Lone Leaf

Lone Leaf

Friday, October 24, 2014

White Glove Treatment: A Recipe

Add the toppings you want: In this photo, it's corn chips, additional shredded cheese, green onion and chopped red peppers.
I've always found the Hamburger Helper mascot to be a little ironic. It's a grinning four-fingered white glove. I suppose the idea is that this "helper" is going to give me a "hand" with dinner. But why four fingers and not five?

And when I think about the "white glove treatment," I guess I'm envisioning something a little more formal than a hamburger casserole.

I've never bought a box of Hamburger Helper (or Tuna or Chicken Helper either), since I grew up knowing how to make a casserole from scratch. But, I must be an anomaly. Hamburger Helper was first introduced in 1971. In 2005, Food Network listed Hamburger Helper as Number 3 in its list of Top 5 fad foods of the 1970s.

When Jill told me she'd made a recipe called Homemade Crunchy Taco Hamburger Helper, I made a mental note, but I didn't rush to try it. But it had some good things going for it: I had a recommendation from Jill, and it was ready in 30 minutes. Another plus? It was from Iowa Girl Eats, one of our favorite food blogs.

So I tried it last week, and I will definitely make it again. I served it with a green salad. It was fast, easy and we had enough for leftovers, too ... bonus!
Homemade Crunchy Taco Hamburger Helper
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats blog

1 pound ground beef
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 taco seasoning packet
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup long-grain white rice (basmati or jasmine)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Toppings: Corn chips, salsa, sour cream, additional cheese, chopped green onion, chopped green or colored peppers, avocado, etc.

Brown ground beef with onion in a large skillet until the beef is no longer pink and the onion is tender. (You may also use dried, minced onion, if you prefer, or to save time.) Drain well. To the drained meat, add taco seasoning packet (without the water called for on the package). Also add salsa and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Add rice. Place a lid on top and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Place lid back on skillet; let sit for 5 minutes. Serve, allowing each person to top their portion with their desired toppings.

Notes:  You can use mild, medium or hot salsa to suit your taste. You may also use your own homemade taco seasoning, if you prefer not to use the packaged variety. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Brake for Photos

4th Street Road, rural Reno County, near Huntsville

Yesterday, the administrator of Snapshot Kansas on Facebook posed this question:

Am I the only one who drives down the street framing things 
to see if a perfect photo is there for the taking?

When you ask that question of a bunch of amateur and professional photographers, you can imagine the responses. Here was mine:
How many times did I stop between home and Hutch yesterday (Tuesday) on 4th Street Road to take photos of the sunrise? Probably 4. Thankfully, it's not usually a busy road. (And, by the way, I still made it to the meeting on time.)
 I made it to that meeting on time.
I must confess I was a few minutes late to choir practice last night.
My rainbow photos didn't turn out that great (if I compare to others' renditions from last evening), but I was glad to witness it anyway.
And then I just had to stop again when I saw a neighbor's irrigation system silhouetted by a storm- cloud-studded sunset.

I was only a couple of minutes late ... really. Sorry, Mac!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Seaching for Gold at Quivira: Wordless Wednesday

Coronado is said to have come to this part of the world to search for golden treasure.
According to legend, he didn't find it.
He must not have been looking to the heavens during a fall sunset.
The golden treasure is there for the taking.
(Photos were taken Sunday evening, October 19, 2014, at Quivira.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bandwagon Fan?

They say confession is good for the soul. So here it is:

I am a bandwagon fan 
when it comes to the Kansas City Royals.

