Blog, Food, nature

Foraging for Food

Day 184

Yesterday as I walked through our local Fresh Market grocery, I ran across a very familiar sight. There in the middle of the produce section was a plastic shrink-wrapped package of fiddlehead ferns with an accompanying placard explaining what they are.

When I lived in Maine and then in Alaska, we frequently foraged for fiddlehead ferns. They were cleaned, blanched and then frozen for consumption during the winter months. It was laborious especially if you gathered a large volume, but so delicious!

Seeing the fiddleheads reminded me of a place in Asheville, No Taste Like Home which offers foraging tours to learn about foraging for wild foods in this area. This is something I have wanted to do since we moved back here and this is the year!

It is a very cool concept. No Taste Like Home promotes itself as an ecotour company that specializes in foraging. Their tours vary in length and location with each including an appetizer whipped up with the findings of the day. There is also an option to take the items you foraged to one of four well-respected restaurants in Asheville where they will create a free appetizer using your provided ingredients. The dinner is on you and that’s as it should be!

I remember going into the woods with my grandfather as a young child. He taught me a lot about plants and he gathered many for health purposes. We were closely bonded through the experience and it has had a life-long impact on my respect for mother nature.

Growing up, we planted a garden, of course, but we also picked wild blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. We also gathered the plentiful black walnuts for drying and eventual cracking for consumption — finger smashing work — and also chinquapins (a dwarf chestnut). Oh, how I loved chinquapins! There were also apples and grapes but most of those were no longer wild when I was growing up.

Thinking about my foraging roots brings back memories of my little blackberry bucket. We each had one — they resembled a beach sand pail. We had our own responsibility for filling our buckets but only after the blackberry patches had been checked for snakes.

April is upon us and it is almost time for ramps to be gathered, too. Another wonderful one of nature’s bounties. Their flavor is very similar to a strong garlic/onion combination. They are only here for a short while and, unfortunately, they have been over-harvested. This is why learning the proper way to forage is so important.

Last year I made ramp butter which is divine on top of a grilled steak. I also made some fantastic scrambled eggs with ramp leaves. I cannot wait!

Have I mentioned I love where I live?

Blog, Death, Food, music, sister, thoughts

Mind Waltz

Day 110

I am doing it again. Too many rambling thoughts rummaging for a place in my head. Best way to tame them is to name them.

WordPress Theme – I love WordPress. I have used it to design many, many websites over the years. I love the flexibility. I have two self-hosted WordPress websites but I have resisted self hosting my blogs. I love the WordPress Reader community. I would miss that. What I would love is the flexibility to format the blog the way I want it – the thing I most love about the platform. I searched out the old Pachyderm theme that I use on my other blog only to find out it is no longer being updated. Bummer. What all this means is that I may change my theme again. And maybe again.

Music – Songs have been running top-speed through my mind this morning. I was listening to one of my favorite songs — also the song I hope will be played at my funeral morbid as that may sound to some. It was written by Tom Waits and is featured on The Black Rider soundtrack but that is not at all the rendition of the song I love. The version that touches my heart is by Niamh Parsons. What an angelic voice and the harmony with Fran McPhail is pure gold. (I also intend to write my own obituary. As an amteur genealogist, accuracy is important!)

Then I found a recording of Ashokan Farewell which our daughter and our niece played at our wedding. The violin and piano duet is simply beautiful. When I played it on YouTube today hubby heard it and came down to look for the music for mandolin (the two instruments — violin and mandolin — are similar in some way). It was nice to hear him play it considering he has only had a few lessons.

The piece was composed by Jay Ungar and he says it comes out of a sense of loss and longing. Not what most people would pick for a wedding, I suppose, but give it a listen. It is beautiful.

Memories – My sisters have been very present in my memories. Maybe because I have been in touch with both my nieces today or maybe because I was perusing some old blog entries. Nonetheless, it was nice because the thoughts were pleasant and not wracked with grief. I do miss them so much. I chuckled today when I stubbed my toe and uttered “Dammit, Jim.” One of my sister’s favorite ways of expressing frustration and for you fans, a definite Star Trek reference.

Cleaning – I did manage to finish packing all the Christmas decorations and hubby stored them away. Well, all but the village pieces atop the kitchen cabinets. Maybe tomorrow.

So, a big jumble of thoughts day. Expecting some icy eather in the morning. Hubby is making his delicious chicken, potato, and kale dish for dinner.  It will go perfectly with our bottle of our favorite new Cabernet — Sailor’s Grave. Try it if you can find it. Check out the video. It’s a hoot.

art, Blog, Food, gardens, jewelry, snow

Life is a Whirlwind

Day 60

Well, here we are folks, at day 60 of our 365-day blogging challenge. I am finding that my daily blog is as much a part of my thinking as my morning cup of coffee. It has become something I do because I really want to do it. It has been good for me to talk about my day and remember fond memories from my childhood. That’s two months! Patting myself on the shoulder.

