Tag Archives: Cooking

Courage at Twilight: Banana Pancakes

“Could this really be the end?” Dad wondered aloud to me.  He could not even pivot on his feet to point-and-fall into his chair, and his legs trembled on the verge of collapse.  His sudden decline accompanied his cold—he tested negative twice for Covid antigens.  Yesterday was Wednesday, my long City-Council-meeting work day, and when I walked through the door at 10:30 p.m., Mom sighed with a drawn look, “I’m glad you’re home.  Your dad had quite an adventure today!”  Dad’s adventure was not watching hummingbirds on his back patio with Lone Mountain in the background, but a runaway walker crashing into the fireplace brickwork and Mom calling neighbor Brad to pick Dad up off the floor, which took several attempts.  He could not rise from his newly-elevated recliner, even as I strapped the new sling around his torso and pulled hard on the handles.  He could not walk to the stairs, but sat is his walker shuffling his feet as I nudged him forward.  He could not, of course, ascend the stairs, and his arms and legs trembled and shook as I pulled up on the sling with all my strength on each step.  (The quote for the stair lift was $14,000, which means we will not be purchasing the stair lift.)  He could not get into bed until I lugged his legs up and in.  He could not cross the bathroom after his shower this morning, when I wrapped him in a towel, turned him, and pointed him in a controlled fall onto the walker seat.  Mom murmured “I can’t do this” several times, foreseeing what she would face when I was at work, and she is right: she cannot do it.  I listened all night for panting groans and shuffling feet, and darted to his room at 5:00 a.m. when he was part way back to bed, about to collapse, and I grabbed him and dropped him on the mattress and hoisted his heavy lame legs into bed.  So, is this really the end?  I do not think so.  But the end grows forebodingly closer, and I feel like I am staring down the long dark rifle barrel of inevitable imminence.  While Mom helped him dress, I cooked up my daughter Laura’s “Foolproof Pancakes” with a twist of mashed baby red bananas and half whole wheat—and with bacon on the side, because why not?  And Dad enjoyed his banana pancakes and bacon.  And Mom enjoyed her banana pancakes and bacon.   Me, too.

The Sling.

Courage at Twilight: Late Lunch or Early Dinner?

I try to leave work at 3:00 p.m. in order to arrive home at 4:00, ready to cook or shop or take Mom or Dad to a doctor appointment or do yardwork, knowing that I will go up to my home office and work remotely at night to catch up on work.  Sometimes I do not get home until 5:00.  Often, when I come through the door, I find Mom and Dad just starting to enjoy their “lunch” while watching NCIS.  Dad has his onion with ham and Swiss sandwich.  Mom enjoys leftovers with a Yoo-Hoo.  Sometimes they bring home Burger King combo meals—Whoppers, French fries, and Diet Cokes.  By the time they finish their lunch, I am ready for my dinner, having lunched at noon.  Some days, I will find a snack and head upstairs to work or blog until it is time to cook and eat dinner, between 8:00 and 9:00.  Other days, I just make a dinner for myself, often steamed vegetables and hard-boiled eggs, either swimming in olive oil and vinegar or mixed with melted butter and salt, or maybe a giant salad tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Some days I cook.  Other days Dad cooks.  Sometimes we heat up a can of Campbell’s soup and call it good.  Having cooked for the family for 45 years, Mom is done with cooking.  I don’t blame her.  Now, Dad and I enjoy cooking for her.

Courage at Twilight: Stuffed Peppers

Dad thought stuffed bell peppers would be a nice dinner for Mom and me. And he did not want me “slaving away” in the kitchen, as he put it.  So, he began to thaw the ground beef, cook the rice, cut and seed the green bell peppers, and mix in the seasonings.  Mom had given him two recipes for stuffed peppers, but they conflicted in critical respects, and caused some confusion in the kitchen.  Short on produce, Mom and I drove to the grocery store with our yellow-legal-pad shopping list, the items organized according to their location in the store and our usual circuit.  Home two hours later, we found Dad slaving away over his peppers, understandably utterly worn out.  But when they emerged from the oven 30 minutes later, the cheese crispy on top, the stuffed green bell peppers were beautiful and wonderfully delicious.  Thanks for dinner, Dad.

