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Daily gratitudes:

  • Sleeping in
  • A cool day
  • MKL
  • Hammocks
  • Choosing my next book to read

While I generally prefer cooking with fresh things, this is an easy, tasty vegetarian dish that I can throw together in minutes. It’s might spicy, so tastebuds beware!

Mexican Quinoa

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic (I use the bottled stuff)
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 c. quinoa (I use the stuff that’s already kind of cooked)
  • 1 c. vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 15 oz. can corn, drained
  • 1 can diced jalapeño peppers, drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Diced avocado

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cumin and stir for about a minute. Add the beans, tomatoes, corn, jalapeños, and quinoa. After about 1 minute, add the broth and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes until the quinoa is cooked. Remove pan from heat and let it rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Add a half an avocado, diced, to each bowl when serving. Serves 4 as an excellent spicy comfort food.

Cat in a Box.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Firefighters
  • Having the end of MKL’s move in sight
  • Almost two months with no sugar (because I’m sweet enough as it is, damn it)

Welcome to the second edition of Feed Me Fridays! Today, in honor of Good Friday (aren’t all Fridays good though, really?), I give you my ridiculously good sugar cookie recipe. I have given up sugar since Lent began, though I’m not of a faith that celebrates, requires, or encourages me to mark Lent. Sugar is a hard addiction to break and I know I’m better off when I’m not eating sugary stuff, so I’m not sure I’ll go back to doing so come Easter. That said, if you’ve given it up like me, YOU can start eating sugary stuff on Easter Sunday and I suggest you start with these little noms. Here we go:

  • 2 3/4 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. salted butter (2 sticks), room temperature (I usually soften it in the microwave)
  • 1c. + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar (for rolling)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugars together until light in color and fluffy (medium speed if you’re using a mixer, which I never do). Add the egg and mix until well combined. Add the vanilla and mix until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and (guess what?) mix until well combined. The dough will be thick but not sticky.

Using your hands, make ping pong ball-sized balls of cookie dough, gently roll each in sugar, and put on your cookie sheet. Space them a couple of inches apart, as they will spread, but if they spread into each other, they just form giant cookies, so don’t worry about it too much. Bake for 8 minutes and check to see how they’re doing. They will spread and their centers will look soft. If that hasn’t happened yet, bake for up to 12 minutes. Remove them just before the edges begin to turn golden. This is important – if you overbake them, they won’t be chewy, which is key to their deliciousness. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 4-5 minutes; they will fall as they cool. Transfer cookies to a towel or wire rack to cool completely. Or just eat them all right away. I find that simpler.

Makes 30-40 cookies, depending on how big your balls are. (I said what I said.)

Remember that I don’t take good pictures of food, so here is a cat with rainbow sneakers.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Picking the next book to read
  • Sunshine
  • A day off
  • Wrestling with Headless Matilda

If you haven’t been around the blog for long, you might not know that my relationship with cooking is what one might called complicated. Perhaps I’ll explore that history in the future, but for now, I’ve decided to share with you some of the things that I can cook that actually turn out well. And so, Feed Me Friday is born.

Today’s recipe is Crescent Moon Gumbo, adapted from a New Orleans recipe. I’ve made a lot of gumbos in my day, because it’s hard for me to screw up soup. This one is a keeper though. Contrary to its name, you do not have to make it at said phase of the moon (though I could said you did if I wanted to be all witchy). Some may argue that this is not actual gumbo because the recipe does not call for file powder. But I don’t like file powder, so it’s not in there. The roux and okra serve as fine thickeners.

Before we get to the heart of the gumbo, here are a few things to know about making this:

  • Have everything prepped, chopped, measured, and at hand before you start. I mean everything. I’ve learned this the hard way.
  • Spice amounts are always approximate. I seldom measure spices unless I’m futilely trying to bake something, and even then it’s anybody’s guess if I’m going to measure or eyeball it. My dad was a wonderful baker and he always doubled any spice he was using because he said most recipes were written for American palates which preferred their food bland (think pilgrims and puritans).
  • If you don’t have something, feel free to substitute. That’s the thing about gumbo — it’s very forgiving. For example, right now, there is literally not a shrimp to be had within 30 miles, so I substituted bay scallops.

Enough preamble. Here you go.

Crescent Moon Gumbo

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 lb. chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (I just used diced roast chicken today, but raw chicken breast is fine too)
  • 1 lb. turkey kielbasa, cut into thin quarters (I used a 13oz. turkey smoked sausage today, because it’s what I had)
  • 2 c. chopped yellow onion
  • 1 c. chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 1+ tbsp. minced garlic (I use the stuff in the jar instead of fresh, but you do you)
  • 1.5 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 5 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • 16 oz. cut okra (I use frozen)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. cooked shrimp, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 tsp. olive oil, diced chicken, and kielbasa and sauté until browned. Remove from pan. Sauté onion, bell pepper, and celery in dripping for 4 minutes. If it seems too dry, add a little chicken broth to the pan. Add garlic and all spices to the pan and sauté until the onion is tender. Remove from pan. Add remaining oil to the pan and lower the heat. Add flour, whisking constantly, until you’ve made a light brown roux. Gradually add broth, whisking constantly, until there are no lumps. Add the chicken, kielbasa, and onion mixture back to the pan, along with the okra, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes. Add shrimp and parsley and heat through. Makes 6-8 servings. Can be served over rice. Enjoy!

