Last First Tooth

Maggie tooth

Magnolia Faith shows off her missing tooth.

Our son Dave posted a photo on Facebook this past weekend of our 6-year-old granddaughter Magnolia proudly displaying a smile with a missing tooth – her first. Our son’s post stated it was the last first tooth lost in their household, as Magnolia is the youngest. While we love to watch our kids grow, it’s always poignant.

For her part, Maggie Faith was eager to see what the tooth fairy would bring her in exchange for that tooth. I remember those days, both personally awaiting the tooth fairy and making sure my son Court got a reward when he began losing his baby teeth.

As I meditated upon her missing tooth, I recalled that recently when I was cleaning out one of my bedroom drawers, I came across a little carrying case in the shape of a tooth. When I opened it, I found all of Court’s baby teeth. I don’t remember saving them, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, but oddly, I can’t seem to throw them away. In fact, they moved – along with me – to several different houses. Maybe I should make a necklace? Maybe not.

But upon further pondering about Maggie Faith’s lost tooth, another story came to mind.

Several years ago, our son and daughter-in-law – Maggie’s parents – traveled out of the country for a week or so. The McLain clan operates on the wise philosophy that it takes a village. As such, all hands that were available had a role to play in the care of the four McLain kids during their parents’ absence. My role involved picking them up from school, making sure homework got done and children got fed. Our son Allen spent each night with the kids. So, at the end of dinner, we would tag team. One of us would clean up from dinner and the other would start the bath and bedtime regime. Once the kids were in bed, I would leave the kids in the good care of their Uncle Allen.

Let me just add at this point that the whole prospect was so daunting that I requested that Bec fly in to add moral (and physical) support. She did so, for which I will be eternally grateful.

But one night as I was tucking then-7-year-old Alastair into bed, just before I turned out the lights, he said to me quietly, “Nana, I lost a tooth yesterday, and I put it under my pillow last night, but the tooth fairy didn’t take it.”

Oooo boy.

So I thought quickly on my feet and told him that I was certain that a LOT of kids had lost teeth yesterday, and the tooth fairy was extraordinarily busy, but that I was sure she would come that very night. We carefully placed it once again under his pillow.

I quickly ran downstairs and called in the Big Guns. That would be his then-9-year-old sister Adelaide, who hadn’t believed in Santa or the Easter Bunny or the tooth fairy for a couple of years. As an aside, it was actually the tooth fairy that raised Addie’s suspicions. Wise beyond her years since birth, it made no sense to her that a fairy could (or would) carry all of those teeth around. And once you realize your parents are lying to you about that, the rest of your fairy tale beliefs crumble as well. Ah, the sad realities of childhood.

Anyway, I ran downstairs and in a panicked voice, asked her, “Addie, what’s the going rate for the tooth fairy these days?” I’m pretty sure I used to get a nickel, Court probably got a quarter, but inflation had undoubtedly impacted the tooth fairy world.

Used to her nana’s panic, I don’t think she even looked up from her computer as she said, “I don’t really know, but I think it’s probably fifty cents.”

So I rummaged through the bottom of my purse until I came up with two quarters covered in lint. I handed them to Allen, explained the situation, and made him promise on his grandfather’s grave that he wouldn’t forget to place those quarters under Alastair’s pillow once he had fallen asleep.

“And don’t forget to take the tooth,” I added.

Well, Allen didn’t forget and Alastair happily told me the next day that the tooth fairy had come and taken his tooth and he got FIFTY CENTS! A veritable fortune.

Anyway, between my many grandkids, there are certainly a lot of teeth yet to fall out, but thankfully I’m not responsible for any of them. I’ll leave that up to a more efficient tooth fairy.

I want to leave you with this recipe for heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies – my Valentine’s Day gift to Bill. They are a cross between a traditional chocolate chip cookie and a shortbread cookie, and are extremely yummy.

This particular recipe came to me through a circuitous internet route, but originated from Sugarbaker’s Cookie Cutter Cookbook.

chocolate chip valentine cookies

chocolate chip cutouts

Check This Out

leadville safewayMany, many years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was a grocery clerk at a Safeway store in Leadville, Colorado. That particular work experience took place during the time when I was entirely convinced that college wasn’t for me and that I would be perfectly content being married with kids and perhaps working at a simple clerical-type job.

A year’s service at Safeway was enough to convince me that, while there is nothing wrong with that particular life choice, it wasn’t the life choice for me.

I held a number of jobs while working for Safeway, from stocking the shelves in what was called the “non-foods” area to working in the understandably-detested dairy section. Detested because the refrigerators were cold and the cases of milk were extremely heavy and there was no one to help me lift them onto my stocking cart. Everyone did their own job, and did no one else’s job for them. Period. That’s the way it was. It was a union store.

