Monday, December 27, 2010

Hey there big girl, want some candy??

Candy. The stuff of children's dreams, something to hock your milk money for, a product that, according to your mother, can rot the teeth right out of your head if you don't brush your teeth before the taste even leaves your mouth, that will make a diabetic drop dead if they eat even a mint (that one probly came from my brother). They've made movies about the stuff, some holidays are becoming homages to it, and clothing is even made out of it - but in MY mind "candy panties" cease to be edible once they are removed from the box (not that I'VE ever owned any).

I grew up living maybe a mile from the quaint little bohemian town of Multnomah, a suburb in the SW part of Portland. Well, it was just a small town then, NOW it's considered "quaint & bohemian"....Portland is weird and full of aged hippies, and I think they've found a nice niche there. And although I found it interesting and somewhat entertaining - the gift and novelty shops, little cafe's and pub-ish establishments etc, it lacks the substance it had when I was a kid and it was still a real town.

There was a hardware store, a ladies clothing shop, a diner, a bar, a grocery store, a music shop, a hobby shop, and my two favorites, a Rexall Drug and Trapp's Bakery. Many a day I squandered my milk money on a maple bar on the way to school, all the while wishing I had enough to buy a "skate", which was a delightful thin crispy pastry covered with cinnamon sugar and bigger than your whole head. Which was saying a lot considering I looked like a bobble-head when I was little and I still can't wear hats even when they're men's X-Large. That bakery was like walking into heaven....I can still close my eyes and taste the maple icing on that doughnut with pure delight as my bones slowly disintegrate into a fine powder due to a lack of calcium in my growing years.

The Rexall Drug was a place of wonder too - like I wonder how they got so much crap into one dinky little store. I think it was a lot like those shops at the beach that have crappy little souvenirs made of seashells and nuts, and a few clothing items, drugstore stuff (altho I can honestly say I do not recall any health and beauty aids whatsoever), and of course, the mother lode of candy in every color, shape and form. They still had the little glass bins, each one filled with penny candies - pixy stix, root beer barrels, wax lips and soda bottles, that black and white taffy, and Bazooka Joe - I could stand in front of that display for eons trying to figure out the best way to stretch a dime.

And I think I had money more often than my siblings, because I was always on the lookout for money, and was not embarrassed to dig for it - my route to school included every vending machine, phone booth, paper box and even bubble gum machine in town to check for jams, forgotten change and even stuck money...if some idiot was dumb enough to put a dime in a quarter or nickel slot and not know how to get it out, I was all over it. They give me crap about it to this day, but it's just jealousy....and I never once got the dread "lugey" or razor blade they were always warning me about...jerks.

My sister's favorite was lemon drops - not the lemonheads in the little boxes, but the big kind with sugar on em that would remove the skin from the roof of your mouth like sandpaper taking the finish off mom's chippendale end table. I thought they were OK, but preferred sour candy - I now have something called "Geographic Tongue", and firmly believe it was due to a steady diet of Jolly Ranchers, Sweetarts and Pixy Stix in my formative years. I have to be careful now, because citric acid will make it hurt like the dickens in short order, but I still love it.

So lemon sister introduced me to a fine recipe a few years ago, for the more sophisticated and adult Lemon Drop - one with vodka that if you drink enough of, will take you back to your childhood...the part where you're a drool factory with no bladder control. So don't drink that many....if you're alone and the vodka in the bottle gets below the top of the label, you should stop. Trust me. I find it hilarious that this recipe came from a Catholic High School fund-raising cookbook - but then you know all about us Catholics and alcohol....Jesus performed miracles involving it, so it's perfectly acceptable in moderate amounts. So remember that label tip....

Lemon Drop Mix

Simple Syrup:
3/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. water

Boil for a minute or so, or until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool.

1 C. fresh squeezed lemon juice* (FRESH. unless you LIKE the idea of purgatory)
1/3 C. fresh squeezed orange juice** (I have been known to use frozen)

Mix together with cooled syrup, keep refrigerated. It will mold eventually, so try to use it within a couple weeks....once I had to throw out over a quart of it and I still tear up thinking about it.

To make a Lemon Drop:
1. Rub the rim of a martini glass (or a quart jar, whatev) with a wedge of lemon
2. Dip in sugar (superfine if you have it)
3. In a cocktail shaker (I use a 4 cup measuring cup because I am a hick and don't have a martini shaker), pour 2 parts mixer with 1 part Absolut Citron Vodka - don't expect it to taste the same or even good if you aren't using this DEFINITELY makes a difference
4. Add crushed ice and shake or stir until very cold
5. Strain or pour into glass with ice - ice is a choice, and I like to water down my drinks.
6. Enjoy until you are pleasantly buzzed and have become the most witty person in the room. Unless you were anyway, then just drink until someone informs you that you just ate a plastic grape from the fruit bowl on the sideboard.

*5 lbs. of lemons will make 4 batches, so it will take about 1-1/4 lb. per batch
**1 good sized orange will probably give you 2/3 C. juice

Enjoy, and just in time for New Year's Eve - may you be healthy, happy and moderately sober on the first day of 2011!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Family Hazing: Sport or a Test of Character?

I thought with Christmas winding down the the last few minutes, and the New Year fast approaching, that I should suggest a family tradition so you don't have to wait until Easter to foist a new one off on yours. We all have ours, from dressing up in old-timey clothes and caroling to neighbors who will hide behind the curtains rather than open up their door to a bunch of dorks that don't even sing "Santa Baby", to Advent calendars that teach children that Jesus coming to earth as a flesh-and-blood human being is always predicated by a delicious chocolate for 24 days prior. Good luck getting those kids through an entire Christmas Mass....

I have to tell you that when I was a kid, we actually did go caroling door to door - we lived in a suburb of Portland and my parents thought that was a keen idea. Most of the time people did not come to the door...I mean really, it was the 60's, and I mean NINETEEN SIXTY'S you smart ass...we did not drive sleighs or wear top hats, and it was just a weird thing to do then. Sometimes I wonder if our own parents sent us out with our musty-smelling songbooks they must have rescued from a moldy church basement and giggled furiously thinking how stupid we must have looked to all the neighbors. Luckily I was young enough to think it was fun, and that I could actually sing....and sometimes they would open the door and give us a piece of candy or something - it's a good thing kids are stupid.

We have a family tradition that is at least as old as me - a half a century or more qualifies it as official in my book, and no newcomer to this clan can escape it entirely - it has been handed down generation to generation, and all those born into it accept it like taking breath. It's like having two arms, freckles, or pasty white skin - you can't imagine being in our family without it. The newcomers, those who marry into it, tend to look at you like you are trying to kill them, or perhaps playing an elaborate prank where they ingest something that makes them projectile vomit until they can no longer stand on wobbly knees, then vow to never eat any of the products that make up the whole of this recipe....I KNOW, how could something so delicious seem so bad?? This tradition, one that I have never heard of anything that even remotely resembles it, is what we simply call "Polish Dish".

As I may have mentioned, my great-grandparents, Peter and Tecla, came from Poland originally - not sure how far back this recipe dates, and if it was translated from Polish as that is what Tecla wrote her recipes in, but I am guessing it goes back at least to their generation. And since my grampa was born in 19somethingteen, that makes it an antique. I did some research online, and finally found some references to a similar product, and the most common name for it was "White Borscht". Which is weird since borscht is made with beets...maybe they were so poor they didn't even have those? Dunno....but it is what it is, and most of us LOVE it...the best part is foisting it off on the latest fiancee and watching them take the first bite after you've told them what's in it. Now there's a Kodak moment....

Polish Dish

1 quart (that's 4 cups to you who are measurement challenged) water
1 polish sausage - they usually call them kielbasa nowadays, 12-16 oz.
2 tsp. salt
3 T. white vinegar
1-2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 small onion, cut in half again, or 1 tsp. onion salt (cut salt to 1 tsp. if you use)
1/2 tsp. sage
1 C. milk
4 T. flour
1 egg

12 hard boiled eggs
Horseradish root or the stuff in the jar if you can't find it

Put sausage in water, bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes over medium heat uncovered. Add salt, vinegar, onion and spices, bring to a boil, remove from burner and let stand 1-2 minutes. Remove sausage and set aside on a plate. Mix milk, flour and egg in blender, dump into soup all at once and stir, whisking over medium high heat until it comes to a boil; continue to whisk for one minute to cook the flour, remove from heat. Cut sausage into 6-8 pieces and add back to broth.

To prepare soup, serve broth at the table with a bowl of hard boiled eggs, cutting boards or plates you can cut on, and bowls for eggshells. You also need to peel the outside skin off the horseradish root (if you found some) and include that with a microplane or fine grater for guests to add it to their soup. Each guest takes a piece of sausage, cuts it up in small pieces and puts in their bowl. Then they crack and peel one or two eggs and chop, adding to sausage, then ladle broth over all and grate fresh horseradish on top to their liking. It's also kind of fun - interactive eating per se.....and yes, it's a bit odd and unconventional, but then so was milk the first time someone pulled on those dangly things under a cow and drank what came out. Be a pioneer - start a trend! Polish Dish bars will start popping up on every corner, and you can say you were there when it started. And you're not even Polish!

OK, here's a couple super secret tips in case you are really going to try this and not just make a face and say "She's GOT to be one would really EAT that crap". My mother bucked tradition a few years ago, and due to a less than flavorful sausage pick, started adding "Ham Base"...not sure where all you can find this, but I get it at Cash & Carry in Aloha. It's a concentrated paste that comes from boiling a bunch of ham products into soup and then down to a paste, and will really pump up the volume for this, pea and bean soups, and country gravy if your meat has less "flavah" than Vanilla Ice. If your broth is wimpy, add maybe a teaspoon and see what it does. Also, she started experimenting with different kinds of sausage - we've tried mixes of kielbasa, brats, other smoked sausages, and even little smokies to great effect - just don't use the kind like they put on the buns at Costco...they don't exude enough juice to flavor it worth a damn. I think beer brats are always good....and I think I'm going to try the chicken apple sausages just for shits and giggles - a little apple never hurt anyone, and I think it sounds "Old Country", so what the heck.

