Comfort Food – Part 2

Comfort Food – Part 2

It seems, we were having winter during the week, and something like spring on the weekends. It was warm enough to get out and do a little yard work and consider all those wonderful garden plans … before the relatively icy cold drove us indoors again, and to consider hearty, warming comfort food for dinner. Nope, winter is not the time for Salad Nicoise, or for gazpacho. Those are summer dishes; winter is for fortifying soups and stews, for sturdy casseroles of macaroni and cheese … and meat loaf.

The classic meatloaf that Mom used to make was based on ground beef; back in the day, ground beef was about the cheapest meat protein out there. Mom and other frugal cooks had extensive repertoires of main dishes utilizing it; no cook with any pride needed Hamburger Helper back then. The version of meat loaf that I grew up on usually only contained 50 per cent meat, though. The rest was chopped onions and celery, maybe a can of tomatoes, filled out with bread crumbs and/or oatmeal, bound together with a couple of eggs, a splash of milk, and topped with a spritz of ketchup and a slice of bacon for flavor down the middle of the loaf. There are all kinds of variations on it, depending on the state of your pocketbook and pantry – but come out pretty much tasting the same.

Not so one of my own favorite meat loaf recipes; I think I found it in one of the cooking magazines which had a feature on wild rice. I copied the most intriguing of them into my own hand-written book of recipes, and promptly forgot the name of the magazine. The original version called for ground pork, which made it altogether too fatty and rich.

Simmer ½ cup wild rice in 1 cup boiling water for 20 minutes until barely tender. Cool (the original recipe directed the cook to drain the rice – but added ¼ water or milk. Why waste the rice liquid anyway, since it has lots of flavor in it?)

Combine the cooked rice and liquid with 1 cup soft bread crumbs, two beaten eggs, ½ cup rolled oats, one medium onion chopped very fine, 1 ½ teasp dried ground sage, ½ cup grated cheddar cheese, and a pound of ground pork or turkey – or ½ pound each ground pork and ground turkey.
Form into a 7×4 inch loaf shape, and bake in a 350 degree oven until juices run clear. (About 1 ¼ hours). Serve with a sauce of 8 ounces sour cream mixed with 2 TBsp Dijon mustard. It’s great, served with mashed garlic potatoes – which are just your average mashed potatoes, only the potatoes boiled together with 2-4 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped. Now – there is some comfort food for a cold winter day

Lets Rodeo San Antonio

At the Stock Show and Rodeo

by Celia Hayes

 

This wasn’t something that we had thought about for ourselves – going to the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo at the AT&T Center – but a friend of ours had two tickets for Sunday, couldn’t use them, and offered them to us. In spite of having grown up riding horses, and with neighbors who kept horses and the occasional cow, and chickens, et center – we had never been to a rodeo. In spite of writing extensively about cowboys, cattle drives and livestock ranching in South Texas, I had never been to the San Antonio Stock Show, either. So – it was about time. A particularly handy bit of advice came from another neighbor; don’t drive down to the AT&T Center/Freeman Coliseum, he said; go to Randolph Park and Ride and take the shuttle bus. $5 per person round trip beats what we saw local entrepreneurs along New Braunfels Street advertising – $20 a vehicle.

The shuttle bus dropped us off right at the main gate to the carnival area – right by the big Ferris wheel, which made it easy to locate the shuttle bus stop again when we were ready to go. The fairway was pretty extensive – one of the largest that I had ever seen, with an awesome assortment of fairground rides, and by late afternoon it was jammed with families. But that wasn’t the end of it; there were extensive halls of retailers of cowboy-themed stuff, Western attire and accessories of every description, from belt-buckles all the way to those fancy trailers which haul stock in the back and have living quarters in the back. Well, I had always wanted to know what the inside of those look like, having passed or been stuck behind many on the various highways around South Texas. Talk about custom and luxurious – the bathroom was so palatial, I believe I’d almost rather live in the trailer.

