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Empty nester? Nah, call me a repurposed parent

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO When son Cole Randall went to college, Barb Randall was certain she would feel emptiness on being an empty nester. She doesn’t like the phrase and finds much more excitement in being a Repurposed Parent.

One less bell to answer

One less egg to fry

One less man to pick up after,

I should be happy

But all I do is cry!

That song had been running through my head since spring in anticipation of our youngest son, Cole, leaving for college this fall. I remembered how painful it was for me when his brother Dave went off to college, and I wasn't looking forward to experiencing that emptiness again.

Cole has been away at college for six weeks now and I am happy to report that he has adjusted easily to college life. He is downright chatty on the phone and has great stories to tell of new friends, his classes, the places he has been and people he has seen as he explores his new town.

And how have I adjusted? Well, it's not been nearly as painful as anticipated. It helps to have been through this before. And Cole's enthusiasm and confidence about his college adventure melts the miles. Of course, the modern technologies of Facebook and texting have also eased my separation anxiety.

So my husband Mark and I can now be categorized as empty nesters. What an odd title: Empty nest, empty nesters. Empty - containing nothing?

I think the phrase could benefit from a little spin-doctoring.

Our homes by the nature of their purpose are cozy dens - even sanctuaries - where those who live come for renewal, refreshment and rejuvenation. It is in our homes that we pep up, perk up and pick up each other. Where we as parents nurture our children to grow with confidence and strength to follow their dreams. We prepare them for life outside the family circle and teach them to successfully navigate their way into the bigger world.

When our kids leave, does that environment change?

Most folks who have sent their last out into the world either to college or to work, have then focused on reinventing themselves. They learn a new language, take up a new hobby, travel, etc. In that way the home remains the same incubator for developing human potential. How could that environment possibly be called empty?

I think we need to coin a new phrase - Enlivened Nesters? Repurposed Parents, perhaps?

One of my biggest adjustments is learning to cook for just two people. It took weeks to recognize I no longer had to make food for a multitude. My usual recipe of enchiladas turned into dinner for Mark and I, plus three more ample dinners which I froze to eat later.

I'm making progress on that adjustment. When I made chili last week I used a small pot and made just enough for dinner, lunches the next day and put one more portion in the freezer.

If you happen to run into me on the street, I hope you would agree that being a Repurposed Parent looks good on me: The bags under my eyes are gone! I don't have to wait up for someone to come home anymore! I just lock the door, and go to bed. I'm sleeping like a baby!

Yes, there is one less egg to fry and of course the house is quieter than when Cole was home. It feels good knowing he is happy and having a wonderful adventure. It's time to turn the focus of the incubator for developing human potential to Mark and I. What adventures await us?

Here's wishing other newly Repurposed Parents ease in adjusting to your new life phase. It's gonna be great!

The recipe I chose for today is one that uses two of my favorite root vegetables, beets and carrots. By the name, you know it has a beautiful color. The recipe makes 12 servings; if you don't need that many, make just half a batch.

Bon Appetite! Eat something wonderful!

Scarlet Carrot Soup

Serves 12

If you don't need 12 servings, go ahead and cut the ingredients by half and make just half a batch.

2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted and cooled

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup sliced shallots (4 large)

3 large thyme sprigs

2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California leaf

1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

3 pounds carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

1 pound trimmed beets, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces

8 cups water plus additional if needed

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

For crisp carrot ribbons:

About 4 cups vegetable oil for frying

2 large carrots

2 to 3 tablespoons all purpose flour

Grind coriander in grinder. Heat oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook shallots with thyme, bay leaves and red pepper, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add carrots, beets, 2 teaspoons coriander, 2 teaspoons salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Discard bay leaves and any tough thyme stems. Puree soup in batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), then return soup to pot. Stir in vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and additional water if needed to thin soup.

Make carrot ribbons while soup simmers.

Heat 1 inch of oil to 350ºF in a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. Peel carrots, then continue making thin lengthwise ribbons with peeler until you reach the core. Toss ribbons in flour, shaking off excess, and season with salt.

Fry ribbons in 3 to 4 batches until golden along edges, about 1 minute per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with some of remaining coriander. Return oil to 350ºF between batches.

Cook's notes: Soup can be made 2 days ahead and chilled. Reheat, thinning with water if desired.

Carrot ribbons can be fried 2 hours ahead and kept, uncovered, at warm room temperature.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 101 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .