WHEN THE KUCHEN HITS THE FAN

  SHE2016

SHE2016

I was thumbing through my favorite spice magazine.  Okay.  Let's get this out of the way - some people read gossip mags, some like the cerebral-sciency type of mags.  If you're like The Hubster, perhaps you like fishing magazines.  Personally, I find it extremely provocative to carefully peruse the free quarterly magazine sent to our home that houses all the gorgeous spices and seasonings, and all the published recipes sent in by "others" like me.  

So I was thumbing through my favorite spice magazine, and I came across a picture that stopped me in my tracks.  It was a warm photo showing layers of sliced apple, caramelized and formed into some sort of delicacy unlike any I had ever seen.  I did one of those things we do to get an even closer look - you know, like when you fold the magazine in half and then hold it right up to your face, or tilt it from side-to-side as if to see around the item in the picture?  I looked to the left of the photo and saw the title of the recipe: "Grandma's Apple Kuchen".  (pronounced koo-ken)

I knew this recipe was meant for me and I knew I had to conquer it.  I wasn't sure why, but I just knew.  I made my shopping list right away.  There were a few obstacles to overcome in order to make this happen.  Hey, nothing good comes easy, right?  It called for a very specific-sized glass pan I didn't have, nor had I ever heard of, and a few ingredients that were not easily found in a regular grocery store.

As fate would have it, I was in my local Goodwill spot and heard something calling my name.  "I'm over here, She!"  There, with what seemed to be a rainbow with confetti streaming down over it, was the odd-sized glass pan.  $2.99??  I think I can handle that.  Check.  I perused Amazon to find the specific ingredients needed and found them.  CHECK!!  Sunday Supper was looking like the perfect time to make Grandma's Kuchen.  In my mind, I could see the proud faces of my family and hear all the accolades I would be receiving.  Oh yea.  Meant to be.  This was going to be PERFECT.

I carefully did exactly as the recipe said.  I painstakingly sliced the apples so that they were uniform and lovely.  I whisked with fury, and stirred with passion.  I slowly placed each apple slice in layers to be ever-so-exact.  And into the oven it went.  And THE AROMA!!  The smell of the vanilla, the cinnamon, the apples!!  I cleaned the mess that is usually left on the path behind you when you work so hard to achieve greatness.  The kitchen.  But I wasn't bitter.  Oh, no.  Not with what was waiting on the other side of that oven door.

The timer went off.  The potholders came out.  The oven door was opened.  And there, Ladies and Gentlemen, was THE KUCHEN.

I took it out of the oven with tears in my eyes.  I breathed in the hard work I had seen come to fruition, and set it down on my granite counter.  I stepped to the doorway and proudly announced, "The kuchen ...... is cooling."  And the smiles of anticipation spread across the faces of The ManChild and The Hubster.  I was in the clear.  My artwork was complete.  Now all we need do was eat it.

I walked back over to it to rest on my laurels.  Of course I did.  I couldn't help but stare at this incredible beauty as it cooled and brought us all closer to being one with its tasty morsels.  And then, BOOM!

You may find what I'm about to say hard to believe.  But every word is true.  Out of nowhere, the kuchen exploded.  I mean EX.  PLO.  DED.  Glass hit my arms, my neck, my face, luckily missing my eyes.  Kuchen hit the walls, the floor, the ceiling.  The sound of it was deafening.  Cameron and Adrian came running into the kitchen, only to see me standing there, eyes wide with shock and arms out in the air to my sides, as if I were attempting to fly.  "WHAT HAPPENED?!?"  I just stared at them.  "WHAT HAPPENED, She?!?"  And the tears began to flow.  "Are you okay??  What happened?"  I looked up at them, giant tears streaming now, and screamed at the top of my lungs (get ready for it)" "MY KUCHEN EXPLODED!!"  

I wish you could have seen the pity-slash-comical-slash-confused looks on their faces.  The "awwwwwwww"s coming out of their mouths, rolling from deep inside their souls for me as they both put their arms around me to console my broken spirit were so sincere.  All that hard work.  All that mountain climbing to get to the top, only to slide back down.  Everything I had worked SO HARD FOR.  Ruined.

Or was it?  Those two went into action.  They cautiously cleaned me up, and led me to the couch with a tall glass of wine.  They cleaned up the kitchen.  They loved on me.  They offered me kuchen condolences all night.  And I was reminded that life was good, even and especially in the moments we think it isn't.

I changed that recipe to morph it into my own and chose simple ingredients and more practical tools to do so.  I make it often and think of that day every single time I do.  I know it grew me and helped me stretch and climb.  I know it taught me that there is almost always a mess left behind you when you work hard, not to rest on my laurels, and to understand that in all toil there is profit.  I know it helped me see what's really important.  All that because the kuchen hit the fan.

Sometimes the most beautiful things can explode in your face, even if you think you've conquered something after a long, arduous process, and it turns out incredible ...... you feel proud and think you're in the clear.  And then, BOOM.  What was once lovely artwork is in pieces everywhere, reminding you how truly delicate life can be.