Hey, look at that - Christmas is officially over! Better get crackin and find you some good sausage....PD is also a great hangover cure. It'll either snap you back to life or make you puke so you can start to feel way or another! Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The 8th Deadly Sin....Cheese

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways....I love thee on a cracker, in tacos, on bread delightfully grilled with sinful amounts of butter and a sprinkling of garlic powder, in, on and under potatoes, drowning macaroni with your greasy goodness, in salad, dressing, celery sticks and melted in a toasty tortilla, and even just shaved right off the block and stuffed in my round, fat little face. I think I was a milkmaid, or possibly a rat in a former life...cheese is one of the things I miss the most now that I'm cutting back.

For Christmas this year I said I was going to make a German feast, with all the usual trappings and not without the most important element, melted cheese. I have seen travel shows between the ever-increasing fund drives (pretty sure they're every other weekend now), and would someday like to go to Switzerland so I can go to a restaurant that serves cheese that you cook on this little iron thing on your very own table so you can scrape it up and eat it all melty-like. "Alps? There were mountains there??" Oh yum, how I love cheese.

So anyway, shit happens and things change, and now it does not appear we will be having fondue....which is more painful now that a friend has requested the recipe for holiday use. I may find an excuse to drop by when they are having dinner - maybe a QC check to make sure the thickness is correct, possibly to ensure that the bread cubes are properly toasted, or maybe just to see that the fondue forks are forky enough so a dipper is not lost in the maelstrom of cheesy delight....we can't have that. Maybe for New Years??'s just not in the cards, I will have to be content with the fabulous scalloped potatoes we will enjoy with our ham at our family feast....I have a petite block of Gruyere and Fontina to that end, and it WILL be delicious too!

This recipe came from the Rheinlander Restaurant in Portland - the one I also got the lentil soup recipe from I've already shared. I guess if you're a fondue snob, you will turn your surgically altered nose up at this - the cheese used is processed....but I say if it looks like cheese, smells like cheese, tastes like cheese, and makes fondue that is so good you'd swear it would make a dog turd taste good (no, I don't know for are welcome to test that premise yourself tho), it's cheese to me! Enjoy, and besides the bread cubes, be creative with your dippers....steamed veggies are excellent in it, and will help to balance out the constipation factor - every little bit helps!

Rheinlander Fondue

5 C. processed Swiss/American Cheese (that is 20 ounces)
2 C. water
1 C. chablis or moderately dry white wine
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 T. butter
1/4 tsp. MSG (I suppose you could replace with salt if you are opposed to it)
Dash each nutmeg and white pepper (I've used black too)
3 T. cornstarch mixed with small amount of cold water
1/2 loaf each sourdough and dark rye, unsliced (good luck with the rye..more later)

Preheat oven to 325. Cube bread in 1-2" pieces, spread out on cookie sheet and set aside. Grate cheese, set aside. Bring water, wine, butter, garlic, MSG or salt, nutmeg and pepper to a boil in a large skillet or saucepan, add cheese one cup at a time, stirring until melted; whisk until smooth and no more cheese lumps. Turn heat down to medium low and add cornstarch/water mixture, whisking until smooth, and cooking a couple minutes until thick enough for dipping - if not thick enough to coat bread chunks nice and thick, you can make more cornstarch/water slurry and add until it's as thick as you like. If it gets too thick, use water or wine to thin a bit, whisking to smooth after each addition. Remove from burner and place in fondue pot or over double boiler with hot water to keep warm and thickens when it cools. Put bread cubes in oven and heat maybe 10 minutes....they should be lightly crispy but not browned. Serve with a basket of bread cubes, a tray of steamed veggies, or whatever you feel like dipping in it's wonderful cheesy deliciousness. I think squares of grilled cheese sandwich would be juuuuust right....oh BABY!

A couple tips: I get my cheese at Costco - those big 5# packages of food service slices are da bomb; if you don't have access, I've seen a box of cheese that also works in larger grocery stores, but it's been so long I don't know if it's still out there...seems to me the box was blue? Also, rye bread is not a deal breaker, but it is just so damn good with this - finding it unsliced is akin to uncovering the Holy Grail when digging with a plastic pail and shovel at the beach. BUT....if you go to the bakery at Fred Meyer, and ask nicely, you can usually order a full or half loaf of a beautiful dark rye for I think 5.99 for the full and quite big comes frozen and you just throw it in the oven. I've done that and cut it in half, saving part for the next time. Good luck, and happy dipping....and rub some butter on your chin in case you have an errant flow hit you'll slide right off onto your shirt for later snacking!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where did I leave that wheelbarrow of sugar?

Easter is nearly upon us, and although the reason for this holiday is so far removed from 99% of what we are bombarded with from Valentines Day till that Holy Sunday (St. Patrick always gets short shrift), we should remember that He is not just the reason for Easter, but for the existence of all mankind - I'd like to see any of YOU create the world and it's inhabitants out of absolutely nothing. Yeah, yeah, aliens too....that is a shout out to you nutjobs who think there are more beings out there than just us. Area 51 called, they said you left your UFO parked next to a hydrant since 1960something and you owe a bazillion dollars in fines.

Every year it's the same thing - I balk at continuing my tradition of filling Easter baskets for my GROWN CHILDREN (OK, sorry Becky - when you move back to Oregon I owe you 10 Easter baskets) and think they should be mature enough to realize it is not the Easter bunny, or even Jesus in a glowing bubble who's been doing it until now, and that life is hard when you grow up and decide to be cool and not believe in Santa anymore. But when I mention to either of them, I get pouting, and pouting, altho not the most mature thing to do when you're 6 foot huge and have more hair than a yak, is still terribly guilt-inducing to mother's of exceedingly high caliber everywhere. And it matters not that NONE of us need all that crap - I am sure I have been the recipient of many a curse after the holiday madness has died down and the watery Oregon sunshine of May rears it's ugly head and illuminates the dimpled flanks brought forth by the sugar massacree of the holiest of spring holidays. Not to mention for the stigma of having black licorice, a bag of mini marshmallows, and organic chocolate bars with real ground tree bark because I did some "quality control" and ate all the good stuff and had to replenish the night before at 7-11.

I remember each of us getting our own Easter basket, and they always had the same things - whoppers (I think it was before they were egg shaped), those giant brightly colored candy shell eggs with the white fluffy stuff in the middle, circus peanuts (yes, the orange ones...) and cheap-ass jelly beans. No chocolate bunny, no delicious peanut butter cups, peppermint patties, crunch bars, or butterfingers....just crappy Easter candy. And we were happy to have it - swapping whoppers for circus peanuts was lucrative business - everyone knows you get two peanuts for one whopper because I was the only one who liked em, I knew it, and could rule the market. I also liked the giant eggs....I've been on a few sugar highs from those and fondly can't remember a thing.

The egg hunt came after church and our breakfast of refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup with all the deadly food colorings thrown in, and we played for keeps. First Mom and/or Dad (no idea who because I didn't cheat and watch, CHRIS) would hide them all over the living room, then let us loose to kill each other trying to get to the obvious ones first. I'm sure we got yelled at to let the little kids find the simple ones, but we were cut-throat...if you made it past diapers, you were on your own. (staying in diapers until you were 7, even just around Easter, didn't work either...) After that, someone would hide them again, but made it WAY harder....I think eventually Mom would find them all, if only by smell, then yell at us for hiding them too far inside the couch. This is a bit off topic, but one time I remember her cleaning out the cracks in the couch and coming up with her uber sharp butcher knife....what else are you supposed to use to trim your toenails, I ask? Luckily they were smart enough to never take us to a public Easter egg hunt - I imagine it would be like the footage of the Hindenburg exploding...carnage with little bits of gaily colored eggshells.

Anyway, the purpose of this is to get my juices flowing for Easter Breakfast - we ALWAYS have Polish Dish, which is under the "Soup" label, but I like to include an alternate breakfast dish for the sad few who can't be team players and don't much care for it....altho in MY own little branch of the family, they ALL love DIL-to-be endearingly slurps it down, and I"m 99.9% certain my SIL loves it too - but he cares less about what food tastes like and more about getting it inside him as quickly as possible. Kind of like my Grandson - his recent desire to become a "chef" is no doubt due to the fact that if he makes it himself, he will be way faster about getting it done and in his mouth. So here is a delightful egg dish I willfully stole from my Black Butte Ranch cookbook, and have never had anyone turn down - it's simple too, just a few steps and a fairly short cook time and you're ready to rejoice!


12 corn tortillas (not to be food racist, but I prefer white)
3 T. butter, divided
11 eggs, beaten
1/2 C. green taco sauce
Salt & pepper
1 can sliced black olives, drained
3 green onions, sliced (optional - I love em, Handsome Stranger does not)
1 lb. grated cheddar cheese
1.5 Cups sour cream

Cut tortillas into 1" squares, beat eggs thoroughly. Melt 1 T. butter in a 10"-12" skillet over medium high and add tortilla squares; stir until they start to brown a little. Sprinkle with a little salt, push to the sides of the pan and turn heat down to medium. Melt the other 2 T. butter in center, then pour eggs in center - when they start to set, stir in tortillas until well coated. Add green sauce and stir in - it should still be wet, but should be fairly well set up. Sprinkle olives and green onions evenly over the top, then cover with cheese, and drop sour cream by spoonfuls all over the top. Carefully use the back of your spoon to cover everything with the sour cream, then turn down to low and cover (you don't have to but it speeds up the warming process) and let warm through - 10 to 15 minutes or so, or until you can see the hot cheese start to bubble and the center of the sour cream is warm through. Cut in wedges and serve with salsa if desired - really good and no meat!

