Nothing Warms a Person Like Cooking Up a Good Meal

Archived | April 28, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Had the windows open a bit too long during the day so I was a little bit chilled while listening to the show. I figured nothing warms a person like cooking up a good meal so I went to work in the kitchen making just about everything I could think of that sounded good. Seems that chill wind brought back a remnant of longing for comfort food, so there I was Saturday evening with a batch of oatmeal cookie dough, some banana bread in the oven, a pan of lasagna ready to bake on Sunday, a pan of garlic bread dough rising on the counter, and a pan of brownies cooling on top of the fridge.
The kids came and went, sitting and watching and licking spoons, helping here and there and asking questions like, “If you had a choice between being shot out of a cannon or walking the plank, which would you pick?” and “What is it that you really DO for a living?” and “What would happen if a person never farted?” I don’t mind all the questions, to be honest, and usually I can come up with a pretty decent answer. Someone way back when told me how fast it all goes and to enjoy every waking moment with the kids, and I have, and do, though I’ll admit I enjoy their sleeping moments as well.
The question I’ll have to think about awhile came while Mr. Keillor and Sara Watkins were singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — one of my favorites — and I sang along, and got a bit tearful. The kids happened to be there, all three of their big ol’ adolescent selves dipping into the cookie dough and staring at me. “Are you crying?” one of them asked. Not crying, I replied. I’m just feeling. I love this song. “What other songs do you like?” “Jimmy Crack Corn,” I replied, which I began to sing. They kept staring at me. I want that one at my funeral, I told them, and they laughed. I’m serious, I said. “What song do you really want at your funeral?” one of them asked. Just then the buzzer went off on the stove. Banana bread was done, and yes, they all wanted some.
It’s not so much the question itself that has me thinking; it’s the luxury of being asked and the implication of it all. The way it’s going, my kids plan on burying me, and they want me to come up with a song for it. I like that. The way it’s supposed to be. I think I’ll think on it some more, and make it worth the asking. Maybe tell ’em “Send in the Clowns” for starters, and then, no, I think “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” That one. For real.
Buttermilk Biscuits
No words on the planet can do justice to the glory of these biscuits. Make them and share them with people you love. That’s about all I can say.
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 T sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup or more flour, for rolling
1 T melted butter
Preheat oven to 425. Butter an 8 or 9 inch cake pan.
Mix dry ingredients into pea-sized pieces. With a wooden spoon, stir in cream, milk, buttermilk and let sit 2 minutes. The dough will be wet and look like cottage cheese.
Place 1 cup of flour on a sheet pan with a wall and place scoops of batter (an ice cream scoop works well) onto the flour until the pan is full. Gently lift the blobs of batter out and place around the edge of the buttered pan, and then fill in the center, packing ’em in tightly.
Bake in the center of the oven for 15–20 minutes. Just after you remove them from the oven, brush with melted butter. Serve hot with butter and jam.

Why Know the Time When You’re Having Fun?

Archived | April 20, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s funny how I always know about when the show is starting up. I don’t wear a watch (why know the time when you’re having fun?) but I always seem to tune in on time. It’s like that. An important part of the routine, and you always sense when it’s about to happen.
The world is a different story. Important things happen all the time, and you don’t always know it. You’d THINK you’d feel it when a big ice shelf just drops off into the ocean, or a million people gather in one place with lit candles, or an earthquake rolls its way on through. You’d think you’d at least pause and feel it. Something.
I didn’t feel a darn thing two weeks ago when George Nissen passed away. He was 96 and one of the great men, in my mind, of all time. He was born in Iowa and and was a gymnast in school, and when he was 16 started work on what he called a “bouncing rig.” He had a vision, and he didn’t give up. Thank goodness for us, because there came a day when he perfected what we now call the “trampoline.” Yes, it’s true. The man who invented the trampoline, who wanted not only to bounce and flip but to keep on bouncing and flipping, has passed away.
I never met the man, but I do know he climbed a pyramid in Egypt and set up a trampoline right on top and bounced and flipped on top of that pyramid. I also know he married along the way and was the father of two children and eventually became a grandfather. Pretty much all I need to know to call for a moment of silence, don’t you think?
Blue Cheese Bacon Dip
Here’s a sure thing to make and take to a patio party if ever there was one.
2 8 oz pkg cream cheese
12 oz sour cream
2 pkg, 4 oz each, Treasure Cave blue cheese
2 T freshly minced garlic
8 strips bacon (I prefer Farmland Hickory smoked)
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T bacon grease and cracklins from the bottom of the pan
1 T balsamic vinegar
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 T fresh ground black pepper
Mix cream cheese, sour cream, blue cheese and balsamic vinegar with a hand mixer.
Cut bacon into 1/4 inch strips and cook to medium-well/crisp. Remove from pan. Add garlic, olive oil, and black pepper to pan without removing bacon grease. Lightly brown garlic. Scrape pan well into the cream cheese mixture and combine. Add thyme. Chill, and serve with a loaf of sourdough, crackers, whatever you please.

I’ll be darned if a couple hours didn’t pass like moments

Archived | April 14, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been lovely weather lately, cooler and even crisp in the evenings, and I have enjoyed getting outside a bit. Mr. Sundberg spent most of Saturday cleaning the garage, which left him satisfied and glowing, and the kids jumped on the trampoline and went on a nature hike and sat by the river awhile. One of those lovely sunny spring days that get a person craving grilled food and good conversation and a tall cool glass of pink grapefruit juice with a bit of gin.
The storms came rolling in Tuesday and that didn’t stop me from a little road trip I’d been meaning to take for some time now. After everyone was off, I hopped in the car and drove along winding roads through thunder and lightning and pouring down rain for a good hour or two, enjoying music turned up loud and the splash of rain on the windshield. I stopped at a café I’ve been to before and went in and sat awhile, and struck up a conversation with two goodhearted women from Lanesboro, where I went to a Rhubarb Festival a few years back and ate some of the best food I’ve eaten in all my life.
Turns out these two, Jennifer and Mary, have everything to do with that festival, and we shared stories of the people who live in our home towns and the food we like to make and how we spend our time on Sunday afternoons, and I’ll be darned if a couple hours didn’t pass like moments. They reminded me that this year’s Rhubarb Festival is June 1st, and invited me to come on down, and that got me thinking about how road trips are underrated, and so is time in cafés, and, for that matter, so is the feeling you get when someone you’ve never met before becomes someone you feel you’ve known all your life. Familiar. And when you both have a thing for rhubarb sauce, well, there you go. All the more reason to plan another road trip.
Grilled Ham Rolls
If you’re like me, you’ve still got some ham left over from Easter, and here’s a fine way to make use of it. Serve these lovely rolls with some potato salad and a pan of bars and you’re good to go.
2 cups cubed ham
3/4 lb grated cheddar
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 4 oz can green jalapenos, chopped
1/4 cup chopped pickles
1 8 oz can tomato juice
2 T fresh lemon juice1 T mayonnaise
6 crusty round rolls
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients (except rolls).
Slice the tops off the rolls and remove; scoop out the bread from the inside. Set aside. Fill the rolls with the ham mixture.
Replace the tops on the rolls and wrap each in foil. Bake over hot coals or in covered grill for an hour.

Pardon my joy. As if I can help it.

Archived | April 7, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. You can imagine my joy when I found Brandi Carlile was on the show once again. And you can imagine the eyeballs rolling all over the house, too. Of course. Someone is a fanatic about something and everyone else goes and gets all bent out of shape. Well. Pardon my joy. As if I can help it. She even sang “The Story” again and you expect me to abstain from even a bit of giddiness?
No. You have got to celebrate a person who sings from way down deep like that. She’s got my vote. I’ve always admired people who have the quality of “be-who-you-are-ness.” They fully inhabit themselves. They simply ARE. I mean really. It’s not like you can BE anyone else, and why try, anyway? And why would you want to? So many people spend so much time futzing around with themselves, trying to be more like someone else when what they aren’t seeing is that they’re perfectly fine just the way they are. Imagine.
Of course, when you’ve got people rolling your eyes at you, it is tempting to fold up into a ball and sit there and not move for awhile. Brandi knows. She sings it herself: No, they don’t know who I really am / And they don’t know what / I’ve been through like you do And I was made for you. Which is why I, today, am grateful for My People. The ones who know me and love me anyway. The ones who experience my forgetfulness and indecision and mood swings and — instead of chalking it up to instability or some form of mental weakness — shine light on it. You’re creative, they tell me. Your head is full of wonderful things, and you happen to feel a lot. How you drive is just fine; it’s part of who you are. So you cry once in a while. Crying is human. It’s healthy. It means you’re feeling something.
Yeah. Those are the people you want in your life. You want to gather them around you and keep them there and bake cherry pies for them and take them with you to beautiful places like rivers and soft serve ice cream kiosks at the fair. You want to cook wonderful Italian meals for them and teach them how to carve a bird out of a perfect piece of wood. And you want to jump on trampolines with them and make plans for road trips to ordinary places neither of you have been before like the Iron Range or the Badlands simply because you like to be together. And if you fall asleep in the car on the way with your head tilted back and wobbling and your mouth wide open, it’s not going to be a big deal. Because the way you are is just fine with the person at the wheel and the people in the back seat. Sure is.
Puttanesca Sauce
This sauce is good for an evening of entertaining friends. Make a double batch and serve with two pounds of good pasta. Make sure you’ve got something light for dessert.
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c. olive oil
Fresh basil
1/4 c. white wine
2 T capers (or more, to taste)
1/4 c. Greek olives, pitted and halved, quartered or chopped
1/4 c. chopped anchovies
2 (16 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
Parmesano cheese for top
Sauté garlic in olive oil until golden (not brown). Add tomatoes and all other ingredients except Parmesano cheese. Add no salt to this recipe. Cook for 20 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally. Pour sauce over cooked linguine. Sprinkle Parmesano cheese on top.
If you like a hot sauce, try adding a cayenne or dried hot chili pepper with the garlic.