Category Archives: Entertaining

4th of July Sopapilla Cheesecake

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4th of July Sopapilla Cheesecake

Sopapilla Cheesecake is my go-to, super-fast-and-easy dessert after any Mexican dishes that I serve for supper (like “Taco Tuesday,” Taco Salad, Tamales, Chicken/Cheese/Beef Enchiladas, Chili Rellenos, Asada Street Tacos, Carnitas, Loaded Nachos, Quesadillas, etc.).  This year I decided it would be a perfect Red, White, and Blue sweet ending to our Independence Day meal, because of the colors, and because I had all the ingredients in my fridge!

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

 

2 (8-oz) pkgs Cream Cheese, softened (room temp)

1 cup sugar

½ tsp Mexican Vanilla (or, if you want to be fancy, you can scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean pod)

Mix together all three ingredients until smooth and thoroughly incorporated.  Set aside.

 

2  (8-oz) tubes Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (or, you can make your own croissant dough)

¾ cup sugar

1 tsp. Cinnamon

½ cup butter, softened (room temp)

¼ cup honey (warm in microwave for about 20 seconds, after baking cheesecake)

Lightly grease a large baking pan (or small high-sided cookie sheet) with a tablespoon of the softened butter.  Unroll one tube of crescent rolls and roll out to fit in the bottom of the greased baking pan/sheet, pinching the perforations together.  Spread the cream cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a small edge of the dough all the way around uncovered (like a pizza).  Unroll the second tube of dough and roll out to fit over the cream cheese layer.  Press down slightly around the edges.  Mix the sugar, cinnamon, and remaining softened butter together into a paste.  Spread over the top layer of dough. 

Bake in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for about 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.  Remove from oven and drizzle the entire top of the cheesecake with warmed honey.

 

Strawberry Blueberry Compote

(This is what gives the dessert the RED and BLUE  on WHITE treatment)

¼ cup of cold water

Juice and zest of one lemon

½ cup sugar

2 Tbsp Cornstarch

1 pkg frozen strawberries

½ pkg frozen blueberries

Place water, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and cornstarch in a sauce pot on the stove.  Stir to mix the ingredients and then turn heat on medium high.  Add strawberries and bring to a boil, stirring until mixture is thick.  Remove from heat and add blueberries.  Set aside until ready to serve.

 

Cheesecake may be served warm or cold.  My son-in-law loves it warm and gooey.  I think it is delish the next morning after being refrigerated overnight, with a hot, creamy cup of coffee – like a cheese danish.  Mmmmmmm…don’t you?

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The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself.

Proverbs 11:25 NKJV

 

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” 

Galatians 5:1

 

South Texas Style Chili Rellenos

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South Texas Style Chili Rellenos

The title is kind of a guffaw, actually, and the reason I grin-and-bare that is that when hubby and I first moved to south Texas, and specifically the little town that we’re in, there wasn’t a chili relleno to be had on a single menu; not in a single restaurant in our town.  And when I asked for “green chili” on an omelet for the first time I was met with a puzzled look and a question, “Do you  mean Tomatillo sauce?”  Um, no.

Needless to say, we were terribly disappointed, and bewildered.  How could this be?  Is it that green chilies only migrated north and west from New Mexico and not east?  Maybe they aren’t a Mexican food at all?  Perhaps it was my ignorance that green chilies and Tex-Mex were synonymous? 😞

I’m happy to report that just a couple of years later Hatch green chilies started making an appearance in these parts, and when they did, they made a big appearance.  There are still no Chili Rellenos on the menus in our town, but at least this girl can get the ingredients in our local grocery to make them now, and that’s really all that matters.

And in all fairness, not all of South Texas is a dry Rellenos area; we’ve had them in a few San Antonio restaurants, even though they only barely resemble the authentic Rellenos that first stole my heart.

And, please pardon if I don’t make mine like you do.  This is the way I personally like them.  I’m sure I would love yours, unless you make them with ground beef filling, and then I’ll have to reserve my judgement until I’ve tasted them.  Husband likes the beef filled rellenos, but I dream about cheese filled rellenos and am content to eat those for the rest of my days.

I got my Ranchera Sauce recipe from a gal I stopped in the middle of HEB not long back.  She works in a local restaurant, so I knew she would steer me straight, at least as much of it as I could remember as she rattled her recipe off to me in the midst of my gathering ingredients.  Ha!  I hope I’m making it right. It’s sure tasty, so I’m sticking with it. 😆

First we start with the Ranchera Sauce

Place a stick of butter into a heavy pan and on medium high heat begin melting.  As soon as it is melted add one whole large chopped onion (white or yellow).  Saute the onion until it is translucent, turn heat down to medium and continue sautéing until the onions are caramelized.  This will take quite a while.

Chop 2 jalapenos (stems discarded), and about 6 large plum tomatoes into chunks.  Add them to the caramelized onions and let them cook until softened.  Add a 14-oz can of tomato sauce to the mixture, stir, place a lid, reduce heat to simmer, and let cook until you are ready to batter and fry the rellenos.  At that point you will want to use a Braun Wand blender tool to whirl the Ranchera sauce into a smooth sauce with no large chunks.

Now, the preparation of the green chilies…

Pick the largest, firmest ones you can find at your grocery.  Bring them home and wash them, and then dry them.  I like the spicy ones.  You might prefer the milder ones.

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Move an oven rack up to the highest level of your oven.  Preheat your oven broiler (you can do them on the grill too…but the oven is faster and easier).  Place your washed chilies on a cookie sheet and slide them onto that top rack in the oven.

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Close the oven door (I prop my door open slightly with a wooden spoon – I like to hear my chilies popping and crackling).

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Let the chilies broil on one side long enough for them to become charred and blistered.

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Use tongs to roll them a quarter turn and return to broiler.  Check them often for doneness.  Continue turning and broiling until the chilies skins are blistered and charred all the way around.

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Quickly remove them from the cookie sheet and place them into a large Ziploc freezer back, and seal it.

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Allow chilies to steam inside the bag for several minutes, while you prepare the rest of the meal.

