Thursday, December 27, 2007

Flood of Food

Flood of Food. What does that mean, you might ask. Well, it pretty much sums up the amazing, wonderful, beautiful, fun, and delicious bridal shower hosted by the lovely Teri. (A flood is more than a shower--get it?) Yes, her house looked like it had been plucked from the pages of Southern Living/Martha Stewart/Better Homes and Gardens, and yes, everyone who braved the wintry weather was treated to the majestic beauty (a bit much?) of the snow falling outside. Of course, sparkling conversation was had amongst friends and family (who all happened to be wearing paper crowns)...despite the strange ritual of watching me open gifts.

But that's not the point of this post. It's all about the food. Teri so graciously shared the yummy recipes from the food she served, and I feel it is my duty to pass along this valuable information. So, if you want to re-create the shower in your own kitchen, whether or not you were there for the live show, enjoy!

Mushroom Turnovers
Prep: 30 min., Chill: 1 hr., Cook: 15 min., Bake: 20 min.

1 ½ (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
¼ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Combine first 3 ingredients. Shape dough into a ball; cover and chill 1 hour.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion, and sauté 12 minutes or until onion is golden. Stir in chopped mushrooms, and sauté 3 minutes. Stir in thyme, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour evenly over mushroom mixture. Stir in sour cream and sherry. Remove from heat, and set aside.
Pat or roll chilled dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 3-inch round cutter.
Spoon 1 teaspoon mushroom mixture on half of each dough circle, fold dough over filling. Press edges together with a fork to seal. Place turnovers on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned; brush tops evenly with melted butter.

Note: To make ahead, place uncooked turnovers in a single layer on baking sheets, and freeze. Transfer frozen turnovers to large zip-top plastic freezer bags, seal and freeze up to 1 month. Place frozen turnovers on ungreased baking sheets. Bake as directed.

Yield: Makes 3 ½ dozen appetizer servings

Southern Living, DECEMBER 2005

Pear, Hazelnut, and Blue Cheese Salad
To keep pears looking fresh once you’ve sliced them, dip slices in lemon water (1/4 cup water plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice).

1 cup whole hazelnuts in the skins
8 cups mixed salad greens (such as red leaf, green leaf, Bibb)
2 ripe red Bartlett pears, unpeeled and thinly sliced
2 ripe green pears such as Anjou, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 (4-ounce) package blue cheese, crumbled
Raspberry Vinaigrette
Freshly ground pepper (optional)

Place hazelnuts in an ungreased 15” x 10” x 1” jellyroll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until skins begin to split. Transfer hot nuts to a colander, and cover with a kitchen towel. Rub nuts briskly with towel to remove skins; chop nuts.
Combine salad greens, sliced pears, hazelnuts, and blue cheese in a large bowl; toss gently. Pour Raspberry Vinaigrette over salad just before serving; toss gently. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, if desired. Yield: 8 servings.

Raspberry Vinaigrette

½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a jar; cover tightly, and shake vigorously. Cover and chill thoroughly.
Yield: ¾ cup.

Holiday Mix

In a bowl, combine equal amounts (begin with 1 cup each) pistachio nuts, honey-roasted peanuts, dried tart red cherries and/or dried cranberries. Break up white chocolate bars [or coconut bars] and add to mixture. (Use a 3-ounce bar for every 3 cups of mixture.) To wrap, place mixture in silver foil muffin cups with paper liners. Wrap in clear plastic wrap; secure top with string.

Better Homes and Gardens, DECEMBER 2005

Cranberry Tapenade
Purchased sweet potato chips make sturdy dippers for this festive red relish.

1 small sweet potato (about 6 ounces)
1 small navel orange, unpeeled and quartered
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup sugar
2 jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
½ cup chopped pecans, toasted
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Sweet potato chips
Garnishes: additional cranberries, fresh cilantro sprigs

Cook sweet potato in a small amount of boiling water just until barely tender. Drain and cool completely. Peel and finely dice sweet potato; set aside.
Position knife blade in food processor bowl; add orange quarters. Process until coarsely chopped, stopping once to scrape down sides. Add 2 cups cranberries, sugar, and jalapeño pepper; pulse 2 or more times until mixture is finely chopped.
Transfer mixture to a bowl; stir in reserved sweet potato, pecans, and next 3 ingredients. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Serve with sweet potato chips. Garnish, if desired. Yield: 2 ¼ cups.

