Posts tagged with: Food Fight

The Gravy Games: A Jeanne and Cassondra Fifth Day of Christmas Food Fight

Turkey 2014Have you ever been faced with an unexpected challenge where you’ve gone “Oh sh** can I pull this off?”

That happened to me this Thanksgiving.

We were lucky enough to get asked to Thanksgiving dinner this year at the home of two dear friends. The couple was newly married, and a group of us descended on their house as the final meal preparations were in full swing.

It was a pitch-in dinner, so we had a bit of everything. But the main entre’ was oven-roasted turkey. And contrary to Duchesse Jeanne’s ideology, if you’re having turkey, you must have mashed potatgravy5 mccormickoes and gravy. But that’s a whole nuther story.

Jeanne: Yes! To the mashed potatoes.  A resounding NO WAY to the gravy.  Nope.  Slimy madness, I tell you.  What is this passion people have for pouring fowl grease over everything on their plates??

Cassondra:  Excuse me…it’s about…you know…taste….flavor. And I was trying to tell a story here.

Jeanne:  *looking abashed* Oh.  Sorry.  Pray, continue!

gravy9Cassondra:  Alrighty then.  The cook of this couple is a young man who took on the challenge of a big group for Thanksgiving, and he handled it perfectly. In the final few minutes, with the stand mixer whirring the mashed potatoes into creamy goodness, he pulled the perfectly browned, perfectly moist turkey out of the oven with a flourish, transferred it to a platter to be carved, turned back to the roasting pan and…hesitated.

I was helping wash up the prep dishes because pitch-in dinners are just that way—I can’t sit around and not help if there’s stuff to be done—when I caught the slight panic in his eyes. His gaze landed on me and he said, “Cassondra, can you make the gravy?”

“Absolutely!” I forced confidence into my voice.

Truth? I’ve made gravy a bunch. And I’ve failed a bunch.

Jeanne: *whispers* That’s because good gravy is hard, and bad gravy is awful!  I can make good gravy, but why?

Cassondra: *glares*  For you who aren’t aware, gravy is one of the gravy10pinnacle dishes for the successful southern woman who plans to call herself a cook, because no holiday meal is complete, whether it’s ham or turkey, without a side of mashed potatoes made into a perfect pond, filled with yummy, slurpalicious gravy.

Jeanne:  Ick.

Cassondra:  *squints at Jeanne* Whether it’s white gravy (we call that breakfast gravy around these parts) or brown gravy (that’s dinner gravy), bottom line, it’s the nectar of the gods.

Jeanne: *harrumphs* No matter what you call it, its as nutty as yesterday’s fudge to drown perfectly magnificent biscuits in white gravy, and equally superb potatoes in brown gravy.  But you have to finish the story.  What did you do?

gravy13Cassondra: *rolls eye*  In a minute.  Breakfast gravy is not just for biscuits.  I don’t eat it that way, though I have complete respect for a good plate of hot homemade biscuits smothered in freshly made white gravy.

Anyway…Breakfast gravy, for some of us, is to hide the eggs, so we can get our protein without actually…you know…tasting the bird embryos.

Jeanne: Snork!  Loooooove me some bird embryos.

Cassondra:  *wrinkles nose*  I want so much to like them, but I don’t really. The gravy smooths the way.  *glances at Jeanne’s “ain’t givin’ in” look*  I see we have another food fight brewing here, don’t we?

Jeanne: *looks smug*  Well, it IS our little Evil Twin, holiday tradition!

Cassondra:  Okay fine. Let’s just stop right here and settle this.

Jeanne:  Pistols at dawn?  *grins*

Cassondra:  No. Mashed potatoes at dinner.  *taps foot a few times, contemplating*  How can this be?  You grew up in the south.  I mean, surely your mama made gravy.  How can you not like it?  What’s not to like about gravy?

Jeanne:  I’m totally down with mashed potatoes.  LOVE them.  Any kind of gravy8potato – Irish, Yukon, Sweet, red-skinned – can be mashed in my presence and I will rejoice and sit down to eat.  It’s the drowning in grease that I loathe.

Cassondra:  Noooo–

Jeanne: *holds up hand, stopping the interruption* Gravy is just….what was it you said yesterday?  Ah, yes, *clears throat to produce the perfect sound*  “EWWWWW!”  It’s neither liquid nor solid – a perpetual confusion of form – and it’s frequently too salty and lumpy to be borne.  Mostly, however, it’s the texture for me.  I’m pretty much okay with the salt part, but it’s just…slimy.  Sorry can’t come up with a better word.

sausagegravyCassondra:  *squares shoulders, shakes finger back and forth*  It’s neither liquid nor solid because it’s sauce.  You know…..that stuff that elevates good food to excellent?  Good gravy is sauce, and is neither greasy nor slimy.  That’s bad gravy.  Explain.

