Bonnie’s Blog on Food and Grog

Cooking and life advice from a Nana.

As I was saying…… February 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 6:23 pm

It has been 11 months since my last post?  How the heck did that happen?  WHAT have I been doing, you ask?  EATING, mainly.  Which brings me to my current blogging project.   My gluttony and wanton disregard for caloric intake, coupled with the fact that “briskly stirring” and “gently folding” are the most strenuous forms of exercise I have had in months,  have taken their toll.    My husband and I took a trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming (reasons to be explained later) and I found myself shopping for some warm clothes in the BIG GIRL part of the store.  I was either WAY down at the far end of the rack with the really BIG numbers, OR in stores euphemistically named things like “MACY’s WOMAN”,  or “THE BIG IDEA.”  Thanks to Coldwater Creek , where they have larger sizes in tasteful,  mainly current styles, I was able to find jeans, sweaters and jackets that I liked. 

But wait til you hear the REAL impetus for this horror at my weight gain.  OUR SON IS GETTING MARRIED on April 3, 2010!!!  This is not a surprise!  I have known this for many many months!!   This is an event at LEAST as diet-worthy as a High School Reunion!!  I do not want our new daughter-in-law’s family to remember me as “the jolly fat one” for the rest of their lives.   I actually looked pretty good at his first wedding (14 years ago) and for those people I have not SEEN since then, I would prefer that their jaws don’t drop to the floor upon seeing me in my huge, matronly, mother-of-the-groom frock. 

Before you conclude that it is only shallow vanity that has gotten me to this point, I have to add that my right knee has finally rebelled at the additional  load I have placed on it.  After our trip to Cheyenne, which involved quite a lot of walking, not the least of which was in the Denver Airport, I returned home in excrutiating pain.  I was certain that knee replacement was in my near future, but luckily it isn’t quite that bad yet.  So now is the time to lose some weight and get more exercise.  NOPE, you don’t have to hit ME over the head!!  Crippling Osteo-arthritis and an extremely important event in 58 days (gulp) — that’s all it takes to get me motivated!! 

So I am going to change the focus of my blog for a minimum of 58 days.  I am going to find new, yummy, satisfying, yet healthy recipes to cook and share with you.   And maybe I’ll come across the Holy Grail during my search, eh?  NO, there are such things, there really are.  I already have some. 

My goal is to lose 20 pounds in 58 days.  An ambitious goal, I admit.  But anything I lose will certainly be an improvement and make shopping for a dress to wear to the wedding a less depressing venture!!  

So here is my Day ONE plan:  I am having a light breakfast.  2 scrambled eggs and black coffee.  Then I am going to re-join the YMCA  and go swim laps in their nice big indoor pool!  I love swimming, always have– actually was a lifeguard during college– and lucky for me, swimming just happens to be the very best exercise for my knee.   

When I get home I will have a light lunch, to be determined and reported later.  I will then start the search for the best, tastiest, healthiest recipes so that I will be able to continue cooking, which I love, and still, hopefully, lose the weight I so desperately need to lose!!  I could buy Lean Cuisine  or join Nutrisystems or something… but that would never work for me because I would then have all that extra time on my hands to THINK about eating.  I have to be able to continue to look at recipes, try new things, and COOK… it’s one of my favorite hobbies and I can’t give up that AND eating too!

One final note.  I have no intention of giving up the joy of eating all those evil things I have already written about.  I just have to do it AFTER the wedding AND in moderation.  So I will continue to collect the delectable, the decadent, and the delicious, but add to it the previously tossed-aside healthy, nutritious, low-fat dishes. If anyone wants to join in on this fun little journey, send me a comment and we can do this together.  Join forces, share ideas!! 

The countdown begins…………..

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Finger Foods, Appetizers & Hors’ d’oeurves March 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 1:07 am

Do you know what the difference is among the above?  Me neither.   One is much harder to spell, but other than THAT, I’m thinking they are very similar.  Of course, not all appetizers can be picked up with the fingers, so that is a reasonable distinction.  For MY purposes, however, I mean a  large variety of tasty treats that you serve in large quantities, buffet style, that will give you guests many choices and many different tastes. 

