Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Soups-- # 5 Fall, 2008

Thanksgiving is over--did you notice it was just about the latest it could be? Since Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November (here in the U.S.), only one day could be later--November 27. So if you feel as though Christmas is rushing toward you --assuming you observe Christmas--you would be right.

Thanksgiving is such an enjoyable holiday. The emphasis is on food, fellowship, family and friends. Oh, yes, and football.

On the off chance you eat meat--not everyone does (as Delia's
thoughtful post reminds us)--and also on the off chance you aren't sick to death of turkey, here's a turkey soup recipe. Sadly, it does NOT feature using left-over turkey, which many of you may have in your refrigerators. Maybe you can adapt the recipe to use some.

Serves 12

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2-1/2 lbs. ground turkey breast
1-1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon each of: ground cinnamon, dried basil, chili powder, freshly ground pepper,
and ground sage
2 cans (19-3/4 oz. each) black beans, rinsed, drained and divided
2 cans (13-3/4 oz. each) fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies, drained
2 cups frozen white shoepeg corn kernels

Cumin Yogurt garnish (see recipe below)

1. In large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot, heat 2 Tablespoons of oil. Add ground turkey in batches and brown. Drain fat from pan and set turkey aside.

2. Add remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil to the pan. Stir in onion and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and the spices; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. In a blender, puree 1 can of beans with 1 can of chicken broth until smooth. Add to the pot with the remaining beans, the chilies, and the corn.

4. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Return turkey to the pot and heat through 2 minutes. Add up to one additional can of chicken broth if chili seems too thick.

Garnish each serving with cumin yogurt.

Cumin Yogurt Garnish:

1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Place 1 Tablespoon on each chili serving.

In honor of non-meat eaters, next week--a vegetarian recipe.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

That is so '90s

One of the reasons I love teaching is that I am constantly learning from my students.

In English 101, I emphasize teaching rhetoric and formal writing. I also try to help the students increase their critical thinking skills. To accomplish this latter goal, I use a reader full of contemporary essays that the students are assigned to read. Then each day, I give them an in class exercise--a writing assignment to respond in a paragraph or so to a prompt I give.

A recent prompt was this question--Who has an iconic status today equal to Elvis’? Why?

I have always encouraged my students to answer in whatever way they will, as long as they back up their responses. This particular question has been the instigator of my learning. Several years ago a student responded to this prompt by saying--50 cents. Only, I heard --FITTY cent. So, I said--what? And eventually learned the name of a rapper. Let me be the first to say--I don't know rap; I don't like rap; I don't think rap is "music"--but the students like rap.

So I went home and looked up
50 cent and learned a bit about contemporary culture. I still don't like rap.

Using this same prompt, I have also learned about Lil Wayne and sure that I am necessarily better off knowing about these people, but at least I am not totally hopelessly befuddled standing in front of my class.

So, it was with great humor--and an actual guffaw--that I read a student response to yet another prompt. In an essay unit on "Entertainment" (which is also where the Elvis question gets asked), I posed this writing prompt-- Do you think children watch too much television? How much did you watch as a child? Did you have rules limiting how much to watch?

Having collected the students' response, I was reading along in one young man's answers when I read this opening sentence--That is so '90s.

I re-read it, and then burst out laughing. His point was, I think, that someone of my generation would focus only on television and the excesses of watching it. His generation, however, has multiple electronic diversions. There is the internet, there are video games, there is X-box games or Wii.

In some ways, my question would be like someone asking me, when I was a student--do you think the radio is harming our young people.

Well, I got his point. Next year, the question will be rephrased--probably I will say--do children today spend too much time on the Internet or too much time playing electronic games?

Heaven forbid that I should be so '90s.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Soups-- # 4 Fall, 2008

How about a nice seafood chowder for this week? Apropos of nothing in particular, unless you think that the first Thanksgiving meal had a seafood chowder. It may very well have--given the location on Cape Cod, no doubt seafood featured prominently in the diet of the early Pilgrims.

