A bit of Grace in the midst of March

Yesterday was one of those days.  The weather could not have been more perfect, 80 + degrees and no wind.  I, like many people, happened to be working.  I was determined to finish early and get outside.

I have always said, “it is sin against God not to ride your bike on a day with no wind in Kansas!”  The fact it was March 14, and no wind and beautiful in Kansas just motivated me.  I did the errands I had to do (with a trip to the Seafood Shop, will post more about that shortly) and got myself home.

Andrew already was pumping up the bike tires and had water bottles ready.

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So, off we went for a ride a little less than 9 miles.  It felt SO good.  Today, I am sore, but so glad to have been in the sun, riding down by the river, seeing many people out running, walking, and biking.  We stopped  by and saw our neighbors that it feels like we haven’t seen forever.

Upon returning home, it was time for dinner.  What a perfect evening.  March 14, 80+ degrees, no wind, in Kansas, we fired up the grill. Our neighbors Lee and Connie had pulled up carrots.  So I decided I would grill vegetables, salmon and have a tossed salad.  We would eat on the deck.

First, I had to clean some fresh carrots.

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Washed, I added brussels sprouts and purple potatoes

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I then peeled the carrots, quartered the potatoes and the brussels sprouts.  Put them in a bowl and added olive oil, salt and pepper.

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Now to prepare the salmon.  As I mentioned earlier, I ran by the Seafood Shop in order to have something tasty for dinner.  This time I chose the Steelhead Salmon.  It looked wonderful

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I started by drizzling olive oil, added salt and pepper.  I then went outside and cut some lemon thyme and to the front porch where I cut some Italian parsley.

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I pulled the lemon thyme off the stems and rough chopped the parsley and thyme together then sprinkled it over the salmon.  Lemon thyme is so fragrant. I squeezed some lemon juice and put lemon slices on top.

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I put the vegetables on the grill, about 400 degrees

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Then it was time to make the salad, before I put the salmon on.  The vegetables grilled about 6 minutes.

I went to the front porch.  I have been growing lettuce all winter.  I only have enough for salad every so often.  It was past time to cut the lettuce.

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After I cut the lettuce, I washed it, spun it dry, then tossed it with a basic balsamic vinaigrette. I placed it on the plates with sliced pear, Point Reyes blue cheese and some cranraisins for color.

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The salmon cooked about 10 minutes on the grill, the vegetables around 15 to 17 minutes.  Mostly they ended up okay, some were a little charred.  Will have to work on that.  We set the table and set out side on the back deck.

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This truly was a bit of grace in what has been a pretty cold, windy and dreary month.  The day helped me remember that spring is coming and as the days grow longer and warmer it is a time to be savored and enjoyed.  So often, I rush through my days, put whatever into my mouth in order to keep going.

On March 14, I slowed down enough to embrace this gift of grace and love.  Riding my bike, feeling the sun, getting home and savoring some beautiful fish, beautiful vegetables and salad that exploded with tart, sweet and crunch made me breathe deeply and say a prayer of thanks.

On a windless and warm March day, I once again embraced the beauty of creation, the love offered me by God and by my spouse.  At the table, I was reminded that grace abounds, that one can be fed body and soul and life is good.

Remembering my Nana

My grandmother was an old-time cook.  Meat, potatoes, a vegetable.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast.  I lived with her and my grandfather for five years.  The only time she didn’t cook was Sunday evening.  That was the evening for Lawrence Welk, popcorn and apples and the Wonderful World of Disney.

Sunday dinners tended to be wonderful, served on her china and ready to be served when we returned from Church.  Pot Roast, chicken, and casseroles.  On occasion my grandmother, my Nana made pan-fried chicken.  It’s tedious, takes a great deal of work and so we often did not have it.

To this day, I love pan-fried chicken.  Nana often made it in the summer for picnics when we would go to the park or the lake and it was accompanied by coleslaw and potato salad.  When we stayed home, it was made with mashed potatoes and cream gravy.  It wasn’t fancy, she didn’t do all the things you often read about, she dredged the chicken in seasoned flour and fried it.  To this day, I can not fry chicken and smell the searing meat without thinking of her.

So tonight, I pan-fried chicken.  I was supposed to have some folks over for dinner, at the last-minute no one could come.  I wasn’t devastated, it’s been a long day, but I had chicken and something needed to happen with the chicken.  Late afternoon I said to Andrew, “I’m hungry, I probably out to do something with that chicken.  How about I fry chicken?”   HIs eyes lit up, “Fried chicken????”  And then I said, “how about fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy?”   He was sold.

It is not gourmet.  It is simple, down home country cooking like my grandmother used to cook.  I fry chicken once, maybe twice a year.  Always pan-fried and ALWAYS with mashed potatoes and cream gravy.

The recipe is not difficult.  My Nana didn’t “double dip.”   She dredged the chicken in seasoned flour and popped it in hot oil or Crisco on the stove.  I put about one and a half cups of flour in a pie plate, added salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Mixed it together, salted and peppered the chicken pieces.  Dredged them in the flour mixture then sprinkled a good dose of paprika on the top and put them in the hot oil

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I fried the top, the bottom and then the sides. It takes time and then I cover the chicken for a time to make sure it is cooked through. Forty five minutes to an hour should cook chicken to the place it needs to be done.

I take it out of the oil and drain it on paper towels.

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The potatoes were already cooking. I had opened a can of green beans I had canned last year. As the chicken was draining, I poured off most of the grease, leaving the good brown bits in the pan and added the flour I had used to dredge the chicken. I did that knowing it would be heated to a high enough temperature to deal with the raw chicken issues.

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This needs to be “cooked” for two or three minutes to get the raw flour flavor out of it and then you can add milk. This is the only time I make cream gravy. I always do a butter/flour roux and then add stock. But the cream gravy takes me back to my childhood and my grandmother and somehow makes the fried chicken taste the way it is supposed to taste.

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We mashed the potatoes, and we were ready to eat. My Nana wasn’t the kind of country cook many speak about. She embraced convenience foods early and with gusto. However, on occasion she went back to the farm and made meals I still remember. Fried Chicken is one of those meals that remind me of home, of love, of family and of a woman who took in four kids and a mom at seventy years of age and made of the best of it. She and my grandfather in so many ways are my saints and I am grateful for all their love and faith that believed in me and my siblings.

This is what dinner looked like tonight. I think Nana would have been proud.

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