Category Archives: Fun with Friends

A Native Thanksgiving

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A Native Thanksgiving

Originally featured in my book, Come for Supper, the memoirs of a reluctant hostess, this is one of my very favorite meals. Not because it is top shelf gourmet, for in fact it is probably closer to just being sustenance on that scale; mostly made with government commodities, or what can be scavenged in the wild, using few and extremely inexpensive ingredients. Not to say these aren’t all very yummy dishes though, don’t be scared, just probably not cheffy food, if that’s what you were looking for. The beauty of this meal for me is in savoring the foods of another people. Cultural differences can sometimes separate us, but I am enchanted by the brotherhood of the table and the fellowship of food. Eating modest foods also makes me very thankful for the things that I have, and the extravagant meals I have been blessed to enjoy. In a world where some have the luxury of living-to-eat, this is a great reminder that many many people on this planet eat-to-live, and even with the little that they have, are incredibly generous.

Nature Collage

I am drawn to and have a deep affection for the American Indians. I think we all do. Most of us played cowboys and Indians when we were kids. Many of our grandparents told tall tales about having native blood in our lineage. It is the raw deal, and unfair treatment of our native people by our government, that gives us (me, at least) a huge mistrust of the federal government. And although they’ve been tucked away, they have never been forgotten. We admire their courage and bravery, so much so that many of our sports teams have been given names like, “Chiefs” “Braves” “Redskins” and “Indians.”  Many towns (and counties) in my native state have Indian names: Sundance, Shoshoni, Meeteetse, Ten Sleep, Crowheart, Chugwater, Arapahoe, Wapiti, Cheyenne, Osage, etc.  Movies like Dances With Wolves, Son of the Morning, and Windtalkers reinforce the love affair. Even so, how many of us truly know our native brethren? Or, know anything about what their life is like today (myself included)? Most likely the closest we ever come is visiting a local gambling casino, or reading about some misfortune in the newspaper. By bringing us to a table to celebrate some of their best dishes, I hope to change that a little. This is an interesting article that I really wanted to save for myself, and share with you, as we consider honoring these interesting people with a Native fall feast for our family and friends.

Native American prayer

Meal Blessing

11 Native American Supper

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THE    FELLOWSHIP    OF    FOOD…

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WATER CRACKERS (Wind River Reservation)

Ingredients

1 lb Commodity flour (about 3 cups of all-purpose flour)

Powdered milk and water to equal about 2/3 cup liquid

1 Tbsp Vegetable shortening

1 tsp Baking soda

1 tsp Salt

Directions:

Mix all ingredients except powdered milk together. Add milk to other ingredients to form a dough and beat it up. If the dough is too sticky to roll out, add a little more flour. Roll it very thin on a flour dusted cutting surface, cut it into pieces with a pizza cutter, lay the pieces on a parchment lined cookie sheet, prick each piece with a fork, and bake it quickly in a 350 degree oven until toasted golden. Try these crackers the traditional way first, but the next time you make them you might wish to substitute fresh whole milk for the powdered milk, 2 Tbsp butter for the shortening and a splash of olive oil, and perhaps sprinkle the dough with a mixture of seeds, or some parmesan cheese, or some finely chopped italian herbs before cutting and baking. These are also nice served with an assortment of cheeses.

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3 sisters

THREE SISTERS SOUP (the 3 sisters are beans, corn, and squash)

Ingredients

1 lb beef stew meat

8 cups water

3 spring onions with tops

1 tsp minced garlic

1 can kidney beans and liquid

Half gallon size bag of fresh green beans, sliced (may substitute frozen or canned)

3 ears fresh corn (may substitute frozen or canned)

3 summer squash, cubed

½ tsp oregano (or 3 mint leaves)

2 tsp salt

5 lg squash blossoms

Black Pepper

Directions:

Cook the stew meat in water until tender. Cut corn from cob, chop spring onions, and add all vegetables to water and simmer until tender. Add seasonings, and squash blossoms; simmer 15 minutes. (For vegetarian version omit meat).

This is a mostly authentic recipe, and doesn’t have much flavor, especially if canned vegetables are used, which are most likely. The next time you make it you will want to use beef broth in place of the water, and leftover beef roast, pulled apart. I always prefer fresh vegetables. I also added 1 packet of beef gravy mix and 1 packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix to my pot. I also added a small can of Rotel Tomatoes, 1 large potato diced, 1 large carrot chopped, a handful of frozen peas, 2 tsp. minced garlic, to the other vegetables, and about a ¼ tsp. of Cayenne powder. Salt and pepper to taste. Delish!