Jeanne:  In a minute.  Not only is it greasy AND slimy, people really do put it on everything on their plates.  Seriously!  You know that, right?  OMGosh.  They drown the dressing, the turkey, the potatoes, the casseroles (whatever those may be) and suddenly their plates look like a lake with protruding boulders of meat and veg.  Bleech.

Cassondra:  *considers*  Casseroles are a whole nuther argument.  Okay I’ll give you that a sea of gravy with protruding food lumps is gross.  But that’s not the gravy’s fault.  That’s the error of the user.  Blaming the gravy for that mess is like blaming the pencil for accounting errors! It’s like blaming the spoon when you gain weight!

Jeanne: *ignoring all this*  It’s not just the lumps on the plate.  The gravy boatlumps in the gravy itself…*shudders*

Cassondra:  Give us all a break here.  NOBODY makes lump-free gravy the first time.  It takes good technique and lots of practice.  And even excellent cooks fail now and then.

Jeanne:  Lumpy gravy is gross.  But you’re right.  It takes practice getting that whisk going just right and making sure your flour doesn’t clump.

Cassondra:  Yeah, and about that….you said you make good gravy.  If you don’t like gravy, how do you know you make good gravy? Gravy is an art form. What exactly does “good gravy” mean to a woman who doesn’t eat it?

Jeanne:  Well, good gravy is, like your mama’s fudge, acceptable in one format only.  I think it is only good on stuffing.  Not dressing, which is a solid, usually cube-like mass, but dressing, which is fluffier, breadier, and, well, better.  Grins.  (I do believe we never settled that whole dressing/stuffing thing, did we?)

Cassondra: We settled that one.  We agreed to disagree.  Good stuffing is not *grimaces* cube-like.

Jeanne: *ignoring the cube comment* And as to what good gravy IS, it’s smooth, light, and well blended, having only moderate or minced pieces of meat in it.  These would be from the pan drippings, of course, which you use to make said gravy.  If it’s from a jar?  Bleeech.

Cassondra:  Well at least we agree on that.  I understand busy moms and gravy 1harried cooks feeding their families have to sometimes resort to quicker alternatives.  But gravy is so fundamentally easy

Jeanne: *raises eyebrow*

Cassondra:  It is.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s quicker to make gravy from drippings than it is to make it from some envelope of powder.  And I can taste premix gravies a mile away. Same as I can taste fake mashed potatoes, which are, by the way, abomination. *steps back, takes a moment*

Mikasa gravy boatJeanne:  Well, we definitely agree there, for sure.  *shudders*  Fake mashed potatoes.  Who thought that was a good idea?  Anyway, I guess I don’t know that I DO make good gravy other than that people who’ve been with us at holiday meals where I’ve made it say I do, and then promptly empty the gravy boat.  Grins.

Cassondra:  You own a gravy boat?  *hesitates*  Wait. What am I saying?  You’re almost as much of a dish whore as I am. Of course you own a gravy boat.

Jeanne:  *looks smug yet again*  I have several, actually. The Mikasa one there is the “big” gravy boat I use.  I have a silver and a Limoges and, I think, a plain white one.  Ha!  But I only make gravy because there’s bound to be a mutiny at my table if I don’t, given that my darling husband and I’ll-eat-anything-not-nailed-down son are fans.

Cassondra:  *studies nails*  Gentlemen of refined taste, I’d say.

Jeanne: Snork!  Not disagreeing, but snork! Can I continue?gravy12

Cassondra:  Sorry. I get a little carried away about gravy. *waves hand* Proceed, proceed.

Jeanne:  Ahem.  My youngest, he’s a texture guy, like me.  He steers wide and clear of the gravy.  Now the cranberry sauce, on the other hand….if you want any, get it before my youngest does.  Grins.

Cassondra:  *shakes head*  Likes slimy, ooky cranberry sauce but doesn’t like nice, smooth gravy.

Jeanne: *quirks a smile*  Likes tasty, fruity, tangy delicious cranberry sauce and abjures gravy.  (Have to confess, I think he suspects I will try to hide food he doesn’t like with said gravy, which he already doesn’t like the texture of, even when it’s GOOD gravy.)  And you nearly turned me green with that can of “gluten-free-vegetable-gravy” – As my mother would say, “What in tarnation are they thinking?” Vegetables do NOT make gravy. Furthermore, most gluten-free stuff is like most organic stuff – it isn’t.  SNORK!  (But that’s a fight for another day!)

limoges gravy boatCassondra: Ha!  We have the truth of it!  You gravy haters actually fear what’s hidden UNDERNEATH the gravy! Muahahahaha!  The truth comes out!

Jeanne:  *rolls eyes* You never did tell us how your gravy turned out.

Cassondra:  It actually rocked.  Good homemade drippings plus a little thickening…POOF!  Good gravy!

Now it‘s up to you, Bandits and Buddies. I lost yesterday’s food fight in a terrible rout. 

What about gravy?

Do you like it?

Brown gravy? Or White gravy?

If it’s white gravy for breakfast, do you like sausage in yours? (I don’t, but it’s very popular here in the south)

At the holidays, does your gravy go on your potatoes?  Your turkey or ham? Your dressing?  Do you drink it with a straw? I just about could….ahem.

