Tag Archives: food

The Winter of My Content

march snow 034The past four days have been an adventure.  Between Wednesday night and Thursday, I found 10 inches of snow outside The Barn.  With great glee, I celebrated the announcement that a certain community college was closed both Thursday and Friday.  At my place of employment, this means we are also closed and I don’t have to burn vacation days due to heavy snow.  It doesn’t take a lot of snow to trap me on the hill and nearly a foot was way overkill.

We had eight inches of snow over the President’s Day weekend.  I ended up with a full week off of work.  It was a lovely respite, but I did nothing but sleep, eat, read and watch Downton Abbey.

I had big plans for these four days off, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”  I seem to be in major nesting mode – I want The Barn to look as wonderful as I think it is, so a thorough cleaning was in order.  I also was looking forward to cooking.  After not cooking for most of the past ten years, I’m suddenly interested in it again.

march snow 003Day 1 of my four-day weekend, Thursday, I did some triage cleaning (Chez Barn was/is a Superfund Site) and finally finished putting all the Christmas stuff away.  Yes, yes.  I know, March, but, hell, it was July one year. I’m ahead of schedule!  It was so nice having my living room back that I wallowed in that room and admired the gorgeous snow and sunshine out my window.  It was very Dr. Zhivago-ish.  I also made the starter dough for a new sticky bun recipe.  I’m on a quest for the perfect sticky bun.  The potato soup I made for dinner was spectacular!  I could win a soup contest, my potato soup is just that good.

Friday morning, I woke up with a head of steam to clean and bake.  I turned the starter dough into finished dough and had it set to rise when the power went out at 9 a.m.  I trundled my butt-that-doesn’t-need-even-a-single-sticky-bun-much-less-a-dozen down to my folks’ house to see if they had power.

march snow 057They didn’t.  But they had a fireplace and the hearth proved a perfect spot to make old-fashioned percolator coffee.  After visiting with them for awhile, I took the big camera out for a photo shoot of Ma Nature’s glorious handiwork.  I tromped around Onafork and took some stellar photos, some mediocre, and some just bad.  (See the gallery below.)

When I returned, I called Appalachian Power and reported the outage.  I was told it would be repaired at 10 p.m. Sunday.  SUNDAY!  I was miffed.  One cannot clean and bake in a cold, dark house with no electricity.  I mean, really, it already looks like I clean in the dark.

potato soupBy the afternoon, The Barn was getting cold – 55F, to be exact.  I trundled back down to my folks’ after defrosting the windows of my car and cleaning off the snow.  I wanted to be ready in the event of an emergency.

We all sat around drinking coffee, laughing about how we were out of wood and having to burn old software manuals, and eating the leftover potato soup I made on Thursday.

Software manuals put out a great deal of heat.  We were comfortable and told stories.  Eventually, I went back home to sleep.  I have a heavy down comforter on my bed as well as a heavy bedspread.  I was confident I would be warm enough.  And I was.

march snow 006Saturday, I went back down to the parents’ house, because the only way to be comfortable in my then 42F house was to be in the bed.  One can only stay in bed alone for so long.  Plans were made for them to go to a hotel.  I decided to stay here and tend to critters.  By that time, we were down to broken furniture to burn in the fireplace.  A cheesy “wood” chair made in Yugoslavia doesn’t burn nearly as well as do software manuals.  Surprise, surprise.

Nonetheless, I was all zen and accepting of life’s curve ball when I discovered I had left my car running, ran the battery down and my phone was down to 10% power.  The only way I had to charge the phone was the car charger and that wasn’t going to work with a dead battery.  I lamented on Facebook and my friend/contractor sent his son over to jump my car.

I have been so blessed with the people in my life.  My boss texted me often to see if there was anything she could do to help.  Other friends called.  My Facebook world fretted about my well-being.  I don’t know what I ever did to deserve the friendships I have, but I’m very grateful.

at my parentsSaturday evening was spent in a haze of wine and contentment.  It would have been nice to have had some music, but, alas, I was short of that perfection.  I left my folks’ house at about 11 p.m. and returned to my toasty bed.  If nothing else, I did get a lot of sleep.  I drifted off convinced that the power company was lying to me and I would wake to power on Sunday morning.

Well.  I woke up this morning and I still didn’t have power.  Zounds!

Back like a boomerang, I went to my parents’ house yet again.  The fire had gone out and I couldn’t get that Yugoslavian chair to light to save my life.  Besides the cold factor, the more important problem was that I couldn’t make coffee.  I have a serious coffee addiction.  It was a dire situation.  After about an hour, in walked my parents with coffee and sausage biscuits.  Again, I was suffused with gratitude.

And then the power came back on, well before 10 p.m.  There was great celebration and I returned home to bake and clean and blog and upload photos and do laundry and put emergency light sources away…and…and…

It’s been a wonderful day.   The sticky buns turned out a tad gummy, but recipe tweaking should take care of that.  The house is still a mess and laundry isn’t even half done, but I am happy and content. These days  it’s good to be me – the winter of my content.  Contentment may well be the best state of being.  I know I’m certainly enjoying it.


