Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Time Apart—Key to a Happy Marriage (that plus roasted cauliflower, asparagus and eggs at 9 p.m.)

Roasted cauliflower, asparagus, kale and eggs topped with a little finishing salt. Yum! But at 9 p.m.? Not PK's favorite time for dinner. But....he was away.
PK was out of town recently and I failed to mention to him how ecstatic I was to have a whole week to myself. I love the guy. Been married going on 40 years. I would be diminished without him. But damn, I sure do enjoy it when he vacates. He feels the same when I take off.  Such is the mature modern marriage. Flight or fight? Maybe.

PK and me in 1996. This photo was taken by son Chris Korbulic,
then age 10,who has since become a pro.
My mother never understood this as she and my father took few vacations without one another, and every get away was family-related. I can't remember how many Sundays we drove the 40 miles to grandma Ella's home in Jackson, Minnesota. My parents took few vacations, period. Those were different times, post-Depression era when most women didn't dare venture forth on their own and didn't have the resources anyway. Plus a women on her own would have been unseemly and bold. Not the identity sought by my mother.

I think they would have enjoyed their times apart as much as PK and I do. One of my best gifts was what he gave me for Christmas the year I was pregnant at age 40 (surprise!) with our second child. It was a mock-up of an airline ticket to "anywhere in the world."

Knowing our bank account wouldn't accommodate my wilder dreams, and that traveling far afield when seven months pregnant might be foolhardy, I opted for a week on the Yucatan Peninsula in company of my sister, Monette Johnson. We had a hilarious time, one I will never forget. One of the more convulsive-laughter-producing lines in a Mexican budget hotel: Don't look too closely at your pillow. Thank you, PK.

Enough on that. PK was gone. I meandered without a meal plan through the days and nights, dining on huge garden salads and a vat of homemade chile. After five days, the chile no longer appealed (PK finished it off when he returned) and around 8 p.m. one night, stomach rumbling, I began clicking through what I had on hand.

Cauliflower. Asparagus and kale in the garden. Lemons, garlic, olive oil, eggs. Parmesan cheese. A little cooked bacon. What else could I possibly need? What ensued was a simple yet elegant meal that I knew I would repeat. And I have, except we eat closer to 7 p.m. than  9 p.m. And I've added much more, ta da! Bacon!

I LOVE roasted veggies, and cauliflower is especially deluxe. It shrinks, browns, and becomes nutty sweet. Asparagus too, is superb roasted. Roast whatever veggies you have on hand, but don't skimp on olive oil or lemon.

Roasted Asparagus, Cauliflower, Kale and Eggs

This recipe would feed two people. I loved having the leftovers.

Cauliflower, about half of a medium head sliced or divided into florets. Make the pieces more or less the same size.

Half a pound of fresh asparagus, trimmed
Fresh kale, half pound or less, trimmed and torn
2-3 T fresh lemon juice (or more)
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2-3 T olive oil (at least)
salt and pepper to taste - try finishing salt at the end!
1/4 cup crumbled bacon
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
2-4 eggs


Preheat the oven to 450. Line a large roasting pan with parchment paper. This will save annoying scrubbing later. Use foil if you're out of parchment.
Clean and trim the veggies into similar-sized pieces. Toss the cauliflower with half the olive oil and lemon juice. When the oven reaches 450, roast the cauliflower for 10 minutes. In the meantime, toss the asparagus with oil, lemon and mashed or finely diced garlic. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Add to the cauliflower and return to the oven for 10 more minutes.

Toss the torn kale with olive oil and lemon juice to coat. Add to the cauliflower and asparagus, which by now should be browning. Yes, this is a meal that requires attention for a half hour or more. Drink wine to help pass the time. It isn't complicated, but cauliflower takes longer to roast than asparagus, asparagus takes longer than kale. And so on.

Roast for another 10 minutes. The kale roasts quickly, so you may need to stir. When it looks like the photo above, kale wilted but not crispy, remove from oven, shove veggies to the sides, and crack in two or more eggs and lightly salt and pepper. Sprinkle on a little grated Parmesan and crumbled bacon, if using, and return to the oven. Check back in a few minutes.

Those eggs don't look done, but with another minute in a 450 degree oven, they will be. As soon as the eggs form a whitish film, they're perfect—way past runny and a tad shy of well done. This combo is delicious, seasoned with lemon, garlic, olive oil and, perhaps, crumbled bacon. A little chipotle or dill sauce never hurts, nor does "finishing salt." By the way, the first yoke broke upon pan entry, so I broke the other one, too. Repeats of this recipe include eggs with unbroken yolks roasted until a thin whitish film formed on top. 
The eggs got a little too done, but still tasted great! The red stuff on top is chipotle "finishing salt,"  one of several flavored coarse natural salts made in Southern Oregon. They're great and you can 
order them online at Salinity Salts.
Two of my favorite flavors of finishing salts. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Giving to Angels

This post is a departure from my usual photo-heavy storytelling. It's about donating to causes near and dear. I've at long last, after many years, sorted my priorities, both for financial donations and for volunteer work.

