I Would Have Blogged…

…but I’ve been too busy stressing out over the College World Series. The Bulldogs lost to UCLA tonight in the first game of the finals, but I’m hopeful that tomorrow night will be a different story. And if the ‘Dogs want to score 18 to 20 runs just to make a statement, that will be fine by me.

Anyway, there’s no way that I’m going to be able to string sentences together until I get all of this baseball out of my system, but I did want to share a life-changing bit of information that Sister and I learned in Starkville this past weekend. Here it is.

Slice some seedless watermelon about 1/4″ thick.

Sprinkle feta cheese and chopped mint on top of the watermelon slices.

Marvel at the magic of the unexpected flavor combinations.

Resist the urge to slap your mama.

Several people mentioned on Twitter today that a little balsamic vinaigrette is an excellent addition to this combo, so I’ll be trying that tomorrow. We had the watermelon as an appetizer in Starkville – it was cut into cute little circles with a biscuit cutter – but today I just chopped up watermelon, put it in a bowl, and treated it like a salad. DELICIOUS.

Anyway, I’m going to try to get some sleep now. It’s late, and I need to wake up early and work on my curve ball.

Oh, I kid.

Go ‘Dogs.

That Corn

I’m one of those weird people who enjoys going to the grocery store. We’ve discussed this before, I think, when I’ve mentioned my affection for grocery lists that are organized by aisle. And I think that at this point in my life, organizing a grocery list according to the store layout is just part of who I am. It’s what I do. Sort of like the way I get teary-eyed whenever I hear “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Or the way I clap my hands when I see a Popeye’s three-piece fried chicken meal, spicy and extra crispy, with red beans and rice on the side.

What? You don’t do that?

Last spring, however, I fell way off my grocery game. Between family, work, and a big ole book deadline, I quit planning our meals like I typically like to do. I made lots of little trips to the grocery store instead of one big trip at the beginning of each week, and I’d pretty much plan dinner while I was putting stuff in my grocery cart.

I’ll go ahead and admit that the whole “planning in the store” method is not exactly cost-efficient. Not to mention that it leads to impulse purchases like fancy noodles that you can’t even pronounce and a significant surplus of cheeses.

This year, though, the grocery side of things has been under control again (my laundry, however, is still a source of agony and no small degree of shame). I usually make a grocery list on Monday mornings, and I shop for the week on Monday afternoons. Shopping on Mondays seems to work pretty well for me, primarily because I LOATHE AND DETEST going to the grocery store on the weekends.

(Hi. How are you? Welcome to this week’s installment of First World Suburban Problems.)

(I kind of loathe myself right now.)

Anyway, this has all been a very long preamble so that I can tell you that ever since I’ve gotten back on a grocery shopping schedule, I’ve been trying to add a little variety to our vegetable consumption. I’m the first to admit that I fell into a major asparagus rut over the last two or three years, and last year’s failure to plan meals made the rut even deeper. Asparagus is just so easy – but it was getting old. And since there are a lot of very nice and tasty vegetables out there, I’ve been trying to embrace a few of the ones I haven’t cooked in a long time.

Which brings us to corn.

Last week corn was on sale at Publix, and I decided that I’d grill it and serve it with steaks. The only problem was that it rained and rained the day that I was planning to grill the steaks, so I ended up cooking them in the skillet (DELICIOUS) – but I needed a plan B for my corn. I’d made some chipotle butter earlier in the day (that makes it sound like I churned butter – but it’s just 1 stick softened butter combined with 1/4 cup finely sliced green onions and 2 or 3 pieces of canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped), thinking that I was going to slather that butter all over the corn before I grilled it. Only I did not in fact grill it. So I was in the throes of a corn dilemma.

Here’s what I ended up doing.

I shucked the corn, cut it off of the cob (I had six ears) and I did that whole thing Mama used to do where she used the back side of the knife to “juice” the corn a little bit. That sounds sort of gross, I know, but it adds so much flavor. I put a skillet on medium heat, and once it was hot, I added about a tablespoon of canola oil and a tablespoon of butter. Once the butter melted, I threw all the corn (and its liquid) into the skillet and stirred it around for a minute or so. Then I added (these are totally estimates – just go with whatever tastes good to you) 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of cracked black pepper. I stirred that around a bit, and then I added 3/4 cup (-ish) of half and half, reduced the heat, and stirred a little bit more.

