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Recipes

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Stumbled Upon

I love it when you stumble upon an old recipe that you haven't made in years. It may not have been a favorite recipe, but one that was tried and true... required little effort... and seldom let you down. Let’s face it, it wasn’t a beloved recipe, if it was, you wouldn’t have stop making it. But for one reason or another, you drifted. It probably happened slowly, over time. Another similar recipe stepped in and competed for your attention, and little by little, it was replaced. In the end, you didn’t even realize you stopped making it. Then, one day, years later, you think about it. Hmmm… you ponder… I wonder if it was as good as I remember. So, you take the time, seek out the recipe, and smile as you are flooded with memories.

“Oh, yeah. I got this recipe from… oh, what was her name? She had that weird husband that use to make that strange clucking sound when we played cards. God, and that dog of hers! It smelled like, well dog, to the nth degree! It’s going to drive me crazy ‘til I remember her name!”
OR
“I remember I made these for Missy’s Girl Scout Troop and they gobbled them up.”
OR
“The kids were so young when I made these. Drew couldn’t have been more than 7. I wonder if they’ll even remember them.”

So, you dust off the recipe card and add it to your on-line recipes. (The last time you made them you didn’t have internet… does THAT say something?) And you make this lost, but found again, recipe. Time will tell whether or not it becomes a favorite that you make on a regular basis, or if you make it this one more time, remember why you fell away in the first place, AND remove it from your on-line recipe box. But love it or leave it, there is something satisfying about becoming reacquainted with a long lost recipe. It’s nostalgic, for sure, and in some cases, it’s a new beginning of a beautiful relationship!

Here’s the recipe that I stumbled upon. I remember now why I stopped making it. It can be rather temperamental. But I found I am more tolerant of recipes than I use to be. Occasionally, the granola bars don’t stick together well. But I’m okay with that. When it happens, I just crumble up the whole batch, and serve it as granola. It is totally yummy sprinkled on yogurt. So, let me introduce you to an old friend, one, by the way, that I plan to keep making.

OATMEAL BARS – AKA Granola Bars
Ingredients:

2 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (can use margarine, but I am not a fan)
1/2 cup whole almonds or other nuts (optional buy yummy)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:
Boil sugar, soda, and butter. Take off heat and stir in oatmeal. Spread in a well greased 8 inch pan. Bake at 350 for 7-10 minutes. Cut immediately but allow to cool in the pan.

Old friends, old recipes, there is something very satisfying with becoming reacquainted with both! Think about it. Is there an old recipe that you haven’t made in years? Maybe it’s time to give it a try… again!
 

Cooking Malfunctions

My parents use to say that they never needed to worry about me… that was the job of my 3 brothers. And over the years, each of them has looked after me in their own unique way. I can remember after one particularly awful date, while the octopod walked me to my front porch, he had the nerve to make one final assault on my chasten resolve not be become one of his conquests. Before I had an opportunity to plant an upper cut to his jaw, the front door opened, and there stood my 10 year old brother, in his jammies. “Is there a problem?” he questioned. “Not anymore”, I replied. And with that I turned my back on my date and went in the house. Just as I was closing the door I heard his tentative comment, “So, I’ll give you a call?” Jeeze! Anyway, when I was safely inside, I gave the little guy a hug, and asked him what he was doing up at midnight. “I didn’t trust that guy,” was all that he said as he climbed the stairs to bed.

But, every girl that has ever had brothers knows that brothers are definitely not all fun and games. On the average, for every good thing they did, there were usually a half dozen actions that I was ready to strangle them over. One of their most annoying behaviors was their incessant proclivity to share my culinary failures with would be suitors. I don’t why they thought it was so humorous, it’s not like most young men highly valued a girl’s gastronomic expertise. At this point in their lives, physical attraction and his date’s willingness to watch action films were all that truly matter. But that didn’t stop my brothers from falling into their roles as would-be comedians on open mike night at a comedy club.

They: Kim is such a bad cook, she burns Jello.

