Posts tagged ‘winter menus’

October Creeps

16155286-autumn-trees-in-kensington-metro-park-michiganNo. I’m not referring to the misguided juveniles who egged our van a few years ago at about this time. Or the insecure punks who taped a naughty magazine fold-out to our front door a few Octobers before that. I am talking verb, not noun – as in the nature of this month of transition here in Paul Bunyan territory.

Junetober. That’s how our favorite local weather wag summed up the early, sun-blessed, 78 degree days of this tenth month of 2013. But with the calendar edging toward month eleven, the cold seeps in like frigid Lake Superior lapping at your timid bare toes.

Occember. That’s what I’m calling these current conditions, as the greedy, winterish nighttime hours begin to nibble at either end of the shortening days. It’s that skulking darkness that robs us of light both morning and evening that most affects my sense of emotional equilibrium. That, and the temperature bottoming out at 28 on yesterday’s morning walk.

With my energy level waning, the scale seems to have caught the creeping disease, as well. “Up three pounds since Monday? No way,” I argue with the frustratingly mute digital readout that stares back at me unblinkingly.

I blame a few things for this latter example of October creep. Weeks’ worth of feeding the tension born of caring for an ailing loved one, with altered routines and delayed mealtimes. Taco Bell’s introduction of the humongous Cantina Double Steak Quesadilla with chips and salsa.

But whatever the cause, the red flags are a-flappin’ in the cold autumn winds: It’s time to look to hearty, satisfying soups to stave off the cold weather appetite-ignition that can take over anybody’s best intentions – family health crises and ill-timed, 960 calorie fast food temptations aside.

With this in mind, last week I concocted from on-hand ingredients what turned out to be a lovely, stomach-filling, activity-fueling, body-warming pot of Lentil and Vegetable Soup with Organic Chicken and Apple Sausage.

I don’t go out of my way to buy organic. The jury seems to be locked in perpetual debate over the merits vs. the extra expense, and I am a penny-pincher by necessity, if not by nature. But those conservative spending habits led me to a discount grocery where bargains on almond milk and “casein-free chicken sausage with no fillers” can often be had for a good price. I think I have eight packages of it in my freezer right now. And a four pound bag of lentils on my cupboard shelf from the same shopping trip.

Ah, the wonder of the accidental recipe. Add some on-sale Chinese Five Spice for a sweet/savory nuance, some end-of-season summer squash, a few more always-on-hand ingredients, and I end up with a huge pot of dense, nutrient-rich soup which I’ll have to devour all by myself before it gets past its own “use by” date. Tough assignment, but I believe I can rise to the task. If you’d like to join me in this mission, the recipe follows.

Meanwhile, I am trying to resist a second steaming bowl of lentilly goodness, since that would likely push me right back up into double steak quesadilla calorie range – a risk I may just be willing to take if the sun doesn’t peek through those gray flannel clouds pretty darned soon here.

For the quick and easy soup assembly, line up:

2 C lentils
6 C water
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 yellow summer squash, chopped
2 large stalks celery, sliced thin
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice*
1 C chicken broth
12 oz chicken and apple sausage, sliced
salt to taste

Place lentils and water in a soup kettle and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add onion, squash, carrots, celery, broth (or 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon or cube chicken bouillon), seasonings, and chicken sausage. Bring mixture back to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for at least another 30-45 minutes, or until carrots are tender.

This soup pairs quite nicely with a pan of homemade corn bread, corn muffins, or corn sticks, fresh and hot from the oven. My gang likes my reduced sugar version of the Quaker White Corn Meal recipe, baked in corn stick pans for the maximum in crispy, crunchy surfaces and edges:

1-1/4 C flour
3/4 C corn meal
2 TB sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C skim milk
1/4 C canola oil
1 beaten egg

Heat oven to 400 and grease your preferred pan. Whisk dry ingredients together, beating out any lumps, then stir in milk, oil, and egg just until dry mixture is evenly moistened. Pour into prepared pan and bake to a golden brown – 20-25 minutes for 8-9″ square or round cake pan; 15-20 minutes for 12 muffins or 18 corn sticks.

Happy sloshing and noshing. And do stay warm out there.

*My bottle of Chinese Five Spice lists anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger as ingredients. I figure a small pinch each of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and perhaps crushed fennel seed would do nicely as a substitute.

October 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm 2 comments

What Color is Your Universe?

I have a pair of sunglasses that make the world look rosier.  They’re just clunky, black plastic cast-offs leftover from my husband’s eye surgery a few years ago; big, unfashionable, monster wraparounds. I’m not sure what tint it is that imbues the lenses with this marvelous quality, but on an overcast day, the gloomy tone is muted, and on a clear day, oh my:  The sky becomes a richer, more poetic shade of  blue, and the sun’s rays take on an intense golden hue that makes everything they bounce off of seem to glow with the promise of spring.  Well, almost everything.  It would require more than a bit of ophthalmic trickery to totally transform the gray-washed landscape this stretch of snow-deprived northland winter leaves behind it.

But lift your eyes to the skies, and the effect will grab at your breath – an intense reminder to soak in the warmth and beauty, and tuck some away for tomorrow.  Perry Como nailed it:  “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day.”  I think I was much better at that sort of thing when I was a child.  It’s easier, at ten, to be unaffected by news headline that seem irrelevant to your tiny square of cosmic real estate; to instead relive, on a drab, boring Tuesday, the thrill of last Saturday’s birthday party or even borrow joy ahead anticipating next week’s class outing.

But getting back there, to that spot where you are focused on something good and lovely, and you’re built up from the inside-out with optimism, seems a worthy goal for any adult steeped in relentless reality 24/7.  A January Sunday supplement article touched on this idea with a set of recommendations.  I have a history of miserably failing to measure up to such checklists, but I fared pretty well on this one.

For brightened prospects in 2012, the piece suggests, “track your passions,” and focus on core values and natural inclinations.  In my case, a set of negative circumstances – age, gap in employment, national economic decline – backed me into a spot where I am staying home, doing what I love to do.

I had already, to use the article’s catch phrases, noted that I was on a “joyless trail” before I left traditional office work to care for my dad and stepmother in 2005; I also had vivid memories of the consuming pleasure of hours spent writing, and had thus identified my “hot track”; and I’d had decades to “spot the patterns” of those activities that make my heart sing.  I’d even been able to “warm up” my life gradually, as I tiptoed tentatively onto this new path.

As for the author’s urging to “up your gratitude,” once again I felt vindicated, having been moved years ago to start writing gushy notes of appreciation to people in my life, past and present.  So maybe I don’t get an A+, since the ideal is brief, non-syrupy notes – a slightly different breed of correspondence than I’d been indulging in.  But I can try the less flowery approach from now on.  No prob.

Yup, between patting myself on the back for finally being ahead of the curve on a batch of “experts’ advice,” and armed with my own personal version of rose-colored glasses, I am very hopeful about the year ahead.  Just keep following my passion and letting people know that they are loved.  For me, the best way to cover both of those bases is to whip up a large presentation of something hearty and healthy and vibrant with color to place in front of my Partners in Dine.  And then gush about it, of course.

Something like a Simple Chicken Stir Fry with Brown Rice and some Honey-Balsamic Glazed Grilled Plums should  liven up even a snow-cloud-shrouded day like the one I am glimpsing through my study windows this morning.  The main dish requires only one pan, so clean-up is a breeze; it’s colorful, tasty, and nutrient-rich, so dinner guests are both pleased and well-nourished; and the tangy little surprise of grilled winter plums keeps things from getting dull – a good idea at any meal, but especially in the throes of mid-winter, when the next national excuse for celebration is over a month away.  (more…)

February 16, 2012 at 6:37 pm Leave a comment

Doldrum-Defeating Strategies

I read recently that Hostess Brands, Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  They had filed  in 2004 as well, reemerging in 2009, but then hobbled into this new year under a daunting debt of $994 million dollars owed to the Bakery and Confectionary Union Pension Fund.  

I struggle with mixed feelings about this announcement.  The mere thought of such nutritional atrocities as Ho Hos, Sno Balls, and Wonder Bread may throw the grown-up me into a figurative swoon of disgust, but air-puffed Twinkies and mass-produced twin-packs of crème-filled chocolate cupcakes also occupy a cherished segment of my memories of childhood.  The fact that my mother doled out these treats as if they required rationing coupons simply added to their mystique. 

