So much for the glory of falling

Archived | January 26, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I spent the evening on the couch, giving my body a bit of a break from the elements. Not that I’ve spent much time outside lately; I haven’t. There hasn’t been enough snow lately to warrant shoveling. A broom will do the trick, really, and I’ve had enough to do inside to keep me busy. I did run out to the garage late Friday to get my purse which I’d forgotten in the car, and wouldn’t you know I put one foot down on the back steps and that was that. Airborne.
They say the journey is the destination. If that’s true, then Friday night my body had two: the fall itself, and the meeting of ice-covered rock and my hind end. Destination #1 was glorious, really, and if it hadn’t been for #2, I may have kept going, all the way to the municipal park. Maybe even all the way to Canada. But no. There’s gravity, and there’s weight, and though I did manage to sail over all four ice-covered steps, I was unable to remain airborne.
There’s something about falling that begs for a moment of silence. You hit the ground and, if you’re in public, you take that moment, establish you’re still breathing and everything’s in working order, and you’re up and back at it as if nothing happened. But if you have the luxury, as I did, of being alone, with no one around to see you, I recommend lying there awhile. It’s a sobering time, where you reconnect with your body one joint at a time, and appreciate, for once, the padding you do have. And you stare up into the sky and feel how small you are and how vast is the universe, and you’re reminded, once again, your days are numbered and you really ought to enjoy each and every blessed one of them.
It was a painful enough wipeout that I actually looked forward to the large and purple hematoma that would, inevitably, rise up and out of my left hip. Something I could show people here and there and elicit ooh’s and aah’s and a few “You really oughta take it easy’s.” A bruise large and colorful enough to get someone else to do the vacuuming for a week or two. No such luck. My bruises are small and two-toned, and the best I could manage was a grunt or two the day after when I got up from the couch. Which generally happens anyway. So much for the glory of falling.
Venison with Juniper Berries
If you’re a lover of venison and spices and wine, here’s something satisfying for
a cold night in February. Serve it up with potatoes and bread and something chocolate for dessert.
2 1/4 pounds venison, (thigh is ideal), boned and cubed
A carrot, diced
An onion, diced
A rib of celery, diced
A bay leaf
An 8-inch sprig of rosemary
A piece of stick cinnamon
Several peppercorns
2-3 cloves
8 juniper berries, crushed in a mortar (or the bottom of a water glass)
A bottle of dry red wine
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
A shot of grappa or brandy
Salt to taste
Bone and cube the venison and put it in a large bowl with the diced vegetables, herbs, and spices; pour the wine over it all and marinate it for at least several hours or a day or two if you can, turning the pieces occasionally. When it’s time to cook the meat, heat the oil and butter in a pot. Remove the meat from the marinade using a slotted spoon (reserve the marinade) and brown it over a brisk flame, salting it a bit. Add the grappa and continue to cook until it has evaporated. Next, stir in the marinade, reduce the flame, and simmer, covered, for at least 2 hours. When it’s time to serve the meat, transfer the pieces from the sauce to a serving dish with a slotted spoon and the pan drippings and vegetables through a strainer (or blend them, but remember to remove the bay leaf and the rosemary), spoon the sauce over the meat, and serve.
You can substitute a good cut of beef for the venison and it’ll turn out just fine.

Thank goodness for tomorrow. And for butter.

Archived | January 19, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Whipped up some buckwheat pancakes and buttermilk waffles as the music played, and served it with kielbasa and bacon and some cherries and whipped cream for the waffles and it all went over pretty well. After everyone cleared out I cleaned up the kitchen and figured I might as well clean out the fridge while I’m at it. I’ve cleaned just about everything else in the house since the New Year began, and when your refrigerator is in order, you know you’re almost there.
And so I did. Didn’t take long, though, as I’m one of those “clean-as-you-go” people. I don’t often sit down to dinner without washing up the dishes, and you’re not going to find an expired date among my yogurts or a ring of mold on my sour cream. You’re just not. We are big eaters, yes, but on top of that, I pay attention to my cheese. When you pay money for a nice block of cheddar, why on earth would you let it go to rot? So every other day or so, I look through the fridge to see what we’ve got, and what needs using up, and what is good for a while, and I plan meals accordingly.
I’m thinking now about what I can do with 9 pounds of butter and 7.5 pounds of cheese. Not to mention a sack of Braeburn apples (on sale last week), 3 heads of lettuce, thirty flour tortillas, and a boatload of chicken breasts. I’m thinkin’ spicy chicken wraps, with some apple crisp for dessert. That doesn’t use up much butter, but butter keeps, and there’s always tomorrow. Thank goodness for tomorrow. And for butter.
Pumpkin Cornbread
If you like bread, and corn, and pumpkin, and if you’re feeling a bit stuck for something to serve on the side, give this recipe a try. It’s good on its own, or with stew, or ham, or just about anything you come up with.
2 cups cornmeal
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 T baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 1/4 cups pureed pumpkin
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Beat together the eggs, oil, pumpkin, and milk.
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry with a rubber spatula. The batter will be smooth and fluffy. Pour the batter into a 9 x 13 baking pan (or two loaf pans), and place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, or until toothpick stuck in the middle of the cornbread comes out dry. Let cool for ten minutes, and then cut into pieces and serve.

