Thursday, April 28, 2011

A typical conversation between my mother and me

[Standing in the lobby of a restaurant, waiting for a table]

Me [finding some change in the pocket of my rain coat] : Here, would you like a penny?

Mom [coyly]: Is that for my thoughts?

Me [smirking]: No. Because I know you don't have any.

Mom: Why, you.....[grabs penny out of my hand and throws it with deadly accuracy into my cleavage]

Me: You are such a spaz. BUT! I have another penny! [triumphantly hold another coin up]

Mom [grabbing the collar of her coat and holding it closed while emitting an ear-piercing shriek]: AAAAAAAAGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

[Diners turn and look at us both just as I throw the penny at my mother, which hits her harmlessly in the arm and falls to the floor with a faint jingle in the sudden silence of the restaurant.]

Mom [as soon as the diners return to their meals and conversation, in a low voice]: SUCKAH!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A typical conversation between Aisling and me

[In the van, driving to a babysitting gig at the church]

Me: I am so hungry. I didn't have a chance to eat anything before we left the house.

Aisling: Why don't we stop and get a cup of coffee?

Me: Because a cup of coffee doesn't have bacon in it. And besides, we're running late because you were upstairs singing a Taylor Swift song while you were doing your hair and you couldn't hear me hollering at you.

Aisling [with a palpable lack of sincerity]: I'm sorry.

Me: *rolls eyes*

Aisling: Hey, I have a protein bar in my purse! Do you want to share it with me?

Me: Is it one of the kind that tastes like a handful of leaves covered with carob?

Aisling [rummaging through her purse]: No, it's one of the good ones, you know, that hardly has any protein in it.

Me: Oh, no, that's okay. You save it.

Aisling: Oh, good. Because I just remembered that I gave it to Daddy yesterday.

NUNDAY: Celebration!

I love this picture of a rosy-cheeked Benedictine sister throwing a double handful of colorful flower petals into the air with a wild whoop of joy. Either that or the demure sister standing next to her just gave her a pinch.

Monday, April 18, 2011

So great a Redeemer

Holy Week is here, in all its remembrance of mourning as we add our sufferings to the sufferings of Jesus (Col. 1:24,25) along with all the sweet nuns, shedding their innocent tears on behalf of the Bridegroom....but with the promise of triumph to come.

Monday, April 11, 2011

NUNDAY: Experiencing the Nun Run

To make you smile this morning, here's a picture of two young Sisters of St. Francis participating the the 2007 Nun Run, sponsored by the Diocese of Milwaukee. From what I have read, while there are actual nuns in the annual Run, there's very little running, unless you count the kind that happens in a 15-passenger van as it shuttles between each of four or five participating abbeys. The Nun Run was put together in order to spark interest in vocations to the religious life, with young women signing up to visit several different congregations on one mad weekend, getting a taste of what each group of sisters is all about.

Biased thought below; you are forewarned:

(As a thought of my own, I'd like to add that, in checking out the pictures of the four participating congregations from 2007, three of them were plain-clothes nuns and in each group, the youngest sister looked to be about a thousand years old and counting. Whereas with the Sisters of St. Francis, who are garbed in the traditional habit to set themselves apart from the world, marked as different and making a silent testimony of their sacrifices for the good of the world, the vocations seem to be coming along a a fine pace, something like the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who keep frantically adding on buildings to their convent so that postulants will have a place to lay their heads at night.

What I surmise in all of this is that people are tired of seeing nuns in velour track suits at Mass, which is what I saw at the abbey of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Elwood, Indiana a few years back. The chapel was half full before Mass, but there weren't any nuns there and the girls and I were disappointed. "Where are all the sisters?" I whispered to an elderly lady, thus garbed, sitting next to me, who was occupying her time before Mass by crocheting a scarf. She looked at me in surprise. "We ARE the sisters."

Oh. And I just love your tasteful aquamarine blue exercise gear, Sister. J.C. Penney, was it? Big sale at Kohl's? Yeeeeeshhhh.....

