My new obsession

I came across an article about a centenarian who lived across three centuries. His name was Frederick “Uncle Fed” Messer. Perhaps you’ve seen the article. Messer happens to be my maiden name, so I shared the article with my aunt on Facebook and asked her if there was any relation. She didn’t know, but said it would be interesting to find out.

She was able to supply me with my great grandfather and great-great grandfather’s names as well as my grandfather’s place of birth. Armed with that information and information I already had, I began my quest.

At this time, it does not appear that we are of any relation to the centenarian who bears our last name. He is from North Carolina, and I have traced my family to Pennsylvania where a great(a few times over) grandfather born in 1815. His name was William H. Messer. He somehow made his way from Pennsylvania to Ohio. I’ll have to do more research and see if I can track his journey. He married Hannah Eagon in 1837.

I can follow the generations down to me from there. I am curious to see how far back I can go, but also interested in seeing how much of their story I can learn, too.

My new best friends are the government census archives and the Library of Congress Chronicling America site. I can’t wait to see where this quest for my roots leads.

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Oh what a week it has been.

I haven’t posted in a minute because my focus was on putting together Thanksgiving. I put quite a bit of time into my holiday meals. To me, they are the shining star of the evening.

Last week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were designated to preparing and cooking the foods that could be done ahead of time as well as cleaning and keeping up with my usual chores. Wednesday was the guys last day of work before starting a four day weekend. A few hours after they’d left for work, my husband calls to tell me he is coming home because the toothache he’s been suffering through had reached the point of unbearable.

He hadn’t been home maybe half an hour before I called his father to come and take him to the hospital. They diagnosed it as infected and gave him a double dose of antibiotics. They gave him some norco and sent him on his way.

I needed brown sugar and garbage bags from the store. My husband and son were supposed to be picking them up on the way home from work that night. So, hubby decides that he can have his dad stop by the store on the way back here. By then, the norcos had really started to kick in.

He calls me from the grocery store. Initially, he was calling to verify what size bag of brown sugar I needed. Then, things got a little silly.

Hubby: What else did I need?

Me: Trash bags

Hubby (almost sing songy): Trash bags, trash bags, where are the trash bags…

Me: Where are you?

Hubby (oblivious I’ve even spoken): Trash bags, where would I find trash bags?

Me (again): Where are you?

Hubby: At the trash bags looking for the trash bags.

Me: Did your father come in with you?

Hubby: He’s around.

Hubby: discusses with himself (rather loudly) which trash bags are the better buy

Hubby: Well, I better let you go and see if I can get lost and pay for my dad.

at which time he hung up on me.

I was relieved when he made it home. He was dizzy and nauseous and could barely keep his eyes open. He threw up once, tried to come sit on the couch with me, threw up again, and I convinced him to go to bed.

I checked on him every few hours, just to make sure he was doing okay so heavily drugged. At times, he was difficult to wake. It was all pretty scary. During all of this, I was taking care of the dessert portion of Thanksgiving. I baked pumpkin cookies (they came out so cake like it’s almost like eating the top of a pumpkin cupcake) and topped them with a cream cheese icing. I made homemade whipped cream for the apple pie and then I prepared the apple pie (which I stuck in the oven as soon as all of Thanksgiving dinner was being served).

It was 630 in the morning when I finally crawled into bed. That’s about the equivalent of 1230 am for those of you who live on a traditional clock schedule. At 1 pm, Bear’s pill alarm went off signaling it was time to get up and start the day.

We do appetizers for lunch on holidays, so I started the meatballs shortly after I woke up. I should have done the rest of my lunch prep then because it ended up being delayed by my turkey prep, but it all worked out in the end.

I was stressed and bitchy and trying to keep the kitchen clean while working my way through cooking dinner. I wasn’t getting much help. Maybe I wasn’t asking for the right kind of help. Maybe I wasn’t specific enough. Maybe I was just bitchy.

The last parts of dinner were just coming out of the oven when our dinner guests arrived. This was right around midnight. These were friends that my husband and son work with, so they live on our schedule, too.

Of course, they arrived with full bellies from their family Thanksgiving celebration, but they jumped into a second Thanksgiving dinner like champs. After dinner, we sat around and talked for a while. The cousin they’d brought with passed out into a turkey coma. A few hours after dinner, we broke out the desserts. Pumpkin cookies and still warm from the oven apple pie topped with fresh whipped cream.

We chatted for a little while longer before they said their goodbyes and headed home to crash. We were pretty beat, but nobody wanted to make the effort to actually get ready for bed, so we chilled in the living room for just a while longer.

It was after 7 when we finally fell asleep. Around 11 in the morning, Bear woke us up having a seizure. It was a pretty bad one that lasted a pretty long time. We’re not really sure what caused it. Perhaps it was just the excitement of the festivities.

