A taste of Ghana

My friend Janice sent a recipe that is well common in Ghana. This is to go along with my post from last week.

Bon Appetite

“Hi Tracie,
This is such a great idea! I just love it and think it has real potential.
One of the dishes which is everyone’s favourite at least everyone we have prepared for loves it. The ingredients can be found wherever and that is the peanut sauce or soup dish. It can be eaten with rice, couscous, and just about anything. It is also good for anyone who is allergic to gluten and dairy.
Peanut butter sauce

1. 1 Chopped large onion
2. Four chopped garlic cloves ( you can use as much garlic as you like)
3. 350 grams peanut butter smooth or crunchy without sugar
4. 1 and half litre water plain or with chicken stock
5. 2 tbsp olive oil
6. 500 grams chicken
7. four large tomatoes diced
8. Salt and pepper to taste

a. Fry onion, garlic and diced tomatoes in olive oil for five minutes.
b. Add chicken and steam fry until sealed.
c. Mix peanut butter in water separately until you get a smooth consistency ( this can be achieved using your hand or blender)
d. Add mixture to chicken add salt and pepper to taste, bring to the boil and simmer for one hour or until there is a bit of oil from the peanut butter on top. It will be medium thick once cooked.

This can be served with rice, boiled potatoes ect.

Hope this helps, Tracie and feel free to edit it.
Lots of love and all the best

Janice”

Small Beginnings

This goes out to you, Aaron

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am a race horse. It’s my personality. I’m off and running with the first glimmer of a new idea. I’m the horse on steroids and when the steroids wear off so does my enthusiasm. I’ve not really struggled with inner voices that tell me I can’t do something. I have the opposite problem, I pretty much think I’m capable of accomplishing anything. With this ambition comes taking on more than I can handle and getting myself overly committed or excited about a future project that has yet to even develop. Things also don’t move fast enough for me. Once something isn’t quite working I’m onto my next thing. Poof! Just like that!

There are values and passions that have kept themselves steady over the years. In fact it’s not my core values or my passions that keep changing, it’s the ways in which I want to express my passions that goes from one idea to the next. I am just that… an idea person. I’m a networker and I love to champion others in their quest to change the world around them.

What I find is that this age (I just can’t bring myself to use the word, ‘generation’ right now) that we live in has been culturized by the world around us. Every move forward has to be NOW and it has to be BIG. “I’m gonna’ be….a history maker in this land” If you aren’t making history what are you making? I guess nothing. Bullocks!

I love how fast our lives have changed over that past 50 years. Technology has moved at break neck speed and those of us in our 30s are going to have kids that know how to use devices that we’ve never even imagined. Think of your grandparents trying to use the remote control. I shouldn’t mock I can’t use a modern remote to save my life. Why does anyone need seven remotes for one entertainment center? And the fact that we call them entertainment centers… But I digress.

We have paid a price for all of the speed in our lives today and some of that has been our own ‘peace’ of mind. “If I haven’t made my mark by the time I’m 30 or so I might as well start working the graveyard shirt at Top Foods and develop a strong drinking habit in the middle of the afternoon” There is a pressure to ‘leave something behind’; to make your mark on the world. I’m all for it and believe we are capable of it. In fact, many people will actually go down in history as world changers. But there are others who change the world in more subtle, silent ways. They perhaps will never have a section in Webster’s Encyclopedia, or even Wikipedia for that matter (unless they write it themselves). These are the people I want to be like yet I struggle to be like because I want change and I want it now!!!

Brother Andrew just peeled potatoes, cleaned a monastery and gardened but he was at peace with his soul and with his Maker. Mother Teresa just took a man home one day who was lying in the gutter and cleaned him off. He died the next day. So she went out and found another man. Then another. I don’t think she ever pursued a ‘calling’ in hospice work or tried to form a pyramid sized ministry that stretched over continents. I think she just did the next thing that was in front of her. I love it!!!

Yet here is the dilemma: often people don’t dare to dream because they see the dream in all of it’s grand glory and think they can’t possibly achieve that. Well, they’re probably right, at least right now. But if they dream out of their passion and just do what is possible for them to do, maybe what is right in front of them, it often snowballs into something grand. And even if it doesn’t they are still doing what they love. They just don’t get that page on Wikipedia written about their greatness.

