31 December 2016

ANNUS HORRIBILIS AND WHAT OF NEXT YEAR?


Just in time for New Year's Eve and Global Champagne Day, we've rounded up the 10 best Champagne quotes in history. Cheers!

Olivia de Havilland, British-American actress

"I would prefer to live forever in perfect health, but if I must at some time leave this life I would like to do so ensconced on a chaise longue, perfumed, wearing a velvet robe and pearl earrings, with a flute of Champagne beside me and having just discovered the answer to the last problem in a British cryptic crossword."

 I found the above quote on The Salonierre's blog -- so thanks for that, Doll!
I think this woman was a previous me.
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This year has been one for the books, all right.  I think we can all agree on that much, at least.  There has certainly been ample reason to hang the Latin phrase "annus horribilis" on 2016 as we close the book on this year.  Made popular by Queen Elizabeth one year in her annual address to Parliament when her kids just weren't acting right, the phrase has become part of the lexicon.  




Welcome to plutocracy.

On the national front here on our side of the Pond was the bitter presidential election which was anything but presidential, with it's hideous outcome that in the future may make us look back and think maybe this year was actually wonderful, many of us uneasily wait with a sense of impending doom, wondering whether the newly "elected" orangutan will become a modern day Führer.   The collection of Neo-Nazis who are being appointed to powerful positions certainly makes me shudder.  Social progress will be set back at least a hundred years, and women will again be put back in their rightful place as sex objects put on earth only to serve and please their men, cranking out babies, wanted or not.  Texas with it's stance on Planned Parenthood is leading the way on that one.  Whole groups of people, including many U.S. Citizens  -- not just immigrants -- are once again living in fear for their personal freedom and safety.  The earth's climate will be pushed past the tipping point by those denier friends of YOUKNOWWHO whose first goal is to drill, baby, drill and produce more oil in turn lining the already-bulging coffers of the Billionaire's Club.   The very idea of this bunch with the nuclear codes at their fingertips is enough to cause the Pope to have a nervous breakdown.




Many, many well-known and influential people died this year, including a famous mother and daughter just this week, one day apart.  We will no doubt see retrospective upon recap, listing all the famous departed in the media as we do every year at this time, but it does seem that more have left the earth this year than usual.  On a personal level, I have lost several friends in the past year.  I have felt these losses deeply, perhaps more so because of the current atmosphere of fear and pessimism for what might be coming.  Not being particularly mystical, I can't help but wonder if there is some grand scheme or plan in the universe taking place that I do not understand.  

On the personal homefront level, Sweet Husband experienced a marathon of misery this year with a dental issue which was not easily resolved.    Several trips we had planned were canceled as a result, and his on-going pain definitely affected quality of life for a long time.  I have been pretty lucky, considering that my health issues have been very minor this year.  Fingers crossed in the coming year.  




Yesterday we made the hour's drive over to my old hometown, taking the small back roads instead of the Interstate when we could, to visit the cemetery and place new florals in the marble urns on either side of the headstone bearing my family name.   It is getting rundown, becoming buried in layers of pine cones and pine straw which have fallen and fallen again from the numerous tall pines which shade the graves of the resting ones.  (There is supposed to be "Perpetual Care" --  I don't know what has happened to that...)  It is always poignant because I look around at the names on the neighboring headstones, and it always strikes me that those nearby were my family's close neighbors in life, just as they are now in death.  I remember their houses well, just about as well as I remember my own childhood home, and I have to try really hard to remember my town as it once was when it was so very pretty that strangers always remarked on it's beauty and charm.  

That charm is no more.  Depressing and run-down, once pristine neighborhoods have now become ghettos.  Just across the street and in the neighborhoods surrounding the cemetery, are houses where some of my best childhood friends lived.  It is not at all pretty.  My parents' old home less than a mile away is now an area that a lot of people are even afraid to drive through.  The cemetery itself is up on a hill, mountains on the horizon, still a beautiful spot for a final resting place when you don't look at the surrounding areas too closely.   I feel uneasy there on that hillside now, not peaceful in my heart any more when I visit, because this part of town is not the neighborhood I once knew.  

Yesterday was particularly cold and windy.  The state of the place plus the chill late December wind gusts put me in a very black mood for the rest of the day.  When we reached the restaurant back over the mountain in Oxford where we had decided to have lunch before heading back to Birmingham, I discovered I had lost a favorite earring, no doubt while trying to keep my wind-tossed hair brushed back out of my eyes with one hand while trying to jam the flowers down into the stubborn gravels filling the urns with the other.  Sweet Husband asked me if I wanted to go back to the cemetery and look for it, and I said, "No, let it go.  I am not going back there for at least another year.  In fact, I may never go back at all.  It is just too depressing."  I had never felt this sentiment so acutely till this visit.

We read and write obsessively on these blogs all about "Home" and everything connected with it.  Yet, the focus is usually on the decor and furnishings or how we did some particular project, not the actual concept of "Home" and our feelings about it.  What I feel today as I write is not only such despair at what has happened to my once-pretty hometown, but the concept of our country as our home = safe place.  Until 9-11we thought we were invincible to foreign attack on our homeland.   We are not.

Although my town was certainly not without it's issues when I was growing up, it still used to feel like home = safe place when I would visit short-term.   I was always very glad to leave it again because there were larger issues of fitting in and belonging and holding ideas too liberal for the scope of life in such a small Southern conservative town.  I always felt I was never cut out to live out my life there, even as a small child.  Still, it was a special place, a sacred compartment of my life, a touchstone that shaped who I became, for better or worse.  Yesterday I was feeling very keenly that Thomas Wolfe phrase, "You can't go home again."  That home that I once knew, where I felt so safe as a young child, is long gone, both as a state of mind, as well as the physical house where I lived with my family, who are also long gone.  The two houses where we lived are still there, just not inhabited by anyone I know.  

I have made a new home with my Sweet Husband for twenty-six years now, where I am fortunate to feel secure and protected once again.  For so many years I faced the world alone as a single mother trying to protect my child from all the big screaming meanies out there, so it was doubly sweet for me to "find home" again while my son as a young adult was finding his own way out in the great big world.  So many people do not have that most basic, most treasured place --  HOME -- feeling safe and secure with a person or people they love, no matter what the status of their abode.   If this election has taught us anything, it is that we are vulnerable, that maybe we are not so safe in our home country anymore.  Our entire process of electing a new president was hacked by the Russians, as was the water supply of Burlington, Vermont.  What next?

The horrors happening in Aleppo, as well as other cities under siege around the world, serve as contrast to make us feel truly grateful for our country and very protective of it, this United States of America, no matter where in it or how we live.  The very thought that this country -- our larger and collective HOME -- is being threatened with similar anarchy to undermine our safe home is what is killing me now.  




Just so that you know, I do not plan to be quiet in the coming years, or keep my thoughts and feelings under wraps any more just to be polite and politically correct, hoping you will still like me.  If you don't, well then, that's your problem.  It is more than possible to be friends with people who do not mirror your every thought!  In fact, that is what makes for an interesting exchange of ideas.  I have already signed petitions to abolish the antiquated Electoral College with their gerrymandering practices, which are so unfair in a Democracy.  

I have contributed to organizations which help refugees from some of the aforementioned places under siege from hideous extremist groups.  I will continue to voice my opinions here and on every other outlet I can find, at least as long as this is a free country.  My heart is heavy with the prospect that it may not always be possible.  I think MY WORDS FOR THE COMING YEAR will be "Vigilance" and "Diligence."  I have never before picked a word or words for the New Year as many do, but this year I think I have.  I may be just one little person with a big mouth and one little blog, but I do believe that "The pen is mightier than the sword."  ["The English words "The pen is mightier than the sword" were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu."]

Words do matter.  It's still true today, figuratively speaking, although 'the pen' is now an electronic device.  I hope that if you share the feelings I have expressed here, or even if you differ somewhat, but you are still very concerned about what may happen in our country in the next few years, that you will use the power of your words, too, to try to make positive changes so that our country can continue to be a better place to live for everyone.  It also helps to use your pocketbook a little bit, too.  



I will be revamping this blog again pretty soon, and I hope you will be able to navigate through it easier.  Many of the functions, such as being able to find previous posts on any given subject, do not seem to be working exactly as I planned or wanted, so I hope to improve that to make it easier to find what you are looking for.   


HAPPY NEW YEAR!


My new profile photo --
love it or hate it?

I will be back presently sharing food, decor and tables, etc. and whatever else is on my mind that day, so if you haven't imploded at this point -- see you soon!





27 December 2016

HEADS UP -- WEIRD HAPPENINGS ON THIS BLOG!




My simple Christmas dinner table setting



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Just a quick heads up about this blog:  if you have not received an acknowledgement on a comment, and I don't have your email address (which is how I usually reply), it is because I have been locked out of my blog!

I seem to in it right now, obviously, because I am writing this post, but I recently changed the password, and the next time I come back, it won't let me in again!  Really, this is getting too annoying for words!  I have changed it about four times this morning.



When this blog got a little face-lift earlier this year, some new custom features were added, including a drop-down menu which quit working!  There were supposed to be posts under those drop downs with posts containing the particular labels that belonged there.  Last week, I noticed that the categories only contained a link back to the person who did the work for me!  I knew something wasn't right, so I just deleted it.  

Also, I have been unable to answer you in the comments on the blog under "Reply" which is where I do it if you are a "no-reply blogger" or do not have a blog.  