We didn’t get very far into the stock exhibition barns – only as far as where a handful of horses were on display, including a black Percheron named Andy, fully 18 hands and some tall, and looking to be as large as an elephant, although exceedingly mellow about being petted. My daughter was quite taken with him. Like Crocodile Dundee said of another item, “Now, THAT’S a horse!” And as a girl next to us said in awe, “His eye is as big as my brain, practically!”

On to the AT&T center for the rodeo, where it turned out that our seats where high in the nosebleed section, about four rows from where the ceiling began. I will have to say that the view of the arena was excellent, once we climbed up there and got over the unsettling notion that if we should happen to topple over forward, we would bounce all the wa-a-a-ay down to the arena floor.

Just about all the rodeo events – that is, the ones that aren’t intended for kids, like the mutton—busting and calf-wrangling – started the real world of working cattle from horseback in the 19th century. Calves and young cattle had to be lassoed and branded, and being able to do it swiftly and efficiently meant that a cowhand was good at his job. Being able to last a good few rounds on the back of a fractious horse was also a useful skill, but I am just not all that sure that staying on the back of a bucking steer was all that useful. On the other hand, life likely got pretty boring around the ranch of a winter, before social media and all.

The stock show and rodeo lasts through the 23rd, with a full schedule of competitions, exhibitions and displays. Take my advice though – take the shuttle bus.

 

Front Porch Finale

Leaping into Spring Projects

by Celia Hayes

In between those days of bone-chilling cold, my daughter and I finished up the raised flower-bed part of the entryway to the house this week. The stump of the photinia is buried deep in garden soil, home-brewed compost, with a layer of weed barrier on top of that, and a thin layer of river rock on top of that. We visited Lowe’s over the weekend and were sorely tempted – and succumbed to several interesting varieties of day-lily and gladiola corms, and a rose-bush. I might, at a later date, put in some lavender plants, as the soil mix in the raised bed is just what they like; sandy, easily drained, full of good nutritious compost – the very opposite of the heavy clay which occurs naturally around here.

We raked in some good rose-food, planted the corms and the rose bush – and for good measure, my daughter scattered seeds from of a good handful of packets of annuals around the edge of the weed barrier, covered it all in river-rock … oh, we’ll need to go and get a few bags more of the river rock. We always under-estimate these things. The tools are cleared away, the empty sacks removed and the sand swept up – and the front entryway now looks pretty good. Not Parade of Homes quality, but still pretty good. There aren’t quite enough bricks left to continue paving over the narrow little flowerbed which runs along the side of the house between the walkway and the exterior wall of the garage. This has always been an annoyance for me; when I first bought the house it was filled with ivy. It took five or six years to eradicate the ivy. Now there are a couple of rosemary bushes, and a climbing rose that goes along the house wall – but the base of the bed always looked a mess; leaves blew in and it was a chore to rake them from underneath the rosemary. We’ll pave it with the last bricks, augmented with concrete pavers, leaving small square areas filled with more gravel around those established plants – which ought to reduce the mess-quotient by several degrees.

The cold snaps this winter have done a pretty thorough job of killing off everything that wasn’t sheltered in the greenhouse. Likely we will have to start all over again with Bell and jalapeno peppers. Among the other temptations in the garden section at Lowe’s was a good assortment of seed potatoes. I’m hoping that when the weather lets up a little I can plant them – and do better than last year. I’d like to eat more produce from my own garden than I buy at the grocery store, but so far, the only thing that flourished regularly were salad greens.

Potatoes weren’t the only temptation in the spring starts, seeds and roots – I committed to another grape vine; this one I intend to train up on wires strung between eye-bolts screwed into the back fence. My neighbors with the beautiful garden had done this; why not go vertical, in a small enclosure. My daughter bought a blackberry vine – and that will also go up on the trellis wires. Finally – among the stock at Sam’s Club last weekend; young fruit trees; apple, apricot, plum and peach, for a very reasonable price. Yeah, I bought two of them; when we lived in Utah, it seemed like every house of a certain age had at least one bearing fruit tree in the yard. With the mulberry cut back, I think there will be sunshine enough for the peach and plum saplings. So, that’s my plan for this spring in the garden…