Sunday dinner

dinner
Original art by Ruby Mateson

Like many in our neighborhood, we are in the habit of having our adult kids over for Sunday dinner. Nieces and nephews living in the area also have an open invitation, but they often have other plans. Sometimes we “adopt” in our kids’ friends (Lee) who live on the other side of the continent and who become like family to us. And then widen the circle to include a significant other (Ruby), who also becomes like family. And so it goes.

Sometimes it’s loud. Maybe even a little crazy. Sometimes, like on Kyle’s birthday, I spend the entire day cooking bolognese sauce and make two kinds of savory crepes. Sometimes I toss in that extra meatloaf I froze forever ago and wrap up some giant baked potatoes and we eat on paper plates. Sometimes we eat on Pfaltzgraff. Sometimes, like today, I dirty every pan I own in order to make part of it vegan and I feel like even with paper plates I”m doing dishes for days.

Whatever it is and whatever it looks like, it is done with love. I think my family is so used to it that essential ingredient goes unnoticed. But today when Lee texted me to let me know they were coming, he told me they were bringing a gift. I suspected it was a drawing Ruby had recently done that I told her I would like to buy. While that, too, was included (to share another time), I was surprised and touched by this perfect “What’s For Dinner? Love” piece.

They get me. It feels good to be gotten.

Mostly because it means they feel the love.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Favorite recipes

toffeebars
for the worn splattered love of a favorite recipe

As oldest of six, I grew up helping everywhere, but especially in the kitchen.

Go-to cookbook: the beloved red plaid of Better Homes and Gardens. I recently inherited my mother’s worn copy, which is pretty amazing because I’ve already been through two. (Remember how they cut all the salt in everything in half in one edition and it was awful so in a later edition they gave you options: 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt? hint: never skimp on salt.)

cookies
My mom’s Better Homes and Garden Cookie page

I’m pretty sure the cookie section was the most worn in the whole book. Kind of like how the Dessert section of my oversized Mary Engelbreit recipe box is twice as big as the rest of the sections put together!

momsrecipe
Mom’s ebelskivers recipe

True confession: despite all the times I helped my mom make these, I have never tried this recipe myself. But it was the only recipe in her hand readily available (I actually have two recipe tins of her handwritten recipes in a box somewhere, but still, nearly two years later, so many boxes.)

grandmasjellosalad
one of Grandma’s jello “salads”

I rarely make jello at all, but couldn’t pass up the treasure of a handful of my Grandma Jacobs’ handwritten jello salad recipes. They generally involved green or orange jello and Cool Whip (something I never buy–I always whip my own real cream) and crushed pineapple. My grandma’s jello salads are good comfort food.

One of my sons will randomly text me no matter where he is and ask for some recipe or another. I love it. I love how I don’t have to write it down. I can simply snap a photo of it on my phone and text it right back.

Some of my favorite recipes in no particular order are

My neighbor across the street (Lynda B)’s perfect crab cheese ball she shares with us during the holidays.

My long-moved-away friend Bev’s zucchini cake. Her carrot cake is might fine as well, although that recipe is from the kitchen of her mother-in-law, Vi, I believe.

My even longer-moved-away friend Alice’s chicken pot pie. Which is a little piece (or sometimes a large piece, depending how grieved you are) of comfort food heaven.

My almost famous (in that it does have somewhat of a reputation and my caterer friends whom I shared it with now share it as their own) sour cream lemon pie.

Conference crepes.

My dear-departed friend Sue’s frozen cherry pie. In fact despite all my decades pie baking, Sue is the one who helped me master a flaky crust, so I often think of her while baking pies.

My great great grandmother (although no one is entirely sure which one)’s steamed carrot pudding.

Well, there are a few more well-worn and well-loved recipes, but those are they that come to mind.

What’s your favorite recipe?