Courage at Twilight: Bratwurst and Beans

“Rog?” Dad called eagerly as he stumbled through the door from mowing up the leaves.  “Have you started cooking dinner yet?”  Remembering a prior conversation about the possibility of spaghetti, I had pulled a package of meatballs from the freezer to thaw.  With two minutes left on my stationary bike ride, I panted, “I got the meatballs out, just in case, but I have not started dinner.”  He told me his idea for dinner, emphasizing it was just an idea—he wanted me to know he was not vested in the idea.  “We could grill bratwurst, and warm a can of pork and beans and a can of stewed whole tomatoes,” he offered.  This particular random combination of dishes had never occurred to me, but I consider that it had not only occurred to him, but sounded good to him.  So, I concurred, suggesting we add steamed spinach to the menu, since we had accidentally added a third bag of spinach to the two bought the week prior.  The brats browned up nicely on the indoor electric grill (with a power cord borrowed from an electric skillet, since my cord was thoroughly grilled with the previous brats).  After asking God to bless the food for our nourishment and strength, we dug into to the eclectic gathering of food.  And I enjoyed it.  Remembering childhood dinners of pork and beans mixed with sliced frankfurters, I sliced my bratwurst into the beans, and felt at home.  “Didn’t we have a great dinner, Lucille?” Dad crowed.  Yes, we did.

(Image by Karl Allen Lugmayer from Pixabay)

Courage at Twilight: In Which Roger Finds the Courage to Cook Julia Child’s Delectable Boeuf Bourguignon

Alone with Mom and Dad on Thanksgiving, I determined to make a nice meal (that was not a turkey), and found my courage to try Julia Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon (beef stewed in red wine).  The recipe had intimidated me for a long time, because of the expensive ingredients (quality cut of beef, bottle of Bordeaux) and the many involved steps that have to come together.  Boil and brown the bacon sticks.  Brown the beef cubes.  Sauté the sliced carrots and onions.  Pour in the red wine and broth.  Simmer in the oven for three hours while sautéing small whole onions and quartered mushrooms to add later.  “Do not crowd the mushrooms,” Julia charged.  The last step was to boil the wine and broth down to a thick gravy to pour over the platter of beef, bacon, onions, carrots, and mushrooms.  To my wonder and delight, the meal was a smashing succulent success.  I felt quite proud of myself as the three of us chewed with delighted mmmms and ahhhhs.  How disappointing to get full so fast!  I will not prepare this dish often, but the four-hour cook time was worth the happy result as we quietly concluded our Thanksgiving Day with our meal of French Boeuf Bourguignon.

Courage at Twilight: Saturday Morning Mystery Oatmeal

While cold cereal is the work-week’s morning fare, I enjoy cooking breakfast on Saturday mornings. Nothing fancy or heavy—I usually turn to oatmeal. “I love it when you cook breakfast,” Mom reassured me. She normally eats dry Quaker granola with glasses of milk and mint tea on the side. But she loves my mystery oatmeal. Easily bored with the same old, I improvise, wondering what flavor combinations will set well in the oat stew. Classic apple-cinnamon oatmeal is Dad’s favorite. This morning I tried something new: lavender-banana. My goodness, it was delicious. If you want to try them, here are some simple instructions and tips.

Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal

Ingredients (4 good servings)
4 cups water
2 cups milk (or 2 more cups water)
3 cups rolled oats (not quick oats—quick oats turn to mush while rolled oats remain soft but pleasantly and chewily textured)
salt to taste (I use ¾-1 tsp)
1-2 diced apples, any variety
1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions
Add diced apples to water-milk mixture, along with cinnamon and salt, and bring to rolling boil. Because of the milk, the liquid will quickly boil over, so watch it carefully. Allow the apples to soften in the boil for 3-5 minutes. Add oats and stir. Lower heat to low boil/simmer, and stir frequently for 5-10 or so minutes until the oats are soft and thicken to desired consistency. Sweeten to taste with sweetener of choice. Brown sugar and honey are both wonderful. Mom prefers white sugar. Dad employs Splenda. I use Stevia extract. A dollop of heavy cream adds a bit of luxury.