My favorite way to entertain is with “these” categories.   It is  much more informal  and people tend to be more relaxed than at a dinner party.  Plus– and I think this is big–they get to talk to more than the three people seated immediately around them.  I think I can get along with almost anyone, certainly long enough to eat dinner, BUT…. haven’t we all been seated next to someone at a dinner that was a) so boring that you had all you could do to not run screaming from the room, or b) so obnoxious that you began to rethink your views on capital punishment?  Now I TRY my best not to include The Obnoxious in my guest list, but face it, sometimes it is inevitable.  And as for boring, one man’s floor is another man’s ceiling, so that is just a matter of opinion. 

So making a large variety of  platters of interesting tidbits is a way of getting everyone to mingle and get to try different things.  Also, it takes care of people with special dietary preferences…  vegetarians and carnivores alike can find something they can fill up on! (and they can avoid each other if they feel strongly about  it!!) So let’s start with:

CRISPY CRAB WON TONS WITH DIPPING SAUCES

This is one of the MOST popular appetizers (or whatever) that I make.  I have found it impossible to make too many of these.  No matter HOW many I make, there is always a crowd of people hovering over the last few, apparently hounded by old warnings of   “it isn’t polite to take the LAST one” ringing in their ears.   They usually chose to ignore the well-meaning teachings of past mentors, however,  and polish off the last one.   I take this as a sign that our guests agree that these are YUMMY little tidbits.

NOTE:  This is a single recipe which I NEVER make.  I typically double (or sometimes triple)  the filling recipe and find that it takes 3 or 4 packages of won ton skinns to use up the filling.  I suggest trying a single batch first to see if you LIKE them, obviously, and take it from there. 

1 package of won ton wrappers (Dynasty are the best!)

1 package of imitation crab meat

1 8 0z. package of cream cheese, room temperature

1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced

Low sodium soy sauce

Garlic powder

Peanut oil for frying

Chop the crab meat into very small pieces.  Put cream cheese in medium bowl, add chopped crab, chopped green onions, a dash of soy sauce, a dash of garlic powder.  Mix these together — I find that using your very clean hands is the easiest way to do this!  Place a small amount  (1/2  to 3/4 tsp.) of crab mixture in center of a won ton skin.  Dip your finger in cold water and wet the edges of the skin.  Fold won ton DIAGONALLY and seal the edges together well.  (You don’t want them to leak filling into the oil).

You can fry these in a skillet with a generous amount of peanut oil in it, OR use a deep fryer.  It is a little easier to do in the deep fryer as you don’t have to turn them over so carefully, but either way, they will taste wonderful.  Fry them until golden brown and crispy, about five minutes.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towel lined baking sheet. 

We serve these with a variety of dipping sauces, sometimes homemade, sometimes just purchased in the Asian section of the market.  Whatever sounds good to you will work, although Plum sauce, Duck sauce, Sweet and Sour, Chinese Hot Mustard, and Peanut sauces are favorites.  I do have a spicy peanut dipping sauce that I make,  but it seems that the Plum and Sweet and Sour are the most popular. 

You can make these earlier in the day and reheat them briefly on a cookie sheet for a few minutes at about 375 degrees.  Watch them carefully, as they are quick to burn, which generally leads to uncontrolled weeping on the part of the cook AND the guests.  If you are really lucky, you will one of your regular guests who loves to help … My friend Marcella’s son, Grant, LOVES to make these and offers to be the designated fryer at our gatherings.  If you are not so fortunate, don’t worry about it.  Reheating them doesn’t seem to change the feeding frenzy that they create! 

Arrange them in some attractive manner on a tray with little bowls of dipping sauces and then stand back!  I have yet to meet anyone who was ambivalent about these little buggers!! 

Coming Soon:  BLT Cherry Tomatoes – an easy and very popular item!

