tis the season or just one of those days…

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought,
doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Dr. Seuss


(sterilizing The Mayor’s things in the wake of her departure / Julie Cook / 2018)

Let’s face it…we all have those days when we feel like a giraffe with our heads
stuck in a pot of boiling water.

Perhaps you’ve never looked at it that way before, but admit it, it makes perfect sense.

Maybe you’re not exactly frazzled.
Maybe you’re not terribly overwhelmed.
Maybe you’re not running behind.
Maybe you’re not stressed.
Maybe you’re not tired.
Maybe you’re not a bit melancholy.
Maybe you’re not a bit stretched.
Maybe you’re not a bit depressed.
Maybe you’re not overly busy.
Maybe you’re not apprehensive or anxious.

Maybe you’re none of those…

Maybe it’s because you’re totally overflowing with the love and joy that has come to you
from this season…as in you’ve had one too many cups of the bourbon-laced eggnog
and now you’re delusional…
or you actually managed to grab a-hold of the true meaning of Advent and this Christmas to be.

Or if the truth is told…maybe… just maybe…
you’ll admit that you’re really feeling a few of those heavier things…
Actually, maybe, you’re feeling more than a few.
Maybe you’ll admit to the truth…
you’re feeling all of those and then some!

Hence a giraffe with its head stuck in a pot of boiling water.

So good, we are now on the same page.

I was tackling the laundry yesterday in the wake of The Mayor and her two closest aides
recent visit…

When I thought that I really wanted to cook some little something that seemed
holidayish and festive.

But time…
Where was the time?

Now I’ll happily tip my hat, any day of the week,
to all those women out there who have superpowers in that they
can work outside of the home, clean their house, wash all the clothes, run all
the errands, shuttle the kids, finish the presentations and reports,
cook festive holiday goodies, complete all the shopping, decorating and wrapping
while still making time to go to the gym, write greeting cards, read a book, and post
the latest decorative things they’ve accomplished to Pinterest or Instagram.

And if your name is not Martha Stewert, you probably haven’t done half of those things,
let alone two or simply even one to the utmost of your ability.
And no fair if you have a maid, a nanny, or a small army of assistants following you around.

I actually do think that I was once able to accomplish much more when I was a
younger woman who was working outside of the house while tending to all things of the house
and raising a husband and a child.

I have no idea as to what has happened except that I simply got old.

But by George, I was determined to make something festive today if it killed me.

Every winter, I have to haul the citrus trees, that I keep in large pots
outside throughout the late Spring to early Fall, to the basement when freezing
temperatures arrive.

One tree that I’ve had now for many years has gotten so big,
that I was left with no choice other than to sacrifice it…
I can no longer move it, even with the hand trucks,
so it will be the guinea pig.

As the question remains, can a citrus tree survive a winter in Georgia?
I’ll let you know.

But the Meyer lemon tree that is now happily safe and sound in the basement,
is loaded with ripening lemons. It’s not looking too good as they don’t like
an abrupt change in climate but the looming question…
what am I to do now with all those lemons??

I opted for a tried and true southern favorite recipe…something that makes me always think
of my mom…
That being lemon squares.

Not the most festive perhaps but they are relatively easy and certainly tasty.

And as I do tend to gravitate to the melancholy this time of year as I find myself
missing those who are now no longer present in my small world…
mother’s lemon squares were calling.

Mother wasn’t known for her cooking or baking prowess, but those things she did
manage to succeed with while being in the kitchen are now treasured.

So the lemons squares it would be….

But where was her recipe…


(just one small pile of old cards and notes)

It’s amazing how over the years I’ve amassed such a plethora of old, spotted and stained
envelopes, note cards, papers, and even old receipts all covered with the scribblings
both of myself, family and friends.
A myriad of recipes which have been meant to be tried, tested and savored…
and yet with the advent of all things internet…it’s almost too easy to click
a button rather than dig through the drawers, books, and cabinets seeking that one
lost recipe.

