Growing up we didn't grill steaks very often but if we did, they were well-seasoned skirt steak smothered in salty-garlicky chimchurri.
Chris and the girls don't have the same garlic addiction I have so over the years I've stopped making chimichurri when I make steak (My siblings, Rosie and Juan D. can groan in disbelieving unison here).
Maybe because's today's weather is so PR-like or because in recent months I've started being better about taking care of myself and not just everyone else's needs. I treated myself by making some Chimichurri along with our steaks. No one else enjoyed it with their dinner, but I sure did.
As a mother and as I wife I'm very loved and appreciated, my life is not one of sad martyrdom but I do sometimes forget to cater to myself the same way I care for others. My joy in each bite was a reminder that I needed to remember that I'm worth the effort of making the Chimichurri, even if I am the only one that enjoys it.
This morning we said goodbye to the the majestic mountains of Jasper. After picking up breakfast at Tim's we went to see some of the smaller brilliant blue lakes on the outskirts of the Jasper townsite. We went to see Lake Annette and Lake Edith, still shockingly blue despite the gray cloudy sky. They are favorite lakes for townies, and have lovely sandy shorelines. Reluctantly we climbed into the car and set off for Edmonton.
The drive was beautiful but we once again failed spot any wildlife, not even big horned sheep, not that I blame them from steering clear of the busy road out of Jasper. The terrain changed quickly from foothills to a mixture of forest and rolling farmland. We made good time to Edmonton despite construction for the last hour. We were starving however when we got into the city, and since our GPS wasn't sure where out hotel was we drove the Gigantic West Edmonton Mall, and found food. The mall reminded me of Plaza las Americas, huge, loud and hard to navigate. Stomachs full we went to to the hotel to check-in, except they didn't have our room ready. We ended up camping out in the breakfast room watching the Netherlands/Costa Rica World Cup match.
Proof that we can both be in a picture
After nearly 45 minutes our room was ready and we all crashed for a bit, but when it was time to head back to the mall to meet with Mr. Bratt no one wanted to leave. So I headed out on my own. They finished watching the game and went for a swim in the pool. Mr. Bratt and I discovered that the WEM has more than one Crepe shop, and played elaborate game of Marco Polo, before we met up. It was so much fun to reconnect and catch-up. God has taken us on unexpected journeys, all over the world, to places we would have a hard to imagining 20 years ago. Mr. Bratt meant a great deal to me when I was in high school. My family was in turmoil and books/writing gave me worlds to play in. Mr. Bratt challenged us, and I am so thankful for all that I learned in his class, and the many books he shared with me.
Tonight we are resting, coaxing the girls into one last day of sightseeing before heading home. The girls are about ready to be home, tired of being on the road. So tomorrow we will drive to riverside parks in downtown Edmonton, before heading down to Calgary and the Zoo.
When visiting family shy away from building very busy agenda. It allows us to relax, and avoid disappointment. The only thing that we plan on is spending time together, playing games and eating good food.
Yesterday I woke up and did some writing before the rest of the household woke. Eventually we shared breakfast (Peach French Toast) and devotions together. We decided to try visiting the local First Nation interpretative center, but inline with our lack agenda the drive out there turned into a long wander down the country lanes.
On the way out there we stopped at a farm owned by one of Ann's nieces to see some kittens. I've never been happier to have flown up here, because if we had been driving I am sure the girls would have not let us leave with out a couple of the kittens. After playing with the kittens for nearly an hour the girls reluctantly set the kitties down, consoled only with the knowledge they they would be able to visit them again before we left town.
Setting out again toward the interpretive center but we soon had to stop and visit a quaint little two person chapel off the side of the road. Originally the steeple of area church that burn down in a fire, a local man turned it into a chapel, and maintained for 30 years until his death. We stopped and signed the register before continuing on.
Our explorations also brought us to large millwork, where gigantic stacks of timber are turned into reinforced particle board. We then followed the river that doubles as the border with Minnesota, to a lighthouse usually high on the banks of the river, but is now surrounded by water on all sides. The Rainy River region has been incredibly wet this spring, and all the lakes and rivers have risen to alarming levels. Hoping for the sake of everyone around here that it stops raining soon.
