Filed under: Uncategorized
I hate that word: musings. You see it all the time in blog things…stuff like “random musings of a (insert humble deprecation)housewife/student/whatever. I’m not humble. I know I’m a damn fine cook, a good mother to my kids (they tell me so, thus I believe it), and (mostly) a good wife. I know my shortcomings, and I know my strengths. Anyway…as I’m sitting here, sipping an afternoon cup of coffee and watching the Seminoles kinda sorta play better than the Gators (Go ‘Noles!) several things are passing through my mind. I can’t figure out how to do bullet points but I’m going to try to approximate them. (While I may be a fine cook, I am not skilled with computer stuff (TOUCHDOWN! Go ‘Noles!).
*Do crumbs have calories? They shouldn’t. (stares down into the bottom of the Pringles can)
*Neither should anything eaten standing up or off a wooden spoon. How on Earth am I supposed to taste the creamy sauces or cheesy doughs or chocolaty batters to know if they’re any good? Am I supposed to trust my 11 year old?
*A couple of weeks ago Dr. Courage admonished me to lose some weight and get some exercise. The exercise I can handle. I figure 30-45 minutes of walking on the track across the street from #4′s school ought to do the trick. But the eating thing…maybe if I can keep the weight stable until January, then lose the weight. Just keeping it stable this time of year should be considered a big victory.
*I have found myself worrying less about my kids, and enjoying them more. At (nearly)23, 21 and 19, the older boys are capable of making their own decisions, determining their own destiny, and cooking their own meals. I don’t worry that this one isn’t doing as well in school, or that one isn’t (whatever) or the other one might not be treating his car well. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s more that…well…they’re big boys now. If they want to screw up, they’re the ones that have to live with the consequences.
*hm. My coffee’s gone cold.
*I am actually going to really enjoy the whole Christmas process this year. I don’t know if it’s because my head is in a good place or what. The past few years I have tried to do as little as I thought I could get away with. This year, tho, I had Terry and the boys get ALL the Christmas shi…er…cra…er…STUFF out of the attic, and I’ma gonna do it all. Right down to the fancy-pants garland on the stairs and colored lights in the kitchen.
Ok then. That’s all.
Mom and Dad left an hour ago. I got the first Christmas recipe up at Rootie’s Kitchen. it had to get up because if you’re going to fix it that needs to be done now, in order to be ready in time for assorted parties and such. I am going to get them made later today or maybe tomorrow.
Thanksgiving went well. No one cried, so that’s a plus..well OK #4 cried because David and CJ tried to beat him up a couple of times, but that’s just the price you pay for being the youngest. Also #4′s glasses broke because Gramps gets annoyed at crooked glasses and tried to fix them, which annoyed Terry because he’s a big believer in leaving well enough alone and now we have to come up with the money for an eye exam and a new pair of glasses right here at Christmas when we ought to be spending money on Legos and hazelnuts. but other than that, I think everything went ok.
CJ brought his fancy welding helmet and gauntlets to show off, and everyone had to try it one, right down to the 2 -6 year old girly-girls who showed up with glitter all over their faces which confused my boys but I thought was kinda awesome.
The woman I’d asked to bring 4 pies did her usual thing and brought 8, plus an extra person who is a neighbor of theirs and didn’t have anyone to spend the day with, and that was PERFECTLY fine because the neighbor brought a big corn pudding which was one thing I didn’t fix and meshed beautifully with all the other stuff. It was also delicious and she seemed really happy that we’d invited her and I was all “de nada, want to take home some leftovers?”
While I was kind of worried about my personal motives for doing this thing (I want RECOGNITION!) it turned out to be exactly what I’d hoped. A bunch of people sat around and ate food, talked stuff of all sorts, laughed, ate some more, teased my friend about not being able to count (she said “In Ethiopia we go ’1,2,alot’ because you always know the neighbors will show up if you’re cooking a feast.” There was wine and coffee and small children and big ones. The youngest, a 2 year old little girl, ate quite a bit but was dubious about the pie, so she ate a bowl full of whipped cream instead. The women all wanted to do the same thing but decorum and adulthood prevented us. O to be 2, and to be able to unselfconsiously eat a bowl of whipped cream.
