Giving Thanks

This year, I’m not waiting until Thanksgiving to start giving thanks. My cup runneth over, my horn is plentiful and to put it plainly, I am blessed beyond measure.

This year my husband of twenty-one years beat stage four tonsil cancer, my children are thriving, my parents are both alive and kicking and I am not wondering where my next meal is coming from. Wow! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

So from now until The Holidays are over, I’m going to share some fabulous recipes with you that I think would be a worthy addition to any feast. They work quite nicely for a regular old Monday dinner as well. This post emphasizes straight comfort food; my specialty.

Broccoli-Onion Bake

  • 1 pound of broccoli cut and steamed or 2-10 oz. packages of cut frozen broccoli
  • 2 cups of frozen small whole onions or 3 medium onions quartered
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 Tbl. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 oz. of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  1. Cook frozen broccoli according to package instructions or steam freash broccoli.
  2. Cook fresh or frozen onions in boiling water (salted) until tender. Drain.
  3. Ub sauce pan, melt 1/2 of the butter.
  4. Blend in flour, salt and pepper to make a roux.
  5. Add milk, stirring constantly until thick and bubbly.
  6. Reduce heat and blend in cream cheese until smooth.
  7. Place veggies in 2 quart casserole.
  8. Pour sauce over and mix lightly.
  9. Top with cheddar cheese.
  10. Melt the remaining butter and toss with bread crumbs.
  11. Top casserole with bread crumbs.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Swiss Corn Bake

  • 16 oz. frozen corn
  • 5-1/3 oz. of can of evaporated milk
  • 1 cup shredded swiss cheese
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 Tbl. finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup of soft bread crumbs.
  • 2 Tbl. melted butter
  1. Cook corn according to package directions and dreain.
  2. Combine corn, evaporated milk , 3/4 cup cheese, eggs, chopped onion and dask of pepper.
  3. Turn into a 1 quart casserole.
  4. Toss bread crumbs with melted butter and remaining cheese.
  5. Sprinkle over corn mixture.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Bacon, Onion and Green Beans

  • 1-1/2 pounds fresh green beans
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 slices diced bacon
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbl. sugar
  1. Wash beans, snips ends and remonve strings.
  2. In a 4-quart sauce pan over medium -high heat, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil.
  3. Add beans and boil unconvered for 10-12 minutes just until tender. Do not overcook. Drain.
  4. While the  beans are cooking, prepare the  bacon and onion sauce.
  5. In a 10-12 inch skillet, saute bacon over med-high heat until crisp.
  6. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside.
  7. Add the chopped onion to the bacon fat and saute for 3-4 minutes until limp.
  8. Drain excess fat, reserving 2 Tbl.
  9. Reduce hear to low and to the onion, add vinegar, sugar and bacon bits.
  10. Stir to incoprporate all the loose particle inthe pan.
  11. Bring heat to high and boil for one minutes.
  12. Toss with hot, drained beans.

A final step for all three recipes:

  • Unbutton pants, lay on the floor, moan your thanks and fall asleep.
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Gentleman Farmer

Sometimes I think that we must have been nuts moving away from the life that we had known for so many years in order to start over in an agrarian lifestyle. We knew nothing of growing stuff (other than flowers), raising stuff (other than cats) or preserving stuff (other than ourselves… we were living in L.A. after all.) When I think of our move, I inevitably think of our old friend Liam. In past estimation Liam would have been the least likely person to understand what we were doing and why. Let me give you a little history. We met Liam  after moving to Los Angeles in the early nineties. In a word, he was the biggest snob I had ever met in my life. He was tall, handsome, Irish, a fabulous dresser, entertainer and had a real knack for interior design. He was polished, superior and tended to look down the length of his nose at anyone that didn’t pass muster. Why were we friends with such a person you ask? Inexplicably, Liam was also the most generous, loving and giving man, even though he often had a rather large stick jammed up his posterior.

Liam also had a knack for hanging out with the most bizarre group of people. The mix was heavily populated with older aristocrats. It was nothing for him to introduce us to the Duchess of so-and-so or The Countess blah, blah, blah at a cocktail party. In passing I feel I should tell you that The Countess had a real penchant for swearing and packed away the gin like a pro. The Duchess was living apart from her fourth husband because he refused to give up his young male lover.  A kooky group to say the least. Once, at a charity luncheon Liam introduced me to The Archbishop of Canterbury. You just can’t make this crazy stuff up.

Liam’s and my friendship was sealed for all time when we became co-Godparents to the beautiful Emma of Dublin, Ireland. We came and went out of each other’s lives over the years but we always managed to catch up in no time flat and make it feel like we had never lost touch. Liam’s Orchids were the first flowers to arrive at my hospital room the day Anna was born. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years and he couldn’t come to the hospital to visit as he was jetting off to God knows where. But you see, even though we hadn’t been in each other’s daily lives, he was still present.