Can you make your own gravy?  What’s your secret to getting it to come out smooth?

Do you use a mix as a starter base?  Or do you make it from scratch? Share  your gravy secrets!

And do you own a gravy boat?  More than one?

It’s that time of year for savory sauces. Let’s dish on gravy.

One commenter today will receive a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card from Cassondra, plus a copy of DEAD RUN, Jeanne’s latest Faithful Defenders romantic suspense, and a German Shepherd ornament!

photos courtesy of Wikipedia and the authors

Are you NUTS? A 4th Day of Christmas Cassondra and Jeanne Holiday FUDGE Fight!

ChristmastinDo you ever give gift tins at the holidays?  Or get them?  Those cute little round or square tins with holiday motifs that some wonderful friend has filled with home baked goodies.  I LOVE those!!

Cassondra:  *drools*  Oh Yumm!  I love to get foodie presents!

Jeanne:  *smiling pleasantly* My favorite to get – and give – is fudge.

Cassondra:  Ewwwwww.

Jeanne: *ignoring that, still smiling*  It’s one of the best things about the holidays.  Now you can get fudge in the summer, sure, you can, right there at that place at the beach or resort, where they make it in humongous batches.  But there’s nothing better than homemade fudge at the holidays.  I love making fudge as prezzies for people, I like getting the colored wax paper and filling gift tins full of yummy, nutty, slurpy, chocolate fudge.  Yum!!

bc71ff31cb762ad6dcd11d52773b8638Cassondra: Yuck.

Jeanne:  *glaring now*  Will you hush?  I’m having a moment here.

Cassondra:  Fine, fine.  Wax sentimental, why don’t you?

Jeanne:  Thank you.  And it’s wax paper.  (Snork!)

Cassondra:  *rolls eyes*

Jeanne:  Anyway.  My mom used to make fudge, but only at the holidays.  Perhaps that’s why I love it so much this time of year.  I got to cut up the pecans to go in it, but I also got to pick out those perfect pecan halves to put on top.  YUM!

Cassondra:  You already said that “yum” part.

P1100727-32Jeanne: Did I? Yeah, I did!  Still, it bears repeating.

Cassondra: *rolls eyes harder*  Whatever.  Sounds like you should’ve married a tin of fudge, romance girl.

Jeanne:  Hmmm… maybe…WAIT!  Are you telling me you don’t like fudge with nuts on top?

Cassondra:  Oh I love the nuts just fine. In fact, I love nuts period.  In even more fact, the nuts are the only thing about fudge that allows the stuff to be considered actual…you know…food.  I generally don’t like nuts in things, but most especially chocolate fudge. It’s an abomination to put those wonderful nuts in such a disgusting mixture.

Jeanne:  You’ve got to be kidding me. You don’t like fudge?  What happened to our evil twin love fest with food?

Cassondra: It got cooked to soft ball stage.

Jeanne: *snork*

Cassondra: And nope.  I don’t like nuts in or on things as a rule.  There are only two exceptions.

Jeanne:  Ha!  I knew it!!  th

Cassondra:  *holds up hand in STOP motion*  Here’s the thing.  Chocolate fudge is so rich-sweet that I can eat exactly one bite of it before I keel over and start to turn all gooey pink and sicky-sweet like Glinda, that fluffy witch from the Wizard of Oz who flew around in a damn soap bubble waving her sparkle wand.  How sickeningly sweet is that? *makes barfing sounds*

Jeanne: *speechless for a moment at this spew of vitriol…Finally she raises her eyebrow* Sparkle wand?  It turns you into a glitzy blonde with a sparkly crown and sparkly wand??

Cassondra:  I’m much more akin to Elphaba.

glindaJeanne:  Who?  Oh, right.  The other one…

Cassondra: The green one. You know…the one who died so unfortunately. *whispers* Death by melting. *shivers* Ahem.  She was a good person at heart.  Misunderstood.  But she was not sicky sweet.  That’s fudge.  Glinda-sicky-sweet. So sweet you can’t stand it.

Jeanne: *raises other eyebrow* I’ll give you that part about misunderstood.  I mean, seriously, you grow up green it does something to your perspective, you know?

Cassondra:  Totally.  But back to the point.  Let’s get real here.  More often than not, fudge resembles sand. Mixing chocolate with it does not make it viable food. It’s grainy and the sugar is still granulated and just….gross.  You can’t even taste the chocolat-ey-ness of it because it’s so darn rich-sweet that it’s just a big sweet attack (you know…kinda like the pink froo froo witch with the big glittery tin foil crown thing, and the eyelashes out to here and the sparkle wand) The only thing even remotely food-like in said chocolate sugar-sand is the nuts. Sand was made to walk on.  On the BEACH. pecans

God made nuts after all.  The almighty did not mean for sand to be taken as food, and the whole thing is a waste of perfectly good nuts.  Nuts were not meant to be mixed into sandy goo and cooked up into concoctions.

