“Pinning” for You

I own a ridiculous number of cookbooks – ridiculous because I actually use a total of exactly two. Well, perhaps technically more than two. I tend to lump all of my Lidia Bastianich cookbooks into one. If I cook one of her recipes, I use the actual cookbook. Of her cookbooks, the one I use far and away the most is Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen. It has the tomato sauce stains to prove it.

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The other cookbook I open occasionally is my beloved Joy of Cooking cookbook that belonged to my mother-in-law who gifted it to me a number of years ago. It’s beloved simply because it’s from her. I can’t say I use it often. Joy of Cooking is a classic cookbook from which you can get recipes for practically anything. For heaven’s sake, it even tells me how to dress a deer (and I don’t mean in camouflage shirt and pants, ar ar ar). Needless to say, I haven’t actually had the need to hang a dead deer from my back porch because Bill doesn’t hunt, thank goodness. I’m not anti-hunting, mind you. Just anti-dressing-a-deer and anti-plucking-a-goose-or-wild-turkey. At any rate, Wilma’s Joy of Cooking was well-used by her, and looks much like my Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen.

dressing-a-deer

I was thinking about this the other day as I was searching all of my various spots for a particular recipe. It’s a pasta salad that I make often but have never memorized. I have it somewhere, but I can never remember where. Since the pasta salad originated with my sister Bec, I generally email her and ask her to send me the recipe.

However, when I made the salad recently, I googled the recipe. It isn’t an easy one to find, as it comes from the Crème de Colorado Cookbook (one of Colorado Junior League’s cookbooks) which isn’t online. But I put in “tortellini salad havarti salami” and eventually found it on the Better Homes and Gardens website. I don’t know if BHG stole it from the Junior League or if Junior League stole it from BHG. I envision both groups comprised of women wearing pillbox hats and white gloves and not stealing, so your guess is as good as mine.

All this is to say – perhaps randomly – that I love Pinterest. I wish I had invented Pinterest. First, and foremost, because I would likely be a millionaire. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about looking for recipes because I would have a professional chef on my staff. But second, because I would be so proud of myself for having had such a good idea.

I rarely use cookbooks anymore (see above), but that isn’t to say that I don’t use recipes. Oh my, yes I do. I couldn’t cook without a recipe. I’m not one of those. My siblings all cook without recipes. Me, I need to have someone telling me what ingredients are necessary and how much of each. Having two homes makes keeping track of my recipes somewhat difficult. As it is, I haul many of them back and forth – mostly those that were my mom’s recipe cards. But more and more, I’m able to find the recipes online and “pin” them to my Pinterest page. That way I have access to my recipes wherever I am as long as I have internet access, and I know where to find them.

I used to religiously peruse Pinterest and pin recipes, decorating ideas, crocheting patterns, and other things that are important in my life. I still occasionally will log onto Pinterest and pin one thing or another. But mostly I use it as a giant high tech recipe box. That alone makes it worth what I pay for Pinterest (which, of course, is nothing).

By the way, here is the recipe for the Havarti Tortellini Salad. It is so good that even Addie’s 13-year-old friends ask for the recipe…..

Havarti Tortellini Pasta Salad

Ingredients
10 oz fresh cheese tortellini, cooked al dente and drained
¼ c. fresh parsley, minced
¼ lb. salami, cubed
¼ lb. Havarti cheese, cubed
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
½ c. black olives, sliced
2 green onions including tops, sliced

Dressing:
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 t. dried basil
1 t. Dijon mustard
¼ t. salt
¼ t.coarsely ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
½ c. extra virgin olive oil

Process
In large bowl, combine tortellini, parsley, salami cheese, bell pepper, olives and green onion.  In blender or food processor, combine all dressing ingredients and blend well.  Pour dressing over salad and toss thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

If making more than 3 hours ahead, reserve half the dressing and toss with salad just before serving.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

The New Kale

Kris_Grands004_optI often think about what it must have been like for my grandparents when they came to the United States from Switzerland six or seven years after the end of World War I. I’m sure they were sad to leave their country of origin. Grammie talked about being a young wife and mother and having to say goodbye to her parents, knowing full well that it was likely she would never see them again. She was right. While Grammie and Grandpa did return several times to Switzerland many years later, her parents were long gone and she never did see them again. And no email or Face Time. Whaaaaaaat?

