My dog is so quiet and so sneaky that sometimes I don’t even realize she’s behind me; particularly when I am folding laundry. I’ll catch the slightest movement out of the corner of my eye, turn and see my dog quietly, yet emphatically, shredding a dryer sheet that has wafted gently out of the dryer with some article of clothing. Freed from its duties and newly released from the sultry heat of its tumbling prison, it has joyously floated out so softly that I am totally unaware of its meager existence. Mason however is acutely aware that this wispy, gossamer like sheet has fallen from the dryer. She swoops in like a stealth bomber and picks it up with the prowess of a ninja slinking on the roof of an ancient palace (after all, this dog could hear a cotton ball hit a sidewalk from a fifth story window) and she swiftly and skillfully shreds it to perfectly fluffy strips that even an Eastern Bluebird would eagerly snatch up during his springtime nest gathering ventures. Her eyes meet mine; I say nary a word. The look on her face is as shameless as it is mindful, oh yeah, she knew what she was doing and she also knew that it was a no-no. She tucks her tail, bows her head and curls up on her bed, leaving the mess for me. Best let guilty dogs lie.

This post is not really about laundry, or my dog. It’s not about fluffy dryer sheets or even bluebird nests. It’s about getting things done; better yet, it’s about doing things.

 

I’m not really what you would call a procrastinator. I am a doer!! I make things happen! Heck, I am a maker of THINGS! I make my own Christmas cards. I decorate two Christmas trees. (Why? I don’t know why? Why not? The trees are pretty, that’s all. I like pretty.) I also cook, I paint, I shoot a lot of pictures, I create, I do, I make, I do, I make. Well, I used to do all of these things.

I finally managed to decorate the big tree…took me three days, but I did it!

 

For the last couple of years, however, I feel like I am indeed a lost and troubled procrastinator. I make plans. Great plans. They sit, these plans, like tidy little warriors ready for marching instructions in one or two or more of the many little spiral notebooks that I can never resist buying –  for inspiration of course! My big plans; my organized thoughts, my personal stories, all jotted down for later and further elaboration. The more I buy, the more productive I will surely be. For the book I am writing- my rough drafts, for my blogs – oh so slow to get started you have been, Yoda would surely scold. I think you get the picture. I write plans.  

Then…I fail. I make more plans. I fail. I come up with grand and elaborate schemes, ideas and plans. But, alas, I don’t seem to be able to follow through. The problem is not that I am lazy or that I waste my time per se, the problem is that I am sick. Crazy sick. Like it won’t go away and leave me alone sick! My rheumatologist calls it chronic illness- well that sounds chronically annoying to me! I do not have time for this anymore! I’ve become rather irritated by it all. However, irritated gets me nowhere. No. Where. Freakshow!

I’ll explain some of that some other time. Now, I have someone who is helping me work through my feelings and my dealings with this ‘sickness’. She has taught me that I have to, absolutely must, no way around it…make a date with Dawn.  So, that is what I have done!

Today, I decided it was time to do something with my ‘chemo’ hair. My hairdresser stopped me from going completely pixie- she cut a beautiful little bob that made it seem so much more full and happy. We had a date with Dawn!

I worked on some of my photography, wrote this post and reflected on a wonderful meal I cooked on Sunday. I liked my date with Dawn. 

 

 

October is here…or at least it was.

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October 30, 2016

For me, this is a long awaited and much coveted month. I was born in October. Perhaps this lends a bit of nostalgia to the month itself. Mostly however, I think that October brings a beautiful freshness to the eye and mind with the ever changing, always exhilarating palette of chromatic foliage. As those longer nights flirt with the dancing leaves in darkness, lethargic bees search in vain like like drunkards in their slow and dizzying flights for any remnants of the sweet nectar from the summer’s dried and dying blossoms. Bright butterflies are drawn to the azalea blooms with soft and delicate landings. Although daylight wanes at an even pace each fall, it is the amount of moisture in the soil and the weather itself that ensure a uniquely different autumn each year. The trees slow down their production of chlorophyll, (which is produced during the growing season and gives leaves their green color) thus revealing the distinctive golden, orange, and yellow hues of carotenoid pigments that have been ever present, but hidden by the abundance of chlorophyll. A third pigment (or class of pigments really) that occur in leaves are the anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are especially common in berries, including blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries. Anthocyanins absorb blue, blue-green, and green light. Therefore, the light reflected by leaves containing anthocyanins appears red. Those cool evenings and fresh mornings whisper to us that the hot, dusty imprisonment of summer’s long days have come to an end.

