Friday, December 2, 2016

R&R

Haircuts. Horseback riding.  Kung fu.  Parent-teacher conferences.  Piano lessons.  Crochet. Office holiday party.  Hospice visit.  It's been a pretty regular week around here.  And it's lined up to be a pretty standard weekend.  More kung fu.  Zentangle.  Speedskating.  Church.  Maybe a hike.

We're hanging in.  We miss our cat Mojito.  We mourn my uncle.  I wait to hear that my cousin has died.  I liked the rain, but it's nice to see the sun, too.  There doesn't seem to be real winter, much less snow, in sight.

Meanwhile, it's not long until my birthday and then on to Christmas and my parents' visit.  We'll do our usual cookie party for the kids, maybe do the sock advent calendar (though clearly we're behind--it just doesn't feel like December yet.), keep working on the Christmas Lego village, do some local holiday activities, decorate the house and tree.  I haven't managed to do the Christmas cards yet; not sure I'll get to it.

We're not quite joyful yet, but we're hanging in.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Taking a Hike

After gorging on Thanksgiving, we lazed around the house all of Friday.  I'm not sure any of us got out of our jammies.

On Saturday we were similarly lazy, in that we caught a double feature at the theater with the recliners.  We saw Fantastic Beasts again (and noticed more than the first time) and then Moana, with its catchy Lin-Manuel Miranda songs, lovely (and historically accurate, even) Oceanic setting and details, and the young-woman-finds-herself-and-triumphs-over-adversity Disney (not-a) princess story.

We finally got out and moving on Sunday, a warmer and somewhat sunnier day.  We went for a hike.  We're really becoming a little hiking family.  We had our snacks, water, walking sticks, and I had my new little sling bag for carrying things.  And we each "hiked our own hike," a phrase I picked up in Bryson's Appalachian Trail tale, A Walk in the Woods.  Mama and Sis did some whittling on pieces of cedar that they picked up.  Bud alternately used his walking stick from Pop as a kung fu spear and broad sword.  And I, ever the historian, thought of the Native American and then settlers' use of the land as it appeared in toolmaking sites, charcoal kilns, rock quarries, and stone walls (I even thought about the prehistoric creation of those stones millions of years ago.)

And now it's Monday and we're back in the swing of things.  Mama is at work, kids at school, and I have chores and a hospice visit.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Ate Dessert First

It was an unusual Thanksgiving for us, though we had pretty the same guests and menu.  Our goal was a relaxing, low-stress holiday with more time for connection.  To accomplish, since I do all the cooking (and that won't change), this year we changed the menu somewhat--fewer dishes and not everything made from scratch. (Sure, my heart hurt a bit to forego seasonal, fresh, and even organic for this celebration of food and family, but, when I did do all that, I could rarely even enjoy it.) Gone were three kinds of homemade cranberry sauces in favor of that jelled can that holds its cylindrical shape.  Gone was the homemade mushroom cream sauce for the fresh green bean casserole in favor of, gasp, cans of condensed soup and green beans.  The extra sides--brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, roasted butternut squash, spinach salad, broccoli rice casserole, lime jello salad, whatever--were banished.  So were the three pies usually made by me (pecan, pumpkin, apple); I made a cake instead and bought the pies from the special pie shop.  And we only had two appetizers--Texas Trash and cheese dip.  The turkey (made using the new NYTimes splaying method with dry rub), gravy, rolls, yams, and dressing remained the same.

And you know what? I got to sit and enjoy the parade!  We watched and chatted and laughed and didn't worry about the cooking.  I drank coffee and ate orange biscuits with the family and my in-laws.  It beat running back and forth, checking the schedule for everything and not being fully present.

When my brother-in-law arrived after the parade, we broke out lunch.  See, second big change:  we were having our big meal late in the day, closer to 5 pm than the usual 1 pm.  This gave us more time to relax and connect, which was more important to me this year than others, with the loss of our dear Mo and my uncle and the illness of my cousin and the loss of the election and just all the shit in the world (DAPL, Flint, Syria, the need for Black Lives Matter, both the inspiring and the depressing stories of women and liberals on Pantsuit Nation, everything I'm not even mentioning, etc) . . .  But we needed to eat so . . . .

