Author Archives for theRaggedys

Yelp and Repentance

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How many of us are lucky enough to receive not one but TWO hand-written thank-you notes in the mail on the same day?  And both those thank-you notes are on cards created by the folks doing the thanking!

I’d give our guests very, very positive reviews on Yelp – if only they made being house guests their business: FIVE stars!!!!!!!!!!!! Cleaned up after themselves!!!!  Appreciated our cooking!!!!  Good conversationalists!!!!  Stayed LESS than 5 nights!!!  Wrote and snail-mailed thank-you’s!!!!

My positive Yelping would not be typical of what seems to be the norm on Yelp.  The definition of “yelp” is a short, sharp cry of pain or alarm.  Those who created Yelp reviews must have known that this was not going to be a necessarily positive kind of thing.  And, judging from our kids’ experience with their restaurant(s), Tacolicious, Yelp can definitely cause a sharp cry of pain or alarm.

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“Tacolicious is AWESOME and the manager is the BEST!” “Great tacos.”  “Yummy tacos.” “Prime location; good vibes and good food!” “God, this place is good.” Yes, there are lots and lots of positive Yelp reviews about Tacolicious, but then…….

Well, you’ll just have to read our daughter Sara’s recent article in online Bon Appétit:  10 Lessons on Opening a Restaurant.  It’s not all about Yelp; it’s about the restaurant business in general.  And it’s about repentance.   It’s pretty funny, even if her mama is the one saying it.

In case you’re interested, a little Googling comes up with the following info re how the name Yelp was selected by its co-founders:  it was short, memorable, easy to spell, and connected “the help” and “yellow pages.”

Andy, meanwhile, can’t help thinking about his on-going angst resulting from RateMyProfessors.com.  A little like Yelp – but for the world of academia.  Check out Andy’s Corner.

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Guacamole – and more from Tacolicious

I’ve got four recipes from Tacolicious for your review.  One – D-lish T-lish Guacamole – we blogged about before; it’s SO perfect.  I just KNOW your reviews will be stellar. 🙂

Three other recipes are for dishes which are all currently on the menu at the restaurants, if you’d like to eat out in San Francisco (or Palo Alto or San Jose) and Yelp about it.  Just remember that restaurant owners have feelings too.

Also – just so you know – I am not exactly unrepentant.  Wikipedia says that “repentance is the activity of reviewing ones actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs, which is accompanied by commitment to change for the better.”  I hereby promise to send out hand-written thank-you notes post-holiday – which will be a first since email was invented (but I hope my family doesn’t hold me to it!) Continue reading

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.

shakespeare in love

My apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  While thinking about love poems the other night, her sonnet was the first that came to mind.  Except that I was thinking Shakespeare wrote it.

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways. 
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height 
My soul can reach….

I did get this sonnet by Shakespeare attributed correctly (#116):

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken….

Then I remembered the gorgeous and sad and possibly-too-relevant love poem “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold:

Ah, love, let us be true 
To one another! for the world, which seems 
To lie before us like a land of dreams, 
So various, so beautiful, so new….

Why love poems?  After all, Valentine’s Day is a long ways off.  Well, come late fall I’m feeling more than a little sad about the absence of delicious peaches and nectarines, plums and strawberries, blackberries, melons and even blueberries.  And only two things relieve that sadness: the appearance of pomegranates and persimmons in the markets.  I LOVE them!  I should write a poem about them!

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It’s November; no plums in the markets.  Thanks, Sara D, for the photo.

Actually, I don’t need to write a pomegranate poem.  Kahlil Gibran has already written the perfect piece about the fruit.  Bear with me (as the pomegranate tree doth bear her fruit :)) – and take time to read his essay.  It’s thought-provoking, relevant, and will make you smile.  I may start looking into quince.

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Thanks, again,  Sara D,  for the nice pomegranate photo!

The Pomegranate

Once when I was living in the heart of a pomegranate, I heard a seed
saying, “Someday I shall become a tree, and the wind will sing in
my branches, and the sun will dance on my leaves, and I shall be
strong and beautiful through all the seasons.”

Then another seed spoke and said, “When I was as young as you, I
too held such views; but now that I can weigh and measure things,
I see that my hopes were vain.”

And a third seed spoke also, “I see in us nothing that promises so
great a future.”

And a fourth said, “But what a mockery our life would be, without
a greater future!”

Said a fifth, “Why dispute what we shall be, when we know not even
what we are.”

But a sixth replied, “Whatever we are, that we shall continue to
be.”

