Crumbling Ego

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Today, I decided to bake some Hungarian walnut filled  crescent cookies(Kiflik) for Christmas. I whipped out Mom’s trusty green covered cookbook and found the recipe. I had all the ingredients handy, so I jumped into the activity headfirst. The project began at nine this morning and finished at noon. The result was disappointing. The last time I made these cookies was last year. It was a baking day with my grand-daughter. Last year was the first time in my life that I made them, so this was a second chance at glory. I failed to achieve glory, but because they are not perfect I have a rather large batch of cookies to consume by myself.

Foe some reason unbeknownst to me the dough was very crumbly. The crumbliness made the dough hard to roll out, even more hard to hand-roll into shape, and after baking they crumble in your hand. They still taste good, they just don’t look good nor do they behave like a crescent cookie should, that is, to stay firm in your hand as you bite into the lusciousness. If there are any readers who bake, and know what makes a dough crumbly please tell me what the heck I did wrong.

Dough after one hour of rest.

Dough after one hour of rest.

Hungarian Crescent Cookies (Kiflik)

Hungarian Crescent Cookies (Kiflik)

As bad as they are I cannot stop eating them.

A Dark Day Made Worse by Rain

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Dreary December days bring on depression. I am one who needs sunlight to survive, and today was one of those dark days made worse by rain. The only bright spot was watching my bride eat one of her classic breakfasts. Usually she has a pretend breakfast. She will set out a number of things like a banana, an egg, juice, rice crispy square, and anything else that might suit her fancy. I’ll chug down my bowl of cereal with milk and a side of coffee. We spend time together, then she will get up to get her bathrobe so she won’t spill on her good clothes. By the time she returns I have finished, and I am cleaning up. She does the same thing, and puts all her stuff away, without tasting a single thing. I know better than to comment, I just shrug and ignore her lack of interest in eating. This morning I had eggs, so she said she would have an egg too. That means hard boiling eggs to please her palette. In the meantime my stomach growls loudly while waiting for those eggs to harden. It takes seventeen minutes to boil an egg hard. Then, there is a cool down and finally removal from the shell. Meanwhile, my two fried eggs are still in the shell waiting to hit the fry pan..
This morning Peg waited for the hard-boiled eggs. I finally served her two hard-boiled eggs on a plate before I fried my eggs. When I finally sat down to eat she got up to get a cake from the fridge. She wanted a slice of strawberry chocolate cream cake with her egg. I had to slice her a piece before I could finally attack my cooled fried eggs. Who eats strawberry chocolate cream cake with hard-boiled eggs? Not me for sure. I could not resist photographing the event. Today was a day when she actually ate breakfast. Oh, by the way do you see the orange juice container on the table, but a glass of Pepsi next to her plate.?

Lord help me, please.

Busia Barb’s Invitation

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With Thanksgiving quickly approaching my thoughts are on our annual family dinner. Last year, I announced after grace that this was our final host of the feast, it is time to pass the baton to the next generation. A year has passed and now I regret passing the torch. My family tradition was always to have holiday celebrations at grandma and grandpa’s house. That is not unlike 90% of American families.

My deceased wife Barbara taught me well how to prepare for a first class sit down. Barb had rules for her guests, and heaven forbid someone should break a rule,, and come late. For instance, if she said we are eating at one, it meant the food hits the table at one. When I received an Email from my buddy Ed titled “Grandma’s Invitation,” I opened it immediately. Then I began to laugh until tears flowed from my eyes. The title could be  “Busia Barb’s Invitation.” Who ever penned this piece totally understands families and family dynamics. You will understand when you read it, and see your own family within the words. I know that if Barb didn’t vocalize or write these rules, she sure was thinking them.

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Grandma’s Invitation

Dear Family,

I’m not dead yet. Thanksgiving is still important to me. If being in my Last Will and Testament is important to you, then you might consider being with me for my favorite holiday.

Dinner is at 2:00.
NOT 2:15
NOT 2:05.
Two 2:00

Arrive late and you get what’s left over.

Last year, that moron Marshall fried a turkey in one of those contraptions and practically burned the deck off the house. This year, the only peanut oil used to make the meal will be from the secret scoop of peanut butter I add to the carrot soup.

Jonathan, your last new wife was an idiot. You don’t arrive at someone’s house on Thanksgiving needing to use the oven and the stove. Honest to God, I thought you might have learned after two wives – date them longer and save us all the agony of another divorce.

Now, the house rules are slightly different this year because I have decided that 47% of you don’t know how to take care of nice things. Paper plates and red Solo cups might be bad for the environment, but I’ll be gone soon and that will be your problem to deal with.