If this inability to login to my own Google account continues to cause me serious aggravation, I am just not going to fool with it anymore.  A lot of time and work goes into every blog post, as anyone who has been a blogger for a long time knows,  and there is a LOT of content here on this site.  I have heard the horror stories about bloggers being hacked and hi-jacked, locked out of their own blogs, etc., and I have certainly had some issues over the years.  Heretofore, I have been able to work them out, but I just spent nearly an hour of my life this morning trying to get back into this site, and it is just not worth it.  



So we'll see how it goes over the next week or so, and if the turbulence levels out, we'll continue this flight!  If not, we may have to bring this whole blog thing in for a crash landing.  



Hoping you have had a good Christmas and holiday season, and I hope to see you soon.





24 December 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Loud thud in the middle of the night  --  NOT Santa!!!

One night very recently, we had tucked ourselves into bed around midnight, all snug as little bugs in a rug, when there was a big thud!  I murmured, "What was that noise?  Did you hear that?"  He mumbled. "HMMmmmm...."  Eyes wide open in the dark, I wondered for a while if we were about to be killed in a home invasion...

OK, that didn't happen, mercifully. 

Next morning, I was having a cup of coffee, when   Sweet Husband strolls in and casually mentioned,  "Did you see what happened in the garage?"

"Well, no, I didn't.  Not yet."  I could barely see at all at that hour, probably 10:30 a.m.  (I am more of a night person.)  He said, "I have been out there all morning cleaning up the mess.  One of the shelves over the garage windows crashed."  Crap.  One of my best planters got smashed.  He had already repotted everything, cleaned up the mess, and then drilled holes in the walls and hammered in new anchors, shoring up the brackets.  The shelves may be more secure now.  Let's hope.   He also went out and bought window box type planters, only they are inside on the shelves for the plants brought in from outside for the winter.  See what I miss by sleeping in?

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Pantone color of the year -- GREENERY -- look familiar?  My LR color is very close.   Fresh Sprout, it is called.  I guess I was ahead of the curve.  For a change...



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I inadvertently made some sugarless banana bread -- so this is about salvaging a brain fart.  I got interrupted that morning about a thousand times trying to make some more banana bread.   The result without sugar was not godawful, but it was much better with (a) Nutella  (b) honey or (c) maple syrup.  And toasted on the griddle with butter.  I was not about to toss all those nut$ -- what are they, anyway -- gold-plated this year?

At any rate, I have baked and baked and baked.  The next batch of banana bread was perfect, as was the pumpkin bread, and the lemon nut bread.  I have made sausage balls, chocolate mint cookies, and today, Christmas Eve, I am mixing up cheese straws.  Better late than never.   I also made Kitty's version of Crockpot Fudge (again) which she says she adapted from Trisha Yearwood.  It is absolutely fantastic!  She uses peanuts, I use salted roasted pecans.  She uses dried cranberries, I used dried cherries (this time) because that is what I had.  I will continue to bake after Christmas, because later next week, a big box of these goodies will be going to China, hopefully not on a slow boat!  It should arrive by the time my little globe-trotter gets back from New Zealand.  


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Did you like Brendan's blog post?  He is an interesting child, isn't he?  I always knew he was so much more than any of my friend's children.  (Sorry, ya'll!  I am a bit biased!)  He just asked deeper questions, made me laugh in the way a grownup would, and kept me on my toes in general.  It was impossible to lie to him:  once I left him with a friend one evening when I said I was going out for "just a little while."  He retorted, "Hush yo' lying mouth!"  I think he was seven.   


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Locally, a beautiful young mother of two was brutally murdered in her home  -- how safe are any of us, really?  Some guy killed this young woman in an upscale gated community here very close to me.  The Sheriff knows who did it, the perp is in custody, and it seems that it may have been a case of unrequited love.   Very tragic all around.   



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Christmas on the back porch!

Note to self:  I think that wheat needs to go.


After being cold and rainy for a week, it is now warm and sunny again, so I did a little last-minute decking out here, too.
If this is the situation tomorrow, we will eat Christmas dinner out here again just as we did last year.
But I will probably fancy up the table a bit more...





English Breakfast tea and a last ditch Christmas tree!

When it suddenly got so warm again, I thought it really was a pity I hadn't done much out here, especially since we could be having our dinner out here tomorrow.   I had only plopped a few things on the table where we have had breakfast for a few days.  So I raided the attic, and in about a half hour, it is all Christmas-ed up.
Sort of...

Huh.  I just realized that the souvenir pillow from China on the purple rocker to the left has a humorous bit I never noticed. Blow up the photo on your computer -- that thing in the middle is not a Big Mac -- it is the Forbidden City!


