So many memorable old phrases I enjoy using, fine writer that I am. One is, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Another might be, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Which must, of course, be followed by, “Opposites attract.” Following those for no reason at all is, “Great minds think alike.” Which is what I say when I make a dish off the top of my head and begin to write the recipe before realizing I cooked the same (or nearly the same) thing 10 (5 or 15) years ago. Thank goodness “Love is Lovelier the Second Time Around,” (a favorite wedding song of mine) and I absolutely don’t mind “reinventing the wheel.” Roll your eyes now or forever hold your peace. Ok, I’m done. But I really did make almost this very same salad in 2014, though its current appearance is quite distinct from the first and today’s recipe title is “Asparagus-Potato Salad” rather than, “Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions.” Same difference. Just about.
What is it about making brunchat home that feels extravagant and comfy all at the same time? We’re all over planning changeable, healthy dinner meals complete with menus, shopping lists, and Sunday prep, but morning fare is relegated to nearly the same dish over and over again. Folks literally eat oatmeal for breakfast every single day. Or peanut butter toast. Yogurt and granola. Whatever. But take us to a swank brunch buffet at a fancy hotel and we’re putting soft poached eggs on smoked salmon dill biscuits and snarfing down raspberries in Grand Marnier with dark chocolate waffles as if there were no tomorrow. And then there’s the bottomless mimosa, isn’t there? When we finally decide to put on an at-home morning spread–for Mother’s Day, say?– that takes more thoughtful preparation than slamming down bread in the toaster and manage some actual day-before cooking or baking, it’s amazing how pampered-rich, how homey and cosseted we feel. Kinda like, “Well, isn’t this nice?!” And it is.
One day last week I went out to the garage refrigerator for carrots. It’s a common occurrence at our house as I typically buy and store a 5-pound bag of carrots in the produce bin of that fridge. While it sounds like a lot of carrots, they’re cheap in that quantity ($2.99 for 5 pounds–what else is less than 60 cents a pound?) and they last a long time. Even better, I’m never out of them for soup, stew, or just for a vegetable. It’s also not terribly unusual for me to make carrot soup as it’s lovely, healthy, fast, and can be made in several different flavor profiles. I didn’t start out with carrot soup in mind on said day, but I certainly got there pretty fast as my carrots were growing white hair— sprouting, getting ready for planting! I peeled and used the carrot I needed, but knew carrot soup, cake, bread, soufflé, salad, or gratin was in the offing. Because I wasn’t throwing away 8 or 9 carrots no matter how little they cost.
I’m reminded of a simple meme that says volumes. It goes something like, “A single carrot doesn’t seem too awfully important. Unless it took you 3 months to grow it.” And, by the way, if you’re lucky enough to get carrots with all the green frills on top, the green part is edible, too. A little carrot top pesto might be good for the soul. VEGETABLES ARE AMAZING!
In 2020, our ubiquitous all-American cookouts — which roar on ad infinitum Mother’s Day through Labor Day — were often a tad sad little affairs if we had them at all. Instead of the jumbo party packs of burgers and brats, unending veggie or cheese trays, boxes of big cupcakes, and the super-sized bag of red, white, and blue paper napkins to last all summer long, we were buying a single pound of ground beef, 4 buns, a pint of vanilla, and left the colored napkins on the shelf. Fireworks, if available on the 4th, were viewed from apartment building balconies or hillside decks. We were masked and our celebrations felt the same.
Some years we have no bunnies at all in our yard. Other times, such as now, we are overrun by the the dreaded chomper-hoppers. (Have you ever seen one hop straight up 4 feet or more? They can. ) I blame it on the lack of outdoor cats and our local bob cat family temporarily taking up residence in the next subdivision over. While cute, especially when oh so very small, they eat everything we don’t want them to eat but perversely leave the weeds for us to pull.
When my husband Dave and I became empty nesters several years ago, we began to eat brunch out on Sundays after church and rarely cooked it at home except on holidays or special occasions. Then came COVID-19. No church except online. No restaurants open until recently. (We’re still not going, though we did go to our local dive drive-in for ice cream the other day.) We immediately hopped to and began cooking brunch at home again–just like in the old days. We shared the work–Dave making eggs, etc. and me happily baking a goodie like the Blueberry Buckle below, which I hadn’t been doing in eons. We’ve taken turns on what we now call our Cheep A** Bloody Marys (more on that later) and now eat brunch BEFORE church for the most part. We’ve even gone way old school and made Dave’s mom Lorna’s comforting egg casserole a time or two as it provides excellent lunch leftovers. (Recipe in photo below.) Could we ever have imagined all this? No. You probably hadn’t either.
While Mother’s Day — yes it’s this Sunday, May 10, 2020 — is absolutely just around the corner, Father’s Day, June 21, 2020, offers a little more leeway for thought…and shipping. Shopping, I mean. Wedding or graduation coming up later? Even a zoom ceremony/celebration? Whichever. If some lucky duck needing a gift anytime soon has a yen for cooking, I’ve got a few ideas for you. Scroll down for some fun info, recipes, and pix of stunning new and newer cook and drink books I’ve come to eat adore. Yes, there’s this: if you’re looking to get mom’s present there on time (lots of brownie points for on time–otherwise get on the phone that day), it’s time to click and pay. Today. So take a look at a book and see what you think. Links to amazon included for fast ordering.
If you are a cook anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for something new for brunch–that lazy, laughingly-slow, boozy late morning meal reserved for special occasions or holidays. Even my husband, visiting his folks a few weeks back, texted me to say, “Anything new on the brunch front?” I guess he or his parents were a little tired of their go-tos and that’s a bit on the odd side because most people in the world are very attached to their breakfasts, if not their brunches.
I admit to a longtime fascination with healthy homemade granola; the blog bears me out. I make it about once a month and it’s the only breakfast cereal in my kitchen besides the whole oats I keep for oatmeal. We eat granola on yogurt with or without fruit, in a bowl with milk, as a grab and go snack, with ice cream, on vegetables, sprinkled over eggs and pancakes…the list goes on. It’s so simple to stir up and bake a batch that I invited Alaena and Josiah(above) over to make some to take home for their own breakfasts and to see what THEY might do with granola. (One of their thoughts was with carrots. Yum!) Continue reading →
Brunch, and maybe especially Father’s Day brunch,is one of my favorite meals! This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, Gene Morgan, a good cook who makes the very best of all Sausage Gravies.
Gene, after a lifetime career in nearly every sector of the grocery store arena, knows the food business. Just ask him about how long green beans are picked before they’re canned, when a melon is ripe, where sugar beets are grown in the world, how coffee is stored in the warehouse, or what H.E.B. actually stands for. He’s a fair hand in the kitchen, too, and can keep dinner coming. In fact, the man can bake when he wants to. What he’s really famous for, however, is his sausage gravy. Well, that and being just about the biggest Illini (University of Illinois) fan in the state of Illinois. He once sported an Illini ROOM in the house, in fact, all decorated and gussied up by his wife, my mother-in-law, Lorna, who joins right in year in and year out with the Illini devotion.