Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Take Me out to the Ball Game

I think I'll pass.

Imagine buying tickets for twenty of your family and friends to see you play baseball. They are all sitting near at hand cheering you on. It's the sixth pitch of the game and you hit a line drive foul.

Directly toward you mother.


That's what happened to Minnesota Twins, Denard Span today in Tampa.

I'm sure she will be sore for several days, but I'm glad it was not worse than it was.

Just imagine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Poem for our Condition

Considering the last three weeks' worth of illness through which we've been wallowing

My Frog Is a Frog

by Jack Prelutsky

My frog is a frog that is hopelessly hoarse,
my frog is a frog with a reason, of course,
my frog is a frog that cannot croak a note,
my frog is a frog with a frog in its throat.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cult, the Occult, and the Cult Classic

My first experience with the term cult was in youth group Bible studies during my junior high aged years. Then there is the term occult, another youth group Bible study word, the two of which although significantly different in meaning, I often confused.

Introduce years later, the term cult classic when referring to pop culture, or a movie or book with a cult following, and I was really confused. I mean, did people who love The Quest for the Holy Grail get together and drink poisoned Kool-aid? Or do people who have watched Better Off Dead fifteen times sacrifice their cats? I suppose if you're a Joe Versus the Volcano groupie, you might drink orange soda and throw your cat into the belching cone of a tropical island.

Eventually I got that all sorted out, that definition stuff. But still, I wonder sometimes what makes a movie a cult classic? What determines which movies get watched 100s of times by an eclectic group of followers who, when they meet, can recite a random line and elicit an appropriate response?

In a given family or among a certain set of people who spend enough time together, it is natural for one or another title to become a favorite. My daughters and I are like that with A&Es, Pride and Prejudice.

I have to insert a little family story here. Earlier today, because there are several of us recovering from illness, we decided to watch a movie for quiet time. Generally, movies are a privilege saved for Friday night with an occasional midweek movie stuck in. After I asked the kids if they wanted to watch a movie, there ensued a bit of bickering about which title to choose. I gave a few suggestions and warned that if they couldn't come to a peaceable decision, I would choose for them. John's response, "Oh, no, please not Pride and Prejudice."

Getting back to the idea of cult followers of a movie, I understand how those who spend time together can become very familiar with a certain favorite movie. But it always makes me curious when a title gets a wide-spread eclectic following. How does it get started? What makes some movies more prone to gathering people in this way?

And when you're a member of such a group, do you ever notice those sitting on the sidelines with a confused expression on their faces? A good friend or loved one may end up feeling like a stranger, while you engage in a recitation episode with a near total stranger. Or if you happen to be that person not in the know, have you ever been in a mixed crowd when suddenly, some movie or book comes up and several people animatedly attack the subject, tossing out favorite scenes or chapters.

Since I'm somewhat famous for being out of the loop with regard to pop culture, I'm usually the one on the sideline. My husband on the other hand, is in the thick of things. Somehow, even though I've often considered our lifestyle as sheltered from the ebb and flow of pop culture, Joe always knows about everything.

Nowadays, this cult following phenomenon is happening with youTube videos.

I was feeling very culturally illiterate because everyone but me, wherever we went and among whatever group of people we found ourselves, everyone knew about "the Charlie video". At the littlest provocation, people would ready their British accent and start in with, "Ah. Ooh. Ouch! OUCH! OW, CHARLIE! AAAGGHH!" or, "Charlie, that really hurt."

I sincerely doubt any of my readers are as unaware as I, myself, was. But to ensure that you never need to experience that same lost and lonely feeling at some point in the future, here for your viewing pleasure, is the Charlie-bit-my-finger video.

What is it about this movie? I mean, what makes this movie stand out. There are hundreds of videos on youTube of kids, whose parents think they are just the cutest ever. What makes this one so beloved? Is it the British accent? Is it the infant younger brother who looks almost bigger than his older brother? Is it the priceless smile and chuckle with which Charlie responds?

Tell me about your favorite youTube video or cult classic book or movie.