Chicken Salad
Serves 4-6

3 chicken breasts (thoroughly cooked and cooled, either grilled, boiled, or roasted—or purchased as rotisserie chicken from Costco—and cut into small pieces)
½ cup real mayo
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon seasoned salt (Lowery’s)
¼ to ½ cup chopped celery
¾ cup red or green grapes (halved)
Other optional additions: slivered almonds, water chestnuts, or pineapple tidbits

Chill before serving.

Poppy Seed Bread

Prepare pans by spraying with release spray (Pam)

3 cups flour (all purpose)
2 ½ cups white sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 ½ cups milk
1 1/8 cups oil (canola, but olive oil is OK too)
1 ½ Tbsp. poppy seeds (usually use 2 Tbsp.)
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 ½ tsp. almond extract
1 ½ butter flavoring

Mix all ingredients together; beat for 2 minutes. Yield: 2 large, 4 medium, or 10 tiny loaves. These can also be made into muffins or mini-muffins. Bake approximately 1 hour at 350 degrees or until toothpick comes out clean. Adjust baking time down for smaller sizes, 20 to 25 minutes for muffins. When done, turn out on cooling rack. Pour glaze over top or roll tiny loaves in glaze. Mom’s note: it makes for easy clean up if you put the racks on top of newspapers to catch all the drips.

Glaze for poppy seed bread:
¾ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup orange juice
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
½ tsp. butter flavoring

You can make the glaze thinner or thicker, your preference. Don’t be tempted to skimp on any of the extracts; they really make the flavors perfect!

Peanut Clusters
Preparation time: 5 minutes;
Cooking time: 6 minutes; Chilling time: 30 minutes

8 (2-ounce) vanilla candy coating squares, cut up
2 2/3 cups (16 ounces) milk chocolate morsels
1 pound salted Spanish peanuts

Melt candy coating and chocolate morsels in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly
Remove from heat; stir in peanuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto wax paper-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm. from heat; stir in peanuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto wax paper-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm.
Yield: 4 dozen.

Note: If desired, microwave candy coating and morsels in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 2 to 3 minutes or until chocolate melts, stirring twice.

Betty Moore
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Carrie’s Holiday Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup flour
½ teas. baking soda
¼ teas. salt
1 cup (soft) butter
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon orange zest
3 cups “quick” oatmeal (one cup at a time)
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Oven temp.: 350 degrees Time: 10 minutes

Mix flour, b. soda and salt together. Cream butter and sugars till creamy. Beat in eggs, vanilla, orange zest. Beat in flour, cho. Chips and cranberries. Bake 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes—on ungreased cookie sheet.

Gilchrist’s Department Store Macaroons Cookie Recipe

1/3 C. flour
2 ½ C. shredded coconut
1/8 t. salt
2/3 C. sweetened condensed milk
1 t. vanilla extract
Maraschino cherries, as needed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, coconut and salt. Stir in the condensed milk and vanilla. Stir well to make a thick batter.
Drop by tablespoons onto the cookie sheet. Top each cookie with half a cherry. Bake until golden brown.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Note: Drain the cherries on a paper towel so the juice doesn’t “dye” the coconut part.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wife Test #1

