The View From the Pew

Women’s Lib is not working! At an Ash Wednesday Mass, the celebrant had four, female Eucharistic Ministers in attendance. After Communion, the celebrant and deacon sat down and one guess who ‘did the dishes’?

When questioning two rookie altar boys as to who would be best to ring the bells at Mass, one quickly replied, “Oh, we are both equally bad at bells!”

My altar boy son had rung the Consecration bells perfectly until the last elevation when suddenly he rang the bells extra loud and long. When I asked him what that was about, he said, “I noticed someone not paying attention in the front row so I thought I’d wake them up!”

Easy Cream of Mushroom Soup

Every time we get just a bit of cool weather in California, I start wanting warm, comfort food and Cream of Mushroom Soup is usually at the top of the list. A side of cheesy garlic bread and a bowl of hot soup is perfect for a cool California evening . . . You know, when the temperature dips all the way down to, maybe, 65 degrees!

Easy Cream of Mushroom Soup
1½ pounds firm white mushrooms, cleaned
1 medium lemon
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Tablespoon minced shallots
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of chili flakes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Cups heavy cream
2 Cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 teaspoon of water
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
Sprinkle the mushrooms with lemon juice. In a food processor, coarsely chop them. Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan and lightly sauté the shallots. Add the mushrooms, thyme, chili flakes, and bay leaf and sauté over moderate heat for 20 minutes, or until the liquid disappears. Add the salt, pepper, cream, add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the cornstarch to the soup and continue to simmer 10 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Sprinkle with minced parsley.

These Are a Few of MY Favorite Things!

I like to browse after I finish my necessary shopping whether at the grocery store or any other store. I don’t buy everything I see, but when I find something that works for my hobbies, my health, or my comfort, I’m willing to indulge. So, thought I’d share a few of my current favorite things.

We are gluten-free at our house because of my husband’s intolerance to wheat products. It took us years to discover the problem so never going to change that aspect of our life. If any of you are gluten-free, I’m willing to bet one of the things you miss the most is any kind of bread product. Yes, you can bake a sort of, not really, reasonable facsimile but it is never quite as satisfying as the real deal. I was an avid bread baker until we had to change the family diet around. You CAN produce a reasonable bread-like outcome on a gluten-free diet but the texture of the dough and the process is different.

I was cruising the Internet a few weeks ago and discovered Authentic Foods – Steve’s Gluten-Free Bread Flour. It promised great things and I purchased some with not too much hope. Bingo! First loaf of bread was amazing with the right texture and a wonderful yeast rise. I currently have a 25-pound bag of the stuff in my former wheat flour storage container! Definitely, number one on my discoveries of late.

Here is an odd, new favorite – Hemp hearts! I saw this at Costco and was intrigued. It has a lot of vitamins including three grams of fiber per serving. Supposedly, it claimed to taste good, too. And, it does! It now gets sprinkled on salads, blended in smoothies, and even enjoyed by the spoonful. I gave one of my sons a bag for his apartment living and his three roommates enjoy it, too. Great for those between-meal hunger pains.

Dry weather and being a constant knitter, crocheter, seamstress is very hard on my hands. I am seldom without chapped hands and split fingers. Buy stock in Liquid Bandage as I keep two bottles in the house constantly. Discovered O’Keeffe’s Skin Repair 48-hour lotion. It stated it was guaranteed to relieve extremely dry and itchy skin. I was desperate. I used it at bedtime and the next morning there was noticeable improvement. Found it at Walmart.

In the realm of gluten-free again, two other flour blends are good additions to my baking/cooking efforts in the kitchen: BetterBatter and Pamela’s All-Purpose Gluten-Free Artisan Flour (Dairy-free, too!) are now staples in my cupboard. BetterBatter has a multitude of recipes on their Internet site for inspiration. Pamela’s is cup for cup for using in formerly favorite regular recipes and especially nice for baking cookies. Again, you can find recipes on-line and try some of your own favorites from the gluten day. I usually buy my flour blends on-line as it is less expensive than health store prices.

My addiction to yarn and crocheting/knitting was satisfied recently. I love making projects with varicolored yarn but couldn’t find exactly the mix of colors that pleased me in the usual offerings. Several months ago, I was looking at the yarn aisle and there was something new! It was a yarn that was soft, came in a larger amount than others for a good price and . . . it was variegated in the most interesting color combinations. I liked the whimsical names of the various choices, too. I recently completed a blanket for one daughter in the color blend ‘Gnome’. It was a wild assortment of vivid almost neon colors with enough somber ones to create a nice result. I’m now working on a blanket for my older son’s birthday and it is called ‘Sphinx’ which is a manly (can we still use the word manly in this day and age?) combination of brown and blue tones. The really nice thing about this yarn is that each skein has a lot more yardage than other brands which makes the under $5.00 a skein actually a bit of a bargain. Right now, Walmart is the only store selling this yarn. It is called Mandala and produced by Lion Brand Yarns.

End of sharing time. Laundry calls and I still haven’t invented dinner for this evening! Would rather be crocheting but them’s the breaks!

