Cooking

 
 

How Was Your December

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How was your December? We just got home yesterday on December 30th. After unloading the car, and putting most everything away, some laundry, checking in with family that we safely made it home, catching up on the mail and news and some dinner and a great amount of joyful reflection, we realized that there are many whose lives living or lost, have not had the same joyful December as we have been blessed with. And I feel their woes and pains, truly I do. But isn’t this an apropos time to share some good news? I believe so!

This true life story began with just a bunch of notes.

Just a bunch of notes in a jar presented to the new Mommy 12/25/15

Just a bunch of notes in a jar presented to the new Mommy 12/25/15

Just a jar of nine months of notes in Joshua's room

Just a jar of nine months of notes in Joshua’s room

For us, December has been fraught with birthdays, announcements of coming births, a new born little bundle of miracles from eight years of trying, meeting new family, making new friends, celebrating Christmas with family with before mentioned new baby boy, enjoying culinary delights made possible by many participates, enjoyable and safe travel with conditions made perfect by the unusual warm December and even passing by the World Headquarters of Duct Tape! 🙂

Duct Tape World Headquarters, near Cleveland, OH

Duct Tape World Headquarters, near Cleveland, OH

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What is more cooler and useful than duct tape except, for one this large? LOL 🙂

For 40+ years, I have been cooking and particularly, holidays meals such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. For the very first time (this past Thanksgiving) was I able to not only enjoy the cooking, but to actually enjoy the service that I always seek to serve others. For years, I have forewarned and warned others, NOT to come into the kitchen or even speak to me while I am cooking, less I bite your freaking head off! At a meal prior to Thanksgiving, I tried something new. I played some low volume classical music in the background while I cooked, hoping it might take off the edge. It worked, but I didn’t know why at the time.

Having some success, I hoped this was no fluke and I wanted to repeat the classical music thing at Thanksgiving. By then I understood why. When we were growing up, us, three chil-ren, listened to what our parents liked, Big Band, Swing, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis and so, but certainly NOT classical music. However, coming home from school and after homework and chores of course, we were allowed to watch cartoons in the afternoon and on Saturday mornings. From Walt Disney, Hana Barbera, Walter Lantz (Woody Woodpecker), Warner Brothers and everything else, they all used classical music.

When I grew up, I knew nothing about this music or who wrote it, but when the music played, I sure recognized the tunes from the cartoons. So, in my adult mind, I equated happy times as a child and when the music played, my little old heart just thumped and fluttered happily while cooking! 🙂
Besides the music, there were two more things never done before, I started the actual cooking. I cooked the dressings or stuffing the day before and my wife had beautifully set the table, the night before, Thanksgiving. I was organized; everything was set. The results? Not only did everyone enjoy the food and the fellowship, so did I! I was determined that this would be my new normal and it would be repeated at Christmas! It was, but with another first.

Our Christmas dinner was actually on the 26th. I started out a little tense because, we had to open stockings and presents before the table could be set. The table would be in the living room. The dining room was used for delicious breakfast cinnamon rolls and scones and mimosas, all lovingly prepared by others. I had the low classical music playing in the kitchen as I prepared the turkey and got it in the oven, set and ready to check again in ninety minutes. I made coffee and eggnog lattes, before my cappuccino/espresso machine literally blew up. No one was hurt and no damage was done and no one other than myself and my wife knew. We heated the eggnog in the microwave and I made espresso in the brew coffeepot. No one knew and they still loved the results.

So, after breakfast, stockings and presents, the kitchen and dining room were mine. Our host and hostess reminded everyone that there was “a force field” around the kitchen and to not go in. The word was out, don’t come into the kitchen and talk to me. The first person I allowed in was my bother-in-law Lenny, the husband of my sister. I wrote “allowed,” but better words would be, ‘OK with,’ as I don’t think he would have accepted NO as a response from me. 🙂

But Lenny became the de facto kitchen manager, keeping everything clean and organized, even though I told him I clean as I go. He just smiled and kept doing his thing. I had only two choices, to freak out or just accept his help graciously. He later carved not the one turkey, but both, yes, two turkeys. I wanted everyone to have leftovers. The next day there were leftovers. Then our sister made incredible soup. Yesterday, she made Shepherds pie with all that was left. This all as she wrote was, the turkeys’, “delicious history.”

The first of 2 turkeys, the beginning of its "delicious history"

The first of 2 turkeys, the beginning of its “delicious history”

A couple of people came around the corner and asked if they could help me do anything. I kept my peace and politely said no. Then they proceeded to just have a conversation in the kitchen while I was cooking. I had to laugh because, I was totally OK with this. Then I discovered, I was not playing the music in the background. Still, I was OK. Later, I found out that one of the ladies that had asked me if she could help, has great difficulty in staying out of the kitchen because, she loves to cook too.

