Sunday, the 21st of August, 2016

the birthday boy, center, his mom, dad and lots of people who love him
On the 21st of August, we had a killer party here at the Blystone abode for James' 40th birthday. His parents were here, from New Jersey and Seattle and many many of his close friends, along with our daughter, (the love of his life - ok, so I'm jumping to conclusions), Brynnly.
Must admit that this time around I had little to do with the cooking, but I, of course, offered much advice, which was generally ignored. HMPH!

The menu was:

1 - pulled brisket
3 - tomato-mozzarella salad
4 - watermelon-feta salad
5 - green salad
6 - lots and lots of sides
7 - birthday  cakes

What a wonderful night it was! We went late and all of us had a marvelous time! GB and I met his mom for the first time and got to spend time with his dad and James' brother and sister and other family members. Also got to meet many of his nearest and dearest friends. Just a good good time! 


See you on Sunday!



Sunday, the 14th of July 2016, COMO

From top: sliced tomatoes & basil, barbecued pork ribs, rosemary & sea-salt focaccia, teriyaki
tenderloin of venison. For dessert we had a wonderful plum galette.
Last night was the last Sunday Family Dinner for me here in COMO as I fly home tomorrow morning. As always, a wonderful evening was had by all! This time around, the cousins brought most of the food, with mom contributing her outrageous rosemary focaccia and me slicing a bunch of home-grown tomatoes and basil leaves and ~artfully arranging~ them on a plate (HA!). Cousins Tom and Cathy brought Tom's family famous ribs and a teriyaki tenderloin of venison. Curt and Pat (well, actually just Pat) brought oven-roasted potatoes, always good, and the most delicious plum dessert I've ever had! Haven't had a galette before, but I certainly will again! Of course, the evening ended with game night and, of course, once again, we girls won!

1 - Tom's barbecued pork ribs & teriyaki tenderloin of venison
2 - oven-roasted potatoes
3 - sliced home-grown tomatoes w/fresh basil

1 - Cousin Tom isn't about to give up his barbecued pork ribs recipe - I asked! As for the venison? You gotta be a hunter! Tom and his son-in-law always go deer hunting when they're in season. Though I don't think they process/harvest the meat - that's farmed out to the rendering experts - they certainly serve and eat what they harvest (read kill). The only kind of hunting I approve of. (If you hunt or harvest to put food on your table, I'm all for it!) Tom said all he did was marinate the deer tenderloin in teriyaki sauce and the roast it in the oven just till it was rare. It was delicious!

2 - Cousin Pat brought the potatoes. Easy to do - just chunk up some potatoes up, season with whatever herbs you like - Pat used rosemary, pepper and salt - and bake in a hot 450º oven for around 40 minutes. Delicious! 

3 - In the summertime, whether they're from your own garden or a farmer's market, there's nothing better than sliced tomatoes with basil leaves. Cottage cheese, especially if it's Central Dairy's, just adds to the goodness. 

4 -  MumBum's rosemary & sea salt focaccia. Talk about decadent! Mom never measures anything but always knows the right amounts to throw together to make the perfect focaccia - or loaf of bread! Go here and you'll find the recipe....it's really worth it!

5 - Again from cousin Pat. Aside from my mom's pies and crisps, I've never tasted a better dessert than this one! Absolutely delicious! Go here for this recipe that was first published by Woman's Day magazine


See you on Sunday!

Gathered 'round: cousins Tom & Cathy, Curt & Pat, mom & dad and me!


Friday, the 12th of August, 2016, COMO

Our third vegetarian meal since I've been home - whoda thunk??? (Delicious!!!)

It occurred to me that every day I've been here in COMO, it's been a SFD! I'm not in my CT home, I'm not around my normal people, but every night I get to gather with my parents, and, for a week, my sister, as well, in my mind, that makes every single night SFD special! Though I hadn't figured that out until tonight, a mere 4 days until I fly back east, I do believe I'll tell you about these last few meals. 
Last night we had mom's wonderful poached chicken (which I need to write about because 1: it is absolutely delicious, and 2: you all really need to know how to make it!).
And tonight we had another veggie feast! This isn't something I ever do at home, unless the menu includes some sort of starch - GB loves his starch and he'll do without meat or fish, but only if our meal includes some sort of starch. (I agree with him 4 or 5 days a week, but every now and again, veggie meals are a-ok!)
My folks are still avid gardeners, both of foods and flowers, so most of what is on our table in the spring, summer and autumn months comes directly from their efforts. The only thing, above, that didn't come from their spot of garden beauty is the corn. (It's Olathe, CO corn - if you can get your hands on some, SCOOP IT UP!! It's beyond wonderful!) Everything else was grown about 30 feet from their kitchen; (and though their garden veggies aren't as pretty as those you find in the grocery store, their flavors far outweigh them!). So, without further ado, our menu was:

