36 years is a long time to do anything. Really….if someone told you that you had to drive the same car for 36 years, you’d probably think they were crazy. All those dings and dents, layers of paint, worn out upholstery, sagging springs, cloudy windshield, the MILES….not to mention the strange noises, weird smells, and all the little defects you finally gave up on fixing and just pretend not to notice anymore. But then again, it’s COMFORTABLE….you have your butt-print in the seat, the stations programed just how you like em, and you know exactly what to do if you really need to make it go – it’s like a part of you. As long as it never leaves you stranded, it’s been there for you rain or shine, why break in an unknown?
So yeah…..my 36th wedding anniversary is coming up in May, and it’s hard to believe neither of us has wrapped the other around a tree or launched into a ravine. I kid…sort of. As I get older (and I’m fairly certain it has to do with hormone depletion) I’m much more mellow about the man bringing home another lawnmower he found in the dumpster at work, or when I stumble across a stash of shiny new tools bought on the sly at Harbor Freight and put away in the garage immediately rather than on the dining room table to grow cobwebs until he is directed to remove them or dig them out of the recycling bin. I try to save my righteous indignation for work - peeps should be paid to fear me.
As for the wear and tear, at least we are a matched pair….he has the crinkle between his eyebrows and he HATES that I point it out when he’s mad about something, I have the “mad mouth” wrinkle that makes me look like my mom/gramma in their golden years, and we have matching aches, pains, and titanium stents – we really do believe in togetherness. But there is nothing wrong with comfortable....I like that I don’t have to suck in my gut all the time, and if I need to, hell, there’s underwear for that.
Speaking of comfort, again with the soup….it’s a warm cozy hug in a bowl, and like a fuzzy blanket will relax you, fill your tummy, and put you to sleep. Must be old people food….we eat more and more soup as we move through life, I’m thinking it’s the geezer version of baby food. Easy to digest, not a lot of chewing, and plenty of veggies to keep you regular – it’s geriatric genius! This recipe came about because I’ve always wanted to make it, but didn’t know where to find the little pasta balls. I think there is a specific pasta for this, but found Israeli couscous to look suspiciously similar in size, so I got my hands on some, then started googling and came up with my own recipe – it is a new fave, and I use kale instead of spinach, which I recently found is very good for your eyes…anything that helps avoid growing more squinty lines is awesome in my book!
Italian Wedding Soup
I read that this is a common offering at Italian restaurants everywhere, but I’ve never seen it…wait, is Pizza Hut Italian? I have, however, seen it at my local grocery store, in a large pot by cardboard cups, and most likely poured out of a gigantic waxed milk type carton and heated to temp so that random people can stick their fingers in it or double dip with the inevitable tasting spoons nearby. I prefer to make my own, thank you very much, where I control the germ content, know exactly what’s in it, and don’t have to pay $3.99 for a container that won’t even fill one of my special soup cups. If you don’t like to chop, stir, brown, season, and be creative, there are a few cheats, otherwise you can get yours at the store…it’s like having a close personal relationship with your entire community!
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-2” chunks (or about 12 oz. ground chicken or turkey)
½ tsp. garlic salt
¼ c. panko (or bread crumbs, or make your own by grating a piece of soft bread but use a little more)
1 egg white (just do it, you don’t need the yolk)
1 T. olive oil (or whatever oil, just not motor)
2 Carrots, peeled and cut in half (large ends in quarters) and sliced thickish
3 stalks celery, split and cut in chunklets (I like the middle part…use the leaves)
I small onion, chopped
1-2 tsp. dried thyme
½ bunch of kale, as much of the stem cut off as possible and chopped
2 quarts of chicken broth (use water and a good chicken base if you don’t make your own (wuss) or buy the stuff in cartons/cans (what’s THAT like??)
1 C. hot water
½ C. Israeli couscous (Not an easy find, but Fred Meyer has in bulk - you can use any small pasta instead)
Salt and pepper to taste
You can pan fry or roast the meatballs, so if you prefer the low maintenance method, heat the oven to 375 and spray a cookie sheet. If you went boneless skinless, you need to either throw the chunks of raw chicken breast in a food processor, then pulse until it’s all ground up…poke around in there with a spatula (not while it’s running), and pulse again to make sure there are no chunks left. Scrape into bowl, and add the other ingredients and mix, then shape into teeny, tiny meatballs. Soooooo cute!! Put on cookie sheet and bake in oven for about 10 minutes….should get a little golden on the bottom. Remove and let cool on sheet. You can also spray a big fry pan and cook them that way….just keep moving them so they roll around, and then let them cool in the pan until you’re ready.
(Feeling extra lazy?? Put meat mixture on a piece of wax paper, and use your hands to flatten and shape into a square about ½” thick. Use a big knife to cut through it both directions in a ½” square grid, then flop the whole thing, meat side down, into an oiled (sprayed) heated large skillet big enough to accommodate the square. Let brown, then peel off the wax paper, flip it over, and brown on the other side. Once they’re browned, you can use the edge of your spatula to separate them all, and voila! Tiny square meatballs!)
In large stock pot, add oil and heat to medium high, then add carrot, celery and onion and saute until onion is translucent. Add thyme and stir a minute or so (I hear this toasts the herbs and makes them more flavorful), then add kale and stir in (fresh spinach is the norm, and it’s added at the end – my son in law ate all the spinach so I subbed kale and really liked it). Pour in the chicken broth and turn up to high and add the meatballs. Pour the 1 cup hot water into the pan you cooked the meatballs in, and make sure you scrape up every bit of lovely fond, then pour that into the soup….colors it beautifully!
Now, on another burner, heat a skillet until hot and dry. Add the couscous and shake, shake, shake that pan! Keep those balls moving, and when a delicate golden brown, dump them into the soup and listen to the sizzle! When the pot boils, turn down to simmer and let cook about 10 minutes, or until couscous is tender. Salt and pepper to taste, add fresh grated Parmesan to the top when serving if you like, and have at it….only thing that makes this better is a second bowl!
The other thing about a 36 year commitment is that eventually it becomes, as our grandson points out, a “classic”….that does not necessarily denote great value or desirability, but sure feels like home to me – here’s to another 36 years, HS – you are priceless to me!