Friday, August 26, 2016

Naomi's Pie [Page 3]

For those of us with Dobermans we know their non-verbal communication is much like horse's non-verbal communication. Most animals do communicate with their physical bodies, including humans.  It is innate.  Doberman's muscle flanks, their sleek and tapered bodies allow us a close opportunity to interpret what they are saying.  Communication is therefore, because of their physical structure, easy to discern with practice and getting to know them.
Protection and love is a Doberman's top priorities.  Protecting and loving work hand-in-hand.  Doberman's close proximity with their humans allows them to do both as naturally as breathing.  They love as fiercely as they protect.  A Doberman never separates the two.  Understanding this instinct allows us a proper way to introduce them to the world; other dogs, and other humans.
If Rooney was ever prevented from loving and protecting me she would most likely grow listless, weary, edgy, and possibly violent.
Rooney doing her job of loving and protecting makes her happy, healthy, and more open to meeting new people, and experiencing new experiences.  Our relationship keeps her sweet and profoundly engaged in interacting with me and others.
Learning and experiencing all of this with Rooney has helped me to come to better terms with the loss of Naomi and her children.  Rooney protecting and loving me has shown me the way to fully accepting Naomi's Witness Protection.  I can say without hesitation Naomi and children are protected and loved.

Enjoy words & pie!

Naomi's Pie [Page 2]

3/4 c. flour
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. sugar
5 Tbsp. melted butter [cooled slightly]

Directions: Mix all the ingredients for the crumble topping with your fingers just until it starts to be moist and just mixed. Sprinkle onto the blueberries you have placed in your pie shell and bake at 375 degree oven for 1 hour and fifteen minutes.  Let pie stand for 8 hours at room temperature before slicing and serving.

continued on page 3....

Naomi's Pie [Page 1]

The Witness Protection Program was authorized by the Organized Crime Act of 1970, then amended by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984.  The U.S. Marshals have protected, relocated, and given new identities to more than 8,600 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members since the program began in 1971.  Approximately 95% of witnesses in the program are what "we call criminals", said the creator of the federal program.
Naomi was of the 5%.  Naomi was the up close and personal witness.  Naomi's witnessing took more than 5 years of culminating information, a seriously risky endeavor, to testify for the prosecution against her ex-husband.  Naomi and husband were married for fifteen years before she knew intuitively that something was amiss.  Her husband's behavior, secretiveness, changed friendships, and a new job suddenly with an answering machine always answering.
Naomi has three children, just like I do.  Ages of our six children were identical, along with our children's genders.  Matched evenly and precisely, and yet with assorted personalities.  The extra lovely thing, the children got along famously.  Rare squabbles between them ever happened and when the squabbles happened it was nothing serious.  Forgiveness of opposing forces took place in five minutes or less.
Naomi absolutely refused to call me by my nickname, as she would say, "because quite clearly, Victoria is too beautiful to shorten", she would say.  We were kindred spirits.  Naomi cooked, knitted, and was an avid reader.  I am writing this in the past tense, for they are just memories now.  I am sure Naomi still cooks, knit, and reads just as passionately as I, even now.
Naomi's favorite pie is this weekly blog's feature, and I named my Blueberry Crumble after her; Naomi's Pie.  It was her favorite and I am sure it still is.  Naomi's birthday is this month, and I chose to remember her again, and to put my memory into words and pie.  Two great forms of communications; words and pie!
Naomi would say that "there surely must be Blueberry Crumble in heaven," because it truly was her one and only pie she liked to eat.
I miss her.  A person going into Witness Protection is quite like someone passing from this life, for those of us still here in this geographical location, without Naomi's smile and friendship.  It is different than death and yet the same with grieving.
Our last phone call was three hours long.  We played out what we thought our lives would be like, to each other.  We shared how we grew older, and wiser, and keener, living life in matters of love, and in compassion, and in commitment.  We knew this was the only way to sort of share our futures together.  We talked about our children graduating and finding jobs and moving away and marrying and most importantly about our children bringing our grandchildren to see us.  A new grandchild perhaps every year or two!  We knew grandchildren would be a lovely highlight of our lives.  We talked about everything else in our futures, and we said goodbye.
Naomi and her children are protected and I am glad.  I still feel it is a lousy deal for me, and yet I know she is safe from at least the one thing.  The thing that put her and her children in Witness Protection.
I am celebrating with her in spirit.  I am cutting a slice of Blueberry Crumble and topping it with homemade whipped cream with a sprinkle of lemon zest; just like she liked it.                            Happy Birthday Naomi!

