Posts Tagged ‘best soup recipes’

Back home and settling in after five days in San Jose. Each time I return to the Bay Area, even after living there off and on for twenty years, I find it harder to pick up the pace. Drivers on Bay Area freeways are fearless. Weaving in and out of lanes and traveling far above the speed limit. If you’re in the fast lane and going over 80 there will be five cars behind you nipping at your rear bumper as if you were standing still. People push and shove in store lines and generally don’t seem very happy to live in such a popular location. When we hit the bottom of the climb up the hill to our little piece of heaven my heart is always glad to find home a less crowded place to be.

My son recently sold his home in Campbell. For those of you familiar with the Silicon Valley area of Northern California, Campbell could best be described as an upper middle class bedroom community. To refine the description you could include it is home to EBAY and other technology based businesses, located in between Los Gatos and San Jose. A nice place to live by most standards, if congested for my taste. Shopping is a plus with Trader Joe’s in the Pruneyard, the high-end Santa Row shopping center within driving distance, and all manner of stores and restaurants close by. My son’s is a nice home, in a nice neighborhood of Campbell certainly, but not a spectacular home. If you asked him I’m sure he’d describe it in much the same manner. The single level home boasts three bedrooms, a small family room, a living room and a recently remodeled kitchen, in addition to two bathrooms. Listed as 1600 sq. ft. and change the pictures showed well tended yards of adequate size front and back with well manicured lawns with landscaping. Two weeks ago it sold in a bidding war between eight interested parties for well over $1,000,000.00. My mother frequently asks me why I won’t move back to the area. Housing would be the first reason I would site. Two bedroom apartments in the same location are renting on the lower end for around $2,700 a month. Never does it cease to amaze me that so many people can afford the ticket to ride.

Truth is even if the inflated prices fit into my budget, I would not choose to drive endlessly in parking lots searching for an open spot, move at a snail’s pace on the freeways at rush hour, and live butt to butt with my neighbor. Not my style. Silicon Valley does up the ante on what your net in your paycheck. I have to give it that. Salaries are high there and work, particularly for the technically gifted, is plentiful.

In my heart of hearts I guess I’m a bit of a country girl. I love the sound of the wind moving through tall grass, and the stark contrast of white clouds against a blue sky. For me less is more, to put it simply. As a kid I wanted to grow up on a farm. Of course I did not. My home base until nine was Halifax, Nova Scotia. Farming was a big part of life in the maritime provinces, but my life only touched it peripherally from time to time when visiting my uncle’s farm in Cape Breton or passing farms on visits about the province.

I have friends who shake their head when I talk of wide open spaces, preferring the quick pulse of the city and all that urban living offers. Don’t misunderstand me, I love to visit the big cities losing myself in the sea of humanity found there from time to time. There are downsides to living where we do. Shopping is limited, but the upside to this is that I spend less because there are fewer places to leave my money behind.

When in my early twenties I took a car trip across the U.S. with my first husband and two young children. Our trip began in Southern California and ended in Lynn, Massachusetts a year later. While driving through Colorado we decided to take a detour north through Wyoming. Looking back I wish I’d insisted on seeing Montana as well. I haven’t made it back that way since, but I still have chapters to write, so I believe I’ll add it to my bucket list. At the time we had friends living in Wyoming. Hearing of our odyssey they had invited us to stay as long as we’d like, which turned out to be several days. How impressive that area of the country is. Mountain ranges spring up out of nowhere, and the glorious rivers and lakes. Endless picture taking opportunities could be found around every bend in the road. Their house, well perhaps house would might have been considered a generous adjective, was a well used vacation trailer converted with the help of a welding torch into several living spaces. To the right of the trailer was a school bus colorfully decorated with flowers and peace signs which we were told was to be our quarters for the night. Free spirits drifting wherever the wind whisked us, I had gotten used to the notion the lady’s room was not always going to be attached to my sleeping quarters. The facilities in this case consisted of a wooden structure to the left of the pasture with the ubiquitous half moon carved over the rustic door signalling a toilet below. My friend instructed me on the intricacies of using the building. Basically sit and do what comes naturally. At the same time she cautioned me to take a flashlight with me at night if the calling came as the small structure occasionally had been called home by a black widow or two and even once had attracted a curious skunk. Interesting a skunk would display curiosity about such a place. Like tends to hang with like I would suppose.

Though the accommodations were perhaps less than posh, the surroundings made up for it by a thousand percent. Fields of tall grass glittered and glinted in the afternoon breeze the sea of green only broken up here and there with patches of yellow and purple wildflowers. Butterflies danced and frolicked between the buds, and huge pods of puffy clouds passed across the brilliant blue sky. Early summer when we arrived, a large area of tilled land towards the back had begun to show the results of early planting, green leaves poking up along the neatly furrowed rows. All in all it was a feast for the eyes. No wonder those among us with a yen for the solitary life set their sails in this direction.

The huge barbecue built by the owner provided most of their meals. A gifted hunter, Miles, our host had venison soaking in milk for dinner and golden ears of fresh corn peeked out of their husks next to red potatoes in the huge ceramic bowl in the kitchen. There was a colorful salad of fresh fruit, and homemade bread to go with our meal. We sat at the picnic table by a small creek zigzagging across the property and drank wine together under the stars when the children were tucked in bed for the night.

The light spilling out of the bus windows caught a snapshot of a passing gray fox carrying a rabbit in its mouth before I turned in for the night. Saying a silent prayer for the small bunny, I shut off the light and slept soundly in the stillness. I never forgot the sounds of the place, with no traffic, voices, or hustle and bustle to drown it out. The tinkling of water rushing over the smooth rocks, a bird whistling to its mate, wind rustling through the boughs of the tall trees. Natures music, I would suppose.

I had 2 cups of leftover Chili Verde Pork loin which I added to this soup. Absolutely delish and meal in itself. If you are using plain pork loin add a small can of diced chiles or use diced tomatoes with green chiles.

 Pork and Beans Soup with Tortilla Crisps

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 orange pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced cooked pork loin* (chile verde if possible)
8 cups chicken broth
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/8 cup chopped Cilantro
Shredded Mexican blend cheese
Slice Avocado
Sour Cream
Lime wedges

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and peppers and cook 6 mins. until vegetables are tender. Add minced garlic and cook 1 min. Add pork and seasonings and cook and stir for 3 mins. Add remaining ingredients through pinto beans. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 mins. Stir in cilantro.