I have many friends all over the world who are class A, quality individuals and as I watch their lives I couldn’t admire them more if I tried. They are doing what they love, and it just so happens to be what they are good at and what comes a bit naturally (with hard work, of course) and instead of shooting for the fame and the name they are making a shift in their community, neighborhood, area, and world around them. Fan-tastic! They are the people I really admire. They work slow and steady and what they do, they do very well. No hurries. Life can go on with or without them, they are doing what they are doing based out of who they are and what their passions are. The ironic thing is that their humility and commitment to quality is actually bringing them into a place of more influence. Go figure.

So I say, along with Glen Hansard, “Make art! Make art!” Be the artist that you know you are and live your dreams but start small and faithful. I should really practice what I preach. Well, this website is the practice of my preaching. It’s not much, it’s small. Not many people read. But those that do are able to be inspired and to inspire me and others along the journey.

Here’s to the whole of life!





In celebration of food Part II

Blue dishes

Today food has become more of a necessity, a fuel for our bodies, that we consume in odd places like cars, at a desk, standing alone over a sink or while quickly walking to various appointments. With our liquid lunch in a paper Starbucks cup the other hand is free to hail a cab, type out a proposal or drive while consuming quick calories and energy, not missing a beat in the race. Families go from class to class eating from paper bags with lovely yellow arches on them as mom drives them out of hockey practice and onto dance rehersal. Food is a necessary evil that we must endure for our very survival but I’m sure if many of us could take a pill to get all of the vitamins and nutrients needed, we might opt for something that fits in our hand which can be swooshed down with water rather than a cumbersome sandwich or a dish that you have to use a fork to consume.

Convience has won out over quality. Have you even been in line at any sort of ‘fast food’ chain and had to wait a few minutes for the person in front of you? It’s like being slapped in the face. How could they make us wait this long? Unfortunately I think there is something greatly missing in the art of making and eating food.
Every week I meet with a group of friends who have been dining together for almost four years now. We rarely miss a week. Sometimes we even do holidays together. I set it up four years ago potluck style and each family rotates as the host. This way we would each have responsibility rather than it all falling on my shoulders. Plus, if people have ownership of the event they are likely to be more involved and take it more seriously, which is exactly how it has happened. I think there are many who have learned to cook better as a result and I know of at least one family that mentioned to me how these weekly events have taught them how to host people in their home. There is a beauty in cooking and a celebration that happens as we gather together around food. As a person of faith I had come across a verse in the BIble that strengthened, in my mind, how God values the aspect of celebration:

“If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you,

then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.

“You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; andthere you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (boo-yeah!)

