July 13: Families love Spaghetti

It is said that there as many ways to make a Bolegnese, or ragu sauce as there are families in Bologna, Italy. I found this one in a Food & Wine magazine, but it’s not my favorite. I like the recipe in the Saveur cooking Italian book better. But it went down just as fast as the others I have tried. I think spaghetti night is just really hard to mess up. The good bread, sliced at the table, grated Parmesan, slurping noodles… It’s all good. Mom and dad can choose a nice red or white wine with this one as it isn’t a dark red sauce or too red meat, as we used beef, pork and a little veal. Plus the white wine softens it up. We got a loaf of rosemary bread from Essential baking and slathered those slices with butter to mop up. And there is usually seconds that get better by the next day.

Miripois, wine for testing, bread for the chef to nibble
Always – a good movie afterwards with the family. Sherlock it is tonight!
Ahhhhhh…, next day’s seconds!

July 11: Friends of Steak

And sometimes, when it done as right as our friends do it, you just feel happy that they want to do something nice for you. We have found that we have an amazing network, or “Village” surrounding our family. Maribeth is a sweet soul, and people simply enjoy having her in their lives. And so, through her illness and recovery, the Village has surrounded us with love, kindness, and of course, food!

Boiling red potatoes for potato salad
What potato doesn’t love bacon?

Big love from D&D meats for the wonderful NY strips. And from the “good for the kids, too” department, Brussels sprouts! A little meat protein, potato salad starch, and shoot of veggies. The highlight of the evening was our friends walking Maribeth work through the Hawaii travel books with tips and advice for our first trip there with the whole family, coming up in two weeks! And one big part of recovery for Maribeth had been letting go of trying to multi-task, plan and do too many higher level things on her own. One idea at a time, one day at a time. It’s good advice for all of us in our crazy, too busy, never relaxed lives. It stresses the system to its limits, often to the degrading of our immune system in its efforts to keep up. And what’s the point…? And so our friends and family are invaluable in their lovely gifts of time, food and conversation. Many thanks, and blessings on all of you – you are not only on the Meal train, you are in our hearts.

Warm potato salad with eggs, bacon red onions
Brussels sprouts!
NY strips, medium rare

July 8: Pork Chile Verde

We are not wealthy enough to have a private butcher, but the best we can do is purchase our meat from our local, smaller grocer who knows exactly where these wonderful pigs have been grown and what they have eaten, and under what conditions. On special holidays, we opt for the big, black and fabulous Berkshire breed, even though it can cost twice as much. But you can taste, and more importantly, feel that you have eaten something decently bred, fed and cared for. This recipe calls for a somewhat fatty pork shoulder, so although most people wouldn’t do this, I trim some of the fat as I am cubing it to pre-sear before it goes into the slow Cooker for 6 hours. I also toss the onions in the pan for a minute after the pork has seared. May as well bring along a little more of that fat and olive oil into the cooker with the onions!

Get the good stuff. It was alive, so be thoughtful.

Oh…as Meier will agree, you have to make a big mess sometimes when you cook, just so you can tell you are doing something important. Or clean up as you go… Either way!

We eat this deliciously green-mild (or fire it up with more jalapeno, it depends on you) as a stew with honey-corn muffins from Little Lago, with hot fresh rice (which always makes your home smell amazing), and with a little cotija cheese, scrambled eggs in warm rolled tortillas in the morning.

We’ll get to that mess later

The most difficult part of making this dish is keeping your paws out of the pot when it finishes, grabbing little chunks to “sample” – you may need to make a double recipe, at least in my case.

Searing in small portions, quickly, using good olive oil.

For the Bigger idea of what we are trying to do here, all of the smells and flavors are strong, warm and pretty recognizable; we want Maribeth to begin building the lost vocabulary of smells and tastes as she recovers. Some of these are coming, but also some of the varieties of textures and ingredients.

I just liked this pic of her. No idea what I am looking at.

July 7, Sunday Soup

Many families like to sit down to a nice, organized, at least semi-formal meal together on Sunday evenings. Maybe there was church in the morning, then yard or housework, some reading and homework, maybe a workout, etc. Pretty much the same for us, except that Sunday has become known around our house as Sukuma Wiki night. Which, roughly translated, means find whatever you can in the fridge that we have been eating during the week, throw it on the table and make it look like we meant it to look like Royal Fork buffet! Since we usually go to church at 6 pm, we might pick up a nice loaf of bread to go with all of the random assortment of bites that we pull out, so it becomes the warm, buttery center of the cornucopia. It’s kind of like making a soup from the week’s extras, but we don’t have quite the organization or combination of ingredients for a good soup. It’s kind of formally informal, a great way to clear the fridge, and one method to begin the conversation about what we want on our grocery list for the coming week. We have sworn off of grocery shopping on Sunday, since that is when everyone else does, and we would rather have a more relaxed stroll through the aisles, since Maribeth is still relearning many ingredients, and where everything is located in the store. But she is moving forward faster now … Just still not smelling well enough to tell if that cantaloupe is going to be a good one or not. Then again, I can smell great and still only hit those things correct at 50%! Anyone got a trick?Images from a usual Sunday…Classic ceramic ware, slow cooker chicken and rice

Choosing the music for dinner, Ray laMontaigneSmoothies, always on the menu!A warm loaf, a warm table… And butter!Midday kickboxing madness with ChrisDJ MBOur neighbor’s on vacay; didn’t want these to rot on the vine. Oh my, perfect. Well freeze most for Smoothies

Ahhhh, Gainsbourg!

Living in the Greenwood area has allowed our family to consolidate many of our daily routines. Grocery shopping, workouts, dentist, a great toy store, pharmacy, and several fantastic restaurants.For the adults, there is the 21-and over French restaurant Gainsbourg, named after the French singer, songwriter, pianist, film composer, poet, painter, screenwriter, writer, actor and director. It is a dark and sexy venue with vintage French music, foreign films on the back wall, and it is Maribeth and my favorite haunt when we need to walk out of the house for an hour or two.When Maribeth got out of the hospital, I walked her past this place. She had no idea what it was, and my heart almost broke. A month later, we walked past and she remarked,”Is this the place we used to go…?” but with little interest. Another month passed and I had taken her there once to eat, but quickly as we were late for a play.Not too long after this, her memory had improved to the point where she was hauling most of her family, and friends from work to Gainsbourg for drinks (try the Alain Delon or Jacques Dutronc if you take to rye or bourbon), onion soup, croque monsieur, steak frites, more drinks (French 75!) and salted caramel cheesecake. And cafe.I am pretty sure our marriage is quite secure, but I can’t say that it hasn’t been salvaged from further damage many times due to a spontaneous Date Night walk to Gainsbourg!

We did finish that πŸ₯—

Wait, hold that thought…

Before we can go out and work on our menu reading, we have a guest in the house and she is very special to all of us. As is her whole family. Our oldest daughter has a wonderful friend, and her own Mother was stricken with the HSV1 encephalitis virus herself about 8 years prior to MB contracting it. We could not believe it when she told us this as Maribeth was in her first week of her 23 day hospital stay. They have been a great resource for us during our own recovery. So….Tonight we decided to cook Maribeth’s favorite dish to cook, Chicken Piccata. Not only has it been a family favorite in this house, but there is a much deeper and colorful history of this dish, usually in its Veal Piccata form, embedded in Peter and his friend’s past. More on that in his book…πŸ˜‰On this occasion, Maribeth and Meier did most of the work, with Dad helping with logistics. Maribeth proved tonight to not only be a little bossy in the kitchen, but a real Boss! She threw it down, remembered how she used to put this beauty together, and made this not only memorable, but absolutely delicious. It was crispy, tender, lemon-winey, and rich with the chicken stock, olive oil, capers and BUTTER! Oh my…. She’s baaaaaaack!!!

