Tag Archive | learn something new every day

A Provocative Guest

I’m grateful for a thought-provoking guest. A college friend stopped by on a cross-country drive, and I was grateful to be able to walk to the canyon with him, cook him a real dinner, and serve him cake and coffee in the morning back at the canyon before he resumed his travels. He is a kind, considerate, honest, caring man. We talked nonstop while he was here, reminiscing about our college years, asking each other about our present lives and the years between, covering deep topics of life and death and God and Buddha.

He asked me how I came to Buddhism, and I asked him how he came to be a born-again Baptist. Our world-views are quite different, and I was so grateful for the mindfulness practice that allowed me to keep an open heart and open mind as we talked, enabling me to listen deeply to his experience and beliefs without judgment, and deepen our connection. Our conversation has caused me to revisit some questions I’ve been coasting with for awhile: What exactly do I believe, and why do I believe it? He was an easy, open person long ago, comfortable to be around, and he remains so today. There were moments during our visit of teary tenderness, and moments of light laughter.

The serviceberry is in flagrant bloom along the canyon.

He recalled some things about our college years that I had forgotten, and vice versa. One memory he resurrected for me was how we used to tap on the wall between our rooms in freshman dorm to communicate. Sometimes it meant ‘meet outside,’ sometimes it summoned us to the windows where we made plans from our third story rooms. He was recently diagnosed with MS, and we talked a lot about the trajectory of his symptoms, and some strange symptoms I’ve been experiencing. He still works as a nurse, and encouraged me to see a neurologist. That’s been on my list anyway.

This spring has brought more opportunity than ever to surrender: to the lush green carpet of weeds through the yard and woods, to the bad grass I battled for years, to the prolific catmint I’ve tried to control; and to the process of my own physical aging and mortality. I’m grateful for equanimity and the relief of surrender.

I’m grateful for the Dr. JB hummingbird feeder that my sister Chris gave me a few years ago. It’s so easy to fill and clean, and it seems to be their favorite . I texted her this picture to tell her so, and she reminded me to get rid of any feeders with metal holes: they can lacerate the birds’ beaks and lead to infection and death. I had not known that, and promptly removed my one metal feeder and threw it away, ordering another Dr. JB to replace it.

My Big Project

Learn something new every day! I’m not sure how to share this on WordPress, but here is a pdf of the big project that I’ve been working on this past week. It’s only half of the plan to grow my little mindfulness business, and the other half will be revealed in a couple of weeks. Please enjoy checking this out, and subscribe if you’d like to receive ‘Fruits of the Practice’ in your inbox monthly, with all the features below including a guided meditation and an awareness exercise.

A New Way

I’m always alert for a new way to do something, and read this morning about a better way to peel tomatoes for canning. Still contending with the kitchen sink drain, I was looking for a shortcut, and searched “do I have to peel tomatoes before canning.” Answers were heavily weighted toward “you’ll be happier if you do,” and one of them included this new way: broil them first, then set a towel over them as they cool to steam the skins loose. My broiler doesn’t allow the six inch distance called for, so I simply roasted them for fifteen minutes on a tray lightly greased with olive oil, then covered, and then plucked those skins right off.

A new and easier way to prepare tomatoes for canning! With far less mess to clean up, ergo far less water ‘down the drain,’ or in this case, into the red bucket. I didn’t count, but know that I carried that two-gallon bucket outside more than two dozen times today, dumping water on various shrubs and beds just beyond the front door. Anything to save on that labor! Waiting on a professional solution to the drain clog, and patiently abiding until that manifests, continuing to pour enzymes down the drain each night in hopes of a natural dissolution. We’ll know more later. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for patience, for perseverance, for running water, and for the red bucket. And very grateful for a new way to peel tomatoes.

I’m also grateful for the bountiful tomatillo crop. I soft-boiled, pureed, and then canned six pints, while the tomatoes were roasting and cooling. Ten pints of produce put up this afternoon!

And in between morning work and afternoon canning, another lovely BLT with lettuce-leaf basil. What a great idea! Thanks again, Amy. Served with one of the first lacto-fermented dill pickles this season. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful not only for the first BLT of the season, but for every BLT of the season. Why limit grateful? Savor every mouthful.