It’s time to get out and bike, or hike without the brutality of triple digits sucking the life out of us!

Well, this is what I would normally say anyway. This entire month, I have put off posting this… just waiting for ‘october’ to show up. It is now the day before halloween and I am finally posting this. Today we hit a high of 87 degrees. A possible record high. We are also in a drought, which is kind of crazy for a ‘sub-tropical’ zone that touts no dry season. With that being said, I have not been able to photograph any amazing fall foliage or dewy leaf covered lawns. Instead, lawns are dry and dusty – trees are drab and mostly still green. How sad that October was forgotten this year.

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Most years people say the same thing throughout the seasons, “it’s never this hot” or “I cannot remember a winter this cold!”. Early into this summer when it was very humid and oh so hot – even early in the mornings, I actually said to a neighbor on a morning walk: “I don’t know what I was thinking back in February when I said that I could not wait for summer to arrive!?” Yet, here I am, once again looking towards the cool, freshness that a southern winter will bring to me. How quickly we forget. But, with October just being a long extension of summer this year, I want to forget the dry, thirsty heat and the dusty haze that has hung on for way too long.

Having lived for a more than a decade in northwest Ohio, with its bitter cold winters, a couple of years in southeastern Wiltshire, in the UK with its balmy, wet and rainy climate, and an entire childhood in East Texas/Southwest Arkansas- I begrudgingly respect the sultry hot south that I once again call home. For those of us who truly have a four seasons where we live, we absolutely love, anticipate and happily embrace each change. We look forward to each season with renewed vigor throughout the years, no matter how short our memories might be regarding the details on the heat or cold! I feel a bit cheated this month- no doubt about it.

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I did joyfully celebrate my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and loved the few crisp mornings that we did have this October. But now, I guess I am looking forward to November, for surely I will get to see some spender of fall foliage! As I bid farewell to my 2016 October, and enter into the true celebratory harvest month, my goal is to be thankful- out loud and with more conviction than ever before to the people with whom I share my love and my life. To my husband, my children, my extended family and my friends, I wish you all a happy November!

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A family photo before Pauline’s surprise birthday party at Nori Nori…that little guy ate his weight in sushi! Thank you Scott for inviting us and caring and Pauline and kids for loving us so much!

Part 2  is finally here.

We have decided to adopt our summer orphan! 

I had to wait for China’s pre-approval (which came a week ago) to be legally allowed to even mention this publicly. Then of course, I had to let it all sink into my head a bit. I have a mound of paperwork to do already. They tell me it takes 6 months to prepare the dossier. I believe them. CCAI is the acronym for Chinese Children Adoption International. Our little Emily was adopted through this program 12 years ago. CCAI is chock full of orphans and the angels helping them. Close to 12,000 children have been placed by them in the last couple of decades. They are amazing folks.

http://ccaifamily.org/

I was unsure of how to proceed with part 2 of this; my Chinese Orphan Series. You see, I was unsure of whether we would even be allowed to adopt a child, due to my Churg-Strauss Syndrome. I was torn on moving ahead with advocating for this child. I wasn’t ready to give him up to a stranger. Not after he stole our hearts. My job this summer was to advocate for dental, vision and health check ups for this little guy. I did that, and I will say that I did it well. I did it well only because God put the best doctors with goodness in their hearts in my path. These doctors all donated their time, efforts and full exams to our little man’s disposal. They were amazing. As was this little boy.

I have also had some awesome support from friends and family in making this happen. Thanks to all of them!

This child has been an orphan since he was two weeks old. He turned 12 on February 29th of this year. He’s the size of an 8 year old. He is bright, he is kind. He is full of mischief and love. Today will not be the the day that I share his full personal story. I have too many tears just thinking of it all: the pain that he has felt, the family he has missed, the God he has never even been told of…

Medically speaking, he should not even be alive. He beat the odds. God has purpose for him; for me, for our family.

I have decided to simply post the ‘gist’ of my answer to the very first question on the very first ‘pre-approval’ form:  Preliminary Assessment for Special Needs Adoption.

Because LOVE wins.

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PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT-

How did you arrive at your decision to adopt a child with medical needs? Please address the attitudes of all your family members towards this decision.

