Archives for October 2007

I Feel That This Is A Valuable Life Lesson

Your funny comments about how some of you also have husbands who see soup as more of an appetizer than a meal made me think of a conversation that D and I had one afternoon when I was planning a big shindig for church.

And I don’t want to oversell it, but I really do believe that if you are a newlywed, the information I’m about to reveal to you could quite possibly change your marriage forever.

Oh yeah. It’s that good.

So about three years ago I was cooking for something at our church, and I was in menu-planning mode. I had four or five cookbooks scattered on top of the dining room table, and I was trying to find a main course that would be simple to fix for a large crowd. I was primarily looking at casserole recipes because those are easy to make ahead of time, and at some point D wandered into the dining room and asked what I was doing.

I filled him in on the details, and I showed him three or four of the dishes I was considering.

He got very quiet, and after about thirty seconds, he said, “You know, I don’t think these recipes are your answer.”

I quickly started to rattle off an alphabetized and itemized list of all the reasons why my selections would WORK JUST FINE, THANK YOU, but D just grinned and said, “There’s something you’re not thinking about.”

OH?

REALLY?

WELL THEN.

I figured I might as well humor him, so I said, “What’s that? What am I forgetting? Because as you know, I’VE NEVER COOKED BEFORE EVER.”

“Well,” he answered, “it’s simple. Men like identifiable meat.”

Excusemebegyourpardon?

“Men like identifiable meat. We like to know what we’re eating. If the chicken or the beef or whatever is buried in a big ole casserole and we have to ask someone what we’re putting on our plates, we don’t like that. We like to see a hunk of meat on our plate.”

I thought this was quite possibly the most profound statement I’d ever heard.

IDENTIFIABLE MEAT.

It’s brilliant, really.

And since that day, I have never planned a meal at church without making sure that we have an identifiable meat. I have made this pork tenderloin recipe more times than I can count, and let me just tell you: serve it with some warm Parker House or potato rolls, and men will swoon.

They will swoon verily, I say unto you.

And a lot of times I don’t even have to cook the main course myself. I’ll just pick up a bunch of chicken from Popeye’s or some big trays of pulled pork from a barbecue place. There’s a local restaurant that does great fajitas to-go, and I can buy trays of chicken and beef already cooked for less than I could go buy all the ingredients myself.

And the meal, it is delicious.

And the men, they are happy.

And the meat, IT IS IDENTIFIABLE.

The end.

A Festive Luncheon For Fall

When Alex and I walked in Mama and Daddy’s back door last Friday afternoon, I immediately knew that spiced tea was on the stove. The house smelled like Everything Fall, and it made me want to crawl under a blanket and watch college football and drink spiced tea for the next sweet forever. Mama was having a luncheon for five of her friends, and after wandering through the house a little bit, Alex and I found all of them gathered around the sofa in the living room, swapping copies of Mama’s recipes.

I believe this was the forty ninth or three hundred thirty second time this has happened in my life.

My mama enjoys a luncheon.

After we spoke to everybody, I left the small talk to Alex, walked back in the kitchen, and promptly fixed myself a bowl of Mama’s homemade Cream of Zucchini soup. It’s one of my favorite dishes, but I hardly ever make it since D doesn’t think it constitutes a meal. I remember making it at least once the first year we were married, and while D thought it was absolutely delicious, he finished his bowl and looked at me like he was waiting on the next course.

Little did he know that the next course was air.

So on Friday I devoured that bowl of Cream of Zucchini soup in mere minutes, and as I looked around at the other items on the menu, I knew that I’d have to share them with y’all. Everything was so simple, so colorful and oh-so-delicious.

And just look at Mama’s centerpiece on her dining room table:

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Isn’t it pretty?

I think it’s safe to say that there is not an artificial autumnal leaf left anywhere in the southeastern United States.

She also used these adorable bowls to serve her soup:

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You may have picked up on the fact that she enjoys a theme when she entertains.

And it works for her. Oh yes ma’am it does.

*****

Mary John’s Apple Tea

1 qt. cider
1 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
8 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Heat until it boils, then reduce heat until ready to serve.

Cream of Zucchini Soup

2 medium zucchini, grated
2 medium carrots, grated
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 13 1/2-ounce cans chicken broth
4 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Place grated zucchini in a colander; sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain well. Saute’ grated and chopped vegetables in butter, until slightly limp. Stir in flour and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add chicken broth and stir until smooth. Add grated cheese and stir until melted. Add milk, salt and pepper. Serves 6.

