Archive for the Category ◊ Main Dish ◊

02 Aug 2013 Beans!

beans01

I am so excited about this recipe!  It’s a paradigm shift recipe!  It’s not a recipe in the true sense of the word, it’s more of a road map to a particular destination.   A road map allows for more flexibility than a recipe, a road map allows the cook to make adjustments based upon personal preferences, taste, time, and what’s in the pantry.  I think most people have a road map for a few good dishes.  I have a road map for spaghetti sauce, chicken soup, stir-fry and hamburgers.  You might have a road map for meatloaf, burritos and rice bowls.  Most people have road maps for sandwiches and salads. A road map means there are guidelines, easy ones, usually ones that can be memorized, and that can always be adapted as the situation requires.

So here it is, a guideline for a pot of beans, in the crockpot no less!  Crockpot cooking is great for summer, the kitchen doesn’t get heated up, and a pot of beans pairs well with almost everything that can be BBQ’d.  In the winter months, a bowl of beans with some cornbread or tortillas is almost the definition of comfort food. Another plus, crockpot cooking is fuss free, so toss everything in the pot and then go sit in the sun or shovel snow.

Many thanks to Mark Bittman of the New York Times for this road map. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

BTW…, for years I have been looking for a good baked beans recipe, so that’s what I make with this recipe:  meaty, slightly sweet Boston-style beans.  YUM! They go with everything and I have  a serious love for leftover beans on toast (I’m English).  My son mastered this recipe in one take and he makes killer spicy teriyaki beans with chicken.  I can see others going for more of a Mexican style bean. What sort of beans do you like? Make them!

The House Special Beans

  • 1 lb of dried beans, any kind, I like small white and pinquitos but black, pintos, garbanzos, kidney, or a combination of different kinds of beans can also be used.  Don’t have a full pound of beans?  Add in some split peas or lentils to make up the difference.  Remember these are dried beans (about $1.25 for a pound bag) we are not using canned beans here (and there is no need to soak the beans first).
  • 4 cups of liquid, any kind.  Find a mixture that appeals to you. I start with a bottle of beer, then I add in about 1/4 cup of ketchup, 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a squirt of mustard, using molasses instead of maple syrup and brown sugar would be good too. If my Dad were here I’d stir in 1/4 cup of bourbon. Then I add water, broth (any kind), or cold coffee to make the 4 cups (too much coffee will make the beans a bit bitter, so stick to less than 1 cup of cold coffee).  My son adds BBQ sauce, sriracha, honey, teriyaki or soy sauce along with beer and coffee.  Don’t like beer?  Use some leftover wine. Don’t drink at all, stick to broth and water.   Health nut?  Stir in carrot juice and some of that green liquid you’re so fond of !
  • Seasonings, any kind.  Start with a healthy amount of salt and pepper, then add in what appeals to you.  I add in 2 t. salt, 1 t. black pepper, 1 t. cumin, 2 t. chili powder, minced garlic, and 2 bay leaves.  Other options include oregano, basil, coriander, red pepper, curry powder, ginger, paprika, liquid smoke, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…
  • 1 lb meat, any kind, a bit more or a bit less is fine.  I like beef, and I buy something on sale, beef shanks, top sirloin, stew meat, steak, anything.  Throw in a pork chop or two, or some ground meat (brown it first and drain off the fat), chicken (with or without the bones, but boneless chicken does tend to get a bit overcooked), sausage, ham, cooked bacon…, or go for a combo.  Sausage and chicken? Beef and bacon? Or leave out the meat all together if  you’d rather.
  • 2 lbs finely minced or grated veggies, any kind.  I always add diced onion, grated carrots, and minced celery.  Then I might add some shredded zucchini, turnip, cabbage, spinach or kale, whatever I have on hand. Throw in some potatoes. Lots of folk like bell peppers, dice some up and throw them in.  Leeks are yummy. A few diced jalapenos would spice things up. Even canned pumpkin works. The only veggie I don’t add is tomatoes. I heard once that tomatoes interfere with the cooking process of dried beans, so I leave them out (I also don’t use tomato juice as a liquid, but I do stir in a bit of ketchup, and have had no problem with that).

