Decoration Day a Time for Rememberance and Food


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On Monday, I asked a golf buddy of mine if his family ever decorated the graves of relatives or love ones.  He said no because none of their relatives were members of the military.  His response puzzled me because our family has always decorated the graves of those who have gone before us regardless of any military connection.  Maybe as I get older, the process of dying becomes of more interest.  It is not depressing or alarming;  it is just part of the continuum.  I know that I go on too much about the significance of a grave site and marker.  Cremation and a liberal sprinkling of your ashes in your favorite spot is a good and economical option but you should still have a marker so future generations know that you were here scratching out an existence, making people laugh and making people cry.  Having people love you and having people wonder why you bothered them so.

This past week, Becky and I helped Mom and Dad celebrate this time-honored act by visiting our relative graves in Boonville and Bunceton Mo as well as our love ones in Springfield.   The days were beautiful and the spirits of all were uplifting as they remembered the good that was shared with these relatives who now find their place in heaven.

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Bunceton, Mo

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Boonville Maplewoods

 

The other wonderful think about Memorial Day is you often share a meal with love ones and friends which is what we did.  Our good neighbors Betty and Don and Lynley shared dishes and their company with us.  The menu was typical Spring Holiday fare:

  • Baby Back pork ribs, Eckridge beef sausage, and chicken cooked on a charcoal grill  with a Honey and Soy glaze
  • Betty’s baked bean casserole from First & Calvary Cookbook which was very similar to Carol Sanford’s baked beans
  • Aunt Glad’s Calico Veggie Salad
  • A salad of Spring ingredients of lettuce, onions, tomatoes, artichokes,  and radishes (which in our house we seldom if ever use) tossed with a vinegar and oil dressing and finished with shredded Romano cheese.
  • Watermelon
  • Cheese bread
  • Lynley provided lemon bars which were a nice tart ending to the sweetness of the glazed meat, baked beans and veggie salad.
  • Drinks were  wine, tea, lemonade and a glass of whiskey for me.

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All of the food was great as was the conversation.  Two recipes that I want to pass along are the Honey and Soy Glaze and Aunt Glad’s Calico Veggie Salad.

Aunt Glad’s Calico Salad

I used the following vegetables which I drained;

  • 2 small cans green beans
  • 1 small can petite sweet peas
  • 1 small can of yellow corn
  • 1 medium can of white corn
  • 1 small can of lima beans
  • Half of a 16 oz can of kidney beans
  • Half of a 16 oz can of pinto beans
  • 1 small jar of pimento

I finely chopped the following vegetables:

  • 1 cup of celery
  • 1 cup of red onion
  • 1 cup of green pepper

Prepare the following dressing, than toss with all the above and refrigerate for 24 hours.

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 cup of vinegar
  • 2/3 cup of veg oil

Honey and Soy Glaze

Use the following ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground pepper
  • a generous 1/2 cup of honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese 5 Spice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • A heaping spoon of chopped garlic
  • I added 2 tablespoons of Maul’s barbeque sauce

Combine and bring these ingredients to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer until the sauce is reduced by half.  Let the mixture cool while you grill the meat and than apply as you would normally do.

Holidays such as Memorial day brings to gather the elements that comforts us and reminds us of the continuum of life; friends, family and good food.

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Where do old meatballs go?

meatballs wine

Tiziano Chianti

 

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What do you do with an old meat ball??

You make a red pasta sauce and simmer the meat balls that were made for a meal in the cold of March.  When there are only two of us, you often have the opportunity to reuse.  The flavor is always good and the meal can come together quickly.  However, I really like the preparation time of chopping, mixing, stirring and simmering.  If you combine this effort with a few glasses of a 2011 Tiziano Chianti, it really tastes quite good and you get compliments from your better half.  Of course, neither one of us can remember what went into the meat balls originally so it is up to you to find  the recipe for the main participant of the dish.

Sauce:

Nonstick skillet

Enough olive oil to sauté your vegetables

Veggies:  Chop half of a celery stalk, 4 baby carrots, 4 slices of yellow onion, white half of a green onion.

