Memorial Day – USA Holiday

It has taken me a bit to collect my thoughts concerning this holiday, what it means, and what it should mean.

In the United States of America, Memorial Day has largely become an extra Federal holiday that allows a large number of Americans a day off to rest, grill outdoors, drink lots of beer, and in general celebrate. However, most of them don’t even know what they are actually celebrating.

There is so much more to this Day of Remembrance than just chilling in the back yard. A friend of mine made the following post on Facebook, and helped to solidify my own thoughts and feelings.

“Decoration Day was what the Grand Army of the Republic called it to begin with. A day to go to the cemetery and decorate the graves of the fallen. The date was chosen since there was no great battle of the Civil War fought then. It has changed a bit, we call it Memorial Day now, and we remember all who died in the line of duty in all of the wars which Americans have fought. It does not glorify battle or war, it remembers those who did not return to their families and homes. Fortunately of the many members of my family who served only one died during the conflict.  Uncle Sandy Fred Roy Duncan, Jr. died on the beach at Saipan during the Second World War. He is buried in the Punch Bowl American Military Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii. My father got to visit his grave on his way home from the Navy during the war.

My grandmother was given the opportunity to have Sandy moved home to Oklahoma after the war, but she said it had been too painful to lose him the first time and she did not think she could take burying him a second time. It is a beautiful place. But it is far from his home in Oklahoma. I had the good fortune to visit there one year at a conference in. Honolulu. I cried at his grave for my father. Sandy had been his best friend and younger brother. They had been inseparable until the draft took dad for the Navy and Sandy for the Marines.

God watch over all the families, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, children and grand children who will never see their loved ones again. And may we learn the wisdom to settle our differences with diplomacy rather than with warfare.”

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– Rt. Rev. Dr. Stephen F. Duncan

The following links provide both historical information on the holiday and strong opinion on the same. Please take a few moments to educate yourself, and to return the day to it’s original intent.

This link leads to the Wikipedia page for the United States holiday, Memorial Day.

Forgetting Why We Remember is an op-ed written by David W. Blight, published in the New York Times on May 29, 2011.
— Ann Cathey
Family and extended to family to numerous active duty personnel, veterans, and fallen.

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Memories of Colonel Bubbie’s, Galveston, TX

It may be an odd memory to share for the holiday season, but I never claimed to be normal. The photos below were taken in February 2015 just at the end of Mardi Gras.

The building at 2202 Strand in Galveston is a historic structure. It contained the iconic Colonel Bubbie’s Strand Surplus Senter for 42 years, making it the longest-running business on the famous Strand. Opening it’s doors in 1972, selling military equipment — gas masks, camo, canteens, mess kits, medals and insignias, you name it — encompassing 60 countries and conflicts from the Civil War to Iraq, it stood as a guiding light for historians and reinactors of all ages.

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“Col. Bubbie’s has the largest standing inventory of military surplus in the free world. If we don’t have it, and it is available, We’ll get it for you.”
-Sign posted at Colonel Bubbie’s

Until a few months before the business closed it’s doors for good, it was the go-to spot for local theater productions to get period uniforms. It was also a hot spot for reinactors from many periods. The shop assisted in outfitting the hit TV show “MASH” and war films as diverse as “Saving Private Ryan” and “1941,” among many others.

DSC_0471The building itself survived Hurricane Ike in 2008, no small feat considering the serious damage sustained by some nearby buildings.

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Meyer Reiswerg, Col. Bubbie’s founder, said he’d seen a ghost he named “Harold” living on the third floor of the building. Harold is reported to pushes thing off shelves and move things around, but is mostly just mischievous. “He’s a nice ghost,” Reiswerg was quoted. “I’ve gotten used to him. The first time I saw him, I was scared to death.”

Now the building stands, a forlorn testament to it’s builders and the will and pluck of the Reiswergs. The property is for sale if anyone wants to pick up where they left off and rebuild the Galveston landmark business.

My own memories, sadly, do not include ever having been inside, nor have I made Harold’s acquaintance. I’ve admired the architecture and the entrepreneurial spirit many times, though, and often have wished I were able to be on the bandwagon for restoring the place.

“Colonel Bubbie’s Strand Surplus Senter sold its last piece of military surplus this week, ending its run after 42 years, according to The Galveston County Daily News, on Christmas Eve. Back in October owner Suzie Reiswerg, widow of Meyer Reiswerg (who was known as Col. Bubbie to devoted customers), told the Houston Chronicle that the Christmas holiday was to be the popular outpost’s last stand.”
-as reported in the Houston Chronicle December 26, 2014.

We’ve been missing you, Colonel.

–Ann Cathey

Holiday Appetizers

Appetizers range from the simple to the decadent. They can act as snack food during the day, a lovely start to a meal, and finger foods for next day brunch.