We stayed up with him after that. Gave him his medicine a little early and kept an eye on him. However, with less than 4 hours of sleep, we lacked the energy to actually get up and do much of anything. I was so exhausted that my face was literally hanging from my face. I had no energy to hold the muscle structure in place. My daughter thought I was telling her Bear had passed when I told her about the seizure because of the way my face hung. It was terrible.

By dinner, we were using tupperware to hold whatever leftovers could be eaten cold. Dishes might as well have been stacked to the ceiling. The sink was too full to rinse anything and the stove was too covered to cook. Still, we did nothing.

Bear did not have another seizure and we crawled into bed early and crashed out hard Friday night. Saturday when we woke up, we felt at least some semblance of being awake and ready to face the world. I spent the day working my way through the laundry and cleaning the kitchen so that dishes could be done. My husband ran some errands and then came back to begin the daunting task of working through all the dishes. He made a pretty nice dent.

Yesterday, I finished the dishes and scrubbed down the kitchen. We did our grocery shopping for the week. Well, at least we tried to. Once again, the meat department was poorly stocked at Meijer. This was between 5 and 6 pm on the first day of a sale. To me, there is no excuse for them running out of things like ground beef the first day it is on sale. They were out of just about all beef products and had a pretty poor selection of pork chops and none of the chops that were on sale.

There were other things, like cereal, that they were out of, too. It was rather frustrating. This makes 4 weeks in a row that they do not have the things I need to feed my family for the week. The last 2 weeks were early evening on a Sunday. We did go to Kroger first, yesterday, but their prices were higher than Meijer’s prices, and they didn’t have much of anything on sale. We decided to give Meijer another shot.

Now, I’m torn what to do. I like my budget where it is. I don’t want to have to allocate more money towards groceries so that I can switch stores, but I’m not seeing much choice if they can’t even stock their meats.

That brings us to today. I did my last load of dishes after dinner last night. The load was huge, but everything was clean. I may have a tiny load after lunch today, but, for now, there is only a couple dishes on the counter. I am working my way through laundry as I do every Monday.

How can such an easy day be crappy? Our morning routine is pretty simple. Since I’m the girl, I get dibs on the bathroom. Hubby takes the dog out and starts the coffee. About half an hour later, I was walking through the kitchen and hubby asked me if the coffee was done. Nope. The pot was empty.

We checked the coffee maker. Everything seems to be intact. The light is lighting up for the brew option. Touch the hotplate. No heat. Damn. No coffee maker. So glad we keep a percolator in the cabinet just in case. Mostly, it’s there for power outages because I am a monster without my morning coffee.

Percolated coffee is actually pretty good. But, in order to get it good and strong, you really have to let it percolate for a while but not too long or it will taste burnt. It’s so much easier to just toss your grounds in a filter in the basket of a coffee maker. Guess I’m getting a new coffee pot for my birthday a few weeks early. The guys are gonna pick one up on the way home from work.

That’s how our holiday went. How about yours?

Thanksgiving menu planning

Usually it’s just the four of us for holidays. This kind of sucks, because I absolutely love to cook and the holidays are a great chance to showcase my cooking. Years ago, I decided not to let the fact that it was only us stop me from going all out on the holiday fare. I kind of make an all day event of it.

If I find the time and the inspiration, I will make some sort of breakfast, but it’s the least important meal of the day. For lunch, we bring out the appetizers. This year, we will be having sausage, cheese, & crackers, glazed meatballs, and veggie roll-ups (made with my homemade tortillas).

We will be having a traditional dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls. I’m making Parker House rolls this year. They are one of my favorite dinner rolls, yet I so rarely make them. For the turkey, I am thinking a blend of lemon, garlic, sage, thyme, and rosemary will make a delicious bird. I’ll use the pan juices to make my gravy. I do not stuff my bird in the traditional sense. Instead, I will throw lemon and seasonings inside the cavity.

Assuming that we still have room after we have consumed all of the above, I will be making a couple of desserts. This year, the kids wanted pie and cookies. We decided on the traditional apple pie. I am going to make homemade whipped cream to top the slices. After a little thought, I decided to turn my favorite pumpkin dessert into a cookie. I have adapted my pumpkin cupcake recipe into a cookie recipe. I will be topping them with a cream cheese cookie icing.

I suspect that come Friday, we will hardly want to move. Though, I also assume that the guys will have to work that day.

I’ve spent the last few days working out recipes and planning every detail of Thanksgiving dinner. I have a legal pad that is half full of recipes for that day. These recipes may make it into the cookbook alongside so many other great recipes I’ve been working on.

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Now that all the recipes are written, it’s time for me to plan my holiday schedule. I like to decide what can be made in advance as well as knowing exactly what time every little piece needs to go in the oven or slow cooker or on the stove top. I plan my holiday meals down to every last detail. This doesn’t always result in a dinner delivered on time, but it keeps things on track so that only things out of my control can delay me.

