Gourmet masquerade

I’m not a gourmet cook. I don’t use exotic ingredients or fancy presentations. I don’t use obscure cooking methods, or dabble in recipes that require anything more than the basic kinds of utensils.

No, I’m more of an ordinary-food-with-an-extra-kick cook. (Hmm. That sounded a bit like kick the cook. Don’t you dare.) I’m a woman who has raised a family on a small budget and still lives on a small budget, so what I come up with has to be down-home cooking.

But don’t be fooled. “Down home” doesn’t have to mean plain. It doesn’t have to be smothered in fat, drowning in sugar, or come out of a box. It can be ordinary food that’s been prepared just a little bit different from what’s expected–like adding garlic salt to scrambled eggs, or almond flavoring to French toast.

All this is being said to give me an excuse to write about the rather ordinary meal I fixed today that was good enough for me to still be thinking about it. And planning to do it again.

This meal had to be worthy of Sunday dinner, but quick to fix, since we were just getting home from Mass and George had to leave fairly soon for an afternoon and evening of music gigs. So, this is how it went.

First, when I got up this morning I sliced half of a big boneless,

Chicken cooking

Monica Sawyn photo

skinless chicken breast into one-inch strips, then buried them in a a shallow dish of marinade. The marinade was, roughly (since I never measure) 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric, 1/8 cup of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Covered with plastic wrap, the bowl stayed in the fridge until  was ready to start cooking. This could have been done the night before, too.

Since it was a warm day and George was in a hurry, we decided against grilling outside. Instead, I heated my grill pan that I’d coated with a little grape seed oil (which tolerates higher temps than olive oil does) and laid the strips of chicken on that. I plucked them out of the marinade and was careful that a good amount of the yogurt mixture remained on the chicken.

While those were cooking–I turned them a couple times–I cut up a couple medium-sized potatoes into bite-sized chunks, put them into a bowl, drizzled them with olive oil, covered the bowl and microwaved it for 4 minutes. Then I sprinkled garlic, salt and pepper (or lot of chili powder, for another kind of flavor), mixed it well, and microwaved them for 4 more minutes. When they were done, I let them sit until the rest of the meal was ready.

Meanwhile, I took the one shortcut I seldom take:

Plated

The turmeric gives the chicken a pretty yellow color. Monica Sawyn photo

I used frozen peas instead of some kind of fresh veggie. But, like I said, time was an issue. So, I prepared those on the stove top, and then topped the peas with sliced almonds.

And that was it. That meal, followed by fresh, locally grown cantaloupe for dessert, used basic ingredients most of us keep in our kitchens. But by using a few spices and an easy marinade for a little zip, every mouthful was savory and far from being bland or plain.

The key is experimentation. If you can bring yourself to do that, cooking–and eating–will seem gourmet even when it’s not.

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Switch-up enchiladas

It’s fun to try new recipes–and it’s fun to vary them. It’s the varying that inexperienced cooks are often afraid of. I know I used to be.

Back in my early days, I’d find something that looked really good, but if I didn’t have every single ingredient, I either put off making it,

enchiladas

Not mine. We ate them too fast and I never photographed them. But they looked much like this.

or dashed off to the store. That can get tiring, and it’s so unnecessary. One of the first things a new cook should learn is how to mix things up a bit.

Yesterday, for instance. I had some meat that needed to be used up, and I was in the mood for Mexican. So, I dug out one of my favorite Mexican recipe books.  I had bought some flour tortilla shells at the grocery store, but I discovered that was about all of the required ingredients I had on hand.

The recipe called for cream of chicken soup, sour cream, picante sauce, cooked chicken, and Monterey Jack cheese. I had none of those things. So, I used what I had, and the result was better than I remember that original recipe being.

Here’s the recipe, as I tweaked it:

1 can cream of mushroom soup
8 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1 cup black bean salsa (Mrs. Renfrew’s. I like it because it doesn’t have sugar in it.)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 pound of ground chuck, browned
1 cup shredded garlic-and-herb cheddar
6 flour tortillas

1. Mix the soup, yogurt,  salsa and chili powder. Reserve 1 cup.
2. Brown the ground chuck, seasoned with homemade taco seasoning. (I make my own because I don’t like the unpronounceable ingredients in the packaged stuff. But go ahead and use it if you prefer.)
3. Mix 1 cup of the salsa mixture,  ground beef and cheese.
4. Spread about 1/3 cup of the meat mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam-side down in a 3-quart shallow baking dish.
5. Pour the remaining salsa mixture over the enchiladas. Cover and baked at 350° for 40 minutes.

