Thursday, October 6, 2011

Comforts and a Memory Lane Detour

"Food is the most primitive form of comfort."
~Shelia Graham

I wish I could tell you that years of piano lessons helped to finely hone my musical skills.  I’d be proud if I could even boast of knowing how to accurately and proficiently read an intermediate piece of music.  But alas, I come up short—way short.  I learned three important things from piano lessons.

  1. I learned how to make excuses and talk my way out of actually playing the piano.  I remember going to numerous lessons, where I would just talk to Mrs. Schrock.  We’d talk and laugh and I’d tell her about school and –gasp- we’d talk about other kids- kids who were piano students of hers (shame, shame, shame on us).  Sometimes she gave me small treats—she’d disappear into the other room and come back with a brownie, a cookie, or a small candy bar.  Essentially, I learned how to talk in a circle and avoid playing any songs.  I never practiced.  I really didn’t like the piano.  I had forts to build and a bike to ride….
  1. I became a master at Christmas music.  After two years of struggling through Piano Purgatory, playing mundane tunes and scales, I proclaimed that I’d had enough.  No more.  And from that point on, I exclusively played Christmas music.  All year.  My favorite was “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and she liked “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  Looking back, it’s obvious to see that we were simply eclectic and festive, two crazy girls, from two different generations, getting jiggy with holiday music in the middle of May.

  1. Although never much for church, I learned practically every popular, mainstream hymn.  I loved playing hymns, (sly grin) probably because they were rather simple and slow.  Like I said, I wasn’t much for practicing.  However, I became a hymn playin’ queen, often playing “All Things Bright and Beautiful” with genuine passion and vigor.  I’m still surprised I was never asked to showcase my musical talents at church.  It’s alright—the church didn’t want the other kids to be jealous.  I get it.

Today, I found myself thinking of sweet Mrs. Schrock and those piano lessons.  You see, as I was busy unlocking the door, balancing six grocery bags and a purse and a water bottle and one overly expensive pair of sunglasses, I found myself humming a familiar hymn.  I was humming the tune the church bells played.  I’m lucky to live near the church.  Those chimes and bells often help keep me in check and keep me on schedule.

Isn’t it crazy how the simplest of events, such as the tolling of church bells, can spin off a whole flood of memories?  geesh…

So anyway, I was returning from the grocery store, when this flashback hit.  Pardon me for taking a detour onto Memory Lane.  All day I looked forward to baking a special treat for myself.  Thursday is my alone night—a night that Charlie and I chill out and do things for us.  Cooking and/or eating usually top both of our lists. 

Just as we started boiling water and cooking chicken, we got a text from my dad.  “Starbucks.  Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Pick you up in 15 min.”


Off went the burners.  Lock went the doors. 

Charlie, very politely (wink) asked the kind lady at the drive through if she could have some whip cream.  Since no one can resist the requests of Fur Face, her wishes were met and she promptly stuffed her little nose into the paper cup and indulged.  Her tail is still wagging.

Then, we drove some of our old favorite roads, talking and gossiping, sipping coffee, and enjoying the peace and calm of quiet country scenery.  We’re so lucky to live here—the beauty in an October evening is beyond enchanting.

When we arrived home, we quickly got back to work on our dinner.  There’s nothing like the comfort of pasta and organic chicken, cheese and buffalo sauce.  I sure do love me some
fall-ish comfort foods.  It’s obviously time to build up my fat storage and prepare for my winter hibernation. 

You might want to make Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta, too. Go ahead, give it a try.

1 pound pasta (I used whole wheat orecchiette)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups milk
4 ounces grated monterey jack cheese + more for topping
1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese + more for topping
1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

For garnish: I just chopped up a bunch of green onions, threw on some cheese, and drizzled with buffalo sauce.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

While pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, and once it’s melted and bubbly add the flour. Whisk together and cook for 1-2 minutes until mixture gets a bit golden in color. Add milk, stir and turn down heat to low. Continue stirring until milk thickens. Add in grated cheeses and continue to stir until mixture is smooth. Stir in buffalo wing sauce.

Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray. Add pasta and chicken, then pour cheese sauce over and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese and bread crumbs. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately top with cheese and green onions. Drizzle with buffalo wing sauce.

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