Archive for March, 2010

You Rip What You Sew

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
You Rip What

You Sew

Today is my mother’s birthday. She is 79 years old and among the many things she has taught us four girls and 6 grandchildren, she has proved that age is all about attitude. My mother is a member of Jazzercise, which she attends 3 days a week, and participates in national Jazzercise activities when they are close by. However, the most valuable lesson that she has given us is that joy is an inner peace in Jesus Christ that transcends circumstance and emotion. She is the picture of joy and her laughter is infectious even in the most serious of situations.
I have written before about the traditions that are handed down in my family and I have usually shared those traditions passed on from my father’s branches of the family tree. There are also stories and skills from my mother’s side and there is one skill, in particular, that my mother passed on to us – the skill of sewing.

My mother is a seamstress deluxe. She has made my father suit coats, shirts, robes, etc. and made most of the clothes that we girls wore until we were old enough to make our own. Sixty years ago, she made her wedding dress. She has made quilts for all family members and knits and crochets to boot. Anybody remember those loosely knitted or crocheted vests of the 60’s and 70’s that were worn over a long-sleeved shirt and with a short, short skirt? Well, I have one. I still have it. My mom made it and I wore it with pride! I remember one shirt and short set that she made for the three of us older girls. The shorts were red and the tops were red gingham with appliqued cherries on the left bodice. I think that I would have been in around the third grade! Do I dare admit that this would have been in the 60’s too? We looked like we should have been the characters in a children’s sleuth series!

Mom shared a few of her thoughts on plying the needle and I am posting them here for your enjoyment:

“Sewing is something I love to do for those I love. When your Dad and I were first married, I found some fabric printed with a design that looked like some of the little German villages we both loved when we were dating. I got enough of it to make him a shirt for his birthday.
It was the first man’s shirt I had ever made and I was so proud of it ….until he put it on. When he turned around, I realized that I had cut the back with the print going the wrong way and all the little houses in the village were standing on their heads. He was so pleased that I made something for him that he said, “It doesn’t matter.” He wore it happily until it wore out.

My grandmother Allen sewed dresses for me from the time I was a little girl. She made me my first long dress, a pink organdy one I wore when I was crowned “Queen of the 4th Grade.” My mother also sewed for me. One day I came home from high school and she was down on her hands and knees in the living room surrounded by beautiful wine-colored velvet. I said, “Oh, what a beautiful new rug!” I didn’t realize that she was cutting out a long dress for me to wear to a dance.

When I was about 9 years old, I decided to make some napkins for my mother. I pulled the threads on the edges to make a fringe and I hand appliqued a design of cherries on the corner of each. I wanted them to be a surprise, so I stayed in my bedroom to work on them. One day I was working on one and suddenly thought of a question I wanted to ask Mother, so I just walked into the kitchen with the napkin in my hand. That kind of ruined the “surprise”, but she loved the fact that I had thought of and made them all by myself.

Sewing has been handed down in our family from grandmother, mother to daughter to granddaughters and grandson I’ve enjoyed teaching not only my daughters and granddaughters and my grandson to sew, but also our Japanese friends. I helped Toshie make herself a cape and showed another Japanese friend how to alter her jeans so they fit her tiny waist. It’s great to be able to pass on a skill to the next generation.”

I still have the pillow that my son, at age 8 and the one grandson, made with my mother’s patient hand guiding him on the sewing machine. It made such an impression on him that he hand stitched another one and painted ‘MOM’ on the corner. I still have that one too. Oh, and he is now 26 years old! I’m sure that he loves my sharing this with you! The wine-colored velvet dress that my mother wore to the dance is still around as well. One of the granddaughters is now making the costumes for college video projects. And the tradition goes on.

A Granddaugther Plays Dress-up In The Wine-Colored Gown
My first project involved a shift – remember shifts – you know, those dresses with all of five seams (one on each side, one down the back and one at each shoulder strap and two darts?) They could be worn with or without a blouse underneath and they were about as flattering as a flour sack that had a hole cut in the top for the head to go through. And just to add a final touch of ugly, one accessorized with a silver chain belt that dropped just to the top of the hipbone and left about a foot of chain to dangle and clink-clink with each stride. It was 1967 don’t you know?! Go-Go boots would have been the piece-de-resistance, but I wasn’t allowed to have those white, zippered treasures. I remember that the material of this dress was white with brightly colored flat, cutout-style flowers with round middles. I mean bright. Red, Yellow, Royal Blue, Green Green. Could I have tried any harder to destroy any semblance of taste that my parents had attempted to pass on to me? Hyacinth Bucket would have died. I am constantly reminded of this dress because my dear grandmother, who made beautiful quilts, used the scraps of the dresses that we made, to create all manner of fine works of art. I have a flower garden quilt that she lovingly pieced, by incorporating many scraps of my first attempt at dressmaking. These scraps were also used for my first try at hand-piecing a quilt, guided by my grandmother, when I was in my teens.
A glimpse at the material from my first dress,
put into my first attempt at a bowtie quilt

I am happy to say that my sewing skills increased exponentially from that first project and my favorite machine is still my old Kenmore 15814300, a gift from my parents when I left for college in 1972. They just don’t make them like that anymore. It will sew through three layers of canvas without a single huff or puff. I still have many of my old patterns from the days of bell bottoms and mini skirts and I am so pleased to also have some of the patterns that were my grandmother’s – my mother’s mom.