We hosted ‘our’ special-needs child, Ni Zhang, in our home this summer because we had prayed to the Lord for guidance on being more in tune with doing ‘good’ in the world. How, I asked God, can I find what it is that you need us to do Lord? Ni Zhang was what I prayed for, and we fell in love with him in the 3 weeks that lived in our home and moved into our hearts. We had to make a decision to advocate for him to find him a forever family or to make a move to adopt him ourselves. I stalled as long as I could, try to be sure that I was the right Momma for the job, so-to-speak.

I asked my daughter a few weeks ago in a quiet moment on a paddleboard, out on a lake, in the middle of East Tennessee: “Can I do this Whitney? I don’t know. What good would I be to a child if I were too tired. I’m older now, I’m not the 25 year old I was when I had you. Would that be unfair to a child? Why am I doubting myself? I asked for this!?”

My wise and beautiful daughter explained to me, without hesitation, just as if our roles had suddenly changed and she was now in charge:  “Would it not be better to have a Momma who is tired, than to have no Momma at all?”

Silence.

I will say that this was the pivotal moment. I have never looked back.

Whitney the Wise has reminded me too, on occasion, that she knew how I had always wanted to help a child. “Remember, how you always wanted to teach? How you said, ‘If I can save one child from dropping out of school, I will have done some (good) in the world.’ Well, Mother, you helped Robert and you helped me to be proud, honorable high school graduates. You taught me how to work for a master’s degree, for what I believed in and wanted for myself- not what someone else wanted me to do. Your love is what taught your son to be loyal to himself, his family and his country- your love taught Robert humility and humor, it also taught him how to be secure in himself and the Marine that he became. You are also making an impact on Emily like no one else in her life ever has.

My wonderful daughter reminded me how I have introduced young Emily to a whole new world in the last 3 years. I know she’s right, I know that I was unsure of how to step into the life of a child whom I had never met in her previous 10 years. I have taught Emily of the beautiful and abundant love that God has for her. She has been given responsibility and learned of the satisfaction that can be reaped with that responsibility; how to do things for herself, not wait for someone to do it for her. I have taught her to to cook a few things and help prepare meals and to not be afraid of the oven or the knife- “yes, Emily, you will get burned and you will get cut, more than once in life; you will learn from it and you will grow strong and wise and accept new challenges.” I have shown her that she is a beautiful person who is capable of standing on her own two feet and thinking for herself. She has learned that I am tough; my guidelines on life come heaped with love and acceptance.

Thanks to my daughter, Whitney, for her young, but infinite wisdom; her sincere and true love for me. Thanks to her for reminding me that I am Momma! Thanks to her for knowing truly, that I am more than capable of making the best life for Ni Zhang that he would never have without my motherly love.

This is how we, (and I personally), came to the decision of adopting young Ni Zhang, medical needs and all. My Vincent and his big heart, Emily and Whitney as loving sisters were already fully decided; my son – in summer college courses, so far away in Texas – and his wife were not able to meet Ni Zhang while he was here. My son knows of my wishes and he supports me- he agrees this child deserves our family. Their support will be fully wrapped around Ni Zhang as will my entire, large and extended family’s love and acceptance. I only had to get past my  own self beliefs that I am not perfect. I realized finally that perfect has never been asked of me. Ni Zhang is a blessing of goodness that the Lord has bestowed upon me and my wonderful family. He loved us unconditionally while he was here. These are the reasons why we have decided to adopt this child.

Ni Zhang on the day before he went back to China with the photobook of summer memories I surprised him with that morning.

In closing, I will say that I realize that anything could happen. Something along the way could derail our plans. This child begged me for 3 days not to send him back to China, it was gut-wrenching for all of us. We have to go and get him. 

I have FAITH…if this is truly God’s will, then let His Will be done. Blessings to all for your love and support. Prayers are always appreciated.  

With love, Dawn and Vince

Our little friend from China!

What is an orphan? Are all orphans created equal? Are American orphans better than Russian orphans? Are all orphans children of God? He who numbers the hairs on our head will certainly not turn away from the orphan.

All Orphans Have a Father

God is the great protector and loving Father of all orphans. Psalm 68:5 says, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows, is God in his holy habitation.” 

