Friday, May 30, 2008

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day a group of guys from our church and some others from our apartment complex played football at our apartment complex and afterwards had a cook-out. A good time was had by all. Here are some actions shots of the game:
And a video of Katie and Miah:
video

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Part of living in Louisville...

...is surviving the madness that takes over each spring in anticipation of the Kentucky Derby.

Although the actual Kentucky Derby only happens on one Saturday, the "Kentucky Derby Festival" lasts for months and includes the biggest fireworks display in the nation, Thunder over Louisville.

Just to illustrate how weird people get this time of year, the week before Derby I was trying to schedule some tutoring appointments for Saturday morning (which was the actual Derby day). The first woman I called said in disbelief, "Saturday? It's Derby!"as if I were crazy for trying to do something normal on this sacred holiday. The second lady I called almost said yes, then suddenly said, "Oh, wait, this Saturday? I'm sorry, we can't do it." I guess she remembered what day it was! Then on Saturday morning, the actual day of Derby, I heard someone say to a cashier, "Happy Derby Day!" as if it were a national holiday.

While I'm thankful Louisvilleans are returning to normal, I must say that one of the perks of the season is Derby Pie. In other parts of the country, people call any chocolate nut pie Derby Pie. But in Kentucky, you may not call a pie "Derby Pie" unless you are referring to the official Derby Pie manufactured by Kern's Kitchen. You can purchase them year-round at Kroger for $12.99. The crust is extremely rich and buttery, and the pie must be served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for the full effect of the goodness.

On Derby Day we were having some Chinese neighbors over for dinner, and at the last second I decided I wanted to make a Derby Pie so they could experience a little slice of Americana (pun intended). I realized a little too late that I didn't have time to make or buy pie crusts, so I looked to Google for some help. I found a delicious recipe for Derby Pie Bars (I mean, Chocolate Nut Bars), and they turned out excellently.

Chocolate Nut (aka Derby Pie) Bars

(This recipe is for an 8x8 pan. Double the crust and use 1.5 recipe of filling if using a 9x13.)

Crust:
Beat 1/2 cup of softened butter. Then, add 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. When this is combined, the mixture should be coarse crumbs. Press the crust mixture onto the bottom of a greased 8x8 pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Filling:
Combine 3/4 cup of corn syrup (I did 1/2 light and 1/4 dark. The recipe calls for 3/4 light, but I added some dark because that's what my grandmother uses for her pecan pie and I think it turns out better. You can experiment.) and 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I probably used more) in a saucepan over low heat. Add 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 lightly beaten eggs, and 3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Next, stir in 1 1/4 cups of chopped pecans.

Pour the filling mixture over the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until almost set in the center. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Do NOT overbake.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I just had to share with you all this incredible recipe I found on allrecipes.com.

I happened upon it one night when I was desperately searching for a recipe for spaghetti sauce that I needed for dinner. I'm typically a jar of spaghetti sauce kind of girl: store-bought usually tastes better than mine, it's incredibly easy, plus you can buy a tasty sauce from Aldi for 99 cents! That particular evening, however, I hadn't planned very well and discovered that I was out of the store-bought spaghetti sauce I was counting on for the meal I had planned.
I ended up doing something completely different for dinner that night, but I did keep the recipe I had found online. Not only did it get rave reviews, but I liked the fact that you didn't have to cook the meatballs separately. I tried the recipe later on in the week and was blown away by how good it was. Cooking the meatballs in the sauce gives the sauce an incredible depth of flavor you couldn't otherwise achieve (probably all the fat from the beef). It also freezes well, so I think I may start making it in big batches and freeze in small bags to use at different times. This may be the end of my store-bought sauce days.....
Here's the recipe, with a few changes that were recommended by reviewers:
MEATBALLS
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (I used ½ cup oatmeal made into fine crumbs in a food processor plus ½ cup bread crumbs I made from piece of toast processed in a food processor)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg, beaten
1-2 tablespoons of milk

SAUCE
3/4 cup chopped onion (I used red onions because I already had some chopped)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (I just used a large can of plain tomato sauce, I think it worked out better, unless you like chunky sauce)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar (I also added 1 T brown sugar in addition to the white sugar, to taste)
1 bay leaf
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (I didn’t even add this step)
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, milk and beaten egg. Mix well and form into 12 balls (I made about 24 smaller balls). Store, covered, in refrigerator until needed.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent. Stir in tomatoes, salt, sugar and bay leaf. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 90 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper (I skipped this step and added the basil earlier) and meatballs and simmer 30 minutes more. Serve.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Parental Neglect, or The Real Story of Curious George

Katie absolutely adores Curious George books. We've read all the original ones (including my personal favorite, Curious George Goes to the Hospital) as well as all most of the ones that are "illustrated in the style of H.A. Ray."
Having read so many of the books, I consider myself to be something of an expert when it comes to Curious George. That is why I feel compelled to share an observation I've made in my many hours of reading.

