Dad and meIt was a big week for my family. Dad celebrated his 96th birthday on September 16th. We hardly thought this day would come given his failing health. But he managed to sport his 1000 watt smile as we joined him at the Maryville Nursing Home for dinner. I brought a fabulous strawberry cream cake from the Beaverton Bakery. Dad loved it. It was a special night to be sure.

For this week’s Fields of Greens meal, we invited my good friend, Lynn Landrum to join us for a feast of Winter Vegetable Curry, Cucumbers with Yogurt and Mint, and Fiery Pineapple Chutney.

As I’ve worked on curries these past couple of weeks, I’ve witnessed the benefit of boiling green beans and broccoli briefly and setting them aside. Their colors perk up, and they retain their crispness when added to the pot in the final moments of cooking. There’s advanced preparation for mushroom in the Winter Vegetable Curry; they’re sautéed for 7 minutes in oil with a splash of water to loosen the pan juices. The little darlings emit a high-pitched squeal akin to baby mandrakes in the second Harry Potter movie. It sounded like we were torturing them for state secrets… which they never gave up. They were tasty, however…

Having declared victory on another meal, we set off that weekend for a two-day getaway at Cape Meares on the Oregon Coast. Lovely weather. No crowds. Long walks on the beach. Heaven!

I stayed the course through the first week of my new adventures in cooking. I cannot report to have made great strides in food preparation efficiency, but I’ve learned to make the time pass pleasantly.

I have dozens of CDs that rarely get played. So, I’m going to make sure I have great music rolling while I’m cooking. Guess what? Listening to music really fills my soul! I don’t know why I’ve opted for silence all these years when I could have reveled in sound. Already an unexpected bonus of my quest!

tomato-basil tart with smoke mozzarella cheeseI’m especially pleased with the Tomato-Basil Tart with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese. I’d never made Tart Dough before, so I thought I’d have a real issue pulling it off. Fortunately, my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer did most of the work… and seemed delighted to be out of the closet for once! While my rolling pin skills leave much to be desired, the end result was quite tasty if not the aesthetic masterpiece for which I’d hoped!

I just finished reading Chris Guillebeau’s book entitled The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose To Your Life. He reflects on his 10-year quest to visit every country in the world. In his travels, Chris met scores of kindred spirits whose quests enriched their lives and satisfied inner longings.

By Chris’ definition, a quest:

  • Has a clear goal and specific end point
  • Presents a clear challenge
  • Requires sacrifice
  • Is often driven by a calling or sense of mission
  • Requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal

A core premise of the book is that there are adventures awaiting us all.

For the past 20 years, I’ve had the Fields of Greens vegetarian cookbook on my bookshelf, and yet I’ve only made a few of the recipes (all delicious). I’ve decided that my quest will be to make all 284 recipes (or a reasonable approximation thereof) between now and December 31, 2016. This undertaking will be no small feat. The recipes are challenging and leverage a whole host of ingredients that I’ve never used before.

spring vegetable curry with basmati rice and mango papaya chutneyHaving made this decision at 4:00 pm last Tuesday, I opted to make that evenings’ meal my first undertaking. I set off to the store to buy the ingredients for Spring Vegetable Curry with Sri Lankan Spices accompanied by Basmati Rice and Mango-Papaya Chutney. I found everything I needed at New Seasons and then dashed home to start cooking.

Spike arrived a little after 6:00 pm to find the kitchen in a state of complete disarray. (I really should have a taken a picture of it!) I told him about the quest while assuring him that meat would remain a factor in our diets. He then offered to help… thank goodness! With four hands hard at work, we finally got dinner on the table at 7:30 pm. It was WONDERFUL! Clean-up took about an hour.

Admittedly, I choose one of the more challenging meals right out of the gate. However, I expect to get more efficient with food preparation once I get the hang of it.

Stay tuned!