(Lie: I did not burn Jello. I just didn’t mix it thoroughly enough and when you dug into it you hit pockets of non dissolved Jello, which spewed dry powder into the face of unsuspecting diners.)

They: Kim is such a bad cook, she melts salads.

(Lie: I did not melt a salad… well, not directly, at least. My brother, his date, my date and I, were making dinner when my parents were out of town. My job was the salad. Being fair to me, the veggies had probably exceeded their “best if used by date” and the lettuce wasn’t very crisp. I had one of my scathingly brilliant ideas… why not pop the salad into the freezer for a few minutes to “crispen” it up! Now, I could go into all the scientific reasons which I learned about later in biology (stuff about cell walls and such) why this wasn’t a brilliant idea, but suffice to say, when I pulled the salad out of the freezer, it did in fact achieve my desired outcome. The lettuce was crisp. BUT, in the time it took to walk the salad to the table, the lettuce began to thaw, leaving behind a slimy vegetated mess that looked like it belong in the bottom of Mr. McGregor’s compost heap! God love my date, he valiantly slathered it with salad dressing and swallowed a couple of bites swearing it wasn’t so bad. When his third bite brought about involuntary gagging, the salad was removed from the table and the next course was introduced.)

They: Kim is such a bad cook it took 2 of us to carry her veggie meatloaf to the table.

(Lie: It did not take 2 of them to carry the veggie loaf to the table, it only took one, and it’s never been substantiated that this caused my brother’s hernia that required surgery!)

Over the years I’ve had my share of perceived cooking malfunctions. Just ask my children. There are 2 entrées in particular that all 3 of them site when discussing food prep gone awry. The first was a perfectly edible vegetarian spaghetti, made with spaghetti squash instead of noodles. I knew the recipe was doomed when my ex grumbled and groaned about it without so much as a taste. The children all watched him in anticipation as he begrudgingly took one miniscule bite. Then, with all the emote of a drama queen, he pushed the plate away, and promptly went to the phone and ordered a pizza. (And to think I’m not married to that man today… shocker!) Anyway, I wasn’t surprised when the children pushed their plates away with confidence as they looked to their father for approval. As for me…I sat at the table by myself and ate a perfectly lovely dinner. (Ah, truth be told… not so lovely! But I certainly wasn’t going to give Benedict Arnold the satisfaction of having me join them for pizza!)

The second food they all go on about was this very delectable chilled strawberry soup. It was one of the last days of school before summer vacation, and we were having their teachers over for lunch. I made this chilled strawberry soup and served it with a curried couscous chicken salad. Yum, right? Well, I could see them turning their noses up at the soup, but I gave them my best “don’t you dare do that in front of company” look, so under duress, they spooned what they considered to be a loathsome concoction into their mouths. Lunch was barely over before all 3 of them were in the bathroom throwing up. Seems they were all coming down with the flu, and lunch was enough to encourage its onset! To this day they blame their malaise on the soup, but I swear it was just a common, garden variety, virus that done them in!

Although today I have years of tried and true recipes tucked under my belt, I’m still open to trying new recipes and techniques. Case in point… Most days my grandbabies and their mother are over for lunch. Sometimes lunch is leftovers, sometimes I’ll prepare an entire meal, and about once a month I serve breakfast for lunch. This is generally one of their favorites, especially if pancakes and bacon are involved. Usually, I’ll buy this yummy maple flavored bacon to serve with pancakes. On this particular day, I did not have maple favored bacon, just regular bacon. So, dare I say it? I got another one of my scathingly brilliant ideas! Why not throw a little maple syrup in the pan while the bacon was frying? I often do that with left over ham, seemed to make sense that I could do the same with bacon. What I didn’t take into account was the temperature I was using to fry the bacon was evidently considerably higher than the temp I used to reheat ham. The temperature was hot enough to transform the syrup into a hard candy coating in seconds! Within a minute our bacon was securely preserved in a hard outer coating like a prehistoric mosquito in amber! Still hoping the bacon was edible I brought it to the table. Bug went to take a bite of the rigid bacon. Through clenched teeth that had been welded together by the candy coating he said, “Something’s wrong here!” We convinced him that as soon as the sugar dissolved he’d be able to move his jaws once again, but we realized there was no saving the bacon. Although the children were devastated, they weren’t nearly as surly about it as the 3 dogs who realized their bacon lust would go unrequited!

