The Perch Party

Mother Goose smiles when a small idea becomes a BIG production!

It is a fact of nature that people, plants and animals start out tiny and then grow into miraculous and wonderful living organisms, and it was a fact of life yesterday that a little plan blossomed into a wonderful and loving Perch Party.

Knowing that David (a U.S. Marine who has fallen on rough times and has no home) likes perch, the wheels in the feathery head of Mother Goose began to turn. What kind of perch is best to serve? How do I prepare it? Where will I purchase it? And can I even do this, having never cooked fishy things before except those easy and adorable fish sticks from Captain Gorton?

Enter Kevin, my comrade from Easter Seals and a lifelong fisherman and outdoorsman. His recommendation was to serve up Lake Perch as fresh as I could possibly muster. Of course, Mother Goose is NOT one to hold a fishing pole, especially in single-digit weather conditions.

However, a quick side note: Brother Goose and his dear wife have done MUCH ice fishing this winter in their really nice camper/ice house. With cousins and friends, they pull their camper out three or four miles onto some GREAT big lakes in nordern Minnesota and set up a little fishing town where they conveniently fish from the comfort of their warm rolling home and watch NASCAR races on the big screen.

But oh my gooseness, I digress…

Mother Goose happily added Kevin to the guest list, knowing that his cooking expertise would be valuable in the preparation of The Perch. And then the wheels turned a little bit more, and Mother Goose remembered her friend, Ms Murriel, who absolutely LOVES to cook for people and lives to see the happy faces of folks who have eaten more than their fill of a good dinner.

Mother Goose invited Ms Murriel who immediately offered to bake a lemon meringue pie. Everybody KNOWS how much Mother Goose loves pie…

All of the puzzle pieces for the Perch Party were in place — fish bought and breaded, spaghetti water boiling, salad tossed, pie chillin’ and we ladies chatting in the kitchen, waiting for the gentlemen to arrive when all of a sudden the phone of Mother Goose rang! I missed the call, but there was a voicemail from David saying that he was having phone problems, trying to reach Kevin, and would be on his way to meet him there.

But we didn’t know where “there” was, and we could not figure out where David was and would Kevin please find this man and please deliver him to the Perch Party SOMEHOW.

And Kevin did. Kevin always rescues somebody — he is one of my most special heroes, and you can go read more about him by clicking here…

Oh the food was delicious! If anyone ever asks, Lake Perch is about a thousand times better than ocean perch which is why Mother Goose capitalized it. And the meatballs and sauce prepared by Husband Goose — mmmmm, he’s got that recipe down just fine. And the bottle of German wine that Kevin provided was the perfect complement to the dinner. And I don’t even need to tell you how Mother Goose swooned at the first mouthful of lemon meringue pie…

But, my dear and loyal readers, what set this Perch Party apart and above and beyond all normal meals was the delightful and thought-provoking conversation and loving fellowship around the table. Sometimes the food can be tasty, the music playing softly in the background, the candles lit and glowing brightly, but the dinner falls flat because there is no love.

We enjoyed an abundance of love at our Perch Party. The Lord lavished His grace on us, and our conversations were sprinkled with the sweetest words of wisdom and kindness. There was much laughing and a little teasing and a heart-felt camaraderie amongst us.

Can a goose get anymore grateful?

Thank you for coming to The Perch Party of Mother Goose…

Brother David, Husband Goose, Ms Murriel and dear Kevin.

Brother David, Husband Goose, Ms Murriel and dear Kevin.

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Admonished at the Grocery Paradise

Over the course of her long and well-developed lifetime, Mother Goose has done some serious grocery shopping. I have pushed my cart up and down the aisles of most grocery stores in the Chicagoland area and beyond. I frequent the cheap stores, the healthy stores, the average stores and the neighborhood corner stores. And yes, truly, I am a professional Mystery Shopper for a large chain of grocery stores!

And yet nothing could have prepared Mother Goose for the experience last weekend at the Standard Market in Westmont, IL. The entrance looked nice enough. Pretty standard.

Externally standard.

Externally standard.

We went inside.

Immediately, Mother Goose was struck by the bright colors and the lighting and the wide open spaces. There was beauty all around me. I began snapping pictures left and right. Husband Goose soon distanced himself from me and shopped unobtrusively as can be. On the other hand, Mother Goose was gasping for breath and running from one department to another, flapping and honking and making quite a scene. As you admire my photos, I’m sure you can imagine my excitement.

