Now that I’m retired, I have endless hours available to write page-turning mysteries and tell-all memoirs. I confess that I even muse about publishing an occasional bodice-ripping romance (under an assumed name, of course.) I’m amazed, however, at all I have to do before settling down at the computer. For instance, my cats probably have the most frequently brushed coats of any Nevada County felines.
Retirement allows me to deepen my knitting addiction. I once envisioned the craft as a knit-one purl-one art, but my technique’s developed into more of a knit-three-stitches-take-out-four-rows style. The constant unraveling decreases my writing time by at least two hours, but at least I always have enough yarn for a current project.
Qualifying for a Silver Sneakers gym card naturally means I have to put in daily bone strengthening and cardio hours. Unfortunately, instead of feeling beefy and invigorated after my work-out, I have to go directly home and apply heat to several anatomical areas. As you might expect, my post-exercise nap takes up a good part of the afternoon.
Did I mention I also started playing ukulele? Between watching several YouTube performances of every song I play and filing my nails and applying polish both before and after strumming, my writing time’s suddenly gone.
Although I didn’t have time to write an award-winning novel, I did come up with some tantalizing new recipes.
Ronnie Paul is a freelance writer in Nevada City.
Maxistrone (A 5-star soup)
And you thought you liked Minestrone.
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 garlic cloves, pressed
5 cups veggie broth
4 ounces small pasta shells, cooked al dente
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup cannellini beans
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Optional: 1 cup cooked chicken sausage, sliced
Grated Parmesan for topping
Soak the saffron in the boiling water, and set aside while you make the soup.
In a soup pot, simmer the chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic in the veggie broth for about 10 minutes until the veggies are slightly tender. Add the pasta, peas, beans, oregano, tomatoes, sausage if you’re using it, and salt and pepper, and simmer for five more minutes until hot. If dairy’s okay, top each bowl with grated Parmesan. Am I right about the five stars?
Kitchen Sink Muffins
This is definitely a use-up-everything-in-the-kitchen creation.
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup white flour (You’ve probably noticed, I rarely sift.)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 apple grated, with the liquid squeezed out
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1 grated carrot
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together the eggs, butter, and yogurt. Blend in the flour, sugar, and baking powder until smooth. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Grease a muffin tin (I use melted butter), and fill the cups evenly. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve these hot from the oven.
Loaded Polenta with Mushrooms
This is a sneaky way to incorporate kale and chard into a nourishing dinner dish.
4 ounces mixed kale and chard
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 thinly sliced onion
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Remove the center stems of the kale and chard, and chop. Sauté the garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the greens, and stir until they wilt.
Bring the water, salt and cornmeal to a boil. Turn down the flame and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly until it thickens. Warning: infrequent stirring equals impossible pot-washing. Turn off the flame and stir in the butter, Parmesan, and sautéed greens. Spread this mixture in ungreased 7 X 11-inch glass pan, and broil for a few minutes until lightly browned.
Sauté the mushrooms, onions, and parsley in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the mushrooms are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture on top of the broiled polenta and serve.
Shrimp Salad à L’Orange
Make this main-dish salad in minutes, receive compliments for hours.
3/4 pound small salad shrimp
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup chopped red cabbage
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons blanched slivered almonds
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 orange, cut in small sections
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Combine the salad ingredients, toss with the dressing, and chill well.