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!"