1 - chili rellenos
2 - oven-baked eggplant, okra & onions
3 - cucumber, Greek yoghurt, mint & lemon juice salad
4 - corn on the cob
5 - tomato chunks with fresh basil leaves

1 - We're not sure what's going on with Dad's poblano peppers he's raised this summer (the peppers we use in chili rellenos), but they've been hotter than holy hell! They're supposed to be a warmly surprising pepper, but not in the least astoundingly HOT! However, the rellenos were, as always, delicious. Our family is convinced that's because we BAKE them instead of frying them. Makes a world of delicious difference! For the recipe, go here.

2 - I really should include this step with the above because, outside of flaming their skins, the steps are really the same. Eggplant and onions are sliced into rounds, okra is left whole. They're all rolled in flour, then rolled in an egg/oil mixture and then rolled in panko breadcrumbs. All of the above are baked on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 425º for around 30 minutes. Major deliciousness! Here's a pic of both 1 & 2, ready for the oven:

3 - Mom made up our cucumber salad tonight - she had a little guidance from our friend Google, but it was basically her own creation. She peeled and chuncked three (they're quite small) Persian cucumbers (our home-grown skins were blemished, so off they went; store-bought ones don't need peeling), and then diced and added a small red onion. In the bowl, she then squeezed half a lemon on top, splashed on a bit of olive oil and threw on a handful of fresh chopped mint leaves, ground on fresh ground pepper and sprinkled on some salt. The last step was adding a good dollop of plain Greek yoghurt. All was mixed together and then put in the fridge to chill before being served. Here's a pic of it in the making: 

4 & 5 - Both of these are just common sense, and I know everyone is up on how to make them happen. Boil the corn and serve with butter. Slice or chunk the tomatoes, put a few fresh basil leaves on them and serve with cottage cheese or not. 

No dessert tonight, but dad got his dollop of sweets with a bowl of gelato. Nice! Another SFD meal that make all three of us feel, well, just good! Together!


See you on Sunday!

Gathered 'round: mom, dad and I


Sunday, the 7th of August 2016, COMO

gathered 'round the table with the cousins for spatchcocked chicken w/sauce, cole slaw, buttered corn, home-grown tomatoes w/cottage cheese and fresh watermelon slices. YUM!
left to right: Tom, Cathy, my dad
Sunday Family Dinner once again at my parents home. The cousins came over and we were eight around the table. This night, Dad was behind schedule feeding the fish, so cousin Tom started the honors, then dad came in to add his thoughts to the process. It's always a fun night with lots of back and forth pokes and jabs and a lot of family lovin'.

Our menu was:

1 - spatchcocked chicken w/sauce
2 - cole slaw w/additions
3 - buttered corn
4 - tomatoes w/basil and cottage cheese
5 - watermelon slices
6 - BEST peach pie ever


1 - Spatchcocked chicken, how I love thee! It's become all the fad of late, but when I look back in my mother's 50 year recipe history, she's been doing just that for years, only she didn't have a fancy word for it and simply called it ~flattened chicken~. Go here for the recipe. You can use any fresh herbs you want. It is just so good because the breast doesn't dry out as the entire chicken is flat, so it all cooks evenly.

Here's how to carve it :-):
dad giving pointers to Tom

2 - Seester Care is family famous for her tartar sauce and her cole slaw dressing, so, of course mom and I insisted that she dress the cabbage last night. As she said, she really doesn't have any exact amounts, but the ingredients stay pretty much the same. I chopped up a bowl of cabbage (I chopped 3/4 of a medium head, enough for 8 folks), and to that added a chopped orange-green farmer's market pepper, a cucumber that was sliced length-wise, the seeds scooped out with a spoon, then halved again length-wise and sliced and a small purple onion that had been diced. That was all stirred together and the Carrie mixed in the following dressing: 

In a bowl, whisk together:
Hellman's mayonnaise, about 1/3 C. or so
cider vinegar, about 2 T.
a handful fresh parsley (didn't have any fresh dill), chopped
sugar, about 1 - 2 T. 
milk to thin if necessary
salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Whisk all together. Pour over slaw and mix well. Taste and correct seasonings.

