Tag Archives: cooking

Fond garden memories from childhood. Um, not really.

You know how you always read heartwarming stories of people’s memories of their mother’s or grandmother’s gardens? About those carefree, neverending days of summer when they ate fresh, crisp green beans off the vine or nibbled on just-picked strawberries? How they helped their mother or grandmother and were rewarded for their efforts with fresh treats? Well, my mother had a garden but I didn’t do any of that. I thought everything that came out of my mother’s garden was disgusting. She didn’t trust her younger children such as me to participate in the vegetable garden either, relegating them to lesser, joyless yard tasks like digging plantain leaf and dandelions out of the lawn or collecting gumballs by the hundreds. Heart-warming no?

I always remembered my mother having a vegetable garden and I always remember her complaining about it. The terrible soil, the hard work, the marauding birds & squirrels, and so on. Gardening was not about pleasure. Most of the produce was subsequently canned (an arduous process my mother undertook each year in a hot kitchen) and eventually served limp and waterlogged with little or no seasoning. I’ll grant you I was a child and children aren’t typically known for their love of vegetables, but the way they were cooked sure didn’t help.

When one of us kids complained about  the taste of the vegetables at the dinner table my mother would invariably, defensively respond,

“That came from our garden!”

“It came from our garden” was supposed to be a conversation-ender, as if everything from the garden was above reproach.  Even the family salad, which, by the time it got to you at the table of many, was bitter leaves floating in the heavy-on-the-vinegar dressing at the bottom of the mud brown, chipped, ceramic bowl. Which you had to take.

I would be an adult, one who ate in restaurants and learned to cook, before I could appreciate vegetables, fresh ones in particular. The childhood associations had to wear off first and then I could find out for myself what vegetables were actually supposed to taste like. I simply didn’t know how good they go be. Other people helped. I didn’t know what a green pepper could taste like till a woman I knew offered me some from her garden when I was in my late twenties. I was reluctant, based on the lip-curling memory of the taste of uncooked peppers (why that one was served without the usual overcooking I couldn’t say), when she assured me that I should try it cooked as it became “a different vegetable.” It was true. Proper cooking took the edge off the pungent raw green pepper taste.

Over the years I tried more and more vegetables and was often surprised. Of course, a number of these were never served at our family dinner table, certainly nothing too exotic. I tried okra for the first time about five years ago. Wow! I loved okra. Who knew?

My mother considered me a “picky eater” and it took many years of eating foods not cooked or served by my mother (vegetables may have been a low point but it’s not like the rest of the cuisine was delicious) to discover I was, if not the opposite, definitely not picky. There was a world of food and vegetables to discover and I now consider them one of life’s true joys.  I’ve never lived anywhere I could have my own full-blown vegetable garden, but I am delighted by the small amount of food gardening I’ve been able to do. There’s such pride in growing things, food especially.

Vegetables, mostly from the store, have made regular appearances in this blog’s four+ years. Here’s a few.IMG_20180619_125250



















NOTE: I’m back to sketchy internet access; please forgive any delay in responding to comments.


Mmmm, cook for me

You know who I want to cook for me? Canadian chef Michael Smith. I never heard of him until the last year when I’ve turned on the TV and flipped around (or rather pressed) the channels and occasionally came across his show “Chef at Home” where he is cooking in his (very nice) house. That kitchen!! Be still my covetous, hungry heart. He has this pantry stocked with glass jars filled with every kind of seasoning or extra you might want. There are always fresh ingredients in his refrigerator. He never opens something up, sniffs, and says, “What was THAT?” before tossing it in the garbage.

He talks about food and cooking while he works and makes it all sound so accessible. I can cook but I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble. He, on the other hand, always makes a proper meal with several sides AND a dessert. In the shows I’ve seen he is usually cooking for his wife and little son, Gabe. (Gabe eats the food happily and doesn’t throw tantrums or spit it out although editing might have a hand in that.) The food looks wonderful and did I say I love the way he talks about it? He’s practically giddy over the dishes (just like I’d be).

