Poon With Marshmallows

My sainted grandmother used to make a thing that was called sweet potato poon.

It had marshmallows. That’s all I remember about it. That and the year she was NOT DRUNK, NOT DRUNK I TELL YOU and left it under the broiler until the marshmallows caught on fire.

A few years ago, I went looking for a poon recipe. Couldn’t find one. Not online. Not in my Charleston cookbook. Not in my Oklahoma cookbook.

I chalked it up to family tradition, kind of like the Charleston Shorts cookies she made every year, for which there is no recipe on earth.

Wednesday, I was reflecting on my Thanksgiving menu, and out of the clear blue sky, it hit me—maybe she meant pone. I will chalk this inspiration up to Outlander and Charles Frazier. I searched sweet potato pone and bingo—1 million recipes.

I called cousin Lesley and yelled “She meant PONE!” and because we’re family, she knew exactly what I was talking about. Then we conference called all our parents who happen to be staying in one place this week. We had a good laugh about the little ol’ lady from Charleston

“What is pone?” Lesley asked. Good question, especially since the pictures I was looking at online did not look like the poon I remembered. The official definition is unleavened cornbread in the form of flat oval cakes or loaves, originally as prepared with water by North American Indians and cooked in hot ashes.

No mention of marshmallows. Huh.

Thirty seconds after we hung up with our parents, my mom called me back.

“You aunt just went in and turned on the Today show and GUESS WHAT AL ROKER IS MAKING????”

This.

Poon

I could hear my grandmother laughing at me all the way from heaven.

PS: My English/Irish/Hawaiian husband cannot hear this word without snickering, thanks to the 70s. Turns out neither could Twitter after Al Roker’s segment, which drove some folks to investigate further and yes, poon is a Southern variation of the word pone.

PPS: I made the poon. I damn near burned the marshmallows. Broilers are a tricky business and it had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SPIKED EGGNOG.

Emmanuel is Coming!

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I know you still have your fat pants on.

But Advent is coming.

I’m not rushing you. I have glad tidings: This year we have a whole week to get ready. None of this Thanksgiving on Thursday, Advent starts on Sunday madness.

Seven days, sisters.

Find your advent calendars. Or if–like me–you aren’t allowed to disturb the carefully crafted storage box fort in the garage, ask your husband to find it. And the wreath, while he’s in there. Try to ask before he comes back in from finding the calendar.

Click here to order advent candles from Amazon, because Michael’s and Joann’s will not have them. Will not, I tell you, and not because there was a 4 am rush for all the purple candles on Black Friday like the sweet Michael’s girl tried to tell me.

Click here to get your Advent Family Prayer Service.  About this–and if I ever taught you how to write an essay, please look away: I put it together five years ago for my family, and like all good educators, I begged, borrowed and stole it from others. I’m hoping the fact that it’s prayer will outweigh the part where I did not correctly cite my sources.

Click here if you can’t remember how “O Come O Come Emmanuel” goes.

Click here for directions on using a Jesse Tree as your Advent countdown–borrowed from Tara at Feels Like Home blog.

Click here for Advent calendars that countdown to Jesus and not Santa.

Click here for Bishop Barron’s Word On FireDynamic Catholic’s Best Advent Ever,  or Richard Rohr’s daily emails for grown-up advent prayer and reflection.

Click here for everything you need to teach your kids or grandkids about St. Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6.  And here for everything you need for the Feast of St. Lucy on December 13, a day of lights and sweets.

Because Advent used to be observed like Lent, with fasting and sacrifice, here is a more sober cookie recipe: St Hildegard De Bingen’s Cookies of Joy. And by sober, I mean half the sugar and double the butter.

Last of all, remember to Get ‘er Done, so that your heart and spirit can be at peace in this sacred time of waiting.

Blessed and prayerful Advent to you and yours!

 

 

 

Cooking With Grandma

Last Thursday Shea had his knee surgery so my mom has been here helping out.

She always comes with a trick up her grandma sleeve and this week, she made her famous taco salad.

A warning for my Mexican friends: Gringa. And very loose use of the word “taco”. Proceed with caution.

She cooks up a pound of ground beef and heats a mixture of refried beans and pinto beans. Then she layers Fritos—FRITOS—beans, meat, lettuce with chunky fresh tomatoes and cheese.

Top that all off with…Catalina dressing. TRUST ME. It’s delicious.

Her last morning, I made a breakfast my grandmother used to make when we were little (but not, my mom pointed out, for her and my uncle when they were little, but there’s the power of grandkids).

