Posts Tagged With: cooking



Instead of a full house at Thanksgiving, we managed a small gathering with seven people- our  hosts, Virginia and Cedric. Their son, Owen, is visiting Greece with his Grandma Olga, who speaks Greek and Russian. They canceled the Russian part of their trip due to the unrest in that country. I brought avocados and gumbo. Theo is the family expert on guacamole, so he immediately set to work.  I find it hard to believe that he got taller than me since the last time I saw him.


Virginia put him to work, cutting the ends of the fresh green beans.


Doug claims mashed potatoes and gravy is the best part of the feast. He brought two ten pound bags of potatoes and Cedric cheerfully peeled all twenty pounds of potatoes. The first batch is ready to cook.


The second batch waits in a large kettle for space on the stove top. Doug also brought gobs of cookies-his specialty-and a to-die-for lasagna. I filled a container to bring some home and dang, it got left behind.


Traditional turkey, smaller, and cooked split down the middle and flattened. A new method. The turkey cooks quicker and more evenly with breast not drying out by the time the legs are cooked. That also meant giving up the traditional stuffing. No one seemed to miss it.


Cedric made gravy by roasting vegetables, onion, carrot, parsnips, mushrooms, and celery. The veggies were yummy and so was the gravy, mixed with the liquid from boiled giblets and de-glazed drippings from the turkey pan. I don’t think Cedric left the kitchen at all until it was time to eat.


The guests were having a good time while all this work was going on. I taught Theo how to play cribbage and he beat me in a tight finish. Doug and I played Cribbage, cutthroat style.  There was a game of liars dice going around. My brother Norman watched and snacked.



Jim was waiting for his turn, a challenge issued for a four-way game, Doug and Theo, he and I.  All too soon, it was time to skype Laurie, Ken and Mason.  Thanksgiving in their new house was downsized as well with just the three of them.  And Kristanne was alone in Las Vegas.  Her boys and their father are off to Idaho visiting their other grandmother. We could only hear her on the skype. We couldn’t get an image. But, everyone will be coming to Murphys for Christmas this year, just four short weeks away.


Doug put together, “cranberry man”, which has become a tradition. He looks different every year. This is a tease because Cedric likes the old-fashioned jellied cranberry sauce over the home-made varieties most of us prefer.


Meet cranberry man 2016 with a kiwi head.


Doug traditionally carves the turkey, too.


Jim took a family picture for us. We had corn bread, gumbo, persimmon, pear and pomegranate green salad, olive rolls, stir fry garlic green beans, baked sweet potatoes, home cured olives, olive tapanade and all the aforementioned delights. I’ve probably forgotten something, but I tasted everything.  For a downsized feast, it was awesome.


Cedric made one pie. He always puts a decoration made with crust on his pies. This year, with the political situation, he made a scroll that represents the constitution with We The People engraved on the crust.

Virginia made her usual pear tart.  The dessert bar was overflowing with cookies, fudge brownies with plump fresh cranberries and candy.

Giving thanks for the good things of 2016, cherishing family and good health,  the predominant theme around the table. Life is good.


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DSC08099 (Copy)My sister-in-law Theresa…

DSC08092 (Copy)…and brother Clark hosted a Mother’s Day bash. Clark is a genius at the barbeque with ham, tri-tip and chicken and sweet potatoes.

DSC08095 (Copy)And Theresa’s siblings and daughters, like her are good cooks. My injured arm limits my typing, so I’ll post some pictures of the turnout.

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DSC08106 (Copy)The food was exceptional and since I can’t cook very well, I went home with Doggie Bags. And all mothers took home a beautiful petunia.




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Saturday, daughter-in-law, Laurie and I walked and rode the trails of PAWS, Performing Animal Welfare Society. All of the animals that come here are in trouble, have been abused or tied up for years, confined in zoos, and so on. PAWS gives the animals freedom near the end of their lives. It is a great charity. The sad part is how awful some of them have been treated before they arrive at PAWS. Tigers, a black leopard, and lions, were off somewhere in the bushes and trees enjoying their freedom and space except this barely visible lion who took a liking to a nap on a platform next to the fence.

