Pass the meatloaf–again

My husband stared at me in wide-eyed shock.

“You NEVER do that!” he said. “You never take more just because it tastes good.”

He’s right. Part of portion control for me is to put what’s reasonable on my plate and never go back for seconds.

Today I made an exception, because today I made the best meatloaf that’s ever come out of my oven. And that’s saying a lot for me, who loves meatloaf and experiments with it constantly.

I’ll share what I did, with two warnings: if you don’t like zingy food,

Meatloaf--what's left

Meatloaf–what’s left

you won’t like this; and be prepared to slip-slide through the ingredients a bit, because I never measure.

I started with about a pound of ground chuck from our local butcher, very lean and very good. I added one egg; maybe half a sleeve of soda crackers, ground fine; a one-inch thick slice of a large onion, chopped, but not real fine; half a teaspoon of Italian seasoning; a generous sprinkling of garlic salt; maybe half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes; “sweet and tangy” cherry barbecue sauce; a couple tablespoons of mustard; and finally, the best part: a slotted soup spoon full of hot giardiniera in olive oil, diced. I drained off most of the olive oil, but wasn’t too fussy about getting it all.

I mixed all that well, using my hands, of course–is there any other way?–and plopped it in a casserole dish. Baked it for 1 hour at 350°, and the result was absolutely excellent.

There might be another secret to this meatloaf: I made the hot giardiniera myself. My husband and I were frustrated at not being able to fine the hot variety in our local stores, so we found a recipe online–sorry, I can’t remember where–and I made some a few days ago. It will get better as it sits, but I couldn’t wait to try it. Thus the meatloaf.

Giardiniera, Day 1

Giardiniera, Day 1

I was surprised at how easy it is to make the giardiniera, so if you want to make that meatloaf as close to mine as possible, you might want to make the giardiniera, too. For that, I do have a recipe. Someone named Jeff Mauro first posted it, and I hope he won’t mind my sharing.

1/4 cup table salt
1 cup small-diced carrots
1 cup tiny cauliflower florets

Giardiniera, Day 2

Giardiniera, Day 2

4-8 serrano peppers, sliced (depending on heat level desired)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used four. We love garlic)
1 stalk celery, diced small
1 red bell pepper, diced small
2 cups canola oil (I used olive oil because it’s healthier and I like the flavor)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Day 1, combine 2 cups water and the salt in a glass or non-reactive bowl. Mix until the salt is dissolved. Add the carrots, cauliflower, serranos, garlic, celery and bell pepper to the salt water and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2, drain and rinse the vegetables. In a clean bowl, mix together the oil with the oregano and pepper Add the vegetables and mix to combine. Allow to marinate overnight. Giardiniera will only get better with time. After 2 days at the most in the bowl, you can place it in air-tight mason jars and keep in the fridge for at least 2 to 3 weeks.

What you don’t use in a meatloaf you can mix with meat for hamburgers or spoon over the top, serve on Italian beef sandwiches, toss into salads, add to ham or egg salad–the possibilities are endless.

But the meatloaf–ahh, that’s worth coming back for seconds!

Posted in Food, recipes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Hanging up my compass

There was a time in my life when camping out meant a tent, a shovel and a roll of toilet paper; when a walk in the woods meant heading cross-country with a compass, maybe a map, and my own new trail unfolding behind me.

Now, I’m happy to find an inexpensive Motel 6 when I’m traveling, and

Lady stops to sniff the breeze off the bay.

Lady stops to sniff the breeze off the bay.

very willing to make do with the well-kept trails in the state park.

When I first began noticing these shifts in requirements, I was a bit dismayed. Could this mean I was getting soft? Or worse, getting old? Well, yes.

Maybe not old. Never that. But I have gratzy knees (my favorite word, coined by my husband) that mean no twisting, no long, hard walks. I have a back that my patient chiropractor is slowly trying to restore to normal, a long process I’m sure. And I have the wisdom to know that at this stage in my life, I don’t have to set any records, break any new ground, or challenge myself physically.

A trail sign shares space with pileated woodpecker holes.

