What I’ve Learned About Nine Minutes

Facebook leaves unwanted trivia impressed on my brain leading to cerebral implosion.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love cute memes.  I love keeping in touch with my friends.  But dire warnings and impending doom and politics on hyper drive need to just go away.  No one experiences a change of heart with propaganda on Facebook, so we could all just agree to drop it?

The latest attack on my psyche came with one of those benign little headers: Nine Foods to Avoid.  And then this…Every slice of bacon you eat is 9 minutes off your life.  Seriously?  Number one, we’re talking about a food group here.  And number two, with so many dread diseases threatening to end our lives, I hardly think bacon ranks up there with an airplane crash or a drunk driver or lung cancer.  Bacon.  Not bullets.  Not nukes.  Bacon, people–breakfast candy and flavor enhancer and appetizers-would-never-be-the-same-without it, service-to-humanity, simple bacon.

Kale without bacon?  Ugh.  Asparagus wrapped in bacon?  Yes!  Bacon improves just about everything.  I admit to being a life long fan of bacon.  Too little to see over the edge of the top of the table, I slunk from chair to chair and snatched bacon off plates as a toddler, or so the story goes.  Yes, my love of bacon goes way back.  So I wonder, why bacon?  Why is bacon the recipient of so much disdain?

Bacon attracted foes and fans throughout the centuries.  In the Old Testament it was banned.  In the New Testament Paul accepted bacon into the menu.  Bacon rashers fed pioneers, but now bacon subtracts life like a ticking clock attached to dynamite.  Here’s the thing:  prevailing winds shift.  The status of poor bacon dances on each side of the line of respectability, and the line seems drawn in sand, not etched in concrete.  Wait awhile.  It will move again.

In the meantime, strictly in the spirit of public service, I offer you a better way to cook bacon.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Lay slices in a baking dish.  If bacon lovers populate your family, add a rack to the pan and another row of slices.  Bake for about 30 minutes, to your desired level on the continuum between limp and crispy.  My family likes it crispy, so we sometimes leave it an extra 9 minutes.  (I bet you thought I’d forgotten about that nine minutes, huh?)

Nine minutes doesn’t sound all that significant in the scheme of eternity, but think of all the words people utter in just nine minutes.  Couples exchange vows in less than nine minutes.  A sincere I love you and hug take about three.  Expressing sincere appreciation takes three or four.  Use your lost nine minutes wisely, and you’ll never miss them.  Inherent in aging gracefully lies the realization that the numbered days before us shrink with each circling of the sun.  No one reclaims those minutes cast into the realm of a fourth dimension.  Not one of us can truly add a minute, let alone nine of them, to a lifespan over which only the Creator exercises control.  So eat bacon, don’t eat bacon…I leave that up to each of you.  But do use those nine minutes to bless another person (and try to refrain from using Facebook as a soapbox).  Aging gracefully is a choice.  Choose grace.
bacon bliss

Your Tombstone

I am known far and wide (in my own family) for my potato salad.  True.  Megan said she didn’t like anyone else’s, but she tried one bite of mine and loves it.  Lori agreed.  What a recommendation!  I argued long with my oldest son to be able to serve it on Mother’ Day, and he only conceded when I promised I’d share my recipe.  In full disclosure, I admit everyone over 13 loves it.  Don’t ask the littles.

If you carved your own headstone, what would you etch for eternity to see? I think taking inventory on a regular basis constitutes good mental hygiene.  Here’s what I hope I am known for:

  • smiling with grandchildren
  • super good waffles with sleepovers
  • friendship with peers
  • service for God
  • being a camper at heart
  • ever a mama bear
  • best potato salad known to modern man

Printing this list and taping it to a mirror offers me a daily reminder of what’s important to me.  A Calvinist might consider my barometer shallow, but I freely admit that being a human being isn’t easy.  Some days I aspire to just this much.  No more.  I leave perfection to those better than I.

And my potato salad?  Perhaps it’s time to spill the proverbial beans, or potatoes, in this case.  You can find my secret recipe under any Hellman’s label, but I offer it here for my oldest son, who I am sure never reads my blog.  Megan, don’t you dare write it down and give it to him!

  • 5 pounds red potatoes, boiled and chopped with skins intact
  • one onion, chopped
  • six hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery (which Levi won’t eat so I don’t add)
  • 1 cup Hellman’s
  • 1 teaspoon sugarAutosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

I encourage you, dear reader.  Take stock.  Etch your tombstone onto your mirror (use pen and paper.  It’s easier.)  Be known for what matters most to you.  If you aspire to perfection, go for it.  If you, like myself, just celebrate surviving some days, don’t beat yourself up.  I think every tombstone ought to tell a story.  What’s yours?

How Do I Spell Potato Skins? YUM

Family gatherings…a time to spoil your peeps with the best food and fun.  My family comes home twice a month for family dinner and I am always excited to have them.  After being gone three weeks, I was over due, so this week it was a highly anticipated event.

