Saturday, October 30, 2010

Total vegetable.

Yup, that's me--I'm being a total vegetable today.
But hey, it IS Saturday.

I could blame that awesome Rally to Restore Sanity for priming my sedentariness, but more likely it's this dang cold wrapping it's tentacles round my head.  {Geez, K, I didn't need that graphic reminder!}
It's a fact of life, that no matter how often we remind the wee folk to "chicken arm" their coughs and sneezes and wash their hands, when you work in such close proximity you're going to get one of the bugs going around.
I do feel better having my flu shot and knowing that thanks to my inhaler I won't be getting a nasty case of bronchitis.  All those yearly bouts must've taken a toll on my lungs, but you're right-- there are drawbacks to the inhaler, too.
And now to nudge myself into a different frame of mind.
Wish me luck!

Friday, October 29, 2010

BLACK BEAN AND BUTTERNUT CHILI

Weeknight Kitchen, with Lynne Rossetto Kasper
October 27, 2010
(click here for original printable column)

"Oh, what a pot of chili can do for us on a cold night. Granted, this one takes a little longer than most of our work night dishes, but it delivers big time. Just one caution: the chipotle chile is deliciously smoky and rich, but quite hot. With that and the 3 tablespoons of chili powder called for in the recipe you get a stew for hot pepper lovers. My advice is to use the chipotle, but if hot spice isn't appealing, use a very mild chili powder for the 3 tablespoons. See the note after the recipe for specifics.

One other thought: This recipe illustrates, too, that mixing hot spice with sweet ingredients (the squash and cider), softens the heat's impact – a trick to remember when someone gets carried away with seasonings.

BLACK BEAN AND BUTTERNUT CHILI

Reprinted with permission from Party Vegan: Fabulous, Fun Food for Every Occasion by Robin Robertson (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Robin Robertson.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Halloween colors play out deliciously in this flavorful chili made with black beans and diced butternut squash.

1 small butternut squash, peeled, halved, and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 medium orange bell pepper, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups cooked or 3 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced
1 cup apple juice
3 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the squash into 1/4-inch dice and set aside. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the squash, onion, carrot, and bell pepper, if using. Cover and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, and chipotle. Stir in the apple juice, chili powder, allspice, sugar, and salt and black pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover and simmer about 10 minutes longer. Serve immediately. If not using right away, bring to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks, then thaw before reheating.
LYNNE'S TIPS

The recipe has a hefty amount of chile. The chipotle is hot. So if you are sensitive to spicy foods, add the chili powder a teaspoon at a time (the 3 tablespoons measurement equals 6 teaspoons) to get the amount of heat you prefer. For mildest of mild chile, use sweet Spanish, Hungarian or California paprika; for slightly hotter, try ground Ancho; for fruity heat, splurge on Aleppo chile; and for searing fire, go for cayenne.

This technique of cooking vegetables with little oil until they're steaming in their own juices before you mix in the other ingredients deepens flavors in ways that just tossing everything into the pot and simmering it can never achieve. Try this with other recipes.

In our test we used unfiltered apple cider. Most supermarkets have it in the produce section this time of year."

Have a great week,

Lynne
Copyright 2010, Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jane Brody's NYTimes Column on Aging Well

What to Do Now to Feel Better at 100



"Many changes take place in physical abilities as we age. Try as I may, I simply can’t swim as fast at 69 as I did at 39, 49 or even 59. Nor am I as steady on my feet. I can only assume my strength has waned as well — I’m finding bottles and jars harder to open and heavy packages harder to lift and carry.
Yvetta Fedorova
But in August, I hiked in the Grand Canyon, prompting my 10-year-old grandson Stefan to ask, “Grandma, how many 69-year-olds do you think could do this?”
The answer, of course, is ..." (click here to read the entire column)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Worms continued

A new record was set for the number of wee folk who wanted NO part of holding a red wiggler worm today.  I was good, I didn't laugh when a few of the we-want-no-part-of-this-worm-holding-thing made a point of standing up and putting both of their hands between their legs--in case I got it into my head to force the issue.