Apples from the Garden of Eden

Apples from the Garden of Eden

Wines and cheeses getting paired and married.

Wines and cheeses getting paired and married.

Imagine the goats, cows and sheep who provided these cheeses...

Imagine the goats, cows and sheep who provided these cheeses…

My latest taste obsession...olives.

My latest taste obsession…olives.

Other shoppers seemed so blase about the grocery experience! Couldn’t they look around them at the wonders abounding? Didn’t they see the gorgeous displays with the innocence of a childlike goose? Were they not struck with the expansive magnificence and fresh appeal of this grocery store? Were they immune to the unique and wordless vistas surrounding them? Was Mother Goose the only one in the place who knew a pretty thing when she saw one?

Needless to say, it was anything but standard…

So there I was, blissfully capturing these images of the displays and departments with my smallish and nearly inconspicuous phone camera. The apples direct from the Garden of Eden, the artisanal cheeses from humble ruminants of the world, the charcuterie and various sausages, the seafood which had just swum in from wide blue oceans, the Sushi man with his kind and understanding smile, the sweet and savory curiosities of the bakery, the cases full of fresh flesh and mighty meats.

Divine delicatessen faire.

Divine delicatessen faire.

Sausage extravaganza.

Sausage extravaganza.

A mother lode of meats...

A mother lode of meats…

The Standard Market was a sight for sore eyes.

And then…

The comestible balloon of Mother Goose was harshly popped by the dour-faced woman behind the counter of the sausage display.

Husband Goose was quietly asking for a couple of polish weinerwurst and some sweet Italian salsiccia — Mother Goose was standing several yards away from him to spare him much embarrassment at my “unshopperlike” behavior. Somehow this elder lady of sour visage coupled us a a pair and proceeded to loudly admonish dear Husband Goose for the photographic actions of his wife.

“She’s not allowed to take pictures in this store!”

Suddenly the Standard Market became as silent as the grave. Benign suburban shoppers moved away from us, covering the eyes of their children. We stood alone, condemned by a sausage woman.

Mother Goose quickly slipped her phone into her large coat pocket and looked up towards the faraway ceiling as though she might spot a hot air balloon on the horizon if she only looked hard enough.

With our tails between our legs (if that is possible for a goose), we moved in the direction of the ultra modern checkout area, and quietly paid the price for shopping in this paradise (more than $75.00 for only seven items). Eyes downcast, we headed out the door clutching our small package of edibles and foodstuffs. Embarrassment followed us out to the car, other customers pointed fingers and whispered.

We vowed never to return to this place of our shame.

As with most of the stories that Mother Goose tells, there is a lesson to be learned.

When you shop at the Standard Market, leave your camera at home, but DO bring your BIG purse…

Meanwhile, Back in Spring Green

When we last heard from Mother Goose on vacation “up north” she was sleeping through Broadway-worthy production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Husband Goose carried her back to The Silver Star Inn, bed and breakfast, where they were residing for the weekend.

The unique Silver Star Inn and gardens

Our very private deck at The Silver Star. “What happens on the deck, stays on the deck…”

I can’t say enough about The Silver Star — it’s a lovely lodge in the middle of nowhere, decorated with thousands of photographic equipment, historical pieces and artwork. Proprietor Jean is the queen of breakfast food! And the hummingbirds buzz around your head whilst you consume vast quantities of coffee and French toast, peach sauce and sweet cheese cream on the front deck.

Our new friends, Jeff and Tracy, were persistent in their efforts to capture hummingbirds in their camera. It took 237 shots, but this one is PERFECT!

Only the friendliest people stay at The Silver Star so we were guaranteed to make great connections.

Husband Goose making a connection in Arena, Wisconsin. Yes, Arena.

The Gooses get very excited about bird watching. Besides the hummingbirds, we sighted a number of other birds, including a Scarlet Tanager. Perhaps you can spot the bright red bird in this photo…

Mother Goose nearly fell out of the car trying to capture this photo — obviously her first Scarlet Tanager…

You won’t want to miss the next chapter of our Spring Green story when we take yet another Frank Lloyd Wright tour…

Stay cool, drink lotsa water and be blessed today. Love, Mother Goose

Oyster Sandwiches?

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said, “is what we chiefly need: Pepper and vinegar besides are very good indeed.”


