Recently had some seriously yum & fun with friends. Since I’m still in my French moment, it ended up being a 3 hour dinner. It really wasn’t much work, but that’s because I let go of my need for perfection and just did my best with a bit of ‘outsourcing’. Perhaps my admission of cutting corners will allow other working women to just enjoy their friends & family as well. So I’m going to share our plan here, as well as a few book or learning recommendations that came about that night as well.
The menu included 4 courses. We had a starter course of sweet potato hummus & baked pita chips. You can google sweet potato hummus and get tons of fabulous from scratch recipes. But ain’t nobody got time for that 😉 Instead I mix in a bit of a can of mashed sweet potato with ready made hummus. I like the extra spice hummus so that the flavor still comes through even after the addition of sweet potatoes.
The second course was the salad course. The intent was antipasto salad but the majority of my guests were children. Options were offered to accommodate their tastes. Around a large bowl of assorted greens, I placed yellow tomatoes, olives & pickled peppers. I also made the antipasto and it was delicious – albeit total cheater.
1 can marinated artichokes, drained & chopped
1 jar Italian pickled vegetables, drained
8 oz salami, diced
8 oz can of button mushrooms, drained
4 oz jar pimentos, drained
1/2 – 2/3 c zesty Italian salad dressing
Stir well. Let stand in refrigerator for 2 – 4 hours.
The third course was wings, ordered in – another moment of letting go of perfection. You have wings, ya gotta have carrots, celery & blue cheese. I also made pizza. I went with some standards: pepperoni and pepperoni, pepper, & black olive. But I think if you are going cheater on items, you have to throw in some personality. And I threw my personality right in with a sauerkraut pizza! In Ohio, you can find sauerkraut pizza at the local independent pizzeria. Here in the south, not so much. My pops would say there aren’t enough ‘ethnic’ folks here to appreciate it. He might be right. Either way I made a sauerkraut pizza. Red sauce, mozzarella & sauerkraut. Bake until the sauerkraut is crispy. If you go to Marion’s Piazza, you’ll get it with ham. That’s fantastic. It gives a sweet tang like pineapple & ham.
The final course was Dutch Apple Pie a’la mode. Sorry no picture, because it was so yummy, we ate it right up! Following advice from a friend, I used Turkey Hill’s Salted Caramel. Absolutely fantastic.
So the meal lasted 3 hours. Which really was perfect. The kids would take a break between courses and run outside for some light saber battles or slip in a Wii game. We knew it was time to move on from conversation and serve up another round if the play became a bit too boisterous. It was another moment that I thought, you know these French are really on to something.
Part of the conversation centered on books and educational materials. Some of the ‘winners’ of the night:
The Civil War In Color by John C. Guntzelman is essentially and educational adult picture book. It will grab and hold your interest all while taking you for a walk through history. Believe it or not, this book also sparked some spirited discussion at my library. One patron had a strong opinion about the colorization of the old photographs. It certainly bothered her, though I wish I’d been more familiar with the book at that time. At the beginning of the book there is a full explanation on the process used to develop the color in the images. I think this would have made our patron feel better about the whole thing. We felt the color added interest without diminishing the impact of the images. Sort of the colorized old-time movies… do you have an opinion?
Learn Our History DVDs and Lessons are a great hit with families interested in exploring our American History. Each set comes with a DVD and lesson plan. The DVDs cover a wide range of historical events from the American Revolution, the drive westward, to the Reagan Revolution. A common thread from both of our families is the interest in visiting historical sites and understanding the context of historical events. These videos are a great way to further conversation or prep for upcoming trips.
1776 by David McCullough gained another firm recommendation. This work offers a dramatic retelling of the men who were with General George Washington and wagered their lives on the quest for independence. This is quite the page turner with the reviewer finishing it in a day. That’s really saying something! Avoiding distraction and carving out time to read in a busy household, especially for a full day, takes a major level of commitment. This is reserved only for the most deserving materials.
John Ransom’s Andersonville Diary: Life Inside the Civil War’s Most Infamous Prison was another must read. It’s a difficult one though! If you haven’t heard of Andersonville, you either aren’t a history buff or not from Georgia. It was the POW camp that held many Union prisoners. The conditions were atrocious even for Civil War standards. Many died. The site remains a historical site also offering the Prisoner of War Museum. The site is worth the trip. The book is an intimate and painful look inside.
There were many more recommendations flying around but I just couldn’t catch them all. What are your American History recommendations?