New Magazine Column is Ready for You

Beach Pie 3

 

The Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Blue Ridge Country magazine has hit the streets and it is bigger than usual.  It’s the travel issue, telling you all about wonderful places to visit in our area.  Call it our vacation planner issue.  Anyway, my travel-themed column is ready for you online and I hope you enjoy it.  It includes a recipe, a first for me. Of course, it’s a pie recipe.  Y’all know me.  Here’s the link.

http://blueridgecountry.com/newsstand/mill-creek-stories/the-car-wants-to-go-to-north-carolina/

 

 

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Homemade Ice Cream: It’s Officially Summer!

peach ice cream

My Grandpa Buck did not cook. He was up at dawn and out in the fields or the barn early and didn’t come back to the house until he smelled dinner or it started getting dark. As far as food was concerned, it was just something that magically appeared twice a day when Grandpa sat down at the kitchen table.

Every summer though, my Grandpa would pick buckets of peaches from the trees on the farm and make ice cream. He’s do the whole thing, start to finish, from the peeling to the churning without any help from Grandma at all. That was the only time I’d ever see Grandma eat more than one helping of anything. She always had at least two bowls and they weren’t delicate, tiny, lady-like bowls either. Everyone loved peach ice cream, but no one enjoyed it more than Grandma. It simply was not summer in our family until you’d had a bowl of Grandpa’s peach ice cream.

Like most of my favorite foods from my childhood, the peach ice cream recipe eluded me. I simply could not get a version that satisfied my nostalgia, no matter what concoction I tried. I blamed the lack of my own dairy cow, or a different variety of peach, or growing conditions, or pasteurization, or newfangled ice cream makers on the lack of peachy perfection. What was I doing wrong?

I still don’t know why Grandpa’s ice cream was so much better than mine, other than it was made by someone who loved me and always made time for me. That goes a long way towards making food delicious. I will fondly remember an expired tin of Spam if it was shared with someone who deeply loves me. Love is the ultimate seasoning, and don’t you forget it.

As far as the holy grail of peach ice cream goes, I have finally had my eureka moment. The good folks over at http://www.seriouseats.com put out a recipe for strawberry ice cream that I modified and it is completely wonderful. It honestly does my Grandpa Buck proud. I offer it to you so your summer can be complete. Go make your own wonderful memories. Life’s too short not to eat the ice cream.

 

Grandpa Buck’s Peach Ice Cream, Updated

Ingredients:

1 farm stand sack of fresh peaches, approximately a quart or 2- 1/2 pounds, does not have to be exact

2 Cups half and half

1-1/4 Cups sugar, divided into 1/2 Cup and 3/4 Cup

1/2 Cup light corn syrup

4 Tablespoons liquor, no more than 80 proof, vodka, bourbon, amaretto, or my favorite for this application, Cointreau, which pairs well with and enhances fruits

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, if needed to counter sweetness

Directions:

Preparation:

Peel the peaches, remove pits, then slice enough into thin slices or small cubes to make 1 Cup. You need these to be small to avoid forming ice crystals which are definitely not fruitalicious.

Combine the tiny peach pieces in a bowl with 1/2 Cup sugar and the booze and let sit in the fridge for a minimum of two hours. I left them overnight. This is where the science happens. The alcohol prevents the fruit from becoming icy, hard, shards in the finished ice cream. You’ll thank me later.

Take the remaining peach chunks and puree in a blender at high speed until smooth. If you are using a different fruit, you may need to strain the mixture to remove seeds or fibers. The peaches did not need straining.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining sugar, corn syrup, half and half, and peach slurry. Whisk until married. Taste mix and adjust with the salt and lemon juice as needed. Cover and chill in the fridge until very cold. I left mine overnight.

Making Ice Cream:

Take the chilled blended peach base (not the small bits) and churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

When the mix is just about finished, take the peach bits out of the fridge and drain off the syrup but do not throw it away. The syrup is fabulous in iced tea, lemonade, margaritas, or daiquiris. Add the peach bits to the ice cream and churn no more than a minute.

Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put it in the freezer for at least four hours to harden. I know, I know, that’s almost impossible for those of us who have impulse control issues, but it is important for the finished product. You’ve gone to all this effort, don’t slack off now.

Cook’s Notes:

Strawberries and mangoes also work well with this recipe. Have fun with it.