 

Cream Cheese Yogurt Fruit Dip and Giant Baby Shower, Part II February 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 9:19 pm

There are few things I enjoy more than planning a party like this!  Basking in the sun on the white beaches of Cancun — sure.  I’m afraid that my “basking in public” days may have passed however, due in no small part to the fact that “cooking ” is ranked neck and neck with “basking.” 

So it is with enthusiasm that I start the planning of this Giant Baby Shower.  Never one to do things halfway, this should be the PERFECT size group for me.  FINALLY a crowd capable of eating my vat of potato salad!!  We get together with Maria, her oldest daughter Betty, and Jose.  It is decided that they will provide all the food (YUM) and I will provide the decorations, the cake, and a large fruit platter with a fruit dip (recipe coming up!)..  They also love potato salad and I quickly offer to make my typical recipe which just happens to serve about 100.  They will get the table and chairs and linens, and I will get flowers and all the decorations.  We know it is a boy by now, so we decide on pale blue and a  pale  sage green for our color theme. 

Now I have a fairly extensive supply of party goodies…. and I am no stranger to baby showers.  I have four miniature baby buggies that I have decorated with ribbons and flowers for other showers.  I have vast supplies of ribbons and silk flowers and vases and all manner of party goodies in what my husband fondly calls the “Crap Room”.  I do not throw things away except at gunpoint.  NOT only that, I am now the proud owner of my new “CRICUT” scrapping tool, which the kids pitched in and got me for Christmas.

Now, you scrappers out there KNOW what a cool machine this is.  You either have one or you WANT one.  Let  me tell you, THEY are great additions to your scrapbooking repertoire!  The things you can make with this litttle machine are endless!!  And it is very easy to learn to use.  For an entire week I sat in my den with my little Cricut on the coffee table and pumped out banners of all sorts to hang around the house…  Big blue letters on backgrounds of various patterns that I strung together with small satin ribbons…..  Cut outs of storks and babies and little ducks and teddy bears were strewn from one end of the house to the other.   I was unstoppable.  And the more I played with this machine, the more crafty I got.  So I kept going until I had miles of banners and piles of baby-shower-ish decorations.  I was the Mad Scrapper.   “What’s for dinner, honey”, asks the work-weary husband.  “Can’t you see I am busy here?”, the wild-eyed woman replies. ” I am crafting a 40 foot banner of adorable little baby silhouettes on all different kinds of backgrounds made from very expensive card stock paper that I bought with your hard earned money.  Food?  I’m sure you can find something to eat.” 

In addition to the miles and piles of  clever little cut outs, I also have to decorate the additional  miniature baby buggies, as we have 8 tables and only four buggies.  You have to love Google, when you can type in “miniature wire or metal baby carriages” and UP comes exactly what you are looking for — PLUS I can have them  in three days.  How did we SURVIVE without this?   If memory serves, we drove miles in search of such unusual things and now they are but a click away.  Either that or we actually lived WITHOUT miniature wire baby buggies.  Could that possibly be it? 

So then I start thinking about the centerpieces for the tables.  Flowers are great but they are also very expensive and famous for dying immediately.   So I consult with a very nice woman that I recently met who does events — BIG TIME events — as a business.  I email her for a suggestion for centerpieces.  She suggests that I do trays with little baby necessities and perhaps a small vase of flowers or flowers sprinkled around the tray.  A great idea!! 

Off I go to Michael’s  Crafts (one of our best crafts stores) and JoAnn’s  Fabrics, another great source for scrapping supplies.   Lucky for me, Easter approaches and so they have little felt easter pails that are blue with yellow duckies on them.  Also they have stuffed animals on sale.  Walmart is perfect for all the baby paraphenalia, so I buy baby bottles, tons of bibs, pacifiers, sippy cups, rattles, baby socks, and rubber duckies. 

