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crispy skillet potatoes

There is so much discord in the world; it is constant, unsettling, and makes me want to keep my family at home, hunkered down in the cozy living room together, and never leave.

I am aware that we cannot hide from the world. I know that guns will always be in the hands of the many people who shouldn't have access to them; but I also know that I can continue to educate my children about this topic in the way that is important to me.

I know that there will always be sad and horrible accounts published every day that detail the horrors of what is now unfortunately our everyday occurrence, whether it be child abuse; tornadoes sweeping through unsuspecting towns and claiming innocent lives; photos of battered and bruised women, fear and anger freezing their features as they stare unflinchingly into the camera's eye - is it over? has there been enough? their gazes seem to say - and the senseless acts of violence that make me pause when considering going to a fun family activity such as a movie or a local fair. Will there be a crazy person there wielding a gun, picking people off for sport one by one? When will it be enough? How many people have to be murdered or injured before we say enough?

My husband and I were in Walmart the other day, looking for patch kits for our inflatable air mattresses. We went in separate directions and, as I turned another corner in my futile search, I happened to glance up. There, secured to the top shelf, was a row of automatic rifles. I was so surprised to see guns for sale there that I actually stopped walking for a moment and just stared at the string of guns lined above.

It is far too easy for the average American citizen to buy an automatic weapon. Shouldn't there be psychiatric evaluations enforced prior to filling out the proper paperwork to apply for a gun permit? Shouldn't gun retailers be held accountable for following tighter procedures when selling firearms? Shouldn't there be a wait period prior to being given that gun and being allowed to take it home? Yes. From my perspective, my teenage daughter had to jump through more hoops to obtain her learners permit and subsequent drivers license than anyone wanting to purchase a firearm. Everything about that, in my opinion, is a huge problem.

Signing this petition at MoveOn.org, to urge more restrictive access to gun ownership, seems like a good place to start. It's unlikely that we can eliminate guns completely from the average citizen, but if we can restrict access to guns and make them more difficult to attain, hopefully that will result in fewer lives lost.

We turn to comfort food when we're feeling down. We crave familiar meals that are simple to prepare, eaten while they're piping hot, and enjoyed with the people we love. Don't we all? For our family, various work schedules mean that dinners all together aren't always consistent, and lately I haven't had much energy to create anything new.

The other night I put together an uncomplicated vegetarian meal that came together in about 45 minutes and which had something that everyone liked. In one small pot I simmered some cannellini beans with marinara sauce, crushed oregano and red pepper flakes, and a bit of salt and pepper. I called these Italian beans, to my six-year-old's delight. In another pot I made some quinoa. The crispy potatoes that I lightly pan fried in a skillet are something that I make every other week or so, usually as part of a breakfast-for-dinner night. We ate by candlelight, as we often do, for no particular reason at all, and the outside world seemed to melt away.

Crispy Skillet Potatoes
Yields: 5 or 6 servings (as a side dish)
Salty, crispy potato skins meet creamy, steaming hot interiors; it's the ultimate side dish served with either breakfast or dinner.

2 pounds of small red potatoes, scrubbed and patted dry
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on High for about 10 minutes or until the centers feel soft when pierced with a fork.

While the potatoes are in the microwave, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the skillet.

Cut the hot potatoes into quarters and drop carefully into the hot skillet. Season with salt and pepper, and toss the potatoes until evenly coated with the oil. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to gently push the potatoes down into the bottom of the pan; leave the potatoes alone for about 5 minutes to let them brown, adjusting the heat if necessary so that they don't scorch. Flip the potatoes over and season again with salt and pepper, if desired (I usually find that potatoes need more salt than other vegetables), and let the other side brown.

Serve piping hot as is, or with hot sauce and a generous amount of shaved Parmesan over the top.

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