Sunday, December 28, 2014

Turkey and Cornbread "Dressing" Sandwiches The Reformation Movement

My almost apologies to Martin Luther, but I just had to steal his movements name for a new blog feature here.  Instead of just having leftovers, I am going to reform them into something new and wondrous.  OK maybe attributing wonderment to leftovers is a grandiose concept and I really should just word it as a reconfiguration of that prior served, but the reformation movement appeals more to my sense of humor.  Plus this is just reformed leftovers and all I have to do is make 'em then use a keyboard and hit publish, eliminating that pesky task of all that nailing to the church door.

Tonight we were down to the last bits of leftover Christmas turkey and a handful of fresh cranberries. There was enough left for sandwiches, but the pretty slices were all gone, leaving just the scrappy shreds.  Hmmm, I wanted to use it, but I didn't want to necessarily serve ugly sandwiches.  Also, I wanted something hot and delicious.  Enter the hot turkey cornbread sandwich.

                                               Hot Turkey Corn Cake Sandwich

                                                     Sandwich all nice and ready for eating!

Fresh Cranberry Relish

1/2 cup fresh cranberries, minced
1 inch orange peel, pith removed then minced
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix all together and let it sit while you cook the corn cakes

Cornbread  Corn Cakes

2 packages Martha White Country Cornbread* mix
1/2 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Heat griddle on medium until it is hot enough that water drops "dance" on it, but make sure it is set at  medium heat or the cornbread will burn on the outside before it is cooked through. My griddle is a non stick griddle and doesn't need any oil to keep things from sticking.  You know how your cookware behaves so oil it if needed after the pan is hot. ( Use the oil on a paper towel trick)
Now I know there are measurement for the water amount on the back of the package but I totally ignore them and stir in water in a couple of tablespoon increments until it looks and feels like a pancake batter.  It will be a little thinner than traditional cornbread batter. Stir in the onion, poultry seasoning and parsley.  Drop onto the heated griddle and cook until bubbles appear all over the surface of the corn cakes.  Flip and cook until nicely browned.  Remove from the griddle to a heated plate.  Cook all the corn cakes.  You will have about 10-12 depending on how big you made them.

                                                              Open Face View

Dukes Mayonnaise**
Jalapeno pepper jelly
Warm leftover turkey shreds ( I had about 1/2 cup per sandwich)
lettuce leaves for each sandwich

Match 2 corn cakes for each sandwich. ( I always seem to make some larger than others so match by size.)  Spread the inside of each piece with Dukes Mayonnaise and put 1 teaspoon of jalapeno jelly on top of the mayonnaised  bottom piece of each sandwich.  Place the turkey on top of the pepper jelly then top with a tablespoon of the cranberry relish.  Place a lettuce leaf on top of the relish then add the top piece of the corn cake.  And the reformation is complete with the exception of eating it and a nice dry hard cider as the go to beverage.

*You don't technically have to use the Martha White cornbread mix, but it is the best so why not.   Whatever you use please, for the love of all that is holy, do not make sweet cornbread for this. (That means no Jiffy mix)  If you live in an area that does not have it and you would like to try it send me 3 bucks and I will mail you 2 packages.  It will cover the cost of the mix and the mailing.  My email is  I will send you my info from there.

** You also don't have to use Dukes Mayo.  It is made with no sugar so it has slightly different taste.  Any quality mayo will do, I guess.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cookie, Cookie, Candy Part 2

 I learned my lesson and went back to my old but delicious tried and true Christmas cookie recipes using an old issue of Ladies Home Journal from  December of 1980.  Back when it had a cover it said "Best Cookie Issue Ever" in huge letters.  Now its exterior has been reduced to tatters, but inside those recipes are still safely almost glued together.  The magazine itself now lives in a bright blue plastic portfolio folder, safe from further wear and tear, but it makes an appearance each and every year for our annual holiday baking. ( Who am I kidding, there is no "our" baking.  I bake and they eat)

I had to make 2 recipes of these yesterday to keep up with the immediate demand and still have cookies for our party Christmas Day.  Fortunately this is a very easy recipe and I should have just doubled it from the get-go.

                                                          Nutmeg Noels

1 tablespoon red sprinkles, 1 tablespoon green sprinkles
1/2 teaspoons nutmeg, divided
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter softened
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon rum extract

350  10-12 minutes

Put each tablespoon of colored sugar in a small shallow bowl.  Stir 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg into each and set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients together and set aside

Cream the butter until it is light and fluffy, add the sugar and continue beating until it is very fluffy.  Add the egg and mix well, then stir in the extracts.  With the mixer set on low, add the flour mixture until it is all combined well, but do not over beat

Set the bowl with the dough in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.  Roll the dough into balls about the size of large marbles.  Dip one side into the colored sugar using half the balls for the red sugar and the other half for the green sugar.

Place on a very lightly greased baking sheet ( or use parchment ) and bake for about 10-12 minutes until the edges of the bottom are light brown.  Do not over bake!  These taste similar to egg nog in cookie form.  I have a hard time keeping these because they are devoured about as fast as I can make them.  Even our sugar cookie hater loves these cookies.

They will keep about a week in an air tight room temp container, or freeze easily for a month.

The candy recipe is something called Needham's Candy.  I have never heard of it before or tasted it either.  I had some potatoes that needed to be used and did a quick google search using some search query like "unusual ways to use potatoes".  Up popped a recipe for Needham's which, after a little research,  I found is a Maine favorite.  I had no preconceived notions nor anything to compare it to, so my trial is simply based on whether they taste good or not.  I claim no similarity to the actual Needham's candy, because I have never had the real thing.  For the record they are delicious!

                                                         Copy Cat Needham's Candy

2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 lb bittersweet chocolate squares
1 1/2 tablespoon vegetable shortening ( I use Spectrum a non hydrogenated variety)

Pour confectioner's sugar in a medium saucepan and make a well in the center.  Put the potatoes, butter, vanilla and salt in the well and place the pan over a simmering pan of water.  Stir the mixture in the well with a wooden spoon and gradually add the confectioner's sugar into the potato mixture. Keep stirring until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes a smooth paste. ( 5 minutes)

Remove from heat and add the coconut. Though the directions did not say to do this I found you have to continue stirring it for a few minutes until the candy can be shaped.  On a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, pat the candy into about a 6x4 rectangle. ( see picture below)  Go ahead and score it in 1 inch square pieces, but do not cut it through until the mixture is completely cool and firm ( not hard and crumbly).  They suggest freezing the candy for 30 minutes, but I found my kitchen was cold enough that the candy firmed up at room temperature.

Now cut into individual pieces.

