It seems like yesterday that I was creating this post, Happy New Year!and looking ahead to 2017, and now here we are again, at the brink of yet another new year. I look forward to sharing and connecting with you all in 2018 via the Glover Gardens blog, and looking back at what you liked here in 2017 is giving me some ideas for the days ahead.
I was so grateful that I wrote this one about my childhood while Dad was still with us, and he commented on it: my days by the water.
Haiku for My Dad was a Father’s Day tribute to him just three days before he died. What a gift we had, Dad and me; when my husband took the early morning phone call that Dad had died and conveyed it to me, my response was: “I’m ok, we had no unfinished business.” I didn’t remember saying that until he reminded me later, but it is so true, and I am so incredibly blessed by the honesty and mutual regard of our relationship. And its awesome that you read my raw writings that tried to express this incredible blessing, and found some value in it.
Hurricane Harvey Captivated You
The #2 and #4 posts in 2017 were about Hurricane Harvey: Houston is Paralyzed by Flooding and How You Can Help Texas Right Now. You were interested in what was going on down here in the wetlands. And you didn’t just read the posts, you went to sites where you could help – there were 62 click-throughs on links I shared for donating to help Texas recover from Harvey, from the food bank to animal shelters to the Red Cross and the fund created by Houston Texas JJ Watts. Thank you; we are grateful for your empathy and support. Harvey was horrific for Houston.
You Shared My Travel and Restaurant Experiences
Two of the posts in the top five in 2017 were essentially restaurant reviews, a retelling of amazing meals that I had while traveling.
I Like Taking Requests – and You Like Reading the Results
One of my readers asked how to make an antipasto platter, so I answered with a post about it and included a long reminiscence about my Mom’s approach to antipasto. I loved getting the request, and you liked the post enough to make it the 12th most viewed in Glover Gardens in 2017: Antipasto Advice from Mom and Great Tastes from the Texas Coast.
A New Name
As I hit the 2-year anniversary of the Glover Gardens Cookbook blog earlier this year, I realized that I was talking about much more than just recipes, my original intent. I asked your opinion about the name of the blog in What’s In a Name? Seeking Your Input. You gave me great feedback, and one of the suggestions was simply to call it Glover Gardens. A couple of months ago, I made this change with no fanfare, and changed the tag line to reflect the multifaceted nature of the topics.
What’s Next? Authenticity, Curiosity, Empathy
I don’t make specific New Year’s resolutions these days because I don’t really believe in them, but I do want to move in these directions in my life in general, hopefully reflected in the blog:
to be courageous and speak more with my own authentic voice, as I did with the poem about my brother’s suicide.
to be more in-the-moment-mindful and curious about the world – and to share what I learn.
to listen more and practice “cognitive empathy”; to truly understand others and learn from their truths.
You Matter to Me
I have learned a great deal in 2017 through my interactions in this blog, spanning a huge spectrum. You validated my beliefs and ideas and added context and color to them. You challenged me and provided a different lens for viewing life and love of all kinds. You gave me interesting perspectives on photography, travel, spices, recipes, mindfulness and your own challenges. I am inspired by you!
The Collective Muse
Although I started the blog to capture my recipes for our sons and their (eventual) families, I actually thought my muse for this blog was my Dad. Then he died. He died. He died. He died. I probably haven’t accepted that – he died.
I wrote about Dad being my muse and losing him: Mourning the Loss of My Father and Muse. Especially during his last year when he had a mysterious illness, I wrote most of my posts hoping to inspire Dad and ignite him.
Reality: Dad died. I have to have a different muse. What a hard truth to absorb.
I kept on writing.
Maybe I’m my own muse? Maybe the muse is this vast expanse of strangers who read, and “like” and comment?
I wrote about joy. I wrote about frustration. I wrote about travel, the world and food. I created haiku for silly things, and profound happenings. I shared recipes.
I kept on writing. You listened.
A marvelous thing happened. One of my nieces said, “I read every one of your posts, and if I’m with my friends, I read them out loud.” She mentioned a specific post about her Dad (my brother) and referenced a phrase or two from it. Oh. My. Gosh. She’s a living, breathing muse. She is part of me, and someone I can write these memories for. So are my other family members.
And, in addition, so many of you reached out. You said that you had lost a loved one and felt something similar, or you liked a silly haiku I wrote, or a recipe looked delicious, or a family memory stirred an emotion. You shared an approach for editing a photo, or using a special spice in a recipe, or a trick you use to stay sane in a crazy world. You empathized with me. You cared.
