Monday, October 5, 2015

Corn Soup

I recently  planned to make corn chowder, but discovered I lacked some of the ingredients.  Instead, I mocked up this corn soup.  It smelled and tasted wonderful, was very inexpensive, and made a filling lunch.

Corn Soup
serves 10

2 c corn ($1)
1 onion, chopped ($0.25)
1 c cooked rice (I used rice that I had saved after it stuck to various pots) ($0.25)
4 c stock (free, if home made)
1 c milk ($0.19)
1 tsp each salt, cumin, garlic powder, and oregano 
(to taste and depending on what you have on hand)
1/2 tsp each black pepper and paprika 
(to taste and depending on what you have on hand)

  • Combine all ingredients, except the milk, in a pot, and allow to simmer until the onion is cooked.  Or combine all the ingredients, except the milk, in a crockpot, and cook on low overnight. 
  • Puree soup and then stir in milk.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs, green onion, cheese, ground pepper, or sour cream.
This post has been linked to MYHSM and Busy Monday.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Lilliputian Pumpkins

It's that time of year again!  The time of year when pumpkins are everywhere, and I repost my piece about using those orange globes for food, instead of just for decoration.

Well, this year, I decided to write a new post.  If you want to know what to do with Jack o' lantern pumpkins or sugar pumpkins, go to this link.  There are plenty of recipes linked at the bottom, too.  This year, I'm writing about those cute, decorative mini pumpkins.  Like their big brothers, they aren't just for decoration! They are as delicious as they are cute.  One mini pumpkin serves two very nicely.  Each half is enough for one person.  The flesh is a lot like a sugar pumpkin, but a little drier. To cook them

  • cut them in half starting at the blossom end
  • clean out the seeds
  • prop them up on the cups of a muffin tin
  • brush with oil, butter, or animal fat
  • put a little water in each of the empty muffin cups (if there are any)
  • Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until the flesh is tender
Now, you could just eat them as is, but the cavity just begs to be stuffed, and a stuffed mini pumpkin really does look charming.  What could you put in them?  Here are some ideas:
  • I like them for breakfast, stuffed with apples or pears.
  • I've also stuffed them with tuna and beans to make pumpkin melts.
  • Fill uncooked ones with meatloaf. Top with barbecue or tomato sauce before serving.
  • Give them a southwestern twist by putting Spanish rice in the cavity of cooked halves. Top with enchilada sauce and grated cheese, and put them under the broiler until the cheese starts to brown.
  • Stuff raw pumpkins with coarsely chopped onion, brush with chicken or beef fat, and bake as usual, topping with provolone for the last ten minutes.
  • Fill cooked pumpkins with creamed or curried spinach.
  • Fill cooked pumpkins with cornbread stuffing. Serve topped with giblet gravy for Thanksgiving.
  • Or for another Thanksgiving idea, fill uncooked pumpkins with cranberry pie. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.
  • Any mixture used to stuff vegetables  should work just fine.
  • Stuff cooked pumpkins with seasoned, cooked black or navy beans. Top with sour cream and chives.
  • For a more exotic taste, fill with seasoned lentils, and garnish with mango chutney.
This post has been linked to WFMW, MYHSM, Busy Monday, and HHH.

The American Creed

Like many homeschool moms, one vestige of the classroom I have tried to bring home is the use of the Pledge of Allegiance as an elementary introduction to civics.  It did not work for us.  First of all, I'm not good at introducing new routines or enforcing structure.  That's one of my weaknesses, and I'm working on it.  

More specific to the topic at hand, I found the Pledge lacked meaning for me.  And that made it hard for me to pass it on to my children.  Honestly, my allegiance is not to a flag, but to a set of principles and values.  It is to ideals. The Pledge does not communicate what I wish to teach in a clear manner.  I was at a loss for an alternative.  I've sat on the issue for the last six months.

As I've written in the past, I love vintage and antique books.  I'm drawing on them significantly for my sons' curricula.  I recently flipped through a fourth grade reader published by the state of California in 1917.  The page after the cover page contained the American Creed, by William Tyler Page. It communicates its intent succinctly and thoroughly,  drawing on a variety of famous American documents.

I believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.