A trail sign shares space with pileated woodpecker holes.

And so, when it comes time for a ramble with Lady, we often head to the state park. It’s just minutes from our house and riddled with trails of all kinds. Some collect cool breezes while skirting the bay, some climb up to the old ski hill for a spectacular view, some plunge into the dense canopy of tall evergreen and deciduous trees. I can take my time; I can stop to photograph wildflowers, or gather acorns for the squirrels back home. I can take a break and listen to bird- and wind-song; and aside from a general knowledge of the lay of the land, I don’t need a map or a compass.

Best of all, I can restore myself. Somewhere

A trio of cedars leans in toward the bay.

A trio of cedars leans in toward the bay.

I read that human beings NEED nature to get back in touch with themselves, to connect with that creation of which they’re a part. Too much concrete and traffic, too much technology and artificial noise, are akin to a slow poisoning of the spirit.

I know people who can’t stand quiet, who can’t be alone with their own thoughts without some sort of background distraction–radio, TV, CDs, whatever. Our house, in contrast, is often very quiet as we putter around with our projects. It’s peaceful.

But there’s a different kind of quiet in the woods.

Sunlight dapples the water ripples.

Sunlight dapples the water ripples.

The wind soughs in the trees, moving like an unseen specter from one stand of trees to another as it passes by. Birds flit, sing, challenge each other or drill for insects. Geese in the bay squabble among themselves. Insects zip blindly by.

Those sounds don’t gentle my thoughts, they erase them. My mind drifts, my breathing slows, and I am content just to be. Tension slips away, and nothing seems as important or as consuming as it might have before.

Sometimes I simply enjoy putting one foot in front of the other along the path,

The inside of a large and well-explored pileated woodpecker hole.

The inside of a large and well-explored pileated woodpecker hole.

watching the ground, or scanning the tree tops. Sometimes I let myself be amused at Lady’s obvious enjoyment of our nature trek, where every sniff has a new possibility, where trails sensed only by her lure her doggy imagination. I like giving her the gift of walk in the woods. Sometimes George and I converse quietly about each other’s observations. We take turns holding the leash so the other can photograph.

No compass, no map, no breaking trail. I enjoyed all that once upon a time. My doses of nature are a bit tamer these days and that’s perfectly all right.

Posted in getting older, hiking, nature | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Yogurt–don’t just add fruit

If  you like yogurt, raise your hands.

Now raise your hands if you like yogurt without added fruit and sweetener.

Ah huh, that’s what I thought. So you can imagine that I was less than enthused when I took a look at Catholic Relief Service’s rice bowl recipe for the week, and saw that plain yogurt played a huge part in it. And with garlic and mint, if you can believe that.

Maybe you can believe it. But it’s not something I’ve ever put together. More and more, as I do these Lenten recipes from other countries, I’m beginning to realize that I haven’t been very adventurous with my cooking. These rice-bowl recipes are teaching me about more than eating simply. They’re teaching me that other countries have some fun ways of combining foods–and doing it in ways that are a lot healthier than some of our fat-laden offerings.

This week we’re in Lebanon, and the recipe is called fattet laban.

A bowl of fattet laban, ready to be served.

A bowl of fattet laban, ready to be served.

I wish I could have learned more about whether this is a main meal, or a light repast. For us, it was a main meal, and a satisfying one at that–much to our surprise. As George took his second helping, we agreed that despite initial trepidation, this recipe was another winner.

Here’s the recipe:

Fattet Laban (serves 4-6)

32 oz. plain, whole-milk yogurt
Cheesecloth
1 bunch fresh mint
1 t dry mint
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 16-oz cans chickpeas with liquid
Pita bread
1/4 C almonds, chopped and toasted
2 T olive oil

Place a colander into a bowl, line it with cheesecloth and place yogurt in it. Cover and place in refrigerator. Allow yogurt to drain for a few hours or overnight.

