Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Asparagus - My Way

One of the things I like best about spring is asparagus. Right now, in just about any grocery store, you can find tender, young asparagus for as low as $0.99 a pound. I was in my local Tom Thumb on Sunday and picked up a bunch of asparagus for our Monday dinner. I love asparagus most ways (except boiled - gross), but this recipe is my absolute favorite.

Spring Asparagus with Garlic

2 tbsp. butter (the real stuff please)
2 tbsp. good olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt (do yourself a favor and buy some good salt - don't use the shaker stuff for this!)
1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. asparagus spears, washed and trimmed

In a medium saute pan over medium heat, melt together the butter and the olive oil. Once this is melted, sprinkle the salt and pepper over the oil and allow the salt to melt into the butter/oil mixture.

Add the minced garlic and let it cook down and infuse the oil for a minute or two - don't let it get brown or burn!

Once the garlic is just barely cooked, add the asparagus spears. Saute the asparagus, turning to coat in the salty, peppery, buttery olive oil, for about 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Turn the asparagus every minute or so so it doesn't overcook or get brown. The salty-garlicky oil will permeate the spears and they will be so tender and flavorful you'll want to spank your mama.

With asparagus so cheap right now, we're going to be eating a lot of this. Try this recipe - I promise you will NOT be disappointed.

Let me know how it works out for you (but don't really spank your mama - unless she deserves it!)!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Weird Lenten Meals Forced Upon Me... and MORE!

Growing up Catholic meant that there was NO MEAT on Fridays. I never really cared too much for Lent, because of two things:

1) Gramma Stella wouldn’t give me any candy after lunch
2) Weird dinners on Friday

OK, so the dinners weren’t always weird. But with a family farm in the picture and plenty of access to fresh eggs, one of the go-to meals was BEANS and EGGS. Basically, this was a couple of cans of vegetarian beans warmed up and served with your choice of fried egg. By choice of fried egg, I mean you could have it fried or you could go without. This was often served with soft white bread and plenty of butter or margarine and a glass of milk.

I NEVER eat fried eggs anymore. No joke. It’s even hard for me to watch the hubs eat his sunny side ups. I must have choked down hundreds of eggs when I was a kid (maybe thousands!). Fried eggs for breakfast, egg salad sandwiches, fried egg sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, deviled eggs, and the after school snack of choice – A FRIED EGG! No cookies and milk for us!

Another go to was the Salmon Patty. I don’t know who thought this horrific dish up, but I remember thinking I was being punished for being Catholic. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE SALMON! But that stuff that comes in a can was mixed with bread, eggs and other stuff and it was just… well, icky.

The BEST part about being Catholic during Lent was that once in a while, we got to go to a FISH FRY! These were put on by some fraternal organization, usually the Elks, the Moose or the Eagles, and consisted of all types of fresh Lake Michigan caught fish, usually deep-fried to a crunchy golden brown goodness. French fries, cole slaw and green beans were always on the menu, and we always got DESSERT!!! (Susu likes pie. Amen.)

Second best to the fraternal order of the fish fry, was the home-cooked smelt fry. Smelt are little fish that would run in the early spring, and a lot of times they would wash ashore on the beach. The beach would literally be COVERED with smelt. Anyway, after the big catch came the worst part about the smelt - cleaning them. I would watch my dad do it, chopping off the heads and cleaning out the guts. Once we were old enough, my older sister Jean and I cleaned the fish. Come to think of it, that usually meant that SUSAN cleaned the fish.

The cool thing about smelt is that you basically eat the whole thing – fins and bones included. Dad would dredge them in some seasoned flour and deep fry them until they were golden. We’d eat them with French fries, lots of tartar sauce with homemade pickle relish and a lettuce and pineapple salad.

Sometimes, Dad would make us pancakes for dinner. My mom worked nights, and if Dad came home from work and was not too tired, he would make us all pancakes. Pancakes with lots of butter and syrup and a big glass of milk is still one of my favorite meals – whether it’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dad pancakes are always the best - just ask any kid!

