Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Fall Morsels

 You're here, Fall, and everyone's talking about you. Your brisk morning air, your pumpkin spice lattes, your back to school sales. By the sounds of it, no one would know you've only been here for two days. I think you've been in our sights and in our hearts for much, much longer.

feeding the chickens at Red Barn Farm

 pumpkins of a different color

 thank you Hannah for sitting down longer than 4 seconds

 following the drinking gourd with Amy

three generations of apples who don't fall far from the tree

When I draw from my bank of Fall vocabulary, a few of the words I find are Crisp. Fresh. Cool. Fragrant. Crunch. Sweet. Orange. Harvest. Pick. Leaves. Squirrel. Nuts. Squash. Figs. Apples. Pumpkins. Wheat. Gather. Wind. Tea. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Simmer. Golden. Brown . . . a bevy of words that taste good because, Fall, you are a time of harvest and plenty. A time of food. What better way to celebrate your return than a bag of apples and a fistful of recipes?

 Apples from Vaughn's Apple Orchard in Weston, Missouri. Some of the only ones left after the windstorm two weeks ago.

 Apple turnovers, recipe here.

Apple strudel, recipe here.

  and my favorite so far, Apple Risotto, recipe here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Persian Basmati Rice Pilaf

I've had this little thing up my sleeve for years now, and I can't believe I never posted a recipe!

Persian Basmati Rice Pilaf

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 cup rice* (if using brown you'll probably need more water)
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

*Obviously this calls for Basmati rice, but any type will do. I personally like Jasmine rice. If you are using brown rice, you'll need to add more water and increase the cooking time.

Sautee onions in butter until they begin to soften. Add almonds and garlic, then sautee until almonds begin to brown. Remove from heat.

In a pot or rice cooker, combine rice, sauteed mixture, raisins, curry, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and broth. Cook according to instructions on rice package, or press "start" on rice cooker and forget about it. :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lemon Caper Tofu

This recipe, originally meant for chicken, is from my sister. I have no idea where she got it, but we found out that tofu works just as well! Be careful when working with hot oil. When I was laying the tofu steaks in the pan, my fingers were covered in egg and flower, and I didn't realize I was actually dipping my finger in the oil! Ouchy!

Lemon Caper Tofu
Makes 6-10 servings

2 packages extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch steaks (this made 14 for me)
1 cup all purpose flour
Seasoned Salt (or salt, pepper, paprika, and whatever else you like)
2 eggs
2 whole lemons
1 small jar capers
Olive or Canola oil

Drain tofu and slice into 1/2 inch steaks:

Lay tofu steaks on several paper towels, and using more paper towels gently press and soak some of the liquid out of the tofu. The drier your tofu is, the better it fries up.

Mix flour with seasoned salt and pour onto a plate. Beat eggs in a bowl big enough for dipping the tofu. Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your skillet, then dip tofu in eggs, flour, then lay in the pan to fry. Cook each side until golden brown, then remove from pan.

 Keep the frying oil to make the sauce, unless the drippings are too burned, in which case you can heat a new pan of  about 1/8 cup oil over medium-low heat and add a tablespoon or two of the seasoned flour. Squeeze lemons into pan and stir until sauce thickens a little. Remove from heat and add drained capers (If you've never cooked with capers, taste them first - they pack a punch! I love them, so I used a whole jar, but use your own discretion)
Pour sauce over tofu and you're done! This is great with roasted vegetables and Persian Basmati pilaf, for which I have another wonderful recipe that I'll share soon. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I'm hoping this will open a tasty dialogue with my fellow hummus-makers. Below is a pretty basic recipe that I found on this website (which, by the way, has a lot of FABULOUS Mediterranean recipes!). I really like this recipe because of the creaminess the yogurt lends. I think the liquid from it also makes blending MUCH easier. I usually double this recipe:

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
1/4-1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup yogurt (non-fat is good)
3-4 leaves fresh mint, chopped
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (she suggests 1/4 cup, which I don't like)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 cloves minced garlic

Mix in blender until smooth or desired consistency. If the hummus is too thick, add water by the tablespoon, blending in between to check consistency. If you're making it for a party, you can garnish your hummus with parsley, cayenne or paprika, olives, bell peppers, whole garbanzo beans, and a little olive oil drizzled on top.

