Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Look What I Found (Again)

We just returned from an extended Holiday stay at the farm.

Weegie will be in his usual catatonic state at least until tomorrow.


I was somewhat concerned over his lack of life indicators a little earlier and shook him awake.

Although he never was able to focus directly on me,

he did answer 2 of the 3 obligatory concussion query questions correctly.

He insisted that the current President was George W., though.

Bless His Little Wishful Heart.




I went to Wal-Mart earlier,

where I was surprised to find a curious lack of shoppers.

Don't get me wrong - this is a good thing.

I hate shopping and I hate crowds.

I bought this


Which I have to admit wasn't at all a planned purchase, (I usually insist on a 10% solution...ewwww...) but I was gawking at this woman's awesome cowboy boots while in the meat department and she kind of saw me so I had to buy something in order not to look like a stalker.

I mean I know this happens to everyone.  You gawk at someone's footwear-you buy an unplanned piece of pork.

Can I get an Amen?



Anyway I brought the incidental pork roast home and then...

I found beer again.

Really.

I'm not sure how this keeps happening because no one in this house drinks beer.


But I'll just throw out the following:

My oldest Son.

A recent visit to a Monastery.

Beer (made with care and prayer)


Yes indeedy,

says that right on the bottle.


And all the other times I've found beer (remember the Beer Bread)

I've tried to turn the tragedy into triumph.

That's just who I am.

So...

I cut up an onion


Got out my spiffy Slow-Cooker


And,

Why, yes it was made in 1974.

Why do you ask?


I put the onion in, then the pork


And poured the whole Blessed bottle of beer in over it all.

I'll add some BBQ sauce later

and we'll have us some Pulled Pork.



See.  I'm not a shoe gawker.

I'm a cook.


I repeat,

Tragedy to Triumph.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Counseling Session I

This will surprise some of you.  I've been feeling low.


Yes, Lu of Perpetual Perkiness.


Low.


I haven't had much to say,

and coincidentally

The Weege has been exhibiting signs

of sympathy lowness.



But I've decided that to pull myself up

I need to share some love.



Salted Caramel Pecan Bars are just the thing.

They're really tasty,

and Oh Sweet Mercy at the easy...



Make some for your Family.

Make some for Yourself.

Make some for the Mailman.

After all, he is the one that has to carry around all those Macy's Ads.




1.  Cover a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with foil.




2.  Spray it with cooking spray.



Let me know if you're out...


3.  Place 12 whole graham crackers side by side on the cookie sheet.  I used off brand graham crackers because I'm pretty much the last person in the store and must use what's left on the shelf.  And, honestly, I kind of felt sorry for them.


Have you ever felt sorry for inanimate objects?

Please say yes.



4.  In a saucepan over low-med. heat mix 1 cup brown sugar, 3/4 c. butter, and 2 T. heavy cream.


5.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.


6.  After cooking and stirring for about 3-4 minutes, remove from heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla.
Stir well.



7.  Pour this mixture over the graham crackers. Try to evenly disperse it.  Then use an offset spatula, or a knife, or a spoon to evenly spread it over the crackers.



8.  Now evenly sprinkle 1/2-1 c. of toasted chopped nuts over the top.

I'm a real advocate of toasting nuts before using them in anything.

I used pecans, but you could use walnuts or almonds...

Just remember to change the name of the recipe.



Here's proof of my advocacy.  I toasted all these this morning.
Just in case.



9.  Now cook the bars at 350* for 10-11 minutes til bubbly and golden.




As soon as you pull them out of the oven evenly sprinkle about 1/4 tsp. kosher salt over the top.

Just slide the foil off the pan onto the counter to cool.

When they're completely cool, cut them into irregular shapes with a sharp knife.




Thanks for participating in my psychological therapy.

I'm now hovering right around medium.


My bill is in the mail.

I'm giving everyone a Holiday Discount.




Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Lu

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday Thinking

I woke up this morning and it was Thursday.


This would presume, I suppose, that we've already had Tuesday and Wednesday.

I've either been really distracted or really busy because

somehow I completely missed them,

or neglected to fully participate in either one.


I remember Monday well.

It was gloomy and depressing

and I mourned the sun.



Although I can remember a couple of instances between Monday and today, I just can't quite place the day.

