Friday, May 15, 2015

Foodie Friday~ 2X Baked Taters

Decades ago I watched a friend make twice baked potatoes, but when I tried, it turned out horrible. I had cut the potatoes in half so they weren't stable. They were dry with little flavor. I tried a couple more times with different recipes and none ever became keepers. So, one day I decided I'm gonna stop trying to copy anyone else. I just thought my way through it and created a twice baked potato that we LOVE. 

They go great with chicken that's been simmered in bbq sauce. The sauce really compliments the potatoes, surprisingly. I have also made these for a going away party once where I let ppl pick their "add-ins" like mushrooms or broccoli or chicken or bacon. The potato was the meal with finger food sides. 

Anyway, when I'm crunched for time, I will "bake" the potatoes in the microwave first while I get the chicken cooking. Then, put them in a 375* oven to crisp up the skins for ten or fifteen minutes while I sauté the veggies. 

So, for seven small potatoes, finely mince one stalk of celery and half a smallish onion. Sauté this in butter till they're soft.  

When you cut the tops off the once baked potatoes, just do an oval right off the top, enough that you can easily get a spoon in to scrape it all out. Be careful not to gouge holes in the skin! I have done this many times and patched it with pieces from the tops.  

Into your bowl of potato innards, add the veggies, 1-1/2 to 2 cups grated cheese, about 3/4 tsp salt, about 1/3 cup of ranch dressing, and about 1/4 cup of milk.

When adding milk, I go for a mashed potato consistency. Stir it all up really, really well. Don't be afraid of lumps. Use your small scraping spoon to cram the innards back into the skins. Press it into the ends, fill up every bit of space. 

You will have a lot more than will fit in the skins. I just dollop the extra on top of each potato. Put them back in your 375* oven for ten to fifteen, basically to get them hot again. 

As I said, you could put anything in these. That one piece of chicken left over from last night. That half cup of broccoli that no one will ever eat. You know, whatever. 

Tell me if you try this!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Music Monday~ The House That Built Me

My dad was in the Air Force which meant we moved a lot. When we left Guam I was seven. We went straight to Minot, North Dakota where I used my moon boots to skate on the streets. I made snowmen taller than me. I dug a snow shelter under a bush right by the front door of our standard issue base accommodation. My mother went to the neighbor's across the street and made a huge seal out of snow. Yes, a seal.

In the summer, I played in the gutters flowing with water. We flew kites in the open field behind our house. I tried and failed at swimming lessons. We did target practice down at the junk yard. My dad walked me to a house down around the corner once. The man who lived there built bikes from parts he gathered. I finally got my "BMX" bike. I stole a playing card from my mom's deck (she loved solitaire) to attach to my bike frame. The wooden clothes-pin held it in place while it clicked against the spokes which sounded to my mind just like the engine of my dad's dirt bikes. Somehow, that sound propelled me faster and faster.

Then, with a little sister in tow, we moved to England. Our first home was a temporary one called the Bird in Hand motel. There were lots of other American kids there, too. I remember the cold on my bare feet as I ran around playing. I remember the other mothers' concern because I was barefoot. We dined in a fancy dining room with white cloths on the tables. At nine years old I met there a mushroom soup that is forever embedded in my memory. I would sprinkle tons of pepper in it and slurp up every drop.

My dad then took assignments at every AF base in southern England.  We lived on base only once, and in my memory, for only one season. Summer. It was in this Lakenheath neighborhood where I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I imagined my very neighborhood to be Scout's. Placing the characters in their geographical proprietary.

A bunch of us kids would be allowed out late to play hide-n-seek in the shadows created by the street lights. I played my album single of Lucille on my little record player. I stole Barbie clothes from a neighbor and I didn't even own Barbies.

Then, we lived in English houses. One was very cold, with tiny bedrooms, a narrow spiral stairway, and an actual thatched roof. Did my mother love it? Did she mind that the bathroom was split between each end of the tiny and very blue kitchen?

Our last home in England was a brick row home. Here, my sister attended primary school and started speaking with a British accent. Here, I brought my black American best friends to sleep over. I angrily chased the boys who never came very close when they made their rude racial remarks.

Here, I made a British best friend. There, I left my British best friend. And all the others.

The song I share with you today is what I call a "modern" country song to distinguish this type of country music from Country & Western, which I love. Modern country? Ehh. Occasionally, a modern country song will come along that grips my heart and forces tears out of my eyes.

Here is one such song.

When we lived in the green cottage, you know the one. It used to be uninhabitable, unloved, unwanted, and we made it lovable again. We restored that cottage so that it could once again be warm, inviting, full of life and love. Rylee came to me one day, as she frequently does, and said, "Can I show you a song?"

We watched the video. I barely kept back the tears. I watched it again and again.

Here are my thoughts when I listen to this song.

I didn't have one home. I had many. So, what built me? My mama. My dad. My little sister.

Mama's constant experimenting in the kitchen. Dad's off-roading, and get-togethers with friends. Inexpensive crafting projects to decorate the house. Fish tanks containing octopi, or frogs, or bright tropical fish.

Two parents who had no idea what struggles I was going to put them through. Two parents who had to make decisions from the hip because, what did they know? Now that I'm a mom, I see that I created a brokenness not only inside myself, but also inside my parents' hearts. I apologize to my dad every now and then. I think he has forgiven me.

I don't need to return to any home for healing. There are no walls on this Earth that can help me make sense of my past.

My healing has come from my Heavenly Parents.

I never forgot who I was. I never KNEW who I was. In each home where we lived, my parents gave me love. They tried to guide me. But, there was something they couldn't give me.

That came from my Heavenly Parents.

Human beings are notorious for trying to "find" themselves in the things of this world. Well, guess what? You came from God. You know what that means? That means that the place you're trying to return to? The house that built you? It's your Heavenly home.

God wants you to be whole. He is the memory that you're seeking. You left home, you moved on, you forgot who you were. Trust me when I tell you that Father wants you to find your way home.

(Sorry if there's an ad. Ack.)