You can play with this to your own liking - you could add canned green chilies or jalapenos, use red taco sauce or canned chipotle sauce, put chorizo or turkey sausage in - I think it would be good with shredded chicken breast too - the only sin is to cook it too high or too long because it is possible to dry it out...but with that much sour cream and cheese it's highly unlikely. I would, however suggest you not add circus peanuts to it...I will trade you for ALL my whoppers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A momentary lull....

Now that Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is nearly upon us, my motivation to write blogs has all but flown out the window, got caught in the power lines, and been fricasseed into a smoking, steaming and unrecognizable lump of imagination that was. I have SO much to do this time of year, which really starts 2 weeks prior to Halloween and my grandson-who-lives-far-away's birthday, and will not end until after Mass on January 1st. Work is horrific the first half of December, but I still have to do my shopping for the Georgia branch so it can be shipped in time so E still knows we love him, and I am quite peeved at my employers for no longer giving us the minimal perk of letting us ship UPS through them. USPS apparently straps their packages in the roomy seats of business class, either that or they're having lavish parties and romps to tropical places for their employees from charging me as much as my fancy car payment to ship a cardboard box filled with stuff that costs less than the postage will.

I need to figure out what we're going to have for Christmas dinner, and see if my family will even be here for it. Son #1 has a GF who is sweet as pie, but her family likes her too, so I have to share him now. Son #2 will probably be here, but he tends to flit off at the drop of a hat to one of his friends, or friend's family that wants to adopt him (NO, he is still OURS...get your OWN Kenny...) - if I cook something good tho, he will be here at least for dinner. And my baby girl? I think someday she will miss us bad enough to move back to a non-brown state, but is taking her sweet time. I've only seen my SIL a couple times EVER...geez, you'd think he spends all his time overseas....wait....

So I thought I had been making it clear that I wanted to have a German Feast for this important occasion, and make all my favorites - Sauerbraten with gingersnap gravy, potato latkes, Rheinlander Fondue with that delicious dark rye and sourdough cut in big chunks and toasted ever so slightly in the oven, and of course the most delicious lentil soup EVER. Now I'm getting dissension in the ranks....someone in my house mentioned doing "Ham and mashed potatoes with peas" for dinner...really? Just because you get a free ham from work, and you could eat your body weight in peas and mashed potatoes every single day for the rest of your life?? That sounds SOOOOO boring to me! So now I have to make a decision; make what I want, make what HE wants, or see what everyone else wants and play eenie, meenie, miney, mo. DAMMIT don't you people KNOW that I know what's good for you??? But a people pleaser I just have to put up with my shenanigans to get what you really want.

Now for some serious silliness....I am now following a program to make myself even finer than I already am, and to prolong my life beyond the 47 years that those crazy life calculators are always malfunctioning tell me I won't last beyond....HA, I'm already 50, so take THAT, you cheap dime-store hood. Anyway, butter and mayo and cheese, oh my....all things I have put at arms length, and we're talking arms of that giant mutant Asian dude who plays basketball - I"m scrappy and even chubby white girls can jump if you put chocolate too near them. So finding acceptable treats to reward myself for not eating the things I truly love but that were slowly killing me was quite a daunting task. But here is one...and you may scoff, but to me it's like a cannoli stuffed with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate, or a giant wedge of mile high mud, no it isn't. But it's good, and I highly recommend it....and you know I like good stuff!

Hunka Hunka

1/2 multi grain sandwich thin (OK, they look like a wheat hamburger bun that an elephant sat, they are NOT corn pads for NBA players)
1 T. peanut butter, SMOOTH (chunky will not spread far enough...get over it)
2 T. marshmallow creme (FAT FREAKIN FREE!)

Spread peanut butter on your piece of bread. Put marshmallow creme on top and spread to edges. Eat around the edges until you have a circle about the size of a silver dollar (alright, you whippersnappers that have never seen a silver dollar, about the diameter of a shot glass...and I KNOW you've seen a LOT of those), then say to anyone around "look what I got!" and pop it in your mouth, chewing audibly and making yummy noises. 4 points, and if you use almond butter it tastes like divinity with nuts....oh crap I want some divinity with nuts. Be back in a bit, after I'm done with reporting, shopping for Georgia, shipping said booty, and figuring out what the heck I'm gonna wear to my nieces wedding on New Years Eve...hopefully it will be a size smaller!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Art Linkletter was right

Kids do say the darnedest things. It was very difficult being a good parent when I would crack up at my kids when they said/did things that were totally inappropriate but hilarious - I had no trouble taking care of discipline when they were naughty, but my sense of humor can get the best of me in situations of hilarity. Which is probably very lucky for my least sometimes they got away with stuff because Mom couldn't keep a straight face.

My daughter, at a fairly young age (I'm guessing 4 or 5) was usually pretty well behaved in church. For any small child to last a full hour was a miracle, but she was an old hand since she'd been going weekly her entire short life, so it was rare she had to be removed for "parental conditioning". One Sunday, however, she was pushing her limits and rummaging through my purse. When we were standing or kneeling, she was sitting and kept poking around in there, taking things out and playing with them. I kept eyeballing her and telling her "NO" in hushed tones, but she kept doing it - finally I pushed my purse all the way to the end of the pew, and pushed her all the way to the other side of me. She immediately hopped up onto the kneeler so she could be as tall as possible, looked up at me with eyes blazing, and stage-whispered "I'm so mad I'm going to stand on ONE FOOT!". I dissolved into silent laughter, which may have been soundless, but resulted in me shaking uncontrollably with tears starting to roll down my face. Walt took one look at me and started snickering - seeing someone else laugh in church is a virulent viral strain. Luckily it was at the end of Mass, and we grabbed the kids and made a slightly early but fortuitous exit....and Miss Becky got away with her little outburst, altho I think she was rather deflated that her stern missive was greeted so disrespectfully. Even now tho, at 30 years old, she is still highly unamused when she gets peeved and we ask her if she's going to stand on one foot....

Quite a few years ago, at a family function at my parents, there was a pretty sizable group of family in their rather small house. My mom was yammering on about something, and one of my brother's daughters in her pre-teen years suddenly hollered out in one of those unfortunate lulls "Hey Gramma, I'll give you a dollar to shut up!". DAMN....if I had only know that was all it would take I would have given her a dollar YEARS ago! My SIL was horrified, but we laughed so hard I think some of the adults needed a diaper change.

So yeah, kids are hilarious....the fact that they are cute and make us laugh is why their mortality rate is so low. When your child is standing in the bathroom sink, naked, covered from head to toe with minty toothpaste which he has also smeared all over the mirror, the wall, the counter and the faucets, you WANT to be angry with him, but it's hard when you are doubled over laughing and running for the camera. Not that this has ever happened in OUR house, and NO, I no longer possess the photo...

So here is a recipe that has nothing to do with kids whatsoever, there is utterly no connection at all - but it's a really good one that my SIL shared with me, and puts the "hum" in hummus! And it's got Northwest flair - those "Hazelnuts" are actually old-school FILBERTS....they had to give em a fancy name to sell them as a delicacy all over the world. Shoot, we used to crack those with rocks in the back yard and eat 'em green....HEY, there IS a connection!

Sherry Lynn's Hazelnut Hummus

1 C. toasted hazelnuts (375 for 10-15 min, rub on a towel to remove skins)
1 can garbanzo beans, drained (reserve liquid)
3 T. olive oil (you can replace some/all with the bean liquid)
1 clove garlic
1 T. chopped parsley (optional, I don't use)
2 T. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Put toasted, skinned hazelnuts in food processor and grind until they start turning to butter, add garlic, oil and/or bean liquid and lemon juice, process until smooth. Pour in garbanzo's, add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, then process, adding more bean liquid (or olive oil) as needed to get the consistency you like. I go slightly thinner than peanut butter, most commercial hummus is thinner than that, it's personal choice. Add parsley and additional salt/pepper if needed and process just until mixed (your hummus will turn a sickly shade of puke green if you process the parsley too long), serve in a dish and throw a few reserved hazelnuts on top and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil. SO good with veggies, crackers, bread, or just off your finger....just don't do that when anyone is looking.

Try this at your next get together - it's always a hit; I like it because it always reminds me of nighttime hide-and-seek with the neighbor kids, playing "hit the passing car with the sprinkler", and the fact that I can not allow another jar of Nutella in my house because I could develop an allergy to hazelnuts from eating it faster than the human eye can register. BAH!!! Damn you delicious filberts!

Friday, November 26, 2010

When the moon hits your're dead

Well, that was a downer. But Fabulous Todd wants lasagne, and apparently the white vegetarian version I've already offered is not manly enough for him. So I'm going to share my secret lasagne recipe that was given to me years ago, and which I've made so many times you'd think I wouldn't have to look at the card to see which layer's go in what order. NOT. It's a nice basic recipe, with no pretension and would probably make Mary Ann Esposito turn her "authentic Italian (really? Her name is ESPOSITO...) skyward...but do I care? No I do not. If you have met me you already know that I am as about as far from pretentious as a meadow of lavender scent is from an outhouse. Unless of course it's situated in the middle of a field of lavender.

I've dabbled in some non-professional (i.e. cleared about 27 cents an hour for my time) catering in my time, and have made this in big foil turkey roasting more times that I can count. They freeze up nicely, cooked or not, and making them ahead can save you a lot of time for the last minute things when you cater an event. Like buying a ton of parsley to garnish trays of food that you end up not using so cram down the customer's aunt's fancy Lake Oswego home's garbage disposal during clean up which you find out later required the services of a plumber to un-cram after parsley started showing up in all water bearing devices and faucets in the house. I don't use parsley anymore.

