O is for Only in America – a-to-z blog challenge

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I may have expressed a fondness for the Mo Rocca show on the Cooking Channel “My Grandmother’s Ravioli”.  I love it – beyond love.  It is a look at the grandparents who came to this country from foreign lands, bringing with them the recipes from generations of Irish grandmoms, Italian grandmoms, Jewish and Russian grandmoms.

mo rocca

I am always touched by this show.  I am smiling, thinking of my own grandmothers and their recipes.  Both of them were Irish, and while there weren’t elaborate meals, there was stick to your ribs soups and stews, Irish soda bread, pudding cakes – everything made with the love of generations.

This past weekend, the grandmom came from Thailand.  She grew up in poverty, but came to this country filled with hope, optimism, and a determination for a better life.

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And when Mo asked her, all these many years and American experiences later, what she thought when she came to this country, her face lightened and brightened.  A smile poured across her face like maple syrup over pancakes – slow and sweet.  And with the joy of a thousand Christmases, she exclaimed, “It was WONDERFUL here!”

And you know she still believes it; it IS wonderful here – you could read it in her happy eyes and joyous face.  Most of us will never know or never experience the things that some of our grandparents knew and lived through.  We will never know hunger so great or poverty so desperate or intolerance for beliefs so oppressive.  But we can know how much it meant for our grandparents to get here, find a better life, and hold onto the traditions and the foods that will help us remember where our lives – our histories – began.

I love this show – one that could only have been made here in America.

The Best Things I’ve Ever Eaten – Disney World Version

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I periodically pour over the Disney World restaurant menus, always searching for new things I’d like to try, but I always have a list of my favorite things.  I’m sure you have a list of things you love, like Lou Mongello’s carrot cake cookie obsession from the Writer’s Stop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (I really try to love it, Lou, but it hurts my teeth to even think about it’s sweetness!) – and I want you to share it with me!  Here are some of my favorite things to eat at Walt Disney World:

Smokey Portobello Soup – Artist Point
Artist Point mushroom soup

At Christmas time last year, our waiter accidentally brought a bowl of this smokey, rich, delicious soup to my mother-in-law, who doesn’t eat it.  The waiter offered to leave it on the table, but  my MIL told him to take it back, as we all already had our appetizers (most of which were the soup).  I thought my middle child would burst into tears, as she watched the creamy bowl of mushroom goodness being walked back to the kitchen.  It embodies the taste of a rustic home in the heart of winter, and the flavor will keep you warm your whole trip.

Bobotie – Boma

bobotie

Minced meat, spices, flavors of sweet and savory, all baked into an egg mixture – oh my goodness.  This very traditional South African dish is an explosion of flavors that leaves my mouth very happy.  It’s comfort food at its finest.

Kakigori – EPCOT

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It’s August.  In Florida.  Where there is only one way to describe the heat.  Hell-like.  I’ve always thought I could survive the depths of Hades, having done the “EPCOT death march” at the peak of summer.  The big difference?  There is no Kakigori in hell.  This absolutely heavenly refresher is shaved ice, with your choice of a variety of sweet syrup, much like a traditional snow cone.  There are two big differences between the Kakigori and the snow cone you might get at your local fair or carnival.  The ice in Kakigori is shaved so finely, you don’t get any of the big, chunky, brain freeze pieces you always get in a snow cone, and it doesn’t glue itself all together as it melts, as a snow cone sometimes does.  The other difference is the syrups.  These seem not as cloyingly sweet as some you might find for a snow cone, and the flavors are brighter – tangerine, melon, and strawberry – much closer to fresh fruit than the snow cone flavors.  I like to taste the rainbow – and dream of cooler days!

Braised Pork – Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom

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Let me tell you, my little Mouseketeers, this is one of the best bargains on Disney property.  Served only during lunch, the pork is cooked like a Coq Au Vin, which is a traditionally French dish made with chicken and red wine, simmered in a pot until tender and delicious.  This dish hits the tender and delicious part spot on, and the serving is a full and generous portion – especially since this is lunch!  You’ll get the wonderfully flavored pork, a healthy portion of mashed potatoes, a gravy filled with carrots, onions and mushrooms, and another side dish of green beans.  Easily a $30 entree at a sit down restaurant with fancy napkins and French waiters, go for a late lunch (no reservations required!!) and make this your dinner.  You’ll have room for a late night Dole Whip snack!

