And So..The Museum

 

#mwisdmatters

As I heard my teaching partner Skipper Bennett describe this museum the other day, The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is “an exquisite little jewel-box of a museum.” I explored that jewel box again as we visited the museum with a group of 6th graders from Travis Elementary School this week. I found some new gems inside.

The building, designed by Philip Johnson, is a work of art on its own. But for the next two years, the building atrium is graced by a lovely installation work by Dallas-based Mexican artist Gabriel Dawe, Plexus no. 34, 2016. What fun to see the open-mouthed astonishment of our students inspired by this ephemeral art work. dawe-3

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On the atrium stairs at Amon Carter

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A soft web of over 80 miles of sewing thread is on display in the changing light of the atrium. In my head the colors sang to me, sounding like the whispers of wind over a harp.

With a little over one hundred students in two separate tour groups, the Museum Educators split our students up into workable groups of eleven or twelve and went on a 90 minute tour. The trip combined the study and writing of poetry and how it can be inspired by art. So with a dual purpose, our students got a lot of mileage out of those 90 minutes.

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One of the second gems on the trip was our students’ access to the Amon Carter’s research library, which I had incorrectly assumed was only available for scholarly research. The library was manned that day by Archivist and Reference Services Manager Jonathan Frembling, who was absolutely wonderful and friendly with our students, showing them  Josef Albers color plates and Calder pieces and reading poetry with enthusiasm and great feeling.  He said something that stuck with me, “Writing is your chance at a kind of immortality, the words you write may live long after you are gone.” dsc00643What a great way to talk to students and a key concept when art work (visual communication) and poetry (written communication) are compared and combined . Our students separated out and wrote poetry, then read it aloud. It was a nice moment.

dsc00619He invited us back to bring student groups and offered to put together any research materials we might need to use on a future project or artist. He showed Mr. Bennett and I an original survey of the Grand Canyon, made before photography was available, illustrated with stunning intricate line drawings. I found this part of our visit especially meaningful, surrounded by hundreds of art documents and books beautifully bound in leather and carefully preserved. There is a rich musky scent and feel to a quiet wood paneled room filled with journals and old books that just can’t be duplicated.

As the tour wound through the museum, they made several stops, taking in and writing about a diverse group of artworks, one of which is a newly acquired piece by George Bellows, with a surprising vivid color that was unexpected.

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We also stopped at the classic Dash for the Timber, hands down my favorite of the western art in Amon Carter’s collection.

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dsc00590invented-worldsbridgetdsc00608dsc00633It was a memorable trip, made comfortable and meaningful by the Museum Educators. A special thanks to those Educators, I don’t have all their names. But to Erin Long and Bridget Thomas and all the others, thank you so much. We felt very welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

George’s Christmas Ham

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My husband George is a great cook. Never scared to try something new, this year he wanted to make his own Christmas ham. Not the pre-cured ham that comes already cooked but the real thing; a fresh ham shank, butt end. He started with a great recipe from Weber’s at http://www.weber.com/weber-nation/blog/pecan-smoked-fresh-ham-with-maple-glaze-on-the-wsm and modified it a little for our tastes. Tender and juicy, the meat has the best characteristics of pulled pork mixed with a not-too-salty ham taste. Definitely a keeper!

 

The Pig
9-10 pound ham shank (not precooked, some people call these “green”, which sounds a little weird) A note of admiration here for our butchers at Brookshire’s Grocery Store in Weatherford, Texas, who talked with George about this little project and held us a ham shank from their Christmas order. He told us they usually only get these in at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We can request one anytime.

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Ham shank and rub.

 

The Rub
½ cup brown sugar, dark
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons black pepper, ground coarse
2 tsp cayenne pepper, ground (optional)

the-rub

Score the fat cap on the ham shank to allow the rub to soak into the meat. Mix rub ingredients and apply to the meat liberally. He wrapped ours in plastic wrap and refrigerated it for 48 hours. Reserve some rub for application right before you smoke it. Make sure you set the meat out of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before you put it on the smoker. We used the coarse ground black pepper, but next time will use a smaller grind to keep it out of your teeth.

wrapped-up

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Scored and dry-rubbed ham.

The Glaze:
½ cup honey
2 teaspoons black pepper, ground
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup (not imitation flavored)

Mix ingredients and bring to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Reduce by half. Be sure to watch this carefully because it can boil over really easily. I won’t tell you how I know that. Glaze the ham every two hours. He used a foil pan underneath to catch the fat drippings. Makes clean-up easier.a-thing-of-beauty

 

 

 

 

The Wood:
8-10 pc apple wood chunks (presoaked in water)
apple wood-infused charcoal

The original recipe called for pecan wood, which is a little strong for our tastes, so we used apple wood instead. After he set the smoker bed with charcoal, he also needed three additional chimney starter’s full of charcoal to maintain the desired heat for the six-hour smoking time.

