Preserved Zucchini and Summer Squash

IMG_3129Zucchini.
It’s a simple thing, really.
Until the end of August when the mere mention of it can make even the strongest person shudder with apprehension!

It’s one of those vegetables that we all look forward to in the beginning of summer, but by mid-August, there is such an over-abundance, you just can’t give it away. People see you walking toward them with a zucchini as big as a toddler’s whiffle ball bat, and they either pretend that they don’t know you, or they make a sharp left, and head in another direction to avoid you!

You can only freeze so much of it for breads and muffins. You can only make so many zucchini boats stuffed with saucy meat, or sautéed with summer squash and onions, or sliced into thin strips as fake spaghetti. Yep. I jumped on that wagon too.

Don’t get me wrong. I love zucchini. But I have had so much of it, I’m running out of ideas! So the last time I went to pick up my CSA box, Sally, the “pick up point person” was telling me that she’s been making bread and butter pickles from them. I thought that was an awesome idea… and as I was searching for a bread and butter pickle recipe… a thought popped into my head. Instead of pickles, which I really wouldn’t use much…what if I preserved them in olive oil?
IMG_3127This idea actually came from a friend of mine who shared some hot peppers preserved in olive oil with me a year or so ago. They were so delicious! I went through that jar in no time…putting them on sandwiches, grilled cheese, cottage cheese, and even cooked them in eggs, or threw a spoonful or two in sauce! So going on the premise of those hot peppers, I decided to do a little research and see if zucchini would do well in olive oil too. I’m thrilled to say that it does!

IMG_3098I found a recipe from Mario Batalli, in which he boiled the zucchini for a few minutes in a mixture of salt water and vinegar, and then placed it into a jar with anchovies and garlic. Mario also mentioned that as long as you keep the zucchini covered in olive oil, it would keep for up to six weeks in the refrigerator.

Perfect.

As hard as I try, I’m just not a fan of anchovies.
Yet.
So as of now they weren’t even a consideration for this recipe.
That may change sometime in the future when I do like them.

IMG_3139And with those hot peppers still in my head, I started slicing zucchini and summer squash really thin on my mandolin slicer. I chose some hot peppers, such as cherry peppers and jalapenos… as well as sweet peppers to add to the jar. A few cloves of garlic roughly chopped and some chopped fresh basil finished it off perfectly.

Ok, I’m not going to lie to you here… I’ll come home from work, grab a fork and eat this right out of the jar. It’s just that delicious. You can seriously serve these as thin pickles. Throw them on a hunk of crusty bread alone…or throw them on a sandwich, like I did here with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella, a thick slice of tomato right out of the garden, a few leaves of basil, all topped off with the preserved zucchini and summer squash…served on fresh Italian bread… delicious.

IMG_3247The thing that I loved about this recipe the most, was that I took a taste of them immediately after I put them in the jar, and the flavors had just melded together so perfectly. Just a few minutes…and they were ready to eat. The next day, they were even better!

My first jar is almost used up, and I plan to get another jar made up this week. I’m thinking that if I slice the zucchini and summer squash and freeze it, I can do this all winter long!

All of a sudden, I find myself asking for zucchini!
Crazy, but true.

Life is good. It’s a “Zucchini is coming out of our ears….but it’s all good…and preserving it? Well, that just makes it even better…” kind of good…

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Preserved Zucchini and Summer Squash
Makes 1 Quart

 Adapted from Mario Batalli’s Zucchine Sott’Olio

2 lbs zucchini and summer squash combined, sliced thin
4 cups water
1/3 cup sea salt
2 cups cider vinegar
3 cherry peppers, sliced thin
3 jalapenos, sliced thin
6 mini sweet peppers (red, orange, and yellow) sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
10 basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups olive oil (or more, enough to cover the zucchini in the jar)
½ cup white wine vinegar

In a large saucepan, bring the water, sea salt and vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat. Add the slices of zucchini and summer squash, and simmer for five minutes. Drain, discarding the water/vinegar mixture.

Place the zucchini and summer squash mixture into a large bowl, and add the cherry peppers, jalapenos, sweet peppers, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and basil leaves. Mix thoroughly.

Using a wide mouth funnel, add the zucchini mixture to a quart canning jar. Mix the olive oil and white wine vinegar together, and pour over the zucchini mixture until it is completely submerged in oil.

Cover and refrigerate. This will keep up to six weeks in the refrigerator as long as the zucchini remains submerged in oil.

Enjoy!

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Fontina and Mushroom Polenta Panini

 

panini 6A couple of months ago, my friend Cheryl and I went for a cheese making class.  Cheryl is my quirky friend… you know, the girl who I talked about in my post about my tomato tartlets, when she took me to a quaint little cooking school in the midst of a peach orchard! And then one time went to see Bobby Flay, and we stood outside his exit like a couple of little foodie groupies, hoping to get an autograph from him! Another time she hosted an Iron Chef competition at her house… We have taken quite a few cooking classes together.  I just never know what she has up her sleeve, but it’s pure craziness and I’m always game!

grilled polenta 3This really isn’t about the cheese making class at all, but about the drive to the farm for the class. It was about an hour drive, and she gave me a silly little hat to wear in her convertible…. And she pulls out iced coffees for us to enjoy during the ride… and says: “Oh, and I grabbed a few cookbooks for you to read on the way…”

Seriously… Does that girl know me, or what?