Big change number three:  we ate dessert first!  Yep, we had coconut snickerdoodles and pumpkin bread made by Goo, along with my glazed orange-cranberry bundt cake, Sis's Swedish apple pie, and several little store-bought pies.  Plus there were the appetizers and some cold Szechuan dishes Mama picked up for savories (noodles and beef.)  It was fun to sample everything without being stuffed from turkey etc.  My cake was delicious, as was Sis's own Swedish apple pie.  And I liked Goo's coconut snickerdoodles.  And we all had fun sampling the various nut, cream, and seasonal pies.  (Sis likes the lemon chess best.  I like that and the coconut cream and also chocolate peanut butter.  Tomorrow we eat the key lime!  They're small, like a store-bough chicken pot pie.)

Then the cooking started. But--change #4--I didn't do most of it.  Mama and Bud made his oyster dressing.  Bud and Goo made the green bean casserole.  Sis and Goo made the yams.  I had made the rolls and the regular dressing.  Mama, as usual, made the turkey.  And Sis made the gravy all by herself.

And it was delicious!  Best gravy ever.  It was all delicious.  And I could enjoy it much better.  I think we all did.  And not only because there weren't many leftovers.  Everybody said they liked the late meal because they weren't trying to cook while socializing or later socializing through a food coma. The kids and their uncle also liked dessert first.  I did, too.  Who can enjoy pie after turkey?  The only downside with the late meal was that my in-laws left pretty much right after we ate, but Goo hung out with us playing games and such.  We always have a good laugh.

And then it was pretty much bedtime.  A lovely day, for which I am thankful.

Especially for dessert first.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Food for Thankfulness

I'm getting into the Thanksgiving mood.  I did the big grocery trip today, though of course I've discovered that I'll need to do a little one tomorrow.  I always forget something.

We're going with a small-for-us meal, compared to my usual numerous sides, several pies, a few cranberry sauces, and a couple of appetizers.  Mama's family will come, just for the day.

We're experimenting with having dinner later in the day, closer to 4+ pm, instead of closer to 1 pm--we're hoping this gives us more time to relax, watch the parade together, do an activity (Mama found a fairy lights jar to make.)  If we get hungry--or if cooking takes too long--we'll eat dessert first!  The kids were particularly excited about this.

And we'll do our thankful-tree again, too (because they like writing on leaves way more than saying what they're thankful for aloud.)

  • Bud's request--"Fancy" Velveeta Cheese Dip (that's the one with ground beef and sometimes sausage)
  • "Texas Trash" aka Chex Mix
  • Candied and spiced nuts from Mama's co-workers
  • Turkey (perhaps a new "splayed" recipe)
  • Gravy
  • Dressing
  • Bud's oyster dressing
  • Cranberry sauces, jellied and also whole berry (from cans!)
  • Green Bean Casserole (not from scratch)
  • Sweet Potatoes with marshmallows
  • Rolls, homemade
  • Collard greens (maybe, our favorite Sylvia's brand)
  • Swedish Apple Pie
  • Orange-Cranberry Cake
  • Pumpkin ice cream



Trash
3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (double, at least)
1 ½ teaspoons seasoned salt
¾  teaspoon garlic powder
½  teaspoon onion powder


1.         In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated.
2.         Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.
Oven Directions Heat oven to 250°F. In large bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in cereal mixture until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Chex website


"Fancy" Cheese Dip
1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 lbs. Velveeta
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 teaspoon garlic power
1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

            Brown meats and onion.  Add remaining ingredients and cook until onion is tender and cheese melts.  Serve warm with corn chips.


Gommie Hungry


Gravy
Be patient and really let that roux brown!
Heat 4 tablespoons grease. Add 4 tablespoons of flour. Brown til copper-colored. Stir in 4 cups drippings. Add chicken bouillon and salt and pepper to taste.

Mom


Dressing

½ cup margarine
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 bag of stuffing
2 cups dry bread (or 2 more cups of Pepperidge Farms)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ teaspoon sage
1 cup chicken stock (double this amount!)