Directions:

  1. Put the dried beans in the bottom of the crock-pot.
  2. Get out a 4-cup measure.  Combine your liquids.  When you have 4 cups, pour it over the beans in the bottom of the crock-pot.
  3. On top of the beans and liquid, add the meat.  I add the meat as is, then remove the fat and bones, and shred the meat after cooking.  You can do the same, or you can add cubes of boneless, skinless meat.
  4. Sprinkle desired seasonings on top of the meat.  (If you add bay leaves, count them so you know how many to remove before serving!)
  5. Finely mince, dice, or shred the veggies.  Add the veggies on top of the meat. (The liquid will not cover the veggies, yet).
  6. With a spatula or a spoon, press on the ingredients to lightly pack.
  7. Put the lid on the slow cooker, plug it in, turn on high, and go out and play! If you are around, check the beans after a few hours.  If the beans look dry add a bit more water, stock, beer, or wine (don’t stir, just pour it on top).
  8. Let beans cook for 6-8 hours.  Turn off.
  9. After the beans have cooled for a bit, taste them.  Needs more salt?  More maple syrup? More heat? Add it now.  If you added large hunks of meat with bones, remove bones and shred the meat. Remove the bay leaves, if you used them.
  10. If you want to add in extras, do it now.  You could stir in some diced tomatoes now, if you’d like, they won’t do any harm at this point (let cook for an additional 30 minutes or so).  Sometimes I stir cooked bacon at this point.  You could stir in frozen corn, if you’d like. Adding chopped parsley, cilantro, or green onion makes the beans look pretty and brightens them up a bit for a pretty presentation.
  11. Remember, beans seem to taste better the day after they are made, so don’t be afraid of letting them rest in the refrigerator for a bit.

Soooo, do you have the road map memorized?  1 lb beans, 1 lb meat, 2 lbs veggies, 1 qt (4 cups) liquid. Seasonings. Crock-pot. High. 6-8 hours, while you go out and play 🙂

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  Go ahead now, make some beans! Let me know what you used and how they turn out 🙂 I can’t stop my son from making these beans! We’re drowning in beans…, but we’re not broke! Beans we can afford 🙂

24 Jul 2013 Triple Threat Chicken

Triple Threat Chicken on BBQ w smoke

What is Triple Threat Chicken?  Chicken breasts that have been 1) marinated, 2) grilled and 3) glazed!  Delicious!  I have been making this chicken for about five years now, and it has always been well received.  I served it last week at the Grand Opening of my Little Free Library(more about that later*), and one of my friends said, “If you post the recipe for this chicken, I’ll be tempted to start grilling again”.  Here it is!  Fire up the grill.

One of the advantages of this recipe is that you probably have all the ingredients for the marinade and the glaze on hand.  Well, all the ingredients except one, do you have Raspberry Vinegar on hand?  If you don’t,  substitute Red Wine Vinegar, but if you buy Red Raspberry Vinegar on your next trip to the grocery store, you will have some on hand for the next year or two (vinegar doesn’t go off)!

The disadvantage of this recipe is that you have to make two sauces, one for the marinade and one for the grilling, so it’s a few extra minutes measuring and pouring in the kitchen.  Just make both sauces at the same time, because some ingredients are in both sauces.

I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but boneless, skinless thighs can  be used just as easily if you prefer darker meat (any chicken parts can be used in this recipe, the boneless, skinless ones are just easier to grill).  I cut-up the chicken breasts, and cook the same pieces at the same time to ensure even cooking.  Don’t even think of cooking a whole breast, it’s too difficult, because the breast varies so much in thickness.