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Filed under March 2015

Too Big for My Britches

Soon I'll be rocking the 501s again!

Soon I’ll be rocking the 501s again!

The Atkins Diet and I are having a fight today. So far, it’s winning.  I have what is called The Atkins Flu – headache and malaise being the chief of my symptoms.  It occurs at the beginning of the Induction Phase of the diet – the first two weeks – as carbohydrates are limited to 20 grams or less and the body switches from storing carbs to burning fat.

Yes, I’ve gotten too big for my britches.   The stress of the past few years, plus my love of carbohydrates, has flooded my system with cortisol.  Combine that with menopause and it all becomes an unsightly mess.  More importantly, carrying this extra weight hurts.

After the vacation, I felt serene enough to plunge myself back into low carb dieting. Years ago, things got a bit out of hand and the Atkins Diet straightened it all out in record time.  This, after I’d tried the low fat, counting calories route for some time.  Please.  No criticisms.  This strategy works for my body.  It’s only been a week and I’m already down 6 lbs plus I’ve lost a lot of the bloat that gluten provokes in me.  I know what works for me and this is it.  By the time I reach my goal, my cholesterol and triglycerides will be very good and I will be rocking my favorite pair of jeans.  Just you wait and see!

In the meantime, I have another day or so of feeling crummy. By Sunday or Monday, I should be energetic and ready to take over the world.


Filed under September 2014

Ain’t No Son Shine When He’s Gone

a boy and his dogChef Boy ‘R Mine was here for a week and just left Monday morning.  I am all verklempt and singing “Ain’t no son-shine when he’s gone.”  (H/T to Mona and Dena.)

My son lives in Atlanta and, as a chef, works crazy hours including weekends and holidays.  I don’t get to see him often and, when I do, it’s usually just a brief visit.  A whole week was a gift.

chef boy r mineI’m fond of saying to expectant parents that no one ever tells you how much fun kids are.  And, hoo boy, young souls make my soul sing.  But I’m learning that there’s a lot of fun and satisfaction in older children.  My son is very much an adult and living a self-actualized life.  He’s intelligent, articulate and has a wicked good sense of humor.  I enjoy talking to him.  I enjoy sitting in companionable silence with him.  I enjoy watching him play with his dogs.

He cooks for me, sometimes, when he comes home.  This time I bought a filled-to-the-brim grocery cart of quick and easy stuff so he wouldn’t have to cook, but he chose to anyway.  We had a quite marvelous Ricotta Gnocchi Bolognese that was so good we ate it for 3 days without tiring of it.  I said, as I often say when Chef Boy ‘R Mine cooks, that it was the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.  And it was.

gnocciAfter the first round of Gnocchi Bolognese when I was still high on the endorphins of good food, I had no sooner settled into a glass of after-dinner wine when he announced he was going to go wax my car.  I wondered aloud if I was dying and no one had told me.  He had cooked and done most of the cleaning up and was still willing to spend 4 ½ hours waxing my car.

At night, by lamplight, he waxed my car.  Not just waxed it, but washed it, clayed it, compounded it, did this and did that and then something else.  This was not just a wax job, but the kind of attention a car gets with a $400 detailing job.

When I walk to my car, I see a sparkle and shine that reminds me that I have a son who loves me and is willing to spend his vacation days with me.  Adult children, I’m finding, are a great joy.  Life is good.

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Filed under July 2014

I’m Hungry — A favorite Tom Robbins quote

“Lunch,” he said. His tone was even, rational, devoid of any knuckle of bellicosity. “That’s what we call it in my country. L-U-N-C-H. Lunch. I’m fond of lunch. I am, in fact, a lunch aficionado. Give me liberty or give me lunch. Breakfast comes around too early in the day, and dinner can interfere with one’s plans for the evening, but lunch is right on the money, the only thing it interrupts is work.”

His voice rose slightly. “I require lunch on a daily basis. I’m insured against non-lunch by Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Blue Cheese. Finicky? Not this luncher. I eat the fat, I eat the lean and I lick the platter clean. … In the dietary arena, pals, I have nothing to hide, and would at this juncture gladly masticate and ingest Spam-on-a-stick if you served some up. All I’m asking is that you serve something up, and speedily. I become grumpy when denied my noontide repast…”

—Tom Robbins



Filed under February 2014

It’s not your typical day at the office.

Silly shoe season, stupid sweater season, and good eating time have converged. Not a lot a work is going to get done today.

Silly shoe season, stupid sweater season, and good eating time have converged. Not a lot a work is going to get done today.

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Filed under November 2013

I have always loved Thanksgiving.

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Filed under November 2013

The Things That Go Together

Chef Boy ‘R Mine left today to return to his life in Charlotte. We had a nice, low-keyed visit. For once, he got out of here without having to cook for me. I served him a bad breakfast (unintentional), but one that involved champagne. I also had a dozen, fresh Jolly Pirate donuts on hand and some homemade bread, so I don’t think he felt unloved.

