Mack's Corner

This Week

The Eucalyptus Christmas Tree Stand

I had a cold one Christmas. PK (my wife) made me drink some tea that she got at a health food store. I can't spell it, but it starts with an "E" and sounds like the name of a 3rd world country. It smells like floor wax, tastes like it too, probably made from some part of a Yak. When I came to church I put some "Mentho-Lyptus" cough drops in my pocket and forgot about them. It was snowing really hard, those big wet snow flakes almost snow globs. By the time I got inside I was soaked, you know that's my favorite thing, being wet all day. About noon my nose was all stopped up so I thought I would get one of those cough drops out of my pocket, they had all melted and I had a pocket that smelled like a eucalyptus rain forest, I smelled like a wet dog.

I've been a computer programmer since 1980 (even before there were PC's) and I've always been a big believer in RSS = really simple solution. That means if there is a short, easy, simple way to do something, even if it's kinda crude, then do that. The fancy elaborate way is not always the best. We have another word for the RSS way = elegant.  One year when I was living with a couple of guys and we got a Christmas tree, a really cheap Christmas tree, a free Christmas tree, the last Christmas tree. There was a Christmas tree lot down the street and we knew if we waited long enough that the guy would close up shop and leave the last 4 or 5 trees there for the taking. He closed up around noon on Christmas Eve and we went shopping. The tree had two crossed pieces of wood on the bottom to make it stand up in the Christmas tree lot. You're supposed to take that off and stand it up in a regular stand. We didn't have a stand and it wouldn't stay up. They wanted to tie it to something and put bricks around the bottom, all kinds of stuff. They had moved it all around the room to try to find places to tie it off. Finally they had decided to get some 2 X 4's to brace it up from the side. They were headed to the hardware store and I told them to wait … I got 4 big nails and taped them in to the tops of each end the crossed pieces of wood on the bottom of the tree as they all watched. Then I said "Where do you want it?" .. They pointed. I moved the tree to the spot  and as they looked on in horror I drove the nails through the boards in to the hardwood floor.  … RSS … it worked great. They all looked at each other, shrugged and started decorating the tree.. 

God's like that. We do all kinds of elaborate things to fix our lives, when the solution is really simple, God's just waiting to show it to us. And when you find it, it's like that eucalyptus forest hiding in your pocket, it lets you breathe a little.

If you would like me to help you stand up your Christmas tree, just call. I've got plenty of nails. You're on your own getting it out…


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

I love risotto. I'm sitting here on a cold damp day and a big bowl of hot, rich, risotto (even for breakfast) would be great. This is from Gordon Ramsay's Maze Cookbook. The recipe is from Jason Atherton. This guy is a world class chef who like most of them makes great simple dishes and then puts several of them on one plate together to make a very complex meal. The magic is the way the things in the dish work together..  This is really easy and really great .. You could do like the chef does and make this the bottom layer of a more complex dish.. or just all by itself ..

Butternut squash risotto toasted walnuts (walnuts are optional)

1/3 cup olive oil

2 shallots, peeled, chopped

1 1/2 cups risotto type rice (either Arborio or Carnaroli rice .. don't use plain rice, it won't work)

4 cups chicken stock

6 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese (use the real thing.. I know it's expensive , but you only need a little and the rest will last forever in your fridge)

3 tbsp mascarpone cheese (this is some of the magic!!)

8 tbsp butternut squash puree (1 butternut squash, cut in half, clean out seeds, peel off skin with a potato peeler, cut in to 1/2 inch pieces, cook in boiling water for 10 min (till soft), drain, mash by hand or process in food processor or process with a food mill or process with immersion blender or smash it through a potato ricer) …

7 tbsp butter cut in small pieces

Salt & pepper

1 cup walnuts toasted (optional)

To toast walnuts: spread them in any baking pan and put in a 300 degree oven.. Watch!!!! ..don't let them burn .. as soon as you start to smell them, take them out and put them on a plate to cool .. simple

To make the Risotto:

Heat the oil over low heat, add the shallots and cook for 5 min.  (Cooking any veg over low heat is called sweating. You should have no browning on the vegetables.. you are just trying to get the flavor in to the oil and to soften the veg)…

Add the rice and cook stirring for 1 min.

Add 3 cups of chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 8 min.

THE COOL PART!!! … If you were going to serve this later, drain the rice (Save the drained stock) and spread it out on a plate or sheet pan to cool..(this can be done hours ahead) Just before you're ready to serve put the rice and the drained stock along with the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock in a pan and simmer until the stock is almost all absorbed in to the rice and the rice is soft but still has some bite.. not mush ……

(If you are not going to serve it later, just add the last cup of stock and simmer till almost all of the stock is absorbed.)

Add Parmesan cheese, mascarpone cheese, and squash puree and stir to combine… Finally add the butter cubes, stir, and season with salt & pepper.. Taste! Taste! Taste! …. Re-season .. it should be deliciously creamy..

To Serve: Divide among warm plates and top with Parmesan shavings and toasted walnuts .. sit by a fire, get your Irish Setter to lay by your feet, put your favorite blanket on your lap, and turn on "It's a wonderful life" … Merry Christmas..


How about saving a kid's life!!

When you give Platelets it's like giving St Jude $700 - $1000. If we don't give them, they have to buy them.

Giving Platelets is like giving blood, it just takes longer (1 1/2 hours) and you get all of your blood back (so you can do it every week if you want) . I know it's a long trip to go all the way down to St Jude, but you may be saving a kid's life . plus you get to watch a movie while you're there. Call Kim at 901.595.2024 and she'll setup an appointment and treat you like family. Just tell her you're from Hope.

Directions: From Poplar, turn north on Third Street, then right on Lauderdale/Jackson Ave (first right after you go under the expressway). Enter through the north guard gate (you'll see the Danny Thomas Pavilion. Gold top).

Tell the guard at the gate that you are here to donate blood. The guard will instruct you where to park. You will then enter the hospital by the red side door closest to the blood donor parking lot. The Blood Donor Center is in the southwest corner of the hospital on the ground floor.

Appointment times are generally available Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Except on Tuesdays they start at 9:15am.

See you this weekend. Bring a friend. It's going to be great!!!



Posted by Mack Oates at 9:34 AM