Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year recipes for good luck!

I'm headed out the country tomorrow, so I've handed over the recipes for the traditional New Year's Day dishes to my son, Chris.  Actually, I wrote them down since following an actual recipe isn't the southern way. Yes, Chris is fix in' the required blackened peas and collards to enjoy while I am somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.  I no longer know why you must eat these dishes… something about luck and prosperity…but we fix them because they taste wonderful.  

So if you are interested, below you'll find my preferred recipes for blackened peas and collard greens…. 

New Years Day dishes - Black -Eyed Peas and Collards

Blackeyed peas 

2 cups dried peas
6 cups boiling water
4-5 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
salt to taste
Place dried peas in a bowl, discard any pebbles or broken beans. Cover with boiling water, let stand for two hours. In a large kettle, saute onion in bacon fat. Pour in 5 cups boiling water. Drain peas and add to the pot, add salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Cook 1-2 hours, keeping covered with water. Cook peas until tender.

Collard Greens or "Collards" 
2 bunches fresh collard greens - look for bunches without any wilted leaves
4 cups chicken or turkey broth
Ham hock (use 6 slices of bacon if you can’t get a ham hock)
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
salt & pepper, to taste

Prep for pot liquor - In a large pot or dutch oven, add 4 cups of chicken or turkey broth, the ham hock and pour in enough water to cover the ham hock. 
Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour. 

Prep collards - Wash the collards in a sink of cold water. Take collards out of the water. Drain the sink and rinse again. (This time add a Tablespoon of coarse salt to the water - sea salt or kosher salt is good. If you don’t have either, table salt will work.) Take collards out of the water.  Cut the stems and all tough ribs and discard.  Roll up the collard leaves and coarsely chop. 

Add collards to the pot of ham hock and broth.  You will probably have to push down on the greens to get them all into the pot, so add so you can still get the lid on the pot.** Bring to a boil. (**As the greens wilt, you can add the rest of the collards to the pot.) Stir. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer the greens until they kind of fall apart when stirred. (Approx. 1 - 1 1/2 hours.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Note: the broth and ham hock are already salty so taste before you add salt. 

Pot liquor can be enjoyed as a hot beverage… I'm not kidding. It's pretty good. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Who can I invite to join us this Christmas?

A friend posted the following on his Facebook page:

"At the request of a friend...Sobering thoughts as we enter the holiday season...It is important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now. If I don't see your name, I'll understand. May I ask my friend(s)...... Wherever you might be, to kindly copy, paste, and share this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support. I know some will! I did it for a friend and you can too! (You have to copy & paste this one, .....NO 'sharing' please"

Funny, this has on my mind for the past few days, but I didn't know how to say it.  I hope the original author doesn't mind me borrowing it because I need it to help me put my priorities and perceived "struggles" in their place.  

If I hadn't read this post

  • I might have been tempted to shamefully blog about my large family's unbelievably insane attempt to get the entire family together in one place at one time. 

  • I would have droned on and on about my iCal exploding and the headaches of keeping up with whom I will see when and where. 

But if I had, all of you would have shouted together as one, "Boo! Hoo!" and "Shame on  you!"

And I would have deserved it.

Thank heavens, the Facebook post instead reminded me of how my grandparents did Christmas.

My grandparents'  home was always open to strangers who found themselves away from family or alone during the holidays. Soldiers passing through town on their way to somewhere else were often at the family Christmas dinner table.

Matter of fact, Norman, a young soldier from Pennsylvania enjoyed Christmas at my grandparent's home so much, he ended up marrying their oldest child, my aunt Mary Alice.  (The real story is he fell in love with her AT the dinner table and phoned his parents to announce he'd found his future bride!)

It is a sweet story and even sweeter because it reminds me of my uncle who used to tell it. (Sadly, he passed away this year.)

It also reminds me to quit making sure I make it to all my little event and instead think…

 Who can I invite to join us this Christmas?  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What I remember and what I forget.

Most people start the season by putting up the Christmas tree, but this year I started by putting out the Christmas China. As I put each piece in its place, I enjoy remembering the friends and family who added to my collection and the many meals we enjoyed together.  I can remember where we were, how I felt, the conversations and the weather at the time,  but I have to work hard to remember what year it was, how old I was, or how old my children were at the time.  

Oh, what I remember and what I forget! 

You see, my mind is a huge organized vault of information and memories I thoroughly enjoy rummaging through, but sometimes I forget the combination. It is randomly quick and slow, satisfying and equally frustrating what I remember and what I forget. Don't jump to the conclusion it is a sign of my advancing age. I have a great memory, but it has always been kinda of quirky like that. 

I must admit my eagerness to pull out the Christmas china was all about what I remember and what I forget. This time it was remembering whether  I did, or did NOT, donate my Gibson pattern to Goodwill.  You see I saw four of the Gibson bowls at my local Goodwill store, all priced at a steal - a dollar a piece. I was set to purchase them, but put them back on the shelf because I realized there was a possibility I would be buying back what I may, or may not, have donated - my own beloved Christmas china. 

For the past two weeks, I racked my brain. Did I actually give away the Christmas plaid pattern my brother gave me? Why would I do that? Did I lapse into a moment of uncharacteristic minimalism where I would commit to one Christmas pattern? It's not likely, but I simply could NOT recall.  Sometimes, I simply forget those incidental decisions within the mental clutter of my inconsistently inconsistent memory retrieval processor. 

The memory mystery was finally solved when I unpacked the china keepers to find the Gibson pattern. Whew!  No longer anxious I may have given away my china, I became anxious about whether or not the four bowls were still for sale. I  put "Goodwill" on my Reminder App then edited the note to read "Check Goodwill for Gibson bowls" to be sure I didn't assume I was to drop off donations then forget about the bowls.  

Over the next week or so, Frank and I will pull all the Christmas decorations out of the attic. The plastic tubs full of ornaments, figurines, candles, garland, wreaths, pillows, lights, bows have been stored away for the past eleven months much like my Christmas memories. Like my mind's vault of information and memories, I organized and labelled each tub hoping to make unpacking and decorating as organized as possible. I even took advantage of Pinterest private categories and posted pictures of the decorated mantel, bookshelves and Christmas tree village from last year.  

Maybe, this year decorating will only flood my mind with lovely memories of Christmases past instead of overwhelm me with all the little details I struggle to remember but am sure to forget.

And maybe instead of fretting, I can remember to be grateful for what I remember and what I forget. 

Thanks to the inconsistently inconsistent memory retrieval processor God gave me, I do forget small stuff, but it graces me with the ability to forget the other stuff that brings me down - regrets, slights and sad times.  Most of all, I am so grateful I  always remember the people I love, the moments with them I cherish and the love of Jesus who saved me. 

Go Ahead - Google it!