Magic Carpet Ride

Amen, Amen, I say to you
This is the day the Lord has made
Rejoice and be glad
Join us onboard
The Intention Express
Consider this
Yoga Indra 
A magic carpet ride
Come, Come
Shanti, Shanti
Faith and Doubt
Will be your companions
The source will be
Your guide, this is
A sacred mystery
An ancient form
Of meditation
A spiritual guide
To become
More fully
What you are
Created to be
Don't fall
To sleep

poem

On Saturday I wore an old flannel shirt
Bought years ago
Black and Red
Bought probably at WalMart
I didn’t know
Better, underneath
I wore a Red T-shirt
Life is Good
A camera
Mountain range
On the shirt
Two favorite things
These are a few
Of my favorite things
A gift
From Susan
I made her a peach
And raspberry cake
And a bacon, mushroom
Spinach quiche
Life is good
She made bread

The Four Days Of Christmas

Here it is Monday, January 2, 2023, another holiday and I have not yet shared with you our Four Days of Christmas.

First things first.

Because the usual federal holiday of New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday, some Americans get the following day, 2 January, as holiday. It wouldn’t make sense to give government workers a day off on a Sunday when few would be working anyway. Generally, institutions like schools, banks, businesses and the US stock market are closed for federal holidays.

Supermarkets and grocery stores are, however, open–as many were on New Year’s Day. Department stores and malls are open–stores filled with merchandise from China and half-empty malls filled with closed stores, massage chairs and eyebrow threading kiosks.

Back to The Four Days of Christmas.

Friday, December 23. The First Day of Christmas. A Christmas family celebration at my ex-wife’s house. She and her husband have been hosting a family get-together for a number of years. In attendance: Betsy and her husband, John; Besty’s sister, Jane; our daughter, Danielle and her husband, Mike and their children, Emily and Matthew; our son, Daryl and his girlfriend, Julia, now his fiancé, home from Colorado for one week; Julia’s parents, Kim and Joe; and me and Susan. Betsy made a Pork Roast. Susan made Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers, and a Blue Cheese Spread. I made a Pasta and Roasted Pepper dish.

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Here are a few photos (Clicking on the photos makes them larger.) from this First Day of Christmas (Yes, it snowed.):

Pictured above left to right: Danielle holding a Christmas gift from Susan and I (a soccer mom car ornament); Danielle and Mike; Daryl and Julia; Daryl, Julia, Emily; Emily and Julia; Kim, Susan, Mike; Matthew holding a Christmas gift from Susan and me (a baseball glove ornament); Matthew; my Christmas pasta; star of wonder.

Saturday, December 24, Christmas Eve. The Second Day of Christmas. A Christmas family tradition from Susan’s family. For years it was hosted at her mom’s home but as she aged Susan took it over years ago and people came to our home. For years we had a few dozen people over; aunts and uncles and the children but as people have passed on, children getting older, covid, less people have come over. Infact, we were not going to have the celebration this year but Daryl pleaded with us to continue the celebration. And we did.

I made two appetizers: Bang Bang Shrimp and Beef Tenderloin and Blue Cheese Crostini (Susan made the bread); a gift from Daryl, a Billy Cobham album; my famous fruitcake; Julie and Daryl looking at a gift from Susan and me, a picture book of their trip to Italy, where they got engaged; a gift from Daryl, Kacey Musgraves new album; our manger; Susan, me and Freddy; our wine; a Christmas Cake Susan made.

Sunday, December 25. Christmas. The Third Day of Christmas. This celebration was held at Danielle and Mike’s house. Many were in attendance: Mike and Danielle and Emily and Matthew, of course; Mike’s parents, Jim and Robbin, and his sister, Kim; Robbin’s mom, Nancy; Betsy and John; my brother Dennis and his wife, Debbie; Daryl and Julia. It was a wonderful day–great food and company. The pictures say much (I think my favorite is Dennis tuning Emily’s guitar.)

A ballet shoes ornament, a gift Susan and I gave to Emily; Susan made sourdough bread; Danielle’s soccer mom ornament; a beautiful table set and Christmas tree; Debbie and Dennis looking at Daryl and Julia’s Italy picture book; Dennis tuning Emily’s guitar; a doctor’s ornament, a gift from Susan and me; Emily playing the guitar; Matthew’s baseball glove ornament; Susan and Danielle.

