Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter Squash Soup

Here it is by special request...from one of my daughters. This soup is adapted (for smaller quantity and added ingredients) from Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition. It will serve one or two, depending on personal enthusiasm for winter squash. This soup is dairy-free.

Winter Squash Soup
serves 1 or 2

1-2 cups (about) cooked pulp from one small winter squash (I use acorn squash)
1 tablespoon butter or coconut oil
about 1/2 cup chopped onion and celery (you decide proportions)
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 tablespoon maple syrup or sugar
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
salt if necessary

Saute onion and celery in butter or coconut oil until soft but not brown. Stir in squash, ginger and cinnamon. . Stir in maple syrup and half or more of chicken broth. Puree with blender or immersion blender until it is somewhat smooth. Add remaining chicken broth and salt. Bring to simmer and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Drugs That Harm

Wow! Want to get sicker than you already are? Just read this:

I am a fan of Dr. Joseph Mercola's online articles. Sometimes I think he goes on for too long and buries his main point halfway through. However...this one says it like it is. He published an article from AlterNet that lists drugs that are said to be questionable for health, and points out the side effects. I'm with him all the way.

Then in his comments he points out some other drugs to avoid. He pretty much wipes out a lot of conventional drug therapy recommendations. He says that lifestyle choices can wipe out the need for most of these drugs, particularly choices of diet and exercise. He vilifies high fructose corn syrup, which he associates with many negative health conditions.

Among other things, he has comments about type 2 diabetes. He says that in many cases curing the disease is within the person's own control. I have read another book that says that, called There is a Cure for Diabetes, by Dr. Gabriel Cousens. Cousens says that diabetes will go away if the person goes on a 100% raw food diet. Mercola recommends eating a lot of raw food. Other recommendations for better diet are also in the Mercola comments.

I don't know very many people who are willing to eat 100% raw food. Even I would miss the potato chips.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pumpkin Soup

Soup is good on a cold day. Today I made pumpkin soup. It's easy if you have canned pumpkin. It's a bit fussier if you have a real pumpkin on your hands. Here it is...

Pumpkin Soup for 2 or 3

1 small pumpkin, or 1 can pumpkin (about 2 cups cooked)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground sage, or more fresh sage
3/4 teaspoons salt (there is already salt in the broth, so be gentle)
sour cream (optional)

If you need to cook the pumpkin, cut it in half, remove the seeds and roast it, cut side down, until it is soft. Scoop out the pumpkin and discard the shell.

 Stir together the pumpkin and chicken broth. Puree this in a blender. Pour it into a saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Stir in the nutmeg, cinnamon, sage and salt. Mix well. Add the cream. Remove from heat. Serve with sour cream if desired.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thoughts About Names

What's in a name? We give and use names. We create nicknames. We continue to have our names reflect patronymics created from naming systems other than American. For instance, we have a lot of Swensons, Petersons, Olsons, names derived from fathers whose names were something like Swen, Peter or Ole.

My grandfather was Edward; my father was Ed; my brother is Eddy; my nephew is Danny; all were named Edward. Nicknames abound. My other brother's teenage nickname was and is Fud; many people call him Dave; his given name is David. (How he became Fud is a different story.) My husband was Rick; his parents named him Richard. My nickname is Kathy; my real name is Kathleen.

This brings me to the point. This is my special ego trip. I became curious about the name Kathleen, and discovered that two nations claim the name. My dictionary (Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th ed.) says it is Irish. WikiName says it is English. I had no idea I was that popular. Both sources give plenty of related names, English, Irish and other national variants: Catharine, Caterina, Ekaterina, Karen, Catalina, Catarina. The dictionary hit for Kathleen refers readers to the listing for Catherine.

Of course, the best part of Kathleen is the company I keep. Who could not love Catherine of Aragon, wife of Henry VIII of England, even though the king did away with her as wife #1. One of John F. Kennedy's sisters was named Kathleen. St. Catherine of Sienna continues to be much loved; I seem to remember that she hardly ever ate. Kathleen Turner is a well known actress. Catherine the Great was Empress of Russia.

How wonderful! Two communities in the United States have my name. They are Kathleen, Georgia, and Kathleen, Florida. I remember the pop song of about fifty years ago, "Kathaleen, oh my lovin' darling Kathaleen..."

Lest you think I stopped with my own name, I didn't. I also researched some very well known names from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Names carried significance. For these people of earlier times, the name of a person, place or thing was in some way connected to the essence or personality of him/her/it. The names of individual persons expressed personality and status or nature. To call a person by name was to engage with that person's inner and outer being. I don't think we can say that about the names we give to people today in the United States.

Here are a few names from the Bible, with no comments on the issue of literal/historical truth of the scriptures.
Adam: human being, translated "man." It is the proper name for the first man, and some suggested that it means "ruddy" or "earth."
Eve: "the mother of all living."
Eden: means "delight," is a garden of God.
Abraham: "father of many," a name ritually changed from Abram.
Jacob: "seizing the heel of." Jacob and his brother were twins, with Jacob being born at the heel of Esau. The name "Israel" was given to him after he wrestled with God; it means "he contended with God."
Jesus. "he will save."
(Thanks to The Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cholesterol Myth

Should we worry about high cholesterol? This article says no. Read it to the end. Surprise! We need cholesterol. It's not the enemy unless the total is over 330.

