What Am I Doing? No Idea

I don’t have any ideas.

Like a lot of folks, I’m sheltering in place (in the house 24/7). I’m in a vulnerable group, over 60 (yeah, I admit it) and have an underlying health issue. So, I have all this time on my hands. I thought I’d spend it thinking deep thoughts and writing through the difficult situation I referred to in my last post. I also thought I might finally finish the revisions of my novel. I was already retired before the quarantine so I can sit in my comfortable home every day without negative consequences like not being able to eat or pay bills. But I’m not thinking at all. I flit from writing, reading, cooking, housework, paperwork…but I can’t focus on anything because I’m not thinking. About the only thing I seem to be able to do consistently is eat.

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Had this delivered

From November (NaNoWriMo) through to February I kept track of how much I was writing, reading about writing and learning about writing. I’m not doing that now. I’m not in the moment with anything. When I’m not mindlessly moving from distraction to distraction, I stare out the window without thinking. I have the TV on with the sound muted. Ordinarily, I would walk in nature to center myself. I’d like to go for a walk but, nope, can’t think about doing that either. I’m too afraid of who I’ll meet along the way.

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My desk looks like the inside of my head

Fortunately, I’ve talked to friends and family who feel the same way and I realize that my inability to concentrate is due to fear and anxiety, as is theirs. And that realization makes me angry. The pandemic scares me more than the scammer did. Obviously, lots of us feel the same way. Almost all the bloggers I follow here on WP have posted about the coronavirus. So, I’m frightened, anxious AND angry. On top of everything is the fact that I said I wouldn’t blog about the coronavirus or its effects but here I am…because I can’t think about anything else. I have no idea what else to talk about.

Stay well and healthy everyone. My prayers are for you all and your families.

 

Before We Continue……

IMG_2047Brrr…..It’s finally starting to get cold here in Virginia. As happens every year, the increasing cold weather has caused my body to crave food that will bulk me up for the winter. It’s a occurrence that proves my primal link to nature. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, as a result I’ve been cooking like a fiend and putting up delights for colder days. I froze the last of the season peaches and pears in homemade syrup. And I preserved a wonderful jam thanks to the recipe Marrow (Squash) & Ginger Jam by WordPress blogger Random Thoughts. Since I had some ingredients left over from making the jam, I made some Squash and Apple soup  as well. This time a year I spend lots of time making soup. As is well documented, soup is a soul nurturer and spirit lifter.

I’m not a domestic goddess by any means but I buy into the idea that taking time for the preparation of fresh, basic foods is important for good health. I used to have a Recipe Page on this blog but it got lost in my redesign. I’ve decided that I do want to share some of them, so here are two cold weather recipes from past posts.

Healing Super Broth

This is a recipe is based on one that I first discovered on the CarePages website (I made it for my husband while he was battling cancer.) but I’ve seen variations on other websites including drhyman.com and doctoroz.com. I use it as the base for most of the broth soups I make. You can also drink the broth alone. For every three quarts of water add:
1 large onion
2 chopped carrots
1 cup of winter squash cut into large cubes
1 cup of root vegetables (I use parsnips) for sweetness
2 cups of chopped greens (I use kale, collard greens or chard)
2 celery stalks,
including tops
½ cup of sea weed
½ cup of cabbage
4 ½-inch slices of fresh ginger
2 cloves of whole garlic (not chopped or crushed)
Salt, to taste
Add all the ingredients at once and bring to a low boil (remember that boiling reduces the vitamins) then simmer for approximately 60 minutes. It may take a little longer. Simply continue to simmer to taste. Cool, strain (throw out the cooked vegetables), and store in a large, tightly-sealed glass container in the fridge. Makes: 2 quarts

IMG_1160Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Pancetta

This is another winter soup recipe to warm the body and soul. I got this recipe from the Hannaford Supermarket flyer 6 or 7 years ago. They billed it as “naturally thick and creamy without the addition of cream or butter.” Let’s face it the pancetta is what gives it the flavor. Bacon (even turkey) will work too but honestly, not as well. The original recipe called for thyme but I use rosemary instead because I think it compliments the pancetta.
1 ½ tbsp olive oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, sliced
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary or 2 tsp dried
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cord and cut into chunks
1 cup Vegetable broth
½ cup water
In a large pot, heat first amount of oil over moderate heat. Add the pancetta and cook about 4 minutes per side until golden brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel. 
Add remaining oil to the pot. Add the onions and cook 8 to 10 minutes over moderate heat until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the squash, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook; stirring for 5 minutes. Add the apples, vegetable broth (or chicken), and water, and bring to a boil over high heat. 
Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, 15 to 20 minutes, or until squash and apples are tender. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the soup until smooth in a blender or food processor. 
Add the mixture back to the pot and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Crumble the pancetta and add half to the soup; taste for seasoning. 
Serve piping hot with the remaining pancetta sprinkled on top. Serves 6

Bon appetit and stay warm!!

 

To Market, to Market……

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Is there any thing better than the fresh produce available at this time of year? I certainly don’t feel there is.

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Going to the farmers market: the colors, smells and interacting with other people. It’s a complete experience for me.

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Preparing the produce is a lesson in mindfulness: slowing down time, listening to the birds while I cut and chop.  I try to really taste the food and appreciate it.