1.  I told The Chief about an entertaining encounter I'd had  while taking my walk,  "Chief", I said.  "Can you believe this?
I was walking today and passed a lady with her dog, Zachary. I know his name was Zachary because she said it so many times.  He was a BIG dog but quite friendly and almost knocked me down in an effort to get my attention.  The lady exclaimed "Now Zachary, you tell her you're sorry right now!"  Zachary, quite stubbornly refused to convey his apologies.  "Zachary!" she chided, you get over here right now and tell this lady you are sorry!"  Zachary was spellbindingly absorbed in smelling every square inch around a fire hydrant and was having nothing to do with the whole berating...  Even as I walked away laughing  saying  "Oh, no worries, he didn't hurt me" she continued telling Zachary what a bad boy he was for not telling the me he was sorry."
"Isn't that crazy, Chief?"  She was acting like her dog was actually going to apologize to me!"

"Lu", The Chief responded, "your dog writes a blog".

2.  Speaking of The Weege, he's really irritated that I haven't allowed him access to the computer in a while.  It's just been a little crazy.  We've had landscapers working in the backyard, and  because they had to go in and out of the yard frequently and leave the gate open I had to figure out a way that I could let Weegie out to do his "thang" without escaping and terrorizing the neighborhood (or at the very least sneaking in all the neighbors homes and rolling over on his back and begging them to rub his tummy.)
So I ingeneously used a baby gate to block off the opening from the courtyard to the rest of the yard and let him out in that area only.  The whole" baby gate thing" was highly offensive to him and embarrassing, and in retaliation, as soon as they finished putting the flagstone on my patio, he spent hours upon hours walking through the muddy part of the yard and then across said patio until you could no longer tell there was anything there but a black, sticky mess.
He was pretty proud of himself.  Let me tell you.

3.  On either Tuesday or Wednesday I made Butternut Squash Soup.
Knowing, of course, that The Chief would never consider soup a full meal, I just gave him a little bowl of it to taste along with his dinner. I have to say I was pretty proud of the soup.  I know that The Chief isn't a squash fan, but for Heaven's Sake this soup doesn't taste like squash (even though it's name is a little difficult to explain if you're trying to hide the truth).

Well, sometime later I'll have to tell you what he thought about it.
But let's just say in his mind I might as well make soup out of Brussel Sprouts or Lima Beans.


4.  I have expertly diagnosed myself as having Misdirectional Eyelash Disorder, sometimes also known as Errant Eyelash Syndrome (or EES).
For years I have had a condition in which some of my eyelashes refuse to grow the right direction.  They grow down, sideways, parallel to my eyelids, etc... Now occasionally, people, one of them gets infected because of this and causes me pain and suffering.  My solution, obviously, has always been to just pluck out the offending eyelashes and nip the whole thing in the bud.
I got a little carried away on the left eye ( well, there were just so many of them going the wrong way!!!!) and am now the proud owner of a 1/2 inch empty space on my upper lid.
So you'll understand then, if I see you in person in the next couple of weeks, why I avoid looking directly at you.



And to be perfectly forthright I have no idea why I tell you all these things unless I'm hoping that:

A.  You will feel better about the excitement level in YOUR life as compared to mine

B.  You will take pity on me

or

C.  You will send help immediately.

Thank You and Goodbye
Lu

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Copycat Soup

Last Thursday night

some friends and I 

had the BEST Butternut Squash Soup.


We were at a fun Tabletop Event at First Baptist Church of The Woodlands.

Congrats to the Women's Ministry on a great night!


The star of the meal was the soup.

It was smooth and sweet,
and yet had the most intriguing spicy kick.

Don't you just love a spicy kick?

Don't you just love intrigue?



I determined that night

that my 274th life goal would be to duplicate

that seductive taste.



Excuse me for saying the words Seductive and Church in the same post.

I hope we're all still friends.



Anyway, this morning I made the difficult decision to hop from Life Goal #5 right on over to #274!

I like to do things out of order.

Mix things up.

Keep people guessing.

It's all a part of my Mystery.




The Chief has another word to describe it,

but Mystery is so much more flattering.



My version isn't an identical copy, of course,

but I think you'll like it just the same.