The birthday boy requested taco salad, so I of course upped the ante with some home made guacamole.  For an appetizer I decided to try my hand at potato skins…can I just say yummy?  Here’s how I made them:

A day ahead:

  • Fry up a pound of bacon.  When it’s nice and crispy, crumble it up into small bits
  • Dig up some green onions and chop them into thin slices.  Peel a few whites apart for little rounds.
  • Clean and dry your potatoes.  Place each on a square of foil.  Drizzle on some olive oil and roll the potato to coat the surface.  Liberally sprinkle on garlic salt and pepper on every side.  Roll them up and bake until tender.
  • Wash away the onion scent with Gender Bender

That day:

  • Cut each potato in half.  Scoop out some of the potato to save for scrambled eggs.
  • Salt each potato.  Fill with cheese and crumbled bacon.  (I had some bbq pork, but at the last minute decided not to use it.  Not necessary!)
  • Baker at 350 for 15 minutes, add more cheese and bake another 5 minutes.
  • Top with a dollop of sour cream, green onions and the last of the bacon bits.
  • Wash away the onion scent with Gender Bender

We consumed them.  Wait, it’s more accurate to say we inhaled them.  They were great.  I loved every minute of having them home.  First Sundays all the littles have recitals and play us something they’ve learned, so that was a treat.

And if you don’t like the smell of onions on your skin?  That’s right.  Get some Gender Bender.  $9.  It’s a steal!  Go to http://www.madaboutposh.com and click on COLLECTIONS, click on CHUNKS.  It’s good for just about everything!

gender bender

My “Risen” Son’s Favorite Meal

All right, all of my sons love it.  I mean, I’m not sure you can BE a Rhoads and not love mashed potato pie.  Seriously.  Make a half sheet pan or just forget about it.  When it comes to mashed potato pie, all calorie counting and pretenses of moderation are flung aside.

Now I know some of you like Shepherd’s Pie, but stay with me here.  My sons don’t want no stinkin’ vegetables in their favorite meal.  Think of the time it takes to fish them out.  Think of the taint of green or orange or yellow flavors.  Ewww!

Yup.  Ten pounds of mashed potatoes.  Five pounds of juicy hamburger gravy.  Slap it together and bake at 350 for a bubbly ambrosia with crusty edges, and you have unleashed greed, gluttony and delight.  Unless you have eaten with us, no mocking.  It’s just a fact.

Katelyn refuses to refer to her daddy as having died.  She always talks about her “risen” daddy, and I’m good with that.  And it’s no secret this was Alma’s favorite meal, bar none.  I fix each one’s favorite meal for their birthday dinner, and Alma was notorious for coaxing his children into requesting mashed potato pie.  We will always miss him, and I may always cry when I make this dish, but I will always smile when I picture him relishing every bite.  I hope it remains a Rhoads family staple.

My grandmother made this dish.  My mother taught me.  I must pass this legacy on.  It’s magical, and perhaps my one claim to fame, lol.

How to Survive the 4:30 Panic

Do you work at home?  Do you work outside the home?  I think this comprises 100% of all women.  Either way, you do eat, right?  At least your family eats?  4:30 rolls around everyday.  Every. Single. Day.  And this question ignites an inferno of panic every day as well.  “What’s for dinner?” Trying to answer the question in light of the following stats invokes a degree of concern.

  • Women do 80% of the cooking in the home.
  • Only 50% of American families eat supper together.
  • 34% of the time families are eating fast food.

Why bother trying?  We do the cooking, yet more and more of the time our fragmented families eat junk food at least a room away.  But these aren’t the only statistics I want you to contemplate.  People who eat as a family are 59% less likely to smoke cigarettes, 57% less likely to drink alcohol, and 60% less likely to smoke marijuana.  So who are we benefiting by figuring out a way to handle family dinner?  Our children, of course.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  I have a cure for the panic:  Supper Swapping.

Supper swapping is just what it you think it is.  Prepare one main dish in bulk.  Multiply ingredients by 3 or 4 and use disposable foil pans from the dollar store.  Keep one meal.  Deliver the rest to other families in your swap group.  Dinner is served.  All week long.

Try to form a group at church, a mom’s group, or in your neighborhood, somewhat's for supperwhere you already have connections and see partners on a regular basis.  Look for people who share your same food allergies or preferences.  I looked at the whole freezer meal phenomenon when it peaked and thought, “Ugh.  One week of kitchen hell and I have to find shelf space in the freezer and remember to take it out.  I don’t think so.”  But this is easier.  I can do this.  Who’s with me on this?

Is the Instant Pot Your Friend?

Yes, I’m in love.  My full life often means meal planning takes a back seat.  Meat gets pulled from the freezer and must be prepared before fully thawed.  Sigh.

I discovered a remedy for last-minute-poor-planning cooks.  Don’ let the term pressure cooker intimidate you.  Recipes abound.  The steps are easy peasy.

  1.  Plug it in.
  2.  Hit manual.
  3.  Add or reduce the minutes.
  4.  Walk away.

We grow a lot of sweet potatoes.  A lot.  I can cook sweet potatoes in a fraction of the time.  20 minutes and voila!  Place the clean sweet potatoes in your pot on a little platform.  We grow some real bruisers, so I often cut them in half.  Add a cup of water.  Apply the lid.  Shift the valve on top to the center, adjust the time for 20 minutes, and go!  When it beeps, switch the valve to the right to release steam.  When all is silent, lift the lid, letting steam escape away from you.

We love ours with butter.  I know, I know.  What can I say?  We love butter.  And brown sugar.  Did I mention that I can take a perfectly healthy item and turn it into forbidden fruit?  Sigh.Yum!