vulnerable path

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Kitchen Therapy

When the leaves begin changing colors and the temperatures start to drop, I get the urge to cook! I abandon my kitchen for most of the summer.  Summer is salad time, and grill time.  But with the arrival of the fall season, I am ready to get back in the kitchen and pull out my favorite recipes.

veggiesIt’s time for warm kettles full of soup or chili. One-pot dishes are my favorites because I love prepping ingredients, chopping onion, celery, and carrots for a hearty chicken soup.  Or dicing up red and green peppers for a vegetarian chili. Cooking is meditation for me.  It’s therapy.  A good pot of soup not only nourishes the body, but its creation nourishes my spirit.

My local farms are bursting with pumpkins, squash, and apples. October is the beginning of the best cooking months of the year, with Thanksgiving and Christmas right ahead of us.  The house fills with the aroma of baked pumpkin loaves and apple cobbler.  My daughter and I have made a tradition of baking and decorating Halloween cut-out cookies.  And, of course, we must roast our pumpkin seeds the same night we carve our Jack-o-lantern.

I’ll be getting my Thanksgiving Day assignment soon. My favorite contributions are home-made cranberry sauce and wild rice stuffing.  What wondrous treats will my brother-in-law concoct this year?  He has upped the ante on Cope’s corn, all creamy and sweet, with chewy chestnut pieces and a secret blend of seasonings.  It’s blue ribbon!  And if we are all really lucky, my niece’s friend Lindsay will show up with a pecan pie.

Then it will be Christmas-cookie baking day. We’ll converge on my sister’s kitchen with a slew of batters.  We’ve been doing this annually since my Mom was still alive, well more than 20 years ago.  Mom and Grandma started this tradition, and our children have grown up with it.  My Dad attends every year and helps roll those chocolate snow-caps in powdered sugar.  There will be tins stacked full of chocolate chip, soft sugar cookies, ice box nut wafers, chocolate snow caps, peanut-butter kisses, and white chocolate macadamia nut.  It’s baked love.

To quote one of my favorite chefs,  “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” Anthony Bourdain

And now, for today’s therapy session: Minestrone Soup.

4 slices bacon – about ¼ C chopped

1 C chopped onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 pound ground beef, or more

1 C chopped celery – I like mine sliced on the diagonal

1 C chopped carrots

2 C tomato puree

2 (14.5oz) cans stewed tomatoes – may need to cut into smaller pieces

1 (14oz) can beef broth

1 (10.5oz) can condensed French onion soup

Water – 2 to 5 Cups (to taste)

¼ C red wine

1 t dried oregano

1 t dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 C shredded zucchini – a great way to hide a veggie from the kids

1 C spinach, rinsed and sliced

1 C or more small pasta – shells or elbows, cooked separately

1 (15oz) can garbanzo beans, drained (or any you prefer)

¼ C chopped parsley

In a large stock pot, cook bacon and drain off fat. Add onion, garlic, and beef.  Break up beef and cook until no longer pink.

mixture_2Add celery, carrot, pureed tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, broth, condensed soup, wine, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.  Simmer until carrots and celery are tender.  Add water until soup reaches desired consistency (taste test).  Stir in zucchini, spinach, beans, parsley.  Simmer until spinach and zucchini have cooked.

 

Add cooked pasta and simmer a few minutes longer.  Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Chow!

© Vulnerable Path, 2014

better soup photo

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Just Dance

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”  — Ann Lamott

So this little tidbit jumped out at me today.  I was reading a blog post about writing.  Yes, writers write about writing on WordPress.  And it’s pretty darn inspiring sometimes.  The challenge of the blog post was to just write.  Just start typing and don’t stop.  Don’t edit.  Just get the words out onto the page.  So that’s what I’m doing.

I love this quote — “don’t look at your feet.”  I am so guilty of this, always wondering if I am doing it right.  Is it perfect yet?  No, silly.  You’ve got to stop worrying about that.  Ann Lamott’s quote is kind of like the “Just Do It!” slogan of the writers world.

I am a runner.  I love to be out on a trail somewhere, just chugging along.  I’m not a very fast runner.  I’m usually pretty happy if I can log a 10 minute mile during some portion of my workout.  I don’t concern myself much with speed.  Running is a great way for me to find some peace and clear my mind.  But guess what I do when I run?  I stare at the ground.  I watch my own steps.  Recently, I have started making a concerted effort NOT to do this.  When I catch myself, I straighten up my posture, raise my head, and look at where I’m going.  The view is beautiful!  The leaves on the trees are changing colors.  The trail is carpeted in yellow and brown.  Walnuts, acorns, and a rare Osage Orange litter the trail.  Squirrels rustle above my head.  The river churns by.  Ducks chatter to each other.   The earthen musk of what the river reclaims wafts up from the river bank.

IRT_trail-editedHow about that?  When I’m not staring at my feet, wondering if I’m doing it right, I can actually appreciate the beauty in what I’m doing.

I wonder how much of our lives we spend like this, worrying about every step we take.  We can get so caught up in what we are supposed to do, who we are trying to impress, and what we are trying to accomplish.  We impose perfection on ourselves.  We have turned exhaustion into a status symbol (as my current favorite writer says).  We are in such a rush that we miss the Now.  We hurry past the current moment, racing to get to the finish line.  News flash:  God is not standing there with His stop watch to congratulate you on finishing fast, or perfect, or with the most stuff.

When I look back on the most meaningful and joyful times of my life, I see my family and friends.  I remember special holidays, and trips to new places, and exciting new learning experiences.  Its not about how clean my house is, or what’s in my wallet, or what’s parked in the driveway.

Maybe it’s because of this mid-life spiritual epiphany I’m going through.  I realize that it’s so important to slow down.  Rest.  Play.  Laugh.  Dance.  Breathe.  Invite balance into your life.  Take time to savor the simple joys that we so easily take for granted.  Step back and re-assess once in a while.  Like an artist has to step back from his painting; that’s when you can see and appreciate the beauty in what you are creating.  You might trip over your feet once in a while.  So what?  Dance with abandon.  It’s so much more fun than dancing with perfection.

© Vulnerable Path, 2014