I can’t say that I miss beans and eggs night (or salmon patty or fish stick night), but I DO miss pancake night. And I haven’t found a fish fry down here in Texas (but then I haven’t looked too hard either). The best part of being a kid was dinner around the table with everyone and even doing the dishes. (Ask my mother why she never got a dishwasher, and she’ll tell you she had FOUR KIDS for crying out loud.)

I don’t keep Lent anymore. I mean the no meat on Friday’s part. I’ll write about the guilt I felt after eating a Friday hamburger during Lent at another time.

Good old Catholic guilt. Amen.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I TOTALLY needed this today.

Such a beautiful piece that truly inspires.

Take a minute (or seven) to be inspired. Make a difference to somebody today - even to yourself!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nap time is the BEST time!

The girls like to lay on top of each other and snuggle during nap time. They are just so darn cute, it's hard to not stop and snap a few quick pics. Of course, this usually wakes one of them up and defeats the purpose of sleepy time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Miracles on the side of the road

I have two little miracles living in my house today. This is just a temporary stop for them, because these miracles will eventually find a home of their own. These little miracles are puppies.

Early last week, my rescue group got a call about ten Great Pyrenees puppies found on the side of the road. Now last week was cold - we had bitter cold winds and freezing temperatures and even some rain. It was a bad time to be an outdoors puppy. It was an even worse time to be a puppy dumped in a muddy ditch on the side of the road in rural Texas.

Someone was watching over these pups though, and a call was placed to animal control. They came out to get the soggy, soaking, cold and hungry pups. Not one of them weighed more than 4-5 pounds. There were five boys and five girls, between the age of 4-5 weeks. Probably shouldn't even have been away from their mama. It would only taken a day or two for all of them to die, exposed to the elements and other predatory creatures.

When we picked them up, the shelter manager, a young man who couldn't even be 25 years old, was angry. Angry because these pups deserved a chance, angry because of the idiot who dumped them. You could see the stress on his young face. His day consists of finding animals in his out-of-the-way area, then deciding who could possibly be adopted, then euthanizing the rest. The shelter is very small, I counted only 8 kennels, and one killing room. But the cool thing was how his countenance changed when we came to get these pups. There would be no killing today, at least of these tiny white bundles.

In his gratefulness, he and his staffer bathed them and treated them for fleas. He remarked to us that it was a rare occasion indeed when such a large number of dogs leave his small shelter in just one day. I know he wanted to say "alive" but he was gracious and held it back.

As a Christian, I believe we find miracles when we look for them. There isn't always a flash of bright white light. It isn't often that scales fall from eyes, or people get up from their mats and walk. But there are miracles every day - in the sound of the wind and the rustle of the leaves on the trees, in the flowers - and even the weeds - pushing up from nothingness. There are miracles in the sweetness of puppy breath and the innocent delight of watching babies play, so oblivious to what their fate might have been even last week. There was a miracle in that shelter manager's life last week when he realized that FINDING these ten puppies meant SAVING them, and not having to subject them (and himself) to the sad surrender of the pink liquid, that had been placed in neat rows on the shelves of the killing room cupboard. In my years of doing rescue, I know how you have to harden yourself against the realities of this work. But I've also honestly never seen a shelter manager more softened and grateful.

These ten little miracles are the lucky ones. They were found and they were saved. But hundreds of thousands of miracles are lost every day to ignorance and cruelty. Please. It doesn't matter whether you prefer dogs or cats, please - spay or neuter your pet. DON'T buy a pet from a breeder or a pet shop. Every single one of my pyrs is a pure bred that someone else didn't want.

There are rescue groups all over the United States that have animals available for adoption. Here is the one I work with - Saving Pyrs In Need (SPIN).

Now here is a photo of my two little miracles: Carlee and Caylee, both just 4 pounds of wide-eyed, heart-stealing sweetness.