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WILD GREENS AND FLOWERS SALAD

Serves 4 to 6

Salads were much liked in the spring when new, tender greens appeared. A great variety of mixtures was used. Since salt was uncommon or not used at all, salads were flavored by herbs, oil pressed from seeds, and especially with vinegar made from fermented, evaporated, uncooked maple sap (which we can’t make or get). So this is an approximation of the spring tonic salads beloved by all woodland people after the long winters.

Ingredients

1 cup watercress leaves and (only) tender stems

1 cup lamb’s ears, quarter new leaves (or use small spinach leaves)

1 cup arugula lettuce torn (not cut) to bite-size pieces;

can also use Bibb or less expensive leafy (not iceberg) lettuces

1 cup Dandelion leaves

1/2 cup tender nasturtium and violet leaves torn up

1/2 cup nasturtium and violet flowers (in season)

1 Tbsp honey

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/3 cup salad oil

As much tender mint leaves as you like in the salad

2 tsp fresh mint chopped fine and bruised

2 tsp chopped tarragon (fresh) or 1 tsp dried if necessary

optional: salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine honey and vinegar, whisk in oil and crushed mint. Season to taste with small amount of salt. Pour over greens and flowers in large bowl, and toss for about 3 minutes to coat everything with dressing. Serve immediately.

If you cannot find the greens and flowers listed, you can use a “spring mix” salad from the produce department and add to that whatever edible flowers and greens that you can find, perhaps look at your local garden center, nursery, or fresh herb store.

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Native Supper

SQUASH OR PUMPKIN BLOSSOM FRITTERS (Pueblo style)

serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

2 dozen large squash blossoms

(4 dozen of the smaller pumpkin blossoms)

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cumin powder

2 – 3 cups finely ground cornmeal (masa harina)

Oil for deep frying

Directions:

If you’re a gardener or truck farmer, you can make this dish easy; otherwise you’ll need to visit with a farmer at a Farmer’s Market about getting some blossoms. During the growing season farmers thin the blossoms of their vines, because the vine can’t support but only a couple of pumpkins or a few squash. At season’s end there will be an abundance of flowers, as the fruit will not have time to finish before winter.

Rinse and pat blossoms dry. In a shallow bowl, beat eggs with milk, chili, salt, and cumin. Dip blossoms in egg mix, and then roll gentle in cornmeal. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to set coating. Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep saucepan to about 375°, hot but not smoking. Fry blossoms a few at a time until golden, drain on paper towels. Keep warm in 250° oven until ready to serve.

Only in the southwest are the blossoms of squash and pumpkin important as a religious symbol, as well as food. They appear as sacred symbols in many Pueblo ceremonies, and gave rise to a popular design worked in silver.

38016ada1e3f4e7fc10fa388363291ce-american-dolls-american-artThere is a Hopi Squash Kachina (Patung). He is Chief Kachina (wuya) for the Hopi Pumpkin Clan. He runs with men of a village in spring ceremonial dances to attract rain clouds.

The Hopis and Pueblo farmers gather large quantities of squash and pumpkin flowers at the end of the growing season, when these flowers cannot make fruit; that’s the time white farmers harvest their curcurbitae and pull up or plow under the still-flowering vines.

OR, you may like to try this stuffed blossom recipe….

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STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS

Ingredients

2 doz. squash blossoms

Filling:

8 oz. block cream cheese

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

1 Tbsp chopped green onion

Batter:

1½ c. flour

½ tsp salt

¾ to 1 cup dry white wine

cooking oil for frying

Directions:

The authentic way is not to stuff the blossoms, but simply to batter and fry them, or just fry them naked in melted shortening. This is a recipe I stumbled across recently and enjoyed. Pick large squash blossoms in early morning just before they open. (I used my garden zucchini blossoms that had opened already and they turned out okay). Heat 1-2” oil in heavy Dutch oven. Meanwhile, stuff blossoms with a tablespoon of filling. Smooth peddles over filling, and make batter. When oil is ready (pops and crackles when a drop of water is added), drop each blossom into batter, turning to coat evenly, and then immediately into hot oil. Turn while frying to cook evenly on all sides, and remove with a slotted spoon when they have turned golden-brown. Drain on paper towels, and serve hot as an accompaniment for soup. Or, they also make a great appetizer with a spicy marinara sauce to dip them in.

