Pole Sitting

Typical sighting. Can you find the Snowy owl? Answer at end of post.

Typical sighting. Can you find the Snowy owl? Answer at end of post.

This year the birding reports from organizations like Audubon, Wisconsin Society of Ornithology and Cornell Lab of Ornithology have all said this is going to be a good year for sighting Snowy owls. We have been out scouting for owls in our area and found one about a week ago. He/she was really far out sitting in a field but once we got him/her in our binoculars, we confirmed it as a Snowy. But too far for our camera lens. We dutifully reported the bird on ibird and Wiscbird where other birders post their sightings. Great sources for locating interesting birds.

When we opened Wiscbird this morning, we read that a local birder had seen three Snowys over by the airport. Well we were about to head out to our winter farmer’s market so why not try for some owls when we were done shopping?

Well we didn’t get one owl….we got two!!!

First one was a white bump on a fence post.

firstsnowyAs we edged closer he dropped down into the field but fortunately flew back up so I could get a better shot (below) which I have cropped and sharpened here. Good binoculars can give you a good look like this. And I say “him” because this owl is very white whereas the females are more streaky on their breast.firstsnowy2Once we had this guy we continued on since three had been spotted in this general area. We scanned the fields and then turned down a dead end road. As we turned I asked my husband to check the white lump on top of a telephone pole about a 1/4 mile away from us. His first call was it looked like an insulator. What I was seeing looked awfully big, even from this distance, to be an insulator. So he checked again. This time he realized he was looking at the wrong pole. Yep! another Snowy. We turned around and scooted closer.snowy2Here he was, perched on the pole and looking straight at us. This picture is cropped so you can see him better. However, we decided to slowly get closer. He never moved so this next picture is not cropped just straightened a bit since I was shooting straight up and out of the passenger side window of the car. Sweet!

snowy

Snowy Owl, Pine Tree Rd., Hobart, WI

Looks like it is going to be a good year for owls. If you are interested in a map of current sightings of owls in the upper Midwest click here.

findme

Black Friday Purge

bugs3My son was home for Thanksgiving and on Friday it is always a mystery on what to do to occupy our time. He’s not ready to drive home, we don’t shop, we’ve played board games already and going to the movies is out because if the crazies aren’t shopping, they are going to the show. One of our theaters is next to a mall so parking is non-existent anyway.

So I suggested going through boxes of his old toys. He is 27 and hasn’t looked at them in years. Also he doesn’t have kids but would like to keep some of his old stuff, just in case, he gets married, has kids…I don’t know. I don’t ask.

He’s got a great Lego collection that any kid would love to have but that is sorted and boxed in the basement and off-limits! The stuff I was interested in sorting, donating or tossing was a lot of miscellaneous toys. I had found two shoeboxes under his bed that held a jumble of things so since he was game, we started there.

Three piles:
1.) Geez, this might be collectible or too good to give away – keep
2.) Has some play left in it – donate
3.) Crap that no one wants – toss   w/ sub-heading - recycle

I was really happy that the toss and donate pile was actually growing. It didn’t take us long to get through those two so I suggested we look at the additional boxes in the back of his closet. On we went. It was slow going because of all his reminiscing. It was also amazing to me that he knew where every little part went or what set it originally was from, even if that set, toy, game…no longer existed in this house anymore. Tiny missiles, lone little soldiers, fins, legs, helmets, game markers…my son with the steel trap mind remembered it all. So there we were getting through 4,5,6,7 boxes of stuff when we came upon the …insect collection.collectionThese were real insects. But they had died of natural causes (we presume) and were found by my son, who saved them. I know you’ve seen neatly organized insect collections in probably a museum. All are laid out and displayed with a pin attaching them to the board they are exhibited on. Those insects were captured alive and put into a “killing jar.” Those insects were then relaxed and dehydrated and pinned. A delicate and tedious process but you have a very nice “mount” in the end. Nathan never killed insects. If he found them alive in the house, he captured them and released them. Live insects outside were left alone. But finding one already dead, well that was different. The problem was these guys usually didn’t die peacefully and were found in contorted positions. These little bodies weren’t going to be “relaxed” and pinned to a board.

Is that your head over there?

Is that your head over there?

Some were missing parts, all were in some state of rigor. And many had recently met their maker so they weren’t all nice and dehydrated. I remember one especially fat beetle who smelled pretty bad. What to do?

Old smelly

Old smelly

Enter my husband, with the solution.

Curt buys a lot of stuff at garage sales and flea markets and one such purchase was a wonderful collection of glass jars. He gave a bunch of these to Nathan. Thus, the dearly departed could be viewed and not smelled because these jars had nice tight lids. They sat on a shelf in his room and were added to, as deaths occurred. Later, once Nathan had moved out, I put them in a box in his closet and forgot about them.

Butterfly, Bees and ??

Butterfly, Bees and ??

We had fun looking at this old collection, but in the end, they weren’t worth keeping. Nathan discarded the bugs, outside in the snow. Their little husks, no longer smelly, fluttered away.  The little glass jars were washed and scrubbed and went back with my son who plans on storing spices in them. They will still look nice and smell a lot better.

 

Another Turn of the Page: A Big Crowd

“Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.”
Stephen Fry

 bookstore

The book group exploded last month. Two new people and almost all the regulars showed up. There were twelve and everyone had a book to share. Linda started us out, presenting Swedish crime writer, Henning Mankell, best known for his Kurt Wallender mysteries. However, the book she featured is one of his stand-alone novels. Among the other books this month are three classics and two non-fiction books about topics interesting only to Green Bay area residents. Add in the popular fiction and once again the eclectic taste of this group shows through. What are you reading?

november

1. Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell (2011) 560 pages. In the Swedish hamlet of Hesjövallen, nineteen people have been massacred. The only clue is a red ribbon found at the scene. The investigation leads to the highest echelons of power in present-day Beijing, and to Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

2. Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937) 256 pages. Written in a lyrical style this book is the story of a woman’s search to find her voice and her fight to keep it. Hurston is one of the authors who was part of the Harlem Renaissance.

3. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani (2012) 475 pages. From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the streets of Little Italy, and finally to northern Minnesota, the star-crossed lovers in this story meet and separate, until their love changes both of their lives forever.

4. Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer retold by Alfred J. Church (1967) 277 pages. Our reviewer of this book said he came upon it after searching high and low for a decent translation. He feels Church’s translation to a more modern English that is easy to understand is the best and most accurate he has found.

5. We are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas (2014) 620 pages. Set in the 1950’s, this book about an Irish immigrant family is about home, identity, and how unexpected human developments/illness can capsize lives. Reviews were mixed.

6. Reflections on a Bellin Career and Beyond by Daniel Smith (2014) 82 pages.  Bellin is a hospital in Green Bay, Wi and the author, the CEO from 1965 to 1987, relates how his life’s journey was influenced, cultivated and enjoyed during and after his Bellin career. Our reviewer worked with him so she was naturally interested in this book but it probably is intended for a small audience.

7. Great Short Works of Willa Cather by Willa Cather (1989) 352 pages. Our third classic of the month is an anthology of nine stories and one essay from the author of “O,Pioneers” and “My Antonia.”

8. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014) 531 pages. A National Book Award finalist this New York Times bestseller is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

9. Little Ship of Foolsby Charles Wilkins (2013) 320 pages. The author, accompanied by a devoted crew of sixteen misadventurers, takes the reader along for seven weeks of rationed food, extreme sleep deprivation, and life-threatening seas; as well as sharks, whales, and an ever-disintegrating boat.

10. Orphan Doors by Bea Seidl (2012) 202 pages. In 1942, the author’s mother lost custody of her and she was transported to St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This is her story of eight years with stern nuns, rigid regimens, very little  tenderness and few answers as to why she was here.

11. Somewhere Safe for Somebody Good by Jan Karon (2014) 511 pages. For fans of Jan Karon this is the much-anticipated new Mitford novel featuring Father Tim and his wife Cynthia.

12. Personal by Lee Child (2014) 353 pages. The latest Jack Reacher novel. Reviews were mixed, probably because of the improbable way he gets into this adventure but frankly isn’t that the story of Jack’s life. Just jump in and enjoy the ride, but watch out for the bodies, they do pile up.

The Punks are Absolutely Done

No kids at home anymore. No grandkids on the near horizon. But at Halloween I still like to turn pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns. This year I wasn’t so sure I was going to get it done since I had surgery on Oct 15 and I was told by my doctor to, “Take it Easy!! No lifting!!” A couple of days before my date with the doctor, our neighbor, who had grown pumpkins in his garden this year, asked me if I wanted a few. Great, I said. So he and his daughter drove over with pumpkins on his trailer and told me I could have as many as I liked. Not to be greedy, I chose four.

In the back of my mind was the thought that I might not be able to wrangle these guys around this year but when I mentioned my habit of putting the Jack-o-Lanterns across the road, his daughter smiled and nodded. Well of course I had to do it.