I’m hoping that my grandbabies were a little too young to have internalized this little culinary faux pas otherwise, I’m certain it would become yet another amusing anecdote to share at inopportune times. But who am I kidding? They are young, which means I have years and years to provide them with plenty of cooking disasters to enrich our family’s folklore!

Two types of cooking experiences get remembered…the really good and the really bad. But let’s face it…it’s the really bad ones that we love to recount over and over and over again!

Christmas with the Girls

Tonight is our annual Girl's Night Out (GNO) Christmas Dinner. Actually, this really hasn't been a Girl's Night Out group in quite some time...we're now more of a Kick Off Your Shoes, Curl Up on the Couch and Stay at Home (KOYSCUCSH) kind of group! We began as friends then started a reading group, but soon realized only half of us had read the assigned book, and "which half" changed every month! Our titillating discussions went something like this...

Someone: So, what did everyone think of the book.

Someone Else: Oh, don't say anything about the end. I'm not done yet.

Someone Different: Hey, did anyone see (insert new movie) this weekend? What'd cha think about it?

At this point knew it was time to give up the guise of being a literary group. My girlfriend's husband affectionately referred to us as the "Books Aren't Us" or the "Unbook Club". He hit the nail on the head. It's not that we aren't literary people. Most of us are teachers and voracious readers, heck, some of us even belong to book clubs where we actually read and talk about books. It's just that when we get together, there are so many personal things we want to catch up on, that the books got in the way.

Realizing we were no longer a book club, we decided we would be an Out To Dinner (OTD) group. Every month someone would pick a restaurant, and we'd meet, eat, and have a chance to chat. THIS was definitely more in line with our collective need. We did this for a number of years then something happened. It was subtle at first, then blatantly obvious. Without a predetermined decision, the number of times we went out to dinner started to diminish and simply gathering at a friend's home began to gain momentum. Today, we do not have delusions of grandeur. We are what we are. A group of friends, content to snuggle together on the couch with a glass of wine and chat or meet at the local coffee shop on Wednesday mornings and catch up. We've been through many things together; death and births, illness and accidents, promotions and job losses, marriage, divorce and remarriage, retirement and second careers. And what we've come to appreciate is that it doesn't matter what we do, as long as we are together.

At Christmas time we like to have a special evening. We have dinner at my house, I make the main dish and everyone brings a little something, and for a few short hours, we can leave the chaos of the season at the door. (I spoke about one of our gatherings in Sweater Flambe.) Tonight I am making a very yummy dish called Chicken Supreme. (My children affectionately refer to it as "Barnyard Sampler" because cow, pig and chicken are all used in the recipe!) A lovely dinner and friends...it just doesn't get any better!

CHICKEN SUPREME

4-6 chicken breasts, halves (I use boneless, skinless)

4-8 strips of bacon

1/2 pint sour cream

1 can mushroom soup

1/4 pound chipped beef

5 ounces white wine

Wrap a strip of bacon around each half of chicken breasts. Put side by side in baking dish which has been covered with a layer of chipped beef. (Or place 2 pieces of chipped beef under the chicken breast and wrap the breast and chicken breast together with the bacon. Mix sour cream, soup and wine. Pour over chicken. Do not salt since bacon and chipped beef supply the salt. Cook uncovered at 300 deg. for 2 hours. The sauce will almost be absorbed and the chicken nicely browned outside.

*If bacon is especially fat, use half strip of bacon.

Serve with rice.

Is there anything special you do with your friends at Christmas?

Unhurrying

I love to bake. As a matter of fact I like cooking in general. Whenever I hear someone say they find the task of making dinner an unsavory experience, I get this idiot look on my face, my brow wrinkles, I turn my head sideways like our dog Scully when she's trying to process "STAY". To me cooking and baking is anything but mundane. It's creative...it's rejuvenating...why, it's downright fun.