Remember the story of the Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll? These two slippery fellows decided to take a stroll along the beach one night when the moon, as well as the sun, were shining bright. They grieved and commiserated about the vast quantities of sand along the shoreline. The Walrus spotted a bed of oysters. Feeling magnanimous, he invited them to come along for a walk. They walked briskly and talked about many things.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

So they had a grand discussion about all of this, resting a bit because the over-weight oysters are out of breath. That’s when the guys begin talking about bread. Suddenly it seems that this party is out for a midnight oceanside picnic! How nice! The poor oysters turn blue and start to think that they’ve possible made some poor choices recently — maybe they should have listened to the older oyster who shook his head and went back to bed at the initial invitation.

The Walrus changes the subject and shows a vital interest in the lovely view at their picnic site. The Carpenter asks for some more bread and complains that his last slice had too much butter on it. They realize that the oysters have been very quiet — they just aren’t saying much anymore….

My favorite stanza of the poem:

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

And, of course, the unhappy ending of the poem:

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

Kids and Pretzels

Mother Goose is so blessed to have kids who like to help her out in the kitchen — there is no funner time than cooking with the young tater tots! This past weekend, Joe found a recipe for soft pretzels at Food.com that could be easily whipped up in the bread machine. And so we all dived in together!

We loaded up the bread machine and let it do its thing for an hour and twenty minutes. It is so nice for Mother Goose to have automation at this time — all that mixing and stirring and kneading and muscle-ing. Let’s just leave that to the young gals, right?

And there we were with the most amazing dough I have ever seen in the whole entire world. As we rolled it between our hands, it stretched perfectly and never once stuck to our hands or fingers. We commented over and over about the wonderful dough — I still haven’t gotten over the great texture of that soft pretzel dough!

A little shout out to King Arthur flour...

We formed and twisted the ropes into the proper shape and laid them carefully on the cookie sheet to rest and rise for awhile.

Aren't they so cute?

Meanwhile, Mother Goose got a nice big pot of water boiling on the stove. (Seems that most of my recipes call for a nice big pot of boiling water….) We gently dropped the pretzels into the boiling water, tenderly flipped them and removed them from their bath. I think this is a crucial step in the preparation of the soft pretzel, so do use care. And also do use the baking soda in the water. For some reason, that really helps hold the dough in place instead of dissolving the pretzels. Omigosh, we would have been crying our eyes out if our pretzels had dissolved in the boiling water….

And be sure to brush them with egg white or melted butter, and please sprinkle some stuff on them. We made some salty and some with parmie cheese.

Pop them in the oven and sit down to smell the baking pretzels. WOW, were they tasty! And they disappeared so quickly! Mother Goose just can’t get over the dough — so easy to handle. Have some fun with some kids today or tomorrow or this weekend — they’ll love you for it.

Kinda of pale, but very delicious...

Here’s the recipe!

Ingredients for making 8 pretzels (except we actually got 13 out of this batch!)

1 (1/4 ounce) package dry active yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
1 egg white, slightly beaten
coarse salt
butter

Directions:

1 Place ingredients in bread machine pan in the order suggested by the manufacturer.
2 Select Dough setting.
3 After the machine has completed its mission, it will beep.
4 Remove the dough onto a very lightly floured surface.
5 Divide into 4 parts.
6 Divide each fourth into 3 pieces.
7 Roll each piece into an 18 inch rope.
8 Shape rope into a circle, overlapping about 4 inches; from each end, leaving ends free.
9 Take one end in each hand and twist at the point where dough overlaps.
10 Carefully lift ends across to the opposite edge of circle.
11 Tuck ends under edge to make a pretzel shape; moisten and press ends to seal.
12 Place on greased cookie sheet.
13 Let rise, uncovered, until puffy, about 20 minutes.
14 In a 3-quart saucepan, combine 2 quarts of water and 1/3 cup baking soda; bring to a boil.
15 Lower 1 or 2 pretzels into the saucepan; simmer for 10 seconds on each side.
16 Lift from water with a slotted spoon.
17 Return to greased cookie sheet.
18 Let dry briefly.
19 Brush with 1 egg white slightly beaten.
20 Sprinkle with course salt or sesame seeds or leave plain.
21 If you leave them plain, after they bake dip into melted butter then in cinnamon and sugar mixture.
22 Bake at 425°F for 4 minutes; then turn cookie sheet around and bake 4 more minutes.
23 These are so good.