Fry Bread (2)

FRYBREAD

This recipe makes 8-10 small ones or 5 big flat ones

Ingredients

2 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup milk

Deep hot fat in fry pan or fryer

Directions:

Sift dry ingredients. Lightly stir in milk. Add more flour as necessary to make a dough you can handle. Kneed and work the dough on a floured board with floured hands until smooth. Pinch off fist-sized lumps and shape into slightly twisted ropes — everyone has their own characteristic shapes.(Shape affects the taste, by the way because of how it fries). For Indian tacos, shape dough into a rather flat disk shape, with a depression — almost a hole — in the center of both sides. Make it that way if the fry bread is going to have some sauce over it. Smaller, round ones are made to put on a plate. Fry in deep fat (about 375°) until golden and done on both sides, about 5 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper. (My grandmother made what she called, “Squaw Bread” at least once a month when I was growing up. Her’s was made from regular yeast dough. It was one of my favorite things on earth!!!!)

Wohape2

MODERN WOJAPE

Wojape (Wo-zha-pee), a pudding, a dessert. Wojape is traditional to the Sioux and other Northern Plains Nations and predates most of us living now. This is a berry pudding to eat with fry bread. It was made with fresh wild berries collected during that season and also dried berries, preserved for use through the winter. The berries were mixed with sugar when it became available, and also flour for thickener. Today is a different time and Wojape, like many other things, has adapted to the easy access of ingredients. However, it is just as delicious. It can be eaten after a meal as a dessert or as many “out there” know, as a main course maybe with a hot cup of coffee. She calls it modern because of using any kind of frozen berries, “We moderns often use government commodities gallon cans.” This recipe makes enough for about 20-30 people who have 1-2 fry breads.

Many thanks for this recipe go to: Ms. Stacy Winter of Crow Creek, Rapid City, South Dakota.

Ingredients

1 Bag (5 lb) frozen berries (blueberry, raspberry, cherry or a mix)

8 cup Water

2 cup Sugar

Cornstarch or Arrowroot

Directions:

To a 5 quart pot (enamel or stainless steel) add all the berries and smash them with a potato masher. (If you are fortunate enough to have a food processor this would work fine also. However, stop just short of puree, you want fine pieces throughout.) To the smashed berries add the water and sugar. Boil (lightly) this mixture (Approximately 15 to 20 minutes) until everything is cooked. Thicken to desired thickness with cornstarch that has been dissolved in cold water. Serve warm and eat with Indian Fry Bread. Dip the bread into the Wojape and eat in this manner.

Wojape is also outstanding on French Toast, Pancakes, plain Cheesecake, over ice cream, and is excellent served over Angel Food Cake with a dallop of whipped cream.

Indian Fry Bread Tacos logo

INDIAN FRYBREAD TACOS

6 servings

Frybread tacos are very much like the Elephant Ear tacos that we used to get at the carnival when the rodeo was in town.  Very easy and one of my favorite things to eat.  If I have leftover homemade chili I use it in place of the meat recipe here.  And when I can’t find Anasazi beans, and I’m in a hurry, I just substitute canned pintos.

Ingredients

6 pieces Indian Frybread — about 6” in diameter

1 lb hamburger

1 large onion minced

2 small cans tomato paste

1 big can tomatoes

1/2 tsp oregano

1 Tbsp chile powder

salt, pepper to taste

Fry onion and hamburger broken up loose. Sprinkle some salt and chile powder over it. Add tomato paste and 4 cans of water and the canned tomatoes and their juice — break up tomatoes and stir it around. Add basil and oregano. Taste for seasoning. If you want, you can use a taco seasoning packet in place of seasonings, and a mild tomato salsa in place of tomato paste and tomatoes. Simmer till meat and onions are done and sauce is thick, 30 – 40 minutes.

Toppings:

1/2 lb cheese grated coarse

1 1/2 c Dried anasazi beans, cooked

1 1/2 c Mache or arugula, washed & stemmed  (I’ve often substituted Cilantro, chopped)

1 lg Red ripe tomato, sliced

2 ea Ripe avocados, halved & sliced

1 ea Red onion, thinly sliced

1 ea Bunch red radishes, sliced

24 ea Golden yellow plum tomatoes halved

6 ea Green Anaheim (New Mexico) chiles, prepared (I’ve sometimes substituted Poblanos when Anaheims are out of season or unavailable)

1 lg Red bell pepper

Directions:

To prepare the anasazi beans, soak overnight in water to cover. The next day, drain the beans and place them in a saucepan with fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let the beans simmer until the skins break, about 3 hours. It may be necessary to add water as the beans cook to prevent them from burning and sticking. After the beans are cooked, remove from the heat and set aside. You should have about 3 cups cooked beans. While the beans are cooking, roast, seed, and de-vein the chiles and the bell pepper. Leave chiles whole; slice pepper lengthwise into six strips.