We have a big off-set smoker so the temperature that Weber wanted, 250 degrees, is a little tough to maintain for six hours. He cooked the ham shank six hours between 200 and 220 degrees on the smoker and finished it in the oven covered with foil at 250 degrees for at least two hours. We use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the meat is at an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.

Happy eating!

Swiss Cheese and Sausage Quiche

 

 

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I honestly can’t remember the first time I had quiche. I know my mom never made it; my Air Force Senior Master Sargent father did not take to such food, but being a child of the 60’s; which means a time before eggs and cream became a bad thing, I must have had it at restaurant. I was hooked.

Definitely not a diet meal, but in cold weather, a big puffy sausage, egg and cheese pie really hits the spot. I have a green salad on the side to make myself believe I am eating something healthy. This quiche is also good cold the next day.

Homemade pork sausage is a snap to make and doesn’t have those nasty little gristly bits that the store-bought breakfast sausages have in them. I must give credit here to Bobby Flay, who I watched make this sausage on the Food Network and then tweaked the spices to fit my palate. I use pre-made pie crust for my quiche, because I have never learned the art of a good pie crust. Gives me something to work for.

Hope you enjoy.

First, the sausage.

Homemade Pork Sausage

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon (at least) rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

Mix spices and ground pork together. Split meat mixture in half. Sauté half the sausage until brown, breaking it up into small pieces. Drain on paper towels. Make four patties with the remainder and save for breakfast sausages.

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Sausage for quiche.

 

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Breakfast sausage for the next day.

For the quiche.

Custard

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup white wine (or you can skip this and use more milk or cream)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Beat eggs and add milk, cream, wine, salt, flour and cayenne. Mix well.

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Assembly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  • Place one store- bought pie crust (or make your own) in a deep dish pie plate.
  • Place browned sausage in crust.
  • Chop 8 oz. of Swiss cheese and place on top of sausage.

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Pour custard on top of filling and bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned.

 

Mom’s Dressing

Mom’s Cornbread Dressing.

“Why is the dressing green?” my husband whispered in my ear. It was his first Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house. “Sage, my dear, the spice of the gods.” I whispered back. One or two big aluminum foil pans of the slightly green, spicy dressing, redolent with black pepper, onions, salty bits of giblets and turkey pan drippings scented my mom’s house every Thanksgiving and Christmas. I don’t know where she learned to make her dressing, she did not talk about cooking with her mom, but Lord it was good. There was no written recipe, but I watched her make this so often and tasted it for her so many times that the making of it is imprinted on my DNA. She would tell us kids, “Come taste this for me and see if it has enough sage.” knowing full well it was perfect; she just wanted to see our eyes roll back in our heads like sharks at a feeding frenzy.

Why is it that every daughter tries to recreate the taste of their mother’s cooking? I think it is one of those rites of passage that define us a family. So for this Texas girl, I try each holiday to recreate that taste, with maybe a little less sage in deference to my husband’s palate. dsc00256His contribution was this knockout smoked turkey breast. But that recipe is for another post. So this year, in my mom’s honor, I pass along the recipe as I remember it; simple in its ingredients, but layered with deep, happy memories of family gatherings. I took pictures and promise I got no kickbacks from the manufacturer’s presented. Substitute as you choose. I try to make the cornbread and the bisquick (mom called this bread pone) the day before the meal. Fresh breads are too moist and will gum up your dressing.

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Get a big turkey roaster-size aluminum pan and break up the cornbread and bread pone into crumbs. dsc00248In a small pan, cook the turkey giblets in enough salted water to cover with a roughly chopped onion, a stalk of chopped celery, a bay leaf and some pepper corns. Peel away any tough parts and chop the turkey giblets. Set aside.

In a small skillet, melt a stick of butter and sauté the chopped onion until tender and translucent. dsc00251Pour the cooked onion and butter over the bread crumbs. Add the chopped turkey giblets. If you have roast turkey drippings, pour them in too. Add at least one half container of sage and salt and pepper to taste.

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Mix enough of the chicken stock to moisten the mixture to the consistency you like. For me it takes one or two cans of chicken stock. When you mix this dressing, you have to use your hands. You cannot feel the consistency of the dressing through a spoon. Don’t be rough, as Emeril Lagasse says “This is a food of love thing.”

