Say Shar-coo-tree. Now don’t you feel French?

C, naturally, is for charcuterie.

Don’t be disturbed if you can’t pronounce it, much less know what it is.

The French pronunciation is shar-coo-tree, and well, sometimes it pays to sound French.

But even if you’re just Texan like me and say this with all four syllables and lots of long r’s, it’s still the same- charcuterie is the culinary art of preparing meat products such as bacon, salami, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pates and confits.

We’ll save a talk about those last five for when we’re all feeling particularly studious (you’re welcome) , but in the strictest sense, charcuterie just deals with the age-old treatment of cured and prepared meats.

Simple.

Charcuterie boards, on the other hand, are a more modern iteration and have taken on a life of their own. You can find examples everywhere of this updated twist on your Grandma’s holiday meat and cheese tray.

In fact, current variations (like a pancake board? baked potato board?) have veered so far away from what traditional charcuterie is all about (the meat, remember) that they are really just boards, and that’s OK. They make a lovely centerpiece and are a fun food presentation for a crowd.

If you want to get on board (ha) the keys to making one are:

color (lots- remember that “we eat first with our eyes” thing)

variation (meats, cheeses, crackers, veggies, dips, sweet bites of dried fruits and nuts are staples) and

quantity (no one likes an anemic looking skinny board, so stuff that thing full to overflowing!)

Any way you load it up, a charcuterie board spells fun.

(Just with a lot of letters and a confusing pronunciation)

Lu

So many B’s, but let’s do Brunch.

The kitchen/cooking world is filled with all things B. Baking and broiling and breakfast. Broccoli, banana and burnt. You can enjoy bisque, borscht, and Bordeaux, but nothing says fun more than brunch.

I think you’ll agree, just the idea of brunch conjures up a picture of tasty food and a relaxed time with friends. Blessedly brunch is traditionally served at 10 am or after, so non-early birds (like me) can enthusiastially jump on the brunch-love wagon. And just think- all you early bird get the worm-ers can just think of it as a welcome snack between your way too early breakfast and lunch.

Brunch is everyone’s best friend.

After the last year of few to zero family/friend gatherings, perhaps a brunch is the perfect way to break out of the isolation routine..

What’s your idea of the perfect brunch?

Mine would include a variety of savory and sweet, breakfast-y and lunch-y type things:

Candied Bacon (help me)

Fresh Fruit Salad

French Breakfast Puffs (a must-have for me)

An egg dish or omelet bar

Maybe something with a little spice- like a cheese dish with jalapenos

A make it yourself Champagne, Mimosa or other fun punch bar.

The idea, of course, is to serve delicious food in a relaxed setting to people you love (or even just like!)

Who’s with me?

Lu

Fun is Not a Four Letter Word

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

At a time in our history which seems to reek of contention, whether you lean right or left, mask or no mask, or how you turn your toilet paper roll, I think we can all agree that 2020 was pretty darn hard. Perhaps we could at least join hands in accord on that one point? (Sanitizer available immediately thereafter, of course) I mean I know some great things happened in 2020 for a lot of people- grandbabies were born, people got married etc… but what seemed to be missing most though, from 2020, was fun. And without spending much more time bemoaning the last year, I’m here to say that I need some fun and I’m going to use this little nondescript corner of the internet to make some fun for myself if not necessarily anyone else.

You’re welcome to join me if you’d like. In fact I’d love that.

In sticking with a topic that I find fun (and for the life of me I just won’t understand someone who doesn’t agree) we’re talking FOOD and all things that go with it. And while we’re at it let’s hold hands again and agree that putting things in alphabetical order is fun and also orderly, so:

In the category of things commonly misunderstood/little used/confusing/or just plain interesting in the kitchen, we’ll begin with

A is for Apertif.

I’ll be honest, I’ve probably actually spoken the word apertif maybe two or three times in my entire life. I did not grow up fancy. I drank Tang and considered a TV dinner with some Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and 2 teaspoons of applesauce for dessert something wildly swanky simply because it wasn’t homemade. My Mom was the best cook ever, but kids are weird and don’t appreciate that kind of thing when all their friends are getting to eat Swansons out of aluminum foil trays.

So there were typically no apertifs at my house.

Many times confused with appetizer or maybe even asparagus, an apertif is just an alcoholic beverage served before a meal and is meant to stimulate the appetite. Years ago it started out as a sneaky conduit to deliver quinine to patients fighting malaria but the quinine is typically not included these days.

Hmm. To each his own I suppose.