Lavender-Banana Oatmeal

Ingredients (4 good servings)
4 cups water
2 cups milk (or 2 more cups water)
3 cups rolled oats (not quick oats—quick oats turn to mush while rolled oats remain soft but pleasantly and chewily textured)
salt to taste (I use ¾-1 tsp)
1-2 ripe bananas
1 tsp lavender flowers, ground (I found these in our neighborhood Smith’s grocery store spice aisle)

Instructions
Add lavender and salt to the water-milk mixture, and bring to rolling boil. Remember, it boils over almost without warning, so watch carefully. Add oats and stir. Lower heat to low boil/simmer, and stir frequently for 5-10 or so minutes until the oats are soft and thicken to desired consistency. Add the sliced bananas only at the very end, when the oatmeal is done, and reduce heat. Adding the bananas late releases the wonderful flavor without turning them to mush. Sweeten to taste.

Option Tip: reduce oats by ½ cup and add ¼ cup cream of wheat for extra creamy thickness.

Courage at Twilight: Baked Birthday Salmon

For Mom’s birthday dinner, Dad baked his specialty: salmon.  He lined a baking dish with aluminum foil, sprayed on a little oil, placed the fish, and sprinkled on lemon pepper and salt.  I added a generous dollop of butter on top of each piece.  Into the oven for 45 minutes, and out it came, moist and flaky.  (I’m afraid I tore up one piece checking if it were done.)  He added steamed asparagus with butter and salt, and small potatoes sautéed in more butter and salt, with herbs.  Such a dinner is a sublime end to a long Sabbath fast, a cheerful gathering of parents and child, a turning of the day’s stresses into a satisfied sigh, a triumph of taste, and a happy birthday feast.  As far as I am concerned, Dad can bake salmon any day he likes, birthday or no.

Courage at Twilight: Holland Mints (Not)

I wanted to make a nice dessert for Dad, and settled on a cream cheese tart.  I added fresh guava puree to exotify the pie, and sweetened the filling with Splenda.  I have become proficient at making French tart shells (pie crusts) from Julia Child’s cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.   Dad sat at the island watching me prepare the dough.  “Don’t mix it too much,” he interjected.  I think you mixed it too much.  It needs to be ice cold and barely blended.”  I paid no heed, and placed the wax-paper-wrapped balls of dough in the fridge to chill.  After a few hours, I rolled the dough out and shaped the shell in the spring-form pan.  When I first starting baking, I pressed into the shell a sheet of aluminum foil and poured in a pound of dry black beans, to keep the bottom from bubbling up.  The beans are a cheap but effective substitute for ceramic baking beads, which I only recently bought.  Sitting in a yogurt container, they looked just like Holland mints, round and white.  Dad suddenly picked up a ceramic bead and plopped it into his mouth, thinking it was a mint.  Before I could articulate gentle words, I blurted, “Uh uh uh!” like one would chide a child with its hand in the cookie jar.  I did not mean to treat him like an errant child, but out of instinctual fear I did what I needed to do to stop him before he crunched on the glass bead and broke a took, or swallowed the bead.  He quickly spit it out, and neither of us looked at the other or said a word.  I did not want to shame him anymore than I already had with my tut-tut, and he did not want to acknowledge his gaffe.  We pretended nothing happened.  But later, when the pie came out of the oven looking beautiful, he confessed, as if I hadn’t known, “I almost ate one of those white glass beads.  I thought it was a mint!”  The beads removed, and the guava cream cheese filling poured in to bake, the tart tasted wonderfully delicious.

Courage at Twilight: Cooking to Music

Having recovered from my last exhausting cooking experience, I resolved to cook a nice Sunday dinner for Mom and Dad.  Mom sat in her recliner, reading the Sunday New York Times, listening to music in the family room: a home-made CD of Mom’s church choir performances.  Dad decided to rest in the living room, reading Michelle Obama’s excellent memoir Becoming, playing his daily Johnny Mathis.  The kitchen is situated in between.  I attempted to review Julia Child’s cooking instructions, with “Count Your Many Blessings” in one ear and “99 Miles from L.A.” in the other.  Unable to read, I put the book away and attacked the recipes from memory.  Cooking Julia’s French recipes has become easier with practice, I guess, because I had dinner ready in good time: sauced fish poached in white wine; creamy garlic onion mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, and sliced cucumbers.  Practice is also helping me refine the textures and flavors for a more pleasurable outcome.  Mom and Dad agreed the meal was a triumph.  But now I am tired and do not want to cook for another week, knowing I will be hungry tomorrow.