House Rules:

1. The University of Texas no longer plays Texas A&M. The television stays off during the meal.

2. The “no cans for kids” rule still exists. We are using 2 liter bottles because your children still open a third can before finishing the first two. Parents can fill a child’s cup when it is empty. All of the cups have names on them and I’ll be paying close attention to refills.

3. Chloe, last year we were at Trudy’s house and I looked the other way when your Jell-O salad showed up. This year, if Jell-O salad comes in the front door it will go right back out the back door with the garbage. Save yourself some time, honey. You’ve never been a good cook and you shouldn’t bring something that wiggles more than you. Buy something from the bakery.

4. Grandmothers give grandchildren cookies and candy. That is a fact of life. Your children can eat healthy at your home. At my home, they can eat whatever they like as long as they finish it.

5. I cook with bacon and bacon grease. That’s nothing new. Your being a vegetarian doesn’t change the fact that stuffing without bacon is like egg salad without eggs. Even the green bean casserole has a little bacon grease in it. That’s why it tastes so good. Not eating bacon is just not natural. And as far as being healthy… look at me. I’ve outlived almost everyone I know.

6. Salad at Thanksgiving is a waste of space.

7. I do not like cell phones. Leave them in the car.

8. I do not like video cameras. There will be 32 people here. I am sure you can capture lots of memories without the camera pointed at me.

9. Being a mother means you have to actually pay attention to the kids. I have nice things and I don’t put them away just because company is coming over. Mary, watch your kids and I’ll watch my things.

10. Rhonda, a cat that requires a shot twice a day is a cat that has lived too many lives. I think staying home to care for the cat is your way of letting me know that I have lived too many lives too. I can live with that. Can you?

11. Words mean things. I say what I mean. Let me repeat: You don’t need to bring anything means you don’t need to bring anything. And if I did tell you to bring something, bring it in the quantity I said. Really, this doesn’t have to be difficult.

12. Domino’s and cards are better than anything that requires a battery or an on/off switch. That was true when you were kids and it’s true now that you have kids.

13. Showing up for Thanksgiving guarantees presents at Christmas. Not showing up guarantees a card that may or may not be signed.

In memory of your Grandfather, the back fridge will be filled with beer. Drink until it is gone. I prefer wine anyway. But one from each family needs to be the designated driver. I really mean all of the above.

Love You,
Grandma.

Searching for the “Knack”

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This afternoon I decided to cook a comfort food meal for supper. I whipped out my mother’s trusty green cookbook loaded with Hungarian dishes and picked one that caught my eye some time ago. The Hungarian name for it is “Koloszvari kaposzta” (Scalloped Pork and Rice). It has all the ingredients that I love: pork, rice, sauerkraut, sour cream, paprika, onion, and salt. How could I go wrong? Let me tell you the ways. I follow recipes like a chemist follows a formula. It looked suspicious when I pulled it out of the oven, and I confirmed my suspicions. It didn’t look like what my mother used to make. She had a knack as did all her girl friends, and they were the ones who wrote this cookbook. Somehow the knack is something you learn by doing, and not by reading the recipe.

Don’t get me wrong, the dish was delicious, but not to my personal specification. Peg tossed her food around on the plate being polite. Tomorrow I’ll check the underside of the dining room table to see if she hid her part on the extra table-leave under the table while I wasn’t looking. She has told me many times about how when she was a kid, she would hide the green beans under the table just to get away from the supper meal. Her Dad wouldn’t let her leave until she finished eating everything on the plate. Kids have a way of dealing with parents who are demanding. Especially when they want to go out to play. I however, enjoyed the meal with a nice glass of Cabernet and analyzed the heck out of the process. Here is what I would do differently the next time:

1. I would use a deeper, but smaller casserole dish, but I don’t have one.  Why? Because the ingredients were slightly on the dry side. The large area of the dish I use allows the meal to evaporate its moisture in the oven. A smaller area, deeper dish will make it harder to lose the moisture during the oven time.

2. I will use more sauerkraut and juice between layers of meat, rice, and sauerkraut. I used what the recipe calls for and I felt it lacking. I love sauerkraut and sour cream.

3. I will cut the oven time by fifteen minutes to shorten the drying process.

4. I will try the same meal mixed in a pan on the stove and skip the casserole completely. I have cooked Stroganoff like that and it turns out fabulous.

5. I will use less cooked rice, so there will be less absorption of meat juices during oven time.

As I told Peg during supper, I’m beginning to sound like a cook; Always analyzing flavors, textures, moisture, etc. I do that in search of the knack that Mom and her buddies left out of the words but included in the invisible instructions hidden between the lines.