The Boy can wax poetic about Jolly Pirate donuts.

While I’m slowly returning to a past hobby of cooking, I spent this holiday largely outside the kitchen. But as last night was The Boy’s last night in town, I rummaged around in the cabinets and freezer and collected food for a late night repast. A wonderful one.

Last Christmas, Chef Boy ‘R Mine rolled into town bearing my gift. It was a gift of labor, love, food and luxury. It was a gift from Super Foodie to Regular Foodie. It was sublime.

It was a torchon of foie gras with the appropriate accoutrements – port, kumquats and maple syrup.

Foie gras is very controversial.  I loved it before I knew how it was made. (In fact, while not the same thing at all, by any means, I loved Armor potted meat as a child. People think that’s gross and, what can I say, apparently I love spreadable organ meats.)

Foie gras is the super fatty liver of a force-fed goose. It’s the texture of soft butter and just melts in your mouth oozing the most astounding flavor considering we’re talking liver. It’s sweet with a hint of salty. It doesn’t taste like meat. It doesn’t taste like anything else on the planet. Wittgenstein might as well have said, “Describe the taste of foie gras” instead of “Describe the aroma of coffee.”

As a visual aid in explaining the process of making the torchon, my son showed me a video by Swedish Chef Francois Xavier which is a hoot and a holler and said video also pretty well sums up my feeling on the foie gras controversy, to wit:

If you are a person who does eat meat, a person who does wear leather shoes for your feet, or perhaps have a leather wallet, in that case, I think, before judging people who eat foie gras you might visit your local slaughter house to see how the other animals you are eating are treated. I think you are in for a very bad surprise.

[I had a hard time capturing all of his words, if the quote is not exact, well then, piffle. I’ve captured the spirit of his thought, if not his quirky, musical voice.]

Watch the video, but bear in mind, he’s making a terrine, not a torchon.

Another blogger has detailed 70 steps to a torchon.  Seventy steps might be an exaggeration.

In the United States, it’s more difficult to buy foie gras. That which is available either comes from the Sonoma Valley or the Hudson Valley. Chef Boy ‘R Mine maintains that the Sonoma liver is far superior. Of course, he chose the Sonoma for his mama’s gift.

Over the course of days, he deveined the liver, soaked it in milk, cured it with salt and sugar overnight, rolled it into a cylinder, poached it, re-wrapped it and hung it to dry for 3 days. He then individually packaged it in vacuum sealing gifting me with enough to last a year.

So, last night I pulled out the last little torchon. I pulled out the bottle of Krupps Brothers Black Bart Syrah Port (2007) which is a more than respectable port. I pulled out the Blis Maple Syrup which is big deal and not something you drown Hungry Jack pancakes in. [

Per Se and The French Laundry drizzle this stuff on tasty little morsels they charge huge money for.  Part of the cost is for the syrup.  This stuff comes from old-growth forests and sold in numbered bottles.  I keep it hidden in the back of the fridge lest HMOKeefe accidentally drowns a Bisquik biscuit with it.]

I had a boule of crusty bread, which wasn’t ideal but it was fresh out of the oven. To perfectly complement a torchon of foie gras, a sweet-ish bread such as a brioche is best.

[I had a brain freeze for a minute and couldn’t summon the word brioche. I was astounded and tickled to find that Wikipedia has a list of breads. Go look at it – it’s wonderful! With pictures! Don’t go hungry.]

HMO’Keefe has not partaken of the foie gras before and, like I was the first time, taken aback by the thought of drizzling maple syrup on liver and washing it down with port. I believe he liked it, but I couldn’t much catch him with his mouth empty to get an exact quote.

After scarfing it all down, we settled into a bottle of a nice Zin and talked. It was a nice end to a nice visit together.  HMO’Keefe remarked on how charming my son is.  Well, duh.  The kid takes after his mom.

I’m not sure if my son’s foodie gifts to me explain my return to the kitchen, but after not cooking as a hobby for a long time, I find myself in the kitchen more and more.

I’ve been dabbling with Thai and Indian here lately and thus gifted by Mr. Charm with a beautiful French curry powder and other spices as well as some kick-ass plates to serve the finished product on.

But HMO’Keefe loves Mexican cuisine as do I. So I’ve been fooling around with a pozole recipe for two days as well as playing with the new tortilla press and the 5 lb. bag of masa harina. Tonight’s Pork and Pozole Stew was lick-the-bowl good and handmade corn tortillas are a gift from a loving deity. The stew changed direction three times and what ended up in the bowl was not what was intended, but what was intended proved to be uninteresting. So after adding this and that, a bottle of beer, and some buttermilk masa dumplings, culinary satisfaction was achieved. Damn good stew.

Other than wandering into the kitchen to dump something else into the stew pot periodically, I’ve done nothing but sit on this couch and watch thoughts bobble in the sludgy creek of my mind.

So. Today was a good day to be me. A few more days like this in a row and my creek might run clear. I haven’t thought of a catchy phrase for 2012. Maybe after I get the sludge out of there.



Filed under December 2011