The concept of the apertif basically made its way from Europe to the US in the 1970’s starting the phenomenon we know today as Happy Hour. I’m pretty sure though, with pitchers of beer and other super sweet and otherwise overdone umbrella-laced concoctions that we’ve strayed a bit from the original intent.

Because it’s purpose is to stimulate the appetite rather than satisfy and certainly not to intoxicate, a true apertif is typically just a taste of champagne, liqueur, or wine that is quite dry rather than sweet.

And clearly not served in a pitcher.

So for 2021 I say we all embrace the spirit of the apertif, or at the very least use the word in a sentence now and again.

Here’s a handy example:

I’ll take my apertif sans the quinine, thank you.

Lu

It’s The Ending That Counts


So the next generation would know, and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories, so their children can trust in God

Psalm 78:6-7

Did you know there’s a book named after you?

It’s kind of a hoot, isn’t it, to imagine the pastor starting his sermon with “Please turn to the book of Jennifer and let’s look at chapter 3, verse 5″.

Or “Today brothers and sisters we’ll, be reading from the Book of Jim Bob.”

But still.

Your story, rife with fault or full of faith, will live on forever in the hearts and souls of your children, your grandchildren and countless others who learn the ins and outs of how you’ve navigated this earthly journey.

And quite frankly, your little story, as opposed to the more familiar ones of Noah, Saul or Moses, may more likely be the one that guides someone else to discover the treasures in the divinely inspired stories of the Bible. Just imagine a group of 6 yr. olds in Sunday School hearing not about the story of Ruth, but the story of Rhonda.

Or Bob, Kevin, or MaryJo.

And while admittedly, I’m taking a bit of creative license here, let’s go ahead and glance at our legacy in just that way.

Will yours be one of drama, intrigue and betrayal like Saul and David? Or more of a suspenseful thriller like Rahab’s? Will your tale be full of sibling rivalry, romance and deception like Joseph’s, or more of a strong female lead production like Deborah’s?

Whether yours includes colossal failure, frequent relapses, or is just chock full of mess-ups, make no mistake- your story matters.

Despite the flawed characters, the plot twists or the years you’d rather erase, nothing about your story will ever dilute the beauty of the gospel if it ends with Jesus.

May all our stories end with Him.

Lu

Chili Lime Pork with Corn Salad

Sometimes making dinner is hard.

I’ll just throw this out there – sometimes I decide what to cook based almost solely on the number of dishes/utensils/cutting boards/etc that I will have to clean up when it’s all over.

There. I said it.

Never mind what my people want to eat, sometimes my tired self just thinks: “But will it make a mess??”

Someone tell me I’m not alone.

Last night I pulled out this recipe (originally from a Pampered Chef cookbook) for Chili Lime Pork, and while it looks and tastes great, the greatest blessing from above is that clean-up is a breeze- all done in one pan.

All the praise hands.

Try it if you, like me, have ever considered feigning an illness when it’s time to do the dishes.

The truth shall set you free.

Lu

Chili Lime Pork with Corn Salad

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4   boneless pork chops
  • 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp Chili Lime seasoning, divided
  • 2   ears corn, husks removed
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup  grape tomatoes
  • 2   garlic cloves
  • ½ cup  queso fresco, crumbled (see cook’s tip)
  • ½ cup  fresh cilantro leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat for 6 minutes.
  2. Season the pork with 1 tbsp of the rub. Remove the kernels from the cob. Chop the pepper and onion in a medium dice.
  3. Place the pork in the skillet. Sear the pork, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Flip and cook for about 4–6 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F (60°C) for medium doneness. Remove the pork from the skillet.
  4. Add the corn and cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes.
  5. Slice the zucchini into half-moons with the and halve the tomatoes with the.
  6. Add the onion and bell pepper to the skillet and cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the zucchini and finely diced garlic to the skillet; cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  8. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the remaining rub, tomatoes, queso fresco, and chopped cilantro. Serve with the pork chops.

On Waiting

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.   James 4:14

We spend a lot of time waiting.

Waiting on babies to be born and Amazon packages to be delivered. We wait for lab results and we wait in line at the grocery store. We wait to get in some places and to get out of others. We wait at traffic lights, at sporting events, and we wait on hold… a lot.

We wait for colder weather to arrive and for our hair to grow out from a bad cut. We wait for our kids to be potty-trained, then for them to get a job. We wait for Pumpkin Spice whatever to come out at Starbucks and we wait for the election to finally be over.

