Panettone, Plants, and Politics: Enough Alliteration for a Drizzly Day

It’s one of those luxurious Sunday mornings, luxurious but lazy.  Outside it’s a grey, drizzly day, but because tomorrow is a holiday, I’m not feeling the pressure to get things done for the work week ahead.

Two airy loaves of panettone, ready to go into the oven.

Even so, I’ve gotten a lot accomplished already.  I’ve put together panettone dough and have the oven getting heated up so that by the time I get this written, I can go down to the kitchen and put the dough in the pans.  I haven’t made panettone since about this time last year, but I know no one else who makes it, and I’ve made enough adjustments to the recipe (check out my recipe) I originally got from the Joy of Cooking to make this one mine.  I think there will be enough for two loaves:  a big one that I can take to work to share in the break room and a smaller one that I can grab a slice for breakfast on the road or make super-delish French toast next weekend.

Unharmed by the low temperatures earlier in the week, this tomato plant seems to be enjoying the Sunday drizzle.

I’ve also brought in all the sheets that I used to cover potted plants and my tomatoes in the garden.  Though the thermometer read 25° F. one morning when I got up with Annie, most of my plants came out unscathed.  Apparently, the low temperatures didn’t stay long enough to do much damage.  The tomatoes that I set in in

Tiny, new lettuce sprouts peeking through the cool January soil.

January (Can you deal with two prepositions in a row?) seem none the worse for wear, and by the looks, there may be a tomato or two for the plate in a few weeks.  I didn’t cover the pepper plants, so they look somewhat peaked from the cold, but I want to replace them with different varieties in the spring anyway.

It was also a good morning to grind the beans for fresh coffee.  I don’t drink coffee on an every-day basis, but I like a cup from Starbuck’s or freshly brewed at home for a treat.  I’m on my second cup now, and I definitely feel the caffeine.  I doubt whether I’ll take a Sunday afternoon nap today.  In addition to the coffee, I made a nice two-egg omelette filled with fresh pico de gallo–store-bought, but still full of fresh veggie taste.  (I noticed that when I was back home for the holidays that I am not the only one in my family that says “store-boughten” as opposed to the grammatically-correct “store-bought”.  I love the sound of colloquial English and think that “computer-ese” with all its LOLs and other abbreviation is making language much less expressive and more robotic.)

On a different note this pre-MLK Day Sunday, I can’t help but mention (I have to say “mention” or someone may think I’m being vitriolic) how these supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans who got elected in November are really having problems and don’t really seem all that fiscally conservative, let alone, fiscally adept. 

Here in Texas, Rick Perry, who has been governor for 10 years and campaigned on his financial expertise at balancing the budget before last November’s elections, now finds himself facing a $27 billion shortfall for the state.  In my old home state of Kansas, another supposedly fiscal conservative, newly-elected Governor Sam Brownback’s budget is bigger than that of the current one, which was created while Democrats were in the governor’s seat.  According to the Wichita newspaper,  Brownback “proposal increased spending from the state general fund to $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1, from $5.7 billion in the current budget.”   In Perry’s case, he has been in the governor’s office since 2000, coming into the position after George W. Bush was elected President.  The problems in the state budget can’t be blamed on Democrats because the legislature is also heavily Republican.  In Kansas, while the previous governor was a Democrat, the legislature has been controlled by Republicans for decades, perhaps since the founding of the state in 1861 (I’ll have to check my history books.)  In both states, the legislatures must approve the states’ budgets. 

Whether Republican or Democrat, these days we really need some people in office in our state that have some business sense, and are fiscally adept.  Just saying you are fiscally conservative doesn’t really make a state more fiscally sound.

Mmmm.  Now the smell of baking panettone is wafting up my stairway.  I’d better go check on those goodies!

And here they are! Don't they look tempting right out of the oven?

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Coffee Milk and Hopalong Cassidy

Hopalong coffee mugI’m not a big coffee drinker. I’ve never been one of those people who just have to have their cup of coffee in the morning to get started. (Maybe that’s why I’m a slow starter.) But about once a week or once every two weeks, I’ll get a grande at Starbuck’s at work and add a good helping of half-and-half.

At home, I’ve got my little coffee maker and grinder. I guess I like good coffee. So on a Saturday or Sunday, I’ll grind up a quarter cup of the beans and make coffee, but If I don’t have half-and-half or at least some milk, I’m not going to make coffee. I’m just not going to have coffee without some good “real” dairy product.

I’m pretty sure this all goes back to when I was a kid growing up on the farm. My folks always perked a pot of coffee in the morning. Either Mom or Dad made coffee. I never saw Dad doing any other cooking, but in the morning both of them would be around the kitchen; usually Mom would do most of it, but Dad would be there turning bacon and taking out toast and sometimes making coffee. They always made extra coffee in the morning, set the coffee pot on the back burner of the stove, and reheated what was left for lunch, especially during the cool times of the year. (During the summer, we always had iced tea for lunch and supper.)

Anyway, when I was a little kid, starting around like 4 or 5, I got coffee milk with lunch. Mom would put about a third of a cup of coffee in my cup, fill the rest with milk, add some sugar, and I’d have my coffee milk. I don’t remember it making me feel “grown up” or anything like that, as one might think. I just liked my coffee milk, but I think the main reason was I got to use one of the two white pyrex-type cowboy mugs that we had. I think one was supposed to be mine and one was supposed to be my brother’s, but there was never any controvery (that I remember) about who got which cup. He was older, so I suppose I got whichever cup I wanted, and also, he’d probably stopped drinking out of the “kids” cups. Where we got them, I’m not sure, but they might have been something that came as a prize in a box of oatmeal or maybe my Aunt Lois gave them to us.

hopalong cassidyBut to a kid, these cups were really special. One had a Hopalong Cassidy design on it, and the other, I think, was Red Ryder. Hopalong Cassidy was an early TV cowboy, but Red Ryder was a comic book character. We didn’t have a TV yet in those days, but I remember Hopalong Cassidy because he came to Dorrance on the train. Before television, politicians and actors traveled by train, making stops in almost every town on the line, as a way of getting publicity, and even though Hopalong Cassidy had a TV show, he still did this.

It was a big day in town. All of us kids walked over from the school to the depot, and Hoppy’s train came into town and stopped, and he came out. I don’t have any memory about what he did; he might have sung some songs, because I think he was a singer too. I was just a very little kid, probably in the first grade. I know that we went up there with Mrs. Mullen, my first and second grade teacher. We finally got a TV out on our farm when I was in fifth grade. (I remember the first thing that came on the screen of that TV after we got it hooked up–a Duncan Hines cherry cake mix commercial!) Hopalong Cassidy was still on TV at that time, along with Roy Rogers and other TV cowboys.

I don’t know whatever became of those cups. But sometimes when I make coffee on a morning like this, I think about having my coffee milk in those cups, and the coffee is all the better for having the memories to go with it.

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If you liked this one, you might also like “Hamburger Gravy” and “Puddin’ Meat–Good Food for a Cold Morning”.