Tale of the Horseradish

Once upon a time in a place faraway, a plant was grown and cultivated for its medicinal and culinary benefits to mankind. It was the horseradish plant, but it was known by many other names. The Germans called it meerrettich. The English got some from the Germans, but they couldn’t handle the guttural germanic utterings. Because of this mispronunciation, it became known first as mareradish and finally as horseradish. It has also been called redcole in England and comically stingnose in some parts of the southern U.S.

Mother Goose is deeply indebted to the kind folks at Horseradish: A Root with Roots for so much information about this humble plant. The best news of all is that Horseradish has been named the 2011 Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association! Folks, that’s a good reason to stand up and cheer right now….. go ahead, I’ll wait…

If you read yesterday’s post about making Headcheese, you already know that Dana was also harvesting and processing Horseradish at the same time as he was boiling the piggy head. In many areas of the world, horseradish grows wild. Other areas are especially adapted to growing the plant, and are veritable “hot spots” for domestic cultivation. The Illinois side of the Mississippi River has been known for the herb as well as Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I guess they are just good rooty places! My brother’s root has been on his farm for years and years and years.

The first step is to dig up some roots. Dogs are perfect helpers for this. Harley thought it was all fun — he would grab the root and run away with it. Probably taking it to season the piggy hock wherever he buried that tender morsel.

When you’ve dug up your root and praised your pup, simply peel it and set it artfully in a pretty bowl.

For the next step, Mother Goose advises that you put on your safety goggles and keep a tissue or hanky handy. The roots are packed with powerful, volatile oils known as isothiocyanate which are released when processed or ground. This is what makes the root so very hot. The only substance which can tame the oil is vinegar, and the sooner it is applied the better. Hence, all horseradish recipes contain vinegar otherwise it is likely that the top of horseradish consumer’s head would blow off.

If you are using an old-fashioned meat grinder, that’s great! If you have an automatic and electric-powered food processor, that’s good too, but you obviously will not get the added benefit of exercising your arm muscles. Mother Goose has a meat grinder. Dana has the modern gadget because his arms are strong enough already.

If you are grinding by hand, consider running it through the grinder a couple of times to make it as fine as possible. If you are using a food processor, just turn it on and go outside and do some other farm work for awhile.

Here’s some more hot and spicy facts about Horseradish: In the United States, an estimated 24 million pounds of horseradish roots are ground and processed annually to produce approximately 6 million gallons of prepared horseradish. (Dana’s recipe called for one cup of chopped root, but small scale horseradish is fine with us.) It seems the horseradish capital of the world is in Collinsville, Illinois where they celebrate the humble root each May. Events include The Root Toss, the horseradish eating contest and of course, a recipe contest featuring Horseradish.

Again, I am grateful to the official website of horseradish for so much helpful information, and strongly encourage you to visit them. They have thousands of good ideas for using horseradish. It’s not just for flavoring your favorite beef roast or steak anymore!

AND, thanks to my dear sister Bunn for the pictures — you really helped us all to understand the process!

Mother Goose says, “Bee blessed today.”

It’s Headcheese. Yes, Headcheese.

Due to the graphic nature of this blogpost, Mother Goose would suggest that you send the kiddos out to play at this time. If you, yourself, are squeamish at the sight of piggy parts, please take the advice of Mother Goose and send yourself out to play.

It’s a pork product with a public relations problem. We sure do get excited at the smell of bacon frying — who doesn’t relish the prospect of a honey-baked ham in the oven? Mmmm… a rack of ribs on the BBQ slathered in sauce. And WOW hotdogs! But somehow at the Pork Product-Naming Convention, Headcheese got the short end of the stick. We squirm at the thought of Headcheese. Why is that? The two words, head and cheese, just don’t belong together, do they?

Possibly the problem lies in the question “What is it made from?” Is it really the head of a little porker? Has it really got some kind of cheese in it? What kind of cheese would it be? Semi-soft, firm or extra sharp? And do they really use brains in the processing? Is there “mystery” meat in Headcheese?

Mother Goose will attempt to answer your questions about Headcheese.

In days gone by when folks made more of their own food, it was an autumn tradition to harvest your crops and slaughter your fattened hog. Our parents and grandparents knew the importance of planning for the long cold winters by preparing food in advance and storing it. They followed the example of the lowly ant — work first and then play, don’t fiddle the day away, waste not want not, and all of that.

