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Expat wanderer

Monday is Homework Day

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This is not the life we expected – it is so much better. Before we retired, my husband asked me what we would do, and I said I knew what I would do, but I didn’t know what he would do; he would have to figure out what he wanted to do. But I was wrong. I didn’t know what I would be doing.

Life evolves. One decision leads to another, down paths you can’t foresee.

I had no idea I would love my grandchildren so much. I had no idea how much joy being close to our adult son and his wife would be, watching them mature, seeing them parent so lovingly and patiently. The other day, he spotted a photo of a time we were on our way to a German Military Ball; he said “How old were you in this photo?” and as we figured it out, we were almost exactly the age he is now. That was a moment of wonder to all of us. It helps us to remind ourselves that he no longer needs parenting, no more than we did at his age. He needs respect, and the support of a loving family that can mind their own business unless asked for input.

Doing kindergarten homework is mind-numbing. Q, who is a smart little boy, looked at me and said “when you do the same thing over and over, it is really boring.” He loves new words, so I said “when you do the same thing over and over again, that is called ‘repetitious’,” and he said “Yes, so it is repetitious and BORING.” We both laughed.

While it IS boring, what he is doing now is also crucial, mastering his numbers and how they work together, and his letters, and distinguishing “b”s from “d”s, and “g”s from “q”s and a lot of learning just requires that repetition to engrave it in your mind. He is learning to write, and he is adept at reading books above his level – but it all takes work.

We have some break activities. He can run laps around my first floor, running a circle which I make him change direction every now and then. He can jump on my running trampoline. He can play hide and seek with his Baba. We are working on jig-saw puzzles, and for fun, he gets to play one of Baba’s computer games requiring strategic thinking skills.

We still do our volunteering, our church activities, our house things. We have lunch out almost every day; we are free until after school.

While the homework is for the whole week, we have discovered that dragging it out is just that – a drag. Get it done! Just do it! We are learning to focus, and the work is not that hard. When we finish the homework, we have the rest of the week to play!

Today I was exploring online, looking for an old African recipe I have for African Gingerbread. This is a really old recipe; what I liked about it is that when you add the baking soda and molasses, it fizzes and bubbles. I looked in all my books, but in my never-ending quest to get rid of, get rid of, get rid of, not to burden myself with too many THINGS, I must have given away that particular book. But as I was looking for the recipe online, the only place I found it . . . was here. On my own blog! Old Fashioned Gingerbread. It makes me grin, thinking of how thrilled this five year old will be when we make old fashioned African gingerbread and it all starts fizzing. Woo HOOOO!

When the homework is done, the fun begins!

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Cooking, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Language, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Recipes, Relationships, Work Related Issues | 5 Comments

Day Off From Work

It’s funny, you think when you retire you will have a carefree life, but we human beings being who we are, it turns out retirement looks a whole lot like the life we had before. Or maybe it’s because we choose the lives we get?

We are busy. We have taken on obligations. We have deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, groceries to buy, church duties, volunteer jobs – people are counting on us. It’s very much what our working lives looked like, even then, we had jobs that weren’t always fun, but had a lot of moving parts that we thoroughly enjoyed. I mostly worked in libraries, fund raising and social services; AdventureMan worked managing people and resources. Not a whole lot has changed, except the hours are better.

But it is easier to take a day off. Today I am usually at my volunteer job, but when they called last night to ask if I would be coming in, I just laughed and said “No, see you next week.” They were probably as glad as I was; less prep for them.

00christmasjellosalad

No, I needed today to bake my Soused Apple Cake for the Thanksgiving gathering, chop the nuts for the Mom’s Cranberry Salad, pack up the Rosettes, and get the broccoli marinating. I know, I know, broccoli for Thanksgiving? Yes. We get older, we need broccoli. I soak it in good olive oil and garlic, with a little salt, then roast it on Thanksgiving at 400° for about 30 minutes and it is tasty and delicious and you hardly know you are eating broccoli.

Soused Apple Cake
From Quail Country: The Junior League of Albany, Georgia.
If you don’t have brandy, don’t bother with this one – the brandy give it the punch, even though all the alcohol cooks off during baking. Kids hate this cake, adults love it.