Christmas shopping and preparations are all done, much more low-key than I have done in a while.  I have had some fun finding something special for the cute little darlings next door, and keeping the whole thing more stress-free in general.  The couple came over for a little while last night with the children plus one of their granddaddys, and they all loved their gifts!  It was so much fun to have some little ones come to visit, even if only a short time.  The two year old held out his arms for me to pick him up -- he weighs a ton!  It's been too long since I cuddled a sweet little toddler...  His five year old sister gave me a big hug, too, without any prompting, and I guess, so far, this has been my favorite Christmas moment this year.  

Roses -- December 22nd was our 26th anniversary.



I think we are ready for Santa Claus!

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So -- wherever you are
Whatever holiday you celebrate
From our house to yours
Merry Christmas!






17 December 2016

FAVORITE HOLIDAY RECIPES



Santa Claus was in the 'hood yesterday!


I have been trying to get this recipe post together for quite a while!  Life does get in the way of blogging, sometimes, so I decided to go ahead and publish this post first in it's incomplete state, and then add in the rest of the recipes over the course of the next week as I am finding them.  Some of these are very old recipes which belonged to my mother, and those are in GENEVA if you have a copy.  However, some of them are mine, and they have evolved over the years, like the lasagne below.


Christmas Eve Lasagne


2 boxes of lasagne pasta which is enough to make one and freeze one unless you are making one humongous dish for a whole bunch of people.  You may cut this in half if you like, but it is such a production, I always make a lot.  Once a year is enough for me!


The sauce:  
Four boxes Pomi chopped tomatoes plus one big can of tomato paste
2 or 3 large onions, each cut up into eight pieces
at least one whole head of garlic, two if you love it, smashed and peeled
two or three bell peppers, cut into chunks
olive oil
fresh basil, oregano, fennel seed, red pepper
sea salt & coarse ground pepper (start with 1 tsp each & adjust)
1 tsp sugar
red wine
Pour olive oil into big heavy pot, and over low heat, sauté the onion, pepper and garlic slowly, adding garlic last, stirring from time to time.  Add the tomatoes & paste, plus a red wine if you like.  After a while, add some salt and pepper to taste.  Add a teaspoon or so of sugar to cut the acidity.  Taste and adjust.  Add the herbs.  You cannot rush this.  Make it a day ahead. 
Be prepared to let it simmer slowly most of the day.  You can store (or freeze) this sauce for other things.  If you like the flavor, you may add some finely chopped celery and grated carrots, too.  All the veggies should cook down into a nice thick sauce.


The cheese mixture:
large container of ricotta, big chunk fresh mozzarella, grated 
and parmigiano reggiano all in equal proportions
fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
jumbo eggs (about six for this amount)
1 teaspoon each sea salt and cracked pepper 
plus more fresh garlic, smashed & minced

Mix well in a bowl, cover tightly and set aside in the fridge.

The meat :
ground beef, Italian sausage, plus ground pork or veal if you like

Brown the meat very slowly.  Drain the fat.  If you like it meaty, use a lot, like two pounds of each.  If you are not so crazy about the meat, use about one pound each.  I usually use a pound and one-half each, a nice compromise, of the beef and Italian sausage.  I only use the pork or veal sometimes if I happen to have it.  

Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic and fennel seed.



You can add some mushrooms and/or spinach to the sauce or the meat if you like.  You can also make a besciamela sauce to top the whole thing off, just as you would for manicotti or canneloni.

To assemble:

Ladle out some sauce in the bottom of a greased or sprayed deep lasagne pan.  *Add a layer of noodles, a layer of cheese, a layer of sauce, then a layer of meat.  Repeat till you run out.  Cover with foil and bake slowly at 300 ℉.  This takes a while, like two or three hours, depending on your oven, or if you are using two pans.  A little while before you are ready to serve, cover with another layer of Parmigiano or the Besciamela sauce plus a sprinkle of Parmigiano and return to the oven uncovered till the white sauce bubbles and the cheese is lightly browned.   Use a heavy baking sheet to set the pan(s) on in case of bubbling over.

To make a Besciamela sauce, melt some butter in a pan over low heat, then add an equal amount of flour, whisking to blend.  Do not brown!  Add some chicken stock or white wine or both, whisking regularly.  This will thicken up.  Then add some creme or half and half, and keep stirring.  Add a bit of salt to taste.  Pour over the top of the lasagne and sprinkle with some Parmigiano.  

This sounds involved, but it isn’t really.  It DOES, however,  take some time.  Italian grandmas who make this every week for Sunday dinner should get a medal!


*I like to add a layer of fresh basil leaves right under the noodles -- but that is optional.  


I have tweaked this over the years (like about 45!) till I have reached this point with it.  These same components can be made as canneloni or manicotti with a little bit of adjustment.  You can also do baked ziti with some small modifications.  Once you get the flavors to your liking, the possibilities are endless.





