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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

— 1 —

Travel is so very strange. You spend weeks or even months anticipating the trip, and then it comes…and then it’s gone. Last week at this time, I felt as if I were in the midst of some epic trek and now…it’s over. And it’s been over for a week. And it feels as if it all happened a few years ago.

I did write a bit about it, as promised – two posts, one on the practicalities of the trip, and the other on the food. 

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We were there….

— 2 —

We’re getting closer to the publication date of my new book, The Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories. 

Looking good!

— 3 —

What with travel and my older son working in the evenings, we haven’t done much movie-watching recently, but we finally squeezed one in last night: Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, which provided some inspiration to George Lucas in the imagining of Star Wars. 

It was mostly enjoyable, but of course not nearly the film that The Seven Samurai is. The acting was not quite as naturalistic, and in particular the female lead screeched her part, and I for one, was very grateful when I learned that the character would be feigning muteness as part of the plot. I do wonder if some of the exaggerated and mannered speech in the film is an expression of some Japanese theater tradition.

That said, the film had an effective and actually somewhat emotional climax – and Toshiro Mifune is always…. a pleasure to watch. That’s what she said…

I really want to watch Stray Dog next. 

— 4 —

Currently reading: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

My son has to read it for school, so I thought I’d take a shot at it, as well, never having read it before. (As with last summer – he had to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which I’d never read, and found absolutely fascinating.)

It’s not high literature, but it’s certainly effective – and it strikes me as a good segue into that junior year in which they are doing the later half of both American history and American literature.

And you know someone is a decent writer when he can render an immigrant family’s attempt to purchase a house in such a way that you can’t put the book down until you find out what happens….

— 5 —

Regular readers know of Casa Maria, the local convent and retreat center at which my sons often serve Mass. The foundress of the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word, Mother Mary Gabriel Long, passed away earlier this week. Here is her obituary – I had no idea she and Sister Assumpta Long, OP of the Dominicans in Ann Arbor, were actual sisters.

— 6 —

Cooking: Made this strawberry cake – very simple and very good. 

(I used a springform pan, btw)

— 7 —

I finally figured out how to link Google photos with WordPress, so I’ll be super lazy and finish off these takes with some more pics from the trip:

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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When you imagine traveling abroad, is food a part of the picture? Do you imagine yourself lingering over long dinners in Paris bistros or Italian trattorias, discovering humble geniuses creating marvels on hidden Tuscan roads?

Yeah, well. I like food – most food – and look forward to eating adventures when I travel, but really, most of the time, I end up hacking up a roast chicken and boiling some pasta for overtired kids in a kitchen where I’m never quite sure if I turned the gas off properly or not.

Obviously, children – and the constraints of time and money – impact the experience of food when you’re traveling.  Mine are not the pickiest eaters in the world, but nor are they the most adventurous, although there’s been a lot of growth over the past couple of years on that score. Palates are definitely maturing.

But what that has meant is that dining has never been a focus of travel for us, as it is for some. We need to eat, we eat when we can (I always tell them  when we’re traveling: When there’s food in front of you…eat as much as you can. You never know when your next chance for a meal is going to come. )

We’ve had some good meals, but we’ve also eaten a lot of street food (which is almost my favorite) and plates of cured meats and cheese and bread in the apartment at night (which is my absolute favorite and why expensive plates of charcuterie offered in American restaurants irritate me – I can get the same and more of better quality from any Italian grocery store for a fraction of the price…). It’s a challenge (and expensive) to depend on restaurants as the focus of dining when you’re traveling, especially with children. Especially in southern European countries, where dinner is late – oh, my.

The first time we went to Spain, I knew they ate late, but I didn’t know how late until, starting about 8, I would descend from our Barcelona apartment and take a walk down the block, looking in restaurant windows – is anyone in there yet? Not at 8, not at 8:30. All still empty. Finally, at 9, I decided that this was ridiculous. I had a teenage daughter, an 8-year old and a 3-year old. The kids had to eat. Nine pm? Still no one in the restaurants. We finally settled on a Chinese place, where there were indeed a few occupied tables – perhaps we wouldn’t feel like complete idiots there. Except when I asked the server for napkins and she returned and tossed a stack of paper napkins on the table. Still in the plastic package. Um, gracias? 

So yes, when traveling, we eat lunch out, but dinners have been mostly takeaway eaten in the apartments we’ve rented, and that’s fine. Cheaper, too.