Over simmering water, melt the chocolate and shortening.  (I used 1/2 the amount of chocolate and shortening and put it in a tall mug inside a small boiler of simmering water.  There was more than enough to coat all 24 pieces)

Using a fork, dip each piece in the chocolate, tap off the excess and put on a waxed paper  covered cookie sheet to harden.  ( They might need a few minutes in the freezer for the chocolate to completely set)

Below is a before and after picture of 3 pieces that melded into one piece. (Can you say drippage?)
Years ago I learned how to "men" sloppy chocolates.  You need a glass of very hot water, a paper towel, and a super sharp paring knife.  Dip the blade of the knife in the hot water for a couple of seconds.  Blot it dry and quickly trim the offending chocolate drips.  If any candy center is exposed, dip the blade again, blot and take a small bit of the chocolate trimmings and place it on the candy with the hot blade on top of it.  The heat will melt a tiny chocolate repair on it.

                                            3 unruly pieces that just did not want to behave.

    Those same 3 pieces after a slight trim and mend job



Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cookies, Cookies and Candy Part 1

I get tired of making the same old cookies every Christmas, so I decided to try some new to us recipes.  After all, I am not old and set in my ways, right?  (I am going to keep telling myself that and maybe, just maybe, I might begin to believe it)

 My first experiment was White Chocolate Peppermint Brittle Cookies.  It sounded pretty simple and straight forward.  It was essentially a shortbread filled with white chocolate chips and crushed peppermint bits, patted as thin as possible, given that is was filled with chips.  Then it was baked into a crisp single cookie.  After the cookie cooled it would be drizzled with melted white chocolate and sprinkled with more crushed peppermint bits, then broken into cookie bark pieces.

                       White Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Brittle

Here's the recipe

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ounces white chocolate, chopped or 1 3/4 cups white chocolate chips (both divided)
3/4 cup coarsely crushed peppermint candy (divided)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line large baking sheet with parchment and set aside
In a mixing bowl whisk the flour, baking soda and salt.  In another large bowl add the melted butter and both sugars and vanilla.  Stir until very smooth.  Stir in the flour mixture until just blended in.  Stir in 1 cup of chopped white chocolate or real white chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy.

Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet and press the dough into a 14 X 8 ish rectangle.  Bake until the top is firm and dark golden.  Cool completely.  Melt the remaining white chocolate and drizzle it from the tines of a fork all over the cookie.  Then sprinkle the remaining peppermint bits over the damp chocolate.  Let dry at least 1 hour, until the chocolate is nice and hard.  Break into irregular pieces and enjoy.

Hmmmmm, not sure how to begin the critique of this.  I may or may not try it again just to see if I can improve on it.  Since the predominant flavors should be white chocolate and peppermint, I am not sure why the recipe included brown sugar.  The brown sugar tasted caramelish after the long cook time and played against the cookie's theme.  Also because you are supposed to bake the cookie until it is dark golden, the white chocolate chips begin to caramelize, so why even bother with them. Then, when you break the cookie pieces the heat from your hands causes the drizzled white chocolate to melt...big mess.

My solutions would be to omit the brown sugar and add 1/3 cup additional white sugar, then nix the chips in the cookie and leave out the peppermint pieces. Change the extract from just vanilla to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract.  After patting the dough on the baking sheet, score break lines so you won't have to handle the white chocolate as much after it bakes.  When it comes out of the oven and is still soft go ahead and cut the pieces but do not separate them, then drizzle the white chocolate and dust with the peppermint bits. (I think I would almost have the peppermints crushed into a semi fine powder)

To be honest the jury is still out about trying these again or not. Right now I am leaning toward not.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Don't Do This For Christmas Unless You Start Really Early

Most years I create our Christmas card, usually it has a funny photo or caption, and can be made at one of those "1 hour turns your photo into a card" places, or it might be hand drawn.  It really is just serendipitous, based entirely on whatever unusual has happened to us on any given year.

 For example one year we were staying at a Hotel in Portland and a NBA team was staying at the same hotel.  We were going to our room when who should appear in the lobby but Saquille O'Neal.  Our youngest son was young enough to be completely starstruck and asked if he could get a picture with him.  He was gracious enough to allow it, so I knew I would somehow incorporate it into our Christmas card.  It ended up as a dilapidated house with a front door that opened to the picture.  Inside the door it said "From our Shaq to yours, Merry Christmas"  I generally try to have a little word play going with whatever picture I use.

This year nothing was gelling.  We had not seen or done anything spectacular except for becoming grandparents.  I would love to have had a picture of the grand baby on ours, but that is for her parents card, not mine.  The season was getting closer and closer and I had received a bunch of cards, but had sent none.  Finally in mid-December I sat and wrote a little verse.  After a bit of tweaking I had something that I thought was pretty reflective of our current states of minds.  Since everyone I sent this to should have received it by now, I am sharing the utter act of desperation with you.  If you are reading this and have not gotten one, I blame the post office!

First of all this was taken on the fly, right as I was about to stuff the last card of Christmas into it's envelope.  I was not wearing my glasses and thought it was focused.  I was wrong!  I am supplying text in case you are unable to see the verse.

Twas the twelfth of December
and all through the house,
"There is no sign of Christmas"
we started to grouse.
Those boxes and baubles
 were still in the vault.
We had no one to blame
it was clearly our fault.
When out on the street
we heard a great racket.
It was our favorite postman
transporting a packet.
"Oh no!" we exclaimed
as he passed by our yard
"In the midst of this chaos
we haven't done cards."
We sat down to think
and put our thoughts to paper.
If we pulled this one off
it would be our best caper.
We wrote and erased
some words better, some worse
And managed to scratch out
this lame little verse.
Our vast lack of talent
creating this card,
is offset by sincerest
Christmas regards.

(printed on the inside of the card)

In closing we wish you and yours
mirth and cheer

For Christmas,

For New Year's,


All Through The Year!

And let's recap why this is a very bad idea to begin this project Dec 12.


 1. Write verse. (Pat self on back for such an easy idea)

 2. Go  to Office Depot to buy papers and envelopes.

 3. Stand in line for 15 minutes waiting to have them printed at Office Depot.

 4. Give up and run by Pete's Printing instead

 5. Leave Pete's Printing because they will not be finished for 5 days (insert off colored car language)    

 6.  Go to Kwik Kopy (Bless them) and have them printed while waiting.

 7. Run by Joanne's and buy 6 feet of very thin red satin ribbon

 8. Go home, stick a load of laundry in the wash, fold green card stock in half

 9. Realize too late you only had the ivory paper cut in half rather than the size you actually needed

10. Grab scissors, ruler and cardboard for template

11. Turn on Christmas music

12. Trace template on the back of every bloomin card

13. Cut and cut and cut and cut a little longer

14. Find small hole punch and begin punching holes in top sheet and front of green card.

15.  Realize the first five cards you punched are upside down.

16. Decide after doing 10, it might be a good idea to tie as you go.

17.  Realize quickly you bought way to little ribbon ( 6 inches per card? Who knew)

18. Find a spool of red and white kitchen twine, untie the ones already tied and re-tie so they all match

19.  Address the envelopes

20.  Look back at the card and think it is too plain.  Draw holly and berries with water colors on each.

21.  Decide you don't like the way the holly looks, get out pen, nib, and ink and detail it

22. Personalize and sign each card and put it in the envelope.

23. Realize you are five short ( remember the one's punched wrong?)

24.  Run back to Kwik Kopy and beg them to sell 5 sheets of ANY GREEN paper

25.  Have insides of the kelly green (looks like St. Paddy's day green) printed.

26. Go home and finish the additional cards.

27.  Go to the post office and buy stamps ( No Christmas stamps so flags it is)

28.  Stand in the post office outer lobby and affix stamps to 80 envelopes (?????)

29.  Stop at grocery store next door to post office and make 2 purchases

30.  Drive home, open bag, open bottle, pour wine and eat chocolate

I am going shopping the day after Christmas and buying cards for next year, nice beautiful cards
that I don't have to do anything to but address and sign!  Or maybe I will start this process in October!