It could be there’s a recipe just like that somewhere, but the point is, I didn’t know that. I substituted our of necessity. Back in my younger days, it would never have occurred to me to take such liberties; now I realize that’s what makes cooking fun. Most experienced cooks discovered that long ago. If you haven’t, try it!

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It’s all about the socks

I walk a little more carefully these days, and I’ve been blaming it on my cranky knees. Now I know better. I’m wearing the wrong socks.

The revelation came to me during a moment of silence at the vet’s office. The overhead television, sound off, was flickering for those waiting for their pet’s appointments. I glanced at it casually to see a woman stroking her legs sensuously, a man tackling a treadmill with supernatural vim, and a 70-year-old jumping a hurdle as though he had springs in his feet.

They were all wearing white, knee-high socks. Exercise socks, according to the closed caption. And not your common or garden variety white athletic sock, either. These had magic fibers, or a magic weave, or something new and revolutionary enough that none of those people minded looking like total nerds with their knobby knees protruding from the top of the tight white casings.

One man looked into the camera, the very picture of sincerity.

“I was amazed at the difference these make,” the caption said. “They really do work.”

I sat there, staring guiltily at my knees, blamed for all manner of crabbed, mincing or measured steps on my part. I glanced down at my sandaled feet, bare toes visible, nary an exercise sock in sight. The trouble, I realized, is my muddled thinking. I thought eating right, taking glucosamine-chondroitin supplements and hitting the NuStep three times a week were all the tools available to keep me mobile. Little did I know it’s all about socks.

I know there are people out there who wear support hose, and

socks

Tres chic, eh?

I have no intention of doing that. I know there are support socks, and compression socks, and something called nurse mates. They all fit into the “squeezer” category, and that rhymes with geezer and who wants to admit to that?

Exercise socks, now, those will catch on. Those hint at fit, trim, active, even athletic people. Take a look around you. That senior jogging down the road? I bet he’s wearing white, knee-high exercise socks. How about that gray-haired guy trying to get on the high school track team? Pay no attention to his bony knees; focus instead on those classy white socks, the ones with the death grip on his legs.

I’m sold. I’m going to run out and get me a pair of those wonderful socks just as soon as I can convince my knees they’re not done for the day. If I’m lucky, by the time I find some, they’ll have come out with full body apparel in the same fabric. This gal is ready to be renovated.

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Fifty years from a distance

George just left for a gig with the Peninsula Players,  Lady and I are sitting on the deck in the cool of the evening, and I’m basking in the nostalgia of my 50th class reunion–the one I didn’t attend.

There are some who live right on top of the old home town who couldn’t be bothered to book a dance with nostalgia. Others will drag themselves across half the country to quench their thirst with a glass of classmate camaraderie. I fall somewhere in between: too far, with too many obligations, to make it easily, but delighting in the idea of staying in touch with the people who are part of my roots.

for blog

Myself at age 14, with my dog Cindy.

Thank goodness for Facebook. My Catholic Central High School has its own page, and I’ve been reconnected with many of the 300-plus I graduated with. And thank goodness for friends with cameras, who took me to the reunion through their lenses and showed me smiles I haven’t seen in 50 years.

Yes, they were all smiling. No wallflowers in that group, no separation into this clique or that group. They’ve all grown up and grown beyond those sorts of insecurities. Now, they’re just people who developed careers, got married (or not), raised families, carved niches into new terrain, and can count themselves blessed for still being here 50 years later, as some of us, alas, are not.

Only those from a Catholic high school might have realized that the reunion was held on the Feast of the Transfiguration. It proved to be prophetic, because I saw transfigurations in each of the photos that were posted. Some of the high school heart throbs would hardly keep a heart beating now, while many of the plain janes

MTallShip

Myself last week, armed with a camera, as always.

blossomed and, like that cliched fine wine, only got better with time. Some of the chunky ones lost weight, the slim ones added a bit of girth, and a few of the boys lived up to their parents’ promise that their growth spurt would come eventually. All of them looked confident and comfortable in their own skin.

Some I recognized immediately; some I would never have known. But since they all wore name tags, and the women’s included maiden names, I suspect it was the same for everyone. Some, thanks again to Facebook, I now know better than when I was in school, while a few, just a few, have disappeared completely from everyone’s radar.