Jeanne:  I love nuts in food.  And fudge is NOT sand, or sandy!  I protest!  Fudge is smooooooooth.  It’s as smooth as a flying monkey’s….uh…flight pattern!  It’s delicious, fudgey, chocolaty goodness wrapped around the most divine nuttiness ever.  Nuts, and chocolate.  It’s a tradition.  Almond Joy. Fudge Snickers.  100,000 dollar bars.  FUDGE!!!  WOOT!!  And it doesn’t have to be that ooogy sickly sweet stuff you get at the fair.  Besides, adding the nuts makes it better and tones down the sweet.

Cassondra: *shakes head, taps foot, waiting for the end of the happy dancing* Ick.  Nine times out of ten, fudge is a sandy, sicky-sweet, so-rich-you-can’t-taste-it, gross waste of perfectly good nuts.  I bet you like nuts on your ice cream too.

Jeanne:  *smug*  Yep!  CHOCOLATE ice cream.  Like fudge, everything is improved with nuts.   Bread (as in banana bread, pumpkin bread, etc), dairy products (you know, like ice cream) and I’ve even been known to add walNUT oil to other baking to improve the flavor.  So there!ice cream

Cassondra: Oil doesn’t count. It never did have any inherent crunchiness.  But as to the rest? Ewwww.

Jeanne:  Wait.  How can you not like nuts on ice cream, at least?  I know it makes them cold…SNORK…wait, cold nuts.  SNORK!  Okay, so while that’s not good in a partner, it IS good on ice cream!!

Cassondra:  What can I say?  I’m picky about nuts.

Jeanne: Snork!!!!

Cassondra: On ice cream they’re waaaaaaay too much of a contrast. Ice cream is supposed to be smooth. Smooth is part of ice cream’s nature. Same with peanut butter.  Putting nuts on it–or in it–is just wrong.  Ruins the ice cream. Ruins the nuts.  It’s wrong I tell you.

03-jif-crunchy-peanut-butter-lgn-jpg_001036Jeanne:  Nuh-uh.  It gives that smooth, cool goodness an extra boost of texture and warm, nutty deliciousness.  Kinda like crunchy peanut butter.

Cassondra: OMG!  Even the photo of that JAR of crunchy peanut butter makes me ooog out.  EWWWWWW!

Jeanne:  *tapping foot* You said there were two exceptions.

Cassondra:  Yes.  My mom made this stuff that’s technically called fudge, but has no similarity to any fudge I’ve ever eaten.

Jeanne: Ha!  Your mom made fudge and you liked it!

Cassondra: No!  This stuff was an island amid other disgusting fudgey-ness.

Jeanne:  Okay Miss “my fudge is an island” fudge hater.  How was it different?33608

Cassondra:  Look, I’ve had all kinds of fudge.  The chocolate kinds are all just disgusting disgraces to everything that is chocolate.  I can’t even look at that ring thing you posted on the right.  What’s worse than fruitcake? One made of fudge.  It’s basically mud disguised as dessert. Gah!

I can tolerate the peanut butter fudges a little better because they generally have a very high ratio of peanut buttery-ness.  Even so I would never choose those over, say, a shortbread cookie, which is a far more subtle, gently textured, perfectly balanced bit of yum–

Jeanne: Ha! You used the word yum!

Cassondra:  *closes eyes, reaches for Zen*  My mom’s recipe is for sour cream black walnut fudge.  It’s incredibly mild.  Really subtle and not at all overpowering.  Because of this, the flavor of the black walnuts really shines. It’s the most prominent flavor in the candy, with the semi-sweet sour cream base as a backdrop.  It’s amazing.  It’s…yum.

Jeanne: *sing-songs* Cassondra likes fuuu-dge, Cassondra likes fuuuu-dge!  With NUTS.  WALL nuts.  BWAHAHAHAHAH!!!  Gotcha!!!  So, since you’ve made the concession of saying that there is ONE – albeit ONLY one – type of fudge that will willingly pass your lips, WITH NUTS, I’ll concede that I cannot STAND crunchy peanut butter.  Grins.  Peanut butter needs to be smooth.  But anything else?  Bring on the nuts!  What’s your second exception?

Cassondra:  Ha!  And yet you posted that jar of vile crunchy peanut butter just to taunt me!

Jeanne:  *looks smug, bats eyelashes*

Cassondra *sigh* My second exception is MotherGrant’s German Chocolate Cake, made from the recipe on the actual label from a bar of Baker’s German Sweet Chocolate from the 1920s. Takes 18 eggs.  *looks smug right back*

Jeanne:  German chocolate cake icing is total goo. With nuts.

Cassondra: Yes. Yes, it is.  But it has coconut too, which doesn’t actually COUNT as a nut cuz it isn’t crunchy, and homemade German Chocolate Cake icing is not just good.  It’s Goo from God. And I love it.  But that’s the ONLY nutty goo I like.  Chocolate fudge is disgusting and just out.