So what are some of your Disney favorites?

 

 

Thanksgiving, Fakesgiving, Second Time Around Saturday – OH MY!

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As many of you know, I do not always do Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving day.  As your children get older and enjoy the holidays with their own families or in-laws; or when your own holiday is split among parents, grandparents, in-laws and siblings scattered all over the country, it may be necessary to do Fakesgiving, a holiday I can celebrate with my kids, no matter what their Thanksgiving plans are.

And planning is crucial!  Whether you eat your turkey on Turkey Day or another day that works better for your gang, it’s important to be ready without being stressed.  As always, FoodNetwork.com comes to the rescue!  The planning tips, menu suggestions, and fabulous recipes make planning Thanksgiving – or Fakesgiving – a breeze.  If you haven’t visited Food Network Thanksgiving Countdown Planner – you still have time!

photo courtesy of FoodNetwork.com

photo courtesy of FoodNetwork.com

Just a handful of FoodNetwork.com tips include:

1 Week Before: Shop for Nonperishables
Divide up your shopping list into perishables and nonperishables and get the latter out of the way now. Nonperishables include equipment, decor, paper goods and cleaning supplies – but could also include baking ingredients like flour, sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, canned pumpkin and cranberries. Wait until the day before Thanksgiving to buy fresh vegetables, seafood and bread. Take inventory of tableware, tablecloths and napkins in case you need to pick up anything extra, and make sure each recipe has a serving bowl or platter to be paired with.

1 Week Before: Prepare a Cooking Schedule and Create a Seating Plan
Being organized is the key to keeping stress at a minimum on turkey day. Review your recipes and create a day-by-day schedule for the week leading up to Thanksgiving as well as a day-of plan. Make place cards for your guests if you’ll be hosting a sit-down meal and figure out a seating plan.

1 Week Before: Plan Ahead for Leftovers
Make it easy on yourself (and guests) by having containers and bags at the ready. Leftovers will need to be wrapped up within a few hours of finishing your meal, so better to be prepared.

1 Week Before: Pick Up Your Turkey
If you’ve ordered a turkey, now is the time to pick it up so you can be prepped to defrost it. If you haven’t planned for your turkey yet, purchase a frozen bird today so it will be able to defrost properly in the fridge.

3 Days Before: Defrost Your Turkey and Buy Perishable Ingredients
Thawing a frozen turkey takes time and patience. The best way is to thaw the bird in the coldest area of the fridge with a pan underneath to catch any drips (not on the counter). If you plan on brining (a simple, hands-off way to infuse your turkey with flavor), Anne Burrell’s recipe maximizes taste but minimizes prep with a no-cook apple cider brine. Now is also the time to brave the crowds and pick up any perishable items from the store.

2 Days Before: Make Cranberry Sauce, Pie Crusts and Pie
Try fresh cranberries instead of canned this year, and buy an extra bag when you’re in the produce aisle; they keep in your freezer for up to a year. Cranberry sauce can stay fresh in the fridge up to 2 weeks because of its high acidity, so make it now and refrigerate it in a jar or bowl covered in plastic wrap. If you didn’t freeze your pie crusts ahead of time, make them today and wrap the dough to store in the fridge. If you’ve prepped items and kept them in the freezer, take them out to defrost. This includes any pie crusts or stock you made in advance.

1 Day Before: Prepare Reheatable Side Dishes, Prep Ingredients, Bake Pies
Start to make sides that will reheat well, like casseroles or creamed onions. Prep garnishes, toppings, salad greens and stuffing ingredients. Cook soups and let cool before storing in the refrigerator if you didn’t freeze any options in advance. If your stuffing recipe calls for stale bread, cut the bread now and set the cubes on a baking sheet to dry out. You can go ahead and make your pies, especially Ree Drummond’s Pecan Pie that needs to cool overnight for a natural do-ahead dessert.

Thanksgiving Day: Don’t Stress! Stick to a Day-Of Plan
Preheat your oven in the morning and get your turkey going. If you premade bread, let it defrost at room temperature. Put your wine or beer in the fridge to chill. While the turkey roasts, prepare your other side dishes since they can stand at room temperature for an hour or keep in the fridge. When the turkey is done, let it rest while you make the gravy, reheat side dishes and prep salads.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get started!  And yeah, I’m just getting started!