Tuesday, December 27. The Fourth Day of Christmas. Daryl and Julia before they head home to Colorado have always come back over to our house from a special dinner. I made Chicken Piccata and Susan made a Cherry Christmas Cake. A few photographs of our time together and our home:

Chicken Piccata; a Christmas tree in the corner of our kitchen; Daryl and Julia; Christmas ornaments and a book of photos from the past year which I gave to Susan; Freddy; cookbooks with Christmas decorations; Daryl and Julia and Freddy; Julia and Freddy; Christmas village; gifts from Susan–two great books (The Sermon on The Mount by Emmet Fox, essays and Pray a Word a Day–so happy to receive these!); Christmas cards; Susan, Julia, Freddy, Daryl; Christmas decorations; a small Christmas tree in our sitting room; wine; Christmas Cherry Cake.

Peace. Love. Light. And Laughter be with You!

Thanksgiving and Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast

A family Thanksgiving tradition: we host our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren for breakfast, gift-giving, watching the Macy’s Parade and the dog show.

In Thanksgiving days past I have made Sushi, Mushroom Spinach Quiche, and Croque Monsieur Breakfast Casserole.

This year we enjoyed Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast. YUM!

Reading from The New York Times:

“You only need a few everyday ingredients like milk, bread and eggs — plus a heavy dose of your favorite pumpkin spice blend — to make this warming breakfast for a crowd. The whole thing is assembled the night before, so all you need to do when you wake up is a few finishing touches before you pop it in the oven. If you don’t have a favorite pumpkin spice blend, there is one at the bottom of this recipe for you to try. Don’t forget the maple syrup — and potentially some toasted nuts or fruit — to serve.”

Ingredients

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

~3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing the pan
~2 cups/480 milliliters whole milk
~4 large eggs
~¼ (packed) cup/50 grams light brown sugar
~4 teaspoons store-bought or homemade pumpkin spice blend (see Tip)
~1 teaspoon vanilla extract
~½ teaspoon fine salt
~1-pound enriched bread loaf, like challah or brioche, cut into ¾-inch-thick slices (We used Multigrain Bread from Costco.)
~Maple syrup
~Chopped toasted walnuts or pecans or fresh berries (optional)

Preparation

  1. Butter a 9-by-13-inch metal, glass or ceramic baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, pumpkin spice blend, vanilla and salt.
  3. Dip each piece of bread in the milk mixture, then lay it in the prepared pan in slightly overlapping layers. Pour the remaining milk mixture over the top. Gently press the bread into the custard, then cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  4. When you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees, uncover the dish, and gently flip each piece of bread, one at a time, so the side that is more saturated with custard is on the top. Rearrange the slices decoratively, as needed, so the rounded edges of the slices are exposed. Dot the top with the 3 tablespoons butter and cover with foil.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until lightly browned, slightly puffy in the center, and cooked through, 15 to 20 more minutes. Tent with foil if the top is browning too quickly.
  6. Let cool slightly before serving with maple syrup, and nuts or fruit, if desired. I put some homemade Granola on mine!

Tip

  • Make your own pumpkin spice blend by combining 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, ½ teaspoon ground allspice and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves. Makes about ¼ cup.

Photos from our celebration:

Thanksgiving Cheers; Prosecco and Chambord. Danielle and Bella. Emily practicing for The Nutcracker. Emily trying on her new dress. Freddy keeping his eye on me–making sure I am not drinking from the Prosecco bottle! Susan and Freddy. Matthew. Our Thanksgiving Dinner; Shetland Salmon with White wine, Lemon, Fennel and Endive, Mashed Potatoes with Fennel and Horseradish, Green Beans and Mushrooms. Me.

My Sous Chef Sue Serves Brunch

From baking to soap-making there is very little my Sous Chef Sue, my wife, cannot do.

Teacher. Reader. Giver. Lover. Designer. Gardener.

