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Living in the moment

Story and photos by Angie Sutton

www.mothersapronstrings.com

Plan your work and work your plan. This has been my modus operandi since I was about 19 years old. Perhaps it was triggered by the entry-level job interview process where I was asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The first time I was asked this question I really had no idea how to answer it. I suppose I could have been very honest and replied, “In five years I hope to be collecting a paycheck that provides enough disposable income that I can eat from something other than the dollar menu.”

That night I returned to my apartment and contemplated where I really thought I would be in five years. The result was the first of many iterations of “the plan.” Perhaps this is my way of pretending to control my future. Funny thing is most of my life experiences were never on the plan. Now, don’t get me wrong, thinking things through and creating a goal is a good thing. How we react to things that don’t fall within the scope of what we wanted to happen is called “living life.”

If you follow my weekly article you are probably guessing that I am making a list of all of the anomalies which didn’t fall within my plan. It is a bad habit. So the new item on my plan is to live in the moment. Having 15-month-old twin girls at age 40-ish has certainly helped spur me into adopting and adapting to this line of thinking.

Living in the moment helps us appreciate the little things that happen in life that may have gone unnoticed in the full-steam-ahead and plan-driven life of today’s culture. Consider grumpy-gratitude days. Expressing gratefulness during stressful and anxious times can help you adjust and adapt. Celebrate your blessings at moments when they seem least apparent to you.

At Sutton Central we seem to rally around the kitchen island. This is the safe place in our lives where we can, as a family, share our grumpy-gratitude moments. Little things are lifted up and celebrated often in the same breath as we share a challenge we are having. Rallying around food in the safety net of family is comforting. That is why it is often referred to as comfort food. We have a few family favorites that make the short list, and I hope they are as popular and comforting in your home this fall as they are in ours.


Chicken Pot Pie

Author’s notes: This chicken pot pie is one that we double to feed seven or eight people. It makes fantastic leftovers as well. If you prefer prepackaged pie crusts, those work well too.

1/2 c. butter
2 small leeks or yellow onions, chopped
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 (14.5-oz.) can chicken broth
3 c. chopped cooked chicken
1 1/2 c. frozen cubed hash browns with onions and peppers
1 c. shredded or matchstick carrots
1/3 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 (17.3-oz.) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add leeks, and sauté 3 minutes. Sprinkle with flour; cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Whisk in chicken broth; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; stir in chicken, cubed hash browns with onions and peppers, carrots, parsley, salt and pepper. Roll each pastry sheet into a 12- by 10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Fit one sheet into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate; spoon chicken mixture into pastry. Place remaining pastry sheet over filling in opposite direction of bottom sheet; fold edges under, and press with tines of a fork, sealing to bottom crust. Whisk together egg and 1 Tbsp. water, and brush over top of pie. Bake at 375 degrees on lower oven rack 55 to 60 minutes or until browned. Let stand 15 minutes.


Family-Style Roast Beef

Adapted from: Southern Living

1 (12-oz.) bottle dark beer or cola soft drink
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 c. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 (4-lb.) boneless chuck roast
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
8 carrots, sliced
7 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large yellow onions, cut into 8ths
2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Combine beer or cola, yellow onion, minced garlic cloves, lemon, soy sauce and 2 Tbsp. oil in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Add roast, turning to coat. Seal and chill at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Remove roast from marinade, reserving marinade. Sprinkle roast evenly with pepper. Brown roast 4 minutes on each side in remaining 1 Tbsp. hot oil in a large heavy-duty roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add reserved marinade, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of pan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake at 300 F for 2 1/2 hours. Turn roast, and stir in carrots, potatoes and onions. Bake 2 more hours or until roast and vegetables are tender. Transfer roast and vegetables to a serving platter. Skim fat from juices in roasting pan. Whisk together cornstarch and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl until smooth. Whisk cornstarch mixture into juices in pan; cook over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until thickened, whisking to loosen particles. Drizzle 1/2 cup gravy over roast. Serve remaining gravy with meat and vegetables.


Red Beans and Rice--Slow Cooker Style

Author’s notes: We love this dish, and whenever hosting a tailgate gathering we pull this together. If we are not hosting kids, we’ll use Andouille sausage instead of turkey sausage and add 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper to kick up the flavor.

1 lbs. dried red beans, rinsed and sorted
3/4 lb. smoked turkey sausage, thinly sliced
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. Creole seasoning
7 c. hot water or chicken broth
Cooked long-grain rice
Hot sauce

Combine red beans, turkey sausage, celery, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, sweet onion, garlic cloves, Creole seasoning and 7 cups water in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Cover and cook on high 7 hours or until beans are tender. Serve bean mixture and hot cooked rice with hot sauce.


Brunswick Stew

Author’s Notes: This is such a great twist to the traditional slow cooker stew. Yum!

3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder roast/Boston butt
3 medium-size new potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (18-oz.) bottle barbecue sauce
1 (14-oz.) can chicken broth
1 (9-oz.) package frozen baby lima beans, thawed
1 (9-oz.) package frozen corn, thawed
6 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt

Trim roast and cut into 2-inch pieces. Stir together all ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 10 to 12 hours or until potatoes are fork-tender. Remove pork with a slotted spoon, and shred. Return shredded pork to slow cooker, and stir well. Ladle stew into bowls.


Diner Split Pea Soup

Source: Mr. Food Test Kitchen

Author’s notes: I would recommend cooking on low for 10 hours, adding 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion, 2 celery chopped stalks and throwing a ham bone in the slow cooker at the beginning. You can also add a bit of sautéed garlic if you like.

1 (16 oz.) package dried split peas
1 lb. cooked ham, diced
8 c. chicken broth
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
4 carrots, diced
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

Place all ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high setting for 6 hours or on low setting for 10 hours, or until peas are tender and soup is thick. Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve immediately.

es about 3 minutes on each side. Serve with butter, syrup, walnuts or whipped topping.

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