But this was different. Part of the reason was undoubtedly the guide. It’s not that he took us to every single meal, but with his help, we were guaranteed that at least half of our meals would be interesting and we would understand what we were eating, and do it right.

And it was also different because of the food. It was mostly just….good. Dependably good. It was fresh and freshly made, from the tortillas to the steamed or lightly boiled vegetables. The vegetables had not come out of a can, the meat had not been thawed from Cotsco bags. The meals were prepared, not warmed up, and the kitchens were in sight. It was farm-to-table, mostly open kitchen, but it was simple, not self-conscious, normal, not trendy, and offered with a sense of care and pride just because that’s the way you treat food and eating in this culture.

So, the week of eating. It started out fairly average then greatly improved as the week went on.

Sunday

On a Sunday evening in San Ignacio, there wasn’t a lot open. Actually, as I think about it, it was late Sunday afternoon, not evening – we hadn’t had lunch, so this was filling that gap as well. We ate at Tandoor Restaurant and Bar – Indian-owned, with a mixed menu. (There is a large population of Indians and Chinese in Belize. In fact, most small retail is owned by Chinese now, which is a whole other, interesting story) The place is on Burns Street, which has been closed to traffic, and as a pedestrian walkway is clearly party central. Buckets of beer on offer everywhere and so on, ready for the student/hipster/hikers back from their day of adventures.

I had escabeche – a traditional Belizean onion soup, that was..full of onions. Which it’s supposed to be! But they weren’t that strong, and the soup was very filling with good spice. My son had a chicken quesadilla, which he said was good.

Monday

Monday lunch was at El Sombrero, which is an ecolodge near the Yaxha ruins. We ordered lunch, and then took a boat ride out to the Toxopate ruins on a nearby island, then returned, where lunch was quickly presented to us. I honestly don’t have a vivid memory of the meal – it was late in the afternoon, we’d had a very bumpy ride in the morning in an unsuccessful bid to see one set of ruins (the roads ended up being impassible), then toured Yaxha, then the island ruins, with the drive to Tikal still to come. I’m pretty sure I had grilled chicken, served with the usual sides. It was tasty.

Dinner was at the Jungle Lodge, which, as I mentioned yesterday, has a very mundane menu. I had an antipasto plate which was well prepared – the eggplant clearly just grilled and so on – I don’t remember what my son had. I was mainly irritated at the menu. Onward!

Tuesday

Tuesday was Sunrise Tour day – meaning we rose at 4 am, met our guide at 4:30, walked through the jungle, and climbed up Temple IV for sunrise at 5:30 or so. So yes, by 11, it was time to eat.

Neart the hotel area at Tikal are several comedors or small, informal restaurants. We had a little bit of back-and-forth about the exchange rate, but that didn’t mar the experience of the food, which was very good. I had a chicken dish and my son had beef of some sort.

Here you can see the typical plating: the protein, rice, vegetables (carrots and a kind of squash), with tortillas and pickled carrots/onions/jalapenos.

 

The place, as they all are, is basically open air – there’s a roof, but no walls. One woman serving, the other in the kitchen. There’s a wait because they’re cooking the food, not warming it up. Very, very good.

The comedors aren’t open for dinner, so you’re stuck with the hotel restaurants. We ate this one at the next door Jaguar Inn, and the food was a little better than it had been at our hotel. I had a fruit plate – the best pineapple I’ve ever had and excellent other fruit.

Wednesday

We slept late on this day – rising at 6 am, not 4, so that was exciting. After a morning at Tikal and a bumpy ride around the edge of the park, we arrived in the village of Uaxactun, which features ancient ruins on both sides of the modern-day village which in turn is centered on a now-unused airstrip, built for the time when the surrounding jungle was harvested for chicle (the natural gum that was the original chewing gum – hence, Chicklets). Now, the forest is managed to harvest two resources: a type of fern that is exported to Holland for use in flower arrangements, and hardwood. We went into the small, quiet restaurant with chickens and pigs roaming around outside the door – quiet but for the moaning and chanting of prayers from the evangelical prayer meeting next door – placed our order for lunch, then toured the first set of ruins.

We had two choices: chicken or deer (hunted from the jungle). Of course we chose deer!

 

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Avocado and refried black beans also on the plate, in addition to the usual rice and vegetables. 

