23 November 2014

An End to the Great Debate

When I was growing up I had absolutely no idea what a cranberry looked like. I never even imaged that a cran-berry was a real thing like a strawberry or a blueberry. Cranberries, in our house, came from a can in a glorious glistening lump. 

At Thanksgiving a lone can of cranberry, which had been sitting on the counter all morning teasing us kids with promises of sweet-tart semimasticated goodness,  was breached at both ends. Then the jelly was coaxed from the tin - carefully, carefully, so as not to dent the cylinder - and ceremoniously deposited onto a cut glass dish. Once there the nugget was sliced, using the can ridges as guidelines, like a little ruby-colored loaf of gleaming, jiggling bread.

I loved it. I still love it. If I was a famous foodie and an interviewer asked me to name guilty pleasure foods, gelatinous canned cranberry sauce would top the list.

This cranberry loaf represents one half of a rivalry that spans generations, regions, race and religion:
Fresh Cranberry Relish vs. Canned Cran

I should say it was a rivalry because a few years ago my aunt served a chunky, jellied sweet/tart cranberry dish that rocked my world and promised holiday relish peace. She shared the recipe with me and I am going to share it with you as a gift and a hope that it brings compromise and peace to your own family table.

This has been modified over the past few years - every time I make it I tweak something and update her recipe. Although I discovered yesterday it isn't really her recipe at all - it originated in Bon App├ętit magazine in 1998. So, thank you, Epicurious.

Cranberry Cherry Relish
2 1/2 cups cherry juice
2 cups dried cherries, roughly chopped
1 12-oz bag cranberries, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cloves

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the juice to a gentle boil. Add cherries, cover and remove from heat. Let rest for 10 minutes. Return pot to heat and bring contents to a boil. Add sugar and cloves, stir to combine. Add pectin, stir to combine. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to partially cool. Transfer to a ceramic or glass dish, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until thoroughly chilled. 

20 November 2014

I [Heart] NYT

It happens every time we accept the NaBloPoMo challenge - we hit a dry spell and the quality of our posts deteriorates to the point of list-making, copy-less photographs and/or plagiarism.

Today we hit the trifecta. 

Many of you probably noticed this image in your news or social media feed on Wednesday...

...but did you click on the headline and read the article?

If you looked at the graphic, found your state and thought, "My family doesn't make X on Thanksgiving, this is completely wrong" and then clicked away, you missed out - big time.

Do yourself a favor and return to the article here. 

Every dish, whether or not it accurately represents what you know to be true about Thanksgiving food traditions in your region, is intriguing.

Some are blatantly odd... and thought provoking.

Some are dead genius.

Some will induce flashbacks to nightmarish childhood meals.

And some are just gorgeously photographed.

Take 15 minutes and head over to the New York Times. If you weren't already prepping your salivary glands for the feast next week, this very nicely constructed article will get you going.

**Note: I have no idea why the view of the NYT page is so large. When I clicked over I felt like my computer automatically adjusted to 90-year-old vision mode.

Killing Snakes and Puttin' Out Fires....

Pretty much sums it up for the next two months. Did y'all know basketball people don't take holiday breaks? Like...AT ALL? Four dogs, six cats and a conglomeration of chickens don't, either. We are shifting into high gear, just about the time the holidays come along and SHIFT INTO HIGH GEAR. Poor planning on someone's part.

Meals around here get sketchy. Four nights a week the closest to a dining table we'll get is the console in my car. Therefore, we have to think fast and recyclable and as I get ready to dump another can of something into the cans from last night....I'm smiling. They'll never know.

Dinner last night, per The Not Nice Kid's request, was this Hearty Tomato Soup (courtesy of Mz Jean across the street) and pigs in a blanket. Plain old cocktail smokies wrapped in canned crescent rolls and dipped in mustard. Win! Got this.

Hearty Tomato Soup

2 T butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 t paprika
1-1/2 t dried basil
6 oz cream cheese, room temp
1-1/4 cup milk
2 cans condensed tomato soup
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained

Saute onion and garlic in butter for two minutes. Add paprika, basil, and cream cheese and stir (Mz Jean uses a whisk, I can't get that to work) until the cream cheese is softened and mixed with the other ingredients. Gradually incorporate the milk and stir until smooth. Add soup and diced tomatoes and heat through.

Everyone loves this, and no one cares it comes out of a bunch of cans. I tend to use olive oil instead of butter, and sometimes smoked paprika.

And then....

The next night? Add some dried Italian seasoning and either another can of tomatoes, or a small jar of marinara sauce. Boil a bag of cheese ravioli and sauce it up, throw in a salad that you have dressed with the Good True Dressing and some bread and TaDa!! You are once again a hero.

Should you have the time...

...and it's really not very much time, wow your people with this Failproof Pizza Dough that makes real cheese sticks. This is a two-hour project, start to finish, because it only has to rise once. The mixer and your dough hooks do the work.

Your people will love you. I promise.

19 November 2014

Roll up the streets?

Is that the old phrase for a town that shuts down at dark? If it is? Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit...I live there.

The Not Nice Kid's basketball season started last night and it was exciting. She done good ;-) After the last game we packed up and headed to get supper...it was nearly 9 o'clock and we'd been there most of the day and WE WERE SO HUNGRY! Turns out? Mexican place with bad margaritas but real Corona? Closed at nine. No problem...except the Roadhouse? With good fried stuff and cold mugs? Closed at nine. The steakhouse closed at eight. No where else serves beer....hell, this town may not even have Sweet 'n Low.

We looked at each other...me and some really tired kids and then because they're kids...they got in a shiny red Camaro and drove to town, some 30 miles away and ate at BWW and considered the night a success.

I, on the other hand, stood there and looked around and pulled into whatEVER the hell Hardee's Red Burrito is and had a bean and cheese burrito and took it to the house. It was a good idea at the time.

Who lives in a town that shuts down at nine o'clock? WHY does a town shut down at nine o'clock?

Sigh. It was a school night. These people don't eat at places that serve beer. Did I *sigh* already?

Sometimes, I worry about the day I look around and...no one needs me. No one needs a ride or cash or a clean uniform or something sold for a fundraiser. In my mind...I could go to Clown School. I could go to Culinary School. I could conquer my fear of heights. Hell, I could 
finish all the multiple college degrees I started and....didn't.

Or I could just open a 24-hour den of iniquity. Booze. Loud music. Food at all hours of the night.

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”

Y'all reckon Dr. Seuss was talking to ME? 'Cause I'm pretty sure the man who wrote that? Drank bad margaritas and ate fried food late at night....

17 November 2014

When Life Hands You Lemons Make Soup

Two bits of advice:

1. If you are going to squeeze a dozen lemons, do not put the juice into a container that looks exactly like the container holding the last of the homemade chicken stock.

2. If you make cream of mushroom soup - a double batch, no less - take a good sniff of the 'chicken stock' before you add it to the pot.

This is either an epic kitchen fail or the first-ever batch of mushroom Avgolemono...heavy on the lemono.

16 November 2014

Ten days....

There are ten days until Thanksgiving and if I never get anything else right in my life, there will be NO CHRISTMAS doodads in this household until Friday, November 28. Halloween is for Halloween, Thanksgiving is for thanksgiving, and hopefully Christmas is year-round in your heart but that red and green shit doesn't go up until the day after Thanksgiving. It's a law. Or it should be.

Which explains the dilemma that popped up when, driving home last night, what should our wondering eyes should appear but THIS!

U-turn, right in the middle of the four-lane. Out on the side of the road in front of a Christmas castle, taking a picture of A Christmas Story leg lamp.

Life is good, but I'm still not rushing the season.