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We saw four active  Black Bears. They have red or black fur.DSC06775 (Copy)

Protective fencing makes it tough to photograph them. The camera wants to focus on the fence.

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Laurie is an elephant lover and has never touched one and felt their leathery skin. She has a vast collection of elephant items that started when she was in grammar school. She hopes someday to ride an elephant. It is pleasant to view them out in the open enjoying a spacious range. PAWS has 2300 acres for the animals to roam.

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This is Nikolaus, a young bull. PAWS is the only sanctuary to take bull elephants.

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He wanted to be playful and stay where all of us were gathered. DSC06791 (Copy)

He rested his heavy trunk on the bars and seemed to say, “Isn’t anybody gonna throw me a carrot?”

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We bused past Asian elephants grazing in a flower filled field.

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These two African Elephants rummaging for something good to eat next to an oak snag. rDSC06827 (Copy)

A couple of females were grabbing everyone’s attention as they staged themselves by the fence close to a road stop.

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They came from a performing background and were obviously begging for goodies, though no one but staff is allowed to feed them anything. One kept tooting funky elephant calls with her trunk, and tossing dust over her head. The other would crowd the fence, step on the steel cord as though to say, “I could bust through this flimsy fence if I wanted too.”

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Of course, they can’t.

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We returned to the bear sanctuary and then had lunch in town. (PAWS is located in San Andreas.) If you plan to attend an event, contact them through their website and read the stories and see good pictures at this link. It was a fun time in on a nice day at PAWS.

Sunday, Mother’s Day, Laurie and Ken hosted a salad lunch and dessert.

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Laurie is a stellar cook and loves to try new recipes. The salads were varied and different. She made deviled eggs with avocado as the binder instead of mayonaise. They were good. Of course, before the salads, we munched on all the snacks. Is it a habit to eat before we eat?

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Lauries’s sister, Michele brought carrot cake, Virginia made berry cobbler, and Laurie made a really good key lime pie also with avocado as part of the ingredients. Avocado makes it a healthy dessert.

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Someone took all we mother’s picture. I don’t have a clue what we were laughing about. Laurie, Michele, Virginia and Me.


Then we trooped over to my brother, Clark’s house for Mother’s Day Dinner with a whole new set of mothers. Clark, with his future Mother-in-law, Sue.


Sue’s sister, Jean.


Clark’s father-in-law to be with their daughter, Tammy.


Clark’s fiance, Theresa, on the right conferring with Laurie.


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Theresa’s daughter Courtney, with the newest member of the family,  seven month old Tyson.

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Courtney with husband Josh, the baby,  and two of the cutest sisters who dote on baby brother.  Theresa has a third daughter, Lindsey who was unable to attend. Clark has a daughter, Melissa, who lives in Texas.


Tammy’s son John, has two dogs. No kids.

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Clark allowed each woman, and the grand-daughters, to pick from the bouquets of flowers hanging on the patio covers. Cammi picked this one because it matched her dress.

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Her younger sister went for contrast, black and yellow petunias. Beautiful.

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This is the gang, but everyone moves around. Somehow, I missed Matt, Tammy’s husband. We had a good chat, though.

DSC06865 (Copy)Baby Tyson is the new apple of Grandma’s eye.

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My brother Bill and Clark live near each other, that is makes three of us in Calaveras County. We said our goodbyes, and waddled off home, each of us with a huge bouquet of Petunias. Theresa, too, is a marvelous cook and we can’t seem to help but eat. All of us decided we prefer family time to dinner in a restaurant, even if it means a lot of cooking.






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On what was supposed to be our last day at the American Legion, I mentioned that I wanted to buy some crawfish to take with me before we left crawfish territory. Mark and Marlene told us, no, you don’t want to do that, it’ll stink up your camper. You go see Cody and Leslie Newman. She called them on the phone and we went and ate crawfish and got a tour of his business and learned how it is done. Then, we got a date for the following morning to ride his boat and see how crawfish are trapped and harvested. I’m blogging the process in reverse.

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We followed Cody to his ponds. His boat is a two-man operation. Cody checks the bait tub to make sure there is plenty for your jaunt.