Dr. Joseph Mercola has given us a very complete rundown on treating high cholesterol. I'm with him all the way. He published the article on his website (  in August, 2010. The medical advice we get about cholesterol control is controversial. I have had the discussion with several doctors, consecutively, none of whom recommend this point of view.

Dr. Mercola is not alone. There is a body of literature that is consistent with what he says in this article. Most of what I have read is written by doctors and scientists. At the end of the article is his list of references.

Here is the article's table of contents:

What is cholesterol and why do you need it?
Your total cholesterol is NOT a great indicator of your heart disease risk.
Cholesterol is neither "good" nor "bad."
Cholesterol is your friend, not your enemy.
Vitamin D and your cholesterol.
Cholesterol and inflammation -- what's the connection?
The insanity of lowering cholesterol.
If your cholesterol is too low...
Who decided what cholesterol levels are healthy or harmful?
The dangers of cholesterol-lowering medications.
Are cholesterol drugs even effective?
Zetia and Vytorin: no medical benefits.
How to lower inflammation, and thereby your risk of heart disease, naturally.
How to lower your cholesterol naturally...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Apples and Applesauce

It's apple season in Wisconsin. I make the world's best applesauce, and I will share the recipe with you. But first I have a few things to say about apples.

1.  If you type "apples" into your search engine, you will get a lot of hits, including Apple computers, Apples to Apples game, Wikipedia on apples, and much more. Who would have guessed? Apple computers must be delicious.

2.  The apple genome has about 57,000 genes. That's more than in human beings, which have about 30,000 genes. (Wikipedia says.) Does that make apples superior or more complex than humans?

3.  China produces the most apples. The US is second. (Wikipedia again.) Wisconsin grows a lot of them. Apparently Washington grows more.

4.  The apple is in the rose family. (Wikipedia yet again.) But to make a bouquet, keep them on the branch. Roses work better than apples in vases.

5. Johnny Appleseed was an apple tree salesman. I heard that on television.

Sarah and I went apple gathering on Washington Island during the Labor Day weekend. That is a place where wild apple trees grow along the road. We brought the apples home and I made applesauce for us to share. I make wonderful applesauce due to two things: good sour apples and Mrs. Robertson, my home economics teacher in 7th and 8th grade. This is what she taught us girls so long ago:

Applesauce That is Better Than Canned Applesauce

Apples - sour, such as MacIntosh or Cortland
sugar - about 1/4 cup for every 4 apples (you may use white or brown sugar or real maple syrup)

Quarter, peel and core apples. Put them in a pan. Put a small amount of water into the pan, about 1/2 inch for a small batch. Cover the pan and bring the apples to a boil over high heat. When it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the apples are soft. If you didn't add enough water, add more. Add sugar and sprinkle with cinnamon. If you use a lot of cinnamon, you might overpower the good apple taste, so don't overdo it. Stir the sauce to break up the apple pieces, but don't mash them. Cool the sauce and enjoy the aroma in your home. Eat.

Mrs. Robertson did not tell us to sweeten the sauce with brown sugar or maple syrup. That is something that I figured out myself.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The I Hate to Cook Book

I read in July that the I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken is fifty years old this year. To honor the half century, the deceased Ms Bracken's daughter has published a revised and updated version of the very funny commentary on cooking for people who don't enjoy cooking. I haven't seen the update, but I still enjoy the original version.

The original does give some good recipes. What makes it extra good is the non-recipe stuff. Yes, the book tells how to cook with the convenience foods of that era, and yes, I still prefer to cook with minimally processed foods, but the commentary is worth keeping.  It begins with, "Some women, it is said, like to cook. This book is not for them. This book is for those of us who hate to, who have learned, through hard experience, that some activities become no less painful through repetition: childbearing, paying taxes, cooking." (p. ix.)

How about this, from page 113:  "Once, in an elevator enroute to my office, I was eating some spice cookies which I had made from a recipe in my big fat cookbook. I gave one to the Elevator Lady, and she tasted it. 'My,' she said reflectively, 'I can sure make a better spice cooky than that.' So she brought me her recipe, and she was quite right. This is a short, rich, ginger-snap sort of a cooky, and the recipe makes plenty." This is much better than the comments in any version of Joy of Cooking. The cookies are good ones.

Bracken also gives her standards for cookies. The cookie dough that now sells in grocery stores probably hadn't been invented when she wrote this. Her standards appear on page 113. I agree with her on them. "When you hate to cook, you ask a lot of a cooky recipe. It must call for no exotic ingredients. It must be easy. It must not, above all, call for any rolling out and cutting. It must produce extremely good cookies. And quite a lot of them."

