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Oct
29
2010

Foodie Friday – YUMMY STUFF!

I made these cookies for a friend and am going to make some more before Saturday night to take to my little grandson’s Halloween party. And I will be gone most of the weekend so I will see you peeps next week!

halloweencookies1I think they turned out pretty cute.  Tonight I am having “the girls” over – you know the mom and daughter duo that we LOVE getting together with.  I am making a batch of cupcakes, taking part of them to a lady who works with Hannah at the library.  It’s her birthday and the rest we will have for dessert after a big bait of Stromboli!  YUM.  Now what kind of cupcakes to make is the question…I am trying to decide between Pecan Pie Cupcakes or Bakewell Tart Cupcakes….hmmmm.  Maybe by morning I will be able to decide. Oh…I suppose you came here this morning for recipe or two!  Here you go!


Hearty Sausage Stromboli

* 1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
* 1/4 pound ground beef
* 1/2 cup chopped onion
* 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
* 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
* 1/2 cup water
* 1/3 cup tomato paste
* 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
* 1 loaf (1 pound) Italian bread or French bread
* 6 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese

Directions

* In a large skillet, cook the sausage, beef, onion, mushrooms and green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
* Stir in the water, tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, salt, oregano, garlic and rosemary. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until thickened.
* Meanwhile, cut top third off loaf of bread; carefully hollow out bottom, leaving a 1/2-in. shell (discard removed bread or save for another use).
* Line bottom half with three mozzarella cheese slices; top with sausage mixture and remaining cheese. Replace bread top. Wrap sandwich loaf in foil.
* Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Yield: 6 servings.


Pecan Pie Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Frosting

Cupcakes:

2 cups finely chopped pecans
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 1/3 cups unsalted butter, melted
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two, 12-cup muffin pans with foil liners.
Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat the mixture until it is thick and smooth.
Scoop the batter into the muffin wells, filling each about 3/4 full. Put the pans in the oven.
Bake the cakes in the middle rack of your oven for about 25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly pressed.
Remove the cakes from the oven and put the pans on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing the cakes from the pans to cool completely on the wire racks.
Make the frosting.

Caramel Cream Frosting Ingredients

1 package of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (8 oz.) tub whipped topping
Your favorite caramel topping
24 sugared or candied pecans

In a bowl, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.
Add the brown sugar and beat until the sugar dissolves into the cream cheese and the mixture is nice and smooth.
Add the vanilla extract and beat until it’s fully integrated into the mixture.
Fold in the whipped topping.
Top each cupcake with a very generous dollop of frosting, making sure to cover the whole top of the cupcake.
Drizzle caramel topping over the tops.
Press a sugared pecan into the center of the top of each cupcake.
Enjoy!

Oct
28
2010

Thoughtful Thursday

This will likely be my most controversial post to date so buckle up.  The following paragraphs might render comments I refuse to approve, depending on my mood. I might even get an email or two.  And when it hits facebook, I might see my followers number decline.  But, all I can say is: it was inevitable.

I am going to talk about Hallowe’en (and likely some other things too). And not in the general sense that it is a holiday. Which it is.  Or that I love it.  Which I do.  And I will go ahead and tell you what prompted this post, and what some may see as a rant. And those that see this as a rant, have never actually seen me rant ;)

NOTE: Since I wrote this I edited it to add some pictures I found of Hallowe’ens past.  Such sweet memories.  They are in no particular order.  Enjoy!

