Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Camping and the Opposite

Last weekend my very good friend Mary and I took our kids camping. It was my very first camping trip and therefore my kids' first camping trip. I really didn't know what to expect. I thought there'd be a grill, but wasn't certain how to use it -- do I bring wood? charcoal? What if it rains??? I knew that Mary was bringing her camp stove, but wasn't really certain how that would work. So, in typical Lorraine fashion, i over-prepared for the weekend.

Now, I don't like to be without the conveniences of home. Not at all. Even when traveling to stay in a hotel, cruise ship or even a friend's house, I bring just about everything I might ever need with me: pillows, Pepto, hand soap, books, tissues, toilet paper, etc. So, of course, this was my mentality when envisioning camping. BUT -- since I didn't want to be surrounded by RV's, I had asked Mary to book us a "walk-in" site, which the Web site said could be up to 1500 feet from the parking. SO.... I had to re-think my packing! 1500 feet is a lonnnggg way.

I began to make lists -- this is what I do when I'm anxious. I reckon that if it's all down on paper and everything is there and makes sense, then all of life will be okay. So, I had to prioritize. What was important? My blow up mattress, for one. No way was I going to sleep on the ground. Bread -- and lots of it -- I wasn't going to be forced to use public bathrooms without the advantage of a high-fiber diet. So, muffins and brownies were near the top of the list since I make them with fresh-milled whole wheat, too.

After making the whole packing list including new camping pillows, Petzl head lamps, plenty of tarps (the thought of soggy bedding wasn't attractive) and a water-proofing product for all soggy-able items, I was ready to begin making menus! So, what does one make for three days of meals when one had no idea what the cooking situation will be?

Hot dogs, of course.

But, I can only endure hot dogs for one meal about once every six months or so. So, I needed to come up with some other ideas.
  • Friday, lunch -- KFC, since we'd just arrived
  • Friday, dinner -- Chicken Salad Sandwiches, spring greens and chips
  • Saturday, breakfast -- Yogurt, fruit, muffins (although Holt had Cheetos)
  • Saturday, lunch -- tuna salad sandwiches with spring greens and PB&J (for Mary, Annie and Holt)
  • Saturday, dinner -- hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans (actually just Bush's heated up on the awesome camp stove)
  • Sunday, breakfast -- Muffins and my all-new Camping Frittata (recipe below)

Now I know that the camping stove is actually really cool and I could have done a lot more with it. But, as it was, I had all of the food pretty much prepared before we left, so all I had to do was assemble and heat. That left more time for fun things -- like the Nature Trail...

ahhh, the "Nature Trail."

Well, I'll admit that they didn't lie -- it was a trail and there was nature. But, frankly, when I hear that there's a "one mile nature trail," I envision a nice, clear path around the grounds that features signs about the various plants so that one can leisurely stroll there and learn about indigenous plants...nature. So, we set off for the trail -- myself, Mary, Holt (age 3) and Annie.

We easily found the trail and the first bit of it were sort of steps up a pretty steep incline. I thought, "oh, good. We'll get the steep part out of the way so that we don't have it when we're tired." We approached the first sign which talked about, I don't know, something like leaves. I read the entire thing to Annie and pointed out the leaves (or whatever it was) as described. We continued to walk up the incline and arrived at a second sign. A little winded, I summarized it for Annie and sort of pointed in the general direction of whatever it described. By the time we'd gone 1/4 mile straight up hill and arrived at the fifth or sixth sign, I panted, "It's about birds" and waved in the general direction of the air.

So, the "one mile nature trail" was a one mile wooded torture. Half a mile straight up. Half a mile straight down. At one point the path was actually almost overgrown. I had to literally push my way through branches. Now, perhaps a more seasoned camper/hiker -- say, Mary -- wouldn't have found this to be at all surprising. She didn't. And, a person in better shape -- say, Holt (age 3) -- wouldn't have even been winded. He wasn't. He actually had the audacity, the little booger, to say, "That was EASY!" as he scampered off, leaving me clinging to life and the handrail at the bottom of the trail.

After mostly recovering from the jaunt around the trail, I did indeed enjoy the beautiful lake, the calm, cool summer breeze, S'mores by the campfire and I actually really like sleeping in the woods. It was so quite it almost hurt. Now a suburban housewife, I'd nearly forgotten what that was like. It took my back to a sweet time in my life, when the biggest concern (and it was big) was whether my brother or I got to sleep on the swing on my grandmother's front porch.

