EGG NOG RECIPE FROM SCRATCH

Before the first frost is on the Halloween pumpkin, my local grocery store stocks the milk case with flavored egg nogs. While I think they might be rushing the season of good cheer a bit, and the rest of the world is going Gaga over the PSL, I’m not yet ready for this rich holiday beverage just yet.

Christmas in my corner of the world

I like to mark the seasons and the holidays as they come, and give each one proper due and respect. These have become like old friends, with whom I can share my memories of the way things used to be, as well as our hopes for the future to come. Once Thanksgiving’s interminable meals of turkey variations had ceased, we couldn’t bear to face another bowl of turkey soup, turkey casserole, turkey and dumplings, or chipped turkey with gravy on toast. My daddy had an uncouth expression for this recipe, so mother only served it once and last of all.

When it finally appeared on the dinner table, it was a sign of rejoicing for us, for Christmas was just around the corner! We knew soon we’d be making fruit cake, cookies, candies, and other seasonal specialties in mother’s kitchen. The grownups usually had a party at our home, so we’d get a taste of that wonderful concoction, homemade eggnog with a bit of spirits added for the celebration. We got the cup without the spirits for the early party, but I remember tasting my parents’ cup to experience the grownup beverage.

As I’ve aged, I have lost my taste for these exceptionally rich foods. I’m more like the babies in their high chairs: I want my flavors and textures distinct and discernible. One day I may need a divided plate to keep my foods from touching, but not yet. Of course, the idea of a milky, alcoholic drink with eggs in it dates back to a medieval British drink called “posset,” writes Elizabeth Dias for Time. “By the 13th century,” she writes, “monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health.”

The dead of winter was good time to celebrate survival and to lubricate the social bonds to bring about continued prosperity of the community. The wealthy could afford those expensive ingredients to make eggnog in Britain, but in America it became a common drink due to the number of farms. Rum became the alcohol of choice, since rum from the Caribbean wasn’t taxed as heavily as European spirits like brandy.

George Washington’s recipe for eggnog suggests the founding father had a strong stomach. He forgot to specify how many eggs should be used in it, but cooks of the era thought a dozen or so would be good. Washington’s recipe includes the usual ingredients—sugar, milk, cream, eggs—but adds one pint of brandy, half a pint of rye, half a pint of rum and a quarter pint of sherry to the mix. Raise one to the father of the country!

FAMILY EGGNOG RECIPE

My aunt gave me a handwritten book of over one hundred recipes when I got my first apartment in art school. One was for Christmas Eggnog, which isn’t “just something to drink, but a traditional Christmas ceremony in Dixie, when friends and family gather together to enjoy Yuletide festivities.”

Her recipe served 12 and had 12 of nearly everything:

12 eggs separated

12 Tbs sugar

12 Tbs whiskey

12 Tbs Jamaican rum

1 quart whipping cream

Nutmeg

For Auntie ‘s recipe, separate the yolks and whites. Beat the yolks till light, then add sugar slowly, and beat again till light. Add the liquor very slowly; don’t dump it in all at once! Keep beating while adding the liquor. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks in separate bowl and fold into yolk mixture. Whip the cream till it expands to double in size. Fold this into the mix of eggs and whites. Tradition serves this drink in small cups with grated nutmeg topping and a silver spoon. A thin slice of rum soaked fruit cake accompanies it on a plate. My understanding is with fruit cake, the more rum it has, the better it is, or that may be the eggnog talking.

TRADITIONAL EGGNOG RECIPE

I put a traditional egg nog recipe through my recipe program. I didn’t care for what I saw! This drink wouldn’t be on my healthy eating plan. Then I decided to adjust the recipe. I decided not to use the full sugar or whole milk, but opted for the lesser caloric bombs. I kept the full fat whipping cream, since it’s there to give body and thickness to the drink. This texture is important. Save the 2 egg whites for adding to an omelet for a meal. Don’t waste them.

Nutritional Values

Ingredients—

1 vanilla bean (or 1 Tbs real vanilla extract)

4 cups milk 2%

2/3 cup sugar (2/3 cup or 32 tsp Splenda for diabetics)

4 whole large eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Scotch whisky, bourbon, or rum (optional)

Cinnamon or allspice for topping

Servings–Makes 12 servings of about 1/2 cup each (before adding 1 oz. alcohol)

Directions–

Split the vanilla bean in half by holding one end down on a cutting board and running a knife away from your hand and down the length of the bean. Open up the bean, and then use the back side of the knife to scrape out the black seeds. Place the seeds and the husk (or the 1 Tbs real vanilla) in a small saucepan along with the milk and sugar or Splenda.

Heat over medium low heat, stirring regularly to prevent burning until the surface is foamy and the milk is steaming hot.

