The Cook IN


“No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.” -Julia Child

“Remember, ‘No one’s more important than people’! In other words, friendship is the most important thing–not career or housework, or one’s fatigue–and it needs to be tended and nurtured.-Julia Child

As a lover of little details, I tend to lose the big picture very quickly–especially when I am entertaining.  What starts out as preparation for a dinner with loved ones turns into a mad race against the clock under the watchful eye of the invisible culinary professor who sits on my shoulder.

“You cooked that pasta a little past al dente, I hope you know.”

“You’re using CANNED broth for that reduction?”

“Who placed this steak knife on the wrong side of the dinner plate?!”

Last week, Dave and I planned a cookout at our place in honor of our lovely house guest, Lindsay Katt.  A musician from New York City, Lindsay is an intuitive songwriter who has been on the ballot for a Grammy for her song “Heart Place.”  (Listen to this and other hits here!)  Needless to say, the evening had to be JUST RIGHT!

When the night finally arrived, we were ready.  The menu was set, the guests were invited, the chicken was marinating.

And then it started to rain.

No worries!  West Texas rains tend to come and go just long enough to cool the air off and Lord knows we needed the water.

However, ten minutes before our guests were due to arrive the skies opened up and it really began to pour!

“Hmmm, looks like we will be cooking IN…” I thought.

Now, eating indoors in the summertime is not a problem…if your house is air-conditioned.  Ours, unfortunately, is not, and the kitchen/dining area can get pretty warm, especially if the oven is on and there is a crowd of people occupying the space.

My shoulder chef began to panic.

Then I began to panic.

But then I realized that I could either stress out and apologize non-stop to my guests for the weather and our lack of A/C…or I could see the meal as an adventure and have fun.

I chose the latter.

So as the guests were arriving, Dave and I threw open the windows, turned on every box fan we owned and planned for a cook IN!

And wouldn’t you know it?

We all had a great (though slightly sweaty) time!

Here is a glimpse inside our fun evening (thanks to Lindsay and her camera skills!):

The beer-can chicken was grilled to perfection!
Dave, on the other hand, was a little soggy.

Wanna know the secret to a great party?

GREAT PEOPLE!

It also helps if these great people have great smiles…

…and infectious laughter.

Always make sure to give your guests a warm welcome…however that might look.

Remember: Farmers are bigger socialites than they let on to be.

Also: Farmer and musicians like to ham it up.

Elliott tries to remember the last time he attended a cook IN.

Dave produces his radio show, The Appetizer, at Elliott’s recording studio, Fly Boy Studios, located right here in Clyde, America!

Hey!  Nobody eats until everyone is seated!

Eating, talking and laughing: My three favorite things!

Go ahead!  Take pictures of your guests while they are eating.
It’ll give you all something to laugh about later.

You know the night is a success if your guests start out as strangers but leave as friends.

Here’s to many more great meals–no matter the weather!

P.S.

Thank you, Lindsay, for visiting us here in Clyde, the biggest small town in Texas!

For more info on the talented Ms. Katt, friend her on Facebook or visit her website!

Five Days of Cookies: A Crazy Cookie Party


What is the best way to wrap up a Crazy Christmas Cookie Concept?

A Crazy Christmas Cookie Party, of course!

All you need are a collection of tasty confections…

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…and a bunch of good friends to enjoy them with!

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Of course, if you have a complicated side like me, you will want to plan games and prepare hors d’oeuvres and give awards and, and, and…but don’t fret!  A kitchen full of women and cookies easily entertains itself!

Equipped with hot cocoa and egg nog, my guests and I huddled around the kitchen table chatting, laughing and dining on the following menu of tasty cookies:

~Chocolate Crinkles~

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Prepared by…me.

Perfect with a tall glass of cold milk.

Get the recipe here!

~Brown Sugar Shortbread~

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Prepared by my jovial friend Janis.

Dip in melted dark chocolate if you still have some wiggle room in those skinny jeans.

Recipe (from Taste of Home circa 1990):

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (Janice uses dark brown sugar)
2 1/4 cups AP flour

Cream butter and sugar. Gradually stir in flour.  Turn onto very lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.  Roll dough 1/3″ thick.  Cut into 1″ squares.  Place 1″ apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Prick squares with a fork.  Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until bottoms are golden.  Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack.  Cool completely before serving.

~Cherry Shortbread Wreaths~

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Prepared by my Momma.

Momma adjusts this recipe by using light versus dark corn syrup, adding 1/8 teaspoon baking soda and garnishing the cookie with a whole cherry instead of half.

Get the recipe* here!

Momma found this recipe on a Karo syrup flyer back in the 1970’s and has been making it ever since!

~Minty Sugar Cookie Trees~

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Prepared by…me again.

Pleasant with or without the frosting!

Recipe: Add 1 teaspoon peppermint extract and 1/2 teaspoon green food coloring to a batch of sugar cookie dough.  Frost with peppermint icing.

~Shortbread Pinwheels~

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Prepared by Momma.

Serve these versatile cookies year round by simply switching the food coloring: orange for Halloween, green for Saint Patrick’s Day, yellow for a summer tea party.

Get the recipe here!

~Italian Lemon Drop Cookies~

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Prepared by my bubbly friend Beverly.

If you love scones, then you will PROPOSE to these lemon drops.  I think I’ve found a new favorite!

Get the recipe here!

~Butter Pecan Cookies~

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Prepared by my marvelous friend Misty.

Dunk cookie in a cup of hot coffee.  Take a bite.  Repeat.

Get the recipe here!

~Chocolate-Dipped Oreo Pops~

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Prepared by my oh-so-clever friend Colleen.

These cookies are a meal in themselves.  Pamper yourself by savoring one slowly with a tasty hot beverage.

Recipe: Carefully insert a popsicle stick into the cream of an Oreo, and then dip cookie into a bowl of melted chocolate.  Decorate with melted white chocolate and sprinkles.  Allow chocolate to harden before serving.

~Egg Nog~

~Hot Cocoa and Marshmallows~

~Coffee~

~Ice-cold Milk~

********************

I am one lucky gal to be friends with such good bakers!

Thankfully, all of these thoughtful bakers prevented me from gaining 20 pounds by taking most of the cookies home to their families:

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By the end of two hours, we were all cookied out, but I made everyone eat one last cookie so that I could take a picture.

Everybody say “COOKIE”!

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“CURKIESH!”

Happy baking, sharing and eating to all!!!