Did you just visit my blog post to see if I would post a picture of someone (or something, no judging here at Mary's Kitchen) that is naked? My goodness! This is a food blog! Jeez!
Speaking of naked, naked just happens to be my business. What? Wait! You just said this is food blog. Yep. You read that correctly Dear Reader. Naked is exactly what I am "into." All cooks love themselves some naked.
We take naked ingredients, cloth them in flavor and serve them to those we love. See? All cooks love themselves some naked. We even let those naked ingredients paddle about the pool together! Sometimes, if we're feeling particularly risqué, we don't even dress the ingredients! We get fresh! Ha!
I let the ingredients speak to me and try not to interfere with the conversation. That in a nutshell is cooking.
Share your stories about dressing your favorite "naked" ingredient(s) in the comments section and we can share a naughty smile...
This week I will be one of the featured chefs at a local Fair. This is a great honor and will be my fourth year in a row cooking during one of these coveted spots. I really enjoy the spontaneity of public appearances!
Last year, I was demonstrating my recipe for Pasta with Brown Butter. The pot of water would not and I mean, would not, come to a boil... I asked the audience for help. I said, 'Get up! Everyone! Come on!" The audience got up. Then I said, 'Okay. Lets do a "voodoo" dance to help this crazy pot boil.' They did! We all laughed at the silliness of it all and had fun too. Later, during that same demonstration, I invited an audience member up on stage with me to smell the butter and help out. She was adorable and could not have been more than nine or ten. Her daddy said she loved cooking and had seen me on local television. She said it smelled delicious and she couldn't wait to try the recipe at home. Then she said, 'You're a genius Mary Grube!' without any prompting from me! No really, no prompting from me, whatsoever! Well, maybe a little prompting...
This week, I will be talking more than cooking. I thought it would be fun to help attendees learn about ways to use both fresh herbs and different salts. There are so many varieties of each and it can be a little overwhelming to say the least. I will discuss how to grow, dry and cook with herbs. I will talk about ways to make different types of herb salts and I will explain the differences between the many different salts available in the market. (I get asked a lot about salts since I have been an avid "collector" for over 20 years!)
When our children were young, they did not like many herbs or spices in their food. I got a little bored in the kitchen, so to season things up, I turned to different types of salts. I began experimenting and studying and such. Then I began to collect salts when I traveled and to ask friends to bring me salts from their travels. My collection is extensive and varied. Changing up the type of salt I use really changes a dish! This way I got to play in my kitchen and our girls still ate the food I made. Win-Win!
Above is a photograph of the herbs and I will bring and use at the Fair. One topic I will discuss is drying herbs. One of my recommendations is drying herbs in bundles to use throughout the cooler months. I make what I call an Herbs de Provence Bundle. I collect what I have growing in the yard; lavender, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme and bay. I gather one or two sprigs of each, tie them together with kitchen twine and let them air dry. Once the bundles are dry, I pack them away in an airtight container or bag, label it (a VERY important step) and then, when I need them, they are ready. Different combinations of herbs are useful and fun too so make up a combination you and your family enjoy. These herb bundles work well in most anything, especially soups and sauces. Try it and see if you feel a little bit herby.
Share your ideas for using herbs and what herb bundles might be helpful to other readers in the comments section and we can all help each other!
Little Gifts from Angels
The other day I was procrastinating on Facebook and I saw a post about feathers and their meaning. 'What does it mean if you find a feather?' The post inquired of their 'Facebook Family.' I got to wondering... what does finding a feather mean? Well, finding a feather means an angel is near. Finding a white feather, as you see in the picture, is a sign of faith and protection. A white feather can also be that an angel is letting you know a loved one is safe and well in heaven.
Different colored feathers mean different things. For example, red means courage, strength, even good fortune. Pink is a sign of love from the angels. Yellow feathers mean you need some joy in your life and blue means you should listen. Green represents growth and purple spirituality. Grey symbolizes peace, brown home, black is protection and orange means success. Since these little guys come from angels, it seems appropriate they all represent some form of a blessing and who doesn't need some blessing in their life? None someones that's who!
Meaning can be assigned to anything... It is all a bunch of hooey or mumbo-jumbo you think. I don't know about you but I will take some positivity and a little gift from an angel (or 50 for that matter) any day of the week!
Standing with Our Texas Friends
Howdy Y'all! Hurricane Harvey went and through a hissy fit and messed with Texas! My local paper, The Morning Call, has a picture, on the front page, of two Texans, one carrying a suitcase and the other holding onto him for dear life, wading through the pouring rain. The Tropical Storm Harvey brought feet, not inches, the article explains.
