30 November 2011

Well [Spoken] Wednesdays: Dr Gamble edition

I took two classes with Dr. Gamble. The first was a one-credit seminar that assigned as much homework as a three-credit core class-- though I did learn to find sloppy citations and read five books about prostitutes in the Wild West.

In the second, I turned out to be the eldest student. This was amusing as I'm usually not the eldest anything (except child in my family) and I could pretend to be the experienced and authoritative sage simply by virtue of having a few semesters on everyone else. Even apart from that, it was Jolly Good Fun All Round, which happens when you're a senior with an unshakeable GPA and a good relationship with your professor and a brand new boyfriend waiting for you back home.

Ahem. The marginalia of Dr. Richard Gamble.


American Civil Religion

"I brought a few things for show and tell today."
"Now you can feel smug and superior, which is the purpose of higher education anyway."
"I crave a boring nation."
"We are like exhibits at the zoo-- don't tap on the glass."
"I'm not even sure what I think about this. I'm just going to mess with your minds."

"There's the sacred church doing its sacred thing."
"Now I've lost my piece of paper. That's what I get for arrogance."
"Doesn't that diagram explain everything you ever wanted to know?"

Western Heritage II 

“Hm...I’m just talking to myself. I’ll join you in a moment.”
"From this point on, we will be drowning in material."
“You can prove anything with history.”
“Hey, where are the decapitated people?”
“We will now impose our triangle on the world.”
"You have been sent to me as an affliction."
“I am the change I’ve been waiting for, come to think of it!”
"What if the explanations we use to justify this world's misery only make it more miserable?"
"I'm not quite sure that feathers are an aphrodisiac."
"You can''t protect your rights without the habits of a free people."
"Nobody was alive in medieval Europe."
"Would you like another mint julep here in antebellum America?"
"You can measure the wrong thing very precisely."
"As young idealists, we often fail to see how much of life is taken up by mundane things. The great challenge, then, is to live the mundane life well. To live it all well. To seek God's glory everywhere-- to be a vessel of His grace in all life's details, whether high or low."*

Student: "Don't shatter our illusions, Dr. Gamble!"
Dr. G: "You should be used to that by now."

*This was, incidentally, my collegiate finale: the last thing I wrote down in the last class of my last semester at Hillsdale.

28 November 2011

Book Review: 400 Years of the KJV

Another Booksneeze review. This time I elected to read The Treasure of God's Word: 400 Years of the King James Bible. Though I use the ESV on a daily basis, I love the old grand language of the KJV and was interested to see what this volume might say.

It has a unique structure: a number of selections from the KJV, divided into small chapters by theme, interspersed with chapters on the version's history (titles such as "The Translation Process" and "The King James Bible in Everyday Life").

I enjoyed reading the history chapters, which were interesting though not deep. The author certainly could have written more. The chapters essentially give overviews for those who'd just like to know a bit about the era and the translation of the KJV. There is nothing wrong with an overview and the chapters seem decently written, but if you would like to be well versed in the history, look elsewhere.

The Scripture sections are good in essence (it's Scripture after all!) but not exceptional in presentation. With topics like "God's Promises" and "Our Hope," the excerpts tend towards the positive and encouraging. I think that in a volume that purports to give a sampling of the KJV's language and influential passages, it would have made sense to include excerpts that concern God's law and judgment. Specific passages on the Gospel-- our sin, Christ's suffering, indeed the basis for our hope-- are also lacking.

On a minor note, the binding is nice to look at. Who doesn't like gold letters on red leather (though faux in this case)? Pretty fonts go a long way to gain my good opinion . . .

here fishy fishy

Okay, whenever I think of fish, I think of Darla.

Now that we have that out of the way, here's a brilliant trick to make canned fish into something scrumptious. I have been trying to include more wild-caught fish in our diet and cans are sure cheaper than fresh fillets. You can use mackerel, salmon, or tuna: whatever floats your boat (ha ha how clever my nautical allusions are) or, more to the point, whatever is on sale.

