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Helping Yourself Look Good!

By Gini Rainey

We just got through spending an action-packed week end in Arlington for the wedding of our granddaughter.  The bride was lovely, the groom was handsome, the kids were amazing, and they are now all one big happy family.  Our daughter knocked herself out and proved once again that she can throw a mighty good party.  The reception was at their home and covered all of the bases, from the popcorn bar to the formal wedding cake.  She admitted that today she feels like she is coming off an adrenaline high, and I’m not one bit surprised, everything was lovely and first-class.

Here’s the thing about entertaining, that I believe most hosts and hostesses forget – it’s a party!  Everyone (including the host/hostess) should have a good time.  If that means minimizing what you want to do, then do it!  I said to my daughter at least 50 times over the past two days, “In a hundred years, it won’t matter!”  and believe me, it won’t.  In fact it probably won’t matter much sooner than that!  Definitely hard advice to follow, but it’s true.  Besides, who wants to be at a party where the host or hostess is a wreck?  So, with that in mind, it’s always a good thing to have some yummy recipes in your arsenal that are easy yet stunning, and able to be prepared ahead.  That way, most of the prep gets done ahead of time and the end result is, well, you get to enjoy yourself and your party!

Seeing as how it’s Sunday and all, a great book to have around is “The Cook’s Bible” by Christopher Kimball, founder and editor of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.   Published in 1996 by Little, Brown and Company, this 443 page cookbook is loaded with over 400 essential recipes, reviews of kitchen equipment and 200 step-by-step illustrations.   With the opening remark “Good home cooking demands the hospitality of a farmer, the curiosity of a scientist, the affection of a mother, the hands of an artist, and the enthusiasm of a child,” this book gets you started off in the right direction to hone up your skills and make some magic in the kitchen.

One of my standard recipes is for spaghetti sauce, and while it really is a great sauce (if I do say so myself!) I have to admit that while in Mexico I fell in love with Spaghetti Bolognese.  I can’t tell you what the difference is, but I have tried several recipes in an attempt to replicate the same taste – and failed.  This cookbook has a recipe that I think I might give a shot.  It starts with frying two strips of bacon in a large skillet and removing when done and reserving for another use.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings.  Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the foam subsides, add 1 peeled and diced medium onion, and 1 diced rib of celery.  Cook until the onion is soft but not browned.  Add 1 peeled and minced clove of garlic and cook 1 minute.  Reduce the heat to low and add ½ pound ground beef and ¼ pound ground pork, breaking it up with a wooden spoon .  After 3 to 4 minutes, add ½ cup white wine and salt to taste – the meat should still be pink inside.  Simmer for 5 minutes and then add 2/3 cup of milk, 2 teaspoons sugar, ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of mace.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Add 1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped, and simmer for 1 ½ hours.  Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and ¼ cup heavy cream (optional) just before serving.  Serve over pasta.  Think about this:  make the sauce a day or more ahead (it can be frozen), then serve when company comes, along with a pre-made green salad and garlic bread – oh and wine, red wine!  Talk about looking like a hostess that has it all together!

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Books

Duck! Here It Comes!

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By Gini Rainey

For those of you who have been paying attention to the general theme of my cookbook collection, you may have noticed a trend towards those written by or about celebrities and or famous people.  That was one of my initial criteria when I started picking them up and mostly still is, unless I come across one that’s weird, unusual, or cheap!  Every so often I’ll go to my favorite eBay store, thriftbooks, just to see if they have anything new that fits the bill.  The cookbook I have in front of me today is one of those.  It’s “Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen” by Kay Robertson with Chrys Howard and was published in 2013 by Howard Books and was written by a celebrity and was cheap!  Score!

So, then I got to thinking “whatever happened to Duck Dynasty.”  I was never a viewer of the series – but I have the T-Shirt that my husband picked up for me in West Monroe, Louisiana on one of his many treks to Florida. I did watch a portion of one episode at one of my daughter’s following a family gathering.  About all I can remember about it was her family never missed an episode and were really into it.  I think that particular episode had some bird-hunting/killing/plucking/slicing/ dicing/cooking involved in it.  My other daughter and her family (who just happen to be vegans) had a hard time sitting there watching all of the carnage and eventually turned to other things to do and talk about.

The Robertson’s have pretty some strong family values and have actually built quite a financial empire over the past 30 plus years with their clothing line – Duck Commander.  Even though she spent a great deal of her time working along side her husband, Miss Kay raised a family and filled them, not only with good food, but also a stern hand nicely blended with warmth and love.

Her cookbook is filled, not only with great, rib-sticking recipes, but also with quite a few biblical references, anecdotes, and family photos.  Sharing that she uses a cast iron skillet or dutch oven to cook most of her recipes, she explains it’s because they can either be used on the stove top or in the oven and they heat up quickly. It’s also not terribly surprising that several of her recipes call for Duck Commander seasoning!

Well, if you’re lucky enough to own a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, here’s a fairly easy recipe to try out on your family.  First, heat your oven to 275° and season about 1 pound of tenderized round steak (tenderized round steak usually comes 4 to a package and I generally cut those in half to make 8 pieces) with salt and pepper and lightly sprinkle both sides with flour.  Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in your cast-iron Dutch oven (or cast-iron skillet, or ovenproof casserole dish) and brown the steaks on both sides and drain off the excess oil.  Add 2 celery stalks chopped in large chunks, 1 onion chopped in large chunks, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 bell pepper chopped in large chunks, 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes and 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce to Dutch oven along with the browned steaks.  Cover and bake for 1 ½ hours and serve with steamed potatoes or egg noodles.  You may not be a Duck Commander, but this meal will have you eating like one!