Now Terry is back at work. He has the weekend off but has to go in today. I am trying to decide if pound cakes should be made, if the greens ought to go ahead and be thrown away, as I am positive no one will eat them. Do I want pumpkin pie or dressing with gravy for breakfast? Do I want to vegetate in front of the TV today, or brave the crowd in search of $10 crock pots? So many decisions. none of them life-altering.
How was your Thanksgiving?
Ok. The turkey is smoked. Instructions and recipe is at Rootie’s Kitchen, if you’re interested. The dressing is made and in the freezer. Ditto on the recipe. The cranberry sauce (ditto) is cooling on the stove, soon to be put in pretty bowls and chilled. #4 and I went to the grocery store early this morning (apparently everyone else had the same idea, because it was kinda busy even tho it was BEFORE 7am!) and loaded up on sweet potatoes (get this! 28 cents a pound! I think we should eat them more often at that price.), apples, collards (I actually opted for the pre-chopped ones, since the sweet potatoes were so cheap), green beans, and these beautiful baby portabella mushrooms…see, I am going to make my own green bean casserole with homemade cream of mushroom soup because all the other stuff is either made already or flamin’ simple.
The floors are mopped. The bathrooms are cleaned and there’s fresh sheets on the guest bed. Table linens are washed and folded and ready to put out tomorrow. Guess what. I am using paper plates and plastic cutlery. Oh sure, there’s the 18 place settings of silver my grandmother gave me and this is like…the ONLY time of year I’d ever use it, but I don’t want to have to wash up much and you can’t put this stuff in the dishwasher. Tablecloths and napkins are easy- stuff them in the washing machine and go…handwashing? no thank you. And I don’t have 18 place settings of dishes and it would just seem weird to use Chinet paper plates and real silver cutlery. Even tho I am using real cloth napkins. meh.
Mom called and they are on their way to be here roughly 2-ish. Supper tonight will be a simple vegetable soup and the bread Dad said he’s bringing. Breakfast tomorrow will be egg sandwiches. Dinner at 2. 12, maybe 13 adults possibly 14 if Arthur comes, 5 kids, and pie. All set.
Man, I love cooking for a crowd.
I took some time this morning to write out a timetable- when this needs to go into the oven and when that needs to go on the stove, and wrote the recipes out if Mom wants to help cook. So I reckon I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
Oh…I need to go get some milk.
See, what I want are anonymous people who won’t identify themselves (which is why they’re called “anonymous”…go figure) yelling at me in ALL CAPS but when your stats say things like “4 people read your blog today” and you are pretty sure you know who they are and that they are polite people unlikely to yell at you, in fact they tend to say things like “what a great recipe” or “gee I hope you feel better soon” and don’t get me wrong, I really like you 4 people and am thankful for your loyalty and all…where was I?
Except that it seems like te people who have lots of
fans followers are some kind of marketing geniuses or something…or maybe they just know how to play the system (i’ve never been good at that) or maybe it’s just plain LUCK.
Maybe I need to offer surprises, like a drawing. But then I’m kinda lousy at drawing and my son who is quite good at it doesn’t like to be exploited so if I asked him to draw something he would make it rude or inscrutable. Then whoever won the drawing would look at it and go “whut?”
So even thought the stats say something like “50 people read your blog today” what it means is that there were 50 people who visited one of the 5 years worth of posts you have up, and when you consider that I have posted nearly every day for those 5 years, that means 50 people have visited some 1500+ posts, and if you break that down, it isn’t very much.
However, all along I have maintained to myself (because I don’t want to start feeling competitive) that the writing is for my own self and if someone reads it and likes what is written, ok fine, if not, ok fine.
What I do know, is that the people who *do* read this are a many varied and peculiar combination, which is delightful. However, should one of you choose to post anonymously and in ALL CAPS and say something kind of derogatory, I’ll totally let it go through moderation and be excited that someone cared enough to shout.
The question of the hour is this: Why am I doing it? Why am I cooking all this food and invited everyone and their neighbors? Am I wanting people to go OH! Peggy! You’re so Wonderful! You are a fantastic cook and O So Amazing! I hope not. Maybe a little? What I want is for a bunch of people to come to my house and enjoy a sit down, conversation, good food, a good time. I want to orchestrate it but not to be the whole orchestra.
A couple of the people coming are excellent conversationalists. They can get a rousing controversy started and keep it all pleasant and sane. Last time they came, one of them got into a big conversation with my father about capitalism and charity and they were able to disagree without throwing forks at each other.
See, my family doesn’t do disagreements. We don’t get into murky territory and risk confrontation. Everyone just agrees with Dad to his face and mutters behind his back. But my friend? Bless her, she disagreed to his face and they talke about it. And Dad didn’t throw anything at her! So I am happy that she’ll be there to keep the pot stirred up. Her brother will be there too, and his wife who is a social worker so sees a side of life the rest of us don’t…perspectives and strong opinions will be in the room and I can’t WAIT.
So maybe it’s not all about Me ME ME. Maybe it’s about an excuse to get a bunch of people in a room together, to talk and laugh and maybe who knows what will come up. I just get to facilitate it. And feed everyone. I like feeding people.
to the races, that is.
Thanksgiving Week, people. It starts today for me. Cleaning, marathon cooking, more cleaning, whip cracking and tongue lashings. Fortunately for the whole entire world, PMS is a week past and won’t show it’s face again until (checks calendar)mid-December which means it will be gone before Christmas. Can I time it or WHAT! yes I can.
I’ve made the list…well 2 of them. I do love me a nice list. So satisfying, so solid and dependable. It’s on a clipboard with a pencil attached, so I can add things and cross them off. Crossing something off a list is like…crossing something off a list. Check. It’s Done. I don’t even have to think about it at all anymore.
The beds are stripped and the guestroom is ready except for making the bed (which the sheets are in the laundry). I’ll put #4 to work cleaning the bathroom later today. He’s got to get the gameroom tidied up as well, because there will be children here for Thanksgiving Dinner with a distinct possibility of installing them all in the gameroom with a movie and snacks so the adults can be adultish. With wine.
The dressing was made yesterday and Terry pronounced it “almost as good as Mama’s” which is very high praise indeed. I will take “almost as good as Mama’s” with pride. It’s in the freezer now. The turkey is in a cooler filled with water to thaw. since it’s a 22 pounder I am expecting it to take a couple of days, and another 24 hours in the smoker. Big arsed turkey. Hopefully leftovers will exist to send home with the boys.
Fortunately, having guests means only having to clean the main floor of the house and the game room. We have a room we can stuff all the crap in and close the door. Every house should have one. Then we’ll deal with it later. No. I am NOT a hoarder. I promise. The crap will get dealt with, it’s just a matter of expediency.
This week is the Kick Off. It’s the Starting Gun. The Flag Waving On-Your-Mark, Get-Set, GO for the whole season. I’ll get the house shiny clean and once everyone leaves Friday, will collapse for the rest of the day and be ready and back on my feet Saturday, to get crackin’ for Christmas. Then a month of cooking something every single day. Crackers, cookies, biscotti, bourbon cakes. Cheese straws and cheese balls and cheese dips. Packaged and mailed to relatives and friends. Happy obligations fulfilled.
One entire day will be spent online, at Ebay and other internet flea-markets, hunting down just the right esoteric “what the hell is that” gift for family members. About 8 years ago I realized the delights of internet shopping for Christmas. I hate malls. I hate crowds. I hate going from store to store with no idea what I’m looking for and winding up getting whatever jumps at me because I’m all overstimulated from the crowds and stuff and just want to get the hell out of there. Online shpping is THE BOMB. I can do it in my jammies at 2am if I want. wiht a cup of coffee and a cat on my feet. I can find a beer hammer for Terry for $5+shipping which still comes to $2 less than what it cost in the store. And it’s delivered TO MY DOOR. I can find a million+1 bread machine recipes to make a book for David, to go with the (ok say what you will, but he’ll love it) regifted bread machine. I have no idea what to give CJ. Right now I think he’ll get a box full of microwavable food and beef jerky. Something will come up. Thing is, right now, they are all employed to a degree that if they want something, they buy it for themselves, so gifting is more all about the thought than the need. Foodstuffs, probably, will be in order. Homemade delicious “make them think about Mom” tasty foods.
