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Creative Leftovers

Winner of the Fruitland Mesa All-Breed National Thanksgiving Day Dog Show! Best in a Pink Sweater!

I’m grateful, as you know, for leftovers. Lacking bread today, and craving a turkey sandwich with mayo and cranberry sauce, I improvised. So simple, so delicious!

Contentment

I’m grateful to see Ice Canyon forming up, and to be able to walk there with my little dog. I’m grateful for the vast, tremendous sky and all that happens in it day to day, moment to moment. I’m grateful for my life just as it is on this day of giving thanks, for where I live and how, for teachers and students, for friends and community, for a sense, in this moment, of safety and ease. I’m grateful for knowing any of this can change in any moment, which inspires me to appreciate all of it every moment as much as possible.

I’m grateful for a tidy stack of wood in the shed, protected from the elements, and for the helpers who stacked it. I’m grateful for the simple meal I made for my Thanksgiving dinner, cheesy samosa puffs, and for the jar of last year’s salsa verde I pulled from the pantry to dip them in. It was a delicious early dinner.

I’m grateful for eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla extract, cream cheese and butter, and the knowledge to turn them into a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It’s not exactly like the Sarah Lee cakes I grew up with, but pretty good nonetheless! I did substitute cream cheese for some of the butter in the frosting because I could and plain butter cream is too–well, buttery–for my taste. I’m grateful that two dear neighbors wanted to share their Thanksgiving dinners with me, and that I was able to share this cake with them. And so glad that I’ll have plenty of turkey, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and more to enjoy for the next few days. I’m grateful for leftovers! I’m grateful for friends. I’m grateful for the leisure and opportunity to cultivate contentment in my life.

Simplicity

I’m grateful for the simplest things. And even the simplest things rely upon countless unknown others to bring them into existence. Two slices of fried sourdough: the canola oil, the seeds, the harvesting and extracting machines and their fuel and the people who grew, harvested, extracted oil from the seeds and oil for the machines; the pan, the manufacturers and those who made those machines that smelted the metal and shaped it, those who invented the diamond-ceramic non-toxic nonstick surface, the cardboard it was shipped in and all the people involved in every step in between; the wheat and all the people it took to grow it, the mill, the bag, the paper, transportation all along the way to the store, the sourdough starter started years ago, and the teachers who taught me to bake. The spare time to fry two pieces of bread, the stove, the propane, and all those involved in those things getting into my house, the driver who pumps propane into the tank outside every now and then and the office people who let him know when to come, the truck and the hose, the county road crew, the federal bills that fund the roads… All that is before we start on the avocado… And then there’s Havarti, just imagine all the people it took to get a ripe avocado and a chunk of Havarti to my kitchen. There’s the plate and everyone involved in creating the plate… the Himalayan pink rock salt and everyone it took to get that here, and the tri-color peppercorns… sigh. Yes, I’m grateful for the simplest things, and grateful for the perspective.

Sour Cherries

I didn’t grow up cherishing the ‘whoopie pie,’ in fact I’m not sure I ever ate one. But for some reason this recipe caught my attention, and I had everything I needed except the oatmeal. My Personal Shopper picked up a carton of ‘traditional old-fashioned’ oats, and neither of us was sure if that fit the bill for ‘rolled oats.’ I’m pleased to announce that it did! I searched it and found a site assuring me that there’s absolutely no difference between rolled and old-fashioned oats, and was grateful to confirm that when I opened the can to bake this evening. (I also did not grow up eating oatmeal, or I might have known this.)

The recipe calls for dried cranberries to go in the basic cinnamon oatmeal cookies, and for canned whole cranberry sauce for the filling. I guess I could have bought both of those ingredients also, but decided instead to use up the last of the dried sour cherries, handpicked by John, that were given to me a couple months ago. Was it that long ago? Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not. I’d been nibbling on them, and used them as a martini garnish, but had enough left to bake these delicious cookies. Instead of the cranberry sauce in the filling, which was otherwise just a basic cream cheese-buttercream frosting, I used a few cherries and a tablespoon of the raspberry syrup I made earlier this fall. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful for the gift of sour cherries, grown with attention, picked with love, and given with generosity.

