A Plantain is Not the Same Thing as a Banana: Merging Family Menus

by N. M. Cedeno

My husband got lucky in food when he married me. He didn’t have to adapt to a foreign flavor palette the way I did. When people create a new joint household, whether they like it or not, the foods they eat regularly will change depending on each family member’s culinary history. Recipes from each side of the family will get adopted, adapted, or eliminated from the household menu depending on how flexible the couple is and how palatable each finds the other’s food to be. While regional differences between couples can expose variations in traditional holiday meal dishes or recipe ingredients, cultural differences can introduce you to cooked critters you didn’t know anyone would eat.

Cultural differences can make the culinary learning curve particularly steep, a baptism by fire even. For instance, before I met my husband, I’d never had a plantain. Or seco de pollo. Or, ick, guatita. Or even weirder, cuy. If you can’t identify those items, they are traditional foods in Ecuador. My husband, on the other hand, had never had kolaches, homemade chocolate chip cookies, or Southern-style white gravy. I had to learn a lot about South American cooking. My husband, as far as I could tell, got off easy, since he’d lived in Texas for over ten years by the time we married and had been exposed to most of my cuisine.

Maduros with brown sugar

As I suspect happens in many cases, the first of my husband’s family’s dishes that got adopted in our household were the ones that I found the tastiest and that had the least ingredients. Consequently, plantain dishes were first. Plantains, despite looking like bananas, taste nothing like bananas. They must be cooked. You can eat them roasted, mashed, formed into balls, thin-cut as chips, thick-cut and fried as maduros, or fried, flattened, and refried as a tostones (also called patacones). It took me a while to learn to cook the variations.

On the next tier are foods that may take longer for the couple to adopt in their joint kitchen because they involve special techniques, or complicated recipes, or need adaptation from the original to work best in the household. Seco de pollo is one of those dishes in my house. Translated from Spanish, it sounds like it should be dry chicken. It’s not. It’s a chicken stew. It took me years before I attempted to make it because the recipe was complicated and included a few ingredients that I didn’t recognize. But, since I liked the dish, I made the effort to find the ingredients and to learn to cook it.

Two traditional Ecuadorean dishes that my husband likes were extremely outside my experience and tastes. In the melding of our family menus, these dishes got eliminated.  One was guatita, which is tripe in peanut sauce. Enough said about that. The other was cuy. Cuy got tossed because most Americans would consider eating cuy to be akin to eating your pet hamster or, well, your pet guinea pig. Cuy is, indeed, guinea pig. Any dish that I’d have to shop for in a pet store, I’m not cooking. Someone would send the SPCA after me.

{Guinea pig is a traditional food source for the indigenous tribes inhabiting the Andes Mountains. Since guinea pigs are an easily portable protein source, they were an ideal food for the environment. If you are wondering, they are roasted with the head still attached. I took this picture of cuy being cooked in Ecuador. Yes, it looks like a rat impaled on a stick.}

 

So, cohabitation forces a merging of disparate family culinary habits. What gets kept on the household menu and what gets eliminated can depend on a lot of factors. I’m sure you can all think of items that you were only served at the home of one set of grandparents (sauerkraut, anyone?). Those items didn’t make it into your parent’s family menu. What dishes did your parents toss? What items did you toss? What items did you adapt or argue over the “correct” recipe?

 

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N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her début novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).

Find her stories at www.nmcedeno.com or on her Amazon Author Page.

Recipe for Fun

This post by Jennifer Flaten

I have a condition (completely made up) that prevents me from reading a  recipe from start to finish. I don’t know why, but I’ll start reading the ingredient list, and if it is more than 7 items long I start to skim the rest of the ingredients. And, you have no idea how much trouble 2 column recipes have caused. My eyes/attention just don’t last long enough for 2 columns!

It is the same with the actual steps to make the recipe. If they are long an complicated, or over max 5 steps long. I simply stop reading. Which means I miss crucial steps like say “chill for X amount of time”.

I have apparently passed this trait on to my daughter. Yesterday, I planned on making pancakes for supper, but my daughter wanted to do it. She had a recipe for cinnamon roll pancakes that she wanted to try out.

It was a basic pancake recipe (flour, sugar, wet stuff) but it had a “filling” of brown sugar, cinnamon and butter, that needed to chill for at least 20 min. Kid started making pancakes 15min before we wanted to eat them. She’d missed this step completely. OOPS!

It turned out okay, we simply made a cinnamon brown sugar mixture to sprinkle on the pancakes before we flipped them. They turned out absolutely delicious. A happy accident to be sure.

Has this ever happened to you?

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I am Not a Procrastinator by Cher’ley

 

This blog by Cher’ley Grogg

Or What to do When Life Gets in the Way!

