Sunday, February 21, 2016

Cream of Crisper Soup

Sophia and Elannah have just completed Hell Week, the week before a play opens and the cast and crew go through numerous grueling hours of technical and dress rehearsals. There have been many late nights. Yesterday, Saturday, there was a very long day. Because the kids were going to be there all day and into the evening, cast parents were asked to bring food for lunch and dinner.

I was asked to provide a big pot of soup for dinner. I had a busy day, and when the time came to start preparing the soup, I searched through my crisper bins to see what vegetables were on hand. I ended up throwing together a soup I like to call Cream of Crisper. It contained baked potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, and some herbs and spices. Also cheese. And milk, of course, since it was a cream soup. After it was ready, I pureed part of it to give it a silky texture while also leaving in some toothsome chunks. By that point, I was rushing to get the soup to the school, so I barely had time to check it for seasonings. I worried that high school kids would not be interested in a soup that looked like it had vegetables in it.

Still, I was so inspired by cooking the soup that I made crispy ginger beef and rice for my family at home. It was heaped with praise as being even better than take-out.

Much, much later, when the girls were done, I picked them up from the school and grabbed my crock pot and ladle. Elannah told me that one of the boys had raved about my soup, and had, in fact, helped himself to five bowls of it. I'm still feeling a glow from that sort of praise. I often don't cook with passion anymore, and my family is left uninspired by the meals I prepare. It was nice to get a win and feel excited to cook again. Funny how much a high school boy's excitement about my soup means so much to me.

Cream soups are dead simple. You don't even need a recipe to make a cream soup as long as you know the basics of how to make a roux. Another tip is that if you have vegetables that need to be sautéed or cooked in a broth, do it before making and adding the roux. Trust me: you're far less likely to have to throw the entire pot of soup away because it got burnt by accident (been there, done that).

Cream of Crisper Soup (serves 4 or 5)

2 or 3 cups of whatever veggies you have in your crisper, chopped
2 or 3 leftover baked potatoes, peeled and cubed (or bake some potatoes in the oven or microwave)
2  cups stock or broth (water and bouillon cubes do fine in a pinch)
fresh or dried herbs and seasonings (I used parsley, rosemary, Montreal Steak Seasoning, Mrs. Dash, and would have used thyme if I could have found it in time (ha ha))
butter for sauteeing
a knob of butter or bacon fat (about 1/4 cup)
flour (equal to the amount of fat)
2 cups (or less) milk or cream
grated cheese of any kind (optional)
leftover mashed potatoes or potato flakes for extra thickening (optional)

1. Sautee the chopped vegetables (except cubed backed potatoes) in butter. When they are getting soft, add the stock or broth and let the veggies simmer until soft. Add the cubed baked potatoes. Add herbs and spices.

2. Make a roux: melt the butter or bacon fat in a medium saucepan. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Let cook for a couple minutes to eliminate the flour taste. Slowly add the milk or cream, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent burning. This is a white sauce.

3. Add the white sauce to the vegetables in broth. Heat gently, stirring frequently, and then stir in the grated cheese and let it melt.

4. Puree some or all of the soup with an immersion blender or regular blender.

5. If you want a thicker soup, add a cup of mashed potatoes or 1/4 cup potato flakes. If it is too thick, add some more broth.

6. Check seasonings and adjust as you like.

7. Serve it to a hungry person who will appreciate your culinary genius. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers for another meal.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sophia Beats Anaphylactic Shock

Sophia, who is 17, went into anaphylactic shock yesterday after biting into a brownie that, it turned out, contained walnuts. Even though she immediately spit the bite out after noting the taste and immediate reaction of her body, it was enough to start the chain reaction that nearly led to her death.

The ER team at our local hospital surrounded her for almost an hour, injecting adrenalin and other drugs into her bloodstream and making sure she got enough oxygen and that the CO2 levels in her blood didn't rise to dangerously acidic levels that would stop her heart.

For the first 30 minutes, Sophia was panicked. As her mother, it was awful to watch her struggling so hard to breathe and only being able to pray that the doctors and nurses would do all the right things. After they gave her ketamine in order to help open her lungs and relax her muscles, she appeared to lapse into unconsciousness, although she told us later that she could hear what was going on but couldn't move her muscles. The ketamine also made her unconcerned with having multiple needles and IVs stuck into her arms, which is a thing she is normally very apprehensive about. She also remembers being worried that she couldn't breathe but then realizing that she was still alive, so somehow, she must be breathing.

Elannah and I had to leave the room so that all the people working on Sophia would have enough space to move freely. I peeked around the curtain at the doorway after that, watching them work and trying to understand what was happening. I also worked hard to control my emotions so I could deal with all the people who needed information from me and so that I could keep Husband updated on what was happening, but there were definitely tears on my and Elannah's part.

After the doctor and his team got her stabilized, Sophia rode in an ambulance to the children's hospital in The Big City, where they are far more experienced at dealing with acute respiratory emergencies. She would have been flown, but the weather wasn't cooperating, so the doctor had the Air Med team accompany the regular EMTs. I made the short drive home to drop off Elannah (so she could watch the boys) and grab Husband, who was nearly desperate with fear for his little girl and who was only getting information through my texts.

When we arrived at the hospital and finally found our daughter in the maze of departments and corridors, she was still unconscious (really unconscious this time) and intubated in the ICU. The worst was over, however. Within a few hours, she had the tubes removed and, after falling into a normal deep sleep, woke up lucid and shaky, but fine. She was released before dinner. She's had no further reactions, and after a good night's sleep, she swept and mopped the main floor this afternoon. She said it was because it needed to be done. I find it surprising behavior.

I now have epinephrine in the house, which is something we didn't have before. She's had allergic reactions before, but never anything this serious and severe. She's usually very careful about eating desserts or chocolates if she's unsure whether or not they contain nuts, but she's really learned her lesson this time.

My emotions are still on the surface. You cannot watch one of your children go through such an emergency and not be deeply, deeply affected. But at the same time that I was worried, I also felt that calm reassurance from the Spirit that all would be well, and I took comfort in the many recent lessons I have had on the tender mercies of the Lord.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

To Vote or Not to Vote?

Just because I haven't commented much on the 2016 race for U.S. president doesn't mean I haven't had the Circus Theme Song playing on an endless loop in my head.

I made the decision in 2015 to not actively research anything about the candidates of either side. Life just seemed complicated enough without the added burden of encouraging a growing despair. Now that it's 2016 and the official election year, I have still not actively researched any candidates. I haven't needed to. It's in front of my face wherever I go on the websites where I choose to get my news. And I still trust none of them. None. (And what is up with stumping for Trump like slavering dogs??)

Even before the obvious voter fraud going on in the Iowa caucuses, my biggest question has been this: do I vote or refuse to vote in the national elections?

To vote means exercising my civic duty and right. But by voting in what has become a completely corrupt system, I give my tacit consent to this charade that my vote means anything anymore in an age of electronic voting and very questionable vote counting. By voting, I am saying, "Well, I have to go with the lesser of two evils, but hopefully, this time, the guy who promises to do stuff I like better will actually do it." And I'll then be able to complain and moan when he doesn't do it and things just get worse than before.

What if I'm done playing along? What if I'm calling it that the emperor has no clothes?

Anyhow, here's what it will come down to: at the end of the day, the only two candidates will be those the Establishment Powers That Be have decided are acceptable. Maybe after Obama decides the FBI is actually going to indict Hillary Clinton and legally halt her campaign, Biden swoops in and Bernie Sanders gets pushed out. If Biden gets into office, he appoints Obama as Secretary-General of the United Nations so that Obama can be King of the World at last. If Hillary doesn't get halted, she will either steal the nomination or assassinate Sanders and then take the nomination. That woman is as corrupt as they come.

For the Republicans, Rubio ends up being the candidate because he's a controllable RINO who believes in compromising your way to victory (which only actually works in Bizarro World, but a strategy that establishment Republicans seem to think is gospel). Why do you think Microsoft allowed him to surge into third in Iowa?

For my money, neither Trump nor Cruz is allowed to win the nomination, however that is accomplished. I would never vote for Trump, and I'm still suspicious of Cruz simply because he's a politician.

The end result: those with the power and money and control keep the power and money and control. The American public loses no matter who ends up in office.

While voting on a local level still might mean something, I have no faith in the integrity of the national elections. If you know voter fraud is the norm and politicians are speaking out of both sides of their mouths just to get elected, why would you continue to pretend? Where do you draw the line and say, "I'm not playing your game anymore. You can't fool me one more time"?

Since I don't have an independent nation island I can move to, I'm kind of stuck.