This is how I cut up the chicken breast:

First, I cut the tenderloin off; then I cut off the lower triangle of the breast; when I have just the thickest part of the breast left, I cut that in half.  I get four pieces of chicken from one breast.  The tenderloins and the triangle pieces are thin and cook the most quickly.  The thick pieces from the top of the breast take much longer to cook so put them on the grill first and the tenderloins on last.

Now here’s the most important tip for grilling the chicken:  half cook the marinated chicken on the grill, then take it off the grill and dunk into a pan with the glaze, then return the chicken to the grill to finish off.  This enables the chicken to cook before the glaze burns!  Novices will use a brush and brush the glaze on the half cooked chicken.  Silly novices.  Brushing does not get enough glaze on the chicken, and a lot of the glaze drips onto the coals, which causes flare ups, which causes hot hands and more burned spots than necessary.

But before grilling, you have to marinate, and that part is easy.  The chicken needs to sit in the marinade for 2-4 hours, so start early in the afternoon.  Remember to start your coals approx 40 minutes before you want to start grilling.  Grilling the thickest parts of the chicken might take 20 minutes, the thinner tenderloins might take only 5 minutes.  All of these times are approximate, and all depend on how hot your fire is.  Use common sense.  Don’t freak out.  The chicken would cook at different times in a pan on the stove, too.  Just keep  your eye on each piece of chicken, judging it as an individual, and you’ll be fine.  The picture above was taken on the tiny balcony of my daughter’s apartment, the first time she made this chicken, and only the third time she had ever BBQ’d. Doesn’t it look great?

Don’t forget to have s’mores for dessert, you don’t want to waste all those lovely coals!  For sides, we like to grill sliced zucchini and tomatoes fresh from the garden, but corn-on-the-cob, potato or pasta salad, baked beans, and garlic bread are also classic accompaniments.  Leftovers are great on a green salad the next day, or diced in a quesadilla or burrito, or added to stir-fried veggies and served over rice.

Polly’s Triple Threat Chicken

Desired number of boneless, skinless, chicken breasts each cut into 3 pieces (see note above).  One recipe of marinade will do for 6-8 breasts.  For more chicken, just double the marinade.  You’ll have enough glaze for a double batch.

For the Marinade
· ½ cup soy sauce
· ¼ cup vegetable oil
· ¼ cup red wine vinegar or raspberry vinegar (I keep a bottle of raspberry vinegar on hand just for this recipe)
· 1 teaspoon dried oregano
· 1 teaspoon dried basil
· ½ teaspoon black pepper
· ½ teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh parsley)
· 1 crushed and chopped garlic clove (or ½ teaspoon garlic powder)

For the Glaze
· ¾ cup ketchup
· ¾ cup honey
· ½ cup soy sauce
· 3 crushed and chopped garlic cloves
· a few drops of Tabasco (I live in fear of hot and spicy food, so I only use about ¼-½ teaspoonful)

  1. Place your chicken chunks into a large Ziploc bag or marinating tray.  In a small measuring cup or bowl, combine all ingredients for marinade.  Pour the marinade over the chicken.  Refrigerate, and marinate chicken for 2 to 4 hours.  Remove from refrigerator one hour before grilling so the chicken can be at room temperature before putting on grill.
  2. While chicken is marinating, prepare the glaze.  Combine all ingredients and place in a bowl or container (the container should be big enough to hold chunks of half cooked chicken and be able to withstand the heat of half cooked chicken.  I use a large flat Tupperware container), stir well to combine.
  3. Drain the room temperature chicken from the marinade.  Grill.  Pick out similar size pieces of chicken and put them next to each other on the grill.  Put the thickest pieces on first, then the tenderloins, then those thin triangular pieces.  Turn as needed.  When the pieces are one-half to two-thirds cooked, remove from grill and dunk completely into the prepared glaze, turning to get a good coat.  Return the chicken pieces to the grill for an additional 2-3 minutes on each side.  The glaze will caramelize and look completely yummy.  Allow the chicken to get grill marks, but remove from heat before charring!!
  4. Remove chicken to a serving platter, and dig in!