So, while I was flipping through the cookbooks, I was making mental notes of the books that I wanted to order when I got home. There was one in particular that I really liked…. It is called “The Great Big Butter Cookbook” by Diana C. Von Glahn.. First of all, this book doesn’t really even pertain to butter at all…but is filled with some really appealing “comfort” recipes. Ok, recipes that look really good, but I know that I would definitely add my own “comfort” touch.

grilled fontina on polentaI did find that cookbook in used section on Amazon for $3. Yes. Three dollars. Three bucks. Three smackaroos. But I’m not kidding when I tell you that the book arrived within a couple of days… it was brand new! The book was in absolutely perfect condition, but alas, no notes or markings from the previous owner! Bummer.

And now, it sits on my coffee table, with bookmarked pages of all of the recipes that I will be trying in the near future. Like these Polenta Fontina “Paninis” with Mushroom Sauce.

As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew that it was the first one that I would try. But you know, I can’t leave things well enough alone… The original recipe called for sun dried tomatoes…which….I should say would have been delicious….but I thought that it needed something more substantial…something with “oomph”… so I made a caramelized onion and tomato jam that is simply out of this world, and that took the place of the sundried tomatoes. I  sautéed mushrooms instead of a sauce, and I made my own polenta, rather than purchasing a tube.

grilled polenta 2Oh yeah, I made the right choice. The sweet, yet savory jam brought so much “happy” to the dish… it was like an instantaneous friendship with the mild, yet tangy fontina… the earthy mushrooms, and the crisp buttery polenta. They just belonged together.

The paninis are perfect for a brunch… serious…poach an egg and throw it on top. Delicious. They’re perfect for lunch…they’re perfect for appetizers…or would make a lovely light dinner!

And….you can be sure that I’ll be making notes in this book for the next owner….whomever that may be…

Oh yeah, and I’ll be sharing a couple of the things I learned from cheese making very soon!

Life is good. It’s a “One man’s old cookbook, is another man’s treasure” kind of good…

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 Fontina and Mushroom Polenta Panini 
Serves 4
Adapted from the Recipe: “Polenta Fontina “Paninis” with Mushroom Sauce from the cookbook: The Great Big Butter Cookbook by Diana von Glahn

16 Polenta Rounds (Recipe below)
Caramelized tomato and onion jam (Recipe below)
5 oz fontina cheese (1 oz grated, 4 oz sliced into 8 slices)
2 tbsp butter for polenta rounds plus 1 extra tbsp butter for sautéing mushrooms
8 oz whole baby bella mushrooms
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 ground black pepper
A few sprigs fresh thyme for garnish

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large frying pan. Add 8 polenta rounds to the frying pan. Fry until golden browned, and flip. Fry on the other side until browned. Remove from pan, and set aside on a cooling rack. Add the remaining 8 polenta rounds, and repeat the frying until both sides are browned.

Leaving the second batch of polenta rounds in the pan, reduce the heat on the stove, and add about a tablespoon or so of the caramelized tomato and onion jam to the tops of each of the 8 polenta rounds that are still in the frying pan. Place a slice of fontina cheese on top of each of the jam topped rounds. Place the reserved rounds on top, as a sandwich. Sprinkle each sandwich with the grated fontina. Top the pan with a lid, and let sit until the cheese has melted.

In the meantime, in a separate frying pan, melt the 1 tbsp butter. Add the bella mushrooms, salt, pepper, and chopped thyme. Saute for about five minutes, or until the mushrooms are golden brown.

Top each panini with the mushrooms, and garnish with the fresh thyme.

Serve hot.

Quick Polenta Rounds

Makes 16 rounds, 8 panini sandwiches
1 cup quick polenta
3 cups water
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the polenta, simmer for about three minutes, or until the polenta pulls away from the side of the pan. Remove from heat, and stir in the Romano cheese.

Pour into a buttered 9″x11″ pan, and let sit until cooled. Once the polenta has set, cut into 2-1/2″ – 3″ circles. Set aside.

Caramelized Onion and Tomato Jam
Makes One Cup

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1 large onion, sliced thin
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp water
1 pound assorted cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet. Add the onions, and sauté until a dark golden brown. Add the water, cherry tomatoes, brown sugar, salt, crushed red pepper, vinegar, and lemon juice. Cover and simmer until the tomatoes have burst, and using your wooden spoon, gently press down on the tomatoes to break them up. The skins will start to separate from the tomatoes. Remove them if you want, but it’s really not necessary! (the skins on cherry tomatoes are so thin, they will break up when ground in the food processor). So honestly? Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to remove them!

Simmer until all of the juices have caramelized, and the sauce has thickened.  Let cool. Add the cooled tomato and onion mixture to the food processor, and process until smooth. This can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Enjoy!

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Icebox Cake Makeover

IMG_2852I am a closet icebox cake eater.
I love them.

Do you remember them from years and years ago? You know, the ones that were made from chocolate wafer cookies stacked on their side, and then those stacks would be placed side by side to create a log…all with whipped cream in between them to act as a binder? Then the whole log of wafer cookies would be frosted in whipped cream, and then when sliced, you had stripes of chocolate and whipped cream. The chocolate cookie wafers would soften, so it was just like eating a rich fudge cake. Delicious.

Back in the day, it was a gorgeous dessert….and I still love it today. But because it’s not “pretty” or up to today’s culinary “snobbishness”, I’ve been a closet icebox cake eater, first of all, because I love it, and second, I personally don’t care what it looks like….

But today, with the standards of desserts set so high… it would be considered a train wreck at any fancy dinner party.

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Ok, maybe I exaggerate, maybe not a train wreck….but I’m keeping it real here…that old time dessert isn’t something that I’d bring to a fancy dinner party. I’m sorry, I just wouldn’t. Instead, I’d spend all of my time stressing over what to bring, stressing that it had to be the fanciest, and the prettiest dessert, because I’d want to please the hostess of the party. I’d want her to be proud to put it out on her table for all of her guests. Most likely, I would order something from a bakery.  Nope…not “most likely”… I would definitely would order from a bakery.