I guess they didn't understand how protective I am of my worms.  No way do I want any of those timid, little creatures to go flying through the air, accompanied with shrieks of terror.

After I finished reading Wendy Pfeiffer's, Wiggling Worms at Work, and the willing participants held/observed the worms, we washed our hands and returned to the science area.  I told them it was time for my surprise, that we were going to eat worms.  The first 3 of the 4 groups were skeptical and patiently waited for me to show my cards.  But a member of the last group of the day, gasped loudly, setting the tone of concern that made my whole entire day.

Don't worry, I didn't milk it.  I quickly showed my bag of gummy worms before they went screaming for the exit.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tomorrow it's worms

How appropriate!
Worms and rain kind of go together, but only because we begin to see them above ground.
Another downpour outside . . . I hope there's an dry opportunity in the next 3 hours, so I can bring our little worm box into the garage.  I like having everything for school ready to go in the morning.  Plus, giving the majority of bugs a chance to escape before putting the box in the car sounds like an excellent plan to me.

I wonder how many of the wee folk will be willing to hold a worm?  Some years there's only one or two that refuse.  Thankfully, it's been rare to have more than a handful of the kids too squeamish.  What makes me smile, is seeing how many of them will spot the worms escaping their flooded homes and try to carry them to safety, after we've talked about them in science.
The kids are right, the playground is not a good place for a worm.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This week (Tues&Wed, anyway) anxiety is winning ... :>P

And now it's getting better.
Whew!
I wouldn't want to deal with my demons and try to do the pumpkin patch at the same time.
Thanks rain, for holding off one more day.
Although, Setnicker's has a lot of fun inside their barn.
Not big people fun, but wee folk fun.  Just right!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Oh vacuum cleaner how you vex me

Ever have those moments with your vacuum cleaner that send you into a fit of frustration or (yeah, I'll just say it) a tantrum?
I do my best to keep the machine well maintained, even though it has all these new fangled (geezer speak?) filters and stuff, but obviously I dropped the ball today.
I spent a good 40 minutes doing a thorough vacuuming job this afternoon.  Then I went to go empty the cup before checking on the main filter.  I wanted to throw myself onto the floor and wail.  The cup was empty.  Empty?!  How could this be?  You mean I spent that time being so careful to go over the high traffic areas slowly and repeatedly for nothing?
Turns out that there was some kind of obstruction in the area of the main filter--I'm glad it was the first thing I checked.
So, thankfully, it wasn't a totally wasted vacuuming job, just partially wasted.
Thanks for listening.
I feel better all ready.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Accidental dinner

I can't be the only person who does this--begins cooking dinner without a clear plan?
Maybe it's a character flaw--committing to a project, but preferring to use the "seat of the pants" approach.
Enough self exploration!  Here's the meal that nearly had N and I licking our plates:

I began with an onion and red pepper sliced into rings.  I added them all to a preheated dutch oven with a Tbsp or two of olive oil.  I cooked the rings of onion and pepper -until the onions were translucent with some browning on the edges.
I browned 4 chicken thighs in a separate skillet, in olive oil on med high and then added them to the vegetables.  I added a cup of chicken broth, 3-4 Tbsp of Patak's Curry Paste, and a bottle of Harry and David's Pepper and Onion Relish.  I simmered all of this in a dutch oven for 30-45 minutes and then served it over Basmati rice.
OMG
SO GOOD!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Sneeze Song--It's snot funny

Vegetable Soup and Gluten Free Pancakes

One of my favorite radio programs is Lynne Rossetto Kasper's Splendid Table. So much so, that I signed up to receive her Weeknight Kitchen newsletters.
Here's her latest edition:

WEEKNIGHT KITCHEN

October 13, 2010

Dear Friends,

In my humble opinion (truth be told I haven't had one of those since I was 9), there's a group of food writers whose recipes are worth your time and money. Their dishes work, taste good, and many of the dishes demand little time.