It may take a while for the boys to memorize or understand, but I think this Creed is far more meaningful than the Pledge, and a more direct introduction to civics and citizenship.

This post has been linked to WFMW, MYHSM , Busy Monday, and HHH.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A New Kitten

We have a cat.  He was a stray kitten who adopted us at about six weeks old.  Now he's a year old.  We've talked about getting another cat to keep him company.  He seems to crave time with other felines.   But the time wasn't right. Not now.  Maybe later.

Then, this weekend, a kitten showed up in our parking space.   She was about twelve weeks old.

And utterly emaciated.

She could barely walk.  When she tried to jump off of my lap, she did not land on her feet.  She could see, but her eyes were visibly sunken from dehydration.  She didn't have the strength to mew, let alone purr.  She let her tail drag.

She was more skeleton than cat.

We took her in, fed her, cleaned her.  We kept her warm, because she was too malnourished to maintain a stable body temperature on her own.

Honestly, part of me was surprised that she survived the first night.

Two days later, she can run.  She holds her tail up. She can jump about two feet successfully.  Her eyes are starting to fill out their sockets.  She mews, purrs, demands to be petted, follows us around, and rubs against us when given the chance.

And our first cat?  He's been very good with her.  He gives her dibs on the food bowl and has shown her where the litter box is.  He hasn't even thought of hissing at her or biting or scratching.  Part of that is his familiarity with her.  This kitten's appearance in our parking space wasn't our first encounter with her.

 She's one of the neighborhood strays.  You see, our neighbor's leave out food for the local stray cats, and several of them have taken up residence on their front step to take advantage of that food.  One of those cats is a mother and her litter.  Our new kitten is one of that litter.

I had last seen her about two weeks ago and noticed she had an eye infection of some kind (It has since spread to the other eye, but she is responding beautifully to eye drops.  I think the irritation is the result of dirt lodged in her eyes.  Shortly after, she was rejected by her mother and litter mates and chased off by the other cats that enjoy the community food bowl.  It's the natural order of things...

...with one twist

Because the mother cat is reliant on that food bowl, she hasn't taught her kittens to be feral.  They don't hunt.  They don't scavenge. Our older cat knew how to do both those things when he found us.  This kitten has instincts, but no training.  Large insects are plentiful in our area, as are frogs and birds.  There are plenty of small vermin, too, to say nothing of trash cans.  A lone twelve week old kitten should have no trouble whatsoever keeping body and soul together.   But this one did, and ultimately understood that she needed human assistance.

When we leave out food for animals, we make them dependent on us.  Their young might not learn how to do without our help.   When that help becomes unavailable,  and those animals suffer,  we bear responsibility for that suffering.

Please, don't feed stray animals unless you are also willing and able to aid them in their distress (shelter, veterinary care).  There is no halfway point between wild and domesticated.

This post has been linked to WFMW, MYHSM, Busy Monday, and HHH

Monday, September 7, 2015

Happiness or Chaos?

Humans derive enjoyment from order.  We thrive in environments that are generally predictable.  We derive satisfaction from regular patterns and proportions.  We also become bored and anxious when our lives and surroundings are too predictable.

Humans also enjoy an element of chaos.  Jokes are funny because the punchline surprises us.  The uniqueness of each sunset is what attracts our attention to their colors.  People who are praised for their beauty stand out precisely because their features and figures are so unusual.  Music and art mesmerize through their unpredictability and by standing out from what is mundane.

This last week I saw pictures from the annual spectacle that is the Video Music Awards (VMAs).  The photos reminded me of watching my sons play.  Sometimes my sons engage in play that has an order to it--structured games, make believe with an established plot line or norms--and sometimes they simply bounce off the walls.  Bouncing off the walls invariably leads to arguments, injury, and occasionally to physical altercations and broken toys.  Play usually leads to happy, engaged children.  But if you ask my boys at the time, they are happy both with play and with bouncing.

Part of growing up is learning to distinguish between the things that we enjoy and the things that simply give us a thrill.  The momentary sensation of anxiety, anticipation, or fear, the rush of adrenalin is exhilarating.   Chaos is exhilarating in small doses, but it does not lead to happiness in and of itself.  It is not something that is enjoyed when open-ended or indefinite.  Finding that balance between order and chaos is one of the many on-going tasks of life.