My daughter was in a play called "Quilters" in high school, and she suggested to her teacher that I might want to assist in catering dinner theater for one of the nights it ran. A simple meal of lasagne, bread and salad was a piece of cake....or should have been. I decided to enlist the aid of a family member who shall remain nameless (MOM) who, while mixing the very large vat of cheese filling announced that she was "out of salt". To which I cracked three vertebrae in my neck snapping my head around to see her holding the empty salt container as she stirred the CUPS she thought the recipe plainly marked TABLESPOONS irrevocably into it. I believe that was TEN POUNDS of cottage cheese....I used it anyway, and the consumption of water during the dinner theater was enough to put out a fully engulfed lumber mill. That was the last time I enlisted untested aid....

As I am a recipe fiddler, you can do what you like with this - use your own sauce, replace the meat with veggies, use thin sliced layers of eggplant or squash alternately with the pasta, use a mix of cottage/ricotta, or use different kinds of meat...whatever turns your crank. I just know this is good, and I will occasionally make a simple Bechemel sauce and mix it with the meat sauce - it gives it a nice orangey-pink color and a creaminess that I like sometimes. With a nice tossed salad and maybe a roasted garlic Romano bread with little dishes of olive oil w/balsamic and a touch of fresh ground black pepper this will blow anyone's socks off! So feed to teenage boys at your own memory of my male offspring's footcoverings recollects that the odor could kill a charging buffalo in mid stride.

My Lasagne

1 lb. Italian sausage (use hot if you want, I prefer to add my own heat)
1 T. olive oil
I small onion, diced
2 celery ribs, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (it's the big can, and they are packed in sauce)
6 oz. can tomato paste
3-6 oz. cans hot water
1/2-1 can red wine
1.5 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. each thyme and basil
1/4 tsp. rosemary (powder if you got it, I hate those pine needle thingies)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. lasagne noodles
Cheese Filling:
1 lb. cottage cheese (a pint/2 cups)
2 eggs
1/2 C. Parmesan
Pinch of salt and pepper (a PINCH, not a CUP)
Cheese layers:
1 lb. mozzarella, shredded
3/4 C. Parmesan, shredded (don't use the powder...PLEASE)

Remove casings from sausage, fry in olive oil in a stock pot or very large skillet with veggies until onion is tender. Add rest of ingredients, bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer at least 30 minutes.

Start a pot of water boiling for the lasagne, or you can use the no-cook ones but you need to add more water to your sauce, or the kind that you just dip in hot water to soften...Barilla brand I believe. Don't put oil in the water - it will keep the sauce from absorbing as well into the pasta, and if you stir the snot out of it (CAREFULLY), it won't stick as long as you use a LOT Of water. When it's al dente (read the label...just under cook by about 2 minutes), strain, then dump back in the pot and fill with cold water.

For cheese filling, beat eggs with a fork, dump in rest of ingredients and blend. You can do it....but don't taste it, it will be gross with raw eggs in it.

Strain the cooled pasta and put all your ingredients around you, get a 9x13 pan or dish and spray it will stick around the edges and this helps with clean up later. Put about a cup of sauce in the bottom and spread it around, put one layer of noodles, cutting off what you need to to make them the same length as the pan and just slightly overlapping. It will take 3-4 regular noodles to do that. Use whole ones - if a lot broke/tore, save those for the middle layers - the top and bottom need to be whole. Layer with 1/3 of the cottage cheese, drop by spoonfuls and spread around evenly, 1/4 of the remaining sauce (eyeball it), and sprinkle with a 1/4 of each mozzarella and Parmesan.

The put on another layer of noodles (you should lightly press each layer of noodles to even it out and so it won't go above the top of the pan), cheese filling, grated cheeses;

Then another;

Then the last layer of whole noodles, remaining sauce and grated cheeses on top (that is why you use 1/3 of the filling, it doesn't go on the top one). Sprinkle with a little parsley (dried, not the fresh disposal killer) for the colors of the Italian flag, and bake at 375 covered for 30 minutes (spray the inside of the foil cover!), then uncover and bake another 15. Let rest for 20-30 minutes so it can solidify AND not melt your face off. This should make 12 servings, which in our house translates to 6 because no one can eat just one. But we are not normal, just large.

So there you go Todd - and if you quit your job, start your own catering biz and start making a lot more than 27 cents an hour using my recipe, I will hunt you down....Ciao Italia!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Inner Tubes, Muffin Tops, and Love Handles

It's time....the pumpkin is in the oven right now, sweet potatoes are cooling on the counter, my dining room table is a riot of yams, apples, bread, cranberries, pecans, and the rest of the Thanksgiving fixin's I will be processing between now and Thursday morning. Yes, you heard me right - even after that smart crack a while back about cooking your own pumpkin like Martha or the Amish....I decided to go all "Mother Earth" on my pumpkin pie. Which is also why the taters today - I am making a sweet potato pie as well, because I personally don't care for the taste of pumpkin in pumpkin pie. Don't get me wrong, I'll eat it, but usually with copious amounts of white and fluffy to mask the flavor - it's just got a muskiness to it that doesn't set right with me. And I like my man in Brut.....or nothing at all - whoops, wrong blog!

So I am making berry and pecan and pumpkin and sweet potato pies, Brussels sprouts, cranberry-raspberry-orange sauce, and dinner rolls to take to Son #1's on Thursday, and turkey with all the trimmings on a tiny scale for my parents who are home-bound, some pie for Grammy in the "Adorable Old Lady Home", and breakfast to go share with my parents before we head out for dinner. That is going to be Polish Dish, which is a weird and wonderful family tradition that not all have been able to accept as their own, but that is as much a part of the clan as Dad asking all his miniature female offspring to marry him, and Mom opening every door in the house at big family dinners because the oven and wood stove are going full blast and her "anti-freeze" is working overtime. I will share that recipe with you another time, perhaps prior to Easter Sunday, where the tradition is most prevalent. Just know that it is weird, and uber Polish - as in "How do you know which house is the Polock's? The one with the diving board on the septic tank" My dad had a million of em, bless his un-politically correct heart.

Once again, a recipe from the Meeuwsen side of the family - it's no mystery why the salt-of-the-earth, farmers so far back the kids are born with dirt under their fingernails family is a bushel of wonderful recipes! This one was originally called "No Knead Dinner Rolls", and its draw was that you didn't have to trigger your carpal tunnel to get delicious yeasty, fluffy and flavorful rolls to slather with butter and pound until you can only groan and roll away from the table with your buttons popping and butter stains on your best flannel shirt. I make them for Thanksgiving, and was completely shamed a couple years ago when I decided no one would notice if I brought store nephew Sean said he only came for Auntie Shari's, crap. I also use them to make cinnamon rolls - same dough, just rolled out thin, covered with a delightful butter/brown sugar/cinnamon concoction and transformed into cinnamon-ey pillows of delight that also beg for butter 'n pounding. Ah butter....the siren of the kitchen, mistress of my dreams, sweet manna from cows.....

Yikes, that one got away from me. Recall once again where this came from, and you will understand the quantity - the full recipe makes 4.5 DOZEN healthy-sized rolls. I think it's like a peck in farmer measures, or a crap-load in mine. And I have never, EVER had one go stale or moldy...they are that good. If you're going to get your panties in a wad, you can divide everything by 3...I think that may have been the original form, but these ladies do everything in bulk - time's a wastin' and there's crops to harvest! Enjoy....I know I will!

Deb's Yeast Rolls

4-1/2 C. flour
2 Tbsp. yeast (I buy the big bag at Costco & keep in freezer...make more bread!)
3-3/4 C. milk
3/4 C. sugar
3/4 C. shortening (like most everything, I prefer butter flavor Crisco)
1 T. salt
3 eggs
6 C. flour

Start with a BIG bowl, or I use my Kitchen Aid mixer...but I have a BIG one, and the smaller ones will make a mess so be forewarned. Add the 4-1/2 C. flour and yeast, set aside. In a medium saucepan, put milk, sugar, shortening and salt, heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved and shortening starts melting - I always temp it at 125, but between 120-130 should work. You can do it by feel, or by sprinkling some on your wrist, or sticking your chin in each his own, and I hope you don't have a beard, I only trust the thermometer.

When it reaches the proper temp, pour into bowl w/flour and yeast, and stirring with wooden spoon or mixer, or using dough hook, beat until dry ingredients are incorporated and smooth. Add eggs and beat a couple minutes, then start adding the 6 cups of flour, one cup at a time. If not using a stand mixer, you will have to resort to using your hands - it's too thick for a hand mixer, and unless you've been using the Shake Weight (hahahaha, funniest infommercial EVER) and have 'ceps of steel, your girly arms will allow it to eat the wooden spoon alive.

Your final dough will be soft and possibly sticky - do not let this fool you into adding more flour. I've been making these at least 20 years, and have tried it all....they will come out heavy and dry, and other than using them to prop up the dresser that the dog chewed the leg off of or for the kids to play street hockey, they will be good for nothing. Grease or oil a large glass bowl, and scrape dough into it; oil or grease your hands and use them to pull the dough from the sides to the center and kind of pat the top to make sure it's all greased up...keeps it from drying out like your skin in winter with no Oil of Old Lady, and also from sticking to everything. It will most likely be too loose to actually pick up and turn over. Unless you screwed up....

Let rise covered with a clean towel in a warm place, and that does NOT mean the oven turned on low unless you want to eat one giant bowl shaped roll AND have to clean the oven because you forgot about it, takes about an hour. If you poke two finger in it and the dents stay there, it's ready to PUNCH! My fave part....make a fist, and punch it right in the middle, pretending that it's that lady in front of you at the store that partially unloaded her cart on the belt, then wandered off to see how much Cool Whip was going for and stopping on the way to eat a sample of stale banana bread that you saw flies landing on earlier. POW! Didn't that feel good? Fold all the dough over the center until you have a rough ball, put it out on your PREVIOUSLY CLEANED countertop with a healthy sprinkling of flour and roll it to coat completely. Let stand 10 minutes or the gluten will make it bounce right back when you try to roll it out.