Not All Whacked Out and Fuzzy

Archived | January 12, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. The kids were occupied with their new video games and I was doing a bit of trimming on my latest haircut which was a bit longer on the right side as opposed to the left. I went back a while back after another haircut to see about this same issue, but my hairdresser, Michelle, reassured me that it WAS even &151; the hair on the right side of my head may be a bit thicker, she said, and do I sleep exclusively on my right side (which would somehow explain that phenomenon)? Well, I do, I told her. Well, there you have it, she said.
Yeah, I have it, alright. Thicker hair on the right side of my head. I’ve tried sleeping on my left side to even it out but that’s about as silly as anything because once I fall asleep I turn myself back over to where my body thinks it belongs and better luck next time, Mrs. S. So I’ve gotten rather used to the seeming lopsidedness of my head, but then there are the cowlicks, of which Michelle counts 3 large. Not just “3”, but “3 large.” Which eliminates me, right off the bat, from candidacy for a number of hairstyles. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve had pretty much the same hairstyle since I was about twenty, and it suits me rather well with small variations every couple of years. A few of those variations have brought me dangerously close to the mulletesque, but as I said, I’m not complaining. There’s no point. Everyone envies everyone else, so why not be content with what you’ve got?
When I think about it, mine is not such bad hair. It fits me. It’s turning gray pretty evenly, and when I don’t have time to dry it, it curls up rather nicely, not all whacked out and fuzzy. And it does a mighty fine job of covering up all those godawful scars on my head sustained when I was a kid. Stitches everywhere, a real work of art, I imagine, were I to suddenly lose all my hair. Which I may one day. You never know. I’m finding, as I grow older, I lose things. The blessing is realizing how much a person can live without. As long as you’ve got a few chores to do, some fresh bread, a good book, and someone to share it all with, you’ve got it going just fine.
Been a while since I shared a hotdish recipe, and with the number of funerals this time of year, I figured these two recipes might be appropriate. They’re similar, but the second is a bit creamier and doesn’t contain tomatoes.
Lutheran Funeral Hot Dish
1 lb dry macaroni
1 lb ground beef
1 can tomato soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 14 oz can corn, drained
1 14 oz can tomatoes
ketchup, salt and pepper to taste
American cheese
Cook macaroni. Brown ground beef and onion. Combine all ingredients in a casserole dish. Top with cheese slices and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.
Funeral Hot Dish
1 bag medium egg noodles, boiled
Brown together: 1 lb ground beef
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
Add: 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups milk
1 can corn
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

We grew up in weather colder than this

Archived | January 5, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Who could complain about anything, really, as long as you were inside along with the radio and some potato chips or oatmeal and a blanket or two? It was cold outside. And, as time passes, it’s getting even colder. But I don’t need to tell you this. You already know. It’s beyond ass-burn cold, and even the best of us are having a bit of a time.
We grew up in weather colder than this. We’re used to it. We can handle it. It’s one reason we live here, for God’s sake. We don’t think twice about thermal clothing and layers and balm and gear. We don’t balk at the thought of wool, and we know what it means to “wick away moisture.” Our noses are red. Our toetips are blue. Our coffeecake is sweet. And a casual observer would be so not with the program if he or she thought for one minute that the weather might do us in.
This is, after all, prime time for doing all those inside things you wouldn’t dream of wasting daylight hours on in the summer. Clean out and re-organize the kitchen cupboards, and give the pantry a once-over. Paint a room or two, and add a bit of stenciling for the heck of it. Some pineapples maybe. Wedges of Swiss cheese would be something new. Buy a cake decorating kit and try it out with the kids; master the roses. Clean the windows. Read War and Peace. Call your parents. Knit something, or learn to. Give yoga another shot. Make, at last, figgy pudding. Stay up obscenely late and watch, again, the best movie you’ve seen.
Of course, there are the outside things. Some of which need doing. Things involving wood and shovels and blowers and car engines and all of that. Which is why we have the woolens, and the thermals, and the boots. And all of which is why we have tomorrow. Blessed tomorrow, and happy cold day today, and here’s some hot chocolate, and a kiss.
Cream Corn Casserole
A recipe from the files, this is a much-requested dish that goes with just about anything. It’s the Queen of Comfort Foods, and delightful, and something you’d just as soon climb on into for a nap as eat.
1 pkg. Jiffy corn bread mix
1 stick melted butter
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
Mix above ingredients, and add 1 can cream corn and 1 can whole corn (drained). Bake at 350 for about an hour, or until it’s light brown and doesn’t jiggle. (You can add peppers and onions for the sake of variety.)