The People of God Will Care for Orphans

James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (1)

In January of 2016, I was so sick of being sick. I was praying for a way to learn acceptance of the ‘sentence’ I had been dealth. I had, at this point, been sick for a little over 17 years- but, for almost 2 years, I had been “chronically ill” almost every single day. I was more than a little annoyed, way past feeling sorry for myself; welling up with a feeling anger about being sick. I was angry that not a single one of the 8 or so ‘ologists’ that I saw could (fix) me. Good grief! this is the year 2016 for Pete’s sake! And so it was that my little brain finally accepted…it is what it is. Dawn, you must buckle down and find a way to perservere like you always have always perservered- with the Grace and Strength of the Lord’s guidance.

I have a strong faith in The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Never once have I been angry at God for this. In fact, I am stronger in my faith. More grateful, more open minded and more conscious of the world around me. Please understand, I have never been selfish, or closed-minded to others needs; quite the contrary. But I had never had the courage, nor have I been strong enough mentally to do anything bigger than fundraising and praying for other peoples’ needs. I don’t know why; can’t give anyone an answer any better that. I have dreamed big schemes and helped others do ‘good’, but I simply have not had the support I felt I needed to do it myself.

Early this year, I asked God to help me focus on acceptance. Acceptance of my taciturn health, acceptance of the loss of my ‘livelyhood’ in working as I had done since the age of 16, acceptance that I am not going to be healed, that I am going to deal with this ‘sickness’ for the rest of my life. I prayed for discovery. “Please God”, I prayed, “show me how to move on with what I deal with daily; mostly, please help me figure out how to help other people who are in a worse situation than I am in Lord. I don’t mean to seem, act, or be pitiful of my situation. I don’t want to BE selfish. I need your help in figuring this out Lord.”

Things started to materialize and dawn on me in my thinking process after I read an article in the CCAI Circle – December 2015 Issue. The arcticle was “Life’s What Ifs- The Baby We Didn’t Adopt”. (2) My husband and his ex-wife had adopted my step-daughter from China 12 years prior, and my husband is still a supporter of the charitable funding of Chinese orphans- so we get this little flyer from CCAI periodically.

http://www.ccaifamily.org/Newsletter/Circle/Circle-2015

The beautiful story prompted me to go the website and have a look around. I came across a page that listed about 20 or so Chinese children who were spotlighted as needing summer host families in the United States. Each child had specific medical issues, some more severe than others. All needed love and a ‘break’ from their normal routines in their orphanages. Immediately, I wanted them all. That’s just me with kids though. A few of them really tugged at my heart and kept me glued to my laptop. I watched each video and read each profile. My heart was excited. My soul thrilled. For weeks, then months, I watched and re-watched, read and re-read. I researched their medical issues. I tried to figure out how a country would do this to it’s people. How hard it must be for mothers to give up their babies- because the culture will only accept perfection in children?? We all know of China’s One Child Policy (recently changed to 2). If you don’t know it well, I encourage you to go out on the web and research it.

I was also cautious. I know that I am a big dreamer; since childhood, through my teen years and onward. My life story will appear in words here someday as well…but this post is for the children that I feel have dreprived of a full chance to dream their lives, let alone live it.

My daughter was here with me for a weekend visit a few days after I had seen the site. She knew of my long desires to adopt a child in need. We talk daily and she knows me well. My open heart, my soft emotions, my determination and my struggles. I showed her the videos…and one that especially touched my heart. We agreed the little boy was totally adorable and his bio made us believe that there was a possible chance for his medical needs to be easily attended if he had the opportunity of a family and good doctors. We both agreed that his tiny little self reminded us a lot of Vince’s childhood pictures.

To be continued…

(1) http://showhope.org/4-things-the-bible-says-about-orphans/                        (2) http://www.ccaifamily.org/Newsletter/Circle/Circle-2015

 

Leftovers again!?

Well, yes.  When I am only cooking for me and I want a quick and healty meal…it’s always a stir fry that summons me to the leftover rice in the fridge.

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We were at Costco recently and grabbed a new item- TruRoots Sprouted Rice & Quinoa Blend.  We love it!  I had some left-over from my lunch two days ago and decided to use it in a stirfry today.  Turned out quite well!

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We didn’t name our blog cornbread and chopstix without reason. This dish was definitley asian inspired- with a southern flair.  How so?

Well, I decided to add a little fresh okra to the sauteed veggies in the beginning. Not bad, not bad I tell ya!

