Queens of the Dairy

Once upon a time, there was a cow named Greely.

She was a beautiful Jersey the color of a new teddy bear.  She had eyes the size of fresh peaches, with eyelashes as long as a bright blue crayon.

Greely lived on a small farm.  But she hadn’t always lived there.

She was born and grew up at a small dairy farmstead called the Chapel Hill Creamery.  The farm is surrounded by green pastures where the cows graze.  Greely and twenty-nine other Jerseys lived quiet lives set to the rhythm of nature; where each cow has a name and a special human friend that makes sure all their needs are met.  The milk from those cows is turned into many different kinds of delicious cheese.

For a cow, it’s a very happy world.

Greely was treated well at her new home, but sometimes she missed the other cows.

One day, a trailer arrived at the cow’s new home.  They unloaded a cow and brought her to Greely’s pasture.  The two bovines saw each other and charged over the field toward each other.

The new cow was Amy, Greely’s best friend from the dairy!  The Jersey girls nuzzled one another, ecstatic to be together again. 

 The cows lived happily ever after, and Greely was never lonely again.

(This is a true story.)

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Turnip Gratin with Chapel Hill Creamery Hickory Grove Cheese

Recipe from Chapel Hill Creamery

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic

2.5 lbs. turnips, about 9 medium

1 tsp. dried dill

½ pound Chapel Hill Creamery Hickory Grove cheese

1 cup cream

1 cup coarse bread crumbs

1 Tbs. melted butter

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Melt butter in a skillet and add bread crumbs, stirring to coat. Set aside.

Rub shallow 8×12 pyrex pan with cut garlic. Butter the pan.

Slice turnips as thinly as possible by hand or on a mandolin. Trim rind on the Hickory Grove and cut into thin slices.

Make three layers of turnips, adding salt, pepper, and some dill to each layer.

Cover with cheese, pour cream over and sprinkle on the bread crumbs.  Cook at 400 degrees uncovered for 40–45 minutes until turnips are cooked through.

Hickory Grove Cheese Straws

Ingredients:

1 stick plus 6 tablespoons butter (14 tablespoons), room temperature

3 cups Chapel Hill Creamery Hickory Grove cheese, shredded

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1/8 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, more or less to taste

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Preparation:

Put butter and cheese into food processor. Add the flour, salt, cayenne, and Worcestershire. Cover and blend until dough just starts to come together in clumps. Place dough on a floured surface and knead it just until it holds together—Don’t overwork it.  It will develop the gluten and make the final product tough and rubbery.  Divide dough into four equal portions and roll into logs about 8-10 inches long.

Chill logs for at least one hour or freeze up to 2 months and then cut into bite-size slices (about ¼-inch wide). If you don’t want to make all the dough at once, it will last in the fridge for about two weeks or freezer for three months.

Sprinkle the top of each with some flaky sea salt.  For extra special treats, place a lightly toasted pecan half on each, after salting.

Bake in preheated 300° oven for 15 minutes and then spin cooking sheet 180° and bake 15 minutes more.  At this point, without opening oven, turn off heat and let cheese straws sit inside hot oven for 45 minutes.

Remove and let cool.

Makes about 6 to 8 dozen.

Hard Wisdom

After continued flirtations with death, multiple surgeries, and lengthy hospital stays, there came a point when Petey was stable and recovered enough to come home for good.

And the life which we’d known before his illness was gone forever.

The months-long fight to stay alive had taken a toll.  His strength was such that returning to nursing, or any type of work was now impossible—the simple effort of bathing and dressing exhausts him like twelve hours of nursing used to.

Petey had to come to terms with the fact that his life had become something he didn’t recognize, and never wanted.  He was forced to deal with the anger and shame of being “the invalid”.  He was a carer that now needed someone to care for him.

It wasn’t an easy transition, not for any member of the Matthews Family Band.

The Kid existed in a constant state of terror.  But my stoic child presented to the world both a face and demeanor carved from stone because loss of control meant a volcano of embarrassing and unwanted emotion would crash down in a never-ending pyroclastic flow of feelings.

I coped by indulging in a form of optimism so extreme as to almost be magical thinking; rejecting facts and the situation at hand and substituting a belief that absolutely everything would be fixed by the coming treatment/surgery/medicine/doctor, and our former lives would be restored to us.

When things were too precarious for even my almost hysterical optimism, I would go to my fallback position; numbness. 

When no one with an MD could offer any hope, and returning to that empty house every day made me think I’d die from fear, stress, and loneliness, I’d shut down. 

I’d do and say the appropriate things, but for days at a time, nothing penetrated and I sleepwalked through life. 

It was while living within this continuous crisis that friends and family stepped up or let us down.

My parents?  They burned up the highway between Greensboro and Duke.  They visited almost every day and came in with Starbucks, took us out of the hospital for meals, never left without slipping cash into our pockets, and always presented a stout shoulder and unwavering encouragement.

Other relatives treated Petey’s illness as a personal affront.  They demanded we manage and massage their feelings about the situation.  They offered nothing positive and always had a carefully curated reason why they once again were unable to make a visit to the hospital.

We had friends that carried us away for a respite from HospitalWorld.  They would tease, cajole, and fill us with what, during that dark time, passed for happiness.

And we had people with lots of thoughts and prayers, but very little else.  One neighbor asked me daily if I needed anything.  I hesitated, but finally weeks into our hellish ordeal I asked him to clean up a few piles from our dog because I was never home during daylight hours so was unable to.  He declined.

But the very next day he asked again if he could do anything to help me out. 

Thanks but no thanks.    

Our lives aren’t the lives we inhabited before the illness.  This is our normal now and we’ve had to accept that.  Is it the life we would have chosen for ourselves?

Before.

Not a chance.

But Petey’s still home and is currently sitting on the couch next to me.  And though we have tough patches, every day I hear his laugh that sounds like warm caramel and see the same twinkle of  mischief in his eyes that I fell in love with thirty-eight years ago.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

What’s In That Jar?

Everybody (except maybe germophobes) loves a buffet and potlucks. 

There’s nothing like lining up and filling your plate with roast beef, egg rolls, broccoli casserole, French fries & gravy, and two or three taquitos.

But it’s not a very cohesive meal.  The only thing it says it that you probably eat too many carbs, and OMG, would a green salad kill you?

It’s the culinary equivalent of pajamas and a tiara.

You could go with a little black dress in the form of a single dish meal; soup, salad or Cap’n Crunch.  But honestly, as much as I love an LBD, humans need variety.

That is why, in chef-driven restaurants, the plates are carefully curated for gestalt.  The kitchen has worked hard and experimented, and each plate is designed with an eye to cohesive, collaberative,  texture, taste, and aroma.

The dinner I made the other night was designed so the flavors repeated and echoed each other, like a well-styled outfit in lush fabrics.  Recently I was visiting Trader Joe’s and noticed in the freezer section they carry this fire-roasted corn with all the flavors of elote, the delicious Mexican street corn. 

At home I had a new bag of orzo and some pork chops.  Then I remembered I had two Joe’s jars, and decided to make some Tex/Mex, a perfectly styled designer outfit for dinner.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Elote Pasta

1 cup orzo

1 bag Trader Joe’s Mexican-Style Roasted Corn

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

¼ cup chives, green onions, or Chinese chives, sliced thinly

Make orzo according to package instructions—make sure the cooking water is very salty.  Reserve 1 cup pasta water and set aside.

Make corn according to instructions on package.  When finished, pour cooked pasta into pan with corn.  Gently stir until everything’s mixed and coated.  Pour in the pasta cooking water until the sauce is silky and not dry looking.

Serve in skillet garnished with chives and the cheese packet from the corn.  Serves 4.

Sandy Mexican Pork Chops

*I call these sandy because after baking the crumbs take on a sandy texture—not like the beach, but like a buttery, crumbly shortbread cookie.  If you like your spice with a side of heat, add some cayanne into the flour or hot sauce into the buttermilk to taste.  If you put it into the crumbs it will burn.

4 boneless pork loin chops, about ¾ inch thick

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons Trader Joe’s chile lime seasoning blend

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ cups fat-free buttermilk

About 60 Captain’s Wafers crackers (1 ½ sleeves), ground to fine crumbs in food processor

2 tablespoons Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagle Sesame seasoning blend

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Place crushed crackers and everything bagel seasoning in a 9X13 pan in a 350° oven.  Toast until golden—10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and pour into a shallow dish.

Preheat oven to 425°.  Put 1 tablespoon oil in bottom of the same pan you used to toast the cracker crumbs.

Coat the meat with a three-part dredge:

In a large plastic bag, mix flour, chile lime, and salt.  Set aside.

Pour buttermilk in a shallow dish.