3 - Cut corn off the cob and put all in a pot. Add a half stick of butter and some water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until done, about 15 minutes.

4 - Slice tomatoes and put on a platter along with some basil leaves; serve with cottage cheese.

5 - Cut up watermelon and serve in a bowl. 

6 - Mom made a delicious peach pie - no photos of her making it, or the finished product. Rats! :(

On to game-night!
and now for a rousing game of Sequence...of course the gals won!
left to right: Tom, Cathy, Carrie, Curt
See you on Sunday! 

Gathered 'round: mom & dad, Curt & Pat, Tom & Cathy, seester Carrie & me


Wednesday, the 3rd of August, 2016: COMO

SFD as a brunch-type meal on a Wednesday
My dearest seester flew home today because, well, I'm here and we don't see each other as often as we'd like, and because our very favorite place to be is here in Missourahhh with our parents. Mom wisely decided that it would be a grand idea to have our main meal in the middle of the day, as Care would probably be hungry after a morning traveling and it also would leave more time for game night as the evening meal would be more of a snack. Sister Care is a BIG fan of salmon salad, and considering it's about 100º outside, that sounded more than reasonable to make. That night we all just ate whatever left-over we could find and then played Rummikub. We laughed and had the best time! This family meal consisted of:

1 - salmon salad MumBum
2 - sliced tomatoes w/basil leaves & cottage cheese
3 - sliced Missouri River bottom cantaloupe
4 - toast made out of home-made bread
5 - hard-boiled eggs (that no one bothered to eat)

1 - While mom used a can of alaskan wild salmon, fresh left-over salmon can be used just as well. If you've never had canned salmon before, don't be put off by the bones you might see. When you gently stir the salmon, the bones just dissolve and go away. Canned wild salmon is incredibly healthy - loaded with all kinds of nutritious goodness. And it tastes divine! Mom used red sockeye salmon, but you can use whatever brand you want - there's more than one kind out there - just be sure it's wild-caught. This salad is so easy to make!
salmon salad in the making

1 14 3/4 oz. can wild-caught Alaskan red sockeye salmon, most of the liquid drained
1/3 C. or so Hellman's mayonnaise
1 t. or so Dijon mustard
juice and pulp of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 C. or so minced celery (see above photo)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Put salmon in a bowl and stir it gently to separate. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir gently to combine - be careful with the stirring; too vigorous and the salmon will get mushy. Serve on toast, with tomatoes in a pita, however you like it. 

2 - The tomatoes and basil were from my parent's garden. Nothing better than home-grown tomatoes in the summertime! Here in COMO everyone has the good fortune of being able to buy Central Dairy 2% Cottage Cheese. It is far and away the very best cottage cheese made. I've tried just about every brand back in CT and haven't yet found one I really like. 

3 - Got our melon at the COMO Farmer's Market. It was and is delicious!

4 - Mom and I made the bread together. No, she doesn't measure any of the ingredients for bread-making....ever. She did have me measure most of the ingredients so I'd get a ~feel~ for the right amounts, but, of course, I didn't write anything down, so will have to make more with her! Such a hardship! :)

5 - Mom hard-boiled 5 eggs (fresh from a friend that has chickens - the yolks are bright bright yellow-orange, and the whites never run when you crack one and drop it in a skillet) to put in the salmon salad. I looked at her in horror because that just didn't sound good to me at all. We ended up eating two of the eggs for our breakfast. Carrie said she always puts eggs in her salmon salad as well. 


See you on Sunday!


Gathered 'round: mom & dad, Care & me!


Sundays, Always at Noon in the 1930's

Uncle PM Heyssel and Uncle Biscuit Heyssel - my great uncles and Granddad Jim's brothers - at their fish-frying 
"stove" that was in front of the family cabin, below.
The cabin was down by the Moniteau Creek in Sandy Hook, just outside of Jamestown, a very small town
(pop. 273 then and now) that's close to Jefferson City, the capitol of Missouri.
When the weather was nice and the fish were biting,
the family would gather there on a Sunday, always at noon for some good food and good times.
Not your modern-day cabin, not a lot of amenities, but it didn't stop the good times from happening!
That's mom's dad (my Granddad Jim Heyssel) standing at the window.