My son’s birthday falls just a couple of days before Thanksgiving this year. He has requested black forest cake. I have requested that he give me until next weekend and allow me to focus on all that I need to get done for Thanksgiving this week. He is agreeable to that. For his birthday dinner, Clark will be making chicken and dumplings.

After I’ve got my recipes together and my timing planned out, I will prepare my grocery list. This will include comparing prices of my two local grocery stores, Meijer and Kroger. I live pretty much smack dab between the two. Meijer often has the better prices, but as of lately they do not seem to be bothering to stock their shelves. I am hoping that they will at least be prepared for the holiday rush, though I am not holding my breath as they didn’t even have any cranberry sauce on the shelves Sunday which was the first day of the sale.

How is everyone else doing in their holiday meal preparations?

Delicious Apple Pecan Tart Recipe

Yesterday, I finally sat down and started planning my Thanksgiving menu. The kids decided that they want apple pie this year. I love apple pie. I have been playing with my pastry dough recipe, and haven’t had a chance to try my most recent adjustments. I am looking for a flaky and buttery crust. I think I may have found it.

I decided that I did not want to wait until Thanksgiving and try my crust on a holiday dessert. What if it failed? What if it fell apart? Nope. Better to try it out, now, and make sure it can hold up to an apple pie. I didn’t want to make pie again.

That’s when I came up with this delicious Apple Pecan Tart recipe. First, you’re going to need your favorite pastry dough recipe. You’re going to make enough for two pie crusts, but you will only make one flat disk out of the dough before sticking it in the refrigerator.

Apple Pecan Tart

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Materials:

• Parchment Paper
• Pizza tray
• Vegetable peeler
• Sharp knife
• Melon baller
• Cutting board
• Medium bowl
• Large bowl
• Cooling rack

Ingredients:
• Favorite two crust pastry dough recipe
• 4 Granny Smith apples
• 1 tbsp honey
• 1/2 tsp vanilla
• 1/2 tsp allspice
• 1/2 cup pecan pieces or chips

• 2 1/2 tbsp sugar, divided
• 1 tbsp flour
• 2 tbsp melted butter

Directions:
In medium bowl, combine honey, vanilla, and allspice. Set aside. Peel an apple (I prefer to do one apple at a time to reduce browning). Quarter the apple through the stem. Using the melon baller, remove the center seed pod. Trim away the core. Cut the apple into thin slices. Gently toss the slices in the honey spice mixture. Repeat with remaining three apples. Stir in nuts. Set apple mixture aside.

On a very lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough to about a quarter inch thickness (about 17 or 18 inches in diameter). You are not looking for a perfect circle, just a general idea of a circle.

Carefully transfer dough to parchment lined pizza tray. Whisk together two tablespoons of sugar with one tablespoon of flour. Sprinkle over pastry dough (this will keep your dough from getting soggy and help the bottom bake up beautifully).

Dump your apple mixture in the center and spread it evenly leaving three to four inches of pastry dough around the edges (or if you’re picky about your tart having a perfect circle, layer them starting from center and working your way out being sure to include pecans as you go).

Brush or drizzle the top of the apples with melted butter. Sprinkle with remaining half tablespoon of sugar. Fold pastry dough over top of apples. Cover pastry with a clean, large bowl. Place in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 375*. Bake tart for 45 minutes to an hour, until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown (if apples are browning too much or starting to burn, place a circle of foil over the apples, careful not to cover too much of the pastry).

Carefully slide the parchment onto a wire rack and allow the tart to cool slightly before serving.

That’s the tart I came up with last night to test out my pastry dough recipe. The pastry dough was every bit as flaky and buttery as I’d hoped it would be. The tartness of the apples blended beautifully with the allspice and the sweetness of the honey and vanilla did not take away the tartness of the beautiful granny smith apples that I used. The crunchiness of the pecans brought it all together. This one will definitely be making it in to the cookbook.

apple peeler, corer, slicer

I don’t remember where I read the tip about the melon baller for assisting in coring the apple. I had one of those combination apple slicer/corer things, but it broke. I do have an apple peeler, corer, and slicer just like the one pictured above. It didn’t provide the right type of apple slice for what I wanted in my tart. I decided to give the melon baller a try. It worked perfectly. If you haven’t tried this method, yet, you really should.

I’ve still got a big Thanksgiving menu to plan, and my son has indicated that he would like a birthday dinner and black forest cake for dessert. His birthday falls two days before Thanksgiving. I already told him he is getting booted to the following weekend. Lol. I’m off of here to go work on some more recipes and my cookbook. I also have some pierogi to make today before we lose that delicious filling.