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This one has a bit of sausage in it, too, but sometimes it doesn't.




GENEVA'S Chicken and Dressing


Stew a big fat hen.  
Chop up a big pile of onion and celery.  
Bake a big black skillet of white unsweetened cornbread.  
Put it together with some butter, sage to taste (not too much)
3 or 4 eggs

Obviously, this is a little incomplete for most of us!  However, there really was no exact recipe for this.  I rarely use a hen anymore, just a large pack of 4 or 5 big chicken breasts because I am not a fan of dark meat.  The process is still the same:  slowly simmer the chicken covered in water with some salt and pepper plus a carrot and a celery stalk and some onion.  (I  have been known to use dried onion for this stock.)  Use a big pot with a heavy lid.

When the chicken is falling off the bones, let it get cool enough to handle.  Throw away the skin and bones, and then strain the liquid, discarding everything in the strainer including the vegetables.  

You can de-fat the stock at this point if you like, but I use my judgement, depending on how much fat is there.  Some of the fat makes it taste better.

Melt a stick of butter.  Chop that big pile of onion and celery.  Beat up the eggs.  Cut the chicken in bite size pieces.  Crumble up the cornbread.  It is OK to add a little leftover loaf bread or biscuits, but this needs to be mostly cornbread.  

The only other seasoning besides salt and pepper (again) is sage.  She was not a fan of a lot of sage, and I like to use more than she did.  I don't think poultry seasoning is the way to go here, because it alters the taste from the way I remember it as a child -- and that is the taste I am going for!

Stir all these components up in a large bowl, adding liquid from the chicken as you go.  It should be a little "soupy", not just merely moist.  You just have to use your eyes for this.  If you don't get enough, it will be dry, and if you get too much, it will take a hundred years to bake.  If you didn't get enough, you can add a little broth as you go.  Do not discard your broth.  Save it in case you want to add a little more moisture, or to make gravy.  

Bake it at about 300 degrees or possibly 325, depending on your oven.  I like to do it low and slow.  This dish properly made cannot be rushed.

You can use any kind of baking dish you want.  Sometimes my mother used her big black skillets, but I think it works best in a rectangular Pyrex dish, which I spray first.  If you use the skillets, obviously you will have to transfer it to something else to store it, and I am too lazy.  I usually wind up with enough for two 9 x 13 dishes, and I under-bake them slightly because I wrap them in foil, then freezer paper and freeze them till needed.  I thaw them over night in the fridge, then put into a very low oven to reheat.  This is the reason you need some extra broth, although you can use some of your reserved stock from where you stewed the chicken.  It might need a small amount of extra moisture once it has been partially cooked and frozen.  But, then again, maybe not.

Prepare to be praised to the skies for making Chicken and Dressing the way "Grandma used to make."


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Green Chili Corn Casserole


FRESH CORN AND GREEN CHILI CASSEROLE

6 ears fresh yellow corn
1/2 cup melted butter 2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup yellow cornbread mix 1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 to 1 and 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 can chopped green chilis (NOT jalapenos)
Clean corn well. Cut the tips of
the kernels into a large bowl, and then scrape the cobs into
the bowl as well, releasing all the juice, etc. To this, add the
melted butter, beaten eggs, cornmeal, salt, sour cream and
cheese. Add chilis last. Pour into a deep casserole or souffle ́
dish which has been buttered. Bake at 350°Ffor 40 to 60
minutes till puffed and golden.
This puffs up and then falls like a souffle ́.
This can be served cold, and it
can also be baked in a flat baking dish and cut in squares for an appetizer.  
The original came from a 1969 cookbook called The Uncommon Cookbook, and this is the one I would save if the house was on fire.

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Squash Casserole

This one came from my late cousin Eleen.
This is about the only thing I MIGHT use canned soup in.
I have also done this not using canned soup
(which I stay away from like the plague),
but making a white sauce instead,
using chicken broth instead of milk,
which will bind the casserole in the same way.
Either way, it is a very good holiday casserole.


Apples and Cheese Casserole



I came up with this which is as close to the original as I could make it.
We had something like this years ago at a Restaurant called The Rocking Horse down in Foley, Alabama.



Sweet Potato Casserole



This recipe is only a guide for you for the amounts.
I HAVE NOT USED CANNED SWEET POTATOES since I was a beginner cook, and I don't use Karo syrup.
I use about four medium sweet potatoes, and either bake or boil them in skins, it really doesn't matter.  When cool, peel and mash.
The sweet potato is a very versatile vegetable.

