Things I Hope To Do

Archived | February 24, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’ve got something of a break these next few weeks and I’ve been contemplating how I might make the best use of the time. Not to say I don’t have work to do and all. It’s just that the load has lighted a bit and Lent is here and the kids have a week off and what not. And not to say that one must plan out everything in advance, but you do want to think ahead when you know free time is coming. Seizing the moment is seizing the moment, but there’s a big difference between meeting life head on and grabbing it by the tail.
There are things to be done, and there are Things I Hope to Do. You plan on one, you think about the other. I’m planning on some light spring cleaning, including the kitchen cupboards, the windows, and the car. I plan to zip through all the clothes, books, cds, games, plants, toys, canned food and junk drawers and lighten the house by a good hundred pounds. I plan to haul the old dead riding lawnmower to the junkyard, along with the old mailbox and Mr. Sundberg’s National Geographic magazine collection. (I have permission.) I plan to sign up the kids for summer camp, and drive them on over to Wabasha for the Soar with the Eagles Festival before March is over. Plan.
Now, I’m thinking about a road trip to Grand Marais in March, just to be different. I’m thinking about signing up the whole family for hot yoga. As a kind of experiment. I’m thinking about planning a family reunion for June, inviting everybody, even Willie Nelson. Imagine if Willie Nelson came to my family reunion. Thinking about taking a hot air balloon ride, about hiking the bluffs along the river during the spring thaw. I’ve even given some thought to rafting the Colorado River. Just because it’s there. And I’m here. Think about it.
Fruit Dip with a Zip
Lately I’ve been trying to eat less fried cheese and more fruit. This light and lovely dip with a bit of Amaretto is the perfect snack for a gray late-winter day.
8 ounces Cool Whip
3 ounces instant vanilla pudding mix, dry
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup Amaretto
Mix and serve with fruit chunks — strawberries, apples, oranges, bananas, etc.

Fodder for future conversations

Archived | February 17, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. We were all gathered ’round having our Valentine’s Day dinner of homemade pizza and ice cream sundaes. The real Valentine’s Dinner, however, happened on Friday night. Mainly because we couldn’t get reservations on Saturday night, but we didn’t want to miss the show so it wasn’t that big of a deal. We went to a place we’ve never been before, a restaurant called the Lake Elmo Inn about 45 minutes from home. Something fancy, and we took the kids. That’s what happens to romance with kids in the picture. They invade and you have a choice: you can leave them at home to eat macaroni and cheese and watch a movie while you go have dinner, or you can cave in and invite them, too, and double the joy and the bill, and the laughter, and make a family event of it. Which we did.
I printed the menu earlier in the week, so the kids knew what they were ordering, and they didn’t even look at the menu — sunfish, crab cakes, and chicken fingers, with linguine, not potatoes, and just water, please. They enjoyed the spicy corn dip I ordered, and they ate more than a basket of bread, once they figured out where to find the butter. They were surprised by the palate-cleansing lemon-sorbet, during which an explanation of what, exactly, is a palate, ensued. Mr. Sundberg ordered steak, and I had chicken rondele, which was lovely with wild rice and breading. No one could eat all their food, and I ended up eating ‘most everyone’s sautéed vegetables, and after the mysterious luxury of the cinnamon-oiled hot towels, we indulged in New York style cheesecake with strawberries, a pecan-crust tart with cream filling and chocolate topping, and French silk pie. Then came strawberries dipped in chocolate, more water, and the check. The tip alone was about what we usually spend on dinner, and the kids grew quiet when they saw the bill. That was SO good, they said. Thank you so much, Mom and Dad.
There are people in the world who would hear this story and shake their heads. “You should have left the kids at home,” they might say. “A meal like that is wasted on children.” Well, I’m of the mind that children ought to experience decadence now and then, and dinner out is one of the rare opportunities for such a thing. I don’t mean often, mind you. But I think to have a memory or two of a fine time in one’s childhood can’t hurt a person, and if it happens to fall on Valentine’s Day, then Valentine’s Day it is. It’s fodder for future conversations among siblings, and it’s a way of helping them gauge where they’re at in the world. But more importantly, they had an experience. For a moment, somewhere amid the candlelight and hot rolls and conversation, between the sorbet and the chocolate ganache, something took their breath away. Worth every penny of $137.74. Not including the tip.
Good Morning Frittata
This one’s easy to prep ahead of time and throw together any morning of the week. You can substitute ingredients, or add some cheese for extra zip.
3 T olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
12 eggs
3 oz. pepperoni, sliced thin and chopped
1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In 10 inch cast-iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, red pepper and mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, 7 to 8 minutes until vegetables are tender. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, pepperoni, milk and black pepper.
Pour egg mixture over vegetables in skillet. Place skillet in oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until egg mixture is set. Use a spatula to slide the frittata onto large serving platter. Cut into wedges, serve warm. Serves 8.

