On Random Gifts and Their Benefits

My mother-in-law was really great at giving random presents.  Gifts that would elicit a brief moment of eye contact between my husband and myself before any words escaped (the first word usually being “um”).  One of the most memorable was a hand painted tray – complete with a card of authenticity.  It was small, hinting to be used for serving hor d’oeuvres – if you dared to actually use a hand painted tray practically.  The flowers painted on it had some weird color combination that really didn’t go with anything.  I honestly don’t know where that tray ended up.

Another random present arrived very early in our marriage – maybe even our first Christmas.  It was a food dehydrator.  Hubby laughed when we opened it and wondered aloud what we would EVER use it for.  Um, to DRY FOOD of course!  Now WHY we would want to dry food escaped me, but I took a liking to the thing.  And I was determined to put it to use.

It collected dust for several years, but I’m glad that I fought to keep it.  I am proud to report that I do use it.  On a regular basis!

I have dried orange, lemon, and apple slices, mixed them with cinnamon, cloves and other spices and given them to teachers as Christmas potpourri.  (Teachers get enough food gifts, let me tell you.  They are happy for something that won’t spoil or cause a sugar high.)

At the end of the summer, when a frost is predicted, I will go harvest herbs from my garden and dry them.  I have containers of garden basil, rosemary, sage, and lemon balm.

And I’ve taken to getting bunches of spinach and kale from the grocery store and drying them.  I crumble them into containers and keep them in the freezer.  When I make sauces, cook ground meat, fix an omelette or even a salad, I’ll sprinkle a pinch or two in just to boost the nutritional content and to enhance the flavor.  Since I started doing that, I have gotten a lot compliments on my spaghetti sauce from my family.

Which brings me to a kind of funny story.

I dried a bunch of kale and spinach last year.  When I use only a pinch at a time, it holds for a while, but I’m running low.  I’m doing another batch this week.

I finished the spinach this morning and got my spinach container from the freezer.  For some reason, when I put the container in last year, I didn’t label it.  But I always put it back next to the container labeled “KALE”, so I’m good.  I started filling the spinach container with the new batch and noticed that the color didn’t quite match.  The previous batch was darker.  I chalked that up to being in the freezer for about a year and went on.  I mixed the new in with the old by pinching it together and rolling it around really well.  Then I went on with my morning.  (I should mention to anyone reading this that we do NOT live in Colorado, Washington or any state that allows marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes.  Get your mind out of the bong.)

Part of my morning routine now involves taking my coffee into the laundry room and sitting with our cat, Marie, as she eats.  I would like to say this is because Marie is deaf and she likes me to stand watch in case our dog, Ruby, comes in (even though Ruby is always in her crate for kitty breakfast time).  In truth, Marie is just a diva and wants an audience.  But this morning she wouldn’t eat.  All she wanted to do was rub my hand.  And rub my hand.  And grab it.  And bite it.  And rub it some more.  Then it dawned on me.

Last year I mixed the kale and the spinach together in the “KALE” container.  The unmarked container is catnip.

Yes, I have been putting catnip in my family’s food for the better part of a calendar year.

Do you know that when you type in “can humans eat”, “catnip” is third on the Google search list?  Right behind “dog food” and “grass”.

Turns out that yes, humans CAN eat catnip.  It helps arthritis, migraines, insomnia, tummy troubles and coughing, among other things.  So, you know, I’ve been helping us all.  In teeny, tiny, pinch-sized amounts.

Too bad my mother-in-law never got us a label maker.  That would have come in handy.

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