Thanks Mom, I’m getting closer, but will I live long enough to learn the KNACK?

Another Huge Hoax

Scientists have unleashed a huge new hoax on the people of America. This hoax will be larger than the lie of man-made global-warming.  Again, scientists report a bunch of studies to sensationalize their careers. They will ignore years of already established data based on facts from France that defy logic. People in the country of France eat fabulously rich and fat foods, but suffer less from heart disease than we Americans. Butter is a standard used generously to cook, sauté, fry, bake, baste, and spread on epicurean delights that excite the taste buds.

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Cabernet Sauvignon grapes

The facts about French health came out years ago, and heart disease scientists rushed to find why the people of France have fewer heart related problems. They researched and determined that the French drink more red wine than people in other countries. They even begin their babies drinking water diluted with wine to get them acclimated to it. Once science determined that red wine was a path to check they broke down the wine to find resveratrol. Don’t ask me how to say it, I can’t, I don’t know how to spell it either.

Try looking up resveratrol on Google and see how many articles come up on the benefits. One can even buy pills with resveratrol. I don’t know why anyone would want to take a pill when drinking red wine is so much more satisfying, but they do.

The resveratrol scientists created an worldwide army of red wine drinkers. It started slowly as the news crept out about the positive effects of resveratrol on the delay of heart disease. As we learned about the benefits of red wine we also began to take note of Napa Valley, California. The grape growers and wineries of Napa set goals to make wine equal to or better than the French, and they did. Last week, I watched a movie titled “Bottle Shock” which chronicles the victory of Napa over the French wine makers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYs0kblXToA

Now that I am a wino along with all my buddies, there comes a new report that negates the effects of resveratrol. Bu__ Sh__! I’m not buying in to it. This is just another liberal front to control the wine drinkers of the world specifically America.

Next we will hear Congress is passing legislation to control resveratrol content in wine. If that doesn’t work, they will tax the resveratrol content in Cabernet and Merlot. The higher the resveratrol content the higher the tax. They will use this income to redistribute the wealth to allow poor skid row winos to buy white wines instead of red, thus boosting sales of liberal wineries selling Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and ripple.

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Chardonnay Grapes

 

Don’t be fooled by this negative report on resveratrol America. This is a hoax bigger than man-made global warming and is being spoon fed down your throats to pick your pockets again. Don’t let the Progressive liberals take this simple pleasure away from you, keep right on drinking the reds.

Pure Exhilarating Cold

There is nothing finer or more exhilarating than a Mid-Western cold spell.  It has been a long time since we experienced temperatures like the ones we have today. Last night when I took the trash out, my indoor-outdoor thermometer read -3 F. This morning, the darn thing didn’t register. I bundled up to blow the snow off the drive and walkways. Just before leaving the house, I checked the temperature on my phone. It read minus seventeen fahrenheit, with a south wind. I believe the cold is coming to us from the South Pole where it is summer and research ships traveling there to prove man-made global warming have frozen into the water.

Outside, the cold manifested itself in quiet. Normally, I can hear the noise of traffic from the nearby roads, but not today. The day before the birds crowded the feeders in a feeding frenzy. Today there is no movement, no sound, nothing except cold,  sparkling pure crystals of powder snow. The sky is a pure blue and any pollution over the city has frozen and fallen from the sky.

My mind took me back to a time when I served as Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 1776. I formed the troop two years before the USA ‘s two hundredth birthday. People called us the bi-centennial troop. Many of the scouts still communicate with me. One of the memories was a District event held in January called the Klondike Derby at Yorkville Scout camp west of Chicago. A weekend campout filled with sled races, pioneering skills and cold weather survival training. We braved the cold and survived a night sleeping on the ground in tents when the temperature dropped to twenty-five below zero. The best part was Sunday morning when it was time to break camp and head for home. Not a single car started, we were stranded. Thankfully, the Camp Ranger had a phone in his cabin and we were able to call home for Dads to come out and pick up their sons as the Scoutmasters tried starting the vehicles. We survived that adventure also, and finally arrived home by six. It was another time when I enjoyed the pure exhilaration of the extreme cold.

It took me thirty minutes to move the snow, and by that time my gloved hands were tingling but my fingers were beginning to numb at the same time. I filled the feeders and came in to hibernate. I think it is a good time to cook some chili.

Minus 17 Minus 17-a minus 17-b Minus 17-c

My Blood Pressure Spiked!