To Assemble the tacos, place a layer of meat mixture, cheese, and 1/2 cup cooked beans on each piece of frybread. Add 1/4 cup greens per taco, followed by a red tomato slice. Add slices avocado and 1 thin slice red onion, separated into rings. Follow with radishes and 4 golden yellow plum tomatoes per taco, and top with 1 roasted green chile and 2 slices roasted red pepper. You can vary the toppings and the order in which the taco is built, and for a vegetarian version omit the meat sauce and cheese.

You may also wish to offer Sour Cream (I like the Mexican Crema) and salsa (favorite jarred, or refrigerated varieties).

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NAPOLIAS (Cactus)

Ingredients

1 servings

1 lb Pork

2 Cloves garlic, minced

1 lg Onion, diced

3 c Water

2 can (8 oz) tomato sauce

1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

1 lg can stewed tomatoes

1 lb Green cactus, peeled & diced

Salt

Pepper

1/4 t. Cumin

Seasoning salt

Directions:

Cube the pork; fry in a skillet with onion and garlic. In a large Dutch oven, add all ingredients, salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 tsp. cumin and seasoned salt. Cook until meat is tender. You might like to season this with an assortment of dried ground up chili peppers, like New Mexico red chilies, green chilies, chipotle chilies, and little chili pequine, to make it like a Chili Colorado. Very good with corn cakes, or the pinion squash bread featured below!

Cactus (fresh, small, thick pads): Remove spines with knife and peel, or purchase at market in a jar, diced and packed in its own juices. You can usually find it at Mexican markets; the cactus referred to is generally prickly-pear cactus. The juice from the prickly pear cactus is also useful in Native American craftwork, specifically painting with earth paints.

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PUEBLO PUMPKIN/SQUASH PIÑON NUT SWEETBREAD

Makes One loaf, serves 6 – 8

Rio Grande Pueblo peoples traditionally served a variant of this sweetbread to parties of nut-pickers in September when piñon nuts were being picked from the mountain slope trees. Families would (and some still do) camp for many weeks in traditional areas reserved to clans. In the recipe you can use either cooking-type pumpkin (these have necks and thick, meaty bodies, not like jack o’ lantern pumpkins) or a sweet bright orange squash, like butternut.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1 cup finely mashed or pureed pumpkin/squash

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)

2 eggs beaten foamy

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup pine nuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, spices. Stir in pumpkin, eggs, butter. Stir pine nuts into thick batter. Scrape into a greased 6 x 9 loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted in bread comes out clean.

This sweetish, spicy bread goes well with soups, stews, and can also be a dessert, especially if you cut it apart and put yogurt or applesauce over it.

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OR, this is a sweeter, less cinnamony version that lets the pumpkin shine through…

pumpkin bread

PUMPKIN PINE-NUT BREAD

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

2 c Flour

1/2 c Oil

3 Eggs, beaten

1 1/2 c Sugar

1 teaspoons Baking soda

1 teaspoons Vanilla

3/4 c Milk

2 c Cooked pumpkin

1/2 tsp Salt

1 1/2 c Pine nuts, roasted

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a medium size bowl, mix eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix well, then add pumpkin. Mix well and folk into dry ingredients. Add pine nuts. Pour batter into 2 greased 5×9-inch loaf pans and bake for 45 minutes.

The pine nuts generally taste better if, before they’re added to the mix, you put them on an ungreased cookie sheet in the oven for about 10 minutes at about 350-400 degrees. It roasts them a little. But watch them carefully to make sure they don’t burn.

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MAPLE-PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

1 Graham cracker crust in 8″ spring form pie pan

1 lb low-fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt

3/4 cup pumpkin puree (or 1 can)

1/4 cup flour

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Put all ingredients into blender, a little at a time, alternating wet and dry. Process until smooth, then pour into crust and spread evenly. Bake for about 50 minutes. Let cool before serving. May be topped with yogurt, flavored with 2 Tbsp maple syrup. Take it up a notch drizzled over with caramel sauce, and sprinkled with chopped pecans.