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But no more. I’ve decided to give that old fashioned icebox cake a makeover. One that I’d be proud to bring to a dinner party, and confident that the hostess would be pleased to serve to her guests.

And this one is so simple to throw together…it’s one of those desserts that you can throw together about two hours before the party…minimal time…minimal effort. Perfect for a hot summer’s day when you don’t feel like firing up the oven, or spending a fortune at a bakery!

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And…it’s delicious. The raspberries, whipped cream, and chocolate were just made for each other. Not fond of raspberries? Use any fruit that tickles your fancy! It is truly that versatile. Just make sure that the fruit that you choose can be sliced through easily!

I’ve shared this with my lovely friends at The Novice Gardener’s, Angie’s Fiesta Friday…. and with my lovely friends at Love in the Kitchen’s Tuesday’s Table. …. And I’m proud to say that it was my very first feature on Food gawker!

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Life is good, it’s a “Throwing together a dessert in less that an hour, but it looks like you slaved all day” kind of good!

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Icebox Cake
Serves  10 to 12 People

Just a quick note:  Keep in mind that this does need to be refrigerated for at least two to three hours (or more) before you serve it, so that the wafers have time to soften into a cake like texture.  I let this particular cake refrigerate for three hours before I couldn’t stand it any longer, and had to slice into it!

And honestly, use whatever type of fruit you’d like.  Just make sure that it’s a fruit soft enough to slice through, otherwise, you won’t get perfect slices.

Choosing the right plate is important. I’ll pick a couple of plates, and then place the cookies around the outer edge in a circle to see if they’ll all fit around the plate perfectly. If they do, then that’s the plate you want to use!

If you’re not familiar with the chocolate wafers, here is a photo of the box:

chocolate wafers2 boxes Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
1 quart heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar (or more, depending on your desired sweetness)
3 pints fresh raspberries (or your favorite fruit)

Begin by whipping the heavy cream in a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer). Let it whip until it hits that point just before it starts to turn to butter. You don’t want it too soft, because you want it to be able to hold up the cookies and raspberries. Add the sugar and vanilla, and whip for another minute or so, until they’re fully combined. Don’t worry if the sugar isn’t dissolved at this point. It will continue to dissolve as the cream sits.

On your favorite plate or cake plate, spread a small amount of whipped cream over the plate. This will act as the glue to keep the base cookies in place. This is kind of important because the cake will fly off the plate the minute you try to carry it, and if you’re trying to make a grand entrance with it… let’s just say.. it will be grand alright, all over your floor!

Place the  cookies around the plate in a circle. You don’t want them to overlap. Fill in the middle section with about three or four cookies. It doesn’t matter if the cookies in the middle overlap. Place a second row of cookies on top of the first row.
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Using a pastry bag, and Ateco tip #824, begin making rosettes all around the top of the cookies. Gently place one pint of raspberries on top of the whipped cream. Make whipped cream rosettes on top of the raspberries. You want to be very gentle with this, so that each layer doesn’t get mashed down. You should be able to see each layer as separate layers.
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Repeat with another layer of cookies, whipped cream, raspberries, and whipped cream. And then finally repeat a third time, ending with the raspberries on top of the cake.
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Refrigerate for at least two to three hours, or overnight.
This is best when served cold. Keep any leftovers refrigerated. It will keep for a day or two in the fridge.

Enjoy!

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Orange Sherbet

workding bb favorite sherbet with spoonPicture this…

It was a Saturday morning. The skies were blue. The sun was shining, and there was zero humidity in the air. There were no sounds except for a light breeze through the trees, and little bird singing the prettiest song, because even she felt the beauty in the day.

It was a flawless summer day.
A glorious day.

I had nowhere to go…
I had nothing to do…
Well…I had lots to do, but decided that it was too beautiful to spend my time worrying about things that needed to be done. There was plenty of time for that on a day not so beautiful.

Laundry could wait.
The house could wait.

I was happy.
I was content.

Gilbert Markham, a character in Anne Bronte’s (1820-1849, British Novelist and Poet) novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall spoke these words (although he wasn’t feeling very happy, nor was he content at the moment..):

“A light wind swept over the corn; and all nature laughed in the sunshine. The lark was rejoicing among the silvery floating clouds.”

And it does… I truly believe that sunshine brings laughter, and that nature laughs in its own way…like that little bird in my yard…singing her heart out.

I took a walk around the yard, trying to find that little bird. She was content to stay where she was, out of sight, safe…and from the sound of her song, I believe that she was happy too. My guess is that she thought the same thing… her nest could wait, she had to be out enjoying, and rejoicing in that most perfect day.
wording bbb close up of sherbet
At that point in time, I didn’t think that there was anything that could make that day more perfect. Until a thought popped into my head…

Fresh orange sherbet.
The quintessence of sunshine.
The perfect way to celebrate the day.

And it was.
wording bbb cute sherbet
This sherbet is so refreshing, and so pretty, you wouldn’t think that the prep time is only minutes…and so very easy to make. The fresh orange flavor will make you wonder why you’ve been buying your sherbet from the freezer section all your life, when you could have been enjoying the real deal all along..

It didn’t take me long to realize that there are a lot of orange sherbet recipes out there…and I had to laugh that day, because as I was reading all of the recipes, I realized that they’re basically the same, except this person added a ¼ cup more heavy cream, while that person added ½ cup less sugar…and then they called the recipe their own. And as much as I’d like to, I can’t tell you who came up with the original of this most perfect recipe. But I can tell you that the recipe I used came from  The Brown Eyed Baker, who found her recipe from The New Best Recipe Cookbook  which I just ordered a copy for myself!