Anyway, this week is all about cleaning up the house. Washing the curtains, mopping the floors, wiping things down and making the place look welcoming to the 16 guests coming for dinner on Thursday. Thank you again, Bill and Judy, for the ginormous dining table that will seat us all. Thank you Terry, for making it possible to own a house that will hold a table that will seat 18. Thank You, God, for everything else.
I’m cross posting this at Rootie’s Kitchen.
I don’t like canned food. Particularly canned vegetables with the exception of tomatoes. I love canned tomatoes because they make fixing tomato sauce easy. But everything else? Why use canned when fresh is cheaper and better for you and heavens to betsy we all KNOW I have time to prepare fresh. Sometimes I’ll use frozen. Corn for example, or peas of any sort (green, field, black-eye…those bothersome types of peas that you can’t ever find fresh anyway). Frozen is practically fresh, they freeze the things pretty much right after they’re picked.
Canned tuna in a pinch, but ever since they’ve been on this mercury scare (and I don’t scare easily) I have been wary. Anything that affects brain function (like mercury) is to be avoided. This poor brain limps along best it can, and the thought of doing something to it that could be detrimental is off-putting. Canned salmon once in a while. It’s precious hard to go out to the pond in the back yard and catch a salmon. Especially since this is South Georgia and the only thing that could be caught in that pond is a case of hookworms. Once in a rare while Terry will buy some canned salmon and make salmon patties and eggs for breakfast. The boys love that. Fish can be bought frozen at the store, but it is inevitably from some farm in China and frankly, I don’t trust *any* food from China these days. So we don’t eat much fish.
What made me think of all this was Thanksgiving dinner coming up. Nothing is coming from a can, unless I can’t locate cranberries. Used to be, the sweet potato casserole would be those sweet canned ones, mashed with stuff. I quit doing that a a while back, then last year I watched this show where a bunch of men from some South Pacific island toured the US, and spent Thanksgiving dinner with a family from Ohio, and she made sweet potatoes from a can, and one of the men said something about eating dead food. Never again will I make dead sweet potatoes. That statement resonated with me somehow. Dead food. He was right.
So…Living food. Collards just cut, fresh green beans with fresh mushrooms and real cream. Real sweet potatoes and real apples. It’s all real, live food. Well except for the turkey and ham. They’re dead and I am sure the guests will be grateful.
OH! I just remembered one Thanksgiving many years ago, when I was a young teen. We had this friend named Jack. He was a bachelor and puckish. He was invited to our house for Thanksgiving dinner, and he informed my parents that he’d bring the turkey. Great! Mom and Dad said. Mom was feeling relief and not having to deal with the turkey. So, a week before Thanksgiving Day he showed up at our house, with a huge turkey on a leash. A live one. Mom and Dad took it with (relative) grace, put it in a cage and fed it corn for a few days. Then set up a giant pot of boiling water in the backyard, and slaughtered that turkey. Dad hates slaughtering, but knew how and there we were,the freshest turkey on the block for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was enormous too, every bit of 25 pounds.
So I have this philosophy of food. It should be as fresh as possible, and whole as possible. I don’t fix things from boxes or cans or packages. This idea has developed over many years. Way back when Terry and I were first married and money was extremely tight, I felt the need to get the biggest nutitional bang for our buck. We simply didn’t have money to waste on food that wasn’t good for us. So, it was the 39 cents a pound chicken legs, and fresh produce from the stand. Plenty of brown rice, dried peas and beans. I’d get cuttings of herbs from Mom and always kept a small herb garden, either in pots or in the ground. We kept friendships with people who had huge vegetable gardens and they promised us the overflow in exchange for a little help with the cultivation. That notion has stuck. And while we are better off financially now, I don’t see the harm in getting the biggest nutritional bang for our buck. Still no boxed stuff (except for Cheez-its. the menfolk love them, and cereals, though I make my own granola due to salt issues), no canned stuff (except for tomatoes), very little anything pre-packaged. Because honestly? Fresh stuff just tastes better. And it’s not dead.
