Monday, December 19, 2011

Pignoli Cookies

Leave it to me to be inspired to make a particular Christmas cookie based on the petty drama of reality TV. To be more specific, the monstrosity known as The Real Housewives of New Jersey. If you've never watched it, I'm not sure I'd recommend jumping in at this point. What was once a very entertaining and amusing hour of fun has now gone down the usual path of most reality TV shows, into a darker territory--no longer amusing, but sad. Very, very sad.

This past season there was an incident involving the loud-mouthed and very sparkly Teresa Guidice, her coattail-riding sister-in-law Melissa, and some cookies. The incident might as well be known as Cookiegate. Apparently when Melissa dared to show up at Teresa's house on Christmas with...SPRINKLE COOKIES (The horror! How dare she!), when Melissa should have known that Teresa only likes Pignoli cookies, Teresa so eloquently informed her that her cookies were going in the garbage. She's a sweet-talker, that Teresa. So the following Christmas, Melissa made absolutely sure to bring Teresa the "right" cookies. Pignoli cookies. That's some sisterly love right there!

So that got me thinking this past fall about pignoli cookies. I had never tried one before, seeing as how Florida tends to lack the delicious gems known as Italian bakeries (although that might be a safer bet for someone like me!), and it had me curious what the big deal about pignoli cookies was. After all, if someone as classy as Teresa Guidice loves them (that would be sarcasm, folks), well then, they must be the most elegant cookies of all time! I had to try them!

She brought me sprinkle cookies! I HATE sprinkle cookies!!!

This seemed like the perfect time to try a new cookie anyway because my cookie and fudge making was in full swing this past weekend. The only draw back to trying pignoli cookies was that the ingredients were pretty expensive. It required two cans of almond paste and a full cup of pine nuts, both of which cost a lot, so I was taking a chance on these...

First, I had to pulse the almond paste in a food processor until it was ground. Then I added a cup and a half of confectioners sugar and a bit of salt and continued pulsing until it was finely ground like a powder. I then transfered that mixture to the bowl of my electric mixer where I added two egg whites and a little honey. I mixed it on medium-high with the paddle attachment for about five minutes. The batter was smooth and very thick. I'm glad I had the sense to dampen my hands because I could tell this was going to be a messy job. The recipe asked me to form the drop cookies and to then press the pine nuts onto them. That seemed a little silly to me. I found it much easier to simply roll and form the cookie in my hands and to then turn it downwards and press it into the bowl of nuts. That made it a much quicker job and kept me from having pine nuts go everywhere. I then baked them at 350 degrees. The recipe said to bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Well, I did that and my cookies were still not cooked all the way through. I put them back in for a few minutes longer and it seemed to do the job. Me thinks I need to get a new oven thermometer...

The result was a very crispy exterior and a very soft, chewy center. If you like the taste of almond cookies, then you would probably appreciate these. The pine nuts are the one ingredient that confused me. I personally find pine nuts only okay-tasting. They're just nothing really special to me. I couldn't particularly pinpoint what they added, or were supposed to add, to these cookies. I think if you left the nuts off all together, this would still be a fine tasting almond flavored cookie.

Would I make these again? Meh...probably...not. I think if almond paste wasn't so annoyingly expensive, I might. But I didn't love these so adoringly that I would have to have these again. I think I'll leave that to Teresa and Melissa to argue over!

But in case you're interested...

Pignoli Cookies

-2 (8-oz) cans almond paste (not marzipan), coarsely crumbled
-1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 large egg whites
-2 tablespoons mild honey
-1 cup pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pulse almond paste in a food processor until broken up into small bits, then add confectioners sugar and salt and continue to pulse until finely ground, about 1 minute.

Beat together almond mixture, egg whites, and honey in electric mixer at medium-high speed until smooth, about 5 minutes (batter will be very thick).

Spoon half of batter into pastry bag if using (keep remaining batter covered with a dampened paper towel) and pipe or spoon 1 1/2-inch rounds about 1 inch apart onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Gently press half of pine nuts into tops of cookies. Alternatively, roll the batter into a ball in your dampended hands and press downwards into the nuts.

Bake cookies in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes total. Slide cookies on parchment onto racks to cool completely, then peel cookies from parchment. Make more cookies with remaining batter and pine nuts on cooled baking sheets.

