Thursday, November 26, 2015

THANKSGIVING: As Told by a Mayflower Descendant

“Countless Victorian-era engravings notwithstanding, the Pilgrims did not spend the day sitting around a long table draped with a white linen cloth, clasping each other's hands in prayer as a few curious Indians looked on.” – Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower, about the first Thanksgiving.

Neither was there pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce or forks. No forks? It's true, says Philbrick. Forks didn't make their appearance at Plymouth, Mass., for several decades. Our Pilgrims ate with their fingers and knives.

And did they ever earn that first Thanksgiving.

That bunch of brave, gritty, shrewd pioneers – putting their trust in God – survived a dangerous and arduous journey across the Atlantic only to be met by more challenges in the New World than they ever could have imagined.

Of the 102 who arrived on that voyage just as winter weather was setting in, 52 were dead by the spring.

Someone was dying from the hard life on an almost daily basis in February and March. Three entire families were wiped out. By spring, of the 50 still standing, there were six orphans, four widowers and only one surviving widow.

Whenever an Indian attack threatened that first winter, Philbrick explains, the sick were pulled from their beds and propped up against trees with muskets in hand to conceal from the enemy how many had died.

Fortunately for me, my ancestors were among the survivors. John Alden was a 21-year-old cooper when he set sail. His wife-to-be, Priscilla Mullins, became a 17-year-old orphan during that first bitter winter. Their blood is running through my veins.

So, too, is that of Capt. Miles Standish, the Pilgrims' military officer. His first wife also died that winter.

Although I have long known via oral tradition that I was of Mayflower stock, the official word came a while ago from the Mayflower Society in Plymouth, Mass.

After a thorough check of my lineage documents by society historians, I was admitted as a member and mailed an official document certifying me as a Mayflower descendant.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow depicts my three ancestors in “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” It tells how Priscilla Mullins asked John Alden to speak for himself when he attempted to deliver a marriage proposal from his friend, Miles Standish.

By all rights, none of the Pilgrims should have survived that first winter. Diplomatic efforts created a working peace with Indians. Otherwise, they may not have made it.

That first Thanksgiving probably came in late September or early October to mark a successful harvest.

There were corn, squash, beans, and peas. A successful barley crop meant they could now brew their own beer.

Migrating ducks and geese were part of the bounty as were wild turkeys. Striped bass, bluefish and cod may have been added to the menu. The Indians came with five freshly killed deer.

The surviving Pilgrims thanked God.

Then they ate and drank: standing, squatting, sitting on the ground around open fires. No long table with white linen cloth.

By Peter, Calamity Janet’s husband

Friday, June 26, 2015


The recipe card indicates that I must have gotten this when I bought some walnuts from the Azar Nutshop. It has been a popular breakfast bread with my family for over thirty years. Ericka and I made it when she visited recently to see if it was as good as we remembered. It was. Delicious warm lathered with cream cheese. Healthy and satisfying.

The recipe card is brown, has dark stains all over it and is torn in places. It's time for it to go digital.


1 cup Azar (of, course) walnuts, coarsely chopped
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups unsifted unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups grated (use a large cheese grater) unpeeled zucchini, ends removed
1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a large loaf pan.
Beat eggs.
Gradually beat in sugar, then oil.
Combine the dry ingredients in a different bowl.
Add the dry ingredients alternately with zucchini to the egg, sugar, oil, mixture.
Mix well with a large spoon.
Stir in walnuts and vanilla
Put the mixture in the loaf pan
Bake 1 hour.
Let stand 15 minutes.
Turn out of the pan.

This bread freezes well.

No better time time to share a local story about growing zucchini.

It is a very easy vegetable to grow at high altitude. Often people end up with more zucchini than they can possibly preserve by canning, give away or use. Our growing season is fairly short, starting mid-June and ending with the first freeze, often as early as mid-September.

If you garden...and you love it... you know that you are enthusiastic for the first month or so...summer is so glorious and the garden is growing and producing such useful, fresh, home-grown food for your family...then your enthusiasm wanes as the workload increases...and the weeds grow...and towards the end of the summer your internal clock...and your knee telling you that it should be over soon...the larder is full, the beautiful vegetables have provided a colorful bounty for your summer table...will the first frost ever get here?

