Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 30, 2012 ~ Creamy Comfort

I am pretty sure I live a good life. I don't have shiny things to show you to prove it or overflowing accolades or a Butler to get you tea; but I have the love of people who I care about and I know loved ones who want the best for me and worry about me when it rains. Even more, I have have an opportunity in this life to love and worry about others when it rains. And these past few days, boy has it rained on some of my loved ones!

Hurricane Sandy, and some crazy cold front stretching to Wisconsin combined to leave me glued to the weather channel and Facebook so I could see what was happening to my loved ones in their towns and then of course what they had to say about it...!!!  

Because so many of these loved ones are family, I decided to make cod fish stew; it is a recipe that Grandma Bortle brought us; but I believe my Dad perfected it; because I thought he was perfect. So this one is for you, my loved ones...

Just a few ingredients - potatoes, cod fish fillets, onion, garlic, shallots, milk, whipping cream, salt and pepper.

And a lot of butter...hence, the comfort!

Saute the Shallots, onion, garlic and salt and pepper.

Then add your cod fish.

Meanwhile, boil your potatoes. I used red here because I had them and kept the skin on to shake things up. Then combine with cream, milk and cod fish mixture.

I find you have to continually add salt and peeper as it all blends. I also do a butter/flour melted mix in the microwave to help thicken the stew. I do that mixture in the microwave...and am realizing that is all I use the microwave for. 

My dad always toasted white bread, topped it with butter then coated it with the stew. I can just think about it and feel safe, comforted. Maybe it was just my Dad that made me feel that way, but I am hoping it is also the stew...and if I could, I would have it delivered to every one of my loved ones who are dealing with the aftermath of this crazy storm! Or, the aftermath of any other devastation ...and would hope, for you, comfort. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15th ~ Looked Him Straight in the Eye and Lied

Do you remember that crush from high school that you just adored. You thought about them everyday and you dressed with them in mind every morning. You thought they were the cutest and coolest and that they were looking at you just now when you were walking down the hall.You played a different kind of Four Square with your fold out paper game determining how many kids you would have; what your house together would look like and where you would honeymoon. You stood in giddy suspense as they signed your yearbook; feeling confident that "You are sweet, good luck next year" translated to "I am going to marry you some day."

And only in hindsight do you realize that they never even knew you existed.

Fast forward to years down the road; and you run into this boy you spent four good years of your life addicted to. You can't see the resemblance; clearly, the one you crushed on never really existed.

Well I have been crushing on Bob's Small Town Grille in Royston for a few years now. Clearly, high school taught me nothing. Bob doesn't know I exist and I gush over his restaurant and food as if he just wrote "Will you come and work in my restaurant some day?" in my The Professional Chef workbook.

But this past weekend, I ran into Bob and his grille. I couldn't see the resemblance. There was a festival going on in downtown Royston; which can be lent to forgive some of the reasons' the Grille didn't resemble anything I had been crushing on; like the flies covering our corner booth; or the straw, silverware, and pile of crumbs and cracker wrappers I had to step over in order to get into the seat. I mean the day must have been busy; although it is Royston. The festival was a block or two long; not Athfest after all.

There was a limited menu, understandable again; by all accounts this festival was going to bring a lot more patrons then a typical Saturday. Only 5 or 6 items on the menu. I ordered the Jerk Chicken and Black Bean Wrap. My friend ordered a bowl of chili. When our food arrived my friend's chili was in a bowl that it only half filled. Which I didn't really think to judge the portion as much as I just wondered why the bowl was allowed to arrive at a table showing signs of already giving out 10 to 12 test taste bites. There was no garnish, no crackers or cornbread offered to give the chili companionship. And visually; it clearly needed a companion. My wrap arrived on a clear plate with obvious fingerprints all around the plate. Like the glass door at the store after story time toddlers have had their way with it. It was tightly wrapped and straight up cut in equal halves, the wrap that is...and that is as exciting as the presentation was going to get. Part way through the first half I found a tomato; and likewise after I dug through a bit of the second half I discovered lettuce. Which combined made me wonder who ran into who in the kitchen. Before long I could hear Bob at our table asking 'how is everything folks?' oh no; keep your head low Sharyn. 'Good'; says my friend.

'How is that wrap?' counters Bob; I am screwed. I raise my eyes to meet his and I say ~ 'Great, thanks.'

