Sunday, November 29, 2009

Green Slime

As most of our faithful readers (all 4 of them) have surmised,
Mom wasn't exactly an adventurous cook.

In fact, her idea of a meal was often a spoonful of peanut butter on toast.
Not exactly the best nutritional plan for someone with diabetes.

When she moved in with us, she was forced into a more regular routine
and she discovered that we really like to eat.  A lot.

She was continually amazed that I could cook 
and just marveled at my culinary feats, such as they were.
She would have been content to eat my potato soup every night.

She took it upon herself to do the dishes.
Mom did more dishes in the three months that she lived with us 
than she had ever done in the eighteen years of my growing up!

She also began baking.
Mom never baked that I can remember.

Yet she made cookies and apple cake on a regular basis for us.

She also decided that on the days that Mardell volunteered at school, 
she could at least get supper started.   Then she graduated to cooking the whole meal and having it done when we got home. She wasn't very confident with her cooking as she hadn't done it for so long and continually worried that we wouldn't like it.  

Every Tuesday and Thursday, we would drive home 
and wonder what we would find for supper.
One particular Tuesday we walked in and I was instantly transported back to Grandmother Hall's house on Christmas day.  This was the night that Mom had fixed Green Slime.  You can bet that Grandma Hall never fixed Green Slime, but it felt like Christmas.  Maybe it was just the coziness of walking in and finding Mom in the kitchen, happily bustling around, declaring that she didn't think we were ever coming home.  But whatever it was, it felt like Christmas and Mom just beamed when I told her it felt like that.

She pulled supper out of the oven and took the lid off.
All I could see was a piece of meat with green slime covering it.
She was fretting about, saying that she hoped 
we liked it and that she just wasn't sure about it.
She had seen this recipe on Rachel Ray earlier that day and decided to try it.

Yes, my mother, the Queen of Peanut Butter, did this.
I cringed when I saw it and mentally prepared myself to smile through every bite no matter how horrible it really was.  I had visions of the Green Bean Casserole days.  Before we ate, I caught Mardell
and told her that no matter what, we loved it.

I couldn't get enough of the green slime.
I dipped my meat into the slime and savored every bite.

Mardell had cooked up some apples to go with it and I literally gorged myself.
Mom later confessed that she had used too much thyme.  
She thought it would take more dried than fresh instead of the other way around and she only had one tenderloin instead of two .... hence the slime as she used every last bit on the one piece of meat.

I know, I know, I haven't answered the question of what Green Slime really is.
Here's the recipe and I highly recommend trying it.

Rachel Ray calls it Uptown Roast Pork Tenderloins with Escalloped Apples,
but it will always be Green Slime to us.

  • 2 pieces, 1 package, pork tenderloins
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grill seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 5 Gala, Honey Crisp or Golden Delicious apples, quartered, cored and sliced
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Coat the tenderloins with olive oil.  Combine the grill seasoning, lemon zest and thyme.  Rub the spice mixture into the tenderloin and roast 25 minutes.  Remove and let juices settle.  Then slice on an angle.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat and saute apples for 12 to 15 minutes until very tender.  Season with a pinch of salt and sprinkle the flour over the skillet, toss to combine.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the skillet and sweeten with sugar.

Arrange the apples over the pork to serve.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tryptophan Overdose

Do you remember how excited I was to try brining a turkey?

I wasn't completely sure about it, but 
we decided to go ahead and give it a try.

Just for the record, brining a turkey is a huge pain in the ass.
It is much easier to throw the bird in a bag and roast it.

I insisted that Mardell buy a big bird as I wanted left-overs.
We are usually sensible and buy a bird that will feed our crew for Thanksgiving dinner and one or two more meals.  There are never left-overs to speak of.  Well, with the exception of that nasty cherry gross jello that Mary always wants at holidays.  It falls into the category of green bean casserole except it is prettier to look at.

At any rate, she bought a big bird.

No! Not Big Bird, a big bird, a 17 pound turkey!
(Keep in mind that there were only two of us this year!)

I went to every grocery store in this town looking for fresh herbs.
Trust me when I say the Food Network lies when they say you can buy fresh herbs in any supermarket.  Actually, had I wanted chives or tarragon, I would have been in business.

I did find fresh bay leaves and I am now wondering what to do with the remaining 39 leaves!

At any rate, I put together the brine and we let the bird soak overnight.
Mixed together the butter concoction and rubbed and massaged the bird.

Prepped the veggies and broth mixture for the roaster and lovingly placed the bird atop its throne of carrots, apples, onions, garlic and cinnamon sticks.  I interrupted my nap every thirty minutes to baste the bird. It was beautiful when it was done.  The skin was roasted a dark golden brown and the smell was out of this world.