Fish Cakes
(original recipe from Taste Is Trump)

3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-oz can wild-caught salmon or chub mackerel (or three 5-oz cans solid albacore tuna)
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons coconut flour
1 teaspoon salt
spices to taste*

1) Melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-low heat in large heavy skillet. Add onion, pepper, and garlic; saute until softened.
2) Drain and finely chop canned fish.** Don't discard any bones, as they are a great source of nutrition! A Blendtec can take care of the chopping in a few pulses and a small food processor would probably do the same. Lacking either, your trusty chef's knife will be just fine.
3) In medium bowl stir together sauteed vegetables, finely chopped fish, eggs, coconut flour, salt, and spices as desired.
4) Melt remaining butter over medium heat in same large skillet. Form fish mixture into patties about 1/2 inch thick and 2 inches in diameter. Fry for 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and warmed through.*** Continue to form patties and fry until mixture is used up. Add more butter to skillet if needed. :)
5) Serve hot with lemon wedges, sour cream, yogurt, or whatever else you like with fish.


*For a southwestern twist a la the original, use a squeeze of lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander. For an Italian twist use 1/2 teaspoon each dried basil and oregano.

**Funny story: the first time I used mackerel for this recipe, I literally jumped and screamed when they came sliding out of the can. See, you know how Pacific salmon and albacore tuna are really large animals? So the paltry pound of pink flesh packed into a can doesn't even resemble a fish anymore? I'm used to that.

And you know how mackerel are much smaller? So they actually fit into cans?

Yeah. That was alarming. I was not expecting to see entire fish bodies in my strainer. Headless and tailless, but decidedly fishlike! I expected them to go flopping into the sink at any moment, but bravely soldiered on, and now I actually think the mackerel has the best flavor out of all three options.

***The heat of your stovetop may vary. If you're unsure of how hot it should be, I recommend experimenting with one fish cake on the first go-round. You want the butter to be quite hot, as the fish cakes ought to sizzle when they hit the pan, but you need to be able to fry them for a few minutes on each side without burning them! Fiddle with it until you find the right balance.

26 November 2011

What happens when you assign me "pie"

The husband and I went to my parents' for Thanksgiving this year, and I was requested to "bring pie."

 And I did. With a vengeance.

I just kept finding recipes to try . . .

Daddy measured the final height of the apple pie, and we found that it had undergone a 50% volume reduction. When I put it into the oven it was 6 inches high; by the time it was served, only 3 inches. Marvelous.

So what did I make? A classic apple pie and one with cranberries, using Smitten Kitchen's butter crust and my own crumb topping. Then pumpkin spice and maple meringue, both with Joy the Baker's easy no-roll crust.* The crusts turned out shockingly well, for me, and we enjoyed the fillings very much. The cranberry apple was pronounced "a bit too tart" by some but this would be remedied by increasing the sugar in the cranberry sauce.

Next year: walnut maple, sweet potato, and chocolate pudding.

*Changes I made: only 1/3 cup sugar in the apple mixture for each apple pie, added lemon zest and cardamom to the cranberry sauce, reduced sugar in pumpkin pie to 2/3 cup total, and used 2/3 cup maple syrup and 1/3 cup honey in the meringue pie.

{photos courtesy of father dearest}

25 November 2011

Weekend linkage

If you are 1) into Advent calendars,2) a DIY person, and 3) a procrastinator, check out these homemade Advent calendars.

If you are 1) OCD, 2) handy in the kitchen, and 3) interested in culinary paraphernalia, check out this cutting board.

Meat? My sentiments exactly.

Hey . . . another free ezine! Anthology, Winter 2011 edition.

This letter of complaint about sums up my opinion of Bigelow as a whole.

24 November 2011

This is the Lord's doing

The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous:
"The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
the right hand of the Lord exalts,
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!"

I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.