Here's a History channel site that suggest what might have been on that first meal. I don't know--it's not a Thanksgiving meal without cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.

Enjoy the chowder.

New England Seafood Chowder
Makes 12 servings.

8 bacon slices, chopped
2 large yellow onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 T. curry powder
4 8-oz. bottles clam juice
4 cups 1/2-inch dice peeled white potatoes (about 3 lbs.)
4 cups 1/2-inch dice peeled butternut squash (about 3 lbs.)
2 bay leaves
2 cups chopped kale leaves
5 cups milk
1 cup half and half
2 tsp. dried, crumbled thyme (or 2 T. minced fresh thyme)
3 lbs. mixed fresh fish (cod, halibut, haddock, and/or scrod) cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1) In a large heavy-bottomed pot, place bacon and saute over medium heat until thoroughly
cooked. Drain approximately 1/2 of the fat from the pan (leave 1-2 T.) in the pan along with the bacon. Add chopped onions and saute for two minutes. Add curry powder and cook mixture until very fragrant (about 5 minutes).

2) Stir clam juice into the pot and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, butternut squash, bay leaves, and chopped kale. Cook for 15 minutes until all vegetables are just soft.

3) Add milk, half and half, and thyme to the pot. Warm gently, being careful not to boil after
adding the dairy products.

4) Add the fish pieces and cook for 3-5 minutes, until fish is just cooked through.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

From Light to Light

When my husband took a recent business trip, that meant that all the dog walking duties fell to me. Of course, that's what happens any time either of us goes out of town.

Since Thursday is a class day, I set the alarm for 5:45 a.m. (I know, I know--some of you think that's sleeping in). Anyway, I bounded out of bed--really--and very soon set about walking the dog around the block. At that time of the morning, now in November, it is still quite dark. I found myself walking along, going from light to light.

Our neighborhood only has a few street lights--and none of those is on our actual street. We have a pole light, and leave it on all night every night. It is one of the few spots of light on our street. The trip around the block can be marked by watching for each light, and then the final destination light of our pole light.

This morning's walk struck me as a kind of metaphor for life. In some ways, we all proceed from light to light. Of course, we pass through dark times--we have all had them. And even in the middle of that darkness, we are looking, hoping for the light.

I suspect my affinity for light just now is heightened by some minor eye surgery I recently had. While not major surgery, it did require that for a day, I have my damaged eye sheathed by an eye patch. What an inconvenience. I really minded my sudden monocular vision. It is nearly impossible to read for any extent with only one eye. And, of course, anything requiring depth perception is out of the question. I couldn't wait to get that patch off--to reclaim full light.

One of my favorite hymns celebrates the power of light. Written by John Henry Cardinal Newman, the words were inspired by his being unable to get home in an age of sailing when his ship was becalmed. He was frustrated and sat down and wrote out the first verse.

Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th'encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet;
I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
Occasionally, our church choir sings this hymn as its benedictory piece. It is a lovely quiet plea for the light.

No wonder that light symbolizes guidance and safe-keeping. Go from light to light.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hello, My Name is. . .

As each new semester approaches, I speculate what names will be the double-up names. You see, each semester that I have taught at my community college, I always have two students who share a first name. And almost always, this occurs among the young women in class. From this doubling up on first names, I can tell what were the trendy names the year they were born.

  • Megan

  • Jessica

  • Desiree

  • Ashley

  • Karen

  • Brittany

  • Amber

These are but some of the double up names I have had. So, I peeked at the advance registration for the spring semester—and, sure enough, I have a double up name: Amanda.

This business of naming does fascinate me. I wrote about it a while back,
here. At that time, I looked at the Social Security Administration’s listing of most popular first names over the decades. I found another spiffy site that shows the same thing, with a bit more pizzazz.

A year ago, I read the highly interesting book Freakonomics. The authors suggest that some first names that are super-trendy or super-ethnic may not serve their charges well. You can see some of what they have to say
here. It would certainly be interesting to hear their take, now that we have elected our first African-American president with a decidedly un-presidential first name of Barack.

