Three AM Al Fredo

Some friends suggested I write up this story and recipe, so here it is.

3 AM  Al Fredo

vegan-alfredo-sauce-pasta7When I was a teenager I sometimes made myself pasta for a late-night meal. One night I had the pasta nearly ready to drain when my father came home (in those days one of the restaurants he had was an  after-theater bistro in midtown and he often came in close to dawn). He asked if I had a enough to share, and what I was going to put on it.  I said there was plenty and I was just going to put butter and grated cheese. He asked if I was interested in learning a quick sauce and then taught me this:

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the water. On low heat, melt some butter in the pot along with the reserved water, beat in a bunch of cream, a lightly beaten egg yolk, and stir in grated parmesan or romano cheese. Toss with the pasta and serve.  The egg is optional, he said, but it’s richer with it.

We ate it together and then went our separate ways to bed.  It wasn’t until years later when Alfredo sauce was all the rage that I realized what he’d taught me to make.

Ingredients
1 lb. pasta cooked al dente & drained
½ cup of the cooking water
4 oz butter
1-1 ½ cup cream (any kind – the richer the cream, the richer the sauce)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten (optional)
¼ cup grated “Italian” cheese
sprinkle of pepper to taste (optional)

Melt butter in a saucepan or skillet, adding in the reserved pasta water. Add cream and egg, stirring constantly. Add the grated cheese. Simmer gently for a minute or so, then toss with pasta, topping with a sprinkle of fresh black pepper. Add more cheese at the table to taste.

My Favorite Things

I responded to a friend’s internet challenge, to post a list 3 positive things a day. When another friend started as a result of my challenge, I committed to an additional seven.

Here’s the first batch of positive things, and I hope they brighten your day.

josh waiting 1

Day 1:

  1. I’m grateful to my son who mowed the yard even feeling crappy and in intense humidity — it was a pleasure to drive down the street to home.
  2. I’m happy that I knit. I could give all 21 slots with a knitting related post.layout2_r1_c2
  3. I’m with Kim that cats make me smile. The world is better place because of our feline companions.

Day 2: 

  1. My garden has given us fresh tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini, as well as lots of Tomatoesonvine2basil.
  2. I am lucky enough to have a granddaughter.
  3. Evenings are getting cooler in Asheville–so much less need for AC, and more chance for open windows, bird song, and breeze.

Day 3:

  1. machine-bestI appreciate breathing…all through the night. I got a loaner C-PAP machine and sleeping is true rest again. What a joy!
  2. I woke early this morning, and one of the first thoughts was “what am I grateful for?” — I attribute that lovely waking to this challenge, which has re-focused my mind on the positive in life.
  3. I’m grateful for metaphoric and literal “off buttons.” There’s a time to walk away from drama and ugliness (as well as a time to act) and knowing when that it lifts a weight and frees the mind and heart. That’s a miraculous thing.
  4. –Oh, and a bonus 4) — I’m grateful it’s Friday after a good week at work.

Day 4:

  1. beautiful bird croppedBirds — when I step out my back door each time I leave the house, there are always birds there — in the trees and scrub, on the feeder, winging by. Bird song and that exquisite flash of upward wing never fail to make my own spirit soar. What a gift that is, through good and bad times, just a bird can make me smile.
  2. Jon Stewart is always guaranteed to make me laugh. He reminds me (in a good way) of my late husband, Dennis, who also could always make me laugh.
  3. barilla3Good Gluten-Free Pasta is no longer a contradiction in terms. There are several mainstream brands making gluten-free versions and this puts some old favorite dishes back on the menu.

Day 5:

  1. zen051Celebration (1)Friends! I could leave it at that, but especially the unexpected close friendships of adulthood. Good friends laugh and grieve with you, make meals, trade favors, secret jokes, and masses of understanding and acceptance. God Bless Good Friends.
  2. With said friends, we drank a bottle of cheap (3.99) red wine that was good!
  3. There’s a new produce stand in my neighborhood. An enterprising older man from the Islands, or even perhaps Africa (lovely lilting accent, gracious and warm manners) has taken a vacant building and desolate lot over — he’s put up a large roofed area and has tables and tables of beautiful fresh produce. I stopped for the first time yesterday and bought 4 tomatoes for $2! We talked about things for a bit and then he gifted me with a giant organic tomato and wished be a great evening.

