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Happy Independence Day!

On July 2, 1776, the standing Congress voted in favor of legally separating the Thirteen Colonies (Provinces of New Hampshire, Massachussettes Bay, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia; and Colonies of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations, Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia) from Great Britain’s ownership, after many years of strife between the two bodies of land and people.

The proceeding days entailed writing the Declaration of Independence to explain and proclaim this decision. The committee of five who wrote this Declaration were Thomas Jefferson (VA), John Adams (MA), Roger Sherman (CT), Robert Livingston (NY) and Benjamin Franklin (PA). They officially signed, and had Congress approve, the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Now, there is some controversy and debate about whether the document was actually signed in July or not, however from the beginning, the 4th of July was considered the Day of Independence for the United States of America and its people.

The Revolutionary War lasted from 1775 to 1783, officially, though the fighting and political machinations started many years prior to 1775: the Boston Massacre was in 1770, while the Boston Tea Party was in 1773, to provide just two examples of this.

Throughout all of the conflict, soldiers and citizens fought and died to ensure the Independence of the eventual-United States of America. According to one report, there were an estimated 8,000 military deaths in combat alone, and a total of 25,000 deaths overall for the 8 year conflict. That is not counting civilians killed, of course, which would raise the number even higher. Throughout history, many more wars have been fought by the American Armed Forces to ensure the freedom of this country and its people, and today is a day to celebrate the Freedom that we all have – as well as a nod to all who have lost their lives fighting for those freedoms and conflicts-to-resolutions.

That all said, I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into our history of freedom, and you have a safe, happy & fun Independence Day today.

Craft You Later,
Beth

Happy Father’s Day!

It has dawned on me from recent conversations that many people forget about Father’s Day, after so much focus on Mother’s Day. In our family, you had to start thinking early for both so you could decide what to get or make for the gifts. Our parents made us work for ideas! 😉

Dad is especially hard to gift, since he always says all he needs is time with his kids. And means it. So getting him to admit he needs more is a yearly ritual that involves some kind of secret finagling from mom, repeated ‘asks’ by my brother & I, and finally an answer. He gets to see us too, of course!

So in honor and memory of all those great DADs out there, who suffer gladly through getting hot pink ties from their daughters (and wear them!), endless tools from their sons, and all sorts of haphazardly created craft projects from kids of all ages – after suffering truly through diapers, sickness, growing pains, nightmares, school drama, teenage years, and all that went in between…

Here is to you, and much love from your kids (and grandkids), be they of blood or heart or friendship, on this day to tell you how much we appreciate and love you!

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Craft You Later,
Beth

Come get it while it’s hot!

So in my immediate family, if you are going to do a party with food, there is a certain rhyme to the reason. Beth (me) is the plotter, cooker & baker; my brother Drew is the sous chef (aka my workslave) & taste tester; my Dad does the meats, and is backup sous chef & taste tester; and Mom buys the groceries, then does all clean up. It is a well oiled machine. With occasional hiatuses (hiatii?) into either the insane or the hilarious.

Case in point today (Friday the 23rd). I ended up basically catering a work dinner party for my mom’s team & their families. Sans mon frère, insert sad face…

So mom & I go grocery shopping at 8:30am (on my day off mind you), and find everything on our list except Andes Baking Chips. As in Andes Mints, made into chocolate chip sized morsels of deliciousness. So we call my dad, who asks me “andes chips, what are they like potato chips or something?”. I don’t know what was more funny: a) my expression at this (mom lol’ed), b) the cashier dude trying not to comment, or c) the fact that dad was in fact serious inhis question. So like a good daughter, I not only repeated it back to him like 3 times, I also broke it down for him real simple: “andes, like the chocolate mint, in chocolate chip format, in a greenbag, in thebaking aisle, that say ‘Andes’ on them, and ‘baking chips’, too. Love you.” Apparently this got it through. At this point, pretty sure option b above was winning the match. 🙂 I love my family. We are definitely a special one, too…everywhere we go. 😉

So after the groceries are all bought, I start cooking. Mom wanders into various rooms setting up ‘the scene’ for the party, while making sure I don’t need any help. I answer these inquiries with a daughterly-loving response of “Doing fine, now out of my kitchen!” Side note: we are in my parents’ house, however I claim all ownership of the kitchenwhile here. Hey, mock if you want, but trust me, we are all happier this way… 😉 Anyways back to the food. I start making my Pizza Dip. My new favorite appetizer. Cream cheese, shreddedmozzarella & italian spices get blended together, spread evenly in a dish, topped with a jar of pizza sauce, then the remaining shredded mozz. Fridge until 5 minutes from eating then zap it for 5 minutes. Voilà, presto, it’s done.

