AW SHUCKS

Tis the season. Yes, corn on the cob is a mandatory food for the upcoming holiday cookouts on Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, and any summertime occasion. I will always remember a boyhood festivity in midsummer, the peak of sweet corn season, when the nearby cow pasture was cleared of debris, a concrete block fire pit was set up and on a Saturday afternoon carloads of neighbors, friends and family began arriving. They parked in the cow pasture and congregated in clusters chatting about crops, new babies, and miscellaneous gossip. Bushels of freshly picked corn, unshucked, were roasting under wet burlap bags on the blazing wood fire. I don’t remember what was being celebrated, but it was a glorious Saturday afternoon and evening. Many bushels of delicious corn were consumed. My aunt and I always had a competition going on. Her capacity was a dozen ears, mine was not quite as many.

Back in those days, one always needed to be on the lookout for that wiggly, slimy worm eating its way through your ear of corn. Today’s pesticides, which have virtually eradicated ear corn surprises, were not available.

My local grocery store has an impressive display of fresh corn in its produce department and on a table at the store entrance. I have learned to bring it home, leave it in its husk, wet it and microwave a few ears for ten minutes. It’s almost as good as that boyhood corn which I remember and savor.

The ear of corn is a product of evolution and of God’s genius in design. The husk is there for a reason. It keeps freshness in and prevents bugs from infesting. That natural packaging serves a purpose. Human fingers and germs are not purposed to touch those kernels until ready to process or eat.

So you can imagine my horror upon approaching a tidy display of freshness to see a sweet, little ole granny standing there pulling back the husks to inspect the merchandise. One by one she carefully strips the tip of its husk and silk, holds it up to her nose to smell and upon rejecting the product throws it back in the bin for the next customer. Especially in this era of virus and disease, that granny has just reduced my choices when it’s my turn to select. I will not pick an ear that has its protective husk compromised.

I observed this behavior several times and finally could no longer grin and bear it. In a moment of grocery store bravery, (she could have been packing more in her purse than keys and wallet) I softly and civilly educated her regarding ‘buying corn’ etiquette. I nicely explained to her that in today’s farming culture, worms and other pests are virtually eliminated. And to ensure that her selection is a delicious, mature ear of corn, she only needs to feel to the tip for fullness. Furthermore, I explained to her that when she stripped back its protective husk, she was ruining that ear for the next customer (who happened to be me). The store produce manager would need to dispose of it when it dried out thus increasing the operational costs of the store resulting in higher prices to all of us.

That sweet little granny looked me in the eye, told me to mind my own effing business and shove the corn she was holding up a place on my anatomy where ‘the sun don’t shine’.

Of course, being the gentleman that I am, I responded, “Yes, maam.” But truly, that is not a pretty picture.

Like I said before, “Tis the season.”

the challenge

Gabby tries so hard to stay open-minded about politics and social issues and religion. But there are times when Jesus himself says:

“Aw heck, Gabby, go ahead, take the plunge. Do it for me. Remember what I did for you way back when? I gave you a brain with which to think and a conscience with which to guide and then I died for you. Take up my cross, use my gifts and grace, take the chance that you might offend someone. They’ll get over it. But I will be mightily pleased.”

WTSHTF

I love acronyms. BFF, LOL, are just a few of the many that have crossed my radar screen in recent years. But this one, WTSHTF, is a mind-number. “When The Shit Hits The Fan” speaks to those of us whom some might call pessimists or maybe alarmists. It refers to the time in the future when apocalypse, nuclear holocaust, or natural disaster will reduce life, as we know it, to a struggle for survival. Not a pleasant scenario to consider, but, when considering climate change, political unrest, and social upheaval, it is not a situation to take lightly or to totally and absolutely dismiss. I have become a much better Boy Scout today than when I was 13 and 14 years old.

Remember the scout motto; ‘Be Prepared’? In today’s world, it is no longer merely advice for youngsters plying their survival skills in a controlled outdoors environment, it is a blueprint for survival in a world beset by governments and boogeymen intent to overpower, control and relieve us of our liberties and freedoms. Please do not think it can’t happen in 2023 in the USA. Some of us believe it has started and is imminent.

