Uncategorized

Zucchini and Squash Epiphany

If you don’t enjoy cooking, feel free to skip this post, but, if you have a garden or have gardening friends who bless you with fresh produce, and enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking, read on.

Today I had an epiphany about turning garden goodies into delicious sauces, so I dove in to a counter-full of yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, jalapeños, onion, and green pepper.

I have a teeny-tiny bit of cooking knowledge, and one thing I know is if you can make a sauce, you have a fundamental cooking skill that allows you to do many things. The French, of course, figured this out in the early 19th century, then refined the idea in the early 20th century when they created: The Mother Sauces.

The gist is, if you can make a mother sauce, you can then make many things. The everyday cook uses a can of mushroom soup in the same way: to pour on pork chops, or use it in a casserole, or as the base of a soup… or more likely, they use it when a recipe calls for it. In the same way, cooks know a basic béchamel sauce can become any kind of cream soup, or cream sauce, or creamy base for any casserole. No need for a recipe. Just make the sauce and go from there.

I’ve had zucchini bread and zucchini brownies, and found that the zucchini blends nicely; you don’t really taste it. So why not let it blend into a sauce? I did some googling and so indeed… others have already thought of this, and although I didn’t find tons of recipes, I got the general idea. Make a sauce, add cooked zucchini—viola!

Therefore… here are my end results should you be interested in using your squash and zucchini in a new way.

I started by making a big batch of béchamel sauce… just butter & flour in equal amounts, add milk with salt, pepper (I used white pepper), and nutmeg. Stir, stir, stir… yummy, delicious, smooth delightful creamy sauce you could basically put on a shoe and it would be well-worthy of licking off. I set that aside.

Then in two different pans I sauté sliced zucchini and squash, respectively, with onion and garlic, in olive oil and butter.

Once cooked, I put a batch at a time in the food processor and zapped it nice and smooth. I took each batch out and to this I added 1/2 the béchamel sauce. Then to each sauce I added 1/2 cup of grated fresh parmesan cheese and stirred it until it melted. I like spice, so I also added some red pepper flakes to each of these batches of sauce. The squash sauce is golden and the zucchini more green.

I plan to use the yellow squash sauce in scalloped potatoes, but of course, it would be a great base for mac and cheese, or potato soup, or chicken pot pie, or an Alfredo style pasta sauce just for a few ideas. I put it over eggs and ham for lunch like a hollandaise. Technically, you could serve it as a soup as it is with a nice piece of bread. It’s extremely yummy!

I added roast chicken to the zucchini sauce and I think it will be great over pasta, by itself as a soup, or as a sauce on potatoes or even rice. If you didn’t add chicken, I think many meats would play well with it.

Then I took those jalapeños, several ears of corn from our garden, a lime, a can of coconut milk, and some Thai seasoning and made a kick-ass curry sauce. Chicken or shrimp can be added and it’ll be good over rice or noodles. Very spicy, but rich and delightful. The lime made it very fresh. It’s pretty too. I can see instead of using Thai spices, using Mexican spices like cumin and cilantro, then putting a dollop of the sauce on enchiladas or tacos or a taco salad or anything Mexican, really. I’d think it’d be nice as a base for tortilla soup, too.

Still in a playful mood, I took the tomatoes and green pepper with what was left of the onion and finished everything off with a small batch of red sauce. I think all of these sauces will freeze just fine. 

And now, I have at least four meal starters and I’ve used up my vegetables in a unique way.

Now. What to do with those butternut squash…

I think I have an idea!

 

Uncategorized

Celebrating Joyce

Life in the country during summer means sweet corn and tomatoes, cooking, cleaning, and preparing for celebrations of one kind or another.

My daughter is coming home this weekend, bringing friends, and we’ll have a thirtieth birthday celebration with her at our cabin. There will be some games, and boating, a fire pit, and food. Plenty of sun and some firewater, too. The usual summer party things. My husband and I have some work to do yet to prepare for this. The inside of our cabin is almost ready, but the sand beach needs to be raked, the wood for a fire needs to be gathered, and I’m determined to figure out a better way to arrange the patio furniture. And then I’ll need to buy and prepare food. It’ll all fall into place. I have all week, I hope. But, then again, none of us know how much time we actually have.

Last week was a week to have a different kind of celebration — one of life and family. My sister-in-law Joyce passed away; too young at 70. She was one of the most interesting and intense people I’ve ever known; Intelligent, fierce, giving, and brutally honest. The church absolutely overflowed for her unique memorial service. The gathering afterward was a true celebration of life, dotted with hugs and tears, memories shared, lots of toasts—beers held high—Joyce enjoyed a good gathering and a beer or a margarita or two. She’d have liked seeing so many of us getting to know each other, reestablishing relationships, and making new friends, too.

So, here’s to another week full of work, family, friends, and celebrations. Here’s to these last days of summer with sweet corn and tomatoes, lakes and parties… and losses, too, which we only experience if we’ve had something special to begin with.

In Joyce, we had something special.

In honor of Joyce, here are words from Tecumseh, a Shawnee. No one honored Native American heritage as well as our Joyce did.

Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about his religion.

Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.

Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.

If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs their spirit of its vision.

When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.

Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.


– Tecumseh
, Shawnee (1768-1813)

Joyce truly did die like a hero going home. She will be missed.

My brother Gary and his wife Joyce.

 

Uncategorized

Feng Shui—Fresh Face

This is a year of changes for me. Little changes, but still, I’m moving around the furniture in my life. Do you do that? Rearrange furniture? Yes? No? It’s an absolute necessity for me. Something deep inside me is always searching for Feng Shui, or a fresh face, something new, different… something other.

I used to think it was because I got bored, but I do believe it’s more to do with trying to get things right and find the appropriate spot for everything from furniture to clothes to websites, jobs, hobbies, and activities. Life changes. What’s right for one time in your life isn’t necessarily right for other times. Play groups with parents and toddlers makes no sense for me at age 54, but at twenty-eight, I spent a lot of time in groups of that sort.

So, what’s changing for me? My weight, for one thing. I’ve lost forty pounds and hope to lose anywhere from twenty-five to forty more. Having said that, clearly my diet has changed. So has my outlook, my self-esteem, my level of energy, my clothing, and the plans I’m making. I know now I can walk for blocks and blocks and I won’t need to rest. I can stand for long periods of time. How I plan vacations and parties are changing based on my ability to wear different things and do more. I may even, at some point, wear a swimsuit in public without feeling like everyone is embarrassed for me. Already, I don’t cringe as much when I see pictures of myself. Change can be incredibly positive.

Like poorly arranged furniture, cluttered or infringing on walkways, can make a room uncomfortable, I decided my old website was feeling the same way to me. I considered trying to rearrange things, but frankly, I just needed an entirely now house, so to speak. A coat of paint wasn’t going to do it. So, here it is. New walls and arrangement and similar pieces of furniture, but in different styles. Hope you like it. So far, I do, but it’s highly likely in a few years, I’ll change things again. It’s just how I roll. Let me know what you think. Oh, and follow me if you want to get email notices when I create new posts about new books I’m working on.

Uncategorized

My Writing World

Writers know there are elements of a good story. Good setting, good character development, rising action, evoking empathy and worry for characters, a satisfying ending, and the all-important tension and conflict. Tension and conflict has never been something I’ve struggled to achieve. It runs rampant and wreaks havoc in my stories, it drives my characters to near madness, and it keeps my readers on the edges of their seats. Whenever I hear a speaker at a writing conference or class talk about the importance of tension, I’m reminded of something from my childhood. Paper dolls.

A creative type from the get-go, I used to make my own paper dolls. I had entire families of cut out dolls and was always on the hunt for a good piece of sturdy paper to make a paper doll out of. Once my characters were in order, they needed clothes, which I drew, complete with tabs, and laboriously cut out with my little round-tipped scissors. Yes, I’ve been creating characters since I can remember, in one way or another. But the most telling memory that shines a light on how from my early years, I knew how to create a story, is that one paper doll in particular was of constant use in my played-out scenes.

The Blue Lady.

She was drawn on a sturdy piece of a dark blue file folder. Her hair was wild, and her mouth maintained a permanent frown. Her eyes were fierce and crazed. She wore too much make up and her voice was loud and screechy. Very bossy. Very mean. Demanding. Judgmental. Angry. She didn’t have a name. She simply was, The Blue Lady.

I used The Blue Lady to bring tension and conflict into the scenes I acted out with the other paper dolls. The boy and girl dolls would be playing nicely, and along would come The Blue Lady. Party over! Two lady dolls would be shopping, and then they’d run into The Blue Lady. Day ruined. The dark blue broad rarely allowed a moment’s peace for the other cut-out dolls.

If you’re a psychiatrist, you may have some opinions about this. But if you’re an actor or actress, you know dramatic scenes are the juiciest to play. Think about the stories you’ve loved. Even the sweetest romance has conflict and tension. It really isn’t a story if something isn’t overcome. Even children’s stories have problem’s to solve. Real people must solve real problems. It’s called life. Writers are keen life-observers. They’re people watchers. Conversation eavesdroppers, situation-supposers, dream-analyzers, what-if wonderers.

I think all children when they play pretend, know this. It’s like when you hear two little boys play “Who would win?” One boy says, “Who would win in a fight, a lion or a bear?” Or, “Who would win in a fight, an elephant or a rhinoceros?” And ultimately, it may come down to the most classic of all little boy arguments, “My dad is stronger than your dad!” See? Conflict and tension. It’s the heart of all stories. It’s part of every day our lives. The room is dirty… that’s tension… I clean it and in so doing, have overcome the obstacle. I’ve won the battle. A school child doing difficult homework or having an argument on the playground is dealing with or overcoming conflict and tension… every single day, these things happen. It may be as simple as solving the problem of what’s for dinner, or as complicated as deciding to leave your job to find another or dealing with a difficult neighbor. Life is rife with tension and conflict of varying degrees.

So, welcome to my writing world. It’s just like every other writer’s worlds. Filled with problems and solutions, characters and settings, beginnings and ending. And forever and ever, it shall be, for all writers throughout time and history. It’s just like everyone else’s world… just written down by someone who’s been paying close attention.