Joe and I amused ourselves with this one the other night.

Don't ask...

But were I to name a favorite, I'd have to choose this one. I love the expressions on everyone's faces as they come out the door.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gluten Free Soda Bread

Yes, it's late for St. Patrick's Day, but here's how this recipe came about. Unfortunately, this is how many meals come about in my kitchen.

I had about 3 qt of vegetable beef soup left from Wednesday night soup supper at church. Not quite enough for all of us, but I also had about 2 c of beef chunks left from when I made it the other day. Easy enough to add the meat and some bone broth for a little extra volume. Yeah, well, I must have used my bone broth, because I didn't have any. Not to worry, I added water and taco seasoning and salt. It turned out just fine.

I wanted to make some sort of bread to go along. I have a 25 bag of corn flour that we don't particularly like. It's quite bitter and strong tasting; not to mention I thought I was getting corn meal and when I opened the package, it was corn flour. 25 lb bummer! So I looked around a bit on line for recipes that use corn flour. I have been trying to add it to any baked goods to use it up a little faster. But tonight I wanted something that actually called for corn flour.

I found a recipe for Arepas, a Latin American bread, similar in size to an English muffin, but made with corn flour. I decided to try my hand at them, so I downloaded three videos with instructions from a genuine Venezualan lady. These videos were fun to watch and really well done. But alas, Arepas take a corn flour that is different yet. They take masarepa, or masa precocida, or pre-cooked corn flour. I don't happen to have any on hand. In fact I did not even know it existed. But I really want to make Arepas, so I'll keep my eyes open for some when I'm next in town. I'm not sure Thief River would have any, but we shall see.

Back to the recipe search. I have gotten quite adept at using the mix of flours I've invented. But my GF baking has been extra challenging lately, because I've not been able to get either sorghum or tapioca flour from my buying club. (Azure Standard.) Perhaps their regular farmers had a poor crop last summer. I could, of course get them from Bob's Red Mill and spend $50 on shipping 50 or 75 pounds of flour. Yes, I do usually buy the sorghum 50 pounds at a time and the tapioca at 25 pounds. Or I could buy it a little at a time in the small bags at the grocery store. But even so, in the volume I use, the price is quite prohibitive when buying such small packages. So I've been experimenting with other flour blends, so far without much satisfaction.

Tonight I really wanted to use a recipe for which I had the correct ingredients, but it was not to be. Instead I found this Soda Bread recipe on BBC Food. It looked pretty simple and I had everything (kind of) except the tapioca starch. I wasn't' sure about substituting the potato starch for tapioca, but experience told me it would probably work.

I didn't have buttermilk, and I no longer keep powdered milk on hand. I simply skipped the powdered milk. In place of the buttermilk, I used half potato water and half yogurt. Even with wheat flour baked goods, I often used potato water. But the improvement in texture when using it with Gluten Free recipes is even more remarkable.

There is a bit of a mystery surrounding the volume of the potato starch I ended up with. The original recipe called for 4 oz (1/2 c) tapioca starch. I intended to double the recipe, but somehow I ended up with 2 c. of the potato starch.

I had the recipe up on my computer. I was going back and forth between the cupboards and mixing bowl and computer. Joe came in just then and did some work on the computer, also. I often cook this way, interrupting his computer reading, to have him check on a recipe amount. But somehow between that, and the British measurements, and doubling the recipe, we ended up quadrupling the starch amount.

But it turned out to be an excellent mistake. The bread was wonderful. We've all been somewhat ambivalent about my previous GF biscuit/scone/soda bread attempts before. But this was really quite tasty. The inside was moist and held together well. Often with Gluten Free baked goods, because the flours used are so heavy, the crust gets quite dark before the inside is completely done. But this crust was tender crisp, and not too thick.

I'll have to make it again soon, to make sure the entire thing was not an accident that I'm unable to replicate. But I did make sure to record my changes right away.

