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recovering

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Recipe: miso soup

As some of you know, we will be welcoming a little friend into the house in a few weeks. Once she gets here, Jeremy and I shall be puppy bound for a little while. Our plan is to work (and play) with her intensively in the early months to get her off to a good start. We feel that Kaweah was really great in some ways, and really really not good in other respects. We fault ourselves for that, although Kaweah had a blast regardless. It’s the rolling-gleefully-in-poop that I’d like to avoid with the next pup. Oh, and perhaps having her come when called. But to do all of this, we’ve doubled up on our workloads for the past couple of months to clear the summer for puppy. In doing so, Jeremy kinda ran himself ragged and for the last week has been fighting off a sore throat, congestion, and basically – The Man Cold. Since May has been acting like March (and March totally pretended it was May), a nice pot of hot soup has been perfect for both of us.

One thing I look forward to whenever I sit down at a sushi bar is a bowl of miso soup. This is particularly true after a day spent in the snow (on skis, of course!). I can feel the heat travel down into my belly and radiate out toward my cold hands, toes, and nose. But it’s rare that we get to hit up a sushi bar after getting some turns, because 1) we live in the sticks and 2) we aren’t made of money. That said, it is so simple to make your own miso soup at home and it tastes every bit as delicious as the restaurant version.


green onion, dried wakama (seaweed), shiro miso, hondashi, water, soft tofu



I can find all of these ingredients in my local Whole Foods store, with the exception of the hondashi. The hondashi requires a trip to the Asian market, where you can find all of these ingredients – but maybe not organic. Shiro miso is white miso paste. You can also use yellow or red miso, depending on the flavor you want to achieve. The darker the color of the miso, the more intense the flavor. I prefer the more delicate flavor of the white miso – and I also happen to have a ton of it in my refrigerator. Hondashi is instant bonito (skipjack tuna) soup stock. I keep a jar of the hondashi granules in my refrigerator. You only need a little bit to make dashi, but it is the bulk of the soup. Without dashi, the miso soup tastes rather flat and uninspired.

slicing the tofu into little cubes

measured and prepped



**Jump for more butter**

back to soup weather

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Recipe: roasted tomato soup

“Did you finish your taxes?”

I blinked at the nice fellow on the other side of the post office counter as I handed him my yellow pick-up slip. Oh, it’s tax day! Yes, yes we finished those several weeks ago. We smiled at one another and eventually wrapped up the small talk with thank yous and have-a-nice-days. My mind was elsewhere because I had a list of things to get done before our neighbors came over for dinner. Every April, they are bustling with activity doing proper house maintenance on the exterior (something we ought to do, but tell ourselves that we can wait until May when the weather is more reliable), tidying up the yard, packing gear and equipment to take to Canada for the next 6 months where they will run their wilderness camp. And every April, we tell them, “We need to have you over for dinner before you take off!”


we started with some appetizers



These excellent people are the best kind of neighbors: friendly, generous, considerate, fun, reliable, kind, genuine. Instead of our usual quick conversations in the driveway as we’re coming and going, we could relax and enjoy a few hours together over good food and wine. We miss them in summer, when our neck of the woods is at its greatest splendor. “Walk home safely!” I joked after them as they stepped into the night. The snow was just getting started after several warm and sunny days, materializing out of the darkness as it fell into our porch light’s sphere of illumination.

flowering trees on the flats just a few days ago

and now, proper snow



I’ve learned to contain my excitement about the snow until it’s here, on the ground, and accumulating. The skis are ready, but we must be patient and wait for the base to rebuild. It might be a few hours. It might have to be tomorrow. In the meantime, we opt for hot soup over a fresh salad while the world outside turns silent and white. Soup. I love all manner of soup. Digging deep into my childhood, tomato soup was the default on those rare snow days in Virginia. Of course, it came out of a can with a red and white label. It only took me a few decades to realize the beauty of making my own tomato soup, and then a few more years to discover the flavorful roasted version. It’s easy. I’ll show you.

olive oil, pepper, chicken broth, red pepper flakes, garlic, thyme, tomatoes (not pictured: salt)

chop the herbs, pick out the garlic cloves

halve the tomatoes

wrap the unpeeled garlic in foil



**Jump for more butter**

spring things

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Recipe: baingan bharta (indian mashed eggplant)

Year after year, I look forward to those wonderful events that reliably happen in spring. This wackadoo teeter totter between snow storms and sunny days. The planters full of daffodils and tulips on Pearl Street in Boulder. A chorus of red-winged blackbirds by the lake that fills your ears when you run (or walk) by. Just this morning, we watched a yearling moose (following his mama) pass through the neighborhood, stopping to nibble on the young aspens in our yard.


a double daffodil on the flats

snowing and moosing



Spring is also when I have various medical appointments. It’s been seven and a half years since my breast cancer diagnosis. After all of the surgeries, scans, chemo, radiation, blood draws, ER visits, and more surgeries, the aftermath seemed pretty tame. Managing lingering side effects – some temporary, some permanent – and getting on with my life, I felt that returning to normal was like winning the jackpot. And for the most part, life is normal and good. The further in time I drift from my diagnosis, the less cancer nags at the back of my mind. Dad always touts the power of positive thinking, but truth be told, that constant fear hovering over my shoulder for the first few years after treatment made me feel like I had failed. I couldn’t distinguish between my scar tissue and a possible tumor. Was that cough indicative of metastasized cancer? What caused that sharp pain in my side? While the intensity of my worries has faded considerably, it is always there like a low-level noise creeping in the corner of the room, growing louder when the night is still and dark.

the waiting room



I check in with oncology on a regular basis. It used to be every 6 months and has now transitioned to once a year. It’s bittersweet. When I walk in, I’m greeted by familiar smiles – all of the wonderful staff and nurses who cared for me during the infusions, gave me advice over the phone when emergencies arose, and continue to put in orders for my annual mammograms and MRIs. These are some of the nicest people you will ever encounter. This last time – yesterday – I exchanged hugs with each of them. While one asked how long it has been since I finished chemo, another was smiling and touching my ponytail. I typically ask local businesses if things have been busy, because busy is good for business. But it’s sad when oncology says they’ve been busy. They’re always busy. Cancer sucks. Eventually my oncologist bustles into the exam room like Santa Claus on Christmas doling out handshakes and hugs. He is the very best. Behind the closed door, Jeremy and I can update him with observations and questions interspersed with genuinely friendly conversation and laughs. He allays most of my concerns and follows up on the rest.

MRI in a week. Let’s get an X-ray while you’re here for the MRI and do blood labs after you’re done here today. How was that colonoscopy?

The colonoscopy was fine because I don’t remember any of it. The prep beforehand was unpleasant, but nothing compared to chemo. My instruction sheet said to stop eating all seeds, nuts, whole grains, and beans five days prior to the procedure. I thought that would be easy, but it was harder than I had anticipated. Everything in our kitchen seemed to have nuts, seeds, whole grains, or beans. The bummer was that I had made baingan bharta, a lovely Indian mashed eggplant dish, the day before. I could only stare at the leftovers in the refrigerator since the tomatoes and eggplants had loads of seeds.


onion, tomatoes, jalapeƱo, eggplant, lime, cilantro, vegetable oil, turmeric, salt, garlic, garam masala

prick the eggplants with a sharp knife

char the eggplants

let cool



**Jump for more butter**