Category Archives: comfort food

Winter’s Warmth

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Ice hit the concrete sidewalks and streets last Sunday morning, like many other wintry mornings in Missouri.  Looking outside the red twig dogwood glistened.  Dean and I waited a bit for temperatures to increase, and then managed to get to church.  It is an oxymoron, winter’s warmth.  It is what winter does for us.  Brings us indoors after weathering the cold, ice, and snow.  Much like life.  The warmth of home lures us back to comfort and simplicity. “Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” Gretchen Rubin writes.  Another author Dominique Browning contemplates, “the banal moments of the day are the most seductive to me. It is in the lighting of a fire on a cold morning, or in the pouring of wine and the pulling up of chairs to read together at the end of an afternoon of errands, that love really exerts its magic.” 

I miss a fireplace or wood stove to snuggle to in our little cottage, but have little niches in every room of our 4-room dwelling that seduce me.  My favorite room is the kitchen.  “So let’s dish out saucy praise for the place of crazy salads, spicy endearments, whispering souffles, sweetmeats, tender loins, and sticky fingers. That whirring, blending, mixed-up, soul-stirring, juice-dripping, hot-hearted room (the kitchen),” Dominique Browning writes in her book Slow LoveKind of spicy, you say.  That is what cooking in the kitchen does for my heart.  Another weekend snow has developed this afternoon.  Mini cheese-stuffed meatloaves, sweet potatoes, and banana-oat bread will grace our table this evening.  Tomorrow I will chop fresh veggies to saute with Italian sausage for Italian stone soup accompanied with fresh-from-the-oven bread sticks.  A casserole dish of homemade mac & cheese with a bowl of buttered edamame will be Sunday’s dinner.

I have plenty of library books to peruse and a jigsaw puzzle to piece together for this long weekend of winter warmth.  Besides Dean and I have each other to keep the fire going …

 

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Winter Hideaway

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The weather people have been telling us about this big winter storm coming to our region by the weekend. Amazing how they can view the weather patterns over the ocean and predict conditions 5 days out and 2,000 miles away.  Sleet, ice, and snow in that order.  Well, they are right about a winter storm.  Although snowflakes started a couple of hours ahead of their initial timeline, and the precipitation is snow rather than sleet.  Too cold for sleet and ice.  Thank God! But much more snow than first thought, now close to a foot by the end of the storm.

I am in the comforts of my home, and no plans to go out this weekend. Church may not be attended on Sunday.  Much depends on the city’s plowing services.  Just heard one go by. The neighbor boy cleared the walking path to the street late afternoon yesterday, and my Dean cleared it again this afternoon. We are ready if we had to go out.

So home equals comfort, the warmth of good food, robes, blankies, and candles. We went grocery shopping a couple of evenings ago based on the forecast, along with many others by the long checkout lines. Freshly baked orange-cranberry scones for breakfast, the buttery aroma enveloped our home. And then homemade chicken veggie soup for lunch. Relaxing this afternoon, so leftovers will do for dinner tonight.  A veggie lasagna will be made for Sunday dinner. A couple of library books at hand, a decorating one caught my fancy today, Cozy Minimalist Home.  I am writing with the warming orange flicker of the candlelight nearby.  The song birds are feeding outside the window before tucking in for the night. At this moment I would not trade this to a secluded sunny beach.  See how many more snow days before I change my mind!  Right now, all is good!

Change

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Midnight, our almost 13-year old Labrador wanted outside at 3:30 this morning. Odd, as he is usually sacked out on the couch at this wee hour of the morning. And then he did not want back in. Midnight wanted to lay in his backyard, and Dean left him there. Morning came an hour earlier today…Midnight & New Pillow 2016

As we set out for work this Friday,  I understood why Midnight wanted to stay outside. Our dog was welcoming the “change in the air”, the first of the family to feel the air switch directions, a cool brisk wind from the north.  It is an annual event, noticed by the animals and nature-sensitive people. This colder air brings the geese honking and ducks quacking overhead at sunrise and dusk. Deep-sighing breathes are taken in relief of the sultry summer heat.  Dinner menus change to comfort foods. Poems are even written about this change in the air. My oldest daughter wrote this poem in honor of this change and her mother saying every year …

The woods begin to vibrate with gathering and preparation. 

The sounds so crisp, electric.

Her words were “I felt the air change today.”

Red, orange, yellow, green, brown.

They dance while falling.

A choreographed waltz.

Every year she said “I felt the air change today.”

Beautiful, breathtaking, loyal.

The Canvas.

I think I felt the air change today.