But my favorite job – and the job at which I most excelled – was that of check-out clerk. It was the mid-70s and computerized cash registers were not even a gleam in Alan Turing’s eyes. Digital scanners were thirty years away.

No, it was the old push-button kind of cash registers, not much more advanced than the one which I’d used in Dad’s bakery in Columbus, Nebraska. The customer rolled his or her cart up to me, and I pulled items out, looked at the paper price tag, and keyed in the price. The thing is, I got really good at this job. I could key in the price without ever looking at the cash register keyboard. I would pick up the item, key in the price, and send it flying down to the grocery bagger so quickly that he or she simply couldn’t keep up.

I got no reward for being so quick. In fact, I worked harder than anyone else because customers recognized that they could get through my line quicker, so there would be much longer lines at my cash register. Being a union shop, it didn’t matter to other checkers whether or not I was quicker than they. The pay was the same, no matter what.

But it mattered to me. I literally would challenge myself to see how quickly I could get a customer through my line, at the same time being friendly and helpful. Man, I was fast.

I thought about this yesterday at the grocery store. I happened to get into a grocery line staffed by a clerk who had that same mentality. She tore through my groceries. She had the advantage, of course, of digital scanners, but I was checked out from beginning to end literally within a couple of minutes. And I had a grocery cart full of stuff.

I complimented her on her quickness, and you could tell she was pleased that I recognized her talent. Because I also know that she was getting paid the same as the clerk in the next line who wasn’t nearly as quick and who didn’t care at all that she wasn’t. Something seems wrong with this picture.

Anyway, I relayed my thoughts to Jen, who told me she got into a grocery line recently and noticed that the checker was one she always avoids. Despite the fact that her line was the shortest, Jen moved to the next line, where there were two people in front of her. When she finished paying for her groceries, she noticed that the slow checker was still working with the same customer and her not-terribly-full grocery cart.

Over the years, I have thought about why I tried so hard as a checker, and I concluded that it’s because I am motivated by praise more than money. That was true throughout my professional life. Nothing felt better than someone telling me I did a good job. And basically, that’s what my customers were telling me, both verbally and by their act of preferring my line.

Are there cashiers you avoid at the grocery store?

By the way, my daughter-in-law Lauren sent me an email the other day with the subject line “I thought of you”. Talk about words making me happy! It’s nice to be thought of….

Anyway, the email included a link to an amazing recipe which I simply had to make that very same day. The recipe calls for using an entire sheet of puff pastry; however, I used a third of the sheet and only made four Nutella Puffs. They were a delicious after-dinner treat, and unbelievably easy to make.

Unfinished puffs

 

 

finished puffs

 

Nutella Puffs

Cookie Cuckoo

When I first started thinking about this blog, I really only knew one thing. I didn’t want it to be a cooking blog.

There are a number of reasons I was firm about this decision. First, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of a kajillion cooking blogs. Second, I have lots of interests and didn’t want to limit myself to only one. Finally — and most importantly — I am only an average cook. Somehow I didn’t see a committed audience for a blog entitled Pretty Average Recipes from a Mediocre Cook.

Having said this, I feel I need to add that I really do like to cook and bake. I particularly love to prepare food for big gatherings of family and friends. And I love, love, love to cook with my grandkids. And I do so very often. In fact, my grandkids — mostly Addie — sporadically contribute to this blog in posts called Kids’ Whimsical Cooking. (As an aside, I considered calling those posts Cooking Kids until my grandson Alastair pointed out the macabre potential of that particular name. Being 9, he reminds me of it often.)

Anyway, I must confess to something that happened to me last week that reminded me that it’s a good thing I don’t have to make my living from a cooking blog.

mylee lego play doh 12.24Mylee was visiting, but was preoccupied with some sort of game that involved Legos and Play Doh. I decided to make a batch of shortbread cookies. They are easy to make and delicious. How can you go wrong with a cookie made of simply flour, sugar, butter, and vanilla?

So, as Mylee played with her Legos, I happily placed the ingredients in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer and turned it on. It generally takes between 30 seconds and a minute for the ingredients to come together in the bowl. This time, however, I mixed and mixed and the dough simply wouldn’t come together. I added a bit of water, but that didn’t work. After listening to her Nana mutter and complain for a bit, Mylee, who is 4, finally came over and said, “What are you doing, Nana? Can I help?”

I told her I was making cookies, but that it wasn’t working. “Why not, Nana?”

I told her I didn’t know what was wrong because I had made these cookies many times and they had always worked.

By this time she had pulled up a chair and was standing on it and peering into the bowl, studying it intently.

“Maybe you need to add more butter,” she said.

“No, I added enough butter,” I assured her.

Still, the dough simply wouldn’t gather. But I dumped the crumbs onto a sheet of waxed paper and put it into the fridge. I don’t know what magical thing I thought would happen.