Finally, I found what I had written down from my mom’s recipe…
but as to where her original handwritten card currently rests eludes me…
but this would have to do. Yet I had already moved to a different recipe as I couldn’t
find this one in time.

So as this is the time of year for gifts and gift giving…and since I use to share a lot more
about cooking and recipes when I first started this thing called a blog—
here is a copy of mother’s recipe along with the one I mismashed for today’s
Lemon’s squares…

Merry Christmas!!


(mother’s recipe)

Ingredients:
For the base:
1 stick of softened unsalted butter
2 cups sifted flour (I like King Arthur’s unbleached)
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
For the filling:
4 eggs lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
the juice from 4 lemons (1/3 cup but I actually used just shy of a 1/2 cup)
grated lemon peel from the four lemons you’ll juice
(grate them whole before cutting and juicing)
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
(it is a nice rounding out of the often harshness of fresh lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a 9×13 pan—I spray baker’s joy on the bottom and then line the bottom with
parchment paper that I cut to fit. I then spray the parchment paper
(you can use butter and flour if you prefer)

Set the prepared pan aside.

In a mixing bowl sift the 2 cups of flour and the 1/2 cup confectioners sugar—
using a pastry blender, cut in the softened stick of butter until the mixture looks
like grainy sand—and holds together when handling.

Press this mixture down into your prepared baking dish.

Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes until lightly
browned and puffed.

Cool while you prepare the filling.

In a bowl stir in 1 1/2 cups sugar, the grated lemon peel, a dash of salt,
1/4 cup of flour add the lemon juice, extract and then the beaten eggs until all
is incorporated.

Pop in the oven and cook an additional 25 minutes.

The filling will puff and might slightly brown just a tad.

When it’s finished baking, remove the pan and place it on a cooling rack,
allowing the pan to cool down.

(here is where some suggest putting the pan in the fridge to cool for at least two
hours but I just let it rest on the counter)

When cool—I dust the top with powered sugar—
I use a small mesh sieve that I shake over the pan
which adds a nice light dusting.

Next I use a bench scraper to cut the bars or you can use a knife

So before you’re hung up to dry, have yourself a merry little lemon square…

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.

Luke 2:7

just make mine vanilla

Love ice cream.
I let myself have that about once a week.
Vanilla.

Tim Tebow


(three old shots from back in 2013 when I was first making my vanilia extract–the longer it sits,
the better it gets…just add a new bean or two over time and top off with the sprit of choice)

I like to cook.
This much we know to be true.

I use to post a good bit about my cooking exploits but over time I’ve obviously shifted my
focus and attention to issues I find more pressing…
issues like those concerning Christianity
and the practicing of our faith in a post-modern, post-Christian era.

However, I will still raise the battle cry over other issues I think pertinent to this good fight
we call life…

Take today for instance…(or yesterday if you’re reading this on Saturday)

I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few items.
I needed some cat food and Grapeseed oil so while I was over in the cooking oil aisle,
I decided I needed to check out the spices.
I needed to peruse the spice area as there seemed to be a mental list somewhere nagging
in my brain, begging me to remember something from this particular section that I needed…

I grabbed some Adobo chili powder.
I’ve never used it before but I’d seen a recipe for slow-simmered chicken…a recipe for chicken tacos…remember, I’m trying to reduce the iron content while looking for foods that will avert the absorption—spicey things supposedly help.

While still perusing, my eyes stopped on a bottle of Vanilla beans.

Ahhh, the mental alarm clock sounded.

Yep, I needed some more beans as I’d used the last two I had in the recently poached pear recipe.
(also a tasty recipe I once posted)

I grabbed the bottle.
There were two measly beans in the bottle.
Vanilla beans are a precious commodity.
But why companies are so chintzy I’ve never figured it out.

