Cock-a-leekie Soup; a new book release set in Scotland; and what this has to do with robot food served in Beijing.

Scottish Cockaleeky Soup

With the Beijing Olympics in full throttle, I’ve been more interested in reading about the cooks––ahem, robots––making some of the food rather than in the competitions themselves. Andrew Keh, a sports reporter recently interviewed by the New York Times, spoke of the dumplings and fried rice he was served in the media cafeteria “….I’ve tasted a lot of the robot food and I think humans make food taste better.”

Whew. Until they figure out a way for these “cooks” to have taste buds, we’re good. Many of us, I’m sure, would dislike being upstaged by a robot. There’s so much more to cooking than following even the best of recipes to the letter.

Seriously jet-lagged, our first meal in Beijing

Pity these chef-bots are stealing our aprons, at least in that neck of the woods. Some of my most memorable meals were eaten in China. Thankfully, none of the food we ate–– I hasten to add––was prepared by a robot!

Four years ago, Richard and I travelled through China and into Tibet. We’re grateful that we had the opportunity to explore these fascinating countries before all the weirdness (euphemism of the century) entered the scene.

On your right is a pic of Richard scarfing down food the first night of our arrival in Beijing. The app I used to translate menus was indispensable on that trip. That and my forefinger, which I rudely used to point at other diner’s dishes to place my order.

Xi’an street scene in 2018.

We especially enjoyed the street food. To the left is a pic of the food scene in Xi’an in 2018.

It may as well be a different planet now. In preparation for the Olympics, China implemented its strictest lockdown in Xi’am since the outbreak in Wuhan. A few years back, the crowded streets of Xi’an were overwhelming to us Westerners. And to think that you could hear a pin drop on that same asphalt today blows my mind.

I tried to post a recent pic of a major thoroughfare in Xi’an (empty because of lockdowns) but the image wouldn’t download because of “security issues.”

Oops–perhaps I should slowly back away from my computer, Lol.

So what does this have to do with Cock-a-leekie Soup?


Well, nothing. Only that this divine concoction chock full of chicken and leeks in a silky, flavorful broth wasn’t prepared by a Scottish robot designed to resemble Mel Gibson in a super-sexy plaid kilt. (I may be blogging about that next year.)

It was just me in my pandemic uniform of black leggings and a T, threadbare from daily use, stirring the pot.

My dear friend and fellow writer, Alison Ragsdale, hails from Scotland and I pressed her for details on her memories of this soup.

Me and my Edinburgh pal!

“My gran used to say about her Cock-a-leekie: ‘That’ll put meat on your bones, and hairs on your chest.’ We’d always laugh, but it was the best, most unctuous soup I’ve ever eaten, bar none. Gran was a master at making something tremendously tasty from very simply ingredients. I think that’s the mark of a really good cook.”

At first I thought the addition of chopped prunes was a contemporary aberration but Alison insisted that prunes are absolutely traditional. After tasting the final result, I might add that they were absolutely delicious, adding a welcome sweet flavor.

Alison, BTW, just released her ninth novel, SOMEONE ELSE’S CHILD, with Bookoutre last week. A beautiful, tear-jerker of a book that will pull you into the Scottish highlands, her publicist is promoting the Kindle version of this book now for only $.99 until Feb. 12. Then, the digital version will be back to $3.99 ($10.99 for paperback).

All of her novels, for the most part, are set in Scotland and I was THRILLED to see two of her releases on the Amazon Bestseller list this week.

Back to the Cock-a-leekie. I followed this recipe in the New York Times but the link might not work if aren’t a subscriber. Here’s another recipe, curtesy of Martha, I found that’s somewhat similar. Enjoy!

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Gratitude Soup Topped with Pesto & Served with a Side of Mental Wellness Musings.

Gratitude Soup

Feeling gratitude, ironically, has been my saving grace during this era of Coronavirus––the best antidote I’ve found for remaining calm and positive. For so many there seems to be no bright side, no reason for gratitude and platitudes fall flat. I wish I had the right words for you, or at least could serve you a bowl of this nourishing soup. That said, these days for me, gratitude is my antidote for combatting depression and holding onto–fingernails dug deep–a positive mindset.

I’m grateful for the seemingly fearless and tireless caregivers who seem to smile, even if they’re crying inside. I’m grateful that we live in an era of science and technology–where combative vaccines can be produced and launched within a year. Most important, I’m grateful for my family and friends who’ve kept me from channelling my inner freak and utterly losing it. Even when distanced, I’ve never appreciated them so much.

An added mask benefit: In Michigan they keep faces warm in winter!

My family cancelled holiday get togethers last year. At the time, no one was eligible for vaccines. This year, us eligibles have been triple-vaxed, so we tested, staggered get togethers and masked our most vulnerable.

A few of us ventured to northern Michigan to bring in the New Year. After their departure, I made a hearty vegetable soup inspired by their presents and leftovers from our previous holiday meals.

When my daughter, Greta, was in college, she shared an apartment with a young woman from Belarus.

