Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Taking the time

IMG_4649As the clock ticks towards our Thanksgiving Day meal, my thoughts wander from the turkey roasting in the oven, family soon to surround us, and the bustle of activity that comes with this annual November cooking frenzy. The reason for all this November cooking frenzy in the first place?


Taking the time to count one’s blessings and to be thankful.

We have had a rough year, for sure, but, we have also had more blessings than not, experienced grace, and been shown mercy. Our home is warm, our stomachs regularly filled. Loving family and friends are ever-present and we are sheltered from the winds and snow and cold. We are also mindful that not everyone is as a fortunate as we are.

I sit in a quiet moment of this Thanksgiving Day and I think of my ancestors, boat people all, who sailed across the Atlantic; some at the turn of the 20th century, others much earlier in time, and of those already here who opened their doors, fed them, housed them, found them jobs until they could find their own way in this vast land. I think as well of those my family in turn sheltered, tended their children as they worked, fell ill, buried husbands or wives, mothers and fathers. Each in turn, taken in, shown the way, keeping to customs and religious beliefs and slowly assimilating to others.

I sit here in my quiet moment and remember those Thanksgivings of change as loved ones passed away or moved distances afar, when money was tight and when it was plentiful. I think of the Thanksgiving when our world seemed to tilt in its axis when John Kennedy was assassinated.  We have broken bread on Thanksgiving with authors and musicians, students and immigrants; some at our table, some at the tables of family and friends.

One Thanksgiving our little, fledgling family hosted one guest. and I remember him this Thanksgiving. Gabrielle came from Croatia, by way of a Soviet gulag. Arrested and sentenced to years in a prison, his crime was distributing leaflets while a young man studying to be a priest. This kind man entertained our young daughters with stories of the kitten who befriended him during his darkest hours in jail; a kitten he shared his meager meal of bread with, and he shared his faith, which did not waver. It was a Thanksgiving so long ago now, but, still as fresh as the meal now roasting, for its poignant moments and Gabrielle’s joie de vivre.

I chuckle at the recollection of the frozen turkey that almost killed me, propelling toward my head at 35 mph and of the turkey whose giblets I left in the bird, only to find upon carving. There was the pumpkin pie I dropped trying to move it up a rack in the oven, shooting pumpkin custard all over the kitchen, including the ceiling and me and the youthful Thanksgiving when it was just my immediate family – a rarity growing up. My mother decided to roast a capon, whilst I worried how in the world she could cook, and worse yet, we all eat a bird with a cape on.

I sit here in my quiet moment, smelling the aromatic scents of our own roasting “bird” and can recall the flavors of my life along with the many faces across our table and other tables we have dined around. As I remember, I wonder and I hope that this simple gift of Thanksgiving on a Thursday in November will always be a day of Thanksgiving, no matter where our ancestors came from, and will be more  than a prelude to Black Friday, a paragraph in history.

My bird needs basting and some vegetables need to be diced, so, I best end this quiet moment of memories. Before I do, I need to say thank you, one and all, for visiting here on the Cutoff, reading my words, sharing your thoughts, taking the time to be here.


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In the checkout lane

61ne+bmPiAL._SX522_Life in the checkout lane. . . one of those spots in the aisle of life where interesting conversations are held.

There I was, picking up a few items we needed – the milk and bread and butter of life – perusing the sales, looking for staples to stock up on. Do you “stock up”? Canned goods, cereal, baking supplies? Here in the midwest, we are always waiting for the next big snowfall, the power to go out, the creek to overflow and will we have enough toilet paper to see us through?

Back to the checkout lane.

With my purchases on the belt and Gloria, the checker, scanning my items and myself rooting in my purse for my wallet. Suddenly,  Gloria held up a small round bottle of Homade Chili Sauce and proclaimed “are you making sloppy joes?”  .  “I am,” said I. “How did you know?”.

I almost always use this little bottle of sauce, not for chili, but, for sloppy joes. It is what I remember my mother using – this little round jar of sauce. I use it in my barbecue sauce, as well, and I stock up on it because it is sometimes hard to find.

It was a day for stocking up. Ooops. Back to the check out lane.

I asked Gloria, my favorite checker, how she surmised what I would be making. She replied that her husband was a fireman and this was what they  used at his station whenever they made sloppy joe’s. It is what she uses as well. She asked me how I came to use Homade Chili Sauce.  I told her about my mom and how I remembered the jar and always keep at least one on hand. Through this lively conversation, another shopper, her own cart full, was listening. She asked us for the recipe. Gloria and I just looked at each other. “What recipe? ” It ends up that Gloria and Penny make their joes in just about the same way; this and that and then the other – and Homade Chili Sauce. Taste and stir and just know when its right. Moms and firefighters. The best cooks around.

Shopper #2 left her cart and rushed over to the sauce aisle as I completed my purchase. It seems we had convinced her to give this a try. So it goes in this simple life here on the Cutoff (and in the checkout aisle).