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Let me get off track here for one second… I ordered The New Best Recipe cookbook from Amazon.. It is about $20 brand new…. But underneath the price, there is a used book option starting at $4.99. I clicked on that… and there were quite a few of these books offered at a much lower price. Yes, they’re used…and unless you’re really bent on having brand new…then by all means…order new!  But the one that I ordered said that it has notes and sections highlighted in it. For me? That’s perfect! Why not take the knowledge of someone who has already tried a recipe in that book? I look forward to seeing what the person had to say… her/his thoughts and suggestions. You never know… they could be priceless! My cookbooks never stay pretty anyway… you will recognize a favorite cookbook in my kitchen, from the written on, worn, stained, and sometimes torn, pages!

Ok, back to the sherbet…

wording bbb spoon ful of sherbet

In the true fashion of everyone else, I changed the recipe up a bit. While Michelle (The Brown Eyed Baker) called for a tablespoon of orange zest, I added three tablespoons, minced fine. She strained her sherbet mixture, and I decided that the bits of orange zest would be an added “oomph” to the sherbet. They did. I only used ½ cup of sugar, whereas she used 1 cup. She used two cups of fresh squeezed orange juice, I used about three cups. Hers called for Triple Sec, and all I had was Chambord on hand, so I used that instead. And of course, Prudence had to make it even fatter… I added ¾ cup of heavy cream instead of her 2/3 cup!

It’s delicious. It’s more than delicious. It’s pretty, a pale orange color, it’s creamy, it’s refreshingly delicious! Deliciously delicious! And…it’s one that I plan to make over and over again. I can’t wait to try different flavors now! Maybe even a rainbow sherbet!! Stay tuned…

Life is good, it’s an “even now when I look back on that day, a calmness comes over me.. a happy remembrance of the perfect day…” kind of good.

wording bbb shertbet with three spoons

Orange Sherbet
Makes About 4 Cups

This recipe was adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker
3 cups fresh squeezed orange juice (about 4-5 pounds oranges)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp. finely minced orange zest
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. Chambord
Pinch sea salt
3/4 cup heavy cream

Place the orange juice, sugar, orange zest, lemon juice, vanilla, Chamord, and salt in a blender. Blend until sugar is dissolved. Add the heavy cream, and blend until smooth.

Place the sherbet mixture into a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for at least two hours, but don’t let it freeze.

Don’t worry if the orange juice and heavy cream have started to separate. It’s fine! Just give it a good whisk, and pour the chilled mixture into the bowl of your ice cream maker, and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. I use the KitchenAid ice cream bowl for my mixer, and it took about 1/2 hour to churn into a soft serve sherbet.

Place the soft serve sherbet into a freezer container, or ice cream container…and freeze for about 3 hours, or until it can be scooped out with an ice cream scoop.

Enjoy!
workding bb favorite sherbet with spoon

Hot Dog Buns

IMG_2376So…I shared my hot dog sauce with you the other day…and now it’s time for the most important part. At least it’s the most important part for me… The part that can make or break the hot dog experience.

The bread…
The bun.

I love bread.
Especially when it’s hot out of the oven.

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I admit to eating one of them as soon as I pulled them out of the oven, and, of course, it was gobbed with butter! I’ll tell you, I could have made a meal on these rolls alone. But I stayed strong, I stopped at one.

Ok… One and a half.
Ok… Two.
I stopped at two.
And then I was too full to eat the hot dog!

Anyway…I spent a lot of time looking for the perfect hot dog bun recipe…trying different recipes from different blogs.. and finally happened upon Joy the Baker’s blog, who got the recipe from King Arthur Flour.

I’m so impressed with them, the rolls are so soft and fluffy, and yet they don’t fall apart…they’re perfect for hot dogs!

And…while they’re very easy to make, I’m not going to lie, there’s some prep work to them… rolls are basically a bread dough… and bread takes time to prepare…

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So, while I want to say that I’m never buying store bought hot dog rolls again, and only make them homemade from now on…

We all know that would be a little white lie…
Ok, a big white lie.
A big fat lie.

There is no doubt that I’ll buy store bought again. Sometimes I just don’t have the time to make them homemade… ok, a lot of the time I don’t have the time….

But I do plan to make these again… and again. Seriously, they’re just that good…and I know would be so delicious with burgers…and easy enough to shape into hamburger buns!

The important thing that Joy mentions in her post, is that you shouldn’t let the dough over proof, and don’t handle the dough too much. This is a squishy dough, it’s not the dough you’re used to when making bread.

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Handle it lightly, and you’ll be rewarded with those light and fluffy rolls!Once you have the rolls shaped, let them be! They don’t have to be perfect! They will form a perfect bun as they rise.
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If anything, everyone needs to experience a homemade bun with their hot dog! Impress your friends at your next cookout when you come walking out with a basket of freshly baked (and still warm) hot dog buns. You’ll be the life of the party!

Life is good, it’s a “You’re probably happy that this is the very last hot dog post, but I really had to share this recipe with you because it’s awesome” kind of good..
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Homemade Hot Dog Buns

Prudy’s note: This recipe called for 6 to 7 1/2 cups all purpose flour. Trust me, don’t go as high as 7-1/2 cups flour. Stop at 6 cups, or even 5-1/2. You’ll be kneading it, so it will form a dough that you’ll be able to work with.  I also used sesame seeds instead of poppy seeds.  I love poppy seeds, but  fussy Mike doesn’t (I know..surprise, surprise).

