Juno the Whale

27 Aug

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Every night since I was a little girl, I can remember hearing Tom Brokaw’s voice. We watched the Nightly News religiously, and hearing Mr. Brokaw’s voice in the background kind of became part of our family. Now, Brian Williams is our on-the-tube family member, and he and his team have been recently reporting on an issue incredibly close to my heart.

Juno the Whale. I met Juno only a few months ago visiting him at the Mystic Aquarium. He was playful, fun, and such a ham! Just like in the videos that have now gone viral, he truly is a big, white, playful ball of whale. So adorable. Just like his father.

The real connection I have with these beautiful whales is with Naluark, Juno’s father. Naluark is living at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT on a “breeding loan” from the Shedd aquarium. Boy is he ever. That whale can DO IT. So much so, that I was scared for life with a very weird and ever-present curse. I’ll explain.

Years ago, our family took a vacation to one of America’s best cities, Chicago.   We visited all of the local tourist stops, including the Shedd Aquarium. Like Mystic, a main attraction was the Beluga Whale exhibit. We entered the dark room, cool and echo-y with hushed oohs and ahhs. Goosebumps ran up my arms and it smelled clean. I remember the weight of my dad’s hands on my shoulders as I slowly walked closer to the floor-to-ceiling glass of the tank, being careful not to leave fingerprints or patches of breath-fogs as evidence of my awe.

“Susie, Susie, come see this!” My dad’s beckoning arm towards my mom knew something I didn’t. The Belugas, Naluark and his mate, were swimming beautifully. They looked like they were dancing, actually. Twirls, dips, and dives.

The room became thick with silence. I’m sure every chin dropped. And when my confusion at every onlookers’ reaction became my all-too-pre-teen reality, mine dropped, too, and out came a very audible gasp. Maybe it bordered on a scream. I’m not sure; you may have to ask my parents about that. Anywho, I saw Naluark’s thing.   It was… huge.

Being old enough to know what “that” was, and realizing that these animals were doing “it,” I was also still young enough to think it was just plain gross. I too loudly removed myself from what the rest of the crowd saw as a beautiful and rare scene of nature, and clearly and vividly remember the moment to this day.

In fact, this has kind of haunted me in a way – maybe the higher order Beluga whales played a funny little trick because now, at 32-years old, wherever I go, I see animals procreating. Bugs, dogs, monkeys at the zoo, ducks, geckos (man they get loud in the heat of the moment!), and most recently, crabs (I hope they used protection) to name a few.

So this summer, I had a chance to make amends with what I now call “My Beluga Whale,” Naluark. Through the glass, and to the humor and slight embarrassment of my husband and mother in-law, I apologized to my whale for screaming during his intimate moment, and was ironically forgiven in a way by the silliness, smiles, and joy of his son, Juno.

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If you are a follower of the blog, you’ll realize that occasionally, a story has to be told, even if it isn’t around food. So while I do not have a food-connection to my beautiful Belugas, I’ll provide a recipe that’s simply an oldie, but a goody. Just like Naluark.

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Plum Crumb

  • 5 ripe plums, each sliced into 8 pieces.
  • 1 heaping tbsp. flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt, divided
  • ¼ tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 3 c old fashioned rolled oats
  • 4 tbsp cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 3 oz. gorgonzola cheese
  • ½ c good quality honey

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In pie pan, mix the plums with the flour, sugar, thyme, and half of the salt (works out to be about a pinch). Mix until incorporated.   In a separate bowl, and using your hands, mix the oats, butter, cheese, honey, and remaining salt until the mixture is fully incorporated and crumbly. Spread the cheese crumb topping on top of the plums, and bake until browned and crusty on top.

Set aside to cool before digging in (although you will want to because the house will smell just divine).  

Enjoy!

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Cookies and Salads

23 Aug

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The other day, Rob and I did some Back To School grocery shopping, and it happened to be a date-night of sorts. We had already eaten dinner, and flashbacks of our Coos Bay days of taking a stroll down the fun-house halls of Walmart at 10 pm rushed in our minds as we stood in the Publix cookie aisle with two other couples. Hushed conversations evolved and we noticed the other couples, slowly and closely meandering, stopping and short-pointing with only a pinky, then whispering some more, were having the exact same musings as Rob and me.

“Remember these?”

“Oh, I ate a box of those ones once.”

“Huh, the packaging has changed on these ones.”

“Strawberry Oreos? Really?”

“Ooo these look so goooooood.”

Then, super-stealthily that short-pointing pinky turned into a swift grabbing hand snatching that Back To School treat. One couple got always-recognizable-even-when-cleverly-stuffed-under-the-16oz.-bag-of-baby-kale Pepperidge Farms cookies, the other couple further down settled with an audible let’s-be-responsible sigh on a cookie/cracker thing, and Rob and I chose Fig Newtons. The original. Always a Back To School classic, at least in my lunch box.

Seams harmless, right? Then, what’s with all the whispering and sideways glances? After further investigation of our late-night cookie aisle recon, this Back To School treat shopping was not for the kids. It was for the adults.

Who knows what happened to the other couples, but Rob and I waited until we got home (there is some restraint), and I dove into the little squares of fruit and cake. After a couple, the “fix” was over, and all was right and just in the world.

Teaching Kindergarten can be a different kind of crazy at beginning of the year, and even in this hot, hot, hot Jacksonville heat, a craving for comfort food spikes at the end of the day. Rather than turning to the cookies, I’ve actually found myself becoming increasingly adventurous with salads. Yes, salads. With the help of our farm basket, I have been experimenting with hot and cold salads, sweet and savory salads, grain and paleo salads, and many more. Come to realize it, more often than not, I have written about salads throughout the years. Well, hold on to your carrots, my friends, cause here comes another.