We let the bird rest while we prepared the rest of our feast.
It was truly a wonderful meal.  
However, we had so much food that we 
each ate only one slice of turkey.

We decided that we would eat more later .... 
and then opted for pie and ice cream instead.

Since we didn't have any room in our fridge, 
we checked the temperature of the enclosed patio
and deemed it a suitable refrigerator.  

We covered the turkey with aluminum foil and 
securely put the lid back on the roaster and set it on the step.
Can you predict where this is going?

This is what remained this morning.

Do you remember I said we each ate only one slice ..... 
of a 17 POUND BIRD?!!!

This is what a tryptophan overdose looks like!

Six hours later and this guy's STILL snoozin'

These two look like they ate the proverbial canary  turkey.

I'm sure Mom is sitting somewhere laughing her ass off!

Consider Kiva this holiday season

Two years ago, Vicki and I decided that in lieu of a classroom gift exchange, we would ask the students to donate $1 to be used at to help fulfill loans to individuals battling poverty.
We told the students that we would match the amount that they donated and we ended up loaning $200.  We could only loan $25 to each person and once their loan was fully funded in conjunction with other lenders, we would be notified. We went through the loan descriptions and the kids chose the projects to help fund. 

Ni Putu Mili from Indonesia needed a loan to buy piglets and feed.

Valeriana Churata of Bolivia requested a loan to 
purchase fabric, wool and thread to make blankets. 

Adjo Odette Djogbessi of Togo wished to buy fabric and dyes with her loan.

Vo Thi Ly, Vietnam, also purchased piglets and mash.

Mamlakat Mardonova lives in Tajikistan.  
She has a degree in economics and is married with ten children.  She needed a loan for her clothing business.  The kids determined that anyone with ten kids REALLY needed the money.

 Parmo Mendullo is a widow in Tanzania who 
supports herself through the sale of charcoal. 

Nancy Helida De La Cruz Araujo of Peru
was the first one to repay her loan.  She paid it off 
early and used her money to supplement her general store inventory.
For the final loan, the students chose a group 
because "they could help more people".

This group of 15 women sew curtains, blankets 
and clothing in the Dominican Republic.
Within three days, all of the projects were fully funded.
Repayment plans were made for anywhere from six months to fifteen months.
Each one of the loans was repaid in full.  
Vicki and I had decided to reinvest the money into a new group of loans, 
but we hadn't gotten to it yet and she had told me to make some choices when I had a chance.  After battling the commercialism at the Evil Empire, I came home and made eight more loans.

Corazon Tomines is from the village of San Manuel in the Phillipines. She is 50 years old, widowed and has six school-aged children. To make a living, Corazon owns and operates a business venture in the food sector making and selling food. The main source of income for the business comes from making native cakes and other delicacies for sale.

Alberta Clarion is from the village of Tiaman, Bonifacio, Misamis Occ, also in the Phillipines. She is 52 years old. Alberta is married and has four school-aged children. To make a living, Alberta operates a specialized retail store. The main source of income for the business comes from selling daily-use products such as bread, shampoo, soap and toothpaste in the local community.

Isabel is a 34 year old single mother. She is father and mother to her two daughters. The oldest is 12, and the youngest is 7. They both go to the same school. They live in the Imperial city of Cusco, Peru.   Her last name is not given to protect her identity.  She alternates her activities between the household and private courses that she teaches. She teaches private classes that reinforce mathematical reasoning, verbal reasoning, languages, and physics, etc. She teaches classes in the afternoons for students who are getting low grades in school. She has been doing this for several years. It has gone very well for her thanks to the effort she puts into her work. She is a fighter, and she is enterprising. She devotes herself to teaching with much joy.

Federita Garcia is a 73-year-old farmer from Talibon, Bohol in the Phillipines. She has been tilling the rice field to be able to ensure enough food for the family.  She is borrowing money for the rental of farm equipment.

Jenart Ebonimen is 46 years old and married with 9 children. Her husband sells planks at retail prices to his customers. She cooks and sells fufu at wholesale and retail prices to her customers. Fufu comes from fermented cassava.

Teresita is 51 years old with 11 children who range in age from 10 to 32 years old. Most of the younger ones are still in school but the older children are already working and helping to support the family. This family of 13 lives in the village of Bi-ao, in the town of Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, Phillipines.  To help her husband support their family, Teresita started with pig fattening and raising chickens, selling the chickens in the local market after raising them for 45 days. This venture became a family affair as the younger kids were able to help with the chores of feeding the animals and cleaning their pens, which were all located in the backyard of their house.

Virginia sells a variety of products from her store in Bolivia, and also has another business selling eggs. Her husband is a gardener and bricklayer and he often travels, leaving her in charge of the home. She has 5 children, but they are already independent except for the youngest, who studies at the University where his mother covers his expenses.
In keeping with the students' desire to help as many people as possible, I also chose one group of 13 individuals from Bolivia.

