Monday, October 23, 2017

Another Applepalooza

It was the warmest Applepalooza party--our fall family fun apple celebration with our friends and neighbors--ever.  At 70F+, the weather was more summer than fall.  This, just two years after we huddled around the fire pit with flurries swirling around!

The party was late this year, and small because kids and families are busier than ever, but I liked the quiet intimacy.  Besides, there were still kids running around and lots of little groups chatting.  Oddly, one of the main topics this year was ghosts.  A few of my friends are sensitive to spirits and told stories of haunted houses and visits from deceased relatives; others who have never seen ghosts were fascinated.

And of course, there were a lot of apple treats:  Swedish Apple Pie, my Grandad's Cooked Apples, my Apple Enchiladas, Sis's new Apple Dumplings, Apple Tart, Apple Turnovers, Apple Bacon Leek Quiche, Apple Crisp, Apple Doughnuts.  Yum, yum, yum.

I love this tradition, but I wondered this year--will we still have it when the kids are out of the house? At least I have several years not to worry about that.

Until then, here is a look back at the years I can find: 200820092010, 20142015, 2016 and a compilation of apple recipes here.


Grandad’s Cooked Apples
I remember Grandad teaching me how to make these, with Mom standing by, at the old stove at Raucous in a small dingy saucepan.  We stirred forever and he wasn’t good at clarifying what “jells” meant but they are incredible, especially served with fresh cream.

4 Jonathan apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
            Cook with lid on until boils, then uncover and simmer until liquid jells (about 30 minutes).  Serve with cream.


Apple Enchilada Dessert
This was on the menu at the Cinco de Mayo party for MOMS Club when I agreed to run for president.  They were very good (6/06).

1-21 oz can apple pie filling
6-8" flour tortillas
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water (some suggest reducing to 1/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 350. Spoon fruit evenly onto all tortillas, sprinkle with cinnamon.  Roll
up tortillas and place seam-side down on lightly greased 8x8 pan. Bring margarine, sugars, and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Pour sauce evenly over tortillas; sprinkle with extra cinnamon on top, if desired.  Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes (some suggest adding an extra 10 minutes baking time or broiling for 5 minutes at the end).

Makes 6 large enchiladas.  May be cut in half to serve 12.

Apple Ideas for Next Year
Apple Brown Betty

1 ½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ cup sugar
3 cups l/4-inch bread cubes
2 tablespoons melted butter
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 lbs large apples
2 to 4 tablespoons cold water (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Combine the nutmeg and the sugar and set aside 2 tablespoons. Put the bread cubes in a bowl and toss with the rest of the sugar mixture, the melted butter, and the lemon rind. Peel, core, and slice the apples into fairly thick wedges. Line the bottom of a heavy 1 1/2-quart casserole with 1 cup of the bread cubes.
Layer half of the apples over the bread and top with 1/2 cup of the bread cubes. Layer the rest of the apples in the casserole and sprinkle with water. Cover with the rest of the bread cubes and evenly sprinkle the reserved 2 tablespoons ofsugar over the top.  Put the lid on the casserole or cover tightly with foil.  Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Take the lid off the betty, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until apples are tender and the topping is brown.

Baked Apples

4 medium cooking apples
1/4 cup raisins, dates, or other dried fruit
1/4 cup nuts, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup apple juice or water

            Preheat oven to 350°F.  Core apples; peel a strip from the top of each.  Place apples in a 2-quart casserole.  Combine the fruit, nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Spoon into centers of apples; top with 1 tablespoon butter each.  Add liquid to dish.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender, basting occasionally with the cooking liquid.  Serve warm with ice cream, light cream, or yogurt, if desired.

Better Homes and Garden

BRH'sApple Crisp
I loved this at the MOMS Club Thanksgiving potluck!

6 large apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup of water
juice of 1 lemon
2 cups rolled oats (I used the quick cooking kind)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the apples, water and lemon juice in an 8x8 inch baking pan.  In a bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar and cinnamon.  Pour in the butter and stir to make a crumbly mixture.  Spread the topping in an even layer over the apples and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and browned.

Mommy Hungry's Apple Crisp

This is the first recipe we really invented together and it is our favorite evening snack, dessert, apple food.

4-5 apples
lemon juice
½ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal
¼ teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
¼ cup butter
cranberries (optional)
chopped pecans (optional)

            Mix and bake in greased pan at 375°F for approximately 30 minutes.
            Alternates:  We don’t even measure anymore, just make enough mixture to cover apples.  Also, this can be made with other fruits, including pitted cherries, raspberries, and blackberries.

                                                                                                                        Mommy Hungry

PDA's Apple Pie
Now this is my signature apple pie, made for all holidays.  And as Grandma always used to say, “Apple pie without cheese is like a hug without a squeeze!”  Mama didn’t believe until she tried it.

¾ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon nutmeg
6 sliced, peeled apples
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
pie crust and crumb topping

            Peel and slice apples, soaking in water and lemon juice to prevent browning.  Heat oven to 425°F.  Mix sugar, flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Stir in apples.  Cover with crumb topping.  Cover edge of pie with aluminum foil, shiny side out.  Bake 40-50 minutes, removing foil for last 10 minutes.