Merry Christmas to all of you and a joyous New Year!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review "The Christmas Spirit"

Somethings afoot in the small Scottish town of Winstanton ,a short drive from Glasgow, overlooking Loch Lomond.  Natalie arrives with a double mission.  As a newcomer to town she is taking over the town bakery, while the owner recuperates from surgery.  We find early in the book, "The Christmas Spirit"by Susan Buchanan, that Natalie moves about every December with the intent of helping four people who need a little"more".

The book is written as a day by day account of her season in Scotland.  Natalie sets out to make the bakery a delicious haven for all of the town.  We meet all the characters in the book when they stop at various times to grab a coffee and something sweet.  Natalie is the ultimate replacement.  She has a natural affinity for baking truly tasty treats and an equally natural gift of getting to know those who frequent the bakery.

Through her we meet Stanley, a widower, who is unhappy that he has to live his remaining years without Edie, the love of his life.   In fact, he misses her so much he still pours her a cup of tea each day for their morning breakfast "talks.

Next we are introduced to Meredith, the workaholic, ambitious, driven to the extreme business owner and her personal assistant, Sophie.  As much as Meredith loves her regimented life with her complete attention to the details of her business, she fails to notice how overworked and under appreciated Sophie is.

Jacob is the son of wealthy parents who had the best education money could buy.  In fact his parents bought things but were never there themselves.  As a young boy he learned to prefer staying at school over the holidays, rather than to holiday in a home with the help as parents in abstentia.  After their schooling was complete his parents cut all financial ties with Jacob and his sister, Tabitha.  His sister managed to get a good job and is doing fine financially.  Jacob finished school in the middle of a slight recession when very few places are hiring.  At 22 he is living hand to mouth when he goes into the bakery.  Soon Natalie offers him a job because there is more to running the bakery than she can handle by herself.

Poor Rebecca has just been jilted by her live in boyfriend.  3 years into the relationship things just are not working out and now she must look for somewhere new to live.  They bought an apartment together, but she can't afford to keep it on her small salary.  Ethan is going to buy her out.  Imagine he in effect forcing her to abandon not only her love, but also the home she loves.  Now right before Christmas she is forced to begin the process of trying to find a home she loves and can afford.  She is sad and mad at the same time.

The remaining days pass with these folks entering and exiting the bakery, interacting with Natalie and each other.  The book is somewhat predictable but it is a pleasant and quick read during the holiday season.

This year I have had zero Christmas spirit and needed a "fix".  This did not make me want to sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya nor did it give me a big case of the warm fuzzies, but it was a nice Christmas theme book, plus I snagged to free from ereader news today. If you read on an ereader, I would strongly suggest you add this site to your favorites.  I check it daily for free books.  Most days I get none but I do tend to get all the Christmas books that are free.  At worst, I don't like them and just delete them, but generally they are readable decent stories.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

C Is For Cookies__Texas Sheet Cake Cookies Update

I was bopping around Pinterest and noticed a recipe I thought might be worth trying.  I have always been a fan of Texas Sheet Cake (which I always called lunchroom cake because it was served in every one of my school cafeterias, including college ).  I like the moist gooey chocolate cake and the dry flaky  chocolate icing.  It tastes and reminds me of simpler times.  When I saw the recipe for the cookie version I knew I would make it.

I wish I remember the name of the blog linked to the recipe.  I was in a hurry so I just wrote down the ingredients on a piece of scrap paper and turned off the computer.  Now I have the ingredients and instructions but no website.  So, sorry to whomever I copied this from without giving you credit.  It was not intentional.

                                                     Texas Sheet Cake Cookies

For the Cookie

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix the softened butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy.  Add the egg to combine then stir in the vanilla until it is mixed well.  Add the baking powder and salt and blend well.  Slowly add the flour until it is all combined.  Then add in the melted chocolate chips and stir to combine very well. ( To melt the chocolate chips put them in a microwave safe bowl.  Zap for 30 seconds and stir.  Continue zapping and stirring in 15 second increments until they are melted.  It took me 45 seconds total.  Do not over cook or the chips will harden and will not be usable)

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper ( or use a silpat) and drop cookies in about golf ball size balls.  Pat the top slightly with slightly damp fingers and bake for 7-9 minutes.  You really want the cookies to be just well set, but still soft and gooey.  Remove from the cookie sheet to a rack to cool.

While the cookies cool make the icing.

For the icing

1/4 cup butter melted
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Add all butter and coca and stir until smooth.  Stir in the milk and vanilla then slowly add the confectioners sugar.  Stir until smooth adding a few drops more of milk if necessary.

 When cool place  the cookies on a flat tray and heap a mound of chocolate frosting on each cookie.  Let them hang out to air dry before serving.  Makes about 18 2 inch very rich cookies.

I have a somewhat mixed review on these.  The taste was very good and the texture was fine.  I thought the icing was way too sweet and it made entirely too much of it.  I didn't use even half of the recipe.  I stuck the leftover in an air tight container in the refrigerator and will make another batch of the cookies this week.  I will not use chocolate chips in the next recipe.  I am going to increase the sugar by a couple of tablespoons, add 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder and a tablespoon of oil. ( Will not be sure of the cocoa amount until I risk my life and actually consume tastes of the raw cookie dough and adjust as needed.  I guess I am just brave like that.)   It should be enough  to compensate for the chips sweetness and fat content.  I didn't find the chocolate taste of the cookies bold enough to warrant using chocolate chips when cocoa should work perfectly fine.  Will let you know!  I guess I rate these and overall good, but I think I would prefer to save the chocolate chips for something that needs them rather than to just give a chocolate flavor to a pretty basic cookie.

Update:  I did try these again substituting 4 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa,  1 1/2 tablespoons oil and 4 tablespoons additional sugar in place of the chocolate chips.  It worked perfectly fine but I can't tell you it tasted exactly the same since I did not have one from each batch to do a side by side comparison.  It was worth it to me if for no other reason than having one less dish to wash.  The cookies had a similar "feel" to them, so I would call it ok to make with cocoa.  I know I will!

