Vegetarian Fare, Family, and Friends

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I served a potato soup and quinoa vegetarian chili at our last mini-reunion in honor of Christy’s family and their BIG MOVE. Minnesota! 

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Clockwise: Owen, Christy, Isaac, Levi, Silas, Jim, Toby,  good friend George, My step-Mom Josephine, my sister-in-law Jerri, and mother-in-law Teresa

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Out of eleven guests around my dining table, only 3 ate the quinoa chili. You just never know. My friend Jessie brought a slow cooker full of this chili to one of our church ministry luncheons and our volunteers finished off the entire pot. Personally, I loved it, so I happily froze the rest from our family gathering in small portions for future lunches.

Quinoa Vegetarian Chili

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You can find the recipe for Quinoa Vegetarian Chili on many pinterest boards or go to Cooking Classy  here. As Jessie predicted, it’s a very forgiving recipe. So, switch out and add in to your liking. I left out the cilantro, lime, and cocoa powder because I didn’t have them on hand. I did sub homemade vegetable broth for the water to give the chili some extra flavor. And a bonus: I made another dent in clearing out my pantry before the new year with this recipe!

Potato Soup was often on my menu for Christmas Eve dinner before attending our church’s traditional worship service. I remember globbing in two cans of creamed soup per instructions, oblivious to the chemicals I added into the potato mixture. But this was twenty-five years ago and  canned soups have come a long way. Nowadays, I like this Perfect Potato Soup recipe from Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) which calls for making a flour slurry and pureeing part of the potato mixture. These techniques thicken up the soup without using the canned stuff.

Perfect Potato Soup

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This Perfect Potato Soup recipe can be found by going here.

In addition to Ree’s cooking instructions, I threw in some leftover broccoli that had been hanging out in my fridge towards the end of the cooking time. Make it vegetarian by using vegetarian stock instead of chicken stock. And I omitted the pepper because it makes Jim’s ears ring. Once the soup was heated through, I poured it in my slow cooker, tossed in a 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese, and kept it simmering on low.

Bowls of green onions, bacon, grated cheddar, and sour cream on the dining table were available for topping off the soup.  I think potato anything needs a lot of salt and pepper, so I had that handy as well.  

And now, may the Christmas cooking begin as we prepare to travel to Minnesota!

Happiness is playing in the snow!

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“Shares Well With Others”

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I remember my children’s kindergarten checklist of social behaviors like it was yesterday. It dominated their early education experience, looming large on a poster in the classroom, showing up again on the year end report card. On the home front, behavioral goals were stated in a variety of expressions, over and over and over again. (If I only had a nickel for every time we instructed our kids: Say please. Don’t forget to say thank you. Yes, you have to share the Hello Kitty Play House.)

Now it’s Christmas, and we’re reminded once again by our surrogate parents commercialism and social media to be kind to fellow humans and share well with others. ‘Tis the season for sharing to take center stage through gift giving, cookie exchanges, holiday meals, and random acts of goodwill toward men. Advertisements tout sharing at its finest, with a message to buy buy buy, give give give, so we can show friends and family what wonderful people we are. Aren’t we good sharers, we secretly exclaim. At Christmas time, we ace the kindergarten checklist.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think setting a specific time to be “shareful” is a positive thing.  I am a proud,  honor roll student of sharing. I delight in giving gifts, making food for others, inviting friends over to deck the halls with the best of pinterest. I find great joy in hunting for special treasures to bless loved ones.

Most importantly, I love celebrating Jesus and sharing His love.

But when we make sharing Jesus seasonal, we miss the lesson of long ago. Mrs. Orians, my children’s kindergarten teacher, got it right. The checklist stayed taped to the classroom wall all year long. When the boxes of kindness, love, peace, and sharing were checked for the day, the list stayed in its place to be checked off the next day and the day after, and the day after that. In our humanness we need reminders every second of every day.

In our richness, we easily forget to be sharers of Jesus’ love. In our churches, we get comfy with the familiar and content with the warmth of those around us. We forget that people are literally and figuratively out in the cold.  We need to be reminded to share the wealth of the compassion of Jesus.

I think it’s easy to forget that Jesus himself, not Christmas time, is The Reminder. Jesus, the Word in the flesh, speaks emphatically to Christmas Christians.  Blessed are those who retreat from riches to a posture of humbled hearts. Woe to the wealthy and powerful who lack this understanding.

In the fa la la of carol singing, we delegate the serious stuff of Jesus to the last refrain, if even that.

My Advent readings this Christmas are from Essential Writings, selections from books and lectures by Jean Vanier. Vanier chose to take up residence with a marginalized population, poor in spirit due to mental illness and physical disabilities. I do not relate to this. I am rich in many things and in many ways. Living with the most vulnerable of society is not in my plans. Yet, Vanier pushes me to at least share well with others, beyond a cushy Christmas commitment. Through Vanier’s work, I get a glimpse of what that looks like.

In his book, Be Not Afraid, Vanier quotes Jesus from the book of Luke and then follows it up with a few challenging statements of his own.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25)

Vanier adds: The rich man is rich precisely because he does not know how to give, because he does not know how to share. If he had known how to share he wouldn’t be rich any longer. He who has shut himself into a world of defensiveness and pride cannot enter into the kingdom of sharing. The key to the kingdom is openness, the place of peace, and of giving.