Serve with cheese, crisps, avocado slices, sour cream and lime wedges if desired.

Tortilla Crisps

4 corn tortillas
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Baste tortillas on both sides with oil. Using pizza cutter cut tortillas in strips. Place a piece of tin foil on cookie sheet. Spray with cooking spray. Place strips on sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 mins. or until lightly browned.

If you are using plain pork loin add a small can of diced chiles or use diced tomatoes with green chiles.

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Well, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos are warming up to make some Super Bowl history. Tickets are going for as much as $7,000 for the choice seats, and as low (if you consider it low) as $3,000 for the nosebleed seats. At that price guaranteed my face will not be captured on the stadium camera. Whoa. Up until the last few years the Super Bowl passed without much fanfare for me other than enjoying the delicious food available at the myriad of Super Bowl parties I’ve attended. For some reason, perhaps self defense, several years ago I found myself sitting in front of the TV with Rick on a Sunday afternoon watching whoever was on the field. Being a curious being by nature, before long I was asking why this was happening, or what that penalty meant. Over time I began to notice without asking I knew what was going on and actually had begun to be familiar with players names and nuances of the game. Oh-oh. Now I have not gone so far as getting a paint roller and decorating my body or dying my hair to support my team (the 49ers) but I do look forward to Sunday afternoons to see what they’re going to do once they’re suited up. Along with Rick I suffer their defeats and cheer their successes. This year proving to be more the former than the latter for our Bay Area team.

Rick of course could coach the team far better than those actually paid to do the job. I know this because he says so about fifty times whenever they’re screwing up. Sometimes I become involved in appreciating the color combinations of the uniforms (for example I like the lime and blue of the Seahawks). When I admire such things out loud he throws me a look like “you are such a girl”. Why yes, I am, thank you. One day I got to commenting on the various sizes of behinds facing the screen and he simply threw up his hands and rolled his eyes. What?

The amazing salaries these athletes command blows my mind. I can see the logic, however, in gathering all the goodies while they can. The tremendous beating applied to their bodies during every game cumulatively amassed over the years must be painful when it catches up with them. Also, they live with the knowledge that one bad tackle or fall could result in the end of their career leaving them to fall back on hawking insurance or staring dreamily at the model most likely decorating the other side of their bed. As they probably net more in one year than most of us do in a lifetime I am not going to worry about where their next hamburger is coming from any time soon.

It’s not a game for lightweights. I heard a commentator say the other day they are taking the edge off of the game with all the restrictions imposed to prevent or at least diminish player’s chances for head injuries. At one time players hit the field with leather helmets and far less protection so I would suppose it might feel that way to those longer in the tooth. No matter how protected these players are the chance remains for injury or long-standing health problems. I would assume players signing up are either intensely passionate about the game or what it will bring to them financially to play it.

Sometimes when I watch how the players behave on the field it is reminiscent of boys in elementary school. Football seems to bring out the child in the man with all the posturing and dancing going on when a touchdown is made missing only the “neener neener” to make the picture complete. All the testosterone and team rivalry mingling on the artificial turf makes it not surprising fights break out and an extra elbow or unnecessary kick is thrown in on occasion once a player is down. The exchanges going on between the players when in formation waiting for the play to begin might be an interesting share. Somehow I don’t think they’re exchanging recipes or asking one another how the wife and kids are doing.

The fans are fascinating as well. Rain, snow, heat, or hail the sit in the stands faces painted, team colors displayed, beer in one hand rubber hands covering the other. If their teams is doing well they’re fully engaged and if they suck they’ll let them know that as well.

Since our team will not be represented we will be on hand to watch those who are stuffing ourselves with chile con queso at half time and cheering loudly along with the rest of the nation. When life seems to be full of chaos it is nice to see one thing still on track.

This soup is an easy meal to make, and truly is a meal in itself only needing a nice hunk of crusty French bread to round it out. Note: You want your veggies fully cooked but not mushy.

Tuscan Cauliflower and Potato Soup

1 lb. bulk Italian sausage, hot
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic minced
3 medium red potatoes cut into large chunks
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated Asiago Medium cheese
2 cups baby spinach, stems removed and broken into pieces
1/2-1 tsp. black pepper depending on taste
Salt as desired

In large skillet cook sausage, onion, mushrooms, and garlic until sausage is no longer pink. Drain on paper towels.

Place potatoes in microwave and cook on high for 4 mins.

In large pot cover cauliflower and potatoes with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until vegetables are cooked but still slightly firm.

Add sausage mixture and continue cooking for 6 mins. Whisk in cream and then add cheese. Cook and stir until blended. Add spinach and pepper (I add more pepper if needed) and cook until spinach has just wilted. Taste before you salt as cheese will add salt to pot.

Serve with additional cheese if desired.

Serves 4

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Yesterday Rick and I had a date night. We try to fit one in every few weeks sort of like hitting “refresh” on the computer. This time we went to see The Revenant (literally “a person who returns”). Touted as a powerful movie I wanted to see it on the big screen . Whoa. Old Leo really did himself proud in this film. It was long, pushing three hours, but I was never bored for even a moment. Quietest group of theater goers I’ve ever seen. Like ice sculptures we sat heads directed at the screen. No one seemed to move even to visit the snack bar or use the loo. As a caution, however, if realistic violence bothers you, this is not the movie for you. Lots of raw scenes.

On another note, I was sad to hear Glenn Frey of the Eagles passed away yesterday. Sixty-seven. The Eagles had me at “Take it Easy”.  Sad these gifted beings only stay with us for whatever time they are allotted, but how wonderful to leave behind such a legacy of work. When I go I will leave as my legacy a cook somewhere saying, “where did I get this yummy recipe for stuffed mushrooms anyhow”? Well hopefully they will be saying that. Sigh.

I like most types of music to some extent, except perhaps rap, though I can appreciate it. Classical music is something I have to be in the right place to enjoy. There is a concert on Mozart’s music coming up in Sacramento. I don’t imagine he could have conceived his music would have been played and enjoyed centuries after he first sat at his piano to compose it. When the mood strikes I can get lost in classical pieces. Some seem to me to be dark and angry. Clair de Lune by Debussy on the other hand brings to mind a restless spirit and an endless sea. Always I find the music moving me greatly in one direction or another.