NEWS FLASH! Look what was in the San Jose Mercury News today, August 1, 2013. The cutie patootie is my 2 month old grandson, awwwwww.

Jett recipe in newspaper

 

06 Jul 2013 Turkey Burgers with a Greek Flair

Turkey Burger

Want a new, different and totally tasty burger to add to your repertoire?  Here it is! A Turkey burger with a Spanakopita Flair.  This recipe was inspired by Rachael Ray’s, Spanakopita Burger from her book, 365: No Repeats.  I made her recipe “as is” last year, and it was good, but this year I made it my way (below), and loved it.  I grill these burgers, but pan frying works, too.  I am sure some cucumber raita would go well on these burgers but we ate them the traditional American way, on a good bun with sliced homegrown tomatoes, a bit of crunchy lettuce and ketchup. Make the patties as big or as little as you want. I made 8 patties, approx 6 oz. each, but I love those little slider buns that are available now and think hosting a BBQ and serving a variety of burgers would be fun.  You could make slider sized regular hamburgers, these Greek Turkey Burgers, and maybe a Salmon burger. Don’t forget the sides of watermelon, corn, and a pasta salad, and grill some of that zucchini that I know is taking over  your garden.  S’mores for dessert, of course.  How about my Peach Iced Tea or Blueberry Lemonade to drink? Done!  Send out the e-vite!

My son’s girlfriend just took a bite of my his leftover and warmed up Turkey burger.  Her exact words were, “WOW. That’s fantastic!” Yup 🙂  And she scored big points with the boyfriend’s mama!

Turkey Burgers with a Greek Flair

  • 1  1/2 lb – 1  1/3 lb ground turkey
  • 1 box (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup (4 oz) crumbled feta cheese
  • 18-24 (2-3 oz) Kalamata olives, diced
  • 1/2 cup very finely diced or grated red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley, if you have some on hand
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. – 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (the feta and olives are already salty so you can skip the added salt if you are salt sensitive)
  • 4 oz. applesauce (1 individual serving cup) OR 1/2 peeled apple, grated
  • 1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (any breadcrumbs or Panko will work)
  • 1 egg, beaten

To serve: Buns, and choice of toppings.

  1. Place the ground turkey in a large bowl.
  2. Remove the defrosted spinach from the box and squeeze, and I do mean s-q-u-e-e-z-e ALL the water from the spinach.  I did not say drain, I said squeeze.  Take about 1/3 of the spinach into your hand and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze until totally dry.  Repeat until all the spinach is in little tight balls.  Fluff the balls up and add to the ground turkey in the bowl.
  3. Add to the turkey mixture the feta, olives, red onion, garlic, oregano, basil or parsley, salt and pepper, applesauce or grated apple, and the bread crumbs.  With a fork lightly mix the ingredients until everything has been uniformly distributed.
  4. Divide the mixture into 8 equal parts. Pat each part into a flat patty, just slightly bigger than your hamburger buns.
  5. Grill, or pan fry until done, about 3 minutes on each side, but this all depends on how hot the grill/pan is.
  6. Toast the buns!  (I love toasted buns)
  7. Serve with your choice of condiments–ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, riata, tomatoes, lettuce, grilled red peppers…

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  I hope you enjoy these burgers, we sure did!  They’re VERY tasty 🙂

24 Jun 2013 Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese

Crab and brie mac n cheese

Whooooa Nelly!  Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese?  Over-the-top decadence in a comfort food?  YEP! And the decadence makes the comfort food even more comforting–like ‘died and gone to heaven’ comforting!  Yet another winning recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication “Best Loved Reader Recipes; 125 Winners from 1930 to Today”. (My last post was a recipe for “Peach Iced Tea” inspired by a recipe from this magazine)

If someone is having a hard time, and that sweet “I am going to drop off a casserole” American tradition seems appropriate, THIS is the casserole to take.  I took it to my 120-miles away daughter who is bravely attempting a semester long college Physics course in a six-week summer session, working the 4 PM-midnight shift at Target, and sweltering in the hot central valley heat. I am not saying this Macaroni and Cheese is miraculous or anything, but she did  score 15 points over the class average on her first mid-term. Not dropping off a casserole to a friend-in-need anytime soon?  I’ll bet you’ll be going to a potluck then. Take this!  Want to eat it at home, like we did?  We had it with mixed roasted veggies, but a leafy green salad would be nice too, and a corn muffin.