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Books

Programs Blooming at the Library

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New April Programs for All Ages at the Library:

Introduction to Finch Robots & Book Signing for “MOM LIFE: Perfection Pending”

The Tyler Public Library is located at 201 S. College Ave., Tyler. Most events are free. For more info call (903)593-7323 or go to tylerlibrary.com.

Children

All storytimes will be in Taylor Auditorium.

  • Leeme un Cuento/Read to Me Storytime (children 3-6 years old), Mondays at 10:30am
  • Lap & Play Time (babies up to 18 months) features stories, songs, and playtime with developmental toys at 9:30am every Wednesday
  • Toddler Explore Storytime (children under age 3) is on Wednesdays at 10:30am
  • Read Aloud Crowd Storytime (children 3-6 years old), Thursdays at 10:30am

April 7th (2-4pm) – LEGO® Block Party – Children ages 3 and up, bring your imagination for an afternoon of building and playing! LEGO® and Duplo Blocks are provided.

April 14th and 28th (2-4pm) – Makerspace – This continuing STEM education for children and teens will feature April 14th: Introduction to Finch Robots and April 28th: We’re at the Maker Faire. This will be held in the Library Treehouse.

April 21st (10:30am) – Movie Matinees – Families are invited to watch a fun feature length films in the library’s auditorium. A different movie will be shown each day. Pillows, blankets, and carpet friendly snacks welcome.

Teens

Every Tuesday (4:30-5:30pm) – Teen Tuesdays – If you are in Middle School or High School you’re in! The Library will have games, activities, and fun just for teens. Earn volunteer hours completing special projects. Descriptions for weekly activities can be found at library.cityoftyler.org/Programs/Teens. Events are:

  • April 3rd: DIY Calming Glitter Jars
  • April 10th: Intro to Coding with Finch Robots
  • April 17th: Robots cont. – Navigate a Maze
  • April 24th: Robots cont. – Draw with a Robot

Adults

April 7th (10am-12 noon) – EastSide Fiber Artists – An open gathering of all things fiber. Whether you quilt, knit, crochet, weave, spin, needle felt, etc. Bring your current or completed project and make some new friends.

April 13th (11:30am) – “Pass Along Plants” with Andie Rathbone will be presented as part of the Smith County Master Gardener Series.

April 14th (11am-12:30pm) – “MOM LIFE: Perfection Pending” Book Launch & Signing – Along with selling and signing copies of her new book during her stop at Tyler, Ethington will be discussing various parenting topics and opening up for a Q&A.

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Books

Historically Speaking

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by Gini Rainey

I was thinking this morning about all the incredible advances in technology that I have seen in my lifetime, and how much my dad would have loved all the gadgets we seem to have surrounded ourselves with the past 50 years. For example, just in my lifetime, I’ve seen telephones go from shared party lines with rotary dials to the incredible iPhone (virtually a computer in your hand) that not only can be used for staying connected, but takes a whole lot better photograph than my once treasured Canon SLR.

So, then I got to thinking about all the advances in the kitchen that have helped make the home maker’s life infinitely easier and how many of the old gadgets that I grew up with are now items of speculation in antique shops and vintage stores.  Sometimes just standing back and listening to people trying to determine their use is half the fun of spotting one “just like we used to have!”

Just for fun – can you name these gadgets?

So speaking of vintage, today I’m looking at The Martha Washington Cook Book and is the product of historian Marie Kimball who received special permission from The Historical Society of Pennsylvania to study the original manuscript that was used by Martha Washington for 50 years and then was passed down mother to daughter for nearly 100 years.  The original cookbook was published in 1940 by Coward-McCann, Inc., and the copy that I have was published in 2005.

With nearly 50 pages of historical background regarding the state dinners at the White House and the meals hosted at Mt. Vernon, Kimball has succeeded to paint a rather lovely picture of Martha Washington, who was the over-seer of all of meals prepared for family and dignitaries.  While we might not find many of the recipes included in the book to be something we might consider preparing, such as Marrow Pie, Lettuce Tart, Roasted Hare, or Stewed Calves’ Feet, Mrs. Kimball has fully adapted Martha’s cookbook for practical, modern use.  All the recipes have been proportioned to the current practice of a formula for serving six people, and she says that all of the recipes have been tested and taste great!

One of Martha’s recipes that jumped out at me was for apple fritters sounds absolutely yummy: Heat 1 cup ale and add ¼ cup white wine and the yolks of 4 eggs, the white of 1 egg, well beaten.  Mix together 1 cup flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon cloves, and ¼ teaspoon mace and combine the two mixtures.  According to Martha Washington “Your batter must be no thicker than will just hang on the apples.”  A little more or less flour may be needed.  Cut the apples into rounds – or what ever shape you please – and deep in the batter.  Drop in deep fat and fry a golden brown.  Drain on a piece of clean linen, (I bet you can use paper towels!) sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and serve.  Oh, my, nom-nom!

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