Winter came upon us early. We were hoping to put this colder weather off until closer to Christmas, but the Midwest has its own mind. For the past 4 or 5 autumn seasons, Dean and I manage to get away for a long weekend in the Ozark Mountains, about a 4 or 5-hour drive for us. Some months ago I planned a long weekend trip to attend a writer’ workshop in the Ozarks at one of my favorite places The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. Dean used his last vacation days of the year to join me as a chauffeur, but also as a fellow partaker of the slower-paced Ozarks countryside and local cuisine. The writer’s workshop was thought-provoking learning more about using ekphrasis and hearing the shared words of other writers.
The children’s & cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon calls the local food, “‘zark cuisine” and made it famous at her Dairy Hollow House back in the 1980’s and 90’s. From this establishment came The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow, and that unique culinary suite I wrote from one week the summer of 2021. The foods come to the forefront of our long weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Branson, Missouri. This year we met up with my sister and her partner, Sandy at the Local Flavor Cafe in Eureka Springs for delicious dinner entrees. I found a great deal for sleeping accommodations at the Bridgeford B & B situated close to downtown on Spring Street. Breakfast fare and fellowship with other guests and the hostess was delightful on that first snowy morning. For lunch Dean partook of a veggie hash bowl and I had a slice of spinach-mushroom-sausage quiche at Mud Street Cafe before heading to our beloved Branson for a 2-night stay at a snuggled lakeside resort. A quaint eatery run by a husband-and-wife team downtown Branson served us delicious Thai-style plates at a decent price. A ‘Zark-style breakfast at Clockers Cafe is served all day and we are game for anytime.
Local shoppes, Silver Maple and Crescent Moon Beads are our stops in downtown Eureka Springs. I found a string of beautiful beads to make my first eyeglasses lanyard. I need those reading glasses more often with increased age, reading, and writing. Our Branson entertainment was the Market Days craft show during the afternoon with booths of crafts, fancy cowgirl garments, jewelry, jackets, and boots. Two gorgeous Christmas light displays dazzled us, one for each evening while in Branson. The Big Cedar Lodge is fabulously displayed with holiday cheer! We come back to our suite with a small pizza from a local pizzeria and watch a 2-hour Opry special. Of all people the Opry is honoring Johnny Morris, founder and owner of 50-year-old Bass Pro, Big Cedar Lodge, and multiple other outdoor business adventures as well as a successful philanthropist and nature conservationist. How appropriate for our Ozark weekend! Finished the weekend with another antique shop for holiday gifts on the way home.
What a blessing to call myself an American! We are truly blessed to live in this country where freedom of speech and worship is allowed! May not agree with the person speaking, but know it is okay as I can disagree and still respect at the same time. And you will do the same for me! Dean and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary this weekend as well as this great country’s 246th birthday. Rich chocolate silk tartlets made and shared with family, grand time with our friends in DeSoto, MO for dinner, music, dancing, and fireworks on Saturday! Sunday brunch and then to Hermann, MO for Tin Mill Brewery beers and pizza followed by the kids’ tractor pulls and the town’s annual 4th of July parade. The whole world changed in a minute that first 4th of July Dean and I met. So happy Dean and I said, “I want you”. And that Old Glory still flies!
“Whole world could change in a minute
Just one kiss could stop this spinning
We could think it through
But I don’t want to, if you don’t want to
We could keep things just the same
Leave here the way we came, with nothing to lose
But I don’t want to, if you don’t want to
Never waste another day
Wonderin’ what you threw away
Holdin’ me, holdin’ you
I don’t want to if you don’t want to
We could keep things just the same
Leave here the way we came, with nothing to lose
But I don’t want to
But you don’t want to
But I want you.”
~ Lyrics by Jennifer Nettles sung by Sugarland
“And I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you
And defend Her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt
I love this land
God Bless the U.S.A.”
~ Lyrics and sung by Lee Greenwood
“American girls and American guys
We’ll always stand up and salute
We’ll always recognize
When we see Old Glory flying.”
~Lyrics and sung by Toby Keith
My not-too-old Rival crock pot has been put to use the past 3 weekends. I love this kitchen accessory. In the morning, I put in a roast or roaster with some herbs and beer or wine. This time of year dinner slow cooks all day while I work in the yard or garden beds. And the leftovers are awesome. I can usually get 3 or 4 meals for Dean and I from a 5 – 6 lb chicken roaster or turkey breast. Homemade chicken soup, chunky chicken salad, creamy chicken enchiladas. Beef and pork roasts are so tender slow cooked in the crock … Some meals are simple salads or wraps with goodies such as pecans, walnuts, cranberries, or roasted beets along with leftover slow-cooked meats.
