Not Great, But Better

Archived | October 29, 2008 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Thank the Lord the show isn’t on Sunday evenings or I would have missed most of it. Sometime Sunday afternoon I started fading in and out and Sunday evening I stayed out for a good long time.
It’s not being sick that’s so bad. Gives you a reason to put your feet up awhile and people bring you hot chocolate and hot lemonade and prop you and cover you and touch your forehead and kiss your cheeks. You open your eyes to small piles of nice things like chocolates or magazines or cookies or coughdrops, and if you’re lucky you may find flower petals strewn about you or your toenails painted sparkly pink.
What’s bad about being sick is that you get taken away — from what it is you’re doing, from the people you love, the dinner table, the knitting club, ordinary life. You get taken away from the world for a while and you don’t have much to say about it. For me, these past few days, that meant no cooking, no loud music, no trips to the bagel shop, no chocolate cheesecake, no staying up late, no trampoline, no baking cut-outs with the kids, no practicing my dramatic interpretation of “The Raven” for Mr. Sundberg, no Halloween costume hunting at the Free Store, no decorating the trees along the driveway with giant plastic spiders dangling from fluorescent yellow fishing line, no homemade caramel corn balls to hand out to the kids…
You know, I’m feeling a bit better today. Not great, but better. Nothing like two full days of doing nothing at all to remind you what you’re about. All isn’t lost, thank goodness. There’s still time. We can take care of costumes after school, and bake some cookies tonight, and maybe tomorrow I’ll hunt down those big plastic spiders. For right now, though, I’m going to go sit on my trampoline. Maybe bounce a little. I won’t jump, because my head still hurts like the dickens, but a little gentle bouncing with all those lovely leaves falling ’round just has to do a body some good. Can’t hurt, anyway.
Try this one out on the bridge club. Or on your mother-in-law. Or on your next date. Whomever it is, they’ll be back for more. You’ve been warned.
Scallop Chowder
3 c chicken broth
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 potatoes, cubed
1/2 tsp thyme
2 T parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 lb scallops
2 T butter
1/2 c white wine
1 egg yolk
1 c heavy whipping cream
In a large pot over high heat, combine chicken broth, carrot, celery,
onion, potatoes, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Transfer mixture to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth
and set aside.
In the same pot over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms and scallops in the butter
for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and reserved puree mixture to the pot, reduce
heat to low and allow to simmer. In a separate small bowl, combine the egg yolk
and heavy cream. Mix well and add to the soup. Continue simmering over low heat,
stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes.

The List

Archived | October 21, 2008 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I spent a good part of the show with my feet up on the ottoman in the living room, a pen in one hand and a clipboard in the other. I’ve had it in my head to get so much done lately that I keep forgetting what it is I need to do, so I figured I ought to make a list. Seems everything kind of comes in a rush as we turn the corner from September into November, and October is all about gettin’ er done.
The List:
Bring in lawn furniture.
Do windows.
Cover roses.
Order more sympathy cards.
Finish sewing udder on Halloween costume.
Hose down picnic table and tip behind garage.
Have thing on toe looked at.
Call Mrs. Sommerfeldt: No More Zucchini.
Mr. Sundberg’s suits to drycleaner (lose the green one).
Wash and line-dry quilts one last time.
Order wreath from scouts.
Reserve pavilion for Memorial Day Weekend reunion.
Find tree stand.
Straighten and sweep garage.
String Christmas lights in front bushes.
Plan Thanksgiving meal.
Clean pantry and kitchen cupboards.
Register for mime workshop.
Write thank you to Angela for lunch at Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge.
Call Pearson Candy Company about a tour.
And that’s where the list ended. There’s more, you know. There’s always more. But the phone rang and the kids were hollering about a big ol’ turkey on the front porch. I got the main things down on paper, anyway. And once I get ’em all done, there will be another list. That’s the thing about being alive. There’s always something needing doing. Reminds me of a quote I heard once, by a man named Howard Thurman: “Don’t worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs are more people who have come alive.” Now there’s something to think about while you rake those leaves.
Here’s another rich and satisfying autumn soup.
You may want to make a double batch from the get go and throw the leftovers in the freezer for a busy day.
Reuben Soup
1/2 c chopped onions
1/2 c sliced celery
2 T butter
1 c chicken broth
1 c beef broth
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 T cornstarch
2 T water
3/4 c sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
2 c light cream
2 c chopped, cooked corned beef
1 c shredded Swiss cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Rye croutons, optional
In a large saucepan sauté onion and celery in butter until tender.
Add broth and baking soda. Combine cornstarch and water; add
to pan. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat. Add sauerkraut, cream and corned beef; simmer for
15 minutes. Add cheese; heat until melted. Add salt and pepper.
Garnish with croutons.