She comments about cheese: "Now cheese is something of a yes-and-no proposition. It isn't too trustworthy, because you have to concentrate on it; and when you hate to cook, you don't want to. After you've produced a curdled Welsh Rabbit or a Welsh Rabbit that resembles a sullen puddle of rubber cement, the tendency is to leave cheese severely alone." (p. 22)

The wisdom of the kitchen is in this old book. I stand behind some of her recipes. At the end of the book she gives a lot of household hints "or, What to Do When Your Churn Paddle Sticks". She points out that "...I...feel that I speak with a certain modest authority when I say that most household hints are pretty terrible." (p. 140) Her hints are good.

Maybe it will be worth it to buy the new revised version of the book. A review of it appeared in the media last July.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ice Age Trail Upgrade

The Ice Age Trail has received an upgrade. I took a walk on this new two-mile superhighway for bikes, and here are my observations.

The new path is called the Ice Age Junction Trail, and it goes from Highway PD in Fitchburg to the junction with the Military Ridge State Trail in Verona. It's beautiful new smooth blacktop. It mostly goes around the hills that the walking trail has enjoyed. It's a quick ride for people who want to get from point A to point B.

The walking trail still exists, and it goes to the same place. It's still grass covered, maintained with lawn mowers. It's a bit more strenuous than the bike trail, and a bit longer. It meanders through the prairie flowers and wild berry bushes with no apparent concern for speed of travel. More meditative. Less efficient.

In addition to going through the prairie flowers, the blacktop version of the trail goes through a small woods. I think there is some incongruity in a blacktop path going through a woodsy natural space like woods. I get it that cars go through woods on blacktop, but I think of bikes as being more nature friendly. Blacktop is a manufactured surface made of non-natural stuff. It has little in common with spaces filled with flowers and woods.

The new trail has a stopping off point for those who want to rest. It has more access points for bikers than the former walking-only trail, from area streets. Those are good features. It covers part of the walking trail and crosses it. Both trails go under Verona Avenue through a bridge that has been there for some time, but now the path at that location is easier to traverse due to a small bridge that goes over a watery space. I remember crossing it by climbing on rocks and doing some jumping. This is an improvement for bikers and walkers.

I'll stick to the walking trail with all its beauties and meanderings. The day may come when I try the blacktop trail on my bike. Thanks, Madison, Dane County Parks, and the Community Foundation, for offering a new alternative, even if it is blacktop.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blackberries Galore

It's still blackberry picking time in Madison. This morning I found some along the Verona link of the Ice Age Trail, accessible from county road PD. It would have been wonderful if the mosquitoes hadn't emailed all their relatives to say that I would be coming. The only person who wasn't complaining about the bugs was the dog that came along with the other lady who was picking. I finally decided that I could have brought home many more berries, but the mosquitoes became a major obstacle. Alas. It's not easy being part of their food chain.

I really have found enough for one season anyway. I have made a blackberry pie, blackberry ice cream topping, blackberry cobbler, and put some blackberries in the freezer. I regret that our fair city leveled a very promising blackberry patch in Elver Park near my home. It cut my harvest in half. I don't understand why the city fathers didn't wait until after the berries were finished. Fortunately, there are other blackberry patches. And there will be more in a patch at an undisclosed location on Washington Island later in August, when I expect to be there.

The blackberry cobbler that I made is my adaptation from the Cherry Cobbler that I reported on, from the Prairie Farmer WLS Cook Book of 1941. They could have thought of blackberries while they were working on cherries, but they didn't. So here is my version. I like it a lot in spite of the seeds.

Blackberry Cobbler for  2

1 - 1 1/4 cup (approx.) fresh blackberries (Maybe thawed frozen ones will work; I don't know.)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk (approx.)

Find a baking dish that is 7x7 inches, or 6x8 inches. Pyrex sells a 6x8 dish. Goodwill occasionally sells old Corningware baking dishes that are about 7x7. The dish should hold about 1 1/2 quarts. The cobbler won't come up to the top of the dish.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put berries and water in baking dish. Combine sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, and sprinkle over the top. Put in oven and stir occasionally until the mixture is heated, about as long as it takes to mix the dough that goes on top.

Mix together the 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut in butter until it resembles pie crust dough. Add milk and stir until soft dough is formed. Stir as little as possible. Roll out dough 1/3 inch thick and place on hot berry mixture. If dough is too wet to roll, add more flour. Place dough on hot berry mixture to cover most of it.

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve plain or topped with whipped cream or with ice cream.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Berry Picking

And now, here is Blogspot's Senior Outdoor correspondent.

Good morning, everyone. During our Independence Day weekend, a shocking event has the west side of Madison all abuzz. It seems that two people, identified as Kathy Whitt and Dolores Becker, were spotted picking black raspberries on public land. They appeared to be enjoying it.

On the ground, we interviewed Deary the Deertick, who said, "Bring them on. They're part of my food chain." However, not everyone was pleased. Faline the deer, mother of the famed Bambi, said, "Get them out of here. Those berries are my dinner. Let them go to the farmers' marker if they want berries." Further remarks from Deary the Deertick, were that Friday night's fireworks at Elver Park were "deertick heaven." Thousands of people were there.

Here's a followup to the event. Ms. Whitt and Ms. Becker announced that they planned to maked the black raspberries into a pie. They reported that it was delicious.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Overused Words and Expressions

How many have you heard today? They're everywhere: in conversation, on television, in email and postal mail, and maybe in your dreams. Americans are fond of being unoriginal in their ways of speaking. Overused expressions are ubiquitous. Metaphorical speaking is popular.

Don't stop reading now, but stay online. We are the salt of the earth and will leave no stone unturned in our search for the Pandora's box of expressions. Just try to wrap your head around them and and relax. Here are my big five overused expressions for today.

(1) That said.  We used to say however or moreover. The first time I remember hearing it was in an Obama speech. Then everyone was saying it.

(2) Wrap my head around.  We used to understand something; now we wrap our heads around it. I even heard it in a sermon last Sunday in church.

(3) Green.  It seems to be about environmental friendliness. We now have green airplanes (fuel efficient), green architecture (made with environmentally friendly materials), green automobiles (using fewer fossil fuels), green technologies, and more. Today in my mail I received a flyer from a cleaning company that proclaimed, "Green is the new color of clean." Is a quiet home without noise green?

(4) Perfect storm. Once it was a crisis or a disaster. Now it is a perfect storm. The oil gusher in the gulf is today's perfect storm. It certainly is a disaster, and the problems of slowing it down are the perfect storm. I haven't heard tornadoes and hurricanes called perfect storms.

(5) Wake up call. When something blows up in our faces, or we experience sudden important changes of heart, we have wake up calls. They used to be insights for action.

We can describe an event such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico with metaphors. Once BP was considered the salt of the earth, maybe even a green corporation, but now its executives are trying to leave no stone unturned in trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They have had their wake up call and are in the midst of the perfect storm. That said, they are trying to wrap their heads around this disaster as they give up their pipe dreams of uneventful, profitable drilling. There is no more pie in the sky for BP as it bites the bullet in its efforts to get back online. John D. Rockefeller will roll over in his grave with today's policy of drill, baby, drill.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Iceland’s Volcanic Ash Causes Fluoride Poisoning

Iceland’s Volcanic Ash Causes Fluoride Poisoning
This is a long article that isn't really about Iceland. It gives a lot of information about how fluoridation is bad for our health, doesn't really prevent tooth decay, and is responsible for worsening of some diseases.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Drinking Water

I am thinking about water and the problems connected to drinking municipal tap water. Water is very important for life, especially my life.

Last week's Isthmus has a short article about bottled water. The article tells a partial story about water. It pointed out the advantages of consuming local tap water, along with ways in which bottled water is bad for people and the planet. The occasion was a free screening of the documentary film Tapped, sponsored by the City of Madison. I missed the movie, but am thinking about the water problem.

The article quotes a couple of city people. According to the city recycling "conquistador", municipal water suppliers must meet higher standards than bottled water producers; some bottled water is actually filtered tap water from municipal systems; only a quarter of plastic water bottles are recycled and the others go to the landfills; the bottles are made of "petrol", which I believe is a petroleum product; the bottles must be trucked to stores.

The article points out another issue, the ethical concern that water belongs to all the people, and is being privatized, and in some cases it is being hauled away from populations that need it.

What the article does not point out is the other side of the story. I am not in favor of privatized water, and I do believe that the earth's water belongs to the people. The thing that bothers me is that apparently tap water isn't as innocent as the Isthmus article suggests.

Municipal water is treated with chlorine and fluoride. I can see the need to chlorinate it for health reasons, even though chlorine is a poison. I take issue with fluoridation. It is said that fluoride is good to prevent tooth decay. Okay, I say, so let the kids get their fluoride in their toothpaste and mouthwash rather than in their drinking water. I don't want to see the whole population dosed with fluoride in the water when people can fluoridate themselves with other products.

I say this because I love my thyroid, and fluoride is not good for it. People don't advertise that. I have read about this in several sources, one of which I quote here: "...despite its wide use in preventing tooth decay, [flouride] can act as a metabolic poison and damage your thyroid. Thyroid impairment is a serious problem affecting millions of women. (In Europe, after much research, they removed fluoride from their water supply.)" (Dr. Joseph Mercola, the No-Grain Diet; Penguin Group, 2004, p. 151.) Mercola has a large following on his website, with articles about drinking water and many other health matters. In the portion of the book quoted above, he points out that tap water is toxic because it contains both fluoride and chlorine. He suggested that glass bottled spring water, not drinking water, is a "safe but costly alternative." Mercola is not the only doctor to talk this way.