[Day 41 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Life of pie

later you serve pie to the handful of teenagers who have gathered at your house and you are content
the most wonderful time of the year

Pie season is here. Not that you can’t have pie anytime, but this is when I find myself making quadruple batches of pie crust and remembering summers baking dozens of pies with my mom and my sister and our local youth for a pie booth at our town’s annual Scandinavian Festival, which is how I learned to make pie.

Typically we gather at my inlaws for Thanksgiving, where we pack 40-50 or so people into the log hogan my father-in-law , Keith, built on to their home to serve as a family room. My food assignment (along with sticking around to help my mother-in-law, Barbara while everyone else is over the river and through the woods and up the mountain to look at deer and elk) is always pies.

I grew up in a fruit pie family. Our staples were cherry, apple, berry, and mincemeat for my dad, as he was the only one who would eat it. The closest we got to cream pies is pumpkin, which more of a custard, really, but at least it’s topped with whipped cream.

Shane grew up in a cream pie family. One of his favorites is banana cream–the kind you make with jello pudding. Once I finally realized that until I learned to make cream pies my husband would not feel quite as thankful on Thanksgiving, I found a favorite recipe to make the pudding for banana cream pie from scratch, and have also added a heavenly coconut cream pie to my repertoire.

But the pie I’m most known for is my sour cream lemon pie. It’s a recipe I adapted and its balance of sweet and tangy seems to be a crowd pleaser.

In addition to making pies a couple of pies for actual Thanksgiving, I really hit the mat for Thanksgiving 2.0. This is the dinner I make primarily for the leftovers, but most importantly, so I can have my entire family gathered around my table without putting pressure on anyone taking turns with inlaws. I can usually find a weekend within a couple of weeks of Thanksgiving for which I spend an entire Saturday baking pies and doing prep and then put the whole feast together for friends and family on Sunday.

In particular, I loved having my mom and her parents at my Thanksgiving 2.0 table because they always raved about the cooking. Not that I need raving about the cooking, but if one must spend two days on her feet on a hard tile floor (and do two days’ worth of dishes), raving is appreciated.

(If you, like me, will be baking a lot of pies this season, here’s a hot time-saving tip from King Arthur Flour!)

NaBloPoMo November 2016

our house in the middle of the street

saturday-morningsunrise from my street

When I as engaged, I was charged with finding us an apartment. There were plenty of apartments, of course; the tricky part was finding one we could afford. We ended up renting a tiny 1 bedroom 1 bath top floor of an old stucco house on an isolated corner of Columbia Lane. It was close to my BYU where I was finishing up school and close to my husband’s job at Best.

That house was our first introduction to what is known as the Grandview Hill. I guess it’s fitting this NW girl should end up in the NW corner of her town.

Despite us being in a situation where the only neighbors we got to know were the couples that rented the basement apartment, we liked the feel of the area. I remember driving through neighborhoods in the Grandview Hill and thinking, “I could live here someday.” Which was a stretch for someone who always wanted to get back to the farm.

In particular, I recall driving through a neighborhood a little further southwest of our apartment and watching a house go up. I watched the progress of the bay window in the back of the house and every time I drove past it I thought to myself, “I’ve always wanted a bay window.”

Eventually, as we were expecting our first child, we moved across town into my cousin’s basement apartment at the foot of one of the Wasatch mountains, where we lived until just after the birth of our second child.

By that time my husband had been employed as a school teacher and I ungainfully employed as a stay-at-home mom and I felt it was time to look into acquiring a mortgage.

When we first met with a bank, we were literally laughed at.

“You won’t want to live in what you can afford,” were the literal words.

I asked the guy to show us anyway, and there were three homes in all of Utah County we could have gotten a loan for.

By now you may have guessed it was not the brand new home with the bay windowed dining room. But we did drive right past that house to look at the one I already knew in my heart would be our first home. Because it was right around the corner and happened to be exactly one mile from the school where Shane was teaching.

