Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Mother of All Soups

    Long ago, when I was fresh out of nursing school, I  began  to develop the recipe I am going to share with you today.  I worked in an ICU and was caring for an elderly Jewish  man whose wife came faithfully everyday with a small tupperware jar of food for him.  It was usually chicken soup.  She insisted that her homemade chicken soup was instrumental in his recovery and dismissed the  efforts of the doctors and nurses as tangential.

    One day I asked her why she revered chicken soup as a panacea.  She shared her recipe with me which was similar to my mother's but contained carrots, something my mother did not use.  I mentioned this and she exclaimed,"Oh good chicken soup MUST have carrots in it.  They are part of the medicine." She added,"and don't skim off the fat. Leave it in ."

   Several years later, I found myself in a similar circumstance.  This time the tiny older woman was Italian and in sharing HER recipe with me, she said, "Don't forget to use lots of garlic.  That is the most important ingredient."

  Sometime later, I read a newspaper article with a variety of ethnic recipes for chicken soup.  It revealed what I had begun to suspect.  Everywhere in the world there were women making some version of chicken soup for healing purposes.

  The Asian recipe called ginger , the Indian, for  hot chili pepper.   In Greece, the addition of lemon juice is essential.  Everyone, it seems, uses onions and a variety of other vegetables and a grain or starch like barley, rice or noodles ...oh and lots of salt!

   My own mother, whose mother was Irish, added thyme and rosemary, sage  and a bay leaf.

    A careful reading of any herbal will reveal what all of these women the world over knew in their feminine bones.  Ginger, garlic, thyme, bay, sage and  hot pepper are among the herbs that warm the body, chase away germs, are anti-inflammatory and anti viral and/or bacterial.  In other words, healing and soothing.

Every Mother's Chicken Soup

Take a whole, cleaned chicken , place in a large soup pot, cover with water (about 6-7 cups), add a bay leaf, a drop or two of vinegar and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for an hour or so until the chicken begins to fall apart.  Remove the chicken and all bones etc from the broth and let cool. 

 While it cools, cut up lots of garlic, ginger, onions, carrots, celery and red pepper. You can roast the cut up veggies, saute them briefly or add them to the pot directly, your choice.  

Add  the following herbs and spices to taste(I tend to use  large amounts of these ingredients)  sage, thyme, rosemary, cayenne pepper,  black pepper and salt. Reheat the soup and cook for about 10 minutes until vegetables are just cooked.  Puree about 3 or 4 cups of the mixture and return it to the pot.

 Remove all the bones, skin and non-meat parts of the chicken and add the meat back into the soup.  Adjust seasoning, especially salt.  This soup requires more salt than I normally use in a recipe. Remove bay leaf.  

  Prior to serving, choose your grain (barley, rice or noodles) and cook according to directions, adding it to the soup when you serve it.  

   After observing the magical  effect of this soup for many years, I've come to recognize that the true healing ingredient is love.  That is the one essential thing  mothers and caregivers everywhere add to their soup!  Oh, and don't forget to freeze a batch in case the cook gets sick.  It will be ready to heat!



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Postcards from My Winter Garden

        Our back yard  was planted with an eye toward having interest 12 months a year.  January is the most challenging month in my part of the world.  

       There is only one slender possibility of a flower appearing in January and that is  dependent on two things--- remembering  to plant pansies in October and  a thaw that lasts a few days to give the intrepid pansy a chance to feel the sun long enough to send out a pathetic flower or two.
  I get my garden fix this month in other ways.  The evergreens, paths, trellises and stones and the bare branches of deciduous shrubs and even the old seed heads  create a soothing place for my eyes to wander, if not my feet.  

 When I do go outside, I hunt for signs of life like these andromeda buds which add some color and promise flowers in early March.

  I am always happy to find that my lavender is still alive, huddled next to the south -facing garage wall, looking pale as a winter ghost, but still alive!

 When  snow arrives  the winter garden  becomes a magical place of long shadows,

and artful designs created by Mother Nature


 My sage, trying valiantly to be an evergreen, is slowly succumbing to the numbing temperatures of the last two days.


The bare branches of the cherry tree seem to reach for the sun's warmth and when I look up at the right moment, a cloud passes, and the sky offers me a fleeting glimpse of the bluest blue against the blackened tree.

   Still hungry for flowers, I spot last summer's hydrangea, with paper thin brown remnants of her petals still hanging on.  They look lovely against the snow.

 Even the garlic chive stalks offer  a winter work of art for my garden starved eyes.

   And these leftover flowers caught just enough snow to change their looks, like a woman putting on a winter white fur coat!

     When I grow tired of the 'blooms' in the winter garden, I retreat to my warm sunroom where I can while away the winter, looking at my favorite garden catalogs and dreaming about what I will plant when spring arrives.

First light after the first snow of the year

Take-away for today - January has its own pleasures,  I just have to look a bit harder.  The good news is, no weeding!!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time for a Make-Over and Other Bits and Pieces

  I haven't been posting so much this month but that doesn't mean I haven't been writing.  I did a bit of a make-over on the design of the blog, as you can see. I changed the color scheme , going for a wintery white, clean look.  I couldn't resist putting some veggies in the back round though, just because....I like them!

    The most important change I've made is to the sidebars.  I peruse many blogs on a variety of topics and, to make it easier to do some blog-hopping, I divided them into categories.  So feel free to check out some of my favorites.  I plan to add more, as I find new ones that I enjoy.

    Since I don't do TV,   reading has become my leisure 'vice.'  I read everything........ recipes, book reviews, poetry, prayers, articles about health and wellness, fiction  etc, etc. and  many  blogs offer  nourishment for me.   I am especially fond of poetry sites and you will find many of those on the sidebar.

    Recently, I've been writing poems - lots of them!   This gives me a sense of peace, a feeling of accomplishment, and, if nothing else,  a wonderful hobby to pass the winter months, as I wait for my garden to reawaken.  In a word, writing poetry fills me with joy! Perhaps one day, I will let you into my poetry garden!

one moment at a time
into poetry

  Yesterday  I went to visit my almost-bed-bound mother.   I brought her some fruit compote along with  her weekly groceries. She loves sweets and is especially fond of this compote which she says "keeps things moving." Her memory fades with each passing week and  she has stopped trying to keep track of her life.


old mama
she's forgotten everything
except her children


     When I got in the car to come home, I spotted the car-seat we installed for my grandson and the irony of that hit me over the head.   I am certainly a member of the 'sandwich generation.'


a little boy says
'amma, tell me everything
about the universe'


   I feel  blessed to have my mother still with us and a young grandson to keep me on my toes. He still thinks Pappa and I know 'everything' about the universe!   Very soon, I suspect,  he will know infinitely more than we do.  Right now, we can still answer most of his questions.  He is coming to visit us for a 'sleep-over' this weekend. That means I have to put my running shoes on to keep up with him.  The good news is,  he'll probably love the fruit compote too!!  Here's the recipe.

Fruit Compote

1/2 lb dried apricots
1/2 lb dried prunes
1/2 lb raisins
1 stick of cinnamon
1 piece of ginger chopped
1 apple cut up
water to cover

Cook on a low flame for about 1 hour until all the fruit softens.

Thought for Today:  Every moment can be turned into joy, if not poetry.

Sharing with Rebecca and friends at Recuerda Mi CorazonRecuerda Mi Corazon Haiku My Heart


Monday, January 14, 2013

Keeping a Journal...It's not just for teenagers anymore

     Keeping a journal is a time honored exercise for many writers and since I fancy myself a writer, I'm no exception.  I've kept many different journals over my lifetime and find it a rewarding past time.  Journaling isn't just for 'writers' though.  It is a wonderful way to keep track of whatever it is you desire to record.  It can be therapeutic, spiritual, practical, health-promoting and fun!

****  Are you always noticing the weather, keeping track of the phases of the moon or when the cherry trees bloom? Which birds are visiting?  Do you love walking at the beach or through the woods and observing  nature?  How about keeping a nature journal!  This has been one of my favorite writing exercises over many years.  I found a ten year journal that was perfect.  It has only a small space for each entry but you can compare the weather, gardening observations etc with the previous years.

****  Perhaps you are starting an exercise program or a diet.  (It is January, after all.)  Writing down goals and then tracking progress, including keeping a list of what you eat and how and when and where you exercise, can be a powerful motivator.  It is also great to look back to see where you were.

****Many people keep a gratitude diary.  This is easy....just list all the things that happened each day for which you are grateful.  This can be tied to a spiritual practice or not, your choice!

****  A spiritual or prayer journal  can be  another source of nourishment.  If you are in the habit of communicating with God,  meditating mindfully, contemplating a higher power, or sitting in silence, journaling about the experience can be fruitful.  Perhaps you read scripture as part of your meditation.  After reflecting on your reading, write about how it moved you.

**** The arrival of a new baby into a family is a wonderful time to begin a journal.  New mothers  are often given a book to record all of their baby's milestones but there is no reason grandma or grandpa or even dad can't write about the little one!  Along with your  photos you will  create a treasure worth more than gold!

**** I love to bring a small book along when I go on vacation.  I try to record all the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of my experience in a new place.  Along with my photos, my travelogue can recreate moments from a vacation long after the return trip home.

**** If you are artistic, your journal can incorporate other  ways of communicating to enhance your words or  instead of words.  I am not  very artistic  but have recently been drawn to using paint, pencils and pens to "doodle."  I bought a sketchbook and, when the time is right, I  plan to create  a visual journal.

****Some other journal ideas:  Cooking and recipes, memoir writing, poetry or haiku journal, mindful moments,  a garden diary(with photos,) a dream journal, a reading journal (with book reviews/synopses)  Keeping a journal is proven to reduce stress and can be life affirming and lift one's mood.

   Although I blog ( an online way to journal)  I keep and have kept many paper  journals throughout my life. The idea of creating a book, even if it never sees the light of day, appeals to me.

Try it!  You may like it!

For Recuerda Mi Corazon Postcards from Paradise

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