Stamppot - My Modern American Version

Here is a recipe for something I threw together on Saturday night. It's a little American twist on a Dutch comfort food from my childhood, which I think Mom called "Stamppot", or something like that. It sounds more like her word if you clear your throat while you're saying it. This will feed four, or makes terrific leftovers.

Preheat oven to 375
(cube everything bite-sized)
  • 3 white or red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
  • 2 cups of cubed other potatoes: I had some lovely red-fleshed fingerling pototoes, but a couple of larger Yukon golds would work. Whatever you think looks good.
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 good-sized bunch of kale, washed super-well and chopped. Cabbage would also work, but kale is better.
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese. I had extra-sharp cheddar on hand, but smoked Gouda would be DEEE-vine.
  • 1/4 cup of crumbled feta. I think blue cheese might also be tasty, but I haven't tried it.
  • butter and olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • a smidgeon of Montreal Steak Seasoning, if you have it.
  • Optional: meat. I used 4 chicken sausages with red pepper and garlic, sliced. It's what I had on hand. Cooked bacon or diced ham would be more traditional, but this dish doesn't really need any meat if you're shooting for vegan.
This could be a one-pan meal with a little tweaking, but I love the roasted flavor I get by preparing it this way.

Put the potatoes in a large roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper and the steak seasoning. Stir to coat all the cubes, and roast for 15 minutes. Then add the sweet potatoes and stir again. Meanwhile:

In a large skillet, melt a tablespoon or so of butter, and saute the onions until they are just getting brown on the edges. Add the garlic and saute a few minutes more. If you're adding sausage or ham, add it now and get some brown yummy goodness going on that too. If you're using bacon, wait. You'll add it later.

When the onions and meat are brown and good, add the chopped kale. Cook it down until it's wilted, but still bright. Stir this mess into the mess in your roasting pan. Add the bacon now, and add the shredded cheese. Stir it all together, sprinkle the feta on top and roast for 15 more minutes.

This is bright and colorful comfort food. I think it would be wonderful alongside a cup of creamy soup, with a lovely salad, or just with a chunk of hearty bread. And of course, as always....serve with wine!

OK, I lied. I had this with a nice stout beer: Slow Elk from Big Sky Brewing Company.

Pumpkin-Corn Chowder

I made this pumpkin soup for dinner last night. Even Sweet Hubs and Boomerang #1 liked it. Neither of them are very soupy people, either. I read the recipe for Pumpkin Soup with Mint-Pumpkin Seed Pesto (in cute little pumpkin bowls, no less!) in this month's issue of Sunset magazine. And true to form, I altered it. Kind of a lot. Mine is just like theirs but entirely different. So here's my recipe. I hope you like it!

1 Pie Pumpkin. Don't get a carving pumpkin for this recipe. You won't like the texture of the soup.
1 quart of good, commercially-prepared chicken stock, or a quart of your own good homemade chicken stock (here's a recipe). Not broth. Stock. Entiendo?
2 Leeks, chopped fairly fine. Or 1 medium onion, chopped.
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
4 tablespoons of butter or bacon grease. (Quit whining! It's just 4 tablespoons!)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups frozen or fresh kernel corn.
1/4 cup of half and half. Or milk.
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, ground red papper, red pepper flakes.... something hot.
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of quick grits, masa, polenta, or even some shredded corn tortillas. OPTIONAL.

Cut the pumpkin in half, scrape out the seeds to roast and eat later, cover the halves with foil and bake at 350 until tender. (I also make little foil nests to both hold the squash steady and keep the bottom from burning.)

While the cooked pumpkin cools enough for you to handle:

Melt the butter or bacon grease in a large sauce pan and saute the leeks until completely translucent with some browning flecks of yumminess. Add the garlic and saute a few minutes more. Add the cumin and ginger, and when this mess is fragrant and tempting, remove from heat.

Scrape the pumpkin flesh out of the shells and drop it in your blender with the leek-garlic mixture. Add enough chicken stock to puree this very smoothly. Add this to the rest of the chicken stock in your sauce pan. When it come to a simmer, add the cheese. When the cheese is melted, toss in the rest of the ingredients. I added quick grits to give the soup a very satisfying and substantial body. If you like soupier soup, leave it out. It's your call.