About an hour later, I was sitting with Mylee in the family room as she watched a Christmas movie. Suddenly out of nowhere, the answer as to why my dough wouldn’t come together sprang into my head like the clown jumping out of the Jack in the Box.

And do you know what the answer was? I didn’t add enough butter.

Instead of adding 3/4 POUND of butter (three sticks) as the recipe calls for, I added 3/4 CUP of butter (a stick and a half).

It turns out Mylee was exactly right. I added the necessary amount of butter, and like magic, my dough came together. I’m convinced it was a lucky guess on her part.

The cookies were delicious. Mylee, by the way, is pretending she’s Santa Claus. See her beard?….
mylee cookie 2014

Here is the delicious recipe for Shortbread Cookies.

Shortbread cookies

Nana’s Notes: Remember, it’s 3/4 LB. and not 3/4 CUP. Also, don’t leave the dough in the fridge more than 30 minutes or it will be difficult to work. Finally, it’s the one recipe where I will tell you that it really is beneficial to have a Kitchen Aid mixer. If not, you will just have to press the dough into the pan.

Praise the Lard

Marg_Reinie.jpgMy mother was the youngest of 14 kids, two of whom died as infants. There are a full two decades between Mom and her eldest sibling. Despite the age difference, Mom was close to all of her brothers and sisters. I have always found that remarkable and something to be modeled.

While two of Mom’s siblings died as infants, the remainder lived to be adults. Her brother Karl, however, was only 35 when he died. He survived World War II only to be felled by a bleeding ulcer.

Two things about Karl’s death have always interested me. First, he died in April of 1947; Mom and Dad were married in January of 1948. At their wedding nine months after Karl passed away, Mom didn’t wear a traditional wedding gown  because she was still officially in mourning over the passing of her brother Karl. I think in today’s world she would have worn a traditional gown. And, by the way, I have never known what color Mom’s dress was since the photo is in black and white. I wish I had asked her that question. (Kids, ask your parents questions now.) Jen thinks it was aqua. I hope it was.

Second, Karl married his wife Kathryn in 1938 at the age of 25. I assume he spent a couple of years at least serving overseas in the military. I know he served  in the Army in World War II, and so I think he would have been overseas for some number of years. He came home to Kathryn, they had two children, and then he died in 1947.

His wife, my Aunt Kathryn, was 34 years old when her husband died. She lived until 1999. Here’s the thing – she never remarried. She was only married nine years, and probably some of those nine years were spent apart, and yet she remained single the rest of her life.

I, of course, never asked her why. I can tell you this much…I remember her as an absolutely lovely woman, tall and slender with the tiniest waist imaginable. Though I’m sure my memory is flawed, I recall her ALWAYS wearing a shirtwaist dress that showed off her tiny waist. Her hair was perfect, in a French twist or some other sort of upswept do.

So, it’s always interested me that this beautiful woman remained a widow for some 52 years. I wonder why. Maybe that’s just what women of her generation did. Or maybe she just was so busy being a single mother of two that she didn’t have time or energy to find a new husband. I know she was a working mother, holding down a job for many years at a local savings and loan.

Or, in a more romantic scenario, maybe she so loved her husband that no one could ever replace him.  (Or maybe I read too many romantic novels.)

When my parents still lived in Columbus, Mom laid flowers on Karl’s grave every Memorial Day, right after leaving flowers at the gravesite of her parents.

One of Karl’s kids worked for my Dad at the bakery (a large number of Mom and Dad’s nieces and nephews worked for them at various times). Chuck was our delivery man, if my memory serves me. He was one of an illustrious group of my cousins – all around Mom and Dad’s age (remember Mom was the youngest of 14) – with whom they socialized. I believe two or three beers were consumed in each other’s company.

I learned during our recent trip back to Columbus that Chuck is now a deacon in the Catholic Church. Who would have guessed?

But here’s something Chuck never knew (and if I’m lucky, will never find out). I babysat on several occasions for their children. I was probably 12. One night, the baby pooped her diaper. I didn’t want to change a dirty diaper, because, well, I was 12. So I simply didn’t. Poor kid. That’s what you get when you only pay 35 cents an hour. My second cousin probably has toilet issues to this day.

My Aunt Kathryn would bring a chocolate cake as her offering to our family reunions. It was only after asking for the recipe recently that I learned the cake uses lard. I was so horrified to learn that fact that I Googled “chocolate cake with lard” and was surprised to see many recipes pop up. I further learned  that lard no longer has the reputation of being an instant killer, at least by chefs in the know. In fact, some maintain that lard, in its purest form, is healthier than vegetable shortening. The problem, of course, is that to get lard that isn’t hydrogenized and bearing preservatives is nearly impossible. Still, the result is a light and fluffy texture that shortening can’t offer.