With this change in the air comes thoughts of autumn and winter, getting the household, greenhouse, and gardens ready for the cold seasons. Another crop of greens will be sowed next week, maybe give us 2 or 3 more months of salads. Smaller pots and baskets of our perennials will be combined into bigger pots in preparation for their indoor home. But this time it is something more than a season change for our green life as said in the lyrics of A Change in the Air sung by Clint Black …

There’s something talkin’ in the wind
Whispering through the trees
That feeling in my bones again
Just puts me right at ease
It takes me back to all the times
I’ ve been here before
But crossroads, old familiar signs
Tell me there’s something more

Can’t explain, there’s something strange about the early fall
It’s comfort leaving me without a care
I remain but everything around me hears the call
And tonight I feel a change in the air

The leaves are turning, soon they’ll fall
There’s a norther blowing in
The memories flowin’, I recall
Those changes in the wind
But I can never try to understand
There’s nothing you can hold in your hand

Can’t explain, there’s something strange about the early fall
It’s comfort leaving me without a care
I remain but everything around me hears the call
And tonight I feel a change in the air

Yes I’ll surely feel a change in the air

Fall Quote

Ice Ice Baby

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“Ice ice baby, too cold.  Ice ice baby, too cold,” as the lyrics from singer Vanilla Ice go. We are under an ice storm warning here in Missouri.  Freezing drizzle.  Freezing rain.  Sleet.  Ice pellets.  Ice.  Whatever the frozen precipitation is called, it is slick.  No need to be out on the roads.  Stay indoors in the comfort and warmth of home, if at all possible.  Such a sharp contrast from last Friday.  I was in sunny Florida.  I welcome this surprise 4-day weekend winter hibernation as Dean and I’s government offices are closed today as most of Missouri is. Malls and shops closed mid-day.

Today it is 30 minutes of sweating to Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ To The Oldies, reading, blogging, caring for my indoor green friends, movie watching, and the homemade goodness of orange cranberry scones for breakfast, white chili for lunch, roasted root vegetables and sesame pork for dinner.  The weekend paperwork and housework will be tomorrow.

 

Lent, Love, Eagles, and Presidents

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So what do lent, love, eagles, and presidents have in common? They share this 4-day weekend in February!  And Dean and I shared these 4 days with my five grandchildren.  The kids took turns with video games, movies, building with Lego blocks, and cooking in the kitchen. I prepared cheese tortellini with a garlicky white sauce for our first Lenten Friday dinner this season. Our parish hosted a 3-hour mini retreat on prayer Saturday morning. A much needed spiritual renewal for me.  Saturday evening Hannah and I made chicken and dumplings which filled everyone’s belly and we had an extra portion for the “Souper Sunday” mission trip fundraiser. Overnight french toast and maple sausage welcomed our Sunday with Ella’s assistance.  Church-bound this snowy, sleety Valentine’s Day. We are warmed by God’s love.  Then gifts of hand-made palm crosses, sweetheart candies, flowers, and Italian cuisine fill this day of love.  Red and white sauces, heart-shaped pasta, meatballs, cheesy baked bread, and pizza.  The star chefs are my granddaughters, Hannah, Libby, and Ella.

On President’s Day Libby led her cousins in making chocolate pancakes.  The Lincoln Museum is a bit far for us, so in the afternoon we took a drive north of our hometown to the Mississippi River scouting for bald eagles. We saw a bald eagle perched in a tall bare tree across the mighty river, as well as gulls and a blue heron.  We meandered down the country highway to the Our Lady Of The Rivers shrine in Portage des Sioux.  A few more eagles were seen high in the trees along the way.   This warmer afternoon had the ice and snow melting to a slush.  Perfect for snow balls!  Not sure who threw the first one, but it became a free-for-all for a good 20 minutes under the Blessed Mary’s statue.  Libby wondered what Mary must have thought.  I think Mother Mary rather enjoyed seeing us all having fun this winter afternoon!  A few wet shoes and stinging fingers, we warmed up with hot chocolate and marshmallows when we got home.  A wonderful weekend to share with the younger generation.

January Blahs and Baking

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I have had little energy the past few days, turning into bed early hoping to feel better the next morning.  Extra glasses of water and hot tea are being consumed.  Tuesday into Wednesday I awoke with my throat on fire, and needed to prop up on double pillows in order to breathe.  The seasonal allergy snuffles definitely became a bacterial infection. My Dean seemed to feel worse than I with his croupy cough.  We stayed home from work, and visited our doctors in the morning.  Antibiotics were ordered treating a sinus infection for each of us. The January blahs indeed.  Naps and cooking shows filled the day.  Bone-in chicken breasts simmered all day in the crock pot, and made a healthy, tasteful stock for homemade chicken & dumplings.  I had heard years ago, homemade stock made with real bone-in meats makes a health-filled potion.  Adding vinegar, wine, or beer brings out the collagen from the bone marrow.  I always add a bottle of beer or a glass of wine to the crock pot.  I coached my granddaughter, Libby with the dumpling recipe and shared with her my secret ingredient, a pinch of nutmeg.  Warm, comfort food filled our dinner bowls by evening.

