Many, many days and weeks have passed since my last blog post. And there were a lot of days between that one and the one before. And the one before that. I'm not sure what's been wrong with me, but my moxie has gone missing. I haven't had anything interesting to write, and dinner has become about getting something on the table instead of a creative outlet. Am I jaded? Am I bored? Am I tapped out?
The other night, Pootie even went so far as to suggest I start cooking from recipes again. I briefly considered setting him on fire, but that would have made a mess, and I would have missed him later. Probably.
Don't get me wrong. I've loved having my kitchen back, and my grill, and I cook dinner almost every night. It isn't bad, it's just not impressive.
But on Thanksgiving, I got a hint of the old spark back. Cooking the turkey and dressing this year and breaking out my grandmother's embroidered tablecloth and napkins started to make me want to get back in the kitchen and really cook, not just put a meat, carb and vegetable on the plate.
Then the day after Thanksgiving, Pootie came in the office and said magic words that put me all the way back in the game:
"Do you want to go get a Christmas tree today?"
I have always loved the holidays, and this is the time of year I usually get really inspired and want to make a bunch of fancy stuff and throw down.
But this was Christmas before last:
And this was last Christmas:
Not exactly Norman Rockwell years.
Pootie usually tries to put the brakes on me when I want to put a tree up after the Fourth of July, but this year he was actually suggesting we put up a tree while it was still November. Unprecedented!
We went tree-hunting with our wonderful neighbors, Morgan and Jesse. And no, it wasn't just so we could use their truck. This is Sutton's first Christmas.
We claimed our trees in pretty short order.
Then we put our beauty up and got cracking.
We kind of have a theme.
I kind of went on kind of a decorating free-for-all with my newfound holiday spirit.
Basically, if it wasn't moving, it fell victim to a frenzied excess of holiday cheer.
And sometimes it hit things that didn't exactly stand still.
Hopefully, it will take, and I'll continue to feel upbeat, creative, and motivated past Monday. We'll see.
Meanwhile, here's a recipe for Apple Sambo, which is a richer, tastier version of spiced cider to kick off your holiday season.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
This past weekend, we rented a Hobie Tandem Island and took off for an afternoon of fun on the water.
It's a perfect boat for around here, because you can pedal/paddle it or sail it, or even shove it around with a regular paddle if you run aground on an oyster bed. Or four. Not that we'd know anything about that.
You can also pull it up to a beach for lunch.
It's a decent leg workout, and honestly a lot more comfortable than kayaking.
And she'll go like nobody's business with a stiff breeze. Unless you're stuck on an oyster bed. Which can cause cursing, harsh accusations, and name-calling. Of course I've only heard about that second-hand.
After a full afternoon, which may or may not have involved a few oyster beds and some colorful language, we turned the boat back in and headed home. Maybe it was in icy silence... maybe it wasn't.
We fished for shrimp (at Harris Teeter) and I figured something tropical would be appropriate. I also thought lacing it with rum might soothe someone's hurt feelings a little. I might or might not have lost my temper on one of those theoretical oyster beds.
Lime-Rum Shrimp is one of my favorite ways to cook shrimp in the summer. It's also a very quick dinner.
Peel and devein about a pound of fresh shrimp. Zest one lime, and mince 3 cloves of garlic. Put a large pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle a little olive oil in the pan and add the shrimp and the garlic and the lime zest. Sprinkle with kosher salt. And don't be stingy with it. When the shrimp start to cook, add a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of brown sugar, the juice of the lime you zested, and about 2 tablespoons of dark rum. I ordinarily use Meyer's but we were out, so I used Gosling's dark.
Pour a separate glass of rum over ice and take it to the person you may or may not have yelled at if you need to suck up a little.
I like to serve this over coconut rice. To make that, just make rice the same way you always do, but substitute half chicken stock and half canned coconut milk for the water. It also goes well with pineapple slaw.
Here's the .pdf if you'd like to take this one on a test sail in your own kitchen.
I'd recommend avoiding oyster beds.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Sometimes we like to borrow other people's children and pretend to be responsible adults - just for a change of pace. Since we recently reinstated the guest bedroom, we decided to snag Ned and Melissa's kids for the weekend.
We picked them up midday and after a quick lunch at a sub place, we went to Greenfield Lake for some paddle boating.
Greenfield Lake is right in the middle of town. It's full of old cypress trees, turtles, and herons. I made the kids man the pedals with Pootie. I had to take pictures.
We puttered around a looked at nature and chatted for a while. I also made friends with other boaters. Well, their dogs anyway. These guys came along and I said "Well, hello! Are you having a good time!?" Pootie didn't even look up. He looked at Liza and said, "There must be a dog in that boat. Andie doesn't talk to people." The guy paddling thought I was talking to him, though, so I had to speak human for a minute. But the dog told me he was having a fabulous time. And that his name was "Shifting Ballast".
|I am also called "he who upsets canoes" in my native tongue.|
It was a typical August day in the South, which means hot and muggy. Getting in the water is not recommended.
|I think the alligators played a part in hiding this in the bushes.|
So we stayed in the safety of the boat. And sweated. Poor Levi was about to melt.
Totally staged, but worth it.
Dinky was stoked to have company. So much so that after the movie, he refused to get down from their bed. I got up around 2:00 AM and he was sacked out right in the middle. About half an hour later, he managed to wake Liza by rocking the bed with his panting, and she asked me to get him down. That took a while. Then he tried to get back up there, so I had to lock him out. He wasn't very happy with me. But the kids slept better.