Bill and I traveled around Europe – mostly France and Italy – for three-and-a-half months, and I can tell you that while we enjoyed every minute, we often felt like the proverbial fish out of water. We didn’t know the language. We couldn’t figure out some of the customs. We couldn’t find a good hamburger.

That latter fact is more important than you would think. While we loved the food we sampled during our travels, we often missed the familiar foods we grew up eating – hamburgers, fried chicken, barbecued spareribs. The reason they call these foods comfort food is because eating these foods make us feel comfortable.

So in addition to giving up family and friends and familiar customs, my grandparents had to get used to a whole new way of eating. They, like most immigrants, lived near others from their own countries of origin. Because of this, they probably were able to get some of the foods that were familiar to them. I remember, for example, my dad and my grandparents eating a highly suspect food with a wholly unpleasant smell called head cheese. Head cheese is not cheese at all, but more of a sausage or cold cut made from, well, the head of pigs or cows. Yummers, right? And just to add to the fun, it is set in aspic. You know, aspic – in and of itself a totally disgusting item. You’ll be glad to know that the brains, eyes, and ears are almost never included, according to Wikipedia.

Another delicacy that my grandparents and my father enjoyed was limburger cheese. I couldn’t even be in the room with them when they ate it. It smelled awful. More than awful. Much more than awful. And I once again looked it up on Wikipedia and learned why it has such a dreadful odor. It seems limburger cheese is made using the bacteria called brevibacterium linens. That, my friends, is a bacteria found on the human body and is responsible for human body odor.

I’ve got to stop looking on Wikipedia.

kohlrabi rawRecently I read that the vegetable kohlrabi is coming into fashion. The new kale, according to what I read. I mentioned this awhile back, and also said that I was having trouble finding the vegetable. In fact, I couldn’t find a single produce person who had ever even heard of it. But I was at lunch with a friend recently who had stopped at a farm near her home in Brighton, Colorado, to bring me fresh corn on the cob, and I mentioned my quest for kohlrabi.

“They had it at the Palizzi’s Farm,” she told me. “I would have brought you some but I didn’t know what it was!”

So I went to a nearby farmers’ market on Saturday where Palizzi’s had a booth, and lo, and behold, I found kohlrabi.

Why kohlrabi? I assure you that it wasn’t because kohlrabi is the new kale. Do I seem like a food snob? No, friends, it was because I remembered my grandmother making kohlrabi (which was and is often eaten in Germany and Switzerland) when I was a child, and I loved it.

The problem is that I couldn’t remember how she made it. I’m pretty sure it involved speck, a bacon-like substance that originated in Europe, which she got from her brother-in-law-the-butcher. I had enough trouble finding kohlrabi; I have no intention of starting a hunt for speck.

But I did find a recipe, and made kohlrabi last night for dinner. It was worth the hunt.

kohlrabi cooked

Ingredients
2 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled
2 T. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated
Process
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the kohlrabi bulb in half, and then cut the halves into half-moons. Spread on the bottom of a cookie sheet or a baking pan. Sprinkle with the minced garlic; pour the olive oil over the vegetables, and stir until coated.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Bake 10 minutes; stir the vegetables. Bake another 10 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the kohlrabi and bake another five minutes.

Serve immediately.

Nana’s Notes: I would definitely compare kohlrabi to turnips except they are much sweeter. They really were very good. And my grandmother DIDN’T use parmesan cheese, I assure you.

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

I want to tell you two stories about scratch cooking and/or baking.

The first story is about a woman I worked with for many years. She boasted about the fact that she made everything from scratch. This fact annoyed my inner not-so-nice self. To be perfectly honest, many things about her annoyed me. She told me once that she, her husband, and their two kids could eat dessert twice from one of those small cartons of Hagen Daz ice cream. Seriously? They got eight servings out of a pint of ice cream? Did she dip it with a thimble? But the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was the day she proudly announced that she and her family had s’mores for dessert the night before. I wouldn’t have given this a second thought until the next words came out of her mouth: I made the graham crackers and the marshmallows from scratch. I believe I just turned around and left, entirely speechless. Who makes graham crackers? Nabisco, that’s who. And King Soopers sells their marshmallows for a buck a bag. Maybe it wouldn’t have annoyed me so much if she hadn’t already told me about the Hagen Daz.

My second story concerns a very good friend of mine. Early in her marriage, money was tight, as it was for many of us when were young. She stayed home while her husband worked. To compensate for her not bringing in an income, she took her role seriously as the stay-at-homer. And in order to save money, she made most of their bread items from scratch. She had a Kitchenaid mixer that she either inherited or purchased for a great price at a thrift store. She used the Kitchenaid to make all of their bread, including hamburger buns and bagels.