Cranberry Salad with Orange Salad Dressing

1 6-ounce package raspberry Jell-O
2 3/4 cups boiling water
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 15-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1 16-ounce can whole cranberries
1 cup pecans, chopped

Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water. Set aside to cool. Whip cream cheese with a small amount of the pineapple juice to soften. When well mixed, fold in the pineapple, cranberries and nuts. When the gelatin starts to congeal, fold in the mixture. Chill until firm.

Dressing:

1 4 1/2-ounce carton frozen whipped topping
1/3 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1/4 cup instant Tang

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate. Use desired amount on top of each serving of salad.

Fig Preserves Cake

2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pecans (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup fig preserves, chopped

Sift together the dry ingredients; add oil and mix well. Add eggs; mix well. Add buttermilk; mix well. Add figs and pecans. Bake 40-45 minutes at 325 in 9 x 13 greased pan.

Topping:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 tablespoon baking soda

Mix all ingredients together; boil 3 minutes. Remove from burner. While hot, pour over cake. Punch small holes in cake as topping is poured on.

*****

Good luck eating just one piece of that fig preserves cake, by the way.

In fact, the fig preserves cake and I were caught up in a bit of spiritual warfare over the weekend. I told Sister that I just wanted to grab a fork and the cake plate and sit down and GET IT OVER WITH, but in the strong name of Jesus I was able to stand firm in the midst of all the spicy sweet temptation.

We are more than conquerors, y’all.

It was a beautiful luncheon, and Mama’s friends seemed to enjoy themselves so much. Hopefully you’ll be able to use at least one of these recipes as you entertain during the upcoming holidays.

But if you make the soup for a meal where your husband will be present, I strongly urge you to also pick up a bucket of fried chicken or something. In the interest of marital harmony and all.

Enjoy, everybody!

Christmas Tour Of Homes Button Code

Just in case you want to put a button in your sidebar….

Perhaps This Is Why Mondays Are Somewhat Unpopular

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I stayed up way too late last night watching a replay of the Mississippi State / Kentucky game for the third time, and that’s not counting the fact that I watched The Sylvester Croom Show twice, but please do not make fun of me because OH SWEET MERCY IT’S FUN TO WIN FOR A CHANGE.

However, since I stayed up so late last night, I was not exactly at the top of my mental or emotional game at 6:30 this morning when I tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen, pourin’ myself a cup of ambition as I yawned and stretched and tried to come to life.

(Even when I’m tired I still love me some Dolly.)

But that is neither here nor there.

Because when I opened the refrigerator to grab my half and half, I thought, Hmmm, that’s interesting, this half and half container isn’t very cold.

And then: Hmmm, that’s interesting, the inside of the refrigerator is sort of warm.

Hmmm.

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That would be the back of our refrigerator.

The refrigerator that is no longer working.

Because it no longer “refrigerates” or “freezes” or “makes ice” or “keeps food fresh.”

Which means that we had some “meat” and some “frozen goods” that “turned.”

Fortunately, I have a husband who is handy, and he has ordered a part and hopes to have everything up and running by Wednesday or Thursday.

In the meantime, we’re just going to eat all our perishables like there’s no tomorrow.

I would hate to waste all that perfectly good cheese.

Anyway, after Alex finished school we ran to the mall so that I could return some stuff, and I ran smack dab into this dress, and y’all I am not kidding when I tell you that it took every ounce of restraint I have – along with a super-sized portion of the Holy Spirit – to keep me from slapping that dress on the counter and buying it right then and there.

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Because I have so many opportunities to wear sparkly things.

But I tried to justify it by telling myself that I could wear it to church with black tights (totally could), and I could wear it during the holidays (true that), and I could throw it on in the springtime with chunky black sandals and feel oh-so-sassy (preach on, sister).

The problem, though, is that it’s beyond our budget right now, and I know it’s beyond our budget right now, and besides that WHO WERE THOSE EVIL LEPRECHAUNS WHO DRAGGED ME IN THE DRESSING ROOM TO TRY ON THAT DRESS, ANYWAY?

In the end I stood firm against the dress’ sparkly powers, but that does not mean that I won’t be gazing at the picture lovingly. With great, loving feelings for all the loveliness contained in this dress that I love so dearly.

And I have to confess that while I was in the dressing room Romans 12:2 came to mind. But it’s not so much that I want to conform to the pattern of this world. It’s just that I would really, really like to be conformed to the pattern of that dress.