Where I live in the mid Atlantic area of the United States, it seems as though the winter offers only limited agricultural products; apples, oranges and the roots of plants. They are wonderful in their own right, they’re just not my favorites. I gravitate toward the kinds of produce available during the warm seasons. I love the abundance and variety of fruits and vegetables like strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, tender lettuces and lots of fresh herbs. It’s one of the many, many advantages of summer. One of my favorite recipes that uses vegetables available now at  farmers markets is Pasta with Greens and Tomatoes. I’ve added to the Heaven’s menu page.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Soup’s On Heaven’s Menu

Gray day in Alexandria, VA
Gray day in Alexandria, VA

The holiday season is winding down and I don’t have any delicious food left. It’s cold and damp here and it’s a little depressing because it seems as if the holiday cheer is spent. So I’m going to spend this weekend in the kitchen and make some soup. Winter soups are a great way for me to add back some of the warmth it feels as though I’ve lost after holiday celebrations. I can cuddle up with a big mug of soup and relive the good times I was fortunate to have with my family and friends. One of my favorite winter soups is Butternut Squash & Apple With Pancetta. It’s a great recipe and I’m sharing it with you on my recipe page today. You’ll also find other winter soup recipes on Heaven’s Menu that brighter and warm a bleak day.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

By The Way

Holiday food. Yum!
Holiday food. Yum!

I didn’t want the month to end without adding to the recipe page, so please head on over to Heaven’s Menu for my seasonal selections of Mince Meat Balls and Pumpkin Mousse. I hope you can use and enjoy them.

Full Moon over Virginia
Full Moon over Virginia

If you’ve read this blog in the past you know I have what I call “moon mania”. Did you see the full moon the other night? As usual, it was both breathtaking and beautiful. (It helped a lot in my reflection on the nature of life as I processed my stepdad’s passing.) It was an unusual full moon in that it was the smallest full moon of the year and Jupiter could be seen just to the left of it. (Star of wonder!) There are some beautiful pictures of it at earthsky.org. Here is the link: http://earthsky.org/space/photos-from-friends-jupiter-and-moon-awesome-in-late-november-2012

I’m off to Boston for the funeral. I hope your weekend is one with peace and love.

FYI

FoodI’m grateful my area (Washington D.C./ Northern VA), didn’t get hit as badly by Hurricane Sandy as some other states did yesterday. We were affected though so a lot of businesses are closed and there’s no public transportation right now. It’s pretty quiet. I’ve decided to spend the day cooking. I pre-cooked some staples in case the power went out and I need to use them up.  Soups on!

Deciding on a day of cooking reminded me that my daughter said I needed to add some more recipes to this blog. She’s right (as usual). That was always my intention. So I’m committed to adding at least one recipe per month from now on. Please check the Heaven’s Menu page for the new monthly updates. This month’s recipes are Pork Tenderloin with Sauerkraut and Apples & Mediterranean White Bean and Spinach Soup.

The Maasai and The Soda Bread

This is actually a re-post of a piece I had on my recipe page. St. Patrick’s Day is big here in the Boston area so I thought I’d share it again. The recipe is still on the page and I invite you to take a look. 

When my children were small we belonged to a multi-racial family group because that’s what we are. It amazes me how many of these families there are these days but back then there were only half as many. As a group, socializing together was just one of the strategies we used to make sure our children felt comfortable in their own skins.

One March, right around St. Patrick’s Day, one of the families hosted a visit by a Maasai tribesman at their home. The mother of the family took great pride in telling the story of how her mother-in-law had taught her the recipe for THE best Irish Soda Bread. I marveled at the scene, watching her wave a piece of soda bread around as she boasted, Kenti cloth around her head and a Maasai guy standing next to her. It was an unusually warm day for March in Boston so we were out on her lawn and all these little different hued kids were running and tumbling around her. It was a very good day. Please enjoy her recipe and happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Check Your Larder

I make sure I have my share

This winter has been mild where I live in the northeast. Although that’s cause for concern in terms of conditions come the spring and summer, we’ve had it easy compared to the residents of some parts of the U.S. northwest, southwest and Europe.

Still, I’m not a big fan of winter and this year is no exception.  The cold and lack of light weigh me down.  I was curious about the timing of Groundhog Day because of the whole prognostication of spring thing. Last week I looked into it’s history.  (I found a nice little article about it in mentalfloss.com.)  It evolved, in part, from so-called pagan observances as so many of our holidays do. Apparently it falls in between equinoxes, in mid-winter when ancient folk used to think about their food stores. They’d check to see if any critters were stirring. If so, they could breathe easy because it was a sign that the growing time was right around the corner. If not, they worried that they wouldn’t have enough food for what was left of a long winter, “Grandpa, get away from the root cellar. We can’t afford snacks!”

It all makes sense to me because I find myself thinking about food A LOT at this time. Maybe I reflexively follow the natural cycle, maybe it’s my body’s way of convincing me it needs some fat or maybe it’s a comfort device I use to relieve the discomfort of the persistent thoughts of death I have during the winter.  Whatever it is I’ve learned to make sure I have my share of food at the beginning of the season, indulge in hearty fare throughout, and check my larder right about now to make sure Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t make a fool out of me.

On my Recipes page I have added some dishes that are favorites of mine for winter health and happiness. Please check them out and enjoy!