Courage at Twilight: Forbidden Fritters

Following our routine after selecting the week’s produce, Dad waited in the deli area while I finished the grocery shopping.  My cart heavy-laden, I circled back to gather Dad and his cart and to head together to the register.  As we passed slowly by a stack of boxed pastries, Dad picked up the top box and looked longingly at the apple fritters.  “I sure would like to have an apple fritter,” he lamented, teetering on temptation’s edge.  I understood the angst with which he contemplated the moist deep-fried fritters covered with white sugar icing: I, too, ached for a bite of blissful sweetness.  We stood in silent solidarity, Dad with his fear of diabetes and me with my fear of being fat.  He put the box down with genuine sadness.  We squared our shoulders and walked toward the register, leaving desire behind us.  “When we get home,” I offered, “I’ll make us some French crêpes rolled around sliced fresh bananas, peaches, and strawberries, with dollops of stevia-sweetened whipped cream.”  “That sounds wonderful,” Dad said.  “Let’s do it.”

(Image by pixel1 from Pixabay.)

Courage at Twilight: Lasagna for Dinner

Dad told me he would cook dinner tonight.  We would have lasagna with meat sauce, plus steamed vegetables.  I told him that sounded wonderful.  When I arrived home from work, he took the lasagna out of the box and slid it frozen into the hot oven.  An hour later he emptied a bag of frozen lima beans into a pan, and shucked fresh sweet corn on the cob.  Stouffer’s makes such yummy lasagna—thank goodness for the occasional frozen dinner.  Stuffed and satisfied, I thanked Dad for making dinner.

Courage at Twilight: Sunday Sabbath

Today is the Sunday Sabbath.  My laptop is hooked up to the flat screen via HDMI chord, and we are watching church by Zoom—the sacramental service, the hymns, the prayers, the speakers, the Sunday School class.  I have brought to Mom and Dad bowls of six-grain hot cereal cooked with apples and cinnamon, cooled and enriched with cream.  When church services are over, Mom asks me to take her envelope with her tithes and offerings—her alms—to the bishop, for the support of the Church and the poor of the Church.  And I walk home to discuss with them the deep doctrines, and what to cook for dinner: chicken fricassee in creamy red wine paprika sauce with steamed zucchini and corn on the cob.  After dinner will come attempts to read, and naps in recliners.

Courage at Twilight: Muffins with Gabe

I tended my great-nephew Gabe on a recent Saturday afternoon. He is all of three years old.  He lights up when he sees me because I love him and play with him.  I light up when I see him because he is adorable and smart and fun and sweet, and likes being with me.  On that Saturday we made my daughter Laura’s recipe for banana chocolate-chip muffins—the secret ingredient is sour cream, and these muffins are wonderfully moist and soft.  Gabe and I set up our work areas on the kitchen’s center island.  Given the attention span and dexterity of three-year-olds, I thought it best to give him his own bowls and measuring implements and ingredients.  While I mixed the real recipe, he mixed his own concoction.  The secret ingredient of Gabe’s muffins?  Colored sprinkles, lots of them.  And egg shells.  As I was breaking eggs into my batter, he asked for an egg for his.  He held the egg over his bowl, smashed it with his little hand, and dropped it into the bowl, shell and all.  Mom and Dad watched smiling from the family room.  I could hear a faint ringing echo as we mixed batter and talked, and I said to Mom, “Can you hear that ringing?”  It turned out to be a hearing aid sitting on a table, reacting to my voice.  But Gabe got off his stool and came over to hug my leg with a concerned look on his upturned face.  He teared up and asked about the monster making the noise.  When the hearing aid explanation meant nothing to him, I tried to reassure him by telling him confidently that there were no monsters in the house because I had eaten them all for breakfast—yum!—and that my favorite one was the chocolate monster—yum!  And not one monster was left to bother him.  He laughed, looked worried, and laughed again.  As Gabe left with my sister and some sprinkle-topped muffins, I told him to gobble up any monsters he found at his house for his breakfast, and he smiled and said okay.  Yesterday he left a crayon rainbow drawing on my pillow.