Yields: About 3 dozen

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, Wherever You Are

So apparently I just blew this man's mind because I knew who Jimmy Durante was.

We have Christmas music playing in our office and a gentleman I was assisting with some paperwork heard a song playing in the background. I guess he decided he was going to educate me and asked me in a 'let me teach you something' tone of voice, "Do you know who this is?"

I love moments like this...

Without any hesitation, I answered back, "Jimmy Durante." Well, this clearly caught him off guard. The look on his face was priceless. He asked me, "How did you know that?" I guess I really disappointed him. He was all ready to school me and I burst his bubble. So I shrugged and said, "I just do. I'm a walking vault of useless information."

Finally he proceeded to tell me that because he assumed I'm in my twenties (bless him), that I would have no idea, and the fact that I did know was amazing to him.


So then he asks me, "Well, do you know what he was known for?"

Fool. Nice guy. But a fool.

I replied, "Besides his trademark schnozzola, that he was an actor, he was a singer, and he was a comedian."

And the man says to this, "Oh...I didn't know he was all of those things. I just knew he had a big nose."

Well, looks like one of us DID learn something new today!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

White Chocolate Christmas Fudge

Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to turn into a piece of fudge--I seem to talk about it and eat it so often. But if I did have to turn into fudge, I think this is the form I would choose to take. Smooth, decadent white chocolate with sweet, dried cranberries and crunchy pistachios dancing about to give the chocolate some zing and personality. Not to mention, it's so pretty! The red and green of the berries and nuts, as well as the snowy white color of the chocolate, make this the perfect Christmas treat.

I made a ton of this fudge last year around the holidays, as well as some other darker fudges too, and passed it out to all my neighbors. I'm happy to make it and share it with anyone I know will appreciate it. So make a note, if you don't want to fatten up, you might not want to move to my street!


White Chocolate Christmas Fudge

-20 oz. white chocolate chips (1.5 packages or about 3 cups)
-1 can sweetened condensed milk
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-8 oz. shelled pistachios
-1 handful dried cranberries*

Coat a 9" square cake pan with cooking spray, set aside. In a saucepan, melt chips with condensed milk over low heat. Stir constantly until smooth. Remove from heat immediately.

Stir in vanilla, pistachios, and cranberries. Spread evenly in cake pan with a spatula. Cool fudge to room temperature or chill.

Yields: 64 (1") pieces

*Note: Pistachios on their own can be a little pricey. If you happen to have a Fresh Market grocery store close by, they carry a perfect blend of cranberries and pistachios that you can buy together in one tub. It's right there in the trail mix section.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Man Your Battle Stations

Hello dear friends. How are we? Besides a little beat, not to mention this crispy weather making me want to roll over and take a big old honkin' two-hour nap, I'd say I'm dandy as candy...

This weekend was full of battles. I battled the cooking of Beef Burgundy for my book club guests Friday night--a long, tedious process that I wasn't expecting. I battled cleaning the house all day Saturday morning and afternoon. That evening I hosted book club where we discussed my pick, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (note the obvious play on words). And finally, yesterday, I battled the remainder of my laundry to be done, and I won. I conquered. Now, whose got the wine? All kidding aside though, it was a great weekend and I got a lot accomplished.

Book club was a smashing success, I'd say. I take it as a good sign when everybody does, in fact, finish the entire book and have a lot to say about it. For those of you that haven't heard of it, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is written by a Yale law professor named Amy Chua, a Chinese-American do-it-all type. It's the story of Amy Chua's life with her husband, a non-Chinese Jew, and their two daughters, Sophia and LuLu. What makes her personal story interesting is that Amy is a "Tiger Mom"--the new name for moms who impose ultra-strict study habits and a 'you do what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it, and you don't question me' kind of authority with their kids. Basically, imagine the strictest parent you could possibly imagine--one who doesn't allow their child to go on play dates or spend the night at friends houses...ever, one who chooses an instrument for their child to learn to play (whether they wanted to play it or not) and forces them to practice three, even four hours a day without bathroom breaks...even while on family vacations, or one who tears up their daughters' homemade birthday cards to her and tells them to do them over because they can do a better job than what they gave her. Imagine a parent like that and, voila, you have Amy Chua.