After driving down lots of small country roads we finally found the interpretive center closed. Back to Emo. We will try again today, but we contentented ourselves watching the World Cup and playing card games. Z. did make friends with the neighbor kids and we didn't see her for the whole afternoon.
The day as a whole was just a blessing, a day of rest.
Almost two years ago my father floated the idea of family trip to visit his family's ancestral homelands. He turned 60 this year and wanted to take us all to see the towns our family emigrated from. I became the family travel agent, researching hundreds of rental apartments, flight options, and car rentals. Nine of us were coming, a ages ranging from 60 to 7. Over months of email/chat conversations we hammered out a itinerary and we contacted our Corsican family about visiting them. A wonderful friend from Church translated a dozen emails for me as we decided on when to go, and whether it would be possible for us to visit the family home in Corsica. By March of this year we had most of the essential details set and booked, and we could just sit and wait for our departure date to arrive.
As our departure date approached people kept asking me if I was excited and all I could muster was apprehension. The last trip I had fully planned for my family had been a road trip from Calgary to Vancouver 5 years ago, and while it was enjoyable trip, I took personally my family's tendency to like to gripe about details. So this time I made sure everyone had a opportunity to chime in on the planning, and I planned on letting the little gripes (which is gives my family so much joy) fly right past me. Still as they day approached I was concerned about how much responsibility I had taken on and really hoped things didn't fall flat. Mercifully they didn't. It was a wonderful trip. There were odd hiccups here and there, but everyone pitched in to make things work, from conferring on trains about what to do if we needed to jump the turnstiles at our destination, or everyone speed walking to the Eiffel Tower once again so we could get a group shot, or respecting the need of others to stay behind once in a while or finding a cab driver willing to cram the 9 of us into their taxi so we could get to the train station or being willing to make the grocery run or simply taking the hand of one my girls as we crossed busy road. My family is still on the trip, they had a extra week, but our trip together was wonderful.
First Stop: Paris
My family is scattered, so we discarded our original plan of meeting at central airport and flying over to Paris together. Instead we found the best fares we could from our various airports. We flew from Rochester, to NYC to Dublin then onto Paris. It was a long trip, but our girls are awesome, and they dealt with it like the traveling pros they are.
Our arrivals were staggered and we each found our way to the apartment of A and D, our awesome Paris hosts. Despite the threats of a rail strike we all got there safely. They live in the 16th Arrondissement just a quick walk from the Metro. The apartment was comfortable accommodating 9 extra people without too much extra effort and a couple of air mattresses. The Apartment has large comfortable bathrooms (a luxury on this trip we would later realize) and beautiful french doors and balconies overlooking a quiet street.
A and D's neighborhood was wonderful, restaurants, several bakeries, cheese shops and green markets within effortless walking distance. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc of Triomphe were less than 15 minutes of shaded sidewalks away. We settled in easily with little jet lag discomfort.
Our first outing was of course the Eiffle Tower.
The girls got a huge thrill out of it. Honestly I think they could have turned around and gone home then and there. We walk down the steps of the Torcadero and did the line to ascend to the middle section of the tower. We were treated to fantastic views and our first ice cream cones of the trip. The girls eyed souvenir Eiffel Towers and their Papi Jean haggled with the vendors till he scored them handfuls of Eiffel Tower key chains.
In Paris we ate in mostly, A is a great cook, and between her meals and the meats, cheese, bread and fruit from neighboring shops we ate really well. In Paris we also ventured to the Louvre (where the girls hunted for Egyptian artifacts, inspired by their most recent reading obsession, Rick Riordan's The Kane Chronicles), Arc de Triomphe (where Aay and I saw two scammers try the very same ring trick on a pair of tourists), Versailles (where are girls were completely captivated by audio guides and would refuse to move on till they had hear each and every entry), and the Centre Georges Pompidou, a collection of modern art museums in a striking building in Central Paris.
Chris and I enjoyed one evening away, dinner for two at small parisian restaurant. Chris had his first Foie Gras and we loved every minute of it. We came home to find the girls enjoying their second movie of the evening and the rest of the family giggling over many bottles of wine and plates of cheese.