Day 6:

  1. I love the way Facebook helps reveal social connections and make them visible in ways I never paid attention to before social media. The spread of this lovely challenge and the interesting variations it has taken fascinate me. Like an old-fashioned game of telephone, spreading the message changes the message and the messenger.telephone game (237x136)
  2. When I stop and think of it, I realized I have been much loved in my life — many of those have left the planet now, but the love doesn’t go away. It lives in me and my memories and I can continue it on by loving others. What beautiful magic that is!
  3. It’s Monday morning and I feel no dread or sorrow or anger at the prospect of going to work this morning and the rest of the week. That’s a blessing — if you’ve ever experienced those feelings in response to work week, you know. It’s also a privilege to have meaningful work in a pleasant setting with good co-workers. It’s one I pray every worker can have. When I center myself around the thought of how blessed I am to have that, I feel the glow of gratitude and joy seep through me and a smile spread across my face.

Day 7:

  1. Gorgeous George

    Gorgeous George

    Pretty much the whole internet agrees with me that kittens and cats are an endless source of fascination: more personality and energy packed in those springy bodies than can be contained, so it leaks out in extreme cuteness and apparent wisdom. When I need to laugh, a silly kitten attacking something harmless with such zeal can always do the trick. And isn’t it great that there’s no prescription cost, or anything….

  2. It’s the last few days of August and I’m not dreading September. Between world events and personal losses, the 9th month had assumed a pretty bad rep in my mind. This year, it’s pretty much just another month — I’m excited to see fall arriving while I mourn the loss of fresh tomatoes and basil. I see the sky lightening in the morning a few minutes later each day. But I don’t want to take to my bed with the covers over me! There’s a song “Wake Me When September Ends” that used to match my feeling, but now it’s just a song again. Since I loved September and its promise of autumn and new starts, I’m grateful to have it back.
  3. Sisters. I have only one official sister, who I love and adore and hope to continue laughing, playing, cooking, knitting, arguing and hugging for decades yet to come. I also have several sisters of the heart that joined my inner family over the years, and they too are a whole bouquet of graces.


With special thanks to Kim for starting me on this, I say with joy, And So It Is.

Herald of the Spring

IMG_0227Every year, since I was in my late teens, I herald the spring’s coming with a rousing recitation of my favorite spring poem: Jabberwocky.

josh waiting 1The reason for this is lost in memory, but I am unfailingly tormented family and friends each March — going so far one year as to call my son, who was in the Navy, stationed in Washington State, to be sure spring arrived safely in the armed forces. He listened with sangfroid the military had helped him achieve, thanked me politely, and went back to his electronics work….I remain convince, that he didn’t manage to avoid at least an inner smile.

So here, in honor of the season, for all who are out of reach of my voice, is Lewis Carroll’s happy nonsense:

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

 

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
    Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
    And stood awhile in thought.

 

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!

 

One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
    He went galumphing back.

 

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
     He chortled in his joy.

 

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

Blessings to all this bright season
beautiful bird cropped

Old-Fashioned Beef Vegetable Soup

soup 3My mother used to make this amazing vegetable soup. I learned to like barley from that soup. Oddly enough, the only food I really miss in eating gluten-free (I mean, besides good french bread), is barley.

There’s something about the sweet nuttiness, and slightly chewy texture that makes vegetable soup just perfect. I started adding it to other soups too, especially turkey noodle soup after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

For the past two years I’ve been trying to re-conjure the taste and feel of my mother’s soup, sans barley. I think I’ve finally done it.

The soup was made in the slow cooker, but doesn’t require much adaptation for the soup kettle — it would just take two days, instead of three.

