May 31, 2013

Ryan Littrell: Reunion

Ryan Littrells's book Reunion,  is a story about coming together.  He is not only rounding up his relatives, but that of the Scottish clans too, the McDonald clan in particular.  For all of us, our relatives are crying out to be heard and they hope someone will look for them.  His journey began with a letter, an anonymous one. With the help of DNA, his journey eventually took him back to the "mother" country, the place to where his story really began.  For in our ancestors is the writing about us, our story truly begins there.

May 28, 2013

Tennessee Cornbread Salad

I love cornbread, especially the way my mother made it.  It was somewhat thin and had the crispiest crust imagineble. When she would not be looking, I would break off a piece of the crust and quickly eat it, savoring every bite.  Some people put sugar in theirs, others put in cracklins, but I like mine just like Mom's. I have an electric oven and find it hard to duplicate the crust.  So, all I can do is remember how it is supposed to be. 

When I lived in Tennessee in 2001, I tasted the most delicious cornbread salad that one of my co-workers made.  I had never heard of making a salad with cornbread until then.  On a whim, I made it this evening.  I am in heaven.  I brought two of my neighbors a bowl and a co-worker will get a taste tomorrow.  I ate more than my fair share this evening.  No wonder I have a problem keeping my weight down. I make my own cornbread, so no box stuff for this recipe.

Ingredients for Cornbread:

1 cup self rising flour
1 cup self rising cornmeal mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil or shortening
1 egg
2/3 - 1 cup of milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  In a large skillet,  melt the shortening over medium heat.  Mix the rest of the ingredients and then add the melted shortening.  Mix well.  I leave about 1-2 tbs of oil in the bottom of the skillet to help crisp up the crust.  Place in the oven and bake until the bread is brown on both the top and bottom, about 20-30 minutes.  Once done, set aside to cool.

Ingredients for Salad:

2-3 roma tomatoes or your favorite brand of tomato, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped, about a cup
1 lb of bacon, I used turkey bacon instead
2-3 cups of mayonaise
2-3 heaping soup spoons of sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup of pickle juice or to taste
black pepper to taste.

In a large skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Drain on paper towels.  When cool, crumble the bacon into small pieces.

In a large bowl, add the tomatoes, pepper, onion, bacon and 3/4 of the cornbread.  Add the mayonaise, pickle relish and pickle juice.  Toss lightly.  I used about 2 cups of mayonaise, but if that is too dry for your taste add more.  Chill for a couple of hours and then serve.  If you are anything like me, I couldn't wait but ate it right away.  Enjoy!

May 26, 2013

Watch what you say in the Bingo Hall

Calling out "BINGO" when you don't have one can cause problems if you are at a bingo hall. Those folks really take their bingo seriously. Austin Whaley of Covington, Kentucky was banned from saying  the word "bingo" for six months.  I guess he and several other teenagers thought it was funny. The bingo players were not amused. 

May 22, 2013

Moroccan Trid

This dish is known as the "poorman's bisteeya". Trid (pronounced treed) is a dish that is made with chicken, lentils, and savory spices. When the dish is complete it is served on a bed of crispy flatbread, sort of like pancakes, but much thinner. I cheated and used Indian paratha, which is crispy and very tasty. Besides, it was already made, all I had to do was brown it a little. This is delicious, fast, and easy to make, plus it is healthy for you too! 


2 tbs vegetable or olive oil
2 tbs butter or ghee (clarified butter)
1-2 large onions, chopped
2-4 garlic cloved, minced
6 pieces of chicken, skinned
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 - 1 tsp cinnamon, I used less than the recipe called for
2 pinches of saffron
1 chicken bouillon cube, optional
1 tsp paprika
2 tbs Italian parsley, chopped
2 tbs cilantro, chopped
1-2 cups of water
salt/pepper to taste
3/4 cup lentils

In a large pot add the oil and butter.  Once the pot is hot, add the onion and garlic.  Saute until the onions are translucent.  Next, add the spices, bouillon cube, cilantro, and parsley.  Saute for a couple of minutes.  Then add the chicken.  Cover and let it cook for about 10 minutes and then turn over to brown the other side.  After the meat has browned, pour enough water in the pot to just cover the chicken.  Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add the lentils and simmer until they are tender. If it get too dry add a bit more water. The sauce is to be somewhat thick, not at all like a soup. Sprinkle some chopped cilantro and parsley on top. Serve with fried bread, paratha, or arab style flatbread.  Enjoy! 