That leaves people like me with a dilemma. I live in the city with municipal water, not my own well. I can not put a filtration system in my home water supply due to it being a condominium. I can put a carbon filter on my faucet, but carbon filters do not remove fluoride. I can bow to the capitalist system and buy privatized water in plastic bottles that will leach chemicals into the water and fill the landfill unless I recycle them. Fortunately, I have the alternative of cheap reverse osmosis city water at the grocery store, which I put into reusable bottles. It's not ideal, but it provides water with the poisons removed. I would be happier with unfluoridated water from my home faucet. That would help with the ethical problem of privatized water, and it would be very convenient.

I was glad to see that the village of Poynette was not adding fluoride to its water supply, at least for a while. About a year ago the village had a referendum, in which the people there voted overwhelmingly in favor of fluoridating the water. Alas. They did it.

If populations can willingly be fed a poison like fluoride through the drinking water, what will they put into the water supply next?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dessert Thoughts and Actions

I spend a bit of time thinking about dessert, especially when I am in the supermarket. The aisles of frozen desserts are awe inspiring as they wait for us to pick up something sweet and feed it to the waiting mouths at home. The shelves of fresh desserts beckon us with aromas and visual appeal. A bakery is another spot to find great quantities of mouth watering goodies for every meal of every day.

Who do these supermarket and bakery people think we are? For one thing, they cater to people who don’t like to cook, don’t have time to cook, or buy on impulse. The marketing people are very good at enticing people to take home extra calories.

In addition to marketing, science has come a long way. Food scientists know how to produce sugar, fat and salt in delicious proportions. I am in the process of reading a fascinating book about this, The End of Overeating, by David A. Kessler. He says that it’s not surprising that we are getting fatter as a nation, because of the ubiquitous availability and ingenious combining of high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt foods and fake foods.

I am in favor of dessert. I know that the food hucksters are trying their best to manipulate my taste buds and pocketbook. However, the dessert that I think is best is the dessert I can make at home. On its downside are: (1) sugar and empty calories are still waiting to fatten me up; (2) it takes some time to make dessert; (3) sometimes the pie gets overdone. On its upside are: (1) I have some control over how much I am poisoning myself with sugar, fat and salt; (2) I like to cook, which is why I would make dessert rather than buy it; (3) I can downsize a dessert recipe to my small household standards; (4) like most people, I feel better when I have dessert that pleases me.

I have some standards for dessert making.
My dessert must be sweet but not oversweet. I like cherry pie that is somewhat tart. Supermarket pies often are sweeter than my exacting standards. They also have lackluster, un-flaky crusts, but that is a different issue. Cheesecake is rich enough in its various incarnations to be indigestible even though it is beautiful to behold.

My dessert must be easy to make and not require any equipment that an old fashioned cook wouldn’t have. Electric mixer, yes. Beyond that, probably no. Spoons are still great tools. A little basic knowledge of cooking can produce adequate pies and pastries, and even home made ice cream. It’s not hard.

My dessert isn’t made of fake ingredients. For instance, there is a recipe for Gumdrop Cereal Bars in my Taste of Home’s 5-Ingredient Cookbook. Three of its five ingredients are manufactured items. They include gumdrops, miniature marshmallows, and Corn Pops cereal. Come on, people. Give me basic ingredients that my grandmother would recognize.

Your reward for reading this far is the recipe for yesterday’s dessert, chocolate soufflé, which I modified by reducing the quantity listed in my big fat cookbook. Before you get excited, you must know that a soufflé is very easy to make. You just have to remember to serve it immediately after it comes out of the oven because its beautiful puffiness will fall very quickly. You can skip the gourmet suggestion of putting a collar around the top of the soufflé dish.

I made this chocolate soufflé after watching a Martha Stewart rerun on television where she and a cook whose name I forgot made one together. As a form of intimidation, they called it soufflé au chocolat, which dressed it up but left it otherwise still easy to make. If you don’t finish it in one sitting, it is good for breakfast the next morning, even if it is cold. That is, if you believe that breakfast food isn’t just eggs, cereal and pancakes.

Chocolate Souffle
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book 12th edition, 2002.)

1 tablespoon butter
1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
3 beaten egg yolks
3 egg whites
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar

Butter the sides of a 1 ½ quart souffle or baking dish with high sides. Sprinkle the inside of the dish with sugar (bottom and sides). Set the dish aside.

In a small sauce pan melt the 1 tablespoon butter. Stir in flour. Add milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add chocolate. Stir until melted. Remove from heat. Gradually stir chocolate mixture into beaten egg yolks. Set aside.

Beat egg whites and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold a small amount of beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining beaten whites. Transfer to prepared dish.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve immediately. To serve, insert two forks back to back; gently pull soufflé apart into serving size wedges. Transfer to plates. If desired, top with whipped cream.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Birthday

Today is my father's 100th birthday. I hope he is enjoying it in heaven.

My father, Ed Allen Jr., was a creative, entrepreneurial person who was interested in everything, although less so when he was old. He's the man who retired and then went to work every day anyway. He died while getting ready to go to work. He was an enormous influence on my life.

We called him Poppy and then Pop. He loved broadcasting. He built a career in radio in Chicago and was proud to have worked for the NBC network. His Early Bird Show on WMAQ had a great following, and listeners sent him quilt squares which my grandmother assembled. I still have the early bird quilt. He started station WDOR in Sturgeon Bay in 1951. It was an adventure that he loved. He started a radio station in Manitowoc with a radio partner, which they sold.

WDOR was a corporation of local people, and it also was our family enterprise. We did commercials. Mother and I worked in the office. My brothers were regulars on the air as soon as their voices changed. David worked hard on the Saturday morning Countdown program of current popular music. Eddy became an excellent sports announcer. An assortment of local programs were tried, including Santa Claus (local doctor), and Mother's recipe program known for most of the years as Five Minutes With Dolores Allen. I think it is the longest runnning program in Wisconsin radio history. Eddy continues to be the manager.

Pop was the religious leader of the family. We all went to the Episcopal Church, whether we wanted to or not. He grew up going to the Moody Sunday School in Chicago, with perfect attendance. We grew up knowing that we should want to be in church. When he didn't like the sermon, he would ostentatiously clean his fingernails to let the priest know that it was pretty dull. Once he asked the priest how long he prepared for his sermon, and was told it was about ten minutes. He then said that it had sounded like it.

When I was a teenager, he let his opinions about my dates be known. He usually wanted to know who the father of each boy was. He usually read the clock wrong when I returned home from dates. He went to bed early. Once I came in at 10:10 p.m, and he sleepily insisted that it was ten minutes to two a.m. If I lingered in the car in the driveway with a boy at the end of a date, Pop would blink the yard light to let us know that the date was finished. I loved him anyway.

I used to go fishing with him, just to be with him. We would go out in his boat, and he would fish and I would draw pictures of the nearby scenery. When he drafted me to work in the radio station office in summer as a teenager, we would go out in his boat and have lunch.

He was Republican chairman of Door County for several years, member of the Door County Chamber of Commerce, Sturgeon Bay Rotary Club, and occasionally played golf. I remember that he would lie down on the green while the other golfers with him did their putts.

He and Uncle Frank Dorn built the family cottage at Clark's Lake. After that he was always doing some construction on it. He moved the kitchen into a former bedroom. I remember when he put electricity into the cottage. Prior to that we had kerosene lamps and a kerosene stove. Later he and Mother sold that cottage and bought an A-frame at Washington Island.

Life with him was always interesting. He was a great person and a great father. Happy birthday.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Medical Insurance Overhaul

Here is what my congresswoman, Tammy Baldwin, says about the proposed "health care" (i.e. medical insurance) bill. Note that she doesn't say when these things will be in effect, if passed. She also doesn't point out that the clause about pre-existing conditions currently is applicable to children and not adults, as I have heard. However bad the bill is, it has some good parts. I heard one legislator call it a quarter of a loaf. I think she should and will vote yes.

Tammy's thoughts, from her newsletter, start:

After decades of unfulfilled hopes, and a year of intense study and debate, the House plans to vote on a health care reform bill on Sunday.
Health care for all is the issue that brought me into public service. As long as I've been your Member of Congress, I've been working to answer your call to reform our health care system.

What this health debate boils down to is one, simple question: Whose side are you on?
Are we going to improve the lives of Wisconsinites and all Americans; or are we going to improve the bottom line of the insurance industry?

My answer is clear: I stand firmly on your side.

I stand with all of you who have struggled to afford your health care premiums, and copays. I stand with all of you who have been denied insurance coverage, or dropped in your time of need. I stand with all of you who have had to declare personal bankruptcy because of the medical bills from a serious illness, and all of you who face this possibility. The health reform bill that I support addresses all those problems and then some. It’s not perfect, and it's not all I wanted it to be....but it is a good start.

I am eager to pass this measure that will help us move forward and put our families and our economy on safer, healthier ground.

Tammy BaldwinYour Member of Congress

As we prepare to vote on health care reform, I highlighted specifically how the reform measure will benefit the people I represent in the Second Congressional District (South Central Wisconsin). Under this reform measure:

539,000 people in South Central Wisconsin will see improvements in their current health care coverage;

7,400 with pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain coverage;

Up to 162,000 families will get tax credits and other assistance to help make health insurance more affordable;

Up to 16,800 small businesses will get tax credits and other assistance to help make health insurance more affordable for their employees;

97,000 Medicare beneficiaries will see better care and pay less for prescription drugs because the Medicare Part D donut hole will be closed;

68,000 young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance policy until their 26th birthday;

13,500 uninsured people will have access to health care coverage;

1,100 families won’t have to file for bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs;

6 community health centers in South Central Wisconsin will receive millions of dollars in new funding to care for thousands of new patients.

Under the bill, if you like the insurance you have now, you may keep it and it will improve. The insurance reforms will prohibit annual and lifetime limits, eliminate retroactive cancellation of insurance policies for individuals who become ill while insured, ban coverage denials for pre-existing conditions, and reduce the cost of preventive care.

Equally important, the health care reform bill will cut the nation’s deficit by $138 billion in the first 10 years and $1.2 trillion in the second ten years – the largest deficit reduction measure in 17 years.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Two dietary planets

I am living on two planets.

