Homemade Mondays: Kail Brose

This is not my recipe, but it it very, very easy, it’s good for what ails you, it doesn’t have a long ingredient list, and it’s what I’m making for dinner tonight.

I’ve found other recipes but the one I’ve linked to is the first one I found so I’ll share that one. Lots of room for experimentation and using what you have. It’s also in The Scots Kitchen by F. Marian MacNeill, with a few variations.

Kail Brose

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To the Parents of the Screaming Baby In the Restaurant

I recently took E out for sushi at a local restaurant. It was a Wednesday afternoon and we were seated near the bar. As we ordered her favorites and mine, shared some chamomile tea, and chatted like Big Girls, our conversation was occasionally punctuated with loud screams of delight from across the room. In the corner across the restaurant there was a couple with a yearling in a high chair who was clearly delighted about something and felt no need to control her volume as she shared her happiness. We watched them for a little bit, and noticed with each scream more people turned around to give them an angry stare. These people were not mollified in the least by the fact that the parents were, in fact, not pinching the baby in order to make her emit such screams, or even by the fact that they were really trying to shush her the best they could as they scrambled to finish their meal quickly.

After a brief talk with our server (who also had children and specifically also remembered what it was like to have young children) we sent them a secret cookie. She dropped it off at their table and said, “One of your fellow customers remembers what it was like to have a child this age and wanted to say ‘good job being out in the world.'” The angry restaurant patrons nearest them heard and quietly turned back to their own meals, and hopefully found that it didn’t actually prevent them from eating delicious Japanese food for someone else to have a baby in a restaurant. The couple was surprised and said thank you (I think-we were far away and trying hard not to give ourselves away) and then thanked her again on their way out the door five minutes later.

You know what? Parents whose children are behaving perfectly aren’t the ones who *need* to hear that they’re doing well. Don’t get me wrong…I love it when people like my kids. It makes my mama heart swell with pride and contentment. I work very hard with my children to set the culture of our family. We have expectations and try to set examples of kindness, politeness, generosity, honesty, and many other ways of being with each other. It’s an astonishing amount of work, and I don’t mind when people notice that.

You know what else is an astonishing amount of work?

Parenting a toddler who’s throwing a fit because the seam of their sock isn’t hitting their toe just right (not that they can articulate that that’s the problem). When they throw themselves on the ground and start kicking and screaming in the grocery store aisle, there’s some tiny part of me that just wants to do it too as if that would make them stop. In the movie Riding in Cars With Boys, Drew Barrymore has this scene where the baby’s been screaming for hours and she just falls apart. She sobs, “WHY WON’T YOU STOP CRYING?” If you’ve never considered your child with this air of desperation, you’re a better parent than me. Or, at least, this post isn’t about you.

If you have ever felt that way, particularly in public, I just want to say…hang in there and keep doing your best. Parenting littles is no joke and sometimes when it’s the hardest, people judge you the most harshly.

There are ways in which I try to absorb most of the impact of my kids’ public tantrums…I will not go home immediately from the library if my kids are losing it, but I also won’t make the librarians talk to them. I will be the one to deal with my children climbing all over the motorcycle chairs in the kids’ room at the hair salon, but I won’t make a stylist the big bad or insist that she risk her fingers trying to cut my child’s hair as he tries to climb the walls or shriek and run away (having stylishly coiffed children is really not that important to me; especially factoring in considerations of courtesy, safety, and fairness to the people who work in that industry, but that’s just me).

All that aside, those are decisions we didn’t make on the fly. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s nearly impossible to think clearly. It’s hard to come up with a plan that makes everyone happy when someone is screaming in your face, spittle and boogers flying every which way. It’s even harder when you can feel the angry stares from all around; unless you are a very secure person it may be tempting, just for a split second, to want to just run home and stay there. Maybe you should give up restaurants and libraries and really anywhere where people are until the kids are “ready”. When will that be? When they are five? Ten? Surely by college…?