I’ll admit it took many years and a lot of false starts before I finally weaned myself off my thusly acquired  sugar cravings via six-plus servings of fruit spaced throughout the day.  But now that I’m here, I refuse to waste calories on any processed treat – no matter how much nostalgia attaches to it.  Even homemade treats don’t hold the allure they once did, so those stacks of cookies and candy that rise ceiling-high on our sideboard throughout December usually make it safely to their intended recipients without being molested by moi. 

Do I suffer from the notorious Holiday Weight-Gain Syndrome?  Nah, not me.  I’m too busy making and packing up goodies to eat them.  My personal danger zone lies in the valley of the post-holiday slump I seem destined to slide into every January 2nd, practically like clockwork.  Suddenly I feel crumpled by tiredness.  I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, I want to eat until I’m double-stuffed like an Oreo, and I start to feel trapped in my own living room.  Even with unusually mild winter weather ushering in this New Year, I feel vaguely derailed. 

And in a typical Minnesota gotcha’, our temperatures last week dropped from a sunny high of 55° on a Wednesday to a windchill of five two days later.  After years of dealing with such craziness, that’s not enough to produce Alice-like wonderment in me, but it is unnerving on a par with tuning in to Wheel of Fortune and seeing Vanna White wearing a pantsuit. 

And now today’s morning temp logs in at a minus-ten, with a ridiculous minus-30 as a “feels like” number.  Did I say trapped?  Cabin-bound?  Off-routine?  Unsettled and disoriented?  Cooped up in the house, I catch myself murmuring the phrase “my little tweetum pie-ums” to our snuggling chihuahua-papillon-mix pup Muñeca, until I am brought to my senses by a glimpse of JJ the cat, hovering in the corner trying to stick his paw down his throat. 

So, shake it off and look for some practical solutions, right?  “Warm up with a bowl of piping-hot, healthy soup…for a satisfying and slimming dinner,” suggests EatingWell.com.  “Our healthy soup recipes…all include chile. And studies show that capsaicin—a pungent compound in chiles—revs up the body’s metabolism and may boost fat burning,” they crow on.  Sounds like just what I need, but of course I’m compelled to come up with my own original formula for accomplishing those promised results. 

Inspired by a lovely soup cookbook I received as a Christmas gift and a quick skim-through of my computer recipe files, I come up with a Spicy Pinto Bean Soup that is guaranteed to clear your sinuses and get your motor purring.  While it simmers on the stove, I put together My Best Meatloaf Ever, and vow to never again eschew the simple pleasure of a humble, basic pan of this classic comfort food.  Staying on-theme,  I discover a recipe for Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding at the Eating Well web site, and modify it as you’ll find below, to make for a tummy-warming, spirit-lifting wrap-up to any midwinter soup supper.  I think I’m actually stoked enough to dig out the scarf and defy that dad-blasted thermometer.  But perhaps a second steaming bowl of capsaicin-charged bean soup first… (more…)

January 22, 2012 at 10:36 pm 1 comment

Advisor, Advise Thyself

Last week, after days of being enveloped in blankets of gray above and white below, my e-messages to friends in southern states must have started sounding pretty pitiful, from the tone of the responses I got. “I almost hate to tell you about our weather. Yesterday was an almost perfect day with a high of 73 and a cerulean sky,” wrote a longtime family friend in Tucson. And from my BFF in Mount Dora, Florida, “I hate to rub it in, especially when blizzards are blowing across the country, but it’s flat-out gorgeous here!” 

And then, a blessedly cloudless Minnesota sky mercifully releases huge doses of sunshine to we seasonally affected types here below, and my mood leaps within me. Suddenly, I am inspired to do things I have been vowing to do, like unshelving major writing projects set aside for the holidays, introducing metabolism-revving activity breaks into my desk-sitting stints, and limiting myself to more reasonable serving sizes. 

