With social gatherings in full swing, my husband has given up trying to get me to properly calculate the amount of food required for guests. I am a little better than I used to be, but it is marginal, shall we say. I totally believe in the “better too much than too little”. That of course pretty much always results in leftovers; some of which can be passed along to guests and others not. I have also done posts in the past about the creative use of leftovers. However, the culinary reality is not all leftovers do work well with reheating and transformation of them can be tricky. One of the most difficult to deal with is a pastry wrapped item or anything with a “crisped” topping. If you reheat in a microwave as most of us do, the topping will be soggy. If you re-heat in the oven, you may be able to preserve the topping by carefully using the broiler, but whatever is underneath might not be warm enough.
In general, I go with a two-step process. I start by taking whatever it is out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Yes, I know the Food Police say don’t do that, but so far, illness has not resulted. If it something like a casserole, I gently remove the topping and set it aside. (By the way, this process is likely to detract from aesthetics.) I have the oven at 350, cover the casserole tightly with foil and try a 20-minute reheat. It might take longer depending on the density. Oh, I also spread it out as thinly as possible in the dish to help with reheating time. Then I remove the foil, replace the topping and either lightly dot with butter or sprinkle in Parmesan cheese if it is compatible with the dish. Four to seven minutes under the broiler will usually work, but you do have to watch it because the timing isn’t exact. Re-crisping is good – burned not so much.
Although this process isn’t good for everything, I have had a lot of success with it.
Despite our efforts to gather “loose” friends for Thanksgiving, I just found out we missed one. It was a situation where both individuals had to work, but their schedules were such they couldn’t celebrate together and I didn’t realize that or we would have certainly issued the invitation. We did have a lovely dinner though with a beautiful fried turkey and all the trimmings you could ask for. I really have to get the recipe for those sweet potatoes au gratin. Which brings up an interesting point. Later, when we were down to four, we were talking about the sweet potatoes and it turned out none of us like the sweet potato casserole topped with marsh mellows. Hubby and I prefer strictly savory, and one person prefers pecan and brown sugar topping. Oh, and speaking of toppings, I was successful in doing the low-carb green bean dish only to discover Hubby really wanted the traditional. I have leftovers though and will get some of the famous crunchy onion topping and make him a special dish.
I have two friends who couldn’t attend and I will be delivering leftovers tomorrow to each of them. I will be sure to make turkey soup this coming week. Last year after Christmas, I messed up, didn’t get to the soup in time and therefore wasted a lovely turkey carcass. I haven’t decided yet on the final turkey dish, but there are several we enjoy. Pot pie is always easy of course.
Although rain had been threatened, it held off and we were able to dine outside. With more than six, it’s our best option and we can fit up to ten at that table. It’s a bit tight and does work better with eight. We can set up for more inside, but it requires rearranging furniture and is a bit of a pain.
We usually travel to GA for Thanksgiving, but circumstances are such this year we will be staying here. We’re planning to host for a few friends, but it will be evening instead of afternoon since Hubby will be working. He wants to get the turkey in time for 24 hours of soaking in a brine, then we will plan to fry it if he actually makes it home in time. If he’s going to be delayed he’ll call and the bird will go into the oven. Notwithstanding the fact you aren’t supposed to count calories or carbs for Thanksgiving or Christmas, one of our guests is diabetic with increasingly restrictive diet warnings from the doctor. I’m considering how to lighten up the classic green bean casserole. My thoughts at the moment are to caramelize onions, cook the beans in ham flavoring until they are very tender, then combine them in a skillet to blend the flavors for maybe ten minutes. The final step will be to put a fair amount of grated Romano cheese on top and pop it in the oven for like another ten minutes.
Neither Hubby nor I like sweet potatoes sweet, but we do a savory version with cheese and some chipotle pepper in adobe sauce (just a little). Not much I can do about cranberry sauce or rolls and I do have to think of everyone else. With a couple of carb friendly dishes though it should be workable. I do a diet cranberry cocktail juice and diet ginger ale served in a festive martini glass as well. I don’t see how I can manage any sort of really low carb dessert although I am definitely open to suggestions. There will be a dessert of course and we will keep it to one so there isn’t this tempting array that requires way too much will power to resist.
The trip home went fairly well until close to the end when a wreck slowed traffic to a crawl and rain pounded for a while. Both situations were manageable and we literally swung into the house to drop bags off, then went to catch the last hour of early voting and proceeded to the annual Rib Fest. The organization, This Is For The Kids, does the Rib Fest and it was founded by a local man who was also later elected to City Council. Each year in leading up to the Fest, they ask for nominations of non-profits that focus on children. It has grown over the years and I ordinarily cannot attend because it’s usually held the same weekend that I travel to Louisiana. That’s how it was scheduled, but it was another of the events re-scheduled due to Hurricane Irma. We didn’t stay long, although did bring ribs and roasted corn home for dinner. In fact, since we wanted to sample from all three rib places, we had leftovers we enjoyed last night as well.