Recipes aren’t nearly as riveting in paragraph form, are they?

Sorry. I’m just trying to remember what I did as I’m typing this. Probably not the strongest method.

For the next 15 or so minutes, I just kept an eye on the corn. I’d stir – taste – add a pinch more salt or a smidge more half and half. And once the corn was tender and seasoned like we like it, I turned off the heat and HERE IS THE IMPORTANT PART: I scooped about a tablespoon of that chipotle butter on top of the corn. I gave it time to melt, then stirred it all together.


It was so good, y’all. And while I know that the half and half didn’t hurt, I really think that it was the chipotle butter that sent that corn over the top. DELICIOUS.

The day after our steak and corn dinner, I was in the kitchen when D got home from work. When I turned around to tell him hello, he had sort of a far-away look in his eyes, like he was thinking about something important and trying to figure out how to put it into words.

“What is it?” I asked. “Is something going on?”

He stared into space for a few seconds before he asked me a question.

“Do you know what I thought about all day today?”

“I have no idea,” I answered. “What?”

“THAT CORN,” he replied.

I rest my case.

Getting My Bearings. -Ish.

Apparently I made an unconscious decision last week to spend untold energy thinking about Things That Are Getting On My Last Nerve (2011 edition). Oh my. I WAS A PILL. I would blame it on jet lag, but there’s only a one hour time difference between Ecuador and Alabama. And for the first part of the week I thought maybe I was just tired (which was a valid assumption considering the fact that I’ve never been more in love with sleep than I was last week…I liked it so much that I totally would’ve put a ring on it if I could have).

But now that I have the benefit of a little bit of perspective, I think I was a little bit, well, ticked. I was mad that I slipped back into my comfortable suburban life so easily. I was mad about the poverty of my own dadgum spirit. I was mad because a family member had another setback with her health, and she’s been through more in the last few years than anybody I know. I was mad about everything that I needed to get done last week when all I really wanted to do was crawl in my bed. I was mad when the dishwasher didn’t empty itself and the clothes didn’t hop from the washer to the dryer and THE DVR DID NOT RECORD “THE OFFICE” EVEN THOUGH WE SPECIFICALLY TOLD IT TO RECORD “THE OFFICE,” CLEARLY EVEN THE ELECTRONICS ARE CONSPIRING AGAINST ME.

So I think the bottom line is that the whole re-entry thing forced me to take a long, hard look at my spoiled American self. And oh. I did not care for what I saw. I did not care for what I saw at all.

It’s getting better, though. The fog is lifting a little bit. We’ve had a whole bunch of family time over the last few days, and it’s helped a lot. Because you know how there are some husbands who see their wives going through a touch-y transition and they’re all “Oh, I’ll back off and give her some space and she’ll talk when she’s ready to talk?”

I am not married to that person.

However, I am married to the person who says, “Woman, you’re about to miss a whole bunch of fun with your people if you don’t get up out of that bed, so GET ON UP OUT OF THAT BED BECAUSE WE’RE GONNA MAKE HAPPY MEMORIES IF IT KILLS US. HAPPPPP-Y MEMORIES!”

And then he’ll make up a really bad song in a silly voice that’s kind of a cross between Rosco P. Coltrane and anyone who lives in the southernmost portion of Louisiana.

And do you know what I do?

I get up and go. And it’s good.

Plus, this week we have family coming to town for Thanksgiving, and I’m always a happy camper when I get to spend a couple of days chopping and mixing and cooking for a crew of people. Martha actually called me last night to confirm what she’s going to bring, and she was delighted to tell me that she’s going to bring a lemon pound cake and a sweet potato pie and a pecan pie and a congealed salad and is that enough? Do I think that’s enough? Am I sure that’s enough?

I bet you a dollar to a donut that she ends up bringing an Italian cream cake, too. Because WHAT IF WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH?

I’ll put Mama in charge of the dressing when she gets to our house – she has a talent for chopping onion and celery into the tiniest, most perfectly shaped pieces – and then I’ll do the pork tenderloin, lima beans, rolls, asparagus casserole and sweet potato casserole. I’m going to let Honeybaked Ham bake the, you know, ham, and we’re not going to have turkey because a few years ago we discovered that nobody particularly enjoys it.