Hawaiian Bread French Toast.

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It’s an easy substitution—sweet and fluffy Hawaiian bread for regular. Cinnamon, vanilla, butter and syrup, with a dusting of powdered sugar over the top.

There’s not really a recipe. I just whisk eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl. Then I dip the bread on both sides and cook it up on my pancake griddle until a crispy golden brown.

And—this is God’s truth—I have never looked at the nutritional information on a loaf of King’s Hawaiian Bread so I have no idea what the calorie damage is on this meal. But there’s a part of me that truly believes that if I don’t look, they aren’t real anyway.

Happy Friday!

All. Things. Peaches.

Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches!

Last Friday I bought a 25 lb box of New Haven peaches for $20 at our local Beebe Farms. That’s $.80/lb for a pesticide-free, locally grown and perfectly ripe box of opportunity.

Said box looked smaller at the farm than it did on my kitchen counter. I didn’t keep a specific count, but I used at least 60 peaches in the recipes I made, not counting the ones we ate all week-long as snacks.

It was a lot of peaches.

A week later, I have conquered the peaches. Every. Single. One. Yes, I know Dana and I often make silly things into a game where there are winners and losers. Everyone has a different approach to giant boxes of fruit in their lives. This is mine.

And trust me when I tell you, I SCHOOLED those peaches.

First I made a massive cobbler from Suellen Anderson at food.com for an awesome river party. There were 12 of us. We ate it all.

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Then I made 10 half pints of jam. I do not skin my peaches or use pectin. I just boil and boil until the jam doesn’t run off the back of a cold spoon.

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Then I found this recipe for Peaches N Cream bars from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I made a double batch (of course) and the middle didn’t set, so I would recommend sticking to the recipe.

Then I made popsicles for the kids. I threw six cut up peaches, vanilla greek yogurt, a tablespoon of lemon, a cup of almond milk and a teaspoon of vanilla into the blender.

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With the last six peaches, I made some peach/vodka and peach/rum ice cubes, also in the blender. I used two cups blended peaches and 1 cup booze. After they freeze, I’ll pop them out into ziploc bags clearly labeled BOOZE and use them in iced tea.

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Yum. But–I am DONE with peaches for the year.

 

 

 

 

The last month I have been knee-deep in cherry plums, peaches and sugar and snap peas, which all came ripe. Once they’ve been picked, they have to be handled directly. It’s overwhelming–and I only have a little ol’ garden. 

How on earth did those pioneer women handle all the bounty from their farms in the three months of harvest? And the stress of knowing that if they missed it, come late winter, they’d be out of food. Gives a whole new meaning to “women’s work”.

 

 

Cookies Hold the Bridge

There’s this thing my neighbor Julie and I do, and it kind of started as a joke.

Last Fall, I baked too much of something fun and sent a bunch over to her family on this turkey plate.

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About a week later, I got the plate back with something equally fun.

After a while, I sent something over on the plate again. Sure enough, back it came, loaded.

This is a fun game, I thought.

Now it’s a thing.  Julie’s son made cookies and made sure we got some. When Gabe made his cupcakes, he took some over.

The Lord knows Julie and I weren’t trying to teach any kind of lesson. The truth is that we have a massive distrust of small batch cooking and our butts can’t handle the fall out.

But dang it, the kids are watching and their take away is that we share the bounty of our kitchen.

Which SURELY has to balance out that last week at the beach, Annie filled a cup with sandy ocean water and ran across the beach yelling “MOM! I have your vodka tonic!” This caused a man who had already passed me with his surf board under his arm to come back and tell me I had a little bartender in training on my hands, like this was momming at its very best.

ANYWAY, it occurred to me that one of the ways we can hold the bridge is to bake some cookies and spread them around. Or cut some flowers and leave them as a surprise on someone’s porch. Or take the neighborhood trash cans back up from the curb. I personally would send my kids to do that one, but whatever. You see my point.

One house, one neighborhood at a time—that’s how we make the world smaller and build community. That’s how we hold the bridge.

Cupcake-pocalypse

Some kids read books the first week of summer. Some kids go to camp.

Gabriel decided he wanted to make chocolate cupcakes with strawberry butter cream frosting. From scratch.

I was ten when I made my first cake. It didn’t go well and the trend has continued my whole life. However, Shea is awesome at cakes. He made this for Kate’s shark party last year.

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So really, Gabe had a 50-50 chance to nail this thing.