The basic outline of every Curious George book is the same. The man with the yellow hat tells George to "be good," and George disobeys and gets into some kind of trouble. Through a number of intervening circumstances, George saves the day somehow and not only escapes the consequences of his disobedience but receives honor and reward for redeeming the situation.

Any thoughtful parent would find this plotline somewhat troubling. The lovable protagonist demonstrates outright rebellion in every book and never has to deal with the consequences of his actions.

What's even more troubling to me, however, is that most readers likely miss what is the real problem. The man with the yellow hat is a completely negligent guardian! Yes, George directly defies the man with the yellow hat's clear directives, but why is the man with the yellow hat leaving George by himself in the house ALL DAY? I think I'm correct to assume that George is supposed to represent the average young child (4-6 years old). What kind of parent/guardian leaves a 5 year old unattended at home for hours at a time (or by himself at a mall, ski lodge, campsite, etc)? Isn't it too much to expect a child to "stay out of trouble" in such circumstances?

So, parents, talk to your kids about George's disobedience. But don't forget the lesson that's in it for you--do not let your kids be tempted beyond what they can bear.

[I hope everyone caught the half-sarcastic tone of this post.]

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Humble Pie...or Cake...

Thanks to those of you who commented on Adam's Seminary Shield Cake. It was fun to make, and I'm glad it turned out well. Especially after the cake disaster on Adam's birthday....

Adam turned 30 on April 28. Even though I had begun thinking several months prior about what we could do to celebrate, the day before his birthday rolled around, and I still had nothing up my sleeves. I decided to make a cake (mostly because I like to eat cake). I wasn't sure how to decorate it, so I looked online for some ideas and was inspired by this. Bingo! I decided to do a cake with red icing and write "Happy Birthday" in Chinese with yellow icing.

The best laid plans.....

Unfortunately, I realized about 2 seconds too late that red food coloring does not make red icing. It makes pink. And in case you didn't know, adding black food coloring doesn't make it look more red. Neither does adding blue food coloring. In fact, what you end up with is a cake that looks like this:

You may wonder why it says "Humility" instead of "Happy Birthday." One reason is that I simply could not bring myself to write "Happy Birthday" on a cake that was so ugly. The main reason, however, is that the cake was a clear message from God to me about humilty (and my lack of it).

My pride had demonstrated itself on many levels. First, making the cake really wasn't for Adam, it was for me. I wanted to practice using the cake pan I was planning on using for his graduation cake, and I chose my own selfish desires instead of considering what would really bless him on his birthday. Second, I already had a lot on my plate for that day and really did not have time to make and decorate a cake. My pride rejected my creaturely limitations and sought to do more than was reasonably possibly. Knowing that I would not be able to get everything done, my selfishness ignored the more important things I needed to do and chose to do what would be most self-satisfying, namely, making a cake. The really sad picture of my pride is that even when I realized there was no way to redeem the icing, I kept trying to make it better somehow--making it smooth, adding edging.

Can you believe I actually served this to people? It didn't even taste good!So let the lesson(s) be clear:

"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Proverbs 3:34

Use round cake pans.

And be very careful when using food coloring.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Graduation!

"Is it going to rain?"





Adam and his brother Cole
Adam and his grandparents
Adam and his mom and dad

Adam and his Seminary Shield Cake...guess who's more excited about it....

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How to...

...clean your microwave super quickly and easily?

This tip has the potential to revolutionize your life. Okay, maybe not, but I was really excited to learn this.

1. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with 1-2 cups of water and several tablespoons of lemon juice.
2. Heat bowl of liquid in microwave for 3 minutes and leave it there to steam for 10-15 minutes after the timer goes off.
3. Open the microwave and wipe down the insides with a papertowel. Any gook will wipe off easily and the microwave will have a clean lemony scent. Amazing.

...do just about anything?
Go to Expert Village where you can find short videos on how to do just about anything. Here are some that have recently helped me:

-How to fold a fitted sheet
-How to get a sheet cake out of a pan
-How to play the sitar