A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Monday, August 30, 2010

Homemade Caramel Corn

This recipe was posted on the Gooseberry Patch Facebook page. The nice lady that posted it said she makes it for her mom in the nursing home. It has no kernels so is easy on the teeth and easy to swallow. In fact, it melts in your mouth! I made a batch for my mom and she loved it! Only drawback - it is addictive!!! You have to make extra just because you eat so much of it in the making. It is super easy.
The corn pops in the recipe are not the corn pop cereal. They are in the chip section at the store. I have never seen the Better Made brand here (the recipe came from the back of the Better Made bag). I used the Frito Lay Chester"s Puff Corn and got it at Kroger. It is the one that says "butter flavored". Kroger has a store brand one also. (These alternate products were recommended by others that had used the recipe.)

Better Made Caramel Corn

One 8 oz bag of Puff Corn Pops (not the cereal) (Chester's brand is 4 oz, so half the sauce or use 2 bags)
Place in a large roaster pan (I lined with foil for easy clean up)

Caramel Sauce:
In 2 qt. saucepan cook together for 2 minutes:
1/2 lb. butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup

Remove from heat and add 1 tsp. baking soda to mixture. This will cause mixture to foam, so 2 qt. pan is necessary.
Pour caramel mixture over pops and stir until mixed.Place in 250 degree oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 mins. Remove from oven . Pour onto waxed paper and break apart. Enjoy!! This is great for Christmas gifts. Find some cute bags/containers and fill them with this easy treat. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Baby Turkeys and Mamas

For weeks Rickie and I have watched a large group of baby turkeys and the two mama hens that watch over them. When we first saw them they were about the size of softballs. 

(Photo - Mama watches over babies taking a dust bath!)

The two hens herd them around in a routine that brings them all around our cabin. Their stops include the deer feeders, looking for corn on the ground, and the turkey feeder down the hill in back of the cabin. 

They go to the water troughs, sometimes going in the longhorns’ pen to their water troughs. These are about 2 feet tall and circular and they perch side by side all along the rim and drink. Sometimes they go to the small trough in the yard where they might find some birdseed we put out on the ground.

This morning after drinking they went to the driveway and lay down in the caliche, fluffing their feathers to give themselves a dust bath. The little gobblers are starting to show off by spreading their tail feathers and strutting around. They are becoming teenagers!

The mother hens have watched over them teaching them the things they need to know to survive and keeping them safe from predators. One morning I watched them chase a buzzard up a tree. The buzzard was at the water trough in the yard, which is also where we dispose of our food scraps. He was after some bacon grease, one of his favorites, along with cream gravy. The mama hens apparently didn’t like the looks of him.

This morning I counted 14 babies. As the group moves from area to area, the mama hens seem to be counting them also. If one falls behind, one of the hens will go back to get him or her. No one is left behind; they move on together.

As I write this my mom is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t know who we are or remember much about her life, past or present. My siblings and I go and sit with her. We take her the snacks she used to like and sometimes we take her out for ice cream. Then we go home and cry. It gets harder to go and see her this way. But we keep going and crying, remembering the times she came back for us. No one is left behind; we move on together.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer of Peaches

Seventeen years ago my husband Rickie and I were waiting on the call that would send us hurrying to Mississippi. My beloved stepfather-in-law, Frank, lay dying. Unsure if we were needed right away or if we would be needed for the long haul, we tried to fill our time working. We had the beginnings of what would become our orchard and garden. It was a big patch of prickly pear at that time with 2 small peach trees.

(Frank and grandkids in photo; Sarah is in the middle.)

Frank’s family had been peach growers. He wasn’t in this business when I knew him but some of his relatives were still growing peaches that they sold at roadside stands near Meridian. Never had I seen peaches like these. They were as big as small cantaloupes. On our summer visits to my mother-in-law Dot’s house we could count on some of her homemade peach ice cream and peaches to bring home for peach jam and peach cobblers.

Those were good summers with the days passing by slowly as they seem to do in the country. We would get up late and eat breakfast. Then Dot would ask Sarah, our daughter, if she wanted her nails done. That would fill another hour or so (nails were done at home then, not at a nail salon), then we would get dressed and make the trip to “town”. The afternoons were spent on the back porch as our ice cream churned away in the kitchen. We would usually begin to peel and put up for the freezer the peaches we had gotten to take home. I will always associate Dot with putting up peaches. She taught me the trick of putting them in boiling water for a few seconds to get the skins off. We talked and laughed and enjoyed the escape from the hectic city life we lived the rest of the year. If we were lucky Rickie’s sister would be there with her kids. Those were good times.

