Monday, April 25, 2011

Indoor S'Mores

One sunny Saturday afternoon - the summer after my senior year of high school I heard a strange car horn down at the corner, seemingly approaching. I went to the front porch and shrieked with delight. "You finished it!!" Without even being invited, I gently climbed in the front seat of the newly rebuilt 196-(something-I should know this!) navy blue Ford Mustang Convertible with white leather. I was taken on a ride. We stayed on paved roads; carefully making sure neither dust nor gravel would mar the pristine finish.
I helped my friend rebuild this mustang. It began as a seemingly pile of junk on the floor of his garage. When I say I helped, my job was to take my perch in the corner of the garage and chatter endlessly for hours, touching nothing while Brett worked. This division of labor was repeated throughout the summer of 1987, the following school year and into the summer of 1988. Brett was a good friend. I always felt blessed to have him as a friend and undeserving of his loyalty.
Brett was unassuming and very accepting. He treated me with incredible respect and helped me try to understand my potential. Despite his efforts, I was still a bit if a trouble maker.
One Friday at school in the fall of my senior year, I asked Brett what we were doing that weekend. He told me I was on my own because the boys were all going camping- no girls allowed! While pretending not to, I listened in on their conversation at lunch outlining the details of their campout including a specific description of where the site was located. I drug along a girlfriend and we set out to crash their “man” camp-out. I took a wrong turn on a darkened road in Allegheny National Forest. The turn left us stuck in a muddy cornfield. It was well past curfew by the time we became free and my friend and I headed to the car wash and then home having never found the boys.

Today I was saddened by the news of Brett's passing. He was 40 years old: A husband, a father, and no doubt, a treasured friend by any who knew him.

If I were to make him some Indoor S'Mores, I think after 20-some years I could tell him about the time I tried to crash his camp-out.
And knowing Brett, he would be grateful and overly enthusiastic with any treat prepared for him -because he really was that nice of a person.

Indoor S'mores

(adapted from Pampered Chef)

1 cup finely crushed graham crackers

¼ cup powdered sugar

6 T melted butter

5 Campfire sized marshmallows

5 Hershey milk chocolate candy bars (1.55oz.)
Preheat oven to 350°F . Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and butter . Place scant scoop of crumb mixture in each cup of 9 tins in a muffin pan. Press crumbs to form shallow cups. Bake 5-6 minutes or until edges are bubbling. Meanwhile, break the candy bars into rectangles. Remove pan from oven; place three rectangles into each cup.
Cut marshmallows in half crosswise. Place one marshmallow half, cut-side down, into each cup. Broil in oven 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows are just gently roasted. Cool Slightly.
Melt remaining candy bars and place in a freezer strength Ziploc bag. Microwave on HIGH in 3o second intervals until melted. Drizzle the top of each marshmallow with melted chocolate.

So Brett- if your new job in heaven allows you to read my blog-

"Thank you for the ride of a lifetime in the car "we" rebuilt. - Until we meet again dear friend. And may the family you left behind be comforted today and in all of their tomorrows -pass on the rich legacy you left behind."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Red Velvet Cakesters

When I was a sophomore in high school our family moved from the only place I'd ever known as home to a small village in Pennsylvania. I had been blessed to have a best friend live right next door to me for almost ten years in the small farming community in Iowa that we left behind.

The move was rough on me at an especially tough time in my formative years. I longed for a friend. One night, after coming home late from an out of town basketball game, I woke my mom up to tell her I was home. Customarily she would barely wake enough to acknowledge me. This particular night, I needed help. She sat up in bed and I took a seat too. I told her I was having a hard time- had been having one for over a year. I told her how much I missed my childhood friend.

Mom gave me sound inspired advice that night. She told me to "Pray, and ask Heavenly Father for a true friend."

I quickly left her bedside and retreated to my own, where without delay I took her advice.

A few weeks later, the seasons changed and track began. I knew I had no speed, but was gifted with endurance. I took a position with the distance runners. There was a runner a year younger than me. We could carry the same pace through our workouts and ran together every day. Meanwhile I was still asking God every day as I prayed - for a friend. As days turned into weeks I realized how much I looked forward to track practice every day. Not for the running- but rather because my prayer had been answered.

Carolyn was a true friend to me. I'm sure I never completely told her how much I appreciated her. I graduated high school and our family moved again. We've each married, and are raising our families thousands of miles apart. This time of year especially, I’ll often think of her and silently thank my Father in Heaven for a friend.

Yesterday, I visited with a neighbor friend. I stood at the front door and noted packed boxes neatly stacked in each room. She will soon move to another town in another state. I brought her a rendition of some treats that she first had at Starbucks. I received a photo and a text--and a challenge. I've experimented a few times and am content with the results-

Red Velvet Cakesters

1 red velvet cake mix

4 eggs

1/3 cup oil

2 T water

3/4 cup sour cream

1 package instant vanilla pudding

Mix all ingredients well. Grease muffin pans. Drop a one inch dollop (small cookie scoop) in each space. Bake at 350 degrees for six minutes. Immediately dump pan, re-grease and re-fill until you've baked all of the batter. Let cakes cool completely.

Prepare cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz. softened cream cheese

3/4 cup soft butter

4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

Bear until smooth. Spoon into freezer strength ziploc bag. Cut a triangle off of one corner. Pipe a layer of frosting on half of the bottom of the cakes and put a "lid" on top.

Put remaining frosting in a clean ziploc and clip a small hole in the corner. Drizzle some frosting on top. This recipe makes 40 Cakesters.

As my friend does final preparations for the move, I share in her excitement in beginning a new chapter in their family’s life. And I acknowledge that I'm sure I have never completely told her how much I appreciate her being my friend. But I’m ever more aware that as people come into our lives; we are blessed -just simply by knowing them.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fruit Pizza

A year ago I received a thank you gift. It was a fruit pizza in the shape of the gift preparer’s car. I was being thanked for rescuing one of B's friends from a trick he himself had mastered- locking the keys in the car. I was delighted with the generous thank you. B's typical thank you was a text and a shy "sorry" when I saw him next.
So if you have someone to thank, or just want to try something fun,why not make your fruit pizzas on the personal size of things.

Fruit Pizza

Begin with sugar cookie dough. Roll out and cut out into desired shapes. Bake and cool completely.
There are many versions to the typical cream cheese layer.
The classic is:

Cream cheese layer:
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat until creamy and spread onto cooled cookie. Finally, top with fresh fruit, and toasted coconut if desired.

For a lighter layer, make the Crushed Pineapple Fruit Dip with fat free Greek yogurt and sugar free pudding, even omitting the coconut.-

Or give it a chocolate burst with the Chocolate Cream Fruit Dip as the middle layer. -

A few weeks ago, Y called one weekend evening while he was out with friends. There was an initial silent pause after I answered the phone which immediately rose my blood pressure.
"Mom- I pulled a B-...".
"What does that mean" I shrieked!!
"I locked my keys in the car." He replied with a snicker regarding my freak out.
So I grabbed a spare set and was silently grateful for such an easy pardonable mistake that B is famous for.

Easter is coming- why not make some bunny shaped fruit pizzas?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chocolate Cream Fruit Dip

I slept really well last night. There is an indescribable peace in having all the kids home in their beds. My eldest returned home from college yesterday after completing his first year of coursework. He is only home for two months before he leaves for two years while serving a mission for The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It's good to have him home, even if only for a short time. I forgot how much I missed him offering to help out with meal prep. I forgot how much I missed his generous thank-yous for food prepared. It's the simple things in life that make a mama happy!
And "simple" is the perfect word to describe this fruit dip that we love with a large bowl of fresh strawberries.

Chocolate Cream Fruit Dip

1 8oz. tub of Cool Whip
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt 1/3 of tub of Cool Whip with the chocolate chips in the microwave. Stir until smooth. Add vanilla. Stir again. Fold chocolate mixture into remaining Cool Whip and chill thoroughly.

This recipe also works nicely as a chilled "frosting" for a chocolate layer cake. Don't forget to garnish generously with Oreo Balls.