This casserole is not cheap, but if you shop at Costco for your pound of brie and pound of crab (the only two expensive ingredients), it won’t break the bank and you’ll have made a casserole big enough feed a small army.

Truth be told, I was a bit afraid of this recipe at first, wondering if the Brie would be too strong, and wondering if I would be able to taste the crab over the brie.  Both worries proved needless.  Everything melds together nicely.  Comfortingly nice.  I’ll say it again, because it’s true, ‘died and gone to heaven’ nice!

I changed the recipe just just a bit; one, to conform to the quantities of crab and brie sold at Costco (no leftover bits and no need to buy two big cartons of anything) and two, to make the recipe a bit easier by  substituting panko instead of homemade bread crumbs. I also re-wrote the recipe a bit, making roux is not hard, just follow my instructions: brown the flour and butter (and don’t skimp on the butter), remove the pan from the heat, then vigorously stir in hot milk until sauce is smooth.

Enjoy your comfort food decadance.

Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 lb. dried macaroni (small shells or elbows)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons butter (maybe a bit more)
  • 3 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 13-16 oz. Brie, cubed
  • 16 oz. refrigerated container crabmeat, drained and flaked
  • 1/2 cup Panko or favorite breadcrumbs
  1. Cook macaroni in salted water according to package directions.  (Choose the shortest cooking time since pasta will continue to cook when baked.) Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-in by 13-in casserole dish.
  3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute onion in butter until tender and golden, about 15 minutes.  (Do not skimp on the butter.  You’ll need the full quantity of  butter to make the roux in the step 5.)
  4. Heat 3 cups of milk in microwave until hot (3-5 minutes).
  5. Meanwhile, over medium heat, stir flour into onion and butter mixture.  Stir constantly for 3 minutes (to cook flour and to incorporate butter into the flour).  If mixture is too lumpy or dry, add an additional tablespoon of butter.
  6. Remove hot pan with onion and roux from heat.  Pour in 1 cup of hot milk.  Stir well, and keep stirring-vigorously if needed-until mixture is smooth and lump free.  Add another cup of hot milk, stir and mix again.  When mixture is smooth and lump free, repeat with last cup of milk.
  7. Return pan to medium heat. Add cubed brie to sauce in pan.  Stir constantly until brie is melted and incorporated.  Remove pan from heat when brie has melted and the sauce is smooth once again.
  8. Fold drained crab into cheese sauce then stir in cooked and well-drained macaroni.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Pour crab-brie-macaroni mixture into a well buttered 9-in x 13-in casserole dish.
  11. Sprinkle bread crumbs over top of macaroni and cheese.
  12. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until mixture is heated through and bread crumbs have browned.  If breadcrumbs don’t brown, turn on the broiler and broil casserole for a few minutes.
  13. Remove casserole from oven. Let cool 5 – 10 minutes, then serve. In a bowl, while curled up on the couch with a good book or good movie, or on a plate with roasted veggies or a salad, and maybe a small corn muffin. Enjoy.  Feel better. Ace the Physics test!

Leftovers can be reheated in microwave or frozen for a future treat.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen again today,  I love having you drop by!  Let’s see what else I can make from this magazine. It’s supposed to be on the shelves until July 15, 2013, so if you see it, you might want to pick up a copy.