4 cups cooking apple
1 cup raisins
brandy

2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (grate it fresh, it matters!)
2 teaspoons baki
ng soda
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 teaspoon mace
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans

2 cups flour
whipped cream

Peel, core and finely chop apples; put into a bowl with raisins and cover with brandy, and soak overnight. Drain apples and raisins, set aside.

Combine sugar, salad oil and eggs. Set aside. Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and mace. Add to oil mixture. Mix in apples, pecans and raisins. Mix well and pour into an oiled 9 x 13 baking dish. Cook in 325 degree oven for 1 hour.

Cut into squares, serve topped with sweetened whipped cream. Yield 15 – 20 servings.

** I use a tiny bit of ground cloves instead of mace. I also have used all sorts of whiskeys and brandies, but my favorite remains calvados or . . . rum! It is one of my favorite recipes.

I need to get in and out of the kitchen, finish my clean up so AdventureMan can make his famous Pecan Pie – he makes it with chocolate, it looks very fancy and tastes divine. Everyone oooooh! and aaaaaahs! when they see his pecan pie. 🙂

There is a great joy in this work, knowing we will be with people we enjoy, people who are full of thanks and interesting stories. We will do a lot of catching up and share a wonderful meal. Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Food, Recipes, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

“Pesto; The Quiche of the ’80’s”

It’s still hot, hitting the nineties, but something is changing. You can see it in the angle of the sunlight, especially at sun rise and sun set, the directions have changed, the angles have changed, and the colors are richer.

 

Time to harvest the basil. This is not my garden, nor my basket, nor my garden, but the resemblance is uncanny, and this is a great photo for illustrative purposes.

 

 

IMG_1710-1 herb basket of basil BEST

 

 

IMG_2070-1 spicey globe basil

 

We grow a lot of basil, pots and pots of basil. After early church, I hit the pots with my garden shears. I trim off all the little flowers on top (I’ve been doing this all summer, but I never seem to keep on top of it) and then I trim back the branches, laden with basil. I have an entire basket full of Genovese, which, after picking off the leaves, washing them and spinning them dry, come to 12 cups of basil.

 

Doesn’t everything go better with a little pesto? I love to smear a little on my BLT’s, I love to pop a spoonful into a soup, and oh my holy tomato, basil pesto on pasta, to die for.  I know what I want to do, but I want to be sure I get proportions right, so I go to The Silver Palate Cookbook, it came out years and years ago and has a lot of basic but really really good recipes. So, how old is this cookbook? When I was looking at the Pesto page, there was a box that said “Pesto – the quiche of the ’80’s” or something like that which implied pesto was the newest, most wonderful thing – in the ’80’s.

 

“????” I thought.

 

Isn’t pesto one of those classics? Maybe it’s because we frequented Italian restaurants when I was going to high school in Germany, but I remember pesto. It’s not like quiche (which, by the way, is my grandson’s favorite thing), it’s no passing trend, pesto is classico!

 

I made all the  batches with garlic, lots of garlic, about triple what the recipe calls for, and I roasted it before I tossed it in. One batch I made with almonds, one batch with sunflower seeds and the last batch with my all time favorite, walnuts. I labeled little snack bags, put globs of pesto in them, sealed them up, put them all in one big gallon sized plastic bag and sealed that up and put the whole lot in the freezer, to pull on on those days when I need a pop of flavor and a taste of the long hot summer.

 

Here is my variation on the Silver Palate recipe:

 

Basil Genovese Pesto

4 cups basil, packed, washed, dried in salad spinner (or whatever) still fresh and green

8 – 12 cloves garlic, peeled, roasted

2/3 cup really good olive oil

some salt and some pepper. The best thing is coarsely ground salt and coarsely ground pepper that you’ve ground yourself.

about 1/2 cup nuts. Pine nuts are classic, as are walnuts, but pesto is one of those dishes with a lot of variation based on what God’s great earth hath provided. I don’t even measure the nuts, just eyeball it. I used walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds in separate batches.

In a nice large food processor, put in nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, oil and then pack in 4 cups of basil. Process until you have a gritty ball. You won’t be able to see any leaves, but you will be able to see specks of white. Spoon into freezer containers in usable amounts and freeze.

