Monday, July 20, 2015

Picnic BLTs

Several things in this great life give me great happiness, and I feel so lucky that I got to enjoy a few of my favorites, all squished into one night last week.  A picnic at Chatauqua Park in Boulder with girlfriends, before catching one of my favorite musical groups, The Indigo Girls, play at the auditorium at Chatauqua (which after Red Rocks is my most favorite of concert venues as it feels so very much like the mess hall at the summer camp I grew up at).  Oh, and I made BLTs for said picnic, so that is a grand tally of 4 of my favorites, in one night.

BLTs are classic.  They are summer.  They are picnic.  But...are you like me and are kind of ruded out by how soggy the bread is by the time you open your picnic basket, because of the (delicious, summer time favorite, for reals...just not here) tomatoes?  Well, I solved that problem years ago with delicious sun-dried tomato mayonnaise.

What you need:
3 T brown sugar
cracked black pepper
sun-dried tomatoes
loaf of bread (ciabatta was my pick)
lettuce greens

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and a piece of parchment paper.
Place bacon and sprinkle with 3 T brown sugar and a very generous
crack of black pepper.

Bake in a 375 preheated oven for 20-23 minutes. If you 
want crisper bacon, watch oven closely as the sugar
will cause a quick burn, towards the end of bake time.

Delicious peppery, sweet bacon!  This is after 20 minutes bake time.

I promptly prop the baking sheet, so all the bacon grease will
drain off to the bottom, as it is impossible to 'blot' bacon that
has been baked in sugar...unless you love eating 
delicious peppery, sweet, PAPER coated bacon!

 Place 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (drained) and 1 cup mayonnaise
in a food processor.  Pulse until the tomatoes are fully 
broken down and incorporated throughout.

This recipe will make much more that you will need for this Picnic
BLT, but be prepared to thank me as it is good on everything!

 I placed the sun-dried tomato mayonnaise in the deli container that
first housed the oil soaked tomatoes.  I did drain off most of the oil
before pulsing, but did not think to wipe the container clean.
But...a little sun-dried tomato infused oil will do zero harm to
this goodness.

I like to make in advance to allow the flavors to love each other up,
at least over night.

 Holy Toledo, this might be the best store bought 'artisan' bread
ever.  I picked it up at King Soopers (Krogers).

I used a serrated knife to slice the loaf in half, then popped it in the
oven (with the loaf closed up) to allow the outside to toast up a bit.
350 degrees for 8- 10 minutes.  It was good and crusty on the
outside when I pulled it out.  I then opened and gave the bread 10 minutes
to cool down then generously slathered the bread with the sun-dried
tomato mayonnaise.

Layer on the candied bacon and a huge, heaping pile of greens.

 No words!  Cut how you wish OR pretend you are Rodney
Dangerfield in the 'sandwich scene' from Back to School
and eat the whole thing!  Here is the clip from the movie, if you
are all like, this B be crazy!

I wrapped each cut of sandwich in parchment.

The sandwiches joined iced coffee, palmier cookies and raspberry
and dark chocolate brownie & mousse trifles, as my picnic
contributions.  My girlfriends and I were so on point with our
picnic planning that our spread was one for the books.
I will later blog the palmier and trifle recipes, but until then
try these legit BLTs! Oh, and as usual...The Indigo Girls
were AmazeFest!


Saturday, July 18, 2015


I am so angry.  I want nothing but time to sit with my father-in-law to tell him what he means to me.  I know he knows, as they took me in as family nearly 17 years ago and I have thanked him endlessly ever since.  I love him so deeply because he is a good man.  He raised a good man, who I am lucky to call my most significant of others.  He is a hardworking, honest, selfless man.  I do not want him to go away.  I want him here with us.  I want Benny to have his best friend, Papa, to talk about tractors, trains, hammers, swings with.  I want him to take Logi to the park, like he has done for her life (until this last trip home when she would cry daily because he couldn't take her).  I want our hearts not to hurt so deep that it stings in our stomachs.  I just want him here.  I want to chase after him on the ski hill, as he still rips in his 70s. I want him with my mother-in-law.  I want their union to continue here on earth, not put on pause for eternal life where they will meet again.  I just want him to be okay.  I want the last 9 months to be a horrible dream. He is so good.  He is just so good.  I just want him to just be okay.

Unfortunately every bit of selfishness I can muster up will not keep him here with us.  He is dying.  He will die soon. Cancer has stolen him. I can't believe this is real life that I type this, but I need to write.  It helps me process.  So as tears poor like a heavy spring storm from my eyes, I am flooded with happiness, sadness, more anger, more sadness for my children and so much respect for this wonderful man.