NOTE:  I like to serve my Rellenos with homemade refried beans and a cheesy green chili rice.  See those recipes below, and it would be a great time to start making them now.  This is also a good time to blend your Ranchera sauce and make is smooth.  Keep it simmering on a back burner until ready to serve.

Start about 2 inches of oil getting hot in a deep sided frying pan (…just hot enough that a droplet of water makes it pop and fizzle.  Not hot enough to be smoking.  If you are seeing streaks/waves in your oil, it may be too hot.  Either drop your heat, or add a little more oil to cool it down a bit before adding your chilies).  The pan you use should be large enough that two chilies will fit without touching the sides or each other.

Hot oil

As soon as the green chilies have cooled enough to handle take them to the sink and begin removing the skins.  They should slide right off easily.  If not, be careful not to tear the chili, as it will be hard to keep the filling inside while you are battering it.

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Once the chilies are skinned, make a slight slit along the side near the top stem of each.

cut the chili

Only make it big enough to slide the pieces of cheese inside.  If you wish to remove some of the seeds you  may do that also.  I push the seeds out through the slit.  I don’t mind a few seeds in my rellenos though.  I use Pepper-Jack Cheese.  For 8 to 10 chilies you will need about 1 1/2 8-oz blocks, which I cut into quarter-inch slices and then into quarter inch strips.

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Begin stuffing your chilies with strips of cheese, about 5 or so strips per chili.  Dust the outsides with flour and lay them on a paper towel as you prepare them.  Once all the chilies have been stuffed and floured, you are ready to make your batter.

I beat two eggs and add about a cup of water to them…

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…and then I whisk in some seasoned beer batter mix (part of one bag) until the consistency is about that of thin pancake batter.  The batter should stick to your chilies, but just leave a fairly thin film.  Hold the chili by the stem and dip it into the batter.  Use a fork to sweep batter over the top of the chili and then gently lift the chili out of the batter, with the fork.  Slide it into the hot oil and let it begin frying.  Add another chili and let the two fry together.

Allow the chilies to fry for a few minutes and then use tongs to turn.  The batter should turn a golden color.  Scoop the chilies out of the oil and place on paper towels for a moment to absorb the oil.  Quickly plate them and cover them with simmering Ranchera Sauce.

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Oh my how I love them!!!!!   Now if I could figure out how to feed a crowd all at the same time I’d be in business.  I only know how to make Rellenos for one person at a time.  Hot and fresh.

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Colleen's Chile Rellenos

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Mama’s Refried Beans

If you’ve made a pot of pinto beans and have leftovers, by all means use them for this.  If not, look for these varieties at your local grocery store.  I used 2 cans of Charro and 1 can of Barracho (which means drunken – notice that they use Shiner beer for this).

First I drained my beans of all the liquid (don’t rinse them).  I melted about 2 Tablespoons of rendered pork fat (lard), actually I used some bacon fat I had on hand, in a sauce pan on the stove, and then added my beans.  I let them just bubble and cook on medium low heat until I was almost ready to serve my meal.  Moments before I was ready to serve I took a potato masher and mashed the beans until they were the desired consistence.  They may be served with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and some chopped green onion.

NOTE: This also makes a wonderful bean dip, if you like that with tortilla chips for a snack.

DSCN9810Cheesy Green Chili Rice

First I sautéed my rice in about 1/2 a stick of butter in a small sauce pot, on high heat.  After about a minute of continuous stirring, I added 2 cups of hot chicken broth, 1 can of diced green chilies, and a grind of sea salt.  When the liquid boils, place a lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.  Lift the lid and lay several slices of pepper jack cheese on top of the rice.  Replace the lid and leave until cheese is melted.  Lift lid and fluff rice with a fork, incorporating the cheese throughout.  If you like it just a little creamier, you may add a splash of Crema, or heavy cream, and a sprinkle of cayenne.

 

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.”  Acts 2:46

 

 

Mrs. H’s Santa Fe Burger

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Mrs. H’s Santa Fe Burger

My husband and I discovered a little burger joint soon after moving to south Texas.  It’s not a fancy place.  In fact it’s kind of grimey looking on the outside.  A regular person might even drive right past it and not think twice about it.  It’s just a little dive of a place really, along the side of the road in Hondo, TX, but one day the old man and I cowboyed up and gave it a try … and I tell you … we absolutely fell in love with the Santa Fe burger that we ordered that first day.  We love it so much it’s all we can ever think about when we drive by.  We stop in regularly, on our way through town, just to indulge in its deliciousness.  We love it so much we haven’t even ever tried anything else on the menu.  You ever find a restaurant like that?  They are real sweet about adding a few extra things to our burgers, which is what puts the Santa Fe right over the top.  The next thing we know we’ve got it dripping down our arms, not saying a word, chewing as fast as we can to make our nagging tongues happy.

So, because of the couple of little extras I always ask for, I feel like its okay to give you my take on Billy Bobs lovely little sandwich of deliciousness.  My version by no means replaces theirs, but it’s a nice little appetizer between trips.  I’ll warn you up front that It’s a little bit of work to make, but baby it’s worth it!!!!  At least in my book.

Prepare the Green Chilies

For this recipe you’ll need about two green chilies per person, so about eight should do. I pick out the biggest and most firm Anaheim (Hatch, Fresno, New Mexico) green chilies available at the market (I also grow them in my garden).

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Wash them and dry them off, and then lay them out on a cookie sheet.

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Raise one of the oven racks to its highest position in the oven and turn the oven on to BROIL.  Allow the oven to warm up, and then put the cookie sheet of chilies in, just under the top heating element.

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I usually prop a wooden spoon in the door to hold it open a tad, so I can hear the chilies popping and crackling.

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I keep an eye on them, as it doesn’t take long.  When I see that they are pretty popped and blistered, and burned on that top side, I open the oven, slide the rack out, and use tongs to turn the chilies a quarter of a turn, and then put them back under the heat.  I continue broiling and turning until the chilies are popped and blistered, and charred on all sides.