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20160415_142628 One large Portabello, one green onion and 4 small fresh okra pods, with pepper flakes.
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Cold rice and quinoa, toasted sesame oil, less sodium soy sauce and garlic (minced)
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About 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice. Haha, is that dust on top of my five spice lid?
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Hot skillet or wok…toasted sesame oil and saute on high heat.
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Just a bit more to ensure the okra is tender…
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Add the cold rice mixture and sautee on high, just until heated.
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Prepared for the egg to be dropped in and scrambled.
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Why are eggs so beautiful in a dish…I don’t know, but they sure get me excited! Scramble into mixture for a few moments, add a bit of soy sauce and serve hot!

 

Super tasty!  Delightfully healthy and oh so quick and easy!!

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Hello Okra…my little Gumbo friend.
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Vince is on his way back from NYC today…had to save half for him or he will be jelly!

You can of course use any left over rice that you have. It’s better to use cold rice for stir frys so that it doesn’t get too mushy. On occasion, I use leftover black rice, also known as forbidden rice. Feel free to add chicken, pork or shrimp if you’re more of a meat eater than I am.

Did I mention that I never waste food!?

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Honestly, I take each meal with a prayer for blessings and nourishment- I always reflect on those who went to bed hungry and wake up hungry with the possibilty of not getting any food again for the day. Be mindful of those who have less than you do and those who have nothing at all.

God Bless!

Love,

Dawn

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You know that exotic taste of Chinese Five Spice? Mmmm, makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

How about the firm, salty, roasted-sesame taste of the nori seaweed around your sushi roll bites? Imagine the odd, yet perfect bite of a golden, spicy, crunchy granola infused with salty cashews, flaky nori bits and sweet honey. Simply a “to die for” delicious-ness!

When I first started making my own granola, I infused a lot of different tastes and spices into my ‘conconctions’.

My daughter, Whitney, kept telling me how much she loved the granola that she made. ‘It’s so easy Mom, and much better for you than the high sugar, fat and salt granola that you buy. OH, and it’s very afforadable to make!’

So, make it I did! Granola baking is as much a part of my life now as grocery shopping is–but more fun.

My favorite thus far has been a fired up cayenne-granola with dark chocolate bits – super addicting. Not a breakfast granola by any means, but a by-the-handful, can’t get enough granola snack for sure…where can I hide this in the pantry so that no one else will find it kind of good!!

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I saw a recipe in Food and Wine magazine at the end of 2015 for a Nori Granola. It sounded intersting and delicious. I decided to try my hand at something similar.

The Food and Wine recipe is: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/nori-granola

Mine is similar I guess, but I have not made the Japanese style recipe that inspired me to make mine. This recipe in Food and Wine belongs to Heidi Swanson. It looks delicious though!

raise your chopsticks into the air and proclaim a new snack!

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of crispy rice cereal
  • 1 cups coarsely chopped raw cashews (6 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds (half white/half black)
  • 4 full sheets of sesame roasted seaweed (Nori) torn to small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1  teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice seasoning
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup of crunchy peanut butter
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Fire up the oven!

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°
  2. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the oats  and crispy rice cereal, with the cashews, sesame seeds, Chinese 5 spice, black pepper and nori. 
  4. 
In a small saucepan, combine the honey, agave, peanut butter and olive oil. Warm over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the peanut butter ‘melts’ and the mixture starts to bubble a bit. Remove from the heat; pour over the granola mixture in the bowl. Toss with a large spoon to coat dry ingredients well.
  5. Spread the granola mixture on the sheet in an even layer, getting as close to the edges as possible. Bake for about 35 – 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the granola is golden brown. Watch closely to prevent burning of edges.
  6. Allow to 
cool completely before serving; the granola will crisp as it cools.

I really like this a lot!  It’s been a great little snack to lay out with cheeses and wine before dinner gatherings with friends. I keep mine in a tightly covered glass jar, for several weeks at a time.

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Enjoy!

We sure did!!

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Hello again everyone!

Sauteed to perfection.

I try to never waste anything. It could be that I am a frugal chef or it could just stem from my childhood of poverty…either way, I have learned to make some of my left-overs taste better than their original servings. No, really!

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This is just an example of how I use left-over rice- which we have a lot of, because we eat so much rice in our house- and because I always make a lot more than we need for that meal, purely so that I WILL have left-over rice.

