How Tom Imagined Life Would Be

Smoke rings rose into a little cloud about Tom’s head as he sat, laptop open, at our dining room table. Four of our five children surrounded him with their character sheets and little piles of multicolored dice in front of them — it was their first time playing D&D.

On the other side of the wall, a swiveling butler door between us, I sautéed onions and used my favorite red spatula to encourage droplets of batter through a colander into a large pot of boiling water (and all over my counter and stove top).

My character, Danaë, a Wilden Shaman, will enter the campaign later.

Tomorrow, our church is having an Oktoberfest-themed fellowship meal, and I was preparing our two contributions:

A casserloe made of Spaetzle Casserole with Sautéed Onions, Gruyère and a pinch of Nutmeg
Spaetzle Casserole with Sautéed Onions, Gruyère and a pinch of Nutmeg
Braised Red Cabbage with Vinegar and Caraway
Braised Red Cabbage with Vinegar and Caraway

I brought in a bowl of the Spaetzle casserole mixture and a fork for Tom to try. “Oh, that’s good!” he said. “Hmm… does it need any salt?” he thought aloud. “Nope.. it’s perfect,” he concluded.

A few moments later, I brought in the brazed cabbage. This, too, met his taste-buds’ approval.

“You know, this is how I always imagined life would be,” he said.

“Smoking a pipe, and being your children’s Dungeon Master, while your wife brings in homemade German food for you to taste?” I said, smiling.

“Exactly.”

Reading: The Supper of the Lamb

“The graces of the world are the looks of a woman in love; without the woman they could not be there at all; but without her love, they would not quicken into loveliness.” – Robert Farrar Capon, PAGE 4 of The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection

(Only page four! What goodness is yet to come? )

The book began with a lamb dinner recipe including the ingredients+notes:

“Soy Sauce (domestic only in desperation)” and “Sherry (if you have any left)”

May I kiss this cook? Would he want to kiss me and/or eat my pancakes?

I’ve not been so twitterpated over food writing since How to Cook a Wolf.

Supper of the Lamb was recommended by @BekaAJohnson. Follow her, already!

Simple Lunch: Tomato Soup With Basil, Parmesan and Biscuits

Better is a dish of vegetables where love is
Than a fattened ox served with hatred.
Proverbs 15:17

The cupboards are getting bare.

September’s grocery money is nearly gone.

We’re breaking into the canned food.

Today’s lunch was a simple canned (store brand even!) Tomato Soup. However, a pinch of Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of fresh basil from the garden turned a mundane can of boring into a steamin’ hot feast. The biscuits were from America’s favorite baking mix and took 5 minutes to make. They baked while the soup came to a simmer.

I almost didn’t make the soup today because my children – yes, the same ones who will eat ear-ringing hot sauce and international curries – don’t like tomato soup and the complaints were quite loud.

Still, I insisted that, even though it wasn’t their favorite food, it was sustenance and that perhaps by adding ingredients, it wouldn’t be as bad as they’d imagined.

Empowering them with a plate of biscuits to crumble in, snippets of basil and a container of Parmesan, they each created their own version of the soup.

Every bowl was finished down the last drop.

Don’t merely be content, be creative. It’s easy to look at what is set before us – food-on-a-budget, possessions, parenthood, employment and even relationships – and feel as though we have to suffer through. Yet, there is joy to be found in taking something ordinary and making it better; redeeming it.

Sometimes “making it better” doesn’t involve changing the object or situation itself, but our attitudes. When our mindsets change from drudgery to thanksgiving, we are then free to contribute meaningfully and nurture. Nagging and complaints stem from a root of bitterness. Compliments (finding the good) and nurturing grow from love.

Love is like Parmesan and fresh basil to store brand canned tomato soup.

Sarah’s Mustard & Herb Beef Stew: Pressure Cooker Recipe

Last night, Tom and I went to see the Brandywine Roller Girls’ All Stars in Elkton, MD. While we had wanted to attend, we had a lot of work to do yesterday and actually going was a last minute decision. This meant that I was in a bit of a scramble for dinner… again.

I skimmed through my pantry and fridge, and whooped with delight over my remaining buy-one-get-one-free London Broil.

Utilizing the fast-acting magic of my trusty pressure cooker, below is the recipe I came up with… and it was so yummy, I had to write down for posterity’s sake.

This well-seasoned stew that tastes like it’s been roasting all day long. (Shh! It does! Pressure cookers really are magical!) The thickened stick-to-your-ribs broth is way more enjoyable than plebeian clear pan juices, not to mention much more fun to mop with a crusty piece of bread.

When washed down with some frothy autumn ale, you might even feel a bit rustic while you enjoy this meal and, for a moment at least, forget that your heating bills are about to increase.

Sarah’s Mustard & Herb Beef Stew

(Pressure Cooker – Approx. 30 min total cook time)
10 Servings

Main ingredients:
3 lbs London Broil, cut into 2″ cubes (Beef roast or other stew meat would work, too!)
4 lg celery stalks, cut into 2″ pieces
4 lg carrots, cut into 2″ pieces
10 medium thin-skinned potatoes, halved
1 large onion, thinly sliced
32 oz beef broth

Flavoring ingredients:
2-3 TB brown mustard
2 TB Worcestershire sauce
5 fresh sage leaves
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

Prepare in Ziplock bag and SAVE remainder:
2 cups flour
2 tsp salt
1 TB garlic powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Cooking oil

Directions:
In small batches, place cubed beef into Ziplock bag and shake to coat with flour mixture. SAVE the remaining flour mixture!

Pour oil into the pressure cooker pot Рenough to coat the surface. When the oil is hot, saut̩ the onions to al dente. Remove the onions with metal tongs and set them aside in a mixing bowl.

Brown the floured beef in the hot oil in small batches until the meat has a bit of crusty goodness. Place browned meat in the bowl with the onions.

Deglaze the fond with the beef broth. Whisk in mustard, Worcestershire and dried herbs. Add remaining flavoring ingredients and bring to a boil. TASTE and adjust seasoning (salt may be needed if your broth is bland) as needed.

Add to pot in this order: Beef cubes & onions, potatoes, carrots & celery. (The majority of the potatoes should be covered with the broth.)

Bring to a boil.

Secure pressure cooker lid and cook on high heat until the pressure regulator begins to rock. Lower the heat to medium, or enough to keep the regulator rocking gently.

Set the timer for 15 minutes.

Follow the procedures in your pressure cooker’s instruction manual to quickly depressurize your pot.

Using a colander, separate the cooked meat and veggies from the broth. Return the broth to the pot. Scoop out about 1 cup of broth into your mixing bowl and whisk in about 3 Tb of the reserved seasoned flour mixture. Add the flour slurry back into the pot of broth, and bring it to a boil to thicken.

Add the cooked ingredients back to the thickened broth.

Serve steaming hot with crusty bread and your favorite autumn beer.