Line up bag and the pans with buttermilk and crumbs in a culinary assembly line.

One at a time, coat meat in flour, then buttermilk, then crumbs.  As you finish, set in oiled pan.  Drizzle coated chops with remaining oil.

Bake for ten minutes, spin pan 180°, and bake ten more.  When the internal temp is between 140° and 145°, remove from oven and let sit, lightly covered with foil, for five minutes.

Hard-Won Wisdom

It’s been almost six years now, since Petey came home from the hospital the last time.

For months, his back and legs had been in terrible pain that every day, got worse.  He was regularly seeing an orthopedic doctor and had had a medical text’s worth of treatments.

Nothing helped, and the pain grew worse.

The pain eventually got so bad it was becoming almost impossible to work.  Finally one day, he left the unit he’d worked in for more than twenty-five years in a wheelchair.  That shift was the last time he ever worked as a nurse.

Two months later we noticed his feet were the color of a new bruise.  He had an appointment to see our family doctor for another matter and I asked him about Petey’s feet.  He took one look and ordered us to the emergency room—he’d call and let them know we were on our way.

It turned out, the artery that supplied the blood below his waist was so blocked, it was practically non-functional. 

He needed a synthetic replacement artery.  But he might still lose his feet which had an unknowable amount of damage because for months had gone without anything close to an adequate blood supply.  The surgery, which was supposed to take three hours, took seven.  Afterward, he spent days in intensive care, on a respirator. 

The good news—his feet were okay.

The bad news—his kidneys had shut down.

This began a nightmare of dialysis, further complications and more surgeries.  He’d get stable enough to come home, only to be rushed to the E.R. in a few days for more surgery and another extended hospitalization. 

Dialysis took a heavy toll on him.  He had it twice a week, usually as an inpatient but occasionally he was at home and would visit a dialysis center.  Each session lasted four or five hours, and battered him physically and mentally.  By the time he regained a portion of strength, it was time for more dialysis.

The treatments kept him alive, but as each week passed he grew weaker and less able to bounce back.  The doctors frequently reminded us that kidney disease went in only one direction—downhill.  It was entirely likely he’d eventually need a transplant.

Petey’s world shrank to the few feet around his hospital bed.  His days spent in anxiety, pain, and uncertainty.  Our lives lurched between worry and the boredom of the sick-room, with brief flashes of abject terror. 

In less than a year Petey had gone from cheerful, active nurse, husband and father to a patient.  To many of his doctors and a few of his nurses, he became a “case”; his humanity replaced by symptoms, treatments and prognoses.

My days were spent at his bedside, acting as companion and advocate.  Petey was too sick and demoralized to take a stand, so I was the one whose foot was regularly put down with doctors and hospital staff on matters ranging from timely test results and procedures to diet and discharge.

At night I returned home to walk the dog, eat, shower, do some laundry, and go to bed.   Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Finally, in March, he was well enough to come home for good and defying kidney soothsayers, went off dialysis.  But in 160 days, he’d spent almost 120 confined to the hospital.

It’s been just about six years since the illness, and I have thoughts.  Next week I’ll share them with you, Gentle Reader, and also tell you what a good friend looks like to the person going through a catastrophic illness and the person who’s taking care of them.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

In a Pickle

“Are you gonna eat that?”

There’s always a pickle.  For where two or three are gathered together in delis of any name, there is a pickle in the midst of them.

And for some reason, there is always a pickle lover, and a pickle disdainer.

In our family, I’m a lover.

There is a bar-restaurant in Durham called Alley 26.  One of the reasons why I love it so much is they have wonderful, interesting small plates.  They have something called Butter & Salt, which is literally salted butter, a few radish slices, and some sliced French bread.  It’s the perfect example of treating simple ingredients with respect and in doing so, elevating the dish.

One of their dishes is a pickle plate.  It’s five or six different pickled items.  They do the pickling in house, so they’re fresh, delicious, and unusual.  My two favorites are cherries and pineapple.

The pineapple is pickled with jalapeño but there’s no heat.  You just get the super fruity flavor of the chile, which is the perfect foil to the sweet acid of the pineapple.  I was drinking rum, so I forgot to ask about the recipe, so I offer you my best approximation of the dish.    

Last summer, a friend gave me some green tomatoes.  I fried them, but he kept giving them to me, so I decided to pickle some.  I’d never pickled anything before, but I thought, “What the hey!”.