Laurie’s Old-Fashioned Beef Vegetable Soupsoup ingredients raw

Two marrow bones and about a pound of boneless beef stew meat

Or two beef shins with plenty of meat

Enough cold water to fill the cooker or kettle about two-thirds full

A sprinkle of salt

One large onion, peeled

2 cloves garlic, peeled

3-5 large stalks of celery, with leafy tops

2 big carrots,

Whatever other limp but usable vegetables (I had a half of zucchini, but I’ve also added green beans, pea, parsnips, or turnip — nothing too dominating in flavor, though)

Simmer overnight

While the stock is cooking, soak a cup or two of red beans, or a combination other beans of your choice (cannelloni, navy beans, october beans, red kidney beans are others I like to use)

When the stock has deepened in color and the veggies are nearly mush, strain the broth, reserving the “stuff” to pick out the clean bits of meat.  Press the cooked vegetables through a sieve to get all the moisture and flavor out

Add the drained beans, 1 can of diced tomatoes, and the cleaned bits of meat (no gristle allowed) and simmer again overnight

soup 2Add:

4-5 medium-sized carrots, peeled and diced

6-8 small potatoes, peeled and diced (I used Klondike Rose this time)

3 stalks of celery, diced very fine

1 large zucchini, diced

A handful of chopped fresh parsley, or dried if necessary

Other herbs I usually add are powdered onion and garlic, paprika, thyme, sage, rosemary, and oregano.

Simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Add 1 can of corn, another can of diced tomatoes,

Perhaps a couple of cans of cooked beans if you need to stretch the soup for more people. Salt to taste, add more herbs if needed.

That’s it.

taco-soup-in-the-crock-pot (1)I think the corn and several types of beans add the sweetness the barley used to provide, and if you want a little thicker soup, go heavier on the potatoes and don’t drain all the liquid from the canned beans.  Another possible addition is a little chopped cabbage — people don’t think it of it as sweet, but it really is in soups.

I’m ready to go have seconds now.

George’s Last Fishing Trip

Sleeping George

Sleeping George

Some of you may know that my beloved cat George died on Tuesday evening. He was nearly 17 years old. I know everyone who has a much loved pet thinks that particular animal is special; and I’m no different.

George had a complete and unique personality. He oozed “Georgeness” with every breath. He wasn’t the smartest cat I’ve ever shared my life with, but he was one of the most loving, good-natured, patient and happy cats ever. He had a checkered past: from an early run-in with a rooster that left him with a kinked tail; to a serious bout of ideopathic vestibular disease (his inner ear/balance stopped functioning); to a badly broken leg; to a 3-day ordeal stuck in the top of a very tall tree; to his passion for fishing, and the record 3-squirrel night a couple of years ago.  George lived large.

George riding Josh

George riding Josh

One of his nicknames was Fuz-ee… we called him the great and terrible Fuz-ee, kung fu master cat. Another cat of ours, Topaz, couldn’t resist attacking him in play and always always George won, hands down. Tope would start it, and the great and terrible Fuz-ee would end it. My husband used to say they were playing dinosaur kitties again.

Until a little while before his death, George groomed himself immaculately. This was challenge because he all that fur and very tiny tongue. His white paws were pristine, and his ruff shone in the sun. Once he got too decrepit, his paws soon turned to mud brown. We were bewildered, since he was no longer leaving the house (or so we thought).  But muddy and brown they stayed.

Gorgeous George

Gorgeous George

Many of you enjoyed the posts about George fishing in the creek across from our house. During the course of the year, George gifted us with about a dozen fish. We’d often see him ambling across the street, paws wet up to the black fur, happy as could be. When he caught something he did the usual happy song, yowling his triumph on his way from the cat window to the kitchen, where he’d plop down his prey. When it was a fish, it was often still flopping, which he adored and I hated!

I noticed a couple of years ago that he often brought in a fish after I’d shared a few bites of my fish with the cats. I guess it reminded him how much he liked seafood.

the predator☺

the predator☺

Two nights before he died, in an effort to tempt him to eat, I minced a little cooked fish for him. He actually ate two bites, then, exhausted, went to sleep. Next time Josh and I checked on him, he was gone! Josh went outside to call for him, and saw him coming home from the creek! Wet and muddy, very unsteady on his feet, and barely able to walk up the drive.   No fish, but I bet it wasn’t for lack of trying!