Friday, December 5, 2014

SHHHH!...Santa Letter's

Each year my good friend Millie and I send letters to children across our area from Santa.  We started it 5 years ago as  band fundraiser and though our sons have graduated and moved to different colleges, we still continue the tradition for our local high school band and an additional local non-profit organization.  They get the message out that there are a couple of elves who will send personalized Santa letters with the official North Pole cancellation to "your child" for a donation and a little bit of information.  We have always had a pretty good response, but this year there was an avalanche of requests.

Unlike the commercial Santa letters, we do not ask or comment on any particular wants from the Christmas lists.  Instead we ask for a few successes each child has experienced during the year as well as what needs a little tweaking.  Those things are couched in a sweet little note about the elves, reindeer and of course the Claus family.

I thought today I might share a few of the successes and problem areas from the past few years.
One little fellow is now wearing clothes regularly. We have numerous children who are learning to go to the potty.  Several little people are learning their colors, letters and numbers.  Many of the kids are making excellent grades and are involved in everything from sports, gymnastics, cheerleading and scouts to music lessons, dance lesson, and learning foreign languages. ( Special thumbs up to one little fellow who is learning Chinese characters this year and a guy from a couple of years back who had mastered Czech)
Perhaps the nicest things we see are the words "she is kind to everyone" "he is a great helper and has a tender heart" "she makes everyone around her smile" "he tries to make everyone feel included".  Great job parents!

The "needs to work on" list is the funniest most of the time.  We do have the usual request for Santa to say something about nap time, whining, being a nicer brother/sister, sharing, using good manners, listening to mommy and daddy the FIRST time they say something, but we also see some original things that need a little adjusting.  A couple of years ago Santa had to tell one little boy that he had to wear underwear to school-every day!  One little angel need to quit acting like a cat when she meets people.  Another girl needs to quit throwing her spoons and forks at meal time  and several need to tone down the sass.

For the record, though we have request each and every year for Santa to say something about bed wetting, Santa does NOT scold an immature bladder.  If your child wets the bed it is not because he/she wants to or is too lazy to get up.  It is because their bladder is somewhat immature and they don't get "the signal" like everyone else.  Don't worry they will outgrow it.  In the meantime either get up and change their sheets or buy Pull-ups.

Hope you have enjoyed this little window into my yearly Christmas tradition.  Now as we speak about 400 letters are on their way to the North Pole remailing station.  A special thanks to some of the mothers who video their little ones reading their letters then tagging us with it.  The bright eyes and ear to ear grins make 2 days of chaos well worth it.

Oh and for the record, this year Santa had to explain why it is not a great idea to get a seahorse as a pet!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Favorite, Praline Fudge


Every holiday season I make one batch of this fudge.  It tastes very much like a traditional praline, but no  decent candy maker would ever consider using brown sugar for it.  A true praline uses white sugar cooked long and slow to get the wonderful light brown color.  Call this a cheaters version, both for the brown sugar and the fact that it is poured in a pan and cut into squares.  It's still good enough for us.

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
3 tablespoons dark Karo
2 pinches salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup pecan pieces

In a largish pan mix the brown sugar, sugar, evaporated milk and the karo syrup.  Cook over a medium heat until the mixture reaches soft ball on a candy thermometer or until a drop in col water forms a soft and pliable ball.  Remove from the heat and add the salt, butter and vanilla. Let it cool for about 5 minutes.  While waiting for the fudge to cool, butter a 9x9 inch baking pan.  Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it starts losing its gloss.  Stir in the pecan pieces and pour immediately into the prepared pan.  Let it set until it is cool and firm to the touch.  Cut into small pieces. I usually cut them about In about 3/4 inch squares.  Enjoy but remember these are very rich.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Whatever Blog "We Were Liars" Book Review

I have no idea where  or what I read about the book "We Were Liars" by E.Lockheart, but something must have been the impetus to click buy from Amazon.

I am wondering just where to begin.  We are introduced to the central character, Cadence or Cady for short at the beginning of the book.  We know from the get go something terrible has happened to her.  We know it involves water, delirium and a loss of memory about the events.  Though a series of flashbacks then a move to the current day we begin, with Cady, to reconstruct "The Event" that no one talks about or will help her remember.

Cady is a cousin in the Sinclair tribe, a family that has absolutely nothing I can relate to.  I did not grow up on the east coast as a granddaughter of a very wealthy Old Boston family.  My folks ( and their parents) did not have a private island where we summered ( each sibling having their own house with the big house where the grandparents lived central to everyone)  I had a ton of cousins, but we spent days together, not the entire season, and we did not have motor boats, kayaks, canoes, staff, and private beaches at our disposal. ( A couple of times we rented a huge house at the beach and most of us were together for a week.   We had only several inner tubes and a couple of floats for our watercraft . It was a lot of fun for a couple of days, but then it became overwhelming.  I can't imagine an entire summer with everyone.)

Aside from that, I suppose having general angst about "who I am and where I am going and what has happened and why did this happen to me" are universal as we all trudge through the teen years. So that much is relatable.

 Cady and her small group of near age cousins plus the nephew of her aunt's live in lover form a tight little group they call "The Liars" They are a separate entity from "The Littles" (or the younger cousins) and "The Aunts ( their mothers who happen to be sisters).  They plot and conspire and lollygag around their private beach homes on the private island and seem to be worried about how difficult each of them has it. ( I guess it is hard to be from an uber wealthy and privileged pedigree)

This novel seems to be marketed as "THE BIG GOTCHA" ending so I am reluctant to say to much about the book itself.  The overriding theme is everyone lies, has secrets,  and intolerances and you have to read quite a bit to find who is lying to whom. (I use the pronoun whom because it is the object of the preposition to and therefore should be in the objective case.  Son2 declared me archaic for using it, but on occasion I can be a grammar Nazi.)

The writing itself was ok, but it jumped back and forth from from novel form to verse and I find it irritating if there is no reason for the jump.  I guess because I was just being pissy about having to read the different forms, it took me a while to really stick with the book long enough to finish it.  When I finally got to the end and the big reveal I was tired of reading it.  I understand other people found it to be amazingly poignant and haunting.  Perhaps they are not as cynical or old as I am.

Read it for yourself and tell me what you think.  At this moment I would have to give it a "U" for underwhelming.  If you read it and have a different opinion please let me know.  Maybe I was in such a hurry to finally finish the book that I missed some profound lesson I was supposed to learn.

Friday, November 21, 2014

33 Days And Counting Until Christmas

This week begins my official "getting ready for Christmas" phase. I have a long cedar closet with a funky pitch to the ceiling.  When it is neatly organized it works well, but this past year it has gotten out of control.  It is completely filled with all of my Christmas decorations, plus other seasonal decorating items. ( Translation:  Too Much Stuff!)

Today I will pull it all out and purge whatever I no longer want/need.  A young woman I know has already claimed dibs on whatever I am tossing, which is great.  It keeps me from having to run to the thrift store to donate it and keeps her from having to spend any money.  Win/win!  Since I have no young children I am getting rid of everything "kiddo".  It should work out well for her with her 3 little ones.  I also have a few rolls of  partially used Christmas wrapping paper with juvenile prints.  I hope she wants those also.  You have no idea how happy I am to be doing this.