And let me just add that my week of desserts has been one of the best weeks in Bill’s chocolate-loving life.

Kathryn’s Chocolate Cakekathryn's cake

1 c. lard

2 c. sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 c. sour milk (add a t. vinegar to milk to sour)

1/2 c. cocoa

2 t. baking soda

2 1/2 c. sifted flour

1/2 t. salt

1 c. boiling water

1 t. vanilla

Cream lard and sugar.  Add eggs and milk.  Beat well.

Sift cocoa, flour, soda and salt three times. Add to the first mixture a little at a time.  Add boiling water and beat well.  Add vanilla.

Pour into a 9 X 13 in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Nana’s Notes:  I’m guessing on the size of the pan. Her recipe doesn’t give me a clue. I cut the recipe in half and baked it in a 9 X 13 in. pan, thinking that her original recipe made a half sheet cake. I should have used a 9 X 9. So I baked it for half the time, cut the cake in half and made it a layer cake.

In all honesty, I didn’t like the cake as much as other chocolate cake recipes I have made. I am extraordinarily susceptible to the power of suggestion, and I just couldn’t get past the fact that it was LARD. Not for health reasons, mind you, but because lard is animal fat. I don’t know. It just bugged me. Bill thought the cake was good, and his only criticism was that it didn’t have chocolate frosting!

 

Working Girls

Kathleen, Aunt Leona, Kris, Bec, John, Mary Lou.

A recent family photo taken during our summer trip to Columbus. Leona is second from the left.

As I have looked into my family history, I have realized that I come from really good stock on both sides of my family. Hard working, self-sufficient, honest, kind, straight-forward, and funny as can be. There has always been a lot of laughing in my family. Still is.

And a lot of cooking.

I’ve mentioned that in my mother’s recipe box, there are recipes in her handwriting, but many recipes in other’s handwriting. Many of those recipes are from my Aunt Leona, now in her early 90s. She was, perhaps, the best cook in the entire Micek family, but don’t tell anyone else I said that. Leona was married to my mom’s brother Elmer.

I was going to talk a bit about her in my post today, and so I asked her daughter – my cousin – to fill me in a bit on her life. What she wrote was so interesting and full of love that I’m going to publish it almost verbatim. I changed or added a few things to make it clearer. Thanks Kak!

My mother taught for six years after graduating from high school in rural schools in Greeley County, Nebraska.   In high school, she took “normal training” which was teacher prep. She then took a test from the county superintendent and was in the education business.  Mom taught until she married Dad.  

When Dad was in basic training in Arkansas, she worked at McCrory’s, a dime store, and at a printing place.  She went back to teaching at St. Bonaventure Elementary in Columbus, Nebraska, when my younger brother Tom was in third grade.  She taught for 24 more years at St. Bon’s, in Duncan District 82, and in Columbus Public Schools.  My mother got her degree the hard way, a little at a time in summer sessions and night classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska. 

My mother cooked from the time she was in high school.  My Grandma McGuire made great bread and noodles, but she was a slow moving woman and my mother was the oldest of seven kids.  When Dad went overseas, Mom moved in to Gramps Micek’s house and did most of the cooking there as Grandma Micek  was sick and then died.

 When we moved to our own house in Columbus, Mom cooked two meals a day EVERY day, and sometimes three.  When she went to summer school, she would leave food for me to heat for Dad at lunch.  We never went out to dinner as a family.  She and Dad went out a couple of times a year.  She also cooked for the band after dance jobs because cafes weren’t  open at one or two in the morning. 

Now that she lives in assisted living, the thing she misses is cooking for herself!

 Basically my mother raised us as Dad was mostly working at his day job and playing with his and Uncle Bob’s bands at night.  Sometimes with the band, Tom and I went along and Mom sold tickets and we sat with her.

The only disagreement I remember them having was when Dad let Tom go on the road playing dances with his rock band at age 16.  Mom thought he was too young to be driving other kids at night alone.  She was right, but Dad won.

My mother was pretty much a “working woman” before the time when that’s what women did. None of my friends’ mothers worked.  But she never missed an event!  Bless her heart!     

Dad Mom Leona Elmer

L-R, Dad, Leona, Mom, and Elmer, circa 1985.

My cousin tells such a beautiful story about her mother. I’m not sure our children can understand how unusual it was for a mother to be working outside the home in those days.

My mom also was a working mom since she and Dad had the bakery and she was always there to help out. If things had been different and if Dad had worked in a traditional job, I wonder if Mom would have been content to stay at home. She was certainly the only woman in our neighborhood with a job.