Divide into 3 fairly equal pieces, and making sure it stays floured (or it will stick to EVERYTHING), start rolling it out on the floured countertop. Keep turning and rolling, keeping an even thickness until it's about 3/4" thick. Using a floured biscuit cutter, or a fairly thin edged glass about the diameter of a biscuit, cut circles staying close to the edges and the other rolls until you run out of dough, place on greased cookie sheets not quite touching if you want them to touch for softer sides, or further apart if you want them browned all around. Re-roll all scraps until it's all gone - I think you can get two large Costco sized cookies sheets worth, but may need another pan if they're further apart. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown - pull partially apart in the center if you're not sure - it will still appear doughy if not done yet. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet and put in a basket w/towel or let cool completely on racks before storing in ziploc bags (they will sweat if still warm).

Oh yeah, this also makes unbelievable cheese rolls - my big sis makes them at the school kitchen, and they're like a cinnamon roll but with butter, pizza cheese and garlic powder instead of cinnamon/sugar, and you serve them with pizza or marinara sauce for dipping - she pays son #2 in them when he helps her out with her computer, and I believe he might take a hit job for them as be nice to her. Happy Thanksgiving to you all if I don't see you before then - I got a million things to do, so this may be it until next weekend! Oh, and I'll let you know how it goes - Gobble, gobble!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Damn. I've blogged a post specifically ASKING for recipe requests and only got pity requests from my daughter. Who loves me and knows how fragile my self-esteem is. But when I mention "request" offhandedly, they start pouring in like salt on a slug. My sister-in-law is a regular requester tho, and I suspect she may be compiling a cookbook that she will blindside me with and share none of the billions in profits she'll make from it. Or she just likes delicious food.

Cookies are a grand thing. They are miniature glimpses of heaven, portable rewards for the good things you do in life, like letting someone in traffic, braking for a chipmunk, and opening a door for someone who has their hands full. If you don't do stuff like that, cookies are just a loan against time in heaven....and that corner of purgatory just smells like cookies, but is quite devoid of them. And I would not trust anyone that says they don't like cookies....maybe one or two varieties, but not as a whole - that would be like someone who doesn't like kittens or baby deer or those tiny monkeys that wear diapers and have really big eyes. They might just be the devil...just sayin'.

This is that cookie recipe I got from my husband's family - the one his Grammy scammed off Betty Crocker. I still am not sure how my sister-in-law can make them more thick and lumpy while mine just tend to be flat and chewy, but they taste the same. Which is delicious I tell you...but how can you go wrong with chocolate chip? I'll tell you how, overcook the dang things! So pay ATTENTION and you will be rewarded in this life and the next....after you eat one you will want to RUN out and do nice things for everyone - trust me!

Gramma Meeuwsen's Chocolate Chip Cookies (as stolen from Betty Crocker)

2/3 C. shortening

OK, time to stop for Lesson #1: Son #2 is THE MAN with this recipe, and he recently found out that there are definite differences between using butter flavor and plain shortening. Not just flavor, but texture as well...the butter was a hands-down winner. And when I say "butter", I MEAN butter flavor shortening - do NOT use butter, it ruins the texture of the cookie.

1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 C. nuts, coarsely chopped
1-6oz. pkg. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Beat shortening and sugar until pale and fluffy, add egg and vanilla and beat well. Mix in soda and salt, then add flour and beat until incorporated. Throw in nuts and chips and mix until blended, scrape sides and get ready to drop!

Lesson #2: Use aluminum cookie sheets or jelly roll pans. DO NOT use any coated pan, they are too dark and will torch your bottoms! Hahahs....I mean your cooky bottoms. Not your Aunt Cooky....I see where this is going. No, really - if you have only dark pans, buy new ones or cover them with shiny new foil....the dark absorbs more heat and it will not produce good results!

With your shiny pans, you should have a cookie scoop...but if not, use the two spoon method. Y'know, scoop up a rounded teaspoon (the measuring size, not the one you're holding) and use the other spoon to scrape it off on the pan. Leave plenty of room between can fit a dozen on a regular size cookie sheet, 15 on a bigger one, or if you're really good (and I am), you can get 20 to 24 on one jelly roll pan. Start slow....I get pretty mad when they spread and stick together.

Bake at 375 for 8 minutes at should check them then and determine if your oven is defective and they are in flames, or is slow and they look like little wet dough puddles. They should be very close at this point, so you want to check every minute after if they aren't quite done.

Lesson #3: "Done" is a state of have to BECOME the cooky to know for sure. Signs that point to yes? Slight browning, but only around the edge. Tiny bubbles in the tiny cracks across the middle of the cookie. No more shiny spots on top. That is done. If you aren't sure, you can use a METAL spatula and carefully slide it under one, making sure not to disturb the perfect cooky shape. Flip it over in your hand (use a napkin if you're a crybaby about a little molten chocolate) and the bottom should be barely golden....blow on it twice and bite off half, then do a little "shit my mouth is burning but I will not spit out heaven" dance, then eat the other half because it's cool enough now. There is nothing in this WORLD as good as that cooky at that particular moment, and even tho they cool into something a little different, it's something no one should miss.

Remove pan from oven, let stand no longer than 60 seconds so they firm just enough to not fall apart and get those babies on a cooling rack. Or paper towels. Continue until all dough is gone, and half the cookies you just baked are left....warm cookys are an invitation for thievery. As they cool, they solidify a bit more, but if you did it right, they will be chewy enough to bend rather than snap if you try to break one in half. This recipe is VERY could double it and use the same amount of chips and it would still be wonderful...but why skimp? Chocolate is good for you. And if you happen to have some nice cold milk, take it in your room with those warm cookies, this is a PG rated blog.

One last thing. It occurred to me that Gramma Meeuwsen died before I met her grandson in the 70's, and she was old then. So it is entirely possible that this WAS her recipe, and that snarky Betty Crocker stole it from HER....we may never know until we get past cooky purgatory and meet them in person. Especially if GM is there but BC is notably absent....she's probably "cooking" SOMEwhere.....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ollie, Ollie, Oxen-FREE!!!

This came to be because of a recipe request tonight, one I cannot say no to as it comes from my God-daughter/niece/former Washington County Dairy Princess/Ag teacher who looks FABULOUS in a welding helmet and knows her way ALL the way around a cow. Kristi fb'ed me and asked if I had Gramma Meeuwsen's recipe for Chocolate Applesauce Cake, and it gave me a bit of a feeling of power to know a mere grand-daughter-in-LAW has it when the grand-daughter does not. Power good......but I digress. Losing recipes is a bitch.

I have a butt-load of recipes from lots of places, and I try really hard to keep track of them - I have panicked in the past when I couldn't find Bran Muffins, had an anxiety attack when I thought I had lost Eggnog Scones for good, and had a near-death experience when the base for what I will only call "Big O Cupcakes" at this point in time went missing. Yes food is my crutch, and if you have a problem with that I dare say you have probably eaten a Lean Cuisine frozen dinner in the last month, think mayonnaise is "icky", and believe that fruit is a dessert. Live life in color once in a while, experience something that will knock your socks off that you can remain fully dressed for why dont'cha!

So yeah, recipes....archives....the FILE. I have recipes received at my wedding shower over 31 years ago that still see action. Cookbooks as well, and don't care when/where they came from if they're good - yes food can be trendy, but belly up to a traditional Tater Tot Casserole with mushroom soup and regular ol' hamburger and you will step into a world of comfort and nostalgia that moroccan goat on a bed of lentils can never match. Unless, of course you're Moroccan and your Gramma used to make you eat goat with lentils. This is one that I think my mother-in-law let me copy, and it is a family favorite....I frankly prefer the chocolate zucchini cake, but since I am an "In-Law", that is to be expected....I have to buck the trends.

Gramma Meeuwsen's Chocolate Applesauce Cake

This amuses me, because it makes me wonder the true origin of the recipe. Gramma's chocolate chip cookies were a true wonder, and were nothing like Toll House, which is what my pitiful family always made. One day years after I was granted the huge honor of this recipe, I was perusing the back of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book that I think my sister picked up for me at Goodwill. In the back, there were recipes of the year starting in the 30's I think...and lo and behold, there in full color was GRAMMA'S recipe for cookies....but it was definitely NOT hers! I wish I could have met that recipe-thievin' Gramma, I bet we would have got along famously!

3 C. flour
1-1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 C. applesauce - I'm guessing GM used homemade....but yeah.1 C. water
2/3 C. oil (vegetable, not motor)
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 C. raisins (for GODS sake, they are just DRIED GRAPES!!)
1 C. nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients, add remaining ingredients and mix until moist. Pour into 9x13 pan (I'm going to assume you grease and flour the pan...doesn't say) and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Wasn't that easy?

So yeah, you could frost this, put whipped cream or Cool Whip on it, sprinkle with powdered sugar, top with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, lather it with hard sauce while it's still warm, or just cut in in big ol' squares and stuff it in your face....that's the beauty of it, you do what you like. And stop whining about the raisins...if you don't like them, go see if there's any of that goat lentil crap left....sounds better already, huh?

Friday, November 12, 2010

"You got chocolate in my peanutbutter..."

I love stories about how couples met - everyone has one, unless perhaps they married their brother, which is a thought that makes my brain punch itself. Unless you're like Cain and Abel, and there isn't anyone on earth other than your sister or your mom (*punchpunchpunch*), there are TONS of available mates out there, just go to your local library where they congregate at the free computers that can't be denied porn because of our second amendment rights. Just make sure you set your standards to "sub-basement".