But these days before we lost Frank weren’t good times. Rickie and I worked furiously in the garden hoping that keeping our hands busy would shut down our minds. I dug prickly pear by the wheelbarrow full while Rickie worked on putting the irrigation lines in that would keep our little peach trees alive when we were not at the ranch. We were tense and short with each other. Sarah stayed out of our way lost in her own grief over the grandfather she loved so.

Finally we could stand it no longer and put our tools up, packed up and headed back home to get ready to go to Mississippi. Frank and Dot’s house was full of family so we got a motel room in Meridian. That call we had been waiting on came to us in our hotel room during the night.

The view from my front porch looks out over the peach trees we planted that year Frank died. We have had several other peach trees but only the two original ones still survive. As Sarah and I picked the best peach crop we have had in years, my thoughts turned as they always do to Frank and Dot and those summers when time slowed down and we laughed and ate peach ice cream and peeled peaches.

We processed 300 pounds of peaches from those two trees this year. I made peach jam and peach cobbler and put peaches in the freezer. Sarah and I sat on the porch peeling peaches, with Frank’s Rafter M brand on the shelf over our heads. For a while time slowed down again.

(Dot, Sarah, Kasey, Frank, and Sue in Dot's kitchen on a summer morning in photo)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

There is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of macaroni and cheese. It doesn't matter if the box kind is your favorite or if your mom made a special kind for you. It conjures up images of home and family and childhood. My grandmother, Mamaw, used to make a simple homemade version. (Photo is Mamaw and Larry) It was cooked elbow macaroni to which she added some milk that she had thickened with flour. She layered this with slices of cheddar cheese and cooked it in the oven until the cheese melted. We were not raised on the box kind and I continued to make it the way Mamaw did after I had my sons, Larry and John. When they were little there was a time that I was trying to stay at home with them and make money working from home. One of my ventures was child care. I had a little girl that I kept for a while and she wanted some macaroni and cheese. I proudly made the homemade kind Mamaw had always made. When I served it to her, she started screaming "this is not macaroni and cheese! I want REAL macaroni and cheese!" She was referring to the box kind, I later learned from her mother. So, sometimes the easy way is the best way, moms!
One of the best mac and cheeses I have ever had is at the Limestone Grill in Boerne, Texas. Fantastic and more of a grown-up recipe! I don't think they serve it anymore though.
I have tried several recipes from top TV chefs and personalities and have been disappointed. They were all dry. So my husband, Rick, and I put our heads together and came up with this recipe that is both grown-up (no Velveeta or Cheese Whiz!) and creamy, not dry. I think you will love it! However, you may not want to cook it for the kiddos. Those cheeses can get pricey! And, hey, if they like the box brand, who are we to argue!

Special Occasion Mac and Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray sides and bottom of casserole dish.

Grate a combination of cheeses into a large bowl before you begin. You can substitute what cheeses you use but you have to use some that melt well or your dish will curdle and not be smooth and creamy. Don’t use cheddars, they will curdle!! I use these ones or some similar:
          1 ½ cups grated Asiago
          1 ½ cups grated Emmentaler swiss cheese (this is a brand at HEB; melts well)
          1 cup grated Fontina
          ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano. (Don’t use the plain parmesan that is already grated. This will curdle sometimes.)
          1 round package (in the wooden container) Camembert cheese, cut into small pieces

Cook 1 pound of elbow macaroni. Don’t overcook, cook al dente. You can have this cooking as you are getting the pancetta and garlic ready.

Stack enough thinly sliced pieces of pancetta to equal about an inch of meat. Dice into small pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in small sauté pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until brown and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic to pan and cook until lightly browned. Remove and drain.

Add the cooked pasta to the large bowl with your grated cheeses. Add the pancetta and the garlic. Add 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme or crumbled dried thyme and ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or mild red chili pepper . Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add 1 ¾ cans evaporated milk. You can add more if it looks like it needs it. Put the mixture into your prepared pan and cook about 10 minutes. Stir and add more milk if needed and add a little grated Parmigiano Reggiano to the top. Return to oven and cook another 5 to 7 minutes until heated throughout. Remove and let set 5 minutes for flavors to mingle.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My First Porch

When I was 4 years old we lived in a duplex with my maternal grandparents on one side and our family on the other. The only porch was a small rectangle of concrete where the two front doors opened. I had a little red chair and in order to 'porch sit' I had to place my chair right inside the screen door of my grandparents living room. I loved to do this, especially on a rainy day, even though all I could see was two fat pine trees. Papa, my grandfather had planted these - one for me and one for my brother David. (David and I in photo with sister Kathy in background) We had a small front yard and the trees took it all up and blocked the street view. Still, it was the beginning of my love affair with porches!