Thursday, November 23, 2017


It's Thanksgiving.

Which means that even though we are going to my sister's home today for dinner, I have been up since 5:30am, wrestled a minimum 14 pound turkey from its briny soak into the sink, washed it, patted it dry, oiled it and gently placed it into the World's Largest Roasting pan, gently tucking turkey's wings under that gross piece of skin at the neck opening and sliding it into a pleasantly warmed oven. Because it HAS to smell like Thanksgiving when everyone wakes up.
The cat is now guarding the oven door.
I got this.
 I don't think either of our children got such 5-star treatment at bedtime...

This is my favorite holiday.
No pressure with gifts, no blazing hot BBQs, no random forgotten dyed eggs escaping discovery...
Only food and family and sometimes extra friends.
Oh yes, and thankfulness.

The fact that there should be one day set aside to be 'thankful' seems rather wrong. Oh sure, since the advent of social media the #BLESSED flies around willy-nilly, proclaiming blessedness over all things large and small. But with such constant blessings over co-workers, great kids, a steal on boots are we really truly thankful?
Or are we semi-taunting others with our good fortune?

Lets face it, it has been a rough year here in the good ole US of A.
Political and social unrest, terrorist acts, natural disasters.
There are those who would question the ability to feel thankful for anything.

But I am that Half Glass Full sort of person and while I do feel the #Blessed is way over-used, I will admit, I am thankful every single day.
It helps that I work in an environment that reminds me every minute of my shift that there is someone out there less fortunate than I.
Which is why I will never complain about that 5:30am wake up call to bake a giant poultry.
Besides, I wouldn't want to know what Joey would do if there were no turkey....
He has been sitting in the kitchen since 6am. I am hoping he is thankful for his warm home and his people. I fear he is only thankful for turkey.
Wishing each of you a Thanksgiving full of many large and small #Blessings.
Eat all you want, take a walk, drive safely, pass on your good tidings and do not forget to feed the cat.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Coast of Illinois!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Farmer Gene

I grew up on a farm.
Surrounded by farmers.
Autumn was a time of much activity. Corn and beans were picked, with combines and grain trucks running late into the evening. The slightly musty smell of dusty cornstalks and freshly tilled earth filled the air and settled on all the furniture. The grain bin fan was my lullaby.
Consequently, even though my 'farm' consists of four raised beds no larger than 6x8 each, when November rolls around, I have the uncontrollable urge to put up 'crops' and put the farm to bed.
I manage to refrain from the desire to run out and buy a pair of overalls...

Our garden was pretty sad this year. I got a passable crop of lettuce and radishes. I think we managed to find about 8 grape tomatoes. But where Miracle Grow dirt failed at zucchini and peppers, it excelled at carrots.
Weird, toe-shaped carrots.
But no matter their anatomical shape, they remain sweet and crisp.
Which is why I am roasting them for dinner.
I am just not sure how much longer I can open the crisper drawer and see that zipper bag full of orange tarsals.
 Roasted Carrots
as many carrots as will fit on a baking sheet
toss with enough olive oil to coat
sprinkle with salt, pepper and around 1-2 Tbs of fresh, crushed thyme and rosemary
roast at 400 for 20 minutes or until of desired doneness.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction

I had better luck with my herbs.
If you have never gardened and have the tiniest desire to give it a try, I highly recommend herbs. They are forgiving of most transgressions – failure to water, feed, weed, water... And there is nothing better than adding a fresh picked handful of basil to spaghetti sauce or lording it over a co-worker that you have fresh tarragon on the sauteed mushroom...
I mean adding some freshly picked rosemary to homemade bread.

As it was, I nearly missed getting the last of my basil picked.
Thank you 39 degree day last week.
But the basil stood strong with only a few brown leaves. And once it was picked and cleaned there was just enough for one last batch of pesto. 
1- 2 cups fresh basil
1-3 cloves of garlic
1/4 or so cups of pine nuts
drizzles of olive oil
blend to a paste
Add to pasta sauce, salad dressing, or use as a topping on toast when the hipsters have nabbed all the avocados.
(As you can tell, pesto is not an exact science. But, it tastes wonderful and smells even better. You can keep it in the fridge for around a week or bag it in small zip lock baggies and freeze for later use. Preferable in the dead of winter when the scent of fresh basil makes you forget the fact that you haven't seen the yard flamingo in 3 weeks as its buried under twelve feet of snow.)

Rosemary also outperformed this year. 

Sadly, rosemary does not over-winter on this Coast. I have tried repotting and bringing it inside but I just can't bear to watch as those beautiful fragrant leaves pine for the great wide open and slowly shrivel and die.
This year I cut the plant back to about 6 inches in height, mulched it with half a ton of leaves (leaving only 17.5 tons on the grass to be mulched) and brought the remaining stalks in to dry. Where I can watch it shrivel and turn brown but without the guilt of seeing the entire plant fade to a pitiful twig.
I have only recently arrived at a love of rosemary. But I am making up for lost time. I love adding it to roasted veggies (see carrots above) and homemade breads.
Or if you are short on the homemade bread department, you can add it to softened butter and spread it on whatever bread type product you have.
Plus it just looks so homey hanging in the window. 

I managed to finish up my tiny harvest just in time to watch as the storms began to blow in.
See all those leaves on those trees?

Tomorrow morning they will all be in our back yard.
Even though they are on the neighbor's trees.
Across the street.

And I will enjoy watching Rob push the mulching mower over them as I eat pesto toast for breakfast and prepare to clean all the furniture which is coated with leaf dust.
Its not grain bins and combines, but it will do.