Paris was a fantastic time. We could have easily spent twice as long as we did there. The City was so easy to navigate, with great signage, easy to access Metro system and the weather was fantastic. It was a bit overcast when arrived and there several small downpours, but nothing that dampened our spirits and temperatures lent themselves perfectly for walking. Were it not for the ever present smokers, the city would be perfect.
Were blessed on numerous occasions by running into Spanish speaking Parisian residents, transplanted Spaniards and Dominicans who gave us advice or encouragement. And on our last day when Chris and I ventured off on our own to see the Musee du Orsay, a kind museum official had us skip the several hundred people long queue after spotting Zee falling asleep on Chris's shoulder. It really saved that outing, as it allowed us to see our favorite Impressionist painters and still make it back to the apartment in time to pack up to head off to Corsica.
It was a huge treat to visit Paris this way and I am incredibly thankful that I got to share with my family. Below you can find a slideshow of some of my pictures from the Paris leg and a link to some of my awesome Brother-in-Law Kendall pictures from the trip.
I use a variation of Yvonne Ortiz's "A Taste of Puerto Rico" Cookbook.
I put 2 dice onions (small to medium), 2 peppers diced (a mix of whatever I have handy), 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, 6 good sized culantro leaves, a dash of water and oil.
I dump that all into a blender and hit chop and then puree, till everything is smooth. I then freeze it in ice cubes trays, to use when I make Stewed Pink beans or any other Stewed Puerto Rican dishes.
Late yesterday afternoon, Aay, Zee and I were enjoying a pre-dinner snack of Laughing Cow original swiss cheese wedges, which Arwen proclaimed to be TASTY! and finished off three wedges in quick succession. I grew up having the Laughing Cow bites, tiny foil wrapped squares that were shelf stable and a staple of my pack lunches as a child. Sadly Laughing Cow no longer offers the original version of in the bites here in the states (they were availble in Canada last year), only offering the very plasticky light version, which my girls rightly rejected.
Aay's evident enjoyment of the cheeses prompted her to ask if we could go and buy and taste a bunch of different cheeses. I told her we could, in fact if Daddy was game we could even make a dinner of it. So this morning after I took out my new bike for a quick ride to pick out of first delivery of fresh veggies from our CSA, Porter Farms's delivery point, less than 2 miles away, we headed out for our saturday family day. We played a round of putt-putt at Wickham Farms, we crossed the parking lot to our YMCA and went for a swim. They had a giant dragon play slide in the exercise pool, and then both girls practices many of their new swimming skills, like underwater diving and glides. After our pool time we drove down the road to the supermarket and wine store. Chris went off to replenish us and I set out with the girls to select the cheeses we wanted for our taste test. We ended up taking home 11 different kind of cheeses, Piave, Muenster, Brie, Campo de Montalban, Feta, Wensleydate with Cranberries, Fontina, Humboldt Fog, Beemster, Havarti, and Emmenthaler Swiss. Once at home we set out several kinds of crackers, sliced meats, olives and bruschetta topping. Everyone got 11 little cards with the name of a cheese and a pen. As we tasted we were asked to jot down our impressions, and whether we judged the cheese good, okay or bad. Chris and Zee were juding on the same pace and Aay and I did them in the opposite order.
We had a blast. The girls tried everything, even the Humboldt fog, which took some courage even to get Chris to try it. (I thought it was marvelous). Zee marked hers with circles (good), checks (okay) and Xs (bad). We had a ton of fun. Talking about how each flavor and texture was, what we liked or didn't like about them and then experimenting by combining the cheese and with the fruit and meats we had on the table and seeing what combinations work. The girls really got into that, and we talked about on of the scenes in Ratatouille where Remy is trying to explain to his brother about tasting things not just gobbling it up. Great time! For the record. Aay's favorite was Piave, Zee: the Feta, Chris: The Havarti and Me: The Humboldt Fog.
I just read a really nice email from the nice folk at www.cypressgrovechevre.com makers of Humboldt Fog, who really enjoying reading about our taste test. Since it was my favorite of all the chesses we tasted I want to make sure I shared their website with you. (July 11, 2008) Buen Provecho!