I looked at the price—they are usually costly as I’ve paid almost 10 bucks a bottle before,
but I was wondering just how high they might be now.
I do prefer ordering my beans in bulk as it’s cheaper but I needed to have at least two on hand.
One never knows when an unctuous creme brulee is calling…

What to my wandering eyes did appear but a 2 and a 5 joined together…as in
25 dollars for the bottle!!!!!!

WHAT?????

Is this a misprint??? my panicky brain wonders.
I march myself, with the bottle in hand, over to a gal at a register.
“Is this price correct” I practically screamed at the unsuspecting cashier.
She scanned the bottle.
“Oh my gosh” she practically screams back.
“25 dollars for Vanilia beans???? she nervously screams again.

“That’s what I thought” I reply almost exhausted from our heightened sense of distraughment.

I use vanilla beans a lot.

I’ve actually made my own vanilla and bourbon vanilla extracts, a recipe in which
I’ve shared in prior posts from back in 2013.
A homemade vanilla extract is the best of the best!! And it lasts forever.

Making the extract required my having to buy a bunch of beans…
beans I had actually ordered from Amazon–
I used Tahitian and Madagascar beans as each offers a different floral warm scent and taste.

Once home from the store, I decided to go check out the Amazon site,
just to see what they were currently selling my bulk bag of beans for as I was going to order
a new batch just to store for when I needed them—

Immediately I see that 5 beans, just 5 little beans, were going for a whopping 27 bucks.
Which did, however, beat the grocery store’s two beans for 25 bucks.
My regular ordered batch of shrink-wrapped beans was going for…
sit down before I tell you…
1/4 of a pound of beans at $115.00 while a full pound of beans listed for $400!!!!!!!!

For a batch of homemade vanilla extract, you need a good 15 to 20 beans…
of which maturate in a bottle that is large enough to contain them with enough vodka or
bourbon poured over to cover…as they are left to steep until a deep rich brown color
appears and the heady spicy aroma of delicious warmth wafts from the uncorked bottle.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON????? I practically wail.

I immediately race to the trusty all-knowing Google to type in ‘vanilla bean prices’
and sure enough, I found many articles and news stories regarding the exponentially
skyrocketing prices

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vanilla-bean-shortage-madagascar-drives-up-us-prices/

A precarious commodity that is a fragile commodity.
A product that is prone to drought, fickled growing seasons, poaching, farmers who don’t
allow the pods to fully mature in a race to get the pods to a demanding market and finally
it is simply a matter of time…for it takes three long years for a plant to produce a pod.

According to Wikipedia, vanilla is the second most expensive spice coming in right
behind saffron.
And gathering a ready pod is extremely labor intensive because these pods of
this particular species of the orchid family are each hand pollinated…pod per pod.

Vanilla, just plain old vanilla.

Consider its humble base taste…it is often the brunt of those who refer to things as
just being average..as in vanilla, as in plain jane, as in generic, as in nothing special,
as in the bottom of the list.

Yet vanilla is a great building base—a needed and important humble building block.
Imagine Chocolate chip cookies without that added splash of vanilla.
Think vanilla bean ice-cream, sour cream pound cake, pannacotta, rice pudding,
milkshakes, protein shakes, puddings, eclairs, cookies, candy, yogurt, chewing gum,
cosmetics, perfumes, aromatherapies…the list is nearly endless….
all without their needed vanilla.

There are four main types of vanilla beans used in our consumption: Tahitian, Indonesian,
Mexican and Madagascar

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/4-kinds-vanilla-beans-know

There are however those purists out there who do indeed favor the unadulterated flavor
of that simple, smokey, sweet, floral flavor of just plain old fashioned vanilla.
No swirls of caramel, no colorful sprinkles, not bits of cookie or peppermint or toffee,
or chocolate syrup or diced fruit…just simple, plain old vanilla.

So I suppose I might just have a little problem…a little expensive problem…
As we might all just have a largely flavorless problem…

Here’s to hoping the current growing crop thrives…
hopefully in time for this summer’s long-awaited and even yearned for home-churned ice cream…
because it just won’t be summer without a bowl of fresh homemade vanilla ice cream!!!