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Quickly remove the chilies from the oven with tongs and immediately place them into a plastic Ziploc freezer back.  As soon as all the chilies are inside the bag, zip it up, and then let them sit and steam for several minutes, while you work on the rest of  your meal.

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green chilies

Back in Wyoming there was a certain time in the summer when the green chile trucks would show up in parking lots around town with heaping baskets full of green chilies and a barrel-type roaster that rotated over an open fire.  We could buy the amount of chilies we wanted and they would roast them, and then package them up for us to take home.  I often bought large amounts of those chilies, took them home and repackaged them (about six chilies to a bag) into plastic zip bags, with their blistered skins left on, but all the air squeezed out, and put them straight into my freezer.  Whenever I wanted to make something with green chilies I’d grab a bag and let it thaw for a little bit on the kitchen counter, peel the skins off in the sink, and sometimes remove the seeds and stems (depending upon what I was making), and either use them whole or chop them into pieces for whatever recipe I was doing.  SOooooo many ways to use green chilies!!!!  

Its unfortunate, but we don’t get those trucks in the little Texas town where I live now, and perhaps not where you live either.  The BBQ grill works, but I’m not a fan of standing over a hot grill to babysit chilies on a hot south Texas day.  But, in this instance, you’ll be grilling burgers out there anyways, so you may prefer just to do it all on the grill.  And maybe you have a hubby who is all about the grill and happy to do them for you!  Knuckle bump!!!!

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The Beef Patties

1 (1-pound) pkg of high quality ground beef plus 1 (1-pound) pkg of ground bison

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1 jalapeno, stem removed, seeds and flesh chopped finely

1/2 of a small red onion, chopped finely

1 tsp Salt Lick dry rub seasoning (this is mostly just cayenne and ground black pepper)

Sliced Pepper Jack cheese – to be placed on burgers at the end of grilling

Hamburger buns of choice (Sometimes all I can find are the regular, sesame seed buns, but when I can find a good, soft, ciabatta-type bun, I use that).

Mix together gently and form into four or five good-sized patties.  Set aside while you prepare the following ingredients, and then grill the burgers over hot coals on the BBQ.  Add the cheese during the last minute or so of grilling.

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Toppings

Bacon (2 slices per burger), the best is the thicker sliced applewood bacon, fried crispy  (but if I’m in a hurry and don’t have leftover bacon from breakfast, I’ll use the precooked bacon available at the grocery store and go with 3 or 4 slices per burger)

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Peel the skins off the green chilies, and remove seeds and stems, but leave whole

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Sliced jalapeno

Sliced red onion

Sliced heirloom tomatoes

Romaine lettuce leaves, washed and dried

Dill pickle slices

Garlic Mayonaise (mash 1 clove of garlic and mix into 2/3 cup of mayo, I often add a sprinkle of chili powder and a squeeze of lime, and sometimes some minced cilantro)

Dijon mustard

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To Assemble the Burger

Some like their buns toasted

Spread some mayo over the bun halves

Squirt on some mustard

Lay a whole slice of red onion down

Place a few slices of jalapeno on top of the onion

Then a freshly cooked beef pattie with melted cheese

Layer on two Green Chilies, two slices of cooked bacon, a slice of tomato, a folded leaf of lettuce, (and a couple slices of dill pickle if desired)

Place the top of bun in place

Mash down so you can fit it in your mouth and ENJOY!!!!!

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For this Memorial Day,

… I made these burgers and served them with my Jalapeno Potato Salad (from Cowboy Backyard BBQ), plus my latest favorite food: Mexican Street Corn, and sliced watermelon for dessert.

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Potato Salad

Mama’s POTATO SALAD 

Ingredients

6 large red potatoes cooked until tender and cubed, skins on or off as preferred

4 hard boiled eggs, cooled and chopped

1/2 large red onion diced

3 stalks of celery chopped

2 Tbsp sweet pickle relish

1 small sprig of dill weed, chopped

1 bunch of green onions chopped

1 or 2 large jalapenos, seeds and stems removed, diced

Sauce Ingredients:

1 cups Mayonnaise  (plus more or less, as you like it)

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp Sea Salt  (plus more as desired)

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp ground pepper

 Directions:

Put first eight ingredients in a very large bowl.  Mix up sauce ingredients and pour over the ingredients in the bowl.  Toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Optional additions:

Add a half-cup of blue cheese crumbles and a quarter cup of crispy crumbled bacon as a garnish on top of potato salad.

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Colleen’s Mexican Street Corn 

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  • 8 ears fresh sweet corn (leave the husks and stems on)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican crema (my grocer carries two types, a sweet cream type,which tastes like heavy whipping cream, and a sour cream kind. Both have a slightly thicker consistency than whipping cream)
  • 1/2 cup finely crumbled cotija or Queso Fresco cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I make my own blend, see recipe below)
  • 1 medium clove garlic, mashed and finely minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 4 or 5 limes, cut into wedges

I grilled my corn in the husks on the grill, turning about every 5 minutes until charred on all sides, and then I pulled the husks down over the stems (using oven mitt to protect my hands from burning) and returned the corn to the grill for a short time (about 3 minutes) to give the kernels that charred effect.  I left the husks attached for a decorative effect, but now as I look at these photos I’m thinking they might have been even cuter if I had tied something around each husk, like a piece of raffia or something, to bundle them together and anchor them to the stems, turning them into decorative “handles.”  NOTE: The corn can also be shucked and “grilled” in the oven at 425 degrees F, turning about every 7 minutes or so until cooked all the way around.  Once it is cooked on all sides and has some charred spots it’s time to dress it up.

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While the corn is grilling, mix together the mayo (please don’t use the fat-free stuff.  I know it may be healthier for you, but really, you must live a little!!!), crema, garlic, and add about 1/4 tsp of the chili powder.  Juice and zest a couple of the limes and then add the juice and zest to the mayo mixture.  Toss in about half of the crumbled cotija (Queso Fresco).  Mix well and keep in fridge until ready to use.  Cut the remaining limes into wedges and save for serving.