We use BOTAN Calrose Rice -it’s a sushi grade rice- sticky and perfect. I’m a little spoiled  with this rice after living with my Chinese husband for 3 years!

Calrose Rice

Leftover rice is great alone or in any of your meals where you need it in a hurry!

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For this dish, I drizzle the left-over rice with sesame oil and black sesame seeds before I do anything else. This recipe is made using about 2 cups of left-over rice that has been either refrigerated for a day or so, or from rice that I have thawed from a frozen state.

Let the drizzled rice sit out to warm up at room tempurture while you clean and prepare the vegetables that you will be using. Let the veggies drain from the washing and rinsing or pat them dry so as to keep the hot oil from spattering so much – it also helps to keep the vegetables crisp. Go ahead and prepare and slice the smoked sausage into grillable discs that are easy to pick up with chopsticks.
fresh veggies

In a hot wok or non-stick skillet, add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the vegetables and sautee for a few minutes until very fragrant, but not too soft or overdone. You want to keep them crisp and crunchy.  Remove the vegetables to a warm bowl for holding while you grill the sausage pieces (in the same skillet or wok) to the degree of darkness that you prefer.

Then, when sausage slices are ready, add vegetable back in to the skillet with the sausages and add about a quarter cup of soyaki sauce and a quarter cup of sriracha sauce. Saute well and add rice, continue to saute for a moment or two until everything is well coated. Add a scrambled egg or a fried egg on top of the dish as it is served for an extra special treat!

I use Trader Joe’s Soyaki sauce and Sky Valley Sriracha- these two sauces have great flavor, balance and sweet heat. Adjust the Sriracha to your liking or add it onto your food while eating if you don’t like hot and spicy foods all that much.

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Freshness abounds!

Cheers and love,

Dawn

As you have probably already gathered, I love cornbread. What’s not to love? Right?

Lemon Blueberry Cornbread

Don’t get me wrong, yeast rolls and fat buttery biscuits are great too. Italian and French loaves make my heart sing…but nothing in the name of bread does it for me like crunchy and rustic cornbread.

Cornbread to me, is like manna from heaven, just as I imagined it to be in my Great Grandmother’s Sunday School Bible stories as a child. Cornbread is my comfort food. It is my warmth on a cold winter’s day.  It is my delight with freshly cooked pinto beans and fried chicken. It is my dessert when I add butter and blackberry jam! It’s my favorite Cracker Barrel item too!

I also love the taste of Lemon and Blueberry together- married in summer splendor, oh my, these two make a lovely couple! Combine that taste unison with my thrill for kitchen experimenting and what you get is a wonderment of dishes sprinkled with the sweet and tart flavors of Lemon-Blueberry surprise. Lemon-Blueberry cornbread is a slightly sweet treat that will make your mouth and tummy sing for more!

Some of my other favorite Lemon-Blueberry prizes are: Lemon Blueberry Pancakes, Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake and Lemon Blueberry Scones/Biscuits.

There’s really nothing hard about making your normal cornbread or pancakes or what-have-you into a gourmet delight, or at least what seems like a gourmet delight. Becausee I like the exploration and the outcome of dabbling and experimenting in the kitchen and because I’m willing to try anything once; I find everyday in the kitchen to be a new adventure. I say, if you can imagine it, you can cook it. I’ve had no complaints from my family either, and they are they true testers. I’m not saying that I haven’t had some fails…to be sure, I have! But in the end the wins way out-weigh the fails.

When I make this Lemon-Blueberry cornbread- I do actually add a little sugar- usually turbinado or ‘sugar in the raw’.  I am by no means a sweet cornbread kind of girl! (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…) But the lemon and blueberry do conjure thoughts of sweetness and that’s how I make mine. Add more or less as your taste demands.

If you are making a pan of cornbread already, (see my recipe below), you can half your mixture and make regular and lemon blueberry at the same time. When I do this, I usually use my Mother’s hand-me-down ‘wedge’ cast iron skillet. It makes individual pieces of cornbread; each is crispy and crunchy!

By making it this way, I can pour half of the skillet in plain and half in lemon blueberry. Ingenius design!  You could simply use two small cast iron skillets, muffin tins or a corn pone skillet as well.

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My southern-style rustic and heavenly cornbread recipe is just below.