Be careful and practical as you stretch and climb, but climb just the same.  Know that when something goes wrong  after you've worked so hard, it is only to show you what's really important so that you don't lose sight of it.  And NEVER put a hot kuchen in a glass pan on a granite counter. 

SHE'S CONDOLENCE KUCHEN

Kuchen:
1 1/4 cups  flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick butter, cold and cut up
2 egg yolks
2 tsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 medium-sized green apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
 
Streusel:
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbs flour
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs butter, cold and cut
 
Combine all streusel ingredients into small mixing bowl and blend with your fingers until the mixture resembles small crumbs. Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter. Use your fingers to blend all the kuchen ingredients to large-crumb consistency. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks then add the vanilla extract and milk. Pour milk mixture into the crumbled dry ingredients and mix until it is just blended. Press this dough into the bottom and up the sides of a prepared baking dish.

Arrange the apple slices in three lengthwise rows on top of the crust. Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the apples. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the apples look glazed and caramelized.

EAT SLOWLY.

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Egg on My Face

 Photo Source: http://www.pdpics.com/photo/2008-mad-egg-emoticon/

Photo Source: http://www.pdpics.com/photo/2008-mad-egg-emoticon/

Easter is one of my most-favorite times of the year.  There are many reasons:

1. I'm a Believer, and as a Believer, this holiday represents the height of what my personal faith lies on - Jesus is alive!

2. I love the way springtime feels.

3. It is a tradition in my (Italian) family to make salami pie!  WHO DOESN'T LOVE SALAMI PIE??

4. Pastels.

5. We get to eat colored hard-boiled eggs.  YUM.

I love coloring the eggs.  We have done it every year since the kids were small, and continue to do it even though they are grown now.  I especially love coloring them now that I am much more chemical-conscious.  I have found so many ways to color eggs naturally!

Now a few years ago, in preparation to color our Easter eggs, I did what every one of YOU do prior to coloring eggs for Easter: I boiled them.  (Notice I didn't say "hard-boiled" them?)

I thought I did all the right things.  I brought the eggs to a rolling boil, let them cook in the water for some time, and then turned off the heat and rinsed them with cold water.  I put them in the fridge to cool prior to coloring them, and started on my food coloring ingredients of rosemary, blueberries, purple cabbage, red zinger tea bags, and turmeric.  I was just sooooo proud of myself.  So I called The Hubster to the beautiful table I had set with the array of colored water/vinegar elixirs I had prepared, the carton of boiled eggs (nope, still not gonna use the other reference), and two lovely glasses of wine.  (Those were for us, not the eggs).  Adrian had turned on some nice music and we got to work.

After each egg was colored, we tenderly placed them back in the egg carton to dry.  Easter morning before church, I placed all the eggs into the cutest little basket and placed them on the table as a centerpiece where we would be eating these eggs, along with our Easter ham, salami pie, and other goodies.  The kids look forward to this very meal every year!  The Hubster likes his with a little mayo, relish, and cayenne.  Cameron pops an entire egg into his mouth at one time.  Chelsea carefully cleans out the yolk and gives it to Sam while she eats the whites. And Jordan slices his and puts it on his ham - ohhhhhhh, how the family would be SO PROUD of me when they saw these eggs!   They looked stunning, even if I did say so myself.

As I set the table that afternoon, those beauties were calling my name.  Which one should I eat?  Which one wouldn't take away from the glorious eye-feast that was my egg centerpiece?  Which one would I delight in sprinkling a little sea salt and cracked black pepper on before placing the delectable into my watering mouth??

I slowly scanned the treasure basket and focused in on the deep-emerald splendor and grabbed it, carefully tucking the other eggs not chosen into its place so as not to disturb the egg-basket trophy I so proudly displayed.  Holding it in front of me in both hands like it were delicate glass (okay, that part's not true, but it made for good imagery), I went into the kitchen, opened the garbage basket, and begrudgingly (it was just SO PRETTY, after all) banged it on the counter so as to crack it's armor and peel it away to the delicious orb that lie beneath.

Here comes the good part.

So I smashed it.  I wanted to just be able to give it a good crackin' to hurry and get to it, after all.  BOOM.  Full-hand smash.  Aaaaand the egg exploded all over me; like, EXPLODED.  Apparently, I had NOT boiled them properly, and the only part of it cooked was a small layer around the outside.  That layer blew into bits upon the smash, and the rest of the liquidy egg was everywhere.

I literally was standing there with egg on my face.

And we did not get to eat our eggs that year, either, needless to say.  (Oh, don't worry - there was PLENTY of ham and salami pie, along with decadent potatoes and asparagus, but that's a story for another post)

I have now, thanks to that experience, perfected the hard-boiled egg.  Perfect white, not too rubbery, and the golden center, not too dry, but cooked just right.  I have taken this secret out of the vault and am giving it to you as a gift.  The 'recipe' is below.

