How blessed can a woman be?

Archived | July 30, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was busy sorting through the recipes in my old wooden recipe box, tossing some, moving others to the front of their section. Been working on a project which, for some odd reason, kicked into high gear last week when I had a stretch of days without much going on. So I went to work, and lo and behold, printed, this morning, a beautiful draft of a cook book. Not to say that it was easy; it’s really a project nearly a decade in the making, and somehow I’ve managed to pull it together. Had to do with need and impulse working together to fill a space.
Kind of like how a friendship is formed. You find yourself wandering around the planet feeling like something’s not quite right, or missing, and you bump into someone who has something to share, and who wants what you have to share, and you share it.
Sometimes it’s a kind of even thing where you talk or meet now and then and think of each other when you’re apart, and sometimes it ends up being enough just to meet and you part and go on. And then there’s the glorious sometimes when you keep each other without having to think about it and become witnesses to each other’s lives.
It’s good to pause now and then and take stock of what you have and how it came to you. I got each of my recipes from someone I love, and that’s pretty big, and I think putting ’em all in a book is a fine way to say I’m grateful — for the recipe and for the meeting, and for the witnessing. Good food and good friends, and a project to work on. How blessed can a woman be?
Here’s one I haven’t shared, a fine old recipe from my paternal grandmother’s kitchen, something simple and full up with comfort.
Grandma’s Potato Pancakes
4 large potatoes, grated
2-3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 T baking powder
Mix together. Add flour until batter is the thickness of paste.
Drop blobs onto butter in frying pan. Cook til light brown, flip, press pancake down gently.
Fry until side two is light brown and slightly crispy.
Serve with butter, sour cream, lingonberries, sauerkraut, just about anything.

All about purpose and meaning

Archived | July 23, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. A rerun, a repeat, and seemed like the first time to me. There are people in the world who don’t appreciate the same thing twice, and I think that’s a little sad. They’re the people who don’t go for used cars, who get rid of clothes before they’re worn to thread, who use too many paper towels, who toss out leftovers, who shy away from tradition at the extreme end of things.
I’m guilty on occasion, I guess. I suppose we all are. It’s easier sometimes to toss something as opposed to using it again, or saving it, and storing it, which takes up space. I’ve been spending time lately “going through” the house, with all the heat and humidity outside it feels good to stay in and do some of that deep-level cleaning and sorting. For the first time in years I went through my wardrobe and anything I haven’t worn in two years went into a pile.
By the time I’d finished, the pile was pretty big. A bit unsettling. When I started poking through it and re-thinking my decisions, my daughter shook her finger at me. “You stop that,” she said. And she was right. I have nice things, but if they just sit there, what good are they when someone else might make use of them? I’ve just begun this move through the house, a pre-winter ritual of clearing out before the snow flies.
I’m not a hoarder, never have been. I’ve even been subject to teasing for my Spartan approach to having things. I’m not a knick knack person, and I don’t see the point of saving ALL the plastic containers. However, what I do have, and keep, has purpose or meaning, and that works just fine for me. When I move on to the Next Big Thing and leave the world behind, I like to think there will be a solid cardboard box worth of stuff for each of the kids, and maybe one for each grandchild (should I be so lucky to have them one day, no rush of course). The only real challenge will be all of my books, which I do gather and keep, and all of the kitchen stuff. Wooden spoons and bowls for everyone, and all those spices.
Why we repeat things, and why we keep them is all about purpose and meaning. And if it has neither, well, someone else may not agree, so why not let them have it? Makes sense to me.
Here is a recipe I pulled out over the weekend. Haven’t had these in a while and gosh were they good with strawberries and pineapple.
Classic Caramel Rolls
2 loaves frozen bread dough, thawed
Cook for one minute:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 large box vanilla pudding (cooked, not instant)
1/2-1 T milk
Fill a greased 9×13 cake pan with plum-sized pieces of dough pulled from the two thawed loaves. Pour butter mixture over. Let sit/rise 10-15 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

