That’s why they call it “comfort food,” I guess

Archived | November 24, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I could hear gunshots in the distance while Mr. Keillor was talking about tundra swans, and I’ll confess it got my mouth watering for a good meal of grouse or pheasant. I grew up in a family of bird hunters, and around this time of year there was always creamed pheasant to look forward to.
Which reminds me, I have to pull that turkey out of the freezer. There’s a decent number of people planning to join us on Thursday, and everything is just about set to go except for one more trip to the grocery store. I’m planning on mashed potatoes, green bean hot dish, corn casserole, salad, sweet potatoes, dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. And rolls. The usual. That’s why they call it “comfort food,” I guess. You can count on it. It’s how it has been.
It would be nice, though, to shake it up a bit once in a while. The food, of course, is the obvious thing. We could roast something on a spit over a campfire for Thanksgiving. Or cook up a seven course meal, each course from a different country. Or just eat bread and water this time around to really drive home the concept of Grateful. But when I say “shake it up,” I’m thinking on a bigger scale. Invite all the neighbors over this year. Double everything you’re making and treat a family who might appreciate it to a surprise turkey dinner. Abandon the cooking and volunteer at a homeless shelter. Something. Anything to get us all out of our comfort zones.
It’s tough to know what you’ve got to be grateful for if things never change, unless things never changing is what you’re grateful for, and who wants that? We wouldn’t enjoy the winter so much if it weren’t for the spring. Thanks be for the seasons, and for surprises, and for sudden storms that snow you in. Thanks be for the good that comes out of most things, and for this day, and for whatever comes next.
Warm or cold, this cake makes a good afterschool snack. The frosting is extra-thick, and I always add a bit of allspice to ratchet up the flavor a bit.
Pumpkin Cake
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin
1 ½ sticks melted butter
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
Blend first four ingredients. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13 cake pan. Bake at 400, 25 minutes or until set in middle.
Frost with cream cheese frosting: blend 1 stick softened butter, 8 ounces cream cheese, 1 16 oz package powdered sugar, 1 T vanilla. Add a few drops of milk to soften if necessary.

No use waiting until the last minute

Archived | November 19, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I spent a good part of it in the pantry doing an inventory of what items I need for cooking and baking in the next few weeks, and what Christmas gifts I’ve managed to gather in the last few months. I’ve gotten about a third of my shopping done already without having given much thought to it. I’m not an impulse shopper, but on those rare occasions when I find the perfect gift, I buy it. No use waiting until the last minute, and when the holidays do finally roll around, I’d rather spend it wrapping gifts and baking than out in the crowds trying to find everything on my List.
Speaking of which. Now that we’re rounding the corner and Christmas is just over a month away, it’s time to get the ol’ List going. The kids made theirs and turned it in last week, and now I’ve got something to work from, and though I hesitate to say it, times sure have changed. I remember wanting a bike and a record player and a jump rope when I was a kid. Movie tickets, maybe, and perhaps root beer or a box of those Oreo cookies dipped in white chocolate. I remember getting most of it, and pajamas, and socks.
Here are a few items you’ll find on my kids’ lists: aviator sunglasses; a spare karaoke mic; Abercrombie and I-tunes gift cards; Wii Fit; a gift certificate for a past life regression session; a peach or pear tree; a conga drum; Hellboy 1 & 2; a tent; “a recliner for my bedroom”; and a “foster pet.” Other animals mentioned include hamsters, dogs, cats, and fish. “Everything to make an herb garden” is on one of them. All three have “Germ-X” on his or her list.
I’m tempted to say I long for the days when things were simple. Thing is, things ARE still simple, if you ask a kid. Adulthood somehow complicates it all. Which is why one ought, as an adult, to own a bicycle, a jump rope, or a conga drum. Keeps it all in perspective. Simple. Germ-X or not.
Here’s a light and healthy vegetable dish you might want to consider for a holiday table.
Roasted Vegetables
Cut one cauliflower and one large red sweet pepper and one large green pepper into bite-sized pieces. Place on a foil-covered 11×13 jelly roll pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Stir around to coat all pieces. Roast in oven at 350-375, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are done to your liking. Season with salt and pepper. You may add other vegetables as you wish, but this combination is particularly tasty.

Boom – We’re Off and Running

Archived | November 10, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. We’re in the middle of that time of year when people get a little crazy out there and it’s nice to have two hours of laughter and singing to count on every Saturday evening. Something to take your mind off the fact that they’re playing “Silver Bells” already in the waiting room at the orthodontist and Christmas wrap is already on sale in Aisle Three of my favorite place to shop.
I don’t know what it is. The leaves fall off the trees, things turn a bit gray, and — BOOM — we’re off and running. Turkeys were on special this past week for 29 cents a pound, and was there ever a scramble. By the time I got to the grocery store Saturday afternoon, all that was left were tiny little ten-pounders and a bunch weighing in around 24 pounds. I was hoping for something around 16 pounds. Eighteen, maybe. Not to be particular. All of the canned sweet potatoes were gone (Rain Check!) and there were only milk chocolate chips, no more semi-sweet. Well, okay. I plan ahead. I can wait.
Of course I can wait. It’s more than two weeks until Thanksgiving, people, and more than six weeks until Christmas. Why the red and green all the heck over? Can’t we bask in the brown and orange awhile? Won’t you let us steep in the scent of pumpkin spice candles before suggestive selling us the Endlessly Evergreen and Perfectly Peppermint? Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the holiday season like most everyone else. I’m all about anticipation. I’m no Scrooge. But please. Put Christmas back where it belongs. In December. Let us have our dressing and lakes of gravy and new recipe that doesn’t go over very well and Pilgrim re-enactments and Macy’s parade. Let us have our corn stalks and dishes of flavored candy corn and tryptophan hangovers and football hysteria. All of that in our bleak and windy and cold November. Give us something to look forward to again. The light in the darkness. The morning after. The sales. The gift wrapping. The caroling. The church service. The Meal. O Holy Night. One thing at a time. One season at a time, now and evermore.
Potato Casserole
This recipe is similar to one I’ve shared with you. It’s covered with buttered cornflakes, which will make just about anything a delectable treat.
2 lb frozen hash browns
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cans cream coup (chicken, celery, mushroom)
Dash cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups corn flakes
1/4 cup butter, melted
Mix all ingredients except cornflakes and butter. Pour into 9×13 pan. Top with corn flakes mixed with melted butter. Bake at 350 for an hour. Serves 12.

I’ve yet to answer the door as Wonder Woman

Archived | November 3, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was sitting in the car with the engine running while the kids went up and down the streets trick-or-treating. The sun was setting and there were throngs of people out in costume — not only kids but adults, too, dressed up in their Halloween best. I saw the usual witches and ghosts and princesses and pirates, but then a six-foot-tall sumo wrestler walked by and that was something. There was a penguin and a rock star, Mother Nature and the Sun, and some odd greenish blob thing that got a bit close to my car.
I used to dress up every year for Halloween. I’ve been a gypsy and a mummy, a French maid and a Greek goddess, Betty Crocker and a witch. I haven’t gotten into it in recent years mainly because by the time Halloween rolls around I haven’t had time to pull together a decent costume, and on the day itself my time is spent getting the kids all made up and frosting cookies and driving from trick-or-treating to party to home and back. Hardly a good excuse. There’s something rather exciting about dressing up, and a person really ought to take advantage of the holiday to explore his or her alter ego, dark side, or plain old curiosity. I’ve always wanted to dress as Cleopatra or Scarlett O’Hara; I’ve yet to answer the door as Wonder Woman.
Frankly, I don’t dress up much in general. I prefer jeans and black boots with a heel and a nice pullover V-neck to a dress any day. I go for earth tones — grays, browns, burgundy — with a bit of white here and there. More for practical reasons than any. When you have children, anything to speed up the routine is helpful. The thought of silk or sequins is appealing, but it gives me a bit of stress. There’s the issue of wrinkles, and can it go into the washing machine? Of course, I don’t like the thought of being boring, and that’s where underwear comes in. But that’s a whole other story.
I think, perhaps, next year I will plan ahead. Maybe I’ll seek out and find that Wonder Woman costume. Or I’ll wear a gown of brocade, be Marie Antoinette, and serve cake at the door. Or I’ll really go for it and buy myself a silver sequined dress, silver heels, and fashion a hat of tinsel and glitter and go as a Sparkle. A Glimmer. A Glisten. Something mysterious and unusual on a day made for just that.
Sugared French Toast
This recipe goes way back to my childhood when my mother served up platters of sugary French toast and bacon on cold autumn mornings.
1 loaf buttermilk or thick white sliced bread
8-10 eggs
Milk or buttermilk
Crack 8-10 eggs into a large bowl, depending on how many people are eating. (I figure 2 eggs per person.)
Add 1 dollop (about 1/8 cup) milk or buttermilk per egg.
Whisk until blended.
Pour 2-4 T oil in a nonstick skillet or frying pan. Heat on medium heat.
Dip bread into egg/milk mixture, both sides. Place on pan and fry on both sides until crispy and center appears cooked. Place on plate covered with a mixture of 1 cup sugar and 1-2 T cinnamon. Coat both sides of toast with cinnamon sugar.
Serve with or without butter and syrup.