Friday, September 23, 2011
I have become more and more frustrated and annoyed with the general atmosphere of politics, over the past few years. I found a lot of the nastiness pointed at Bush to be distasteful and rude, but I support free speech and so I would politely disagree and then fall silent. People have a right to call him whatever they want, after all, even if I happen to think they're being rude. However, now that Obama is in office, I find that suddenly, that isn't quite true. I've seen people who made rude comments about Obama suddenly receiving death threats from mysterious places. I've heard of claims of racism aimed at people simply because they disagreed with Obama's political policies. I have witnessed much less rancor toward Obama, largely because anything said about or in his general direction seems to be accompanied by claims of racism and class warfare.
If you find this little notice offensive... then you probably don't want to be my friend. I'm not saying you need to shuffle off, but I am what I am. I tend to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I believe in helping out things like Planned Parenthood, and I also think that Welfare shouldn't be run by the government. I don't want socialized healthcare and despise the "Obamacare" that is being pushed on us. I am disturbed by many of the methods used by Obama, even when I occasionally agree with the things he has done. It is a matter of the end NOT justifying the means. I am me, and that means that I am not "like all Republicans." Nor am I like "all pagans." I am not (and I believe no one is, to be honest) "all" anything. I'm human, with foibles, a temper, failings, and feelings.
There is a chance that you may find yourself no longer on my "friends" list on FaceBook or GooglePlus. This has nothing to do with your character... but likely has to do with your responses to articles like the one I just mentioned. I simply no longer want to read mindless responses to ignorant articles. It bothers me. It doesn't mean I never want to talk to you again; it does mean I'd please like you to keep your politics and your "all or nothing" stance to yourself.
Amen, Ashe, So mote it be.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
No, today the calling was for fudge. Oh yeah, fudge, that gooey, rich goodness that rots your teeth and calls the Plaque Monster in to play. That pan of delicious chocolate insanity mixed with more sugar and butter, with no excuses for diets or points or blood sugar levels. Yes, I felt a definite call to make fudge today.
Think about it - they know I was recently ordained (they = everyone in the neighborhood). They know I'm living at the parsonage right now. They know I'm ... different. And now I'm clutching a baggie from the store and giggling quietly to myself. What would YOU think?
When it's nice and smooth, you can choose to mix in nuts, marshmallows, crushed candies, or whatever your li'l old heart desires. Mix well, then pour into well greased baking pans. I picked up 8" x 8" tin foil pans about an inch deep, and they did quite well. One recipe as listed here filled one pan nicely. If you want to have a dusky top or embed some kind of candy in the top, do it after it's been in the fridge five minutes. Take your pan, pop it in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Then eat.
Now... While you're waiting that long, lonely two hours, why don't you lick your spoon or spatula? Then the measuring cup. Then anything else that touched the chocolate. Don't let it go to waste!
I'm making nice roast chicken breast for dinner, with fresh beets, fresh pan fried potatoes, sauteed cabbage, and coined fresh carrots. After all that goodness and healthiness, we'll need some old fashioned pan fudge.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
SPLIT PEA SOUP WITH HAM
* ham bone or pork broth
* a total of 14 cups of liquid, starting with the pork broth if you have it, and ending with the water
* cut up cooked ham (half inch cubes work best)
* 2 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 large or 3 medium carrots, coined
* 3 medium potatoes, diced (skin on, preferably)
* 1-2 cups split peas (your choice of color)
* 1/2 cup pearl barley
* 1/2 cup lentils (optional)
* spices to taste (I use salt, pepper, fresh parsley, and oregano
Put your broth on to heat, or put the ham bone into the water (or mixed liquid) and bring to a boil. If you are working from a bone, let it boil for a half hour and then take it out, and continue with the recipe. Add your ingredients to the broth (except the salt - do that at the end) and bring it back to a full boil, then put it down to a low simmer and allow your soup to simmer for at least two hours, but the longer the better. Serve with crusty bread or fresh baked soda bread!
Now, when I make this, I usually tweak it a little. You can add any root vegetable you like - potato, carrot, onion, garlic, jerusalem artichoke, even sweet potatoes, though that makes it too sweet for my personal taste. When hubby isn't eating it, I also add parsnip and cabbage (parsnip goes in with the other veggies, and the cabbage gets put in during the last half hour before serving). You might want to add more potato, or more lentils or split peas, depending on how thick you like your broth. Some people don't put any of the vegetables in until the last half hour, and before they do they puree the broth and meat into a kind of paste. I personally don't like it that smooth, but it's another option.
If you're serving this to friends you want to impress, reserve a sprig of parsley or any other fresh herb to put on top of the bowl, and add a tablespoon of cream over the top of the soup, in a pattern. It will sit on top and look very pretty, indeed! Admittedly, once you've made this a couple of times, they won't be looking at it - they'll be digging into it with great gusto. Trust me on this!
