Sunday, January 24, 2010

Smith Saturday

When our girls were little, Saturday mornings were the day that I cooked breakfast. Pancakes, eggs any way they wanted (within reason, of course), toast, biscuits, bacon, sausage...patties and links, etc. It was a real smorgasborg!

Now that our girls are older and involved in outside activities, we seldom get a long drawn out Saturday morning anymore. It's been so long, in fact that when I woke up this past Saturday morning a little on the sad side because my firstborn and middle child had spent Friday night away at a show choir girls' bonding sleepover (God bless this child's mother), I didn't even realize at first that we didn't have any place to go! Understandably so, the show choir mom who had a houseful of high school aged girls in her house all night, sent them all packing pretty early. Mine were home by 9:00 a.m. and "STARVING" as only teenage girls can be. That's when I realized we had a morning together!

The youngest and I have been home since Wednesday. She ran fever all week and tried to cough up a lung several nights in a row. Our pediatrician diagnosed a sinus infection and some kind of respiratory virus which mimics asthma. Our middle child has asthma that was diagnosed when she was 18 months old and rears its ugly head every few years; I spent many sleepless nights in my middle child's bedroom making sure she was still breathing, so the word "asthma" sends me into Mama Bear protective mode. I hadn't been out of the house much since Wednesday in an effort to quarantine my youngest from any further invasion of nasty germs, so I didn't have any groceries. We had a rare opportunity to have a leisurely family breakfast together, and I didn't have one single egg or slab of bacon in the house!

I decided there had to be some way to make breakfast work. When I surveyed the kitchen, I realized that even with steady eating, we hadn't made much of a dent in the fruit my mom sent home with my middle child last weekend. Sending home more fruit than we can ever eat before it rots was my mom's way of saying we need to eat healthier snacks. She sent the fruit after she mentioned that a picture of me on Facebook looked "puffy." Ouch!

Anyhoo, my people won't necessarily ask for fruit...but if it's there, they'll sure eat it. And, if you chop it up, mix it up and make it look like a special dish, they'll eat even more of it. Funny how opening a carton, rinsing berries and pouring them in a bowl does that.

My mom sent several of these little dynamo packages of fruit. If I had read my friend Sharon's post about homegrown fruits, spurned from reading the book Animal Vegetable Miracle, I would have noticed where exactly this fruit was produced, how far it had to be shipped to me, how much fuel was used in those transportation efforts, etc.

I also wholeheartedly agree with Sharon that fruit bought in a Mississippi grocery store in January is anything but at its peak and can also be downright expensive! We keep a bowl of fresh fruit salad in the summer, but in the winter, I don't even try. Thank goodness my mom paid for these!

I started breakfast by cutting the tips off the strawberries and cutting them in half. I didn't expect much from January strawberries, but these were very sweet and juicy.

My mom also sent a package of sausage, which I discovered when I was digging the creamer for my coffee out of the back of the refrigerator. Sausage patties, whoo hoo!! I unwrapped the package of Jimmy Dean and sliced the sausage into patties. I'm sure you're supposed to slice them evenly and all that, but I just slice 'em.

I did not have one very important product in my arsenal of cooking utensils, non-stick cooking spray. I hesitated before cooking these sausage patties in one of my good pans with no spray...but decided in the spirit of family to go ahead with it.

Sausage goes really well with biscuits, so I started digging around in the freezer to see if I had any...I found 4!!! When Ed and I were first married, I made homemade biscuits. Yes, I really did. With buttermilk and everything. When we started producing offspring, however, homemade biscuits became more and more unrealistic, and toast took the place of biscuits.

Not too terribly long ago, some brilliant folks started figuring out how to make lots and lots of homemade biscuits and freeze the dough for those of us who really enjoy a homemade biscuit but just can't always go to all that trouble. I love these people. I would kiss them if I knew who they were.

At the same time I was singing the praises of the homemade biscuit people, I was keeping a really close eye on these sausages because of my pan and all. It was time for the sausages to be flipped. I decided the best way to cook sausage in a non non-stick pan with no cooking spray was to sear the sausage patties on both sides, then turn the heat down, cover the pan and let the sausage cook through slowly. It was touch and go while I turned the patties the first time, but finally they were cooking on the reverse side.

Once I was sure the sausage was ok for a few minutes, I turned back to my fruit. Have you noticed that breakfast is a schizophrenic kind of meal? I really have to be on my toes because most breakfast food is the fast-cooking kind. Cooking breakfast is the epitome of multi-tasking!

I also love the people who came up with the little fruit containers like this...all you do is open them up and rinse them right in their containers. The containers have holes in them and everything! The blueberries and blackberries were ready for the fruit bowl in a snap!

Looks like a fruit trifle!!

If there is pineapple in the fruit bowl, my children will eat every piece of fruit in the bowl, whether its pineapple or not so I try to use pineapple whenever possible. I used to be scared of pineapple. I really was. A pineapple is just not the most inviting piece of fruit. But, there is no comparison between the taste of fresh and canned pineapple which means I had to get over my fear of the spiky, tough covered fresh pineapple.