I have my first tender leaves of arugula ready to be picked this week! This early crop was sown on February 20. So after about 50 days we will partake in this fresh peppery salad green for dinner, and probably an omelet for breakfast this Sunday morning. Spring is the time of year where my back, legs, arms, and hands ache from the amount of time in the garden and yard. Methodical movements are made the hours I work/play in the dirt. “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling. Mental toiling, perhaps … turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.” ~ Dominique Browning. The birds and fresh air call me to sit on the porch early morning, but pure exhaustion hits the pillow by 9 even on the weekends.
I use my abundant, pungent arugula in my salads as well as egg, pasta, and rice dishes these days. A little goes a long way, so most of my culinary creations as of late include my fresh grown arugula. One important aspect to the culinary arts is that improvisation goes a long way. It is easier to substitute ingredients with cooking versus baking. I find arugula can be used in place of spinach in most dishes and salads. There is a taste difference with these 2 greens, but cooking properties similar. Arugula like spinach is a great source of vitamin A and C as well as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Arugula grows much like spinach, spring and autumn sowing here in Missouri.
I love creamed spinach! The best I ever had is crafted by the executive chef Gerard Germain. I learned much from the culinary experts while working at Dierbergs School of Cooking. Chef Gerard dazzles his students’ appetites with Italian and French cuisines. A first generation French immigrant applies his old world culinary magic in the kitchen of a fine Italian establishment in St. Louis called Tony’s. The next best thing is spinach in a white sauce over pasta. So here is my attempt to a lighter version of Pasta alla Fiorentina … Pasta Arugula (or the Italians say rucola), but my recipe is American-style. I lessen the butter and use a little olive oil as a base for the slurry as well as use whole milk instead of cream or half & half. Of course, arugula goes in the recipe instead of spinach. Noted for the recipe this evening, I cooked too much whole-grain pasta for the amount of white sauce I made, and did not add enough arugula. Fresh arugula shrinks considerably while sauteed. Tonight I served the Pasta Arugula with locally-made chicken Italian sausage and crusty bread. I sipped a glass of lavender sparkling water, and Dean downed a domestic beer this rainy summer evening.
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author wrote. This author lived an exquisite lifestyle in his French chateau in the 1600’s. And the one and only saucy “The French Chef” herself, Julia Child was an American chef who brought the French cuisine to the everyday American in the mid to late 1900’s. This “mindful, purposeful eating” is an art almost lost, but has been resurrected once again with the farm-to-table restaurants and crafted foods and spirits in today’s food culture. The term “slow food” was coined in Europe in the 1980’s, and has come to the United States full swing.
Locavorism is encouraged. Niche farmers, gardeners, and chefs bring fresh meats, fruit, vegetables, and herbs to their plates and that of their community. The Bent Pig and Hannahway Farms in Farmington and Chef Jack MacMurray at Chandler Hill Vineyards in Defiance are such people. Farmer’s markets will open this month with their early crops. An American diner such as Ethyl’s in O’Fallon, Missouri has their crafted meats, slowly smoked which fills the neighborhood with a mouth-watering aroma. After work one evening this week I devoured their pork sandwich served with a heaping dollop of coleslaw between the bun and sweet, smoky BBQ pork, Carolina-style. I slowly savored every bite. Local does not always mean the best as my stop at a small cafe for a warm bite before my doctor’s appointment yesterday morning reminded me of that. A “Popeye omelet” described on the menu said bits of bacon with spinach and Swiss cheese. But mine had chunks of bacon fat that resembled the Swiss cheese. Gross! I could not finish it! The smell of bacon turned my stomach tonight when I came home to my daughter preparing a “brinner ” menu for her family. See how long it takes me to get over the bacon phobia. I usually love the leaner slices! Tonight I created an overnight french toast using leftovers: day old raisin bread bargain bought at a local bakery soaked in an egg-milk mixture laced with some of my home brew vanilla extract, and then topped with leftover reduced-fat cream cheese spread and fresh blueberry sauce. Tell you how it turned out on my next post.
