I’m baaaaaaaaaaack!

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Miss me?

Well, I missed you all, internet friends!

Sorry for not posting for, like, ever.  In the past few months I’ve moved, changed jobs, learned how to dye my hair myself, had a lot of family and friends visiting, discovered a new breakfast delight, replaced the brakes on my car and it’s been just crazy.

Just a little recap:

I’m Emily

I’m five.

Plus twenty.

But really I’m five at heart.

And stomach.

(what?)

A short time ago, I decided to start eating cereal again.  I had given it up on my gluten-free kick but decided that gluten was not my enemy, but that, in fact, diary is.  Unfortunate for a girl who grew up drinking milk almost exclusively, would choose cheese over almost anything (love me some savory), and thinks sour cream is a good addition to almost everything.  Except cereal.

Anyway, I was perusing the cereal aisle (I always forget that word has an A in it – thank you spell check!) at Kroger in search of a long lost childhood favorite, Berry Berry Kix. This was the closest I came to “sugary” cereal as a child and it holds a dear place in my heart, unlike Raisin Bran and Chex.  I would savor the opportunity to eat Lucky Charms or Trix when sleeping over friends’ houses, but I don’t recall ever being granted permission to put any of these delicacies into the shopping cart during my formative years.

Eager to hug a box of Berry Berry Kix, I searched up and down the aisle (I remembered the A this time!) probably 13-17 times, convinced I had somehow missed it among the hundreds of cereals.  I could picture the box as clear as day.  Purple.  An image of the cereal, mostly regular kix with bunches of “berries” scattered throughout in purple and maroon.  To my horror, it appeared that Berry Berry Kix had been taken off the market.  It was a sad moment.

Until I came across a new specimen of cereal: Oops! All Berries.

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Let me assure you, this was no oops.

Some brilliant mind took the best part of the cereal from Captain Crunch, which tastes much like the berries in Berry Berry Kix because, after all, they’re all berries (well, “berries”), and made a cereal out of them. Genius! I can’t tell you how many times I used to eat all of the regular kix out of Berry Berry kix, saving the berries for last.  I did the same with lucky charms, leaving all of the marshmallows for a few bites of pure sugary heaven.  Someone should invent Oops! All Charms because, let’s be honest, who likes those funky, somewhat sweet cheerio-ish things in Lucky Charms anyway?

No one.

The plain kix weren’t as bad, but this new cereal requires much less legwork with my spoon at 7:30 AM and provides a much more satisfying breakfast experience as each bite is just as enjoyable and indulgent as the last.

My life is forever changed.

There are, however, a few side effects: acute ADD and hunger in less than an hour.

And I think my teeth are going to rot and fall out of my mouth.

I have dreams that my teeth fall out all of the time.  It’s horrifying.

My Mom might have been on to something with that whole” no sugary cereal” bit.

I want some cheese.

I think eating salt after sugar cancels it out, right?

Oh, how I’ve missed you all.

Y’all hurry back and I will, too,

Sugarlump

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Christmas Traditions

This year marked a big transition in tradition for the Dyer household.   Instead of having our family Christmas at my parents’ house as we have always done, I hosted here in my new hometown of Nashville.

In my one bedroom apartment.

I didn’t foresee an issue as I have a large sectional that can sleep two people so I knew all four of us would have a comfortable place to sleep.

What I didn’t foresee was the blanket shortage.  I wound up sleeping under my robe.

It’s ok though.  Santa still showed up and we had our family Christmas.

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I may need a bigger place if I plan on hosting regularly.

After our family Christmas on Christmas Eve morning with just me, Eugene and my mom and dad, we headed to Kentucky for Christmas on Christmas Day with the extended family.

Got that straight?

We always sleep at my dad’s parents’ house on Christmas Eve.  My aunt, uncle and cousins live just down the road so they do their family Christmas early in the morning and then head to my grandparents for the big family Christmas on Christmas Day.