I simply add a tablespoon of lemon extract and a half cup of fresh or frozen blueberries and a 1/4 cup of sugar to the batter to make the Lemon Blueberry Cornbread. For good measure, you can also sprinkle some pretty sugar crystals on top of the corbread before you pop it into the oven.

That’s it!

Ingredients for Southern-style Rustic skillet cornbread:

    • 1/4 cup of oil, shortening or bacon fat (coconut oil is great for the sweeter recipes too!)
    • 1-3/4 cups of cornmeal mix – your choice- I like Aunt Jemima’s Buttermilk Mix
    • 2 cups of milk, more or less
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Yes, I use a mix for my cornbread because it is simply easier- everything is already added in and it makes my life less complicated when I am in a hurry to eat cornbread.

If you want it all from scratch…here are the dry measurements/ingredients to use in the place of the cornmeal mix:

    • 1-1/2 cups of all purpose white or yellow cornmeal
    • 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon of salt

If you choose the ‘by scratch’ method, just note that everything else remains the same. : )

Pre-heat oven to 450 F.

Add the fat to a well seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet or corn pone pan. Now,before you mix the batter, you will put the skillet into the pre-heated oven to melt the fat and allow the skillet to heat to a searing crust crisping heat!
Break the egg into the milk in a measuring cup or bowl – whisk together gently- breaking the egg up minimally.
In a medium sized bowl or a very large (4-8 cup size) measuring cup, gently mix together the cornmeal, and the milk and egg mixture. Do not overmix.  The batter will be thick, but easily pourable.
With sturdy pot-holders, remove the skillet from the oven. Make sure the entire skillet bottom in coated in the hot grease.
Pour the cornbread batter into the hot skillet- hear the sizzle!?- and immediatley return the skillet to the hot oven.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.  Let the the cornbread sit/rest for about 5 minutes. Turn the cornbread out onto a cooking cooling rack or a plate. This is an imortant step if you want to keep your bottom crust super crispy!
If your skillet is well seasoned, your cornbread will not stick to the bottom of the skillet. If it does stick, do not panick. you can usually work it loose with a flat metal egg spatula.
Enjoy!
  Lemon Blueberry Cornbread
P to the S….
Leftover cornbread can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or so…reheated at 350 F for about 20 minutes.
It can be stored for a few months in airtight bags. I usually double bag mine. This is particularly useful if you enjoy southern-style cornbread dressing. Once you have an accumulation of cornbread ready- you can make the dressing in a wink!
Be blessed!
Dawn

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My first Scallion Pancakes…or as my in-laws would say in their native tongue: Cong You Bing. (sounds like Tsong Yoh Beeng. It’s a ridiculously simple recipe – with a taste that is mouthwateringly magical!

My husband bought some of these scallion pancakes from an Asian supermarket here in the Atlanta area a few weeks ago. He explained their place in the Chinese culture of simple yet amazing foods. For some reason, I thought it was an egg based pancake and browned eggs disgust my palate for some reason. So, honestly, I did not get excited in the least. I was pretty stoked for the black sesame balls and the steamed pork buns he had found though!

Cornbread and old Chopstix.
Cornbread and old Chopstix. I like to call my little Chinese Mudman “Chopsticks” and my daughter’s childhood toy Djali from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney version- he’s about 22 years old now) ‘Cornbread’. You will probally see them in most picturess taken at home. They’re always keeping careful watch.

On the night that we decided to stir fry all of the bok choy (Báicài) and Chinese Broccoli (Gai Lan) – Vince steamed the pork buns and skillet ‘fried’ the cong you bing. The meal was outstanding! It was my first taste of the steamed pork buns, which Vince said were just ‘ok’, and my first scallion pancakes. To my surprise, they were not made from eggs at all! Flour, scallions and toasted sesame oil and a smidge of salt Vince explained to me. I can tell you that if you have ever fallen in love with a flaky pastry of any sort, this one will rival it to no end. I was smitten as a kitten!

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Those flaky layers of yum!

I asked him why he had never made them for me!? Does Mother Wang make them? Yes, he said. But it’s a pain. A mess. Just so much easier to buy frozen. THIS ANSWER WAS NOT SATISFYING TO ME! Sounded more like a challenge in fact! Vince had just spoiled me a new Ninja Mega Kitchen System and a new Candy Apple Red Professional Kitchen-Aid 6 QT, 10 speed stand mixer…So, ‘these are easier to buy frozen’ just won’t cut it in my kitchen! I aim to spoil him as much as he does me, by golly!