Jeanne:  Goo from God. The title is perfect. You are nuts.

So what about you Bandits and Buddies?  Do you like foodie gifts?  Towers of snacks, tins of cookies or fudge WITH NUTS?

What about fudge in general?

Chocolate fudge or flavored fudge?

Nuts or no nuts?  Ever?  In anything?  Or just in some things?

Cold nuts? (On ice cream, you perverts!)

Crunchy peanut butter or smooooooooooth only?

Here’s my favorite fudge recipe to date, I’ve made it several years running (WITH NUTS) and love it: Aunt Teens Chocolate Fudge

(Photos are the authors, Wikimedia commons, and Yahoo Images. )

Jeanne will be giving away a signed copy of Dead Run and a German Shepard ornament!  Cassondra will give away a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card to the same winner!


The Stuffing Wars: A Cassondra and Jeanne Food Fight

Cassondra: I make these really awesome dressing balls. 

Jeanne Did you say balls?

Cassondra: Dressing balls.  Like made out of stuffing.  Stuffing that isn’t stuffed.Professional portrait - JPA 2012

Jeanne: Snork!  Dressing balls.  Seriously?  And I hate stuffing.  Stuffing is wrong.  Just…wrong.

Cassondra: Hey!  I’m telling a story here.

Ahem…When I was a little girl, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we always had turkey.  Never ham.  And along with the turkey, we had dressing balls.

It’s  basically light bread stuffing, but you roll it into balls—they’re about the size of large meatballs, and line them up on a baking sheet, bake them in the oven for almost an hour. 

They’re crunchy and crispy on the outside, hot and soft and steamy inside.  Yummm! 

Jeanne: *distracted by the thought of this potential goodness* Okay…so those sound good, but…having a hard time imagining them.

Cassondra: I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of my balls, but– 

Jeanne:  SNORK! Well, one doesn’t usually photograph one’s balls.  BWAHAHAHAHAH!

Stuffing_BallsCassondra:  Ahem.  As I was about to say…That picture over on the left?  That looks similar to my dressing balls, but it’s not exactly right. Mine are…fluffier.  Less like candy and more like bread.

 I learned from my mom, and I carry on the tradition now, and make this every time I roast a turkey.

And here’s the thing.  If it’s not my ball dressing, it has to be stuffing.  NO other dressing is any good.

Jeanne:  You’ve got to be kidding me.  You won’t eat dressing?   Just stuffing?  You are SO my Twin in so many ways, but…anything that is stuffed in a turkey’s nether regions isn’t fit for eatin’.  I’m just sayin’.

Cassondra:  Will you quit makin’ me picture turkey nether regions and stay on topic?  I’ve had a lot of dressing baked in pans.  I don’t like it.

Jeanne: Bwahahah!  Now c’mon.  You mean to tell me you’d rather have balls ‘o dressing, or something that’s been stuffed stuffingin a turkey’s bum—

Cassondra:  WHAT?  How can you not like stuffing?

What’s wrong with stuffing?

Jeanne: Nothing if you don’t object to sloppy, gloopy nether-region breadcrumbs.  Grins. 

I can’t believe you, of all people, would rather have THAT than a good, yummy cornbread dressing all crumbled up and onion-y and sage-y.   Or oyster dressing?  Or cranberry and orange dressing with pecans?  SERIOUSLY???

Cassondra:  OMG!  Oyster dressing?  Blech! BLEHHHHH. RETCH!

Jeanne Hahah!  You sound like Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes when faced with eggplant casserole.  You don’t like oysters?  How did I miss this?  I thought you liked oysters??

Cassondra:  I love oysters!  Fresh ones.  Raw even.  But canned oysters?  And it’s always canned, by the way, if you’re putting them IN anything.  I live in a landlocked state.  Canned ones mixed in with…well…anything…and cooked…well..any way….GROOOOOOOSSSSSSSS!

Jeanne: Hahahah!  Okay, I concede that they aren’t pretty.  My former (as in first husband’s) Mother-in-Law and family ALWAYS made dressing with oysters.  Much as I like oysters, I must confess, I didn’t love the oysters in dressing either. 

Cornbread dressing Cassondra:  Okay, I feel better.  So…my sweetheart Mother-In-Law used to make the holiday meal.  She made amazing cornbread dressing.  Pans of it.  Everybody loved it.

*hangs head* I didn’t like it.

I ate some, always.  But not much. 

Jeanne:  Yep, you gotta eat it – at least a little.  You are not country if you don’t like cornbread.

Cassondra:  I LOVE cornbread.  But not made into some kind of mush to be spooned out and dumped alongside the turkey!

Jeanne:  Okay, I agree with you there.  No mush.  Bleeech.  Ixnay on the ush-may.  My dressing isn’t mushy and it isn’t balled or burlapped or spooned out of a turkey gullet.

Cassondra: (ignoring Jeanne) Here’s the thing.  The stuffing I make is really simple. It’s basically just a foil to absorb all the yummy turkey juices.  All steamy hot, it’s fantastic. 

