Category Archives: Fun with Friends

The Land Down Under – a World Studies party

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The Land Down Under – a World Studies party

7th– 8th Grade Unit Study on Australian Culture

Well, y’all, today was a privilege of privileges!  I got to throw another school party for my grand’s World Studies class.  We seriously had sooooooo much fun! Praise the Lord for His graciousness.  I love sharing these class parties with you all in the hopes that you will find something inspiring, or useful, that you can do with your kiddos.  I can barely organize my thoughts to tell you about it all.  I’m blogging about it with a full heart that truly did not want the time with them to end.  It was a case of having too many things that I wanted for the kids to experience (story of my life), and having much too small of time for us to actually accomplish it all with quality.  We managed to squeeze everything in, but we sure could have used another couple of hours.

Their teacher very capably led their studies through the chapter on Australia and Polynesia in their World Studies book, and then generously and graciously allowed me to step in for a brief moment at the end of the chapter, to share the things I’ve collected from all over the world, which this time included a few things from the Land Down Under.  The Lord has graciously provided over the years for me to get to have these things, and not only that, but also to allow me the opportunity to utilize the deeply compelling, God-given passion that’s in my heart, which is to research, and plan, and cook, and decorate, and bring the cultures of other peoples to life.

This party was all about Australia, from the indigenous peoples to the settlers.  We learned about Digeridoos, Dancing Sticks, Boomerangs, and Bull-roarers.  We ate Aussie Meat Pies “with sauce” – the national food of Australia, Tim-Tams, Pavlova, and some varieties of licorice “lollies.” We were able to experience a sniff of Vegemite (the kids were too chicken to taste it – although I had snuck some into the meat pies when I made them, so they actually had tasted it and didn’t know it – Ha!  And we all got to taste a glassful of Bundaberg Ginger Beer.  So delicious!!!!  We also listened to some Australian music, both of the indigenous peoples and some more modern.

Side note: Ask me how glad I am to have a Cost Plus World Market fairly close-by.  Unfortunately, they have discontinued carrying ANZAC Biscuits and didn’t have any Lamingtons. The even more sad thing was that I was too pressed for time to be able to make very many of the things at home that I wanted to this go around – but I have included all the recipes below for you (and myself), in case you (or I) ever want to try this party (again) at home for a Birthday, or dinner party, or family get-together, or for your school, or Homeschool World Studies unit, or for a church function (perhaps you have some displaced Aussies in the congregation who are maybe feeling homesick, or missionaries to the Outback whom you could honor), or whatever the occasion!!!  Perhaps you just want to try some of the lovely foods from down under?


Okay, I’ll start with

Music and Decorations…

I had ordered this tablecloth (above) on Amazon, but it never came. ☹ 

Fortunately, I found this one on eBay and it arrived just in the nick of time. 😊

The food on the table also served as decoration (more on that below), but I also tossed around a few stuffed animals, some real boomerangs, and some Aussie flags and road signs to lend atmosphere.  One of the student’s fathers had a real digeridoo, which he allowed his son to bring to the party.  It was really heavy, made from a real tree, and decorated with real tribal designs.  It was very cool.  I also contributed to the party decoration by wearing a t-shirt that said “G’day Mate!” on the front of it.  It made me happy all day just wearing it. And I had made some little road signs and Aussie flags to scatter around on the table. I have a friend who lives in Geelong and is a huge “footy” fan, the Cats in particular. She sent me some souvenirs of the 2009 Premiers, because of course the Cats were champs that year!!!!! I wished I could have found stuffed animals of all the Aussie animals, instead I ended up getting a t-shirt, which featured at least 10 of them.

This is the music I had playing when the kids entered the classroom, so they could hear what digeridoo sounds like, but I was careful not to play it for long, or loudly, or to meditate on the sounds too closely, since the indigenous people call it dream music. I don’t know, but it may open a portal to the spirit world, and I had no desire to do that.

And this is the CD that I played after we had made our dancing sticks.  I found a used original online for $6 – a find of the century as it is out of print.  It has all the favorites on it.  “Down Under” by Men at Work, Waltzing Matilda by The Outback Singers, and an audio passage from The Man from Snowy River by Fred Hollows.  Absolutely perfect!!!!


Crafts

Digeridoos

So, I wanted the kids to have an opportunity to try playing a digeridoo, but I didn’t want them passing around my real digeridoo and spreading germs during cold and flu season.  So, we made one per kid using gift wrap tubes (which I had asked parents to provide, while they were massively available during the holiday season). The kids then used paint to decorate their digeridoos with various tribal designs. 

How to make a Digeridoo out of wrapping paper rolls:  https://www.koolkidscrafts.com/make-a-didgeridoo.html

How a real Digeridoo is made, by David Hudson:  https://youtu.be/2lBZ6yPW9WU

How to play a Digeridoo, by David Hudson:  https://youtu.be/0XlEkeot7HM

And then we all tried to play them.  It definitely takes some skills. I didn’t manage to get a photo of the kids playing them, but I did nab this photo of some decorated ones that the boys had done.


Bullroarers

The first thing was to show the kids the video clip of Crocodile Dundee demonstrating his Bullroarer skills in a scene from the second movie: 

Normally Bullroarers are heavy pieces of carved wood threaded with a strong thick string or thin leather strap, but I found a kid’s craft version that worked like a snap:

How to make a kid’s Bullroarer:

https://www.schooloftoy.com/freeprojects/

Click on the link above and then scroll down to the bottom of the webpage until you see this video, pictured below:

I premeasured lengths of thin paracord and stuffed them in baggies, and I also predrilled holes in the jumbo craft sticks (tongue depressors). It made it super easy to pass out the elements. All the kids needed to do was thread the string through the hole and they were ready to use.  I had the kids decorate their sticks with Sharpie markers, and then we all went out into the great room to give them a whirl, (literally)!  This was probably the most fun experience of the whole party.


Boomerangs

The same man (David Hudson) who did the video on digeridoo playing also did one on how to make a cardboard boomerang, which he called a “Roomerang.”  The kids watched the video, and then I passed out the strips of cardboard that I had precut.  I marked the center to help the kids be able to attach the two pieces properly, and we fastened them with glue dots, which worked like a charm.  I had made a few as examples, and also so that I could test them to see if they really worked.  They did, but, not as well as his did in the video, but maybe with practice. I found that they worked best when held between thumb and pointer finger right at the base and flicked vertically, and sort of towards your right (if you are right-handed). It takes a little practice.

 

How to make a kids’ Carded Boomerang (“Roomerang”) with David Hudson:

   https://triballink.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/How-to-Make-a-Roomerang.webm

In this video (link above) he also talks about the designs, which are special to the Gubbi Gubbi/ Kabi Kabi people. These were my examples:


Dancing Sticks

And finally, our last activity was to make the dancing sticks.  The same David Hudson as did the Roomerangs, and Digeridoo has a teaching video on how to make the dancing sticks, I basically followed his instructions, except instead of using the clear shipping tape that he uses, and then wrapping it with string, I used a decorative Duct tape to save a step.  I also used Bamboo because I have it growing in abundance in my yard and am always looking for useful opportunities to get rid of it. 

       

How to make Dancing Sticks, video featuring David Hudson:   https://youtu.be/u-6yEYPiYsE


Food

What Australian party would be complete without food? Top of the list has to be the national dish of Australia – the Aussie Meat Pies, and then Tim-Tams, Vegemite, and Pavlova!  I really had ambitious plans for this party, and although I didn’t have time to make everything I wanted to, I’m including the recipes for everything I wanted to.  That way, if you (or I) ever want to make these lovely morsels, we’ll know where to find all the recipes.

First things first, Americans need to know how to eat a Vegemite Sandwich, because most of us try it and do it all wrong, and end up spitting the nasty gack substance out into the garbage can with a majorly disgusted look on our faces.  So, I thought it fitting to let Hugh Jackman give us a proper demonstration:

Hugh Jackman on Jimmy Fallon: https://youtu.be/P_sUhTWtvG4

I found Vegemite at Cost Plus World Market, but unfortunately the parent who was supposed to bring the white bread and butter for the party, ooops forgot.  Meh! It happens. 😦   So, I wasn’t able to make a Vegemite Sandwich for the kids, nor was I able to make Fairy Bread for the kids either.  I was disappointed, but we had lots of other stuff to eat and do, so I eventually got over it. LOL


This is Fairy Bread:

All you do to make the Fairy Bread is toast and butter some soft white bread (just like you do for the Vegemite Sandwich) and then cover the topside with sprinkles.  They can’t be just any sprinkles though; to be truly OZ-thentic they need to be the tiny round sprinkles you see in the photo.


Aussie Meat Pies

I made a batch of these before the party just to see what they tasted like, and I think they are quite similar to a sloppy joe in a pie crust.   I did them exactly the way Aussie Girl Can Cook does in her video, but to be authentic the bottoms of the pie are supposed to be a “short crust,” which, in America, is just a regular pie crust, and only the tops of the Aussie pies are supposed to be puff pastry. I made mine in a muffin pan. And I didn’t have enough puff pastry to do the tops properly, so I used the little bits of corners that I had snipped from the squares to make them round. Didn’t have to cut a vent hole that way.

So, because I was extremely pressed for time, this is how I made mine for the party:

Mrs H’s Aussie Meat Pies

3  12-oz. packages (8-count each) of Texas Pie Company Pastry Shells, sold exclusively at HEB

1  17.3 oz. package Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets

2 pounds ground beef

1 onion finely chopped

1  24-oz. can Hunt’s Manwich Sauce

Enough chicken stock to make a little gravy

1 tsp. Vegemite

I started my process 2 days before the party by cooking the beef filling first and then placing it in the fridge.  Cook the ground beef until browned, add onion and cook until slightly softened.  Pour in the Manwich sauce and stir.  Let simmer on stovetop for about 10 minutes.  Add enough chicken stock to make the gravy and let it cook down to thicken. Stir in the Vegemite and remove from heat.  Let cool slightly and transfer to a food storage container. Place in fridge overnight.

The next day take the frozen Puff Pastry out of the freeze and set on counter top to thaw.  Take the Pastry Shells out of the freezer also and arrange on a cookie sheet.  Flatten the edges of each shell to remove the decorative ridge, then put the shells in a 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes (as directed on the package).  Pull the shells out of the oven and immediately begin filling each with about a small ice cream scoop full of the chilled meat mixture. 

On a slightly floured work surface, unwrap and gently unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Use a drinking glass or biscuit cutter (that is roughly the size of the tops of each pie), cut circles in the pastry.  If you run out of dough, the bits can be collected and gently kneaded on a floured surface and then rolled out with a rolling pin.  Let rest a few minutes and then cut more circles.  One package should cover 24 little pies, if you are frugal.  Take a circle of puff pastry and hold it in one hand, dip a finger of your other hand in a cup of water and moisten the pastry all the way around the edge on one side.  Lay the moistened side down on top of a meat pie, stretching if needed, and then press it against the pastry below with your thumbs.  Use a fork to seal the edge all the way around.  Continue with the next pie, and the next, until you have finished covering all your pies. 

Beat an egg or two in a small bowl and then using a pastry brush, brush the egg over the top of each puff pastry top.  A little milk can be added to the egg if you need to stretch it to have enough for all the pies. Use a knife to cut a little vent hole in the center of each pie.

Place the pies in a 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top crusts are shiny and golden brown.  I think mine might have baked longer than 30 minutes, but my oven has been weird lately. Just keep an eye on them to get that beautiful golden-brown color.  Remove from oven.  Let them cool slightly and then remove them from the pie tins. They can be served hot at this point, plain, or with sauce (ketchup).

If you want to serve them the next day, just let the little pies cool completely on a baking rack (removed from the tins) for about 10 or 15 minutes. Place the cooled pies in a single layer in a large zip-loc bag and then pop them into the refrigerator for overnight storage, or they can be individually wrapped, tightly, in plastic, and then placed into a zip-loc bag and into the freezer for longer storage. 

The next day place the pies on a cookie sheet and pop them into a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 20 to 30 minutes.  If they are frozen they can be removed from their wrapper and baked in the same temp oven, but may take a little longer to reach a safe 165 degree internal temperature.  We also tried reheating them in the microwave for about 3 minutes and that worked also.  Serve plain or with sauce.  (My hubby likes salsa on his – he likes salsa on everything. Ha!).


Outback Barbie (what we States-side would just call a BBQ

Once a good fire is established in the firepit, put on some shrimp (what we call prawns), snags (sausages – kind of look like fat hot dogs), and Barramundi (a type of fish).  There’s also many things that are and have been cooked up over fire in the wild, and that’s what Australians call Bush Tucker (Bush Food).

NOTE: many of the foods in Australia are like the foods we have in America.  They harken back to both of our British roots.  In Great Britain the meat pies are often served as a pie floater, which means they are perched in a pool of mushy peas. 

Other common foods are beef stews, chicken and dumplings, pot roast, meatloaf, baked chicken, and that sort of stuff.  There is a large Malaysian, Polynesian, and southern Asian influence also, just as there is Chinese food, Italian, French, Cajun, etc. foods here in the U.S.  There are also animals, berries, fruits, and herbs (and even bugs) that are native to Australia, like Wattleseed and Lemon Myrtle, that are used in Australian cooking.  I enjoy watching Marion Grasby’s You Tube channel.  She makes lots of Asian infused Australian foods.


Tim Tams

Tim-Tams can be purchased in the U.S.  Amazon has them, and they are at World Market.  They are kind of like a chocolate wafer/biscuit sandwich with cream filling, and then coated in chocolate.


ANZAC Biscuits

ANZAC Biscuits were a type of eggless oatmeal cookie that were sent to the soldiers who were off fighting in war.  They are made of oatmeal and coconut, and to make them properly you must use Lyles Golden Syrup.  Australia celebrates a national holiday called ANZAC Day every April which gives the whole country a public holiday from work.  It is a day for Aussies and New Zealanders to honor those who fought and lost their lives at war and also to honor those who serve in the military for the freedom of their country. 

Australian Women’s Weekly published this “Best ANZAC Biscuit Recipe of All Time.”  I say we give it a try!

Ingredients

4oz butter, chopped

2 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle (see tips)

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

2 tablespoons boiling water

1 cup rolled oats (see tips)

1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup desiccated coconut

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two large 9 X 13” baking pans; line with baking paper.

Stir butter and syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Stir in combined soda and the water, then remaining ingredients.

Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls; place 2 inches apart on lined trays, then flatten slightly.

Bake for 12 minutes or until golden. Cool biscuits on trays.

Notes

Spray your measuring spoon with a little cooking oil spray before scooping up the golden syrup; this will help prevent the syrup from sticking to the spoon. Make sure you use rolled oats rather than quick-cooking oats as they will produce a different result. Store biscuits in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Lamingtons

These can be purchased, but are not difficult to make. They are basically a sponge cake cut into blocks, dipped in chocolate icing, and then rolled in finely chopped desiccated coconut.  Martha Stewart has a lovely recipe; click on this link (Martha Stewart’s Lamingtons) and you should end up there, unless they have moved it since this post was created. In that case here is a print out:

Lollies

I found a variety of licorice at World Market. It’s a little bit different from the licorice we’re used to. Sooooo yummy!!!


Pavlova

The utter queen of desserts.  It is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.  It is said to resemble her flowing layered ballerina skirts.   It is crisp on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside, and topped with whipped cream and various fruits.  There are vanilla Pavlovas, and chocolate Pavlovas, and I even saw a lemon Pavlova – which would be a perfect way to use all the egg yokes (lemon curd) and help counter balance all the sweetness.

I decided to try using a carton of liquid egg whites to see if it would work, rather than have several egg yokes to have to deal with.  It didn’t work quite as well as it probably would have with freshly cracked egg whites, but it did work, and got raves from all of those who sampled it at the party for the first time ever in their lives.

