Second Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas…..


two Mock Pecan pies.

Christmas Eve was my baking day.  I love baking as a general rule.  Our family has decided you either have the baking gene or the cooking gene.  Sister claims I got the baking one, while she got the cooking one.  “But your children are luckier than mine,” she said.  “It’s not like you won’t cook just because you like to bake–you’re going to feed them.  But me, it’s rare that I bake treats for mine.  Yours get the food and the treats.”

What I don’t tell her is sometimes, just ever so occasionally, the treats are the food.

The Fella asked for a Buttermilk Custard pie, and Aub wanted the Mock Pecan Pie.  I wanted to do some baking for other folks as well, and I wanted to get in one more batch of Mama’s Lucia Pepparkakor cookies (Swedish Ginger Cookies), so I knew I’d be in the kitchen for a while.

I have my Great Aunt Maye’s Buttermilk Custard recipe.  It makes two pies, so I started to work mixing and pouring and blending.  I preheated the oven, poured the mixture into the crusts, and placed them in the oven.  Then I was off on the next round of baking.  As I watched the pies, I noticed they weren’t behaving as per usual, but I shrugged.  I could taste test one and send the other as a gift IF the first tasted okay.

About the time I was pulling the pies out of the oven, I noticed the message on the microwave, alerting me to the fact that something was ready inside, and would I please remove it.

Huh.  I wondered who had prepared something and left it sitting there.  Seriously, people?  I went over and popped the door open and uh-oh.

I looked back at my pies.  And then at the butter sitting in the bowl all nice and melted. Sigh.

Okay.  So I had butterless buttermilk custard pies now.  Two of them.

Double sigh.

After Aub did a taste test and reassured me that the pies still tasted good–(yes, they had enough sugar, but they were missing the required butter portion of my Daddy’s test of something being good)–I went ahead and made a second batch of Aunt Maye’s Buttermilk Custard pies to have for gifts.  The first two would not be leaving this house.

As I poured the mixture into the pie crusts for the second time that day, Aub said, “Ummm, Mama?”

“Yes?!” I was more than a tad short with her.

“Ummm, shouldn’t the buttermilk be in those as well?”

I looked over and sure enough, there sat my buttermilk.  In the measuring cup on the counter, just as pretty as you please.

Y’all, I’m not sure I was meant to make those pies that day.

Still, I poured the mixture BACK into the bowl and stirred in the buttermilk and tried again.  They came out looking beautiful and just as they should.

It was after that fiasco that I made the two beautiful Mock Pecan Pies for Aub.  She says they taste really good, and I may or may not *ahem* be able to confirm that statement.

I also made two small pound cakes that day, but that hardly bears mentioning.  After years and years of making those, I can just about make them in my sleep.  Well, at least, let’s just say I have yet to leave anything more serious than the vanilla out of that recipe.

Two is a good number for Christmas.  Two batches of two Buttermilk Custard Pies.  Two Mock Pecan Pies.  Two times forgetting an ingredient and twice the fun and laughter over my mishaps now that it’s all behind me and I’ve gotten some good sleep.

There’s nothing like the good sleep of the night after all  the Christmas fun, is there?

Wishing you all at least two chances to get things right and twice the fun during this beautiful season.

Love to all.



Running Out of Stuff

I am out of eggs. And butter. Do you know what that means?

Besides the fact that I need me some chickens to babytalk to? And to pick up a cow on the way home?

I cannot make a pound cake.

That spells trouble around here.

Having the eggs and butter does not guarantee that I’ll make a pound cake.  But having everything I need to make one at any given time, that’s important to me.  I live in the South.  It’s what we do.  At any given moment, I might need a pound cake to take to Someone for Some Reason.  (It’s rare that one gets made and stays here for eating.  Ask my poor family.)  Thank goodness I had enough to make the one for my Neighborfriends who made their final move to their new home today.  But then that was it–I was completely out.  (And my Neighborfriend is the one whom I have borrowed eggs from, and canned tomatoes, and–oh dear, I am in trouble.)  Oh the shock to my system!  It is time to be getting myself to the store.  Post haste.

Mama made great pound cakes.  Daddy liked to have a thick slice for breakfast with a big helping of peanut butter spread across–you’ve got your eggs, your dairy, and your protein.  Win!  She even baked them in the summers, but only really early.  My Aunt reminded me of this today, and it made me laugh.  My Mama was “old school” about some things.  Even after we had central air conditioning, Mama refused to turn the oven on in the summer unless she absolutely had to.  She didn’t want to “heat up the house.”  So if she wanted to bake a pound cake, she’d put it in the oven before 7 a.m., and “well, if I’m going to heat up the house for one, I might as well bake two.”  And so she did.