So go back to my original quote “to eat intelligently is an art”… it means to eat within a set budget as well as “lean, clean, and green”. It takes some planning and improvisation. My health goal this year was to lose at least 20 lbs. Patronizing those farmer’s markets, growing my own veggies and herbs, and eating more plant foods will help me achieve that goal. Based on this week’s visit to the doctor’s, I have lost. As long as I do not eat too many slices of that french toast, and keep to veggie omelets, I will do accomplish my goal tastefully.
Author and teacher Ruth Senter says, “When you are truly joined in spirit, another woman’s good is your good too. You work for the good of each other.” How often do you feel joined to or work for the good of another? Do you feel joined at the hip, inseparable, much like conjoined twins with a friend, sibling, or spouse? When the other is happy, you are and not feeling skated. When the other grieves, you as well yet hopeful for the other. Goodness is the goal not self-gain. To witness or live this kind of friendship, it is a gift.
During the Lenten Friday dinner at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, Missouri, my Dean and I saw some lovely bonding between this community. The whole church celebration of Latino song and dance as well as fish dinner punctuated the beginning of our weekend. A multi-cultural band of musicians from Mexico, Ecuador, Aruba, and Kenya beautifully entertained the congregation with a Latino instrumental rendition of “Hotel California”. Later women and children danced in festive colored costume. Such a memorable evening.
Dean and I are joined at the hip for life. Besides commuting together during our work week, we work and play together on weekend projects. This weekend we secured our plants as the cold set in for 36 hours despite the spring equinox. We unpacked and sorted more household items. Pictures, photos, and trinkets are going up, which is the fun part about making a house a home. We crafted a bathroom towel rack made from scraps of recycled barn wood belonging to my paternal great-grandfather and clearance curtain tie back holders. Our Sunday date to Hermann’s WurstFest included the hunt for an antique shelf or table to house our bathroom towels. It had to be no wider than 11″ and no higher than 44″, but the length was open since our lone bathroom is long and narrow. We saw a few new furniture pieces at Pier One Imports and Home Goods, but the prices were not attractive. At one of our favorite Hermann antique shops we were greeted by a special lady friend. We perused the shop’s goods, and she finally pointed us in the right direction. A repurposed oak bucket bench made into a floor shelf unit. Perfect. On the way home from our Sunday excursion we stopped at Home Goods to buy some totes, a big basket, and a metal caddy for storage. The total price 65% less than what we saw earlier. Satisfied local shoppers we are!
I have had little energy the past few days, turning into bed early hoping to feel better the next morning. Extra glasses of water and hot tea are being consumed. Tuesday into Wednesday I awoke with my throat on fire, and needed to prop up on double pillows in order to breathe. The seasonal allergy snuffles definitely became a bacterial infection. My Dean seemed to feel worse than I with his croupy cough. We stayed home from work, and visited our doctors in the morning. Antibiotics were ordered treating a sinus infection for each of us. The January blahs indeed. Naps and cooking shows filled the day. Bone-in chicken breasts simmered all day in the crock pot, and made a healthy, tasteful stock for homemade chicken & dumplings. I had heard years ago, homemade stock made with real bone-in meats makes a health-filled potion. Adding vinegar, wine, or beer brings out the collagen from the bone marrow. I always add a bottle of beer or a glass of wine to the crock pot. I coached my granddaughter, Libby with the dumpling recipe and shared with her my secret ingredient, a pinch of nutmeg. Warm, comfort food filled our dinner bowls by evening.
I do not bake much as the sugar and calories are not needed as I age. Though I have been so inspired by the CutThroat Kitchen episodes I watched this week as well as the German influences while in Hermann, Missouri last weekend. In my memory bank, is an old favorite this morning, blueberry-almond kuchen. While in this rental house I have limited kitchen appliances and spices, as well as my recipe box is still at our home. By memory, I create a blueberry-vanilla kuchen. No almonds or almond extract in the rental house pantry. I substitute with a home-brew vanilla extract and use vanilla yogurt instead plain yogurt. A hand beater and muscles rather than my stand-up KitchenAid cream the low-fat cream cheese, yogurt, eggs, and sugar. Nutmeg goes in the butter crumb topping for a nutty flavor rather my standard cinnamon or cardamon left at the house. Sweet baking aromas fill the air this Sunday morning. Warmth filled our tummies once again.
