The Art of Spanish Cooking

As we get older we start what some of us call a “bucket list”. This is a list of things we have never done before and want to try while we are still young enough to make it happen.  There has been talk that the phrase bucket list is grim sounding, annoying to some. Now the newest term is the “possible list”. So today we will use the 2016 term “possible list”.

My “possible list” had a cooking class on it and a friend, Shelly Finke, knew of a restaurant who taught cooking classes. The class that looked interesting was about Spanish cooking.  The description said we would be making Spanish Sangria, Traditional Romesco Sauce, Gazpacho, Paella Mixta and Crema Catalana. All of which sounded fabulous on the advertisement and we signed up for the class, with my daughter in tow.

The restaurant was an hour away so the road trip was great as we shared memories from the past and laughed at the stories being shared.

There were eleven of us in the class and the first thing we learned was how to make Sangria.  What a great way to start a class, with alcohol and fruit. lol.  We then tasted bacon wrapped dates and the Romesco sauce on slices of french bread.   The pairing of the sangria and the Romesco sauce was perfect.

As we sat quietly tasting the food, we had just seen prepared our chef, he started to make the Gazpacho.  Now for those of you who do not know what Gazpacho is, the best explanation is cold soup. The Gazpacho consisted of tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, sherry vinegar, and bell peppers.  If you like tomato soup you will love this Gazpacho.

While sipping on the Gazpacho we learned how to sharpen our knives correctly, how to slice vegetables by keeping your fingers curved, and how to slice food while not dulling your knife at the same time.  Those tips were something each of us will use over time.  I have found myself already cutting my vegetables a little differently and I already sharpened my knife.

The Paella Mixta was made with saffron, chicken thighs, arborio rice, fish sauce, sausage and various vegetables.  We were told you could substitute chicken stock and I think I would have preferred that as I am not a big fan of fishy tasting food.  It was great and reminded me of Spanish rice I have had over the years.

Dessert was fabulous, Crema Catalana.  My best explanation of this is Creme Brule’, one of my favorite desserts.  The first time I had Creme Brule’ was on a cruise and it was divine. The chef had made our tasters earlier so it was cold and ready for us to eat.  You could hear the spoons clicking on the jars the dessert was in as everyone was trying to get every last morsel.  When the chef asked if there was anything else he could get for us it was unanimous more Crema Catalana. lol.

I would recommend a cooking class just for the experience of doing it.  There is just something about learning new things and expanding your horizons.  Checking off another thing on your “Possible list” and taking an adventure in life you may not do in your normal routine,  Maybe that is a skydiving lesson, or horseback riding for the first time or a woodworking class.  Give yourself permission to enjoy you!

Have a wonderful day!

Pam Egbert

cooking class 1

 

Advertisements

Purchase a Book/Not to Purchase a Book?

I had an interesting discussion with a friend the other day and we talked about purchasing books, going to the library, or going the eBooks route.  She said she couldn’t think of a book she would read over and over or want to own for her own collection.  I started to ponder this and have thought about it a lot over the past few days.

There are avid readers who read three or more books a week.  My Aunt Joanne goes to the library and she reads “novels”, books with a page length of over 400 pages, every week.  In fact, she reads several of them a week.  Many people do nothing but read when they are relaxing or just before bed.   I have seen people reading on planes, on a lounge chair sitting on the beach, at ball practice for their kids or at the pool while their kids are swimming. My mom had three paper, grocery, bags of romance books in her front closet we found while cleaning.  Most of her friends read the romance stories and they passed them around to each other, sharing the cost.  For some of her friends, on a limited budget, this gave them many hours of enjoyment for no cost.

I looked up the statics on book sales.  According to the Association of American Publishers in 2014, there were 2,700,245,640 books sold, with a total revenue of $27,977,219,614.   Over 510 billion eBooks were sold in 2014, with only a .2% increase.  Paperback books still rule the book industry with 4.84 billion sold in 2014.  582 million hardback books were sold in 2014, which is about the same as the eBooks.

Anyone who reads has a favorite author or several authors.  I love several of Nicholas Sparks’ books and can not pick out a favorite.  My friends and I read the books before the movie comes out and then we make it an event to go to dinner and then the movie.  Although Longest Ride gets five stars from me with Scott Eastwood in. Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth were both equally perfect for their parts in the Last Song.   I have several books in my collection ranging from Harry Potter to Stephen King to James Van Praagh to Gene Simmons to Kate Hudson, all hardback books.  My treasured book collection is an original set, from the 1930’s to 1950s, by Zane Grey in mint condition. .Of course, I have all kinds of self-help books in my library.  A book library can be as diverse as the person reading the books.  There are also the collectors that search through many books stores for first editions of the classics, adding them to their library.

I am the biggest sucker for a great love story and a great romance novel.  Maybe that is why I wrote The Silver Heart.  It is the part of me that feels every love story has a great ending and the greatest love of one’s life is never out of reach.  Not matter how hard the path is to get to that aww moment in your life if you believe in that love and work hard at it nothing can stop it.

Samantha Sheridan

Books-quotes-1

 

 

 

Weeds Verses Humans

Over the years all of us have dealt with weeds in some way or another.  As a child, we were sent out to the bean fields with a hoe and we were told to kill every weed we could see.  Dad only had us doing it for an hour a day, we complained all the way out to the field, but we knew they had to be dealt with. The weeds would get caught up in the farm machinery and dad would have to stop the combine and pull the weeds out.  So our job was to help prevent that.

All over the United States, there are regions combating drought and lack of rain.  In Ohio, you have great areas with thriving crops and in other areas, the crops are starting to droop and show the signs of dying due to lack of rain.  The pond levels are dropping and the flowers and vegetables are needing watered every day.

But, the weeds… they are thriving!  I went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on vacation and I had a good friend, Stacey, come over to water my garden and the plants around the house.  I called her when I got home and asked what special touch she had because the zucchini was going crazy and everything had doubled in size.  LOL Her response was, “I normally kill plants and glad to know I did my job’.  As I looked around my house I noticed two things.  First, my grass was turning brown from the lack of rain and the heat temperatures and two, the weeds were growing faster than anything else.  Where there were no weeds when I went on vacation, now 3-foot weeds stared at me.

I just Googled the definition of “weed” and this is what it says in the Webster dictionary: “a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth: especially: one that tends to overgrow  or choke out more desirable plants.” LOL, the other definition was marijuana, but that is not the definition of the weeds around the common property.

So, the organic way to kill weeds is with Dawn dish soap, vinegar and Epson salts.  Not me, I have my Round Up from the farm yet and I was determined to put an end to their lives today.  The swing set has them growing under them and the steps in front of the barn are being concealed from anyone walking up.  It was time to take control of the problem.  Sprayer in hand, fully filled, I set out to conquer the problem. It seemed like just a few spots when I started out, but as I walked it became an hour long job.  Traveling to each weed, finding another one behind it or one peeking out of the ground beside it.

Isn’t it odd how sometimes we feel good about taking control?  Even over a weed, I can’t say defenseless weed because they are aggressive and taking over the space they occupy.  Maybe it is not control or a feeling of accomplishment as we look back at the job just completed and we know another job well done,

Weeds are like problems in life, they are never going to go away.  We can struggle with them or we can take the best action to eliminate the problem.  I had a friend who was stressing over a situation and I gave her the best advice I had been giving many years ago.  “When you look at the problem is it something you can change or something you have no power over?  If you have no power over it and you can’t change the problem, let it go.   Walk away and move on to the next step of your life.”  That is my advice I will pass on to all of you today.  As a problem comes knocking on your door the question is can you change the situation or not stress over it and walk away.  Like a weed, a problem can be taken care of.

Have a wonderful weekend and travel safe.

Samantha Sheridan

Weed

 

 

The Old Ways are Still the Best Ways

As I grew up I remember by mom canning and putting things in the adobe house we had on the farm in Colorado.  The adobe house was built to keep an even temperature of about 50 degrees and it stored many mason jars of fruits and vegetables, as well as canned beef.  I also remember my mom making huge amounts of yeast rolls and putting them in the freezer to be used at a later date.  I look back now and see it was a great way to feed growing kids and keep the budget down.  Her cinnamon rolls would line the kitchen countertops and the table until they rose to just the right height for the final step, the oven.  She made these knot rolls that were dipped in warm butter and then rolled in cinnamon sugar.  They were then placed carefully in a cake pan, left to rise and then be baked.  I remember how soft they were when they came out of the oven and had just the right amount of crunch when you bit into the bottom layer, the part that had touched the cake pan just perfectly.