Off to Smart and Final,  as they have really nice quality plastic serving pieces.  “Smart and Final”, if you are not familiar with this store, is a warehouse-type store with discount prices on food and a variety of restaurant supplies.  They are smaller stores than Costco, and you don’t have to buy everything by the gross.  Not that I have anything against buying by the gross– but sometimes I don’t want a 5 gallon jar of capers, and there are times when a 10 gallon drum of olive oil just seems excessive.   So I find the perfect  platters – white plastic, about 18 inches square.

Now it is time to bring out the trusty hot glue gun.  You are not REALLY a crafter unless you own one of these and an ample supply of hot glue cartridges.  You can literally attach almost anything to anything else with this little invention.  I have attached my own fingers to any variety of things, as a case in point.  “Elmer’s” stock must have plummetted when these little babies hit the craft stores!  Horses are no longer coveted for their  glue-making parts now that we have advanced to the far more dangerous, but effective,  HOT glue process.   I think I have made my point.

So now I am planted again on the couch, hot glue gun in hand, surrounded by silk flowers, boxes of ribbon of all widths and colors, and my new wire baby buggies.  These buggies are about 8 inches tall, and now must be decorated with pale blues and greens with some yellow.  I cover the hood part with parts of hydrangeas, put daisy heads on each wheel, and weave small satin ribbon around the top edge of the buggy.  A large bow made of wired one-inch ribbon goes on the back of each one.  I have to say, they are ADORABLE.  As a finishing touch I put a little fluff of pale blue tulle in each buggy, where the baby (were it not so giant) would go.  These buggies are now proudly displayed in the kitchen on the island, making cooking dinner for “he who paid for all this”  out of the question.   He is looking gaunt and weak, but swears that he is thrilled at my little creations and marvels at their beauty. 

All that is left is to assemble the trays.  I line each tray with four baby bibs, overlapping.  Then I place one blue & yellow ducky pail on the tray.  I put little baby onesies in the bottom of each pail, and top with little stuffed animal.  Next I add my baby buggie.  I put  blue marlbes in the bottoms of eight plastic baby bottles (for weight) and put a small bunch of blue and white daisies in each bottle.  The finishing touches are little baby socks,  pacifiers, sippy cups, rattles, and one rubber ducky per tray, scattered around on the bibs.  Besides being really cute, and each one is a little different, ALL the items on the trays are for the Mom-to-be to take home.  Socks, bibs, baby bottles, onesies, pacifiers, sippy cups, and even a bottle brush on one tray. 

So the decorations are all made, and the party is four days away!  If only I managed the remainder of my life with the gritty discipline that I apply to party planning!!   All that remains is to buy my groceries for the fruit dip, potato salad, and fruit platter. 

SO as promised, here is a recipe as a reward for wading through a Tolstoy-esque version of shower planning.  

MARSHMALLOW YOGURT FRUIT DIP

This recipe is so easy it is embarassing.  It came from my dear friend Patti Christy, of stuffing sage fame (see Thanksgiving posts).  Patti made this for her daughter’s graduation party.  I attended that event and stood greedily by this dip, snarling at other guests who dared approach.  I ate nearly all of it myself.   I have been making it ever since and I still could sit down and eat it with a spoon.  The fruit is but a vehicle for the dip. 

1 – 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature

3 – Yoplait yogurts… I use  low fat red raspberry, but any berry flavor would work

1 jar of Kraft Marshmallow Creme

With an electric mixer, blend a small amount of yogurt with the 8 ounce block of cream cheese.  Gradually add the remainder of the yogurt to the cream cheese, mixing until no lumps remain.  Add entire jar of marshmallow cream to mixture and combine until smooth.  Serve with fresh strawberries, apples, pineapple, grapes, melon, — any fruit that is in season. 

Stay tuned for the  final installment of the Shower Saga , with the delicious “Birria” recipe that Maria made for the main dish and actual pictures of the party!

 

A Giant Baby Shower (the shower, not the baby) February 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 2:32 am

Have I mentioned before that I like to do things in a big way and tend to make enough food for a small country?  Well, we recently had an event that was big enough to challenge even MY excessive ways!  A little background….