This book came out in early 2011 and was extremely controversial, to say the least. Amy Chua made a lot of people...well, mad. Although she insists her book is a memoir and not a how-to book, her generalizations and stereotyping of how all "Western" parents are over-indulgent and completely willing to accept mediocre grades from their children got underneath a lot of peoples skin. She insists her way--the Chinese way--of parenting is what earns respectful, hard-working kids who know their full potential and go after it.

Chua's two daughters, Sophia and LuLu were very interesting to read about. Sophia, the elder of the two, was dutiful and studious from day one. She did what she was told, academically ran circles around her peers, and became a prodigy piano student, even making it all the way to Carnegie Hall. LuLu, on the other hand, was as defiant as they come. While also smart and musically gifted like her sister, LuLu was the one who gave her mother the most headaches. LuLu was the daughter who would rather stand outside in the freezing Connecticut cold with no jacket than back down to her mother. It is the stories of LuLu standing up to Amy Chua that really made this book worth reading, and thankfully Chua didn't sugarcoat those moments. In the end, Chua finds herself pretty humbled by her daughter, but of course, not too humbled...

This book raises so many crucial topics happening in families today in this country. Are we too soft? Do we not go after our full potential, cushioning our egos and our children's egos with the idea that as long as we did our best, that's all that counts? Are Western parents raising a bunch of coddled, entitled whiners? It's this very idea that seemed to bother people about Chua's book. I've watched some of her interviews online, and she doesn't ever seem to actually come out and say the words, "People are mad about my book because the truth hurts", but something tells me that's what she wants to say. But who knows...

Needless to say, this was an excellent choice for my book club. I consider myself privileged to be included in such a dynamic group of women who all have strong opinions. This book brought out a lot of different reactions, which was fun to dissect and discuss. One person identified with LuLu and thought she was the real hero, while another found her defiance to her mother unacceptable and wanted to knock her teeth out. Another woman read it and says she now feels like a failure as a parent to her two young children (no you're not, Michelle!!)--and even wants her husband to read it so that they can figure out a way to incorporate some of Chua's ideas into their own parenting style. We all agreed and disagreed with different aspects of Chua's philosophy. She certainly raises a lot of good points and makes a lot of sense, while at the same time some of her methods seemed overly extreme and flat-out evil at times. But the great thing about a book like this is that the author is a real person and her story is a real, living thing. Therefor, there is no right or wrong answer to her extreme-parenting style, just different reactions. Different, colorful reactions. I can't recommend this book enough to read with a group. A lengthy, healthy discussion is sure to follow! Now onto the grub...

I have been waiting for a good opportunity to make Beef Burgundy, also known as Beef Bourguignon. Some might say it's merely a fancy name for beef stew, which I suppose to some degree is true. It is beef stew, but it's also much more than that. It's the richest, meatiest, most flavorful beef stew you could possibly taste. Even Julia Child once described the dish as, "certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man." Seriously, are YOU going to argue with Julia? I know I'm not...

Seeing as how I own a bazillion cookbooks, I had to settle on which recipe I was going to use. Certain recipes use more burgundy wine than others, while some omit any kind of beef broth. It's one of those meals that essentially ends up being the same thing in the end, but it can be made with many slight variations. I actually settled on the Beef Burgundy recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook, by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford. This was a cookbook that I received as a shower gift from some of David's fellow teachers. I hadn't heard of it at the time, but it turned out to be a delightful gift and is now one of my go-to books. Everything I have ever cooked from their recipes has turned out amazing and wasn't terribly difficult to prepare. Their recipe for Beef Burgundy seemed easy enough, so that was that.

The hardest part of making this--and it wasn't actually hard, but long and tedious instead--was the prepping of all the ingredients. It's always easier to get everything you need organized and measured and ready to go, and that goes for any recipe you're using, which usually only takes a few dedicated moments to make your life easier. In this case, it took me two entire episodes of Family Guy, plus part of a Simpsons episode (which I was listening to in the background) to get myself set up and ready. Measuring out some broth and wine, sure. Chopping onions? No problem! Cleaning and quartering 16 ounces of mushrooms? Uh...

