Thursday, November 3, 2011

Easy as Polenta Pie

When my family asks, "What's for dinner," and I reply, "Mama's Soup Surprise," they get a little nervous.  Sometimes I fix something for dinner that doesn't go over too well.  My family politely says, "You don't have to fix this again." 

Last night, however, I came up with something that everyone at the table liked.

Following is our meal, that I "invented."
Layer on the plate:
     A slice of Polenta Pie
     Fried and Mashed Beans
     Sliced and fried Sausage
     Fresh Tomato Sauce
     Sour Cream
     Shredded Cheese

The recipes for the polenta, beans, and sauce are below.

Polenta Pie
3 cups water
1 cup cornmeal grits
½ t. salt
1 T. butter

Bring the water and salt to a boil.  Add the grits and turn the heat to Low.  Cook slowly for 40 minutes.  Spread in an oiled pie plate.  Let it cool and set.

Fried and Mashed Beans
1 onion, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 can red beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup water (or broth or cooking wine)

Saute the onions in the oil at medium heat.  Add the beans and mash with a potato masher.  Mix in the water and heat all the way through.

Fresh Tomato Salsa Sauce
8 – 10 cups of fresh tomatoes*
2 T. olive oil
1 green or yellow pepper, diced
3 small onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. chili powder
2 t. dried oregano
2 t. dried cilantro

*Note:  Depending on the size and type of tomato, they can either be peeled and diced, or they can be cooked down and put through a rotary food press.

Saute the onions and peppers in the oil.  Add the tomato pieces or cooked tomatoes along with the herbs and spices.    Cook slowly to reduce the sauce.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Prepositions at the End

Most adults remember few grammar rules.  One that I'm sure will pop up for most is the "never end a sentence with a preposition" rule that they were taught from grade school to high school.  This rule causes you to write stuffy, pedantic sentences that no one would ever say out loud.

I have news of great joy for most of you -- it's OK to plop the occasional preposition at the end of a sentence!  The Grammar Girl says so; the Phantom Linguist gives us the go-ahead; gives an authoritative "OK."

For the sake of argument and vigilance, some still promote keeping those pesky prepositions from the end of sentences because they are a wimpy way to conclude.  Mellanie Spiller seems to be a purist with whom you would need to argue this point.  The good folks at Garden of Phrases equivocate a bit.  And the Answer people at Yahoo even show you how to rewrite a sentence to make it stronger and more effective while keeping that preposition tucked somewhere in the middle.

In my class, I will allow the occasional preposition to appear at the end.  But be advised that I'm gritting my teeth as I deny the teachings of my elders.

Don't get me started on passive voice ......

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Trip up the Mountain

On a recent trip to the North Shore, Jim and I took a trip up a mountain.  My husband would have loved to gotten there via hiking the Superior Hiking Trail.  I, on the other hand, preferred a much less strenuous trip to the top.

Eagle Ridge Resort has a gondola to take people up Moose Mountain.  At the top is the Summit Chalet, a beautiful place for lunch, relaxing, and taking lots of pictures.  They've had lots of beautiful weddings up there.

We spent an hour walking some trails, checking out the observation deck, and simply reading in the mountain sunshine.

They Were Warned!

This summer I've been gently reminding AND nagging my family about cleaning up after themselves.  (see previous post)  When I came downstairs one morning to a pile of dirty dishes while the dishwasher sat unattended ... well ... drastic measures were needed.

Thankfully, my kids are pretty clever.  I had a clean kitchen by the end of the day!

Friday, August 12, 2011

North Shore Rocks (figuratively and literally!)

In our recent trek to the North Shore of Minnesota, I spent a lot of time looking at rocks.  I love the sharp cliffs along the shore line formed by lava flows.  I love the smooth, rounded rocks on the beaches.  I don't know what it is about the alternating rocky, sharp edges of the cliffs and the cobblestone beaches.  As I handle the smaller rocks, I think about the various shapes and sizes.  The larger rocks out in the water are just larger versions of these small ones.

If you're interested in rocks and beaches at the North Shore, here's a great link the explored rock hunting.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Coldwater Swimming

One of my favorite places in the world is the North Shore of Minnesota.  Once I get up to Duluth, leave I35 and get on the scenic Highway 61, the fresh air and view of Lake Superior refresh me from from my wind-blown hair to my flip flops.

Lake Superior is ruggedly stunning. As the glaciers retreated from this area, they left behind eroded igneous material, much of which covers the rocky beaches on the North Shore. The modern shoreline is composed of basalt lava flows and is covered with the unique, rounded North Shore rocks.  Lake Superior is the largest fresh water lake in the world.  It is the largest, deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes with an average summer temperature of 40 degrees.

