Cozy Winter Recipes

Way back at Christmas 1988, my mother gifted me a real treasure: a hand-written recipe book of her favorite recipes for meals, breads, vegetables, and desserts. To this day, I still make these wonderful recipes I grew up with, and I consider them not just as wonderful food, but a true gift from my mother. I treasure this book written in Mom’s beautiful handwriting.

Yesterday I had a yen for one of Mom’s delicious “winter recipes” called cheese custard. I made it from scratch last night which the Crankee Yankee and I enjoyed along with a salad. There is just something wonderful and cozy about a winter meal; it is dark out, the moon is rising, everyone is home and looking forward to a hot meal.

In case you are interested in trying out some of these great recipes, here are a few favorites for you to try, and I hope that you enjoy them.

Cheese Custard: a great dish for a brunch, lunch or dinner. You can make this the night before and keep it in the refrigerator when you’re ready to cook.

Ingredients: 

  1. 10 slices of buttered bread, cut in large cubes
  2. 3 cups sharp grated cheese
  3. 1 teaspoon of salt (I usually add a little pepper as well)
  4. 1 teaspoon of dry mustard (or you can just add in plain old mustard)
  5. 2 cups milk
  6. 4 eggs, well beaten

Butter a casserole dish, and put in layers of cheese, then bread, etc., ending with cheese. Mix the other ingredients together well and pour over the bread and cheese. Refrigerate over night. Put the casserole in a pan of water to bake. Bake one hour at 375 degrees.

Some variations: you can add shrimp or cubed ham or 1 teaspoon of oregano or crumbled bacon.

Beer Bread

This is as easy as it gets; the recipe makes one loaf.

Ingredients: 

  1. One 12 oz. bottle of beer
  2. 3 cups of self-rising flour
  3. 1 teaspoon of salt

Mix the ingredients together, and put them in a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for a half hour. This bread is great with soups, salads, chili, and it is delicious and easy to make.

Sweet and Sour Brisket

This is a wonderful pot roast that makes lots of gravy; enough left over to use as a good soup base.

Ingredients: 

  1. Beef brisket
  2. 2 cups sliced onions
  3. 3/4 cup ketchup
  4. 2 tablespoons of vinegar
  5. 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  6. 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  7. 1/2 cup of sugar
  8. 3/4 cups of water

Place the brisket in a large casserole and cover with onions. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over meat and onions. Cover and bake for 3-4 hours in a 325 degree oven.

Note: Chuck roast can be used in this recipe instead, but cook one hour less. Serve with mashed potatoes with mashed in horseradish and parsley.

It is said that food is love, and I believe that. I also believe that the hands who make our food for us make our meals so much better. Thanks, Mom—for everything.

 

A Spring-Like Pond Walk

It’s been a while since I walked around the pond. But yesterday it felt like spring, and the Crankee Yankee suggested we go for a walk. Of course, the pond is iced over, but the sky was blue and the air was warm, so off we went.

We weren’t the only ones, either. It was a warm and lovely day, and we stopped and chatted with a few folks who had brought out their folding chairs and lap blankets were also enjoying the warmth and the sunshine.

Of course, the walk was a muddy one, but we enjoyed it all the same. Lots of folks were taking their dogs for a walk, and we got to talk with the owners and pat their furry friends. While the pond itself was still frozen, on the other side of the path there is a larger body of water. There were lots of “ice islands” bumping into each other, and the seagulls soared overhead, no doubt looking for a space of clear cold water to land in.

All of the pond’s turtles and frogs are hunkered way down into the mud to sleep through winter. Nature lets them know when it’s time to wake up and swim up to the surface and enjoy the sun and warmer water. In the meantime, we humans are taking advantage of every spring-like day.

New England, being the unpredictable place that it is, will often surprise us with some warm and sunny days here and there. It’s a welcome and rare gift, and yesterday we took every advantage of it.

 

 

Facing Fears

Years ago when my mom and I wrote the children’s book, “Shopping at the Ani-Mall,” Windswept House (now defunct) published our book. Of course we were thrilled, and Mom set up several appointments at bookstores. All of them bought our books, and we had book signings and readings in New Hampshire and Maine. All I did was to sign my name to those who bought our books.

These days, I am contacting bookstores for my own children’s book, “Lulu’s Book of Children’s Stories.” There are three stories and three poems in it; if I do say so myself, it’s a great book for kids. As of now, the book is in some local book stores.

Now, I am not the business woman my mother was, but these days I find that I am sort of channeling her business sense. My wonderful publishers, Steve and Marilynn Carter, run MAAT Publishing, and they have been extremely helpful in working with several bookstores in New Hampshire and Maine. They gave me a list of book stores that they have worked with before, and I have called some of them regarding my book.

Now, here’s the thing: I found that early on, that the best way of contacting book stores is to actually go to the store and talk with the owner. Bookstores are in business to sell books, so it isn’t a problem to simply call, introduce them to the book, and then ask if they would like to have some copies. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Actually, once you get over the worry that 1: the bookstore owner may spit on you and your book, 2: that the owner may already have so many children’s books that he/she are up to their ears in them, 3: that no one will like your book, and 4: that kids may think that your book stinks; once all that crap is out of your head, you might be pleasantly surprised at how relatively easy it is to get your book out there.

Once you just forge ahead, come what may—you may be surprised that 1) the bookstore owner will like the book, 2) that the bookstore owner will put them in a good spot where people can see them, and 3) best of all, that kids will love your book.

As my wonderful mother-in-law used to say about taking chances: “it couldn’t hurt.”

 

 

The Beautiful Full Moon

If you looked up in the evening sky last night, you saw the beautiful full moon. As always, it looks like a golden coin in the sky. I have a “thing” for the moon; I always watch for it and love to see all the changes; crescent moon, half moon, full moon.

