Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Garlic, Mushroom, and Quinoa Soup for Crock Pot

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used baby portobella)
1 heaping Tbsp fresh minced garlic (I may have used more...I love garlic)
6 cups water
4 tsp chicken base (or 4 bouillon cubes)
½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb ground turkey, browned and drained (optional)
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

In a frying pan, sauté onion, mushrooms and garlic in olive oil until tender. Transfer to crock pot.  Add remaining ingredients, except spinach.  Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low 8-10 hours.  Stir in spinach for last hour.  May top with Parmesan or sour cream if desired.  Yum!  And smells divine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bringing Hotdish to the Potluck

My teenagers came home and said they needed to bring a hotdish to an event.  Hotdish?  I'd heard the term on television, and I think maybe in the Mitford books, but I wasn't sure what it meant.  Clearly it's something hot, and hotdish feels like it should be some kind of comfort food. Is it a particular dish, we wondered at our house, or regional terminology? Was it similar to the southern term barbecue, which refers to something you consume ("She served up some tasty barbecue,") rather than the act of barbecuing, or the event where people get together to barbecue? ("Are you coming to the barbecue?  We'll be barbecuing chicken.")

Isn't grammar fun?

The answer is that a hotdish is a type of casserole, no specific ingredients required.
It's worth looking in Wikipedia for hotdish and casserole, just to put a little smile on your face.  Here are some quotes:

Hotdish: a variety of casserole which typically contains a starch, a meat, and a canned or frozen vegetable, mixed with canned soup. The dish originates from and is popular in the Upper Midwest region of the United States, particularly the states of Minnesota and North Dakota. Hotdishes are filling, convenient, and easy to make. They are well-suited for family reunions, funerals, church suppers, and potlucks where they may be paired with potato salad, coleslaw, Jello salads, and desserts, and pan-baked desserts known as bars.  (That’s my favorite part. Please help yourself to this pan-baked dessert.  I call them “bars.”)

Casserole: usually consist of pieces of meat, chopped vegetables, a starchy binder such as flour, rice, potato, or pasta, and, often, a crunchy or cheesy topping.

FYI, my spell check didn't know hotdish, so I added it to my dictionary.

For someone who makes casseroles (and specifically hotdishes) several nights a week, the detailed descriptions are surreal.  Makes me feel like we're studying the lives of remote villagers. Imagine if in a hundred years your great-great-great-grandchild reads about casseroles in history books.  I wonder if the terms or the recipes themselves will follow future generations.  You never know what will get passed down, and what will go by the wayside.

When reading Wiki's entry on casseroles, be sure to explore “See Also,” and click on “List of Casseroles.”  Some you’ve probably never heard of: Moussaka, Flying Jacob, Nut Roast, and Rappie Pie, for instance.  There are also variations on old favorites, like American Goulash, Lasagna, Scalloped Potatoes, Frito Pie, Macaroni and Cheese, and Funeral Potatoes. That last one should catch your posterity's curiosity.

Comfort foods, casseroles, hotdishes, crock pot soups ... soft, warm foods for rainy, winter nights.  Perfect.

Here's one of our favorite recipes:

Gluten-Free Tater Tot Casserole (AKA Hotdish):
1 lb ground turkey, browned and drained
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp dried minced onion
1 ¼ cup (11 oz) gluten-free condensed cream of chicken soup (see recipe below)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 lb bag frozen tater tots

Preheat oven to 350°. 

In a 9x13 pan, spread ground turkey and sprinkle  with salt, pepper, and onion.  Spread cream of chicken soup over top of meat.  Drizzle Worchestershire sauce next, and use a spoon to gently spread into soup mixture, without disturbing the layers. Top with enough tater tots to cover the surface.

Bake at 350 for 30–40 minutes, or until the food is hot and bubbly.