1641

The 1320 sq. ft. 2 BR home was definitely a fixer upper (the structure was initially a fruit-packing shed that had been build onto rather unconventionally a couple of times), but the price was right, Shane’s second job at the time (so he could afford school teaching) was installing sprinklers in the summer and remodeling houses nights and weekends during the school year, so we had a built-in handyman. And the neighborhood was perfect.

It was like coming home.

My favorite parts of that house were the light and spacious kitchen and dining area, which looked out from a big picture window to the green backyard, the deep oval bathtub in the tiny master bedroom, and the huge backyard, in which we built a sandbox that provided hours and hours of endless construction and entertainment for the kids (along with a few episodes of pinworm for the kids, because the neighborhood cats found it a nice playground as well).

But mostly it was about the neighbors. We felt at home–wanted and needed and loved–even before we moved in. We were surrounded by good people working hard to raise more good people in a place where it quickly became apparent even when people grew up and moved away from they longed to return. And some did. And so began the next generation.

Eventually we had four kids crammed into what was really one bedroom with a little side-room and it wasn’t until two of my brother-in-laws and one of their friends lived in a trailer in our driveway that I realized we might need more space. Shane’s 6′ 4″ little brother stood in the doorway of our home one day and it struck me that we might only have four kids, but those kids weren’t going to be little forever and we simply didn’t have room for four BIG kids.

Word on the street was that one of our neighbors a couple of houses up across the street was planning on selling his home. It was a gold brick split entry. I did not love gold brick. And I had no love lost on split entry. So I was not even interested in looking at that home. Until I heard the words “hardwood floors.” Yes. The upstairs bedrooms apparently had all hardwood floors under their carpet.

Split entry aside, this house 5 BR house was twice the size as our current home and was on a beautiful third-acre lot that had lots of potential. Fortunately, that year the bank had laughed out loud at us we were able to buy low and the market had grown steadily enough we could sell high and have enough equity for a decent down payment. So we jumped.

1608

And that is how we moved literally across the street. I didn’t even have to unpack the drawers from our dressers, we just carried them over and slid them right back into their rightful slots.

What I love about this house is the plentiful storage (my first linen closet!), the shady back deck, having a real laundry room, and a dining room large enough room for a my large second-hand dining room table on which I can feed people.

Since then our kids have grow almost as tall as Shane’s little brother. They fill this house with their very tall friends. Our first grandson is now the same age as our youngest child when we moved in. Over the years we’ve watched neighbors come and go and sometimes come back again. They continue to be our people.

I love knowing that, for whatever reason, this was and is where we are supposed to be.

There’s no place like home.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

A few words on soaping and thrifting

soaper
my favorite soap pot with just tracing carrot orange soap

I can’t tell you how far back it was (well prior to 2009), but I still recall the mistakes I made with my first batch of homemade cold process soap. I didn’t realize that the pale blue-purple lavender buds would brown during the process or that they should be ground, as opposed to used whole. While the soap smelled lovely, the buds were too many, too big, and too brown. They became soggy in use and it wasn’t pretty. People were still kind, and were thankful when I gave them a bar.

Since then my favorite natural exfoliating botanicals are always ground lavender buds and ground oatmeal, with a splash of cranberry seeds for grit. The combination is pretty when fresh, but the cranberry seeds brown too.

My go-to recipe for years has been made with green tea (or green tea & pomegranate when I can find it) and lemongrass.

And then I discovered 10-fold orange oil. Citrus scents are typically fleeting in soap, but this 10-fold process leaves an oil with staying power and it is so yum. I tried 100% carrot juice as the base for this recipe and it has been my new favorite every since.

I’m a timid soaper. I stick with the tried and true. I ought to cut my Shea butter in half and find a good substitute for the sweet almond oil, which, while lovely, may possibly cause a reaction in anyone allergic to tree nuts. But I’m afraid to mess with a good thing.