As for Leona, Mom always said she was an outstanding teacher, and I have no doubt this is true. When my brother was in 4th grade, he had Leona as a teacher. I recently asked him what kind of a teacher she was. He said, “She was very serious. And I got no special treatment because I was her Godson.” On a side note, he recalls that he wasn’t always an angel, and wonders if she didn’t know or if she just let it slide. I know the answer to that question. You didn’t pull the wool over Leona’s eyes. She knew and let it slide. So he did get special treatment because he was her Godson!

As for me, I still make her refrigerator dill pickles. They are delicious. Her brownies are amazing, and the recipe follows. I will tell you this much, when my chocoholic husband took the first bite, I saw the look in his eyes and asked him if he wanted to be alone with the brownies for a bit. Heavenly…..

Leona brownie

Before

 

leona brownie empty plate

After

Leona’s Brownies

Cream 1 cup sugar with 1 stick of butter

Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each

To the mix, add

1 16-oz. can Hersheys chocolate syrup

1 c. plus 1 T flour

1/2 t. salt

1 c.  chopped nuts (optional)

Mix well.

Bake 30-32 minutes at 350 in a greased 9 x 12 pan

Frosting:  Boil together, stirring constantly:

3/4 c. sugar

3 T. milk

3 T. butter

Remove from heat and add 1/2 c. chocolate chips.

Stir until melted and pour over warm brownies.

Nana’s Notes: I was unable to find any cans of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. When did they stop making them? Life will never be the same. What I could find, however, is Hershey’s chocolate syrup in a plastic bottle near the ice cream aisle. I think it’s probably the same. They claim it is 24 oz., but I measured out two cups. The brownies are unbelievably moist. A funny side note is that Leona got this recipe from her friend and school secretary. Kak said another friend of hers whose mother taught in the Nebraska school system has the same brownie recipe. It must be the official Nebraska School System Brownie!

 

 

As Swiss as Apple Pie

 

Since I started writing this blog, I have been paying attention to recipes, particularly old-time recipes from old-time awesome cooks. I am lucky to be related to many of these fabulous cooks. This week I am going to feature some of the recipes I am lucky to have from a few of these cooks. 

grammie knit

My cousin Mark Weber — now a professional photographer — took this photo many years ago as Grammie happily knitted in the lobby of my Aunt Myrta and Uncle Bob’s  lodge in Aspen.

Throughout my life, people have said things to me like, “I’ll bet your dad baked a lot at home,” or “I’ll bet you had a lot of desserts in your life since your dad is/was a baker.”

The fact of the matter is my dad NEVER baked at home. He was undoubtedly thoroughly sick of baking by time he got home mid-afternoon after having baked for the past 10 hours. Plus, his recipes were for massive amounts of baked goods, and it would have been difficult to cut them down to home baking size.

Minimal desserts at the Gloor house, and absolutely NONE provided by my father – at least not any he baked at home.

The same really is true of my grandmother as well. Though she did love sweets (you could always find cookies from the bakery tucked into her knitting basket or bars of Swiss chocolate hidden among her handkerchiefs in the top drawer of her dresser), she rarely baked. While we ate many a meal at Grammie’s house, I rarely recall her providing dessert. No need, since they lived in an apartment just above the bakery, and if we wanted something sweet after dinner, we went down to the bakery and found a tasty treat.

I say rarely, because there was one thing she occasionally made. She called it her Swiss Apple Pie.

We called it that as well, of course, but I don’t think I ever thought that was actually its name. I just thought that she made an apple pie and called it Swiss because she was – Swiss, that is.

Out of curiosity, the other day I Googled “Swiss Apple Pie.” Much to my surprise, many options appeared. There really is such a thing, and it really comes from Switzerland. The Swiss call it Apfelwahe. Basically, it is a one-crust apple pie or apple tart in a custard base.

Wahe is the Swiss name for this type of tart. In Germany or Austria, it would be called by a different name. Apparently wahen come in both sweet and savory versions. A typical on-the-run lunch in Switzerland would include a stop at a bakery where you would get a slice of a savory wahe and a slice of a sweet fruit wahe. I’m pretty sure my grandmother would just have skipped the savory and gone straight to the sweet.

Anyway, most of the recipes I found featured apples that had either been sliced very thin or chopped. Grammie grated the apples for her pie. When I made the pie this past week, I used my food processor, and it took about two seconds. Her process took considerably longer and likely included a scraped knuckle or two.

Before I get to the recipe, I want to go back to the chocolate candy hidden in Grammie’s top dresser drawer.

Back in those days, you couldn’t easily find Swiss chocolate, at least not in Columbus, Nebraska. Grammie’s sisters would send her boxes of candy, including Toblerone. I think you can buy Toblerone almost everywhere these days, including the grocery store. Back then, Toblerone was our own little secret.