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I was in Wal-Mart yesterday afternoon killing time, buying a few groceries while Ben was in Chemistry class.  I was milling around the Autumn/Halloween section, disgusted mostly by the amount of plastic crap, when I hear this voice.  The kind of voice that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  That horrible grating twang of a grown man who insists on using phrases like “ain’t got no”, “you done it”, “I seen it”.  I am immediately put off by his grammar and his tone.  His little wife, a very petite woman in a dress and with her hair pulled into an extraordinarily tight bun, was pushing the shopping cart in front of him and she made some comment about the pretty Autumn wreath she stopped in front of.  And this gargantuan man says in a very gruff and loud voice “We ain’t a-gettin’ no Halloween stuff.  That’s the Devil’s day.  Woman, get a move on.”  I wheeled around to look at his face hoping he was making a joke or kidding.  But he glared right back at me with a very stern look on his face. And his poor “woman” looked like the chickens had got her biscuit.  Sheepish.  Embarrassed.  Just beat down.  Yes, I muttered a verbal abuse.  Yes, I questioned whether his parents were married when he was conceived.  Yes, he probably heard me.  No, I didn’t care.  Why are people like that?  You could tell he was just a barrel of laughs ALL. THE. TIME.  And that poor woman was in too deep to claw her way out.  And maybe she is perfectly happy being spoken to like she’s an idiot in public.  But all I could think was if he talks to her like that in public, how must he treat her in private?  I know, I know, none of my business.  NONE. My second thought was what a MORON.  Hallowe’en is not the Devil’s Day.  Not at my house anyway.  I knew, though, if I had the rest of my life I would have never had an intelligent conversation with him and furthermore, I didn’t care what he thought or believed.  But the fact that people, lots of people, are afraid of Hallowe’en has always baffled me.  Lots of things baffle me, though.

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Hallowe’en was a big deal to me as a kid.  It was my favorite holiday.  Still is.  All the fun, food, family and no pressure of gifts!  It’s not that I don’t love to buy for people, I do!  But it is a lot of pressure for some people and very stressful.  But all that is beside the point.  My point  is Hallowe’en is not evil.  Evil people may celebrate Hallowe’en.  They also may celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah.  There are evil people in all walks of life.  Some of them even walk around verbally abusing their wives in Wal-Mart and they HATE Hallowe’en.

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I hate generalizations.  And I am just as guilty as anyone at times.  But it irks me about myself and I try to keep a lid on it.  I really and truly do try to meet people as individuals.  And I don’t think any less of people who choose not to participate in Hallowe’en, even if I disagree with their reasons.  Those are THEIR reasons, therefore, none of my business.  And as long as they don’t try to convince me how evil I am for donning my witch hat in public one or two days a year (two parties this year – YAY!) then we will get along fine :)

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This was Hallowe’en 2000

Yes, I know what we celebrate as Hallowe’en today started as a religious holiday for Celtic pagans.  I have read lots about Hallowe’en and its origins.  But not much scares me and I don’t have a problem with those facts.  There are so many superstitions that were passed down to me by my aunts and uncles and grandparents that I learned not to let things frighten me.  In fact my grandfather, Daddy Tom to me, wouldn’t have liked it one tiny little bit that I own a black kitty.  He was scared to death of them!  My Daddy Tom was Irish/Scottish and whisky was his drink of choice.  Nowadays he would have been in jail or meetings but back in the day, he carpentered all day, and drank all evening.  And please PLEASE do not think I am speaking ill of him.  I loved him very much and he worshiped the ground I walked on.  He was my best friend when I was a little girl and when he died he was building me a country fair in his back pasture, complete with a ferris wheel.  By the time I came along he had stopped drinking and was legally blind from glaucoma.  But when he was a much younger man, drinking and driving was common.  I think drinking and anything was pretty common with him :)   Anyway, he had a bad car accident – bad for the car, he wasn’t hurt badly.  And you know what caused it?  A black cat.  Yep.  A black cat walked across the road in front of him and he panicked.  There is no way it could have been the fifth of whisky he drank.  Nope.  It was the cat.  Poor kitty. He was also deathly afraid of frogs.  That one I can’t explain.  Frogs??? Pretty harmless I think.

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Did you know that if you see a spider on All Hallow’s Eve, it is a dearly departed relative coming by to check on you?  Well, if you had grown up in my house, you would have known that ;)   My mom’s side of the family was a mixture of “old country”  and lapsed Catholics.  So tradition and celebration ran deep.  Things that people find offensive and evil about Hallowe’en were so much a part of my childhood, that I didn’t have any idea of any controversy until I was grown up.  When I was a kid, I went to Hallowe’en parties at CHURCH!  I won a costume contest when I was in the 7th grade at the Methodist Church Hallowe’en Party.  And what did I go as?  A black cat!  Dang, that was a cute costume!  Probably the one time in my life I didn’t go as a witch.