As soon as I have cleaned everything out, I will begin the process of deciding where things I keep will be placed.  I try and put the various decorations in different rooms/areas each year just to keep everyone on their toes.  Since we will be traveling across the country for Thanksgiving I want to have it all ready so I can blitz the house the day after we return and have everything Christmasy early. ( I will not need to use the dining room before we leave so I might go ahead and set things up in there and just leave the lights off until we return) Of course I might just be over-ambitious.

I am taking a few prepared easily totable foods to our sons.  It will take a little doing because we are flying so things have to pack easily.  I make killer peanut butter fudge which the whole family loves and it is much easier for me to cook it here than to cook there. ( We will be cooking Thanksgiving meal things at his house so I don't need to crowd the kitchen making candies)  I will also be taking praline fudge along with plain old chocolate fudge.  I can leave all that is left over and they can have it throughout the holidays.  I figure as long as I am cooking I might go ahead and make a couple of batches of Christmas cookie dough and stick them in the freezer.

Shopping this year is going to be different.  I will buy some things for our son and his family and for our other sons, but my parents want  and need nothing and neither does my sister.  I love having a lot of presents for them to unwrap so instead of the usual gifts, this year I am buying them mostly consumable items that they don't normally buy.  ( A whole ribeye sliced into steaks for Dad?  Pastas and various speciality  jarred sauces for Mom? Similar items for my sister and b-i-l. )  I think it might work out well for everyone, but whoever thought Publix and Piggly Wiggly would be their primary Christmas gift store?

Happy nearly holiday season.

p.s. If you are like me and have scored a stash of cheap pomegranates check out this video here.  I just tried it and it worked, but I did have a little splatter.  Thankfully I put the bowl in the sink before I tried the wooden spoon method.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Saving the Best for Last, Sweet Potato Hash Browns with Bacon

Day 28

Ah the blessed 3 day countdown begins.  I am really glad because I am almost cooked out. Actually I am not tired of cooking as much as I am tired of planning meals and thinking ahead.  I have never had any trouble throwing a meal together at the last minute until this food challenge.  With this I am always wondering "Did I make the paleo mayonnaise?'  Do I have enough cauliflower cooked?"  Oh no, did I remember to thaw the whatever?"   There is just so much food prep with this.  I am pretty sure I will stick with a paleo diet at least for a while, but doing a regular paleo will seem like a walk in the park after doing this.

breakfast  leftover collard and mustard greens
                2 Whole 30 sausage patties

lunch       apple with 1 tablespoon almond butter
                coffee/ water

supper     paleo chili over baked sweet potato
                cole slaw with paleo mayo
                unsweetened tea, water

Day 29

breakfast  paleo chorizo, nopales and egg scramble

lunch     sliced apple with almond butter

dinner    Chipotle's carnitas salad with pico and guacamole, again

Day 30

breakfast  sweet potato, onion, bacon hash browns

lunch     apple and 1 tablespoon almond butter

dinner    leftover pork tenderloin
              cooked carrots
              cabbage slaw with paleo mayo

                             Sweet Potato and Onion with Bacon Hash Browns

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut in a very small dice ( mine was just larger than a jumbo egg)
1/4 small onion cut in match stick pieces
2 slices cooked bacon
salt and pepper to taste
2 pinches chili powder

In a non stick pan heat the oil to a mid high heat.  Add the sweet potato and onion and cook until fairly crisp.  Add the cooked bacon, salt, pepper and chili powder and heat through, allowing the bacon to crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel covered plate.  After a quick blot of the excess coconut oil, serve immediately.

I had read about this during the first few days I was doing this program and decided I needed to wait toward the end before I tried it.  It was probably the best decision I have ever made, because I think I would have eaten this nearly every morning. The sweet potatoes were a perfect blend of soft and crunchy bits, the onions provided a nice sweet yet soft dynamic and the bacon, well it's bacon so enough said!   Paleo diet or not, these were outstanding.

Round up

I am writing this on day 31.  Yes that is correct, I am continuing with the plan.  I have decided to maintain a strict paleo diet 6 days a week. On the other day, well I guess there are no rules for it.

I learned a ton by reading labels.  Sugar is is just about everything, including that box of iodized salt nearly everyone has in their pantry.  MSG rears its ugly head a lot too, and soybean oil is the oil of choice in prepared foods.  I also learned really good for you oils are EXPENSIVE.

Without trying to lose weight I did lose enough that I see the value of eating this way.  I feel better and have not reached for a Tums once, even after eating highly seasoned foods.  So I guess I will continue to make my own sausages and mayonnaise and ketchup.  As an aside, it does not take me long to shop in a grocery store now.  I zip up and down the produce section then by the meats.  After grabbing a few frozen vegetables I am out the door.

I am adding stevia back to my everyday diet.  I am from the south and have really missed sweet tea. I will also make an occasional paleo muffin recipe and might even venture into paleo "bread" making. (Well, I will venture once, if it takes too much time I won't venture a second time)

If you want to get back to basics the Whole 30 plan is a good start.  My only recommendation would be to have a few things like ketchup and mayo prepared before you begin!    

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Salmon Fritatta Day 25, 26 and 27

Day 25

I confess this is getting boring and difficult now.  We used to eat out a couple of nights a week and eat somewhere fabulous (or just fabulous tasting) at least once a month.  Now our eating out is mostly take out from Chipotle's.  Don't get me wrong, the carnitas salad with pico and guacamole is really tasty and I have been enjoying it very much.  It's just that I am ready to go somewhere and sit down with a drink and perhaps have a bite or two of the bread.  I am talking about tiny bites, not much and not more than one day a week.

I didn't want to cook tonight so we went out to Bluff Park Diner, a nearby meat and three.  For any of you not from the south, a meat and three is generally a cafeteria type place which serves 3 types of plates:  a meat with 2 vegetables (Did you know that in the south mac and cheese is a veggie?), a meat with 3 vegetables or a vegetable plate with three vegetables.  I had already decided that whatever I could legally eat was what I would have.  As it turned out, it was not really great, but hey, I didn't have to cook.

breakfast  leftover pork tenderloin, broccoli and carrots ( I only had to nuke it)

lunch       apple
                turkey slices

dinner      yellow squash and onions
                green beans
                turnip greens ( I really, really wanted the cornbread that came with the meal)
                unsweetened tea
later         clementine

Day 26

 Book club night with some of my favorite people.  Tonight we met at Firebird's to eat and gab instead of talking about the book since we never decided on one last month.  Occasionally we all get caught up in day to day stuff and have a month like this.  Funny that no one minds at all.  Man will I be glad when this month is over. I really wanted just 1 bite of the bread. Well one bite of bread and a Double Black Diamond Martini.  Maybe next month

breakfast  salmon fritatta with onions and collards

lunch       clementine

dinner     Firebird's grilled salmon, green beans, mixed vegetables, ahi tuna
               unsweetened tea

later        too many cashews, again

                                            Salmon Fritatta with collard greens and onions

              To put things in perspective, this is a full size dinner plate, not a breakfast one

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/12 cup chopped collard greens
1/4 small onion chopped
1/4ish cup canned wild Alaskan salmon, broken up in small pieces ( I just eyeballed)
1 egg, beaten

In a non stick skillet heat the oil to mid high and add the collards and onions.  Cook, stirring often until the greens wilt and are about half of their beginning bulk.  Add the salmon and heat it through.  Pour the beaten egg over the top of the salmon and cook covered until the egg is cooked through. (about 4 minutes maybe)  Serve on a plate and enjoy.  This makes a huge breakfast serving.

I wish I remembered what blog I saw this on. ( I forgot to bookmark it, plus I really have no idea what the original recipe was.  I only remembered kale, eggs and salmon and added the onion because I had collards rather than kale and thought it might help the flavor a bit.0  This was a very good breakfast, probably best eaten mid morning unless you are a fan of fish early.

 I am obsessive about washing my hands when cooking and often use them as cooking tools.  This morning I used my fingers to crumble the salmon. Big Mistake!  After washing my hands tons of times during the day, Shelby the dog kept doing a drive by licking every time she passed me.  It was not until I got in the car with its close confines that I realized my hands still had a slight salmon odor.  Use a folk and don't smell like cat food all day.

Day 27

4 days and counting!  After eating out last night I had much larger servings than I have been eating and was still not hungry this morning.  I decided to eat when I was hungry and not before.  After doing some house stuff and running to a couple of grocery stores I decided to stop by my parents house.  They were eating some soup I could not eat, but just smelling it made my stomach growl.  Thankfully they had an apple and I ate that. After visiting with them  a couple of hours it was getting close to time to begin cooking supper.  I was getting really hungry but it was too near dinner time to eat anything.

Breakfast  wasn't hungry

lunch        out and about, no time to eat
                 coffee and water

snack        apple

dinner      pork tenderloin
                baked sweet potato
                huge mound of sauteed collard greens, mustard greens, and onions
                coffee with almond milk

Monday, November 10, 2014

Crazy Cactus Breakfast Scramble...Day 22,23 and 24

Day 22

breakfast  delicious chorizo, egg, onion, cactus scramble

lunch        apple with almond butter

dinner       hamburger patty with mushrooms and onions
                 tossed salad
                 green beans
                                                 Crazy Cactus Breakfast Scramble

1 serving paleo chorizo
1 small onion sliced in rings
1/2 jar brine packed cactus (nopales)
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste (taste prior to adding salt though)

Brown the chorizo in a small nonstick pan.  Add the onion slices and cook through.  In a colander drain the cactus well.  Add it to the pan and heat until it is bubbling.  Push everything to one side and add the egg.  Stir to scramble then mix it in with the sausage, cactus and onions.  Cover and let it heat for about a minute.  Serve immediately.  This makes a huge  very different yet tasty ( no delicious) breakfast.

I have Sonya Ann @ Mom, Money and More to thank for this.  Looks like you are becoming my cooking Muse. I loved the way this tasted and I loved the different flavor. I also loved the heat that the cactus has ( compliments of being pickled with a hot pepper)  This was a tad salty for my taste so next time I will rinse a bit of the brine off while it is draining in the colander.  This was also a very fast breakfast from start to finish.  I can see doing this well after this food challenge is over.

Paleo Chorizo

1 pound ground pork
1 3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
1 heaping tablespoon paprika
dash cayenne
1 pinch allspice
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 quick shake red pepper flakes

Put all ingredients in a gallon size zip lock bag and squish it around until everything is mixed well. ( leave a small opening when zipping the bag so air can  get out and you can mix it well. Close the zip completely and leave in the bag in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day portion as desired.  Use some immediately and freeze the rest, or use it all.  Your choice.

I found this recipe @Meatified and used it as a starting point.  I mainly changed it to use what I had rather than go buy anything additional.  If you read the ingredients on a chorizo package you will probably never buy it again.  This is a fantastic alternative!

Day 23

breakfast  orange juice
                hamburger patty with paleo ketchup and mustard

lunch       salad
               1 tablespoon almond butter

dinner    pork tenderloin
              roasted potato (half)
              salad with 1 tablespoon paleo mayonnaise
              unsweetened tea

later       1 clementine

Day 24

breakfast  scrambled eggs and bacon

lunch       leftover hamburger patty w/ paleo ketchup
               leftover tossed salad with oil and lemon juice

dinner     Chipotle's carnitas salad with pico and guacamole

later         clementine

Friday, November 7, 2014

Whole30 day 19,20 and 21

Day 19

 Regular day in Birmingham with the exception of voting.  I am a regular voter and my next door neighbor is a poll worker for every  election. (local, state, national)  I walk in and go to the E-K table and who is there, but my neighbor Jane.  She says "Hi Anne"  I greet her by name and then she asks to see my license to verify who I am?  Crazy!

breakfast   Fritatta made with spaghetti squash, caramelized onions, 1 slice ham, and 1 egg

lunch         tossed salad with oil and vinegar
                  handful of mixed nuts ( no peanuts though)

dinner       pork chops over steamed cabbage and onions
                 unsweetened tea

Day 20

breakfast  1 egg scrambled with 1 chopped tomato and 1/2 small onion, chopped

lunch       dry green salad with avocado, chicken and pecans
snack       cashews (way too many, BTW oven roasted raw cashews are the bomb)

dinner    weird but tasty skillet meal of ground turkey, onions, peppers, apples and sweet potatoes
               unsweetened tea

                                          Weird but Tasty Turkey, Apple Scramble

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large onion in thin slices
1 small bell pepper in matchstick slices
2 large apples, cored and cut in thin wedges
1 pound ground turkey
2 small baked sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in large cubes
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the coconut oil to a mid high heat.  Add the onions and peppers and cook until wilted.  Add the apple wedges and cook until the apples are crisp tender.  Remove the apples from the pan and add the turkey, stirring and cooking until it is almost cooked through.  Add the apples and sweet potatoes back into the skillet, salt and pepper to taste, cover with a lid and turn the heat to medium low.  Cook until everything is bubbly hot and the apples are cooked.  Serve on a plate and enjoy.  This made 3 very generous portions, but would also easily feed 2 adults and 3 children.