I don’t mean to toot my own horn…

Well, actually I do! I am so proud of myself. Yesterday, in The Monster Behind the Shower Curtain, I told ya’ll that I was going to give pierogi dough a try.

My experience with pierogi is limited. I’ve eaten a variety of Mrs. T’s Pierogies, which apparently is a laughable misnomer as pierogi is actually the plural of pierog (which coincidentally is rarely used because they are generally served as two or more pierogi). I also attempted to eat a pierogi at the hospital when I had my daughter. That was a boiled, flavorless thing that lived up to the expectation of hospital food. Basically, I’ve never actually had a real pierog.

I learned quite a bit while researching the pierog and its dough, yesterday. I read that your filling options are limited only by your imagination. Me, being me, I didn’t use anybody’s filling recipe. None of them seemed to carry the flavor I was envisioning. I used the dough recipe posted here.

I did as Edyta suggested and dumped my flour right on the counter and sprinkled it with a pinch of salt. I made a well for my warm milk and melted butter (I melted the butter in the warming milk). My well was not big enough, and my milk mixture started to escape. I chased it with flour (and caught it). At this point, I’m looking at the mess on my counter and wondering how it could possibly become dough.

Slowly, I pour little bits of very warm water in at a time and fold the flour mixture around it. At one point, it got so sticky that I thought I had messed up and added too much water. I just kept working it and praying. I actually ended up needing just a smidge more water. It rolled into a nice beautiful ball (and amazingly the counter was clean!) I grabbed my large bowl and put it over the dough to let it rest (yes, you still need a bowl, just not in the traditional way).

After the dough rested for about twenty-five minutes, I rolled it out. It wasn’t too hard to roll out. I cut it into quarters and rolled out one quarter at a time because of limited counter space. In the future, I will keep the other quarters under the bowl to prevent the outside from drying as this made it harder to work with.

I don’t have a wine glass or a round cookie cutter (only fun shapes around here, lol), so I used a glass tumbler. The cutting out the circles was, of course, a long and tedious process. I was watching the clock and getting a little bit nervous as the minutes ticked by like seconds.

When all was said and done, I had almost eighty circles. I divided them in half and went to work filling them. Dinnertime was fast approaching, and I was starting to worry if I would get them all done. I started a pot of water to boil. As soon as it came to a rolling boil, I dropped my first batch of seven. I’m watching them, waiting for the rise to the surface while filling and sealing more. As soon as they pop, I’m counting out sixty seconds while still filling another pierog.

I pulled that first batch and moved them to a platter Next time, I will use a cookie sheet to place the finished ones on because they stuck together when I stacked them (I know… duh). I drop the next batch in the rapidly boiling water. Continue process. I was a multi-tasking fool. Still, time ran out, and the boys got home from work. I was still stuffing and boiling them.

After they were all boiled, I fried them up in some butter and they were ready to serve. I ended up with thirty-one chicken pierogi and thirty-nine potato and cheddar pierogi. Eight of the chicken ones burst during boiling. I expected it. I rolled/stretched the dough too thin. I was pretty sure it was too thin before I even dropped it in the water. As for the potato ones, a few of them were short some of their filling from leakage, but none of them were empty. Overall, not bad for my first ever pierogi making experience.

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The ones on the left are roasted chicken, and the ones on the right are potato cheddar.

I have a bit of both fillings left, so I need to make more dough so that I can stick some pierogi in the freezer for later use. I think I am going to do that tomorrow. Today, my back, shoulders, and hips are sore. I spent a few hours standing at that counter, yesterday, mixing and rolling and filling pierogi dough. It was definitely one hell of a workout.

I do feel that my chicken ones need a little work. I had read one recipe that used a thickened gravy in their roasted chicken pierogi. I was nervous about putting gravy in there, but they came out rather dry, so I believe that next time I will try it with a sauce of some sort. The potato ones, I don’t think I would change a thing about (except maybe actually measuring things instead of eyeballing them, lol).

Overall, I am very happy with my first pierogi. I was pleasantly surprised that most of them held together. I am extremely proud of myself for this accomplishment.

The joy I felt when I successfully created my first pierogi made me realize why I’m having so much trouble focusing on writing anything else. My passion is in my cooking, and I’ve got this cookbook started. I think I’m going to bow out gracefully from the nanowrimo that I’ve fallen farther and farther behind in, and, instead, focus my energy on the cooking and developing my recipes and building my cookbook that I’ve been working on for the past year.

This doesn’t mean I won’t work on that nanowrimo novel. I think it is a great story, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. I’m just not expecting to actually reach 50,000 words by the end of November, and that’s okay. I’ll keep pecking away at it, and it will be finished when it is ready to be finished.

Off to get another cup of coffee and figure out my plan for the day. I know I have a lot of dishes and laundry to do, today, because I fell behind while making pierogi, yesterday. But, that’s okay. It was totally worth it.