Herbs:  Since it is May, I have oregano, basil and parsley growing in my garden and I chopped up a few cutting from these plants plus 2 chopped garlic cloves

Spices; Add a covered palm of sugar and kosher salt and 4 turns of ground pepper

Finally, 8 cherry  Romano tomatoes that were from my 2013 garden and frozen last September.  Becky stated that they needed to be removed from the freezer so into the sauce they went.

Sauté all of the above until the onions are transparent, than add the spices and herbs.  After a few sizzles and pops add a quarter cup of chardonnay, but take a swig first to ensure it is wine and not one of too high quality.  Cook the wine down until the sauce begins to thicken.  Add 6 oz of tomato sauce, add water to the empty can and add to the sauce to make sure all of the tomato sauce is used.  If the sauce begins to thicken too much add some beef broth to increase the moisture.

Plop in the meat balls and simmer for as long as you want.

We used Lidia’s Linguine.  Make as much as your sauce will accommodate.

I always like to add the pasta to the sauce and let it simmer with the sauce for 10 to 15 minutes.  Let the pasta absorb the sauce and its flavor.  I hate those restaurants that serve a sauce and the pasta is sitting in cook water and makes everything so runny.

We like a salad of lettuce, green onion, celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes and chopped green olives with an ample dosing of Zia’s Sweet Italian Oil & Vinegar.

The leftover meatballs inspired a simple, delicious meal for two.

 

 

 

Stephanie Was Dead Right!!!!!

 

 

 

Gladys & Dad 87 years and going strong.

As many of you know, Stephanie entered the Hallmark Barbara Marshall 2010 Competition for Creativity and she won!  Her premise was the importance of food in the celebration of life, family and love.  This last week end of September, her premise was again proven valid as the 87th birthdays of Dad and Aunt Gladys were celebrated in fine style with good food, great weather, and a beautiful venue.

 

Linda opened her home and kitchen to many of the Boonville relatives for a Fall dinner of sausages, chili and cakes.  She moved into her bungalow home in Boonville after retiring a few years ago.  Her green thumb has always been busy and her new home’s yard and patio is just lovely and very amenable to entertaining.

 

The results of Linda's Green Thumb

 

 

 

Since our extended families are known for hearty and flavorful food, several different dishes were contributed by the guests.  However, Linda did some heavy lifting with the Dump Chili.  The menu was varied and substantial:

 

  • Linda’s Dump Chili;
  • Johnsonville Brats;
  • Johnsonville Italian sausage;
  • Frick’s Red Skin Franks;
  • Oscar Meyer Hot dogs;
  • Aunt Gladys apple salad;
  • Aunt Gladys cold bean and vegetable salad;
  • Irma’s Fiesta Dip;
  • Veggie’s, pickles and olives;
  • Kraut for the sausages along with other tasty condiments.

 

 

 

 

 

 The Grill with Brats, Italian Sausage, Frick's Red Skins

 

 

 

Although the name for the chili may create visions quite unappetizing, the result was exceptional.  The level of heat in the flavor is up to you.   Linda calmed hers down because of  several older stomachs in the crowd but plenty of heat was available to be added from hot sauce and chili powder.  The ingredients for the chili depend on the contents of your refrigerator and pantry, thus the descriptor of “Dump”.    For this version, Linda used:

 

  • 2 lbs of ground beef;
  • Green pepper, finely chopped;
  • Red pepper, finely chopped;
  • Large onion, finely chopped;
  • 2 cups of Roman tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 cans of Fired Roasted Tomatoes;
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes;
  • 1 large can of chili beans;
  • 1 can of black beans;
  • 2 packages of Five alarm chili seasoning;
  • a health dash of Chipotle chili pepper;

 

A simmering delight

Preparation:

  • Saute the peppers and onion in olive oil until soft;
  • Brown the ground beef in the same skillet than drain the grease;
  • Combine all the ingredients in a Crock-Pot and cook on low for 24 hours.

