What odd foods did you grow up with?

oxtail soup on the stove
My mom cooked oxtail soup. Now it’s one of my specialties. I cooked these two pots of soup for Christmas week when we had our son’s girlfriend’s family stay with us.

My mother had a few recipes that I couldn’t stomach. Mom loved the odd cuts of meat (like organs) and learned how to cook them from her mother and grandmother. I don’t remember many of our neighborhood moms cooking the same things.

I liked her chicken hearts that were dusted in flour and fried. But I passed on gizzards.

Beef tongue was a hard pass.

Mom’s beef heart I could handle. She’d stuff the heart and bake it in the oven. Then she sliced it and I’d have a thin ring of heart around delicious stuffing.

The oxtail soup I shied away from until I hit junior high. Then I discovered oxtails were the most tender delicious meat I’d ever eaten and the broth was rich but so flavorful. Years later, I made oxtail soup for my “at the time boyfriend.” I overheard him telling a friend that he had to marry me because of my oxtail soup.

“How can she make something so amazing out of !!#!??”

I discovered this recipe in one of my great-grandmother’s cookbooks that she published in the early 1900s and sold to Ladies’ church auxiliaries across the country. It’s my dream to bring the little cookbooks back to life. Great-grandmother Nellie’s recipe is not how I cook oxtail soup, but it’s the same general principle.

My dad’s side of the family had some oddball dishes too. Christmas meant Lutefisk and fish head stew. I could not get myself to stop staring at the eyeballs staring up at me from the stew. It definitely killed my appetite.

If you haven’t heard of Lutefisk this is from Wikipedia:

Lutefisk is prepared as a seafood dish of several Nordic countries. It is traditionally part of the Christmas feast; Norwegian julebord and Swedish julbord, as well as the similar Finnish joulupöytä.

 Finnishlipeäkala [ˈlipeæˌkɑlɑ]; literally “lye fish”) is dried whitefish (normally cod, but ling and burbot are also used). It is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish), or dried and salted cod, pickled in lye. It is gelatinous in texture after being rehydrated for days prior to eating.

Besides the recipes I mentioned, my mom also served us canned Chef Boyardee ravioli, Swanson’s TV dinners, Space Food Sticks and Tang.

What are some of the foods you grew up with? Did your family cook anything odd?

A perfect mother’s day

We finally made it to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. It’s been on my list of places to explore since my daughter lived in AZ in 2019. My husband asked what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day. I discovered that moms got in for free on Sunday, so that seemed like the perfect day to go. Me and thousands of other moms agreed. Despite the crowd, we found ourselves enjoying the garden so much we became members.

The Desert Botanical Garden is 140 acres of beautiful trails, labeled desert plants and currently there is a Chihuly exhibit! If you haven’t heard of Chihuly, he’s a famous glass artist who creates in Western Washington, where I grew up.

Afterwards, we went to one of my favorite restaurant’s Lure Fish House where I had Kumomoto oysters (my favorite) on the half shell and ling cod.

My kids called several times and I loved talking to them.

Chihuly in the desert art installation at the Desert Botanical Garden
Chihuly in the Desert exhibit. I loved how the glass fit perfectly with nature.
A view from the garden.
Chihuly glass
More Chihuly.
Me.
Indoor display of Chihuly glass
Chihuly display in Phoenix.
Chihuly glass inside an air conditioned building.
Quote from William Blake
There were tons of wildflowers in blooms and butterflies.
Chihuly at the entrance to Desert Botanical Garden
Chihuly at the entrance to the Desert Botanical Garden.
painting by USCB college professor.
A painting my son gave me for Mother’s Day painted by his favorite college professor Caroline Allen.
Jolyn onsie.
My daughter got me this brightly colored Jolyn one-piece suit for lap swimming. This pic is from the Jolyn website and is definitely not me. I’m no longer a swim swim model. In fact, I never was one! Jolyn is a hugely popular brand for swimmers because the suits stay in place in the ocean or pool.
One of my favorite displays. I think it’s the color.

What is your idea of a perfect Mother’s Day? Did you do anything special?