At the time, I was writing a food column for our local paper and took great pains to record every small detail of a recipe down to the pinch of an herb.

Greta told me about her roommate’s recipe for soup– toss bones and a quartered cabbage into a big pot of water and simmer for hours. That’s it. Alas–another reason for gratitude: most of us don’t have to stand in line for hours awaiting our ration of bones and cabbage!

I’m grateful there’s more than cabbage and bones in this soup!

The No-Recipe Recipe: My no-recipe, do-your-own-thing recipe for Gratitude Soup is more casual than my usual soup recipes (check the pulldown menu for hot soups in the right column), but a bit more involved than the aforementioned Belarus version, Lol. I did take effort to incorporate a multitude of ingredients (mostly leftovers), layering them in stages and the end result being far superior than the sum of its parts.

I began by sautéing onion, celery and carrot in olive oil. Then, I made a stock from the bones from leftover pork chops, water and bay leaf, canned tomatoes and a half-bottle of leftover Cabernet.

Leftover Hop’N John stirred in at the end added a burst of flavor and LUCK!

After simmering about five hours, when the broth was flavorful and reduced, I removed the bones and added cubed parsnips and turnips. After 30 minutes, when the vegetable were beginning to tenderize, in went the quartered mushrooms and shredded cabbage for an additional thirty minutes.

At the conclusion, I stirred in a bag of frozen corn, roasted garlic, the wild mushroom tincture (!) and leftover Hop ‘n John. The coup de grace was the final garnish of basil pesto I’d made from this summer’s harvest.

Pictured is Roseanne, who created a family recipe book.

Until We Dine Again: The ceaseless epidemic has strained relationships on every front imaginable. When it wiggles its way into trying to plan or not plan family get-togethers, fall-out can be traumatic.

If you and yours have been trying to find common ground between family members, and sharing meals around a table has become dicey if not dangerous, try creating a family cookbook to be pulled out when times are less fraught. There are a multitude of ways to self-publish your own book. Here’s a link to a previous blog describing how Roseanne made her’s.

Polar Bear Plunge

Moving Forward with Resolution: On New Year’s Day, after thoroughly fortifying themselves with a shot of whiskey and Hop ‘N John, my son and son-in-law took the Polar Bear Plunge into the icy waters of Lake Michigan. I could suffer cardiac arrest if I followed them into those frigid waters, but will take inspiration wherever I can find it. Perhaps there’s a better way to move forward.

My resolution for this New Year is to escape my comfort zone. I’ve been hanging out way too long behind closed doors in leggings and a T. Not sure what form that this will take given the latest invasion (hello Omicron), but I’m putting it out there.

Facebook Blue Sky Giveaway News!!! This Saturday, January 8, is our 2nd Annual Cabin Fever Event!!! Besides the Blue Sky authors, there will be dozens of guest authors with book giveaways, as well! The grand prize will be the winner’s choice of a tower of treats with an Amazon gift card–a $100 donation to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library with an Amazon gift card for you- or a wicker basket of beauty and fragrance supplies.

Come join the fun and invite your friends!!! But first: request to join our group and answer a couple of simple questions.

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Celebrating the holidays in 2021? For many of us: same same, but different.

Charcuterie Platter

Happy happy, joy joy, dinnerFeed is back!!! I hope you’re back, too(-: Please pardon her prolonged quarantine, but over the past few months, the site became ill, almost terminally so. Who knew that while I was putting every barrier in place between my family and the Coronavirus, another virus was infecting my site? Compared to what was hitting our planet, however, I decided to dismantle the blog––putting her on hiatus––and tasered my focus onto my family and community.

 I’ve never monetized my site with annoying pop-up ads which may invite a bug, and thought my vaults and plug-ins were enough to keep things safe. Not so. Now, she’s wearing a bullet-proof vest with every firewall integrated into this platform. Now I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and read, write and cook––not necessarily in that order. I assumed a triple-vax would be my equivalent of a bullet-proof vest, as well, but––LONG. HEAVY. SIGH.––here we are again. Thanks, Omicron.

“Same, same but different.”

While traveling in Southeast Asia, when I asked a guide or local their impression on how business or their country was faring, they’d often respond, “Same, same but different”. That’s how I feel about this holiday season compared to 2020. I cancelled last year’s festivities but this year I am having our immediate family over with every safety protocol imaginable in place. So if asked how does this holiday season compare with the last? Same, same but different. Here’s an easy hack compliments of a charcuterie platter pic I saw on Goldbelly, a site where you can order food.

Goldbelly hack.

Using this Goldbelly pic of a charcuterie platter as a paint by number guide, I purchased Marcona truffle almonds and truffle cheese from Trader Joe’sManchego seemed fitting right, as well. Serrano ham was purchased from a local gem of a deli (Zingerman’s) and it seems my platter, compared to Goldbelly’s, is same, same, but different.

Happy Holidays, friends. As I pen these words, a bit of normalcy is creeping into my fingertips spreading onto the keyboard. It feels pretty damn good. I hope the New Years feeds you a bit of normalcy, as well. Stay safe!

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