My duty as a patriot, human and world citizen is to prepare as best as possible to carry on to the best of my ability those values and virtues that I and my forefathers have held near and dear. It is not a negotiable mindset. Compromise is unacceptable. But, to be in that position, we must stay alive in the face of extreme adversity. To this end, social opinions, religious and political beliefs long held to be truth sometimes must change. And so it is.

This way of preparing for future events is not alien to my upbringing. As a young boy, along with my Boy Scout experience, I was herded weekly to Sunday School and church. The stories from the Bible had a great influence on my developing manhood. The wisdom of Joseph saved Egypt from famine because he advised the Pharaoh to store enough food to survive for the seven year drought….a lesson practiced traditionally by my farming forefathers. My grandparents were never hungry during the lean times because Grandma stored up volumes of canned produce and meat in her cellar cabinets. Grandpa knew how to butcher the beef, pigs and chickens he raised. He created delicious sausages and hams which were then smoked in the 10’X10′ smokehouse. When smoked the proper amount of time, those delicacies were carried to the attic of our house for storage. Grandma’s schnitz (dried apples) and other dehydrated foods were also stored in the attic. Grandpa was a fixer and amateur carpenter. Grandma was a seamstress and quilter. Country folk know how to survive instinctually and by traditions handed down one generation to the next.

These skills were handed down one generation to another. Farmers were and still are the epitome of preppers. Prepping is in my genes. So, when I hear about WTSHTF, my mind immediately goes to the preparations I need to make. Whether stockpiling foods like beans, rice, pasta, canned vegetables or necessities like water, TP, soap, Bic lighters, batteries, or a good knife, I want to be a good Scout, have what I need or can barter thereby not being a burden to those around me and possibly saving the lives of me and loved ones.

This, naturally, includes the skills necessary to survive without running water, electricity, cell service, natural gas for cooking or a source of heat. The conveniences we have come to depend upon will probably be unaffordable or taken from us. Do I know enough to live under a tarp, catch fish, forage for food and hunt for protein? Can I light a fire, cook that fish, treat my water for pathogens, dispose of my waste? Do I remember from my teen years how to skin a squirrel? Or raise from seeds some green beans, squash and corn?

And, most troubling to me is security. Do I have the means to protect my stashes of food and necessities? How about protecting my loved ones? There will be, in a rogue environment, folks who would not think twice about ending our lives to steal what we have accumulated. Hungry bellies are not guided by conscience…..not a moral judgement; rather, a fact of life.

Also, very importantly, who are my community? Whom will I need to depend on when the chips are down? What are their survival skills? First aid, cooking, mechanical aptitude, the ability to fix and improvise the unfixable, bushcraft skills….what can my community bring to the table?

Lastly, am I overly concerned about what others think of my prepping? Am I rattled when those close to me voice opinions about my mental health? Fortunately, the days are long past when I valued the opinions of others over my own intuition and life’s experience.

GABBY COOKS – mac & cheese

Clean & serene living means learning healthy habits and good eating.  And I love recipes that are quick and simple.  Here’s one of my new favorites.

What’s more comforting than home-made macaroni and cheese?  And even better is this stove-top recipe which eliminates a baking dish and a 45 minute wait while it bakes in the oven.  This dish is table ready in 12 minutes.

These are the ingredients

 

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  1. (2) cups dry elbow macaroni
  2. (4) quarts water salted like the sea and brought to a rapid boil
  3. (4) tbsp. unsalted butter
  4. (2) tbsp. flour
  5. up to 3 cups milk
  6. (2) cups sharp cheddar cheese shreds
  7. salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large pot bring the 4 quarts salted water to a boil
  2. Cook the macaroni as directed on the package
  3. In a saucepan melt the butter over a low heat
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and stir for several minutes
  5. When it turns golden, add about 1 cup milk and stir again
  6. Stir until the sauce turns creamy and increase the heat to a medium low
  7. Add more milk until it is creamy and smooth
  8. Add the cheese and stir again until it is thoroughly blended
  9. Salt and pepper as desired
  10. When macaroni is done ladle it out into the cheese sauce with a slotted spoon
  11. Blend until the pasta is evenly coated.
  12. If the macaroni and cheese is too thick and gooey add a spoonful at a time of the pasta water until it is deliciously creamy and smooth

GABBY COOKS – 3 can quickie

Clean & serene living means learning healthy habits and good eating.  And I love recipes that are quick and simple.  Here’s one of my new favorites.  It serves 2.

