Vol 8, Num 12 :: 2009.06.05 — 2009.06.19
There’s a book Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Tabeck based on the Yiddish folk song, “I Had a Little Overcoat.” In this book, Joseph’s overcoat is worn out. So he makes a jacket out of it. It wears out. So he makes a vest out of it. Guess what? It wears out, too. Finally, all Joseph has is a scrap of fabric large enough to make a button. So he makes a button. One day he loses it. And rather than bemoaning his fate, he writes a story about the whole adventure with a moral is: “You can always make something out of nothing.”
True and not true. I know this because I make a lot of things. Sometimes from scratch, as they say, and sometimes not. But one of the many primary differences between humanity and God is that God can actually make something from nothing. In theological circles, we use the phrase ex nihilo — from nothing — to describe God’s creation.
But God doesn’t only make things from nothing. In the creation story, Adam is made from dust. Eve’s origin is a rib. God doesn’t just make stuff ex nihilo, he makes stuff from other stuff.
And so do we — heck, that’s the only thing we can do. We don’t actually make things. We take stuff that already exists and remake it into something else — very different (ingredients into a cake) or very similar (a long sleeved shirt into a short sleeved shirt.)
So, for one week, I decided to record everything I made. Sometimes I took a picture. Sometimes I didn’t. Some things are definitely from scratch; other things were assembled.
And FYI, if you wondered how I did so much (if you think I did, which I don’t, but that’s another article), I’m temporarily not working my regular job.
I made three long-sleeved cardigans into short-sleeved cardigans as a freelance sewing job for a client.
I made a pair of falling-apart pajama pants into a pair of wearable pajama pants.
I made banana bran waffles. We ate them before I got a photograph.
Banana Bran Waffles
Beat egg white in a small bowl until stiff and set aside. Mix together dry ingredients and set aside. Combine egg yolk, milk, banana and butter or oil. Add to dry ingredients, mixing until just blended. Add nuts and fold in with beaten egg white until just mixed. Do not overbeat batter. Cook in a waffle iron until crispy. Makes three waffles.
I made 37 envelopes out of old calendar pages. I do this periodically; my editors sometimes get a kick out of it and it’s fun for writing letters. Use an envelope as a template for the shape you want (and what works with the size of the picture). Cut out and paste together.
I repotted a plant I’d rooted from another plant I babysat for Mom. Finally, earth!
I made banana muffins. (Notice a trend? I bake breakfasts on the weekend. At some unknown point, I had purchased several discounted bananas from the grocery store and stuck them in the freezer. I cleaned out the freezer and used up the bananas.)
Healthy Banana Muffins
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together wet ingredients in another bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Stir in nuts. Place in 12 muffin cups, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until done.
I made an arrangement of lily of the valley for our dining room. Currently, this is the only flower blooming in our garden.
I baked peach cake for a Memorial Day get-together one of my friends had. I’ve made this recipe before; it’s terrific (and very easy!).
Georgia Peach Cake
Beat eggs and ad sugar and oil, mixing well. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder; add to egg mixture alternately with juice. Add vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, toss peaches with ¼ C. sugar and cinnamon. Pour one-third batter into a greased, lightly floured tube pan. Layer one-half peach mixture over it. Cover with one-third batter and the remaining peach mixture. Spread remaining batter over all. Bake at 350° for one hour. Cool cake ten minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Serves ten, depending on how large or small the pieces are.
A three-day weekend! Three breakfasts! Today I made a favorite, buttermilk pancakes. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can sour milk (or use naturally soured milk) by putting several tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice into a scant cup of milk.
Beat liquid ingredients together. Thoroughly mix the dry ingredients and add them to the liquid, stirring only long enough to moisten the flour. Spoon a small ladleful onto a hot, lightly greased skillet, using enough batter to let the pancake spread to three to four inches in diameter, or however you like them. Bake until golden on the bottom, less than a minute; bubbles will appear on the top, which tells you that it’s time to turn them. Serve immediately with local maple syrup or homemade jam.
My brother is a Peace Corps member in part of the former USSR. He told me that a mild interjection there is translated “First pancake!”, an appropriate sentiment for when something doesn’t turn out well. When making pancakes, a “First Pancake!” is to be expected, though my first pancake this time was perfect. (Cast iron helps!)
For lunch, I made lamb burgers using almost entirely local ingredients. I did not grill; I cooked them inside and they were delicious.
Open Face Lamb Burgers with Mint Yogurt Sauce
Whisk together yogurt, minced mint, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Mince half of the garlic clove and whisk into the sauce.
Mix lamb, parsley, onion or scallions, salt, pepper and allspice with your hands (I used a spoon. That part sometimes grosses me out.) until just combined. Form into 4-6 patties, depending on the type of bread you’re using. Place the patties in a heated skillet, preferably cast-iron, or grill them outside using the best technique you know.
Brush both sides of the bread slices or buns with 2 T. oil and place on a heated skillet to toast for one to two minutes on each side. Rub one side of each toast with the cut side of the remaining garlic and season with salt.
Toss together mesclun or lettuce, whole mint leaves, remaining teaspoon oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Divide lamb among toasts on plates, then spoon sauce over and top with greens.
I finished an amigurumi project for a student. This one is a koala bear. I learned about amigurumi in Southeast Asia. They’re really fun to crochet!
I was the recipient of some men’s flannel pajamas. They’re too short for me, so I made them capris with a short sleeved shirt.
For dinner, I’m experimenting with an asparagus soup recipe. I’m trying to find a good use for the asparagus stalks that one snaps off when making whole asparagus. Well, the soup recipe needs more help. It was mediocre, so I’m not going to give you the recipe. (Maybe Thursday?)
I also made baked tortilla chips, which we ate with homemade salsa.
Chile-Lime Tortilla Chips
Position oven racks in the middle and lower third of oven; preheat to 375°.
Using kitchen scissors, cut tortillas into quarters. Pour a little olive oil in a bowl and use a pastry brush (silicone is best) to coat both sides of each tortilla piece with a little oil. Place wedges in an even layer on two or three large baking sheets. Combine lime juice and chili powder in a small bowl. Brush the mixture on each tortilla wedge and sprinkle with salt.
Bake the tortillas, switching the baking sheets halfway through, until golden and crisp, 15-20 minutes.
I pickled and canned asparagus. I’ve been perfecting this recipe for an asparagus event I’m helping out with next week. Make this before asparagus goes out of season! In case you’re wondering, making pickles is a fairly relaxing thing to do. This recipe will take about two hours, top to bottom.
Garlicky Lemon Dill Pickled Asparagus
Makes 8 pints
Rinse the asparagus and snap off the woody end of each stalk. Snap or chop the stems into one- to two-inch pieces. Pack the vegetables into clean, sterilized jars (if you’re going to can them for storage). Divide the garlic, lemon peel and dill among the jars. Combine the dry spices and divide the mixture between the jars as evenly as you can. (This is about 1 ½ t. spice mixture per jar.)
Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, salt and water in a saucepan until the salt is dissolved. Pour the mixture over the vegetables until covered, leaving ½" head space. Either place the jars (with new sterilized lids and sterilized rings) into a boiling water bath to process for 15-20 minutes or allow them to cool and pacing in the refrigerator. Processed canned pickled asparagus will keep for at least a year; refrigerated pickles will keep for at least two months in the fridge.
I made dolmathes (also, ntolmathes or dolmas, depending on where you’re from) and asparagus soup. This is a different recipe than the one I tried on Tuesday. I used the asparagus stems again, and though I cooked them for a long time it was still stringy. I don’t think there’s any good use for asparagus stem ends besides making stock or composting. Leave me a comment if you disagree.
This recipe is adapted from a book called Food Glorious Greek Food: My Mother’s Cook Book which was published in 1986 by the Vancouver Times. Only a few used copies are available online; a friend gave me her copy when I lived in Vancouver.
Mix together meat, rice, mint, salt, pepper and onion. Rinse and drain the grape leaves. Position the leaf with stem facing you and add 1 T. of the eat filling. Fold into a packet (kind of like how you would wrap a gift). The main point is to get the meat into the leaf so it doesn’t spill out too easily. This may take some experimentation depending on how big your grape leaves are. Place the rolls (or packets) into the bottom of a large skillet. Pack in layers with the seam down. Add the water. Place a heavy plate upside down on the rolls to prevent them from coming apart. Place a lid on the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 25-35 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
This recipe is adapted from Simply in Season, a World Community Book. This is a terrific and versatile cookbook. I highly recommend it, as you probably guessed.
Rinse and chop the asparagus, setting aside the beautiful tips.
Melt the ghee or butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the onion, celery, and asparagus. Sautee until tender. (The length of time will depend on how large your pieces are and how big the base of your pot is.) Once tender, add the white wine, 2 C. broth and potato. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until the potato is tender. Remove from heat. Add 2 C. water (or more broth,) dry milk powder and salt and pepper. Either use an immersion blender or a potato masher (depending on the desired texture) to blend the soup. Reheat soup until steaming but not boiling. Garnish with a swirl of yogurt and the reserved asparagus tips.
The last thing I made in this week of making things was a doll for my goddaughter’s birthday. I’d already knitted the body and sweater, but I made the rest of the clothes, assembled the body, and sewed the hair and face.
No, but all week the word “recreation” ran through my head like a song. Re-creation, recreation, re-create, recreate, create. That’s part of our song, right? “Finish then, thy new creation,” we sing to God, for ourselves, for our world.