How Glorious Would that Be?

Archived | March 31, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. And that would be an understatement on my part, because it was a really very fine show all ’round. Especially with the appearance of one of my favorite singers of all time, Brandi Carlile. Let me just say. The woman has got a voice that will take you to the river and back, and I’m not joking. And when she sang my favorite song, well, it was all I could do to contain myself. It’s called “The Story” and it begins like this:
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true…

When Brandi sings, I’m right there with her. Same with Lesley Gore and a song called “Glitter in the Air” by a woman named “Pink.” And then there are the ones where you just listen. “Louie, Louie” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music.
I’ve got ’em, you’ve got ’em, everyone has ’em — they’re songs that mean something deep to you for one reason or another, and when you hear ’em you just stop mixing the brownies and stand there and let the words and the music lift you up and carry you wherever on God’s green earth they will. Now, not every song does this to people, and not all of my songs are going to do it to you, or yours to me, but you’d think the ideal for a singer or musician is for their song to be the one that does it to the most people at once, and how glorious would that be? (Especially if we were all on trampolines.)
It’s the soundtrack of your life. Always playing, updated regularly. Crank it up, Baby.
Ham Pie
Well, it’s Holy Week, and I imagine one or more of you will be having a ham dinner somewhere along the way. Here’s a fine recipe for ham pie, a good way to use up some of the leftovers and still come out looking like a top-notch cook. Serve it with cherry pie for a lovely post-Easter lunch.
2 cups diced ham
3 cups flour
3 T sugar
3 eggs
1/2 c. shortening
1/8 c. milk
1 lb. sweet sausage
2 lbs. ricotta
1 small ball Mozzarella, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 raw eggs (additional)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Mix flour and sugar together. Make a well in the center, add 3 eggs, shortening and milk, mixing until dough is easy to handle. Divide in half; roll out one portion and fit into 9×13 inch baking pan. Cover other half until later.
Boil sausage 8 minutes and cut into small pieces. Mix sausage with remainder of ingredients and spread in crust. Roll out remaining dough and fit on top of mixture. Seal edges; cut slit in top. Bake for 45-60 minutes at 350 until crust is golden brown. Cool slightly before serving. Brush top with a mixture of 1 well-beaten egg and 1 T milk.

And I Don’t Envy them One Bit

Archived | March 24, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was a broadcast of performances from the cruise they all took down in the Caribbean, and it sure was nice to sit there and imagine the warm wind and the blue of the water and the bird sounds and the coconut drinks and the endless night sky. Imagining it all is enough for me. I live here for the seasons, and don’t mind at all the cold. Don’t get me wrong — I do get tired of a stretch of endless cold air and grey skies, but that grey, day after day, makes the eventual sun all the brighter and warmer.
They’re coming back now, the snow birds, in flocks, those people who flew south for the winter. They return all smiling, skin aglow, hair bleached to coppery shades you can’t get from a bottle, their feet as brown as their legs, with stories of white sand beaches and floating bars and crashing waves and gulls, and I don’t envy them one bit.
They missed the stretch in January when you could barely see from the house to the garage, the snow and wind were blowing so hard. Went on for three days and all we did was hunker down and bake. Missed the Northern Lights in February, green and purple this time around, and the champagne we were saving for just such a night. Missed getting the car stuck at the end of the drive and how we worked together to get it out. Missed the snow sculpture contest in town, missed the pie social, the beautiful rain, the earthy scent of spring in March. Missed the first greening grass, the birch trees at night in the light of the moon, the ice melt on the river, mating season for hawks.
The spring winds will come soon, those warm breezes drying up the damp grasses in the fields and meadows. I love those winds. I crave them. You go out and stand there and they wrap themselves around you like ever-loving arms. Wouldn’t miss it for anything. Not even a flight to the South Seas. Not a chance.
Cranberry Orange Scones
A batch of scones in a basket makes a lovely Easter gift. Try these with some fruit jam and coffee for a Saturday morning treat. Kids will like them, too, and they don’t take long at all.
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T sugar
grated zest of an orange
1/2 cup Craisins (dried cranberries)
1 stick cold unsalted butter
2/3 cup buttermilk (plus extra for brushing)
coarse sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
Cut the cold butter into small cubes 1/4-1/2 inch. Mix until butter is just coated with flour, leaving large chunks. Stir in the cranberries and the zest. (You may briefly soak dried fruits in hot water or rum, then drain and toss in sugar before adding).
Stir in 2/3 cup buttermilk and mix just until the liquid is absorbed and the batter begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Scrape the dough down with a spatula and form into a ball.
Flatten the dough into a circle 3/4-inch thick, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, a silicone baking sheet or a buttered sheet of wax paper. Divide the circle into eight wedges and separate the wedges out leaving a 1/2-inch space between them.
Brush the tops with remaining buttermilk or egg white. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Dust scones with confectioner’s sugar, if desired, and serve warm with butter and jam or honey.