Also, don’t freak out about the corn syrup.  It improves the texture.  Calm down about the high-fructose whatever, you’re making ice cream, the best ice cream you’ve had in forever.  Let it go.

Livestock in the Bedroom

Joe Normal Pose

(This is my mastiff Joe who passed away this week just shy of his 12th birthday.  I wrote this piece years ago when I first adopted Joe and am rerunning it in his honor.  I have never met a dog more devoted to my well-being than this boy and I will miss him forever.)

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Economically, times are tough. Those that have spending money are finally showing a bit of well-placed caution, and those that don’t have money, well, the decision to become fiscally conservative has been made for them. Economic distress is so close that everyone is feeling its hot, sour breath in our ears, whispering terms of anxiety and fear.

We Americans are strong. We will adapt. We will come through this and be content and prosperous again. Though right now that we’re in the middle of this financial fog and trying to cope, we’d love a gigantic cocktail of scotch and Xanax, hold the ice. Yes bartender, I would like to run a tab.

As people are being shoved into tight corners and having to make painful choices, it is often the most blameless that bear the first, confusing cut. The family dog, particularly if it is a large breed, often finds itself dumped in a shelter through no fault of its own. Large breed rescue groups and shelters are being overrun with owner-relinquished pets as people are being forced out of their homes into an apartment or worse.

If you and yours find yourself having to live in your car, there is no question that Meatball the mastiff doesn’t quite fit your current situation. It’s not Meatball’s fault. He’s grown into 200 pounds of fur-covered familial devotion, but your new reality is that you have a Ford Taurus as a home address and two children sharing the back seat. Meatball has to go. He is an innocent, bewildered casualty of the current economy and it is just not fair.

My heart aches for Meatball. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a total sucker for a large dog. I am absolutely potty about lumbering, heavy-jowled monsters. My husband’s favorite breed of dog is the Labrador retriever, which I consider to be just a medium-sized dog, practically petite. We decided to adopt another rescue dog this year to join our two, Oney the Great Dane; and Clara Jack, the Basset hound from Hell. In a fit of unusual practicality, I was leaning towards something smaller this time, even bedroom slipper size, like a Pug.

Then my husband Patrick proved to me once again that he truly does love me all the way down to my toes. He said no. Even though it would have been so much easier on him, he said no to a small dog, because he knows I really do love and prefer large. He reminded me of the joy I’d known with our late Bernese Mountain dog, Bubba, who was convinced I’d personally hung the moon. Patrick told me I had to get an enormous male dog who was as smitten with me as Bubba had been, insuring that domestic bliss would be achieved. He even went so far as to bolt a twin bed onto the side of our king-size bed giving room for all, so no one would be left out of the pack while we slept.

So with Patrick’s encouragement, I found my very own Meatball. An English mastiff the size of Jupiter, he was available through the Southern States Mastiff Rescue group. I met him at the foster home where he was staying. He sniffed me once and promptly jumped in the back of my car. It was a done deal as far as he was concerned. I probably would have acted a bit more coyly, but that would have only wasted time. He was mine, I was his, let’s get on with our lives.

He is now called Joe. He plays with his sisters, likes my husband well enough, and absolutely adores me. And when it comes bedtime, a thundering herd of 420 combined pounds of dogs clomping up the stairs and settling in for the night sounds like disgruntled cattle.

I have never slept better.

Fat-Bottomed Girls

Chicken dinner

 

There’s a saying here in the South that we do not like to admit is true. We like to think of ourselves as evolved, strong, dare I say even refined. Underneath our perfect pedicures, perfect blonde highlights, and perfect Talbot’s ensembles lurks a dirt road tomboy hungry for mama’s cooking. Yes sirreee, “It ain’t fit to eat if it ain’t fried.”

My weakness for fried food is hard coded in my DNA. I’m certain that I was weaned from mother’s milk straight to fried chicken as a toddler. Otherwise, I can not explain the visceral reaction I have to the smell of hot grease. My knees buckle a little and my mouth starts to water. The smell triggers genuine primal desire and woe be to anyone standing between me and the source of deep-fried deliciousness. This is why I have never, ever owned a deep fryer. I knew that I could not be trusted with one in my house.

My brother-in-law Bull got a deep fryer one Christmas. He wore it out. Broke it from overuse. Swore he wasn’t going to replace it. Somehow a brand new one managed to sneak into his kitchen as if the grease fairy had delivered it in the night. How did that get here?

