Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bienvenue 2010

This is what was waiting for Santa at my house on Christmas eve.  We've always left cookies for Santa and even though I am now the only one who really cares if he gets fed or not, sugar cookies (merci Pillsbury Doughboy, that's right, they are not homemade...), with sprinkles no less, are always waiting for him when he arrives.  The boys are too old to really be concerned with Santa's tummy, but I am sure in this mother's heart that they will carry on the tradition one of these days (in the distant future, please) with their own little ones.

For Christmas, one of my sisters gave me this photo that she found and framed.  I (on the right) am probably five years old.  That's my best guess anyway.  There are really four of us, but the youngest is out of the picture, sitting in the yard screaming at the top of her lungs as my mom snaps this photo.  At least that is how the family legend goes.  Bless her heart-- my mom's, not the screamer's.  My mom got married at the age of 15, gave birth to me at 17 and had her last child at 21.  I truly believe that I would not have survived.  Or I would have the corner padded room in a nice quiet hospital for the mentally challenged.  But I am so glad she made it.  I do not see her as much as I would like, but I do resolve promise to see my mama more often in 2010.

This is the gift my family gave the un-ex.   The screamer sister loves thrift and secondhand shops and she found him in Crossnore.  The Châteauneuf-du-Pape is our addition, though.  He is quite cute, n'est-ce pas?

New Year's Eve was celebrated by the BFF, the un-ex and I rather quietly.  Both boys were out and about so we had the house to ourselves and could play our favorite music without moans and groans.  (Will their music survive as well as the '70's stuff has??)  This lovely bottle of 2009 Bukettraube from the Cederberg Winery in South Africa came from Wine Authorities.  I stirred up a little caramelized onions for a quick tart and we sipped this white.  The write up on this one describes it as big and friendly, super exotic, floral, off dry, and rich.  The BFF's husband plays in a band, The Fabulous Hot Dog Daddy-Os (, so he was out playing for another group of revelers, hopefully a full house, not just three partiers d'un certain âge, as the French say,  hoping to make it to midnight without falling asleep.
We enjoyed some Piggy Popcorn (and I don't share-- sing it to the tune of Jimmy Crack Corn), bacon-flavored popcorn which is sold at Wine Authorities.

I do not remember what tune was playing, maybe Brick House by the Commodores since I do not believe any party is complete without hearing that song at least once.  You just cannot sit still while that song is playing, unless you are in the car, of course.  Or comatose.
It is hard to believe that 2010 has already arrived.  2009 passed in a blur.  I can no longer tell people that I just got back from my six month sabbatical in France.  That was in 2008, for goodness sake.  I do not really make resolutions any more.  They are just too hard to keep.  I make myself little promises.  The top one this year, to quote Jill Connor Browne, the Sweet Potato Queen herself, is "Be Particular."  I intend to be particular about what I put into my mouth.  Good things in moderation.  I do not really practice self-denial when it comes to food.  Once your taste buds have been awakened, eating is such a pleasurable experience.  There is too much out there, however, which just isn't real.  All package, no true taste as nature intended it.  More fresh ingredients, more seasonal fare, more exploration of herbs and spices, a more discerning palate.  Hamburgers should taste the way OnlyBurgers taste.  Goat's milk is just a God-given delicacy when made into fresh chèvre by Elodie Farms.  Crusty loaves of just-baked Guglhupf bread.  Fresh fish grilled, flavored with herbs.  Homemade soups and stews from my own kitchen.
And my second resolution is to write more.  Practice is necessary.  Jessica, a friend, lent me her copy Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob.  I've already read three chapters of this handbook for aspiring food writers and have even ordered my own copy so I won't be tempted to mark up hers.  So, somehow I will find a few extra minutes (which can easily turn into two hours when I am blogging away or working on my monthly column for the Durham Herald-Sun) each day to get some words down on the proverbial paper.  I do always have my little notebook in my purse.

So even if it is just a few lines jotted down in here, I will try to keep that promise to myself.
I made macaroni and cheese for my Spruce Pine family, after shopping at Ingles, using a new recipe I found in Our State magazine.  Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, in my humble opinion.

Macaroni and Cheese
Charlotte Fekete, Marshall, NC, Our State, January 2010

1 lb. elbow macaroni
5 c. shredded cheddar cheese
4 oz. cream cheese, diced
3 large eggs
1 c. whole milk
1/3 c. sour cream
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375F.  Cook macaroni and drain.  Immediately place in large bowl (I just put it back into the still warm pot I cooked it in).  Stir 4 cups of the cheddar cheese and the cream cheese into hot macaroni until thoroughly combined and cheeses are beginning to melt; set aside.  In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sour cream and melted butter.  Add egg mixture to macaroni mixture, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Transfer to 13x9 baking dish and top with remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese.  Bake for about 50 minutes or until set.  Serve hot.
Serves 6-8.
(Note:  Next time I will cover the macaroni with foil, bake it and add the last cup of cheese when there is about 10 minutes of cooking time left.  I do not really like mine to have a well-baked, crunchy top.)

Bon appétit, 2010!

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