I was good, I took it easy. I had Curt put the pumpkins up on the table and once the cutting was done, he put them outside. About a week after Halloween the punks went across the road. Here are the Punks fresh from Halloween.

Fresh Punks

Fresh Punks

Then Curt cleaned up the garden and we had some extra squash so the some of the gang got hats.

Punks w/ squash

Punks w/ squash

Everybody was holding up pretty good. Mainly because we had a couple of weeks of a nasty cold snap. Normal highs: 40. Our highs: 22. It even snowed. But the freezing cold weather kept the Punks upright and smiling.

Frozen Punks

Frozen Punks

This weekend disaster hit. Well it was great for us. Mid 40’s. Heck, we were looking for our shorts and flip-flops. (Seriously I saw someone dressed like that…well, yes it was a college student). However when it gets that warm anything that is frozen will thaw especially pumpkins and this was the sight that greeted me this morning.

Oh noooo!

Oh noooo!

Hats had fallen as well as faces. The punk on the left really did a face plant.

It is raining now which is going to really help these guys along but I’m putting my money on the tall one to hang in there till Christmas.

Do it Yourself: Pastrami

slices of pastrami What does a retired potter, professor, sculptor do with his spare time? I’ve spent much of it getting better at cooking and finding out about foods; their origins, traditions and sources.  I’m particularly interested in making common things from scratch – going back to the origins, if you will.  Bread was pretty easy because there has been an explosion of artisanal bread making that has been well documented on the interweb and in numerous fancy books.  Jim Lahey’s no-knead method was all the rage a few years ago and I still use it to make excellent bread at least once a week.  Over the years I’ve tackled sauerkraut and pickles, “sun”-dried tomatoes and even gathered dill pollen. Cured meats, though, have given me pause.  Partly because the initial investment in the meat is often pretty spendy and I was always worried about ending up with a hunch of expensive garbage, or worse, toxic “food”.  And partly because some of the processes seemed more arcane that I was willing to engage.  My uncle Ben (no relation to the rice guy) used to make a Thuringer-style sausage in his basement – a ton at a time – but he had a walk-in cooler and real butchers tools, band saws and sausage stuffers and such (and regular inspections by the Health Department).  I didn’t want to get that serious. A few years ago I bought a small off-set smoker that could hold, maybe, 20# of meat.  I have used it to smoke pork shoulders, beef briskets, chicken and even tomatoes (yummy).  One day I was in the market chatting with a carnivore friend near a meat bunker full of beef and I was jokingly nudging him toward the whole briskets.  He resisted but said that he had recently tried making corned beef.  He said it was pretty easy and it turned out really well.  A light flashed in my head – PASTRAMI.  Pastrami is just a smoked spiced corned beef.  Good pastrami is so much better than corned beef.  I could do that! Well, a little easier said than done.  The beef was in the cooler right in front of me but what else went into pastrami?  After some research at my local library and several bookstores, I found a book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, with a simple enough sounding recipe and process that sounded do-able.  It’s pretty much the same as corned beef, up to a point.  First, the meat is brined in a mix of salt, sugar, herbs, garlic and spices just like corned beef.  But there is an ingredient in the brine that I wasn’t familiar with and which turned out to be difficult to find.  Pink Salt, also known as Prague Salt, Curing Salt or Insta-Cure.  It is a mix of common salt (sodium chloride) and sodium nitrite.  Apparently it is colored pink to avoid confusing it with common salt in commercial kitchens.  No store in our area either had it or had heard of it.  I finally tracked down a company, My Spice Sage, on the East coast that sold Prague Powder #1 in small enough amounts to make the investment make sense (all other vendors I located sold it in a minimum of 1# containers – probably enough to make a ton of pastrami).  And better yet, shipping was free!

brine ingredients

Salt, sugar and spices for the brine (clockwise from the left: white sugar, brown sugar, pickling spices, Prague powder #1, garlic, honey and kosher salt in the center)

Materials finally in hand, I was ready to go.  I had to cut my brisket in half in order to easily fit it into the fridge in the brine tub.  I didn’t take pictures of the meat in the brine but I’m sure you can imagine what it looked like – meat floating in water.  After a three day soak, the brisket looked pinker and the fat seemed firmer – pretty much like any corned beef brisket you might buy from the grocery, which it pretty much was.

brined and coated brisket

Brined brisket (left) and brined brisket with peppercorn and coriander coating (right)

beef brisket

Coated brisket ready to smoke

Next, the magic.  After I dried off the meat, it was rested in the fridge on a rack for an hour to allow a pedicle to develop. A pedicle is a sticky layer on the outside of the meat that is supposed to make the smoke adhere to (penetrate) the meat better.  After that it was coated with a mix of cracked black pepper and coriander seed and then on to the smoker.  I used a mix of about 2/3 apple wood with 1/3 hickory wood and smoked around 7 hours or to an internal temperature of 150˚ F – cooked, smoked but still not tender.  I cooled the meat and cut it into approximately one pound pieces (enough for us to make a meal of with a little leftovers) and froze the pieces in vacuum bags.

pastrami

Pastrami after 7 hours in the smoker

To prepare the pastrami for eating, I braised a thawed piece on a rack over a 1/2″ of water in a covered dutch oven for 2 hours at 275˚ F, until fork-tender.

pastrami

Pastrami

PastramiSlices

Pastrami slices

It was delicious.  A bit of work but something I will definitely do again.

Pastrami (adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn)

The Brine 1 gallon water 1-1/2 C. kosher salt 1 C. white sugar 1-1/2 oz. Prague Powder #1 (aka Pink Salt) 1 Tbs. pickling spice 1/2 C. packed dark brown sugar 1/4 C. honey 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped or coarsely minced 1 5-pound beef brisket (heavy surface fat removed) 1 Tbs. coriander seed 1 Tbs. black pepper corns Combine the brine ingredients in a pot large enough to hold the brisket.  Bring to a simmer to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Remove from heat, let cool to room temp and refrigerate to chill. Put the beef into the brine and place a plate on top to keep the meat submerged.  Refrigerate for 3 days. Remove the meat from the brine, rinse it and pat dry.  Discard the brine. Place on a rack on a shallow baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered for 1 hour to allow the meat surface to dry some more and become slightly sticky. Combine the coriander and pepper in a spice mill or coffee grinder and pulse until coarsely ground.  Coat the meat evenly on all surfaces with the coriander/pepper mixture. Hot-smoke the brisket until the thickest part reaches a temp of 150˚ F.  Smoke heavily and for as long as is reasonably possible. At this point, the pastrami is cooked but probably not very tender.  To serve, put 1/2″ water in the bottom of a dutch oven or roaster.  Put the meat on a rack in the bottom of the pan (it’s OK if the bottom of the meat touches the water).  Bring the water to a simmer, on the stove top then cover and bake in a preheated 275˚ F oven for 2 – 3 hours, until tender. NOTE: my brisket, shown above, was nearly 10# at the start.  I doubled the brine and I had to cut it in half to fit it into the brine container.  Total yield, after trimming some fat and moisture loss in smoking, left me with a little under 8 pounds total. slices of pastrami

Another Turn of the Page: The Only Leaves Left are the Ones in My Book

“I still love books. Nothing a computer can do can compare to a book. You can’t really put a book on the Internet. Three companies have offered to put books by me on the Net, and I said, ‘If you can make something that has a nice jacket, nice paper with that nice smell, then we’ll talk.’ All the computer can give you is a manuscript. People don’t want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket.”     — Ray Bradbury

 

shelf

It’s Fall. The cold, grey part, November. Last Friday it was so windy the last few leaves clinging on to their branches for dear life finally lost their grip. So it is time to move toward that phase of the year that includes beef stew, fresh-baked bread, apple pie, hot cups of cocoa, warm blankets, fat socks and a pile of good books. My winter pile of books is just starting to get built and my coffee house book group is certainly helping me find some good additions. When you look at the covers from our last meeting you may notice a lot of women, their faces and names on the covers. Six out of the nine. We never have a theme or a topic, it just happens that way sometimes. So for your enjoyment, I give you the October round table.

oct1. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (2013) 307 pages. This was our first book and this was also the author presented. Krueger writes a mystery series set in the north woods of Minnesota. His protagonist is Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Tamarack County and a man of mixed heritage—part Irish and part Ojibwe. The latest is Windigo Island. This book however, is a stand alone. Frank Drumm, forty years later, tells about the summer  of 1961 that changed his life.

2. Jennifer’s Way: My Journey with Celiac Disease by Jennifer Esposito (2014) 288 pages. Jennifer’s struggle to finally receive an accurate diagnosis, after decades of mysterious illnesses and misdiagnoses, is one that anyone who has a chronic disease will share.

3. A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren (2014) 365 pages. Yes , there are some honest, hard-working politicians out there who are fighting for the middle class. Elizabeth Warren is one of them. After reading this, you’ll admire her strength and fortitude even more.

4. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline ( 2013) 294 pages. Even though I have discovered mixed reviews of this book, everyone in our round table who had read it, really enjoyed the book. Told from from the perspective of two women, a 91-year-old who experienced the Orphan Trains of the late 19th and early 20th century, and a modern day foster child in a bad situation. As they become friends they realize their lives are very similar.

5. The Sixth Man by David Baldacci (2011) 417 pages. King and Maxwell series #5. Another worthy thriller in this series, focusing on national security, murder and some high levels of government. Now if only these two could get their personal lives sorted out….

6. Paula by Isabel Allende (1994) 432 pages. Allende alternates between the true story of her comatose daughter Paula, and flashbacks of her own very eventful life. The author wrote this personal history as a way of telling Paula her story and staying sane during the health ordeal.

7. The Romanov Sisters: the Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport (2014) 512 pages. Everyone knows the story of the tragic end these sisters met but what else do you know of their lives? They were the Princess Dianas of their day, the most talked about and photographed young royals of the early 20th century. The author draws on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, to draw us a picture of four intelligent, sensitive young women.

8. Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland (2014) 432 pages. In 1937, young Lisette and her husband, André, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for André’s grandfather Pascal, who was a pigment salesman and frame maker in Paris. Lisette soon learns Pascal’s past included such friends as Cezanne and Pissarro.

9. A Cold Dish by Craig Johnson (2004) 400 pages. This is the first in the Walt Longmire mystery series which is the basis for the television show Longmire on A&E. Some friends got me hooked on this show of a contemporary Wyoming sheriff and when I found out it was based on books I just jumped in. Currently I am on #5. Great characters, check it out.

 

And the Scores are In!

And to Jeanne, competing in the Total Laproscopic Hysterectomy with a Bilateral Salpingo-oophoectomy:

We have a winner!

We have a winner!

Thank you, thank you all. This is a great achievement but I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of family, friends, doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, patient navigators and chocolate.

But I hear you saying, “Ones? She’s excited about ones?”

Damn right, I am!

After my “Coming Out Party”, I met with my local pathologist. Well, parts of me did. I can’t help it, when I think of pathology,  Monster Mash starts playing in my brain, ” I was working in the lab late one night, when my eyes beheld an eerie sight…” I wonder if they ever play that on the hospital lab muzac during Halloween?

Anyway, I digress…..things were sliced, diced, microscopes were employed and I got this print out at my follow-up meeting with the doc.

resultsIf you’ve had cancer, known someone with cancer, or have watched ER or Grey’s Anatomy or Doogie Howser: MD, you know that in the C world, the lower the number the better. A Stage 1 is what you want and mine even got an A. Stage 1 is the early stage, the opening act, the first bad note, an amateur!  Get the hook!!

HookSo what now? More rest, more healing. Can’t drive till next week!!! And don’t make me cry, but major housework is still on the off-limits list. Doing jigsaw puzzles, knitting, reading and online games are the current activities I am competing in these days and I am striving for all 10’s in those.

Cruciferous Vegetables Revisited

A couple of posts ago I saluted comfort foods and cruciferous veggies was one of my favorites. Those of you who say, Ewww!, when broccoli or cauliflower are mentioned, should just stop now. It’s only going to get worse, because I am adding a new cruciferous vegetable to my list.

Curt hit the final Farmer’s Market of the season on Saturday and came home with this little beauty.

Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco Cauliflower

Isn’t it just beautiful? It is a Romanesco Cauliflower and it is even more amazing closeup. All the little “trees” that make it up are composed of many tinier little “trees” or “flowerets.” If you wanted you could literally pull each little piece off like a vegetable Lego project. And I mean even the itty bitty bumps. Curt explained to me its structure was a natural fractal, so math majors should just eat this up. (Yes, I had to look it up too.)

like tiny green legos

like tiny green legos

Okay, now that I’ve gotten past my oo-ing and aww-ing, let’s cook it up. Curt just steamed it whole. Unlike a regular cauliflower once you start breaking this one apart a lot of the tiny bits fall off, so whole made sense and worked just fine.

brocoMy photo doesn’t do it justice but frankly it did not change too much in color and it kept its shape quite well. There is a core in the center so we just cut off flowerets with a knife. Pair it with garlic aioli sauce and add red potatoes and homemade pastrami and you have a wonderful Autumn meal. The flavor is a very mild cauliflower, nothing too different or extraordinary. But visually, it is so cool. Try serving to your kids, tell them it used to live under the sea with Spongebob.

