The Heart of It

This morning’s sub-freezing temperatures and my own recovery from a cold was inspiration enough to make a potato and sausage stew, one that my mom started making when we lived in Kansas over forty years ago (eek!).  The recipe was featured in the Kansas City Star and contained the simplest of ingredients that came together magnificently.  I have to admit that the reason this was and has been one of my favorites stews of all time is simply this:  Kielbasa sausage.  As a teenager I was known to count the number of sausage slices in my mom’s and then my bowl to ensure equity.  I was also known to have snitched a sausage slice (or two), claiming to have been shorted (sorry, Mom). And since I’m being really honest here, I still mete out the sausage slices and have been known to accuse my husband of taking extra sausages when I’m not looking (sorry, Dave).

Over the years this recipe has remained a true classic, one that my own children ate willingly (!), typically accompanied by a side of homemade biscuits.  Whenever I make this stew, it always makes me think of home…Mom, Jennifer & Eric.  I vary the the sausages from time to time, most often landing on something like Aidell’s chicken sausages or Teton Waters Ranch beef sausages.

Right now the stew is on the stove to simmer, allowing plenty of time before dinner for the flavors to marry.  Although the stew is rich with memories, it has never before brought me to tears.  As I cook or bake I never quite know the journey my thoughts will take. Today, maybe because of the fever,  or thoughts of my grandchildren, or reflecting on my own children’s lives, the lives of children and teachers in Florida…there were tears.  In the last few days I have scrolled through too many vitriolic posts on Facebook to count, just hoping to find posts of yellow labs or kittens to make me smile.

This morning I ran across the following How to Reduce Shootings, an opinion piece that ran in the NY Times.  It is sensible, fact driven, and provides some semblance of hope if we are willing to come together.  I followed the link with:

Although it may feel much more concise & manageable, and hence make us feel more safe & secure, the solutions for far reaching societal issues cannot and will not be resolved through a reductionist mentality or non sequitur lines of thinking.

These lines of thought will only serve to further stoke the flames of divisiveness and drive us further away from possible solutions. As a parent, as an educator, when a child spills the proverbial glass of milk we know it serves no purpose to blame and shame. Instead we acknowledge, we examine the facts, we come to solutions, we teach, we support.

Admittedly, the Second Amendment and the issues surrounding gun control are more complex than spilled milk. Let’s start with finding common ground. Let’s start with questions, not finger pointing.

The next post you read on gun control, ask yourself “what is the intent?” If in fact it is reductionist in nature, follows non sequitur lines of thinking–ask a question.


Today, Sunday morning of President’s Day weekend, I made the stew I think of most when I think of my family.  When I bake or cook, love and care are always key ingredients, whether the recipients realize it or not.  Imagine the possibilities and power of shared community through food, the conversations…finding common ground.

Much love.

Potato & sausage stew
Potato & Sausage Stew

Potato & Sausage Stew

1 lb Kielbasa (or your favorite) sausage, sliced; brown over medium high heat in a 3 qt sauce pan.

Add 1/2 large onion, diced, when the sausage is mostly browned.  Stir frequently until onions are golden and tender.  Drain any fat.


32 oz stewed tomatoes (or any combination of diced or stewed tomatoes)

1.5 c water

4 stalks celery, sliced (with leaves if possible)

4 large potatoes (I prefer red or Yukon gold)

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

salt to taste

juice of 1/2 lemon

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cook for 2 hours or until potatoes are tender, stirring periodically.  Remove bay leaves.

This stew is even better the second day, as the potatoes absorb some of the liquid, thickening it slightly.  I typically double this recipe as it freezes well.  Depending on the type of sausage I use, I may add chili flakes.


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