There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are
a precious jewel.

Proverbs 20:15

purpose

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive,
but in finding something to live for.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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( a jar of Pickles from Pickles with a Purpose)

I suppose a jar of pickles and Christmas seem to have nothing much in common…
But as you may know, those of us predisposed to all things Southern, love a good pickle.
As we love the sheer notion of pickling.

We pickle everything from cucumbers to okra to quail eggs, to pigs feet.
And mind you whereas I prefer all things of the cucumber variety, I have been known to
venture out on a limb by trying a pickled green bean as well as an okra,
I simply draw the line however with the eggs and pig’s feet.

I live in a small Georgia town, a growing town, but considered small
none-the-less by the larger city dwellers…
And I should know having grown up in the big city…
we are indeed small, despite having a super Kroger and a Super Wal-Mart.

I don’t like super…super is too big, too generic, too impersonal.

I do like my small town as opposed to the big city.

Whereas the big city has more to offer such as great places to eat,
unique places to shop, and abundant things to do….
the small town is more homey.
And I like the feel of homey.

I was at the pharmacist’s the other day getting a prescription filled.
I like my pharmacy.
It is owned and operated by a local gal whose husband I once worked with at the high school.
I remember when they got married.
They now have boys in junior high.
Time flies in small towns.

Her dad works the counter, while she works at filling the bottles.
It’s nice as in it’s homey, as they know me by name.
They know my husband and they know my son and daughter-n-law.
They order things I need.

So the other day as I was waiting for my perscribtion to be filled, I wandered about
looking at the items she has in for Christmas.

Sitting amongst the ornaments and specialty soaps sat a jar of pickles.
Curious I picked up the jar.
The label simply read Pickles with a Purpose.
The side label gave a listing of ingredients and the fact that they came
from Marietta, Georgia…once a small town of its own,
but Marietta is now a part of the mega growing Cobb County, the
soon to be new home of the Atlanta Braves.
How an Atlanta baseball team can still be known as just that, Atlanta’s baseball team,
when moving out from Atlanta to a neighboring county still has me confused…
but that is not my worry, not today.

There was also a website listed on the back label of the pickles.
A website where one could learn more about the story behind the pickles.

I did however notice a small card propped up by the pickle jars…
so I pulled it out hoping to read a little further into the story.

It seems the idea of the pickles came from a 9 year old boy named Luke
from Marietta, Georgia who felt God wants him to help raise money for an older man
he knows who happens to be homeless.

The young man’s grandmother graciously offered her secret pickle recipe as a means
of having a product to sell in hopes of raising enough money to buy Luke’s
homeless friend a home.
The homeless friend, named Tim, is a middle aged black man whom Luke
had met while helping his mom at a business she manages…

At that point, with tears in my eye and my prescription being ready,
I grabbed up 4 jars… all I could carry, as made my way to the counter to pay.
I was told that the pickles were really great so I went back and grabbed the last jar.

It wasn’t the fact that the pickles were supposedly really good…
It wasn’t because I like pickles…
but rather it was the story behind the pickles that actually inspired me…
as I normally wouldn’t buy jars of pickles to give as Christmas gifts.

Later at home I got on the computer and looked up Pickles with a Purpose and found the
following You Tube video of the young man Luke sharing his plan of raising the money
to buy his friend Tim a home…

I hope Luke’s story will inspire as well bless you as much as it blessed me…
As Luke’s pickle story is really just another reminder of what Christmas is really all about…

I’ll be going back to pick up some more jars of pickles…
Small towns are nice that way….