We all agreed we liked this very much. The men thought that some crumbled bacon on top would be oh-so-good. I agreed. I also think some green chilis in there might be pretty dang wonderful. Next time, I think I'll use roasted corn, too.

I served it with some homemade bread and a glass of wine.

Well, OK. I was the only one who had wine.

I earned it.


Never Say Never

My FIL, who has been married three times and divorced three times, tells me that "never" is not a word to be tossed around lightly. I agree. Even so, I've done some things in my life that I would really like to include in a list of "never again".

  • Being pregnant. Don't get me wrong: I loved being pregnant and I cherished my babies. Now I'm almost 50 years old, though. Even though I get a powerful baby urge from time to time, I never want to be pregnant again. It would be a miracle on the order of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, but still. No thank you, Lord, on that particular miracle.
  • Roller coasters. Been on two. Done with with two. Done with that. Thank you very much.
  • Hunting Coues' Whitetail Deer. Done that, too. Honestly, America. I'm not tough enough. The little grey ghosts only live in rough, rocky, cactus-ridden, straight up-and-down, rugged country. I admit it. I. Am. Not. Tough. Enough.
  • Speaking in front of a group.
  • Martinis. Yeah. No more of those for me. I had never tasted a martini. Sweet Hubs and I went away for a few days. It was something on my bucket list, so (with the helpful advice of my dear friend Karen, who knew I was making plans) I ordered a Gray Goose dirty martini. Blechhhhh. I'd rather drink the olive juice or plain NyQuil. Things that make you go "Bleeechhhh". I am a sweet-wine girl. Case closed.
  • Raising turkeys. We had a good experience raising turkeys. We did. But have you ever plucked a turkey? It might be unfair of me to mention this so soon before Thanksgiving, but picking turkeys is just plain gross. Turkeys smell much worse than chickens this way. The pinfeathers are G-R-O-S-S. Like squeezing giant, stinky blackheads. Next time I raise a turkey, it will be raising it OUT of the freezer at Safeway, and into my grocery cart.
  • The size I used to wear. It's gone forever.  
  • Going bra-less (in public).
  • I know that I can never eat a whole, raw, unpeeled apple again. IBS. 'Nuf said.
  • Bikinis in public. Gone forever. No need to thank me, America. I am opposed to pollution of all sorts, including visual pollution.
I wonder what I'll giving up ten years from now?



My Next Book

I've been thinking about it, and decided maybe I should shelve the sequel I've been writing and focus on a new project.

You know those "For Dummies" books? Astronomy For Dummies, Windows For Dummies, Investing For Dummies, etc? I think I want to write one called "Life For Dummies". It will be all about daily living inside a home, applicable to apartments, single-family dwellings, condos and even a single-wide in Tornado Alley. Also applies to any kitchen, bathroom or work space shared with others.

I want to cover the important tips for living that somehow were neglected when people were growing up. I am, I admit, part of the problem. My own two grown sons did not learn all of these lessons. I don't know where I went wrong. Some of the chapters might include:

  • Toilet paper holders. How to identify an empty one. How they work. How to replace a roll of TP, once you've determined the holder is empty.
  • Garbage. What is it and where does it go? How do you know when to take out the garbage? Does it magically disappear, or do you have to do something? This chapter will help the reader to decide if that empty carton of ice cream or box of cereal should be thrown away, or returned to its point of origin. How much cereal can you ethically throw away? Four Froot Loops does not qualify as tomorrow's breakfast.
  • Dishes, Part I. If you know where to find a clean dish when you want one, then you DO ACTUALLY know where to put the clean ones in the dishwasher. And dishwashers do not empty themselves.
  • Dishes, Part II. Which items need to be rinsed and why. Water glasses? No rinsing necessary. Milk glasses, oatmeal bowls, plate of eggs: please rinse. Well.
  • Leftovers as a science project. What happens to an Egg McMuffin if you leave it in the fridge in its paper wrapper for more than 2.5 minutes. Also: this has black spots and green fuzz. What should I do with it? Also: Saran Wrap. More than just a Halloween Costume.
Part B might include an Outdoor Section:
  • The dog is whining pitifully and looking at her feeder, the door, her water dish..... What does this mean?
  • More dogs: how to identify the dog poop in the yard, and what to do about it.
  • Anyone can pick up trash. It's true! Did you know this? A Wendy's burger wrapper blows onto your front step. The original owner might not actually know that it is here. How will it find its way to the dumpster. This is a logic problem.
  • Just for fun, and to grind my own personal axe, I want to include a chapter about Your Barking Dog. My family worked very diligently to teach our blue, OCD, Australian Cattle Dog that she was expected to bark at some things and not permitted to bark at other things. It IS possible to teach a dog to hush. It is! Honestly. If our OCD dog and her 3 predecessors can learn, your dog can, too. Neighbors walking on the sidewalk? No bark. Guy in a black ski mask trying to get in your back door? Bark!!! OK. We were a little vague about when to bark or not bark at elk, since our OCD dog let the elk in without a peep, while they consumed my entire garden. But we can't blame the dog. She is officially retired, anyway. In any case, dogs barking at..... air? NO FRIGGING BARK!!!
Who knows. Maybe it will be in stores soon. !