Do you prize what looks good on the outside, never REALLY taking the steps needed to go a little deeper and find out if what's inside is what is REALLY of worth?  As you age, are you gracious to yourself and consider the wealth of knowledge and experience you've gained over the course of this precious life to put into the vault, or do you just waste this gift of life wishing you could do it over again?  Don't wind up with egg on YOUR face.  Remember to look past what's only skin-deep and find value in the golden center that's been cooked just right......it helps perfect the recipe for the legacy you leave behind.

THE PERFECT HARD-BOILED EGG

Place your eggs in the pot you wish to boil them in.  Cover them with water and sprinkle with a touch of baking soda (this helps the peeling process!).  Bring to a rolling boil.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let them sit for exactly 13 minutes.  Pour out the water and cover with cool water.  Let sit 3 more minutes.  Rinse with cold water again, letting the cold water run over the eggs for another minute or two.  Eat right away or refrigerate and save for later.

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

Now Bring Us Some Piggy Pudding!

 Photo Source: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/11269

Photo Source: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/11269

I’m fairly sure we've all done it.  You know……all sing – loudly and proudly – “Now bring us some piggy pudding, and bring some right here!”

I know I have.  It took me FOREVER to realize the lyrics were “FIGGY” pudding.  But I didn't care, even once I found out.  We are creatures of habit, and it still comes out piggy pudding when I sing it.  Either way, when you consider it, neither one sounds very appetizing, now does it?

I've always loved cooking, but in the last few years I've really become what is socially referred to as a “foodie”; not just loving the adventure of cookery, but also feeling my palette mature and craving truly good fare and not processed or fast stand-ins; and also really honing in on the craft of preparing stunning and delicious food.

(Now stay with me.  You may think you know where I’m going with this, but you won’t have seen this one coming.)

So of course, as time progressed and so did my culinary skills, I was greatly interested in researching and getting to the bottom of how figgy pudding came to be, what was in it, how to prepare it, and then – to delight in it – if it was warranted.  It IS called, FIGGY PUDDING, after all.  Just say it.  What picture comes into your head?  For me, it was a brown, gelatinous, squishy-sounding goo that I was certain only paupers and beggars had to eat back in the days of yore.  Well, though the thought intrigued me, it certainly didn't sound appetizing!

In doing this research of sorts, I discovered it dated back to the 16th century and consisted of mashed figs, thickened with bread, and then crème-boiled into a custard.  That actually sounded pretty good.  Like bread and fig jam!  YUM.  Well, if you know me, you know I typically don’t stick to a recipe.  It’s a sickness.  And I definitely CAN’T quit any time I want.  Seeing several modern-day recipes consisting of butter, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and figs, I thought, “I bet I could make this into a pie.”  To which I did.  And it was … DELICIOUS!  I candied some walnuts and put them on top and it was one of the most delectable Christmas treasures I had ever created.

But wait!!  There’s more…

Last year, I decided to make figgy pudding pie again, and was singing the song over and over again (we all know when a song gets stuck, it’s STUCK!); but alas, I found myself singing about piggy pudding again.  Maybe I wasn't giving figgy pudding the respect it was due.  It was, after all, being prepared in my kitchen again because it was so good.

And then it hit me.  Piggy Pudding.  (I don’t even WANT to know the vision you get when you hear THAT)  I thought of all the ingredients in the figgy pudding pie I had made.  I then thought about pork, which led me to think about mincemeat pie: it has apples, raisins, and sometimes, pork or roast beef, and it is YUM.  Why not figs instead?  What about pulled pork, figs, butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg DIDN'T sound good?

And so it came to be.  Piggy Pudding.  It’s legit.  Sing it loud and proud. 

I wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Piggy Pudding Pie

  • 1 ½ cups pulled or shredded pork (pork is a rare treat in my house, so when I do make it, I use only organic, nitrate free, hormone-free, uncured pork)
  • ½  stick of butter
  • ½  cup of molasses
  • About 2 cups figs, stems removed and finely chopped (you can substitute dried, but make sure they are un-sweetened to avoid processed and extra un-necessary sugar)
  • Finely-grated lemon peel (it needs this acidity)
  • Juice of the lemon
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch (you can substitute corn starch, but I keep watch for GMOs and aluminum)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A jhushj of fresh grated nutmeg (I don’t know what a measure equal to a jhushj would be, so just grate it over the top of the mixture)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Rum or cognac (optional, but not in my house)

Cream butter with mixer until it is fluffed.  Add your molasses and beat that up a little.  Then add your figs, butter, and lemon juice and peel.  Add the remaining dry ingredients (potato starch, salt, and other seasonings), until it is all mixed together.  Fold in your pulled pork.  If you’re really feeling froggy, a little cognac or rum poured in doesn't hurt!  Pour into a prepared pie crust (I make mine from scratch, but it’s your call from here) If you want to make it look authentic, place a pie crust or pie lattice over the pie, slice it a few times if it’s a full crust, and egg-white brush it.  Place in a 325-degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Eat slowly.  Enjoy.  I can’t TELL you how emotional this experience will be for many Christmases to come! 