I kept on writing. You let me know you were reading, and you became my muse / the source of my inspiration. My family, my friends, my special set of strangers – you are my muse and inspiration. Thank you. Here’s to a great 2018!
We’re without the next-gen here at Glover Gardens on Christmas Day 2017, so we’re throwing tradition to the wind and going out to a restaurant. Turkeys will not bake, smoke or fry here. Rolls will not rise, cranberries will not pop-pop-pop, and gravy will not be de-lumped. None of our prized sides will compete for best in show on heavy-laden plates. Our collection of Christmas salt and pepper shakers will not adorn an over-decorated holiday table (for context, see our post Setting a Beautiful Table – Whimsical Christmas) . SIGH.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy our recipes at your own holiday table! Here is a Glover Gardens holiday recipe compendium, starting with breakfast.
We’ve made the mistake in past years of having too many appetizers and getting full by turkey time, but the one appetizer we always have on holidays is house-made smoked salmon. Get the recipe here: Tom’s Smoked Salmon.
We usually have two turkeys to ensure plenty of leftovers (turkey gumbo is the best!) and have tried a variety of recipes in the past. The Grill-Meister will do one outside (usually smoked) and I’ll go the baked route. For several years, I’ve used the spatchcocking approach, and the turkey is always very moist. Spatchcocking maximizes the skin surface for that crispy goodness and enables the turkey to cook more evenly than as a whole bird; read about it here: Spatchcocked Turkey. Say What?
Another recipe that uses corn is one that I found in a magazine: Food Magazine Treasures: Serrano Ham and Corn Pudding . This recipe is a little off the beaten path for holiday dinners, but if you’re in the Southwest, anything goes, chili pepper-wise. I sneak this dish onto our holiday table about every three years, and someone (usually the Grill-Meister) says. “why don’t we have this more often?”
And then there’s the squash. I love all kinds of squash and am on a mission to get the Grill-Meister to tolerate it. A super-simple holiday side dish is here: Simple Autumn Side: Baked Acorn Squash.
I’m not really a baker, but I make cookies during the holidays, mostly at my mother-in-law’s request. This is her favorite recipe: Raspberry-Nut Christmas Bars.
The finished product has a lovely, golden-brown crust.
I like to serve these bars at holiday parties with decadent partners, like drams of Chambord (raspberry liqueur).
Our go-to favorite in the cookie department at any time of year is the Glover Gardens Comfort Cookies, a version of the Cowboy Cookie (just call it an Everything Cookie). I just made a huge batch for our Musical Millennial, who is home from college and had a passel of friends over…not a morsel was left.
Jumbo Comfort Cookies are a family favorite
Have a Comfort Cookie with a nightcap of Frangelico, or in the morning with coffee
December 28th is “Christmas”
Don’t feel too sorry for us for doing that restaurant outing on Christmas Day; we’ll get our millennials back on Dec. 28th and will have our big family celebration then. Some of these Glover Gardens classics will be on the menu, and if there’s anything new, we’ll be sure to share it.
Peace, goodwill and happy holidays to you and yours, whatever joyous occasion you celebrate. Ours is Christmas.
When I travel, the Grill-Meister keeps me posted on happenings at home. I love it when he sends flower photos – they make me feel so connected to Glover Gardens. This week was no exception. I was in Washington, where it was cold and rainy all week (although I was almost never outside because I was attending a conference), and these pics with the Grill-Meister’s cheery messages provided all the sunshine I needed.
At the end of a challenging and productive week at work, I want to be pampered at a restaurant or to have something super-easy at home.
That’s where our Family Smorgasbord comes into play. Here’s what we had for dinner last Friday night, just the Grill-Meister and me.
It’s a selection of cheeses from our local farmers’ market, some fresh fruit and veggie with a couple of dips we had on hand (also from the farmers’ market), sliced meats and olives.
The only “cooking” was assembly of canapés from stuff we had lying around, liberally seasoned with freshly ground pepper:
leftover cornbread adorned with horseradish sauce, roast beef, red onions and parsley
leftover cucumber slices from a salad earlier in the week, spread with harissa and topped with sliced fresh jalapeños
hummus packed into celery bites sprinkled with a spicy olive/garlic/bell pepper garnish (like olive salad)
A Great Way to Spend Friday Evening
The Grill-Meister wanted red wine and I was in the mood for white, so we threw caution to the wind and opened them both (don’t judge, it was Friday). Sipping wine and enjoying a throw-together smorgasbord meal while reviewing The Week That Was and The Weekend to Come is a great way to spend a Friday evening – who wants to spend it in the kitchen? And of course we didn’t eat all that cheese, paving the way for another smorgasbord soon, maybe even this Friday.