As soon as the corn is grilled, spread each cob with a generous amount of the mayo mix on all sides. Don’t be chincy.  Follow with a sprinkling all around of chili powder, and then cheese crumbles.  Sprinkle some cilantro on top, and a few extra sprinkles of the cheese.  Serve immediately with a wedge of lime for each cob!

You’ve died and gone to heaven, right?  I’m there with ya!!!!!!

 

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Colleen’s Homemade Chili Powder

  • 3 Ancho Chiles (dried), stemmed, seeded, and sliced
  • 3 Cascabel/Guajillo chiles (dried), stemmed, seeded, and sliced
  • 4 Arbol/Cayenne chiles (dried), stemmed, seeded, and sliced
  • 2 Pasilla chiles (dried), stemmed, seeded, and sliced
  • 2 New Mexico Red chiles (dried), stemmed, seeded, and sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon dried Mexican Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon hot Paprika

Place the chiles and cumin seeds in a saute pan or cast iron skillet and toast over medium heat about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and place in a glass bowl to cool completely.  Once cool, place in a blender, along with the other ingredients and process until a fine powder. Allow the powder to settle for several minutes before lifting the lid.  Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.  Use for making chili, to season corn, or in BBQ sauces and dry rubs.

 

End-of-the-school-year OLYMPIC GAMES

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End-of-the-school-year OLYMPIC GAMES

Are you looking for a clever way to close out the school year for your little group of elementary students?  Are you on a tight budget, or have very few amusement options available in your town.  NO WORRIES.  Us too!!!  Hopefully your town at least has a city park that’s kept nice, mowed and watered, or a nice, large, grassy area with lots of shade trees?  That’s all that’s needed for this shindig.

There goes the school year!!!! Grade One Done… Only eleven more to go!

I sketched out my party plan in a notebook…

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…and then went to work making the signs for the games:

 

….and TORCHES for each of the kids to wear (as medals)…

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I printed out sheets of the torches, wrote the kids’ names on them, had them laminated, and then punched a hole at the top to string a ribbon through.  On the back I printed the list of events so I could mark winners with a red sharpie, or completed with a blue sharpie.

The kids began their afternoon of fun by first having lunch delivered to them at the school (from Wendy’s, courtesy of one of the awesome parents), and after each of them had used the bathroom, they began their little journey from the school to the park (about a 3 block walk with their teacher).  When they arrived at the entrance to the park, this is the first thing they saw:

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They were presented with their TORCHES, and then positioned behind the sign to pose for pictures.  We were blessed that a very talented member of the school staff, also teacher, photographer, and composer of the school’s yearbook, was there to take some wonderful pictures, which I will post here as soon as she makes them available, and gives me permission.

 

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BANG!   Let the games begin!

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The first game in our line up was the…

Lunchbox “Hammer” Throw

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(The kids aren’t gonna need a lunchbox for a few months.  Hip hip hooray, let’s toss it away!)

First I demonstrated to the kids what they would be doing in this game.  I grabbed the lunchbox by the handles, put my left arm straight out, twirled in a counter-clockwise circle a couple of times, and then when I was facing the field, let go of the lunchbox and let it fly as far away as it would go.  After the demo I handed the first kid the lunchbox and let them try.  The kids lined up behind the starting line and took turns twirling and tossing the soft-sided lunchbox out into the field.  (P.S. I had placed a small bag of pinto beans inside to give it some weight).  The child with the farthest distance after three tosses was declared the winner!

Supplies needed: Sign, lunchbox, a couple of orange cones, a jump rope, and something to mark the farthest distance.

 

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The next game was…

Crayola Archery

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After I attempted to demonstrate this game, we decided to turn it into a Crayola Javelin Throw, since our cheapo “dollar store” bow kept breaking.  The darn string kept popping out of its slot (Update: wind a rubber band tightly around the tip ends of the bow to keep the string in place. This works like a charm).  Anyway, after a bit of frustration from the darn bow popping apart every time we used it, we just decided to throw the crayon like a javelin.  The kids each got a turn to stand behind the line (I used a downed limb from one of the trees as the marker for this) and then take a turn hurling their javelins at the three hula hoop targets laid out in the distance.  (You can barely see them in the photo below, but look close.)

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This is what the arrows/javelins looked like up close.  I used fat crayons and inserted them into big straws (the ones used for smoothies).  They were a perfect fit, and stayed snuggly attached to each other for the whole event.  At least something stayed to together!

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(This is the dumb bow we used.  Um, scratch that.  Didn’t use!!!!)

The student with the most targets bullseyed after three tries was declared the winner!

Supplies needed: One dollar-store bow and arrow set, 1 pkg big crayons, the sign to identify the event, and three hula hoops.  Oh, and something to mark the starting line.

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The next game was…

Homework Fencing

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You are looking at the fencing arena.  Ours was marked by 4 trees as boundaries.  After demonstrating to the students what they would be doing, the students lined up behind the sign and two pairs at a time faced off using the pool noodles as their fencing swords.  (I got the fatest noodles I could find, to make it harder for little hands to hold onto).  With one arm behind their backs they each swung their noodles at their opponent’s noodle, trying to knock it out of their hands, because homework is now out of their hands.  Any body contact or face contact, or stepping outside the boundaries was considered a scratch and the offender was disqualified.  Winners of each duo were collected to the side to compete in round two.  Eventually a final winner was declared.

Supplies needed:  The sign, four pool noodles

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The next game was…

Alarm Clock Shot Put Throw

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(Hey kids, say goodbye to the alarm clock for a few months!!!!  In fact, let’s pitch that obnoxious contraption as far as we can throw it!)

First I demonstrated to the students how this game was played, similar to the hammer throw, and then the students were lined up behind the starting line, and took turns holding the alarm clock under their chins, twirling, and then heaving it as far as they could out into the field.  (Note: I used a cheapy plastic clock from the dollar store.  It broke on the first throw and left kind of a sharp edge that I cautioned the kids to be careful with.  Then the glass also broke.  Fail!  The better choice would have been something made 100% out of non shatterable plastic and no glass).

The child who launched it the farthest distance after all of them had been given three tries was declared the winner.

