I am a late-bloomer. That's not to say that I spent the better part of my life frittering away my time with little to show for it. I have always been goal-oriented and driven. Yet, certain things seemed to take me longer to achieve than I ever imagined possible. Take, for instance, love.


I didn't think I'd ever find it! When I did, I was inspired to write a book of poetry and essays to celebrate my new love. For added zest, I decided to intersperse my written works with recipes for some of the tasty dishes I enjoy preparing for that new man in my life. I hope you enjoy them as well, and that you will be inspired to share your own love stories and favorite recipes with me and my readers.


My darling Mel, in our garden

AUSPICIOUS


Rain tap-dancing on a tin roof.

A symphony of birdsong before dawn.


Cool sheets, warm breath,

the elegant drape of your body.


Two double-yoke eggs in a frypan.

A ruffled sleeve of orchids,

on the limb you’d meant to prune.

Sweet kisses in the doorway.


Your mid-morning text:

Be on the lookout,

RAINBOWS EVERYWHERE!








AUSPICIOUS APPETIZERS



GUACAMOLE Yield: about 1 ¼ cup


Including avocados in your diet can improve digestion, decrease the risk of depression, and protect against cancer.


2 – 3 ripe avocados

1 small garlic clove, minced (or processed)

1 small firm tomato, seeded and finely chopped (or processed)

1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (or processed)

1 small lime, juiced

½ - 1 Tsp. salt (or more to taste)

¼ cup chopped or torn cilantro leaves (or processed)


Peel and seed avocados and mash with a fork or process in a food processer. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well or process to blend. Transfer to an airtight container and cover with plastic wrap, pressing down gently to ensure no air comes in contact with the surface of the guacamole. (This will help maintain the guacamole’s bright green color and prevent it fr.) Chill and serve with tortilla chips or your favorite Mexican recipes.

*Note: If hand-chopping jalapenos, be sure to wear latex gloves to protect your skin and eyes.


TAPENADE Yield: About 1¼ cup


Olives are very high in vitamin E and other powerful antioxidants. Studies show that they are good for the heart and may protect against osteoporosis and cancer.


½ cup pitted kalamata olives

½ cup pitted green olives or green pimento-stuffed olives

4 anchovies, drained

4 ounces capers

1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic

salt to taste


Process all ingredients in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Refrigerate. Serve with pita chips.

*Note: Experiment with a variety of olives, and, for a less tart tapenade, eliminate lime juice.



SALSA VERDE Yield: about 2 cups


1 ½ lbs. (8 – 10) tomatillos

3 tbs. olive oil

½ cup coarsely chopped white onion

2 - 3 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup cilantro leaves chopped or torn

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

2 jalapeño peppers or 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

salt to taste



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line baking dish with aluminum foil.

Cut tomatillos into halves (or quarters, if very large).

Pour olive oil in a foil-lined pan, and add tomatillos, cut side down.

Sprinkle chopped onion around tomatillos

Roast for 10 – 15 minutes until starting to soften, then remove from oven and flip tomatillos to cut side up, and roast for another 10 minutes.

Process all ingredients in a food processor.


Serve as a dip with tortilla chips or use in Chicken Fajitas Salsa Verde. (Recipe to follow in Auspicious Entrée Section.)

Note: If hand-chopping jalapenos, be sure to wear latex gloves to protect your skin and eyes.

FRUITS OF OUR GARDEN



MANGO SALSA Yield: about 2 cups


Mangos provide almost everything your body needs: essential nutrients and plenty of antioxidants.


2 ripe mangos, peeled and cut into small, half-inch cubes, (see how to cut a mango, below)

½ cup red onion, chopped

½ cup each red and yellow pepper, chopped

½ cup pineapple, cut into small (half-inch) cubes

¼ cup fresh lime juice (more to taste)

¼ cup cilantro leaves chopped or torn

½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

½ tsp.sea salt (more to taste)


Mix all ingredients. Taste and adjust lime juice and salt to taste. Chill and serve as a dip with tortilla chips or as a side with grilled fish or chicken. This sweet and savory salsa is excellent on fish tacos or paired with your favorite Mexican dish.

*Note: I like to use kitchen shears on cilantro and jalapeno to obtain a fine chop. If hand-chopping jalapenos, be sure to wear latex gloves to protect your skin and eyes.


HOW TO CUT A MANGO

Okay, this is the coolest thing! You know that slimy peeled mango is just about as easy to slay as a writhing crocodile. So, here's the trick: do not peel that mango. Instead, take a look at it, put it on its stem end, and eyeball it. You'll see right away where that pesky pit lies. Slice down one side of the pit, then the other, and save the pit slice, too. Then—this is the brilliant part—score the halves, but don't cut through the peel. You can see that I do four scores both across and down. Here's the magic: invert the slice so that the mango cubes extend outward, like a porcupine extending its quills. Now, it's so easy to slice off the beautifully cubed mango from the peel. Voila! (You can thank me later!)