Saute onion and celery in margarine. In mixing bowl, crumble breads and add spices and onion/celery mix. Add chicken stock. Refrigerate over night. Bake at 350°F for 45 min.-1 hour.

Mom




Yams

29 oz. can yams, drained
4 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
orange juice

Bake at 375°F. Add marshmallows to brown.

Mom

Green Bean Casserole
2-16 oz. cans whole green beans, drained (can also use frozen)
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
½ cup milk
Dash pepper
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1-2.8 oz. can of French-Fried Onions

Combine soup, milk, soy sauce and pepper. Stir in green beans and ½ can of onions. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until hot; stir. Top with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes.


Big-Batch Quick Dinner Rolls
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 cups warm milk ( 100 - 110°F)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons yeast, instant preferred
6 to 7 cups KA all-purpose flour


I put everything in my bread machine (using 5 cups of flour and then adding 1 1/2 more as needed).  I let it knead and then rise about 30+ minutes (i.e. not the whole cycle).  And then removed the dough, made a 12 x 8" rectangle, divided it into 4 rows with 6 rolls each, rolled them into balls, and placed them into greased aluminum pie tins. Allow to rise 10 minutes.  Then I covered them tightly and put them in the freezer.  I'll defrost overnight.  In the morning, I'll preheat to 350F and bake 20-25 minutes until golden.  Yum!

adapted from King Arthur Flour


Miss B's Swedish Apple Pie

3-5 apples, peeled and sliced (any kind or a mix)
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup butter, melted (1/2 cup works, too)
1 cup flour (AP or whole wheat; haven't tried with GF but think it could work)
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional; we've also added Craisins or raisins)

Fill a greased 9' pie plate 2/3 full of apple slices. Sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon.


Combine remaining ingredients into batter and pour over apples. 

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

N.B.  We have also added 1/2 cup or more of oats to the batter, to make it more like a crisp; use the full amount of butter in that case.

Miss B from playgroup




Splayed Turkey from the NYTimes



1 12-pound turkey, giblets and neck removed and saved for stock
2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 bunch lemon thyme or regular thyme
10 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
Dry white wine, as needed, for the pan
1 large onion, halved and sliced 3/4-inch thick (not thinner, or slices may burn)


Using a sharp knife, cut through the skin that connects legs to the breast on both sides of the turkey. 

Press down on thighs until they pop out of the sockets and the legs lie flat.

In a small bowl, stir together salt, pepper and lemon zest. Smear mixture all over turkey, including inside the cavity. Pat herb sprigs and garlic all over bird. Stuff bay leaves into cavity. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight or for up to 2 nights.

Remove turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before you want to roast it. Remove all but the top rack from the oven. (You can remove that, too, but if you leave it in, you’ll be able to roast something else at the same time as the turkey.)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Take all the herb sprigs and garlic cloves off the surface of the turkey and stuff them into the cavity.

Place a large, empty heavy-duty roasting pan on top of the stove, across two burners if possible. Heat up the pan for a minute or so, until the pan is quite hot. Add the oil, let it heat up for a few seconds, then add the turkey, breast side up, so the legs are parallel to the short sides of the pan and have room to flop open. Press down on the splayed legs so they touch the bottom of the pan. Let turkey sear for 5 minutes, pressing down on the legs occasionally.

Pour enough wine into the bottom of the pan to reach a depth of 1/8 inch. Scatter onions around turkey and sprinkle them lightly with salt. Drizzle turkey and onions with a little oil.

Transfer pan to oven, setting it directly on the oven floor (not on a rack). If you have an electric oven, position the rack at the lowest possible position. Top with a pizza stone, if you have one. Place turkey in its roasting pan on the rack and cook as directed. Roast for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees, give the onions a stir, and if the bottom of the pan is dry, add a splash of wine to moisten the onions. (As the turkey continues to cook, occasionally check the onions to make sure they don’t dry out or they may burn, adding wine as needed.) Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) reads 165 degrees and the breast meat reaches at least 160 degrees, about another 40 to 65 minutes depending upon your oven and the pan you use. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.


