Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Noticing the Creature Comforts in the Night

Last night, another cold front came through, dropping the overnight temps to freezing here or thereabouts. In an older house, the thermostat is constantly catching up, and I keep it 68 or lower at night. The wood floor was a mite chilly when I had to get up briefly around 4 am. Still sleepy, I slipped gratefully back into the still warmed bedding and pulled the cover over my shoulders.

I was warm, cozy, snug. The bed was soft. Had a moment of thanksgiving for the luxury, and as I drifted back to sleep, I realized I didn't feel any age at all. I just felt like me. The always me that's been there since childhood.

And I was content.

I slept well.

Friday, November 26, 2010

You want good stuffing? Smell your way!

I love Thanksgiving turkey. For many years, when I have leftovers, one of my favorites is the after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich:

2 pieces of multi-grain bread, toasted.
mayonnaise to suit.
slices of turkey-white, dark, does not matter
slices of dressing
slices of cranberry sauce
sliced piminto olives

All told, should be about 1 inch thick. Great on an empty stomach. Even greater in a lay between still-high Johnson grass on a quail hunt. Hot coffee optional. Air should be cold.

BUT this year, I made the best dressing I've made in years. It's purely my Dad's recipe, which relies on smell. If you can't smell, don't try it. I mean it. I have a lazy eye. Can't hit a ball. Don't try baseball anymore. If you don't smell smells, a great many don't. Other recipes will suit.
You probably can do many things I can't, and I envy you.

I happen to have a nose, as did my father, and it is critical to this. It is not rocket science. just organic. You must notice your sense of smell.

I guess this is a commercial. I've tried several cornmeals. my favorite is Aunt Jemima, and that is the recipe I use, sans sugar.

Several days ahead, buy a loaf of white bread, let it lie around.

reheat oven 425 degrees

In sifter(check internet if term is unfamiliar)
Add 1 Cup cornmeal
1 Cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sift into bowl
1 egg
1 Cup milk
1/4 Cup vegetable oil


Add to 8X8 pan, buttered or whatever, greased

Bake 20-23 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let sit briefly, THEN

Cool briefly, then plop int LARGE mixing bowl

Fresh cornbread. Break up.

Take 4-5 slices stale white bread and toast. Don't burn it, but really toast it.

Slice bread into bite size pieces. Toss with crumbled cornbread.

On slicer board,
Slice 3/4 large onion in itty-bitty pieces

Slice three ribs celery in 1/4 inch pieces, approx.

One tart apple, peeled, quartered, and diced

Melt 1 stick margarine in skillet, add onions, celery and apple, on low medium till smells good. Shuffle with spatula
Add black pepper to taste
Add one can chicken broth,while warm
3 Tablespoons fresh poultry seasoning,
2 Tablespoons sage
Stir. Add to cornbread/toast in big bowl

Smell. It's up to you whether to add second can of broth now or when you dump the first and heat up the second. You WILL use 2. How does it smell? How moist is the mixture? Stir.

Add 2cd can broth to cornbread/toast mixture. Refrigerate at least 4 hours,

Let it sit, and smell. Smell. My father said when it smells right, it is right, and this year, it smelled perfect. And it was the best I've made in years.

This recipe will serve a family of six, 4 large men or 8 regular adults who don't work out much.
Or half of it will feed two adult sons and their mother, when said sons have been deprived of their mother's efforts in the kitchen for a few years. Let it sit in the refrigerator a few hours, then bake at 350 for one hour.

You may like gravy. you won' t need it with this. It should be moist when done.

Personally, I find gravy really overrated. I am in an extreme minority,That's okay. My sons tell me the gravy was good over this.

To me, what I have said is easy, but I know so many assemble rather than cook. Don't use a mix--scratch makes higher, tastier, cornbread. Glad to anwer questions.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A good day, unread, is still a good day

Frankly, there are quite a few influential, some even famous, people I know or have known--and past tense is probably the kicker--in my life.

I live quietly and obscurely now, and that's okay.

But my sitemaster tells me I am barely read, and that hurts. I write well. I know that for a fact.But apparently I don't care about or notice the things the rest of the world is interested in. Darn. Too many old duffers don't blog.

In my personal life, things are well. Had two grandkids and their best friends most of the day today. For me, it doesn't get better. I'm not stellar in their lives either, but being part of the bedrock--that feels good.

And at the end of the day, I sent all four home to my son and his wife to shelter for the night while I relaxed, wrote this, and went to bed early.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Giving thanks in the face of adversity

Every state has its own list of what it supports, and what it does not.

Texas actually came out ahead in the short run on the deficit, because the state pays very little for anything besides roads, prisons, education,minimal social services,and law enforcement, but not in that order.