This is the Lord's doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

-from Psalm 118

(Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll.)

23 November 2011

Well [Spoken] Wednesdays: Dr Smith edition

In college, my friend Laura and I had a hobby that Laura dubbed "marginalia." We would write the odd, insightful, humorous, scandalous, wise and otherwise noteworthy sayings of our professors in the margins of our notes. (I am sure that many other Hillsdaleans did the same.) These comments usually had something to do with the topic of the class, but taken out of context ... well.

Here I present the marginalia of Dr. Stephen Smith, collected over the course of two semesters.

The Divine Comedy

"Is this an ecumenical council, or the Inferno?"
"God is Robin Hood."
"Has anyone ever felt mortal terror at the sight of a firefly?"
"This is the poetry of necessity, not of delight."
"Youtube . . . it shall lead us all!"
"Should we have an imagination liberation movement?"
"The dog did not eat your homework."
"If you don't believe in the existence of guardian angels, you will once you have kids."
"Death to the mole! Don't tell Saint Francis."
"Are we the age of styrofoam?"
"I love your ink!"
"God is a Texan."
"It's very easy to be a poet of death."
"No more about rushing down the aisle."
"Ah, my markers of power!"
"Beatrice . . . she's a little more than a Snickers bar."
"That's the Monty Python solution to it."
"Now we have TV. Who needs the stars?"
"Heavens of mercy on all sloppy thinkers."
"Big Bird is Satan."
"And I went . . . ALALALA!"
"Socrates isn't the supreme gadfly, God is!"
"Suffer the conjunction, we're in paradise."
"Does it end happily? It's a comedy!"

Renaissance Brit Lit

“This play is exploring the desire for pointy hats.”
“Work on your evil, honey.”
“Aren’t they going to dance around and get married like they always do?”
“Death is not famous for waiting for the right moment.”
“Feel free to be perplexed.”
“Skipping classes may be likened to skipping a day at work, which no one with sense considers prudent.”
“This is top-drawer villainy, guys.”
“My wife rejected this idea, but I’ll tell you anyway.”
“I heard a plooping!”
“I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
“There’s a whole subtext of death and demons in The Sound of Music! Aaahh!”
“I need to go to the house of holiness.”
“Let us exercise our allegorical noodles.”
“No academic graffiti!”
“It’s probably not very complimentary to call people pigmies."
“There’s a deep correspondence between pride and despair. Pride usually comes first.”
“Error is such a funny thing!”
“Pages flip easier in the mind.”
“It’s actually a terrible burden to be tremendously rich and powerful.”
“Ah, here you see the benefits of flexible spelling!”
“I would say that the wheels are coming off the cart, but in my case they’ve already come off.”
“Everybody is Shakespeare except Shakespeare. Poor guy!”
“You all should learn to juggle. At the very least, you’ll be able to entertain small children.”
“I know what you’re all thinking: has Dr. Smith lost his marbles?”

22 November 2011

soup's on.

ladles and spoon
This delicious soup is both comforting and wholesome. Recommended for days that are rainy... days that are blustery... and days that are snowy.

Days when you only have potatoes and ground beef to work with... days that demand a dinner made in advance... and days when you want to feed a lot of people.

Days when you pushed through a big workout and need to refuel... and days when there are picky eaters around.

And days when you don't really feel like eating anything but a bowl of steaming goodness.

In other words, any day from here until April.


"Beefed Up" Creamy Potato Soup
(based on a recipe from Cooking for Seven) 

1/2 cup butter, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium russet potatoes, diced (no need to peel)
1 pound lean ground beef
2 1/2 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried parsley
freshly ground black pepper
dried red pepper flakes (optional)

1) Melt 7 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until soft. Add garlic and diced potatoes; stir, cover, and cook for a few minutes.
2) Meanwhile, melt remaining tablespoon butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and stir to break up as it browns.
3) As meat is cooking, pour stock and milk into large pot with potatoes. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer until potatoes are very tender.
4) Once potatoes are cooked, ladle about two-thirds of the mixture into blender and puree until smooth. Stir back into pot; this partial-puree step gives you a thick, creamy soup that still has some texture.
5) Stir in cooked beef, salt, and spices. Taste and adjust seasoning. Make sure you have enough sage and parsley! Serve hot with sliced bell peppers and wedges of tart apple. (If you make this in advance it is easily refrigerated and reheated.)

