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The Cookbook Junkie

In Memory of Kayla

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By Gini Raineycookbook_junkie[1]

The hearts in my community are breaking this evening. The cause? A young child, only ten years old, was senselessly murdered.  The circumstances around her disappearance from her family’s church and the discovery of her body on family property and the suspect being her uncle could shake the very fiber of the deep faith in God and family that most east Texans hold near and dear.  But the hundreds of people from different walks of faith, different ethnicities, and different political views to search for young Kayla set those differences aside.  As those people, walking only arm-lengths apart in the rain, looking for any sign of this child, a spirit of unity filled the fields and forests outside the small town of Bullard.  And those people, along with thousands more in our area, are hugging their children and grandchildren a little closer tonight and praying for the sanctity of life that we kayla-gomezall sometimes take for granted.

And while I don’t mean to take this platform and use it for such a deeply sad and moving topic, I must say that the events of this weekend have made me yearn for the simpler days and times when I was a child.  Oh, I’m not naïve enough to think that there weren’t predators out there when I was young, but I really don’t think that things like this happened as frequently.  Is this an exponential thing? The more people the more incidences? I don’t know.  But, I wish we could return to a simpler time.

You all know of what I speak.  When we played all day in our neighborhood and stayed out after dark, wishing on the first star and chasing lightening bugs.  When the hardest choice you had to make during the day was a peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese for lunch.  When you didn’t lock your door at night and felt safe and secure.

When the only thing you worried about when you were walking home from school was whether the neighbor’s dog would chase you all the way down the street or the kid up the block would hit you in the head with a snowball.  That the only thing you had to be scared of at night was the dark or the monster under your bed.  When the only funny uncle around at family events was Uncle Ray who would throw hands full of change into the air, and you scrambled with your cousins to pick it up.  I miss those days.  I miss the simple things in life.  I miss the sanctity of life.  I miss the respect we should have for each other and the realization that everyone has their own thoughts, hopes and dreams and are entitled to express them without fear of the judgement of others when they are expressed.

And perhaps I’m going to cop out on a review and a recipe.  Perhaps I’m going to suggest something radical.  Turn off the TV, step away from the computer, turn off your phone.  Gather those kids around you and cook a meal together. BE together.  Talk.  Share.  Listen.  Plan.  Dream.  Hope.  Care.  Love.  And give thanks.  And pray for the Gomez family, because they can’t do any of those things with Kayla tonight.  They just can’t.  Peace.

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Books

Day Two of Our Stay At Home Order

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By Gini Rainey

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I’m so glad I have nearly five hundred cookbooks in my arsenal, although most of them won’t do me any good a time like this, which is why I’m so glad that I picked up this little cookbook about a month ago. Yes, Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars might just make a difference in my life (or not) when our food supplies begin to run out.  Fortunately, our household has plenty of toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant, and food (if you think I’m going to tell you my address – think again), but should we run short, it’s good to know that, not only do I have about a week’s supply of ramen to fall back on, but also a cookbook with some fairly awful recipes and in-mates stories to fall back on. 

Written by Clifton Collins Jr. (Capote, Star Trek, and West World, among others) and Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez (inmate extraordinaire) and printed in 2015 by Workman Publishing, this off-beat cookbook attempts to elevate the lowly ramen noodle to a higher level.  I never knew there were so many ways to “cook” ramen, although a lot of times, the recipes mostly call for just soaking in tepid tap water, depending on the availability of water temperature in the chef’s cell. 

Not the least bit tongue-in-cheek, the recipes, along with accompanying stories that have been included, are contributed by various inmates (past and present) of jails/prisons in the California penal system and show a lot of creative imagination on the part of the inmates.  Using whatever commissary items available, they have been able to create everything from a PB&J and a ramen tamale to Hit Man Burritos and Trejo’s Machete Ramen.  You remember Danny Trejo, don’t you? Before he became known for playing the anti-hero in dozens of movies and TV series, he was a drug counselor. Seems he also served a little bit of time. 

Trejo isn’t the only “celebrity” who contributed. Tarryn Manning (Orange is the New Black), Shia Labeouf (Man Down), David Anthony Fausino (Married…with Children), Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), and Slash (Guns and Roses) also shared their recipes and stories in this book. 

I can hear all of you now, shouting at your screen “But, what about a recipe?” Let me tell you, right now, we should all be thankful that we aren’t really incarcerated and hopefully these mandated, life-saving orders aren’t life sentences, because I’m pretty sure we really won’t need to fall back on any desperate measures for food. However, if you insist, one of the least stomach challenging recipes is for “Butt-Naked Ramen Soup,” which is pretty much your basic ramen.  If you should choose to be a bit more adventuresome, you could always up your game and make “Frankie’s Soup in the Hole,” which adds one chopped Slim Jim to “Butt-Naked Ramen Soup.” 

