throw it out and start all over

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.
Meister Eckhart


(harvest time, in the dead of winter, go figure / Julie Cook / 2018)

Here in northwest Georgia, we are currently in the midst of our typical dreary Georgia winters…
grey, damp, misty, rainy and utterly foggy…
all of which gives way to just a sunless chilly dampness that gives way a heavy case
of the “meh’s”…
Not depressed but not joyful.
Not sad but not perky.

Yet despite this damp dreariness, believe it or not, all the citrus trees, that have been
moved to the basement for the season, are now bearing a plethora of fruit…
go figure!

So when life gives you an abundance of lemons in the dead of winter…
I suppose one gets busy making
something lemony.

Of which I did…today (yesterday by the time you’re reading this today)

I was going to look up lemon recipes that require a good bit of juice but I was
in the process of “migrating” again my old computer to the new computer.
It seems that the 5 hours required the other day was not enough,
I needed to add two more hours today in order to complete the “migration”…
I don’t think it takes geese that long to migrate!

Computer migration meant I wouldn’t be looking for all things lemony on the computer anytime soon
so I would be doing so with my phone instead. Sigh.

Searching, reading and squinting, I found a recipe for a lemony loaf cake that needs 1/2 cup
of fresh juice.

Perfect.

I headed to the basement in order to pluck what lemons were ripe…6 for now.
3 limes and 2 tiny calamondins.

I zested three lemons and juiced them while the butter softened.

My phone screen kept closing so I kept having to find a clean finger in order to touch the screen
and click back on the recipe.

I read over what I needed, what the oven needed to be set on and scanned over the step by steps–
in between the on and off screen…

I creamed the butter with the sugar, I added the eggs, I shifted the flour,
I measured the baking soda, baking powder, salt…
WAIT
was that 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder or
was it 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon baking powder???????

It was too late, I had gone with the first thought…
that being the full teaspoon of the baking soda and
the 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

When I clicked my phone from black back to the recipe, I read I had reversed the two…
I tasted the batter…yuck…definitely too much soda.
The lemon juice seemed to make it start growing in the bowl.
Now I’m no chemistry major, but there was certainly a reaction beginning to react…

But what the heck, what’s 1/2 teaspoon too much??

I poured my “growing” batter into the pan…oddly it was now right at the rim and seemed
to still be growing…
I fretted what would happen when it hit the heat????

I shoved a sheet of foil underneath in case it opted to spill over.

I set the timer and quickly grabbed my phone now with two dirty hands yet full attention.

I quickly googled what happens if one adds more soda than what is called for.

All of the listed articles might as well as have had a nuclear warning sign as a header
as each one read of disaster.

The batter will taste bitter and soapy. Check
The batter will expand beyond capacity especially if an acidic base is added. Check
The batter will flow out of the pan once it’s placed in the over. Double check,

Solution…

Throw it all out and start over.

One article did advise that you could possibly double the flour, butter, eggs, sugar
and make a double batch but I wasn’t going there.

I yanked open the oven door and grabbed the now overflowing pan and headed straight to the trashcan.

I started over.

This time being careful to get my soda and powder measurement right.

I threw out 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 1 stick of butter,
1 Tbl of lemon zest…a huge waste but the only salvageable option.

And so as I started over from scratch on this now seemingly costly cake of mine,
I was reminded that we are currently perched on the tossing out of one year
as we prepare to start fresh on a new year.

I can honestly say that I am happy, for many reasons, to be tossing out this past year.

It’s like my batter with the too much soda, it just needs to be thrown out and started anew…
despite the seemingly lost cost.

On a personal level, this past year was a blessing in that we had great joy with the birth of this
first grandchild of ours…and the news of another one soon on his way…
As well as with the successful retiring of a 50-year business.

Yet I can’t help but think about this country of ours and of our global community.
The uncertainty.
The hatefulness.
The sinfulness.
The anger.
The turning away from our Judeo / Christian heritage.

I can only pray that God, in His Mercy, will continue to afford us His Grace…
And that He will indeed remain gracious and merciful to his wayward children.