Deut 14: 24-26 my added parenthesis

Wine and glasses

What I have learned making my own food:
1. Patience. It sucks to try things that fail, ie food that you hoped would be good but tastes as if it should be in a nappy that washed up by the sea. How disappointing! But I keep trying new things and getting better and better at judging what works, such as spices that go well together (fyi: basil and cumin in the same dish will kill your guests!). I’m usually pleased with my efforts but that was not the case about 10 years ago when I started my commitment to cooking. I remember one meal in an attempt to impress a guy who loved calzones. I made those bready Italian bastards with low fat cheese and instead of fresh basil I used dried bay leaves thinking they would rehydrate whilst baking. They didn’t. It sucked. I was mortified.
2. I appreciate the process of cooking and all that goes into making a fine meal and I am more interested in the finer things in life because of good food. My meal can be as simple as grilled cheese but there is a way to make it good and healthy.  There is a lot that goes into the process of making quality food and there are loads of people who throw their love into a dish.
3. Cooking has the potential to create community! This is a huge one today because we are all crying out for community. We want a tribe and like minded people to gather with. Food is one of the best and most practical ways to do this. Look at most culutures who still stay away from a Western, convience diet. They eat together as a family or with neighbors. Food is a central part to a lot of cultures and the process of cooking and eating will often last hours as people gather together. The ritual of eating is sadly dying but I do think it can be revived.
4. I’ve had to think more about what I am putting in my mouth as I watch “how much sugar I just used to make those lemon bars”. When I can’t see it being made I’m more likely to consume freely without even thinking about what I’m putting into by body.
As a woman of faith I am convinced God is about community, family and celebration. If I were Jewish I could use all of my childhood memories to prove that to you. Those people can get down! I’m impressed how much I read about an historical Yahweh giving instruction on how to gather together to celebrate, remember and to create bonds of solidarity within their network of community (Network of community? How’s that for a 21st century cliche?).
Thanksgiving 2008
There is something profound and beautiful in slowing down to cook and slowing down even more to enjoy the meal in which you labored. I highly recommend gathering people together to eat. The opportunities to creating community, friendships and a taste for something better are all there. Try hosting a meal this month, even if it’s just for one other person. If you have wanted to have someone over but felt silly asking them out to ‘just hang’, ask them if they want to come over for dinner or a weekend brunch. Pick out a simple menu and don’t forget to read the whole thing before you start cooking. Sometimes you run into problems if you were suppose to let something chill for 3 hours and your guest is coming in one hour. If they ask if they can bring something let them bring the wine. If it’s too weird with one person invite three people and put some music on or play a game after dinner. Try to stay away from watching a movie. If it’s awkward just eat and hang out for a bit then tell them you’d love to do this again but really have an early morning. If that doesn’t work, break out the scotch and tell them deep, dark things about yourself in attempts to scare them back home. Works every time… except if they’re even creepier than you. Could go either way really. Here are a few easy meals to test your food sharing experience.

Bon Appétit

*all photos by Tracie Bonjour


Easy Spaghetti Bolognase sauce:

Serves four


1. Chopped medium-large yellow onion (they are a bit sweeter than purple)

2. two cloves of fresh garlic, chopped (don’t used crushed, it burns too quickly)

5. balsamic vinegar

oliver oil

3. 1 lb ground beef or chuck (chuck is less fatty)

4. 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes or four large tomatoes, diced.

6. handful of fresh basil or dried if it’s out of season

7. salt and pepper to taste

8. serve with angel hair pasta and a LOT of freshly grated parmesan. Goes with with Pinot Noir or Bordeaux


a. Fry up your meat until completely cooked and set aside. Add a few T. of olive oil and sautee onions and garlic together over med. Try not to let garlic get brown. After about 3 min add 1T of Balsamic vinegar or red wine. This helps the onions carmelize. Fry a few more minutes.

b. add cooked meat. Stir. Add tomatoes and stir. Add basil, salt and pepper. After you form a slight boil set to low and let simmer with it’s lid on for 20 min.

c. boil noodles and grate cheese. This should be served soon after noodles are done.

*My friend Anima lives in India and I asked her to send a recipe. If you’d love to try out a simple, healthy Indian meal, dig in! Thanks Anima.

Mixed-green stir fry

Serves 5

Cut up the following vegetables in the size and shape of your choice.
1/2 bunch spinach
1 small size cabbage. If there is no small size then 1/2 of the medium size cabbage is good.
2 medium size carrot to make it look pretty
1/2 bunch mastered green ( if mastered green is not available radish green or beat root greens also may be used).
5 garlic pod cut up.
(Usually I put dry whole chilly with the garlic. It gives different a flavor to the vegetable.)

Directions:
In a wok heat a little oil and brown the garlic till it is fragrant. Take care so that the garlic does not turn black. Put all the cut up vegetables in to the wok then add a little salt to taste. Mix well and cover and cook till just cooked – for about 15 minute. It should be cooked just 15 minutes before the meal is served for the best taste.




The great outdoors

secret walk

 

This time of year is crucial for us Midwesterners as winter is approaching and you need to get all of the outdoor time you can with your kids before the onset of the arctic tundra settles over your small town. The icy winds blast into your face, and up your pant leg, once you walk outside and every year we ask, “What the !@#$ are we doing here?”