{image credit: theveryreverendchris}

21 November 2011

in which dinner is browned

That's a positive thing, I promise! These are all dishes that you want to get caramelized, crispy, "browned" in some manner: roasted romanesco and perfectly done potatoes alongside almond-crusted fish fillets. Everything was a new recipe (new to me that is) and man oh man, everything was great. Not to mention finished in under an hour.

Weeknight dinner can be fabulous.

p.s. This was followed by grain free pumpkin cupcakes with a luscious cream cheese frosting. Don't be hatin'.

19 November 2011


We went to Gettysburg with my family several weeks ago.

On the observation tower we enjoyed a lovely autumn view (one would hope! it's an observation tower after all!). Then we got an obliging brother to take our picture.
On Little Round Top, however, it was chilly and windy. Subsequently, I was . . . displeased.
(Jared has entitled this photograph "The Cold Penguin.")

except this foreigner

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19

18 November 2011

Weekend linkage

Generally I don't give a pin for what the Jolie-Pitts are up to, but buying a Soviet tank is kind of hilarious.

"The eight worst fonts in the world."

In the summer we like bourbon and lemonade. Shall we switch it up with cider? I think yes.

Love pumpkin, love pudding, love cream. I am so making this.

Two e-zines for the holidays: Gifted and Sweet Paul. Can I just say that free publications-- when they're as beautiful and creative as these-- are da bomb?

I know, it would be super mean, but sometimes I really want a stamp like this one for my students' rough drafts.

Lately, I've head rumors of a too-much-milk-is-bad-for-your-bones idea. Interesting. Worth checking out, I think. The upshot seems to be: don't freak out about consuming tons of dairy "for the calcium." You'll probably get enough calcium anyway and an overload will actually weaken bones in the long run.

17 November 2011

clean up clean up everybody everywhere

Stainless steel or copper scrubs are awesome. Passionate Homemaking first tipped me off to this little secret, perfect for plastic, glass, and metal; not recommended for ceramics, which will scratch. :) With a sprinkle of baking soda and some elbow grease, faucets sparkle and bathtubs emerge from grimy rings. Nice for cast iron skillets too.

Tidy tip from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home: before you start cooking, grab a big old bowl and put it on the counter. As you cook, dump any trash (stems, gristle, tinfoil) into this handy catchall. Presto! You have just 1) eliminated clutter in your workspace, 2) streamlined the process with zero trips to the trashcan, and 3) made cleanup a lot easier after dinner prep's done. It's brilliant. Can't believe I never heard of or thought of this before.

After hemming and hawing for a a year, I finally tried soap nuts . . . wow. Now I feel uber-crunchy. I'll leave you to Katie and Lindsay's detailed reviews, but let it be known that they work, by golly by gosh. They're also quite frugal and decidedly natural. I'm sticking with this!

We already have reusable dishrags in place of throwaway (and germ-hiding) sponges in the kitchen, but in an effort to further reduce the number of disposable items in our house, I tossed my last cellulose sponges and cut up a bunch of clean but past-their-prime cotton shirts. These large, soft rags work just fine for cleaning the bathroom, the linoleum floor, and anything else. As with the trash bowl, I am not sure why I didn't do this a long time ago. (I also hear that microfiber cloths are excellent and would love to try some in the future.)

This post shared at Simple Lives Thursday.