1 cup cage-free 100% liquid egg whites + 1 freshly cracked egg white (save the yoke to brush on meat pies)

2 cups of regular white sugar

½ teaspoon of pure Vanilla

1/8th teaspoon of Cream of Tartar (or may substitute 2 tsp of lemon/lime juice or white/apple cider vinegar)

2 teaspoons Corn starch

You will also need parchment paper, a large cookie sheet, a 340 degree preheated oven, a pan with water, and a rubber spatula, and then some fresh sweetened whipped cream, and an assortment of fresh fruits.

I decided to do the Swiss Meringue technique, which is to dissolve the sugar in the egg whites in a double-boiler before whipping.  I placed about 2 inches of water in a saucepan and turned it on to boil.  While I waited for that, I measured my egg whites and sugar into a stainless steal bowl that I could perch on top the pot of water.  As soon as the water boiled, I turned off the heat and let the water cool for a few minutes.  Then I set my bowl of egg whites and sugar on top and used a whisk to stir, stir, stir, lifting the bowl from the pan of water occasionally, just to make sure I didn’t cook the eggs at all.  I reached in and mushed the mixture between my fingers a couple of times to see if it was still gritty, and once it felt not gritty I took it off the water completely and started mixing it with the mixer. 

I only have a hand-held Kitchen-Aide mixer, and wasn’t sure if it was powerful enough to do the job.  It seemed like it took forever for the eggs to start turning a glossy white.  Finally, after 10 minutes or so I began to see a soft white mixture, and that is when I added all the other ingredients (vanilla, Cream of Tartar, and Corn Starch, and I also added a splash of lemon juice in case my cream of tartar wasn’t up to snuff – it’s not something I use very often).  I scraped down the sides of the bowl and went back to mixing.  It took a really long time, maybe 20 minutes or so, but it finally started getting the stiffer peaks.  The videos I watched said you can’t over whip it, so I just kept whipping, and whipping, hoping to achieve stiff peaks I saw in videos.  When I thought I had achieved it finally, I stopped whipping.  My poor little mixer was getting warm.

I got a large cookie sheet, put a dab of meringue in each corner, and placed a sheet of parchment paper to cover the pan (the dabs of meringue keep the parchment from moving around.  Then I dumped the meringue in the middle of the pan.  I didn’t fuss with trying to shape it.  I just sort of made a depression in the center and called it good.  Mine didn’t set up tall and hold its shape like the ones in the videos, which is when I realized I probably gave up beating it too soon.  Oh well.  I guess we’ll see.

I placed the meringue into the oven and immediately turned the temperature down to 190 degrees F, and set the timer for 65 minutes.  After the 65 minutes I turned the oven off, but did NOT OPEN THE DOOR.  I left the meringue in the oven overnight.  I did peek through the window though and it looked to be the same size and shape as when I put it into the oven (hallelujah), only it had a slight baked tint to it, and only had a couple of hairline cracks on the side. Praise the Lord – so happy!!!!!!  Hoping for the best.

While the Pavlova was in the oven, I made my whipped cream.  I put about 2/3 of a pint size carton of heavy whipping cream into a cold bowl.  I added about 2 slightly heaped Tablespoons of powdered sugar, and ½ a teaspoon of pure vanilla.  I started the whipping process slowly to incorporate the sugar, and then as the mixture started to thicken a little, I increased the speed.  It was messy and there was spatter, but as soon as firm peaks appeared, I whipped a smidge more and then stopped beating (fearing I’d end up with butter).  I immediately transferred my whipped cream to a covered container and into the fridge to be used on my meringue first thing in the morning.

I decided on the following fruits:  Strawberries, bananas, canned mango drained, blueberries, and kiwi.  I waited until right before serving to top and decorate my Pavlova.  I started by removing the meringue from the oven and carefully and gently peeling away the paper.  I placed my meringue in the center of a large platter, and then dumped my whipped cream on top and spread it out a little.  Then I started decoratively piling on the sliced fruits and blueberries (Uh Oh, what happened to my banana? Okay, minus the banana, I must have dropped it on the sidewalk somewhere between my car and the school).  

OMGosh, it looked amazing!!!!  The kids thought it was fantastic, and the teacher and other staff who sneaked in to try it said it was to die for.  No one had ever eaten Pavlova before – which is probably my saving grace.

This is a photo of my attempt:


And what to drink? …

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In conclusion, if we want to sound like Aussies for a day here are some Australian Vocabulary Words:

G’day Mate = hello

No worries = not a big deal

Sanga = sandwich

Lollies = sweets/candies

Bush Tucker = Outback Food (that’s native to Australia, and grows in the wild)

Aussie (pronounced Ozzie) and is why Australia is sometimes called Oz

The land down under = Australia

Wallabys = kangaroo (aka ROOs)

Joey = baby kangaroo

Billabong = a pond in a dry river bed

Dingo = a wild dog native to Australia

Footy = What Aussies call football

Kookaburra = a type of bird native to Australia

Walk-a-bout = a hike or vacation (traveling)

To “Captain Cook” something = is to Take a Look at something

To “John Dory” = is to tell the story

Dunny = Toilet

Bloke = male

Sheila = female

Crickey = WOW!

Snag = a sausage


• Other Links:

David Hudson website: https://www.davidhudson.com.au/

(Bullroarer, You Tube video)  https://youtu.be/Gy05kWu88u0

2nd Digeridoo playing instruction:  https://youtu.be/F1hnDwjuLGM

• Movies featuring the Land Down Under:

The Man from Snowy River

Quigley Down Under

Crocodile Dundee

Mrs H’s Unofficial “copy-cat recipe” – Tiago’s Cabo Grille Chocolate Cake

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Mrs H’s Unofficial “copy-cat recipe” – Tiago’s Cabo Grille Chocolate Cake

I want to preface this post by saying if you live near one of these restaurants you absolutely MUST go and have the chocolate cake (and the margaritas, and the guacamole, and….), but if, like me, you live hours away, then I hope to help delight our tastebuds with my less-than-perfect take on their fantabulous desert!!! They serve their cake freshly warm from the oven with a ganache-like frosting oozing over the sides, a scoop of cinnamon ice cream and a dalop of whipped cream on the side, and the whole mess sprinkled with a dusting of cinnamon. Oh my gosh!!!! To die for!

INGREDIENTS

1 ¾ cup granulated sugar

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup Dutch process, unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon ground Saigon Cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 tsp finely ground pink Himalayan salt

1 cup whole milk

1 ¾ sticks salted butter, softened

2 eggs

2 tsp Mexican vanilla (I always splash a little over the measurement)

¾ cup boiling water

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease the bottoms of two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans, and line with parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add milk and butter.  Beat on medium speed to 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix until incorporated.  Stir in boiling water.

Divide the batter evenly between two prepared pans.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake’s center.

Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes.  Removed cakes from pans, discard the parchment paper, and transfer them to a wired rack to cool completely. 

Now they are ready to be frosted. And this is my favorite ganache recipe. Make yours with bittersweet chocolate, add a teaspoon of cinnamon, and up your ratio of chocolate a little more to make your ganache thicker, since it will be spread on warm cake and you don’t want it to just soak in and disappear.

I know there really is no duplicating the deliciousness of Tiago’s original, but this is a dynamite stand-in for when you are just craving it like no other and live 2 hours (or more) away from the closest restaurant.

And now to the second part of this post… A HAPPY BIRTHDAY cake!!!!!

So… it’s August. It’s my granddaughter’s birthday, and her day fell on a school night this year. Her parents are both full time employed and I wanted to be a blessing, so I volunteered to make the birthday dinner and cake. I am a decent cook, I guess, or at least that’s what my family says, but I am NOT a baker, not by any stretch of the imagination, and so perhaps this is what inspired me to blog about this cake, because it is the ONE baking attempt I’ve made that actually turned out, miracle of miracles, and I figure this to be the greatest reason to save it for posterity, i.e. my grandchildren, if indeed we are all still around and we haven’t been raptured by the time they are grown bakers. (Come Lord Jesus). Anyway, the birthday girl wanted “grammie’s tacos” for supper and sooooo that’s what inspired me to go with the Tiago’s cake for her birthday cake. Her special request was for a 2-layer cake, one layer being chocolate, the other layer being vanilla, and she wanted it frosted with a vanilla frosting. Each cake recipe makes 2 rounds, so I ended up with 4 total rounds of cake, and decided her cake would just have to be a 4-layer cake instead. I didn’t think anyone would mind, unless of course it didn’t turn out, but it did, so yay! 😉

My Vanilla Cake recipe:

INGREDIENTS

2 cups granulated sugar (I use just a little less)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

3 small eggs (or 2 large)

1 teaspoon vanilla (I always let it dribble a little over)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease the bottoms of two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans, and line with parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add milk, water, and butter.  Beat on medium speed to 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Mix until incorporated. 

Once both of my cakes (chocolate and vanilla) were baked and completely cooled, I wrapped them tightly in two layers of cling wrap/plastic wrap and then tucked each individual layer in a gallon size zip-loc bag, pressing out all the air, and then put them all into the freezer overnight. Tip: Baking the cakes the day before makes for less work on the day of the party, plus the cakes are easier to frost when they are frozen, and they stay super moist and fresh for up to 3 months (so I was told by my cake decorating friends).

The next day I whipped up my frosting. I didn’t have enough cream cheese to make enough frosting to frost the whole 4 layers, so I whipped up a batch of chocolate buttercream as well as a batch of cream cheese frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

INGREDIENTS

12 Tablespoons butter, softened

5 (and up to another 1/2) cup confectioner’s sugar (depending on how sweet you want it

1 cup Dutch process, unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon

2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla (I always splash a little over the measurement)

Pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS

In a bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy.  In a separate bowl, mix confectioner’s sugar with cinnamon and cocoa.  Blend sugar mixture with butter, alternating with milk, beating well after each addition.  Beat until smooth.  Blend in vanilla. 

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick Butter, softened

8-oz. Cream Cheese, softened

1 (10-oz.) package Confectioners (powdered) sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

splash of Half-and-Half

Combine butter and cream cheese in a bowl and beat until light. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add milk only if needed for the desired consistency, beating until smooth. If you want to add a sprinkle of cinnamon also, do it!!!!

About two hours before the party I took the frozen cakes out of the freezer, unwrapped the first chocolate layer, placed it on my cake plate and slathered it with chocolate frosting on top. I unwrapped a white layer, carefully placed it on top of the chocolate one, and frosted it on top with chocolate frosting. Repeated with the last two layers, leaving the very top layer unfrosted on top. I spread my cream cheese frosting all around the sides of the cake first, and then I did the top last. As you can see I am NOT a skilled decorator either, and I won’t even play one on the Internet. But I am happy to report that the cake was delicious, and a hit with the grateful birthday girl.

This cake was so moist and delicious. I wanted to send it home with the birthday girl (no, I didn’t), but her mother wouldn’t let me (say it ain’t so), saying they already had a bunch of leftover cupcakes from the school party at their house (I’m crying on the inside), plus they are trying to eat healthier (and then there’s that). Oh my. Maybe the 4-layer cake wasn’t such a great idea after all. Soooo, in order to keep me from eating it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, for the next two days, because I also am trying to eat healthy (I know, so boring right), I decided to wrap it up and tuck it back into the freezer for the next time the girlies come over for a sleepover. I’ll have to let you know if it stays good frozen with the frosting on it.

The balloons pictured were a Balloon Arch kit ($7 at the grocery store) that I put together and then wrapped around my hanging dining room light. I had a few of the long bubbly balloons leftover from a previous party (green, red, orange) that I tucked in for a party effect. I would have added more if I’d had them. These kits come with the various sized balloons, and the ribbon (with the holes in it) that is used for holding the balloons in place. I didn’t know how to do this so I spooled up a You Tube video which was very helpful. You basically put all the bigger balloons into the tape, and save the little ones to fill in the spaces afterward, using glue dots, or I used invisible scotch tape. Unfortunately one kit won’t make an arch. Mine only ended up to be about 4 feet long, so I decided to do this with it instead.

And you know what? I was just thinking… (yes, that’s what that awful noise was) …as far as freezing cakes go, if you are an empty-nester and only cooking for two now-a-days… if it is true that naked cake keeps for up to 3 months in the freezer wrapped up correctly, why not bake a couple of cakes and freeze them for those nights when you want dessert, but don’t want to go to a lot of fuss. Cut each cooled round into 4 pieces, wrapping and freezing as described above, then tuck the wrapped pieces into a gallon size zip-loc freezer bag and press all of the air that you can out of the bag. Finally, mark the outside of the bag with the expiration date (so you’ll know it’s still good when you find it 2 months from now and have long forgotten that you did this). Also make up a batch or two of frosting and portion it out into little snack size cups (with lids). Make sure to fill the cups completely so that the lid smashes down on the frosting when snapped on, so there is no air space. Place those cups in a zip-loc bag and into the freezer also, next to the cake. The next time you and hubs are craving something sweet after supper, all you have to do is pull out a piece of cake from the freezer, and a frosting cup, let them thaw on the countertop together. Maybe you’d rather whip up a small batch of ganache instead of the frosting? Cut the cake in half, pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds (if you want it warm), and slather each with thawed frosting or warm ganache. Can be served with a scoop of ice cream (cinnamon, if you can find it), a squirt of canned whipped cream, and a dusting of cinnamon on top, if desired. And there you go… Tiagos (almost) in an instant. Make some coffee to go with your cake and curl up in front of a good movie or go outside and sit by the firepit and enjoy a cool fall evening together.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is cast off, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27

Mrs Adams’ Crunchy Turkey/Chicken Salad with Watermelon Rind Pickles

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<strong>Mrs Adams’ Crunchy Turkey/Chicken Salad with Watermelon Rind Pickles</strong>

This chicken salad recipe is the favorite dish of my sister’s ever brought to a church fellowship. It was her pastor’s wife (now pastor’s mother) who introduced everyone to this fantabulous salad.  The only thing is though, in Wyoming there aren’t ever any watermelon pickles available in the stores, so often times she has to substitute bread and butter pickles, although grapes would probably be a better substitute.

Mrs. Adams is from Texas and apparently, they are a southern thing – watermelon pickles, and since I live in Texas now, I was able to find them at Central Market in San Antonio and send them to my sister, who passed them along to Mrs. Adams, so she could make her famous salad the way it was supposed to be made. 

But the crazy thing is, I remember, as a kid, my grandmother making watermelon pickles in the summers. She always wanted us to save our rinds for her so she could make a big batch. She always had a jar of them in her fridge – and she’s not southern at all, although my grandpa was, and so maybe that’s where she got the idea.  Maybe his mom (or stepmom) made them?  Well, at any rate, a few years ago, I decided to try and make them myself, ‘cause San Antonio is a long ways to drive for a jar of pickles.  As far as recipes, all I had was a Ball Blue Book for inspiration, and after trying both types that they had listed, I realized that neither of them remotely resembled the taste or gooey consistency of the ones my grandma used to make. 

Then, a few weeks ago, on one of my many visits to Facebook, I saw Brenda Gantt had posted a video of herself making them, and after watching, I decided hers looked a whole lot like the ones my grandma made, very thick and gooey and sticky.  So, I thought I’d try her method out and see if it was a match.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with who Brenda Gantt (#BrendaGantt) is, well, let me just say she is this most darling little ol’ cooking grandma lady from Andalusia Alabama who ever put videos on Facebook.  They are down-to-earth and practical, charmingly unprofessional, and downright homey.  Shot by her using a little ol’ cell phone, in her very user friendly, fully equipped, but dare I say, a little bit old school kitchen, where friends and grandchildren frequently make an appearance.   Sometimes Brenda is all done up, make-up on, hair done, cute outfit, and other times she is in her housedress with no makeup and hair going every which way or stuffed under a ball cap.  She is a popular lady with lots of friends and a loving grandma and mother. She is a patriotic and Christian lady who shares her faith and love of country often, and has the most adorable personality.  She is a widow and retired school teacher, and has a little Bed and Breakfast that she operates called Cottle House. She is so beloved that her videos often get pirated and posted to You Tube (without her permission), but perhaps you have seen her there?  Below is the link to the little video she did of the watermelon pickles, which I hope you’ll go and watch here. If you have a cell phone you can aim your camera at this QR code and then click on the link that will pop up on your screen. It will take you right to the video.