Regardless of the cool temperatures, we made the most of the lake shore.

Best. Tour. Guide. Ever

On a recent trip to the North Shore, we stopped in Duluth to tour an old ore ship.  The tour guide, Ric, was one of the most unique and most enjoyable guides I can remember.


Friday, July 22, 2011

“Train Up a Child “

Or is it “The fruit doesn’t fall too far from the tree”?

Have you ever noticed how your children have picked up your habits?  I recently observed a couple of my daughters standing with their hands on their hips.  Where do you think they got that?  Hmm ….  How about that tendency to hide away in a bedroom when the world has gotten to be a bit much?  Lately I’ve been noticing some definite “Prichard traits” that are surfacing in my children.  We read; we laugh; we tease and use sarcasm far too often; we work hard and help one another.

Raising children is an incredible delight and responsibility.  Not only can I share some of my favorite things about life, but I can be a bad example and lead them into some not-so-beneficial habits.

July 22, 2011 059

This afternoon, I took my son with me to a coffee shop for some reading and writing.  Now I’m wondering … is this a good thing or a bad habit?  It’s definitely a "Momma Prichard thing".

What are you showing your kids about life?

Too Much Summer?

Summertime and the livin’ is easy. 

At least that’s what my family would like to think.  Snacking all day. Experimenting in the kitchen.  Leaving the dishes and mess for mom to clean up.

This summer I have 5 kids at home.  Five kids who are coming and going all day long to work and to play.  Five kids who aren’t always eating at regular times.  Five kids who pack sack lunches, fry eggs at noon, and reheat leftovers at midnight.  Five kids who sometimes forget one of my basic rules:  “If you make a mess, you clean it up.”

My kids are great helpers and hard workers.  They are pros at asking “What next?” when I need their help.  However, things have gotten a little lax this summer, and they needed some reminding.

Thus the sign on the the kitchen counter by the sink.

Julu 10 2011 097

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wascally Wabbit

When I started my garden, I had this vision of mixing practical with pretty.  I planted annuals and vegetables together.  Instead of one big plot with straight rows, I had four smaller plots with artistically placed plantings.  (At least I thought so.)

My Nemesis, the rabbit, has forced me to fence in my garden making it much less attractive.  I got especially tired of having my peas and beans eaten to the ground. The chicken wire is ugly, and it's made weeding and harvesting a real pain in the butt.  Literally.  I have to either lean over the fencing, or carefully crouch between the rows. 

A couple of weeks ago, I accused my cats of getting in the garden and eating the tops of my beans and peas.  I've had to apologize to them, because I've discovered the real culprit.  Last week I had just finished watering when I noticed a rabbit in the yard.  That nasty animal rose up on his back legs, looked at me and JUMPED OVER THE FENCE!  Can you believe it?  I screamed and chased this fiend out of my garden.  I stomped and grumbled and complained to anyone within hearing.  I was so angry that I even scared my friendly cardinals and robins went into hiding.

Can't you just see the criminal element in this thief? 

My sentiments exactly ......

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First Fruits

Even before I begin digging up the soil for my vegetables, I harvest one of my favorite crops:  RHUBARB!!  I grew up with rhubarb patches in our backyard.  My mom made pies, crisp, cakes, and bars with this tart early summer plant.  Anything you might want to know about rhubarb you can find at Rhubarb Compendium.

Ours doesn't have a very red stalk, but it has all of that tangy flavor that you would expect.  Last week we added some to a gluten-free cake mix.  Yummy!

Another Garden

Originally, I was a reluctant gardener.  Many years ago, my husband dug up our first little 4’ x 6’ garden.  The idea of growing and eating fresh vegetables was appealing.  However, with little children, I found it hard to get out into the yard and work in the dirt.
Times have changed at the Prichard home.  Kids have grown and no longer need me every minute of the day.  I still don’t feel like I have “free time", but I have more freedom in how I allocate my time.  A few years ago, the older kids helped me take up quite a bit of square feet of sod  from my backyard. Every year I take up a little more.  

I'm always amazed at how those vegetables grow.  I plant some seeds or seedlings in the ground and before too long, I've got something I can eat at my kitchen table.

Here are some pictures of the beginnings of my garden this year.

My Amazing Camera

My son, Sean , graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College  (at 1:01:38) this spring.  Even though we found great seats in the stadium, we were still quite a distance from the platform and from the wind orchestra, GWO, performing for commencement.  However, I now have a super-duper camera that was a gift from my loving husband.  Look at these pictures.