Combine drained yogurt, fresh and dry mint, and crushed garlic in a bowl. In a pan, heat chickpeas in their liquid until warm, then drain and set aside. Toast pita bread in oven until golden in color. Break some of the pita bread and place pieces in a  large bowl with chickpeas. Add yogurt mixture. Top with fresh mint and toasted almonds. Drizzle olive oil over top. Serve with remaining pita bread.

Meanwhile, check out the info about Lebanon on the CRS rice bowl website’s video. I learned that 3 million Syrians have fled their country since civil war broke out in 2011, and half of them are children. Nearly 4.5 million are displaced within their own country. And 1 million are currently living in Lebanon.

The same bowl, almost empty. We cleaned it up after I shot this photo.

The same bowl, almost empty. We cleaned it up after I shot this photo.

CRS is helping, which is the whole idea of the rice bowl, of course. I just added a bit to ours, and I wondered how many other families in Lebanon might have been eating this same meal today.

Posted in Catholic life, CRS Rice Bowl, Food, Lent, recipes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sweet potatoes and peanut butter? Oh yeah!

Sometimes it gets really boring fixing meals three times a day, every day. I finally decided that part of the reason is that I tend to use the same recipes over and over–admittedly a fairly large repertoire–and combine foods the same way. By that I mean there are some foods I just wouldn’t think of putting together.

So last week, when it was time to visit the next country on Catholic Relief Service’s rice bowl tour, I read the ingredients with some hesitation. Each one taken separately was fine, but–sweet potatoes and peanut butter? I decided I’d better have a fall-back plan in case this culinary journey proved to be a flop.

The country was Niger, and the recipe is for west-African peanut stew. As before, I visited CRS’s website to watch a video about Niger, and learn about the CRS project called “”Bonbatu” (which means “I become stronger”) where farmers were hired to dig reservoirs which will provide water for crops and livestock during the dry season.

Then it was time to try the recipe. I admit it was fun to chop and measure and an unusual combination of ingredients that were simple, inexpensive, and yet nutritious–and meatless, of course, since this is a Lenten project, and since meat is more scarce is third-world countries.

I suspect that in Niger, they use whole peanuts, or perhaps they grind them, rather than use store-bought peanut butter. I do use the natural kind that contains no sugar. It’s just peanuts and a bit of salt, and it’s delicious. I noticed that the peanut butter acted as a thickener for the liquid in the stew.

While everything simmered, the aroma wafting through the house was enticing, a hint that maybe that fall-back plan wouldn’t be needed after all.

“Dinner’s ready,” I announced to George, once I had everything dished up. He came to the table with a half-grin, and took a sniff before sitting down.

“Let’s see what you’ve come up with this time,” he said.West-African peanut stew

We each spooned up a bit of the rice-and-stew mixture and took a tentative bite.

“It’s good!” George announced, sounding just a bit surprised. I had to agree, but neither of should have been surprised.  That has become a familiar verdict with each of these CRS meals suggested in the rice-bowl project. As usual, what we saved by not having meat will go in our little cardboard rice bowl and be sent to CRS at the end of Lent. CRS keeps three-quarters of it, and the rest goes to our local diocese for social justice projects.

Once again, George and I decided this recipe will be saved, and the meal will be fixed again. We loved this new mixture of flavors, I loved the process of cooking it, and if I can eat healthily and save money at the same time, I’m all for it.

Give this recipe a try. You’ll like it!

West-African peanut Stew, serves 4-6

1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh ginger, minced
4 T olive oil
6 C water
1/2 t crushed red pepper
12 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
3 small sweet potatoes, cubed
2 medium tomatoes, diced
3 C chopped kale or spinach (I used spinach)
1 C crunch peanut butter

In a large pot, sauté onion, garlic and ginger in oil until tender. Add 5 cups of water and season with crushed red pepper salt and black pepper. Stir in sweet potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in 1 cup water, tomatoes, greens and peanut butter. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice.

Posted in Catholic, CRS Rice Bowl, Food, Lenten food, meatless meal, recipes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Walking off the fever

I didn’t think I had cabin fever. I still don’t think I did. But boy, when the temp got up to near 40° yesterday, it didn’t take me long to persuade George to join Lady and me at Potawatomi State Park.