This summer I have had such a craving for watermelon, and because of the abundance of watermelon rinds, I decided I would give Brenda’s recipe a whirl.  Let me tell you, it turned out exactly like my grandmother’s recipe, except my grandma’s had whole cloves in hers.  I thought they might be even better if they were spicy, so I added some garden jalapenos along with a lemon and a few spices just to see how they would turn out. Weeee doggies, they are my absolute new favorite!!!!! I love them soooooo much that I have made two whole watermelons worth now.  They make the chicken salad even better than it already was, if I may say so myself. 😉 

I made a little video capture collage from Brenda’s video. I thought it might be helpful to aid in the instructions for my watermelon pickles. As you can see, it took her a couple of days to put this one together, sometimes she is fixed up and sometimes not, and if you watch the video you will get to meet one of her beautiful granddaughters and a prankster grandson.

MrsH’s Spicy Watermelon Rind Pickles

INSTRUCTIONS: (numbers correspond to the numbered sections of the Brenda collage above)

1.  Cut watermelon in half.  Scoop out the red part

2.  Cut the rind into strips about an inch wide

3.  Cut the green skin off each piece of rind

4.  Cut the rind into bite-size pieces

5.  Once the rind is all cut up you should have a pretty good pot full.  I actually transferred my rinds into a large ceramic bowl to set overnight instead of leaving them in the metal pot.

6. Cover the rind pieces with sugar (do not stir).  Use regular, white, granulated sugar.

7.  Make sure the sugar covers every piece.  Let the rinds sit, uncovered, on the counter for 8 hours or overnight (do not stir).  The next morning you will see that the sugar has leached the liquid out of the rinds and has formed a sort of wet crust on top.

8.  Pour the liquid and rinds into a large pot and bring to a boil on the stove.  (I added about a dozen small, really spicy jalapenos from my garden (stems removed, chopped up), plus one lemon sliced, two cinnamon sticks, and about a heaping tablespoon of Ball Pickling Spice – which I added to a reusable tea bag, and let it all cook together on a medium boil for about 2 hours or so. 

It will cook down quite a bit.  The rinds need to cook until they are translucent.  Sometimes it is hard to tell if they are translucent while they are boiling, so I remove a piece from the pot and let it cool to see.  Once the pickles are translucent, they are ready to be jarred, but in the meantime, while the rinds are still cooking, it’s a perfect time to get the your jars ready.

Get a few clean jars with lids and place them in a pot of water.  *I used old olive jars that I had saved, and their lids, and to my utter amazement they actually sealed when they cooled. 

To prepare the jars, bring water to a boil in a large pot on the stove and keep it at a simmer.  Let the jars and lids simmer together while the pickles finish cooking, until you are ready to use them.  Use tongs to take one jar at a time out of the boiling water, tip it upside down to drain it well, and then place it upright on a towel near the pot of pickles. 

9.  Use a canning funnel and ladle to fill the jars with pickles.  Fill the jars almost to the rim, but leave about a half inch of headspace.  Clean the rim of the jars with a clean, wet paper towel so that there is nothing sticky or any pieces of pickle on it. This will ensure that the lid seals properly so no oxygen gets inside to spoil the contents.

10. Using tongs, take a lid from the boiling water, tap off the water, and place the lid on the jar.  Screw the lid on hand tight.  Set the jars back away from the heat, or on a wire rack, and allow them to cool until the lids seal.

Since these pickles are not being water-bath canned, and because I used previously used lids instead of brand new canning lids and rings, it is safest to keep the pickles in the refrigerator.  If you would like to make some that are guaranteed safe for long term storage, here is the Ball Blue Book recipe:

I would recommend using Brenda’s pickles within a month, which is no problem when the goal for making them is to also make Mrs. Adams’ Chicken Salad (recipe below).  These pickles are so delicious just to snack on, as you would any other type of pickled veggies.  They are sweet and spicy and I can’t wait for you to try them. Brenda says that she first tried these as preserves spread on a buttered biscuit, accompanying a steak dinner she and her husband dined out on at a restaurant.  I tried them that way and they are delicious. My grandmother always had them around as a side for meals and snacks.  She always added whole cloves to hers while they were cooking, along with cinnamon sticks.  I like the Ball pickling spices, it has all the spices in it. And the cinnamon stick, jalapeno, and lemon rind just makes them perfect.

Mrs. Adams’ Crunchy Turkey/Chicken Salad

Original recipe courtesy of the Ladies of Grace Bible Baptist church (Casper, Wyoming), Favorite Recipes cookbook, published 2002 by Morris Press Cookbooks.  I modified her recipe slightly to avoid any copyright liabilities.

4 cups cooked turkey or chicken, pulled and chopped into bite-size pieces

1½ cups chopped celery

3/4 cup chopped green onion

1 (20-oz) jar of watermelon rind pickles, drained (if liquidy) and chopped

1 (5-oz) bag slivered almonds

1½ to 2 cups Mayonnaise, as preferred

The juice of 1 lemon (or a Tablespoon of bottled lemon juice)

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1½ teaspoons salt, or more to taste

2 Tablespoons Curry Powder (I used Hot Madras), more or less to taste

2 cups Chow Mein Noodles (wait to add until just before serving)

Toss turkey/chicken with the next 4 ingredients until well incorporated.  Mix the mayo, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and curry powder together and pour over chicken. Mix well. Add more mayo if a creamier texture is desired.  Add more salt, pepper, curry powder – if more is desired.  Cover tightly and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.  Stir in chow mein noodles just before serving.  Great dish to bring to a church pot luck, Bowling pot luck, Bunco night, cards, dominoes, or other game night get-togethers.  If you are a grandma and live in the same town as your kids and grandkids, take a batch over to them to be a blessing after a long day at work. Can be made up to 12 hours before serving. Add the chow mein noodles just before serving.

“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Matthew 6:11-12

Mrs H’s Fried Ice Cream

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Mrs H’s Fried Ice Cream

This is an easy version of your favorite Mexican Restaurant dessert! Hooray, right? We all love EASY! This can also be made up ahead of time for an easy dessert for company, or to carry in for a pot luck supper at church. You can serve them all fancied up, or let your guests decorate their own.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Half-gallon Vanilla Ice Cream (I like the less sweeter varieties; read the label; my favorite has 11 g sugars under Carbohydrates.  Some have 20 g and that is just too sweet for my taste)

6 cups Corn Flakes cereal, crushed

½ cup (1 stick) butter

3 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ cup honey

Chocolate Ice Cream sauce

Whipped Cream (in aerosol can)

Maraschino cherries (with stems)

Large size muffin wrappers (paper)

Latex gloves

5-Step procedure

First, place a muffin tin in your freezer and allow it to get ice cold (about an hour).  Use an ice cream scoop to dip ice cream from its container.  I use my other hand (with glove on) to heap ice cream up over the ice cream in the scoop and then press it into a ball shape, before ejecting the ball into a well of the muffin tin.  Continue until all 12 wells are full, or ice cream is used up.  Place muffin tin back in the freezer and allow ice cream balls to set and freeze hard (about an hour or two).

Meanwhile, make the crust: Crush the corn flakes cereal in a gallon size zip lock bag, using a rolling pin. Add the cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven size pot, toss in the crumbs and cinnamon and stir fry about 2 or 3 minutes until it begins to smell wonderful.  Be careful not to let it burn.  Drizzle with honey and toss to coat.  Remove from heat and let it cool.  NOTE: I have substituted other cereals, namely Cinnamon Toast crunch and it worked great, as long as the cereal was ground into fine crumbs in a food processor.

Remove Ice cream balls from freezer.  Use a large spoon to remove a ball from its well in the muffin tin. Drop ball into crumb mixture and roll with gloved hands around in the crumbs, pressing crumbs into ice cream with hands until all sides are coated.  If you are having trouble getting the crumbs to stick to the ice cream try squeezing a little honey over the crumbs before rolling the ice cream into it.  Place balls on paper muffin wrappers and then set them on a cookie sheet or baking pan.  Once finished with coating all the balls, return them to the freezer to set and harden.   They can remain in the freezer for a day or two if you want to make them ahead.

To serve:  Remove an ice cream ball from the muffin wrapper, place on a serving plate.  Drizzle chocolate syrup decoratively over the top.  Spray a nice size dollop of whipped cream on top, and garnish with a cherry.  Pretty as a picture!

   * * *

“The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.” Exodus 16:31

   * * *

MrsH’s Original Bit-O-Honey Pie

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MrsH’s Original Bit-O-Honey Pie

They say there is nothing new under the sun, well, I beg to differ. The idea for this pie popped in my head after stumbling across a Bake-off contest on social media. I looked and looked for a recipe, figuring someone out there had surely invented such a thing already, but nope, I couldn’t find a single one. Sooooo, having my creative kitchen muscles stretched a bit, I humbly present to you my prize-winning entry!  Okay, I didn’t really enter it in their contest, only because of a ban on refrigerated items, but my taste-testing family all gave me thumbs way up and a great BIG fancy blue ribbon, I mean hug. Perhaps next year the committee that decides such things will make an exception and allow refrigerated items, and then I’ll get to enter the Honey Festival bake-off challenge, officially, with this pie!  Until then, you get to enter it at your supper table festivals for a whole year ahead of its grand appearance at the BIG SHOW! And this way all your little resident foodies can help me decide if it’s worth entering in the contest next year!

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup Uvalde Honey
  • ½ cup Almond Butter (I like it waaaay better with Walnut Butter, Crazy Go Nuts brand)
  • 1 cup chopped slivered almonds  (divided)
  • 1 Tsp. Almond extract
  • 1 Tbsp. Molasses
  • 1  8-oz pkg Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 small tub Cool Whip topping, thawed
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup dry malted milk powder
  • 1 Vanilla wafer crumb crust for 9” pie

DIRECTIONS

Make crumb crust: Preheat oven to 375 *F.  Whirl approximately 2/3 of a box of Nilla Wafers and ½ cup slivered almonds in a blender or food processor until fine crumbs. You should come close to about 1½ cup of crumbs.  If you end up with a little bit more, save the extra for a garnish on top of the pie.  To the 1½ cup of crumbs add 6 Tbsp of butter, melted, and mix together well in a large bowl.  Transfer the crumbs to a pie plate and press into place evenly along the bottom and up the sides with your fingers or a large metal spoon.  Bake 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack until completely cooled.

Pie Filling: Using a mixer on low speed, beat together first nine ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well combined and creamy.  Scoop into crumb crust and spread until smooth on top.  Chill in refrigerator for at least 1 day before cutting and serving. 

Garnish with remaining crumbs, slivered almonds, a small piece of real honeycomb, and artificial bees from the hobby store, attached to the pie with toothpicks.

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe — Narnia Party

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The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe — Narnia Party

I thought I’d share a recent school party that I did for my granddaughter’s class. She and her classmates have been reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and as the kids were nearing the end of the book their amazing (and I do mean A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!!!!) teacher asked if I would like to put together a party to help them celebrate finishing the book. “Well heck ya,” I told her! “I love that stuff” (which I’m fairly certain she already knew 😉 )! Anyway, I’m sharing with y’all, just in case someone else out there has the opportunity and would like some ideas.

The Wardrobe Doors

I made a fairly crude set of wardrobe doors to decorate the classroom door entrance, out of a large cardboard box (I think it came from a furniture store). I measured the classroom door and then cut the cardboard to fit using a square and a utility knife. Then I painted the cardboard with some mahogany colored varnish I had leftover from a furniture refinishing project I did a while back. I let the cardboard dry for about a week and then I cut the doors in half lengthwise. I didn’t have a lot of time to make these doors, otherwise I would have put a lot more thoughtful detail into them, but at least I gave them handles.

Since the door frame on the classroom was metal, the only way I knew of to be able to attach these doors was to use clear packaging/shipping tape all along the henge edges to tape the doors to the door frame. This worked fairly well. Perhaps Duct tape would have been better??? Of course, the doors wouldn’t stay closed once they were hung, so we had to use a small cardboard dowel rod and insert it in the door handles to hold them closed until all the kids arrived and could walk in together to discover the transformation of their classroom. Their teacher kept this all a total surprise!

I used an inexpensive shower curtain rod (purchased from Walmart for about $5) to hang some long robes and long dresses on. Beings this is south Texas nobody had long coats we could use, and I wasn’t sure how much weight that rod would hold either. Anyway, as soon as the kids opened the wardrobe doors, all they saw was a closet full of clothing which they had to walk through.

It’s Always Winter in Narnia

Once inside it was a winter wonderland. I had cut out about 25 paper snowflakes and hung them to the ceiling with string and push pins, all over the classroom.

It’s not a party without food…

Soooo, I thought it would be fun to celebrate all the foods featured in the book/movie:

For the White Witch’s table I made a White Hot Chocolate in a large thermos and had glass mugs for the kids to drink it out of. I glued little snowflakes on each mug. Next to that was a round box filled with Turkish Delight, tied with a green silk ribbon!

I used quilt batting to cover the table in “snow.” I placed a framed quote from the book, and a large sample box of a big variety of flavored Turkish Delight, which I ordered from amazon.com about a week ahead of the party. Oh my gosh! It’s delicious. I had never had it before, have you? I want to order another box just for myself. Then again, I’ll just eat the whole thing and it does nothing for my girlish figure, so I probably better not!!!

The Beaver’s table needed to feature fish and potatoes, and marmelade roll-ups. But, as much as I love “fish n’ chips” I didn’t figure the kids would be as big of fans – so I went with Swedish fish and Goldfish crackers, and potato chips. I thought the ones with skins on would be the coolest so I went with TGIFriday’s potato chips. I served the little morsels in these perfect little wooden bowls that my husband made for me several months ago. And I covered the table in a brown fur table cloth.

Now if you are familiar with the story, the Beaver’s had beer with their supper. But they also had tea, which is a bit more kid-friendly. I went with iced tea. And after trying, and failing, to make the little sandwiches into roll-ups, I decided to just cut them into triangles. I was surprised that the kids liked marmelade, but they ate the whole platter!

Finally was Mr. Tumnus and Lucy’s Tea Party table. I set this table with real teacups, and a spread of “sugar topped cupcakes” and TOAST with honey butter. I brewed a big pot of tea and set out sugar cubes and lemon slices so the kids could doll up their cups as they wished.

I made the honey butter using a stick of real butter and added about 1/4 cup of honey and a tsp of cinnamon to it. And the cupcakes I made with a yellow cupcake batter and a brown sugar buttercream frosting that is out of this world. I found it when I went looking for a frosting I could make without powdered sugar. OMG! They were beyond delicious!!!!! In fact, this might be my favorite frosting of all time!!!!! You must try it! Once I frosted the cupcakes, I sprinkled them with sugar sprinkles. They turned out pretty!

So there you have it…our party in a nutshell! The kids were so excited!!!! It was all the reward I would ever need to get to watch their faces as they entered the classroom with wide-eyed wonder and awe. They saw the snowflakes and started jumping. They wanted to keep them for souvenirs, which of course I obliged. And I even promised to come teach them how to make them some afternoon. They ate everything there was to eat and some of every beverage. And when it was all said and done, they each wrote notes thanking me for all my efforts, and telling me how much they loved the party and will never forget it as long as they live! Well, if that doesn’t make your heart go pitter pat, I don’t know what would. I must be the luckiest ol’ gal on the block to have such a wonderful opportunity to lavish love on this precious group of kiddos. I feel so very honored that their teacher trusted me for this task.

The kids drank and ate their fill while they watched the movie version of the book. And when the party was over, the kids found their way back to the real world by the soft glowing light of the street lamp!

What a blast! And there you have it!!!!! You could make this a classroom party for your kids, as I have done, or you could use it for a theme birthday party, or even celebrate summer book reading with a theme party. The kids will remember it forever!!!!