I have to be fair, here. My own men, Sweet Hubs and my two Boomerangs, are not guilty of all the offenses. I gathered the ideas from many places. 


I Have to Know

Please explain it to me? Please? PLEASE!!!

My dear friend is going to have back surgery tomorrow. People. ranging from our letter carrier to the checker at the grocery store, are telling her their horror stories about back surgery. "Oh, it was awful. He had to be caged for 2 months..."

Strangers will tell expectant mothers that they were in labor for 100 hours. When people find out that someone has cancer, they tell the most frightening tales about what someone else went through.

Why do we do this? Shouldn't we all know better?

Fleeting Moments

I like to watch people. If you've been reading me for any little while, you'll have noticed that I write about my people-watching obsession from time to time. Last week, I enjoyed four days of some very exceptional people-watching. It was exceptional because it was a great cross-section of people. Young and old, many cultures, many different economic levels.  Today, I'm going to tell you about one person in particular.

She was a young-ish mother, with one child about 3 years old. Mom was probably about 25 - 30. I saw her every day for four days.

The first day I saw them, they were among several people (me included) who were waiting for a class to get out. She sat, with her toddler, at a small table. Mom was texting, and Toddler was bored. Mom scolded. Sit still. Be quiet. Just wait. Hush up. Stop whining.

Toddler was bored. Apparantly, Mom hadn't packed a single toy or a couple of crayons with a sheet of paper or anything for Toddler to do. She sure as hell didn't forget her cell phone, but Toddler was empty-handed. She seemed to be expecting Toddler to sit like a gentleman for half an hour with nothing to do and just wait quietly. Let me tell you, folks, it wasn't working.

The next day, I saw them in a store. An lingerie store, no less. Not even the kind with hoochy, shiny mannequins in colorful lingerie. It was a plain bra store with racks and racks of nude, white and black bras. What a thrill. Believe it or not, Toddler was bored. Mom was trying to look at bras, but Toddler just would NOT stand still and play statue.

The third day, they were in the food court. Toddler sat on the pub-height stool, swinging his feet and slurping loudly on his empty soda cup. Mom was texting. He asked Mom for more soda, but she waved him away like a troublesome mosquito. Toddler was bored. He stood up on the chair and reached over to take a drink from her cup, and she swatted his little rump lightly and made him sit down again.

I understand that children are demanding. I understand that sometimes we have to use creative discipline. My youngest son was a talented interrupter, so he often found himself on the other side of whatever door was handy. Like out on the back porch or in the coat closet. A few seconds without the attention he was clamoring for realigned his attitude. But four days of being bored is a lot to ask of a small child. I don't know many adults who could handle being ignored for four straight days.

I wanted so very badly to go talk to Mom. To tell her that her child's young years would be gone in a flash, never to be recaptured. I wanted to tell her that she was expecting more than is reasonable of a toddler child, to think that he could hang out in a casino, a mall, a hallway and little hotel room for four days with NOTHING TO DO and not get cranky.

I wanted to tell her to read Galit Breen's blog and get some frickin' inspiration about what a joy motherhood can really be.

I wanted to tell her to put her cell phone down, look into the big brown eyes of her little boy and give him a few precious crumbs of her attention.

Honestly, I don't know why I didn't.

What I See--Alita

Oh, Alita! What can I say? We've known eachother for so many years! Alita and I became acquainted first because our husbands worked to...