There was enough snow that we had to stay on the road–except for the nice flat expanse we found where Lady ran and romped and had a ball. As we walked back out on the road, we saw the sign: “Ski Trail. No pets. No hiking.” Oops.

The birds were still sparse, the ice shanties were still on the bay, Ice "shanties"and I still wore a hat and warm mittens. But the sun was shining at a different angle, and the air just smelled different. The road was mostly bare, but off-road the snow thick and wet, a sure sign of warming temps.

We weren’t alone. Like groundhogs emerging from their burrows, others had ventured into the park to celebrate the first break from winter’s cold in a long time. Some were holding hands like we were, some walking their dogs, one jogging, an old couple toddling along at their own senior pace. But all of us were outside, smiling at the sun and each other, nodding greetings and repeating, over and over, “spring is on its way!”

Today, same thing. I was up earlier than usual for an early Mass, and thanks to Daylight Savings Time, was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise when I got to church. Window to heavenAnd, unlike so much of what winter has been, the sun decided to stay out for the rest of the day. As the temps climbed–41° after lunch–we headed for the park again.

There was a time when I thought a walk in the state park was pretty tame. I suppose I still do. I think of the days when, to me, the only walk in the woods worth the effort was the kind where I headed cross-country on no trail at all, armed with a compass and a bottle of water–and a camera, of course. But those were the days when I lived in northeastern Minnesota, where most of the land is public; and those also were the days when my knees weren’t quite as gratzy as they are now.

So, I opt for the tamer walk, but even at the state park most of the components are there: lots of trees, tracks and trails of unseen critters, birdsong that will increase as the weather warms, silence that presses gently against my ears broken by bursts of wind movement in the trees, sighing and whispering to itself in the branches.

George and I walk side by side, stopping to steal a kiss now and then or take a photo, not talking much, each content with our own thoughts. Lady marches along beside us, setting the pace of this walk with her constant sniff stops. Now and then she heads into the woods after an intriguing scent, surprising herself by sinking into the wet snow. She does a quick u-turn and heads back to the easier maneuverability of the road.

A little red-breasted nuthatch flitters down to the strip of bare earth along the road, its movement like the flutter of a late-falling leaf. We stop quickly and it sits still, looking at us with tiny bright eyes, apparently unafraid. Then off it flies, only to return to a branchnuthatch just out of reach. I actually feel a bit guilty that I don’t have some shelled peanuts in my pocket. It loses interest quickly and flit away.

Our walk isn’t a long one, but it’s full of promise. Winter has been a long cold one, its single-digit temps–and below–keeping us inside for much of it. But it’s on the way out, losing its grip a bit more each day, trickling away under the persistent sun, soaking into the earth and making way for the green things we’re all so hungry for.

No, I don’t really think I had cabin fever. Not the full-blown, stir-crazy kind. But I think this shift in the weather came just in time. Now, each day will be pregnant with expectation, and I’ll once again be up and waiting to shoot the sunrise.

Posted in fighing spring fever, walking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Beans & rice–do I have to?

We’re off to Nicaragua for lunch this Friday, I told George, and he shook his head.

“Not me,” he said. “I have to go to Green Bay.” I knew I was on my own.

It’s week two of Lent, and George and I have decided that meatless Fridays would include the featured recipes from Catholic Relief Services’ rice bowl brochures. This week it’s Gallo Pinto from Nicaragua, and when I glanced through the ingredients, I figured I was in trouble. Rice and beans. Not my favorite combination. To me, they’re two rather tasteless foods. At least, I thought, this will truly be a penance.

Before I started, I visited the CRS website to watch this week’s video about the poor coffee farmers there, who have been struggling to fight the coffee rust disease that has diminished their crops. CRS has taught them how to use fertilizer and to diversify their crops to grow their own food, and also helped them form cooperatives where they can pool money and work together to survive the lean months of each year.