First of all, why do we call these storms, "Tropical?" It sounds like a party when in reality they are something decidedly NOT like a party for the people who live through and then clean up the mayhem that follows a Tropical Storm. Anyway, I thought it appropriate to post today about Texas. Texas is our beautiful country's second-largest state. They say things in Texas like, 'Don't mess with Texas' and 'Fixin' to." The state's motto is friendship. Friendship, Dear Reader, so as a gesture of friendship to my friends and fellow planet-dwellers in Texas, I offer the equivalent of a warm, dry blanket, food talk...
Ever notice how just talking about food can make you feel better. Say the words, 'How about some fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits and a rich, Texas Sheet Cake for dessert?' What about if someone offers you a cup of coffee or tea and a nice biscuit? Perhaps a salad or a slice of cold, juicy watermelon or a handful of chilled grapes is your ticket to satisfaction. My type of food talk usually involves most any kind of talk about high tea, Greek pastry or French anything. Whatever surrounds and warms you is your "food talk" and precisely what you need in that moment. There is even a lovely scene in the book, "The Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson. Two little girls who are being punished and starved begin to pretend they are eating a scrumptious meal. They begin to imagine the tastes and textures of the fabulous foods and their spirits begin to elevate. They forget, just for that moment, how bleak and scared they feel. Food talk.
Food talk cannot restore the walls of a home or replace the family photos that got damaged in a storm. Food talk cannot make the tragedies surrounding a natural disaster disappear. Food talk cannot bring back what someone has lost...
What can food talk do? Food talk can nourish and restore a soul. Food talk can warm your heart and spirit. Food talk can ground you when you feel lost.
Most of us watched the ravages of Hurricane Harvey from the safety of our homes with our hands over our mouths, while shaking our head; including, other Texans. Most of you probably think "food talk" is pure silliness and that I am a little off my nut. Stay with me...
Send someone in Texas affected by the storm a prepaid charge card and a few hand-written recipes with favorite Texas foods on them. Maybe toss in a packet of the state flower, the bluebonnet with the envelop. Your friend can use the card to purchase food and plant the seeds as a gesture of renewal. I be you will touch their heart. I bet, they will know, you stand with them and with Texas.
I'm Light. No Sugar.
I recently began conditioning myself to "like" coffee without the part that makes it especially yummy, sugar. Goodness knows why I am torturing myself like this... I used to take my coffee with half and half and a bit of raw sugar. I have not used white, granulated sugar in my coffee for over a year. I find if I begin my day with a sweet drink, my cravings for sugar continue throughout the day. My knees and other joints hurt a bit more too. So, after a summer spent eating too often and watching too much Netflix, I decided, enough. Enough sugar! Now, before you roll your eyes (I may be too late for this reaction) I am not giving up sugar all together but I am trying to be smarter about the types of sugar I consume and how often.
Weaning yourself off of sugar is not easy. The more you eat, the more you want. Just think about the candy counter at the movie theatre or how grocery stores mercilessly put racks and racks of sugary treats at the checkout stands. The first few days you say 'goodbye' to those little granules of heaven are tough! You think about sugar, dream about sugar and drool when other people eat sugar... Then something happens. Something unexpected. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING suddenly tastes sweeter when you eat or drink sugar-sweetened treats. Your taste for sugar dissipates and becomes heightened. Your joints don't hurt as soon as they used to and you use less in your baking or use alternative natural sweeteners in your cooking and baking. The desire to make treats that require a lot of sugar subsides. It's kinda cool.
I have actually begun to enjoy my light, no sugar coffee. I notice the smoky nuances of the brew instead of the sweet notes of the raw sugar. I still take a bit of half and half (I know this has a bit of natural sweetness) but the creaminess of it balances the smokiness of the coffee in just the right way for my palate. I see an effect on my cooking and baking too because I am so "aware" of any sugar I add and want to take the best care of my family I can. Maybe give it a try. Have you been eating too much sugar and sugary treats? Start slowly by decreasing the amount of sugar in your morning coffee or go cold turkey like I did. Be mindful juice has lots of sugar in it so think about switching to green tea. (No eye rolling please.) The first few sips are a bit shocking but then you come to enjoy the light no sugar-ness of it all.
I fumble in the dish rack and push my lazy susan so it will swirl about to the place where I put away the bowl I just bang-banged about. The next sound I hear is a thump and then the clickety-clack of doggie toe nails on the floor. Next, I see a fuzzy, white blur with a wagging tail that says 'What are you making me to eat?'
The "thump" came from our living room where our Shnoodle Lollipop has been fake sleeping. (All dogs share two qualities, sleepiness and optimism.) Ever notice how dogs always seem like they are asleep? Let me tell you, they are not. Dogs are fake sleeping until the next good thing comes their way. That good thing could be you, a leaf, another dog, a bird, a truck, or their ALL TIME FAVORITE, food! Dogs are the most optimistic creatures on the planet! They never give up hope you will show them affection or give them food. NEVER!