Chris is allergic to MSG which is very prominent in the ingredient list
of most prepared sofritos and recaitos, and all over many of our
favorite packaged "sazon", especially in the Saffron flavored
one from Goya, that I used religiously in my Puerto Rican dishes. Since we realized that Chris was reacting to MSG, we have ditched all our sazon packets and I have been stripped of many of my convenient meals. As a result I am in the middle of reinventing the way I
cook Puerto Rican food. In essence I am going back to more authentic from scratch methods, which is very hard to when far from Puerto Rico. I can't tell you how excited I am to go to Rochester, with is large Puerto Rican population and how I am looking forward to visiting some Latin Bodegas, and coming home with Ahis Peppers and recaito. I will soon have easy access to Pink Beans and it was so liberating to give away my remaining cans to a good friend last week, since I knew I will easily and cheaply (cooperatively) replace them when we get to Rochester.
So in that frame of mind, thinking of new cooking possiblities, looking for new recipes free of preservatives and flavor enchancers, I was cleaning in the kitchen wearing my ipod listening to some of my backlog of podcasts. I was listening to NPR's Food Podcast, a weekly compilation of NPR's food related stories, one of the stories from last week was a interview from a newer show called "Tell Me More" with Michelle Martin. I have been listening to the daily podcasts, but somehow missed one from Aug 21, where they talked about the September issue of Gourmet magazine which will showcase Latin American cooking. One of the chef's that it will feature Maricel Presilla,who Michelle then interviewed and they talked mostly about the Latin American cooking tradition of Sofrito's and Recaos.
The interview was great, and made my mouth water, and my heart encouraged about solutions to my over-dependence on prepared Sofritos and Sazon. I am know looking forward to finding this issue of Gourmet, and to Presilla's upcoming cookbook. Hopefully this fall we will find a house with great kitchen, where I can experiment till I find just the right flavor for our Rice and Beans again.
Last week we had to abort out Guinea/Mali combo meal because Chris was too sick to participate. So this week when Chris picked up the cookbook to look and see what we wanted to cook this week, he noticed that I had left it open to the Japan section. The recipe submitted by CRWM's Michael and Kim Essenburg had looked interesting and simple. It was white rice, with three different kinds of toppings, the first ground chicken topping flavored with sake, soy sauce and ginger juice, the second was sweet scrambled eggs again flavored with sake and soy sauce and the third simply fresh boiled peas.
We schedule our E.W.Missionaries meal for either Thursdays and Fridays so we can use fresh ingredients whenever possible. Today I picked up a 2lb bag of fresh peas from the Weaver Family's booth at Farmer's Market, and picked my first ever bottle of Sake at one of the local liquor stores. On a different week would have use market fresh eggs too, but I had dozen left this morning so we used 6 of those.
Once we got home and we unloaded our groceries, we set to work. Aay quickly focused on shelling peas,
a task she took very seriously, and which she performed well for over 20 mintues. She tried to school Zee is the proper sequence of shelling and sorting peas and use of the various bowls, one for the discarded pods and the other for peas. Before Aay could grow frustrated with Zee's decidedly independent approach to pea shelling (part snacktime, part confetti party) Chris came to her rescue by drafting Zee to come help him crack the eggs for the Egg Topping and to help him mix them up.
We ended up getting a little ahead of ourselves and had the scrambled eggs and chicken done before the 2 cups of peas finally got boiling and the rice was ready. We simply kept the warm in the oven till we finished up the other two.
As a family we all really liked this dish. It was quick and simple thing to make, and with the exception of the sake we had all the ingredients on hand (and we could have done without the sake as the recipe provided the alternative of using a dry white wine instead). It was a very child-friendly dish since each element of the meal was cooked separately and picky eaters would be able to at least find one segment of the meal appetizing. Aay our resident picky gourmet, chose to only eat the rice and peas while Zee woofed down the chicken, rice and peas while only picking at the egg topping. My favorite
topping was Chicken one. I have never cooked with ground chicken before and I liked both the texture and sweetness. I am not sure if Japanese people keep the topping separate from each other once they start eating but I enjoyed trying them separately at first and by the end combining them together for new texture & flavorful combinations. This now ranks as our second most favorite E.W.M. meal, but the one that we are mostly likely to share with others, since our favorite, Pineapple Curry, might overwhelm those not fond of spices. If our Church ever decided to hold fundraiser meal based on this cookbook, I would recommend this dish be on the menu, since it would be easy to prepare for a large number of people and has a high likelihood of pleasing a mixed crowd.