Last night I had a dream I was selected to play the lead in a stage production of “Mary Poppins”.  This not happening any time soon in my life I feel unless the intended audience is a bus load of people who are severely hearing impaired. I do love the theater. Lately I’ve been missing live productions rather than movies. There is something exhilarating about the low buzz in the theater before the lights dim and the actors actually before you on the lit stage. I have seen many such performances in my life time, although most prior to the past decade sadly. Not because there is any lack of local theater, rather our paths have taken us in other directions for the past ten years.

The Phantom would rank among my favorites along with Equus and Elephant Man.  Both had either music or stories or both I found compelling. There have been disappointments as well. I saw Camelot in L.A. at the beautiful Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the 70’s. Ticket holders used to dress back in the day, gathering to clink glasses around the bar in all their regalia during intermission. These days unless it’s a state dinner about anything goes from flip flops to beach attire at most events. This production was truly a mess largely due to the big named lead actor playing the lead. The man was so intoxicated he nearly took a fall down the castle steps in mid song.  The Pirates of Penzance was another one that didn’t strike a chord with me (if you will). Gilbert & Sullivan are a little too wordy (this coming from a very wordy being) for my taste. I liked Cats, but wasn’t in love with it as were many of my friends. Memory was a beautiful song, but for me the only true high high point of the evening.

Looking back I wish I had taken theater in college. I have enough ham in me to perform a long run and have enough left over to make an excellent showing on an Easter buffet. Opportunities to explore this facet of my being never seemed to present themselves nor did I pursue making it happen. College is something I would have done a lot differently had I any intelligence at that age. Back then I toyed with my education and still landed good jobs. Today college is really a necessity if students moving into adulthood are to survive in our present economy. That being said I found it disturbing news that when asked, 10% of college students polled in a recent survey thought Judy Judy presently sits on the Supreme Court. Also it appears millennials are displaying little interest in how our government was conceived or runs, or U.S. history in general.  I will hope that is not the case, as that would make me question where our future will take us, but that is another blog.

When I graduated from high school I was served college on a platter as part of my grandfather’s estate. Though I enrolled taking enough classes to have a two-year degree at least in sight, sadly I did not finish. Hindsight being twenty-twenty I wish I had gone to a four year college and experienced living on a college campus before creating a family. But one must look forward with enthusiasm not backwards with regret.

Sooooooooo, in spite of my lack of degree I am pleased to state that I did, in fact, know that Judge Judy was not a supreme court justice. This, for today, will have to do.

I like this recipe for creamy broccoli soup. Still butter but no cream but you don’t miss it. My daughter shared this – and I loved it.

Broccoli Soup with Blue Cheese & Garlic Toast

1 large bunch of broccoli
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
4 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup freshly cut parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt as desired
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Crumbled blue cheese
Crisp bacon (optional)

Cut off florets from stems of broccoli and break into bite sized pieces. Remove outer hard shell from stems and chop insides. Set aside.

In large saucepan bring broth and water to a boil. Add florets, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 3 mins. until tender but crisp. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

Melt butter in large pot. Add onions, celery, garlic and broccoli stems. Cover and cook until softened about 5-6 mins.

Whisk in flour and cook for 3 mins. Whisk in broth/water mixture. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 mins. until thickened. Add parsley, scallions, 1/2 of the florets and simmer for 3 mins.

Also to cool slightly. Puree in food processor in two batches. Return to pot and mix in remaining 1/2 florets. Season with black pepper, lemon juice, nutmeg and salt as desired.

Serve topped with a piece of garlic toast sprinkled with blue cheese and crumbled bacon.

Garlic Toast

4 slices of rustic French bread
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat broiler. Spread butter on one side of bread. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Top with Parmesan cheese. Place under broiler butter side up under golden brown. Turn over
and toast the unbuttered side.

Serves 4

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I’ve been traveling this week. Yesterday I spent the day with my daughter in her day care. For me this is always a treat, but I can imagine on a day to day basis it must take a great deal of patience and dedication to keep up with the six little pirates she cares for every day. The baby of the group, just a year, is so cute. It would be difficult to be mad at her. Funny isn’t it how babies of all species are precious no matter how cute or not cute they might be considered. To a mother wart hog, I’m sure her little one is the pick of the litter, so to speak. Aside from the children present, three dogs make their home at my daughter’s along with one huge orange tabby cat answering to Cassanova. Cassanova weighs in at twenty-five pounds. Pita, the largest of the three canines is a golden lab. Ebony, a chow mix and the middle in size of the group, is a sweet animal suffering from dementia. Jasper rounds out the trio, a small hyper hybrid who requires a daily dose of Prozac to keep him from dancing on the ceiling. The noise level, as you might imagine, can keep your ears ringing.

My mother has announced she is lonely for animal companionship since her cat, aptly named Susie, passed away. The thought of finding another feline with a similar disposition may be a difficult task. The two of them cohabited well together. As with humans, simply getting another like being doesn’t often fill the void of the one no longer there. However, with so many cats needing homes in shelters, I will endeavor to find the perfect match adding this to my growing summer list of to-do’s scrawled across my calendar.

Susie, a rather self-centered cat I must say, whiled away her days seated atop her “princess pillow” waiting for her minions to do for her. In her defense, she never wasted enough energy to scratch the furniture or jump up on things, preferring to keep her fat and sassy behind as inactive as possible. When moved to ask for treats she truly could be the cutest animal on earth, rolling about the floor or sitting up on her hind legs looking beseechingly at the Kitty Treats bag sitting on the counter. I encouraged my mother not to overdo the treats as they are fattening and most certainly Miss Susie needed no help in that area. Ah well. She lived out the last days of her life in the lap of luxury and passed on at the ripe old age for a cat, sixteen, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Kids are looking towards school again. How quickly this summer is flying by. I can’t keep up. I have gifts I’m working on that sit half made for parties I’ve been asked to attend for which I haven’t shopped for anything to wear. Ach. This morning I heard that Target has come up with a terrific marketing strategy for making parent’s jobs easier when shopping for school supplies. You enter your kid’s school and class schedule and they come up with a supply list. Somebody was wearing their Tom Terrific thinking cap in their marketing department.

Looking back with my kids, school shopping was always tinged with angst. New clothes needed to be bought, shoes purchased, along with the basic things a kid needs like backpacks, paper, writing utensils and notebooks. My son was always involved in one sport or another so this usually meant hitting Big 5 or one of the other sports suppliers for cleats and whatever else he needed. Cleats cost me a fortune over the years. Naturally you can’t wear soccer cleats when playing football or baseball cleats for soccer. He would end up with a variety of different types of cleats sitting in his closet which he would grow out of before the next school year rolled around.