When we decided to leave California, I knew  I had to let our old friend know. I left three messages on varies phone numbers that I had for him. When he called me back I was in the process of packing my china. When I told him we were moving I expected scoffing and a few sour grapes. Perhaps a demand to know, “My Gawd, why in heaven’s name would you move to the barbarous  hinterlands of Oregon?!” What I got was, “Good for you! This country is going to hell and I think it’s a good idea that you learn how to feed yourselves.” What?! Well, it turns out our old friend had retired to the country himself and was… pause for effect… a gentleman farmer. What?! “Yes,” he told me. “It was high time I learn to take care of myself.” Why? Liam was never one to care how his gourmet food got to him as long as it did. How had this weird transformation come to pass? Well he didn’t tell me. He just assured me that we were doing the right thing and that he could see himself visiting us, maybe even buying some neighboring land. With my head spinning I bid our friend adieu and got back to packing. Later that night I wondered if other people were having as hard of a time processing our change as much as I was having a hard time processing Liam’s.

So listen, if the likes of us and Liam can go country, there might just be something to this. Life is a funny journey but it’s always nice to be in good company.

Pioneer Pumpkin Recipes

If I could pick only one food that epitomizes Fall, it would have to be pumpkin. It is one of those amazing foodstuffs that is equally delicious served savory or sweet. It’s no wonder that pumpkin was the veggie (although technically a fruit) that staved off starvation for the pilgrims, their first few months in the NewLand – it’s packed with life sustaining nutrition. Not only is it brimming with vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium, calcium and fiber, but it’s yummier than all get out. How can you lose? If I now shared that it was also low in fat, I’d bet you’d be grabbing your keys and heading for the market. Have a safe trip!

The key to making pumpkin more scrumptious is to remember that it can handle a lot of spice. In and of itself, it can be rather bland; however, paired with bold seasonings, you can do no wrong. For desserts, pastries & breads (including pancakes and waffles) think ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and clove. For savory dishes try using cayenne pepper, curry, and cumin along with your basic garlic and onion.

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds

Olive oil or butter

Salt and spices

1. Scoop the seeds out of a large pumpkin.

2. Rinse with water until almost pulp free (a little pulp adds flavor.)

3. For every 2 ¼ cups of seeds, you need 1 tablespoon of melted butter or olive oil and seasoning salt to taste. I like to use garlic salt or sea salt and cayenne pepper. But you can use anything that floats your boat. Toss seeds in butter and seasoning.

4. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown.

 

 

Curry Pumpkin Soup

 

2 tablespoons of butter

8-oz. of fresh sliced mushrooms

½ cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon curry powder

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 tablespoon honey

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk

Garnish: chopped chives and sour cream

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Sautee mushrooms and onion until tender, stirring often.

2. Stir in flour and curry powder.

3.  Gradually add chicken broth. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture becomes thickened.

4. Stir in pumpkin, honey, salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add milk, stirring constantly until mixture is heated through.

6. Garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives

George Washington Speaks

You live in a land where few really know what hunger feels like. upon a man’s gut. Yet hunger is what drives a man. It is hunger that ignites the passion of change. I have hungered and froze my body whilst doing so in order that you, my brother, would not have to feel the pangs of a body feasting upon itself.

I fear that the changes that I and many of my countrymen fought and died for have made you soft. When times of trouble hit, you look to blame the politicians, you look to blame your employer, you look outside of yourself for the responsibility of yourself. This was not my dream for you.

My dream for the future of my country was that self-sustaining man, owing allegiance to no monarchy, would live in community in the beautiful and fertile land of America. That together, you would build an oasis of richness of spirit not just richness of pocket: that you would elect government of the same mind. It was my dream for you to be strong, compassionate and responsible.

I look to you now from the arms of the immortal and I still dream for you. I only hope that you will all experience hunger enough that you learn how to care for yourselves and in doing so, insure the future of the country that I love.

To depend on others for survival is a risky venture. It is not innovative thought to sustain your own life. If you have only yourself to depend on then you alone are responsible for your own success or failure.

I say to you, if you want to feed your body, do not wait for the commercialism of your world for nourishment. Farm your land. Dig your soil. Sweat your brow. The result will be that no matter what disaster strikes, you will not starve waiting for others to care for you. You are the masters of your fate.

When your children plead with you for the gadgets of your time, remember, gadgets won’t feed them. Give to them the toys of their youth only after you have instilled in them the knowledge of survival. Teach them how to warm their feet, then allow them the luxury on innocence.

I look into your hearts and hear you ask, “General, sir, how do I begin to change? How do I begin to make myself worthy of the lifetime that you and so many others gave to our country?”

This is how. Simplify your lives. Instead of living to acquire more, learn how to live with less. Ask yourself, does each member of my family that is of age truly require their own vehicle? Do these the baubles of status make me superior?

“Yes,” you say, “but what is the first step? I can’t just rid myself and family of all that we have grown accustomed to. You don’t understand as you have never lived in the modern world.”

