09 August 2007

Long Time No Blog

It's not that I haven't cooked at all for the past two months, it's not that we haven't eaten out. I've been surprisingly short on time for a person who is unemployed. I expected that I would have time to write this blog every day once I didn't have to go to work. But somehow or another, the days fill up and before you know it, your eyes are drooping, your head is slumping forward, chin to chest, the drooling starts, and eventually, you end up prone on the sofa with the tv blaring and all the lights on. (I don't really drool... I just wrote that for effect.)

Quick Highlights:
June: Dad's b-day/Jimmy's b-day (my step-brother)/Father's Day
We had a combination celebration at my house. Who was here: Dad, of course, Jimmy and his wife Sue Ellen, Wayne (my other step-brother), my paternal grandfather, my mother-in-law, my partner 'R', and me. The weather was fantastic so we all sat outside in the front yard. I made a pulled pork barbeque and chicken a la Minnie (recipe below) and coleslaw. To make it easy on myself, I bought potato salad and 2 kinds of dessert. My other step-brother, Wayne, brought us a watermelon.

Chicken a la Minnie is named after R's maternal grandmother who used to fix chicken this way. I never had the pleasure of eating hers but was told about it by another relative. This is a delicious, down-home, sloppy barbeque kind of food. I'd recommend wearing a bib or at least not wearing something white when you eat it.

Chicken a la Minnie
1 fresh 3lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 bottle Carolina Treet sauce*

Place chicken pieces in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil on high heat and allow to boil about 2-3 minutes, then turn the heat off and cover the pot for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Place chicken pieces in a baking dish. Pour about 1/3 bottle of Carolina Treet all over the chicken. Pour about 1 cup of the cooking water over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake about 1 hour, basting and turning over the pieces about half way through cooking.

* Carolina Treet Original Cooking Barbecue Sauce: I buy this at Food Lion whenever I visit Lumberton, NC. Right on the bottle it says if you can’t find it where you live, call, write or email and they will ship anywhere. Look ‘em up at http://www.carolinatreet.com

July: R and I went to Myrtle Beach, stopped in Calabash to eat some local fried seafood and meet up with R's Aunt Mary, and stopped in Lumberton (his parents' hometown) to visit other family and do some food shopping. Aunt Betsy took us around to a bunch of local farmers and we were able to buy a bushel of field peas and a bushel of butter beans. Uncle Billy made arrangements with the Scottish Packing Company for us to go buy some goodies. We bought a 12 lb wheel of Wisconsin cheddar cheese, 2 Boston Butts, some country sausage, casings and seasoning to try making our own sausages at home. When we got it all home, most of it went in the freezer. The cheese was cut (haha, having a 3rd grade moment) and some given to each of the parents. The field peas and butter beans all had to be blanched and frozen. That was a lot of work.

Also in July, the Falls Church Farmers Market is in full glory -- all the colors are truly a vision. We bought about 4 quarts of peaches which had to be skinned, sliced, and frozen. A lot of work again. And other week in July at the Farmers Market we bought a bushel of tomatoes. I remember as a girl helping my grandmother can tomatoes and tomato juice and I thought it would be a good idea to give it whirl on my own. Well, when you raise the tomatoes yourself and you have jars left over from last year and you have all the equipment already that's required for canning, it's a pretty cheap endeavor but a lot of labor. I had nothing. I had to buy jars, buy the canner, buy the tomatoes... and give blood, sweat and tears to the job. I ended up with 5 quarts of homemade tomato juice, 3 quarts of homemade Italian tomato sauce, and 4 quarts of homemade tomato soup. It took me about a day and quarter to get all that done. Of course my grandmother would have whipped that out in a couple hours, but she had 50 years under her belt and I had none. I'm not sure how often I will choose to do this in the future but I can at least say I've done it once. How good those tomatoes are going to taste this winter (!) when all that's available in the grocery are firm, gased, unripe, not-in-season, yucky things that can hardly be called tomatoes.

This summer I've also been growing tomato plants along with some pots of herbs. It has been so dry here that the plants all require some daily watering and it's just in the last week that the tomato plants are starting to bear ripe fruit. They are delicious. My grandfather started these plants from seed in March in an egg carton using the pilot light in the oven to keep them warm. He is a very experienced gardener. I don't know the breed of these tomatoes, but they are larger than a large cherry tomato but not much. These could be Campari tomatoes or something close to that breed because they are sweet like that and get really beautiful red.

This has gotten so long, trying to get caught up with the past 2 months, and I still have so much I want to write about. I want to give you a good recipe for Pissaladiere and tomato soup, for refried beans from scratch (totally worth the effort), for salsa verde. I want to tell you about our CSA (community supported agriculture) farm and what we've been getting in our share this year. I want to tell you about the dairy products we've been getting from the Farmers Market -- fresh homemade mozz and mascarpone and yogurt from a farm that raises and milks their own cows in Loudoun County. All that and more, hopefully all coming soon.

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