Author Archives for theRaggedys

God She Works in Mysterious Ways

 

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Rhea – FKA Ancho Antwerp Walden Hill

Her name was to be Ancho Antwerp Walden Hill (long story) and we were to pick her up at SFO on Friday, October 25 at 1:30 p.m.  Now she lives in Maine and is instead “Rhea.”  Her given name when she was born near Fairplay, Colorado, was Baby Ruth.

Being totally bonkers about our 9-year-old Aussie, Oakley, (check out Andy’s funny/clever video on today’s Andy’s Corner!) we were (I was?) bound and determined to have another dog with her bloodline.  There had been some serious discussions amongst friends and family about whether an 8-week-old puppy was something we really needed.  House too small for 2 dogs?  Check.  Puppy too active for two older people?  Likely check.  Oakley pretty bent out of shape?  Check.  Two Siamese cats unwelcoming?  Two checks.

Fortuna intervened.  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Fortuna is often represented bearing a cornucopia as the giver of abundance and a rudder as controller of destinies, or standing on a ball to indicate the uncertainty of fortune.  Andy wrote a nice bit about Fortuna on Andy’s Corner a while back.

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Fortuna – as depicted in this Vienna statue

On Wednesday, October 23, PG&E declared they were shutting off power in our area due to extreme fire risk (another long – and not happy – story).  Our neighbors were vacationing in Hawaii, and we were caring for their place, so Andy and I decided we needed to check on their generator (we really should invest in stock in generator manufacturers given the number that have been sold in our area in the last 2 years).

Did you know that every few years oaks produce an overabundance of acorns?  This appears to be one of those years for Northern California.  Joan Morris, a local wildlife columnist, explains, “Scientists still aren’t certain why oak trees produce massive amounts of acorns on a semi-regular basis. They know that the weather makes a difference, but it’s not recent weather, rather weather from a year or two earlier.”  She continues, “Scientists also believe that oaks might reserve their energy, building up to a massive release of acorns as a way of self-preservation. By putting out fewer acorns some years, the trees may actually be keeping in check certain populations of animals that eat the acorns. Then, when the oaks do mass produce, the acorns stand a better chance of becoming trees because there are fewer animals to eat them. As it is, only about one in 10,000 ever become trees. The others are eaten before they can establish roots.”

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Did Fortuna, as the giver of abundance, provide us with these acorns?

Long story short – winds had blown tons of acorns off their oak in the week since our friends had left their home for their Hawaiian holiday.  Andy and I dodged the acorns successfully for a bit, but then I came rushing down their backyard hill, stepped on a spot particularly loaded with those little slippery things, slid, fell, landed with my ankle twisted underneath me – and badly broke it.  Sh**t.  Actually, I may have said something worse.

I should have read this bit from Scott Aker, head of Washington DC’s National Arboretum, before heading out that day: “Clearing your garden of tenacious acorns can be a chore…acorns are sort of like ball bearings or marbles.  If they get on walkways, we try to be very conscientious about clearing them. We don’t want anybody to break a leg. I would caution your readers to pay attention to that. Try to get them off walkways as early as they can. It may be a daily chore.

Our agonizing decision had been made by the time I had surgery on my ankle, Friday, October 25.  Ancho, instead of arriving at SFO that day, was now on a flight to Maine, not San Francisco.  And Andy and I came home – along with my walking boot and crutches and the prospect of 8 “non-weight-bearing” weeks – to a one-dog household.

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Is Oakley sad that Ancho didn’t join our little Glen Ellen familia?  Maybe yes; likely no.  Is Andy sad that Ancho didn’t join us?  Maybe yes; likely no.  Note: photo taken just before October 25.

Was it just bad luck when I fell on the acorns?  Was it Fortuna intervening in my life and the life of little Ancho Antwerp Walden Hill?  Should I be comforted by this statement regarding Fortune?

Luck – good or bad – never lasts.

And now on to recipes.  At first I was going to post a recipe using Ancho chiles – but then decided that a more fitting recipe would put acorns at the forefront.  TENACIOUS ACORNS!  Andy found this recipe when he did this blog.  These cookies are delicious.  BUT – it’s almost impossible to find acorn flour.  And I don’t think you’re going to want to make the flour yourself (see these instructions from Mother Earth News).  So if you don’t have it, simply substitute almond flour and the cookies will be gluten-free and delicious (though golden, not chocolate brown).

Acorn Cookies

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The Lambkins

 

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A banana slug

Really this blog should be titled “Big Horn Sheep, Lambkins, and Longevity.”  But that seems too convoluted.