Onions and garlic

onions and garlic heads in wooden box on table
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

This past week I heard two things about onions and garlic that I never knew before. Actually, I need more information because I don’t understand the reasons behind the suggestions I got about onions and garlic.

With my husband sick, I made him chicken soup with lots of garlic and onions. I divided the soup into a portion for me and one for him in tupperware that I left on the front steps for him to pick up. It was delicious and I cooked a second batch yesterday afternoon.

One friend told me that her mother-in-law would place sliced onions throughout all the rooms of the house when somebody was sick. She did that decades before COVID, but I’m wondering, what would it hurt? Then again, what would the purpose be?

I talked to another friend and she asked me for my recipe for chicken soup. I explained that it’s quite simple:

4 chicken thighs with skin and fat

5 cloves of garlic minced

1 large onion sliced

baby carrots and chopped celery

1 box of unsalted chicken broth, add equal parts water

Put in a pot and cook until done. Salt and pepper to taste.

My own throw it together chicken soup recipe

That’s it. My “throw it in a pot chicken soup recipe.” My friend suggested that I let the sliced onions and chopped garlic hang out together before cooking them.

“Why?” I asked.

She explained that it brings out healthful “properties” in the onion and garlic when they mingle.

However, I do not know what these properties are or how hanging out together changes anything. A quick google did not help. But I tried it anyway, I left the garlic and onions together on the cutting board to blend and rest together before throwing them in my new big red soup pot from Target.

I did find out that garlic and onions are in the same family and they are helpful anti cancer foods:

The Allium genus includes garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. These vegetables are popular in cuisines worldwide and are valued for their potential medicinal properties. Epidemiologic studies, while limited in their abilities to assess Allium consumption, indicate some associations of Allium vegetable consumption with decreased risk of cancer, particularly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25586902/

What do you know about garlic and onions and their healing properties? Would you put slices of onions around the house when someone is sick? Do you think it kills a virus, or the virus is attracted to onions and is absorbed by them? I remember reading about placing sliced raw onions in a sick persons socks. Maybe there is something to this?

Rachel Ray red soup pot from Target.
My new soup pot in the Casita bubbling with homemade chicken soup.

Views from last week

Sunset in Arizona desert
Sunset from our driveway last week.

I am going to have a busy week writing and hosting my dad and friends for Thanksgiving. I get anxious thinking about it. I’m in the thick of getting the house ready. This will be the first time my dad will see our new home and stay with us. Tonight we have friends from our Palm Springs swim team coming over. We agreed to go out for a casual dinner, since I have the big feast ahead of me. I’m excited to see them, because it’s been years since we were swim parents volunteering together. We’re going to the ASU vs. UA football game together on Saturday, too.

For Thanksgiving, I am cooking the whole works for me, my husband and dad. That’s seem a bit much doesn’t it? I called our friends who moved from Palm Springs to one mile away and asked if they had plans. I’m excited to say our ex-pat Californians will be joining us.

Here are some of the highlights from last week, when I thought I was busy — but compared to this week, not really.

Sundial Center in Carefree with a Christmas tree
I spotted a Christmas tree across from the post office on Easy Street in Carefree. I love the name.
Christmas tree in Carefree city center.
cat sitting on fireplace hearth
Olive found a new place to hang out. My daughter absolutely hates the stacked stone fireplace in our new house. I can live with it and Olive seems to like it.
Sonoran desert sunset
Another night, another sunset

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Are you getting together with friends and family this year? Are you cooking?

I honestly can’t remember what we did last year because we were in escrow to sell one house and buy another and I was packing for my first move in 28 years.

FYI, today I hit this milestone:

NaNoWriMo update. Badge for 40,000 words!

A little home cooking

sausager and peppers in a pan
Sausage and peppers

Sausage and peppers is one of my go to recipes. I’ll make it every few weeks in a big batch that we can heat up and enjoy for several days. I learned how to cook sausage and peppers from a friend who came from large Italian family in upstate New York. It wasn’t something my mom ever cooked when I was growing up.