A Postcard from Mrs. Sundberg

Archived | March 18, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’m away on Spring Break, but not away really as we chose to spend this one at home doing all manner of crazy family things from baking to raking to late-night games to movie marathons. I’ll confess I am craving a bit of alone time lately, but it can wait, as most things can. Nothing like immersing yourself in time with kids awhile, letting them guide the plans for the day. I took them grocery shopping and left my list at home, and boy, did we come home with some interesting food. We made Mr. Sundberg’s favorite stuffed pork chops, and a French silk pie. There was an avocado — which we’ve never before bought whole, and eaten — and a pile of wonderful apples, and donuts. Each of the kids picked his or her favorite: a Bavarian crème, a raised glazed, and sugared glazed, evenly tied with a raspberry Bismarck, which happens to be my favorite, so I agreed to share a bite or two. We picked up some fun cheese, and a frozen pizza with everything on it, and some white grape peach juice. And chocolate. With so much rain coming down over the weekend, and overcast skies, it’s nice to hole up with some good food and people you enjoy talking with or simply being near and just be awhile, a kind of break from the shuffle and rush of the routine which does, inevitably, wear one down. And then there’s that time at the end of the day, when you’re all piled on the couch together watching a movie that makes you laugh, when you don’t think about tomorrow or bills or whom you have to call or the laundry. You just relax together, and let your limbs entwine, and if you fall asleep, you fall asleep, because it’s spring break and you don’t have to get up tomorrow. You don’t even have to get up. You can sleep here, on the couch, if you want to. The shuffle and rush can wait awhile. And so can those bills.
Sour Cream Waffles
This recipe is a good one to mix up the night before. A few minutes of waiting and you’ve got a plate of steaming, moist waffles that’ll melt in your mouth.
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
Combine first four ingredients. Beat until smooth.
Slowly add dry ingredients. Stir until well-blended.
Batter will be slightly lumpy.
For dessert waffles add a few teaspoons sugar. Pour batter into waffle iron and
bake as you wish. Serve with butter and syrup or with a fresh fruit
topping. Enjoy!

Let Warmth and Quiet and Time do Their Thing

Archived | March 9, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was a Joke Show, and lucky for us, as it’s been something of a rough week in our house. Everyone has a sinus thing or some nasty thing going, nothing terrible, but enough to make a person feel like not doing much of anything but curling up with a blanket and a good book under the pretense of reading away the afternoon, but really the hope is to doze off into oblivion awhile and let warmth and quiet and time do their thing.
Throw in a week ahead of Spring Break and Fairly Crappy Weather and you’ve got yourself a house full of people with a lot of time on their hands who don’t feel like doing much of anything. At all. Not even Mr. Sundberg, who generally has it in him to do something like carving wood or splitting wood or taking a walk in the woods. We all, for the most part, just wanted to be unto ourselves, dozing the weekend away in armchairs and window seats and corners. Each in his or her own domain for a stretch, not to be bothered or awakened or questioned or nudged, coming up on occasion for Vitamin C or oatmeal or water or air.
And so it was. For what seemed an endless stretch of hours. And, gradually, we came out of our respective cocoons still congested, still sniffling, still feeling like our faces were poured concrete, and we found each other again, now wanting company, but quiet, respectful company. We watched movies together, movies we’ve seen several times, and movies that were just released at the store. Since I hadn’t had time to get to the grocery store, there wasn’t much in the fridge for a decent meal before the Oscars. I made wiener pot pie, something new, and it disappeared without a complaint. Not a one. We sat together and talked about summertime and who’s going to what camp, and who wants what job, and we managed to laugh a bit, and there was even a belly-laugh or two. There was some wrestling, eventually, and pile-on, and by sometime late Monday someone asked if I might make a chocolate cake this week and someone else was craving pork chops in the crock pot, and I imagine, should you drop by later in the week, you’ll find us back in the swing of things.
It’s like that, life is. Comes to a screeching halt and all you need is some time alone to gather yourself, and the laughter’s not long off, and pretty soon you’re craving cake, and the world feels right again. Thank goodness for all of it.
Chow Mein Hotdish
My mother made this recipe often about this time of year. It goes well with biscuits and butter, and tastes almost better warmed up the next day, should you be so lucky as to have some left over.
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chopped celery
Brown together in pan with a little butter, salt and pepper.
Mix together:
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 1/4 cups water
2/3 cup uncooked rice
Add hamburger mixture, mix well.
Pour into casserole and bake at 325 for 1- 1 1/2 hours.
Serve over chow mein noodles or add noodles to casserole.

Trust Me On This One

Archived | March 2, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was taking a bit of a break after cleaning up mud the kids tracked in — they took an afternoon walk and with the snow melting there’s mud all the heck over. I’m hoping for another snowstorm or two, of course, but in the meantime there’s mud to be reckoned with and it’s just one of those things you deal with. It doesn’t take much, and it’s worth it knowing the kids got out and took in some scenery and fresh air.
My brother went out running over the weekend. Five miles, his first run of the year. I know this because he called Monday morning and went on and on about his “runner’s high” and how awesome it is and how I should start running. He talked about running past all the idling cars full of people trying to go places and how angry some of them looked and how he was smiling because he was RUNNING and they squinched their noses at him and he just kept right on going and I really ought to try it.
Well. I was a runner once, back in the day before three people passed through my body and before their schedules became mine and before life went from busy to hectic to manageable chaos. I know about that high, and when your life is like mine, you find ways to get there without running. I walk now and then. I jump on my trampoline. I take bubble baths and paddle canoes and occasionally leap into a lake. I cook with basil, and garlic, and I bake. Yes, people, if you want a real high, a genuine lift-you-up-into-the-sky-and-beg-for-mercy high, try baking with freshly ground ginger, and cinnamon, and nutmeg. Soften some yeast with warm water and breathe in its scent, and you’ll find yourself reeling. Knead a batch of bread dough with your hands and your forearms, or whip up a French Silk pie. You don’t need drugs or running shoes to lift yourself on up. A bowl full of heavy cream, a blender and some Madagascar vanilla will get you there. Trust me on this one.
Chicken Pasta Bake
We’re heading into the chilly-windy-muddy season, when snow and sleet and rain all join together to make life a bit more interesting. Here’s an easy recipe for a filling hot dish everyone will love. Serve with rolls and green beans or carrots, and maybe a fruit cobbler for dessert.
2 cups cooked chicken (2-3 breasts)
1 jar Alfredo sauce
1 box shell pasta
1 can mushrooms
6-8 slivers smoked Gouda
1/4 – 1/2 cup crumbled bacon
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Cube or shred chicken and sauté in olive oil. Cook pasta according to
directions on box. Combine cooked chicken, Alfredo sauce, pasta, mushrooms,
bacon and Gouda in a bowl. Pour into a 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with bread
crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake at 300 for 20 minutes until top is slightly brown.