Orange

I was going to post about orange food today. I finished some leftover roasted tomato soup for lunch, and couldn’t resist some goldfish on top. I ate that along with pimento-cheese on toast. It would have been more orange except that I used sharp white cheddar instead of the orange-dyed cheese. Red pimentos, a pinch of paprika, and some Dijon mustard added color, while garlic and onion powders and some lemon pepper and lemon juice enhanced the flavor. And of course, mayo. It’s a secret family recipe, I’m not allowed to share it!

So I was just going to say I’m grateful for Orange Food, but then there was sunset. So I’m grateful today for the color Orange, wherever it shows up.

Disappointment

This was certainly not a disappointing way to wake up! I was lolling in bed when I saw this enormous white beast gobbling up the mountains at a fast clip. I could hardly jump up quick enough. I’m grateful for the fascinating sight, and all the moisture in the snow-sleet-rain storm that followed this throughout the day. I’ve checked the Cloud Appreciation Society library to try to identify this cloud but can’t quite fit it into any of the categories. They don’t have “Freight Train” listed, nor “Godzilla.”

I picked the sleetiest part of the day to drive the garbage up, but was rewarded with this soft scene on the way back down. Most of the day was not a disappointment. I’m grateful that my appointment in town was today and not tomorrow because at least the roads were warm and wet as I drove to deposit my ballot in the dropbox in one town, and then on to PT in the next town; I’m grateful for the ongoing education I’m getting about cardiopulmonary fitness and how to get there. I found myself in the right place at the right time, and with just the right hankering, to pick up some Thai food from a place that came highly recommended, so I stopped there for the first time. I ordered egg rolls, cheese rolls which I’d never heard of, and Pad Thai. I was surprised to find that this food ranked right up there with the worst Thai food I’ve ever eaten. The egg rolls had hardly any filling, and beneath the crispy exterior were doughy; same with the cheese rolls, though the cheese filling was the tastiest part of the whole meal. The dipping sauce was thin and vaguely fishy tasting. Regarding the Pad Thai, I would think a Mild described as “the least spicy” would at least have some flavor! Any flavor at all! The noodles were tough and chewy, and the toppings included a few pale shreds of something that could have been anything but certainly weren’t bean sprouts, while the quarter teaspoon of chopped peanuts were so finely ground they disappeared. Ah well!

I’m grateful for this disappointment. For one thing, I don’t have to pass the place again with my mouth watering, wondering, wanting to stop but not making time; for another, it proves the mindfulness point that reality is subjective and relational rather than intrinsic to any situation, event, encounter, or food outlet. I’d heard such good things; clearly some people like the food. Maybe it was just a bad day in the kitchen. Maybe the host was annoyed that I asked where the chicken came from and opted for tofu when told it was “just regular chicken, not organic or anything.” Maybe my taste buds and preferences have gotten spoiled after years of cooking gourmet food just the way I like it. I threw in a spoonful of Hoisin sauce to make half the dish palatable, and tossed the other half in the compost. It was worth the price for the lesson.

Gravity

Wren got to meet our new chiropractor Dr. Leigh this morning, way too early. It was 25℉ when we had to get up and I didn’t make time for coffee before we left. But it was a lovely session for me providing much relief from sciatic discomfort, and Dr. Leigh delighted in her little assistant who followed her around until settling down on her bed when she was sure everything was in order. I’m grateful she gets to go with me. I’m also grateful for gravity. I mention it sometimes when I lead a meditation, suggesting we relax into the warm embrace of gravity or something similar. As I lay on the table with sacral blocks stabilizing my off-kilter pelvis and needles in my legs and hands, I was delighted to hear Dr. Leigh say as she encouraged me to relax, “We live on a planet with gravity, might as well make the most of it.”

I’ve been wanting to photograph this mural for months, maybe years. As I drove by one time I saw the young woman artist just finishing it up but I didn’t have time to stop. I don’t get out much anymore, and don’t make time to stop when I do, but this morning town was empty as I headed home, and more importantly the new coffee shop next door to this building was empty but open, so I turned around and parked along the curb, went in and ordered a delicious vanilla latté, and made the most of being parked beside the mural. I’m grateful to live in a valley that values art, and allows artists to paint the buildings. I hope this mural will be here for decades to come.