Do you have a secret sauce in a jar?

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IMG_3987Last Sunday, this young lass and I made granola.

We also made a mess. Papa thoughtfully cleaned up for us.

Kezzie is a “cook fantastic”.


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A popular little bakery, not far from here, bakes their own granola. Every-now-and-then, I’ll slip inside and pick up a bag. The clear bags, about eight ounces worth, are tied nicely with ribbon and hold some very tasty morsels. At $8 a bag, however, it’s a bit of a luxury not often indulged in.

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve splurged on one of these bags of goodness. I was tempted a few weeks ago, and resisted the urge. My reward for resisting an impulse purchase came a few days later. Looking for one recipe, I came across another I had filed away (yes, I still use recipe boxes).

Why I have never made this recipe for homemade granola is beyond me. I no longer remember where I first saw it, so, if it is yours, dear reader, forgive me for not acknowledging you – and know it is now THE favorite granola here on the Cutoff. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.

Now I’ve gone and made myself hungry, so, will scoop out some of my fresh granola and pair it with a few spoonfuls of yogurt.  Do you like granola? How do you enjoy it?

4 – 6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (I use 6)
1 cup or more nuts, chopped (I use walnuts, like a bigger chop, and more than a cup of nuts)
1 cup dried fruit or more to taste (I use golden raisins and cranberries)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (Penzey’s – of course)
1/2 cup honey (could add more, but, this is sweet enough)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

350 degrees (F)

Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper, grease paper.  I cut the parchment bigger than the pan, creased the corners. It made the granola easy to take out of pan.

Mix oats, nuts, cinnamon and fruit *

Whisk honey, vegetable oil, and vanilla then pour over oat mixture, stir gently and thoroughly.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Stir several times while baking.

Cool. I stirred it every so often to break up clumps as it was cooling.

* recipe calls for fruit to be added after it bakes. I added to mixture. Stir often while cooking, just watch so it doesn’t burn.


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DSCN9220I promised to report back on recipes from the book I brought home from one of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days. I wrote about “A Glorious Harvest” here.

I have been tempted by many of the recipes in this visually stunning book, which really is inspirational as it encourages cooks to use what is in season and what is at hand. As potatoes are abundant right now locally, and parchment paper is always in my kitchen drawer along with foil and plastic wrap, I decided to try one of the root vegetable offerings.

Potatoes. Wrapped in paper.


It is an easy recipe, using smaller, new potatoes, oil, and herbs. The potatoes are basically steamed in the make-shift bag crafted out of parchment. There was that “oo ah” moment when the twine wrapped around the package was opened and herb-laced steam teased our senses. We enjoyed the tasty tots on our plate, but, I must admit that for all the time involved tying up this potato package, I do not think I will make them again.


I usually use similar ingredients; olive oil, seasonings – whatever is my whim of the moment, but, I usually use Penzey’s Greek seasoning. I roast them in a moderate oven and I do use parchment paper, but, I put it on the bottom of a shallow pan, toss the potatoes on top and I always let the potatoes get a bit toasty and crisp on the outside.

I use parchment paper, frequently, lining cookie sheets instead of greasing them and when roasting chicken. It makes for easier cleanup and, for some reason, my chicken always tastes better “parched”.

Do you use parchment paper in your kitchen?

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Just a bit busy right now, so, I thought I would give you a few things to chew on until I have a breather.

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IMG_7400Some spring days start by getting down and dirty amid tender shoots, plant divisions and cuttings, all while setting out a festive French picnic with some of the most delightful women around, and end up in the company of one of the sweetest persons on earth, our daughter Jennifer.

Monday was one of those spring days.

Our garden club held is springtime plant sale. Members bring divisions, cutting, slips and shoots that are sold. I only brought a few plants home this time – and that was because I was one of several women who were the month’s hostesses. Our garden here are abundant with plants that made their way up the Cutoff from the gardens of our club’s members.

DSCN8020While members of the horticulture committee were trying not to get dirt on their clothes arranging pots of herbs, perennials, and grasses, the hostesses set up a springtime Parisian lunch. From croissants to cream puffs, and everything in between, it was a tasty spread and a delightful group to serve with and I saw the hort ladies working hard, trying to show the members various plant donations while making sure the Mansion was kept clean.

As I sat down for an informative presentation on plants to use for outdoor pots, my phone pulsed and there was a message from Jennifer, wondering if I would like to meet up with her for some shopping at the Oak Brook Shopping Center.

Would I?  When a daughter rings I’m thrilled, so, when the meeting was done and our cars re-loaded with all the accouterments of a French picnic. I headed to Oak Brook to find Jennifer.

Aren’t cell phones wonderful?

We shopped and talked and stopped for some little bites at the Nordstrom Cafe, and talked some more and I just couldn’t help but bask in the glow of a wonderful spring day. After we hugged goodbye and Jenny went her way, I mine, I got down and dirty just one more time when I saw these golden tulips dancing in the spring breeze.

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