Tag Archive | memories

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.

IMG_3620

IMG_3621

IMG_3623

IMG_3624

IMG_3618

French Friday #26: Wishin’ and hopin’ and dreamin’

Last night, Konik woke up sad and scared. After cuddling with him for a few minutes, I put him back to bed and returned to my own. He went right back to sleep, but by that time, my brain wouldn’t turn off. For some reason, I started thinking about going to France. It’s not an unusual thought for me. I’ve been wishing for 6 years that we could go back. No, I’ve been dreaming about going back for fifteen years, ever since I returned from my first trip back in high school. I’ve tried to explain this longing to my family and to others who are curious about why I care so much about a country that isn’t my own. But it is mine.

Louvre courtyard

When we were living there, my parents and youngest brother came to visit us. My brother asked me if I missed the United States. It was a good question. I did miss the U.S., but in an entirely different way than how I miss France when I’m away from there. I explained to him that it’s like the difference between being away from family versus being away from a lover. I’ve lived away from my family pretty much since I left for college, with the exception of the year following my graduation. Since that time, it’s a good year if I see any member of my family twice in a 12-month span. I do miss them, and I look forward to those times when we can be together, but it’s not an all-consuming ache. When Mr. Gren and I were dating, he went away on a month-long trip to Slovakia (and proposed three days after he returned). While we were apart, my heart ached for him; I wanted to be in his company; I missed him.

Notre Dame south tower

As an American, the U.S. is my home, my family. I know the ins and outs, the good, the bad and the ugly about life in America, just like we all know the best and worst parts of our own family. Then we meet someone we want to spend the rest of our lives with. We know that person isn’t perfect and that there will be times that he or she frustrates the heck out of us, but they’re worth it. The love and passion is deep enough to forgive the faults.

Vertical view of the Eiffel Tower

France is far from a perfect place. It has flaws and failings, but I love it with all my heart. And my heart longs to be back there. I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to live there again, but I continually hope and dream for the day that we can visit again. Rana was born there and although she was only 9 months old when we returned to the States, she, too, feels some of that longing to be back. We’ve talked to her so much about our time there, and all the places we took her. At one year old, she recognized photos of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. She has heard our stories and can retell them as though she remembers the event. Picnicking on the Champs de Mars, squealing with joy at the sight of Winged Victory in the Louvre, falling asleep on the metro… And, funnily enough, Rana has some peculiar French mannerisms that I can only assume she absorbed through osmosis in her nine months there. France is in her blood, too.

Clock on the Hôtel de Ville

So last night, I was imagining what it would be like to finally take our family on a trip to France. My imagination skipped right over the 9 hour flight with three small children and fast-forwarded to the part where I could show them the Eiffel Tower in real life. Let them touch it. Stage a picture in the Champs de Mars where we had that picnic so long ago. I imagined their reaction at being in the courtyard of the Louvre, being able to dabble their fingers in the triangle pools, entering through the pyramid, seeing the sphinx, touching the walls of the medieval Louvre. I pictured their faces standing in front of Notre Dame’s imposing façade, hearing the beautiful tones of the organ, inhaling the incense, then going outside to admire the statue of Charlemagne (who they know all about thanks to the brilliant videos made by historyteachers on YouTube). I smiled at the thought of their wonderment at experiencing the market and introducing them to my vegetable man. And the best part of all would be knowing that then they would come away with their own conscious memories of all these sights, sounds, and smells. And it’s good to have someone to share memories with when that longing sets in.

Grounds at Versailles