As for my daughter her interest lay more in equestrian lessons or ice skating. I guess I should consider myself lucky. These days my son pays something like $2,500 for his thirteen year old to participate in a seasonal volley ball league. Whew. That would have been out of my league, pardon the pun, for sure. My grandchildren are involved in so many activities. This is good for them, I believe. Busy hands, etc. When my daughter’s girls were younger she participated in a pioneer camp of some sort for two years in a row. The idea was for the children to learn how things used to be done before we had the tools available to them now. The parents were asked to dress in pioneer garb and live like pioneers for the three days they attended. From what I hear it was hot and wearing those hats that tie under the chin tantamount to water boarding. Sounds like a fun time.

I went to Girl Scout camp when I was little. Two weeks of glorious water and sun was how my parents sold it to me. For them I would suppose it was a kid-free zone for fourteen days. For me it was a ride up a mountain in a rickety old bus singing camp songs for three hours. At first we were all so homesick everybody laid on their beds writing letters to our parents begging to come home. Soon, however, we were seduced by the glorious lake beyond our tents, the canoes available for our use, endless craft classes and nature walks, and the surprisingly excellent food served in the camp cafeteria. As my mother always says, I remember everything as to how it relates to my appetite. In hindsight it was one of the highlights of my transition from elementary to middle school.

At any rate. Soup is served at our house no matter what the weather. Having a lot of summer squash on hand, this was a nice way to put it to work.

Summer Squash and Orzo Soup

2 Italian sausages, cooked and sliced diagonally
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups beef broth
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 large yellow summer squash, sliced 1/2″
1/2 large zucchini, sliced 1/2″
1/2 cup orzo pasta
Parmesan cheese

Cook sausage in bottom of stockpot. Remove and slice. Add olive oil to same pot and heat over med.-low heat. Add onion and green pepper and cook 6 mins. or until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.

Add broth, tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Bring to boil. Add squash and orzo and continue cooking for 25 mins.

Serve topped with cheese if desired.

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Before I closed my eyes last night I turned on the TV. Marley and Me was on. I grabbed a box of tissues. This wasn’t my first viewing. Sure enough by the end of the movie I was blubbering like a baby. Rick came in and asked me what was wrong but I could only babble and gesture with a soggy tissue towards the screen. Realizing what I was watching he closed the door lest he get caught up in all the feminine hormones and emotions circling the room.

I am hugely susceptible to sappy stories. When I originally saw Love Story I nearly had to be sedated, forget about Terms of Endearment. Are you kidding me? Throw in some kids, a few dogs and cats, and a terminal illness and I’m there.  I watched every gut wrenching tear jerking moment of Steel Magnolias over and over again and most likely will tune it in the next time I notice it on the guide while doing my ironing. What can I say? I’m a glutton for sad movies. Obviously I’m not alone. Hollywood keeps pumping them out. From the beginning they successfully hooked the female audience, and I’m sure there are men out there watching when we’re not looking. Go back to An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Carr, or Imitation of Life with Lana Turner and Sandra Dee. Sigh. Such pulling of heart strings. Such angst. Luv it.

If you think of it, it’s kind of peculiar we gravitate toward such stories. Life is often sad enough without adding a little artificial misery to the package. Perhaps it’s knowing that others are suffering as well that’s keeps us viewing. Misery does like company after all.

Was I to write a novel or screenplay it would probably include some sappiness between the pages. I suppose it would be along the lines of Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele. Not that I am for a moment suggesting I stand next to these two prolific ladies in any way, shape, or form when it comes to writing skills. Rather my writing might run along the same plot lines as theirs. Incredibly wealthy, sexy, handsome, well built male living in a small, but beautiful Wyoming, Oregon, or Colorado town, meets equally beautiful (but unaware of her incredible beauty) available woman recently moved to said town because of loss of husband, job, or virtue. Both emotionally unavailable at first glance, in the end give in to their irresistible attraction to one another and fall into a deep passionate affair. The story, peppered with a little mystery, perhaps a murder or at least a home invasion with the incredibly wealthy handsome male saving the unaware of how beautiful she is female, all ending up in a pile of commitment towards the end of the last chapter. Whew. Absolute marketing gold.

It must be amazing to look on a bookstore shelf and see a book you have written resting there. I’d consider it an accomplishment of epic proportions to complete one book and actually find a publishing house willing to publish it. To have multiple publications in print must be mind blowing. Danielle Steele, I believe, has written 92. Wow. In the middle of all this writing, writing, writing the woman has been married 5 times and raised 9 children. Are you kidding me? She should donate her blood so they can make a serum to give to the rest of us struggling to get the bed made in the morning. Who has that kind of energy? I’m what some might say a high-energy lady, but really this woman puts me to shame.

Bookstores are slowly disappearing off the radar screen. That’s sad to me. Bookstores and libraries are great places to hang out. I used to like going to Barnes & Nobles, ordering a latte, and sitting in the chairs provided to peruse a stack of books. I realize I’m directly out of the Proterozoic Age with my fascination with the pages of an actual volume, but I like a book. A solid book with pages made out of paper. Call me crazy, throw rocks if you must, but I will hold out for the pretty picture on the cover and continue to read the brief summary on the inside of the back cover, and the bio of the author. You cannot slip a bookmark in the Kindle. Well, perhaps virtually, but certainly not one with a little tassel hanging out to remind you where you left off. Sigh.

I have laid out a basic plot format for a book. Actually, I have written 6 Chapters of something that feels like a book. I find the biggest challenge is keeping it cohesive. As you may have noticed I tend to run of willy nilly in all directions at times. Certainly I am prone to run on sentences. A habit my writing teacher spilled red ink on more than a time or two. Like artists creating on canvas, each writer brings to the page different styles, nuances of their own personalities, and a unique perspective on the universal cooked up in the melting pot of their individual brains. It’s sort of a word stew, if you will. This is, after all, supposedly a cooking blog.

Next year is a new turn of the page. I believe I will put on my to-do list at the very least to create some sort of book. I learned long ago if I am to complete something I have to make the goal within the realm of probability or I’m liable to fail before I begin. So for now I will put it in my stack to think about it, and do just that.

