Archive for the 'Soupy Sundays' Category

15
Apr
12

fed up?

I’m sick of politics and politicians, I’m sick of women being treated like chattel, I’m sick of feeling like no matter how I spend my time or my day or my life or my money I could have/should have spent it better.

I peruse headlines for something to write about and I just sigh in a combination of resignation and despair.

I’m going to take the dog for a walk, and then we’re going to have tuna steaks and salad for dinner, with an amusing white wine.  Then I’m going to write a list of things my son should do between now and when he graduates from college and moves to Madison, Wisconsin to start his FIRST REAL JOB (yarly! yeah! go First Son!) (get a credit card, buy clothes for work, figure out what furniture/dishes/potsandpans he needs and how many of those things he can get from our basement on his way from Cleveland to Madison, research cars and think about what kind of a car he wants/needs/can afford, etc. etc.) and then I’m going to read my book or knit.

I’m also going to ponder, as I have been for the past two weeks, two really important questions:

Should I quit at least one of my jobs?

Can I afford/justify these boots?

These two questions are, in case you didn’t notice, directly related.

And the boots are $515, ifthatmakesanydifference.

I’m thinking no, no matter what the answer to the first question is.

And I can’t wait for my glow-in-the-dark paint to come so I can make these jars:

That’s all.

 

05
Feb
12

Sunday “funnies,” and the day’s soup

Reading the instructions that came with the washing machine, trying to determine if I can wash our queen-size down comforter in it without ruining it. Found this on the “troubleshooting” page:

Problem: Washer will not start.

Possible Cause: Washer door not closed completely.

Solution: Close washer door.

Wow. Thanks.

***********

What could happen when your sports event accepts corporate sponsorship:

Seriously?

You don’t suppose they mean?

Maybe more like something like this:

There’s even a water hazard.

(Actually, this isn’t really funny. If you click on the picture above it will take you to a National Geographic webpage that shows some of the horrific things we are doing to this planet. Please do what you can to stop it, including avoiding plastic bags whenever possible, recycling EVERYTHING, and using a refillable water bottle instead of buying water bottles at the store.)

**************

Heard on Prairie Home Companion:

This year’s Republican primaries have come down to the Mormon and the Polygamist.

Ha!

*************

Today’s soup: Beef Chili

In a large pot, sauté one large coarsely chopped onion and 4 cloves minced garlic.

Add 1 lb of stew meat, with the chunks sliced into thin strips. Brown.

Add 1 diced red pepper, 3 dried cayenne and/or chili’s snipped, 1 T. chili powder, 1 T. cumin, and/or 1 T. Southwest Seasoning. Stir until spices release their fragrance.

Add 2. large cans petite diced tomatoes, and 1 can each canned kidney and black beans.

Cover, lower heat, and simmer for however long you want.

About 15 minutes before you want to serve, add 1-2 c. frozen corn.

Serve with grated cheese, sour cream or yogurt, and taco chips on the side.

15
Oct
11

soupy sundays, except on saturday, and not soup

Have to go to a conference tomorrow, so won’t be making soup, and won’t have time to post any recipes. Thought I’d post today’s instead.

But first — our day. Husband and I went and bought a couch:

Cuz the one we have is squishy and poorly made and falling apart, and this one was $200 off and we decided that if you only spend $300 on a couch you don’t mind if somebody’s (ahem) piano students climb all over it and stuff.

I really wanted red or purple, but they only had it in “espresso,” so we bought 4 throw pillows, in various colours and embroideries, which cost $90 altogether. Not sure this ends up being a good deal, but you can’t just have a brown couch.

Then we bought groceries. Grocery shopping has been fun since Second Son, a.k.a. Eating Boy, has gone off to college and is eating his money’s worth of (room and) board. We have been spending under $200 every week, even last week, when we bought $96 of wine that would have cost $192 if not on “special”. We call this “saving money.”