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Easy pizza dip

So next I decide to make the Mac & Cheese. Make 1 pound of shells al dente style, and while that is going, combine (& beat) 1 stick unsalted butter, 1/4 cup milk, 12 oz ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and 6 oz sharp shredded cheese.

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Mac & Cheese 1

Then I add another 1/4 cup (or so) milk, and 6 oz sharp shredded cheese and blend some more. It will look like this:

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Mac & Cheese 2

In a greased (Pam!) baking dish (13×9 works), pour your drained al dente noodles, then mix in really well your cheese mixture. Make sure every shell has a good amount of cheese coverage. Then top it with sliced cheese until all the dish is covered. I used CoJack cheese, andhalved the slices to distribute, since I was using an oval dish.

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Mac & Cheese 3

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Bake at 325 for about 20-25 minutes and it will look like this (and smell deliciously cheesy!):

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Baked Mac & Cheese

Next up, Imade maple-bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. Wrap bacon around whole water chestnuts, stick a toothpick in each to hold the bacon, then drizzle maple syrup on them. Bake about 30 minutes at 325. Here is the final result:

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Bacon Water Chestnuts

Next up: lemon-pepper and coconut shrimp dishes! Use raw shrimp, thawed in cold water, trust me! Peeled and de-tailed the lil’ buggers (and one stabbed me the little meanie!), rinsed them again, ghen divided into 2 groups. Half went into a boiling pot of water with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons lemon pepper. Shrimp float and are bright white & pink when they’re done. Takes about 30 minutes or so. Serve those with basic cocktail sauce (yes, I cheated on that sauce). The other half got complicated. Beat 3 eggs in one bowl, then mix well with the shrimp til they’re all coated well. In another bowl mix 1 cup Panko Crumbs with 3/4 cup coconut flakes. Bring a deepset saute pan filled with 1 inch of canola oil to ‘hot’ over medium-set heat. To test, drop a piece of coconut in, if it sizzles and starts to brown, you are good to go. Take the shrimp and coat them in the panko mix, then carefully, carefully ace in the hot oil. Let brown about 2 minutes then flip, let brown again about 2 minutes, then remove to a pan covered in paper towel. This lets the grease drain. I used 51-70 count sized shrimp, and did about 15 shrimp at a time in the pan, and roughly 5 pan-fulls. After the next batch was flipped, then I would transfer the done shrimp to aplatter from the paper towel. Seemed to time okay. Meanwhile your sauce. Mix together 1/4 cup coconut flakes, 1/3 cup orange marmalade, znd 1/4 cup french vanilla coffee creamer (liquid only). Let this sit in the fridge a few hours, it will taste so good with the coconut shrimp!

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Coconut Shrimp pan

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Coconut Shrimp!

Next on the list is Chicken Parmigiano. Dad was doing Prime Rib, too, but this was my entrée contribution. Use breast tenderloins to alleviate slicing & pounding needs… Dredge chicken in flour so fully-but-lightly coated. Place in greased pan, close together. Top with spaghetti sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese, with a dusting of grated parmesan on top. Bake about 40 minutes at 325.

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Chicken Parm

Next up is mashed potatoes. Microwave rinsed and speared (fork stabbed into both sides of tater) a bag of red potatoes for 25 minutes. These will be hot so be careful. In a bowl, mix/beat the potatoes with 2 sticks unsalted butter, 1/2-2/3 cup milk, and 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper. Best until desired consistency, I like mine thicker so useless milk.

Finally, the mixed veggies. I put about 1/8 inch of olive oil in the bottom of a baking pan, then added sliced zucchini, yellow squash and broccoli (small branches), baked for about 20-25 minutes at 300, until nice and soft. Serve as is, or you can drain thd olive oil. Oh and I did a salad too, iceberg lettuce, baby tomatoes, drained quartered artichoke hearts & cut up bsby corn (asian food section, the stalk looking corn). 🙂 Whew! Dinner for 16 (9 kids, 7 adults) is now done!

Here is the final production (done in a total of 4 hours, not counting reheats):

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Appetizers

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Dinner 1

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Dinner 2

For dessert, I actually made a chocolate cookie, then had 8 of the kids decorate them for me before we baked them. Easy peezy lemon squeezy cookie recipe, too. Melt 1 cup margarine, mix with 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 of a 3 oz package of sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix. Then add in 1/2 teaspoon each salt, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Mix well. Then add in 2 cups (or so) flour, until mixture is thick and hard to stir. Shape dough into balls, flatten on cookie sheet, then decorate with sprinkles, chocolate chips, and the infamous Andes baking chips! Observe the pros below!

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Sprinkle attack 1

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Sprinkle Attack 2

That is all for today, hope you enjoyed, and Happy Christmas & Merry Holidays!

Craft You Later,
Beth

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