Is It Soup Yet?

When I was a wee tike (I begin writing with a Gaelic slant as it nears St. Patrick’s Day despite my lack of any Irish heritage), I watched Captain Kangaroo every day. I watched it because I loved the Captain and Mr. Green Jeans and Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose and all the characters. Now that I’m older, I see that the creators didn’t spend a lot of time coming up with clever names for their characters. Once they thought up Captain Kangaroo based on his big pockets, they were apparently worn out.

Anyhoo, what I didn’t realize as a child was that I was also learning things. To this day, I will hear a piece of classical music and recall it from Captain Kangaroo.  I also became familiar with some really good children’s books as I listened to the Captain read to me. Remember Ping, and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Make Way for Ducklings?

But my favorite by far was Stone Soup, by Marcia Brown. It was the story of some soldiers who enter a village. They are hungry, but the villagers won’t give them anything to eat because they are strangers. The crafty soldiers tell the villagers they will make them Stone Soup. The villagers had never heard of such a thing and were intrigued. The soldiers place some stones in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Soon they sigh and begin telling each other how some carrots would improve the stone soup so much. One of the villagers, still intrigued by the idea of Stone Soup, offers some carrots. Soon the soldiers have tricked the villagers into donating more vegetables and some meat, until they have a delicious soup.

During Lent, we are asked to pray, fast, and give alms. Of course, Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, but this never feels like a sacrifice because I love fish and seafood. Instead, it seems like a way to serve shrimp to Bill and blame it on the Pope.  But one way I can sacrifice is to eat simpler meals throughout Lent. Soups, for example.

My mom made good soup. When she and Dad owned the bakery and coffee shop in Leadville, she offered her customers homemade soup every weekday. Chili every day, and a second soup that varied each day. Cream of Broccoli, Cream of Mushroom, Minestrone, Clam Chowder, Ham and Bean, Split Pea. I’m getting hungry.

Mom made a Vegetable Beef Soup that I often crave but never make. She used a beef shank and the soup cooking with that bone gave it a rich, beefy flavor that was simply delicious. Quite frankly, I never make it because I’m afraid it won’t taste like hers and I will miss her too much.

Yesterday my sister Bec, having read the blog post from the previous day in which I whined about not having a car, took pity on me and headed my way in order to be my chauffeur. Remember this, Kids: Whining pays big dividends. To repay her generous spirit, I invited her to dinner. A steak would have been a great thank you, but instead I served her beef and tomato macaroni soup. Not with a beef shank but with ground beef, tomatoes, and macaroni….

The temperature got down to a brisk 58 degrees at sunset (I’m kidding all you people who are currently shoveling snow) and the soup tasted good. Stone Soup without the stones.

Here is a link to the soup.

Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch

While Google News feeds Bill news stories about the economy or the international trade market, Google News feeds me stories about Keith Urban, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge or breaking news about Dunkin’ Donuts dropping “donuts” from their name. The last one really shook me up. I can handle the news about Princess Charlotte’s misbehavior at royal functions, but no “donuts” in Dunkin’ Donuts? When did donuts become the red-headed stepchild?

All that aside, it was via a Google news feed that I came across an article which provided the quintessential dessert from each state in the Union. I quickly perused the article, noticing that the iconic dessert for Arizona is sopaipillas, which surprised me since I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a sopaipilla in Arizona. Colorado’s, by the way, was Palisade peach pie. Maybe. Lord knows I’ve baked enough of those. And we should thank our lucky stars that it isn’t marijuana brownies.

As I was looking at each state, I noticed that the dessert for Indiana was something called Hoosier Pie. I knew what Hoosier Pie was because Bill’s mom used to make it for her family, and I had the recipe. She didn’t call it Hoosier Pie, despite the fact that she was born and lived in Hobert, Indiana, until adulthood, at which time (following a year or so at Purdue University) she moved to Chicago, where she spent the remainder of her life.

Instead, on the hand-written recipe card, she titled it My Mother’s Cream Pie. I mentioned it one time to Bill as I came across it in my messy pile of recipe cards. He immediately (and happily) said, “Sugar pie!”

This particular pie apparently has a number of names, and Sugar Pie is one of them. It’s also referred to as Hoosier Pie, Sugar Cream Pie, Finger Pie, and Quebec Sugar Cream Pie. While the names are different, the recipe is always basically the same: a cup of sugar, a tablespoon or so of flour and a cup of heavy whipping cream. Mix, put it into an unbaked pastry shell, and bake until it’s bubbling like a pecan pie.

