Strawberry Moon

 

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image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Strawberries are nature’s way of preventing humans living in colder climates from committing suicide during the winter. The promise, the thought of them can keep a person going through the darkest days.

While the winter berries from Florida are a nice try, they just don’t measure up to the ones ripened in the summer sun and not subjected to a ride in a refrigerated truck. The full moon in June is known in indigenous circles as the strawberry moon. The real strawberries, the warm juicy ones just from the field are available at farmers’ markets now. It’s best to eat them standing barefoot in the grass, or better yet, having them fed to you, or feeding them to someone.

That is how the humans came to be according to the creation stories of the Cherokee. The Supreme Goddess had created First Man and First Woman, then placed them on earth. All was blissful until the first couple had the first dust-up. First Woman walked off in a huff with First Man frantically trying to catch up with her. The Goddess looked down, and knew that she had to do something to slow First Woman down. And so She created the first strawberry plant and quickly put it in First Woman’s path. First Woman stopped. Gently, she touched the crimson globes hanging from the stems. They emitted a scent as sweet as the warmth of the day. She plucked one and nibbled on it. She plucked another and as she enjoyed that began to think of First Man and the joys they had shared together. By then, First Man had caught up with her. She fed him a few strawberries and, well…now you know where humans came from.

Even in situations where one may not be able (ahem) to express one’s self openly, strawberries still make for a luscious dessert.  Fruit that’s been macerated in wine is a common summer dessert in the Mediterranean region. Slice the strawberries into a bowl, pour a light red wine over them, add sugar (this will vary with the sweetness of the berries and the wine) and let them sit until well acquainted. Works great with a sparkling wine like prossecco, too.

For the celebrations of Canada Day (July 1) and US Independence Day (July 4), you might need to come up with a more G-rated dessert for family picnics and barbecues. Strawberry shortcake goes well with whipped cream. Just slice up some berries and let them macerate in some sugar or stevia for a couple of hours to get them good and juicy. While that’s happening, make a batch of baking powder biscuits. When they’re done, split in two, fill with the berries, and spoon on some whipped cream. If you want to up the ante, put a scoop of vanilla or strawberry ice cream between the biscuit halves.

If you need to capture the feeling of a summer day to inoculate yourself from the dark cold days, try making preserves. Aunt Google will help you find a recipe, or you can ask an older relative or your county extension service. Strawberries do not take kindly to freezing. Instead of ruby red drops of summer, you get tasteless mush when they thaw. There is plenty of cold and slush to deal with outside. You don’t need it on your oatmeal.

However you decide to celebrate the strawberry, don’t forget the whipped cream.  Not on the berries and wine, but the shortcake wants the whipped cream. It just wouldn’t be shortcake without it, and it just wouldn’t be summer with out shortcake or strawberries.

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Showing Up on Monday

Dealing with the relative (now recovering nicely, thanks) and an assortment of other non-usual events made the last couple of weeks hiccupy in terms of writing and general sanity. Things are finally leveling out here in the soybean field, making the first full week of summer in the soybean field a more peaceful one.

A severe weather outbreak livened up last Wednesday. The two tornados that did damage were pretty small. No fatalities, thankfully. The rest either stayed airborne or went through open fields. Oakley and I sat watching the sound and light show in the sky and its coverage on TV. We didn’t even lose power.

The next couple of days brought chaos in the larger world. Unexpectedly, Britain voted to leave the EU. WNIU very rarely mentions news stories, so when one gets mentioned, listeners know it’s going to be a big one. Oakley knows that when Mom spits her coffee back into her cup it’s a big one. That triggered off days of losses in the stock market. Initially, I wanted to pull our investments, stuff everything into coffee cans, and bury them  in the back yard. It has to level out, and hopefully will in the next few days.