Dinner was in Flores that night. We wandered around a bit, saw a few possibilities, and then studied the menu outside of this one tiny place. My son was hankering for a hamburger, and this menu featured it. I have no idea what the restaurant was called. There were maybe five tables inside, and no customers. The cook/server/owner was an older woman sitting at a table with a newspaper, watching a telenova. She was very friendly to us, and didn’t seem to mind being interrupted – after she took our order, she changed the channel, presumably for Michael’s benefit, to some weird game-show type show featuring Vin Diesel in which cars were driven from second story windows and smashed up.

Anyway, Michael got his hamburger, and I got a very fine chicken soup. I’m pretty sure the vegetables had been prepared just for the soup – after our order, I heard the chef chopping away up there in the kitchen.

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In the corner of the tiny restaurant was this:

(Forgive the size – you can’t resize videos on WordPress, unfortunately.)

Thursday

Thursday was another adventurous day involving much boat riding. After seeing the Aguateca ruins, we returned down the creek to the town of Sayaxche to the Cafe Maya. No written menu, but five or six choices presented to us. I chose the local whitefish – Michael had shrimp.

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The cafe was filled with workers on their lunch break, most of them either medical people or telecommunications employees, judging from their uniform polo shirts. No McDonald’s for these folks, lucky them.

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On our way across the river to Sayaxche. It was a small boat. Two women with a motorcycle crossed with us. 

This was a long, tiring day, and lunch had been late, so when we returned to Flores at 7:30, neither of us were interested in a lengthy dinner, so we settle for tacos at a bar/cafe – no photos, but the chicken and pork tacos were very good.

Friday

Friday was our last day with our guide  – he’s been taking us to the Ixpanpajul nature preserve outside of Flores, then onto the Belize border. On the way, after the park, we stopped at El Porta del Yaxha – a restaurant built originally to serve the crew of Survivor Guatemala when it filmed at Yaxha for three months in 2005. It was a lovely, open-air restaurant right on the highway, complete with hammocks if you needed a power nap.

The food was great. We started with a simple soup served in these cups. Then I had pepian stew – a chicken stew with a spice and ground pumpkin seed base that was rich and fabulous. Accompanying the meal were the usual pickled vegetables, black beans, tortillas and fresh cheese. Our guide said I should be able to find the base for pepian in a good Hispanic grocery store, and since we have one of those, I’m hopeful.

Dinner – well, I had wanted to go here for dinner, but the kid was again hankering for a hamburger. It wasn’t just being an American kid – he was hoping that he’d have a hamburger made with Guatemalan beef and it would be amazing. So we stopped at this place – Ko-Ox Han-Nah (which means “Let’s go eat” in a Mayan dialect, I think.) I don’t know if what he got turned out to be exactly amazing, but he liked it. And he saw chili cheese fries on the menu, and wanted those. I had thought I’d go to the other place after he finished, but by then, I was tired and full from a cucumber/yogurt appetizer I’d had, so I decided against it.

Oh- one more thing from San Ignacio – the first night were there (Sunday) we’d had a bit of street food – a bit of meat and cheese freshly fried between tortillas. It was great. I could have eaten a lot more of those…

Saturday:

Time to go home! I wasn’t going to eat anything really, but when we got to the Belize Airport there was a sort-of cafe setup  – you ordered it from a woman standing at a booth, they cooked it somewhere, and then brought it back in take-out containers. They had some Belizean dishes on the menu, so even though it wasn’t in my plan, I thought it was my duty to try something – grilled chicken (I had wanted shrimp, but the woman said, “The shrimp is finished.” Poor shrimp.)

Look at this!

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A lot of chicken filets, rice and beans under there, good fresh vegetables, a grilled/baked plantain….excellent and a ton of food.

So there you go. I’m sorry I didn’t get to that restaurant in Flores, and our food explorations were limited by the fact that were in Tikal for two days, and food is not the focus of the Tikal experience. But I was struck by the food I was served in Guatemala and Belize. It was carefully and thoughtfully prepared. It was fresh. It was pretty balanced and healthy. In just those few days, what I think I experienced was a confident, authentic culture that is centered on the idea that if I’m going to serve you something to eat, it’s inhospitable to give you anything less than the best I can offer at that moment.

Gracias!

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Lunch for the tapirs and friends at the Belize Zoo.

