Tag Archives: friends

Sunday Suppers (Monday Edition): The Most Thoughtful Christmas Gift Ever and Curried Vegetables over Brown Rice

11 Jan
stocking exchange

Left to right, Lizzie, moi and Julie

You prolly didn’t know this, but I am one of the Three Musketeers.  No, not those musketeers, sillies.  The Three Musketeers of the neighborhood I grew up in.  This is how it happened.  You see, my parents befriended another couple two years before either couple had children.  When my folks bought their house in 1964, the other couple bought three doors down on the same street and moved just a few weeks later.  Even so, my mom and Queenie Embraced and Cried as if they were never going to see each other again.

Then, along came moi to my parents, and along came Julie to Queenie and Ivan.  Julie is still one of my two best friends, almost 44 years later (her birthday is in April).  Living back-doors to Julie was Lizzie, the third musketeer and my other best friend.  All three of us have known each other forever, and although there were times when we weren’t in close contact with each other, we have remained fast friends to this day.  I count myself very fortunate to know and have both of them in my life.

Lizzie moved an hour and a half away when we were fifteen.  An hour and a half is a long way when you’re car-less, not to mention driver license-less.  Still, we all kept in touch, seeing each other when we could.

When college came along, we all pretty much just did our own thing, seeing each other once or twice a year and calling on birthdays and such.  A couple of years after graduation, it dawned on us that we’d all ended up in the same career:  teaching.  Lizzie is an amazing regular ed teacher, and has been teaching in South Carolina for 22 years.  Julie earned a Master’s Degree in Art Therapy and went on to teach various Exceptional Education classes in public schools in North Carolina.  After teaching pre-school for several years while her kids were little, she is in her second year back at a public school and will have her own classroom next year.  If you have an elementary-aged child with an exceptionality, I highly recommend you move to Charlotte and get in her class.  And I bumbled into Special Ed, myself, earning my Master’s and teaching for 16 years.

Teaching, education was always something we could talk about.  It was one of the things at the center of our own Venn Diagram.  We shared stories, asked for and gave advice and laughed when we recognized our own “kids” in each others’ stories.  And then, one day I ran away and joined the circus.

I guess my friends were happy for me.  No, I take that back.  I know they were happy for me.  I can remember calling Lizzie on the way home from teaching one day after I’d already handed in my resignation and was waiting for culinary school to begin.  I told her about this job I had gotten in a start-up bakery in Orlando, and I remember her being very excited for me and telling me that she knew I’d do well.  All of us still talked a lot about teaching–I’d left the profession, but I hadn’t forgotten the lingo.  And both Lizzie and Julie love to cook, so we did talk about cooking, too.  When I worked in restaurants they didn’t really have a point of reference.  Neither did I, really.  It was all new to me, too.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we talked–and still do–about all sorts of things.  And we sing Girl Scout Songs.  Loudly.  Lizzie sings them well, and Julie and I Harmonize, which is my Euphemism for Sing Off Key.  But work is generally a huge part of people’s lives, and work chat always seems to come up, especially when folks have similar jobs.

Well, all was right with the world, and then I started The Blog.  And the website.  And writing for others.  And working in my jammies–all as a way to combine my teaching background with my passion for cooking and baking.   Well, maybe not the jammies part; I just like to wear them.  My friends were happy for me.  Sort of.  And I get it:  it’s kind of odd to have a job that I can do in my PJs.  Oh, and let me tell you another thing about Julie.  She is a Very Smart and Amazing Person, but she abhors computers.  Really.  She can use one to check email and go to websites and What Not, but as far as the nuts and bolts go, she is quite intimidated and wants nothing to do with the nuts (folders) or the bolts (facebook).  So, my whole I’m-building-a-website-writing-a-blog-writing-for-others-making-Squidoo-lenses–all-0n-the-computer is a very Alien Concept for her.  We don’t talk about my work now, because she doesn’t really understand it.  We still have plenty to talk about, though, so worry not, friends.

On the other hand, Lizzie reads my blog, and she has even referenced it conversation before.  She asks how things are going and seems interested in all my jammies-clad goings on.  And now, we’re at the part where I talk about the most thoughtful Christmas gift ever.

As you guys may remember, The Beloved and I stuck mostly to homemade and Heifer International gifts this year.  But, The Three Musketeers have been getting together on Christmas Eve morning at the Cracker Barrel in Rock Hill, SC for brunch and a stocking exchange for a few years now.  We all take turns stuffing gifts in the stockings–I get presents from Julie and Lizzie, Lizzie gets presents from Julie and me, and Julie gets presents from Lizzie and me.  And we have a Very Small Spending Limit.  The stockings are fun, but the real present is the three of us, eating and laughing together, without husbands and without kids (or kittens).  The Three Musketeers ride again!

