Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"I know there's a chicken in here someplace!"

You may need a timer to remind you that your chicken is still braising in the oven, but your beagle never forgets!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gingerbread Muffins with Chocolate and Cherries

Monday is my Baking Day, and yesterday I made buttermilk rolls, two loaves of potato bread, and muffins.

I had a box of gingerbread mix in the cupboard, and I decided to experiment with it. I wanted something sweet and fruity that would go well with the day's last cup of coffee, taken at the kitchen table while looking out at the north wind stripping the yellow leaves from the maples. Pretending, perhaps, that I was in a cafe in Paris or at a coffee house in Prague.

One box of gingerbread mix

2 eggs

1 1/4 cup lukewarm water

1 cup pitted black cherries. I used Morrelo cherries from a jar I bought at Trader Joe's

3/4 cup of chocolate chips

Put the gingerbread mix in a bowl and stir in the water, then the eggs. Add the cherries and the chocolate chips and mix well. Spoon the batter into muffin tins sprayed with canola cooking spray or greased with butter. Fill each muffin cup three quarters full. These muffins are dense and do not rise to the height of more conventional muffins. Bake at 400 degrees for twenty to twenty five minutes. This recipe makes about 18 medium sized muffins.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Estate Sale Diaries October 28,2012

I need new tires and some car repairs more than I need another baking dish or cookbook, so I am passing up the estate sales for now. But I can still follow a friend's adventures out on the sale circuit, for she is indefatigable. She is out early, buying fossil rocks for her husband's collection or a set of bongo drums just because she can.

When I went over to work in her garden a week or so ago,we had coffee, and it was then that she showed me skirts, blouses, and a hat she had bought at a yard sale. They were trendy, slim little things for her 18 year old daughter. If the girl did not want them, my friend, who had spent next to nothing for them,planned to put them on E-bay.

What makes this interesting was that she picked these clothes up in an expensive neighborhood near her own. She saw the sign for the sale, and was one of the first inside.
The woman overseeing the sale said she was selling everything for a client. A client who had spent hundreds at Nordstrom's in Green Hills only a few weeks before. The clothes still had their $300.00 and $400.00 tags attached. Shiny new clothes,never worn,sold for a fraction of what they were worth at the mall.

My friend and I speculated about this. Why had the woman spent so lavishly and discarded so quickly? Was she crazy? A shopping addict? Perhaps she was newly dumped by a husband about to see what a woman scorned can do to his credit cards. Maybe it was a way to kill time on a dull day for a women bereft of what my mother would call"a lack of inner resources". And how may of us now strapped for cash,with fewer working hours and spending $4.00 a quart for orange juice,would spend money this carelessly?

I think most of us have spent money foolishly a few times in our lives. But this kind of excess has a whiff of sinfulness about it. It does not seem right.

And this is not new human behavior. Here is what the Greek, Epicurus, said about such acquisitiveness :

"Nothing is enough for someone for whom enough is little".

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Grits with Peanuts and Honey

Anyone who has watched "My Cousin Vinny", one of the very best American movies of the early nineties, remembers the breakfast scene in the Alabama diner where Joe Pesci, an inexperienced New York lawyer, and Marisa Tomei, playing his girlfriend, order their first Southern breakfast of grits and lard fried eggs. Pesci's lawyer knows not much about the law, Tomei knows everything about auto mechanics, but neither know anything about staples of the Southern morning table. By the end of the movie Pesci has learned enough about grits cookery to discredit a witness against Pesci's nephew, who he, Pesci,is defending from a murder rap.

Grits, the polenta of the South, are ground up hominy. Hominy is corn blown up by lye. Both foods are cheap and good. I buy non-instant grits, and when I cook it I cook enough for four, and to use the phrase of one of my Southern friends,"eat on it" for days.

Grits with cheese. Grits with shrimp.

And now grits with peanuts and honey, a rich and hearty Brunchy Sunday recipe. You can make it with any good quality box of grits( such as Quaker Oats).Following package directions, which are not difficult, make enough portions for four. Then puree 1/3 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts in the food processor. Add a little salt to taste, and mix in 1/8 stick of unsalted butter. Add to the hot grits along with 1/4 cup or more of honey, depending on how sweet you want it. Serve it garnished with crumbled breakfast sausage or bits of crispy bacon-

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Muffin Recipe from a Vermont Inn once owned by a real life Dick And Joanna

Was there ever a better,gentler,more civilized television comedy than "Newhart"?

