The Apple Lady

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The Apple Lady

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Pretty table for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving was very small compared to those of my childhood. Growing up, our house would be ‘chock-a-block’ full of relatives for nearly the whole week of Thanksgiving. I remember lots of great food, games of Rook, cribbage and backgammon. There would be a pool tournament and a dart competition. If you won, your name was added to the plaque that hung in the gameroom.

But time has a way of leaving childhood behind and my present is forever changing. This past year has seen many changes: Two marriages and a divorce. Sounds kinda like a romantic comedy for Hugh Grant to star in, doesn’t it? Only there has not been much to laugh or smile about, until recently.

My divorce was finalized last month and with it came a great sigh of -how can I put this?- resignation, relief, rediscovery. Yes, all of the above. Resignation, because life will never be as it was thirty years ago, and that’s not such a bad thing. Relief that, with the help of my family, friends and the Holy Spirit, the most trying time in my life is over and I have come out on the other side stronger than ever before. Rediscovery comes with reconnecting with my girlhood persuits. I’m writing again ( you’re reading it  after all, right?). I’ve been to the symphony twice in two months; something I did as a girl  growing up in Baton Rouge.

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Star Wars Night at Thalia Mara Hall

It was just a small gathering last Thursday. One brother, one cousin and her son, my youngest son and my mother and I. My cousin is from the New Orleans area and she brought a surprise for me. It is a painting of a serene lady holding a basket full of apples.  The painting was our Grandmother’s and used to hang near the front door of her tiny apartment. As a girl, I used to look at the painting and imagine what the serene lady’s life was like.

The colors are deep aqua and light blue, with touches of gold and terracotta. She looks a bit tired from working in her orchard all morning, but has a slight up turning to her lips. She still has work to do, you see? And she is happy to do it. The apples will be taken into the kitchen to be washed and peeled for an apple pie. The pie will be served after a simple supper, with a piece being sent to the elderly, bedridden lady who lives up the street. The last piece will be wrapped in a linen towel and left in the garage window for the hobo who will pass through later that evening. There’s the symbol of a cat carved into corner of the pump house; the cat is a sign hobos used to indicate that a kind lady lived in the house. The serene lady is teaching her children the virtues of hard work and kindness.

Such were my childhood imaginings. I look forward to the day when I have my own home and a place to hang the painting. Maybe even my own apple trees.

Blessings for a wonderful season of kindness from the Exile’s Kitchen.

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Lady with Apples

I Burned the Cranberry Sauce Years Ago

20151121_124437I burned the cranberry sauce years ago and my youngest son has never let me forget it. And just for the record, it’s easy to make cranberry sauce from scratch. If you serve something that slides out of a tin can like a red tird, shame on you! Cranberry sauce should be lovingly spooned next to homemade cornbread dressing and homemade sweet potato casserole and homemade green bean casserole-never ever, ever sliced and chunked onto your Thanksgiving plate.

The year I burned the cranberry sauce, my mother had called to tell me to make sure I made it because Uncle Bobby never really liked cranberry sauce before he tasted mine. Probably because all he’d ever had was that congealed stuff from a can. Anyway, I had gotten quite busy that morning getting all my cooking done and I got distracted. Yep, burned the cranberry sauce to a dark sticky mess in my stainless steel pot

“You burned the cranberry sauce,” my youngest son announced. “No cranberry sauce next to my turkey? What about Uncle Bobby? He loves your cranberry sauce.”

I gave a disgusted sigh.

” I’m not going to the store for more berries on Thanksgiving. Don’t say anything about my burning it and maybe no one will notice that there’re no cranberries.”

When dinner was served and plates were fixed, we all sat down to eat. The inevitable happened. Uncle Bobby looked at his plate, looked at everyone else’s plate, looked up and down  the dinner table. He opened his mouth and took a breath.

Before Uncle Bobby could even ask,  “Mama burned the cranberry sauce, Uncle Bobby. So, there won’t be any this year.”

My own son ratted me out.

Here’s my recipe:

1 bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed in cold water

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

1/4 cup orange juice

pinch salt

pat of butter, optional

What to do:

Place rinsed berries in a two quart pot and turn burner to medium heat. Add sugar,  water, orange juice and pinch of salt. I think the tiny bit of salt helps cut the bitter taste that cranberries sometime have and makes the taste brighter. Bring berries to a gentle boil, stirring to disolve the sugar.

The berries will begin to pop, as their skins split. You’re almost through  with the cooking part, at this stage. When the berries foam up, turn the fire off. With a metal spoon, skim the pink bubbly foam from the top of the pot.  If you want to, add the pat of butter. This helps reduce any foam that may remain- it’s kind of hard to get all of the foam out of the cranberry sauce.

Cool the sauce before placing it in the frig. It can be made a day or two ahead of turkey day. Which is what I should have done the year I burned the cranberry sauce.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

Blessings from the Exile’s Kitchen.

Chocolate Biscuits

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Revisiting Forgive Me, Father, For I Have Sinned-  Remember my sinful, shameful indulgence of a can of caramel sweetened condensed milk? And I confessed to also buying a can of the chocolate. No, I actually cooked with the can of chocolate flavored, liquid decadence. This recipe only has 4 ingredients and is a cinch to put together. College Man says they’re really good. And in the Exile’s Kitchen they’re served with hot coffee.

Ingredients:

1 can Chocolate  Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

2 cups Heart Smart Bisquick Mix

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 stick melted butter

What to do:

Spray a casserole dish with vegetable spray and preheat the oven to 350°. In  a medium size bowl, mix together first 3 ingredients. This dough will not be very stiff, kinda loose actually. Take a big spoon and drop the dough like you would for cathead biscuits. Now, don’t call the SPCA on me. South of the Mason Dixon line we use that term to describe the size and shape of dropped biscuits, meaning biscuits that aren’t rolled out and cut. No felines were harmed in the making of these chocolate biscuits. Once you’ve filled the casserole with your biscuits, evenly pour the melted butter over all of those brown catheads.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chocolate Sweetened Condensed milk makes biscuits magical.
Chocolate Sweetened Condensed milk makes biscuits magical.