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A WELL STOCKED PANTRY

            Everyone has little things they do that give them a sense of security. Maybe it’s a secret stash of chocolate or $40.00 “mad money” tucked away in a secret compartment of your wallet or an obnoxiously noisy alarm clock inconveniently located across the room. In college I had a friend that always kept a “back up” boyfriend. There is no universal “security blanket”, but rather individual needs that may appear trite to someone else, but help us breathe a little easier.

 

            Being the wild and zany individual that I am…I find solace in a well stocked pantry! I’m not talking about having 2 cans of mushroom soup, but rather 12. There are also chick peas and mandarin oranges, water chestnuts and canned salmon. You just never know! Although this may seem excessive to some people, if I see a recipe that calls for crushed pineapple…I’ve got it. Green chilies? I say chopped, whole or frozen? Avocados…of course! Come on, give me something hard! Tarragon, cumin, sage? Yep. Yep. Yep. Rye flour, barley, wild rice…long or short? Fresh carrots, onions, celery, peppers, chives…in the drawer in the refrigerator. You see what I’m saying? I didn’t need to do any special planning when Y2K rolled around…if the world market had collapsed and chaos ensued, I could have feed a family of 16 for four or five months without blinking an eye! I require a well stocked pantry…it’s an obsession…what a shocker!

           

           My children often tease me about it. HOWEVER, they can come over and say,

 

“You know what sounds good, Mom? Chicken Enchiladas.”

 

“No problem”, I say.

 

“MMMM, apple crisp sounds yummy, too”

 

“Okay, start peeling apples.”

 

No one needs to make a grocery run…you just have to forage in the kitchen. (BTW…they, meaning our teasing children, are not above pinching a jar of this or a can of that one the way out the door…saving themselves a trip to the store! “Thank you, Mom”.)

 

            I’m not sure what prompted this compulsion. It’s not like we were deprived of food as children or ever went hungry. As newlyweds we weren’t poor, living off Mac ‘N Cheese or PB&J sandwiches. And it’s not like I was Scarlet O’Hara, rooting through an abandoned garden, looking for a rouge potato, swearing, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!” I think the explanation is much simpler…I like to cook and I like to feed people. OMG…I’m like Remy the rat in “Ratatouille”!

 

            I may be a bit over the top…or more to the point…over the cupboards (where “backups” are stacked to the ceiling) when it comes to supplies but in part, that is because I have the room. I’ve had much smaller kitchens, with no back up fridge and freezer, so I couldn’t keep all the supplies I have on hand today. But I find it very interesting, when you talk to other people, what they think falls under the heading of “must have” staples. For instance, I could live without garlic powder, since I have fresh garlic on hand, but my kitchen must have dried basil, parsley and bay leaves. I could do without my jar of spaghetti sauce, but don’t take away my stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce. You can take the margarine, but I’ll keep the olive oil. I could survive with less, I’ve done it before, but I’m delighted I don’t have to.

 

            Where you are in your life and how much time you to spend in the kitchen, has a tremendous impact on what you’ll find stowed away in your cupboards and fridge, and what you consider “essential”. I might be aghast to find out someone does not own fresh celery, yet they might find it down right disconcerting to know I have almost no prepared foods. So, there you have it…I’m like a squirrel burying nuts in my kitchen on the off chance there will be a hard winter! Rational behavior…I think so. Do others agree? They don’t have to! No one seems to complain when I'm able to make their favorite meal!   

 

We all have our kitchen essentials…those things that we use frequently and would be lost without. It’s always interesting to hear what other people consider to be staples. So, share, please! Besides the normal milk, flour, butter, and egg variety staples, what do you consider to be basic and irreplaceable in your kitchen?

 

CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

The first time my brother tasted these I had brought them to a family gathering. After he had taken a bite he asked me, “Did you pick these up at a restaurant?” “No”, I replied, “Why do you ask?” “Well, they’re so good. They taste like something you’d get at a Mexican restaurant.” I couldn’t decide if I had just been complimented or insulted! Anyway, they are extremely delicious, and given the flavor, well worth the effort!

           

Ingredients

1 can (19 oz) enchilada sauce (any variety)

2 cups diced cooked chicken (I make Chicken Soup then fish the meat out!)

1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (6 oz)

1 cup sour cream

1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chilies

1 package (11.5 oz) flour tortillas for burritos (8 tortillas)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 oz)

Chopped avocado or green onions, if desired 

 

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spread 1/2 cup enchilada sauce over bottom of ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish. In medium bowl, stir together chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream and chilies.

2. Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture down center of each tortilla. Roll up tortillas; arrange, seam side down, in baking dish. Top enchiladas with remaining enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Spray sheet of foil with cooking spray; cover baking dish with foil, sprayed side down.

3. Bake 35 minutes. Remove foil; bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until hot and cheese is melted. Top with avocado or green onions. If desired, serve with lettuce, chopped tomato and additional sour cream.

ABOUT THE "ABOUT ME"

Finally, after what feels like a bajillion blog entries, I got my “About Me” ditty written. Be sure to check it out using the side button, if curiosity prompts you :)

ONE IS SILVER AND THE OTHER'S...OLD!

            If you were ever a Brownie you know the song…

 

Make new friends, but keep the old,

One is silver and the other’s gold.

 

            New friends are great! They’re kinda like a “do over”. I ran into a neighbor “boy” that was home visiting his parents. He is now married and he and his wife bought their first home. After we were chatting for a while he said, “Boy, I was a jerk in high school. I wish I could go back and apologize to a ton of people.” The truth is he was a jerk. He was a bully, and he and his friends terrorized many insecure classmates. A dear friend’s son was often the target of his cruelty. And perhaps not surprisingly, but totally irrational, this “jerk” was quite popular. I looked at this neighbor “boy” and I thought, “You know, I think you really have changed.” He was nice mannered, pleasant and very communicative. Anyone who met him now would have a profoundly different impression of him than his classmates and teachers did.

 

            New friends fall into the category of “Variety is the spice of life.” As we go through our lives, interests change. Maybe in college you were the partying sorority girl. Now, by some cosmic hiccup you’ve become, of all things, a crunchy mom. How is that even possible? And although you hold tightly to your old friends, it’s wonderful to make new friends that share your present mindset. (There’s no way your still single college roommate who continues to party every weekend would give a flying leap that you found a supplier of organic diaper wraps!) So, new friends, with common interests, allow you to share a slice of your life…maybe, some day, they will become “old friends”, but for the time being, they enrich our lives and embellish our personal tapestry.

 

            But this blog is really about “old friends”…those friends that have been with us through thick and thin. They’ve seen us at our best…and our worst. They may be people we talk to every day or just exchange annual newsletters with at Christmas time, but they are the people who “knew us when”. Several years ago I took an “old friend” to the community Bible study I belonged to. We’ve been friends since she was 16 and I was 19…so, hmmmm, OMG…34 years! Irrelevant, other than demonstrating that we’ve been together for a long time! Anyway, we were sitting in the pews of the church where a visiting speaker was talking about temperance. She was this little old lady, who was standing on a stool to be seen above the podium. She was waving her hands, slamming her fist on the lectern, talking about the evils of alcohol. Now, I can guarantee you, being raised Catholic, I had never once heard a sermon quite like this one. I think this is what Carrie Nation must have sounded like! Anyway, with a grin on my face, I leaned into my friend to make a comment, but when I turned around I noticed she had slid about 6 feet away from me. I whispered, “What are you doing?” And with a completely deadpan face she whispered back, “When the lighting hits, I don’t want to be sitting too close to you!” I faked a coughing attach, and made my way to the bathroom just in time to avoid wetting my pants! There wasn’t a single other person in that room who could have made that comment to me. She continually tells friends that the only time she ever got in trouble was when she was with me. When our children were young, her father always grimaced when she mentioned I was watching her kids and to this day he develops facial tics when my name is brought up! Old friends!

 

            Every Wednesday morning I meet a group of “old friends” for coffee, aforementioned friend being among them. We’ve known each other for eons. I remember when we use to talk about “boys”, then babies and stretch marks. We’re still talking about stretch marks, but also about menopause, our husband’s heart attack, saggy boobs, and the grand babies. We also talk about politics, books, our children, and hot actors. (Quite true!) And we still talk about our youth. (Again, ask my pew pal about “chaps and the Marriot”…I think she blew the entire thing out of proportion…at least that’s what the guys in the band would say!) But, I digress…

 

            But there you have it…our existence is a kaleidoscope of old and new friends, everyone adding a little to our life. As time goes by we find some of our new friends and acquaintances are temporary or “situational” friends, but some hold fast and become kindred spirits. I’ve forgotten the name of some friends I’ve made over the years, yet I am grateful that they were there when I needed them. But I must admit, I am every so grateful, and feel blessed, every time I think about my handful of close friends. The ones who knew me when…and to quote Simon and Garfunkel in their song Bookends

 

Time it was and what a time it was it was,

A time of innocence, a time of confidences.

