Monday, December 29, 2008

Words Worth Remembering

This morning in those few minutes of laying awake before getting out of bed, listening to Mark sleep and listening via baby monitor to John sleep too I was thinking about the words that I have heard since we found out that we were told 'you have miscarriage, it happen, 20% women, so sorry, go wait in lobby'. A few of those words have been well worth remembering, reminders that our baby is real, that our grief is real, that we should take the time not only to grieve but also that I should be resting and taking the time to heal physically too. Unlike the death of a born loved one an early miscarriage brings with it more lack of understanding than sympathy, and in a world where gift certificates to Planned Parenthood can be purchased that's not surprising at all, the value of life is this country and indeed in this world is pretty low, the value of unborn life lower yet, after all at the developmental stage that our precious child stopped growing many don't even recognize a human life, let alone one that is loved, anticipated with joy and now grieved more deeply than I realized grief could go. Many things stand out as comforting at this point, two particularly this morning.

Our friends who learned from friends that it was okay to name their unborn child, seems silly to need permission to do so, but it helps that even though our baby was too early in development for us to know whether she was a boy or girl, we felt like girl and so went with it and named her Katherine. In a world where the nurses still use the words 'product of conception' until you use the word 'baby' enough for them to be comfortable in using it, a name is a nice thing to hold onto and there is just know way that I could use the word 'it' for a precious life given by God even if taken so early. One other thing stands out this morning, a poem in a card sent by a friend:

Sometimes a lifetime is lived
in the space of a single breath
...a heartbeat...
or a thought in the mind of God.

No matter how long your unborn child
nestled beneath your heart,
it's brief life was no less precious
than one whose span is measured in years,
and the pain of your loss no less real.

May your heart find comfort in the promise
that you will be together again someday,
for the bond of your love is everlasting.

You are enfolded in prayer.

In side this card is tucked the ultrasound picture in which we can see Katherine's little 1cm long body, her heart had already stopped, and though I didn't get to hold her in my arms here I will treasure her picture, the memory of the joy of knowing that she was here, and the knowledge that she is safe, perfect, happy and in heaven praising God. I still can't sing the Sanctus without thinking of a little curly haired girl singing her heart out with those same words, but through the tears it always makes me smile to think that she probably carries a tune better than her mommy ever did.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Bitter Pill

A very good friend of mine called miscarriage a bitter pill to swallow. I find that her statement is not only true, but that it is not only bitter but that it is a pill that doesn't stay swallowed. Christmas Eve a very concerned and caring mommy took me aside to talk with me, she miscarried three children, the most recent 16 years ago, and as she talked to me and comforted me I could see the pain in her eyes and hear it in her voice. I am only weeks from finding out that our baby died before I could even hear it's heart beat, and I will admit that my feelings are pretty raw even though today with the hormones straightening themselves out I find that they aren't as raw as they were yesterday. I'm not so sure what my goal is here, or that I have one, I know that losing this baby has changed me and just as I have never been the same since I met and married my true love, just as life has never been the same since we adopted our precious boy, just as life has never returned to be like it was before either my dad or Mark's mom died, life now is changed forever and there is nothing I can do to make it go back to what it was before I found out I was pregnant and before we received the news that we wouldn't hold our child this side of heaven. I know other families have suffered through this, I know that other women have survived and I'm sure that I too will someday talk to another mommy who lost their precious child without getting to hold them in her arms and she will be able to see the pain in my eyes and hear the pain in my voice as I comfort her. There have been many people who have helped me through this thus far, and then there have been those who can't figure out what to say so avoid the subject or me and then of course there are those whose words hurt even though I'm sure they didn't mean for that to be the case. Having someone to talk to about all this has helped me immensely and I find that now I have come to the point where I need to talk/write and so that is my plan to do here. It may be several posts, it may be just this one, it might come and go for years, at this point I can't imagine how I will make it through the 9th of July, our calculated due date, but by God's grace I know that I will and somehow I will swallow this bitter pill and if my ramblings help anyone else maybe that will take the edge off the bitterness as time goes by.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Andouille Cream Farfalle

For years I've tried to replicate a dish that I enjoyed at Applebees and that they no longer make. Just recently I finally stumbled upon the right combination to keep the sauce light and creamy, cream, huh, who woulda thought, obviously not me for years, but finally I have it and now I'd like to share. The original dish was made with blackened chicken, we prefer it with Andouille sausage but like it with grilled chicken breast too.