I chunk it out–doing as much as I can in one setting, and then returning as often as necessary. Admittedly, I procrastinate, which drives me crazy. I AM NOT A PROCRASTINATOR. I Am Not a Procrastinator. I am not a procrastinator. I like to have everything done ahead of time, but life happens.

If I were not a procrastinator, I would not have almost 2000 emails in my email InBox, and none of them are spam. Maybe I will get some of them sorted later tonight. After I … But, on more important issues, (like writing a blog post), I typically do not procrastinate.

A farm boy accidentally overturned his wagonload of corn on the road. The neighbor who lived nearby came to investigate. “Hey, Willis,” he called out, “forget your troubles for a spell and come on in and have dinner with us. Then I’ll help you get the wagon up.” 

“That’s mighty nice of you,” Willis answered, “But I don’t think Pa would like me to.” 

“Aw, come on, son!” the neighboring farmer insisted. 

“Well, okay,” the boy finally agreed. “But Pa won’t like it.” 

After a hearty dinner, Willis thanked his host. “I feel a lot better now, but I just know Pa is going to be real upset.” 

“Don’t be foolish!” exclaimed the neighbor. “By the way, where is he?” 

“Under the wagon.”.

 

Ways to Overcome Procrastination

1.-Set Goals -A necessary component of effective goal-setting is to choose a goal that is challenging enough to be interesting but not so difficult as to be unattainable. There is a risk of fatigue through time invested or effort expended toward your goal, and disappointment if the goal is too challenging and or not met.

2.- Plan for Interruptions-One of the easiest ways to do this is to plan breaks. Only check Facebook or Twitter when on a break. (Set time for your break-15 minutes, ½ hour, all day), whatever, but stick to your goals. Unexpected interruptions- regroup. Make your next project shorter so you have more time to finish the one you’re on.

3.-Set deadlines for at least a day ahead of time, perhaps 2 days or a week. (I always figure this blog is due at least a day before it actually is due–then I post it early and set the scheduler)

Here’s a link to 15 more ways to help with Procrastination.

 Linda's book  Here’s a book by our very own Linda Leander that I found helpful, and it’s only 99 cents!

13 Extreme Tips to Self-publish (Extreme Tips for Writers) by Linda Leander

I didn’t procrastinate on “All About the Girls” 5(3), but life happened. Del’s surgery, my surgery, a new Great Granddaughter, our move to Florida, another Great Granddaughter, more medical procedures for me, and in my spare time I drove and 18 Wheeler. Regardless I got it to print in less than 7 months, and this included including some extended deadline stories. 

I love this quote that is included in the anthology: Quote

Every chapter has at least one recipe. I submitted one for my Mom’s potato salad, and a story about when she made it during my childhood years.

***Do you say, “I am not a Procrastinator”? Then… you end up being late on your projects or deadlines? How do you handle Procrastination or Interruptions? ***

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. And she has a new one that is freshly published with 11 other authors. 

Stamp Out Murder”.
 The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren
The JourneyBack 3The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey Back
Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology
 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

All About the Girls 5(3)

Fans of Cher'ley Grogg,AuthorAnd please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell
Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE

 

Grandma’s Secret Recipe

Jennifer150x150

 

 

 

This post by Jennifer Flaten

 

Last weekend my mother texted me from her vacation home. She was up there on a nice fall weekend attending the town’s annual Harvest Fest. She wanted me to know she was on the hunt for the perfect piece of apple pie.01049

 

As our text conversation continued she mentioned she would love a piece of her mother’s apple cake. To which, I replied “the one in the white pan?” See my grandma had two different apple cake recipes one made in a white baking dish and one made in a larger bluestone baking pan.

 

I preferred the one in the white pan. Now, it isn’t some fancy super secret recipe. In fact, it is embarrassingly easy. It is just a Bisquick coffee cake with sliced apples on top. The other cake, if I am remembering correctly featured a homemade cake base topped with apples. Guess which one my grandma made most often.

 

That’s right the easy one. Guess which one is the hardest to replicate? That’s right the easy one.

 

I just can’t get the recipe to taste the same. Maybe it is because I don’t make it in the special white pan (which I’ve been unable to wrest from my mother’s clutches).

 

The fact that my mom and I refer to the recipe by the pan, made me wonder if other people remember their favorite recipes by the pan it was mode in or if you just remembered the recipe.

 

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Frozen Cookies

Jennifer FlatenThis post by Jennifer Flaten

Christmas is one week away and today is Bake Cookie Day, coincidence? I think not. Whether you are a skilled baker or a novice in the treats department today is an excellent excuse to get in the kitchen and bake a batch of cookies. Even if you consider your self all thumbs in the kitchen a batch of Nestle Toll House cookies are a cinch to make, in fact, I have that recipe memorized. You could even cheat a teeny tiny bit and buy some pre-made dough that you baked at home. All that matters is you get a delicious cookie and a tall glass of milk.

My Grandma didn’t bake much, and when she did it was usually a Jiffy cake mix, but at Christmas, she would make an assortment of Christmas cookies. To keep the cookies fresh and away from my Grandpa, who had quite a sweet tooth, she would put the cookies in an old JCPenney shirt box and store them in the freezer.

Once I was old enough to figure out where she hid the cookies, the fact that they were in cold storage didn’t stop me at all. Demonstrating amazing Ninja skills, I would sneak out to the freezer and steal a frozen cookie. Did I wait for it to thaw? Heck no. I ate that cookie frozen. The best frozen cookies (from years of research) are chocolate chip cookies. The worst oatmeal raisin.  00701

Since I am an adult now I no longer need to snitch cookies from the freezer, if I want a cookie I can bake a batch of cookies–and yes, I’ve done that, baked a batch of cookies simply because I want a cookie–but they never taste as good as those I pilfered from the freezer.

What is your favorite holiday cookie?
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Hot Cross Buns by Cher’ley

 This Blog  by Cher’ley Grogg

Hot Cross Buns!
Hot Cross Buns! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hot cross buns, hot cross buns–one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns. I learned to play that little ditty on the piano long before I learned what a hot cross bun was.

Tune and lyrics for Hot Cross Buns, North York...
Tune and lyrics for Hot Cross Buns, North Yorkshire version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tune and lyrics for Hot Cross Buns, North York...

Bread is an important part of my life, has been for as long as I can remember. I sometimes think about the bread truck that used to come to  Grandma’s house.

Excitement exploded from me,  every kind of bread imaginable to a child’s mind, and  my favorite  raisin bread, was piled high on that truck. The bread truck carried lots of goodies. Ooie-gooie cinnamon rolls, a large assortment of cookies and even some candies filled the shelves of the white panel truck. Grandma normally bought the same products every week, but when I was spending a few days with her, I picked out whatever I wanted.

Mom, on the other hand, bought bread from the bread store. I believe the loaves were a nickle a piece, and Mom bought 10 or more then froze them. There was a big difference between bread at our house and bread at Grandma’s house.

Once a month or so our house would be filled with a glorious smell and I often smelled the same smell at Grandma’s. Remember the jingle, “Nothing says lovin’, like somethin’ from the oven”. Sometimes I helped to make the bread, after we’d properly beat it, we put the perfectly rounded loaves in a pan to rise (my little eyes kept close watch)and them we baked. The smell of the bread baking wafted through the air, filling the whole house with the glorious aroma. We plucked the loaves from the oven and placed them on cooling racks.

Then we ate it.

Sometimes, it’s hard to get fresh bread. I used to aggravate my husband because I’d go down the bread aisle feeling each loaf, now he sometimes shops by himself and upon returning from the store, he’ll inform me, “This was the softest loaf.”

McKeel’s Bed & Breakfast, in my novel “Stamp Out Murder” is famous for its food, especially the baked goods. There’s a recipe for old-fashioned “Apple Dumplin’s” and how to prepare them in one of the chapters.

Here’s Aunt Linda’s Yeast Bread Recipe:

 Original recipe makes 2 – 9×5 inch loaves

  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 tablespoons lard, softened
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6 1/2 cups bread flour

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Stir in lard, salt and two cups of the flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
  2. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  3. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves. Place the loaves into two lightly greased 9×5 inch loaf pans. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

As a writer, I hope I convey a deep memory in you through your sense of smell.  I also found this cool site with memories from the late 50’s and early 60’s. 

How do you feel about bread, is it important to you? Do you have memories of delicious aromas wafting through your house?

Stamp Out Murder”.

The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren.

Fans of Cher'ley Grogg,AuthorAnd please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell

Happy Thanksgiving

This post by Jennifer Flaten

Of all the holidays, I think Thanksgiving is my favorite. I like that Thanksgiving’s focus is on the family…and food.

While preparing the meal can be a little stressful, like the year I realized I bought the kind of rolls that needed to defrost for 3 hours before baking and had to send my husband to the store for rolls, but for the most part it is less stressful than Christmas (in my opinion).

Maybe that’s because I enjoy cooking, and we don’t have a huge family (only seven people total) so the amount of food I have to prepare is manageable. We don’t have any treasured family recipes; I even use the pumpkin pie recipe off the back of the Libby’s can.

I was more than happy to assume the mantel of Thanksgiving dinner preparation from my mother a few years ago. So far, I’ve managed not to burn anything to a crisp, but I’ve had a few close calls (those will remain our little secret okay)

I am looking forward to having the holiday in our new house, although I admit I am a bit worried about the turkey this year. The oven is old, I’ve got my fingers crossed it will be up to the task of cooking the turkey. If not, I have pizzas on stand by just in case.

In fact, my son is hoping the turkey fails and he will get to have pizza with a side of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. While we don’t have a huge family, we do have a wonderful, relaxing time on Thanksgiving and I hope you do too!

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