Several years ago my husband  and I faced some ugly facts about my weak points:  I am NOT a fantastic  housekeeper.  This is a gross understatment and my way of fessing up to being pretty lousy at dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing floors.  It isn’t that I am incapable of doing these activities,  but it just became apparent that unless threatened with bodily harm I just wouldn’t get around to cleaning my house.  It isn’t that I have a sink full of dishes and stacks of laundry piled to the ceiling….  I do those everyday things to enable us to move freely about the house….  BUT unlike my daughter, who believes a vacuum cleaner is a GREAT birthday gift, I barely recognize one when I see it!   

I tried over and over to change my evil ways,  but at some point the “Old Dogs, New Tricks” theory proved itself to be true.   Greg, the saintly husband, kept telling me to hire a housekeeper — I, unwilling to admit defeat, kept insisting that I was going to do better.  Finally I passed from the denial stage to the acceptance phase, and I found Maria!!  Recommended to me by my squeeky clean daughter, Kris, I knew she would be more than adequate for my exacting standards!!   

So about six years ago, Maria started cleaning my house.  Not only is she great at her job, dependable, and thorough…. she is just a delightful woman who has raised four children on her own by cleaning houses.   Maria is truly an amazing person… she has a great attitude, and sense of humor, and she takes life as it comes and deals with it.  Greg and I have come to think of Maria and  her husband, Jose, as friends and we have gotten to know her family and vice versa.  They are invited to our grandkids’  birthday parties and last year we had a KILLER Cinco de Mayo party together.  ( If you stick with me, I will give you all those great Mexican dish recipes as well!)

SO, when Maria told me that her daughter, Maritza, was going to have a baby, naturally the first thought I had was “BABY SHOWER!!”  She was thrilled at the offer and so we agreed we would do it.  She would do most of the cooking, but I would decorate  the house, provide flowers and the cake.

So one day Maria is here cleaning and I brought up the subject again.  Well, she says, she had her daughter make a list of attendees, and it is more people than she thought.  Maybe I want to rethink this plan, she says….  OH, but NO, I say…  the more the merrier, HOW many people do you expect?   Between 90 and 100, she says!!!   Now I am aware that Mexican families are often large and that it would probably be a pretty good crowd.  Picturing 100 people with 100 gifts, however, resulted in a “deer in the headlights” moment that Maria quickly recognized as possible hesitation on my part.  She graciously offered to let me totally off the hook.    NO NO NO, I said, we have plenty of room in the backyard, it will be great fun, don’t be silly, blah blah blah.    Our backyard is really great for big parties, as the pool is at one end and then there is a huge expanse of grass, perfect for setting up table and chairs for a crowd.  All we need is perfect weather, and after all, this IS Southern California!   

The decision is made, Greg is totally on board with the idea,  and offers to make one of his spectacular fruit arrangements.   To go with this thing of beauty I will make my VERY EASY, yet VERY DELICIOUS,  Cream Cheese and Yogurt fruit dip.   You will love this dip and ALL you have to do to get the recipe is tune in for Installment Two of “The Giant Baby Shower”! !

 

Cream Cheese Chutney Spread with Crispy Won Tons

Filed under: Cooking and Entertaining,Food and Entertaining — bonhuse @ 2:06 am

Our favorite way to entertain is to serve a variety of appetizers, mainly finger foods, buffet style, that people can eat at their leisure.  Not only does this create a casual atmosphere, but it allows the host and hostess to actually mingle and chat with guests rather than racing around trying to time everything perfectly for a sit down affair. 

This recipe has become a staple in our cocktail party repertoire!  My mom discovered this one in one of the thousands of recipes that she collected and as usual, she found a winner!  It has a great combination of tastes and is easy to make.  I try to keep the ingredients for this one on hand so I can whip it up and dazzle last minute guests!  So next time you want to “dazzle” but don’t want to work TOO hard at it….  here you go.