Isn’t it funny how I’m annoyed at the one and proud of the other?

Anyway, I was thinking about both of those women the other day when I decided to make English muffins from scratch. Bill and I have a toasted English muffin at least three or four times a week. I like the Thomas muffins. I smear mine with peanut butter; Bill prefers cream cheese. My idea to make them from scratch didn’t come from any concern about preservatives or cost; rather, I simply am challenging myself this summer to give some of these projects a try. Other recipes I’m going to attempt are homemade pho and homemade gyros meat. The idea of making croissants from scratch crossed my mind for a fleeting instant, and thankfully dissolved quickly.

Bread baking eludes me for some reason. My bread simply doesn’t seem to rise. I have begun to think that perhaps I’m just too impatient. Because our house in Denver tends to be chilly, I think bread rising just takes longer. My brother-the-baker has suggested that perhaps I am putting the yeast in water that is too hot, thereby killing the yeast. All I know is that I am determined to successfully make bread. I decided to give English muffins a try.

I found a recipe, and spent a few hours the other day making the muffins. I can’t say it would always be this way, but everything went perfectly. My dough rose just as it should. I formed the dough into disks, and they again rose just as they should. I briefly browned them on both sides on my griddle and baked them for 10 minutes. They are yeasty and delicious, with nice little holes and crevices as befits a good English muffin.

I will leave you with my recipe for English muffins. I’m now going out to skin a snake to make a belt for Bill….

toasted English muffins

English Muffins, courtesy Baked by an Introvert

Ingredients
2 c. whole milk
3 T. honey
2-1/4 t. active dry yeast (1 package)
1 egg, room temperature
4 t. butter, melted
5-1/2 c. bread flour, measured correctly
1-1/2 t. salt
cornmeal for dusting

Process
In a small saucepan, heat the milk and honey over low heat until it reaches between 105 and 115 degrees. Remove from heat, stir in the package of yeast, and set aside for 5 minutes to let the yeast ferment. Whisk in the egg and the melted butter.

Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed and gradually pour in the milk mixture. Continue to beat on low until the flour is incorporate, stopping to scrape the sides as needed. Turn the speed up to medium and mix for 4 minutes until the dough is smooth and sticky.

Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Turn so the dough is oiled on both sides. Cover and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until double in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, using as little flour as possible. Gently knead the dough together. The dough is sticky, but just add enough flour to make it easy to handle. Divide the dough in half. Then cut each half into 8 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten the ball into a disk. Place the disks on a cookie pan lined with parchment paper that has been dusted with cornmeal. Sprinkle more cornmeal over the tops. Cover and set in a warm place for 1 hour, or until double in size.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a griddle over medium-low heat. Using a spatula, gently place the muffins onto the pan, being careful to not deflate them. Cook them for about 2 minutes on each side, or as long as it takes to make them lightly browned on both sides. Work in batches. Place the muffins back on the cookie sheet and bake them for 10 minutes.

Split the muffins with a fork. Serve warm immediately, or later toasted.

Cooking for Dummies

I feel like I’m not a great cook any more. I’m not horrible, but I feel like I’ve lost the patience necessary to be a tremendous cook. Almost daily I thank my lucky stars that I elected not to do a blog exclusively about cooking. Because some of my most recent failures would not offer a compelling read, unless my blog was entitled Cooking Blunders.

Take Monday night’s dinner, for example. No, seriously. Take it, because it was practically inedible. And God bless Bill because he doesn’t EVER complain about my cooking. So he bit into the pieces of completely charred Italian sausage and said something like, “Food Network would call this carmelized.”

It was such a nice try on his part, but the truth is Food Network would call it a cooking fail.

The recipe was simple. Tiny new potatoes, fresh green beans, sliced pieces of Italian sausage, seasoning, all doused in olive oil and put into a piece of aluminum foil. The foil was closed up to make a package, and cooked for 30 minutes on the grill. Easy, right?

Except that I should have double wrapped it in the foil because it cooked fine on the closed side. However, I turned it so that the part that I had allegedly pinched closed was on the bottom, and unfortunately, it really wasn’t closed. At least not tightly enough.  As a result, the olive oil dripped onto the grill and a rather large fire ensued. A fire of which I was entirely unaware because I was engrossed in a book. I was reminded of a simply hilarious episode of the Bob Newhart Show in which Bob was grilling steaks on his Chicago condo’s patio and unbeknownst to him, the steaks caught fire. Bob was in his living room doing all of the funny conversational things of which Bob Newhart is the master, and in the background the audience watched as the grill was consumed by flames.

