Friday 26 August 2011

Friday this and that . . .

(Snap the Whip, Homer Winslow)

This is one of my favorite pieces of art. Entitled, Snap the Whip, it is merely a lineup of boys playing a game called Snap the Whip outside a one-room, red school house. I think the artist, Homer Winslow, has perfectly captured the essence and spirit of childhood and lush summer days.

From the Metropolital Museum of Art site: (Time Line of History)

Children embodied innocence and the promise of America's future and were depicted by many artists and writers during the 1870s. Here Homer reminisces about rural simplicity and reflects on the challenges of the complex post–Civil War world. Released from the confines of a one-room schoolhouse, exuberant boys engage in a spirited game. As the population shifted to cities and the little red schoolhouse faded from memory, this image would have evoked nostalgia for the nation's agrarian past. The boys' bare feet signal childhood's freedom but their suspenders are associated with manhood's responsibilities. Their game, which requires teamwork, strength, and calculation, may allude to the reunited nation. Observed from right to left, Homer's boys hang on to one another, strain to stay connected, run in perfect harmony, and fall away, enacting all the possible scenarios for men after the Civil War.

Having said that, however . . . I do love the vivid colours used in this painting which, to my mind's eye, is filled with contrasts and relationships. I can feel the tension as one of the lads has fallen, whilst the others remain upright. You know that they are playing . . . but school work is not far off.

I don't think that "Snap the Whip" is ever a game that I played when I was growing up . . . although to be sure my mother was an expert at "Snap the Whip!" (albeit in a much different context!) She could wield a wooden spoon with great expertise, and we knew only too well that . . . if we wandered too far out of line . . . we would feel it's force on our bottoms! It is only because we lived in an urban setting that it wasn't a hickory switch she was applying. (I might add it never did us any harm! We all grew up to be decent law abiding, God fearing, well adjusted people!) My parent's discipline helped us to stay along the straight and narrow path, and helped to keep us out of trouble, and safe. They knew better than us what was right and what was wrong. I am ever grateful for their guidance.

There are times that our Heavenly Father snaps the whip too . . . lovingly guiding us onto a higher path. It's always for our own good. I like that. It gives me peace. The knowledge that His guidance is dispensed for our betterment gives me security. Knowing He is ultimately in charge . . . like I knew my mom and dad were in charge . . . helps to keep me on the right path and gives me the peace in knowing that whatever may come . . . God has a plan for me and that, even when things are difficult, they are all a part of that plan. Resistance is futile and will only bring sorrow and a much tougher row to hoe. I am ever in His care.

We have a pretty full day ahead of us today. We are off to the chapel this morning to clean the windows, that is . . . AFTER we give Mitzie a bath. She sorely needs one! She likes to chew on those pressed bones, and they leave an awful mess of guck at the bottoms of her ears and on her front paws. I really wish she didn't need to have them, but if she doesn't she resorts to chewing on other things like furniture! (Which is worse!) The guck I can wash off . . . the furniture is a bit harder to replace! (Look at that innocent face!!)

Then we are off to town on the bus, with a few errands to do. I have to bring a dessert to the church picnic tomorrow and so I will be picking up a few odds and sodds to put together for that and then just a general wander about while summer is still with us! I promise to stay away from Hotel Chocolate! ☺

It was really chilly here last evening, just right for a delicious autumnal casserole. I made this for Todd and I and we enjoyed every wonderful mouthful. You can make it in individual casserole dishes like I did, or you can make it in one larger one for the whole family to enjoy. It’s great any way you make it.

*Autumnal Chicken and Butternut Squash Casserole*

Serves 4

Printable Recipe

I love this casserole. There are so many flavours going on in it, but they all seem to meld together wonderfully . . . the sweetness of the roasted butternut squash, the savoury rich flavour of the cheese, earthy sage, tender slices of poached chicken, garlic and the delicious crunch of sweet almonds. It’s fabulous, but don’t just take my word for it, try it for yourself!

2 ½ pound butternut squash

2 TBS olive oil

2 cups milk

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

4 skinless, boneless free range chicken breasts, of medium size

A whole nutmeg for grating

2 ounces (2 TBS) of butter

2 ounces (2 heaping TBS) of plain flour

1 ½ TBS roughly chopped fresh sage leaves

7 ounces (slightly less than 2 cups) of mature cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup flaked toasted almonds

Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/425*F/ gas mark 6. Take four individual serving casserole dishes, or one large one, and place them on a baking tray. Set aside.

Peel the butternut squash, cut in half and remove the seeds. Slice it into ½ inch slices. Place on a baking tray and using your fingers toss it with the olive oil, making sure all the pieces are well coated. Season with some salt and pepper and then roast in the heated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender and browning slightly in places. Give it a gentle stir about halfway though the roasting time.

While the squash is cooking get the chicken ready and make the sauce. Wipe the chicken breasts and then season each with salt, pepper and some grated nutmeg. Place them into a saucepan along with the milk and garlic, and bring it just up to the boil. Reduce the heat immediately to medium low, and let the chicken simmer in the hot milk, uncovered, for about 15 to 16 minutes, just until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside. Boiling it will toughen the chicken, so make sure it only simmers. If it starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat for a few minutes. Once cooked, remove the chicken with a slotted spoon onto a plate to cool, reserving the milk for the sauce.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it just starts to turn brown, remove it from the heat and whisk in the flour to keep the butter from burning. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and then return the pan to the heat, cooking and whisking until it is smooth and thickened slightly. Add 2/3 of the cheese a little at a time, whisking until it melts and is a smooth sauce. Add the sage and season to taste with salt, pepper and a touch of freshly grated nutmeg

Lay half of the butternut squash pieces in the bottom of the casseroles (casserole). Cover with half of the cheese sauce. Slice each chicken breast and lay this over the cheese sauce. Sprinkle half of the toasted almonds on top. Cover with the remaining roasted squash pieces. Spoon on the remaining half of the sauce, smoothing over the top to cover. I always take the tip of a knife and run it a bit here and there down around the sides to make sure the sauce seeps right down into the chicken beneath.

Scatter the remaining cheese and almonds over top. Place in the oven and bake for a further 25 to 30 minutes until the top is nicely browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Delicious!

*Note, you can vary the type of cheese used in this if you like. A mixture of Parmesan and Pecorino are good. Also if you want to make it completely vegetarian you can add another vegetable or use all butternut squash leaving out the chicken completely. Blue cheese is also good mixed in with the cheddar cheese

In The English Kitchen today, Carrots with Lemon Sage Butter, deliciously different!

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