Thursday, September 18, 2014

Time Travel on the Driveway

Time has been on the minds of people for a long time. Our myths from centuries back tell stories of time travel, moving forward or backward in time, being able to see what is coming or what happened. We seem to be fascinated with time, time management, time efficiencies, and making the world ever smaller in ever faster technologies. Whether it is a desire to see what will come, has gone, or a way to pause; the need to slow down is one that hits me regularly. I need to slow down, taking time to think about and look at the world around me. It is recharging for me and lets me gather perspective as I listen for a quiet voice of God.

I’m reminded of this need to slow down every time I come down the driveway. There are many kinds of driveways, concrete and asphalt, gravel and dirt. My driveway is a mix of gravel, dirt, and asphalt chunks. It is rutted and uneven in places where water has cut trenches through and left hills and valleys. It needs some work. But, part of me really likes the driveway this way. It forces whoever is coming to the house to slow down; to watch out for dogs that don’t get out of the way of cars and to be on the lookout for rabbits that believe strongly in perpetual rabbit right-of-way. It is a reminder to me to slow down, such an important reminder in our fast paced world.           

I wouldn’t want to give up my cell phone, email, facebook, and other media timesaving technologies forever. What I do want to do is create a balance with reminders that often cause me to pause and look around. Yesterday, I looked up and saw a cloud move across the morning sky. The sun wasn’t quite up yet, and the clouds still had a heavy grey look to them. I thought they looked thick until I saw a lacey view of the moon, edged in a graceful and moving frame. This morning, a golden fog caught the sunlight and let it display its beams suspended in droplets of vapor. The feel of autumn crispness is reflected in the crispness of sweet red and tart green autumn apples. Beautiful fawns have lost their spots, and are now preparing for winter’s cold by growing out their thick fuzzy coats. Their mouths seem to be in a perpetual state of chewing as they utilize the end of summer foliage to prepare for the upcoming chill. A small moth landed on the window, spread its wings and sunned itself in a wonderful leaf disguise.

Maybe our many myths and scientific studies of time travel can be brought to our daily lives by stopping to breathe in the smells, watch for the wispy clouds, feel the sun-filled water droplets in the foggy air, and slow down when coming down the driveway.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Football Soup Season – Ham & Beans

Football season in my house means cheering on the UNI Panthers and preparing away game soup. Away game soup is a meal for our neighbors after they travel back from an away game. You know how it is the day after a trip - no food in the fridge and too tired to make something for dinner. And soup is perfect football food, especially as the weather is turning colder and fans are also turning colder as they cheer on their teams. That is where the away game football soup tradition started, and I’m already looking forward to trying new recipes!

This year kicked off with a white bean and ham soup, complete with veggies and a nice thick broth. To top it off, it is a great Crockpot recipe too. This recipe is one that can be prepared ahead of time, turn over the cooking to the Crockpots later the next day.

Start by rinsing and soaking one pound of navy beans overnight. Leave plenty of space and water for the beans to grow.

I start by soaking the beans and then use the opportunity to prepare the other vegetables before mixing them all together. 

Earlier in the weekend, I had a chance to dig out fresh potatoes and onions from the garden, like finding buried treasure! Of course, all the mud needed to be removed, but once done – they really are quiet beautiful. You can't judge a potato (or an onion) at first glance.  Just like people.  You really may just see the environment they are growing in.

A good potato brush and tepid running water removed the mud and left a bowl of beautifully cleaned up little potatoes.

Setting aside the potatoes to be added later to the Crockpot, they reminded me of a trip to the Byward Market in Ottawa.  The vegetables there were arranged with great pride, each so beautifully shined and cleaned that I would have felt comfortable taste testing the fresh foods throughout the market.

Pull out a cutting board and a sharp knife to prepare all the vegetables. I added mine directly to the pot of the Crockpot and mixed after all of the vegetables were added.

During cooking times, my helper was quite happy to keep an eye on me from the comfort of her pillow. With a view into the kitchen, as long as I remain within eye range, she is content to watch and relax. A break is in order to go pet that fuzzy face!

Break is over...  Peel and chop five large carrots, pausing to enjoy the wonderful smells and beautiful color. Then, add them to the Crockpot.

Quartering potatoes and onions, add them as well. Wash the kale thoroughly and remove the leaves from the stem.  I crushed them just a little with my hands to help them soak in all the good flavor and share its own savory taste.

1 lb. white navy beans
5 large carrots, peeled and chopped
5 potatoes, quartered 
3 onions, quartered 
1 cup kale
1 precooked ham
water and broth 
rosemary and bay leaf

Rinse the beans thoroughly. Soak them in water and set them aside. Quarter onions, potatoes, and chop carrots. Add them to the crockpot or soup pot. Remove the kale leaves from its stem and lightly crush with your hands. Add it to the soup pot. Pour the beans and water into the mix and then place the ham in the pot as well, pouring in broth as needed to finish covering all of the ingredients.  Finish this off with one bay leaf and a sprinkle of rosemary. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the ham is completely heated.