Let me ask you this, do you have any idea how many mushrooms actually equal 16 entire ounces? That's a pound of mushrooms. Take my word for it, it's A LOT of mushrooms. The worst part about mushrooms in general is that in order to clean them, you can't simply throw them in a calender and rinse them under the sink. Well, you can, but you'll end up with some really rubbery 'shrooms. Instead, you need to wipe them down with a damp cloth. It isn't difficult, but when you're removing stems and wiping and quartering for an entire pound of mushrooms, you may find yourself questioning why you decided on Beef Burgundy when you could have just ordered some Chinese take-out in order to go along with the theme of the book and call it a day like I did.

The truth is, I decided months ago that I would make Beef Burgundy when my turn to host was up next. I knew my month was going to fall in a chilly time period, so the dish would be the perfect, cozy accompaniment. When I decided on my book choice, I did toy with some ideas of instead matching the menu to the book. I actually thought about making some homemade Chinese food (which I never do) and then even thought about expanding it and doing an East Vs. West theme--with homemade Chinese and real Americana fare like meatloaf and mashed potato sliders. Thinking about it now, I could have really had some fun with a menu like that, but I didn't want to get in over my head. Plus, my gut still wanted Beef Burgundy, both literally and figuratively, so that's what I did. And I have no regrets either.

I made the stew Friday night because of the fact that everywhere I read, it says that it's a dish best made at least a day ahead of time so that the flavors can really develop. I have no idea if they were any more developed by Saturday or not, but the result was indeed rich and satisfying, especially when I served it over mashed potatoes. Everybody seemed to enjoy it and indulged in seconds, and even some thirds. In the end, I had enough leftovers for dinner last night with David, which he loved, and even some for tonight...which I am already looking forward to...

Dessert consisted of a super-simple Dark Chocolate Bark with Cranberries and Pistachios (one of my favorite combos that I love to use in white chocolate fudge) that I adapted from a great cooking blog called I love Skinnytaste because the woman who writes the recipes follows Weight Watchers and posts the points! This bark was beyond simple to make and would probably make a great gift to somebody. You just have to remember to tell them to keep it in the refrigerator.

Speaking of delicious gifts, would any of you like my recipe for White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios? It's not only sinfully yummy but it's a beautiful and easy dessert to hand out to your family, friend, and neighbors around the holidays. I made it last year and it was a huge hit. I'm looking forward to making it again in the upcoming weeks. Perhaps tomorrow I will share it...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Chocolate All the Way...

Andy Williams was right, it is indeed the most wonderful time of the year. I love Christmas time. Love it. The music, the lights, the decorating, the food, the building of memories--such a special time that we wait all year long for (not that you can't do any of those things all year long, but you know what I mean!). Of course, this time of year also comes with its burdens--the crowded stores, the high cost of gifts, the chocolate and the cookies and the cakes and the this and the that showing up right and left, every which way you turn...phew, let me catch my breath.

If you can't tell, food is on my mind these days. This time last year I was already underway to enjoying myself a little too much, and as a result I gained a bit and got myself in a bit of a rut that took a while to get out of. It is hard to lose weight around the holidays. I believe that everybody out there generally knows and understands that, but I promise you, you never quite grasp it as well as when you are actively trying to lose weight. Suddenly, you're hyper-aware of how much eating actually goes on throughout the month. December is literally a giant, four week long temptation. Well, at least it is for me.

If you recall, I work in an attorney's office. We've downsized so much over the last few years that we don't really all-out celebrate things like we used to. Five or six years ago we did ornament-exchanges and a huge potluck Christmas party ever year. Every birthday in the office meant a Chocolate French Silk pie or banana pudding for everyone to enjoy. These days we're all so overworked and underpaid that we're all rather grumbly (although trust me, I'm not as bad as some of the crones around here) and not really in the celebrating mood. Truthfully, that's perfectly fine with me. As a matter of fact, I say GOOD. I don't need pie on my birthday and I do not need Honeybaked ham and macaroni and cheese. Those things aren't so bad by themselves, but when you add it to the chocolates being dropped off by our courier for my coworkers and I to enjoy, or the assortment of freshly baked cookies that our top client's wife baked just for us, or whatever other goody is being forced in our faces, the temptations can become extremely overwhelming.

I am determined this year to get through the month of December more intact than I was last year. I'm not saying I have to lose ten pounds this month--although, boy, would that be nice!--but I hope to make it past Christmas at least feeling a little more in control and able to face the temptations head-on without always giving in. Normally, my will-power, which certain people in my life are always admiring me for, packs its bags and heads for Aspen to go skiing this time of year. He's a sneaky lil' devil, that will-power...

