Saturday, September 25, 2010

At last

It was a busy summer. The Michigan vacation exceeded all expectations - fun, food and frolic. Almost the whole family came to have fun together, reconnect and just hang out with our warm, incredible family. It was a wonderful time.

For the third year Lee and I hosted the Texas barbecue. We started this party to give our Ohio friends a taste of the West - Ms. Lee's country. The first year nearly 30 people gathered to feast on Kreuz' (Krites) market sausage and brisket, pico de gallo and guacamole, coleslaw, Mexican fruit cup, a vegetarian entree, Texas sheet cake and peach cobbler made from the recipe of the Anadama ranch. This was all capped off with Lee's fabulous pinto's and Texas beers and my sangria. Lee recorded Texas music - anyone who was from Texas and traditional Texas music as well.

This year we imported my parents from Ohio and Lee's brother and sister-in-law from Texas. Nothing like adding a few more authentic Texans to the mix. To go one step further I decided to home smoke three briskets for the party. Sweet Sue, Tom and Lee tasted the maiden voyage for brisket earlier this summer and pronounced it nice enough for company. So 15 pounds of meat later the party was on. The menu didn't have big changes just - queso and pico, but the number of people grew to nearly 40. At the end of the party there was no brisket, coleslaw, a tiny amount of fruit cup and no dessert. People seemed to be happy and well fed and genuinely enjoyed getting to know our families better. Next year's barbecue is already a topic of discussion.

We had a great time hosting our families and watching them get to know our friends. In fact many of the friends said they loved the families and really loved being able to check our our roots. Ted and Suzanne came in on Thursday and we had a wonderful time with them. Blessings to them for all of the help with getting ready for the party. I didn't know how we did it without them. Sunday sadly came and the party was over. Our last hurrah was a trip to Yellow Springs for brunch at the Winds.

On the way back from the airport Lee and I stopped at the apple orchard to pick up some apples. On display were pie pumpkins and a promised recipe. We love pumpkin pie and I was sure a pumpkin pie would welcome fall. The orchard supplied an unusual recipe for the pie. This recipe was contributed by Jane Van Deusen of New York. The pumpkin was opened and scraped of seeds and loose fibers. Then sugar and cinnamon and salt were dusted on the interior of the pumpkin and baked. Once tender the pumpkin is cooled and the meat is blended and mixed with traditional pumpkin pie ingredients. I have to say we were the beneficiaries of fresh eggs from two of the barbecue guests. Those eggs were part of the pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Patch Pie

1 medium pie pumpkin
2/3 C sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten
5 oz. evaporated milk
1/2 Cup milk
pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie

Cut a five inch circle around the stem of the pumpkin and remove the lid. Scrape and remove seeds and loose fibers. Combine 1/3 C sugar with 1/2 tsp cinnamon and the salt. Replace the lid and bake on a greased tray at 325 degrees for an hour and twenty minutes. Cool. Remove the meat of the pumpkin to a blender and blend until smooth.

Take 2 C of pumpkin and add the rest of the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Stir and add the evaporated milk and milk with the beaten eggs and pour into the pie shell. Bake at 375 for 75-80 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

For Father's Day

My Dad will be celebrating his special day tomorrow in East Lansing with my sweet mama by themselves. My baby sister entertained them early as she would be out of town on Dad's day and would not miss an opportunity to celebrate our great Dad. I sent him a card and asked for a date for lunch during our annual vacation. I did it last year and truly enjoyed my special time with him. My other sister will find a special way of her own to celebrate him as well.

This is my Dad's 62nd Father's Day. He's enjoyed many gifts and wishes through the years - some very sweet and thoughtful, some crafted with little hands and some pretty traditional gifts. One gift was very funny and as I think back on it he even wore it! When we were quite young we saved our money and purchased Dad a hat that had the top covered in artificial grass with a fisherman perched on the grass with the line cast over the side of the crown to the brim. What a gift! What a Dad to be willing to wear it - much to our great pride.