We were going through the turkey motions, y’all.

And it was time to stop pretending.

What are your big Turkey Day (or Non-Turkey, as it were) plans? Is there one certain dish that you cannot wait to see in the Thanksgiving Day line-up? Because I’ll go ahead and tell you that sweet potato casserole is my FAVORITE. My SHUT-IT-DOWN, MAMA’S-GONNA-HAVE-ANOTHER-HELPING-FOR-DESSERT favorite.

What about you?

Well, Y’all Are Just A Wonder


WHO KNEW that y’all were such a fount of frozen food info?

I’m pretty sure that I’ll keep your comments on that last post bookmarked for the rest of my earthly days. Yesterday afternoon I sat down and read through every single one of them, then figured out what my people would enjoy eating the most (and also what would be easiest for Mama), and I’ll have you know that within an hour or so, I’d figured out a menu plan for the week and made a grocery list for the marathon cooking session I plan to have this Saturday.

On top of that, I typed out (I LIKES TO TYPE, I DO) a plan for Mama, and I’m gonna put this on the refrigerator so that she has a nice little plan of what’s in store every day.

Y’all have no idea how much you’ve helped. The prospect of getting food stuff organized and ready to go was starting to make me feel twitchy and overwhelmed (especially since I have no skillz in the area of freezing stuff ahead of time), and being able to check that off of my list feel like a huge relief. Especially now that I know to put a towel on top of my freezer shelves so that meat in a Ziploc won’t freeze around them and HOW DO YOU PEOPLE KNOW SO MUCH STUFF?

My goodness. Y’all need a TV show.

So anyway. Thank you so much. I can’t get over how you took something that would’ve totally stressed me out and made it fun and informative and oh my goodness I LEARNED SOME THINGS.

Happy Thursday, everybody!

Gaining Wisdom In The Area Of Food Storage

Well, I had my wisdom tooth removed Monday afternoon. FINGERS CROSSED that it was the final item on the not-very-long-but-nonetheless-annoying list of Strange Ailments that have been hanging around lately. The wisdom tooth thing went surprisingly well, though, and as worried as I was about the whole being-put-to-sleep factor, I have to say that it was a delightful option. My mouth is still a little sore, and the stitches still have to, you know, dissolve (EWWWW), but other than that I’m trying to mind the doctor’s orders (no straws! no carbonated drinks!) and take my medicine and eat soft-ish foods. More than anything, I just feel relieved that it’s done and will have time to heal before I leave for Ecuador. That is a very good thing indeed.

And speaking of Ecuador.



Mama and Daddy are going to be here to stay with my fellas while I’m gone, mainly to help with getting the little man to and from school – and to be around in the afternoons when he and his friends on our street (OH MY WORD I love the kids on our street) wield light sabers and chase each other and scream loudly just because they can. I told Mama last night that my plan is to have some meals frozen for them so that she doesn’t have to worry about cooking and so that D doesn’t have to pick up something every night on his way home from work, and she seemed to be decidedly in favor of that idea.

But here’s what I realized when I hung up the phone.

I don’t typically, you know, freeze things.

It’s not that I’m opposed to it. It’s just that I don’t have a deep freeze, and I don’t really make a lot of stuff in big quantities, and, um, I don’t really know what freezes well.

The whole not-knowing-what-freezes-well dilemma is problematic, as you might imagine.

My plan is to go to the store in a couple of days and get some freezer bags (is that what you use?) and then make some stuff and then put the stuff in the freezer bags and then put the freezer bags in the freezer. Or maybe I need some sort of sassy plastic containers. You may be picking up on the fact that this is all a little new to me.

Anyway, early this morning I was trying to work out the Freezing The Food plans in my head, and it dawned on me that there are probably some of y’all who are experts in this area. I love to cook and am so happy to make the food ahead of time for my people, but I want to make sure that 1) I make stuff that will actually be good after it’s been frozen and 2) I freeze everything the right way.

Do any of y’all have suggestions? Keep in mind that my daddy and my husband do not necessarily think of soup as a meal, so I need to make sure that HEARTY is the order of the day. And I don’t necessarily need one-dish meals, either; Mama won’t mind heating up peas or rolls or anything like that. I’d just like to, as much as I can, take care of the biggest part of the meal for her.