Perhaps you really do lose all your wisdom when those pesky teeth get pulled. I say this tongue in cheek considering I had my wisdom teeth extracted a couple of years ago, but I think I have some pretty convincing evidence. Jon had three of his wisdom teeth pulled last week. Let me just say that you don't really know a person until you've seen him on pain medication. (I've heard that the "happy drugs" may drive a person into singing James Brown's "I Feel Good"--just a story I've been told...) I thought I was prepared to play Nurse Kristin. I'd gone to the store and purchased Jell-O ('red' flavored, of course), two kinds of pudding, yogurt, potatoes for mashing, and Tillamook (local brand from Oregon) cookies 'n cream ice cream. Since I'd gone through the whole thing myself, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for. I had two bags of frozen peas waiting in the freezer to serve as ice packs to reduce swelling, and I covered the pillow cases with old towels in case of drooling. What I was not expecting was how hilarious Jon was for the first hour or so after the procedure. But allow me to digress... We had a big dinner the night before the surgery since Jon wasn't able to eat anything for twelve hours. That means no coffee...which is pretty rough for a boy from Seattle. I ate breakfast in secret so as not to tempt Jon and off we went to the hospital. We got there in plenty of wait. But once they called his name, the process went incredibly fast. I barely had time to run down to the pharmacy (that's a story in itself) before the nurse came out to explain Jon's post-operative care. I should have known I was in for a good time when she said, "Since the procedure went so quickly, he's still a little loopy." A little loopy?!? That's the understatement of the year. My first glimpse of wisdom-less Jon was of him sitting in a wheelchair frantically waving for me to come pick him up. He then stood up unsteadily and did a little jig. (Actually it was pretty similar to the way he usually dances, so I guess that had nothing to do with the drugs.) Did I detect a little sarcasm from the patient escort when she said, "Good luck!" I must be incredibly insensitive because I basically laughed at him the entire ride home. I couldn't help it. With all the gauze in his mouth he was almost impossible to understand. It was like he was holding on to his tongue while trying to talk (I bet some of you are attempting that right now). To top it off, the oral surgeon had attached three-foot long strings to each piece of gauze (to make them easier to remove) so that he looked like he was in the middle of swallowing a ball of twine. But the funniest part of it all was what he was trying to say. He was certainly in no pain and was completely starving. In fact, he wanted to know when he "could eat pwime wib [prime rib]." And he was simply fascinated by the strings...even asking if he had a certain feminine hygiene product in his mouth. He couldn't figure out why I wanted him to get into pajamas and crawl into bed and insisted on picking out a movie to watch. It was about this point that the drugs caught up with him. He maybe saw the opening credits of the movie, but that's really about it. He slept the entire afternoon and spent the rest of the day devouring all the soft foods he could find and holding packages of frozen peas on his cheeks so he wouldn't get that tell-tale wisdom tooth chipmunk look. And for all intents and purposes, there ends our story. In Jon's defense, he remembers none of this. As far as his teeth--or lack thereof--he's had no major problems so far. Except for a giant gaping hole that he keeps getting food stuck in. All that being said, I truly admire all of you in the medical field. I saw some pretty gross stuff when Jon was rinsing out his mouth that first day (the "honeymoon period" ended right then and there). And it was nothing compared to what doctors and nurses see on a daily basis. It's not that I get squeamish around blood or anything--it's just not that pleasant. Just another sign that I'm not ready to be responsible for another human being any time soon... You might be thinking that I'm throwing Jon under the bus a little bit here. But he's had his chance to write a post, and he hasn't. Besides, I haven't really done anything silly (with the exception of almost melting the plastic pepper shaker on the stove and not knowing how to work the blinds). Yet.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Gender "Rolls"

About a week ago, I realized that Jon and I are fulfilling just about every gender stereotype there is pertaining to married couples. (Never mind that this thought occurred to me moments after shouting obscenities at the Nebraska football game I was watching--a traditionally male activity.) I had just finished doing the dishes after putting another load of laundry in the dryer and was about to ask Jon to take out the trash when I froze.


"Yes, dear?" asked my husband coming into the kitchen wielding one of his many power tools.

"We are following every gender stereotype for husbands and wives!"

With a huff, I spun on my heel and took the trash out myself, feeling as though I had acted in the name of gender equality. What I had really done to myself was increase my own workload.

I'm pretty sure that Jon laughed at me a little before revving up his power drill again, but I did notice that he made a concerted effort to help fold clothes and clear the table later on that day.

We really do split most of the chores, so I'm not complaining. It's just that modern society tells us that there is no longer any such thing as 'men's work' or 'women's work.' I'm not truly a feminist, but my feathers do get ruffled when I hear that a 'woman's place is in the kitchen' or that there are certain things I can't or shouldn't do because I'm a girl (which thankfully does not happen very often).

However, the stereotypes persist. And they are stereotypes for a reason. For example, I cannot fix things, plain and simple, and frankly, I don't really want to. (Luckily Jon is pretty handy; it must be all the engineering training.) Like I tell Mom, "I can't be good at everything." But I can bake a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies and make crescent rolls from scratch. I like having a clean house and I'm really good at remembering birthdays and writing thank you notes (among other things--such as showing off my new mixer).

I know one (of the many) big pushes in education is to promote math and science courses for girls. I think it's a great idea...but honestly, I always enjoyed English and social studies the best (and PE, of course). Taking a quick inventory of my closest girlfriends and female relatives, I immediately notice that an overwhelming majority of them are teachers and nurses, two predominantly feminine professions.

And that's okay.

It's great, really, because that's where our strengths and interests lie. I guess the real question isn't why Jon and I fall under society's stereotypical roles for married couples. It's why should modern society make us feel bad for doing so.

Those are some deep concepts to chew on. In the meantime, I think I'll keep baking...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Condo Craziness

As if getting married and moving halfway across the country weren't big enough life changes for one week, Jon and I BOUGHT a condo.

Okay, so we actually officially signed the papers back in October, but since I hadn't been living here, it didn't seem real. Yet. But now I'm here and in addition to my regular on-line bank statements, there is this one scary addition, labeled MORTGAGE. Yikes.

But so far, it's turning out to be pretty great. I like to be freakishly organized (and am dragging poor Jon down with me), so nearly all of the boxes were unpacked within a day of moving in. We are nearly finished hanging up all the pictures and posters we've acquired from our various travels through Europe...and to garage sales.

Since I'm currently on sabbatical from teaching (which is a much nicer way of saying that I'm unemployed), I've spent the past week or so playing housewife. I may not have cooked every meal, but I have done the majority of the laundry.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a washer and dryer (and a ridiculously cheesy song we made up about it). Not only did the growing mound of dirty clothes prompt us, but also the fact that we still had the U-Haul parked outside for a few more days encourage us to act quickly in this first major purchase as husband and wife.

I now yield to my friend and teaching colleague Nicole with an insightful description of the aforementioned washer and dryer:

"Somehow, purchases of major appliances thrust you into the stratosphere of adulthood like nothing else can. Not sure what that is about, but there is definitely something there. Maybe it’s because a washer and dryer are the secret keepers of a household. They see the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of life. They accept, without argument or excuse, the mistakes we make when we aren’t careful with the things that belong to us; they take the blame of 'dryer shrinkage' when last year’s clothes don’t fit so well; they are an integral part of the joyful experience of washing baby clothes for the first time; and, they only fall off balance occasionally. "

Deep, huh? Much better than I could describe, hence the quote. Prior to reading Nicole's e-mail, I was only going to mention the comedy of errors that occurred when we tried to haul the darn things up the stairs. Sure, we saved a bundle on delivery charges, but at 10 pm on a cold (rainy) November night, I was certainly not in the mood to entertain any engineering whims on how to move the appliances upstairs. Especially when the 275-pound washer hit me in the face as we lifted it out of the truck.

I huffed and puffed (even though we all know Jon did most of the heavy lifting) the dryer up the stairs, but the washer was simply not happening. So we left it in the garage and called it a night. The next day, Jon came home during his lunch break as usual (we only live about 10 minutes from post) with a slew of new ideas. We scooted it, we pushed it, we tilted it, we turned it...all to no avail.

Until Jon saw his trusty fest table standing in the corner.

Some of you may already have guessed what he was thinking. I, however, had no clue until he laid the bench across the stairs as a ramp. We tested this method up to the first landing and it worked like a charm. Now we only had 16 more steps up a very narrow staircase to go!

With a mighty heave, Jon pushed the washer up the stairs as I did my best to help. But we were faced with a dilemma when we reached the end of the first bench. How to line up the two benches and make a smooth transition from one to the other? There was no way I was going to fit in between the washer and the wall, so I ran around outside and back in through the front door multiple times to make adjustments, all while Jon placidly supported the massive appliance. I can only imagine what the construction guys working on the siding outside were thinking about the whole ordeal.

But it was all worth it. Success! We danced a little jig when the washer slid across the linoleum, very satisfied with our efforts. I'm not quite sure I'll be so pleased as I continuously wash and dry the ever-multiplying laundry, but for now, it's pretty exciting.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Moving Odyssey

For those who are more numbers-oriented, here is a brief summary of our cross-country trek:
*5 days
*2000 miles
*8 states
*2 U-Haul trucks
*259 gallons of gasoline
*43 state license plates spotted
*4 breweries

For the story behind the numbers, read on:

After realizing that living in two different states wouldn't exactly be good for our marriage, I decided to take the plunge and move out the Northwest. After lots of tears and "freak out moments," I was sort of, almost, maybe, kind of ready to relocate.