We were one of those brazen couples that took our babies (and later, toddlers) to restaurants with us. And sometimes they even cried there! And we didn’t leave immediately! We learned early that there was a certain percentage of the population which is offended by the audacity shown by those who dare to have children in public. But we have this idea children can best learn how to be in public by, y’know, actually being in public.

So you…yes, you with the twelve month old screaming happy screams into her miso bowl at the sushi place at 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday…good job. I remember how hard it was to get out with a kid that age, and I think you’re doing just fine. <3

Homemade Mondays: Cock-a-Leekie Soup

We had that gross summer cold that was going around. It was…gross. And weirdly seasonally inappropriate. Luckily, since we live in Ohio, before we were done having that cold the weather had turned to chilly, delicious soup weather. And then it turned back. Go figure. One of my high school friends used to say, “If you don’t like the weather in Ohio, wait a minute…” Anyway this soup was perfect for the weather and for our colds.

E has discovered leeks. She made such a big deal about this soup that I bought two more big bunches of leeks this weekend at the market so I could make more.

My favorite thing about this recipe is how simple it is…from what I understand about Scottish cooking, the focus is on getting good quality ingredients and preparing them in simple ways to really allow the food to shine. Many of the recipes have considerably fewer ingredients than I would have expected.

Cock-A-Leekie (Cocky-Leekie) Soup

Ingredients:

Good chicken stock (put a chicken carcass and livers and hearts if you have them on the stove covered with water in the pot by an inch or so, bring them to a boil, reduce heat and let the whole thing simmer for several hours. If you are starting with a whole chicken, maybe cook it in the crock pot overnight, pull off the meat, and then stick the carcass back in the crockpot covered with water to make your stock-then you only use a bit of the chicken for the soup and reserve the rest for something else. In our house, if we are choosing to eat animals, we try to do so in the way that is most respectful and least wasteful. This includes using the whole bird and making stock from the bones at least once).

One bunch of leeks (about 8-10 medium)

bits of chicken

salt

allspice (Scots Kitchen called this “Jamaica pepper”), if you like.

pepper, if you like

prunes, if using–I didn’t, because I wanted to be a good christian. ;-)*

Method:

Cut leeks in pieces about a half to three quarters of an inch or so wide. Put in a bowl, cover with water, and let stand for a few minutes. The dirt will sink to the bottom. Agitate a bit to remove the last of the dirt. Put half the leeks in a big soup pot with the bits of chicken, the salt and pepper or allspice, and the strained stock. Let simmer for an hour or so. Add the rest of the leeks, simmer for another half hour, until the leeks are tender. A few minutes before serving, you can add the prunes if you are using them.*

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*Amusing anecdotes from The Scots Kitchen by F. Marian MacNeill:

“Shepherd: Speakin’ o’ cocky-leekie, the man was an atheist that first polluted it with prunes.

North: At least no Christian. –Christopher North: Noctes Ambrosianae

“The leek is one of the most honourable and ancient of pot-herbs…The leek is the badge of a high-spirited, honourable and fiery nation-the Ancient Britons. In the old poetry of the northern nations, where a young man would now be styled the flower, he was called “the leek of his family, or tribe,” an epithet of most savoury meaning.”- Ibid.

“The soup must be very thick of leeks, and the first part of them must be boiled down into the soup until it become a lubricous compound”- Meg Dods.

Homemade Mondays: Scented Vinegar Cleaning Spray

We use this to clean almost everything in our home. Vinegar contains about 5% acetic acid, which has antimicrobial properties and will disinfect nearly as well as bleach, but without the environmental and health concerns. If you would like to read more about that, and when bleach is appropriate to use, here’s an article that goes into much greater detail.

From a user standpoint, my vinegar spray and a microfiber cloth or old piece of flannel clean windows just as well as windex (not that the windows around here are always or even usually hand-print free; ahem). It can be sprayed thoroughly on a cloth and wrapped around faucets or laid over stuck-on food spots, to be wiped off easily later.

