We’re complicated, we humans

Archived | November 28, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d just returned from visiting my neighbor Larry, who is still a bit incapacitated after a strange mishap. Seems he’s been oversleeping like we all have with the time changed combined with the cold weather. He’s one who holds out til the last minute with the furnace, which is — as most things can be — both good and bad. He saves money, but is loathe — as many of us are — to get his bum out of bed when it’s so warm there and so cold out there.
So he went out and bought himself a new-fangled alarm clock, the kind that goes off at the time it’s been set, and the alarm triggers a mechanism that sends the clock rolling around the floor. You have to get up and chase the thing in order to turn it off. By the time it’s off, you’re awake. Things went fine for Larry when it went off Saturday morning. Until the clock made a turn and went down the stairs. And so did Larry.
Safe to say, Larry woke up Saturday morning a short while after his new alarm clock went off. He was at the foot of the stairs in the fetal position, a bump on his head and a pain in his back. The doctor said the concussion is minor and that he’ll be back on his feet in no time, that rest is what he needs and some good loving care. I took some chicken soup over, and he’s resting alright, propped up there in the recliner with the remote and some ginger ale.
I’m not sure what to say about all of this. I’m inclined to cheer for simple things like stationary clocks and turning on the heat when the air grows cold. But we’re complicated, we humans. And broken. We screw up in silly ways, and my wish is that when we do, there’s someone out there who overlooks our foolishness and brings us chicken soup. May you not oversleep these dark winter days, and if you do, may you not smack your head against the bathroom door upon rising.
People are heading out to the Dakotas lately to hunt pheasant, and my father so graciously shared his secret recipe for the tasty bird. Have at it.
Creamed Pheasant on Rice
Filet meat off breast of pheasant (or cut in half lengthwise). Remove thighs from leg by disjointing at knee. Remove all shot and feathers from meat. Shake meat pieces in paper bag with 2-3 tbsp. flour and salt and pepper. Brown meat pieces in butter in skillet. When brown, add 1 cup water, cover, and simmer meat until thighs are tender — about 30-45 min. When tender, remove meat from skillet, and take out any remaining bones. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces.
Add 1T chopped onion to remaining juice in skillet, along with 1 stalk diced celery, if desired, and simmer a few minutes. Add 4 oz. sliced fresh mushroom. Add water if needed, and simmer a few minutes more. Add 1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup, and meat. Stir, and add enough milk (or add some cream if you feel decadent) to reach desired consistency. Season to taste. Simmer half an hour or so on low heat. Serve over a mix of wild rice and white rice.
Good Rice
Simmer 1/4 c. wild rice in 1 cup of water or 1 cup chicken broth, and 1T butter for 40 minutes. Add 3/4 cup white rice and 1 1/2 cups water and simmer another 20 minutes. Add water to rice if needed to get desired consistency. Remove from heat and let rice stand 5-10 minutes. Serve creamed pheasant over the rice. You can embellish this with veggies, your own favorite seasonings and your own choice of wine.

Tenderness and lightheartedness

Archived | November 21, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. A godsend, as it often is, and source of real delight. There’s not enough of that in the world, I think. Light-heartedness. And there’s not enough tenderness, either. I could list a hundred things of which I’d like a bit more. Chocolate, of course, and sledding expeditions, and time to lie and bed and fool around but let’s not get carried away.
I’m thankful for so much it feels silly to point out what isn’t, but then how might we find more of what we wish for if we don’t speak it and seek it out? I’m thankful for you, of course, each of you, who pause in your day to pay a bit of attention to my silliness and my agonies. And those of you who love to cook and bake as I do, and indulge me in my going on about it — for you I am so grateful. For my children and their angst and hopes, for Mr. Sundberg in his diligence and love for things like flannel shirts and good crossword puzzles and speeches that incite and peach pie. For my parents and the trail they’ve blazed, and my brothers and their passionate, hard-working lives. For Angela and Laurel and Louis and Bob. For starlight, for cinnamon, for cotton towels, and for song.
Two things, this Thanksgiving, I wish for you: tenderness and lightheartedness. One to give, and one to receive on a day when emotions run high. Pause, then, and be gentle with someone, and loving, and sweet. And pause again to laugh, make merry, feel delight.
Emerson said, “I am thankful for small mercies. I compared notes with one of my friends who expects everything of the universe, and is disappointed when anything is less than the best, and I found that I begin at the other extreme, expecting nothing, and am always full of thanks for moderate goods…”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”
I like Ralph. But I like you more. Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Ones.
Crapple Crumb Pie
Crust for a single crust pie, however you do it
1 1/4 cups flour, divided
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
9 T butter, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt
4 to 5 medium apples, your favorite, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup cranberries
Prepare pie crust. Preheat oven to 425. Combine 1 cup flour, brown sugar and oats in medium bowl. Blend in 8 T butter to form large coarse crumbs; set aside.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt in small bowl; set aside. Toss apples with lemon juice in large bowl; toss in cranberries and flour mixture. Arrange apple mixture in pie crust; dot with remaining 1 T butter, then sprinkle with crumb topping. Place on heated baking sheet and decrease oven to 375°. Bake 1 hour or until juices are bubbling. Cool on wire rack. After baking half an hour, cover pie crust loosely with aluminum foil, if necessary, to avoid overbrowning.