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to make Wilma’s Mother’s Cream Pie. Except I changed it up. Now, I will tell you that my brother Dave has strict guidelines about changing a family recipe. For example, if I’m making Mom’s chili and I decide to add cumin to the soup (something Mom’s chili never contained), he maintains that I can no longer refer to it as Mom’s chili.

So I made certain to explain to Bill that while I was making Sugar Pie, I was going to use brown sugar instead of the white sugar called for in Wilma’s Mother’s Cream Pie recipe. Bill allowed as that was fine, not being as strict as my brother.

By the way, the reason it is sometimes referred to as Finger Pie is because traditionally, the Hoosier bakers would line the pie pan with the pastry, and then put in a cup of sugar and a little bit of flour, and mix it with their fingers. They would then add the cream, and oh-so-carefully mix that together with their fingers so as to not add any air to the whipping cream and to prevent damaging the pie crust.

In a million years, I couldn’t envision my always-proper mother-in-law mixing pie ingredients with her fingers. I did, however. And I used brown sugar, because that’s what sounded good……

As I served up the pie, I asked Bill if his mother served it with whipped cream. This man who at this stage in his life would prefer living on sweets instead of bothering with meat and (God forbid) vegetables, looked at me like I was crazy and said, “No to whipped cream. Isn’t it made from sugar and cream?”

Well, yes it is. But given Bill’s family of origin’s penchant for sweets, it wouldn’t have shocked me.

Here is Wilma’s original recipe. Mine was identical except I used brown sugar, and used my fingers to mix the ingredients while in the pie shell….

Wilma’s Mother’s Cream Pie

Ingredients
1 c. sugar
4 T. flour
1 c. cream
1 T. butter

Process
Mix sugar and flour together; stir in cream. Pour into unbaked pie shell and dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes until you can insert a knife and it comes out clean.

Thursday Thoughts

Tomato, Tomahto
In mid-May, I planted two tomato plants — a Roma tomato and a grape tomato. I used a new system that had been recommended by a friend — the Earthbox Garden Kit. This is what it looked like in May…..

This is what it looks like now…..

The tomatoes grew like crazy, and I have never had plants produce so much fruit. I can scarcely keep up with harvesting, much less eating. We eat lots of lettuce salads with tomatoes. I slice up one of the Roma tomatoes every day for Bill’s sandwich. I love my caprese salad with grape tomatoes and basil, also from my garden. Last night this is what we had for dinner…..

…..using this recipe.

Helping Hands
Bec used to tell me that caring for her garden vegetables wasn’t an issue for her; instead, she had trouble keeping up with the harvesting. That’s because she didn’t have a helper like this one…..

Cole has gotten very good at remembering that he can only pick the tomatoes that are red! Or at least pink.

Country Store
Our church is having its annual Parish Festival in a couple of weeks. For the first time ever, the festival will include a brat and beer garden. Perhaps it has something to do with our new young pastor. Just sayin…. At any rate, it also — for the first time ever — will include a country store with the proceeds benefiting some appropriate organization. They have been pleading with parishioners to provide some sort of homemade item(s). I have been been crocheting like crazy, and have managed to complete an afghan, several sets of three each dishcloths, two children’s stocking caps (which I, personally, think are simply adorable), a baby sleep sack, and a pretty pillow. I simply love having a purpose for my crocheted items…..

Hmmmm. Maybe I should contribute a couple of jars of Dee’s Bees honey.

Ciao!

 

 

 

Summer in the Sausage

My mom made dinner almost every night of the week when I grew up. On occasion, there would be a few things to munch on before Mom served our meal. Nothing fancy, mind you. Often she would open up a couple of cans of Vienna sausages…..

…..slice them in half, and we would grab them and eat them as fast as we could. Nothing fancy in which to dunk the sausages; just plain ol’ Vienna sausages. The first time I opened up a can of Vienna sausages and laid them in front of Bill, I believe he thought I’d lost my mind.

But perhaps more often than that, Mom would lay out summer sausage and a hunk of cheddar cheese. Actually, in the Gloor household, summer sausage might be an appetizer; it might be a picnic lunch; it might be a snack in the afternoon. We fought over the end pieces, for reasons I now can’t even begin to remember. What I know, however, is that to this day, if there is summer sausage available, I can’t keep my hands off of it.

I had never thought about making summer sausage or even how it was made; it was just one of those things you buy in your neighborhood grocery store’s deli. Still, our neighbor here mentioned that he made his own summer sausage, and shared his recipe with me. One of my challenges for 2018 was to prepare food I have never made before. With this in mind, I gave it a try this weekend…..

