Monday, November 30, 2009

Routine

It's the last day of November. It was back to school and work today. After a really lovely Thanksgiving holiday, it is nice to get back to a routine. I am a routine person, although I have tried to deny it for years. Patterns are soothing. I could be OCD, but I'd have to rename it CDO, so that it's in alphabetical order as it should be. I kid, but I understand it is a real disorder. And I do have tinges. It's genetic. (Thanks, Mom!)

Anyhoo, Shane's visit was great. Friday morning I made migas for brunch. As I indicated in an earlier post, my friend Brenda introduced me to migas years ago on a antique shopping trip. We stayed overnight with her friends Bob & Becky, and Bob cooked migas for breakfast the next morning. Fantastic! Had to ask how he made them. When I got home, it took me a couple of tries, but I finally got the hang of it. After that I started seeing migas on menus around Texas. Had they always been there and I just hadn't noticed because I had no idea what they were? Possibly. It's been so long now, I don't remember exactly how Bob made his, but in my version (serving 4), I start cooking about 1/2 pound of chorizo (fresh Mexican sausage, not the cured Spanish kind) in a skillet over medium to medium-high. Once it starts to render, I add some chopped onion, poblano pepper, and red pepper. Once the sausage is cooked and the veggies are softened (I like a little bit of carmelization), I add chopped corn tortillas (or crushed corn chips) then I add about 4-6 lightly beaten eggs and cook until the egg is just about done. Then I add shredded cheddar cheese (to taste), put a lid on the pan for a few seconds till the cheese melts. I serve with warm flour tortillas, extra cheese, pico de gallo, salsa, refried beans, and fried potatoes, or any combo thereof. It has become "my" brunch dish.

Friday evening, we ate out at a steak house. We saw our sweet friend Steph, ate some great food, and had no dishes to wash! Yea!

On Saturday, we went to Sevi's, a local family-owned shop that serves excellent Mexican food. It is a favorite Saturday morning breakfast spot of ours. Andrew introduced Shane to the Sevi's burrito by sharing a bite, but David & I had the migas, and Shane tried their menudo and a carnitas taco. It's all wonderful.

Saturday night, while Andrew and I put ornaments on the tree that David and Shane put up, David and Shane cooked dinner. David brined and grilled pork chops, and Shane cooked broccoli and Gorgonzola mushroom risotto. Shane raved about the chops. They were juicy and tender and perfectly grilled. David was so excited to have a new brining convert in Shane. After the loonnnggg weekend of eating rich foods, we decided that we need to go back on our healthy eating regimen and get back to exercising. For now, however, we are slowly eating up the yummy leftovers. December shall be healthier. Really. Seriously. No laughing please.

A cold front is blowing in now. We are expecting a high tomorrow in the mid-40's and possibly some messy stuff along with it. Brrr. Love cold weather. And the timing is perfect since tomorrow is December 1. I'm thinking about putting on a pot of red beans and a pan of cornbread. Or a pot of potato soup. Hmm... Need to go raid the fridge & pantry and see what's cooking for tomorrow. Also need to sit down and make a menu for the month. Got to get back into routine. Patterns are soothing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks

Wow. Today was Thanksgiving, and we had lots of cooking going on here! I failed to take pictures, but David made a beautiful turkey, sausage dressing, cornbread dressing (as a special treat for me), turkey gravy, and Brussels sprouts with apple and bacon. I must say, the cornbread dressing was fantastic. David read a food journal entry I made many years ago while trying to learn the recipe that had been handed down from my grandmother to my mom. It was one of those recipes that went something like this, "Add crumbled cornbread to torn white bread, and lightly toast. Use enough to fit your pan. Add seasoning (to taste) to the broth and add enough broth to bread and mix to make moist to wet." That was the extent of David's experience with cornbread dressing (he's not from around here, you know) besides having had a not-too-great version in a cafeteria once many, many years ago. He did a bang-up job! I was impressed. And ate a lot. Hmm hmm... Oh, and sorry, I can't share the recipe, because it doesn't really translate to tablespoons and cups very well.