{image from Hyperbole and a Half}

16 November 2011

nearer to an understanding

“The pattern of a novelist’s work is formed by his attitude to life and by his point of view, neither of which need amount to anything so portentous as a ‘philosophy,’ even in the case of a great novelist; all that is necessary is that the writer should have considered the human state and done something to bring us nearer to an understanding of it.”

-Michael Swan in Henry James


I may begin each high school literature course with this quotation from now on. My eager students, some of whom strive to discover alternative spiritualities and social commentaries in every line of Tennyson, could benefit from the reminder that greatness is often in simplicity. Perhaps all the writer intended to do was to say: Here, gentle reader, look at this facet of life, more closely than you've ever looked before. Isn't it strange? Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it terrible? Now-- what do you think? Perhaps the writer didn't even have a philosophy to express. Perhaps he was less a social activist than an observer and storyteller.

Then I can stop fielding questions like "Is Jane Eyre's initial refusal to marry Rochester a criticism of Victorian women who married for money?" Well . . . I suppose. But I suspect that Charlotte Bronte had broader themes in mind and was more interested in demonstrating the difficulty of pursuing one's ideals of purity, the heart-wrenching lengths to which that pursuit may take you. The whole marrying-for-money issue is worth mention but, taking the entire novel into consideration, it's not really the point. In my opinion. :)

14 November 2011

second verse, not the same as the first

Due to this persistent no-gluten and low-grains kick, I am revamping a few old favorites.

Ha. "Old" favorites. Like I've been making dinner for fifty years!

Anyway . . . one of those rebooted recipes is chicken divan. Rice seems to confuse my stomach but quinoa is just ducky, so quinoa it is. :) As this wondrous little seed contains all nine amino acids, making it a complete protein, I was able to cut back on the more expensive chicken.

Plenty of flavor, a well-rounded dish, and perfect for freezing if you like being able to pull entire meals out of thin air (practically) at the last minute (well, you have to let it thaw, but you know what I mean). 


Chicken Divan with Quinoa

4 cups cooked quinoa*
2 cups cooked chopped chicken
1 large head broccoli
1/4 cup butter
1 cup diced onion
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons salt (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup grated sharp cheese

1) Preheat oven to 350 and coat 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray.
2) Chop broccoli into large florets and steam or blanch until just tender. Let cool slightly and chop into bite-size pieces.
3) Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion; cover and cook until soft, stirring occasionally. Add arrowroot flour and whisk briskly to incorporate into butter. Let cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
4) Add stock and milk to saucepan. Start with 1/2 cup and whisk thoroughly to prevent any lumps, then continue to add in 1/2 cup increments until fully combined. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat to cool slightly. Whisk in mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, thyme, and paprika.
5) Layer the cooked quinoa, chopped chicken, and chopped broccoli florets in prepared baking dish. Pour white sauce over top.**
6) Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle grated cheese over top; return to oven and bake 5-10 more minutes, until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbling at edges.

*The best way to cook quinoa can be found right here.
**At this point you may cover and refrigerate casserole until ready to bake; just remember it will take longer to heat through in oven after having been refrigerated. You may also freeze prepared casserole; when you wish to use it, thaw and bake as directed. Again, it may take longer to heat through than when made fresh. Enjoy!

12 November 2011

nonsense I used to believe about food. and other musings.

Once upon a time, in a land far far away . . . I couldn't care less about cooking.

Because I am at the opposite end of the spectrum now (hee) it's really hard for me to recall how I thought about food back then. But until 10th grade I had no interest in where it came from, let alone how it affected my body. I just wanted to eat it.

Then I had your typical female teenager crisis: So fat. Must lose weight. Now. Food, and how it was made, suddenly became more interesting. I had a revelation one day. If I knew what went into the meal, I knew how many calories I was consuming and I could gain more control over my weight. Aha!

Well, I went pretty crazy over the calorie question. That's another story for another day, but it involved many freakouts, frantic bouts on the treadmill, and detailed lists of everything from single apple slices to spoonfuls of rice. Suffice it to say that I am never counting a calorie again. Yet the positive outcome of the whole mess was that, by the end of it, I had a much greater knowledge of how food worked, what it contained, and how I could make stuff taste great.

