Musing content alert. I make it a point to try and stay away from politics. The intent of this post is to focus on a subject in what I intend as a relatively objective view and I hope it’s taken that way. In general, we in this country have a limited genuine appreciation for history in that we take what’s going on today and often don’t reach back into history for appropriate comparisons. When I say “back”, I mean sometimes centuries back. (I agree, in some cases we only need to go back a few decades to say, hmm, that didn’t work then, don’t think it will this time either. Conversely, hmm, that might have worked if we’d give it a bit more time.) A case in point. “Politics are nastier today than ever before.” I fully agree our politics are nasty and we should all work to be less polarizing and try to bring a reasonable degree of civility to the process. However, name-calling and backroom deals are not new – the language of old simply seems mild now and the capability to spread information at the touch of a button did not exist. Anyway, I am drifting off-course, so let me correct.
I love there is a history channel and lots of history programs. History can be dull when presented incorrectly and all the “re-enactment” helps make it more interesting, plus I can only imagine what a boost it’s been to struggling actors. The term though, “We’re going to tell you what history got wrong”, always causes me to roll my eyes. History is history. Granted, “History is written by the victors” (actual origin of quote unknown) and therefore the phrase, “What you’ve been taught is wrong” certainly can be applicable. Previously undiscovered documentation is brought to light all the time and the amazing world of forensics can support or refute different historical aspects both recorded and taught. But whatever happened is what happened. Mistakes can easily be made in the telling if an individual recording an event had a limited view of that event and indeed, events recorded by someone with a specific agenda were/are commonplace. It’s logical that what we’ve been taught about an event, a person, a time period might be incorrect based on new information available, but that’s different from the idea that history itself is wrong. I’m all for correcting history providing we don’t cross the line into revisionism, but I’ll save that for another post.
I’m not stuck on doing food posts lately. It’s merely that many of us get into routines and sometimes forget to go back to recipes we enjoy and set aside for long periods. This is such a recipe and if I recall correctly, it’s a variation on one of Emeril’s, although don’t hold me to it. It’s Ham Wrapped Fish (If you don’t do pork, you can substitute 2-4 turkey bacon slices). This is a three-step cooking process of 4 minutes stovetop, then 4-5 minutes in a 400 degree oven, then another 1-2 minutes stovetop for the sauce. You need an oven-proof skillet.
Ingredients: 2 firm white fish fillets (halibut, mahi, or haddock are especially nice); 2-4 slices ham – enough to completely wrap the fillets; stone ground or some other similar mustard; 1/3 cup white wine (or 1/4 cup orange juice and 1 tbsp. butter).
Preheat oven to 400. Lay ham slice on cutting board, place fillet in the center; season with pepper, spread thin coat of mustard to cover the fish. Flip fillet, pepper and use mustard on other side, then wrap ham and secure with toothpicks. If the ham slice isn’t large enough to completely cover the fish, add an extra slice and tuck the edges so it makes a “packet”. If using turkey bacon slices, overlap them a little so there aren’t exposed parts of the fish. I’ve found that I can usually angle the toothpicks in on the side to secure the wrap and that allows me to set the fillets in the skillet and turn them without everything falling apart. Heat the skillet to medium, coat the bottom with olive oil (1-2 tbsp) and bring to temperature (approximately one minute). Cook the fillets for two minutes on each side. Transfer the skillet to the oven for approximately four minutes. Place the fish on a plate and make a quick pan sauce over medium heat using the 1/3 cup white wine or the orange juice and butter. Be certain to scrape and stir the bits of ham or bacon into the sauce. This step takes 1-2 minutes. Pour over the fillets and serve. The mustard and ham are both likely to be a bit salty which is why I don’t salt the fillets before wrapping them.
Okay, I have taken the first step with silken tofu and successfully made a fairly low-carb smoothie and used it as a thickening agent for a sausage & turkey soup. I realize if the point of tofu is to go in a vegetarian direction, then I’m off the mark. For me, however, the idea is what are supposed to be health benefits as I continue to try and lower my carb intake. I still want to try that pine nut creamy sauce and haven’t done that yet. The smoothie piece did require me to cut way back on the fruit since that’s packed with carbs. By substituting the very low calorie cranberry juice for regular juice and using a small amount of frozen berries, it doesn’t provide a full serving of fruit, but is refreshing.
The turkey and sausage soup is one I put together several weeks ago with a nice flavor, but not much body. The issue with soups is all the good stuff – potatoes, rice, corn, etc., is high in carbs. Using four ounces of silken tofu, seasonings, and one-third cup of chicken broth was just about right to add to the soup which is meat heavy with some onions, celery, and sweet peppers. I suppose it’s really more like a chili than a “soup”. If you don’t want to use pork, there is a bulk turkey sausage to substitute. I do enjoy cooking with sauces and there will be more experimenting.
Serious content alert. No, I’m not feeling morbid, but with my recent trips focused on aging parents and three friends/acquaintances losing a parent within the past month, it brings reflection. There is an item that comes around periodically on Facebook to the effect of rather than spending money to attend my funeral, reach out to me while I’m still alive. (It’s a fairly long piece and I couldn’t find it on a quick internet search.) For most of us, not showing up to a funeral where we are “expected” causes a feeling of guilt, and in reality, if there is someone who can use you in particular for support, you should go if at all possible. On the other hand, going to visit the older (which is the topic of this post) relative/friend in their waning years is likely to be better for that individual. What to talk about can be the most awkward aspect and if it’s possible, getting the person to reminisce is often the best solution. Let him or her pick the timeframe they want to linger in and it doesn’t matter how often you’ve heard the same story before. And if it should be that the individual wants to express thoughts about their own mortality, don’t dismiss it with something like, “Oh, you don’t want to talk about that – you’re going to live to be 100.” Of course it’s not a comfortable subject and you certainly don’t need to be the one to bring the topic up, but be willing to listen if the conversation goes there.
In other situations, visiting is not financially possible, and telephoning might not work either if someone is losing their hearing or has dementia/memory loss. Cards and letters though – except for severe cases of dementia, they can make a difference. In this day of so much electronic communication, it’s easy to dismiss something as “old-fashioned” as a letter. And if you don’t feel comfortable with saying a lot, a card will be better. There is such a wealth of choices out there, whether you want beautiful or something cute. It doesn’t take long and you might be surprised at what a difference it makes.
2015 was not a good year for me to get out and dive with the irony being the main reason I couldn’t go was being wrapped up in working on Mystery of the Last Olympian which is all about diving. (http://bit.ly/1XEhXRF). Anyway, I wanted to do better in 2016 and while the January trip was just snorkeling, I did make it in March and was surprisingly able to go on Memorial Day. There were all sorts of things that could have made that not work out, yet it did and the conditions were terrific. Plus, about one-third of folks on the boat were veterans; two of us being female. In another coincidence, we went to the same two dive sites as in March; the wreck of the Benwood and Sandy Bottom Cave (part of French Reef). Those are popular and common sites so that part isn’t too unusual. However, last time out we glimpsed dolphins and also did this time. Even a quick look is fun, but there are times when they will come and “play” in the wake of a boat which is always a special treat.
We didn’t see anything big on either dive – the reef shark at Sandy Bottom present when we moored took off before most of us saw it. That’s okay by me, but others were disappointed. There were plenty of fish though with nice schools at each location and I got to see a porcupine puffer for the first time in ages. I love them and unfortunately, this one tucked back underneath a section of the wreck so Hubby couldn’t get a good photo. There is, however, a spotted drum that has taken up residence and Hubby has been watching him (her?) grow from a tiny little juvenile. He also “righted” a conch that had been tipped up on its side; quite possibly by a potential predator that didn’t follow through (I hope not by a careless diver). While it is interesting to see the conch itself, being partially exposed is not their usual posture. We did see a couple of small yellow rays that are no bigger than a dessert plate. They have lovely coloration and will hang around if you don’t frighten them away. (The photo below is of another juvenile spotted drum, not the one currently on the Benwood)
Juvenile Spotted Drum
It is sort of experimenting with food this weekend. We don’t usually mess with ribs – not when there are places around that do them well. I’m not even certain what caused me to say, “Hey, want to give it a try?”. I did, however, ask the question and at the moment, the slab is in the fridge with a dry rub mix and I need to check some cooking time information for our particular set-up. Obviously, we aren’t going for the 12+ hours of smoking. Anyway, when I was at the store yesterday to look for fish, I was startled to see rock fish from Canada. We haven’t had rock fish in ages. That’s a favorite in the Maryland area and you just don’t see it often here. I pulled out my Legal Seafoods cookbook (Yes, the restaurant chain) and proceeded to sauté with a combination of lemon-infused olive oil and peanut oil to allow for a higher cooking point. A quick lemon butter sauce made for a nice topping and there were only a few small bones to deal with. I had warned Hubby so he was on the lookout. Oh, since I am trying to cut back on carbs, I found almond flour several weeks ago, thinking when we do want to bread something, that could be a good solution. In reality, the package talks about it as an excellent substitute for baking or for making something like a sauce. It worked okay for sauté in this case because fish cooks very quickly. Otherwise the coating would have probably burned. (What I don’t know is if it will work with a quick crisping, then finishing in the over like you do with chicken parm. Hmm, might try that.)
Okay, back to my other unexpected find of sirloin tri-tip. This is a cut more common to the West Coast. We first heard of it while watching one of the California-based chef/restaurant owners on a show about Napa cooking and wine pairing. Then tri-tip began to show up occasionally on the TV series “Pit Masters” as a special challenge to mostly East Coast BBQ guys who weren’t familiar with how to handle it. One of my tasks today is find the proper cooking technique for the grill, although we’re not planning that until tomorrow. I’ll keep everyone posted as to how it goes.
I suppose the fact I have a blog speaks to my own connectivity to technology without making any claim as to great proficiency. My smartphone is an example. I won’t say I have fewer apps downloaded than anyone else, but I certainly don’t have a huge number. And I am having fits getting photos for my blog at the moment because for some reason, the folders I set up on my laptop aren’t showing up in the correct place. That’s something I really will try to correct in the next few days. Anyway, many of us have become so dependent on connectivity that we now make reliable internet (preferably wireless) as a requirement for travel. That also speaks a bit to my being less than skilled as I don’t own a “hotspot” gadget or quite know how to go about doing that.
The last night of my trip, the wireless in the hotel (where I’ve stayed before) wouldn’t connect and I was too tired to call the helpline to figure it out. I was leaving early the next morning and I knew there was free wireless at the airport. Except that wasn’t very stable either and I only managed to get off a couple of emails before I decided everything else could wait. Anyway, the amusing part was when I was visiting my aunt and cousins who live about 2 hours south of my dad. It turns out that my aunt does has wireless although that came about when she had the computer guy in to fix her computer – which she does use for certain things. She didn’t particularly understand what he was talking about with recommending wireless, but trusted his opinion. Her youngest daughter related how none of them realized she’d gotten it until one day when she noticed and asked about it. My aunt explained what had happened and my cousin said within minutes, “Grandmother has wireless,” echoed among the youngsters present and electronic devices appeared with grins in place. My aunt went on to say she doesn’t really understand how any of it works, but she has plenty of in-family tech support.
For those who have not been raised in the Deep South (yes, it is culturally capitalized) this post may seem a bit odd. If you can find a copy of it, I recommend reading Southern Ladies and Gentlemen by Florence King for a frame of reference. Allowing liquor in the predominantly Baptist realm has always been tricky. Considering the reputation of New Orleans, that may not make much sense, but therein lies one of the unique aspects of Louisiana. Aside from being the only state with parishes instead of counties, there is a definitive regional dividing line between North and South Louisiana. (It happens to be the small town of Lecompte). South is Cajun (I won’t use the other term) with predominantly Catholic influence and party time is fully embraced along with plenty of booze. North, however, is mostly Baptist, (and I mean serious Baptist in my youth), piney woods, and lots of teetotalers. Places like Bossier City and Shreveport (the big cities) were expected to be “wicked” with bars and such. Smaller towns, however, often remained “dry” well past when you would have thought.
Minden is an example. I don’t recall exactly when, but Dixie Inn is the little town that practically adjoins Minden. They decided to vote to go “wet” a number of years ago and for whatever reason, Minden held off. Now, we’re not talking much distance here so if you wanted a cold beer with your meal or a margarita with your Mexican food, it was a short drive. When I was here a few weeks ago, I was startled to go to the Chinese buffet place and see a hand-printed sign that they now had beer and wine (not on Sundays apparently, but that’s a different kind of post). I didn’t inquire as to what happened, but I had also driven past the Roma Italian Bistro (relatively new) on Main Street and thought, hmmm, surely they wouldn’t have an actual Italian place without wine. I popped in this trip to ask the direct question. Yes, I was assured, they not only had wine, but also a bar. A bar?! Hooray, and not surprisingly, that is where I dined last night. Good food, good service, and real, honest-to-goodness wine.
The good news, and it is good news, is that my father is continuing to make progress in his recovery, but not as quickly as he believes. The therapy team wants to work with him for another 5-6 days. The “up” side to that is the follow-on treatment can then all be at the Assisted Living Facility. That keeps someone from having to take him into appointments. Everyone in the rehab wing is friendly and certainly seems to be dedicated. The food isn’t bad, so that helps, too.
I’m planning to call my cousin tonight that lives about an hour and a half away and see if they will be in on Saturday. Part of why I scheduled to stay three extra days this time was to help transition my father back into the ALF, but since that isn’t going to happen, that leaves me time to head down for the other visit provided anyone will be around. They tend to have lots of events that take them away and this could be just such a weekend. On a completely different subject, in walking around this morning, I saw a red mulberry tree, although the remaining fruit on it was shriveled. It brought back memories of one place where we lived that had two trees and we used to make a terrible mess in eating the berries. They are delicious and do make quite a purplish-red stain when you squish them. I don’t think anyone cultivates them commercially and if not, I’m not sure why. Maybe they’re prone to disease or something. Peaches and pecans are common orchards in this part of the state – not nearly in the kind of quantity as somewhere like Georgia, yet excellent quality. And pecan trees do grow wonderfully tall with huge spreading limbs.
This other unanticipated trip will hopefully close out the unplanned ones for the year. Most people who follow the post are aware I had an extra visit with my dad because of my concerns for his situation, and may or may not be aware I had my brother go visit him which then precipitated my visit a few weeks ago. On 7 May he suffered a mild stroke, but since I was unable to come back over, my brother returned, then my sister and her husband last weekend, and I arrived yesterday around noon. (Yes, the 6:45 a.m. flight did mean getting up earlier than usual.) He is responding well to therapy and the damage from the stroke was quite mild considering how these things can be.
I hope to meet with the therapy team later this morning. In all probability, he’ll be going back to the assisted living facility on Monday, although he feels he could be allowed to leave sooner. That’s a good sign as well and I doubt he’ll change his mind no matter what the therapists tell him.
I haven’t checked the weather forecast for the next few days, but I did just verify that I have an umbrella in the suitcase and it’s warm of course, so that isn’t an issue. I suppose I shouldn’t say, “of course” since I do have friends in other parts of the country who are still looking at snow.