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Perhaps when I type this out it will seem to add up to a bit more than it does right now…

  • Prayer: Mass readings. Our Father, Hail Mary, prayers of petition.
  • Instead of copywork, on Fridays, he illustrates on of his previous copyright passages.  Today he chose John 1:45-46 and drew a truly dystopic Nazareth.
  • That took a while.
  • Then math. Reviewed multiplying negative and positive integers by watching this Khan Academy video and doing these Beast Academy worksheets. 
  • A lot of history. He read about Bunker Hill in From Sea to Shining Sea and The Story of Us, and we watched the relevant section in the Liberty! series. It’s really good! 
  • Then, er, I made banana bread. So chemistry!
  • Not kidding. From me the Insufferable Teaching Moment Mom. I printed this sheet on baking chemistry.  We reviewed the difference between physical and chemical change. Then (mostly) he pulled the banana bread together while we went over the contribution of each ingredient to the process.  And now I, too, understand the difference between baking soda and baking powder.
  • Oh, he also took the lighter to a small pile of sugar and some marshmallows, observed the change and then looked at the results under the microscope. And wondered if he could observe a flame under a microscope. Hmmm.
  • (Basically waiting on the worms and other dissection specimens to arrive so we can start that….enterprise.)
  • I had printed this sheet on “How to Read a Poem” out some weeks ago, but cannot remember the source. Sorry. We read it, then read some poems  – first from this John Ciardi book I have, and then from this great little book of American history related poems by Stephen and Rosemary St. Vincent-Bene’t

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  • Finally, thanks to Kelly, I discovered a previously-unknown-to-me version of Twelfth Night, which we had studied a lot a couple of years ago – made for British television, but with Alec Guinness as Malvolio.  He knows Guinness mostly from Star Wars of course, but we have also watched Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Lavender Hill Mob.  We didn’t watch the whole thing, but I thought he would enjoy seeing Guinness in the part – a part they still quote all the time (I will SMILE…..), so we just watched his main scenes.
  • Lunch. More drawing of something. Some new kind of …Sith, maybe? Would that be a thing?
  • The zoo is between here and brother’s school, and we are members, so we spent an hour or so there, mostly interested in our friends the reptiles.

That’s it. Sorry no Virgil or fresco work today. Just acids & bases in banana bread, Caiman lizards and Godzilla In Nazareth.

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Pinisher blog link-up

Link to Original Project: Doughnut Muffins from the King Arthur Flour website

Link to My Pin: Right here – it’s from December, but I made them again this morning!

Follow me on Pinterest here

Dorian Speed is one of my favorite people, both in real life and on the Internet.  She’s witty and creative, a great writer and web designer – she designed my travel blog’s template, found here.

And she has a great idea for a link up.  How many “pins” do you have?  And how many have you actually done anything about??

Time for Pinishers!

Find her original post here – 

For my first entry in the link up, I’ll just tell you about these muffins – I originally pinned this months ago and made them for the first time soon after, but in the spirit of Pinishing, made them again this morning.  They’re very good – and do sort of taste like baked-style donuts – but they don’t keep super well.  That is, they’re better probably eaten after first baked, which is why I only made half the recipe this morning.

So – go check out Dorian’s link up and join in!

See all the Pinishers this week atScrutinies!

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"amy welborn"

Well, I was going to go crazy and scan all sorts of pages from this for your benefit and enjoyment, but then I discovered...it’s still in print!  Which is a good thing, because it’s a treasure, but it also means it’s copyrighted, so I can’t scan with abandon.

(Update:   See update below before you order…it’s apparently not the exact same)

This was one of my mother’s many cookbooks.  I don’t think she ever used it, but it was there, stuffed on the shelf between various very mod 60’s volumes about chafing dishes, fondue pots and gelatin molds and such.   It was published by the National Catholic Rural Life Conference in 1945, and while it doesn’t feature those great  woodcuts of which I’m such a fan in earlyish and mid-century Catholic lit,  it’s an invaluable glimpse into the era, as the first sentence of the Preface indicates:

This book is an extension of the Missal, Breviary and Ritual because the Christian home is an extension of the Mass, choir and sacramentals. 

That era being clearly resistant  to stereotype and caricatures of an unengaged laity.  As the author herself says in the very next paragraph, We need not shed tears over the past; neither should we exalt the present as the zenith of perfection or condemn it as the nadir of depravity. 

Anyway – the first Lent page is below.  The text is substantial, the recipes – for the most part – still interesting.  On the page that follows this one, the difference between now and then is unmistakable as the author encourages the consumption of whole wheat bread during Lent despite the relatively high cost and difficulty finding it!