If you're like me and could eat hummus all day, every day, here are some extras you can add to the blend for a little variety (use your discretion on how many to add!):

Roasted red bell peppers
Sundried tomatoes
Parsley (flat leaf is best, in my opinion)
Roasted Garlic

What are some other things you add to your hummus? How do you get the best consistency? Do share! In the meantime, feast your eyes on this magnificence:

How Hummusing . . .

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Les kisses to you

Dear Hannah,

It's been some time since I've written to you. Maybe I've been lazy, or maybe your expressive nature has made my letters obsolete. Maybe I just haven't known what to say, or how to say it. The dust is finally settling from our massive uprooting to a country that at first was foreign to you but home to us. You've adjusted beautifully and I am so, so proud of the little lady you are becoming.

You are almost 2 and a half years old now, and while I will be making a new photo/video montage of your latest and greatest, I'd also like to capture you here, in my mind, so you can not only remember how you looked and sounded, but how the rest of us adored your every breath and movement.

I'm duty bound, as your doting mother, to share a few of what I affectionately refer to as "Hannacdotes."  Every morning you tackle the daunting chore of getting me out of bed, and you do it with style and panache. If the bedroom door is closed, you lay on your belly and sing songs to me through the crack under the door. "Bear Necessities," "Twinkle, Twinkle," and "Bippity Boppity Boo" are among your favorite repertoire. There I'll be, laying in bed, searching for just ONE thing motivating enough to get me up, and then I hear a sweet little voice drifting from the floor:

"Ee da da, BEAR Negessities,
da pimple Bear Negessities
aget abou' da wawies ah da tife
I mean da, Bear Negessities
da why a Bear can resteties
wi' just a Bear Negessities a life!

On days when Daddy pitilessly benevolently leaves the bedroom door open for you to enter as you please, you patter to my side and whisper sweet nothings directly into my eardrum. "Hi Mama. Mama sweeping? Come on, Mama. Ged up! Come on!" You pick my glasses off the nightstand and put them on my face ("Eee go Mama!"), hand me a glass of water and I take a drink ("Is it gooooood?"), then pull a tissue out of the box so I can blow my nose ("Le wachoo Mama? Goooood job!") Then you pull the covers from my warm, sleepy body, take my hand, and tug with all your 30 pounds to get my . . . much more than 30 pounds . . . walking to the coffee maker. It's a wonder you don't just give up and leave me for dead. I am, however, flattered you think my presence worth the effort.

When you aren't busy eating us out of house and home (three breakfasts you eat before shouting "what about elevensies?!"), you can be found diligently taking care of your babies (of which there are five, you busy little Mama you), climbing into laundry hampers, changing your clothes 50 times, applying orange marker like lipstick, following everyone into the bathroom ("You did it, you did it, you pee-peed in the potty! Yaaaaaay Nana!"), or on lucky days when he's home, being chased by Daddy. Last week he was chasing you around the upstairs hallway/bathroom circuit, and steadily gaining, though you were swift in nothing but a diaper. Then suddenly you stopped, turned around, and with your biggest, boomiest voice yelled "STOP! Care bears . . . STARE!" Such was my pride in that moment, that had my chest puffed up any further it would have exploded, sending me flying away like a farting balloon. My little girl just quoted Care Bears! I get a little choked up just thinking about it. Just a little.

So much playing is bound to inspire mischief in my creative little sprite. Aside from the various uses you've found for markers and crayons (lipstick, body paint, wall decorators, fabric softener), you also ransack drawers, summit furniture, and jump jump jump to your heart's content until something goes CRASH and the only thing left to do is to run in the opposite direction and not look back. Those times when I catch you (and most often I do), and begin to scold, you, my little actress, will stall like a stickshift car:

"I, I, I . . . hug?"
"I, I, I . . . snack?"
"I, I, I . . . love you?"

And when Mommy doesn't budge, though it's difficult not to laugh out loud when you're trying so hard, you conjure up the most beautiful, contrite little face and say with perfect sincerity, "I, I, I . . . I sorry."