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This Honda motor is air-cooled, quiet and propels the lightweight boat through the shallow water without harming anything. Once the process starts, the boat doesn’t stop.

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His worker picks up the trap on the move.

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He dumps the crawfish onto the grader…

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…pushes them into the bags that hang at the end of the table, which allows the  small-sized fish fall through the bars and slide back into the pond.

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Then he re-baits the trap, and stabs it back into the pond behind the next trap he picks up. It is continuous. Dump the trap, throw out any old chewed up dead fish bait and put in new bait. Right now, Cody is using a poagie bait, a cooked product that has an attractant.  Fish are better but it takes three times the weight for the worker to bait the trap. Weight is an issue when you may have to lift three thousand pounds of fish in a days work with one arm.

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The bags hold from 30 to 35 pounds of crawfish. On a good day, he might harvest 1100 to 1200 pounds a day. In the peak of the season, they harvest every day. Every other day as the season wanes. The ponds have to be drained, dried and clean water put in between seasons. He plants rice as food tor the crawfish. He doesn’t harvest rice as some do since he works in the petroleum industry.

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He showed us his other boat. It grinds a grove into the mud and pulls the boat along. That is why they call them mudbugs.DSC03342 (Copy)

The advantage to this boat is that it can be operated by one man. The big wheel gets set in its groove and just moves along at the right pace while the driver pulls the traps, baits and sorts in the same way. The disadvantage is the damage to the pond has to be graded and repaired after using this method. Cody also mentioned that ducks ruin a crawfish pond. They kill the rice plants, decay removes oxygen the fish need,  their poop is acidic and harms the fish.  They have to fire guns to scare them away when they arrive by the thousands.

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The previous day, when we walked into his shop, Cody was taking a delivery of shad, the bait fish.

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And Cody’s mom had just delivered crawfish from her farm to the store. He buys from several other farms as well.

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The crawfish are cooked in plain water for six minutes in these big boilers. Then they are placed in hot seasoned water for 12 minutes. Cody explains that he and others in the area are the only ones who boil that way. The 12 minutes gets the seasoning into the meat. Other places around the country add seasoning on the outside of the crawfish which gets on your fingers from the shell to flavor the meat as you eat. His crawfish is mildly seasoned. If you want it hotter, he will  put it on the outside.

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This is what they look like when they come out ready to serve. At this point he will add seasoning for a customer.

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He bags and weighs the fish and put it on a platter for me.

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He taught me how to eat them. You push the tail in toward the body, and make a quarter turn.

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Then you squeeze the tail and the meat pops up and you can bite it out in one piece easily. We’ve watched people in restaurants tediously peel away the shell from the tail. Cody showed us  the proper way.  It works so well and I was so grateful to be able to eat those delicious little buggers so easily. Now, I know.

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He also gave me a taste of his specialty Cajun marinated mushrooms which were delicious as well.

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We were joined by another couple from Alaska and they told us about sucking heads, which Cody also referred to. You suck the head for the tasty juices that come out. And it is yummy. You can dig the meat out of the claws if it is a big crawfish. It took me no time to polish off three pounds of crawfish. I wish I’d bought about six pounds to go. But, it is best eaten the way it is served all over Louisiana. Freshly boiled. Thanks a million Cody!

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When Jim arranged to be near an airport I questioned Harlingen? Why drive the whole of Texas to the southernmost tip?. My weather wimp declared this is what they call Winter Texans, where retired Texans like to winter for the heat. Yesterday in the bitter cold we ventured out in the rain to visit the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Cultural Museum. And, yes, I’m poking fun at Jim about the horrible weather.


At the center, the staff was removing their Christmas Extravaganza and the museum exhibits were in temporary storage. The local organizations and businesses trim themed trees for everyone to enjoy for the season. A couple trees hadn’t been dismantled yet and the display must have been spectacular. Open for visitors were three buildings, Harlingen founder, Lon Hill’s house, Paso Real Stage Stop and the old Harlingen Hospital.


Lon Hill moved with ten wagons to this part of the world and built here and settled in and founded the town. The house above was his second house, which is open to the public.


