Sunday, June 26, 2022

Jar of Goodness 6.26.22: This Couple

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for my parents.

June 24, 2022, was their sixtieth wedding anniversary!

As I’ve aged I’ve understood, more and more, how the partnership of marriage is both simple and complex, easy and difficult, essential and a blessing.

My parents have been excellent role models for how to live generously, gently, compassionately, helpfully . . . and fully.

Their blessing has blessed me, and everyone who knows them.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Jar of Goodness 6.19.22: Dad

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for my dad.

Because it’s Father’s Day!

Friday, June 17, 2022

Sunporch Screens

Well, it was about time! Now that we’re having an entire week of 90-plus temperatures, you’d think we would have changed them sooner.

Taking out the storm windows and putting in the screens: This is the easy part! This year, it barely registered a “2” on the cussometer.

The hard part is in fall: attaching the windows on the hooks, not un-attaching them (usually). To get them on the hooks, you have to position the window angled outward and lifted up, just so. And you can’t see it very well. And the storm windows are much heavier than the screens, yet more fragile. So the screens are easier. Lots easier.

And when we’re done, it’s so nice! All that fresh air, and nice breezes. Lois can look out the screens and sniff the air, and watch the birds. It’s so much more interesting with the screens in, like being in a treehouse.

Why the heck did we wait until the middle of June to do this?

Ohhhh it’s a long story. Here are our excuses. First, in April we decided to wait a few weeks because of all the pollen. Man, it was pretty bad again this year. Even Sue was suffering. In previous years, I’ve been able to write my name in the coating of yellow pollen that covers the table and chairs out there. So it just stays cleaner, and the air quality is better, to keep keep the storm windows up through pollen season.

And then we got rains here and there. And the windows are wood. The sunporch frames are wood, too. When it’s damp, it all swells up just enough to make a serious, 5- to 7-degree difference in the cussometer rating, so we’ve learned to wait a few days after the rain is gone to do this procedure. And as it happened, our occasional dry storm-window “windows” never happened at a time when it was convenient for us.

And finally, we’ve spent a lot of time enjoying the backyard, when the weather’s nice, so we haven’t been on the porch much to miss the screens.

Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

We got the screen windows up. Hooray!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Alfalfa Sprouts in 2022

We used to eat alfalfa sprouts all the time back in the day. We used to be able to buy them at the store, at regular grocery stores. Back in the 1980s, all the salad bars had sprouts. (Remember Roseanne Barr’s Pizza Hut commercial where she talked about “grazing on a delightful array of sprouts and garbayennnzo beans”?) (Well, hey, remember salad bars?)

And all the health food groceries had deli cases with freshly made sandwiches full of alfalfa sprouts. And on the other end of the spectrum, until quite recently (at least) the sandwich chain Jimmy John’s had a sandwich or two that featured alfalfa sprouts . . . though it seems they’ve dropped the sprouts entirely, though.

You used to be able to buy a variety of sprouts, even: onion sprouts, broccoli sprouts, "spicy" sprouts (a blend with radish sprouts, which taste peppery), and clover sprouts. What happened?

Now it seems that sprouts are impossible to get, unless you grow your own. Jimmy John’s had a problem with its sprouts by the name of E. coli; maybe that made people scared of sprouts. (Though that’s silly, because there’ve been plenty of E.coli incidents with pre-packaged lettuce, and people keep buying that. . . . And the problem has more to do with worker hygiene and proper rinsing of the produce than it does with the produce itself.)

Or maybe people decided that sprouts symbolized something that’s uncool today: All that not-indulgent, low-fat food from previous decades’ health food movements. And honestly, I’m guilty of referring to that era’s health foods as “tofu-and-sprouts” cuisine. But it’s one thing to laugh at them as a symbol, but another to actually dislike them.

Or maybe people today have no concept of how to care for their sprouts, once purchased. Unlike grocery store strawberries, they’re not immortal. And you can’t think of a more tender produce item.

. . . Or maybe grocery stores’ produce suppliers can’t provide the right kind of schedule to keep the stores’ stock fresh. And proper care extends to the stores, too: there are times I’ve seen a produce department’s automatic sprayers dripping water into the sprouts’ plastic containers, flooding them, turning them into a mossy brown little swamp.

And yeah, it does seem like the most recent times I’ve seen alfalfa sprouts at the store, they’re old and brownish and wilty, also known as “no good.” No one wants them when they’re bad, but if no one buys them quickly enough, they go south and you can’t sell ’em. Pretty soon, the store has a reputation as “not a place to buy sprouts.”

But guess what? Alfalfa sprouts are ridiculously easy and cheap to grow on your own. They are tasty and nutty. They are a great way to add crunch and nutrients to your sandwiches. And! They contribute to a sandwich’s or burrito’s structural integrity, because they behave like a sponge with sauces, tomatoes, or other slippery ingredients, holding them in place (lettuce, on the other hand, is incredibly slippery and causes your sandwich ingredients to slide right out of the bread). (I hate that so much, I often chop lettuce before putting it on a sandwich, to make it more like sprouts.)

I love to have alfalfa sprouts on three of my favorite health-food sandwiches: tofu salad, brick-a-broc, and ye olde samurai sandwich. But they’re also great on just about any other kind of sandwich. They’re great on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, even. Yes!

You can also use sprouts on salads, of course, or use them as a garnish on just about anything, because they’re pretty. The original “microgreens.”

Have you ever grown sprouts before? It’s incredibly easy.

Here’s the deal: Go to your local health food store (or go online) and get what you need. There are alternatives, but I use a simple plastic mesh lid—a sprouting lid—created for growing sprouts. The kind I have fits on a wide-mouth one-quart canning jar.

And yeah, you’ll need the jar. And you’ll need the seeds for the sprouts (again, get it at the health food store, where they might just have them in bulk). (Fresher is better.) (And yeah, they make a lot of sprouting seed mixes—it’s not just alfalfa sprouts; you can have fun trying different sprouts.) Oh, and you’ll need a towel and a dish drainer.

If you follow the directions (see my well-used copy, above), a mere tablespoon and a half of alfalfa seeds will become a quart-jar full of sprouts, in about a week. Yes, you will need to tend to them, three times a day. Don’t worry; you don’t even have to open the jar until they’re all done. Three times a day, run some fresh water in through the mesh lid of the jar, swirl it a little to rinse the seeds/sprouts, then turn the jar on its side, at an angle, and let the water drain out. Keep the jar wrapped with a towel (or some other way in the dark) and tilt it at an angle while they’re growing.

I do all this in the dish drainer of my kitchen sink. Because I visit the kitchen sink many times a day, the thrice-daily tending is no problem. I certainly can’t forget them, because there they are.

They really grow rapidly. It's fun to see.

On the last day, give them some light (not too much; you don’t want to cook them via the greenhouse effect), and their tiny little leaves will turn green.

At the end, you’ll want to remove the the brown seed coats that have separated from the sprouts. I use a stock pot: put the sprouts into the pot and run fresh cool water over them. Swish them around a little. The seed coats will float on top while the sprouts swim around below. You can skim away the seed coats, or just pour or flick them off the top. Then, fish out the sprouts (I use my hand) or use a colander, and set them in the colander or on paper towels for a few minutes. Then, transfer them into a plastic bag, and you’re done. If you have extra cold spots in your refrigerator, make sure the sprouts don’t freeze. And use them while they’re fresh.

You’ll be amazed at how delicious they are, and so fresh.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Jar of Goodness 6.12.22: Air Conditioning

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for the miracle invention called air conditioning.

Our units (we have two, since we have a large house), are getting old, so I especially do not take them for granted. Especially as we are entering a heat wave for the coming week. They’re predicting temperatures of 95 or higher every day.

I’m suspecting that this will be a hot, dry summer. Missouri, with its humidity, would be unbearable without a/c. Y’all take care.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Jar of Goodness 6.5.22: Butterflies of June

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for the butterflies of June.

Really, anyplace flowers are blooming, this time of year, you’ll see butterflies. But today we saw them at Painted Rock Conservation Area; along the drive to the main parking lot, there’s a glade vegetation planting with lots of coneflowers, butterfly weed, and more.

So here are some pictures of a silvery checkerspot and great spangled fritillary. There were many, both butterflies and flowers.

And it just felt magical.