snowflakes

“The paradoxes of today are the prejudices of tomorrow,
since the most benighted and the most deplorable prejudices
have had their moment of novelty when fashion lent them its fragile grace.”

Marcel Proust

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(image courtesy Favim.com)

There’s a lot of talk currently in my neck of the woods about snow.
In fact the “talk” is more like a warning of an impending National disaster.

Yesterday while driving into Atlanta to Dad’s…those matrix boards above the interstates
alerting drivers to accidents, etc. were all running the same ominous and foreboding message…
Winter Storm Warning

For much of this hearty country of ours, such approaching weather systems
are no big deal…
it’s just more of the same ol typical winter weather…
but in this tender southern state, those signs might as well have read:
THE END IS NEAR AND WE ARE ALL DOOMED!!!

So this morning, with all the local news forecasting the Apocolypse,
I figured that maybe I should run out to the store to grab another half gallon of milk…
Lord knows I’d hate to be iced in, snowed in or both,
without ample milk for my coffee or any sort
cake or recipe that I may want to whip up while being stranded and cut off
from all civilization…

The shopping center looked like it did a couple of weeks ago during the
Christmas shopping frenzy.
I had passed school buses running basically backwards…
as in they had just taken the kids to school
and now they were bringing them all back home due to the early dismals
in observance of the impending disaster.

While I was making my way through the maze of shopping carts frantically filling up
with survival foods such as chips and sodas…
I debated about picking up something different for supper.

The chicken section was almost empty with only a few errant packs of thigh / leg combos.
When did chicken make the list of the typical disaster foods besides bread and milk?
Of which I am happy to report that the milk section was fully stocked…
or should I make that restocked…

Next stop, the bank.

Fridays are never a good day to go to the bank as everyone is getting paid and
in turn, heading to the nearest bank.
Add impending doom…
and shades of 1929 come racing to mind.

While standing at my teller’s counter there was a couple in their mid 20’s at the teller next to me.
They were loudly lamenting to the gal behind the counter,
and everyone else in line, that they were “tired of being adults.”

Really? ( thought in a monotone of sarcasam)

I chuckled and turned to look at this forlorn lamenting duo.

They continued on about how they were ready to trade in their “adult cards” wanting,
I suppose, to return to the Land of Nod and innocence.
“How,” had they known, “that if life would be like this,”
whatever “this” may have been,
“would have squandered more of their money while trying to “enjoy life” …

I kid you not.

I offered, rather bemusedly, that it doesn’t get any easier…
which certainly didn’t offer any comfort to their sense of gloom and doom…
but then again I am a realist and one who is a believer in the phrase
“aging is not for sissies”

Later back home,
I stumbled upon the reference of snowflake being used with regard to this
same mid 20’s aged group, twice!

Once on a news program discussing the impending inauguration being akin to another
type of apocalypse to many, and that colleges are providing their tender charges
places of calm and comfort, in hopes of soothing their mounting fears.

Another reference came while I was reading the blog of a Scottish pastor waxing on
about today’s colleges which are providing warnings (trigger statements)
to students that biblical studies will have graphic imagery regarding the crucifixion and
veterinary studies will have to discuss such topics as dead animals,
while the forensic students will be seeing, wait for it, dead bodies.
Obviously things all too gory and disturbing for these tender “snowflake’s” sensitive likings.

They are a most fragile lot are they not?
And will certainly melt at the drop of a hat…

Or so it seems as many adults, especially those in higher institutions of learning,
fear as they race to coddle their youthful charges.
And so it is as I am now hearing it first hand with my own ears, while at the bank…
That many of these snowflakes are actually already tired of the real world and
simply want to go back to being “irresponsible kids”….

Hummmmm….