I had everything on hand except the home meat cure. I checked the grocery stores, but like the Elmer’s glue I sought last week, I couldn’t find it at Fry’s. I’m pretty sure, however, that it isn’t an ingredient in slime. Anyway where do you go if you want an unusual ingredient and you want it fast? Amazon, of course.  Dear Amazon: one bag of Morton’s Quick Tender Home Meat Cure, some Elmer’s glue for slime, and a kangaroo to give to Bill for his birthday please. Two days later – ding dong.

My neighbor stressed the importance of getting the fattiest ground beef, so I started with two pounds of 80% lean hamburger meat. To that, I added liquid smoke, mustard seeds, finely minced garlic,  coarse-ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes. I shaped the mixture into two tightly formed logs…..

The meat logs were wrapped in aluminum foil, shiny side against the meat. I placed the aluminum-wrapped meat into the refrigerator for 24 hours.

The next day, I punched holes into the bottom of the foil with toothpicks and placed them on a broiler pan into which about a half-inch of water was added to the bottom…..

The meat was baked at 325 degrees for an hour-and-a-half, and then removed to cool on the counter for a bit before it is once again placed into the refrigerator for another 12 hours.

After 12 hours, I unwrapped the meat, and there’s what I found….

Friends, it is good. It is, in fact, delicious. Even made from scratch, I can’t proclaim summer sausage to be health food. I haven’t had the guts to look at the ingredients in the curing mixture, but I’m pretty sure salt is the number one ingredient. Remember, that’s how Laura Ingall’s mom preserved her meat over the long Missouri winters. I don’t remember ever hearing Laura say, “Ma, I’m a bit concerned about our blood pressure. Could you cut back a bit on the salt?”

But the flavor is delicious and I haven’t even tried it with cheddar cheese and a piece of melba toast. Yum. Here is the recipe I used for my sausage…..

Homemade Summer Sausage

Ingredients
2 lbs. 80% lean ground beef
2 T. mustard seed
1 T. finely-minced fresh garlic
2 T. liquid smoke flavoring
2 T. meat curing mixture (I used Morton Tender Quick)
1 t. coarse black pepper
1 T. red pepper flakes

Process
In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients using your clean hands just until thoroughly combined. Form into two equal logs, and wrap each log in aluminum foil with the shiny side facing the meat. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Poke holes in the bottom of the logs using toothpicks. Place the logs on a broiler rack into which you have added about ½ in of water.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 90 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly on the counter. Place the sausages into the refrigerator to chill for 12 hours.

Enjoy!

 

The Perfect Day

It’s January – that time when 87.882 percent of the U.S. population begins to think about losing weight. Of course, nowadays nobody says they want to “lose weight.” Instead, they say they want to “get healthy.” Which is code for I want to lose 15 lbs. so that I don’t pop the final button on my jeans and no one thinks they are looking at the Titanic when they see me from behind. You know. Healthy.

Since January 1, my email inbox has been filling up with message after message about exercise and healthy eating. I got really excited recently when I got an email from Silver Sneakers, which is a free fitness program for seniors with which I am truly impressed. They actually send useful information for people my age. The email was entitled A Perfect Day of Eating.

AWESOME, I thought. Breakfast: A Cinnabon cinnamon roll and a cup of coffee, followed by a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal; Lunch: A hot dog all the way, French fries, and a Diet Coke; Dinner: A grilled bone-in ribeye steak, Brussel sprouts with bacon, a baked potato topped with a generous helping of butter and some more bacon, a dry Tanqueray martini, up with two bleu cheese-stuffed olives, and a dish of toffee fudge ice cream for dessert.

A perfect day of eating.

Alas, that wasn’t their idea of a perfect day of eating. Their recommendation — Breakfast: a piece of fresh fruit, a handful of raw almonds, and some oatmeal; Lunch: steamed vegetables with olive oil MISTED on top, a bowl of vegetable or bean soup, and fresh fruit; Dinner: a raw salad (obviously dreamed up prior to Romaine lettuce being DANGER DANGER DANGER), more vegetables on top of brown rice, 1-2 oz. of animal protein (Seriously? 1-2 oz.? Who are they kidding?), and yes, you guessed it, fruit for dessert.

How is that a perfect day of eating? Sigh.

The other day I was making our bed. Bed making, my friends, is not a strenuous task. Suddenly a spasm in my back sent me reeling to my knees. I was able to relax, and with some ice applied to the area of the spasm and a couple of ibuprofen, I managed to avert a spend-the-day-on-the-couch crisis. Still, I gave myself a stern lecture. In fact, I heard both of my sisters’ voices in my ear saying, Kris, you must exercise to strengthen your core.