As my sisters and my parents and I age we seem to understand that a real gift is time together or an experience with them. Rebecca and David planned an opera weekend for this fall with a trip to the Lyric Theatre in Chicago and the opera Carmen that we will all join. We're all in a great state of excitement over this weekend but truth be told we would be excited to get together if we were all sharing hot dogs and chips in the backyard. Our family vacation which we have pursued over 25 years for family fun is way beyond hot dogs and chips but it is a splendid gift from my parents to our family. Mom and Dad started this tradition when the grands or Generation 3 as we refer to them were pretty young. The purpose in this was to give us more opportunities to celebrate and share time even as many other families moved and found it harder and harder to get together. It also caused us to strengthen our family and simply to enjoy being part of such a special group.

Dad and Mom's plan worked quite well and we are one tight group. We have shared good times and bad and came through those times ever stronger. It is a great source of pride to both of my parents but particularly so for Dad. I will never forget grilling with Dad and listening to him extoll the virtues of a strong family unit. In fact grilling with Dad is just an all round favorite experience for me in general. He's an expert griller and as he's taught me about life he has taught me about grilling. I'll never compare to him in his expertise but I will always be a willing student made better by his good words as much as his grilling lessons and wonderful company. Dad fills my need to plan about food and timing and amounts. I have a tendency to think we are feeding the army and Dad brings me back to earth on that one. Gently and with laughter. Grilling at home is a bit lonely but I tend to use this time to reconnect with some happy and tender memories of time with Dad.

One of the things I have most appreciated of late is my Dad's counsel with financial planning. He could have a second career as a financial planner and could create success for his clients and great satisfaction at helping others for himself. As I approach retirement he has been wonderful sharing his thoughtds and perspective. We've poured over my accounts and he's given me some great guidance on investing for the future. He isn't afraid to turn it over to the experts when necessary and plan on his own when he sees that it could be better for us to do that. Just the other day Dad called me excitedly to ask me to make a specific article required reading so we could talk about it after I read it. I so value having him help me with this I hopped right to it. At an age when other folks are content to rest on their laurels he is very sharp and is right on with his guidance. These conversational experiences have been another gift of time with Dad.

Not the last of his many gifts but like the two I've written about is one of my most cherished gifts. Dad inspires me to be a better person. Through my life he has shared his thoughts and views on the world and the nature of people. He truly is a teacher at heart. I have listened and heard him and taken opportunities to follow in his footsteps as he modeled his wonderful character and integrity to me. Sometimes I have failed and failed miserably but he teaches that one gets up and goes at it again continuing the journey. Every day I have the opportunity to be a better person and start anew thanks to Dad. What a great gift!

So to my wonderful Dad on Father's Day thank you for being a gift that continues to share its treasure every day in every way. You're a Dad worth celebrating every day! I love you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day and at a time when one would think I have lots to tell I am somewhat at a loss for words. How does one adequately - sounds so poor - express the meaning of the gifts in her life from all of the mothers. I have one mother but I am blessed to have been surrounded by mothers. My Mom was very young when I was born. Just twenty. My Dad sometimes thought she was one of the girls and we would be happy to include her in our ranks. Mom is the mom every child dreams of. Lots of hugs and laughs except for the infamous "Oh, Anne's". Home made costumes, help with science projects, willingness to let me experiment in the kitchen. Without her willingness to let me experiment I would be without one of my life's passions. There were times when I know she wondered where all of this was going but I do know and my sisters would agree she endured all with a sense of humor and a light hand. I remember pot roast made into hash, fried chicken, white gravy, strawberry pie, pecan sandies and apple cream pie. There was much more but those are some simple faves. My mom is astounding and unique in her own Mimi way. I love you and adore you Mom. She led me to know how I wanted to be as a Mom.

My grandmothers taught me to be a granna and my mother taught me to be a mom. I had grandmothers who were very different. My Dad's mom was an earth mother with big arms for hugs, a deep genuine laugh and the ability to see the joy in childhood and live with the wonder she saw in our eyes. She too understood food to be the great gatherer and her meals were much like communion to me - filled with love and deliciousness. Grandma was unconditional love.

My Mom's mother was more formal but greatly loving. She had a life or purpose and expected the same accomplishments for all of her progeny. She was greatly proud of us and shared her love of music. She also taught me card games. We played solitaire and listened to Karl Haas as we sat at the breakfast table. This grandma wanted us to go far. She didn't live to see me graduate from college but I think she would be very pleased with all of her grandchildren.

