Monday, November 17, 2008

Cheesy Broccoli Potato Soup

Frozen produce can be as healthy for you as fresh produce. In fact, depending on how long that fresh broccoli has been sitting on your grocer's shelf, frozen broccoli may actually be the better buy, nutritionally speaking. Frozen vegetables are usually picked and frozen before their nutrients have had time to deteriorate. While you can't replace all fresh with frozen, when I'm thinking of making soup, I head to the freezer to see what I've got stored there. Today I found a bag of broccoli that I'd forgotten I had and decided a nice and cheesy comfort soup was in order.

Cheesy Broccoli Potato Soup

1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced (I used a yellow one)
dash of red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 cup carrots, diced
4 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
16 oz frozen broccoli, divided
salt and pepper
6-8 oz reduced fat Velveeta
3 oz. shredded swiss cheese
1/2 to 1 cup of skim milk

Thaw broccoli and drain. Take half of the broccoli and microwave for 4-6 minutes until tender. Drain, roughly chop and set aside.

In soup pot, saute onion, bell pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic in the olive oil until onions are translucent. Add chicken broth, carrots, potatoes, the rest of the frozen broccoli and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat. Working in batches, transfer soup to blender and puree. Return soup to pot. Add cheeses and stir until melted and smooth. Add the reserved broccoli and milk as needed to get desired consistency.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

30th Wedding Anniversary

Thirty years ago today I was a 20 year old bride, walking down the aisle to be joined to the man I'd loved since I was 15 years old. It seems like an eternity ago, yet at the same time I can't believe how quickly the years have flown by. Even the bad years (oh yes, we had them) now seem like minor imperfections in an otherwise blessed union of two hearts and souls. During those bad times however, we drew upon the strength of our faith in our vows, and never considered divorce to be an option. When we took that option out of the equation, we had no choice but to persevere and work through the numerous problems, arguments, disagreements and transgressions that are inevitably part of every marriage. In fact, our marriage actually grew stronger because of the work we put into it during those difficult times. Truly passionate and permanent love is the byproduct of blood, sweat and tears, not lust, pride and the general sense of selfishness that today's society promotes. Whenever one puts one's own wants and needs first, true love suffers. If that happens often enough, true love dies.

When I entered into my marriage, I was under the assumption that marriage was a 50-50 union. With today's divorce rate, maybe those are simply the odds of a marriage's survival, who knows. But if we're talking about the ratio of the effort either party brings to the marriage table, I learned quickly that 50-50 is rarely the case. There were times during our thirty years that it was 100-0. And, I'll admit that sometimes I was the zero. Sometimes it was him. In the end, if you were forced to average it out, that's where that 50-50 starts to make sense and ring true.

My card to him:

We are not the same two people who once met and fell in love and married.
Life has changed us.
Who we are now and what we have together
Are different, and better
Than I could have ever imagined.

His card to me:

We've got forever written all over us.

(Yes, I cried)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Well, not really. We're just celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. My sons live about three hours from here, and due to their other commitments on Thanksgiving day, we've chosen to make the best of our separation and start what may possibly become a new family tradition. In the end, it matters not which day we set aside to thank God for blessing us so profusely, it just matters that we thank Him.

And above all else, I am thankful for my children.

Long ago I came across this beautiful piece of writing. I've Googled it to death to try to find out the author, but keep coming up with "author unknown." Whomever she is, she has poignantly summed up what has been my experience with being the mother of three children. I cry every time I read this.

To My First Born: (Wes)

I've always loved you best because you were our first miracle. You were the genesis of a marriage, the fulfillment of young love, the promise of our infinity.
You sustained us through the hamburger years. The first apartment furnished in Early Poverty.....our first mode of transportation (1955 feet) ....the 7 inch TV set we paid for 36 months. You wore new, had unused grandparents and more clothes than a Barbie doll. You were the "original model" for unsure parents trying to work the bugs out. You got the strained lamb, open pins and three-hour naps.

You were the beginning.

To My Middle Child: (Kellen)

I've always loved you best because you drew a dumb spot in the family, and it made you stronger for it. You cried less, had more patience, wore faded hand-me-downs and never in your life did anything "first,"but it only made you more special. You are the one we relaxed with and realized a dog could kiss you and you wouldn't get sick. You could cross the street by yourself long before you were old enough to get married, and the world wouldn't come to an end if you went to bed with dirty feet.

You were the child of our busy, ambitious years. Without you, we never could have survived the job changes and the tedium and routine that is marriage.

You were the continuance.

To My Baby: (Molly)

I've always loved you the best because endings generally are sad, and you are such a joy. You readily accepted the milk stained bibs. The lower bunk. The cracked baseball bat. The baby book, barren but for a recipe for graham pie crust that someone jammed between the pages.
You are the one we held onto so tightly. For you see, you are the link with the past that gives a reason for tomorrow. You darken our hair, quicken our steps, square our shoulders, restore our vision and give us humor that security and maturity can't give us.

When your hairline takes on the shape of Lake Erie and your children tower over you, you will still be "the baby."

You were the culmination.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Homemade Refried Beans

I'm a big fan of Mexican food. I love the spices and the flavors, and find myself incorporating chilies, cumin and oregano into many of the dishes I prepare. That being said however, I'm not really all that fond of super-hot Mexican food. I like some heat, but it's more the flavor behind the heat, and the way that heat intensifies the flavor of the food that I find so appetizing and appealing. I also really, really like refried beans, made any way. I can eat them straight from the can (any brand) and I order them as a side every time I eat Mexican. When it comes to comfort food, they're the mashed potatoes of Mexican cuisine. Recently I've experimented with making my own from dried pinto beans and have finally come up with a recipe that really tickles my taste buds. And.... the crock pot does all the work!

Homemade Refried Beans

1 lb dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
2 TBSP olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 Anaheim chili peppers, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp cumin
2 cups chicken broth (plus or minus)
salt and pepper

Drain and rinse soaked beans and place in crock pot.

Saute onions, peppers, garlic, oregano and cumin in olive oil until vegetables are softened. Add to crock pot. Add water to cover an inch or two above the level of the beans. Cover crock pot and set level to high. Cook for four hours, checking occasionally to make sure water level is sufficient. Add more water if needed. Turn setting to low and add salt, pepper and enough chicken broth to keep the liquid level over the beans. Continue cooking at this setting for another 6-8 hours, adding broth as needed, until beans have completely softened and started to break apart. Mash with potato masher, using more broth if needed.

Serve topped with cheese of your choice, sour cream, and diced jalapeno pepper, if desired.