 

            There is no overriding purpose to this week’s blog other than acknowledging the value of friendship. I wish all my friends out there, the old and the “new”, a lifetime of friendships that grow and flourish and bestow untold smiles upon your days!


AM I READY?

            Often, it seems like parenting is all about asking “Is my child ready to…whatever?” Think about how often you’ve been confronted with this question…“Is my child ready to be weaned, or potty-trained, or go to school, or read, or date”? It seems there are tons of books and magazines and well intentioned friends and family that are willing to help you answer those questions. As parents of growing children we are always assessing their “readiness” for any life situation, BUT, what we often fail to give credence to is the equally important question “Am I ready to let them do…whatever?” “Am I ready to sever the bond of nursing, or tackle potty training or let my child go play at a friend’s without me, or drive, or even, get married”? One of the trickiest parts of parenting is being able to balance your child’s readiness with your own.

 

Parenting is many things, but it is not a neat mathematical equation. We might be able to say,

 

            Circumference = 2 Pi Radius

 

But we cannot unequivocally say,

 

            My Child’s Readiness = My Own Readiness

 

Successful parenting is not only about writing the equation, but effectively balancing it! (Ah, and you thought you’d never use algebra again!) Although you might think you have your child’s best interest at heart, if it’s in direct conflict with yours, it can get very messy! Case in point…

 

            I nursed all three of my children. With my first two I had to wean them at eight and ten months old because I needed to go on medication. We were not ready for the transition…the decision was out of our control! When I had my third, I was determined to nurse him until he went away to college! (Okay, a little exaggerated, I really didn’t have a planned stop date, but I did plan to nurse him for much longer.) At around 12 months old, he began to lose interest in nursing. We switched over to daytime sippies, but I held on to the “tuck-in” nursing at the end of the day. This went on until he was 18 months old, when finally he had had enough. I could just imagine his little brain thinking, “For the love of God, woman…put that thing away!” After a couple of frustrating evenings, I realized, like it or not, he had weaned himself. (You’ve heard the old adage, “You can lead a baby to boob, but you can’t make him drink!” Truer words have never been spoken!) I had rationalized that it was in his best interest to keep nursing, but then I realized he no longer needed it, and I was trying to force my needs on him! I knew my third would be my last baby, and I truly wasn’t ready to give it up nursing yet. My readiness certainly did not equal his!

 

            So, what do we do when our readiness is out of sync with our child’s? First, you need to acknowledge that you both have needs, and that they won’t always be the same. Second, life is all about compromise…even with our children. I’ve always told my kids, “Choose your battles wisely”, and this certainly applies to parenting! Next, make sure you define and understand both your child’s and your own readiness. Perhaps your child has exhibited many of the signs of potty training readiness, yet, if you’re not ready, chances are the process will be stressful and take far longer than necessary to accomplish! Finally, when you are out of sync with your child, ask “why”. When I examined my disappointment at having my son wean himself, I realized what I liked best about it was the quiet time it afforded us. I wasn’t always able to give my third the one-on-one time I had given the other two…and nursing was the one excuse I always had to be alone with him. It was something no one else could do and something that gave me guilt-free alone time. After I understood that, I too was ready to wean…but I protected the “tuck-in”, and we had many years of quiet one-on-one time at the end of each day. Understanding the “why” helps us deal with these inevitable discrepancies.

 

The next time you ask “Is my child ready?” make sure you ask, “Am I ready?" too!

 

It seems that from birth children are in a hurry to grow up. As parents we often desire just the opposite. Given the fact that our basic goal appears to be in direct conflict, I think we all do a pretty darn good job! 

TOO "WEARY" TO WRITE!!!

            We just got back from a wonderful 4 day weekend visiting with my son and daughter-in-law Wisconsin. Although at times restful, we were on the go a lot and ate more than our fair share of cheese! We returned to a house full of pets and grandchildren that thought we were gone for a month! Believe me, its lovely being missed! But it’s now Monday night, and I’m due to post my weekly blog tomorrow morning. I sat down to begin writing it, and when I realized I began with the definition of “weary” and “trudging” I decided tonight WAS NOT the night to write a blog! So, bear with me…give me a day…and I’ll get my blog posted on Wednesday. (Egads…I feel like I’m back in high school explaining to my uninspired creative writing teacher why I didn’t finish my last assignment!) Anyway, have a lovely day, I’ll try to get a great night’s sleep, and I promise to be “perkier” the next time I sit down to write. Until tomorrow!