So, camping is, indeed for me! Who'd of thunk it! Me, Lorraine "Where is the Nearest Hilton" Rose (according to Amanda). And, in honor of my new-found love of camping and my survival of the nature trail, I give you two awesome recipes:

S'mores (in case you don't know this time-honored recipe, I take NO credit)
  • Get some Graham crackers. Not Cinnamon Graham crackers, and, for goodness sake, don't ruin this by buying "healthy" crackers -- just plain, good graham crackers.
  • Buy a good supply of Hershey's bars (no nuts).
  • Buy some large marshmallows.
  • Find a thin, green stick.
  • Burn the stick for a moment to "sanitize it" (yeah, right).
  • Place one (or preferably two) marshmallows on the stick and place it over the fire. Now, there are two philosophies on how to properly roast a marshmallow. The first is to hold it well above the fire and rotate it so that it slowly and evenly browns ever-so-slightly while still getting all melty on the inside. This is all well and good, but I haven't the patience for it. I say hold it close to the flame for as long as you can stand it and when you get bored catch the whole thing on fire and quickly blow it out. This ought to provide a well melted marshmallow with a bit of a crunchy outside.
  • Here's where true artistry comes into play. You need two halves (squares) of a graham cracker. Place on one of the halves enough Hershey chocolate to cover the cracker. Take the Marshmallow(s) -- still on the stick-- and place it/them on the cracker with chocolate then place the other cracker half on top of the marshmallows and squeeze the crackers together while pulling the stick out. This should result in a monumentally fantastic S'more -- which you eat before it cools down. As a kid I could eat these all night. As an adult, my limit is just less than one.

Camping Frittata
(I'd love to be able to call it "Campfire Frittata, but I'll have to wait until the next trip to try cooking it over an open fire)

Ingredients (can vary)
  • 7 - 10 Eggs
  • 1 - 1.5 cups whole (black-market raw) milk
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 lb ground sausage (yes, like Jimmy Dean, not healthy, but tasty)
  • 1/2 bag of shredded potatoes (you can usually get these near the eggs in the supermarket)
  • chopped onions to taste
  • Plenty of Adobo (or your favorite season-all)
  • salt, maybe pepper

Brown and thoroughly cook the sausage. As the sausage finishes cooking, add the onions and then the potatoes. Cover the potatoes with an appropriate amount of Adobo. Stir and cook this for a couple of minutes, until the potatoes begin to barely brown.

In the meantime, beat the eggs with the milk and salt to taste (also pepper, if you like). Add the cheese and pour mixture over the sausage and potatoes. Scramble this just a bit until the eggs begin to become a tiny bit cooked. Then, leave it alone, letting it cook as slowly as possible until the whole thing is firm. Cool for about 3 minutes and then slice and eat.

Of course, if you're having difficulty controlling the heat source and, like us on the trip (but not in the initial test kitchen) find that the eggs are getting quite cooked in places and still completely runny in other places. Just scramble the whole thing and serve it with a spoon instead of in slices. It's all the same, just not a pretty.

So, this was, after all, entitled "Camping and The Opposite."

We left the camping weekend doing so well. We'd made plenty of vitamin D while playing at the beach; gotten plenty of exercise walking, swimming and hiking the infamous nature trail, we'd eaten very healthy -- including organic fruits, bread baked with fresh-milled wheat, tons of water, etc. I was tired, but felt well! Healthy! Invigorated! Which was the whole hope of the weekend, knowing what lay ahead!

The entire following week is a wonderful blur. I was completely engrossed in preparations for a huge outreach called Give a Kid a Chance. This is where we help every kid "in need" in Cherokee County be able to start school on the same footing as all of the other kids. We have one big day where the kids and their families come and we do medical, dental, vision, hearing and scoliosis screenings for the kids. They get their hair cut by professionals, many of whom normally charge a LOT of money. They get a backpack filled with all of the school supplies they need as well as new socks and undies. Then they can go "shopping" in our nearly new clothing section and choose up to five outfits. After all of that, they can sit down and enjoy a free meal with their family and even get their faces painted! How cool is that!

I am the volunteer coordinator for the event. This year we had nearly 600 volunteers at our two locations and we served more than 1500 kids!

How is this "The Opposite?"