This recipe is copied from Joy the Baker’s blog.

recipe from King Arthur Flour

makes 18 buns

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 packets or 2 scant tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
2 cups warm milk (105°F to 115°F)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
6 to 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
poppy seeds, coarse black pepper, and sea salt for topping (optional)

*King Arthur Flour gives a fairly wide flour measurement variation for a couple of reasons. First, you’ll find in the summer that you’ll need a bit more flour to absorb a given amount of liquid than you will in the winter. This is because it’s humid and flour acts somewhat like a slightly dampened sponge as a result. I used 6 1/2 cups flour for my hot dog buns.

King Arthur Flour also notes that this particular dough should be quite slack, i.e., very relaxed in order to make soft and tender buns. So you want to add only enough more flour, past the 6-cup point, to make the dough just kneadable; sprinkling only enough more to keep it from sticking to you or the board.

To mix the dough: In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar and then the yeast in the warm water. Add the milk, oil, salt and 3 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

Gradually add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.

To Knead the dough: Knead until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Because this dough is so slack, you may find that a bowl scraper or bench knife can be helpful in scooping up the dough and folding it over on itself.

To rest and rise the dough: Put the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn once to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly-woven dampened towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour.

To shape the buns: Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide into 18 equal pieces. This is done most easily by dividing the dough first into thirds, then those thirds into halves, then the halves into thirds.

Roll the dough into cylinders, 4 1/2-inches in length. Flatten the cylinders slightly; dough rises more in the center so this will give a gently rounded top versus a high top.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment paper.

For soft-sided buns, place them on prepared baking sheets a half inch apart so they’ll grow together when they rise. For crisper buns, place them three inches apart.

Second Rising: Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes. Just drape a towel over the buns for the second rose, a piece of plastic wrap may stick and deflate the buns when the plastic is removed.

To Bake: Fifteen minutes before you want to bake your buns, preheat your oven to 400°F. Just before baking, lightly brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with whatever seeds strike your fancy.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190°F. (A dough thermometer takes the guesswork out of this.)

When the buns are done, remove them from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack. This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.

Enjoy!

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Hot Dog Sauce

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I’ve spent most of my life in a love / hate relationship with hot dogs.
Ok, that’s not entirely true.
I can’t say that I hate them.

I mean, I love them. I really do… But then I go through spurts in which I have no desire to eat them. I bet that I went a good five years at one point without eating one. I don’t know… they just didn’t tickle my fancy. It wasn’t that I hated them…I just didn’t feel like eating them. I have a feeling it was because at that point, we had a gas grill, and they didn’t have that delicious charcoal taste to them. But even more so, I’ve yet to find a hot dog that I can say has the perfect taste, the perfect spiciness, or the perfect ‘snap’ when you bite into one.

Honestly? I think eating a hot dog today is all about your surroundings. I’ve eaten the best hot dogs in my life with my co-workers friends… sitting around a table at a little hot dog stand that sits on a little creek in Niagara Falls…it has a charming little deck that sits out over the water.

Let me take that back…maybe it wasn’t my surroundings that made them delicious… Because the hot dog stand is in the vicinity of Love Canal (Long sad story…you can Google it and find one of the lowest points in the history of Niagara Falls)..

We lovingly and half-jokingly call the hot dog stand “Dysentery Ditch”, so you get the idea. I described that little deck to you as charming, when in reality… it’s on a dirty little creek….there’s an overpass that’s practically above our heads as we’re eating… and there’s baskets with plastic flowers hanging here and there. But it’s clean, the food is good, it’s about five minutes from work, and most of all…I love it there.

So let me start over…. I’ve eaten hot dogs with some of the best people in my life…We’ve spent some really happy times on our lunch at Dysentery Ditch… filled with laughter, some very strong discussions, or just a quiet lunch, the quiet comfort that we’re in the company of people I’ve come to call my family… the people I’ve come to love. So for me, that’s when I can say I’ve eaten the most delicious hot dogs.

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And while I do still eat hot dogs at home, the couple of brands that seem to be the best in my simple little world…the ones that I buy, are just “eh”..

I don’t know…maybe you’re thinking… “Prudy, maybe you just don’t like hot dogs”.

That’s truly not the case. I love them. I crave them at times. I just can’t find one that really satisfies….at least one that I don’t have to load up with gobbilty gook.

Maybe I need to create my own version of hot dog.

So, when I eat a hot dog, it always has to be spiced up. Loaded with ketchup, mustard, relish, hot sauce, and onions…. Or LeFrois sauce, which I believe is a Western New York thing..and the it’s the best sauce ever!

….Or I’ll make this hamburger sauce, which is kind of like a Coney Island sauce…a great sauce that definitely makes any hot dog “hot dog worthy” in my book.

While I love the sloppiness that the sauce brings to the hot dog (because I like everything sloppy), it’s the combination of flavors that really get me. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about taking a bite of something savory, but getting that hint of cinnamon in the end. It just works for me every time. Add a line of prepared mustard and some chopped onions, and you’ve got a winner!    …And while I’m talking about it for hot dogs, this sauce is really delicious on hamburgers too! Throw some green pepper in while you’re sautéing the onions, serve it kind of like sloppy joes! I honestly love this sauce. It’s a perfect year round condiment!

Update to this post:   My friend Mr Fitz, from Cooking with Mr Fitz just shared one of his posts with me…and I’d like to share it with you… he seems to sum the hot dog dilemma all up!   I hope you stop by and visit his blog… He’s a great guy, he’s hilarious, and always has awesome recipes up his sleeve!

IMG_2400I’m taking my hot dog sauce to Angie’s Fiesta Friday over at The Novice Gardener, where Saucy from Saucy Gander, and Margot from Gather and Graze are hosting.  It should be a great time! Thanks to Saucy and Margot for hosting this week, I know that they’ll make this party an event to remember! And … Angie… thank you for hosting this party for the 27th week in a row! Time flies…

I hope you stop by the party to see what all of the talented people have shared this week! If you’re new to Fiesta Friday, it’s a great way to meet other bloggers, and to gain exposure. You will love this wonderful blogging community…everyone is so friendly, you’ll feel like you’ve known us all for years!