I think not, and certainly not in the past two or three vulgar decades.

Dick and Joanna Loudon ,refugees from the big city, buy a Vermont country inn in a small town where both locals and guests are quirky and entertaining.

This could have been the story of Wilf and Lois Copping,who also left New York to run the Tavern Inn in Grafton,Vermont. Wilf had been in advertising, a trade honest people dream of escaping, and the Coppings did.

I found their 1978 "The Country Innkeepers'Cookbook" at an estate sale. Yankee Magazine published it, and one can still buy old copies from Amazon.

I saw this interesting recipe on page 159. Lots of sugar,butter,honey,eggs, with a bit of virtuous All Bran added.(Country inn cooking has little in common with health spa food- )

Pineapple Muffins

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup of butter or shortening

1/3 cup honey

2 eggs

1 1/3 cups All Bran (I used All Bran Buds)

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup crushed pineapple, well drained

Cream the sugar,shortening,and honey together, then add the remaining ingredients and mix. Spoon into a muffin tin greased with butter or cooking spray. Fill each each muffin cup 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

These are very moist, slightly chewy,
and delicious. This recipe makes 18 standard sized muffins. I baked mine in a large tin. It made half a dozen jumbo muffins with some batter left over. I spooned that into a small greased baking dish and made an extra muffin cake.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pork Boneless Rib Roast

Since I now use real money(my own), instead of bank and credit card money, I hesitate to buy a 2 lb pork roast costing over $17.00. But when the grocery store manager makes it a special and cuts the price by half, I will always make room in my freezer.

I have much experience cooking pork tenderloin, but none cooking this new cut of meat. I figured that what worked for the loin might suffice for the rib, and I was right- Two nights in the refrigerator basking inside a plastic bag filled with a little salt and a bottle of commercial bitter orange marinade.

The roast came bound by red, white, and blue string that looked like a hairnet. Why the string had to be All American is a mystery- What did it signify? That this was a patriotic pig that came from a US farm? Multicolored string did not look like a good bet for the oven to me, and I replaced it with plain old brown string.

Cooks curse a roast when they put it in an oven for an hour and a half and forget it. I set my timer anew every fifteen minutes. When it went off the first time I re-basted the roast and at thirty minutes I turned it and basted the up side. And continued this for the next hour.

I basted the roast with a mixture of 2 ounces of melted "Cajun Finishing Butter" from the Publix supermarket, a tablespoon of honey, and a teaspoon of orange juice.

And at 90 minutes I had a tender pork roast that could have come straight from Little Havana.

Knowing that not everyone has a Publix to go to to buy this butter, I made a spiced butter of my own, using some of the ingredients listed on the grocery store carton. I left out preservatives,gum resin, and cilantro, and think my butter tasted as good as the original-

Miss Betsy's Basting Butter

1 stick unsalted butter,gently melted.

1 garlic clove,put through a garlic press

1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

Sprinkling of sea salt

1 chipotle pepper from a can of Chipotle in Adobo-

1 tablespoon of honey

1 teaspoon of tomato paste

Mash the chili pepper in adobo into a paste. Add it, and all the other ingredients into the melted butter and stir. Taste. Add more honey or salt, if desired. Then pour into a cup, cover with plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator.

When the butter has hardened( in an hour or so), take a fork and mix the butter thoroughly, as some of the pepper and garlic may have settled in the bottom. Then the butter is ready to use. One can skip this step if you are going to use it immediately for basting, as you want melted butter. Use this butter on grits sprinkled with a bit of Parmesan ,and you will have a tasty dish.

And here is what the butter looks like-

* The basting sauce can also be used as a sauce for the roasted pork when it is ready to serve. Just add in the drippings from the roasting pan and pour it over the pork and the sweet potatoes that you might be serving as a side-

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thoughts For The Day

Now that so many of our elected representatives belong to the undying No Nothing party, it is time to seek wisdom and perspective. Unless, by some chance you stand with the U.S. Congressman who was caught on tape telling his fellow churchgoers that he was certain the earth was no more than 8 thousand years old-

Last week I saw a reference to Richard Hofstader's classic "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life".