Much of our waiting is necessary and simply a consequence of being human and wanting and needing the same things that a bunch of other humans want or need at the same time.

But wait a minute. 😉

What about all our self-imposed waiting? The waiting that we choose?

The waiting until we get our swimsuit body to hop in the pool? The waiting until we get a bigger, nicer house to invite friends over for dinner. We leave our good dishes in the hutch, waiting until we have “people” over while we serve our families on paper plates. We wait to remodel our homes until we’re ready to sell them, and we turn down that dinner invitation from the new people at church because we’re waiting for someone “more like us” to become friends with.

We wait until we’re older, until the kids have graduated, until we have more money or a better house, then we wait until we retire.

So much waiting.

And day by day and moment by moment in all the waiting, our earthly stories are still be written. The stories that for some of us are deep into the storyline and maybe even close to the conclusion. Entire chapters hollow with nothing but waiting.

And while we’ll always wait on the UPS guy or for our self-cut bangs to grow out, let’s fill the chapters we can with living and doing and loving and celebrating!

Let’s feed our family hotdogs on the best china we have and rip out that gray carpet in the master bathroom so we can relish the feel of new tile on our bare feet instead of saving that pleasure for the buyers. Let’s squeeze our permanently non-summer bodies into the cutest swimsuit we can find and challenge the grandkids to a race across the pool. Let’s invite the neighbors over and entertain them on the patio furniture we’ve had for 27 years and laugh about the two cushions that the dog chewed up.

We have but one opportunity to co-author our earthly story- let’s give it all we’ve got.

Yours might just be a real page-turner.

Happy Food

I’ll say up front that I was never a huge fan of cherry flavor. Perhaps it’s because I never tasted fresh cherries growing up, and for most of my life I associated the taste with the cloying smell of cherry flavored Kool-Aid that seemed to be the drink of choice at every kid birthday party, Vacation Bible School, and school lunch thermos bottle.

Eewwww.

Granted I also put potato chips and Cheetos on my ham sandwiches and liked twinkies a lot, so you probably wouldn’t have called my palate particularly sophisticated at the time.

Anyway, things change (twinkies excluded according to research) and I became a fan of fresh cherries and can even appreciate the value of strategically used canned Cherry Pie Filling.

Please don’t alert the Hip Foodie Police.

These Cherry Pie bars are just the thing to brighten up any rather gloomy day- no mixes involved, just simple pound cake-type ingredients and a super fast and easy preparation.

And to top it off they taste great!

Cherry Pie Bars

(From Rustic Joyful Food)

Ingredients

(Makes one 9-by 13-inch pan -about 18 servings)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

One 21-ounce can cherry pie filling

Confectioners’ sugar, for glazing (optional; see note)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix to combine. Spread a little over half the cake batter into the pan. Evenly spread the cherries over top, then spoon the rest of the cake batter over the cherries. (It’s fine if the cherries show through.)

3. Bake until the top has turned slightly golden, 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not overbake.) Cool before slicing into squares.

Chop Chop Slaw

Do you ever need something green super fast to round out a decidedly not-green meal? This slaw requires no other skills but chopping and a keen eye for what to pull out of the fridge to go in it!

We were having a quick lunch of Trader Joe’s Potstickers (oh my goodness, so good) and I was looking for a quick side.

I dug deep in the produce drawer and found bok choy, celery, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli- chopped them all fairly small and poured on some of this versatile stuff!

It’s just the perfect topping for so many things (hello lettuce wraps!) and it worked so well as a dressing for this easy slaw. Just a bit sweet, a bit tangy, and totally perfect.

I added a few sesame sticks (also a Trader Joe fav) and that was that!

Rustic (Ha!) Apple Tart

Have you ever just needed a dessert? Really needed it?

Me too.

And yesterday I needed this Rustic Apple Tart.

You do know, don’t you, that anytime your desserts come out looking less than perfect, you just put “Rustic” in front of the name and you’re covered.

Just like when you run to the store hoping not to see anyone and you’re wearing something that really needed to stay home, you’re automatically, (and quite fashionably!) dressed in your “Boho” style.

It’s a thing, really.

Here’s how to make this SUPER simple and really delicious tart:

Rustic Apple Tart

Ingredients

1 frozen puff pastry sheet

1 Really Huge Honeycrisp Apple (or 2 small) (or substitute your favorite cooking apple)

2 T. flour

6T. Butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

pinch of salt

About 1/3 cup orange juice (I used the juice from 1/2 very large and juicy Mandarin)

Cinnamon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400.