Looked him straight in the eye and lied.

Now I know that I am not intimidated by Bob's Small Town Grille anymore. I don't need to practice different cooking techniques or out do his cheesy grits. I don't need to make a better burger or serve a better table. I saw Bob's Small Town Grill in its bald, overweight, mid life crisis state; the one you don't recognize from your crush. He still doesn't know I exist, I presume; but I am a lot less intimidated by his (restaurant's) existence and a lot less concerned that he ever write in my yearbook (cookbook).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October 6th, 2012 ~ Cooking with Purpose

Some of my favorite memories of my Dad are when we would be driving in the car together and have our own father daughter chat time. I had a catering job this week that, for me, was big. And I so desperately wanted to take a ride with him and have him tell me how I was going to pull it off and that everyone was going to love my food. I wanted to tell him my recipes and ask him if I should add more sweetened condensed milk to the banana pudding or does he think my beans will have enough spice. He was the best cook. And the best part of his cooking was just how much thought he put into the person or people he was cooking for.

The catering job I had this week was for the agency I used to work for. It was their Employee Appreciation Picnic. I knew this food was going to be for workers with genuine hearts for serving others. Workers who live in the trenches with people at the lowest moments of their lives. These workers do not make a lot of money. They don't receive grand accolades. They quietly go about doing the work of angels. So I did my best to channel my Dad and care about each and every one of these workers as I made what otherwise could be phoned in.

They asked me to make potato salad:

When you are asked to make 300 servings of anything, you have to find a way to love it. Maybe it is just loving the opportunity. But I wanted each hard worker to know there was something special about this potato salad. It was especially made for them.

They asked me to make 150 servings of Baked Beans, exact same recipe as last year please; same as last year. That is a complement!

They asked me to make 150 servings of corn on the cob:

I was most excited about this. I thought when I was wrapping it up to take to the picnic this is the most special; no one will see it coming...that white stuff is cheese!

They asked for 210 servings of Banana Pudding:

This is the single greatest dessert I have ever made. Yes, I admit I suck at making desserts. But I really spent time on this. And when my nephew said it was the best thing ever, I knew it was ready to show appreciation to the employees at the picnic.

They asked me to make 105 servings of Oreo Chocolate Pudding:

How can you go wrong!

I enjoyed every opportunity to care for the people I was cooking for when I made these dishes. I understood why my Dad loved to cook so much. When it was time to deliver the goods I could not help but take a couple pictures of my grand finale:

The puddings

And everything else.

My brother helped me deliver the food as it was too much to fit in my car. And when I said, hang on just a minute, I want to take a picture; he asked if I wanted to take all the lids off. I said no; I loved seeing the pans all tightly secured in surprise. I walked away wishing for the all the people who were about to eat my food to feel the appreciation they deserved for the work they do. I hope it tasted like they were cared for. I hope it tasted like I appreciated the opportunity I was given.  




Sunday, September 23, 2012

September 23rd ~ Weak in the Knees

Today I met for the first time with a personal trainer. I have resigned to the fact that this belly fat isn't going to be willed away; and my slow and steady, probably won't enter a race, run/walk approach isn't working.

Because I was feeling particularly overwhelmed with my belly rolls and my new venture into meeting new people, dating even;  I panicked and hired Georgia's, not one - but THREE time, Strongest Man. I ate a banana for breakfast but nothing else. Our session was at 2. I was afraid I would throw up ~ like when I didn't work out all summer and and had to show up at a pre-season basketball practice in high school. Coach Crowe or Coach Wayne; one of those sadistic; happy to see me throw up coaches (as of course we assumed of them at that age) had us running suicides and even though I could here her yelling at me I was pretty sure I just concentrated on not throwing up...ah, the loveliness of being out of shape!

When I arrived at his gym I was, surprisingly, not nervous. That has been happening a lot lately. I think it is because I am making good decisions; the right ones. Or maybe, I have just had enough of that. That choosing to not participate in life. Plus, it is only a 30 minute session. Surely to God I can take whatever this guy is gonna throw at me, for 30 minutes...?  

I enter the front door, which is opened. Like a welcome mat. It reminds me of a training barn for horses, only in that the front door and the back door ~ a large warehouse type door ~ are both opened and large industrial fans are at both ends blowing away the smell of sweat, and testosterone. There is not a single apparatus that I recognize. Granted, I don't hang out in gyms; but I have seen plenty of treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes covered in coats, used as drying racks, and collecting dust in many of my friends homes. I myself have some nonsense that has been used as nothing more then a swing set for my niece and nephew over the years.