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A    TASTE     OF     CULTURE…

If you have kiddos, you can make this supper a lot of fun for them. This is also a great get-together for church, or a Senior Center, or a classroom if you are a teacher, or homeschooler? Below are the cornucopia of ideas I’ve collected over the years for either a dinner party, or you can use them as activities during a weekend or weeklong festival.

Background Music: Tribal Winds, Music from Native American Flutes; also cd Good Medicine by John Two-Hawks – American Indian Lakota flute player & musician. I actually have several CD’s that I love, shown below. (Not shown: Gathering of Shamen – Native Flute Ensemble, Medicine Man – Pete “Wyoming” Bender, The Stories of Red Feather Woman – also featuring the music of Andrew Vasquez, with special guest Rodney Grant – Windriver).

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Host a Pow-Wow: American Indians, at least those I am familiar with (Northern Arapaho, Eastern Shoshoni, Lakota Sioux, and Utah Navajo ) have an annual party called a Pow-Wow. They set up teepees, do dances, trade and sell craft items, share food, pray, play games, pass the peace pipe, and tell stories. Thermopolis Wyoming is home to the annual Pow-wow of the Windriver tribes, the Gift of the Waters Pageant, and they tell the history/stories of the giving of the healing waters (see clip on Facebook).

BowArrowInstruments

Here’s a fun idea: ask your guests to bring “trade items” (things they have outgrown, don’t use, or don’t want any more) to trade with each other. All unwanted items can be donated to a local charity thrift store after the get-together.

img00008Hoop and Pole Game

Natives of different groups have their own special ways to play the Hoop and Pole game, but in all the games a person tosses a long dart of some kind at a circular hoop. In this version of the game the hoop is rolled along the ground, set into motion by a third player, while the two other playershoopandpolegamepg18s throw their pole as the hoop rolls in front of them. The score depends on how or if the pole falls on or through the hoop. Netted hoops are made by the Arapaho of Wyoming and other tribes.

Navajo tribes play a stick and dice game, and also a shoe game. Google them to see how they are played.

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The Sun Dance, usually conducted once a year, is a custom of the Arapaho people. The Sun Dance is a sort of prayer ceremony. See more about it here.

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Navajo Blanket collage

Navajo Blanket (given to me by my father-in-law) collage

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PEACE PIPE

As the sun sets, gather everyone around to sit “Indian style” in a circle in the center of the yard around a fire pit. Pass around a “peace pipe” with imaginary tobacco in it and let everyone take a puff. This ritual in Arapaho belief is supposed to bond friendships. Encourage the oldest men of the group to pass on some of their wisdom to the younger by telling interesting stories of their boyhood, what games they played, things they did with their parents, faith experiences, etc. Some can share lessons they learned from mistakes they made. Maybe dad or grandpa or Uncle Jerry has a “vision” for the family (or church, or group) or a weird dream that they had that they would like to share.

CRAFTS

Make Bead Chokers

LoomWeaving

Make a loom and weave pot holders

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Make Beaded Moccasins

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Make a Dream Catcher

The following are items I made for my granddaughter’s teacher to use for a center in her Kindergarten classroom this year.

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Make a “Pretend Garden” using an old wooden box covered in burlap, pantyhose filled with black beans for the rows of soil, and hand-stitched felt veggies.  Let the littles enjoy hours of play planting and replanting veggies.

Garden Collage

BowArrowInstruments

Dollar Store bows, with homemade quivers for the arrows, plastic Bowie knives in homemade sheaths, and and assortment of primative instruments – they look cooler with feathers tied to them!  Set up deer silhouettes and various parts of the yard and let the littles go hunting for food.  Also let them make music for dancing.

Cane Pole Fishing

Homemade Bamboo “Cane Poles” with string and child-safe hooks, and little fishes that they can catch with them.  Make a “pretend pond” and let the littles catch fish for supper.

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When you were born, you cried

and the world rejoiced.

Live your life

so that when you die,

the world cries and you rejoice. — White Elk

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We do not want schools….
they will teach us to have churches.
We do not want churches….
they will teach us to quarrel about God.
We do not want to learn that.
We may quarrel with men sometimes
about things on this earth,
but we never quarrel about God.
We do not want to learn that.