I also want to mention that I love the Grammarly Chrome extension I downloaded. I receive an email every week that tells me how many words I wrote, what my most common errors are and what percentile I fall in for various writing and grammar topics. I have learned I am not as bad as I once feared! Of course, I do not have the paid version which would do more sentence structure and complex grammar checking, but I will continue to use this free version for now.

Jewelry Workshop

IMG_7924 2My weekend workshop was superb! Our instructor is a kind and generous teacher. She is so helpful and supportive which is what you need when you are starting out. She never does work for us – but she answers questions and helps us troubleshoot if necessary. I ran into problem after problem, yet I persevered. I ended up with three pieces I was really fond of. They took a great deal of time and patience but I’m so glad I hung in there.

I really want a jewelry studio — just putting it out there in the universe. Hubby has carved out space in the garage for me to work — once he gets the junk moved out of the way of course. Then he will build me work surfaces and my job will be to figure out how to pay for the equipment. Stay tuned to see if I come up with any grand ideas!

Late Fall Days

IMG_7926 2Today was just beautiful. We went for our morning walk and the weather was perfect. Several neighbors were out walking as well. It was in the 50 degrees F range which made it warm enough to dress lightly and cool enough for the walk to warm us up. These perfect days will come to a close tonight as our weather is supposed to dip into much cooler temperatures. We even have possible snow predictions for the weekend.

IMG_7925 2We are having a salad for dinner with some leftover salmon. I picked the last bit of the lettuce in the garden and some fresh dill — my favorite flavor in a salad! I picked up accompaniments at the grocery store. And guess what else I found there! My childhood peppermint sticks. Of course, I bought a box.

With that, I will leave you and go about fixing dinner. It’s so much easier to write when I am well rested. The weekend wore me out, but I am so glad I went.

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” 
John F. Kennedy

 

art, Blog, Cooking, creativity, Food, friends, jewelry, Relaxation, Writing

Downtime

Day 25

Day 25 — wow, that is almost a month. I must say this has been a little easier than I anticipated, but I still have 11+ months to go so I should not be getting too cocky about this yet. It has been good for me. My blog is like my best friend. I come here to unload my problems or just chat about my day.

I am still recovering from yesterday. I slept in fairly late, but I blame that on the medicine I took yesterday. I am feeling better, but still have moments here and there that let me know I am not yet recovered.

Taking it Easy

As I said, I got up late but managed to fix some breakfast for hubby and I. Just simple scrambled eggs and toast. It was nice to just sit together and chat for a few minutes. Just fixing a little breakfast took more energy than I thought, so I sat down and caught up on email and social media.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up in a few days and I tried to recruit a few people to write along with me. So far, one person — everyone else — no cigar. I probably will not meet my goal, but I am going to give it a try. Who knows, I might just come up with the next great American novel.

I had an enjoyable video chat with my daughter and my youngest granddaughter who is home sick this week. Technology is amazing and I am always so excited to see her and see how much she has changed. She is at the age where every day it is some new word or new action. It fills my heart with such joy.

We had tuna salad for lunch and then I had a quick chat with my son who filled me in on all the fun of my granddaughter’s birthday party that we unfortunately missed. It’s always nice to chat with him, except that I learned my grandson is sick with a virus. At least it is nothing serious. My poor little ones!

Creating

ButterBell
Butter Bell

Today was the perfect day to pull out those watercolor pencils I bought. I have not tried to sketch anything in so long I was very tentative about it. I did play with some rough sketches a little. Results were not great, however, I am pleased with at least the effort. I know the more I practice the better it will be. I’ve not used watercolor pencils much so that will be a bit of a learning curve as well.

I created a new cover for my Facebook page that reflects how I am feeling about the hate so prevalent in our world right now. It makes me feel better to find some outlet to express how I feel, but I also know my vote is the most powerful action I can take.

44943354_10156876839606057_2837108756964179968_oAfter lunch I managed to take a few pictures of the rings I made in my ill-fated weekend workshop. They do not have the finish I would have liked, but I am happy with them just the same. At least I am creating again and that feels good.

I have a pot of chili on the stove simmering in preparation for dinner and hopefully some quarts to go into the freezer. I was inspired after hearing my good friend Lauren was enjoying some split pea soup. I love split pea soup but it is the one soup that always fails me!

All in all it was a good day of rest and creativity. A welcome respite from the chaos of the world.

How was your day?