While we all knew about Grammie’s stash of chocolate, none of us would have dared to take any without her permission. But I promise you it was easy to get permission. I can still taste that yummy milk chocolate filled with raspberry or strawberry jelly, or best of all, caramel. And when we got some Toblerone, well, life was good. We always got some for Christmas in our stocking. Apparently Santa Claus is Swiss.

Grammie was very proud of her Swiss heritage, though she full-out adopted American habits. She had a ring of Swiss lady friends with whom she drank coffee and knitted and crocheted. I remember her standing at the counter at the end of the hall, leaning on her elbow with the telephone at one ear, talking in Swiss with one of her girlfriends. I love that memory.

When I was a senior in high school, I was awarded the illustrious crown of Queen of the Sweetheart Dance. She would have been proud of me in my own right, but the best news of all for her was that my king was the son of one of her best friends — Swiss of course!

Grammie Gloor’s Swiss Apple Pie

Swiss Apple Pie

4-5 Delicious apples, peeled and grated

Fill an unbaked pie crust with the grated apples.

Pour over the apples the following mixture:

1 egg

¾ c. half and half

¾ c. granulated sugar

Cinnamon to taste

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until custard is set and crust is brown.

Nana’s Notes: Forgive me Grammie, but I made some changes. I think Delicious apples aren’t – delicious, that is. I find them mealy and flavorless. So I used a mixture of apples such as Honey Crisp, Granny Smith, and Fuji and grated them in my food processor. Also, instead of half and half, I used heavy cream, because, well, do I really have to explain? Cream never made anything taste worse, right?

Saturday Smile: Happy Birthday, Mom

Mom and Court

Mom and Court, circa 1987, in her kitchen in Dillon, Colorado. I’ve always loved this photo because the looks on their faces are the same — not happy to get their picture taken. I wish I could remember what they were doing….

This past Tuesday was my mom’s birthday. She would have been 88 years old. Nearly impossible to think that she has been in heaven almost 20 years. I love to think about what she would look like had she lived. She was so petite and pretty, so conscious of always looking her best. I think she would have been beautiful still.

When my sibs and I reminisce about life with Mom, we often talk about how she was very no-nonsense (which she was). However, our grandkids are often surprised to hear this as the Nana they knew was funny and loving and clearly adored her grandkids. Their perception is not wrong. I have already talked at length in this blog that we are different with our grandkids than we were with our kids as they were growing up.

Mom and Dad had nine grandchildren, and to date, there are 14 great grands, with one on the way. They would adore every single one of them. But since this is my Saturday Smile, I have to offer you something that will make you smile. Here are photos of Mom’s and Dad’s three youngest great grands….

10603705_10204515218310053_621454224079683869_n

Faith Naomi

IMG_0931

Lilliana Marie Eve

lilly

Cole Jonathan

 

One other quick thing. As part of my apple and pear extravaganza, I made an apple pie that was delicious. I mention it because it was somewhat different than apple pies I have made in the past. The biggest difference is that you cook the apples before you put them in the pie to bake. The reason for this is that if you pile up the apples without cooking them down a bit, and then lay the crust over the pile of apples, the fruit will cook down and you will have a funny shaped pie. This way, the apples are already cooked down and the pastry lies over them, making a perfect pie.

Here is the link to the recipe and a picture of the final result. A-YUM!

apple pie

Have a great weekend!

 

It’s 4th and Long; Forced to Bundt

searchI’m always behind the curve so what I’m about to tell you is probably old news to most of you.

Bundt cakes are in.

For quite some time, it’s been all about the cupcake. Red velvet with vanilla chai cream cheese frosting. Lemon mousse with green tea frosting. Macadamia and lavender swirl with rosemary-infused-vodka frosting. Mocha coconut frappaccino with almond-nutella frosting. Don’t even try to find a plain chocolate cupcake. They are sooooooo 2008.

Well, if orange is the new black, apparently bundt cakes are the new cupcake.

For a while, it was donuts. When the first Krispie Kreme opened up in Denver, there were literally lines down the street day and night to get one of the hot sugary treats. Traffic cops directed the sugar-craving public. Soon there were Krispie Kremes all over the metro area. Shortly after, Lamars Donuts opened their first store, and soon more followed. Donuts donuts donuts.

Now there is only one Krispie Kreme, the lone original donut shop. No lines down the street. The “Hot Donuts” sign is only illuminated a few hours in the morning. The donut sellers look bored. I have to use stealth when eating donuts because they are so passe and I have my reputation to think about.

Next it was the cupcake phenomenon. I remember six or seven years ago when we were visiting New York City to celebrate Jen’s birthday, and she insisted we stop at the Magnolia Bakery located somewhere in lower Manhattan. Apparently the cupcakes were featured in the then-wildly-popular Sex and the City television show. As a result, the line was literally out the door and down the street. I recall the cupcake was very good; I also recall it cost $3. I’m not sure how that compares to the price of a cupcake today, but at the time I nearly fainted. I also recall telling Dad when we got back to Colorado, and he was simply stunned. Back in the 60s and 70s, his customers didn’t spend much more than that on a wedding cake!

