Monday, March 30, 2009

Sweet Potato (Yam) and Ginger Soup

Since about February our church has been getting together every Tuesday evening for supper. There’s always bread, and most often a soup to accompany it. I try to make the accompaniment go with whatever items are on sale during the week, and try to find some informative article related to them.

This week, sweet potatoes are on sale, both the yellow and the orange kind. (I just learned that what Americans call “yam” is not a true yam, but another variety of sweet potato.) There’s always simply baking the yams in an oven. I prefer a slightly more complicated version that maximizes starch conversion into sugar. I’ve made gratins with it.

Well, what about a soup?

I suppose I could have gone to one of the recipe sites or one of my cookbooks to find recipe for one, but what’s the fun in that? I wanted to see how different methods of preparing the sweet potato, and how different combinations of ingredients affect the end result. So with that in mind, I brought together --

  • Fresh sweet potatoes (yams)
  • Canned sweet potatoes (to see if they would be acceptable substitutes for fresh)
  • Carrots
  • Ginger
  • Vegetable oil
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Ground cumin
  • Garam Masala

I cooked the sweet potatoes in the following ways --

  • Baked (peeled, sliced, covered)
  • Boiled #1 (bring to fast boil, simmer until done)
  • Boiled #2 (simmer at low-ish heat until done)
  • Opened a can

All the above were then pureed and liquified in a blender. I steamed some carrots and pureed them also. Each puree was seasoned with a bit of salt.

I started with just the sweet potato purees and had Elise and the girls taste test them. I then added the carrot puree to one and had them test. I then added grated, fried ginger (2 kinds, one in plain vegetable oil, the other in butter) and had them tested. I added the cumin, another test; then sprinkled the garam masala for another. I mixed in a bit of cream for the final test.

It was definitely a fun experience, both for me, the cook, and for the testers.

The result? I thought that because we prefer the more complex baked sweet potato, it would work too, in a soup. But I was a little surprised to discover that for soups, a more plain, true sweet potato flavor is preferable. So as far as preparation, Boiled #1 was the winner.

However, there is an exception. As more complex spices were added, the baked, then pureed preparation began to balance the flavors out better.

I recommend passing on the canned sweet potatoes. It has a “processed” flavor to it and doesn’t have the complexity or the freshness that the freshly prepared ones do. It might do in a pinch, but not recommended.

The addition of carrots was a mixed bag. It didn’t work when it was just the sweet potatoes and the carrots by themselves. Once ginger and cumin was added, the preference for it became equal to just the sweet potatoes.

As for the ginger preparation, the ginger-butter combination appeared to have a slight edge by giving the soup a mellower flavor.

So for tomorrow night, assuming the store has adequate stock of fresh sweet potatoes, we will be having sweet potato and ginger soup, prepared as follows:

  1. Peel and large dice sweet potatoes. Place in large pot and add enough water to barely cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat, cover and simmer until done, about 20-25 minutes.
  2. Carefully pour contents into a blender and puree until smooth. (If a large amount, you may need to divide and do this multiple times.) You may need to add more water if the puree is too thick. Clean out pot and fill with contents of blender.
  3. In a small skillet, melt 1 tbsp. butter, then fry ginger for about a minute. Add butter-ginger to sweet potato puree.
  4. Thin out soup, if needed, with more water (or chicken stock). Add salt to taste. Bring back to a simmer.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

No sermon from yesterday

Pastor Brown was in town, and originally a memorial service was scheduled in the afternoon. So I had him take the morning sermon so that I could work on the afternoon homily. Well, plans changed and the memorial service was pushed out a week. We did not change the morning service, however.

I have sermon plans ready for the memorial, the community Good Friday service, April 11 (Easter weekend) and 18 (intro to a new series on the epistles of John), but I don’t yet have one for this Sabbath. I’m sure something will form in the next few days.

Stripey is much more himself today

And not all in a good way…

It’s good that he’s more alert and active. I caught him dashing up the stairs. He’s roaming about the house in a curious fashion.

It’s not good that he’s back to locating plastic bags and chewing on them. And it’s not good that he discovered my herb garden and took the chives down to a stubble (because chives can be rather toxic to cats and dogs), and started working on the thyme and dill when I caught him.

I don’t think he ingested enough of the chives to be a problem. I couldn’t find an exact problem amount for chives, but for onions, the number I found on some vet literature was 5g/kg of the cat. There wasn’t 20g of chives, and I found most of the big pieces of chives scattered about the area. We don’t need yet another Stripey emergency… sigh…

Friday, March 27, 2009

Just when you think winter is gone…

… The snow returns.

Yes, we’re hovering right above freezing point and the snow is coming down again. The city crews are back sanding the roads.

We did, in fact, have a few days of almost spring-like weather this week – both fair skies, and the typical, Petersburg rain. We’ve also had days where we’ve had everything – from bright sun, to rain, to heavy, wet snow.

Stripey went to the vet yesterday afternoon to have blood drawn to send away for follow-up testing. Because of the bandage all around his neck protecting the feeding tube, the vet couldn’t get a draw from the neck, even after two attempts and quite a bit of digging around for the vein. Stripey did not enjoy this experience. On the third attempt the vet went for a vein in the leg, which was immediately successful. The reason for preferring the neck is that usually, the draw is much easier and faster.

Although Stripey’s appearance seems to be less yellow to our eyes, the vet could see from the ears and eyes that the billirubin levels are still high. Stripey seems to be more active, is eating, and was even caught snitching some yogurt from an open container that was left unattended for just a minute.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sermon: I Am the Lord, Your Healer

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

God is said to be a refuge (or protector) and a healer. Yet we experience troubles, illness, problems, death. Where is God in all of this? Why doesn’t God shield us from the problems of this world? This sermon contains some of my thoughts as I try to deal with the problem of suffering and the apparent conflict with statements in Scripture.

(Psalm 46:1; Exodus 15:26; Matthew 13:14-15; 1 Peter 2:24; Revelation 22:2; John 3:16-18; John 4:46-53)


March 3 was Girls’ Day in Japan, celebrated with replicas of traditional dolls. My mom put a set together but didn’t get them done in time for them to be sent. We got the package today and set it up and had our girls pose for a photo.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stripey is Home

Yes, Stripey is back home this evening. He came home with a case of special wet food, four different medications, syringes for tube feeding, instructions, and a big vet bill.

He is definitely more himself than when he went away over a week ago. He seems much more alert and physically stronger.

He needs to go to the vet in town in about a week for another blood draw and checkup. Our little, adorable money-pit…

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Heavy Snow, All Day

Now that Spring is almost here, we are getting some of the heaviest snow of the winter. There is a good foot, perhaps more, of new snow over the last 24 hours. It is just hovering around the freezing point, so the snow is more of the wet, sticky, heavy kind.

Stripey was supposed to come home today, but the Juneau ground crew called the Petersburg ground crew and they called me, asking if I wanted Stripey loaded up or not. After considering the poor and variable weather we’ve had all day, I made the call to return him to the vet for another day. It was a good thing, because if he had been loaded up, he would be on his way to Seattle right now – not where any of us want him. We will try again tomorrow, and hope for better weather conditions.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kitty’s return delayed one day

Stripey did not come home today. He will be on tomorrow’s afternoon jet. A little over $1400 for the week-long stay and treatment. This whole episode looks like it will run about $2000.

But it will be nice to have him back – and maybe our other cat will settle down a bit. She’s been very noisy this past week – much more so than usual. I’m pretty certain she knows Stripey is missing and she doesn’t know why.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stripey may be coming home tomorrow

I got a call from the vet this evening saying that Stripey’s condition continues to improve. The most likely diagnosis is cholangiohepatitis.

Stripey is apparently getting more active and tearing at bandages and things. If he remains stable overnight, he could be on the plane back home tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sermon: Unreasonable Love

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

We can try to use all the words and all theology to try to explain God’s love for us, but I believe it cannot be comprehended by reason, because it is beyond reason. God’s love can only be understood by the heart as we experience it, in receiving and in giving.

Sermon: Move On

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

This concludes the discussion on the power of God-given dreams and how we can live God’s dreams for us.

The series is based on a set of sermon notes, provided by Thomas Nelson, which goes along with the book Wide Awake by Erwin R. McManus.

The Biblical materials for this sermon are found in Matthew 25.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stripey doing better

That is tonight’s report from the vet. He says that Stripey showed some interest in food and was more interested in interacting with people. They will check the billirubin levels again tomorrow and continue to observe over the weekend.

This is the first bit of good news for Stripey!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blood Tests, X-Rays, Ultrasound, IV Fluids, Feeding Tube

All for our cat, Stripey… Cost so far – about $1600.

The vet in Juneau has ruled out obstruction. The next tests will try to determine which internal organ is having problems. He thinks it is either the liver or the gall bladder.

I slept 2-1/2 hours last night, worrying about Stripey. I spent most of the night playing online games in order to try to distract myself.

