Palate Poll: Do you salt your melons?

I like my melons salted… err, I like salt sprinkled on my fresh cut melon. How do you take your melons? Take the poll below.

Salt Campers:

  • Makes the flavor more intense with the salty-sweet contrast
  • Increased salivation to awaken taste buds and increase juicy factor
  • Allows a humble melon to aid in goiter prevention (ok, actually don’t use iodized if possible, negating the goiter benefit)
  • Not all melons need to be salted but can (taloupe!)
  • Still need to know the time and a place
  • Every region claims it as uniquely theirs, making it everyone’s (American South, California, Hawaii, Northeast, Armenia, Asia, Africa…)
  • Tempers acidity somewhat (think pineapple in particular, yeah I know its not a melon)

Salt Skeptics:

  • It’s all in your head
  • Technique limits its usefulness and application (even, light sprinkle please)
  • I prefer watermelon with feta or cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto (a ha! Salty…. See…)
  • Country folk-lore
  • Melons are not the same as caramels
  • Tastes like the retched bitter melon soup (ok, my opinion on the soup, designed to cure what ails, but basically the mere thought of having to consume makes you instantly feel better, no longer in need of remedy)
  • Not until the National Watermelon Board recognizes it
  • The closest I will get to salting my fruit is the rim of the margarita glass

Share your thoughts and declare a side!

Reach & Read: Cutting for Stone with bonus nun thoughts

Cutting for Stone: Abraham Varghese

On the bus the other day I saw a lady reading this book and I was nearly overcome by the urge to talk with her about it. Was she completely drawn in to the setting, the colors, the smells? Ponder what her life as a novel would read as? Feel thankful for modern medicine but perhaps have some concern that some art might be lost? Question if she will ever feel love or conviction for something as strong as Hema’s desire to raise the twins as her own? Pause to realize that this historical description of healthcare rivals some human’s current experience around the world? Wonder even just a little bit if Sister Mary Joseph Praise wasn’t actually part of Christian miracle (miracle to be defined by reader, not necessarily conception)? Due to excellent character development/portrayal, see the characters in real people around her?

Well, there you go. This is a fantastic book that will leave you wanting more and hoping for a movie, starring those people you see every day.

Bonus Nun Thoughts

PS – I also wondered what my nun name would be? Seeking the help of the internet, there are only a few nun name generators out there. Apparently, I would be Sister Eula Mary Smolderbox. Not all nuns change their names, depends on the religious order, but if they do, it often incorporates a significant saint. Smolderbox is not a saint. I didn’t have the pleasure to attend Catholic school with the Sisters, but know that if I had, I would probably have a whole blog category devoted to it. This isn’t to say that nuns haven’t entered my life.

  • Mother Theresa
  • Maria in Sound of Music [almost a nun]; every time I see curtains
  • Sister Mary Clarence in Sister Act [Whoopie Goldberg in witness protection]; tween memory
  • Sister Joy Duff

Who is Sister Joy Duff? She is a nun that I became acquainted with while on rotation at St. James Hospital in Butte, MT in the fall of 2003. I do not recall the specific instance that I helped her with a blood glucose machines and strips, but likely was a patient assistance program, given reference to the Community Health Center (another great rotation site I still think about and apply learnings from!). However, I have kept her kind note over the years. In re-reading it today, I can still see her kind face and smile at the thought that in her opinion I was possibly worthy of joining the Sister of Charity of Leavenworth. With that I did some searching to see where Sister Joy’s life has lead her. I had forgotten she was also a nurse by training and at the time I met her in 2003, in the role of chaplain/pastoral care for St. James, when I believe she was 70 years old (but I remember her seeming younger). It looks like she is continuing to serve via the SCLS but has since retired from St. James. Below is her profile.

Sister Joy Duff Joined the SCLs:  1969

What/who influenced you to become an SCL? 
I had wanted to become a Sister for a number of years but delayed because of objections from my family. I had worked in nursing for quite a few years and had worked previously at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. I decided to go back and work there to get an idea about the Sisters. They were wonderful and warm and friendly, so I finally decided to enter the SCLs. Sisters Mary Eustelle and Mary Eunice were quite influential.

