Thoughts on the end of summer

Woodniche

by Aidan Carl Matthews

The dragonflies were here before us, friend:
Cupboard of branch and bramble, woodniche
Where the sun tumbles, foxgloves are gorgeous.
Children tore their knees among the thorns,

Fleshed their pullovers with raspberries.
Orange peel made ripples in the brown water,
Pebbles explored beyond our peering. I
Chewed dandelions and the sun brothered me.
Huge as policemen, sombre as soutanes,

The kind trees whispered in the long watch
And I used wonder in tremendous shadow
And be afraid of where the wonder led.

Summer was wealthy with a daze of suntraps,
Daffodil-spitting, sumptuous. Everywhere
Ours for the taking. Whoever has said
It is time to go home is an adult.

You’re Welcome (more Nickel Creek love)

Nickel Creek, in fine form at the NPR studios, up close and personal. Click below to watch!

New Every Morning

A few thoughts for a morning.

New Every Morning

by Susan Coolidge

Every day is a fresh beginning,

Listen my soul to the glad refrain.

And spite of old sorrows

And older sinning,

Troubles forecasted

And possible pain,

Take heart with the day and begin again.

Nawakwa

The view from here. The last week of August always finds me at one of my favorite places in the world – Camp Nawakwa, where my family vacations twice a year. This is always a time of peace and refreshment for me.

Mourning the End

The-Civil-WarsIt’s a sad day in my apartment; The Civil Wars have officially split. Yes, I know – an “indefinite hiatus” in which the two band members were not on speaking terms was not the most auspicious situation. But a girl could hope.

No more.

In mourning, I have been playing their music on repeat all evening. Which is almost exclusively mournful songs to begin with. Sometimes, wallowing is wonderful.

On the plus side, as a goodbye gift The Civil Wars are offering a free download of their [extremely-mournful-bordering-on-creepy] version of You Are MY Sunshine, from the Barton Hollow Vinyl B-side here. Don’t miss it! And happy wallowing, fellow mourners.

Flare, No. 12 from The Leaf and the Cloud

from The Leaf and the Cloud, by Mary Oliver

Flare, No. 12.

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.
Live with the beetle, and the wind.

Apricot Chicken and Balsamic Broiled Brussels Sprouts

P1040983

This chicken recipe is a favorite from Simply in Season, a fantastic recipe book with recipes organized by what produce is in season. (If you want to do even more good as you cook seasonally and sustainably, buy it from Ten Thousand Villages, and support another good cause!) The Brussels sprouts recipe is a winner from my aunt, who even got my dad to like them! A rare success!

Apricot Chicken

Ingredients:

– 2 tsp butter
– 4 ripe apricots, pitted and halved
– 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– salt and pepper
– olive oil
– 1 tsp ginger root, minced
– 1 green onion or 2 tbsp onion, chopped
– 1/2 cup dry white wine (or substitute with apple juice or water)
– 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
– 1/2 tsp grated lime peel (or a dash of lemon juice)

Instructions:

1) Melt butter in a frying pan. Place apricots in melted butter, cut side down, and cook over medium heat until light brown, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook several minutes more. Remove to plate.

2) Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. Add 1 tbsp olive oil (or as needed) to pan, and saute chicken on medium-high heat for 3 minutes, then medium-low heat for 7 more minutes or until no longer pink inside. Remove chicken to plate.

3) Add ginger and onions to frying pan and saute briefly. Return chicken and apricots to pan, and add white wine, honey, and lime peel. Simmer 10 minutes to combine flavors. Serve alone, or over brown rice or cous cous.

.          .          .

Balsamic Broiled Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

– about 1 1/2 lb brussels sprouts, halved

– 1/4 cup olive oil

– 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

– 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)

– 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until evenly coated.

3) Spread on a a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper if you have it, this makes it easier to clean later!). Pour any dressing remaining in the bowl over the brussels sprouts.

4) Roast for 20-30 minutes. Toss once at about 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. When done, brussels sprouts will be browned and tender, and slightly crispy at the edges.

The Best Basic Pizza Crust

I recently found the best pizza crust recipe ever. It instantly replaced my prior attempts, because of it’s ease, it’s crispiness, lightness, and doughiness. In my (humble, inexperienced pizza maker’s) opinion, it’s the full package. The photo below is from my first attempt, which turned out perfectly in spite of my minor deviations from the recipe. It’s a pretty forgiving dough, I’ve found. Enjoy!

Pesto-Asparagus White Pizza

Todd English’s Pizza Dough Recipe

(Recipe from The Figs Table. For the original recipe, see here. I’ve made some adjustments to the instructions, based on what I’ve found to be easiest for the inexperienced pizza maker, ie. me.)

