Sunday, August 17, 2014

Southern Style Collards

I am not a true Southern Girl when it comes to eating.  Yes, I love fried catfish, but can't stand hush puppies, grits, or collard greens.  My Daddy was born and raised in North Carolina, and my Mommy spent the last part of her childhood there as well, so I was definitely exposed to Southern food, even though I grew up in the Pacific Northwest.  I was probably an embarrassment when we headed to the southeast for family vacations and I wouldn't eat everything.

Greens are very good for you, full of all sorts of vitamins, but there are definitely right and wrong ways to prepare them, IMO.  My favorite cooked greens have always been Swiss Chard.  Yes, even more than spinach.  As I've gotten older, and especially as I started cooking for myself, and then even more as I started growing my own greens, I've learned to enjoy beet greens, turnip greens, and even radish greens (they make a nice addition to hot & sour soup)!  Mustard greens are okay, but they have a very strong flavor, much like collards.  I think one of my issues with collards is they're so thick and tough, rather than tender.

One thing I learned a few years ago, when I first started learning about herbal extracts and tinctures, was that vinegar extracts the minerals from the plants, which then makes the minerals accessible and usable by the body.  I think the word nowadays is "bio-available".  I don't know if the old-timers understood that or not, but putting vinegar on the greens is a southern thing.  At least that's how I was raised.  As kids, the vinegar was used to make the greens palatable enough to gag down.  We usually had "hot" vinegar, but I have no idea what kind of peppers were used to make it hot.

I have pretty much avoided collards for many years, but my husband brought home a package of collards recently, already cut and cleaned.  I think he picked them up mistakenly, thinking he was grabbing lettuce.  I ignored them for as long as was decently possible, but decided I needed to tackle them before they were ready for the compost bin.  The package had a recipe and I had all the ingredients on hand, so it was a go.  While collards will likely never be my favorite green, this was definitely the best collard dish I've ever eaten!  I served the greens drained on a plate with cheesy garlic bread, and then put the "pot likker" in a mug to drink.  I did not take any photos.  Perhaps I'll get one when we eat the leftovers.

Southern Style Cut 'n Clean Greens Country Mix

  • 2 Tbl olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped (pretty sure I used way more)
  • 2 smoked ham hocks, split if possible (I only had one ham bone)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 quarts chicken broth (I had just finished making some)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I didn't have this, so I substituted another flavored vinegar)
  • 1 Tbl sugar (this was the only ingredient I didn't have)
  • 1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes (I just put a dash of ground cayenne in, didn't want it too hot)
  • 1 bag (12 oz) collards

Heat oil in a large stockpot.  Add onions and saute over low-medium heat until brown and caramelized, 25 or so minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic during the last minute or cooking so it won't burn.

Add ham hocks, bay leaves, chicken broth, both vinegars, sugar and pepper flakes to the stockpot.  Bring to a boil, add greens and stir to submerge.  When the mixture returns to a boil, reduce heat, cover pot and boil gently for about 1 hour.  Remove bay leaves.  If you like, remove ham hocks from pot, cool them enough to handle them and then strip meat from hocks and add meat chunks back into the greens.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Meant To Be

I came to a blog today via Pinterest, because it was about living in an RV full-time. We've talked about doing that ourselves, so I'm always interested in reading how others manage to live with less space and less stuff. The blog writer mentioned in a couple of the posts that they had adopted a baby. I told myself, “don't click on the link, don't read it, it will only get you upset.” Do I listen to my own advice? Not nearly often enough, it would seem. I did walk away for a while, but returned and read their adoption story.

It was pretty much what I expected, overall. They acquired a newborn through the foster care system and cared for him for several months. The baby had a lot of health issues, and they tackled them all, going to many doctors and discussing everything with the social workers as it happened. Before the baby was a year old he was “ready” to be put up for adoption. Long story short, they got him.

The blogger didn't tell the story behind the story: why was the baby taken from his parents? Perhaps she didn't know, or didn't feel it was relevant to her story. I would venture to guess that whatever she and her husband were told by the social worker was not the truth, or at least not the whole truth. Why would I think that? Because I know first-hand that social workers in the state “child protection system” LIE. ALL THE TIME. 

The worst part were all the comments. All happy gushy sentiment that were both painful (to me) and ignorant. “Oh, I'm so happy for you! It's so obvious you were meant to be his parents!” Almost all were like that. 

Excuse me, but, “you were meant to be his parents”...Seriously? In what universe do you live?? The only people MEANT TO BE a child's parents are the PEOPLE WHO GAVE HIM LIFE! The woman who carried that baby in her womb, who labored to give birth, SHE is the one who was meant to be his mother! The man whose seed fertilized that egg and gave it life, who passed on his genes, HE is the one meant to be his father!

I previously wrote a bit about myLittle Guy. Because he was taken away from me and eventually adopted by a foster family, does that mean that I wasn't “meant to be” his mother? His older brother was also adopted, not by strangers but his grandparents. Does the fact that his birth certificate now shows their names as his parents make it true? Does that mean that he was never “meant” to be raised by his true parents? NO.

Yes, there are children who are unwanted, unloved, abused, and neglected. But it is far more rare than the state (actually federal) foster care system would like you to believe. My children were very much wanted, loved unconditionally, treasured for the gifts they were, well-provided-for and even somewhat spoiled. This is far more often the case than the foster care system would like you to believe.

Does this mean that I think adoptive parents can't love or raise a child? No. It does mean they were not MEANT to do it. And anyone who says otherwise is intentionally delusional. Just because you were chosen by some social worker panel and judge to get your name on a child's birth certificate does not make the whole scenario “meant to be.” It isn't a “God thing”, because God's design and intention is for children to be raised, trained, and taught by their REAL parents.

Nowhere in the Bible is there any suggestion that anyone else has the right to come between parents and their children. They alone are given the authority and responsibility for their child. If the parents want to give up their rights, then it's good that someone else is willing to step up and do the job, but I still believe that the parents will someday answer to God for that choice. However, if the parents did not want to give up their rights to their child, and instead it was stolen from them, then I believe that anyone who played a part in depriving that child of its parents will answer to God for their choice as well.

Adoption can be a wonderful thing, under the right circumstances. But the foster “care” system isn't it. Besides being unconstitutional it is immoral and illegal: it is kidnapping of a child, plain and simple.

In my opinion a child is ALWAYS better off with their parents.

I was meant to be a mother. My children were meant to live with me and their father. End of story.
My precious child, who was kidnapped, stolen from me, July 16, 2008.

My other precious son, Adam, who was stolen from me January 23, 2007, and then permanently in 2010.

Seven of my beautiful children, 2009.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dear Aaron

This post is written as a letter to my son, but it's okay for others to read, too.

Dear Aaron,

I remember how much you hated wearing shoes as a child.  You were always barefooted, even whilst riding your Big Wheel at full-speed-ahead down the gravel driveway, and you weren't afraid of using your feet to stop you at the bottom.

Of all my children, you never flinched if I had to dig a splinter out of your foot, because you had tough feet.

I don't know how many pair of shoes your father had to buy for you because you got in the car to go somewhere with him...barefooted.

I, too, dislike wearing shoes.  I take them off every chance I get, and even prefer going outside for walks without them.  Obviously there are seasons and circumstances which demand footwear, and I have pared my foot wardrobe down to a pair of muck boots for mucky farm work, snow boots (although my muck boots are actually warmer), and water shoes for just about everything else.  Yeah, I would dig out something nicer-looking if I needed to, but those occasions are few and far between.

Just a few days ago I bought a pair of slip-on shoes at Goodwill, for those times when I need something a bit warmer than my water shoes.  We were preparing to go to a ball game with friends, and I decided to wear my new shoes, which were still in our car, so I went outside in my socks.  We busily set to work making sure we had coats and blankets packed for keeping us warm that night in the stands, and headed out.  In my friend's car.

After about a half hour of driving, as we were nearing the stadium, I suddenly realized that I never put on my shoes!  Yup, I was sitting there wearing just my socks.  It was embarrassing, but also pretty funny, and I laughed at myself.  I was willing to just go as I was, but my friend said no.  She dropped off the guys so they wouldn't miss the game and we went shopping.  Oh, and I had also left my wallet at home.  Yup, I really had it together that night!

Parking downtown in a major city isn't always that easy to find, so she dropped me off on a corner, handed me $40, and said she'd meet me at Payless shoes.  I headed into Ross first, but it was so chaotic I quickly decided to go straight to Payless.  My feet are pretty wide so I have a difficult time finding shoes that fit correctly, and I occasionally end up w/ men's shoes.  I was busy trying on shoes when my friend joined me.  There was a pair that I really liked that weren't very expensive, but they didn't fit right.  My friend suggested I try on her shoes, and she tried on the new ones.  Hers fit me, and the new ones fit her, so she bought herself a pair - hooray!  That was probably the quickest shoe shopping trip ever.

We made it back to the game, and I was able to give several other people a good laugh by sharing my story on the shuttle from the parking lot.  Yes, I agree, that's something that usually happens with children, but I'm pretty sure that was the first time I ever did it.  And you can bet that from now on I'll always be asked, before we leave, if I'm wearing shoes.

So, my son, it isn't just you :)


Monday, April 15, 2013

Fortune Cookies

A couple weeks ago I was blessed by a new friend with dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  It was so good to sit and relax and have time to talk and get to know one another.  And then she blessed me by sending all the leftovers home with me, and there were a LOT because she ordered way more food than we could eat. And believe me, I ate a lot!

I didn't get around to eating the fortune cookies until a couple days later.

You will enjoy doing something different this coming weekend.
I got to meet another new friend!  She has also been a huge blessing to me.

This year your highest priority will be your family.
It usually is, and I expect it shall be for the rest of my life.

You shall attain great wisdom with each passing year.
I'd like to think so, but sometimes I do wonder.  I certainly get more grey (silver!) hair each year!

Your life will be prosperous if you use your creativity.
Hmmm.  I guess I need to think on that one some more, and see if I can make it true for me.

A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.
Boy ain't THAT the truth!  I try to remind myself not to worry, but something always seems to pop in unexpectedly when  things are going well, and then BAM!  Stress, worry, anxiety, tears, inability to do anything productive.  Blech.  Times like that make me wish for Jesus' return, though.