Today is mercifully quiet. Well, except for Oakley having a mild flare-up of colitis caused by the heat, most likely. He asked to go out at 2:30 this morning, then had a peaceful rest of the night. As we walked at the park this morning, he acted cramp-y (frantic pacing, hunching), and, well..I’ll spare the details. I called the vet, changed his herb for a few days. He’s napping peacefully on the floor in front of the fan.  We will have a better night tonight.

With a high of 90, this is a bit warm for my taste. I personally max out at 80 and begin to wilt at 85. Cooler foods are in order, such as salad and sandwiches and gazpacho. It’s due to be cooler tomorrow. I’ll cook the chicken legs then. Maybe oven-fried? Sounds good.

So begins the summer. Next on the agenda: we are eleven days from the Ren Faire opening. Oakley will be staying at Ms. Lanette’s for the night. We all need a bit of frolic, and we have those events to provide it for us.

 

When in Doubt, Make a Casserole. When Confident, Make Two.

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(image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy)

Well, that was a hell of a week.

Let me try again.

One ill family member; one visit with out of town relatives who’d cancelled vacation plans to come to see her; one hearing for a special use permit for Oakley’s day care; and two drives up to see the family of said family member left me totally wrung out. Except for the visit (breakfast at a very comforting restaurant) the other events involved drives of upwards of an hour, plus trying to convince Oakley that the relatives’ dog was not a fruit bat-shark mix.

Good boy that he is, Oakley just walked away, then sat quietly by the door until we left. I made him a bison burger for dinner.

The ill family member is in progress. I’m not going into details to protect her privacy, but I will tell you that she fares better today. And that her condition scared a few years of growth off all of us. It’s going to take time, but things look a lot better this week than they did last Monday.

I couldn’t directly influence her recovery process, but I could support the ones in the immediate circle with food. Comforting. The type with plenty of carbs and that can be heated up in the microwave. In other words, a casserole.

Nothing fancy. I made stovetop lasagne. Been too hot to turn on the over here. I boiled the pasta (1 lb. fusilli), stirred in a jar of sauce, a carton of ricotta, and some pre- shredded provolone and mozzarella. They liked it.

I made a huge batch of turkey chili, too. They received it with favor. And a rotisserie chicken that I grabbed at the store. They will be well fed for a few days. My hope is that things will level out so they can do a little cooking. It’s therapeutic. I felt better as I saw the chili and pasta fall into place.

They felt better as they ate the chili, too.

Had it been cooler, I would have made a chicken-noodle casserole as well. It’s like tuna-noodle, but with chicken and cream of celery. Two people in that part of the family have fish and mushroom allergies, and they had enough problems without a reaction to the tuna. And the mushrooms.

But it worked out, and continues to do so. We just have to be patient. And eat some casserole.

 

#WoofWoofWednesday: Home Cooking for Canines

12091164_1093123694038950_1270561461227914638_o“Carson, we’d like the tea and biskies now….” (image courtesy Mid Day Play)

That’s Oakley’s favorite place for a short rest at day care. He’s gracious enough to share the sofa with his with his friends, though. He also might be wondering what his mom is making him for dinner. Am I going to get turkey? Bison? Bunny? I know I’m getting pumpkin. Other carb veggies set my tummy off because they have too much sugar. Is Mom going to try to get me to eat spinach? It’s not as good as grass, but Mom said I had to eat spinach once or twice a week because Dr. P said so. I hope it’s turkey. Yeah, I’d like some turkey…

I think his wish came true that night. Frozen turkey (thawed and cooked, of course) and pumpkin. He’ll eat spinach now and then, but mostly then.

Spinach, pumpkin, and one of the above proteins fall on the cool end of the spectrum in Chinese medicine and nutrition. Because of the low fat and sugar content, they are least likely to cause inflammation for Oakley, keeping his tummy calm and his mother sane. I can easily find canned bison and rabbit without additives. The turkey has to be cooked from scratch after the label gets scrutinized. He can have two biscuits a day without digestive repercussions. Dr. P had suggested a vitamin powder, but every time I’ve tried one of those, it’s knocked his tummy out of whack. He seems to be doing just fine without them–his hair is smooth and soft, blood work numbers are all good, so I see no sense in rocking the ship.