Go Bananas!

 Photo Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_hat#/media/File:Carmen_Miranda_in_The_Gang%27s_All_Here_trailer_cropped.jpg

Photo Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_hat#/media/File:Carmen_Miranda_in_The_Gang%27s_All_Here_trailer_cropped.jpg

I know this is going to come as a shock to anyone reading this so brace yourself: Most people think I'm crazy.  I know, I know - SHOCKING!  Now I don't think that means incapacitated-crazy, or lobotomy-crazy (well, perhaps), but extremely eccentric-crazy, or largely unconventional...and they are right!  Oddly enough, I am very old-fashioned and nostalgic to antiques and history and the things that give them (and me!) character as well.  I know those two things don't always connect, but it's what makes me, me.

With my history comes the fact that I did not grow up affluent; in fact, we were raised to accept and appreciate hand-me-down clothing, sharing a room, and liver and onions for dinner because it was cheap.  My favorite lunch when my parents were out working was to smear ketchup on a piece of bread.  To me, that was a rare delicacy, and even if I was hungry, I would painstakingly chew every bite until it melted in my mouth because it tasted so good.  I suppose I was a foodie before my time!

That history makes up who I am today.  Though I am quite certain my palette is much more refined (organic ketchup on rice bread?), I still have a little panic button if I see that the "staples" of the pantry are dwindling.  I am one of the most frugal people I know.  It is part gift, part skill.  I can shop for all the healthy food that will restock my pantry without paying a mortgage to do so.  And I do.  I also don't like to waste.  Not anything. So I will freeze just about everything; leftovers, bread, tortillas... I don't know if that is the frugal side of me or the unconventional side of me, but either way, it has saved us from a pinch a time or two!

So!  Where is this frugal / unconventional She history lesson headed, you ask?

BANANAS.  Yep.  Bananas.  Not like me-being-crazy bananas, but real, wholesome, packed-full-of-potassium bananas.  Most people love them.  I do.  The downfall of bananas is that they go black QUICK.  Now, that doesn't mean they're bad to eat, necessarily, depending on how mushy or firm you like your banana, but it does mean fruit flies or gnats, or sticky counters or bowls.   Every grocery trip, I buy organic as-green-as-I-can-get-em bananas.  But rest-assured, they turn yellow and then black before we can eat them all.  What to do with the bananas so that the history in me doesn't let them go to waste?

At the risk of sounding like Bubba Gump, there are LOTS of things you can do with bananas!  Banana bread, banana cookies, banana pancakes, banana smoothies.  But the question is: do we want that every day of our lives just to keep the bananas from going South?  Of course not!  The solution?  FREEZE THEM.  That's right.   "She must be crazy" you're saying to yourself.  Well, I established that early on in the post so you can't say I didn't warn you.

I put my bananas in the freezer to keep.  They turn black almost immediately, but trust me, they are still usable for a very long period of time.  I devote the entire top shelf of my freezer to leftover bananas.  They don't go to waste and they are there for healthy, delicious snacks or recipes.  I posted a couple of my favorite below, so if you're a banana-lover, feel free to indulge.  I even included one strictly for serendipitous purposes and the nostalgic sake of the story above - banana ketchup!!

Our past makes us who we are for our future.  My living legacy is as important to me as the one I leave behind; that not only means my faith or how I treat people, but the little things in life that make me rich...REALLY rich.  I don't have to have a lot of money to tell you I'm one of the richest people I know - even if I AM bananas!

THREE-INGREDIENT HEALTHY BANANA COOKIES (quick, easy, healthy and DELICIOUS!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup of uncooked Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  Mix the mashed bananas and oats in a bowl. Fold in the chocolate chips. Using a spoon, scoop up the batter and place on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.

ROASTED BANANAS WITH BROWN SUGAR WALNUT GLAZE (Good for a side dish or a dessert!)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice $
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 large firm ripe bananas
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla frozen yogurt

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl, and set aside.
  • Cut bananas in half lengthwise. Place banana halves, cut sides up, on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 4 minutes. Drizzle sugar mixture evenly over banana halves, and sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Bake an additional 3 minutes. Cut each banana piece into thirds crosswise. Serve bananas with frozen yogurt; drizzle with any remaining sugar mixture.

BANANA KETCHUP (I love to baste my chicken with this stuff before grilling!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion (about 1 small onion)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded jalapeño from (about 1 small jalapeño)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 large bananas)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Water, as needed

Directions:

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened. Add garlic, jalapeno, ginger, turmeric, and allspice and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in bananas, vinegar, honey, rum, tomato paste, soy sauce, and salt; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  Transfer ketchup to a food processor or blender (processor is better if you have one) and process until smooth. Thin out with water as needed to reach a ketchup-like consistency. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Merci Beucoup

 Photo Source: By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada (France-000159 - Carousel & Tower) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Source: By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada (France-000159 - Carousel & Tower) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I really thought when I hosted French Feast Night, I would be done.  I really believed that this was the night of all nights and there would BE no topping it and no more theme nights.  It was INSANE……and I was almost right.