On the lighter side Rick and I have had quite a week with Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats. She had a small tumor removed from her left ear. While under she also had her teeth cleaned. The vet suggested we brush her teeth daily. Who is he kidding?  Could he tell the cat? Perhaps she could learn to do it for herself? I guarantee you she isn’t going to put up with us trying to do it. I don’t have enough skin to sacrifice to the cause. Boo is not a cat who takes kindly to being ministered to. They sent us home with what they call an Elizabethan collar. The cat sat in one spot and beat her head against the wall until we had to remove it. After calling the vet and asking what to do the receptionist explained some cats simply won’t tolerate wearing one. Sigh.

Each day we have to spray the ear twice. Once in the morning and once at night. Boo is not excited about this procedure. She watches us closely and if we even look like we’re going to approach her she runs and hides under the bed. It is terrible to admit two grown adults are being bested by an 8 pound cat. Sad really.

Anyhow, this soup is one of my very favorites. I made some olive bread croutons to go on top and a couple of grilled brie and Italian ham sandwiches on the side and it was a perfect meal.

Tomato Basil Soup with Olive Bread Croutons

3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1/8 cup tomato paste
2 tsp. sugar
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1/8 cup dried basil
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. parsley

Heat olive oil in large skillet over med.-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook for 10 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.


Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, bay leaf, basil, broth, water and pepper flakes to pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil. Lower heat to low simmer and cook, uncovered, for 40 mins.


Add parsley. Puree with an immersion blender or a food processor. Serve with croutons.


Olive Bread Croutons

1 loaf olive bread, cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Place cubed bread in large bowl with lid. Mix together remaining ingredients. Pour over bread and toss well to coat.

Cook for 10 mins. turning once. Turn on broiler and continue cooking until brown. Cool. Store in sealed plastic bag or container.

If you’re really in the mood to cook, try this recipe for olive bread. Delish.http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/fabulous-focaccia-recipe.html#!

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Between Rick and I we share four children. These four have produced nine grandchildren. I know. Four boys and five girls in all. Of the girls, one daughter and one granddaughter have a real affinity for ink. The tattoos began as experimental I think. A small rose here, a delicate heart there. Now they’ve progressed like the urban sprawl covering larger and larger areas of available acreage. The artwork is genuinely to be praised. Amazingly detailed, with vibrant colors and clever design.

The ladies in question are young. Blessed with beautiful smooth young skin. A natural canvas upon which an artist can create. Unfortunately, as with all of us these bodies are in a state of flux. As the years pass, skin loses its elasticity. Even with the most tender loving care and expensive lotions and creams they insist on withering and wrinkling like an apple left too long in the sun. I can’t help but wonder what happens to tattoos during this transition.

Back in the 80’s I worked with a female executive. Linda was a very attractive woman in her mid-thirties. With a reputation as a powerhouse, she led her minions with a firm hand. Quite a feat in those days, particularly in an engineering company a venue long dominated by a strong male presence. Beautiful clothes were her hallmark. I used to wonder at where she stored all the accessories and shoes on display. Even on the hottest summer days, however, a jacket or cover up always accompanied her outfit. I knew she worked out because we had gone together on several occasions. Even on the treadmill a long-sleeved shirt was pulled on over her workout pants. Hmmmmmm.

Two years into our working arrangement we established a sort of friendship outside of work. Not best buddies, but we hung out on occasion, stopping off for a glass of wine after a long day or grabbing lunch every other week or so. As our friendship deepened, Linda’s story naturally unfolded. She hailed from a blue-collar family, very white bread. Her father, given the task of watching over four girls, took his job very seriously. Linda didn’t take easily to all the rules and restrictions. At eighteen instead of heading off to college as was written in her parent’s playbook, she chose to run with a local motorcycle club. In particular a twenty-something rider with cascading hair affectionately known as Blade. I remember his name because you just don’t come across that many Blades in a lifetime, so when you do the name tends to stick with you. (No pun intended.) During these wild and unproductive years she found herself quite drunk one Saturday night. While in this state she chose tattoos for both upper arms and one for her lower back now referred to as a “tramp stamp”. Back then tattoos were mainly the craze in military personnel, fringe groups, and motorcycle types.

Over the next few months the tattoos came to life. Well suited for the lifestyle she was living at the time, as relationships will do when we are young the shine wore off Blade. Linda left him in her rear view mirror and moved on. Replacing leathers for jeans and tees she headed off to college to jump start her education. On one arm off the shoulder it read “Rider from Hell” above a cutoff clad female biker on a bike. On the other arm, “Born to be Bad” was inscribed above a heart with crossbones. I don’t know what was on her lower back. Didn’t know her that well. At any rate, as well accepted as these were by the Harley set, in an upscale college environment they were more of a conversation starter. Worse yet they set the tone for how she got treated at parties or on dates. Clasping her degree on graduation day preparing to let herself loose on the interview circuit, the tattoos were not going to be her foot in the door.

Hiding them for interviews, it became necessary to continue to conceal them as she moved up the corporate ladder. I suppose tattoos are well accepted in most environments nowadays. I’m still not sure I can picture them in the boardroom, but that too may be changing.

I’ve mentioned before I’ve thought of getting one myself a time of two. My choices would be small and most likely placed for easy coverup. I do admire the beautiful workmanship and support the girls choices to do what they choose to do with their bodies. Can’t help but wondering how they’ll feel about it down the road a piece. Being grownups I’m sure they’ll deal with it as it comes along.

As an aside the dogs in our neighborhood seem to have all lost their minds simultaneously howling and carrying on endlessly. Makes me wonder if it’s associated with the recent earthquake and aftershocks in Napa. We didn’t feel the earth move, but friends in the Bay Area certainly did.

This is a really meaty and delicious version of good old tomato soup, which I love with either a light salad or a gooey grilled cheese sandwich.

Meaty Tomato Pepper Soup

1 lb. ground chuck
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
2 15 1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes, with juice
2 6 oz. cans tomato sauce
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup cooked corn
1 Tbsp. taco seasoning mix, hot
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

Brown ground meat over med.-high heat in stockpot until browned. Drain on paper towels. Return to skillet. Add bell peppers and onions. Cook until onion is translucent over med. heat.

Add remaining ingredients except rice to pot. Cover and simmer for 45 mins. or until peppers are tender.

Ladle soup into bowls with 1/4 cup rice on bottom.

Serves 6.

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It’s hard to believe it’s time for kids to go back to school. It seems to happen more quickly then when I was hitting the books. From what I understand this is due to more in-session time off due to teacher conferences and the like. As much as I looked forward to summer vacation as a kid, I believe my parents anticipated the resumption of school with equal enthusiasm.