Life is good, it’s a “I really wish I could find the perfect hot dog, but even if I did, I’d probably still slop the condiments on, so in the end it doesn’t really matter” kind of good…

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Hot Dog Sauce

Just a quick note… I wanted to mention that this sauce freezes really well.  I’ll usually make a double batch, and then put it in freezer containers to use for the next few months.  It will keep up to six months in the freezer, and about a week in the refrigerator.

This recipe came from my great Aunt Tish, so I’ve posted her recipe exactly how she had it written.  The beauty of this sauce is that you can make it to suit your taste.  If you like it hot, then add some hot peppers, or hot sauce…  if you like it vinegary, then add more vinegar. I like to add a few extra splashes of worcestershire!

1 cup cold water
1 pound ground beef
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 large onion, diced
1 – 10.75 oz can tomato soup
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer, stirring and breaking the ground beef up. Simmer for at least 1/2 hour to 1 hour.

Serve hot.

Enjoy!
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Horseradish Pickles

Have you ever opened your mouth, and inserted your foot? I have. I’m actually quite famous for that…
IMG_2745I tend to be the ‘pickle in the middle’ a lot at work. “Prudy, can you tell ‘so and so’ that I need him in my office?” “Prudy, tell ‘so and so’ that he has to contact ‘him or her’ to re-open that work order number before the end of the day today”….

Well, I used to work with a guy named Horatio**, and one day was given direction to tell him to move some boxes for Jezebel**.   In other words… I was asked to be the pickle in the middle.
**Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the Jezebel.

I knew that this wasn’t going to go over very well…given the animosity between Horatio and Jezebel…and I knew that Horatio was really busy working on another job… but I was given a task, and I had to carry it through.

I found Horatio busy working on that job.
“Hey, Horatio… I’m wondering if you would have some time to move some boxes…” I asked him.
“For who?” He asked me.
“Um..Jezebel” I reply.

IMG_2764I could see his frustration…and stood there quietly while he expressed his displeasure..

“What do you people think I am?” he asked (a bit heated), and I’m sure didn’t want me to answer.

But… in my uneasiness…my clumsy Prudy way….
Yep.
Of course I did.
I gave him an answer.

“Horatio…I don’t think you’re anything…”

Let’s all pause a moment, and let those words sink in….

Mmhmm. Yep. I said those words. I opened mouth…and inserted foot.
Big time.

But I truly didn’t mean them to come out the way they sounded. What I was trying to say was that I didn’t think he was lower than me, nor did I think he was lower than Jezebel…or anyone who we work with for that matter. I look at him as a co-worker. A good guy. I look at him as an extremely talented craftsman. I look at him as a friend.

That’s not how it came out…and I felt terrible for it…and I still feel terrible for it.
Deep down….he knew… he knew that I didn’t mean it the way it sounded….but he had to be mad for a little while, he had to take some time for it to really sink in…and realize that I didn’t mean for those words to sound the way that they did. We hugged it out a couple of days later… and we were back to normal after that.

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The pickle in the middle.
That’s me.

And in honor of my pickleness… I want to share with you my Aunt Lizzy’s Horseradish Pickles.
They’re sweet… they’re sour…. And they have a definite bite to them. They’re delicious! And so, SO easy to make!

Now here is where I can actually use those words…and really mean them…

“I don’t think the prep work is anything…”

It’s a matter of slicing up the pickles if you so choose, cooking up a simple horseradish syrup, and switching out the pickle juice for the horseradish syrup…

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However… they do take a few days to actually pickle. But that’s just a few days of flipping the jar once a day to make sure that the flavor goes through the whole jar.

They’re great for picnics, lunch, dinner, or even breakfast if you like pickles with your eggs… and they’re even great to grab out of the jar and eat…you know…just because you wanted a pickle.

And Aunt Lizzy was such a character…I know that she would have been laughing with tears streaming down her face if she would have seen that whole scene going down!

Life is good, it’s a “sometimes it doesn’t pay to be the pickle in the middle…but it always pays to be the pickle maker”, kind of good.

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Aunt Lizzy’s Horseradish Pickles
Makes 1-1/2 Pints Pickles

1-1/2 pints dill spears (drain and throw the juice away)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup cider vinegar
4 oz strong prepared horseradish

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, water, and vinegar to a boil. Boil just until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat, and add the horseradish. (Make sure you keep your face away from the pan! It’s pretty strong!)

Place the pickles in your own canning jar, or you can keep them right in the jar you bought them in. Pour the horseradish syrup over the pickles, and place the lid on the jar tightly.

Let stand for five days, flipping jar once a day to stir up the mixture.

Store in the refrigerator. Keeps for about a year (but won’t last that long!)

Enjoy!
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Oatmeal Caramelitas

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This recipe is 47 years old. It was the 1967 18th Pillsbury Bake-off winning recipe, created by Erlyce Larson from Kennedy, Minnesota.

In fact, it’s quite a popular recipe, but I share it with you under protest. Well, maybe not protest, because I’ve been making them for years and years…and they are actually a favorite of mine.

So, let me be clear.
I’ve never understood the name.
…and….I’m not sure I like it.

Oatmeal Caramelita.

It’s kind of like my name.
Prudy.

I’ve grown accustomed throughout the years, that when I’m introduced to someone new…. We shake hands, and right at that same moment, I receive a confused look from the other person, and they say … “I’m sorry, what is your name?” … “Prudy or Pru” I’ll answer… “Prudence”. It never fails, they say my name a couple of times as if they’re trying on a pair of shoes that they’re not sure that will fit them right. Sometimes it rolls off their tongue easily… and then there are people who truly struggle.