So far, it hasn't been too bad. But then again, it's early still. The silent storm of baked goods is slowly brewing, building stronger and stronger into a buttery, sugary monsoon. I can feel it. I can smell it. The chocolate that runs through these veins knowingly seeks its brothers and sisters. You know them all too well--flour, confectionery sugar, butter. Together, they are as sweet as they are deadly. Like phantoms or shape-shifters, they come in many forms, deceiving us all with their puckering cuteness--cookies, decadent brownies, peppermint bark. They are not to be trusted! I don't know when the storm will hit land at full force, but it's coming. We must be ready for them...

Okay, so maybe I'm giving these sweet little treats way too much power over me. Or am I? I suppose I could look at this delicious time of year as the final exam to the rest of the year's studying. Weight Watchers spends all of its time and energy teaching us how to handle situations just like these. And yet, some of us often throw all that hard work, those tools that we have acquired, right out the window. And all for what--fudge? Rich, moist, pillowy fudge...Whoops, there I go again...

Yet again, though, I must remind myself. I can have the fudge and the cookies, or whatever else there is. I can have anything I'd like--just not as much as I want, whenever I want it. It all has to be reined in to make sense, to be structured. So far I've made it through the first nine days of December unscathed. We'll see how I fare next week...

Coming up on the nearest horizon--book club! It's my turn to host this Saturday night and I can't wait. I have so come to look forward to our monthly get-togethers. Sometimes I laugh the hardest I laugh all month long those nights with my ladies. Hopefully they'll all enjoy what I plan on cooking up for them (I'll get to that later) and hopefully they enjoyed the book I chose! I try my best to purposely choose books that make for great discussion material. I think my choice this time went above and beyond those standards. Hopefully it didn't rub too many of them the wrong way--then again, those reactions often make for the best discussions. I'll report back with all the details after this weekend.

In the meantime, how is your holiday decorating coming along?...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Bird is the Word

Here we are again approaching Christmas! I hate to sound like a cliche, but this year had really flown by. I'm struggling to recall February, March, April, May...Seriously, was I alive those months or in a coma??

I know I'm very late on my Thanksgiving update and it feels almost irrelevant posting about it at this point. But seeing as how poor Thanksgiving gets so neglected and lost in the hustle-and-bustle-shuffle of this time a year, I have to give it its proper due and recognition...

After worrying myself sick--for no other reason than that I seem to thrive on the masochism of self-appointed pressure--I am delighted to report that my first Thanksgiving went off without a hitch! The multiple casseroles, the bread, the turkey, and yes, the gravy were all a smashing success. I now attribute it to the fact that I was so beyond organized that there was no way that I couldn't have pulled it off...I think anyways.

As you know, my biggest concern was the turkey and gravy. That Wednesday evening I laid all of my directions out before me to go over every minute of my schedule for the umpteenth time. My friend Becky convinced me earlier that week to cook my turkey low and slow rather than a shorter time on a higher temperature to ensure tender meat that would fall off the bone--and I'm glad I listened to her because the results were indeed mouth-watering. Becky came over Wednesday evening and guided me as I melted my butter and smeared it all over and underneath the skin of Fatty McFatterson (the name I anointed my 19 lb. turkey). The only thing left at that point was to cover him and shove his fat tukus in the refrigerator overnight.

The sucky part? In order to achieve those great low and slow results and be able to eat by 2:00 in the afternoon, as I wanted to, I was required to get up early in the morning to put Fatty in the oven. Like 4:30am early--insert the Oh Hell No mumbles here. Down the street, Becky was planning to do the same thing, so she made sure to send my phone an emergency text message to wake me up on time in case I overslept. Needless to say, I slept so awful that night--I believe for that subconscious fear of oversleeping like a kid has on the first day of school. I woke up every single hour peering at the alarm clock on the nightstand, convinced it was time to get up and attend to Fatty. Finally, around 4:15am I threw in the towel and just got out of bed (the alarm was set for 4:30).