Naomi's Pie
Standard Crust or Cookie Crust
1 1/4 c. flour and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 c. chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 Tbsp. cold water
Directions: Cut butter into flour and salt into you have crumbles.  Add water one tablespoon at a time until the pie dough comes together.  Roll out on lightly floured surface until the size of the pie pan you are using. Bake at 375 degree oven with a piece of parchment in center of crust with pie weights on top of parchment paper for 20 minutes.  Remove weights and parchment and continue to bake until crust starts to turn golden.  About another 12 minutes.
8-10 cookies of your choice
3 Tbsp. sugar
zest of one lemon
3 Tbsp. melted butter
Directions: Using food processor grind cookies into crumbs add sugar and lemon zest and melted butter until crumbs are moist.  Press into pie pan.  Bake at 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

2/3 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
5 c. fresh blueberries

Directions:  Combine all ingredients for filling and let sit for 20 minutes or until blueberries start to release their juice.

continued on page 2....

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sticks & Squares

Our food traditions play a role in defining our culture.
The value of a food moment is determined by the level of joy it creates!
The ceramic basket holding the breadsticks in the above picture is a gift from my husband Pete's Aunt M.  She carried it in her suitcase all the way from Pennsylvania, McKeesport, Pennsylvania to be exact, to Seattle, Washington to see her sister, my mother-in-law, and then 360 miles to our home in Coulee Dam.  When Aunt M presented the gift, made by her hands in a pottery class, she exclaimed with prideful defiance that if she hadn't wrapped the basket in her flannel pjs, that because of the way the airports handle luggage, it surely would have been smashed to bits. Oh! and sweethearts my pjs are clean! AND we laughed, and we laughed. Then began our splendid world wind 48 hour visit with Aunt M!
Jeremiah, Oh! Jeremiah! such a fine chap is he. Our eldest son and Jeremiah had a childhood friendship that brought out the absolute best in both of them.  Jeremiah is an only child.  His parents said of him, " he has some of the best of both of us in him, and so far we haven't found anything wrong with him!" AND we laughed and laughed.
Jeremiah was an intelligent, humorous, well spoken young man.  His humor and charisma surpassed anyone of his young age.  I do believe Jeremiah has a very old soul.
I used Aunt M's basket at all our dinner parties, birthday parties, and party parties, and filled it with fresh homemade breadsticks.  It was a perfect thing to do in every way!
Our son and Jeremiah's friendship spanned five years from ages 5 through 10 years of age, until Jeremiah's father accepted a job position that required they move.  The two children attended each other's birthday parties faithfully. 
On our son's 8th birthday party Jeremiah shared with me his favorite part of our parties.  "Mrs. B., I just enjoy your parties so much; the food, the fun, and what makes your parties extra special is the basket of breadsticks.  It's about the sticks!  Look at everyone moving about, talking, laughing, and holding a breadstick!  Pure genius Mrs. B!"
Here is the recipe for the famous sticks.  It is a 35+ year old recipe that I have converted so that my bread machine can make the dough for me.
Breadstick Recipe
For the dough:
1 c. + 2 Tbsp. of warm water
2 tsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 c. bread flour
Butter sauce for brushing on the sticks:
4 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1. For the dough, I place all ingredients in the inner canister of the bread machine, starting from the bottom of the ingredient list, making the warm water the last to go in.
2. Set the machine on dough setting.
3. After 5 minutes of rest, press start.
4. 90 minutes later dough should be ready.
5. Spill dough onto lightly floured surface.
6. Using hands pat dough out in rectangle.