Disclaimer:  I wish I could say this is a 'healthy soup', but alas, I'm afraid it would be a misnomer.  It has a bit (cup) of cream in it.  But it's the season of bulky jackets and stretchy pants - who's to know??


I'll walk you through the steps, then put the condensed recipe at the end.
But don't skip over the pictures and explanations - There are safety instructions!

All photos are from my trusty phone,

as my recently untrusty camera was being impertinent once again.




Don't you just hate it when cameras are untrustworthy and impertinent?



Start with one Butternut Squash.

In an effort to increase awareness of the Butternut Squash,

they are all now grown with an identifying sticker attached.



The hardest part of this whole recipe is next.
You've got to peel and cut up that big sucker.

First,  get out a stack of these.


Just kidding!  But really, you might want to keep a couple handy.

Cut it in half


Then scoop out all of the seeds.

If I was Martha, I would have saved the seeds and dried, toasted, and salted them for a little snack..

At the very least I would have made a wreath out of them.

But I'm Lu.

I tossed them down the garbage disposal.



Please take my advice on this step.

Cut the halves into smaller pieces that are easier to handle.  This makes the peeling easier and less dangerous.  Make sure your knife is really sharp.

Or maybe not.

Just consider your knife skills level and sharpen your knife accordingly.

You want to end up with nice peeled pieces about 1 inch square.  Although we're going to puree' it all in a little bit, so don't stress over the size or shape.

And I know I made some poorly thought-out promise yesterday about limiting the pictures of my Texasware, but I haven't ever shown you this new one that I got at Round Top this year, and I thought the two colors together was so contrasting, complimentary, analogous, uh... cool.

Set the squash aside.

Chop one half of a white onion, one or two garlic cloves (my garlic cloves were ginormous so I just used one), and one carrot.




In a dutch oven, heat two tablespoons of olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of butter.

Add the garlic and onion and cook until it just starts to slightly brown.


Now add the carrot, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg.



Cook all this for about 5 minutes.


Next, dump in the Squash and 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (that's the kick!) and stir everything together.


Now add 2 cups of chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let it cook about 15 to 20 minutes.
Until the squash is very tender.


Let it cool for a few minutes, then in a couple of batches puree it until smooth in the food processor.

Or you could use an immersion blender.

But I have been officially banned by The Chief from ever again using

1)  The Weedeater

2)  The Immersion Blender


Just return the pureed mixture back to the dutch oven you cooked it in.

Now for the good part.

Stir in 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 3/4 c.-1 c. heavy cream!

Put it on really, really, low heat and just get it all nice and hot again.

Taste and add a little more salt if you want...


I drizzled a tiny bit of cream on this individual serving for the picture...

and because I'm unruly.

Hope you like it!

Here's the recipe:





Butternut Squash Soup

1 Butternut squash peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 white onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c.-1 c. heavy cream

Peel and chop the squash.  Set aside.
Chop the onion, garlic, and carrot.
Heat 2 T olive oil, and 2 T Butter in Dutch oven.  Add the onion and garlic - cook until they just begin to brown.  Add the carrot, cumin, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes.
Add the squash and red pepper flakes, stir.
Add chicken broth.  Cook 15-20 minutes until squash is tender.
In batches, puree the mixture until smooth.
Return the mixture to the dutch oven.  Stir in the brown sugar and cream.  Heat on VERY low heat.
Adjust seasonings to taste.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Musings

I know that most of you started out the new week with this being your first conscious thought::

What's on Lu's Mind?

This may surprise you,

but,

trying to figure out what is on my mind,

deciding if in fact I actually have a functioning mind,

and

wondering if what is on my mind is on the mind of the general population is almost a full-time job.



Here's the skinny:

1.  I will never again go to HEB on Sunday in the month of November.  The number of people there was just disturbing.  I found it so annoying interesting that there were so many middle-aged married (I'm just assuming here) couples shopping together.  Apparently The Chief and I are just strange that way.  He will reluctantly step foot in the door of a grocery store if I ask him to stop and pick something up, but let me tell you he sees absolutely no reason on Earth to go to one if I am willing to do the shopping myself (which I am).  And he and I going at the same time would just be so stinkin' inefficient in his mind.

2. I need an explanation for why all those people were at HEB anyway and not at home where they belonged sitting in front of their TV watching the Texans lose.