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I guess I should just get to my point.  If I can remember what it was.  Oh yeah, you can make something evil out of anything.  You can suck the fun right out of everything if you try hard enough.  Remember when I say this, where I am coming from and, please know, that if you believe the complete opposite, I accept that.  I won’t try to convince you I am right and you are wrong.  Everyone is entitled and, by law, has a right to their own beliefs.  That includes Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Pagans, Agnostics, Atheists, and everything in between.  Hallowe’en is not a religious holiday for me.  It’s not what I was taught. It is for some.  Christmas is not a religious holiday for some.  Even those that profess Christianity.  They see it is as evil.  Ruined by Santa :/ I was pretty old before I realized it was religious for some people. Christmas was all about Santa in my family. I happen to love the jolly old elf!   As an adult I realized I appreciated this about my family:  they may have been heathens, but  they weren’t hypocrites!  I say this to point out that you can’t lump people into categories with any accuracy.  You can, I suppose.  But you shouldn’t.  I have friends from ALL beliefs.  I love hearing about how they celebrate.  Their family traditions.  Some of those celebrations I wish I took part in.  Or could see firsthand.  I am fascinated by what makes people tick.  What makes them believe what they believe. And yes at times I have shook my head and thought what???  I am also fascinated by the fact that some people think what they believe is the only thing anyone should believe.

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There was just so much I never realized was taboo.  Don’t get me wrong, I was raised with rules and manners.  Keep your skirt down, your elbows off the table, your hands clean, your teeth brushed, your room picked up.  Do not talk back to your elders.  Follow the rules at school.  Make the best grade you are capable of.  If asked, tell the truth even if it gets you into trouble.  In fact always tell the truth.  Don’t hit people.  Don’t tell lies about people.  Be sure what you are about to repeat is not just gossip, that’s a waste of time and hurtful.  Always look out for the person who has no one else to look out for them. Stand up for people who don’t have the power to stand up for themselves.  Being poor is not a sin, or a stain on one’s character, but not sharing what you have is.  Do not mistreat animals or people, especially people less fortunate than you are.  There will always be someone who has more than you, but that doesn’t make them better than you.  It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s how you handle what happens to you.  At times these truths have escaped my judgment but I have never forgotten them.

What I wasn’t taught was that my idea was the only idea, that what I believed was right for everyone, that just because your mouth opened and shut did not make it a prayer book.  I am not sure exactly how that last one translates literally, but I heard it a lot and I got the gist.  I also learned that if my mom could find a cookie cutter for something it must a holiday and we were going to celebrate!

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My dad was raised Methodist and, periodically, we went to church when we were little, and even some after I was in high school.  But never on a regular basis.  When I was 9 my dad sobered up through AA and we all became friends of Bill W.  So that was our “religion” for many, many years.  And it kept our family together and my parents together and never once did I ever hear anyone browbeat or told what a horrible sinner they were for their relationship with the bottle.  Most of the people I met through AA had already been to Hell and not much scared them.  They were the most spiritual people I have ever known.  And I am very thankful they were there to prop my dad up instead of condemning him.  And of course I learned the Serenity Prayer, as every good meeting goer.  But I never once thought of the God of the prayer being just one certain one.  I figure  if a Hindu man or woman showed up needing a meeting, he or she would be welcomed with a hug, and quite possibly the worst coffee made by human hands.  I don’t think anyone would have thought twice if that person had added a name to God or even said gods.

I did have another point??  I suppose it would be if you don’t judge me for my religion or lack of religion, and even if you do, I won’t judge you for yours.

Happy Hallowe’en to all my secular friends. Merry Samhain to all my pagan friends.  Blessed All Hallow’s Eve and All Saint’s Day to my Christian friends.  If you don’t do any of them…Happy Thursday.  And have a wonderful weekend.

Oct
26
2010

Happy Hallowe ‘en Week!