GF Soda Bread
Preheat oven to 400F
Grease and lightly flour a jelly roll pan with GF flour of your choice.
Prepare a clean GF floured surface upon which to work your dough when ready.
  • 2 1/2 c brown rice flour
  • 2 c potato starch
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 c sugar
Wisk together dried ingredients.
  • 1 c yogurt
  • 1 c potato water
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
Mix together wet ingredients.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in some of the wet. Do not pour it all in, but about 2/3 or 3/4 of it. Working with your fingers, as quickly as you can, so as not to overwork your dough, mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Add more liquid if necessary. Dough should hold together, but be neither dry nor especially sticky.

Form a loose ball and move the dough to the floured surface. Divide into two balls and work them just enough to form nice, smooth rounds. Transfer to baking sheet, one at each end. Pat gently to about 1/2 -2 " thick rounds.

Score. I scored mine into eighths, so I had sixteen servings.

Bake at 400F for 5 min., then turn the oven down to 350F, and bake an additional 20-30 min. Dough should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Superfood Smoothie

I've been making smoothies lately. When made well, they are an excellent snack, breakfast item, or a fill in when the left-overs just don't cover our lunch needs.

I use the phrase, "done well," relatively. Sometimes we just need to have something yummy for yumminess' sake. And even if we are striving for better health, we don't always have on hand nor can we always afford, those things we'd like to use. I'll give a basic recipe, the amounts are kind of a guess. Then I'll talk about why I used certain ingredients and what I'd prefer to do differently.

I use an immersion blender, but if you don't have one of these handy tools, go get one. I mean, you may use a regular blender. Just dump the ingredients into the blender top instead of a 3-4 c container.

I find the cleanup on a conventional blender is a deterrent to using it. I found my immersion blender second hand for a couple of bucks and I really like it. I also have found that used yogurt or sour cream containers of the 3-4 c size work very well with the immersion blender. The things you're trying to break apart don't skitter all over the bowl.
Superfood Smoothies
  • 1 banana
  • 1/3 c plain yogurt
  • 1/8 c mesquite powder
  • 1/3 can coconut milk
  • 1 T raw honey
Open your coconut milk and dump it into a container of slightly larger volume. Stir components together and then stir to combine components of milk.

Break the banana into chunks and put in the bottom of a 3-4 c container.

Dump in the remaining ingredients and whip together with an immersion blender, if you have one.

If you want a thinner smoothie, add a bit of milk.

This makes about 2 c. I usually make it serve three kids.
Now, why I do what I do.

Bananas are chock full of goodness. They are an easily digested source of good carbs, and fiber to help sustain the energy. They have lots of potassium for healthy bones and kidneys, not to mention balancing electrolytes after exercise or illness. They have tryptophan for your moods. They also have significant amounts of vitamins C and B6, and also magnesium. Essortment and The Dao of Good Health have good banana information.

Mesquite, is an excellent food for those wanting to use less or better sugars. It has a low glycemic index of 25 and the sugar in is fructose, which does not need insulin to digest. It is high in fiber. And it's sweet to the taste, so those things to which you add it need less sugar to seem sweet. Mesquite is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc, and protein, especially lysine, which the body cannot manufacture itself. For more information, see Chet Day's Health and Beyond and Hubpages. Mesquite gives food a kind of nutty, chocolaty taste.

Coconut, coconut oil and coconut milk got a bad rap for a time, but further research has shown them to be very beneficial to health. Coconut milk is an important source of many vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A and E, and calcium and potassium. It is one of few sources of lauric acid which has anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Lauric acid and the other short and medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil promote heart health, healthy cholesterol levels and healthy sugar levels. And coconut oil is a good source of antioxidants. See HealthMad and eHow for coconut milk health summaries.

Yogurt gives you all the nutrition of milk, but adds the probiotic effects of its good bacteria.

Raw honey is easy to digest and has anti-fungal, anti bacterial and anti-viral effects. Some people also experience a lessening of airborne allergies when they use local raw honey.

Although I used store bought yogurt, I'd prefer to make my own using whole, fresh milk. Better yet would be kefir, with its additional nutritional boosts. I don't have all those factoids in my brain, and my kids are needing me, but see Dom's Kefir pages for more Kefir info.

See also the Weston A Price Foundation if you want to know more about most of the above topics. But be prepared as a search on that website will yield you tons and tons of articles chock full of health related information. I always find a search there a bit intimidating. And sorting through the articles to find the ones you are most interested in is somewhat time consuming.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fast and Easy Creamy Mexican Chicken

Creamy Mexican Chicken
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  • 1 package queso fresco (mine came in 15 oz package, available in the Mexican part of the refrigerator section of my local Wal-Mart)
  • One bag frozen chicken thighs. (My bag had six very large thighs)
  • 1 package taco seasoning (or the equivalent if you make your own)
  • 6 T salsa of your choice (I used Pace's Pico de Gallo)
  • 1 qt heavy whipping cream
  • One thin slice of lime for each chicken thigh
Cut the cheese into about 1/2" chunks or break it up into sprinkles. Sprinkle about half the cheese in the bottom of a greased baking dish (I used a 10x13 roasting pan).
Rub the chicken thighs with the taco seasoning and then arrange them on top of the cheese.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese around chicken.
Put a dollop of salsa on each thigh, about a tablespoon, perhaps.
Pour cream over all and top each chicken breast with a slice of lime.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 for about an hour. I did mine longer since I used such large thighs.

Serve with something to pour the cream sauce over. We used rice. Mmm.

This turned out so creamy and good. The chunks of cheese were gooey; the cream had kind of browned to a golden crust; the chicken was juicy. And the whole thing had this creamy heavenly flavor.

And best of all, I think all the kids liked it and even complemented me on it. (Actually they made their typical backhanded jokes like, "Oh, did Dad cook tonight?" or, "Is this take-out?"

I don't know how it got started, but there is kind of standing joke in our home that Dad's the good cook and Mom's the practical, boring cook. I have to consider cost and time involved and the nutritional value. Dad just has fun coming up with some wonderful meals.

So it is always a HUGE bonus when they really enjoy something I make.

I adapted it from a recipe in Beatrice Ojakangas's Best Casserole Cookbook Ever. I had read the original when I had the book from the library. Now I have my new very own copy that my friend, Char, sent me recently. Thanks, Char! When I looked for the recipe that I know was in there, I could not find it. I think the original had halved jalepenos and queso fresco. But that's all I could remember for sure. I knew I probably did not want to use halved jalepenos for the entire family, so this is what I came up with.

It was definitely a winner.


I've never read the original book, Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. Right now I'm reading Cruel and Usual Punishment, by Nonie Darwish, a former Muslim, co-founder of Former Muslims United. In reading this book, I'm confronted with perhaps the primary catch-22 of our time.
How do we, in a society founded on human and religious rights, deal with a religion that is not only antithetical to freedom, but also by nature, expansionist?
It's hard, isn't' it? Either we espouse freedom of religion or we don't. It we do, Islam and its followers deserve the same freedoms as the rest of modern society. But in so doing we allow the extremists within that religion to continue their pursuit of the destruction of our society, including that very freedom we extend to them.

And I realize not all Muslims are set against American society. After 9/11, there was much talk and frustration that those we might call "more moderate" Muslims did not speak out against the terrorists and the violent groups within Islam. But after reading Darwish's book, I am no longer surprised that they did not. The extremists are the ones practicing their religion rightly. Those who choose a more peaceful road, endanger their very lives by not participating in the violence. Speaking against the violence is simply not compatible with their religion.

Sad, but true. These people are trapped. They are trapped in a religion of violence and fear. They need our prayers.
1 Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the LORD
and against his Anointed One.
3 "Let us break their chains," they say,
"and throw off their fetters."

4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.

Also see my review of Cruel and Usual Punishment in Books!Books!Books!.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rep. Paul Ryan

I found a link somewhere to this video of Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. He so ably articulates many of the issues of concern over the national health care bills.

I can't find the source of this video, but on youTube, there is a link to the US Committee on the Budget website, of which Rep. Ryan is ranking member. I did not however see this video on that website.