What will yoube doing for dinner this Friday night?
Family Smorgasbord Night – No Cooking, Just Bonding
For more about our favorite Friday night no-cook, easy-peasy approach, see the original post below. Click herefor the story, including the history of smorgasbord.
If you’re like me and have never tried ribs before, and, also like me, perhaps a bit intimidated by the vague feeling that you have to smoke them for hours and they still might come out tough, this is the recipe for you!
I rolled up my sleeves one rainy Saturday afternoon and pulled together this ribs recipe when the Grill-Meister was out playing dominos with his friends. Then I surprised him with them when he got home. Score!
Succulent and fall-off-the-bone-tender with just the right balance of spicy-sweet and piquant, these ribs take their ‘cue (pun intended!) from the spicy rub they get before baking and a last-minute swab of homemade sauce before a quick char on the grill.
Ingredients (Serves 4-6)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp coarse salt
2 tbsp ancho or chipotle chilé powder (use paprika if you don’t like it spicy)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1/2 tbsp white pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 racks St. Louis style pork spareribs, 2 1/2 – 3 lbs each
Honey-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup chopped chipotle peppers and sauce
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup catsup
2 tbsp of the spice rub
Preheat oven to 300. In a small mixing bowl, combine the spice rub ingredients. Set aside 2 tbsp of the spice rub to use in the sauce, and then rub the ribs generously with the mixture.
Wrap each rack of ribs in heavy duty foil, sealing completely. Place seam side up on a pan or cookie sheet with a decent-sized lip. Bake for 2 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the barbecue sauce by putting all ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan, heating to a boil and then reducing to a simmer. Cook at a simmer until reduced and thickened.
When the ribs have 20 minutes left to bake, preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high heat. When 2 1/2 hours have elapsed, remove the ribs from the oven and carefully undo the foil around the ribs, being cautious about steam and very hot pan juice. Place the ribs on a different cookie sheet or platter and reserve the pan juice for another use (I like to use it to make stock with the rib bones).
Take the ribs outside to your barbecue, slather the sauce on one side and place on the grill, sauce side down. You may have to be very gentle with the ribs, because they will be very tender and may want to fall apart. Slather the sauce again on the top side just after you place the ribs on the grill. Sear on each side for 4-5 minutes until there’s a nice char, then remove them. Place on a cutting board and cut between the bones. Serve with extra sauce on the side.
These ribs are so good with just a quick slaw. I created a complementary Chipotle-Fennel Slaw when I made the ribs a couple of weeks ago and will publish that recipe soon. And until then, here’s a Pepper Jelly Slaw.
She did a great job with the recipe and posted a photo on the Glover Gardens Cookbook Facebook page. She said, “Had a wonderful toasted goats cheese salad last night. Thanks for the recipe. First time ever trying panko…very nice.”
Did you ever start out to do a thing, and then it evolved into a different thing? A second thing that resembled, honored and took strength and identify from the first thing, but in the end, became its own new thing?
That’s what has happened to the Glover Gardens Cookbook. I set out to capture recipes for my family (see About, if you’re really interested). But then, I realized that the stories around the recipes were equally important and should be shared, too, as in Sweet Potato Biscuits: Family History, Love on a Plate. And since I have this platform, why not share my amateur poetry and the almost daily haiku that pops into my head like random mice in a field? And travel stories, and the seemingly almost daily musical compositions that pop into my son’s head like lilies in a field? And speaking of lilies, how could I not share the amazingness of nature and the world that surrounds me, here at Glover Gardens, northwest at Little House in the Rockies, and everywhere I travel?
I talked about some of this in my blog’s second anniversary post earlier this month, with the wonderful quote from Emile Zola: “I am here to live out loud!” And now, it’s time to take action. I think. Maybe. Because I’m not sure that the content of the Glover Gardens Cookbook matches its name, although I remain very committed to capturing and sharing recipes, and still plan to publish that cookbook one day. But the blog is now more like a collection of stuff you’d find in the Life section of a publication than a cookbook.
So I’m curious to know what you think: Does the Glover Gardens Cookbook need a new name?
All ye who have encouraged me, the post-likers and blog followers and casual lurkers and friends, I’d love to hear from you in the poll below, in which I’ve collected a few possible new names. I’m hoping to get some new ideas from you, as well, either in the post comments or the Other choice in the poll.
Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook. Featured image photo credits to stephrobbins.com.