I do not bake much as the sugar and calories are not needed as I age.  Though I have been so inspired by the CutThroat Kitchen episodes I watched this week as well as the German influences while in Hermann, Missouri last weekend.   In my memory bank, is an old favorite this morning, blueberry-almond kuchen.  While in this rental house I have limited kitchen appliances and spices, as well as my recipe box is still at our home. By memory, I create a blueberry-vanilla kuchen.  No almonds or almond extract in the rental house pantry.  I substitute with a home-brew vanilla extract and use vanilla yogurt instead plain yogurt.  A hand beater and muscles rather than my stand-up KitchenAid cream the low-fat cream cheese, yogurt, eggs, and sugar.  Nutmeg goes in the butter crumb topping for a nutty flavor rather my standard cinnamon or cardamon left at the house.  Sweet baking aromas fill the air this Sunday morning.  Warmth filled our tummies once again.

This last day of January begins with a spectacular sunrise.  Another unseasonably warm day is in store.  Dean and I are feeling much better with a few rounds of antibiotics.  I cleaned and finished up laundry yesterday while Dean worked on one of the vehicles. With the weekend chores completed, we have this Sunday to attend Mass and go play.  An afternoon walk around the displays at the Train Show will help me burn off that serving of Blueberry-Vanilla Kuchen I indulged in this morning.

Blueberry-Vanilla Kuchen

Dabbled Gray Sky Against Walls Of Color

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The dabbled gray sky has turn white this morn.  A welcome sight.   Big heavy snowflakes.  Midnight heard me say “snow” while hunkered in his bed next his master’s side of the bed.  Up he arose, click-clack on the wood floors, stretching before reaching the back door.  Our Labrador was excited to go outdoors to see the white spectacle.  We sure welcome this snowy Saturday.

Dean and I visited the house again today.  Renovations are coming along nicely. Drywall and mud have been completed.  The painter is working over this Saturday.  Splashes of our new color choices were on the walls yesterday.  Today the whole walls are cool hues, such a contrast to the gray sky.  A shade of teal and blue in the kids’ room.  Two shades of grayed blue in the 2nd bedroom. The master bedroom is “kissed blossom”, just a touch of lavender-pink.  The bathroom is “bungalow white”.  The living room has “pillow mint” suggesting a restful room.  The adjoining kitchen ‘s”sweet mint”is a tinge deeper shade, reminds me of our garden herbs.  Such a cool palette.

Dean and I finished a few Saturday errands, pet food and wild bird seed at the old town country store and a few other items at the crowded grocery store. The sky lightened for a bit, but soon the gray returned.  A table lamp and cup of hot peach tea bring warm comfort into the house as I write.  I anticipate more snow before the night is over.  Temps are dropping and will dip down in the teens overnight. White bean chili and sweet potato muffins will bring coziness to the dinner table tonight. Might find a jigsaw puzzle to busy myself with this evening while the cats curl in their furry balls. Snuggle time with a warm throw, maybe Dean and Midnight to join on the couch.

 

 

The Winds Whirl And Another Generation Gone

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GrandpaEarl'sMilitaryHonorsThe winds whirl late in October right into November. Such a reminder that autumn is amidst, and the chilly season will blow right into winter before too long. My heart has been so heavy these days. Not felt like writing. My Grandpa passed away on October 20, one day after his 99th birthday. Grandpa was the oldest of five generations in our family for almost 13 years. My oldest granddaughter will be officially a teenager this month of November. And I part of the “club generation”. Where does the time go? Grandpa Earl donated his body to science. We need to figure out how a ornery cuss like him lived so long. In Grandpa’s latter years, as his body was failing him, yet his mind kept him young. “There is a fountain of youth. It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age,” Sophia Loren once said. I will miss my grandfather’s storytelling and sense of adventure. A simple welder and WWII veteran, Grandpa received a military honor at his memorial service on October 30 with “Taps” played with a single trumpet. Very touching.
The winds whirl with a cold rain this November day. Our labrador-flat coat retriever, Midnight has been Grandpa’s dog, my father’s dog, and now ours. Midnight is playful like Grandpa. Today our 9-year old dog sits in the rain amongst the leaves, probably dreaming of his earlier duck hunting days with Grandpa and Dad. I suppose Grandpa and Dad are catching up on hunting and fishing stories now … I rest in my home this weekend. A homemade veggie-herb soup will be simmering soon … maybe cure what ails me, or at least bring comfort. Midnight