My Georgia's Strongest Man Cubed appears and he is the tallest man I have ever seen; with the exception of that bizarre guy I want out with last year that made me hike 8 miles in the Amicalola Falls Park before he would feed me.  But that bizarre guy was 1/2 the width of me; GSM3 is not. He is rather large; but very engaging. So instead of being scared I feel those insanely broad shoulders are going to take me where I want to go. And I get pumped!

He starts me out on the bench press. After 3 sets of 10 of some embarrassingly light weight bar; my arms feel like your legs do after you go on a horseback ride and you haven't ridden before. My arms are wobbly and kind of doing their own thing as we move to some leg press type thing. My right leg is much stronger then my left leg. As I attempt to throw some ridiculously heavy volleyball sized ball up in the air at some unattainable X; I wonder if I walk with a limp and just never realized it. How can one leg be carrying so much of the load all this time?

There are 26 respectable sit ups; three, not so much; and one I am just sure I got away with.Then there was the machine where GSM3 said 'now, have you worked on one of these?' to which I said, 'yes, I think I have'; then proceeded to sit on it backwards. There was a rope, which he tried to claim was just like Double Dutch from Elementary School. It was not. It was a Mother of a rope!

As we wrapped things up I took a knee (sat on a bench); and we planned out our future (the next month). I had marks all over a calendar; like real plans! Something to do every Tuesday and Thursday morning. As I walked to my car, I could feel I was weak in the knees. And where I know the realities of that weakness, I chose to enjoy it the way you do when you are kissed on the pier with the stars looking on. Like, it is just a really good thing; good for you.

Then, I note that I am starving. So I go home and make a lovely, workout dinner of baked chicken and lemon butter sauteed baby kale!

I have been starving for a while. There is no need for that. I need to start eating up this life I am given; this life I am making.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Overdue in September ~ Trader Joe's to the Rescue!

I recently made a trip to Trader Joe's. Believe it or not I have actually only shopped at one a couple of times. Once was a rush in for flowers for my nieces' dance recital in Marietta and another was rushing in to get pita chips and cheese for a last minute party invite I scored.

But this day, I meandered, absorbed and participated in the joy of a Trader Joe's.

And here is the damage...

...what to make first??

Well the figs are 'thyme' sensitive, so lets start there.I find the black figs, goat cheese, prosciutto, and whole grain flat bread. I pull out the olive oil and garlic spread as the base and we are off and running with a cool pizza.

I threw on the prosciutto, sliced figs, cheese and bake...

This was Delicious.! 

But the best part of this day was this.

When I arrived at the store there was a class of special education students from the local high school learning basic living skills at the store. I purposefully stayed behind them down each isle. Except the wine one of course. I enjoyed their journey through the store.There seemed to be a great deal of talk and learning around the fresh fruit - "I like grapes, I don't know what this is"...and chips..."I like sour cream and onion, I shouldn't eat this"...   

I realized how food is not universal. Other then the sustainability to living and breathing. These kids where here learning about food; food for the most part that some were never going get to experience...it was just part of an exercise to them.  

Not every kid, or grown up, gets to experience fig & goat cheese, or peace and quite, or hugs and kisses . 

Life is so different and unbelievable ridiculous for each of us.  I never take my opportunities for granted. I just hope I make the best of them.   

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September 8th ~ Rhubarb Rules

I have recently made a conscious effort to get out and meet new people. So far it has paid off. It turns out there are actually some pretty lovely people out there. With meeting new people you have to reveal some things about yourself. You know, where you were born, where you grew up, where were you when the world stopped turning, etc.

These pretty lovely people want to know where you went to school, what you studied in school; they want to know where you like to eat and what you like to eat; they want to know if you like the beach or the mountains. It is a whole lotta stuff you thought all along you were holding close to the vest to keep a mystique about yourself; but it turns out it is all just nice to meet you banter.

