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March 31, 2009

Gram's Sauerbraten

For any of you who know me personally, you know that I am a pretty sentimental person. I may not be a saver of memorabilia and my photo albums are incredibly incomplete, but cherished memories and family traditions are my lifeblood. I am all about reunions and reminiscing and the mental triggers that almost magically transform you to another place and time.

For me and my family, Gram's Sauerbraten is a virtual time machine. When it's simmering to perfection, the aroma that floats through the house is like a heaven-sent hug from my grandmother, and every bite brings back memories of family gathered around the table in celebration.

I don't know of many people who make Sauerbraten these days, so you may be wondering what the fuss is all about. Try it for yourself and see. You too may find that it's an out-of-the-ordinary meal, worthy of taking center stage at family gathering for years to come.

Gram's Sauerbraten

From the recipe box of my beloved grandmother -- Marie Gaillard

NOTE: Though easy to prepare, this is NOT a last-minute meal. The key to the flavor is several days of marinating!

You'll need:
4 pound rump roast
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups wine vinegar
3 cups red wine
4 onions, thinly sliced
4 whole cloves
4 whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
8 gingersnaps, finely rolled

Step-by-Step
  1. Rub meat with salt & pepper.
  2. Place in large bowl.
  3. Add vinegar, wine, onions cloves, peppercorns and bay leaves.
  4. Cover and refrigerate four days, turning meat each day.
  5. On the fourth or fifth day remove meat, pat dry.
  6. Pat flour on meat.
  7. Brown meat in melted butter.
  8. Strain marinate, pour over meat.
  9. Cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours or until meat is tender.
  10. Remove meat, blend in gingersnaps to thicken gravy, add sugar to taste.
This meal is especially delicious served with baked macaroni and cheese and red cabbage.

Enjoy!

March 28, 2009

Just Write

...computer purring
...dogs barking.....
...white screen starring back at me.

...distant sounds of March madness.
...whistles blowing.
...sneakers squeeking.
...fans cheering.

Soulful Saturday night...
...just me and my thoughts.
...listening to the sound of silence.
...dreaming with my eyes wide open.

...Let the dreams become my truth.

March 27, 2009

Patchwork Pillows

I realized today that patchwork pillows are really just art for the artistically challenged.

When I was in third grade, my grammar school had an art show – it was like a science fair for the artistically blessed. Unfortunately, I was not one of those people. I couldn’t even get all the crayons back in the box, let alone make snowflake garland or fold an origami tea set. Participation in the art show was not optional, and I upon receiving the assignment, I immediately envisioned all the parents and teachers snickering as they walked past my pathetic display. I knew that unless they let me submit a haiku, I was doomed.

In the weeks leading up to the show, I lived in denial about my required participation. I had convinced myself that if I didn’t talk about it, I could will it away. No such luck. On the night before my project was due, I sheepishly went to my mother with the assignment, prepared to take the wrath for my ill-preparedness. Fortunately my Mom was (and still is) the kindest, most forgiving mom in the universe, so she didn’t dwell for too long on my superior ability to procrastinate, but instead cut to the quick and started figuring out how to get an art show-worthy project done inside four hours.

Unlike me, my mother is incredibly gifted artistically. She is also incredibly honorable. So unfortunately for me, when I suggested that I re-sign one of her oil paintings, or blow the dust off one her handmade dried flower arrangements (she even used to grow the flowers herself, then dry them), she wouldn’t go for it. Instead she reminded me of the importance of working to the best of my ability, using my God-given talents, and doing my own work (a lesson I am so blessed to have learned).

“So you want me to fail,” I thought?

But failing was the furthest thing from her mind. Instead she took off up the stairs and started digging through the storage closet in her bedroom. She had nearly vanished amidst the garment bags and the Christmas wrapping when I heard her yell, “I found it!” With that she tossed a black garbage bag onto the floor of her room.

One of my mother’s many artistic talents was her ability to sew, and the bag was overflowing with remnants and scraps of every fabric she had ever worked with in her 24 years of marriage. I looked at her blankly. I didn’t know the first thing about sewing, and with three and a half hours ‘til bedtime, it was not the time to learn.

“You’re making a patchwork pillow,” she told me, “start picking out fabrics.”

Still confused, I emptied the content of the bag on the floor and started looking at all the fabrics. There was every color and texture imaginable -- florals, stripes, checks, plaids, denim, corduroy, taffeta, lace, velvet, eyelet, pastels, and jewel tones. Before we even did a thing with it, this pile of fabric looked like a work of art. My mother was a genius – even I could do this.

I started pulling out the fabrics that I liked, and laying them side by side on the floor, moving them around to see which fabrics looked nicest next to each other. My mom showed me how to cut the perfect little squares, and pin them together in the layout that I liked. Once I had the patchwork pinned together, she would sew it on the machine, add the solid back panel, and then I could stuff it and hand stitch the small seam to finish the pillow.

I ended up picking out ten different fabrics in all. Each one representing a special occasion my mother had made something for throughout the years. Among the swatches were fabrics used for prom dresses, Easter dresses, Halloween costumes and much more. The backing was a sturdy fabric that she used to make curtains in our family room. When it was all finished the pillow told a story of many happy memories for our family.