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Fakesgiving, Happy Second Time Around Saturday!  No matter what you celebrate, as long as you have a loving family, good friends, and great food, you have a lot to be Thankful for!

What Happens When You Are Gastrically Altered? The Truth About Stuck

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It’s stuck.  When I say that to someone, you have a pretty good idea of what stuck looks like.  Something is lodged somewhere and it won’t come out.  It might even conjure up humorous images.

You may even have an idea of what stuck feels like.  Maybe you’ve had a ring get stuck on a finger.  Or you’ve been washing dishes and momentarily had your hand stuck in a too small glass.  It’s not a comfortable feeling.

Imagine something is stuck on the INSIDE.  You swallow a bite of chicken, a forkful of spaghetti, a spoonful of rice.  You chew it, and it goes down, so it’s not that you’re choking, but then it stops.  It doesn’t feel like it goes into your stomach, it just kind of sits there, right around mid-chest, and makes you feel like freakin’ shit.

I’ve talked a lot about slider foods, and for me, part of the comfort of those slider foods is I know they won’t get stuck.  And for me, stuck is the worst feeling ever.  Part of what’s bad about “stuck” is that I don’t always know it’s going to happen.  I mean, sometimes, I can take a bite of some dry beef and know just by how long it’s taking me to chew it that the outcome is not going to be good.  But I have days where I can eat pasta without giving it a thought, and other days where pasta is my mortal enemy.

Stuck is very much a reality for many gastric bypass patients, but I never knew about it before surgery.  I went merrily along, re-learning how to eat, doing my best to get protein in, and had my first stuck encounter with a piece of chicken.  I didn’t quite know what was going on, and found myself laying on the bathroom floor, cradling the toilet, praying for death or vomit.  I would have happily taken either, but neither came.

I tried drinking water, thinking that whatever was going on, the feeling could be washed away.  Uh-uh.  Because something is stuck, what you end up with is a throat full of foam – and this is gross, so turn your head if you don’t want to read the rest – that gags you and chokes you as it foams up in the back of your throat.

For me, there is only one cure for Stuck.  That’s puke.  And it’s not even an easy puke.  You might think that if something upsets your stomach, you head for the toilet and it comes back up.  But because this doesn’t make it to your stomach, it’s not your stomach that will react to it.  So in you go, armed with something that will make you throw up.  For me, it’s a finger.  And I feel awful doing it, especially after watching numerous episodes of Intervention dealing with eating disorders.  But if I don’t get the food unstuck, I can’t function.

The worst part of stuck for me is that it seems one episode leads not only to pain for a few days, but also a tendency for other things to get stuck over the next few days.  This week alone, for example, we had rice on Wednesday, which got stuck.  Then I had beef on Friday, which also got stuck.  Then I had noodles on Saturday.  Yep, stuck.

You’re starting to see why nothing but chicken soup seemed a good idea to me for some time.

The best way to avoid Stuck is – chew your food slowly and thoroughly.  Don’t swallow pieces that are too big.  If something is dry, it’s not going down.  And be careful with things like rice and noodles.  Because they are easier to chew, we tend to eat them faster and they get stuck.

And if you’re out dining somewhere with someone who’s had gastric bypass surgery and they suddenly turn green and run from the table, don’t think it’s your lackluster conversation.  I’ve run from the table in some of the nicest restaurants and at some of the most inopportune times.  Don’t be offended.  It’s not your cooking, it’s my esophagus!

The Best Things I’ve Ever Eaten

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Food is one of my favorite things.  Turns out, I can’t live without it.  But as much as I love food, there will always be some foods that stand out as some of the best things I’ve ever had to eat. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some of my favorites:

Cafe Tu Tu Tango, Orlando

Pears on Pecan Crisps – My mouth waters when I think about eating this. 

My favorite part of Cafe Tu Tu Tango is that it’s a funky tapas style restaurant, where you order a bunch of stuff and everyone shares.  My least favorite part of Cafe Tu Tu Tango is that my family expects me to share this dish.

Imagine oven roasted pears, done to a juicy perfection, just long enough to bring out the incredible sweetness.  Place the pears on top of a crisp, wafer thin type of cracker made from pecans, add a fresh arugula and bleu cheese salad, then drizzle the whole thing with a balsamic glaze.  I know – you’re drooling now too, right? 