I met my husband through my brother - they knew each other from mutual friends, and I don't know if my brother was trying to hook me up, or perhaps just show me he had friends...I leaned toward the latter since he never showed me particular deference when handing out childhood beatings, and, after causing me to develop a perpetual flinch until I was 23, I couldn't imagine he had real friends unless he paid them. (I kid...somewhat) It was a painful and awkward due to our mutual paralyzing shyness (DAMMIT, I'm telling you I WAS...) and that was about it.....took a few months and a chance meeting at A&W to get the ball rolling. And a LOT of onion rings.

My gramma met my grampa at a dance....back then they didn't "date" so much as they did "group activities"...they would go to USO type dances and meet other groups of crazy kids who probably jitterbugged and watusi'ed like George and Mary Bailey right before they fell in the swimming pool. I love that movie.... So after several dances, my grampa stopped showing up, and the next time they ran into each other, my gramma asked him why. He said that he liked her, but that he could not marry a girl who wasn't Catholic (I think she was Lutheran?), so he couldn't keep seeing her. My gramma, who I'm SURE was shy too, told grampa "Oh, is THAT all?", and promptly converted. They were married close to 60 years....

I think my mom and dad met when my dad was skipping school and went to the theater where my mom was an usher...y'know the person in the olden days who helped you find a seat with a flashlight in the dark theater. Mom had dropped out of high school, so marrying my dad dashed her dreams of working her way up to popcorn girl....she threw it all away for a measly 54 years and counting. Sheesh. I have more, I just hesitate to share in case it would embarrass one of my children....but I think it is my favorite, so maybe he'll let me share it someday. Kids are so darn cute, even when they get all big and old and hairy!

So where am I going with this? No clue. Right now my brain is racing through all my cookbooks and my trusty recipe box, wondering if there is anything that would follow my theme of either "first meetings" or "couples".....hmmmm. Eureka! Here is an offering of just 4 ingredients, that don't really seem to complement each other, but when put together create a perfect marriage - sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy, carbs and proteins! I had these at our annual church bazaar a few years ago, and they are the most addicting, cannot stop eating, share with your friends so you're not the only one hooked snack I think I've ever found...I have guards in place to make sure I never have all 4 ingredients at the same time to avoid all hell breaking loose....along with the elastic in my buffet pants.


12 oz. salted peanuts - the regular kind or dry roasted...what do they put on those anyway?
7 oz. french fried potato sticks..y'know, the kind that are hard and crunchy?
3 C. butterscotch chips
3 T. peanut butter

Mix peanuts and potato sticks in a big bowl; resist the urge to rub peanut butter all over your face and stick it in the bowl to make yourself a human tumbleweed. In a smaller bowl, put butterscotch chips and peanut butter in the microwave for 1 minute on high and stir, put back in on high for 30 seconds and stir again, continue 10 seconds at a time if it's not melted and smooth. Pour over nuts and spuds and stir to completely coat. Drop by spoonfuls on wax paper, and I dare you to walk away without picking off the random clinkers and eating them while your fingers burn from the melty chips and peanut butter. Let cool until hard, peel off paper and share, Share, SHARE!!!

I just had a revelation....I kept thinking "what if you've never heard of potato sticks? They are kind of weird, and an old timey food - I don't know if all grocery stores carry them, so what if you can't find em? Well, I thought about describing them, but realized immediately that part of that was "they taste just like a potato chip"...DINK! (that's a light bulb going off over my head) SOOOOO....I say if you can't find potato sticks, buy some nice ruffle potato chips! You will want to break the big ones up a little, but it should work....different shape, same taste, let me know if you do how it works! Cheers to the happy foursome, may you be together on one plate for at least a nano second!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Bless us oh Lord, for thunder thighs..."

Thanksgiving. Yes, I said it. The day where caution doesn't just get thrown out the window, but tossed off the Empire State Building in flames to land on the street below and get run over by an armored truck, a yellow taxi, and a garbage truck on it's way to a scow on the river where it will dump almost as much as you'll probably eat that day. How celebrating a historic meal of thanks turned into a gluttonous feeding frenzy that will make many dig through their closets the next day to find pants that don't leave a red dent around their waist and a perfect impression of the zipper down their happy trail I will never know. But, who am I to question? I say let's get ON with it already!

I've been thinking about the day, and how it will fit in with my new and deliciousness-prohibitive eating habits, and am struggling with whether I try to make tradition fit into the pitifully small and mostly butter-free box I think I should put it in, or if it would really be so bad to just let loose and take the day as it comes? Would it kick start my dormant butter monster? Open the door to the evil cheese demon? Maybe bring to life the hideous but delicious sugar zombie that lies in wait for a weak moment? All good questions, and I may not know the answer until "T-Day", but that should not keep me from sharing the hideously delightful truth of what Thanksgiving has meant to me in the past, right? Drool bibs at the ready??

Here is a taste of Thanksgiving at our "little" family compound every year (trust me, ain't NOTHIN' little about it) - there are satellite dishes that come and go like the company that joins us, but the skeleton of the meal is always the same......we are creatures of habit, which would be a great outfit to wear when you're done stuffing your face - black is soooooo slimming.. Just don't get gravy on your wimple....

Moose Family Thanksgiving Feast

Roast turkey
Sometimes we roast it upside down so all the evil drippings from the dark meat go through the breast, rendering it juicy/flavorful, but you have to forgo stuffing so it rarely happens because...
Some call it dressing, others use cornbread, or that crappy bread-crumby stuff that is just wrong - in my book it has to be Franz stuffing mix WITH the seasoning packet, with a very lot of butter sauteed onions and celery, and a couple eggs to help bind it so it's perfectly moist and lumpy. And you MUST cook it in the bird, and mix that with the stuff that's leftover so it's not sad.
Mashed potatoes
Sure you can use dry ones out of a box, but be thankful you can get away with that crap the rest of the year and use Idaho BROWN potatoes. That along with another butt-load of butter, salt, pepper and some cream or half and half, some milk, and if you want, sour cream and/or cream cheese and did I say salt? Don't under salt it, fights will break out over who gets to lick the potato beaters if you do it correctly.
Poppa Moose's Turkey Gravy
The man knows his way around a whisk, and leaves no pan unscraped of every last bit of flavor stuck to the roaster pan....amazing that nothing but that and some flour, water and salt and pepper can produce something you want to bathe in and would still gladly eat afterwards.
Deb's No-Knead Rolls
SIL gave me this one, and it is always requested at home and when we go elsewhere - they are soft and yeasty and eggy and if I was only allowed to choose 4 things to eat that Thursday, it would be rolls, turkey, Best Foods mayonnaise and salt. Period.
Brussel Sprouts

Cannot be omitted, under penalty of eating crappy green bean casserole with mushroom soup and icky fried onions from a can. You must carefully trim them, cut large ones in half, put all on a cookie sheet and drizzle w/olive oil, kosher salt and roast for 25-35 mins until tender...mmmm.
Cranberry Jello Mold
It's what it's called, my mother-in-law shared her recipe, and we never, EVER go without's like cranberries on crack, and is filled with sour cream so it helps in smooth processing of all the rest of the stuff you're going to eat that day.

Of COURSE there's pie....pie is the REAL reason for the season, isn't it? I've made pumpkin, pumpkin praline, sweet potato, blackberry, blueberry, apple, apple-cranberry, apple-blueberry, lemon meringue, shoo fly, peanut butter streusal, key lime, pecan, strawberry-rhubarb, lemon cream, banana cream, blueberry sour cream, cherry, and even a couple gooseberry that did not set up and turned into gooseberry soup in a pie crust. Which was highly unfortunate considering I made them for the church bazaar...oops. Vanilla ice cream, real whipped cream and even Cool Whip on hand to choose your weapon of expansion....not that you need it at this point.

OK, I know I gave you the recipe for sweet potato casserole a couple posts ago, but I have to admit that I am the only one of the Moose's that would miss it if it went AWOL. Bunch of babies don't know what's good for them, and that there is no better contrast (except roll/turkey/mayo) than the delightful crunchy/sweetness of that dish COVERED with the savory hot brown of Poppa Moose's gravy...mush, smush, Poopy girl. But that's why it's not on the staples list...whiners. Same goes for the cauliflower - I can only put things on the list if everyone eats some, and Poppa will do his best to avoid it when there are so many other options...but if I catch him I make him eat one "brain" before he gets pie.

So there you go, this is what is ALWAYS on the menu on that third Thursday of November, unless we go somewhere where they won't allow me to dictate the menu, disregarding the 30+ years of experience and knowledge of how much butter you can use if you really commit to it. If that does happen, I just make my own on Friday at home, and don't share leftovers with ANYONE...they can poke listlessly at their crappy Pepperidge Farms crumby "dressing", the can shaped cranberry jelly, the gross-bean casserole, and a sea of canned yams covered with a huge waste of toasted marshmallows while we dine on turkey and homemade roll sammiches, dipping them merrily in gravy and following up with a piece of pumpkin pie plopped neatly into a tub of Cool Whip. Jealous?

Cranberry Jello Mold

I personally love the flavor of cranberry jelly, especially with turkey, but this combines it with two other favorites I cannot say no to - cherry jello and sour cream. SO simple to make, even tho I almost always forget and it gets too hard and then it is never quite the same...set the timer, wouldja?

1 large box cherry Jello
2 C. boiling water
1 Can cranberry sauce, WHOLE BERRY. Otherwise it's just jello.
2 C. sour cream...yes, an ENTIRE pint!

Mix jello and boiling water, stir until dissolved completely (I like to use a whisk, but don't beat it, just stir or it will get all foamy), put in fridge and cool until slightly jelled. That means quite jiggly in the center, like it will fall out if you turn the bowl upside down. I would set the timer for 30 minutes, then check every 10 or'll still work if it gets hard, but won't mold up as nice and is not as cohesive and creamy as it should be.