They turned out bright and sour and garlicky.  And to me, the best part was how gorgeous they were in the jar.  I kept looking at them thinking, “I made that!”

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Pickled Green Tomatoes

These pickles come from the website Garden Betty. 

1 pound green slicing tomatoes (or 1 & 1/2 pounds green cherry tomatoes)

2 teaspoons dill seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

4 garlic cloves, peeled

Cut larger (slicing) tomatoes into 1/2-inch wedges, and cut smaller (cherry or grape) tomatoes in half.

Brine

1 cup white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt

In a small saucepan, bring all of the brine ingredients to a boil and stir until the salt is dissolved. Remove the brine from heat.

Fill a hot, clean quart jar with the pickling spice mix of your choice. Pack the jar tightly with the tomatoes.

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes, covering them completely and leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Stick a chopstick or “bubbling” tool into the jar and move it around to release any trapped air bubbles.

Wipe the rim clean, seal with a lid and band, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Jalapeño Pickled Pineapple

1 pineapple, cut into bite-size chunks, don’t use the hard rind part

3 cups apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

½ teaspoon pink peppercorns

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 jalapeño

2 quart jars

Prepare the jalapeño

Cut the top and end off the jalapeño.  Cut it in half length-wise and cut each piece in half again, so that you have four long strips.  Discard all the seeds.  Carefully, using a paring knife, shave off all the vein, so that all you have left is bright green flesh.

Place the vinegar, sugar, lime juice, peppercorns and kosher salt into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir until sugar dissolves.

Put half of the pineapple into each jar.  Place two strips of jalapeño in each, sliding them down along the outside of the pineapple, against the glass.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the top of each jar, allow ½ inch headspace. The vinegar should barely cover the fruit.

The Girl With The Street In Her Face

Another second-grader in a pretty blue dress.

I was wearing one of my very favorite dresses in my second-grade photo.  It was a light-gauge knit in a combination of navy blue and what back then was called harvest gold.

My hair was cut in a shag.  My mom’s best friend, Mizz Judy cut it in a perfect replica of TV mom Carol Brady.  For those not familiar with the style, it was short and layered in the front, and long and flipped up in the back.

It wasn’t quite a mullet (business in the front, party in the back).  It was more “funny business in the front and PTA mom in the back. 

The photo from the tenth grade is a self-portrait (OMG-it was a selfie. Yuck!).  I’m wearing jeans, a huge gray fisherman’s sweater, and standing in front of the mirror in our guest bathroom.      

I’m taking the shot with my Konika TC camera, which hides most of my face. 

I was the very chic-est combination of Avedon and Diane Arbus.

The two pictures have something very odd in common.

The face that was wearing the shag haircut was one large, weeping scab.  Almost all of the skin had been abraded and was in the process of healing. 

In the later photo, if you look closely around the camera, it too is more scab than skin.  It looked like it had been on the wrong end of an electric belt sander.

Not me; but I was so traumatized by the incidents, just looking this gives me a jolt in the pit of my stomach. I literally got nauseous looking for an image to put here.

In both cases the culprit was asphalt.

One weekend when I was in high school, a friend, Billy Winston came over for a visit on his new motorcycle.  I asked him if I could go for a ride.  After a short lesson, he sent me on my way. 

I wanted to speed up.  Billy told me to get into second gear.

Unfortunately, he neglected to tell me that you shouldn’t accelerate and shift gears at the same time.

Yeah, it didn’t look anywhere near as cool.

Because if you do those two things at the same time, you begin performing a stunt referred to as, “popping wheelies”. 

The motorcycle and I parted ways.

I was fully clothed, but it looked a lot more like this.

I landed face down on the street, and the bike was on its side.  It had a few scratches, but my face was a mess.  Dad scooped me up and we headed to the emergency room.

Back a few years at Central Elementary, our gym teacher had a new game for us called Brownies & Fairies.  At some point in the game, the two teams face off and run at each other like the blue guys versus the British in Braveheart.

I was face down on the black top, but I’m pretty sure this is a photo of the actual event…

The very first step I took, I tripped and face-planted onto our black-topped playground.  I was then trampled by thirty-five second-graders.  It was like a cheese grater.  The majority of the skin on my mug was left on the asphalt.

The elementary school nurse washed my face and painted it with mercurochrome, a disinfectant which left me with a rosy-orange stain all over my kisser.  She then called Mom to come collect me.