It isn’t that I want to be on a DATE with Michael Smith while he cooks for me (it’s not like that); I just want him to cook for me.

I only noticed last week that the shows I’ve been watching are from 2005! So when I googled him now to see who he is and look him up on Facebook, I was surprised to see this guy with a graying beard. But then, 11 years have passed. It threw me off though not unlike when I was a kid and watched Shirley Temple films – I was really surprised to learn she was this older lady named “Shirley Temple Black.”

I would not have guessed Smith was Canadian; he’s got a Seattle kind of vibe about him or maybe California (although the house and grounds looked vaguely like New England to me). He reminds me, in looks and demeanor of the character John Corbett played on Northern Exposure, the laid-back DJ guy, although Smith isn’t so laid back as that. Anyway, apparently he’s quite famous. So I don’t think he will cook for me.


Easy Squash & Red Pepper Soup

The rule of thumb for vegetables is that the deepest, richest colors – dark green, deep red, bright orange – are the most nutritious. I used two, squash and red peppers, to make this easy, no-cook, delicious soup.

I only recently discovered that squash is sold frozen, which is great if you don’t have time, space, or inclination to buy and cook your own. Here’s the ingredients I used:

I used these canned peppers but you could buy fresh ones and cook them too.

I used these canned peppers but you could buy fresh ones and cook them too.

I cut up half an onion and a clove of garlic and sautéed them in a bit of oil.

I cut up half an onion and a clove of garlic and sautéed them in a bit of oil.

I put a cup of water in the blender, added the defrosted squash, 5 rinsed red peppers, and the sauteed onions & garlic, and blended till smooth. I heated a cup of the soup in the microwave to eat. That’s it! So good.

Look how gorgeous that color is.

Look how gorgeous that color is.

A Healthy Microwave Brownie (anyone can make – really!)

Recently I saw a recipe for a microwave brownie on a a blog. It had a lot more sugar & oil than I use in my diet and baking, but it gave me the idea to experiment with making a healthier version that I’d still actually want to eat. If you’re used to typical brownies, this much less sweet version will be an adjustment, but if you’re like me and don’t want or have a lot of sugar or sweets in your diet, this brownie is a treat.

The ingredients are all typically found in the baking aisle of the grocery store:
Whole wheat flour
Canola oil
Cocoa powder

It’s not essential to buy the specific brands pictured. I use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa but the regular cocoa is fine too.

You’ll need a (microwave-safe) small bowl or a cup, and a spoon. I use an oversize mug.

And a quarter cup water.

Mix together in the bowl or cup:
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Stir in till smooth:
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon canola oil

Microwave on high for 2 minutes.

I like to eat mine right out of the cup, but here’s how it looks on a plate.


An even healthier version, pictured below, can be made by omitting the Canola oil and/or cutting back on the cocoa powder to 1 or 2 teaspoons.

“War Time Fish Cookery” (1943 style)

This is the second of three old pamphlets I found at a used book sale. The first one is here. This government publication by the Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Conservation Bulletin 27, is copyrighted 1943 and originally cost 10 cents. The font on “Wartime” makes it appear like war is fun. You just have to have the right attitude… why, and some fish!


The opening page has a more official, governmental look to it.

The opening page has a more official, governmental look to it.

The booklet is mostly composed of recipes but opens with basic information.

There's something about these illustrations, maybe it's the fish's expression...

There’s something about these illustrations, maybe it’s the fish’s expression…

The buying advice at the bottom is - yikes! - 70 years old but it's still the same as what you'd read today. How often does THAT happen, especially with food?

The buying advice at the bottom is – yikes! – 70 years old but it’s still the same as what you’d read today. How often does THAT happen, especially with food?

Look at all these types of “fish most commonly found in the market.”

Butterfish? Rosefish? Scup??

Butterfish? Rosefish? Scup??

Tautog? Tomcod? Sheepshead?? (Clearly I don't know my fish...)

Tautog? Tomcod? Sheepshead?? (Clearly I don’t know my fish…)