Say what? Tree people in my kitchen away from kitchen? :)

Say what? Three people in my kitchen away from kitchen? 🙂

I gathered everyone in the living room and made an announcement. It was something new to me and I was going to give it a try. I asked anyone that wanted to help, to help me!!! OMG was this a big deal to me, huge! It’s not so much that I was a control freak, but I suppose I was. Everything has to look good, be hot and served at the same time. It has to smell good, taste good, rekindle fond memories and promote good conversation before during and after. There is a reason for everything I try to do. It’s a lot of work and I take it seriously. So, instead of doing everything myself as I’ve done for years, now I was going to allows others in. How was I going to pull this off?

I have everything any chef in the world has, except for the paper, the certificate from a culinary institute. I am confident in my ability. I have cooked and prepared this menu countless times for countless people and have perfected my own recipes as much as a perfectly imperfect being can perfect anything. Still, I brought my own notebook of my recipes. I had previewed this not-my-kitchen and knew where everything was. I was set and nothing was left to chance. I was prepared, for any unforeseen thing.

I am not about praise! I am results oriented and happy to be in the background, to work behind the scenes and to SERVE and spatter joy! But others wanted to do the same thing. I just wasn’t until this moment sure, who would be found in the kitchen, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Well, I opened the front door and kicked Mr. Hyde in the rear and out, never to return again! No matter how great the conductor, it’s all about the music. One can conduct all day long, but people want to see the musicians play and hear the music swell. Other people wanted to spatter joy too!

Our Table

Our Table – Japanese theme plates, Christmas Tree folded napkins, Chrisitmas Tree butter pats and even a nice warm crackling fire on TV in the background 🙂

Christmas tree napkin folding was done by my wife Susan and Quin, the mother of the husband of my niece. My sister peeled and mashed and made the potatoes. Others set out the pre-made Christmas Tree pats of butter I made and brought and they set and decorated the table.
Everything was being taken care of, lovingly, graciously and happily! As I watched, there was no classical music playing. I was watching a beautiful symphony played out on their faces and by their hands of service and all before my ears. And the finale?

Comments from those that did not like turkey was, “I loved it” and “it was good.” A comment from one that did not like dressing or stuffing was, “I loved it.” Other comments were, “the Best Christmas Ever!” For myself personally, this was the best meal I have ever HELPED to prepare and have so thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish! This is HOW to cook! Spatter Joy!

Though I have tried to source the following quote and I believe its origin was Ralph Waldo Emerson, I have not been able to corroborate it. But it fits here.

“A true man (or woman) is absolutely confident in their own inspiration (or ability).”

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Now, I have not only permanently kicked out Mr. Hyde from my kitchen, and now understand, not only the science and art of cooking, but the heart. Now, I can honestly teach others not only how to cook 5 star culinary delights— anyplace and at anytime, but NOW, I can show HOW it can all be enjoyed from start to finish! I highly recommend a movie we watched in Ohio, ‘The 100 Foot Journey’

How was your December? Mine was just getting started! The draw of the figurative centerpiece of all the festivities was a brand new baby boy, born on December 19th, 2015. He could have been born on the 18th, but that date remains the birthday of one of our sons. And he could have been born on his due date of the 29th, but that date remains our brother’s birthday. So each have their day and were born precisely, right on time. But this brand new little baby boy, named Joshua, is the first and only Great Nephew to my brother and I. He is our sister’s first and only grandson and grandchild. Babies draw people together.

Proud papa and baby Joshua in his camo outfit

Proud papa and baby Joshua in his camo outfit

My sister and her husband came from Raleigh, NC. My wife and I came from NY. My brother and his wife came from IL. We three all, came to Ohio and at different times of arrival. That’s a big deal. There were long drive times, costs and other matters involved for all of us to get there and I for one, am deeply appreciative and will forever appreciate their efforts! For myself, I only could get in three hours of sleep before we made the (2nd) 7 hour trip to Ohio. One has to stay awake somehow! Well, I am a mischief magnet, TRE (a Target Rich Environment), a silly man, an Unky (uncle), a Gunky (great uncle) and probably only about, fo-yeer-ohd (four years old). 🙂

Chef Dah-nay from Paris/Macedon, NY in his Red silicone spill-stopper beret :)

Chef Donnie-nay from Paris 🙂 OK, Macedon, NY, in his Red silicone spill-stopper beret 🙂

Me and My Minion

Me and My Minion

My Minion from Joshua

My Minion from Joshua

My parking ticket in this life has been validated and acknowledged, revealing in a comment, “the secret to my success.” A single image and a quote confirms this—

Silliness

And just so you do not misunderstand, it is confirmed again by a single video—

Dancing with Dahni

If it’s still not clear, try this—

“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Oh, but there’s more, much more. And if you think this is about me, or my family or December or the holidays, keep reading my friend, KEEP READING!

On December 29th, 2015, we took my brother and his wife out to dinner and our family treated them, to celebrate his birthday.

