Author Archives for theRaggedys

On Porches and Stoops: We’re Together

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A modern urban townhouse design.   No stoops.

Travis, our son who lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, bicycled over to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, the other day to deliver some of his home-made sour dough bread to friends.  Without his even knowing that I had planned a blog on stoops and porches, Travis described the amazing scene to me – people of all ethnicities and ages sitting outside on that warm summer day, chatting up a storm, while easily maintaining social distance – on their Brooklyn stoops.

If you’ve re-watched Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing recently, as we did (it’s sadly relevant to 2020), you’re familiar with Brooklyn’s stoops. (note: it must have been a cold, wintry day when the photo below was taken.  That has to explain why the stoops are bare! 🙂

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Bed-Stuy Brooklyn Stoops – in bad weather 🙂

Not all Brooklyn has stoops.  A great, brief watch is the recent documentary which focuses on the “5 PM Porch Concerts” which happened daily in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, during the first 82 days of the coronavirus outbreak.

Even if you don’t live in an urban environment like Brooklyn, maybe your neighborhood has porches.  And maybe you’ve found they promote a sense of community.  In an old All Things Considered series on porches, Michele Norris, the host, remarks “Porches, debate and democracy go together.”

Though today there’s a slight uptick in U.S. homes being built with porches, stoop and porch-sitting suffered a serious setback with the introduction of A/C and televisions.  No need to be outside to cool off; entertainment is inside…AND, if you’re in the ‘burbs, there’s a backyard – with PRIVACY!

Mending Wall,” Robert Frost’s poem about privacy and neighborliness, made Andy think about fences – in today’s Andy’s Corner.

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Welcoming flowers on the front porch of our family’s Shields Street home in Fort Collins, Colorado – and Marcus, our first Aussie; probably around 1970.

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More welcoming flowers – and another favorite porch of ours in “Old Town West,” Fort Collins, Colorado.  Go CSU Rams!

Margaret Rozga, the current Poet Laureate of Wisconsin, wrote a lovely poem about porches and stoops. Our friend, Terry, a native of the Badger state, has attended talks by Rozga and years ago marched in protests with Rozga’s husband, James Groppi, demanding Fair Housing in Milwaukee.  Terry reports that, sadly, Milwaukee still has quite a ways to go in that regard…which probably sets the background for Rozga’s poem:

Cake and Lemonade for Neighbors by Margaret Rozga

Where I want to live
neighbors gather
on front porches, watch
their children play
across multiple front yards, laugh
in Spanish, Arabic, Burmese, English, talk
about back-in-the-day, share
sweet and savory snacks, lend
each other a cup of sugar or flour, borrow
hedge trimmers, a shovel, or rake, help
with chores when need be, apologize
when need be, offer
a word of advice (not more), drum,
strum guitars, and pluck banjos, make
a little noise sometimes, sometimes bring
out a kitchen chair so everyone finds
a comfortable place to sit
on the unscreened
wide or narrow porch
or on the stoop. Some-
times just enjoy all
black brown white
golden quiet together

In the spirit of “Cake and Lemonade for Neighbors,” here’s our version of cake and lemonade – a Persian Love Cake and a Mexican recipe for both Limonada and Naranjada.

Here’s to togetherness…and sitting out front again.

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Naranjada con Soda

Limonada and Naranjada con Soda

If you want to kick these up a notch, add 1-2 oz vodka. Adapted from MexicoInMyKitchen.com

Syrup (refrigerate the extra for another day)

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c water

Lime or Lemon Flavor

  • 1/2 c ice cubes
  • 2 T syrup
  • 2 T lime juice (or lemon juice)
  • 1/2 c sparkling mineral water or club soda
  • 1/2 of a thin slice of lemon or lime to top it off (optional)

Orange Flavor

  • 1/2 c ice cubes
  • 2 T syrup
  • 1/4 c freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 c of sparkling mineral water or club soda
  • mint leaf or two (optional)
First, to make the syrup, place the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and stir until it dissolves. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer for 5 minutes to form a very uniform syrup. Remove from heat and let it cool.
Once the syrup has cooled, place the ice in the glasses, pour the juice (either lime/lemon or orange), then add 2 tablespoons of syrup.  Stir.
Pour the mineral water into it, stir again, add the mint leaf or citrus slice on top, and serve.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.
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Persian Love Cake

Persian Love Cake

Adapted from BakedAmbrosia.com
  • 4 c almond flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c light brown sugar
  • 13 T butter, room temperature (yes, you read it right.  13 Tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 c full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp ground cardamon (or substitute 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c shelled raw pistachios, chopped
  • dried rose petals (no spray), for decorating (optional)
  • extra Greek yogurt and pistachios for serving (or substitute whipping cream)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

Combine the almond flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat on low speed until crumbly. Press about half of the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan.