Christmas morning, Granny made sausage gravy and biscuits.  Man that stuff is good.  I certainly couldn’t eat it every day but then again my great grandparents did and they lived into their 90’s so maybe there’s something to that.  I’ll have to ponder that at a later time when I’m feeling less full.

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Per tradition, we started with our stockings.  Among other lovely items, there was a Starbucks gift card, which it looks like I could have used that morning if the nearest Starbucks weren’t over 70 miles away.

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After the stockings, we moved into the living room and the youngins passed out the gifts.  Eugene found a tagless gift, which was cause for great concern.

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My mom and Aunt Vickie received some money in shot glasses from Santa (Papa).  I found this hilarious.  I’m glad Aunt Vickie thought so, too.

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Granny got her box of tide with a dollar bill from Papa.  He’s been doing this for decades and I’m still not really sure how it started.  Maybe someday I’ll get to the bottom of it.

After Christmas at my dad’s parents’ house, we headed down the road (literally) for Christmas with my mom’s parents.

I went straight for a bourbon ball….or two.   I have a wicked sweet tooth and there’s no telling when it will strike.

We settled into the living room and opened our gifts.  It wasn’t the same without my aunt, uncle and cousin on my mom’s side, but we were certainly thinking of them and wishing they could have been with us.

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After seeing the photo that my parents sent out unsupervised in the family Christmas card this year where I look possessed, Eugene and I insisted that we supply suitable photographs for next year’s card.  We had my dad take about 437 photos and this was one of the better ones.

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With cameras retired for the day, we ate the delicious Christmas dinner that Grandmother had prepared for us.

Then I had a few more bourbon balls and a piece of rum cake.

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We played a game of Scrabble, one of our favorites.  I wasn’t on top of my game.  There’s only so much you can do when dealt X, B, J, H, L, L, T.  That, and most of the blood in my body was likely trying to aid in the digestion of the forty pounds of food I had eaten in the past few hours instead of pumping through my brain for a stroke of vocabulary genius.

And then I might have had another bourbon ball.

And then some leftover dressing from Christmas Eve dinner back at Granny and Papa’s.

And a piece of the jam cake cousin Lauren and I made on Thanksgiving and let ripen for Christmas.  It was scrumptious.

I think I’ll be full until next year.

bourbon

These things are the devil.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump

Strawberry Shortcake for Breakfast

Several years back, Grandmother and Aunt Anna introduced me to strawberry freezer jam, which I of course ate on a warm biscuit for breakfast just as I normally do with other homemade jams.  It didn’t take me long to realize that this was basically strawberry shortcake in breakfast form.

Let me show you how to get some of this in your life.

First, we make the jam.

You will need fruit pectin to make the jam nice and thick.  You may need more than one package, depending on how many pints of jam you would like to make.  The instructions for how to make this jam as well as the ingredients and their quantities can be found in this box or here online, but I will take you through the steps with pictures because I think you’re swell.

You will also need some clean mason jars with lids.  I forgot to take a picture of these, but I’m sure you know what they look like if you’re interested in making jam.

Next, you must procure some strawberries.  But not just any strawberries.

It is absolutely CRITICAL that you start with fresh and perfectly ripe berries.  If you do a little drive-by test with your nose, you should be able to smell their sweetness.  It also doesn’t hurt to take a bite of one of the berries to confirm that on the inside they are not tough and white and tart, but instead juicy and red and sweet.

You don’t actually need this many berries unless you want to make over a dozen pints of jam, which you very well might once you taste this jam on a biscuit.  Grandmother and I got a little ahead of ourselves on the quantity of berries we purchased and probably only used ¼ of this box for 4 pints of jam.  We did, however, manage to eat the leftover berries for dessert in the form of strawberry shortcake just to mix things up. Ha.

Once you have determined that these berries are indeed perfectly ripe and sweet, please wash them.

Then, hull the strawberries to remove the greenery.

Measure out 2 full cups of strawberries.  Really pack them in so you maximize the strawberry-ness.

This is the fun part (other than the most fun part: eating the jam):  Mash the strawberries until completely broken down.   I suppose there are several ways to do this, but a potato masher is my weapon of choice.