Supplies needed: Sign, cones and jump rope to mark the starting line, an alarm clock, and something to mark distance.

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The next game was…

Three R’s Shooting Competition

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The three R’s stood for Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic, which were featured on the three targets placed at a distance from the starting line.  (Way to target your subjects this year kids)!  The students lined up behind the starting line. They were instructed that one kid at a time would approach the starting line, grab a squirty bottle, aim at the first target, and begin squirting at it, moving in closer until the stream of water touched the first target, then they could move to the next target, and then the last target and do the same. Their time started when the teacher said, “GO” and they began squirting and stopped when they hit the last target.   Each child took their turn.  The kid with the fastest time (after three rounds) was declared the winner.

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Supplies needed:  A sign, three targets, and a squirty bottle filled with water.

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The next game was…

Water Bottle Relay with Hurdles

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(Hey kids, you’re not gonna need those water bottles for a while, AND we can celebrate that you all got over your hurdles of – Language, Art/Music/P.E., and Science this year.  Way to go kids!  You are all champions!!!!)

The kids lined up in two groups behind the starting line.  After demonstrating to the kids how to run the course, I handed each first person in line a water bottle. At the sound of my whistle the two kids with water bottles ran down the course, leaping over the hurdles and down around the cone at the far end of the course, and returning to hand off their water bottle to their next teammate.  The first team to complete the course was declared the winner.

Supplies needed: A sign, three hurdles with words attached that represent school subjects, two water bottles, a start line, an orange cone, and a whistle.

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This concluded the structured games.  At this point the kids were given a break to get a drink and snack and rest for a bit. Several of the parents brought coolers full of drinks (bottled water, juice, Gatorade, etc.) and snacks (Cuties oranges, goGurts, popsicles, cookies, carrots, etc.) for the kids to  munch on and stay hydrated with, and they served their treats “Tailgate style” out of the back of their vehicles, parked alongside the park.

For the remainder of the afternoon  the kids participated in free play.  I had set up a Badminton net and blew up a giant beach ball for them to either toss over the net to each other volleyball style, or just kick around the park in a giant game of “keep away.”

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In addition I brought a giant soft-sided Frisbee, bottles of bubbles for everyone, a soccer ball, the hula hoops, and gave each child a squirty bottle full of water to also play with.  In addition, one of our awesome parents brought a huge cooler full of water balloons for a hot potato game.

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The parents and I chilled out on blankets spread-out under the shade of a grand old oak tree, and visited with each other while the kids tear-butted around having the time of their lives.  I think the kids all had as much fun, if not more, with free play as they did with the games, hey, but a theme is a theme, right?  What a great afternoon and terrific group of kiddos!!!!  I hardly noticed that it was 95 degrees and 50% humidity.  HA!

After a couple of hours of playtime, the parents went around and gathered up the signs and parts of each game and helped pack everything up.  The kids picked up all the trash and bits of broken balloons and then gathered with their teacher to walk back to school.  Before they dismissed to go home each was presented a gift bag, which contained a movie theater pass (that they could use to go see Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2, which just released in theaters the week before), a pass to the local indoor inflatables park, and a gift certificate to Dairy Queen, plus a Nerf ball (which gave me the inspiration for the theme of the bags), so they could all… “Have a BALL this Summer!”  🙂

gift bags

 

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Yay kids…you finished your race well!  Happy summer to you all!!!!!

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“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”   Hebrews 12:1-2  NKJV

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Daily Prompt: Festive

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Daily Prompt: Festive

via Daily Prompt: Festive

dscn7518Tis the season for TAMALES, fa la la la la la la la la…

What could be more festive than tamales?  Just the shear process of making them is by definition, FESTIVE!  All the women of the family, closest friends, and surrounding neighbors gathered together in one tiny house.  Cherished loved ones in aprons hovering over perfectly seasoned smoldering pork and stewing chicken.  Gifted hands dutifully chopping and cleaning jalapeños and onions.  Skilled hands making masa with lard, kneading it for an hour to get it just right, and washing and soaking corn husks.  Little hands scrubbing countertops and tables in preparation of the assembly process.  Pots of steaming water bubbling away furiously on the stove.  Music and chatter, mostly Spanish, lingering festively in the atmosphere.  Restless children bustling underfoot.  Moms and grandmoms hollering at them, and also sharing stories of Christmases past, faith, and Jesus and Mary and Joseph, women having babies, and the glory of God.  Aunts, cousins, and in-laws laughing, tasting, teasing, gossiping, squabbling, crying, and making merry with one another.   Everyone settling into their station to lovingly mass produce dozens upon dozens of these tasty little treats, for their grateful families…and ours.

 

Even the act of eating tamales is festive.  In fact, Christmas isn’t Christmas without tamales (especially if you’re in Texas)…freshly made, piping hot little packages of glistening gold, waiting to be unwrapped, and then decorated with red and green, and flocked with white.

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My very favorite tamales are savory pork with spicy jalapeno and dripping with bacon fat.  Mmmm.  Oh my goodness!  I love them hot and fresh from the steamer, buck naked, and so scorching that I can barely hold onto the wrapper to unwrap it, blowing and blowing, and deliriously addicted to its intoxicating aroma as it passes over my lips and melts on my tongue.  If that were the only way I could ever have them, it would be plenty enough for me, but a little hot sauce, red or green, makes them even better!  And, oh how I adore them dolled up Tex-Mex style, like a taco.  Three sleepy amigos laying on my plate, brought to life with green onions and lettuce and cheese and pico de gallo and black olives and sour cream with salsa mixed in it, spooned on top.  Or, how lovely they are dressed with green tomatillo salsa and some chopped green onion, or smothered in spicy New Mexico green chili, or Terlingua red chili.  Or swimming in a spicy, creamy pepper-jack cheese sauce and heaped with fresh pico on top. Or, my favorite way, decked out like a bowl of tortilla soup, sitting in their husks and splashed with a squeeze of lime, then slathered in red or green salsa, with a handful of chopped, fresh cilantro, chopped green onion, guacamole, and a generous crumble of queso fresco tossed on top.  (I’m seeing a Tamale Bar in my future; an Ugly Sweater Christmas party with a Tamale Bar and a house decorated in hot chili pepper lights – see how festive tamales are?).  Oh how I love them!!!!!!!  I love them sooooo much!   I feel almost guilty penning my intimate thoughts.  Fifty shades of GOLD.  Is it okay to lick the husks?  <blushing!>

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Just lift the lid and let the steam swirl up onto your face.  Gaze upon their golden deliciousness!  Decorate them with your favorite red and green, and white!  Serve them at parties or eat them on the street.  Give them to your family, or sneak a midnight treat!   Eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day of the week and the whole month of December.  I know all these tamales will lead to diet resolutions, but for now please let us savor our binomial distributions!  Muy fantástico!