Ministries you’ve loved  
I graduated from nurse’s training in 1953, and I loved every minute of working in nursing. Then about 15 years ago, I took a clinical pastoral education course because I wanted to work with patients in a more spiritual way. I felt it was a wonderful combination, so I worked as a chaplain for 14 years at St. James Healthcare, Butte, Mont., before retiring. I loved being a Chaplain also—bringing spiritual comfort and encouragement to many patients.

Your hobbies, other interests: Oil painting

Thank you Sister Joy for being a key person in my memories of that early time in my pharmacy career and showing me through reflection how it connects in my current state and continues to shape my career – something big that I am tackling is growing a patient medication assistance program for my organization. This is definitely informed by my work at St. James and Community Health Center. Who knows where this will take me?

The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth also have a pretty happening Facebook page as well, with waaaay more likes that I will have for quite some time (hint hint – go like odds & hens on Facebook and check them out too)

Spelling Bee Baggage: “Necessisary”

[Warning: this is a text heavy post, but appropriately so]

On this Scripps National Spelling Bee Eve, I am reflecting upon a word that I to this day can’t more often than can spell correctly the first time. I misspell this word apparently so bad, that spell checker isn’t quite sure what I mean and is unable to help. What is this word that haunts my written communication every day?

Necessisary …Necessasary…Necissary…Necessary.

When did I earn this spelling badge of shame? Sixth Grade, Mr. Kelly’s class, school spelling bee

Where did I earn this spelling badge of shame? Granville Stuart, 6th grade pod

What are some synonyms I could just use instead?
essential, needed, required, compulsory, obligatory, indispensable, vital, de rigueur, mandatory

Let us break this down, pretend I made it to the National Spelling Bee (which has exhaustive eligibility criteria) and am set to win the more than $30,000 in cash and prizes along with fame to span the ages and face time on ESPN.


  • Please say the word again: [ néssə sèrree ]
  • Please provide a definition:
  1. required: important in order to achieve a specific result, or desired by authority or convention
  2. following inevitably: inevitable given what has happened previously [oh, isn’t this an ironic definition!]
    1. inescapable
  3. logically true: logically true because of being impossible to be false, logically unavoidable
  • Please provide the part of speech: adjective
  • Please provide the language of origin: Middle English necessarie, from Latin necessarius, from necesse necessary, probably from ne- not + cedere to withdraw
  • Please provide an alternate pronunciation: [nes-uh-ser-ee]

What would I look like as a “spellebrity”. Let’s discover…

  • Spellebrities Favorite Movie: Harry Potter Series (I haven’t seen any of them); also their favorite novel series
  • Favorite School Subject: Math (I don’t really remember…)
  • Favorite Musician: Taylor Swift (not in my iPod rotation)
  • Favorite Board Games: Monopoly (I was more into Candy Land. Hmmm, now Candy Crush?)
  • They have corporate sponsors (I have a job)
  • Not be older than 15 by August 2012 (drat! so close)

I do share one characteristic in common – Girl. Of the 88 champions since the Bee’s inception in 1925, 47 have been girls, as are 52.3% of this year’s competitors.

I also like bees! But this type of bee (honey variety) is not related to the origin of the spelling bee and scholars are pretty much up in arms about where the word “bee”, as in gathering, derives from. I guess don’t ask them for the origin if that is your word to spell.

Definitely (this is another word I frequently misspell, definately) check out the and tune in this week for some fierce spelling competition.

Please use in a sentence: It is logically unavoidable that Megan will misspell necessary at least once per day given what has happened previously.

What spelling word haunts you?


photo-3 (2)

Who threw the spices out? Who? Who? Who-oo?


No, not an owl nor the Baha men. I did, all part of the cleaning trend and motivation (read lit a fire) in the Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Once again, the author reminded me of things I know and treasure. This time it is don’t keep around old spices (Old Spice, is ok) and buying from bulk bins is by far the most economical way to go about stocking the spice pantry.

The mission: clean out and organize my spices.

The situation: spices live in several locations, baking drawer, three spice drawers (narrow, European things – read, not that useful), side of fridge and pantries.