Zucchini is often the final plant to give seems to enjoy a little frost. It just keeps growing and growing...and you just keep harvesting and harvesting...leaving great paper bags of zucchini...anonymously...on people's back porches or in their unlocked cars. You can't throw it away.

One Sunday morning in late fall at a local church, the preacher took the pulpit and exclaimed, "Thank the Lord, last night the zucchini died." The parishioners heartily applauded.

There had been a hard freeze the night before. Everyone could rest now.


Monday, June 22, 2015


This recipe reminds me of a summer many years ago.

Visitors to Mountainaire RV Park in Greer were passing this recipe around and they thought it might be easier to find a copy machine to print the copies. Having the only copy machine in town, they showed up in my real estate office.

I was the elated beneficiary as I asked if I might make a copy for myself. A great trade. It is not easy to make but it is absolutely moist and delicious!

This recipe makes two loaves.


1 cup cooking oil
1 3/4 cups white sugar
3 eggs

Beat the first three ingredients together.

Then add the next three ingredients

1 cup mashed bananas
1 cup peeled, grated carrots
1 cup applesauce

Sift the following dry ingredients and add to the above mixture.

2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1+ teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 + teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon vanilla-Add to the batter and mix well.

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 cup raisins

Lastly, add the raisins and nuts and mix well. If the batter seems too thin, add a little Bisquick.

Pour into two greased and floured loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Since we are at 8500 feet, I don't know if this recipe has been adjusted for high elevation. I welcome comments or suggestions.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Sometimes a recipe just shows up, you try it and everyone raves about it. That's what happened to this recipe. Consequently, I cook it more than anything else when family are coming...well, except for Mexican food, of course...or a pot roast.

The little ones always like chicken. You can just cut it up and put it on their plates without the gravy. They can't tell that it's not chicken nuggets.

I received this recipe in a cookbook promotion as an example of their recipes. I don't know if the cookbook was Creative Everyday Cooking or Extra-Light Cooking so I'll give them both credit.

Serves 4


3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (depending on the size, you can use two and slice them in half for four servings; lots of the chicken breasts out there look like they're on steriods or have had augmentation)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized onion
2 tablespoons butter (remember, buy unsalted butter)
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Lemon wedges
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley to sprinkle on top when serving.


*In a plastic bag, combine the flour and salt and pepper.
Shake the bag to mix it up.
Add the chicken pieces to the bag and shake to coat the chicken lightly with the flour mixture. Remove the chicken from the bag and place on a plate to let the coating dry a little.
Save the excess flour in the bag for later.

*In a large skillet (that has a lid), heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and brown on one side about 5 minutes. Add the remaining one tablespoon oil, turn the chicken and brown well on the other side until golden brown. Put the chicken breasts back on the plate (I know it's contaminated from using it before but we're not finished cooking the chicken) and set aside or place in a 250 degree oven to keep warm.

*Coarsely chop the onion. Add the butter to the skillet. When the butter melts, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it is soft. It usually takes just a couple of minutes.

*Stir in the flour you saved from shaking the chicken, Cook and stir until the flour is incorporated.

*Add the broth, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and the thyme. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.

* Put the chicken back in the skillet. Turn the heat down to low/simmer and cover the skillet. Cook until the chicken is cooked through. Periodically, lift the lid and spoon some of the juice/gravy in the skillet over the chicken pieces.

*Let the chicken cook about 30 minutes. If they are especially large pieces, cook longer. A normal size chicken breast takes about 40 minutes to cook thoroughly if baked in the oven.

*Divide the chicken breasts onto four plates. Stir the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice into the sauce in the skillet, heat and stir or whisk, and pour a little over each piece of chicken after it's on the plate.

Serve with a lemon wedge on the plate and a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley on the chicken.

Serve with bright green fresh steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes. A favorite fruit salad on the side completes the meal.


Sunday, January 4, 2015


Although I only lived in Fairfield, IL for 17 years, I visited my parents and friends there several times a years for another 50 years. In fact, it is my hometown. I cherish it and the people there.