11 Feb 2013 Gunpowder Polly’s Wild West Cowboy Steak

cowboy steak bite on fork 2

Last weekend I had a Wild West themed party at my house.  I suggested to my friends that they come dressed as cowgirls, and they did!  They moseyed on over to the Bar –the Trail Mix Bar– to fill their saddlebags with snacks and quenched their thirst at the watering hole.  I wanted the dinner to be Wild West themed, too, and steak immediately jumped to mind as the perfect main dish (I was later to find out that cowboys rarely ate steak, oops!).  Nevertheless, before steak enlightenment,  I set out to find out how to cook steak for twelve, quickly, accurately and indoors in February!  It was easier than I ever imagined, and more successful, too. After steak enlightenment, I was so excited about this easy, easy way to cook delicious steak that I decided to put it on my Wild West menu anyway.  I also served BBQ drumsticks, onion rings, cornbread with a delicious maple-orange butter, and roasted veggies.  OK, so the menu wasn’t exactly authentic, but it did have a Wild West feel to it 🙂 Also, in preparation for this Wild West dinner, I made place mats out of old blue jeans and bought red bandannas to use as napkins!

Now, for the steak.  Buy some really thick steaks.  I used rib-eyes, but any kind is fine as long as the steaks are thick…, over one-inch thick!  When you get the steaks home, dry age them.  This is a crucial step so buy the steaks early in the week.  Take the plastic wrap off the steaks, place them on a rack, and set them in the refrigerator, uncovered, for up to five days.  That’s right, put the steaks on a (baking) rack (with a tray underneath) in the refrigerator, uncovered, for a few days.  THIS, my friend, is the first half of the equation of a delicious steak.  The second half of the equation is the cooking method in the recipe below. This recipe includes the Cowboy Steak rub I used on my steaks, but you can use any favorite rub, it’s the dry-aging process and cooking process that are important.

For most cowboys,  even for the heartiest meat lovers, one-half of a thick rib steak is probably a good serving size.  I served my cowgirls one-third of a steak each. So with that in mind, your 4 thick steaks, with side dishes, will serve 4 football players, 8 men/boys, or 12 lightweights/small women/teenage girls.

Gunpowder Polly’s Wild West Cowboy Steaks  

(cooked in a modern indoor kitchen)

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika (regular or smoked paprika can be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (can substitute onion powder, if you don’t have garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon favorite dried herb, many people like thyme, I prefer basil, some like oregano…put in what you like
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon smoked ancho chili powder (or any other chili powder)
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground coffee beans
  • 4 thick bone-in rib eye steaks ( 1 ¼” to 1 ½ thick; each steak weighing 12 to 16 ounces)
  1. Buy your steaks and dry age them in the refrigerator for up to five days.  Remove the steaks from the package.  Place them on a rack.  Place a tray under the rack to catch any possible drips.  Place the steaks, rack and tray in the refrigerator, uncovered, for up to 5 days.
  2. One or two hours before you want to start cooking, remove steaks from refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
  3. Mix  all rub ingredients –salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, dried green herb, cumin, chili powder, and ground coffee– in small bowl. Sprinkle approx ½ teaspoon of rub mixture over each side of the steaks, press and rub mixture into meat. Let steaks stand at room temperature 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  5. Get out an oven safe frying pan large enough to fit all steaks (or use two frying pans), put 1T-3T olive oil in the bottom of the frying pan/s and heat (on the stove) until the oil is smoking (but don’t let the oil burn) and the pan is very, very hot.
  6. Keep heat under the pan on high, or medium high if there appears to be imminent danger of fire, and add the steaks to the hot pan.  Do not touch the steaks for the next five minutes.  Let steak cook on high for exactly five minutes.
  7. Turn the heat off.  Quickly turn the steaks over.  Place the still hot pan–with the steaks still in it–into a hot oven. Close the oven door and set the timer for five minutes.
  8. Remove the steaks and pan from the hot oven. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board, cover lightly with foil, and let sit for ten minutes before cutting or serving.
  9. Serve!  You’ll be amazed at how easy it was to cook the perfect medium rare steak.  Your guests will love, love, love the texture and  taste of the steak.  Look at THIS!