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There may be a health food store in a town of 1000,000 which bakes a whole grain loaf at 23 cents, but that is not for the majority nor for the poor….

(She recommends, of course, baking it yourself – after you find a miller who can grind the flour for you!)

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I’m assuming the new edition is identical to the original – the reviews on the site indicate as much – but no promises, of course, since I’ve not seen it.

So ends the year with Christ in the kitchen.  What we have cooked we have made for His glory and the spread of His kingdom.  This way of living is but one path which leads our minds and hearts to His love.  We have not “feasted sumptuously every day,” but we have held both fast and festival in due season.  When great occasions arise, as they do so often in the liturgical year, “it is fit to bring hither the fatted calf and kill it and eat and make merry.” For Christianity is a happiness untold, not only to be tasted at the eternal banquet, but also in some small measure at our little festivals in time.  So with Christ at our table may He bless us and say:

“Eat thy bread with joy and

Drink thy wine with gladness,

Because thy works please God.” 

Update:

Apparently the reprint is not…a reprint.  From the comments, Jennifer of the blog “Family Food for Feast and Feria”

This is my favorite cookbook of all time! It’s also my favorite liturgical year book. I based my whole history undergrad thesis on this book and the publisher, NCRLC. I’ve written about this book several times,http://familyfoodfeastandferia.wordpress.com/2006/04/19/my-favorite-cookbook/, this being my sadly neglected food blog.

This book stemmed from the Liturgical Movement, and was the first American Catholic cookbook of its kind. All other liturgical cookbooks that follow never reach the heights of this book. It’s so family oriented, and helps connect the American to her rich Catholic culture. But Florence Berger makes you realize this isn’t a dead culture, not looking back in the past, but it’s a living connection, because we are part of the Mystical Body.

Sadly, the book that is currently being reprinted is not the original. All the recipes are revised, and if that isn’t good enough, the text is edited, chopped up, and lovely bits and pieces are removed. You will get some taste of the beautiful book, but not the fullness of the original. I can’t understand how they can label it a reprint if it’s fully revised. I’ve compared the original with the revised and just cried to see how much was changed.

While this book does not treat only Florence Berger’s books, “Cultivating Soil and Soul: Twentieth-century Catholic Agrarians Embrace the Liturgical Movement” by Michael J. Woods gives some background history “Cooking for Christ” that I find so interesting! The entire book is wonderful as it really gives an understanding of the Liturgical movement and the connections and role of the NCRLC.

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From this:

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To this:

In about 2.5 hours.

The recipe:

Take cheap tomatoes.  Out-of-season, on-sale-at-Aldi-for-.99-a-pack tomatoes that have no taste of their own.

Toss with, at the very least, olive oil, salt and pepper, and then whatever else you like.   I added balsamic vinegar, hot red pepper flakes and Herbes de Provence.  You might want to add garlic, but I use so much garlic anyway  – including roasted garlic – that I thought I could use a break from it here.

Roast at around 350 or lower for at least 2.5 hours. Any less, and they still taste tomatoe-y (which is not a bad thing, but not what you’re going for.) Roast until they start to blacken – you could probably go further than I did here, but I had to bake some pretzels to take to the Cub Scout banquet.

The taste is lovely – not too far off from sun-dried tomatoes.  I guess you could use them in a pasta, but usually just end up eating them as they are, standing in my kitchen, looking out the window at whatever’s there – last week, it was flocks of birds perched on every branch of every tree, making a racket, and today it’s the beginnings of real springtime on those same branches..

I’m telling you – roasting vegetables might just change your life…it’s the kind of thing you can do so easily, that you don’t have to watch, and that you can store for later when you don’t have time – but you don’t have to skimp on taste because your deep flavors are already there, ready and waiting for you.

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Discovered this a couple of weeks ago. A very common, standard Italian dish. Made it on Saturday.

Will be making it again.  You should try it.

It plays a tart or pie-like function but it’s made with a shortbreadish-type of dough.  Very easy and wonderful.  The filling for this one was some blueberry filling I’d made and frozen earlier in the summer.  You can use any kind of jam.

 

The pan is my Official Crostata Pan –  an Italian brand scored for 2.99 at Ross a few weeks back. They had a bunch of different pans from this company  – Guardini –  interesting shapes and nice colors, all for under 3.50.  Somebody’s import scheme didn’t go so well!

 

 

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