I Just Gotta Be Me!

I think I’ve found the cure for the problems in the world . . . at least in our personal interactions with others. I’ve recently gotten my DNA analysed by two different companies. I did this to see if they both manage to pretty much match . . . and they did. I’m authentic!

Anyway, the results were surprising and exploded into thin air all the myths I have held as to where I came from re. my ancestry. In fact, the second analysis went into more detail showing every ‘hit’ contained in my DNA even if it wasn’t as dominant as the major ones.

Well, I’m not as German as I thought although it is in evidence. I am, however, very British, Scandinavian, and Irish. The second DNA testing broke things down even further and showed every ‘hit’ that revealed some minor bit of ancestry. Turns out I have a bit of Middle Eastern, Jewish, and Native American in my genetic makeup. Seems my background hits some of the hot buttons on current relations in the world. Obviously, there were some moments where animosity didn’t enter into  ancestral relationships.

It made me think that is the liberal world, I could either be praised (although I had nothing to do with it!) for being what I am and dealing with such conflict in my make up. Or I could be denounced for not going forth and proclaiming something or other (I don’t know what as I am not liberal!) about how I’m dealing with this internal conflict. Hey, I was happy with being me before the DNA results and can’t see being unhappy after the DNA results.

So, I think everyone in the world should have their DNA checked and unless you are totally pure in whatever ethnic group you determine to be optimal, you learn to accept everyone for what they are now and forget about the nuances in breeding except for the fun of having a conversation about it.

Cold Summer Treats and You Control the Sugar!

When my children were small, they used to love those plastic tubes of frozen juice treats. These days, they all more health-conscious so wouldn’t touch them anymore although they recall them fondly. Not only was the frozen treat fun to save on a hot afternoon, the fact that there was no stick made it easy to tackle and kept their hands cooled down, too. If only there was a way to make these the way we want them without the sugar, chemicals, and food coloring. You’ve guess it! If you check on Amazon.com, you can now find the plastic tubes being sold and most brands usually include a small funnel to get your fruit creation into the tube for freezing.

Imagine the scope for coming up with tasty but better for you treats. My daughter is talking about blending together fresh strawberries and some yogurt for her creation. Also, for a grown up barbecue, you could make up a favorite mixed drink and pass of some interesting flavors where the ice will last as long as the frozen treat. On a diet? Frozen iced tea or coffee? A lot of room for imagination here.

https://smile.amazon.com/HeiYi-Popsicle-Funnel-Zip-Top-Pouches/dp/B071CKGXG4/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1498843027&sr=1-1&keywords=Heiyi+100+pack+ice+popsicle+mold+bags+with+funnel

 

Watermelon Hints

The best part of the summer season for me is that it is watermelon season, too. Yes, in California, you can find a watermelon most any time of the year but the summer ones are always the best. We discovered one problem, however. Since we revamped our diet and now indulge in more fruits and vegetables, our refrigerator is always full with absolutely no room for a watermelon. Not wanting to deal with a watermelon addict in withdrawal, my husband came up with the idea of keeping the melon in a cooler with four or five frozen bottles of water. Every evening, he switches out the bottles for the back up one in the freezer and this has kept my watermelon in a healthy state of coldness leaving room in the refrigerator for that pesky broccoli, squash, and carrots.

Also, an annual word to the wise. Always thoroughly wash the melons you bring home from the store before storing them either in a cooler or refrigerator. It is not enough to merely use a clean knife for cutting a delectable piece of melon as the knife is cutting through the ‘dirty’ outside of the melon and scraping any germs/virus right across that slice of deliciousness you are about to enjoy. Just think about where that watermelon has been on it’s way to your home! I use a dab or Dawn dish detergent as it rinses clean, doesn’t have a lingering scent and really gets the surface of the melon clean.

Cinnamon Crumb Top Cake

Even with the rise in temperatures, we still have some baking going on around here. Hey, that’s why we got the air conditioning system fixed, right! Don’t want to waste cool air on a summer day!

We are huge fans of cinnamon and spice and if we can put all that into one cake, we’ve put in a good day’s work. This makes a small, 8x8x2 inch cake so there is enough for a surprise dessert and a slice or two for whoever gets up first in the morning.

Crumb Topping
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl until the mixture is crumbly but mixed. Scatter over cake before putting it in the oven.

Cinnamon Crumb Top Cake
1/3 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Finely shredded zest of one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Vegetable oil spray a square 8x8x2 inch baking pan.

Combine the butter, sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl. Beat together until mixture is light and fluffy. Blend together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add to butter mixture, stir in lightly, and then add remaining ingredients (except the nuts!) and beat until just smooth. Fold in the nuts and smooth into prepared pan. Sprinkle over the topping mixture and bake approximately 30 minutes or until done. Let cool a bit before servings.

*If you are gluten-free, King Arthur’s Cup for Cup Gluten-Free flour blend would probably work well in this recipe. Although I haven’t tried it yet, the success I’ve had with other recipes using the King Arthur’s blend were successful.