I was just chatting with my brother and ask him if he was as fond of Hallowe’en as I am.  It holds some of my most vivid memories from my childhood.  I remember one in particular when I was in second grade and I am not sure it was so much the fact that I was so excited about the fun and decorating and dressing up and candy as much as I remember a particular lesson I learned one day at school.  It was party day.   Mom was always room mother for my class. Always.  And she never did anything half way so the parties were amazing.  We lived on the same block as the elementary school, on the opposite corner.  So I walked to and from school.  This was back in 1966 and I so wish I had all the decorations my mom had from back then.  Anyway, that afternoon was our Hallowe’en party and Mom came to the classroom and asked for me to be allowed to pick someone to walk back down to our house and bring back the drink pail.  My mom had a big black garbage can that she had iced down orange sodas for all the kids and it would take two second graders will all their strength to grab each handle and carry it back up the block.  I stood up,  walked to the front of my classroom, took my place between my teacher, Mrs. Farquhar and my mom and looked out over a sea of children out of their seats with their hands flailing about and the voices all at a fevered pitch “Me! ME! Pick ME!”.  I stood there for what seemed like forever when I noticed a little boy named Lesley sitting very still and looking out the window not saying a word.  He knew in his heart he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being picked so he didn’t even bother to raise his hand.  Lesley was the saddest little boy I had ever known.  Granted I was 7 but he made an impression on me the first time I  saw him.  My impression was not a good one.  He almost never went a day without being in some sort of trouble.  He was failing second grade which was something I found hard to accept since I got questioned about an A minus.  So there he sat.  Finally he turned his head and looked at me.  I can see this as if it were this morning.  I finally said in a very quiet voice “I pick Lesley.”  I wish you all could have seen his face.  Surprise.  Fear.  And sheer joy.  He sprang up out of his desk and come stood beside me, his chest out, the biggest grin on his face and grabbed my hand and my mom’s hand and off we went.  I remember thinking as I looked down at our hands and at him holding my mom’s hand, that is the dirtiest hands I have ever seen!  And if you only knew what a clean freak my mom was and how particular she was with me and my brothers you would know what a special moment this was.  But neither Mom nor I pulled away, we just looked at each other and she winked and smiled at me letting me know she very much approved of my choice.  We left a room full of kids talking amongst themselves, each of them just as surprised or more so than Lesley.  And me for that matter. Surprised that I had the guts to pick him.  Surprised that I had the guts to NOT pick my best friend Beth who I knew was going to be irate!  We walked all the way back to my house without a word from either of us though my mom asked Lesley questions and tried to make him less nervous.  We grabbed up the pail, one on each side and it was heavy!  The first time he really spoke was to say “I can carry it by myself.” My mom insisted we carry it together and we took off back towards the school her right behind with more goodies.  Lesley strode into that classroom, chest out, his dirty little face covered in the biggest smile.  We sat the pail down and he strutted back to his seat and plopped down so proud.

I have no idea why I did that.  I don’t know where it came from or what possessed me to do it.  I just knew it is something that was right.  And my mom and dad would be pleased with my boldness among my peers who were not kind to this poor little boy.  Ever.  He had a hellish life at home, you could tell and then a hellish life at school.  For the rest of the school year he was my shadow.  And I just had to grin and bear him handing me my fork in the lunch line.  Each time I looked at his hand, his dirty hand, and not today’s dirt but who knew when that child had been bathed, washed his hands or brushed his teeth, wrapped around my fork, I just had to swallow hard, hold my head high, accept his help and accept the comments I was going to get from my friends.  Most of whom thought I was completely crazy for having anything to do with him.  But I have always been strong willed and never allowed anyone to bully me.  And frankly, I think it might have made his life a little easier at school.  It seemed he was not in as many fights or maybe that he was trying a little harder to be likable.

Our paths crossed very little after that year.  I would see him on the playground in the lunch lines but we didn’t talk and finally went our separate ways.  I have always wondered what happened to him.  I know he was injured at school once in Jr. High when he made a volcano for a science exhibit and brought gasoline to make it explode.  Thankfully he didn’t blow up anyone else in the process.  After that I moved away and I have no idea how his life turned out.  But unless some major things changed for him, I doubt it has been very good.

Wow, where was I going with all this??? OH yeah!  Happy Hallowe’en Week and my mom could throw one heck of a school party!

Since it is Tree-Hugging Tuesday, here’s  a few  green Hallowe’en tips: if you’re the non-traditional type, try stocking up on healthy treats: organic dried fruit, granola bars, and popcorn packets all work (and come individually packaged, so even the most discerning parents won’t trash them for safety reasons). GreenHalloween.org also offers a list of non-food ideas, like hair barrettes (which you could make yourself), seed packets, small toys made from recycled plastic, stickers, and soy crayons.

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