There was a news item yesterday about a young boy, seven I believe, whose parents allow him to stay home by himself for short periods time as a form of exercising his independence. Seven seems young to a lot of people, certainly it would have to my parents. Being a latchkey kid, both my parents worked outside of the home.  Up until sixth grade this required hiring somebody during the summer months to keep me from giving in to my own inner demons and getting in a pile of kid-type trouble. The summer between fourth and fifth grade we resided in Southern California. After interviewing several applicants, Hilde, a German immigrant, was engaged for the position. Hilde’s personality would have served her well on a chain gain.  She encouraged no insubordination, and when confronted with bad behavior didn’t hesitate to get the wooden spoon out of the drawer and threaten to use it. Never during that three months we shared together did she actually use the spoon, but I wasn’t fully convinced she wouldn’t, which made it equally as effective.

Food usually being my main concern, that summer it became more so. Hilde leaned towards her German ancestry when it came to food.  Many of the foods appearing on my lunch menu I’d never seen before. Growing up in Nova Scotia there wasn’t a lot of knackwurst included in my diet. Perhaps I couldn’t pronounce what I was eating, but I learned to love the flavors and tastes she added to my relatively limited palette at that time in my life. Knodel, or German dumplings, ranked among my favorites. Bratkartoffeln, fried potatoes and onion with side meat was wonderful as well, although occasionally it was served atop a large piece of fried liver which sent me screaming from the room.

Hilde loved American television. Once I had been fed, she would sit before the television and watch All My Children while eating her lunch. A woman equally as tall as she was wide, she enjoyed her food and didn’t subscribe to thin American women, who she viewed with open suspicion. Lunch for Hilde consisted of huge slabs of bread filled with liverwurst or a bratwurst slathered with hot mustard. German potato salad or a side of sauerkraut usually accompanied the meal washed down with a large glass of German beer. Several times she tried to insinuate liverwurst into my diet, but I remained then and now immune to the siren song of the organ meat.

Each day after lunch Hilde tied on her hat and we went for a brisk walk. We probably logged in a mile or two out and back on these expeditions keeping me from packing on the poundage with all the delicious streudels and the like paraded past my overzealous eyes while she was keeping an eye on me.

In the evenings when my parents arrived, Hilde straddled her bicycle and pedaled the five miles in between our house and hers. She had never owned a car she told me. Didn’t want one. In her small village, the name of which left me years ago, cars were a luxury few but the rich could afford. Coming from a farming family, she was not a fancy human being. Clothing was chosen for functionality rather than fashion, and her thick shoes sensible if definitely not eye catching. Never married, at least up until that time, and with all her “people” in the old country, I felt she might have been glad for my company that summer.

My mother, a slave to fashion, felt Hilde needed some sprucing up to catch a man. Mother felt every woman should have one, Hilde being no exception. Asking her to stay on one evening beyond her usual quitting time, Mother did Hilde’s hair. Having nothing in her own closet close to the appropriate size she suggested a shopping spree one weekend to help Hilde select some more up-to-date styles for her closet. The tight buns and coiled braids I’d come to identify with Hilde were soon replaced with a softer look and before long she began to hum when making lunch in the kitchen.

I saw Hilde on many occasions after school reconvened that year, the most memorable being her wedding. Ours being the only “family” she had in the States we were there for moral support, or so my mother told my step-father. The groom, a man also as wide as he was tall, was also of German descent and called me “Leibling” at the reception. I wanted to tell him my name was Susie, but my mother pinched me and nodded her head so I kept my mouth shut.

Hilde comes to mind as school reconvenes every year. She gave me an introduction to delicious German cuisine I wouldn’t otherwise have had and a look into a culture that is also included in my family tree.

This chilled soup is quick to assemble and oh so refreshingly good.

Avocado and Cucumber Soup

1 large avocado, seeded and peeled
1 English cucumber
1/2 cup sour cream
1/16 tsp. onion powder
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 1/4 cups chicken broth

Cut avocado in quarters and place in bottom of food processor. Peel cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Use spoon to scoop out seeds. Cut each half in half again and place in food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Serve cod topped with chopped chives.

Serves 4.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

According to the news the milleniums, (those of us 18-34) as a group are more likely to call in sick when they are not then the generations preceding them. Whether it is a sign of the generation and things to come is still up in the air, but it does beg the question do Americans work to hard?

Personally I like France’s approach to work. Thirty-five hours a week, 25%-50% for any time over and above, and vacations totaling in the months rather than a week or two doled out here in the States. Not only are we provided far less vacation time but many employees either afraid of losing their position at work, or totally immersed in the work itself, choose not to take the time they are given.

At my last corporate job, a technology start-up, sixty hour work weeks were the norm. You showed up before the rooster crowed and often headed home when others had long ago hit the pillows. Face time, or basically showing up at your desk at an unscheduled work time to impress your superiors with your dedication and work ethic, was a must at my office if you were to continue up the corporate ladder. I did a lot of it. Saturday’s when my friends were packing lunches for the beach or mowing their lawns our group of success chasers were nose to the grindstone over our computers seeking those start-up bonus bucks when the company went public.  I can remember resisting the urge to toss my cell phone out the window when the familiar ring tone associated with my supervisor came in as I drove home after a 10-12 hour day.

Perks were certainly part of the package working there. The powers that be instituted a high end working environment suitable for generating an air of success to investors and a nice place to hang your purse in the morning and spend a good portion of your life. Precisely at 7:00 p.m. dinner was catered in the state-of-the-art kitchen from a variety of local restaurants. At any given time snacks such as egg rolls or English muffins, varieties of cheeses, and lunch meats were available in the banks of freezers and refrigerators. If cooking your own food was your choice, you had an industrial sized oven at your disposal or you could zap in in the microwave. Orders of fresh fruit and vegetables arrived each morning, and blenders attached to counter units could be used to make smoothies for those preferring healthier choices. If a break was what you needed you could hit the rec room for a quick game of pool or ping pong, throw a few darts, or simply relax in the bean bags strewn about the room. Lunch, if you got one, could be used to catch up on the news on one of several television sets available, or you could call down for a masseuse to work the kinks out. Exercise your bag? On the bottom floor your key card gained you entrance to a fully equipped gym where you could sweat out your frustrations on the tread mill or participate in the hourly floor classes.