It is so darned easy to let that morning bowl of cinnamon-laced, raisin-studded oatmeal morph into two+ servings and the weekly sugary treat bloat its way into a cake and ice cream lollapalooza. Dessert splurges aside, lumberjack-size portions of even the most healthful of foods can still bring on sluggishness, adding to the winter lethargy syndrome, and can push that scale needle up incrementally but significantly over the long, cold span of winter. Let’s not even talk about where the excess poundage will – and won’t – end up settling, come ski parka-shedding time. 

I recently reminded my slim but cholesterol-challenged brother-in-law that what he does eat is just as important as what he doesn’t eat. Cutting out deep-fried foods is a good move, I instructed, but adding in lots of fresh fruits, leafy greens, and fiber-rich good stuff – like legumes and whole grains and pears, oh my – is equally essential. The bottom line? Substituting a bowlful of Good and Plenty candies for his usual three-Hershey-Bar bedtime snack isn’t exactly the kind of swap that’s going to contribute to a goal of good health. Cliff Notes version: “Fat-free” isn’t necessarily “okay.” 

Well, I may be preachy but I also have a conscience, and my loving lecture to my brother-in-law really did intensify my focus on my own errant habits. I vowed to stop fooling myself into calling that mound of peanut butter into which I am dipping my sliced apple “two tablespoons” when the application of measuring utensils belies it to be more like four, and I committed to revamping our favorite winter comfort food menus to fit everyone’s needs for both taste satisfaction and a nice result on their next lab reports. 

A good start on that promise was a very simple menu of Boneless Roast Pork Loin, Steamed Sugar Snap Peas with Roasted Red Peppers, Second-Thought Twice-Baked Potatoes, and Pear, Apricot, Pineapple Bake. And for that slender but misguided brother-in-law who dines with us once a week, I pulled out a whole hatful of tricks for amping up the nutrition in a batch of Trail Mix Cookies for the road. The how-tos follow.  (more…)

February 10, 2011 at 4:21 am Leave a comment

“Hallelujah,” And Other Mood-Altering Mental Exercises

In my small CLC congregation, we have a lovely tradition of singing the the Hallelujah Chorus at the close of our Christmas morning worship services. Well, I say “we,” when in fact it is our golden-toned choir joined by visiting choir alumni who provide this rendition of Handel’s most inspired contribution to the world of music. And oh, what a glorious, rafters-lifting sound they produce, as they author wave after wave of goose pimples on the flesh on this particular pew potato. The audio memory replays inside my skull for days and weeks following my enjoyment of the original performance. 

Nothing too unusual about all of that, except that I have turned this healthy compulsion into a sanity-preserver, and the formation of that new habit went something like this: Like most people who try to make sense of society’s capacity for moral malefaction, distressing thoughts sometimes creep into my consciousness – most often when I am out walking and away from mundane distractions. But recently we’ve had many personal reasons to direct “hallelujahs” heavenward, so I promised myself I’d abandon my old, futile habit of fuming over the irrational ways of the world and adopt a new plan. 

The next time I caught myself grieving over the government meddling that has brought our once-great health care system to its knees over the past 66 years, I thought about the dear wife of a dear friend, and her recent miracle of a successful kidney transplant. “Hallelujah!” I shouted inside my head, and the resentment evaporated, poof, like a cost-of-living increase in a stinky economy. 

Later, as thoughts about the recent Tucson tragedy and how it was further embedded with angst by finger-pointing politicos started to stir up some ill will, I reminded myself that a wonderful human being we know and love, who shops regularly at the Safeway store where the atrocity occurred, was spared any personal harm or injury in that dreadful event. “Hallelujah!” echoed the now-automatic mantra inside my cranium.

And yet again, as I stewed and brewed over the recent announcement that only 35% of the 1.4 billion in relief aid sent to Haiti after last year’s earthquake has sifted through a corrupt government to reach desperate citizens, I recall that we just got news that a friend got a fine report on her cardiac stress test following complications from gastric lap-band surgery, and the “hallelujah!” burst forth out of nowhere, as if it had taken on a life of its own. 

Over and over, this little psychological tool worked to hone my perspective and balance my mood. The renewed spring in my step is sure welcome, since I’ve been experiencing “winter fatigue” lately. 