That was last burst of energy he had to give — and he spent it being quintessentially George. Tuesday around midnight, he died in Josh’s arms, while we sat together and kept vigil.

He’s out there somewhere, beating Tope up, catching fish like crazy, and blinking in the warm sunshine… being George.

IMG_0099And so it is.

 

New obsessions

Aside

Among the many wonderful contributions technology has made, I count Pandora Radio. Take a moment or two to plug in your favorite bands or singers and writers, and voila, a personalized radio station on the computer/. I’m been listening a lot lately while I learning to quilt.

This is all a result of my annual pilgrimage to Mary’s House, where every surface and wall space if heavy with dolls in handmade dresses, and quilts, doll to miniature size. Exquisite quilts and dolls that range from (imho) strange to heart breaking in their beauty and grace. Her girls are obviously loved (right Marlana?)

For years now Mary has been encouraging me to try quilting.

I’ve held out until now. My knitting horizons have expanded to greatly with lace and the socks I’m working on (my car knitting), but I wanted a new passion to switch off with. I’m a mere beginner, but I have access to expert technical and artistic advise and a love for fabric, color, and patterns,
I see a bed quilt or ten in my future…

Got the Blues…

Christmas 2007

One lingering effect from my husband’s death a little over two years ago, is the loss of my love of the Christmas holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, my appreciation for the Christ (Truth) wherever and whenever I find it has not diminished. But the celebration of the Winter Holidays — the traditions: carols, the greens,  the tree, the baking, special holiday movies (I haven’t watched them again yet), making gifts, the sheer delight and burgeoning excitement — all gone.

This year, I’ve felt tiny tickles of it. Like a delicate poke at my side, a whispered, “joy to the world — remember?” from deep inside. I did a little Christmas shopping yesterday, and felt mild pleasure at getting things for people. I feel, what, convalescent?

Perhaps that is all it is. Christmas was a special time for our relationship — as it is for so many, of course. I miss the old Dennis, who entered into it all with enthusiasm. I miss the partner-in-crime at spending too much on Josh. The anticipation of surprise. The shared moments of understanding, of heartbreaking delight. I just miss…

I also trust. Joy always returns, Love is everpresent. Happiness is a choice – or rather, a continuing selection of choices that move us into the shining stream of it. So I’m choosing. Today we’ll get a tree (just a small one to start). Drag out the lights and ornaments.  Ooh and aah over them, select the right one for each spot. Put on the holiday music in the background. Eat the first batch of cookies while we work. I’ll lean into the tingles of joy, the moments of delight. I’ll accept the pain and aching empty of missing. I’ll choose to celebrate, not to mourn. And it will get better and better and better.

Happy Holidays to you … may you have joy and peace in whatever ways you celebrate at this ending of the year

Namaste,

L

“We Gather Together…”

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

I am so grateful for the supportive, funny, insightful, probing, moving, silly, compassionate comments readers have posted over the past year.

I promise to blog more faithfully. I’m also grateful to WordPress for their simple and elegant user interface, to the various blogging sites like ExposeYourBlog, Blogiche, AlphaInventions, and even our imploding friend BlogExplosion, for providing a place to be seen and read, and place to read others’ thought and learn more about this new art of blogging.

So, as you gather for this Thanksgiving Day, wherever you are, alone or companioned, empty or full, “….Sing Praises to His Name, She Forgets Not Her Own” — sing praises, give thanks, raise the roof, commit to change, commit to Love as we turn towards the last month of 2010.

Peace & Blessings,

L

My Hero

The Hero

My son is my hero right now (well, always, but that’s a different story☺). He just got up to save me from my mighty huntress cat’s latest find.

I get upset when the cats bring in dead stuff, but I get more upset when they bring in not-yet-dead stuff.  Josh came to the rescue.

It was a hummingbird of all things! I’ve never heard of a cat catching a hummingbird before.

The Culprit

The Near Victim*

He took it outside and it may be just shocky… or it might be too late. But at least it has a chance now.

Thank you Josh.

*not the actual hummingbird involved, who is now in a witness protection program (lol).