At the ER after my motorcycle wreck, I was immediately given a tetanus shot.  Then the nurse entered with a basin of soapy water and a stack of gauze.  She explained that hundreds of tiny bits of asphalt were stuck in my wounds.  If each and every piece wasn’t scrubbed out, they would remain, as little black bumps all over my face—forever.

See what happens when the asphalt isn’t removed?

I’d just been flung onto the street, face first and given that most painful of inoculations; the tetanus.  I hurt.

But in my fifteen years on the planet, I had never experienced pain like I felt when she scrubbed my scraped and oozing kisser.

And it was all because of that darn asphalt.

It’s a death trap, I tells ya!

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

This’ll Put Some Starch In Your Bloomers

I’ve never been a girl for double starches.

With very few exceptions (mainly relating to those freewheeling, chaotic, tradition-dictated holiday meals),  double starch is a bad idea. 

What even is potato pizza?  It’s as ridiculous as pineapple pizza.

But really, there’s a reason why we don’t have mashed potatoes with our grits, or tater tots on our sandwiches, or noodles and rice.

Chicken and dumplings over mashed potatoes.
Completely unnecessary.

But.

Many Middle-Eastern cultures enjoy a side dish of rice with short pieces of pasta in it.  And, there’s a nifty little San Francisco treat that Petey and I and make from scratch now.

The other day I had a starchy epiphany.

I was inventorying my pasta supplies.

I discovered I had about three bags of a Mexican pasta that’s sold in all the grocery stores; La Moderna.  The bags I had were fideo, angel hair pasta about 1 ½ inches long.  It costs between thirty-three and fifty cents a bag.

So I thought the next time we needed a starch, I’d do a rice/fideo combo, like Rice-A-Roni, and the Lebanese dish.

I made it to go with a pot of field peas with snaps and chicken.  It was really good—Petey had seconds, which is the best endorsement of any experimental dish.

We had a ton left, and while I cleaned up the kitchen, I tasted the roni-rice by itself.  The toasting and butter it was cooked in gave it big flavor, even by itself. 

So here’s the thing.

It’s cheap and easy.  It’s tasty with a variety of partners.  And, it can become a new player in a very tired, overdone list of starches.

I’ve gotta say, those San Franciscans aren’t messing around when they call it a treat.

I wonder what that might be…

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Roni-Rice™

1 cup long-grain, Basmati, or Jasmine rice

1 cup fideo

2 tablespoons butter, divided

4 cups water

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cracked pepper

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Heat a large skillet and add 1 tablespoon of butter.  When it has melted and gets a little foamy, add the rice, then sprinkle ½ the salt and pepper.  Add thyme.  Stir to combine.

Be very gentle with the rice, if you are too abrupt, the rice will break up and you will have a gruel-like texture which is not appealing.

Stirring occasionally (and gently), let rice toast and brown (about 8 minutes).  When lightly browned and aromatic, pour from skillet to a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven.

Repeat with the fideo, omitting thyme (5 minutes).  The fideo will burn quickly, so watch it carefully and gently toss often.

When both are toasted, add the water to the pot and bring to a boil.  Cover and turn to medium-low.  Cook for 15-17 minutes or until the water has cooked in, and the rice and noodles are completely cooked through.

Recover pot and let sit, undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.

Fluff gently with a large fork and serve.  Serves 6.  Serve it with something like,

Brown Butter Bechamel with Spinach and Shallots

After the roni-rice has finished cooking, add 1 5ounce bag of fresh baby spinach.  It will wilt and can then be mixed in before service.

Bechamel

½ cup butter

½ cup flour

3 cups 2% milk

½ cup skim milk

15 passes of a fresh nutmeg on a grater

Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy saucepan, melt butter.  Let it cook until it turns brown and nutty (5 minutes).  Stir in flour and when it’s homogeneous, slowly pour in dairy.  Whisk continuously until it comes to a gentle boil.  Remove from heat.  Either mix in roni-rice or spoon over each serving.

An Absurd (But Ingenious) Proposal

So, I was watching Star Trek The Next Generation the other day.  Student Wesley Crusher came home to the Enterprise D on a break from Starfleet Academy.

He and the android, Data are discussing the social life of the academy.  Data asks if they still hold the Sadie Hawkins dance.  Wesley answers that yes, it’s still a tradition.

 A couple of things here.