The stocking rule does not extend to their children, though.  Lizzie has a daughter who is almost four, and Julie has two kids, 11 and 15.  And I have kittens.  I got a Very Keen wine bottle lamp from Julie’s kids–it has a string of Christmas lights shoved inside of it, and it is decorated in Festive Holiday Style with a little cork with a wire Christmas tree on top.  I’m pretty sure that Shellie and JW picked out that present themselves.  Lizzie is still picking out the gifts from Lily, though.  And guess what she got me?  A plate!  Not just any plate, mind you:  a big, white, square plate.  For my food photographs!  How keen is that?!

You guys know that I don’t really fancy myself a Food Blogger as much as I do a Food Teacher, but people like pretty pictures, and I guess you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and there are too many commas in this sentence so I’m done with it.  Anyway, I cannot tell you guys how touched I was that she took the time to find me something that I can use at my job.  I mean, it is a gift that says, “I’m not sure I completely get what you’re doing, but I support you anyway.”  And I’ve already used it twice.  So, let it be known throughout the land that, unless otherwise specified, any photos of food that show up on Ye Olde Blogge  on a big, white, square plate were taken by Me.  I’m not sure that they’ll be any better than before, but at least I’m shooting on a white background now.  And I have a Clamp Light, thanks to Drew‘s kind suggestion.

Well, that was certainly a long introduction.  If you’ve hung in this long, you are a true friend.  And now, without further ado, our dinner from last Sunday.  And the Lily plate:

Veggie curry

Not bad, if I do say so myself. And, my! What a lovely plate! Thank you, Lizzie and Lily.

Look at how I made it.  The food, not the plate:

toasting spices

First, I sauteed some onion and then added some of that Balti seasoning from Penzeys along with some garam masala. And salt. I cooked the spices--carefully--until they were Very Fragrant.

making curried vegetables

Then I added 2 cans of whole tomatoes and kind of mushed them up a bit with the spatula. I think I also added about 1/2 cup of leftover chicken stock.

curried chick peas

Then, in went 2 small-ish cans of chick peas, plus some of their liquid.

curried vegetables

Hello, cauliflower and sweet potato.

curried potatoes

Oh, hey! I have a white potato that's getting a little long in the tooth. I'm'a toss him in, too.

curried vegetables

Did you think I'd forget about you, bell pepper? Not likely...

simmering curried vegetables

Simmer, simmer, simmer with the lid on until everyone is tender. Take off the lid and let it reduce and thicken a bit. It will be better the next day. And the next.

Yes, if you want to roast or saute the veggies a bit to deepen the flavor, please go ahead.  I wasn’t in this for the long haul, though, so I just diced/chopped everybody up and let them go.  Yes, you can certainly add meat.  Chicken, lamb, goat–even fish.  Of course it’s that easy: cook onions, toast spices, add liquid and veggies, simmer, adjust seasonings, stuff in face.  No, you may not have my plate.

Sunday Suppers: Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

9 Aug
The squirt gun is to keep the Kittens at Bay

The squirt gun is to keep the Kittens at Bay

A friend whom I hadn’t seen in over twenty years came over for dinner last Thursday with his lovely wife.  We weren’t terribly close in college; he was a freshman when I was a senior, but one pivotal memory I have of him is this:  Wait for it.  In the summer of ’87, I babysat someone’s guitar while they went back home.  I stayed in the dorms, ostensibly Painting Bathrooms, but mainly it just meant that I lived there and got paid for it.  Awesome.  At any rate, I figured that, since I was babysitting the guitar anyway, I might as well learn how to play it.  So, I went to the local music shop downtown and bought strings and a Beginners’ Guitar Book.  It was red.  The book, not the guitar.  The guitar was Acoustic Guitar-Colored.  I practiced every day, got major blisters that turned satisfyingly to callous.  By the time the summer ended, I could play a (barely) passable rhythm guitar.

Jamie has always been a musician.  A wonderful musician.  He is a Mean Guitar Player, and he was in a Band and Everything.  Very Keen. (Here it is.  Finally):  I somehow found myself in his room with a couple of his buddies one day.  I told him the story of the Babysitting of the Guitar, and he asked what I could play.  I was all, “I know the chords to Supertramp’s Give a Little Bit.”  So, we played it.  Me on halting rhythm guitar, and he on Mean Lead Guitar.  And there was singing, too.  Here is Supertramp performing.  They are better than me, but they are Not better than Jamie.And, based on that one memory and the fact that our school was Very Small so there are not many of us Out There, we friended each other on facebook.  Turns out he now lives in North Dakota and is a professor at a the University of Mary in Bismarck.  He still plays in a band, Blind Mice, plus he’s a published Author and Poet and all around Cool Dude.  He also has a blog that’s over there in my blog roll–The Pipe and Pen.  His lovely wife, Gwyn, is taking on the formidable task of homeschooling their two genius children–literally, Genius Children.  I am not making this up–because they both should be in about the 17th grade, even though the older of the two is only nine.  Gwyn is also an Artist and Children’s Librarian.  And here they are:

Hooray for New-Found/Re-Found Wonderful Friends!

Hooray for New-Found/Re-Found Wonderful Friends!

Jamie, Gwyn and the kids were down visiting the relatives in the lower 47 states, and this brought them to within two-ish hours of Our Abode.  We asked them to come up for dinner, and they did.  Of course, both sides of this little dinner party were a wee bit nervous.  After all, Jamie and I had had One Musical Moment between us 21 years ago.  The Beloved barely knew Jamie at all, and we’d never met Gwyn.  Well, friends, let me tell you, we had a Fantastic Time.  We laughed and talked and were as comfortable with them as if we had been hanging out once a week for 21 years.  Fun, fun, fun was had by all.  I made Pitcher Mojitos for the Adult Beverage portion of the activity.  We ate marinated cucumbers (which, oddly enough, are in the same post as the Mojitos.  Handy), cheese and crackers and then had a really yummy Quinoa and Chickpea Salad for dinner.

Triscuits make the Perfect Platform for a Marinated Cucumber.  Jamie doesn't even like cucumbers, and he ate A Billion of them.

Triscuits make the Perfect Platform for a Marinated Cucumber. Jamie doesn't even like cucumbers, and he ate A Billion of them.

Jamie had told me on the phone a few days before that he and Gwyn are Vegetabletarians, so I immediately Dialed Q for Quinoa.  As an Omnivore, I figured that they were protein deficient (ha!), and I wanted to make sure to give them a Complete Protein.  Yes, I am that Accommodating.  Here was the thought process at the grocery store, after I’d gotten the quinoa and chickpeas:  Oooh, that looks good!  Snatch–I put it in my cart. Plus, I was sort of thinking along the lines of Hummus–I already had the chickpeas going for me, so I added some of the other Hummus Ingredients, too.

And here’s how it turned out.

Vegetabletarian Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

  • Quinoa, cooked in water with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon zest (hummus-type ingredients)
  • 2 cans of chickpeas.  Yes, you can start with dried if you want.
  • salt and pepper
  • diced tomato
  • diced bell pepper
  • shredded fennel
  • diced red onion
  • a jar of pimientos (sweet red peppers)
  • rice wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • tahini (hummus-type ingredient)
  • honey
  • splash of soy sauce (for a hit of Umami Goodness)
  • toasted sesame oil (to intensify the tahini)
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh herbs–I used basil and thyme because they were Handy
  • crumbled feta cheese
  • I think that’s all.  I don’t really remember.  Sorry.

The quinoa takes about 15 minutes or so to cook, so I started it first.  I made it just like I make my rice–I don’t measure the liquid.  I just put in some quinoa and then added water until it was about 3/4″ above the seeds.  I measure it by sticking my finger in until I Hit Quinoa/Rice/Whatever.  If the liquid comes to the first knuckle on my Pointer Finger, I’m there.  Seriously, it works every time.  Anyway, I cooked it until it was just underdone and then let it cool down.  It finished cooking as it cooled.  Thanks, Carryover Cooking.

Then, I prepped all the vegetables and put them in a Very Large Bowl.  I threw in the drained chickpeas.

I made the dressing.  It was more or less a vinaigrette, but instead of the standard two or three parts oil to one part vinegar, I Flip Flopped it.  I wanted more bite and less oil, so I probably used about a cup of rice wine vinegar and maybe 1/3 cup olive oil.  I whisked in a bit of honey, maybe 1 1/2 tablespoons of tahini a splash of soy sauce, a few drops of sesame oil and salt and pepper, to taste.

I stirred everything together and chilled it for several hours.  Before serving, I stirred in the herbs.  I also sprinkled the feta on top, although I could just have easily have stirred it in, too.  Do what you want.  Oh, here it is:

Yummy Vegetabletarian Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

Yummy Vegetabletarian Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

And that’s really it.  Jamie and Gwyn seemed to enjoy it.  The Beloved and I enjoyed it.  And we all got Complete Proteins.  Yay, us.

This isn’t really a recipe, you know.  It’s about putting some Lovely South American Seeds together with some fresh vegetables and Some Sort of Dressing.  Change up the veggies.  Add an animal protein if you’re not a Vegetabletarian.  You could make it Greek Style, Italian Style, Mexican Style–whatever, just by mixing up the vegetables and the flavors in your dressing.

In conclusion:

  1. Mini-Reunions with Guitar Heroes from College are a Very Good Thing.
  2. Guitar Heroes from College marry wonderful people.
  3. Jamie and Gwyn do not appear to be suffering from a Lack of Protein.  I like to think I did my Part.
  4. Quinoa and chickpeas go together Very Nicely.

PS  I decided not to use the pictured mustard in the picture up there at the top when I decided that tahini would be a good idea.  I figured that mustard plus tahini equaled ick.

That is all.

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