From left to right Baby Joshua, Daddy Larry, Mommy Sierra Lee, Nanny Grandmother Carol Lee, Popi Grandfather Lenny, Susan Great Aunt, Donnie Great Uncle, Susan Great Aunt and sitting on the floor, brother Richard Great Uncle and birthday boy

From left to right:
Baby Joshua, Daddy Larry, Mommy Sierra Lee, Nanny Grandmother Carol Lee, Popi Grandfather Lenny, Susan Great Aunt, Donnie Great Uncle, Susan Great Aunt and sitting on the floor, brother Richard, Great Uncle and birthday boy. 🙂

All these many events culminated with something that has not occurred in some thirty+ years around the holidays. Our brother, and sister and I were all together, TOGETHER!

Richard, Carol Lee and Donnie

Richard, Carol Lee and Donnie

The craziness, silliness and love and heart remains after all these years and though the time was short, it was FULL and it was as if, we never missed a single beat.

So, as this month and this year comes to a close, I will raise a glass to our grandparents, Lilian & Stanley, Papa & Nanny, all our ancestors before them and to our parents Calvin and Jean, from which all those we have been touched by and whose lives we touch, has been made possible!

And this is the purpose of the Gathering Place. Though it is our home, we were not here, we were in Ohio. The Gathering place is not just a place, it is a heartbeat, where ever and with whomever it may beat. Though many could not be there with us and many had not the same kind of December or year as we have and many suffer, this is how life is supposed to be, should be and for us, it was, it really, really was this way! So, much has spilled over, into so many, many lives.

So, to you for the new year and forever, SPATTER JOY!

Scatter12

 

Dahni

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Categories: Birthday, Cooking, Family & Friends, Food, Holidays, Inspiration, Life, Live Laugh Love, Love, New Year's Day, New Year's Eve, Spatter Joy, The 100 Foot Journey, The Gathering Place, Things that really matter, Toast this Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Turkey

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by Dahni

© 2015, all rights reserved

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For me, turkey at both Thanksgiving and Christmas is just something that I do. It was our family tradition. Then, after I was grown and on my own, I realized one day, it was not about the turkey, it was everything else that went with it that made it special. Besides smoked turkey or fine deli sliced turkey like you get from the store or that is pre-packaged in the meat section, I cannot say that I was ever particularly fond of turkey! It is doubtful that I would ever roast a turkey at any other times than for these two holidays – until NOW!

I once wrapped a turkey with pastry dough and it was pretty good. I have stuffed one once and will not do that again. For one thing, I like dressing or stuffing and I have never seen a turkey cavity big enough, to make enough for my liking. For another, once you stuff a turkey, it is likely to spoil much more quickly than if not stuffed. So, after the meal, you really need to cut and remove all the meat from the bones as is possible and/or boil the carcass for soup stock etc. Leftovers are good too!

I have tried all manner of turkey – fresh, adult, wild turkey, smoked, deep fried and frozen. For consistency, I have mostly, always relied on frozen ‘young’ turkey from the Butterball® brand.

If you try the recipe to follow, I will venture to say that there will be those that do not usually like roast turkey that will like this!!! For me, it is mouth watering and flavorful throughout, even the dark meat and I generally do not eat dark meat. It is juicy and tender and so tender in fact, the meat nearly fell off the bone. Pulling the remaining meat from the bone after dinner was the easiest I have ever experienced. The secrets are the salt (which tenderizes the meat), lemon (adds moisture and flavor), rosemary (adds flavor) and the last secret to tender turkey is, slow-cooking.

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Dahni’s Roasted Turkey Dinner (cont.)

Rosemary Citrus Salt:

• 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary leaves chopped (fresh is more expensive, but worth the extra expense)
• 2 tablespoons of lemon zest (remove zest from 1 lemon see: lemon under Turkey below)
• ½ cup of coarse salt (use coarse salt substitute if desired and if you can find it)
• ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

1. Combine rosemary, lemon zest and salt in small bowl
2. pour olive oil into separate small bowl

Turkey
• 13-18 lb. whole young turkey (mine was around 13 pounds)
• 2 large carrots cut lengthwise
• 2 celery stalks cut lengthwise
• 1-4 springs of fresh rosemary (I used 1 sprig about 6” long)
• 1 lemon (zest has been removed = about 2 tablespoons for your salt rub above) cut lemon in half

Note: So your guests don’t have to fight over the drumsticks, you could vary this recipe with (2) smaller turkeys or even (2) 8-10 pound chickens, but add another ¼ cup of olive oil and more springs of Rosemary and another lemon cut in half (one for each turkey/chicken).