I am usually the cook in our home, busy in the kitchen making breakfast, lunch and dinner–or outside grilling salmon or steak or hamburgers, and she is the baker. (This thought reminds me of the song “Baking” by Aztec Two-Step (Their Homepage here.), who I saw perform at The Main Point (Other acts seen there listed below.) in Bryn Mawr, PA when I was a freshman at Villanova University. I was studying to be a teacher. I would have been a great teacher, or so I have been told, but I fell in love with Art History. My degree is in Art History and English from Manhattanville College. I have also been told I would have been a good minister, this after speaking frequently in church, but that story is for another time.)

My Sous Chef Sue made Chive Buttermilk Biscuits

Tarragon Chicken Salad

and Berry Cobbler

The first two from this great cookbook (Look for it and buy it; you won’t regret it.):

And the Cobbler from another great gardening and cookbook:

Here are the original recipes:

Bon Appetit!

Other artists seen at The Main Point include: Cat Stevens, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Bromberg, Livingston Taylor, and others. And larger acts at The Electric Factory–Dr. John, John Mayall, Savoy Brown, Johnny Winter and Procol Harum. I think I saw Black Sabbath–but it’s long ago and now a cloudy memory. And an even bigger venue–The Spectrum: Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Chicago.

Spicy Pork Stir Fry with Bok Choy

On a recent Sunday, I made a Pork Roast Smothered with Sauerkraut.

A few days later, I made Spicy Pork Fry with the leftover pork. So delicious.

Ingredients

-1 pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), thinly sliced across the grain into 2-inch-long strips (I used the leftovers from a 3 pound pork roast; photo below.)
-1½ teaspoons cornstarch
-½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
-Kosher salt
-3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
-2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
-2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or dry sherry (I used Mirin.)
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
-6 scallions, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
-1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced crosswise
-8 small or 4 large heads baby bok choy, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, or 1 head larger bok choy, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
-1 cup sliced mushrooms (My addition.)
-Steamed white rice, chopped toasted cashews or peanuts, sesame seeds, and/or thinly sliced fresh chiles (for serving; optional)

Directions

Step 1

Toss pork, cornstarch, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce in a medium bowl. Stir vinegar, wine, and remaining 2 Tbsp. soy sauce in a small bowl. Have all your other ingredients prepped and ready to go (once you start cooking, there isn’t a stopping point and you’ll need them handy).

Step 2

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet (not nonstick) over high. When oil is shimmering and slides quickly across surface of pan, add scallions and ginger and cook, tossing, until scallions are browned and softened, about 2 minutes. Add bok choy and a pinch of salt and cook, tossing often, until leaves are bright green and wilted and white parts are crisp-tender, 4–6 minutes. Transfer bok choy mixture to another medium bowl.

Step 3

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in same skillet over high. When oil is shimmering again, add pork mixture and arrange pieces in a single layer in skillet. Cook, undisturbed, until pork is browned and caramelized on first side, about 1 minute. Toss and continue to cook until pork is no longer pink and is cooked through, about a minute or two longer. Pour in wine mixture and bok choy mixture and cook, tossing briskly, until sauce is thickened and all ingredients are coated, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and taste, then season with more salt, if desired. (Note: Because I used the leftover pork I quickly stir-fried it wok till crisp and then added bok choy and the other ingredients to wok.)

Step 4

Divide stir-fry among plates. Serve with rice alongside, if using. Sprinkle with desired toppings.

~ Based on a recipe from Bon Appetit.

Chile-Crisp Shrimp and Green Beans

The following recipe from Ali Slagle, a frequent contributor to The New York Times, is superb.

But first I ask are Crispy Shallots the new food trend? Lately, I can’t pick up a magazine or newspaper without reading about crispy shallots. I remember years ago Bran was the new food trend. And if my memory serves me well I was enjoying a blueberry muffin at my desk at Hearst Magazines and someone walked past my office, peaked in, and said “A blueberry muffin! How come you’re not having a bran muffin?” Egads. And not too long ago kale was king. I don’t really like kale except in this amazing soup. Do you remember the Roz Chast Kale Cartoon?