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* feliz navidad *

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Come for Supper – Asian Hot Pot Party

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Come for Supper – Asian Hot Pot Party

This party is from the book, Come for Supper? the memoirs of a reluctant hostess 

It was my first attempt at writing.  I self-published a few copies of the book to give out to friends and family, testing the waters to see if it would be worth the added effort of seeking mass distribution.  In all honesty, it didn’t go over very well.  I soothe myself with the delusion that my friends and family were probably hoping it was a book of my own recipes and when they discovered it was world cuisine were possibly disappointed or uninterested.  I couldn’t ever bring myself to ask them. And they have never mustered the courage to tell me, so I could be all wrong about that, but licking my wounds I buried the remaining copies I had purchased in a small, unmarked grave in the back yard, under a tree, next to the cat; without much pomp or circumstance and certainly  no fanfare, I patted the dirt over the heap and piled on some rocks, and every little once-in-a-while I wander out there with a little bouquet of kitchen scraps, lay them on the heap, and just sit and ponder its short, unfulfilled life.  Sigh.1 Asian Supper

The book may have been a failure, but the suppers inside of it weren’t.  This is one of the parties from inside its pages.  It was one of my kids’ very favorite parties I ever threw while they were still living at home. It is also one of the favorites of my cooking club group, who helped me test some of the recipes in the book.    

It’s like an “Asian fondue” party! Everyone cooks their own food — which is a reluctant hostess’s dream party, right?  All you have to do is collect some equipment, do some grocery shopping, do a little slicing, dicing, and chopping, mix up some sauces, set up tables, toss a CD in the player, and decorate.  Voila! (– or however they say it in Chinese).

So now, imagine yourself invited to my house for Chinese.  You come knocking on my door and can hear Chinese music playing faintly, and can also smell what smells like dinner cooking (in reality it’s just chicken broth and hot peanut oil).  You’re dressed in your best Asian get-up (complete with a coolie douli hat?) and are eager for me to turn that knob and invite you warmly inside.  When I do, you find me decked out in a green t-shirt with Chinese scribbles across it, my hair tied up with chopsticks, and wearing flip-flop house slippers on my feet.  Inside the house there are paper umbrellas hanging upside down from the ceiling over the lights, and little paper lanterns strung about.  Some little Chinese fans scattered on the tables and around.  Vases of bamboo set around as gifts for guests to take home after the party.

Some of my other guests have already arrived and are wearing red silk dresses, tank tops with black leggings, and one is wearing a white Gi, tied with a yellow (beginner’s) belt.  There is laughing and mingling as everyone crowds into the kitchen to pour themselves a drink.  Your options are hot Green, Oolong, or Jasmine tea, Bubble Tea, a shot of sake, or a cold imported Chinese Tsingtao beer.

The music that is playing sounds a little bit like a Chinese version of Manheim Steamroller, so you ask, “What is this playing?” and I answer, “It’s Twelve Girls Band!”  Hmmm…nice choice, right?  My daughter turned me on to them.  

And when everyone has arrived we take our places around the tables.  Each has been set up with a wok in the center.  The wok at one table is filled with a steaming hot liquid bubbling inside.  On either side are platters of raw ingredients, meats on one side and veggies on the other. At each place setting around the table is a bamboo mat, with a small platter centered on it.  A set of chopsticks lays across it, and each is flanked by several small cups of sauces of various colors.   

At the other table is the hot peanut oil wok.  The platter to one side is egg roll wrappers, little cups of water, and a bowl of filling , and on the platter on the other side are various raw meats and veggies and a bowl of tempura batter.  The guests sitting at this table get to fry their supper.  Their place settings are the same.

I gather my guests to the tables and we join hands as I play an audio version of the Lord’s Prayer being spoken in Chinese, from YouTube, and then we pray the same prayer together in English.

I explain to everyone how we’ll select a meat or veggie from the platters using the fondue forks, and then plunge our selections into the hot broth to cook.  After a minute or so we can bring the morsels to our personal platters and spoon on whichever sauce we’d like to try.  After half an hour or so those seated at the broth wok will take their personal platters and trade places with those seated around the hot oil wok to make egg rolls and tempura things.  And then, when everyone has had a chance to try everything, I toss a bunch of noodles into the broth wok and in a few moments serve a small cup of noodle soup to each of my guests.

Of course we all sit around the woks and cook and eat until we are so full we can’t breathe, and that’s when I suggest we leave those tables and gather in the living room for games.  I have several set up to choose from: Go, Mahjongg, and Chinese Checkers (even though I’ve been told Chinese Checkers aren’t really Chinese – although if you turn my game tin over to the underside it says, “Made in China” which is good enough for me.  Of course everyone is welcome to refill their drinks, and those who are up for learning a new game can sit down to it.  Those who know already how to play are encouraged to teach others, and those who are not into new and complicated games can play Chinese Checkers.  We all had a set of those at home when we were kids, right?  Easy.  Only trouble is Chinese Checkers is over in a short time and boring after a while, so for a backup activity I have a Chinese movie all ready to go.  