Sunday was a totally full day with yet another rescheduled event, the one-man play “Gospel of Mark”, at the Seminole Theatre. It was first done in the Middle Ages when the all-powerful Church felt religious plays were what the populous needed. The drama of this particular play was such that it actually provided a degree of entertainment and inadvertently laid the foundation for modern theater as we know it. The way it was explained to me is because plays began to be “too secular” and the Church sent them beyond their walls. With less restraint, religious themes gave way to others. This play endured as a piece of theater history and has been done on Broadway and in London by notable actors such as David Suchet, who played Inspector Poirot in several movies and the television series.
I have my usual commitments to take care of and am helping out a friend who is in the hospital so not much downtime is planned for the next few days.
I intended to post yesterday and time just sort of slipped by with getting into the hotel, getting checked into the trade show, etc. Today has been spent walking all around the show and having the first autograph session as well as working with Richie Kohler on the new project. We’re still trying to firm several things up and I’ll explain more once we settle those details.
We’ve seen several people we know and met a few new ones already. There are of course exciting new “toys”, officially known as new products. There are some tech items that are well beyond my understanding and other items you wonder why no one had come up with them before. In other cases, like the waterproof bags to hold your cell phone that I’ve seen advertised, and not in person yet. I did pick up a new tee shirt because I erroneously thought I had left another top at home. I did pack it after all. On the other hand, one more tee shirt can’t hurt. We wound up staying at the hotel for dinner last night instead of going out. We’d never eaten at the main restaurant with the buffet option and it was pretty good. Nothing too special because I stayed away from what looked like a lovely dessert station. They had prime rib as one choice and that made Hubby happy. We’re not certain of where we’re going tonight. Apparently there is a group dinner coming together and we’re waiting for the call to know exactly where.
The autograph session tomorrow is a little later and I haven’t checked yet to see if there are any seminars I want to attend. Hubby did three today and hasn’t decided about tomorrow yet.
In what is unusual timing, we leave for Orlando Tuesday morning until late Sat afternoon. The paper has been stopped and house sitter is all set. The largest scuba trade show in the wold takes place in Orlando every other year and we always go. Hubby will attend a string of professional seminars and catch up with friends we may not have seen since the last show. What is different about this show is it is not open to the public; only to individuals in the scuba business. Hubby’s qualifications are obvious and mine are because I focus so much of my writing on scuba. The convention center in Orlando is huge and you do get a lot of walking in. Richie Kohler will be presenting on Friday and we’ll have an hour of book signing Wed, Thurs, and Friday. We will also be spending time together to discuss the other book he wants to do. (More about that after we talk.) Richie tends to be really popular though and I suspect he’ll be whisked off to a number of things he isn’t anticipating. I have plenty to keep me busy and unlike the trip to Louisiana, I should have consistent, reliable connectivity.
The area is quite the “foodie” place, too with a large shopping and entertainment complex within comfortable walking distance of the hotel. Comfortable distance for us, but I admit we tend to be more walkers than many people these days. I haven’t checked the weather forecast, so our plans could be disrupted if it’s messy. I don’t know if there will be any new restaurants open, although there are plenty to choose from and we’ve not been disappointed in the ones we’ve tried. We might branch out this time to more ethnic choices – depends on who we’re with and how we’re feeling.
My on-going computer aggravations are why the Day 2 post didn’t go up when I thought it did. In speaking with Hubby last night, he thinks the core problem is a settings issue (which would seem logical considering what’s happening) and he might be able to fix it without me needing to consult the Geeks. That would be nice, but we shall see.
I am in Shreveport – well, Bossier City – across the Red River. The wonderful steakhouse of Two Johns is on this side and I’m staying near there. I’m flying out a little later in the morning than I usually do. I was a bit tardy in booking for this trip and the earlier afternoon flights from Atlanta to Miami were already full. While in general I’d just as soon have a longer layover in Atlanta, I decided to change it up a bit this time. Either way I did it was going to mean leaving MIA at a terrible time from a traffic perspective. At least I don’t have to do that very often.
Today is son’s birthday and we exchanged email greetings this morning. He won’t be getting any celebration time for almost two weeks as he has overlapping dance performances. That happens to him about every two years. We’ll try to make his Fall show next year if things aren’t as hectic.