Of course Amazon had it. I knew they would, and tonight I opened it to the Prefatory Note and read this gem of a Ralph Waldo Emerson thought:

'Let us honestly state the facts. Our America has a bad name for superficialness.Great men,great nations have not been boasters or buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it".

And then this witticism of the late Adlai Stevenson, who remarked of Eisenhower's Cabinet that "The New Dealers have all left Washington to make way for the car dealers".

Everything old is new again, except that our current politicians and their minions are used car dealers whose teeth are as pearly white as the shark's teeth in "Mack the Knife".

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"When I Consider Everything That Grows / Holds In Perfection But A Little Moment-"

Thus begins Shakespeare's Sonnet XV. And I thought of this poem last evening, when at 7 PM, my Night Blooming Cereus opened its first blossoms-

I have had this plant for three years. I bought it from Logee's Greenhouses, and it was no more than a 4 inch piece of leaf. Over the next three years it grew two feet tall, and its habit was so informal that I had to stake it with bamboo sticks. It spent April through October in part shade out on my porch.

The buds appeared a few weeks ago. They grew and grew till they were the size of ornamental gourds. I brought the plant inside to protect it from colder weather and from the Porch Cats, who like to knock things over.

Last evening, without warning, all three buds opened. The flowers were seven inches across and fragrant. But 12 hours later in the morning light they had faded and shriveled, for they only bloom for one night, like a flower from a fairy tale or from "The Arabian Nights".

I do not know when they will bloom again.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Marvelous Found Object, and A Chic Raincoat From Paris

I went to the Goodwill Store over on Charlotte Pike today. It is in a neighborhood that will not be reproduced on ABC TV's new "Nashville" drama(which appears to be the concept of "Tourist Dream Nashville" meets "All About Eve".) No country music Stars in that part of town-just the failures, pawning their guitars for a bus ticket home.

I was searching for a couple new pairs of shoes. I am happy to say I found them, after making sure to check them in good light for tears and paint stains. They are serviceable shoes, flat and black and comfortable. Shoes for a free woman's feet, for how can any woman in high heels whose feet are in agony be anything other than a slave?

I also bought a label-less un-marred black lambskin shoulder bag for seven dollars. Nice, but unremarkable. Until I searched one of its pockets.

What do we expect to find in old pocketbooks? I know what I have found in the past. A dry cleaner's bill, a penny, a forgotten give away pen,unused Kleenex. But never a Mother of Pearl and brass ornament that might have been part of a pendant or an piece from another pocketbook. Who knows?

A second coat was also on my Goodwill agenda. A raincoat for a winter climate where it is 50 degrees and wet most of the time. I went to the coat section, where I found a below the knee black lined raincoat. It had a certain Aura of Chic, and when I saw its label I understood. It came from Paris, from the design house of Claudie Pierlot. Their clothes aren't sold in this country, and they are not cheap.

God Bless well traveled ladies with money, who do not send their last season's discards to consignment shops, but have their maids pack old clothes in boxes to send to Goodwill so I can buy them and wear a piece of Paris to the Bellevue library or to the DMV inspection station, pretending I am in France and not waiting in line hoping my truck will pass the auto emissions test-

And I thought I would add one more found object to this little written reverie. I found it in a box of jewelry at an estate sale. It seems to be a belt buckle divorced from its belt. But look at it closely. It appears to be carved ivory. Three ships off shore from a castle with its battlements. Perhaps the ships are from Narnia. Perhaps one is the "Dawn Treader".

But this may be too fanciful. More likely the ships are the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, and they are sailing out to the unknown looking for lands where the rivers run gold-

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Brother's Backyard Visitor

My brother sent me these photos this morning. He lives in northern New Hampshire.

I lived in New England thirty one years, and I never saw a moose. I did see a newspaper picture of a moose walking up the steps into a church. That moose reportedly had a brain parasite that caused a kind of moose dementia. Moose have wandered into shopping malls and onto freeways under its influence-

Not in Nashville,however. We have to be content with armadillos and possums, and one of the latter was once found on a stair landing behind a fire door in the Intensive care unit at St. Thomas Hospital. It was scratching at the door. Smokers had left the door down the stairs propped open. Maybe the possum smelled the nurses' Chinese takeout-