Simple Pleasures

 

As spring continues its bipolar journey, kicking and screaming into the next season, I am warmed by our wood burner.  Our home is quiet.  A steady rain drips its cadence on the metal roof of our porch.  Val is reading; our dogs are sleeping next to each other.  I hear one of our wind chimes begin to sing.  Whenever I experience this pause in our busy life I am grateful.  There is a rhythm to the life on our farm; the days start quietly.  We make time for coffee, building fires, observing nature, watering plants, playing with dogs and of coarse conversation.

I consider it a luxury when we wake up naturally, without an alarm.  Most days are spent either on the farm or working in the soap kitchen.  There is movement, labor and chipping away at our unwritten list of to do’s.  We are never caught up, yet this does not concern us.  We stay directionally correct; always heading forward, but never completely arriving at our goals.  We aren’t driven by more, we are grounded by enough.

Most of our days are dictated by the weather; something to adjust for rather than complain about.  After our block of labor is complete, we may bring out the Cribbage board or dominoes.  We laugh, in a world crushed by endless technology, does anyone still play board games?  I write on a computer and I have a smart phone, but our time spent “unplugged” is meaningful to us.  We can’t think of anything more important than our relationships with friends, family and each other.  Overdosing on technology takes us away from our hearts, while shared activity bring us closer together.  It’s important to strike a balance between the immediate and the gradual.

We decide in the morning what we might like for dinner.  Our evening meal is always made together, with music in the background and a glass of wine in hand.  The kitchen is the heart of our home.  Nourishment comes in many forms, and we are mindful of how our labor feeds us both physically and emotionally.  Tonight we have decided on roasted red pepper, red onion,  and Italian sausage over white cheddar polenta.  One delicious bowl in a day filled with simple pleasures.

RED PEPPER, ONION & SAUSAGE WITH WHITE CHEDDAR POLENTA

INGREDIENTS:

FOR TOPPING:

  • 1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 red, yellow or orange bell peppers, or a combination, seeded and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 medium red onion, vertically sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water

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FOR POLENTA:

  • 1 1/4 cup instant polenta
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (6 ounces) freshly shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped for serving

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Toss peppers and onion in olive oil; spread on large baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for 30 minutes; tossing vegetables halfway through.
  2. In the meantime, brown sausage in a skillet over medium heat, about 10 minutes or until there is no pink left.  Add tomato paste and water, combine and continue to cook until sauce thickens slightly, about 5-10 minutes more.  Remove from heat.
  3. Bring 5 cups of water to boil in a heavy medium saucepan.  Add the salt.  Gradually whisk in the polenta over moderate heat.  Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thickened and smooth, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir the half & half and pepper into the polenta.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.  Spoon polenta onto a warm platter or individual bowls.  Top with meat sauce, then roasted vegetables.  Garnish with parsley.

Serves 4

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“Happiness is an inside job.  If you can be happy with simple pleasures, you will discover the joys of slowing down, and being present.”

 

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