Crumb Topping

1 cup flour
½ cup firm margarine
½ cup packed, crumbly brown sugar

            Mix with fork and sprinkle on top of pie.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lots of Little Things

I haven't made any final decision on the blog and, since I have a few stories, I'll post them.

Yesterday, at the drive-thru, the woman on the intercom greeted me in Spanish.  She apologized and switched to English.  When I pulled up to the window, she apologized again, profusely.  I asked, "Are you apologizing to me for greeting me in Spanish?"  Yes, she said; sometimes she gets confused switching back and forth.  I asked if she were bilingual and, when she said yes, I told her that was wonderful and she never needed to apologize.  I said I would have answered in Spanish if mine were any good.  But as I left, I said "gracias."

Last night, our Cadette troop helped out at the local food pantry.  When we arrived, more than an hour before it opened, there was already a line of 20+ people.  Inside, there were six rows of shelves, with a a few selections per aisle, and unlimited produce while it lasted.  A family of four could get some dried fruit, some canned fruit, 2 boxes of pasta, one box of cereal, two cans of tomato sauce, a jar of cocktail sauce, peanut butter, some meat or cheese or eggs, and a bag of day-old bread.  For a week.  Not much food, not much choice, no real brands.  And some of the clients were homeless, which means they only really could take food that didn't need to be cooked--apples, raisins, cereal, peanut butter, bread.  Others, were confused--I had to explain cocktail sauce to numerous clients--what were they going to do, run out and buy shrimp??  These weren't exactly foods that you could make a lot of different meals with--a family of four could perhaps make cereal breakfast, two spaghetti dinners, and perhaps chicken drumsticks with cocktail sauce.  We ran low on pretty much everything as the evening progressed, so that the only fresh vegetable was onions--and some took 20 or more, I'm guessing for soup.  Meat and eggs ran out, too.  The people at the end of the session had almost no choice.

I know that many of the clients work (and maybe that's why they came at the end of the evening); food insecurity hits more than just people who are unemployed or homeless.  Many brought small children.  Most were minorities (African American or Latinx), most were women, young and older.  There were a few white people, who had clear signs of mental health issues and learning disabilities.  As Sis noted, several clients smelled like cigarettes; I smelled urine, too.

It was very eye-opening for the troop and for the adults.  The girls were mostly sad--sad that people were hungry, sad that people were poor, sad that there was so little.   I was surprised at how little food they got, especially given that they only came once a week. And the quality was very low.  I know my family is privileged--I think I didn't realize how much.  I'm sure we waste more food than these 115 or so clients and their families get.  And, in the current political climate, there will probably be less rather than more.  I mentioned to one of the moms that I would have loved if some of the dads--many of the dads are Republicans, though married to Democrats--had been there, though I can just hear the racism and classism ("I work to take care of my family," etc.)  And then if the GOP takes away healthcare too . . . . The girls were very mature, very hardworking (they carried bags and helped  clients figure out what they could take)--the volunteer coordinator couldn't believe they were seventh graders.  They were pretty quiet as they left after two hours of work, but dedicated to coming back to help at the pantry and later cook dinner at the soup kitchen.  And I think I'll be making more deliveries to the food pantry (though, they said cash is best so they can buy in bulk.)

Otherwise, I've been taking it slowly this week, mainly because I twisted my knee last Friday at hospice.  I thought it would stop hurting with some rest and wearing the little brace I have--I do this about every five years or so--but it's gotten harder to walk and I've even canceled going to hospice tomorrow.    I have an appointment to see my ortho next week and am still taking it easy.  Blah.  I'm pretty sure it's just a muscle thing but better to check.

It might as well be this week because I'm spending a lot of time online doing my Chaplaincy Care Volunteer training class, through Healthcare Chaplaincy and the Spiritual Care Network.  It's an online, introductory course for some continuing education credits; though I've been a hospice volunteer for five years, I'm taking the class to learn more of the theoretical underpinings of hospice and to explore the organization before I apply to do their Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) unit
(which is much more involved--about 400 CPE hours vs. 18 ce credit hours) in the spring.  So, I've spent every morning this week doing the readings, watching the videos, and doing the assignments.  Not surprisingly, many of the assignments are reflective not the regurgitation of information.  And I've found it fascinating.

For instance, the discussion of spiritual distress clarified for me that I experienced such distress after my emergency abdominal surgery, which was a reminder of mortality. And my secular humanist, Buddhist-inspired Unitarian Universalism is not all that comforting about the afterlife.  I don't believe in heaven (or hell); I do not believe in an omnipotent, omnipresence authoritarian godhead.  Pretty much, when I die, I'm dead. And that's not all that comforting.  So for awhile after surgery, I wondered if I could change my beliefs to something with more of an afterlife, and, in the end, I just can't.  I go back and forth about the divine light inside of each of us, which rejoins the universe after death (because energy cannot be destroyed, accoring to our current understanding of physics), but it's not me.  And it's not my life.  As a parent with relatively young children, I find it very difficult to think of leaving them permanently now (even just thinking about it, much less being faced with it really), hence the distress.  How did I overcome it?  Hospice work helps and distance from the precipitating event allows me to go back to ignoring it on such a visceral level.  I'm hoping as the kids get older, as I get older, or if something forces my hand, that I will become better at thinking of leaving this life.  It's a practice.

About that little divine light within each of us; I'm thinking of it metaphorically.  It's been called our spirit, our soul, "this little light of mine." That which enlivens us, differentiates us.  Namaste. "The light in me recognizes the light in you." In me, it flares up at the smiles of my family, a beautiful sunset or view, the national anthem or other pageantry (like the Olympics), when I sing a touching song, when my cats purr.  It draws me to community, to service, to compassion, to love.  When I'm angry or sad or regretful or guilty, it darkens.  Yep, all those tried and true light vs dark metaphors (though as a white woman, I reognize the trouble in associating light with goodness, hope, etc., and darkness with the opposite.)  When my UU RE class visited the local synagogue this Sunday and spoke with the rabbi, he spoke of the divine light that Jews believe is present in them, first breathed into us by God with Adam.  There is no hell; when someone dies, the spark rejoins the divine.  The rabbi mentioned that this interest in a divine spark, an internal, eternal light, comes from the East and in that way is similar to Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.  (BTW, I personally got teary on that field trip when a young woman from the synagogue practiced her bat mitzvah portion on the synagogue's 450-year-old scroll that survived the Holocaust.  This Torah now helps initiate a new generation of young Jews.)

I'm also reading a book by John Pavolitz, the progressive Christian preacher who is active on social media in excorciating #45, the GOP, and religious extremists who hate on LGBTQ, feminists, and others.  I grew up in a family that was, at best, disinterested in Christianity (and all religions), if not somewhat hostile.  Even at a young age, I saw a lot of hypocrisy in the Southern Baptists I knew.  As I grew older, I saw more--people were religious but didn't seem to live out the values of mercy, charity, faith, love, etc exemplified by Christ.  Certainly, now that I'm an out lesbian, I see even more hypocrisy and quite often wonder then, why do people bother to be Christians then?  Except reading Pavolitz's new book, Building a Bigger Table, I'm starting to understand the appeal of Christianity, at least as Pavolitz describes it--a table with legs of radical hospitality, divesity, beloved community, and  . .. oh, I'm forgetting the last leg.  Still, those are all wonderful things.  Now I don't know much about Jesus--and I don't believe in a supreme being, much less his holy incarnation on earth and so I won't become a Christian--but I can appreicate the core values as Pavolitz sees it.  He also talks about the light inside of us, which reaches out to others.

And today is Diwali, the Indian festival of lights . . . and the chalice is the symbol of Unitarian Universalism . . . so I have light on my mind.

What else?  I learned about reminiscence therapy, where you guide older people, especially those with memory loss, through significant life events, like school or marriage, using objects (e.g. a wedding veil), music (wedding song), scent (fresh flowers), etc.  I actually had the opportunity to try it with one of my hospice patients that afternoon, as she had a letter about a family member's recent wedding.  So, we talked about her wedding, back in the 1940s, after the war.  A chuppah, breaking the glass, a white dress, and how it all started the family that loves and surrounds her today.  Also, one of the videos, this time on prejudice and professional, featured a therapist who said there are no first impressions--every time we meet someone new we are reminded of people we've met before or lessons we learned from our family and/or culture (such as racism) and so we have prejudices that are very hardwired and hard to overcome; as professionals, it would be our job to see these thoughts and then just set them aside. (As we say in Buddhism, don't believe everything you think.)  My first thoughts weren't about my own prejudices with regards to other people but how such prejudices affect how I see myself--how much I berate myself for being overweight, for instance.  I have a very strong, very negative inner voice that rarely quits (especially this week with my knee hurting), even when I can examine the thoughts and try to let them go.  I am much nicer and more understanding, for instance, about everyone else's body issues; just not mine.  As for prejudices I might carry with me to hospice, ironically, I used to be anxious about talking to elderly people because I couldn't understand them (on, say, Girl Scout visits to nursing homes) and would avoid it; I would rather have spent time with children with special needs, say (like when I worked at various camps.)  Well, now I spend a lot of time with sometimes very hard to understand elderly people!  Of course, the most obvious prejudice is racial.  I carry that baggage, too, but consider myself, to use the parlance, newly "woke." Or, perhaps, awakening.  I try to stay aware of my privilege and the challenges of non-white or non-privileged people, based on race, ability, income, gender etc.  I hope it doesn't affect my hospice work.  For instance, I do become very aware of racial issues (and am a bit uncomfortable) when I'm singing Harry Belafonte songs with Carribean patois lyrics to my white patient who loves those songs, in front of her Jamaican personal health aide, who sometimes sings and dances along!  But I will enter any room where I'm welcomed and treat the person in the bed and the friends and family around with all respect and dignity.

Whew! I think that's probably enough for today.