I’m just seeking God’s will, people. God’s fun, funky and sparkly will.

After I bid the dress a bittersweet farewell (I bet it misses me. Seriously. It’s probably crying right about now.), Alex and I had to run to Walmart because obviously I felt that adding insult to injury would be the most fitting way to continue with my day.

But get a load of this. At some point as we were wheeling down the aisles I noticed that Alex had gotten very quiet, and you’re not even going to believe what had happened.

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It took him a little over four years, but he finally talked himself to sleep.

I mean, look at his mouth. It’s like he just nodded off mid-word.

God love him.

The quiet, however, did not last for long.

Look!

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Not sure what that is?

Why, it’s the place where my rear windshield wiper used to be!

Before the little man ripped it off this afternoon!

Apparently he needed the windshield wiper for leverage when he was trying to climb onto the roof of my car. Which is a completely different set of issues, I guess, but in the grand scheme of things, a broken windshield wiper is probably not that big of a deal.

Until, you know, it rains.

Here’s to Tuesday, everybody.

I hope that yours is sparkly.

Saturday Afternoon

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My little man with my daddy.

They’re good buddies, those two.

The Little Man And The Fish Camp

A few weeks ago D and Alex made a trip to Mississippi without me. At some point while they were there D and Mama determined that a supper of fried catfish was in order, and as a result of that decision Alex made his inaugural trip to the fish camp.

Quite frankly I was a little teary-eyed about missing such a huge milestone in my child’s life.

I’m still trying to get over it.

According to D, Alex was initially a little uncertain about eating a fried food that had, you know, BONES, but eventually he realized that OH MY WORD, THIS FISH IS DELICIOUS, WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS BEFORE, and he proceeded to eat a whole piece of catfish off of his daddy’s plate.

If you’re a Southerner, you know that’s a memory book moment right there.

Well, this past Friday, just as Alex and I were crossing the Mississippi / Alabama line, he piped up from the backseat and said, “Mama? Can we please go to the fish camp tonight?”

I don’t know when I’ve experienced a greater swell of maternal pride.

So I quickly picked up my phone, called my mama and made all the necessary arrangements.

I don’t mess around when it comes to large quantities of food fried in peanut oil, my friends.

Later that night we went to a fish camp on the outskirts of my hometown. It’s a no-frills kind of place: cement block walls, long picnic-style tables, and plastic tableware.

But when you’re eating this…

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…who really gives a rip about the atmosphere?

Alex was WOUND UP, to say the least. We went to the fish camp with both of his grandmothers, my aunt and uncle, my cousin Paige and her family, and having SO MANY! RELATIVES! IN THE SAME! PLACE! was just about more than his little four year-old heart could bear.

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This is the little man with his cousin Joseph. Joseph is almost a year old, which pretty much means that he’s at that stage where I COULD JUST EAT HIM UP, OH MY WORD, HOW CAN THE WORLD CONTAIN SO MUCH CUTENESS?

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Alex had big fun snuggling up with Martha / Mother / “Martie,” and I’ll have you know that Martha, the woman who can eat one Pringle and be completely satisfied, ate two whole catfish filets, hush puppies, French fries and cole slaw.

So clearly she is done with all her eating for 2007.

She’ll probably have a half a grape at the beginning of 2008.

If she’s even remotely hungry by then.

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Not even my mama could calm down the the little man. She usually is able to work her dial-it-down-a-notch magic on him, but he’d have none of that at the fish camp. He was far too busy throwing cracker wrappers and crawling underneath the table.

And also: there was a lot of fake burping.

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He did pause mid-cracker to take a picture with me.

Yeah. I know. I haven’t been this blonde since 1982. When it was my natural color.

And I really do like it. I do.

However, it does make me feel a bit like a local news anchor. Or perhaps even a sideline reporter on ESPN.

I mean, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the phrase “BACK TO YOU, CHRIS!” has been playing non-stop in my head for the last three days.

I’m also fighting the urge to buy an array of Sensible Suits in colors that would hold up well under the glare of TV studio lights.

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See? My child wanted to look at Joseph. He really did. But he was hypnotized by the blinding glare of my hair. He literally could not turn away.

But that’s okay. I was affected in much the same way by the fried catfish.

You know, perhaps my hair and the catfish could co-anchor the five o’clock news.

It’s certain to be a ratings bonanza.