I made this today, for our dinner this evening. I didn't add much pepper because of the kids, and I cut my onions very big (we have one kid who doesn't like onions but is fine if she can pick them out). I didn't add parsnip or turnip because we didn't have any, and I added a bit extra in carrots and potatoes because we did have them and they're from a local organic farm.
The broth I used was the water I'd boiled the ham in two days ago when I made ham for our dinner. It wasn't a bone-in ham (though I have one in the freezer!), so I reserved the liquid for soup. You put it in the fridge for at least a day, and skim off any fat from the top before using it in this recipe. All our left-over ham went into the soup, along with our acquired veggies and a package of "split pea soup mix" of split peas (thank you Manischewitz!! check out the ingredient list on the split pea package that I just used!). I picked these up at the local "bump and dent" store for a dime each, and I use two packages for this recipe made with 14 cups of liquid. It's almost as easy to make with the regular split peas, but this had such a nice mix, and was so convenient and cheap. I couldn't have purchased the split peas for so inexpensive!
One of the wonderful things about this soup is its flexibility. Not only can you mix around the ingredients, if you find you've made too much (this rarely happens around here - my soup pot isn't big enough LOL) it is very simple to put into a plastic container and freeze it. When you want to cook it, dump the frozen chunk into a pot and heat on medium until it's defrosted and hot enough. You might need to loosen it up with a bit of water, as it tends to get thicker when frozen. Regardless, it's really yummy out of the freezer, too! When I have the big stock pot available, I sometimes make gallons of this soup and freeze it in "family size" containers (quart size freezer bags). It's a really quick dinner that everyone likes, and the more you make of it, the cheaper it is (true of almost all soups).
Friday, September 16, 2011
And now... the recipe!
GREEN TOMATO DILL PICKLES
Sweet green peppers
2 qts. water
1 qt. vinegar
1 c. salt
Use small, firm green tomatoes. Pack into sterilized Kerr jars. Add to each jar a halved clove of garlic and several slices of green pepper. Make a brine of the water, vinegar and salt. Add the dill and cilantro and boil for 5 minutes. Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes to within 1/2 inch of top of the jar. Put on cap, screw band firmly tight. Process in boiling water bath 15 minutes. These will be ready for use in 4-6 weeks. This amount of liquid fills 6 quarts.
This recipe is based on the one from Cooks.com, which I totally love. The changes I made were to put them into tiny jam jars with plastic lids, and with the plan to keep them in the fridge you no longer need to process them in a water bath. If you process them, you can open them in 4-6 weeks, but if you make fridge pickles, wait the full six. I halved this recipe because I only had a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes suitable for pickling.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
All this changed tonight, though. Well, okay not the canning and growing part, but the "enjoying the harvest" part changed. A friend of sis's gave us her last pick-up at the co-op farm up the road. Tonight was their very last night before shutting down for the winter, and we were given her credit so that we could go and choose whatever we wanted. We walked into the barn/office area and were met the the smells and sights that I've missed all summer: fresh vegetables from wall to wall!
After finding out how it worked, we went and picked out our "nine items." Each item was figured differently. For instance, "one item" of potatoes was measured as two pounds. One item of beats was a bunch. One item of small squash was two squash. We looked everything over twice, drooling at the fresh, succulent look of it all, and then made our choices. The girl twin was with us, and piped up about what she wanted.
Our take for the night, out of the main harvest room: 2 pounds of fresh carrots, 2 pounds of fresh beets, minus the greens, 2 pounds fresh white potatoes, one (very large) bunch of beautiful leeks, 2 pounds of mixed red and yellow onions, one solid head of savoy cabbage (my favorite!), 5 field cucumbers (per the girl twin), two small pumpkin-style squash, and 2 pounds of huge tomatoes.
We managed to find delicate and aromatic baby dill, cilantro, and broad leaf parsley. The scent of them still clings to my fingers now, and it's the smell of summer's end. We also got about a pound of green beans which I picked off the bushes. The girl picked out several beautiful flowers to make a bouquet for her room. Then we discovered the field of cherry tomatoes. I wish we hadn't lost the light (we were picking in falling darkness and rain, by the way, in dresses and skirts and short sleeves) because I could have stayed there for HOURS.
The girl was ecstatic when she realized she could EAT those tomatoes and no one would get upset with her. She ate two for every one that made it into her bag, and I don't care one whit. It was wonderful to see her so happy. She's a gardening child, and desperate for getting her fingers dirty in the spring. She's definitely got a wee bit of me in her, biology notwithstanding. I gathered up quite a few firm and beautiful green cherry tomatoes, with the idea that I might attempt to make some pickled green tomatoes tomorrow afternoon. I love them so, and I never get to make them because there's either not enough time, or they get eaten fried up in batter. Since I'm the only one home tomorrow, I might just make two little jars of them.
