Aunties M & Em

Thoughts on Faith, Family, Food, & Fun!


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Let the Games Begin!

Tonight marks the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  I look forward to both the Summer and Winter Olympics, and this year is no exception.  It’s not just that they only occur every four years…it’s the anticipation of the athletes giving their all (and then some), the camaraderie of being an Olympian, and experiencing sports and athletic competitions on a global level.

Now, I’m a big sports fan, though primarily baseball (Go Cardinals!) and football (Go Packers!)…but there’s something special about the Olympic Games.  Maybe it’s because of the events that rarely get televised, like field hockey or curling.  Maybe it’s knowing that the athletes are competing at the highest level possible.  I think it’s more than all that.  The athletes competing in the Olympics are doing something the rest of us can only dream about.  They get to represent their nation in front of the rest of the world.

Do I root for the USA?  Of course!  But I also cheer when I see the best athlete overcome odds to win the gold medal.  Or when two teammates competing in the same event still sincerely support each other.  Or when an athlete is injured, and still insists on completing the event, at least as much as possible.  It’s these moments that are the heart of the Olympics, when it matters the most.

This weekend, I will be sitting down with my family to watch the Opening Ceremonies, and as many events as time allows (you have to sleep sometime…or, so they say).  There will be ups and downs, wins and defeats…but most of all, memories will be made.  The memories I make will be of time spent with my family, cheering not just for the USA, but for all competitors.  The athletes, coaches, and support staff will make memories of their own, no matter the medal count or hiccups along the way.  It is my most sincere hope and earnest prayer that the we can all share the following memory: “Another Summer Olympics in the history books…I’m so glad they were safe for all in attendance.”

Want to follow the Olympics this year?  Here are the sites I’ll be checking out to keep up with all of the action:
NBC Olympics – NBC’s home for Olympic coverage.
Olympic.org – the Official website of the Olympic Movement.
NBC Sports Live Extra – for live, streaming video.  This requires a cable/satellite/telco subscription, which includes MSNBC and CNBC.
The Olympic Games – Official Facebook Page


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Family Reunion 2012

Last weekend we went to a family reunion. This particular branch of our family tree begins with my maternal grandparents and continues with their seven children and their children’s children! If everyone was able to be present there would be about 100 of us.

On this day, 30  of us – four of the original brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, and lots of cousins – were able to attend. We discovered again how we look alike, have the same hair, get emotional so easily, and on and on. Four generations of beautiful people smiling, laughing, crying, hugging, remembering the past, and celebrating the future.  It was over way too soon.

I must give credit to my cousins, Kathy, Carol and Judy, for putting this wonderful event together. One of the highlights of the day was that every so often they would draw one of our names from a hat and the winner would get to choose a prize from the prize table. These weren’t your ordinary prizes either. They were original works of art by our Grandma that had recently been found in an attic. Oh my! Each one of us was so excited to hear if our own name had been drawn! I ended up being drawn last and brought home a pen and ink drawing of a scene Grandma and Grandpa probably saw daily during their winter months in Arizona. I never got to visit them in Arizona but now, with this piece of art, I feel a little closer to them once again.

Our family events always end with a yummy homemade dessert, so I offered to bring cake! Emily helped with the final decorating and we were happy with how it turned out. Neither of us is a professional but we enjoy doing it for family!

The overall family tree design was inspired by a photo I found online here. The quote is by an unknown author.

I made a White Almond Sour Cream Cake recipe from Edna De La Cruz at Design Me a Cake. It is so delicious and crazy easy to make. You just combine the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients, mix for two minutes, and bake! My kind of recipe!!

If you are able, attend your family reunions. If you aren’t, bake a cake!


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Memories and Three Fruit Ice

Memories and Three Fruit Ice

Last Friday, my brother Matt and I had the special task of taking our Mother to the hospital for cataract surgery.  We’re so thankful for her doctor, anesthesiologist, and nurses for their skillful, kind, and thoughtful care.  Mother came through just fine and is on her way to better vision.  Yay!  The best part about the day – besides having the surgery over and behind her – was getting to spend time with Mother and Matt.  Dedicated time to visit, laugh, and reminisce.

After we got her home and settled, we started talking about some old photos Mother had recently put up on Facebook.  There are photos of my brothers and me when we were children, our Dad (who has been up in Heaven for over 26 years), and of course photos with Mother in them when she was young.  We got to talking about things that we all remembered and things long past that only she remembers.

Mother told us how when she was young her mother went to work and she had to start cooking for their family of ten.  How their Sunday fried chicken dinner was made with the chickens their dad purchased and butchered on Saturday the day before.  How that chicken tasted so fresh and good!  How she or her sister baked two pies every Saturday that were eaten after the chicken dinner on Sunday.  How during the week, they mostly ate vegetables because meat was too expensive to eat every day.  I could go on and on!  It was wonderful and I hope we make opportunities for these kinds of stories and memories more often.

One of the recipes that we all have in our memories is Three Fruit Ice.  Everyone in our family loves it and thinks of it as a special treat!   My Grandma would mix up the ingredients and put it in a crock in the freezer. After it had frozen hard, my Mother or one of her siblings would take a knife and chip away at it until they could scoop it into bowls on a hot summer day.  My brothers and I, and all our cousins, have passed it down to our children.  Three Fruit Ice is more than just a memory.  It has definitely become a family tradition!

Three Fruit Ice
Juice of three oranges
Juice of three lemons
Three ripe bananas
Three cups water
Two cups sugar

Original instructions:  Mix all the ingredients and freeze solid. When ready to serve, chip away at the “fruit juice cube” and serve.

My instructions:  Put the orange juice, lemon juice, bananas, sugar, and some water (if there’s room for it) in a blender and blend until well-mixed.  Pour into a large bowl and mix in the rest of the water.  Put in the freezer, stirring every so often to keep it icy but not frozen solid.  Serve with a maraschino cherry for garnish, if desired.

Other instructions:  Mix the ingredients together per my instructions above, but then freeze in an ice cream freezer.  The texture will be less icy and more smooth.  This is not traditional Three Fruit Ice, but some in our family prefer it this way.  To each his own.  They can’t help it that they’re wrong.  Just kidding.  Not really.  🙂

Take time to reminisce and to celebrate family traditions.  Maybe you’ll make some new memories and family traditions along the way!

Enjoy!


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Faith

Scarecrow wanted a brain.  Tin Man wanted a heart.  Cowardly Lion wanted courage.  Dorothy just wanted to go home.  When they started on their journey down the yellow brick road, our four Oz friends had faith that something/someone bigger than they would be the ticket to their hearts’ desires.  The Wizard!  They had never seen him.  Didn’t know him.  But by all reports, they’d heard that he could do it and they believed.  Believed with everything they had.  Nothing could stop them, not the wicked old witch or her flying monkeys.

When I was a very small child, my parents started teaching me about our loving God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As a Christian, I do know God and I have faith that He has a plan for my life and will guide and direct me along the right path as long as I listen and am open to His leading.  I have faith that God will provide everything I need and some of what I want.  I have faith that in the icky scary times of life, He is with me holding my hand as I walk through.  As a Christian, I have faith and am looking forward to someday going home to heaven to live eternally in the presence of God.

The Wizard – or the people of Oz’s perception of the Wizard – turned out to be a fake.  But Professor Marvel was real.  Once they got to know him, they discovered that he was a kind and wise man who showed our Oz friends how they had what they desired all along.  Of course, Dorothy also got a little help from Glinda… it is fiction after all!

There are some in our society who think God is a fake too.  I wonder if they really know Him.

Faith was central to our four friends making it to Oz and beyond.  I’m thankful to say that faith is central in my life as I walk the road before me, whatever it’s made of.

BBQ on the Fourth

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When it comes to the Fourth of July, warmin’ up the grill is the first thing that comes to my mind!  It doesn’t matter if it’s beef, chicken, pork, or hot dogs (whatever they are).  Shoot, throw some veggies and/or fruit on for a complete outdoor meal.  Dad has even perfected tator tots and french fries on the gas grill.  Why use the oven if you don’t have to?

Because the St. Louis metro area had temps over 100° for several days in a row!  Now, my hubby, Steven, will fire up the grill in practically any weather, hot or cold…but this heat has taken its toll, and our regularly scheduled grilling activities paid the price.  Oh, well, that’s why you always have a backup plan, right?