I have been caught in a roller coaster of grief since they day my husband stumbled down the stairs, like a zombie, after receiving the news that his dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  I could barely hold him up, but I did.  We cried and cried and booked him a flight home.  Since then our tears have subsided in great moments of happiness, as little kids so graciously bring to daily life, but the pain has cut so deep that it has never left us.  We have traveled homes several times in the last 8 months to spend time time with my in-laws (and on each visit I have thanked and praised them for their ever-presence in our lives.  We did not have to bum rush memories, photos with him being sick...they have just always been with us, so we have all the wonderful memories that will carry us through). In this process I have also realized I have never watched someone die.  I have only lost those closest to me in tragedy.  That seems crazy, but that is truth.  My grief usually begins with the phone call that someone is gone (all too young and soon) and I never knew how to handle that shocking, life altering grief. Time to figure out grief management (there has to be cliff notes on that, right?)

We were going to head back to Minnesota in a couple weeks, on Zac's last day of work. Instead we are heading home Monday night, giving Zac that day to wrap up work (however that may look, it will have to be good enough) so we can get home and be with them.  How can this be?  We were just there less than two weeks ago.  I even asked my MIL, pretending she had the power of a crystal ball, if he would be okay when we returned.  I guess I asked that because I knew.

Man, I am not good at this stuff.  If I could please ask you to surround Jim, Joan, Zac, Rocky, the grand kids and all all those who love Jim so deep in your prayers.  I am praying for peace and comfort for Jim in these final days.  I am praying for love and support for Joan, as she cared for him so courageously and loved him so big.  I am praying that Zac will not close himself off.  I am praying for the little hearts of Benny and Logi and their cousin Roisin, who will miss their papa.

 Benny in his happy place.  With his best pal, papa.
I cannot believe we snapped this just 2 weeks ago.

A heavy yet overflowing heart, when I look at these.

Will forever treasure this trip to the woods.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tater Tot Hotdish Burger

The cool weather of late (of course, not today) has me in a 
Minnesota State (Fair) of Mind! 

It might also be that I just saw the official roll out of new delicacies
on a stick that one can find at said fair...but regardless of the reason
this little creation I dreamed up a few weeks ago has me thinking
of home.

Two things that Minnesotans love: Hot dish (anything baked in a 
casserole dish, for those not in the know) and Burgers. 

Minnesotans especially love the classic Tater Tot Hotdish, which
is a ground hamburger and cream of mushroom soup base, topped
with tater tots.  Sounds rather rude, but it is perfection in a 9x13.

 Marrying these two favorites seems like a no brainer, 
Oh dear lord, this is absolutely a must try.  
And on the plate in under 30 minutes...what are you waiting for?

 What you need?
burgers (however you like: turkey, veggie, beef, buffalo)
frozen tater tots
3/4 cup yellow onion (chopped)
3/4 cup mushrooms (dry cleaned and chopped)
6 oz. whipped cream cheese
hamburger buns
salt & pepper
oil for sauteing

Saute the onions and mushrooms in 2 T. oil, generously cracking
salt and pepper while they cook down over medium heat.  
Do this while cooking the burger, season each side of the 
burger with salt and pepper.

Also oven cook tater tots (according to package directions)

 When the onions are transluesent and the mushrooms are soft, 
turn off the heat and fold in 6 oz of whipped cream cheese.

This will act as the "cream of mushroom soup" 
component of the classic Tater Tot Hotdish.

 Building the perfect Tater Tot Hotdish Burger:
bottom toasted bun
generous dollop of creamy mushrooms and onions
5 crispy tater tots
top with the other toasted bun.

And because gluttony likes green company,
serve with a mixed greens salad.

I want full report, if you make this for your
great aunt in Northern Minnesota.


Friday, July 10, 2015

The Tooth Fairy Paid a Visit!

 I said to Logi, 'smile big, so we can see your missing teeth'.
Benny wanted in on the action!

Rite of Passage up in here tonight.  The Tooth Fairy graced us with her presence.  We have been prepping for her arrival for nearly a month, during which time I have fielded some funny questions: Will she mind if I sleep with the light on? Do you think she will leave me a little money for the arcade?  Does she know I like the arcade?  Can we go to the arcade in that tiny town again?  Will she visit Benny when he is bigger?  Do you think she would want a snack? Is she real? (ugh, last question hit me in the gut, as she is 5 and I want her to believe in all things magical. Of course, some turd in Kindergarten mentioned the fallacy of said fairy...but I continue to just remind her that we have to believe in the magic).

We knew this visit was upon us, as she had a seperate procedure scheduled with the dentist today, and he had given her a solid month to get her two front, very wiggly, teeth out or he would pull them while he had her mouth good and numbed up for the other procedure.  Subsequently, I told her I would pay her half of what the dentist was going to charge, if she could get them out before she saw him again.  No takers.

So we walked out of the dentist's office, with my little Logi looking so very much like a big kid (a big kid playing the part of a jack-o-latern, even better)!

 She has been dreaming of this for months! Goodness, remember
when life was so simple?  Reminds me to be mindful of looking
forward to simple things in life with such exuberance! 

Oh and yes, she totally ate pizza after her bath so went to bed with
wet hair and a face covered in sauce.

She will be excited to wake to find that in the place of her two 
teeth there is a book, a 'hour glass' teeth brushing timer, and a 
small bag of coins (for the arcade, of course).

Please Time, I beg of you...SLOW DOWN!