Getting Apron’d up

Meier brings the hammer down, tenderizing

A really good team, these two

Hair in a ball, chicken in the pan

Probably our favorite family meal

Post 5, now by date: June 27

…and sometimes, you just gotta go to Pete’s Eggnest on Phinney Ridge.

Cheeseburgers, fries, gyro and because She can now navigate a menu with more accuracy as to what certain ingredients are, a beautiful Cobb Salad for Maribeth! It wasn’t too long ago that she was considering the Prawn Fajitas at Gorditos… not that there’s anything wrong with that to me, but she doesn’t like shrimp, and the peppers in fajitas… no way!

If there is a singular place that, for 25 years, says both to locals and those who find their lucky way to it, Pete’s says, “You are home here.”

Post 4: Jessica Fechtor’s Recovery Ziti

Tonight Maribeth and Flora use a recipe for a pasta dish presented in a new book by Ms. Fechtor, titled “Stir”. It is a book written by a woman in recovery from a brain aneurysm and subsequent brain surgery. We had 6 for dinner and this provided a nice diversion to a day filled with some frustrations, anticipations of an important meeting concerning Maribeth’s future career opportunities in science, and a few of the kids scattered across town. Sitting down at a meal together is a necessary component for family bonding, and in a year like this, a break from trying to deal with all of the many fragmenting elements of several dynamic and overlapping lives and their individual events.

Post 3: MB makes Honey-Soy Chicken

Different from learning words for the first time, recovering from the effects of aphasia means learning how to relearn what was once known to the brain, or easily remembered. As Maribeth continues to recover, we can see her brain teaching itself to remember, or recall words “lost” during the swelling and heat caused by the attack of the HSV encephalitis virus. As the inner left side of her brain swelled, it damaged synapses used for memory storage and recovery. The scar left from this damage will most likely shrink, and as it does, the physical nature of the brain continues to heal, and it can be noted that not only word recovery increases, but also memory and retrieval speed. What once took 3 weeks to re-memorize appears to take a much shorter time. A fun example that we now share is that it actually took 3 weeks to “reinstall” the term Kitchen Apron, whereas new words like Peacock vs. Ostrich vs. Flamingo are being memorized in just a few days!

So tonight I read ingredients for this recipe to MB and she had to find them and measure them for this marinade. I would give her an A- since she got a little stuck on Ginger vs. Garlic. We’ll take it. ‘bet she gets those next time!

We let the dog pre-clean the dishes tonight, also. Hudson is a great help… Especially for our spirits. He has been a faithful companion to my wife this difficult season.

Our neice/cousin Bella is in town this week, so we decided to let the kids bake a couple dozen cookies as well tonight. Oh, and don’t forget a drink for MB…. It’s been a long week!

Kids can bake – let ’em!

Flora, Bella, Imogene and Meier. Bunch o’ Cool teens. If you let them be

Cousins Meier and Bella – 12 years old going on 15

Mainbrace: 2gin, 2grapefruit,1 Cointreau. Shaken, sugar rim, up

Meal 1: Butter Chicken

Ok, here we go!

Week 1 of Maribeth and her loving family working to help recreate her library of words lost due to the effects of her brain being injured during a bout of HSV1 encephalitis that attacked her body and brain in September 2018. It has been a long and often difficult journey, but with loving friends and family surrounding and praying for our beloved Maribeth, she is coming all of the way back… As a true warrior does! She is amazing, and is been truly cherished and loved by so many.

Now, to the food…

Everyone loved this dish, and Maribeth and I (hereafter referred to as Mom and Dad), cranked this one out in about an hour. Basmati rice in the cooker, and this recipe from the Allrecipes web site. We usually find their recipes easy, quick and the videos, if a bit over polished, useful to watch once. Then we try to get Mom to read the recipe and stay ahead of us with the ingredients. She does struggle with less used words, like Garam Masala, but the aphasia caused by the encephalitis is slowly receding. It has been 9 months since she did not even know her own name, but those days are fading into the past, like the heat of cayenne fades when you have mango lassi to coolit. We haven’t tried that yet, but it is on the short list – with more Indian food coming!