Sadie Hawkins dance or day is inspired by a Lil’ Abner comic strip story about the father of the ugliest girl in Dogpatch trying to find a husband for her, so he organizes a race in which Sadie chases a pack of bachelors and gets to marry whomever she catches.  The term evolved into events where a woman was allowed to ask a man for a dance, a date, or on Leap Day especially, his hand in marriage.

That’s me, in high school. Already so very over the patriarchy.

How very thoughtful, allowing women an isolated opportunity to have a say in her own destiny.  But as someone old enough to have participated in Sadie Hawkins dances, the whole thing was seen as a joke; where menfolk pretended to let silly females have the power for something as low stakes as a school dance.

And the Star Trek thing?  This episode took place around 2368.  I’m sure, Gentle Reader, you can guess my thoughts about that.

A woman runs the Borg, but they still have a Sadie Hawkins dance? Sheesh.

But this anachronistic social convention brings me to my point and proposal (not of the marriage sort).

Leap Day, the February 29th that falls only once every four years, has long been considered an “extra”.  A day that falls outside normality. 

My proposal is to lean into the “otherness” that is Leap Day.  So, on February 29th, nothing counts.

This is NOT what I’m proposing.

When I told The Kid about my big idea, it gave my child pause.  Right away, what came to mind was The Purge, the movie where one day a year, everything is legal.  Rob a bank, steal a car, kill your annoying neighbor and burn down their house?  Yes, yes, and that’s kinda dark, but yes.

That is absolutely NOT what I am suggesting.  Think of this as more of a “Purge Light®”.

Not today, John Q Law.

The most serious laws my scenario would allow breaking are sixteen items in the express lane, taking the last doughnut without asking, and a little light jaywalking.

But the gist is that the folly of humans is not counted against them.

Calories?  Not on Leap Day.  Put away the healthy, no-fun food.

Have yourself some cotton candy and gin for breakfast.  Eat a stick of butter like a particularly buttery Snickers bar.  Polish off an entire jar of Goober Grape.  Eat a bucket of potato salad.  Have frosting for lunch!  Drink Hollandaise sauce out of a mug.  Eat your weight in caramel-cloaked toasted marshmallow frozen yogurt for dinner.

It doesn’t matter, because on this day, this magical day, no matter what goes into your mouth, every fork-full transforms into whole grains, veggies, and legumes.

Go shopping.  There are no price tags or credit limits on this day.  Buy all the shoes.  Go to a bookstore and purchase every book and magazine that catch your eye.  Start a cashmere collection.  You want diamond earbobs?  Buy yourself some darned diamond earbobs.  Buy so many new clothes that you have to have them delivered on a flatbed.

But be sure you get this wonderful Bacchanal of misbehavior completely finished by midnight.  Because come March 1, your actions once again have consequences.

But on this day, this special day that only comes every 1460 days, live your life like a giant drunken toddler who’s been given the car keys and a fake ID.

What do you think?

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Sammiches and Salad

If someone came up and tried to sell me the moon, I’d laugh in their face.

If they slapped a “Going out of business” sign on it, I’d ask him if he took American Express.

For somebody who’s normally pretty level-headed and even suspicious with their money, I just can not say no to a going out of business sale.  When my neighborhood Rite-Aid had their closing sale, I spent the GDP of Liechtenstein there. 

Why I bought an America Greatest Hits CD, I’ll never know.  And I’ll have enough sunscreen to last until the actual sun flickers out.

You may have heard that the gourmet/organic grocery store, Earth Fare will be closing at the end of the month.  And because I raised my child right, the other night, The Kid and I made a visit to the location near our house.

The grocery items, the stuff with a long shelf life, was only 10% off so far.  But the perishable meat, produce and dairy was 30%.

They had these adorable little sweet Italian sausage patties.  I bought six of them, and decided we’d have sliders.  Over in the bakery department, I found six slider-sized pretzel buns.

Then I had to decide how to dress them.  Because they’re made with pork that looks pretty fatty, I didn’t want to add to the richness with cheese or mayo. 

The Kid and I discussed it and came up with a plan.

This is my chow chow of choice. I picked up the last jar from Big Lots.

We’d toast the pretzel buns, then give them a light schmear of roasted garlic mustard.  Then, on top a small dollop of chow chow.  Chow chow is a sweet/sour relish with cabbage, green tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar.  It’s the perfect foil to the rich, fatty sausage, and robust enough to stand up to the mustard.