At sixty-one I’m like that five year old kindergartner, still learning how to share. Does defensiveness trip me up? Does pride get in the way? Am I closed off to others that need Jesus, or am I open?

I get the gift giving part. But the kind of sharing Jesus commands requires a lifelong learner.

 

 

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Levi, sharing a ride with little brother Toby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Likes of Senior Living

 

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Social media site, Gracednotes Ministries by author JoAnn Shade, boasts a smorgasbord of thoughtful pieces including small town living, grandparenting, contemporary issues, God moments, and stages of life. JoAnn bears the distinction of penning a Saturday column for our small town Ashland newspaper, as well. Today’s “hit home,” as she echoes my  sixty-something ponderings on senior living. Personally, I enjoy a bit of season sixty camaraderie with her graced notes as I process through with this little writing web space of my own.

JoAnn’s career focused on people helping through her lifelong leadership in the Salvation Army. Retirement, however, has not slowed her expressions of care for humankind.  Her website proves to be a delightful and inspired extension of caregiving ministry.

Click on Gracednotes Ministries for a motivational read if you are sixty-something and beyond. Not a member of the senior club just yet? Then indulge yourself in understanding us older folks. We appreciate it.

Thanks, JoAnn!

 

Teriyaki Turkey Stir Fry

 

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A stir fry is another way great way to use up that Thanksgiving turkey and incorporate turkey stock. This recipe is gluten free and tinnitus friendly for Jim. (Meaning this meal doesn’t cause his ears to ring.)

A friend suggested I share where I get my recipes. For the most part, I am creating them myself due to Jim’s food sensitivities. Cooking from scratch enables me to avoid feeding him foods that bother his ears. But when I am copying someone else’s recipes, or adapting mine from theirs, I will be sure to give credit where credit’s due!

Teriyaki Turkey Stir Fry                                                                Serves 4

Ingredients:

3/4 cup brown rice

2 cups turkey broth

6 tbsps. olive oil (I use vegetable oil for Jim.) Divided into 4 and 2 tbsps.

6 tbsps. brown sugar

4 tbsps. liquid aminos (If you haven’t read up on this soy alternative, I would highly recommend you check it out.)

1 minced garlic clove

2 tbsps. coconut oil (Again, vegetable oil for Jim.)

1/2 cup diced onions

1/2 cup diced celery

2 handfuls of fresh green beans

1 cup diced cooked turkey

Directions:

  1. Prepare rice by bringing the stock and rice to a boil. Turn heat to simmer and let the rice absorb the liquid for about 50 minutes. Go longer if needed. Once liquid is absorbed into the rice, turn off the heat, take off the hot burner, and let the rice sit for 10 minutes. This will help the rice get fluffy, although brown rice gets gummy quite easily. Go here for some good rice cooking tips.
  2. While rice is simmering, dice turkey, onions, and celery. Cut green beans into thirds.
  3. Prepare teriyaki sauce. Whisk together 4 tbsps. of the vegetable oil with the brown sugar, aminos, and garlic. Set aside 1/4 cup of sauce..
  4. Place diced turkey in the rest of the teriyaki sauce, cover, and put in fridge.
  5. On medium to medium high heat, heat 2 tbsps. oil in large sauté pan. I personally like my ceramic cast iron.
  6. Stir fry, (mixing constantly), the onions, green beans, and celery until green beans are tender, but still crunchy, about 5 minutes. Carrots would add good color and crunch as well, but they’re on Jim’s forbidden list.
  7. Add the diced turkey. Stir fry until turkey is thoroughly heated, about 3 minutes.
  8. Set pan aside until rice is done.
  9. Add rice to the pan. Stir in rest of the teriyaki sauce. Heat until hot, stirring constantly.

Hooray for another opportunity to use up some pantry and freezer items. I’m finally down to my last bag of rice and one turkey wing. Maybe for the new year I’ll be able to “start fresh” with an empty pantry to fill. (Probably not.)

 

 

 

 

Bones and the Lost Art of Walking

Reblogging this because I can’t find it on my main site. Hmmmm…..

Season Six(ty) life in the 60 something years

51muyUbo8fL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_The Last Great Walk by Wayne Curtis is the true story of seventy year old Edward Payson Weston who walked from New York to San Francisco. The year was 1909, when walking was a competitive sport and pedestrianism, taking long walks, was becoming less fashionable.  That new moving machine called the automobile quickly supplanted the more natural form of travel by foot. The age of travel ease was here to stay, insuring the lost art of walking for the American culture.

Award winning journalist Curtis (contributing editor for The Atlantic magazine) seamlessly blends the remarkable story of Weston’s foot travels with the science, sociology, history, and psychology of walking. While chronicling Weston’s walks and providing substantial background research, Curtis hooked me in with perspectives I hadn’t considered.

“By the early twentieth century American had more or less decided to stop walking. . . a form of mobility that had for millennia…

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The Cover Up

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On the first Saturday of each December, people in need are invited to Freebay in our church gymnasium, an all day free spree of “shopping” for new toys, household necessities, and clothes. 