7. Cut dough in individual size sticks in the thickness that you want your breadsticks to be.  Roll sticks on your floured surface until they are the size you want them to be.
8. Place sticks on parchment lined cooking sheets.
9. Cover with clean towel, let sit in draft-free area for 30 minutes.
10. Place in 400 degree oven and bake for 12 minutes or until golden.
Brush with butter mixture, if eating soon.  Leave plain until serving.  I leave half sticks plain and half with butter sauce brushed on.
I turned my kitchen into a chemistry lab until my next recipe tasted "just right". Adjust sugar and lemon juice according to your taste preference.  I love the sweet and tart exactly in the middle.  I decided to do this conversion to create smaller portions that still looked pretty after being cut.  Lemon Meringue is best understood as little is more is wise.  These Lemon Meringue Squares slice beautifully into 12 perfect squares.

Lemon Meringue Squares:

14 cookies [your choice]
2 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
Zest of two lemons
3 Tbsp. melted butter

2 1/2 c. sugar
8 egg yolks
2/3 c. lemon juice
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 c. water


8 egg whites [keep whites cold until ready to make meringue]
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
6 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch

1. Line 9x11 inch pan with foil
2. Spray foil with non-stick spray.
3. Place cookies in food processor, process until fine crumbs, add sugar, lemon zest, and melted butter until just mixed.

4. Press cookie mix into bottom of 9x11 pan.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until set.
5.  Place 2 1/2 c. sugar and 2/3 c. lemon juice in saucepan.  Bring to gentle boil on medium high heat.
6. Temper egg yolks until warm with sugar/juice mixture.  Pour tempered egg yolk mixture into sugar/juice mixture in saucepan.  Continue on medium high heat until mixture begins to thicken.
7. Stir 4 Tbsp. cornstarch and cup of water until well blended.  Add to saucepan.  Continue cooking until lemon custard is thick. Take off heat. Stir in 4 Tbsp. butter.
8. Let custard cool to room temperature and then pour on cookie crust.  Place in fridge, while working on meringue.
9.  Place egg white in mixer bowl with 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, beat on medium low speed until frothy.  Mix sugar and cornstarch together.  Turn mixer up to medium high and gradually add sugar/cornstarch mixture.  Continue to beat to stiff peaks.
10. Spread meringue on lemon custard layer.
11. Brown meringue in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until done to your likeness.

12. Chill the squares for at least 6 hours.. When chilled completely lift out using foil and support bottom with wide, long spatula to place on cutting board. Lifting one end of squares slightly to fold back foil all the way to the opposite end from underneath.  After bottom of crust is sitting on cutting board cut into twelve equal squares.  Place on serving platter. Continue to chill in fridge up to serving time.

Rooney's value is best described as the level of joy she brings to us.  It turns out she likes soft jazz instrumental music.  Wow!  So do we!  It turns out she loves long walks in the country.  Wow! So do we!  It turns out she loves children. Wow! Again! So do we! The joy Rooney brings is exponentially greater than anything we could have imagined.  We have loved all of our pets; each and every one of them.  In retirement Rooney has brought a redefinition to our full and satisfying lives.  She reminds us all at once what is the best to laugh about, and the best to love; her zoomies when she is off leash, sun rises, sunsets, walks, and squeaky toys.  Rooney reminds us to pause and enjoy awe moments.  She in all her graceful beauty and sweetness manages to stretch time for us.  Rooney is blissful and brave.  She chose to love us. Anything that hurts us, is healed by her love.  Anything that blesses us with goodness is doubled by her love.  Rooney is priceless....

Enjoy value and joy in your food traditions,

Thursday, August 11, 2016

en Foil

                            Happiness is a big bowl of bright yellow, citrusy lemons......I love the smell of fresh lemon juice, and love the recipes that include fresh lemon juice in them! So, I chose my Chicken Divan recipe for this blog post.