My daughter made these delightful cookies for dessert, so fun and tasty! Check her out at Party Girl Cookies or on Facebook 🙂

Here are a few more pictures from my Wild West party, yeeeeHAW!

Thanks for stopping by my Wild West kitchen today!  I hope this recipe becomes a staple in your kitchen, it definitely has in mine 🙂

01 Feb 2013 Dining For Women
 |  Category: Main Dish  | 7 Comments

DFW Jan14Groupattable

Today’s post is a little different but it is about food!

Four years ago I started supporting  and empowering women and children living in extreme poverty.  Yep. Me.  I’ve made a difference.  I know I have. I haven’t done it alone. I have done it through a once a month pot-luck dinner at my house. I have done it through my involvement in Dining For Women. Here are some of the things I have done:

  • Support movers and shakers seeking to end child sex-trafficking and exploitation (who wouldn’t want to support that?), and I also support the “rescued girls” with safe houses, counselling, health care, education and critical life and business skills.
  • Fund micro-loans and micro-enterprises in several developing countries. A micro-enterprise can provide income for three to five women, and I know that each of these women probably support five children.  Yes, that’s five children each.  I know these children now eat better, probably attend more school, and could probably get medical care in an emergency.  In three years I have funded 108 businesses in Northern Kenya alone. WOW!
  • In El Salvador I have funded the training of  healthcare providers in the detection and treatment of cervical cancer, and I have funded examinations for over 600 women and treatment for 80.
  • I have funded life-changing fistula repair surgery and post-operative care for 66 Ethiopian women, and when they were fully recovered, I sent them home in a new dress. What wonderful person thought to send these women home in a new dress?  Of course, I will fund the dresses along with the life-changing surgery and follow up care. This makes me cry every time I think about it. If you don’t know what a fistula is, it’s because you didn’t have to labor in birth for two days in Africa or India…when you were 14.
  • I have supported the re-introduction of the Maya Nut into the Guatemalan diet, funded regular Maya Nut lunches in some of the poorest Guatemalan schools, employed Guatemalan women to make the lunches,  and established Maya Nut tree nurseries in schools–an average 3,000 trees in each school!
  • I’ve provided bicycles, houses, home repair, scholarships, beds, and clothing for poor handicapped children of of single mothers in Vietnam. It’s the bicycles that excite me the most. Giving an impoverished single mother a bicycle can change her life. I’m glad someone figured that out and I am glad to fund such a simple program.
  • I have enabled 450 non-­literate women (hopefully pre-literate women)  to attend and graduate from a life skills and embroidery program in Afghanistan. Amazing.

This month I am supporting 150 girls who had to run from their war-torn country, alone and unaccompanied–because their family members were either missing or killed. I am providing them with basic education, business skills training, human rights education, and leadership skills in programs specifically designed to address their challenges.  I fund their safe spaces, daycare, meals, and transportation to and from the program.  The twenty-one women at my house on Monday night donated $619 to Hemisha, Kenya.

I get a lot of out this, too.  One, it makes me feel good.  I can’t fix everything that’s wrong in this world, but I can do something…, and it feels so good to be doing something. Two, when my money combines with the money of other like-minded women, we make a large  impact in grass roots organizations in remote corners of the world, and we do this every single month.  Three, I adore the women in my Dining For Women chapter.  We’ve bonded through our involvement in Dining For Women.  Some of these women I have known for over twenty  years,  others I have just met, and they are all wonderful… warm, generous, fun, determined, educated, grateful…, and they all have that “it” factor.  I can’t put my finger on what exactly that “it” factor is, but every single one of them has it 🙂  Four, there’s a party at my house every month…, and it’s gone a bit gourmet!  On a monthly basis Dining For Women provides us with recipes from each featured country.  My group has taken to making most of them, so we get some terrific ethnic dishes combined with American classics!  It’s a lot of fun.  This month we had Kenyan Chicken in a Coconut Curry Sauce, two versions of Kenyan sauteed kale, a Kenyan bean and pepper dish, an all-American tossed salad, homemade bread, Gringo Tacquitos and Chinese Chicken Salad!  There were other dishes too, along with Dark Chocolate from Uganda, a boozy bundt cake, and lemon cookies for dessert. Five, I’ve learned a lot. Dining For Women provides a ton of educational materials every month.  I’ve been educated.  I  understand more.  I’ve been changed.  A heaviness has been lifted.  Like I said, I can’t do it all, but I can do something and, through Dining For Women, my little something has added up to many great things.