The casserole pictured from this year has two chopped up apples mixed in.
My mother always used orange juice and orange peel in her sweet potatoes.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.  It can be spiced up or not.  I often just use butter and orange marmalade.  Also, maple syrup is an outstanding sweetener especially when paired with a chopped up chipotle and a couple of tablespoons of adobo sauce for a Southwestern taste.  My mother usually stuffed hers into hollowed out orange shells and put marshmallows on top, but I am far too lazy.  This pecan topping is very good, just as written, and that is what I usually do regardless of how I might have spiced it up.  I personally think marshmallows belong in the hot chocolate or roasting on a stick over a campfire. 
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TEA BREADS

Pumpkin Bread

This one is hands down the best pumpkin bread recipe I have found.
I edited a cookbook at the law firm where I used to work in Dallas,
and this one came from a co-worker.  I tend to annotate my cookbooks,
because as you know, I never leave anything exactly as I find it!

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Banana Bread

BANANA BREAD

1 stick butter 1 cup sugar
2 beaten eggs
4 mashed ripe bananas

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda

pinch salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter and sugar, and add eggs. Add bananas. Sift
dry ingredients and add to the banana mixture. Add nuts.
Bake at 300° F for about an hour. (Ovens vary) Use a cake
tester to make sure it is done in the middle. 
~~~~~~~~
Lemon Nut Bread



This recipe came from an old Victoria magazine or Christmas book.
At any rate, it is a delicious tea bread, one of the best.

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PIES AND PIE CRUST



PERFECT PIE CRUST


4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour, lightly spooned into cup
1 T sugar
2 teaspoons salt

1 and 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening (NOT refrigerated; do
not use oil, lard, margarine or butter)  [I use butter -- never had any problems]
1 T white or cider vinegar 1 large egg
Put first three ingredients into large bowl and mix with table
fork. Add shortening and mix with the fork till crumbly.
In small bowl, beat together 1/2 cup water, vinegar and egg.
Combine the two mixtures, stir- ring with fork until all ingredi-
ents are moistened.  


Divide dough into 5 portions and
with hands, and shape each into a flat round patty ready to be
rolled.
Wrap each piece in plastic and chill at least 1/2 hour.
When ready to roll pie crust,
lightly flour both sides; put on lightly floured board.
Cover rolling pin with stockinet and rub in a little flour. Keeping
pastry round, roll from center to 1/8” thickness and 2 larger than
inverted pie pan.
Fold in halves or or quarters;
transfer to pie pan, unfold and fit loosely in in pie pan. Press
with fingers to remove air pockets.

This recipe makes 5 single crusts or 20 tart shells. It can
Divide dough into 5 portions and
with hands, and shape each into a flat round patty ready to be
rolled.
Wrap each piece in plastic and chill at least 1/2 hour.
When ready to roll pie crust,
lightly flour both sides; put on lightly floured board.
Cover rolling pin with stockinet and rub in a little flour. Keeping
pastry round, roll from center to 1/8” thickness and 2 larger than
inverted pie pan.
Fold in halves or or quarters;
transfer to pie pan, unfold and fit loosely in in pie pan. Press
with fingers to remove air pockets.

(This recipe came from an old magazine clipping -- probably older than I am!)

PECAN PIE 

3 eggs
1 cup corn syrup 1 cup sugar
1 cup pecans
page256image19288
1 stick butter, melted
Pinch salt
Beat eggs until mixed; add sugar, corn syrup and add pecans. (I usually add a dollop of vanilla, although the recipe doesn't call for it.)  Bake at 350° F in un-baked pie shell. You will need a large (10") pyrex pie plate.   It takes about an hour.

This recipe is very, very old and came from one of my mother's neighbors, Mrs. Liston Boullemet.





[I noticed I had goofed here yesterday when I added this pie recipe, 
duplicating part of the crust recipe under the pie when I cut 
and pasted.  Oops!!  So I've corrected that.]  


Chocolate Pecan Pie

Use the same pecan pie recipe as above, but melt or soften up a cup of chocolate chips, and stir that into the pie filling right before you add the nuts.
Quite scrumptious.  Top with a blob of whipped cream jazzed up with some Jack Daniels, and you have a real hit with the men!  This version is one of my experiments that definitely worked.

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MARBLE TOP CHOCOLATE RUM PIE
This recipe was given to me when my son was a baby by a neighbor when I lived Augusta, Georgia.  I think she said it was her grandmother's.  All I know is it's great, and everyone always loves it.


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Pumpkin Praline Pie



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Geneva's Fresh Coconut Cake


COCONUT CAKE


Make all measurements level:
2 and 1/2 cups sifted cake flour

1 and 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup milk
Blend by hand or with mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Stir in:
4 and 1/2 baking powder

Then add: 1/2 cup milk
5 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into 2 deep 9-
inch pans which have been greased and floured. Bake in
moderate oven 360° F for 35 to 40 minutes. After layers have
cooled, frost.

(My mother used this same recipe for Caramel Cake and Birthday cakes.)

2 or 3 white cake layers - recipe of your choice (my mother used
the one from the Caramel Cake because it is large)


Seven Minute Frosting

1 fresh coconut
