One Good Egg

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Reese Caroline — Saturday’s Egg Hunt

All my “good eggs” have scattered this year.

My husband’s in Saudi Arabia.  My daughters are in route to Chandler to visit their father.  My sons have holed up at their respective residences.  My oldest, I hope, will spend the day resting from a busy tax season… while my youngest, if I had to guess, is working on book number seven of his science fiction series.

Which means, in part, that the approach of Easter has never felt less Easter-ish.  I had no big meal planned.  No special dessert.  No company invited.  So it comes as no surprise, I think, that I should wake up today… waffling on whether or not to attend church.  In the end, I went.  Not out of guilt, though.  I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I attend only when I want to.

Today ended up being more than a “wanting to” sort of day.  Today, I needed to go.  Maybe because the day began too much like any ordinary week day.  Meaning, I woke up early, as I usually do.  I did a little housekeeping.  I fed my dogs and then myself…. and worked through some assigned reading until it was time to get ready for church.

And here, even needing to go, I fumbled at the commitment line.   I don’t know why except that it’s likely tied up with my introverted nature, but I find it difficult to go anywhere by myself.  Today, to avoid going solo, I sent out a “Hail Mary” toss of a last-minute text to my youngest son… inviting him to come with me.  Only when he didn’t respond, did I give in and go by myself.

I arrived to a full parking lot, snagged one of the last two programs for the service, and squeezed into an empty space big enough for one.  In other words, I was far from being alone.  And by the time I walked out the old cathedral where I worship — more weekends than not — Easter had found me.

When Kyle and I connected three hours later, he caught me preparing a traditional Easter ham luncheon for one.  He quickly apologized for not getting my invitation in time…while I was just as quick to assure him that all was well.  We didn’t visit but a minute — just enough time for him to turn down my offer of lunch.  “I don’t know why,” he said.  “But it just doesn’t sound good to me.”  And enough time for me to turn down his invitation to go to an unnamed movie.  “No need,” I said.  “Thanks though.”

It strikes me that it takes a lot of love within a relationship for the parties to feel free enough — free of guilt or whatever, I can’t say —  to speak a simple “no, thanks” to one another.   Lord knows I am not hurt by Kyle not wanting to come over for lunch (or be available to go to church with me, for that matter);  Why I’d rather him come only when he wants to come… and the same goes for all my other good eggs, as well.  I pray Kyle feels the same about me declining his invitation to the movies.  By the same token, I believe God feels the same way about me and my fair-weather attendance at weekend worship services.  Surely, God wants me there… only when I want to be there.

IMG_1787Funny thing about today, though.  I ended up making a nice traditional Easter lunch for myself, even without a big meal plan.  I ended up inviting Kyle to join me, even though it didn’t work out.  And while I had no plans for dessert, somehow, I found myself making one.

I’m not sure when the latter decision happened.  Maybe it was on my drive home from church.  I only know that whenever the idea found me, it came softly and fully formed, as if there all the while, a colorful Easter egg lying in soft, green grass, just waiting for my notice. Because as soon as I walked in the door, I was ready to bake a coconut cream pie.

It didn’t matter that I had no homemade pie crust ready for use.  Nor did it matter when I discovered only one egg remaining in the refrigerator.  No, I wasn’t about to give up my favorite dessert, the one that most reminds me of Mother and all the many wonderful Easter lunches that I’ve been privileged to experience.   In the spirit of serving a Easter luncheon for one, I simply decided to cut the recipe in half. I mixed up half the cream filling, made do with the graham cracker crust that Mother actually preferred, and served it up in ramekins.  They turned out so pretty I think I’ll do it again sometime.

It seems that all I needed for Easter to be Easter… was one good egg.

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Coconut Cream Pie

Meringue
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
6 Tbsp sugar
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1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Separate egg white from yolk — set aside yolk for pie filling. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on high until foamy — add sugar gradually, beating until stiff and glossy. Set aside.