I almost bought an expensive pineapple cutter doo dad from Williams Sonoma (a store I LOVE by the way) but decided that was silly; I got over my fear and learned how to cut up my own pineapple. It's actually a pretty simple process. With a very sharp knife the first thing I do is cut off the top.

Next, I cut off the bottom...I do this so that the pineapple part will sit solid on my counter while I finish the process so I don't cut my hand off during the next part of the trimming process.

I then set the pineapple on one of the flat ends and begin slicing off the outer have to cut kind-of deep to get all the little pokey things off...nobody wants to eat those. I'm sure those pokey things are called something scientific and all, but I'm an English teacher, not a scientist.

After I slice off all the sides, I have a nice yellow tower left. The core is still in the middle though, and it is too tough to eat.

I simply take my trusty RADA knife and cut in 4 swoops on each side around the gives me 4 slabs of fresh tasty pineapple to work with and the core all alone to be thrown away. (BTW swoops and slabs are also parts of my English teacher repertoire of scientific vocabulary.)

The piece of pineapple on the far left side of this picture is the core. Sorry that this picture doesn't really give you much to go on as far as telling the pieces apart, but you'll know it when you are slicing.

After I throw the core away, I cut each slab of pineapple into need to cut each piece individually...just cut horizontally and then turn them around and make a couple more cuts vertically...

and you will have these beautiful little chunks. For the record, I do not know how to wield a knife like Rachel Ray...this is easy, I promise.

This is the point of the fruit salad process that at my house gets dangerous. Dangerous because if I'm not careful, by the time the entire fruit salad is done, there is no pineapple left. My children can smell fresh pineapple almost as if it was frying bacon...From the moment it becomes these little chunks, hands start coming from all directions.

One of my little tricks, if I can get the pineapple into the bowl before anyone notices, is to turn the bowl over into another bowl.... that the pineapple ends up on the bottom! Hidden from prying fingers! This strategy is only successful for so long. The kids will eventually just start digging!

With the fruit done, I opened the pantry to get out some bread. 4 biscuits were not going to satisfy my people. I didn't find any bread, but I did find an almost empty box of pancake mix, the kind that just needs water :)

I poured out what I had, measured, guesstimated how much water to add and stirred.

That's when the first kid entered the kitchen. "Is there any pineapple, Mama?"

Before I could answer, the youngest spotted the bowl of pancake mix. My 5-year old finds it difficult to resist something to stir, so I relinquished my spatula in order to save the pineapple.

Look at this little mixer go! Who needs the electric kind??

Unfortunately, it is actually possible to overmix pancake batter; once the fluffiness goes out of it, the batter has been known to produce pancakes with texture similar to those communion wafers some churches use.

Since I only had 4 biscuits and this little bit of pancake batter, I had no choice but to confess to the pineapple...this time in order to salvage the pancakes.

My youngest immediately started digging for the pineapple in the bottom of the bowl. I guess I'm just not as sneaky as I thought.

"Mommy, the strawberries and blackberries are in the way!"

Ok,'s your own kid down!

Once the youngest was satisfied, it was time to go back to the stove. I had to cook the pancakes in another non sprayed skillet, but I cook my pancakes in butter and they don't cook anywhere near as long as sausage patties, so I wasn't as worried.

I melt the butter in the pan and then pour the batter in 3 small plops. We like smaller pancakes rather than larger ones. Pancakes are difficult to keep warm while more pancakes cook, so it's easier for me to start serving and keep cooking once the first pancakes are done when I make smaller ones. 3 smaller pancakes cooked means at least 3 people can start eating.

When the pancakes have bubbles on the uncooked side, it is time to flip them. Once they are flipped, they are only cooked on the other side for just barely a minute. I actually don't leave them at this point. Pancakes can be overdone quickly.

Uh-oh! Look what happened!! Another kid in the kitchen! This time it's the firstborn. Check out the look on the youngest child's face and the warning stance of her body. "Don't get all the pineapple, Kendal!!"

Time for 3 people to start eating!

The biscuits and sausage were also ready so I put them out so that everyone could get started eating while I kept making pancakes. Once the pancake process has begun, it's important to not have anything else going that needs a lot of your attention. I guess if I ever get tired of teaching, I can go work at the Waffle House or IHOP!

It is also important when cooking pancakes with butter that you control the temperature of your pan...butter scalds and can make your pancakes looked burned. When I flipped this batch, I knew my pan was getting hot because of the color of the pancakes. Once these were done, I took the pan off the heat, wiped it clean with a paper towel, and gave it a minute to cool before beginning again with fresh butter.

AhHah!! Another kid!! Notice how the firstborn and the youngest have now brought their crayons and an anatomy worksheet to the bar. Some folks would get all excited about crayons at the table and all that...but I just don't. I want 'em with me...crayons and all. I'm a firm believer in choosing your battles with kids wisely, and this just isn't one I choose.

Even the head of the household crawled from his den (he really does have his own little's his own little world inside what he calls "the girls dorm" that is our house). Even though I was still flipping pancakes at this point, I was immensely satisfied with our morning. We were all in the kitchen together, eating, laughing and having some much missed family time.

I love family breakfasts!!

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