The simple path

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
― L.M. Montgomery

“The Simple Path
Silence is Prayer
Prayer is Faith
Faith is Love
Love is Service
The Fruit of Service is Peace”

― Mother Teresa

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(a simple lovely breakfast / Julie Cook/ 2015)

5 readily available ingredients. . .
eggs, simmered 6 minutes–preferably as fresh and organic as they come, hence an orange yolk
1 slice of bread, lightly toasted–preferably a nice little rustic slice
butter, a light unctuous spread of the real deal
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
and there, my friend is a meal fit for both king or pauper.

Simple, unadulterated, humble fare.

And please excuse that sound of retching in the background because when my aunt sees this picture,
she will begin to throw up as she does not like eggs–not the sight, sound, smell or taste
but we shan’t allow that to stop this particular thread of thought this morning, she’ll quickly scroll past the picture.

Now, back to where we were. . .

Simple fare.
Nothing frufru,
nothing fancy smancy
A soul satisfying plate of bare bones simple.
As in less is more.

As human beings we have grown greatly accustomed to making more from less
We think more, bigger, extravagant equates to better, perhaps even best.
We want to top this with that.
We vie to go beyond.
Often not knowing when to leave things be.
We perfect and perfect some more.
We build upon what was there striving to make it all so much more special, more grand.
Stopping is not an option let alone failing. . .
We examine, expand, explore. . .always being ready to fix and to add
We pile on while always going beyond.

Satisfaction is fleeting
Settling unheard of
Resting on laurels passe

Yet it is when we scale back
Strip things bare
Pare down
Slow down
Detox
Declutter
Downsize
Clean out
Throw out
Simplify

Life becomes sweet, savory, pleasant, peaceful, complete.

So on this new morning to this new week, as life prepares to offer you a myriad of paths throughout a busy and most likely chaotic week, don’t be afraid or deterred when choosing your path– make the conscious decision to choose the simpler path. . .you just may be surprised that the choice of the simple and the less, in the end, is delightfully more satisfying.

Warm and spicy…let’s add a pear—Or— once again, Cooking with Cookie

“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(a beautiful Bosc pear / Julie Cook / 2015)

AAAAGGGGHHHHHH
Bam, bam bam. . .
Did you hear that?
That is the sound of my head clunking against the wall.
Looking outside, for as far as the eye can behold, which by the way they’re telling us is less than half a mile, is nothing but grey, fog, mist, damp, drizzle, cold, wet, blah, yuck, monotone of what has become our Winters. . .
Day after day of grey onto more and more grey. . .

HELP!!
A diversion!
That’s it, a diversion. . .
We need a diversion!!!!
Actually we really need to hop on a plane, flying “down under” to our friends in the Southern Hemisphere for a quick visit as I hear they’re in the midst of a heat wave.
Really.
But since we must follow practicalities, we need a more readily available diversion.

Consider the pear.
What?
Yes, the pear.

When I was a little girl, I can remember my grandparents, always this time of year, receiving a box of crisp fresh pears. . .from some exotic far away land like, say, Florida or California. Why they couldn’t go the grocery store like my mother would, in order to purchase the mealy overly ripe heavily bruised variety, was beyond my young comprehension. And if the truth be told, the pears my mom bought actually came in cans.
What??
You’ve never seen the canned pear tree!!??
Libby, DelMonte. . .it didn’t matter.
Pear halves packed in heavy syrup.
Those being the heady days before “health”. . .

Mother would serve them, as most folks during those dark days of canned, store bought, prepackaged, processed, readily available foods, drained and perched on a bed of iceberg lettuce (the only lettuce my dad believes in) accented with a dollop of the real deal, nothing low-fat about it, mayonnaise topped with a smattering of grated cheddar cheese.
Voila the ubiquitous Pear Salad of the 1960’s.

Of course there was that exotic French Liqueur, found when I tagged along with my Dad, as a little girl, to the local liquor store for his weekly run for beer, Poire Williams— the one with a real full sized pear floating in a bottle of clear liquid —the mystery I never could figure out. . .as in how they got the actual pear inside the bottle. . .and not understanding why dad wouldn’t buy me the bottle so I could investigate further.

