A Wheaty Matter

I mentioned yesterday that I spent Friday at Kent State University with The Young One attending something called “Golden Flash Day.”  It was basically a recruiting event; an attempt to woo potential students that have been accepted by the school but haven’t yet decided where they want to attend.  If I’d known that, I think we’d probably have skipped it, although we did accomplish a couple of things, including a seminar on Financial Aid (I shudder every time I think about the $76,000 price tag – not including books – the next four years carries) and a tour of the particular college he’ll be attending (the university is divided into particular colleges, each dedicated to a general area of study – The Young One will be attending the college of Information and Communication).

The day started off with breakfast:  some vile swill they called “coffee” and about a half mile worth of tables covered with donuts and granola bars.

Guess who skipped the whole mess (The Young One assured me his cinnamon roll was awful).

Lunch – four hours later – was a sit-down affair.  I didn’t register for the event, so I had no idea that there would be different options for the meal; apparently there was a choice of chicken, fish or a vegetarian option.  If you didn’t choose the fish or vegetarian option, you were stuck with chicken.  Not that it made much difference.

When we sat down, there was a salad in front of each diner – low and behold, no cheese or croutons, just greens, a slice of cucumber and a cherry tomato.  The only options for dressing were ranch and Italian, but after no breakfast I certainly wasn’t going to quibble over a little soybean oil so I dressed the salad, inhaled it, gave my roll to the boy, and waited for the main course.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

If you’d chosen the fish or vegetarian option when you registered, they mailed you a card which you were then instructed you put on your plate.  The waitstaff – of which there was far too few – brought those out first.  The vegetarian option was some sort of alfredo lasagna – buried under breadcrumbs.  I couldn’t tell you what the fish was, because it was buried – yup – under breadcrumbs.

If you’re thinking this didn’t bode well for the chicken, you’d be correct.

As I looked down at my breaded piece of chicken breast smothered in some sort of cream sauce – that I’d waited more than half an hour to receive – I noticed The Young One was eying the roasted red potatoes on his plate with equal displeasure (the boy is weird about potatoes).

“Want my chicken?” I asked.

“Okay – you can have my potatoes.  Want some of my green beans too?”

So that was how we divided lunch, and I don’t think anyone would be surprised that I went back for a second helping of the venison I made for dinner that evening.

This has me a worried all over again about the food options that will be available to The Young One when he is living on campus, but more than that, I have to ask one question:

WHY?  Why was it necessary to entomb everything in bread?  You couldn’t serve baked fish or roasted chicken?  What would have been wrong (or difficult) about that?  I’ve worked in food service before and understand the logistics of feeding that many people – there were close to 1,000 attendees – but I still don’t understand the need for all the breadcrumbs.  If it was an attempt to prevent the entrees from drying out, The Young One assures me it was a failure, and if the remnants on the plates around me were any indication, he wasn’t alone in that assessment.  If this was part of the master plan to persuade those who are undecided about the university they will attend, I can only wonder about the success of the endeavor.

After all, if you ask someone to find a way to shell out $76,000 over the next 4 years, they’re going to need their strength.

For more “Why?” Spins, head on over and visit Gretchen at Second Blooming.  She might even have some answers.

Shameless Heartland Pandering

It’s been a little more than a week since the Superbowl, and arguably the most-talked about commercial was the one featuring legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey’s “So God Made A Farmer” speech for Dodge trucks.

I both liked and disliked the commercial.  I liked it, despite my lack of belief in a higher power, because it evokes intense personal feelings; the things Mr. Harvey says about farmers is very true.  At least, they’re true of my farmers, and all of the small farmers who work outside of industrial agriculture – farmers that are the driving force of the Real Food Movement.  I can’t even begin to express the admiration and respect I have for the people who raise and grow the food my family and I eat every day.  I was practically in tears by the end of the commercial the first time I saw it, even if I don’t believe God has anything to do with these remarkable and devoted people.

Paul Harvey wrote the original speech in 1975 and the recording used in the Dodge commercial is of Mr. Harvey delivering it to the 1978 Future Farmers of America convention. However, the speech itself was based on the definition of a “dirt farmer” published in The Farmer-Stockman, then the Ellensburg Daily Record, in 1940.  Prior to the United States’ entry into World War II, most of the food in this country was grown or raised on small farms and in backyard gardens.

Sadly, this is no longer true, which is why I also disliked the commercial.  So when Beloved found this parody of it, I knew I’d post it.  It’s hilarious and depressing at the same time, but it’s also true.

