Friday, September 28, 2012

More For Us, But...

Things are finally settling down a little at work.  Two nights ago, I actually got home a bit early for a change, a pebble on the other side of the scales weighed down by weeks of later-than-planned.  I prepped chicken stock to simmer in the slow cooker during work the next day and prepared a decent dinner while some really good jazz played.

I ate alone.  Dave was at play practice, where he will spend all evening and some weekend hours from now until mid October.  How I missed someone with whom to share my good little meal.

I had made a quickie version of gumbo, preceded by a simple salad of baby spinach, dried cranberries, and toasted almonds with mustard vinaigrette.  Nothing elaborate mind you, but quite satisfying.  As I was savoring the gumbo, I wished that I knew someone to call up and offer to share my dinner.  It was too good to be unmagnified. 

No one jumped to mind, so I finished dinner alone.  My consolation is a quart of gumbo in the freezer for a tired evening.  But I already have two quarts of emergency dinner in there.  I would rather have blessed someone with good food and the sometimes sweet relief of not having to prepare it.

That's why I mention this at all.  I didn't want dinner companionship because I was lonely.  I wouldn't have been trying to meet my own needs by finding someone to eat with me, although it would have done that, too. It just seemed a shame that someone else couldn't be made joyful by that simple food.  Somewhere, there are people wishing for a good cooked meal but unable to have it for whatever reason. It would have been nice to even those scales, too.

As usual, I had a good idea, a winning idea, but didn't act on it.  My next door neighbor might have benefited from my instinct.  I'll never know.  Unless I make a different decision about the next overly bountiful solo meal...

While leaving enough for my sweetie to take for dinner before play practice, too, of course.  Then again, he would be fully in support of sharing, even if we didn't have extras.  He's very giving like that.  I'm lucky. In all kinds of ways. Dinner is just one of them. I want someone else to be lucky, too.  Maybe next time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kale Chips Are the New Normal

The first time I served my trusting husband kale chips, he gave me one of those looks that says, "What are you trying to pull here?"  He's come round to liking all manner of healthy and different (for him) food, but this offering challenged him. Expecting greens to substitute for chips seemed akin to suggesting a yummy spinach and moss smoothie for breakfast because it's so good for you!  He was obviously doubtful.

That all changed when he tasted them.  I had much less trepidation, but I was enchanted, too.  Now, when I want something crunchy alongside a sandwich, I make kale chips, with nary a protest from my beloved.  In fact, he so enjoys them that he asked me to make some as a side dish for pizza when his buddies were over. (Not a pairing I would have suggested, but I do not turn down any loved one who requests greens.) They were more skeptical than he ever was, but they were won over, too. I have the photographic proof.

They all dug in and, I hope, were forever changed by the experience.

OK.  Probably not, but I can wish for nutritional enlightenment for all the world, can't I?

Kale chips could help my wish come true.  They're crisp and salty, like potato chips, but packed with about 2000 percent more nutrients (I'm exaggerating only slightly, if at all), and they're easy to make: tear the leaves into chip-sized pieces, toss with olive oil and salt, and bake until crisp. The hardest work is removing the tough center ribs, and the biggest danger is getting green shards caught in your teeth.  As a bonus, we've found that the cheapest kale, the good old curly stuff, makes the best chips, so they're budget friendly, too.

I've even read that crumbled kale chips combined with grated Parmesan make a great topping for popcorn.  Sounds intriguing, but I never quite get round to that experiment.  We just eat them.  All.  And happily!

This really isn't a conspiracy to make you like something horrid strictly because it's healthy.  It's actually proof that healthy can be good, and that, when it comes to vegetables, it may not be the food you dislike, but the format.  Cook it differently, and it's a new experience--a pleasant one, even. In this case, limp and leathery is transformed into sweet and shattery.  A whole 'nother nosh.

Many, many people have beaten me to the kale chip band wagon, like writer Michael Pollan and blogger Deb of Smitten Kitchen, who together inspired me to try them. That's a lot of exposure.  Pretty soon it might be normal indeed to munch kale chips with a tuna salad sandwich or a burger with caramelized onions and smoked cheddar

Greens as fun food sounds like the best kind of new normal!