Courage at Twilight: French Cooking

One of my purposes is to make mealtime easy, healthy, and pleasant for Mom and Dad, by cooking dinner for them. For two years I have enjoyed cooking for them occasionally on a weekend.  Now it can be every day, if wanted.  It brings me pleasure to bring them pleasure.  I have always wanted to learn to speak French and cook French.  I study French lessons on Duo Lingo once or twice a week—I may become competent in ten years so.  And after watching Julie & Julia in 2020, I bought the 50th anniversary edition of Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  This week we enjoyed (1) quiche in a buttery shell with green onions, mushrooms, spinach, and ham, (2) salmon soufflé, (3) crêpes with Splenda-sweetened fresh fruit and almond whipping cream (for my son Caleb’s 22nd birthday “cake”), (4) carrots and parsnips glazed in a buttery sweet sauce, and (5) cream of mushroom soup, all from Julia’s book.  I have fun cooking delicious, appealing food, and we all enjoy consuming it.  The recipes were hard at first, but have become second nature with repetition.  Dad sent me an email today, “I will be cooking dinner tonight.”  These six words implied so much: (a) I can cook, too; (b) I want to cook, too; (c) I love to cook, too; (d) I can do things; (e) I want to share the load; (f) thank you for your cooking; (g) I want to take a turn; (h) I want to do something nice for you like you do for us; and, (i) isn’t it wonderful how people take raw ingredients and make such creative, delicious dishes?  So, tonight he cooked delicious “saucy pork burrito rice bowls” with ingredients and recipe provided by Hello Fresh.  When I asked if I could be his sous chef, he said sure.  As the three of us sat at the table with our fragrant rice bowls, Dad remarked, “We made this, together, didn’t we Rog!”  We did.    And it was very tasty.

Consecration Cooking

Consecration Cooking

I cooked for hours.  Even though just yesterday I had roasted the annual turkey, yet today I had cooked for hours, for my children, who would arrive at 6 o’clock for dinner with dad.  Tó Brandileone crooned in the other room as I kneaded five parts butter to four parts flour, simmered sliced leeks in butter and their own juices for a long time until totally tender, whisked eggs and cream, rolled out the cold dough and baked the shells in 10-inch springform pans—they would be enormous quiches, Continue reading

Homemade Granola

Laura compiled a family recipe book for Christmas 2018: A Little Bit of Everything.  My favorite recipe so far, her own, is for yummy homemade granola, full of oats, coconut, almonds, and flavor.  I decided to put the process to poetry.  (The full recipe follows the poem.)

Homemade Granola

A gifted daughter gifted
to me her granola
recipe for Christmas
with smiles and promises
of customer satisfaction
and I have made it these twelve months
one gallon at a time: it is so
very tasty and crunchy
with flaked coconut and almonds,
slivered, and rolled oats, ground flax
sweet from honey and brown sugar,
and that flavor enhanced with happy splashes
of coconut, almond, and vanilla extracts
all mixed
with melted coconut oil and baked
for 13 minutes then turned
and baked for 13 more
at 325 until golden
brown and glistening from the egg whites, oh,
can you smell it! the confluence
of aromas, warm and delicious and balanced:
they linger for hours and I do not even
need to nibble
though I no doubt will eat some in the morning
from my favorite clay bowl
the bowl with the chip and the bright
colored rings, with icy whole milk.
I say thank you with a slurp
I do not intend despite its
inevitability. But
no matter: I have no audience
to impress, and, if I had,
she would surely
understand
if not
approve.

The Recipe

Beat well in large mixing bowl:
¼ cup coconut oil, melted but not hot
1 egg white
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
¼ tsp almond extract
½ tsp coconut extract
½ tsp vanilla extract

Mix well with wet ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup ground flax seed

Bake:
Spread mixture evenly on large cookie sheet. Bake for 13 minutes at 325F. Remove from oven and turn mixture well, then spread again. Bake for another 13 minutes, still at 325F, until golden on top. Remove from oven and turn. Allow to cool. Eat it up!