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the LORD and not to men.” Colossians 3:23

Masterminding A Mystery Dinner

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Masterminding A Mystery Dinner

This is such a fun way to serve supper … at a family reunion – which is what we did, or with a group at church, or any group really.  It would also be a great dinner to serve for April Fools, or a birthday party.  You can let your guests know that you will be serving a wonderful 4 course lasagna dinner, or perhaps a pot roast supper, or hamburgers and fries.  The meal is no mystery, it is how the courses will present themselves on each guest’s plate that is the riot. And that part is intirely up to your guests, bless their hearts, if they only knew what they were ordering (giggle).  You may want to ask in the invitations if anyone has any food allergies, so you can accommodate.

I purchased this boxed version almost 20 years ago, and have not been able to find it anywhere since, online or in any bookstore.  It was published by Oslund, Sonshine Company, Anoka, MN 55303.

MAMD Box version

For our Family Reunion, we modified it slightly.  My sisters, mom, and I served the meal, and we had 25 to 30 guests.  Each server was responsible for a table of guests.  We placed carrot and celery sticks in a relish dish at each table, and the guests were allowed to nibble on those while they waited to be served, although some who did found out later when their meal was served without a fork or spoon that a carrot or celery stick would have made a nice utensil.

the cooks

Here’s what’s in the box:

Box Contents

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8 Invitations (two sided)

Invitations (front)

FRONT

Invitations (back)

BACK

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8 Menus (two sided)

Menu (side A)

FRONT (fold in half)

Menu (Side B)

INSIDE (fold in half)

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8 Place Cards (cut apart on dotted lines)

Place Cards

These each fold in half and set up like little tents

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16 ID Cards

16 ID Cards

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Kitchen Set-up diagram sheet

Kitchen Set-up

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Recipes

Recipes

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and Instructions (two sided sheet)

front-side-of-instruction-sheet.jpg

(FRONT SIDE)

Instructions

(BACK SIDE)

The Instructions are too little for me to read off the scanned page so I’ve written them out for us…

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Masterminding a Mystery Dinner

New Testament Theme

“A Dining Experience You Won’t Forget”

CONTENTS:  8 Menus, 8 Place Cards, 8 Invitation, 16 ID Cards, Recipes.

OBJECT:  To enjoy an unforgettable, unpredictable and hilarious dining experience.

SERVING:  1 waiter for 4 dinner guests;  2 waiters for 8 dinner guests

DECODED MENU LIST:

1. Crowd Leftovers – Bread Mark 6:43
2. Christ’s Winnowing Tool – Fork Matthew 3:12
3. John the Baptist’s Lunch – Grasshopper Pie Mark 1:6
4. Prodigal’s Surprise – Roast Beef Luke 15:23
5 Symbol of Bitter Captivity – Lettuce Salad Passover Tradition
6. Circumcision Instrument – Knife Luke 2:21
7. Christ’s Frequent Prayer Place – Olives Luke 22:39
8. Hebrew Burial Cloth – Napkin John 20:7
9. Communion Element – Wine or Grape juice Matthew 26:27
10. Evil Protein – Deviled Eggs Matthew 4:1
11. Fruit of the Cursed Tree – Fig Bars Matthew 21:19
12. Prodigal’s Lunch with Pigs – Peas Luke 15:16
13. God’s Shekinah – Glorified Rice Hebrews 1:3
14. Carpenter’s Splinters – Toothpicks Matthew 13:55
15. Fruit of the Vine – Grapes John 15:4
16. Baptizer’s Sweet Tooth – Honey Nuts Matthew 3:4

 (All of the food items on the above list can be purchased from the grocery store, near-by deli or take-out, which would eliminate most preparation time.)

INVITATIONS:  Fill out invitation and mail two weeks prior to dinner.  (Dining attire suggestions: casual, formal, biblical, etc.)  (If your kitchen is near where you will serve your dinner guests, it is suggested that you conceal your kitchen with hanging sheets or tablecloths over the doorways.  This way your guests can’t peek!)

FOOD PREPARATIONS:

  1. Several hours before guests are expected to arrive, prepare the roast beef, pie, lettuce salad, deviled eggs, date bars, peas, and glorified rice. Refrigerate or bake according to recipe directions.
  2. On a flat surface in your kitchen, designate a space for each menu item, in order of sequence, by using on or the food identification cards. This will help the waiters as they pick items for each course for their customers.
  3. The table can be prepared as the host or hostess prefers. Write guest names on place cards and place cards where guests are to be seated.
  4. One-half hour before guests are scheduled to arrive, place the following items by their respective food identification card on the flat surface; olives (in juice), grapes, toothpicks, spoon, fork, knife, and napkins. (OPTIONAL: Waiters can change into dark pants and white shirts with bow ties at this time.  Also, appropriate music can be played.  Provide each guest with a glass of water.)

DINNER:

  1. As guests arrive, they can be welcomed to the Mystery Dinner and escorted to their appropriate place at the table.
  2. Before delivering the menus to the guests, each waiter selects which guests they will serve. It is helpful at this point to request that the guests fill out their orders in silence.  This avoids confusion and everyone discussing the menu selections. (Honestly, we allowed a little table talk.)
  3. Hand each guest a menu and a pen. Give them approximately three to five minutes to fill out their course selections
  4. During this five minutes, you can put the following items near their appropriate food identification card on the flat surface: roast beef (covered), bread, pie, lettuce salad, wine or grape juice, deviled eggs, bars, peas and rice.
  5. Now it is time for the waiters to collect the menus and begin selecting items for the first course for one customer. Once all four items have been picked, the plate can be served to the respective guest.  Continue with remaining guests.
  6. After the waiters have served their customers, they go back to their first customer and remove any remaining items from the first course and begin on the second course. Make sure they do not keep utensils.  This process continues until all guests have been served all four courses.  IT IS AS MUCH FUN TO BE THE SERVER AS IT IS TO BE SERVED!  ENJOY!

When we served our dinner we used a totally different menu; one that would be impossible to figure out.  This was our menu:

mystery dinner menu inside

And these were our 16 items, shown as the set up for our Kitchen:

Diagram B

You can go with a theme (Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Hawaiian, Southern Comfort Foods, BBQ, Seafood, etc.) in your food, decorations, and music.  If you chose a Mexican theme, you could use Mexican items as the code words on the menu (such as: sombrero, cactus, poncho, maracas, piñata, mariachis, chili peppers, serape, etc.). You could decorate with Mexican blankets and cactus centerpieces, and play Mariachi music. In place of the relish dish, you could offer chips and salsa (people could eat with a chip if they didn’t get a utensil and were desperate).  Encourage your guests to snap photos of the event and share them with you afterward.  Our party was before cell phone days, but I could kick myself for not setting out some disposable cameras.

If using paper plates, remember to buy plenty.  You’ll need a plate for each course for each person, so four plates per person X 8 guests would be 32 paper plates total.  You can use different size plates.  It would add to the humorousness having a large slice of lasagna and a slice of pie, if that’s what your guest ended up with, being served on an appetizer size plate, and equally funny to have a large dinner plate with only a toothpick, vegetable, napkin, and knife taking up space.

When the last person has been served the last course and all the plates have been taken away, that’s when servers can return each person’s menu to them and let everyone try to figure out which items were which code words.  All of the servers and kitchen workers should join the guests.  They will talk about how much fun that was and probably want to sit around and visit for a little while.

Dot and Scott

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”  Psalm 16:11

MrsH’s “Girl Scouts” Hobo Supper in Foil

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MrsH’s “Girl Scouts” Hobo Supper in Foil

 

I grew up in a small town where there wasn’t a lot for kids to do but just be kids and play in the great outdoors.  That was plenty enough though, believe me.  My sisters and I made dirt houses lined with pebbles, floors swept down to the hard dirt, rocks and logs for furniture, and we served each other our fancy mud pie concoctions.  We played secret maze games between the sheets hanging on the line until we got hollered at to get away with our unclean hands.   We climbed Tank Hill just for something to do, and then tried to RUN down it without stumbling.  Sometimes we took a picnic lunch up there and ate it overlooking the town where we could watch all the goings on.  One time I climbed the tank – which was a mistake.  I guess I’m a little afraid of heights I found out.  My grandpa had to come and rescue me, and right after he called a welder to cut off the ladder so it couldn’t ever be climbed up by a kid again.  Oh dear!

We had bikes and rode them all over a whole vast network of oilfield roads, to secret places – under bridges, the old electric plant, and to the pond to catch frogs and salamanders and horny toads by the dozens, but hopefully not see any snakes – ’cause ewwww, girls don’t like snakes!  We all played ball or watched the games, and we all sat on the fences at the ranch rodeos and watched the cowboys do their stuff.  Sometimes they even let us run the hot-shot on the steers in the shoots, and open the shoot gates for the ropers.

Our little oilfield community had the first lighted baseball field, and the first lighted football field in the whole state.  We had a bowling alley, and a swimming pool, and in the winter we had a frozen pond to ice skate on. They say we even had a golf course, but it wasn’t like any golf course you’ve ever seen – just dirt and rocks and prairie, with flags stuck in holes here and there.  The clubhouse was just a corregated tin outbuilding, but it was something to do for those that are into that stuff!

If there was nothing else to do it was always fun to watch dad tinker with something in his shop, or tag along with him to his work.  I got to tag along once to the Blue Creek Ranch out by Kaycee, and they let me ride an old nag of horse all day long while dad fixed whatever it was they needed him to fix.  And my grandpa could be found in his massive garden most all summer.  It was fun to pick and eat peas while he watered and weeded.  I sometimes took my matchbook cars and made trails along the rows of corn.  I accidentally sat in an ant pile once though, and that wasn’t so much fun!  My grandma was always in the kitchen sowing or cooking.  And when me and my sisters stayed at her house, it was fun to play secretary with pens and notebooks in the garage.  Sometimes we’d nap with grandpa in the afternoons on the bed they kept out there, where the cool breezes blew through.

There was always a lady in town that taught piano lessons, and occasionally someone would travel through with gymnastics or dance classes, and our families all went camping and to the lake as often as we could.  My folks had a motorcycle and a scooter and we went for rides as a family, sometimes be gone all day!  And everyone in town met at the sand rocks to shoot off fireworks on the 4th of July – all of the families, and we shared our snacks and our fireworks with each other.  Sounds magical, doesn’t it?  It was!

We had a Girl Scouts troop and a Boy Scouts troop, and even a Boy Scouts camp on the Pine Ridge.  What in the world else does a kid need?  It was a wonderful life!

Girl Scouts was one of my fondest childhood memories.  I remember getting to go to summer camp (Camp Sacajawea) on Casper Mountain one year.  I got to ride on a bus up the mountain with a whole bunch of really nice bigger girls, singing old hippy songs all the way, and coolest of all, it was an over-nighter.  We made ditty bags out of bandanas and tied them to a stick (I’ve still got one of the nicer ditty bags we were given – shown in the photo below).  We filled them with snacks and water, and one of the days we used the ditty bag sticks as walking sticks and hiked to a really cool waterfall that flowed over a rock that we could walk behind (just like in the movie The Last of the Mohicans).  That’s the way I remember it anyway! 🙂  I remember doing crafts and selling cookies.  I remember one year being really ambitious to sell those cookies!  I ed Girl Scouts!

Girl Scouts memorabilia

This is a throw back meal from when I was a Girl Scout at Camp Sacajawea.  Very easy to make and I think it is delicious!  Of course we made S’mores for dessert – I’m pretty sure that was another Girl Scouts invention too!  😉

Hobo Foil Packs

This recipe feeds 4 to 6 people.

  1.  Peel and chop several cloves of garlic.  I did a whole bulb’s worth.
  2.  Wash a small bag of yellow potatoes, and a small bag of carrots, peel the carrots and then slice both into bite-size pieces  (figure on about 2 small potatoes and 1 whole large carrot per person)
  3.  Peel a yellow onion, cut in half, and slice it into quarter inch slices
  4.  Place all veggies in a bowl.  Salt and pepper to taste, and then drizzle generously with olive oil, toss to coat evenly, set aside
  5.  Mix 2 lbs of hamburger with 2 packages of dry onion soup mix, and a small minced jalapeno, a little salt and pepper, and mix well, then form into patties
  6.  Place a heaping ladle full of veggies into the center of a generous sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil
  7.  Lay a hamburger patty on top of veggies
  8.  Top with a spoonful of mushroom soup
  9.  Bring both ends of foil up and fold together to seal well on top, and then do the same on both sides.  Repeat making foil packets until all veggies and burger patties are used up.
  10.  Preheat BBQ grill, or campfire (or 350 *F oven), and when coals are hot and gray lay the packets on a grate about 6 to 8 inches above them
  11.  Let packets cook for 15 to 20 minutes and then carefully and gently flip and rearrange the packets so they can cook evenly on the other side for another 15 to 20  minutes.
  12.  Open one packet and test the veggies for doneness
  13. When done, remove the packets and serve one packet per person.

Step 5 - Grill 1 hour

Enjoy!!!!!!

Dinner Served1

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the way of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgement.  Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity.” 

Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

Mrs H’s Tissue Paper Flowers

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Mrs H’s Tissue Paper Flowers

1420711999072I was given the opportunity recently to make a bunch of tissue paper flowers for a school project.  I had so much fun with it honestly, and thought, these sure would make a beautiful decoration, or they could be used for head garlands (as pictured here) which are pretty popular in Texas, or Homecoming Mums (another Texas thing), or to decorate Derby hats, or for a garden tea party, or luau, or FiEsTa (which happens to be going on in San Antonio at this very moment), which got me to thinking that somebody else out there might appreciate knowing how to make these.  I also sure don’t want to ever forget how I made them, so…  that’s as good a reason as any to blog about something, me thinks.

Materials needed:  1 package of multi-colored tissue paper, a good pair of sissors, a stapler, and string (optional).

A large package of multi-colored tissue paper is fairly inexpensive to buy at the big box stores ($10 for 100 sheets).  And one of those packages will give you more than enough paper to make 100 flowers that are roughly the size of one of those mesh shower pouf thingies.  (If you want to make giant flowers, you could probably squeeze 10 or so out of a package???)

So here is how you make them.  First open the package of tissue paper and separate the colors.  Straighten up the sheets so that they lay exactly on top of each other.  Peel off two sheets of one color of the tissue paper.

Tissue Paper Flower instruction1

Now, I’ve included visual instructions below that will hopefully be easy to follow, but I will also explain…

Flower Making collage1

  1.  Gather your materials.  It will help to have a large table where you can spread out the tissue paper into individual color piles.  (My poor sissors, you’ll notice, have issues, actually just one issue.  I don’t know what happened, but they are Fiskers, and the handles have decomposed over the years since I first bought them.  They are sticky now, and almost clay-like.  The stuff was coming off on my hands and making my hands sticky, so I wrapped the handles in strips of paper towel.  Has this happened to anyone else? Or is it just the humidity in the south that has made mine do this?)
  2. Peel off 5 sheets of tissue paper and stack them together neatly.  Then starting at the bottom fold up about an inch width and press it flat.
  3. Flip the stack over and fold the other direction, and press flat.
  4. Continue folding in an accordion pattern until you reach the other end.
  5. Press the stack flat.
  6. Fold the stack in half to mark the center place.
  7. Press it flat to make a good crease.
  8. Open and place under the stapler, and place a staple on exactly that center crease line. Option: you can also tie a string around this center part so you will have something to tie the flower, to attach it to whatever you are decorating.
  9. (Photo just shows the staple being present)
  10. Now cut one end with whatever pattern you wish for the type of flower you wish to make (see diagram below)
  11. Cut the first end and discard the scraps
  12. Then cut the second end to match
  13. Fan out the ends to make it easy to separate the individual sheets

Tissue Paper Flower cuts

  • Orange shows a gardenia type flower
  • Purple shows a hydrangea type flower
  • Pink shows a peony type flower
  • Green shows a magnolia type flower
  • Blue shows a Zinnia type flower
  • Red shows a Carnation type flower
  • Gray shows a Dahlia type flower
  • Yellow shows a Chrysanthemum, or Mum type flower

Flower Making collage2

14. Fan out both ends

15. Carefully peel off the top sheet and pull it away from the others, up towards the center

16 – 18. Continue separating sheets and pulling them up towards the center on both ends, going around in a circle

19. Smooth out the last sheet to flatten out the bottom

20 – 23. Bring the flower around and fluff each peddle to make them all uniform and fill in any gaps.

24 – 26. Set your flower down and admire how pretty it is.  Then pick another color and continue making flowers.

Tissue Paper Flower instruction4 The center pom kind of makes a flower that looks like a cactus flower.  You can do the same sort of thing with green tissue going out the bottom to look like the bud part of the bloom (just cut it with deep zig zags instead of the fringe).  You can also experiment with various cuts, and you can also layer two colors of tissue together to make more interesting options.  Here are some samples of the flowers I made.  They turned out soooooo pretty?

Tissue Paper Flowers collage

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head
    and a chain to adorn your neck.
” 

Proverbs 1:8-9 NIV

floral-head-wreath01

 

 

 

 

 

Polynesian Dinner Party

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Polynesian Dinner Party

 

I love theme dinners!  And Polynesian is one of those themes that has tons to offer… tons of great foods… lots of great music… and a motherlode of great activities.  That’s probably why luau parties are so popular.  They are great for a crowd (family reunions, company picnics, neighborhood get-togethers, graduation parties, youth group events, and so on).

That’s all well and good, but I had in mind something a little more intimate.  In my younger life, I had the idea to have monthly theme dinners just for family – just to make memories for my kids.  January’s theme was Chinese New Year, where we dressed up, ate Chinese foods, listened to Asian music, played some sort of Chinese games after dinner, and totally immersed ourselves in Asian culture for a night.  February was Cajun foods, music, and culture.  March was Irish.  April was Polish or Italian.  May was Mexican or Caribbean.  June was Polynesian or African.  July was American (which encompasses everything from BBQ to Burgers, to Hot Dogs in every variety).  August was South American or Australian.  September was Russian or French. October was German.  November was American Indian.  And December was Indian or Mediterranean.  That was my plan.  It was so much my plan that I wrote a whole book about it, but then I kind of lost my focus.  <Sheepish shrug>   Well, thankfully God has given me grandchildren, and a whole renewed interest in introducing them to the cultures and foods, and sounds, and pastimes of the world.  And the great thing is … SUMMER IS COMING!!!!  Which makes it a great time to introduce the kids to something fun and interesting and chase away those summer doldrums, not to mention it’s all kind of educational as well.

JUNEPolynesian

Knickknacks, tanning mats, give a dog a fish bone.  The dollar store is a great place to look for decorations.  You can keep it simple (lay a bamboo tanning mat down on the table, set a tropical plant as a centerpiece, and lay out luau plates, cups, and silverware from the party store), or go hog-wild (outdoor party with mumus and sarongs, tiki lanterns, grass skirts, a limbo stick, kalua pig roasting on a spit, cold drinks in pineapples or coconuts, and a nice array of Makahiki games, Hawaiian crafts, and games).  Gotta have some Island music too (may I suggest Don Ho?), and maybe even get the kids ukuleles, and teach them to play an easy song.

After dinner, you can break out the limbo stick and challenge the kids to a contest, or try some hula hooping.  Then set the TV outside and gather the lawn chairs around for an outdoor movie night.  How about a marathon of old Gilligan’s Island reruns?  Or, for a real submersion into Hawaiian culture, make leis, learn to hula, set your back yard up with some of the Makahiki Games listed below, and watch a mesmerizing “Ha: Breath of Life” show on DVD.

Polynesian supper collage

Traditionally, a Hawaiian party would have deep pit roasted Kalua Pig, long rice (which is basically the same thing as Pad Thai rice noodles), some dish of sweet potatoes (purple), and Poi, or even Spam Musubi.  If it is your goal to introduce your family to Hawaiian culture, go with tradition.  I found some wonderful recipes HERE that I plan to try.

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Recipes

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COCONUT SHRIMP

Batter:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup dry white wine

   – – – –

1 lb large tail-on shrimp, peeled and deveined, and patted dry on paper towels

1  7-oz pkg shredded coconut

Instructions:  Place peanut oil in deep fryer and set temperature to 375 degrees.  Mix flour with wine until smooth.  When oil has reached temperature, dip about 5 of the shrimp, one at a time in batter and then roll in coconut.  Drop into deep fryer and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and curled.  Drain on paper towels.  Continue until all shrimp are cooked.

Melted jalapeno jelly makes a wonderful dipping sauce (remove lid from jar, warm in microwave about 1 min., stir and divide into little sauce cups).  Or see the sauce recipe later down on this page.  Serves 4

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SPICY POLYNESIAN WRAPS

Ingredients

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into 1 inch strips

1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk

1 cup uncooked long grain white rice

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 Tablespoons curry powder (hot or mild as you wish)

1 tablespoon garlic salt

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 limes

10 (10-inch, thin) colored flour tortillas wraps

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup chopped green onions

2 Serrano chilies, (seeds discarded) minced (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place the chicken and coconut milk in a bowl, and marinate in the refrigerator 1 hour.
  2. In a pot, bring the rice and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the flour, curry powder, and garlic salt. Drain the chicken, and discard marinade. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture to coat.
  4. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the coated chicken strips 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and juices run clear. Squeeze lime juice over chicken, and discard limes.
  5. On each tortilla, place equal amounts of rice, chicken, coconut, and green onions, and sprinkle desired amount of Serrano chilies. Wrap burrito style.

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POLYNESIAN DIPPING SAUCE (for shrimp, or wraps)

Ingredients

13 ounces coconut milk

2 teaspoons green curry paste

1 tablespoon grated gingerroot

1 tablespoon grated lime rind

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons lime juice

Directions: 

Place coconut milk in a skillet and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by a quarter – it should be the consistency of heavy cream. Stir in the green curry paste, ginger, lime rind, and sugar. Cook another 5 to 6 minutes or until sauce is thickened and fragrant. Stir in mint, cilantro, and lime juice. Cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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SPAM MUSUBI

3 cups cooked Sushi rice

4 sheets Spring Roll Wrappers (this is a MrsH modification: I’m not a fan of Nori)

1  12-oz can Spam

6 Tbsp Soy Sauce

6 Tbsp Hawaiian BBQ sauce

Furikake

I cut the end off of my Spam can with sissors to use to make my Musubi, and I used a wooden meat mallet to press the rice down.  After making my musubi I have decided Nori is just too healthy tasting for my taste, so after making it with Nori, I peeled the Nori off to eat it, and next time I’m going to try making it with rice paper (Spring Roll Wrappers) instead.  I also didn’t care for the Furikake (rice seasoning) because of the seaweed that was in it.  The one I used was Wasabi Fumi Furikake.  It had a good flavor that really does need to be there, but just warning you not to go hog wild with it if you aren’t a seaweed fan.  I do like wasabi and sesame.  And I added chopped green onion. Maybe there is a variety of Furikake without seaweed???

Spam Musubi

Prepare the Rice as per package instructions.  Allow to cool.  Meanwhile, cut the Spam into eight equal slices.  Fry the Spam in a frying pan until very crispy on both sides.  Mix soy sauce with BBQ sauce and pour over Spam.  Stir around and flip until sauce is carmelized onto the Spam.  Remove from heat.

This is the process for making the musubi:  (shown using Nori seaweed)

Musubi procedure

Cut each sheet of Nori in half.  Lay half a sheet down on a clean paper towel.  Place Musubi press (Spam can) in the center.  Add about a heaping tablespoon of rice and press down.  Add a sprinkle of Furikake.  Place a slice of Spam on top.  Sprinkle with more Furikake and add another heaping tablespoon of rice.  Press it all down firmly and hold down while lifting can off.  Wrap Nori around.  Cut each finished roll on the diagonal and serve.  *Below is what Musubi looks like without the seaweed wrapper.  I wrapped my musubi up in plastic and refrigerated them overnight.  The next day I removed from fridge, peeled off the Nori, and cut them into bite-size slices.  Much better!

Spam Musubi naked

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HAWAIIAN SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE

5 medium Sweet Potatoes, baked in 350*F oven for 1 hour, until soft

2 green bananas, diced

1 cup diced and crushed fresh pineapple

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp salt

 Juice of 1 lime (also the zest)

2 Tbsp Cocunut syrup (may substitute honey)

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup crushed macadamia nuts

After potatoes have cooled, peel the skins off and discard skins.  Slice the potatoes into inch thick slices and lay in a single layer in a buttered oblong baking dish.  Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and drizzle with melted butter.  Add a layer of pineapple and bananas.  Press down with a spatula to mash the potatoes slightly.  Mix lime juice with coconut syrup and pour over potatoes evenly.  Sprinkle with coconut and macadamia nuts in an even layer.  Cover and bake in a 300*F oven for about 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 15 mintues until toasted on top.  You can also broil the dish for a few minutes to toast the top if you wish.

DSCN8864

 

HAWAIIAN LONG RICE  (MrsH’s super easy version)

Cook a box of Pad Thai rice noodles as directed on package.  Drain off most of the water, but leave the noodles a little soupy.  Add a can of Campbells Creamy Chicken soup to the noodles and stir to mix.  Serve with chopped green onion for garnish.

DSCN8867

 

GRILLED PINEAPPLE

DSCN8871

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Dessert

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ISLANDER’S COCONUT CREAM PIE

1 prepared pie crust, baked as directed for cream pies

1 package of vanilla pudding, the kind that cooks, not instant

1 package coconut flakes

1 container of Cool Whip with 1 tsp. rum mixed in

Broken, slivered almonds

Cook pudding as package directs using 1/2 cup less liquid.  Add 1 cup of the flaked coconut to the pudding and stir to mix.  Pour into prepared crust and spread to fill evenly.  Chill until set.  Spread Cool Whip over pudding in piecrust.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flaked coconut and then almonds over the top.  Chill to set.

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HAWAIIAN PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

Ingredients

1 8-oz can Dole pineapple slices, drained  (reserve juice for serving)

1 stick butter

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

6 maraschino cherries, halved

In an large oblong cake pan melt butter and stir in brown sugar.  Arrange pineapple slices next to each other in three rows of four. Place a half of a cherry in the center of each pineapple.

Cake Ingredients

2 ½ cups All-Purpose flour

3 tsp. Baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 stick butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 tsp Vanilla

2 eggs

1 ½ cups milk (or substitute Coconut Milk)

Combine dry ingredients and set aside.  Beat softened butter with sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time beating after each.  Stir in dry ingredients and milk.  Beat with a mixer until thick and creamy.  Pour over pineapple slices in large baking pan.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.  Serve warm.  If you desire your cake a little more moist, drizzle with reserved pineapple juice.

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Beverages

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DSCN7466

Iced Thai Tea, my latest addiction!!!!!

THAI TEA

1 pkg Thai Black Tea bags (available at World Market)

Water

Sweetener (sugar, agave nectar, honey, Stevia, as you prefer)

Half & Half

Place 8 teabags and 8 cups of water in a saucepot and bring just to the steaming point on high heat on the stovetop, and then remove from heat. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.  The tea will become dark orange colored.  Add whatever choice of sweetener to taste, I like this tea a little on the sweet side.  When the tea has cooled, pour it into a pitcher and chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

To serve:  Pour tea over ice in a tall glass.  Gently add Half & Half by the Tablespoonfuls until the top 1/4 of the glass is filled.  Add a straw and serve.  Let guests stir the cream into the tea before drinking.

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TROPICAL SMOOTHIES

Ingredients

1/2 ripe mango (peeled and seeded)

 1/2 ripe papaya (peeled and seeded)

 1 ripe banana

 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

 1/2 cup Cream of Coconut

 1/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt

 1 tsp. honey

 2 cups ice

Directions

In a blender, mix mango, papaya, banana, orange juice, coconut cream, yogurt, honey, and ice. Blend until velvety.  Serve in martini glasses and garnish with mini skewers of pineapple chunks.

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Other Adult Beverage options: 

Fire Rock Pale Ale (beer) or Spearhead Pale Ale

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Cocktails

FROZEN MAI TAI

1 cup of ice

1 oz. light rum

1/2 oz. dark rum

1/2 oz. Apricot Brandy

1/2 cup fresh or canned pineapple

Splash of sour mix & Splash of orange juice

Blend all ingredients in a blender for 4 seconds on low speed.  Garnish with lime and orange slices, and a little paper umbrella. I f you want to make it non-alcoholic just use 1/2 tsp of brandy flavoring  and 1 1/2 tsp of rum flavoring in a half a cup of soda water with the other ingredients.

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CAPTAIN MORGAN’S Piña COLADA

1/2 cup ice

2 oz. light rum

2 Tablespoons Cream of Coconut

1/2 fresh or canned pineapple

1 Tablespoon vanilla ice cream

Pineapple chunks, cherries, umbrellas for garnish

In blender blend until smooth.  If too thick add fruit or juice.  If too thin add ice or ice cream.  Garnish with Pineapple and Cherry, and a little paper umbrella.  You can use a mix to make these if you would rather… and you can make them non-alcoholic by substituting rum flavoring and soda water.

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Traditional Island games

Walk on Hot Coals

Dig a shallow pit about three feet wide by six feet long and fill it with charcoals.  Add starter fluid to get the charcoals burning.  Cover them completely with medium-sized smooth rocks and let the rocks get hot.  Any guests who are brave or foolish enough may hop across the rocks with their bare feet.

 ‘O‘O Ihe  (Spear Throwing)

Spear throwing contests were held to display strength and skill for fighting and food gathering. A target, sometimes the stalk of a banana plant, is set up and contestants stand some 15 feet away and attempt to stick a lightweight wooden spear in it.  Watch the video below, which features spear throwing and other traditional games.

A great alternative for the littler ones would be the inflatable Fish Spearing Game at Party America.com or Party City.com, if they still carry it as of the time of this writing.  If not, this is what it looks like and you can make your own version out of a an old toilet seat (padded and decorated) and a bamboo stick.  Hang it in a tree in the corner of the yard.

6bedf0ce9cdeef846561af7ba41afaae-game-party-beach-party

‘Ulu Maika’ (Rolling Stones)

Based on ancient Hawaiian Makahiki games, this game is played similar to horseshoes.  Stones somewhat resembling modern hockey pucks were rolled between stakes on specially prepared courses to test a player’s skills, or rolled down long courses to show strength. One of the best of the remaining ‘ulu maika courses, approximately 500 feet long, is located on the island of Moloka’i.

luau-party-games-2

Moa Pahe‘e (Dart Sliding)

Using a wooden dart, which resembles a very small bat without the little grip stop on the end (maybe 8” long) with the skinny end and the fat end, you grasp the skinny end and toss the dart like a bowling ball between two stakes.

BPA400028

Conch Blowing

Blowing a conch shell takes skill: you have to know how to purse your lips, where to place them for the best sound, and how hard to blow. (The sounds made by a novice are hilarious!)

Foot Races

Ancient Hawaiians used to hold foot races to see which warrior was the fastest.  You can hold single person races, three legged races, and backwards running races.  Watch the first video above, under spear throwing, for an example.

“Haka Moa”

Type of Hawaiian Luau fighting.  The contestants do not use their hands, and can only stand on one foot, and try to knock their opponent out of the ring.

Tug O’ War

To play this game you will need a 20’ length of rope, a 6’ length of rope, and a bandana.

Divide your guests into two equal teams.  Choose a large grassy or sandy area to play.  Place the 6’ rope on the ground in the middle of the chosen area.  This marks the centerline.  Have teams line up in single file on either side of the centerline, arms length apart.  Tie the bandana in the center of the 20’ rope and place over the centerline.  Each player grabs the tugging rope and at the signal tries to pull the first member of the other team over the centerline.