I may not have been able to be there, but it was fun to peek into others’ photographic mementos.  And I can assure you that I carry each of you in my prayers.

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The weekend–still special

Despite the fact that I’m retired, the weekend is still a special part of my week.

You might think that since I no longer punch a time clock, each day is pretty much like any other, always with the option to stay up late or go to bed early, rise with the sun or sleep in until noon, do the yard work or the shopping or just sit and read.

time clock

Via Bing Images

I suppose that would be true, if I’d allowed it to be.

But even a retired person needs a balance and rhythm to life, a structure that includes highs and lows, busy times and relaxing ones. It takes deliberate choices to see that that happens. And maybe it takes having been a Benedictine oblate for nearly 40 years, living a rule of life that encourages a balance between work and play, between productivity and prayer.

Even now, sitting here on a Friday night, I’m anticipating the Saturday and Sunday before me.  Some of the excitement is probably a holdover from my working days when the weekend meant respite–but not entirely, because the weekend still means true respite.

shortcakeSaturday starts special with a special breakfast. It’s the day we break our healthy food regimen and feast–in moderation–on bacon and pancakes or waffles. Tomorrow, since it’s strawberry season, it will be strawberry shortcake with the bacon. Dessert for breakfast! I feel like a kid, getting away with something.

There will be no interviews for freelance articles; no major housework since I make sure it’s pretty much done during the week; no meetings, no obligations. I might putz in the garden, or spend some time in the sewing room. I might do some baking–because I like to, not because I have to. Sometimes George has a gig, and I might go if it’s a public event. If not, I enjoy the solitude and the silence.

Sunday is Sabbath, with all the reverence and separateness that concept implies. On Sunday we go to 10:30 Mass, so the morning is a buildup to that main event. MassBreakfast is simple, Morning Prayer is leisurely, “nice” clothes have been laid out to mark the solemnity of the day, and we go together to church to offer our past week as our gift, to give thanks in the best way possible for gifts and blessings received, to be part of a worshiping community, just as God is part of a community of Three.

Sunday is our day of rest. Even retired people need that both mentally and physically, as well as spiritually. On Sunday we don’t do laundry, buy groceries, clean the house, wash the car, go shopping or “catch up” on the things we forgot to do the rest of the week. On Sunday we let it all go, and we re-create ourselves.

There was a time when Mass was followed by lunch out someplace–and that still happens occasionally–but we figured that if Sunday is a day of rest for us, we shouldn’t contribute to a system that doesn’t allow it to be a day of rest for others. Does our effort make a difference in the lives of sales clerks and waitresses for whom Sunday must be just another workday? No, but it makes a difference to me that I haven’t practiced a double standard.

So instead of eating out, we plan something especially tasty for our meal at home. Maybe a steak on the grill, or a roast in the crock-pot, or a new recipe that tempted both of us. Then, if the weather cooperates, we might walk Lady in a “special place,” somewhere different from her usual jaunts. We might spend the afternoon on our personal fun projects–sewing or reading or catching up on Catholic newspapers for me, perhaps; music undoubtedly for George, or a few games of M.U.L.E. on the iPad.

readingIt’s a free day, a break from obligations that’s savored with a kind of joyful glee. It’s a day to notice that the floor needs vacuuming, and to feel not one bit guilty about ignoring it. A day when the myriad things involved in running a home can just get in line for Monday, or Tuesday or the days that follow. It’s a day where I can spend hours just reading if I want to–and anyone who really knows me, knows I often want to.

Our weekend ends with one last, simple splurge: ice cream! We’re fairly health conscious, but it’s the occasional treats we allow ourselves that help us stay on the straight and narrow the rest of the time. Two quarts of ice cream wait ice creamin our freezer at all times; one is my pick, one is George’s. Like two kids, at some point during any given Sunday, one of us will announce to the other, “It’s ice cream day!” I like mine in a cone, George wants his in a dish. Yum.

St. BenThen Monday arrives, and the rest of the week follows, and although we don’t go to work, little obligations rear their heads here and there. Always, though, the weekend lies ahead, two days that we’ve chosen to make special. Rhythm and balance. St. Benedict would approve.

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How’s YOUR back?

Gardening has taught me patience. Not because I have to wait for plants to grow, but because I have to deal with myself.

Or maybe it’s just that with age has come a bit of wisdom. All I know is that now, in my retirement years, I’ve learned that yard work doesn’t have to be done all at once, and I’m trying to carry that new awareness into the rest of my life.