This past year I got brave and tried goat milk for the first time. It is tricky but yummy. I want to try it again with fresh next. I’m also having fun with some silicone molds.

My soap isn’t fancy. No gorgeous colors or fancy designs. But I’m happy with natural ingredients–essential oils over fragrance oils. And when someone I’ve gifted a bar or two to reports back that they feel pampered and loved when they lather up, well, I’m satisfied with the simplicity.

Lately I’ve been experimenting–just a little–with some new scents. Looking for something herbal and earthy. I just finished orange carrot, and am planning on trying some lime peppermint one more time (last time I didn’t have enough lime) and clary sage chamomile with litsea cubeba (don’t ask – I have no idea) in a chamomile tea base.

Recently I suffered my first real lye burn. It will scar. I felt slight burning on my right forearm as I was in the middle of the final steps and figured I could just get to it in a minute. By the time I poured some vinegar on it and ran it under cold water, I couldn’t really feel it any more. I reached for the spot with my left fingers and felt like something like soft wax. I couldn’t figure out where that had come from so I had a look. It was then I realized that what I was feeling was my loose dead burned skin. Oops! Someday I’ll have to write about my daughter’s lye burn.

Finally, for the love of a good soap pot. I’m generally a terrible thrifter. Things always seem well picked over and true finds are rare. But this soap pot. Aside from a barely noticeable, but still character-building nick in the outside enamel, this vintage pot is perfect. It seems almost a shame to save it just for soap. But save it I do.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Fearless

Tonight as Lindsay was heading off to scuba diving class I pondered over one of my favorite qualities of hers. She is fearless. That doesn’t mean she isn’t hesitant about certain things, but it’s a quality I’ve admired and observed in her for quite sometime and it’s most often displayed in her love of the outdoors and sports and recreation.

I remember when, as a little girl, Lindsay reached up with her bare hand and snagged an over-the-fence home run at her big brother’s Little League game. I realized then she is not afraid of the ball and it was an aspect of her athleticism I enjoyed watching through a few seasons playing goalie in soccer and many years playing centerfield in softball. I see it now as she embraces new sports – rock climbing and scuba diving – this year. She goes after her passions even when it means jumping right in to a class full of strangers or climbing with someone she doesn’t know just for the love of the climb.

My other kids are fearless in many ways as well. Luke, already to graduate with a degree in civil engineering, feels the call to serve as a seminary teacher and shares his most precious thoughts will rooms full of teenagers. Zack, who is also fearless in his outdoor recreation hurls himself down rapids all summer and spent an entire semester taking all his classes in Arabic in the Middle East. And I’ll never forget watching Kyle as he diplomatically offered to help an older gentleman who was volunteering as a blacksmith in the Pioneer Village when Kyle knew something he didn’t, but needed to know in order to finish his demonstration. Or the day Kyle spent an entire day in a real Smith’s forge with a class full of adults all for the love of creating something out of molten metal.

I’m grateful for the blessing of watching my children grow up bravely in a world that teaches us to be afraid. I hope their fearlessness serves them well. It certainly takes them places I would never have imagined. Good for them!

Christmas Makers Market

Here’s more Stuff. Zack. Does.

dreamcatchersChristmas Makers Market
Friday, December 13, 5-9pm
Saturday, December 14, 10am-3pm
The Startup Building
560 South 100 West, Provo

HE TANNED THE LEATHER. CHEWED (some of) THE SINEW. AND CARVED THE BEADS FROM BONE:

The dream catchers are 100% handmade. The leather is from a local Utah deer. I processed and tanned the hide over the course of a month. The string is made of deer sinew that was dried and pounded and then pieced into one continuous strand. I carved the beads in the center from bone; the other beads are carved from pine and balsa wood. The hoop is crafted from willows growing along the Provo River. The feathers are from my mom’s chickens.