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 325° F.
2. Remove giblets and neck from both sides of turkey cavities and set aside in a large size pan on the stove
3. Thoroughly rinse and pat dry turkey inside and out.
4. Coat outside of turkey and inside with the olive oil (there will be some left in the bowl when you are done) Look for and use culinary disposable gloves to keep your hands from getting oily and prevent any transfer of plastic taste which can happen with ordinary disposable gloves.
5. Place the 2 halves of one lemon into the breast cavity of the turkey.
6. Place fresh rosemary sprigs into the breast cavity of the turkey
7. Season the outside of your turkey with the rosemary citrus salt, pressing it in to adhere.
8. Lightly spray cooking spray on the bottom of your roasting pan (I used Pam® brand olive oil spray
9. Arrange halved carrots and celery on the bottom of your roasting pan to set the turkey so that the bottom of the turkey does not touch the bottom of your pan.
10. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the outside of your turkey.
11. Lightly spray cooking spray (Pam® brand olive oil spray) on the interior side of enough foil to completely cover the turkey.
12. Completely cover turkey with foil and wrap the edges. Note this is not a ‘tent’ it is a cover.

Note: If using a foil roasting pan, you might want to place a pan underneath just in case it leaks to catch the drippings. Or, just put one disposable aluminum pan into another. Why? Because 9 out of 10 times, one of the pans will have a small hole in it. Use one pan and the juice could leak out into your oven and cause smoke. Use two pans and this won’t generally happen. I suppose both pans could have holes, but it’s not likely. It like the adage, if you don’t use two, you’ll need them. If you use two, you probably won’t!  🙂

13. Place covered turkey into pre-heated oven.
14. Set timer for 90 minutes. When timer goes off, uncover and remove as much of the drippings as possible and place in a bowl to add to dressing and/or gravy. (this is very salty so use sparingly)
15. Re-cover turkey and set timer for another 90 minutes.
16. Re-check turkey and remove as much of the juice as possible for your dressing/gravy. Test interior temperature of turkey with a meat thermometer. When it reads 165° F. it is done. Mine needed another ½ hour.
17. The last 15 minutes of your cooking time, raise your oven temperature to 425° F. and remove the foil covering so the top browns.
18. After 15 minutes, re-check the interior temp. with a meat thermometer. When it reads 165° F. it is done.
19. Remove turkey from oven and allow to ‘rest’ for about 15 minutes before carving. While turkey is resting you can finish making your gravy.
Cooking time is 3 – 3 ½ hours at 325° F. I used 3 ½ hours for a 13 pound turkey. (For the correct amount of cooking time based on the pounds of turkey, just follow the instructions included with every Butterball® brand turkey.) The last 15 minutes uncover the turkey and raise the temp. to 425° F. to brown top. Remove from oven and allow to ‘rest’ about 15 minutes before carving. You can vary this recipe by doubling the ingredients for say a 20-30 lb. turkey and so on. After you first place the oven into the oven to cook, you can work on the first part of your gravy and on the dressing or stuffing.

Gravy

• 2 small onions peeled and quartered
• 2 carrots cut in half
• 2 celery stalks cut in half (use the leaves as this makes the broth more flavorful)
• 2 quarts of chicken stock, broth or even bullion cubes/granules with a quart of water is fine (non salted stock is preferred)
• ¾ cup of unsalted butter
• ¾ cut of all purpose flour

Directions:

1. Into a large size pan on the stove, place turkey giblets and neck.
2. Add carrots, celery and onion.
3. Pour 1 quart of chicken stock or broth over this.
4. Bring to a boil over high heat.
5. Once it boils, reduce temp. and simmer until it cooks down to about 2 cups.
6. Turn off heat, strain and set aside. You will use this liquid later when your turkey has finished cooking and is ‘resting.’
7. While turkey is resting, place a small skillet on the stove.
8. Melt ¾ cup of unsalted butter (1 stick), in a pan on medium heat.
9. Slowly add ¾ cup of all-purpose flour.
10. Whisk over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until a smooth blond colored mixture (rue) is formed.
11. Add mixture to your reserved strained turkey mixture that you set aside on stove.
12. Add 1 quart of chicken stock or broth and pan juices.
13. Bring to a boil over high heat and let simmer until thickened and ready to serve. Season to taste. ENJOY NO LUMP DELICIOUS GRAVY!

Dressing or Stuffing:

• Chicken stock or broth as needed to moisten bread
• Turkey pan drippings as desired and needed for flavor and moisture
• ½ to 1 stick of unsalted butter melted.
• 1 large white onion diced.
• 3-4 celery stalks diced (use celery leaves if you like, but I prefer not to)
• 2 loaves of white bread – open the bag and leave the bread in the bag stacked over so that air can pass over the tops – 1-2 days before, to dry the bread.
• 1 loaf of wheat bread – open the bag and leave the bread in the bag stacked over so that air can pass over the tops – 1-2 days before to dry the bread.
• 1 box of Jiffy® brand corn bread mix.
• Seasonings to taste – I just remember the line from the Simon & Garfunkel song and use: “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.”  🙂
• Salt and pepper to taste.

Note: Remember, your turkey pan drippings will have salt from the Citrus Rosemary Salt mixture so take care when adding more salt. Some people add dried cranberries and/or chopped walnuts to their dressing and I have heard it is really good. Adding apple and mild sausage to your dressing is also, excellent. Some people like oyster dressing, but I do not. I have tried adding roasted chestnuts once, but did not like the texture of the chestnuts, so I do not recommend this. To each their own, but the mix of white bread, wheat and cornbread really makes this special!