On the plate w/ aioli

On the plate w/ aioli

Naan for You

naanheader

Last night the Foodies gathered at Barbara and Micheal’s for one of the wonderful dinners we share every two – three months or so. Some groups like ours meet once a month but we are busy people with travel and family and god knows what sometimes, so every couple of months is a real achievement and a treat. Barbara and Michael once again outdid themselves. Most of the credit goes to Barbara since Michael had been out of town for the week leading up to dinner but his tandoori mushroom appetizer was a hit.

But this brief writing is only going to be about the naan. Dinner was sort of an Indian theme, with lamb, and some marvelous vegetable dishes but with our soup course we were served naan. Naan is a leavened oven-baked flatbread and when we saw it for the first time on the table we asked our hostess where she purchased it? Is there a great Indian grocery or restaurant in Green Bay that we don’t know about? Ha!

Barbara calmly told us she had made it herself and she doesn’t even have a tandoor oven.

Making naan in a traditional tandoor oven

Making naan in a traditional tandoor oven

She got the recipe from Epicurious. It was originally from an Oct 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. The fresh naan she served us was beautiful but we were too busy eating to take pictures. Fortunately she sent home some leftovers and even the next day you can see that this naan looks really good. Barbara made a few changes which I have added in red print to the recipe. Try it, we sure will.

Barbara's next day Naan

Barbara’s next day Naan

 

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/4-ounces envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for surface and hands
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (she omitted onion)
  • 1 cup whole-milk yogurt (not Greek) (all she had was Greek and it turned out fine)
  • 2 tablespoons melted ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil plus more (no time to make ghee so she went with straight butter)

Preparation

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 100°F. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Whisk 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl to blend. Add yeast mixture, onion, yogurt, and 2 tablespoons ghee. Mix dough until blended but still shaggy.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until a smooth dough forms, adding flour as needed (dough will be sticky), about 5 minutes. Lightly grease another large bowl with ghee, place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and divide into 10 pieces. Using floured hands, roll each piece into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest 10 minutes.

Heat a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat with ghee. Working with 1 piece at a time, stretch dough with your hands or roll out with a rolling pin to 1/8″ thickness. Sprinkle with salt. Cook until lightly blistered, puffed, and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Wrap in foil to keep warm until ready to serve.

DO AHEAD: Naan dough can be made 4 hours before shaping. Cover and chill.

My “Coming Out” Party

There were gifts, bag

party hats, hat

games, puzzeles

door prizes and parting gifts.mug

Well wishers in abundance. Everything a girl might want but geez, why am I so sore on the morning after? I know I did a lot of drinking, that’s about all I did…and there were drugs involved so there’s a clue.

But mostly it is because I have four new entrances in my tummy from having a date with a robot. And I am missing some major lady parts, (that I really have no use for anymore), and the cancer that decided to move in with them. Yes, you heard that right, cancer, the big C, or in this case maybe a little c. As cancers go, this one is a mopey, slow-growing under-achiever. As my doc said (to lighten the mood, no doubt), “If they put a gun to your head and said, pick a cancer, go with endometrial.”

However, cancer is still cancer. Slow-growing or not, it still grows and is greedy, and if you let it, will remodel your whole house to its liking. So it was eviction time and fortunately we got to it before it started picking out curtains. From the first red flag on Sept 15, it was a quick journey to the day of the party on Oct 15. The main man, the gynecological oncologist said I was slender, thus a good candidate for a laparoscopic procedure, that would be a three-way with me, the doc and Mr. Robot. All I heard was “slender” and I was in. Whatever, do it, fine. Slender? Really? Me? Oh you jest.

After that, things are a bit of a blur. The worst part was the two weeks up to the surgery. Your head does nasty things to you while you wait. Even with all of the assurances of a successful outcome, you still worry about possible party crashers.

But I am home now. All went well. The little c had only just moved in and hadn’t even started unpacking his bags yet. Yes, I’m sore, I’m moving slow and will move slow for a bit and who doesn’t want to be told NOT to do housework, not to lift, push or pull stuff for a while? Also if my homecoming dinner is any indication, my Sweetie, being a great cook, will undoubtedly spoil me.

Bean & beef Tostadas

Bean & beef Tostadas

Final note: Cancer is not a joke and I only make light because that’s my coping tool. Mine was caught early. If you see a sign of any kind…a lump, blood, whatever…don’t think it is nothing. Sure it might be but if it isn’t, seeing a doctor in the early stages will make a big difference. It did for me.