Downsize the Party? Never!

 

“Meatloaf!” My friend exclaimed in amazement. “How did you bake this?”

It was a bit of surprise at our dinner party, I suppose. You see over the Christmas holidays, my stove along with its oven broke. Yep, it just gave up. Surrendered. It had cooked many a good meal not only for my family, but also for pot lucks, large parties, even catering for conferences. It always delivered until the day after Christmas. Good timing. Life was slowing. Cookies had been baked and celebration dinners were past. The thing is, I haven’t purchased a new one.

My cooking now is done on a hot plate. Yes, I know, many months have passed since December, but at the moment things are going fine. Call it an experiment in downsizing, BIG time. [Tiny house living is all the rage after all.] One burner, a crock pot, and a microwave. Well, a couple of other things you might find interesting. The aforementioned meatloaf was actually baked in the BBQ. It worked great.

A few weeks ago, I decided to do cupcakes with my special Browned Butter Frosting. Not wanting to borrow an oven somewhere, I recalled a time when I used a turkey roaster to do baking in my daughter’s kindergarten class. You know the kind. A black enameled, plug in, standalone oven of sorts. A friend had given me one that had belonged to her grandmother. It came complete with the original book copyrighted 1940. Anyway, I dug the roaster out of the storage closet, plugged it in, and voila, cupcakes were baked!

I guess my point in telling you all this is life can still go on without some of the conveniences we think necessary. In fact, many places I have traveled to around the world have had far less than my ‘down-sized’ kitchen and they still manage hospitality just fine. It’s not how the food arrived at the table, but rather who you have around the table that really matters.

I will get a new stove eventually, but for now, things are OK. I haven’t slowed down at all in the hospitality department. If anything, it has made me more creative, broadening the methods that bring good flavors to the supper table.

I love spending time with my friends and family. The simplest things in life give me the most pleasure: cooking a good meal, enjoying my friends.

~Cindy Morgan

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Beautiful table setting for afternoon coffee with friends while visiting in Germany, 2014.

 


Italian Meatloaf

1 ½ pounds ground beef

2 eggs, beaten

½ chopped onion

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

¾ cup Italian bread crumbs

½ cup ketchup

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon garlic salt

¾ cup pasta sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

 

  1. Preheat oven [or BBQ] to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Press into a 9×5 inch loaf pan [must be metal for BBQ], and cover loosely with foil.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven approximately 1 hour, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). If using the BBQ, turn pan from time-to-time to achieve even cooking.

Enjoy!

 

Legs to Stand On

arthropod-346190_1920This morning while on a walk, I noticed a small millipede crossing the road. All of his legs were working in unison to move him along his way.  What a lucky little creature to have so many limbs to rely on. He seemed to glide along its pathway without hindrance or hesitation. We bipeds are not so fortunate. Only two legs to stand on, and if one is injured we are pretty much stranded and unable to move without help of some kind.

This visual brings a new perspective to the verses from Ecclesiastes 4 that say, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” [4:9-10 NLT] Solomon, the writer of this saying, sees the benefit of having a friend to help—If you fall you have “another to lift [you] up!” [AMP]

Let’s take this idea of helping one another to a new level. What if we were like that tiny creature the millipede, and our legs numbered anywhere between 36 and 400? That kind of support would certainly make an impact on our lives as we move along life’s path. This is where friends, small groups, ministry partners, and church fellowships come in. They are the multiplication factor when it comes to having others to share the joys and struggles of daily living. The writer of Hebrews urges us to “… not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” in order to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:25, 24 NIV

Paul also spoke of this idea of supporting each other in his second letter to the Corinthian church–

“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God. . . And you are helping us by praying for us. Then, many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.”  

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

 “Helping us by praying. . ..” is a factor in “leg multiplication”. These people literally came alongside and carried Paul and Timothy with their prayers. In addition, the words encourage, build up, serve, do good, share with and love found in the New Testament speak of how we should relate to each other. When we come to help one another and put these words into action, everyone benefits. And these benefits are not just added to individuals, they are multiplied throughout the whole group.

Another thing I observed about the millipede was more legs also means more stability and ease as he went along his way. As I watched this little creature whose legs work so well in unison scurry off, I could picture a life that can seem to glide along when we work together and watch out for one another. Life seems a little easier, we feel encouraged, and the even the joy we share is multiplied.  What a wondrous thing it is to have each other’s legs to stand on as we move along the path of life!

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement [waiting for his promises to be fulfilled], help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God,  the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 15:5-6

 

 

It’s the Icing on the Cake

I am known for my cakes.  If there is a gathering, it can be heard, “Let Patty bring the cake!”  In fact when my youngest daughter married a few years back, it was voted that we have a cake bar because no one could decide which cake to offer, so we offered a variety.  This just caused a frenzy among friends.  Now, what to choose?! “Choose them all,” I say. Life’s too short to pass on the sweet parts.

Isn’t that what cakes represent–the sweet moments of relationship?  Be it a wedding, a birthday, or a new baby, cakes seem to be involved. Cake shows up to funeral dinners to comfort and at doorsteps of a sick neighbors to encourage. Cake brings community together, not for the sake of cake, but for the pleasure of doing life side-by-side in good times or bad.  That is the icing of life–the sweet fellowship of friends.

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Cake bar at my daughter’s wedding. Cakes were created by a wonderful baker friend, Julia, and myself. Pictures above the table are family wedding pictures.


This is one of my most requested cake frostings. I first discovered it in Better Homes and Gardens years ago. It is called a Candy Bar Cake. It had a homemade cake to go with it but I quickly ditched it for a boxed mix.  The frosting is the star anyway.  The original recipe called for chopped candy bars to be sprinkled on the top. On occasion, we still include them but it takes it to an extreme level of richness. I use this recipe on yellow or carrot cake but please do try it on your favorite and let me know how you like it.  This is my version. It is slightly different from the original.

Browned Butter Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions

  1. Melt butter in small skillet over medium low heat.  Continue to cook, keep a close watch, until butter becomes golden in color. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  2. In mixer, beat cream cheese until creamy.
  3. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
  4. Pour in melted butter.  Beat until smooth.
  5. Continue mixing, adding powered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beating briefly after each addition. Add a little milk to keep frosting at a mixable consistency.
  6. Add vanilla beating until incorporated.
  7. Get in on the cake before you eat it all with a spoon.
  8. Enjoy!

Cakes are special. Every birthday, every celebration,

ends with something sweet, a cake and people remember.

It’s all about the memories.

~Bubby Valastro

If you enjoyed this, head on over to another blog I write.

Girlonadventure.com

The Gift of Hospitality


Forty years ago, I found myself living far from home in San Jose, California. My husband took a job with his dad in that city so we packed up our belongings and moved. No longer could I just drop by Mom’s for a quick visit.  As a newlywed with no kids, no job and no car it could have been a very lonely existence. That is, if it hadn’t been for my neighbor, Janis.

Janis lived across the walkway in our group of duplexes.  She was older and wiser– all of thirty [maybe] but seemed so mature to my eighteen year old self. If anyone had the gift of true hospitality, she did. Janis invited me into her home and into her life.  I am very grateful to her for that.  She took me under her wing, mentoring me in my new role as wife to my husband.

One of the things she taught me was how to make bread. I only have a faded memory our time in her kitchen making that first loaf but I do remember the smell and the taste.  It was Easy Buttermilk Bread. It was light and delicate and oh so yummy.  This afternoon, I pulled out the cookbook she gave me back then and stirred up a batch.  It’s in the rising stage as I write this.  We shall see if it stands up to my fond memory.

Thank you, Janis, for helping a lonely girl make a home where she was planted.  It made such a difference in the woman I became.

There is no hospitality like understanding.  ~Vanna Bonta


Easy Buttermilk Bread

I have changed the recipe to accommodate a bread machine if you prefer.  No bread machines back in the 70’s.

  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1  teaspoons salt
  •  2 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups flour, sifted
  1. Heat the buttermilk until it is hot enough to melt the butter.
  2. Stir in the sugar, salt and butter. Cool.
  3. Proof the yeast in a small amount of water with a pinch of sugar and add to the cooled buttermilk mixture.
  4. Combine the baking soda and half the flour.
  5. Add to liquids and beat until smooth.
  6. Stir in the rest of the flour and turn out on floured surface.
  7. Knead until smooth and elastic.
  8. Place in a greased bowl, brush with butter, cover  and let rise until doubled.
  9. Shape into two loaves and place in buttered 8 inch loaf pans, brush tops with butter and let rise again until doubled.
  10. Bake at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes.
  11. Enjoy!

I used a bread machine to knead the dough. Just put ingredients in in recommended order and put on dough mode.

Good Ingredients

Good Ingredients

Ready to Rise.

Ready to Rise.

Finished Product

Finished Product

Thanks, Janis.

Thanks, Janis.

This original recipe is from The World of Breads by Deloros Castella.

The Party’s in the Kitchen

Our guests stood around the kitchen chatting. Although there were more comfortable seats elsewhere in the house, it was where they wanted to be. That’s saying something because our kitchen is small according to today’s standards. Not much space to turn around let alone gather for a meal.  Yet, here they were bowls of soup in hand enjoying each other’s company.

There is something quite endearing about that room in our homes that seems to have a heartbeat.  Things that are created within its walls are meant to nourish. In this age of so much interest of health and fitness, most of us know exactly what the word nourish means.  The idea is a pretty straight forward–To sustain with food or nutriment. Something we expect to come from a kitchen. But if we continue to read down through the remaining definitions we find that it goes way beyond providing good food.

    nour ish

  1. To supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth
  2. To cherish, foster, keep alive
  3. To strengthen, build up or promote.

These descriptions stir up in me a spiritual perspective on kitchen activity.  My sink becomes a prayer altar as I stand hands deep in soapy water while my heart reaches high up into the heavens to the One who can watch over my family. My fridge and pantry hold ingredients that will become offerings of hope in the form of a casserole to a family in crisis. And from my stove celebration meals find their way to my table (or in this case, to the hands of friends) bringing with them a festival of thanksgiving.

Life, health, growth. Cherished activity that strengthens and builds up speaks to something special cooked up here. Nourishment of all kinds is blended into whatever is created in this room.  It’s no surprise that people tend to linger where such activity takes place. I love that friends and strangers alike find it a comfortable space to gather.

So. . .Welcome to the party!  Step into my kitchen.

Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.
William Shakespeare


Fresh fixins to go into a pot of soup.

Fresh fixins to go into a pot of soup.

Once a month, I hold a dinner in my home. On SOUPer Friday, we share a simple meal that does indeed include soup along with bread and dessert. The food is delicious (Yes, I am boasting a bit.) but what is extraordinary about this gathering is what happens around the table.  We are friends, who have become family, as we have shared what is important to our hearts.  In our case, there is much lively conversation about ministries and missions we are involved with.  We often have someone new come to add to the conversation by sharing what is happening in their world.  It is a simple way to encourage and be encouraged through the stories of good–maybe we could even call them super— things happening in our communities and around the planet.


This is a recipe from Taste of Home that has become a favorite at our SOUPer dinners–

Tomato Basil Soup Recipe

  • 4 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 can (49 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth or 6 cups of vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 can (29 ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 5 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 can (12 ounces) fat-free evaporated milk

Directions

  1. In a Dutch oven, cook carrots and onion in butter over medium low heat for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  2. In a blender, place 1/2 broth and the cooled vegetables; cover and process until blended.  Return to the Dutch oven. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt, pepper and remaining broth.
  3. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for thirty minutes.  Reduce to low. Gradually stir in evaporated milk; heat through (do not boil).  Yield: 6 servings (2 1/4 quarts)
  4. Enjoy!