Another Graduation!

These pictures are a bit late, but a mom never stops being proud of her kids.  I've always said, that if a mom doesn't think her kids are gifted, no one else will.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summertime Jam

This recipe is a quick summertime favorite at our house.  Sometimes we use strawberries that my son gets from the berry farm where he works.  Most of the time, however, we use the abundance of rhubarb from our garden.

Quick Freezer Jam
Mix well and let stand for 4 hours or overnight:
     2 - 3 c. mashed strawberries
     3 c. sugar
Bring to a hard boil.  Reduce heat to medium.  Boil 10 minutes.
     1 (3 oz.) package strawberry gelatin
Mix until well dissolved and bring to boiling point again.  Remove from heat and let set a few minutes.  Stir again.  Put in jars and keep in refrigerator or freezer.

-- Strawberries with pineapple gelatin
-- Raspberries with raspberry gelatin
-- Grapes with grape gelatin
-- Peaches with peach, lemon, or pineapple gelatin
-- 5 c. rhubarb, chopped, with raspberry or strawberry gelatin

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Drunken Tofu & Rice

OK, so I made the recipe up.  I don't think there's any official recipe with this name, but it has a fun ring to it, don't you think?  To be honest, I was using up a bit of tofu with my first veggies harvested from my garden, and I wasn't sure what liquid to add.  I poured a little Merlot on the mixture, making the tofu pink, and therefore "drunken."

Drunken Tofu & Rice
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 large kohlrabi, diced
1 1/2 c. chopped Swiss chard
1/3 c. diced firm tofu
3 leaves of holy basil, chopped  (a Thai herb)
1/4 c. red wine
3 c. cooked rice

Heat the oil in a large fry pan or wok.  Add the next 6 ingredients in their given order. cooking the vegetables until soft.  Add the basil and wine and heat through.  Add the cooked rice and serve hot.


Chicken Satay

Since our daughter's return from Phuket, Thailand, we've been experimenting with some Thai recipes.  I found a great book, Simply Thai Cooking, at my favorite book store, Half Price Books.  (And, it was clearance priced at $3.00!)  In the old days, before my husband was diagnosed with celiac, I used various packets for fixing Asian foods.  Unfortunately, many of those contained gluten.  This book gives specific spices, herbs, and sauces.  We can now be tastefully gluten free.

Last night I fixed Chicken Satay and my family raved about it. Actually, my husband repeated over and over again how incredible the chicken was.  I served it on top of a rice dish that I created.  (Watch for it in another post.)

Chicken Satay
3 chicken breasts
Bamboo skewers
1 can (about 1 1/2 c.) coconut milk
1 t. black pepper
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground coriander
     (I used fresh cilantro from my garden.)
1/2 t. tumeric
1 t. minced garlic
1 T. sugar
1/4 c. soy sauce
     (I used gluten free Tamari sauce)
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. fish sauce

Cut thin slices of chicken that run the length of the pieces of meat. (each slice will be approximately 1 inch by 4 inches).  If the meat is too hard to cut into thin slices, freeze it for 30 - 45 minutes.  Place the sliced chicken in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and add to the meat.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.  When ready to cook the satays, thread each slice onto a skewer, working the skewer in and out of the meat down the middle of the slice. (I was in a hurry and didn't make them into satays.  Instead, I laid them on a grilling sheet.)  Baste the chicken with coconut milk.  Grill for a few minutes on a medium-hot grill.  Turn fairly often and continue to baste.  The chicken is done when they have turned golden brown.  Serve with rice and peanut sauce.   

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yummy Grilled Shrimp

We have a small, somewhat temperamental grill that we inherited from our neighbors.  In other words, they were going to take it to the dump, and we claimed it before it got on the truck.  Though it's seen better days, I get a lot of use from this little grill.  Recently, I made kabobs for the family, and they loved them.  Here's the recipe.

Grilled Jamaican Shrimp
2 T grated fresh ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1 sliced lime, peel grated
1 T sugar
1/2 c. rum
1/2 c. orange juice concentrate

Mix marinade in a gallon-sized ziploc bag.  Add 1 1/2  pounds large cooked shrimp. Refrigerate for up to 2 hours to marinate.  Thread shrimp onto skewers.  (If using bamboo skewers, soak them for an hour before grilling.)  Grill shrimp, basting with the reserved marinade and turning them once, until just cooked through, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Serve the shrimp with rice or as part of a salad.