Back at home, I type into my search engine, “Why am I so tired during the winter months?” The results tell me pretty much what I’d expected: Too little daylight translates to sluggishness. Get plenty of sleep; exercise regularly – outside whenever possible; hang around with upbeat people, I read. With a new strategy for not letting life’s woes settle in to roost in my psyche, a few sunny days here and there, distraction in the form of workouts and editing projects, and a whole universe of healthful recipes yet to be sampled, I have stopped grumbling and taken action. 

Need a little extra energy to conquer your own internal and external roadblocks? How about a lovely New Year’s Day Bean Soup, some classic All-Beef Meatloaf with Mashed Sweet Potatoes, a Whole Wheat Spinach and Mozzarella Pizza for color and a virtual alphabet of vitamins, and a little dietary indulgence therapy in the form of Orange Buttermilk Cranberry Upside Down-Upside Down Cake? (more…)

January 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm 1 comment

Christmas Passed…Or Did It?

How to Stay Warm Through a Minnesota Winter

When temps dip too low, my outdoor thermometer flatlines, as if to say, “You donwanna know.” On this first day of 2011, it is cold enough that my husband has trouble surfacing from the warmth of the quilted comforter, so I send little Muñeca in to keep him motivated. Her self-defined job description? To paw for a little petting attention and keep him from falling hopelessly back into a REM state. Soon I hear his gravel-voiced declaration, “She’s a big help in getting me up,” and peer in to see her snuggle-bugged up close to his side, her own eyelids heavy with sleep. 

As the mercury grunts its way up to 14°, the crunch of powdered sugar under my boots, the pup and I try our footing on the snow-frosted layer of ice that came down in one five-minute deluge on New Year’s Eve afternoon. The pup thinks better of it and heads back inside, while I trudge forth – if not smarter, at least hardier. But iced-over streets prove less of a challenge than the park paths, where planting my foot in the frozen imprint of a previous trekker is essential to staying upright and not breaking an ankle in the deep, crusted snow. Bundled in quilted outerwear, I must look like the Michelin Man on a tightrope. 

Meanwhile, the 40 percent of my mind that is not occupied with this balancing act idly marvels at the fact that the Christmas commercials that have plagued us for over two months are still jingling out their “buy me” messages a week after The Day itself has passed. As an antidote, I try to reconstruct the beautiful Oswald Chambers passage I read from the December 31st offering in My Utmost for His Highest. 

It seems that no matter how I hard I try to stay focused on the Real Reason for the season, a hustle and bustle atmosphere inevitably churns up around me as I rush to get baked goods into the mail for dear ones far from us and try to keep on schedule with seasonal projects that pile up on top of daily chores. But that Chambers’ entry haunts me, so I remind myself that the four weeks of Advent have led us directly into the brilliant illumination of the Epiphany season, and seek it out for a refresher read: 

“Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.” These two straightforward sentences put all the mainstream New Year’s resolution advice to certain shame. 

And I am definitely a New Year’s reformist, a believer in fresh starts. The very possibility of God guiding me to improve on (or build on) the week before delivers me into each Monday morning with a sense of hopeful enthusiasm. You can imagine what a thrill January 1st ignites in me. So I’ll cast only a quick glance back at Christmas Dinner Past before striding into 2011. 

Our celebration menu started with one of my (in)famous improvised punches, poetically labeled Kirhamshire Cranberry Shrub, followed by Butternut Squash Soup with Rye Toast Croutons, Sirloin Tip Roast with Sherry Pan Sauce, Sautéed Mushrooms and Onions, Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes, Green beans with Crumbled Bacon and Pine Nuts, Citrus-Avocado Salad, Tweed Popovers, Roasted Pear Wedges, and Red and Green Ice Cream Bombé with Assorted Christmas Cookies. (more…)

January 3, 2011 at 11:17 pm Leave a comment

A Mad, Merry Dash to Christmas or a Frenzied, Fervid Rush to the Cash Register?

Like many of you, I am discouraged by the “commercial sprawl” that has ads for Christmas indulgences seeping into mid-October. Being a rebel at heart, I stubbed my toe more than once between October 21 and November 26th, racing for the remote to mute the yuletide-themed commercials insinuating themselves into my consciousness well before their time.