As it should be

Archived | July 16, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I confess I feel a LITTLE sad because the season is over and whenever something ends, there’s a little space where you look around and think, “Now what.” But. As the song “Closing Time” by the Minnesota band, “Semisonic” goes, “Every new beginning is another beginning’s end.” So the implication is that endings and beginnings go hand in hand. So what begins, now, is a lovely stretch of repeat shows, and we look forward to September, to leaves falling, to cooler days and meatloaf.
In the meantime, the gentle meantime, there is school for which we’ll prepare, and a number of meals on the grill – kabobs, salmon, and burgers filled with cheese, and corn. Grilled corn. There’s this heat with which one must contend, or embrace, and a number of firefly-lit evenings where the porch will be the best place, and where iced tea will top it all off.
Sometimes the best way to see the place of something in your life is to lose it awhile, let it go, and feel what it feels like to be without, to not have it, to look forward to return. Kind of what I’ve been doing with the whole concept of WINTER. Lord, I can’t wait til that first snowfall. I long to feel wind I can call “blustery,” and pull the sleds down from the rafters in the garage. It’s kind of silly, really. Because once I get there, I’ll be wishing for a night lit by fireflies. And that’s why tonight, you’ll find me outside, tropical heat or no. Everything goes away, and though it comes back, why not hold it close while you have it? Really now. It’s the meantime, and let’s dance to the repeats on Saturday evening, and look forward to dancing in the street in September, when the new season comes around, and this one ends. As it should be.
I’m all about less is more this week when it comes to cooking and baking. Simpler the better, and don’t heat up the house. Here’s a great dip for fruit, and you can try just about anything for variety. It’s best with apples, bananas and pineapple, I think.
Fresh Fruit Dip
8 oz cream cheese
1 16 oz jar marshmallow fluff
Soften cream cheese, and cream together with marshmallow fluff.
Serve with fresh fruit, cut and carved.
Try adding the juice of one orange for a tang, or using strawberry cream cheese for variety.

This is where the party is

Archived | July 9, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. We had just come off that wave of merciless heat and I was doing some yard work I’d neglected in the 100+ degree days. Nothing challenging, and a lovely feeling to pull weeds and move rocks around without feeling I’m going to pass out. And with the show playing from the garage radio and a raspberry orange smoothie in a glass on the window ledge, I was feeling as if my back yard was Good Times Central. Bare feet and all.
It’s not always that way. Now and then the kids remind me of a feeling I used to have pretty frequently, and don’t so much anymore. If it doesn’t have a long German word for its name, it ought to: that feeling that everyone else in the world is having fun and you’re not included, or invited, or you simply aren’t where they are. The kids never actually say it that way; no one ever really says, “The party is out there, and I’m not.” But I think we all feel it. I know I’ve felt it, sometimes in the middle of the night, while I’ve been doing laundry while managing three toddlers, while I’m bagging my groceries, while I’m sitting on the porch.
Maybe it’s a way we feel sorry for ourselves when we’re lonely, or doing something we’d rather not do. Or perhaps it’s a story we tell ourselves to distract ourselves from responsibility for our own lives, or maybe we’re feeling sorry for ourselves. I like to think that we’re simply not paying attention. It’s about perspective, and attitude, and most of us don’t get a grip until we’ve had some experiences that make us appreciate who and where we are. Because, if you are like me, you’ve noticed that feeling shows up less and less as you grow older. More and more, there I am, folding laundry, baking a pie, walking back from the auto parts store with the kids on an “adventure” while my car is under repair and I’ll be without it for Lord knows how long. There I am in church, or eating pancakes at the café with a friend who just returned from Vancouver, or strolling around a lake holding hands with Mr. Sundberg on an afternoon when the sun feels warm but not hot and there’s a loon calling and I smell hotdogs and popcorn. Or I’m out pulling weeds and I think to myself, “This is where the party is.” I think it more and more, and don’t concern myself with the Big Party out there, because, if it does exist, I’ve always been there. Just maybe on the fringe at a table with a candle near a window or out in the parking lot looking at the moon. Now I’m on the Planning Committee. I’ve a say about the menu, I’m being asked about what activities might work well today, and the karaoke machine is in working order. Whether I sing or not is up to me, and I’m thinking I will, sometime this afternoon. The “Day-O” song. Or maybe, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Who knows. Gonna be a party is what I do know, and I’ve got a lifetime invitation.
I may not be a blackberry girl, but I love blueberries and raspberries, and this recipe features both, and even better with some fresh whipped cream.
Blueberry Raspberry Buckle
1/2 c. sugar
6 T all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T butter, cold and cut into small pieces
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Add butter and, using your fingertips, work it into flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Refrigerate.
11/2 c. whole-wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 T butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. whole milk
11/2 c. fresh raspberries
11/2 c. fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch-square baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Beat butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract with mixer on medium until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add milk and mix until fully incorporated. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture; do not over mix. Gently fold in raspberries and blueberries.
Spread batter into prepared pan, and sprinkle streusel evenly over top. Bake until streusel is browned, about 40 minutes. Remove pan and cool; serve warm. Serves about 8.
Note: I’ll find whole-wheat pastry flour in the bulk section of most natural foods co-ops.

Our wants have changed and our needs are few

Archived | July 2, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was lying on the living room carpet, spread-eagled, with the old box fan next to me blowing on my upper body. It makes a humming noise, much like the box fan of my childhood living room floor naps in the heat, and it was all about comfort. Comfort, comfort. We associate heat with comfort up in these parts, but my gosh, people, this is above and beyond. We have an air conditioned house, but it didn’t seem enough and you don’t want the house to simply keel over in exhaustion, so I keep it at a reasonable 76 degrees and that seems to work for everyone.
But this is some heat, heat without mercy. It provides an excuse for just about anything, and helps clarify what a person wants to do and what a person needs to do, and we’re all finding our wants have changed and our needs are few. I ran over to the grocery store Sunday, stocked up on sandwich meat and ingredients for my fruit dessert and lemonade. Big need, as the kids aren’t interested in grilling outside this Fourth of July, heat index way up there in the obscenity range. I needed to water the flowers and pick up a few pair of shorts (the kids are rebels and tend toward jeans) and I needed to get the car checked because there were a few lights flashing and now that’s fine.
Frankly, I feel like arguing with Mr. Sundberg about gas grills vs. charcoal (I prefer the latter) and about how no, we did not spend twice as much time with my relatives as opposed to his last summer, and about how he might consider wearing shorts other than that plaid pair he’s had on for several days now. I do feel a bit like gathering the kids up and giving them a good holler about drinking more water and eating more fruit and that sour cream and onion potato chips and beef sticks do not constitute a meal. And I feel like telling the neighbor lady to leave her flowers alone. They’ll do just fine in the heat and she doesn’t need to hover over them and pick at them for hours on end because they are flowers and flowers are tougher than we give them credit for. And I kind of want to tell the other neighbor to lay off the jazz music blasting out the window all afternoon. None of these things are needs, and they tend toward wants, but out of my crabby side. Because I do have one, and I’m hot, and when people are hot they get prickly.
However, there are better things to do in the world on the hottest day than haul off with all your frustrations. Turn it around, people. Don’t let the heat keep you from loving the people you love. I’m going to make some frozen fruit dessert now, because I want to. And I’ll call my parents and make sure they’re hydrated, and then I’m considering filling the tub with lemonade and shaved ice and resting there awhile. I would highly recommend it. Pink lemonade, even. Sure.
Here’s a recipe from a few years back, a great one, and perfect for a stretch of long, hot days. Give it a try. And save some for yourself.
Frozen Fruit Dessert
6 oz can frozen oj
6 oz can frozen lemonade
2 10 oz packages frozen strawberries
1 small jar maraschino cherries and juice
1 small can crushed pineapple and juice
Cook 1 cup sugar and 2 cups water until sugar is dissolved.
Add strawberries while water is hot. Add remaining ingredients.
Finally, add 4 cut up bananas. Stir gently. Freeze in a 9 x 13 pan.
Cut into squares and serve in small bowls.