Actually, Jon has been amaaaaazing throughout it all. He has not only been overly supportive (causing my Catholic feelings of guilt to kick in once again because he's been so sweet while I've been slightly less so), he has proven himself to be an incredible packer. I was quite impressed at the sight of (nearly) all my worldly goods securely tucked inside a 14-foot U-Haul truck.

On Monday, 5 November, we hit the road. We were doing great: Jon was driving and I was reading in between mini-naps. Until we made it to Hays, Kansas. For those uninitiated with western Kansas, Hays is approximately 50 miles west of "Are we there yet?", 30 south of "Where the heck are we?", and 10 miles due east of the "Middle of Nowhere." A perfect place to have a flat tire, no?

Not only was the tire flat, but when the tow truck driver arrived after approximately an hour of waiting, the compressor on the jack didn't work. I pretend I know what I'm talking about, but the gist of the matter is that we had to be towed into town. Picture in your head a truck towing a U-Haul towing a car. Yeah, that was us.

Fear not, however. Like bloodhoods, we sniffed out a brewery, so the evening was not a wash. Sure, we weren't in Colorado as anticipated, but we would get an early start the next morning...after the other front tire was changed. Sounds simple, right? Not so much. It turns out that the problem was actually one of alignment and not a single shop that Jon called was able to fix it.

So we limped on to Denver, stopping at every rest stop along the road to make sure the tires were okay. Keep in mind that every time we pulled off the highway and hit even the slightest bump my car alarm would go off. It was certainly quite the drive. Unfortunately we arrived in Denver too late for any of the technicians to look at the truck, so were sent on our way under the assurance that U-Haul would reimburse us for any hotel and food costs.

We took that for what it was worth and found a really cool hotel in the heart of downtown Denver. Definitely a far cry from the Budget Host Inn, Economy Inn, and Royal Motor Inn in such bustling urban centers as Hays, Evanston, Wyoming and La Grande, Oregon. Oh, and we found another brewery. Near a train station. Shocking.

Denver was great, but we knew we had a long way to go, so we headed back to the U-Haul shop in the morning. We then discovered that our alignment issues resulted from a problem with the tie-rods. At this point, I kind of quit paying attention, so you'll have to ask Jon for specifics. At any rate, while they could fix the truck, it would take several days, so they decided to give us a new one. Jon and I stood by as the truck that had taken so long to pack was transferred into another truck. I am not making this up.

The "excitement" of the trip pretty much ended there. We had an uneventful drive through Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. We managed to stumble upon a couple of more breweries and some incredible scenery. And yes, we had to feed two meters when we stopped for lunch in Hood River, Oregon.

We finally rolled into DuPont, Washington on Friday, 9 November (good day), apparently hungry for sunglasses.

Although our driving odyssey has concluded, I'm confident we're in for many more adventures in the coming days/weeks/months...

Wedding, Part I

[Cut and pasted from a mass e-mail]

WE ARE (legally) MARRIED!!!

The chaplain in Bamberg can perform the religious wedding ceremony but doesn’t have the legal jurisdiction to issue a marriage license. Therefore, we needed to get it before getting to Germany. We talked about the timing and decided that by getting married now [at the courthouse], Kristin can get a dependent ID card to get onto post, because, let’s face it, the only reason she is marrying Jon is for the commissary privileges. (And his awesome puns.)

So what is next? We load up the U-haul and move Kristin out to Washington Monday and should get to Fort Lewis by Thursday. The condo we bought is about five minutes from post, 20 minutes from Tacoma or Olympia, and just over an hour from Seattle. Portland is close, too.

We are still getting married on March 4th in Bamberg. Father Kopec will perform the ceremony and we plan on having an amaaaaazing honeymoon. Kristin says this is the one that counts, but Jon is pretty sure Kristin is entitled to half the condo as of today. Also, mark your calendar for May 17th. We will be holding our German-fest-themed reception in Blue Springs, MO, just 20 miles east of Kansas City. We’ll hold a smaller gathering in Seattle in June (mainly for Jon’s family and hometown friends). Details to follow.

If you wind up in the Seattle area, please stop by. Kristin needs friends.

Jon thinks the third person narrative of this email is odd. Kristin says it is just because we are writing this together.

Please note that Kristin will not be changing her name until after the March wedding. We are not sure she could get a new passport in time. But please, feel free to address her as Mrs. K (and Jon as Mr. Walstrom).


Kristin and Jon