Veggie Tray
A super simple and elegant snack offering takes a little effort and a decorative touch to sparkle during your holiday gatherings. Pick up a pre-made veggie or cheese tray. Simply lay out the veggies or cheeses on an attractive tray. Place a dip for the veggies or a mustard for the cheeses in a glass bowl in the middle of the tray. Using your own serving platter rather than the black plastic that usually comes with the party tray will have your guests thinking you went to more trouble on their behalf.

Simple Salads
Any salad that can be tossed together the day of your event is a quick addition to your meal plan. A harvest salad is a twist on the traditional green salad that is sure to delight. Toss together baby Romaine and spinach, dried cranberries, diced roasted butternut squash, thin slices of radish. This salad lends itself to the maple vinaigrette below. Prep everything the day before if you prefer and toss the salad with a dressing just before serving.

Maple Vinaigrette
Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use and refrigerate any leftovers.

Warm Chicken Salad
This appetizer or brunch offering is a warm and cozy touch of fall for your guests. As an appetizer, use chicken and apple. If you are serving this later in the weekend, you  might consider turkey and pear as a variation. Prepare your chicken salad as you usually do. Add a hint of Dijon mustard. Mix in chopped apple or sliced seedless grapes, broken walnuts and a drop of honey. For the turkey variation, use pear and pecan. Toast slices of baguette and top with a piece of lettuce. Add a scoop of the salad and serve.

Hope you all enjoy these these little suggestions on making your holiday gatherings more enjoyable for everyone.

–Ann Cathey

 

 

Holiday Quickies

Take a little bit of stress off your holiday preparations by being ready to take care of your family before and after the big day. These hints might help, or spark your own ideas on making things a little easier in the host’s home.

Pet Preparation
The holidays are not only stressful for you, they can also stress out your pets. Set up safe zones for your animals where visitors are not allowed. This gives Fluffy or Rover a place to go when the family gets too loud or boisterous. Make sure their feeding stations are ready for them and don’t allow their schedules to be interrupted if it can be helped. Your companion animals rely on you for their maintenance and holidays are no exception. Be prepared for accidents caused by all the excitement, be it spilled water or an accidental piddle puddle.

The Night Before
With all the cleaning, decorating, and food preparation that’s going on, take a beak from it all on the night before your gathering. Have a pizza night, or Chinese takeout. You don’t have to cook anything extra – let someone else take are of that! You don’t have to worry about plating, and cleanup is quick and easy.

The Morning After
The day after Thanksgiving or Christmas is a time for hot coffee or cocoa, relaxing a bit, and finding inventive ways to use up those leftovers. A breakfast suggestion is a sort of pizza. Use a flatbread like naan or even a flour tortilla as the base. Top it with shredded turkey or ham, cheese, sliced mushrooms, even a fried or scrambled egg. Bake just long enough to heat everything up and melt the cheese. for a rustic touch, sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley or scallions. If you want to get truly decadent, add a dollop of sour cream.

 

I hope these tips help you enjoy your holidays with a little less stress and more laughter and gaiety.

–Ann Cathey

Holiday Advance Prep

Save yourself some time and stress by preparing as much in advance as possible. Here are some suggestions from our kitchen to yours for simplifying your holiday cooking.

Cookie Dough
Cookies are a great treat! Most cookies can be mixed up in advance, rolled into logs and frozen. When needed, they may be pulled out and sliced, baked, and served warm to your guests. Any type of cookie that doesn’t require a little something extra like a sugar crystal dusting or toppings is great for this preparation. Frozen cookie dough can also be used as an activity for kids or adults. Get together in the kitchen and make cookies together with family chats and a glass of wine or juice.

Stuffing Suggestions
Stuffing isn’t always cooked inside the bird. It is often baked alongside the bird so there’s plenty for everyone. The dry ingredients for stuffing can be mixed up to 2 days ahead of time and refrigerated until needed. Mix in the wet ingredients just before baking the dish.

For an extra layer of flavor in your stuffing, add pre-cooked and crumbled sausage or bacon. The sausage can be spicy or mild, sage or Italian spiced. Use whatever suits your meal plan and give your stuffing a boost. Diced apple, apricot or pear will also add an extra dimension to stuffing.

Sweet Treats
Unless it’s something that you want to serve hot out of the oven, many desserts can be made up a day or two in advance. Pumpkin or sweet potato pies refrigerate well. Filling for fruit pies and tarts can be mixed up in advance, stored in an airtight container and refrigerated until it’s time to build the pie and bake it. Dry ingredients for gingerbread, brownies, and cakes can be mixed up and stored in airtight containers without refrigeration. Simply add the wet ingredients and bake when you are ready.