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Look closely at the flour… : )

I set out to unravel the lore and mystical tales of the flaky pancake of Chinese nirvana. After much studying, questioning and 3 fails, I finally got it right! I  also know how to pronounce it properly, even with my southern accent, and now I will share it with you!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of flour for dusting
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of boiling hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 5 green onion stalks; washed, excess water shaken out, and thinnly sliced -use green and white parts
  • Sea salt for seasoning (I used pink Himalayan flakes)
  • 2 tablespoons of toassted sesame oil to brush on during rolling
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)

Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/4  cup of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon teaspoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
  • sliced green scallions
  • *adjust to taste of use a soyaki type sauce for dipping

My husband doesn’t use a dipping sauce at all, he prefers the perfectly delicious taste as it is!

 

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Supplies that are helpful:

  • Parchment Paper, cut into 4 or 5 sheet for layering the pancakes
  • large nonstick skillet or well-seasoned cast iron skillet
  • tongs for turning

Preparing your dough:

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Let it be known that I cheat and use my Ninja food processor to bring the dough together.

  1. Add flour and salt to food processor
  2. close top and turn on processor as you start to pour in the boiling hot water. Use about 3/4 of a cup of water and only a little more if needed to bring the dough together to form a slightly sticky ball
  3. only mix it enough for it to “come together”…
  4. removed from processor and dump onto a lightly floured surface (I use a silpin and mat for easy cleanup)
  5. keep the extra ‘dusting’ flour nearby for easy access
  6. knead the ball on the floured surface for about 8 minutes- it will begin to look smooth and not sticky
  7. cover the ball of dough with a damp cloth or damp papertowel and then a tea towel or cloth — allow to rest for 30 minutes
  8. separate the rested dough into 4 equal parts
  9. while working on the first piece of dough keep the other 3 pieces under the dam cloth and tea towel
    1. roll the first piece out to about a 10-12 inch circle; dust with flour as needed to keep dough from being to tacky/sticky
    2. brush with sesame oil, sprinkle lightly with sea salt and springle with about a 3 tablespoons of the scallions
    3. with your fingers, from one side to the other, roll the circle into a long tube, as you would a jelly roll
    4. curl the tube into a cinnamon roll type coil, tucking the end piece snugly underneath.
  10. set the ‘coiled’ dough back under the damp cloth to rest for another 10 minutes or so
  11. repeat the process with the other 3 pieces of dough; allowing each to rest for about 10 minutes
  12. take the first piece of dough you rolled and press it down with your hands on the floured surface
  13. roll the dough out to about an 8 inch circle, keeping it evenly flat
  14. set aside on a cut sheet of parchement paper

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Cooking:

  • Preheat a skillet with about a tablespoon of vegetable oil until it’s shimmering
  • Cook the first pancake over medium heat; shake the skillet back and forth to keep the pancake moving- when the pancake starts to turn golden; flip and repeat on the other side
  • Flip back to the first side and lightly brown up the ‘bubbled’ parts of the pancake, being careful not to overcook it- repeat on the other side
  • Remove and set on wire racks to drain – keep in a warm place if possible while the other pancakes are cooked

Serve:

  • Cut pancakes into wedges and serve while warm with a dipping sauce

 

 

大家吃喝 但只有少數欣賞食物的味道

Dàjiā chīhē; dàn zhǐyǒu shǎoshù xīnshǎng shíwù de wèidào

Everyone eats and drinks; but only a few appreciate the taste of food.

– Confucious

Our Alaskan Cruise started in Vancouver, British Columbia. We took full advantage of  an opporunity to see a new place! We arrived on the 4th of July before embarking on the 6th of July.

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Before the big game!

Just so happened that the FIFA Women’s World Cup was being played there on the 5th of July too !

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I love sea planes, and took quite a few shots of these!
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Emily with the Royal Mounted Police…Bears?

 

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Notice the light jacket and long-sleeved t-shirt? Dress warmly we were told…it was hotter than hades!
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The famous Capilano Suspension Bridge. It was a sight to see!
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I loved the lushness of this park. It was so beautiful to me!
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They were not kidding, nature at it’s best!
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Takes about 50 years for a fallen tree to be totally consumed and broken down completely in this area.
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Banana Slugs is what they have in this area…they must be fast, we never even saw one!