I also learned that this Gallo Pinto is something they eat almost every day. Gallo PintoIf they can do it daily, surely I could try it just this once, I thought. And, since it’s definitely an inexpensive meal, I can put the money I might have spent on dinner into our CRS rice bowl.

As I started preparing this simple meal, I decided it would need something to zing it up a bit. Who says penance has to be bland? George and I both like spicy foods, and there was nothing spicy about this recipe. I thought of adding crushed red pepper flakes, then decided I’d do hot sauce instead. Would that invalidate the authenticity of this recipe? Not enough to matter, I figured.

The finished recipe calls for it to be served with a fried egg or cheese. Since I love cheese, and since I’d just had an egg for breakfast, I shredded some nice, sharp cheddar to sprinkle over the top. A few good dollops of hot sauce, and I was ready to sample the first bite.

Empty plateOh dear. I was wrong. This wasn’t going to be a good penance at all. This stuff is delicious, and I didn’t even need the hot sauce. It remains to be seen whether George likes this Nicaraguan staple when he gets it reheated tonight, but one thing I know for sure. If he doesn’t eat it, I will.

Here’s the recipe if you want to try it for yourself.

Gallo Pinto (makes 4-6 servings)

1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 T fair trade olive oil
2 C rice
4 C water
2 16-oz cans red beans, drained
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Fried egg or cheese (optional)

In a large pot, sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic in oil. Stir in rice. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft. Add water and cook, covered, until most of the water has been absorbed. Add beans and bay leaf. Mix well and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Serve hot with cheese or fried egg.

Posted in Catholic life, CRS Rice Bowl, Food, Lent, Lenten meals, meatless meals | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

To Tanzania for lunch

George and I went to Tanzania for lunch today.

The fact that I’m writing this in my own living room is your tipoff that we didn’t board a plane to get there. Our ticket to this adventure was a Catholic Relief Services “rice bowl” that I found in the back of the church after Mass last week.

These rice bowls are, I think, a reincarnation of the old cardboard containers we Catholic Rice bowlschool kids once used to collect our pennies for the “pagan babies,” a term that’s politically incorrect now, I suppose. Back then, we knew what it meant, and it wasn’t disrespectful. Somewhere, across the globe, lived little kids who not only worshiped a god other than ours–maybe–but also lived lives devoid of the the basic necessities of life. They needed our help. All these years later they’re still there, and they still need help.

And so Catholic Relief Services still makes available these cardboard bowls with the slit on top for depositing spare change each day, or more generous portions of our grocery budget that remain when we choose to eat more simply for Lent. When we count up our largesse and send the money in after Easter, 75 percent will go to people in poor countries far away. Twenty-five percent remains in our own diocese to care for local needs.

All of which leads up to our Tanzanian trip. Included in the rice bowl is a calendar that says, “Lent is a journey. Where will it take you?” Besides the obvious spiritual places, this rice-bowl journey encourages solidarity with the poor of the world by including a recipe from a different country for each week of Lent. This week, it was Ugali and Bean Soup from Tanzania–along with the web address for a video about the country and how CRS helps there. (crsricebowl.org)

“I think I’ll try this recipe on Friday,” I told George as we prepared our grocery list.

He raised one eyebrow.

“It might be good,” I cajoled.

“I suppose,” he said, always game for something new.

Twice after that he asked what we were doing for our Lenten, meatless meals on Friday.

“Oh yeah,” he quickly answered himself. “You’re doing that stuff.”

At the meat market, he found a nice piece of salmon in the cooler, and suggested it might make a good Friday meal. I hesitated.

“But you’re making that recipe,” he remembered. The salmon stayed on the shelf. Besides, it can’t be much of a penance to fix something that’s more expensive than the meatloaf I might ordinarily make. The money we didn’t spend on salmon will go in the rice bowl.

So here comes Friday, and out come the ingredients. Nothing fancy–except perhaps the coconut milk, which is the only ingredient that probably costs more for us than it does the people in Tanzania. But I wanted the authentic taste.