There are so many flavors in the dish, that you wonder how it’s all going to come together, but the harmony of sweet, tangy, crispy and creamy is music in your mouth. 

Elements Cafe, Haddon Heights, NJ

Cinnamon Ice Cream – You know that phrase “To Die For”?  It was invented after tasting this ice cream!

Chef Fred at Elements Cafe is a tapas genius.  We’ve eaten at Elements five or six times, and every meal is more memorable than the last.  The fact that this is another tapas style restaurant would have you believe that with the appetizer sized portions that I’m sharing with my family, there would be plenty of room for dessert, but there almost never is.  But whatever else you eat, leave room for the cinnamon ice cream.

The ice cream conjures up memories of fall, and family, and home.  Sweet, with the spice of the cinnamon, cold and creamy – it’s like a grown up version of your favorite treat from childhood.  The ice cream is usually paired with some other spectacular dessert, but this stands alone.  I wish I had some right now.

Bruno’s Restaurant and Pizza, Haddonfield, NJ

Roasted Red Pepper Gnocchi with Seafood

There should be a picture of this dish here, but every time we’ve gotten it, it’s been gone before I remember that I don’t have a picture of this work of art!

Bruno’s was our favorite local pizza shop for years before we ventured in to sit down for dinner.  We’ve always listened intently to the list of specials, and each time we’ve gone, we order from the specials list.

That’s where we first met roasted red pepper gnocchi.  I have to tell you, Jim has never been a fan of gnocchi, and now we know why.  What we were used to were heavy, gummy, and flavorless lumps of pasta.  What you’ll find at Bruno’s are flavorful, delicious, and topped with the freshest shrimp and the meatiest pieces of crabmeat.  I could never eat the entire dinner by myself, but even with Jim and I sharing, we always have some left over for lunch the next day – how could this not be a favorite? 

Adding to the whole experience, you’ll often see the man himself, shaking hands as patrons walk into his restaurant, and the waitstaff are friendly and fun, and they make you feel like you’re part of the family.  What could be better than having one of your favorite meals in one of your favorite family restaurants?

Let me know what some of your food favorites are.  I have a whole list – and I’m sure I’ll be sharing again soon!

Disney Dining – A Few Family Favorites

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If there were ever two topics I had to choose as my areas of expertise, it would seriously be Disney and food.  I have eaten my way around Walt Disney World to the tune of over 300 pounds, and I’ve eaten my way back down by 150 pounds, so I’ve pretty much tasted and sampled everything there is Disney to eat.

There are some Walt Disney World dining experiences that my family absolutely loves – and I think you’ll be surprised to find that even with three daughters, our favorites don’t tend to be the character meals.  Our vacations at Walt Disney World are often just as much about reconnecting with each other as they are about reconnecting with our favorite Mouse.  Here’s where we enjoy eating the most:

Afternoon Tea – Garden View Lounge at the Grand Floridian

Having all daughters, it seems like a no brainer that we’d eventually have to do tea.  You might be surprised to learn, however, that this tea is not only a favorite meal of my husband’s, but my decidedly anti-tea father-in-law can’t wait to go back, either!  You’ll find numerous dining options here – everything from an a la carte light afternoon tea to the full, fit for British royalty, how dare you still have room for dinner after this high tea experience.

For the littlest teetotaler, you’ll find Mrs. Potts tea – a variety of kid friendly sandwiches (and if they don’t like a particular variety, you’ll find they are very willing to accommodate a picky eater with all of one type of sandwich or another), chocolate milk (served in a tea pot, of course!), and pastries or strawberries.  It’s a big hit with our littlest tea lover.

The adult offerings almost rival that which you will find at Harrod’s in London – although with a much more reasonable price tag.  We never leave the table hungry, and we always leave the table happy.  We’ve enjoyed at least an hour long meal together where we’re talking, laughing, and telling stories – the same as we did when I was a kid at my Irish grandmother’s table for afternoon tea at her house.  I love this experience.

Teppan Edo – EPCOT

We have never shied away from taking our kids to eat someplace that didn’t offer burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets.  Thankfully, you’ll find quite a few options at Walt Disney World to take your children where they can veer off the beaten path that leads them to fast food type of choices and right to where good food can be fun – even if it doesn’t come with a toy!

The kids are so fascinated and entertained by the chef – not to mention sitting at the grown up table (aka grill) – that they hardly notice there are veggies being tossed in with the chicken or shrimp!  I love taking the kids here and watching them enjoy eating a little healthier and enjoying it even more than if we’d stopped for a burger.

The restaurant is not quite as conducive to conversation as some other options, but it’s fun for me to just sit and watch the kids spellbound by the chef.  I’d like to see that creepy looking Burger King catch a shrimp shell in his crown.

Restaurant Marrakesh – EPCOT

Seriously, I don’t know why this restaurant gets such a bad rap.  I can almost always call and get a dining reservation for this restaurant – even if I’m calling at 4:59 on Christmas Eve for dinner at 5:00 with a Candlelight Processional dinner package.  Why is that?

Here’s one reason I love this place – you can sample pretty much everything on the menu!  It can be hard, especially with kids, to go eat at a restaurant with unfamiliar cuisine.  At Restaurant Marrakesh, there are several “sampler” type options that allow you to get a taste of several delicious menu items on one plate.  That way, if there is something your kids don’t like, you haven’t ordered them a whole entrée of it, and now have to grab a turkey leg somewhere because they didn’t eat dinner.

My girls also enjoy the music and the belly dancing.  The atmosphere is fun, it keeps the children entertained, and they never make you feel rushed, so you can sit and wait for the belly dancer at pretty much any time you decide to dine.

And the food – well, I really can’t say I’ve ever had anything I didn’t love.  I’m a big soup fan, especially since my gastric bypass surgery, and I love the Harira soup.  Packed with proteins in a delicate tomatoey broth, it’s a favorite even in the summer.  The kids could eat bastilla – a pastry wrapped portion of chicken or seafood – until they collapsed – and the chicken variety (sprinkled lightly with cinnamon and powdered sugar) is almost like getting dinner and dessert on the same plate!

 

These are just a few of our favorite Disney Dining Experiences.  We have had so many through the years, that it’s hard to pinpoint so few.  I hope these are meals you may not have tried before that you’d be encouraged to try now!

 

 

 

 


 

24 Hours of Dieting, and I Survived Dunkin’ Donuts

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Okay – so I don’t dare tell you how much I weigh – until I don’t weigh that much anymore.  Then I’ll be all like, “Oh, did I tell you I lost 12 pounds?”  That’s how I roll.

So, I found an iPhone application that helps me keep track of my calories.  It’s kind of a neat app, in that it lets me put in my starting weight, how much I want to lose, and at what pace I want to lose the weight.  After I programmed everything in, the thing called me a big fat ass, and then told me to lay off the Girl Scout cookies.  I kid…

Unless I actually do something with the gym clothes I bought besides pairing them with the right eye shadow and the perfect shoes, I am limited to just under 1400 calories per day if I want to reach my goal in time.  Of course, seeing a number that small, I instantly thought there must be a zero missing somewhere – or they were giving my calories in metric or something (yeah, I know).

I was pleasantly surprised at the end of the day yesterday when I had only gone over by 17 calories – and that was because I stopped for a second latte.  I can’t be blamed for that one – my crazy husband tossed and turned all night long the night before in his sleep, and as I dragged my butt on the ground, I knew I needed caffeine or a contract hit man to deal with the rest of the day.

But today, gentle readers and dear friends, I faced the ultimate challenge.  We were running late, and I had to stop to grab breakfast for the girls.  It was also the opening performance of Eilis’ play at school.  Being the fat mom that I am, I thought I’d reward them with a treat – Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast.

I could have stopped and gotten them fruit and yogurt; or even an egg McMuffin, which would have been healthier and eliminated my temptation.  I didn’t.

And I ate a doughnut.

And I’ve stayed in my calorie range (well, 12 calories over for today – blame that second latte again).

The thing I’m most proud of is that I didn’t go back for a second doughnut – as I have been known to do.  Or come home and decide that I needed a doughnut for lunch, if for no other reason than to get them out of my house as quickly as I could – to save the rest of my family from the burden of obesity.  Because I’m kind like that.  And glaze is my favorite food group.

So as I stand here in the confessional, I hope that my prayer for absolution – my Act of Doughnut Contrition – includes at least an “Amen” for avoiding temptation for the rest of the day.

Christmas Party 2010 – The Aftermath Part 3

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Let’s move on to the main event, shall we?