That was me on Monday night.

Here’s an interesting fact about moi. I am easily influenced by reading what someone in a book is eating. So if I read a book that takes place in India, I crave Indian food. If Mexican food is mentioned, that’s what I want for dinner. It happens the book that I’m reading (in which I was so engrossed and totally missed out on a grill fire which rivaled the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, minus Mrs. O’Leary’s cow) takes place in Scotland, and the characters routinely eat scones.

Normally I can take or leave scones, but after reading about the characters eating scones with their tea, I simply HAD to have a scone. If I was in Denver, I would simply have walked over to Whole Foods and purchased a peach scone. Despite giving it plenty of thought, I couldn’t think where I could get a scone around our AZ house. (Bec has since reminded me that Starbucks sells scones and there are probably two or three hundred Starbucks in a five mile radius of our house. Oh well.)

So I made my own peach scones. Had I shot video of my endeavor, it would not have made the cut on Next Food Network Star. Perhaps on America’s Worst Cooks. Ina Garten makes the process of making scones look easy (using peaches imported from a small organic and sustainable peach grove in the south of France). She ends up with a beautiful disk of dough that she easily cuts into triangles and bakes until they are a golden brown with sugar crystals glistening on top. I, on the other hand, ended up with a crumbly mess that I pressed into roughly a round disk, all the while frantically patting the crumbs back into the dough.

But it didn’t turn out too bad…..

peach scone disc

And when it was all said and done, the scones were quite delicious, as evidenced by Bill eating two in a row.

Just as an aside, when I’m cooking, Ina Garten often comes to mind. Mostly how she would be horrified to observe me in the kitchen. For example, I thought of her recently when I was making chicken. I had seasoned the chicken, and needed to throw something away. Because I had not yet washed my hands (which were full of whatever it was that I wanted to toss) and didn’t want to touch anything with raw chicken still lurking there, I opened the cabinet door with my feet. While doing so, a couple of thoughts came into my mind: 1) I have never seen Ina Garten open a cabinet with her feet; and 2) I wonder if it is any more sanitary to put your feet on the kitchen cabinet handle than using chicken-laced hands.

Don’t worry, I used an antibacterial cloth to wipe the handle.

Here is the recipe for the peach scones. Despite the crumbly dough, the scones were delicious.

peach scone cut

Peach Scones, courtesy honestcooking.com

Ingredients
2 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 T baking powder
½ t. salt
½ c. unsalted butter, cubed and cold
1 egg
¼ c. heavy whipping cream, plus more for brushing
¼ c. sour cream
2 t. vanilla extract
½ c. fresh peaches, diced

Process
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Once combined, cut in the butter with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Whisk together heavy cream, sour cream, egg, and vanilla extract. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Stir in the peaches, and mix until just combined.

On a well-floured surface, turn out the scone dough and pat into a small disk that’s about a half inch thick. Cut into 6-8 slices, and transfer to the baking sheet. Brush each scone with just a bit of heavy cream.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or just until golden brown. Allow to cool.

Nana’s Notes: Her recipe had a glaze; I chose to sprinkle mine liberally with sugar after brushing on the cream. Also, since I was facing the above-mentioned crumbly mess, I formed my disk right on the baking sheet, and that seemed to work fine. Finally, I didn’t use fresh peaches; instead, I used canned. That made the dough a bit wetter and the resulting scones a bit more moist. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Family Cooking Ties

IMG_0069“Do you think you will use that ham bone or throw it away?” asked my nephew Erik as he got ready to leave on Easter Sunday. I knew right away why he was asking.

I assured him that the ham bone would be put to good use. But if I wasn’t going to use it, he wanted it.

“What would you make with it?” I asked him.

He didn’t have a plan, but he knew there were a lot of options. He also knew that a good cook would never let something as delicious as a ham bone with a lot of meat still clinging stubbornly to it go to waste.

This past Thanksgiving, Court asked Jll a similar question. What are planning to do with the turkey carcass? Jll assured him she didn’t really have a plan, and as she has four kids Court Closeupand was entertaining Heather and Lauren and the two boys, she was desperate for refrigerator space.

“Take it,” she said with obvious relief.