The link I originally followed led me to the Health Reform Scam website, where I viewed the video. I've not read too much of their information, but they appear to have a very comprehensive collection of information on this issue. From the Health Reform Scam "about" page,
There is no question that America needs health care reform. The problem is that President Obama and his colleagues in Congress are going about it in the wrong way. Their so-called “reforms” amount to a government takeover of our health care system. Experiences in countries like Canada and Britian show that government-run health care leads to higher cost, lower quality, and reduced access.
On a different note, the man behind Rep. Ryan starting at about 30 seconds, the one with the Band-aid on his forehead, is a bit of a distraction from the message Rep. Ryan is delivering. It appears at one point that he is about to be ill. I don't know who he is, but I can't help but feel bad for him. The other man who is shown on the video when the recording shifts to the other angle sits so nice and still. One gets the impression he is well aware that his actions will be splatted across the internet in short order.

My theory on Mr. Band-aid, he is either a speech writer or an aid to Rep. Ryan, who has listened to the speech a few times. He appears to be reciting the speech inwardly and inadvertently letting facial gestures slip out unawares. That combined with his lunch, which is not sitting quite right.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


My friend, Char, has been doing poetry with her kids in their home school this year. She recently sent me a link to e. e. cummings poem, [in Just], in celebration of the season. I then, sent her Carl Sandburg's, Fog, in celebration of being done with the thick fog of the recent weeks.

But tonight, while I was reading with my kids, I found one by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that really seems to capture my mental state by this time of night.


Becalmed upon the sea of Thought,
Still unattained the land it sought,
My mind, with loosely-hanging sails,
Lies waiting the auspicious gales.

On either side, behind, before,
The ocean stretches like a floor,--
A level floor of amethyst,
Crowned by a golden dome of mist.

Blow, breath of inspiration, blow!
Shake and uplift this golden glow!
And fill the canvas of the mind
With wafts of thy celestial wind.

Blow, breath of song! until I feel
The straining sail, the lifting keel,
The life of the awakening sea,
Its motion and its mystery!
Of course I had to quiz the kids a little while reading; I always try to keep them on their toes. Tonight I asked Matt for Longfellow's full name and he got it handily.

In a similar vein, Matt's Knowledge Bowl team got first place tonight at the Thief River Falls meet. Great job, guys! They've had a great season. The junior high team only has three meets, but they came away with fourth place in the first meet in Grygla, and then second at their second meet in Bemidji. Perhaps it bodes well for the high school team when these three ninth graders move up to the high school team next year.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

White Bean Chili

I have seen many white bean chili recipes, but this one on Ana Caban's blog looked really good to me. Just imagining the lime and cilantro focus topped with the avocado and tomato made my mouth water. Mmm.

I did notice, however, that it would be a really easy recipe to do in the NT (slow foods) style. Here is the adapted version I'm going to try. I'll post an update when I've tried it. I don't have any chickens on hand, so who knows when I'll get to it.

Keep in mind this is s-l-o-w foods. I don't start out thinking, "Oh, today I'm going to make chili." Instead I roast chickens when I feel like it. We eat some that day and I plan a second meal or freeze the rest. I cook a big batch of beans at once, again, use some and freeze some. I make bone broth when I run low. I try to keep slower things on hand already prepared, so when I decide to do the chili, it won't be a slow job. Yes, I could do it all in a day or two, but then I'd be crazy. Imagine focusing on a single meal for all day. Yuck!

Not to mention my bone broth would not be as nutrient rich as it will be after simmering for several days.

Slow White Bean Chili
  • 2 whole chickens
Roast using your favorite seasonings. A good combo might be 1/2 T salt, 1 t chili powder, 1 t garlic powder, 1/2 t cumin. Mix together and rub inside and outside of birds. Roast until falling apart using your favorite method.

Eat for supper. Freeze the rest of the meat. For bone broth see previous broth post. Although that original post is for beef soup bones, I include a note toward the bottom on using chicken frames.