Directions:

1. Prepare and cook corn bread as directed on the Jiffy® brand corn bread mix. Prepare this the day before you need it and leave it out to dry.
2. Gently tear bread into pieces. I remove most, but not all the crusts as I believe too much crust makes the dressing or stuffing too tough.
3. Crumble corn bread and add to bread crumbs
4. Mix bread crumbs and corn bread together in large bowl.
5. Sauté diced onions and celery with butter on stove, on medium heat until the most of the water cooks down from the vegetables.
6. Pour sautéed vegetables over your bread crumbs and cornbread.
7. Add some chicken broth and pan juices as needed.
8. Add your dry seasonings (“Parsley – Sage – Rosemary and Thyme”) and salt and pepper to taste.

Note: Remember, your turkey pan drippings will have salt from the Citrus Rosemary Salt mixture so take care when adding more salt.

9. Mix dressing/stuffing until well combined and taste. To your liking, add whatever you think it needs.
10. Transfer stuffing to a lightly pre-sprayed (cooking spray), long rectangular shaped Pyrex, glass or metal deep pan.
11. Cover with foil.
12. Place the dressing into a pre-heated oven.

Note cooking time will vary depending on how and when you cook your dressing. If space and ovens are minimal, you can always make this ahead of time without pan drippings and then just heat it up later to be served when everything else is ready. If you are fortunate to have two ovens or a double oven, cook at 350° F. for around 45 minutes to one hour. The last 15 minutes of your cooking time, raise the oven temp to 425° F. to just lightly brown the top. For mine, I placed the covered dressing/stuffing into the same oven next to the turkey in the oven at 325° F., 1 hour before the turkey was uncovered and the temp was raised to 425° F. for the last 15 minutes. It was perfect!

End Notes:

The recipes used have been tested with many people and even those that do NOT like turkey. All have wholeheartedly agreed that this is the best turkey they have ever eaten! This is not to be braggadocious, but so you may be confident, your guests will say the same thing about your turkey dinner!

These recipes have often been requested, for me to make them and for others to make them, themselves. It will warm your heart when people ask you, “Would you please make your turkey,” or “Could I PLEASE have your turkey dinner recipes!”

I do not mind sharing them with those that ask, but please remember, these are just some of the featured recipes of my not yet published book, ‘The Gathering Place’ (Holidays & Special Occasions Entertaining). Please do NOT share them with others without my permission. They are copyrighted and unless I have given you specific permission to use them and share them, would make anyone in violation of Copyright infringement.
Once ‘The Gathering Place’ is published, it is my heart’s desire that anyone will be able to prepare, cook, present and serve 5 star restaurant quality food and ambience, for all holidays and special occasions entertaining at home, for their family and guests!

Again, please honor my request and not share these recipes with anyone, without my permission. You do have my permission to use these for yourself! For additional permission, email me: dahni1@gmail.com

Here is a PDF file of these recipes you may freely download.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Dahni

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By Dahni & I-Magine

©️ 2018, all rights reserved

From my Work in Progress: ‘The Gathering Place Cook Book’, under the category of:
Holidays & Special Occasions Entertaining, by Dahni © 2013-2015, all rights reserved

Categories: Cooking, Food, Holidays, Homeward Bound, Ideas, Inspiration, Pursuit of Happiness, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Thrill of the First Grill

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

 

Well, today at The Gathering Place, we’re cooking. Yes, this post is abut the ‘thrill of the first grill,’ of the season.

Fresh from sleep ( I think the jet lag is over) and fresh with inspiration from our recent travels to Japan and Australia, we’re cooking up a storm!

Let me first explain the word ‘”storm.” It has been literally “storming” here recently. We have had quite a bit of rain and the temperature dropped dramatically. I’m not complaining, just explaining, for up here on the hill, we have fared better than some that have gone through a lot of flooding and damage. “Storm,” “Stormy” and “bad weather,” can be used and are used here, figuratively.

About a week before we left Australia (OZ-tralia), my wife Susan, was suffering from pain in her right leg. We thought it was just muscular or something like that from the much walking we have done these last couple of months. The day after we got home, I drove her to the doctor. A ultrasound revealed that she has a blood clot in her leg. Rather than go into details, let me just say that she is doing better, but has to take it easy. Now “easy” to you might be easy to you, but not to Susan. She has plenty to do that she both wants to do and needs to do. So, it’s not “easy,” it is scary, different, frustrating and kind of stormy here, at the Gathering Place.

There were things, important things we missed while gone. For one, our only granddaughter has a mouthful of teeth, is walking and is keeping up with and will be soon the boss of her two older, fraternal twin brothers. There’s graduations, birthdays and even a wedding coming up. I’ve painting to do, grass to grow, a yard sale to plan and implement so, we can get rid of this huge pod in our driveway and have a full driveway again. And there has been the loss of a dear family member and the daughter of two of our other dear friends.