We think of this as the old ways, things our parents did.  We could never do this or even attempt the feat of canning.  I guess the question is why not? Today I pulled out the strawberries and blackberries I had in the refrigerator and I pulled out my canning equipment.  It has been more than a few years since I have made jam, but I knew it would come back to me.  I pulled the instructions out of the SureJel package to reorient myself with the process and I set about making my own jam.   After a little while it came back to me, lol I did keep checking back with the instructions to make sure I was remembering right. The one thing I did, not on the instruction sheet, was to put the lids in warm water to help seal the lids when I tightened them on the jars.  After an hour of very satisfying work, I have my jars of berry jam sitting on a towel on my island.

It would have been easy to walk into the grocery store and purchase a jar of jam, but it would not be as good as my jam.  Now I am not saying my jam is something special because it is just like every other jar I am sure, but it is special because I made it.  I put my love into each jar and I put the work into that jam.   It is funny how you smile each time you hear the ping from the kitchen.  Each ping means another jar is ready for storage and you feel this satisfaction of doing something special for those around you.

The old ways are still the best ways.  I know what is in my jam, I know there are no funky preservatives, no odd chemicals and I can taste the pure ingredients with each bite I take.  Sometimes we have to stop and take a step back in time.  Think about how much the little things mean to our family,  how good we feel when we do things the old way and how much love is put into each bite.

Here are my 12 jars of love.  Have a great day!

jam jars

 

July 4, 1776

At the age of five, we walked into school for the first time, looking around at the big hallways and the classrooms with all the desks.  The first day the bell rang and we sat down at our desk to learn more about the world and things we needed to know to succeed in life.  Little by little the history of this country was taught to us and we listened intently as she, or he, told stories of Paul Revere, George Washington crossing the Delaware and the Boston Tea Party.   All of these stories are part of this nation growing and getting away from British rule.

How much do you remember from your United States history and how July 4th came to be? Most of us think of July 4th as the day we gained independence from England and the Declaration of Independence, the birth of this great nation.  But, July 4th wasn’t the day our Congress decided to declare independence, that was done on July 2, 1776.

So what made July 4th the day we celebrate?  The Continental Congress, as it was called then, approve the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th.  Yes, the Continental Congress worked together and agreed on something, more than our present Congress can do now.   A group of people had been working on the final draft of the Declaration of Independence since it was submitted a few days earlier, making final changes.

According to ConstitutionFacts.com, ““For the first 15 or 20 years after the Declaration was written, people didn’t celebrate it much on any date.  It was too new and too much else was happening in the young nation.  By the 1790’s, a time of bitter partisan conflicts, the Declaration had become controversial.  One party, the Democratic-Republicans, admired Jefferson and the Declaration. But the other party, the Federalists, thought the Declaration was too French and too anti-British, which went against their current policies. 

By 1817, John Adams complained in a letter America seemed uninterested in its past.  But that would soon change.

After the War of 1812, the Federalist party began to come apart and the new parties of the 1820s and 1830s all considered themselves inheritors of Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans.  Printed copies of the Declaration began to circulate again, all with the date July 4, 1776, listed at the top.  The deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4th, 1826, may even have helped to promote the idea of July 4 as an important date to celebrate.”

In 1870, almost 100 years after the signing of the Declaration, Congress declared July 4th as a national holiday, as part of a bill to officially recognize several holidays, including Christmas. 

Over the past several years the United States of America has been tested on its strength to stand up to those who oppose the principles this country was built on.   Those coming into this country believe we should change from English to Spanish to accommodate their lack of English, others believe we should change our ways to accommodate their Muslim beliefs and the 2nd Amendment is on constant attack.  The United States of America is the home of immigrants, but the immigrants came to this country for a better life and they wanted to become citizens of this country, adapting to the laws and beliefs of the United States of America.   If your United States flag offends someone then fly that flag proudly.  It is July 4th and we are here to celebrate our independence and the freedoms we are given in this great country.  Our forefathers came here looking for a better way of life and setting up a Constitution that would last for hundreds of years.

Happy July 4th!

20071018_declaration-vi