In having to go back to the day I was three years old I am learning what I really am all about. It turns out I am a pretty interesting chick. I am odd, different, unique. I have been there, and here, and nowhere. I don't look good in pink, and shouldn't. I look good in blue and own nothing that is blue. I write blogs that don't change the world but I wish with all my heart I could imprint a change on this earth I stomp, skip and stride across.I am painfully aware that I am not the smartest person in the room, not even top 15 percentile.I am also painfully aware that I am woefully dependent on being the most taken advantage of person in the room. I see my dreams; perched in the corner to the left. I am all of my highs, and all of my lows.

I am just a girl, in a world of girls and boys, women and men; trying to figure out how to comport myself with some sort of dignity through this nonsense, clarity; I think it is called life.  

If it is this hard for me, what can it possibly be like for Rhubarb??

For the three or four of you who follow my blog, you know of my love of Rhubarb. Rhubarb for me is like that stinking Lovie that your two year old can't fall asleep without. The one with silk on one side and an elephant head holding it all together.

I desperately need Rhubarb in my life. It reminds me of North Dakota; genuine people, wind, richness amid poverty, pancakes.  I crave it. I think it should come in a pill.

When I was a kid my Mother would make potato pancakes.  If it were a special occasion she would serve them with Apple Sauce. I loved potato pancakes. They are also a part of me. Probably the the excess belly part of me.

Rhubarb is chopped, 

..with affection of course. Then I toss it with honey and lemon in a pot and cook it down to a sauce.

Meanwhile shred your russet potato...in doing this it occurs to me why we ate so many potato pancakes growing up...they are like loaves and fishes...when you don't hog the potato for yourself, you realize it can actually feed many.

I chopped some onion:...

Then toss the grated potato, chopped onion, an egg and salt and pepper...

...while I make a skillet hot...once the pan is hot drop your pancakes in.....

,,,just a few minutes here and flip over there to cook the pancakes...

..then plate up with that wonderful rhubarb sauce you created earlier...


 ...I added some bacon to make a completely inappropriate/appropriate meal...

It is Delish... and now is a part of me...something I will have to reveal...oie~~

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September 2 ~ Pick Me, Pick Me!

Someone recently posted a picture of me from my high school years on Facebook. And I was reminded of the oddities about myself. What makes me different and unusual. How those oddities make up the person I am. Part of the history of me.

When I was a baby I had peach fuzz that eventually grew into a vibrant auburn head of hair.  It stood out in every room, every landscape; like a Dr Pepper in a field of lemonade. To top it off I was speckled, like trout or hens. Freckles are a tough sell; it doesn't matter that they have nothing to do with Dodge Ball.

There is a puffiness about me face too; whether I drink vodka or not. Even when I was a buck twenty, my face was full and lacked definition.

When you are young these oddities cause you great emotional distress. Your chances of always being picked last, skipped over or run from all together are great and not exaggerated. And as you grow up that doesn't really change; but with age comes wisdom and now you understand it is the unfamiliar that people pick last, skip over and run from. Pied beauty can be scary.

My sort of, everydayish grocery store is Ingles. It is on my way home; they are renovating and I am always impressed with the choices  the store offers. It is a hard working grocery store. What I am unimpressed with at Ingles is that no matter what produce I am purchasing, the check out girl always has to ask, "what is this?"

"What are these?"

                     " Beets."

"These are?"


"Umm, Squash?"

                     "No, Rutabaga."

It is how every checkout session goes. On a side note, I am worried about the diet of the Madison County teenager.

The ignorance of the checkout girl notwithstanding; the produce section is a lot like life.

Everyone b-lines it to the broccoli and asparagus; the blondes and brunets of the produce world; or the zucchini and yellow squash, more variations there of, with long legs. There are the potatoes; Idaho = the 'about average'; Sweet = the 'athletic and toned'; fingerlings = the 'athletic & toned foodie'. On to the lettuces; Iceberg = manufactured home, Roman = Brick;  Mixed baby greens = Country Club living with Manicured Lawn.

You get the idea.

I suppose if I were produce I would be Rutabaga.

It has strange coloring, an uncooperative shape and is unfamiliar.  

But if you choose it, and take the time to peel away at the tough exterior...

...warm it till it softens a little, then add your own version of comfort (cream maybe), and joy (butter is always an option) ...

...you will end up with something unique, rich with texture, vibrant...


...that can accompany you through the  familiar (pan seared pork) and unfamiliar (Sherry Dijon Cream Sauce)...

   ...happenings that happen in this life.

I will see you in the produce department...the question is, where?