The plan: document the current situation, sort spices by groupings that make sense to me in my kitchen, tidy up the space around them, replace those that are less than fresh but have potential applications

The tools: time, smell, taste, touch, visual inspection


After you locate all your spices, spread them out so you can take a full inventory.

Now sort, wipe of jars, jot down notes: what is missing, what is musty and needs to be replaced etc

Extracts, Essential oils (The liquids)

Although I don’t cook with it, the tea tree, lemon grass and spearmint are used with my beeking. Almond is as well, but I also use it baking every once in a while. I use lemon grass for scenting the sugar syrup the bees feed on in spring (mimics pheromone created by the honeybee’s nasonov gland) and late fall (will post syrup about this soon), almond extract works a bit like some of the chemical bee repellents (for clearing out a box for harvest) but didn’t work too well for me, so I might have the wrong kind of almond (oh, well). Tea tree oil has lots of applications but for bees can help with mite repellant, I have yet to encounter this plague. Spearmint helps masks your human smell when working with bees, and is calming to them, decreasing the amount of smoke you may need, which in turn is better for the bees too. The meat tenderize (not in this photo) is for the bees too, when they sting. Although I noticed on inspection it comes “with spices”, so who knows how THAT will feel on a sting.

I tossed the maple extract old, not much left, can wait until a clear indication. Combined my two dark/medium vanillas.

Peppery stuff

Montreal steak – hands down the best thing to flavor a steak with, but not lose its own beauty. Good on lamb too. More people need to use this stuff. We actually buy this at Costco and just keep refilling the little container. Lavendar pepper – keeper, low use but fun to use. I last used it to top off some homemade pate. Full peppercorns. Old! Don’t really use. Toss

Curries, chili’s and Oriental spices (yes, oriental is ok to use for things, just not people)

Red pepper powder (big in Korean cuisine, but don’t need a kilo of it), three curries (kept two – 1 is MIL fave and other is Madras, different flavor profile), chili powder (replace), indian red chili (use responsibly!) and Japanese shichimi (yummy on edamame and rice.)

Indian Specific Spices (dot not feather) The good stuff in ziploc is from my dear friend Mo’s Mom! Legit stuff.

Why bother keeping the World Market Tandori. You can make it up with stuff you already have on hand ( I snapped a shot of ingredients for proof). I also had two coriander and two turmeric, so tossed the commercial/old ones and keep the fresh ones.

The Savories (Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Oregeno etc) and The
Leafies (parsley, tarragon, dill etc). I really am not sure what the purpose of dried parsley is…. No flavor, not really a pretty green and they sell it in huge jars. I just decided that I don’t need it, no point and I will get real stuff or use something else.

Dippers (including ranch dressing mix powder – just mix it with yogurt, sour cream or cottage for tasty dip). Was able to combine some of the olive oil seasons, since they were the same (e.g. Parmesan blend) or darn close enough.

Baking Lot, including sprinkles. Just a few needing refreshing, like cinnamon sticks (key to my pears in red wine sauce), ginger, nutmeg and cream of tartar (important for making baking powder)

Others (although 5 spice snuck in here and belongs in the oriental pile, and then the garbage. Not my fave). I tossed from here some that have chemicals or MSG, like seasoning salt and this particular onion powder. One should worry when the back of a spice bottle looks more like a prescription pill bottle… The Fruit Fresh is “titrated to effect” so no too worried and my favorite spice was in this group too, Smoked Paprika. Get some. Poppy seeds were a bit weird and fluffy looking. Hmmm. No flavor either.

The results!

Nice and tidy. Was able to move into my Indian spice set (love!) and save big bucks by buying bulk (an alliteration!). I replaced 12 spices from bulk bins and one commercial package (whole cloves, they just didn’t have them in the bins.) all for $18.88 minus the cost of a bag of Whethers.

Everything is so much more aromatic and I was able to purchase meaningful quantities of herbs versus the size of the container. I also added in some whole cardamons, that I can grind and add in to so many different things – this was missing from the lot before. I got rid of the containers on  the side of the fridge (they were always spilling their contents, centralized most into the drawers and committed to the kitchen goddess to do this again next year, or so.