In a large bowl, add the whole eggs and egg yolks and whisk until pale yellow and foamy. Place the bowl on a wet towel so it doesn’t slip, and then pour the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly (it may be easier to have someone help you). It’s important to keep the egg moving as you add the hot milk, otherwise it will clump.

If you’re concerned about Salmonella, measure the temperature of your mixture with a candy thermometer and if it has not hit 160 degrees F, pour it all back into the pot and cook over low heat while stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. If you heat it anymore, the egg will curdle.

Whisk in the cream and serve warm, or chill in the fridge. I like to serve the alcohol on the side, so people can add as much or as little as they like. This respects the designated drivers, as well as those who don’t drink alcohol for personal reasons. Remember adding alcohol adds calories and carbohydrates. One ounce of alcohol per hour is the most the average person can metabolize. Consuming more than four (4) drinks on a single night is considered binge drinking, an unhealthy lifestyle activity. Consider drinking every other nog beverage without spirits to slow your imbibing down, or choose water instead.

HOLIDAY GREETINGS

I hope you have a safe and blessed holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanza, or Hanukkah, and may the joy of life and the promise of hope be always in your hearts and minds. Let’s all pledge to choose one better action for our health in 2019 and keep after this one thing! We can do it!

Love, Joy, and Peace,

Cornie

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Wacky Wednesday Duo

Breakfast and Lunch in the Kitchen: Spinach and Avocado Duo

This Wacky Wednesday duo is due to my need to clean out the icebox before my next grocery run. My parents grew up during the Great Depression, so wasting food wasn’t on their list of things to do. At least one meal a week was “druthers,” as in “Would you druther have this or that leftover?”

Since I cook for one and measure out my food portions beforehand, I don’t have leftovers. I do have eyes bigger than my stomach when I shop, however. I try to eat my purchases while they’re fresh. Hence a double dose of avocado and spinach on my menu today.

Overstuffed Omlette

When my overstuffed sausage, mushroom, cheese, and spinach omelette fell apart this morning, I stuck the getaway mushrooms onto the avocado toast triangles. After I snapped the photo, I noticed the silly face. To see patterns in common objects is called pareidolia. As a child, my brothers and I entertained ourselves by naming the shapes in the white clouds which floated overhead. At night the shapes in the dark shadows of the vine draped trees were far more sinister than the brightly lit clouds of the day.

It’s a wacky Wednesday all right. Today I read about America’s changing workforce and how the eight hour work day became the norm. At lunch I tossed the chopped spinach with a quarter avocado and some hummus, plus a can of tuna, and a half ounce of walnuts. I tossed in 1/8 C raisins and Italian spices, plus a generous hit of cayenne pepper. I ate this with an ounce of veggie pretzels.

I realize many people have divided food into good and bad categories, or foods for the light and the dark sides of life. Some never eat grain products, meat, beans, or any carbohydrates, ever. Their diets are marked by exclusion, rather than inclusion. Unless a person has an allergy or medical reason to eliminate a food, choosing moderate and/or occasional portions shouldn’t be a problem. Having a variety of foods keeps life interesting and enjoyable.

Tuna Dip in a Bunny Bowl

Another way to enliven meal time is to use the “special dishes.” If you’re still saving the “good” plates for an occasion, why not make today a special day? Why wait for a holiday, birthday, or anniversary? Sometimes I like to eat from my favorite bunny bowls, especially near the end of the month when I’m writing my “Rabbit! Rabbit!” post for the first of the next month. Plus I’m eating backwards today, so I’ll be having yogurt and fruit for dinner tonight, just to keep life interesting.

Tomorrow is another day, and I can go back to being normal, whatever that looks like. Shake up your meal plan every once in a while. Have breakfast for dinner, or dinner for breakfast! Enjoy life!

Love from the Kitchen,

Cornie

Leftovers For Cinderella

EGGPLANT SOUP

I ate the traditional Thanksgiving dinner at a family setting Thursday, along with slivers of pies. The pot roast I made earlier got recycled as soup for two days after Thanksgiving. I had baked chicken with leftover carnival squash and roasted eggplant for dinner one night.

You can see the eggplant in the first soup bowl. I added some spinach and mushrooms to the potato and beef soup just to jazz it up and make it different from the asparagus and broccoli variation of the day before, which is below.

For Sunday breakfast I had French toast. I use vanilla, cinnamon, and 2 eggs with Dave’s killer bread. In a hot skillet, I pot 1 Tbs. sweet butter and cook the soaked bread slices until they’re golden brown. Then I add 1Tbs of maple syrup over the top. Using the real thing means I don’t need a lot, and often have some left over.

