they are just tender. If it's going to be a while before you are ready to add them to the gumbo, drain them, reserving the liquid so that they don't get too mushy. Otherwise, if you are close to being ready to add them, just turn off the heat. Here's our pot of cooked beans in their water.
2. To smoke the mushrooms - Use medium sized whole mushrooms. Wash them and trim the stems a little. Place them on a pan in a smoker for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool and cut them into quarters. Reserve the liquid on the pan to add to the gumbo pot. You will like the added smoky flavor.
3. Chop the onion, bell pepper, celery, and shallots so that they are ready to add once the roux has reached its desired color. Quick warning - shallots are very strong. You may wish to have an open window to help with some ventilation.
4. Chop the greens and cabbage into roughly 1-inch squares. Cover with the water and boil until tender. To be honest, I didn't measure the pieces. Just chop to what size looks right to you.
Chopped greens getting ready to simmer 
Chopped vegetables in the roux
5. Now, let's make the roux. Use a large, heavy bottomed pot (we use the bottom of our pressure canner cooker). Bring the oil to a medium high heat and then stir in the flour. Stir until the roux takes on a peanut butter color.
6. Stir in the chopped vegetables. Sauté them until they are tender and are starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir in the garlic, herbs, and salt/pepper. Your house should be smelling pretty amazing at this point. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring carefully.
7. Stir in the cooked greens and the water they were cooked in.
8. Stir in the beans and their reserved liquid.
Gumbo boiling on the stove
9. Stir in the mushrooms and parsley. Bring to a boil and adjust seasonings as desired.
10. Serve over rice.
11. Reheat the leftovers the next day and enjoy - gumbo tastes better each time it is reheated.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Remind me again why I wanted to do this project …

This is a post that has been in the works for a few weeks now. I just haven't seemed to find the time to sit down and get it written. My struggle to find the time to write somewhat parallels my struggle to finish this project. Here's a little bit of the story behind this project.
As with several of my other posts, this one features a Row by Row Experience project. The origins of this one date back to my family's 2016 vacation. Prior to that vacation, I reviewed the Row by Row Experience's website to identify participating shops that were located along our planned route (or not too far off the route). Fortunately, my husband was very accommodating to my plans. (The rows from that particular trip will be a topic for another post.)
The first quilt shop stop on our 2016 vacation was The Quilt Basket in York, Nebraska. What made this stop so memorable was that the shop stayed open after closing time so that I could come by to pick up one of their row kits. In 2016, their vertical row featured a raccoon eating corn in the cornfield. I would go on to sign up to be on the email list for this shop. 
Fast forward to June of 2017 when The Quilt Basket revealed the pattern for their "On the go" - themed row. My immediate thought was that it was very cute, and when I showed it to my husband he concurred. Since my summer travel plans didn't include Nebraska, I needed to wait until November when the Row by Row rules allow the shops to mail their patterns and kits.
When I opened the kit and took a closer look, I started to have second thoughts about the project. I quickly found that I hadn't given due consideration to the multiple small pieces that I would need to trace, fuse, cut out, and machine stitch. The picture below of a portion of the row provides some perspective. You can see the multiple individual pieces involved in the raccoon from his overalls to the white stripes on his tail and from his nose, hands, and feet to his mask and the triangles inside his ears.
Now, multiply some of those extra small pieces by four more raccoons, and you get the idea of some of the distinctions of this project. Also, take a look at the angles on the treads of the tractor tires. Machine blanket stitching around these pieces involved quite a bit of starting stopping, turning, and then starting, stopping, and turning some more. 
On more than one occasion, I found myself asking my husband, "Remind me again why I wanted to do this project?" His answer was invariably, "Because it's cute;" however, even though his answer did ring of truth, it wasn't necessarily the answer I was seeking at the time. 
In time, I would find myself working one step closer to completion. One evening, the task might be tracing, fusing, and cutting out all of the black pieces. Another night, the task might be to stitch down all of the cream-colored pieces.
While this project was proved to be more daunting than I anticipated, it was also one that I willingly undertook. In contrast, I've recently found myself in some seemingly daunting situations that have not been of my own choosing. These are the types of scenarios in which I am made acutely aware of my own limitations in my own strength and the absolute critical necessity of relying on God's strength. This reliance does not mean that the outcome will align with my perceived desire or that the journey will be an easy one. It simply means that the One who promises never to fail me nor forsake me will be with me. This promise that God made to Jacob when he was fleeing Esau is one that has been speaking to me in recent weeks:
And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 28:15

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Celebrating the Olympics … this time with bulgogi!

As many of you already know, major events such as the Olympics provide us with an opportunity to locate and try out new recipes. Our Olympic tradition dates back to 2006 with the Torino games when we made baked ziti. Other examples include borscht in honor of the 2014 Sochi games and a pork and black bean stew to mark the 2016 Rio games.
With Pyeongchang games, we have been eager to try out some Korean recipes. We found a great Korean food blog site: Kimchimari that has provided a great start to our efforts. The first recipe we tried was bulgogi. I hope that you will consider trying this recipe as well.
First, let's take a look at South Korea and the 2018 Olympics:

1. PyeongChang is located in the Gangwon province of South Korea
2. The venues for the 2018 games are actually located across the area with most events held in the mountain region while others such as hockey and the skating events are being held in Gangneung which is on the country's east coast.

 3. Although PyeongChang is at about the same latitude as southern Utah, its geography makes it the coldest city on earth relative to its latitude. Those of us who have been following the Olympics have noted some of the delays in the skiing events because of the cold and wind.
4. The mascot of the 2018 Olympic Games is Soohorang, a white tiger. The white tiger is regarded as Korea's guardian animal. "Sooho" is the Korean word for protection, and "rang" comprises part of the Korean word for tiger.
Now, let's make some bulgogi!
Ingredients:
The marinade:
3 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs minced garlic
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbs chopped green onion
2 Tbs pear puree - the pear serves as a tenderizer. We picked out an Asian pear at the grocery store. Chopped kiwi or pineapple also will serve as a tenderizer.

The meat
1 lb thinly sliced beef - we used top sirloin

Here's the chopped green onion and the pear puree


Here are all of the marinade ingredients stirred together
Now to cut up the meat. This picture gives you an idea as to how thinly we sliced ours:
Now, let's stir it all together and let it set for a few hours. Are you starting to imaging the amazing smells?
Bulgogi can be prepared with or without vegetables such as onions, peppers, or carrots. We elected to include some sliced onion in ours.
We used our wok to stir fry up our bulgogi. We added the onion first to get it nice and soft. 
When adding the meat, make sure that the pan is well heated so that the meat sizzles when it hits the surface. 
 Serve the bulgogi over rice and enjoy!
 What have been your favorite memories of the 2018 Winter Olympics?