The legislature faces a $28 billion dollar shortfall. Legislature will be in session next year.
Beware. Euphoric Republicans are celebrating the fact that they now have the largest majority in the state legislature since Reconstuction. And I don't trust either party in a euphoric, "we're the 800-pound gorilla" mood.

A balloon has already been floated by our governor-who-isn't-running-for-President proposing cancelling Medicaid and CHIPS. Supposedly, we can fund this cheaper ourselves without any federal money. Even with Medicaid and CHIPS, Texas currently has either 5 million or 6 million uninsured.

Medical professionals are already saying this is nuts.

Fact is, Texas hasn't got much fat to trim. Politicians will have to go into the muscle.

One of the things I've learned is--we all want cuts in government spending, just not the program that directly benefits us. So it all is going to come down to who screams louder. The elderly with dementia, the homeless and mentally ill, the minor children who are being neglected or abused, these folks can't scream too loudly. The shell game with taxes and who funds education is apt to leave all but two state universities--Texas A&M and the University of Texas are protected by the state constitution--to be forced to raise tuition again as state support wanes further. School districts forced to fire teachers they can no longer afford to pay? Could happen. More potholes in the highways? less bridge maintenance? More toll roads? that's a big favorite. There are locations in the Metroplex I can't get to without a detailed pondering of highways if I don't want to pay several dollars in tolls for the trip.

The recession hasn't been fun. Nope. And whether we like it or not, the consequences are setting in. The debts always have to be paid. Most of us will survive.

Sounds grim on a holiday week, but the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by less than half the Mayflower passengers who set out for America. The others died. Those remaining gave thanks for their survival, for being alive. They looked forward to surviving another year, and making it better if they could. They gave thanks for each other.

That isn't bleak. That's core to the best of humanity. It requires steadfastness. Resolution. Hopefully a lack of self-absorption. Being alert as well.

Thar still be some bars in them thar woods.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How Do I(fill in the blank)?

I desperately need some help in baking.

I've used Crisco all my life. Haven't baked much the last 10 years and am making a comeback--EXCEPT the pie crust and bread have both come out greasy--the crust not short, and the bread not cohesive and draining oil. I currently have most of a can. I tried making an applesauce-mincemeat bread recipe today, using the recipe amount of 11/2 cups shortening. It was so greasy, it wouldn't hold shape and oil ran from the dough after cooking.

There HAS to be a conversion table. If your old recipe used X amount, now use Y. I'm guessing half. That would be cool. I've done a brief search and found comment sites complaining the same, but no company site giving me a conversion--you know, like a tablespoon fresh herbs converts to a teaspoon dried. Something like that. Toss in another egg? No instruction on the can. That seems shortsided to me. It's healthier--no trans fats. so please tell me how to use it.

I've talked to a good cook who used to bake a lot, but doesn't anymore, and she recommends I use half the Crisco called for. I'm wondering if that is enough or if there are other adjustments I need to make. She said she now uses pre-manufactured crusts or uses butter. Expensive, and today's shortening may be more healthful, but I don't know anymore. I'm not finding ready information from folks who do.

All I want to do is bake some stuff, using ingredients I know--but I don't know them any more.
No wonder all the food ads say cooking is hard and just buy----

Less and less I trust the products I buy. Now it extends to food. All I wanted to do was make a couple of loaves of bread for my son to take hog-hunting.

My frustration is palpable.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A good week to be an American

Veteran'a Day was Thursday, and in the last couple of weeks, I've gotten a close look at patriotism and the American child. It is healthy and well.

One of my grandchildren is in elementary school, the other in middle school. Both had music to learn for a program Thursday in the football stadium (fortunately, the cold front and rain didn't come in till Friday). Both know all the words to the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, and a number of patriotic songs. With all the enthusiasm of well-loved children, they believe in honesty, truth, and the law. They make me look at the future and smile. The adults around them are teaching them well.

In Brownies, the troop members were all given a sheet of paper and asked to draw something that symbolized America to them. A number drew the flag, two drew the liberty bell and one drew the capitol. My imaginative granddaughter drew a flag--and then drew a strong, muscular arm in the middle of it for the ARM-y, she said, and to show America is strong.

She likes to fetch my mail, and on Thursday when we got home, I told her thare was no mail because it was a national holiday.

"That's silly," she said, "You won't get your Happy Veteran's Day card in time."

I laughed at that. But maybe the card industry should look into it.

On Sunday, veterans at church have been invited to come in their uniforms, or any remnant of their service.

One Korean veteran has announced his intention to bring his old rifle, which has raised a few nervous eyebrows.

But this IS Texas.