3.  We need some sun around here.  I'm seriously coming down with the psychological condition brought on by lack of sunlight.  I have tried to counteract the symptoms by methodically eating every piece of chocolate I've found in this house, but still, some sun would be a kick.

4.  My next post will contain pictures.  I had some kind of awful 'blog picture storage overload' at which time ear-piercing alarms sounded  and I was banned from uploading anymore pictures to my blog.  I had to use all the technological savvy I could muster to delete a bunch of photos from my earliest blog posts.  I've been busy getting rid pictures of batter in Texasware bowls, fruit in Texasware bowls, and Texasware bowls.

5.  I promise I will limit the number of Texasware bowl pictures in upcoming posts.

6.  I went to Sam's and in keeping with Warehouse ShoppingTradition  bought duplicates of everything I thought I didn't have, but which it turns out I did have, and neglected to buy any of what I really needed.

It's Monday People.

What's on your mind?

 
Lu

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Get Your Groove On

Last week I happened to mention that I

upon occasion

break into dance in my kitchen.


This evidently did not sit well with some of you.


Made you somehow uncomfortable.

Unnerved you so to speak.

Made you close your eyes tight,

slap your hands over both ears,

and scream 'Nananananananana.......Too much information Lu!'


I apologize.

For disturbing you that way.

Not for the dancing.


I'm telling you right now,

as sure as I'm sitting here craving the 1/2 bag of toffee chips remaining in my pantry,

I know without a doubt that some of you do the same thing.

Not that I've seen you of course.

I just know.

I have a sixth sense about these things.


Like the sixth sense that allows me to figure out

while waiting at the airport to board a nine hour flight,

that there is absolutely no doubt that the

Mother traveling with the infant in a stroller

who appears to be congested and ill,

(and did I mention screaming)

will be seated next to me.


Yes, there are hundreds of people on the flight,

but I know where I'm sitting just by perusing the waiting area.

Happens every time.

And let me just add that I know that sometimes one must travel with an infant (even a sick one),

but this will be the Mother who doesn't even notice that the baby is screaming,

or in pain,

or needs to have a diaper change...

It is my destiny.


But back in the kitchen.

I went for a long time with no tunes in my kitchen.

When we moved into our new house (2 years ago),

The Chief set up my nifty little CD player/Radio above the cabinets

so it's out of sight and out of the way.

I operate it with a remote.

For a long time I couldn't get it to work.

I tried precariously teetering on a chair to reposition it,

changed the batteries in the remote,

checked to make sure it was plugged in, etc...


Finally, I announced to The Chief that it was broken and I needed a new one.


I mean I had been a year or more without 'breaking it down' while I cooked.


He looked at me with that 'I Love You Lu, But You Are A Pitiful Case' look,

and as he rose to exit to the sanctuary of his workshop

said "I'm guessing you don't have the switch on that turns on that outlet".

And then he was gone.


Then I counted.

I have twelve (12!) switches in my kitchen.

Who needs 12 switches?

There is just no telling what I might be able to control.

I may have just discovered the problem with the latest Space Shuttle launch delay.


Some of them I have never touched.

Why can't an outlet just be an outlet?


Why do I have to switch the outlet on to make it work?


Why is everything so complicated?

Complex?


I just want to 'bust a few moves'

during meal preparation OK?


Anyway,

since I have my tunes back,

I was just wondering what you 'groove to' in the kitchen...


70's Rock?

Disco?

Country?

Hip Hop?


Come on.

You know you do it...

I've got the sense, remember?

Lu

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Top 5. Really!

It's not often that I add something to my Top 5 list.


Especially the Top 5 Things to Bake and Eat Immediately list.


It's been years really.

I'll make something that turns out

exceptionally well,

and then think,

"As good as this is,  it just doesn't top

the Gooey Butter Cake,

or the Mocha Almond Fudge Cheesecake,

or the Boy's Banana Roll Cake..."


Needless to say then,

I was

delightfully shocked when it happened.

Flummoxed.

Agog even.

Admittedly nonplussed.


And all of that in just one week.

Last week.


It made my skirt fly up.

Set me all 'ajingle'.


And those

(you can trust me on this)

are good things.


I was,

I'll admit,

a teensy bit

overzealous when I found the

Honeycrisp apples at HEB.


They're big.