Which is the saddest thing of all.

Menus, Milestones and Mayans

Well.

I just hit the ground running this morning and have not had a moment to breathe up until now, so I’m a tad late posting.  (We’ll ignore the fact that I might just have been slightly at a loss as to what to blog about.  That works for me, how about you?)  At any rate, since I’ve used up my self-imposed quota of recipes for the week, I thought I’d bore regale you with some end-of-the-year minutia.

As I’d mentioned a time or three, we are hosting our annual company holiday party this Saturday in our home.  You may think we’re bonkers for doing so – okay, we are, but that’s not the point.  The point is, our house would never truly get cleaned if we didn’t.  Why do we never truly look at our homes until we realize that others will be looking at it too?  I mean, it’s not as if we’re living hip deep in trash and clutter or anything, but we may have eventually been slowly suffocated under a blanket of ever-increasing dust and Scooter hair.  To say nothing of what we’d be walking on if we didn’t have our cream-colored carpets shampooed every year.

At any rate, every year I find myself stressing over what to serve at our party, and this year is no different.  We don’t serve a meal, but rather a bunch of nibbles and tidbits that our guests can pile on a plate and walk around with, while the dog sits on their feet and stares at them pitifully.  The last few years this has been even more difficult because of the wildly divergent diets we all eat – one of us is very low carb (out of necessity), a couple of us eat no grains or dairy, the spouse of one of our employees eats very little meat, and there’s a few that wonder where all the cookies and Chex Mix are.  It takes some planning, but I’ve managed to come up with something that I think will suit everyone.

Mixed Nuts

Shrimp Cocktail Platter

Meat and Cheese Platter.  I order this from the Honey Baked Ham people and buy small rolls/sandwich buns for the bread-eaters to make sandwiches out of.  I’ll put out an assortment of pickles I’ve canned myself – bread and butter, garlic dill, pickled beets and watermelon pickles – as well as condiments (mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup)

Crudité Platter with Dairy Free Ranch Dressing for dipping

Fruit Platter with Creamy Poppyseed Dressing for dipping

Cocktail Meatballs – these are just my Barbecue Glazed Meatballs, only smaller

Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms.  If these are any good, I’ll post the recipe next week.

Strawberry Cheese Ring.  This is a hold over from “the old days” but is always wildly popular.  As a concession – mostly to myself – I will serve these with gluten-free crackers.

Bacon-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes.  These are good.  So good there are never any left at the end of the party.  I’m going to make two batches – one with cheese, and one without for us non-dairy folk.  If I tweak them a lot, I’ll repost the recipe.

Apple Pie.  I cannot have the party and not make this.  Our head programmer adores apple pie – MY apple pie.  So I make it every year, and he takes whatever is left home and eats it for breakfast every day, then returns my pie plate.  It’s become one of those holiday tradition things.

Chocolate Cupcakes.  Yes, the grain-free ones.  I may go buy one of those mini-muffin pans and make  them bite-sized, and add some peppermint extract to the buttercream.  Again, if I tweak the recipe much, I’ll repost the recipe.

And that’s what I’m serving.  If it seems like a lot of food for a dozen people, well…it is.  But, like Thanksgiving, means I won’t have to cook the next day, because I’m not above eating leftover cocktail nibbles for dinner if that’s what it takes to get rid of them.

As for the milestones, there will be two this year:  Saturday I turn 50, and Sunday marks the 5th anniversary of the day I quit smoking.  My mother, a lifelong heavy smoker and committed yo-yo dieter who loved junk food and carried all of her extra weight in her upper body, developed an aeortal aneurysm at 46 that went undiagnosed.  It burst and she had emergency surgery to repair it before she died of internal bleeding.  Five years later she died of a massive heart attack, just 2 months after her 51st birthday.

For the last 16 years, every doctor I’ve told that to has had an apoplectic fit.  And really, by the time I was 45 I could see myself heading down that same path.  It scared the bejesus out of me, and it should have.  So I quit smoking.  Two years later, I changed our diet.  Am I still overweight?  Yeah, I am.  But there have been no aeortal aneurysms, and I’m feeling fairly confident that I will live to see 52.  And hopefull 62, 72 and 82, and that I’ll remain in reasonably good health, unmedicated and with my wits intact, to the end of it all.

