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kate elizabeth

Minestrone, Dean, and Grandpa

feed me January 15, 2022

Last weekend, fueled by the power of resolutions, I was going to take down Christmas, knit a blanket, and create the perfect pasta Fagioli. I was going to sit calmly on Sunday night, with a bowl of the most perfect soup, and look around my perfect house, that went from Christmas craptacular to Wintery Joy. But none of that happened. None of it. And that’s ok. Much like my weekend didn’t go as planned, my soup didn’t either. Last weekend, I got sucked into a series of documentaries about the Rat Pack (Frank & Dean) and my brain can’t seem to move past them. 

My mind keeps going back to my Grandfather. Bubba. Big Jim. He has been gone since the mid-1990’s, but the memories stay freshly rooted in the now, especially when it comes to his love of music. 

My Grandfather, the son of an Italian immigrant, was a middle-class maestro of bullshit. He told great stories, was highly exacting, and loved music more than anything else. My best memories of Bubba were sitting in the basement with him, listening to records over and over of his favorites. Frank, Dean, Al Martino. Gene Krupa, Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford. Those musicians filled my young head with sound and my grandpa’s narratives of the songs and why he loved them propelled me into a lifelong love affair with music. It was probably odd to have a young child be able to tell the difference between Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller and Benny Goodman by the drum riffs and whomever was singing at the front of the big band, but it was a tight bond that held us. I remember clearly my grandfather recording songs and providing me insights as to why he loved them on his complex stereo system. 

My grandfather loved Sinatra, Detroit Tigers, General Motors, and his family, in no particular order. He filled the small house with songs of his youth, eschewing most modern-day music. He routinely listened to baseball games, providing colorful armchair commentary along with his “friends” the announcer’s Al Kaline and Ernie Harwell. He consistently had a cigarette hanging from his mouth, a Kangol hat on his head and a matching cardigan sweater stretched across his belly. Every day he would go to the drug store to buy fresh cigarettes for my grandmother and him, something chocolate, and whatever tchotchke was at the counter at Andrew Drugs. His routine was a comfort to me, less stringent than what I had at my own house, my mother his only daughter. 

I bonded with my grandfather over so many things- a love of musical movies, Detroit Sports, good food from the local Italian restaurant. I remember him teaching me how to pronounce the words from Dean Martin’s “Volare”:

“Volare, oh oh

E contare, oh oh oh oh

Nel blu, dipinto di blu

Felice di stare lassu

E volavo, volavo felice piu in alto del sole ed ancora piu su”

I can’t do a perfect translation of this, but I do remember my grandfather teaching me that it meant “so happy to be here that he could walk on air” and yes, I was always so happy to be there with him, learning, absorbing second-hand smoke and sneaking treats away from my mother’s watchful eyes. 

I oftentimes wonder what he was really like, out of the haze of my adoration. Was his love of music as charming to others as it was to me? Was his endless trivia knowledge as cool to his children as it was to me?

Instead of lamenting that my weekend didn’t go quite as planned, I’m so happy to be here, embracing the memories of the past as I prepare for the new week.

As the weekend didn’t go quite as planned, neither did my soup plan for the week- I really truly wanted to make pasta Fagioli as a semi tribute to both Dean Martin and my grandfather, but alas, I could not get my hands on the *right* pasta to use for today’s meal prep. Instead, I’m going to save that recipe for later and instead make a hearty vegetable minestrone- still Italian in nature, and nourishing as well. 

In case you are wondering about the origin of Minestrone – It is from Italian minestrone, the augmentative form of minestra, “soup”, or more literally, “that which is served”, from ministrare, “to serve”. So this week, I serve you, Low Fodmap Minestrone. I used the Minestrone recipe from the book Laurels Kitchen as inspiration, but tweaked a bit based on what i had in the kitchen and to make it as low Fodmap as possible. 