To this point in our history, we have had 2 presidents first named Andrew, 2 named Franklin; 3 named George; 4 named John; 4 named William; and the most popular first name with 6—James. Prior to Barack, probably the previous most unusual first name was Ulysses.

I wonder how long it will be until we have a U.S. President with a first name of Amanda, or Ashley, or Karen, or Kristen, or. . .?

Maybe part of the mental block that Americans have for envisioning a woman as president has to do with the lack of strength too many first names for women hold these days. When our daughter was born, and we pondered a strong first name for her, we naturally turned to family first names. While I dearly love the women in my family life, I was not prepared to give our daughter some of the old-fashioned names. So I eschewed names like Dorcas, Mary, Ada, Kathryn, Leoda, Emma, Cora, Lillian and Ida. Even though we didn't pick a family name, I like the strong name my husband and I agreed on for our daughter’s name.

Several years ago, I remember that Garrison Keillor read a poem about strong women names—so I went looking for it. Here it is: what a wonderful way to celebrate the strong names of women.

Mourning the Dying of American Female Names

Hunt Hawkins

In the Altha Diner in the Florida panhandle
a stocky white-haired woman
with a plastic nameplate “Mildred”
gently turns my burger, and I fall into grief.
I remember the long, hot drives to North Carolina
to visit Aunt Alma, who puts up quarts of peaches,
and my grandmother Gladys with her pieced quilts
Many names are almost gone: Gertrude, Myrtle,
Agnes, Bernice, Hortense, Edna, Doris, and Hilda.
They were wide women, cotton-clothed, early rising.
You have to move your mouth to say their names,
and they meant strength, spear, battle, and victory.
When did women stop being Saxons and Goths?
What fate frog turned them into Alison, Melissa,
Valeria, Natalie, Adrienne, and Lucinda,
diminished them to Wendy, Cindy, Susy, and Vicky?
I look at these young women and hope
they are headed for the Presidency,
but I fear America has other plans in mind,
that they be no longer at war
but subdued instead in amorphous corporate work,
somebody’s assistant, something in a bank,
single parent with word processing skills.
They must have been made French
so they could be cheap foreign labor.
Well, all I can say is
good luck to you
Kimberly, Darlene, Cheryl, Heather, and Amy.
Good luck April, Melanie, Becky, and Kelly.
I hope it goes well for you.
But for a moment let us mourn.
Now it is time to say goodbye
to Florence, Muriel, Ethel, and Thelma.
Goodbye Minnie, Ada, Bertha, and Edith.

Published in The Domestic Life, 1994.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Soups -- # 3, Fall 2008

It occurs to me that as I start into a fall season of soups, I need to give credit where it is due. These recipes are NOT my invention in any way, shape or form. But, they have all been vetted. The recipes come from the annual fund raiser that my church has--we call it our soup Bistro.

On the first Sunday of Advent, my church hosts two seatings at Bistro. All the soups are made by members (and friends) of the congregation. In addition, people make breads, muffins, cookies and other Christmas goodies. For the seatings, we sell tickets. Everything is donated, and all the proceeds go to a local inter-church group that provides assistance to people in need.

The source of the recipes is a woman in our church, Alice Anne--she has professional training in cooking, and has worked in various food endeavors. So, all the portions have been carefully assessed for accuracy. She makes all the soups before she decides to include them in our soup offering.

Anyone have any requests for a particular kind of soup? Let me know, and I will search to see if we have ever made it.
Next up in rotation--a chicken soup. Perfect for fall evenings, and hearty too with the barley.

Chicken Soup with Barley
Makes 12 servings.

8 cups water
48 oz. canned low-fat chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
3 pounds chicken pieces, skinned
1 bay leaf
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup potato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley

1) Combine water, broth, salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, chicken pieces and bay leaf in a large stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Adjust heat to medium and cook 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove chicken and cool slightly. Remove chicken from bones and shred with two forks. Reserve shredded chicken. Skim all visible fat from the top of the broth.

