Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Savoring--A Refreshing Summer Salad Recipe with Peas and Carrots

Although I often plan meals carefully, some dishes and menus come about sort of accidentally. I hate to waste food, so track our fresh fruit and vegetable supply in order to serve foods as close to their peak of freshness as possible. A few weeks ago, a bag of fresh, peeled, petite carrots proved very disappointing--not very sweet or appealing. So, I had planned to lightly cook and season them, but cooked carrots did not fit well into the next few nights' meal plans. Planning to enjoy BLTs with some yummy tomatoes and a partial pack of bacon left from making something else, I went on-line to search for carrot salad recipes.
The most promising recipe, Pea and Carrot Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette sounded nice, but shallots aren't a staple in this refrigerator (and I had no intention of running to the store). After several other changes to the recipe, I came up with a salad Mark and I both enjoyed. The amounts are approximate and can be adjusted to your family's taste preferences. If you are interested in the original recipe or in the nutrition facts, go to www.foodfit.com.
Pea and Carrot Salad
2 cups raw baby carrots, chopped in 1/2" chunks
3 cups frozen petite green peas
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tblsp. lemon juice
2 Tblsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 - 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 Tblsp. olive oil
1 Tblsp. snipped fresh parsley
dash of salt
generous grinding of black pepper
1. Steam (or boil) chopped carrots for about 3 minutes, until slightly tender, but still crisp. Stir peas into same pot of hot water just enough to thaw them and drain off water immediately (the peas will taste very fresh and sweet this way).
2. Whisk the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and sugar together. Stir in chopped onion, then whisk olive oil in, mixing well. Stir in snipped parsley and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
3. Gently toss the peas and carrots in the vinaigrette and serve at room temperature or chilled.
Question of the day: Do you tend to follow recipes, read and then adapt them, or make up your own dishes without a recipe?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Growing--Painting Process--Using a Limited Palette

When I first started painting, I used whatever paint colors I thought would best mimic the actual landscape that was my subject or sometimes used my "artistic license" to attempt to improve on nature, choosing whatever colors I wanted. Although this approach can work, and some of those pieces turned out well, I have been more pleased with the results of using a so-called "limited palette" approach. That means using just certain selected paint colors throughout one painting. Two happy results of this change were that the pieces seemed to have better internal unity and were more pleasing to the eye (in my opinion) and secondly, that I discovered a tremendous power and range in color blends. Even a limited palette can produce amazing variety in color and tone. Rich neutrals result from combinations of opposites on the color wheel, like producing an earthy, warm brown from mixing red and green (which can be varied with different reds or greens from the tube) or like the range of lively greys emerging from purple/yellow or blue/orange combos. Alternatively, one can use the opposite (complementary) color in small amounts to soften a tube color. For example, a too-strong blue for painting a realistic sky color can be knocked back with the right orange, or even with a few drops of burnt sienna.
The painting in today's photo shows early spring wildflowers at Jacksonville Beach against a white fence, photographed near an oceanfront home. A dear friend purchased the painting at my Open Studio Reception this past November, so I visit it often. The other photo shows some of the palette experimentation and notes that led to the palette used for the piece. Other color combos I tried and rejected for this particular painting are saved in a file for possible future use. The colors used here are cerulean blue, paynes grey (which is also bluish), sap green, cadmium red deep, burnt sienna, Naples yellow, buff, black, and white, with a touch of orange added later for bright highlights in the flowers. This May, I started a second painting from the same set of beach photos, one which includes a nearby bridge over the protected dunes down to the beach, and am using this identical palette again. If some of you are interested in this topic, I will include palette details in an occasional future post showing paintings. Please let me know what you think.
Question of the day: I think I have asked this before, but can't resist again--where would be without color in our world?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Learning--Turkish Connections--Ramadan

We absolutely loved our journey to Turkey in the fall of 2003. All aspects of our time in Turkey were memorable--the art and culture, from ancient civilizations to the present; the beauty of the land, from the abundant harvest and fertile fields, to the mountains and the sparkling, aqua waters of the Mediterranean; and, most of all, the gracious, welcoming Turkish people.
Recently, I was privileged to enjoy two events presented by our local Amity Turkish Cultural Center. We, our son, and his wife joined with a church group in a Ramadan style evening meal, a treat given by the Cultural Center. Since Ramadan falls during our calendar's August this year, daylight is long. Observant Muslims eat something before sunrise and then do not eat or drink until after sunset each day of the month of Ramadan. So, rather than their usual practice of sharing an actual Ramadan meal with others in the community during their celebration, they took pity on us non-Muslims by bringing us a typical meal last week when we all could eat at 6 p.m.
After a brief introduction to the meaning and purpose of Ramadan, they invited us to a buffet with Turkish style macaroni and cheese, rice with vegetables, meatballs and potatoes in sauce, a huge salad, and Turkish baklava--all very delicious. But the best part of the evening was that some of the local Turkish Cultural Center members joined us at each of our round tables and freely answered any questions we had about Ramadan, their faith, or their lives in the U.S. It is hard to describe just how friendly, gentle, and gracious they all were and how open both to sharing and to listening. They truly embodied the mission of the Amity Turkish Cultural Center, which is "building bridges for peace."
In a future post, I'll tell you more about the second of their events that I enjoyed. Telling you about our experiences on that amazing journey to Turkey will also come later (otherwise this post would be verrrrry loooooong :>). This photo from our time in Turkey shows one of the minarets of the magnificent 16th century Sulaymaniyah Mosque in Istanbul, associated with the great Sultan Sulayman.
Question of the day: What cross-cultural experiences have been meaningful for you?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Savoring--Favorite Baked Beans Recipe

For the Fourth of July gathering at our friends' home, we were asked to bring baked beans because all our friends love our family recipe. My sister-in-law gave me this recipe years ago (thank you, Betty), and my husband, a connoisseur of baked bean dishes, prefers it to any other. Since it calls for canned beans, it is relatively easy.
If you try this recipe, I know you will probably end up modifying it to your family's taste. We have made a few changes to Betty's (also yummy) original recipe. We leave out the 1/2 pound ground beef that the recipe said to brown with the bacon, and instead of partially draining the cans of beans, I fully drain them and even rinse them in a colander (except for the pork & beans). This will eliminate a lot of the salt--we think it also eliminates some of the sulfur compounds that build up in the can and make canned beans extra gassy.
You can use between 3 and 5 cans of beans in the amount of sauce given. Of course, fewer cans of beans make for a juicier dish. And you can use your family's favorite types of beans. For nice variety in size and color in the dish pictured, I used 5 cans total--one very large can of pork & beans (a 2# can, I think) plus 2 one-pound cans each of butter beans and black beans.
1/2# bacon, cut in pieces (I use Gwaltney's 40% lower fat bacon--it's delicious.)
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup ketchup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. mustard
2 tsp. cider vinegar
3 - 5 cans of beans, including one large can of pork & beans, partially drained
and 2 - 4 other types, well drained and rinsed
Brown the bacon, adding onions once the bacon starts to crisp. Drain well on paper towels when done to your liking.
Combine the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and vinegar in a large bowl and mix well. Add all beans and mix well. Finally, stir in bacon and onion and turn into a large casserole (3 quart size if you are using 5 cans of beans).
Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly (from about 40 minutes for 3 cans of beans to about 50 minutes for 5 cans.).
Question of the day: What are your favorite summer party side dishes?