Friday, December 3, 2010

The Importance of Believing (and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie)

Today, a fellow blogger (You Found What In There), who has experienced both complications and loss in pregnancy, delivered her daughter at 30 weeks, weighing 3 pounds 7 oz., and measuring 16" long.  The ALI blogging community has been sending all kinds of positive energy her way through this difficult pregnancy, which has included everything from blood transfusions in utero to preterm labor, and I know that she has been grateful for that continued support.  Thankfully, Mom and baby are doing well, all things considered, but she could use your continued good thoughts.  (Please go visit her!)

This post, and the story I promised to tell in my last post, is strangely related to her news today.

Every year, sometime near Christmas, Santa drives up our street in a fire truck, sirens blazing.  I'm not sure why, but it used to happen in the town where I grew up, too, so I sort of take it for granted.  Tonight was the night of choice for 2010, and my son was out front, waving his little hand, eyes shining.  Every year, it makes me think about the things we believe in, and the power of believing.

As a first year student in college, I lived with some pretty interesting and creative people; one of them claimed he was a wizard.  He also, we suspected, had a little crush on me, and as my birthday approached in early December, he asked me what I'd like.  I, being the obnoxious little college first year student, told him that since he was a wizard, he should make it snow.

"Hm," said he, pulling thoughtfully at his nonexistent Gandalf-beard, "snow is hard, but I'll see what I can do."

I thought little more of the conversation until the morning of my birthday dawned: it was a beautiful blue-sky day, not a cloud in sight.  I caught said wizard on his way out the door for our second period class, and said, perhaps a little insensitively, "nice snow, G."  He scowled.  "Just you wait," he said, shaking his finger at me.  "Just you wait."

And I'll be a monkey's uncle if by the time I came home that afternoon from class, there wasn't two inches of snow on the ground.  Moreover, every year since then, it has snowed on my birthday ... from a token few flurries to a full blown blizzard.  When I lived in California while I was going to graduate school, it was too warm for snow ... but it rained.  (If you want proof of this strange phenomenon, here's someone who has actually kept track.)  My birthday is coming up on Sunday, and I'm watching the forecast.

The moral of the story, for me, is that you never know when you might run into a real wizard.  Or, perhaps a little less bizarrely put, it's important to allow yourself to believe, even in the things that seem impossible.  The birth of little Kiari today, and the fact that her little body fought so hard to come into this world, even as early as she did, and that she is alive, is proof positive to me that we have to believe.  I'm not saying that we can change reality: infertility and loss still suck, and there is no magic wand to make it any easier; difficult work situations still exist; people are out of jobs; families fall apart; and we are in many ways a broken, searching world.  But really believing that something good is possible--as tiring as it can be to believe in the face of persistent loss and disappointment--can change us, even if it doesn't change the facts.  And that, my friends, is perhaps even more powerful.

This recipe really has nothing to do with believing, but it's good vegan or non-vegan hearty (and healthy) winter food, and just the sort of thing you might take to a family who has just welcomed a tiny new addition to their home.  I think that parents of newborns need meal delivery, and if I lived near Melissa, I might bring one of these over.  Happy birthday to her little girl; Kiari, I believe in you.

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the topping:

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
A dash of nutmeg
A drizzle of fruity olive oil, to taste
milk (of whatever sort you like), as needed

For the filling:

1.5 pounds ground beef (or another can of black beans, see below)
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 small to medium zucchini, trimmed, cut into pieces
1 cup artichoke hearts, cut up
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 14 oz. can Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes
some frozen corn, if you like
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste

Place the sweet potatoes in a pot of fresh salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until under fork tender and mashable.

If using beef, saute it in a large hot skillet till lightly browned; pour off the fat; return the skillet to the stove. If not, just start by sauteeing the onions and garlic; stir and cook for five minutes or until the onions are soft (just add these to the beef if you're not going veg.)

Add in the zucchini; stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Add in the artichokes, tomatoes, and black beans. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, agave, dried herbs and cinnamon. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until the liquid is reduced a bit. Remove from heat.

Back to the sweet potatoes:

Drain the cooked sweet potatoes and mash them lightly. Season with sea salt, ground pepper and nutmeg. Drizzle with a little fruity olive oil. Add a couple of tablespoons of milk (soy or regular) and stir until smooth and fluffy.

Layer the filling in a casserole or baking dish, and top with the mashed sweet potatoes.

Bake in the center of a preheated oven until bubbling and hot, about 25 minutes.
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  1. I really like this... a wizard eh? and the snow thing is pretty cool. Have a wonderful birthday!

  2. This post gave me chills. I'm definitely rooting for snow on your birthday again this year!a very nice message to everyone...thanks for the reminder.

  3. Okay, now I'm very curious to see whether or not it'll snow on your birthday. Please update and let us know. :)

  4. He he he, happy early birthday lovely lady. We Sagittariuses have to stick together.

  5. thanks for stopping by my blog as well! :) hope your friend & baby are doing well. will be watching to see the weather report for your birthday!

    p.s. the saag was AWESOME. hubs & boys couldn't get enough & anything that can get toddlers to love spinach has to be a good thing. we have plans to attempt your shepard's pie soon as well. :)

  6. I'm not very good at believing in thing like wizards, faeries, and pregnancy.

    Happy Birthday! :-)

  7. This was such a beautiful post! So much truth to what you said about believing, we are trying to hope in spite of all that has happened this past year that maybe things will work out for us this time. And Kiari's story was so inspirational!

    Also Happy Birthday lovely lady, I am so thankful for you & that our paths crossed this past year!

  8. One thing I believe is that you are very deserving of the blog award I just gave you. Pop over to my blog to pick it up. (((((HUGS))))

  9. Thank you for reminding me of the benefits of believing!

  10. Being a natural pessimist, I have the hardest time believing.

    (Arrived from the Crème de la Crème list)

  11. Funny story. I've found that magical thinking hasn't worked as well for me as focusing on things that make me happy, but I think you make a good point nonetheless.

    (here from creme)


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