My sisters taught me the strength of family and treasures in relationship. These two women are wonderful examples of motherhood and sisterhood. We are very different but have much to share and rejoice in. My sisters are wonderful mothers on their own but together we are known in our family as the sisters and wield some influence. As kids we were competitive and often on different paths. But as adults we are very close and these relationships are among the ones I hold most dear.

My children taught me to love in good times and bad, through joy and sorrow. My daughter teaches me new ways to be a mom and birth young people who are bound to be good citizens of the earth. Children are agony and ecstasy and through them we experience every emotion. Fortunately we also experience mostly joy and happiness as time goes on. I am so fortunate to have two wonderful children who share their lives with me. Jon's move back to Dayton has been a real joy to me. Jen is far away but I feel like I am a part of things from afar.

How will I celebrate Mother's Day? Jon wanted to take me to dinner but I told him I didn't want to go out and battle crowds on Mother's Day. I want to have dinner with him and Lee sharing good food and happy times with just us. I made a rhubarb upside down cake this morning. I went to the garden at 6:30 a.m. to cut rhubarb and make it into the cake. I am going to Dorothy Lane to pick up an entree and an appetizer. We'll have a salad made with the tender lettuces and baby radishes in the garden. They will require a very light dressing. It's a meal made with love to celebrate a very special kind of love. Happy Mother's Day to all of my family and folks everywhere.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Missin' my babies

I have been so busy with work and life that there is no time left to blog. I have missed blogging and setting memories to ether. One of the good things I have been doing is quilting and making some sweet little things for my grandchildren. This Granna makes sewn gifts for them to reach out and touch them when I can't be there. My most recent gifts are called placemats 101. They are placemats in kid prints - think snakes and flowers in bright colors. Appliqued on each placemat is a plate with a cup and knife, fork and spoon. The notion is they can help set the table. A very important job to help the family when you are a little guy or gal.

I now know how lucky I was to live so close to my grandparents that we saw them regularly and shared their lives and happy times. When I plant seeds to start veggies for the garden I think of my Oechsler and Henry grandparents and their gardens. Patty pan squash is not merely squash but a trip to a Toledo farmstand to see the vegetables in bulk that made it to the table. I spied the little scalloped squash and grandpa bought some for our dinner. I will never forget eating the vegetables steamed with a little butter and seasoning.

I will send some seeds to my babies so they can plant some of Granna's plants and we can share the growing experience. I am excited to have a great home vegetable garden to amaze my grands. I have my grandma's garden basket and we use that to "pwuck" vegetables together. Pwuck is three year old talk for pluck. In addition to regular crops we are planting scarlet runner beans and golden pea pods. Grandma Lee received a pyramid trellis for Christmas so the plants will grow up the trellis and their veggies will be easy for the little people to reach. The peas have bright yellow pods. The beans have scarlet flowers and deep purple bean pods. The beans inside the pods are black and red and could easily be Jack and the beanstalk beans. That should be fun. I'll also attempt a five hundred pound pumpkin. I know it won't be five hundred pounds by August but it should be on it's way.

I'm also trying to create a teepee out of some long wood tied together and a canvas tarp. I am hoping we can paint symbols of fun and love on it and spend the night in the teepee. Uncle John has agreed to sleepout with us so it will be an amazing night of fun. WooHoo!! Maybe even Doris will decide decide to keep company with us. Every indian needs a faithful animal. We'll pretend she is a tame wolf that looks out for us. In most cases it may be Dude who loves new people and will do anything for attention. We probably won't last all night but it will be fun and we can cook breakfast on the grill.

Granna's have to plan the magic ahead of time!

Granna also made a Rick Bayless salad to share at a friendly dinner with some great people last night. My recipe is a simple one for a great spicy dressing. I made it to dress spring greens topped with strips of roasted poblanos and red pepper. Two large poblanos to one red pepper. I used six total for eight people and had a little left over. I sprinkled the salad with thin slices of red onion - about one-fourth of an onion and three tablespoons of toasted sunflower seeds. for eight people.

The dressing is based on a bottle of ranch dressing but if I had time I would have made a homemade ranch dressing.
I added 1 chopped jalapeno - chopped very fine.
1 tablespoon of lime zest and the juice of a fat half-lime
1 avocado pureed

Stir together and serve.