Low FodMap Minestrone

Ingredients

2-3  tablespoons garlic-infused oil

½ cup chopped leeks

1.5 cups celery

½ cup (8 tablespoons) tomato paste

Total of 2 cups additional chopped vegetables

½ cup each of your choice:

I used carrots & zucchini

Spices: (so here, I just kinda eyeballed it)

  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • Dried parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

16 ounces canned diced tomatoes, with their liquid (ensure no high-FODMAP additives)

4 cups (32 ounces) low-FODMAP vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 cup pasta- use legit whatever makes your heart happy

1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)

a big ole handful of baby spinach, chopped kale, or chopped collard greens

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Optional garnish:

2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh chopped parsley

Directions

Warm 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat

Once the oil is hot, add the celery, leeks, and tomato paste

Cook, stirring often until the celery & leeks have softened, about 7 to 10 minutes

Add the 2 cups of your choice of vegetables, as well as the spices

Cook until fragrant while stirring frequently, about 2 minutes

Pour in the canned diced tomatoes and their juices, broth, and water

Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot with the lid

Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer

Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and add the pasta, beans, and greens

Continue simmering, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the pasta is cooked al-dente and the greens are tender

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52 Weeks of Change. I mean, 52 weeks of Soup

feed me January 4, 2022

The following is mostly a true story about the genesis of my latest project. If you are here for the recipe, bear with men while I figure out how to add that “skip to recipe button.”

I sat in my recliner, with the Christmas tree lights, the only light in the room, listening to the silence. In front of me, an obscenely sized television that I turn on once a week. To the right of me, is a window that looks out into my backyard, cold and dark with the leafless limbs whipping back and forth. To my immediate left, is George, my constant canine companion of almost seven years. Rarely is he quiet, but for this moment, his boredom equates to blissful silence. On my lap is my laptop, recently closed from my last work call of the year. I start humming Auld Lang Syne and realized that this year has absolutely been a whir, beginning and ending with this laptop that is never far out of reach. I take a spoonful of warm turkey chili, spiced with cumin, cinnamon, leeks, and garlic olive oil. I breathed deeply the smell of the dish, this damn chili that I make over and over and over, and realized some things need to change. 

My name is Kate and I work too much. This is a well-documented fact and over the last few years, I’ve lost touch with the concept of work/life balance. 98% work, 2% life is not a blend I’m content with any longer. This past year was both personally and professionally challenging and to be honest, I hide behind my work to avoid the sheer wasteland that is my personal life. There, I said it. 

A little bit about me. I’m hurtling towards my forty-fifth year on this planet. I share my home with one dramatic basset-lab combination named George, Jorge if he is being sassy. I live in a seventy-year-old mid-century modern house in North Texas. Arlington to be specific is a city that is smack in between Dallas and Fort Worth. We are the middle child between our bold, sassy sister Dallas and our hat-wearing, gun-toting brother Ft. Worth. As I type these words, I realize that I’m in the middle of just about everything- middle-aged, middle metroplex, and frankly living in the middle of my story. 

I’ve always been a hard worker, a trait instilled by my parents at a young age, “if you aren’t busy, you aren’t doing good work. Idle hands are the work of the devil. If you are bored, I’ll give you some work to do.” You get the idea. For most of my career, unsatisfied by a simple forty-hour workweek, I’ve picked up projects/part-time jobs/freelance work to fill my hours. 

Until, that is, this year. When life gets really insane, I truly believe that we are forced to slow down, whether we want to or not. In July of 2021, I broke my leg, shattered my ankle, and was forced to spend 11 weeks at home, off my broken leg. Homebound. Stuck. Might as well, just work. As I type these words, I realize how crazy I was, taking minimal days off after my surgery, working through the pain of the unfixed broken leg and really only waving the white flag when the pain, 4 weeks post-surgery was too much to bear. I think it was mid-August when I first started to suspect that I needed to make some changes. 

Fast forward through to the end of the year. Work again consumed my days, but there was a niggling thought in my brain that kept thinking “there has to be more, different, better ways to spend my days.” 

Like many others, this year’s holiday season was different for me, in part due to the recent spike of the Omicron Variant, as we head into year 3 of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. (I type this as if this is new information, but perhaps, 50 years from now, as my great godchildren read through Crazy Aunt Cakes (that’s me) diaries, they will wonder what the hell Covid-19 was.) I stayed home more than I went out, and half-heartedly poured myself into the holiday spirit and my primary goal was to just make it through each day. Recovery from the summer surgery was drawn out, and at times, I felt like I was never going to be back to normal, but somewhere, along the end of December, I realized that I was actually getting stronger, walking better, and able to stand for long periods of time. This was key to hitting one of my biggest goals for the year. 

I love to cook. I mean, I LOVE to cook. I’ve been baking since I could remember, side by side with my mom in the kitchen. I stood next to my grandmother’s pressure cooker at an early age, learning about searing meat and making sauce. I minored in Food Science in college and by the time I was in my early twenties, I was baking professionally in pastry kitchens. Cooking was life. Cooking was love. Cooking was a joy. When I’m in love, I cook. When I’m sad, I bake. When I’m bored, I can whatever I can snatch up at the Farmers Market.  As I grew older and found myself more focused on the job that pays the bills*I found myself cooking/creating/making less and less. I was eating easy foods, lazy foods, the type of foods that could be easily microwaved or cooked on the stovetop in less than 10 minutes. Gone were the days of pouring over recipes, planning, and executing, instead, the primary goal was to find whatever I could dump into a bowl and eat at my desk. 

So, back to my goal.  Somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I made a pot of turkey chili and decided that I needed to tackle my cooking problem, much like I tackle work problems- with a plan and a goal. My goal? Get back in the kitchen every week. Why? To make delicious healthy food that can sustain my quest to quickly grab food in a bowl and go. When? Every week. What? Hell, I don’t know. What goes in a bowl and can be microwaved? SOUP! That’s it- 52 weeks of different soups. I’m going to leverage my 200+ cookbook collection and a vast internet filled with soups and make something local, seasonal, and different each week, for fifty-two weeks. If I had to guess, some are going to be delicious, some are going to be less than stellar. Let the cooking begin.

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Week 1/52: Julia Child’s Potato/Leek Soup

If you are going to start a food quest, how do you not start with the epitome of recipes, the base of so many soups? Julia Childs brilliant POTAGE PARMENTIER soup is simple, requires a handful of ingredients, doesn’t require much skill, and also, is Low FODMAP, which for this middle-aged, GERD/Reflux sufferer, is key to making foods not hurt. 

Ingredients:

1lb potato, peeled and diced- take 3 minutes and peel the potatoes, it won’t kill you. 

3 cups leeks, thinly sliced (tender green parts only- to make this Low Fodmap). YOU MUST WASH THE LIVING HECK OUT OF LEEKS- they are dirty, dirty, dirty. 

2 quarts water (aka, 8 cups- you should know this, but math is hard)

1 tablespoon salt (ok, I probably used more, and I gave it a healthy grind of pepper towards the end.) 

4 -6 tablespoons whipping cream or 2 -3 tablespoons softened butter (You could use both, but don’t- just pick one) 

2 -3 tablespoons minced parsley or 2 -3 tablespoons chives (I chose parsley and regretted it. Chives all the way)

Directions

In a large pot, put potatoes, leeks, and water – bring to a high simmer and let cook for 45 minutes. Once potatoes are soft take the pot off the heat, give it a swirl with the spoon, and taste for seasonings. Grab your immersion blender and quickly mix up potatoes and leeks. Season until your hearts are filled with spice and sodium. Just before serving, put 4-6 TBL of Heavy Whipping Cream in the pot and swirl with your spoon. It’s ok to feel fancy. We all do. Serve in a bowl and top with either parsley or chives. Make sure to mince the bejesus out of the parsley otherwise, it will overpower the delicate flavor of the soup.

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well hello, it’s been a while

manifestos August 15, 2021

Well hello, friends near and far. I woke up this morning with an overwhelming desire to write, and here we are. I should be on my writing vacation at this very moment, sipping tea, staring out at the waves of Lake Huron. Instead, I sit in my bed in Texas, staring at my CAM boot.

Wait, what? What happened?

You know that phrase “you make plans and G-d laughs?” Somewhere, out there, someone is having a huge belly laugh.

On July 2, I took one single step, rolled my left ankle and suffered a spiral fracture in my fibula, and broke another part of a different bone. And THEN when I got to the ortho, we realized that my entire ankle joint was jacked up and that was going to need some work as well. So, here I am, non-weight-bearing, 6 weeks and 3 days later. 6 WEEKS of not being able to walk. Oh my actual hell, I miss walking oh so very much. I miss doing things. I’m really incredibly salty that I’m not on my much planned, highly desired vacation right now. The pain is mostly managed (except for this very moment, I’m having some stupid pain shoot up the back of my leg, but whatever.) I am either going to be allowed to walk in eleven days OR twenty-five days. In both scenarios, it’s under a month, and my brain can handle that.

Life happens. A wise woman said to me “it’s not like Michigan is going to fall into Lake Huron- it will be there when you are ready.” Ya, I know, but it still sucks.

It really sucks to sit in bed or my recliner (more on that later) and watch all of my people have lives and do things. Just the simple act of eating on a patio is highly desired by yours truly, but honestly a CAM boot in August in Texas, outside, on a patio, is one of Dantes innermost caverns of hell.

Things I’ve learned during this round of orthopedic surgical hell:

1.) I am a control freak and I really don’t like people touching my stuff.

2.) I do not enjoy having to buy a recliner, even though the recliner gets me out of my bedroom, but that was a $975 purchase that still pisses me off.

3.) One of my dogs will always have a health crisis when I’m unable to drive- last surgery Weezie sprained her ankle and could barely walk. This time around George had some freak thing happen that I’m still processing. He is alive and that’s all that matters.

4.) Despite being cooped up in my house, I can only handle a certain amount of people in my house each day. The number changes as my tolerance changes, but somedays, I just want silence.

5.) I am still vain as hell even though most people aren’t seeing me right now. I want my hair colored, my eyebrows mowed, and a bucket of botulism injected into my face.

6.) My stress is high and I’m dealing with it.

7.) I miss working out.

8.) I miss being in control.

So, there you have it. A brief synopsis of my life. I’ve had a ton of time to think about life and have a bucket full of thoughts to share. Maybe, this time, I’ll write more and actually hit publish on a post?

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if not now, then when?

manifestos February 1, 2021

Yesterday, January 31, 2021, I lost two women to Covid. These two women were important in the shape of who I am today. I’m just so very tired. I’m so very tired of people underplaying the importance of Covid. I’m so very tired of people finding the grey areas of all things rules associated with a nasty ass highly infectious disease. I’m just tired.

Last night, I was distracting myself from my own thoughts by texting with a dear friend far away. Ok, California isn’t that far, but whatever. Our words were light and breezy and mostly meant to shake me out of my funk, but I realized as I finally rolled over to go to bed, what the actual hell am I waiting for?

I have the words “if not now, then when?” literally tattooed on my body. I’ve spent the better part of the past 365 days, like many with my life on hold.

I’ve waited a long time for other things to happen.

What the actual feck am I waiting for?

Life is precious.

Life is short.

This morning, I am getting my second dose of the Moderna vaccine and I’m thrilled. To get a wee bit more protection so that I can feel less exposed. I have an auto-immune disorder that would be highly annoying should i get the rona, so I follow the rules. I’m not always a rule follower, but when you are single, living by yourself and realize that you can actually do something to protect yourself, you do what you can do to be safe. I’m both jealous and annoyed with people that have been acting like they are bullet proof.

Yesterday, two women that I know died from Covid. One had health issues. One did not. One was 47 years old, a damn marathon runner, who never smoked, who was just healthy. She got a blood clot in her lung and now she is gone.

Covid doesn’t care who you are, what party you vote with, or what amount of privilege you roll around in nightly. There is no rhyme or reason to this disease. Two people one day. A woman who showed me big love and welcomed me into her home when I was a teenager and another woman who was just a goddamn good friend.

Life is short. Don’t be stupid.

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What a week it has been

manifestos January 10, 2021

As I sit here gathering my thoughts, I have had to check the calendar thrice to make sure that it is indeed only January 10, 2021. I can’t decide if I feel like it should be September or January 2. Either way, we are living in some crazy times.

A dear friend said to me earlier in the week (or a month ago, I don’t know) “how do people with multiple kids do all the things?” I realized that I don’t know a single person that isn’t tired. Singles, marrieds, struggle bussers, etc. Everyone I know is just bone crushing tired. Tired of all of it. Tired of some of it. Trying to constantly keep all the “things” moving in the right direction. I saw another friend on Friday and I asked him twice “are you actually ok?” He was exhausted. My three-hour marathon call last night was with a friend in the UK as a result of his three-day-long insomnia. He was exhausted but unable to sleep and I couldn’t get my brain to just shut down. I’ve been using the Headspace app to try to slow down my brain throughout the day. Every night, I spend about 30 minutes just breathing slowly trying to shake off the day. It’s a lot.

It’s a lot for everyone. We’ve been dealing with Covid-19 since March. Here in the States, it’s been a noisy, loud, scary year. It’s just a lot.

Earlier today, I was trying to plan my week prior to going to a friends drive through baby shower (sorry friend), when I started having a full on meltdown about life, and subsequently passed out cold for at least 4 hours. I woke up discombobulated because, well, it’s January and was dark outside when I finally shook off the cobwebs. I woke more tired than I was when I passed out.

It’s ok to admit that everything is a lot. There isn’t an award given to the person who lies to themselves the most about everything being ok, perfect, fine. I promise. There is no instant martyrdom for faking it right now.

This upcoming week, I have to navigate an insurance claim (screw you hot water heater burst), an HVAC issue as a result of the aforementioned insurance claim, work, more work, and trying to get the gumption to take down my damn Christmas. It just taunts me now. My front porch looks like the end result of an inflatable post-Christmas orgy- all of the inflatables that were brilliantly tackying up the front yard, are now currently hanging up on my porch trying to dry off so that I can actually pack them away. 10 ft Santa is indeed face down, ass up as I type.

It’s important that we are truthful with ourselves and those closest to us. It’s ok to say “I’m frustrated, I’m tired, I’m (insert appropriate feeling here.) We’ve got a mountain of work starting this week- My job is to not only make sure that we do a damn good job, but to keep an eye on my team. What we see on a daily basis is a lot and it’s only going to get more in the next few weeks. Social Media Management is not for the week. I’m not talking about making some fun chit-chatty posts for local businesses. I’m talking about protecting national brands from the ongoing onslaught of keyboard defense lines.

It’s also important for me to make some time to clear my brain. I got the vaccine a week ago (again, it feels like a year ago), and I’m so close to being comfortable again to go back to my Pilates Studio. I miss that 50 minutes of sweat and stretch and giving my brain a break from any/all screens. I plan on actually scheduling walks this week and a reminder to eat lunch. If nothing, it will give my eyes a break and a moment to breathe (thanks again @headspace.)

I’m not so good on the non work communications right now. Texting feels exhausting. Phone calls are just hard. I feel like I have nothing to say except “yep, that sucks.”

By the time this posts, I will be digging into dinner, trying to figure out how to get it all done this week. I have to keep reminding myself, that whatever I get done, will be done and the rest can wait.

I hope this week is easier for every single person I know.

PS- if you’ve got this far, please please please enjoy this new little bit of ear candy:

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