Saturday, May 16, 2009

Plows and Chocolate

It's May in the North Country and the plows are out. Well, plows that help us prepare to sow seeds for a new crop, that is. Not snow plows, a sight which fortunately is behind us. I think.

And “plowing” is indeed the way those of us in the north tend to take on Spring. We've been idle for so long that we start plowing as a way to satisfy our perception that we are behind and need to get caught up. We plow though yard chores long overdue as we'd forgotten how much we had not finished around the yard before that first snow fell. We plow through stacks of paperwork on our desks that somehow felt okay and almost comforting during the winter months. We plow though things in our closets long forgotten and send them off to Goodwill or the neighbor's yard sale. We plow through our vehicles and are amazed at what we've allowed to accumulate; dirt and road salt, piles of fast food wrappers, and gloves, scarves and other winter necessities hidden under the seats. And we plow through the garage, trying to find the source of that odor we could not smell during the cold winter months. And just where, oh where, did I last leave that rake. I know it's in the garden somewhere.

I call all this Spring Frenzy. If you find yourself in the middle of your own little frenzy, which had gone unnoticed until you started reading this newsletter, take heart. It's curable. Go read THIS and then find a pickup truck, not a plow. It will be okay, I promise.

"It's life isn't it? You plow ahead and make a hit. And you plow on and someone passes you. Then someone passes them. Time levels." ~Katharine Hepburn

Lately my friend Kelly and I have been talking about how ego interferes in our lives. And one big ego problem we all seem to have acquired, sometime around beginning grade school, is the notion of deserving or earning. That is, that we get the good things in life because we have earned or deserve them in some way.

So I asked Kelly to go ask her daughter, Emma, a preschooler, how she gets the things she most desires. As Kelly predicted, Emma is convinced that all she desires will come to her if she just asks, nicely of course.

Kelly and Emma have what they call “Chocolate Moments.” Chocolate moments are for nothing. There is no reason for a chocolate moment. There are no rules. Chocolate moments are just because.

Kelly says Chocolate Moments happen something like this. Chocolate is kept in its usual spot in the house. It is always there and it is always available. Kelly will give Emma “the look” which signals a chocolate moment is about to happen as they raid the chocolate stash. Emma, knows chocolate moments happen just because. Not because she was good, not because she ate all her dinner (in fact chocolate moments can occur before dinner), not because she cleaned her room, not because she was polite, not because she was sick and needed comforting, and not because she said “please.” Chocolate moments just happen.

Insert whatever works for you...”___________ Moments.” Whatever your chosen moment, drop everything and take advantage. Often! Like Emma, you deserve your own moments not because you were good or you in some way earned them. You deserve them just just do.

"Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get." ~Forrest Gump

May Michigan Morels--Keeping 'em for Winter

It’s morel season here in Northern Michigan. I’ll be picking for another week. Then I’m headed north to one of my favorite fishing spots, where if I’m lucky, the morels will just be emerging.

As I prepare another batch of morels today, I thought I might share my method for eating morels in the middle of the winter. I used to dry them. Then, on a cold winter day, I would re-hydrate my morels enough for scrambled eggs or throw them dried, right into a soup or a sauce for pasta. A pesto sauce with morels is heaven! But always, in the middle of winter, I missed the delight of eating fresh morels.

Here’s what I do now to get as close as I can to eating fresh morels all year. After I’ve picked a fresh batch in May, I always, rinse the morels in cold water and cut them in half lengthwise, in order to rinse out any dirt or bugs inside the morel. Next I lay them on a paper towel to let all the excess water drain. As the drying continues, I change the paper towel often. I continue this process until the morels are still fresh, but beginning to lose their moisture.

Of course, I keep a few for my next meal. As far as I’m concerned, one should be eating morels every day during the season. But a few I want to preserve for the long winter months. These, I dump in a paper bag with white flour and just a little salt. I shake the bag lightly to cover the morels and then I remove them and shake any loose flour from each morel. You want the morel totally covered with flour, lightly, but not caked. If your morels are heavily caked with flour, you didn’t remove enough moisture first.

Next, I set each morel on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. I take care to make sure they are not clumped together but spread out. The morels need to be individually frozen. I usually let them freeze overnight, enough to make sure they are well frozen.

When I remove my morels from the freezer, I quickly put them in a freezer bag and get them back in the freezer. Lately, I’ve been using freezer bags that have a suction cap which allows me to remove excess air. I can't remove too much air. Morels are delicate and I can crush them if I'm over zealous.

Here’s why this method works so well for me and what you need to do when you cook your morels. Freezing floured morels individually on the baking sheet allows me to easily break them apart and cook as many or as little as I like. I simply remove the amount of morels I want to cook and immediately return the others to the freezer. But before I take them out of the freezer, I get my pan hot with melted butter. Then, I place each morel, cut side down, in the frying pan. I don't mess with them! They are thawing as they cook. Once one side is thoroughly cooked, I turn them over, individually again, and cook the other side. When my morels are thoroughly cooked, I then stir them in the pan the way I normally do when cooking fresh morels.

Follow this method, and you’ll be amazed at how fresh your morels taste and feel. And I'm all ears. Share your morel cooking techniques right here please.