These are easy meals. I used the microwave to hasten the potato’s cooking to doneness, as also the asparagus stems. When you cook ahead, you have a quick dinner to make on another evening. It looks fresh by adding different veggies.

As we wind down this old year, time will compress, but obligations will mount up. We’ll be trying to squeeze a size ten foot into a size six shoe. It won’t work. We aren’t Cinderella! Take your list and chop it in half. Just do it. Spend more time being good to the ones you love. Spend less money on them. Enjoy each other’s company.

Joy and Peace, Cornie

National Pumpkin Pie Day Extravaganza!

Today I’m eating homemade pumpkin pie, made completely from scratch. I’m also recuperating from a heart catheterization, which I had at some zero dark thirty hour yesterday. Since I was instructed to “take it easy,” I thought a little pie extravaganza was in order. If I can’t go Wild in real life, at least I can have some Fun in the kitchen.

First I made the pie crust with whole wheat flour and real butter. This was the first recipe to call for ice water to bind up the dough. I put the rolled out crust in the refrigerator while I made the filling also. Keeping it cool made a difference. It was quite flaky, and not a bit soggy.

I took a cheesecake recipe and melded it with a pumpkin pie recipe because I had extra ricotta I needed to use up before it went bad. Although the container said it was good until January 13, 2018, I didn’t trust this, since it’d been open in my refrigerator for two weeks already. For the pie, I used 4 servings of pumpkin (85 grams each), 4 servings of ricotta (62 grams each), 2 large eggs, 1 1/2 Tbs vanilla, 1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice, 3 Tbs Splenda, and whatever spices were on the leftover pumpkin.

As I was making the filling, I preheated the oven to 425 F.

I used the skin and all, making sure to chop the whole fine, mixing the ricotta well, and then beating the eggs into the whole. Then I added the spice and Splenda and mixed again, before pouring into the chilled pie shell. Once I smoothed over the filling, I weighed out 8 servings of Nestle’s chocolate morsels (112 grams) to spread over the top of the pie.

Then I placed the pie into the 425 F oven, and turned it down to 350 F. It cooked for 40 minutes, at which time a toothpick inserted into the Middle came out clean. I set it on a cooling rack for about ten minutes to setup and finish cooking as it cooled.Then I cut it into 8 equal pieces.

You could also make this with baked sweet potatoes, acorn squash, or canned pumpkin. If you didn’t have mild tasting ricotta cheese, you could use cottage cheese and adjust your spices. You could also blend the ingredients a tad more to get the texture smoother too.

Some of you might rather melt your chocolate topping and drizzle it in a design, but I like biting into the chunks of chocolate myself. To each his own. It’s your kitchen. You go for it! I like the contrasts of tastes. For instance, the pastry uses coarse sea salt, so every once in a while, a salty surprise explodes in your mouth unexpectedly. It’s like finding the baby Jesus in a Mardi Gras King Cake.

This is the joy of home cooking, and our loss when we depend on industrialized and mass processed foods. Even if we can’t cook from scratch daily, this is a skill we should acquire so we can appreciate the craft of those who cook for us and produce our food.

SUNDAY SUPPER: Quiche to Die For

Sometimes to calm my spirit, I like to spend time making food from scratch. One, I'm taking care of my body by using calories to make dinner, and second, I know exactly what goes into my food, namely just fresh ingredients.

This doesn't take much time either. I had the pie crust made by the time the oven warmed up and the other ingredients weren't far behind. After all, how long does it take to beat 4 eggs, measure out 4 ounces of pre-shredded cheese, cut a big handful of skinny asparagus into inch long sections and add 3 ounces of spinach to the pan? Sprinkling basil, parsley and a rosemary garlic mixture on top was a breeze.

Then I set the timer for 30 minutes and sat down to listen to Clapton and Cale jam on TV. I gave the pie another 5 minutes because the toothpick didn't come out quite clean enough to suit me, even though I could smell the quiche flavors wafting out from the kitchen.

Let a quiche set just a moment before you cut it, which will give you just enough time to Instagram your famous creation! The pie makes 8 servings, and it's a bit high on the fat side (15 g) because of the cheese and shortening in the pie crust. It is low carb (10 g) however and has over 9 g of protein.

For those of us who who are watching our salt, we have to plan our other menus around this, since one serving has 310 mg of salt. Cheese is notoriously high in salt, and the original whole wheat crust recipe I used called for 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I cut this to 1/4 teaspoon and didn't notice any appreciable loss in taste, but I've trained my tastebuds to enjoy the flavor of lower salt. (This recipe has less than 310 mg salt per serving, but I didn't calculate it.)

This is a filling meal, because it has enough fat for satiety, the whole wheat is lower glycemic than refined white flour, plus it has the fiber and bran the refined flour lacks. I'm not hungry after this meal, whereas if I eat too little fat, I get ravenous quickly! Of course, I don't have a medical need to keep my fat consumption extremely low.

When I get distressed, I tend to eat. One of the ways I can slow my emotional self-soothing is to make the food, rather than to buy it. The time it takes to make it diffuses some of my nervous energy and allows me to get a handle on my nerves. I have time to process my thoughts and feelings rather than just stuff Food into my mouth.

In grad school, I once ate a box of chocolate hostess cupcakes in a week. I've never eaten another since. I was far from home and on my own for the first time in my life. It was scary! I wanted to make sure my money stretched far enough, so I bought the whole box. Then I felt compelled to eat it all, not knowing the shelf life of these cakes was infinity. Now I know this is why God made freezers for the fridge.

We all have our little mistakes and errors of judgement as we learn to eat healthy. We can't let one momentary slip or choice be a reason to give up on a lifetime journey or goal. Tomorrow will be another day, a clean slate, and we can begin again with good intentions and our best hopes.

Plan out a menu that's easy to fix and doesn't require a lot of prep work. Do it the day before, so you know the ingredients are on hand. Then when you get home, take a deep breath, relax, and stay in the present moment. Do only one task at a time. Enjoy the opportunity to care for yourself and your loved ones.

Have a good week! Love, Cornie.

The Best Dinner Yet

Basil & Corn Chicken Dinner


Announcing to anyone who cares: my appetite is back! And so is my attitude! So are the exclamation points!!

I don’t apologize for this, for I’ve had a touch of the epizootic. This is a complaint southern ladies had back in the day, when they didn’t want to name it in polite company. Of course, it’s actual definition is a disease in the animal population. Trust me, I was reduced to subhuman status during this confinement. Enough of my malaise, I’d rather talk of food. 

Scrambled Eggs & Grits

Once I diagnosed my symptoms, I realized ginger ale and 7Up were my best treatments to keep me hydrated. Then bland meals like grits and scrambled eggs were next. Later I added rice, then chicken. Meats, vegetables, and dairy were too hard on my digestion. Finally today I had corn, squash, tomato, mushroom, spinach, fresh basil, and chicken stirred up with some Italian spices and siracha spice. 

I could celebrate losing some weight, but this isn’t the best way to go about it. I was too weak and washed out to do much of anything. Why anyone would intentionally do this to themselves for a “cleanse” is beyond me. I’ve felt bad for a week from this experience, so I can’t imagine the effect of losing 6 pounds for the “fun of it.” It’s unhealthy to have rapid weight loss, and I think mine might be more dehydration. 

Remember Cornie’s motto: “The race belongs to those who persevere.” We don’t have to lose ALL our weight this year. If we can lose 10% this year AND change our life style, we will improve our health. Next year, we can lose another 10% AND make more improvements, so we can move closer to our desired goal. If we pick an “all or nothing” choice, we’ll most likely end up with nothing. I don’t say this to discourage you; I know from personal experience and from being older than dirt.  

Set a goal today: choose one lifestyle change to make a difference in your life. I keep a record of my food daily, so I weigh and measure my food (portion control). This keeps me accountable (I am a mindless eater). What will you choose to make a difference in your life? 

Snow Alert Means Comfort Food

Snow alert! Even the prospect of rumored snow, sleet or icing causes my adoptive state of Arkansas to rush pell mell to the nearest Walmart or Kroger for bread, milk and eggs. The shelves will be bare by 3pm. Some of our mountain towns have been known to raise the prices on these much desired products once a winter storm warning comes out. While price gouging at the pump is illegal, there’s no law against supply and demand prices for edibles.

Of course, if the weather is that bad, we should have hard boiled those eggs before the utilities lost power, so we could eat them. Along with the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cold milk. We won’t be cooking unless we have a backup generator or an open fireplace. Standing out over the BBQ pit to cook in that weather is for Nanooks of the North, but not for me.

My all time favorite comfort food for frozen weather is cheddar cheese grits with bacon and scrambled eggs. It’s simple to cook, has only four ingredients, and uses plain salt and pepper for the spice. That’s the basic recipe, but you could use jalapeño cheese for variety if snowmaggedon drags its sorry self into your neck of the woods.

One important note about this meal and it’s a southern thing: the grits must be “fork done.” Spoon grits are runny and not worth feeding to a dog. I wouldn’t treat my dog that bad. Fork grits stay on the utensil, until they reach the mouth, where they can be properly appreciated.

Since we don’t often get snow or freezing rain, this comfort food is a rare treat and can be eaten for breakfast or supper.

Nutritional information:
Calories 713
Carbs 30 g
Fat 54 g
Protein 30 g