"Fine," you're thinking, "so who are you talking about?" A short list should include Melissa Clark, Raghavan Iyer, Sally Schneider, John Willoughby, Deborah Madison, Steven Raichlen and Dorie Greenspan. Do this soup and you'll see why I think Dorie is one of those cooks you can follow almost anywhere because she'll never let you down.

SPUR-OF-THE-MOMENT VEGETABLE SOUP

Reprinted with permission of the publisher from Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 8, 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Dorie Greenspan.

Makes 8 servings

Whenever it looks like there's nothing in the house to eat, I declare that I'll make stone soup. The reference is to a children's story about a beggar who comes to a house and offers to make soup from a stone in exchange for being invited in. His host and hostess are intrigued by the idea, welcome him, and the tale begins. First the man places a stone in a tall soup pot. He adds water and suggests that the soup would taste really good with a little onion. When the onion is added, he suggests some carrots. And, so it goes, until he's got a thick, savory soup packed with vegetables simmering on the stove.

My "stone" is a couple of always-in-the-kitchen ingredients plus one starchy vegetable, and the soup is built on the traditional French formula for a soup made with ingredients from the market or potager, the kitchen garden. The base of the soup is slowly cooked aromatics: onions, for sure; garlic, if you'd like; and celery, if you have it. The liquid can be water – in a French home, it would likely be water flavored with a few bouillon cubes or maybe a bit of whatever cooking juices remain from a roast or a chicken – or it can be canned chicken broth (an ingredient that's hard to come by in French supermarkets) or soup from a dried mix (an often-used French shortcut). The thickener is optional, but the standard is one smallish potato. Or, if there's rice leftover from dinner the night before, the potato will be spared, and the rice will get tossed in.

As you can see, it's more an idea for a recipe than a real recipe, and it's meant to be kept in mind when you're in the market and at your wits' end wondering what to cook.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil, or a combination
1 pound carrots, trimmed, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 big onion (I like to use a Spanish onion), coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced
1-2 garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and thinly sliced (optional)
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (optional)
1 rosemary sprig (optional)
1 thyme sprig (optional)
Salt
6 cups chicken broth (plus perhaps 1 cup more, for thinning)
1 small potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground pepper
Put a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat and add the butter and/or oil. When the butter is melted, or the oil is hot, toss in the carrots, onion, celery, and, if you're using them, the garlic, ginger, rosemary, and/or thyme. Season with salt, reduce the heat to low, and give the ingredients a couple of turns to coat them with butter or oil. Cover the pot and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are very soft but not colored.
Remove the lid, pour in the chicken broth, turn up the heat, and bring to a boil. Toss in the potato cubes and adjust the heat so that the soup is at a simmer. Partially cover the pot and let the soup simmer gently for another 20 minutes, or until the potato can be mashed easily with a spoon.
Now you must decide if you'd like to serve the soup just as it is or if you'd like to puree it – I usually opt for the puree. In either case, do the best you can to fish out the rosemary and thyme sprigs, if you used them. If you're serving the soup in its chunky state, taste it and season as needed with salt and pepper. Or puree the soup in a blender (which will give you the silkiest texture) or food processor, or use a food mill or an immersion blender. Taste it for salt and pepper and reheat it before serving. If you find the soup a little too thick for your taste, when you're reheating it, pour in enough additional chicken broth (or water) to get the texture you like.
Serving: If you'd like, top the pureed soup with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream or a spoonful of unsweetened whipped cream and a sprinkling of chopped fresh rosemary or thyme. The soup is also good with a swirl of basil pesto or a drizzle of olive or nut oil.

Storing: The soup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days or packed airtight and kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so before serving.