This coming on the heels of the news of that now infamous and most heinous viral Facebook
story coming out of Chicago…
the story about those 4 young people who were arrested for kidnapping, beating and torturing
a mentally handicapped young man.
Ranting on and on at him about F’ing Trump and F’ing white people while cursing him,
cutting him, taunting him as he was tied up and had his mouth duct taped shut….
They filmed their antics while boasting that they wanted this recording to go viral…
they wanted the world to see what they were doing while laughing all the while doing it.

Chicago’s police chief said that these sorts of horrendous incidents from young thugs would,
in the future, only escalate.

Here we have not so much snowflakes, but rather icicles…
cold and dangerous youth living without
regard for the sanctity of human life.

So maybe those interstate signs should read:
“Warning and Shame”
“We’ve let our youth run amuck and now we are left trying to pick up the pieces”

As our same Scottish pastor laments that the Church herself is as much to blame as anyone for
the wailing of these youthful generations as she has dumbed down Christianity into
a Disneyesque sort of happy fun thought…
where things like sin and death…that whole ransoming of our sins with payment coming
in the form of death on a cross,
being just all too much for this up and coming youthful generation
who are either too sensitive or too callous for the reality of life, death and faith.

Shame indeed.

Here’s to the impending snow storm…
may we have enough milk, bread and now chicken, to survive….

Snowflake Theologians Given Trigger Warning about the Crucifixion

Pomodoro or Let’s get cooking with Cookie

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
― Isabelle Eberhardt

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(a bowl of our soon to be Tomato pudding)

Ahhh, Isabelle, I feel your pain.
When I think of summer, I think of gardens,
When I think of gardens,I think of tomatoes,
When I think of tomatoes, I think of Italy.
When I think of Italy, I think I want to run away.
When I think of running away to Italy, I think of food.
When I think of food in Italy, I think of pasta,
When I think of pasta, I think tomato, as in Pomodoro. . .

Wait a minute, What?!

That’s right, tomatoes plus Italy–as in all jumbled up together.
As they go hand in hand. . . like that whole peas and carrots thing.
And of course I probably think of bacon. . .who doesn’t think of bacon?
As in a good ol BLT—but this is not about that nor bacon, this is about Pomodoro, the humble tomato. . .

Today’s post is all about the abundance of summer tomatoes and what in the heck to do with them! Trust me, I’m feeling your pain. When the time has come and there is simply no one remaining on the planet to give away your excess crop to, as it seems as if family and friends are actually turning in the other direction when they see you coming. . .and the thought of letting the bumper crop die on the vine as it were, is totally and simply unacceptable. . .
it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get creative!

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And no I’m not talking about canning.
I don’t “can.”
And yes, I should go take a class at the Extension Agency or study some YouTube video, but the thought of creating botulism in my kitchen, then gifting it to others or welcoming it to the table some cold January night as we consume a tomato bisque made from a jar of the past summer’s canned tomatoes that I did something not right to, simply scares me. I’m thinking bio-terrorism in my kitchen and I for one do not wish to be on the CDC’s watch list.

So instead of botulism, we’re going to do a little number for those of you scouring the cooking blogs for something new and exciting in order to bring to the table on those meatless Monday’s, or terrific Tuesdays, etc, or even a little something special to offer along as a side dish to a scrumptious beef tenderloin. . .

Behold, the Savory Tomato Pudding à la Cookie

Yes, for those of you who would like a sweet version of this sort of thing, it is possible–I however prefer to have my tomato dishes remain relatively savory as in main course and not dessert.

We will start with what seems to be a million tomatoes.
Perhaps 10 decent sized tomatoes or perhaps 12 to 15 smaller ones.
First we need to remove the skin and seed these puppies
Bring a large stock pot of water to a rolling boil
On the bottom of each tomato, cut an X
Put the tomatoes in the pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes.

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Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water as this stops the cooking process. At the X, the skin should now be easy to pull off. Peel off the skin then cut the tomatoes in half and working with your hands, squeeze out or scrape out the seeds. I know this is a pain but the seeds are bitter and will negatively effect the palate.

Using a loaf of a tuscan boule, Italian loaf, brioche or challah bread–cut away the crust and cut the bread into small cubes–you can always tear it into small pieces if you need to release any aggression.
Place the bread in a large bowl.

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Spray a casserole pan with Pam.

Next, gather some nice fresh herbs–basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives, etc—whatever floats your boat— but basil is essential.
Slice and dice the herbs.

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You may notice that I actually use scissors to cut the chives into small pieces.

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Take an onion and dice it.

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In a saucepan heat a little olive oil with a few hot pepper flakes and a nice grind or two of pepper.

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Once the oil is heated and ready to sizzle, add the onions.
Stir until translucent.
Toward the end of cooking the onions add one or two cloves of minced garlic. Garlic has a tendency to burn and does not need to cook nearly as long as the onions. Add the garlic toward the end to heat it thoroughly before it has a chance to brown. Brown garlic = bitter.

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Now it’s time for our tomatoes.
Add tomatoes cooking until the tomatoes begin to break down.
(This is the same process I use to make my tomato sauce but I would be using a dutch oven, and I
would have also satued some celery and bell pepper, add some red wine, a bay leaf or two and cook
on a low simmer for about two hours—stirring periodically until the sauce thickens. . .)
We’re hoping to cook down 4 cups worth for our tomato pudding.

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I like to cook the tomatoes for about 30 minutes or even longer which will help to thicken the sauce a tad.
Continue stirring.
As the tomatoes are gently simmering, add about 4 TBL of brown sugar or maybe 3 TBL and a splash or two of balsamic vinegar. I do not like my tomato pudding overtly sweet. Some receipes call for a full cup of sugar–the thought of such makes me a bit queazy —just enough to help heighten the natural sweetness of fresh tomatoes, you may also add a nice squeeze of a lemon as well as this will highlight the tomatoes nice acidity.

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Add the herbs toward the end of cooking because if you put them in too early and leave them in too long, they will become bitter–off setting the taste of our sauce.

As our tomatoes are cooking, take this time to break 4 large eggs in a large measuring cup with room enough to add 1 1/2 cups of half and half. Whisk until well blended.

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Now remove the tomato mixture from the heat and pour it over the bread crumbs. Stir to coat all the bread with the sauce. Let it sit for a while in order to allow the bread to absorb the juice of the tomato sauce.

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Next pour the egg and cream mixture into the bread and tomato mixture.
Add about a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Mix throughly and pour into your prepared casserole dish.
(you may certainly add more cheese into the body of the pudding and even get creative with the choice of cheese—I had debated on adding some fresh goat cheese but I refrained—my husband’s palate leans to the more simple whereas I dash toward the complex—naturally as it should be 😉 )
Sprinkle a mix of shredded cheddars or an Italian blend of cheese.

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Place in a preheated 350ᵒ oven for approximately an hour or until golden and puffy.
(I cooked mine for about 40 minutes in a convection oven)

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Oh so flavorful and satisfying!!!
The taste of the height of summer is on a plate!
Serve as a main as I did along with an accompaniment of wonderfully creamy rustic style grits (recipe to follow later) and for my husband who loves these, fried okra. You can forego the okra opting for a salad, or fresh green beans.

Molto Bene!
Mangiare!!

10 medium sized tomatoes—peeled and seeded
1 onion diced
2 cloves of minced garlic
a medium loaf of a rustic bread, crust removed and cut into small cubes
1 1/2 cups half and half
4 large eggs
4 TBL brown sugar
splash of a good grade balsamic vinegar
squeeze of a lemon
salt
pepper
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
mix of fresh herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, chives, parsley, rosemary)
Olive oil for sautéing onions (2 or 3 good sized tablespoons)
1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (more if you prefer)
1 to 2 cups of shredded cheeses—colby jack, mozzarella, italian blend, cheddar—your call and choice–this may go in the casserole as well as a good coating on top
rectangle pan works best sprayed with PAM
Oven at 350ᵒ

Butter to my bread

“You are the butter to my bread, and the breath to my life”
― Julia Child
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(Photograph: fresh artisan loaves of bread from Rose Cottage Bakery / Pine Mt. Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013

When I retired last year from my life at school, I fretted about where I would turn my newly freed attentions. My dad was the given, as was helping out my husband with his business, but my son really didn’t need me anymore as he is basically a fine grown man… So what to do as far my passions and my energies were concerned was what had me worried.