The ugali is just corn meal simmered in boiling water until the most of the water is absorbed, then formed into balls, placed in a bowl, and covered with the soup. It looked good, and it smelled good. All that remained was the taste test.Ugali with bean soup

George took the first spoonful. “Not bad,” he said.

I sampled mine, sure that a wad of corn dumpling was going to be less than impressive. But somehow, mixed with the coconut milk and the other ingredients, it developed a new flavor, and the more I ate, the better I liked it. George even had seconds. That’s when I really knew it had passed the test.

We cleaned our bowls, and I reached for the Lenten calendar. Next week, Gallo Pinto from Nicaragua. George’s eyebrow went up again, but I think we’re both approaching the next culinary trip with a little more confidence than this first time. Stay tuned.

If you want to try Ugali with Bean Soup for yourself, here’s the recipe that serves 4-6. You might also consider donating any money saved to a local food shelf, or to CRS itself.

Ugali:
4 cups water
2-1/2 cups cornmeal

Bean Soup:
1 small onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
4 T fair trade olive oil
1 t curry powder (I used the spicy kind)
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 tomato, chopped
2 16-oz. cans kidney beans, drained
3 cups unsweetened coconut milk

Directions for Ugali: Boil water in saucepan, then stir in cornmeal. Simmer until mixture is thick and water is absorbed. Stir often to prevent burning. Shape the mixture into round balls, one for each person.

Directions for Bean Soup: In a large pot, sauté onion and green pepper in oil until soft. Add curry powder, salt, black pepper and tomato. Simmer for 2 minutes, add beans and stir. Add coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes on low heat. Serve over ugali.

Posted in Food, Lent, recipes, soup | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

AKA vitamin soup

Eat more fresh veggies, everyone says.

Well, there’s a problem with that. I don’t want to prepare and cook six different vegetables for one meal; and if there’s just two in the household, like ours, I don’t want to buy a huge variety to cook a little at a time and have them go bad in the fridge before I can get to them.

I think I’ve found the perfect solution. Since George and I love soup, I decided to make a big batch of vegetable soup, using almost as many vegetables as I could get, paying no attention to whether they supposedly go together. I also wanted a hearty,

Beef femur bones, in a pot of water, ready to make wonderful broth.

Beef femur bones, in a pot of water, ready to make wonderful broth.

healthy broth, and that’s when I remembered an article I read recently read about the benefits of bone broth, full of that life-giving marrow that primitive people instinctively knew to suck out of the bones.

My first stop at the grocery store was the meat department, where I asked a young butcher whether I could find beef bones.

“You want them for soup, or for your dog?” he asked, heading for the meaty soup bones and ox tails in the display.

“I want them for the marrow, for broth,” I said, and he got a sly little grin on his face.

“Then you want femur bones,” he said, switching direction and pointing to a refrigerated section with big, nearly bare bones. “They’re supposedly for dogs, so they’re cheaper, and”–he picked up a package–”you’ll get probably half a pound of marrow from this package.”

I thanked him, thinking to myself that there was a time when a person could get bones for free and the grocery store was glad to be rid of them. I also shuddered at the price I saw on those ox tails: $4.49 a pound. Good grief, hamburger is cheaper than that. But that’s another story.

Some of the fresh veggies that went into the soup.

Some of the fresh veggies that went into the soup.

Then I rounded up some veggies, leaving out things other people might add automatically, like corn and tomatoes. No special reason, just personal preference.

Back home, I put the bones in a pot with plenty of water and set them to simmering for a couple hours. Eventually, I used a knife to scrape out what marrow hadn’t melted into the mix, and removed the bones. Later, I’ll leave them in the woods for little critters to gnaw.

Then, I started cleaning and chopping veggies: celery, turnips, parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, potatoes, rutabagas, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, onions and spinach (added at the very end when the soup is no longer cooking, so it simply wilts. The sweet potatoes tend to sweeten the soup a bit, so if you don’t like sweetness in a soup, leave them out.) While I chopped, I set some pre-soaked black beans to cook, adding them at the very end to provide protein.

