Tag Archive | Boyz Lunch

Boyz Lunch

I am always grateful for Boyz Lunch. Today, the company of my dear lunch boys assuaged the melancholy left by the ghost of lamented potential; and also just the fleeting visit from an old friend. It was fun to plan the meal, use preserved tomatillo salsa from last summer’s harvest, soak and cook dried black beans from Rancho Gordo instead of opening the usual cans, and make enchiladas with corn tortillas from a regional tortilleria. Yellow rice is so much easier than I knew, just add turmeric. The meal took some thought and preparation but was ultimately so simple, so delicious.

I combined three recipes to make the most of what I had on hand, adding cream cheese and cheddar to the shredded chicken, (cooking rice in the leftover chicken water); mixing cream, sour cream, cumin, and more leftover chicken water in the blender with the salsa verde then pouring that over the filled and rolled tortillas in a 9″x13″ baking dish. I’m grateful, as always, to have a well-stocked spice rack, pantry, and refrigerator. I’m grateful for my ‘personal shoppers’ who continue to coddle me through covid. I’m grateful for every little piece of the puzzle that comes together to create, serve, and enjoy lunch weekly with an intimate club of three that’s been dining here for nearly six years. I’m grateful for the acceptance and gratitude we share for each other and for our precious, impermanent time together.

Public Hearing

I think these are Cumulus fractus clouds but I could be wrong. Whatever they’re called, I’m grateful for the gorgeous spectacle of them this afternoon.

I’m grateful today for the January 6 Committee broadcasting their public hearing. I’m sad, though, that I’m not confident it will sway anyone who is still on the fence about the Insurrection. I was moved by the opening speech from committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, but I imagine that any bigots who had tuned in would have turned off in the first five minutes. This is because I was raised by a bigot; I come from an extended family of them, and unfortunately I can hear their voices clearly in my head to this day. The last person they’d listen to is an old black man from Mississippi talking about slavery blah blah blah Lincoln blah blah blah… I won’t repeat what their voices in my head are actually saying, and thankfully, I’m able to tune them out. But I’m afraid that anyone inclined to believe The Big Lie who dared to turn on the hearing would have turned it off before it got to the heart of the matter.

Which began to be revealed in a riveting way once Rep. Liz Cheney came on, and except for frequent internet freezes and apparent video malfunctions zooming onto background flags and moulding for extended times, it compelled me to stay tuned instead of heading outside into the cooling evening to pull weeds. I had not intended to watch. I know what happened on that day. I watched it unfold live on TV a year and a half ago and I haven’t forgotten what I saw, as so many Americans seem to have done. Tonight, recorded and live testimony and video clips of the insurrection brought the shock and horror back all too vividly. I’m grateful that most people I know are able to discern truth from lies, and pray that most other Americans can also and will vote accordingly in November.

I’m grateful for a wonderful Boyz Lunch, reminiscing about 25 years of friendship with these two dear men and the community of which we are an integral part. I’m grateful for all the elements I’ve acquired over the past weeks to make homemade Massaman curry paste and a lovely vegetarian version of it, and for all those beings known and unknown who contributed to these ingredients being present in my kitchen. I’d share the recipes but something was missing from the paste, and there are plenty of recipes for the dish online and I commingled two of them.
For dessert I made last night a no-bake cheesecake which was delicious and disgusting. We ate more than half of it as we sat under the patio umbrella in early summer heat, a hint of the sweet scent of Buddleia alternifolia and the enthusiastic voices of cowgirls in training next door both wafting by on the breeze. I’m grateful for holding things in balance and perspective.

Focaccia

It was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. I’ve read focaccia horror stories: For a first effort this was a great success! Life’s simple pleasures. The joy that baking has given me over the past couple of years.

Having rested overnight, covered, in the cold mudroom, the dough formed a slight crust. I was worried it was too dry to dimple… but it worked just fine, and baked beautifully. Maybe it could have been a bit airier, but it was delicious warm out of the oven with unsalted butter… and just as good this evening. So simple, so delicious!
And the joy of being able to share the fruits of baking practice, sending chunks home with the Boyz for their families.

The joy of serving Boyz Lunch again, finally, outside on the patio! Scrub jays squawked in now and then to pluck a seed from the spent patio pots, as we sat in warm sun, shedding layers as we ate and talked about consciousness. They are so gratifying to feed! Everything is the best, how will I live up to the high bar I set in the first lunch of the season? It’ll be easy–they are easy to please. Today they enjoyed broccoli-cauliflower soup from the freezer, Judi Wolfe’s mac n cheese with the Secret Ingredient, and makeshift fajitas. I cooked fajita meat from the ranch down the road in an overnight marinade, and laid it in 12″ tomato tortillas, with grated cheese (Blarney Castle!), homemade salsa, and ripe avocados.

For dessert, a tiny pear galette also from the freezer. I’ve got to start eating down the freezer, as we are blessed to be able to say here. The last of last summer’s frozen produce has got to get going, so there will be room enough in a few months to start restocking with this year’s bounty. Neighbor Fred says the apricot tree is loaded with fruit buds this year–if only we don’t lose most of them again to late freezes as we did last year. It was inspiring and hopeful to plant pepper seeds this afternoon, twelve varieties: enough to share seedlings, and enough, I hope, to make plenty of fermented hot sauce to keep some and give some away.

Puzzle Season

I’m grateful for Boyz Lunch today: Southern Fried Cabbage with Sausage (Gosar spicy Italian!), caramelized yam spears, and a side salad. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I’m grateful for a mild day, for Topaz being pretty normal and sticking close to home, for a washing machine, for podcasts, Star Trek Next Generation, 30 Rock, streaming, solar power, vanilla ice cream with maple syrup, and so much more…

I’m grateful for Puzzle Season. I claim a pass to start early. I’m grateful for cultivating the skill of relaxation, and for this gorgeous, bright Liberty puzzle, “A Company of Macaws.”

Stellar’s Last Days: Stretching

I’m grateful for another mild day to permit Boyz Lunch, grateful Stellar is still here to delight John, grateful to see how happy these two are to see each other.

I feel like a new mother. I spend an hour lying on the floor with him, soothing him to sleep, and then I roll over, get up, and go in the kitchen to do dishes, or wrap another set of pills for him, or take my own night pills, and I turn around and he’s there behind me, panting, hungry, wanting, needing. His appetite is insatiable these days. His energy is greater than mine. His confusion is increasing. His mobility looks good when people come around, and they say He’s doing great! But they see him at his best, alert with steroids, and the excitement of their attention. When it’s just the two of us, he stumbles a lot more; when we walk through the woods, his back legs frequently tangle and stretch out behind him, and he hops on his front legs for a few steps, dragging his back legs on the tops of his feet.

He remains the most beautiful creature I have ever known, and I’m grateful for all that he has taught me and continues to teach me about unconditional love. At the same time that I’m exhausted, that it’s a kind of torture to watch his up and down decline, I’m grateful for each day that he wakes alert and eager for a walk, that his eyes follow me around the house, that I get to spend time in the evening lying beside him massaging his muscles, holding his pressure points, feeling his pulses, hearing his breath, looking into those trusting brown eyes, loving this soul that has never let me down.

Though I have whinged a bit recently about the extra work entailed in caring for his infirmities, I’m grateful each day for the accommodations and adaptations I’m able to make, in order to make his last days more comfortable, and to be more at ease with him, and a little less precious about meself. I’m grateful for stretching my capacities for acceptance and compassion. I’m grateful for this ongoing surrender in service to another sentient being, a being as worthy of my regard as any other.

I’m also grateful today for wrapping up the canning season with the last batch of salsa, at last! Grateful, too, that a few tomatoes remain ripe and ready for sandwiches and cooking, and a few more green tomatoes ripen in a basket and on hanging vines, to carry me another month or so with fresh fruits. I’m grateful for a bountiful harvest this year that will provide nutritious homegrown food through winter, as well as a few gifts for friends and family. I’m grateful to live in this little mud hut in the woods, with a good dog, a sweet cat, a quiet tortoise, a garden, friends, and solitude. Above all I give thanks.

Letting Go

I might as easily have chosen to highlight my gratitude for the Bibiliofillies, but I am grateful today for letting go. I’m grateful for the capacity to quit reading a book, or watching a show, or otherwise removing my attention from one thing and turning it to another. This is the very essence of mindfulness, the ability and willingness to choose where we place our attention.

Tonight, the Bibliofillies met on zoom to discuss our month’s selection, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life, by George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, which we read awhile ago. The latter was a work of fiction; tonight’s subject, an academic analysis of numerous classic Russian short stories, and the arts of writing, and of reading. (I can’t tell you how many stories, because I didn’t get past the first chapter.) A few fillies loved it; some were almost neutral; the rest of us, well, to say we despised it would be an exaggeration, but needless to say the various opinions made for lively discussion. This is why I’m grateful, at least once a month, for the Bibiliofillies.

I bristled at the author’s (a middle-aged white man) initial assumption that he knew what I was thinking. From there it went downhill. Though I did find some redeeming features in what I read, I did not want to keep reading, one of Saunders’ essential criteria for a successful short story. My perspective aside, (for what does it matter anyway?), having this safe place to express it, laugh about it, adapt it, is… priceless.

It’s essential to adapting to be able to let go. There is so much to let go of every single day. I’m grateful that I can let go of attachment to ‘my’ point of view more and more often these days.

Life is so much easier now that I’m simply letting things be as they are, instead of trying to control them. I also used to bristle when people told me, “You think too much!” Turns out they were right, but for the wrong reasons. And if I didn’t hang onto an emotion, I couldn’t consider that it mattered. Letting go was never easy for me. So I clung to, among other things, my own judgements, expectations, mistakes; I harbored grudges, fed them with repetition. Michael was right: I did have a ‘victim mentality.’

Death is certain, time of death uncertain.

I’m so grateful that I’m learning to let go, of everything. Emotions can actually flow through, and that doesn’t make them less real or less valid. The faster I let go, the faster I learn the lesson. The lesson I learned this month was that I don’t have to finish reading every book, or watching every episode of every season of a show, or a movie to the end. I don’t always need to know what happens next: as in a bad dream, I can take my attention by the hand and walk away. I can choose where to spend my precious attention. I don’t know how much I have left. I’m grateful for letting go of things that don’t nurture me.

I’m grateful for the salutary effects of prednisone, which have given Stellar new strength to walk to the canyon. Today may have been the last time; or maybe not. Living in this strenuous uncertainty requires focus almost as complete as blowing glass: anything you drop could be catastrophic.
Stellar was excited to see his buddies at Boyz Lunch today, as they were to see him looking so lively. I’m grateful for the option of gently, comfortably, letting go of this magnificent life that has graced my own for nearly fourteen years. And grateful for the geezers, too.
I’m grateful for endless cherry tomatoes from the garden this summer; grateful to still have the stoneware bowl my mother made fifty years ago that holds them; grateful even so to know that if the bowl one day breaks I can easily let it go; and grateful for the imminent relief of letting go of garden maintenance, as we approach a hard freeze six nights away from now.

Food, Again

The morning started well when I got a shot I’ve been hoping for for a long long time: two hummingbirds midair. It was with my camera-phone instead of my husband camera, so it’s not a great image, but certainly captures the drama of their territorial nature as they protect their food source. I’m grateful for a telephone that can live in my pocket and capture a photo like this! Unheard of even a decade ago, much less when I was first meeting the big wide world forty and fifty years ago. I’m grateful that I get to spend an hour in the morning before the workday begins, out in the garden with growing, living things.

Then it was time to cook Boyz Lunch. With the rattlesnake pole beans simmering in oil, ginger, parsley, black mustard seeds, and the first paprika pepper harvested…

…an organic whole chicken roasting in the oven (in a wonderful non-stick pan from Food 52: I was skeptical but it’s been well worth the price)…

…and mashed potatoes and sliced tomatoes from the garden, we feasted! I’m grateful for all the food enjoyed today, by me and others I provide for, and for the opportunity to prepare a feast for my friends; for the hard work in the garden paying off, and for the joy that cooking brings me.

I’m grateful for little Biko, who is just about 22 years old, in the prime of his life, and always eager for something green; and grateful to offer John the joy of feeding him lettuce from the garden.

Orchid interlude

I’m grateful for this lettuce-leaf basil, that grows so prolifically in a pot, with leaves so huge they really could be used as lettuce, as Amy pointed out, and will no doubt show up on my next BLT instead of lettuce. Maybe tomorrow.

And then it was time for Zoom Cooking with Amy. We started by making the pasta dough, and then the no-cook sauce, and while those were resting we enjoyed martinis together. Then we rolled and shaped the strozzapreti, and assembled our meals.

So simple, so delicious: chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, a bit of olive oil, resting to meld the flavors.
We laughed about how we made The Big Lasagna last year, rolling the dough by hand, taking hours! We are both grateful to have mechanical pasta rollers now! I’m grateful for the KitchenAid attachment I was given ♥️.
I’m grateful for any cooking tips, and read recently that to keep pasta from sticking together it’s best to remove it from the water with a slotted spoon, rather than dump it into a colander.

And then we tossed the cooked pasta with the tomato-basil-garlic sauce, sprinkled with parmesan, and sat down to enjoy our dinner together. I am always and forever grateful for zoom cooking with Amy.

Harvest: Potatoes and Basil

This morning I picked another pound or so of rattlesnake pole beans, and dug up one of five Yukon gold plants. I planted five each of three varieties, and have now harvested one plant of each to see how they did… and of course to enjoy the subterranean fruits of our labors. On the menu for Boyz Lunch today was green bean-potato casserole.

Also on the menu, mustard chicken, browned in bacon fat (from making the casserole topping: bacon, and crumbled Ritz crackers), then skillet roasted in sauce of mustard, white wine, soy sauce, tabasco, and garden garlic and herbs: ripened fennel flowers and basil, plus a teaspoon of herbes de Provence.

The boys said it was definitely Top Five. I love that they say “Top Five” about eighty percent of the meals I make for them. I’m grateful for their appreciation, and grateful I get to host Boyz Lunch live, at least until it gets too cold to eat outside.

I’m really grateful that my hand gets to be out of the brace sometimes, and for OT’s TLC. I can cook again! I still have to be very careful and gentle with it, and it aches and tires easily. OT says it will be a few more months before it’s back to a hundred percent, and I’ve got a handful of therapy exercises to do with each hand, probably forever going forward, to mitigate the underlying arthritis.

The lettuce leaf basil is going bonkers. I’m grateful for the adventure of watching these magnificent plants grow from fragile, minute seedlings, and for the joy of harvesting and eating or preserving the robust leaves. I’m exploring various ways to save this basil, having dried some, made and frozen pesto, and today, freezing the chopped leaves. The four basil bushes continue to splurge outward, promising more and more.

I’m grateful to own a food processor, in which I roughly chopped the basil, then drizzled in just enough olive oil to coat it. Then, into an ice tray by the tablespoon, and into the deep freeze. Tomorrow I’ll pop them out and put them in a freezer container for easy access once the fresh basil is gone.

I’m grateful for prolific basil and green beans, and for potatoes even though they’re all pretty small: live and learn, next year even lighter soil, but hey, this is my best potato crop ever, so far. I’m grateful for the garden, the fence that keeps out the deer, the people who built the fence; grateful for the kitchen and all its implements, for solar power and batteries to store it to keep the fridge and freezer running and power the food processor and this computer and everything else in the house, and grateful for the support of a kind and capable solar technician. I’m grateful for every day that I wake up alive and get to harvest in the garden and cook in the kitchen.

Taste

I am so grateful for the sense of taste I get to experience in this life; so thankful I haven’t lost it to Covid or any other condition. Grateful for the bright, sweet taste of the first fresh strawberry from the baskets hanging under the deck.

Grateful for the refreshing, tangy, green flavors of yesterday’s Miradorjito: half gin gimlet (with fresh lime juice), half bubble water; ice cold, garnished with a lime wedge and Thai basil, on a hot evening in the garden. Grateful for the deep, warm taste of last night’s perfectly baked Teddy Roosevelt’s clove cake.

Grateful for the scintillating blend of flavors in today’s Boyz Lunch, beef tinaktak. I’m grateful for the experience and ingredients to improvise: I had thawed beef, and leftover coconut milk, so I looked up recipes with those, and chose from among the options that popped up this traditional dish from Guam. Grateful to have the world’s gustatory cornucopia at my fingertips! I didn’t have cherry tomatoes, but wanted to use up a small package of frozen German stripeds from a couple summers ago; no water chestnuts in the pantry, no surprise, so I sliced fresh garden radishes for similar crunch; no fresh  donne’sali peppers but a couple of tiny sparkly dried red peppers; and finally, when I opened the jar of coconut milk it was rancid! So I dug out emergency powdered coconut from the back of the fridge and zapped it in the blender with water to toss in at the end. The result, a richly layered flavor feast with salt (tamari), fat (coconut), acid (lemon), heat (peppers), umami (ground beef), and several interlocking vegetables, over plain basmati rice. Though not particularly photogenic in this incarnation, it was all about taste; so grateful for this extraordinary sensory adaptation to explore and interpret the world.

Yeah, this dish could really use some red vegetables…next time I’ll have homegrown cherry tomatoes and fresh peppers for color and even better flavor.

And also, this evening, grateful for a soothing, cooling drizzle outside, clouds sliding past the waxing moon.