IMG_2615

“Rest and be thankful.”
William Wordsworth

 

 

 

 

Blog, Cooking, Food, Home, memories

Comfort Food

Day 21

Nothing says home like comfort food. The smell, the taste and often times the simple thought of it induces a feeling of well being and happiness. It can be a memory from our past or some flavor combination that maybe stimulates something in our distant DNA. I am not a scientist, so I do not know, but what I do know is that food and memory go hand-in-hand.

Breakfast

eggs and toastThis morning was chilly here in the foothills. The overnight temperature hit 42 degrees F. We have not yet hit the freezing mark, but we have danced around it several times. Our house has a lot of windows so the house is not always toasty warm in every nook and cranny. I have already donned my fleece pants and sweats to keep me warm.

When I started thinking about breakfast, I knew immediately I wanted ‘chopped up hard boiled eggs’ — a breakfast meal we had many times growing up. It is a homey concoction of hard boiled eggs chopped up with butter and salt and pepper. Always served with buttered toast. It is warm and inviting and says everything about home and sitting around with family in our PJ’s enjoying a meal together. My husband has never tried it. He thinks the idea of putting butter on hard boiled eggs is not at all appealing.

Most of my comfort foods I associate with growing up seem to revolve around breakfast. My grandmother made pancakes — hotcakes as she called them — always served with butter and warm syrup. The syrup had to be warm. I am sure a warm breakfast meal was always important as it was often very cold in the valley where I grew up.

My other breakfast favorite was leftover biscuits, sliced and toasted under the broiler, served with butter and syrup. I am seeing a pattern here – warm foods, butter and warm syrup. Maybe I just respond to carbs more that the average person.

Of course there were meals I did not like AT ALL. We often had oatmeal to which my grandmother added raisins and brown sugar. Lord, save me from warm puffy raisins. Ugh. The other was ‘corn meal mush’. Cornmeal cooked in boiling water served hot with milk. Yuck. It was especially bad when I bit in to a lump of dry cornmeal that did not get mixed well with the water. Nope. Do not miss that at all.

Cast Iron Cooking

Cornbread seems to be served in one or two basic ways. Sweetened or unsweetened. I like both okay, but warm unsweetened cornbread with melted butter (butter again!) is a food I will never tire of. Always baked in a cast iron skillet in a hot oven so you get an amazing browned crust.

I remember one meal at my maternal grandparents house. We sat down to eat when my grandmother brought a plate to the table, slices of delicious warm cake — or so I thought. It was cornbread. My paternal grandmother never sliced her cornbread, it was always broken, so sliced cornbread was new to me. I was sorely disappointed (even though I love cornbread) to learn I was not destined to have cake for dinner that day.

The other comfort food always made in a cast iron skillet, was pineapple upside down cake. Again, butter in the skillet, slices of pineapple and brown sugar topped with a rich batter and baked in a fairly hot oven. My mouth waters just thinking about it. We never had cherries on ours and it is still my preference not to have cherries. But it must be warm.

Every southern cook has a cast iron skillet. It is used for everything from eggs, to cornbread, to frying chicken and even dessert. Definitely a must-have in my kitchen.

My Mom

My mom was a great country cook. She made wonderful fried chicken with biscuits and milk gravy. I have never been able to achieve her level of expertise in frying chicken. She would never buy a pre-cut chicken – it always had to be whole so she could cut the pieces the way she wanted them. It was the best – hot or cold.

The other thing my mother used to make was a salad/dessert we just called ‘banana salad’. It was simple – a banana sliced in half lengthwise. The flat surface of the banana spread with Miracle Whip, then topped with chopped peanuts. The idea of this delicacy seems to turn more people’s stomaches that any food I talk about. But, it was so delicious. Unfortunately, I developed a minor peanut allergy late in life, but I discovered that it is just as delicious with chopped cashews.

Cool Weather Fare

Panang CurryNow that we live where there are four seasons, we are getting back to eating more hearty meals. Especially in the winter. We look forward to sweater weather and pots of homemade soup. I absolutely love Trisha Yearwood’s recipe for chorizo and kale soup. It is so good and one we eat often (with cornbread of course). My husband also makes a killer homemade vegetable soup that has also become a winter staple.

It’s not just food you make at home. It’s food that speaks to us. Last night it was take-out Thai food from a great local Thai restaurant. I had Panang Curry as I always do. My daughter got me hooked on it and it has become one of my favorite comfort foods. Maybe I will even try to make it myself someday if I can find kaffir lime leaves somewhere locally.

Comfort means a lot in this crazy world. I do not eat the foods I mention often, but they are foods that mean home to me. And home means comfort.

“Food is a lot of people’s therapy. When we say comfort food, we really mean that. It’s releasing dopamine and serotonin in your brain that makes you feel good.”
Brett Hoebel