It felt good to put all those fresh vegetables into the fridge. Tomorrow I'm making ham and split pea soup, because I made ham last night and we have leftovers. It will now also contain some of those fresh potatoes, some of the carrots and onions, and those pretty flowers will grace the table. The night after that, I can already taste the fried cabbage and boiled fresh beets, dripping with butter and a tiny bit of salt...
Now I can go into the autumn without too many qualms. I'm still sad that there aren't an abundance of clean, sparkly jars filled with summer's labor on my shelves, but that's okay. Instead, they'll be filled over the winter with empty jars stored upside down, ready for next summer and autumn's harvests to fill them. I can't wait!
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The questions flew fast and furious through my brain. Who the heck did I think I was? What in the name of Pete was I doing? Me, a minister? Responsible for other people's problems and souls and hearts? I couldn't even find my way out of my own depression; how in the world was I going to manage to help someone else through their Dark Time?
Of course, the answers are a lot more complex than the questions (and admittedly, they're not exactly simple themselves!). There is a group of people that believe we can only help others if we have gone through the issues ourselves. In other words, my depression and angst was not (IS not) a drawback, but a plus, a positive thing. That said, I still struggle with the idea that my own depression sometimes debilitates me, and that makes it hard for me to be open and available to others. The big question, "Am I fit for ministering to others?" really does repeat in my head. Often.
One of my religious mentors has taught me a lot about depression. She suffers from it too, and there are times when I've seen her doubled over in the back of the church, praying that she'll get through the service. It never stopped her from holding my hand, though, and saying, "It's okay, we can survive this." When the inner pain rises and I have trouble seeing the light, I think of her and if I'm lucky I talk to her, and even though it doesn't make everything "alright" I am left with the knowledge that I will survive. It will get better.
I'm a minister. It's a verb, not a noun, at least the way I use it. That means I DO more than I AM, if that makes sense. When there is nothing else I can do, I put my hands together (or get on my knees or cover my hair, or whatever seems to fit the moment) and I pray. Sometimes when I pray, I pray about how ticked off I am that my gods would dare to inflict this iniquity upon me. As Mother Teresa supposedly said, "I know God won't give me more than I can handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much!" Other times I beg for relief, for the darkness to recede and the light to return. I even wallow in it, sometimes, taking time to sit on the Pity Pot and whine about "Oh Poor Me!" When I'm done... I stand up and thank my gods, and I do my best to get back to work.
For all those who suffer from the heavy load of depression, know that we can survive this. It means a bit of time that isn't comfortable or happy, but we can make it through. Hold on, pray to your gods, and try to keep your nose above water. If you need to, talk to a therapist or minister or counselor, and know that we talk to OUR counselors, too. You are not weak; you are strong, even when (especially when) you don't realize it.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Hungarian paprika is not like American paprika. It has flavor, very distinct, somewhat smokey, and the hot is quite hot. It has a very rich color, not red, but more like a burgundy shade. It even smells different from the American stuff, with an aroma that tickles the nose with a slight peppery tease.
Put the pot'o'goodness into the oven at 350F for about an hour, with a lid on. After that, check frequently (about every 15 minutes) to make sure the water doesn't evaporate. You can take the lid off, too. Poke around in the pot and see how tender your meat is. If you have thighs with backs attached, you'll know it's ready when the meat starts to fall off the bones!
Now, on to the cabbage you've been looking at! Again, we're going to replace my grandmother's lard with chicken broth. Into the bottom of a large pot (large enough to hold your cabbage!), pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and add a few bits of raw bacon. Saute until they are mostly cooked, and then add some diced or sliced onion. I usually put in one large onion per head of cabbage (and my cabbage is generally the size of three fists together, though the one pictured is about two-fist size). Add a bit of garlic, some paprika (okay, a LOT of paprika), salt and pepper, and then let the onions cook until they begin to soften and go clear (see second picture).
This dish is ready when the cabbage is soft and falling apart, quite red, and the liquid is almost all gone. The last little while you'll have to stick around and stir to keep it from burning. It's a good time to make your 'gravy' for the chicken! Taste to see if it needs more salt or pepper - sometimes I add a bit, other times I don't.
These two dishes are often served together, along side some corn with butter, a nice, warm crusty bread, and egg noodles or spetzel. We usually pour the gravy over the chicken and noodles, and put fresh sour cream onto the top of the whole thing. It's a very easy dish to make, doesn't require a lot of finicky preparation, and tastes like you spent all day in the kitchen. You WILL be asked to make this again, and again, and again...