And a seventh said, “I have such a clear idea how everything will
be, but I cannot put it into words.”

Then an eight spoke—and a ninth—and a tenth—and then many—until
all were speaking, and I could distinguish nothing for the many
voices.

And so I moved that very day into the heart of a quince, where the
seeds are few and almost silent.

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Quiet Time with Quince

 

I believe that Gibran’s little essay might be the perfect topic for a Thanksgiving dinner discussion.  Andy believes he has the perfect solution for transporting Thanksgiving pies and staying out of jail (see today’s Andy’s Corner).

And now to the recipes.

While it’s obvious that pomegranate seeds are beautiful as a topping for almost any salad – and even meat and vegetable dishes, they’re also wonderful incorporated into a dish.

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And Now for Something Completely Different, 2nd Round: Thanksgiving Musings

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According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the First Thanksgiving menu likely included wildfowl, corn, porridge and venison.

It’s been almost a year since David from Albuquerque wrote our first guest blog on BigLittleMeals.com.  And he’s been kind enough to come back on board for a follow-up…this time with a focus on Thanksgiving.  Those who know David know how witty and curmudgeonly he is.  Others may only know that in his professional life he is/was a geriatric psychiatrist.  Could that explain a lot? 🙂  What few knew prior to our blog is that David is an excellent and passionate cook – and a little sentimental, too.

David describes himself as a “seriously selcouth sesquipedalianist.”  Look it up.  I had to.

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That will make a really big pumpkin pie!  Or is it a squash?  David points out that they’re both cucurbitaceae.

Thanksgiving Musings from David:

Ann asked if I could have another blog contribution ready by the middle of November. Not surprisingly, this has me thinking about Thanksgiving. For me, Thanksgiving is the most important holiday of the year. I suppose Christmas has been a bigger deal for the children, but the way we celebrate Christmas always makes me grumpy. We are all drowning in objects that do little but make work for us and yet we “celebrate” by showering one another with ever more of the stuff. I threw an embarrassing tantrum on Christmas morning a few years ago and my family seems finally to have gotten the message that if they want to give me something, it had darned well better be something that can be drunk or eaten or put into a vase for a few days and then composted. And yet I am expected to do to other people what I hate when they do it to me. Who turned the Golden Rule on its head? I thought to solve or at least mitigate the problem a few years ago by giving Frankie something that would actually be useful in the household, which we were going to have to buy anyway even if there were no gift-giving occasion. I gave her a lovely new vacuum cleaner for Christmas. Sweet Jesus! You’d have thought I threw a turd in the soup.

Ah, but Thanksgiving! No one needs to bring anything but whatever friends or orphans are at hand. Extra side dishes or wine is welcomed but certainly not necessary, and no one brings gifts. Hurray! We can focus on eating ourselves into a stupor. When I was in the Navy, some of my shipmates and I had rented an apartment in Waikiki and we made a big Thanksgiving dinner in which every dish contained what we called “herbal hilarity” back in the day, of which we had plenty, just having returned from Bangkok. Wowsa. We got hungrier (and stupider) after every bite. I have no idea who cleaned up the mess, if indeed anyone did. Most of us were nailed to the rug.

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We do not wish to imply that this was David’s mother.  Rather, she represents all of those 1950’s Uber Mothers!

In my childhood home, Mom cooked the dinner. She started by simmering the turkey neck and giblets to make stock for the gravy. After a couple of hours when things were smelling awesome and the neck was falling-apart tender, Dad and I would fish it out of the stock, salt the hell out of it and suck on vertebrae until they were shiny clean. I do that still, and think of him fondly every time. Now, I don’t put the liver in the stock, but fry it up for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. It is delicious and as an added bonus, onlookers are revolted. Speaking of which, my mom also put marshmallow topping on her sweet potato casserole, which would put poor Frankie completely over the edge of revulsion. I don’t even joke with her about that, lest I get puked upon. But sometimes the grandkids do.

Early in our family life, I didn’t do as much cooking as now. I did the pancake breakfasts, guacamole, outdoor cooking, and maybe a pot of chili or spaghetti once in a while, but Frankie did most of the cooking. I always cooked the turkey at Thanksgiving, though, and gradually began to make the side dishes as well. For several years, I experimented and cooked “creatively” after the fashion I described in the January blog, even at Thanksgiving. One year I even made “Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish,” which actually doesn’t taste too bad, but we couldn’t get over the fact it looks like lumpy Pepto Bismol.

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Cranberry Relish – from Susan Stamberg’s NPR series.  Yum?