Ooh, the apple pie was yummy. That recipe was a definite keeper. The filling was light, not too sweet, too syrupy, or too runny, and because the filling is pre-cooked, the crust didn't deflate nor burn. I'm definitely filing this one in the notebook.

We took our dishes to Mom and Dad's for Thanksgiving lunch. Mom made an incredible ham. So good. We also had corn, green beans, sweet potatoes, crudités, relish tray, and mashed potatoes. Then there were pies: besides mine, cherry, pumpkin, and more apple. There was a tasty strawberry shortcake tumble, jello salad, and whipped cream. Let's just say we were all well-fed and each took a little food away for tomorrow.

Two of my brothers and three sisters-in-law were able to be there, as well as, many of my nephews and nieces, and an invited guest of one niece. We prayed for the family members who couldn't join us, missed those who have gone before us, and enjoyed the ones with whom we shared the day. The kids - I use that term lightly - piled up the zillions of leaves in the backyard into a mountain and shrieked in laughter while jumping in and rolling around. Footballs were thrown through the tire swing, stories were shared, Christmas plans made, pictures taken, and everyone lingered just a little longer than usual, relishing the happy memories being made. The sun was bright, the air was cool, and the day went too quickly.

Seems to me, we don't get together often enough. We all have lives that keep us busy: family, work, church, charitable causes, sports, school... But today, we didn't just get together to check of one more box in our holiday schedules. We stopped running, ate a lovely meal, and enjoyed some time with people we've known longer than anyone else.

Family is but one of the many blessings in my life, but it is a constant blessing. I am so thankful for each and every one of them... Happy Thanksgiving.

Week Before Thanksgiving

So, last Friday, David came home from a work trip San Francisco. We had a lovely dinner of grilled pork chops, asparagus and potato cakes. I must confess, the only part I actually prepared was the pork, and, even so, David grilled it. Our local market has a fantastic deli and a good variety of take and heat dishes. The asparagus and potaotes came from there. I reasoned that with my taking Andrew to school, going to "my" school, the doctor's office, the market, the bank, and a couple of other errands, picking Andrew up, getting him lunch and down for a nap, putting away groceries, cleaning the fridge, doing a couple loads of laundry, and all of it with a fuzzy allergy head and the deepest desire to do nothing but lie down for a nap, I could use the extra help. (Have I whined enough?)

But, Friday afternoon, Andrew woke up asking to make applesauce and yogurt as he and I had planned earlier. So, we peeled apples and made applesauce, and started the yogurt in the Crock Pot. The applesauce was easy. Four large apples peeled and chopped, a little lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and water simmered in a pot on the stove for 15 minutes or so, then mashed, and we had applesauce. Andrew loves it warm. Then we started the yogurt using the recipe from crockpot365. I used packets of yogurt culture instead of pre-made yogurt, and I used 2% instead of whole milk. The 2% was unintentional. I meant to pick up whole milk but picked up the 2% out of habit. I did add gelatin, but the yogurt was pretty thin, and I prefer Greek style, so I lined a strainer with cheesecloth and drained the yogurt overnight. It turned out pretty well. I'll use whole milk next time to see if it makes it thicker.

On Sunday, we made BBQ spareribs. We haven't tried the whole rib rub/ sauce thing before, but we've watched various cooking shows about it. We were pleased with the results. We had intended to cook them on Saturday, but our plans changed so we cooked them on Sunday. We put the rub (something store-bought that was all natural and sounded good) on them Saturday morning, and they sat in the fridge until Sunday afternoon. David grilled them on the gas grill, and basted them with BBQ sauce (also store-bought) toward the end. They were delish. Oh and quite pretty too. david did very well on the char.