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Recipes, Weather | 2 Comments

Chole (Chickpea Curry

It’s amazing how much more energy I have when the weather cools; yesterday was nearly 80°F and I had to force myself to work through my list of to-do’s, but as the temperatures dropped once again, we slept well, we awoke rested and energetic, and I ended up adding things to my list, for the sheer joy of feeling like doing things.

A new recipe – for me, for us – Chole – is bubbling in our crock pot. It sounded so good! I found the recipe – I think on allrecipes.com – several months ago, but today is the perfect day to put it all together. It has so many things in it which are good for us, but especially chick peas, tomatoes, ginger and turmeric.

I had no idea what it would look like, but it looks like things we used to eat at the vegetarian restaurant Greenland, down in Souk Mubarakiyya, in Kuwait. I think it is missing a few spices, probably things we have a hard time getting here. It wasn’t even easy just finding mustard seeds, if I had needed those dried lemons or other spices exotic to Pensacola, I couldn’t have attempted it. This Chole won’t be the same as the delicious, spicy, complex dishes our Indian quilters would bring to the weekly stitch meetings, but it will be a good tasty dinner on a rainy night. I wish we had the fried Indian breads that Wikipedia says are traditionally served with it.

00Chole

Chole (Chickpea Stew)

• 2 cups of chickpeas soaked overnight
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 large onion, minced
• 1 red bell pepper, minced
• 2 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
• 1-inch piece ginger, minced
• 1 14 oz can of coconut milk
• 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp coriander powder
• 1/2 tsp turmeric
• 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
• 1/2 tsp ground cloves
• 1 tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 tsp garam masala
• 1.5 tsp mustard seeds
• 1/2 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:
Blend all the ingredients but chickpeas in a food processor or a blender until liquid. Wash and drain chickpeas, place them in a slow cooker, pour the blended mixture over and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 4-5.

Make ahead: we usually make double or triple of this recipe, since we love it.  Let it cool, and store chole in freezer-safe zip-lock bags in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Just for fun, I am going to share with you the Wikipedia version. I laugh to think how intimidated I would be –

Preparation

preparation time=45mins cooking time=1hour serves=4

Ingredients For the chole 1 cup kabuli chana (white chick peas), soaked overnight 1 tea bag or tsp tea leaves, tied in a muslin cloth (optional) 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera) 1 onion, finely chopped 12 mm (1/2″) piece of ginger (adrak), grated 2 cloves of garlic (lehsun), grated 2 tsp chole masala 2 tsp chilli powder 2 tsp dried mango powder (amchur) 1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi) 1 tbsp coriander (dhania) powder 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera) powder 2 tbsp oil salt to taste

For the bhature 1/2 cup plain flour (maida) 1/2 cup potatoes, boiled and grated 1 1/2 tsp oil salt to taste oil for deep-frying

For serving 1 onion, sliced 4 lemon wedge

Recipe For the chole Pressure cook the Kabuli chana with the tea bag for 3 whistles until they are soft . Drain and keep aside. Discard the tea bag. Heat the oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds. When the seeds crackle, add the onion, ginger and garlic and sauté till the onion is golden brown. Add the chole masala, chilli powder, amchur, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin seed powder and salt and sauté for another minute. Add the Kabuli chana and 1 cup of water and mix well. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep aside

For the bhature Combine the flour, potato, 1½ teaspoons of oil and salt and knead into a firm dough without using any water. Knead the dough very well till it is smooth Cover with a wet muslin cloth and rest the dough for 10 minutes Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and roll out into circles of 125 mm. (5″) diameter. Deep fry in hot oil till the bhaturas puff up and both sides are golden brown. Serve hot with the chole, sliced onion and lemon wedges. Tips While frying the bhature, press the centre lightly with a frying spoon so as to help it to puff up. Chole masala is a blend of spices which is readily available at most grocery stores. [2]

LOL, cook with a tea bag for three whistles??? I am already way out of my league! And “Chole masala is a blend of spices which is readily available at most grocery stores” does not apply to Pensacola, Florida!

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, India, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Recipes, Restaurant, Shopping | , , , | Leave a comment

Luxurious Blessing

I was making a salad to go with today’s lunch and remembered AdventureMan warning me we were just about out of roasted pecans, and needed more. It is a cool – almost cold – rainy rainy day in Pensacola, a perfect day for cranking up the oven to roast some pecans. We still have a wealth of pecans from a generous donation made by my dear daughter-in-law’s Texas aunt, who has a heart as big as Texas.