–Heinmot Tooyalaket ( Chief Joseph), Nez Perce Leader

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“Behold I lay in Zion a Chief Cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:6

Chief Cornerstone collage

(Photo of a Christian T-shirt from eons ago)

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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?

SopaCheesecake wName

 

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.  I have had the Ranchera sauce served to me chunky several times, so I presume that is the authentic way, but I use a Braun Wand blender tool to whirl the Ranchera 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, or use a propane flame torch outdoors, which is a thousand times more efficient…but if you don’t have one the oven might be more convenient for you).  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 bag, 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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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!”  🙂

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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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SUMMER SURVIVAL GUIDE for parents & kids

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SUMMER SURVIVAL GUIDE for parents & kids

DSCN9607Summer’s comin’! Are you ready?  I came up with this blog post after using the posters (featured below) for an end-of-the-school-year bulletin board.  It garnered such incredible feedback from the parents that I thought y’all might get some use out of it too.

Honestly, I don’t know about you, but when I was a young mom, the month of May was a complete whirlwind, a blur, sooooo crazy busy with end of the school year activities, and after-school clubs and lessons and sports events winding down and gearing up, recitals, and graduations, and a yard that was totally out of control, that I didn’t know if I was coming or going, let alone think about summer.  And then, BAM, here it would be, like a brick wall on the 1604!  Instead of getting to sleep-in though, and be lazy that first wonderful morning, my eyeballs were dredged open and I was jarred out of delicious unconsciousness by a bedroom full of bouncing, wide awake kiddos huddled around my tossled bed, begging for breakfast, and quizzing me on what we were going to do that day.  Whoa!  Time-out kids!  You gotta let mama sit with a cup of coffee for about thirty minutes before you start in on me with the needy kid stuff, c’mon!  Eventually we’d get into a new routine of sleeping in, being lazy, being bored, bickering and squabbling, and spending entirely too much time vegging on the couch in front of a television – a rut that’s hard to break out of.

Soooo… for all our sanity, I’ve come up with a plan, and we’ll see how long it lasts.  I’ve divided the summer into the individual weekdays.  Figuring on about twelve Mondays, and twelve Tuesdays, and twelve Wednesdays…. etc.  I came up with themes for each day (for variety), and then at least twelve activities for each day that we can check off the list.

Monday’s theme is CHORES, with age-appropriate jobs for the kids to do, which I hope will kind of earn the kids the fun being offered the rest of the week.  In fact, you could pay your kids for their chores with play money and then charge them for the activities later on.  Even fine them for whining, if necessary, but I’ll bet they’ll like having chores to do.  I know my grandkids love helping with things.  It makes them feel grown up.

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Click here for the Chores Monday FREE PRINTABLE!

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Tuesday is a physical and outdoorsy theme, to keep the kids active.

Check out this fun backyard Ninja Warrior Course a dad created for his daughter. There are lots of other plans on the Internet and on Pinterest.

Neighborhood KIDS (Bicycle/Tricycle/HotWheels) Poker Run:

1. Get your kids’ friends, and their moms, together for a neighborhood kid’s poker run. Need seven moms, and at least seven kids on bikes, tricycles, or Hot Wheels. Could even do roller blades, scooters, or skateboards.  Each of the seven moms will be in charge of a card station (preferably right outside of their house – provided all the moms live in fairly close proximity to one another), and have beverages and snacks on hand for the kids.  Each of the kids will need to bring a good, nice toy or item that they don’t want any more as their payment to play.  All the toys/items will be collected into a prize basket.

2. Plot a course. Draw a map of your neighborhood, and show the boundary lines for the Poker Run and where the stations are. Pre-arrange for seven stations where the kids will collect cards from.  A mom will be at each station.  You’ll need a deck of cards, divided into seven portions, and a portion given to each mom for each station, and a scoring sheet for each kid showing what the order of winning hands are.

The kids will ride their bikes from point A to point B along the route, and draw a card at each station.  The mom at that station will mark what the kid’s card is on their scoring sheet, offer them something to eat or drink, and send them on their way.

Basic Rules for a Poker Run: Participants meet at a pre-arranged point, and pick up details of their route and the stops they’ll need to make. Each participant is given a score card which will be filled in as they progress along the route. At each designated stop, the participants draw a card at random (or are dealt a card). The card drawn or dealt is recorded on each participant’s score card, and the winner of the event is the participant who makes the best five card poker hand (out of the seven cards they collected) at the end of the run. Normal Poker Run Events usually end with some entertainment at the designated “last stop” of the route, along with the awarding of the prizes.

There are no prizes for speed – it does not matter who is first to complete the course. It is not a race.

The winning hand is determined by standard poker hand rankings. Decide ahead of time if you will use “wild cards” and if players will be allowed to buy extra cards at any point. Some runs, for example, allow a player to replace one card in their hand by “buying” one more card at the final stop for a fixed fee.

The “last stop” can be your house, where you have a movie set up outside for the kids to watch, or it can be a nearby ice cream truck or store, or it can be a swimming pool, or a skateboard park, or bowling alley, or gaming arcade.  Honestly, any place that kids would find fun.  The kid with the winning poker hand will get first choice from all the toys/items paid to the prize basket.  The next highest winning hand will get second choice, and so on until each kid has chosen a toy/item.   You can sweeten the pot by adding some prizes of your own (i.e. a horn for their bike, a new ball cap, or beach towel, or music CD, etc.).

There are lots of ideas for a Nature Scavenger Hunt (do a Google search, and then pick one).  If you want, its kind of fun to make plaster castings of the hoof impressions and animal tracks that you find.  You might also catch a horny toad, frog, turtle, or lizard that you could bring home and place in a terrarium for a few days.

This is how you play Frisbee Golf.

Progressive Lunch Bike Ride (or Hike)  If you know several moms in the neighborhood, or within close proximity to you and each other, ask them if they would like to get the kids together for a progressive lunch bike ride.  Each mom will host a portion of the meal (drink, sandwich, chips, carrot sticks, apple slices, dessert, etc.).  All the kids will meet at the first house for the first item of their lunch.  Then they will ride their bikes (with that mom) to the next house, for the next part of their lunch.  Both moms and the kids will then ride to the next house for the next portion of their lunch.  This continues until all the moms and all the kids have made it to the last house and eaten all their lunch.  The last house can then host an activity for the kids, like a driveway basketball game, or set up a hot wheels track, or play a backyard game of hide-and-go-seek, or play on a slip-and-slide, Croquet, volleyball or badmitten, or just do some trampoline jumping, etc. When everyone is ready to call it a day, the moms and kids can follow the course backwards to each of their houses.

A Sidewalk Chaulk Art Rally is basically just getting all the neighborhood kids together, asking them to bring their own sidewalk chaulk, giving each kid a section of the sidewalk, and putting them to the task of creating a work of art within a time limit, to be judged (or not) by the neighbors, or parents, or whomever you wish.  Provide drinks and snacks for the kids.  Be sure to take a nice photograph of each finished creation, even video the works in progress, and interview each artist.  Your local newspaper may even be interested in doing a story on your event.  You can host the rally in your neighborhood, cul-de-sac, or neighborhood park.

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Click here for the Outdoor Tuesday FREE PRINTABLE!

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Wednesday features activities to challenge their little noggins, and hopefully keep them learning. Find Summer Bridge Activities workbooks and Brain Quest workbooks at Amazon.  You can find language courses, and teach-yourself musical instrument courses online or at most libraries, or bookstores. And Walmart carries a selection of Smithsonian (science) kits in their crafts isle. And this is just one of many great places to find: Summer Reading Lists For Kids (Grades K-8)

http://www.thejennyevolution.com/ultimate-summer-reading-lists-kids-grades-k-8/

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Click here for the BrainQuest Wednesday FREE PRINTABLE!

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Thursday is all about the crafts…‘bout the crafts, and being creative and busy with their little hands.

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Click here for the Creative Thursday FREE PRINTABLE!

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Friday ends the week with lots of ways to give and serve others, because it makes us feel good to do that, and turns our focus on others instead of ourselves.

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Click here for the GiftsOservice Friday FREE PRINTABLE!

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Click here for the Saturday&Sunday FREE PRINTABLE!

 

 

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NOTE: I didn’t put anything on the posters about swimming lessons, or VBS or summer church camps, or summer movies at the local theater, or roller skating at the local rink, or bowling, which the schools usually send fliers home about at the end of the year that offer special prices and promotions.  I also stayed away from costly activities like bouncy house places, trampoline parks, amusement places, laser tag, go carts, mini golf, climbing walls, and all that sort of stuff, but you are certainly welcome to add those on to each day as you wish and can afford.   Have a fun and blessed summer y’all!

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Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might as unto the Lord and not men.

Ecclesiastes 9:10  &  Colossians 3:23

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