You walk or stumble into your kitchen, minding your own business, open a cabinet and then, THUMP! Your dog bolts awake like some sort of fuzzy tornado and comes clickety-clacking into the kitchen with a hopeful grin in their eyes. You see Dear Reader, your dog thinks they are going to get food. We look down at them and in a sing-song voice, assure them there is 'no food for you.' We look down at our dogs and lie! Dogs know we know we are lying like a rug. They see right through us! Dogs know we will inevitably drop something. Dogs know we may not know (or care) we dropped something and the pair of us share a common and unspoken truth; what falls on the floor is fair game! (Remember, NO JUDGING here at Mary's Kitchen.)
So, the next time your dog hears "bang-bang" and then you hear "thump" and then a little "clickety-clack," just smile and show a little gratitude for your ever sleepy and optimistic furry friend.
If you haven't guessed already, this is Lollipop. A pocorn-loving, squirrel-chasing, yoga-interrupting fuzzball.
Please share stories about the furry optimists in your family in the comments sections.
My Kitchen is Not My Work Space
Ever wonder about what other peoples's homes look like? Are you curious about what snacks they eat or how tidy (or not tidy) their work space or their pantry are kept? Are you curious about what they see when they are at home?
Today, whether or not you are interested, I am sharing photos of my work space and desk view. One is a reflection of me and one provides endless inspiration and entertainment.
My work space is not my own. I share it with our daughters. As you can see from how many littles containers and trinkets I keep on my desk, it is sort of a dumping ground. Stuff keeps accumulating and I keep trying to organize it into little keepers.
I add things that make me smile or chuckle, like the saying to the left (my personal motto.) I also add things that make me feel good, like the singing angel I bought at a yard sale. There are pictures of my family and cords and a glasses case. There are notepads and papers that need to be filed or recycled.
It's a bit like me, a car, always in 5th gear but striving each day to find a peaceful place to settle into where I can accept the messy organization that is "my life." It's never much tidier than it is right now. (I bet you're thinking 'like you Mary' and you would be right!)
Some things on our desk get pushed to the back. One of those those things is a Merlion figurine my husband Russell brought back from a business trip to Singapore. The Merlion is a mythical creature (I think you know that) and represents Singapore's origins. Can you find him? Post in the comments if you do!
Here is a photo of my view when I work. I see birds and herbs running riot and hear the sounds of my neighborhood. Those sounds are many. I hear a Carolina Wren, finches and robins and I also hear a leaf blower. One of these things is decidedly NOT like the other! Whatever happened to sweeping! Gosh I despise leaf blowers! They make a mess and pollute the earth by using gasoline, blowing dust and dirt about and making noise! They accomplish nothing and move one person's mess to someone else's place without truly tidying anything! People are also VERY inconsiderate about when they use these horrible machines don't ya think? I'm just sayin... Anyway, I will focus on the Wren and the robins...
I look out and see birds flying by or pecking in my garden or at each other. I hear the sounds of our daughter waking and our dog begging to be fed or noticed. I watch as birds come and go at the bird bath and think about how my windows need cleaning. I open the windows and let the cool breeze freshen my spirit and our home and long to be outside in the thick of all the chaos. I know summer is coming to a close and soon the lightening bugs who dance about in the evening will become a thing of the past. I also know it's time to gather and dry herbs and that I have a lot to do these coming days and weeks.
My workspace is in a nook in our kitchen, my favorite room in our home. The kitchen is my "favorite" room, not just because I love to cook but because it is the room where so much of family life happens. I go to my kitchen to nourish myself, my family and people I care about. That "nourishing" could just be good conversation over a cup of tea and a little nibble or it could be making a great feast or a simple batch of cookies. I also go to my kitchen to create. I write and test recipes and just "play and relax." Believe it or not, my kitchen is a very playful and relaxing place PLUS it always smells good too!
My workspace is "in" my kitchen but my kitchen is not my "workspace."
Aprons have been worn since ancient times. They were and are worn as protective garments and even to indicate status. The word "apron" has its origins from the French word, 'naperon' which means "a small tablecloth." Perhaps that's why there are so many frilly-froo-froo aprons on the markets these days. After all, the French are the ones who created an uber-coiffed pooch! That explains it I think...
For me, I like my aprons somewhere in-between. When I cook in public, I wear my brightly colored trademark orange "Mary's Kitchen" apron. (My mother gave it to me as a gift and I love the happy color.) I wear certain aprons in the house, depending on what I am doing. For example, about my home kitchen, I wear my favorite apron I affectionally refer to as "cooking cloths." These are garments I use as aprons. Go on... You can chuckle, but, we ALL do this! We all wipe our hands on our shirts, pants, towels, our significant other, whatever is closest and easiest when we're cooking. In fact, when my kids were little, rather than have them touch anything in a public toilet, they used me as a human paper towel if the public restroom was out of towels! I am talking about after washing their little, baby hands! What were YOU thinking I meant! Yuck!