This is where things get fuzzy.  This table WAS just for the main parts of the meal – entrees and side dishes.  As my dining room table has grown in size over the years (hmmmm, so has my waist size – coincidence?), it seems I add more stuff to this table that maybe should be elsewhere?

Anyway, what ended up on this table was the spinach dip – which was gone entirely.  The vegetable crudite, made only with veggies I and my girls will/can eat, so when I have leftovers, it’s not leftovers of stuff I end up throwing away.  We went through nearly the whole tray.  Then we had a pickle (dill spears and sweet gherkins) and olive (black and green) tray – with marinated mushrooms, mostly because I had an extra space in my dish.  I had nearly the whole tray left.  Apparently, this was not an olive year.

We had at the other end of the table my baked ham, served cold.  I had a bunch of that left, but ham doesn’t do well in the chafing dish for the length of time the party was.  I might have to work on that.  In the front right is the grape pizza – which was almost entirely gone.  In the crock pot was my roast turkey, which was a big hit – and that was a surprise.  Aren’t people still eating turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, and turkey croquettes from Thanksgiving?  I put the cranberry sauce next to it in case people wanted to make a whole Thanksgiving meal/sandwich kind of thing.  I had half of the cranberry sauce left.  Next year – awesomesauce (this is an homage to my “brother” on the Moms Panel, Jonas, and I have no idea what one would even make awesomesauce out of – perhaps Damn Good Dip?).

The gorgeous looking “wreath” is a broccoli/ham/cheese ring, made with a recipe from my friend Amy.  Amy has elevated herself to Best Friend For Life with this recipe!  Almost as soon as I put the ring on the table, it was entirely gone.  I’m sorry I didn’t make the whole table just these rings – it got RAVE reviews.  No awesomesauce or damn good name necessary.

Meatballs, Sausage, Bruschetta – oh my!  The bruschetta is nestled safely back in my fridge, as it was the lone “not touched” item on the table.  The second crock pot has meatballs and sausage in it, and I had only a container left.  Even the Italians commented on how good they were (thank you, Ragu, which may very well be the original awesomesauce).  The chafing dishes contained stuffing – my stepmom’s recipe- which also won critical acclaim; and kielbasa.  One pan of kielbasa was entirely eaten, but the second pan was too dry and untouched.  I also think we got better kielbasa at the Polish deli, but to save time, I bought it at Wegman’s deli.  Next year, we’re back at the Polish deli (yeah, I keep saying next year after I swore never again).

Then we had desserts.  I inevitably forget SOMETHING on the table.  This year, it was the dip for the fruit salad.  I had a mini-meltdown over desserts.  I ordered a case of cranberry bliss bars from Starbucks, along with peppermint brownies, and my bliss bars were accidentally dispensed to Starbucks patrons with obviously discriminating palates.  I was pissed.  Almost pissed enough to never set foot in Starbucks again.  I ended up replacing it with a red velvet roll (no one touched it, as pretty as I thought it was), cupcakes, panettone, petit fours, and blueberry cake (they were hard to replace).  I had desserts of all kinds left, especially since people brought more desserts in.  I don’t have a photo of the beautiful carrot cake my Aunt Barbara made, but I heard it was delicious!


What kind of desserts do people like at these things?  Clue me in.

Skamarakas Family Christmas Party – The Prequel

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This is the six foot hoagie we had at our Christmas party two years ago.  It didn’t go over as well as I had hoped, but it sure did save me a ton of time and effort.

This year, with little time and a very budget conscious husband, I’m trying to come up with unique ideas to add to my buffet table for our holiday open house on Saturday.

This Saturday.

As in, in four days.

I’m roasting a turkey, baking a ham, and probably putting out kielbasa, meatballs, and sausage.

But what about side dishes?  Snack foods?

I am completely out of ideas, and desperate for help.

This is what I need from you guys.  Ideas.  Loads of them.

The logistics – needs to be able to stay out from 4 o’clock until 9 o’clock, and I don’t want to spend the whole party in the kitchen, rotating appetizers in and out of the oven.

I’m looking for something that’s not the usual cheese platter, chips and dips, vegetables, and fruit salad.

So what have you got?  Send me your best ideas!

Keep in mind that not only am I no Matha Stewart, I’m not even a Rachel Ray.  Or a Semi-Homemade whats her name?  The easier, the better 🙂