Ali Slagle writes:

This stir-fry is inspired by the taste and textures of chile crisp, that fiery condiment made by infusing oil with dried chiles, garlic and shallots. For this 20-minute recipe, make a quick version of the oil while the shrimp marinates in a combination of soy sauce, sugar, red-pepper flakes and cumin. Use the infused oil to cook the green beans (or asparagus), shrimp and peanuts, then serve topped with the fried shallots and garlic. It’s a deeply savory, spicy and satisfying dinner.

Ingredients

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large shallot, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced through the root
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 ounces green beans or asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional) (I used mixed nuts.)

Preparation

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the soy sauce, sugar, red-pepper flakes and cumin. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Set aside while you fry the shallots and garlic.
  2. 2Place a fine-mesh sieve over a heat-proof bowl next to the stove. In a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet, heat the canola oil, shallot, garlic and cinnamon stick over medium-high. When the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally to break up the shallots, until golden brown, 5 to 9 minutes. (Lower the heat if the shallots are browning too quickly.) Drain through the sieve, catching the oil in the bowl below. Discard the cinnamon, season the fried shallots and garlic with salt, and set aside. (I didn’t do this. I spooned out the garlic and shallots and set aside on a paper towel–so I didn’t need to return the oil to the skillet.)
  3. Return the oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high. Add the green beans, season with salt and cook until crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Push the green beans to one side, then add the shrimp and the marinade, along with the peanuts (if using), and cook until the shrimp is cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Stir the green beans and shrimp to combine, then sprinkle with the fried shallots and garlic. Serve immediately, over rice or noodles, or in lettuce cups, if desired.

I served this with Tabouli made with orzo and not rice.

Cheers!

Who Are You?

"John The Baptist is one of my favorite people in scripture. He knew who he wasn't (I am not the Messiah) and he knew he was (I am a voice in the wilderness).

Every day I need to get clear in my soul who I am and who I am not.

Otherwise, I find myself living a life God never called me to.

~Rich Villodas
Rich is a Brooklyn-born Pastor and author of The Deeply Formed Life & Good.

Reading from my website:

Photography is my passion. Child of an Iowa farm girl and a Vaudeville tap-dancer, I believe I have been a gift from God. A gift for seeing beauty–-creating artful, remarkable, memorable photographs.

I specialize in portrait, nature, food, and documentary photography. I am also a published writer, art consultant, and gourmet cook. I love family get-togethers, and cats and dogs. And red wine. I live in Western Massachusetts with my wife, Susan, our dog, Freddy, a Mini Labradoodle.

Drawing on a degree in Art and English, inspired by Nature, a passion for telling stories and years working as a writer and photojournalist helps me to follow my heart–bringing a heightened sensitivity to all my photography: portraits, nature, documentary, food, interiors, furniture. I believe I am making the world a better place with beautiful photography.

Chicken and Shrimp Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Strawberries, and Wonton Strips

I made this salad years ago but without the shrimp. We are experiencing a heat wave here and a special salad, and this salad is very special, seemed like a great dinner choice on a hot day–and the serve to our special guests; Julia and Daryl before they return to Colorado.

FYI: Daryl is my son and Julia is his girlfriend and they just hot engaged–in Capri, Italy where they were vacationing.

This salad is a favorite for lunch at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa.

Ingredients:

4 (5-ounce) chicken breasts
About 1/2 pound of shrimp, cleaned and deveined. (I used shrimp from Biloxi Shrimp Co.)
1 tablespoon olive oil (if not using grill method)
2/3 cup wonton strips
4 cups mesclun
1/2 cup julienned carrots (I didn’t use carrots)

1/2 cup julienned carrots (I didn’t add carrots.)
1/2 cup cashews (I was so busy getting everything ready, I forgot to add these!)
2 cups mandarin oranges (I used canned.)
Honey sage vinaigrette (see below)
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat grill or oven to 350.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. If grilling (I didn’t because was nearly 100 degrees!), place on hot grill and cook on both sides for 5-6 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. If baking, heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Carefully add the chicken and sear on both side for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Place in oven and bake until internal temperature is 165. Remove from heat and chill. Stir fry shrimp in hot and oiled Wok and cooked till done–about 6 to 8 minutes.