One says these things: put fluoride in water systems to benefit children's teeth, with no adverse effects; eating cholesterol is bad and will raise your cholesterol level and raise risk of heart disease; polyunsaturated fats are good for you; it's ok to drink a lot of soda pop; saturated fats are bad for you, including coconut oil; canola oil is good for you; high carb, low fat diets will result in weight loss; the government's food pyramid is a good guide for healthy eating.

The other planet says: don't put fluoride in water systems because it will damage thyroid function; eating cholesterol is not bad because your body produces and uses it apart from dietary intake; polyunsaturated fats are not good for you, olive oil is better; it's not ok to drink a lot of soda pop because high fructose corn syrup gives a major assist to some diseases including diabetes (so why is the government subsidizing corn growers?); saturated fats are not the artery cloggers they are said to be (see cholesterol above), especially coconut oil; low fat/high carb diets are responsible for the obesity epidemic in the US; the government's food pyramid is strongly influenced by food manufacturers and will encourage poor health.

Then we have Michael Pollan, who advocates for eating and enjoying food as food and not as medical delivery systems.

For more than a year I have been reading about what happens to people when they stuff various foods and food-like products into their mouths. The nutrient of this decade seems to be fat. Food science and people don't agree all the time.

It all began with my discovery that coconut oil is a good fat even though it is saturated. The more I read, the more I found. It's a strange world of two planets.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Politician, by Andrew Young

The Politician is a fascinating tell-all book that hit the best seller list immediately. Young tells of his strong desire to work with and for John Edwards for about a decade in the hoped-for ascent to the White House. Young was Edwards' most trusted aide and did what was needed for the Edwards campaigns for senate and President. It is a well written story of the seductive side of John Edwards and the enabling character of Andrew Young. It also is about dishonesty by the Edwardses and the pain of disillusionment for Young as he participated in the cover-up of Edwards' adulterous relationship with Rielle Hunter.

Young describes the close relationship he had with John and Elizabeth Edwards in their home and on campaign locations. As Edwards gradually exhibits what Young calls a sense of entitlement, narcissism and self-centeredness, Young shows his poor judgment in crossing employee boundaries to assist the Edwardses in many personal tasks. Young tells most of the story by letting events unfold into a novel-like tale. His commentary about events goes through the book and is more pronounced in later pages of the book as he reflects about the things he and his family lived through in service to Edwards.

John Edwards seems like a tragic character whose flaws overshadow his powerful charisma and talent. Edwards mistress Rielle Hunter is described as self centered and demanding. Elizabeth Edwards is shown first as a loving person who said Andrew was family, and later when the stress of terminal cancer and attempts to believe her husband's lies get the best of her, a nasty shrew.

In this book we see the clandestine romance of John Edwards and Rielle Hunter. We see Rielle Hunter spend the later part of her pregnancy in hiding with the Edwards family. We see Edwards denying the relationship and his child born to Hunter. We see Edwards denying paternity. We see Young's and his wife's difficulties in dealing with Hunter and Mrs. Edwards.

I don't often read tell-all books, but this one is a winner. It is eye opening for people who supported the Edwards campaign promises and then saw his fall. I, too, was excited by his campaign message.

It may be noted that at the end of the book, Young had possession of the Edwards/Rielle sex tape that has made the news, and John Edwards had not yet admitted that he was the father of Rielle's child. I believe that Edwards confessed paternity as the book became available to the public.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cherry Cobbler

Now that I live alone, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how to prepare food in small quantities, and how to do it with real food and not fake processed food. I love to find simple comfort foods in my collection of old cookbooks. Today I tried cherry cobbler. The young people of today might not have heard about cobblers, since I don't find them in many recently published cookbooks or in restaurants. This cobbler is adapted for my one person household (although it can stretch to serve two), from the original recipe in Prairie Farmer-WLS Cook Book, centennial edition, edited by Gladys Blair (Chicago, the Prairie Press, 1941).

This cobbler is from the era of using less sugar than is used today. With sugar, less is often better than more. I think it is very good.

I must give credit to Mrs. Robertson for the cooking skills that were taught to me long ago in seventh and eighth grades. She gave me a wealth of knowledge about basic food preparation in that home ec class of long ago. I didn't know how valuable her teaching would be for me for the rest of my life. Because of her I know that cobbler dough is biscuit dough and is to be treated as such so it won't be mixed to death. I salute you, Mrs. Robertson, wherever you may be, in Sturgeon Bay or in the great banquet in the sky.

Cherry Cobbler for one or two

1 cup (approx.) canned cherries
1/2 cup cherry juice (from can)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 tablespoons milk (approx.)

I suggest using a baking dish that is like a loaf pan, or one of the old Corningware dishes we all got for our weddings fifty years ago, that is squarish and about 7x7 inches and holds about 1 1/2 quarts. If you lack this dish, go to the Goodwill store and buy one.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put cherries and cherry juice in baking dish. Combine sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, and sprinkle over top. Put in oven and stir occasionally until the mixture is heated, about as long as it takes to mix up the dough that goes on top. (This recipe pre-dates microwave ovens, so I don't suggest using one.)

Mix together the 1/2 cup of sifted flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut in butter until it resembles pie crust dough. Add milk gradually until soft dough is formed. Do not stir excessively. Roll out dough 1/3 inch thick and place on hot cherry mixture. If dough is too wet to roll, as happened to me, drop pieces of dough on top of cherry mixture to cover most of it.

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve plain or topped with whipped cream. (Commercial whipped topping didn't exist in 1941, either.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Eddy's Birthday

Today is my brother’s 70th birthday. Happy birthday, Eddy.

What is there to say about my big brother? He helped to make me what I am today. For example, he is the loving brother who, in childhood in the 1940s at the cottage, called in to me while I was in the outhouse (lovingly called the Orchid Room), “There’s a spider in your hair!”

Eddy always cared about David and me. He taught us the meaning of the naughty words we shouldn’t know or say. He also told me not to mention this to our parents. When we were new to Sturgeon Bay, I was in 5th grade and he was in 6th grade. He hit me a lot to show his love. I would have gladly sold him to the first bidder then, but everyone can see that I simply didn’t understand him. By the time I was in 6th grade and he had new boxing gloves, we finally had a match and I beat him. He improved after that. In dear old Sturgeon Bay High School, he made sure to make fun of every boyfriend I acquired. The most memorable was Bill Swan, who he called the Great White Bird. It’s obvious that Eddy really cared. He managed to keep his own love life under wraps.

Somehow we all grew up. Eddy miraculously got a college degree. Then he was an officer in Korea during the Vietnam War, which gave him better survival chances than some who went to Vietnam. He came home and gave his life to our radio station, WDOR, and became manager when our father almost retired. That is, Father retired and continued to go to work every day. Eddy was able to manage family issues then and now. We waited a long time, and he finally got married at age 37 (didn’t rush into it) to Mary Lou, who has been a great spouse for him. He became stepdad to John and Liz, and then Danny came along. No, he’s not the dog, he’s Eddy’s and Mary Lou’s son. After Eddy, David and I inherited the Allen stock in the radio station, Eddy continued to steer that ship as President of the corporation and general manager. During lulls, he goes bowling.

Hail to you, Eddy. I expect some good words on my birthday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reasons to Have a Cat

I brought home a cute, kittenish seven-month-old kitty from the humane society last March. I was feeling somewhat lonely, so I replaced my deceased husband with her. She was very cute, so I named her Sasha after Sasha Obama, who is another cute girl.

Yoicks and hoity toity, did I ever get fooled. Some not-so-cute behavior emerged. Her nickname now is Horrible Hepzibah, after a naughty girl in a kids’ book I used to read to my children. So, to justify my ongoing relationship with this cat, I am presenting my reasons to keep my cat, who still is cute most of the time. She has never been affectionate, but she tolerates me while trying to rule the household.

Reasons to Have a Cat:
1. Sasha is something to love in my one person home. Except when she is biting. I still prefer my children and grandchildren.
2. A cat is a companion. Sasha is very friendly when she wants something, which usually is food or water. See reason number one above. When niceness doesn’t work, biting comes next.
3. A cat can be playful and amusing to watch…except when she is running across me when I am trying to sleep. Usually in the dark the watching is minimal.
4. Cats require less care than dogs. There is no need to walk Sasha or take her outside for bathroom breaks. She is great with the litterbox. She leaves her toys in it and occasionally paves the floor with litter.
5. Cats have few dietary needs. Cat food works quite well. Well, she doesn’t always agree. She jumps up onto the table when I eat. When she puts her nose near my plate, the squirt bottle sends her away. Daily I remove her from the table at mealtime.
6. Cats are quiet most of the time. They don’t bark. On the other hand, Sasha meows loudly when she is attacking her toys. It lets me know that she is still normal.
7. Cats with claws will destroy fabric covered furniture. This isn’t a reason to keep the cat. It’s a reason to clip the claws. It’s good to have old furniture. A scratching post helps, too, but not much.
8. Occasionally a cat will behave as if she loves you, but mostly she loves herself. Sasha can be loveable.

Sasha is my third and most challenging cat. She is the only one who has lived with just one person since I acquired her. All our cats were rescued from other circumstances. The first, Monster, was born with several others immediately after my daughter rescued her mother from a roof outside her apartment many years ago, and we brought her home when she was old enough. Technically she was daughter Mary’s cat until Mary grew up and left home. The second, Elvis, arrived as a young cat in our yard in Seymour and stayed until I invited him into the house. Both of these cats stayed with us for many years.

I have a book that helps with Sasha’s ongoing training. It’s called Good Cats, Bad Habits: the Complete A-to-Z Guide For When Your Cat Misbehaves, by Alice Rhea. It has shown me that undesirable behavior can be changed, and that some cats are a lot worse than my cat.