To start the night, we donned the night with the name: “French Feast at Chateau de Garcia” and dressed in our French garb.  (Yes.  We just happen to have French garb lying around our house!)

  These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

Next, the gathering of guests.  We had the Dirkses (lovingly referred to by me as “The Dirksys”, pronounced Durk-seez) the Penates, the Burkes, the Adamitises, and the Timmonses.

Waiting when they arrived were some fun cut outs to take photos.  Now THIS was the start of the perfect theme night to end all theme nights:

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

Of course we started the night off with a cocktail – it was called the French 75 – and amuse bouche.  This was simply different French cheeses, crackers, and marinated olives.  But YUM.  Next course was the aperitifs, or the appetizers.  Now THIS portion of the menu was off-da-chain!  It consisted of croquet monsieur, which I can only describe to you as the ultimate ham and cheese sandwich with Dijon béchamel and broiled Gruyere on top.  I also made escargot vol au vent (pastry shells stuffed with garlic butter, green onion, nutmeg and helix snails), and foie gras French toast (pan-seared duck liver in a balsamic glaze over crispy filo).  Oh yes.  I was well on my way to never having a theme night again…there was going to be NO TOPPING THIS.

Next course – French onion soup flambé.  Now I've tried this before with other themes and the soup never catches the flame.  Well, not on the last theme night ever!  Of COURSE it went perfectly.  The brandy caught on fire and made the most beautiful flame, cooking the cheeses on top to perfection!  Next was the salad Nicoise.  Superb, of course!

On perfect theme night, I knew nothing less than two entrees would do, so I made Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin. (Braised beef stewed in burgundy and chicken thighs made with white wine and chocolate - recipe to follow).  This was accompanied by 'burnt' pasta Provencal (that’s only the name – NOTHING was burnt on pure perfection night!), and ratatouille.  I must say that there is no way of getting through to you how delicious everything was.  It was the most amazing night!  And I was a little sad……because there would never be a night to top it.

So.  Dessert.  What does one make on French Feast Night?  Why, crème brulet, of COURSE!!  After a meal like this, accompanied by the different French wines and homemade French bread, we needed the finishing touch that would send everyone home feeling that they were a part of history!  The cream that had been whipped by hand…the beautiful organic berries I had hand-picked to place around the dessert like a crown!

I had made crème brulet before…and it was GOOD.  So knowing I had this many people and not enough small ramekins, I decided to go one step ABOVE – I made it on a grand scale in a casserole dish!  Oh, wouldn't they be impressed??  Out it comes.  I scorch the top with my hand-held torch.  It was BEAUTIFUL.  Smiling proudly as I watched them all take a bite, I found myself daydreaming about how awesome I was and how I had created the best theme night there ever was.  Hmmm…what is that look on their faces?  That’s not how I envisioned it…”How is it?” I ask.  (I tried to sound as humble as possible).  “It’s a little eggy”, says one.  “This is the WORST thing I have ever put in my mouth!”, says another.  What??  This couldn't be!!  But it was.  I had made the pudding on a grand scale…and overcooked it.  It was like a sweet (and gross) egg casserole; not crème brulet.  I was devastated.  All the hard work I had put into that evening was lost in my mind.  I couldn't believe it.

But of course, our friends and family lovingly reminded me that everything else had, indeed, been impeccable.  And when I told them I thought this would be the theme night to end all theme nights, they knew (used this to make me feel better) that I had subconsciously sabotaged my own dessert so that more theme nights would come, and this really WOULDN'T be the last.

We, as human beings, tend to put all the good things on a shelf and cling to the bad.  We lose sight of all the hard work, and subconsciously sabotage ourselves out of what could be something lovely.  We create our memories from the worst moments, forgetting the best ones, and never savoring them.  And all the while, we never stop to think that this moment could very well be our last.

~Fin

  These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

EASY COQ au VIN

Ingredients:

5 pieces pancetta or bacon, cut into pieces

8 chicken thighs

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon brandy or bourbon

2 cups white wine

2 cups chicken stock

1 bay leaf

6 sprigs thyme

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons flour

8 ounces button mushrooms trimmed and halved

8 ounces pearl onions, trimmed and peeled

Parsley, chopped for garnish

4 oz. dark chocolate (about half a bar – I use organic, of course)

Instructions:

In a pan or Dutch oven (I use my cast iron Dutch oven), fry the bacon over medium heat until most of the fat has rendered out (but not until its crisp). Transfer the bacon to a bowl.

