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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Recipe Sharers

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Ah, potato salad. Every woman has a to-die-for recipe, or at least that’s the claim in my circle of friends. I don’t like to make such claims because I have wandered far enough to know that people’s palates can vary from region to region and state to state. I like to make this salad for company picnics or summer cook outs, and I usually get complimented on it or asked for the recipe.

I learned this “recipe” from helping my mother make it for Saturday picnics at Ali’i Beach Park, the then future home to the TV show Baywatch. (Yep, we grew up at that beach.) My job, being the youngest girl, was to sit and grate carrots. My mom would say, to encourage my failing heart, “Carrots are just for color, you won’t have to grate too many. You’ll be done in no time.” Then she’d hand me her celery green Tupperware colander fitted with the matching green grater and a pound of carrots. Keep in mind, I am number 9 of 10, add in spouses of the older siblings and nieces and nephews and boyfriends and girlfriends; and you quickly realize we were feeding a small army. Sometimes, my courage–and stamina–would fail me and I’d sneak off to my room and lie on my bed. I’d even fall asleep sometimes, and then I would get IT.

My mother would also bring this salad to neighborhood picnics. We lived in a condo community with lots or grassy common areas beneath Silverwood pines and eucalyptus trees. We’d have tables set in the grass, laden with food, and we would have all kinds of games after lunch. I guess the games would be called “team building” games today. We did them because it was great fun and then the adults got to take a turn, too.

One sunny Saturday we celebrated Easter with the community and my mom brought her potato salad. She got many compliments and requests for the recipe and she spent almost the whole game time sharing her recipe with the other ladies. When it was time to pack and leave she walked away with her empty salad bowl in her arms chuckling to herself. Back in the apartment she told us that all the ladies wanted her recipe, and she laughed and laughed.

Well, other gatherings followed and the women would descend on my mother and say that their potato salads would never turn out like hers. They would say,”I even mixed it with my hands like you said to do!” At this my mother would put on a confused face and say she didn’t know what they were doing wrong. She finally confessed to my father and us that garlic salt is what makes her salad different. She said laughingly that she told the women to add table salt to taste and the big secret was that they had to mix the salad with their hands. We all had a good laugh. Those poor women, they never did find out from us that it was garlic salt our mother used.

I made this salad tonight for supper. I used new red potatoes, but my mom always used russets. I even used her green colander to drain the potatoes. The colander is one of only a handful of things I have of my mom’s. The grater that attaches to it has long since been lost. I shared this story with my daughter tonight while we peeled the eggs, and shared a big laugh. I miss my mom, and I hope my daughter will miss and honor me through stories and recipes one day.

Clarisa’s Potato Salad

1 boiled russet potato for every person being served, peeled
2 eggs for every potato
1 stalk of celery for every four people being served, sliced or diced
1 carrot for every four people being served, grated πŸ™‚
Garlic salt to taste
Mayonnaise to taste (although, she always loaded it up with stuff)

The trick to having the right texture is to boil your potatoes until they are soft and start to crack. Do not over boil them or you’ll have mashed potato salad; which actually sounds good to me…? I use Martha’s method for hard-cooked eggs: cover eggs with one inch of water, bring to boil, cover, remove from heat, let sit 12 minutes, and throw in an ice water bath for 2 – 5 minutes. They come out perfect every time.

Cube the potatoes and eggs, throw everything into a bowl, salt it all, add some black pepper if desired, give it toss, and then add the mayonnaise and mix it all up–with your hands if you’d like. 😜 The salad is creamy with just the right amount of bright crunch from the celery. I happened to over salt my salad tonight; I fixed it with the juice from half a lemon. Enjoy!



A Thing of Beauty

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I’ve had a very busy two weeks. So much so that I haven’t kept up with the housework, yard work, or gardening. I have been feeling generally harassed by life. Today, even though the bathrooms need a good scrubbing and the woods are threatening to retake my yard, I decided to make something.

I am a new quilter. I have two quilts and one table runner under my belt. My daughter needs a bag to tote her stuff to and from ballet, so I decided on this little project. I found the directions on You Tube by a woman named Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Company. Her tutorial made everything so easy. I’ve made a few other bags and have always struggled with comprehending the instructions. I suspect they have Chinese nationals writing all instructions that come with sewing patterns. I think it’s another little way they’ve found to mess with us (ha, call me a conspiracy theorist). This tutorial was pattern free (hooray!) and used up some of my scraps. It took me about four hours and the results amazed me.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever. ~ Keats


Oh, Happy Day!

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It was truly a happy day yesterday!