As I roast the pecans (425°F for about 10 minutes) the house becomes fragrant with that luxurious smell. I am transported back to Kuwait, where I remember paying a fortune for a small packet of pecans I needed to bake a pecan pie. Normally, we didn’t even bother looking at the prices, but the price on those pecans was so high I really had to think about buying them, it’s like paying an extortionist. But I needed pecans. I paid.

Now, we have this luxurious blessing of pecans, and not just pecans, but these fresh, fragrant, tasty Texas pecans, and as they roast, they are blessing my entire house with a rich roasty fragrance. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. This wonderful aunt gave us this wealth of pecans, and the gift just keeps on giving and giving, through the Christmas season, well into January – and we still have pecans left. I’ve paid a lot more and gotten a lot less joy from a purchase. I think of this wonderful woman and her gift every time we use them.

00Pecans

Yes, I roasted a lot of pecans, because we sprinkle them on all kinds of things, and that roasted flavor just enriches everything they touch. Yes, they keep in an air-tight container, for as long as it takes for us to eat them, which can be two or three weeks.

And here is the salad, post-pecans but pre-salad dressing:

00SaladWithPecans

It’s another luxurious blessing. About twelve years ago, when we had a posting in Germany, we packed everything into storage and just bought what we needed to live with. As days go by, however, you – or I, anyway – just need a few little things to make life nice. You pick up a few gorgeous dessert plates here, a few Christmas ornaments there . . . some cookie sheets, just a little extra, and before you know it, life is no longer so simple. To help keep it simple, I mostly bought things I could just leave behind when we left the country to head to the next country, or I transported things home in those big bags we used to be able to take on the transoceanic flights. I ended up having to rent a storage locker in Seattle for all the treasures I accumulated in our second round of overseas living, LOL.

The first year we were living once again in Germany, as we were buying some wardrobe units, I spotted two salad / serving bowls at IKEA. They aren’t costly porcelain, they are just ceramic bowls, but I love the shape, and inside each one are two beautiful purply-blue irises. I looked at them and loved their conception, their design. I pointed them out to AdventureMan, and then promptly forgot them. Because he is a very smart man, I found them under the Christmas tree a few months later, and was thrilled to recognize them. We have both treasured them ever since.

With each subsequent move, I carefully wrapped those bowls and used them again and again at each posting. We pull them out all the time, these bowls are a perfect size for a salad-to-share or a side dish, and to this day, they look like new. It makes me laugh; I’ve had much more expensive dishes which were not so long for this world; these are go-to serving bowls, and still look brand new.

So today I am feeling extraordinarily thankful for the great luxury of pecans, the wonderful aroma of their roasting, and the great blessing of serving them in a bowl which gives us joy every time we use them.

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Germany, Home Improvements, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Moving, Random Musings, Recipes, Thanksgiving, Travel | 4 Comments

Cranberry Sauce Grand Marnier

This is so unbelievably easy. When I make this, I just buy one of the mini-bottles, and it is just the right amount:

Cranberry Sauce Grand Marnier

1 12oz package fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

1 mini bottle Grand Marnier

Bring cranberries to a boil in the water, boil one minute, add sugar, stir until dissolved. Take off heat. Add entire mini-bottle of Grand Marnier, stir, let cool, put in container and refrigerate. (It will gel considerably because of the sugar.)

Tastes good served with turkey, but if you like cranberries, as I do, it is also great with an English muffin at breakfast.

December 22, 2012 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Food, Recipes | Leave a comment

Cranberry Chicken on a Cold Day in Pensacola

It is cold this morning in Pensacola, and yesterday, too. I am thanking God; I feel so much happier and energetic when it is a little bit cold. It’s a good time of the year to feel energetic; I have a LOT to do!

This is a great recipe for busy days. You pop four ingredients into the slow-cooker, plug it in, set it on low and you are done. The smells will alert you that something delicious is on the way. When you are ready to eat, quickly cook up some rice or noodles – either work just fine – and serve the fork-tender chicken with some of the sauce – totally delicious!

