Friday, June 24, 2016

Gallimaufry Greens for Summertime

      We have certainly entered the summer season here and in many places too much as weather screams high into the triple digits in some areas of the country.  As much as I love to cook some nights are just too darned hot to venture into the kitchen let alone crank on a burner or the oven.  You can always BBQ, but some nights you just want 'simple and easy'.  Such is the perfect summer salad.  Something simple yet intriguing, filling yet healthy.  I have two that often fit the bill at our place or on the road.  Neither takes a lot of ingredients yet satisfies my creativity and provides flavor to satisfy nearly anyone.  Neither requires a side dressing, but of course you can garnish either as you or your taste buds see fit. 

Sumi Salad
This is an Asian style cabbage salad with items that will stimulate your 'buds'.  This recipe actually serves 6-8 so you may want to portion ingredients accordingly. 

1 head cabbage, chopped into leafy pieces and a 'few small chunks'
2 packages of Chicken Top Ramen Noodles, crushed
4 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup oil
4 Tbsp.  sugar
6 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 packages Top Ramen seasoning

Mix together.  You can also add chopped chicken, soy sauce, or green onions if you like.  Serve.

Crab & Cucumber Salad
This is actually called Spicy Sriracha Crab and Cucumber Salad.  This dish is delightfully colorful and tasty.  You can skip the Sriracha if you like or garnish to your own tastes.  The julienned sweet peppers was my addition. 

1 large cucumber
rice vinegar to taste
4 ounces cooked jumbo crab meat (or surimi)
2 tspn. Sriracha Sauce
1 Tbspn.  mayo
1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced
1/2 tspn.  sesame seeds
1 Tbspn. Panko Bread Crumbs
2 Julienned sweet peppers

1.  First peel the skin from your cucumber
2.  Use a potato peeler or spiral slicer to turn the cuke into curly noodles into your bowl. 
3.  Drizzle the noodles lightly with rice vinegar.  You can omit this if you're not a fan.
4.  Using a fork or your fingers, shred the crab. 
5.  Combine the crab with mayo and sriracha and place atop cuke noodles. 
6.  Top with sliced avocado and sweet peppers.
7.  Garnish with sesame seeds and Panko.  Enjoy! 

"Salad can get a bad rap.  People think of bland and watery iceberg lettuce, when in fact salads are an art form, from the simplest rendition to a colorful kitchen sink approach."
                                                                      Marcus Samuelsson

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Cajun Eggs with Cheesy Tasso Grits & Cornbread

      We spent nearly an entire month in Louisiana this past winter.  We traveled from Shreveport to Opelousas to Natchitoches to Baton Rouge to New Orleans to Breaux Bridge to Lafayette to Lake Charles.   From Creole to Cajun I loved sampling the many different cuisines and treats.  One of my favorites was the breakfast from CafĂ© Des Amis in Breaux Bridge:  Eggs with Cheesy Tasso Grits.  We waited in line for 30 minutes before opening just to get in.  We dined family style with several other couples as well as enjoying a hot Zydeco Band AND DANCING....all at 8 a.m. 
      I did stock our freezer with many items from this area and since I am thawing out my last package of Tasso I decided to treat myself for breakfast. 
      The ingredients for this dish are as easy as the title.  Eggs can be made to order, grits can be from scratch or (like me) I used Quaker Instant.  Amounts for each are as the taste. 
  Cheese should ALWAYS be Havarti, a staple in Cajun Cuisine.   Tasso is a smoky Cajun ham that is used as an accent in many dishes.  I had it already thawed out for Gumbo in a few days so an inch or two diced off the end wouldn't matter. 

      I did also prepare some Corn Bread for the same reasons as for the Tasso above.  I added some extra cheese to this as well.  Cornbread is always good with nearly any meal.  Of course I took the easy way out, using Jiffy Corn Bread Mix.......with a little added sugar this has been my favorite for many years.

      Preparation is just as simple.  You make your cornbread and grits.  Dice your Tasso and add to the grits.  Either grate or dice your Havarti cheese and add to the grits as well......continue to heat for a minute so all melds together.  Prepare eggs as desired and then serve on warm plate with buttered cornbread and coffee. 

"Its very hard having a restaurant down here.  Cooking for people who know how to cook is hard" 
                                                                   Chef, Vermillion Parish

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Teaching......all this and a paycheck too?

One of my first students, I attended both Shelby's graduation and her wedding the past few years.  Shelby recently graduated with a degree in Veterinary Tech Science.

      One of the best parts of my chosen 2nd career was to be part of young peoples' lives, in my case teaching elementary school.  After 22 years in the Air Force and a few years getting my degree and credentials I spent another 20 years teaching.  This actually equated to 14 actual , 1 year credit for at least 135 days subbing each of 2 years, and 5 years of purchased retirement.  Of this I spent 2 years in 2nd grade, 11 years in 4th grade, and a hiatus year in 5th grade.  I did earn my Masters in Educational Technology and my Doctorate in Educational Psychology/Technology, both through Michigan State University.  I never left the classroom environment.  No matter....every inch, every ounce, every minute of time I invested in teaching paid me dividends a thousand fold.   Every teacher begins hoping to impact as many children as possible, but most do not realize just how much each of these children impacts our own lives as well. 
      Many of these children have grown up now and have or are near graduation, some have moved on to college, and some even have their own families.  They live as close as the local area and as far away as Tucson, Arizona.  Their life and career paths are as varied as the wind.  It is truly the cycle of life.  Even with retirement I am still able to attend Kalkaska High School Graduation each year it is always held the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend......nice.  Tradition here in NW Michigan includes an Open House for each graduate.  Most everyone is invited, but I consider myself honored for the invitations I receive each year.  The only year I have not attended was 2014 as Barb and I were in Alaska, but I did stop by to visit many of them before our departure.   
      This year was no exception.  We attended a half dozen celebrations as well as a wedding.  These took place during the initial weeks following commencement.  It is always fun to see many of the old gang, kids and adults alike.  Over the years I have made friends with many parents that I still associate with to this day.  The camaraderie is always warm and the food delicious.  Everybody loves 'catching up'.  This might just be the best part about living in a small town.  I proudly present some of the finest of Kalkaska High School Class of 2016: 

Spencer Hamilton
Will attend Northwest Michigan College pursuing a career in Forensic Science

Joe Miller
Taking a 'break year' to work before college

Garrett Diola
Will attend Central Michigan University pursuing a degree in Business/Entrepreneurship

Carter Mouton
Just entered an apprentice internship at Cooke Sheetmetal

Emilee Scott
Has been awarded an athletic scholarship to play volleyball at Rochester College

Sadie VanVliet
Will attend Michigan State University pursuing a degree in Equine Managment
      Since retirement I don't often get to see many of my past associates.  This year I was very lucky that Jim Grugett came back to visit some of his student alumni as well.  Jim and his wife Jenny have both moved on elsewhere in their teaching and administrative careers, but in my mind will always be some of the finest educators our town has ever known.  Jim brought his 12 year old daughter Brianna with him for this visit.  She enjoyed spending her overnight in our air conditioned RV sleeping with Bones the Wondercat to keep her snuggly while watching our big screen TV.  Sure was a treat to see them again.   
      I may only enjoy this for several more years, but I do savor each and every one of them as long as they last.  With all the turmoil, divisiveness, and social unrest we witness all too much in our daily lives it gives me hope that in some way these young men and women might enter the world with clear eyes and full hearts making positive, forward changes in society.  They did with me. 

"A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops"
                                            Henry Adams

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