And of course, the herbs. I have some hanging in my kitchen that I grew this past summer, so I crumbled sweet basil, parsley, sage, a little lemon thyme and some crushed red pepper flakes, and added salt and pepper to taste and a few bay leaves.

Now, with a simple bowl of soup, I have the vitamins from 14

Ready to serve: tasty, nutritious, economical "vitamin soup."

Ready to serve: tasty, nutritious, economical “vitamin soup.”

different vegetables as well as the vitamin-rich bone marrow. We can have a bowl of soup all by itself for a light supper, or add crackers, garlic toast, or even half a sandwich. We can have this as the vegetable with an otherwise meat-and-potatoes meal.

Best of all, we can feel just a little smug about finding a tasty, one-stop way to get lots of vegetables into our diet.

Posted in Food, nutrition, soup | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Absolutely nothing

My butt is going to take on the shape of this chair, I told George a few minutes ago.

He laughed, but couldn’t criticize, because his butt’s in danger of the same fate.

We promised ourselves after Mass today that we’d do exactly what we’re doing this afternoon: nothing at all. No laundry, no cooking, no shopping, no catching up on what we didn’t manage to finish yesterday. It’s Sunday, it’s our Sabbath, and we take that no-work-

Via Bing Images

Via Bing Images

on-the-Sabbath rule seriously.

Not just because it’s a rule, of course, but because it’s one of God’s gifts it makes sense not to refuse. It’s the day to pay Him a little extra attention and to re-create ourselves. So, it’s Mass in the morning, then out to lunch, a different place each Sunday, and a dog walk. In the summer, we’d probably take a drive, or ramble through the state park, or grab our cameras and go shooting. Today it’s 16°, gray and damp, and not very enticing.

Instead, we did inside stuff. Music is playing, George was napping a while ago. Before that he restrung a guitar, and I wrote letters to three of the diocese’s seminarians–a personal project that goes throughout the year. I read a couple of the newspapers I subscribe to, and prayed a Rosary. I’ve eyed my crocheting, sitting in a bag near my chair, but I think I’ll save that for later, while we’re watching a movie or an old television show. No TV now, though. It’s sort of an unwritten rule in our house that we don’t turn the boob tube on during the day, any day.

Sunday is a good time to reflect on things marvelous and mundane–on the week ahead

Via Bing Images

Via Bing Images

with its appointments and schedules; the upcoming meeting with a city alderman about a thorny issue and his disappointing vote; about the fluffy little birds in my feeder and how quickly they’re devouring seed on this frigid day; about the joy of sharing the silence with someone I love; about my sister’s health issues and the new challenges in her life; about the fact that it’s the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. (!)

We’ll rouse ourselves eventually, and meander to the kitchen for a little snack, which would be called supper on any other day, but which “lunch out” necessarily reduces to something much less. Besides, it’s ice cream night, and we both want to save room.

We deprive ourselves of ice cream the rest of the week, for health reasons, mostly. But we’re big believers in moderation, and neither of us believes anything should be left totally out of our diets. I promise, that ice cream tastes even better for being savored only one night a week.

Maybe this all sounds terribly boring. To us, it’s relaxing, because even though we’re retired, we have busy schedules. I’m a freelance writer, George is a freelance musician, and we both volunteer here and there. This is the day to indulge ourselves with the lack of activity that might be considered slothful on any other day of the week.

Then, tomorrow, we’ll work on getting these butts back to their normal shape.

Posted in Catholic life, Human behavior, Lifestyle | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Dawn flight

Sun…rise.
Wings…spread.
Lean out, drop down, soar overhead.bird

Eyes closed,
Face the light.
Swim in warm air rivers
Through the morning light.

Skim…float
on golden swells.
Feel silent sky
Taste remnant dew
where dream impels.

Wider, higher, circle, soar.
Pierce the silent, empty sky
far from the shore.

Wings slowly beat a soft tattoo,
Feathers etch lazy lines
where golden hue will fade,
give way to blue.

The light…divine.
The sky…all mine.
To dip
And soar
And swim
‘Til
Dawn
Is
Done.

Posted in Poem, Reflection | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments