"Grammie, will you make some latkes?" asked my five-year-old grand daughter.
Having enjoyed Christmas in Ohio (see yesterday's post) we were now enjoying Chanukah, which began on December 24, in Los Angeles.
As my daughter Maria was raised in a Christian background and her husband Justin's family is Jewish,
…much to the delight of their children.
Anyway, latkes are the special potato pancakes that are eaten during Chanukah, and so it was natural for my little grand daughter to assume that her Grammie would be planning to make the Chanukah latkes.
"Sure I'll make the latkes," replied I, never mind that I never even eaten a latke, let alone knew how to make one.
But then that's what the internet is for, right?
I looked up few latke recipes on line and learned that they generally call for the same basic ingredients and methodology: grated raw potatoes, eggs, flour, and onions, mixed together and fried in oil.
I have a phobia about frying things, probably because I have so little experience at frying things, except for bacon, which I've tried a couple of times and burned. I've also burned a few pork chops and a steak once when I tried cooking these items in a frying pan on the stove.
So I usually shy away from trying to fry anything.
But fortunately I found a recipe for oven-fried latkes, which I felt would be more in my culinary comfort zone.
I ended up making a couple of changes to the oven-latke recipe - I took out the onions and cut down on the oil - but here's my version of the recipe:
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds peeled Yukon gold potatoes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
vegetable oil spray
applesauce and/or sour cream
2. Heat oven to 450° F. Spray two baking sheets with vegetable oil spray.
3. Using a box grater or a food processor fitted with a shredding blade,
...coarsely grate the potatoes.
5. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets and press lightly to make patties. Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Turn the latkes with a metal spatula and rotate the baking sheets. Bake another 5 minutes or until golden.
6. serve with the applesauce and/or sour cream.
I made a pot of home-made apple sauce to go with the latkes, which everyone pronounced quite yummy, though, I was told, not as as crispy as the traditional pan-fried version. But then I figured, what you lose in extra-crispiness you also lose in fat and calories, right?
On my daughter's kitchen counter sat a sweet potato of exceptional size and unusual shape. As upon inquiry I'd been informed that this extraordinary sweet potato had been sitting on the counter for a couple of weeks already and it's future was up for grabs, I decided to bake it up for the family's enjoyment that very evening.
However, probably as I was still feeling stoked over the previous day's success at creating a signature oven-baked latke, an idea popped into my head: what about an oven-fried sweet potato latke?!
I figured I'd use my original latke recipe and substitute the sweet potato for the Yukon gold potatoes.
But just before I began the process I took a look at the sweet potato and, noticing that it bore an uncanny resemblance to a little sea otter, I pointed out this resemblance to my grand daughters, who immediately fell in love with the sweet potato sea otter and wouldn't hear of me grating it up and turning it into a latke.
So it was back to Ralph's to buy some sweet potatoes for whom nobody held and emotional attachment.
I made the sweet potato latkes according to the original recipe, the only change being that when I flipped the latkes mid-baking I re-sprayed the pan, as the sweet potatoes seemed to soak up the first round of spray more than the regular potatoes did. I guess, though, I could have just sprayed the tops of the latkes before flipping them instead of re-spraying the pan, which was kind of a pain.
In truth these latkes didn't hold together as well as the originals, and sort of turned into sweet potato hash browns,
As for the destiny of the little sweet potato sea otter, my grand daughter wanted to give it a face and some fins,
Funny how Christmas comes and goes.
Christmas Lite begins the day after Halloween, which is when the stores start putting out the Christmas displays, and there aren't 12 days of Christmas but usually at least 30, the first actual day of Christmas being the day after Thanksgiving.
And yet for as the long as the Christmas season is, I invariably find myself wondering on the night of December 25th how Christmas Day could have come so quickly and be over so soon.
And now, as usual, I find myself musing over some of the random small, warm moments that made the season twinkle:
The Wednesday before Christmas when the Panera Posse met at my house,
...some too beautiful to eat,
...but of course we scarfed them down way.
....as was the Christmas note-writing pads and colored pens my friend also gave them.
From friends and neighbors gifts of home-made cookies and fudge,
...and the trays of cookies I likewise delivered.
...then the joy of watching them on Christmas morning.
...eating Christmas dinner at the Iron Chef Japanese Steak House.
Seasons greetings to all from Los Angeles!
This year we celebrated Christmas Eve as we traditionally do, feasting and singing carols with family and neighbors and lighting up our street with Christmas luminaries.
The preparations for Christmas Eve always start for me weeks in advance with planning and cooking and freezing some items,
…like the stuffed mushrooms,
…and the cookies.
And, of course, there’s the decorating, inside and outside, each decoration and light set in the places where they always go. To this end I take photos every year of where everything goes so I won’t have to try and remember the following year.
When Christmas Eve finally rolled around it was all hands on deck for cleaning the house,
...putting together the luminaries, which are made from votive candles in baby food jars placed inside 1/2 gallon plastic milk
jugs - saved all year long - each with a hole cut in the front.
...fixing the food,
...and waiting for the guests to arrive, which they did at 7 pm.
We had been planning on 24 adults and kids, but in the days before Christmas Eve, one by one the numbers dwindled - sickness, changes in family plans, etc - until we were down to seven family members and three neighbors. I was afraid with so few of us the party might not, you know, pop; but in fact the ten of us ended up seeming like the perfect amount of people and we all really had a great time,
We sang the holiday songs for a while then people began making requests: "Amazing Grace," "Hallelujah", some of the old church songs like "Peace Is Flowing Like A River", "And I Will Raise You Up", and "Speak To Me", and some pop ballads, among them "Dock Of The Bay" and "Midnight Double Feature Picture show". People found the words to the songs on their I-phones and used them to sing along while I played.
I was grateful to be in a house filled with singing on Christmas Eve, and also grateful that most songs use the same five chords.
Happy Holidays to All!
Columbus, Columbus, it's a wonderful town. Seems the longer I live here the more I appreciate it.
There's always some gem to discover or re-discover, especially at Christmastime, as I've been doing this past week with my daughter, son-in-law and two grand daughters.
We all also enjoyed the Children's section,
...as well as other delightful and educational activities for little ones,
Another Columbus icon I felt we had to hit was my favorite eatery, The Spaghetti Warehouse,
...but at its best when all done up for the holidays.
And I have to give a shout-out to the staff of the Spaghetti Warehouse who are always so over-the-top friendly and accommodating. On this visit we were told there would be a 45-minute wait, this being such a popular place around Christmas time. But when I mentioned in conversation with the hostess that we had our kids and two small grandkids visiting with us from California she said, "know what? I'm going to get you in right away". And she did. I feel like I always snag some good Karma at the Spaghetti Warehouse.
I once read (online) that the best Christmas lights display in the USA can be found at the outdooor Christkindlmarket in Chicago.
Well, I've been to the Chicago Christkindlmarket and, while I wouldn't disparage that display, I'm willing to put it out there that our Christmas display at Easton Town Center in Columbus is an even more beautiful holiday wonderland,
Then yesterday we visited another beautiful location in downtown Columbus,
...filled with playful, child-friendly works of art,
And though this Columbus site is a nationally renowned destination for children, it's also a place where no parent would ever hope to have to take their child:
Tommy gave us a tour of the public areas,
...took us for a yummy lunch in the hospital cafeteria,
Then we went home after our visit to Nationwide Children's,
For me Christmas began last Thursday .
And on that first day of Christmas my true loves came to me,
On the second day of Christmas my true loves made with me,
...one lovely turkey,
On the third day of Christmas my true loves ate with me,
On the fourth day of Christmas,
...or they did some playing,
...I cooked some spaghetti,
...Tommy, Randy and Anusha came over,
...and thus ends my lame attempt at holiday poetry! ;)
Question: Prior to November 9, 2016, when is the last time you gave any serious thought to the Electoral College?
When, in the 240 years since the birth of our country, did the vote of the Electoral College register one way or the other to most Americans? When did this vote, in most of our minds, mean anything more than a formality that was carried out as part of our national tradition?
After what past election was the whole country anxiously aware of the exact day, the exact time that the members of the Electoral College would be voting?
Who would have imagined in the history of this country that the day would come when millions of Americans would turn in fear and desperation to the members of the Electoral College to beseech them to refuse to vote for the person who was declared, according to the rules that govern our elections, President of the United States?
Who would have imagined fraught Americans pinning a Hail Mary hope-against-hope on the members of the Electoral College to save them from their future president?
But of course the Electoral College isn't going to save us from Donald Trump. It never was going to. The Electoral College is what made Donald Trump's presidency possible, not the votes of the American people, who chose his opponent over him by a margin of almost 3 million votes.
And so now the results of this election, debatable as they may well be, tainted as they may well have been by interference from a hostile foreign power, are not going to be disputed by The Electoral College but affirmed by it.
Because the job of The Electoral College is and has always been to finalize the outcome of the election process, whatever that outcome may be.
Theoretically the members of the Electoral College have the power to deny the presidency to someone who has given every indication that he will be a deleterious, possibly dangerous leader.
But few if any electors would be inclined to upset the established order, and so events will simply have to play out and history will march on, as it always does.
And we'll all see.
...Continued from yesterday:
A note on that pecan pie from the post from 12/12/2016 :
But the filling of this pie was so smooth and mellow and at the same time so pecan-y that it was definitely a cut above all my previous pecan pie experiences; and if you, too, happen to be a pecan pie aficionado I highly recommend trying this super-easy recipe.
To that end, I'll re-share the recipe as I prepared it (I strayed ever so slightly from the original recipe) for anyone who might want to try it:
Anyway, on Saturday afternoon while we finished making - and sampling - the pies (see posts from 12/12 and 12/15), a light snow began falling,
...to a small nearby restaurant called Township,
...Continued from yesterday:
On Saturday morning Tom and I walked from our hostel
...to Logan Square to pick up Claire and Miguel, then we all headed back to The Cozy Corner (see yesterday's post) for breakfast.
Though the Cozy Corner had been quiet and not too busy the previous morning when Claire and I went there, on Saturday morning the place appeared to be where all of Chicago met for breakfast.
But we took our number and found a spot to squeeze in - cozy indeed - among the crowd.
Still, inspite of all the bodies waiting for a table we didn't wait overly long for ours thanks to maitre de who ran the seating with the efficiency of a military operation and the quick, efficient wait staff who zipped through the crowds with trays of food then to and fro throughout the restaurant like a hive of busy bees. I also imagined an army of cooks toiling away back in the kitchen.
We were seated within about fifteen minutes, and the food, which arrived also without much waiting, was as good as it had been the day before,
After breakfast we walked back to Claire and Miguel's house - thank goodness for all the walking which hopefully helped mitigate all the eating - from where we drove - that is, Miguel drove us - to our next destination, the Swap-O-Rama.
...where one can find all sorts of interesting things,
However we had come to the Swap-O-Rama in search of something specific: Nacimiento figurines.
A Nacimiento is a traditional Mexican nativity scene which typically includes a variety of human and animal figurines set in a miniature environment that can include plants, structures, and bodies of imaginary or real water.
Claire and Miguel have been adding to their Nacimiento collection over the years and wanted to pick up a few more figurines at the Swap-O-Rama, which has a number of shops that offer a wide selection of Nacimiento figurines of all sizes.
... and so did I, having decided to start a Nacimiento of my own.
After we'd made our purchases from the Swap-O-Rama we drove back to Claire and Miguel's place.
They were some memorably good pies. And we all did indeed forget the world's troubles for a while.
To be continued...
...Continued from yesterday:
When we arrived back at Claire’s house with our pie supplies,
…I asked Claire to pull up the recipe she’d found online for pecan pie. I noticed the name of that pie was Epicurean Pecan pie and that the total preparation time was listed at 5 hours. Somehow I had the feeling that this wasn’t the recipe for me, a feeling that was affirmed when I read the instructions, which called for the clarifying of butter and a slew of pots and pans – which would have to be washed afterwards- in the preparation.
I had a hunch there must be an easier pecan pie recipe.
I asked Claire if she had a cookbook kicking around somewhere or, I wondered, do youngsters get all their culinary training online these days?
But no, Claire did have a cookbook collection which she showed me. I found a book called something like “Easy-fix and enjoy”, which was what I had in mind, and which, sure enough,
….which I followed,
…nor did I get the apple pie made that day since by the time pies number one and two were finished there wouldn’t have been time to finish pie number three before dinner.
...which is always cheerfully decorated at Christmastime.
We started off with an order of super-yummy garlic-mozzarella bread to share,
...then moved on to the pieces de resistance, a couple of those incomparable Pizano's pizzas,
There's always something about that first bite of a Pizano's pizza that makes your whole mouth light up as you taste buds spring to attention.
Tom, not a great pizza fan, not even of such sublime pizza as Pizano's, ordered spaghetti with meat sauce,
... that by the time we left the restaurant it was late and Tom and I were too tired to head back to Claire and Miguel's for pie, so we told Claire and Miguel to go home and try the pie for us and we headed back to the Urban Holiday Hostel.
We still had one more day left in Chicago to taste our pies and make another.
To be continued...
I’m not exactly sure where it came from – I think maybe Tom made it up – but we have a sort of ritual in our family that goes with the serving up of pie; that is, whenever a pie is set upon the table for dessert somebody invariably declaims: “In time of trouble: Pie!”
Of course if pie were actually the remedy for troubled times, then what the world would really need now would be pie, sweet pie. And lots of it.
But then even if it doesn't end up solving any of our current national and global worries, what’s not to like about a slice of good pie even in the worst of times?
And so I suggested that during our visit to Chicago I make a pie to cheer us all up during these troubled times.
The consensus was that this would be a splendid idea,
...the recipe for which can be found in several previous posts, but which I’ll re-post here for the sake of anyone else who might be needing some good pie to help them cope:
Cherry Almond Streusel Pie
2 cans of tart red cherries.
2 tablespoons of quick-cooking tapioca
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 9-inch unbaked refrigerated roll-out pie crust
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Mix the cherries and their juices with the tapioca, sugar, and cinnamon. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Mix the flour and brown sugar then cut the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture is crumbly. Mix in the almonds.
Roll out the pie crust, place it in a 9-inch pie pan and spread the cherry mixture into the pie crust. Spoon the streusel mixture over the cherries.
Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and topping well-browned.
Since in times past I’d not succeeded in finding canned tart cherries in any of the supermarkets in Claire and Miguel’s neighborhood, this time I brought the cherries with me from Columbus and also a box of Minute Tapioca just in case that item likewise proved elusive. I figured we could find the rest of the ingredients locally.
So on Friday morning pie-baking was on the agenda.
Right after breakfast.
As Miguel had to work and Tom was spending the day visiting a friend in a Chicago suburb,
…then we walked back to Logan Square,
…until we arrived at the restaurant that Claire had picked out for breakfast, which turned out to be closed.
But we’d passed another place along the way called The Cozy Corner that Claire had never been to,
It was, in fact, a cozy place,
The staff was friendly, the service good, and the food great. The French Toast and pancakes were the fluffiest,
…. that we decided to bring Miguel and Tom back the following morning.
Along the way we passed:
After we dropped off the cherries and tapioca,
…we headed back out to pick up the rest of the pie ingredients at a nearby Mexican supermarket,
...where the walls were painted to look like a hacienda.
Rather than make a pie crust from scratch - which I can do like ringin’ a bell – I wanted to buy a package of Pillsbury pre-made pie crusts to save time. But doing so presents the dilemma of there being two crusts per package and only one crust is needed for a Cherry Almond Streusel Pie. So I suggested that I also make an apple streusel pie to use up the second crust.
Claire liked the idea of having an apple pie as well, but admitted that she’d prefer a regular two-crust apple pie.
This meant that we’d have to buy a second package of pie crusts for the apple pie, which would bring us back at where we started, still with an extra crust.
To solve the recurring quandary of the extra pie crust I suggested that I make one more one-cruster, maybe a pumpkin or pecan pie.
Claire immediately cast her vote for a pecan pie, so pecan pie it was to be.
The only snag was that I’d never made a pecan pie before and so knew neither how such a pie was made nor which ingredients we needed to purchase. But that problem was easily solved when Claire pulled out her phone and pulled up a pecan pie recipe from online, from which we learned that the only additional ingredients we’d need to buy were pecans and light corn syrup.
Our shopping done, we headed back home laden with the necessary provisions to bake not one, but three pies. But it was all right. We’re living in times of extraordinary worry and anxiety.
These are definitely three-pie times.
To be continued…
by Patti Liszkay
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by Patti Liszkay
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"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
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I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.