I pray that we can hold onto a continued sense of hopefulness while we look forward to a
fresh beginning…because Lord knows, it’s time we get a brand new fresh start!
Just like my cake…that finally turned out a great success.

Here’s to a hope-filled successful new year for us all!!!

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

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

I could use one of those right about now. . .

Show me how you drink and I will tell you who you are.
~Emile Peynaud

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(a beautiful photo of a Cookie’s Cup / Julie Cook / 2014)

Ok, the official count down is underway!
Wedding Alert!!
June 7th!!!!!!!
Lots of “To Do’s” are crossed off the hefty list—yet oddly, as quickly as I check off one “To Do” item, seems as if 5 more are added. Hummmm

And money–let’s just not talk about that. . .
Still praying to grab hold of a Leprechaun cause robbing a bank is just not in my DNA.

By this time next week, I’ll be taking this show on the road . . .but before I can head towards the
Historic Georgia Coast, there are many miles to go here before there’s any thought of sleeping, resting or anything leisure.

And did you know that Springtime in Georgia lasts all of two weeks?
What does that have to do with wedding preparations you ask. . .
Well, it makes for hot work, and since the wedding is further south, an even hotter event.

Just about two weeks, sometime between late March, early April is when we have Spring.
After that little lull known as Spring, when our entire world turns yellow, look out, ’cause it’s full throttle Summer from here on out—as in sometime toward late October even possibly November!!
Summer is more like half the year here in Georgia.
If you like mid 90’s or better, and if you love not being able to breathe the air because the humidity is so thick you could wear it—then I’ve got a place for you!!

Heat, humidity and hazy days (the weather men call it hazy, I call it pollution but I digress)—that’s Georgia!!

So on those days that my nerves need soothing and my body needs refreshing, there is nothing better
than a “Cookie’s Cup.”
“A what?” you ask. . .
A Cookie’s Cup. . .as in my take on the quintessentially British summer cocktail cooler, The Pimm’s Cup.

If you’d like to try your hand at a Cookie’s cup, here’s what you’ll need:
–one bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 (a gin based, essentially British, herbal liqueur)
–One cucumber
“WHAT?!”
trust me. . .
–some strawberries
–crushed ice
–some Gin (I’m excited about Hendricks Gin these days–made in Scotland–a small batch gin, sleeper beverage coming in under the radar, below that infamous smoked peat beverage the Scots seems to love so much–who wants to drink smoked peat bogs??!! I digress)
–either some ginger ale, lime aid or some other lemon / lime flavored drink

–slice and seed a cucumber, or better yet, use a seedless one– then cut into sliced rounds or seeded chunks—I used about 6 little chunks (it’s a British thing, they put them in the original Pimm’s Cup, the big Wimbledon cocktail–and since the Hendricks gin uses cucumbers in their distilling, I figure it kind of all goes hand in hand)
–slice one to two large strawberries (they just look so pretty floating in a crystal glass don’t you think?)
–fill a pretty glass half way with crushed ice
–add the cucumber and strawberries
–add 1.5 oz of Pimm’s
–add 1 oz of Gin (if it’s been a really bad day, throw in an extra once of Gin for good measure)
–top off with lime aid or ginger ale
–Garnish with a mint sprig or slice of lime.

It’s not a sweet sort of drink but very quaffable–a light and easy aperitif. But if you need to sweeten it up a tad–add about a Tbl or two of simple syrup or Agave nectar— but remember the Agave is sweeter than sugar so you don’t need to use as much. The British love to make pitchers of Pimm’s, which in a pretty glass pitcher, can look most inviting. This is light, not a heavy alcoholic drink–and if you wanted it even lighter on the alcoholic side, you could do away with adding the Gin and stick primarily with the Pimm’s.

This is a nice sipping beverage on a hot afternoon when you’ve just looked at your check book and suddenly find yourself thinking of how you could do a better job of robbing a bank than the crooks you see on the evening news—
Bottoms up my friends. . .