Our backup plan for the chicken chillin’ in the fridge was to bake it in the oven.  I receive the Recipe a Day emails from Food Network (which I love), and one of the recipes earlier this week was for Carolina-Style Barbecue Chicken.  Amazingly, I had most of the ingredients in my pantry and chicken defrosting in the fridge…it was meant to be!  This is a mustard-based sauce that has plenty of zing, and just the right amount of sweetness to balance the sharpness of vinegar.

The recipe is pretty simple, too, which is great when you’re tired of being hot (because at that point, we were only on day 7 of what was a 10 day stretch of 100º+ days).  I don’t have any apple cider vinegar on hand, so I substituted red wine vinegar.  I imagine you could substitute with any vinegar you had on hand, too…I wonder how it would turn out with balsamic?  Hmmm…

Chicken in Progress

Left: Sauce, mixed and ready to go. Middle: Marinating chicken. Right: It’s in the oven!

Since I wasn’t sure what the “heat grill to medium” equivalent for the oven was, I referred to another recipe for chicken thighs to figure out what temperature I should use to bake the chicken.  A recipe that reminded me how much I love baked chicken thighs…  Anyhoo, once I figured that out, I got started on the sauce.  It was really interesting to taste how the flavors changed just by adding some brown sugar or hot sauce.  Ten years ago, I would have shied away from this, merely because of the hot sauce.  I’m so glad my tastes have changed!  The hot sauce adds a really pleasant zing that would be missed if left out.

While my chicken was marinating, I prepped my baking sheet with foil and a cooling rack sprayed with non-stick spray.  In the past, I’ve baked thighs directly on a sprayed pan, but have been disappointed with the way the thighs sit in the cooking juices…not real crispy, and nearly defeats the purpose of baking one’s chicken.  By getting the thighs up on the rack, the finished result was quite good!  Now, I’m going to pull a “Man Behind the Curtain” on you…pay no attention to my not-so-clean oven (Wizard of Oz film fans should get the reference)…though, I guess it could be worse!  Baking time should have been 10-12 minutes per side…if I had gotten the temp on the oven correct!  I accidentally preheated my oven 25 degrees lower than my reference recipe, and it took me nearly twice as long to get the thighs done all the way through.  Once I figured out and corrected my error, it didn’t take long for them to get done!

Baked Carolina-style Barbecue Chicken

The chicken thighs turned out really well!  Steven said they were fantastic, and that I should definitely make them again.  We both agreed that the sauce was really flavorful, and the chicken was nice and tender.   In the future, I will probably use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and marinate them longer.  I think the good flavor of the sauce would permeate the meat more, and keep it really juicy and flavorful.  Baked was good…and I can’t wait to try it on the grill!

Carolina-Style Barbecue Chicken (from Food Network Magazine)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (2 to 2 1/4 pounds)
Vegetable oil, for brushing
1 large tomato, sliced
Prepared macaroni salad, for serving (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk the yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard powder, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl. Whisk in the butter.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then toss with about one-third of the mustard sauce in a large bowl until coated. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Line rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Spray a cooling rack with non-stick cooking spray and set on baking sheet. Put about 1/4 cup of the remaining mustard sauce in a small bowl for basting and reserve the rest for topping. Bake the chicken, basting occasionally with the sauce, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 170 degrees F, 10 to 12 minutes per side.  I basted the chicken every time I tested it for doneness, but I would probably do it every 5 minutes or so next time.

Serve the chicken with the reserved mustard sauce, sliced tomato and macaroni salad, if desired.


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Coming Soon!

Hi, I’m Auntie Em!  My mom, Auntie M, and I are just getting started, so bear with us as we get this show on the road!  Ever heard the phrase, “Charging out like a herd of turtles?”  Well, that’s us!  We’ve been working on getting started with our blog for a long time…it takes lots of planning and thinking to get this far…amiright?  When we first started thinking about what we had to share with the world, we narrowed all of the important things in our lives to four main categories: Faith, Family, Food, and Fun.

We are really excited to share our thoughts, recipes, and experiences with you.  Thanks for stopping by and please visit again!