Puncture the coconut with an awl or icepick at the “eye”
Drain the juice into a measuring cup or bowl. You will probably
need to strain it. Set aside.
Take a hammer and crack the
coconut into pieces. Using a sharp paring knife, peel the
brown skin off. Wash the pieces and let dry on towel. Grate by
hand on fine side of box grater.
When everything is ready, make
the frosting (on a sunny day). 

To assemble:
Brush the cake layers with a brush to remove any crumbs,
using some of the coconut milk. Then do it again to each layer as
you assemble the cake to add a little extra moisture to the fin-
ished cake. On top of the first layer, spread frosting and sprin-
kle with coconut. 
Then repeat this till you have done all the layers. For the last of one of
course, also frost the sides. Press the finely grated coconut
all over the sides and sprinkle liberally on the top.
My mother would usually bake the layers the day before and
cover them with dishtowels; later on, she used plastic wrap,
then the dish towels. The addition of the coconut milk is im-
portant because layers made the day before are not quite the
same as just-made.
It is imperative that this cake be kept in a cool place, or even in the refrigerator. It is such a production that you do not want the frosting to collapse or the whole thing to go sour -- which coconut will do if kept at too-warm a temperature or held over too long. Most delicate
layers cakes are at their best for about two days, but they will
keep longer if covered and put in the fridge. Just remove it
from the fridge about the time you call everybody to the table.


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FRESH STRAWBERRY CAKE




This a most gorgeous and delicious cake anytime, but it is especially pretty at Christmas.
I cut the recipe from the Dallas Morning News many years ago.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




GREEN VEGGIES


(Yes, you need to eat some at Christmas, too!)

Fresh Green Beans with Ham or Bacon

Throw out that ghastly casserole recipe the soup people came up with in the 1950s!  Buy some fresh green beans and prepare them correctly by simmering them low and slow with "a piece of meat" (meaning fatback) as my mother would have said, or season the cooked beans with crispy bits of bacon or ham, plus garlic or onion or olive oil or a little bacon grease.  Wait, did I just say that?  Yes, I did!  One to two tablespoons in a pot of fresh green beans makes a world of difference.  Then salt and pepper to taste when done.  A few years ago, the Australian blogger Sarah at "A Beach Cottage" published her version we also really like.  You can find it on her blog, but the gist of it is to season fresh cooked green beans with bacon, fresh garlic and lemon.  You will love it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts


You have probably seen some version of this everywhere, lately.  Briefly, split fresh brussel sprouts in half, then sauté or roast them with some diced bacon and garlic if you like.  (I usually sauté --  much less trouble.)  Finish them off with a little balsamic drizzle, and prepare yourself -- you will love them.   This preparation of a cruciferous vegetable is a far cry from grandma's old version of just boiling them.  No wonder kids always hated them!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Homemade Cranberry Orange Jelly

Two bags fresh cranberries
One whole navel orange, chopped up in the food processor
1 cup sugar
Place these three things in a heavy pot with a tight lid.  Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally till thick, probably a half hour.  Smash the berries with a wooden spoon as they cook.  Pour into sterile jars and seal with sterile lids.  Store in refrigerator.  It will keep at least a year this way, and you will get at least three to four pint jars.  

I usually double this amount, as it makes a great accompaniment to pork, as well as chicken all year long as well as on a holiday table.  I have also used it with goat cheese on crackers as a tasty little  tidbit with cocktails.  Popped into small cute little jars, it is a nice addition to a gift bag of goodies for your friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Cheese Straws



The "Fun Gun" referred to is similar to a cookie press.  An old friend gave me one that she found at an estate sale back when I lived in Dallas.  If you have nothing better to do with your life, you can reload the thing fifty times and pipe out cute little cheese straws (or cookies).  However, you know I am lazy, and I prefer rolling the dough into logs.  Wrapped in wax paper or even frozen for a while, it can be sliced and baked as needed.  It is the best tasting recipe for cheese straws I have ever found.  Some people like it really hot, so you can add cayenne pepper to make it as hot as you like.  
Baked as wafers -- much easier!



OOPS!  I just realized you can't read the left side of this.  That's two sticks of butter, 4 cups of shredded cheese, 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp salt, cayenne to taste.

This version is very, very good, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Sausage Balls


I tried cranberries once, but I prefer using the dates as specified.  Also, the Bisquick works better as written, too.
We have tried a dipping sauce of a melted jelly, hot pepper flavored, and it was really tasty that way, too.
This came from an old Southern Living Christmas book.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


COOKIES

STARLIGHT MINT SURPRISES 
3 cups plain flour 
1 teaspoon soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 cup butter 
1 cup sugar 
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
2 eggs 
2 T water
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 package solid chocolate mint candy wafers (9 ounces) *