This week our groceries added up to almost $300. Maybe partially because we spent/bought so little last week, but we also bought $20 worth of lobster tails and $25 worth of tuna steaks because they were having this aMAzing seafood sale (see? “saving money”); and $12 worth of pistachios because I love pistachios and have decided not to eat gluten for a few weeks to see if I feel better (hypothyroid; it sucks) and am trying not to eat potato chips. We also splurged and bought $7 worth of pine nuts — about a half a cup. Why are these so expensive? And where do these pine nuts come from? Are we negotiating with some really hard-core squirrel unions or something? Are they that hard to grow?  I’m going to sauté green beans in garlic-y olive oil and lemon juice, and then sprinkle 7 pine nuts on top for “flavor.” I’ll let you know if it’s worth it. (It totally was.)

(Do you ever get the feeling that pretty much everything I do, personally and/or professionally, revolves around what I’m going to eat and/or drink next?)(Yeah, me, too.)

Then we came home and raked some more leaves. We live in the forest, and there are a lot of leaves, and there are still a lot of leaves in the trees, but if we wait until they all fall there are too many to rake, so we did what we call stage 1. (Although I did stage .5 yesterday when I raked them all off the driveway so my poor little Prius could make it up the hill without slipping. Wet leaves = snow when you live on a hill.) Husband and Stepson did the front yard, and I did the sidewalk (for the second time today) and the deck and the back path to the compost pile. It was quite windy, so leaves were swirling around me in great wooshes of golden light, and the air is just cold enough to feel crisp and fresh without being so cold to need a coat. Especially when you’re working hard raking. It was lovely. Except for the fact that it felt like I was throwing a half a ton of leaves over the fence onto the compost pile, it was fun. (It probably wasn’t quite that many, but it was a lot. And I’m allergic. And I have a bad back because First Son weighed 10 lbs. 10 ozs. when he was born I’mnotmakingthatup and 30 lbs. when he was a year old but he still wasn’t walking because he couldn’t get his girth off the floor so I carried him around on one hip and walked like someone who has one leg 3″ longer than the other one for a really long time. So yeah, there were a lot of leaves. And I’m a big baby. I like to say “I’m a delicate flower” but Husband usually just snorts before he remembers that he thinks so too. Anyway.)

I have Husband’s permission to post our salmon recipe. This may actually be, basically, why I married him (see two paragraphs above; NOW the secret’s really out!!!) That and his mushroom risotto. And, well, never mind.

The Best (some call it Only) Salmon Recipe Ever

For a 1 1/2 – 2 lb piece of salmon filet:

Chop 1/2 – 3/4 c. olive-packed sun dried tomatoes (the more natural, the better; we do our own; I know, we might be psychopaths)

Chop 1 bunch curly parsley really really fine.

Sprinkle 10 cloves of garlic with a generous amount coarse salt and chop fine.

Mix these three things together and drizzle with olive oil until it kind of holds together.

Stir and cover and let sit for AT LEAST 2 hours.

Put the salmon skin-side down on a piece of foil with the edges of the foil folded up to make sides. Cut through the salmon flesh without cutting through the skin — make a cut down the middle lengthwise, and then slashes every 2-3″ crosswise. Stuff the slits with the tomato/parsley/garlic mixture, and then pack the rest of the stuff along the top of the salmon. (Don’t put this on the portion Stepson will eat, because he will just scrape it all over into a pile in the corner of his plate, and you can’t just throw that away, it’s like $7 worth of sun-dried tomatoes.)

Cook on the foil over red-hot coals (close the lid of the grill) until salmon is thoroughly cooked — 15-20 minutes probably, depending on the thickness of the flesh.

Serve with brown rice (we like organic short-grain) and a lightly-chilled chardonnay.

Apologize to everyone you sit next to the next day because of the garlic aura with which you are surrounded.

It’s totally worth it.

For dessert we’re having Pomegranate Gelato

Mix the seeds from one Pomegranate with a cup of water and simmer over low low low heat until the seeds are pale and soft. (Or you could be a little less of a psycho, and buy the POM stuff.)

Mix 2 c. whole milk with 1/2 c. sugar and 1 1/2 T. of cornstarch. Whisk until foamy. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until bubbly and foamy (don’t boil it over).

Remove from heat. Drain the juice off the pomegranate seeds into the milk mixture.

We were pouring brandy off of raspberries after 6 weeks, so we squeezed 3 c. of raspberries through a cheesecloth to get the brandy and raspberry juice, and added that to the milk mixture. If you don’t happen to have some of that handy (ha!), add 1/2 c. of raspberry, cranberry, or cherry juice.

Chill.

Process in an ice-cream maker until frozen.

Put into a plastic bowl, cover, and then put in freezer ~ 1 hr. before serving.

09
Oct
11

Beef, Potato, and Leek Soup

Dice half a large onion and sauté in a little bit of olive oil until softened. Add 2 bay leaves, 2 large beef soup bones, and 6 c. of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for hours and hours. (I took an hour-long nap, graded a set of papers, put homework and quiz grades on Blackboard, made brownies, read the Sunday NY Times, and wrote the previous post.)(It’s been a good day.)

Cut the dark green part off of 3 large leeks and discard. Cut the rest of the leek in half or quarters lengthwise (depending on its circumference), and then slice. Put into a colander and rinse really well, getting all of the dirt. (Don’t underestimate this part of the job. I have never seen as much dirt in, on, or around a vegetable, as I do in between every onion-like layer of a leek.)

Peel, slice, and mash 3-5 cloves of garlic.

Dice 3 large white or red potatoes.

Sauté the garlic and leeks in olive oil until soft. Remove the soup bones from the stock, and add the garlic/leeks and potatoes, cooking until potatoes are completely softened.

Blend the soup in batches in a blender, then return to the soup pot; or, if you prefer a heartier soup, cut the potatoes a little smaller when you dice them, don’t cook quite as long, and skip to the next step without blending. Just as good!

Add several handfuls of coarsely chopped baby spinach (optional), and salt and pepper generously. Heat until the spinach wilts.

Serve with a nice Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay.

 

18
Sep
11

comfort food

I think I’m having a midlife crisis.

Okay, I won’t soft-pedal it; I’m having a midlife crisis.

I can’t alleviate this crisis by leaving my husband and taking up with someone younger/richer/more handsome because I love him dearly and right now he seems like maybe one of the few things I’ve “done” right in my life, and I can’t imagine a day without him.

Besides, the crisis is mostly professional. For the first 10 years after my masters degree I mostly raised children. I couldn’t figure out how to practice 4+ hours a day, teach enough students to help make our budget more-or-less balance-able, and take care of busy toddler boys, so I just did the latter 2 out of 3. I played when I could, a little collaborative work here and there for area graduate students and miscellaneous faculty, accompanying my bff Jackie’s violin studio when she took them to contests or played recitals, that kind of stuff.

I’ve since spent the last 14 years as an adjunct at various colleges, while adopting my daughter from Korea and completing my DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) degree in 2005. This was prompted by the realization, as I worked as an adjunct in various college/university music departments, that I was as good a performer and probably a better teacher than a lot of the people I was working with, who had full-time, tenure-track jobs, so why shouldn’t I go for it? But you won’t even be considered for such a position without a Doctorate these days, so, after 5 years of 100-mile-each-way commutes, reading and writing and practicing and studying and performing while still being the primary parent (oldest son was 10 when I started), I had a DMA. And now I’m a fully-credentialed musician in a world with way more fully-credentialed musicians than there are jobs, and in an academic climate which favors piece-work-paid adjuncts over full-time professorships.

I don’t know the numbers on how many pianists graduated with DMAs in the past year, but there is currently ONE tenure-track position in piano posted at the College Music Society. One. In the whole country. One.

So, I’m having a crisis, and as far as I can tell, there are two things I can do about it:

1.) I can suck it up, be grateful I have any work at all, and continue to work at ~ 25% pay for the rest of my life (when compared to what full-time, tenure-track faculty are paid) or

2.) I can find something else to do, and by this I mean something for which I will be paid, which does not include such activities as writing a blog that 135 people read every day or eating my weight in potato chips. Fun as these activities may be, they do not contribute to paying the mortgage.

So. What are my options?