It's a great dressing and really different.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A unique recipe

Today there is no traditional recipe. I am just going to spend some words talking about my beloved Dad. Before I go further I must remind folks that the other half of the dynamic duo has previously been lauded in this blog so don't think I am ignoring Mimi. She remains and always will be the very best Mom ever.

So what prompted this outpouring of affection...a valentine gift from my Dad. The gift was a box of two dozen delicious Cheryl's frosted chocolate and sugar cut out cookies with pink frosting. YUM! I adore these cookies and they are a real fave. The scent of vanilla and chocolate the way the cookie feels when I bite through the frosting into the tender cookie. The taste is incredible and makes we think of all kinds of wonderful, homey things. Despite all of this wonderfulness the most endearing part of the gift was the sweet gift card from my Dad proclaiming love from my very first love - my Dad.

I have always adored my Mom and Dad for the great parents and wonderful people they have been and continue to be. As a child and a teenager and college student they and Dad in particular went to great effort to assure each of us would be "good people" and have a way to make a living and and an ongoing commitment to integrity and a purposeful life. I cannot judge their success with me. I always feel like a work in progress. My sisters are awesome and a real credit to our family.

As a parent of young adults Dad switched gears from being a parental unit to being more of a guide and supporter. He cautioned us about some decisions - some advice was taken and some was ignored much to my eventual chagrin. See Dad you are right a lot of the time! Well most if truth be told. He supported us through graduate school and early career moves.

When things went awry he wouldn't spend a lot of time feeling bad about your situation or commiserating with you. Dad is the person who got you up and moving and pushing forward no matter what. He is always interested in promoting planning for the future and making great financial decisions. As a person who chose a career path that was less financially rewarding I didn't know at first just how valuable Dad's teaching could be especially for those with less funds. But I learned they were probably even more important to someone in my position. I do know that it was a challenge for Dad to see the way of the not for profit in terms of retirement and benefits when they differed so much from the for profit world. Dad was a great businessman when he was working and in retirement he continues as a wise counselor and investor. Some of my happiest times have been talking to Dad and looking over my retirement. I often see how much people are missing who don't have a person like my Dad to go to to discuss financial concerns.

While Dad has had many great achievements I think the best lesson he and Mom taught all of us is the value of family and the importance of commitment to your family through thick or thin. It's easy to be a happy family when times are good but to be a strong family when things are rough takes some guts and compassion. I think one of the best tributes to my Mom and Dad and their commitment to family came when we were celebrating one of their milestone anniversaries. Dad had engaged a table at a very nice restaurant overlooking Grand Traverse Bay. There were flowers and champagne on the table and the meal was wonderful. After dinner the sisters and a granddaughter each wrote and read their tribute to my parents. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. After dinner several of the people at surrounding tables asked to be adopted into our family.

One of Dad's many contributions has always been his steadfast hand on the tiller of the family. Always keeping his eye focused on the end result of a strong family unit as he refers to it. If things weren't quite right he could always bring us back to what was good about the circumstances and never let us stumble over the missing piece. He intuitively showed us survival and moving forward while working never to alienate those who were not always in sync with the group. Having sometimes been a person out of sync I can attest to the warmth and love that was unending. I can also speak to the power of a voice that could firmly work to help you realign your stars.

My sisters and I feel such good fortune and gratitude having these parents. After all birth is your first piece of luck or not being lucky and we know how grateful we are. So I was one lucky girl to have such a wonderful person who was my very first love. He set a high bar of excellence and as a role model in the love and devotion area of relationships. So Dad here's to you on Valentine's Day. You were definitely our first love and that was your first most wonderful gift to each of us. We return that love to you on Valentine's Day and every other day.

Be Our Valentine!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

This one's for Mimi

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. It is almost a national holiday for some given the parties and festivities attached to the game. Celebrities gather and party in preparation to watch the big game. At my house we have no celebrities. Just the average football fans looking for some fun. Part of the fun is the commercials. I still remember the donkey aspiring to be a Clydesdale. So if the commercials are as good as the game food needs to be hot and ready at the beginning of the game or warming for the half-time - whoops they have a show at half-time can't miss that! So this all comes together like a well oiled machine.