I’ll grant that winter weather is definitely with us. The second Saturday of this month arrived at 19° degrees (a virtual 5° with the 25-30 mile an hour winds) with a snowfall rate of 1-2” per hour that delivered an 18” accumulation by Sunday morning. But still, the premature storm of holiday spending whipped up by Madison Avenue has some strange effects, such as the neighbor’s plopping a Santa hat on his porch step jack-o-lantern and our local Garage Logician wishing everyone a Happy Hanaramakwansmas.

“You can slow down and find some peace,” I chant repetitively as I inhale (1-2-3-4), hold (1-2-3-4-5-6-7), and exhale (1-2-3-4) and start pulling gear out of the closet for my midday walk. Peering out the picture window onto the weird white winter wonderlandscape, my pup and I “wonder” whether we really want to leave the warmth of our cozy Kirknest to venture out into it.

“Even ye of the asbestos bladder cannot hold it for the next four months,” I remind my furry walking companion. So into cold-weather garb I stuff myself, giving new meaning to the phrase “the layered look.” Once wrapped in a quilted parka with my baseball cap on (for sun shielding), the hood from my sweater in use (for neck warmth), and my Dollar Store space alien sunglasses in place (for UV protection), I get a glimpse of the Unabomber staring back at me from our entryway mirror. I scare myself at this point, and I haven’t even encountered any neighborhood children yet.

 As I goose-step my way over snow-crusted walking paths, I mull over the holiday that has just whizzed past with so little fanfare, and decide to take back the holidays by revisiting Thanksgiving, making today’s subtitle Turkey Day Travails and Triumphs. With my helpful, downloaded “Countdown to Thanksgiving” checklist in hand, and after more years of cooking than I care to specify here, I thought I would have this feast down pat. Not so, perhaps because I will insist on trying out new recipes when I have twelve dinner guests sitting at my table. But there were some royal successes, too, so I will share both with you for your “helpful-and/or-amusing hints” file.

Not-So-Hot Ideas:

Basting a turkey with soy sauce, bourbon, and honey. This sounded to me like a luscious amalgam of several suggested approaches to getting that golden-glazed result we all strive for. Not so, as the soy sauce causes the skin to brown way too fast and you end up with turkey jerky instead of drumsticks and skin so dark it all has to be stripped and discarded – in spite of the foil tent. It also took me (and I am not taking literary license here) eight consecutive days of soaking and scraping and soaking and scouring to get the baked-on, caramelized honey off the bottom of my roasting pan.

My rescue plan was to reheat any slightly dry turkey meat in a hot bath of chicken broth, which does wonders to revive and moisten. I was ready to try this remedy on myself by the end of the day on 11/25. (more…)

December 21, 2010 at 3:54 am 2 comments

Power to the Pupil

Design Pics Images

As most of my acquaintances will tell you, through a weak and weary smile, I am all about lessons learned. Maybe it’s because I came late to viewing life through grown-up eyes, I don’t know. But I have an unfortunate zeal for spreading the benefit of my revelational experiences throughout a sometimes disinterested population of family and friends, and it does seem that life lessons pop up around every corner. 

My major writing project these days presents such surprises on a regular basis. I am rewriting journal notes I kept while assisting my aging father and stepmother from January of 2005 through June of 2006. Reliving the joys and frustrations of weekdays spent with them is a rewarding but emotionally draining exercise – and one that leads me to stumble onto insights that only become apparent when viewed from a distance.

In one recounted scene, a gentle therapist helping my stepmother deal with Parkinsonisms tells me to remind the patient to “look to the horizon,” rather than let her head fall forward and her gaze drift down. These days I catch myself, on my long daily walks, letting my own head fall forward and my gaze drop as I contemplate weighty matters beyond my control. “Lift your eyes to the horizon,” I remind myself, and I’m rewarded with welcome distractions: the peach-toned underside of a bank of silvery clouds; a neighbor’s color-burst front porch arrangement of fall foliage; the frisky antics of a pair of scampering squirrels, taking a play break from the work of foraging for winter’s needs. 