Mom wrote: "Dad in the picture window of the "lovely" cabin. 
A screened porch was the dining room and the hood ornament is on the Essex touring car."

Apparently fish fries have been a part of our family life for many generations. I never really bothered to think about how long it's been until mom and I started talking about her growing up and how any decent Sunday would find her and the family down by the creek for a fish fry - and always at noon. Some time ago, mom and I exchanged emails about the family fish fries, which I'll share now as it's a wonderful look into this tradition of ours. Though mom's email to me was written in response to what I'd written, it makes more sense to post hers first as it's a more accurate observation of what the fish fries were all about. 
Mom's sister, Helen, helping out in the outdoor kitchen. It's so well appointed!

On Monday, July 15, 2002, at 4:30 PM, Mary Bumgarner wrote:

Granddad Jim [my grandfather, my mom Mary's dad] never fried them in a batter, Grandma Mae [my grandmother, my mom Mary's mom] simply salted the fish and rolled them in corn meal. That was the way the uncles always did them at the cabin on the Moniteau Creek. After Sunday School and church, we would drive the 6 miles down the river hills from Jamestown to Sandy Hook and a little farther to the very basic cabin, getting there right around noon time. By the time we arrived the potatoes and been peeled and sliced into paper-thin slices and were hanging in a muslin bag in the tree. That was done to dry them - the chips were always very crisp and a lovely brown. Nothing like the Pringles of today. The "stove" was about waist high on the uncles, and about up to my neck. It was constructed of bricks and just large enough for two large metal pans, about 12 x 20 inches and about 4 inches deep. They sat on a metal wire rack and below was a shallow fire box. The fuel was wood gathered on sight and the frying medium was always lard
If the uncles had had luck that morning, we would have fish from the creek; bass, catfish, carp, buffalo and occasionally spoonbill. They would save the "air bladders" from the large fish so we could stomp on them - early day wrapping bubbles. No luck that day, the uncles would announce that they had "caught the fish with a silver hook" meaning they had bought them from Mr. Copher, a fisherman on the Missouri River. 
The menu never changed: fish, potato chips, sliced tomatoes when in season, sliced homemade white bread and canned peaches. There was home brew (it was very good) and orange, strawberry, grape and cream Nehi soda pop for the kids. The uncles also made boiled coffee in a black gallon coffee pot. For dessert, toasted marshmallows on the remains of the wood fire. 
Some days, we would get a ride in their small wooden motor boat, downstream and almost to the Big Muddy - that was always scary. The uncles would get out their hunting guns and let Uncle Bob do some target shooting. I think I got to do that once or twice, that really wasn't a girl thing.
My main thing was picking wild flowers, exploring the woods, swinging on a wild grape vine and the big challenge was trying to make a skirt out of paw paw tree leaves. They were large, long and oval shaped and I would pin them together in strips with sticks and then try to attach them to another strip. I can't remember ever being successful. Oh me!
We had a family car, that included the uncles as well. It was a '30's something wine colored Chevy sedan. That took us out of town, to church on rainy Sundays and was Uncle PM's courtin' car. Both the uncles did a lot of that. Uncle Biscuit couldn't drive, so was confined to walking to widow's homes or local ladies whose husbands happened to be busy elsewhere. The fishing and hunting vehicle was a black '20's something Essex. Uncle PM would "open her up" and let her "roll free" down the Fischer hill and on into Sandy Hook. The original "Dukes of Hazzard"!
We had a wonderful time.
Love, Mom

On Monday, July 15, 2002, at 02:34 PM, Ann Blystone wrote: 

Missouri Fish Fry

When Grandpa Jim and Grandma Mae were still living in California, MO, Granddady was always the fish fryer and he always either fried the fish on the screened-in porch or outside in the back yard. He had the neatest little grill - I remember it being about 2 feet tall and black. Now that my dad (and my brother Bill, and I) are the fish fryers, we use the gas burner on the side of our gas grill, and also always fry outside. I found a wonderful handled cast iron pot at a tag sale for 25¢ (!!) that works perfectly for the frying. Mom began the tradition of making a tempura-type batter to dip the fish in - and it's delicious!

For the fish batter: 
1 part flour (~1 C.) +more to thicken batter if needed
1 part corn meal (~1 C.)
3 - 4 T. corn starch
salt, BumHot (or cayenne) and fresh ground black pepper to taste
about 3/4 of a 1 liter (33.8 oz.) bottle of seltzer water

Mix all together until you have a batter that flows easily off a spoon - not too thick. If it's too thin, mix in a little more flour, if not thin enough, add a little seltzer.