What is your favorite spice? Mine is a tie with sage and smoked paprika…..

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Fennel Frond Pesto

Twenty-one weeks ago I pinned a delectable recipe of what appeared to be asparagus, prosciutto, chicken and a cream sauce. But won’t you know it, I went to plan my dinner prep only to find the whole thing was in a foreign language, that I now know to be Polish. Lacking initiative (apparently), I changed plans and dished up the tried and true classic, cereal for dinner. Ok, some other stuff came up too, like no hubby for dinner and really hungry. When walking home a few days later, listening to another food novel and thinking about dinner plans, it suddenly dawned on me – just copy paste the text into a web translator to get enough of a clue about that cream sauce. I could wing the rest. Besides what’s there to lose? I still had cereal. And an easy appetizer: prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe!


Original Recipe found at: Translation at the end. My modifications due to what was on hand include:

  • Chicken thighs not breast meat
  • Zucchini and tomatoes sautéd with shallots instead of asparagus
  • Fennel frond pesto I made in 2011 and froze (yikes! But still good)
  • Half & Half vs. 30% cream
  • Browned chicken in fry pan then finished in the oven at 375 F

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Fennel Frond Pesto Cream Sauce

  1. Dry chicken and pat with flour. Wrap with prosciutto and brown on each side for 3-4 minutes in fry pan with about a tablespoon butter and 1-2 tablespoon olive oil. I lost track of time and mine is a little more “crispy” than planned but still tasty.
  2. Stick pan (better be oven safe) into a 375F oven and finish cooking chicken, maybe 20 minutes or so.
  3. In the meantime, slice up vegetables. In this case, one smallish zucchini, handful of cherry tomatoes (split in half) and about a tablespoon or so, chopped shallot (don’t worry about being exact
  4. Put all the veggies in a bigger than necessary pan with some butter and sauté them. Once done, if the other stuff (chicken and cream sauce) isn’t quite ready, turn to simmer or move off burner for a few.
  5. If you haven’t already, make up your pesto. Here is a great recipe for fennel frond pesto. What a way to use up all the parts of the fragrant bulb! Pesto is great because you can taste it as you go and make adjustments and there isn’t really a wrong way (like it is ok to not put in nuts)
  6. This cream sauce is super simple. I used about a 100 ml of half and half (your liquid measuring cup should also have mls) and about a 1 tablespoon or more of the pesto. Mix together.
  7. When chicken is done, pull out of oven. Turn the heat back on under zucchini if you paused it, add the cream sauce, put the cook chicken in the vegetable pan for a quick minute while you heat the cream through and let the flavors mingle.
  8. Serve!

Translation services provided by moi-self supported by Bing Translation (even though I don’t “bing” often). Below is a snap shot of the direct translation. Some things just don’t come across and sound like sneezes.

This experiment opens up some many more possibilities for cooking and trying new and old recipes. I leave you with a Polish proverb and its translation, of course, to ponder.

Z niczego nic nie będzie.

From nothing nothing can come.

Strauss, Emanuel (1998). Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs (Abbreviated ed.). Routledge. p. 238.

Worm Bin : Reunited

Reunited and it feels so good
Reunited ’cause we understood
There’s one perfect fit
And, sugar, this one is it
We both are so excited
‘Cause we’re reunited, hey, hey

Alright take two on vermiculture at the Beacon Hill farm. Following the unexpected break up, detailed in “It’s not you…it’s me….”, a fresh batch of wrigglers has arrived. I just couldn’t wait for the dozen left standing to multiple nor to find someone to barter with. Besides, the internet is so easy and who doesn’t order worms in their jammies on a Sunday afternoon… This time extra attention to water, only one tray (for now) and a moistened paper towel over the top to tuck them in.