Place wonton strips on a baking sheet and place in oven for 8 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally. Remove from oven and reserve at room temperature.

Place all other ingredients, except vinaigrette and wontons, in a small bowl. Add 4 to 6 tablespoons of dressing and coat thoroughly.

Place on a plate or in a bowl. Slice chicken breasts and fan over the salad. Garnish with baked wontons.

Honey Sage Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/6 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Keep refrigerated until needed.

Serves 4.

From ”Pathways To Plate, Destinations And Dishes From Delaware North.” This cookbook is filled with so many great recipes—and photographs!

More about Delaware North
.

We began our celebration with White Wine Spritzers with Mint from our garden.

We enjoyed bowls of Oven-roasted Gazpacho.

And Susan made a Strawberry Coconut Ice-Box Cake for dessert. YUM!

Abuelas Albondigas

Last weekend, Susan and I watched a few episodes of The Great American Recipe on PBS.

One of the contestants, Silvia Martinez, made Abuelas Albondigas, also known as Mexican Meatballs. It looked so delicious. I turned to Susan and said, “I have to make this for our Sunday dinner.” And I did. And it was delicious!

Reading from Silvia’s statement on PBS:

“Spanish for meatballs and served in a broth, dry, or (as in this case) with a sauce, albondigas hold a special place in the hearts of many Mexicans. My grandma used to ask each of her grandchildren what their favorite dish was so she could make it for their birthdays. This is one I asked for often. Chipotle chiles are dried jalapeños. The most common way to buy them at the supermarket is canned in an adobo sauce, which gives them that classic smoky flavor. I added golden raisins at my husband’s suggestion, and their sweetness balances beautifully with the acid, spice, and salt in the sauce.”

This recipe is featured in the Love Language episode during Season 1 of The Great American Recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef (85% lean) (I used Bison because it is what I had to fridge.)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 medium eggs
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • ¾ white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup golden raisins (I did use raisins.)
  • 5 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, leaves picked and chopped, divided
  • 1 pound Roma tomatoes
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8(5-to 8-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
  •  
  • Rice
  • 1½ cups white rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ white onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn (My addition.)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the ground beef, 1 teaspoon of the salt, pepper, thyme, marjoram, eggs, bread crumbs, half of the chopped onion, garlic, golden raisins, and half of the chopped parsley. With your hands, form 12 meatballs. Set aside.
  2. In a blender, blend the tomatoes, remaining chopped onion, chipotles, broth, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt until smooth. (I used frozen tomato sauce that I made last summer which had carrots, celery, garlic and japaleno in it.)
  3. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, pour in the sauce, and cook for 1 minute. Carefully submerge the meatballs in the sauce. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan, lower the temperature, and simmer for 25 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, rinse the rice until the water runs clear, then strain. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over high heat, then add the onion and garlic. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes, then add the rice and sauté for 5 more minutes. Add the water and chicken bouillon and stir until dissolved. Add the frozen peas, carrot, and salt if needed. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Turn the temperature down and simmer until the liquid evaporates and the rice is tender, 17–20 minutes.
  5. Serve the albondigas with the rice and warm tortillas on the side. Garnish with the remaining chopped parsley.

This night, Saturday night, I made a pizza! I made the meatballs on Sunday

The pizza, too, was delicious! Whole Wheat Crust, BBQ Sauce, Grated Pepper Olive Cheese, Andouille Sausage from D’Artagnan, Mushrooms, Cherry Tomatoes (from our garden), Spinach, Corn Salsa. YUM!

Nice To See You

Walking my dog
Freddy
A mini-labradoodle
Early morning
Past a bevy of doves
One dove calls out
Says, I think
"Nice to see you.
"Nice to see you.
"Nice to see you."
A man opens his front door
Calls out
"Hello, Boss."
Boss. I think
I have never been a boss.
I have been a newspaper boy.
A gardener.
A lifeguard.
A Sunday School teacher.
A girl's softball coach.
A copywriter.
A marketing executive.
A writer.
A photographer.
A speech-writer.
A salesperson.
An art gallery owner.
I call out to the man
Who called me boss
"Nice to see you."