{2003 . . . ahaha . . . Mark is such a wee whippersnapper. 
Don't you love my completely unstyled hair? NO DON'T ANSWER THAT.}

 {2008 . . . the year of feeding many boys. Quite enjoyable. I ruled the Whitley kitchen, yo.}

 {2011 . . . in which I only feed one boy and enjoy it even more. 
Also my hair has improved over the course of time.}

I've still got a keen interest in health and nutrition, but it no longer crowds out my enjoyment of food. Thank God. (I do not say that flippantly.) Since 10th grade, I have learned a lot about taking pleasure in God's gifts and caring more about health than about weight. I have learned a lot about what to do in the kitchen-- how to make high golden loaves of bread, how to whisk up the creamiest scrambled eggs, how to turn a tough old chuck roast into tender beefy goodness. And I have learned a lot about health, what my body really needs.Along the way I realized that I'd made some wrong assumptions about what was and wasn't healthy. To wit:

"Brown sugar is healthier than white sugar." Perhaps I tend to assume that colored food is better than white food. How racist of me. Anyway, do you know what typical brown sugar contains? I finally read the label. Good old white sugar . . . plus molasses and caramel coloring. Oh.

"Honey has health benefits." Sort of. But it's only raw honey that has the benefits. Really, once honey has been pasteurized, it's not much better than any other form of sugar!

"Labels with green leaves and quaint red barns denote healthy food. Store brands are inferior." Haha. I am such a sucker. Now I read labels and give cheaper brands a shot. I try to judge by the product inside rather than the picture on the front. (Note "try." I still love me some Siggi's.)

"Fat will kill us, especially dairy fat." Then I learned about Weston A. Price. These days our butter consumption probably blows the national average out of the water.

"If the package says natural it must be good for us." Oh wait, poison ivy is natural.

"If the package says organic it must be good for us." Oh wait, soybean oil and white flour can be organic.

"Fresh is always better than frozen." Actually, many frozen items were put on ice very soon after being harvested (or caught in the case of fish) and are in a better state than the supposedly "fresh" items that were picked in California two weeks ago!


I'm still reexamining my assumptions. I learn new things all the time, and though sometimes it's confusing and even threatens to be consuming, I am working to keep this interest in its proper place-- as just that, an interest. Not an idol to rule my life.

What have you learned about food over the years?

11 November 2011

Weekend linkage

One of my lovely sisters-in-law is, for a period of time, on a strict allergen-free diet-- one which excludes both peanuts and tree nuts. So she bought some Sunbutter instead. We were talking about this and wondered, hmm. Could one make sunflower seed butter in a Blendtec? 

Well, one can, and so I did. It's good! Makes a killer smoothie with yogurt, blueberries, and bananas. If I add more honey my homemade concoction will taste almost exactly like the commercially produced stuff (though not as smooth) and will sure be a lot cheaper. Score one for the mega-blender.

Do you love exercising hospitality? Need something beautiful to peruse? Try Kinfolk Magazine, a web publication advertised as "A Guide to Small Gatherings." The first issue is free. :)

Yeah, I feel like this is the only appropriate way to react to the current circus of presidential bids . . . thanks to my Youtube-trawling siblings for the link.

My laptop is requesting this bag for Christmas.

If you, like me, tend to buy whole chickens more often than chicken pieces, here is a handy guide to breaking down a chicken.

Clever magnets, doubling as a grocery list!

p.s. If you're looking for a good Pandora station, try Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

10 November 2011

'tis the season... for broccoli

There's this place about six minutes from my house that sells produce cheap. I mean CHEAP. Like, bell peppers are twenty-five cents and tomatoes are four for a dollar.

Organic it's not, but fresh and local it is, and I happily buy it all summer.