When the first wet, heavy snow of the season caused power lines to sag and we lost electricity for three days the second weekend in November, I had another opportunity to “lift my eyes” – first of all from my minor, into-my-chest grumblings about the inconvenience to see that the temperature outside was – thank the Lord – 40 above, and not 40 below. By the time it was all over, I had realized a thing or two about the imposed tranquility of not being able to carry the day’s work into the evening hours, and that the world does not stop spinning on its axis if dishes pile up in my sink or my blog is late getting posted.

What a luscious luxury to while away a few morning hours writing birthday poems and Thanksgiving cards in a sunny corner of the dining room, or to play a leisurely game of Scrabble by candlelight after the evening has rolled darkness into that same corner. Not being tied to the clock or to my chore calendar went from exasperating to calming as we lit dozens of candles for light and warmth and psychological comfort, and soaked up the restful quiet like grateful birds refreshed by a gentle summer rain. (more…)

November 27, 2010 at 9:37 pm Leave a comment

Old Saws and New Ways

   There may be truth to the adage “there’s no accounting for tastes,” but I remain fascinated with the influences that lead people to their individual food preferences.  For example, my mother-in-law’s long history of allergies and sensitivities has left her understandably wary of many foods, and my husband’s juvenile-onset type I diabetes informed his logic early on:  Why waste your carbohydrate allowance on a half-cup of peas when you can have one-and-a-half cups of garden-fresh green beans instead? 

Among those attitudes I’ll never figure out fall my dog, who will reject a nice plate of kibble topped with meat drippings only to go crazy over some unknown bit of garbage she digs up out in the yard, and people who are resolutely convinced that “healthy diet” translates to “dreary, restrictive, pleasureless regimen.” 

I figure, high-end restaurants don’t serve my personal pre-teen favorite, battered, deep-fried onion rings and pork tenderloin sandwiches on gummy white buns, for a very good reason:  quality food is fresh and minimally processed, by definition.  I mean, isn’t a sweet, juicy slice of ice-cold watermelon one of life’s greater gastronomic delights? 

I would argue, then, that while eating shouldn’t be all about nutrition without regard for taste, neither should it be all about taste, with no regard for nutrition.  Tying into all of the above is a meal built around breaded pork chops – but these, my dear, are not your mother’s breaded pork chops. 

To start, Pretzel-Crusted Pork Chops, a platter of Roasted Root Vegetables, and a Spinach Salad with Avocado, Red Onion, Bleu Cheese, and Walnuts.  And to prove that dessert doesn’t have to be a choice between nutrition-free or bor-ing, my version of Pineapple Upside Down Gingerbread, inspired by the Reader’s Digest Live Longer Cookbook.©   (more…)

April 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm Leave a comment

Yes, We Have No More Snow Flakes

   How’s this for a fitting Good Friday opening:  Will miracles never cease?  The answer, of course, is “no,” and that seems to apply to Minnesota weather as well as to events much more significant and awe-inspiring. 

That’s my long-winded way of saying that we made it through March with no snow storms.  To my further wonderment, the first day of April was more like June, offering temps in the 80s and a summer-bright, sunny sky.  How hot was it?  Hot enough that my little pup got overheated and asked to be carried for the last half of our walk.  This phenomenon compels some observers to admonish me, “She’s not getting much of a walk, is she?”  I may have to prepare a little sign to wear on my back explaining, “It’s her idea, not mine.” 

But back to April 2nd, as slate-gray skies promise a much-needed rain but leave me a little less energetic than usual.  Something relatively (no pun intended) easy for my in-law dinner tonight, I think.  Broiled Tenderloin Steaks, Sour Cream Potato Casserole, and Sunshine Salad.  And from the freezer, Japanese Vegetable Blend and Ciabatta Rolls.  Then, to make up for my laziness, Fudge Pie, in all its resplendent gooiness, from the pages of my 1946 edition of The Joy of Cooking.   (more…)

April 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm Leave a comment

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

And what is the "something" we are aiming for here? Simply a life of robust good health in every important area - spiritual, physical, cognitive, and emotional.

To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

Have a taste and see what you think. If you like what we are serving up, please tell your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to stop by for a visit, too.

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Past and current posts.

July 2020
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© Sue Anne W. Kirkham and www.yourrecipesforlife.com 2009-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Anne W. Kirkham and www.yourrecipesforlife.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.