We’ve gone through all the mail and junk mail. We’ve a lot of catch-up to catch-up on, about many things. You leave for a couple of months and when you get back, everything you left is still here and more and less. Susan is retired. Me? I only know that we were tired while traveling; tired from traveling and when we got home as we still are, we’re re-tired! 🙂

Sometimes, we just don’t realize how good people are at what they do until, we have to step in and try to do, what they do. Susan is the shopper, the meal planner, daily cook and specialty cook too. I could go on and on about what she does, but the point is, for the present and for an indeterminate period of time, I have to step in and step up. Not complaining just explaining.

Me? Oh, I am a trained gourmet chef. I know how to shop for the best and how to prepare the best. Blah, blah, blah, you want to know what I really am, I ‘m just a show-off chef. I’m the guy you want to have prepare feasts, special occasions, holiday meals and fancy dinners for 100’s of guests! I’m not boasting, that’s a fact Jack (or Jill or whatever pray tell, your name is. 🙂

But there is a whole bunch of differences between what I do and what a daily good cook, like my wife Susan, has done for years. Like what, like feeding a family on a budget, coupon collecting, best-deal detective-ing, and with grace under pressure, adding variety and all, with delicious and nutritious food, day in and day out, 450 days a year (extra days for extra people that often show up extra-ordinarily).

Oh sure, I used to know grams and milliliters. I’ve had a lot of experience with healthy food and shopping on a budget. But that was then and this is now. Like the saying goes, “use it or lose it.”

Well, if I am such an experienced chef with all this training, why have you never heard of me? Why am I not a successful chef and restaurateur with a whole bunch of the famed culinary and prestigious, Michelin Stars, associated with my work? The short answer is, I can’t handle the pressure! But also, I cannot stand to cook the same stuff over and over again, day in and day out! Food is either just something I HAVE to eat, when I’m doing something else that I deem more important, but my stomach won’t shut up until I cram something down my throat. Thank God I married Susan because, at least her food is delicious, balanced, and nutritious! If I just had to feed me, I’d either sort-of-starve, which really means, I gain weight or just eat junk which means, I gain weight. PROVE THIS TO YOURSELVES FOLKS! If you, would just eat three balanced meals a day at the same times and you do NOTHING else, I guarantee you will lose weight! You can even eat my food, BUT NOT A LOT OF IT, ALL THE TIME; EVERY DAY!

I love to cook. I love to cook for others. But in the kitchen, I AM INTENSE! I would NOT want to work for me or with me in the kitchen! I don’t know many chefs that I would want to be like. Many of them are just jerks, bossy-expletive-flinging dictators. And this is another reason I do not cook professionally. Not cooking professionally just means, I am not paid. I am a professional in all other senses of the word. I clean as I go. I cannot stand a messy kitchen!!! Besides, in a restaurant, the person that cleans the dishes is called a dishwasher, not the kitchen-washer or the kitchen cleaner. That’s my job and especially here recently. We have a mechanical/digital dishwasher and we have me, the hand dishwasher, while Susan rests, takes it easy and keeps her feet elevated.

My new roles are: nurse, caregiver, cooking, cleaning, shopping and many other things of which Susan, used to do a lot of these and much, much more.

Me shopping? By myself? Even with a list? Whew, what else do I bring home? How much more do I spend? To be fair to me, from my recent shopping trip, I did think in terms of extra stuff to prepare ahead of time, meals were planned and I purchased extra stuff to have on hand (in the refrigerator and freezer, on the shelves and in the pantry), just for you, when you stop by say on a moment’s notice or just to have extra if you stop by unannounced and we were just sitting down to eat. You are always welcome here though, by the way!

But OMG (Oh my God), we are going to eat well, I’m just not sure how well we will be eating or how well we’ll stay. 🙂  Here’s some clues – French, Italian, cream, butter, sugar, and salt and etc.. Am I communicating? Well, have you ever noticed that many of the people from France and Italy are not overweight, seem fit, firm, frisky, and fabulously, full of fun from food? They eat this way and probably, most of the time. Their secrets are balance, variety, the contrasts, lots of food, but smaller portions. As the saying goes, “a little bit goes a long way.” And there are three other secrets. A little wine with your meal is good for the digestion. I do apologize to those that do not partake of alcohol, but this is a proven fact. Wine aide in digestion, has antioxidants and some stuff in it (red wine has more) that has been shown to prolong life at healthier levels.

Many of the French and Italians take their time to prepare and to enjoy their food. This also aides in digestions and if you are really and truly satisfied, you will actually eat less. The last secret is the quality of the food, the fresher the better. In Japan and in Australia, many people shop, every day. In the USA, we often just buy stuff on sale and cram it all in our huge refrigerators, freezers and if we have them, the extra fridges and freezers. In the USA, we have a lot of OVER-processed, over-sugared, fat-stuff that has a lot of empty calories, chemicals and stuff our bodies can’t use much of, get rid of and promote cravings and get stored as fat.  If you think about it, it is very simple to understand. Every calorie gets used, it’s burnt up through exercise or it gets stored as fat. And this is still true, no matter how old I’m getting or how slow my metabolism is becoming. Eat what you love and love what you eat, just so long as what you love to eat does NOT, end up eating up, your life!