Well, I spent the entire week buried at my computer assigning and re-assigning volunteers. Checking up and checking-in volunteers. Answering questions, attending meetings, moving chairs, sorting clothes, carrying backpacks and even screening videos (to make sure they weren't too scary for little kids). My body didn't get any exercise. My skin didn't see a ray of sun. There was no "Nature Trail" and all I remember eating was pizza and Chick-fil-A. It's Tuesday of the following week and I still haven't made any bread!

BUT -- I wouldn't change it for all the S'mores in the forest!

While being virtually the opposite of camping, I have never had a better weekend than this! To see the faces of the kids -- feeling so proud of their new haircuts and their cool backpacks. To see old friends that I met the very first year we did this outreach --watching those kids grow up! To see the beaming faces of the volunteers as they are blessed more than they imagined by serving God's children the way God tells us to -- clothing the ill-clad, feeding the hungry... I can't imagine a better way to bookend a frenetic week of typing that with camping on one side and Give a Kid a Chance on the other.

well, except I did sleep virtually ALL of Sunday, except the hour and a half I was a church.

If you're interested in helping with Give a Kid a Chance for next year, it's never too early to let me know! We're already starting to plan for next year! Shoot me an e-mail at cippierose@yahoo.com and I'll get your on our volunteer e-mail list. No spam, just info about GAKAC.

"What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.

Your righteousness will pave your way.

The God of glory will secure your passage.

Then when you pray, God will answer.

You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'" -- God (in Isaiah 58:6-9-ish)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Journey To The Perfect Meatloaf

I love meatloaf. I know it's passé to admit and it's so very "middle America" and "normal" that you probably can't believe I would eat it much less adore it. But, adore it I do!

Long ago I set out to figure out how to make meatloaf.

My mother, who, bless her heart, has never been a great cook, told me to just take some hamburger meat and mix it with ketchup and some dried onions and make it into a circle in a pie pan that was slightly larger than the loaf and cook it till it is done. This is NOT the meatloaf I adore.

So, I went to the trusty Red and White Checkerboard cookbook and tried their recipe. Nope, not what I was looking for. Some recipes even called for brown gravy and canned, sliced, button mushrooms; which I will not abide. I bought a cookbook called 50 Great Meatloaves! And made about 10 of them before chucking that out.

We settled on a recipe that included a bunch of sautéed veggies, but it never held together well. Which, may not sound like a big problem, but, since the one thing I adore more than meatloaf is meatloaf sandwiches, it's a problem when the meatloaf falls apart. How can you take the cold meatloaf and properly arrange it on the bread so that every bite has just the right amount of meatloaf, ketchup and bread if the meatloaf is all falling apart??!?!

I watched some FOOD Network shows and copied down those recipes. Again, not the loaf I was looking for. I saw Roseanne teach Darleen's class (or was it Becky's) how to make meatloaf by adding corn flakes to the meat mixture, but I can't imagine even trying that! So, I tried using stuffing instead of corn flakes in Roseann's recipe and, well, let's just say I'm sorry -- truly sorry to have put the meat and the stuffing to such a dismal end. Now, I realize that I was pretty desperate trying a recipe that was part of a sitcom.... but, I wanted some meatloaf!

I saw a show on PBS where some guy was showing a second grade class how to make meatloaf and he talked about just knowing when the ratio of breadcrumbs to meat to wet was right by the way it held together. That was promising.... an "un-recipe." I like un-recipes.

A little while after that and totally unrelated at the time, I started making meatballs from a recipe I found online. It included breadcrumbs, eggs, sautéed onions, tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, and, of course, lean meat (both beef and pork). Since I don't do the whole pork thing, I make them with just beef. naturally, being from the south and seeing most food as vehicles for ketchup, I substituted ketchup for the tomato sauce. And, once I accidentally left out the eggs and I liked the way it tasted better, so I kept that. Eventually I started leaving out the milk -- probably because Annie drank the glass I was going to pour in and it worked without that, too.

So, remembering the un-recipe for meatloaf I saw on PBS and pairing that with the altered meatball recipe, I have stumbled on what I think is almost the ultimate recipe for meatloaf.