Let us eat pie

pies

Down to the wire tonight as I spent the entire day prepping for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving 2.0. Zack helped me with the pies and snagged this photo while I was quickly dotting the pecan pie with butter. I realized today that aside from adding Carina’s coconut cream pie to my repertoire a few years ago and finally last year discovering the value of a good brine, I’m generally content with the same recipes I’ve been using for years. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? This year I followed my friend Cafe Johnsonia’s advice and made a lovely turkey stock with which to make my stuffing and gravy for tomorrow. My entire house smelled SOOOOO good today while it simmered.

My new daughter-in-law, Emily, wanted to come learn to make pies today, but needed to study. So I promised her we would get together between Christmas and New Year’s and bake some pies. I want to try this Caramel Apple Pie I found in an ad for Organic Valley toward the end of this month’s Real Simple magazine. I think caramel is an addition to apple I can live with. And I think my dad, who was known for his love of pie, would have loved it.

As a side note: the other pie pictured here is my friend Sue Ostler’s Perfect Apple Pie. It is indeed perfect. It’s just been the past few years I have come to love apple pie. I think I was distracted growing up amidst all the berries and cherries. We lost Sue to breast cancer several years ago and I love carrying on her legacy by baking some of her best pies (see also, frozen cherry pie). While I was thinking of Sue it reminded me that Emily’s mother is also named Sue Ostler. I look forward to sharing some of Sue’s recipes with Emily. I think she’ll appreciate from whence they came.

Thanks again for sticking with me through Nablopomo this year. If I could, I’d invite each one of you to my house so we could sit down over a slice of pie and visit in person.

Happy Holidays!

give us this day our daily bread

As some of you may know, I’ve been baking pies since I was a teenager. Give me some decent flour (I’ve had some difficult flour to work with a time or two) and I can almost make pie crust in my sleep. I actually have made pie crust in the dark before (I’d link you to the post wherein I explain how we taught the Activity Day girls how to make pies during a power outage, but remember when my blog died? It never got fully restored). In any case, yes, pies are good and all that, but I truly stink at bread making. I have a couple of recipes that turn out ok, but I’ve always wanted to arrive at ohmygoshthisisdeliciousmayIhavetherecipe.

Enter Zack, who told me a few weeks back he wanted to learn how to make artisan bread. I wanted to learn how to make artisan bread too, so I was up for it. So we splurged on some King Arthur flour and tackled this recipe. We learned a few things the hard way. Zack did most of the work, but I advised when necessary and had his back when his hands were elbow deep in sticky bread dough. And look at the results! He make several baguettes and one stuffed baguette and it was all delicious. Crisp on the outside, perfectly soft on the inside. I’m pretty impresses.

stuff baguette

baguettes

Some mint fields that I used to know

(Before I forget: Here’s a link, as promised, to the blog post I wrote about one of our students. He works in the office right next door to mine and is truly a great kid: http://blog.flyuvu.com/2013/11/14/uvu-aviation-student-travis-foss-earns-pilot-slot-with-utah-air-national-guard/ (you’ll have to copy and paste because the pingback was making me crazy so I deleted the link.

spiral jetty

Zack came over tonight and we scrounged through my oils to find some Christmas scents so we could get in another double batch of soap in time for a Christmas fair at which he wants to sell all sorts of Stuff Zack Does. (Because the stuff we ordered from what has been the most reliable supplier in the past has still not even shipped and won’t make it in time for the soap to cure before Christmas, GRRR.) Winter Grapefruit and, one of my favorites, Peppermint straight from the Willamette Valley. Possibly from the very fields I used to hoe (which I hear in my head to the tune of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”). Remotely possibly, nonetheless.

As we were stirring in ground oatmeal and the cranberry seeds (don’t you wish they would stay that lovely red–especially in Christmas soap? I do!) I was reminded of the time my friend Shawna and I went to the Spiral Jetty. It was the best day.

Making soap with Zack is a lot of fun and I hope he has loads of success at his Christmas fair. We’re going to make Artisan bread next. I can’t wait!