All My Children

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All Saints ChurchAll My Children … Isn’t that the name of a daytime drama? If you had not heard yet, there has been daytime and nighttime drama in St. Louis, Missouri area this past 8 days. A community is at unrest due to the fatal shooting of an 18-year black man by a white police officer in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson. Protests turned to riots have lead major destruction in St. Louis County. Upheaval with law enforcement, prosecutors, government officials locally up to federally, and racial activists have made Ferguson known globally. I work for St. Louis County Government housed in the police headquarters building working in the benefits and retirement office. The sounds of security dogs, helicopters circling, and target-shooting bullets are foreign to everyday Clayton, Missouri which is the county seat of St. Louis County. This week I heard it all. And I felt and heard the turmoil of several civil and police employees. I administer the employee assistance services, make sure counselors are there for any one of them … all my children.
It was the longest week I had worked. On Friday, my husband picked me up from my office building, our usual car-pooling routine. We drove out of St. Louis County homeward bound. Home sweet home. We decided to stop in for a beer and a bite to eat. Old Town St. Peters American Legion Hall, our destination. Americana at its best. Long-hairs and farmers celebrate in unison the weekend with a beer in one hand and a fried chicken wing in the other. All I could hear was happy conversation and laughter. Beer mugs clanging like cymbals. Music. Songs of joy. The most comforting sounds I heard all week. And despite it all, the Ferguson Farmers’ Market continued on Saturday and parishioners congregated and prayed in their churches on Sunday. Foundational truths do not change. Food and faith still remain the foundation of what man and woman needs. With today’s sermon I was reminded of the Biblical story of the Cannaanite woman that others would have ignored, but Jesus paid attention to this mother’s persistant request for her daughter. With faith I pray … Oh God hear my cry for all my children, youngest to the oldest, black, white, simple-minded, disabled, rich, poor. But if not for the grace of God, any one of us are unworthy. But God You give us each the gift of Jesus Christ. Accept and receive His forgiveness, so that you in turn can show the same towards others. So be it.

Winter Wellness

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At my full-time job I am inundated with wellness information constantly. Everyone and their brother have a new service or product to sell for one of the seven dimensions of wellness. I will expand on that concept in another post in the future. Working with employees on their wellness needs brings it back to me asking “what I am doing to take care of myself”? Creative ideas, programs, products, white papers, aggregate reports, diets, menus, and so forth pop in my head at any moment. Some of those ideas I apply to myself. Tai Chi and Weight Watchers At Work for this season in my life… This cold winter proves a challenge for many of us while we hibernate in our warm homes. Though this year I have devoted 10 minutes every morning to the 4-3-2-1 exercise routine … 4 minutes of cardio, 3 minutes of resistance, 2 minutes of abs, and 1 minute for stretches. This replaces the outdoor walks in nicer weather. Not only do I keep my body from idleness, in the evenings I fill the brain with articles, books, garden catalogues, blogs, poetry, art, and classic movies while curled on the recliner with a blanket sipping a cup of hot tea. In a few days the Winter Olympics will come to our TV screen after the Super Bowl hype is over. Meantime, I have picked up once again my copy of A Place of My Own written by Michael Pollan. He writes about simple living in a place he built. This so relates to the greenhouse we built, thinking “look at what our hands have made”. No, look at what Dean has made. I credit my husband for his craft, skill, and diligence. My plants survive like I in the winter, but become vibrant once again come spring.
A couple of evenings ago I shared on this blog my healthy dinner menu and a recipe. (See “On The Menu”.) Last night we had comfort food, warm comfort to counteract the winter cold. I made a healthier version of chicken dumpling soup with a homemade veggie, herb,and chicken stock before spooning the herbed dumpling batter into the boiling brew. Did you know if you add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the liquid while cooking bone-in meat, more collagen and other anti-inflammatory nutrients will be drawn from the bones? This reserved liquid gold will be used for a seafood chowder recipe I have been mulling over in my mind for this weekend. My culinary vocabulary book cleared up the one question I had, “what is the difference between chowder and bisque?” Chowder has chunks of vegetables, and bisque has a puree of vegetables. Both often have cream in or served with. I will lighten my recipe with milk. I will make more stock from scallops. Cubed potatoes, shredded carrots, chunked celery and a medley of herbs will fill the soup pot just in time for the next arctic blast blowing Missouri’s way on Monday. This is my winter wellness. Cooking healthy foods, reading, writing, and those morning exercises.