ancient wrapping

I’m out really early with Yankee this morning and though it is finally feeling like summer, it is still cool at this hour. So I keep the green shirt I am wearing on.  This green checked flannel shirt is my go to as a light but warm layer in these transitional seasons, and the one I slip on over whatever I am wearing to do chores around the house.  I’ve been wearing this shirt for so many years now that I hardly ever think about it anymore, but for some reason this morning I do.  I look down and notice that the nap of flannel is actually gone from the fifteen years I have been wearing and washing this shirt.  The fabric is still thick and substantial while being completely soft at the same time.

green shirt

And who knows how many years it had been worn and washed before I claimed it as mine.  I keep forgetting that I inherited this shirt with the house, and I have always assumed it belonged to the previous owner Mr. Hosford, who by all accounts, was a master of his home, evidenced by the telltale signs of creative handiwork everywhere.  I don’t really know for sure that this was his shirt though.  I just know that when I am wearing it, I feel like I am wearing some ancient wrapping that somehow ties me to the history of this house while signaling self-sufficiency, sustainability, and care…

My thoughts drift to the other night making chicken wraps with collard greens instead of bread.  Molly and I are going to a setting that wants a picnic and it is slim pickings in the house for picnic food choices. I’ve taken two chicken breasts out of the freezer and after a day of thawing in the fridge they are ready to marinate.  So I make a marinade of slices of two large garlic cloves combined with equal parts fresh lemon juice, tamari, and olive oil.  It’s all sitting in a bowl and I have no idea what I am going to do with them.  Typically, I will grill or pan sear the chicken to slice for a big salad.  I’ve been practicing eating this kind of protein, with is not very often, with just vegetables, no grain.  I’ve discovered that I simply feel better eating this way.  There’s no bread in the house anyway.  There is however, a huge bunch of collard greens.  What if the collard greens became the wrap for the chicken, which could be combined with some grated carrots and the leftover salad dressing?  I choose six of the largest leaves and carefully remove the spine about half way up.  Put a large skillet on the stove filled halfway with water, and bring to a boil.  Add some salt to the boiling water.  Then submerge each collard leaf into the boiling water, count to 10, remove it with tongs and put it on some paper towel to drain, amazed at how brilliant and soft each leaf becomes in this process.  While they are cooling I heat some olive oil in the small cast iron skillet that is just big enough for both chicken breasts.  With fire on high, add the chicken with the garlic and a bit of the marinade and sear them both sides.

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Then add a little more marinade, cover, turn fire down low and cook until just done, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, I grate 3 small carrots into a bowl, dice in the leftover quarter of fuji apple sitting on the counter, add a handful of the lightly roasted pumpkin seeds I made in the morning, and mix all together with some of the leftover garlic balsamic dressing from the other night.  I contemplate the stack of cooled collard leaves and arrive at the solution of placing two together, each facing each other so the slot left where the spine was is covered, making a sturdy and pliable wrap now ready for filling.  The three ‘wraps’ are first slathered with some mayonnaise, salt & pepper,

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then the carrot salad is divided evenly and spread on each one.  The chicken is cooled a bit, then cut into slices and also divided amongst the three.  The process of rolling them up is a little tricky but fun, and requires folding the ends up first, and then firmly and tightly rolling the green wrapping to fully enclose the filling.  I cut the first one in half in anticipation of rolling it up in wax paper and note the beautiful display,

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I see these gorgeous wraps and think, this is what sandwiches must have looked like in ancient times before there was grain and bread, cooked meat of some sort mixed with foraged herbs and vegetables, all wrapped in some sort of leafy green.  At least this is what I am imagining.

The actual eating experience later in the afternoon is not disappointing!  We’ve brought heavy cloth napkins to use, thinking these sandwiches might be a bit messy, but I am pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to hold, and how easy it is to eat these wraps.  Biting into the collard is actually a bit like biting into a good crusty piece of bread, a little chewy while still being soft, and a wonderfully light nutritious companion to the dense flavorful filling inside.   My imagination has come full circle…enjoying the nourishment that comes with finding this ‘ancient wrapping’….

tempeh treat

I loved tacos as a kid.  I loved the table full of bowls of things that went inside the crispy corn shells.  It was a favorite to make when we had company, entertaining and fun participation by all.  I loved all the flavors and textures. I loved the messiness of eating them with my hands, picking up all the droppings off my plate with my fingers and finishing every finger licking good bit.  Which was a particular treat for me as I was the queen of finishing everything on my plate as a kid.  Being able to actually eliminate every last trace with my fingers was simply a bonus.   Smile.  Now I can’t remember the last time I actually made tacos.  Cooking without beef combined with the abundance of really good mexican restaurants these day makes it easy to eliminate this particular meal from my home repertoire.