Ingredients:

– ¼ cup whole wheat flour
– 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
– 2 teaspoons kosher salt
– 1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
– 2 teaspoons sugar
– 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
– 2 teaspoons olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Mixing: Stir the flours and salt together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast in and let sit for five minutes, until the mixture bubbles slightly. Add the olive oil and stir. Gradually (in 3-4 parts) add the oil-water mixture into the bowl, and knead until the dough is firm and smooth. (*1)
  2. Rising: Divide the dough into two to four balls, depending on how large of a pizza you’d like to make (*2).  Place dough balls on lightly-oiled parchment paper (*3), with enough room for dough to roughly double in size. Lightly rub the dough with olive oil, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm spot for about two hours. (If you want to freeze all or some of the dough, do this now. See below, *4.)
  3. Rolling: Dab your fingers in flour and then place one ball on a plain sheet of parchment paper (NOT floured or oiled). Press down in the center with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough with your hand. Gradually work your way out, until you have flattened the dough out from the center to the edge, roughly the thickness of a flatbread. The outer edge should be a little thicker than the inner portion.
  4. Topping: top as desired. (Read on for the toppings for the pizza pictured above.)
  5. Baking: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If you are using a baking stone, preheat with the stone in the oven. Transfer the pizza-on-parchment paper to the stone by holding the edges of the parchment paper. If you are not using a baking stone, simply slide the pizza-on-parchment paper onto a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and cheese is melted.
  6. Eating: Forks and knives, hands, sandwich method. All’s fair in love, war, and pizza.

Notes from Erin:

(1) The dough will be very wet and sort of difficult to work with. Fact of life, it will stick all over your hands. This is how it’s supposed to be. No worries.

(2) The pizza shown below used half of a recipe of dough, and fed 3 people. A quarter recipe makes more of an individual-size pizza, enough to feed 1-2 people, depending on how hungry the people are and/or how delicious the topping is.

(3) A quick once-over with cooking spray easily does the trick.

(4) To freeze: This is a freezer-friendly recipe. After the initial 2-hour rise, punch down the dough and wrap in plastic, then place in a zip-lock in the freezer. When ready to use, let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, then proceed with rolling and baking.

(5) Rolling the dough on parchment paper makes rolling and transferring so much easier. The dough will stick to the paper, making it easier to roll because it won’t keep shrinking down on you. To transfer to the oven, move the pizza simply by picking up the parchment paper. And don’t worry about sticking; after baking the pizza will pop cleanly off the parchment paper.

And now for one delicious option for toppings:

Erin’s Pesto-Asparagus White Pizza

  1. Cut one chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, and fry in olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. (Optional; omit for vegetarian pizza.)
  2. Remove chicken from pan, and in remaining oil fry 1/4 of an onion, thinly sliced.
  3. Trim the ends off 8 stalks of asparagus, and cut stalks in thirds. Blanch in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. Pat dry with a clean towel.
  4. Roll dough from 1/2 recipe of pizza dough. Spread 6 heaping tablespoonfuls of pesto sauce over pizza, or more as desired, so that pizza is covered with a thin layer of pesto sauce.
  5. Evenly spread asparagus, chicken, and onions over the top.
  6. Top with 1/2 of a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into thin rounds.
  7. Bake per instructions above.

Welcome Morning

by Anne Sexton

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

a poem for July 4th

The New Colossus

by Emma Lazarus, read at the dedication of the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 1886.

Pilsen MuralNot like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Mural6

 

 

P-B-M Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

Erin's P-B-M Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Everyone’s heard of a T-B-M, one of the greatest things America has co-opted and subsequently abbreviated  from foreign cuisine. But few have heard of the P-B-M: the Pineapple-Basil-Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich.

Don’t write it off too quickly; though it sounds weird, I promise that it is fantastic!

This recipe was added to my recipe book when I first made it for a group of friends on a spring break trip to Florida in college. I’m lucky enough to still be living with my college roommate, and in spite of all odds to still be friends with her to boot, so when her birthday rolled around this was her birthday dinner request.

Erin’s P-B-M Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Ingredients: (for two people)

– one chicken breast, halved (height-wise, so that each breast has the normal surface area, but half the thickness)
– two rounds of pineapple, cut about 1/2 inch thick, cored and quartered.
– 2 sprigs of fresh basil
– 1 lime, quartered
– 1 ball of fresh mozzarella
– salt and pepper, to taste
– olive oil
– 2 rolls or buns (I used pretzel rolls, my favorite!)

Instructions:

1) Brush the chicken breast halves with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Grill (or saute) the chicken. When it is mostly cooked squeeze the juice from one quarter of the lime over each breast, then finish cooking.

2) Serve on bun, and squeeze juice from one more quarter of lime over the chicken if desired. Top with mozzarella, pineapple, and basil.