Lee as always wants chicken wings with blue cheese dressing. I will make carmelized onion dip and another dip. This dip is actually for Mimi. She is a huge fan of the Buckeyes and is passionate about their games. Dad says she can get pretty worked up. Yes she can about a number of things. One thing Mimi can get pretty worked up about in addition to football is the players. This year she has a sympathetic favorite in Drew Brees. She thinks he is a fine person who has done much for New Orleans. She would like New Orleans to win. She worked me over about my appreciation for Peyton Manning.

So I decided to bring something for the game to appease my mom. She would like nothing better than to savor crab cakes and I found a recipe to rock her socks - Crab Cake Dip. Kelly at Evil Shenanigans created this dip based on her own love of crab cakes. So Mama this one is just for you!

Kelly's Crab Cake Dip

3 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 mayonnaise
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. butter
1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
1 T. butter
1/2 C diced onion
1/4 C. red bell pepper diced
1 clove of garlic minced
salt and pepper
6 ounces lump crab meat
1/4 C. panko
2 T. parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a small casserole dish with PAM. In a small bowl stir together cream cheese, mayonnaise Old Bay Seasoning, mustard powder and lemon juice.

Melt 1 T. butter is a saute pan. Add onion and red pepper and saute until soft and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and add the garlic. Cook 30 seconds.

Add the vegetable mixture to the cream cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add the crab and stir gently. Put the mixture in the casserole. Mix together the panko and parmesan. Cover with the panko and parmesan.

Bake until brown and bubbly about 45 minutes.

Serve with baguette slices.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I've been up to.....

It's been a month since I last posted. After the recovery from surgery I went back to work and have been working a challenging schedule. I started working on a new lap quilt for me. I usually make quilts to give away but I decided to be selfish. Like many quilters I have a stash of fabrics and items I picked up here and there. One of the items in my stash is a quilt kit. The kit is in the Jacob's ladder pattern and is done in 48 squares. The fabric in the quilt is Wyndham reproduction of fabric from the 1870's. The colors are beige and pale roses, dark reds, browns and grayed greens. I've wanted to make a Jacob's ladder quilt for a long time and when I saw the kit it was like a voice saying sew me. Well not quite but it certainly beckoned to me.

One of the pleasures of quilting is my new Viking Quilting machine that makes sewing easier. It's very quiet and is so accurate and easy to use. I have my machine set up so I can watch football or movies while I quilt. Another pleasure is pairing fabrics to make a light square and a dark square out of each pair of fabrics. It takes a while to really look and see what goes with what given the variety of patterns. I try to keep things complementary and watch how "busy" the paired fabrics are. Part of the square is two fabrics cut into two squares each and sewn together to make a larger square. I do chain piecing for this step and when I sew the squares in a long chain they form a line that reminds me of Tibetan prayer flags. Well they are quilter's prayer flags.

It's been so cold and snowy I've been making foods that are braised in a sauce and served with a starch and a vegetable. Today I chose a recipe for chicken paprikash from the Saveur magazine. My aunt is a world traveler. On her last trip abroad she brought me a trio of Hungarian paprikas. I used the sweet paprika for this recipe and made homemade dumplings tossed in butter and parsley and carrots as the sides. Leftovers are always available when you cook for two so reheating chicken paprikash brings out even more developing flavors. I've missed blogging but have been too busy with work and other duties and hope this recipe will elicit some forgiveness from those who have missed these posts.

Chicken Paprikash

1 cut up chicken skin removed
1/2 C flour
pepper to taste
1/4 C canola oil
2 T sweet paprika
2 large tomatoes peeled, cored and seeded
1 large yellow onion chopped
1 Italian frying pepper chopped
1 1/2 C chicken broth
3/4 C sour cream
2 T flour

Heat oil in a large dutch oven. Season the flour with pepper and dredge the chicken. Place the chicken in the dutch oven and brown turning once. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the paprika, onions, peppers and tomatoes and cook 5 minutes until the onion is transparent. Place the chicken back in the dutch oven and add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and let simmer until tender about 20 minutes. In a small bowl mix the flour and sour cream together. Add 3/4 C of sauce from the pan and stir well to combine thoroughly. Add the sour cream mixture back into the dutch oven and stir gently to combine well. Serve the paprikash hot over noodles or spaetzle.