To this I scoff and say that you are soft. But I am willing to show you the steps that will guide you more gently, for I cannot expect softness such as yours to firm up overnight.

Your first step is to take a shovel to the earth and plant seeds. Educate yourselves on growing. Turn to your vast resources and learn. Then water the ground, fertilize the soil and watch the fruit of your labor grow. When the first tendril of green life pushes forth out of the earth, imagine that this is the only way that you can insure that your family will eat. You alone are responsible for your survival.

Once upon a time I was honored with the title “Father of the Country,” Father of America. This is heady stuff for any man. But please, if you have ever been of mind to believe such, listen to me now. Listen to your father. Learn to live simpler, not easier. Therein lies your salvation.

Me and Ed Begley (jr.)

So here’s the thing…even though I’m from the eighties, I have no memory of seeing anything that Ed Begely Jr. was in. I don’t quite remember what I watched on the tube during my decade of teenage angst/euphoria (oh those teenage hormones.) But I do know that I wasn’t watching St. Elsewhere. Hence  I have no idea what kind of actor Mr. B. is.  In fact I never really even thought about him until everybody started reporting what a “green” freak he was. I think he was green when it was only him and Kermit. Alas, I digress.

Somewhere in the nineties I found myself watching some Hollywood Story on Ed. I think I was sick and comatose and rooted to my couch and unable to garner the strength to reach for the remote. So I watched. And here’s what I thought. What’s this guy’s damage? Why live in a tiny house all rigged out in that -oh-so-catchy solar look and drive a dork-mobile propelled by bananas when you have a butt load of money? What’s the point? As you can gather my impression wasn’t all that favorable. After all, I was twenty-something living in L.A. on the very verge of fabulosity (I just knew it) and I could just not relate to this super hero of sustainability.

Fast forward a good decade and a half. I, a new, albeit belated mother, am sitting on the couch watching the San Gabriel Mountains burn behind my house. My father-in-law just died and my newborn daughter is nursing blissfully unaware of possible danger. I can’t say for certain whether it was the postpartum depression or not but my life knocked completely off its axis. I  realized how precious life was, particularly for me, this life that I had just helped create. I realized how my life, like Jimmy’s dad, would just end one day. In breath, out breath, gone. I became panicky feeling like I needed to leave my daughter with skills that made her capable to survive whatever this wacky world threw at her. What the hell was I doing in Los Angeles then? Don’t get me wrong, I loved my eighteen years there. I lived, I learned, I adjusted. But I wasn’t thriving. The question became, if I’m not thriving how can I raise my child to do so?

I flashbacked on Ed. This guy found something that drove him, that he believed in with all his heart. His car and house were boring (by Hollywood standards). But he didn’t care because he was being true to his beliefs. He wasn’t like so many other Hollywoodies that jumped on the bandwagon of greendom because it was cool. He wasn’t driving his SUV to a charity benefit to give a speech about how we’re ruining the environment with our (not his) evil ways. There were no private jets filling the ethos with jet fuel so he didn’t have to travel with the common man. This guy was the real deal. And while I do not put myself in his league and let’s face it, I don’t really consider myself so much green as a simple survivalist, I have decided that I could hang with Ed over a grass-fed burger and iced dandelion tea. While we may not see eye to eye on everything, I can be assured that we would at least be two people who knew who they were, living lives they believed in, not worrying one wit what anyone else thought of them.

The Mayor of Whitopia

After much pondering, I’ve finally named the permaculture community that we are building. You got it, Whitopia! I’m guessing that my fellow citizens will love it. What do you think?

You might expect that I’d want to be the mayor of Whitopia, but you’d be wrong. I don’t have the golden touch of diplomacy. Of course that means my husband, Jimmy, is out too. Jimmy does not have opinions, he has “factual opinions” … as in he’s always right.

Who then will be our mayor. Moses (my mom) won’t work. She beleives more in a monarchy with her being queen . Poppy (my dad) has no interest in the post. To quote The Who (because I can) Who are you, who, who, who, who?

I have finally stumbled on the answer to this question. Our dear friend, David, who visited last week from New York is my choice. Jimmy and Dave were friends, roommates and cohorts back in NYC in the mid-eighties. Jimmy’s force-of-nature personality was tempered by Dave’s unshakable calm. Their friendship was always the perfect blend. Jimmy would stir the pot and Dave would make sure the  contents didn’t boil over. I couldn’t think of better attributes for our mayor.

Our house shook with laughter this week. Another thing Whitopia will be known for. Don’t apply for citizenship if you don’t have a sense of humor and can’t laugh at yourself.

Remember, Whitopia strives for balance. We already have a doctor, a lawyer, a hypnotist, gardening experts, a cook and a queen and a general. We are looking for a chiropractor, a vet, a butcher (for the non vegetarians), a  contractor and a stall mucker. Of course there are many other posts that need filling as well. Please let us know where you fit in so we can vote on you and officially invite you to join our peaceful new world in Whitopia.