Salt and pepper the chicken thighs and place in the hot pan. Leave undisturbed for 6-7 minutes or until golden brown, then flip the chicken over, allowing it to brown lightly on the second side. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the bacon.

The pan should now have brown residue on the bottom. This is what gives the dish much of its depth. Remove 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan and set it aside in a small bowl. Add the onion, celery and garlic and sauté until soft, scraping the residue off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Hit the pan with a generous splash of brandy or bourbon to deglaze the pan. Allow most of the liquid to evaporate, and then add the white wine, chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme, and tomato paste. Return the bacon and chicken to the pan and turn several times to make sure each piece is well coated and submerged in the liquid. Cover with the lid slightly askew (so steam can escape) and simmer over medium low heat until the chicken is tender 35-45 minutes.

Add the flour to the fat you've reserved and stir until there are no lumps. When the chicken is tender, transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Add the mushrooms and onions to the pan and turn up the heat to medium, simmering uncovered for about 15 minutes or until the onions are cooked and the sauce has reduced a bit. Add a few tablespoons of sauce to the fat/flour mixture and stir to make ‘creamy’. Add the mixture to the sauce in the pan one spoonful at a time, mixing well after each addition to make sure there are no lumps.  Add chocolate to the pot and stir until melted.  Salt and pepper, cumin and garlic powder to taste.  Sprinkle with parsley.

A Pie To The Face

 Photo Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/72006245@N05/6506044479

Photo Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/72006245@N05/6506044479

Back in the days of Vaudeville, and when variety acts and shows were a really big deal, slapstick comedy was a must.  You know, the days when they would use a cane to get you off the stage if they thought you stunk, because it would save you from being pelted with rotten tomatoes.  Back then (and now, really) a pie to the face was FUNNY.  There is actually a name for it: pieing.

For some reason, it was always a coconut cream pie.  This was not considered a waste of a perfectly good coconut cream pie, either, because it was something that brought a smile to your face.  All the great comedians did it: Soupy Sales was the master of it, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, The Three Stooges…heck, Charlie Chaplin even made the first movie that ever had pieing in it, Behind the Screen, in 1916.  Can you believe that??  1916!!

So I think it’s a fair statement that pieing has been around for a while.  I would even venture to say it is part of comedic history.  Why?  Because a coconut cream pie to the face can bring a smile.

Well, I pied my friend.  And I’m proud of it.  Yes, I put a coconut cream pie in her face……and it made her smile.  I baked my special coconut cream pie and delivered it to my friend Kacey and within an hour, I received a phone call.  “This is the best thing I've ever put in my mouth!!  No, all kidding aside, it makes up for everything bad that has ever happened in my life!”  I have to tell you that brought tears of joy to my eyes, because I had baked it with 100% love in the recipe.  (Remember Flat Biscuits?)  It truly was one of the nicest compliments I've ever received – so I guess I’m part of comedic history!

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I am avoiding being caned off-stage for not sharing the recipe for this pie.  But a word of caution:  love is not listed as one of the ingredients in the recipe - that should just be a given.  There is a secret ingredient that will make the entire pie amazing…but without creating this masterpiece with love, it just won’t taste the same.

Sometimes we may feel as though we’re on the receiving end of pieing.  It can make us feel like rotten tomatoes are being pelted at us.  But remember that some of the greats got pied and made history!  And also remember that being on the receiving end of a pie-to-the-face isn't ALWAYS a bad thing. :-)

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

Coconut Cream Pie-to-the-Face Pie

Ingredients (I use all-organic, but it’s not necessary)

5 cups sweetened flaked coconut

7 tablespoons butter

About 1/2 cup chocolate chips (the secret ingredient!) – I don’t measure, I just cover the entire crust with the chips

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups whole milk

3/4 cup heavy cream

Additional sweetened flaked coconut, toasted – NECESSARY!

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Mist a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Place 3 cups coconut in a bowl. In a pan, melt 5 tablespoons of the butter. Stir butter into coconut until it’s all moistened. Press into the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Bake until crust is deep golden brown, which is usually about 25-to-30 minutes. Check on it often—if edges are browning before the bottom does, cover the edges with foil. Take the crust out of the oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot crust and let stand for 5 minutes, until melted. Gently spread chocolate over bottom of crust. Refrigerate crust for 10-to-15 minutes.

2. In a bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla until smooth. Warm milk in a pan over medium heat until nearly simmering, BUT DON’T LET IT BOIL. Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot milk into egg mixture (this is called tempering so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs in your pie). Return milk mixture to pan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil and thickens enough to coat back of a spoon, which usually takes about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the remaining 2 cups coconut and last 2 tablespoons butter; let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour custard into crust. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly against surface of custard, and chill completely, and hour-and-a-half.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream over custard, swirling decoratively. Chill pie for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. 