Andouille Cream Farfalle - 4 servings

1 ½ Smoked Andouille sausages, remove casing and slice into 1/4" rounds
2 c dried whole wheat Farfalle, cooked al dente, drained
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small onion, fine dice
½ bell pepper, fine dice (we like yellow best)
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, fine dice
4 T unsalted butter
1/4 c heavy cream
Mark’s Essence
kosher salt

Saute onion, bell pepper, tomato and garlic in butter. When the veggies are soft and starting to caramelize a bit add the sausage and continue to stir and cook until the sausage is hot through. Add drained Farfalle and cream, stir until thoroughly mixed and continue cooking until hot. If needed add a little more cream or butter to keep the sauce loose. Add salt and essence to taste. When we can't get the rich cheesy smelling butter that comes from a local dairy here we use regular unsalted butter and add 1/2 c of grated Gruyere, either way it's one of our favorites.

Mark’s Essence - we call it this because it's similar to Emeril's but with my dh's own twist.

2 ½ T smoked paprika
2 T salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 T onion powder
1 T cayenne pepper
3 T crushed red pepper
1 T oregano
1 T thyme

Combine in a spice grinder and grind until desired consistency, store in a shaker.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mushroom Fan?

I'm not really. They are okay here and there, but I really don't like the texture of them much and so when everyone else is all agog about running out into the woods getting morels or what have you, I'm fine staying home and missing out on the craze. I finally did find a way that I LOVE them, chopped beyond recognition and put in soup, go figure. Actually in our pursuit to get rid of the processed foods and chemicals and such in our diet I've been working on finding a good substitute for the ubiquitous cream of mushroom soup that shows up in so many recipes. Well the search is over, and while it's a bit of work it's so worth it. Today we tried it in Sour Cream Enchiladas but I can't wait to try it in several other applications. So here, I'll share...

Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe - recipe makes 2 cans worth

1 pound regular white mushrooms, cleaned, quartered or sliced
1 T lemon juice
1 T unsalted butter
2 T minced shallots
1 T chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 t fresh ground pepper
2 c half and half
3 chicken bullion cubes
2 T cornstarch
1/4 c dried parsley

Chop mushrooms in a food processor with lemon juice.

Melt butter in a (4-5 quart) sauce pan and lightly saute shallots on medium heat. Add mushrooms, thyme and bay leaf, saute over moderate heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the liquid the is released from the mushrooms disappears.

Add bullion cubes to cream, heat just enough to dissolve bullion. Add to mushrooms along with pepper and parsley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cornstarch, dissolved in a little water and stir until thickened and boiling.

To use in recipe: This makes 2 cans worth, use as is.

To serve as soup: Add 1 ½ cups water prior to adding cornstarch.

And here's the recipe for those Sour Cream Enchiladas, I'm guessing they make at least 8 adult servings and with a side dish they could easily go to 10 or even 12.

Sour Cream Enchiladas

1 pound ground beef or deer
1 can Rotel
chili powder
garlic powder

1 recipe Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 c sour cream
3/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
14 oz canned green chilies

8-10 large flour tortillas
1 large onion chopped
1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Meat: Brown ground beef or deer. Add pureed Rotel, and salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin to taste.

Sauce: Add all ingredients and heat over medium until cheese is melted and the sauce is very warm but not too hot to handle.

Assembly: Grease a 9x13-inch pan. Coat the bottom of the pan with a generous layer of sauce. Place a ladle of sauce, a portion of the meat and some chopped onions in the center of a tortilla, roll and put seam side down in the pan. Continue until all meat and tortillas are used, pack them into the pan pretty tightly. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, making sure to get it down in between and in the ends of the enchiladas. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly and slightly browned on the top. Fresh this takes about 35 minutes or so, refrigerated allow 45 minutes to an hour.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Glazed Carrots and Fried Chicken

Mark is spending the afternoon and evening at the country parish today and so is taking 'lunch' actually supper with him. His favorite food ever has always been fried chicken and we spent years not making it because I just couldn't get it to come out right, nice and crunchy on the outside, done yet moist on the inside, and spicy but still chickeny flavored. I finally got that solved with this recipe from my all-time favorite cooking show:

Good Eats - Fried Chicken

I only make two changes to the recipe:

1. Add enough hot sauce to the buttermilk to make it a nice rosy pink.
2. Use Emeril's Essence for the spice, well okay it's Emeril's original recipe but I leave out the paprika and double the amount of cayenne in it - do you see a pattern here.