Layered Chutney Spread

 1 – 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 tsp. curry powder

 *1/2 cup bottled chutney

2 tbsp. finely chopped green onion

1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts

2 tbsp. flaked coconut

Spread cream cheese evenly onto 9 or 10 inch round serving plate to within 3/4 inch of plate edge.  (I have a couple of plates that are perfect for this.  Pier One or World Imports has a section with dishes for serving Japanese foods.  The plates are plain white with a curved lip around the edge.  They are approximately the size of a salad plate, so you can spread the cream cheese to the edge and it looks great!) 

Sprinkle with curry powder.  Spread chutney evenly over the top.  When the chutney is really chunky I cut up the large pieces of fruit. 

Sprinkle onions on top, then  the peanuts, and top with coconut. 

Serve with Won Ton Crackers.  PEOPLE LOVE THIS STUFF!!  I suppose you could serve with a different cracker if you don’t have time to make the won ton crackers.  Do try making the won ton crackers, however, as they are delicious all by themselves and great with this spread. 

Crispy Won Ton Crackers

1 stick of butter, melted

1 package of Won Ton skins, DYNASTY is the best brand!

Heat oven to 375F.  Brush 2 large cookie sheets with melted butter.  (I never said this was low fat, low cal, did I?)  Cut Won Ton skins in half, diagonally.  Place skins on prepared pans.  Brush tops with melted butter.  (I told you!)  I use a small paintbrush or pastry brush to make it easy.  Bake for 5 to 6 minutes until golden brown.   You will have just about enough time while each pan is baking to get the next pan ready.   Keep a close eye on them as ovens vary and these little buggers can burn in a flash! 

I usually make a minimum of one whole package of skins, which makes 100 crackers.  Then, should an unexpected “opportunity to dazzle” present itself, the crackers are ready.  I haven’t tried this spread with any other crackers, but I’m sure that somewhere in that huge cracker section at the market, a suitable substitute may exist.  We love these  and our granddaughters love to eat them plain .  You can keep them for a few weeks in an airtight container.  You need to provide little server knives for spreading, as the won ton crackers are too delicate to “dip”. 

* Chutney is available in most markets and is usually found in the “exotic” foods section.  It is typically Indian in origin, and made from a variety of fruits, often mango.   Common ingredients are ginger, brown sugar, and raisins, and it is served as an accompaniment for meat or poultry, especially curried dishes. If you are familiar with chutney, or own your very own chutney store, please excuse the explanation.  I have often inquired as to the whereabouts of the chutney in a market and received a totally blank and bewildered stare in response.  I assume, therefore, that not everyone considers it a necessary pantry item!

 

HOLY COW, IT’S 2009!! February 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 8:50 pm

I know I’m not alone when I say, “How the Heck did THAT happen?”  I distinctly remember being astounded that we were suddenly planning for a new MILLENNIUM, and all the panic surrounding “Y2K”.  I am proud to say that my “New Millennium Resolutions” are coming along nicely.  If you set new goals for the MILLENNIUM, aren’t you far more likely to acheive them?  It removes that time crunch of one measley year, which zips by with supersonic speed! 

It is good, however, to break one’s goals down into slightly shorter milestones, so I have set some goals for 2009.  Other than the standard goals of getting in shape, losing weight, saving more money, improving one’s golf/tennis/bowling/whatever game, I have vowed to BLOG far more frequently and with regularity.   Obviously, this didn’t get going immediately on January 1, so I have some catching up to do.  My current plan is to write every day, publish a new post at least twice a week, and get my BLOG format spruced up a bit.    If I could BLOG on an elliptical workout machine, I could kill two birds with one stone, but I find it challenging enough to not throw up.  So until I have a bit more workout time under my hopefully shrinking belt, I will have to pass on this multi-tasking opportunity. 

