Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been hot, real hot, and steamy and sticky. There have been storms, too. A couple big ones. The kind where everything turns green and smells green and you feel the dark creeping over and know something big is coming your way. Didn’t keep me from anything. I made freezer jam all day, and what a thing that was.
I spent the morning before the storm at the Farmer’s Market with about eleven thousand other people looking for something to cook up for dinner. It was not my intent to purchase two crates of strawberries. However, when I asked the man how much the berries were and he said, “$3.00. $5.00 for two,” I thought he meant per container. He meant per crate, and explained he had a truckload coming in on Sunday.
So there I was in my kitchen, apron and all, with two crates of strawberries, two big bowls and a storm rolling in. I put on some music for waltzing and got down to business. Two hours later, just after Mr. Sundberg and the kids called from the cabin saying what a great time they were having on their fishing expedition and wondering if it was raining where I was, the power went out. I lit a candle and went out onto the porch with a bowl of berries and a glass of iced tea. I watched the storm from the swing, and though it hadn’t yet begun to rain, I could smell it in the air. It smelled like my life, and I liked it, and I sat there a long while on that swing, wiping strawberry juice off my chin while lightning flashed way off, thinkin’ how good it feels just to be. And it does.
If you like blueberries, you’ll love this recipe for what is, really, a pudding.
Serve it with some yogurt or whipped cream after a long, hot day in the sun.
4 cups blueberries
2 T lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup quick tapioca
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Mash 1 cup of blueberries in a large sauce pan. Add remaining ingredients except cinnamon and let stand 5 minutes. Cook on medium heat stirring constantly until mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from heat and add cinnamon. Cool.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was on my way to a gathering — not quite a party, but more than a dinner or a get-together. It’s hard to distinguish what makes an event a party, but I think it has something to do with the food, what you serve it on, and the mood of the people. Thing is, a party isn’t necessarily festive or wild. I think it has to do with celebration of someone or something, and that is that. The purpose of a gathering is the gathering itself; same with a get-together. And with a dinner the food is often the focus.
What I attended Friday night was definitely a party. It was a celebration of a work season having ended, and of summer, and it was one of the more lovely evenings I’ve spent in a long while. It started later, and I spent a good hour by myself, wandering about the library and kitchen and patio of the host’s well-kept home. I’m not, by nature, a gregarious person. I do love to be invited, but I’d much rather spend time on the fringe, taking it all in.
Anyway, the great thing about parties is the range of choices they offer. You can lose yourself in the crowd, or take center stage. You can assume another identity or be blatant about who you are. You can dance, or disappear. And there’s food all the while. Good food. Steamed asparagus, peppered shrimp, fresh strawberries, and rich chocolate flavored with almond in tiny triangles sprinkled with powdered sugar. For your enjoyment. And would you like a bit more wine?
Blueberry Almond Cornmeal Muffins
Blueberries are everywhere about now, and this recipe is perfect for a summer picnic. Enjoy with grilled chicken and salad.
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp lemon extract or lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped almonds
Mix above ingredients in large bowl blending completely. In separate medium bowl, completely mix together:
1 cup yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
Combine the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients in the large bowl.
Stir together until completely blended. Gently fold in 1 cup blueberries
Spray 12 muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray. Fill cups with the batter and bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Cool 5 minutes and remove from muffin cups. Serve with butter and honey.
Listened to the show last week and it was not bad. It’s been one of those weeks that, at times, felt straight from you-know-where. I’ve been on an expedition of sorts, an adventure if you want to call it that, a real trip. The Kitchen Cabinets. Yes. From start to finish, it was nearly a week, and it began with taking off the doors and drawers and hardware. Then there was sanding ’em all down (blessed old red oil paint dust all the heck over) and then there was wiping them with tack cloths. I covered the garage floor with cardboard and used landscaping rocks to set the doors on, and then the first coat of “White Dove” — a creamy white that’s easy on the eyes. It all had to dry overnight, and then another round of sanding, and then wiping down, and a second coat of paint. There was dust to contend with, and humidity, and brush hairs and a moment or two of lightheadedness, and matching up the hardware and doors and tightening screws and oh, gosh. And then the cleaning up — paint thinner rules, vacuuming up the dust, cleaning the brushes. But it’s done. Done. I’ve White Dove paint in my hair and a bit of a sore back, but those cabinets, let me tell you, are a glory to behold. I think I’ll let them sit there empty awhile, and take my time filling ’em up again with all the things cabinets can hold. In the meantime, my thought is that summer is the time for such an adventure. Seems nearly impossible at the start, but — Lord Almighty — patience and endeavor go hand in hand. A glass of wine in the evening helps, too. You’ll be tempted to drink from a tumbler or even a Styrofoam cup. Don’t. Dig out a real wine glass, one of the good ones. After a hard day’s work, you deserve something of luxury. Even if it’s a wine glass with streaks. It’s something.
Here’s another one from Judy in Missouri, a real treat if you’re a biscotti person like I am. I use white chocolate morsels and, let me tell you, the kids eat this one up. Goes well with coffee or for a break while out biking.
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
3 1/2 ounces imported white chocolate (or white chocolate morsels)
1 2/3 cups almonds, toasted
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon apricot-flavored brandy
2 tsp almond extract
1 6-oz pkg dried apricots, diced
Line 18″ x 12″ x 1″-inch cookie sheet with foil. Butter and flour foil.
Combine first 6 ingredients. Mix with pastry cutter until fine meal forms.
Add white chocolate and process until finely chopped.
Add toasted almonds and chop coarsely.
Beat eggs, brandy, and extract in large bowl; add flour mixture and apricots and stir until moist dough forms.
Drop dough by spoonful in three 12-inch-long strips on prepared sheet, spacing evenly. Moisten fingertips and shape each dough strip into 2-inch-wide log. Refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350; bake until logs are golden, about 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool thoroughly. Reduce heat to 300.
Cut logs from sides of pan, if necessary.
Cut logs crosswise into 3/4-inch wide slices.
Arrange on cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes longer.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Last show of the season, and it left me a bit sad. Of course there’s another one comin’ down the pipe next week, and I’ll be tuning in, but there is always that little feeling of “bye for now” with the season being over and all. I know life is pretty much meetings and partings stretched out over the years, but gosh, I don’t like the partings part. Most people don’t. I imagine that’s why we stretch out our goodbyes for a good half hour — an hour, even — around here. Just don’t like that feeling of not knowing when we’re going to see each other again.
Thing is, we don’t even really say goodbye. We do this kind of wave thing and say “Yup!” or “Uh-huh!” and give a little hug and a “Well now” and then remember the cake pan or the Jell-O bowl and have to run in and get that once we finally made it to the porch. We get down to the steps and it’s someone’s jacket or purse. Keep delaying it until someone in the car hollers, “Let’s go!” or “We’re never gonna get home at this rate!” and somehow the word “goodbye” gets lost in the chaos and there are more half-hugs and a “Well, now, drive safe” and before anyone can utter a “goodbye” the car roars away and we’re all standing there on the porch, smiling and waving as if we’ve lost something but can’t remember what.
I’ve had a couple REAL goodbyes in my life, the kind where you know, deep inside, you are never going to see this person again, and it’s a painful thing. It just is. You stand there looking at each other, memorizing each other’s face, breathing in each other’s smell and just feeling what it feels like to be near this person, and there’s a bona fide ache that starts out small in your chest and grows until it fills every part of you. Being an optimist, you search for something positive to say, maybe reflect on the time you spent together, or how you might see each other or will at least write, but when you know this is it, there aren’t many happy thoughts waiting to get out. (Unless this is someone you’d prefer to never see again, which is another situation entirely.) So a kind of silence moves on it, and whether you say goodbye or not is beside the point, because “goodbye” is being said for you, by the way things are, and when you at last hug, you feel this person’s heart beat against yours, and you turn, and walk away, and get on your bus or your plane or into your taxi.
Thing is, you’ll part with, in some way, eventually, everyone you meet. Perhaps instead of avoiding the “goodbye” we ought to acknowledge how glad we are we met along the way.
Just a little something to ponder while you’re out there on the porch swing.
Buttermilk Ice Cream
I sent out this recipe just over two years ago. It’s from a sweet lady named Judy who lives in Missouri and it’s a real treat. Seems to me this one deserves a second go-round, so here it is.
Just right for a hot day in July.
1/2 gallon buttermilk
1 cup sugar (can substitute Equal or Splenda)
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice (not syrup)
1 jar maraschino cherries and juice
In a large plastic container (a 9 x 13 carrier works well), mix buttermilk, sugar, crushed pineapple and juice. Halve the cherries and add them and juice to the mixture. Mix well, dissolving the sugar. Put in the freezer for about 5 hours. Take it out and mix it up. Continue freezing awhile and then mixing until you have an icy slush.
If this freezes overnight, it will be hard as cement. In that case, leave it on the counter at room temperature for 20 minutes or so and bash it all up with a spoon until it softens enough to eat. Microwaving briefly is an option.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Mr. Sundberg is away on an extended motivational speaking engagement in Memphis, “Breathe in, Breathe Out: Relaxation in the Real World,” and it’s cabin time for the kids. They’re away for a five-day adventure with their grandmother in the North Woods of Wisconsin. So here I am, hardly left behind, more like free to get done what needs doing in my own sweet time.
Of course I’m one of those people who makes a big ol’ list of things to do, and when the time comes, I dawdle a bit and end up accomplishing just about half. My list this week includes the following: wash all floors; shake all rugs; clean pantry; organize file cabinet; go through kids’ clothes; try new biscotti recipe; re-stock salt for water softener; finish the book I’m reading; write a few letters; trim the grass along the fence; and paint the small bathroom a nice shade of blue.
I’ve checked a few items off the list already, and have until Sunday to finish, but I’m finding that the important list is not the one I’ve written, but the one that ultimately writes me. The unexpected things I do, that is, that really make it all a trip. How I sat and watched the fireflies the other night for a good hour before coming in. The movie I rented just for me when I was looking for one for the kids. Visiting with my friend Angela over lunch at the Noodle Shop, spur-of-the-moment. And later, going to a restaurant all by myself and ordering only appetizers and dessert. I even got a pedicure, and my toenails painted red, white and blue. Stars included. Nothing extraordinary, mind you, but not on the list I made. Thank goodness we don’t think of everything. Imagine. How dull. Let everything think of you, and things lighten up. Trust me on this one.
Homemade Blueberry Muffins
This recipe goes way back to a great-grandmother of mine, and it’s a favorite with grilled chicken and corn on the cob, or shredded beef sandwiches and smashed garlic red potatoes.
Or enjoy it for breakfast with eggs and juice.
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
Mix. Make a well in center.
Add 1 egg, 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup oil.
Stir gently. Fold in 1 cup fresh blueberries.
Fill 11 muffin cups in tin. Sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Bake at 425 for 15-19 min or until light brown
And center springs back when touched.