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KITCHEN THOUGHTS Holiday Kitchen Time at last!

It’s….HOLIDAY KITCHEN TIME!

The news is full of mayhem and murder….people angry – for good reason….people frustrated – again for good reason.  Lots of us are feeling more than just “the pinch,”  we’re feeling the punch in the gut of our nation’s economic woes.
There’s that and the global economy.
And the wars here and there….
and the people that hate us….
and the people that like us but are catching grief from the people who hate us….
on and on and on.

I looked at the calendar after watching the morning events…..and found myself smiling. It’s holiday baking time at last!  Time for the house to be filled with hints of cinnamon, cloves, bread, fruits and nuts….spicy, tactile, alive.

Sure, money’s tight and it’s gonna be hard to get enough walnuts; coffee’s prices are through  the roof too but what the heck!  Making due is a very special kind of magic; more satisfying….more meaningful than throwing a store bought mix together in 20 minutes.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Artwork from Grand Canyon Tower

So with glad heart and ready hands,  a few special prayers of thanks and a box full of recipes we begin this Food Holiday Season with playful anticipation….hoping that all the warmth, joy, lightness and love that’s generated in this and other kitchens all over the world spread and grow.

May the Holy Spirit of Peace and the Healing Power of Love Abide and Grow in the Hearts and Minds of All, Amen.

As always, please feel free to share your memories, recipes, traditions, ideas and so on!
Enjoy

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KITHCHEN THOUGHTS – The "Go To" Room

Kitchen tools
The other day I caught a glimpse of the movie “Panic Room” and thought, gee…I don’t exactly have one of those….I have something better
That “something better” can be summed up in two words…my kitchen.  It may not be equipped with the latest weapons or have sensors and cameras going to every opening, but what it offers in comfort far outweighs the latest techno-security gadgets.  At least in my books anyway.
This world’s going to do what it’s going to do, regardless of my defenses – or lack thereof.  I refuse to live my life in fear, refuse flatly to allow the misbehavior of a few loons to interfere with my pursuits.
That’s not to say I won’t stand up for a good cause.  Quite the contrary.  I can be a tiger when necessary.
There is a lot of anger in the streets.  People are occupying city parks, protesting in front of banks and stock exchanges. Some of me thinks I should be out there, like the old days, marching with my peers. But a lot of me is confused.  What am I fighting against?  What am I fighting for?  Those questions don’t seem to have answers that are as clearly defined as in the’60s. Remember?  That’s when we got our heads and backs beaten for the causes of Civil Rights and ending the “War” in Vietnam.
My “go to” room
I believe in change.  Change is part of life. I know we’re a young country and we’re bound to go through a number of changes…but I say we need to tread carefully.   We need to learn from our past as well as dream for our future.  We can’t give up those unique traits that make us who we are.
We do need to change things…we need a better business ethic. We need to make sure people are investing in our nation instead of just milking it dry.  But we also need to encourage business to do business with and in our country.  That’s not gonna happen if we tax ’em to death.  
Everybody is screaming things like “eat the rich.”  Okay, then what?  After a while there won’t be anybody left but each other.  Will we turn on one another then?  When and where will it end?
These are the thoughts I have at two-thirty in the morning, baking a carrot cake and sipping coffee. Does it matter what I think?  Who knows. But so long as I’m thinking…I’m alive, so there ya go. 
Thanks as always for reading the blog.  Please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, recipes, pictures and so on.  Enjoy!

KITCHEN THOUGHTS – Cooking and "Me Time"

September 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Busy, busy, busy day!  I woke up thinking there’s be a few moments to myself then the phone calls started. Then the errands started piling up-you know the kind…..can’t be put off, needing immediate attention and there’s nobody else who knows how to do it just right.  So much for “me time!”

“Me time…”  I thought back to when there were hours, even days of the stuff. I have reams and reams of paper covered in poetry, prose, songs, artwork, ideas, blueprints…..cassette after cassette of songs and stream-of-consciousness compositions….even rolls and rolls of old film. all stored lovingly in three ring binders and boxes awaiting further attention.   

Present day “me time” happens in what feels like 15 minute chunks during the day, usually in the morning, and the night after every one else is asleep.  Luckily, I’m an insomniac so the night hours work for me. 

The kitchen…THE place for “me time”

Some chores qualify as “me time,” cooking for example.  For me, creativity in the kitchen is a real sanity saver! It’s a chance to let it all hang out….go a little crazy….ye-haw!

Sometimes it’s quiet as church, sometimes rockin’ with favorite tunes in the background…this  kitchen is at once meditation and dance hall, laboratory and artist studio. And if it means once in a while I’m found baking something at 3 a.m., so be it.   Don’t worry, I’m fine….I’m in the kitchen and breakfast is bound to be something yummy!’

KITCHEN THOUGHTS and Grilled Cheese

Is there a more wonderful place on earth than a warm, inviting kitchen?
Pots and pans hanging within reach, clean work surfaces and tools at the ready….a well appointed. properly outfitted kitchen is any cook’s hope, desire and goal.

Randi’s kitchen

Most of us aren’t in possession of stainless steel walls, professional strength burners or that oh-so-useful salamander!  Drat the luck!