When I was much younger, spring to me meant backbreaking bingesLadder in the yard, pulling weeds, planting flowers, mowing, trimming, clipping, digging, in all the flower beds, on the same day. Even if I managed to get everything done that one day, just the idea of the maintenance required to keep things looking nice produced weed-inducing procrastination. In those days, gardening was an all-or-nothing proposition.

It’s not like that any more. It CAN’T be like that any more. With age may come wisdom where gardens are concerned, but that’s because age also brings gratzy knees and a twingy back. Overdoing means being overdone and a trip to the chiropractor where I spend money I could have spent on flowers.

So now, I take an hour  here and an hour there, pulling a few weeds, removing old growth and stopping now and then to listen to the birds or feed the chipmunks who like to eat out Gardensof my hand. The next day I may take another hour. I work on cloudy days when it’s not too hot, or when there’s shade and a nice breeze. After all, I’m retired. I should enjoy being able to pick and choose and follow no schedule but my own.

I use a garden bench to avoid back-killing stooping, dragging it along with me as I move, foot by foot, through the garden. I use a wheelbarrow to lug dirt-filled pots. I’ve been been known to let the weeds lie in a pile overnight, and pick them up the next day. I bet no one even notices.

I don’t even buy my annuals at the same time. I used to arrive at the greenhouse with a long list, and Stoolby the time I carried several flats of flowers to the car I was already too tired to even think of gardening. Now, I get the ones for the pots I like best, bring them home, leave them on the deck, and then, when it suits me, I plant a few. When those are planted, I get more if I need them, and repeat the process.

Today, when I got home from an errand and was heading for the house, I stopped to pull a few weeds that were in my line of sight. Next time I’m outside I’ll pull a few more. I’ll grab some as I take Lady for a walk, or before I settle down for Morning Prayer. There will be others waiting, and I WILL get to them–tomorrow.

SeagullTo some people, this would sound like procrastination. But this is where the wisdom comes in. It has taught me that slow but sure still gets the job done. I didn’t rush, hurry, knock myself out or work until I dropped, but my veggies are in, my pots are full, and it’s a pleasure to just sit on the deck and enjoy.

Best of all, my back doesn’t hurt, and my knees aren’t  complaining. THAT’S the way gardening should be done. All it takes is a little patience.

 

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Waiting for the rain

All the elements came together at just the right time today.

The newsletter that’s due Friday is far enough along that I could set it aside for the day. The rhubarb cake for tonight’s St. Ann’s meeting is in the oven. George is at rehearsal, so I have the house to myself. And the rain came.

We’ve had gloriously sunny days for weeks, it seems. Too much sun, maybe, for the things that are trying to grow. But now, in typical northern fashion, we have rain on the agenda for many days ahead. And it began half an hour ago.

I wished out loud when George and I were walking our dog after lunch.

“I’m looking forward to a rainy day when I have nothing to do,” I said.

Sherbet

Tulips like this always remind me of a tasty dessert.

I was visualizing that close darkness that presses against the windows when storm clouds roll overhead, the plinking sounds of rain on our metal roof, a comfy chair and a good book.

I didn’t get the whole day with nothing to do, but I’ll a take couple good hours over nothing at all. It started when the wind picked up, just before George left.

“The rain is coming,” I said, not trying to sound prophetic, just recognizing the portents of restless trees, moving like spooked horses against their tethers.

I saved and closed the newsletter, quickly assembled the cake ingredients and slid it in the oven, then grabbed my camera and headed outside. Gray clouds hovered overhead, darker ones were moving in from the west. I had just enough time, maybe the last time, to snap a few tulip photos.

No longer young

No longer young, but still dancing.

I’ve been taking as many as I can, trying to capture and preserve their stained-glass brilliance in my garden. But their season is ending, their colors are fading, petals are twisted and drooped, some stems already stand naked. The wind and the rain, I figured, would finish the disrobing.

I got back in the house just in time. Rain’s forward scouts left crosshatching on the windows, and I settled in to enjoy, putting “all sensors on maximum,” as they say in the sci-fi movies. Now, it wasn’t just lilacs scents wafting through the open windows, it was that incomparable smell of rain, of wet earth and wet dust. The ping of rain on roof and skylights replaced birdsong. The atmosphere invited prayer.