Most retirement information workshops provided by our employers cover preparatory classes for retirement including classes starting with financial planning, to workshops with the on-staff psychologist covering transitioning smoothly with your spouse into retirement [which is code for brace yourself for possible changes in personalities] and can include a class or two on cooking for two, to hopefully take your mind off what you may have just heard from the on-staff psychologist on possible personality changes of the one you have spent 30+ years with.  Food is a lovely distraction from all things a certified psychologist took 4-6 years to learn about, and chooses to share with us in a 45 minute learning session. 
Perhaps the most vital, as I have heard from other couples already in retirement, that our employers do not provide a workshop on is the sharing of the kitchen.  I have heard of the challenges retirement brings to learning to share a kitchen where a bride may have had primary care of with a groom who has new found time on his hands and is feeling the need to reorganize the utensils and dishes.  After he has accomplished this feat he moves onto the meal planning portion of the kitchen experience.   Each couple makes the necessary adjustments, short of divorce, hopefully, to accommodate each other in the shared kitchen.
My husband's culinary technique for cooking a meal, I have affectionately and humorously dubbed: en Foil.  My husband  cooks once a week, and when he does cook the meal it is in foil, always.  He cooks Roast Beef en Foil, Fish en Foil, and Cheese-Bacon Hot Dogs en foil.  I believe my husband's culinary technique is reminiscent of scouting camp cook-outs, and his stint in bachelorhood.  My research has shown me that there are some French dishes cooked en Foil.  Color me surprised!
It makes him happy and hence it makes me happy.  It is how we choose to share the kitchen in our retirement phase of life.  One meal a week he cooks  en Foil, and I enjoy a lovely meal with my husband. It is always delicious. Our Doberwoman Rooney appears to find it fascinating when Dad is in the kitchen alone. Rooney moves in and out of the kitchen in 5 minute intervals I believe to check that Dad is okay, and then out to make sure I am relaxed with the idea of Dad being in the kitchen alone.  Rooney is remarkably astute and intuitive.  I think our retirement is completely secure in her capable paws.  What we would do without her is something I choose not to think about, nor do I need to.  Rooney is young and healthy and most hopefully will be an overseer of our retirement for a dozen years.  We can be so lucky and blessed with a good amount of time with her.  After all, we have much to be taught by Rooney.
Here is a delightful hand-me-around recipe from a friend and has been in my recipe box for 30+ years.  It is also now a hand-me-down recipe, as my children love this dish and are now preparing it for their families. The original dish came from a 1930s NYC restaurant called Divan Parisien.

I have made some adjustments!

The first change out, is the chicken.  I bought a rotisserie chicken from my local grocery store in place of cooking a whole chicken for 45 minutes.

                                                               Chicken Divan
1 whole rotisserie chicken
1 10 oz. bag of frozen broccoli florets
2 10.5 oz. cans of Cream of Chicken Soup
3/4 c. Mayonnaise
juice of half a lemon
1/2 c. of white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 c. soft bread crumbs

I divide the recipe into thirds for my husband and I. I freeze two portions and heat up one portion for our dinner for the evening.

1. Heat broccoli florets in microwave until the florets are warm.  First layer is the broccoli florets in the pan which has been sprayed with non-stick spray or have softened butter applied to the bottom and sides.

2. Second layer is shredded chicken that we have removed bones and skin from.

3. Whisk cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, pepper, & white wine until smooth.  Pour over broccoli and chicken layer evenly.

4. Sprinkle grated sharp cheddar cheese on creamy layer.

5. Sprinkle soft bread crumbs on cheese layer.

6.  Add a few pads of butter on top of bread crumbs.  Place a foil cap on and bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes.
7.  I serve the Divan with long-grain white rice.  Delicious!

Rooney proofreading this blog before I click publish.  What a helpful Dobie she is!

