If you can’t have milk

Okay, everyone who’s ever read one of my books knows how much I love to cook AND enjoy food. I have a problem with milk. It doesn’t like me in any of its forms. I’ve tried Lactaid pills and Digestive pills, but I’m fine….as long as I avoid milk. Then bad things happen.

My cousin, Jenny, who’s in a nursing home, has the same problems, maybe worse. And the thing about being in a nursing home–which she LOVES–is that everyone gets pretty much the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner as everyone else. But Jenny’s wonderful Saint Anne’s tries really hard to accommodate everyone. And the food there is wonderful. But let’s face it. When you go out to restaurants, or if you live in a nursing facility, cooks try to add flavor and pizzaz to a lot of meals by adding cheese. Don’t get me wrong. If I could eat it, I’d love it. But I can’t. And more often than not, the desserts are based on milk or milk products.

No ice cream for Jenny or me. No cheesecake. Nothing made with milk. I can make my own desserts and use almond milk as a substitute most of the time–not always. Try adding almond milk to instant puddings. You end up with soup. But Jenny’s Saint Anne’s tried, really hard, to accommodate her and bought sherbet to give her when they had milk in a dessert. The thing is, and no one believed me, but sherbet has MILK in it. Guess what? Jenny had a bad time of it. BUT, bless their hearts, Saint Anne had tried. Not even my sister believed me when I said, “Not sherbet. It has milk.” “No, that’s why it’s not ice cream,” everyone said. No, that’s why it adds fruit flavors TO ice cream. But, well, sometimes things go awry. Now, Saint Anne’s is going to get sorbet or almond milk ice cream for her. They’re a great place to be.

But, since Jenny knows I love to cook, she’s told me that she misses some of the snacks she used to love when she came to our house. So, I make some to take to her when we visit her on Fridays. Snacks with no milk. I’ve made her lemon cookies–one of her favorites, banana cream pie with almond milk, peanut butter and honey coated popcorn, Rice Krispie treats, and this time, peanut butter fudge–one of her favorites. I always make two bags of them. One of them for Jenny and one of them for her best friend at St. Anne’s.

This time, though, I was just downright lazy. I usually make her my dad’s peanut butter fudge. She loves it, but it’s a pain to make. This time, I cheated and went to my Ideals Candy Cookbook that I bought when HH and I were first married. You can’t find it anymore. And I made Sue’s Easy 15-Minute Peanut Butter Fudge and substituted almond milk for the milk, and it turned out WONDERFUL. So good, that I’m sharing the recipe. And if you’re one of the people who can’t have milk, it’s easy to make!

Sue’s Easy 15-Minute Fudge

In a deep saucepan, that will hold a candy thermometer, add:

1 c. sugar

1 c. light brown sugar

1/4 t salt

1/2 c milk (I used almond milk)

Cook to 240 degrees, stirring most of the time.

Remove from heat and add:

1 c. miniature marshmallows

1/2 c. peanut butter

1 t. vanilla

Stir with a wooden spoon for several minutes until thick and creamy and some of the gloss disappears.

Spread in a buttered 8 x 8 pan and cool.

Cut into squares.

I hope you enjoy this as much as Jenny and I did when you make it. Happy Snacking!

An Ode to Food, and Back to Routine

Happy New Year!  I don’t know about other people, but I’m ready for a fresh start and a new year.  2016 was a full, busy year with more “events” than usual.  Our grandson Tyler graduated from IU in May, then he traveled for a while before starting a new job in Indianapolis in June.  Our Friday night friends moved to Carolina in June, and now I picture them playing in sunshine.  I broke my leg on June 17th and that pretty much blew my plans for the summer.  My life revolved around physical therapy and lots and lots of TLC from friends–I’m one lucky person. Then our grandson Nate joined the marines, stayed with us to do Thursday night training sessions in town, and then shipped out for boot camp in early December.  He couldn’t wait to go.  I wasn’t quite so gung-ho to lose him right before Christmas, but he was ready to prove himself.  I get that.  And inbetween all of it, I wrote.  That’s what I love about writing.  It’s “my” space, my place to go when routines crash and fall around me.  Writing can be flexible, so I met all of my deadlines.   It was nice to end 2016 on high notes, but I’m still ready for 2017!