If you have some pretty basic supplies, making this cleaner only takes the time necessary to open and close bottles, pour, and shake. I really like when homemade things are easier, cheaper, and better than what you can buy at the store. This is one of those times.

Scented Vinegar Cleaning Spray

Ingredients and Supplies:

Distilled White Vinegar (this is the cheapest option, but other vinegars may work)

essential oils of your choice*

water to dilute, if using

old empty spray bottle, rinsed**

small funnel

Method:

Funnel essential oils into the bottle first (that way the vinegar will catch any drops that end up on the funnel by mistake). Use about 20-30 drops, depending on your preferences, the oils you chose, and the size of your bottle. Fill the bottle half-way or more with vinegar, then fill the rest of the way with water. For extra disinfecting power use straight vinegar and don’t add any water. Shake and use.

*there are many essential oils that do very well in cleaning applications. Lemon, sweet orange, tea tree, and lavender are popular and easily accessible. Eucalyptus, Thieves blend (or some mix of oils like rosemary, clove, cinnamon, etc.), peppermint, or other scents that you enjoy will also work nicely. Follow good sense guidelines for using essential oils, and be aware that some oils are not recommended to put on your skin undiluted as they are very concentrated (to make about 10-15 pounds of tea tree EO they start with approximately 1,000 pounds of raw materials; it makes sense to use oils as needed but sparingly for a number of reasons).

**the spray bottle pictured there is a fun drinking bottle from an afternoon out, the cap of which turned out to be the same thread size as the top of a bottle of some store bought cleaner I had sitting around from a long time ago. Now I feel fancy when I clean.

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Homemade Mondays: Cashew Cheese With Roasted Pepper and Onion

As we are still mostly dairy free around here, I’m always on the lookout for things that taste creamy. I’ve served this at several events and it’s always a big hit. This is adapted from a recipe from Handmade In the Present Moment, which is a delicious raw food (also sometimes called “sun food”) restaurant near my aunt and uncle’s home in St. Augustine, Florida. Obviously, with the addition of roasted peppers and onions, it becomes no longer raw food. We think that it’s worth it because ROASTED PEPPERS AND ONIONS. Yum. But once you get the basic idea of cashew based cheeses down, there are endless variations and room for creativity to flavor this cheese-like food (but not in a Velveeta, “processed cheese food” sort of way) to suit your taste and serving needs.

 

Cashew Cheese With Roasted Pepper and Onion

Ingredients:

1 pepper, washed, halved, cored and seeded. (red, yellow, or orange…dealer’s choice)

1 medium onion, peeled and halved.

1 1/2 C cashews, soaked for 2 hours in lukewarm water, or overnight in the refrigerator

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp olive, sesame, avocado, or other oil of your choice

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp maple syrup, honey, agave, or other sweetener of your choice

1/2 tbsp lemon or lime juice

salt, to taste

hot sauce, to taste, if desired

 

Method:

Place onion and pepper in a baking dish and roast at around 350 degrees F for half an hour or so, until the edges begin to turn black. After these come out of the oven, place the peppers immediately into an airtight container of some kind, or the whole thing into a paper bag big enough close around the whole dish. Leave it for at least five minutes, to allow the skins to loosen. They should slip off easily, although you might have to peel them a bit in some spots. Discard skins.

After soaking, drain cashews and rinse until the water runs clear.

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for about five minutes until smooth and creamy.

 

My favorite ways to serve this so far are:

-warm with pieces of bread

-warmed with hot sauce and pieces of chicken, dairy-free buffalo style

-cooked up like grilled cheese on a sandwich- I haven’t tried this yet but I have friends who make cashew cheese and look forward to trying it as we approach soup season here in Cleveland.

-as a serving garnish for pasta or risotto

-cold, on creamy vegetable curry soups

-cold, as a vegan sour cream substitute with other taco toppings on Vegan Taco Soup (or, ahem, chorizo based; make your own food choices and love them, people!)