Yep.
That pretty much sums up what was my full knowledge of pears. . .until I finally grew up.

There’s nothing better than a perfectly cool, crisp, juicy pear.
You know, the one whose juices dribble down your chin as you take each tenderly sweet bite after bite. . .but as Mr Emerson so blatantly reminds us at the start of the post, that time of perfection is but a very narrow window.

In my quest and need of and for diversion from the constant grey outside my window, I opted to poke around for a new recipe—something fun to cook in order to take my mind off of the cold grey outside and the fact that I threw all gluten out the window over a week ago. . .just to see if it could help an ailing GI tract and shed this weight that seems to have hunkered down for the duration (more on that later).

Not looking for anything to do with pears, or fruit for that matter, a recipe jumped out at me concerning the poaching of pears in a delicious sounding concoction of sugar, spices and water.
Hummm.
Never being one to poach my fruit nor believing in any sort of dessert other than that of chocolate and cream, I was a bit intrigued. I figured I could poach a couple of pears and have them as part of a salad.

Heading to the store, I purchased 4 organic (of course) Bosc pears. You know, the pretty pears which are beautifully shaped, well, like a pear.

The recipe called for 8 pears but in a household of two, I opted on 4 pears, yet I still used the full recipe of poaching liquid which worked out perfectly.

Interested yet?
I thought you’d never ask. . .

You’ll need 4 to 8 Bosc pears (they hold their shape the best)
2 cups sugar ( I know it sounds excessive but it’s just a part of the “bath”)
8 cups water—however I used 2 cups of leftover champagne I had sitting in the fridge since New Year’s Eve along with 6 cups of water. You could use some white wine if you’d like. . .
1 Vanilla bean split
1/2 a lemon –I used a Meyer lemon
a small handful of whole cloves about 8 or so
1 cinnamon stick or 2 if you’re feeling adventuresome
1 star anise— since I didn’t have that, I used about 1/4 teaspoon of anise seed– oh so judiciously as I’m not into licorice.
And wishing I had thought to throw in a cardamon pod or three

Put all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, immediately dropping down to a low simmer—
mmmmmmm can’t you smell that warm spicy aroma now just filling your kitchen??

In the meanwhile, peel your pears.

Slice them in half and using a teaspoon, gently scoop out the seeds.
Once the sugar has dissolved, put the pears gently in the “bath”–cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the pears are soft (test by gently poking with the tip of a knife)

Once the pears are soft and your house smells heavenly, remove the pot from the heat and allow the pears to cool in their bath.
At this point you can put the whole pot in the fridge, allowing the pears to rest in the “broth” chilling nicely. Sampling with a small spoon of the “bath water” I decided I could drink the whole pot.

What I did with my pears was to make a salad.
I tore up some romaine lettuce (the kind Dad does not consider real lettuce), placing it on a salad plate.
I next sprinkled some blue cheese crumbles (you can use Gorgonzola) over the lettuce and drizzled blue cheese dressing over the salad in training. I then placed a single pear half on the bed of lettuce. You can certainly slice it in half if you prefer.
I put a small dollop of mascarpone cheese in the center of the pear (you could use cream cheese or blue cheese), sprinkled a few sugared walnuts around, finally drizzling the remainder of the apple cider sugar glaze I used for the walnuts, over the pear and lettuce.
Voila—the new 21st century pear salad

Oh here’s what I did to the walnuts. . .
In a small sauce pan I put in about a 1/2 cup of sugar. I turned the heat up to med-high, watching it like a hawk so it wouldn’t burn, get away from me and set the house on fire.
As the sugar began to melt, turning to a liquid, I used a small wooden spoon to stir it.
Just as soon as the sugar melted, I slowly poured about a 1/4 cup of apple cider in the pan, continually stirring as the sugar now wanted to clump and harden back up. I continued stirring allowing my mixture to boil, adding about a TBL or two of Maple syrup. I allowed this to boil down, reducing into a thick syrup, at which point I dropped in a handful of walnuts ( 3/4 to 1 cup)—allowing them to get a good coating of the syrup.
Next I poured the syrupy nuts onto a dry plate allowing them to cool.
I then placed them willy nilly on the salad, drizzling the pear and salad with the remaining syrup. . .
Absolutely divine–light, refreshing and oh so tasty

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Oh–and by the way—does anyone know how they got those pears in those liqueur bottles???