 

Linda had actually prepared the Dump Chili 3 days prior and refrigerated until the day of the party than she reheated in the Crock-Pot.  I often believe that the cooling down and subsequent sitting for a few days makes the sauce, soup or chili even better.  This rendering was no exception.  The chili was eaten in bowls, on sausages and right out of the pot.  Excellent!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Over the years I have observed that this clan has been blessed and cursed by an overactive sweet tooth.  The fore named tooth of those in attendance left more than satiated.  Hershey’s, ice cream and cake was the delivery devices for sweetness. 

 

  • Mom and Dad’s condo neighbor has become legendary for her Angel Food Cake with white icing.  Tonight’s offering was no disappointment. 
  • Dad’s request to Mom was for her German Chocolate Cake.  Becky actually got an advance sample Friday night and pronounced the cake excellent. 
  • Finally, Aunt Beck (reputedly the Paula Dean of Boonville)  brought  a Grandgirl’s Fresh Apple Cake from Georgia that I particularly enjoyed.   I was able to pry the recipe from Beck and you will definitely want to try.

 

Ah Sweets

 

Grandgirl’s Fresh Apple Cake:

  •  Mix:
    • 2 cups of sugar;
    • 3 eggs;
    • 1.5 cups of vegetable oil;
    • .25 cup of orange juice;
    • 3 cups of all purpose flour;
  • Add:
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda;
    • 1 tablespoon cinnamon;
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla;
    • .25 teaspoon salt;
    • 3 cups of peeled finely chopped Gala apples;
    • 1 cup coconut;
    • 1 cup chopped pecans.
  • Grease a 9X13 pan and bake 325 degrees for 1.5 hours, but check after 1 hour.
  • A maple icing adds the finishing touch.

 

As we celebrated Gladys and Dad’s 87 years, I remember how similar this occasion was with all those other times when our family has  gathered to share and partake of good hearty food, abundant sweets, a wonderful outdoor setting and the constant laugher and quiet discussions of a family who has loved, quarreled and shared. 

 Steph was dead right about the importance of food in the life of families and our society. 

 

The Smell of Beans

After a hellish July and August when the heat would beat you into the parched earth, September has broken cool and moist.  The cool temperature is perfect for crock pot and simmering dishes. 

 

Early in the morning, Becky breaks out the Rival Crock-Pot Cookbook, (published when “Hector was just a pup”), the great northern beans, a smoked ham hock from Harter House, and Jiffy Corn bread mix and begins filling the house with the great aroma of simmering beans, veggies and meat.  Amazingly, since we open the windows this time of year, the whole neighborhood can get the whiff of this simple but filling meal.

 I used to make the beans, but Becky was concerned with my habit of cooking the beans all day in a stew pot on the stove while at same time I left the beans unattended and ran errands.  She likes the security of the Crock-Pot better. 

 The recipe is as follows:

    • Pre soak 1 pound of great northern beans, I also add a handful of pinto beans to give color and some additional flavor;
    • Meaty Ham hocks, quantity depends on your meat tolerance;
    • Broth (chicken or vegetable) and water, enough to create 2 quarts of liquid or enough to amply cover the beans in the Crock-Pot;
    • 1 medium onion, chopped;
    • 1 celery stalk, chopped;
    • 1 carrot, chopped;
    • 5 whole peppercorns;
    • Cook in the Crock-Pot on high for about 60 minutes and than reduce to low for the rest of the day.

Bones of Ham Hock after simmering 8 hours

 

Corn bread is a must and we use old reliable Jiffy mix.  The directions says 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees, but we find it is done just shy of 15 minutes.

 

Jiffy CornBread mix, simple ingredients, quick baking!!!

The leftovers are as good as the day the dish was made.  Tonight I will use Clos du Bois chardonnay and midget sweet pickles to accent the meal.  Truly Hearty comfort food that leaves you satisfied and smiling.

 

Even the Pumpkin was excited.

Sunday Supper–Blue Plate Special

 

The flowers of Spring make any Blue Plate Speical--SPECIAL!

Blue Plate Special conjures up formica, frying pans, gravies and starches.  All are elements of the comfort foods of my youth in Boonville and on which Cracker Barrel restaurants should be making a fortune. 

After a weekend journey to Fulton Mo, and St. Louis, I wanted something that was simple and easy to fix.   Becky and I settled upon a dinner of ham steak, macaroni and cheese, green beans and cole slaw. 

 

Grilled ham slice, macaroni magic, & seasoned green beans

 

The main cooking effort would be directed toward the Macaroni Magic which was a recipe in the Junior League Sassafras Cook Book.  It includes the following:

 

Cheese is the glue for all that comfort!
  • 8 oz macaroni
  • 12 oz of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Onion—quantity dependent on your choice
  • Chopped green pepper to taste
  • 10 oz of a cream soup,   Tonight , I used broccoli.  Previously, I have used chicken, mushroom, and celery.
  • A jar of pimento
  • Sliced water chestnuts that have been chopped to desired size.

 

Saute the onion & pepper while the macaroni boils

 

  • Preparation:
    • Cook macaroni according to package
    • Sauted green pepper and onion in butter until tender
    • Mix cooked macaroni and all of the other ingredients with most of the cheddar cheese.  Leave enough cheese to sprinkle on top.
    • Bake the macaroni mixture in a buttered baking dish at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.

 

 

 I used a can of whole green beans and added some of the pimento and chopped onion.  Salt and white Worcestershire sauce from Lea Perrins provided the seasoning.   I generally don’t measure, but go with less salt and spice for Becky’s taste.

 

The cole slaw was made from pre-chopped cabbage from the store, chopped green onion, celery seed and dill seed.  I use any brand of  cole slaw dressing and a touch of Dorothy Lynch Home Style Dressing.

 

Creamy Cole Slaw, a major staple of any Blue Plate Special.

 

Really the “Blue Plate Special” is any meal that combines a variety of dishes that offer good nutrition and flavor. The key is an offering of several dishes. 

I know the chardonnay is not sweet ice tea!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Sunday Night Dinner April 24, 2011–Risotto

Finished Product

I never was a big fan of risotto.  I didn’t understand why it was pasta.  During our 2011 trip to San Francisco and the Napa wine region of California, I developed a better appreciation for the taste and flexibility that Italian rice gives a dinner.  Most folks who want to make their own risotto dishes are concerned about the pep time and wearing out their wrist and arm from the incessant stirring.   So once I decided to try cooking the rice myself, I made reference to Jeff Smith’s recipe for basic risotto in his book The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian.  The recipe was simple and easy to execute.

 The required elements are the Italian style rice (ARBORIO), olive oil, some sort of liquid, which I generally use a broth (vegetable, chicken or beef), white wine and salt.  A half cup of uncooked rice makes a nice size meal for Becky and me. 

The basic ingredients, rice, broth/wine and olive oil


 The olive oil is heated and the rice is sautéd until the color is off-white and some of the kernels may turn light brown.  I burned some of the kernels on my first try and the finished product was still good which demonstrates the saving grace of chicken broth & wine.  The key is to keep stirring the rice as it sautés and begin slowly adding the liquid as the rice begins to change from white to an off white and or light brown.  Keep stirring and adding broth until the rice is tender but firm to the taste.  The preparation of tonight’s risotto required about a half cup of chicken broth and wine and 20 to 30 minutes.

Saute the rice in olive oil, notice the white color of uncooked rice.

Stir the broth and rice till tender but firm to the taste


 The rest of the preparation is like stir frying.  Tonight I used cannellini beans from a can, fresh steamed broccoli, fresh red pepper, pearl onions from a jar, roasted garlic, and the tops from 2 green onions.  The raw veggies were sautéd first in olive oil and butter and the canned and prepared veggies were added through the course of the sautéing.  As I combined the risotto with the veggies, I added salt, dried basil leaves and the chopped green onion.   

Saute the veggies starting with the raw veggies first

Combine the risotto and the veggies


 The risotto is colorful, tasty and generally very consistent in quality.  The real advantage is the variety of meats and vegetables that can be used with different types of broths and liquids. Risotto also is a tasty accompaniment for main courses such as fish and roasted lamb, chicken and pork.

 This Easter night, we had a chopped green salad with cashews and a sweet oil and vinegar salad dressing.  The wine was a Yellow Tail Chardonnay.  All my friends know that I favor economical wines in ample quantities.

Finished risotto