“You sent abundant rain, O God, to refresh the weary land.” (Psalm 68:9)
“He gives rain on the earth And sends water on the fields.” (Job 5:10)
“The heavens dropped rain at the presence of God.” (Psalm 68:8)
“He covers the heavens with clouds, He provides rain for the earth, He makes grass to grow on the mountains (and on the crops in Door County).” (Psalm 147:8)

Peace, contentment, soft satisfaction and even the presence of God appear on no sensor sweep. But, after all, they do have the sound, and the smell, and the feel of a gentle spring rain.

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Guilt-free banana bread

Food that’s healthy doesn’t have to taste like cardboard. I recently tried a recipe where the chef obviously didn’t get the memo.

It was billed as “healthy banana bread,” and had whole wheat flour, honey instead of sugar and unsweetened applesauce instead of shortening, among the other ingredients. So far so good. However, I should have realized that a recipe that also had no flavorings or spices would be pretty uninteresting. I tried it, and was overwhelmingly unimpressed. It was dry and tasteless.

For some reason, I didn’t just trash the recipe. I decided to tweak it instead. What I ended up with is practically a new recipe altogether, so I can safely say the result isn’t plagiarized.

I decided to use whole wheat pastry flour for a nice texture, and I made sure the honey was raw, which is SO much better tasting than processed honey. It also contains more vitamins and minerals. (And keep in mind that much store-bought honey is imported from other countries and is actually flavored corn syrup!)

The last change I made was to use grape-seed oil instead of applesauce. Most people now admit that fat doesn’t have to be eliminated altogether in order to have “healthy”; you just have to use the right kind of fat. Grape-seed oil doesn’t have a flavor of its own, which can be a plus, and it’s high in healthy omega 6 oils. I could also have used coconut oil, another healthy fat, and its coconut flavor would blend well with bananas for a tropical taste. Next time, I just might do that.

Anyway, here’s the final recipe–so far. Tweaking is never entirely done!

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup grape-seed oil
3/4 cups raw honey
2 eggs, beaten slightly
3 mashed overripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange flavoring
1 tsp rum flavoring
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3-1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350° and lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Banana breadIn a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and dry spices. In a separate bowl, mix together oil and honey. Stir in eggs, mashed bananas, and liquid flavorings until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture just until moistened, and mix in raisins. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

The results isn’t just banana bread, it’s more like a spice cake. You can adjust the amounts of the spices to favor the ones you like the best. I like to slice the bread, wrap each piece in waxed paper, and freeze it, taking out only a slice or two at a time. That way, there’s always a healthy, tasty treat on hand for visitors, or when you get the munchies.

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The Pen

This is a story about a church pew, long-lost friends, and a pen.

Carl shared my St. Joseph School years in the red brick, eight-grade schoolhouse that was part of our Catholic parish. Together we marched over to church for Mass each morning before classes began. We made our First Communion together in the first grade–even

MFirstCommunion

Bill on the left, Carl on the right, and I’m in the upper right.

shared proximity in an old photo from that special day–and we faced the bishop together in the fifth grade to be confirmed.

Undoubtedly we faced each other in spell downs and multiplication races at the blackboard, too. We exchanged Valentines and shared hot lunches in the school basement, then went our separate ways at recess when the girls gathered for jump rope and the boys did whatever boys do in the dusty back lot.

We went our separate ways when it was time for high school, too. I went on to the Catholic school, Carl to one of the many public schools around town, and that was the last I saw of him, except for one time, at the movies, when I discovered he was an usher.

While I lost track of Carl and a lot of other classmates over the years, I also “lost” that entire grade-school campus. The school was closed, then the church was closed, and eventually everything was razed–church, school, convent and rectory. For a few years, the entire block remained empty. Now, I’m told–although I moved away long ago and can’t see for myself–that multiple-unit family dwellings have gone up. The space has been recycled, with only a little pocket park, named for St. Joseph, remaining as a reminder of what once was.

From far away, I had hoped for a piece of that church, built by German families in the late 1800s,  when I heard it was being torn down. Some people, I was told, were lucky enough to acquire bricks, or pew parts, or other bits and pieces that weren’t sold. I wasn’t one of those lucky ones.

Then along came Facebook. My high school class put up a page just for us, and the inevitable “whatever happened to…?” questions started to be answered. As more people joined the page, we began to “friend” each other, shooting messages back and forth and catching up on the many, many intervening years since graduation, back in 1966.