We recently moved you from your tiny pack 'n' play crib to a big girl bed, complete with purple Tinkerbell bed tent. You've not only adjusted to your new bed/nest/fort for bunnies and bears, but you've become a master of luring unsuspecting parents into your lair and capturing them in your embrace. Sometimes they don't return until dawn, so seduced are they by your warmth and sweetness. "Mama nap? Come on Mama, right here," you tap the pillow next to your head, "Mama lay down. Please? Oh, Mama. Night night." No, not tonight, sweet baby. Your siren's call is tempting, but my ribs can't take the kicking.

 you are getting sleeeeeeepy . . . 
I apologize for this waterfall of sentimentality, but I need to say one more thing before closing, my darling. I've met a lot of wonderful people in my life, Hannah, but no one has the same capacity to love and empathize as you carry in your little toddler body. If ever you accidentally:

Poke someone in the eye
Kick someone in the groin
Step on someone's face
Knee someone in the ribs
Pull something's tail
Spill someone's drink

. . . or see someone, something, hurt in any way, whether or not you are the cause of that pain, you become almost sick with grief, wrap your arms around that person/animal and say "Oh no? Le ouchy? You ok? Oh no! I sorry. Le kiss? Mmmmuah. Dere. All bedder?" Seeing how empathetic you are and knowing how very much you strive to emulate your parents, it feels good to know we're doing something worth emulating. Yesterday you were playing outside, collecting walnuts to roll down the driveway and every so often pausing to gaze heavenward and marvel at the trees. Then you were gathering muddy rocks from Nana's garden, and when you dropped a big one I thought it had landed on your foot. I gasped and asked if you were ok, and you looked at my worried face, mirrored my expression, then picked up the rock and held it next to your cheek and crooned "You ok rock? Ohhhhh. I sorry. Here, le kiss. Mmmmmmuah." Because deep down inside you is the desire to always do good, to always do right. And though you don't mean to, you will mess up sometimes and I have every confidence you'll know how to make things right. And some day, in the quiet shade of the trees you love, that rock will forgive you.

How can it not?

All my love and then some,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fragments of thoughts

Coming down from the thrill that was being a part of "Annie" has been rough. Really rough. I miss the people. I miss the diversion . . . spending 3 hours of my evening back stage in musty dressing rooms and between cobwebbed cement walls covered in signatures . . . it sounds dreadful, but it was bliss. It was theater. Screwed up lines and improvisations, costume changes and clouds of hair spray, eating our weight in Twizzlers while giggling that our mic packs were encased in latex condoms to "protect" them, doing sheep and velociraptor impressions between acts and making Daddy Warbucks laugh so hard he couldn't stop when we were on stage. We sold out 5 of the 8 shows. I had friends who literally couldn't come because they couldn't get tickets. It was just that good. I miss it. So. Much.

The aforementioned "adventure" that was to occur after "Annie" was a Broadway music review in conjunction with the First City Festival on September 11th. For reasons too numerous and multi-faceted to name, that didn't happen. Suffice it to say that 7 of the 10 people involved were in agreement that the show wasn't working, and wouldn't be something we could put on stage and be proud of. It was a painfully difficult decision to make, and I'm still not 100% sure it was the right one for me. . . but it's done, and it's time to move on.

Now the carpet has been swept from under my feet. Disoriented and slightly depressed, I feel like I need to be somewhere when I don't. There's more than meets the eye in that dusty old theater full of fire hazards, Stetson hats and feather boas. It draws you in with bread crumb trails and eats you whole if you're not careful. It fills your life with interesting people and forms a hunger in your heart for more. More tours through labyrinthine prop rooms and haunted basements. More opportunities to be bathed in sawdust and spirit gum. More mic checks and vocal warm-ups, curtains and backdrops, green rooms and rituals. I need an outlet for all this creative energy I had intended for the next show. I have a mind to put together a recital - a marriage of classical and Broadway songs for soprano. I'm excited to brainstorm and draw ideas and inspiration from a very dear friend and former voice professor next weekend. I'll keep you posted on that. I also looked up audition dates for the KC Symphony Chorus (they just had them recently, but will have more in January) and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City (February). I'll find something.

In the meantime, I'm trying to gather as many voice and piano students as I can. Teaching fills me, though I know it doesn't fill my pockets. Because he is trying to complete his EMT certification in one mind-blowing semester Hans is up to his ears in class work, which makes getting a job and moving out of my parents' house nearly impossible. I'm grateful for their patience and love while we try to detangle our messes and piece our post-Japan life back together before their eyes. This has been easy for no one.

For those still reading, thank you. Your open hearts and listening ears give me a safe place to keep my thoughts.