Tag Archive | family

Supersnacks!

** Seriously, still not a food blog. But occasionally I impress myself with such aesthetically-pleasing culinary creations that I have to share. **

For the non-Americans out there, yesterday was the Super Bowl — the American football championship game. It’s an unofficial national holiday, and if you grew up in a football-loving family like I did, it’s a big deal. If your team is in it, it’s a really big deal. If TWO of your teams are in it, well, then that’s awesome and you can’t lose. Yesterday’s game was between the Denver Broncos (representing my childhood and family) and the Seattle Seahawks (representing my current life, married to a lifelong die-hard Seahawks fan). My dad and brothers have done their part to encourage my children to bleed orange by supplying them with Broncos gear throughout their short little lives; meanwhile, Mr. Gren extols the virtues of the blue and green. Basically, this means my children have dual loyalties — it’s kind of like dual citizenship, which isn’t really a problem until your two countries go to war. I couldn’t make them choose sides, so we celebrated both teams.

I grew up in Colorado during the Elway Era. John Elway led the Denver Broncos to three Super Bowls, only to lose in spectacularly heartbreaking fashion each time; they later went on to two more Superbowls and won, but my family had moved by that point and we didn’t get to celebrate the victories on “home turf” (hang with me, non-football fans; I’m getting to the relevant stuff). I can’t speak for their last three Super Bowl appearances, but for the three that I experienced in Colorado, a culinary phenomenon occurred: orange and blue Hostess Sno-balls sprung up in grocery stores and 7-11s all over the state. My siblings and I lived for these. Nothing said “Super Bowl Season in Denver” like artificially-dyed coconut-covered cream-filled chocolate cupcakes. Makes you want to run right out and find some, doesn’t it? For me, personally, I just couldn’t watch a Broncos Super Bowl without an orange Sno-ball. That’s like Thanksgiving without the turkey. I’m all about tradition and I wanted my kids to experience the same excitement as I did when I was little. Knowing that I wouldn’t find any orange and blue up here in Seahawks Land, I was going to have to make these treats myself. Luckily for me, other people have already done the legwork and figured out how to duplicate the recipe. Here are some thoughts on the process:

  • Making cupcakes: fairly straightforward. Mine, however, did not produce the nice fluffy cap on top, but instead spread out all over the top of the muffin pan. I don’t know why. It didn’t matter, as I just turned them upside down and then they were approximately the right shape.
  • Marshmallow making: Time intensive. I stood holding the mixer with one hand and eating my lunch with the other. Also, this may have been the swansong for my poor little mixer — it was overheating by the end of this process. Still, it’s pretty cool watching the transformation from a brown syrup into voluminous white fluff. But the sheer amount this recipe produces! I have so much left. It seems a shame to throw it out, but I don’t know what I’m going to do with it all. I could probably save it for when the bathtub needs caulking.
  • Cream filling: it’s taking all my willpower not to get out the piping bag that’s in the fridge and empty it directly into my mouth. Willpower may expire once the kids are in bed.
  • Coating process: wow, what a mess! My hands were glued to the piping bag by marshmallow fluff that had escaped. I was dubious that the stuff would set up enough for us to even be able to pick up our sno-balls, but time and the coconut both remedied that dilemma.
  • Coconut-tinting: fun! I never use artificial food coloring, but there was no way around it with this project. Besides, “health” had pretty much been thrown out the window by this time.
  • Coconut-sprinkling: more fun!

The verdict?

Tastes like childhood.

Tastes like childhood.

With the Broncos duly represented, I needed some kind of Seahawks snack counterpart, but the Hawks, being more or less Super Bowl novices with just one prior appearance (a loss), don’t have any kind of team snack tradition. I had to make a grocery run on Saturday and, whilst there, spotted a display of blue and green Jello. Ding ding ding! I think most people consume Jello in the form of vodka shots nowadays, but I was going to go old school with a layered salad (Jello plays pretty fast and loose with the definition of “salad”). I needed a little guidance, so I found a Jello-layering tutorial and set to work. Did I  mention that I was making this at the same time as the above sno-balls and another treat (which I’ll show in a bit), in addition to frequent interruptions by all children and periodically having to stop to feed the baby? I commented to Mr. Gren that I am overly ambitious. He laughed. Also, time management is not my forte. Additional thoughts:

  • The first layer took longer to cool and set than subsequent layers.
  • The white layers will taste like nothingness unless you add a little sugar.
  • Once again, more artificial coloring than I’ve eaten in years, but it’s a monumental occasion, so, eh.
  • Don’t do this while you’re working on two other multi-step recipes or else a 2 hour process will stretch into 6.
Now that just looks cool.