This last day of January begins with a spectacular sunrise. Another unseasonably warm day is in store. Dean and I are feeling much better with a few rounds of antibiotics. I cleaned and finished up laundry yesterday while Dean worked on one of the vehicles. With the weekend chores completed, we have this Sunday to attend Mass and go play. An afternoon walk around the displays at the Train Show will help me burn off that serving of Blueberry-Vanilla Kuchen I indulged in this morning.
The crisp air is welcomed, as autumn surely is around the corner. The weekend has been most lovely. The aroma inside the kitchen was roasted squash and sweet potatoes and a classic red sauce lasgana. The outdoor fragrance was that of harvest as an amber glow aluminate the fields. On Saturday afternoon we peeled away from our kitchen and garage projects to have time with two of our daughters and their families. We attended a Tai Kwan Do birthday party for one of the grandsons and had a late afternoon picnic dinner in the neighborhood park. The five grandkids ran and yelled to their hearts’ content. A breath of fresh air and laughter was shared with everyone.
Dean and I returned Saturday evening to our garage project. We are making more shelving and organizing our boxed storage items. With no basement, our garage is our storage unit. Unwanted items have been or will be donated or discarded. Next, a corner closet is to be framed in for the off-season clothes and bulky kitchen appliances. As each autumn for the past three years, we will house our tropicals, succulents, and geraniums in the semi-heated garage during Missouri’s coldest five months of the year. These beautiful green plants will be moved indoors under plant lights in about 5 weeks. We are making room as the move will take the better part of a Saturday.
Our asparagus ferns have greened very nicely and have grown larger over the fairly mild summer. These ferns grow like bushes in warmer climates like Texas and California. They are very sensitive to cold breezes, so another project before the cold sets in. Next weekend I will transplant the two largest hanging pots of asparagus fern into a large ceramic pot before bringing it into the warmth of home. The remaining four hanging pots and smaller seedlings will continue to grow under the plant lights over winter. The little berries are easily sprouted in moist soil for more seedlings. We have plenty, and always willing to share our surplus. Deanna Greens And Garden Art continues to evolve..
I just told Father at church last week, I need to be more present moment. My job requires planning weeks and months ahead, and family life the same sometimes. I miss moments in the planning. Nothing like being present moment with a stomach bug. I came to a screeching stop. Not knowing which end to put on the toilet, and then sleeping most of the day and night the next 36 hours. Every waking moment is a “thank you” for life and sleep. I could hear and see the spring rains come down several times, raindrops rolling off the windowsill. The birds sang to their heart’s content. I went from eating nothing to sipping ginger ale to nippling a couple of saltine crackers, and finally today able to keep a piece of toast and a boiled egg down. I have always felt stock made from the bones can cure many ails, so a couple of chicken breasts went into the crockpot with Deanna Greens and Garden Art fresh herbs and Hannahway Farm’s homemade wine. I will be sipping a cup of homemade chicken soup for tonight’s dinner.
This afternoon I managed to put my jeans and a blouse on, and I believe I lost a couple of pounds. Not my idea of a weight loss program, but I will take the reduction any way. The trees and grass are greener. “You gotta take the thunder with the rain”, I tell our Midnight, our 85 lbs labrador/flat coat retriever mix. He is terrified of thunder, but loves the rain and sleet. He snuggled on the bed yesterday as a couple of thunder showers went through. More violent today, storms. This afternoon tornado watches and warnings have been issued. Midnight and I will keep a watch out. I find that relationships are a bit like storms, too. There is a time to play in the rain, and a time to find shelter from it. Gotta take the thunder with the rain.
New Year’s Eve dinner and bottle of wine at Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield, Missouri shared with my sweetie, Dean was slowly, lusciously savored …
~ Opera Prima Moscato, La Mancha, Spain ~
~ Yukon Gold Potato Pancake with Peppered Pecan Wood Smoked Bacon and House Made Pear Chutney ~
~ Grilled Local Heritage Hog Chop (12 oz.) and Annie Gunn’s Pork Belly with Local Apple Golden Raisin Chutney, Garlicky Brussels Sprouts and Whipped Local Sweet Potatoes ~
~ Angus Reserve Aged Filet Mignon, Northern Plains with Cabernet Cracked Pepper Butter served with Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes, Farmer Vegetables and Plugra Butter ~
Thank you, my love. With fond vignettes and memories made in 2014, and a welcome to 2015 and the more to come …