They need the loan to further their clothing businesses.

In six to twelve months, these loans will be repaid and once 
again can be re-invested in other people fighting poverty. 
It was truly the gift that keeps on giving.  
I hope everyone will consider Kiva this holiday season.

Black Friday

I had absolutely no interest in Black Friday.

We have decided to be sensible this season 
and not go nuts over gift buying, so there was no reason to brave 
the crowds and venture forth at the buttcrack of dawn.

We looked at the ads and didn't see anything spectacular.
Then Mardell remembered that her guardianee 
is in desperate need of clothing.

Jeans were on sale for $9 and you got a free t-shirt.
Coats were $7.  Hoodies were $5.

Fortunately I have a soft spot for Scotty and volunteered
to brave the masses because I knew Mardell 
wouldn't be able to control her claustrophobia.

I questioned my sanity when I got to town.

I really questioned it as I drove 
up and down EVERY single aisle
and EVERY parking spot was taken. 

Cars were pulled up onto the grass. 
They overflowed to Radio Shack's parking lot.  
They overflowed to Sonic and Home Depot.

I persevered against my better judgment.

Inside the door was a uniformed police officer 
and behind him was a throbbing mass of crazed shoppers 
hell bent on proving that we really aren't in the midst of a recession.

I maneuvered my way to the men's clothing department.
The men's coats were on the outer edge so I weenied
my cart in between two racks of clothes.  I snatched 
up a black coat in Scotty's size and began looking for the jeans.

They were just a hop, skip and a jump to my right.
I only needed to elbow my way through forty-six people buying 
enough pajama sets to outfit every child in the county.  Fortunately, 
I have sharp elbows and I briefly abandoned my cart and made
it to the jeans display.  I was on the right side and quickly
found the right size.  Grabbing two sets of jeans 
and t-shirts, I hastily retreated to the relative safety of my cart.

With that done, I decided that as long as I was there, 
I might as well make my bi-weekly dog food purchase because 
I didn't want to go back to the Evil Empire any time soon.  

That was easier said than done.  
Evidently the hot items were in the aisle adjacent to the 
pet food and left turns were not being allowed.  I finally
fought my way into the dog food area and found myself completely alone. 
I plucked three bags of dog food off the shelf and
plopped them into my cart and headed to the check-out.

I got there and found what I thought was a relatively short line.

I only had to wait about ten minutes which I thought was pretty good.
 During that time, I counted 32 big screen TV's going through the check-out.

One woman had a shopping cart full of movies.  
She must have had at least 60 of them.

I had thought I might snag an external hard drive. 
I want one for all of my photos.
They were only $49, but I just couldn't deal with the crowds.

I managed to escape unscathed and was back home 
in my abode by a quarter after six drinking a nice 
steaming cup of American Cowboy Coffee.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

To Brine or Not to Brine?

 That is the question this Thanksgiving season.

(photo of maple-brined turkey from the Food Network)

Pioneer Woman had blogged about brined turkey last year, 
and I considered it until it became evident that I 
wouldn't have to attempt a turkey.

I had decided about a month ago to give it 
a try so I have been researching recipes.
There are only a gazillion different brine recipes and every other show on the Food Network is brined turkey.  I have found recipes for Spanish Rub brine, bay and lemon, honey, maple, herb-crusted, and beer brines.  

We have decided to give Anne Burrell's recipe a try.  


She has the show "Secrets of a Restaraunt Chef" 
and I secretly think she is  Guy Fieri's twin. 

At any rate we are going to do her Brined Herb-Crusted 
Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy.

  • 7 quarts water
  • 1 quart apple cider
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 head garlic, cut in 1/2 equatorially
  • 1/2 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 bunch fresh sage
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 12 to 14 pound turkey
Herb Crust:
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh sage, leaves finely chopped
  • 3 sticks butter, room temperature
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 quart chicken stock, divided
  • 2 cups apple cider, divided
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Of course, Thanksgiving is still 11 days away so I may change my mind ...
once, or twice or six times!

Anybody out there have any experience with brining a turkey?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Amazing Race

I love Sundays.

Besides being good for catching a nap, this is the
night that the Amazing Race is on.

I dream of participating in it.

Mary and I went so far as to submit an entry the
season that they were looking for families.
I think Jamal must have been all of ten years old!

We designed really cool t-shirts to wear for our video.

That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?

But wait, our creativity didn't stop there ....

Our true wit and humor is displayed on the back of my shirt.

The very bottom line reads:

Did we mention modest?

They should have chosen us on the basis of our shirts alone!

We would make a pretty incredible team.