Though cupcakes are definitely still a phenomenon, I have noticed several bundt cake bakeries quietly making their way into the Denver metro area. The Bundt Shoppe is not too far from my house. A friend works at Nothing Bundt Cakes. Cupcake bakeries are desperately pouring their cupcake batter into mini bundt cake pans even as we speak.

I’m not complaining. I love a good bundt cake as much as the next person. Who wouldn’t love the cutely shaped cake drizzled in icing or sprinkled with powdered sugar? I’ve had a bundt pan since I got married and use it often. I’m sure one of those new mini-bundt pans will make its way into my cupboard as one of those I-can’t-live-without-it spontaneous purchases that I never use and give to Goodwill in eight or nine years.

In the meantime, I’m going to have to start figuring out if mini bundts will fit in my cupcake holder centerpiece and if my cupcake carrier can be adapted.

It’s hard to keep up.

Nana’s Notes: By the way, check out the mixandmatchmama blog, where she features 100 recipes for bundt cakes. I have tried a few, and they are delicious and simple. Here’s the link.

Let There Be Peach on Earth

peachesThere are several states which purport to produce and sell the very best peaches. Georgia, of course, is renowned for their famous peaches. I’m not sure I have ever tasted a Georgia peach but I’m sure they are delicious and deserve their fame. Even Arizona has a farm – Schnepff Farms in Queen Creek, Arizona – which proclaims they grow delicious peaches. Might be so. Can’t say because I haven’t tried them. Still, I’m having a bit of trouble equating the desert with juicy peaches. Scorpions, yes; peaches, no.

I will always argue, however, that the peaches grown on Colorado’s Western Slope – specifically, Palisade – can’t be beat for flavor and juiciness. The great unknown, of course, always is whether or not there will be a late spring freeze resulting in a depleted crop. This year, the crop was not just on time; it was a bit early. And the peaches are as good as I’ve ever tasted.

Every year, we buy a couple of boxes of the delicious peaches from our neighbor, who sells them as part of a fundraising effort by his Optimist Club. The peaches are literally picked the day before they are delivered. Provided it’s been a good year for peaches, they are delicious.

In the past, I have bought several boxes, eaten some and canned the rest. This year I decided I simply don’t have it in me to can peaches. So I only bought one box. Bill and I have been running around with peach juice on our chins for about a week-and-a-half now, but we still had a few left over. Heaven forbid they go to waste.

Instead of canning, I elected to make a peach pie and freeze it. That way, in November, when I’m feeling blue and dejected and so very cold, I can bring a little summer back into my life with a yummy peach pie.

There’s no trick to freezing a pie. I simply prepared the peach pie using the recipe below. It’s my mother’s recipe, and the best I’ve ever tasted. And I want you to notice that I cut a “P” into the top crust of the pie. The crust needs to be ventilated, and it’s a wink to my dad, who always indicated what kind of pie it was in the bakery by the letter he cut on top — “B” for blueberry, “A” for apple, and so forth. I, of course, only have one pie in my freezer (though there’s always the danger of my aging brain forgetting what kind of pie I froze; three months from now I will be asking my readers what the “P” stands for!).

finished pie

At this point, if you have a freezer bag large enough to fit a pie, place the pie inside the freezer bag and place it in your freezer. I, however, didn’t. But some time ago for some long-forgotten project, I had purchased some freezer paper. So I wrapped the finished pie in plastic wrap nice and tight, and then wrapped the whole thing in freezer paper and placed in my newly defrosted freezer.

And as an aside, isn’t defrosting the freezer a dreadful job? But the ice had gotten so thick my freezer looked like the inside of an igloo. My embarrassment got the better of me and I defrosted. (Which, for me, includes throwing out about $100 worth of frozen food that is no longer edible. Sigh.)

pie wrapped up

By the way, instead of using those inexpensive throw-away pans you buy at the grocery store that make a pie so small it could fit in an Easy Bake Oven, I went to Dollar Tree and bought a regular sized aluminum pie pan. How much did it cost? One dollah! If you’re going to make two, buy two pans. How much? Two dollah!

pie in freezerThree months from now, when the snow is flying, here’s how you will bake your pie:

Thaw the pie overnight in the refrigerator. (You can bake it frozen, but my experience is that by time your fruit gets cooked, the pie crust is too dark and dried-out.) Brush the top of the pie with milk, egg wash, or just water, and sprinkle the crust heavily with sugar. Then bake according to your recipe. As a caution, place it on a cookie sheet to bake, as it might be full of drippy goodness.