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Card Games

HIGO BANA

This is a card game played with special Hana Fuda cards.  I was introduced to it by a friend whose mother was Japanese.  She gave me a set of these cards many, many years ago.  I’ve even forgotten how to play it has been so long.  So I went online to see if I could find the rules.  How thrilling to find that this game is played by native Hawaiians under a different name.  The cards do not have numbers on them, only beautiful pictures, but they have point values.  Along with the rules I found some vendors who sell the cards.

  • Rules to Higo Bana were found at these web sites:

http://www.gamecabinet.com/letters/Hanafuda6.html

http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/avenue/pd49/pockets/games/higobana.htm

Compare them for a better understanding of the game.

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Crafts

Make leis  (wikihow)

Make Tiki face masks  (look for ideas on Pinterest and this easy one from Crayola)

Make grass skirts  (wikihow)

Make palm leaf place mats

 

Other Activities

Translate Your Family’s Names into Hawaiian  

There are only 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet: A, E, H, I K, L, M, N, O, P, U and W. The consonants H, K, L, M, N, P, and W are pronounced exactly as in English. If a name ends in a consonant, add a vowel. Always place a vowel between consonants. The following conversion table can be helpful in translating names:

Pronunciation of Vowels

A – ah
E – ay
I – ee
O – oh
U – oo

English Consonant

= Hawaiian Consonant

B, F, P P
C, D, G, J, K, S, T, X, Z K
L, R L
V, W W
J, Y I

 

Name Translation Examples:

Colleen = Kaliline                    Gracee = Kalakee                     Patty = Pakaki

Matthew = Makahewe           Carrie = Kalalie

Danielle = Kanielele               Michael = Mikala

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Face Painting

Hawaiian Face Painting

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General Hawaiian Customs

Add some true Island spice to your dinner with genuine Island customs:

Placing a lei over someone’s head is the customary way to welcome or congratulate them.  If the person is close in relationship to you, you would give them a honihoni (kiss) also.  Leis are usually made of flowers, but can also be made of candies or other decorative items.  And when your lei starts to fade and die, don’t toss it in the trash.  It is bad luck to throw a lei away.  A lei is love and you would never throw love away.  Rather cut the string and cast the flowers into the sea or hang the lei outside until it is gone.

I love that it is the custom in Hawaii for young ones to refer to older people as “auntie” or “uncle” when they are old family friends or neighbors of the parents.  That is how we raised our kids to do.  In Hawaii it is appropriate even to address a stranger as “auntie” or “uncle.”  It is friendly yet respectful.

You would never walk into someone’s home in the islands with shoes on.  And it is good manners to bring a small gift with you, possibly a dessert, when visiting someone’s home.  There is a pidgin phrase, “Make Plate” or “Take Plate” that also shows good guest manners.  When you have been invited to share a meal at someone’s home it is customary that you make a plate of food of the leftovers to take home, even if you don’t intend to eat it.  By doing this you are being a good guest and not leaving the mess for the host to clean up and put away.  Many times all the leftovers are packaged up and taken to the homeless.

Unless you are at a sporting event, it is considered rude to talk loudly, or to act like you are entitled to special treatment.  Politeness and reserve are considered a show of good breeding.

Dress is casual, aloha shirts and slacks are worn in place of suits and ties in business, and it is considered rude to stare or look someone in the eye for too long in public places.  And when you go away on a trip it is considered thoughtful to bring back gifts “makana” from your journey.  Most prized are special foods that are unavailable at home.

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I’m so happy you stopped by, and I pray your family supper night is such a huge hit that it becomes a favorite monthly tradition.  God bless!

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“Let love be without hypocrisy…be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another…distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”   Romans 12:9-13

 

365 Random Acts of Kindness

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365 Random Acts of Kindness

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”  Matthew 7:21

Sobering thought, isn’t it?

So, what is God’s will?  Well, honestly that would make a terrific Bible study.  There are lots of hints in scripture, “thou shalt not kill,” “thou shalt not steal,” “honor your father and your mother,” “ to “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?”  To not just bless people and tell them we will pray for them, but to give them what they need, when it is within our power to do so.  The following set of cards would make a terrific Bible Study.

 

RACards

 

Random Acts cardsA

It has been on my heart for some time to create this little set of cards, as a way to get in the habit of “hearing God’s word, and doing it  every day!  I had pictured in my mind a nice laminated set of cards, placed in a nice, sturdy, decorated recipe box or basket in the center of my kitchen table.

Each card would feature a daily scripture and a suggested daily random act of kindness. Card 24

Each morning, as I sipped my coffee, I could draw out one of these cards, read the scripture, then flip it over for a suggestion on how to be a doer of God’s word that day.

At the end of the day I could thank God for giving me seeds to sow, and also pray for the people touched by His love.

In the process I would become a pretty good expert on God’s will, and also hopefully have some fruit to show for this wonderful redeemed life He has blessed me with.

Creating this set of cards was such a huge project, it seems a waste to keep it all to myself.  Me thinks there is possibly someone else out there in cyberland who would LOVE to have a set of them, someone who might want to do this little project with me, or with family, or youth group, or a women’s group.  Or maybe print a set to give away to someone as a gift – like a teenager, who is going off to college?

Be doers of the Word

At the bottom of this post I have provided you with the links to download my pdf files of the cards I created.

There is one file for the front design of the cards, and another file for the back side of the cards.  First you’ll want to print one side and then the other on 8.5 X 11″ sheets of light card stock, then cut them apart.  If you have a laminator you can laminate them to make them more durable and waterproof.

Or, if you’d like a nicer quality set you can save the files and take them to your local print shop and have them print the cards for you on a nice card stock.  There are 91 pages in the file (file size is 185.5 KB), and so whatever your print shop charges for full color copies (Staples charges about .47 for color 8.5X11), multiply that times two for 2 sided color copies.

If color printing is too expensive, you can print them in black and white and they will turn out just fine.  Or maybe your employer would let you print them at work if you bring your own paper or card stock???

If you want to skip making the cards, here are some ideas for random acts that you can print out and keep in your Bible:

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RANDOM ACTS AT WORK:

Be generous with praise. Thank others often. Pitch in and help when a coworker is overwhelmed (sometimes because of the death of a loved one, or recovery from an illness or accident, etc., or just learning the job).  Leave a small gift (book, music CD, pretty pen, Starbucks gift card, etc.) in their mailbox, just because. Surprise someone with flowers, or balloons, whom you notice never receives such things.

“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

RANDOM ACTS AT CHURCH:

Offer to clean an elderly member’s home. Take an elderly member to a doctor appointment. Take a casserole dinner to a new mom and help her fold clothes. Offer babysitting to a young couple for a date night. Rake leaves or shovel snow for a shut-in, or someone recovering from surgery.  Buy groceries for the pastor/wife. Pick up a friend and take them to church with you. Take a new member to breakfast or lunch.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10 ESV

RANDOM ACTS IN THE COMMUNITY:

Here is an awesome and really fun sounding idea to do with our small groups (church cell groups) that a friend posted on Facebook:

“Oh my goodness! What fun and what a blessing. My church has a number of small groups that meet once a week for more intimate fellowship, Bible study and  service to our community. We are doing a weekly service in our town called “Acts of Random Kindness.” We arrive with a list of acts of kindness we will do, in an hour, as we break up in smaller teams and compete with each other to accomplish the acts and make it back to our host house ahead of other teams. We ran off and paid for people’s groceries, went to gas stations and paid for gas for people and cleaned their windshields, gave flowers to unsuspecting random recipients, gave tips to waitresses without receiving their service, filled washers and dryers with quarters for people at public laundry mats, sang to fast food counter servers and retail sales persons, dropped gift baskets at random houses, read an encouraging poem to a person we came across, and many other acts that let people know they are special and that we care. The way people responded to us was so touching. I didn’t want the giving to stop. I told our leader that it reminded me of when I was a teen and we would do Chinese fire drills. Our adrenaline ran wild. As teams, we ran to each service, all participated, and then we ran back to the car laughing and feeling great about the lives we touched. I could do this every day! I received more than I gave. I think that was the lesson to each of us participating. It is such a joy to give. And…to give randomly, to whoever we see in front of us at the time. I encourage everyone to open your eyes to people you can show kindness to whether you think they deserve it or not.”

“He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13

RANDOM ACTS AT HOME:

Leave a little note of encouragement in children’s lunchboxes or backpacks.  Leave a sweet note on the mirror for spouse. Send a love text or prayer of encouragement to spouse during the day. Warm up and scrape the ice off of spouse’s vehicle – or turn on the  A/C so the car is cool before they go to work.  Surprise spouse with a little gift in their car, or on their side of the bed, or sitting next to their favorite chair in the living room (a new book, a new pair of pajamas, new socks, new gloves, movie tickets, new tool, lotion, candybar, flowers, etc.), just because.

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8

RANDOM ACTS FOR FRIENDS:

Send a card. Invite to lunch. Leave a small gift (potted plant, bottle of wine, bag of groceries, magazine/newspaper/book, a pretty wreath for their door, etc.) on the doorstep. Invite them to a pedicure. Make a mammogram appointment together and go pick her up. Invite to go shopping (clothes, antiques, farmer’s market, etc.). Invite to a play or movie.

“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” 1 John 3:17-18

RANDOM ACTS FOR NEIGHBORS:

Shovel their sidewalks while they are at work. Pull their weeds.  Leave a potted plant on their doorstep. Invite them for supper. Visit with them over the fence.  Help them wash their car, work on their car, repair a fence, etc. if you see them out doing that. Mow their yard while they are at work. Make a pretty wreath for their door.

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27

 

Random Acts3

FREE PRINTABLE>>>>>Click Here for the RA365 cards front design

(This is one page of the front side design.  91 copies of this one page will be needed for one set of cards, or 92 copies if printing the extra page of blank cards).

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RAC blank cards

FREE PRINTABLE>>>>Click Here for Random Acts one page of blank cards

(This is one page of blank cards, for writing down your own suggestions, or replacing cards in my set that don’t seem relevant to you).

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RACards

FREE PRINTABLE >>>>Click Here for Random Acts 365 Cards FULL SET – 91 pages

(This is the whole set of cards.  It is 91 pages in length, 4 cards per page)

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Bless you my friend.  And let us not grow weary in doing good, for we shall reap a harvest if we do not give up!

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“Then the righteous will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and took You in? Or naked, and clothed You?  And when did we see You ailing or in prison, and came to You?’  “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Matthew 25:37-40

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs H’s Tacos

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Mrs H’s Tacos

Get ready for TACO TUESDAY!!!!!!  This might be one of the more coveted recipes in my collection.  I am often asked how I make my tacos.  It is also a frequent request for Family Supper night by daughter, son-in-law, and the grandkids.  It’s one of my husband’s favorite dinners, and really one of my favorites too!!!!  Quick and easy!!!!

Let’s start with the meat

Taco meat

I use 2 lb. of quality ground beef (to feed 4 adults and 2 kids) – a good organic, grass fed, angus beef.  I break it apart in a frying pan and toss while cooking over medium high heat until browned.  Drain off and discard the fat .  I then sprinkle 2 packets of Lawry’s Taco Seasoning Mix over the meat, and then I fill the empty packets with water and pour the water over the seasoning and stir it well into the meat, with the heat turned down to medium low.  To this I add about a half cup of salsa (fresh or canned) and stir that altogether.  I then let the meat simmer on low heat until the tacos are ready to assemble.

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The meat will become drier the longer it simmers.  I personally like it dry so that it doesn’t make the bottom of my tacos soggy.  I don’t like when they fall apart and all the stuffing falls out.

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Pico de gallo

I use about 1 1/2 cup of chopped sweet cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup chopped fresh jalapenos, and 1 cup chopped green onions (or a small sweet white onion if I don’t have green onions on hand), then add about 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 2 cloves of garlic minced, the juice of two limes, and a sprinkle of salt to taste.  If the jalapenos are really mild, I sometimes add a pinch of cayenne for some kick.

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Toppings

I chop one whole bunch of Romaine lettuce into small shreds.

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I like to shred my own cheese (pepper jack) when I’m feeling ambitious, but often use a Mexican cheese blend that is pre-shredded already.

Taco Shells

Taco Shells

I buy the small Old El Paso brand taco shells (2 pkgs to feed my family of 4 adults and 2 kids because the men will easily eat 6 tacos apiece or more).

Taco Shells in oven

I preheat my oven to 360*F, and set the shells in a baking pan.  When the oven is ready I pop the pan of shells in for about 6 minutes, or whatever time is recommended on the package.  This is an important step because it makes the shells nice and crispy!!!

 

 

Taco Sauce

I actually use a variety of sauces.  I like to try new ones.  The green tomatillo Herdez or La Costena hot sauces (medium) are both really good standbys.  I like the Taco Bell hot sauce (Diablo), and the DelPrimo sauces are all good.  But my favorite of recent is El Gallo flame roasted Jalapeno.  It comes in a bag with a little screw top spout (medium).

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To assemble the tacos I remove the shells from the oven and quickly fill them with meat, dispersing it evenly among the shells.  I sprinkle cheese over the meat in each shell, and then add the lettuce.  They each then get a spoonful of my fresh Pico and a generous pour of tomatillo taco sauce.  That’s it!  Mmmmmm…. let’s eat!!!!!!

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Now some people might like to add chopped black olives, maybe some sour cream, possibly some sliced avacado, and that’s all good, but personally, I can’t bear to mess with perfection.

If you’d like to add a couple of sides, I love charros or refries and Mexican Rice.  And you can never go wrong with Sopapilla Cheesecake for dessert!!!!!  Hubby washes his meal down with a good Modelo cerveza!  I just like iced tea.  Gracee will take a Margarita, if I make her one, and the kids like horchata.

Hey, while we are enjoying our Family Supper, may I share with you from the book One Year of Dinner Table Devotions & Discussion starters by Nancy Guthrie (published by Tyndale)?

 

Devotion

Oooo Eeee Cajun Feast

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Oooo Eeee Cajun Feast

Whether you are looking for a fun dinner party for Mardi Gras, or just LOVE hot and spicy Cajun food in the middle of the winter, these recipes will have you smacking your lips for more.  This is a collection of my most favorite Cajun recipes.  Good luck choosing which dishes to make first.  If you are like me, you’ll want to just celebrate NOLA for the whole month of February with a different Cajun dinner each weekend!

This was one of my favorite meals I did with my family one year for my dad’s birthday, and also on another occasion with my cooking club friends.  It’s a ton of fun!  Be careful though, it’s a little bit of a choke-fest if you do the crab boil indoors.  Plan to have some sort of good ventilation, or else cook that dish outdoors.

One the Menu:

Crab Boil at Sarah's

SHRIMP & CRAB BOIL

Shrimp Gumbo bowl4

SAUSAGE & CHICKEN GUMBO

Bananas Foster at Sarahs

BANANAS FOSTER

SHRIMP ETOUFFEE

If you buy an Etouffee mix and add shrimp or crawfish to it, you’ll end up with something that resembles brown gravy over rice with crawfish in it. It has a good flavor, but nothing beats homemade! I like mine on the spicy side, so I am fairly generous with the cayenne! The trick to getting just the right spice is to add some in the beginning, some during cooking, and some at the end.

2 lb Good Quality Shrimp, Peeled and Deveined
          (Use the shells to make a shrimp stock – recipe below)

2 Tbsp Creole Seasoning
          Make your own: 2 Tbsp Paprika, 1 Tbsp Cayenne powder, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 1 Tbsp onion powder, 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper, 1 Tbsp kosher salt, 1 tsp packed brown sugar, 1 tsp each freeze-dried chive, thyme, oregano, and cilantro. Whirl in a coffee grinder or Bullet until blended and a fine powder. Store in a tightly sealed container. Use within 1 year.

