Hard to believe it’s been a week since I got back from Hilo. Life is just a swarm these days, don’t you think? No time to catch your breath. Between volunteer activities, family responsibilities, freelance opportunities and, yes, cooking and keeping house, I’ve not had much time for this labor of love.

But, goodness!, the spammers have been active. Please don’t be offended if you send a comment and are asked to type in a “Captcha” code (one of those squiggly words you have to copy to get access to protected spaces). They’re designed to keep “bots” — robotic spammers — out of the system. Since I get perhaps 200 spams every couple of days, I’m hoping this will lighten my load a bit so I can pay attention to what’s important. FOOD!

So what have I been cooking in my made-over kitchen? It’s made-over in the sense that our family is now mostly vegetarian, mostly wheat-free, mostly dairy-free — and sometimes I think I’ll lose my mind. Is life worth living without white sauce? I’m just not sure.

SEMI-MOUSSAKA: The other night I made a sort-of moussaka. Real moussaka involves bechamel (thick white sauce) and cheese, so those were out. But there was something whispering “eggplant” to me in the store and I had a pound of hamburger defrosting (we do meat protein every couple of days). So I looked over some recipes and did this: Salted sliced globe eggplant to draw out the water, wiped it off and baked it with olive oil spray in a 375-degree oven until softened and a bit browned. Browned the hamburger, drained off the fat; added lots of flat-leaf parsley and minced green onions (yellow onions don’t agree with one of our family members very well). Threw in a handful of vaguely Greek herbs; whatever looked good. Made sure it was seasoned well. Taste, taste, taste, my home cooking friends, don’t forget. Recipes are almost always wrong one way or another.

IMPORTANT ASIDE: How long has it been since you turned out your spice cupbard? I know it seems like putting a match to money but old spices must go! I was so embarrassed when Kai Cowell, founder of Kailuani Spices, came to my birthday party recently, looked over my bottles and bags of her produts and said, “Wanda, these are OLD. They have to go.” So last week, my daughter and I had a gay old time going through everything, consolidating (I think I had four nutmegs and three cinnamons), discovering the things that had gotten buggy (anything capsicum — red pepper — will become buggy if it’s not kept in the freezer; but the freezer dries it out so that’s not too good, either), sniffing and blithely tossing. Things are so orderly now. I once had a housekeeper who alphabetized my spice cabinet. I miss her.

BACK TO SEMI-MOUSSAKA. Poured a layer of crushed tomatoes into a 9-by-13. Layer of eggplant. Layer of hamburger mixture. Layer of Daughter’s fake cheese “shreds” (much to my dismay; I just can’t get excited about fake cheese). A few blops of Greek yogurt. More crushed tomatoes. (Next time, I think I’ll use both crushed and drained chopped; I thought it was a bit watery). Three-fifty for an hour. Many moans of pleasure. Nothing left  to photograph!

TONIGHT, POTATO SOUP: Husband not feeling so hot. Friend in hospital needing sustenance. Potatoes on sale. Used two boxes of vegetarian broth and about 10 peeled, roughly chopped potatoes, lots of parsley (I ALWAYS use lot of parsley), a finely minced small onion and one well-cleaned leek (minced). Cooked until soft and then used my kids’ cool new immersion blender (mine never did make me happy but this one, a Cuisinart Smart Stick, is the bomb!) to smooth it all out. Doctored it with some tamari, some salt and pepper, some Cholula hot sauce (just enough for some acidic contrast) and — my invention, the piece de resistance — floated in half a box of baby spinach just at the end. I was lucky to rescue two containers of it to take to my sick friend. The family devoured almost all the rest.

I could go on…there have been other adventures…but I keep being chided by my Webmaster for writing too long. (Get in line; I’ve been chided for writing too long since I was in eighth grade and it hasn’t stopped me yet!).

I’m in a series of meetings all weekend. Hope to get back to blogging Monday unless something I eat this weekend inspires me.

Write me. Ask me for help finding an old recipe you’ve lost. I’ll do my best for you.

Much aloha,