Apr 30, 2013

Downton Abbey Cheese Puffs

Week after week I would watch Downton Abbey. Mrs. Patmore would cook up the most elaborate meals that I have ever seen. It must be so complicated to make such elaborate meals. I've never made a souffle or made beef wellington, the thought of cooking either of these dishes is daunting. I once read that if you can read, then you can cook.  Some of us have the knack for taking the time to learn about techniques and others don't want to be bothered.  A recipe is not written in stone but should be looked at as a guide only. After all, you know your own palate. If you don't think that you will like the amount of spice in a recipe, then tone it down. When I look at things like eclairs, cheese puffs and similar edibles, my first thought is that I cannot make it like a pro. Who cares. Try it and you may find a new "favorite" thing to make. Most of the time the recipe is very simple, really it is.  This recipe is from Pamela Foster's E-book called Abbey Cooks Entertain.

Ingredients: Makes about 30 cheese puffs

1/2 cup of water
3 tbs, unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chili powder or cayenne 
1/2 cup of plain flower
2  large eggs
3/4 cup of grated gruyere cheese or grated cheese of your choice. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place a sauce pan on medium heat and add the butter.  As it begins to melt add the salt, water, and chili powder.  Then add the flour all at once, using a whisk to mix it all together.  Keep mixing it until it is a smooth ball.  Take off the heat and let it rest for a couple of minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, stirring the mixture quickly. The batter may be lumpy, keep stirring until it is smooth. Then add the grated cheese and stir until well combined. 

Wet a teaspoon and drop thumbnail-sized spoonfuls onto the parchment paper about an inch apart.  You can experiment with the size of the puff by adjusting the size of the dollops.  Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until they are golden brown.  Serve them warm with creamy cheese or serve plain. These make a great snack with hot tea.  Enjoy! 

Apr 27, 2013

Handmade Pendant from Turkey

Earlier this month, I bought a beautiful pendant from Istanbul on Ebay.  It is handmade with a lapis stone in the middle and Arabic written on the stone. There are red and turquoise beads surrounding the stone in the middle.  It says, "bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm", which means, In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful. So, yesterday, I went out to find a black necklace to go with it.  All I could find is a small suede one that will have to make due until I can find what I want. Would you be comfortable wearing religious jewelry from another religion?

Apr 23, 2013

Mom's Kitchen

My mother was a cook between Gordon Ramsey of Hell’s Kitchen and Martha Stewart.  Mom didn’t cook fancy dishes like souffles or ever heard of beef Wellington.   But what she did prepare for her family was good or at least we thought so.  Even though I’ve lived most of my life in Indiana, we ate Southern delicacies’ like fried okra, beans and cornbread, or fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.  Vegetables always came from a can and it was rare to have fresh fruit.  Nearly everything was fried.  When Dad came home from work, supper was always waiting for him on the table.  Except Fridays, this was grocery shopping day.  She would always let us pick out whatever we wanted for dinner that evening.  My brother, sister, and I always chose frozen pizza and Dad wanted steak.  The best part was that we could have a Coke or a Pepsi with dinner.  Back then it was a special treat to drink a pop because the rest of the week we drank milk or water.  We rarely ate dinner out and if we did it was at McDonald’s or a place similar, besides nothing can beat home cooking.  All of us sat at the table to eat together and talk.  There were no cell phones, iPods, or computers to distract us then.  Those were the best memories for me. 

Mom was 4 feet 11 ½ inches tall, with short dark brown hair, intense blue eyes, and perfect teeth. She had a short temper to go along with her small stature.  More than once she said to me that I wasn’t too big for her to knock me down.  I’m not tall either and wouldn’t really have that far to go before hitting the ground. 

When Mom was about four years old, her mother passed away from TB.  Within six months my grandfather married another woman.  This created problems for Mom because she was not given a “mothers love” that she so desperately needed.  Lack of self confidence, poverty, a preacher’s kid, and fearing that others will make fun of her, my mother repeated the 7th grade three times.  During that time, a child went from grade school to high school.   It was the early 50’s and life was very different than it is now.  She never went on to high school.  Feeling trapped at home with a step-mother who forced my mother to help take care of the children, my mom married the first man that came along.  That man was my father.  She was sixteen and he was twenty.  She desperately wanted to leave the prison of her father’s home in hopes to have her own life. 