Kale Chips
Serves: Depends on how well you like 'em!

1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil, if you're measuring (I don't)
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 

Rinse and dry the kale.  Remove the stems and touch center ribs. Cut or tear into large pieces.  Toss with olive oil and salt in a bowl or right on your sheet pan (line with parchment if you wish less clean up).   Arrange the leaves in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes or until crisp.  Place the baking sheet on a rack to cool.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tired and Happy

The month of September is half over, and I have managed one post thus far.  The main reason is that I've been working A LOT.  Fatigue does make coherent thought harder, especially when I don't even get home until 7:00 or 8:00pm.  Since this is, by my determined choice, a no pressure arena, I didn't push myself to produce here after wrestling with so many demands at work. I needed rest, and I knew the schedule would even out eventually.  I was patient with myself and my happy whirlwind.

Once I began having leisure time again, late last week, I found that I had circled back to desire tensioning with reluctance.  I'd become shy again, mostly because I'd fallen out of the habit of writing.  Decision counts, but habit triumphs.  Time to put my velvet gloves back on and rebuild the habit.

I did draft a post last week, but the old doubt kept it unpublished.  This is how I lock myself up.  I won't continue that either.  So here it is, a creaky climb back onto the horse, evidence of mere humanity--the falling down and getting back up that are possible every day. Sharing what might be mediocre is worth it for that one phrase that satisfies me greatly.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I am very tired tonight, but happy to have gotten home from work in time to throw together a salad dinner, rest a bit, and actually think of being here, composing instead of collapsing.

Work has near consumed my life in the past two weeks--or is it more?  But I don't mind.  It's a season, a burgeoning spell--moving our culinary program into its permanent home, overseeing the students' production of cookies for the ribbon cutting, shaking a senator's hand, and opening the school bakery softly.

I really thought about just reading tonight, allowing the huge flow to continue as it has been these recent days.  Yet somehow, after dinner and a little book time on the deck, it was only 7:00, and the evening stretched long.  The usual discontent about mere time-passing or entertainment set in, and here I am to remember and record.

Tonight, I feel happy when I visually remember the organized and stocked shelves in our little bakery.   We have a permanent home to set up as we wish, with room to load up 100 pounds of flour and sugar if I want--and I do.  The shiny new pans await breaking in; tools are finding their way into efficient homes; and I have an office with a computer and printer of my very own.  It's like settling into my second home, which it probably will be.

This morning, I was gleeful about the magnificent sunrise panorama so gorgeous that I had to steal as many glimpses of it as I could without leaving my lane disastrously. The brilliant yellow-orange sun seemed to be lifting a wall of purple-gray clouds, its rays already fanning out above.  Just to see it brought me instant natural joy. I briskly fanned that flame of delight for as long as possible.

In between there were hitches and boo-boos and emails and a precious few minutes of quiet at my desk.  Also a reprieve on one of my deadlines for the week.  And under it all the gratitude that this is my life now.

I seem to be doing a lot of remarking about the difference between the past and now in my life, my thoughts, my feelings.  I don't mean to be tedious.  This is simply another season--of savoring how far I've come, of higher altitude awareness. It's another flame that will be fanned for as long as it will burn, which could be years.  I'm still not taking good love for granted, seven plus years in.  Moving from wishing to being may never get old either.  At least until I do, I hope.

I'm tired, I'm risking, I'm barely managing my anxiety, but I'm on the whole blissful. I'm inside the picture window display that still bears my nose print and wondering how I got here.

Oh, wait, I remember:  a lot of hard work and daring.  Life truly does reward action. Eventually.  In her own good time.  Late season fruit, tinged by frost, is oh so sweet.

My, I'm dreamy and rambly tonight.  That's a brain on stress for you.  When I can, I'll write about something normal, like kale chips.

What?  You don't think that's normal?  Just you wait.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Random Reason to Rejoice #20

The perfect undulations of a fallen oak leaf...

 Out of season when found.
Now heralding fall.