This is what works for him. It’s not spoiling him any more than it would be giving him insulin if he were a human child with diabetes.  I get weird looks sometimes when I speak of making his food, but as long as he’s happy and healthy, the critics can look askance to their heart’s content.

A lot of kibble has ingredients that may be healthy for some dogs, but not so much for Oakley. Omega 3 fatty acids set him off. We don’t talk about what happened when he ate a flax-based food in polite company.

Pumpkin. Protein. Spinach. Occasionally an egg or a tiny bit of cheese. This is what works for us. Things might be very different for your fur-child. Please talk to your vet before changing over to a new feeding regimen.

If you’re interested in exploring home cooking for canines, please read Dr. Pitcairn’s Book of Natural Health for Dogs and Cats or Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Dogs and Cats. 

And someone please ring Carson for the tea and biskies.

 

Cake Lust

Have you found Manger yet? (the infinite of “to eat” in French.) Mimi Thorrison chronicles her life on a farm in southwestern France. She writes cookbooks, runs weekend cooking workshops, and raises children and fox terriers.

She also makes cakes like the Josephine ruffle cake. In this picture it looks like something that a couple of Botticelli angels should  be presenting to Venus as she lounges in her clam shell.

It’s a simple butter cake with a buttercream frosting–neither are that hard to execute in and of themselves, but it’s the piping technique that makes it special and looking as if the cake is class in a petticoat. For the uninitiated, that can be a challenge.

Since I found Manger last week, I’ve kept returning to this recipe the same way I return to favorite poems or books. I would love to make it. Usually the cakes I make much plainer, such as my grandma’s carrot cake or French yogurt cake. The former I don’t decorate too much. It’s s-o-o good on its own. Sometimes I’ll dust the top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar; maybe some cream cheese frosting if I feel really crazy. For the yogurt cake, I decorate with jam or berries or swap out some of the flour for almond flour or cocoa powder.

And those are good cakes. They are solid, tried, and true. This ruffle cake intrigues me. I limit cake baking to once a month. The impulse control issues due to the ADHD make it hard for me not to scarf it in a day or so. But perhaps for a very special occasion..yes. One is coming up for  a friend’s next significant birthday. Yes. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to practice, would it?

Creating a Retreat in a Few Easy Steps

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I could live here.  (Image courtesy Old Design Shop)

Would you like to come in? We could sip iced tea and enjoy strawberry shortcake made with biscuits–baking powder, not drop ones–and topped with whipped cream while conversing about books, pets, gardening, and period films. If we disagree, then we would agree to do so and move on to a topic of true importance such as chocolate. Or perhaps have dinner at the pine trestle table served on plain white dishes. Something good and peasant-y, like coq au vin. Of course we would have a crusty loaf and a robust red to go with, or iced tea if you were inclined away from alcohol. Dessert? How does mousse au chocolate sound?

Today seems as good as any to move there. I grow weary of the political vitriol and stories of animal abuse on social media. The campus shooting du jour unfolds as I type this. (Google “UCLA shooting.” I don’t want to give it any more energy.) It is a good day to create a retreat.

“Retreat” usually carries religious/spiritual connotations, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be such. You can create a temporary haven from the outside world fairly easily:

  • Heed the advice of John Prine in his song “Spanish Pipedream”. OK, just turn it off. (yes, this is the John Denver version.)  At the very least, stop watching the news. For tune-age, find internet streams or stations that don’t blast news.
  • Limit time on social media and don’t read comment threads on news sites. Even the threads on NPR are getting trolled and their moderators don’t seem to be doing very much.The amount of ugly out there is overwhelming.
  • This might sound weird, but if you can get your dwelling in order–a little dusting, a bit of decluttering–it might make things a little more restful.
  • Take a few minutes in the morning to read something inspiring. You’ll be in a better frame of mind.

Now, would you like some lemon with your tea?