And you know why Mama could make up her mind at 6 a.m. to mix up a pound cake? Or two?

Because she didn’t run out of things!

My Mama had a system that was just about beyond reproach.  She kept the sales papers for the week on the stool beside where she sat at the kitchen counter.   On the other counter, she kept a stack of calendar pages from her Mary Engelbreit Page A Day calendar.  She used these for all sorts of things, but especially for her grocery list.  And she didn’t play around at it like I do.  When she was almost (not completely, ahem) out of something, she wrote it down on her list.  She compared prices and, making them stay true to their word, had Wal-Mart price match for most things, saving herself numerous trips.  She had grocery shopping down to a science.  I wish I had asked her more questions and paid more attention.  But no.

I have gotten some better.  I do try to shop ahead.  Which often leads to three jars of Duke’s Light (the BEST!) mayonnaise in the pantry and no mustard to be found anywhere.  Sigh.  Or everything to make the Crunchy Corn Medley except the water chestnuts–hello, where do I think the crunchy is coming from?  Or the sour cream for the pound cake, but *sniff* no butter or eggs.  It’s kind of how I roll these days.

I thought maybe meal planning would help.  And it did, somewhat.  But Mama didn’t plan meals and then go shopping.  She shopped the sales and then planned what she would cook.  (Have I mentioned we were raised on sale…..with a coupon?)  And Wednesdays at Publix?  For the penny specials?  She was there.  And if it wasn’t something she could use, she found a good home for it–whether her church’s food pantry or the Backpack Buddies of Bare Bulb Coffee or the mission at Daybreak Shelter in Macon.  Nothing went to waste.  She was so good at buying meat on sale, packaging it so she could cook her meals later and then freezing it.   Her organization was something to be envied.  Oh, and earlier today? When I was lamenting my extinct gallon zip-loc bags, so I could freeze my sad bananas to make banana bread another day?  Never would have happened at Mama’s.  Pretty sure there’s some extras up in the top of her cabinet now.

Oh dear, I'm really not sure.  I'd better go check.  *sigh* I'm really not very good at this.

Oh dear, I don’t know.  I’d better go check. *sigh* I’m really not very good at this.

So I’m off now to make my grocery list.  I’ve pulled the sales papers and picked a spot to keep my list AND a pen.  (I do NOT need an excuse not to write it down immediately.)  I’m going to try to do this Mama style.  So I won’t run out of such things as butter and eggs again.

But if you see me on the side of the road trying to load a cow in my van, just keep driving.  You’ll know then that my efforts to shop ahead didn’t work out, and I need to keep the source around all the time.  Well that and the fact that I really want to babytalk me some chickens.  And hold baby goats in my lap…..and let my littles ride a donkey….. *sigh*  I like to dream big.  Head in the clouds.  No wonder I run out of stuff.

Oh you are a sweet baby, aren't you, little Sweet Pea?  Yes you are.  Oh my.

Oh you are a sweet baby, aren’t you, little Sweet Pea? Yes you are.  Oh my.  It’s already started.  And this is just a chick we met at the Fair last fall.

Best Cookbook Ever

I love cookbooks.  One of my favorites is Aunt Bea’s Mayberry Cookbook that I got for Christmas probably twenty years ago.  I have some stand-by recipes from that one, including Mr. McBeevee’s Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole that I make every year for Christmas morning.  (And that is our big meal of the day!  I know, awesome, right?  I love our Christmases.)  I also love a cookbook that a dear sweet lady from Perry gave me as a wedding gift eleven years ago.  It is a small-town cookbook with awesome recipes, and I love that the ladies who wrote it tell you who in the family loved what recipe.  I use the sour cream pound cake recipe in that one faithfully.  (And I know that Miss Nelle always used 1 stick butter and 1/2 cup Crisco and Miss Mary used two sticks of margarine.  This is the kind of thing they share throughout.  Just precious.)

But I have to say that my all time favorite cookbook is one that has never been published.

It was when I was pregnant with my little guy almost seven years ago that I got a manila envelope in the mail from my youngest cousin.  She is a very smart young woman.  She knows how to cook delicious, healthy foods from scratch.  She can knit like nobody’s business, has a yen for yarn, and a heart for those in need all over the world.  And I love her more than I can put into words.

My most FAVORITE cookbook ever--filled with delicious recipes, all handwritten! (I've added the stains over the years.)

My most FAVORITE cookbook ever–filled with delicious recipes, all handwritten! (I’ve added the stains over the years.)