In a joint effort with friends and family one Thanksgiving, we deep-fried five 10# turkeys. Scary dangerous and an enormous mess, I’m afraid, but pretty tasty for all that. I made a wild rice stuffing for the turkey one year, a couple of years made corn bread and green chile stuffing, drove myself crazy trying to pick the husks off hazelnuts one year, and even added oysters to the dressing once. I thought the oyster stuffing was great, but that went over like the aforementioned turd in the soup. As did giblets in the gravy–now, I eat them with my turkey neck, all alone, missing my dad. And I make what I take to be the best turkey dressing on the planet–not surprisingly it’s a tweaked up version of what my mom used to make. Without oysters. (A word that she pronounced to rhyme with “moisture,” which she was more apt to use to refer to the testes of a bull than to a bivalve, though as far as I know, she never ate any of either).

Gradually, our favorite dishes became obligatory. Frankie used to tell me a couple of weeks before the big day that it was time to plan the menu and we would sit and discuss. I was always ready for new ideas, and though she was not frankly opposed, she would always say, “Well, we have to have turkey and your dressing, of course, and mashed potatoes and gravy, and sweet potatoes, and spinach and artichokes, and cranberry sauce, and pies…” By the time she got through the list of obligatory dishes, the meal was planned. Finally, ten years ago I made a “Thanksgiving Menu and Shopping List” template and now just pull it up so that we can save ourselves an hour of dither.

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David’s shopping list

I find it interesting and puzzling not only that we serve the same thing at Thanksgiving every year, but that we almost never have any of these dishes at another time. There are no surprises and not even the most finicky grandchild complains about the food. Even more puzzling is that I not only put up with this, I welcome it, which seems completely out of character for a man disposed to disruption and alert for adventure. A unexpected consequence of cooking exactly the same thing every year is that because of long practice, preparing a huge Thanksgiving feast now takes less time than some dinners that are not for especially special occasions. I do a little prep work the day before, start the turkey in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, have everything else ready to go in the oven by noon and serve the meal by 3 PM.

So, what’s for dinner?

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Lagniappe: Overnight Steel Cut Oats

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We may be slow to try out this d-lish, healthy breakfast dish (remember, I was slow to figure out Sloe Gin!), but it’s a keeper!  After Willow explained in our last blog about the importance of our gut and suggested steel cut oats as something good to include in our diets, we decided that we’d replace our normal rolled oats with steel cut.  Mind you, I’ve never been a real fan of oatmeal for breakfast.  I doctor it up with granola, fruit, lots of brown sugar and half and half – all of which detracts from the healthiness thing and makes me feel guilty.

Last night Andy (who BTW has not yet ridden into the sunset with his horse and Roy Rogers gun) started the oats; this morning they were quickly cooked; we added bananas and maple syrup for sweetness; pecans and pomegranates and hemp seeds for extra health and crunch.  Voila!  Amazing.

And here’s a little lagniappe from Willow with more ideas on easy ways to incorporate good gut foods into your diet, as well as what to avoid.  I asked for suggestions about sauerkraut specifically, since eating it raw isn’t something I’ve done.  And anyone who suggests eating more sweet potatoes is on my Bestie list forever more! Go, Willow!

  • I sometimes just eat a big spoonful of raw sauerkraut.  I’d bring it to room temperature and add to sandwiches.  You could heat a sandwich or dish and then add the sauerkraut at the end. 
  • If you look at miso soup recipes, it always says to make the soup, remove it from the heat and then add the miso before serving, without boiling again.
  • Honey, maple syrup and agave are all sugar.  The honey and maple syrup have tiny amounts of vitamins, etc, but as long as you can handle sugar in reasonable amounts, they are okay.  I would stay away from agave. It is very high in fructose like high fructose corn syrup, and your body doesn’t handle that well. 
  • Oatmeal, especially the long cooking steel cut oats are healthy.  Soaking over night cuts cooking time down a lot. 
  • There is something called resistant starches which are not easily metabolized to sugar and provide good food for gut bacteria.  Two of these, as opposed to white potatoes, are sweet potatoes and yams. 

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Overnight Steel Cut Oats

  • 1 c steel cut oats (non-GMO)
  • 4 c water
  • big pinch of kosher salt
  • Toppings: chopped nuts, pomegranate seeds, hemp seeds, sliced bananas, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries (mix and match)
  • maple syrup
  • spoonful of unsweetened yogurt on top (optional)

The night before bring 4 cups of water to a boil; add the steel cut oats and simmer for 1 minute.  Remove from heat; cover the pot, and let sit until morning.