Turns out I listen to myself better than I listen to my sisters. Go figure. I have, indeed, begun doing core exercises, as well as walking. It seems those Nordic walking sticks that I bought this past fall are good for more than retrieving items that roll under the couch……

Though I poke fun at the term get healthy, the fact is I really have no desire to return to the weight I was on my wedding day. That ship (not the same one for which people mistake my rear end) sailed quite some time ago. I do, however, want to be able to make a bed without having to call paramedics.

I won’t, however, call steamed vegetables with a MIST of olive oil a perfect lunch. Nope. Not gonna happen.

I did make a relatively healthy dinner last night, however. Healthy if you call a meal made with five eggs, cream, bacon and cheese healthy, and I do. It’s got spinach, people. I got Bill to agree to eat quiche by bribing him with Dairy Queen for dessert….

 

Bacon and Spinach Quiche

Ingredients:
1 (9 inch) pie crust
5 eggs, beaten
1 c. heavy cream
1 -1/2 c. spinach, chopped
6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk eggs until well blended. Add cream, onion powder, salt, and pepper. In the bottom of your pie crust layer chopped spinach, bacon, and shredded cheese. Pour egg and cream mixture into the pie crust. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until egg mixture is firm and the top is golden. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Nana’s Notes: I used a frozen pie crust. You can use any kind of cheese you prefer. I just happened to have cheddar cheese in my refrigerator. Bribe your spouse with Dairy Queen.

It Only Sounds Like a Dirty Word

The week following Thanksgiving, I was having lunch with a friend at our favorite Chinese restaurant. As we poked our chopsticks into the sesame chicken, I asked her if she had a good Thanksgiving. She said her Thanksgiving had been nice, not the least because she had a total of two – count ‘em – two complete Thanksgiving dinners. The first dinner was good, she admitted, but the second, ahhhh, the second.

She spatchcocked the turkey, my friend told me with reverence.

It’s an understatement to say that I was impressed. I was certainly impressed that the woman had spatchcocked a turkey. But I was mostly impressed that I knew what the word spatchcocked meant.

I frankly don’t know exactly how I knew what it meant. Perhaps it’s having watched Food Network since its very beginning when Emeril Lagasse was getting applause from his studio audience every time he added more garlic or wine to whatever dish he was making (and perhaps spatchcocking). What I do know for certain is that I didn’t learn the term from my mother, who never spatchcocked a thing in her life. She may or may not have butterflied a chicken, but I believe she died without having ever heard the word spatchcock.

Not to wander too far from the point of this blog post (on the off-chance there is, in fact, a point), I looked up the word to see if I could learn its etymology. Here is what Wikipedia says about the word’s origin:

The word comes from “dispatch cock”, that is, a fowl that is dispatched quickly, and is first attested in 1785.

So there.

But as I read on in the article, Wikipedia suggested I also see blood eagle. Foolishly, I clicked on the link (as I often do on Wikipedia which then takes me off into a link-clicking route that may end up explaining the history of crochet stitches). It seems blood eagle is a type of human execution in which the victim lies prone on a table, his/her ribs are severed from the spine with a sharp tool, and the lungs are pulled through the opening to create a pair of “wings.” I’m telling you, those ancient Brits knew how to torture.

But back to spatchcocking, which is simply another word for butterflying. In other words, you use your kitchen shears or poultry shears and cut out the backbone of some kind of poultry, thereby allowing the bird to lie flat and roast or grill more quickly. The result is a crispier skin.

And, my friends, with chicken, it’s all about the skin.

My mother used to make Cornish game hens. She did not spatchcock them. Instead, she stuffed them with wild rice, slathered them with butter, sprinkled on salt and pepper, and roasted them in the oven. They were heavenly.

One day a year or so ago, I invited Addie, Alastair, Dagny, and Maggie Faith to dinner. I was serving Cornish game hens.  They were thrilled at the prospect. As excited as they were for dinner, they were equally disappointed when instead of little tiny hens lying on their plate, there were spatchcocked hens. Cut in half, no less. They would have been more impressed with KFC.

Ever since that lunch in which I was reminded about spatchcocking, I have been itching to get my hands on something to spatchcock. So last night, I made Cornish game hens, and as you can see, I got my chance…..

 

 

I mixed up about a half stick of butter with a couple of cloves of minced garlic, 1 t. chopped fresh rosemary, and 1 t. dried thyme (which came from my summer garden). I didn’t have any lemons, but lemon zest would have been good too. I salted and peppered the hens on both sides. I then put some of the butter under the skin, and (like my mother) slathered the remaining butter all over. I roasted them at 375 degrees for about an hour. I let them sit for about 10 minutes to rest……

Yum.

For kicks, you could drink a shot of Fireball Whiskey every time you read the word spatchcock in this blog post.