For a side, we decided on my mom’s pasta salad.  It’s made with old-fashioned ranch dressing and brightly colored broccoli and immensely delicious Cherub baby tomatoes (honest, really try to use these, Harris Teeter, Food Lion, and BJ’s all carry them).

The grocery item prices at Earth Fare will be descending.  And, I’ll go back.  I’ve got my eye on about six different jellies, and thirty-five candy bars…

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at dm@bullcity.mom.

Roasted Garlic Mustard

1 cup spicy brown mustard

1 head roasted garlic (recipe below)

1 teaspoon molasses

1 teaspoon malt vinegar

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Prepare garlic-Preheat oven to 350°.

Cut a head of garlic in half horizontally.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a pinch of dry thyme.

Wrap very well with foil and bake for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Scrape or squeeze meat from the peel.

Place into a small bowl and mash into a paste.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir until completely mixed through.  Cover and refrigerate for up to seven days.

Gramma’s Broccoli Pasta Salad

1 packet Original Hidden Valley Ranch (the buttermilk recipe) Dressing Mix

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup fat-free buttermilk

1 pound rotelle pasta, cooked according to directions, drained and cooled

1 head broccoli, steamed until tender-crisp and cooled

2 cups Cherub baby tomatoes, sliced in half length-wise

½ cup thinly sliced green onions or Chinese chives

Salt & pepper

Directions:

Make dressing 2-3 hours in advance and refrigerate to let flavors develop.

To prepare: put all the ingredients except dressing into large bowl and season.

Stir in dressing a little at a time until everything’s fully coated and just a little moister than you’d like the finished product (the pasta will absorb dressing, and the tomatoes will release some of their liquid).

Let sit at room temp for about 30 minutes before service.

Serves 6-8.

A Modest Proposal

As I write these words, Superbowl LIV is starting.  Would you care to guess the cost to travel to Miami, stay in a mid-level hotel, feed yourself, and watch the game in a decent (where you can see without binoculars) seat?

$70,000—to watch a game.

Honestly, that fact knocked the wind out of me.  The median household income in the US was $63,179 in 2018. 

Gentle Reader, I try not to get stridently political in this space.  And I’m still not the girl to tell you who to vote for. 

But this week, I’m asking you to consider my words when you are deciding who gets your vote.  There’s something that’s been on my mind lately and I’ve done some research.

Tragically, more and more Americans are living in financial servitude that starts early and lasts forever.

Colleges and universities have raised tuition and costs at more than 400% the rate of general inflation; 8% vs 1.9%.  This means that the cost of higher education doubles every nine years.  A child born today will see college costs quadruple before they even graduate from high school.

The government and financial sector’s answer to this has not been to address the inflation, but to make it easier and easier to borrow more and more money.

The result is that 70% of graduates enter “the real world” with an average of $30,000 in student loans.  That’s just undergrads.  Add to that the $70,000 for a post-graduate education, and our kids are saddled with something equal to the mortgage of a tiny home or a large car.  And legislation has been written so that even in bankruptcy those loans are not forgiven and must be paid.

Education should not be the privilege of the wealthy and a lifetime of debt for everyone else.

Petey and I pay more than $700 a month for health insurance.  This is through a stable, generous employer, and is actually a pretty good bargain for what is covered.  But after a catastrophic illness seven years ago, we were still thousands of dollars in debt that has had damaging long-term consequences for our financial situation.

Without health insurance, we would most likely be living in our car.  Medical expenses are still the number one factor in bankruptcy and resulting homelessness in this country.  And the National Institutes of Health tells us that at least 26,000 people a year die because they have no health insurance.

Entertainers and wealthy reality stars document their lives, possessions and acquisitions on multiple social media platforms daily.  These lives have become familiar and aspirational in a way they never have before.  The easy availability of credit makes a knock off version of those lives doable.

But children are still not taught basic finance and budgeting in public schools.

America is the land of opportunity.  If one is able to navigate or innovate past the financial reefs that are thick and dangerous, there is a chance to get ahead.  But that chance is slim and decreasing. 

Far more likely the opportunity is becoming buried in mountains of debt which make one’s life a small, fear-filled thing where joy and peace of mind are daydreams and bedtime stories told to children.   

Money means options.  It means the time to consider your choices and make the correct decisions for you and your family.  It means sleeping at night and not laying in the dark worrying that somebody will get sick, or something will break, or hours will be cut.

Next week, Gentle Reader, I will do my best to make you smile.  This week, I’m imploring you to think.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.