Homecomings…and Goings

IMG_0818My oldest child returned home from a two-month job out west last week. Her stay here will be temporary, as she is preparing for a new adventure in yet another part of the country and will be leaving again in just a few short days. It’s hard saying hello again, knowing that more goodbyes are imminent. These grainy sands of time just keep slipping through my fingers.

There is still one child home, and he turns 18 this week — the age at which one is considered a legal adult in the U.S. Old enough to legally work, participate in contracts, vote, marry, give sexual consent, and join the military.So in truth, he is an adult; there are no more children at home.

We have a tradition in our family that when one celebrates a birthday, he/she is treated to breakfast in bed. In a happy surprise, the almost-adult told me he wanted to stick with tradition and be feted in bed with a big old breakfast! I’m figuring this might be my last opportunity, so I plan to make it memorable.

Of course, for me they’re all memorable. Burned in my memory in fact. Every breakfast in bed; every birthday party; every celebration that ever was. Hopefully, the “kids” share those memories. Maybe they will think of them (and me), even as time between homecomings becomes longer.

photo (21)Lemon Blueberry Muffins
I love these muffins for their sunny, lemony taste and for their incredible fluffiness — made possible by the addition of a few special ingredients. These will certainly be on the menu for Spencer’s breakfast in bed.

3 c. flour, plus 1 T. for dredging the berries
4 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 t. lemon zest
1/2 c. butter, melted
1-1/2 c. sour cream*
1 c. blueberries

*(Sometimes I like to mix 1 c. of sour cream with 1/2 c. of crème frâiche.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or line a 12-well muffin tin with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Create a well in the bottom of the bowl for adding the wet ingredients.

In another large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and melted butter.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix until combined and then add the sour cream. Lightly mix again but do not over mix. Toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon flour and fold into the batter.

Divide the batter evenly into each cup in the prepared muffin tin.

Bake for approximately 22 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
(recipe adapted from Kelsey Nixon, Kelsey’s Essentials.)


Kitchen Sink Chili

My son, who is in 11th grade, just completed a three-day homework assignment for his English class, in which he was to eat only local foods and to write a reflection each day about his experience. Well! What can I say, other than why didn’t I have homework assignments like this in high school??

Tempted as I was to immerse myself in this project, I respected those easily blurred boundaries and kept my involvement to a minimum:
1) I drove him to the farmer’s market
2) I paid for the food
3) I helped him plan his meals
4) I asked him — often — if he was writing his reflections (Okay, boundaries are hard for me)

Our refrigerator and pantry, filled with Autumn’s bounty in Maryland (greens, apples, beans, squash, herbs, fruit butters and jams) displayed a cheery, colorful warmth that I realized has been absent these last few months, since my older two children left for college.

Indeed, it’s been quiet since the girls, one a college senior and the other a freshman, packed their belongings and headed north, leaving behind darkened bedrooms, clean (!) bathrooms, empty laundry baskets and a neglected kitchen. Turns out the “eat local” assignment was just the inspiration I needed to return to the stove.

And I returned with a vengeance. I found the largest soup pot I could, and filled it with farm fresh veggies — sweet and spicy peppers, rainbow chard, garlic and onion — added a pound of ground turkey, lots of tomatoes — diced and whole — a dash of red wine, some stock, and a healthy sprinkling of herbs, both dried and fresh. Before long, the kitchen was transformed, windows steaming, temperature rising, pots filling the sink, and oh, the smells!

It wasn’t long before my husband, son and I sat down to bowls loaded with my newly dubbed “Kitchen Sink Chili” accompanied with hunks of freshly baked bread. We stayed at the table much longer than usual that night, confessing our nostalgia for the days when five sat around the same table and shaking our heads in disbelief that, too soon, we’d be down to just two.

Hours later, when the table was cleared and the ample leftovers stored in the refrigerator, I realized my stomach and heart felt full for the first time in a long while.

Recipe for Kitchen Sink Chili:

Kitchen Sink Chili allows for much flexibility. Use whatever is freshest and inspires you. If you’d prefer a vegetarian version, forgo the turkey and consider adding rice or a small pasta such as orzo. Just leave out the kitchen sink!

3 T olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
I lb. ground turkey
1 large pepper (red, yellow or orange), diced
Variety of spicy peppers, small dice (I used habanero). Modify according to your “heat” preference
1 large onion, diced
2 28-oz. canned tomatoes, one whole and one diced
1 T tomato paste
2 c. low sodium chicken stock
1/2 c. Red wine
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed. (Feel free to experiment with a variety of beans)
1/2 bunch of rainbow chard or other similar greens, rinsed and chopped with tough ends removed
2-3 T. chili powder
1-1/2 T. cumin
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over low to medium heat. Add a clove of minced garlic followed by the turkey. Just before the turkey is completely browned toss in the minced hot peppers. Continue to brown and then set aside. In a large soup or stock pot, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion followed by the remaining garlic and sauté until onion is soft and translucent. Add remaining ingredients, including the cooked turkey and finish with the spices. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow stock to thicken and flavors to come together. Stir occasionally and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately in bowls with hunks of crusty bread.