2) Stir vegetables and barley into broth. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add shredded chicken to the pot. Discard bay leaf. If not serving immediately, cool and refrigerate.

Friday, November 14, 2008

And You Thought Squirrels Were Entertaining?

It's a rainy day here in central PA--and so it was with gratitude that I received an email from someone special that had a link in it. . .I followed the link and then I just smiled and smiled.

If you need a smile, watch this.

cat n box

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Squirrel - 2/ KGMom - 0

Remember my match with the squirrel on Valentine's Day? I tossed a small snowball at a squirrel, trying to dissuade him from stealing all my bird seeds--and he CAUGHT it?

Well, today was a rematch.

The bird feeders have gotten a bit fancier and diverse; we now have 4 feeders out offering niger, safflower, a seed mix, and sunflower seeds. The sunflower seeds have got to go. The squirrels find them way too tempting.

We have filled the peanut wreath and hung it out--but the squirrels empty that in one day. Then they turn to the feeder with sunflowers.

All day, it seemed, I kept shooing them away. They are such piggies; no birds can get in while the squirrels are raiding.
Finally, I got a water bottle, and began trying to squirt the offending squirrels. The first several times it genuinely surprised them--off they ran. After several squirts, though, one particular squirrel caught on. He hopped back to the tree trunk, then just edge behind the trunk, out of range from my squirt bottle.

As I said--squirrel - 2/ KGMom - 0.

Monday, November 10, 2008

This, Too, Shall Pass

Quite a few years ago (before the birth of my son), I needed to have a medical test that involved inserting a needle into my abdomen, pumping me full of a gas that allowed my internal organs to "float" so they could be x-rayed. I had no anesthesia for the procedure--none was needed--but to steel myself for whatever discomfort I would experience, I kept saying--this, too, shall pass. For a while, that little expression was a personal mantra--and, perhaps, still is.

Now, the expression takes on a slightly different cast. While I said it then to help me know I could withstand temporary pain, I say it now in recognition of the fleeting aspects of life.

News comes today that Miriam Makeba has died. She was a great South African singer, who I loved to hear as she sang sometimes in Zulu, with all its wonderful clicks. Upon learning the news of her death, a friend of mine sent me an email--wherein she recalled sitting in my office 20 years ago as I explained and pronounced Zulu clicks to her. Zulu, and its offspring language of Sindebele, makes a clicking sound on the Q, X, and C. Put your tongue to the roof of your mouth and make a pop, or make a noise as though to move a horse, or suck your tongue against your teeth in a sound of tsk tsk--and you have the approximate sounds of clicks.

Anyway, Miriam Makeba died. I heard her sing years ago when Paul Simon had his Graceland tour. My husband, son, and I went to Philadelphia and heard Paul Simon sing with
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, along with Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. If you want to hear a bit of Miriam's wonderful singing, watch the rendition of "Under African Skies" with Paul Simon.

Since I don't always get up in time to hear Garrison Keillor's "The Daily Almanac" I have it sent to me by email. That's how I learned that today is the birthday of
Padraic Pearse, an Irish poet who took part in the failed Irish Easter uprising of 1916 and for his troubles was shot dead by the British.

Pearse wrote a sweet poem that matches my thoughts today.

The Wayfarer

by Padraic Pearse

The beauty of the world hath made me sad,
This beauty that will pass;
Sometimes my heart hath shaken with great joy
To see a leaping squirrel in a tree,
Or a red lady-bird upon a stalk,
Or little rabbits in a field at evening,
Lit by a slanting sun,
Or some green hill where shadows drifted by
Some quiet hill where mountainy man hath sown
And soon would reap; near to the gate of Heaven;
Or children with bare feet upon the sands
Of some ebbed sea, or playing on the streets
Of little towns in Connacht,
Things young and happy.
And then my heart hath told me:
These will pass,
Will pass and change, will die and be no more,
Things bright and green, things young and happy;
And I have gone upon my way

Ah, perhaps it is an autumn day with stormy skies that inspires these thoughts of ephemerality in me. Who knows--or perhaps it is the death of a lovely lady.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Saturday Soups -- # 2 Fall 2008

I will try to remember this fall, as I post soup recipes, that I need to be mindful of rotating the soup type. Last week was a vegetable soup (and an orange one at that!). So this week, I will feature a meat based soup.