My volunteer position for the day is the clothing area. As I listen to people’s stories while hunting for the right sizes, I see their brokenness. A woman supports her back with one hand, struggling to emotionally and physically stand under the ever present pain. Another shopper’s extra weight spills over the arms and seat of her wheelchair. I help her get closer to the tables of 2xl clothing. She doesn’t look at me and doesn’t appear to want my help. Frail men lean on walkers and follow their women folk, a few steps behind. Prematurely pinched, lined and resigned faces look for something they can’t seem to find. Honey, do you think this will fit? Maybe I’ll try it just in case.  Ma’am, do you think I can get a few of these?

Then there’s the younger crowd. Single Mamas juggle babies on hips, hoping for something, anything, to eliminate the anxiety of never having enough to get through a week. One pair of jeans just isn’t enough. Two would really be nice. But my daughter could really use a coat. Do you have any left??

I know some of our “shoppers” personally from our homeless ministry. One, a Mom of three, shares she finally found a place to rent. But the ceiling is peeling and much of it is falling to the floor. Should I or shouldn’t I?

Another, Mama to two boys from two Dads, just got in her own place. She’s doing well, thank you, and would love a few new things. We discuss her style and I find her some sweaters. My niece owns one pair of shoes. Any size sevens around?

I see and make friends with the widowed Grandmas in their sixties, finding clothes for the next single parent generation who lives at home. Oh, and I need some pants for my grandchildren. They live with us part time and the other grandma the other days. She doesn’t know nothin’ about dressing kids. 

I see the man in the orange jumpsuit, silver hair down his back, tool belt at waist. He rambles to anyone who will listen. No wonder no one wants this corduroy coat. The zipper is installed wrong! Do you think this jacket looks good on me?

I see a group of men and women who can’t say thank you enough as they fill up boxes of clothes for family and friends. I’m giving this to my neighbor’s kids. And if this doesn’t fit me, my Mom might like it.

And I wonder.

What do they see when they look at me?

Do they see my brokenness? Or is it all covered up with smooth skin hydrated by conscientious water consumption, gray hair that is treated with a natural dye, clothes that fit, and a smile that says life is good and I can’t wait to make your life better?

What do they see when they look at me? I wonder.

Do they see my brokenness? Or is it all covered up with my looks of concern for their difficulties, my masters degree competency to empathize, my zeal to help, and my reluctance to reciprocate with any part of my own story?

I wonder. Because brokenness is not magically erased by a look good life. I wonder if they know we’re all broken to some extent. Do they know what they see outwardly is not an indication of what’s going on inwardly?

I wonder. Do they know?

That no matter what, we all are in need of the same thing.

And I wonder if my cover up is so good that it’s even fooling me.

 

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The Fine Art of Turkey Gravy

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In my household, gravy only shows up for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ve just never gotten in the habit of making it for meals, even with meat and potatoes. So early on, gravy appeared from a glass jar, several years later I got brave and  graduated to a mix from a packet, and now I’ve arrived at a true pan gravy, complete with roux with gluten free flour, and homemade turkey stock.

It took me a while, but I finally can make a good gravy.

What’s been most helpful is watching the video of Ree Drummond, a.k.a Pioneer Woman, making a roux. For a few years, I attempted to thicken the gravy with a slurry, but for some reason a roux works better for me.

I’m one of those internet people that feels the need to over research whatever it is I’m exploring. Obsessive, but interesting (in my opinion). So here are some of my gravy discoveries so I could compare and contrast. But I’m sticking with the Pioneer Woman. Her gravy is rich in color and flavor. I loved it! It “served” us well at Thanksgiving and it will show up again at Christmas. Then good-bye to gravy till November 2016!

Pioneer WomanRee Drummond simmers giblets all morning on the stove until the turkey is out of the oven and it’s time to make gravy. She saves the giblet water to add to the drippings and stock, then chops up the giblets to add as the last step. I tried it this Thanksgiving and the giblet water added a lot of flavor. Funny, she advocates for canned chicken stock as the base with the turkey drippings, when it’s so easy to make your own (and tastier too).

Barefoot Contessa: Ina Garten (why do these women chefs need nicknames?) caramelizes onions first and also adds stock to the turkey drippings. In true lah-di-dah Hamptons fashion, a touch of cognac or brandy finishes off the gravy. Ina suggests a splash of heavy cream as well. I go with this addition if I have some on hand.

Trish’s Southern Cooking: Trisha Yearwood (called Trish, a more obvious nickname) goes with a classic gravy recipe with a twist: the addition of two chopped hard-boiled eggs. I’m convinced if I did this someone at my dinner table would notice and be disgusted. I won’t say who. If you try this, let me know how it tasted.

100 Days of Real Food: Lisa Leake boasts one of the easiest and most straightforward turkey gravy recipe. She also suggests using a fat separator. Years ago my sister-in-law got me one for Christmas and I’ve used it ever since, two days a year, of course!

If you want a good laugh, the first blog I wrote about making gravy I spelled roux as roué. Look it up, it’s pretty funny (and embarrassing).