So I am surprised when I feel inspired  to put the package of organic corn taco shells into my cart today.  I have no idea what I am going to do with them, just that there are two opened jars of salsa in the fridge and maybe I can use them somehow.  I think I can make a bean filling of some sort, make a pot of brown rice, chop some of the fresh lettuce, the usuals.  There is even a package of shredded cheddar cheese in the fridge too.  But I am left uninspired by this train of thought.   I am wanting a taco filling that has the protein punch of what I remember.  And then I think of the package of tempeh in the fridge too.  It’s not easy to cook with, I have only a few ways that I like it these days and only once or twice a month at that.  I love what tempeh is, a high fiber, high protein, low sodium fermented (natural probiotics) food made from whole (organic!!!) soybeans (always use organic, the non-organic varieties are made with GMO soybeans).  So I go ask Google about tempeh tacos and of course there is a whole world of recipes out there.  I go through a few, mentally mixing and matching and substituting with what I know I have in the house.

The one pound package of tempeh is cut into small chunks.  I also cut up 2 small carrots and 2 large radishes into the same size pieces as the tempeh.  In a medium bowl mix a heaping tablespoon of olive oil with 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 2 teaspoons of hot Mexican chili powder, 1 teaspoon each of cumin and sea salt (my new find is Maine Coast sea salt with sea vegetables which offers a good dose of natural iodine).  Mix in the tempeh and marinate for at least 30 minutes (the longer it marinates, the richer the flavor).  Finally chop a small onion (or 1/2 medium/large) Add another tablespoon of olive oil to a medium size saucepan and saute the onion with carrot and radish until soft and translucent.  Add in the marinated tempeh and continue sauteing for a few more minutes. The mix clearly wants something tomatoey at this point, so I opt for adding the last tablespoon in the jar of mild salsa.  It still isn’t enough, so I add a tablespoon from the opened jar of organic basil marinara sauce in the fridge. This does the trick.  The tempeh filling now has exactly the right texture for scooping and filling!

While the six corn shells are heating up in the oven (3 for me, 3 for Molly), lettuce is chopped and cheese put in a bowl, other jar of (chipolte) salsa opened.  Tacos are assembled.

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They’re perfect (well almost, some fresh avocado would have been nice).  Easy to pick up, easy to eat without too much spillage, and really really really delicious.  I notice how the corn shells soften ever so slightly with the warmth of the filling so that the taco actually stays intact with each bite.  And the filling is satisfying in every way, just the right amount of moist, spicy, salty, and chewy.  So happy.  Not a morsel left on the plate.  This tempeh treat is definitely getting added to the repertoire…

sharing abundance

After months of living alone to my own rhythms, I have been re-adjusting to moving through the days with another again.  Molly and I are very compatible it seems, and I am appreciating her appreciation of being home in a home that feels good and natural to her.  In particular, we are enjoying sharing time in the kitchen, and this ranges from her coming down in the morning to find coffee ready for her in the big espresso pot to her quietly bringing me a bowl of freshly made guacamole with rice cakes while I am working feverishly on a deadline.  It’s nice ebbing and flowing this way.

The other night Molly and her friend Gracie were inspired to go out and buy food to create a feast for themselves.  They came back from Whole Foods with the makings for Thai peanut noodles with loads of fresh vegetable toppings.  After listening to happy noises coming from the kitchen, they emerged with gorgeous plates of food and headed out to the porch.   Initially just an admiring observer in this scene, I quickly snapped a photo of these two goddesses

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and then was delighted to be invited to sit and share in their abundance.