LYNNE'S TIPS

Dorie's improv here welcomes so much of what you might find right now for little money in the market. The only thing to remember is balance. For instance, cabbage and onion are two of the mellowing agents in a soup. Generous amounts of these two make it possible to add the assertive characters, such as turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, kale, curly endive, spinach or chard. Figure two parts onion and two parts cabbage to one part of any three of the others. Since tomato is packed with umami (that special protein that lifts the flavors of everything it touches) and brings a tart-sweet, rich undertone to soups, use it in modest quantities, too – perhaps one part tomato to all the others mentioned.
Of course, beans were meant for this kind of soup, too, and different blends of herbs and spices can go on forever. The point is you can transform this idea into so many different soups you'll have the entire winter taken care of.

THOUGHTS FROM LYNNE

Judy Graham, who works with me putting Weeknight Kitchen together every week, tested out a recipe you might want to try. As she said, "When you hear gluten-free pancakes, gummy cardboard comes to mind." According to Judy, we should not jump to conclusions. She's over the moon about Karen Morgan's pancakes from her new book Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free: 75 Recipes for Irresistible Desserts and Pastries (Chronicle Books LLC) coming out in November 2010. Here they are, and I say give them a try. The special flours can be found in "natural" food stores, some well-stocked supermarkets and online.

Sunday Morning Pancakes

Reprinted with permission of the publisher from Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free: 75 Recipes for Irresistible Desserts and Pastries by Karen Morgan (Chronicle Books LLC, to be published in November 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Karen Morgan.

Makes 8 big pancakes or 16 small ones

My search for the perfect Sunday morning pancakes has been a lesson in patience more than anything. I have to say that the waiting has paid off tremendously, as these babies are the ideal version of the weekend morning staple! They rise up and hold their height with a soft, fluffy texture. Their flavor is so phenomenal, and you'll glow with pride when you see that every last one has been devoured by your hungry guests.

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond flour
1/2 cup millet flour
2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup organic buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Safflower oil cooking spray
In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir with a whisk to blend. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter and stir until smooth.
Heat a large skillet or a griddle over medium-low heat. Spray the pan with safflower oil spray. Run your hands under the faucet to wet your fingertips and then shake them over the hot griddle. If the water dances across the pan, the heat is just right to begin making your pancakes.
For each large pancake, pour 1/4 cup batter into the pan; for small pancakes, use 2 tablespoons batter. Cook until bubbles form on the top of each pancake; turn and cook until golden brown on the bottom. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200°F oven while cooking the remaining batter.
To save time, mix all the dry ingredients in advance and keep in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 3 months.

Blackbird Baking Tip: This versatile recipe can be customized into whatever type of pancake you are craving. Try adding fresh fruit, such as 1/2 cup of blueberries or bananas, and a few dashes of cinnamon or 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Add ground spice directly to the batter and whisk to incorporate. When adding fresh fruit or chocolate, simply sprinkle some on top of each pancake before you flip it. After your first batch, you'll find yourself thinking, "Gluten? Who needs it?"

Have a great week,

Lynne
Copyright 2010, Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hello October!

And as I greet you, I'll continue on pulling out the long pants, try and figure out which coat will get me through the changing temps of the day and begin shifting the brain from summer cooking to autumn recipes.
Squash Poster
At happy hour last night, there was talk of soup and squash.  Makes me want to plan a trip (soon) out to EZ Orchards to browse through their squash varieties.  I need to find a good book on which is best for what.  I think it was last year that I learned which pumpkin/squash varieties were best for a pumpkin pie.

Please share your squash knowledge.  I'm hungry to learn!  :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Have you heard about ...

In the past 2 weeks, I've heard and read about two interesting news items.