I do not like sleeping and I don’t like eating. But when I have to sleep and it’s needed and restful, I sometimes love it and I love eating exciting food! I love to cook. It’s fun! I love to cook for people. But I’m not real good at hosting, or keeping good conversation going, if I’m cooking. Oh, I’m OK if there is just one, two or a few people present. But more than a few, I can be really shy. I’d rather be behind the scenes watching you have a good time, watching and listening to what you have to say. I keep busy in the kitchen and even though I really do want you here, this is the only way I can handle crowds. It’s OK, go see Susan, she’ll talk to you and make you always feel, right at home!

Hey, wait a minute. I thought this post was supposed to be about the, ‘Thrill of the First Grill?’ It is, I’m getting to it!  I have written all of this in the hope that you can relate and or find it helpful, if not now, perhaps sometime in the future. And it is all in keeping with the vision of, The Gathering Place, our home, this post, and this blog, YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME! We gather together to share. I’m about to share some more and it’s about food; about the ‘Thrill of the First Grill,’ of the season.

Food is like art to me and well, I am a food artist. Food has to smell incredible, taste fantastic and be presented beautifully. Besides the joy this gives to our palette and how it excites our taste buds, all of this actually, aides in digestion. Why settle for something ordinary when just a little extra, can make it extra-ordinary!

Today, I made some heart shaped ginger sugar cubes, for what I call, Gingepagne (Ginger + Champagne). About three little mini heart sugar cubes into each glass of champagne. Made these to have on hand. Tasted delicious, but no champagne on hand to try, but I’ve had something similar (a taste) while we were in Australia (OZ-tralia) and it is wonderful. While making this, I also made fresh ginger syrup or ginger beer. Stored it in the refrigerator to have on hand for my ginger drinks. I have been working on my recipes for ‘Dark & Stormy’ (with rum), Moscow Mule (with vodka), Gin Gin Mule (with gin), Kentucky Mule (with Bourbon) and Scotch Mule (with Scotch). These all use pretty much the same ingredients (ginger syrup, ginger beer, and lime. The only thing different is pretty much the type of alcohol (spirits), the type of glass they are served in and the way they are garnished. Today, I made Gin Gin Mules for the Mrs. and me. They were incredible, especially since I used the fresh ginger syrup. Tomorrow, I’ll try the Scotch Mule.

Got everything together to make fresh, raw beets and horseradish mix. This is great on kielbasa, sandwiches and salads. You can’t get this any better or fresher than making it yourself. Just remember to peel the root and beets, use a food processor, but especially don’t forget to wear rubber gloves (no purple fingers from the beet juice) and a face mask so you don’t fall over and cry like a baby from the horseradish fumes! Hmm, could I possibly know what I’m talking about?! 🙂

Got everything to make my smoked fish dip. Will finish this tomorrow.

Well, you certainly can’t live off of sugar cubes, ginger juice and drinks! No you can’t, but you can LIVE with them when they are a part of your whole Gathering Together! I’m getting to the meal. Actually, I’ll be closing this out with four pictures. As we’ve heard many times, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Surely I must be over halfway of that in words? So maybe my pictures are only worth around 500 words. Sorry, but I won’t try harder, just to try your patience more. 🙂

With the pictures, I will give you some idea how to make what they show. But for more information, details, ingredients and recipes, you will just have to wait until I finish the cookbook I have been working on for some time. It’s title is:

t

The Gathering Place

Holidays & Special Occasions Entertaining

 

When finished, this will be loaded with pictures, recipes cards for handy reference and everything necessary to plan, prepare and present incredible and exciting food for all your special occasions. This will include breakfast, lunch, dinner, deserts, beverages, entrees, soups, sauces, salads, bread, rolls and a fool-proof flaky-tasty every time, yummy pie crust.

it also will include plating, garnish and decorating and anything else I may not have thought of yet. All of the food and everything in it has been tried and trued, tested and proved by many, to be all and more I say it is. Why settle for or take your family, friends and guests to a five star restaurant, when they can experience the intimacy and the personal touch of a ten star restaurant at your home, where the food is all made by you! You know, “there’s no place like home!” Well why not add to this, the best feast that can be had anywhere!!

OK, along with everything else done today, we had to eat. Today it was fish. The name of the fish is simply, Cobia. It was farm raised in Panama. Around $12 dollar for two fresh and more than ample size fillets.