So, let me leave you this thought: we’re all in this together and we will survive.  Be thankful for your family, be thankful for the health care professionals and be thankful you live in America. Stay healthy and happy and appreciate the smaller things in life, like sun shining, birds singing and life living. 

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Books

Give the Girl a Sammich!

By Gini Rainey

Right now, considering all that is going on in our world, the KISS method would seem to be the best way to go with everything.  You know, Keep It Simple Silly!  I bought some new and weird cookbooks recently on ebay and I thought this might be a good time to share one of them with any of you out there that might still check periodically to see if I’m still around. Which, by the way, is probably an excellent thing for all of us to be doing right now. Give a call to some of the folks (or all of the folks) in your life who are important to you today. Our lives have all change dramatically in the past few weeks and it’s never too late to let people you love know you care. 

I was chatting with my sister a little bit ago and I reminded her of the time that I had the Asian Flu.  I checked with Google earlier to determine when that pandemic made its way around and discovered it was in 1957 – when I was nine years old. I was sick with it around Halloween time and what’s the worst possible thing that can happen to a kid when they’re nine and sick around Halloween?  Right! They can’t go Trick or Treating! My sister, who is eight years older than I and was in high school, offered to take a grocery sack around the neighborhood to collect candy for her poor little sister who was stuck at home, bedded down on the couch, with a raging fever. 

My dad, whose creativity knew no bounds, drug a six-foot ladder up out of the basement and dressed it in his overcoat.  He put our jack o lantern on the very top of the ladder, ran a string through the sleeve of the coat, and over to me on the couch.  When the doorbell rang, some poor unsuspecting, candy-hungry kid was greeted by the door slowly being opened by a ghoulish giant of a pumpkin-headed man swinging his arm maniacally at them. 

I’m sure mom made sandwiches that evening, just to keep things simple. (nice segue, huh!?!) It’s too bad she didn’t have had a copy of Scanwiches in her cookbook arsenal. This book, written by Jon Chonda and published by PowerHouse Books in 2011, is definitely one of a kind. It features amazing cross-section scans of sandwiches, along with the ingredients, place of origin, and bits of trivia. The range of sandwiches go from the super simple and humble grilled cheese sandwich all the way to a seven-layer Dagwood. From the strictly home-grown Elvis favorite of peanut butter and banana to the French Pan Bagnat and the Chinese Rou Jia Mo.  We’ve all eaten sandwiches, but the beautifully high definition scanned cross section photos of the sandwiches included in this book puts a whole new spin on the humble sandwich. Speaking of dinner, just looking through this book will give you a king-sized hunger for something yummy to eat! 

 

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Books

Back, Again!

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By Gini Rainey

I must apologize to anyone out there who might still be interested in reading my blog! I know I’ve been away a very long time and before that I was sporadic at best, but it wasn’t my fault.  My muse just up and left me – and left to my own devices, well, you see what happens? Nothing!  Our family has been on a very bumpy ride for the past two years, beginning with my father-in-law’s failing health and death at the ripe ol’ age of 101+, followed by a rapid deterioration of my mother-in-law’s mental acuity and death this past November at two weeks short of 98.  It seems like most of my spare time was spent with many trips to their home and the support of my husband and children. 

With the ensuing dismantling of their household and sale of their home shortly before Christmas, I think we all walked away from their house totally stunned with loss.  While there were times I felt like my mother-in-law didn’t care much for me in early and middle marriage, the last year we had her, she never failed to light up and call me be my name when I came into the room or tell me that she loved me when I left. 

And even though there really wasn’t anything of hers that I really wanted (after all I’m loaded up with memories), I walked away with one of her very few cookbooks (this lady kept most of her recipes in her head) “Recipes and Remembrances,” a cookbook that was put together by First Baptist Oak Cliff, Dallas in commemoration of their Centennial Celebration.  One evening, as I was leafing through, it secretly hoping I would find something she had written in it (after all, isn’t that what makes a cookbook even more special?), I found a recipe for Microwave Peanut Brittle.  Next to the recipe she had written “Good” and had indicated “made in a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup.” 

Then when my muse showed up this morning and kicked me in the pants and told me firmly to “get over it and get on with it,” I decided that this would be an excellent cookbook with which to get back on track and this recipe might be a great thing for all of you football fans to whip up for Super Bowl Sunday! 

This recipe couldn’t be easier and who doesn’t love the crunchy goodness of peanut brittle?  It’s hard to resist ‘just one more piece’ and it’s oh so yummy!  So, to make this confection in under 15 minutes, put ½ cup white corn syrup, 1 cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1 cup raw peanuts into a bowl (or as Martha said, “a 4cup Pyrex measuring cup”). Do not stir.  Cook on high for 4 minutes in your microwave – then stir.  Cook on high for 4 more minutes and stir again.  Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir. Cook on high for 1 minute and stir in 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Stir quickly as the soda foams; then pour onto a buttered cookie sheet.  Spread thin and let cool.  When cool, break into pieces.  Store in an airtight container and watch it magically disappear! 

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