Add the eggs, Greek yogurt, cardamon, and vanilla extract, to the remaining mixture. Beat on medium high speed until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated and the mixture is slightly fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Pour the mixture over the bottom “crust” and sprinkle pistachios around the edges.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Once the cake has cooled, carefully remove it from the pan.

Before serving, top the cake with dried rose petals and serve with extra Greek yogurt and pistachios.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

The Birds and the Bees

First, a disclaimer: I don’t want you to be disappointed.  This blog has nothing to do with (wink wink) “THE birds and the bees” but it has lots to do with birds and bees.

We collect bird art – and we didn’t even know that we collected bird art until spending the last 3 months isolating in-house because of the coronavirus.  A quick survey indicates that about half of our art work focuses on a bird of some kind or another.  Mind you, we’re not collectors of fine pieces by well-known artists, but we do love the funky/fun pieces of art we pick up here and there.  We have some abstract pieces, a few landscapes, numerous depictions of couples…and birds.

We’ve been thinking about birds because one bird in the hood is about to drive us both bat-shit crazy – or crazier than we already are after months of singular togetherness.  Andy reveals all in today’s Andy’s Corner.

Even if we’re not enamored with every bird “song,” there’s something very soothing about having the time to just sit and appreciate birds – especially as they enjoy a bird bath. Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think wrote a nice piece for the NY Times about bird-watching during COVID-19.

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Am I a bad person for having a favorite bird? 🙂  Acorn Woodpeckers at our birdbath.

While bumble bees and honey bees may not be quite as vocal or colorful or as amusing as birds, it’s fun to spot them in our flower gardens, knowing how badly we need to be encouraging and helping them.  While native bloomers are better than hybridized plants for attracting bees (here’s a great article with more suggestions), we’ve had an amazing number of bees AND hummingbirds on this ‘Kudo’s Gold’ agastache.   Note – you shouldn’t just plant one or two bloomers and be done with it; you need a lot, blooming at various times, to do your best for these little pollinators.

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A bee on our agastache ‘Kudos Gold’

There are about 4000 bee species just in North America, but only a few species make honey.  And don’t we love them for it?  To honor those bees, we’ve got three sweet little recipes to share: a Bee’s Knees Honey Cocktail, Honey Challah, and Honey Brownies.  Then continue your love affair with honey by trying our previously-posted 20 Minute Honey Garlic Shrimp, Deb’s Granola, and Pork and Brussels Sprouts with Chile Lime Sauce.

While you cook up a honey-heavy storm, I recommend listening to Judy Collins’ 1973 “Cook with Honey.” And enjoy the amazing Sweet Honey in the Rock.  I’ve loved that group ever since 1988 when I got their album Breaths.  A song from that album, “Ella’s Song” could have been written about today’s world.   This isn’t the original rendition, but it’s lovely.  Be sure to read the all-too-relevant lyrics, too. Continue reading

Don’t Chicken Out

Seems lots of us have been in “fowl” moods off and on lately, so I’d like to return to my pet rooster, Pecker, for the final time.  You’ve heard about him before (here – and here).  Sorry for the blurry photo of me and him and our turkeys, but it was taken about 55 years before iPhones and their amazing cameras were invented.

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I must have been about 8 when we had him as “our” pet.  My brother – to this day – claims that Pecker belonged to him.  Right.

I have no idea how long Pecker was a part of our family, but I do remember the tears – and more tears – I shed when my dad solemnly announced to me one morning that Pecker had died that night – defending his flock.

The website “ScoopfromtheCoop.com (“insights for a happy, healthy flock”) indicates “Most chicken losses occur at night when raccoons, skunks, opossums, owls, mink, and weasels are most likely to prowl.”  I remember my dad thinking it was a raccoon.

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Lovely rooster we photographed who was meandering – a bit-  around Sayulita, Mexico.  Hope there aren’t raccoons there (or skunks, possums, owls, mink, or weasels).  Note the two wandering cuties behind him.

Why didn’t Pecker’s flock defend themselves – or at least help him out?  My respect for hens has been diminished.  They “chickened out” at the worst possible time.

Being annoyed with hens led me to googling species which have females in control.  It turns out there aren’t many…African Lions, Killer Whales, Spotted Hyenas, African Elephants, Orcas, Lemurs, and – Bonobos, according to New Scientist.   I’d explain why I have a new appreciation for Bonobos – which are considered one of human’s closest relatives – but we consider this a family-rated blog 🙂  Suffice it to say that “She had him by the balls” is literal as well as figurative for Bonobos.  If you want to explore this further, here’s a great article from Scientific American.

