Sunday, January 28, 2024

Hot Pots ............Cool Smoothies

Let's just touch briefly on eating today.  
These short, dark days of winter, especially in January and February, I find myself craving wholesome food. Comfort food has been required on some chilly days recently, however the past several days have been unbelievably warm here, reaching mid-seventies - I even popped the A/C on for a short time on Friday evening as the house was hot upstairs!  However my kitchen has been busy - well I've been busy as I do not have a sous chef, just a dishwasher guy who resembles Bob!  He's a great help.

Bean and Winter Squash with Chili, Mint and Cream.

Last week I made my favorite winter 'hot pot', a term used more in the UK than here. Somewhere between a soup and a stew, these wholesome one-pot dishes of winter vegetables are meals in themselves. You can add meat - we are non-meat eaters - as the French often do in their 'potages', or stay strictly vegetarian. One pot actually cuts down on calls to that dishwasher guy as the sink doesn't fill with too many items during the prep..........and other than a couple of deep bowls and soup spoons there's not much cleanup after this comforting meal.
During the cooking period the ingredients simmer away in the pot, flavors enhanced as they bubble gently. You can taste test and add more seasoning if needed, and these sturdy recipes can even gain flavor when left to stand a while, and then enjoy a gentle reheat when mealtime arrives. Here, I must say, the leftovers are always extra delicious so make enough for another meal in a day or so! 
Hot pots are fun to make, nutritious and easy. Make them a complete meal when serving with a good crusty bread, a roll, warm naan, or topped with homemade crunchy croutons (I always use up leftover breads to make mine), a side salad, cheese and fresh fruit . . . . . . or skip the bread and use it later in a dessert!

Rummaging through a box of old recipes saved over the years - prior to shelves of fancy cookbooks and online versions - I discovered my mother's lovely handwritten recipe for "Bread & Butter Pudding". 

An often served dessert when I was growing up, left over buttered bread served with a meal was never thrown away. Times were tough and food was still rationed for several years after WWII was over. Desserts were sometimes made from first course savories such as Yorkshire Pudding (Popovers here in the States), always baked in a separate dish alongside a Sunday roast beef.  Remaining portions were given a spoonful of golden syrup (Tate & Lyle of course) and we children gobbled it up!  Needless to say we didn't count calories or watch our diets back in the 1950's, and we ate everything that was put in front of us. We did go out to play and walked everywhere which I'm sure helped.

Bread Pudding as it's called in the USA, seems especially popular here in southern restaurants, and there are plenty of recipes floating about online, however this time I decided to use a leftover from the holidays, an Italian Panettone bread.  Glad I did when despite it still being within "Best By" date, it was definitely rather stale.  Being bathed in a nice eggy vanilla custard and baked slowly to a crisp top was all it required. Try it if you have one hanging around, you'll be surprised. I served mine warm with a dash of heavy cream plus a splash of Chambord liqueur, delicious!

Panettone Bread Pudding

Full of Fruits Breakfast Smoothie 

Lastly, I'm back on a smoothie kick. This is the best way for me to eat fresh fruit. This particular one contained a small banana, blueberries I had frozen, fresh raspberries and strawberries, grated coconut, unsweetened almond milk. I usually eat/drink this meal mid-morning as I rarely eat lunch. Two meals a day are ample and since shedding over 25 pounds slowly during the past two years (no strict weight-loss diet, just smaller portions of healthy foods), I find I just can't eat anywhere near as much now.  Perhaps the older one gets the less food you require. It's more important that you eat healthy foods in smaller amounts. Just had annual lab work done, everything looks fine so far.  So have just returned to my plan from the pre-holiday weeks during which I slipped a bit when it came to snacking on the wrong/delicious Christmas goodies. A fruit laden smoothie yesterday, oatmeal today, and perhaps a hard boiled egg with a slice of avocado toast tomorrow.  Any ideas for easy breakfast/brunch goodies are welcomed as we all go forward into February. Thanks for checking in here. Stay well, eat healthy.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

We women and the future -

This morning I was up early despite the bitter cold. I had an appointment for lab work at the new medical practice we have signed up with. Our primary physician surprised us by retiring early at the end of 2023 so we had to search for someone new who was willing to take on older patients. Shortly after 9:30 AM I was on my way home again, craving coffee mostly as I had fasted for 12 hours for the blood draw. I considered a coffee shop, a quick breakfast place, or perhaps a grocery store stop for a few items for the veggie stew I'll be making today. I even considered a stop at T.J. Maxx as I passed by and recalled how I used to enjoy shopping, or rummaging through, in my younger days! 

