Sunday, June 16, 2019

Savory Sauerkraut Bread Pudding

OK, I know that Sauerkraut is a winter dish and we’re in the middle of a June mini-heat wave in Southern Oregon. But sometimes you get a hankering for a specific taste delight...and for me right now, that’s a good batch of Sauerkraut. However, I have not abandoned my pledge to being lazy and taking advantage of newly available food when I saw Fresh, Organic Sauerkraut in a jar just calling to me from the refrigerated grocery section in the Roseburg Costco, I had to buy it. My standard was always available in a small plastic bag elsewhere, but hey I wanted show my appreciation for the free food samples at Costco (that included one with the Organic, Fresh Sauerkraut). In addition, I also wished the PR folks to be rewarded for their clever packaging and labeling. (And my neighbor’s fabulous home made Sauerkraut was no longer in my pantry.)

I had just finished baking 23 loaves of bread in the WFO and the temperature was down to about 450°F (~232°C), so I figured I might as well fix myself a batch of Sauerkraut with the residual heat.

I cut some chicken sausage and chorizo into nice chunks and added a little olive oil to get them cooking in my Dutch oven. I set the pot in the WFO and browned the meat chunks.

Next I removed the browned meat and set it aside. Into the heated pot went a medium, sweet Maya onion that had been rough chopped, added a splash of olive oil and set them (uncovered) in the oven to get some color. When I started to get some nice carmelization on the onions, I added a batch of small, halved red and gold potatoes, stirred with the onions, and then covered the pot.

After about 30 minutes the potatoes were getting soft, so I returned the cooked meat to the pot with the content of my Sauerkraut jug (I decided since the container was plastic, not glass, jug seemed to be the correct terminology to use here). A good stir to mix things up and then I covered the pot, put it back in the oven and waited about 30 minutes to heat through and blend flavors. While the pot was working on my dinner, I brought out a steel pan and some cubed, home made bread. A little olive oil and a brief crisping of the bread cubes in the pan created some pretty tasty croutons. I intended to use the croutons to absorb some of the extra liquid in the bottom of the Dutch oven and provide a bit of crunch on top of the Sauerkraut.

When the Sauerkraut was hot, I stirred half of my croutons into the pot and put the other half on top. I left the cover off and returned the Dutch oven to the WFO for another flavor meld. Since my dinner was smelling great, but looking rather drab, I decided to roast/pan sear a batch of sugar snap pea pods as a color spot (many thanks to my gardening, beer and bread baking neighbor, Diane). Into my already hot, still oiled, carbon steel pan...which still retained even a bit of bread crumb crispies. In went the pea pods and in only a few minutes with a couple of tosses, they were bright green and looking fabulous.

I served myself up a nice plate full, poured a cold adult beverage, and thoroughly enjoyed my “out of season” dinner. The croutons had absorbed all of the liquid in the bottom of the Dutch oven, so with the crisp croutons on top, my creation actually was more of a bread pudding than the normally wet batch of Sauerkraut that I was used to...but it was excellent and I will have several more Savory Sauerkraut Bread Pudding dinners ready to be reheated this week...YUM!

Life is Good! (And tasty...!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Passing Notes (3)

I have just come back from a week in Southern Oregon (around Plush) with a close friend and his dad. We were "glamping" off the grid and miles from any other people. It was extremely helpful to me soaking in that wide open solitude, without thoughts of house chores, yard work, or self-imposed duties. I was much better prepared to return home and begin to create my "new normal" in the place Susan and I created great memories together for over 30 years. 

I hadn't been able to sleep much since Susan passed and have felt at times like I was walking in jello. Being away allowed me to get several full night's sleep and do a "reset" on my feelings. I've focused on not my sense of loss, but rather on how much I have gained over the last nearly 50 years that I have loved Susan. I also know that my love for her will continue unabated, how could it not? I chose to turn myself away from grief, which I now firmly believe is a selfish act that detracts from joyful memories of our timeless love for others. Susan would not want us to cry over her passing, but rather to laugh and smile at all the fabulous times we have shared with those we love. Susan is not gone, but rather she's become a tangible, internal part of who we are and how we will live our future...ultimately a positive influence on all of our tomorrows.