4.  Put it in yer face.  SMILE.

 Photo Source: facebook.com/kaceyboagni

Photo Source: facebook.com/kaceyboagni

I Scream, You Scream

iscreamyouscream

Life is short and it is fleeting.  It is the human nature in us that makes us wish our life away.  What do I mean?  “I can’t WAIT ‘til Friday!”  Or “I wish it was next week already!”  It’s what we do when there is something exciting or better waiting for us.  And we push away the bad times that exists if we can help it in an effort to get to the better time.  But each moment that is given to us is still part of the life we have.  Not every second of my 41-and-three-quarter years on this earth have been all cheese and lollipops, BELIEVE ME.  But I don’t regret one bit of it.  I have learned to embrace the times that are not-so-good or the things we deem as bad – even sickness and death.

There are people we don’t get along with, either.  You know the ones.  When you've done everything you can to be positive and have a smiley, ooey-gooey kind of day, and in one fell swoop the person you have to be around (sometimes there are several, but there’s always at least one) who is actually at their happiest being miserable, comes along and with one comment – ruins it.

This person could even be someone you love.  Most times they aren't, but there are things that can happen with some of the most important people in your life that can bring you down.  We don’t all get along with our parents or spouses every single moment of the day, do we?  Arguments and disagreements can happen.  There have been times I've had actual screaming matches with my children.   (insert diabolical-I-can’t-believe-it music here)  I remember one where my daughter, Chelsea, and I were both screaming so loudly at the same time … and we would stop at the same time, and start up again at the same time.  The memory of it is funny now, but wasn't so at the time – luckily, she is one of my best friends now.  Not that the kids wanted me to be upset or they enjoyed being upset, but it didn't make for a warm, fuzzy time in our lives when we argued or had screaming matches.  But they are grown now and I wouldn't trade any of those arguments for anything.  It’s what my legacy for them will be built from and what taught them (and me) life lessons.

I believe God allows us to have those moments – or even suffer – to bring opportunity to us: opportunity to learn, opportunity to set an example, opportunity to be there for one another, and opportunity to lean on Him and draw closer.  I also believe God allowed good things for the same reason…like ICE CREAM.  I believe God created ice cream to ease the pain like no medicine can.

The other day, I was really mistreated by someone … so much so that they brought (hard-core) me to tears.  I was in an almost-panic attack.  My chest hurt, my ears were ringing, and there was nothing I could do about it in this particular situation.  Now this someone was not someone close to me or in my immediate family, but they are still in my life, and they are one of those miserable people I mentioned earlier.  It was awful.  But I also have a friend, Deborah, who knows about God’s wonderful elixir that is the creamed ice.  She went into action like some superhero from an ice cream comic book.  (In fact, typing this story, I see her with her hands on her hips, and her beautiful multi-colored sundae cape flying behind her in the wind.)  She simply walked up to me and said, “Come on, we’re gonna go for a ride.  It’ll only take fifteen minutes.”  Sweeter words were never spoken.  She took me to a wonderful, God-inspired, nectar in a sugar cone.  She even took into consideration that I am an organic girl and made certain what I was eating was all right – not that it mattered, to be honest.  Ice cream is ice cream, and there is no bad ice cream.  With one lick of that soft cloud of vanilla goodness, all the bad feelings started to melt away.  By the time I had finished the cone, I felt like a new woman.  I think about what made me sad to begin with and it doesn't feel good.  But I don’t regret the bad part, because without it, I never would have been brought closer to a friend who did what it took to make me feel better, and I never would have gotten the ICE CREAM!!

I have attached a home-made ice cream recipe below so that you can always have this amazing tool at arm’s length so that when you've had a bad day because of hard times, or a miserable person, or even screaming matches with the ones you love the most.

Yes, life is short and fleeting.  Do your best to NOT be that person that people think are miserable or that makes people miserable.  It’s the legacy you create while you’re alive, and the legacy you leave when you go.  Remember the good things in life, even when bad things happen.  It’s been this way since the dawn of time, and we've always screamed for the goodness when sometimes it’s right in front of us; screamed for the bad things to go away; screamed for God to get us through those times.  I've screamed.  You've screamed.  I pray you get some ice cream.

Homemade Organic Ice Cream without an Ice Cream Maker

Ingredients:

1 cup organic whole milk

1 tsp organic vanilla extract

2 tbsp organic sugar

6 chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed in a plastic baggie with flat side of a meat pounder – this ALSO helps with

anxiety or anger :-)) My fave brand of organic chocolate sandwich cookie is Late July

1/2 cup organic ice cream salt

Ice

1 gallon-size Ziploc baggie

1 quart-size Ziploc baggie

Directions:

Fill the large plastic bag with ice and ice cream salt. Carefully (maybe use a small funnel?) fill the smaller bag with the

milk, vanilla and sugar. Seal the small bag tight – MAKE SURE IT’S CLOSED.

Place the small bag inside the large ice-filled bag and seal large bag tightly.

Shake bag up and down for 10 minutes, putting some serious “elbow grease” into the shake, shake, shake.)

until ice cream has formed!