Meatloaf, Rain Style
  • 1.5 - 2 pounds of lean ground beef
  • Some Bread crumbs (preferably just ground up homemade wheat bread)
  • Some Parmesan cheese (preferably the kind you get at the market that was ground up in the store, but Kraft will do in a pinch)
  • Ketchup (organic, of course, and I like the Whole Foods brand)
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Steak Seasoning (homemade or store bought which includes salt, pepper, garlic and other goodies for beef)
  • An egg for good measure
  • 1 onion, chopped and sautéed
Mix the above ingredients in the amounts you see fit. I tend to use about 1 - 2 cups of bread crumbs and at least a cup of Parmesan and a lot of ketchup. The mix should be moist but not wet and should hold together when you turn it out, but not be a tight blob. Only mix as much as you need to in order to distribute the ingredients evenly.

I put it in a 8 x 8 Pampered Chef stoneware pan, but you can use just about anything that leaves room around the loaf. I make a loaf shape in the center of the pan that stretches from one side to the other longways but is much shorter the other way, so there's plenty of room for the grease to drain out and not get re-absorbed into the loaf.

Cook this for about 1 - 1.5 hours at 350. Make sure the center is at least 157 degrees, minimum. Just before it's done, I brush on a coating of ketchup on the top and let it cook for about 2 - 3 minutes.

Have a better recipe or un-recipe? I'm still looking for the ultimate!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Roast Chicken and Raw Milk

When I was young and lived in what seemed to me to be a BIG house on Roswell Road in Buckhead (before anyone knew where Buckhead was) we used to have a milk box. This was a little tin box that sat outside the back door. From time to time milk appeared there. As an adult looking back, I'm sure there was a weekly delivery schedule and the milk man actually delivered the milk. Sometimes he also brought cottage cheese, which was a favorite of mine. My brother was partial to applesauce, though -- but that's another story.

Anyway, the milk man brought the BEST milk! It came in these beautiful glass bottles and had little foil caps that were fun to sorta peel off. The best part, though, was that you had to shake up the bottle before pouring out the milk. You see, my mom ordered raw milk from the dairy and the cream in raw milk rises to the top and needs to either be skimmed off or shaken up into the rest of the milk. Of course, not long before that you didn't actually have to specify "raw" milk, because it was the only milk. I drank raw milk for most of my young life.

My mom was a sort of very "early adopter" of the health nut craze. From Yoga classes to a largely vegetarian diet, we were health conscious. The first time anyone ever fed me pizza I freaked out and could barely make myself eat it.

My step-mother, Keri, was an even bigger health nut -- edging on health freak status. At her house we had kefir, alfalfa sprout and avocado sandwiches on pita bread and lots of almonds all purchased from weird little food co-ops. This fostered in me a great love for healthy foods. I can eat some junk, don't get me wrong, but I really love the healthier stuff and I think it has to do with the taste I developed for it early on.

So, fast forward to nowadays and I want to give my children the same awesome, healthy things I grew up with. I make them wheat bread and forbid white bread in the house. I buy organic whenever possible and focus on local produce. I cook from scratch and use very few pre-packaged items. I also want to feed my children the same raw milk I was raised on. It's actually the same milk my sons were raised on at their biological grandmother's house in Latvia and at the orphanage where they lived until we adopted them at 13. But, since I live in the state of Georgia, I can't buy raw milk for human consumption. Nope, I can only buy "Pet Milk" that is labeled "Not for Human Consumption." It's still the same thing, just a different label, so, whatever.

If it didn't make me madder than a wet hen, it'd be humorous to me. I can't feed my family milk from a trusted, clean dairy just down the street that uses grass-fed cows who are pastured (free range) and lovingly cared for and not fed antibiotics or hormones but I can feed my family milk that is from cows halfway across the country which are bred to produce massive amounts of milk and fed hormones and lots of antibiotics in order to keep their milk production at extreme levels even though they're fed soy mush or chicken waste or other such un-cow-like foods. Now, if the milk wasn't bad and disgusting enough, we'll just go and cook it and high temperatures to make it safe, because there is massive amounts of e. coli and other harmful if not deadly bacteria spread in these large-scale "dairies."

Did you know that cows at commercial dairies that produce pasteurized milk do not have to pass a health inspection for disease -- after all, the milk's going to be cooked halfway to hades so why bother! According to The Real Milk campaign, pasteurizing the milk "diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer." They claim that "Calves fed pasteurized milk do poorly and many die before maturity. " If that didn't gross you out enough, "raw milk sours naturally(which I can attest to) but pasteurized milk turns putrid; processors must remove slime and pus from pasteurized milk by a process of centrifugal clarification." EWWWWWWWWWW (quoted from www.realmilk.com as of 6/2/08)

Recent advertisements for milk try to make you believe that drinking milk (pasteurized) will help with weight loss due to the calcium. Not so! Drinking Whole Fat Raw Milk from Grass-Fed Cows will help you lose weight and used to be used successfully at the Mayo Clinic as a cure for cancer, chronic fatigue, allergies, skin problems. Want to know more? Click here and scroll down to the comment section where Dr. Mercola comments about raw milk and cites actual scientific studies.

I could go on to talk about the link of heart disease to homogenization, but, well, that's just beating a dead horse... or cow....

I won't settle for that! My family deserves better than that! As I'm always telling my kids, I don't want "normal" for them, they're better than "normal" and "normal" these days is just sorry! So, after much research and even reading the CDC's diatribe about the dangers of raw milk, my husband and I believe that it is the best option for our family. So, we've found a source for raw milk and I have to go to pick it up each week. Yup! We go and get a gallon or two each week and boy is it good. The boys really had refused to drink the pasteurized stuff (a.k.a. cooked milk, as Annie calls it). But the first gallon of raw milk I brought home disappeared quickly.

Now, what does all of this have to do with Roasted Chicken?

Well, I'll tell you. You see, when you start doing "crazy" things like milling your own wheat and drinking raw milk, you start to meet a whole new group of people -- others who share your views of eating the foods that the Good Lord provides for us in a state as close to the way He provides it. So, my wheat lady lets my milk guy do a "milk drop" in her parking lot and, in addition to the milk, he sells raw honey (and creamed honey) from a bee keeper up the road and pastured, organic chickens (when he can get them from his farmer friend) off the back of his truck.

This week my milk guy was running low on milk. in other words, he had orders for more gallons than he actually had. And, rather than trying to force the cows to give more milk to meet the demand, he simply asked folks who ordered multiple gallons if they could spare a gallon. So, last week was a low-milk week in our family and I offered to not pick up a gallon this week. But, since he had chickens this week, I took one of those.

Tonight I cooked it and it was yummy. I use what I think is the simplest recipe possible. You just can't mess up a really good bird. Now, the ones you get at the grocery store that are all yellow and plumped up -- now those take some skill to make taste good. But a free-range, organic chicken just tastes good all by itself. So, here's my recipe.

Roast Chicken
First, in case you didn't get it from the above tirade, start with a good bird that isn't chock-full of chemicals. I'd also recommend using organic everything else, but if you can just get the bird right, the other stuff will probably not kill you today!

  • Whole Chicken (roaster)
  • 5 -6 medium carrots peeled and sliced into large, bite-sized pieces
  • 4 - 5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into large, bite-sized pieces
  • 1-2 medium onions (I use Vidalia) peeled and quartered
  • Adobo or Spike or whatever seasoning you usually like to use

In a roasting pan (I use, and love, the Pampered Chef roaster with lid) scatter the carrots, potatoes and onions. Season. Place the bird on top, breast side down (so it gets all of the fat dripping into it and remains moist). Season the bird with what you seasoned the veggies. Place a lid on the roaster or cover tightly with foil. Cook until the chicken is done -- about an hour and a half, probably. Carefully remove the lid/foil away from you so as not to get burned by the steam. Carve the chicken and put it on a platter, scoop up the veggies from the bottom and put them in a serving bowl. If you want, you can make gravy form the drippings, but I usually don't bother.

How easy is that?

Want more info about Raw Milk? I have found www.RealMilk.com to be a great jumping off point for your research. And, just so ya know. I don't serve others raw milk without a warning and never give it to kids unless I have permission from their parents.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Celery, Cobbler and Half-Moon Pies

My Grandmother was a good cook -- almost as good as my Granddaddy.

For most of my life she lived in a little house on Sylvan Circle in Brookhaven, next door to Mama Wiehunt and Daddy Bill (her parents) and her siblings -- each in houses in a row. Last week I visited Roosevelt's "Little White House" in Warm Springs, Georgia. As I walked into the house, which is now a museum, I was swept away by a familiar and comforting smell -- the smell of aged wood that's heated up. It's the way my Grandmother's house always smelled. As best as I can remember, the walls of her house were wood on the inside. The house always had this wonderful aroma, especially in the hot summer.

Grandmother always had food -- ALWAYS. I have wonderful memories of sitting on top of her deep freezer (which was dressed with a tablecloth and sat in the middle of her kitchen) watching her cook. One of my fondest memories of the kitchen was the Swing-Away can opener. It was mounted to the side of the cabinets and literally swung over the sink when you needed to use it. This fascinated me. We had an ugly old electric one at home.

