Chili, Lasagna, and Paganism

Peeking out my window at various times today has shown the day to be alternating parts of overcast, sunny, and cloudy.  Stepping out the door proved that we were not having a heat wave either.  I don’t know about the other folks in the the Northwest, but this feels too much like early spring rather than the first day of summer.   In fact, the temperatures have me thinking about cold weather foods like steaming bowls of chili or plates of lasagna.  Sigh.  Looks like the barbecue will need to wait a few more days.

But since the weather is not lending itself to grilling steaks and corn on the barbie, I am in the mood for some good ole recipe diving.  You know, that process of reading lots of recipes on a given “food” and then making up my own little version.  Which almost always is quite awesome and rarely reproducible.  I think the best part is just how many ways there are of making something delicious to serve to my family. Continue reading

Have Yerself a Dirty Banana!

I thought that you all might need a little pick-me up after all the ardors of the weekend.  Right?  You’re tuckered out from all those household chores you put off until the weekend like 18 loads of laundry?  Yeah, me too.

So, let’s get ourselves in a better place…at least in our minds.

First, you must remember to make your life smell like the tropics.  I’m fond of dabbing a bit of Hawaiian Tropical sunscreen behind my ears – especially right before my dear hubby comes home from work.  I’ve found that nothing sets the mood like sun tan lotion.  I mean, how can you take a whiff of that and not be in the mood?  For…something.  Typically, it has the reverse effect on me and I want to slip into a muu-muu and eat an extra, extra-large serving of ice cream, but I’m wacky like that.  But then, you already knew that.

Okay, so now that you and all within smell of you are at least drumming up the scent of the beach, let me continue to set the tone with this picture of a perfect beach just begging you to go for a dip.  Leave your footprints in the sand.  Pretend you have no responsibilities, no mortgage, no in-box, no box of out-grown clothes lurking under your bed demanding you hit the gym more often than the all-you-can-eat buffet.  Yeah, that kind of place. You know the kind of place – the one you catch a glimpse of in a magazine and hope to god and all that is good to have just one chance to see if beach sand that white feels like sugar when you walk in it.  How am I doing?  Do you have this in mind yet?  Can you feel the sand between your toes?  Feel the ocean breeze?  Okay, that is most excellent!

So now, grab yerself a towel, find a lounge chair or shady spot or whatever and get something to read.  You know, like a trashy romance novel that you’d die if the GUYS at the gym ever caught you reading.  Yep.  The scene is nearly perfect.  The only thing missing is a nice frosty Dirty Banana to sweeten the deal.  Enjoy!

Cooking Is Magic

Although I am a trained teacher, I do not teach my kiddos.  At least not in the formal sense.  There are no “skill and drill” moments in my home, no peppering their days with flashcards and worksheets.  I figure I only get them as little kiddos once and I’m going to enjoy them.

But what I do do with my kids is play with them.  Teaching kiddos card games and making crafts, those are all skills that make those synaptic responses just go whiz-bang.  And, of course, I read to them.  But my favorite thing to do with my kiddos is cook with them.  Talk about a thematic gold mine.  In one batch of banana bread you can talk about all kinds of stuff:  science, math, geography, spelling, you name it.

So, making focaccia for dinner last night was yet another great chance to turn my little kiddos into the next generation’s scientists or geographers or what-have-you.

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Today’s Tasty Tidbit: Chocolate “World Peace” Cookies

I found this recipe a few years ago while looking for a new Christmas cookie.  I wish I could say I invented them, but alas, all I can do is post it for your gastronomic pleasure.  There is absolutely nothing better than a few of these with a cup of good coffee.  Try these and I’m sure  you’ll agree.

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The Legacy of Mimi’s Orange Balls

When I married my husband, I – like other newlyweds – had no real idea just what I was getting into with the whole marriage gig.  What I mean to say is that you fall head over heels in love with someone and just never think about how adding that person to your personal history also means you are adding all the people and history that your loved one has acquired along the way.  Lucky for me, my husband came with a great family and some quite excellent stories.  He also came with the legacy of the Christmas cookies we call Mimi’s Orange Balls.

Let me share his story and her recipe with you.

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Today’s Tasty Tidbit: Jam Tart

Here’s a little hold-over in my cooking arsenal from back when I lived in England.  Those Brits may get grief over lots of little details like dental hygiene and icky food, but they get desserts right.  In their own words, this dessert is a “gorgeous pudding.”  Of course, it isn’t a pudding, and we Yanks don’t typically call food gorgeous, but whatever.  Details, schmeetails, right?

Actually, I had some absoultely horrific gastronomic “delights” while across the pond.  Case in point, the lovely serving of lasagna I once pondered (after having previously purchased it, sight unseen, from the equivalent of the Soup Nazi).  This lasagna was what one might call a “Cook’s Choice” aka, “we’ve got lots of leftovers that really need to be used.”

I can hear the head cook now, “Let’s see.  We’ve got extra beans [like what we know of as Campbell’s Pork and Beans], and some cheese.  I know, let’s make lasagna!  To add some interest, let’s use the spinach lasagna noodles.  The kids will love it. ”  Well, maybe if we’d all had a few pints prior to dinner.  Dear god, that was horrific.

But jam tart, well, it’s just gorgeous.

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Today’s Tasty Tidbit – Kris’ Kringles

Okay, if you are needing a quick and festive little doo-dad to add to the cookie tray, here is a good option.

And if you are needing something to entertain the kiddos, (while being snowed in, let’s say)  well then, this is also a big hit.  And it goes without saying that they go down “real” nicely with a cup of coffee.  And since they include a reference to modern art, you can chalk it up as a way of improving your children’s art appreciation.  (It is as good of a form of rationalization for making cookies as I need.)

Kris’ Kringles

1 box of Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers (or similiar product)

1 bag of premium white chocolate chips, melted

Chocolate bark, melted

Candy Canes, crushed into small bits

On a parchment covered work surface, line up as many chocolate wafer cookies as you want to make.  Be sure the wafers don’t touch each other as so you can easily remove the finished product without disturbing the chocolate. 

Place melted chocolate bark in a piping cuff.  You may also use a zip-lock type bag with the tip cut off – it works the same way.  In fact, the clean-up process is limited to just chucking it into the landfill, so if that seems a good idea, by all means, consider yourself absolved of guilt for using a plastic baggie.

Channeling your best Jackson Pollack energy, drizzle the melted chocolate over the wafers.  When set, repeat with the white chocolate.  Immediately sprinkle with cany cane pieces, lightly pressing the candy into the white chocolate as needed.  Let set for at least an hour and then store in an air-tight container.

There, now you should have a bit more Ho Ho Ho! in your cookie arsenal.  Enjoy!