 

During the day I am alone with my kids and I often find it hard to go to local parks because  1. there are never any families to talk with or play with and 2. I find it difficult to play games with the kids while they try and figure out what to do at said park. I usually shut down when I’m outside. It’s sort of meditative for me and maybe a bit of a habit as in my single days I would wander outside for time to think and ponder my life. I still go straight into that mode when I step out, even if I’m with the kids.

 

All that to say if you are like me and taking your children outdoors is not so much a chance to come up with games for them to play or to help them to have a good time  as it is to get them in the fresh air and playing with one another, then there may be more alternatives than the classic park. This is what I am learning:

Going to parks is fun but it can get stale, especially for them. There’s only so many times your son will want to ride a plastic, bendy model of Clifford the Big Red Dog. If you’re needing to get them out to run off some fumes you may be heading into a play place that doesn’t foster as much imagination as one would hope. There’s only so much swinging and sliding that a child can do before they begin to whine (most likely a sign of boredom).

Therefore our family has a lot more fun on walks and out in the woods. Our wooded space is limited here but there are a few patches of trees and fields that my kids refer to as ‘the forest’. Here they can run on a trail, find sticks to hit things with, play hide and seek in the tall grass or log roll down hills. We’ve had so much more fun on walks. They end up talking more, asking more questions (at least Oliver does) and we are moving together so it’s not like I’m just at a park standing in one spot, which I’m not completely fond of. I try to wear them out by creating little games. “Run up the hill as fast as you can! Ok, now log roll down. GO!” We can do this several times to get some energy out. If they seem to be losing stream it’s onto a new game or a new scene.

 

This is so much more fulling for me than taking them to a park. I do love parks when they are full of people and kids. These days that isn’t always easy to find, especially if you home school. Going to the park during school hours is a sure way to hear crickets in the background, and not much else. The days are getting shorter and I am not always excited about getting outside if it’s going to mean much more work. I need breaks too. So we walk, which I do love. I would love to hear what you do outside with your kids if the park is the last place you want to take them. I’ll post it to your page if you’d like so others can get more ideas for their family.

 

Here’s to the whole of life!

Tracie

autumn walk

 

Reading to my children

I stop by this site a lot mainly because I love to read and I zealously read to my children. I consider this a part of our homeschooling. Books, books, books. I take them to the library a few times a week at least and my son got his first library card  last Spring. Granted he still runs straight for the computer and the DVD section but I still stock up on the books and I make reading a part of our daily routine.

Steadymom always has great ideas for books and I love her site because I get so many new suggestions on what to read to my kids. She does the research and I get the benefits. This is the beauty of blog sharing. So stop by and peek at her ideas for Thanksgiving books to check out, or purchase, for your children. Incidently, I have learned so much by reading short and colourful biographies from the children’s books collection. Schooling my kids teaches me a lot!

DSC_0369

Chloe reading

Me?

My friend posted something on her blog that someone had posted (I just love how these things get around). I actually like taking those little quizzes that go around on Facebook and such that are a ‘get to know one another’ of sorts. “When did you fall in love? What is your favorite food? When did you start hearing voices in your head?” So here are my answers:

1. where is your cell phone: On the kitchen island. That’s where it usually stays all day. I answer it and I like having one but I only want to use a phone to make calls, not to text, not to watch trailers or to play games or to create a cool ring tone.

2. your hair: Long. I started dying it when Matt and I got married. My friend, Jen, convinced me that the gray was obvious. I’ve always liked to go natural but there’s just so much gray and it makes me look washed out.

3. your father: Good question.

4. your favorite food: Fresh made pasta is up there. Oh man! Italians and their cheese, cream and fat. I love it!

5. your dream from last night: Lately I’ve been having a lot of random dreams and they are very vivid. I don’t usually remember them but every once in a while I have a dream about something profound and it speaks volumes to me.

6. your favorite drink: I still love coffee with cream in the morning but just one or 1 1/2 small Euro-size cups. Caffeine makes me jittery so I don’t have much. I love beer though. Belgian ales! I can’t have much of that either because it gives me migraines if I’m not careful-lots of sugar in ales. At the moment I am craving the raw milk I’ve been getting from a local farm. Oh man, it’s so sweet and creamy.