Dangit!!  I need a meeting tonight and I’ve got just 1/2 hour to fix supper and eat.  I have only $2 in my wallet so I can’t do Mickey D’s.  Let me see what’s in the pantry.

These are the ingredients

  1. (1) 15 oz can seasoned mixed greens
  2. (1) 15 oz can seasoned black-eyed peas
  3. (1) 8 3/4 oz can yellow sweet corn
  4. (4)  5″ corn tortillas

DIRECTIONS

  1. Empty the cans into a sauce pot and heat
  2. While that’s heating, quarter the tortillas and fry in a fry pan in about 1/4 cup of oil
  3. Serve the corn chips atop or with the soup
  4. Eat and get to that meeting!

GABBY COOKS – squash soup

Clean & serene living means learning healthy habits and good eating.  And I love recipes that are quick and simple.  Here’s one of my new favorites.  It serves 2.

C’mon now, don’t wrinkle your nose until you’ve tried it.  It is velvety smooth and delicious.  I use the acorn squash, scientific name is Cucurbita pepo – turbinate.  Originating in North and Central America. historically this squash was used by the Native Americans.  It is a fruit of which the seeds were taken by European explorers and spread throughout the world.

Acorn squash is rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, thiamin, pantothenic acid, and other B-family vitamins.  It has  a wealth of minerals including potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, phosphorous, and calcium.  The raw fruit is difficult to peel and I find it easiest to slice it and then steam the slices until tender, cool, and then peel.

The other nutrient-laden ingredient in this soup is the sweet potato.  This tuber is rich  in flavonoid phenolic compounds, powerful natural antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin A.  Also in sweet potatoes are vitamin B-5, B-6, B-1, niacin, and riboflavin in addition to iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.

Not only is this soup good eating, it is a powerhouse of nutrients.

Here are the ingredients

 

  1. 1/2 medium size acorn squash, deep green in color, sliced and steamed until tender.
  2. 1/2 medium size sweet potato peeled and diced
  3. 1 clove garlic smashed
  4. 1/2 tsp chopped jalapeno
  5. 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  6. 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth or combination of both
  7. 4 TBSP butter
  8. salt to taste
  9. grated fresh nutmeg
directions
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat
  2. Add the diced sweet potato
  3. Peel the cooled acorn squash and add to the saucepan
  4. Stir, then add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno
  5. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes
  6. Add 2 cups of the broth
  7. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the ingredients are fork tender
  8. Carefully pour the hot soup into a blender and puree
  9. Return the mixture to the cook pot, add the rest of the broth
  10. Blend well and again simmer to a smooth, velvety texture
  11. Serve in soup bowls and grate fresh nutmeg atop each serving.

If the soup cooks down too much to an overly thick consistency, just add more broth or water.

 

 

 

GABBY COOKS – porcupines & mushroom sauce

There are no quills in this dish about which to be concerned.  It’s just simple, down-home cooking that combines pork, rice, and mushrooms in a one pot, stove top meal.  For many years pork was the bad boy in the health-conscious diet.  Those ribs, chops, sausages, and bacon were attributed with ailments from cardio-vascular disease to bad skin.  Baby, times have changed.

We don’t eat pork 5 nights a week nor do we have BLTs  at every lunch.  But, in moderation, chops, ribs, cutlets, sausages are a wonderful alternative to beef and chicken.  Remember – pork is the other white meat.