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Save This Record

I’ve been researching my ancestors. As a middle class white American person, it feels disingenuous to look at only the fun parts of my family history, so I’m struggling to get my mind around the other parts. I’ve been thinking about it a lot during this process. I was clear that there was going to be some stuff I might not be proud of, as well as some things I was very excited to learn. And there is a lot of exciting and interesting history I look forward to delving into. Still, it’s jarring to see census data from 1830 and 1840 with my four times great grandfather’s household, neatly sorted out by age bracket, male/female, and free/slave.

If you are one of those (almost definitely white) people who think that slavery was “a long time ago” and people should stop “whining” about institutionalized racism, white privilege, and other parts of this complicated issue, try doing some ancestor searching. Because realizing how few generations ago it was legal in this country to own another person is sobering; and some of us do not have the luxury of living as though it never happened.

Institutionalized racism does affect ALL of us negatively (whether we acknowledge it or not), though not all of us have an increased likelihood of going to jail or dying because of it.

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The Yáng Guāng of the Tài Yáng

Disclosure: Christianese ahead. I’ll try my best to deconstruct it, though. Also, there are entire fields of study dedicated to answering some of these questions, so please don’t mistake this one post in the middle of my journey for an attempt to conclusively provide answers.

My faith tree feels like it got struck by lightning this past year. Maybe even a few times. The damage doesn’t go all the way down to the root; I still see clear signs of quickening and health, even if they aren’t perceptible in the same way as ten years ago. But there are definitely some branches falling away. I can feel it. Some of the work is too close right now for me to be sure exactly which branches are being pruned and how, but I am trying to trust the process.

I’ve been asking questions I would have been afraid to ask before, and letting go of pointless shame wherever possible.

One of the questions I’ve asked is “What is the point of God?”

If people can still get sick.

If children can die of cancer.

If everything is so damned confusing sometimes.

What are we doing here? Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?

The thing is, I think maybe that was the point of Jesus. Because the Old Testament is full of stories of God and Israel just missing each other. There are moments when they see things for the truths they are. But the great majority of the time the nation of Israel is wandering around in the desert, suffering atrocities, committing atrocities, or making and following lots of rules (all the while recognizing themselves as God’s specially chosen people).

There are a lot of things in the world that are utterly bewildering. What is God like, if this is how it’s going to be?

In a letter to the early Jewish church (so some of the first Messianic Jews) it says “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…”

I took some Chinese classes a few years ago (long story) (there were a lot of Chinese kids in my preschool class so the center I worked for paid for me to go) (OK not that long). </digression>

I remember in one of my classes the teacher explained that in Mandarin there are different words for light. In English we talk about “the light you turn on” and “the light you use to see”. We can use that word somewhat interchangeably. In Chinese though, the word is not interchangeable. “Tài yáng” means sun. The one that rises in the east. “Yáng guāng”, on the other hand, is defined as “sunshine, sunlight, or sunbeam”. The light that is, is a distinct concept from the light you can see by.

As a child I tried once to stare at the sun. Luckily I didn’t do it for too long, because looking directly at the sun can make you blind (I will sometimes foolishly ignore my mama’s wise advice, but only so far it seems).

There are ways in which it hurts my eyes to look at God right now. Through cancer. Through unexplained illness. Through death.

But if God is utterly like Jesus, as doctrine teaches, then there is some hope; though by no means a full explanation. Jesus, who cries with devastated people. Who uses mud and spit to cure blindness, who hangs out with embezzlers and prostitutes, who takes away shame where it can be of no help, and who preaches shame over those that would presume to make God so very exclusive and inaccessible to oppressed and hurting people.

So if Jesus is the Yáng guāng of God’s Tài yáng, I think I can see the point of him. I can’t look directly at the sun. But the light of the sun is the means by which I begin to see everything else.