So what I'm saying is, if you look at a nun and you can't tell she's a nun, what is the point of being a nun? THERE'S SOMETHING IMPORTANT MISSING THERE.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

FISH ON FRIDAYS: The Tuna Casserole Project

This photo is proof positive that you can use rotini in your tuna casserole -- you can use any darn shape you want to; it doesn't have to be the traditional elbow macaroni -- and it is still going to be ugly and make your house smell like a bait shop and taste like, well, tuna casserole.

Somebody turn the garbage disposal on. I'm bringing in the plates.

French Fridays with Dorie: Garlicky Crumb-Coated Broccoli

[In which I do nearly everything wrong, but the recipe turns out well anyway;
thank you, Dorie.

So, you'd think that a recipe featuring steamed broccoli and six other simple ingredients - bread crumbs, garlic, butter, salt & pepper and lemon zest -- would be pretty much foolproof, right?

Probably would be, as long as you're not counting this particular fool.The only thing I did right through the entire fifteen minute recipe was steam the broccoli correctly.

Here's the run-down: Steam broccoli until it can be pierced with a fork. In the meantime, gently saute the garlic in the butter. DO NOT ALLOW THE GARLIC OR THE BUTTER TO BROWN. Add the crumbs and toss until gently toasted. Salt and pepper the crumbs to your taste. ADD THE LEMON ZEST. Stir, then add the broccoli and toss to coat the florets in crumbs. Serve.

I had the crumbs and the butter. Garlic, yes. I had the salt and the pepper. I didn't have the broccoli, which I think one could argue is a necessary ingredient in a recipe titled "Garlicky Crumb-Coated Broccoli," but I remedied that shortly before it was time to get to cookin'. But I forgot the lemon.

It was while I was frantically searching the fridge for the lemon I'd neglected to buy when I was right there in the produce department of the grocery, buying the broccoli, that the butter and the garlic got brown. My head was deep in the fruit drawer, my hands pawing through some apples and plastic clamshell of grapes, when all of a sudden I thought, "Wow, that butter smells brown. And so does the garlic."

I bumped my head on the refrigerator door and then hit my elbow on that very same door in a get-to-the-stove-fast maneuver that could have been choreographed by Cirque du Soliel if it hadn't involved my yelling, "Ow! OW!" At the stove, I noted dismally that the butter and the garlic were indeed too brown. Not burned, no, but brown.

The crumbs went into the skillet and were duly salted and peppered: I gave up on finding them lemon and resorted to the use of ReaLemon, a fridge staple that I have a love-hate relationship with. Hate, because it's nowhere near the real, fresh thing; love because of forgetting to buy lemons and well, LEMON SQUARES. Anyway, it will do in a pinch and I sprinkled the crumbs lightly. After than, it was a simple manner to get the broccoli from the microwave steamer, give it a quick pat with a paper towel, and add it to the skillet to toss it with the buttery seasoned crumbs.

It had, I thought, a very nice presentation. That's not one of my best pictures, but there it is up above, posting next to the cheeseburger I ate for dinner. The girls and I liked it a lot, but my husband allowed that he prefers his broccoli with cheese sauce. A keeper recipe, for certain.

Monday, April 4, 2011

NUNDAY: Watch your ankles

Upon first looking at this picture, you may have thought that these Franciscan nuns were participating in some arcane Catholic ritual (with Our Lady of the Greenturf and the Wooden Mallets watching in the background) or maybe doing some kind of exercise to help them gain their strength for rapping the knuckles of naughty little boys in the classroom. Neither is right; these nuns are playing croquet and I'm thinking that there's nothing like a long-skirted habit to allow a person to cleverly conceal an opponent's ball and just....move it a few inches farther away from the wicket, right in the path of Sister Mary Joseph's dead-on swing and....*WHAM*

Friday, April 1, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Quinoa, [Dried] Fruit and Nut Salad

Quinoa, o quinoa! Little did I know how difficult it would be to track you down! I went to four different groceries and did everything but put on a deerstalker hat and carry a magnifying glass à la Sherlock Holmes, trying to track you down, you grain-that-was-a-staple-of-the-ancient-Incas, pronounced KEEN-wah, mild and almost bland in your flavor!

After I'd driven all over town, I discovered that I should have sought you out in a health food store. Bugger.