Perhaps I need to get another worm bin…. Then I can have the dynamic duo of Peaches and Herb. [Google it if you don’t get it]

Reach & Read: Moloka’i

Moloka’i – Alan Brennert

Moloka’i is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction. Until the book came up during an interview at work (HINT: a great way to build your personal reading list and learn about candidates is to ask them what the last book they read for fun) and quickly piqued my interest. Until this book, I had never heard of Moloka’i nor the treatment of lepers in the early 1900s nor put much thought to life in Hawaii outside of honeymoons and vacation. The book’s main character, Rachel Kalama, becomes the youngest Hawaiian to be sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantine facility on the island of Kalaupapa. She thought her life, at the ripe age of seven, was over but the books takes you through the years, adventures and people that culminate in her story. Reading this book provides a different perspective and perhaps a good reminder of medicine’s advancements but also areas that we should never slip back upon and the strength of the human spirit and living a full life on one’s health and wellbeing. On page 372, there is a single sentence that really summed up the whole experience of reading this book and in truth, is something we all should be feeling each and every day. Gratitude.

“With wonder and a growing absence of fear she realized, I am more than I was an hour ago.”

I leave you with a few snapshots that fit within the theme of today’s book review. Captured in two divergent locations: Little Rock, AR and La Jolla, CA.

Photo notes: Bird of Paradise and Roadside flower, La Jolla with Nikon [no editing]; H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden, Little Rock, AR [editing w/Pixlr]

Worm Bin Exodus: It’s not you…it’s me

Not the warm welcome expected upon our return from a work conference in San Diego. While we were trying to keep classy, the worms decided to up and move out. All was looking great in worm town before I left. They were slowly breaking down the bedding, no bad smell and you could see it pulsating with worminess. I spritzed them for good measure and headed out for sunny California.

We have no idea how they actually got out but can imagine it was quite the feat, in super slow motion (sort of sad I missed it…) They managed to wriggle there way all OVER the garage, under the car, under garden books, behind shelves and I am sure in places yet to be found. All but a handful were dried up worm gunk that had to be scraped off the floor, no broom could move them. A small colony, likely the slow pokes, were left in the black tray at the bottom, small, thirsty but still alive. I immediately watered them, fluffed their bedding, dampened it and recombined what was left with hopes of regeneration. Or at least have them hang on until I get my hands on some more.

As for the other two thousand worms, I scraped them up, swept them into the dust pan and deemed them high quality, organic chicken treats! Waste not, want not. I knew the girls would love those protein strips. The thought crossed my mind to put the hens in the garage and just have them eat them up off the floor, but I don’t think they could have dislodged the stuck on worms without concerted effort and a more generous attention span.

So, why the mass exodus? No one was talking but I think the bin might have just dried out. I know the garage didn’t get hot, as the weather had been pretty mild. My worm book offered no hints and at great risk of overthinking these brainless invertebrates, I googled. It looks like others have had worms reenacting the Shawshank Redemption too. Hypotheses presented:

  • Tile floors might be too cold (mine are on cement), so move them up off the floor. Maybe put some burlap or cardboard layers underneath them
  • Too dry of bedding (add water, but not too much, try covering with damped full sheet of newspaper)
  • Too many vibrations (note: I am now busting out in song… Beach Boys this time)
  • Scraps too hard to eat, one person blends hers up first (I might try, but can only imagine the mess this might generate.)
  • Too wet, so mix in dry bedding and leave lid off
  • Extreme temperatures, while nothing in Seattle is extreme, goal temperature is 55-77 F, so the time might come that I need to put them in the basement this summer. Will have to monitor.
  • Not enough air, so fluff the bedding (check. Note: now I am singing Jordin Sparks… ugg)
  • Not enough food, so add food and more bedding (hmm, maybe, I hadn’t fed them anything since the original meal but there was still bedding to eat, technically)
  • Overcrowding and time to split or add levels (doubtful in my case given how new the bin is)
  • Adventurous lot, not much you can do to squash this explorer spirit
  • Bad storm brewing (I kid you not), apparently they will return when the coast is clear
  • They don’t like change, well I tried to prepare the people as best as could but this is really up to them
  • Restless with the moon phases
  • Wrong type of bedding, I knew risks of shredded paper but read plenty of success stories but maybe my worms dislike shredded bills as much as I

My next steps will be to keep moist, add more soil for good measure and feed them some new stuff. Oh, and get more worms. Anyone have some to share?