This whole process was pretty annoying. I hadn't even thought about the fact that my oven takes about twenty minutes to preheat that high. So I preheated to 450 degrees and sat myself down on the kitchen floor. When it was hot and ready, in went Fatty...poor guy. But I still couldn't go back to sleep because he needed to roast on 450 for twenty minutes before turning the oven down to 250 degrees. So in total, I spent a good forty-five minutes sitting on the kitchen floor waiting to go back to sleep. Nella was completely confused because she assumed since I was up, that it MUST be breakfast time. Even so, she made for good company on the floor. She's a good egg, that puppy...

Back in my comfy king-size, sleep eluded me. Something about having the oven on while sleeping didn't sit well with me, even knowing it was on at a low temperature. This was the very reason I nixed my mother-in-law's suggestion of cooking the turkey all night long--I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep. I barely got any rest as it is, and that was getting up at 4:30! However, somewhere around 6:00am I think I managed to drift off before waking up for good around 7:30am.

Fatty was cooking away, and I realized that I couldn't do a whole lot else till later in the afternoon. I had assembled my broccoli casserole and green bean casserole the night before. I still had stuffing, corn casserole and the Snowy Mashed Potatoes to make, but those couldn't be done early in the day--the stuffing takes 5 minutes at the last moment, the corn casserole would have absorbed too much into the cornbread mixture, leaving it soggy and I don't like to peel my potatoes too early and sit in water all day because, in my opinion, they become too mushy. The rest was being brought by my sister Beth, so the day really turned into a waiting game where ironically I didn't have a whole lot to do.

This is what I meant about being beyond organized. I knew to a tee what had to be done, and when, and when it required going into the oven. All four of my casseroles required a half hour at 350 degrees. That simplified a lot and made things very easy when Fatty finally came out of the oven in his properly cooked and lightly-browned glory. While the fatso rested, into the oven went the casseroles. While those baked away, I got to work on the gravy--which I was totally intimidated by. I was convinced there wouldn't be enough juices to fulfill the amount needed, but by George, there was! I taste-tested the gravy--which I am glad I remembered to do because it was bland as can be--and added a healthy dose of salt. Voila! Perfection.

Last came the stuffing and the biscuits. The biscuits was the one and only task I assigned to someone else to handle. Somehow I managed to go through the entire day turning down offers of help from my husband, sister, brother-in-law, and even my nephew (who I think was bored and just wanted something to do). I was just so surprised how under control I was that I really wanted to see if I could pull it off by myself without coming unglued--you know, like I normally do when I take on too many tasks in the kitchen. But with the casseroles on the table, the turkey to still be carved, and me working on the stuffing, I needed one extra set of hands in that moment or else risked getting a little behind and letting the food get cold.

But somehow, some way, everything managed to arrive on the table--still hot and steaming--and tasted delicious. Fatty was super moist and juicy. I was beyond pleased with how it turned out and decided that getting up at 4:30am was completely worth it. It also shattered my fear of roasting turkeys and I am no longer afraid of the challenge. All Fatties be damned! I laugh in your face now!!

One of the nicest surprises of the meal was the corn casserole. Originally, I'd planned to just have plain corn. But with Becky's convincing--yet again--I turned it into corn casserole. She had a super simple recipe, so I figured why not? It was beyond fattening, but good God almighty, it was insanely delicious! It came second place only to the mashed potatoes. Hehe...

Let's have a moment of silence for the Snowy Mashed Potatoes. I think they should be on the cover of Life Magazine, personally....

Together, I enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving day with my husband, my sister and her family, and my dad who ended up being a last-minute guest, which pleased me to no end. After dinner we digested and watched The Nun's Story (a great old Audrey Hepburn movie that was on TV that day). Later we enjoyed my sister's homemade apple and pumpkin pies (delicious, Beth!) with her homemade whipped cream. Our bellies were beyond satisfied with the day's results.

I have family, friends, a home, a job, and food on my table. For that, I am truly thankful.

Oh, and in case anyone is interested...

Easy Corn Casserole

-1 can creamed corn
-1 can sweet corn
-1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
-1 cup sour cream
-1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix everything but the butter together and spread evenly in a 9x13 baking pan. Dot the top of the mixture with pats of the butter (you can use less of a stick if you can feel your arteries clogging as you slice the butter--it's up to you, though!).

Bake for 30 minutes till bubbling and enjoy!

Now was that easy or what? Fattening and possibly lethal, yes, but easy!