“...she was always the best company one could have. She always told a good story, loved to laugh, was upbeat and positive and a joy to be around. The earth is a poorer place without her
smiling face and life just isn't fair to some of the best people.”

     Leslie Graybill

(NOTE: I would modify Leslie’s last sentence to read “The earth is a better place in which we shared her smiling face and I treasure life’s gift to us having her in our lives for as long as we did.” – Mike)


“Annually, Altrusa of Roseburg travels to their conference somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.  In the late 90’s and early 2000’s we often traveled in a large van owned by one of our members. This gave us an opportunity to discuss club problems.  One year we were discussing fund raising, not a pleasant topic, but Susan turned it into one the funniest trips we’ve ever taken.  She suggested that if we could find a sponsor who would pay $20,000, she would bungee jump naked from one of the local bridges.  This was done while laughing and smiling, but in all seriousness.   NOW THAT IS DEDICATION.”

     Maxine Durst


“I have so many memories of good times spent with the both of you. Andy and I both remember fondly our trip out west when we were 11 spending time at your house and canoeing, hitting golf balls (I’m not sure if it was the first time hitting golf balls, but I don’t remember an earlier time so I’ll say it was), watching Goldfinger and then spending a week driving cross-country back to Shell Lake. I remember it snowing as we were driving through Yellowstone, and seeing the first Batman movie in Idaho. I don’t remember exactly where, but I also remember at one of the places we stayed, waking up to see mountains shrouded in fog. That was a wonderful adventure. I also remember the three of us going to visit Hoover Dam in 2000, when all of us got together in Las Vegas. I vaguely remember a few years later Susan telling me that the credit card you used for that excursion was never charged for, and that she considered me something of a good luck charm.

Finally, I’ve included a couple pictures of our daughter {...} I’m sure Susan would have loved to see her great-niece. At her baby shower a few weeks before {her birth} one of the last gifts we opened was from Mom and Dad, and they included a sleep sack {baby bunting} that Susan had made for me when I was a baby. When I heard that Susan had passed I hugged both {my wife and new daughter} and told the Hoover Dam and Oregon stories. I have a captive audience now to tell {my daughter} those stories again, as well as the stories about Susan traveling to all of the state capitols to use their restrooms. I will tell her about her great-aunt’s and great uncle’s love of travel and spirit of adventure.

Susan will be greatly missed. We love you Uncle Mike.”

     Tony Garrido-Harrington {and family}

NOTE: I did a little editing of Tony’s note, taking out both the name of our great-niece and his wife’s name since I hadn’t received permission to publish them. If I get an OK from Tony and his family to use their names, I will edit/update this post. 

FYI: Susan and I wondered at the time of our road trip with the twins, if either of them saw any of the landscape as we drove by. They both seemed totally absorbed in the Batman comics they had brought with them. It was amazing to me to read the impressions and memories that Tony related of their vacation/trip with us. I also remember that they voiced only two requests about where we stayed each night on the week long drive from Oregon to Shell Lake, #1 There had to be a swimming pool and #2 There had to be color, cable TV in our room.  – Mike

5 June 2019

I baked 17 loaves of bread yesterday for the staff at the Roseburg Community Cancer Center and delivered it today. It’s been a month since Susan passed away, yet going up to the “chemo lounge” to deliver the bread, was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time. I wanted to tell them how much I appreciated all their kindness and attention to us over the past two years of Susan’s chemo treatments. I wanted them to know that through the Cancer Center’s knowledge, staff, compassion, respect, and empathy–I believed they had given me two extra years to spend with my beloved Susan. 

Two extra years with Susan, that precious boon of time was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received from anyone. I could barely speak as I immediately choked up when the nurses gathered around me and gave me hugs. I found myself unable to express my gratitude to them through my gathering tears and had to exit fairly quickly before I totally lost control. I spent quite a while in the car crying and trying to regain my composure. I know I’ll go back (as soon as I can keep my tears and voice under control) to express my appreciation directly to themas they had become like family to Susan and I over the last two years...but I thought it was important that I put my thoughts into words now.