Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tornado Alley moved?

I grew up in Texas and remember frequent alerts for tornadoes. I've never seen one, but have seen the aftermath within a few miles of my childhood home on many occasions. Among many other events, I remember the story of a high rise building in Lubbock (yes, they have at least one) being twisted on its foundation by an F-5 tornado (250 mph winds!). From my own personal observations and reports over the years, I believed that the image below defined Tornado Alley:

Now that we're in Tennessee, a good 1000 miles to the east of this highlighted area, we are now seeing this diagram in the spring forecasts:

Odd, isn't it?

The good thing about those huge thunderstorms is the rain. Another relatively good thing is that tornadoes damage such a limited area - if you are a few blocks away, your home and you will survive. There are other types of disasters such as hurricanes or tsunamis that take out entire regions! Of course, the bad thing is the damage that can result from high winds, hail and of course, the limited protections you can use for a direct impact of the deadly tornadoes. I'm thankful for the warning systems and broadcasting tools that can help us prepare as best we can. I'm also thankful for God's graciousness in protecting us, not only on tornado alert days - but every moment!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

When convenient isn't so convenient anymore

Thinking more about my small goals of a really terrific buttermilk biscuit and pie dough from scratch, my mind is going down another bunny trail. First of all, I want to make sure that I go on record with a declaration that my mother is an excellent cook. My grandmother was an excellent cook and my mother told me not too long ago that my great-grandmother baked homemade pies for sale when she was a kid. So, with that kind of cooking heritage, how is it that I don't know how to create these things?

I think that food production took a drastically different direction when processes were discovered that allowed for freezing fully-cooked dinners like that TV dinner above. In the day when we were amazed to think that Jane Jetson could prepare dinner with the push of a button, we didn't actually have microwaves!

But we did have an image that the modern woman didn't slave in the kitchen for her family's meals. We also bought into the idea that this new frozen food was more convenient than preparing meals the traditional way. I'm not sure if we really sold ourselves on the idea that it tasted the same? Just look at this plate and tell me that the TV dinner at the top of the page looks the same (or tastes the same) as the one below!

Then, we took this giant leap of 'fast food' at drive in and drive through 'restaurants'. Now, when I stop and think about time management, going into the kitchen and cooking a Rachel Ray 30 minute meal is probably a quicker, cheaper and better tasting alternative than the local Sonic, Taco Bell, etc. options that would require the drive to and from, time ordering and waiting for delivery, etc.

I think the message that 'I don't have time to cook' infiltrated my mind long ago and I've been gaining more on the truth of the matter for awhile now. But, like everything else, doing things well takes practice and so here I go. I think the message may be changing with the popularity of Rachel Ray, the Food channel, HGTV, etc. I heard a professional chef advising a failing restaurant owner to prepare and cook the food rather than heating up frozen options. He told the restaurant owner that the 'real' food would cost pennies on the dollar and would taste better. So, if that's true in the restaurant business, why not in our homes? Now, the times are getting a little tougher economically and we all may need to pinch our pennies more than we used to. Food prices are also going up, but preparing your own food will taste better and be less expensive that frozen options or eating out. Since my family doesn't mind left-overs, I usually prepare a double recipe so that we can enjoy two meals for the mess I create with my efforts.

And just because I can't help myself, let me share one other thing. A new item I saw advertised in the last month was a product called 'Recipe Inspirations'. It's a packet with 1/2 dozen different spices and/or dried herbs and a recipe card. The entire contents are less than 1/2 oz of spices and I bet the product costs more than a single container of an individual spice. Between the internet, cookbooks, magazine articles and TV shows, there's a multitude of 'inspirations' out there! Please do not spend your hard earned dollars on a frivolous item like this! Print out the recipe, make a grocery list, get the stuff and cook it! You CAN do it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In search of the best buttermilk biscuit recipe

As a girl raised in the south, you'd think I would have already conquered this one. But, alas, I cannot bake homemade buttermilk biscuits that line up with my ideal biscuit. It's fluffy, a little tangy, soft, but lightly brown on top. Here's a picture:

I keep working on one from my favorite cookbook published by Southern Living, but without the results that I want. Now, I'm on to that queen of southern comfort food, Paula Deen. Here's a link to hers:

If we pair it with the sausage gravy, I know that we will have to spend more time with Jillian. If I can sort out how to make home made biscuits however, I'll be on to my next cooking goal - homemade pie crusts!

I'll let you know how this works out. Better yet, I should let my kids and husband report on this - they will have to eat the results!

Spring is BUSY!

The focus this past week has been on outside projects and includes completing a really thorough tilling in the vegetable garden and completing the first mowing of our 'lawn' areas. Sounds simple enough, but the complications arise in getting the equipment up and running after a long winter of dormancy. My husband and I both agreed that we need to sort out how to keep these things in better condition prior to their active season! Along those lines, I found a website to help: Hobby Farms Three regular contributors to their blog area include an experienced individual to discuss equipment, tools, maintenance and repair, etc. This is why I LOVE the internet!