Let me start by saying that my family has been associated with two really questionable team mascots.  Our daughter, Sara, is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz.  For those who are out-of-the-UCSC loop, their mascot is the Banana Slug.  And my mother, father, brother, 2 cousins, and I are all graduates of Colorado’s Fort Collins High School.  Our mascot?  The Lambkins.

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Circa 1962

A quick survey of friends’ and family’s team mascots results in feisty mascot names like Bulldogs and Hornets and Seawolves and Dragons.  Even Andy’s team, the Chino H.S. Cowboys, sounds a little tough (see his bittersweet/funny blog in today’s Andy’s Corner).  But Lambkins?  Really?  At least we’re unique in that we’re the only high school in the country with that name.  And at least today’s Lambkin emblem is a little feistier looking than when I was in attendance.

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Circa 2019

Why did they ever get that name?  Well, Fort Collins is the home of Colorado State University, and their mascot is the ram.  Not surprising, since the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is the state animal of Colorado.  So is a baby ram a lambkin?  That’s what we were taught at school.

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Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

In case you’re a hunter, Bighorn sheep can be hunted in Colorado – but it might take you 20 years in a lottery before you get your chance to bag ONE.  And – vegetarian alert – a Sonoma friend whose son just got his license to shoot one says that their meat is absolutely delicious.

But back to Lambkins.  And longevity.

I recently spent a grand 3 days and 4 nights touring around Brooklyn and the Lower East Side/Nolita/Soho/Tribeca with four of my Class of 1962 Lambkin friends.  Two of us have known each other since we were kindergartners at Dunn Elementary School.  Two more became Besties during a memorable 5th grade year.  And the 5th Bestie started Lincoln Junior High School with us.   We’ve managed to keep in contact for 65+ years and have had previous get-togethers in Glen Ellen and Santa Fe and Cincinnati.  How is that for a friendship’s longevity?

I fixed dinner one night in Brooklyn for my BFFs.  I thought about serving a Colorado dish – but didn’t have any Bighorn sheep meat at my disposal – plus a lamb recipe for the Lambkins just didn’t seem quite right.  I thought about one of my all-time favorites: Longevity Noodles, a recipe from our daughter’s New Yorker friend and cookbook-writer Grace Young.  It’s the recipe we chose to post when we first began this blog some 2 1/2 years ago.  But we were staying in our son’s condo and I was terrified I’d set off their very-sensitive smoke alarm and evacuate the whole building if I tried stir-frying in an extremely hot wok.  So I ended up with my version of a Colorado green chile stew, omitting the pork and adding potatoes.  Even with that, Bestie Janeene stood valiantly on a stool, frantically waving a towel under the smoke alarm, while I roasted the green chiles over a hot flame.  Thanks, J!

So here’s to longevity!  And to BFFs!  And to Bighorn sheep!  And to the Lambkins!  But maybe not so much to Banana Slugs…or are we supposed to be embracing them, as we are bugs, as the next wave of our dining future?  If so, vegetarianism here I come.

Colorado-ish Potato and Green Chile Stew

This is tweeked from a Deborah Madison recipe.  Frankly, I never remember having Green Chilie Stew, growing up in Colorado, but I love the simplicity of this recipe, even if it’s authenticity is dubious.  It’s easily made vegetarian and can be made even more nutritious by throwing in a handful of greens – such as chopped spinach or chard.

  • long green chiles such as Big Jim or Anaheim or poblano chiles, roasted and peeled
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs Yukon gold or red potatoes, chopped into 1-inch chunks (no need to peel)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 c chicken broth or water or vegetable broth
  • Sour cream, Mexican crema, or Greek yogurt to finish (don’t omit – it adds so much)
  • Chopped cilantro to finish

Chop the chiles coarsely. Heat the oil in a wide pot; add the onion and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, garlic, and potatoes, followed by the chiles, along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir. Cook together of a few minutes, then add the water or stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.

Cook and cover until the potatoes are completely softened, about 25 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. At this point you can mash the potatoes, or at least a few of them to give the dish a creamy sort of background, if desired.

Pour into a bowl; add a dollop of sour cream and the chopped cilantro.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

I Pledge My Head to Clearer Thinking

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For those of you who didn’t grow up showing cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and, yes, even horses at the county fair – or didn’t spend hours on the family’s garden plot, getting your veggies ready to compete at the fair – or didn’t labor behind a sewing machine learning how to make an apron or “petal-pushers” (lordy, how I hated sewing – but my mother made me do it) – to compete with other young seamstresses at that same fair, and therefore maybe never participated in a 4-H club, here’s what those 4 H’s are all about.

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Note: this is the pledge as I knew it.  After 1973, the pledge ends in “my club, my community, my country, and my world.”  Not a bad addition.