I was home for the cupcake part and it went awesome. He managed my Kitchenaid like a boss and cranked out perfectly cooked dark chocolate cupcakes.

Then I left to pick Kate up from Girls Scouts camp and take her to a doctor’s appointment. He was home alone for an hour.

When I got home, the hand mixer and the mini-prep food processor were in the sink. In a bowl of water. The appliance parts. The kitchen was a mess, but Gabriel swore he’d been cleaning for 30 minutes.

Huh.

I kicked off my flip-flops and headed to the sink, where things became curiouser. The floor was slippery.

In fact, everything was slippery. I took a closer look and noticed chunks of butter, well…everywhere.

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When I pointed out the butter on the watermelon, he finally caved.

“Mom, the butter was everywhere. It was on the lights over the sink.”

What happened???

“I don’t know. The hand mixer is broken or something.”

Or.

You turned it on high? You took it out of the bowl before you turned it off?

“Mom, I thought I was going to have to take a shower!”

Where’s your shirt?

“In the laundry. But mom–”

Oh no.

“It’s ruined. It got stuck in the beaters.”

Stuck. In. The. Beaters.

“I leaned over the bowl to see what was happening and then my shirt got in there and stuck.”

I found a little pile of buttery goodness on the floor in the laundry room. It was a 3 dish towel clean up. That’s impressive.

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HOWEVER.

This is the finished product.

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So the good news is, he can bake himself some cake.

The bad news is that I’ll be cleaning butter out of nooks and crannies for the next six months.

 

 

Urban Foraging*

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It turns out that the decorative purple leaf plum trees in our front yard yield a fruit called a cherry plum.

Gabriel, in his infinite chef wisdom, burst into my room the other day and said “Mom. We need to jam these plums.” Then he rallied Ross from next door and they picked 5 lbs.

After I said Yes, we should jam them! I right quick looked them up to make sure they weren’t poisonous.

And a whole new world opened up on my laptop.

First, the tree is called a prunus cerasifura:

Purple-leaf plum trees are a precursor to the domestic plum and cherry tree—an ancestry told by its scientific name. The genus name Prunuscomes from the Latin for “plum.” The species name cerasifera is derived from cerasum, meaning “cherry,” and ferens, “bearing.” It was named for its fruits before modern edibles were cultivated—now, with domestic plums and cherries, Prunus cerasifera classified as an ornamental tree, not an edible one. But purple-leaf plum tree enthusiasts the world over will tell you the fruit’s virtues are overlooked , and they will share recipes for cherry plum cordial (good with seltzer or gin), compotes (add a sugar syrup), and jams (use brown cane sugar and try a dash of chili). (www.gardendesign.com)

Next, when I looked for said recipes I found these two sites:

www.eatweeds.co.uk and www.fallingfruit.org

Eat Weeds is a site devoted to the 25,000 edible plants that grow in the world, trying to raise our awareness past the meager staples in the grocery store.

Falling Fruit is a non-profit dedicated to mapping the bounty of urban streets for foragers. As the website says By quantifying this resource on an interactive map, we hope to facilitate intimate connections between people, food, and the natural organisms growing in our neighborhoods. Not just a free lunch! Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food.

Look. I don’t know about intimate relations between people, food and natural organisms. But I did think about the many orange, lemon and apricot trees planted on urban Southern California streets that flower, fruit and rot to waste.

Same thing in Oregon, where blackberries grow in riotous abandon.

No one knows who’s fruit that is, at the park, on the parkway, on the median. Can I pick it? Or not?

Because of this confusion, the food goes to waste.

Think about that.

There is a person—I won’t name names, but she gave birth to me—who’s been known to cruise the alleys in her neighborhood and snatch low fruit hanging over people’s fences in the alley. A few weeks ago I was in the car when she directed my dad into an alley, leapt from the car, snatched the tangerines hanging over the fence and jumped back in. On the way home from church, no less.

All right, she had permission. And a point when she said “What? One family can’t eat all that fruit by themselves!”

Such an easy thing, to allow others to pick the fruit from your trees.

Well, consider my awareness raised. And my cherry plums jammed. This post where I got the recipe has all the same pics I took, so I’ll just leave it at that. They kind of taste like cranberries, but I think we should have let them ripen in the sun a few more weeks. Next, I’m going to try cherry plum cordial (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and brandied cherry plums.

I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, spy around your neighborhood and see what you can forage.

*JFK Amy already thinks I am the most crunchy Pioneer Woman-y mom she knows. Urban foraging just might push her over the edge.