I start with sweet Italian sausage and put it in a roasting pan with water at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Then I turn over the sausage and add more water if necessary and cook for an additional 20 minutes. The water begins deep enough to cover the sausages halfway.

Sausages in a roasting pan with water.
This is what the sausage looks like when it’s all done.

While I’m waiting for the sausages to cook, I prep my peppers and onions. I usually use three peppers and one onion. I heat the olive oil with garlic, cumin and oregano. I learned in a cooking class years ago that it’s best to heat the spices in the oil to get more robust flavors. Then I saute the onions until they’re transparent.

onions and peppers being sauteed.
The onions are done and I move on to saute the peppers.

The final step is slicing the sausages into bite sized pieces and throwing it all together in the pan to sear the sausage and meld all the delicious flavors. When I prep the veggies, I also start rice in my rice cooker

What are some of your go to meals? Did you learn your recipes from your mom, cookbooks or from friends? Another signature dish of mine is oxtail soup, which my mom taught me and I discovered in one of my Great Grandmother Nellie’s cookbooks

I’m bringing her cookbooks back to life. I need you to subscribe to my blog by email for updates of this project.

A taste of the Santa Barbara Harbor

One of the best things about beach vacations to me is fresh seafood. For more than 30 years, we’ve gone to a restaurant with fresh, fresh seafood in Santa Barbara. It’s called Brophy Bros. and it overlooks the boats at the Marina.

steamed clams at Brophy's Santa Barbara
Linguine and clams at Brophy Bros. at the marina in Santa Barbara

Brophy’s added a small taco shop with outdoor tables downstairs called On the Alley.

Whenever we’re in Santa Barbara we stop at On the Alley. This past trip we went twice for fish tacos. And we took our good friends to Brophy Bros. to treat them to dinner after enjoying many of their home-cooked meals. They introduced us to the restaurant in the early 1990s!

Yesterday, my husband and I went to the Farmer’s Market and had a hankering for a fish taco. On the Alley had a huge line out the door to order. They had people milling around in droves waiting for picnic tables to sit. They held on to their order numbers, hoping to to sit down before the food arrived. I saw some people sitting on the curb.

wave crashing at breakwall Santa Barbara marina
A wave crashing over the breakwall at the Santa Barbara Marina. We walk here after meals.

My husband suggested going upstairs to the main Brophy’s restaurant. The hostess stationed at the bottom of the stairs told us it would be an hour wait for a table. But the bar was first come first serve.

Guess what? Two seats smack in the center of the bar — complete with open air marina views — were ours! We each had a cup of chowder and split an order of fish and chips. My year-long quest for the best fish and chips is over! The fish was piping hot, moist, delicious and the batter was light, crunchy and not heavy.

View from the Brophy Brothers bar
View from the bar at Brophy’s Santa Barbara where we had cups of chowder and fish and chips.

Well worth the wait — but even better without it.

Do you have favorite restaurants to go to on vacation? Or certain food you savor? What are they?

Baja fish tacos from On the Alley.
Sunset at the harbor.

What’s your favorite burger?

Here's the screenshot of Five Guys

Screenshot of Five Guys home page.

This weekend, we went to Five Guys for the first time. I will admit I was a bit skeptical having lived in California for 37 years. In-N-Out Burger has a cult following and during COVID-19 the drive-in line was never less than 50 cars wrapped in a serpent through their parking lot and out onto the street. It’s always busy. Everywhere you see an In-N-Out there is a line. Always for all 37 years I lived there.

When we pulled up to Five Guys there was one family and lady with a Yorkie in line ahead of us. That was it.

I did like the Five Guys burger. In fact it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. I’m not ready to say it’s better than In-N-Out though. My loyalty won’t allow it.

As for the fries….Five Guys was too salty. The salt ruined perfection. You could see the salt granules sticking to your fingers with every bite. Next time, I’ll ask them to go light.

 

Here’s a screen shot of In-N-Out’s website.

My first poll! I’m proud of myself for figuring out how to make one. Also, for my first post using Block Editor.

Do you have a favorite burger place? What is it? Or, please share your home kitchen secrets to the perfect burger.