Since Fried Chicken is Mark's absolute favorite and we are really trying to do healthy stuff I decided it was time to find new sides. Mashed potatoes, corn, peas and gravy just don't need to be eaten every week, well at least we don't need to eat them every week. This week I made it with pasta salad, just a throw together using Italian Dressing, a little feta and whatever veggies were around and the most scrumptious Glazed Carrots that I've ever tasted.

For the carrots we got some yummy brewed ginger ale, Mark loved finishing off the bottle and they were perfect, they didn't need additional anything - which is hard to believe in my house. I've tried lots of different glazed carrot recipes over the years looking for something that was like the fantastic carrots at Kobe Steak House where Mark's mom took us to eat a couple times. Over the years most of the recipes have always been too sweet, too mushy, too weird, too gingery or just too not right, this one however is fantastic. It's not exactly Kobe's, the carrots are a bit thinner and a bit more al-dente, but it's certainly the best one I've found so far and definitely Good Eats ;)

So the wonderful husband gets to take his favorite food along with him this evening and some yummy sides too!

Friday, January 4, 2008

What's For Dinner, Tea and Old Potatoes

Part of using more whole foods is longer preparation times and so once again I find myself trying to figure out a menu for the next couple weeks. When even cornbread takes 24 hours to make, it takes a little more planning. This morning we tasted the steel cut oats that I put in the crock pot last night before bed, YUM! So we're liking this a lot, it just takes a little more brain power than using prepared foods.

I've been wishing for a while that I could find something hot that I liked to drink, mostly because my hands are cold in the evening, especially if I've been on the computer much and it'd be nice to have something to warm them on. I can't stand coffee, no matter how I try it, or who makes it or how expensive it is it just always tastes like coffee to me, yuck. I have the same problem with beer, but that's has nothing to do with this. Hot chocolate is good, but it's too much sugar and the non-sugar stuff is fake tasting and well ick. We did get hot chocolate from Starbucks the other day, and well okay now I can understand why people rave about the place, YUM! Finally I decided to try tea, I've never liked hot tea. Mom made us drink it when we were sick and it was always bitter, or you had to put sugar in it, which I didn't want to do. So I asked Mark if he liked tea and what do you know, after 12 years of marriage he finally tells me that he loves the stuff and starts telling me about the kinds that he likes. The man is sometimes a mystery to me. So we started with a box of Earl Grey, okay this stuff is quite yummy and doesn't need any sugar or honey, at least for me, Mark likes his with wildflower honey in it. The first cup we had solo, that was good. This afternoon while John was napping we had a cup with a piece of Ghirardelli 60% Cacao that was wonderful and last night we had a cup with popcorn, hmmmm, this tea thing is pretty versatile. When we go shopping on Monday maybe we'll try another of the kinds that Mark listed that he likes, I wonder, just how many teas out there go good with both popcorn and chocolate.

Well Old Potatoes, in our house we tend to throw away the last potato or two out of every bag that we buy because they have grown eyes or are mushy or are just plain rotten. This happens to us whether we buy a 5# bag or a 10# bag, and at one point I got to where I was buying one or two baking potatoes at a time. We just don't eat that many potatoes. Well I just put the last of the potatoes from a bag that I bought in early December into Spicy Potato Soup and they were fine. Hmmmmm...these were the first organic potatoes that I've purchased, and I've noticed this trend with other organic produce too.

So let me share those recipes, they are yummy!

Overnight Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups raisins
4 cups water
1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours. In the morning stir and serve.

The raisins make it sweet enough that even Mark didn't add honey or sugar, we did add some butter for that yummy buttery flavor and a sprinkle of cinnamon because well cinnamon is just plain good.