The completely furnished house was quite beautiful.


Notes on various items were attributed to family members who donated stuff for the museum.


I was impressed with how prosperous the Hill family was, considering he was from the approximate same generation as my grandparents who struggled and worked very hard but didn’t live as sumptuously as the hills off the land. Then from one note I learned that Lon brought his slaves with him and it all became quite clear. I tend to forget that Texas was a slave state.


The curator’s told us the next cultural center exhibit would be their yearly quilt show, beginning January 16th. We will miss it, but the Hill house bedrooms had many nice quilts on view besides this crazy quilt. The house was very worth visiting and well done.


Someone rescued the school bell.


The Stage Stop had the most beautiful cash register. Makes one long for the days of such craftsmanship.


The old PBX machine reminded me of my first major job at age 17 working one not much bigger than this. The Stage Stop also served as a telegraph office and post office.


The hospital, like the house was so completely furnished, it made one think they just walked away and left everything in it. A very complete dental office above.


The color blindness test gave me a chuckle.


The eye doctor gave very simple tests, but, glasses were such a precious invention. The optician performed such a needed service for those times. And, I swear the eye chart is the same one used today.


The surgery, cribs, hospital beds, pharmacy, all so complete and well done. So often we see medical items in a museum, but the whole hospital completely furnished is an eye opener. The braces on this wall give evidence of the horrible polio epidemic that struck during my own time.

I’m beginning to rightly own the title of old-timer I suppose, though I certainly don’t feel old. The buildings were unheated and we moved through quickly and on to the grocery store to stock up on things I like to cook. (Jim is a mono eater.) But, I gotta have Greek yogurt, onions, garlic, lentils, lots of veggies and, the spinach souffle I made and the soup for today, heated up the motor home.  Tasted great.

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My daughter and her husband both love to cook. Cedric is Greek, Russian and English. His maternal grandparents were Orthodox Christians and practiced  the ritual 40 days of self examination and strict fasting before Pascha, (Easter)  to cleanse themselves in preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.  After 40 days of doing without eggs, cream, milk, leavening, and meat, it was a joy and relief to prepare and  taste,  rich foods again.

Cedric separated the whites from eight eggs for the special Russian cake, kulich. The symmetry and color of the eggs as they were set aside made an eye-catching sight. We noticed that the organic eggs from their own chickens have dark, yellow yolks. The store-bought organic eggs, the three centered, have a lighter color. The back yard eggs taste better I can attest.

While the yeast worked its magic on the cake batter, Virginia prepared the creamy cheese topping made with part yoghurt, cottage, ricotta, and feta cheeses; sugar lemon juice and egg yolks, mixed, mashed and then wrapped in a cheese cloth, and weighted with a couple of bricks to drain the whey. Nuts and other fruits can be added to the topping. Virginia added brandied white raisins.

Two halved lemons and eight dried figs were placed in the cavity; the goose sits on a low rack over enough boxed white wine to steam the bird for an hour, or just until the meat begins to pull away from the leg bone. Then the rendered fat is removed and the bird is browned to crisp the skin in the oven.

The best tasting part of the dinner, was the gravy made by removing the bird to cover and rest in a warm oven while the giblets and neck were simmered for 30 minutes with a handful of dried apricots and a 1/4 standard size can of orange juice concentrate and 1/3 cup of honey. Boil down to make a thin gravy. The goose is sliced thinly, even the leg meat, and served with the gravy over the meat and baked sweet potatoes. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. This recipe is Cedric and Virginia’s own,  straying from Cedric’s grandmother’s recipe which is boiled for three hours covered in a wine and water mixture, then finished in the oven.

Cedric sliced the cake, or Easter bread,  to be eaten while still warm with the creamy cheese concoction. (We had it for dessert.) While the gravy covered goose meat and sweet potatoes was the best tasting part of the meal, the best part of Easter dinner was listening to Cedric tell stories of his childhood where  he participated and learned to cook traditional family dishes from his grandmother and mother.

In keeping with family traditions, Theo is learning from his dad as he butters the baking dish and coats it with crumbs for the kulich.

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