Chocolate Ganache

Who knew it was so easy? Melted chocolate, whisked with warmed cream and butter. And in this case, a couple of tablespoons of Grand Marnier. The second ganache I made far surpassed the first: I clearly did something wrong the first time.

When we made the chocolate ├ęclairs, I knew I’d done something wrong when I ran out of ganache halfway through dipping the mini two-finger, first-time choux pastries; and it was so thick. I froze the un-chocolated ones and pulled them out the other day to thaw, so I whipped up a second batch of chocolate ganache. I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet chips, heavy whipping cream, unsalted butter, and a splash of Grand Marnier from a bottle with a broken cork — it had to get used up.

I had so much ganache left over! But I made it for the ├ęclairs knowing that I’d be baking Lebkuchen shortly. The one incentivized the other. Lebkuchen, cookie of my childhood. I was raised on Lebkuchen growing up in Germany. Back in the States, we got it only at Christmas. It’s the ultimate spice cookie, in my book, and was always completely dipped in dark chocolate, cut in stars and crescent moons, a thick texture with just a hint each of crunch and chew, and (did I mention?) covered completely in rich dark chocolate. Seems like it’s hard to come by these days, but I’m sure I could find something online.

My first pursuit of the classic Lebkuchen flavors was delicious, but mild: Lebkuchen cake.

Instead, I searched recipes, and baked first a Lebkuchen cake, and then a couple of weeks later, Lebkuchen Honey Bars. I assumed this second recipe would resemble the cookies of memory, but turns out it’s more of a brownie type treat. No worries, I’m adaptable. The recipe (Joy of Cooking) says “Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 24 hours or up to 1 month.” I set it in the cold mudroom for about 27 hours. Then, the recipe says, “If possible, let the cookies age for at least 2 weeks to allow the spices to ripen. What??

I did not used to be a person who used a lot of sugar. Just when I need it least, during Covid, I’m using it more than ever. Making the lemon glaze, with lots of confectioners’ sugar and fresh lemon juice.

It called for a lemon glaze, so I made that too, and poured it over the semi-fallen pan of this delectably flavored – brownie, for lack of a better word. Turns out, brownie defines a particular texture more than a flavor. Huh! Learn something new every day. For that I am also grateful. It keeps life perpetually fascinating. Exciting, one might even say. It could have baked a few minutes longer, though even so it definitely wasn’t a cookie; that will have to be Lebkuchen chapter three.

Lebkuchen bars, glazed, then drizzled with chocolate ganache. Chocolated. (“I can chocolate you some,” said the Southern Maid.) Of course I ate a couple, but have put the rest in cold storage to cure for two weeks, I mean for as long as I can.

And still I had leftover chocolate ganache! Looking for room in the freezer to save it, I found apricot cookie dough from a month ago, so I pulled that out to thaw and bake. Cooled, I rolled one side of each cookie in ganache microwaved just enough to melt it completely, not to heat it up; then stuck the cookie sheet in the mudroom to chill and set overnight.

Apricot chocolate crescents, an unintended consequence of excessive ganache. (First-world problems, gourmet solutions.)

And still there was a cup of chocolate ganache left over! “I like it as fudge sauce,” texted Amy. Like she was reading my mind. Mmmmm, was that good! Just now, finishing a long four days of work and zoom meetings, keeping the woodstove fed, the snow shoveled a couple of times as it accumulated, keeping cat and dog wherever they want to be in or out, never sitting too long at a time so the old sciatica bug don’t bite too hard…

Then suddenly there was a bug, dropped from the sky onto the desktop. I watched it for awhile, til I forgot it was there and almost smashed it with the bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate ganache I set down.

Is it some kind of stinkbug? I didn’t want to upset it, just in case, the skunks of the insect world.
I took a Buddha glass upside down and scooped it out to the porch, where I let it drop in a safe dry place by the house. I’m grateful for quotidian late-night adventures.
And finally, the last reason I’m grateful for chocolate ganache. Tomorrow, the last of it, on the last of the birthday coffee gelato.

Making the most of simple things, in this one precious day that will never come again. I’m not so sure we’ll have chocolate for the rest of my life, either, given the ravages of climate chaos on cacao tree countries. So I’m gonna seize the day, while it’s here, to indulge in chocolate while I can. And now I have a new way to play with it. You can even whip it into frosting. So today, just this moment as its taste lingers in my mouth, I’m grateful for multi-function chocolate ganache.