I have a collection of aprons. I have those aprons that are in pristine condition made by my grandmother and great aunts. You know the type? The ones with frilly-froo-froo lace, brick-a-brack and other impractical decorations made of gossamer-thin material that are not good for much except looking pretty and well, frilly-froo-froo. The ones you would not dare wear for fear of getting them stained! Yep. Those.
I have full length and half length aprons. Chef coats and smocks. There are a few things to look for in an apron I find helpful.
1. Look for a breathable and strong material so the apron is both comfortable and protective.
2. Avoid it being too loose or having things that poke out. Why? Either can cause the apron to get caught on something or even catch fire and you may get injured.
3. Pockets are helpful.
4. It should be adjustable.
Please share your apron stories and photos in the comments section.
Get "Tied" Up
I do not consider myself to be "uptight." I am more of a "free spirit." I enjoy letting loose and being free and easy... That said, lets talk about bondage.
Wait! WOW! I just went for it didn't I?
Get your mind out of the gutter and into the kitchen Dear Reader. Geez! I'm talking about bondage as in "tying your hair back." My goodness! Where is your mind? Let's get to know each other first...
As you know, I am in the final editing stage of my cookbook. In each and every recipe, I state in the recipe directions, "Tie your hair back." I have "hair ties" in the "Equipment Needed" section of the recipe. Hair ties are just that, "needed/required equipment" in the kitchen. Why? Well, there are many reasons:
1. Finding a hair in your food is DISGUSTING! (Unless you're into that. Who am I to judge.)
3. Safety. Wait. What? Yes. Safety. I will share with you a very personal story... The story is untypical "serious" so brace yourself.
Many years ago now, our daughters and I were baking Koulourakia. (Koulourakia are a scrumptious, buttery Greek cookie we call "Twisty Cookies in our family.) Anyway, our family was just returning from a vacation and Alyssa, our oldest, really wanted Koulourakia, like me, they are her favorite cookie. I pulled out the heavy-duty mixer and began creaming the butter and sugar... Alyssa had very long hair... My spidy mom-sense kicked in a millisecond too slow because the next thing I knew, Alyssa was screaming! You see, her gorgeous, blond six-year-old hair had become entwined in the beater of the mixer! She got scalped! I mean that too! We're talking 'Telly Savalas' bald! It was horrifying! I truly felt like the 'World's WORST" mother! In that moment, I deserved that title!
I called my dear friend, Sara, to talk about the incident and to warn her... She said she knew someone whose child had also had this happen! Dear Goodness!
Right about now, you're probably covering your mouth. (The way we do when we see or read about something terrifying and awful.) I have tears in my eyes and my hands are a little shaky as I write this all these years later! I am only sharing this story with you to prevent the same thing happening to you or worse, someone you love... (As a mother, any injury that happens to my child is worse than what could ever happen to me.) Please, please, please, TIE your hair back. Tie someone else's hair back that is working with you in the kitchen! It should be the FIRST thing you do when you enter the kitchen! Please, get tied up! Let your "free spirit" loose in the kitchen through the way you use ingredients, NOT your free-flowing hair.
This morning I walked out to pick lettuce for our daughter Mia's sandwich, throw coffee grounds into our garden and let our Shnoodle, Lollipop, have a moment to herself. We have a sunroom where I grow all manner of herbs and store outdoor-related things. I try my best to keep it tidy and attractive but it is also a workroom of sorts. Today our sunroom smells like a bit of heaven! We recently gathered different varieties of heirloom apples and I placed them on a table in the sunroom until I have time to make some treats. Have you ever smelled truly fresh and ripe apples? They smell like sunshine, honey and blossoms. They smell like the promise of delicious things to come. They smell like Fall. They smell like childhood. They smell like home.
I seem to be always touting the importance of purchasing local food and/or growing a garden. There is nothing quite as gratifying as harvesting food you have grown yourself or knowing you are supporting a hard-working local producer. The smells and feel of fresh produce.... Ahhhh... I get a thrill every time I hoist up something I grew. The harvest (and me both) covered in dirt. I stand there, dripping with clean sweat as I am, slightly sun kissed and a bit sore too but feeling like it is SO worth the effort! When you snack on tomatoes and berries just picked off the vine and still warm from the sun with the juice running down your chin...
I always share the first ripened fruits and vegetables with my family, even if there are only two or three. We rinse them and divide them and savor the first tastes of my efforts. We bond through the tasty goodness of home and memories each harvest has to offer.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor