Thursday, August 31, 2017

Life Changes Update and a "Mild-Mouthed Midwesterner" Recipe for Creamed Peas and New Potatoes

Hello, my long-neglected blog readers!  It's been a long time since my last post, and I've got so much to tell you that I'd better jump right in.

First and foremost, I resigned from full-time teaching at the end of the school year this spring.  It was a decision that was a long time coming, and a lot of thought went into it.  I want to make it abundantly clear that the students were not the reason for my resignation.  I was still very much enjoying the kids, and I still love English.  However, I realized that I was no longer interested in becoming a better teacher than I was, and I felt that it was unfair to the kids for me to continue teaching.  So, after twelve years in the classroom and a total of fourteen years in education, I have now changed my role to that of a substitute teacher, and so far I am ridiculously happy.

This summer hasn't felt much different than any of the other summers between school years.  Notable exceptions have been that Nancy had her left knee replaced on June 5th (her right one is scheduled for Sept. 11).  After the operation, the surgeon told her parents and me that she had the knees of a seventy-year-old.  That is bad news for a person who is only in her mid-forties!  As a result, I've learned a lot about nursing, and we've both learned a lot about physical therapy.  The recovery process has been slow and agonizing for her at times, but at least there is marked improvement.

The other big exception has been that I've taken the time to raise a beautiful vegetable garden this summer.  Historically, I've always planted a garden (there is something in my genetic makeup which compels me to plant each spring), but I haven't usually taken the time to maintain it as well as I ought.  This year, I've spent a great deal of time actually taking care of the garden, and my efforts have been rewarded.  I'm even more excited about next year's gardening season because I will be able to plant in a more timely fashion because I won't be so distracted by full-time school responsibilities.

With the beginning of the school year, I've felt the change in careers more keenly, but I'm even more convinced that God led me to the right decision.  I have started substitute teaching, which I've enjoyed very much so far.  Subbing has afforded me the opportunity to keep up with the students in whose lives I feel quite invested.

Of course, substitute teaching will not necessarily be an everyday occurrence for me, and that is good because I would like to eventually be able to make my contribution to our household finances through freelance writing and editing.  Toward that end, I've done a little freelance editing through Upwork, and I have a monologue suitable for speech contest use available for sale here at Brooklyn Publishers. 

I also hope to be able to do a great deal more blogging.  Those of you who are longtime blog readers have heard me say this before and then have gone for long stretches of time without seeing posts.  You must help me remain accountable, please.  You will notice (I hope) that I have also "monetized" my blog in order to try to use it to supplement my income.  We'll see how that goes.

Enough with all of that; let's get to the recipe! 

The August weather in Southwest Iowa has been beautiful, so I'm back to cooking on wood (not exclusively yet, but I'm hoping for next week).  The recipe that I'd like to share tonight is one that comes from Nancy's grandma Ruth.  Nancy has been telling me for thirteen years that the only way she likes to eat peas is the way her grandmother fixed them in Creamed Peas and New Potatoes.  I really think that Ruth probably served this side dish in June when the garden peas are typically ready here, but this is a good recipe to help you use up those little potatoes that are always found when the fall potato digging takes place.  The way the recipe was actually written calls for frozen peas anyway, so this is really a dish that you can serve any time you have small potatoes which are freshly dug.

This is how the recipe appeared in Ruth's cookbook when I copied it down way back in February of 2005:

Creamed Peas and New Potatoes
12 cooked whole pared new potatoes
2 c. frozen peas
4 TBLS. margarine
3 TBLS. flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
First what you do is peel your potatoes.  Because of the way the recipe read, I wasn't sure whether the potatoes were peeled or not.  To me, "pared" simply means that any dark spots are cut out of them but the peeling remains.  However, the skin on new spring potatoes is always very thin and can often just be rubbed off with the fingers, so I asked Nancy, and she confirmed that the potatoes were always peeled.
Now, the recipe says to use 12 potatoes, but I wanted to use up a bunch of really tiny potatoes, and so I used more, and there was no problem in doing so. 
Boil the new potatoes and boil the peas in separate saucepans on the stove.  Just before they are done cooking, make the sauce.  To do that you . . .
a) Melt the margarine in a saucepan.
b) Stir in flour, salt, and pepper until smooth.
c) Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly.
d) Cook until thick and smooth.

In this picture, you can see the potatoes cooking in the Saladmaster
kettle on the back right by the teakettle.  The sauce is in the pan on
the front of the firebox, and the peas are on the cooler right side of
range because they had already come to a boil and were just remaining
warm.  We had boneless pork chops cooked in just a small splash of
olive oil for our meat.  The green canner with the hot pad on the top
and the other pot with the purple stuff in it are part of the preparations
that I was making in order to cook a batch of jelly after supper that
The last thing to do is drain the cooked potatoes and peas, pour them into the white sauce, and heat everything through.

When we sat down to eat, I carefully watched Nancy's face to see if I had succeeded because the whole dish seemed rather boring and unappealing to me. 

After a moment of silence, she said whimsically, "I'm a little girl back in Grandma's kitchen."


As I began to eat my portion of this, at first I wasn't very excited about it.  It really is extremely bland by today's standards for food; however, I'll admit that it grew on me quite a bit while we were eating it.  During the whole supper, I kept thinking of the phrase that my brother-in-law (he is part Hispanic) uses when anyone complains of food being too spicy.  He accuses them of being a "Mild-Mouthed Midwesterner."

Guilty as charged!  I always say that I don't like any food that bites me back.

However, I think that the next time I make this, I'm going to use garlic salt instead of plain salt because I think that would add just enough flavor to take this out of the boring category.  Don't tell Nancy, please.

Also, I'm going to try making it with butter instead of margarine.  I usually use butter in cooking except for very rare occasions and with specific reasons.  In fact, I thought about using butter in this recipe to begin with, but then I remembered that Ruth was never one to spend any money unnecessarily and knew instantly that she wouldn't have sprung for butter when margarine is so much cheaper.  And since I was trying to recreate Nancy's memory for her, I went ahead with the margarine this time and am glad I did.

Our finished supper.  

P.S. One last thing I should have mentioned above:

THANKS to all of my readers who have kept this blog so busy over the summer!  I'm continually amazed at how any hits I receive on a daily basis even when it is not wood cookstove season.  I'm excited to see how well this blog will do when I post more frequently!