Scoop out ice cream and combine with crushed cookies, or topping of choice. (Obviously, you don’t have to use organic

ingredients, it’s just how I do it for my own family.  Either way, ENJOY!!)

 

It's Greek to Me

 Photo Source: http://www.aveleyman.com/FilmCredit.aspx?FilmID=13443 John Belushi John "Bluto" Blutarsky Copyright 1978

Photo Source: http://www.aveleyman.com/FilmCredit.aspx?FilmID=13443 John Belushi John "Bluto" Blutarsky Copyright 1978

It's no secret I love a good leftover.  I mean, there are certain foods that just taste better after you've put them in the fridge and the flavors have married and set.  Fried chicken; pizza; spaghetti??  Oh, man.  SO GOOD.  Hot OR cold!  But who wants to eat spaghetti or fried chicken the same way over and over?  In our house, I will make it for dinner, and then again for Adrian's lunch.  So if we ate the same thing as a leftover, he would have it for dinner, for lunch, and for dinner again.  Not the most favorite thing in the world. 

On the other hand, it is also no secret I am extremely frugal.  I cannot stand to throw away anything - ESPECIALLY food.  I grew up with meager means and I know how many hungry people there are in the world.  It's just not okay to throw food away simply because you don't want to eat the same thing too many times in a row.

Sometimes, I will freeze the leftovers if there are a ton.  If I make chili or soup or some kind of pasta meal that goes a long way, I will make Adrian's lunch and then freeze the rest.  We will defrost it and warm it up to eat a week or two later when the shelves are becoming bare and there is no time for a grocery store run.

But a lot of times - I reclaim it.  I know that's not a proper culinary term, but it works for furniture.  When you say you have "reclaimed" wood or furniture, it means it was originally used for one purpose,  but was re-used for another.  And when you use that term, you're using a word that makes hand-me-downs or leftovers sound trendy and relevant.  So in order to make my food that is leftover at home sound trendy and relevant, I call it reclaimed food.

The kids have always teased me about it...although now that they are older, the teasing is more light ribbing with a side of respect and awe at the reclaimed culinary abilities I have honed as a skill in my home.  They've always said, "Mom, you take Italian one night and turn it into Chinese the next!"

Well this time, I made Mexican and turned it into Greek!  SO YUM. 

Our friends, Micah and Ben Hester, came and had dinner with us.  It was a nice little dinner of chicken and cheese quesadillas (made from leftover smoked chicken, by the way!) and Mexican rice.  It was delicious and we followed it by a great game of Cranium (we're pretty sure the guys cheated, but the girls won), a sleepover, and an awesome breakfast.  Lovely time and can't wait to do it again.

But there was quite a bit of chicken and rice leftover.  So I froze it.  A week later, I had no idea what to make for dinner and had no time to run by the grocery store.  I was searching my freezer for something to defrost before I walked out the door for work.  I took out the chicken and rice and noticed I had some phyllo dough in there I had forgotten about, too.  So I thought about that all day, and here's what I came up with:

Mexi-Greek Burrito-kopita

Leftover Mexican rice

Leftover chicken

Pistachios (I had a half uneaten bag so they were leftovers, too!), shelled and chopped coursely

One container feta cheese

Oregano, fresh or dried

Frozen spinach (organic, of course!)

1/2 cup wine

Organic grape or cherry tomatoes

Salt, pepper to taste

Chop the chicken up finely and add to leftover rice.  Add pistachios, oregano, and feta (in this case, I had tomato basil feta in the fridge but any feta will do).  At this point, you can add olives or mushrooms if you like!  Mix together well.  Defrost phyllo dough and gently lay out on counter.  Pull one sheet out at a time, covering the rest until you need each sheet.  Spray the phyllo sheet with cooking spray (I use organic extra virgin olive oil spray) and fold in half length-wise.  Place 1/2 cup of the mixture at the bottom, fold a triangle of phyllo over the mixture and then continue to fold up over and over until the triangle completely uses up the phyllo.  Place your traingles on a baking sheet and spray tops with cooking spray lightly.  I sprinkled a tiny bit of kosher salt and cracked black pepper on top and baked for fifteen minutes until it was a beautiful, golden brown.

Put two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in pan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, sqeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible and place in heated pan.  Half the tomatoes and toss into pan and add the wine and cook until absorbed by the spinach, about two minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  When heated through, place on plate and top with Mexi-Greek Burrito-kopita.  Top with a dollup of Greek yogurt, if desired.  I did. 

What is sitting on your shelves that you put away and forgot about?  Is it one thing that you can re-purpose for another?  What about the shelves in your heart, full of memories?  What can you re-purpose or reclaim that you can turn into part of the legacy you leave for your kids or the people you love so that in the face of it, they can respect and stand in awe of your ability to do so?  Look around for inspiration and serve it with a nice glass of wine......whether it's your leftover food or your leftover life, it makes a great recipe for success.

  This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.