Teaching is a fast paced, non stop sort of stress producing vocation that runs as a day in and day out event. Rarely does or can a teacher “turn it off”….Multiply all of that by 31, which in turn meant I was basically a top wound as tight as one could get. I had to constantly be on the ready for whatever came down the pike– being ready to always hit the ground running each and every day for 31 years.

Such is the life of a high school teacher—add the other duties acquired over 31 years…coaching, working with after school needs based kids, Department Chair, various committee chairs, team leader, mentoring, trainings, more schooling, summer trainings—throw in being wife, mom, daughter…and you are one overwhelmed individual.

The question begged where was I going to pour some of that energy. Where was I going to dump so much of that “constantness” until I could learn to decompress somewhat. I had lived life as a Pavlov dog, as anyone who has ever worked in education will testify…bells and clocks controlled my life. And seeing that I’ve been in a school setting since I was 5 years old, we are looking at almost 50 years in school—–that is entirely too long!!

So suddenly the idea of time standing somewhat still was exciting but yet also very frightening. I knew all about the importance of “transition” as that is a current educational buzz word. I knew I needed a seamless transition—or at least the best transition I could manage. “I know!!”– I exclaimed while attempting to convince myself that I had a really good idea, “I’ll bake bread”–I’m talking fresh from scratch artisan breads.

I’ve written a post on this before so I won’t rehash all of it again but just know that I bought all of the latest books, the special pans, the proofing bowls, the drying cloths, the special flours…I was going to do this and do it 110% to the best of my ability like any good teacher worth her salts, oh and I bought the good special salts too….

The start of school this past August marked my first complete year of retirement and
I have made all of two loaves of bread and one batch of decadent cinnamon rolls. What is wrong with this picture you ask….

They were wonderfully good–heavenly in fact–loaves, or actually rounds, of delicious bread and yeasty delicious cinnamon buns…..but they were laborious and time consuming. There’s that whole making, rising, punching, kneading, rising, kneading..on and on…. Flour was everywhere and not being as confident in baking as I am in cooking, I always fretted the loaves would never rise and I would have worked like a dog for flat hard hockey pucks…..

Plus I probably would be weighing as much as a freight train right about now if I churned out loaves as I had intended. We all know that there is nothing better than hot bread with cow cream fresh real deal butter—-yummmmmmmm!! I’ve got a post about that too—as there is, to me, nothing better than the real deal butter…..

I visited a bakery today whose job is to churn out the wonderful breads that I thought I should be making. It is their job, their life, their passion, their mission to make really good bread. And they do so very successfully as they take their breads from the sleepy little west Georgia town of Pine Mountain up to the big city of Atlanta to sell their breads at the various city markets to ravenous crowds.

My job and passion, and I suppose my bread and butter, for 31 years was kids….other people’s kids. My job and passion now is a different type of bread and butter, it is simply the components that make my life truly that, my life. I’m good knowing that I finished the one job, the job of school. Now I’m tending to the job of family and home which is equally deserving and needing of my time—I’ve learned that I don’t have to nervously find something, anything to “fill the gap” —Dad’s doing a pretty good job of that all by himself….which is all good—

So whereas it was initially my misguided angst filled need to think I needed to make real bread, it is now my joyous epiphany, what Julia so eloquently waxes poetically, that my life is now here for my dad, my stepmom, my husband, my son, my godparents, my dear friends, and even for you my blogging friend ….and that is indeed the butter to my bread……….