And, just for y’all
Sweet Potatoes and Apples
sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin and for each sweet potato, a small granny smith apple, peeled and sliced thin
layer the potatoes and apples in a casserole dish or a crock pot. Toss together brown sugar (1 tablespoon per potato), cinnamon, ground ginger (1/8 tablespoon per potato), a dash of salt (per potato) and sprinkle that in amongst the potatoes and apples. Dot with butter (say, a tablespoon per potato). Add a little bit of water (kind of pour it down the side so you don’t disrupt the stuff)- maybe a tablespoon per potato- if you’re using a crock pot. Put the lid on it and bake at whatever temperature you’re cooking everything else in the oven until it’s all soft. At 350 it should take an hour.
In a crock pot, figure 2 hours on high or 4 hours on low. I’m making it in the crock pot because the oven will be full of other stuff.
Thanksgiving is coming soon, and all the planning that it involves. We’re having guests. Mom and Dad will be coming in Wednesday evening, and for The Big Dinner, all the boys will be here, and 8 friends beyond the family. The friends family live in Chicago, and Ted works with Terry and only has off Thursday (like Terry), so they aren’t going anywhere and I said “look, I’ll cook a humongous turkey and all y’all come over ok? Bring pies.”
So now there is a 22 pound turkey in the freezer. I’m going to smoke that with my very own special orange-honey-ginger glaze.
Terry’s mother’s recipe for dressing, full of chopped onions and chicken and eggs, with sage and plenty of black pepper, will be made a couple of days in advance, frozen, then warmed up in the grill. I’ve done it before, it works like a champ as a spare oven.
Green bean casserole, only not the stuff made with the canned soup, but my own version, made with heavy cream and shiitake mushrooms.
Collard greens, slow cooked with a hot pepper
Sweet potatoes, sliced thin and layered with thin sliced granny smith apples and brown sugar. no marshmallows, thank you.
Fresh cranberries, cooked slow in orange juice with some sugar
and hot yeast rolls, butter, jugs of iced tea, chilled white wine for the adults
and however many pies the friends want to bring. She said she’ll bring 4, but I know her and she’ll probably bring 6 or 7 and maybe a cake as well.be
When we eat will depend on Will’s work schedule. If he goes in at 3, we’ll eat at 1. If he works the early shift, we’ll eat later, maybe 6. I’m hoping for earlier.
And then…kickoff to Christmas. I’ve kind of started planning, but not really. I probably should have made the bourbon cakes already, but they’ll be ok.
Filed under: food
We all have them. Yes we do, even me. Specifically today it involves food. Terry recalled several years ago the fun and tastiness of delicious smoked food. All those carcinogens! Yay! Anyway, way back when I had this cheap barrel smoker. $50, a bag of charcoal and some chunks of pear wood from a tree that was blown over in a hurricane resulted in culinary miracles. Smoked boston butt, a dark rich turkey, juicy and tender. Beef jerky, chops, chicken…all elaborately, laboriously and loving prepared in that cheap barrel smoker that eventually rusted out. Terry thought he’d do one better and since financials had improved by then so he got a bigger smoker, one with a side box and room for all sorts of things like draped sausages and huge meaty things all at the same time. The thing to do was put the sausages at the top so the fats drip down on whatever (usually a big chunk like that boston butt or maybe a tasty brisket) and baste it. Only, it never worked as well as the cheap old barrel smoker.
