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Archive for August, 2009

Last night I prepared a super delicious supper! I started with a salad of tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, all purchased from the local Farmers’ Market. I added a few carrots and then made a dressing my grandmother used to make, a little mayo, sugar, and vinegar. I used to love that dressing when I was a little girl and haven’t made it since last summer. So this salad took me back to my younger days when I would stay a few days with her and Granddaddy every summer in Asheville, North Carolina. We’d go to her garden and pick the vegetables, wash and slice, and serve up on the little table in the kitchen. Ahhh………memories!

Something else I prepared which made me think of her was okra. I purchased okra at a new grocery store here in town, grown on a local farm, picking out the smaller, more tender pieces as I chose just the right pods to bring home. As usual, I cut off the little “head” (or whatever that part is called!), washed them, and tossed them in a really hot pan with a little vegetable oil. I like them whole, and it doesn’t take but a very few minutes to get them just right! Added a little sea salt, and my oh my were they fantabulous! Yes, my grandmother also introduced me to the wonders of okra. Thank you, Grandmama!

I also took from the freezer a piece of beef I cooked several months ago (froze three left-over servings). I weighed it – a little less than 4 oz. Perfect! I let it defrost, and after that it just needed to heat up a little. I sautéed onion slices in a hot pan, and when they were still crunchy-tender, I set the slice of meat on top of them, covered the pan, and let it heat throughout for about two minutes. It was very tasty, and cooked perfectly, but I still couldn’t eat it all. Weird. I still crave meat, but I can’t really eat it. Maybe there is a term for this condition? Nuts? Whishy washy? Yeah, I’m probably both those things.

So you are thinking I did very well. A little protein and all those vegetables. Well, not so fast! I also gave in to another food group I should avoid. Processed white flour. Seriously. I bought frozen rolls at the earlier mentioned grocery store. I let them rise, then baked them, then slathered with butter, and then devoured those two soft, warm rolls. I think somewhere in the middle of one bite I did my little happy dance. For real. !! It was just……..oh my were they good!!

Some people think that I am a far-lefty-liberal when it comes to the environment. Well, maybe in today’s political climate that could be true. However, when I was a young child it was considered conservative to conserve the earth and our resources. And honestly? Yes, I do want to conserve our resources for the people and other living creatures around me, for those that are yet to be born, and for the good of all mankind. And for some reason when we attempt to make decisions for the good of all it is considered liberal. However, I am also looking out for me me me!! Because I want to continue eating meals just like I had last night! Keep it up Kansas, Virginia, North Carolina, and all the other states (and other countries) that provide my tummy with tempting morsels. Take care of your land, your soil, your air, your water so I can continue to eat what I like. Oh! And you know what? While you are doing that for you and me, you will also be helping all living cells, from humans to kitties to doggies to squirrels to fish to bugs and even trees. Word.

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Haven’t been cooking much lately. Haven’t been eating salads much, either. Just not in the mood to fiddle with food. Oooh!! Say that last sentence (before the oooh!) out loud. Sounds like a song I need to write. Oh well, maybe another day.

One dish I did prepare, though, was my favorite beet salad. I purchased some really large, deep red beets at the farmer’s market one Saturday. Boiled, peeled, and cut into them into slices. Set them in the refrig to get really cold, and then arranged the slices in a plate and layered on bite-size pieces of a Pink Lady apple, thin slices of onion, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, pecan pieces coated and baked in maple syrup, and then I drizzled on some of my famous dressing of balsamic vinegar whipped up with a little honey. Oh my goodness was it fantastic! That salad makes one of my favorite meals, and I had not prepared it since early this year. I prefer crumbled goat cheese with this salad, but there was none in my cheese drawer. However, the Parm worked great and I had enough for two meals. It was just so totally scrumptious!

Last Sunday I made a pot of creamy, buttery, mushroom soup. Lots of mushrooms!! A little garlic, finely chopped onion, cooking sherry, and lots of butter and cream. Not all cream. (I’ve learned my lesson on that one! Way too much fat.). But plenty of it mixed with regular milk. And the butter. Mushrooms simply scream for butter. Have you heard them? If not, then you just aren’t getting close enough. Because really, they scream for butter. Always. I was able to get four large cups of rich, velvety soup from that one batch that didn’t take long at all to prepare. And, um, I finished all four cups before the end of the week.

And what else is so fantastic this time of year? ‘Mater sammiches!! Mmmm……!! I like white bread that gets all gooey in the mouth. Spread on a little (or a lot) of mayonnaise, sliced really red and ripe tomatoes, a little sea salt and black pepper, and oh my goodness do I experience one of God’s favorite summer meals. I had one today actually. This morning for breakfast. yum!

Enjoy the summer veges while they last, y’all. Oh my goodness! Yeah!

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Early Saturday morning and I’m just sitting in bed enjoying that morning cup of coffee. My my, what a great way to great the morning. Kinda slow. And easy. But soon I will get a-goin’ and will be at the library and boom boom boom!! Life gets very busy. Really it does, even in Kansas. I meet new people almost every day, and I learn something new almost every day. In just about any subject you can imagine. A library has computers and databases, and yes, we even still have books. But mostly – we are about people.

Of course, when I’m not at the library, and I’m not thinking about my work, I am thinking about food. A lot. Last month I traveled to Chicago to the American Library Association’s annual conference, and even though I took power bars and fruit to save money on my nutrition, I did get in a few nice meals.

Well, I didn’t get too many full meals while I was there, but they were all delicious, so I’ll tell you all about them! After checking into my hotel room, which I shared with three other librarians (!!! – another great part of the trip!), I took the shuttle to the McCormick Center for the Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT) awards ceremony. I saw new friends as well as some I knew from Chapel Hill, either from the library or shared classes. And the food was really delicious and made a terrific meal for me. A variety of marinated olives. Marinated tomatoes and artichokes. oh yum! fresh fruit. crackers. and cheese!!! Four different kinds of cheese!! FOUR!! Oh my – I had two servings of everything. Well really, the plates were small. What else could I do? Only eat one little bite of each kind of cheese? I don’t think so. uh uh.

The next morning I attended a vendor breakfast that included real eggs! Usually these sessions simply include pastries and fruit, so I was very excited. Sigh…….I had two servings of eggs. And there was juice and fruit and fried ‘taters and pastries, and even bacon for those that wanted it. No grits, though. If we had been in Atlanta I bet we could have eaten grits!! Miss grits.

Later that day I was to meet two librarians for lunch, but due to the fact that I had to get back to the McCormick Center again, and the bus driver announcing the wrong hotel (meaning I got off the bus about 10 blocks too early), I missed that gathering. No lunch. at all. Me!!! Missing a meal. So I munched on a small portion of a power bar I had stored away in my tote bag. As I say, life happens.

By 3:30pm I was tired and hungry. I decided to “get away” from the intensity of the conference and escape to a quiet meal alone. Even though Chicago is not the place I consider when I think of quiet time alone, I figured that this early in the day the restaurants would not be crowded. And I was right!

My bud Larry had recommended Shaws Crab House, which happened to be across the river and just a few blocks from my hotel. And as usual, the man did not lead me astray! I walked past the fantastic new Trump hotel/condo skyscraper, and that in itself was fantastic! Really, no matter what you think of that man, this building with his name (again), is another favorite of mine. OK, characteristically off subject!

Down a few steps, crossed a street, and found the restaurant. There is an elegant dining room and the Oyster Bar within Shaws, and the Oyster Bar is known to be less expensive than the other, so I chose the Bar. I was shown to my own little table and retrieved my large notebook and started writing notes about the conference and my professional goals for the coming year and beyond. Very pensive time of day for me and pleasantly quiet for deep thoughts.

I started with just a glass of water, and asked that my glass of Dr. Loosen Riesling from Mosel, Germany be served with my meal. Honestly, the best Riesling I’ve ever tasted. Like I said, I was trying to contemplate my future and write down my thoughts and continued career goals – no wine without food tonight!