On our second Eating with Missionaries meal Chris and I selected a dish from Hungary, Hortobagyi Husos Palacsinta. Chris took care of the chopping of pork, red peppers and tomato while I took care of the onion and Crepe preparation. It worked out swell to split the task because it radically shortened prep time. The crepes were a bit of chore since I don't have proper crepe pan and I was using my smallest skillet, a heavy cast-iron one, that meant that I really gave my wrist a workout. The filling was very tasty although terribly fatty. The meat filling involved us fry up some bacon and then cubing lean pork and saute it in the left-over bacon fat along with the onion, pepper and tomato. After removing the meat for further mincing, the leftover liquid was used a base for sour cream sauce (tasty, but wow that seems unhealthy).
Chris and l liked the taste of the meal but concluded that it was too labor intensive and fatty to enter our regular menu. I did get some ideas of how to keep the flavor but jettison the fat. If I prepare this again, I will probably discard all up 1 tsp of bacon fat, and saute the pork, onions and pepper in paprika seasoned vegetable broth instead. If I make and freeze the crepes ahead of time it and then heat together in the oven as recommended it could make a very flavorful potluck or holiday dish.
This evening I used the leftover meat-filling as a topping for pan-fried cheese perogies. I thought that they were a nice pairing, since the perogies have the same neutral flavor qualities the crepes do.
next up - Mali (Chicken and Sauce, Yasa) and (Fried Sweet Potatoes - Pute Sa'aade) Guinea, when we have our friend Bonnie and Gregg over for supper next week. Bonnie worked with the CRWRC in Mali for several years.
This weeks Chris got a cookbook in the mail from Christian Reformed World Missions. International Cuisine - From the Ends of the Earth when he got it out of the envelope it fell open to page 33, Pineapple Chicken Curry or Anarosh Murgi Torkari, Bangladesh. He immediately walked out of his office and asked me if I was still planning on going grocery shopping that afternoon. I was, so he handed me the cookbook and asked me to procure any of the ingredients we didn't already own. We had most of them, except for some rare spices, like whole cardamoms (ground will just have to do) and I even had fresh pineapple already in the fridge.
Yesterday afternoon I started defrosting the chicken, and set out all the ingredients when Chris walked in from a errand. He asked if I had started, and I said not exactly, to which he responded, GREAT. I asked him if he had changed his mind, and he said he hadn't, only had not meant for me to cook it, that he wanted to cook the curry. I happily gave up my spot by the cutting board and after a short chat, busied myself with the leftover lunch dishes, and reorganizing my chaotic spice shelf. He will now be able to find all the spices for the curry easily and it allowed me to do some overdue weeding out of stale spices. I hope that in the next few weeks I might make the kitchen a little bit more user-friendly so I don't put up obstacles in front of Chris, since he enjoys cooking so much, but not the hunting around for everything that he needs.
In the end, we had a lot of fun mincing red onions, pineapple and later watching the whole thing simmer. Zee wondered in and helped Chris make the rice. The curry was fantastic, hot but not overly so, sweet and saucy. We rounded out the meal by munching on slices of fresh pineapple that we unfortunately couldn't temp Aay to try. How do you explain what a pineapple tastes like? Chris told Aay that it was like an apple only sweeter and juicer...which was sort of it, but not quite.
The experience was so positive that as we browsed the rest of the cookbook many other recipes caught our eye, that we are thinking that we might turn it into a weekly ritual. to eat the food our missionaries around the world sample during their work and to think of them and their new communities as we enjoy new food. I'll try to report back on how we are doing. If you follow the link above, you can get information on how to get the cookbook for yourself.