Add cranberry sauce and sour cream, stir until well blended and smooth. You might want to mash up the sauce before putting it tends to be a bit lumpy. Pour into a mold or serving dish and refrigerate covered until firm. I used to use my green Tupperware jello mold with the hole in the middle, then when I unmolded it I'd fill the center with Cool Whip...classy, eh? Then my green mold disappeared...I suspect someone let it touch the dishwasher element, maybe left it on the stove and turned on a burner, or tried to use it to melt lead and make a wheel they could put a stick through and try to ride it like on the old B.C. comics....all evidence was erased, and no one ever copped to it so I use my imagination. But I found a white/blue speckled one second-hand somewhere, so the world is right again...jello mold ho!

Enjoy the holiday with your family, friends and/or people you are willing to hang with to get a free meal that will make you re-consider the sweat-pants look...I still don't know what I'm going to do, but am pretty sure you will hear about it later...Happy almost Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mother may I not eat this crap?

An innocent question started me thinking about sacrifice, and how, growing up Catholic, we actually abstained from meat products on ALL Fridays, not just during Lent and Advent. I'm pretty sure my folks were dyed in the wool, John Birch Society (yikes, just let the oldsters in on my age) card carrying, pre-Vatican II holdouts, at least as far as fish Fridays were concerned. During Lent (the 40 days before Easter for you heathenish), sacrifices were encouraged because if Our Lord could go without food and water in the desert for an entire 40 days and nights, we could certainly live without hot dogs and Hamburger Helper one measly day of the week.

Mom was, shall we say, not a terribly adventurous cook, but she got the job done. I recall a lot of oven fried chicken (NOT shake 'n bake, do we look like we're made out of money?), spaghetti and mysterious things in gravy on toast cubes. That was termed "shit on a shingle" for reasons you would quickly discover if you ever ate it. Yes, we were poor....I remember we dined once on steak when I was a kid, but only because they found a great deal on horse meat - good thing I never associated it with the ponies we got to ride on an occasional trip to Alpenrose... Anyway, there were several different Friday meals, and they were rotated regularly so we would not rise up and revolt...or just be revolted (to revolt was confession fodder). The ones that stuck in my head the most were grilled cheese or tuna, tomato soup and popcorn, which we still enjoy to this day on those special Fridays, and the other was egg foo yung.

When I say "not adventurous", I mean making Chinese food involved soy sauce and canned bean sprouts...that is what was added to many scrambled eggs, and was made in the giant aluminum frying pan that only had the handle stub left, and was so disfigured from overheating that it sat on a point on a flat surface like a had the natural shape of a wok, but it wasn't one. I vowed silently while eating that vomitus pile of steaming ova and wormy sprouts that I would NEVER EVER EVER make my family eat that crap. But shit happens and things change, and after ordering it at our fave Chinese restaurant when I had no choice (it was Friday, and Lent) and discovered that my mom's version was nothing like the dish was intended to be, I decided I had made an edict based on faulty information. So after some extensive research and a killer recipe for the gravy she neglected to realize was required to make ANY version palatable, I came up with the following - it's a little work, but so good you may not want to wait until Lent!

Moose Foo Yung

1 dozen eggs
1/2 C. cooked white rice
2 T. cornstarch
2 T. soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
Oil for frying
1-2 C. FRESH bean sprouts (if you use canned I will give you SUCH a frowning)
1/2 to 1 C. grated carrot
1 can water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
2 to 4 green onions, sliced
1 C. chopped mushrooms IF you want...don't be a baby
( can use whatever veggies turns your crank, I do not care)
1/2 lb. baby shrimp, or imitation krab, cut in smaller chunks

And AWAAAAY we go! Crack all the eggs and put into a blender with the rice, cornstarch and soy sauce, liquefy with the lid don't want kitchen cabinet foo yung. Pour into a large bowl and throw the shrimp or krab in (you could go without still qualifies as meatless, duh) and set aside.

Cut bean sprouts ever so slightly - just try to make sure the bulk of them are cut in half-ish. Nothing more disgusting than taking a bite and having one hanging down your chin, unless perhaps it's a canned one doing the same thing...yeeeeeeech! Heat a large frying pan or wok with a little oil until SMOKIN' hot, then toss in the garlic which will burn almost instantly, then the carrots, mushroom and onion right behind to cool it off enough to not torch your garlic and start tossing. Keep flipping it around for about a minute, then throw in the water chestnuts and bean sprouts or whatever veggies you decide to use and stir fry another minute or two. Immediately dump into the egg mixture and stir quickly to cool it down fast and keep the eggs from cooking into curds. Now the fun part....

I never said this would be easy, and I added another variation of the process below to make it a bit more user friendly. I think restaurants have molds or rings to cook these in...that would be nice, but none of my pans were ever flat enough to create a seal and all the eggs would flow out from under the rings and really piss me off. So, if you want to make patties, here's how I do it: Put a half a ladle of egg/veggie mixture in a hot oiled skillet, repeat with as many as will fit in the pan. Using a spatula, immediately start corralling the egg back into each patty by pushing it into a rudimentary patty shape. They won't be perfect, and no one cares but me so don't worry about it. Let them cook until most of the liquid has set and they are slightly browned on the bottom, then flip it over and press down to distribute the veggies and let cook until a little browned on side two. If you aren't sure, press down and if any egg juice comes through the top, flip and cook another minute. Keep going and try not to curse the day I was born until the entire bowl is empty.

NEWS FLASH: For the lazy and overworked, I occasionally like to make it down and dirty - I use an egg pan (sometimes TWO), which is a small skillet, heat it up with oil and put 2-3 scoops of the egg mixture in it and make one giant patty. Like you weren't going to eat 3 or 4 of the little ones know you were. Same process, but you can just flip the whole darn thing...I don't even use a spatula, I just flip in in the air like those Asian dudes at Benihana. Except I'm not Asian or a dude, and if you want me to flip it onto your plate you best be wearing something that does not require dry cleaning.

And there you go, a nice big steaming plate of Friday food, all ready to go - except for one last thing.....


Yes, I said GRAVY. Don't bother without it, why would you want to eat a bunch of veggies and eggs unless it had a delicious sauce to pour all over it?

1 C. chicken broth (YES, during Lent use vegetable broth or water)
1/4 C. oyster sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch....maybe
1 tsp. sugar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, whisking constantly until it boils and thickens...add more cornstarch mixed w/cold water if you want it thicker, more water if too thick. And you may want to double it....then you can just chunk up the "foo", throw it in a bowl of this stuff (just don't tell your doctor if you're on a low sodium diet) and eat it like soup. You'll be sick, but it'll be SO worth it. Just kidding.....;-p

So thanks to Alecia's question about oyster sauce, which does BTW contain oyster juice, but tastes nothing like them...and I DO know because I love them as long as I don't look at their disgusting guts when I eat em fried ONLY, you now all have something new to try for Lent. And if you dump the whole wad into a giant misshapen skillet and cook it like scrambled eggs and pour the gravy over the whole mess, I will not report you to the ACOA (Anal Cooks of America); just don't tell anyone I said to do it, and for gosh sake, at least sprinkle some green onions and maybe even sesame seeds over the top so it looks like you did it on purpose and not because you were lazy.

Follow your bliss.....but watch for brake lights.

My lovely sister in law asked me for this recipe, and I can't say no to her - she is funny, generous, and very crafty...not like sneaky, but craft-proficient, and I have been the beneficiary of her talents for many years. She is also an inspiration - she walked with a limp due to being the loser in a wrestling match with her brother when she was young, which having her hip replaced a couple years ago has all but erased. Since then she has also gotten considerably leaner - I asked her how she did it and she said "Smaller portions". GAAAH.

Well, I think everyone KNOWS that will help, but few are willing to go the distance and make it practice; when you go to a restaurant and order prime rib, what they bring you is about the size of a deck of cards...yeah, those GIANT Mickey Mouse decks Walt Disney invented to soak you for even more cash when you go to his rodent-infested park. You have to re-train your brain to see that tiny piece of sirloin as a side of beef roasting on a spit, just like in the cartoons when Chip and Dale are stranded in a rowboat on the open seas and they start hallucinating the other as an entire turkey dinner. And why the hell would two chipmunks be in a rowboat anyway? Mmmmm, chipmunk.....

But yeah, smaller portions. So I sent some cookies to the funeral of my SIL's niece, and got a request from her and a couple of her sisters - if there is ever a zombie invasion on earth, I will be seeking them out as even the undead wouldn't mess with those girls. That and my grandson, who is apparently a zombie killer savant...don't ask. So here you go ladies, and I hope that eventually these will not remind you of the sadness of her early passing, but of the joy she brought into your and others lives.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

I have always admitted to grand larceny when it comes to copycat recipes - I say if you're not going to share, you should be flattered that there are those out there so enamored of your product that they will break down the elements and come up with a look/taste alike for those of us who don't want to take out a loan to get a mocchachino and a muffin every morning. So thank you to that lovely store on every corner that these originated from...these truly are "Stars"!

Cake base:
1 C. butter (2 sticks, use margarine if you don't care about quality or taste)
1-1/4 C. brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 tsp. ground ginger (I personally would back off to 1/2, but not a big fan)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 C. flour
1/4 C. minced dried cranberries
1/4 C. quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped (use a Lindt candy bar...mmm)
1/4 C. minced candied ginger (BULK's expensive in a jar)

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 C. powdered sugar
2 T. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla

2 T. minced dried cranberries
1/3 C. white chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350, lightly grease a 9x13 pan. Beat butter and sugar together, add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add ginger and salt and mix, then mix in flour and beat well. Fold in cranberries, chocolate and ginger, spread in pan and bake at 350 20-25 minutes or until light golden. Cool completely.