Enjoy Chicken Divan with a rotisserie chicken! And cook something this week en Foil!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Timeless Passions

My father-in-law purchased this Star Sapphire between 1948-49 In Java, Indonesia.  He was a young Marine, and stationed in Indonesia at the time, and with a twenty-four hour pass decided to move about freely in the village of Java, and see the sights.There it was in the shop window; sterling silver ring band, looking very masculine, with this handsome sapphire perfectly mounted in the center, as it should be, for 328,700 Rupiah [equivalent to $25.00 American currency]. My father-in-law purchased the ring and wore it when off-duty for a year or two and then placed the ring in a jewelry box for safe keeping.  In 1985 he gifted it to his son, my husband, and my husband placed the ring in a jewelry box for safe keeping.  In 2006 my husband took the sapphire to a jeweler and had the sapphire removed from the ring band and placed in a white gold setting [my favorite, white gold] with a white gold chain.  It is a beautiful 70+ year old stone!  My husband did a romantic thing! He did good. My husband's love and creativity brought his father's sapphire into the creation of a beautiful family heirloom piece. Each generation in our family from here forward will be gifted the necklace, and will be able to enjoy the history of the sapphire, and how their father, grandfather, great-grandfather restructured a man's ring into a lovely woman's necklace for his wife; their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Jewelry lasts forever, and with the gifting of this sapphire to each consecutive generation, it becomes a Timeless Passion.

Recipes that have been passed down through the generations I refer to
as hand-me-down recipes, and recipes we exchange with friends during our individual generations as hand-me-around recipes. My Mom as a young Navy Officer wife exchanged recipes with other Navy Officer wives, and this recipe today is one of those Mom received from another military wife that is approximately 45+ years old, and it was passed to me. This recipe qualifies as a hand-me-around and a hand-me-down recipe. The sharing of recipes from friend- to- friend and from mother-to-daughter is a Timeless Passion.  Through the care of writing the recipes down and sharing the recipes generously we have all participated in a time honored tradition that has allowed us to provide nutritious and flavorful food from one generation to the next.

I have renamed the recipe and changed some of the ingredients up.  Original name; Beef In Casserole.  [I prepare half the recipe these days for my husband and I.] Here is the full recipe. 

                                                       Spaghetti Maximus
2 lbs. ground beef
4 tsp. salt
4 tsp. sugar
2 cans [16 oz.]  crushed tomatoes
2 cans [8 oz.] tomato sauce
4 cloves garlic [crushed]
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
Pepper to taste
2-3 oz. cream cheese
2 [5oz.] packages of thin spaghetti [cooked]
2 c. sour cream
12 green onions [sliced]
2 c. grated cheddar cheese [I use Monterey jack]

1. Cook ground beef until it just starts to lose its pink color.
2. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, sugar, garlic cloves.
3. When mixture reaches bubbly stage add cooked spaghetti, sour cream, cream cheese, and sliced green onions.
4. Pour into casserole dish that has been buttered or sprayed with non-stick spray.
5. Sprinkle with grated cheese.
6.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes with a foil cap on.

Approximate servings; 8-10

In our geographical location in Eastern Washington wheat, barley and rapeseed [for canola oil] is grown.  It is dry farming. Our particular wheat, I have been told by our farmers, goes for pasta production.  I love pasta. I love watching the wheat, barley and rapeseed being planted.  I enjoy watching it grow, and as August/September approaches harvest will begin.  As local farmers take care of their harvest, I start pulling out all my hand-me-down & hand-me-around pasta recipes I have gleaned over the years.  I hope you enjoy the Timeless Passion tradition of gathering and sharing recipes too.

Rooney & I share the same sentiment of not talking when we are enjoying an extraordinary moment such as; a sunrise, and here we are getting ready to watch a sunset together.  Another Timeless Passion, not talking through a beautiful moment; yet being mindful of the moment, enjoying each second together. Rooney understands & respects it!  I love this about her!

Enjoy Spaghetti Maximus & all your Timeless Passions,