Mushrooms stuffed with pecans, black beans and smoked gouda

Black bean and pecan stuffed mushrooms

Black bean and pecan stuffed mushrooms

I took the day off work yesterday, not because I’m sick, although I am, but because somebody asked for my shift and I thought, “Why not?” But I felt vaguely guilty all day. I only work two days a week, so it’s absurd to take one of them off. I had the mildly panicky feeling that we had to have a really wonderful day to justify my idleness. We had to do important things, and get a lot done, and have a remarkably good time. We had to have a hundred-dollar-day, because that’s what I might have hoped to make at work. Well, we didn’t get much done, we didn’t have any great adventures or go anywhere exciting. Isaac never even got out of his pjs, and yet I wouldn’t have traded this day or the memory of this day for any amount of money. We don’t have many days off together, because I work on the weekends and our store is open and the boys are in school all week. So David took Malcolm up to the shop, and they learned how to use Malcolm’s new airbrush. And Isaac and I didn’t do much of anything. We built a lego tower. We sketched: he drew sea monsters, “in the mom style,” and I sketched him sketching. We shared a sliced pear and played a game with strange cards and shifting rules. And then he asked me if I like being a mom. “It is a home question.” I replied, “I shall have to lay myself open to such a catechist, and I am not sure that I am prepared to do it.” Of course I didn’t say that! I don’t even fully understand the meaning of the word catechist. But it is a home question, it gets to the very heart of everything, of me, of our home, of my life. Mr. Thornton’s answer is to the question “You are all striving for money. What do you want it for?” And Mr. Thornton was silent. Then he said, “I really don’t know. But money is not what I strive for.” “And what then?” And what then? Well, I told Isaac that I like being his mother, it’s the best thing in the world. And then he said he wanted to see what it felt like to take care of someone. He made me lie on the couch, close enough to Clio that I could pet her, which was an important part of the process. He got me two pillows and a glass of water. He tucked me in with two of the softest blankets imaginable. Then he “unbundled” my hair so I could sleep better. And he read to me from a book of strange facts, about a walrus that plays the flute, and an upside-down house, and a teddy bear made of gold with diamond eyes. He said, “Are you entertained? Are you entertained?” And then he was very quiet so that I would fall asleep. I didn’t sleep, but it seems as though I dreamed in flashes. And that was our afternoon. I suppose everybody needs to be taken care of sometimes, and often you don’t realize it until it comes from an unexpected place, until somebody makes you sit still for a moment. People raced by our house in the cold endless rain, and Clio sighed and groaned and refused to go into the yard. Towards evening when the rain slowed a pale greenish glow filled the sky and as the day ebbed it was as bright as it had been since morning. David and Malcolm came home. We made a good dinner, we went to a movie in the movie theater for the first time in ages. It was a good day, it was a home day, it’s what we strive for.

I like after holidays when giant mushrooms go on sale. I used giant white mushrooms–stuffing mushrooms they call them, but you could easily use portobella instead. I stuffed them with a mixture of chopped pecans, chopped mushroom stems, chopped black beans, and grated smoked gouda and sharp cheddar. I got a new food processor for Christmas, and I’m chopping everything in sight! Watch out!! They were flavored with sage, thyme, and nutmeg. They took on a nice savory-sweet almost praline-y flavor once the pecans browned.

Here’s My Baby Just Cares For Me, by Nina Simone.
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Portobello “steaks” topped with spinach and herbs

portobello steak

If you’re a vegetarian, you’ve heard it a million times. “Don’t you miss steak? If I made you a steak you’d gobble it up. How can you live without steak?” Let’s see…No. No. and Easily. And then they say, “Haven’t you ever heard a carrot cry?” And then you stick your fingers in your ears and say “La la la la la, I can’t hear you!” To be honest, I don’t miss steak, because I have portobello mushrooms, and I think they’re far tastier than any steak I’ve ever eaten. They’re something of a special occasion meal around here, because they’re not cheap, but they’re still far less expensive than steak, right? I like to cook them till they’re very very dark and crispy. Quite black on the edges. You can do this is a skillet, or you can do it in a roasting pan in the oven. I like portobellos with lots of olive oil, balsamic and rosemary. These ingredients mix with the mushroom’s own delicious juices to form a wonderful sauce…the mushrooms are tender inside, crispy outside and full of flavor. I sauteed some baby spinach and arugula with chopped mushrooms, garlic, rosemary and basil, and after the mushrooms were cooked to perfection, I put a scoop of this mixture on top, and then a slice (or two) of mozzarella over that. We had them with some thick cut roasted french fries. You won’t miss your meat!

Here’s Fats Waller’s Rump Steak Serenade.
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Say happy new year with lentils!

I’ve been reading up on foods that are considered lucky eating for New Year’s Eve. Seems that legumes and greens are consumed throughout the world in various guises. Fascinating! Green french lentils are deemed especially lucky in many countries. As it happens, french lentils and greens are among my favorite foods!! Fancy that! And round foods are also seen as fortuitous, for a variety of reasons. I happened to have a big box of large white mushrooms, so I decided to stuff them with a mixture of french lentils, greens, and cheese. And I made a sauce with the lentil-cooking broth and the leftover lentils. Yummy!

This morning we had pancakes in the shape of a circle, because circular foods are universally considered serendipitous as well.

And here’s Grace Cathedral Hill, a beautiful song by the Decemberists. It’s about New Year’s Day, and it’s a lovely story of a day when nothing in particular happens, but everything feels significant. I love those days! And one of my favorite parts (of course it’s food-related) is when they’re both a little hungry so they go to buy a hot dog. It’s not the best meal you ever had, but you remember it, and it becomes important, and it fills you up when you need it.
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