The storm is coming

Archived | November 14, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was chilly on Saturday, and there’s been no snow, but the few leaves left are blowing around in the wind and it’s only a matter of time before everything is covered in white. Deep, cold, sparkling snow. Crispy, crunchy, piled up snow. One reason I live here, and one reason I’ll never leave.
I talked with my gas-station-lady friend Laurie this morning and she is dreading what she calls “the onslaught.” “I don’t know how I’m going to survive,” she says. Laurie hates winter, and I sure don’t judge her for that. I mean, I’m no fan of the drizzle and mud of spring. Everyone is entitled to feelings about the seasons, but that’s part of the glory of living where I live. There ARE seasons, and if the one we’re in is not your cup of tea, your tea is soon on its way. Much more preferable than a place where every day is the same.
The thing about winter in Minnesota? It helps clarify the meaning of warmth, of comfort. How would we get what it is to come in and peel off layers, warm up by the fire or a hot stove, sip from mugs filled with liquid chocolate or spiced tea, eat bowls of cheesy wild rice soup and plates of steaming chicken noodle hotdish, entwine our legs with someone we love all wrapped in blankets on a big ol’ couch, snuggle into a bed piled high with quilts and drift off? Because of winter, we smell wood burning for months. We burn more calories, and have whole days, stretches of days, unable to leave our homes for the snow. We can bake all we want, and play board games, and sit up late watching what the moon does to that snow piled up to our window sills.
The storm is coming, sure. And along with it a thousand ways you’re bound to feel good. Just wait and see.
Here’s a recipe from my daughter away at college, something she’s been craving, and there’s a reason for that. These bars are perfect for the holiday, and decadent, and a fine way to bring a smile to the face of someone you love. Good comfort food, too, for the record.
Red Velvet Cream Cheese Brownies
Red Velvet:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1 T red food coloring
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
Cream Cheese:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350. Butter an 8 x 8 inch pan.
Brownie layer: Add melted butter to a large bowl and add sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar, mixing after each addition. Whisk the eggs into the cocoa mix. Mix in the flour. Pour the batter into the pan, saving 1/3 to 1/4 cup of the batter for the cream cheese layer.
Cream cheese layer: blend together cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Spread the cream cheese on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Put the remaining cocoa batter over the cream cheese layer. Using the tip of a knife, swirl through the cream cheese mixture to create a pattern. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool before cutting, and store in the fridge.

Alive in the best way

Archived | November 7, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was going around turning the clocks back with “The Kentucky Waltz” in the background. Kathy Chiavola played, dedicating the waltz to her mother who died recently. So of course while I’m turning back the clocks I’m thinking about time and how fast it goes and going back in time and when people say, “It’s about time”, what that really means.
Is it about time? Is WHAT about time? I don’t know. What I do know is that if whatever it is, is about time, I’d like to turn back the clocks for just one day. I’d go back to a November in the early 1970s. It was a Saturday, late in the afternoon. The sky was grey, a bit cloudy. No snow yet. We were outside, playing in the leaves with our dog, pulling each other in the red wagon, playing some kind of fighting game with garden tools. Dad was in the garage doing something with hunting gear. Mom was in the house making dinner. Beef stroganoff, let’s say.
I don’t know if it was true in the moment, but as I recall it was a perfect afternoon. We were alive in the best way, and the air smelled of leaves and wood smoke, and there was no thought of anything beyond that pile of leaves in that yard and each other.
There are other days to which I’d return, if I could. Not to stay there, but to visit. It is about time. And space. And love. That’s what it’s about, if you ask me.
I know it’s getting on in the apple season, but it would be a real pity if I didn’t share with you my mother’s apple pie recipe. I’m not a pro at pie-baking, but this recipe works quite well. At least, when Mom makes it, it does.
Mrs. Sundberg’s Mother’s Perfect Apple Pie
7-8 tart apples (honeycrisp or any firm tart apple)
3/4 to 1 c sugar (I use short 1 cup)
2 T flour
1 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash salt
Pastry for 2 crust 9″ pie
2 T butter
Pare apples and slice thin. Combine sugar, flour, spices, & salt; mix with apples. Line 9″ pie plate with pastry, fill with apple mixture; dot with butter. Adjust top crust; sprinkle with sugar for sparkle. Bake in hot oven (400) 50 minutes or till done.