Yes, I am going to the gym at least three times a week.  I can’t take credit for this wholesome change of lifestyle, as my son, Kelly, got me going by dragging me, kicking and screaming, the first time.  He seems determined to keep me alive, probably hoping that I won’t spend my “golden” years drooling in his spare bedroom.    I notice my daughter is very enthusiastic about this new activity as well.  Seriously, I’m sure their motives for prodding me on are noble, but let’s be honest, they won’t be fighting over WHO gets to listen to Mom telling the same stories endlessly and running into their furniture with my shiny new Rascal! 

So now that we are back to a relatively normal life after all the Holidays, we can start to think about some everyday cooking, as well as planning for birthday parties, dinner parties, baby showers, wedding showers, cocktail parties, and any other excuse to cook!  I’m going to start off the year with some of my favorite party recipes — appetizers, finger foods, and dips….  some very easy, some fairly elegant, and all very delicious.  So stay tuned and make room in your recipe files for some real keepers!!

 

OUR THANKSGIVING & ONE FAMILY SECRET!! December 5, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 6:01 pm

We had a wonderful day– mainly because all the people we love like mad were HERE!  Well, not ALL… there are some who live far away and some who are no longer WITH us… BUT all the kids, grandkids, and most of our dearest friends were in attendance. An added treat was that our son’s girlfriend’s parents (stick with me here) came from Phoenix to join us so we didn’t have to split up the family to keep everyone happy!  

My husband, Greg, took the day before off from work to help me.  (I know, I know, where did you find him, WOW, what a great guy, you are LYING to make us jealous…  )   Yes, I am extremely lucky to have snagged such a wonder.  I don’t ASK him to do this, he does it because he LIKES to.  Hold on, it gets better!!  He also voluntarily leaps enthusiastically from bed on Thursday morning to help me — well, not true — he actually prepares and stuffs and trusses and bastes the bird himself.  I do some minor supervision… we prepare the stuffing together, assuring the proper consistency, and that is about it.  Then he volunteers to do all the less glamorous tasks, like peeling the yams, peeling the russets, running to the market for the things that somehow I failed to purchase on any one of my 14 trips to the store…..   Yes indeed, he is a treasure.  At times, it is almost sickening he is so nice.  But nature always sides with the hidden flaw, correct?  You know there must be some glaring, unbearable, and immutable quality that this turkey-stuffing, errand-running male possesses.  There has to be a price I pay for this sort of undeserved and cheerful assistance!!  Well, you will have to read this entire blog before I reveal this heinous fault.  No fair scrolling down!! 

So back to Wednesday.  Not only was St. Francis of Assisi home for the day, but our oldest granddaughter, Sydney, spent the night before with us so she could help me with the Giant Pie Affair.  She loves to help me cook all the time, but this year she seemed particularly excited about it, as evidenced by the many text messages and e-mails I received from her!    She has been doing this since she was about five, and I am happy to say that at 11, perched on the brink of adolescence, she still enjoys it completely!  She made me promise not to start ONE thing without her in the morning and we started at 8 a.m. and did not finish until 9:30 at night!   Before you call Child Protective Services, let me assure you that we actually took many breaks and it was SHE who was driving ME to keep going. 

Sydney has become my piecrust expert.  The first few years the crust edges were not crimped to perfection…  the tiny fingers had not quite acheived all their coordination.  NOW, however, not only has she perfected the art of pie crust crimping, BUT I ordered some lovely little gadgets from Williams-Sonoma.  Little pie crust stampers, which make four different kinds of leaves out of the crust.  These pies were true works of art.  Leaves lined the edges of all the pies, sometimes multiple types and more than one layer, and in some cases she placed them upright from the edge like a collar!  They were awesome — ALL thirteen of them!    Here is the list:  Four pumpkin (one that we get to eat Wednesday night), 2 pecan, 2 cherry pies with that fancy lattice work stuff, one lemon meringue, one banana cream, one key lime, one chocolate for the little girls, and one French apple.

I cannot tell a lie.  Are you picturing me rolling out 26 or so pie crusts after making them from scratch?  STOP.  Instead, picture me unrolling Pillsbury piecrusts from the refrigerator section at the market.  I have a great recipe for piecrust, and I am capable of making it, but when I am making anything over four pies, it is the Pillsbury Doughboy for me!  Besides which, I’m not sure there is that much difference in quality! 

Now, we have to devise an adequate place to showcase these masterpieces.  Into my “Craft Room” (or as Greg calls it “Crap Room” ) we go.  It is at times like this that I am glad that I ignored the snide comments about the boxes and little crafty things that I have been storing for years!  Sydney and I devised a lovely multi-level pie display by putting boxes of different heights on the buffet at the end of our dining room… We then draped a burgundy colored tablecloth over the boxes, scattered orange and red fake autumn leaves all around, and placed the pies at different heights on the buffet.  A couple of tall red hurricane style candles at one end, and it was a VISION!  We were very proud of ourselves, as you have probably surmised. 

And while we are on the crafty subject,  I gave Syd the assignment to make placecards for the guests.  With a tad of help from that endless fount of talent, St. Gregory, she typed up placecards with cornucopis graphics, cut them to the size of a business card, then, using double sided tape, put them on a dark green piece of scrapping paper folded in half.  THEN, I found in my endless supply of “Crap”, tiny little fake vegetables that my mother had bought years ago when she was making various crafts.  Armed with the trusty hot-glue gun, Sydney placed little carrots, green beans, onion, eggplants, etc. on the corner of each placecard.  THEY were perfect!

NOTE:  I don’t usually tell people where they must sit, and therefore don’t typically make placecards.  However, we had two tables this year, and we wanted to make sure that the new guests were sitting with people they knew… for instance, let’s put the parents who drove 400 miles NEXT TO the daughter they came to see!

In addition to making all the pies and making all that crafty stuff, we ground the fresh cranberries, cut up the grapes, baked the yams, and accomplished EVERYTHING that is possible to do the day before. 

I absolutely TREASURE those days of cooking with Sydney.  Next year, Katie will be seven and she will definitely join in the preparation!  Gracie, at 4, is going to have to sit out a year or two more!  Not only does Sydney seem to really enjoy it, and want to learn about cooking, but we have so much fun doing it at the same time.  The little accidents and failures that are inevitable in this much cooking present me an opportunity to show her that these are not important things…. that we laugh, we clean it up, we go on.  She still talks about the time that while making buttercream frosting, I turned the mixer on at TOP speed in a bowl FULL of powdered  sugar!  Every appliance and both of us were coated in powdered sugar.   I am hoping that these things will help her keep perspective later in life when things don’t always go as planned and that she will learn to “not sweat the small stuff”.  Maybe I am reading too much into the value of this experience, but I do know that I clearly remember my days of cooking with my mom and my grandmother, and I am CERTAIN that is why I enjoy cooking so much today.

And yes, we set the tables, complete with napkins and all the serving dishes with notes in them to remind us WHAT goes in WHAT.  It was a long day, but a GREAT day, and on Thursday we could take it easy and enjoy the company.

OK.  You have waded through this entire blog and I promised to divulge the glaring deficiency in my otherwise saint-like husband.  Ready?  He  has no sense of direction whatsoever.  Inside a building, he is a genius.  In those big hotels in Las Vegas, I could get so lost that I would be given up for dead.  He can aboslutely walk from point A to point B without a pause.  GET him outside and he cannot find his way to the market that we have gone to for 20 years. We must have taken my mother home 1000 times in the years that she lived in her apartment.  On the 953rd time, he turned the wrong way on her street.  That was the ONE time I failed to say tactfully, “You know it’s a right turn up here, I’m sure”…   It is truly unbelievable.  I am thrilled every day that he finds his way home from work.  It is a true miracle.  THANK GARMIN for the GPS that now assures that he WILL be seen again when he goes off unattended.  

So I know you are disappointed that the “flaw” was so inoccuous.  You were hoping that he was some sort of sleazy womanizer, or that he tortured small animals.  You can’t believe that THAT is all I could come up with.  Well, I wracked my brain, and ALAS, this is it. 

 What can I say?  I kissed a lot of frogs!!