Easter 2013

We are no longer hosting the large family holiday celebrations at Casa Buffy.  Our family has splintered over the last few years, now that both Dad and Mother are gone.  My-Sister-The-Nurse  had the basement of her condo finished last year, and now has room for all her family plus Frankie’s family, Dear Husband and me!  She’ll be hosting us for Easter.

I found this adorable dinner roll recipe.  The dough is shaped into small oval rolls, and before it’s cooked you make two snips in the dough to create “bunny ears.”  I’ll need to be careful not to over cook, or we’ll get brown ears, but I’m going to give this a try.

I’d like to do the goofy deviled eggs that look like little chicks.  Rather than cutting the egg in half, you make a cut cross-wise about a third of the way from the end.  Scoop out the yolk, and do the regular yolk mixture.  Then, you refill the egg, put the white back on like a little cap (slightly tilted), and make the tiniest carrot beak.  I think they used capers for eyes, but there must be other options.  Here’s a link to Rachael Ray, who shows how to make the eggs.

And, of course, I’ll be making Vernice Kastman refrigerator rolls for My-Sister-The-Nurse. She’ll hide them all, and everyone will let her get away with it. It seems like a small price to pay for being treated to Easter dinner.

I’m looking forward to having more time with my family. That’s one of the best things about being drawn together to celebrate: family time!

Odd Traditions

When I was young, we had some rather odd dinner traditions for the night before Christmas.  I have four siblings.  My youngest sister arrived when my oldest sister was nineteen, but the traditions must have been constant, because I’ve heard both of them reminisce about them.

My mother made oyster stew for Christmas Eve.  I think she made it to please my father.  Personally I wouldn’t have touched it with a ten-foot pole.  Some of the family left the oysters behind, but sipped the broth, but Dad liked it all.  I don’t think I was the only kid who didn’t care for the stew, so in addition, someone made grilled cheese sandwiches, which was just fine with me.  I was too excited about opening presents to really care what was on the table.

There was one other meal that my family ate that I considered odd.  It wasn’t tied to Christmas, but was an occasional Saturday night special.  Dad would cook a lot of bacon.  He would save the fat to cook sliced onions, and then he would scramble eggs in the same pan.  I don’t think he drained the fat.  As I recall, it was a greasy mess!  It was served on toast as a sandwich, and some of us added ketchup to it.  Frankly, it’s one meal I have never recreated, and don’t miss, but my sisters speak of it lovingly.  Sorry, Dad.  I’d rather have one of your grilled steaks.

Someone in the family came up with a variation on a peanut butter sandwich that I still like!
You slather white bread with crunchy peanut butter, then add a spoonful of what we called “piccalilli.”  Probably most of you know that as sweet relish.  It’s grilled like a grilled cheese sandwich.  I love it!  I haven’t had one so far this winter.  I believe I’ll be treating myself this coming week. Of all the food that I’ve described, this sandwich is the only one my husband will not eat.  He just doesn’t know what he’s missing! *G*

I’m confident that I’m not the only one who has been a part of odd family dining traditions.  Care to share yours with me?

 

Pesto

Apparently I’ve been busy the past two weeks. I think my last post was July 24th. I know there was a trip to visit with my youngest sister and her family, but the rest has flown by with all the basics of life. Chores, errands, cleaning, cooking, some packing, a little quilting, just the usual stuff, plus a lot of my annual doctor visits.
So, for my first post in August, I want to talk about making pesto. My house smells fabulous. This is how I think Italian houses must smell all the time, and my sense of smell is saying, “Yuuuummmmmm!”
I surfed for recipes for pesto and learned that there is a classic version that most people use. Garlic, lots of basil, pine nuts, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, Parmesan cheese and olive oil are the ingredients.
I bought a pot of basil in May, intending to plant it outside, but it kept residence on the shelf between the sink and the kitchen window. My sister, Frankie, repotted it for me when she was here, and I’d been watering it. It was long and leggy and had started to grow shoots off the stems, so I had a LOT of basil. I was shopping with a friend yesterday and saw Colavita olive oil on sale for a great price, so I decided this was Pesto Weekend!
I peeled the garlic and cut off the root end. I have a VERY basic food processor. It has no amenities. It is either off or on, and you can pulse the contents, but that’s all it has to offer. I use it about once a year, so I didn’t really want to spring for the terribly expensive one that I’m sure Cook’s Illustrated would like me to use. It chopped the garlic very nicely. Next I added the basil, which I had snipped from the stems. It took four cups. The only thing the recipe didn’t explain was how densely packed the leaves should be, so I went for a medium amount of compacting. The processor chopped the leaves finely.
At that point you add the pine nuts, Parmesan, salt and pepper and blend it all together. It looks odd, and was trying to form a ball. The final step is to add, with the motor running, one cup of olive oil. Almost immediately I got something that more resembled pesto. Once all the oil had been added, I unplugged the machine, took the top off, and scraped down the sides. I reassembled it and gave it another whirl to be sure everything was well incorporated. It was beautiful, and smelled heavenly.
The recipe advised freezing the pesto in ice cube trays. Each “cube” takes about one tablespoon of pesto. I ended up with 18 tablespoons. To prevent the basil from turning dark, you cover the pesto with a light film of olive oil, and then cover the ice cube tray with plastic wrap. I pressed the wrap down onto the oil to push out the air, and then put the trays in the freezer. When they are frozen, I’ll pop the pesto out of the trays and store them in a freezer bag to use as needed. I’m positive I’ll be using it in my minestrone soup, and probably on pizza dough as the base of an appetizer.
I think next time I will try packing the leaves more tightly. And, next time, I may try doubling the recipe. Although, homemade pesto has a shelf life of about six months. I may need to keep an eye on the basil season at the Farmer’s market, to see if I could make the next batch closer to the end of September. That batch would take me through March.
2012 shall be known as “The Year of Pesto!” *G*
For the complete recipe, visit The Yummy Life. Here’s the site if you’d like pictures of the process.

Green Olive Tapenade

There is a restaurant near my home that sells a “muffaletta” sandwich that knocks my socks off. It’s a very non-traditional muffaletta, made using Italian rolls, lunch meat, and mozzarella. The topping is what I like. It’s made of very finely diced green olives and garlic, and it makes my mouth go, “Yuuuuummmmm!”
I’ve tried other tapenades, and like them, but I like this one the most. I’m going to have to see if they will sell it to me by the half pint.
I’ve been trying to link to a picture of a muffaletta for you, without luck. Go to Google Images and type in “muffaletta,” and you can see hundreds of them! Thanks to all of you, I may know how to make the tapenade! I have a small food processor called a “Little Oscar.” If I put green olives stuffed with pimentos, a few cloves of garlic and some olive oil in the base and chopped them fine, I might have what I’m looking for!
YEA!!!

First Farmer’s Market Visit

Dear Husband and I made our first trip to the Farmer’s Market yesterday. DH was traveling toward the boat for the weekend, but stopped to be my pack horse for the market. I was relatively restrained, less than one totebag of goodies, but it was nice to have his help.
Tomatoes, fresh dill, green beans, zucchini, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, crimini mushrooms and cheese curds…..I think that was all I got. I passed on the unusual flavors and shapes of pasta, and the potted herbs, kohlrabi, the great bread from Breadsmith, and plenty of other things. I’ll get them another time.
Fruit salad to go with dinner tonight, and maybe a strawberry rhubarb pie. Interested?

Cooking classes

I need to find some cooking classes that will help me prepare simple but well seasoned food!
I know how to cook the basic American menu, but I’m very tired of everything tasting the same. I don’t exactly know what taste I’m looking for, but I want more interesting food without having to spend the entire day in the kitchen.
Dear Husband doesn’t mind crockpot meals. On occasion, I’m willing to use them, especially when we have so many activities there isn’t time to prepare a good meal. But, there are some meals where everything shouldn’t be blended together. I don’t enjoy veggies that have been cooked together all day long, so that you can’t tell what kind of veggie you’re eating. Crockpots are good for baked beans, or for slow cooking soup all day long.
My appetite has been missing for the last week or so. I find I’m just beginning to think about planning meals, and eating something more than chicken and rice soup. No casseroles for a while, I think
I’m so glad that it’s time for the Farmers Markets to be up and running. I’ll miss the one this weekend, but you can be sure I’ll be out there next week, raring to go!
Give me your best summer meal idea, won’t you?

Cookies

I haven’t really considered Christmas cookies, and it’s the 10th of December!
I’ve made one recipe of the Sugar Crisp that my family considers a holiday treat. My youngest sister was coming for Thanksgiving and I wanted to be sure to have a box of them to send home with her. (Her husband found the box first and tried to make off with it!)
I think every family must have cookies that speak to them of Christmas. In addition to the Sugar Crisp, Russian tea cakes, Thumbprints, Holiday Raspberry Ribbons and peanut butter cookies with a Hershey’s Kiss seem to be cookies that we make every year. I rarely make cookies that need to be decorated. One of my nieces makes the best iced sugar cookies I’ve ever had, so I leave it to her to supply the family.
For Dear Husband, I might make the spicy nut slices that we talked about in November. Those are his particular favorite, but I don’t usually think of them as a Christmas cookie.
I can see that it’s time to browse my cookie recipe collections tonight. Perhaps that will get me in the mood to bake.

Spicy Nut Slices

Cop Car, the ever helpful, sent me a copy of the recipe that I shared with her. She suggested in her blog that I post this recipe, and I said I would, as soon as I found it! *G*
Here’s the Spicy Nut Slices that Dear Husband likes so much:
Spicy Nut Slices
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped almonds
Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs; beat well. Blend in vanilla. Stir flour with next 4 ingredients; stir into creamed mixture. Add nuts. Shape into two 9-inch rolls. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Chill well. Cut into 1/4-inch slices; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees about 8 minutes. Cool 1 minute; remove from pans to a cooling rack. Makes 72.
We don’t use almonds. Usually Mother made them with pecans or walnuts. The two rolls can be rectangles with the upper edges rounded. We never get 72 cookies from this recipe, so we must be making over-sized cookies.

Veggies

Dear Husband delayed his trip to the lake long enough to visit the Farmer’s Market with me this morning. I wanted his help in deciding what veggies we would eat this week. We ended up with the standard veggies, nothing exotic. I know that we will be having corn on the cob this Sunday, and that some time in the coming week we will do stuffed green peppers. I’ll make the first loaves of zucchini bread for the freezer. I’ll plan our meals around the rest.
Here’s a look at what I brought home:
Veggird 2.JPG
Corn, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, red and green bell peppers, melrose peppers, pickle cucumbers, green onions, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, red raspberries, sunflowers, glads, eucalyptus and apple cider donuts! Oh, and plain cheese curds. I would have had to make several trips to the car with that load.
It was a lovely way to start the day. *S*

Nine days???

Could it really be nine says since I last posted? I’ve certainly thought about posting, but my days have been full, so the ideas haven’t made it to the page.
The egrets and herons returned around the seventh of May. We don’t have huge numbers of them yet, but I have the pleasure of seeing at least one of them each time I go out. I have seen the big gray herons in flight several times, and they always remind me of pterodactyls.
Up until this week we had a long run of gray weather without the rain. This week we have finally gotten the rain. I made a trip to Morris, Illinois last Tuesday, and was pleasantly surprised to see that about 90% of the fields between Yorkville and Morris were planted, and many even had corn 4-6 inches tall. I know that many of the Midwestern states have had so much rain that the farmers haven’t been able to get into the fields. We seem to have been a little area short on precipitation, so I’m not complaining. What I don’t care for is being drop-kicked from the 60s to 90 degrees overnight!
Despite my post on being frugal, I bought a sewing machine! I have been concerned that my beloved Singer 301A would eventually go kaput, and not be repairable. I’ve sewed on that machine for more than fifty years, and adore it! I thought that it might be wise to have a newer machine as a back up, before Dear Husband and I retire. The new machine couldn’t be more different. The Singer is a straight stitch portable machine made of iron. While I can drop the feed dogs to stipple quilt, it was never really intended for that purpose. The new machine is computerized, has a built-in dual feed system and an 11 inch opening through which I can feed quilts. There is a built-in needle threader. It has more than 100 stitches, an alphabet and numbers, and pattern memory. I can arrange for the needle to stop in the down position and there is a knee lever for lifting the presser foot. It’s possible to run the machine without using the foot pedal. Most women who sew today take a lot of this for granted, but it’s all new to me! I hope the learning curve won’t be too steep.
I’ve planted all but two of the plants I picked up in my first garden shopping trip. The last two to go in were purple fountain grass, along the back of the bed next to the garage wall. If I had planted them a month ago, it would have been a lot easier, but this week I had to work around iris that were ready to open, and the last of the tulips. I asked DH to bring a chair and sit where he could keep an eye on me as I planted. I was afraid that I would get into a position I couldn’t get out of. Luckily, the plants went in well, and with the use of the shovel handle, I was able to maneuver myself out of a tight spot and back onto my feet. I’m sure that his presence was what made that work. Had he not been there, I’d still be waiting for a hand out of the garden! *G*
I believe that eight to ten iris were blooming yesterday. One was open for a couple of days, and then it was a domino effect. It must have been just warm enough, and sunny enough to move them along on Tuesday. I have a lot of dark colored iris: navy, purple, burgundy, bronze, contrasted with yellow and peach. There’s no rhyme or reason. If I see one I like, I try it, and they almost always multiply for me. They are at the top of the list for my favorite flowers.
We are going to celebrate my oldest granddaughter’s seventh birthday today. Her birthday was last week, and they did a party for the kids, but the adults are gathering this weekend to celebrate. Last weekend was so popular there wasn’t enough time to fit everything in. I was tickled to hear that GD1 wanted to be the Cake Boss. To further this goal, I bought her a Nordic pan that lets you create filled cup cakes that resemble a soft serve ice cream cone in shape when they are assembled. The top and bottom are baked separately, and then pudding or frosting or even ice cream can be spooned into the indentation in the bottom half. I doubt her mother has the time to cook with her, but I thought it might be something that GD1 and I could do this summer. It interests me that it’s not the eating of the cupcakes, but the baking of them, that appeals to her.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. I hope that those of you who have been around for our wars will help our younger generation understand why we choose to remember those who have fought on our behalf.