Because I don’t take good food pictures, here’s a cat picture.

We should all be this content.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Sweet peas sprouting by the mailboxes
  • The lone deer sitting under the pines in the cemetery
  • Presents for people I love
  • Cooking plans
Yesterday. More snow than I expected.
Today. The blue sky and sun helps.

Amazing how much difference a day can make. It feels like the extremes are more extreme up here. Weather never just fades away. It’s either on or it’s off. No in between. I either feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining going mad or Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music twirling on a sunny mountaintop.

In other news, Pharoah and I are getting along famously. He made an appearance on my Zoom staff meeting this morning, slept on my stomach all night last night, and was absolutely shocked at my taking a bath.

One shocked cat.

I don’t think he’d ever seen a human do such a thing, so he delicately walked around the rim of the tub. Thank heavens for his sure-footedness, as I’ve had a cat fall into a bathtub with me once and it is not an experience I would choose to repeat.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • A helpful, ethical well services guy
  • Living with a cat again
  • Sunshine
  • Snow falling from the pine trees

Cold


The cat curls himself into the hollow of my knees
Under the blanket that kept my mother warm before she died.
Soft
Sage green
with a pattern of leaves,
the tones of his brown fur
echoing the shades.
I warm my hands on him
under the serendipitous guise of petting,
as he doesn’t seem to mind.
We are still
becoming accustomed
to one another.

Yesterday’s blues have turned to gray,
pure white piling
up along pines and trails,
the Spring of Deception
showing itself in a freeze of glory.

My coffee now only remembers warmth
but I still drink it.
It is not worth
disturbing the cat
to heat it up again.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • That A is moving into a more permanent place today
  • Warm fuzzy socks
  • Classical music
  • Spaghetti squash

It feels like my whole life was kindling. An exaggeration, I know, but yesterday, I saw a picture of an old fence, like one that surrounded graves 120 years ago. And I remembered that I had had a piece of fencing like that, something ex-Pat and I found on a trip to Leadville, that had been waiting for years to become an integral piece of art. That became nothing more than kindling.

My giant, ancient, solid, five-inch thick wooden door, resting on iron rods, a much-desired, terribly weathered birthday present that I used as a potting table, now reduced to just those pieces of iron. Nothing more than kindling.

The K Tree, an ornamental pear that we planted when K was born, that was split by a heavy spring snow and yet still survived to bloom each spring, now a charred shadow of its former self. Nothing more than kindling.

When the Texas Baptist Men were sifting through the ashes, one said, “You must have had a lot of combustible stuff in here.” I suppose I did. Waist high stacks of pages of ashes marked where my bookshelves were, where K’s bookshelves were, all disintegrating at the slightest touch of my finger. Dust in the wind. Nothing more than kindling.

And another fire, in Boulder yesterday, burning trails my feet know well. Mercifully, the winds were not what they were on December 30, so other communities were spared the fate of mine. But it raised the specter of that day. K knew about this fire before I did – she had friends who were evacuated – but didn’t want to stress me out by telling me.

I’m maudlin today, despite the warm weather, as we’re having troubles with our well at the Retreat and I feel like I’ve moved into the house in that ‘80s movie, The Money Pit. I’m sullen and sulky and cannot even take a bath for comfort. I’m feeling like it’s all somewhat pointless. Because in the long run, after all, I’m really nothing more than kindling.

A spider braving the melting snow.
Compulsory cat photo.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • MKL, today and every day
  • Blankets
  • Lots of birdsong
  • The road to the Final Four

And his name is Pharaoh. Maybe I should say there’s a new cat god in town. This is our late son’s Maine Coon, who’s been living with MKL. Yesterday, we shifted him up to the Retreat. He’s settling in well. He’s very attached to MKL though, so as much as he likes me, I’m a little nervous about how we’ll do when MKL goes back to civilization tomorrow. He’s super smart, can open most closed doors, and lives up to his breed’s reputation as “the dog of cats”. But it sure was nice to have him snuggle in my lap for a couple of hours. It’s been too long.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • A lovely day
  • Successfully cooking dinner
  • Cats
  • Coach K’s 100th tournament win
Roy. Mostly blind and deaf but still adorable in his stroller.
These two lovelies. The one laying down first attracted K’s attention and as we turned to ooooo, the second leapt into the scene, and we eeeeekkked.
Dee Dee. She loved being loved.
How much is that doggie in the window?
I would totally have bought this for my dear friend A, who adores Great Danes and has one and blessedly saved her from the fire that destroyed their home.

Las Vegas was a very dog friendly town, which automatically raises its esteem in my and K’s eyes. I was unable to get a picture of the little Yorkie at FrankieAnnTiques, as it kept tip-tapping behind the counter. I was also unable to get a photo of the best Bichon-mix boy who sat and stood and sat and stayed alongside his Dad as they waited for his Mom to emerge from Plaza Antiques.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Blue skies
  • Lemon ginger tea
  • Flexibility
  • My Amazon delivery guy who trudges through the snow to leave a package on my porch
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