Here are some pork facts:

  • pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus)
  • it is the most commonly consumed meat worldwide
  • pig husbandry dates back to 5000 B.C.
  • pork is the most popular meat in Eastern and Southeastern Asia
  • Asia cuisines prize it for its fat content and texture
  • it is forbidden by Jewish, Muslim, and Rastafarian dietary law for religious reasons

A three and one-half ounce serving of lean pork contains the following nutritional value:

  • 13.92 grams fat
  • 27.32 grams protein
  • 36% DV of Vitamin B-6
  • 29% DV of Vitamin B-12
  • 35% DV phosphorous
  • 25% DV zinc

Add this meat to the wholesome goodness of mushrooms and rice – voila – heaven in a Dutch cooker.

here are the ingredients

 

 

  1. 1 cup cooked white rice
  2. 1 LB ground pork
  3. 2 cloves chopped garlic
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1 tsp dried basil or 1 TBS chopped fresh basil
  6. 1 tsp dried parsley or 1 TBS chopped fresh parsley
  7. salt and pepper
  8. 2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
  9. 1 cup chicken broth
  10. 2 TBS flour
  11. 2 TBS butter
  12. 2 TBS oil, olive or canola

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook the rice according to directions
  2. In a mixing bowl combine the pork, garlic, herbs, salt & pepper, egg and mix well
  3. Reserve a small portion of the herbs to add to the mushroom sauce
  4. Add the cooked rice which has cooled and mix well
  5. Shape in balls just like meatballs, place on plate and chill for an hour
  6. After an hour’s chill, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot with a lid
  7. Brown the porcupines in the oil
  8. Remove them from the pot
  9. Add the butter to the pot and another TBS oil
  10. Add the mushrooms and stir to coat evenly with melted butter and oil
  11. After about 3 minutes sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms
  12. Cook the flour to a light brown, don’t burn it, stirring as it cooks
  13. Add the chicken broth and stir to mix with the mushrooms
  14. Stir constantly until the broth thickens into a creamy sauce
  15. Add the reserved pinch of basil and parsley
  16. Return the porcupines, cover and simmer about 1/2 hour

This dish is complete in itself, but sometimes I like to serve it in a bowl over hot noodles.

GABBY COOKS – Elva’s BBQ

Howdy folks, welcome to GABBY’S PLACE.  Hey, did you hear about the young man standing on the pier watching the dolphins frolic in the water with an older woman standing nearby sporting a gorgeous sun bonnet?  A sudden gust of wind whipped along the shoreline and lifted the woman’s dress above her waist.  Unfazed by her exposed underside, she held on adamantly to her sun bonnet.

“Ma’am, don’t you care that everyone can see everything?”

“Young man,” she snapped, “everything down there is 85 years old.  I bought this hat just yesterday.”

Oh no, I hear groans out there in the blogosphere.  Okay, here’s my BBQ recipe handed down for generations of Pennsylvania Dutch folks in my native community.  On Saturdays during the summertime, the premier social event was an estate sale.  Household belongings, farm equipment and sometimes real estate were sold to the highest bidder in a lively exchange of camaraderie.   Drama was added to this scenario when antique dealers from nearby cities competed for the coveted, centuries-old kitchen utensils and furniture.

Always a local church group, the Boy Scouts or the community Grange would offer a wide variety of food at a make-shift kitchen.  For many of us this was the main event.  Lemon sponge and shoo-fly pies, homemade bread, cakes, chicken and corn soup, hot dogs and BBQ sandwiches.  The menu was not complete without those BBQ sandwiches.

Now, when this Pennsylvania Dutch Yankee moved south and ordered a BBQ sandwich at a local eatery, he was severely disappointed.  What is this mass of shredded beef or pork soaked in a tomato sauce and dripping out the bun?  Too sweet, too runny, too spicy.  Not at all what a good, ole Yankee country boy remembers.  And to beat all, some folks actually topped it with cole slaw.

here are the ingredients

 

  1. 1 lb ground beef
  2. 1 tsp celery seed
  3. 2 tsp prepared mustard
  4. 3 tsp chili sauce
  5. 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  6. 1/2 cup catsup
  7. 1 small onion peeled and chopped
  8. salt and pepper to taste
  9. 12 burger buns

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a saucepan brown the ground beef and the onion
  2. add the remaining ingredients and mix well
  3. simmer about 15 minutes
  4. Serve up on plain or sesame buns

(Commercial chili sauce is not the same as Grandma’s home-made sauce, but it will work in this recipe.)

 

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