I am not congratulating myself for giving money to charity, but only dipping into my guilt in public. You know, the guilt about being white and comfortable in a developed country with clean water flowing from hoses and taps in car washes and kitchen sinks. And toilets.  And retirement funds flowing into bank accounts. Do you know how rare that is in the wide wide world?

And supermarkets. Let's not even go there. We have so much food. So much water. So much, so much. Even our poor, even our homeless, don't worry about water, and if they want food, they can get it. I'm not saying homeless and poor people in the USA aren't miserable. I'm saying that they aren't skeletal, they aren't dying from starvation, and their children can get medical care.

We have myriad problems: hunger, homelessness, inadequate care for mentally ill, dread diseases, ignored veterans, abused animals, environmental causes, I could go on and on. I've chosen to focus my charitable attention on families—women, mostly, and their children—who are terrorized by a domestic partner and who have endured rape.

TERRORIZE is the correct word.

I interviewed a woman (I live in rural southern Oregon) referred to me by the local Women's Crisis Support Team, for an online newsletter I write for "friends" of this organization. We're talking grassroots here, no big budget, struggling to meet payroll, no PR firm, nothing but passionate people, men included, employees and volunteers, who work their asses off to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault. Many of the advocates who work directly with victims suffer post traumatic stress syndrome by association. And in truth, many of them have been victims, leading to firsthand knowledge they'd rather not possess.

In this case, a woman who had been rescued from almost-certain death by this organization 14 years ago, happened to run into one of the advocates who delivered her from evil. She told me her story. I wrote it and asked her to review. She added volumes, then told me there are still things she can't bring herself to say. My guess is she's talking about endless rape and sexual degradation in addition to the terrors she describes. Read it and believe, then please support WCST or your local women's shelter. They save women and kids every single day.

The following is a lightly edited account of one woman's domestic abuse and how WCST came to her rescue. WCST's executive director assures me that as bad as the situation is, it is not unusual. "This happens more than we will ever know," says Krisanna. If you've not experienced domestic violence, or had personal contact with someone who has, you will not believe situations similar to this are happening in your neighborhood. One difference between now and the 1980s and 90s, when most of this occurred, is that law enforcement response is better now.

Sharon, in her own words...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Garden. Refuge or Tether?

Just kidding. He works all the time. Right there working on potatoes.
It is glorious spring and garden tasks are worming their way to the top of my to-do list, as they have for time immemorial—or at least most of the past 40 years. Since gardening is a family affair, PK is also engaged. Maybe "married" is a better word for his seasonal relationship with the seedlings, furrows, raised beds, fruit trees and, most recently, the pasture.
                                   PK at work with his seedlings in 2009.  
BUT WAIT! We've been pledging one another for the past few years to cut back on gardening. We've not succeeded, but we continue to natter about the errors inherent in continuing to live how we've lived for decades while our inner selves are stretching toward.....
s l o w e r 
s m a l l e r
l e s s  w o r k
Except for a sparse garlic crop the main garden is a blank slate. All that's there is compost, straw and 2013 kale and chard that will soon be removed. And weeds, of course. Could we just leave it alone for a year or two? Or cut in half?
At the same time, the universe whispers—or maybe it hisses:
G e t   o n   t h e   r o a d   b e f o r e   y o u   c a n 't.

At the same time that we're nattering and the universe is whispering, PK has this crazy-ass idea about raising livestock. Plus, he's already done a lot of the required preparation. Still, he'd have to build a barn for cows and pigs to come aboard, and I don't see any plans being drawn up.

Not that I don't relish the barn/livestock idea on a basic level. But I'd relish it a lot more if I was 40 rather than 69, and wanting to hit the road. We are devoted, almost slavish, gardeners and back-to-the-earth types but have slipped, somehow, into the last third of the human life span. We have places to go, things to do!

Where? What?
  • The U.S.A. - PK's family lives in New Jersey, and we want to drive there to reconnect, visiting my family in Minnesota en route. Three months, at least, taking the southern route one direction and Canada/Minnesota the other. This is most likely first, as I could easily return home should my mom need me.
  • Guatemala - to a remote mountainous area where a friend operates a non profit she founded 26 years ago, Adopt a Village Guatemala. We want to drive there in our Four Wheel camper and spend time helping with projects, tutoring, maybe teaching sustainable small-scale farming.
  • South America - big target, I know, but PK really wants to see Colombia, and we'd both like to visit Peru and Ecuador. And maybe Brazil, after the World Cup craziness is over. And then perhaps Chile, where we might be able to connect with some Chris contacts.
  • Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa - I LOVED Africa and want to return. 
  • Morocco, Turkey, Bali, on it goes. 
Clearly, we can't go all these places and do all these things with an aggressive garden hogging our time and energy, or actual hogs rooting around in our dreams. I dare to think, however, that we may be taking control.