One 9″ Baked Pie Shell

Graham Cracker Crust – Mix 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1 Tbsp sugar, 3 Tbsps melted butter.  Form into crust and bake at 375 degress for 7 to 8 minutes.

Pie Filling

3 egg yolks
3 cups milk (I use 5 oz of Carnation Evaporated Milk mixed with milk from my refrigerator, usually 2 percent)
1/3 cup cornstarch – scant (minus 1 tsp)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/8 tsp vanilla
2 tsp coconut flavoring
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

In a bowl, hand mix eggs yolks with milk, then set aside.  In a large sauce pan, mix all dry ingredients with a whisk.   Stir in milk-egg mixture. Mix well and heat on medium high heat, stirring constantly.   Mixture will thicken in 5 to 7 minutes.  When thickened, add flavorings, butter and coconut, mixing well. Remove from heat.
Pour filling into baked pie shell, top with meringue, then lightly sprinkle with coconut flakes. Bake in a 375 oven for 5-7 minutes, watching closely, until golden browned.

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

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AT HOME, CURRENTLY READING OLIVE KITTERIDGE, BY ELIZABETH STROUT

In tidying up piles of paperwork, I ran across a recipe that I intended to preserve to the blog last summer.  That it became my favorite summertime meal… should, I suppose, lead to shame in my not sharing it sooner.  Especially since my fondness for it grew out-of-bounds, in that I once served it for supper last autumn, too.

But it was during the season of spring that I first tasted something similar to it.  A warm spring day in Palacios, Texas, that carried with it a hint of coolness from the nearby ocean.  I was part of a group of women on spiritual retreat that day, being treated to a picnic lunch catered by a small but lovely Lake Jackson restaurant, called Cafe Annice.  The pasta salad, I remember, was served with slices of crusty French bread with pesto-flavored butter… and for dessert, a Texas-sized brownie.

That picnic reminds me of a packet of letters I feasted upon at the close of the retreat. Some came from friends, a few from co-workers, with most from family.  All of them, without fail, expressed gratitude or love for me, in one way or another.

Included in the packet were letters from my parents.  One from each.  A big deal, since neither was in the habit of writing… or comfortable in expressing love.  But write they did.  Dad recorded the way he felt on the day I was born, at the moment when I was first placed in his arms.  The way he expressed his thoughts on paper… the particular way he told that story… was so uniquely, Dad… that the letter itself helps preserve, for me, the sound of his gravely voice.

Funny how I don’t recall Mom’s message as clearly.  Though I do remember how she closed her short note by passing on some bit of by-the-way family or community news that she thought I’d be interested in knowing.  Mom avoided mushy.  She always said we knew how she felt about us.  And since her actions spoke in place in words, I suppose she was right.

I’ve thought about Mom off and on all day.  Partly because it snowed and Mom always enjoyed watching a pretty snowfall. But also, because it’s her birthday.  Had she lived, she would have been eighty.  Which seems impossible… about as impossible as the fact that I possess a letter from her at all, one that I’m fairly certain I was disappointed with because of its brevity when first opened.  But today I’m glad.  I’m glad that she kept her words short and to the point.  Had she done otherwise, that letter wouldn’t feel nearly so true to her spirit.

So tonight, I write in memory of Mom.  I write without shame in not sharing this recipe sooner. There is a time for everything… and a season for every activity under the heavens… so the Bible says.  In this spirit of wisdom, maybe last year just wasn’t my season for writing.  And maybe when my retreat sponsor contacted my mother on the eve of my long ago retreat, that single letter became her season to write one.

Some things, of course, are not bound by a season.  God.  Love. Wisdom.  Small things, too.  This simple pasta salad, for one.  Cause it may be winter, but it’s on tonight’s  menu.

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Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Serves 2
1.5 cups of grilled chicken breast, cut in bite-size chunks or strips (grill in advance (freeze and thaw) or purchased grilled chicken strips in freezer section of grocery store)
1.5 cups penne pasta, cooked al dente (about 3 ounces uncooked)
1 cup thinly sliced romaine lettuce
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, bite-size — whole or halved
1/2 cup (or more!) red grapes, sliced in half
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup (or more) of Caesar Dressing (I use Marie’s)
1/8 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup of fresh Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/2 cup of home-made croûtons (see below)
Fresh grounded black pepper — to taste

Combined all ingredients in a large bowl — toss well to evenly coat.

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Home-made Croutons:

2 slices of French bread, cubed
Approx. 2 Tbsp butter
garlic salt to taste

Sauté bread cubes in butter and garlic salt in a skillet over medium heat until toasted.

white super bowl sunday

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IMG_1575AT HOME, CURRENTLY READING OLIVE KITTERIDGE, BY ELIZABETH STROUT

Snow began falling this morning before 8:00 a.m, just ahead of its anticipated arrival.

Two hours later, the sky is thick with it. The streets, like laps, are dressed in swaths of soft white finery.  Should weather forecasts hold steady, we can expect more of the same on Tuesday.  On Thursday.  And again, on Saturday.

I’d planned to go to early church this morning, then on to the theater to watch another Oscar-nominated film.  But not being much of a driver under the best of conditions, I’ve decided to stay put.  In rhythm with nature, I’m going to allow the falling snow to redefine my day.

Instead of kneeling and standing and sitting in a pew on the gospel side of the old cathedral where I worship, I’ll curl up, instead, in a comfy chair, where I’ll attend to God by taking in the ancient prayers and Scripture and commemoration of saints that make up today’s dose of the Daily Office.  Then I’ll probably pick up the story threads of my latest novel….before watching Bill Murray in Groundhog Day…who lives a single day of his life over and over until he grows loving and perfect …. before catching up, later tonight, with the Crawleys and their host of caretakers on the latest installment of Downton Abbey.  Nestled in between these, will be texts from the children and my daily phone call from my husband.  And a few meals… though nothing worth writing about.

Missing from my list, of course, is anything to do with the Super Bowl.  This year, with my husband away, all will be quiet on the NFL front since I won’t even hear it playing in the background.   Which, I think, with all the parties thrown in its honor, is surely what most will experience out of the big game… except for the occasional play captured on instant replay.

Could today’s snow put a damper on attendance of planned, nearby parties?

If I were hosting a super bowl party tonight (lower case… intentional), I’d serve something easy like fish tacos.  I’d bake some of my favorite pre-battered, frozen Alaskan Cod and serve it on softly fried corn tortillas with home-made tartar sauce and feta cheese… or maybe home-made coleslaw and feta cheese.  All my children would be here… and of course, my husband, too.  I’d go all out and make some of my favorite jalapeño-flavored Mexican rice…. and as a nod to “all things football”, some kind of nachos.  How about some topped with white cheese and black olive… and feta?

Surely… everything is better.. shall we say “super”…when topped in white?  Especially when served in small enough portions to enjoy over and over.

Today’s snow… for starters.

Two or three of those Fantasy Fish Tacos, qualify, too.

But not, I think, a football playing field covered in snow.

Nor the game played upon its surface, which can only be touted as super… if limited to once a year.

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Fish Tacos, prepared with Aqua Star frozen Alaskan Cod

Homemade Tartar Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp minced red onion
3 tsp sweet pickle relish
1 tsp. Old Bay crab boil seasoning
3 – 4 dashes of hot sauce
Pinch of  cayenne pepper
1 tsp coarse ground pepper
1 tsp sugar (to taste)

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Cover and refrigerate.

Creamy Coleslaw

Chop fine with a food processor in succession, then add to a mixing bowl:

3 cups of chopped or shredded cabbage (for ease, I buy a bag of fresh cabbage & carrot mix)
1 small carrot peeled (see note above)
1/8 cup chopped chives, 1/8 cup sweet white onion, 1/8 cup green bell pepper

Add dressing ingredients — no need to premix:

1 Tbsp sugar (or more)
1 tsp. each of black pepper, garlic powder, Lowery’s Seasoning Salt and white vinegar
3/8 cup mayonnaise

Mix together, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.