Up Next: More Pajamas

We started Christmas vacation on Friday, and I have basically been hanging out in my pajamas like it’s my job. I did put on regular clothes before we went to church this morning – I felt like it was the least I could do – but after I got home this afternoon, I immediately made the switch back to loungewear. There’s just no good reason to stay confined in things that button and zip.

Our weekend wasn’t eventful at all – which means it was my very favorite kind. Plus, Thursday night I remembered something that made Friday even better.

I know that’s sort of a strange memory, but I thought about those McRae’s gift wrappers all day Friday. Alex was playing with friends most of the afternoon, so I just cut and taped and tagged and had the best time (I also started listening to Serial, but that is probably another discussion for another day since I am still trying to process it all).

Saturday I wrapped the last few things while David and Alex made a Costco run, and then I did a whole lot of nothing in particular for the rest of the day. I cooked some stuff, watched some stuff, washed some stuff – but it was all so low-key that there was a point late in the afternoon when I thought, AM I BORED? IS THIS WHAT BORED FEELS LIKE? But then I decided that was crazy talk and started to work on my grocery list.

Clearly this is exactly the level of wild and crazy activity that inspired Ricky Martin’s incomparable “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”

And then today, after we got home from Chuy’s, I decided that I would brave the crowds and go to the grocery store. This was a COMPLETELY AMATEUR MOVE on my part – I should have known better – but I wanted to get all my canned goods and breakfast stuff squared away. And while I guess it’s nice to know that I have almost everything I need for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals, I won’t soon forget the chaos of the grocery store. I’ve never seen more people hovering over a meat case full of hams in my life.

And the paper goods aisle? ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.

By the way, I decided that I’m going with a little bit of a Mexican food theme on Christmas Day. I’m keeping it pretty mild since Mama doesn’t like spicy food, but I think it’ll be a fun change – and I’ll get back to the more traditional fare on New Year’s. Right now I’m planning to make creamy chicken enchiladas, a beef and rice dish that looks like it’s going to be so good, salsa and guacamole (of course), and a Mexican twist on Brussels sprouts because the recipe intrigues me. Tres leches cake is dessert – and then we’ll need some real strong coffee to counteract the sugar crash. As you do.

So that’s the latest from our house. And while I don’t have any idea how often I’ll post these next couple of weeks, I do think that there’s a better-than-average chance that there will be a new podcast Tuesday morning (with a special guest, no less).

Hope y’all had a wonderful weekend – and Merry Christmas, everybody!

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An Oldie But Still Such A Goodie

We are normally such homebodies, but the last few nights have been more activity-driven than usual. Maybe that’s why I woke up this morning and immediately thought about how we had nothing going on tonight and could quite possibly be in our pajamas by 4:30 or 5 this afternoon.

Listen. Late afternoon pajama time? BEST THING EVER.

So I went to work this morning and then ran some errands before Alex got out of school, and off and on I’d wonder what in the world I was going to cook for supper. This is that time of year when I am so tired of everything in my regular rotation, so I was trying to think of something new or different or fun that would not involve spaghetti sauce (of all the dishes in all the land, spaghetti with meat sauce is perhaps my least favorite, though ironically it is one of my fellas’ most beloved). The catch, though, was that I really wanted to use ground chuck since ground chuck is only $2.99 a pound at Fresh Market on (most) Tuesdays.

(If there is a Fresh Market in your area, you need to know that $2.99 Tuesdays will change your whole life.)

(Because ground chuck and boneless skinless chicken breasts are only $2.99 a pound. And there’s no limit. And the kind Fresh Market butchers will wrap each pound individually if you so desire – that way freezing is a breeze.)

(You would not believe the people who get 20 or 25 chicken breasts wrapped individually on $2.99 Tuesdays.)

(I am in awe of the butchers’ stamina and patience.)

Anyway, before I went to Fresh Market I had an appointment with my ankle doctor. I realize that he’s not technically called an ankle doctor, but calling him my “orthopedist” seems a little pretentious considering that the only reason I’m having to go to an ankle doctor is because I slipped in my dog’s tee-tee and it just seems to me that you go to an orthopedist if you tear your ACL on an alley-oop pass or you fall and separate your shoulder during a penalty kick.

But if you slip in your dog’s tee-tee?

ANKLE DOCTOR.

This is all very subjective reasoning, of course.

Anyway, I went to the doctor to see if I’d made enough progress to start to live outside of my big ole comfortable orthopedic boot. The doctor said that my X-rays didn’t really look much different than my last visit a few weeks ago – but since the pain is almost completely gone and it doesn’t hurt to stand on the ankle any more, then yes, I can start to walk around without the boot when I’m in a flat, confined environment like our house or my office.

Needless to say, I was delighted by this news.

And then the doctor said the most interesting thing. He said, “You know, sometimes after a break you start to feel better – and everything starts to look better on the outside – but it’s still healing on the inside. And what we’ll usually see is that as you feel better and the pain fades and you start to use and trust whatever was broken, the gaps in that broken area will fill over time.”

He was talking about my ankle, of course. But I looked at him and said, “Well, that pretty much sounds like a sermon to me.”

He laughed and nodded his head. And then I spent a big chunk of the afternoon thinking about all the times and places in my life when I tried to stand (and walk) on something that was broken and painful. And while I certainly could chase this metaphor for the next four hours because ENGLISH MAJORS LOVE SYMBOLISM, I’ll just say that this broken ankle has taught me the value of resting and waiting. It’s so much easier to move after there’s been some healing.

And thus concludes tonight’s Ankle Doctor Sermonette.

After I picked up Alex we went to Fresh Market to secure the $2.99 ground chuck, and I decided on the way that I was going to make a hamburger and potato casserole like Mama used to make ALL THE TIME. I haven’t eaten it in years – and I don’t think I’ve ever made it before – but it sounded so good and comforting and winter-y that I decided to give it a try. I’m sure that lots of y’all make it or had grandmothers who made it, and what I realized tonight is that there’s a reason why this recipe has been around for a few generations. David loved it more than anything I’ve made in a long time; it’s so simple and easy and hearty and good.

So. Just in case you’ve never tried this recipe, here you have it. Some of y’all have probably made this 30 times in the last year, and if that’s the case, let me just say that I’m tickled to pieces┬áto be in your hamburger casserole club.

Hamburger & Potato Casserole

2 lbs. ground chuck, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Worcestershire – then browned and drained
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
5 or 6 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced thin
1 can cream of mushroom (if you’re not in a hurry, you could make your own white sauce, but I was in a hurry)
1 cup milk
1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (any cheese will do)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brown and drain meat. Once the skillet that you used to cook the meat is back on the stove and hot again, add 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (or butter) and saute’ the onion until tender. Once the onion is done, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix soup with milk and set aside. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish.

Cut off ends of potatoes and then slice about 1/8″ thick (give or take – and I left the skin on our potatoes because WHY NOT). Place potato slices on the bottom of the casserole dish, lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper, then pour 1/2 of soup mixture over potatoes. Add 1/2 of ground beef, then all the onion, then potatoes, salt and pepper, remainder of soup mixture, remainder of ground beef, and grated cheese (however, if you don’t want your cheese to get a little crispy in places, wait and add it towards the end of the baking time).

By the time you layer everything, it’ll almost look like a lovely little potato lasagna.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. Make sure potatoes are fork tender before serving (if they’re sliced thin, they should be fine). Serve with your favorite vegetable and prepare to receive all manner of praise and adoration from your people. It’s not a fancy dish, but it’s a good ‘un.

Hope y’all are having a great week!

Love,
Mamaw

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