My son, Brent, is adamantly opposed to bandwagon fans. It irks him when people say they love K-State football and KU basketball in the same sentence. In his mind, you make a commitment: If you love K-State, you love them through thick and thin, win or lose. It's that purple blood of four generations coursing through his veins. Even though he won't concur, he'll respect a person more if they are KU fans full-time - whether in the shoulder-to-shoulder confines of Allen Fieldhouse or the half-empty stands of KU's Memorial Stadium.
Now, don't get me wrong, Sluggerrr. I don't dislike the Royals. I like them better than any other baseball team. But I'm not the biggest baseball fan in the world. (Now I have my parents up in arms. They are big baseball and women's softball fans and watch it all summer long.) I was a big fan of Stafford Recreation Commission baseball when Brent was playing. I was a big fan of softball when Jill was playing. I'm a huge T-ball fan, no matter who is playing, because of the cuteness factor. That pretty much wraps it up. Give me football or college basketball over baseball any day.
But, with apologies to Brent, I've definitely joined the Royals bandwagon during the playoff season.  We got to go to a Royals game in September 2013, though we didn't make a trip this year. So, as the Royals prepare to take on the Giants tonight, I pulled up my photos from our September 2013 trip to the K. (I can't believe the photos never made the blog. How did that happen?)
So, there I was, already on the bandwagon, when I read something that made me even more of a Royals fan. Despite all the crowns on the scoreboards and baseball caps, the Royals weren't named for royalty.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the Royals were named for the American Royal, an annual Kansas City livestock show.
The team's naming was a nod to the city's heritage in the livestock industry. ... A now-deceased engineer named Sanford Porte proposed "Royals" in honor of what he called "Missouri's billion-dollar livestock income, Kansas City's position as the nation's leading stocker and feeder market and the nationally-known American Royal parade and pageant.
The article noted that some city folk would like to distance themselves from the whole "cowtown" image. But, as a Kansas farming and ranching family, it makes me like them even more.
Yes, I admit it:  I'm a bandwagon fan this year. But there's always next year. Maybe I can make the transition to true fan.

Christian recording artist Matthew West was already a Royals fan. He released a parody of the Lorde song last week. I'm guessing Matthew's version isn't getting played in San Francisco this week either:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Beauty and the Beast

As we left church yesterday morning, my eye was drawn to the beautiful fall colors across the street. The bright orange blazed against the clear blue sky.
If I honed in just on the fall colors and how they complemented the red brick facade of the old Stafford High School, I could forget the ugliness of a March fire for just a little bit. I could ignore the fence and the sign: "POSTED. No trespassing. Keep out" from a place that had been designed to welcome the community's children for so many years.
I could look past the rubble to beautiful leaves against a clear blue sky. In all the world's ugliness, it's medicine for the soul to focus on the good and the beautiful.
Then, as if I needed more confirmation, this email devotional from Guideposts appeared in my inbox this morning:

A Time to Think

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore.
There is always something to make you wonder
 in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.
 –Albert Schweitzer, theologian and medical doctor

A Time to Act

Take time today to nourish your soul with beauty and silence.

A Time to Pray

Lord, let me see Your beauty in the beautiful things You have made.
I think it's a good prayer for the week.

If you are a Stafford High graduate and want a brick from the old school, Dale Hearn has procured a pallet of them and is selling them for $5 a brick (more for shipping). Call him at 620-546-4535,  first come, first served.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ingredients for Life

Last Saturday, I helped serve a funeral dinner at our church. Some made "Methodist meatloaf," our church's go-to main dish for funeral dinners. Some made cakes, salads and potato casseroles at their own homes and brought them to be shared by the grieving family. A few of us gathered to serve the meal, pouring out smiles along with hot coffee.
I think the dinners are among the most important services at our church. Our family has been on the receiving end a couple of times. Having a place to gather around a meal after saying goodbye to a beloved family member is a priceless gift.

Marion and Wanda can probably make the meatloaf without a recipe, though they have it all recorded in a massive 3-ring notebook, with the ratios of hamburger to cracker crumbs to ketchup to eggs all broken down in a handy chart. That notebook also holds a record of some of the precious people of our church who no longer share our earthly pews (like my in-laws who always sat in the balcony).

This month, Pastor Ben has been sharing the stories of saints during our Sunday morning worship services. Some of them, like St. Francis of Assisi, are people we've all heard about. Others aren't household names, but they made a difference that reached beyond their little corner of the world. For example, Jennie Fowler Willing , 1834-1916, was one of the saints Ben talked about last week. The Women's Home Missionary Society she founded is a forerunner to today's United Methodist Women. At our church, that's been the driving organizational force behind the funeral dinners, though others contribute to the bounty of food offered to families.

It's good to remember people who have impacted the world. But Pastor Ben has also brought it closer to home. We've had the opportunity to fill out postcards, remembering saints more near and dear to us. It's been good to remember the people who've made a difference in my faith walk. Like me, they weren't perfect people. But they walked alongside me and others in a way that impacted all of us.

For most of us, it's not a big deal to make a strawberry cake or throw together a salad. But, as we cut squares from the cake pans and lined up salads on the serving table, I thought about how we can all do just a little bit and end up making a big difference. Maybe cooking isn't your thing, so you're not on the "call list" at funeral dinner time. And that's OK, too. Isn't it a blessing that we all have different talents and abilities to share?


I made this Crunchy Poppy Seed Coleslaw for the funeral dinner. I also served it at the PEO luncheon I was in charge of earlier this month. It won't be the last time I turn to this easy, yet tasty, salad that serves a crowd. 
Crunchy Poppy Seed Coleslaw
Adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up blog
1 (16 oz.) bag tri-colored coleslaw mix
3 tart apples, chopped
8-10 green onions, finely chopped
1 (12 oz.) bottle Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing
2 (3 oz.) pkg. ramen noodles (discard seasoning packet or use in another recipe)
1 to 1.5 cups roasted, salted cashews
Salt and pepper to taste

Note: I used Jonathan apples because I liked the tart red apple for a color variation with the coleslaw mix. Since those are not always available, you may use Pink Lady, Honey Crisp or another favorite apple. Granny Smiths would be good, too, but wouldn't give the color contrast.

Combine coleslaw mix, chopped apples and chopped green onion (white and green portions). Pour dressing over the salad. You may do this part 1 hour ahead of time, but it shouldn't be more than 2 hours before serving. Crush ramen noodles and combine with cashews. (Discard the seasoning packet or use for another recipe). Just before serving, toss ramen noodles and cashews into the dressing-covered salad. Stir; add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Makes about 10 servings.
I served the leftovers from the PEO luncheon to Randy with a hamburger and baked beans.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pie in the Sky

There are no apple pies in the Bible. In fact, apples have had their share of bad press as the poster child for original sin. (For the record, Genesis talks about the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden, but doesn't specify that Adam and Eve actually plucked apples to get themselves into trouble.)

So it may seem like sacrilege that we gave up Sunday School after worship to make apple pies. But the 30 or so people who stayed to peel, slice, toss, roll, crimp and package were "doing church" as we gathered in what is appropriately called Fellowship Hall. Between the laughter and good-natured banter, there was definitely fellowship going on.

The apple pies will be sold at the United Methodist Women bazaar on Election Day, November 4. They are frozen, and buyers will take them home to bake the pies in their own kitchens. 

For the 33 years I've been part of Stafford United Methodist Church, the United Methodist Women have tried to recruit workers by telling them, "Nobody has to make a whole pie." It sounds like an oxymoron. Isn't making pies the ultimate goal?

Yes, it is. But nobody has to make a pie all by their lonesome. It reminds me of I Corinthians 12:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. ...12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 
Everyone had their own jobs, including my husband. 
Several of the guys ran the mechanical peeler/corer station. Randy says there were the inevitable comparisons of running farm machinery and kitchen gadgets - and the ever-present need for tinkering and repairs. 
There also seemed to be a brainstorming session at that table. South Hutchinson UMC has a food booth at the Kansas State Fair. These guys were thinking that we could batter apple skins, fry them, and find some way to offer them up on a stick at next year's fair. We certainly had plenty of them.
Another table peeled apples the old-fashioned way with peelers and paring knives.
We didn't charge extra for smiles or conversation.

Once the apples were peeled, there was a stop at the apple slicing station.
From there, they went into the crowded kitchen. An assembly line of workers measured the sugar, cinnamon and flour mixture that would coat the apples.
Among them was Kyle, who would later drive back to K-State to study for a Monday test. His Grandma Bonnie, who passed away earlier this year, always crimped the pies. The family legacy continued.

Our youngest helper, Liam, was part of three generations of workers with grandparents and parents doing their part, too. Liam drifted between jobs, but seemed to most enjoy stirring the flour, sugar and cinnamon mixture into the apples with Jo. 
But he was also willing to roll up his sleeves and help his Mommy, too.
Two of the guys were recruited for pie crust making. Marion makes pie crust mix from scratch (using 3 pounds of shortening at a time!) and then just adds water on the apple pie construction day.
These ladies could be heard asking, "Do you need a top crust or a bottom crust?"
After the filling went in, the pie crimpers made sure it all looked good.
In the end, we made 65 pies in just 2 hours. More importantly, Fellowship Hall lived up to its name.
And, there was truth in advertising: Nobody had to make a whole pie. Only a few key people came knowing exactly what their job would be. The rest of us just showed up with willing hands and willing hearts.

And isn't that a metaphor for our Christian journeys, too? We may not know exactly what "job" we'll be called to do today. But we do know the ultimate goal. 

For more photos, "like" Stafford First United Methodist Church on Facebook (as if I haven't given you enough.)