Cooks Note:  Some people sprinkle the stew with powdered sugar, but I felt that it was wonderful the way that it is prepared above. 


May 20, 2013

All Things Natural at Salomon Farm

On Friday morning, I went with a friend to a local farm for a look around.  There was a lot of local talent there who used natural fibers to make items.  

There were alpacas

and goats 
(now I know where goatee comes from)

  those who spin

(my friend Ronia who makes the most beautiful silk scarves and other things, more on her soon)

those who teach

and last of all, a trailer to haul those critters around in.  I had the most wonderful day there.  I met new people and reacquainted myself with those I hadn't seen in a while. 

May 18, 2013

Spiced Naan

Have you ever been to an Indian restaurant?  The air is filled with the most wonderful spices.  I have a soft spot for bread and curry.  Naan is a soft flat bread that is great for sopping up the sauce.  I found a recipe in the book, 500 Curries, by Mridula Baljekar, that is very good.  When I started making Moroccan bread, I would add anise seeds, which gave the bread a wonderful flavor. I liked it so much that I never make the bread without it.  The recipe calls for three different kinds of seeds: cumin, fennel, and onion.  I used anise seeds in my version.   Feel free to experiment.  


4 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp yeast, rapid rise
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp fennel seeds,onion seeds, anise seeds, or cumin seeds or use one that is your favorite
2/3 cup  - 1 cup of milk, hot
2 tbs vegetable oil
2/3 cup of plain yogurt (Greek style is best) 
1 egg, beaten 

In a mixing bowl,add the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in the yeast, sugar, and seeds.  Mix well. Make a well in the middle and stir in the milk, then add the oil, yogurt and egg.  Mix well and form into a ball.  If the dough is too dry, add a bit more milk.  If too wet, then add a little more flour, about a tablespoon at a time.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Oil a large bowl and place the dough in the middle.  Make sure that you oil the dough as well.  Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. 

Put a heavy baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Knead the dough lightly and divide into 6 pieces. Take out one piece and leave the other pieces covered.  Quickly roll the piece of dough out into a teardrop shape.  Brush lightly with oil and put the naan onto the hot baking pan.  Repeat for the remaining five pieces.  Bake in the oven until the naan is a light golden brown.  Then place under the broiler until the bread is golden.  Serve hot or warm.  Enjoy!

May 13, 2013

A Rat Race is for...Well, Rats

Today I was looking through one of my old journals searching for something that I thought I had written down in great detail, but couldn't find what I was looking for.  However, I did find something very interesting.

July 7, 2004 Wednesday

Don't ever confuse the two: Your life and your work. The second is only a part of the first.  If you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

It is easier to exist instead of living.

I don't know about you, but I needed some encouragement today.  It was a rough one. I hope that your spirit is lifted, if it is only a little bit.   

May 11, 2013

Recollections of My Dad

He had the most beautiful hands I had ever seen.  His fingers were long and slender, each one a twin of the next.  Sometimes, he would let me hold them as we strolled into a store.  His arms and legs were oh so skinny.  He never went without a shirt. When he was a child something happened and his spine had an unnatural curve to it. It was some kind of fever that caused his spine to bend, according to my mother.   I would watch him as he worked in the garage.  His thick black hair would often fall into his eyes when he was working hard at painting a car or a boat.  I would bring him coffee whenever he asked for it.  It was my pleasure to get him a cup, well, not always.  He smoked like a chimney and going on trips was almost unbearable for those of us who sat in the back seat. Fishing was his passion and he spent many Saturdays sitting on a riverbank somewhere.   I cannot say that he was handsome, nor will I declare that he was the opposite.  He always had a job and we never went hungry. This man I am talking about is my Dad. He has done things to make me happy and has, also, disappointed me.  Yet, still, he is my dad. 