Although the Chinese do not eat dessert (or take beverages) as part of their meal, they do snack on sweets between meals.  Their sweets traditionally consist of fruit or almond cookies.  So I have a big fruit platter set up in the kitchen with cut up melon, bananas, oranges, apples, strawberries, grapes, berries, and whatever else is in season at the grocery store, along with a platter of crisp Almond cookies, and those yummy rice krispy type treats made with sesame seeds that they serve at my favorite Chinese place on main street, plus a big pile of Fortune Cookies (which also are an American invention, but at least from China Town in San Francisco).  My sister has this fun little tradition of adding “…in the bathroom” to the end of all Chinese fortune cookie fortunes, which  makes them kind of funny, so I of course suggest we do that.  And everyone reads theirs, and we all laugh, because we’re supposed to.  And it’s a little awkward, so we refill our drinks and grab some dessert, and head out to the family room to play our games or watch the movie.  

What is the movie, you ask?  Well, you have your choice:  I have China Cry for the Christian crowd, who possibly wants to be inspired by a flick about faith, or I have the Karate Kid for all of us who remember that from what, the 80’s?  I have a Bruce Lee flick, and a Jackie Chan.  Or, I also have the Season One episodes of Better Late Than Never, with Henry Winkler, George Foreman, Terry Bradshaw, and William Shatner saved on my DVR for anyone that missed that and wants a good laugh.  (They are probably available on Hulu or Netflix too, and the NBC website).   

(In the book I also suggested that a host of this particular supper may want to invite some missionaries from their church who have returned from China and would have interesting stories to share, pictures, and treasures that we could touch and pass around.  I also suggested that we could talk as a group about going in on a donation to support a missionary we know, or give a donation to an organization that gives out Bibles in China, or give a money gift to a couple adopting a child from China).

When we’re ready to call it a night, I hand out fireworks (just sparklers and party poppers and the safe backyard varieties) and we all wander out to the front yard to end our night with a BANG! But not too big of a bang because all the neighbors are sleeping.  Shhhhh!   I have little red goodie bags also hanging in the trees and ask everyone to go look for one by flashlight and take with them before they head to their cars.  They have little trinkets from the dollar store in them, a chinese jump rope, some small candies, and a few shiny new quarters – because that’s what they do in China.  There’s kisses and hugs all around, as engines begin starting and lights start flipping on, and one by one the cars drive away.  And that’s when I turn and contentedly wonder back inside with a heart full of memories and a sink full of dishes to wash.  

YumYum Chinese

MONGOLIAN HOT POT
You’ll need a platter of meats and a platter of veggies, cut up and ready to cook fondue style.

Meats: Scallops, Shrimp, Chicken breasts (cut into strips), Beef (flatiron steak cut into small strips), Pork (loin, cut in small strips or pieces). Place meats on a platter with partitioned wells (like a serving set for tacos) would be ideal. This way the meats won’t mingle and contaminate each other in their raw state. I cut my meats and wrapped my platter in plastic wrap, and stored in the refrigerator the morning of my dinner. Be sure to clean cutting surfaces with warm, soapy water and Clorox wipes between meats and when finished.

Veggies: Carrot coins, cut on the diagonal and then in half, Celery slices, cut on the diagonal and then in half, Snow peas, Cabbage leaves, Broccoli florets, Green pepper slices, Zucchini-cut on the diagonal and then in half, Mushrooms (straw or shitake), Green onions, cut on the diagonal.

Additional ingredients for the soup: bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, baby corn, and noodles (I don’t really care for the traditional cellophane noodles, so I substitute Ramen or thin spaghetti), garlic cloves, and a smidgen of honey. I also like spicy Thai peppers and cilantro but not everyone does so ask your guests before you add these to the pot, as they can easily be added to individual bowls of soup instead.

Add chicken broth to a shabu yaki, (or electric wok, or an electric skillet or large fondue pot). Fill to about an inch or two below the rim. Place in the center of the supper table. Be sure to wrap the cord securely down a table leg so no one accidentally trips on it and pulls the hot pot over. Plug into a power source and set the temperature dial at the boiling point (about 215 degrees F).

Hot Pot is like fondue. Guests are seated at the table with plates and samplings of sauces. Each uses chopsticks (or fondue forks), takes meat and veggies from the platters, and cooks in the boiling broth. They bring their cooked morsels to their individual plates and dip in their choice of sauce (recipes below) before eating. Once everyone has tried everything and is near being full, noodles are added to the pot, along with the additional ingredients (mentioned above), and then everyone is served a bowl of soup.

NOTE:  After my supper I wrapped up all my leftovers and the next day made the best stir-fry ever with all the meats and all the veggies, and what was left of the sauces. If you prefer, this would also be a great idea for your Chinese Supper. Instead of making ‘hot pot’ as above, place all of your ingredients out on the table in the same manner, but replace the broth pot with a hot wok and a little peanut oil instead of broth, and let your guests make their own little “stir-fry” concoctions that they cook themselves. Kind of like a self-serve Mongolian Grill at home.

SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch or tapioca starch

1 cup water

2/3 cup rice vinegar

1 1/3 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce

½ teaspoon of red food coloring

In a saucepan dissolve the cornstarch in the water, add the remaining ingredients. Heat over medium high heat until sauce boils and thickens.

PLUM SAUCE
2 cups plum jam, jelly, or preserves

1 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon ground ginger

4 teaspoons cornstarch

4 teaspoons soy sauce

4 teaspoons wine vinegar

Mix jam and applesauce in saucepan. Bring to boil. Combine ginger, cornstarch, and soy sauce, vinegar. Stir into jam mixture. Cook stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Cool. Refrigerate until serving time. Bring to room temp before serving.

HOT MUSTARD
½ cup dry mustard

4 Tablespoons peanut oil

4 Tablespoons water

½ cup sugar

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

½ cup white vinegar

Mix mustard and oil in small bowl. Gradually add the 4 Tbsp. of water, stirring constantly to form a smooth paste. Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in saucepan. Gradually add the cup of water and vinegar. Blend thoroughly. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens. Gradually add to mustard mixture, stirring constantly until blended. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve at room temp.

TERIYAKI SAUCE
1 cup pineapple juice

½ cup packed light brown sugar

4 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons peanut oil

1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger

½ teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan, simmer to blend flavors.

