It’s time for comfort food in Minnesota …

As everyone knows, spring is not making an appearance this year – or so it seems. Once again, the weather forecast for the weekend is snow … and more snow … blizzrd weather.
So, we must turn to comfort food to get us through the weekend.  Why is it called comfort food?  According to many internet sources, comfort food provides consolation or a feeling of well-being. It typically has a high carb or sugar content. Often it is something you mother or grandmother used to make – good old-fashioned home cooking. Do you have a favorite comfort food?
Our choice for comfort food today — Ham and Bean Soup – a very easy choice. You can make a crock pot full or enough for one – simply by adjusting the ingredients.
Ingredients
Chopped/cubed ham (and the bone from a ham if you have one; it gives the broth much better flavor.)
Chopped celery
Chopped onion
Cubed or sliced potatoes
Carrots – either canned or chopped
Canned great northern beans (or white beans of your choice), rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Adjust quantities of ingredients depending on how many you want to serve. Don’t worry if  you make too much. It’s just as good the next day. You can also freeze it and heat it up on another comfort food day.
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Ham and Bean Soup prepared by Chef James. 

Before serving, remove the ham bone, clean off the meat remaining on the ham bone, and add it to the soup. Ham broth isn’t very flavorful so the longer it cooks, the better the flavor. You can also add beef broth for flavor.
Tips:
  • If you like, you can add Kitchen Bouquet to give the soup a brownish-color. It does not change the flavor.
  • You can cook all of the vegetables in the microwave for a minute or two (just until softened)  so that it doesn’t take so long for them to cook – or you can just put them in the crock pot and let them cook all day. The longer the soup cooks, the better it tastes.
  • Rinsing the beans removes the starch, sugar and salt from the beans. If you don’t rinse the beans before you put them in the soup, the soup will be thicker and the starch may change the flavor a bit. The choice is yours.
Thanks for reading!! I hope you return again!! 
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Creating memories … Remy and his ham

My recent blog post on family food favorites mentioned a story about grandson Remy and ham. Well, Remy and his younger brother Ollie, visited yesterday  – and ham played a role — so the time is right to tell the story.

Ten years ago, we were preparing to go to our son’s house in Silver Bay for dinner on Christmas day. As often happens, I spend the holiday season shopping and getting ready, and then I am worn out or sick by the time the holiday arrives. That year it was my lung disease acting up and joint pain. (Little did I know that I would have my first heart stents less than a year later.)  I could barely walk and had to sit on a pillow to ride anywhere.

But things weren’t normal at our son’s house, either. You see, they were expecting a baby – and the baby decided that Christmas Eve day was a good day to enter this world. There wouldn’t be much cooking done at their house. They were busy bringing a baby home. And ‘Dad’ was busy taking care of the three kids at home.

So, we improvised. We bought a ham, some buns, Old Dutch potato chips (a long-time family favorite) and a gallon of milk (a family staple) and headed for Silver Bay on Christmas Day.

When we arrived, there was much excitement about the new baby. Little Remy looked a little overwhelmed. Then Grandpa handed him the ham – which he could barely hold – and said: “Look what I brought you.” A big grin spread across Remy’s face. And he took Grandpa’s word literally. It was his ham – which he pronounced h-ahhh-m. Remy proudly showed his Mom the ham. After a little persuasion, he agreed we could cook it for dinner. It was soon clear that Remy loves h-ahhh-m.

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From that time forward, we take a ham to Remy every time we visit. A few times we forgot to get a ham and had to stop at the last minute, usually somewhere along the  North Shore. But every time Grandpa gives him a ham, we get that big Remy grin. It is the best!

Sometimes they cook the ham for the meal and sometimes it goes in their refrigerator or freezer. We also keep the tradition going by making sure we have ham when we have family gatherings at our house.

What did the boys get to eat at our house yesterday? Ham, of course, and they ate a lot.

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Now, this may seem like a fun little story but why do I tell it to you? It’s just this – it is important to plan for details so you make enduring memories. Sometimes the small things are the most memorable – and they don’t take a lot of extra time or effort.

For more on how to create quality memories, I suggest reading The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. This book provides ways to turn ordinary moments into extraordinary moments – in other words, to enhance memories. The Heaths did not ask me to mention them; I doubt they will even know. I just happen to be a big fan of their books. I think I have all of them. This book, which is relatively recent (released Fall 2017), captures the way I approach events – whether a quick lunch or a public meeting. I am glad someone put this concept into words — although the Heath brothers do a much better job explaining the concept.

Thanks for reading!! I hope you will return!! 