I was paid well for my time there, but salary naturally. Salaried employees can literally be worked to a fine point because whether you occupy a seat 8 hours a day or 16 your paycheck won’t reflect the difference. Looking back there were many nights where the clock struck midnight while I was staring at my computer screen while the VP’s I worked for were still pumping out changes needing my finesse to implement. Driving home I would fall into bed to hear the dreaded alarm go off before my tired mind ever had a chance to formulate a dream.

At the end of three years of grinding work it was determined although the highly secreted technology the start-up was based on worked beautifully in practice, it was more expensive to build then what they could competitively market the product for. Once the pink slips were handed out, I tucked mine in the drawer and cut up my precious shares for kindling. So much for my upcoming episode on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Don’t misunderstand me I’m all for a good work ethic. Most of us, unless born with a silver spoon protruding from our mouths, have to work for what we want out of life. However, I am a firm believer in “all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy”. Personally I enjoy the satisfaction of working hard to achieve something but I guarantee I never missed my vacation and had I been due more, those hours would have been logged as well.

We need time to regenerate and recharge out batteries. Relaxation is becoming obsolete, and I for one still like to lean back in the hammock and watch the clouds float by overhead. Read a good book, shoot some hoops with your kids, life is short.

This probably will be my last soup for awhile, other than lighter summer soups. It’s a Northern African dish and absolutely wonderful.

Slow Cooker Harira (Chickpea and Coriander Soup)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground lamb
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. hot paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 bay leaves
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 cups beef stock
2 14 oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 14 1/2 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 14 1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped coriander
Sliced black olives
1 1/2 cups cooked rice

Brown lamb, garlic, and onion in olive oil in large deep skillet over medium heat until meat is cooked thoroughly. Add spices, bay leaves, and tomato paste. Continue cooking for 5 mins. Add beef stock and bring to boil. Remove from heat.

Spray 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Pour meat mixture into slow cooker. Add chickpeas, white beans, tomatoes, and coriander. Mix well. Cook for 9 hours on low.

Divide rice between 6 soup bowls. Spoon soup over top. Garnish with sliced olives.

Serves 6.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Spring is definitely in the air. My nose is running, and the garden is in full bloom. For us our garden is a bit of a wonderment, with everything planted there done so by the former owner. We didn’t move in the house until early in the summer months last year, so each day brings with it a lovely surprise. On the far hill, beds of sunny daffodils are waking up alongside purple irises and dark pink tulips. Directly to the front of the house the terrain is covered by a lovely pale lilac ground cover , and sprouting green leaves are popping up everywhere not having revealed themselves yet. The yard directly below the deck is resplendent in baby pink roses, and buttercups and the Japanese maples have begun to show off their lovely magenta leaves. Achoo. Excuse me.

Bears are waking up from their long winter’s sleep and rubbing their eyes. The earth is reawakening after a long hibernation and celebrating. Personally I would have been happy if nature had completed the picture with spring and fall, but I would suppose we have to have their two harsher playmates to fully appreciate their beauty. Today it’s supposed to hit eighty. Usually I would be out sitting among bags of potting soil about this time, digging holes in the earth and planting seeds for my garden. With the water situation in our area being so dire, I can’t see a point in starting something growing I can’t nurture along the way.

While in the market the other day, the checker was telling me grocery prices are going to go up. That’s a surprise. When was the last time someone said they were going down? Put your thinking caps on. I can’t remember either. In particular she targeted milk, eggs, and meat, and I believe avocados are to be scarce this season as well. Guacamole will be a black market item by the time Cinco de Mayo rolls around.

Sometimes I think a move outside of California is once again in order. Hold on, hold on, for you Californians I’m not saying California isn’t a glorious place to live but you have to admit it’s getting expensive to live here. Come on now, you know it is. My other half suggested such a move while we were looking at houses in this area, but with my mother getting up in years I felt it wasn’t the best time to put a lot of mileage between us.

If I was to move outside of California again, I believe I would head north. Can’t go too far up the coast as my other half finds rain and gloomy weather oppressive and you can’t live in Northern Oregon or Washington if you’re not fond of galoshes. If I had my druthers, I would buy a houseboat right by the ocean, on it preferably, and wile away the rest of my days watching the sun dance across the waves by day, and lulled to sleep by the gentle swells at night. Ahhhhh.

We’re headed south to the Bay Area for my mother’s birthday in the next month or so. On the calendar while there is a trip to the beach, in particular a favorite Mexican restaurant in the Moss Beach area, El Gran Amigo. Beach real estate has always been my first choice. Growing up on the coast leaves a firm imprint on your soul, and a yearning only sated by gulls circling overhead, warm sand squeezing between your toes, and the gentle reassurance of waves rushing and ebbing along the shoreline somehow adding a rare bit of certainty to an unsettled world.

Butterflies dancing outside my window brings to mind cleaning house. Not that my house isn’t clean during the rest of the year, it is, but I mean getting rid of clutter and unused items. I was amazed to find about one-third of my possessions can be lived without when they sat in boxes over the year prior to our finding this house. It’s amazing what you accumulate over time that ends up spending most of its existence gathering dust in the back of a closet somewhere on a shelf.

My mother called early today to announce she was embarking on the same voyage of discovery at her house. In her words, “so you won’t have to sort through all my things when I’m gone”. I wish she’d concentrate on sticking around and quit preparing for her untimely demise. It is most unsettling. Those of us who love her dearly would prefer to have her stay among us for many years to come. I would suppose as time passes you can’t help but get around the inevitable thoughts with regards to the end of your time on earth, but on this beautiful spring day I would prefer to address the butterflies and dust bunnies and leave deeper subjects for a rainy day down the road a piece.

1Took a four mile hike by the covered bridge, a historical area in these parts. I have not done so before and found it incredibly beautiful walking along the trail looking down at the river rushing by. Wildflowers were blooming everywhere and we encountered numerous red colored newts along the path. Interesting little creatures, slow moving and slick. The river itself was full of fish. Made me wish I had a line to drop in. Thought I’d share some pics.

This soup is a really nice starter before your corned beef shows up at the table. Cool and refreshing anytime.

1011In the pic above can you see the sleeping crocodile in the middle? Below, if you look closely you can see the fish milling about in the water.8

The bridge itself is being renovated.

166Minty Chilled Pea Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 16 oz. bags frozen peas
2 1/2 Tbsp. dried mint
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Sour cream or plain yogurt to garnish

Heat oil in large pot over med. heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, 3-5 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.