What Comes First, the Chicken or the Soup?

If my mother would have ever plopped down a bowl of soup in front of my dad for dinner, well, she just wouldn’t have done it. Pork chops, yes; fried chicken, definitely. Cream of broccoli soup? Rethink it, Marg. Rethink it.

I, on the other hand, occasionally plunk down a bowl of soup in front of Bill for dinner, and he doesn’t complain. I’m sure he doesn’t think to himself Wow, in all of my hopes and dreams, I didn’t allow myself to imagine that we would have cream of broccoli soup tonight for dinner. But he doesn’t complain. He simply eats his mandatory one bowl, and then looks longingly at the freezer, hoping there is ice cream. There almost always is, by the way.

I, on the other hand, love soup. I love it for lunch or dinner. I especially love soup if it includes noodles or potatoes. Best yet, both. If my options for a starter at a restaurant are either soup or salad, and if the soup is homemade, I will almost always choose soup. My favorite lunch among all lunch choices is pho – Vietnamese noodle soup. Someday I’m going to get up my nerve and try preparing pho. Someday.

But back to Bill for a minute. There is a restaurant in our Denver neighborhood that is a Jewish deli. In fact, it’s cleverly called New York Deli News. Though their menu is chock full of good, homemade and hearty options such as beef brisket and stuffed cabbage (and a corned beef and tongue sandwich if you are so inclined), we rarely go there except on Fridays. On Fridays they serve a delicious and affordable prime rib, along with boiled potatoes and steamed mixed fresh vegetables. It really is very good. I want it right now.

Their starter options are — predictably — salad or soup, and their soups are homemade. On their busy Fridays, they offer mushroom beef barley and chicken noodle. I always get the beef barley and Bill gets the chicken noodle. And he always raves, nearly weeps with joy, over the chicken noodle soup. He has gone so far as to proclaim it the best he’s ever eaten, and I’m pretty sure he has said these words: IT’S TO DIE FOR.

Well. As a person who prides herself on her soup-making skills, and who is pretty darn sure has never heard IT’S TO DIE FOR as it relates to any of the meals I have prepared for him, I bristled the first time. Really, I said to him, settle down; it’s only chicken noodle soup. Lots of people make chicken noodle soup. I, for example, make chicken noodle soup.

And so I recently decided I would prove to him that I could make chicken noodle soup that is as good as that served at New York Deli News. I immediately chose to use a recipe I’ve had for a long time from Paula Deen.

Why did I choose Paula Deen? Two reasons, really. The first reason is that she is (to put it bluntly if quite inconsiderately) plump. Fat, really. Or at least, she used to be. I can’t say for sure anymore because she was sent packing after she admitted that she had once used the N word. Which brings me to my second reason. I relate to Paula Deen because there have been a number of occasions in which I’ve said something that I wish I could take back almost immediately. I’m pretty sure she wishes she had kept her past mistake to herself. And as for her being overweight being a reason to use her recipe, I go with the philosophy that you should never trust a skinny cook. I’m looking at you, Giada.

Anyway, I made my soup, and I thought it tasted delicious. Bill ate his mandatory bowl, sheepishly asking for some salt, and looked longingly at the freezer. But I’m pretty sure he will show a bit more restraint when praising the chicken noodle soup at New York Deli News.

Look for yourself…..

And here’s my recipe for chicken noodle soup. While I used Paula Deen’s recipe as my guide, I made quite a few changes. She adds cream, which is perhaps why she’s plump. I find cream unnecessary. Deceased Jewish grandmothers world-wide rolled over in their graves at the thought of cream in their chicken noodle soup…..

Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients
2-3 bay leaves
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-3 lb. whole chicken, cut up
1-1/2 t. Italian seasoning
3-1/2 quarts water
2 c. carrots, chopped
2 c. celery, chopped
1 c. sliced mushrooms
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
2-3 c. uncooked egg noodles
2 T. dry marsala wine or sherry
Salt and pepper, to taste

Process
To make the chicken stock: Add bay leaves, bouillon, onion, garlic, chicken pieces, Italian seasoning, water, and salt and pepper to a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Cook for about an hour, until the chicken is tender. Remove chicken and bay leaves. You should have about 3 quarts of stock. Allow chicken to cool, and then remove the meat from the chicken, tossing away the bones and the skin, and set aside.

To make the soup: Bring the stock back to a boil. Add carrots and celery to the stock. When they are soft (15 to 20 minutes), add the noodles and cook according to package directions. When noodles are done, add the chicken back to the stock, along with the mushrooms and the parsley. Drizzle in the marsala or sherry. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms are soft. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

This post linked to Grammy’s Grid.