At sixteen, she couldn’t have had that much experience cooking. During the early years of her marriage, she relied heavily upon cookbooks for the basics.  As time went on her skills improved.  Then her family started to grow.  When she was twenty, I was born.  Then a year and a half later, my brother came along. Randall was a very finicky eater as a child.  Mom would try all kinds of things just to get him to eat.  She would mash up a banana and mix it with his egg hoping that he would eat breakfast.  As you know, canned spinach is like mush.  In order to get my brother to eat it, she would mix bacon grease and egg into the boiling green blob, trying to convince him that it was really good to eat.  He never fell for it.  She would find rejected food underneath the sofa cushions all of the time.   There would be peas, green beans, and even fried chicken.  Really?  Fried chicken? What boy doesn’t like fried chicken?

The best of her cooking that I remember was when we all lived together on Elm Street.  The 70’s were the best years.  She would scour magazines looking for recipes and in a few days we would have some new dish to try.  At Christmas, we would have barbecue ribs instead of the traditional ham or turkey dinner.  The ribs were so tender that the meat fell off the bone; her potato salad and coleslaw were exceptional. We had pot roasts, baked chicken, and Uncle Ben’s wild rice salad to name a few. There was only one recipe that I could hardly stomach. Her vegetable soup was made with a tomato juice base and it was awful. The rest of the family loved the soup, but I cringed whenever she made it.  Eventually, I told her that I didn’t like it.  She still made the soup, but I was given something different to eat than the rest of the family. This was the only time one of us was given an alternative.  Some time later, I asked her to sit down with me so that I could write down my favorite recipes. I bought a couple of blank books and together we wrote them down. 

As soon as I started working, I began collecting recipes.  She sparked the love of cooking within me.  I would often spend evenings and well into the night trying new recipes.  I ventured beyond the borders of our own cuisine and began trying dishes from other cultures.  My dad would take a bite of carrot from a plate of fried rice and declared that it wasn’t “done.”  We laughed and told him that the way it is cooked is the way it is supposed to be.  My Mom knew that she had succeeded when they came home from vacation one year and I had an elaborate supper waiting for them when they arrived home.  As they drove up to the house I was putting dinner on the table.  I made biscuits, fried chicken, gravy, corn and mashed potatoes.You should have seen the smile on her face that day.  It was priceless. 

In the early 80’s life changed.  My father passed away in 1984 and then in 1993 my mother went to be with him.  Every once in a while, I will take out the books and stare at her writing.  I place my finger on the page, and then move my finger along the curve of each letter, remembering her, missing all of the moments we could have had with each other since.

Apr 20, 2013

An Eye for an Eye or Shall I Wait for Karma?

We have all been there.  Someone whom we loved or trusted or both, betrayed us.  Then you think of ways to get them back for what they did to you.  Revenge. You mull over the betrayal in your mind until it nearly makes you crazy. You tell yourself, "I want them to suffer as I have suffered, besides if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be in this situation". The pain hurts. It hurts  to the deepest part of your soul. You may not fully recover from the pain, ever.  Betrayal has a tendency to make one not believe in the goodness of mankind. We all have the potential for doing evil. One push too far in the wrong direction and we jump over the cliff, joining those who came before us. Some people give in to it, while others stand firm on their beliefs. Tell me, do you ever think about revenge? Or do you wait for Karma?

Apr 18, 2013

Paneer Balti with Shrimp

I love curry. I found a wonderful recipe using shrimp and paneer (recipe here). Recently, I learned how to make paneer, which is a cheese curd.  It is very much like cottage cheese.  The best thing about it is that paneer is very easy to make.  It consists of two ingredients: milk and lemon juice.  Make the paneer the day before you plan to use it in a recipe and the curry will be done in no time. This curry is very smooth and you can adjust the heat to your taste. I think that this recipe is going to be one of my favorites.

1 lb of raw shrimp, peeked and deveined
6 ounces of paneer
2 TBS tomato paste
4 TBS Greek yogurt
½ to 1 tsp hot chili powder
1 tsp garlic paste
Salt to taste
2 tsp mango powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 stick of butter
1 tbs vegetable oil
1-3 fresh green chillies, seeded and chopped
3 TBS cilantro, chopped
1 cup of light or heavy cream

Peel the shrimp and cube the paneer, set aside.

In a mixing bowl, add the tomato paste, yogurt, garam masala, chilli powder, garlic, salt, mango powder, and coriander, mix well. Set aside.

Melt the butter and oil in a large wok or deep pan.  Lower the heat and fry the paneer for a couple of minutes.  Drain on a paper towel.  Set aside.

Pour the spice mixture into the wok and mix well. Cook for a minute. Add the paneer and the shrimp.  Cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked through. Add the fresh chillies, cilantro, and cream.  Mix well and leave on the heat until it is heated through.  Serve with plain rice and a salad. Enjoy!

Apr 15, 2013

Spiced Beef & Mashed Potato Puffs

I came across this recipe in the book 500 Curries by Mridula Baljekar and wanted to try it.  It is simple and makes good use of left over mashed potatoes. These small meat pies are made with puff pastry, but you could just as easily use egg roll wrappers or filo dough.  When I saw the cost of the puff pastry, I thought it was a bit expensive.  Since I had never used it before, I thought that I would give it a try.  The best part is that the pastry is very crispy.  I like this recipe very much and compare it to a vegetable samosa.  I baked it instead of frying as the recipe suggested.  Adjust the heat to your taste. Personally, I don't like food that is so hot that you cannot taste the flavor because of the heat.


2 TBS butter
1/2 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ginger
1 tbs hot curry powder, I have the mild and used it instead
1/2 pound ground beef, chicken, or turkey
salt/pepper to taste
1 red chilli, seed and chopped or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 1/2 cups of mashed potatoes
3-4 tbs cilantro, chopped
2 sheets ready made puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten or 2 tbs melted butter
1- 3 inch (or larger) cookie cutter

Heat the butter in a pot over medium heat, then add the onion and saute until it is golden brown. Next add the garlic and chopped cilantro.  Saute for a couple of minutes.  Then add the beef and spices, salt and pepper.  Cook the beef until it is brown.  Take off the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the mashed potatoes to the meat and mix well.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lay the pastry sheets on a clean, lightly floured dry suface and cut out eight rounds using a 3 inch cookie cutter. Place a large spoonful of the meat mixture in the middle. Brush the edges with beaten egg and fold over.  Pressing the edges together with the tines of a fork to seal.  I, also, used two rounds and made a round pie by putting a large spoonful of the meat mixture in the middle and placed another round on top. 

Brush the pies with melted butter. Place the meat pies on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Turning over half way through to brown the other side.  I fried the first two pies and it was a mess.  Baking them produces a much better version and healthier too.  Serve with a salad or as a snack.  Enjoy!

Apr 9, 2013

A Tale about My Dancerina Doll

I had a Dancerina doll when I was about 9 years old.  I loved to caress her thick blonde hair that was neatly pulled back into a pony tail. Her arms moved up, down, sideways and she was always on point. Inside the crown that was placed upon her head was a knob that you could pull up or push down. When the knob was pulled up, Dancerina would twirl around and around.  I spent hours playing with her. She was my favorite toy.

My sister, who is eight years younger than I am, had pneumonia. Her sickness started out as croup and got steadily worse. She was so sick my parents decided to take her to the hospital. Once the doctors examined my little sister it was decided that she be admitted to the hospital for a few days. An oxygen tent covered her little bed. My mother told me that my sister needed a toy to play with and gave my doll to her.  I was deeply hurt that my mother took it away from me.  I tried to be a big girl. After all, my sister was sick.  When my sister came home, the doll was returned to me. Dancerina's hair was matted and she no longer twirled around. It was ruined. I cried. I no longer wanted the doll and gave it back to my sister. I think that my mother was wrong by taking the doll away from me. Maybe that is why I hoard things today.  What do you think?

Apr 6, 2013

DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and Me

I have been researching my family history for a very long time, especially the Campbell line.  On Wednesday of this week, I met with the DAR rep.  I produced the long awaited documents that seemed to take centuries to find. Now, I have all of my generations connected all the way back to the Revolution.

I love my southern heritage. Sometimes it can be irritating, especially when it comes to names. My grandfather John Wesley Campbell, went by his middle name Wesley. He put Wesley as his first name on the marriage record.  I had a marriage date of September 28, 1935, but had no idea where my grandparents were married or where I had gotten their marriage date. Out of desperation, I started calling courthouses in Georgia until I found the county where they were married.  Luckily, I only had to call two places until I found the right county.  Then I started thinking about all of the wasted time I put into searching when the answer was only a phone call away. I got upset with myself.  Then started feeling really stupid for not having thought of calling before.  Isn't learning where to look part of  the whole process?  We keep looking and looking and eventually find what we need. Shortcuts are out there, I just didn't know about them.  A majority of my research has been on line. The only courthouse I dealt with was here. My family of origin is from a state that is over 500 miles away, I had to do research at my local library or on the Internet. With determination and persistence, I have jumped many hurdles and crossed the finish line.