Like, Erik, Court wasn’t sure what he would make, but knew a turkey carcass would make something good. I think that carcass turned into turkey noodle soup if I’m not mistaken. And it undoubtedly was good because everything tastes better if there’s bones involved.

I have said on numerous occasions that my mother was a very good cook. Though I never asked her, I presume she liked to cook, because I don’t think you can be a good cook if you heartily dislike it. Given all of that, I often think how happy it must make her up in heaven to see how so many of her grandkids love to cook – and do a bang-up job of it.

Christopher and porkNot only are they good cooks, but they appreciate the art of cooking and the gift of good food. Recently, when Jen was here, we had the family over for carne asada. Dave’s son Christopher had smoked a pork butt the day before, and had some left over. He brought it along, knowing full well that somehow that smoked pork would be eaten. It was. I put it in a fry pan, crisped up the bottom, and it became smoked carnitas. In addition to pork butt, he smokes a delicious brat. My mouth is watering.

Jen’s son BJ is happiest if he can throw a piece of meat that he has marinated for a few hours onto the grill. He makes up his own marinade using whatever he thinks sounds good. I would never be able to do that. I require a recipe. Jen sent him home with leftover prime rib from their Easter dinner. He sautéed onion, garlic, mushrooms and a jalapeno in some olive oil, then added the meat to warm up. He made it all into a sandwich.

Good cooking isn’t limited to the men of our family. Mom would have loved seeing Jensen17 (2)Maggie in the kitchen. I have watched Maggie mature into an absolutely splendid cook in the years since she’s been married. She is far removed from her post-college days when she would be cooking something in a fry pan and call her mother in desperation as smoke was rising from the pan. Jen could hear even over the phone that the meat was frying at too hot a temperature. “Turn down the temperature!” she would firmly instruct Maggie. “It’s cooking too fast.

It’s nice to see our love for cooking being passed down to our kids and even our grandkids.

I used up my ham bone last night preparing green beans and ham. Here is my mother’s recipe for Green Beans and Ham, in the exact words from her recipe card…..

Green Beans and Ham or Bacon
Sauté chopped onion in margarine, add flour and brown slightly. Add hot water and boil a few minutes. Prepare frozen green beans (or fresh beans). Pour the onion mixture into the beans, add ham (or chunk bacon cut in small pieces). Simmer about 30 minutes. Add water, if needed. Add peeled potatoes and continue cooking until potatoes are done.

Nana’s Notes: I sauté in butter rather than margarine. Rather than water, I use chicken or vegetable broth. Nowadays you can get fresh green beans anytime, so I never use frozen, only fresh. When I was small, green beans were only available in the summer. Mom would buy them from a farmer. I carefully cleaned them, always on the lookout for a worm!  I like to use new red potatoes or new yellow potatoes.

The A’s Have It

There are lots of very satisfying things about spring. The flowers begin to pop out. The weather is mostly lovely. Here in the East Valley of Phoenix, weather in March is spectacular. Not yet hot and almost always sunny. People are driving around with the tops down on their convertibles – something they cannot do in the summer when it’s too hot.

In Colorado,  there is always the possibility of a spring snowstorm. Still, even in Colorado, there are probably more nice days than not starting in March.

My first three-day dill pickles of the year!

My first three-day dill pickles of the year! They’re about a minute old at this point.

But one of the best things about spring is the emergence of some of my favorite fruits and vegetables. Strawberries are luscious, red, and juicy. Pickling cucumbers are starting to appear in Arizona grocery stores. Pretty soon the sweet Vidalia onions will begin showing up on the store shelves, and they are ever so delicious to grill.

A fruitBut let’s give it up for the three A’s. Although you can get avocados all year round, come March, they are not only delicious but they are inexpensive. Artichokes…two bucks each. And what can I say about fresh asparagus? Why, I make asparagus probably four times a week, and each time I smack my lips with satisfaction.

At the grocery store the other day, the woman who checked me out was young – and not just young compared to me as many people are. She was, I would say, barely in her 20s. She still had braces on her teeth, though that doesn’t necessarily say much. I had braces on my teeth when I was in my 40s.

But she was quite puzzled by a couple of my vegetables. She looked at my leek as though it was from outer space. She called over to the next check stand, holding the leek carefully with her thumb and her forefinger as though it would bite.

“A leek,” I said patiently.

And because I was so patient, she then pointed to my artichoke. “What’s that?” she asked, her face aghast.

Training, Store Managers. Training.