My brother, Dana, favors the “old ways”, and I love him for that. This past August, he purchased a local hog and treated us all to a Great Pig Roast in honor of his 50th birthday and the 25th Anniversary of the marriage to his blushing bride, Linda. He saved the head of the piggy in his freezer. And there it waited. Until yesterday.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Lynch

Besides a piggy head, Headcheese requires a large pot of boiling water, some chopped onion, and some helpers with a good sense of humor. My never, ever squeamish sister, Bunn, was happy to help with the creation of Headcheese, and I give her the credits for all of these amazing pictures.

As you can see the piggy is very clean. I don’t know if they gave him a bath before his photo shoot, but he seems quite hygienic for a little piggy. Even his ears are bright and shiny! Mother Goose is a stickler for hygiene, so this is a very impressive part of the process.

One of the next steps in making Headcheese is to prepare the head for the soup pot. I was told that after splitting the cranium, the brains were removed to a separate dish. And I’m not at all sure what Dana did with them, they were not added to the Headcheese at any point in the process. Good news, right? And you will notice in the following photography that there are only three little trotter hocks. That remains a mystery today, but I’m guessing that their young pup Harley might have run off with one of the feet and buried it in the sand hill out back.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Lynch

So, basically, just simmer these parts for a few hours! How simple is that! I tell you, friends, the old timers knew the best ways. There was no monosodium glutamate added to this, no artificial colors or flavors from the chemist’s laboratory, nothing added that you can’t pronounce or your kids can’t spell. I really like that idea! Mother Goose is all in favor of natural and organic whenever possible. By the way, there is no cheese in Headcheese either!

And when the parts are all tender, and the house is smelling wonderful, just remove the pork from the pot of water. One word of warning here: my brother said that one of the piggy teeth jumped out of the pot at some point when he was flipping the meat. Mother Goose advises you to be very careful — pig teeth are VERY sharp. Caution is to be advised at all times when preparing Headcheese.

Finally, after removing the pork from the greasy and oniony boiling water, carry it outside to your picnic table and start chopping and sorting. Slicing and dicing. Try to find all of the choice pork meat and skim away as much of the fat as possible. This is what makes Headcheese one of the healthiest lunchmeats you’d ever put on your homemade bread. It’s a terribly messy job, and I admire anyone who actually does this! But it’s all good.

An average-sized piggy head should make about two loaf pans of Headcheese. Lining the pans makes for much easier clean up afterwards!

Final step: chill. The Headcheese even has its own curing ingredient. It’s the naturally formed gelatin found within the bones of the animal and it’s all good for firming up the pork product called Headcheese, making it slice-able and easily eaten in a sandwich or served with crackers when your good friends and family show up unexpectedly.

Believe me, Mother Goose is very sorry she lives 600 miles away from her family. I would definitely show up unexpectedly today to enjoy some of my family’s Headcheese. Yes, it’s Headcheese!

Just a little postscript here: my brother is such a multi-tasker. Whilst the pork was cooking, he added siding to their chicken coop and also worked on the brakelines of sister Bunn’s truck. And they also made horseradish! And Mother Goose will tell you that story tomorrow.

Oscar Mayer Weinermobile Exposed

Mother Goose has been sitting on this egg for more than twenty-four hours, wondering and waiting to see if it should be exposed or not. I’ve decided it’s time to go public with this. We have just recently been informed that…..the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile is on a secret mission. You may see it on the road. You may see it parked at your local convenient store. You may see children gathered around the weinermobile smiling and laughing and eating hotdogs. My friends, don’t be fooled. This is very serious business.

You will notice that the writing is backward. Mother Goose has purposely disguised this picture so that our enemies and certain members of al-Qaeda would have more difficulty locating and identifying this operative. Because of the covert nature of this mission, I am not at liberty to discuss the true purpose and nature of The Whistle. But believe me, it is no ordinary child’s toy.

They travel across the country 24/7, criss-crossing the small towns, the villages, the cities and neighborhoods — always spreading the same message, coercing the innocent public into one specific activity. I will share it with you now, but please…let’s just be real quiet about it, OK?

The message and mission of Oscar Mayer’s Weinermobile is…..

Eat….more…..Oscar Mayer hotdogs….

Important Stats for a Goose

  • 64,774 honks to date

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