Baking Dreams

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I am currently taking a cake decorating class with my eleven year old daughter. It is loads of fun and I have learned so much, however, this class is seriously messing with baking mojo. I love to bake. I find it relaxing. I find it even more relaxing to sit down with a cup of tea and eat baked goods. I would love to bake something every day, but that is just wasteful because there are only four of us and I’m always supposed to be on a diet. Puh, whatever.

Today I baked a coconut cake and a lemon cake. The lemon cake will have four layers when all is said and done. I’m filling it with lemon curd and then frosting it with the recommended frosting recipe we must use in class. The coconut cake is my daughter’s. She’s filling it with coconut custard! Mmmm. Well, I had to bake these to get some of my mojo back. It’s not easy having to bake cakes and prepare frosting for two people. This week we’ve had two classes, so I found myself really dragging my feet and thinking that all the fun has been sucked out of baking–especially since I should be avoiding flour and sugar.

We ran out of eggs to make the lemon curd and the custard. I just got back from the store, we usually buy fresh organic eggs from a friend, but I didn’t want to risk losing my motivation by having to wait for my hubby to bring those eggs to me.

Well…it’s lost.

I’m lying here on my bed in my darkened room. I’m thinking of all those key limes on the counter that will eventually be Key Lime Pie and limeade. There are peaches in the fridge for peach pie, and apples, too. There’s half of a pound cake on the kitchen table right next to a dozen chocolate cupcakes. I keep thinking, “the last thing I need to be doing is baking more cake.” Well, it’ll be our last class and maybe I can send those cakes with my hubby to work. Until then I will lie here and dream of baking something other than cake.

Saturday Breakfast

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Here’s a naughty little habit I picked up in my first year at university. Walking through the cafeteria line at breakfast, I pointed to a large pan of white stuff and asked my friend, “What is that?” Her reply, “Dude! It’s whipped cream!” Oh…”what’s it for?” She turns to me with bug-eyes and slaps me on the shoulder and says, “You’ve never had whipped cream on waffles?!” Needless to say, I had whipped cream on my waffles that day and many, many days thereafter. (Can you say Freshman Fifteen?)

These are sourdough waffles topped with whipped cream and raspberries. I butter the waffles first–this is a rule in my house–and then drizzle it all with warm maple syrup. Serve with your choice of fruit. We like to have waffles spread with Nutella and loaded with sliced strawberries then topped with whipped cream and toasted almonds–for dessert or breakfast.

Sour dough, made with wild yeast you catch yourself, is supposed to be really healthful. I read an ebook entitled Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread by Jesse Hawkins, and in it she makes her case for why wild caught yeast is so much better for you. She points to the advent of manufactured baker’s yeast as the culprit to many “diseases” society is experiencing today like celiacs. She proposes that since we all consume this one particular type of yeast (it’s in all store bought and bakery bought baked goods) we aren’t benefitting from the microbes in our locale. She says it can help allergy, sinus, skin, and a plethora of other problems. I didn’t check her sources or do any further research on my own, except to experiment on myself in my own kitchen, but her reasoning makes sense to me. I’ve been making sour dough this and that since November and I have experienced clearer skin and a very noticeable decrease in sinus infections due to allergies. After coming through the very heavy pollen season, I have had exactly zero sinus infections due to allergies and so has my family. We are typically miserable during spring; doped up on Zrytec, nasal sprays, and antibiotics for the whole season.

This recipe comes from a friend of mine in Virginia. She is the mother of ten beautiful children and counting. I am so thankful she sent this to me because once you get a starter going it produces a large volume. Many people say to throw out half of it before every feeding, but I hate wasting food. I have since overcome this hesitance after growing five large jars of starter. This recipe yields waffles that are lightly crunchy on the outside without the pain of whipping egg whites to a stiff peak. A recipe from the above mentioned book for sour dough starter follows.

Sour Dough Waffles (or Pancakes)

The evening before you wish to serve waffles for breakfast combine:

1/2 cup starter
2 cups water
2 cups flour

In the morning mix in:

2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons sugar
4 Tablespoons oil (or just 2 Tablespoons for pancakes)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in about 1 1/2 Tablespoons water

Stir lightly with a fork until the eggs disappear. Cook in a waffle iron. Recipe yields about a dozen waffles.

Sour Dough Starter
In a canning jar combine:

2/3 flour
1/2 cup water

Let sit uncovered on your counter for 24 hours. After 24 hours, feed with 1/2 cup of flour and half cup of water. The mixture should have tiny bubbles in it proving the presence of microbes. Feed every 12 – 24 hours until you see it is rising to double it’s volume (rising speeds vary depending on microbes in your locale). It should take about three or four days or up to a week to get a good healthy starter. The first time I made it I could use mine after two days.