So, today, when I burnt a batch of Oatmeal Scotchies, I knew that something was amiss in my day. I've got a million things going on right now. The parent situation has calmed down, but in its wake are all the neglected tasks that normally get done weekly. So I'm trying to catch up, but at the same time, ready my house for next week's 18TH ANNUAL PUMPKIN CARVING PARTY and the weekend visitors that come with it. I've got the party down to a science, but it still involves plenty of time. So, here I am, trying to get some cookies made before the grandbabies show up for lunch, finishing up a craft project for Wee Folk Art, doing a couple loads of laundry, and slowly piling party necessities.

Normal multi-tasking, right? The thing is, I was allowing myself to stress. Running from room to room, picking up, sorting, baking, folding, and all the while not enjoying a single thing I was doing! Life's too short not to enjoy what you're doing. Restating...I love to bake. Instead of taking a few minutes, to truly relish the experience, to drink in the sites and smells, the task got heaped into my pile of "to dos". WRONG!!! How much time would I have lost from my day, if I chose to sit while my cookies baked? 10 minutes? Let's say I decided to make 2 batches...what...half an hour? If I had savored the experience, and sat at the dining room table, waiting for the cookies to bake, while guilt free flipping through one of the new crafting books I got this week and still haven't been able to crack open, the world as I know it would not have ended, and my disposition for the rest of the day could have been enhanced instead of frazzled!

So, I feed my garbage disposal the inedible confection...btw...not even my dogs would eat them...scooped up a new batch...and picked up one of the books. True, there were a few things I could have accomplished during that time, but the time was not wasted. When the perfect batch of cookies was taken from the oven, and put on cooling racks to, well, cool, I felt good, even revitalized. I am now ready to move on to the next task, which turned out to be writing this blog, but I managed to UNHURRY my day. UNHURRYING your days is about embracing everything you do and giving it attention and appreciation. It is a choice, and given the emotional well being it provides, well worth putting it at the top of your "to do" list!

OAT MEAL SCOTTISHIES

Ingredients:

2 c. unsifted flour

2 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1 c. butter, softened

1 1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 T. water

1 1/2 c. quick oats, uncooked

1 12 oz. package (2 c.) butterscotch morsels

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside, in large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, eggs and water; beat until creamy. Gradually add flour mixture. Stir in oats and butterscotch morsels. Drop by slightly rounded tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

To make a pan cookie: Preheat oven to 375. Spread dough into greased 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan. Bake for 18 - 22 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool completely. Cut into thirty-five 2 inch squares.

Pause for the Cause

It was about a year ago now that I wrote a blog on Chicken Soup. I said that chicken soup was a ubiquitous feature of my kitchen especially during the fall and winter. Truth be told, I often have a pot going all year long. When one of the grandbabies does not like what we're having for lunch or dinner, they'll often ask for a bowl of chicken soup in lieu of the offensive gastronomic offering. Nine times out of ten if there's not a pot going on the stove, I'll have left over chicken soup in the fridge that just needs a quick zapping.

The past few weeks have been very trying for our family. Illness and death has momentarily robbed our family of normal routine.  We focused our attention where it was needed most while trying not to neglect everyone else's needs. It's as it should be. But none of us can do it all, and sometimes, trade offs are made. In my case, over the past few weeks, the soup kitchen has been closed.

It seemed a small price to pay for the additional time that we were able to spend with family members that sorely needed our support. But in the eyes of a 5, 4 and 2 year old, it was a heavy price to pay. Routine means dependability, dependability means security, and security means peace. Although they will certainly recover from the past few weeks, their loss is understandable and justifiable. I really knew that routine had digressed to a critical state when, given her choice of any food, the 4 year old requested chicken soup for her birthday dinner! Has it really been that long since I cooked a pot?

Tim lost his father last week and my mother is nicely recovering from her surgery. There has been a hiccup in our routine, but life has a way of going on. We get through the tough times...do we have a choice? But fingers crossed, life will be quiet for a while, and the wonderful wafting smell of chicken soup will fill our home, without interruption, for a respectable amount of time!