Thursday, February 27, 2014

Not Your Mama's Beanie Weenie

No, not Beanie Weenie but Italian Sausages with Cannellini Beans. This is an amazingly easy, incredibly tasty, one-dish meal. It fills the house with an aroma that makes you think an Italian nonna has been slaving away in the kitchen for hours. Thanks to Sam Hoffer of My Carolina Kitchen for sharing it. 
The only prep is chopping onions and garlic. Otherwise you just dump the ingredients in a roasting pan, put it in a hot oven, and wait for the magic to happen. 
This is my version of Sam's recipe (which, in turn, was a version of someone else's.) I like more onion and garlic and fewer beans.

2 lbs. Italian sausage links (I used 1 lb. sweet, 1 lb. hot)
2 pints cherry (or grape) tomatoes
2 medium large onions, cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
8 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cans (about 16 oz. each) cannellini beans, undrained

Put oven rack at lowest position and heat oven to 425 F.

Pt all the ingredients EXCEPT the beans in a heavy casserole or roasting pan. Put in oven and roast till sausages are brown and tomatoes have reduced to a thickish sauce -- about 45 minutes.

 Remove from oven, stir in beans, turn sausages and arrange across top to brown their undersides, and return to oven for another 10-15 minutes.

 Remove bay leaves and serve with crusty bread for dipping, a simple green salad, and maybe a nice glass of wine. Serves 4 or 5 very hearty eaters (two sausages apiece) or (with another can of beans) 8 or 10 moderate eaters.

Mama mia, that's good!

Click HERE for Sam's version -- it includes a buttered crumb topping which I totally forgot to do.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Where, Oh, Where Has My Little Dog Gone?

Oh, but I am. 

A neighbor spotted the two bad dogs about a mile down the road yesterday morning and when John went to get them, they had disappeared. So we  spent the day fretting and worrying that they might have been dognapped or come to some harm. John drove up and down and all around our area, looking for the wanderers; Justin searched in the woods; and various neighbors kept their eyes open.

When at last Willa and Ali emerged from the woods above Justin and Claui's house about 6:30 pm, they were tired, hungry, covered in rose thorns, and magnificently unrepentant. 

We learned from neighbors that they have been making a habit of traveling farther than we'd imagined so, for the time being, Willa and Ali are grounded.  Willa is going to be let out only when Ali is in -- and vice versa. And for the next week, she'll only be going out on a leash -- an attempt to break them of these wandering ways.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Smell of Earth

This is a repost from the early days of the blog -- and it's exactly what I hope to be doing today if it doesn't rain...

On a day like today -- sunny and balmy -- it's easy to believe that Spring is almost here and hard to resist getting a bit of dirt under my fingernails. Realistically speaking, the ground is too wet to do much (I'm not complaining, not after last summer's drought) and we will surely have more freezing temperatures, not to mention snow, but still . . .

So I make a modest beginning -- cutting back the dead crysanthmum and snapdragon tops and winkling out the chickweed creeping through the beds nearest to our entryway. The smell of the damp earth and rotting leaves is the smell of life -- I could imagine being revived from a coma by this smell.

I think of the lovely scene in Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, where Mary and Colin discover that, beneath the weeds and neglect, the garden is still alive.
And beneath the weeds and neglect and dead leaves of my garden, the daffodils are thrusting up, turning my English major's memory to the poem by Dylan Thomas that begins:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.

Thomas saw Time and Nature as inevitabilities -- the endless cycle of birth and death and rebirth. The rebirth part is very much with us at this time of year -- cut off the brittle stems of last Fall's yellow crysanthemums and there, curled tight at the base of the dry dead branches, are new gray-green leaves, waiting to unfurl; pull out a clump of chickweed and find, below the surface, the dry brown bulbs buried in the autumn are stirring, pushing pale yellow shoots toward the light.

It's a nice way to spend a Sunday -- digging in the flower beds, thinking about resurrection, and intoxicating myself with the smell of earth.
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sim's War

I like to have a picture in my mind of the folks I  write about. I already showed you Polly Allen and her husband -- but when I'm making up a character, I look for his or her face in magazines or, increasingly, on the internet. My WIP (work in progress) has five important characters -- four of whom are real, historical people.

 But Sim, my East Tennessee farm boy/drover/wagoner's lad/conscripted Confederate soldier, is made up to fit the story I'm weaving.  So I went looking for him and found this picture on the internet -- unidentified Confederate soldier, with a bedroll, percussion rifle, and a kepi that says 4 SLG  (4th Sumter Light Guards.)

I really like the look of him -- poor fellow, I'm putting him through some hard times...

This below is from an early chapter about Sim.  

And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering
 but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.
And Cain was very wroth and his countenance fell. . .
I am puzzling out the words in my daddy’s old Bible when a stranger sets down next to me by the fire. All the others here at the inn are busy drinking or gambling and Lathern, my particular friend, has gone off somewheres, most likely with that gap-toothed girl what was making eyes at him as she brought out the victuals.
            The stranger is a dark-complected feller, something like an Injun, and with a strong nose like an Injun, but his hair is kindly curly and he don’t talk like no Injun that I ever saw.
            “Name’s Aaron,” he says, looking me up and down, “Jacob Aaron, pack peddler working my way back to Greenville, South Carolina. Though had I a mite of sense, I’d head south to Mexico or north to Canada.”
            He takes a deep draft of his cider and stares into the fire. I close the Bible, keeping the place with my thumb.
            “They say Mexico’s right hot and full of bandits,” I tell him, “and I reckon Canada’s right cold and full of savages.  You’d be carrying that pack through snow and ice nine months of the year if my geography schoolbook had the right of it. What’s wrong with this country?”
            He screws his head around and looks at me like I ain’t got no sense. “Son,” he says, “haven’t you heard about Ft. Sumter? This is a fine country, none better, but it’s about to be torn asunder. And we are setting right at one of the ripping places. It’s going to be war, make no mistake.”

            We had heard something about Sumter and the cry of war when our wagon train stopped last night at Garrett’s – a feller there had a Tennessee newspaper and he was full of talk about South Carolina taking over the fort from the Union soldiers. I knew that a while back South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas along with several other states had voted to leave the Union. I even knew they had elected Jeff Davis to be the head of them but I hadn’t paid it much mind, figuring that it wouldn’t change my life none.
             Part of the year I drive a wagon on the Buncombe Turnpike, carrying goods between Greeneville in Tennessee to Greenville in South Carolina. Come fall I go with the droves of hogs along the same route when the packed dirt of the road turns to a mud slough. Hard work but a few more years and I’ll have enough saved to buy me a place near Maryville where Cora’s people are. 

            “Mr. Aaron,” says I, “I ain’t got no slaves nor do I want none. I just want to be left alone to tend a little piece of ground and raise up a family.  What South Carolina does ain’t none of my business.”


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Aha! (More Sympathetic Magic)

 Well, here's part of the problem . . .my little astrolabe ( a Christmas gift) was set on late December. No wonder The Weather was stuck. 

I have adjusted the setting to mid-February -- fighting off the temptation to set it to April . . . that would be wrong.

And I've continued on with bringing out the Spring stuff for the corner cupboard -- eggs and flowers -- even a lamb.

Replaced the ice blue dish detergent with spring green . . .
I think it's beginning to work! Look at that snow melting!

The only pink tulips at the grocery store were Valentine Day leftovers and they were sad looking . . . but I found a tiny pink rose to brighten the windowsill.

Thinking positively . . . of Spring.