Thawing The Bird
Frozen turkey, duck, goose, or whatever flavor of bird you desire for your holiday feast may be purchased weeks in advance and kept frozen until it’s time for the thaw. Remember to reserve space for thawing your turkey or other fowl. These meats should never be thawed at room temperature to avoid bacterial infection. Always thaw your bird at 40F or below, and allow 12 hours to thaw per four pounds of bird. Place the bird in a pan to avoid leaking into your refrigerator.

May your holidays begin and end with love!

–Ann Cathey

Perking Up the Holidays

Every family has their traditions and traditional dishes. Food doesn’t need a major change to bring something new to the table. Subtle changes work wonders for brightening up the expected fare.

For example, buttery yeast rolls pair well with almost every savory dish. From the bread service at Thanksgiving to the making of slider sized sandwiches over the rest of the weekend. these rolls are a treat for many of us. A simple cinnamon honey butter will spice them up with a slightly sweeter take on the traditional butter, and stay in keeping with the scents and sensations of the season.

Cinnamon Honey Butter
Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey (agave also works well)
1tsp ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Store in an airtight container until it’s time to serve. May also be kept frozen for up to 1 month.

For a sweeter blend, add 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to the mix.

 

Speaking of sweet accents, if you are serving desserts and want a whipped topping but are tired of the stuff available in the grocery coolers, try making your own.

Vanilla Whipped Cream
Ingredients:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat cream, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until firm peaks form. Seal in airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Stir before serving.

Variations on this theme include adding a bit of pumpkin pie spice, just cinnamon, or any of a number of extracts like orange, lemon, maple, or rum.

 

Nuts, be they raw, candied, in stuffing, or in pie, are a staple ingredient for many holiday feasts. With the popularity of spicy dishes on the rise, adding a kick to candied pecans or almonds is popular. They can be served as a snack, a salad accent, or added to various other dishes such as yams or pie.

Spicy Candied Pecans
Ingredients:
3 tbsp corn syrup
2-1/4 tsp cinnamon
2-1/4 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper (to taste)
1-1/2 cups whole pecans

Combine corn syrup and spices in a medium bowl. Gently fold in nuts, continuing until well coated. Transfer to parchment paper on a baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake at 325F for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a foil sheet and separate while still warm. Allow to cool thoroughly and transfer to an airtight container. Nuts keep for about 3 weeks.

The spiciness of this treat can be revved up or down according to the tastes of your family. Pumpkin pie spices also make a tasty variation!

 

Pumpkins are good for more than just jack-o-lanterns and cooking. This quick arrangement is useful on the table and in the kitchen.

Pumpkin Table Accent
Ingredients:
1 medium pumpkin
1 bunch of flowers (seasonal bouquets, mums, or carnations all work well)

Cut the top of your pumpkin around the stem, making a hole large enough to be able to scrape out the inside. Remove the seeds and reserve them for roasting. Scrape out the pumpkin meat in strips, reserving for later cooking. Don’t make the walls of the gourd too thin, or they may not last as long as you would prefer. Insert a plastic cup with water for the flowers. Arrange the flowers to please the eye and viola! You have an accent or centerpiece for your holiday entertaining.

The seeds may be roasted for snacking as with the nut recipe shown above. The pumpkin meat should be rendered and used in muffins, pies, or whatever you like using pumpkin for, or frozen for later use. Pumpkin will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

 

I hope these suggestions help to make your holidays a little more interesting!

–Ann Cathey

Amazeballs! is Amazing!

I wrote about a cottage industry business on Galveston Island a couple of months ago: Amazeballs! I’m writing about them again because they pulled a rabbit out of the proverbial hat this last weekend for the birthday of my partner in crime, Christopher.

Allow me to introduce you to their idea of a birthday cake, in five taste-bud pleasing versions of chocolate.

11693828_926019154123770_3760396705015053560_n 11705186_926019267457092_2726921586160241547_nThe top center cakeball is a cool and luscious lemon. The next layers down in order are Mocha Brownie (a requested experiment), Roxy’s Mahem (chili lime), and Chocolate Chocolate, with some test subjects thrown in with alternating colors. I can’t spill the beans on those yet, as they are not part of the official flavor lineup just yet.

Yes, there is a cake beneath all those cakeballs! It is also chocolate, as requested, topped with chocolate fondant and a chocolate glaze. Can you tell the birthday boy likes chocolate?

While this cake may not look terribly large, there are about 20 small servings of the cake along with 29 regular sized cakeballs (about 2 ounces each?) and 10 half size balls. That’s 35-40 small serving of extremely rich sweetness.

If you need an original design, or just want a chocolate mountain like this one for any occasion, give Amazeballs a call and get your order in today!

–Ann Cathey