Gluten-Free Cream of Chicken Soup
6 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp dried minced onion
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp each garlic powder and salt
⅛ tsp each pepper and paprika
¾ cup brown rice flour
1 ¾ cup gluten-free chicken broth
1 ¾ cup milk (I used dairy-free rice drink)

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and seasonings.  Add flour, and stir until thick and slightly bubbly.  Add broth and juice.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

This will make more than the above recipe calls for.  What you don't use can be frozen for future recipes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Emergency Preparedness

I have a prickly dread of being isolated at home with a houseful of kids and a husband and nothing to do. When fears of epidemics, catastrophic earthquakes, or invasions from Canada (you never know) worm their way into the conversation, it's one of my first thoughts. What if we were quarantined, or couldn't go out-and-about for some reason? What if we had to remain within the four walls of our house for days, weeks, months? What would we do to keep from going crazy?

So, I have prepared some activities in the event of any or all of the previously listed emergencies. Obviously, if we still have internet, we can find endless hours of information, escapism, and cat videos to keep us occupied. We could sign up for everything—Hulu+, Netflix, Amazon Prime, even the Hallmark movies, just so we had all possible options.

If we don't have internet but still have power, it's lucky I have approximately 170 hours of National Geographic VHS tapes for us to watch. That should lead to some intense family discussion, and likely count as home school.

Also, board games. Last week when the power was out, we played games for hours. It was anything but boring.

Piano lessons. Do you have a piano? Our oldest daughter, Jenna, plays, and some of the other kids briefly took lessons. Consequently, we still have lesson books ranging from beginning to advanced. In the face of months with no electricity, we could all become proficient pianists by the end of our quarantine/disaster isolation/hiding from the Canadians. Luckily I never throw anything away.

Craft supplies. And, if you know how I feel about crafting, you know I would only pull out the supplies in case of emergency. I do have them, though.

Finally, we have books. Do you keep books in your home? Even if you don't read on a regular basis, it's a good idea. Pick a few classics, books with meat to them that would still be interesting on the twentieth read. Remember in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"? Millie had a copy of Plutarch's tales, and the Bible. When the brothers and the hoped-for brides were trapped at the farmhouse for the winter, they read Plutarch (and presumably the Bible) over and over and over. Wouldn't they have loved a little Shakespeare, or Dickens, or even an old Farmer's Almanac?

With that in mind, I keep lots of books on hand. How could we survive without books? And, just to keep things interesting, I often buy books I know nothing about, and leave them on the shelf for boredom emergencies. Makes sense, doesn't it? "Open in case of emergency." We probably have a thousand books. Paper books, mind you, not eBooks.

If our county department of emergency management were to chime in at this point, they would probably add the need to stock up on other things, too. Emergency kits, extra food in the pantry, bottled water, medicines, books… Wait, I already said that one.

A lady I know told me this story (hopefully I have it right): When Mount St. Helens blew on May 18, 1980, she was living in Ellensburg. They were preparing to go to church when they heard the explosion, and the sky went black. They stayed home, of course, as the air was clogged with falling ash. What do you do when you find yourself stuck at home and the world appears to be coming to an end? You bake a chocolate cake, of course. And that's what they did. Comfort food is important in times of emergency, so keep some cake-making ingredients on hand, too. Just in case.

You know, once you're prepared, nothing bad will happen. That's how it works. Get ready to be housebound, and I can almost guarantee that the plague, the Big One, and the Canucks will never come.

I'm still here

I know it’s silly, but the reason I haven’t posted here in three years is because I get frustrated with fonts.  I read once that Jean Kerr, author of “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” (later a movie starring Doris Day) was inspired to write with the idea that she might make enough money to hire a housekeeper.  I’d say that’s good motivation, and would add to it hiring a technical assistant to figure out this blessed, idiotic internet. Creating a blog post with a consistent font shouldn’t be that hard, but there you have it.

I’m still writing. In fact, I’ve decided to post a few of my favorites from my column in the next few months.  Please bear with me as I work through my love/hate/really hate relationship with fonts.