Monday, December 22, 2014


The sibilant sigh of
solstice snow. It comes
shrouding familiar scene,
quelling hurried time.
Hushing, shushing, damping, tramping.
Mantling branch and twig in vestal down.

The infant cry of
Infinite Man. He comes
bearing familiar frame,
dwelling in measured time.
Hushing, shushing, forever crushing shame.
Mantling mankind in matchless worth. 

Merry Christmas EVERYONE!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

What I Mean by Tacos

Just to make things absolutely clear, when I use the term "taco" I refer to all types of meals wrapped in a tortilla but expressly NOT one of those tasteless, pre-cooked, cardboard-y things sold in packs of 10 in the grocery store. I mean a vast assortment of delicious foods folded or wrapped in fresh, warmed or fried tortillas, either flour or corn. Okay? Just wanted to get that established from the beginning. 

It just so happens that I have jumped into my bean blogging career mid-week, mid-bean batch. Stay with me and you'll undoubtedly get the whole process eventually. Yesterday I found a small bit of salmon left over in the fridge from last weekend and decided on fish tacos with this week's black beans on the side. I thought you might enjoy seeing one on my variations on taco building. Here we go in random, non recipe fashion:

I placed some fresh corn tortillas on a cookie sheet and spread about a half teaspoon of olive oil mayo on each one, then drizzled Sriracha sauce onto that.
I placed them in a 350* oven to warm. Then I put about a half cup of beans in a couple of ramekins. Here's a little hint for you: when reheating beans in the microwave, place a moist paper towel over them before heating. It prevents them from exploding all over your microwave. I zapped them and left them in the oven. Then in a sizzling steel skillet, I drizzled a little amount of excellent olive oil and seared the thin salmon until it turned white around the edges. Because it was so thin, this only took about three minutes. I flipped the fish, turned off the skillet, and finished cooking it by chopping it up with the spatula, stirring as it cooked. 

I pulled the tortillas out of the oven and plated them. On top of each tortilla, I put a whole leaf of lettuce, then the salmon, some grated cheese and confetti-ed red pepper. All over this I drizzled some more olive oil mayo and Sriracha.  I served this with some of that marshmallow and cool whip salad type thing that I made up at the last minute using left over cranberry relish. To make it really special I toasted some chopped pecans and tossed them in at the last minute. Incredible!!
The lettuce leaf makes the taco almost bomb-proof easy to eat and everything was well timed and delicious. 

I forgot to mention this took less than half an hour to throw together. I'm nothing if not practical. I usually serve the largest meal at lunch. In the mornings, I come down to my studio on the lowest level of the house where the kitchen and dining room are also. I lay out my paints, maybe start a painting, and then begin thinking about lunch. If the beans haven't already been cooked, they are started, some meat might be thawed or the leftovers appraised. I make the meal in small increments until it's time to toss it all together just before lunch. This is fun, creative, and most importantly, gets me out of my painting brain which can get too narrow focused, too nitpicky unless I frequently step away from the canvas, breathe some outside air, toss the ball for the dogs, bug Tim in his studio, or fuss in the kitchen. 

I said I would tell you how I became the Queen of Beans, but got all excited about cooking and didn't get around to it. Next time, perhaps. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Beans and Such

I have been wanting to start writing again but apparently a huge log jam of ideas has got me bound up.  So, yesterday it occurred to me: I need to write about something different.  Or write about things differently.  And it just came to me:  beans, I bet no one is blogging about.... BEANS.

I love lentils, red and blacks, northerns, pintos and navies. Every week I cook about two pounds.  I start by soaking them in a large bowl of water for at least 10 hours. Next day I rinse and drain the beans and put them in the slow cooker with enough water to cover.  Into that goes a couple thick slices of bacon (or 2 T olive oil if going vegan,) 2 T of salt, and three or four large cloves of garlic; this is my basic, foundational recipe. I simmer them on high for 3-5 hours, depending on the beans** until they are creamy but still meaty and delicious. On day one, we usually just have a bowl of plain beans, with perhaps some fresh corn tortillas, plain or fried, or a small salad on the side. But beans are the main course.

This week I added to the basic recipe 2 T finely ground coffee and 1 T of pure chili powder (not the blend but "chili puro" from New Mexico.) These black beans needed an extra hour or two to soften but when they did, they were fantastic!!!  Yesterday (day two) I added some left over taco meat (ground beef) and served it over a small portion of rice.  This is how the week usually progresses. Tomorrow I'll probably make some tacos al pastor (fresh tortillas, not fried) with beans on the side, or maybe they'll morph into chili.... and so forth until the beans are all gone or I get sick of them. Usually there is only a half a cup or so left at the end of the week that gets tossed so that I can start fresh.