Beat frosting ingredients until smooth and fluffy, spread over COMPLETELY cooled cake....if you don't it will start to melt, and then you'll be sorry. Immediately sprinkle with cranberries so they stick. Now for the melted chocolate. I found that putting the chocolate into a small ziploc bag and melting in the microwave with it UNSEALED worked perfectly, and there was no pesky bowl or spoon to wash. You just throw it in for about 30 seconds, then use your fingers to make sure it's all melted and squished down to one corner. Snip just a tiny corner off the bag and drizzle all over the top of the icing/cranberries. Cut while still warm - it's prettier than when the chocolate hardens and tends to break up a bit when you cut it.

This recipe says it makes 15 servings, but I don't cut stuff in odd numbers - it's half, quarters, then however big or small you want to make them....shoot, it could be 4 if you're feeling like a pig, but that's what I'm referring to in the you have some fat pants? Enjoy these with a "ghetto mocha"....stir half a package of cocoa mix into the cheap but work provided coffee and thumb your nose at the corner coffee pimp down the street - you'll be a "star" WITH bucks if you do-it-yourself!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Du Jour, Thick as Pea, To Nuts, Up....

Can you guess what I'm getting at? Yup, it's officially nasty as hell outside, rain, wind,'s definitely SOUP weather! I love that soup gets used in sayings, as my post title illustrates, and I love soup. I don't know if I could pick out a favorite, maybe clam chowder, possibly chicken noodle (but only if it has homemade noodles), turkey noodle right after Thanksgiving, or the one I'm about to share with you.

When my parents had their 25th wedding anniversary, we decided to take them out for dinner - no fancy parties, we couldn't afford it, but a moderately priced restaurant was definitely doable. So we chose the Rheinlander on Stark in Portland - I believe it's still there, cheesy as ever most likely, with dudes playing accordions and everything. But oh My GOODNESS the food was good, although things got quite fuzzy towards the end of the meal after all the beer etc. we drank kicked in. We ordered some kind of feast where they charge per person, and they start bringing stuff out and apparently never stop - that is uber dangerous for German food. Sausages and fondue and latkes, OH MY! I think my eyes were bulging when I left there, and I can still clearly recall having to unbutton AND zip my Levi Bendovers on the ride was either that or ride stretched out in the back of someones pick up truck.

We all had a good time, and they gave us our receipt with a little card that included two recipes - Lentil Soup and Der Rheinlander Fondue. Both are staples served with meals in the restaurant, and I would be happy as a pig in mud to eat just one or the other anytime - they are both quite amazingly good. I will share the fondue with you later, it will take you a while to finish this much soup, because it makes a pretty big old Revereware dutch ovens were never quite big enough so I have to make it in my stockpot. I will say it has an admirable amount of fat in it - and as that is what gives it it's texture and flavor, would not recommend straying too far from this formulation - but I actually made a much lower fat version tonight and will let you know how it comes out. And sodium? Well, there ain't NO way to take it out without it falling flat, so it's a judgement call as to whether you can handle this is what it is. But I'm guessing Germans retain a lot of water....

Rheinlander Lentil Soup

This is from the restaurant, and doesn't seem like much at all - but it will surprise the shit out of you if you do what it says and cook as long as goes from dishwater to a silky, full bodied thick broth with just enough lentils and veggies to not end up with a "sloshy full"...YUM.

3 oz. bacon, cut in 1/2" strips
1/4 C. olive oil
3/4 C. onion, diced (I double at least)
3/4 C. carrot, diced (double, again)
3/4 C. celery, diced (getting the hang of it?)
3/4 C. flour
3-1/2 quarts water (that would be 14 Cups...I kid you not)
3/4 C. potatoes, 1/2" cubes (again...MORE is better)
1 C. dry lentils
1/4 C. beef bouillon or beef soup mix (the paste kind)
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. season salt
2 tsp. MSG
Dash of white pepper and nutmeg

In a BIG pot, saute bacon, olive oil, onion, carrot and celery about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour, a little at a time, and stir until all has been absorbed by the veggies. Add water in thirds, stirring well after each addition to break down the flour mixture, add potato, lentils, and all seasonings, bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for 3 hours. Yes, I said 3 HOURS. It will look like dishwater, and taste not much better at first, but as it simmers it will develop a wonderful and complex flavor and's almost like gravy, and MUCH more acceptable to eat by the bowlful.

Our standard complement was always cheese bread - our fave is Texas Toast bread, buttered and sprinkled with garlic powder and grated (actually the stuff in the can is best for this) Parmesan and broiled until golden brown. And don't say you don't like lentils or lentil soup, I didn't think I did either. And I know people say this, and it seems odd, but it's even better the next day, or week (from the fridge), or month/year (from the freezer) just never gets old.

So there you go, give it a try - if you make some now, put the extras in the freezer, then you will have it ready when I post the fondue recipe so all you'll have to do is find some liederhosen and an accordion and you'll be fat and happy for a fine German feast! It wouldn't be the "wurst" think you've ever eaten....hahaha.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Is Halloween over 'cause I want THANKSGIVING!

Halloween ceased to entertain me the day I quit trick-or-treating. I do not like to dress up, I don't like it when others dress up and I don't know who they are, and I will only go back to Disneyland if I have a grandchild that wants to attend...those big Goofy, Mickey and Donald characters totally creep me out. Give me a giant pink fluff of cotton candy, a greasy corn dog with mustard and a scarier-than-crap roller coaster to puke it all up on and I'm good. Except I've never puked on any ride...captain thrill-seeker is my middle name.

I live where no children venture on Halloween, so not only do I escape the trap of buying candy, only to have to buy it again....and again.....and...(you get it) because I have absolutely no control and if I did dress up I would only be able to go as Jabba the Hut because of it, but I don't even have to buy a PUMPKIN. When my kids were little I had to carve theirs because they were weak and useless, then they got older and I had to carve them because they were whiny and insincere....there is just about nothing as gross and scraping out slimy pumpkin guts so you don't have strings and slime hanging visibly in the holes you cut later. That and I'm a perfectionist so I had to "help" to make sure it was regulation pumpkin faces...sorry kids, you know I couldn't help myself, right? All this makes me supremely happy that I live in the black forest where children dare not venture on that spookiest of nights.

Growing up living in the suburbia surrounding Portland proper, we had free reign of approximately 6 blocks by 6 blocks, and were sent out at an early age on our own, back when kids either didn't get picked up off the streets by child molestors, or their parents never reported it because they were tired of their insincerity anyway. The older kids would ditch us younger ones when they were out of sight of the house, so we really were on our own for the most part. You knew not to go to houses with the lights off, knew that if someone left candy outside the door because they "weren't home" that the best you could get there was the container they left it in, and always, ALWAYS yelled "THANK YOU" in fear that word would get back to your parents and they would invoke "Prima Chochta", or first shot at any of your chocolate when you got home. Then there was the ritual "sorting of the booty" at home, where trades, bargains and sniping candy from each other when we weren't looking was great sport. The only part I didn't like was wearing a nasty plastic mask...gross and sweaty, and you could smell your own bad breath. Ahhh, the good old days....

So back to Thanksgiving....I noticed that my hero PW has begun posting Thanksgiving recipes, and I would like to do the same - I just wish she would not pre-empt me with her similar masterpieces of deliciousness. But I will say, as good as her Soul Sweet Potatoes looks, I think mine is biggest problem with sweet tater dishes is the mush, and I have found a way to minimize that (OK, to a degree...). I started with a recipe from a magazine (probably fooling no one in that doctors office by tearing it out slowly so they wouldn't notice), then changed a few ingredients, added a few more, used different cooking tecniques, and basically made something completely different. It has my very own "Moose Approved" stamp....people who would not eat sweet potatoes had seconds, thirds AND leftovers...I absolutely LOVE it when that happens! So enjoy, and don't be afraid to put gravy on it.....sweet/salty really turns my crank, and it makes it seem less like dessert and more like a side that way!

Momma Moose's Sweet Potato & Apple Crisp

This is sooooooo good in place of the overly insipid and mushy yam/marshmallow abomination still served in some backward homes at Thanksgiving, and much like candy corn, will not be solely enjoyed just once a year for the first two or three bites before your blood sugar spikes and you ruin your Gramma's living room drapes and her mother's antique lampshade making a fool of yourself. I could eat this stuff year round...see if you agree.

3 large yams (the darker ones that are orangey inside)
3 large sweet potatoes (yellowish brown skins with yellow inside)
2 baking apples...really any kind, just not red delicious
1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. flour
1/3 C. butter, cold
1/3 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. pecans, chopped coarsley (optional...but I am a nut person)
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 9x13 or similar sized pan or casserole, set aside. Wash potatoes, then poke a few holes in each one and put in the oven on a cookie sheet and roast at 375 until tender, probably at least 45 minutes. Turn oven down to 325. Let potatoes cool until you can handle, then peel and cut into 1" cubes, keeping colors separate, just like laundry. You wouldn't want your yams turning yellow or your sweet taters turning orange, would you? I have my reasons, just do it.

Peel, core and cut apples into 1"cubes, put in skillet with the 1/2 C each butter and brown sugar until apples are fork tender and sauce is thickened. Layer half of the yellow potatoes, half the orange yams (here's your reason - mixing the colors together causes them to mush, and I TOLD you I don't like it mushy), then sprinkle with salt (pepper if you like). Spoon half of the apples/sauce over all, then layer the other half of the sweet potatoes and yams on top, salt (pepper) again, and put remaining apples/sauce over all.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon together, then cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly, stir in pecans if desired. Sprinkle over spuds and apples, pat yourself on the back for making something that looks ridiculously good, then bake at 325 for 20-30 minutes or until heated through, bubbly around the edges and lightly browned. This is another of those dishes that, if you don't let it cool long enough before first taste, will cause you to not be able to taste anything the rest of the day because it WILL burn your taste buds right've been warned. But when you do the angels will sing, virgins will weep, and God will send rays of sunshine to dance across the look you have on your face when you first come to realize that sweet potatoes can aspire to heights far beyond a can of slimy yams and a half a bag of marshmallows. And Happy Halloween....BOO!