In the manila envelope was a four by six notebook.  It was lovely on the outside and I thought, well, how sweet.  I had no idea.  When I turned the cover, I saw that this notebook was filled on EVERY page.  With recipes.  Great ones.  But get this.  All.  Hand.  Written.  She sent it to congratulate us and to share her favorite recipes.  We are alike in this respect–we both love to bake, but cooking not as much.  One of my sisters says that my children are better off than hers, as she likes to cook and not bake.  “You’re going to feed yours, that’s a given…..and you’re going to bake.  Mine?  They pretty much get fed.  Baking not so much.”

So in this treasure of recipes, I have found some favorites that I have made over and over.  One of them is for Ginger Crinkles.  Guaranteed to put someone in labor.  I am not kidding.  After my little guy was born, I called my cousin and left her a message.  “The baby is here,” I said, and I left my number at the hospital.  We’re old school and hadn’t found out the gender, so of course she had to call back and say, “Well?”  I told her “it’s a boy” and his name, we chatted over his measurements, and then I said, “And it’s all your fault and those Ginger Crinkles.”  (I had made some on the Wednesday before he was born on Saturday–and I had been munching on them quite a bit.)

She laughed a little, and replied, “Yeah.  Sorry about that.”

“What?  I was just teasing you.”

She proceeded to tell me that ginger has properties that can speed up labor for a woman whose body is getting prepared.  She’s smart like that.  A wealth of knowledge that one.  And believe me, I’ve taken advantage of that wealth.  (She rescued us more than once while Mama was in the hospital.  Wow.  I’m not sure if I ever properly thanked her for that.)

So it turns out that the Ginger Crinkles, which I tend to make a lot in the fall, are extra special cookies.  Good for you and extra, extra delicious.  I promise you I will never buy another ginger snap.   (And these cookies had similar results for both of my sisters when they were pregnant!)

Another favorite is the Cocoa Apple Cake.  For years, a red velvet cake made by Mama (without all the red dye–come on, people–that stuff canNOT be good for you) was my traditional cake.  But since I started making my own cake the past couple of years during Daddy’s fight with lymphoma, this has been my go-to cake.  Yes, I know chocolate, apple, allspice, and cinnamon might not sound that good, but oh my, you cannot imagine what you are missing.   It is amazing.  I could seriously eat it all in one sitting, I think.

There are so many others that we have tried and enjoyed, especially all of the muffin recipes, but I think the one we have made the most often is her Banana Bread recipe.  It has been called by one friend, “World Peace Banana Bread,” because, he says, if it were sent to warring countries, they would stop fighting.  It is just that good.  Tonight before we headed out on our walk (I made good on my promise from last night), I used up our bananas that were on their way out the door, and made a double batch of this bread.  Oh.  My.  Land.  It is so good, the one big pan is almost gone.  And that’s just from three of us eating on it.  I like to tell myself that with the fruit, the oatmeal, and the wheat germ, it has to be good for us, right?

Best banana bread ever!

Best banana bread ever!

I was thinking about the cookbook from my cousin as I prepared the banana bread once again this evening, and how many memories are tied into the different recipes (just like in Miss Nelle’s and Miss Mary’s cookbook).  And as we went on our walk after, I reflected on those memories.  I am so blessed, and I don’t take that lightly.  Well not most of the time anyway.

Tonight I am thankful for treasured gifts.  For my Mama who let me flour up the kitchen and bake whatever I wanted to try.  My Mama would come over after I was grown, look at the floor in my kitchen, and say, “Oh you’ve been baking, have you?”  Guilty.  I make a mess when I bake.  Always have.  Good stuff can come from great messes, my friends.

I’m also thankful for the treasured gift of my sweet and spunky cousin who sent me this precious memory-filled, hand-written cookbook.  She’s been on my mind and heart a lot lately.  I cannot imagine how much time it took her to put this together for me.  Or what time, energy, and patience the socks that she made for me during our dark times must have taken. (She even made sure the yarn was fair trade and environmentally friendly–have I mentioned how much I love her?) And what a treasure the shawl she knitted for me is, the one that I’ve used to wrap myself up in love and comfort as I’ve said goodbye to both of my parents.  I am thankful for her generous spirit that has her giving so freely of her gifts and her knowledge.  She is one who honks less and seeks more–she inspires me with the way she uses her gifts and talents to share with those in need, and how she empowers her children to do the same.   Mostly I am thankful for her love.  She loves with all her being, and I, among many, am blessed by that.  Family.  If you got a good one, hang on tight.  And love on them as much as you can, even if it gets a little messy.  Remember that good stuff I mentioned before?  That.  Family–they are one of life’s greatest gifts.

Me, a few years ago, during my baker apprenticeship

Me, a few years ago, during my baker apprenticeship