Be alive while you can

Archived | February 10, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was a welcome lift for me, I’ll tell you, especially with those Buddy Holly songs, and “Do You Know You Are My Sunshine?” I was singing along with that one, and the kids were wondering how the heck I knew the words. Seems to me that one goes way back to my childhood when my dad listened to the country music station while he worked making jigs down in the basement. Funny how the words just stay with you all your life when you learn a song as a kid.
Anyway, it was good to hear some happy tunes. It was a bit of a downer of a week. The weather has been somewhat crappy with rain and sleet coming down and gray skies pretty much every day. Doesn’t bother me all that much, but it seems to get to people in general. It’s that time of year when spirits are low for some reason. You throw the tax deadline on top of the weather, and Valentine’s Day, too, and muddy driveways and salt all the heck over everything, and lack of vitamin D or whatever it is the sun gives you, and you’ve got yourself a good potential for bad days.
Now, I feel compelled to say something here. Last week, in my small town, a woman whom I knew only by name got so down and out that she thought the only way to make it all better was to take a gun and turn it on herself and pull the trigger and put an end to what was a lovely and productive life. And that’s just what she did. Now I don’t mean any disrespect to her or her life, but what could be so awful that it would be worth ending your life? What pain could be so great that the goodness of things couldn’t in some way balance it out? I just don’t know. I’m at a loss here. I do know that I can come up with a list of a thousand things better than dying a person might do on the worst day of his or her life. A good cry, for starters. A walk in the woods. An afternoon of bowling. A spending spree at the grocery store. A long-distance phone call to mom. A long letter to dad. A drive along the river. A homemade pizza. A long nap. Another good cry.
I could go on all day, but you get my drift. Instead of dying on your worst day, rent a Winnebago and head west to the Rockies. Paint your house blue. Buy a tractor and drive it around town. Do something. Be alive while you can. You might have the blues, but they won’t last forever. Trust me on this one.
Shrimp Scampi
If you’re looking for something good to cook up for your sweetheart, give this recipe a try. Serve it by candlelight. An elegant dish, for sure.
Marinade 2 lb shrimp in 1 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup white wine (your choice), 1 T oregano, and 2 cloves crushed garlic.
Place in a bowl and cover. Marinade in refrigerator for 4-6 hours. Using a slotted spoon, remove shrimp and transfer to a fry pan, and sauté in 1 T butter, turning shrimp until they just turn pink. Do not overdo or shrimp will be tough.
Serve over buttered green (spinach) fettuccini. Serve with a nice white wine of your choice, maybe a Pinot Grigio, and a dense Italian or sourdough bread, with a side dish of herbed olive oil for dipping. Serves 6.

Now what is there to do?

Archived | February 3, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I especially like that song “Wild Horses” Mr. Keillor sang with Andra Suchy and the Shoe Band. There’s an energy in that song, a go-find-a-meadow-and-breathe kind of energy. Thing is, the only meadows around here are snow-covered, and if you take too deep a breath, you’ll freeze your nostrils shut.
Seems every year ’bout this time, right around the whole groundhog fiasco, this cabin-fevery kind of crappy feeling settles in. Some people get crabby, some get depressed. And there are those who find a project to work on. Think about it. It’s been cold and dark and snowy for months, the house is dusty, windows need washing, salt is caked to the floor of the garage where bags of aluminum cans are piled up in the corner, there’s a layer of thick ice on the sidewalk, the phone’s ringing, someone’s snow pants are torn, someone else needs some black gloves that actually fit, someone else’s boot liners smell like swamp water, we’re almost out of wood, we always have chicken for dinner, why don’t we ever go out to eat, wish it would warm up so we could go sledding, frostbite, schmostbite, it’s too dry in here, now what is there to do?
Oh, for the love of Henry. This, my dears, is the time of year when you do all those things you put away last summer to do in the winter when you’re cooped up inside. This is when you organize all the photo albums and re-write all the messy recipe cards and sort through your books. This is when you build the model plane. How about that candle-making kit you got for your birthday? Or the how-to French cookbook you received for Christmas which remains, as yet, unopened? Eh? You could always write a letter, on stationery, the old-fashioned way, with ink. Make an apple pie. Read a book. Or two.
Oven Omelet
This is a simple breakfast that isn’t going to make anyone late or have anything but a pleasant morning. It goes nicely with muffins. Or scones.
1 1/2 dozen eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
fried, chopped bacon or ham or both
4-8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
Melt 1/2 stick butter in a 9″ x 13″ pan. Mix other ingredients in a bowl,
and pour into pan. Bake at 325 for 30-45 minutes. Sprinkle cheese
over top and bake another 5 minutes. Knife comes out clean when it’s done.