Thankfully thankful

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.
Meister Eckhart

“Anything I cannot thank God for for the sake of Christ, I may not thank God for at all; to do so would be sin. … We cannot rightly acknowledge the gifts of God unless we acknowledge the Mediator for whose sake alone they are given to us.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(a brown English transfer ware Spode platter / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(a turkey ready for brining / Julie Cook / 2014)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!
“Is that . . .”
A turkey in a cat litter box lined igloo cooler?
Why yes, yes it is.

And why do I have a turkey sitting in a cat litter box lined igloo cooler you ask?
Well, since I thought we could all use a good dose of humor today, I’m providing a link for the post I offered up this time last year. You know, the one about my attempts at brining a turkey. . . You remember the one. . . When I put the big bird in a brining bag, filled with the 5 gallons of solution only to have the bag split open in mid step as I began to transfer the very heavy and giant oh so wobbly bag of bird and brine to the refrigerator, only to have the entire contents of the bag, all 5 gallons worth of liquid, slosh out of said split bag, cascading onto my new kitchen rugs and all over the hardwood flooring?

You didn’t forget that little escaped did you?

Well incase you did, perhaps reliving that little holiday mishap is in order. I think by now, with all the food, all the family, all the weather, all the news we don’t want to think about, a little humor just might do us all some good!

It was the true stuff of nightmares and of legends all rolled into one. Plus it was a very cold rainy day—it’s all coming back to me. . .

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/the-brine-the-rugs-getting-lost-and-a-grateful-heart/

And whereas Dad won’t be making the trip over this year for Thanksgiving, as they don’t feel as if they can make the drive which means they won’t get lost again, we, on the other hand, will be going over to our son and daughter-n-law’s house to share, along with all of her family, their first Thanksgiving as a married couple. I’m certain there’ll be a story to share after this event of new togetherness!!

Despite not hosting this little annual shindig, I am cooking, not only brining but preparing to take this little fowl show on the road. Two cooked birds driving in the back of my car. . .hummmmm. Should prove to be very interesting later today. . .

When it came to this year’s brining, I was ready—the strongest bag I could find in the house was a cat box litter liner. Forget those whimpy brining bags, I needed hard core.
And as for some sort of reinforcement for the liquid and bird filled bag verses sitting a bag and a bird on some flimsy little tray, a cooler was the biggest thing I could find to put the turkey in.
Is brining necessary?
Heavens no.
I’ve cooked many a turkey without it, but when one is offering up Thanksgiving Turkeys (yes this year there are two) to one’s new in-laws. . .brining sounds impressive and will hopefully prove beneficial.

Yet before I let this day pass, basking in what I hope will be a thankfully successful meal with family, new family and fiends, I wanted to take a moment to thank you.
Yes, you.
All of my friends in this blogoshpere of ours who stop in for visits on this little blogsite world of mine.
I want to thank you for becoming a part of my circle of friends.
For your insights, for your prayers, your wisdom, your interests, your comments, your kindness and for sharing your life with me as you allow me to share mine with you.
I am blessed and my life has been made the richer for each of you!
So on this day of thanks, may I say to you, Thank You!
Now fingers crossed the new in-laws like the turkeys (yes, plural as in there are two big birds)
Happy Cooking!!

In need of a little comfort?

As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

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(Freshly baked Breton Biscuits / Julie Cook / 2014)

Where do you go when you find yourself out of sorts, stressed, tired?
Where does your heart wander when it is wounded, sad, heavy?
Where do your spirits travel when your world is rocked, your day is shot, your feelings weary?