When I was a teenager in summer stock at the Barnstormers Players in Tamworth, NH, our actors were mainly older people who had worked at the Barnstormers for many summers. It was wonderful to work with them, and I got to know them well during that wonderful summer.

One of the most memorable shows for me was “Our Town.” All of us; teenagers, kids, older folks; just about every cast member was in it. One evening as we were half way through the play, the lights in the theater went out. But the backstage folk were on the job and in seconds they and some of the actors walked out on stage holding lit candles. Of course, the audience chuckled, and we went right on with the show. Actually, doing it by candle light made the show even better!

After we all took our bows and went backstage to get out of our costumes, we laughed about our “candle-lit” version of the show. As we walked back to the Tamworth Inn (where most of us hung our hats as we worked all summer long), we all looked up at the full moon that night.

Two of the older ladies had been walking arm and arm, chatting about the show. They stopped for a moment and looked up at the moon. One of them said, “you know, it’s just not the same since we had people walk on it.” They sighed and went on. Us young ones snickered and elbowed each other.

But, as I am so much older now, I get it. There is something magical and mysterious about our beautiful moon in all its phases. Much of the moon’s mystery is lost since we actually did have men on the moon.

But oh—how beautiful is the full moon still!

Our Good Intentions

Now and then, the Crankee Yankee will make one of his famous and fabulous breakfasts. Just the other day he made hash browns with bits of leftover steak; delicious. However, there is this: our biggest (and heaviest) black iron frying pan weighs a ton, and I am always the one who scrubs it out. (He means well, but often forgets all about that greasy pan.) Also, when he has finished his breakfast creation, the inevitable coat of grease is on the oven top, which I scrub off, as well as scrubbing the teapot, which always gets splattered with grease.

Now the Crankee Yankee always says not to bother with it; he’ll do it later. But, as we humans often do, he gets involved in other things. So, after years of nearly busting my back to clean that heavy frying pan, I simply put it in the sink and pour in dish soap and hot water and leave it there. Usually he will walk by the sink and say, ‘oh yeah, I forgot about the pan,’ and he will clean it.

Isn’t that just like us all? We get up with good intentions and sometimes we follow through; sometimes we don’t. And when I get irritated about that greasy pan I ask myself this: “is a greasy pan the worst thing in the world? No. Was that wonderful (and thoughtful) breakfast delicious? Yes—yes it was. Worth a greasy pan? Oh, yes.”

If I had the time to round up all my failings, I would have absolutely no time to do anything else. If I were to visit each and every person I failed, I would be apologizing for the rest of my life. Of course good intentions are great. But we are human and we often forget to follow through.

After having a good think about it all, I think that the occasional greasy frying pan is pretty small change compared to a wonderful breakfast. It reminds me of an old saying that goes: “Look at the doughnut, not the hole.” In other words, look at that fabulous breakfast of hash browns and steak compared to a greasy pan. Trust me: the breakfast is way worth it!

 

Rock Star in the Car

I don’t know about you, but I love listening to music when I drive. The station I listen to when I’m not listening to classical music is all of the music of my generation; Elton John, the Beatles, Talking Heads, Queen, Linda Ronstadt, and so on. When a song comes on that I just love, I have NO problem singing along with it. I honestly don’t care if anyone else in traffic sees me rock out, either. When one of my favorite songs comes on, I howl right along with it.

Although I personally never belonged to a band, I always sang: in church, in musicals, in Gilbert & Sullivan shows, etc. There is nothing like singing your heart out; in my head, I am right there—singing right along with my musical heros.

Just yesterday, one of my favorite Elton John songs came on; “Rocket Man.” So Elton and I sung at the top of our lungs—and neither one of us cared if anyone riding by saw us rock out. When there is a song on that I love, I become the Rock Star in the Car.

How many of us do this? I’ll bet that thousands of us do it; we love our music. And if you’re like me, singing along with your favorite artist makes you feel as if you are that backup dancer/vocalist standing right behind your idol. There is a great “oh what the hell” feeling of belting out one of your favorite songs along with your favorite artist. Who cares if other people see you rocking out? I’ll bet that there are more of us Rock Stars in Cars than those folks who don’t sing along.

To each his own, and thank you from the bottom of my heart (and my vocal range); John, Paul, George and Ringo, Elton John, Freddy Mercury, David Byrne and all the rest. Rock on.

From the Frustration Nation

I’ll admit it: I am far crankier than the Crankee Yankee. This morning I could not get into my Yahoo account, which always makes me feel like the Dark Web is closing in on me. I tried to figure it all out and then just gave up—of course, along with much bitching and moaning.

I declared to the Crankee Yankee: “that’s IT! I give up; I don’t care, I am DONE.” And stormed off to watch bad television and sipping cold coffee. I’ve been using technology for a long time; longer than the Crankee Yankee has. However, he has far more patience with it than I do.

As always, he figured out what happened: the usual data breach try from some unknown entity, which means that Norton jumps in to preserve and prevent. Long story short, the Crankee Yankee fixed it, AND told me what happened.

Seriously, for an older person such as myself, I find that I am losing patience faster than a kid with a big bag of candy. For some reason, I have it in for most technology for just being too damned hard to figure out. For the few times that we really couldn’t fix our computer and had to take it to the experts, we always had to face the inevitable eye rolls and sighs. Seriously; do these smart and quite young experts get that we were not born into this; we are the dialing telephone generation? Oy vey!

But, peace has been declared, the Crankee Yankee is my Superman of the hour, the coffee is hot, the cats are all sleeping on our bed, and life is good. Isn’t it amazing how one little thing can change your perspective?