Which may very well be tomorrow, if you believe the nutjobs and fruitcakes picketing in downtown Podunk today, waving their signs declaring things like “The End Is Nigh” and “Prepare to Meet Your Maker.”

Oh, Mayans, you’ve given us so much amusement this year.

But, just in case I’m wrong and the end IS nigh, this is for everyone who hasn’t seen it yet:

The Chandelier Tree

The tree in our dining room.

That hangs from the ceiling.

Thanksgiving Menu, 2012 Edition

I was going to do a huge rant today about Mayor Michael Bloomerg’s latest idiocy –  he has now banned donations to NYC homeless shelters because the city can’t monitor the fat, sodium and sugar content of the food being donated – but I just don’t have the energy.  And I’m afraid my head will explode in the process.  (If you’re not worried about your head exploding, click the link; you’ll just be amazed.  And, I hope, appalled.)

So in the interest of keeping my brains intact – my laptop, after all, is practically brand-new and I hear exploded brains are a bitch to clean up – I’ll swagger a little instead and tell you that The Young One, who made the honor roll the first grading period this year, has already been accepted to the university of his choice, Kent State.  (I do my best, every time he mentions it, not to start singing, “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in O-hi-o…”  Thank you, Neil Young.)  It looks like there might be some sort of a scholarship in all of this, too.

I’m proud of the boy.  Especially because it got him to call his grandmother without being nagged.

At any rate, while I was talking to Darling Daughter last night about her Thanksgiving plans, my own menu finally came together.  And since I post it every year, well…here you are.  I’ve linked to recipes I’ve posted before.

The Turkey From Hell.  Needless to say, our turkeys are now pastured and the wheat flour used for the roasting bag has been replaced with tapioca flour, but other than that, the recipe is essentially the same.  I’ll probably make some giblet gravy to go with it, using tapioca flour, since Beloved loves it so.

Fermented Cranberry-Orange Chutney.  Because I’m absolutely in love with it and have an entire quart in my fridge and isn’t that convenient?

My Grandmother’s Cornbread Dressing.  I found a recipe on the internet that is very close to my own for gluten-free cornbread, using alternative flours rather than wheat flour, which it claims is indistinguishable from the “real thing.”  Since I cannot imagine Thanksgiving dinner without cornbread dressing, I’m making it, enjoying it, and giving the leftovers away.  Well, most of them, anyway.

Bourbon Molasses Sweet Potatoes with Buttered Pecans.  I haven’t made this for two or three years, but it’s just a marvelous dish.  Beloved really likes it, and so do I, so it’s back on the menu.  I’ll either skip the brown sugar or substitute it with evaporated cane juice.

Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes.  The Young One does not care for cornbread dressing or sweet potatoes – don’t ask me; the kid is just odd – so I will make this as well.  Gladly, actually, since they are the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten.  (I will probably buy him some of those brown-and-serve rolls he’s so fond of, too – it is, after all, also his Thanksgiving dinner.)

Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta.  This is an absolutely delicious dish guaranteed to convert even the most adamant Brussels sprout hater.  It’s also quite easy, and the pancetta and balsamic give it that “special occasion dish” aura.  My good friend Gretchen makes this every year, too.

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp.  Because, Holy Mother of Pearl, it was good.  VERY, VERY GOOD.

Crustless Lemon Chess Pie.  I can thank Darling Daughter for this one; she is going to bake a pie to take to the Thanksgiving dinner she’s going to, and when I suggested her great-grandmother’s Pumpkin Pie (which is simply the best pumpkin pie recipe in existence).  She said she’d done that last year, and thought she’d bake a lemon chess pie instead.  I gasped – it simply hadn’t occurred to me – and said, “You know…I could make that without a crust.  In individual ramekins, even, like a brulee.”  I glanced over to my left, and saw Beloved vigorously nodding his head YES.  I don’t know if I’ll go ahead and use white sugar in it, or evaporated cane juice just so I can feel a little bit better about all the sugar, carbohydrates and dairy I’ll be consuming that day.  But whatever I do, I’ll post the recipe afterwards, because Lemon Chess Pie, with or without a crust, is a thing of beauty.

So that’s it.  Nothing excessive – trust me, I’ve done excessive in the past, and probably would be again this year if I were going to have a houseful – but fancy, and satisfying, enough for the holiday.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving?  If you’re cooking it yourself and follow a certain way of eating, such as paleo, will you try to keep your dinner in line with your diet, or will you throw caution to the wind and make some favorite traditional dishes because it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them?