I hear tell that some places on the North American continent are having snow. Lucky. This hearty soup would go great on a snowy evening. And it has enough "other stuff" in it, should you not fancy meat too much. Oh, and it is mmm mmm good.

Serves 12

¾ lb. loose sweet Italian sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 10 oz. packages chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 large can chicken broth (approx. 49 oz.)
1 15 or 16 oz. can Cannellini Beans
1 15 or 16 oz. can Light Red Kidney Beans
1 15 or 16 oz. can Dark Red Kidney Beans
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt to taste, if you wish

1) Brown sausage in large stockpot, breaking into fine pieces. Sausage should be completely cooked through. Drain all but one Tbsp. fat off sausage. Add garlic and onion to pot and sauté 6 minutes.

2) Add thawed, drained spinach to pot and sauté 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, dried basil and pepper flakes to pot and simmer 10 minutes.

3) After thoroughly draining and rinsing each of the cans of beans, add beans to soup and remove from heat.

Garnish with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, We can!

So, we watched election returns beginning at 7 p.m.

We watched to see how Pennsylvania voted.

We talked with our daughter who was having an election returns party in London, with her fiance and some American friends.

We were awake at 11 p.m. when all the networks announced the results--President Elect Obama.

And we watched at midnight when President Elect Obama challenged us all to remember that we can overcome the problems that face us, that we can work together, that we can change history.
"Yes, we can."

Monday, November 03, 2008


Tomorrow is the big day. . .unless you live in a state that has early voting (I don't). . .or unless you voted by absentee ballot (lucky).

Why vote?

Why vote?

Why vote?

Why vote?

Because all around the world there are people who, when first given the opportunity to vote, take that opportunity seriously.

the lines for voting in South Africa during first nationwide vote

I will be at my precinct voting--as I have for 42 years--in every election, both primary and general! I have voted for losers and I have voted for winners. I much prefer the latter, but the former has never dissuaded me from voting.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Saturday Soups -- # 1 Fall 2008

Yes, friends, it's time for me to start up the Saturday Soups blogs again. If you haven't seen any of these recipes before, all you need to do is click on the link for Soups and you may find a recipe or two to your suiting.

Since we just passed Hallowe'en, I had best begin the fall season of Saturday Soups with a pumpkin recipe. Herewith Pumpkin soup with cranberry puree. Laura had several interesting blogs about cranberries a couple of weeks ago--maybe you will find some of the cranberries she pictured for your puree.

PUMPKIN SOUP with Cranberry Puree
Serves 12


1-1/2 cups chopped onion (1 large)
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
2 tsp. ground ginger (dried)
1 tsp. ground cardamom (or nutmeg)
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground pepper
4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total)
7 cups pumpkin puree (fresh crookneck is best)
10 cups chicken stock (vary according to texture of soup)

12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 T. brandy (optional)

1) For the soup, bake sweet potatoes at 400 degrees until they are very soft. When cooled, peel and chop roughly. (NOTE: You can do this a few hours ahead of time, if you wish.)

2) Sauté onions in butter until just soft. Add ginger, cardamom, allspice and ground pepper. Stir.

3) Add sweet potatoes, pumpkin puree and chicken stock. Simmer for 1/2 hour to combine flavors. Let soup mixture cool slightly. Puree the soup in batches until it is all smooth. The texture is important, so be sure to cook all ingredients until very soft, then puree in food processor to velvety smoothness.

4) For the Cranberry Puree, place all ingredients together in a medium covered saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until cranberries pop and start to thicken. Cook 5 minutes more. Cool slightly before pureeing cranberry mixture in food processor or blender. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer; reserve cranberry puree in an airtight container. This may be made several days in advance.