Saturday, July 28, 2012

Amaranth - A New Favorite

Fresh Amaranth - Isn't it gorgeous?
When we gave up our vegetable garden a few years ago to join a local CSA, we discovered that one of the joys of belonging to the farm is that we get exposed to such a large variety of vegetables that we couldn't grow on our own.  My husband picked up our share the other evening and when I walked into the kitchen to see what my cooking options were going to be over the next few days, I saw a bunch of reddish leaves on the counter that I didn't recognize.  He proudly announced that it was amaranth.

I always thought of that as a grain - but on googling it, found there are over 60 varieties of this plant and some are used more for the leafy part.  He dutifully reported, "they said to just cook it like any other green."  The raw leaves were a little tough and the stems tasted earthy - so not good in salads.  I decided to saute it with some garlic, ginger, and the handful of okra that Al had also brought home.  At the end, I added a little rice wine vinegar, a bit of salt and pepper.

ginger, garlic, okra sauteed before adding amaranth
I decided to cook up a bunch of fresh garden vegetable ravioli that I'd bought and added that to the amaranth in a deep wide dish, serving the whole thing at room temperature for a warm summer evening supper.  I didn't get a picture of that, unfortunately.  The ravioli took on a rosy glow from the amaranth, and the dish was delicious.  By the time I remembered my camera, it was almost gone.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Memories

Alice with Mia and Marcus
We just got back from a long weekend trip to the Adirondacks where we stayed with friends on Raquette Lake.  Back in February our church held a silent auction as a fundraiser and a stay at this cabin was on the list of items available for bidding.  We decided it would be a great experience for a couple of the grandchildren and were able to get it.
The appeal was multifold - a cabin on the lake, with swimming, boating, and hiking options;  also, we liked the idea that there was limited electricity (infrequent dependence on a generator), which meant the kids would have to rely on "old fashioned" forms of entertainment - stories, art, singing,  a campfire, hanging out together.
The weather was perfect - warm enough to swim a couple of times a day, cool enough to enjoy sleeping at night.

pitcher plant
We arrived by boat.  We had directions  to reach the parking lot, where to find the rowboat, and how to get to the cabin.  Our hosts, Alice and Fred Bunnell, were so welcoming that we felt at home right away.  They were eager to show the children some of the highlights that such an environment offers, guiding us through the woods, pointing out the special qualities of this kind of forest.  Alice is a retired science teacher and has been coming to this area for over 40 years, so we all learned a lot about the plants and animals that live there.

We went out in the canoe, Marcus learned to"row" one afternoon, Mia entertained us with handwritten stories and pictures in the evenings, we toured the lake in their motor boat as we learned some of the stories of the great camps and historic families who vacationed there.  And we sometimes went for ice cream - a special treat when you can't just go to the fridge and pull it out.  At meals there were wonderful discussions.  The kids listened and participated in a way that they don't often have time to do at home.

We were so thrilled to give them this experience; it was a very special time that only comes once in a while - a brief but meaningful episode that they can revisit in their memories for the rest of their lives.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Damien, Shawn, Alex - buddies
Yesterday my 17 year old grandson, Shawn, left for Georgia to live with his father , planning to go to school there in the fall.  It's the first time he's gone away like this on his own for this long.  He and his mother moved to Florida when he was 5 but came back after a year, much to my relief.
When we send our young people off, I'm sure we all feel a certain amount of trepidation.  Whether they're going to school, into the military, off to live with the other parent, or even to a job, we become anxious.  There are so many scenarios of trouble that we can imagine for them, especially if we don't know the area where they're going.
Will they make good friends?  Will they be lonely, homesick?  Will anyone watch over them like I do? Will they be safe?  That is always the biggest question.

I was trying to put some perspective on this for myself yesterday, and thinking about the "Hero's Journey", that staple of almost all fairy tales and myths.  There comes a time in each of our lives when we must make our way in the world.  There is a quest to pursue - the key that will unlock a door that takes us forward.  Along the way there will be mentors and guides who may offer us their wisdom or tools that will help.  And there will be challenges and obstacles, opportunities for choices.  There ARE real dangers out there.  That is the scarey part.  As parents and grandparents, we know them, too well.    But there are also treasures, in terms of people and experiences, that are worth the journey and the risk.

To hold back our children, to try to keep them nested, is impossible.  And would not be good for them.  And it's a fiction that we can ever keep anyone safe.

So we hope that what we've taught them will serve them.  We send them care packages.  And we keep them in our prayers.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Cakes

This past weekend my daughter and son in law hosted a going away party for my grandson Shawn.    When I asked what I could bring, my daughter said they had things pretty well covered but cake would be appreciated.  It was going to be a larger group, the weather was going to be hot,  and Shawn's favorite cake is lemon.  I decided to make two: one a luscious lemonade cake from My, and then an old quick recipe from my grandmother dating back to the late 60's or so.  I haven't made this one in years.  But it is a nice summer cake using mixes, takes 10 minutes to put together, and carries well.  People really liked it, so I submit the recipe here.  I sometimes add more lemon juice to the glaze.
1 package lemon cake mix
1 instant lemon pudding mix
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup cold water
4 eggs
Place above in bowl, beat at medium speed for 5 to 10 minutes.  Pour batter into greased 9x13 pan.  Bake 45 minutes or till done.

While cake is baking prepare glaze:
1/3 cup orange juice
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons of oil
When cake is done, prick all over with a fork and pour glaze over warm hot cake.  Let cool.

Easy peasy!  And pretty good, too!

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Legacy

Years ago my husband and I used to vacation on Vinalhaven, an island off the coast from Rockland, Maine.  There we had the pleasure to meet a man, Floyd Robertson, who had grown up on the island and then moved back when he retired from psychiatry.
Al was walking one morning and saw a yard totally taken up with daylillies of every color, shape and size.  Floyd was out deadheading so Al stopped to comment  on the gorgeous flowers.   Floyd, with the dry humor we came to appreciate said "Well, at least you know what they are!" and invited him to come to the back to see the rest.   Al said he'd be right back, that he knew I'd want to see them, too.  And our friendship began.
For the next seven or eight years of Floyd's life we visited him when we were on Vinalhaven.  I loved going over in the mornings to help him deadhead - we'd often fill a couple of five gallon buckets with spent blossoms, chatting all the while.  
He started our collection - carefully packaging about 15 different types to send home with us.  The instructions were very explicit about how to plant them and care for them, what to do if we wanted to experiment with hybridizing them.  Gradually he added to our collection.  He knew the names of every flower he had, often remembering where he'd gotten the variety and what he'd paid for it.  We have not been good about remembering all of this and that would disappoint him.
But we look forward to their blooming every summer.  Al works to discourage the deer from nibbling them as they look forward to them, too.
We are not alone in delighting in Floyd's flowers.  He sold and gave away thousands over the years.  They are probably everywhere up and down the east coast - and maybe farther.  I suspect that all of the beneficiaries think of him often as they put the plants to bed in the fall and wait eagerly for the blooms through the spring.

Thank you, Floyd, for the joy you've added to our lives.  Rest in Peace!