They're beautiful.

And as their name would imply,

they're SO Sweet.


So let's just say

I bought 2 or 3.

Or a bushel.


But do my impulsive shopping habits really matter here?


"No Chief, they don't.

Lots of other people buy bushels and bushels of apples too.

They do.

I've seen it.

So quit questioning me please,

you are seriously giving me hives


Excuse our(my) private conversation.


What does matter though,

is  

The Fresh Apple Cake.


I want you to hear it like the little martians from Toy Story would say it.


The Fresh Apple Cake...........





That's how awesome it is.

I would recommend that you make it now.

Not later.

Now.

Then make another one when your family comes for Thanksgiving.

Make 2 when they come.

You'll want to send some home with them.


Make 12 and Open a Bakery.

Call it Me and Lu.

Become rich and famous!

We're all in this together, right???


Here's what you need:

Sugar, flour, vegetable oil, vanilla, eggs, lemon juice, fresh nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, soda, 3 cups chopped apples, and 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (toasted)




1.  Chop up about 3 tart/sweet apples.  You should have about 3 cups.  Pour 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice over the apples and set aside.
The lemon juice will serve two purposes - to keep the apples from turning brown, and to brighten the flavor of the apples.


2.  Lightly toast 1 1/2 c. chopped pecans.  Don't skip this step.

The toasting really brings out the nuttiness and gives the cake a deep home-cooked flavor.

Pretty!  And I only had to re-do twice since I ate about half of the first batch.

But tomorrow I diet!



Like I've said before,

I'm virtually uncontrollable when left to my own devices.


3.  Combine 2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 c. veg. oil, 2 tsp. vanilla, 2 eggs, and 1 tsp. salt in bowl of electric mixer.



Mix it well, but don't get carried away.

That looks fine.


4.  In a separate bowl stir together 3 cups flour and 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda.  Also add 1 tsp. cinnamon and grate in 1/4 tsp. fresh nutmeg.

If you've not used fresh nutmeg before (and if you haven't let me introduce you to one of life's most wonderful flavors and smells!) you can see in the picture above that it is actually a little nut that you can grate by hand on your microplane.

You did go buy yourself a microplane, didn't you?

Editor's Note:

Rest assured that I will schedule a manicure for myself at the earliest possible date.


Thank you.


The nutmeg will look a little like sawdust...

Dump the dry mixture in with the rest of the ingredients in the mixer and blend together well.

Isn't this easy?

Don't we all  like easy?


It looks yummy already!




5.  Now dump in the apples and the pecans  (make sure the toasted nuts have had a chance to cool)

And stir it all together well.



This makes me happy.

Fall is officially here.



6.  The next part is critical.  Grease (very well) and flour a tube pan.

Please don't argue with me.

I mean if we're going to own a business together we've got to cooperate, right?

Even if you think yours is a non-stick pan PLEASE do this.


I use shortening - it works better than vegetable oil, and gives the flour a good base to stick to.


It should look really goopy like this.

Throw in about 3 or 4 T. of flour and shake it all around to coat every tiny crevice.

I shook mine around while I danced to the song "I Need to Know" by oh, whoever is married to Jennifer Lopez...

I dance occasionally in the kitchen.

If this disturbs you,

I take it back.



Well coated.

Now carefully put the batter evenly in the pan.  It's thick, so you might need to smooth it with a spoon to even it out.


Bake in a 325 degree oven for 1 1/2 hrs.

You'll probably just about die from the wonderful smell as it cooks...

But don't.

You'll want to be around when it comes out.





 Pull it out of the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes.



Now run a sharp knife all around the edges of the pan (don't forget the part in the middle!!!!)



 Let it sit about 5 more minutes.


Invert the top of the cake onto a plate, then place another plate on the bottom of the cake and flip it over.


I should probably admit that I actually dropped a beautiful cake on the floor doing this years ago...

Just in case, you might want to make sure your floor is acceptably clean before attempting the inversion process!!!!!




 It looks good,  but not good enough - yet!


Mix together about 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and enough fresh lemon juice to make a nice glaze.

Now pour it slowly over the warm cake...

 Oh.


 Oh mercy.


Hallelujah!

and

Amen!



Hope you like it!

And I just know you will!


Have you started the fall baking at your house yet?

Lu