1.) Areas I am interested in and could maybe make a living at:

a) Nursing. Would have to start from scratch, reconcile myself to being a complete “newb” at the age of 50, and probably do things like hold bedpans and inject people with needles.

b) English/Language Arts for secondary school instruction. Would have to  start from scratch, reconcile myself to probably 4 years of school while still paying off loans from my DMA pursuit, still teaching, which can be rewarding, but is also frustrating as there seems to be a general dearth of curiosity/interest in learning amongst “students” today. And are there any teaching jobs anymore?

c) Writing for Pay. Have written two children’s books that start “Nicholas Picholas Tickle-Me . . .” and based on the mischievous antics of my now 18-year old. Also started one called “Hannah’s Hungry,” but haven’t finished it. Don’t know how to get them published, can’t seem to find anyone else who knows. Presumably this is done, routinely, given the number of books out there. And some of them are really dreadful. Have also considered trying to write articles and submit them to magazines, but have not done so, partially in interests of time. Also have a few short story ideas and a family history/memoir/birth-order-memory-what-makes-us-who-we-are book idea but not enough time to really pursue them. Would have to take some time off from earning actual money to see if these lead anywhere, and no windfall/lottery wins/inheritances in sight. Also feel like it’s an act of supreme arrogance to think that I have anything to say that that many people would want to read, and yet here I am. . .

d) Opening some kind of bed-and-breakfast. What I would really like is to move to Italy and buy a few acres and a little villa somewhere and grow my own grapes and host and cook for tourists. I could even teach piano lessons to all the little Italian children in the area, but would have to improve my Italian first. Or offer it as piano -and-English-lessons or something. Although sometimes I don’t even want to teach any more.

Sigh.

Lots of ideas, lots of ways to talk myself out of them.

I joke sometimes that my life’s goal is

2) to be a kept woman.

I don’t think I would be very good at it, though. This is the first semester in a few years I haven’t taught a Music Appreciation class, and, despite still having a pretty full teaching schedule, the lack of this prep has made my days seem rather long.

I’m trying to talk Husband into a dog. A little white Havanese, named Zuzu.

What do you think?

Meanwhile, I can always cook. Am making gumbo today. Have thought about starting a second blog called “Soupy Sundays,” and making a different soup every Sunday and writing about my life, my week, what’s going on with my “crisis” although it seems a little too Julie Powell.

Maybe just a new category then.

Today’s soup:

Gumbo

Heat 1/2 c. canola oil in a large cast-iron soup pot, then whisk in 1/2 c. whole wheat flour and lower the heat to low/low-medium. Allow to brown for 5-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Meanwhile, chop:

1/2 large onion

3 stalks celery

1 large red pepper

1/2 lb. okra (slices)

2 cloves garlic (slice, then mince)

Add the vegetables to the roux, stirring to coat, and allow the vegetables to begin to soften.

Add 8 c. chicken stock (recipe below), 1/2 tsp. cayenne or 1 or 2 dried red chilies, snipped into flakes, or 1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (use both cayenne and pepper flakes/chilies if you like it really spicy), 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper.

Bring to a boil, then add

12-16 ozs. andouille sausage (the nitrite-free kind if you can find it)

and allow the soup to simmer for as long as you’d like — 1 – 3 hours.

A few minutes before being ready to eat, add 1 lb. of peeled shrimp (the big ones are great, but cut in half so you have bite-size portions in your soup spoon), bring soup to boil and boil just long enough to cook the shrimp.

Serve with a crusty bread, and over cooked rice if desired.

I’d include a picture, but the shrimp aren’t in the pot yet, and I’m drying 7 bags of leftover bread bits on my stove, so I’m a little embarrassed. Maybe next time.

Homemade chicken stock

Every self-respecting cook should make this themselves. Way too much sodium in even the low-sodium kinds, and it’s easy. I like to roast a chicken for an easy meal, and then make the stock overnight.

In a large soup pot, put one chicken carcass, and add water to cover by several inches. Add coarsely chopped onions and celery (the top part with the leaves is the best), a handful of whole peppercorns, a couple bay leaves. You can leave the skin on the onion if you want a golden broth, and add garlic or carrots if you want it more flavorful, but this will make it a little less adaptable for certain recipes because the garlic especially adds a very distinctive flavor. I don’t use any salt, so I am free to salt the final dish.

Cover and bring to a boil, and then allow to simmer for HOURS. We often leave this overnight and put it in a bowl to chill the next morning.

This part is important: Pour the stock through a strainer into a large bowl, and chill the broth thoroughly; then skim the fat off the top before putting into 4-cup containers to put in the freezer.

 

Meanwhile, if anyone has any life- or career advice: Please share!

 

 

 

 

 

 




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