Facebook also has a memories page for those of us who grew up in my hometown. It was a comment I left there that got noticed by Carl, who did a search, found me on Facebook, and sent a message–right about the same time that Bill, another St. Joseph grad, made contact with both of us. Three old friends, all in that same First Communion photo, back in touch after more than 50 years.

One of the first things we shared, of course, were memories of those parish school years, commiserating over the loss brought about by changing times. Were any of us lucky enough to glean a memento? Apparently not.

But then, things began to happen. “Be watching for something in the mail,” Carl told me–and, as I learned later, told Bill that, too.

When the package came, I was astonished. Carl and I had fountain pentalked about our Palmer Method penmanship classes, bemoaning the fact that cursive writing is all but a lost art among young people today and that handwritten notes are as rare as fountain pens.

But Carl, who now operates a handcrafted pen business since his retirement, found someone willing to part with a weathered piece of pew from our old church, polished and shaped a portion of it, and produced an extremely limited edition fountain pen, with a cross-shaped clip. Each time I pick it up, I’m holding not just a pen, but a handful of memories, too, preserved by an old school friend who is one of those memories.

St. Joe's brickThe pen was just the start. Shortly after, Bill also promised a package in the mail. It turns out that Bill had a St. Joseph brick, which he divided into thirds, labeled appropriately, and shared with me and Carl. Another little piece of my youth has come to rest in my home.

How can I top that? I can’t. But I can write a tribute in this blog to two old friends, refound after many years, held dear for all the years to come, sharers in something no one else in all the towns I’ve lived in can share with me. My roots.

Posted in Catholic, Catholic life, friendship, getting older, History, Memories | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Avalanches and apple cake

I have a decision to make: Do I write about avalanches or apple cake?

Avalanches can be pretty serious and probably shouldn’t be ignored. I know; I live under one–or rather, under a steady stream of them. We’ve learned how to deal with them, but a well-intending  mailman or unsuspecting neighbor could find themselves a victim. So could our dog.

I heard George as he leashed her up for her after-supper tinkle.

“Just wait, Lady,” he said, holding her back as he slowly opened the door with one long-reaching arm. I heard the expected boom-crash.

“OK, it’s safe,” he said, now having to cajole her to step onto a deck that must have sounded lethal.

That’s what happens, you see, when you install a metal roof. Snow curlDepending on how your roof slopes, it might be no problem at all. But if the downward slant is over your door, you have to beware: nothing stays for long on a metal roof. Snow, ice, slush, whatever winter has thrown at us, stacks up only for a bit, and then begins to inch down, bit by bit, curling over the eaves into one impressive pageboy before succumbing to its own weight and landing on the deck below–and on anyone in the way at the time.

Opening the front door can mean hitting that roof-line curl, bringing the whole thing crashing down. I don’t want to be caught in it. A beagle wouldn’t stand a chance.

While we don’t have to worry about shoveling snow off our roof, we do have to deal with shoveling that roof deposit off our deck. And in the summer–well, let’s just say that on a rainy day, we run a waterfall gauntlet. However, I think summertime’s raindrop symphonies more than make up for it.

It IS a bit unsettling, though, to sit in the house and see large objects falling past the windows, followed by large crashes. It’s like living under some kind of frosty lover’s leap, with hapless entities throwing themselves into the abyss.

Tonight, when George came inside after shoveling off some of those snow curls before they became dangerous, I was standing at the kitchen counter, peeling apples. (You see how I’ve segued into writing about that apple cake after all?) I knew that battling avalanches-in-the-making deserved a reward, and what better than a warm and tasty treat from the oven?

We’re eating extremely healthy these days, though, so treats that fit in with that agenda can be hard to find. This one-bowl apple cake is something acceptable, I think. Here’s the recipe:

2 eggs
1-3/4 C sugar (I used Stevia)
2 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/2 C oil (I used grapeseed)
6 medium Gala or Fuji or Honey Crisp apples
2 C flour
2 tsp baking soda

• Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9×13 or two 9” round pans. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, cinnamon and oil.

• Peel and slice the apples and add to the mixture in the bowl.

• Mix together the baking soda and flour and add to the ingredients in the bowl. Mix well with a fork until all of the flour is absorbed by the wet ingredients. Pour mixture into the pans and bake for about 55 minutes.

Apple cakeGeorge hinted at seconds, so although this might not be the gooey, carrot-cake sort of treat, it was the perfect reward for my honey after battling roof-line avalanches.

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