Azzie Lee, Margie, John Wesley Campbell
In July, I will be submitting my application to the DAR for approval and wait for acceptance.  In the autumn, there will be a ceremony here in Fort Wayne. When I first started this genealogical journey, I never thought that I would be able to go back as far into my lineage as I have.  My mother would be so proud! Because it is her family that I am tracing.  What is my next goal? To go across the pond. I want to know who came here and why. I think that I can reach that goal too.

Apr 4, 2013

Lapis Lazuli: Stone of Heaven

Lapis dealers in the Namak Mandi (salt bazzar) Peshawar

Those royal blue stones called Lapis Lazuli have been around for eons. Three parts make up the Lapis stones, Calcite (white), Sodalite (blue), and Pyrite (yellow). Nearly all of the world's lapis comes from Badakhshan, Afghanistan close to the Kokcha River valley.  The only way to reach these precious rocks is via camel, donkey, or mules. Small amounts of lapis are mined, which is of inferior quality than that of Afghanistan, in places like Chile, Zambia, and Siberia. Prices range from $2.25lb to $6150lb.

Smithsonian Institution /
National  Museum, Riyadh
 Lapis ornaments have been discovered in southern Parkistan dating back as far as 5500BCE. An oval pendant carved around 3300 BCE was unearthed in Egypt at Naqada. The above figurine was found 1966 on Tarut Island in eastern Saudi Arabia, which was carved around 3000 BCE, and is now in the National Museum in Riyadh.

Through the course of time, many rulers and wealthy people included lapis in their burial.  They wanted to give the deities gifts in the afterlife.  Did you know that Lapis is considered a healing stone still today?

I own the above pendant which has an Arabic inscription on it saying: Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim (In the name of Allah (God), the Beneficient, the Merciful). I would like to buy more of this type of jewelry. It is a blue that pierces the senses.

Apr 1, 2013

Farfalle with Italian Sausage and Mexican Vegetables

They say that necessity is the mother of invention.  Well, I need lunch for tomorrow. So, therefore, I must cook something.  Some days it is harder to cook than others.  When one gets off work at 5pm and doesn't get home until six, then it is a race to get something half way decent to eat in your tummy.  I have a green pepper that is about ready to turn bad.  There is some cream that's about to expire too. So, what can one do with cream and green peppers you ask?  Well, add some farfalle pasta and make something that is nearly Mexican with those items.  I have a packet of Taco Seasoning in the cubbard, Italian sausage and sweet corn in the freezer,  and a can of red beans.  Hmm sounds like a meal to me.  Let's get started.


1 lb farfalle box ties cooked according to package directions
1 lb sweet Italian sausage or ground beef, chicken or turkey
1 green peppers, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup sweet corn, I used frozen
1/2 cup of red or black beans
salt/pepper to taste
1-1 oz package of taco seasoning or you can use chili powder
1 tbs oil
2/3 cup of water

Cook the farfalle according to the package directions, leave in the hot water until you are ready to assemble the dish.  In a large skillet, place the ground meat on medium to high heat.  Crumble the meat into small pieces.  Cook through.  Pour the meat into a bowl or large plate.  In the same skillet add the oil, when hot, add the diced onion and green pepper.  Saute until the vegetables are tender.  Then add the corn and beans.  Add salt\pepper to taste.  Saute for about 5 minutes and then add the meat and mix thoroughly.  Add the taco seasoning and water, mix well.   Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the water has been nearly absorbed. Will the meat and vegetable mixture is simmering, prepare the sauce.

For the sauce:

2 tbs butter
2 tbs all purpose flour
1 cup of heavy cream or milk
salt/pepper to taste
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 tsp cumin (optional)

In a small sauce pan add the butter and place on medium heat.  Once the butter has melted add the flour.  Stir until the mixture is smooth.  Then add the milk while stirring constantly.  Add salt\pepper and cumin.  Lastly, add the Parmesan cheese.  Stir well.

Drain the pasta and put back into the same pot.  Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix well.  Next, add the meat and vegetable mixture to the pot and mix well. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!