It is particularly sweet to feel how significantly this way of appreciating food and the life that surrounds it has passed on to this next generation.   Molly is openly attentive and curious about what goes into what and how something gets made these days.  She’s upstairs now and I’ve just made a big chopped salad for our supper and decide to make some homemade dressing for it.  This is inspired by watching Molly make her own dressing ever since she’s been home.  I know she learned the basics from me at some point, but she has clearly made it a ritual of her own, and I’m aware now of how this has now flowed back to me.  I finely mince a clove of fresh garlic and mix it with the juice of a half of a fresh lemon in a deep bowl.  The art of adding olive oil is always the next step.  I find the good stuff, one of the bottles that arrives every few months from California as a gift from my brother and his wife, also both serious cooks.  The art is in the combination of quantity and quality here and is at best the work of a moment.  Add about double the amount of lemon juice to start, knowing I will be adjusting in a moment.   Then consider the vinegar choices this evening.  The white balsamic that Molly brought home with her is almost gone, just about a teaspoon left, so I finish that and add a few liberal pours of rice wine vinegar too.  And a splash of cider vinegar too.  Then fish out the ‘chablis mustard’ from the fridge and add a heaping teaspoon of that too.  Some salt & pepper.  Go searching for the dried basil that is not where is usually is, but I know this is what is next so persevere and finally find it in an unlikely place on the windowsill above the sink.  I take the top off to give a few shakes through the perforated plastic fitting and poof, before I notice that the plastic fitting is gone, deposit a huge amount of the herb into the mixture.  Much more than I normally use.  And instead of fishing out what I think is extra, simply go get the whisk and whip it all together.  It’s surprisingly wonderful!  I don’t even need to adjust the olive oil this time, and I’m amazed at how beautifully even the abundance of basil here is sharing space with the rest of the ingredients.

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I leave everything on the counter, the bowl of chopped things, fresh lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, red pepper, and garbanzo beans, the open jar of raw sunflower seeds, a pile of freshly chopped hard-boiled eggs, and the bowl of dressing.  We each make our own salad

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and it isn’t long before Molly calls out, “Mom, what is in this dressing!”   She likes it, smile.

I go off to my meeting and leave clean up for her.  And then this morning, open the refrigerator to find the leftovers put away in such a simple and efficient way

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There is something so essentially creative and joyful about storing the remnants of this meal this way, it certainly has brought a smile to my face this morning, and then realize how easy it is to forget abundance stored away in a plastic container…

peter rabbit

I just bought two gorgeous bunches of fresh carrots at the Farmer’s market. I mean, so gorgeous and so fresh that I simply left them on my kitchen counter for the day and just ate one every time I went into the kitchen…

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Only to realize later in the day that I had just bought a five pound bag of carrots at Whole Foods a few days before! Clearly I have carrots on the brain, and I am wondering why…

There hasn’t been a single time I have looked out the window or stepped outside in the past few weeks that I haven’t seen a rabbit in my yard. Not just at dusk or dawn, no, I see them at all times of day. It finally dawns on me this morning that there must be a family living in the hidden growth of the copiously overgrown fringes of my yard. And even though I often see two together, I’ve come to think it is the same guy out there exploring all the recesses of my lawn. Judging from the intent of constant chewing I observe, there is most definitely something delicious to eat there. I can only imagine the feast he would have if I actually planted all the vegetables I dream of planting in my perfectly sunny garden. I keep thinking about the tale of Peter Rabbit. I know I can’t plant what I want without building fences that could keep him out, and I hate the idea of fences, so I plant a few things in pots raised off the ground next to my kitchen window instead.

I’m now sitting in my office feeling the cool breeze coming through the window I can finally open after removing the storms. I love working in this little room that faces north, being able to experience the sun in my neighbor’s trees beyond in the freshness of the day, appreciating the seamless view that is possible without fences there too.

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I love the fragrant perfume of the peonies from my garden, now in a vase sitting on the sill of the freshly polished window and juxtaposed against the green of the forest beyond; how lush these white fluffy blossoms are; how grateful I am that they are part of the legacy of this house and property I am caretaker of….

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Looking out the window, I can see only one small portion of mowed ground where I have made a path to the pile of yard clippings and debris that get deposited out of sight. And wow, there he is again, my rabbit. In perfect view, munching away in the clipped grass, staying just long enough for me to snap a photo before he hops off back into the brush.

P1110212That this rabbit (or rabbits) can be so prevalent in my life at this time gives me pause again. My Animal Spirit Guide book tells me that if rabbit shows up “this is a very creative time for you, so it’s important to quickly take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way unexpectedly.” Hmmmm. Smile. My very own Peter Rabbit, except he is free and finding his way into my creative imagination instead of Mr. McGregor’s garden….