It's been a busy week preparing for Thanksgiving. My husband's grown son is coming in to visit for a few days. Yea! Andrew is so excited that he has woken up every morning for almost a week saying, "Shane's coming today!" and then is a little bummed when we've had to explain it would be a few days more. But he'd perk back up when he got to tell someone that Shane was coming to see him. But I digress.

David is a great cook. He just travels too much to cook regularly. But every Thanksgiving, we either invite the family to our house, or he talks my mom into letting him make the turkey and dressing for the family lunch gathering at her house. So, he cooked the turkey tonight, and he'll make the dressing in the morning.

I made an apple pie, mostly from scratch. I followed this Double Crust Apple Pie recipe for the filling. The reviews said the crust part of the recipe is wonderful, but knowing I would battle timing (the story of my life - just wait, if you haven't already, you'll see a pattern), I bought the Pilsbury refrigerated crusts in the red box. I tasted the filling, which you pre-cook, and it was yummy. Then the whole thing baked up nicely. I'll give you the verdict after we eat it tomorrow.





We'll likely go easy on breakfast tomorrow morning since we'll have lunch at Mom and Dad's. But Friday, I'm thinking Migas, something I learned from my friend Brenda during an antique shopping trip years ago. Hmm, I can almost taste the chorizo...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Catch Up
OK, I got way off track with the blogging. I kept starting a catch up blog, but then I wouldn't get finished and thus I have a list of unpublished drafts. Obviously it didn't work since I haven't posted in ages. So I'll just pick up like I never left off.

We made it about a month with no impromptu dining out. I did much better with the cooking than the blogging. I've not stopped trying, but some weeks are better than others. Some weeks include one or more sick people in my home, and other weeks have been uber busy outside of the house. But, I am still cooking. Mostly. The Crock Pot has gotten lots of use. We have reinstated Sunday brunch at Pioneer. It's just a nice post-church service tradition.

Today
I am battling the fifth day of an allergy attack while home alone with my 3 year old son. I'm craving soup. The Campbell's canned soup in the pantry isn't even remotely appealing, and so I was thinking of going to a restaurant to get something hot and yummy. But that required wearing something other than pajamas. That thought was just a little too much for me. I pulled out the Bob's Red Mill Vegi Soup Mix and vegetable broth from the pantry, diced up a little carrot, onion and celery, and made a soup. I had two bowls.

The smell of soup simmering made me hungry for homemade bread. Or at least the smell of it baking. Andrew and I flipped through the bread machine book, and he fixated on the picture of a bagel. As a further excuse not to have to get out of pajamas and go out of the house, we decided to make bagels.

I'd never made them before. It always seemed intimidating or complicated. Or at least just easier to go to the market, or, even better, Atlanta Bread and buy professionally made ones. But an endearing 3 year-old and a taste for fresh-baked bread can spur on great endeavors.


It wasn't difficult, just lots of steps. Mix the dough (I used the bread machine for this - it took 15 minutes and made very little mess), form the bagels, let rise, boil in water, drain, brush with egg wash, add topping (we made 2 each of cheddar, Parmesan, sesame seed, plain and cinnamon sugar), bake for about 1/2 an hour, and allow to cool. The last step was the hardest. Especially for Andrew.




A few of the bagels were a little extra dense. I'm not sure what was the cause. Could be the extra help I had forming the first few bagels, before he became distracted. Could be when I put the first few in to boil, the burner got turned down and they simmered more than boiled before I realized it. Not sure if the fact that of the 3 cups of all purpose flour the recipe called for I used 2 and subbed whole wheat flour for the third. (Did I mention I need to make a market run?)

The flavor was really good though. As I told a friend of mine, I may have to be on a mission to make good bagels now. Now that I've gotten that first attempt under my belt, it's not so intimidating, and I enjoyed the process. It was easy to clean up as I went because each step had a little down time. I had the kitchen completely cleaned before they came out of the oven.

Alas and alack, the aroma wasn't quite as strong as I was looking for. I may have to start a loaf of bread just for the smell. :)