Eventually we moved here and smoking kind of fell by the wayside. Only, a couple of weeks ago Terry got to hankering it again. I made noises about prefering a cheap little barrel smoker to a big fancy one. Last week one morning he said “let’s go to Lowe’s!” and he loaded up a buggy with a barrel smoker, some bags of hardwood lump charcoal (seriously, if you’re going to bother with doing something like this, get the good stuff. Even Kingsford will give the meat a petrochemical flavor.) a bag of mesquite chunks and a chimney starter (also important, so you don’t use starter fluid, because that petrochemical flavor will linger) and I immediately got to cranking. First up, a cheap chuck roast, to see if I could remember how to do it. It was lovely…a good ol’ smoke ring, tender because of the fatty roast. Today, pork chops and a whole chicken. Coming soon, a 22 pound turkey for Thanksgiving, then some beef jerky to go in Christmas boxes.
No, it’s not the cheapest way to fix a piece of meat. Nor is it the easiest. I mean, it takes all day long, you have to baby along the fire, making sure it doesn’t get too hot or to cool. The right kind of wood for specific flavors are important (fruit wood for a sweeter smoke, nut wood for a more savory bent, oak or mesquite for a neutral smoke). But it’s satisfying. It’s different from the usual chunk of beef baked in an oven. I reckon you could even call it “manly”. It’s not “The Cowboy Way” like some people say- it’s too labor intensive and cowboys were moving around all the time. It’s just the…hm…The Way.
Now I wish I could figure out how to cold smoke…for cheese and such.
It’s chilly and sunny and blissfully peaceful. Terry is asleep. He goes back on day shift tomorrow. The original plan was that he’d work nights until Thanksgiving, then have of that weekend to get his body clock reset to days. He had things to do with the night shift people, training and such, but apparently Day Shift is faltering without him (or something…maybe his Infernal Boss ~ptui!~ is just wanting to jerk him around, the same way he did when putting Terry on nights) so they are bringing him back tomorrow. At least they had to decency to give him the weekend off to get turned back around. So he sleeps. Yesterday was spent poking him on an hourly basis to keep him awake, at least until the ball game started.
This morning, all seems to be well. No calls from elder sons with crises. This is good. All dogs are accounted for and burrowed under blankets. The cats are doing whatever myserious things cats do when you aren’t looking. Everyone is still asleep except me, and I am fine with that. The hormone storms of earlier have passed and I am finally content again. Never underrate contentment. Happiness is nice, but joy and peace is found in contentment. You can find it in simple places, like a bowl of hot grits, and the love of some family and friends.
I have been thinking hard about Christmas, looking for interesting recipes to make as gifts. I don’t get into big elaborate gifts for people. I don’t like to spend alot of money for 2 reasons:
1. I don’t have alot of money to spend and refuse to go into debt for it. and
2. I don’t want to give someone a gift they’d go “why did she give me that?”
Also, for the past few years I didn’t do much toward decorating the house. I just didn’t see the point because no one ever said anything about it. There was a Christmas tree and the collection of 30-ish Santa mugs got put out, but that was it. No garland on the stairs, no lights all around the house….none of that stuff. However, earlier this month #4 said “how come youdidn’t decorate the house last year? I’ll help you if you want me to. I want to see all the stuff out”. And, since my annual depression came early and is gone…(How about that!) I am definitely feeling it more. So, garland with lights on the stairs, colored lights in the kitchen all around. The crazy vintage ceramic tree- you know the kind Aunt Mary Jane made with the little plastic lights and you stick a lightbulb under it? We all have one, we loved it as a kid and thought it was tacky as hell as a young adult but now we love it again? Yeah that one. I’ve got to figure out where to put it this year, but it’s definitely going up. A big bow on the mailbox, a wreath on the door, maybe even some lights on the patio. #4 made an adorable Christmas tree (lights and all! Even gifts!) out of legos for his room. We may put a Charlie Brown tree in the gameroom for him…he loves this sort of stuff. Even the older boys have talked about decorating their places. That kind of surprised me, but then it didn’t, because they all love the Christmas Thing.
Can you tell I am looking forward to all this? I am, oh yes. But first we have to get past Thanksgiving, and maybe David’s birthday. When he lived at home we always waited until after his birthday (November 30) to decorate, but now that he’s not living here, do we still have to do that? Don’t know yet. Maybe we’ll put some of the stuff out and wait until that weekend to put up the tree. We’ll see. But Thanksgiving must be done first. I have standards.