The first is a company called Kaboom!, whose vision is-- "A great place to play within walking distance of every child in America".  How wonderful is that?  Here's a fact from their site that blew my mind-- "To date, KaBOOM! has built over 1,800 playgrounds, saving play for over 3.5 million children."
How did it begin?  "In August 1995, shortly after moving to Washington, D.C., 24-year-old Darell Hammond read a story in the Washington Post about two local children who suffocated while playing in an abandoned car because they didn’t have anywhere else to play. Darell, who had previously helped build several playgrounds for other organizations, realized this tragedy could have been prevented. The passion was born, the idea was conceived."
One of the things I love about Kaboom!, is that they ask communities to provide a percentage of the money AND the labor to put up the playground.  They've learned there's more pride and care when there's this level of commitment.

The second story was about a program for the unemployed in the state of Georgia, called "Georgia Work$"  Perhaps it's just me with my Pollyanna view of the world, but it sounds like a program worth a good long look by other states.
Here's a excerpt from Newsweek magazine, "Unemployment means, on average, at least 20 weeks of unreturned phone calls and e-mails to nowhere. In Georgia, however, there’s an important difference: the search is more than a month shorter. That’s thanks to Georgia Work$, a novel jobs program that offers people a subsidized shot at self-reinvention. Enrollees get six weeks of on-the-job training—with up to $600 for expenses like new clothes—at a business with an immediate opening. Since 2003, thousands of people have found work this way, saving the state about $12 million in welfare costs."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tentative Thankfulness

Recently I wrote about our current situation with Fran's medical insurance coverage.
I was resigned to losing this battle.
Until I finished venting (once again. Thank you, L) and began listening to L's pep talk.
I came home with some new ideas and ready to put them into motion.

First I wrote a note to my principal to see if she might be able to point me in the right direction.  My next note was going to be to my union,

until I opened the mail.

A letter from my insurance company?  Not from OEBB?  What could this be?
I hesitated opening it.
God, I'm so tired of bad news.

But I did--eventually.

Basically the letter said, here's what we need from you and here's the time line we need it in.

Yup, I need to ask the doctor for another note about Fran and thankfully she's been there for us several times.
I hope she's not tired of us yet.
AND I hope this solves this latest boulder in our path.

A movie and a book

I stumbled upon my first Molly Gloss book several years ago.  It was a short novel entitled, "Jump-off Creek".  I loved her writing and the crafting of her story left me wanting more.  I was thrilled to find her latest at Reader's Guide a week ago, "The Hearts of Horses".
Once again, I'm falling in love with her characters.  Doesn't hurt that she's an Oregon author.

Last night, N and I did something unusual.  We pulled out our Netflix movie on a week night.  That rarely happens!  It was a 2006 film,  "The Namesake".  While it didn't rank as amazing, it was a good story with excellent acting--although it seemed a little long towards the end.  I'd describe it as both a coming of age type of film and finding enlightenment.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Treadmill composing

Every morning this past week I've spent most of my time composing a letter in my head while walking on the treadmill.  Once N and I solved the issue of Fran's student loans, my insurance hit us with unexpected news:  She will no longer be covered on my insurance.

I thought I did a pretty good job of staying on top of things, as far as bills and other such household duties, but according to OEBB I screwed up with Fran's coverage.  Last October, was the first time district employees were to enroll for insurance online.  I wasn't alone in forgetting to click one last confirmation button when I went to re-certify Fran as a disabled dependent.  I had no idea until I received an email from an OEBB representative notifying me of my mistake.  Thankfully, she graciously took care of it for me.

When this year's enrollment window rolled around, I noticed that Fran's name was absent from my dependent list.  I emailed OEBB to find out why.  After an exchange of emails, I was told that Fran aged out in the summer and that ODS said I hadn't contacted them.  What??  A certified disabled dependent can "age out"?  We were supposed to contact ODS?  And how were we supposed to know this?? {huge sigh}

We appealed, filling out their form that asked just two questions and also included a note from Fran's doctor, saying that yes indeed she is disabled.  A certified letter arrived stating the same thing--that she aged out and we can't add her back.  Ah, but you may appeal again, the letter said.

My first thought is what would be the point?  Both N and I are covered thanks to our jobs.  BUT he plans on retiring soon and who knows what will happen to her coverage then.