Author Archive

“Spanish” Rice

August 14th, 2010 No comments

My mother began cooking for a family during the Great Depression, and recipes like this must have been her mainstays.  I think of her, always cooking up something delicious that didn’t break the bank.

I suppose she called this “Spanish” because of the chili powder, but it’s really the bacon that gives the dish its characteristic flavor.  (I do often make it bacon-free, however, using a bit of oil to saute the green pepper, in place of the bacon fat.)   How much salt you add will depend on whether you salted the rice in preparing it ahead, and whether you use bacon.

  • 4 slices bacon, optional
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes (14 oz., about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 large green pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili con carne powder
  • 1 cup water
  • salt

Fry the bacon until semi-crisp in a large skillet, remove the bacon, and leave the bacon fat in the skillet.  Dice the bacon coarsely.  Fry the green pepper in the bacon fat, until barely cooked.  Drain off most of the fat and add the remaining ingredients along with the diced bacon, and simmer and stir about 15 minutes, until the liquids are absorbed.

Serves four.

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Crazy about “Cukes”

August 12th, 2010 1 comment

My better half loves English cucumbers and could probably subsist entirely on sandwiches he calls “Cheese and Cues,” made with slices of cucumber and cheddar cheese.  This year the garden at House of Blues produced its first crop of cucumbers, and in abundance– English cucumbers for Mike, and lemon cucumbers for me.  At the moment “cukes” abound both here and at the grocery store a block away (where large standard cucumbers are on sale at 25 cents each).

Besides giving them as gifts and preparing Cheese and Cue, what can we do with our abundant supply?

A new discovery for me is a simple cucumber salad made with sour cream.  I peel and chop the cucumber fairly fine and squeeze it in a paper towel to remove excess juice, then combine it with “sour cream” (the “light” kind, made with nonfat milk) and a little salt.  Sometimes I add a little cheese or drained ripe olive, chopped very fine.  A good proportion is about 3/4 cup of sour cream to each large standard or English cucumber.  The salad,  glowing in color and subtly flavored, is an addictive delight beyond the plain “cuke,” believe me.  (Of course some might say it is no match for Cheese and Cue.)

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A Lucky Find

August 10th, 2010 No comments

Recently we discovered a seed bargain at Safeway: the store was selling off its 2010 garden seeds at four packets for a dollar.  For about $14 we purchased a fine supply for next year and beyond.  Of course we’ll still need additional seeds, but what a find these were!

Mike found many varieties of vegetable seeds, and I found literally dozens of packets of annuals that I can use for flower pots.  I found an abundance of nasturtium seeds that we’ll try in the vegetable garden (for salad) and I even found wild flowers, hollyhocks, and poppies for the cottage at Mariposa.  There are just four kinds of seeds I’ll need additionally for next year: forget-me-nots, portulaca, cypress vine, and miniature marigolds.

I’ve learned recently that seeds do not lose much of their potency in a year or two, so the fact that these seeds were packed for 2010 is not a great disadvantage. That’s been the really important discovery for me.

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Our Gorgeous Neighbor

June 17th, 2010 No comments

The cherry tree in April.

Four doors up from us, in front of the Patricia Anne Apartments, the queen of “C.D.” cherry trees juts skyward, her branches laden with a thousand green, puissant pellets.

This gorgeous neighbor is a double tree, one trunk about five feet in circumference, the other, about four.  She towers over the Patricia Anne.

In April she bloomed– billows of white flowers.  Now, in June, she canopies the sidewalk.  Soon she will be raining fruit.

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“All You Need Is Love”

April 9th, 2010 No comments

I love old houses, cottages especially, that link the street to another time.  So much the better if they have not been rehabilitated.  There they stand, in all their glory, proudly showing their scars.  There is one such cottage at the end of our street, on the corner of 27th and East Cherry in Seattle’s Central District; and it is beyond glorious, not just on account of itself, but because of the tree it is connected to.  You can read more about this tree at

The pear tree dwarfs the house it watches over, at 27th and East Cherry in Seattle.

The huge tree is a common pear, pyrus communis, planted in 1889.  It dwarfs the house it watches over, and like other city trees it has witnessed more action and tragedy in one century than the sequoias have in five.

The branches from this one tree fill the entire garden, and drape the picket fence.

A little more than a year ago, a young Seattle man, Tyrone Love, was gunned down in the next block, and his murder remains unsolved.  You can read about this tragedy under the heading “Young Guns, Stolen Lives” at

A plaque has been installed, giving the year the tree was planted alongside its Latin name.  Across the top of the plaque are the words, “All You Need is Love,” timeless wisdom in recognition of how pear trees grow and in tribute to Tyrone.

The plaque tells how pear trees grow, and honors Tyrone Love, who died nearby.

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Seattle Cancer Doctors

March 24th, 2010 1 comment

I’d have preferred to meet four of Seattle’s best cancer doctors at some swell party in the Sorrento Hotel, but I had no choice in the matter, and so I met these amazing women in their professional capacities:  Dr. Smita Jain, a diagnostic radiologist; Dr. Debra Wechter, a surgeon who has been named one of Seattle’s “Top Doctors” by Seattle Magazine; Dr. Nanette Robinson, a hematologist-oncologist; and Dr. Michelle Yao, a radiation oncologist.

I did not take my breast cancer diagnosis lightly, but it filled me with joy to realize that four of the best cancer doctors were women, whose roles could barely be imagined a generation ago.  They shoulder their responsibilities with incredible aplomb, and make the diagnosis and cure of cancer an everyday affair.

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“Casablanca” Hot Cocoa

March 21st, 2010 1 comment

What made us both think of hot cocoa on the way home from the delicious and romantic movie?  Was it telepathy?  We we both under a spell cast by the film, or even by the theatre, Seattle’s historic Egyptian?

This makes an extra-rich drink.  For every two servings use 3 tablespoons cocoa, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 cup hot water, and 1 and 1/4 cups milk.  In a saucepan over low heat, stir together the water, cocoa and sugar until it is smooth.  Stir in the milk.  Raise the heat to moderate.  Keep stirring and bring the mixture almost to the point of boiling.  Remove from the heat and serve.

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Refrigerated Mashed Potatoes

December 30th, 2009 1 comment

A boring name for a fluffy, practical, luscious and highly fattening version of “mash,” as given twenty-some years ago by a Southern cook.  A great dish to make ahead, and a handy one to take to a potluck, if your hostess can spare a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

  • Five pounds potatoes
  • Six to eight ounces cream cheese
  • One cup sour cream
  • Two T. softened butter
  • About one t. salt, to taste

Peel, cut up, boil, and mash the potatoes.  Using a mixer, combine all the ingredients while the potatoes are still warm, and beat until fluffy.  Butter a large casserole dish and fill it with the potatoes.  Dot the top with butter.  Cover and refrigerate.  Up to a few days later, take the dish out, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

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Velvety Winter Squash

November 22nd, 2009 No comments

Cornell’s Bush Delicata is the name of the ellipse-shaped, ivory-skinned winter squash we grew this year in the garden at House of Blues.  These handsome vegetables have a velvety, golden interior.  Leave the squash whole and pierce it with a fork in about six places.  I mircrowaved the squash on “High” for about seven minutes, cut it in half length-wise, and added a little butter and salt.  Serves two.

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Take Care of Yourself

October 3rd, 2009 1 comment

Our friend Jim sent this today:  “‘You have a solemn obligation to take care of yourself because you never know when the world will need you.’ –Rabbi Hillel.”

And I would add that if we don’t take care of ourselves then everything our mothers and fathers and heaven and God and the universe did in getting us here in the first place and loving us and educating us and putting up with us and seeing the best in us and investing in us and giving us a kick in the pants when we needed it is wasted.  And all the entertainments they made to delight us and help us over the rough spots, sunsets and sparkling days and deer and raccoons, lemon pies, and homemade biscuits, are wasted. So I say we’d better take care of ourselves. And I would add that with all the problems remaining to be solved, there is no doubt the world needs us.

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