  • 5-6 c dry white beans
Sort and rinse (in several changes of water). Put in large bowl, add water until level is several inches above beans. Add 1/4 c of whey. Soak overnight. Drain and rinse if you like. (I don't know what the difference is. I've seen directions both ways.) Put the beans in the crockpot (I use a 5 qt, I think; might be 6 qt) and cover with water. Cook on low all day or until soft to your preference. Add water as needed. I then usually use about half and freeze the rest. Adding an acid will prevent beans from softening further, so I add a bit of vinegar or tomato juice to the ones I plan to freeze so they don't turn to mush when thawed. I will also occasionally do this to all of them if they get too soft.

You could also cook on the stove top. I think they say simmer about an hour. I never do mine this way, so read the directions on the bean package to verify cooking time.

The Chili
  • 2 T fat of choice
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Sauté vegies in fat until tender.
  • 8 c cooked beans
  • 4 c cooked chicken
  • 1 qt frozen corn
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 c lime juice
  • 1 T ground cumin*
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 t red pepper sauce, or to taste (Joe makes some awesome lacto-fermented hot sauce from dried chilies)
  • 4-6 cups bone broth
  • salt to taste 1/2 -1 T
Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes. Make it a day ahead and it will taste infinitely better.

Serve with sour cream and wedges of tomato and avocado.

*A note on cumin. I've recently read up on cumin ( I think while planning for my tamales a while back). I found that cumin loses it's flavor very rapidly once ground. The stuff we get in the store apparently does not taste very like cumin ought. Hmm. One ought to buy only whole cumin and grind it just prior to use. The original white chili recipe recommended roasted cumin. I might try that some day. Here's the instructions.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Comings and Goings and Returnings and Disposings

From the preface to The Master of Ballantrae, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Although an old, consistent exile, the editor of the following pages revisits now and again the city of which he exults to be a native; and there are few things more strange, more painful, or more salutary, than such revisitations. Outside, in foreign spots, he comes by surprise and awakens more attention than he had expected; in his own city, the relation is reversed, and he stands amazed to be so little recollected. Elsewhere he is refreshed to see attractive faces, to remark possible friends; there he scouts the long streets, with a pang at heart, for the faces and friends that are no more. Elsewhere he is delighted with the presence of what is new, there tormented by the absence of what is old. Elsewhere he is content to be his present self; there he is smitten with an equal regret for what he once was and for what he once hoped to be.
I like Stevenson's description of returning to old places.

I probably won't finish reading this particular volume. We picked it up used, only later noticing that it is very mildewed (smelling, not visually marred). It is strange that we would purchase this copy. Generally, being quite savvy at the art of buying used books, we smell everything we buy. It's part of our routine. Is the binding firm? Is the glue cracked? Are the pages crumbling? How does it smell?

Imagine with me. You find a long sought book at a garage sale or used book store or your local ARC thrift store. You nab it up and take it home where its sits on your shelf, in a lonely fashion, until the time is ripe for you to read it. You think about this book. Depending upon the title, you may think about it only periodically or you may carry around a dim thought of this book nearly constantly. It calls to you. Until finally. You have a corner of time designated as your own with which to spend tucked up in an afghan with a cup of your favorite warm beverage. You pick up the longed for book. Open the pages. And are hit with an olfactory assault. Stale smoke. Mildew. Strong perfume. Or even the lingering body odor of some former reader. It might be one of many displeasing aromas or a combination of several. Spending one-on-one time with this book will not be a pleasure. The disappointment. The sadness.

And then must come the decision.

Do you spray each page with diluted bleach? Do you pull out the Lysol? Do you set the volume in the summer sun and let the breezes randomly turn pages while the sun and fresh air do their thing? Or do you simply chuck it? I hate to throw away books. I really hate it. I feel the privilege of owning books. I think of Abe Lincoln walking miles to borrow a book from John Pritcher. What a travesty to have to throw one away.

But alas, we live in an opulent society. One in which it is more convenient to dispose of things quickly than to recondition them. In the name of responsible time management, I am afraid for this volume. I suspect it will go the way of the dumpster.