There have always been avant-garde individuals who push chaos as their trademark.  They make it their mission to be a living example of the spice of life.  The Oscar Wildes, Andy Warhols, Jackson Pollocks, David Bowies, and Peter Gabriels of the world contribute shocks to the culture that make us look at what is normal more carefully.  They draw our attention to form and function in much the same way that salt accentuates and complements the sweetness of melon.  They are supposed to be unusual surprising, unexpected, and rare.

Increasingly, as I look at the products of pop culture, though, I see the hawking of anxiety as a form of pleasure.  Whether it's the increasingly bizarre violence of action flicks, the ever-growing popularity of horror films, the eclectic output of the music industry, the increasing kink of popularized sexuality, reality shows, or the jarring juxtapositions of fashion photography, the general public consumes chaos like a drug.

ETA: One of the things I had to study in college was that journalists are required to learn psychological techniques for fostering fear.  Likewise, advertising agencies and marketing consultants study psychology to learn how to use fear to keep us watching. Ads for the evening news are a perfect example of using fear to drive ratings.  It's a known, commonly used technique for growing audiences.  Applying the same concept to entertainment is only logical from a ratings perspective. 

The VMAs are a case in point. It is an event that features examples of fashion, performance art, music, and public speaking.  Arts should attract our attention through the construction of punctuated equillibrium--elegant order periodically interrupted by carefully constructed surprises that create meaning.  Instead, the VMAs feature a stream of performers trying to outdo each other in shock value.  We see color without pattern, movement without meaning, fashion that uses neither form nor proportion to advantage, speeches poorly delivered and written to be nonsensical.  In short, it is an exercise in prolonged discord that never quite attempts a satisfying resolution.

Discord, chaos, anticipation, disorder. None of these things are bad, and all are necessary to art.  But all necessitate resolution to be satisfying or pleasurable, to be art. Before resolution, we experience excitement, sometimes giddiness, but those are not pleasure or happiness.  Thrill-seeking is not happiness, even if the magazines say it is.  Increasingly, our culture seems to have forgotten the difference.

This post has been linked to WFMW, MYHSM, Busy Monday, and HHH

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Biltmore Goldenrod Eggs

Goldenrod Biltmore Eggs are a breakfast that seems to have been popular in the first half of the twentieth century.   They show up in two vintage cookbooks I have, one from the turn of the century, and the other from 1947.

It's easy to understand the recipe's popularity, too. It uses inexpensive, common ingredients and can easily be adapted to use leftovers.  The result is both filling and tasty.  Since I try to keep boiled eggs in the freezer and frequently have gravy on hand, this is a wonderful breakfast for when I'm just not up to cooking or want something different from the usual eggs and toast.

Biltmore Goldenrod Eggs

1 hardboiled egg, peeled, for every two servings
3-4 Tablespoons hot white sauce or gravy per person
1 slice of bread per person
Black pepper

  1. Toast and halve each slice of bread and arrange on a plate.
  2. Chop eggs fine, and sprinkle half an egg over each slice of bread.
  3. Pour white sauce or gravy over the bread and egg.
  4. Season each plate with black pepper to taste, and serve with fresh fruit.
This post has been linked to WFMW

Monday, August 31, 2015

Restaurants and Littles

As a mom of littles, going out can be complicated.  One difficulty is using the restroom.  If any of us needs to go or the baby needs a fresh diaper, we can't just do it. Everyone has to go with, meaning that our stuff has to go with too.

At a restaurant of any type, we run the risk of the staff thinking we have left and clearing the table.  My solution has been to leave something at the table.  It has to be inexpensive so that I don't run the risk of theft, but it also has to be something the waitstaff are unlikely to think was forgotten.  I can't leave the diaper bag, phone, a toy, keys, or a jacket.

Instead, I make a point of carrying a paperback or a needlework project.  Nothing big, fancy, or expensive,  but definitely nothing I would accidentally leave behind.  When we all need to leave the table temporarily, I put that item on the table to make it clear that I'm coming back.

This post has been linked to WFMWMYHSMBusy Monday, and HHH.