To the kitchen, that’s where!!

I confess that I’ve been feeling a bit blue and out of sorts as of late. . .blasé
—the trees didn’t help. . .
. . .but I don’t want to talk about that.
I was flipping though my most recent edition of Saveur Magazine when I found myself stopping on one particular page.
One word stopped me. . .
Butter

If there is one little thing that screams “let me comfort you my dear” it’s the real deal unctuous amalgamation of cream and salt.
Butter.
YUMMMMMMMM

The article was entitled Butter Queen showcasing a Brittany (region in France) specialty, Gâteau Breton or Gallettes bretonnes–better known as a light, delicate, sandy textured butter cookie.
That’s what I’m talking—-a light hearted version of a shortbread!!
Comfort is now a recipe away!!

So let’s make a little comfort shall we. . .

This particular recipe is originally from Le Cordon Bleu’s cookies edition as taken from the Joy of Baking
A recipe for Sables—the French Butter cookie (how many names can a little butter cookie have?!)
It’s a simple no fuss cookie. It can serve as a canvas for the adventuresome and creative, or simply as pure pleasure for the purist.

Here’s what you’ll need:
–10 tablespoons (140) grams unsalted butter, room temperature (Plugra, Presidents or other European brands)
–1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
–1 large egg (organic)
–1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (my homemade brew)
–2 cups(260 grams) all purpose flour (unbleached King Author
–1/2 teaspoon baking powder
–1/4 teaspoon salt (Real Salt Kosher)
Egg Wash–1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

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Is it just me or is red a dominant color on the pallet of my products of choice?
When you make something as simple as a butter cookie, it is key to have the very best ingredients in your repertoire available as there are so few ingredients involved. With butter being the primary , the best butter you can get your hands on is crucial. Plugra is a great US butter which is out of Texas and handcrafted in the tradition of European butter–meaning it has a higher butter fat content–making for a richer, more savory creamy product—
(see the previous post:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/butter-and-lent/ )

I’ve chosen President, a French butter for a French cookie, mais non?

I’ve copied the original recipe here:

Sables: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least an hour).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick. Using a lightly floured 2 inch (5 cm) round fluted cookie cutter, cut out the cookies, placing them on the prepared sheet. Place the baking sheet of cut out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water for the egg wash. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the egg wash. Then, with the tines of a fork (or I like to use the end of a toothpick), make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie. Bake cookies in the preheated oven for about 12 – 14 minutes (depending on size of cookie) or until golden brown around the edges.

Cool cookies on wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
(using a 3 inch cutter gave me a larger cookie which numbered 18 total)

My organic eggs, since I’ve yet to procure “my girls” for the very real deal :

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The recipe calls for the use of a 2 inch cookie / biscuit cutter however I used a 3 inch cutter, making for a tad larger cookie. Instead of 3 dozen cookies I had 18. If you wanted to be festive, I don’t know why you couldn’t use fun cookie cutters, say pumpkins, or leaves, or turkeys, or snowmen. . .as these are not sugar cookies but a rolled and cut cookie all the same.

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I’m not a big fan of egg wash as I think it “yellows” the top of the cookie and “seals” the tops often allowing the cookies to get mushy after a day or so rather than staying nice and crisp–when I make these again, I won’t use egg. . .

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When you use a fork to crisscross the top of the cookies, use the back of the fork–the front of the fork will cause the soft raw cookies to pull–the back keeps the lines smooth.

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Not too sweet with a slight saltiness offering a clean buttery finish.
These could be fun little ice-cream sandwich base cookies or another type of filling sandwiched lovingly between theses thin little butter wafers of wonderment or even dipped in melted chocolate for a chocolate dipped sandy. . .skies the limit, but I prefer the simple buttery goodness.

Pure Comfort to be sure
Bon Appétit

If You’re Afraid of Butter, Use Cream
Julia Child