Cranberry Chicken – Slow cooker

Ingredients
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 (16 ounce) bottle Catalina salad dressing
1 (14.5 ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 envelope onion soup mix

Directions
1. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour the salad dressing, cranberry sauce, and onion soup mix over the chicken.

2. Cook on Low 4 to 6 hours.

The first time I made this, I didn’t have Catalina Dressing on hand, but not to fear – it is also easy to make:

Kraft Catalina Salad Dressing
1 cup sugar
2 Teaspoon salt
dash paprika
1/2 Teaspoon chili powder
1/2 Teaspoon celery seed
1/2 Teaspoon dry mustard
grated onion to taste
1/2 cup vinegar
2/3 cup ketchup
1 cup vegetable oil
Place all ingredients into blender and mix. Store in jar in refrigerator.

December 22, 2012 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Recipes | Leave a comment

Polish Your Silver in Seconds! It’s Like Magic

Just in time for Christmas – I have to try this tomorrow! Thank you, Stephane, at My French Heaven:

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Beauty, Blogging, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Entertainment, France, Home Improvements, Recipes | | Leave a comment

Foods a la Louisiane: Jambalaya

Did I tell you I collect cookbooks? One of the guidelines I use is that the cookbook have the name of a person attached to each recipe; if your name is on a recipe going into a book, you know you are going to be very careful that this recipe is really, really good.

I don’t remember buying this cookbook, but it is a gem. On the other hand, there have been some surprises . . . there is a recipe for making boudin, that ubiquitous Cajun sausage, and it starts off with “1 large hoghead.” The directions state that you boil the hog’s head until tender, let it cool, remove meat from bones, then grind hoghead meat with heart, kidney, onions, parsley, etc. in a meat grinder.

Thank goodness boudin is not a favorite of mine. Andouille, a spicier sausage, IS a favorite of mine and if I see a recipe for andouille, I am NOT going to look at it.

I love making jambalaya – and here is a genuine Louisiana recipe:

JAMBALAYA
1/2 cup vegetable oil or drippings
2 medium onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onion tops
Water
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Red Pepper to taste
Pepper to taste
Browning agent or 2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet
2 lbs peeled raw shrimp
4 cups long grain rice

Heat oil over low heat in a heavy 6 quart Dutch oven until warmed. Add vegetables; saute until lightly browned. Add enough water to cover vegetables; add seasoning and browning agent. Bring to a boil; add shrimp. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in rice; cook 10 minutes. Cover and cook until rice is tender, stirring occasionally. Yield 10 – 12 servings.

I do jambalaya all the time (DISCLAIMER: I am neither a Louisiana native nor of Cajun descent, so what I do cannot be taken as authentic, even if it is tasty 🙂 ) and I use more spices, chopped tomatoes and I don’t add the shrimp until the rice is cooked; I add it at the end and give it five minutes for the heat of the rice and cooked ingredients to cook the shrimp. We also use andouille sausage (or a turkey sausage if we are entertaining Moslem friends) and some cut artichoke hearts, maybe a small jar of pimentos, maybe some leftover peas. Sort of like a jambalaya/paella 🙂

October 24, 2012 Posted by | Books, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, NonFiction, Recipes | | 4 Comments

African Sweet Potato Peanut Soup

This is another wonderful recipe I found on allrecipes.com. My sweet daughter-in-law told me about allrecipes.com, and once I signed up, they started sending me recipes every day. Not all of them are of interest to me, but most of those I have tried have been really good.

We LOVE this soup. It is delicious, and easy to fix. While it is an African recipe, we find that many of the most delicious Southern dishes are similar to African dishes, probably because there were so many African ex-pats brought to the USA and settled in the South a few hundred years ago. Their legacy lives on in Southern cookbooks.

African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup

Ingredients
• 1 tablespoon good olive oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 2 teaspoons ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 pinch ground cloves
• 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
• 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
• 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
• 4 1/2 cups chicken broth
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
• 1 pinch cayenne pepper
• 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
• 1 bunch fresh chopped cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Mix in the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne and cloves. Stir in the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrot, and continue to cook and stir about 5 minutes.

2. Pour chicken broth into the saucepan, and season the mixture with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Add peanut butter.

3. Remove the soup mixture from heat. With a blender wand, blend the soup and peanuts until almost smooth. Stir in fresh cilantro. Serve hot.

August 30, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Recipes | 2 Comments