Friday, November 18, 2011

A Russian Dish takes a Detour

One of my favorite dishes to cook and eat is Beef Stroganoff. This is inherited from my Poppop (T. Henry Jablonski) who enjoyed making it himself. When we were younger, my mom would make a variation of this favorite called "Poor Man's Beef Stroganoff, which used ground beef instead of strips of beef. I liked it in any form I could get it.

Because the recipe is a simple one, it is one of my "go to" recipes on the evenings when I didn't plan ahead. On the way home from work today, I decided it was a Stroganoff evening, and I stopped at Target to get noodles (I may have also put Season 2 of NCIS in my basket). While I was picking out my noodles, I had an urge to get some fresh mushrooms so I could make Hungarian Mushroom Soup tomorrow. I've made it once before and really enjoyed the flavors, so in the mushrooms went, and home I trotted before Kurt called to report his starvation.

Once I was home, I grabbed the ground meat from the freezer. At this time I realized it was ground pork and not beef. No worries; pork is mild and, when seasoned well, it would probably taste just fine. Kurt came in and asked if I was making Poor Man's Beef Stroganoff and I commented that it might be better called "Destitute Man's Stroganoff ." <grin>

During this meal preparation, I had a desire to be creative. With Hungarian Mushroom Soup on my mind, I decided to take some of the elements of the soup and incorporate them into the Stroganoff. After adding the appropriate seasonings (and tasting it), I ended up with a new dish that I'll most likely make again in the future.

Listed below are some rough instructions if you want to try it. If you're not familiar with Stroganoff, I can pass on what I know about it.

Toni's Hungarian Stroganoff (Measurements are approximate)

1 lb. Ground meat (pork ended up being good for this variation, I would probably use just pork or chicken since they will not overpower the seasonings)
1 large Onion, chopped
2 C of Water
2 Beef bouillon cubes
<1 Tbsp of dried Dill
<1/2 Tbsp of Paprika
<1/2 Tbsp of Lemon Pepper
<1/2 Tbsp. Ground pepper
Garlic powder, to taste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 C Sour cream (You may need to add more if it doesn't look creamy enough. You can also taste to see if there is enough)
1 can of Mushrooms

Cook the meat and onion with some of the water and 1 bouillon cube until the meat is cooked. Add the rest of the water, bouillon cube, spices and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer until you think it has had time for the flavors to spread. Thicken with cornstarch water. Turn of the heat and stir in sour cream. Serve on noodles.

If any of you decide to try this, I'd be interested in knowing what you think!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Color of Bereavement

There is a song that Frank Sinatra used to sing titled, "Looking at the World Through Rose-Colored Glasses". If you're like me, you eagerly look forward to those times when everything looks rosy and pleasant. But we all realize that life has a multitude of glasses that we must look through. They could be grey when life seems to be just a collection of tasks that don't seem to lead anywhere. They could be orange when you see excitement, drive and purpose in your life. They might even be slightly hazy when you are looking at the past with fond remembrances.

But lately, I've experienced the world through bereavement-colored glasses. These glasses are unique, and I was surprised by them. If you have ever looked through a Kaleidoscope, you have seen mirrors and bits of colored items (some broken, some shiny) that form a geometric stained glass effect. This is what these glasses look like to me. Not gray for complete mourning, not yellow for happiness, and not rosy for deep love, but a mixture of all colors.

My Grandpa Swayze died on October 17th, 2011. At first the color of life darkened and was clouded with tears. The sharp corners of reality combined with greys, blues, and black of grief made a design that was painful to look at, but it echoed my heart. But, the glasses were turned and colors "fell", creating an entirely different effect. Remembrances that are so sweet, you can't help but smile at the warmth of the memory. Hour by hour in that first week, the design shifted; bringing smiles, sighs and tears in its way.

Life seemed to slow down and crawl for those first few days. My heart ached as I recalled precious times and the finality hit me. Why was the world going on as it always had? Why didn't it care that my grandfather was gone, he couldn't come back and my life would never be the same again? Then it hit me: Who else is having the same experience through grief? I'm not the only one in the world that is going through this. My eyes have been opened with this strange pair of glasses that show me that my grief is not the only one, nor my last one.

This pair of glasses will always be around, although sometimes they will be pale and almost invisible. Other times they will become as vivid as the day of the funeral. Although Grandpa is not the first loved one I've lost, the fact that I'm older lets me see differently and more clearly. I'm grateful that I can see color through these glasses, but some days I just wish for a pair of rose-colored glasses, for times gone by, and a good bear hug from my grandpa.