These crisp autumn days, they have broccoli for seventy-five cents and cauliflower for a buck fifty. If that's not an invitation to make a steaming, creamy soup, I don't know what is. So here is just such a soup for your enjoyment. (It has received the husband's thumbs up. Cream cheese will do that.)

I heart crucifers. And things I can freeze. I'm planning to make several pots of this in the next few weeks and freeze as many jars as I can; it will be perfect for busy winter days.


Cream o' Crucifer Soup
(based on a recipe at Streaming Gourmet)

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
6 cups chicken or beef stock
4 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups chopped cauliflower*
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

1) Melt butter over medium heat in soup pot. Add onion and garlic. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until onion is softened, stirring occasionally.
2) Add chicken stock and bring to boil. Add broccoli, cauliflower, and salt; cook for 5-10 minutes or until tender.
3) Puree soup in two batches. Stir in cream cheese and let melt, pureeing again if necessary (sometimes the cream cheese doesn't want to melt smoothly). Serve warm.

*Or you can just use 6 cups of broccoli.

{image credit: hermanturnip}

09 November 2011

Well Written Wednesdays: faint clues and indirections

When I read the book, the biography famous,
And is this, then, (said I,) what the author calls a man’s life?
And so will some one, when I am dead and gone, write my life?
(As if any man really knew aught of my life;
Why, even I myself, I often think, know little or nothing of my real life;
Only a few hints—a few diffused, faint clues and indirections,
I seek, for my own use, to trace out here.)  

-Walt Whitman


“I may as well say what I should not otherwise have said, that I always knew in my heart Walt Whitman’s mind to be more like my own than any other man’s living. As he is a very great scoundrel this is not a very pleasant confession.”

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

07 November 2011

now thank we all our God

This past week Passionate Homemaking linked to this sweet post on Simply Vintagegirl: the Thankful Tree. I'm makin' it. Did so today, in fact. Mine is not quite so polished (alas that I lack a circular paper stamp) but even with rectangular tags I think it will be wonderful.


I love celebrations and the meaningful rituals that can accompany them. It saddens me to see how much hullaballoo our society makes over Christmas-- and I do love Christmas-- yet how little is done for Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and many other perfectly good holidays. They could be such great opportunities but what do we have? Jellybeans. So standing at the very beginning of married life, I'm always looking for thoughtful holiday traditions.

Mind ye, the food traditions stand front and center, many already firmly ensconced. (Is that redundant? I mean, can you be anything other than firmly ensconced?) My family in particular loves to eat and cheerfully invests time, money, and thought in doing it well. These investments have resulted in Irish cheddar and roast leg of lamb for Christmas, perfect cranberry compote and cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving, ice cream cakes for summer birthdays . . . and an array of other options, occasionally repeated (who wants to eat the same thing all the time?) and always delicious.

Yes, our clan excels at feasting. We bear the burden with what grace we can muster.

Apart from the dinner table, though, I feel lacking in tradition when it comes to anything but Christmas.

This is where the Thankful Tree comes in. I would like to do this annually, and if I can accomplish it without too much clutter, save the tags from each year. How amazing it would be to look through ten years' worth of God's kindness to us! And how I want to ingrain gratitude into our family's life together. May Thanksgiving Day just be the climax of a year-round thanksgiving.

Once we have children I will go whole hog with the history lessons. Paper Mayflowers, here I come. :)

Now does anyone know of decent songs for this time of year? "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "Now Thank We All Our God" come to mind, but surely there's more than that. Do share.

what about lunch?

"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'What about lunch?'"
-A.A. Milne


Well. Here is something for lunch . . . whether specially made for noontime nibbles or as leftovers from last night's dinner. Either way, yum.