I called this the Chop Chop Salad, before I realized that there were actually many variations of an actual salad called a Chop Chop. So, I guess I’m adding another variation to the many recipes out there (although I’d like to continue to live in my ignorance that I actually came up with the really cool name). Literally, take every single vegetable that you love and toss it in a bowl. Add lettuce or any other green you’d like, or not. Add grains like quinoa, barley, or spelt, or not. Add a dried fruit or nuts, or not. You get the picture. Pour the contents on a big cutting board. With two chef’s knives, chop chop the heck out of it. Pour it all back into the bowl. Top with your favorite dressing. Voila! Chop Chop Salad! For such an incredibly unrefined technique, it creates such a beautiful presentation, and it’s fabulous for fun entertaining. Here’s how I made mine (everything was just a small handful, fresh and raw, unless otherwise stated):

  • Roasted kale
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Roasted green beans
  • Tomatoes (seeded)
  • Celery
  • Green onions
  • Manchego cheese

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The very best part of this salad happened to be the interesting dressing. To me, a big, full Chop Chop salad needs a hearty dressing. These days, however, cream and mayo-based dressings haven’t been making much of an appearance in our house due to the calories they add to the otherwise healthy dish. So to keep the creamy need, yet lose the bulk, I made a Cauliflower Dressing: ½ head of raw cauliflower, ¼ c extra virgin olive oil, ¼ c water, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp agave nectar, 1 tbsp fresh dill. Throw it all into a blender with some s&p, whir until smooth and pourable, and taste for more seasoning. Pour a desired amount on your Chop Chop Salad, mix, and sit back and crunch away.

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This salad made for a great lunch the next day at school, and I told my kids all about it. At 5-years old, they weren’t so interested in a bowl chalked full of veg. Although I did get many oohs and aahs when I said “corn.” I think even a couple of excited claps.

It’s Back To School – a time for new beginning and taking risks. This salad isn’t risky at all, but try it anyway. It’s easy! It’s your own creation of tastiness! It’s healthy (which means you can dive into those cookies afterwards)!

Enjoy!

Tweeting a Revamp

7 Aug

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Just over a year ago, Rob and I purchased our first home. We have loved the wonderful world of homeownership, and all the expenses – I mean, perks – that come with it. It’s been a year of projects and decorating decisions, but our recent upgrade was a backsplash in the kitchen. My favorite room needed a good dose of revamping, and Rob certainly delivered. His inner Bob Vila came out (and so did a little bit of butt crack), but after a backbreaking weekend, our kitchen had been transformed with an Artic Ice glass tile.

With that, our kitchen was rendered unusable for the weekend. So to thank Rob, but also satisfy our stomachs, I whipped up one of our favorite salads, no cooking involved. Now, I did this using about a 1-foot by 1-foot tiny square of our island, on a side where I never do any cooking. So, feeling a little like a Naked Mole Rat wearing a three-piece suit, it took a bit longer to make the salad (about 17 minutes), than normal (about 5). But it was worth the wait.

My Shredded Super Greens Salad with Watermelon and Feta is packed full of nutrient-rich cabbage, kale, and broccoli, as well as naturally sweetened and lightly dressed by the lycopene-laced melon. The hit of salty, tangy, creaminess from the feta rounds the dish and truly makes it feel like a meal. Especially when you eat it out of large-and-in-charge pasta bowls, like we did.

This salad is completely adaptable to your own taste and liking; so to assemble it, either shred using a food processor blade, or finely chop with a knife, green cabbage, red cabbage, and broccoli. I like to hand-tear the kale into small pieces for the look and softer texture against the other sturdy veg. Make whatever ratio you like – I prefer more kale than broccoli in this dish, but to each your own here. Next, add diced watermelon and feta – again, as much as you’d like. For a light dressing, mix together the juice of 1 lemon, a teaspoon of Agave, and a teaspoon of good extra virgin olive oil. Season with s&p, mix, pour, toss, and taste again. Basil is a good addition, if easily on hand. The longer the salad sits, the more it will marry flavors, but also wilt. The wilting happens because of the liquid content from the watermelon and the salt retracting natural liquid from the veg (which both exponentially add to the flavor of the dressing), as well as the shredded veg (making the small pieces more vulnerable to the liquid). I prefer the salad fresh, crunchy, and still raw-like, but again, to each your own. 

With the kitchen revamping also came a 42Potatoes revamping – the site as a slightly different new look, is now registered at 42potatoes.com, and is tweeting away in the Twitter world at 42Potatoes@TweetsTheTable. 42Potatoes is also making an appearance on Pinterest, as 42Potatoes Entertains.  For those of you who know me well (Gen, talking to you here), it was HARD for me to enter the wild world of social media – I’ve never been a Facebook, Instagram, or back in the day – Friendster – fan, where the scary world of inter/intra-connected connections act like a virtual string theory of “posts,” “likes,” and “threads.”   It was like the 2000s technology had become the “stranger danger” I knew from the 80s. But armed with the self-defense of the everyone-else-is-doing-it-so-it-just-has-to-be-totally-legit admission, I succumbed. Who knows, maybe I’ll get daring and start Facebooking. Can Facebook be a verb? Can I do that? Help me out – I’ve got to be down with the lingo in order to fit in, yo.

Be looking for some spiffy updates to the site – a Technique of the Week section, as well as a Cookbooks page. In the meantime, enjoy this super easy, wonderfully summery salad, and check out my Tweets! (was that right? – did I say that correctly?)

Enjoy!

 

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