Tag Archives: strawberries

Mr. Rogers’ Tweets

6 Feb

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It’s no question that Mr. Fred Rogers was an icon for children.  For that matter, he was probably an icon for many adults, too.  And it’s a strange wonder to think about what Mr. Rogers would post if he were a part of today’s technology addicted world.  Would Mr. Rogers “like” things?  Would he “retweet?”  What would be Mr. Roger’s answer to cyber bullying?  If only we could ask him.

Despite the fact that I used to do web design for a Fortune 500 company (this was many moons ago, folks; we’re talking Front Page fun), I am what many would call, “Old School” when it comes to modern day technology.  Facebook was purposefully not on my radar.  Twitter, Instagram?  Hardly!  Once, I had a Bluetooth.  That lasted about 5 ½ days.  My husband, on the other hand, is very technologically sound and has been able to hook up our HDish-something television to Netflicks, and connect Pandora through our internal and external house speakers, all through his phone.  It’s a quiet house when he deploys, for sure.

When I was little, my mom would let me watch certain shows on TV, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood being one of them.  She recalls how I would giggle and shy-up when Mr. Rogers asked, “Would you like to be my neighbor?” like he was talking to only me through that electronic box.  I was infatuated with the guy; his quiet nature, slow talking cadence, and always-caring demeanor naturally drew me in, as it still does today.  Now, after teaching for 10 years, and seeing such a drastic change – not only in education, but generally in kids these days – there’s a need for Mr. Rogers and his wisdom.

Last Friday, it was rainy, cold, and all around dreary.  The kids were, what teachers would say, “Done.”  Being one that does not normally turn on the tube in class, I surprised my students with a streaming episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  With just the first few jingly notes of his intro, the kids were hooked.  When he asked, “Will you be my neighbor?” Almost every student in the class responded in a quiet, genuine, “Yes.”  When he slowly yet deliberately asked, “Are you growing up?” Again the class, mesmerized, responded.  Just like when I was young, my 5-year old students thought Mr. Rogers was talking to them personally.

To top the cake, at the end of the program, one little girl breathed a huge sigh, and telling no one in particular commented, “Wow.  He is such a helpful guy.”

Yes, he is.

So that got me wondering.  Stepping out of the wonderfully simple, old, syndicated television world into a comparatively loud and crazy one, what would Mr. Rogers do with today’s technology?  What would Mr. Rogers tweet?  Which of his Instagram pictures would get “likes?” How many Facebook “friends” would he have?  I know I would certainly “follow” Mr. Rogers, but would he “follow” me?

This is all too much!  But, for better or worse, it’s a reality that won’t go away.  So rather than fight it, I am slowly deciding to join the social media world with a Mr. Rogers-esque viewpoint:

Share with care, like what’s nice, and always tweet upbeat. 

With that being said (and with its arguably too-long prologue), here’s the point: A friend asked me to publicize my public domains and hashtags, so here they are:

  • Pinterest: 42 Potatoes Entertains @42potatoestable
  • Twitter: 42potatoes @TweetsTheTable
  • Instagram: @42potatoesblog
  • Popular Hashtags: #eatgoodfood, #yum, #vegetarian, #healthyfood, #eatingacrossAmerica #42potatoes

On these sites, you’ll find all cheerful, cheeky, fun, inspiring (if you like to cook), *mostly* healthy pictures, recipes, and personal anecdotes of, and related to, food.  Please visit, please comment, and I hope you, as always, enjoy.

Not knowing if Mr. Rogers cooked, or enjoyed cooking, or dabbled in any culinary arts, I’m sure he would have appreciated any valiant, positive effort.  So here’s my latest, just in time for Valentine’s Day:

Chocolate Strawberry Muffins!  These were a hit at our latest work potluck.  They are super simple (and quick) to make, have all the comfort of a muffin, and the indulgence of a chocolate dipped strawberry.  Disclaimer: Strawberries are currently in season here in Florida (weird, I know), so I completely understand that this recipe would be better suited for May-July in most parts of the U.S.  But, hey – something to look forward to!

For the dry ingredients, whisk 1¾ c all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and ¼ salt until combined.  For the wet ingredients, cream 6 tbsp room temp butter with ¾ c brown sugar, and then add 1 room temp egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Also add 1 pint of hulled strawberries that have been smushed, smashed, crushed, and almost liquefied – but not liquified – by a fork.  When mixed, add the dry ingredients to the wet in 3 batches.  Fold in ½ c mini bittersweet chocolate chips until combined.  Then scoop into a cupcake-lined muffin tin. Sprinkle the tops with raw sugar and a tiny pinch of sea salt.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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These muffins are what baking is all about– simple, sweet, comforting, and hitting that special place that brings about a smile.  Kind of like what Mr. Rogers does.  In fact, if Mr. Rogers was still around, maybe just maybe, this would be his tweet: Chocolate Strawberry Muffins: enjoy and bring to a neighbor! #yum #BeNice #SnappyToday

Enjoy!