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Wow! It is already the second day of 2014 and I have not done a thing. On New Year’s Day, Peg and I crashed. The party the day before wore us out. Ever since we married eight years ago we have traditionally celebrated New Year’s Eve. The first few years we attended the Prestwick Country Club party by hosting a table of friends. More recently, Peg decided she wanted a smaller more intimate group of friends to spend time with.

The party gives me a chance to practice my culinary skill, which is very limited, combined with Peg’s hosting skill which is considerable.  We invited three couples for dinner at five. The day began in a relaxed manner, but the stress level increased exponentially as the minutes marched forward. Peg began by monopolizing the kitchen with her hors d’oeuvres, patience Joe.  The weather saved me. It snowed that morning so I disappeared to shovel the drive and the walks. I returned to begin the main dish by  assembling the components for the veal paprikas I planned to make. We are lucky enough to have a fifteen foot countertop for cooking, but I had only one square foot of it. My blood pressured spiked, and my patience wore thin, I forgot two ingredients which I made a special trip to shop for days earlier. Another escape, this time to the Jewel Food Store for two items, a green pepper, and a 14.7 ounce can of diced tomatoes. There must have been more people like me because the parking lot was at capacity. Shoppers in cars jammed the lanes waiting for people  to come out and make a space. I backed out and found a space at the far corner. An inconsiderate jerk of a shopper had abandoned his cart in the space I parked in, so I pushed it back to the store while walking at record pace through the snow. I beat the cars still waiting in the lane for a space, patience Joe.

Inside the store was worse than the parking lot. Outside it was only parked cars and jerks waiting to find premium parking spaces. Inside it was different. Nervous ladies all rushing through the aisles filling baskets with party goodies. I encountered several aisle jams stalled by shoppers staring at the goods while trying to decide which kind of potato chip, wine, or olive to take off the shelf. Once more I back out, this time with the cart. Several times shoppers blind-sided me while rushing down an aisle and crossing lanes without looking. Smile, and say you’re sorry Joe, they are only stressed out like you are. On a normal day, close encounters of this sort would result in a lasting friendship, today friendship did not occur to me nor to those with whom I nearly collided.

Once at the checkout lanes, the crowd seemed even worse. People in line spilled into the aisles unseen. I passed through the waiting carts and aligned myself in what I thought was the end of the line. As luck would have it, the checkout lady was slower than cold molasses. Finally, the line moved one person, and I jockeyed into place but an old woman who came from nowhere and holding a fruit-tort blocked me. She smiled and politely inferred that I was cutting, and the line formed in the aisle behind her, patience Joe.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The Door Bell Rings

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A good thing just happened to me. A very nice young man with a very heavy black beard, a bright red jacket and a black knit cap just rang the door-bell. I answered, and he very politely asked if I wanted my snow shoveled.  “How much,” I asked? He pondered a moment and looked around, “twenty-five,” he answered. “How about twenty?”  He nodded in agreement. “Do you have a shovel,” I asked. He nodded yes again.

Parked out on the street stood a sleek-looking Nissan. He ran to the car and knocked on the window. His partner came out and the two of them are shoveling furiously. In the short time it has taken me to write this, they have completed half of the job. Thank you Lord!

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By the time I checked out and drove home from the Jewel, Peggy decided to clear some counter space for me. My tension eased, and the meal prep began.

By four-thirty I finished the paprikas and the double recipe of spaetzle. I transferred the veal dish to a hot-pot and kept the spaetzle dumplings warm in a covered pot.  I looked out the window and realized it had snowed again. Peggy asked for help with something she was doing, and I freaked again, patience Joe. I did what she asked without grumbling, patience Joe. I rushed to the garage for my snow shovels. The drive and walks were clean by 4:55.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++The Door Bell Rings Again

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The snow-shovelers just rang the bell. They  finished. My God, what youthful energy they have. I would still be screwing around getting dressed and with starting the snow blower but they finished! I handed him twenty-six bucks. The two of them deserve it. Peg handed him a small bag of mini-Snickers bars left over from Halloween which I had secretly stashed.

Since it is still snowing, I’ll have another chance to show my aging-energy later this afternoon.

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We had a perfectly delightful evening with our friends eating and drinking and making merry. Harriet brought a lasagna to supplement my Paprikas, Mary brought shrimp appetizers, and Donna brought a scrumptious plate of cherry slices and a quart of ice cream, and Al brought enough wine to keep us happy the whole night long. The crowd left by nine o’clock. Peggy and I cleaned up and we were in bed by 11:00 p.m. by mid-night we were fast asleep.

Happy New Year everyone.

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