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Bake in a 350° oven for 30-45 minutes. There should be just a browned lovely crust on the top. I did not take a picture when it came out of the oven (duh). Too busy eating. I’ll update it with one at Christmas.

Ingredients:

2 packages of Bisquick

2 packages of yellow cornbread mix (not sweet)

2 cans of chicken stock

1 stick of butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 or 2 bottles of powdered sage

salt and pepper to taste

Turkey giblets cooked and chopped

 

Ten Things I’m Thinking Before School Starts

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If you are a teacher, your mind is running at warp speed right now. I end up talking to myself. So here I am writing those rambling thoughts down on paper to get them out of my head.

  1. Do First Things First – I’m a big fan of Stephen Covey and while I will never be that organized I still remember to make a list each day and prioritize. What to do first? Things that will help your students succeed and keep you sane. The rest will wait.
  2. Ask the Question – At the Scavenger Hunt to introduce our newly arriving fourth graders to a new building I met a lot of parents and a few siblings I’d had in my class previously. I jokingly asked a big sister if there was anything I needed to know about the little sister. The mother then told me a vital piece of health information that I really needed to know. I would have received that info later with other documentation, but now I know early. Ask the question. “Is there anything I need to know about your child?” You will be amazed at what they tell you.
  3. The Two Things Kids are Most Afraid of the First Day of School – 1) Am I in the right place? I’m a Fine Arts teacher so students come to me from their core room. 2) Will the teacher pronounce my name correctly? School can be an overwhelming place for many elementary school age students. Harry Wong’s great book The First Days of School always helps me remember that. Check their schedule at the door and ask them how to say their name – takes care of Number 1 and 2. Put your name and your class someplace big and visible. Introduce yourself.
  4. Tell them. Practice. Make them tell you. – Imagine a little marquee running across each child’s forehead. It says, “What do you want me to do?” Answer that question. Make sure they understood by having them show you and tell you. Routines are your friend.
  5. Negative People are Energy-Sappers-Stay away from them. And don’t be one. Enough said.
  6. Have Patience and Compassion – Adults and children have reasons for what they do. Very often you don’t know the whole story. See number 2.
  7. Treat the Secretaries and Janitors with Respect – They run the building and can save your life in a myriad of ways. Besides it’s just the right thing to do with anyone.
  8. Teaching is a service industry. – You are there to serve a lot of customers. The students. The school administration. The parents. The community. Serve. That’s what they pay you for.
  9. Communicate – Talk to your coworkers and principals. Tell them what you are doing. Ask them what they are doing. They cannot read your mind and they are just as busy as you are. Listen more than you talk.
  10. Have Balance – Every day know that you did the best you could and that you now need to leave the worries and work at school. The people waiting for you at home deserve your best too. You will not be any good to them if you are exhausted or not mentally there. Be healthy. Do something for yourself every day. Sleep. Laugh. Work with a happy heart.

Garden to Table

 

Summer. In Texas. And the squash plants have lost their minds. Yellow squash are the Incredible Hulk of the garden world. Turn your back on them for one minute and they get angry. Very angry. And BIG..very big.

Ready to be picked
Ready to pick…again.
Uh Oh
Uh oh.

 

NEXT year, we vow we are not going to plant four yellow squash plants, even though we love yellow squash. Right.

 

 

 

 

But we just dug the last of the potatoes and have lovely little red onions to use. Potato salad! And devilled eggs.

 

So to go with, Dr. Smoky has brined and grilled bone-in chicken breasts. The Sauce

 

Blooming Basil and Lavendar
The basil is blooming. So is the lavender. Made a nice arrangement.

 

But next year, two squash plants. Just two.

 

Bread and Butter Pickles

With the abundance of rain we had in late May here in Weatherford, Texas, the pickling cucumbers got a little ahead of us. Really, they got huge, it seemed like overnight. My practical husband said he would save the day and whipped up a batch of bread and butter pickles with fresh garden onions.

This time around he did not let the cucumbers sit in salt to drain for an hour. They produced a little more liquid, but did not dilute the pickling broth that we could taste and were just as crunchy.

  • fresh pickling cucumbers
  • 1 sliced white onion


Heat the following items to a boil. Pour over sliced cucumbers and onion. Let cool to room temperature for an hour, then refrigerate. Good to eat in a couple of hours, better if they sit overnight. He’s made these twice now and we can’t get enough of them.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric (we did not have, so left this out)

Recipe courtesy of The Recipe Girl.