4 Tbsp Butter
½ Cup Onion, Chopped
¼ Cup Celery, Chopped
¼ Cup Bell Pepper, Chopped
¼ Cup Flour
1 ½ Cups Shrimp Stock
¾ Cup fresh Tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp minced Garlic
I bundle of Fresh Thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Hot Sauce (Crystal or Louisiana Gold)
Also: salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste
½ Cup Green Onions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp minced Italian Parsley
3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
Rice (I like Comet Long Grain Rice, prepared as directed on the package)

Place shrimp in a Ziploc bag. Season with 1 Tbsp of the Creole Seasoning and shake to coat on all sides. Store in refrigerator until later.

Make the shrimp stock now, recipe follows. Cook the rice. I usually cook mine and then set it off the burner without lifting the lid and let it rest for a while (maybe 20 to 30 minutes) to let it dry out a little. These three things can be done the day before and stored in the fridge.

Melt the butter in a large skillet; add the onions, celery, and bell pepper. Sauté until translucent. Whisk in the flour to make a blonde roux, stirring constantly, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp Creole Seasoning.

Add a small amount of the shrimp stock, stir well to form a paste, add the remaining stock gradually, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. You may need a little more stock, but the end result should be the consistency of a gravy, not too thick, not too thin.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, Worcestershire, and hot sauce, salt to taste (yes, taste it), black pepper, and cayenne. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Add the seasoned shrimp that’s been holding in the fridge, green onions, and parsley, simmer for 10 minutes more or until the shrimp are cooked through. Stir in the 3 Tbsp butter, and adjust the seasonings to taste.

Serve over hot cooked Rice. If the rice was prepared the day before it can be reheated in the microwave for a minute or two. Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main dish.

Shrimp Stock Recipe

The Shells and tails from 2 lb. of Shrimp
½ Cup chopped Onion
¼ Cup chopped Celery
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Lemon sliced
2 Fresh Bay Leaves
3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 tsp. Black Peppercorns

Add all ingredients to a 2 qt. saucepan. Cover this with cold water, it should be about 6-8 Cups. You’ll need 1 ½ Cups for the Etouffee. Bring almost to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Strain.
Tip: When adding fresh Thyme to a simmered dish like this, I always bundle the Thyme tightly with butchers twine. The leaves will remove themselves while cooking, and you will get all of the flavor from the stems. When ready to serve just remove the bundle of stems along with your bay leaves.

(This recipe was adapted from one found HERE )

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Gumbo.

CAJUN SEAFOOD GUMBO (or Chicken and Sausage Gumbo)

Ingredients

12 ounces fresh or frozen peeled and deveined shrimp (or 2 chicken breasts)

6 ounces fresh or frozen crabmeat (or Andouille sausage)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup cooking oil

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped red sweet pepper

½ cup chopped green sweet pepper, &/or 2 jalapenos

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon ground red pepper, more to taste

3 cups chicken broth, heated

1 14-1/2-ounce can tomatoes, cut up

1-1/2 cups sliced okra or one 10-ounce package frozen cut okra

2 bay leaves

3 cups hot cooked rice

Directions:
1. Thaw shrimp and crab, if frozen (or cut chicken into bite-size pieces and brown in butter in a frying pan).

For roux, in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven combine flour and oil until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium. Cook and stir about 10 minutes more or until roux is light peanut-butter-brown.

2. Stir in onion, red sweet pepper, green sweet pepper, garlic, salt, black pepper, and ground red pepper. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are just crisp-tender, stirring often.

3. Gradually stir in hot chicken broth. Stir in undrained tomatoes, okra, and bay leaves. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

4. Stir in shrimp, and crabmeat (or andouille). Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes more or until shrimp turn opaque and oysters curl around the edges. Discard bay leaves. Serve in bowls with rice. Makes 6 servings. For extra heat add Creole seasoning, cayenne, or Louisiana Hot Sauce.

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JAMBALAYA

I like the boxed Zatarains mix, and usually add leftover cooked chicken, andouille sausage, and shrimp (or crawfish) to it. Easy-peasy!

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CRAB BOIL

1 box Zatarains Crab Boil
1 whole Dungeness crab, or 1 pound king or snow crab legs
1 pound crawfish
2 pounds shrimp (whole, or shell on)
1 bag small red or fingerling potatoes
1 pound Andouille sausage
4 cobs of corn on the cob, broken into 2 inch pieces
Cajun seasoning (like Slap Yo Mama)
Garlic butter (3 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced, and added to 3 sticks melted butter)

Instructions

Using either a large soup pot with a lid or electric turkey fryer, fill with 3 quarts water. Bring to boil and add salt, plus 1 bag of Zatarain’s Crab Boil (if doing this indoors you will want all the windows and doors open because of the fumes – best done outdoors), 1 lemon quartered, and cayenne pepper to taste. Place the basket inside your fryer. If you are using a soup pot you will just have to pour the liquid out at the end and catch your pot contents with the lid or in a colander. Drop in crab and boil vigorously for 5 minutes (unless you are using precooked frozen, in which case you will add it with the shrimp at the end). Add potatoes and broken cobs of corn to the pot and boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Add the crawfish, chunks of andouille, and shrimp. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow seafood to remain in water for 5 minutes after boiling.

Lift contents from water or drain water off (save, strain, and freeze for use in other dishes). Drizzle seafood with melted butter and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Toss to coat. Cover your table with a plastic tablecloth; lay a beach towel or two over that and then lay butcher paper over the whole top. Dump the pot contents out on the butcher paper, in the center of the table. Place lemon wedges and extra cups of garlic butter around. Let everyone help themselves, eating with their fingers. You will want to have plenty of paper towels nearby and possibly bibs. Be sure to have some crab crackers and forks available too.

Crab Boil at Sarah's

Photo by Sarah Gaitan

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Sandwiches (for a luncheon)

Poor Boy  (<<< click the link for a great recipe, and little story about how the Poor Boy originated)

Shrimp Po’ Boy  (<<< click this link for a killer recipe for this sandwich)

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Muffaletta

I got super lucky one day and found little bundles in my grocery store’s (HEB) lunchmeat counter of the three meats for this sandwich.  The packages were nestled in among the shredded cheeses, near the Lunchables section.  The bundles contained the three meats grouped on top of each other and laid on parchment paper, and then stacked on top of each other, enough for four sandwiches.  I bought two packages feeling very lucky, because it is impossible to find mortadella or cappicola in my town.  And to my chagrin I’ve never seen them again.  My HEB carries foccacia, but doesn’t carry the bread boules or the Olive Salad, so I’m sure the meat was a mistake purchase, but Walmart carries the Olive salad, and often has bread boules, the clam chowder size ones.

So, this is a link to Emeril’s recipe (simple) for the sandwich.  And this is another little bit more involved recipe I found in a recent search.

3 Cajun Supper

Beverages:

COFFEE AU LAIT
6 rounded tablespoons dark roast New Orleans coffee with chicory (Café Du Monde or Community Coffee)
6 cups water
6 cups milk

Brew your coffee in a drip coffeemaker and serve with half coffee and half scalded (not steamed!) milk.
Scald, do NOT boil, the milk. Pour coffee into warmed large mugs, then add the milk. If you like yours sweet, add two teaspoons of sugar to the cup. YIELD: 12 cups

Iced Tea

Make a gallon of sun tea using a family size tea bag (black and orange pekoe tea) and fresh, filtered, cool water. Set your glass container in the sun and let it brew until a rich brown color, about an hour or so on a hot summer day. Remove tea bag and chill in the refrigerator. I am a big fan of the cold brew tea bags! Just fill your container, add tea bags, and put in fridge. It brews in no time, is never cloudy, and tastes pretty darn close to the sun brewed.

In the south they love their tea sweet. It is easy to serve both sweet and unsweet by making a simple syrup that will dissolve quickly in iced liquids. You can make a quart of simple syrup by dissolving 5-6 cups of sugar in 3 cups of cold water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it’s dissolved and clear, cool and pour into a bottle with a lid. Store in the refrigerator – writing the date that you made it on the jar. If you notice it starts to turn cloudy or get moldy, toss it and make some fresh. Use for sweetening tea, coffee and cocktails. If you’re not going to use it right away, dilute it with 6 more cups of water and fill your hummingbird feeders.

Abita Amber beer

Mardi Gras 2

Cocktails:

SAZERAC
1 teaspoon of simple syrup (see recipe above) 3 – 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters 2 ounces rye whiskey (most New Orleans bars use Old Overholt) ¼ teaspoon Herbsaint, a New Orleans brand of anise liqueur (You may use Pernod, or some other pastis or absinthe substitute) Strip of lemon peel

The traditional method: Pack a 3-1/2 ounce old-fashioned glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, moisten a sugar cube with just enough water to saturate it, then crush. Blend with the whiskey and bitters. Add a few cubes of ice and stir to chill. Discard the ice from the first glass and pour in the Herbsaint. Coat the inside of the entire glass, pouring out the excess. Strain the whiskey into the Herbsaint coated glass. Twist the lemon peel over the glass so that the lemon oil cascades into the drink, then rub the peel over the rim of the glass; do not put the twist in the drink).

HURRICANE (It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!)
1 ounces light rum
1 ounces dark rum (151 proof)
1.5 ounce orange juice
1.5 ounce fresh lime juice (NOT Rose’s or RealLime)
1/3 cup passion fruit juice or 1 tablespoon passion fruit syrup
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 teaspoon grenadine
Cherries with stems, and orange slice to garnish
Ice cubes

In a cocktail shaker, mix the rum, passion fruit juice or syrup, the other juices and the sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add the grenadine, and stir to combine, then add ice and shake. Half-fill a hurricane glass with ice, then strain drink into glass; add ice to fill. Garnish with orange slice and cherries.
Option: If you’d like something easier, look at your local liquor mart for packets of Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Mix and follow directions.

Desserts:

Bananas Foster at Sarahs.

COLLEEN’S BANANAS FOSTER
This photo was taken at a cooking club gathering, by the host.  We were joking that she was getting evidence photos to explain to her insurance agent how we burned her house down.  Ha!  This is not entirely the traditional way of making true Bananas Foster, because I am not a huge fan of mushy bananas, plus I like lots of sauce. I’ve made this a few times and this is the way I personally like it best. It’s sooooo easy, but your guests will oooo and ahhhh (or take fear photos) at your flame-boyant cooking panache. You’ll want to make this where your guests can see you.

INGREDIENTS
1 stick butter
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup banana liqueur
½ cup of dark rum
4 bananas, cut in slices (I like mine still with a hint of green & no brown spots)
1 carton vanilla ice cream (1 large scoop per guest)

INSTRUCTIONS

Melt butter in a deep-sided skillet. Add brown sugar and cinnamon, and let cook until sugar is melted and sauce is bubbly. Slowly add banana liquor and gently stir until just warmed. Slowly add dark rum and gently stir until just warmed. Remove pan from heat and ignite with a long-stemmed BBQ lighter. Carefully stir with a long-handled spoon until flames subside. Place pan back on the stove with the burner off. Add the banana slices and gently toss with warm sauce (I don’t like mushy bananas, so that’s why I only add them at the end).

Place ice cream in serving dishes and top with several banana slices from the pan. Spoon warm sauce over ice cream and serve immediately.

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MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE

Ingredients

1 Oreo cookie pie crust

2 pints coffee ice cream, softened slightly

1/3 cup chocolate fudge topping

1 cup whipped cream

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

Directions: Spoon softened ice cream evenly into chilled crust. Drizzle fudge topping over ice cream then return pie to freezer for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, decorate with whipped cream and sprinkle with almonds. Makes one 9-inch pie.

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BEIGNETS
These are heavenly little donuts that go spectacularly with Coffee au lait. I recommend the cooking class recipe offered at Southern Living .  My HEB carries the box mixes.

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KING CAKE

A King Cake is basically the same recipe as a giant cinnamon roll made into a “crown” shape (Monkey Bread in a Bundt pan would work fine), and the icing is covered in purple, yellow, and green colored sugar, and heaped on top. It is sometimes decorated with glitter sprinkles, mardi gras beads, or masks.  Also, a tiny plastic baby is hidden in the dough before the cake is baked.  When the cake is served at a Mardi Gras party, the guest who ends up with the baby in their serving must host the next soiree!

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~ DURING & AFTER DINNER ENTERTAINMENT ~

Background Music: Zydeco Stomp CD, or a New Orleans Jazz CD, some Hank Williams Jr., or a good Harry Connick Jr. album.

Play a game: Gambling is a big thing in New Orleans on the river boats. Decorate a room of your house to look like a Riverboat.  Play card, dice, and domino games, or the game Wits & Wagers.   Another game with a NOLA theme is Party Gras (which is a game played all night during other activities using Mardi gras beads – similar to the clothes pin game played at baby showers).

 

 

Watch a movie: Mark Twain – A Film Directed by Ken Burns (2002) would be a  good choice for documentary watchers.  Streetcar named Desire (an oldie).  The Frog Prince (for families with kids).  Double Jeopardy with Ashley Judd, is set partially in New Orleans.  Ghost Rider, with Nicholas Cage.

You could also use this meal as a great starter for a video Bible study (the one I am thinking of is Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, as it was filmed entirely on location in New Orleans, both the original and the revised versions, and is an excellent small-group Bible study) to get started in your home with your friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.  After dinner you could play the introductory video, pass out the workbooks, and get it started.

 

~ A Reluctant Hostess’s Bag of Parlor Tricks for Social Occasions ~

 

Conversation Cards

Conversation Starters for the Table

Okay, the day of my party has arrived.  The food is cooked.  The table is set.  My guests are beginning to arrive.  I’ve shown each where to stash their coats and purses, and pointed them to the beverage station.  I have a few things to finish up in the kitchen, but also want to warmly greet each person who arrives, never-the-less in my flushed and busy chaos I can’t forget what it feels like to be the guest.  I’ve been a guest.  I know very well the inevitable awkward little spaces of time when introverted people start to sweat a little.  I know what it feels like to be out of my comfort zone.  If I don’t know the host very well, or any of the other invited guests, it is easy for me to feel a little bit ruffled.  I’m not sure where to sit or stand, or who to go and mingle with.  I wonder if it would be rude to sit at the table, or okay to hang with the ladies in the kitchen.

Life is so much easier for Sanguines and extroverts.  I  appreciate having them in my life.  I am honestly sooooo much better at coming up with ideas for parties: food, decorations, music, and games, than I am at the social aspects.  It’s probably my biggest hurdle to being hospitable.  I’m not so much worried about my house being clean enough, or putting on airs with a lot of nice things.  It’s the social part that gives me a heart attack.  I usually won’t go out on a limb to invite people over unless I know them really well (family), or I have an accomplice who is funny and outgoing, and with a real gift of gab.  Without my security blanket I’m pretty much a basket case.

This is where a nice set of Conversation cards really comes in handy for those awkward lulls during dinner when I can’t think of anything to talk about, and God forbid am surrounded also by introverts.  They rescue me.  Conversation is what draws us all out of our shells and helps us all to get comfortable with each other, and engaged – as long as we’re not put on the spot in front of everybody.

Sometimes, it’s hard to share our most personal thoughts, ideas, and opinions (unless we know where those around us stand), or without a glass of wine to loosen us up first – ha!, so a set of conversation cards can be a good way to get things going.  There are a ton of sets out there (Amazon).  Food for Talk by Julienne Smith is one of my favorites.

I have found that the best way to get past being uncomfortable and vulnerable in conversations with new people is by practicing treating them the way I want to be treated, and in my limited experience I have found that sometimes when I took that leap of faith and shared my heart with someone, it actually, occasionally landed in safe hands, and it very often was the catalyst to a beautiful friendship.

I have worked pretty hard to be a safe place for other people’s conversations as well. Gossips are not good friends!  Experience has taught me, that it is okay to be observant, cautious, and protective. It is like looking both ways before crossing a road. But when it looks as if the coast is clear, I encourage you (and deal a pep talk to myself as well) to try putting just a little of ourselves out there. And in return, also be a “safe place” for other people’s thoughts and dreams and ideas.

Another thing I struggle with is ADD.  When my mind is racing with self-conciousness, it is hard to pay attention, but we all appreciate a good listener.  Weep with those that weep.  Rejoice with those who rejoice.