I like dark meat turkey too. Just sayin’.

Jeanne:  Whew!  I’m so glad you confirmed that we ARE Twins, I was beginning to wonder.  (I love dark meat cornbread dressing2too!)

Cassondra: Bottom line?  I like stuffing.   And I’ve never had dressing cooked in a pan that I like.  My dressing balls are crunchy and crispy and sage-ey and..yummm..

 And I only have to make one kind.  The same thing that goes in the turkey for stuffing, gets rolled into balls for the dressing balls. *grin*  Easy.

Jeanne:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Balls-schmalls.  Whether you get the bread out of a bag, toast it yourself, make it with cornbread or not (or dress it up with oyyyyyyysters), dressing is just…saner.  Slap that bread in a pan, stir up some onions, celery, oysters, add some turkey juice or chicken boullion, and so on.  Yummy.  Cut it into squares and plunk it on the plate…SLURP!!!  Yes, it DOES soak up the yummy juices, but hey…so do the mashed potatoes.  (Now I’m really hungry)

What about you, Bandits and buddies?

Which side of the Stuffing War will you join?Stuffing mix

Do you have a special stuffing/dressing recipe that’s always in demand for the holidays.

Is it stuffing—as in stuffed inside the turkey to roast with the bird?

Or is it “dressing”—cooked in a pan as a side dish?

And what kind? Cornbread? Regular bread?  Apple, raisin or rice?

Cassondra: What stuffs your turkey?

Jeanne:  *smack* What GOES with your turkey?

And if you don’t serve turkey for Christmas or Thanksgiving, what’s your “can’t-do-without side dish?

What about oysters? Are they “the thing” for your dressing or are they anathema?

Cassondra:  Anathema? Don’t you mean afishema?  Blech.

Changing the subject, Have y’all ever had dressing balls?

Jeanne: You said balls…bwaahahahaha!!

Seriously Bandits and Buddies…where do you fall in The Stuffing Wars?

 OH!  Yeah.  The Bandit 12 Days of Christmas is still happening. This is THE LAST DAY for the regular cool ornament!  Comment to be in the drawing.

The Way to a Man’s Heart….is Spaghetti!

asparagusYes, I know that the saying is that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  But in my house that heart has a longing for pasta with meat sauce.

Of course, food in general is the way to my heart too, I must confess.  Having read Tawny’s Favorite Things post, and Anna C’s post about cookies, over the last few days, I’m really hungry.  Of course, I too am about to go on a cooking jag, as I’m prepping for the Annual Ad(d)ams Family Halloween Party.

The perennial favorite dishes which I cannot do without – hordes of people complain if I don’t make these dishes for the party! – vary from vegetable to fruits to meats.  Oh, and there’s a cookie too that cannot be done without.

My aunt’s asparagus casserole is, for one, a “must do” dish.  This involves an entire stick of butter, lots of asparagus, crackers, cheese, cream of mushroom soup…..yummmmmy.  Even those who don’t like asparagus love this dish.  I’ve caught guests licking the spoon to get the last of it.  Grins.

Then there’s my own favorite, a Southern staple of a Sweet Potato Casserole.  Sweet potatoes, not yams, mind you.  Most Southerners use the terms interchangeable, but yams just aren’t right for this dish.  Gotta be sweet potatoes.  This dish also involves a full stick of butter, several big fat potatoes, eggs, milk, brown sugar and lots and lots of pecans.sweetpotatoes

And absolutely NO marshmallows.  None.  Zero.  Zip.  So put that right out of your mental picture.  The cookie is a secret-recipe molasses/ginger cookie.  YUMMY!!!

I was thinking about all this, and plotting out my course of cooking over the next few days, and I asked my husband and sons which were their favorites.  Most of the “most requested recipes” hit the “do for the party” list, but in terms of general foodishness, they had some other favorites.

My youngest son told me he could eat my homemade yeast rolls “Until I explode, mom!  I love them!”  Okay, so this was actually news to me.  He feels this same way about the coffee cake that my husband makes on Saturdays.  A family recipe as well, that one.  Good to know, since Cheerioshe’s my picky eater!  He’d live on corn dogs, pineapple pizza and Cheerios if I’d let him.

Obviously, he got my carb-loving, bread-devouring gene.  Ha!

My older son, who will at this teenaged point in his life, eat anything not nailed down, had favorites other than bread products.  For him, his hands-down favorite is spaghetti.  I make a lot of spaghetti because EVERYONE in this house will eat spaghetti, even picky Youngest Son.  So, it  seems fairly commonplace right? 

Evidently not so much. 

According to the Eldest Son, I make spaghetti differently than any other mom of his acquaintance.  Now those of you who have kids – or were kids – and live in the suburbs know about this.  There are always play dates.  Often as not, as a mom, you end up feeding someone else’s kids for these events, either lunch or dinner, or at least snacks.  As the boys get older, I find I make a LOT of food to feed growing boys.  (The other moms do too, so it evens out!)  Everyone of my son’s friends likes my spaghetti.  Now THEY will ask for it, if they’re coming over.  “Hey, do you think your mom will make spaghetti?”