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One of our closest relatives – the Bonobo; I feel like this is the look I give Andy sometimes 🙂

Even if dogs are not included in that list, I came across this analysis of canine females and males from the “Honey Hill Aussies” website (yes, I’m still in search of a puppy).  It may be surprising to know that “bitches” usually rule the roost –  but read it,  inserting “human” instead of dog – and I bet you’ll find it as unintentionally and hysterically funny as I do!

In the dog pack makeup, females usually rule the roost, determine pecking order and compete to maintain and/or alter that order.  The females are, as a result, more independent, stubborn and territorial than their male counterparts. Most fights will usually break out between two females.

Males on the other hand are usually more affectionate, exuberant, attentive and more desiring of attention.  They are very attached to their people. They also tend to be more steadfast, reliable and less moody. They are more outgoing, more accepting of other pets, playful for more years and take quicker to children. 

Most boys are easily motivated by food and praise and are so eager to please that training is easy. However, males can be more easily distracted during training because of their playful nature. No matter what age, he is more likely to act silly and more puppy-like, always wanting to play games.

Boys are fun loving until the day they die.

Females tend to be more reserved or dignified as they age.   

Doesn’t that say it all? 🙂

Speaking of Aussies and females dogs and bravery, Andy has an even deeper look into that in today’s Andy’s Corner.

To conclude:  Hens may be wimps – and they clearly don’t “rule the roost” – and aren’t as aggressive as female dogs or as in control as female Bonobos – but everything and everyone deserves SOME credit.   And hens deliver one of our favs…eggs.

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Our eggs from neighbors Sandy and Stacey

Those adventurous chickens we saw in Sayulita, Mexico, make me think of our new “breakfast especial.”  Try it – as well as some of our other egg-enhanced recipes:

Zucchini and Mint Frittata
Tuna Nicoise Salad Bowl
Breakfast Lunch and Dinner Fried Rice
Scrambled Egg Muffin Sandwich (we’ve actually got 3 simple egg recipes there)
Japanese Cheesecake
Moonshine Cake

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Tostadas de Frijoles con Huevos

Tostadas de Frijoles con Huevos (tostadas with beans and eggs)

We really like homemade tostada shells, and baking them is so much easier than frying them…and almost as satisfactory. As for refried beans, we recommend Goya Traditional Refried Pinto Beans – either vegan or not – or Bush’s Best Cocina Latina refried black beans.

2 corn tortillas – about 6″ in diameter (or 2 packaged tostada shells – we like the Guerrero brand)
olive oil or vegetable oil
Diamond kosher salt
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c refried beans (figure about 2 T of beans per tostada)
salsa of your choice
1/4 c crumbled cotija cheese or feta cheese
cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

If you are making your own tostada shells, brush or spray each side of the tortillas with olive oil and season with a bit of salt. Bake for about 10 minutes, turning the tortillas over after 5 minutes.  They should be golden brown and crispy when you take them out of the oven.  If not, leave them in the oven a few minutes longer.  Watch them closely; they will easily get too brown!  And note: tortillas vary in thickness and width, so you have to adjust the baking time accordingly.

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium heat and add about 1 T olive oil. Add beans and heat until warm (or stick the beans in the microwave for about 1 minute).

Heat another small skillet (8″ works) – which has a lid – over medium high heat.  Add 1 T oil and when the oil is hot, crack each egg (carefully) into the pan.  Salt and pepper to taste.  When the whites have begun to crisp up on the very edges – about 30 seconds, add about 1 T water to the pan, cover, turn the heat down to low, and cook until the layer of white over the yolks is barely opaque.  We estimate about 1 1/2 minutes – and more if you like the yolk to set up.  When checking the eggs for doneness, lift the lid just a crack to prevent loss of steam should they need further cooking.

To assemble, spread the tostada shell with a thin layer of beans; add salsa to taste, a fried egg, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, if you’re using it, and cilantro.

Serve with a fork – but you’ll find it easier to eat if you just use your hands.  Have a napkin nearby.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lagniappe – Never Have I Ever

Never have I ever made Fish Curry.  But our daughter’s San Francisco neighbor Meghna Agarwal teaches Indian cooking classes (CrimsonKitchen.com) and served this recently. Because we just finished the last episode of Never Have I Ever on Netflix, it seemed like the perfect time to try the recipe.

If you haven’t watched that series yet, do!  It’s right for this moment.  Funny, thoughtful, poignant, relevant.  This story of a first-generation Indian-American 15-year-old girl is co-produced by Mindy Kaling from The Office and The Mindy Project.  There is a voice-over from John McEnroe.  Yes, white, male, tennis player, 61-year-old John McEnroe. Hysterical.