Eat the Cake You Have


Recently I attended the ACT Theater production of Grey Gardens with my dear friend, ASB. We have been attending the theater together for almost 8 years now (whoa!) and always aim to watch some classic Broadway, some new releases and a few more obscure. This year, obscure was Grey Gardens. It was a nice production, in a theater in the round, with a minimal stage and talented actors. I am not going to review the play much further but will probably try to catch the documentary on the real Grey Gardens (hint: Jackie O and JFK) to compare and contrast. It is not the story so much that stayed with me, but one song and a particular line. The song – “Jerry Likes My Corn”

[Edith to Jerry, excerpt]

I boil it on the hot plate
Till all the juice is gone
Bless his soul
He knows which side my corn is buttered on …

Everyone deserves someone who knows how to butter your corn! IMHO

The line: “eat the cake you have”. Not to say we should not strive and dream but reminds us all to slow down and enjoy the now, current life we have too. This is something that I always benefit from hearing, as it is so easy to get wrapped up in tomorrow, next week or even the dreaded…. Yesterday…..

With this musing, I now leave you with inspired creations. I also needed a reason after all to blog about a corn song.

Grilled Corn on the Cob with basil garlic butter

  • Heat grill to medium, too hot, it will burn and flame.
  • Peel back the husks, but don’t remove them, just enough to remove all the silk
  • Put the husks back in place and soak the cobs for 20-30 minutes.
  • Once ready put on the grill about 10 minutes per side.
  • Keep a spray bottle of water of handy if it is burning to quick or flaming
  • Let the cooked cobs cool for a second or where an ovenmit before husking before serving. It will be hot!

Basil Garlic Butter

  • Soften 4 T butter, unsalted or salted (just know which)
  • Add chopped basil, either fresh or freeze dried, about 1 T [I think cilantro would be delightful too]
  • Add about 1sp minced garlic
  • Mix, taste and add salt if needed
  • I am storing the rest in the fridge for other delights (pasta? Bread?)

Enjoy! We made a simple grilled dinner with chicken sausage, duck egg, grilled zucchini, grilled pepper and grilled corn on the cob. And grilled pineapple with coconut ice cream for dessert!

Mexican Wedding Cakes – a favorite of my theater buddy ASB, from the tried and true Joy of Cooking. Granted not a true “cake” but still supports the theme and there is almost a wedding in Grey Gardens.

About forty – sixty 1 ¼ inch cookies, easy to halve or double


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar (aka powdered)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (recommend toasting, see below)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar, for rolling


  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease or line cookies sheets.
  • Beat first 4 ingredients (butter, sugar, salt, vanilla) in a large bowl until well blended
  • Stir in chopped nuts
  • Stir in flour until blended
  • Once mixed, shape in 1 inch balls and arrange about 1 ¼ inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake, one sheet at a time, until cookies are lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes. Let stand briefly. Then remove to a rack and cool. Roll the cookies in sugar

These just melt in your mouth. I did few modifications to part of my batch. To half the dough I added coconut flakes (turned out ok, made them extra crumbly) and for another part, I added some cinnamon to the powdered sugar for a ‘Mexican’ kick. The cinnamon is perfect! I added about a teaspoon or so. Lastly, use all purpose gluten free flour. no problemo. I am not sure why they are called Mexican, since nothing in the original recipe screams Ye Old Mexico, other than maybe vanilla. These cookies are sometimes called Russian Tea cakes but this name seems less common (based on unscientific survey of all my cookbooks, none referred to Russians. Sign of political times?). The main difference is traditionally the Russian version is made with walnuts. This cookie is also found in reference to many other countries under the names Swedish Tea Cakes, Italian Butter Nut, Southern Pecan Butterball, Snowdrop, Viennese Sugar Ball, Sand Tarts, and Snowballs. Basically, pick your favorite country or match to a party theme, use the nuts you have (don’t fret) and enjoy. A last word of caution, neither inhale deeply or nor sneeze directly when eating these cookies due to the generous dusting of sugar.

Toasted Nuts – easy and really brings out flavor and adds some new dimensions too

  • Heat oven to 325 F.
  • Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil
  • Add nuts in a single layer
  • Toast for 5-7 minutes. Don’t burn!