After each square that she joined together, my mom showed me how beautifully it was all coming together, and the whole pillow was completed with time to spare before bedtime. I felt badly that my mom had done the sewing, but she assured me that it was “the creation of the patchwork layout” that was the art – the sewing was just the mechanics. My mother had found the perfect outlet for the artistically challenged.

My patchwork pillow didn’t win any awards at the art show, but I didn’t hear anyone snickering as they walked by my display.

Thirty-some years later I’ve realized that life is a lot like a patchwork pillow. Every experience is its own piece of fabric, joined together to create a special little work of art with intricate texture and dimension, held together by a sturdy backing, and filled with a stuffing that you never really see – but it is what makes this hodge podge of fabric a pillow.

Yes, I do believe life is a lot like a patchwork pillow.

March 17, 2009

Key Lime Yogurt Parfait

We love our traditional St. Patrick's Day dinner -- from the first bite of Corned Beef and Cabbage to the last drop of Guinness -- but in this house, no celebratory meal is complete without a tasty dessert.
The only problem is, St. Patrick's Day always falls during Lent, which means at least one family member (if not all) has "given up" all forms of cake, candy, ice cream, cookies and confectionery delights for the season. This year, the kids are practicing some kind of "Extreme Lenten Sacrifice" by giving up ALL junk food. Needless to say, there won't be any Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, or green-tinted cake for dessert tonight.

Fortunately being a die-hard dessert maker, I thought up a festive dessert that will put a twinkle in their smiling Irish eyes --
Key Lime Yogurt Parfaits!

Prep time: 3 minutes per parfait -- tops!

You'll Need:

  • 1 container of Key Lime Yogurt per serving (my preference is for Greek yogurt, but use what you like)
  • Graham Cracker crumbs
  • Whipped Cream
  • 1 strawberry or raspberry per serving
To Make:
1. In small parfait glass (or any stemmed glass) layer graham cracker crumbs then yogurt, repeat. Refrigerate until you're ready to eat.

2. Before serving, top with a small spritz of whipped cream.

3. Garnish with a strawberry or raspberry.

4. Serve and ENJOY!!

This tastes like a real indulgence but it's not.


What's your favorite St. Patrick's Day meal traditions?

Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day...and don't forget to Kiss the Cook!

March 15, 2009

In the Quiet

In the quiet of the morn
The house still asleep
A mother's dream inspired

March 10, 2009

The Joy of Cooking - Wildtree-style!

"Everyone is always laughing and happy when they're in the kitchen!"

That's what my daughter, Amy, said when we were talking about how the kitchen is our favorite room in the house. It's true -- whether you're enjoying day-to-day family activities, or you're entertaining a group of friends -- the kitchen is the hub of the home.

Yet although it's our favorite room of the house, answering the daily question, "What's for dinner?" can really be a chore. In fact, just the other day my husband (who prepares 90% of the dinners in our house) made the comment that he was getting bored with food. Imagine that...bored with food?!!? How is that possible? Sadly, I understood what he was saying. When you don't have a ton of time to prepare, it's hard to keep the menu fresh and exciting -- and still please the whole family.

Well, today I embarked on a new adventure that will change all of that! I discovered Wildtree.

Wildtree offers all-natural food products that will add a little zip to every meal of the day! And the best part of all is that these products don't just add flavor -- they make menu planning easier, and they're good for you too!!

I invite you to join me in discovering the joy of cooking -- Wildtree-style! Going forward I'll be sending out "Tasty Tuesday" postings that will include recipes and menu-planning ideas to help you save time in the kitchen, so you can focus on the fun. I hope you'll enjoy and participate by sharing your comments, recipes and experiences as well.

If you're not familiar with Wildtree, please visit my website at http://www.laurens.mywildtree.com/.

If you haven't already done so, subscribe today to be sure you receive future postings with entertaining ideas, recipes, meal planning tips, and reflections on living The Good Life!

March 2, 2009

Nothing's Worse than a Bad Banana

I know you know exactly what I mean. You see a bunch of bananas and they look like they're going to be phenomenal -- seemingly a perfect degree of ripeness, no bruises to speak of, not too hard, not too soft. Then you take a bite...and YUCK. It's flavorless and a little cardboard-like to eat. It's not necessarily a rotten banana -- but it's disappointing because it's not what you thought it was going to be.

I had one of those bananas today -- and despite my urge to throw it in the trash, I suffered through because I didn't want to waste it (plus I needed to eat some fruit). Afterwards though, I got to thinking, why didn't I drizzle some chocolate on it, or slice it up into my yogurt, or even add a dollop of whipped cream? There were any number of things that I could have done to make that bad banana a little more palatable -- but I didn't.

I may not have enjoyed that little banana very much today -- but believe it or not, it did get me thinking about life (if you haven't figured it out yet, pretty much everything makes me think about life and my place in it).

Disappointments are a fact of life for all of us, and though there's little we can do to prepare for them, we can choose how we're going to react to them. It's all about attitude.

So what do you do when you get a bad banana?

Are you the type to take a bite then pitch it if it's not what you expected? Do you suffer through even though you're not enjoying it? Or are you resourceful enough to compensate for its lack of flavor by combining it with peanut butter, or whipped cream, or yogurt, or chocolate (yum)?

I know how I handled the bad banana today -- but next time I'm reaching for the chocolate.

Every day is a choice. Just be happy.
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