The next morning bring the oatmeal back to a simmer and cook on low for about 9 minutes, uncovered and stirring occasionally.

Serve with the toppings, maple syrup, and yogurt.

If you have leftovers, refrigerate and heat in the microwave for another easy, healthy breakfast.  Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

Guts

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Let this be me! I don’t know whom to credit for the artwork but both the title and art come from Mary Medlicott’s story on storyworks.org.uk

It’s all about guts.  “Speaking up was such a gutsy thing to do, but it was a gut-wrenching experience to watch.”  “Geez I hate his guts.”  “Personally, my gut instinct was that it wouldn’t turn out well.” Seems like we’ve heard lots of gut-based expressions like that the past month or so.  But I’m not thinking about earthy sayings at the moment – such as I did in a recent blog.  I’m thinking about our guts’ health and foods that can contribute to it.  Andy, in Andy’s Corner, is focused on gutsy cowboys.

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Should you wish to order it, the American Museum of Natural History has a card game entitled “Gutsy: the Gut Microbiome Card Game.”

 

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And the Cleveland Clinic has a podcast,  “Butts & Guts.”  Like the title?

Since my knowledge of anything inside of me is minimal, to say the least, I turned to a Colorado College GPB Sister (see my earlier blog about these sisters) for help.  Here’s what Willow has to say about her background and her advice on gut health:

Owning a health food store for 33 years, I  certainly was in an environment conducive to learning about health and nutrition.  I did a lot of reading, went to seminars as often as possible, and I learned a great deal from my customers, things they read and their personal experiences.  I’ve always been skeptical  of food and health fads that are not supported by good evidence or studies.

The gut is so important, your second brain.  What goes on in the gut determines what goes one in the brain.  I’m including an article (editor’s note: we’ve put that article under Food for Thought) that pretty well summarizes what is so important in the gut and what can go wrong.  For a healthy gut, cultured foods provide food for the good bacteria.  That includes any fermented food (not sure about wine) (editor’s note: DAMN!), such as cultured yogurt unsweetened, sauerkraut, raw fermented drinks, tempeh, miso or any raw fermented foodThe key word is raw. If you heat the sauerkraut it kills the good bacteria.  The foods that disrupt the healthy bacteria are SUGAR, flour, artificial sweeteners, GMO foods (the glyphosphate is part of the plant that you eat) It and other pesticides work on bugs to disrupt their gut flora and kill them.  So guess what it does to the human that eats it. 

The secret is lots of organic vegetables, moderate amounts of fruit (which are basically sugar), pasture raised meats (not fed GMO corn and soy), (editor’s note: all the underlining is mine)

Nobody has a perfect diet, but if you eat the not so healthy foods, do so in great moderation.  

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Gut-healthy ingredients

After reading Willow’s suggestions and doing a little internet research, I put together a list of some additional gut-healthy foods to consider when you’re cooking;  foods with lots of fiber are especially important :

  • chickpeas
  • lentils
  • navy beans
  • split peas
  • barley
  • oats (steel cut are best)
  • raw leafy greens – dandelion greens are especially good
  • fresh parsley and cilantro
  • raw garlic and onion
  • artichokes
  • sweet potatoes and squash
  • raw celery
  • leeks
  • raw jicama
  • asparagus
  • hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, chia, and flax seed
  • raspberries and blackberries
  • bananas (in moderation)
  • uncooked pears (in moderation)
  • unpeeled, uncooked apples (in moderation)
  • nuts (except peanuts and cashews)
  • pasture raised meats (not fed GMO corn and soy)
  • and the obvious: raw sauerkraut, unsweetened cultured yogurt, raw fermented drinks, tempeh, miso, kimchi

Another piece of advice that sounds reasonable from what I gleaned from the internet: antibiotics kill ‘good’ bacteria as well as ‘bad’. If you have to take antibiotics, make sure you eat lots of foods that boost your guts’ health afterwards.

I’m pleased that we’ve already blogged about a couple of salad recipes and our green drink recipe that all have lots going for the gut:

Plus, we’ve got two new ones to share: “Arugula, Squash, Chickpea, and Walnut Salad and Dandelion Greens, Sweet Potato, and Pumpkin Seed Salad with Miso Dressing (see photos and recipes below).  And I’ve created a printable list of these gut-healthy foods, so you can easily reference it when shopping.  If you want to do more reading on the subject of gut health, you can find a couple more very informative articles we posted under Food for Thought.

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