Spicy Potato Soup

1 pound ground beef
4 cups 1/2" cubed red potatoes, peeled
1 small onion, chopped
3 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon ground oregano
few drops of hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Brown ground beef in dutch oven. Drain. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for 1 hour or until the potatoes are tender.

I made this tonight with ground deer. My theory tends to be if beef is good, deer is better, at least for most things. I tried substituting Spicy V8 juice, um well no, that doesn't work and added the tomato sauce anyway to give it more depth and richness. The best experiment of all, when it's all hot and piping in our bowls, I added a tablespoon or so of thick heavy cream, oh man is that good! It elevates this dish from regular old hey this is good soup, to holy cow this stuff is AMAZING! We like it with French bread to get every last drop.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Omnivore's Dilemma

I finished reading this book just in time to drop it off at the library before we left for Omaha last week. It's certainly worth the read, although there are parts of it where I found myself skimming, lol, not as bad as I've done with some other books though. I think it could just as well have been titled the Evolutionist Omnivore's Dilemma because much of the pretense of the book is how things, including people, have evolved to eat. This did give the author fits when he was dealing with animal rights wackos rat=dog=boy stuff, but in the end he hunted, ate and enjoyed. Did the book change my mind on some food stuff? Yes, some, no others.

I certainly don't have the least bit of guilt or remorse when it comes to eating animals. I firmly believe that God created animals for us to eat, but also to take care of and so even those animals that are to become food should be treated humanely. This isn't a new belief for me, it stems from my father who believed that hunting was good and right, but deer, elk, etc. should be killed as quickly as possible. I think this is part of what bothers me about catch-and-release fishing, but that's another topic entirely. What this book changed for me was now I have a picture of what goes on inside of the places where animals are raised for the tons of burgers, chicken mcnuggets and pork sausage patties and it gives me pause and reason to search out meat raised by farmers who treat their animals more humanely.

It has affected how I think about the food that I cook and serve. I have often thought that it was sad that little kids didn't know that hamburger was from a cow, and sausage from a pig, etc., but little did I realize where a bunch of other foodstuffs are from or that lots of adults don't really think about where the food comes from. We have been moving more towards whole foods for a long time, and this book served to push us down that road a bit.

I certainly don't have a problem with the use of petroleum. For the life of me I can't figure out why oil is less organic that say salt, or other things that come from the ground. I also am a total non-believer at the church of Global Climate Change, so don't particularly care how much CO2 is spewed out by grocery transportation trucks, after all isn't CO2 what organic lettuce breathes. So while I don't cringe at the thought of how much gasoline was used to ship lettuce from California to Missouri, even organic lettuce, I do think that buying local is good and much more sustainable. After all, it's nice to have seen the cow that my burger comes from and I kinda like knowing the farmer that grew the lettuce in my salad.

Pesticides and artificial fertilizers have always bothered me. Yep, I understand that we use them and feed the world, well okay at least before we got selfish and decided we should burn our corn at the altar of Global Climate Change, oh wait that's an ethanol rant for another day. While I'm not a believer of evolution, I do believe that God created stuff to work the way it does and that includes soil which is full of microbes and worms and stuff that I wouldn't want to eat, but makes what I do want to eat good for me. I'm not a person with a lot of knowledge in this field, but as a thinker it does kinda make sense to me that doing things more naturally and with less chemicals is going to be better in the long run.

So has the book changed my mind on stuff, not so much I guess as given me reason for some things that I've thought for a while and opened my eyes to some stuff that I didn't know. Do I choose to preach about organic food, buying local and such, well no, preaching is my husbands job and besides all that stuff comes off as so much ex-smoker's syndrome. You've met them, the person that quit smoking and so now that's their one horse to ride and they've ridden it until it's dead and desicatted even. But for me I'll change the way we do stuff here and there, less stuff from Walmart and more from the Root Cellar, a store that sells locally grown produce and meat. Of course their is the pleasant irony in that, I always wonder if they know that an evil Republican is in their midst, bwa, haw, haw. So in the end it's a book that I'm glad I read and one that I would recommend to anyone else who is interested in knowing where their food comes from.