Indian Spiced Cauliflower
(original recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

1 large (3 lb) cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced jalapeno or serrano pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup water

1) Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Toss cauliflower florets with 3 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread in single layer in large baking dish and roast for 20-25 minutes, until tender and slightly browned.
2) Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in large skillet and saute onion, garlic, jalapeno, and ginger until onion is very soft. Add remaining cumin and salt, plus coriander and turmeric; cook and stir for a minute. Pour in water and scrape up browned bits.
3) Add roasted cauliflower to skillet and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed before serving.

04 November 2011

Weekend linkage

A bag for loot. Just what we all need.

Some loot for that bag: pint glasses adorned with the heads of Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and Spurgeon. I've got to get my hands on these.

Thought-provoking discussion on the dangers of being "Gospel-centered." (Hint: you can become more obsessed with defining the facts of the Gospel than knowing the God of the Gospel. Guilty!)

Custom-made chocolate is always a good idea.

A UFO sighting? Why didn't I know about this when I was at Hillsdale?!!

Soundtrack for work . . . sometimes I'm dignified. Sometimes I'm not. Postscript: if you have never listened to Punch Brothers, get to it right heartily.


Extra recipe! Mostly so I don't forget it. :) Hacked from Pioneer Woman, this is something I made Thursday night for my pasta-loving husband. I want to try it tossed with roasted cauliflower and steamed peas, myself.

A Serious Alfredo Sauce
(a.k.a. "Let's See How Many Dairy Products We Can Whisk Together")

1/2 lb whole wheat fettuccini
1/2 lb mild turkey sausage
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Emmenthaler
2 ounces cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1) Bring large pot of water to boil for fettuccini and cook as directed; in small skillet, cook sausage as desired (I buy slice it into halved coins).
2) Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan. Whisk in milk and let warm through.
3) Add cheeses and whisk until melted; season to taste with salt and pepper.
4) Toss drained pasta, cooked sausage, and completed alfredo sauce together. Serve immediately.

03 November 2011

egg and variations

Fried Egg Flower
Remember the frittata recipe I posted a while back, the one with sausage and potatoes and all that eggy goodness?

Turns out it's a stage for many variations. Such as: no sausage, no potatoes, not even half and half. Yes mushrooms, yes tomatoes, yes Havarti. No butter. Yes bacon fat. No onions. Yes garlic and broccoli and pesto and serrano peppers.

(Maybe not all at once.)

In essence, if you keep to the "saute some vegetables, whisk eight eggs and one teaspoon salt, pour all together, bake at 350" routine, you will have something delicious for breakfast or dinner . . . or both.

Just use what you have in the fridge.

How simple is that?

The frittata needs less salt if you leave out the potatoes, though. Word to the wise. Try three-quarters teaspoon.

{image: "Fried Egg Flower" by JC Becker}

02 November 2011

Well Written Wednesdays: why she couldn't

Both men laughed out loud.

Lizzie smiled, but it wasn't genuine. Though they'd become friends, she couldn't look at Rachel then. For the life of her, she couldn't understand why some were so blessed with children while others were not.

Rachel smacked Ledford on the arm. She smiled, but hers was as false as Lizzie's. A palpable guilt weighed on her for the way Ledford and told them, and she wished Lizzie would look at her. Rachel understood why she couldn't. She poured herself more tea and the ice in her glass cracked and settled . . .

In the front yard, Harold chased Mary in a figure eight between two maple trees. When he caught her . . . Willy rumbled over from where he'd been kicking a ball against the house. At a year and a half, his gait was not unlike a drunk man's, knock-kneed and zig-zag. He came to his sister's rescue. Harold allowed the little ones to pin him to the ground, no longer warm from the day's sun.

"Help," Harold hollered, and the adults on the porch watched with one eye while they talked.

-from The Marrowbone Marble Company by Glenn Taylor

(This, by the way, is a pretty awesome book.)

01 November 2011

and then there's you

I betrayed you with a little kiss
I thought you'd find someone better
And you forgave me even for this
Came to the upper room
Dragged me from the tomb

There is none both good and true
And then there's you

-from "The Only One" by Caedmon's Call