Pour in chicken broth and add peas. Increase heat to med.-high and bring to boil. Boil for 5 mins. Add mint and parsley. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice, salt, white and black peppers.

Cool slightly. Pour into food processor and pulse until smooth. Chill at least 2 hrs. prior to serving.

Add dollop of sour cream, or pipe shamrock on top.

Serves 6-8

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finalPresidential hopefuls for 2016 are beginning to crawl out from under the woodwork. Aside from the usual suit and tie variety, we’re seeing some hints about a female presence on Pennsylvania Avenue, and not just in the role of first lady. At a mixed gathering I attended recently this possibility was discussed at some length. It was interesting to see the reaction of some of the men in the group to the idea.  There were asides about emasculating the country and one gentlemen went so far as to say women were incapable of handling military matters and were better off tending to sharing recipes for bundt cakes and making babies.  Really? I had to defer to my calendar and confirm this was in fact 2014. Yup, no doubt about it. I managed to keep my lips zipped, but only because Rick was watching me nervously and poking me on occasion as he could see my lips beginning to move of their own volition.

Certainly this is not a new debate, and many changes have occurred surrounding it since it began. Feminine representation in Congress and women “manning” governor’s chairs in some of our biggest states. In particular, Ann Richards being the second of her gender to hold the office of governor in Texas. Sarah Palin comes to mind as well, putting Alaska in the news. Women have carried the big stick in other countries for centuries, not just in recent years. If you consider somewhere around 30 BC Cleopatra was controlling the reins of Egypt, the U.S. is sadly lagging behind in staffing up our highest office with the ladies. Personally I wouldn’t want the job, male or female.  I’ve seen the results of four years behind that desk, graying hair, constantly being rated and found lacking, a crisis before breakfast every morning. Thankfully, someone else seems to keep signing up and as my citizenship papers continue to say Canada, I don’t have much to say about the situation, although I’ll be changing that this year.

Historically men are the warriors and women the hunter gatherers, or something of that nature. Gathering definitely seems to be a female trait. My other half can stand with the refrigerator door open for an hour and never locate the ketchup on the shelf directly in front of him, while I can go to the fully stocked pantry five shelves deep and locate a box of toothpicks towards the back behind a family sized box of Cheerios. Why is that? No really, why is that?

One man in the group suggested we shouldn’t point out the differences between men and women, rather work in unity. Hmmmm. Like all forces in nature there is balance between the sexes as well, or so I believe. As I’ve discussed before you cannot appreciate light, unless you have experienced dark.  Happiness is all the richer once your rise above sadness. Yin and Yang, black and white, men and women. Tra la.

Certainly not an expert on the male of species, even after diving into the matrimonial troth four times, I can speak from my experience to the subject. From my perspective, there are definite differences in how we approach our feelings and express ourselves. This does not mean we can’t mesh with one another beautifully, but when we come together I believe it is with a different way of thinking.

My other half is quite fascinated that I can spend time “yacking”, as he refers to it, with my friends even though I may have spoken to them the day before.  “What an earth more could you have to say to one another?”, he’ll ask me. The friends I am speaking to have spouses who most probably wonder the same thing. As of this writing I have never cohabited with a man who spent an entire hour on a phone conversation with anyone, with the exception of possibly a family member in crisis or waiting for tech support. Women tend to discuss their problems simply for the need of airing them, rather than necessarily seeking a resolution. Female friends are often the ideal listening partners, as men seem to want to institute a solution and hope it involves far less conversation to get there. If you asked men, most probably many might say women have too much to say about most everything, and it is true we tend to be more garrulous by nature. In essence, our modus operandi when it comes to sharing our feelings in general comes from a different place. This is not to say one is better than the other by any means, but they are not the same.

It should be interesting to see what happens should a woman enter the White House and seat herself behind the desk in the oval office. I suppose the gentlemen I spoke with the other night would assume she might be better at dusting the desk than sitting behind it, but I beg to differ. Women are assuming leading roles in business all across the board. Meg Whitman, Hewlett Packard, Rosalind Brewer, Sam’s Club, and Virginia Rometty of IBM all prime examples of female CEO’s in charge of running huge corporations. Our roles since my grandmother’s day, when women were largely at home raising the children and managing the house, have changed. Is this good or bad?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps there was a clarity to having defined roles missing now. As a male or a female we knew better what was expected from us when we signed on with the team. It’s more fuzzy now with one blurring somewhat into the other. Men are staying home while their wives enter the work force. Women eventually will assume combat roles in the military. Slowly business has caught up with the world around it and women are now getting paid nearly equal to their male counterparts for performing the same job.

Always, I think, we’ll remain different. Whether the man is home changing diapers or the woman working as a pipe fitter on an oil rig, still the differences remain. That, I think is a good thing. Perhaps if we were too alike there would be no attraction?

Ah, deep thoughts for a Sunday. This was absolutely delish soup, but spicy. If you prefer less heat, reduce the amount of chipotle pepper and use 2 can of diced tomatoes without the jalapenos.  As my Cajun friends in the south used to say, “if it don’t make you sweat, it ain’t worth eatin”. Perfect for Super Bowl.

Crockpot Spicy Pork Posole

3 Tbsp. Canola oil, divided
4 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into 1″ chunks and trimmed
salt and pepper
3 cups onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb. brussel sprouts, halved
4 tsp. oregano
4 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. coriander
2 bay leaves
8 cups chicken broth
2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with jalapenos (use 2 cans of diced tomatoes in juice if you don’t like heat)
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 1/2 chipotle in adobo sauce, finely minced
1 Tbsp. adobo sauce
2 can white corn, drained
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 cups cooked rice
Garnish with sliced avocado, radishes, lime, and chopped cilantro

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Sprinkle pork liberally with salt and pepper. Brown pork in two batches on both sides. Remove from skillet and place in previously sprayed 6 quart Crockpot.

Add remaining Tbsp. of oil to skillet. Reduce heat to med. and saute onions and green pepper for 5 mins. Add garlic and continue cooking for 1 min. Pour over pork. Top with Brussel sprouts.

Mix remaining ingredients through adobo sauce together in large bowl. Pour over meat and vegetables. Cook on low for 9 hours. Add corn and continue cooking 1 hour. Add lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with avocado, radishes, lime, and chopped cilantro. Serve over 1/2 cup of rice.

Serves 8

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