Once the berries are mashed up well, add an absurd amount of sugar (4 cups).

Mix the sugar into the berries until dissolved and give them some alone time for 10 minutes.  Stir the mixture every now and then and make sure they are behaving.

Meanwhile, pour the package of pectin into a small pot and add ¾ cup of water.

Bring to a boil over high heat and stir the heck out of it so it doesn’t stick and burn or lump up.  Once the mixture starts to boil, continue cooking for 1 minute and you’d best not stop stirring.

Then carefully pour the hot, thickened pectin into the strawberry mixture after its 10 minutes is up.

(Its dissolving 10 minutes, that is. Its 15 minutes of fame, however, has only just begun).

Stir this mixture for a few minutes until everything is dissolved together.

Next, please save your heart some ache and use a funnel when pouring the jam into the jars.  This will drastically reduce the amount of jam that spills onto your counter, your paper towel usage, and, of course, the amount of jam that tragically will never make it to a biscuit.

Using, a ladle, pour the jam into the jars, leaving at least at least a half an inch below the rim of the jar as the jam may expand in the freezer.   Though it is tempting, filling the jars to the top with jam may lead to a misfortune similar to that warned against in the previous paragraph regarding the funnel.

Once you have successfully ladled all of the jam into the jars using a funnel, place the lids on the jars and allow allow them to sit on the counter for 24 hours before putting them in the freezer.

These keep for up to 1 year, which means you can enjoy this piece of heaven on a biscuit in the dead of winter.

Speaking of biscuits, let’s make some so we can eat what is effectively strawberry shortcake for breakfast.

(I suppose you could eat this any time of day, but I think it’s more fun to feel like you are getting away with eating dessert for breakfast.  But that’s just me.)

These are Grandmother’s wonderful biscuits.  They are small in diameter and relatively flat, which maximizes the surface area that develops a nice crust and minimizes any fluffy nonsense that gets in the way of the jam to biscuit ratio.

For the record, I have nothing against fluffy biscuits.  I actually prefer them with sausage gravy because they sop up all of the savory wonderfulness sausage gravy has to offer.  So, I guess it’s a texture thing.

ANYWAY, you would probably like me to stop blabbering on and tell you how to make the perfect strawberry freezer jam companion biscuit.

I’d be delighted.

First, measure out 1 cup of flour and dump it in a mixing bowl.

Then, please tell everyone to avert their eyes as you add 3 tablespoons of vegetable shortening (Crisco) to the bowl.

After you’ve extracted the shortening from the measuring spoon using CLEAN fingers, use your Crisco-ed finger to grease the flat cast iron skillet.  This was my great-grandmother’s and it’s the only skillet I’ve ever seen Grandmother use to bake biscuits in the 23 years that I’ve been enjoying them.

Translation: This skillet is very old and results in delicious biscuits without fail.  Try to find yourself one immediately.

Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

Add about 1/3 cup of milk and stir the ingredients together until combined.  It’s best to add most of the milk and hold a little bit back until you can gauge the moisture level of the dough.  You want it to be moistened, but not overly sticky or wet.

Using your hands, knead the dough 4 or 5 times and add more milk if necessary. Don’t overwork it, but knead the dough until it looks right.  It looks right when it looks like this.

The turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and press it down until it’s about ½” thick.  Or, if you’re real fancy, use a rolling pin.

Then, use a SMALL biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits.  (See tangent above for rationale).

Place the cut out biscuit dough on the greased skillet and pop it in the oven on 425 until biscuits begin to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes.

These actually rose more than normal, but they still tasted good.

This is what the biscuit and jam (and butter if you’re absurd like me) looks like assembled and partially eaten.   I had to take a bite to show you what it looked like on the inside.  That, and I was so excited I forgot to take a picture until I had taken a bite.

That’s what strawberry shortcake for breakfast can do to you.  Or, FOR you, depending on if you are a biscuit half-eaten or half-left-to-eat kind of person.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump