Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Party's Over

Today was the last of my many birthday celebrations. After all of the previous celebration my dear friend Bob took Lee and me out for lunch at P. F. Chang's. PFC is always a treat. I know it's a chain but the food is so well prepared and just delicious. I love it that they offer brown rice. I will routinely have chicken lettuce wraps and Kung Pao chicken. The chicken is sauced perfectly with peanuts and hot chile peppers. I also have a wee bit of a chopstick fetish. I adore eating with chopsticks and the way using them slows down consumption to nibbles of meat and vegetable with rice. I think about Pearl S. Buck and her descriptions of Asian women eating so delicately bringing chopsticks with food to their pink rosebud mouths. I read those books so very long ago but the image remains. I will never eat so delicately and with the same dexterity. Do you know that some people can bring a boiled egg to their mouths with chopsticks. That is awesome. Maybe I could practice with some golf balls. Such a picture.

So you get the picture lunch with a dear friend who I don't get to see much. Of course having lunch out doesn't mean I get to skip preparing dinner for Miss Lee. We ate very late. I made a very simple dinner of barbecued shrimp and corn on the cob. Of course Lee had a piece of Julia Child's cake I made - Reine de Saba. It's a single layer chocolate cake made with butter and rum with eggs separated and whipped and gently folded into the batter. The frosting is butter, rum and semisweet chocolate melted together than whipped over a bowl of ice water to chill the chocolate mixture as it thickens to a frosting consistency. After frosting the cake I toasted almond slices and sprinkled them over the top. That cake is "over the top".

I snagged the recipe for the shrimp from a Weber grill display at Home Depot. In the recipe shrimp is marinated with barbecue sauce. After grilling the shrimp is tossed in a bag with spices. Of course I changed it or as we say "adapted" it. It is yummy and great and the shrimp stay plump and juicy on the grill as I grilled them in the shell. Of course Lee detests getting her hands messy shelling spice coated shrimp but it was all worth it. It was a pretty simple but fun meal that signaled the end of my birthday week. I think you'll like it.

Sack'Em Shrimp

1 lb large shrimp (15 - 20) shell on from Trader Joe's. The recipe calls for peeled and deveined 26-30 size shrimp. I like Trader Joe's because they are easy peel.
1/2 C barbecue sauce
1 1/2 T. chile powder
1 T. parsley flakes
2 tsp. lemon pepper
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp.onion powder
melted butter for dipping

Marinate the shrimp for an hour in barbecue sauce in the fridge. I used Hendrickson's marinade and salad dressing. In a sack place the remaining spices and toss well together. Remove shrimp from the marinade and discard the marinade. Thread shrimp on skewers and grill 3 minutes. Flip and grill another 1-2 minutes. After grilling remove the shrimp from the skewers and toss in the spice sack. Serve out of the bag. Guests can dip shrimp in the melted butter.

This was very messy but very good. I would definitely do this again. So birthday done :(. I so loved seeing and talking to everyone. Next adventure is surgery to remove and biopsy a mass on my arm. I think it's pretty harmless. Just a remnant from life as an alien in my 40's. One does need to pay for one's past.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Orgasmic Birthday

I knew that title would get your attention! I realized something wonderful. When you are little everyone makes sure your actual birthday is special and there is a large amount of birthday energy concentrated on that day. It is so nice and lovely for the very young. At my tender age I still work and have a demanding schedule but the birthday gets spread over a few days with get togethers and fetes and wishes delivered as people can, the special day and then the birthday celebrations after. It means that you celebrate a much longer time and I love it. I do love spending time with and hearing from special people in my life.

So my birthday stated last Saturday with the Julia and Anne celebration preparation I shared in the last blog. The Sunday celebrants had a great time and it was delicious fun. People started wishing me hap birthday as my little son used to call it. Yesterday I had a grueling day that started at 5:00 a.m. and involved a trip to Columbus then on to Cincinnati. I had to be in Cincinnati early this morning so I spent last night with Sue and Tom. When I arrived about 6 I found plans for a special dinner. Sue lovingly prepared grilled shrimp over a spinach salad with lemon vinaigrette. The shrimp were sauced with tzatziki sauce (yogurt, dill and cucumbers with lemon) and feta. Tom gardens so Sue also made a salad of eggplant, lemon and garlic. As is that weren't enough we had "cuppycakes" as they named them with mini fruit tarts. Served with a large amount of fun and laughter and with a call from my youngest sister it was incredible. Such sweet kindness and celebration from people so dear is incredible. I heard from Mimi and Bobo with a card and a call with a fun chat. They are in such good spirits it's another gift for my birthday.

This evening Lee and I went to dinner at the Meadowlark where I had an orgasmic dessert. We love local restaurants and this one is great. Lee had Jamaican spiced chicken thighs with rice and grilled bananas. I chose a thick slice of eggplant fried to crunchy goodness with mushrooms and capers teamed with mashed potatoes and broccolini. After this dinner with a glass of wine I was in fine birthday fettle. I decided to go for dessert and it was incredible. Perfect Leo summertime dessert - it was Pavlova.

I've seen it and wanted to try it but never have. That was a huge error on my part. Pavlova is not too sweet, crunchy and creamy - perfect for a texture maeven. It is beautiful and yes I'll use that word orgasmic. I will just tell you that after I ate it I surreptitiously and much to Lee's chagrin gave my plate two licks with my tongue. It was that good. So Pavlova is a nest of crunchy meringue filled with whipped sweet and sour cream. On top of that are strawberries, blueberries and kiwi. To gild this lily it is drizzled with raspberry sauce. OMG!!! The server asked if we would like anything else and I laughed and said I would take 6 more Pavlova's. I'm joking but they were delightful and I cannot wait to eat more.

So this is my birthday wisdom: Don't wait 62 years to eat Pavlova or don't wait to try something new and different and tempting. Your life can be made immeasurably better and fun.

Love to all and thanks for all of the birthday sweetness. You are all my Pavlovas and you know who you are!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Julia

Today is Julia Child's day of birth. As a young homemaker I watched Julia, read her cookbooks and experimented in the kitchen. I read a lot about French cuisine and while I admired Julia's devotion I didn't feel the same. It wasn't me. I chose to slave over other cuisines and learn about them and make the dishes best known. Like most Americans I enjoy Italian but I'm crazy about all Mediterranean cooking, Asian and Latin and Spanish flavors. I also adore regional American cooking . Of course many American dishes are rooted in older cuisines and no doubt lots of French cooking lurks in those dishes so I'll have to be a little less judgemental.

To celebrate the woman who is one of my muses I chose to make some French dishes from Julia's collection. I am creating a somewhat casual summer meal to be enjoyed outside. Julia's birthday is close to mine so I am celebrating my cooking as well. For the hors d'oeuvre I chose a recipe from another of my muses - my Dad. Can men be muses? I don't know but he is. He makes a toothsome brie with brown sugar, scotch and pecans baked on top. It is awesome. I'll make Salade Nicoise with fresh grilled tuna, vegetables and nicoise olives napped with a lemon vinaigrette. I ran across Julia's recipe for vichyssoise. It is a pureed leek and potato soup served chilled. I decided to make it because I have a wonderful memory from my childhood. On one of our family vacations we toured New England. For dinner one night we had a great meal at the Woodstock Inn in Vermont. Dad ordered vichyssoise and I just couldn't understand what it was. So he explained and shared. I chose to add that to the menu for the sake of history. I made it today and it is silken in texture.

For dessert I made Julia's flaky pie crust. It makes enough for four crusts so I froze some. This dough has 6 ounces of butter and 1 3/4 cups of shortening! Oh my! I made the dough into a tart shell. Apricots are gorgeous so I poached fresh apricots and then allowed them to drain. On the bottom of the tart shell I painted strained apricot preserves with a little triple sec stirred in. On top of that I put in a filling of cream, egg, cream cheese and spices. Finally I placed the poached apricots on top and baked the tart. When it was done baking I spooned more of the apricot/triple sec mixture over the top as a sweet glaze. The filling isn't sweet so the glaze and the preserves painted on the bottom of the crust should give it a very French sensibility.

So that's the simple meal to honor a wonderful American who changed home cooking for ever! Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Truth in Blogging

As you may or may not know dinners at family vacation are occasions. We plan and think for months and make the meals an occasion. You've read about the luau, the tailgate and the steak extravaganza and the first night tradition. As my second meal I chose a Texas barbecue and from there it all goes south.

I wanted to avoid accounting for this but I was encouraged by family for truth in blogging. So I lay before you my sadness and sorrow over a meal not great and certainly not up to my desires. Josh and Jen and I planned the said barbecue with guacamole and tortilla chips, brisket smoked low and slow over hickory wood, corn with butter, lime, salt, cheese and chili powder and Lee's beans with a vinegar cole slaw. For dessert we would have our take on flan with a vanilla creme brulee.

All started well beans soaked, slaw made and brisket rubbed. Josh and I awoke early to start the fire and smoke the brisket. After a few false starts we got the fire ignited and made packets of hickory chips for smoking. Chips and brisket were laid on the fire and grew ever more delectable as they cooked. At one point as is usual with smoking we added charcoal and another packet of chips. I left to go to the airport and later Josh called to tell me the brisket had ended up charred because the grill temp couldn't be regulated due to some faulty valves on the grill. The sadness and disappointment are huge. To make things worse the beans I've mad a bazillion times were quite salty. My family is precious and they knew the amount of effort and planning that went into this meal. They did their best to help us feel good about dinner. We made a delicious barbecue sauce to wet the brisket but it really didn't work. It was delicious sauce made by four people together over dry chewy brisket. You get my drift.

It was one of those times that happens to any cook who cares about food and thankfully it isn't a frequent event. For me it's been a rarity and for that I am grateful. I tell this sad tale to offer encouragement to other food lovers who try to make great food for those they love as a sign of their love for those dear ones to enjoy. I think what is most frustrating is that if food is love what have I said to those dear ones? I do love them with all of my heart and there is nothing more satisfying than seeing smiles and hearing murmurs of enjoyment.

However I learned that there is another side to food is love. It is love as the food for family. While chatting with Dad and ruing the course of the brisket my Dad showed his true self when he said, 'I couldn't imagine no0t enjoying any meal that my daughter cooked for me." My sweet younger sister lauded all of the effort and planning to create such a meal and acknowledged that even with all of that there is still an opportunity for disappointment but it was mostly the thought that counted. My sweet Mom loved the creme brulee and it was delicious. She had two servings and stated she loved the meal. How can anyone go wrong with a family like this?

So I have been truthful in describing the highs and lows of the meal. The lows of course are the dishes that failed and the high points were guacamole, fish dip, cole slaw, corn and creme brulee. But the point that was the highest was my wonderful family support and their recognition of the love intended through my cooking. Tomorrow is another day to win the food battle. I will not go down twice in a row - especially for the last supper. Tomorrow we'll have steak with paprika parmesan butter, Mimi's sauteed corn, Sue's twice baked potatoes, some slaw or a salad and for dessert watermelon. It will be an awesome meal that brings love full circle love through food and the food of love from those most dear.

The Tailgate

Pix will be on Facebook until Miss Lindalee teaches me the tricks.

Last night the Fords hosted a tailgate for the fam. It was awesome. Given the fact that we have Ohioans and Michiganders teams were developed for MSU and OSU. The first battle was a water balloon toss. MSU won - boo. The little guys particularly liked this event. Gabe and Eli flung mightily and the sturdy water balloons made it through many a toss. Of course eventually there was a water balloon fight and the wise ones avoided splats and general wetness. The boys loved flinging the balloons against the big trees and watching the balloons break.

The second event was a scavenger hunt of 50 items. Team MSU won by cheating and bending the rules - a familiar issue for them. When they couldn't find the objects they drew them and not too well at that. Oh well some people do not share the same high ethical standards in others. Even our family cannot escape the decline experienced by others. Sigh....

Dinner was awesome. We backed my element up to the grill near the house. John bought a pony keg of Oberon so we had that plus other wine and drinks of choice. On the back of the tailgate we started with spicy dill dip and crudites with spinach artichoke dip in a bread bowl. Tom grilled burgers with swiss cheese and bacon. To go with the burgers we had a tortellini pesto salad and grilled corn salad. Everything was incredible.

After dinner we adjourned for a trivia game whose topics included MSU/OSU facts and trivia. While they established an early lead the MSU team was tied in the last round. Mimi proved her mettle despite an early stumble when she said she didn't know the OSU fight song. This from someone who attended games for decades. It was a Mimi moment.

For dessert we had brownie yum yums. Chocolate frosted brownies topped with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge. That was pretty delectable. And the Slip Ass game went to MSU!!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Typical Day

Yesterday was a bag of mixed pleasures as is often the case at Wheeler. Tom and Sue's son Matt is engaged to Halle. They have a wedding this fall in California that will be a small immediate family only event. In order to acknowledge this event and share some preliminary nuptial bliss Sue and Tom organized a brunch. Tables were decorated with Fiesta plates and cut flowers. For the meal we had brunch casserole with sausage, eggs and cheese, fruit salad, blueberry coffee cake with streusel on the top and mimosas. Becky F. Sue and Tom's daughter made a cookbook of family recipes and pictures of the entire family which is being printed and is on its way to them. It includes favorites from family - many of which I've included from the blog. It was a lovely cherished time and the newly weds to be were touched by the cookbook and warm wishes.

The Fords and Diamonds went hiking and Bobo and Jon declined my invitation to go to the quilt store in Cedar. Mimi and I went the short distance to Cedar. Cedar is a charming little town settled by Polish autoworkers as a retirement/vacation community. It's near a beautiful lake. The town is known for its meat market that makes Polish sausages and Plevalean a beef mixture with cherries that is 98% fat free. There is a quilt shop there we visited. I am searching for batiks for a mini quilt. Mimi saw some purses she liked and I told her to choose fabric and I would make a purse for her birthday. She found some beautiful north woods type fabric and she'll have a Michigan purse.

Jen and Josh finished their walk and called us to go to lunch with them at Dick's Pour House - a local establishment. Lunch was fun. Gabe loved his lemonade served in a monkey cup. After lunch the boys played ball while Mom and Dad rested and knit or just hung out. The boys' play was inspired by the baseball game. They acted out numerous combinations of play and of course they won. The front steps are the dugout and Eli comes to sit in the dugout and have talk with himself to improve his play. Of course they always win.

Last night's dinner was a smaller affair. Five of our members had to return home so now we are 13. By the end of the week the Diamond parents will be the remnants of generation 3. Beck made a great meal of a special Greek salad teamed with potato salad. Mimi remembered that on trips to Florida they went to Pappa's restaurant a place that served Greek food. One of the specialties was a Greek salad mounded on a bed of a scoop of potato salad. Atop the lettuce and vegetables Beck served slices of rare, tender flank steak grilled by Dad - the master griller. We had 8 pounds of flank steak and Dad was convinced we would have huge leftovers. As a meal among us would have it all of the food disappeared. Dessert was peanut butter bars with chocolate frosting and the salty peanut cookies with the chocolate frosting was a definite hit. Eli wanted seconds before he finished firsts!

After dinner cards ensued while Granna held Mira and the bathed two boys. It was a lovely day with the people who are most dear to me.


We served Mimosa's at brunch. They were awesome and potent.

Mix together and chill:
3 cups of orange juice
1/3 C of Grand Marnier

At service add 1 bottle of prosecco and serve with a flair!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Recipe for Fun

We were all on pins and needles over the weather. Each year our family goes in to Traverse City (TC) for a Traverse City Beach Bums game. This is very minor league baseball. With Sun Burn and Sun Tan - two giant bears - as mascots. The bears lead games between the innings and contribute to the overall craziness. We weren't sure if the weather would hold to be game worthy so we made a last minute decision headed out to the game. There were 15 celebrants and we bought tickets in two rows as a block. We were right behind the home team dugout. The baby stayed behind with Mimi and Bobo as the babysitters extraordinaire. Mimi's raised and grandparented and greatgrandparented 10 and Bobo is a retired pediatrician so Mira was in the best of hands.

We were there in plenty of time to see the pregame fun. Generation 3 is particularly rowdy. These are the party people who stay up until 2: a.m. and bake brownie and play cards and laugh and remember. Uncle John took his nephews to purchase Beach Bums gear. Brews all around - served in plastic bottles! So the game starts and Eli and Gabe are glued to the action. Someone actually has to feed them as they are just so focused on the game. Gabe who was really nervous about the bears last year declared he would hug Sun Burn this year. Well we got to the game it was all over. He exercised his prerogative and changed his mind. While shopping in the gift shop the bears came in to go to the back room of the store and Gabe climbed up his Dad pretty quickly. When asked if he wanted to meet the bear he announced he would like to meet the bear without his suit. He really watched the bears throughout the game.

I took pictures with the blackberry through the game and have some great shots. People change seats and converse with new partners throughout the game. It is an awesome time. Eli changed into his new gear and Gabe soon followed. Two little guys seated side by side with their garb and gear is very cute. Of course Gabe wore his mitt on the wrong hand so that added to the sweetness. I taught Eli Take Me Out to the Ballgame when he was 3 so he could sing when we went to the Dayton Dragons games. So they sing their hearts out at the 7th inning stretch. They are so cute and Gabe is Eli's mini-me. The game was a shut-out! TC over the Florence Freedom. Another fun time on vacay.

We returned home and the babysitters won too! One three month old was a little squawky. The pediatrician declared her a little over stimulated from all the family lovin'. He got her to sleep for about 90 minutes before finally getting her settled for the night. She took her breast milk bottle pretty well for Mimi so the evening was a great success for all.

Last nights Refreshments - This is as close to a recipe as you'll get.

30 various beers
2 waters
2 boy drinks
2 regular nachos
1 deluxe nacho
1 burger
4 brats
1 caramel corn
1 cotton candy
2 bags of peanuts
1 dozen hot dogs
2 sour lime candies

Miriam had hiccups this morning we think it was the beer.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day 2

Last night was the grand event. We celebrated Sue and Tom's 60 th birthdays and Tom's retirement. Their daughter Becky organized decorations, celebration and games. The decorations were awesome with leis, hats, special table settings, favors and more. Tiki torches decorated the perimeter of the sun porch. We started the festivities of two wheels of brie encrusted in macadamia nuts with aplle and crackers and spam glazed in pineapple juice, brown, sugar, mustard and ginger. I don't want to hear castigations about spam. Hawaiians consume more than 6 times the amount of spam than mainlanders. To go with I made a passionate punch of rum, pineapple juice, gingerale and papaya nectar adorned with mango, berries and parasols and orchid straws.

The game was a men vs. women trivia game with categories of questions that include Proctor and Gamble slogans, highlights of Tom's career at P & G and current events from 1949. As always the hilarity and laughter rocked the house. The teams are highly competitive but alas the girls won 19 to 11. We had it down! Hula hooping and limbo claimed the teens and the little guys.

Dinner was a luau feast with orange baked chicken, pania'olu steak and prawn curry. We enjoyed this with jasmine rice, a stir fry of broccoli and bok choy and a tropical fruit salad dressed with a papaya, yogurt and honey sauce. For dessert there were individual souffles of passionate cake with strawberry compote. It was such fun.

After dinner schmoozing and fun included the inevitable slip ass game. Generations 1 and 2 and 4 went to bed leaving the generation 3 cousins to play and laugh riotously into the wee hours. They consumed much popcorn and a batch of brownies that once baked were consumed in seconds. They are sleeping in as I write this trying to recover.

The morning after is spent recollecting and laughing over the fun of the night past. It is so great to wake to the stillness - I am up first and see family and chat as they awaken and come for coffee and toast with some local honey. We don't talk much about the mornings and the laughter isn't quite as loud but it is a warm family time of love and fun.

Brie in a Macadamia Nut Crust adapted from Sam Choy

1 8 ounce wheel of brie
1/4 C flour
1 egg
1/2 C. panko
1/2 C. finely chopped macadamia nuts
crackers and apple slices

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the panko and nuts in a shallow pan. Unwrap the brie and dust it with flour. Beat the egg and add a tablespoon of water and mix well. Dip the brie in the egg mixture. Then coat the brie with the panko mixture.

Place the brie on a tin in the oven and heat for 8-10 minutes. The brie just needs to yield to your fingertip. Take the brie and place chutney along side on a platter and serve with crackers and apples.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The First Day

Today is the first official day of family vacation. Jon and I take a run from Haslett up to Treaverse City to piuck up five Diamonds at the Cherry City Airport. Everything arrives less one car seat and Josh's luggage. Boys run through an empty baggage area to expend pent up energy. Eli wiggles a loose front tooth and Granna checks out the two new lower teeth emerging from his gum. Soon his mouth will be a jumble of baby teeth and adult teeth. Gabe is perky and ready to play. He shows everyone the big scar from seven staples in the back of his head when he flipped and cleaved his head on a paver. Uncle Jon tall as the sky holds his new niece who nestles against his neck for a sleepy snuggle. Little Miriam is kissed and held and passed from great grandma to auntie, to auntie to cousin. Eli is off to cavort and flirt with the teens Cammy and Crystalle. Cute girls who love little guys and are willing to play endlessly. Fords arrive with kids from Colorado and California. Armed with guitars and other instruments Halle and Matt will share music as they practice for an upcoming wedding where they will play. Becky Ford and the aunties and Jen catch up on life and laugh about adventures in motherhood. Tom and Sue sit back, observe and laugh taking it all in with the comfort and sense of another year, another week we made it!

Mimi and Bobo as the keepers of tradition offer dinner on the first night every year. It's always the same - Tony Packo's hot dogs. Tony Packo's came to fame when Jamie Farr as Klinger on MASH touted Tony Packo's restaurant as he tried to escape the Army by dressing in drag. Tony Packo's restaurant was home to the Hungarian hot dog. An oompah/jazz band played on the weekends and the accordian player was known for his flips mid-song. Hot dogs in buns encased in plastic are signed by celebrities and adorn the walls. To accomapny the dogs Mimi makes potato salad and we have beans - tight beans named for the beans that are not sauce laden but "tight". Bobo grills the Tony Packo's and heats the buns on the grill. Those beautiful dogs are nestled in toasted buns and are laced with hot dog relish, ketchup pickles and condiments of choice. We always have Tony Packo's sweet hot pickles and regular Tony Packo's pickles.

My role in all of this - I stand and laugh and feel goosebumps tracing up and down my arms as I see these dear ones, hear the love and laughter echo through the house to the rumble of little feet racing through the house. We are together at last

Tight Beans

4 large cans of Bush's bacon and brown sugar beans

In an sluminum pan from the grocery store dump the beans. Place in a 325 degree oven and bake. Every half hour you stir them and bake until the bean liquid has cooked off and the beans ar5e dark brown. Remove them from the oven after several hours. Cover with foil and rest on the stove. Pack up the car and take it to the Wheeler Cottage for dinner. Honestly there is nothing else in them. Per Mimi