7. Your dream/goal: To have a large family and to move back to the Pacific Northwest. I don’t know if I really have it in me to have a large family but I do love the idea of kids around everywhere. I would love to make a living writing and I greatly miss teaching. I would like to be involved with a community development project like a local gardening program. I’m all about seeing people’s lives change on the small and practical level.

8. what room are you in: The living room. But our multipurpose room is the dining room. We eat, do school, play legos, colour, eat some some more, all at the kitchen table. It also has a lovely bay window with an apple tree right outside so I love the view and the light that comes in.

9. what is your hobby: I have a lot of hobbies and interests. Cooking, learning (I love podcasts of all sorts), writing, a bit of sewing and definitely gardening (even indoor gardening during the soul crushing winter months here.

10. what is your fear: Losing any of my kids or my husband. My family are the most important people in my life.

11. where do you want to be in 6 years: With more kids, more in love with Matt, owning a home that is a place of rest for friends and family and a bit more time to be locally  involved where we are living. I’d also like to have more free income to take occasional vacations overseas.

12. where were you last night: Home with the kids. Later I was reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma then Matt and I watched a French film. Good times.

13. something you are not: Slow, uncommitted, left handed

14. muffins: Not a huge fan of muffins. I order them at coffee shops if the only other options are super sugary sweets and I make them for the kids (minus the sugar) as a healthy snack. Otherwise, I avoid muffins.

15. wish list items: A Eurovan. I would love a sweet minivan that isn’t…well, a mini van. I also like driving stick so I think it would be super fun to own one. I’d also like to have our house paid off.

16. where did you grow up: Washington state but I’ve lived in a lot of states since then.

17. last thing you did: Talked to my son about being a bit more mellow with the cat and with his sister

18. what are you wearing: Jeans and a sweater. I always wear tons of layers inside living in WI. It’s cold here even indoors. Ugh!

19. your tv: Resting in peace in the basement. We’ve never been huge TV people, just watch videos, so it was an eyesore in the living room as well as a power hog. We put her to rest with a towel over her head.

20. your pets: A cat named Rushmore after Matt and Tracie’s favorite movie, Rushmore. We were going to name him Bill Murray but it’s a lot to say when you’re calling him inside at night. “Here, Rushmore-Bill Murray”

21. your friends: Are a lot of fun and I wish I saw them more. I miss my WA friends painfully.

22. your life: Has changed a lot since having kids but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what I make it.

23. your mood: Pensive. I’m usually thinking A LOT. It’s a gift and a curse.

24. missing someone: The CA Bonjours and Burtnesses, my mom and brother, and a whole lot of old friends from WA.

25. vehicle: Geo Prism with the hub caps missing. It’s been such a faithful car but it is a bit small for us. Cars, to me, aren’t something that I need to have the newest and flashiest one. I’m not usually impressed with pricey, luxury cars. I’m practical and think money can be better spent. I’d still love a Eurovan though.

26. something your not wearing: Mittens. It’s hard to type in them.

27. your favorite store: I don’t know if I have one. I love to get new things but I’m not a huge fan of shopping.

28. your favorite color: I’ve always loved the colour green but I don’t really wear it.

29. when’s the last time you laughed: I laughed with Matt this morning. He’s getting funnier and funnier.

30. when’s the last time you cried: I don’t even want to say the movie that made me cry. It’s such a stupid film but at one point the man looses his friend/father figure and I felt really bad for him. Seeing death in films really gets to me.

31. your best friend: Probably Matt. I like to be with him the most. I have some dear friends and they are wonderful for different reasons. Not sure if I can nail down one BFF.

32. one place you go over and over: The library. I LOVE the library!!!

33. one person who emails me regularly: Amanda. She cracks me up.

34. Favorite place to eat: I don’t have a favorite. I love going out to eat more than most forms of entertainment. I love good food and great atmosphere. I wish we could do it more. It is one expense I would throw down a lot for if we could. Tutto Pasta was the last place we went but we rarely go out for a pricey meal. When we do it’s very special.

 

My sister in law, Marie, posted her answers