I’m totally making my grocery list based on your comments, by the way. So if you feel like you’re being too thorough or giving me too much information, YOU’RE NOT.

Thanks in advance, bloggy people!

Soup For You!

As long as I can remember, I’ve had a really annoying habit of being completely gung-ho about a certain food and then cooking / serving it so frequently that my people burn out on it and never want to see it again. In any form. BECAUSE I’VE RURNT IT FOREVER.

This pattern hit full force when D and I were newlyweds. I kept about five things in constant rotation and proceeded to WEAR THEM SLAP OUT: chicken marinated and baked in Worcestershire sauce, chicken & broccoli casserole, shrimp & wild rice casserole, chicken spaghetti, and Martha’s chicken pie.

You should know that the fall-out from the constant repetition of these dishes was deep and long-lasting. I haven’t cooked Worcestershire chicken in over twelve years. I made chicken & broccoli casserole for the first time in a sweet forever about two years ago, and my husband experienced flashbacks so severe that he was unable to finish his meal. Same for chicken spaghetti and chicken pie. I have managed to gradually work shrimp & wild rice casserole back into our holiday meals as a side dish, but please know that this was only possible after a lengthy season of professional counseling as well as a fresh work of the Holy Spirit.

He is able, y’all. He is able.

The only up side to my food obsessions is that I can pretty much associate any year of our marriage with whatever meals happened to be in rotation at the time. 2000? Ground beef & noodle casserole. 2001? My friend NK’s recipe for tortilla soup. 2002? Taco soup. 2003? Chicken & wild rice casserole. 2004? Spaghetti & spinach casserole.

I’ll spare you the last six years, but suffice it to say that old habits die hard. And also: after the last ten months, I’ll be totally surprised if anyone in this family is still eating roasted asparagus in 2012.

Last night I was trying to figure out what to fix for supper, and after a quick inventory of my refrigerator and pantry, it dawned on me that I had everything I needed for one of my old stand-bys – a stand-by that I haven’t made in a long time. Once I weighed all my options and decided that my marriage could withstand an appearance by this particular food friend from our past, I quickly assembled all the ingredients and turned on the stove. After about five minutes I couldn’t help but smile when a still-familiar smell started to fill up the kitchen.

And at that point I walked to the den, looked at my husband and said, “Tonight’s supper is brought to you by 2002. TACO SOUP.”

Y’all, I kid you not. He looked like he wanted to cry.

He recovered quickly, though, and tried to muster up as much enthusiasm as he could manage. Then he half-heartedly said, “Oh, good. We haven’t had that in, um, A WHILE.”

I explained that I happened to have all the stuff for taco soup on hand, and since there was a hint of a chill in the air, I thought it might be tasty – especially since I don’t think I’ve fixed it in the almost five years that we’ve lived in this house. D said that sounded like a fine idea to him, and at that point I thought it would be best to leave well enough alone. I figured he needed a few minutes of solitude to work through his very complex taco soup-related feelings. I didn’t encourage him to pray about it or anything like that, but I’m pretty sure that when I walked back by the den a few minutes later I heard him whispering The Lord’s Prayer and then begging God for strength.

When it was time for supper, D bravely fixed his bowl of soup, and as he got ready to sit down, he grinned really big and said, “Alex? Do you know that before you were born your mama and I used to eat taco soup all the time? ALL THE TIME? And do you know that there were lots of Saturdays in the fall when your mama would make a big pot of taco soup, and we would eat it on Saturday? And Sunday? And Monday, too? Because we ate A LOT OF TACO SOUP?”

Alex started to giggle, and I said, “I know. I know. Is it too much for me to expect you to eat it again? Are you having flashbacks?”

“I’m really not,” D answered. “You know, taco soup is actually one of my favorite soups – and I like it more when I’m not eating it every single weekend.”

So see? As far as I’m concerned, he totally gave me permission to re-introduce it to the suppertime line-up. TACO SOUP IS BACK, Y’ALL. Fall 2011 is gonna be the best one ever.

What about you? Have you burned out your people on any particular food / casserole / soup? Anything that might make them shudder if they saw it on the dinner table one more time? Understand that I’ll absolutely be making my next grocery list from your comments. That’s what you call EFFICIENT MEALTIME PLANNING, my friends.

Happy Monday, y’all.