More poems and recipes to follow in my next blog. Till then, make yours an auspicious day!


Gretchen Rose is the award-winning author of the gripping memoir, "Dancing with the Devil," the children's "Dune Dragons" books series, and the contemporary fiction "Very Vero" series.





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  • Gretchen Rose



WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LOQUATS


During these stressful times of Covid-19, many of us have upped our culinary game. I certainly have. Truth be told, I've always loved to cook. For years, I've been working on a recipe book, "Cooking with Friends," a combination of my original recipes and poetry. But, as the name implies, it was always my intention to include recipes, poems, haiku, teeny essays, and the like from—you guessed it—my friends. So, if you'd like to be a part of this creative process, please email me your favorite original recipes, poems, haiku, and essays.


MY TRUSTY LOQUAT HARVESTER



LOQUAT BRANDY


50 Loquat seeds, cleaned

.75 ML Vodka

3 1/2 Cups water

3 Cups sugar


Place cleaned loquat seeds on a cookie sheet and set in the sun for 6 - 8 hours (until some of the seed husks have split open.)

Transfer seeds to a large glass (gallon) container with a tight-fitting lid and pour in the vodka.

Place in the sun for 3 - 4 weeks.

Once seeds have seeped in vodka for 3 - 4 weeks, strain seeds from the vodka. Make a simple syrup of sugar and water, boil until clear, and then remove from heat and let cool.

Add cooled syrup to vodka and store in a cool dry place for 2 - 3 weeks.


This brandy, with its hints of cherries and almonds, is truly delicious!




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  • Gretchen Rose

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

In these stressful times, while we shelter in place, I thought I'd share this image with you, my friends and family. (It always brings a smile to my face.)



I took this photo in Empire, MI, while standing atop a dune, in the historic Sleeping Bear Dunes, which ring the shores of Northern Lake Michigan. Believe it or not, the photo was taken 350 feet above the lakeshore! (I know. It's a bit of an optical illusion!) Several years ago, Good Morning America designated the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore the Most Beautiful Place in America. Whether that's true or not, it certainly is right up there in the top twenty. With its majestic dunes, pristine turquoise waters, and magnificent towering forests, it has been dubbed the Michigan Caribbean. A coveted destination for hikers, bikers, birders, and nature lovers of all stripes, this little known part of the world is one of nature's finest creations. Mel and I are fortunate to have a summer home there, and I was so taken with its breathtaking beauty, I decided to write a children's book to celebrate it, one that would inspire in young readers an appreciation of natures' wonders and a desire to husband our precious natural resources. The result was DUNE DRAGONS, a story about a colony of peace-loving dragons who, long ago, settled in the Sleeping Bear Dunes.




This book is an ideal read-to for children aged 4 and up, and a fast-paced read for ages 8 - 12. It can be purchased on my website or on Amazon.


Anyway, in the days and weeks ahead, I am going to initiate a project, and, if you're interested, I hope you'll decide to be a part of it.


You see, for the past several years I have been compiling a cookbook, the original title was to be:

COOKING WITH FRIENDS

But as we enter the new normal, and so many of us are homebound, honing our latent culinary skills, I thought we could truly be friends cooking, sharing, and collaborating. Perhaps you'd like to contribute to:


COOKING IN THE TIME OF COVID


Meyer lemons harvested from our garden, with which we made delicious Meyer Lemon Marmalade.

My concept was to intersperse poems, haiku, teeny stories or anecdotes with the recipes. So, think about it. If you're interested, let me know, and we'll get started. In the meantime, check out my new website, brilliantly created by Loft 2203.


The following poem was inspired by Mel's lovely garden, from which, two months ago, we harvested an abundance of Meyer Lemons. Now, she's yielding a bumper crop of loquats, which I am preserving, pickling and even experimenting with a Loquat Brandy. Recipes to follow.




MY GARDEN


My garden is singing

a song of delight

for, after her long thirst,

rain quenched her last night.

My garden is weeping,

leaves beaded with tears.

They sparkle like diamonds

in the crown that she wears.


My garden is dancing.

She pivots and sways.

She tangos with sunlight

and bends to its rays.


My garden is laughing;

she's shaking with mirth.

What's more fun than planting

one's self in the earth?


My garden is donning

a frock like no other;

it's sequined, and ruffled,

and dazzle-colored.


My garden is tempting

her suitor, the wind.

He yearns to caress her,

and she lets him in.


My garden is humming

a desultory tune.

Cicadas, their strumming

tease out a pale moon.


My garden is dreaming;

she sighs in her sleep,

perfuming the air

with the secrets she keeps.


For now, stay at home, read, cook, write down your favorite recipe, and we'll all get through this.

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