In praise of the soybean

My dad grew edamame before it was cool. We called it by another name back then.

In the garden he claimed from a Minnesota meadow, he planted rows of soybeans, poor man’s food he remembered from his boyhood. When the plants died in the late summer, he uprooted them by the dozen and laid them in our yard. Rows and rows of tables stacked high with brittle stalks. How many were there? We pulled the sharp, hairy pods from the plants and my mom boiled them until the beans inside were bright and ready, jewels of goodness we pinched from the pods until our thumbs were sore. The mosquitoes chewed holes in our legs, and we stood on one foot so we could scratch with the other.

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When I was an adult, I went to a posh restaurant and was surprised to find edamame on the menu; the waiter grinned when I pronounced it correctly (“Very nice. Usually nobody knows what that is”), but I was raised on it in the wilds of Minnesota and when it arrived on my plate I found they hadn’t even bothered to pinch it out of the pods, but oh it was good, packed and popping with goodness, and since then I have found it at my supermarket shelled or not; an easy choice for this girl who remembers how

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The mosquitoes chewed holes in our legs, and we stood on one foot so we could scratch with the other. We pulled the sharp, hairy pods from the plants and my mom boiled them until the beans inside were bright and ready, jewels of goodness we pinched from the pods until our thumbs were sore. How many were there? Rows and rows of tables stacked high with brittle stalks. When the plants died in the late summer, he uprooted them by the dozen and laid them in our yard. In the garden he claimed from a Minnesota meadow, he planted rows of soybeans, poor man’s food he remembered from his boyhood.

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We called it by another name back then. My dad grew edamame before it was cool.

 

Seafood chowder

There’s a soup I must introduce you to, for tasting on these nippy nights.

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I invented it last fall, when I was hungry for a fish chowder, but it took me a whole year to make it again because my husband (who in all other ways has impeccable taste, of course) was not crazy over it. He’s not a big seafood person.

When I made it again, it was even better than I remembered and all the kids loved it, so I grabbed my courage in both hands and clicked publish. At least, by the time you read this I will have clicked publish. I think.

(Just in case you are falling for that yarn: if this post were the one that took the most courage I’d be in clover. FYI.)

You can use whatever seafood you want. I picked three kinds for a variety of flavor and texture. And one disclaimer: it’s not the low-fat version. I often keep bacon drippings in my fridge, the fat left after frying bacon. It adds quick flavor to soups and veggies. You may skip that ingredient if you prefer, or add more of it (wink), or prepare real bacon bits to stir in.

Serve with good bread or toast, and a fresh green salad.

Seafood Chowder

Meat:
½ pound fish, cut in 1 inch cubes
½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ pound scallops

Sauté in butter with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic salt, and a generous shake of Old Bay seasoning. Do not drain.

Veggies:
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery
2 Tbsp. bacon drippings (opt)
½ tsp. seasoned salt
2 cups chicken broth

Boil 5-10 minutes till tender. Do not drain.

Base:
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup cream or half and half
½ tsp. salt
Additional pepper and Old Bay seasoning to taste
Parsley and thyme (fresh or dried) to taste

Melt butter; stir in flour. Gradually add milk and remaining ingredients to make a white sauce, stirring till smooth and thickened.

Stir all three mixtures together. Heat and serve.

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It’s a good soup to eat on the eve of a holiday, when all the family is gathering for the next day’s celebration.

What kind of soup do you like? My sister says this Red Lentil is awesome. Link a recipe here for me to try, or share it in your comment if you’re willing. I’d love to find a new favorite. Share the joy, pass the soup.

How to bake a Noah’s Ark cake

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When I was in my upper teens, my dad and I attended a Father-Daughter Banquet together. One of the after dinner activities was a paper for the dads to fill out, starting with In ten to twenty years, my daughter will be…

Most of the predictions were a variation of I hope she will be serving the Lord wherever her lot falls. But my dad had us all laughing, carried away by his prophetic sagacity.

Yesterday I dug out his prediction paper and found he wrote:

In 10-20 years, my daughter will be married—no question—after having graduated from nursing school with honors. She will be driving a 2010 yellow Beetle—a five speed with twin car seats in the back… with twins in, of course. Her two-year-old twins will be talking non-stop and giggling as they try to land pieces of pretzels on their mom’s head. My daughter will patiently explain the proper use of pretzels while fervently repenting of all her own childhood sins. –John Coblentz

He got a few details mixed up, of course. It’s two of my brothers who did nursing school with honors, and my sister is the one who got the Beetle. But fifteen years after the banquet, I have done a significant amount of repenting, and the gigglers just turned two.

And yes, they throw pretzels.

So it would have been nice if he had predicted them cleaning up toys or getting potty-trained or something useful. {Thanks, Dad.}

We celebrated their big event—uh, birthday, not food fight—with a Noah’s Ark cake I learned from the baking queen in my life, my sister-in-law Chastin.

Mix up two white cake mixes and bake them in seven layers, one for each color of the rainbow. (I don’t have seven round cake pans, so using disposable pans meant I could bake a bunch all at once. Don’t tell anyone I washed and saved them for freezer casseroles when this baby comes.)

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Stack the layers in order with a thin layer of buttercream frosting. (It doesn’t look “thin” on the picture but it’s compensating for the curvature of the earth, or something.)

You will need to drink lots of coffee during this stage, because you will know the whole stack is going to fall over. Miraculously, it won’t. The coffee will help with your other issues though, so it’s not in vain.

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Then top with a Noah’s Ark set of your choice. You can use a plastic one from your toy stash, or make your own. My ark, fashioned of cake bits and graham crackers, is what I would call a good try—almost, though not entirely, unlike a boat.

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But bubble gum animals are super fun to make. Start with Bubblicious gum, those thick cubes, and shape like Play-doh with as many details as you wish. Dipping a toothpick in food coloring makes cute eyes and accent marks.

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The nice thing about this cake is that it gets prettier when you cut it.

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Happy birthday, babies! May you live long and prosper.
(But that is not the proper use of pretzels.)

Giveaway: R&R Roasters

Update: As of Sunday, June 7, 2015, this giveaway is closed.

Hello there!

The other day I got the darlingest package in the mail from Kansas.

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Inside was a bundle wrapped in stripey paper, tied up with string, and the smell that came out of it?

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Mmmmm, heaven—

Fresh coffee!

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My friends Ryan and Rebecca Shetler started a coffee roasting business, and offered me a sample. I love a good cup. And though I’m not a coffee gourmet, my mom is—[grin]—so I invited her over. She said “[delighted shriek] Yes!! I LOVE their coffee!”

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We ground and brewed and sipped together, and I’m a believer. Sooo delicious!

(You know I try not to rave over things I can’t share, so hang on. Your part is coming soon.)

Ryan and Rebecca, also known as R&R Roasters (how cute is that?) buy ethically sourced beans, and carefully roast them to perfection in small batches. All the beans at R&R Roasters are organic, fair-trade, and roasted after you place your order because the Shetlers think freshness is what makes home roasting so wonderful. They ship within a day or two of roasting, so you get that perfectly optimum flavor.

Don’t even get these guys started talking about coffee experiences and tasting notes. This is good coffee.

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Plus it comes in adorable brown paper bags with tabs to seal in the freshness.

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And then of course you can make a latte with it, if you want…

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Ryan and Becca would like to give away one pound for free, to one of you. Stay in your seats, please. There will be no stampedes to the comment section. No people will be trampled in the giving of this bean.

But we mean it. And feel free to hang around and check out their website here, with coffee beans for sale by the pound here. They also offer subscriptions, for twice-monthly fresh deliveries to your door.

You can also find R&R on Facebook, and on Instagram.*

On their website they have a blog where they talk about coffee and life. Becca works as a barista, and loves to educate people about coffee and help develop their palates.

Since R&R Roasters is a new business (with years of personal experience in coffees), we’d like to spread the word. Please share the giveaway with someone—in person, by email, or on social media—then leave a comment to enter the drawing.

Thanks!

Shari Zook

*****

Though I was given a free sample of coffee, I am not being paid to write this post and my opinions are my own.

*I’m not on Instagram so I can’t include their link. Search @randrroasters.

Giveaway ends in one week, Sunday, June 7, 2015. Open to any person with a US mailing address. Winner will be chosen by random.org.

Update: As of Sunday, June 7, 2015, this giveaway is closed.