DFW Feb14 photomerge group

 

Here’s a link to next month’s program, Midwives for Haiti.  Look at all the information we are provided with!  My friends and I will donate anywhere from $20 to $50 each.  Our chapter donation will probably be in excess of $500. There are about 400 Dining For Women chapters, we’ll send $50,000 to Midwives to Haiti this month, $15,000 Matrichaya in India, and what’s leftover we’ll send to a “Member’s Favorite”.   If you don’t want to click, just read this:

Patricia Lee, a Certified Nurse Midwife from Lancaster, PA, was a volunteer instructor at Midwives For Haiti. Her story of her first delivery at St. Therese Hospital in Hinche provides an introduction to Midwives for Haiti.   “The ‘maternity salon’ holds five old-fashioned metal delivery tables whose stark stirrups jut up and out at all angles. Sheets are unavailable. The laboring women bring pieces of cloth or remove their skirts to cover the tables. Cistern water is available from the faucet for twenty minutes each morning; there is no more water until tomorrow. With intermittent electricity and no oxygen, the incubator in the corner is a lifeless monster. I hear the housekeeper yelling in Creole. Kindness is absent. Other tools of my trade are also missing. Where is labor support, a drink of water or a cool washcloth, help with relaxation breathing? This miserable room is now my workplace. I meet my female interpreter and the three student midwives who are to observe and learn from me for the next two weeks. All four silence their cell phones. I am drawn to the woman on the table in the comer. She wears just a blouse, her skirt providing the table cover. Her clenched hands and taut grimace speak to me and I understand where she is in this labor. In a moment I am at her side, my students next to me, and I introduce myself, and talk to her quietly, trusting my interpreter to repeat my words.  She’s just a girl, I think. I roll her onto her side and rub her back during contractions, fanning her with a package of latex gloves. I give her a drink from my water bottle. I breathe into her ear to get her in synchrony with me, encouraging her to slow her rapid panting. As her grip relaxes, her face releases its tension. Our dance continues until she has to bear down with the pressure of the baby, and we vary our rhythm to include the grunting and groaning of hard work. I feel the housekeeper looking at me and I glance up briefly and smile to her scowl. Maybe an ally one day. The baby arrives and is tucked into her mama’s arms, cuddled to her chest while we wait for the cord to stop beating and the placenta to be born. There are no tears and no complications. We assess the baby in her safe space, clean them both, and prepare to move to the postpartum ward. The girl/mother turns onto her back, her face toward me and speaks. The interpreter inhales and the students murmur. “Do you know what she just said to you” asks my interpreter. “No, I do not understand yet”. She said, ‘You have been kinder to me than anyone else in my whole life and you have done more than anyone else has ever done for me. I wish I had something to give you but I have nothing.’ We reach for each other. Blinking quickly, my voice unsteady through my smile, I tell her she has given me a gift. Her baby girl is my first birth in Haiti, I am honored to be here with her and I will never forget her. The students are tapping my shoulder, talking, insistent. With the help of the interpreter I hear them tell me that I must deliver their babies, that they will not have babies until I return, that they had never seen a birth like this. I answer them. “You don’t understand. I am here to teach you to deliver babies like this. You will learn to do this.” My new mama, my first baby, my students ~ this place has touched my heart.”

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, and thank you for reading through this long post 🙂  If you are already a member of Dining For Women,  welcome!  If you are not a member, and would like to be, the first step is to click on the Dining For Women link…

We eat well, too.  On this night, we had eight desserts…

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