Sunday, February 3, 2019

Aunt Mable’s Vegetable Beef Soup

This week we said goodbye to my Great-Aunt Mable. She was 103 years old when she passed!

I wrote about Aunt Mable in the past, when I shared her Honey Fruit Salad Dressing. She was a go-getter! She reminded me of the Energizer bunny. I guess her batteries finally wore out.

At the gathering before the funeral, I asked her daughter, Sue, if there was a recipe Aunt Mable made that was her favorite. She instantly replied, “Homemade vegetable beef soup. When I came home from college, she would have it waiting for me on the stove. Even though it was late, the soup was waiting, nice and hot. It tasted wonderful, but I don’t remember just the taste. I remember the comfort eating the soup gave me.”

I know what she means. I feel that way every time I make my Slow Cooker Vegetable Beef Soup. It was inspired by one my mom made and it gives me a lot of comfort, too

Here is Aunt Mable’s version. Give it a try and let me know what you think! I can’t wait to give it a go!

Goodbye Aunt Mable. You were a wonderful lady. It feels like the world has lost a little of its energy without you.

Aunt Mable’s Vegetable Beef Soup

This recipe is shown just how she made it. Feel free to adjust it to your taste. I’m sure she did through the years!

Beef shanks, approximately 2 pounds
1 to 2 carrots, shredded or chopped small
1 large onion, chopped small
3 to 4 stalks of celery, chopped small
1 can tomatoes, diced with juice
1 teaspoon sugar
3 to 4 potatoes, chopped
1/2 cup alphabet macaroni
Salt, pepper, Accent, to taste
3 to 4 drops Tabasco sauce
1 can beef broth

Brown beef shanks in a little oil in a large heavy pan. Cover fully with hot water. Cook on low til tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Watch water to make sure it does not evaporate. Remove meat to mixing bowl and cover.

Add the carrots, onion, and celery to the broth and cook til partly done. Add tomatoes sugar, potatoes, and macaroni. Add some salt, pepper, and Accent. Cook til done. Add a can of beef broth, then add more water if needed.

Chop meat on a board, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add to the soup. You can also add any leftover peas, corn, etc. Important: Add 3 to 4 drops Tabasco sauce. (It warms the tummy and adds flavor.)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Why Books Matter—Review of The Hate U Give

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

The Hate U Give first caught my attention while I was driving to cover a school board meeting after becoming the education reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. (Which is also why I haven’t posted on here a lot lately. Sorry!)  I was listening to “All Things Considered” on NPR. They were doing interviews about the book’s movie version, which was released that weekend.

Author Angie Thomas talked about growing up in a mostly black, poor neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi.  She said, “And I went to a mostly white, upper-class, private school just 10 minutes away from my home. But in 10 minutes, it was like going into an entirely different world. So, I overcompensated by doing what's called code-switching. I would make myself more presentable I thought. I was careful of how I spoke. I was careful of how much emotion I showed. And it was a struggle because so often I was silent on things that mattered to me.” 

I had just written a story about the College Prep Academy started in the public-school system here in Topeka. Middle school students could join to spend half their day at a new, beautiful school learning at a higher, more intense level to start preparing for a college future. The first group came from schools in Topeka’s poorer and more racially-diverse neighborhoods.

In other words, Thomas was describing those students. Kids that tugged at my heart because I knew they were trying to better their lives while dealing will all kinds of crap around them. Young people I’m cheering for, praying for, and hoping for their success.

But also, young people I know little about. Seriously, what does a middle-aged white woman who grew up in a typical middle-class family with two parents and a sister know about life in “the hood?” I’ll tell you what she knows—the stories in the paper and on the evening news depicting violence, drugs, and poverty. Not the people, and certainly not kids blossoming into adulthood.

So, I knew I had to read this book.

I just finished it last night, and I was blown away. I knew nothing. Absolutely nothing. The book taught me just how much I don’t understand about being black in America.

Or Asian
Or Latino
Or any minority.

I thought I wasn’t a prejudice person. I still don’t think I am, but this book showed me areas where I was letting unconscious bias cloud the way I thought about those news stories, and sometimes the people I met in person.

But I can listen. And learn. And try to understand, starting with this book.

The Hate U Give should be mandatory reading for everyone but at the very least our young people and their parents. It should also be discussed openly and non-judgmentally.

By the way, for the record, I can’t stand green bean casserole, but I do think mac and cheese bubbling from the oven is a meal. It’s also a good side dish.

Confused? Read the book.

Why Books Matter is a new segment I’m starting on my blog. I’ll write about the books I’m reading, especially ones that strike a chord with my heart. I gave it this name because, to me, books can reach people and instigate change more than anything else in the world other than education. Best of all, you can go back to the good ones time and time again.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Prepping Your Garage for Cold Weather Season

Photo credit Kevin Cole

I know this isn't about food. However, six months ago I moved into a house with a garage. For my entire adult life, I've never had one! It has been a learning process on what to store in it (besides a car), and how.

Recently, I got an email with these tips provided by Marty Basher of I found them to be extremely useful, so I thought I'd pass them along. 

Do you have any advice for prepping your garage for Fall and Winter? 
Cleaning the garage is a perfect first step to setting up for an easier and more convenient Fall and Winter. You’ll enjoy having everything from Summer out of the way and everything you need for the cold weather seasons organized, easy-to-access and ready to be used.
Where do you start?  
Start with your goal in mind. Is your garage best described as a mechanic’s dream hangout? Or does the garage double as a storage and laundry room? What equipment, tools and supplies will you need for the upcoming season? Having a plan for the final functionality of the space is key to achieving a successful cleaning and organizing. Prioritizing what needs to stay, what has to go, and how much room you need to maneuver in the garage is a lot easier when you have a goal. Sketch out a rough plan and get started.           
What do you get rid of and what do you keep?
When it comes to purging items from the garage, start with expired items like old paint cans, oils, solvents, yard treatments, and insecticides. These items break down over time and lose efficacy and quality. Only keep items that will last through the coming season. Before tossing paint, document the color codes for anything in the house you may want to touch up or repaint. 

Photo credit Ethan Cole
Keeping everything is tempting, especially when you have space and you don’t need to worry about drop-in visitors. Deciding what to keep can be determined by itemizing your items into categories: Use regularly, Use Annually, Don’t Use, & Sentimental Storage. If you don’t use it, get rid of it. Check annual and regular use items for signs of wear and tear. Replace or store as needed. When it comes to sentimental storage, focus on what you actually want to keep and what you actually have room to store safely.  
What is the best type of organization/storage system?
Depending on the amount of space you have to work with, several options can be useful. Narrow spaces benefit from wall shelves and stackable storage systems. Free-standing shelving units give freedom to adapt as your needs change. Built-in storage, such as shelving, locker systems, pegboards, or ceiling storage units are extremely functional in addition to making organizing easy.
What should not be in the garage?
Typically, the garage is not a good place for storing food items. Some garages may safely accommodate a second refrigerator or drop freezer. Avoid shelving dry goods or other food items in the garage as this entices insects and rodents. Also note, if you store birdseed or other types of animal feed in the garage, a metal bin away from moisture is best. Rodents can nibble through plastic containers to get to food or birdseed. Also, use caution when storing fuels and flammable liquids in the garage. They should be kept separate in an area where they can’t be knocked or spilled easily.
How do you deal with bikes and sports equipment?
A simple solution for bike storage is an S hook and a stud. Using a stud finder, screw a large S hook
Photo credit Randy Fath
into the ceiling stud and hang bicycles by the tire. This reduces floor clutter and several bikes can hang in a tight space. Wall rack bike storage systems are another great option.  Storing sports equipment can be daunting, especially for multitalented people or families. Wall locker systems can be very helpful for organizing sports equipment. Another option for sports equipment can be found in a stackable bin system. Choose a combination of bin sizes that will hold your equipment and stack. Don’t forget lids for the top layer of bins. The dead space above your equipment storage system can function nicely as a place to store extra paper towels or water coolers in the offseason. This system can grow and change with your needs and interests

What about equipment and tools?
Garden equipment can be used and stored easily in a high backed wheeled bucket. Keep the rake, hoe, trowel, gloves and more stored safely in one place in the garage. Keep equipment like snowblowers where it is easy to get them out and back in. Have shovels and snow brushes for clearing cars off all in one bucket or bin. Keep salt for de-icing in a refillable and easy-to-carry container with a handle, and where you can easily access it and take it out for use. Another option for gardening items is a lean-to shed attached to the exterior wall of your garage. These small sheds can be built to suit your needs and can double as a gardening shed complete with potting table. 
How do you keep it organized
Simple and perhaps cliché, but still useful: a place for everything and everything in its place. Assign a home for the items in the garage and be sure to put them there when you finish with them. If you have a family using the garage, you might need to get out the label maker to keep the family on board with the new organization. If you add to your garage collections, avoid reorganizing the whole garage by keeping some open shelf or wall space to assign to new items.
Are there are any rules you should follow?
Rule number 1: It has to work for you. All of the tips on the world won’t help if the job goes against your natural routine. Build an organizational system that accentuates your natural patterns. If you always kick off your shoes by the garage door, put the shoe basket there. 
Anything I am missing?  
Fall is a perfect time to do a maintenance check on all of the equipment before needing to use them when cold weather season hits. Get a tune-up for the snow blower and make sure it's filled with gas.