Elise is in Wrangell for a few days. She left on the ferry this morning about 4 a.m. She says there isn’t as much snow on the ground there – a couple of inches compared to the foot or two in Petersburg.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not sure yet what is wrong with Stripey

This evening I got a call from the vet in Juneau. They ran some tests and the result cast some doubts on the possibility of an obstruction. They will run another X-ray in the morning, and if that doesn’t turn up anything, they will run an ultrasound to check on some internal organs…

This is turning out to be very costly…

Flight to vet is free…

Which is nice. But we do have to pay for the return flight.

Stripey got booked onto this morning’s Petersburg to Juneau flight as live animal cargo. Elise borrowed a small kennel (and a very nice one at that) from a co-worker.

Thinking about the whole thing, it is never good that something like this happens, but it was good that it did when it did. The vet just came into town, and this was before the airport closure. If it had happened later this month or next month, Stripey would have had to ferry over to Wrangell, and then fly to Juneau.

And in weather news, we are getting lots of snow again. Temperature is in the high teens.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Kitty Saga continues

The blood work results came back and the vet here suspects an obstruction. That means Stripey needs to go to Juneau for surgery. This is going to be one expensive, mongrel kitty.

It was too late to send him out on today’s flight, so he will be going out on tomorrow’s flight.

In other news, winter is back with temps this morning in the single digits again. We’ve had quite a number of sunny, clear, and cold days over the last month. Lots of people are waiting for spring to arrive.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Kitty Blood Tests

There was no callback from the message I left at the vet, so after I took Shelley to her piano lesson, I drove over to the vet’s office and stopped in to make an appointment.

Elise took Stripey in for tests. The good news is that the tests for some of the worst kinds of feline viral diseases came back negative. The bad news is that Stripey is still sick and the blood had to be sent out to a lab in Everett, WA. Total cost: about $260. The lab results won’t come back until next week.

There’s not much else to do but wait and hope that things don’t suddenly take a turn for the worse.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Our cat, Stripey, is sick

Yes, a sad bit of news. For probably about a week (maybe more, it’s hard to tell) Stripey has been coughing up greenish stuff. Since he’s always been one to chew on odd things and throw stuff up, we didn’t think much of it. But tonight we all noticed how much weight he has lost. Apparently whatever is his illness, he hasn’t been eating.

I did a quick web search of some feline diseases that could have these symptoms, and it ranges from fairly benign to “your cat won’t make it” severity. I hope it’s the former and not the latter…

I called up the veterinarian’s number tonight and discovered that they just arrived in town and will be here for 4-6 weeks. So even thought the news is bad, at least things are not all bad. Our only other choice would have been to send Stripey off to Juneau.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Recipe: Black Beans and White Cauliflower

… Or Black & White.

This is one from a couple weeks ago when I had some cauliflower and wanted to do something other than Cauliflower & Kidney Beans Curry, or Cauliflower Macaroni & Cheese, or Balti-Style Cauliflower – my usual dishes involving cauliflower.

I wanted something relatively simple. Black beans and rice came to mind, and I figured why not add the cauliflower to it and see what happens?

I tried this both in a large sauté pan as well as a slow cooker. The slow cooker version didn’t turn out quite as good due to the cauliflower overcooking a bit. I haven’t had much success yet with cauliflower in the slow cooker. What I provide here is the regular, stovetop version.

Serves: 6-8
Cook and prep time (does not include time for beans to cook): 45 minutes


  • 2 cups dry black beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 dried, red hot chili peppers
  • 1 large onion, diced medium
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 Serrano pepper, optionally seeded and sliced
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced medium
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. red chili powder
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


  1. Soak and cook beans as directed by package. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, drop in dried chili, stir and fry for a few seconds. Add onion and garlic and continue to stir and fry until onions are soft. Add Serrano and bell peppers and fry another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the ground cumin and chili powder, stir and fry 30 seconds. Add cauliflower, water, and about 1 tsp salt. Stir, then bring to a rapid simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until cauliflower becomes tender but not too soft.
  4. Add the tomatoes with juice and the cooked beans. Add another teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir to mix well and blend flavors. Bring back to a simmer, cover and continue to cook another 5-10 minutes until cauliflower is soft. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Mix in fresh cilantro and serve.

Sermon: Do You Know Who You Are?

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

This continues the discussion on the power of God-given dreams and how we can live God’s dreams for us.

The series is based on a set of sermon notes, provided by Thomas Nelson, which goes along with the book Wide Awake by Erwin R. McManus.

The Biblical materials for this sermon are found in Luke 2:41-52; Exodus 3:11-14; Hebrews 12:1-2.