Day 21

Oh my goodness!  Just 10 more days until this challenge is over and done.

breakfast   coffee (Sorry life, but you got in my way this morning)

lunch        1 chicken breast
                 shredded lettuce
                 tomato slice
                 fruit cup
                 unsweetened tea

dinner       roasted chicken
                cole slaw with paleo mayonnaise
                hash brown made with potatoes, onions and spaghetti squash
                unsweetened tea and coffee

later         pear and too many cashews

Paleo Mayonnaise ( no picture)

3/4 cup oil (Olive, avocado, or macadamia preferred)
1 room temperature egg yolk (large or jumbo)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon mustard ( the stuff in the yellow squirt bottle)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Divide the oil in two cups ( I use my creamer for 1/2 cup and the measuring cup for the other 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup and 1/4 cup.  With a whisk beat the egg yolk in a glass bowl (glass or glazed pottery, it makes a difference ) until it changes to a lemony color.  Add the vinegar, mustard and salt and continue to beat until it is well blended.  Add 1/4 cup oil and whip it until it starts to thicken a bit.  Now here is the tricky part.  Add the oil in the tiniest trickle you can possibly pour, drops at a time is even better. Whisk and whisk and whisk and whisk until all the oil is incorporated  and the mixture is light and fluffy. This will take a while but keep drizzling and whisking.  When it is all light and fluffy add the lemon juice,  Whip an additional time or two and now you have mayonnaise. (If it fails, and mine has failed before, turn it into salad dressing)


Monday, November 3, 2014

Paleo Chicken Lettuce Wraps Whole30 Day 14, 15 , 16, 17 and 18

Day 14

This was an in and out day, one of those where you are in and out of the car more than being any one place very long. Arrived home for the day just in time to get dressed to celebrate our anniversary.  Rather than worrying about doing something on the actual date, we tend to just pick a convenient night.  Thank you to Flemming's for cooking my food so I could enjoy a nice night out, while remaining true to the Whole30 plan.  If you are celebrating let me recommend Flemming's Steak House to you.  We had reservations, and, after being wished a Happy Anniversary by all 3 of the young women at the hostess stand we were led to our table.  It was set for 2 with a lovely card signed by the staff, and every single staff member who came by our table mentioned the anniversary.  When we were leaving they brought us a box of truffles to take home.  Their attention to detail was far from what I thought a chain restaurant would ever attain.  Kudo's to them!

Breakfast      leftover fried rice
                     scrambled egg

Lunch          turkey slices
                    1/2 Lara bar ( carrot cake)

Dinner         seared ahi tuna
                    broiled steak
                    grilled asparagus
                    1/2 baked potato
                    mineral water

Day 15

Today was another day with no rhyme or reason.  I had no car until just before lunch time ( not so minor repairs) and then had a series of errands.  Plus it is Halloween!  That meant no walking by the treat bowl and snagging any.  Get thee behind me Hershey Bar.

Breakfast     leftover steak, asparagus and sauteed mushrooms
                    1 orange

Lunch         turkey slices
                   apple juice
                   cucumber slices
                   handful cashews

Dinner        paleo chili
                   tossed salad w/ oil and vinegar
                   club soda

Later          1 Lara bar (And yes, I  technically violated the rules and had it instead of candy)
                   coffee with 1 tablespoon almond milk ( But come on people it was Halloween and all I        
                   really wanted was a Hershey bar)

Day 16

Yikes this was a day I dreaded.  We had tickets to a fundraiser that included dinner.  I had absolutely no control over what would be served.  When we arrived at our table I found a salad at each place.  It did have crumbled feta on it but I could get it off 'cause I have mad fork skills. I was happily surprised when the servers brought out plates with grilled chicken slices over rice, sauteed vegetables, pita wedges and tzazaki sauce.  I ignored the rice, bread, and sauce and devoured the rest.  There might have been some incidental food crossover, but if there was it was microscopic.

Oh yeah, and now I am on the downhill side of the 30 day challenge!

Breakfast   tossed salad, oil and vinegar
                  3 slices turkey

Lunch       3 slices ham
                 tossed salad (dry)

Snack       apple

Dinner     3 slices grilled chicken
                dry salad
                sauteed vegetables (looked like squash, onion and mushrooms)
                coffee and unsweetened tea

Day 17

Sunday was the beginning of CST, so we got an extra hour of sleep.  Instead of hopping up and making breakfast like I should have, I stayed in the bed and read.  When I finally got up it was time to get ready for church, so I skipped breakfast.  The rest of the day was just going from one place to another, with a short stop for lunch out. I have not been cooking much and now things are getting boring.  Gotta up my food game!

Breakfast      none

Lunch         Chipotle's carnitas salad with salsa and guacamole

Dinner       chili stuffed sweet potato

Later        handful dried mulberries
                coffee with 1 tablespoon almond milk
                2 paleo sausage patties ( I was still hungry)

Day 18

Breakfast  1 teaspoon coconut oil
                 onions, tomatoes, peppers, and 1 slice crumbled bacon scrambled with 1 egg

Lunch       apple with 1 tablespoon almond butter
                 cucumber slices
                 dry tossed salad

Dinner      paleo chicken lettuce wraps

I found a recipe for chicken lettuce wraps at one lovely life and used it mainly as a guide for making lettuce wraps with what I had on hand.  As badly as I need to go to the store I just did not feel like going today.  I had 2 cooked chicken breasts and 2 summer squash I needed to use so I came up with an entirely different , yet tasty alternate recipe.  The following is my recipe but click on the link for the original one.

                                                  Paleo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 small onion cut into strips
1 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and minced finely
2  medium yellow summer squash cut in matchstick slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 container bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded and chopped into very small pieces
1 cup cooked spaghetti squash
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup coconut aminos
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
6 lettuce leaves

In a skillet heat the oil to a med hi heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring continually.  Toss in the ginger and cook until it wilts.  Add the summer squash and then the garlic cooking until everything is wilted.  Add the bean sprouts and the chicken  and heat through, stirring the entire time.  Add the spaghetti squash, salt and pepper and the coconut aminos.  Bring to a high heat and stir in the chopped cilantro.  Serve in lettuce leaves and wrap tightly.  Enjoy but have a lot of napkins.  Eating this is delicious but messy.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Whatever Post, My All Time Favorite Book

"When a true genius appears, you can know 

him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a 

confederacy against him."   Jonathan Swift

Whenever anyone asks me what my all time favorite book is, I don't have to stop and think.  It's not one of the classics, nor is it a dramatic piece. Hands down my favorite book is "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole.  I have read it about 15 times and still pick it up and read bits from it regularly.

A smeared carbon copy of his manuscript was found in his home, shortly after his untimely death.  Thanks to his mother, who bugged Walker Percy to death, the book was published by LSU Press in 1980 and became a cult hit.  Slowly its popularity gained momentum and it was  awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.

Where to begin?  COD is set in New Orleans in the early 60's. Ignatius J. Riley is out and about in his home town.  Ig (just because it is easier to type) is one of those people who have very firm and fast codes regarding how everything should work, how every person should think, basically how the entire world should run.  Unfortunately for him, the world runs rather contrarily to his particular and peculiar ethos.

The entire book takes place in a very short time span, sending us on a romp through Uptown New Orleans and The French Quarters.  Ignatius, 30 and unemployed, is living with his Mama while trying to avoid the real necessity of producing income.  After listening to the urgings of a couple of friends, his mother insists he find employment.  The resulting job searches and jobs introduce us to a wonderful cast of characters and situations. At the same time we are privy to Ig's ongoing written communications with a former college classmate, New York beatnik Myrna Minkoff (The Minx). Through all of this we get to see his world through his eyes.  I think the only words to describe it would be a tragic comedy.

There is no way I could possibly do justice to any of the actual writing so I will not even begin to try.  If I taught high school English this would be on my required reading list.  It has the best character development I have ever read.  ( If I were a high school English teacher I would probably be fired for having my students read this book.)

Toole weaves a fantastic yarn. The chapters are usually divided into parts.  One is the narrative, the other is Ignatius' mail with Myrna and the third is excerpts from Boethius' "Consolation of Philosophy", and Ig's penned responses to it.   Toole  also works magic writing in the various voices  and accents that are indigenous to the South and New Orleans.  If you are familiar with the city, then you understand what I mean, and if not just read it, enjoy it, and learn.

If you love to read and love to laugh this is the book for you.  I read it in 1981 for the first time and fell in love/dislike with every single character.  Now,  all these years later I still find them as alluring, appealing,  and unbelievable as I did the first time I met them on the page.  I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

If you do read this or have read it before please tell me what you did or did not like about it.  If you read it because of this review and didn't like it I will sit down while wearing my Ignatius hat and send you a apology letter written on a page from a Big Chief tablet!  I promise!

p.s. I love this book so much, I own 3 copies.  2 are loaners and I will lend them to anyone who wants to read it, but the 3rd is never loaned to anyone.  Grove Atlantic Press started publishing it through permission of LSU Press.  Originally I only had copies by Grove, but thanks to Little Professor Bookstore and about a 3 year wait, I have an LSU Press copy.  Book nerd nirvana!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Whole30, Day 11, 12 and 13

Day 11

I was not sure how this day would work.  I had to come back from the lake because I had something planned at the house for the morning.  I was supposed to head back to help Son2 finish up the deck staining, but after eating breakfast I felt really ungood. ( Practicing my Newspeak just in case the Big Brother thing is about to happen).

Turns out I did not go to the lake at all, instead I changed over most of my summer and winter wardrobe.  Aren't women supposed to be clothes horses and men just utilitarian dressers?  It is opposite here at my house.  We have a walk in closet and TheHub occupies 3/4 of it with his clothes, plus he has the closet in the hall right outside of our bedroom.  As a result, I get to swap my clothes out seasonally from the upstairs guest room closet.  "I love lugging baskets of clothes up and down the stairs.  It's so much fun every time I get to do it", she said dryly.

Breakfast     1 sliced apple
                    1 tablespoon almond butter

Lunch          didn't happen

Dinner         4 slices Boar's Head ham
                    huge tossed salad w/oil and vinegar dressing

Later           2 tangerines

Day 12

Still felt slightly left of normal through mid morning, but finally had to eat something.  It was one of those days when nothing sounded good, but there was lettuce already washed and cukes and peppers in the crisper, plus we are still getting a handful of cherry tomatoes from the plants every day.  That pretty much determined what I was having for breakfast.

Breakfast    huge garden salad w/oil and vinegar dressing

Lunch        got busy and forgot to eat

Dinner       beef vegaghetti (named by TheHub) served over spaghetti squash

Later         tangerine

                                                            Beef Vegaghetti

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped, sliced or chunked
1 bell pepper cut in strips
3 yellow  summer squash sliced
1 carton mushrooms, sliced (Had the in the fridge but they were slimy so I left it out)
4 small cloves garlic
1 1/2 cup browned ground beef
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasonings
1 teaspoon basil

Saute the vegetables in the olive oil saving the garlic for last.  Add the ground beef and stir to combine well.  Mix in the tomatoes and the Italian seasonings and basil and cook over a medium high heat until bubbling.  Turn down to low and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. If you are eating paleo please serve it over spaghetti squash.  If you are eating like regular humans serve it over cooked spaghetti and pass some grated Parmesan.

This was a win/win.  I thought it was very tasty and a good way to amp the veggie content without feeling like I was eating a plate of vegetables.  Since I am the only one doing the paleo lifestyle right now TheHub must have enjoyed it too, since he ate every bite and then ate seconds.

Day 13

Breakfast        Bowl of sauteed kale
                       2 sausage patties

Lunch            coffee
                      handful of pistachios

Snack            apple/peach fruit bar

Dinner           Paleo "fried rice"

Later            apple

I need to thank Sonya Ann @A Mom, Money, and More for the inspiration for this meal.  I had to adjust it for the Whole30 plan, but it was fairly easy to do.  Hope you enjoy it!

Paleo Fried Rice

I head cauliflower, grated  (I used a box grater, but the grater on a food processor would work)
1 large carrot, cut into 4 pieces, steamed
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 onion cut in thin strips
1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic
1 cup sliced mushrooms1 pack frozen green beans
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon coconut aminos*
salt and pepper to taste
2 dried Thai bird chilies crumbled
3 or 4 sprays of olive oil
2 small boneless chicken breasts cut across into thin slices
2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 beaten eggs

While grating the cauliflower put the carrot pieces in a microwave safe bowl with a lid.  Add about 2 tablespoons water and cook for 3-4 minutes. Cut into small bits and set aside.  Grate the cauliflower and set it aside also.

Heat the oil in a large pan.  I used a 12 inch stainless pot, but use whatever you like as long as it is wide enough to stir fry but deep enough to hold about 8 cups of raw food.  Saute the onions and ginger until both are wilted, the add the garlic stirring it so it wilts but does not brown. Quickly toss in the mushrooms and cook for about 30 seconds then add the green beans.  Cook stirring continually for about a minute. Add the cauliflower and carrots.  Keep stirring and let it all cook together until the cauliflower and green beans are cooked. (crisp tender or soft, it's your choice) Add the sesame oil and the coconut aminos, salt and pepper as needed and crumble the chilies on top of everything.  Give it a quick stir, put a lid on the pan and set it off the heat.

In a separate non stick pan spray the quick spritzes of olive oil  and bring to a mid high heat.  Put the thin chicken slices in the pan and stir fry quickly.  When they lose their pink color put them in the pan with with cauliflower and put the entire pan back on a medium high heat.

 With a spoon push all the mixture to one side and add the oil to the "empty" side. When the oil is hot pour the beaten eggs over it. As the eggs start to set begin to scramble them, then stir them through the cauliflower chicken mixture. Serve immediately.

Oh my goodness this was delicious.  It satisfied the entire palate.  The cauliflower had a wonderful texture as did the seasoning veggies, beans and carrots.  The taste was nice and  intense. Garlic and ginger are both strong flavors on their own but they paired so well in this.  I like heat so the Thai chilies worked well for me.  If you don't care for it that much, sprinkle a few red pepper flakes for just a hint of warmth.  When serving it add have both soy sauce and coconut aminos on the table for anyone who wants a little extra.  Yum! And I have enough leftover for breakfast tomorrow.

Meet my little friend, Coconut Secret, coconut aminos.  I can find it locally at Organic Harvest.  I am sure it is available at most organic markets (large and small).  It is well worth the price, especially if you are avoiding soy.