Grins.  I’m a hit!  They like me – or at least my spaghetti! – they really like me!  SNORK!!!

My husband describes it as “A lot of great lightly-spiced meat with some sauce and noodles.”  Grins.  Pretty accurate.  That appears to be the way to most of these young men’s hearts.  Ha!

Being a confirmed “Meat-a-tarian” I always prefer the meatier dishes and my spaghetti is no exception.  Eldest Son claims he could eat his weight in spaghetti, and never get tired of it.   And while he and my husband sometimes request chicken pot pie or beef brisket or I try and branch out, try lighter recipes or different things, they may appreciate or like the new things, but they always, consistently request spaghetti as the “stand-by-favorite.”

Yes, meat-a-tarians all, in this family!!

So Banditas and Buddies, do you like spaghetti?

General meat with sauce, or meatballs and sauce?  Or do you go all veg?

Parmesan cheese, or just sauce and noodles?

Do you get your sauce from a jar or make it homemade?

Bandita Nancy’s now-grown-son used to famously request “Plain Spaghetti” – bare noodles with butter.  Is this a favorite with your kids?

Do you ever make spaghetti with something other than long, thin noodles?  (I.e. shaped pasta instead of noooodly-noodles?)

What “sides” to you add?  I can get my family to add bread, a salad, or edamame, but not much else.  What about you?

Do you have, or were you, a picky eater?  What was your staple food?  Pizza?  Marshmallow Fluff? Cheerios?

Burgers vs Dawgs: A Cassondra & Jeanne Food Fight

So yesterday was Independence Day in the United States.  The official mid-summer holiday when anybody who can be in the water is in the water, and almost everybody grills out.

If I were guessing, and believe me, I am, I’d say there is probably more charcoal dumped into rusty, seldom-used grills, doused with disgusting *cough* “completely taste-free!” *cough* petroleum-based charcoal lighter fluid, and more sundry processed meat cooked over this arrangement on Independence Day than on any other day of the year.  In the States anyway. The only possible contenders would be Memorial Day, which is the official start of the summer season here, and Labor Day, which is the official end. But I would wager that July 4th, in the US, would rival all other days for consumption of the classic American grill foods. 

Burgers and Hot Dogs.

My evil twin, Jeanne loves burgers best, and  for many years I was also firmly in the “Burgers” camp.  Big, juicy, not-too-done burgers with mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion. (Yes, Jeanne, I see you blanching at the mayo thing). I even did a blog last fall called “What Do You Like On Your Burger”.  

Jeanne: I loved that post!  But OY! I am indeed making the Mr. Yuk face over the mayo, as predicted.

Cassondra:  Hot dogs, on the other hand…not so much. I’ve tried them lots of different ways, but I just did not love the taste of hot dogs. For starters, I’ve made a solid attempt, for more than ten years, to not eat a lot of processed meats.  I’ve been trying to avoid artificial preservatives, specifically nitrates and nitrites. I could get preservative free processed meats, but I’d have to drive 60 miles to Whole Foods in Nashville to do it. That’s a long drive for a tube steak. 

  I’m honestly at a loss as to why these are still so prevalent in our foods.

 NOTE TO FOOD PROCESSORS:  We. Own. Refrigerators. 

 I don’t mean to be a food snob.  I just have this sense that if I don’t pay attention, I’ll end up like Joe Diffie in Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox If I Die.  I won’t even have to be embalmed.  I’ll just get kind of stiff and Steve can stand me up in the corner at wine tasting.  If he can manage to thread the stem of a wine glass through my rigid fingers, and add an ounce or two of decent Cabernet, nobody will notice.

Jeanne: Okay now I’m LOL.  Admit it, you ARE a food snob.  As to the preservation bit they have the annual Hot Dog Eating contest on the Fourth of July in New Jersey.  The reigning and repeat champ, ate 68 hot dogs in under 10 minutes.  I think he’s going to die of nitrate poisoning.  Hahah!  Or he too will be very well preserved…

Cassondra:  *ahem* All that to say, I never learned to love hot dogs.

 Until a month ago.

 A month ago I found Oscar Meyer Selects. Right there in the standup meat cooler thingy at Kroger.  And I will say, right here in front of God and everybody, that it has changed my life. 

They come in Chicago style, which I don’t much like.  I agree with Steve that they have the faintest hint of pickle juice flavor. They also come in New York Style, which I absolutely love.  I now eat hot dogs once a week at least, and if I can get the good ones, I prefer them over burgers.

Jeanne is aggrieved over this desertion from the sacred burger, but I can’t help it. 

I cut up fresh tomato, chop fresh onion, grill the dogs until they’re crusty and split open, and pile the dog high with the onion, tomato and fresh relish.  A sprinkle of celery salt if I need a salt fix. 