Charles is his given name.  A few people called him Charlie, some called him Chuck, but Mom always called him Charles. My dad was by no means a literate man.  If I remember correctly, his education didn’t go past the fourth grade. He read the paper sometimes. Sherlock Holmes was one of his favorites. Then there were the fishing magazines; there was always one sitting on the table beside his chair.  Many nights he took a nap before dinner and went to bed early so that he could get up at four in the morning to start all over again.  He was in general a quiet man at home.  Arguments were always started by my mother and he never raised his hand to her. 

Dad took great pride in being a spray painter.  He painted tractor trailers for Fruehauf Corporation.  A perfectionist to the last detail.  I remember one time he took my brother and I to see a trailer that he had painted for the company.  It was a special edition trailer and it traveled to various places around the country.  His face lit up as he talked about his work.  As we toured the factory, my brother Randall and I were able to see his work station.  We met his good friends, Corny and Brock. During the times that he was laid off, he would paint cars to supplement his income.  This was when I realized that he was his own person apart my mother.  Part of his life was outside of our humble home.  It was a place where my mom would never be included.

Music was a big part of our lives growing up. We had record players and radios on nearly all of the time. Dad sang whenever we were in the car.  He whistled while working and he loved Jerry Lee Lewis.  Whenever my parents would have an argument, with a long sorrowful face, he would listen to, Who Will the Next Fool Be, made popular by his favorite singer.   We never lacked for musical instruments.  We had a piano, guitar, and drums.  I couldn’t play a note on any of them though, my brother has that gift.  Luster Laws, a neighbor from down the street, had a twin brother Lester.  Dad had invited Lester to come over one evening to play his guitar.  We all gathered in the family room.  Sitting on tall stools, my brother played his guitar right along with Lester.   It was like a scene from, O Brother Where Art Thou?  We were just plain folk sitting around singing and listening to the music.  Even though Dad was a good singer, he was too shy to participate. He sat on the sofa and listened, while I sang loud enough for the both of us.  

Many weekends he brought home enough catfish to fill the bathtub.  Some were as large at the tub itself.  It kind of grossed me out to think that fish were in the place where I bathed. There was a peace and quiet he experienced when he went fishing that was hard to duplicate at home.  Often my mother or brother would go with him.  I rarely went because I was a Sunday school teacher and spent a lot of time at church, but on one rare occasion he let me come along.   Early one Sunday morning, we loaded the car with the fishing poles and tackle and then headed out.  I cannot remember the lake or the river we went to.  Time alone with dad was something that I longed for.  I don’t ever  remember getting many hugs or kisses.  It wasn’t that he didn’t love us; he just didn’t know how to show it.  We settled in a spot on the water.  Cast our lines and waited for bites.  We talked as we fished.  He told me how proud he was of me.  “Teaching Sunday school is such a wonderful thing”, he said.  Even though he enjoyed having me along, he said that the children at church needed me more.  My heart sank.  I needed time with him and his love more than teaching a Sunday school class.  That day was my last time to go fishing with him.  A year or so later he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away.  If only I could have had more time with him. I never saw him as an old man when I tried to imagine him 20 years down the line.  Maybe my spirit knew that he would never grow old.  I just wish that he could have stayed a little longer.

May 7, 2013

From imagining to reality

If you can shape it in your mind,

you will find it in your life.

I found this little saying in a fortune cookie.  It is very encouraging, isn't it?  I remember wanting to move to Tennessee so badly a few years back. All I thought about was living there nestled in the Tennessee Valley surrounded by the most beautiful mountains I had ever seen. My roots are there. It was the place of my birth. All of my energy was put into moving to this wonderful place. By faith, I packed up my belongings and lived amongst boxes for a few months. Then magic happened.  I was offered a job and the company moved  my belongings for me. Before I knew it, I had moved.  I know dreams come true. It is in the believing that makes things happen. What are you dreaming of?  Believe.

May 3, 2013

Have you Heard of Purple (red) Basil?

One of my neighbors and I went to an "Herb Sale" this morning. While there at the sale, I saw some purple basil. My neighbor went to the sale specially to get this basil. It sure is pretty to look at. My neighbor says that one can cook with it.  I wonder if I can use it as regular basil?