  1. Orange-Cranberry Glazed Cake from the NYTimes

    1 cup/226 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature (or use 1 cup/236 milliliters coconut oil)
    3 cups/360 grams all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    1 ½ cups/297 grams granulated sugar
    4 large eggs (3 whole and 1 separated)
    2 medium to large navel oranges
    1 ¼ cups/160 grams dried cranberries
    ¼ cup lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
    3 to 3 ½ cups/340 to 397 grams confectioners’ sugar 
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a Bundt pan or ring mold with a little of the butter and flour.
    Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar until well blended. Add the 3 whole eggs, the yolk and half the egg white. (Reserve the rest of the white for the glaze.)
  4. Zest the oranges, then juice them, adding both the zest and 3/4 cup/177 milliliters juice to the batter and mix to incorporate. (Reserve remaining juice for the glaze.)
  5. Add flour mixture to the mixer and beat until well combined. Stir in 1 cup/128 grams dried cranberries. Pour batter into the cake pan, shaking the pan so the batter firmly settles and there are no air bubbles. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
    While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze: Mix the remaining half an egg white with lemon juice and 1/4 cup/59 milliliters orange juice. Gradually beat in 3 cups/340 grams confectioners’ sugar, mixing until all the lumps have disappeared and the glaze is thick and smooth, adding more sugar if needed.
  6. Let cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Insert a knife between the cake and the pan to loosen it, put a rack on top of the pan, and flip the cake onto the rack. Set the rack on top of a plate, then spoon on the glaze when the cake is still warm, scooping up any glaze that drips onto the plate and using it to reglaze the cake. Transfer to a serving plate and decorate with remaining cranberries before the glaze sets.

LUCY BUFFET'S OYSTER DRESSING--we usually just add oysters, parsley, lemon juice, bell pepper to my cornbread dressing
12 tablespoons/1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, divided, plus more for baking dish
1 (8-inch-square) baked and cooledcornbread, preferably on the sweet side
15 slices white or wheat bread, toasted and cooled
½ large white onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
½ large green bell pepper, finely chopped
½ cup chicken broth, plus more as needed
2 dozen freshly shucked or jarredoysters, preferably Gulf oysters, drained and coarsely chopped (reserve the oyster liquor)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon hot sauce, preferably Crystal
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon ground sage
1 ½ teaspoons truffle salt or sea salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by 13-inch baking dish.

Crumble cornbread into a large bowl. Tear toasted white or wheat bread into very small pieces, add to cornbread, and toss to combine

Melt 8 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, celery and bell pepper; sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Cover pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are almost translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove cover, add broth, and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, for 2 to 3 minutes. Continue to cook mixture for 1 more minute, then remove from heat, add to bread mixture, and stir to combine.
In a medium bowl, stir together oysters, lemon juice, hot sauce, parsley, sage, salt and white pepper. Add to bread mixture and stir well to combine. If dressing seems too dry, add a little oyster liquor and up to 1/2 cup more chicken broth; mixture should be very moist.
Pour dressing into greased baking dish. Cut remaining 4 tablespoons butter into small pieces and scatter over top of dressing. Bake until top and sides are browned, 40 to 45 minutes.
from NYTImes

Monday, November 21, 2016

Coming Un-Stuck

Kind words from friends and our minister at church yesterday.

Some food from Mama's coworkers, a card from a friend in Vermont.

A walk in the woods . . . with ducks.  And Mama.

Seeing an accipiter overhead this morning (not sure if it was a Cooper's Hawk or a Peregrine, which I know aren't that close, but it was high and directly overhead so hard to spot with my binoculars.)

A big drop in temperature and some flurries at the bus stop.

And Sis went to school--her fever has been gone since Thursday and she feels better.

Doing some of the chores on my list--laundry, the beginning of Thanksgiving shopping, some emails, straightening the house.

I don't feel as cynical and sarcastic as I did yesterday, not quite as grumpy, or as close to despair (I've been sad but I wouldn't say despairing--definitely pessimistic.)  I was exhausted this weekend, with long naps, but today I wasn't as wiped.

I even picked up sweet Mojito's ashes, in a black urn with silver paw prints.  It came with an impression of his little paw.  The whole box weighed more than he did!  I cried some, but that's okay.

Just 1 1/2 school days 'til Thanksgiving.

I'm grateful.