Now that just looks cool.

Last but not least were what my family dubbed “Super Bowl Brownies” because that was about the only time my mom made them for us. In actuality, they are called “butter fudge fingers” and I have no explanation for that, other than they use a lot of butter. But they are not fudge and do not resemble fingers of either the anatomical nor cookie variety. {shrug} As with the previous two recipes, this was the first time I had ever made them. I screwed up the chocolate glaze that goes on top and had to seek some Super Bowl Day help from my mom via my dad (where were you, Mom?) to find out where it went wrong. Because of the mess-up on Saturday and having to wait until the next day to correct it, the brownies got a bit hard and didn’t turn out as pretty as they should have. But they tasted just like I remembered. (Here is an online recipe that is pretty similar to my mom’s).

Even sloppy chocolate tastes good.

Even sloppy chocolate tastes good.

Headlines are calling the game “disappointing.” For Broncos fans, yes. For casual football fans who wanted to see more of a duel, yes. But for Seahawks fans and our little family? It was a great party.

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Necessity trumps desire

I suppose that’s just how life is, huh? Yesterday I had plans to crochet. I’ve been working on a jumper for Granota for… an embarrassingly long time. That will be a post for another day. After breakfast, I was checking my messages on the computer  before picking up my hook and yarn, when Granota came downstairs. She presented me with an object that can only be described as a miniature turd and said she had found it in her bed. It was disgusting. I hustled her off to the bathroom and we washed our hands, then I went up to change her sheets (after a quick internet search on animal scat which revealed nothing resembling her discovery. Still a mystery). As I stripped her bed, I noticed that one of the wings on her butterfly quilt was nearly torn off.

Actually, I should say my butterfly quilt. I think my mom made it; if not her, then it was one of my grandmothers (help me out here, mom). Either way, I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. When I look at all the different fabrics used on the butterflies, vague feelings of familiarity skitter through the shadows in my brain. I have a hard time pinpointing exactly where the various scraps came from, but cloudy impressions of baby dresses and kitchen curtains sometimes surface. It is altogether familiar to me, both in quilt form and from its previous incarnations. It’s dingy as heck, but I love it. Granota started using the quilt when she graduated to her big girl bed just before she turned 2. She can’t remember using anything else and she also loves it.

I brought the quilt downstairs and traced the wing shape on a piece of tissue paper. I knew exactly which fabric from my scrap bag I would use: it is a yellowish-orange with a darker orange floral print. It felt right to me since the wings I had to replace were yellow with orange and blue circles. The new fabric was from a hospital gown that I made for my best friend at her request. She has delivered two babies while wearing that bright yellow gown. I told the story to Granota and she grinned and began asking me about the other butterflies, and I did my best to recall.

I spent the entire afternoon and a good chunk of the evening hand-sewing on two butterfly wings. It was a little tedious and I wished that I could have been crocheting. Yet, I did enjoy reflecting on the history contained in all those scraps of fabric. It made me think of the book “The Rag Coat” by Lauren A. Mills that I read to the girls last summer: it’s about a little girl whose mother makes her a coat of fabric scraps collected from the community. At first the other children make fun of her funny coat, but when she is able to relate the story of each patch of fabric, they begin to see that she has something rather special. It’s something that quilts nowadays are lacking. They may be masterpieces of geometry and color, but gone is the history of an entire household bound together in one place; gone are the concepts of preservation and creativity borne from thrift. It’s kind of a shame.

So as I sat sewing on yellow butterfly wings, the idea of cutting away an old layer and adding on a new story for a new generation made it worth my time.