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Getting my 4-H project, a Hampshire lamb, ready for the Larimer County (CO) Fair – maybe 1954?

A few weeks ago someone asked me what the “H’s” in 4-H stood for, and I had no trouble reciting the 4-H pledge verbatim, even though it’s been about 60 years since I attended a 4-H meeting.  That got me thinking about what it is about a bunch of words that gets so stuck in our memories that decades can pass and we can still recite the lines as if we’d been saying them daily.

My brother isn’t much of a church-goer, but he does a great job reciting the 23rd Psalm (and I can still do the Apostle’s Creed, early 1960’s Presbyterian version).  Andy can quickly tell you the military alphabet, just as precisely as he could during his days in Phu Tai, Vietnam (check out today’s Andy’s Corner).

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Have you ever thought about what words and lines you remember years after the fact?  We’d love to hear from you…just leave your memories in the Comments section.

Meanwhile, there are some recipes that we can do from memory – with no recipe card at hand (mind you, we’re no David from Albuquerque – see his first blog and we’re no Samin Nosrat either).  We have enough recipes copied around our house to write about 20 cookbooks!  And we generally rely on them totally, not varying the called-for ingredients one bit and fretting if we put in 1/4 tsp instead of 1/2 tsp!

Admittedly, Andy is a recipe-less master of his breakfast repertoire: Swedish Pancakes, even given his Belgian/English heritage, Egg (Mc)Muffins, and Breakfast Burritos.  I can whip up my mom’s spaghetti sauce without thinking twice.  But go beyond those staples and we’re hard pressed to go recipe-less.  Maybe we should call recipes our “cheat-sheets.” 🙂

Now if my head, which I’ve pledged – a countless number of times – to clearer thinking, could just remember how to make this old-fashioned 1-2-3-4 cake.

The 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 beaten eggs should be a piece of cake (so to speak) to remember….but the recipe-makers neglect to tell you that there are other ingredients that have to be remembered too.  What gimmick can I use to remember the 3/4 c of milk, 2 tsp of baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp vanilla?

So much for my clear thinking.  But here’s this oldie but goodie anyway.  Thanks to Katie, our dear friend in Baton Rouge, who remembered the recipe.  Here’s to memory!

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1 2 3 4 Cake

1 2 3 4 Cake

Andy and I munched on this cake for days, enjoying every little bite.

  • 1 c (2 sticks)  butter
  • 2 c sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 c cake flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c milk

Preheat oven to 325º.  Butter and lightly flour a 10 inch tube pan or bundt pan.  Alternately, bake it in 3 8″ or 9″ cake pans, if you want to be fancy and have a 3-layer cake.

Cream butter and gradually add sugar, creaming until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time to creamed mixture blending after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla.

Scoop out and level 3 cups of cake flour; in a large bowl whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt until all are mixed together well.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, alternating with the milk. Mix until just combined.  (Do not over mix as this will yield a dry cake)

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325º for approx. 1 hour and 25 minutes or until tester inserted into cake comes out clean.  If you’re using cake pans, bake for 25-30 minutes.

Cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan and finish cooling on rack.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Did Your Garden Grow?

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Next year I’m trying the heirloom Black Cherry Tomatoes, although the gold SunSugar seems to be a new favorite.

I just read and loved The Primal Thrill of a Cherry Tomato,” written by Jennifer Weiner for the NYTimes.  After blogging about the importance of special little things in our lives, I was suddenly sorry I hadn’t included cherry tomatoes.  But, to be honest, I liked the piece for its philosophizing about life more than I did for the gardening part.  I know about the pleasures of gardening, but I’m still trying to figure life out.

Another recent Times article which fits right into our blogging is this beautifully photographed “Weeknight Dinner Around the World,” a compilation of 18 families from far and wide at their dinner tables.  It reminds me of the importance of kitchen tables and another recent blog.  Food-wise, I think I’d most like to sit at the table with the Sokohs from Lagos, Nigeria.  I’ve got to try making that suya spice blend and a chicken suya to go with it.   And I’d like to be with the Terzi family from Istanbul too…kofte, lentil soup, pilaf – and that dessert – a rice pudding called sutlac and pumpkin with tahini and walnuts.  Sounds so delish.

We’ve experimented this past year with bringing more folks to our kitchen table with casual little dinner parties we call “Dining Ins.”  In case you’ve forgotten about them – or never knew – here’s our blog.  For our last Dining In we had a lively group of Andy’s cyclist friends and their spouses.  The theme was “Tri Tip, Tomatoes, and Trivia” and focused on fresh-from-the garden tomatoes, green beans and corn and fresh-from-the orchard nectarines.  The “trivia” part of the evening was a spirited match of Trivial Pursuit.

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No one got the correct answer to “WC (Wild Card) – Orange.  Can you?  Answer at the end of this blog

Our final Dining In of the year will be “Pool, Pinball, and Pot.”  You’ll just have to stay tuned to see what we have in mind.  But it does involve food! 🙂

Before turning to our Dining In menu and recipes, I should mention that today’s Andy’s Corner has nothing to do with food and gardening but is weirdly connected to the Trivial Pursuit answer.  A hint: it addresses a little problem with the name of a local cafe, The Basque Boulangerie.

Dining In – Tri Tip, Tomatoes, and Trivia:

Diane and Grandma’s Tomato Tart (see below)
Sara’s Grilled Tri Tip with Asian Chimichurri Sauce (see below)
NYTimes Green Beans with Ginger and Garlic (see below)
Tacolicious’ Corn Tomato Salsa Salad
Ann’s Brown Butter Nectarine Crumble (see below)

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Thnx for the Little Things

When all of the big things in life seem a bit overwhelming, focusing on the little wonders of life is perfect.

 

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Thanks for funny, beautiful little Acorn Woodpeckers.¹

 

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Thanks for the colorful little fall blooms of asters.²

 

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And thanks for the last few little heads of garlic left from the past winter’s home-grown crop.³

¹Acorn Woodpeckers: Today’s Andy’s Corner is an absolute must-see/must-read; Andy’s humorous-nature-filmmaking skills have been reinvigorated!  This article and the photos about the acorn woodpeckers – from KQED, our local NPR station – is fabulous.  These little feathered charmers are coming in groups every day to our birdbath; it’s impossible not to laugh at their vocalizations and antics.  Plus, how can you not love a group of birds where the fathers help incubate the eggs – and males and females, young and old, all line up as a family to help feed the babies.

Here’s their range, should you be looking for them:

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²Asters: Who would have thought that you could plant a New England aster (novae-angliae) in Glen Ellen, CA, and have it thrive – especially in a drought-tolerant garden!  I love them.  Just when the flower beds are all “meh” at the end of the summer, the asters start to open.  Now – in late September – just as the asters ‘Winston Churchills’ and ‘Mönch’ (which are aster frikartii) are finishing up, the ‘Purple Dome’ asters are beginning to bloom in our partly-shaded garden.  Just be sure to plant lots – so you get the full color impact throughout your fall garden.

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Aster ‘Purple Dome’ and echinacea “Supreme Canteloupe’ blooming in our September garden

³Garlic: We’ve planted a garden almost every year of our 52 years together.  Yet we’d never planted garlic until last year, after Sandy and Stacey, our “egg lady” friends and neighbors, recommended it.  We planted a Creole hardneck variety (you know if it’s Creole, it’s got to be good!) in October, during the first week of a waning moon, as Sandy suggested.  And we worried all winter that they weren’t doing well.  The leaves seemed weak and limp and pale.  When April came and we wanted to begin to get our summer crops in, it was difficult to not just pull them all out and chalk it up to a bad experience.  But good sense prevailed and we left them until almost June.  Then – when about half of the leaves had started to turn brown, we pulled them, hung them to dry, and have had THE most special garlic to use in our cooking all summer long.

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Garlic leaves showing just enough brown to consider pulling them out to begin the drying process

Even if you don’t have home-grown garlic, buy a few heads at your market (organic, if you can find them) and try this garlic-loaded, delicious riff on a James Beard recipe.

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20 Clove Garlic Chicken

 

20 Clove Garlic Chicken

Use this as a base recipe and vary it according to what you’ve got on hand and how much time you’ve got.  You might brown some chopped onion and celery before adding the chicken.  You can add a teaspoon or so of dried tarragon or dried thyme – or a tablespoon of minced fresh herbs.

  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 6 small chicken thighs (around 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 20 cloves of garlic (I rinse them – just because)
  • 1/2 -1 c white wine – or dry vermouth or chicken stock (you may need to add a bit more; check after about 1/2 hour in the oven; you want just enough moisture left to add a little garlicky juice to your rice)
  • Rice for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil  and butter in a large Dutch oven (I used my Staub 7 qt so I could brown all 6 thighs at once – but you can you a smaller one and brown in two batches) over medium high heat.  Add the chicken thighs, skin side down, sprinkle with the salt and pepper and brown for about 4 minutes – or until the skin is golden brown.  Turn off the heat; turn the thighs over; tuck the garlic in among the thighs, then pour the white wine over it all.

Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 1 hour.

Serve the chicken with the juices and the garlic over rice.  You can squeeze the garlic out of its skin and eat it with the rice and chicken – or just ignore it, since it already done its job flavoring the chicken.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

 

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