GARLIC GINGER SAUCE
2 Tablespoons ground ginger

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

½ cup water

4 Tablespoons sugar

1 cup soy sauce

Mix all ingredients. Use as a dipping sauce.

DUCK SAUCE
1 small can cling peaches in heavy syrup

¼ teaspoon ground mustard

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root

4 teaspoons red wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 Tablespoon water

Drain pieces and reserve juice for something else. Mash peaches with a fork or potato masher until well crushed. Add mustard, ginger root, vinegar, and Chinese Five Spice. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from burning. Dissolve cornstarch in water and add to sauce, stirring constantly. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, continuing to stir, until thickened. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Bottled Soy Sauce (try Kikkoman, which is slightly sweet, and La Choy which is more salty)

EGG ROLLS  (this recipe was given to me by my Japanese/American friend, Cyndi)

1 (16-oz) pkg Jimmy Dean regular sausage

Shredded or chopped Napa cabbage (a green cabbage will also work)

½ pkg of bean sprouts (approx. 2 cups)

¾ cup grated carrot

Grate about 2”  of ginger root on top

Mix together by hand.  Lay one egg roll wrapper on work surface and place a heaping spoon of the meat & veggie mixture in the middle.  Fold the wrapper as shown on the packaging.  Get a little water on your fingers and moisten the final corner of the wrapper so that it will stick and seal the roll.  They must be cooked fairly quickly after they are made as the wrappers will become soggy if wrapped up and stored in the fridge for very long.  And they can’t be fried and kept for very long either, as they lose their crunch.  They should be the last thing you put together for your meal, moments before your guests arrive.  Or, let your guests make these themselves, just as with hot pot above.  Have the meat mixture and egg roll wrappers (and small cups of water) ready for each guest to assemble on his or her own. 

Set up an electric wok with enough peanut oil for deep frying (again fastening the cord down a table leg so it isn’t accidentally tripped over).  Oil temperature should be about 360 degrees F. Consult your owner’s manual.  Drop a few egg rolls at a time (not more than 4 or it will cool the oil too much) into hot oil and turn once in a while during frying so they cook evenly, until golden brown.  Lay on the rack or drain on paper towels.  Serve with soy sauce, hot mustard, or sweet and sour sauce.

TEMPURA:  You can also mix up a batch of tempura batter and let guests batter their Hot Pot meats and veggies instead and fry them.  When I had my Hot Pot party I set up a soup table and a fry table.  I sat the girls down around the soup (Hot Pot) and the men around the wok.  I intended to have my crowd eat for a while at each table and then switch, but the men liked frying and didn’t want the hot pot, so they ended up frying egg rolls and tempura things and passing to us, and then just had a small bowl of our noodle soup at the end.

TEMPURA SAUCE

½ cup chicken stock

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons cream sherry

2 Tablespoons grated daikon (Japanese radish)

2 Tablespoons peeled and grated fresh gingerroot

Combine first three ingredients.  Just before serving, stir in daikon and ginger.

((( Or just use a boxed mix.  That’s easiest! )))

Mongolian Hot Pot Party

(Scrapbook page from my party memoirs)

So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 8:15

Possibly the Worst Meatloaf on the Planet

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Possibly the Worst Meatloaf on the Planet

Ha!  Did I get your attention?

This is the number one requested supper of my son-in-law.  I make it every year for his birthday.  Since I really don’t measure anything and always just make it from memory – he says it is always just a little different (sometimes I add diced celery or grated carrot, not a lot, just a little.  Maybe a half a cup or so?  Sometimes I can’t find ground buffalo and so I have to make it all beef – And I prefer using a good quality ground sirloin, organic if I can find it.  Often times I add a jalapeno or Serrano from my garden, minced, sometimes I give it a couple squirts of Worcestershire sauce, and I often have a different variety of BBQ sauce), but the boy insists that no matter how it turns out it is always his favorite.  Who doesn’t want to spoil rotten such a son-in-law as that?

If you can’t find the Salt Lick dry rub, basically all it is is about 1/2 tsp of cayenne powder, 1 tsp of ground black pepper, and 1/2 tsp of salt.  It might have a sprinkle of garlic powder in it too.

One of these times I’m going to think about it while I’m making it and take some photos.  I can’t believe I’ve never taken a photo of my meatloaf, but I can’t seem to find an images of it on my computer, so they must be lost in the pile of SD cards.  Ha!  I’ll try to remember to come back and add photos to this post when I find them.  Oh wait, I have leftovers!!!  I’ll share a photo of the cold meatloaf, and the meatloaf sandwich I’m having for lunch today. And I’ll still come back and show you the preparation photos another day.  How about that?

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Try your best to completely wrap the loaf with the bacon, roll it over and get it all the way around, top to bottom and end to end.  And I like the thin, Applewood smoked bacon the best!!!  It gets crispy before the BBQ sauce goes on and that’s the way I like it.  And I always make my loaf into a log that’s about as big around as, well, if I put the tips of my pointer fingers together and my thumbs together and made a big wide circle shape, I could probably slide the loaf through, barely.  I use an oblong glass cake pan.  And I kind of press the loaf flat on top so the BBQ sauce will stay on.  I also LOVE LOVE LOVE ground black pepper, so I am pretty generous with it.  You could get fancy and sprinkle some fresh Thyme on top with the ground pepper before you toss the loaf in the oven.

If you like Sweet Potatoes, do those instead of the baked russets.  My son-in-law loves to load his mashed sweet ‘tater up with brown sugar (or maple syrup) and butter, crushed up pecans, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a few mini-marshmallows.  And I could honestly just eat the whole pot of cream corn all by myself.  I can’t get enough of that stuff.

Any-hoooo… ENJOY!!!!

Meatloaf

And, if you like Meatloaf Sandwiches, mmmmm, here’s how I like ’em:

DSCN9080Whole Wheat bread

Mayo

Course Ground Mustard

About 1/4 inch thick slices of cold meatloaf

a nice thick slice of sweet, white onion

Lots of Romaine Lettuce

and sometimes a slice of dill pickle

Okay, I feel better now that at least you have something to look at!!!  🙂

Come for Supper?

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