Another fond memory was of helping her make cobbler. I wish I knew her recipe, but before she went home to Jesus I didn't really care about domestic things and didn't bother to get her to tell it to me. But, what I do remember is that there was fruit -- any kind, but my favorite was blackberry -- and that was covered by a crust which was placed in strips across the fruit in a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish. Then you had to add little tiny pats of butter all over the top and sprinkle on sugar -- this was my job, which I took seriously!

The best part, though, was that there was always crust left over! We'd make Half Moon Pies with that crust. She'd let me roll out the crust into a small circle and then put a dollop of Applesauce topped with butter and sugar, in the middle, fold it over and crimp the edges with a fork. We'd cook this in the toaster oven. YUM-MY!

Grandmother was always eccentric. I think she was just plumb born that way. I can't remember a time when she wasn't peculiar -- in an endearing way. Not all of her peculiarities revolved around food, but many did. One of my favorite memories of eating at Grandmother's came after she'd sold her house and moved into one of Tomlinson's apartments on Peachtree.

The family -- including Aunt Estelle and Uncle John -- gathered for dinner at Grandmother's one evening. My brother, Robert, and I were helping take the dishes of food to the table when I noticed an odd-looking food that appeared to be a vegetable. It was sort of green and a little white-ish and was long and slender, but not asparagus. I asked her what it was. She seemed perplexed by the question, looked at it then at me and declared, "Why, it's celery, of course" as if cooked celery was a family favorite. I glanced at Robert and then to my step-dad, Wayne, who shrugged his shoulders. This was a new one -- and not exactly appetizing.

We all sat down, Uncle John asked a blessing and we began to pass the food around. Each of us waiting to see if there was any way to get out of eating the celery. Finally Wayne buckled and served himself a portion. I watched as the limp stalk sagged over the cup of the serving spoon. Wayne then passed it along to my brother and I who, took the obligatory spoonful. After pushing it around the plate, pretending to eat it but really waiting each other out, Wayne finally took a bite of the nefarious food and began to chuckle.

"Billie," (that was my grandmother's name) he offered, "this is broccoli!"

"Well," she declared, "of course it's broccoli, what did you think it was???"

"What on EARTH happened to this broccoli?"

"Way - ull," she explained in her southern drawl, "the tops looked a little brown, so I cut them off and boiled the stalks."

That was Grandmother in a nutshell -- adapt, improvise and overcome -- in her own, not always appetizing way. I sure miss her.

Don't overwork your biscuit or they'll come out tough as hardtack!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter Dinner

My son was confused the other day. He wasn’t sure what word to use to describe the meal I was preparing. And, for once, it wasn’t because of a language acquisition issue (he’s adopted from another country). You see, I was making Easter Dinner. I began working on it days before Easter. He knew that we were having Easter Dinner at 1 p.m. This is what confused him, because, you see, we had just finished lunch – at 1 p.m. and we were making plans for supper – which is sometimes called dinner -- for that night.

I laughed (because this happens all of the time when I make friends with Yankees) and began to explain to him the language of Southern meals.

Breakfast is what you have in the morning – first thing (not counting the coffee you have before you actually wake up). Sometimes your first meal is Brunch – and that’s if it’s a little late for breakfast and your meal includes some non-breakfast-y types of things. Really, it’s just a fancy word for breakfast and lunch combined, although, most folks will still eat either breakfast or lunch before or after brunch. Anyway, Dinner is the big meal of the day. Since Daddy has to work and we, as a rule, eat dinner together as a family, it has to be the last meal of the day. Lunch is the meal you have in the middle of the day, unless you’re having Dinner in the middle of the day, like on Sundays or holidays. Supper is the last meal of the day, (which can also be dinner, if you didn’t eat dinner for lunch) or, the meal you have at around 6-ish. Sometimes you have a snack later, and that’s just called as snack.

I think somewhere around, “brunch is…” he tuned me out.

So, I continued to prepare Easter Dinner – it turned out really YUMMY! Our extended family gathers for major holidays – rotating homes. We get Easter, Daddy gets Thanksgiving, Grandma gets Christmas and Mom gets Memorial Day (mostly because she has a pool). Each family brings some food to share and we all swap left-overs, what are the best part!

This year’s menu included:
Spiral Ham, Roast Shoulder of Lamb with a side of gravy, Chicken Salad, Bunny Buns, Wheat Bread, Pumpkin Muffins, Banana Nut Muffins, Potato Salad, Fruit Salad, Seven Layer Salad, Cranberry Jell-O Salad, Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary, Squash Casserole, Fancy Rice, Coconut Cake, Brownies, Sever Layer Bars, Banana Pudding.

I believe there was more, but it actually hurts my belly to think about. Now, don’t you wish you’d accepted my invitation to dinner? My table’s always open.

So, I know you’re wondering, Rain, where are the recipes? Patience, a fruit of the spirit and a true southern virtue, my dear.

Lamb Shoulder
This is delicious. I watched Jamie Oliver make this on his show and tried to remember the recipe and then altered it to suit my tastes, and forgot a few things. So, as usual, I started with a recipe and by the end, it was a whole ‘nother monkey! We couldn’t find a bone-in shoulder, so we used a boneless one. By the time it was done, it was falling apart and delicious. I served it with a basic gravy made from the drippings, thickened with flour and thinned with red wine – Yummy!

  • 4 – 5 pounds of lamb shoulder
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 - 2 head garlic, broken up
  • fresh rosemary
  • 2 red onions, peeled and quartered
  • Several carrots, peeled and cut in two
  • Several sticks celery, cut into big bits
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Bottle of red wine (I forgot to add this when I was cooking, but used it to make gravy)


  • Preheat your oven to 400.
  • Rub the lamb with oil, salt and pepper.
  • Put carrots, most of the garlic and rosemary into the bottom of a roasting pan. Put the lamb on top.
  • Using a sharp knife make small cuts across the top of the lamb and stick in rosemary leaves and garlic cloves.
  • This is where you should, according to the original recipe, pour in some red wine (and also tomatoes, but that didn’t sound good to me). I liked it all fine without the wine or tomatoes, and saved the wine to have with dinner.
  • Cover pan tightly with two pieces of foil.
  • Put into oven, immediately turning down temperature to 325.
  • Cook 3.5 to 4 hours or so.
  • Take it out and let it rest a while before serving.

Rain’s Original Chicken Salad

This is the BEST chicken salad – at least to me. But, I suppose I make it the way I like it – so feel free to change it up to suit your tastes. This is one of those recipes that doesn’t so much have measurements. You know what chicken salad is supposed to look and taste like – so go by that!

Yellow Mustard
Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper
Apples (crisp ones)
Red Grapes

Start with some cooked chicken. If you have time, roast, rotisserie or boil a whole bird, cool it and pick it, saving the carcass for making soup. If not, simply grilling or boiling a few boneless breasts is fast and just as good. Make sure to leave the chicken moist – dry chicken just can’t be helped! No matter how much mayo you add it’ll still just be dry.

Once you have your chicken, cut it into pieces.
Add some Mayo, enough to make it look like chicken salad. Then add a squirt or two of yellow mustard AND Dijon mustard. Then add a teaspoon – a tablespoon of horseradish and a dash of Tabasco. Mix that up read good.

Chop some apples into little pieces (I used 3 lbs chicken and two apples). Cut some red grapes in half (yes, each grape). Green grapes will do, but red tend to be sweeter. Coarsely chop some pecans. Add all of this to the salad and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

Don't overwork your biscuit or they'll come out tough as hardtack!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bible Study Food

Thursday mornings my best friends and I gather at my house for Bible study and "fellowship" which is a real churchy way of saying "hangon' out and catchin' up time."

My Grandmother, who we called "Grandmother" not Granny, or Nana (and not to be confused with one of my other grandmothers whom we called "Maw Maw.") taught me well. She always had people over. The "who" wasn't always the same -- sometimes someone from the church, sometimes from the neighborhood or from the family -- but what was constant was that there was food. She never let a person come over without feeding them. It's just the southern way! I've seen her offer Saltines and mayonnaise when that's all she had.

So, carrying on that long-lived family tradition, I always make a little something for my Thursday morning Bible Study. Sometimes it's muffins, sometimes it's bagels (yes, homemade) and sometimes it's Quiche. Tomorrow it's quiche. So, I thought it fitting to share the recipe.

Thursday Mornin' Quiche
This is a real flexible recipe. It makes two quiches. Sometimes I like to add spinach or broccoli to one of them, so folks have a choice. If you add broccoli or fresh spinach, sauté it in the bacon drippings first. If you add frozen spinach, thaw it and squeeze it as dry as you can.

  • 2 pie shells (make your own if there's time, but a good frozen one will do)
  • 8 slices of bacon (there's good uncured bacon available now, use it -- you don't need the nitrates and nitrites)
  • 1 onion sliced thinly (or more if you like)
  • 4-5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup of half and half (or whole cream)
  • 1 cup of milk (skim milk will ruin it. If you're that worried about the fat, you don't need the quiche in the first place!)
  • 1 TBSP flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese (shred your own, don't buy that awful pre-shredded stuff -- it's got anti-caking agent on it and it just doesn't melt properly. Look at it this way: the hand shredding of the cheese will help burn off a few of those extra calories you got by using whole milk!)
Blind bake the pie crusts at 450 -- just for 5 minutes or so.

Lower the oven temperature to 325.

Fry the bacon. I like to take the 8 slices of bacon still all stuck together and cut it up with kitchen scissors so that i don't have to mess with "crumbling" it later. Once you start frying it, the stuck-together pieces easily come apart. When you're done, remove the bacon and set it on a paper towel to drain.

Sauté the onion in some of the bacon drippings. Let it cool.

Beat together the 4 eggs and the cream and milk, flour and salt.

Add the bacon and sautéed onion while mixing the eggs -- don't "cook" the eggs with the hot stuff -- you have to keep it moving for a minute. Add the cheese and whatever else you want to.

Pour into the blind-baked pie shell and put it on a cookie sheet and into the oven for about an hour.

Keep an eye on it -- it might need to have the edges covered with foil if they start to darken. It also might get done faster. It's done when you insert a knife and it comes out pretty clean (in other words, there's not egg dripping off of it, but there might be a little oil!)

Don't overwork your biscuit or they'll come out tough as hardtack!

Tuff Biscuit

The word Biscuit is both singular and plural in our family vernacular. And, one thing you can be sure of is that if your biscuit are tuff (hard, crumbly and generally inedible) then you overworked them.

Like much in life, if you ignore biscuit and don't give 'em proper attention, they won't come together. However, if you mess around with them too much, you ruin them. I think this is particularly the case with husbands and children!

Biscuit are such a part of everyday life, that they end up being used in euphemisms and analogies all of the time. "Tuff Biscuit!" is our version of "Tuff Luck!" since we don't really believe in "luck." "Tuff as Hardtack" is another saying that my mother always used (probably because she really never made proper biscuit, they were all pretty much hardtack!). Now when Mother said this, she meant that something was completely inedible -- like biting into a stone. This usually was used to describe someone else's cooking.

Rain's Biscuit (not so healthy version)
Good ingredients and a good recipe are critical. Grandmother used to make biscuit EVERY morning. The ones that didn't get eaten at breakfast were served at each meal thereafter (which might be one meal -- dinner -- or as many as three more) and by suppertime we'd be toasting them with butter.

The best biscuit cutter -- and the only one anyone in my family has ever used, is the jar the Chipped Beef comes in. This is particularly handy since chipped beef gravy is real good on biscuit!

To make good biscuit, just get a bag of White Lily Self-Rising Flour and follow the directions on the back. You might substitute butter for Crisco (I do) and/or cream for milk. And, whatever you do -- don't use skim milk -- there's just no call for that. If you're that worried about fat, you don't need the biscuit in the first place!

Rain's Biscuit (healthy version)

Ok, healthy is probably a misnomer, but it's healthier then the other kind.

  • 2 TBSP Yeast proofed in 1/2 warm water
  • 6-ish c Fresh Milled Soft White Wheat (maybe more, maybe less - experiment)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 TBSP Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 3 Tbps Sucanat (or honey)
  • 3/4 c of butter
  • 2 c Buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400. Proof your yeast in the water and set about mixing the dry ingredients with a fork. Cut in the butter -- being careful to get a uniform consistency. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in buttermilk and yeast. Mix this just enough to bring it together, but no more than that. Flour a surface and pat out the dough to about 1 - 2 inch thickness. Cut with a glass jar, biscuit cutter or anything round and place on a cookie sheet (Pampered Chef baking stones are the best). Let sit for about 5 - 10 minutes then bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Don't overbake! Take them out when they just start to turn brown at the edges.

"Don't overwork your biscuit or they'll come out tough as hardtack!"