Of those patterns from the past, a few are of the old aprons that my grandmother always wore. She made them for herself and I remember her ‘clothes pin’ apron that she would wear in the backyard as she hung out clothes to dry on the line. It is from these patterns that I am very excited to introduce a new item that is being offered on the shopping page, produced by a lovely young entrepreneur who’s first goal is to purchase a new sewing machine! She has taken my grandmother’s patterns and put her own artistic skills to color and design and has come up with some beautiful aprons. The aprons will be debuted at the Taste Of Home Cooking Show in Shawnee, Oklahoma on April 9th. They will then be available online at the Shopping Page
Some of my grandmother’s patterns
A new Spring apron from a vintage design!
So Mom, as you see, another generation and even another family tree is carrying on the tradition. Happy Birthday and thank you for all you’ve given us!

Salmon En Croûte

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Fish, Cows and Things

That Go Bump In The


Though I was originally born in Oklahoma, I have lived in a number of different parts of the country, whether full time or just for summers, and have enjoyed the particular regional foods that always stand out. In Maine, it was lobster and clams, in Maryland it was crab and crabcakes, in Kansas it was Prairie Chicken and Pheasant, in Texas it was bar-b-que shredded from half a steer baked in a pit, and in Tennessee it was grits, greens, country ham, spoonbread and fried okra.

I also had the privilege of growing up with students from other countries in my home and so that really broadened my epicurean horizons. Japanese, Italian, Jordanian, Moroccan – if they made it, we tried it. I remember one dish in particular, created for us by a young, Jordanian man, that fascinated my sixth grade, just emerging, artistic appreciation. It was a molded pile of rice, shaped like a volcano that had blown its top, and sided with sauteed slices of eggplant strategically pressed into the mount to produce decorative, purple-ringed circles. I have no memory of how it tasted, but it sure looked neat to me!

The one thing that I have found to be true, no matter where I’ve been, is that in every part of the country, the people love to eat! Put a steak in front of a Texan and “whoa doggie.” Shoot, in Amarillo you can get a 72 oz slab of steer and, if you can eat it all, you get to attempt to choke down another one! It’s free don’t you know? Right here in Oklahoma, not to be outdone by our neighbors south of the Red River, we boast of the steakhouse of historical steakhouses, Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. And so, yes, we Oklahomans are no different from the rest of the country. We like our food.

Unfortunately, there are those outside of this state who actually think that steak and potatoes are the only things that we do eat in Oklahoma. Well…that and Bubba’s 6 point buck, shot in the Fall for when the beef runs out. The truth is, however, that we Okies are pretty high-fallootin’ when it comes to our vittles. In Oklahoma City, Ingrid’s Kitchen is one of our many incredible and authentic German restaurants that also tantalizes its patrons with pastries that can only be classified as “an experience”. Then there’s Nonna’s fine European dining where the salads are served sprinkled with flowers grown by Nonna herself – flowers that you can eat right along with the arugula! Of course, I suppose one might argue that this could bring the conversation away from fine dining and back around to the subject of steaks from the lowly steer who also eats flowers. But I digress.

The Skirvin Hilton Hotel has a spread fit for oil barons and presidents and has actually served oil barons and presidents. Better yet, it is also supposed to be haunted!! Just ask the New York Knicks. They swear that they lost their game to the Oklahoma City Thunder because they were so scared of the ghosts that they couldn’t sleep. Sounds plausible to me. I’d say that an Okie ghost would have a great time scaring the daylights out of a New Yorker!

Therefore, at the prodding of my doctor who wants the recipe ( did you know that Alaskan Salmon has less mercury than Atlantic salmon?) I decided to bypass the usual “homey” fare of downhome cookin’ to post one of my more hoity-toity recipes. I came up with this one after having tried something kind of similar at a lovely restaurant that is no longer in business – I promise they didn’t go out of business because of the food – and on a day when I had an unlikely combination of ingredients that needed using. It is really good, if I do say so myself, and no matter where you live, it’s good for you too! My Okie doctor says so! Hope you enjoy!

Salmon En Croûte

6 sheets Phyllo dough (also spelled Fillo and Fyllo on packages)
2 (4oz) Alaskan salmon filets
6 small, fresh mushrooms
1 tbsp finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
1 tbsp olive oil or butter
Fresh baby spinach leaves

Remoulade Sauce

2 Tbsp mayonnaise (can use fat-free)
1/8 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
Pinch of celery seed
1 tsp finely chopped onion
1/8 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp ketchup
1 tsp Grey Poupon mustard
1/2 tsp horseradish
Mix ingredients together with a spoon and set aside

Slice and chop mushrooms and onion

Press or chop garlic

Sauté mushrooms, onion and garlic and a pinch of salt in 1 tbsp olive oil until liquid is boiled out. Set aside. This is my favorite sauté pan. It is very old and very worn, but I love it.

Unroll a package of Phyllo dough, and cover with a wet paper towel to keep from drying out. Separate three sheets and brush between the sheets with olive oil. You can use the spray olive oil if you prefer.

Place salmon fillet about three inches from the outside edge of the short end of the dough. Using kitchen scissors, cut the dough to three inches on the opposite side. Sprinkle fish with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place 1/2 mushroom mix on top of the salmon.

Fold the long sides of the Phyllo dough over the fish. Brush olive oil on the remaining ends of the dough so that they will fold and stay attached to the rest of the dough.

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Turn pockets seam side down and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Using remaining dough, wad up into a “flower” and place on top of the Phyllo envelopes as decoration. Drizzle or spray a little olive oil on the flowers to help slow their cooking. Place in preheated 350º oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Place spinach leaves as a bed on serving plate and top with piping hot salmon pocket. Serve immediately with a dollop of Remoulade Sauce on top of the flower. The spinach leaves will wilt to warm and crunchy. Here, I’ve added a slice of fresh pineapple with a strawberry and steamed asparagus.

This serves two people and can be increased for any number. It’s a great dish for a dinner party because you can make the salmon pockets ahead of time and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake. Your guests will think that you spent the whole day in the kitchen!! This is one of my hubby’s favorites.

Happy Cooking!!