 And since I’m on the Atkins diet at present, I’ve found that I can even eat them this way without the bun.   Best. Dogs. Ever. 

Jeanne: OMGosh, Cassondra, I can’t believe you’ve gone all DAWG on me!!!  I AM aggrieved!  (Doesn’t that make me sound so posh?) And YES I really was shuddering over the mayo thing.  Ugh and ick.  I’m trying to remember that we’re twins and friends but…mayo?  Okay, okay…to each her own.  Snork!!!

Had to LOL about Joe Diffie and you holding a wine glass at a tasting, all propped up and d-e-d.  Grins.

As you know, I lurrrrve me some burgers.  Fat and jucy and cheese-laden.  Add some lettuce and tomato, and French Fried Potatoes.  Ohhhhh, yeah, Cheeseburger in Paradise.

 And let me tell you, I was SO craving a hamburger this last weekend when the power went out.  So, we fired up the grill in the 100+ heat and used up all the ground beef, invited the neighbors over with all their leftovers which might go bad.  We grilled pizza on a pizza stone, made burgers, had chicken and salads, shrimp, etc. 

Cassondra:  OMGOSH!  Pizza on the grill?  Slurp.

Jeanne: Ohhh, it was goooood.  It was one of those “Whatever you have, bring it” deals, just to get rid of it before we had to throw it away.  (No power for 3 days in immense heat means the food has to go.  Sigh.)  It was like an old-fashioned church picnic or “dinner on the grounds” kind of deal.  Kids running around everywhere, laughing and playing, the parents sitting in lawn chairs trying to stay cool, debating the merits of going to stay with the in-laws (if THEY had power), telling stories about the storm and giving advice about sleeping in the cooool of the basement! 

With all that, as we headed for the Fourth, my fridge was cleaner and emptier than it had been since I bought it.  Hahaha!

Ahhh, but the power and the AC and the internet came back just in time for the holiday!  So, THEN we shopped.  All the steak was gone, but there were fresh stocks of those staple foods Cassondra mentioned!  Plus corn and salad and all the fixin’s.

Cassondra:  Mmmmmm.  Cooooorrrrn. 

Jeanne: Again, let me say, soooo good!  We’re still in a heat wave and still threatened with power outages as more damaged trees or limbs may fall, and many more days of storms are ahead.  However, it was the Fourth.  That meant burgers and dogs.  You already know I love the burgers – add mushrooms, carmelized onions, other yummies! – and I’m good to go. 

Alas, however, my boys like hot dogs. 

Cassondra: *Looks smug.*  They take after their Auntie Cassondra.

Jeanne: Uh-huh, sure they do.  *eye roll* Big, fat, ball-park-style franks.  They demand relish, ketchup, mustard and chili.  No onions, but pretty much anything else goes.  Grins.

Not me.  I ate too many hot dogs in high school and college in self-defense against the horrible cafeteria food.  It sure wasn’t mama’s home cookin’!  So now, I leave the franks for others.  I’ll make them, but I won’t eat them. 

Having said that, I will admit to some frank exceptions.  In Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles play baseball, they have a brand of hot dog that just makes me drool.  I always have to have one.  They are HUGE.  I’ll have mine plain, with relish.  Oooooh.  Goood.  Also, when in Atlanta, I must always go to the Varsity –  and have two to go. (“Two DOGS WALKIN!”)   And I must confess that the other day, searching for gas, which was in short supply due to the power outage, I ate a hot dog at Costco.  To my great surprise, I enjoyed it immensely.

Cassondra:  Bleh.  I don’t think I could go there.

Jeanne: Didn’t think I could, but it was good!  Has it switched my allegience?  Oh, heck no.  Give me a burger, with cheese, and I’m a happy camper.  Skip the dog, go straight for the burger.  Please and thank you, I’ll just have a napkin and be done.  Ha!

Cassondra:  I think you’re just prejudiced against long skinny meat. That could be considered  racist ya know.

Jeanne:  Hahahaha!  SNORK!!!  Riiiiiight.  My dogma is damaged.  That’s racist.  SNORK!!  Now if I can just convince you,  my Evil Twin, that mayo on burgers is somehow sacreligious, I’ll feel like I’ve had a great holiday….seriously, Cassondra…it’s like burger slime.  SNORK!!!

Cassondra:  Noooooo!  That’s so WRONG!  By the way, if you’re too young to remember the Joe Diffie song, you can click on the title to hear it play. 

So tell us, Bandits and Buddies, do you grill on Independence Day?/July 4th?  If not, when do you grill?

If you’re not from the United States, what’s your biggest outdoor grilling day of the year?  And what are the most commonly cooked foods?

Do you grill with charcoal?  Briquets or the hardwood chunk type like we now use(no lighter fluid required for this kind)?

Or do you use a gas or electric grill?

If you eat hot dogs,what do you put on them?  

If you don’t eat meat, what do you grill instead?

And the most important question of the day…when you approach the grill chef for your main course, what’ll it be? A burger or a dawg?