You’ve heard of Christmas in July? This is July at Christmas.

I have posted my mother’s recipe before, but it’s worth posting again.

Peach Pie
Ingredients
5 c. sliced, peeled peaches (about 7 medium peaches)
1 t. lemon juice
1 c. sugar
¼ c. all-purpose flour OR 2-1/2 T tapioca
¼ t. cinnamon
2 T butter
Sugar

Process
Mix peaches and lemon juice. Stir together sugar, flour or tapioca, and cinnamon. Mix in with the peaches. Turn into your lined pastry pan, and dot with the butter. Put on your top crust, and crimp. Using a pastry brush, brush top with an egg wash or cold water. Sprinkle a generous amount of sugar over the top crust. Take a scissors or sharp knife and cut several holes in the pastry. Place pie on a baking pan and bake at 425 degrees for 35 to 45 mins. until top is golden brown.

Flaky Pie Crust
Ingredients
2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 c. cold shortening
1 egg
½ c. ice cold water
1 t. white vinegar

Process
Mix the flour with the salt. Using a food processor, cut in one cup shortening.
Break the egg into a measuring cup and mix; add enough of the ice water to bring it to ½ c. Add the vinegar to the ice water. Pour into the flour mixture and pulse it until it’s mixed. It is a very sticky dough.
Divide in half and wrap each half in wax paper. Chill for at least an hour before using. This step is critical as I cannot emphasize enough, it is a very sticky dough.
Roll out into a 9-inch pie pan. Keep the other half in the fridge until it’s time to top your pie.

Nana’s Notes: To easily peel the peaches, drop them into boiling water for 45 to 60 seconds, remove them, and drop them in ice water. If the peaches are nice and ripe, the skins will come right off. If the peaches aren’t quite as ripe, it will take a bit more work, even perhaps peeling them by hand. And, by the way, pioneer women didn’t use a food processor for their crusts, so you don’t need to either; it just makes it a bit easier. If not using a food processor, just mix together using a wooden spoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vermont Visitors

micah alasair

Micah and Alastair enjoy a brief moment of relaxation just after Micah awoke from his nap. It doesn’t last long!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The best job I’ve ever had is being a grandmother. I’m lucky enough that out of my 10 grandkids, eight of them live within a 15 minute drive of our house. As a result, I see them often. But two of them live far, far away in Vermont.

BUT…..

They are visiting us this week and I’m having a chance to love them up and play with them. And, best of all, a chance to get to know them better.

I only had one child, and by the time Bill and I married, his children – who became my children – were nearly adults. So I didn’t really get a chance to watch them develop their personalities. Now God is giving me a second chance via my grandchildren.

What I’m learning is that boy-oh-boy, is every child different!

They are different because of gender. They are different because of family background. They are different because of their own personality traits. They are different because of birth order. Each one is his or her own little unique person. Of course, intellectually I knew this to be true. However, seeing it in action has really brought the fact home.

Joseph and Micah are visiting us from Vermont. Joseph just turned 5. He is loveable and gentle and likes to pretend. He giggles readily and  is quick to give hugs, but mostly he is infinitely happy to be able to have this chance to spend lots and lots of time with his cousins. And his cousin Alastair, despite being four years older, is happy to have a boy cousin to play with for a change.

Micah, who will be 2 in a week, is a clown, plain and simple. In fact, his daycare provider needs to feed him 15 minutes before everyone else because he spends his entire lunch time trying to entertain the other kids and won’t eat unless he’s by himself. After spending time with him these past few days, I have no doubt this is true. The child is going to be a stand-up comedian.

Joseph, on the other hand, will work for the Peace Corps! What a pair.

Saturday we had a bunch of the grandchildren at our house for much of the day. Here are some of the fun times they had…..

 

Micah looks a bit like Colonel Sanders after enjoying an ice cream cone.

Micah looks a bit like Colonel Sanders after enjoying an ice cream cone.

 

Not to be outdone, Addie has a plenty dirty face herself post-chicken-wings.

Not to be outdone, Addie has a plenty dirty face herself post-chicken-wings.

Joseph messy face

Ice cream seems to be a theme, and Joseph is sporting a dirty face following his Rocky Road.

 

Allen wins Uncle of the Year!

Allen wins Uncle of the Year!

In a complete non sequitur, here is a recipe for an incredibly delicious zucchini bread I made, using the ubiquitous zucchini that we all end up with via a friend or neighbor who didn’t remember not to plant more than one zucchini. It is delicious.

Zucchini Bread, courtesy Paula Deen and Food Networkzucchini bread

Ingredients

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Process
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Bake in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Alternately, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.

Nana’s Notes: I don’t care for nuts in any of my sweet breads, so I left them out. The bread is extremely moist and delicious. Micah ate a half a loaf by himself. You think I’m kidding.