Trudy, Judy, Purdy, and Pam. I’ve been called all of these, many, many times.

I understand that.
It’s a different name that their brain can’t wrap itself around, so the signals to the tongue get all mixed up.

So, like those people who struggle with my name, I have struggled with the Oatmeal Caramelita name. In my simple mind, it just doesn’t fit. All I want to ask is “Erlyce, my friend… what made you come up with that name?”

I mean, I know why my parents came up with my name. I was named after my beautiful grandmother, Prudence.
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The fact that I don’t care for the name is truly nothing against Erlyce. She’s probably a very nice lady…and we’d probably be great friends (Well, maybe not after I’ve just rejected her cookie name publicly…I’m so sorry Erlyce) if we ever met. And like I said, the name has no impact on my admiration for the cookie bar itself. I love it.

I don’t know why I don’t like the name, I just cannot explain it. Maybe it’s because the chocolate chips and walnuts are nowhere referenced in the name. Maybe because my brain puts the “ita” with a fruity frozen drink, or a pretty girl’s name…but not an oatmeal caramel chocolate chip nut bar.

I’m sure Erlyce worked hard to come up with a name for her cookie bars.
Or maybe she didn’t. Maybe she knew instantly…
Maybe her daughter’s name is Caramelita. Or maybe her grandmother’s.

Or maybe the word caramelita sounded exotic to her.
I respect that.
I respect all of that.

Trust me. Coming from a girl with a funny name myself, I know that I don’t have much room to talk.
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I don’t know….I guess that Erlyce picked that name because she loved it….and since they’ve been caramelitas for 47 years, I can’t see any other name for them. I suppose it does fit. It’s just hard to roll off my tongue.

I guess that it doesn’t really matter what they’re called…they are a delicious cookie bar…and…I’ll still continue to make them, because I love them. And truly… the oatmeal and caramel are the stars of the show.

So, I’ll just grin and bear the name… Oatmeal Caramelita… and say it a few times, hoping that my brain and tongue will finally agree….while I enjoy every last bite of them.
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And today I’m sharing this recipe at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #26, where I happen to be co-hosting with Jess from Cooking is My Sport! I am so thrilled to be co-hosting with Jess. This beautiful girl is truly inspirational with all of her amazing recipes..and the stories that she shares with her recipes are always fun, but passionate at the same time. Her words show the love that she has for cooking.

A special thank you to Angie for hosting Fiesta Friday! Now here is a girl who is truly an artist when it comes to the culinary scene. Angie’s blog, The Novice Gardener, is just beautiful. Not only are her recipes delicious, but they’re show stoppers… Awe inspiring.

I hope that you’ll stop by and see all of the delicious recipes that everyone has brought to the table this week!
….AND….If you are a blogger and haven’t had the chance to link up, now is the time! If you are new to this party, or even new to blogging…we welcome you to join us! It is a wonderful way to meet other blogger friends, and gain exposure and views! Please feel free to contact me, Jess, or Angie if you have any questions! We are here to help, and look forward to meeting you!!

Please be sure to link your posts to Angie’s blog, as well as my blog so that we know that you have arrived! It’s as simple as clicking on the “Click to Join” button right here…
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Life is good…it’s a “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover name. What’s inside…truly…is what matters…” kind of good.

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Oatmeal Caramelitas
Makes a 9×13” pan

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 – 1/4 cups butter, melted
14 ounces caramel candies, unwrapped
½ cup evaporated milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish; set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, oats, baking soda, and salt. Pour in the melted butter, and stir until you have a crumbly mixture.

Press half of the crust mixture into the baking dish into an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and walnuts over the baked crust.

While the dough is baking, combine the evaporated milk and caramels in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir the mixture constantly until all the caramels are melted into a thick sauce. Let sit at room temperature until the crust comes out of the oven. It doesn’t have to cool completely!
Pour the caramel sauce over the chocolate chips and nuts. I usually pour it in rows, so that it covers the whole top. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to spread it with a spatula…the caramel will melt and it will end up spreading!

Sprinkle the remaining dough over the caramel, so that it covers the whole top.

Bake until the top is golden brown, about another 15 minutes or so. Remove from oven, and let cool completely.

Cut into squares. These can be kept at room temperature if you like them softer…or in the refrigerator if you like them a little on the harder side. Personally, I like them at room temperature!

Enjoy!
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Homemade Ketchup and French Fries

IMG_2388I was driving home the other day thinking about, and craving french fries and ketchup. It made me start wondering if I can really even be considered a foodie, because I still do like to eat regular food, such as …well… french fries and ketchup.

Would a foodie be driving down the road craving french fries?
Maybe. Or maybe not.
I mean, what exactly is a foodie?

Well, according to Wikipedia:

“A foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger. While gourmet and epicurean can be used as synonyms they have fallen out of favor and bring to mind a stodgy or snobbish attitude.”

My interest in food is definitely ardent, or passionate, if you will…and sometimes it’s refined..although I truly cannot be called an epicurean. I admit that my knowledge of food is limited, but I’m continually learning, and growing in that knowledge.

Like most foodies, I enjoy trying new things…I’m one of those people who will “ooh and ahh” over a one inch cube of tuna tartare sitting in the middle of a fine china dinner plate… topped with a truffle paste, and a single pea, all drizzled in 1000 year old tahitian olive oil. I’ll enjoy that three second bite of it, and then rave about it for hours on end.

But then…

There are days like the other day, that I just want a pile of french fries with a dollop of ketchup on a plate in front of me, while I sit back for the rest of the night with the button on my jeans undone, watching an episode of Seinfeld that I’ve seen 100 times before.