Remove the puff pastry sheet from the freezer and when slightly thawed, unfold it onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Roll the pastry out just a bit to thin it.

Peel and slice the apple and toss the sliced with the flour to coat. Arrange the apples on the pastry (be creative!) and then fold the edges of the pastry up about an inch all around.

In a small saucepan melt the butter on medium heat, then add the brown sugar and cook for about 5 minutes til thickened and a little bubbly. I suggest you stir frequently. Remove from heat and stir in the OJ and salt, then cook about 1-2 more minutes. Remember, stir! You want all the sugar crystals to disappear. Using a pastry brush (or a spoon) brush the crust with some of the syrup, then pour the remainder over the apples to coat. Sprinkle with cinnamon and a little coarse sugar for pizazz!

Bake at 400 for about 20-25 minutes or until crust is browned and puffed.

Serve, naturally, with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.

Enjoy!

The Wild Bunch

God made us for community.

In Galatians 6:2 we are encouraged to “carry each other’s burdens”, and Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice and mourn with each other”.

We are to “meet each other’s practical needs” (Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:16)  and in Acts 2:42-47 the writer, Luke, urges us to “spur one another on and meet together”.

Clearly, we are better together.

The crudely painted Wild Bunch sign now hangs proudly above the kitchen table at the farm.  Rescued from a box of junk, it’s a wonder it didn’t disappear with the trash when we cleaned out my parents’ home after Mom died in 2014.

My Mom and Daddy, along with 5 other couples, comprised The Wild Bunch. This sign, handmade by my Mom, was a marker of sorts- displayed at one of their get-togethers in a park. Mom didn’t want the other Wild Bunch members to waste any time milling about other areas of the park looking for the group – after all there were hot casseroles to set out, sweet tea to pour, and old friends to enjoy.

The group existed for a good 25 years or more, brought together by age, retirement, church membership, or neighborhood. They met about once a month for dinner, mostly at one of their homes, but occasionally they’d venture out to a restaurant- usually Dairy Queen, because let’s face it, dining choices are limited in a small town. And Daddy loved a soft-serve cone.

I’ve never known exactly how the name came about, but the only thing really Wild about this bunch was that it was happily comprised of an equal number of Baptists and Methodists. There was no drinking, no cussing, no staying out late. The men wore high-waisted khakis and short-sleeved dress shirts, while the women favored double-knit pantsuits.

For goodness sake, the Methodist minister and his wife were members.

The Wild Bunch was community. They were there for each other in good times and bad. Whether it be financial woes, illness, or death- The WB always showed up.

Sometimes, just at the wrong time.

One afternoon my Mom was working in the front flower bed when a familiar car raced down her street and screeched to an abrupt halt in her driveway. She was a little surprised to see how quickly Mr. and Mrs. WB jumped out of their car and ran to where she was working. She was equally surprised to see that Mr. WB was carrying a store-bought pie.

Typically, the Wild Bunch didn’t run.

And typically, people wouldn’t show up at Mom’s (who was the best baker in town) with a store-bought pie.

It’s just not something one would do.

Mrs. WB: “Sarah, what on earth are you doing out here?”

Mom: “Well, I’m working in the flower bed.”

(Odd, somewhat sad, glances between Mr. and Mrs.)

Mrs. WB: “Now Sarah, do you think this is the right time for that?”

Mom: “Well, Alton (my Daddy) is certainly not going to do it.”

(Gasps from both Mr. and Mrs.)

A long, weird silence…

Mr. WB: “Sarah, where is Alton?”

Mom: “He’s inside in the bed.”

(More gasps, and then slowly, some realization…)

Mr. WB: “Sarah, is Alton OK?”

Mom: “Well yes, he’s OK, just kind of lazy.”

At this point they collectively began to put two and two together.

And get something akin to four.

A poor telephone connection, a faulty hearing-aid, and a lot of people in town with the last name of Sims, had led Mr. and Mrs. WB to believe that my Daddy had gone to his reward in heaven earlier that morning. He was, in fact, just inside in the air-conditioning, taking his daily nap with the Groesbeck Journal open across his face.

It turns out they showed up about 15 years early.

But they showed.

And while Mom was appropriately appreciative of the gesture, she was also fine with the fact that Mr. WB took his store-bought pie back home.

“After all,” Mr. WildBunch said as he shuffled back to his car with the pie, “Alton’s just taking a nap.”

If you’ve found your people, cherish them.

If not, don’t stop looking.

We all need a Wild Bunch.