Cobia is also called – black kingfish, black salmon, ling, lemonfish, crabeater, prodigal son and aruan tasek. I like the ‘prodigal son.’ The bible story, from where this comes from in part is, about a man that leaves home with all his inheritance and blows it all. He has no choice, but to come home and even beg to be a servant, just so he can survive. But his father sees him approaching from a distance and prepare a huge feast because, he is so happy that his son has come home. The corbia fish I prepared was so delicious, I have decided to call this meal, ‘The Prodigal Son.’ Why you might ask, because, if you prepare this for those that love fish, they will “return.”

“Cobia is a relatively high priced fish and is sought after,  for its firm texture and excellent flavor. The flesh is usually sold fresh. It is typically served in the form of grilled or poached fillets. Chefs Jamie Oliver and Mario Batali each cooked several dishes made with cobia in the “Battle Cobia” episode of the Food Network program Iron Chef America, which first aired in January, 2008. Thomas Keller’s restaurant, The French Laundry, has offered cobia on its tasting menu.”

 excerpts from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobia

 

‘Thrill of the First Grill,’ of the season.

 

‘The Prodigal Son’

Grilled Cobia

 

I cleaned our propane gas grill and set the temperature to around medium to low. Garlic and herb basting oil was brushed on top, bottom and all sides of both fillets. Lay fish horizontally on the grill. Cook around 2 minutes, then flip over with a spatula, for another 2 minutes. Recoat fish with the basting oil, each time you turn it over. After both sides have cooked each for two minutes, flip again only this time, turn the fillets vertically so grill marks will show up as a square or diamond pattern when finished. It looks nice! Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, the last two times you grill the fillets. Remember to keep basting. Total cook time is around 8 minutes. We were having rice and if you have a rice cooker, it takes about 15 minutes to cook, so plan accordingly so everything is done at the same time. And while you are waiting…

Thrill of the First Grill

Thrill of the First Grill

…hey, what’s in that glass to the left of the grill by the spatula? By the way, the plate to the right with a fork and the yellow basting brush, started with around 3-4 tablespoons of garlic & herb basting oil. Get from any store or make your own! Anyway, what’s in that glass?

Gin Gin Mule

Gin Gin Mule

Gin, fresh made ginger syrup, ginger beer, lime, and crushed ice in a pretty glass with a lime garnish. It was supposed to have a little muddled fresh mint, garnish of a sprig of fresh mint and a chip of crystallized ginger. OK, I like ginger, alright? Well. I forgot to get the mint at the store and I almost forgot the piece of crystallized ginger for garnish, but it got in there! 🙂

Close up of grill marked fish fillets turned once. Repeat second time, turning fillets, the opposite direction.

Close up of grill marked fish fillets turned once. Repeat second time, turning fillets, the opposite direction.

Prepared a fresh salad with veggies and fresh ripe avocado. Sprinkled with feta cheese. I used light sesame seed and ginger salad dressing because, OK I like ginger. I’m not sure what Susan used?

Rice was just plain white rice. Just Plain white rice can be quite boring. I sprinkled ours with a little Japanese rice seasoning, to really make it pop or as chef Emeril Lagasse says, to make it, “BAM!” Find some seasoning you really like and with even just plain O’ white rice, it will NEVER be, “plain O,” again!

Arrange a couple of fresh raspberries for tartness and color, along with a nice piece of honeydew melon. I cut off about 1/4 of a ripe banana and removed it’s peel. I stuck a chopstick up into the center of the banana (side that was cut from the rest of the banana). I used the chopstick to hold the banana piece in one hand. With my other hand and with a butane, long fire starter, I torched (lightly blackened) the banana to add smokiness and a nice color. By the way, you can grill a whole banana in its peel and these are wonderful. I Removed the chopstick and cut the banana piece lengthwise and put one per plate by the honeydew melon. I sprinkled a little bit of cinnamon on all of the fruit. Next, I squeezed some fresh lime over the fruit. By the way, just honeydew melon with lime juice alone, is like a marriage made in heaven! If you have not tried this, do your ‘buds’ (taste buds) a favor and try it! Last, I squeezed lime over the fish and twisted the peel and laid it over each fillet. Dinner was DELICIOUS!!!

We had some leftover rice so for desert, I made some fresh rice pudding. I added a little bit of coconut milk to the rice, a little cinnamon and maple syrup to taste. I whisked about 3 table spoons of heavy cream with a pinch of Xanthan gum to thicken. Using two small ceramic custard dishes, I spooned the pudding into them and placed two red raspberries for contrast, tartness and color. Last, I added a little dollop of  whipped cream, and we added our lips and gums and then delicious, here it comes! 🙂

Leftover pudding was placed into a covered plastic container in the refrigerator to have again and again until we run out or I make more. Try this meal.You and all that like fish will say, WOW!

CobiaDinner2_med

Completed Meal – The Prodigal Son (or Daughter) 🙂

Tomorrow (Today), we’re doing: grass seed, taxes, steak au poivre, spaghetti carbonara, grilling ‘white hots’ and corn on the BBQ, making more sugar cubes, making fresh beets and horseradish mix, Scotch Mules, smoked fish dip or whatever my boss Susan, tells me! 🙂

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