My mother was a wonderful cook and many of the recipes in this cookbook memoir are from her recipe box.

Not Agnes.
This is one of her favorites and mine.

It is great with pork chops, lamb chops, fried chicken, baked or fried fish fillets, ham or by itself as a leftover for lunch. You decide.

We have been known to have this for breakfast also. It is cereal after all.

There is no debate from those who have enjoyed this grits casserole that it is right up there with Sammi's Spoonbread...delicious, easy to put together and it can't be messed up if you follow the recipe to the letter.

Allow about an hour and a half from beginning to serving.

Serves 4. Double the recipe for 8 servings.


1 cup grits
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Follow the directions on the 24-ounce Quaker Quick 5-Minute Grits container for four servings except use 3 cups water instead of 4. You will add more liquid later and you want it to be thick. By letting it sit after it's cooked it will be the right consistency.

Slowly stir grits and salt into boiling water.
Turn heat on stove to medium-low and cover the pot.
Let cook, covered, 5-7 minutes.
Stir occasionally.

At the end of the cooking time, turn the heat off and let the covered pot sit on the stove for about ten minutes. Don't lift the lid. You want the steam to stay inside the pot.

Mix the following into the cooked grits while still in the pan:

1/2 stick unsalted butter ( 4 tablespoons)
1/2 pound ( 8 ounces) of sharp cheddar cheese in block form cut into cubes. Pure cheese, not shredded. Shredded has flour on it and will change the consistency.)
2 eggs beaten well.
1 cup whole milk

After all the cheese and butter is melted and mixed in with the eggs and milk, put mixture in a buttered 8X8 glass baking dish.

Use an 11X8 dish for double the recipe.

Sprinkle paprika on the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

It might not have set up completely so let it remain in the oven with the heat off for about fifteen minutes. I put a piece of foil on top while it's resting in the oven.

Place the casserole dish on the table with a nice big serving spoon.


Thursday, January 1, 2015


My husband...aka Mi Amigo Pedro...does not follow instructions very well. This is not why we've been together for 20 years. We've sweated it out because I am resilient to rejection. I "bark" orders in a predictable fashion and he ignores me.

I am convinced that in almost all situations he knows better than I what should be done.

It's New Year's Day. I awakened to darkness. It could have been dawn or dusk. There was a soft light over the east ridge of the Greer valley. It is dawn.

Our Bunkhouse guests are keeping warm.
I could barely make out that there had been a soft snowfall last night. Soft because the disturbing winds had subsided and I slept peacefully for my normal 11 hours.

It is a  new year...2015...and I slept through the band and reveling at Molly Butler's. I don't miss all that excitement even a smidgen.

In preparation for our New Year's Day menu, I had put pinto beans in the slow cooker to soak overnight. This morning before daybreak I rinsed them, put them back in the slow cooker with fresh water, added some chopped onion and fresh garlic, put the lid on and turned on the heat. The recipe for beans (frijoles) is on this blog under the label "Mexican Food."

I see light...

Yes, there is snow and the sun is coming up. More snow is predicted for today. I hope it snows and snows and snows.

Main Street, Greer AZ
My apathetic stupor is gone. Snow makes me happy. Someone once called me a Mexican Viking.

My mtDNA shows that I'm 100% European with a heavy concentration in the British Isles, slightly less in Scandanavia and Germany. Not surprising. Cold, snow and water are my lifeblood...with some Mexican food to warm me if I get too cold.

I suggested to Peter that we just relax by the warm morning fire, eat a hearty breakfast, take our time getting dressed, and, I insisted that he not go rushing out to start working on clearing the snow. We had plenty of time to work today.

We'll open the gallery after the sun hits the sign.
A bit later he disappeared. As I looked out the window I spotted him. There he was, complete with "earflap hat", winter coat, gloves and...MY SNOW SHOVEL!

It is clearly my snow has my name on it. It was a gift from my sweet husband last Christmas. A gentle reminder of what my duties are.

I think I'll let him keep shoveling.

Happy New Year everyone.

Jake and Sioux