The visit with my dad was good. His health is fine although he will never recover full vision in the eye where a blood vessel burst several years ago. He’s been having treatment on it for a long time. Surgery is an option, however, it doesn’t always help and at his age, surgery without a good probability of improving the condition doesn’t make a lot of sense. He opted to not bother with it.
The temperature dropped overnight and I forgot to throw a wrap into the suitcase. I’ll plan to walk briskly from parking lot into heated buildings.
I did check the forecast before I left, but didn’t check it yesterday. The sound of rain and thunder at 6:00 a.m. wasn’t quite what I expected. The worst of it was over though when I got caught up on my momma’s side of the family and headed north. There is a section of interstate between the two towns, but it’s about half state roads without a lot of traffic on a Sunday. That is definitely a pleasant change from where I am usually driving. I had one of the C&W stations on the radio and basically drove the posted speed limit with only one care becoming impatient and that was near the end of the trip. The rain was fairly constant, although never too bad and it did quit when I was nearing my destination.
My sister was at the assisted living facility with my dad when I arrived and we spent the afternoon chattering away. That kept Daddy from having to engage in too much conversation which is kind of nice for him. He knows he can’t remember what is said and this way he didn’t have to even think about it. I’d brought him some of the dark chocolate covered coconut patties I always bring. These were the key lime flavored and one was just the right size. He has three more to enjoy – one for each day I’m here. My sister leaves Tues and I’ll stay until Wed late afternoon when I’ll go to a place closer to the airport and meet an old high school friend for dinner. We always try to get together and are usually able to make it happen.
Dinner tonight was at what is the nicest restaurant in town – an Italian place I have posted about before. It’s in an old bank building and they did a great job of restoration. The food is good with a nice selection. I had a chicken dish in a dose sauce topped with melted mozzarella and sliced roma tomatoes. Sis hadn’t had a good pizza for a while so she did that. If it’s open tomorrow night, we’re going to a crawfish place.
My sister left this morning to return to Houston and I’ll go back out to see Daddy tomorrow until lunchtime, then relocate to Shreveport where I’ll meet my friend for dinner and be closer to the airport. There is a local spot in the next town over which serves breakfast and lunch as a combination of hamburgers and donuts. It actually makes sense and Southern Maid are very much like Krispy Kremes. They are a regional chain and I had been told Hamburger Happiness was a worthy companion. Oh, they also serve Blue Bell ice cream. No calories in this place. I did finally go in and resisted all the extra temptations. There were no more than a dozen tables and I suspect the place is jammed at breakfast. The hamburger couldn’t have been more old-fashioned and it was delicious. The young man at the counter couldn’t have been friendlier and I can confidently send anyone in. This is a situation where the “next town over” is very close, as in the two town limits signs are on the same post.
As another first, I was drawn into being the fourth for a game of dominos this afternoon. The assisted living facility where my dad is doesn’t have a lot of amenities, but Bingo and dominos are among them. I often watch folks play when I’m visiting and I haven’t played since I was a kid. There was no question I was definitely the novice in the group. It was fun though and I did better than I expected. Didn’t win, mind you although I finished in a respectable second.
Okay, I generally post only about my trips in these situations, but I am going to deviate from that. It was a good day visiting with my dad and sister. On the other hand, after the longest gap since 1997, my new novel, To Play on Grass Fields, is out. I need to explain about this book though. It is very different from any of my others. As I mention on the website, it is darker, more intense, and has a strong political tone. The easiest way to explain it is if you ever read and enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, you should be okay. That is not to say it is anywhere nearly as long or has the making of a classic, but merely to give an idea of what it is like.
I developed the idea for the book more than twenty years ago when I was in Haiti for Operation Uphold Democracy in the waning months of my career. I retired soon after returning from that deployment in a coincidence of timing, not because of. The position I held while in Haiti gave me insight into some discussions I would not have ordinarily had. Those conversations and my own observations stayed with me and I struggled with how to articulate what I wanted to present in the book. Now, as with most novels, while there are absolutely true elements woven in, it is written for drama with what is referred to as “literary license”. Therefore, revelation about the incident in the Caribbean should not be taken as literal.
If this book does not appeal to you, don’t worry. I do intend to have Shades of Deception, the new scuba-themed novel out in Jan or Feb. If I can ever figure out one more sub-plot to Small Town Quilting Treasures, I will have that out next summer.
Oh, I did have my catfish meal which is a “must” when I come back to Louisiana.
Sorry, I was going to upload the cover of the book, but am having computer issues. (That will ne explained in my next post.)