I will pray for you, and for myself as well, that we learn to relax and just have fun.  And I pray that our minds don’t batter us too badly later as we lay in bed replaying every careless word we spoke and every clumsy gesture.  Please say I’m not the only one who does this!  Well, if I have a witness, at least you know you are not alone.

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“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

…given to hospitality.”

Romans 12:10,13

 

 

 

 

A Gringo Tamalada, Ole!

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A Gringo Tamalada, Ole!

While the rest of my fellow “gringos” are having “Ugly Sweater” parties, Cookie Exchanges, and Gift Wrapping/Mulled-Wine drinking parties for Christmas wouldn’t it be fun to host a TAMALADA just to be different?

I recently tried my hand at making Tamales, and to my delight they turned out, and were actually delicious (thank God), but boy howdy were they a ton of work. Took me ALL DAY! I’m absolutely addicted to tamales at Christmas, but I’m thinking if I ever decide to make them again I will want to make a party out of it, because many hands make light work. So here’s what I’m thinking…

Who to invite? Hmmm, well they’ll need to be reliable guests, who promise to make their dish and show up for the assembly process.

I could send them each a recipe card, after they RSVP and volunteer for a portion of the tamale-making they want to do. The host (which will be me, if I manage to muster the courage to actually do this) will provide snacks, and beverages – I’m thinking some fun drink choices would be Sangria; a Hot-Mexican-Chocolate Bar; Horchata Smoothies; and blended Margaritas. I’ll need to remember to find a good Latino Christmas Album or two or three to play for ambiance during the party, and also dig out an entertaining game to go with the party, that we can play while we’re waiting for the first batch of tamales to come out of the steamers. A couple of my favorites are Mexican Train (dominoes) and Canasta (cards)!

Or, if my family/friends want to bring their Christmas cards, stamps, address labels, and stationery we could get our Christmas cards ready to mail out while we wait for tamales, and we can snack and visit while we write and fold and lick and stamp! Make it kind of a working Tamale party! I can offer this on the invitations, and then discuss it with everybody when they RSVP.

Here’s how I’m thinking we can split up the cooking…

Guests #1, 2, & 3 could each make a 3-lb pork roast (half of the recipe listed below) and shred it, discarding any bone or cartilage, and reserving and bringing the strained pork broth to the party.

Pork for Tamales Tamalada Party recipe card

Printable Recipe Card

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Guest #4 could make the Chili sauce up to the point of adding the broth and blending it, and bring the cooked chilies with them to the party.

Red Sauce Tamalada Party recipe card

Printable Recipe Card

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HOST: could prepare corn husks

Boiled corn husks

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Guest #5 could make the Masa, up to the point of adding the broth and mixing, and bring it to the party

Masa Tamalada Party recipe card

Printable Recipe Card

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Click this link for a FREE PRINTABLE of the Recipe cards for Tamalada!

(((((-Full recipes are further down on this page-)))))

My Tamalada Invitation

Printable Invitation

Click this LINK for the printable Tamalada Invitation!

So, I know from experience that it’s going to take at least 4 hours to make the finishing touches on the meat and masa, then assemble, and steam the tamales. So I’ll plan my party accordingly when filling out the details on the invitation. Maybe I should have it on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon?

Once my guests have RSVP’d and volunteered for the dish they want to make, I’ll send them out the recipe card for their items (shown above, in case you missed them).

((((( Click here for the FREE PRINTABLE Recipe cards for Tamalada! )))))

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PREPARING FOR MY PARTY:

Buy whatever groceries and beverages I’ll need and give myself time to prepare them before the party.

Set up a station for the final masa preparation. I will need counter space, a large bowl, a mixer, and a cup of warm water to test the masa in.

Set up a work station for the final preparation of the red sauce. I will need a large sauce pot for the stove, and a blender or food processor. Someone will be making a roux in the sauce pot, and another person will be blending the red sauce (softened chilies and broth from pork). The pork and the red sauce will be added to the roux.

I’ll set up a large table for assembly. Place the ingredients down the center of my table, the husks next to the masa, the masa next to the meat, and finally a cookie sheet at the end to pile the tamales on. I’ll put a person at each ingredient and we’ll pass each tamal along. They’ll go together pretty quick. I will need some clean kitchen towels and possibly a roll of paper towels, also a masa spreader or spatula, a spoon to measure the masa, a spoon to measure the meat, and a large cookie sheet. And afterward some tin foil to wrap the tamales in for sending home or freezing.

Make room in my refrigerator for whatever uncooked tamales, and whatever else needs refrigerated.

Set up the steamer pots (illustrated below). I will need two large canner size pots with lids and a steamer basket for each inside. I will also need two clean kitchen towels and water for those.

Set up a beverage station with various beverages as mentioned earlier. I can set up a hot cocoa bar, I can also set out a large thermos of blended Margaritas, and a pitcher of Sangria. I might also want to set out some iced tea and water and a cooler of ice, and a variety of glasses and mugs.

Set up an appetizer/snack table where guests can nibble as we wait for the tamales to cook. Decide what appetizers I will serve at my party, and have them ready when guests arrive. I will need serving plates, bowls, spoons, etc. I might want to have a pretty tablecloth for this table, and some festive table decorations.

Set up the music that I will have playing in the background of my party.

Set out a couple of game choices (mentioned earlier), so that once the tamales are all assembled, and the table has been cleared, we can start having some fun. Or if we all prefer doing Christmas cards, I will need to *be sure to note this in my party reminder call, so my guests will know to bring their supplies!

Of course I’ll want a clean house, a spotless kitchen, and a tidy bathroom at least. Ugh! Sometimes this keeps me from throwing parties! My house is truly never clean enough.  Oh suck it up girl, get to scrubbin’ it’s gonna be fun!!!!!!!!!

A day or two before the party I can send a reminder via Text/eMail/Phonecall, so my guests will know if we’ll be doing Christmas cards during the party, or just playing games and eating. They might need the prodding for the dish they are making too!

Day of the party designate various ASSEMBLY LINE jobs:

Someone to wash all the dirty dishes and clean counters (my least fav job)

Someone to make the roux, and mix the meat with the sauce

Someone to finish making the red sauce

Someone to finish making the masa

Assembly line Husk Person, who will dry and pass the husks

Assembly line Masa Spreader person

Assembly line Meat person, who will also wrap tamales

Tamale tie person, who will tear off strips of husk to tie around tamales and stack them on a cookie sheet

And finally someone to set up and load steamers, and babysit them with water

Full RECIPES

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Pork for Tamales

2 3-lb pkgs Pork Carnitas or a shoulder roast

1 large onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, broken in pieces

3 jalapenos, chopped

1 Tbsp salt

Enough water to cover

DO AT HOME: Place pork roast, onion, garlic, and salt in a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer over medium heat until pork is very tender, about 3 hours. Remove pork from water and shred. Store in a Ziploc bag and keep in refrigerator for up to a day, until ready to use. Strain liquid and reserve for use in making the red sauce and the masa. Place in sealed jars in refrigerator for up to a day. Skim the fat off the broth and place it in a separate ziploc bag to use for the roux. Bring the pork, broth, and skimmed fat to the party.

Carnitas Pork

DO AT THE PARTY: Once at the party someone will need to make a roux (see recipe below) and then the pulled pork can be combined with the roux and the red sauce.

chili cascavel

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Red Sauce

4 ounces California (or Cascavel) chile pods, seeds and stems removed

4 ounces New Mexico chile pods, seeds and stems removed

1 1/4 cup reserved pork broth

1 1/4 cup water

1 Tbsp salt

3 cloves garlic, broken in pieces

1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin seeds

DO AT HOME: Toast chilies in a hot skillet over medium high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Rinse chile pods. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add rinsed chile pods and cook until chile pods are softened, about 15 minutes. Drain water off chilies and discard the water. Add salt, garlic, and ground cumin. Seal in a plastic bag until ready to blend at the party. This can be done up to a day ahead.

DO AT THE PARTY: Pour chilies, broth, and water into a blender and blend until smooth. Place in large kettle until ready to mix with the pork.

Roux: Someone will need to make a roux using ½ cup lard, reserved from roast, and ½ cup flour. Cook on the stove, stirring continually until peanut butter colored. Toss in the pork and red sauce and mix well. I also like to chop another jalapeno or two to add to the meat. Cover and refrigerate, or if near to being ready to assemble, place on the assembly line.

Pork mixed with red sauce

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DSCN9219

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Masa

2 pounds Manteca lard, divided

2 teaspoons baking powder, divided

2 tablespoons salt, divided

5 pounds ground masa harina, divided

2 to 3 cups broth reserved from cooked pork roast (or chicken broth), divided

½ bunch Cilantro, finely minced

Small white onion, very finely minced

½ cup Tomatillo Salsa, or Salsa Verde

Reserved pork broth with skimmed fat

DO AT HOME: Place 1 pound of lard in a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer and mix until fluffy, scraping sides so the lard stays in the center of the mixing bowl. (The flat beater is the ideal accessory for mixing.) Add half the baking powder and half the salt to the lard and mix together. Add half the masa harina and mix together. Seal in a ziploc bag in the fridge.

Now do the other half of the same ingredients, and store in the fridge in a ziploc bag for up to a day. Please bring to room temp before bringing to the party.

DO AT THE PARTY: Place one room temperature batch of the masa in a large bowl. Slowly add half the broth, half the onion and cilantro, and half the salsa verde, to and mix until combined. The mixture should be about the consistency of smooth peanut butter. If not, add more broth as necessary. Test the masa by taking a small piece (1/2 teaspoon) and dropping it into a cup of warm water. If it floats it is ready; if it sinks, add a little more lard, beat for another minute and test it again. Repeat this process until the masa floats. Cover and set on the assembly table.

Repeat the process with the remaining batch of masa.

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Corn Husks

DO AT HOME: Take husks from package and rinse well in the sink, removing any silks or debris. Fill a large stock pot with water and press the clean husks down to submerge them. Bring water to a boil and soak husks in gently boiling water for about 1 hour. You may need to flip the stack occasionally so the top ones get pliable. Drain water from husks but keep husks in the kettle with the lid on.

DO AT THE PARTY: Set warm, soaked husks, in covered pot on the assembly table. Keep a clean kitchen towel nearby to dry the husks just before spreading them with masa, otherwise the masa won’t stick.

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ASSEMBLY LINE

Tamale Assembly Station

Place the husks, masa, meat, and cookie sheet down the center of a table, and seat my guests all around it, except the guest who volunteered to do the mountain of dirty dishes. Assembly will start with corn husks being dried off and passed to the masa person next to them, that person will spread it with masa and pass it to the meat person next to them; that person will top it with meat and wrap it and hand it across to the tie person; that person will tear off a little strip from a boiled husk and use it to tie around the tamal and lay on the cookie sheet. Once the cookie sheet is full and heaping, the last person (ME) will pack the tamales vertically in the steamer with the open end up and start them steaming.

Assembly Line

SPREADING THE MASA: Place the wide end of the husk on the palm of your hand (or on the flat work surface), narrow end is at the top. Starting at the middle of the husk spread 2 tablespoons of the masa with a spatula or masa spreader in a rectangle shape, using a downward motion towards the wide-bottom edge. Do not spread the masa to the ends; leave about a 2-inch border on the left and right sides of the husk. Pass to the person with the meat (or other) filling. There is too wide of a swath of masa on this husk shown below, and also it’s not quite thick enough. You only need enough masa to wrap around the meat and a little extra to hold the husk closed.

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ADDING THE MEAT: Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of your chosen filling down the center of the masa. (When I ran out of meat filling and still had masa, I started making Pepper Jack Cheese and Jalapeno filling. Fold both sides of hust to the center over the top of the meat; finish off by bringing the pointed end of the husk toward the filled end. Pass tamale to the person who will tie the tamales closed.

DSCN9226

TAMALE TIE PERSON: Make sure each tamal is snuggly closed and will not open during steaming. You can secure by tying a thin strip of corn husk around each tamal. This will keep the tamal from unwrapping during the steaming process, especially if the husk is too thick and will not stay folded. Stack wrapped tamales on a cookie sheet.

DSCN9228

HOST: Prepare the steamer pots… (You will also load the steamer pots)

Steamer Pot

This is my tamale steamer. I can only fill water up to the little rack, but not above it, and start it simmering on the stove. The steamer pot needs to be tall enough for our tamales to sit up vertically above the water and still fit the lid on. (If you don’t have a double boiler, you can improvise like I have. All mine is, is a round cooling rack setting on top of a brick, which I’ve washed several times in the dishwasher, or I could also use a small colander placed down into the bottom of my soup kettle and my rack on top. This set up works perfectly. Each steamer will need to have a clean kitchen towel and a lid.

When a cookie sheet of tamales is piled up high, they can be loaded in the steamer…

Fill the top part of the steamer with tamales. Stand the tamales up vertically, open ends up and folded ends at the bottom, and make sure the folded part is either tied up, or held in place with another tamal. Pack the tamales snug enough so that they won’t fall over during cooking, but not so tight that the steam can’t get in around them. In other words, don’t cram and squish them as tight as they will go, but let there be too much space or they will collapse and mush over. If there are not enough tamales to fill the steamer, use canning jars to take up the spaces so the tamales don’t fall over.

Turn heat up on the water until it boils. Cover the tamales with a clean kitchen towel and then the lid of the pot. Turn the heat down to medium so that it stays gently boiling, but not raging boiling. Set timer for 2 hours. Check every 20 to 30 minutes or so to make sure the water is not boiling dry, and add boiling water as necessary. Make sure the tamales are above the water line and that the bottoms are not siting in water at all.

Steaming tamales

Tamales will need to steam for 2 hours or more. After 2 hours we can test for doneness. Remove one tamale and check if the masa holds together and slips easily off the husk. If so, it is done, if not it needs to steam some more. Check again in 15 minutes when I check the water level.

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When a batch of tamales is done they can be eaten right away, or wrapped in foil (1 dozen at a time) and refrigerated or frozen for later.

cooked tamales

Divide the wrapped dozens of tamales among the guests. There should be about 1-2 dozen per guest.

You will want to eat some at the party!!!! There are lots of ways to eat tamales. Some like them topped with just a little of the red sauce, which you can make another batch of while the tamales are steaming. I like mine all different ways. Straight out of the steamer and burning my fingers and tongue as I shove them into my mouth, or if I have all the toppings on hand for Tortilla Soup or Carnitas tacos, I like all of those (minus the tortilla strips) on top of my tamales. I also like them with salsa verde, chopped onions, cilantro, and jalapenos, and a little dallop of sour cream (as pictured below). And I also like them loaded up with red sauce, pepper-jack cheese, black olives, corn and black bean salsa, shredded lettuce and pico de gallo. There is just about no wrong way to eat a tamale.

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So there you have it. Sound like fun to you? I’m pretty sure all my Mexican friends reading this are laughing at my gringo-ness; all having hosted and attended a hundred Tamaladas, so hopefully one of you will take pity on me and invite me to your next one, to show me how it’s done! My hat’s off to whoever invented tamales, for passing on this wonderful food, and to my friends south of the border for keeping going this fun tradition. Feliz Navidad!

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“The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.” Isaiah 25:6

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Snowflake Craft for kids

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Snowflake Craft for kids

Supplies needed: 

  • Toilet paper or paper towel rolls (empty)
  • Pipecleaners 
  • Scissors
  • Hole Punch

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INSTRUCTIONS

Instructions

 

glitter spray

 

Blog Photo

I did this as a Christmas craft with the students at my granddaughter’s school (pre-K through 8th grade).  We had all just recently experienced snow in our town, a RARE and exciting event in south Texas, so this craft commemorated that very memorable event with a little keepsake.  I also wrote a poem to go with our keepsake craft, so they could be kept forever in a memory book, if anyone wanted. 

Print Poem

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You might like to do this craft with your kids during the Christmas break from school.  Here is an idea of something you could do with the snowflakes (besides just hang them in your tree).

snowflake-mobile

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“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower
and bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” 

Isaiah 55:10-11