4 and 1/2 dozen walnut halves (54) 
Sift dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla and water. Add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. 
Cover and refrigerate at least two hours. 
Enclose a chocolate wafer in about 1 T of chilled dough. 
Place on parchment-lined or greased cookie sheet and top each with a walnut half. 
Bake at 375° F for 10 to 12 minutes.74 

*You cannot use chocolate covered white gooey center mints!  What you need is the solid wafer of mint chocolate meant for baking.  They can be hard to find, but perservere -- the cookie is worth it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



This is a very old recipe from my old friend, the late Carolyn Shippey Gilden.  She only used raisins and nuts.  I have added numerous other things with great results.
She gave this to me when we lived in Salisbury, NC in the early 1970s.



LAZYBALLS (Ben South's Famously Easy Bourbon Balls)
"Lazyballs are a family tradition. They are the laziest, tastiest bourbon balls evuh. The story goes that my mama's dreamy Cousin Pauline, think Delta Dawn perpetually on a swooning couch, wanted to personally make her husband, Guy Houston, a holiday treat. Mr. Houston liked good bourbon. No one had ever witnessed Cousin Pauline preparing the first dish in her long life. Their cook decided the traditional bourbon ball recipe could be made easier for Cousin Pauline to handle if instead of using chocolate chips and vanilla wafers, they simply started with chocolate cookie crumbs. Eureka, now you've got Lazyballs.

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (1 package of Nabisco Famous wafers)

    • 1 1/2 cups chopped, toasted pecans
      • 1/2 cup bourbon (we use Evan Williams)
        • 1 cup confectioner's sugar (a little more to roll in)
          • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
          • 1 1/2 Tablespoons light molasses
          • Directions:

            Pulverize the cookie crumbs and pecans in a food processor until finely ground. In a separate bowl, stir together bourbon, 1 cup confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, and light molasses. Add this mixture to the food processor and pulse until just combined. Let this dough rest uncovered at room temperature and go rest yourself for 4 hours--or leave lightly covered and go to bed for the night. Use your fingers to roll the dough into little, maybe 1" diameter, balls. Roll each ball in confectioner's sugar; cover airtight to keep them moist, roll in a bit more confectioner's sugar just before serving.

            If you're not too lazy, you could serve your Lazyballs in mini-cupcake liners. Just darlin'. Y'all have to eat about six to feel any buzz at all."


            Scribbler's note:  These are incredibly good!  Men seem to love them!  Ben South is an artist and Southern humorist.



The very best shortbread cookie!  This was from a Canadian-born co-worker when I lived in Denver, Colorado.  I like it best with some almond extract added.  It can be rolled out, cut in shapes and frosted, or formed into a log and sliced.
You already know which one I do!

This and other loverly recipes can be found on Nutella's website.
These are always a favorite with everyone.

Use "old-fashioned" oats, not quick cook -- better consistency!

These are my son's favorites.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

OVEN FRENCH TOAST




I could probably do a whole post on great breakfast dishes suitable for Christmas morning, but here is one you and the kiddos will love.  You can put it together the night before and pop it into the oven while they are tearing into the presents.




CITRUS CHAMPAGNE PUNCH

Very tasty little party punch!  Make a fancy ice ring for your punch bowl, or just put it into pitchers, cold, and set it out next to the ice bucket and the glasses.
This goes down a treat with the next recipe.
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hot Spicy Pecans





~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pralines


PRALINES
(This is from 1959)

1 box light brown sugar
1 small can evaporated milk

2 T white corn syrup 2 T water
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 1/2 cups pecan halves
Boil together sugar, milk, corn syrup, and water until soft ball is
formed when tested in cold wa- ter. Remove from heat, add
butter. Cool. Add vanilla and beat until creamy. Add pecans
and drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper. 


~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hope you will try some of these recipes, the old and the newish ones too  -- they might become holiday favorites in your family, too.   Feel free to print them out or Pin, however you like to save recipes.  It might be nice if you attribute!  Also, if you have any questions about my scribblings that you don't understand, please ask, and I will try to clarify.




Here's a little lagniappe for you!  In the South, we still like our jello salads, "old-timey" though they may be, and this one is always a hit at Christmas especially.  However, two of the ingredients have been increasingly hard to find in recent years.  That would be the canned Black Cherries and Black Cherry Jello.   On the occasions that I do find these items, I set them aside for this Christmas "salad" which, truth be told, is more like a dessert.  But, hey -- it's for Christmas, and everybody seems to love it.  Who doesn't like dessert first?




As you can see, I have added celery here.
Also, the black cherries were fresh last summer,
and I pitted and froze a lot because they were plentiful.



This doubles well if you are feeding the multitudes.  It is pretty done in an old-fashioned fancy mould if you have one.

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