Making Every Day Special

My granny had a talent for making every day special. Even though I was 12 when she and my aunt built a new home to move into, I associate most of my childhood memories with her in her old home, which she and my pappy moved into when they were married.

It was a simple white frame home with well-loved wood floors. There were also three points of exit, which probably caused gray hairs for my granny when she was watching me. The home didn’t have central heat or AC, so windows were regularly open, and the smell of honeysuckle permeated the air. She was an avid pie maker, so it was a regular occurance to see a cocount meringue pie in the kitchen.

My granny always told me that she cooked simple meals. But they never felt simple. Even a sandwich lunch in the heat of summer was special there. She pulled out all of the stops, and, as a mom, I wonder where she found her energy. For sandwiches there were always multiple varieties of meats and cheese in the Brookshire’s deli bags. Variety never stopped there, as there were options for every topping I could think of. She’s usually have a cantelope or other ripe summer fruit that she had cut up earlier, and tomatoes were both a topping and a side, sprinkled with a bit of salt. While her favorite chips were Lays potato chips, those were never the only ones she had. Even in the absence of one of her homemade pies (which never lasted long), Little Debbie treats were there following the meal. She still made it an experience.

I was thinking about these meals recently. I think too often we add unneccesary pressure on ourselves. While I do not (and will not) ever think it’s acceptable to just grow lazy and do the bare minimum, I also don’t think it’s prudent to add extra work just to add the extra work. She never felt pressured to make seven-course meals. She knew how to keep things appropriate.

My granny made sandwiches special. She enjoyed doing more than throwing a piece of meat and cheese on a slice of bread. That’s where I find much of my motivation. The meal never cost much, but, even as a 31 year old, I remember those meals vividly.

To me, this sums up etiquette so well. It doesn’t have to cost much. It just has a way of making the ordinary special. Don’t let fear hold you back from making each day special. You don’t need to work yourself silly. Invite friends over for sandwiches. I can guarantee those memories will last.

My daughter, my mom and I are the next generations of my granny’s legacy.

 

An Easy Summer Side – Caprese Salad

Gardening is not one of my talents. Try as I might, most of my plants just go ahead and give up way before it’s time so as to not prolong the inevitable. The only exception I seem to have (at least until it’s scorching hot) is with my herb garden.

This year we planted basil, thyme, mint, rosemary (well, it’s the lone survivor from past years) and multiple tomato plants. As you can tell, it’s a small garden, but it’s full of items we use regularly.

One of my favorite dishes to serve as a side or an easy appetizer is caprese salad. My kids love it, so we make it often while my basil plants are still kickin’.One of my favorite things about this dish is that it’s so easy to make a little or a lot.

The Recipe:

Simply cut up ripe tomatoes and layer with torn mozzarella (not the slices or shredded…go for the real deal). I like to chiffionade the fresh basil leave to make it easier to eat. Drizzle quality olive oil and basalmic vinegar like Ariston Traditional Modena Balsamic Premium Vinegar Aged 250ml Product of Italy Sweet Taste on top. Sometimes I’ll add a smidgen of salt directly on top of the tomato slice. Fresh mozzarella isn’t overly salty, so you’ll need to see your preference on this.

A variation of this could be to skewer on toothpicks a cherry tomato and mozzarella ball with a basil leaf in between. You’ll still drizzle with olive oil and basalmic vinegar or you could combine the two for a vinegarette dip.

Do you have a favorite summer recipe?

 

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Nostalgic Food From My Childhood

My mom is a great cook who was raised by a great cook. Many summer days and nights I remember her cooking all of the meals outside and on the grill. Steaks with baked potatoes and a salad full of garden-fresh vegetables was a standard summer meal. She also fried okra and chicken fairly often. Especially the okra. To this day, I think fried okra may be my all-time favorite food.

We had family over regularly for fish fries. She’s known for her barbecue and homemade breads.

My mom is notorious for big breakfasts, even though growing up I wasn’t much of a breakfast eater. We usually had eggs, bacon, toast or biscuits and some sort of fruit. Now that she’s a “granny,” though, and not just a “mom,” my kids have Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes each time they stay with her.

One meal in particular, though, is nostalgic for me. I honestly haven’t made it as an adult because it won’t be as good, I’m sure. I may cave soon, though, because just thinking of it gets me excited!

It was the meal where I knew my mom had had a longer day (she was a high school math and computer science teacher), but it was amazing. Fried spam, ranch-style beans and Kraft macaroni and cheese.

Seriously. Out of everything my mom made, this meal has continued to stand out to me. The spam had a crust from where she had fried it, and it was the perfect salty bite. The Kraft mac and cheese kind of congealed as it cooled, making large bites easier. The ranch-style beans were different from the pintos my granny regularly cooked, making them a bit special, even though they were from the can. The best part? It was a splurge. This meal didn’t happen often, and it came together quickly. Clean up was a breeze, which was an added benefit for me.

Maybe I will have to try this meal just once for my kids to carry on the tradition.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding

Before my granny passed away, she had given me over a dozen chocolate pie recipes. One today that I’m sharing with you is a tried and true favorite for when I make chocolate pudding (think, inside part of the pie).

2/3 c. sugar

1/4 c. flour

1/4 c. cocoa powder

Mix those ingredients together. Add 1/4 c. milk to make a paste. Add in three egg yolks. Add additional 1 1/2 c. milk. Bring together over low heat, whisking constantly. Once fully thickened drop in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Enjoy!

***Bonus*** Omit the chocolate and add additional teaspoon of vanilla for vanilla pudding!