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Mindy Kaling

Meghna used a recipe from Meherwan Irani, and I adapted it a little.  Irani is an Indian-born chef who has four James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast.  His first restaurant was Chai Pani in Asheville, North Carolina.

Bet you’re going to love ’em both – the TV series and the curry!

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Goan Fish Curry

Goan Fish Curry

Note: To make this recipe fast and easy, you can skip the toasting and grinding of the spices – just use ground pepper, ground coriander, and ground cumin  – it just won’t be as authentic.  If you happen to have Kashmiri chile powder, use that instead of the cayenne and paprika.  That will be MORE authentic.  And, yes, it’s spicy.  Adapted from Meherwan Irani

  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1 medium white onion, about 1 1/2 c, diced
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns  (or 3/4 tsp ground pepper)
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds (or 2 rounded tsps ground coriander)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (or 1 rounded tsp ground cumin)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne – or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can coconut milk (about 13 oz)
  • 1 T tamarind paste  – or replace it with 1-2 T lime juice
  • 1 lb firm white fish cut into 2″ pieces
  • Salt and turmeric to rub onto the fish before cooking – just a dusting, enough to coat evenly.
  • 10-12 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 T Diamond kosher salt (that’s the maximum amount you’ll use in the whole recipe)
  • 1 fresh lime
  • rice for serving and cilantro for garnish

Toast peppercorns, coriander, and cumin in a medium hot pan on high heat for 2-3 minutes.  Let cool. Grind the toasted spices in a coffee/spice grinder or blender, then mix in the cayenne, paprika, and turmeric.  Add a bit of water – just enough to make the spices into a paste.

Heat oil in the same pan; add onion and fry on medium-high heat until translucent.  Add the spice paste and garlic to the onions and 1 tsp of the salt.  Also add the curry leaves, if you have them.  Continue to fry over low heat until the onions are golden-ish brown.

Add the coconut milk and stir well to incorporate. Bring the coconut milk to a boil and then add 1/2 c of hot water and the tamarind paste (or lime juice).

Add in fish (which has been sprinkled with turmeric and salt) and simmer until the fish is just flaky (about 4 minutes). Add more salt to taste.

Serve over rice with a sprig of cilantro and squeeze of fresh lime.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Lagniappe: Far Out, First In, Ever Ready, or…RHUBARB?

 

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Since Andy wrote about his “horse” named Sugar in last week’s Andy’s Corner, I thought I should write about our real horse named “Rhubarb” for today’s lagniappe blog.

Back in about 1974 we had a Name-That-Colt contest for a Quarter Horse foal that was born on our South Shields Street property in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Our daughter, Sara, and niece JoDee helped compile the list of names from the family’s suggestions.  Cute names were proposed.  I especially liked “HillWin” (since Hill is my maiden name and we were living on the Hill property).  But the winner was (ta da!): RHUBARB!

I’m sorry, but I’m a horse-lover from way back, and I don’t think “Rhubarb” is the kind of name a horse should have.  But, of course, that name was chosen.

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Sara and Rhubarb

Why Rhubarb?  All I can think of is that rhubarb has long been a family favorite.  And now that spring is here and nice (non-horsey) rhubarb is (briefly) in the markets, I want to share the easiest, most delicious recipe for homemade jam you can ever make.

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My pathetic attempt at growing rhubarb in Glen Ellen

Rhubarb Jam

Choose the thinnest rhubarb stalks you can find. Personally, I love the jam without strawberries.  I think the strawberries overwhelm the delicate rhubarb flavor.

  • 6 c  (about 2 lbs w/o the leaves) of thinly sliced – 1/4″ – rhubarb (or substitute 1 c of sliced strawberries and 5 c of sliced rhubarb)
  • 2-3 c sugar (we prefer the less sweet approach so use only 2 c)
  • 1/3 c orange juice or lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamon (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients – except the vanilla -in a medium saucepan, stir well, and let sit for about 1 hour.  Then put the pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat to low (a little above a simmer) and cook at least 20 minutes (it may take as long as 40 minutes), stirring often, until the mixture thickens – before the “sheeting stage” (see diagram below).  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

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Scoop up some liquid (w/o pieces of rhubarb) and take the sauce off the heat when two drops at a time are coming from the spoon.  (middle photo)

Let cool completely; then spoon into jars and refrigerate or freeze (note: I never learned to can things – plus, it’s too much effort for me, so my jam gets refrigerated – or frozen, if we’re not going to use it in the next few weeks).

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

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