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So It’s Official

13 Aug

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Not that it ever wasn’t, but today, I changed the radio dials in my car to Jacksonville stations.  Big step, I know.  Driving home from work (yes, I’m working – teaching Kindergarten this year), I looked down and decided I needed to take a stand.  Well, at least a rhetorical one since I was driving, but a stand nonetheless.

Whenever I move to a new area, I tend to hold on to these little propensities that I started in the previous state in which I lived.  For example, the radio.  I leave the dials programed to the old stations, and then just use the “seek” button to find the closest working station.  Not only does this take more time to radio surf, but it probably isn’t the safest thing to do while driving, either (I can just hear my mom now. “Distracted driving! Distracted driving!!”).  Distracted driving aside, why am I still hung up on radio channels rather than just plugging in one i-something or other to play music, you may ask?  Well, if you knew me well, you’d understand.  People, I still buy stamps.

Anywho, Rob and I have been cherishing the last bits of our summer with paddle boarding (yes, Clutz McGee [that’s me] can actually stand up!), shopping, and trying to spend the limited time we have together relaxing.  I have been in my classroom almost nonstop transitioning from the mental programing middle school creates, and adapting to the world of vowel sounds and CVC words (a CVC word is a consonant-vowel-consonant word, i.e. c-a-t.  But I digress).  Rob has been doing night flights, thus has been home during the daytime, and often comes home at hours that are only saved for only the best infomercials.  In fact, there have been a few times that Rob has woken me and I’ve talked with him.  This is unbeknownst to me, as I have absolutely no recollection of the conversation the next day.  Sigh.  But such is life at the moment.

Last Saturday, Rob and I had a day – our day – together.  We slept in, worked out, got dressed up, went to a fabulous coffee shop for lunch, and spent the day blissfully shopping and holding hands.  It was great.  And you know what the dang day did?  It made us really miss Oregon.  Funny, hu?  Maybe because it really was “our day;” the old-hat-type things we did in Oregon that we haven’t yet experienced out here.  So as we drove home from Costco, reminiscing about our 2-hour drive to Costco in Oregon, and realizing that Costco just simply always makes one hungry, we needed a good Pacific Northwest meal.  So I went to my go-to.

This salad is barely cooking.  It is so easy, so flavorful, and minus the strawberries, the ingredients are easy to find year-round.  This dish tastes like the earth, the quintessential 6th taste (I think) that is uprooted in the mossy, fresh, emerald world of the Oregon Coast.  Really, just make this and you’ll understand.

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As this is a warm salad, there are a few keys and tips: sauté the onions first until soft, then add the butter and mushrooms.  Otherwise, the pan will go too dry, and you need the mushroom juice (oh man, mushroom juice) to make a nice dressing.  Also, if you toast the lavender, fennel seed, and paprika before crushing it in a mortar and pestle, the flavors will marry more.  Finally, add the spinach absolutely last, OFF the heat.  It will wilt just enough to let out an almost audible sigh, but still retain its integrity.

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We enjoyed our salad with a fabulous Umpqua Valley Pinot Noir, and ate it overlooking our still-feels-new view.  The humidity didn’t exactly remind us of our old stomping grounds, but it was a lovely compromise of old and new.  Like brand-spanking new stilettoes, paired with an old, classic purse.  Too girly?  Ok, try this: it was like using your grandfather’s tools to build a new dining room table.  Actually, since I don’t own a pair of stilettoes (remember, Clutz McGee?), I think the latter analogy works better all around.

So now it’s official – the shiny has worn off, surfacing memories of old, yet creating a whole new environment.  And when we start to get melancholy about our past digs, we’ve always got a Warm Spinach and Mushroom salad at the ready.  As well as programed radio stations – woohoo!

Enjoy!

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Warm Spinach and Mushroom Salad
(serves 2)

  • 16 oz. crimini mushrooms, stems removed, and sliced
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 16 oz. baby spinach
  • 3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (I love Rogue Creamery’s Oregonzola)
  • 3-finger pinch of fresh lavender
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ¼ tsp hot paprika
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • s&p
  • Handful of sliced strawberries (optional)

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil until warm, and sauté the onions with a bit of s&p until soft and translucent.  Then add the mushrooms and the butter, and sauté until the mushrooms soften, and release their juices. 

Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, crush the lavender and fennel seeds with the paprika.  Add to the sautéed onions and mushrooms. 

Off the heat, add the spinach, and continuously stir until the spinach slightly wilts. 

Serve in bowls, and top with the blue cheese, and strawberries if using.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy! 

The Meal That Changed Rob’s Life

2 Oct

Well, not really.  But I did get him to eat salmon… finally.  Rob has never been a fish person, but living on the Oregon Coast has given him an experience with fish that has he can’t deny; the fresh fish here is downright amazing.  Fantastic.  Fabulous.