I was deep in thought and the ink of my pen when my meal arrived. Oh my oh my!! The best scallops I’ve ever eaten in my life. Ever. And I’ve eaten a bunch! Honestly Johnny (my brother who most often cooks my scallops) – it was the quality of the scallops that made the difference. Truly. Not necessarily the way they were prepared (even though that part was grand as well). They were broiled, then served with a lemon butter sauce, and arranged on top of a small but delicious and creamy serving of sautéed fresh spinach. There was a side of rice pilaf, and hidden inside was the unexpected prize of tiny shrimp. AND !! If that was not enough, I also ordered a crab cake, which I could not finish because it really was too much food. [Thoughts on the crab cake. Shaws is known for its crab cakes, and it had very, very little filler, which is the only way to go! But it lacked the sweetness of the best crab cakes, I thought. I don’t believe there was much, if any, lump crab meat in there, which I think is the sweetest part of the crab. Johnny makes his with both lump and backfin, and I do like his better.]

They also brought me a few slices of a hearty bread, but I decided I liked the small homemade (I think) oyster crackers sitting on the table even more. Amazing! With the meal and the wine, I felt so relaxed I’m sure I was smiling in between each sip and bite. And since I didn’t want the moment to end, I finished with a cup of de-caf cappuccino, lingering with my note pad a little longer.

After I waddled off my stool, I decided to walk along the river in the warm breeze. And I did. And it was wonderful. So falling asleep in the strange hotel bed was not a problem.

The next day for lunch I had already made reservations at the Palmer House restaurant so that four of us could meet to talk about our presentation for Monday morning. We had previously done all of our communication by email, so meeting face-to-face was a good idea. With our days being so busy, lunch time was the only available time in our schedules to meet. Anyway, I ordered the grilled salmon, which was served on a bed of creamy white potatoes and served with tender steamed broccoli. The meal was delicious! I’m pretty sure the salmon was not wild caught off the coast of Alaska (which for many reasons is all I usually eat, which means I seldom have the opportunity to order it), but I confess I enjoyed it anyway. Brent still makes the best steamed broccoli I’ve ever eaten (he seasons it positively exactly the best!), but this serving of broccoli was about the finest I’ve ever ordered in a restaurant.

After attending a another gathering of GODORT librarians for a more social time later in the day, I met Regina for dinner. She is one of the few people I know at K-State that also likes seafood, so we walked back to Shaws. Tonight I knew I could not spend the same about of money I had spent the night before, so I ordered a lobster roll and French fries. The fries were crunchy, simply salted (with a little parsley), and absolutely delicious! None of that yukky seasoning that hides the flavor of the ‘tater! That night the restaurant was more crowded, but they still had a table in the Bar area for two. Plus!! There was a three-piece band, playing a jazzy/bluegrass/bluesy type music which really was not my favorite, but the musicians themselves were so talented that I enjoyed it anyway. The lobster was perfect, but the toasted roll overpowered the flavor, so I scraped everything off the roll and just ate the lobster. Probably if I could eat lobster more often it wouldn’t have been an issue. And soon, I was smiling again! No wine, no coffee. But tender lobster and good company. Priceless.

The last night there I met Richard from USGS and we talked about digital topo maps and digitization of information about ground water. Meeting with him, even though it always involves work, is a highlight of a conference. Last time we met in Denver I had such a bad cold that I ordered a delicious cup of hot tea. This time I was feeling much better and ordered, of course, a class of Riesling. A lovely start to my evening. We talked for about an hour, and then he left to meet friends for dinner, and I left to meet my K-State friends for dinner myself.

That night I finally had a slice (or huge ol’ chunk) of deep dish pizza. We ordered three pizzas for the crowd, but I only ate one piece, and couldn’t even finish that! Mine was made with gooey cheese, onion, more cheese, mushrooms, broccoli, freshly grated garlic, and ending with cheese. Did I mention there was tons of gooey cheese??!? We didn’t have to wait too long for our table, and we laughed and laughed and enjoyed the food so much!

That informal evening was a great way to end the conference. I was so tired by then and ready to get back to K-State. Libraries, I believe, daily face so many changes, that it is very time-consuming to continue to work and study and learn all the time. Which is why it is important to really like this profession – it is definitely not just a 40-hour a week job! And sometimes, when I feel my head is about to explode with new stuff, winding down with friends, fun conversation, and a good meal, is the best way to combat that fatigue.

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