Saturday, January 26, 2013

Times Like These

We're climbing our way out of the sub-zeros.  Now it's melting on my roof (which is flat), draining  down the pipes and freezing on the ground.  We're a little schizie.

One of my FB friends skidded and landed hard enough to wind up with two shiners; another friend has a home in the hills, lovely as far as that goes, but her straight-up driveway is paved with black ice; yesterday my car was frozen shut; a friend with a home and a family at the end of a charming rural lane can't get out.  Treacherous is her word.

There's a part of me that wants to whine; there's another part that suggests we are world-class whimps, although there is nothing whimpy about minus 4 degrees.  The only thing that survives intact is our sense of humor.   Like life, we're all in this thing together.

We're having a heat wave this next week:  low to mid-thirties.  It's still soup weather.  One of the few things that still makes sense in our long, strange winter.  My  bank had south seas shirts and leis in bright warm colors.  Even that little bit of a diversion helped. 

So, here's another soup.  Bean and pasta soups are ancient  as ancient Rome.  This one originated with Martha.  Of course, I added some stuff.

Here's where you have some choices:  I like to cook my own dried beans.   So bring a couple of handfuls of your favorite beans to a boil and cook them with a little salt for an hour.  See how tender they are and if they need a little more time.

Saute' 1 chopped onion and 3 chopped garlic cloves in a skim of olive oil and a little salt.  Prepare 4 short, fat carrots and 3 or 4 stalks of celery by slicing them into coins or half moons.  Add a pinch of salt and add them to the veg.   

If you don't have the time to cook the beans, a can of your favorite  beans, rinsed, works just fine.  Drain them and add them to the veg.

Add 1 carton of low sodium chicken broth and  a chopped red pepper.  Add a healthy handful of dried oregano, some fennel, half a bunch of fresh, flat-leafed parsley.  Let everything simmer slowly.

In another pot, prepare your favorite pasta al dente.   A couple of handfuls will do it.   Drain and add at the last minute.  The pasta will continue to cook as you add it to the soup.  At the last, add a couple of handfuls of winter greens: kale works.  Cut it from the tough stalk, then cut the pieces small enough for a bite.  Let it cook for 15 minutes.  

Finish off the soup with a couple of tablespoons of grated cheese.  You want a melty, ooie-gooie cheese.  I like to put the grated cheese in the bottom of the soup bowl, then ladle the soup over it.  The cheese adds a highly satisfying  treat.   I used a  Tillamook Garlic Cheddar, something that melts.  It's a wonderful surprise at the bottom of the bowl.  Perfect for times like these.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Stayin' Alive

We're all tucked in here.  Our third straight week of sub-freezing temperatures.  Even the spiders have come inside.  I found a big, black-brown one this morning where I keep the big pots and pans.  Everything is going into the dishwasher.  And the spider:  I sent him onto a better life in another dimension.   

I have a visceral fear of spiders.  When I was a child my mom and dad remodeled the house, and one summer I had a bedroom with no windows.  Oh, there were holes for windows, but no glass. The spiders would fall on me during the night hours.   When people tell you they have memories that will not go away, believe them.  

So what saves us when the weather turns like this and stays?  Oatmeal for one.  Thick, woolly socks, another.  A fireplace.  I don't have that.  A big, cuddly, long-haired cat.  That I do have. We're all home by eight, tucked in by 9:30,  waiting for the sun to come up tomorrow and a day where we can get outside for a walk.

I'm making soup.  Chili to be exact.  This one is a veg-based one, but you can add a 1/2 a pound of ground pork and another of beef, which you saute.  Add them when you add the beans.  But this one is a good one and is way easy.  Easy peasy, somebody on Facebook said yesterday.

Chop 1 medium sweet onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic in a little olive oil.  Saute for a few minutes, just until the onion turns soft.  You want those flavors to meld with the oil.  Add three cans of beans.  I like a combo of black beans, pinto beans, white beans, but you can certainly use all the same kind.  Chop up 1 Anaheim chili pepper, 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper.  Add the veg to your beans.  I like a can of corn, a small can of sliced olives, and half a minced Jalopeno.  Add your favorite broth:  beef if you've used meat.  Chicken is always good, as is vegie broth.  Water works in a pinch.  Add a large carton of the broth or 4 cups of your own broth.  Add a can,  juice and all, of tomatoes.  Bring the vegies and broth to a slow simmer.  Add 1/4 chili powder.  You can use the heat level of your choice.  Salt and pepper.  About a tablespoon of Oregano and Cumin.  You want to cook all this together at low and slow.  You can add other kinds of chili if you want more of a punch.

When it comes time to serve you can top with these:  Grated cheddar, a peeled and chopped avocado, some green onion, pine nuts, more olives,  tortilla chips.  Any mixture will do.  It's all delicious.

Stay warm, my friends.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Well, I just got back from a short, short trip to the grocery store.  For anybody out of the Pacific Northwest, and you know who you are, we had a major snow dump today.  I shoveled
about six inches off the top of my little red sports car.  I know that's not much to my McCall
and Sun Valley buddies, but trust me: it's all I want.

In the space of less than 10 minutes, there were oh-so-many drivers who were driving too
fast for the conditions, but then their moms and dads did raise idiots.

Another poor soul got caught too far into the traffic on the downside of a little ramp—couldn't back up.  I was on a major artery and he snarled traffic for blocks.  Most other drivers were gracious enough to let him back on the road.  I was still in a reasonable frame of mind.  Everybody else was too.

Then the nincompoopery took over.  A young man in a big, big rig hit the center lane where all the slush was, and that flipped up and covered my windshield and I could not see a daggone thing. That reduced me to a whole series of words I haven't used — or heard—in years.  Not in my family. Not in my work.  Certainly not in  my church.  Apparently, there are some things you never, ever forget.

He was one of those yoyos who didn't stop and apologize for the danger he was putting other
drivers in.  I've relegated him to a sub-status, several degrees lower than chimps, dogs, cats, and pigs. Maybe ever lower than crows on the IQ scale.

I'm 65, not 5'2" tall.  Any man who is afraid of me is a world-class coward.  We would have
had a discussion about exactly which IQ points he was missing.  I was not in a peaceful, forgiving, understanding frame of mind.

What a dismal sot.

Friday, January 4, 2013

This Kind of Cold

I grew up in Idaho, and I turn into a fuddy-duddy when I think about the winters of my youth. At the turn of the century, people in Boise drove sleighs all winter.  There was enough snow and enough cold to merit "one-horse open sleighs "  When I was a teenager, it was in the 20s from October through March, although the snow had abated some.  My dad said it could snow on Easter.  He was right.

When I was a child, the ponds would freeze solid enough. We were rounded up with t-shirts, regular shirts, sweaters, sweat shirts, and gloves and  coats and were headed out in the evening for skating.  The adults provided a bon fire and hot chocolate.  I had on all of the above, plus socks, boots, and rubber boots to keep my feet dry.  I stood so close to the bon fire that I melted the toes of my boots.  You hardly believe your eyes when that happens.

Then there was Bobby, a neighbor kid who was almost, but not quite a boy friend.  I loved him and would have followed him anywheres.  As he called it.  He was a kid who would take apart and put back together old jalopies.  And he liked girls.  All of 'em.  He asked me along in his new ride to a town about 15 miles away. I wanted to go.  Real bad.

When I climbed in, I realized that the heater didn't work and ... there were no floor boards.  You could see the road under your seat and you planted your feet on either side of your seat—and hung on for dear life.  It was a 20-degree day and an hour's ride with the wind whistling in around you.  

What an adventure that was.  

Then there the cold in the early 1990s.  Funny to think of those years as "olden" years.  We had a 2-3 week patch of minus 25 degree weather.  The world quiets down in those kind of days.  People don't drive much, they huddle in around hot chocolate, tons of coffee, and  chili and clam chowder.  You just don't go "anywheres."  The snow and cold blankets the sound.  Everybody gets a little nuts.  Cabin fever.

After a month of that, the weather broke and my cousin Julie and I opted for a movie out.  We wore sweaters instead of coats, took long walks, and generally felt like spring had come at last.  Julie was on the phone with our Aunt Nira, explaining about the weather and our bouts of cabin fever.

"Oh, what's the temp now?"  Aunt Nira asked.

"7 degrees."