I am geographically challenged, but Mary can look at a map and have it committed to memory.  She can go some place once and remembers every detail of the route to and from.  I can pull into a Burger King and struggle to get back on the right interstate!

My strength would be my lead foot.  It's no secret that I like to drive fast. 

When we go to Colorado to visit Mary and the kids, Mardell always calls to let them know that we have left town.  Mary always asks who's driving, so she knows whether to expect us 45 minutes earlier than the drive would typically take .... or 45 minutes later,
as seems to be the case if Mardell drives.

I'd have trouble putting up with some of the other teams.  I am very slow to warm up to people, but Mary can talk to anyone ... about anything. She can talk to someone and they have no clue she thinks that they are a moron.  Me, there's no doubt that's what I think. 

I think we'd both be pretty devious though.  I'm scared to death of heights, but I can usually force myself to do stuff involving heights and I love adrenaline pumping activities.  I'm not really sure about some of the food challenges though.  They eat some pretty gross stuff.  Makes Mom's green bean casserole look tame.

Every season there is a team that I root for
and one that I can't wait to see be eliminated.

I can't stand whiners and the chick who wouldn't go down
the water slide in the sixth leg of the race took the cake.
I had wanted them off since the premiere.


I don't know what her problem was.
It's only six stories tall and you go through a tube of sharks.
Sounds like fun to me.

Naturally I am pulling for the Harlem Globetrotters.
They've been my favorite basketball team since Grandad Jiggs took me to see them live.
Of course that was back when Curly and Meadowlark was on the team!

I also liked the Poker Chicks, but Mary didn't.  I was sorry to see them go.

I can't wait to see what happens tonight!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Happy 90th birthday!


We wish that we could be there with you to celebrate.

Instead, we'll be here recalling fond memories
and looking forward to our next visit to South Dakota.

Cookies are on their way .... we figured you would enjoy those more than flowers!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Remembering Mom

We are sad to announce that our mom, Pam, passed away on Friday morning.

I've been thinking about her a lot this week and wanted to share a few memories.

There is a joke in our family about our mother's green bean casserole--one of us will have to make it and post the recipe and step-by-step photo journal to give you the full impact of its non-yumminess. It definitely wasn't our favorite meal, but it was apparently her favorite one to make, because it seemed like we ate it on a pretty regular basis. We teased her a lot about that casserole over the years. But we didn't always say enough about her other gifts.

Her strength, her compassion, her love.

Now that I'm a mother, I realize how hard it is to raise kids. You try your hardest and hope for the best. I can only imagine how trying it must have been with four girls. The hormones alone in that house would have been enough to send anyone over the edge.

Our mom was the kind of mom who let us bring home a menagerie: the number of hamsters--"Look, Mom! We found him in the garden!" (while hiding the Pamida receipt and the box it came in). Birds, fish, cats, puppies, rabbits, and especially the golden retriever puppy that Trudy dragged home. ("We HAVE to keep her or they'll put her to sleep!!) Mom had a soft spot for Champ--for all of them: Pokey, Buster, Boo, Snickers.

She was the kind of mom who let her kids build a crazy-big treehouse in the backyard. (Thank goodness, she never knew about all of the Mooseheads ingested inside of it.)

I never took the time to say thank you for all of the parent-teacher conferences, piano recitals, or (geek alert!) swing choir concerts she attended.

The last few years were pretty hard on our mom. She felt things deeply. She grieved along with her loved ones every time they experienced a loss. After Jenny, Sarah, and our Dad died, she had a pretty tough time and there wasn't much any of us could do to help ease her pain.

I like to think about the things that did make her happy, the things she loved. She talked a lot about her trip to the redwoods when she visited her friend Sharon and she seemed breathless when she and Trudy came to Yosemite with me in California. Although that may have been the altitude.

I think about how in her fifties, she started over again, how Trudy and Mardell coaxed her into trying new adventures--water aerobics or painting "The Bob Ross Way", becoming a classroom-grandparent.

How through all of the tragedies, she also got to experience the miracles--seeing Jenny's son, Kel, grow into a young man, or Katie's girls Krista and Dani win ribbons at the fair. She got to share in our newest little miracle, coming our way this spring.

I hope when people think of our mom, they think of some of the things she loved: trees and words (she was a killer scrabble player--knew every two letter word in the English language.) Her love of Indian casinos and hot tubs, her ferocious allegiance to Pepsi products. . .

I'm grateful to my sisters and Aunt Sue for looking out for her and taking care of her. The last month or so, seemed like some of mom's happiest. She was facebooking and baking cookies, trying out new recipes. So well cared for, Trudy--thank you.

So, even if we never pass down that old recipe for green bean casserole, I hope we carry on her legacy of compassion and strength, and love.