Last weekend, Rob’s parents were visiting us on their journey through a whirlwind Oregon adventure.  Driving down the Coast, they realized sooner than later that there are no “national” chain restaurants here (there’s not an Olive Garden to be seen, fortunately or unfortunately?), so experiencing new restaurants and foods was luckily on the menu.  And when they arrived, I wanted to show a true, seasonal, local Pacific Northwest meal.

But that meant Rob would have to eat salmon.

Oh my.

The Oregon Coast is utterly amazing, and a main reason is because of the food.  So when I asked Rob about how he’d feel if I cooked Chinook salmon for his parents, he surprisingly was all for trying it out again.  There have been many times I’ve asked Rob to try salmon, “Just *bleeping* taste it!” each time with no avail.  He makes his “fish face” (it’s a term of endearment), and is quite polite about it all, but has never enjoyed the experience.

“So, why now?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged, “I just want to give it another try.”

The wife in me knew that maybe he wanted to show off for his fish-loving parents (which provoked a little audible giggle), but the cook in me was ecstatic.  Yay!  Rob will eat one of the most amazing ingredients to come out of the Pacific Ocean!

I cooked my favorite kind of meal: simple, tasty, with flourishes only to enhance the flavor of what already is.  With ingredients this fresh and beautiful, there’s no benefit to altering them, only to support them.  Like the humble adjective to the bold action verb in an interesting sentence, the specific sauces and sides add more than just color to a dish (sorry, we’re in the 5th week of school – my teacher nerdiness is bound to come out sometime).

While the fish was obviously a fresh purchase, there are things that I like to keep on hand in my kitchen that makes entertaining super easy.  Those humble sides and sauces, when seasonal and well planned, can be made ahead and create a painters palate of a menu.  For this particular dish, I took some local corn and tomatoes and did a hot sauté for a quick relish.  The creamy addition were melted red onions with green apples – sweet, tangy, and rounded out with a douse of white wine (yes, sometimes I actually do put it in the food).  Finally, and while everything is best in threes, the finale sauce was a special (and favorite) no-cook fresh strawberry, maple, and rosemary coulis.   Strawberries, believe it or not, are at the end of their season up here, and there’s something about the sweetness of a berry that pairs so Scandinavianly well with salmon.  Trust me; channel your inner Tuula and Johaan.

While putting the it’s-really-not-a-lot-of-time-but-tastes-like-it-was-prepared-for-days time into creating the special touches to add to a dish, it let’s the true star shine.  The salmon tasted like salmon, and like what cooked salmon should taste like: the smell of a foggy ocean morning mixed with cucumber and butter.  Finally, Rob understood.

While the meal was great, being able to reconnect with family was even better. There will be stories to repeat forever (like how my Irish in-laws had to go to an Italian restaurant in Ireland because, “You can only eat so many carrots and potatoes!”) and stories to be reminded of forever (I’ll leave those be).  The trip was a whirlwind, but so much fun, and we spoiled ourselves with a steady flow of great food and wine.  After all, if you can’t indulge with family, then with whom can you indulge?

Baked Salmon (serves 4)

  • 2 lbs. wild Chinook salmon (preferably fall season, Pacific Norwest rivers)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ c white wine (either a chardonnay or pinot gris)
  • s&p

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Prepare the salmon by patting it dry, then rubbing it with olive oil and lemon juice.  Sprinkle a large pinch of s&p, and place, skin side down, in a square baking dish.  Pour over the white wine, and cook until salmon is just cooked through.  NOTE: rare to med-rare salmon tends to have the best taste, but know where your fish came from before consuming undercooked protein.

Serve with the following sauces:

Corn and Tomato Relish (makes 1 pint)

  • 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 large tomato
  • ¼ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • s&p

Heat the corn and tomato in a sauté pan over high heat.  Season with s&p and the thyme.  Cook for only about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes soften a bit (but do not break apart), and the corn warms through.

Melted Red Onions with Apple (makes about 1 pint)

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ Granny Smith apple, small diced
  • ½ c white wine
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • s&p

Over medium-low heat, sauté the onions, apple, and red pepper flakes in the oil until they start to soften (seasoning with s&p from the beginning will help with this process).  Deglaze the pan with the wine, picking up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan.  Reduce the wine until the mixture is smooth, and it looks like the onions have “melted” and submitted to the low, constant heat of the pan. 

Strawberry Maple and Rosemary Coulis (makes about ½ pint)

  • ½ pint strawberries, hulled
  • 1 tbsp good quality maple syrup
  • ½ tsp fresh rosemary
  • juice ½ lemon
  • small pinch of salt

 Put all ingredients into a blender, and blend until thick, smooth, and almost frothy. 

ENJOY! 

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