“An artichoke,” I said, still patient. And this particular vegetable she really should pick up carefully, as those leaves have quite pointy ends, as you may know if you’ve been poked.

I have absolutely no reason to be snotty about her lack of knowledge of these vegetables. I had literally never heard of an artichoke until I was an adult, or very near. Artichokes were not in my mother’s vegetable repertoire. (As an aside, despite the fact that my mother was a very good cook, nearly every single night she opened a can of vegetables for the family. I think that was a 50s and 60s thing. The only fresh vegetables we ever ate were corn on the cob and green beans in season.)

My family’s very first experience with the admittedly hard-to-figure-out artichoke was with my dad’s sister Myrta, who offered it to us one night at her house for dinner. Despite the oddity of the vegetable, every single one of us was immediately hooked. And I believe every single one of us prepares artichokes the way Myrta did – cooked for an hour or so in water with a garlic clove. Served with a side of butter.

As an alternative – pull off a large number of the outer leaves, slice the artichoke in half, clean out the “choke” in the center and cook it on the grill. Very Italian. But I don’t like it quite as well as the old fashioned method.

I’m pretty sure I had also not tasted an avocado until we moved to Leadville and began eating Mexican food. Avocados, like artichokes, were love at first bite. My entire family loves guacamole – haven’t met one we dislike. But I also love to slice up an avocado, a delicious ripe summer tomato, and either a red onion or a couple of scallions, drizzle it with a good deal of olive oil and squeeze a couple of limes over the whole kit and caboodle, along with salt. Yum.

We did eat asparagus as a child, but, well, OUT OF A CAN. When I bought my first house after my divorce, the first spring following our moving in, I noticed unusual sprouts coming out of the ground. It took me quite a while to realize that the sprouts were asparagus spears. I was so freaked out about IF and WHEN I should harvest them that I missed out on the whole thing.

As I mentioned above, I cook asparagus for myself four or five times a week. Bill is not a fan. That’s okay. More for me. I drizzle it in olive oil and season it with season salt or Montreal seasoning and either grill it or roast it in the oven. I want some right NOW.

Enjoy vegetables in season when they taste the best and are the least expensive. When the price goes up, the flavor goes down.

Happy Spring!

It’s Getting Ahead of Me

Advent-Candles

From the time I was a little girl, yesterday’s gospel from Mark in which Jesus tells his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come,” scared the hell out of me. I want to know what my future holds, thank you very much.

And yet, that same gospel always gave me comfort when various zealots and/or nuts would say the end was coming on such and such a date. When I would fret, Bill would always remind me that Jesus himself said no one knows when the world will end. Both St. Matthew and St. Mark tell us that very thing in their gospels.

But our pastor put it all into perspective when he reminded us that as we prepare for the birth of Christ during this Advent season, we should be mindful that we should always be preparing for Christ’s coming. It’s an absolute cliché to say that we forget the real meaning of Christmas, but alas, it’s all too true.

The Christmas hub bub seemed to come really early this year. Earlier than other years, it seemed. Perhaps that’s because Thanksgiving was so late. But Christmas music was playing on the Phoenix easy listening station even before we returned to Denver on November 18, and Christmas decorations collided with Halloween decorations this year. Never even mind Thanksgiving.

Both of my sisters have been telling me that they are almost finished with their Christmas shopping. That absolutely FU-REAKED ME OUT! I have had to remind myself that it wasn’t even December yet.

The Christmas season really has expanded in the recent years. I remember when we used to put up our Christmas tree on my birthday in mid-December. Now it’s hard to wait even until Thanksgiving. This year I put my angel tree up the Sunday before Thanksgiving because I wanted my grandkids to help, and some of them were going to be out of town this past week. That, and the fact that we leave for Arizona on Christmas day, which requires that we dismantle Christmas on December 24 – just like the Grinch.

Anyway, all of this is to say that I am going to try and remember that the Advent season is upon us. Advent gives us the chance to prepare not only for the commercial Christmas, but also for the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

By the way, yesterday after doing a bit of Christmas shopping and feeling pretty snappy that I was finally making some progress, I got into my car, turned on KOSI 101 to listen to Christmas music. What I heard was Auld Lang Syne. Yikes. Now I need to worry that I’m not prepared for New Year’s!

I served this blueberry coffee cake on Thanksgiving morning. It was absolutely delicious. It comes from Betty Crocker.

bbery coffee cake

Blueberry Coffee Cake