**By the way, if you wonder about the intestinal discomfort from dried beans, a word of warning and encouragement.  Soaking the beans adequately tends to break down some of the enzymes that are hard to digest so by all means, soak them beans!  And make sure you rinse, drain, and then BOIL especially pintos and kidneys rapidly for 10 minutes before simmering them. These have an unusually high amount of the toxin.  If your slow cooker doesn't get hot enough to simmer the beans adequately, you may need to boil all your beans before cooking them in a crock pot.  My slow cooker has an adequate 'high' setting so I cook everything in it right from the start except for pintos and kidneys.

Next time I'll tell you a little bit about how this passion began.  Oh, did I mention coffee beans? Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Gardening by Neglect ~ Random Reflections of the Growing Season

Every year I buy a few plants at the end of the season. I troll the home improvement centers for the bargain racks, the"buy it or we trash it" sale at the back of the garden center.  I know it's risky planting trees or perennials in July; the plants take a lot of watering and tender loving care to survive the hottest part of the summer.  But these plants are, after all, survivors.  They have usually had all their top growth die off and are struggling to produce new shoots from the root ball.  I snatch them from their impending doom and say, "Hey, this one wants to live!!  I'll save you, little tree! You can come live with me, scrawny scabiosa!"  Then , if they survive the hottest part of the summer and endure throughout a winter, I deem them worthy of living in my garden.  I call it "Gardening by Neglect."

When we bought this corner lot, it had a four century maples and a few tiny foundation plantings. Over the last 16 years we have planted screening trees, ornamentals and shrubs, and converted hundreds of square feet of perfectly good lawn into expansive borders and flower beds.  The good news is that we can no longer see nor barely hear the car wash behind our alley, we have shaded the house from the hot afternoon sun, we have perennials and re-seeding annuals that bloom in succession all around the house, there are four magnificent rose bushes that border our patio with majesty, clematis climbing all over everything, and bees in abundance.  The bad news is how much weeding and mulching and feeding are required throughout our extensive growing season in this part of Missouri.. Honestly, I just don't have the "spark" anymore to keep it up like I used to.  That  is why I call my technique: Gardening by Neglect.  In other words, if it survives, it survives.  If it doesn't, it doesn't deserve to live in MY garden.  It's a lot like my greenhouse technique.... which means that my houseplants have to be incredibly tenacious to survive my episodic, spasmodic care.

Another thought has perplexed me lately, though.... and that is the tenacity of undesirable plants. I hesitate to call them 'weeds' because one woman's weed is another woman's focal planting. We have a yard FULL of wild violets and clover.  Now, those of you who have battled violets know that they spread tenaciously by bulb.  There are no weed killers known to be effective against them and the recommended treatment is 'pulling."  Yea, in your DREAMS.  Of course, like eliminating any successful invader, if you leave one single bulb, you have lost the battle.  These amazing plants have given me a new respect and possibly a new definition of what exactly is a "weed":  a plant that can grow anywhere, in any light condition, with or without water.  A desirable, on the other hand, must be planted in EXACTLY the right spot with precise amounts of light and water and food. The violets, by contrast, live under shrubs, in full sun, on the dry slope and the bogs, in clay or loam.  They grow literally everywhere, in the cracks of the sidewalk, under the porch, in every lawn and planting area.  Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  The 'lawns' I have over-planted with Dutch Red-Clover and now require no more than one or two mowings a month and, now that the clover is established, very little watering.

A lawn care specialist stopped us the other day as we pulled up alongside our front curb and told us he could take care of our weed problem!  I almost ran him off the block!  What, kill off my clover?  You can call them weeds if you want to, but I call it my lovely, gently waving meadow.  Hey, we live on a corner and nobody has to worry about my meadow encroaching on their boring single leaf lawn.  So do not judge.

I also have learned through observation, that the flower bed always looks less weedy on the other side of the fence, but, if you slow down and walk the neighborhood, as I do every morning with my two dogs, those borders look a lot different upon closer inspection.  The nearer I get, the more weeds I see.  And I do mean, WEEDS.  No one, in their right mind, wants mulberry, black walnut, red bud or elm trees growing up between the zinnias nor do vetch or crab grass belong in the mulch! I am satisfied with a smugness that consoles my urban conformity.  And justifies my claim to having an English cottage-style garden, seemingly random, care less and care free.  Some might just say messy.  To each his own.

So, taking a much more relaxed, laid back kind of attitude works for me.  Sometimes.  Most days. After all the rain we are getting this week I think I will probably have to spend a day or two ripping out the red buds in the seams of the patio and whack along the fences and maybe even 'weed' a flower bed or two.  I'm actually concerned about too much water at this point.  My neglected garden does NOT know how to handle that!