The high notes?  My daughter and grandson came to stay with us from Friday, December 23, to late afternoon on Tuesday, December 26, and all I concentrated on was lots of good food and lots of time to visit.  No work.  No “office hours.”  With my cane and the butcher block in the center of our small kitchen, I can cook like a crazy woman, as long as I remember to stop and ice my leg in the middle of the day.  And I love cooking, especially with my daughters (except Robyn and Scott couldn’t make it this year)!

Now, my romances mention lots of food, because cooking is such a passion of mine.  And for me, the holidays revolve around food, so this next part of my blog is a blatant tribute to wonderful recipes.  Holly and Tyler both love Thai food, so I made my version of Nigella Lawson’s Thai yellow pumpkin and seafood curry to put over rice for their first supper at home.  My hubs has always insisted on a “fancy” supper, with all of us together, on Christmas Eve, so Holly and I made desserts for Christmas dinner early on Saturday to get them done ahead of time, and then I made The Pioneer Woman’s Steak Oscar for supper.  (Holly loves to try new recipes as much as I do.  Steak Oscar was a HUGE hit, and if you want to impress, this does it!)  For Christmas, I made “the big-ass ham” (20 pounds) that John won at the Legion, and I glazed it with The Pioneer Woman’s red raspberry/dijon mustard glaze.  I took an extra mason jar of the glaze to my sisters’ house, and they wouldn’t let me bring it home, so I know it was a hit.  And I highly recommend Marcela’s slab apple pie (from foodtv’s The Kitchen): http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/marcela-valladolid/apple-slab-pie.html.

Aside from food, we watched a movie every night Holly and Ty were here–something unusual for us, but boy, did we enjoy it.  We were all in the mood for low-key this year.  I picked first: The Magnificent Seven.  I mean, it’s a Western, and it has Chris Pratt in it. How bad can that be?  Holly picked The Secret Life of Pets–just silly fun.  And Ty picked the new Jason Bourne movie with lots of action.  Then it was time for Holly and Ty to drive back to Indy and jobs and the real world.  I finished reading The Help, and John and I rented that movie and loved it.

I got a smidgeon of work done until New Year’s Eve, but nothing to brag about.  And tomorrow, it’s time for me to hit the real world again, too.  Time to get up and write again.  And I’m ready.  It’s fun to play, but it’s great to get back to routine again.  I’m ready to hit 2017 running…Okay, limping, but with purpose.  Hope your holidays were wonderful, and have a great, new, fresh year!


I Feed People

It used to annoy me that every time I took a personality quiz or had my palm read, I came out as a caregiver.  Now, to me, that wasn’t the glamorous, amazing personality that I wanted to portray to the world.  But what’s a girl to do?  When I went to a sci/fi-fantasy convention and had a photo of my aura taken, and it came out with a huge streak of white around my head, and blue and green around my upper body, I knew I was doomed to be a nurturer.

I can’t really argue with any of the test results.  I mean, after all, I’m the one who wanted to be an elementary school teacher.  I’m the one who loves having kids clutter my house.  I even have a tree full of birdfeeders, a shelf on my Chinese elm to feed the flying squirrels that come at night, and I feed stray cats that won’t even let me touch them.  What can I say?  The quizzes might be right.  The thing is, I really enjoy feeding things, especially people.

There’s something about food.  There’s the creative process of making it, and there’s the nurturing process of sharing it.  I’d be a FoodTV addict if they didn’t have so darned many reruns.  I can’t stand watching the same show twice.  But I love cooking for people, and I love finding and trying out new recipes.

When the neighborhood kids were growing up and stayed at our house for supper, I used to tease them that if they were nice to me, I’d give them my recipes when they grew up and moved away.  It’s no joke anymore.  They call for them when they’re ready to make one of their favorites.  It’s a huge compliment.  A friend even asked me to help her organize some kind of cooking routine, so I made her a printout of easy recipes–7 chicken recipes to choose from for Mondays, pork recipes for Tuesdays, ethnic on Wednesdays, etc.  She still uses it, and I’ve e-mailed it to many more people.

The thing is, I’ve always said that if someone carves “She was a nice person” on my tombstone, I’ll rise from the grave and haunt them.  I don’t mind being nice, but I don’t want to be known for it.  I want to be known for my writing, or my wit, or my humor.  Something other than a blue and green aura.  I felt better when I took Mike Well’s quiz on Twitter for “which famous female author are you most like,” and I tested out as Agatha Christie.  Equally adept at ferreting out dirt as serving cocktails and entrees.