Not to let an appliance go to waste, the new fryer got fired up and put to good use in no time at all. I have listened to Bull wax rhapsodic about fresh French fries at midnight, okra as snack food (it’s a vegetable you know), and hot doughnuts on Sunday mornings. If a man can love something with a plug, Bull is definitely engaged to his fryer.

I am what polite, artsy people refer to as Rubenesque. To put it plainly, I’m a big girl. I am also diabetic. I have no business even looking at deep fryers. Yet I found myself in Kohl’s department store one day in the kitchen section. I was holding a 30% off coupon. Small appliances were already marked down. I could have gotten a waffle iron, I guess.   I could have chosen the sno-cone machine. I could have walked across the aisle to Women’s Shoes and gotten those adorable espadrilles I found. I think we all know where this is going. I bought the deep fryer. Cue Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls on the iPod for the occasion.

When I got home with my new favorite appliance, my husband Gruff could not believe it. I think his exact words were, “Woman, have you lost your mind?”

“But Bull just adores his fryer, and I had a coupon, plus it was already on sale!”

“Bull weighs less than one of your legs and he is not diabetic. What were you thinking?”

“I had a really good coupon and it was on sale and, and, and I wanted it, okay?”

“Fine. It’s your funeral. I suppose you want me to break down some chicken to inaugurate your new doomsday device?”

“Yes, please. That would be lovely.”

The deep fryer has been all I dreamed and more. Oh my God, the fried chicken!  It’s been smack-your-mama delicious.  Fish and chips so fresh and crisp, it would make any Anglophile weep.  Peach hand pies, the filling sweet and the crust shattering with every bite.  So good.  Oh and French fries in minutes is like the best thing ever.  I love crinkle cut fries.

After getting a couple meals out of the Ore-Ida sack, I was reading the empty package. It seems that the good people at Ore-Ida think their package holds 11 servings. Eleven? They are misinformed. There must be some problem on the production line that they need to be made aware of. Their bag only holds four servings. That’s misleading the consumer. Eleven servings. Please. You’d think my endocrinologist mandated those portion sizes to Ore-Ida. You know, I don’t think I’ll mention to my doctor that I am the proud owner of a new deep fryer. The news might just make her cry.

Gruff’s right. I have lost my mind. I’m insane. I am indulging in self-destructive behavior. I should be ashamed. I am a weak, pathetic woman. I am also a woman who’s having hot doughnuts this Sunday! Oh happy, happy, joy, joy!

Mermaid Summer

 

beach ball

Well, it’s officially summer. I know this because I have received twenty catalogues in the last month whose covers feature gloriously happy women wearing swim suits. I bet you missed the most important part of that sentence. I’ll run it by you again. Featuring happy women wearing swim suits.

You think I’m going to moan and whine about the awful pressure to get your jiggly parts firmed up to be trotted out at the community pool. Nope. Wrong. So very wrong. I recognize that a lot of people are nowhere near comfortable in their own bodies. A lot of people would rather eat a bowl of dirt than be seen in a bathing suit. I hope to change that.

During my adult life, I have worn swim suits ranging from a tiny size six to a robust size 28 and everything in between. Right now, I’m hovering around a size 20 and I’m totally cool with that. My point is that no matter what size I am, I have never been the thinnest chick at the beach and I’m never the fattest one either. I’m just part of the crowd that comes to the sea to have fun. We’re there to play with friends and family. We’re there to eat boardwalk fries and get sand in awkward places. On that note, I once complained to a friend about my thighs getting chafed from sand. She said, and this answer tells you everything you need to know about this woman, “Awww, my thighs rubbing just means I’m becoming a mermaid. I can’t wait.”

I know some of you are thinking, “But what if someone says something mean about me? I’ll just die!” No, you won’t. Here’s some perspective. I had more dim-witted comments slung my way when I wore a size six bikini then I do now. Being thin doesn’t protect you. Being slim doesn’t make stupidity dissipate. There is no force field for assholery. Some people are simply hateful and your size really doesn’t have much to do with that. Their problem, not yours.

When I was single, I used to consider taunts a useful early warning indicator. Thank you for publicly announcing to every female out here that you are undateable. Thanks dude, for saving us the time and trouble of getting to know you before realizing that you’re a huge waste of oxygen. We all, every last woman out here, appreciate the public service announcement. Very thoughtful of you to warn us off by yelling something repugnant in our presence. Bravo.  Continue reading