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So, in the end, can I really be called a foodie? You know what? It doesn’t matter. I get excited for something extraordinarily crazy and new….and I get excited for something comforting and familiar.

Call me what you want.
Foodie or not….I just love food.

Like ketchup. And french fries.

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And of course, I prefer homemade. I prefer homemade everything…

There is such a freshness to it.
You know… it tastes real.
Better.

And there’s something about making everything from scratch…it’s satisfying. It’s fulfilling. It’s a little wiggle of the hips to the music in your head.. gratifying.

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Life is good, it’s a “call me what you want, but just don’t call me late for dinner…” kind of good…

Sweet and Spicy Ketchup

This ketchup is a touch spicy, yet a touch sweet. It’s nice and thick, so it sticks to your fries, or your hot dog, burger, or whatever you love to eat ketchup on! It’s easy to make, but it’s always better the next day, so plan for keeping it in the refrigerator overnight before serving. Of course you can serve it immediately…but like most foods, it just tastes better when all of the flavors have time to get to know each other. It will keep up to four weeks in the fridge.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp jalapeño pepper, minced
12 oz can tomato paste
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp dry ground mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/3 cup cider vinegar
4 tbsp worchestershire sauce
1/3 cup water

Feeling a little frisky? Add a teaspoon or more of anchovy paste to the mix when adding the tomato paste and other ingredients to the sautéed onions!

In a medium saucepan, saute the onions, garlic, and jalapeño in the olive oil until translucent and tender. Add the tomato paste, brown sugar, ground mustard, salt, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cayenne pepper, cider vinegar, worchestershire sauce, and water. Simmer on low for about 1/2 hour. If it seems to be thickening too quickly, add about 1/4 cup more water.

Let cool completely. Pour the ketchup mixture into a food processor, and blend until smooth.
Transfer to a container with a lid, and refrigerate overnight. Keep refrigerated up to four weeks.

The French Fries

These are basically made the same way as my potato chips…except cut into fries, rather than slices.

4 large russet potatoes
1 cup vinegar
5 cups water
3 cups canola oil
sea salt to taste

Wash and dry the potatoes. Slice into 1/4” thick fries. Try to keep them as uniform in thickness as possible, so that they cook in the same amount of time.

Bring the vinegar and water to boil in a medium saucepan or dutch oven. Add one half of the potatoes and boil for exactly four minutes. Remove with a wire spider skimmer and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Let them dry completely, flipping them so that they dry on all sides. Let cool completely. Repeat with the other half of the potatoes.

While the potatoes are cooling, heat the canola oil in a large saucepan (You want the oil to be at least 2” deep, so add more oil if you think you need it). I deep fry them when the oil reaches 350 degrees.

When the oil is ready, add a few potatoes at a time to the pan. Don’t overcrowd them. Deep fry for 3 minutes. Remove with a wire spider skimmer to a baking sheet with a cooling rack placed on top. Repeat with remaining potatoes, and let cool completely on the cooling rack, which by the time you’ve finished the last of the potatoes, the first batch will have already cooled.

At this point the fries will still be white and soft.
Now to bring a little color and crispiness to the fries….This is where you really need to stand over the pan and watch the french fries cook…Add 1/2 of the cooled potatoes back to the oil, and let them fry until they’re golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oil with the wire skimmer, and drain them on the baking sheet with the cooling rack.  Keep in warm oven until the remainder of the french fries are cooked.

Serve immediately!
Enjoy!
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My Request… Update!!

What a success this was! Thank you to my lovely friends who sent cards, or reflagged to help little Danny receive over 8,500 cards and over 900 packages from all over the world…

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Here is what his mom said:
“Todays total rough count was a little over 8500 cards and 900 packages!!! We filled the uhaul completely up! And then filled 3 cars too!” the family posted on Facebook this week. “We are in awe of all of this, we are speechless and dont have enough words to explain how thankful we are for everyone of you! And all the love that you have shown us and continue to show us!”

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

There is no recipe tonight…. just a simple request.

I cannot tell you how much all of the love and support that you gave to Mike and me…after I told you about his illness… meant to me. While I’m not surprised, because over these last few months, I’ve come to know that there are so many, many good people in this world…I am deeply touched by the kindness that you showed to the both of us.

I know that many of you are moms too, so I know you feel what I feel. I would give my son anything that would make him happy (within reason…I’m not buying him that $30K truck that he wants!).

Like I told you, we are blessed. Michael has the disease, but it’s manageable. He can live a long life.

Last night, I was watching the news…and there was a short segment about a little boy in Foxboro, Massachusetts who has inoperable brain cancer. My heart went out to his parents and his family.

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Little Danny Nickerson has one simple request. This coming Friday, July 25th, he will turn 6 years old. His request? To receive birthday cards.

That’s all he wants.
Birthday cards.
And that’s what his mom is doing for him.
Requesting birthday cards for her little boy, because he gets lonely.

I thought…How easy is that? I can send him a birthday card. But then I thought… what if I posted this…and maybe helped to get him a few more cards?

So my request is simple.. I wish that you might consider this beautiful little boy, and help to make his wish come true by sending him a birthday card.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make it there by Friday…I’m sure he would be delighted if he continued to receive them for the next few weeks!

Here is the address:
Danny Nickerson
P.O. Box 212
Foxboro, MA 02035

Life is good…. but….Sometimes life is hard…but with the love and support from others…it might make it a little more manageable.

Thank you so much for your kindness…and your consideration.

My prayers and love go out to Danny and his family.

And my prayers and love go out to you.

You can find the request on WGRZ Channel 2’s Facebook Page (Buffalo, NY).