For breakfast, I decided to make them Ebelskivers. When I was their age, I had a friend whose mom was of Danish descent and she had a very old Ebelskiver pan and used to make them for breakfast after sleepovers. I rediscovered them a few years ago. I've made them for dessert several times. Today I had a helper.
We filled hers with Nutella and Levi's with peanut butter. They were definitely a hit.
|Yes, that's my furry child rinsing the dishes in the background. He's such a help!|
If you'd like to make Ebelskivers for your little people, or your big people, you can find the recipe here. (Note: I've tried them with standard pancake batter without folding in the egg whites, and they aren't nearly as good.)
Sunday, July 14, 2013
You know about all the projects that are still ongoing... (or stalled, which is driving Pootie bananas). But we've also been doing a lot of this.
And enjoying the Southern summer and this.
I've also been getting my Southern Cook on. I've fried chicken, made grits, and drunk my share of bourbon. Damn, it's good to be home.
Of course, I also needed to honor an old Southern tradition (or Northwestern, or Eastern or wherever, because I think this is pretty much the case everywhere) and cook for my neighbor, who had a baby while I was gone. Against my orders.
Dr. Morgan had a lovely time with adorable baby Sutton for a while, but her patients needed her, so she had to go back to work. Since I wasn't here to ease the early parenthood burden with a roasted chicken and a Jell-O fruit salad, I decided it would probably be good to take an opportunity to refill my Southern Karma and cook dinner for her and Jesse her first night back from work. I've only had puppies, but I know how much it sucked to leave one at home and go to work, so I can only imagine it's exponential in the case of a tiny human. Because the babies don't even temper the angst by eating your shoes, peeing on your carpet, and shredding your toilet paper while you're gone. I'm pretty sure it's illegal to leave them in a situation where they might do that. Also, Sutton doesn't have teeth yet.
Since I was feeling all banging screen door iced tea and mint julep-y, I went for a spice-rubbed barbecued chicken thighs, my grandmother's barbecue sauce, slaw, and cheddar biscuits.
The spice rub is really simple. Mix 3 tablespoons of brown sugar with a teaspoon of kosher salt, a teaspoon of paprika, a teaspoon of dried oregano, a teaspoon of garlic powder, two tablespoons of chili powder, and a teaspoon of dried cumin. Then sprinkle that over chicken thighs and roast them on a grill that's around 400 degrees. I do not enjoy cleaning the grill, so I always toss everything on a foil and parchment-lined roasting pan.
I got that all done, simmered my grandmother's sauce, mixed together the slaw and the biscuit dough, then got everything ready to leave next door. (It's great having access to the neighbor's key.)
Then I poured myself a small glass of bourbon, and sat back to enjoy the gardenias.
Then we went out to eat Chinese.
If you'd like to make the chicken for your neighbor, here's the .pdf. And here's the .pdf for the barbecue sauce. Genuine Arkansas.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
There were a lot of changes while we were gone. Kids grew, lots of new babies were born, houses were sold, and we got several new neighbors on the street. We hadn't been home long until we'd crossed paths with the sweet family two doors down. Dan and Amanda and new baby Leo (I wasn't kidding about the lots of babies thing) are fixing up one of the older houses that needed some TLC. Of course I wasn't going to let much time go by before we had them over. That wouldn't be like me at all.
A Sunday lunch was arranged, and we had a great visit in the backyard over some beers, a roast chicken, and a three bean salad that I wanted to try out of the cookbook Mom got me. I'm all ready to settle back into my Southern-ness after 8 months away.
I've modified it slightly, because the original recipe has raw onions and green pepper in it, and we all know how I am about that. Also, I suck at following instructions. It's simply not in my nature. (This is why I am not allowed to buy furniture at IKEA.)
I recommend this cookbook for anyone who wants to know something about Southern culture. It's been an interesting read aside from the good recipes. And the first two recipes are for bourbon drinks, so obviously I was immediately hooked.
This three bean salad is fresh and easy to make, and perfect as a summer picnic side. If you'd like to invite your own new neighbors over , here's the .pdf.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Since we've been home, we've:
1. Enjoyed our house, yard, and wearing sandals.
2. Caught up with our nature-watching.
|Twenty-two mating toads. Y'all get ready for frogpocalypse!|
|I missed that coconut cake. SO! MUCH!!!|
|Just LOOK at those gorgeous shrimp!|
|Holy Crap! It makes its own ice!|
7. Went to see my family so I could get a look at my dad and see how he was doing from his kidney surgery. And play with my nephew. When Dad would let him go.
8. Came back home and tore out the old, rotting wooden walkway and replaced it.
|Goodbye, potential lawsuit!|
|My nail-hammering form was ridiculed.|
9. Got the rot under control on the shed with a new door and some flashing and trim replacement.
|Ready for paint!|
10. Restocked the bar and texted pictures of the prices to Dennis and Megan back in Newfoundland so they would be jealous. Because we're that guy.
10. Crawled around under the house.
|One of us was not enthusiastic. The respirator pads on the right are why you wear that horrible thing down there.|
11. Cut holes in the walls and ceilings.
|The best part was when Pootie forgot to check to see if the shop vac he'd hooked to that giant hole saw had a filter. Have y'all ever seen a shop vac spew plaster dust? Whoo!|
12. Met new neighbors, visited with old neighbors and friends, and held some of the new babies.
|Two of several born while we were gone!|
13. Spent some time reconnecting with my heritage and planning some cooking! (FINALLY, right?)
I wouldn't go so far as to say we're settled back in - we still have several projects going. But the kitchen of 305 is open, and I've got some stuff to share with you!
Just as soon as I vacuum up all the plaster dust.