Monday, January 25, 2010

Duty and Hopelessness

I just finished reading Kent Haruf's "The Tie that Binds". I've read his other novels and loved them. He writes of simple, everyday people who make the kinds of decisions we all have to make. Decisions that look all wrong on the outside, but that bring about hope. He writes about old men, young women, children, fathers, wives who live far away in the flat lands of Colorado.

"The tie that binds" is the kind of book that I usually don't like. It has very little conversation, with page after page of description. It moves slowly. Very slowly. But the emotion that his writing calls forth from me is overwhelming. This book is, at the very base, about a mean old man who is a father to a beautiful daughter and a simple son. It is also about duty, and the consequences and love and honor and dignity of living a life of duty. In the end, it is about hopelessness. And somehow, it is also about love.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another Meatless Monday

Meal times at our home went much more smoothly since I took the time on Sunday to plan out the menus for the week. I did notice, however, that I only made menus for the weekdays, not the weekend. And we ended up totally blowing it on the weekend. So, this week I've got to plan the meals for the weekend also!

My meatless Monday recipe is again from Moosewood. It's a simple tamale pie. I'm going to shorten up the recipe a bit...

heat up a couple T of olive oil. Add 1 C chopped onion and 2T of diced garlic. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add 1Tground cumin, 2t ground coriander and 1t dried oregano. Add enough water to keep it from sticking. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add 1C diced carrots and 1C diced green (or any color) pepper and 1 C diced zuchini. (you can also add a small green chile). Cover and cook 4 minutes. Stir in 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes and 1 15 ounce can of drained black beans. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; salt and pepper to taste. (I didn't use any)

Next, mix up the cornbread topping. Mix 3/4 C cornmeal, 1T white flour, 1/2 t salt, 1t baking powder and 1/4 t baking soda.

In another bowl, beat 2 egg whites, add 1/2 cup buttermilk (I didn't have any so I add 1/2T white vinegar to 1/2 C milk and let it set for 5 minutes. Buttermilk!) and 2t canola oil. Mix.

Fold wet ingredients into dry, stirring just until mixed.

Pour vegetable mixture into a lightly oiled 2 qt casserole pan. Add a bit of shredded cheddar if you like. Pour the cornbread mixture over the top.

Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.

Everyone liked it! I would double the cornbread if I made it again. I liked the mix of veggies in this, but I think fresh corn would have been good.

Try it and tell me what you think.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Meatless Monday

I have a really great work schedule. I work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, plus Sundays. On Tuesday and Thursday, I work while the kids are at school. I work late on Wednesday, but I think the whole family benefits from the Dad taking over once a week!

I am using Sundays and Mondays to get ready for the week. Between the kids activities (Speech, track, band, basketball, piano, Mad Science, and Brownies) it can sometimes be tempting to just grad Subway for dinner. But, my new method is to plan our meals and do the shopping on Sunday afternoon. Then, on Monday I can do any prepping for the week. For the week ahead, here's the plan: Sunday-porkchops, corn casserole, pears and salad. Monday: Black Bean Chilaquile, fruit and salad. Tuesday: Spaghetti pie, french bread, fruit and salad. Wednesday: Chilli. Thursday: Tilapia, fried rice, roasted veggies and salad. Friday: no school!

An added benefit of this planning is that I am able to prepare meals that fit with our goals. We eat organic and local as much as possible, and we consider our selves to be flexitarians (vegetarian meals, but not strictly vegetarian. Small meat portions when we eat meat. fish and poultry). I've decided that we will go with Meatless Monday each week. To kick it off,
Black Bean Chilaquile (a Moosewood recipe)

1 cup chopped onion
1 T olive oil
1C chopped tomatoes

1.5 C frozen corn kernals

1.5 cups black beans (15 oz drained)

2T fresh lime juice

1t salt
.5t ground black pepper

2 cups rinsed, stemmed and chipped Swiss Chard or Spinach (we're using spinach)
2 C crushed baked tortilla chips

8 oz grated fat free sharp Cheddar (we're using regular, not fat free)
2 c salsa

preheat oven to 350 Saute onions until translucent, stir in the tomatoes, corn, black beans, lime juice, salt and pepper and continue to saute for about 5-10 minutes. blanch the green until just wilted but still bright green. Drain and set aside. prepare an 8 x8 casserole dish with a very light coating of oil. spread 1/2 the chips on the bottom. spoon the sauted veggies over the chips and sprinkle on 2/3 of the cheese. arrange the greens evenly over the cheese and spoon on 1/2 the salsa. Finish with the rest of the chips, top with the remaining salsa and cheese. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.

This was great. The daughter called out, "It's delicious." I thought so too. I forgot to add the salt and pepper, but it really didn't need it. I think this would be even better in the summer when fresh tomatoes and corn are available. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A new year...

We had a wonderfully busy and full Christmas time here. Mike had special services at his church, I had them at mine. We haven't been serving different churches since we were first married. I still remember driving to my church in Hampstead, NH, pregnant with Sophia, for Christmas Eve services. Sweet memories, but I much prefer to be together. I miss being in worship with my family.

So, I've really been struggling with my current job. I love serving this large congregation as Director of Children's Ministry. I am truly working with the best group of volunteers I've ever had the pleasure to work. Dedicated, respectful, people of integrity. But, I miss my family and I especially miss being the one who teaches Sophia the stories of our faith.

However, while the house in Urbana is still on the market, we don't have much of a choice. And, for 2010, I am okay with that. I'm going to love all that I can about the job. I'm going to include Sophia in as much of our programming as I can. I'm going to trust the community of Byron to teach her and care for her in my absence. I know that they will care for Abe.

I feel as though a weight has been lifted just by accepting our reality.

Now, I can work toward making our home life calm! Our schedules can get crazy if we let them. I'm working on making our dinner menu over the weekend so that I know what I need from the store. We'll continue a mostly organic diet. We'll continue to be "flexitarians". Not exclusively vegetarian, but we eat at least one vegetarian meal a week, and at least one fish meal per week. The other meals are typically chicken or turkey with pork occasionally. I'm going to commit to local meats for 2010! I'm hoping to go to the meat processor on Friday to start stocking up.

I hope you are entering 2010 with a feeling of hope and of calm.