Since you asked …

And now for something completely different. My recent posts have been pretty serious so it is time to have some fun.

I recently posted a picture of one of our dinner meals – Chicken Cashew Casserole. Several people requested the recipe (so here it is, at the bottom of this post).

Then I started thinking about family food favorites and decided to ask our kids about it – what was their favorite? what did they not like?

Interestingly, our daughter said she wasn’t a fan of my hot dishes – except for two of them. She hated carrots, beets, mushroom soup, and green peppers – but now she eats them all. Oldest son mentioned mushroom soup, also, recalling the time where all we had for a meal was mushroom soup – and we all got sick!! I still don’t like it and rarely eat mushrooms (and then only when it is a small part of a dish).

Her favorite foods: Old Dutch potato chips (yes, specifically, Old Dutch), kohrabi (introduced to the family by her Grandpa Art), olives, radishes (the whole family loves radishes), bean with bacon soup, Hamburger Rice Hotdish and Tator Tot Hotdish (with green beans). Another of her favorites – and everyone else – was fresh-baked bread made by Grandma Edna. I am not good at baking bread; I am forever washing my hands to get the flour off – which doesn’t make for good bread making.

Our youngest son had only two responses – grilled pork chops and deviled eggs (another family holiday favorite). I usually use two dozen eggs – which makes 48 deviled eggs for a family gathering; rarely are there any left. This son claims he is overweight from his love of pork chops. I think there might be more to that story. He didn’t have any items he didn’t like – so that might be why he is a bit overweight.

Favorite family meals include:

  • Hamburger Rice Hot Dish
  • Chicken Dumpling Soup
  • Tator Tot Hot Dish
  • Chicken Cashew Casserole
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Every once in a while, I will post a blog with another recipe – and perhaps the story of the Pork Chop Investigation, or Remy and his Ham, etc.

I hope you enjoy this blog. Thanks for reading. 

Chicken Cashew Casserole 

(Note; You can substitute tuna for the chicken)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup of cashew, halved or chopped

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cans cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup

1/2 can of milk (more if needed)

3 – 10 to 12 oz. cans of canned chicken (or tuna), drained, rinsed and broken apart

1 12-oz. bag of chow mein noodles

Salt and pepper to taste.

Soy Sauce (optional)


Directions:

Chop onion and celery; saute in fry pan until soft and let cool.

Chop cashews and put in large mixing bowl.

Add chicken or tuna, which has been rinsed and broken apart.

Add celery and onion.

Empty canned soup into a bowl and stir in milk.

Pour into bowl with other ingredients and stir. You can add more milk, just a little at a time, if the mixture is hard to stir.

Add the bag of chow mein noodles and stir.

Put the mixture into a ceramic baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Take the cover off for the last five minutes to brown the top of the casserole.

Serve warm with soy sauce as a condiment.

Warning: This casserole is very rich – so don’t overdo!! Also, this makes a lot – so you may want to use smaller amounts if it’s just for a few. 

 

 

 

You can’t always believe what you see … reacting to chronic illnesses

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According to at least one internet story, over half of all Americans have a chronic disease or illness. This seems a bit incredulous. However, here’s where it gets tricky. There are major differences in the two.
chronic disease is one lasting 3 months or more, by the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Chronic diseases generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor do they just disappear.
chronic illness is a condition that lasts for a very long time and usually cannot be cured completely, although some illnesses can be controlled or managed through lifestyle (diet and exercise) and certain medications. These include  heart diseasestrokecancertype 2 diabetesobesity, and arthritis. 
I’m sure there are many more chronic illnesses or diseases that I have not listed. However, it would take lenghty research to adequately discuss this issue. For this blog, I simply want to discuss how people respond to those with chronic illnesses or diseases. (I have two – heart disease and sarcoidosis, (Read more) People always assume that I smoked because I have a lung disease  – (and no, I never smoked). Many people with a chronic illness or disease look perfectly fine on the outside. The illness is in the interior of the body. Unfortunately, people respond to what they can see.
For example –
A few years ago, I was in Duluth and pulled into the handicap accessible parking space at Burger King, then located in Canal Park. As I got out of my car, I was immediately accosted by a man with two small children. He said something like: “Don’t you think you should move your car. You don’t need to park in that spot.” I’m sure I stood there for a moment, a bit shocked. But then I responded: “I didn’t realize that you could or could not see heart and lung disease.” He looked at me, a bit stunned. Then he replied: “I’m sorry; I wasn’t thinking.” I am not sure if he saw my handicapped tag in the window or not; if he hadn’t (and if I didn’t have that tag), he would have been correct that I shouldn’t park there. Or, he may have just assumed – because I looked okay — that I didn’t need to park there.
Given the pervasive nature of chronic illnesses, it is just best not to assume something about a person. They may look fine but are using every bit of strength that they have just to appear normal. Instead, you could stay silent, strike up a conversation, ask some questions, offer to listen, hang out with the person, etc.  One day you may have a chronic disease or illness of your own so it’s best to treat others the way you would wanted to be treated.

This blog is dedicated to our beautiful granddaughter Selena who has spondylitis (Read more.) It is particularly difficult for younger people to deal with a chronic illness while others of their age are active. 

 

 

It can be worse …

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About a month ago, I was sitting in the pulmonary (lung) clinic, waiting to have some tests done. Not feeling well at all, I was sitting in a wheel chair outside the patient rooms, slumped over, with a grumpy look on my face, feeling sorry for myself. (Two days later I was in the hospital with double pneumonia.) Soon a nurse came over and was helping a blind woman get seated. The blind woman sat down where the arms of the chair come together, rather than in the seat. She chuckled at herself and moved over. After the nurse left, she stood and hung her coat on the back on the chair – perfectly.

I kept watching. (There wasn’t much else for me to do.) Within a minute or so, she reached down into her huge bag, pulled out a lap blanket … then her circular knitting needles and started working on her blanket, ever so carefully feeling the yarn as it glided over the tips of the needles. Soon the needles were clacking away with the rhythm of the stitches. She, however, did not have a grumpy look on her face. She looked very content.

Why do I tell you this story. It is just this  — Life is what you make of it. Many people have afflictions that can be considered ‘worse’ that what you may have. Sometimes you just need a reminder.

What did I do? I told myself to sit up straight in that chair and quit feeling sorry for myself. Then I did the lung function tests. I didn’t do well – but I did my best. That’s all one can do.

A little side  note: I did take a photo of her blanket – not of her; however, my phone was deactivated while I was in the hospital (a much longer story that Apple does not want me to tell you), so i lost that photo. The one for this story is not the actual photo. 

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Saturday musings …

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Another week of healing has gone by. After last weekend’s stress – all related to medicine prompting nosebleeds, the last few days have been quiet – but – I realize that I haven’t written a blog in some time. Perhaps it was the chaos; perhaps I was too weak; perhaps I had nothing to say (not likely).

Today I am watching it snow – which is good because we don’t have much snow cover. For those of you that live in the city, when we – in the country – flush our toilet, it does not go into a pipe and is carried far away. Instead, it goes into a tank in the ground – tanks that can freeze up. We’ve already had that happen once this year. The snow is also not good – it brings the work of shoveling and plowing. But overall, the snow is good.

One of my techniques for healing is reading. I am currently reading “The Able Life of Cody Jane.” This book tells the story of Cody and her life with spina bifida. It was very ably written by her mother, Marly Cornell. I am striken with similarities to my recent medical experiences – the absolute fear when you are on your own, the vulnerability, and the hospital protocol that does not allow for adjustments to suite the needs of the patient. I am about half done with this book – so I may have more to say when I am done.

I also knit to heal. This was quite a productive week with dish cloths, spa cloths, scrubbies and significant progress on a ski mask. Knitting makes me stop and focus. It calms my mind – which is always racing from one idea to another. And it makes me feel productive. For someone who is used to being very active – and, at least for now – suddenly cannot be, this is important.

I also started a valentine craft project. There is something about creating and working with your hands that also promotes healing, Perhaps it is just that I have to pay attention to what I am doing. I can’t work as long as I  would like – shaky fingers are not good when cutting — but I can take it one step at a time.

And that is what I continue to do. One step at a time.

Thanks for reading. I hope you return. 

A small thing …

Believe it or not, as you age you find that you need less … perhaps because you have collected so much … but mostly because you really need less. You likely don’t NEED everything you have. You WANT it – so you have it.

Sometimes, though, the smallest things bring the biggest benefit. With winter here – which means coats, scarves, and gloves, an oxygen line, pockets that are too small for my phone and assorted medical devices, I am always having to struggle to carry what I need. So I improvised and did what I do – knit.

I made a holder for my phone (and medical cards,, etc.) to hang around my neck. It only took a couple hours but it already has proven very useful. The bonus – I always know where my phone is. It’s not in the bottom of a bag or falling out of my pocket or in my hand. It is in the holder around my neck.

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This small project made a world of difference to me. Is there a small project that you can do that would make a big difference to another? Can you help carry in groceries? Can you shovel a sidewalk? Can you call to say Hello? Remember, something small may be considered something big by others.

Thanks for reading! I hope you return.