The Last Thing On My Mind is Panic

Archived | October 14, 2008 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Been a little hectic around here lately with the thunder and lightning. A few power outages will throw you for a loop for sure, and add a big ol’ wind in the middle of October and you’ve got leaves stuck to everything. Leaves, and ladybugs, and a whole mess of people dialoguing about who to vote for and, when it comes to retirement funds, how it’s best not to panic. Not yet, anyway.
Panic, Schmanic. Call me a dingbat, call me naïve, but really, people, the last thing on my mind is panic. So much of what happens in the world is, well, it’s like a hurricane: you batten down the hatches and do what you can to ensure basic survival. Beyond that, it’s a crapshoot. You find a way to get through it in one piece. Some people glue themselves to a window. Some rock back and forth. Some manage to sleep, or play cards, and others simply breathe. I make soup.
There’s no calm in the world like stirring a pot of thick, hot soup. My grandmother made oxtail soup way back during the depression, and my dad revised that recipe into a lovely beef barley (which he called “beaver head soup” to make us kids scream in horror, which we did, to humor him, and then we ate.) He made turtle soup, too, with real turtle, which wasn’t half bad, and there was fish soup and wild rice soup and kleba dumpling soup. Whenever things got tense, often in November and April, out came the soup pot. He’d measure and chop and sprinkle and pour, and then, for a long, long time, he’d stir, and stare into that pot as if he were in some kind of trance. “It’s ready, now,” he’d whisper, finally, and we’d line up, and he’d fill our bowls with chunks of meat and dumplings and sliced carrots and celery, all in a simmering, greasy broth.
Been craving soup lately. Actually, been craving making soup. Which I plan on doing on Saturday, during the show. I’ll make Beer Cheese soup this time around, and maybe some kleba soup next week if I can get Dad to give me the recipe. I have several recipes I want to try, and if I time it right, they’ll take me right through election week. Imagine that.
This is a rich, Oktoberfesty soup good with bread and apple strudel.
Beer Cheese Soup
4 chicken bouillon cubes
3 cups water
1 can beer
1 sweet Vidalia (or any sweet onion), diced
2 1/2 cups potatoes, raw and cubed
1 lb Velveeta cheese, cubed
2 cans cream of chicken soup
In a large saucepan, combine bouillon, water, beer,
onion (I like to blacken mine a bit first), and potatoes.
Simmer 20 minutes, and then add cheese and soup.
Simmer 30 minutes. Serve with popcorn on top.

March Toward Those Fears

Archived | October 6, 2008 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d been busy all day getting ready for a family gathering on Sunday in celebration of our daughter’s confirmation. Way back when I was confirmed, confirmation took place in the springtime of 8th grade and felt a lot like the Spanish Inquisition. You got up there in your white robe and your red flower and the pastor asked you a question and you answered it, word for word as you memorized it. You knew that catechism inside and out, and that was that. And after your reply, a cosmic relief settled over you, and you could breathe evenly again.
Now, I’m not saying this was all a bad thing. I’ll be the first to say a little fear never hurt anybody. Not the kind of fear where you think someone’s out in the garage, or the kind where you might be late for school. No, I’m talking about the kind of fear where you’re being challenged to take on something bigger than yourself and you’ve got a limited amount of time to prove to yourself and to the world that you are not only willing but able. I’m not talking about memorizing the phases of cell division and getting a perfect score on your science test, and this is not about being told to do something and doing it, like raking leaves or taking the dog for a walk. No, no, no.
It’s about rising to the occasion. It’s about allowing yourself to be held accountable, to take a risk, to speak, to meet your fear and let it pass right on through you. What’s the worst thing that could happen, really? I asked my daughter. When she listed her list of worst things, there wasn’t a one on there she couldn’t handle. So there you have it, people. March toward those fears. March on, and through them, and leave them in the dust. You’ve got better things to do than fret over what might go wrong. Because it won’t. And if it does, you’ll handle it. Trust me on this one.
Now this recipe has got comfort written all over it. Cook this up on one of those dreary, gray autumn afternoons along with some pork chops and rice and blueberry muffins.
Sweet Potato Surprise
6 sweet potatoes, cooked
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 T cornstarch
1 tsp grated orange rind
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 cup apricot juice
1 20 oz can apricots, drained
2 T butter
1/2 cup pecans
Cut sweet potatoes in halves or slices and arrange in a buttered dish.
Set aside. Combine sugar, cornstarch, orange rind, cinnamon and
apricot juice in a saucepan and cook until thick, stirring constantly.
Add apricots, butter and pecans. Stir and pour over sweet potatoes
and bake at 375 for 25 minutes or so. Serve warm.