On the way out of town I was grateful to be stopped for road construction so that I could snap this extraordinary sky both west and east. The flagmen seemed oblivious to the splendor above them, and I hope that my getting out and looking up may have influenced them and the drivers stopped behind me to also look up and enjoy the celestial view. Though we are held to earth by gravity, the clouds are not, and only succumb to it when they are heavy with rain or snow. As I drove the twenty minutes home I watched these cloud from many angles as they slowly dissipated into nothingness just as I reached my driveway.

It was a busy afternoon and evening, and when all was done all I wanted to do was sit with a bowl of popcorn and watch some TV. But not just any popcorn. An epicurious recipe had popped into my inbox the other day which I was excited to try: Maple pecan popcorn. OMG. So… simple, so delicious! It really was simple, just time consuming, and I was grateful for a clip-on candy thermometer. Pop a bunch of corn. Chop and toast some pecans. Melt butter and bring to a boil with maple syrup (real maple syrup, of course) and a pinch of salt, and let it boil for a long time (at this altitude) until it reaches 287℉ (altitude correction for 300℉), then pour over and quickly stir with the popcorn/pecans, and spread into a baking pan until it cools. Break it up into bits and pieces and enjoy! I could hardly stop eating it, but it made a LOT, and I’m grateful it keeps for up to a week–if it lasts that long.

Cheesy Goodness

Grateful as always for Zoom cooking with Amy, spontaneously this evening. A simple snack of Baked Cheese and Onion Dip to go with our adult beverages and easy conversation. Despite the deep freeze nights there were still a few green chives in the garden, and I had a jar of pickled jalapeños in the fridge for zesty garnish. A sweet garden onion from the pantry, some staples of cheese and mayonnaise, and dinner was made. I was horrified to discover NO Ritz! But dug through some old bags of mostly stale tail ends of fancy crackers til I found a serviceable variety, and tossed the old ones in the compost.

Another Precious Day

What a morning to wake up to alive! 22℉ overnight, snow on the mountains and in the yarden. And cozy inside once the sun rose after a small fire in the woodstove last evening.

Despite fierce winds last night, the aspen and other deciduous trees kept most of their leaves, glowing in a frozen landscape. Marigolds, salvias, agastaches, and all the other remaining flowers wilted.

Meanwhile, inside, the Tabasco pepper thrives in the sunroom with ripening fruits even as tiny blooms proliferate at the tips of new growth. A couple of orchids continue to bloom before their winter rest.

For dinner, I stuffed a pear. I was amazed at how beautifully the cookie scoop cleaned out the core, and grateful to Amy for giving me not only the scoop some years ago, but for sharing the recipe a few days ago on Instagram. Not all Instagram recipes turn out as well as they look, but this one did. I preheated the oven to 400℉ while I scooped, then stuffed the pear with Gorgonzola and topped with crumbled walnuts, a sprinkle of thyme, and some cracked pepper.

While the pear halves baked for about 18 minutes, I heated some honey. Next time, I’ll use more cheese, and bake a little lower so the walnuts don’t burn. Drizzled with hot honey, it was a gourmet taste treat–so simple, so delicious!

Domestic Adventure

Little Rocky on the big overlook, looking out on the little canyon filled with big color. Too-de-day!

Today I’m grateful for any tomatoes at all. I planted half as many as last year, and they did less than half as well, so I found myself with a decent early crop of ripe tomatoes with which I made a couple of small batches of salsa, and with big expectations for a future which did not come. Yet. Last week I picked all the good-sized green tomatoes because I was nervous about a potential frost, and they are sitting in brown paper bags ripening, I hope. Meanwhile, the basket of ripe tomatoes grew smaller by a fruit or two a day as I was too occupied with other obligations to process them. When I finally got to it today, I roasted them with a couple of paprika peppers and an onion from the garden, as well as a store-bought garlic head. Then I ran them through the food mill to remove skins, and got a delicious thick marinara-ish slurry–but only just over a pint. Last summer I canned quarts and quarts of sauces and salsa. You just never know what you’re gonna get with a garden. I’m grateful for the domestic adventure a garden provides!

I’m grateful for my little kitchen helpers!