But I didn't stop anywhere because I longed to just be home. I took the more scenic drive through quieter streets and it reminded me of what driving used to be like just about everywhere. Now the main thoroughfares are horrific and I no longer feel safe on them.  The houses are changing, small ones being replaced by new builds far too big for the average homeowner or family. Not much garden surrounds them for children and dogs to play in, it's all about the house.  The gardens have very little  color right now but they are still lovely in their winter neutrals, especially in the sunshine. The bird baths, frozen and sparkling, still entice the birds, and I splash mine with warm water on these cold mornings as the sparrows, finches and others sit quietly in the fig tree waiting to drink.

Yes, I did say my younger days because quite honestly I'm feeling different lately and I believe it's due to aging.  I used to do so much more with my time. I have now slowed down somewhat. You may recall that I've loved taking candid photos of women when traveling. I feel strongly about women and their place in this world of ours, a world getting harder for so many, when it should be better, easier, safer. 

Over the years I've taken many photos of women whose lives are much different than my own and I often go back into my photo archive, or revisit blog posts where they were featured, looking at these photos wondering if things have changed for them. Most seemed happy as they went about their daily lives..........but of course they, like me, are much older now.

Kerala, India

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Cochin, India

Kerala, India

London, England

Moscow, Russia

Hue, Vietnam

Niigata, Japan

Saigon, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Zambia, Africa

Zambia, Africa

Laayoune, Western Sahara, Africa

Western Sahara, Africa

Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde Islands, West Africa

. . . . . .and here we are, in the second half of January already.  Our plans for this year are not quite etched in stone however we do have a list. The house needs some TLC including a replacement roof and we're busy getting estimates. As always, it's like comparing apples to oranges when you place said estimates next to each other. Daring young men clamber across the shingles, balance on the ridge vent, mark patches with chalk, and one flew a drone over the house last week. It hit a tree and fell on the front steps. He requested 'super glue' but that didn't work. He returned yesterday with a new drone which did a good job. Maybe we'll get that roof when the weather warms up.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Paintbrushes and Words -

For the past few years I've become addicted to the work of British artist-poet Gary Bunt.

It's hard to describe his huge body of work, however I do know that his paintings bring my homeland to me in ways that take my breath away, often bring tears to my eyes, but more often giggles, or an all out guffaw because of his sense of humor! For an artist to do all this with strokes of a brush, and to do it so often, is just wonderful.

His paintings, simple and true as they may be, cover not only land and seascapes around the United Kingdom, but everyday happenings both inside a typical British house, outside in the ubiquitous vegetable garden, sauntering across the beautiful countryside through the changing seasons, on road trips, picnics, boat rides, even just walking to the village shops.
He adds titles and brief poems which, even if you are not very familiar with British lifestyles, family traditions, country/town life etc., may still hit the nail on the head and immediately you can feel, as well as see, just what Gary was thinking at that moment and depicted with his brush strokes. His people are fantastic, shaped and posed so perfectly in action for each situation in the painting, that they need very little detail to tell the entire story. You fall in love with them as they look over their garden wall or sit out in the middle of a patchwork field.

According to Gary, the 'old man', who has made many appearances on his canvases, is himself. There are many animals in his paintings, especially dogs which, as you may know, are often just as important as people living in those little houses, walking through the rain-splashed lanes, over the hills and dales, and along often desolate beaches on a blustery winter day. Solid mutts, well-behaved as British dogs always seem to be 

Gary's art makes me happy. Makes me smile. Brings back so much of my country/seaside childhood in England.  Thank you Gary.

Here are links: the YouTube documentary is awesome - I watch it often as it showcases not only the story of Gary's life, it brings calming thoughts and beautiful art to mine.

YouTube - Gary Bunt Painter and Poet
Instagram: gary.bunt

Just a small sample of the amazing stories told in Gary Bunt's paintings.