Déjà vu, mint?

“Deja Vu All Over Again”
Yogi Berra

“Open the whisky, Tom,’ she ordered, ‘and I’ll make you a mint julep. Then you won’t seem so stupid to yourself… Look at the mint!”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

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Ok, so it seems as if it was just last year that I was posting some rubbish about summer mint (Mentha × piperita), mint juleps, the Kentucky Derby and life in this quintessential South of mine.
Well bless my soul. . .the Derby ran Saturday (hooray for the underdogs!! California Chrome, what a wonderful story! If I were a betting woman, my money for a triple crown would be on this little young man—oh but we are digressing), and my yard is smack-dab full of mint. . .so it just seems more than appropriate to post something about mint and juleps and derbies all over again.
The same, yet different and yet new.

We’ve been having a bit of a rough go as of late. Our son has been having some health issues and the next couple of weeks call for tests with possible surgery. Did I mention there is a wedding June 7th?! Do you hear any panic in my voice? Good. I’m trying to keep that stiff upper lip you know. And also–we would all greatly appreciate any and all prayers!! Yet sadly, as is my child’s lot in life. . .when it rains it definitely pours. . . so I thought a nice little diversion was in order. . .as in a drink. Oh, not for me silly it’s still too early—but rather for you—as in I suppose the old song is right, it must be 5:00 PM somewhere on the planet?!

I had this little beauty Saturday as they were calling the jockeys to the Post. . .

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What is that you ask? Why it’s a world famous Julie Julep!!
And since I think I hear you saying you sure wish you had one right about now, I’m going to do the next best thing— I’m going to tell you how to make one.

First you’ll need a pretty glass—you can use a typical silver julep cup, or in my case, the best and prettiest crystal type glass you own.
–Gather a handful of mint (peppermint only)
— You’ll need an ounce or two (depends on your constitution) of good ol Kentucky Bourbon (that is if you’re a purist)–you may wander outside of the Kentucky state lines, drifting over to Tennessee or Virginia if you prefer, but it must be a Southern Bourbon of some sorts!
–either make some quick simple syrup (1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 cup water, boil ’til sugar dissolves) which you can also add mint leaves to in order to boost the mint flavor, or use agave nectar–works just as well–plus you don’t need as much nectar as you would simple syrup as agave nectar is sweeter than sugar—purists, however, stick to simple syrup.
–crushed ice
–here’s what makes it a Julie Julep–Limeade juice—as in Simply Limeade (this makes it most quaffable–meaning it’s smooth, refreshing and calls for more than one)
–a garnish of a mint sprig and a slice of lime.
MIX:
—In your glass, throw in a handful of mint. Some call for the addition of a little Demerara sugar thrown in which I did try and I kind of liked it. The coarse sugar helps break up the mint as you muddle it (pound and grind the life out of it). I must confess that I do not own a muddler. I use the end of a wooden spoon. Pound that mint with the spoon releasing those delightfully aromatic essential oils.
—add crushed ice
—add bourbon (1 oz to 2 oz it’s your call–I’m thinking 2– maybe even 3, but hey, we want more than one drink right?)
—add about 1 to 2 TBL of simple syrup or agave nectar (if you like it sweet, add more)
—fill the remainder of the glass with limeade.
—give that puppy a good stir, with a silver sipping straw of course, garnish with a nice pretty sprig of mint and a slice of lime.
NOW—settle back in one of the rocking chairs out on the front porch, prop up your feet if you’d like, as you enjoy the sun dipping low in the sky— begin singing to yourself “My old Kentucky Home” for a real sense of true Southern Living. . .

“My Old Kentucky Home”
by Stephen Foster

Contemporary Lyrics (1986):

The sun shines bright in My Old Kentucky Home,
‘Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.

The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy and bright;
By ‘n’ by hard times comes a knocking at the door,
Then My Old Kentucky Home, good night!

Chorus:

Weep no more my lady
Oh weep no more today;
We will sing one song
For My Old Kentucky Home
For My Old Kentucky Home, far away