Signs of taking charge:

    That's it, folks. Only four seedling flats this year. (So far.)
  • Instead of a solarium window-wall filled with seed flats, we have only four,  three planted with 10 pepper varieties and one with four tomato types. This seems like a lot? But it is a serious curtailment.
  • A plan is afoot to sow at least one, perhaps two, of our six garden rows with cover crops. 
  • I'm lobbying for four eggplants rather than a dozen, fewer tomatoes, NO green beans, and just a few English cucumbers, crops that tend to have a greater percentage of being given away or wasted.
  • No corn this year. 
  • As usual, only a couple zucchini plants.
 However ...... Garden crops I can't do without:
  • Basil
  • Tomatoes
  • Berries
  • Peppers
  • Cantaloupes
  • Onions
I  must have onions! Lots of them.
  • Herbs (dill, oregano, thyme)
  • Greens -kale, spinach, lettuce etc.
  • Flowers
Stop right there, Mary. That's a big garden of "can't do withouts."

Maybe what we'll have to do (starting next summer) is take a couple years OFF from gardening to travel. And if we shake the wanderlust, we can settle back into more modest production. And maybe even get a couple cows. And build a barn to keep them dry. Plus procure pigs to eat our excess produce. The pigs will want corn. We'll need some chickens to make manure......

Hopeless, right?

Here's a stretch: travelers looking at their garden in the rearview mirror. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Killer Kale Salad with Sesame Dressing

Kale is the main ingredient but cabbage, carrots, avocado, roasted walnuts and (not yet added) Parmesan cheese lend flavor, texture, and nutrition. The dressing is key to this salad's deliciousness.
If you want the kale salad recipe and none of my yammering, scroll to the green headline. I'm annoyed, when searching out a recipe in the heat of getting dinner on the table, to have to slog through a bunch of ramblings to find it. If you're ready for rambling, read on.

I haven't been posting much about food lately (except the most recent post, which was about brownies made with black beans! You gotta try em.) I've been too obsessed with Africa, I guess. I'm not finished with reliving some of the best experiences of my life, by the way. Roads of Uganda. People of Uganda. South African wonders. Does the fun never end? But back to food.

We grow kale every year, and I am addicted. Ok. Not like to nicotine, heroin, or red wine. But as veggies go, kale has a lot going for it AND one can develop a taste. It isn't enough that kale gets great press for its superfood qualities, but some wary types consume it as though it was medicine, a curly castor oil to be swallowed with nose held. I have a friend like that, a burly meat-and-potatoes guy who usually passes on green food. He and others joined us around the dinner table recently, and he complimented me on the kale salad! I about fell off my chair, but I managed to hold my tongue and my place at the table. And I also enjoyed a self-congratulatory slug of cabernet sauvignon. Hic.

I contributed this salad at a recent potluck, too, where it garnered raves and recipe requests. So here it is, in all its simple, delicious, colorful glory. In addition to tasting great, it's good for up to three days refrigerated and dressed. And, oh yeah, it's good for you, too! (Vitamin and mineral rich, low carb, gluten-free, and Paleo friendly, if you care.)

Killer Kale Salad 

I'm starting with the dressing because it is critical. If you go to the trouble to chop up all these veggies, you want to dress it to the nines, and not with a store-bought concoction. What you want is this toasted sesame sweet/sour dressing. I call it Laurie's dressing after the person who first wowed me with it.

Laurie's Sesame Dressing and Marinade

I've made variations of this for at least two decades. It is definitely my salad dressing of choice and it is always on hand. I make it in a food processor, which helps to keep the oil and vinegar blended. This is a doubled recipe, as I don't see the point of making a dressing that keeps well and tastes great for just one dish. Add a little at a time to the kale salad until it is coated with dressing but is not soupy. 


6-8 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, lemon juice, or other acidic liquid
1-2 Tbsp. Dijon or other mustard (a sweet/hot variety is good)
sweetener to taste— I use a dash of Stevia, Splenda or honey
a dash of white pepper for a little kick


Use a food processor. Peel the garlic and process til finely minced. Add all other ingredients, then process until the oils are emulsified. The oil will separate after the dressing sits for awhile, but it is easily mixed with a twirl of the spoon. Works great for dressing a salad or marinating veggies for the grill or even steak or chicken.

The Kale Salad

1 bunch of kale, whatever you can get fresh, chopped
1/4 head of a small to medium red cabbage, chopped
1/8 head of small green cabbage, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
1 large avocado, cut into cubes and drizzled with fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup of lightly toasted walnut halves (or coarsely chopped)
1/3 cup dried cranberries


Chop the kale and red and green cabbages into small pieces. Grate the carrot. Slice, peel and dice the avocado and squeeze a bit of lemon over it to keep from looking yucky. Set aside. Toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat until they are barely browned. Careful.They burn quickly. Remove walnuts from heat and from the pan. I usually chop the walnuts into coarse pieces, but they look saucy atop the salad as whole and handsome halves.

Mix together the greens, carrot, and cranberries. A half hour before serving, dress with Laurie's Dressing. Immediately before serving mix in the avocado and top with the walnuts and grated cheese.

Small chop.
About ready to eat? Add avocado.
Top with cheese and stand back.