As “flour” I mix 6 cups soft whole wheat flour, 6 cups barley flour, and 1/2 cup rye flour. I use this flour to make and feed the starter.

Be adventurous and give it a try!


Oh, Banana!

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I can never get the banana supply in my house right. I have to buy them when they’re almost perfectly ripe (a tiny bit of green around the stems) to give my kids enough time to eat them all before the brown spots start forming. Once brown spots start forming, these kids will not touch those bananas; so I peel them (hint, hint Jen Lancaster) and stick them in a freezer bag and toss them in the freezer. We make banana bread out of them when we feel like it or throw them into smoothies, but you can only eat so much banana bread–even if you do them chunky monkey style, like I do, loaded with chocolate chips.

Whenever I purchase my bananas from a certain grocery store, that shall remain nameless, their bananas go straight to brown spot the very next day. And then I end up kicking myself because I forgot this fact and now I have all these bananas on hand that no one will eat. Well, this happened to me recently and I decided that since I was missing the delicious banana pie from Sunny Side, Inc. in the sleepy town of Wahiawa, HI, I would just make one myself.

Now this pie is not a banana cream pie. It’s more like an apple pie made with bananas. My sisters and I would order the Sunny Side Fried Rice Special which came with a plateful of fried rice, an egg cooked your way served on top, a hot dog split down the middle; and we ordered a side of bacon to go with that. We always ordered a banana pie for “dessert”. Did I mention that this was a weekly breakfast on Mondays? Oink. The pie has no whipped cream or pudding filling, so it does not constitute dessert and is a perfect breakfast food. I found the recipe in the archives of the Honolulu Star Bulletin. It’s a recipe from another popular restaurant called Flamingo’s. I used ready made pie crust–the kind you just roll out. I hope you try this and like it! Bananas and pie crust, how could you go wrong?

Banana Pie

4 cups of sliced bananas
1/2 cup of pineapple juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pastry for a double crust pie

Soak banana slices in pineapple juice for 20 – 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the juice.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line your pie plate with pastry. Combine banana slices with the sugar, cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of reserved pineapple juice, and give it a toss to coat everything evenly. Pour into your pastry shell and cover with top crust. Seal and crimp the edges and cut vent into the top crust. I marked mine with a “B” for banana and me!


Where’s My Trophy?

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I have been caught up in the whirlwind of activity that typically surrounds high school graduations: final exams to be graded and grades to be submitted, graduation ceremonies, and parties. This year I have graduated my son. He has been homeschooled since Kindergarten. I jokingly told my sister that marriage is the longest thing I’ve done until I remembered that being a mother came first. (Oops!)

My son decided he didn’t want to participate in the graduation ceremony held by our homeschool group; my husband supported that decision and I just went along. Now that the flood of graduation photos has ceased over social media I feel that I can safely say I’VE BEEN ROBBED! Every time I’ve seen photos of friends with their graduates I’ve experienced a pang of jealousy and regret. I’ve come to realize I needed this closure; an acknowledgement of this milestone.

Graduation ceremonies aren’t really for the graduates; they’re for the parents of the graduates. Yes, my son has graduated. Yes, I’m proud of him. He’s off to join the military shortly. And I…I am left with my memories. Memories of him as a newborn (with a gargantuan head), a naughty toddler, his first day of Kindergarten, the year reading finally “clicked”, when he finally caught up to me in height, his first driving lesson–I cherish them all. I am blessed to have been able to spend every day with him and teach him all kinds of things. But let’s face it, people, it has been 18 years!

I think back to the day I left the hospital with him after he was born. I couldn’t believe those people were going to let me take this little bundle of humanity with me! The sense of responsibility that comes from realizing this little life is depending solely on you can be paralyzing. Well, I didn’t let it paralyze me. He’s safely grown and raring to leave the nest. And now…now I want to know: where’s MY trophy? A picture with the smiling graduate after the commencement exercises would have been the best trophy, and would not have left me with any ill feelings toward friends on Facebook.

As I write this I’ve come to realize that I get the award for participation, you know, the ones coaches, teachers, and those in authority like to give out to the poor saps who have done nothing to distinguish themselves. But I realize now that that is the only award I need. I’ve fully participated in nearly 7,000 days of this boy’s life and I am so thankful for the opportunity. And I’m also thankful that I have another child who WILL participate in the graduation ceremony six years from now. πŸ˜‰