But in truth, the room doesn’t have to be huge or full of the latest appliances.  Most of us have to work with what’s available.  There are very few of us with the (be still my heart!) instant hot water spigot over the stove.  But we all have a place to prepare our meals….from a window sill and a hot plate to the Waldorf’s main kitchen we all have that one location from which good things can come.

And that place should be seen as special, treated with respect and kept clean…ready for meal prep or snacking at a moment’s notice. After all what comes out of there goes into not only our bodies, but the bodies of those we know and love.
What makes a great kitchen?  Part of it is the room itself, some of it is the tools available…no lie there. But the most essential ingredient-the one that makes or breaks everything else?  The cook.

It boils down to the cook and their commitment to produce the best possible food experience. The cook’s passion.  Without it, the resulting meal can seem lifeless….even if technically perfect. 

So when you’re setting up that special part of your world, treat it as special….sacred…ready for the task at hand and unavailable for bullshit.   Arguments don’t do well in kitchens-too many sharp objects!  Clutter doesn’t work well in a kitchen-garbage and good food don’t mix!

What does work is a clean surface, some ready tools and the best ingredients you can get.  A bit of thankfulness to the Cosmos during preparation couldn’t hurt, either!

As for a recipe today….how about something simple?!
Let’s celebrate Saturday with some good old fashioned Grilled Cheese!

What makes this version stand out?
It’s crunchy….inside and out!
This is accomplished by pre-toasting the inside  portion of the bread before adding cheese.

A hot skillet and release spray works, but so does a toaster, especially the kind with the bagel setting. Put both slices of bread into one toaster hole and press the bagel button and let it go on a mid-low setting.

When it comes out, the exposed parts of the bread will be toasted and the other will still be waiting for the pan!  Also, with the toaster method, you don’t add any extra butter or grease.  Nifty way to cut a few fat corners, eh?   As for bread choice, that’s a personal matter.  Sometimes I absolutely JONES a toasted sourdough….other times my tasters will have nothing if it can’t have a multi-grain or even toasted oat.  Toasting is to bread what grated cheese is to spaghetti….another opportunity for the Yum Factor.

Types of cheese?  Again it’s a personal decision.  Have fun!  Mix it up!  Try some Pepper Jack! Throw a couple tomato slices into the mix!  Maybe even experiment with left over pieces of French Toast-minus the syrup and confectioner’s sugar-for an added dimension of taste.  Try cooking it with a little bacon grease or olive oil, garlic and herbs-just make sure your skillet is very hot, but not smoking before adding the food…that to insure crispiness.  Otherwise it’ll get grease soaked and nasty.

I’ve had it made with thin-sliced, toasted eggplant….between softened tortillas….
I’ve even heard of someone trying it with waffles….although I’ve personally not had that experience to date.
REMEMBER-Slice your cheese thin…repeat THIN!  Better to layer thin sheets of cheese than wait for a big chunk to melt! Your bread will be hopelessly burnt by the time it does! 

No matter how you slice it, Grilled Cheese is simple, satisfying and adaptable for most people.
If you have any suggestions, ideas or anything feel free to share!

KITCHEN THOUGHTS – Any where I hang my apron is home

View from our kitchen

In fifty-six years of living, one could say I’ve had a few kitchens.  Some, like my present one, have been spacious, well lit, with plenty of room to work.  Others have been little more than closets, with one of those combination fridge, sink, two burner stove and cabinet thingies.

There have also been a number of campfires, wood stoves, electric skillets and hot plates in my day, each with its own limits and merits. One learns quickly to adapt or one goes hungry.

Other than our present kitchen,  my favorite was actually built in converted school bus. This vehicle was our home for about three years, a 1958 GMC 38 feet long wonder. The roof had been raised by a previous owner. It was spacious, had tables that folded out from the wall and, combined with the great floor plan, was comfortable enough to feed 11 people in one sitting without crowding. 

Rumor was that it had been the Coffee Bus on one of the Grateful Dead tours.  If those walls could talk!

As they say, that was then…..

My present day kitchen

We now live in one of those San Francisco Victorian (actually Edwardian) flats; been living here for about a million years so the rent is still reasonable.  Considering it was built in 1926 and  has only had so much updating through the years, the place still has all the original built-in cabinets, shelves and so on.  

The kitchen is my favorite place, next to the studio of course. Considering the studio is our former dining room it actually is next to the kitchen….right next to it.  But I digress.

The photo doesn’t do it justice.  Jack did his usual magic and transformed a kitchen with no counter space into something that’s not just functional,  it has plenty of room to work, spread out cookies to dry, set up photos for cooking blogs and feed kitties.

Kitchen altar

This is the place where I feel safe…at peace….no matter what’s going on in the world, I have a sanctuary. A Kitchen should make people feel like that.  Like what goes on in it is good….is right….is blessed.  But it needs to be a fun place, too.  Where friends can gather, talk, cook, laugh, cry….where secrets can be shared and memories made.

Will we stay here forever?  Will my last meal on earth be prepared in this kitchen? Who knows?  I’m happy here….the neighborhood is great and so’s the landlord.  But life has a way of stirring things up when folks get too comfortable. What ever the case may be, as long as there’s some sort of a kitchen, be it hearth or jet aged stove,  where ever I hang my apron is home.