ANYHOO, I went back to the first grocery I'd visited on my quest and bought a humble box of couscous. I am familiar with couscous, using it in place of rice (which takes much longer to cook) in several dishes, and it was there patiently waiting for me. So, KEEN-WAH, I made a very nice salad, no thanks to you, you big snob lurking there on the health food store's shelves.

By the time all that was over, I'd run out of energy to cook, so it was a good thing this nice little salad was easy to prepare. Dorie advised using a number of different dried fruits and nuts to add taste, color and texture, so I used dark raisins, diced apricots and dried cranberries for the fruit and slivered almonds, chopped walnuts and sunflower seeds for the nuts. There was a light dressing made from ginger, olive oil and lemon juice to pour on after the couscous was stirred together with the fruit and the nuts and then all that was left to do was plunk it on the kitchen counter to give the flavors a chance to blend.

That time spent on the counter was the longest part of the recipe; the second longest was the part where the couscous had to cool to room temperature. So if you're looking for a salad that can be made with minimal effort on your part, but which yields a delicious flavor and an appealing appearance, this is your dish.

This salad was a recipe that I enjoyed very much and I'd definitely make it again. For one thing, it had a lot of eye-appeal, the EXACT AND COMPLETE OPPOSITE of that Tuna Noodle Casserole I posted below, which looks to be the color and texture of Elmer's School Paste. If you'd like to see the casserole but you're not on my main page, go down to the index and click on the FISH ON FRIDAYS link. But you may not want to

I made our individual salads in tiny bowls that I lined with a pretty bed of spring mix salad greens, placing about a half cup of the salad on top It looked really nice, but it tasted even better. The texture is very interesting, being both chewy and crunchy at the same time, but not in a way that interfered with one's ability to chew and swallow without choking, as some foods do, my primary example being Ants on a Log, that Food of Death posing as a delightful childhood snack-fave. The couscous had a very slight grainy texture that added some interest as well, but the graininess is so small that it's not as if you were working around it and thinking, "Oh my....CRUNCH and CHEW and GRAIN...FIND ME A NAPKIN!"

And then there was the taste, to which the couscous (and, I presume, the quinoa) didn't add a whole lot. It was there, I suppose, to add body. You can detect a slight butteriness from the couscous, but mostly what you're tasting is the dried fruit and the nuts, bathed in that delicious little dressing bath. I'm not sure what it is about lemon juice, ginger and olive oil that made such a tasty component to the salad; all I can say is that it was brisk without being sour, a very spring-and-summer sort of dressing.

Tell you what - this salad reminded me a lot of the Birdseed Salad that Carol and I enjoy so much at Stream Cliff Farm. It's a broccoli-onion-raisin-sunflower seed salad that's also known as Amish Broccoli Salad, depending on whether you're at Stream Cliff Farm or not. Although the ingredients are different (except for the raisins and the sunflower seeds), there's still that same element of texture and freshness. Birdseed/Amish Broccoli Salad is pretty common here in the midwest, so if you live here, you may well have eaten it. And if you've eaten it and liked it, then you'll probably like Quinoa, Fruit and Nut Salad as well. Alors, give it a try.

FISH ON FRIDAY: The Tuna Casserole Project

This tuna casserole recipe makes use of one of my favorite small kitchen appliances: the slow-cooker. I read the recipe, bewildered, wondering what it was about tuna casserole that would need four to six hours to cook. I mean, noodles? Maybe eleven minutes in boiling water. The peas, even frozen ones, cook by themselves while the casserole is in the oven. The tuna itself is already cooked -- I got a sudden mental image of a Midwestern housewife cramming an entire raw tuna, head, fins and all, into her Crock Pot -- and couldn't come up with anything. And then, a moment of revelation: The purpose of cooking a tuna casserole in a slow-cooker is twofold:

1) To make absolutely, positively CERTAIN WITHOUT A SHADOW OF DOUBT that all ingredients have reached their maximum level of gluey gloppiness so that each individual helping separates itself from the serving spoon with a sticky sound and lands with a sound that falls somewhere between a *thwack!* and a *thmp* on the plate, and;

2) To make your house smell, like, REALLY, REALLY GOOD. I mean, awesome, with that canned tuna fishy smell permeating every porous surface. Mmmmm....