For my seester Carrie's tartar sauce: 
~3/4 C. Hellman's mayonnaise
sweet pickles (bread & butter will do, or sweet gherkins), diced
onion, minced
celery (I think, says Care)
pickle juice
lime juice if you're going Caymanian
cider vinegar if you're going more American

(Apparently my seester is also a throw 'n go gal!) Mix all together and let stand until serving time. Just before serving, stir well and correct seasonings by adding vinegar, pickle juice, salt, pepper, whatever.

For the fish fry: 
fresh-caught fresh water fish fillets (use store-bought catfish and striped bass if you can't catch enough bass, crappy (Granddad's favorite), sunnies, bluegill or catfish)
1 - 2 large onions cut into 1/4" thick rings. Soak in water, then dry thoroughly before frying
oil for frying - any high-temp. neutral oil will do - so it's about 4" deep in a high-sided iron pot

Pour the oil into the pot and heat till a bit of batter dropped in it sizzles. Coat and fry fish - it's done when a fork stuck in it easily pulls back out. As it's done, place on a rack on top of a cookie sheet and put in a 250º oven. Fry the onion rings and as they're done, place on another rack on top of a cookie sheet.

Over the years, we've found that it's easiest to serve the fish and onion rings on the cookie sheets - not pretty, but practical.

I remember always having slaw with a mayo-based dressing with this, plus sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. It's one of my very favorite meals. WONDERFUL!!!


See you on Sunday!


Gathered 'round: various family members - and friends - from the 1930's to today, w/the roster ever-changing


Thursday, the 28th of July: COMO

our dinner along with 3 gorgeous dahlias from my parent's amazing garden (and a side of Cody-dog, too). 

Our dear parents have gathered many many people permanently into their lives over the years. I can't even imagine how many folks there are that call both mom and dad two of their dearest friends. Of course, considering they're both in their 90's, the number of friends in their age category has begun to shrink as a lot of those old souls have ~moved on~ from this earth. As you probably know, mom is on oxygen all the time now, and while that doesn't stop her from doing just about anything she wants to do, there are some things that limit her. Like any of their friends/family whose home involves unavoidable staircases - whether  getting up to the home, or having to climb a flight to use a bathroom. Their good friends, David & Diane O'Hagen have a home just like that, so when the time came that mom could no longer do stairs, thus couldn't go to their home any more for dinners, David & Diane suggested they start doing the next best thing: They would make and bring dinner to mom and dad  - and it's been a regular occurrence ever since. It's still their dinner, but just not eaten at their home, instead eaten 'round mom and dad's table! What a thoughtful and wonderful idea! 
Last night they were over, and being that it's hotter than Hades here in COMO, they brought a salad meal. Delicious! So, another SFD that wasn't on a Sunday!  David & Diane's menu (they asked mom to make dessert...ahem, Mom just told me she asked them if she could make dessert, and they said yes.) 

1 - chicken salad w/lots of fruit
2 - spinach salad w/Julie's citrus dressing
3 - Missouri River bottom cantaloupe
4 - Sister Schubert's dinner rolls

5 - MumBum's blackberry crisp

1 - When told how delicious the chicken salad was, Diane said she was embarrassed to take the compliment because it is so easy to make! She didn't give me amounts, as she doesn't measure any of this, just keeps adding until it ~looks right~. (She did say she used 2 chicken breasts. But...were they 2 chicken breast halves...or 2 whole chicken breasts....)

2 poached chicken breasts, cooled and torn/cut into bite-size chunks
small ruby red grapes, washed and stemmed (about 2 C.)
1 can (probably 20 oz.) pineapple tidbits (yep, that's what they're called - see here), drained
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and slice in half if you want (use 2 cans if you want more crunch) 
celery stalks cut in half length-wise and diced (probably 2 or 3 stalks)
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine everything except Miracle Whip in a bowl and gently mix well. Then begin adding Miracle Whip by the 1/4 cup or so, stirring gently (so you don't do in the pineapple tidbits) in between, until everything sort of binds together. Add as much or as little Miracle Whip as you want, but be sure it's Miracle Whip and not mayonnaise - it's a flavor thing (go here for an explanation about why it must be Miracle Whip). 

2 - This dressing recipe comes from an old friend of David & Diane and mom and dad - Julie Schewe. I grew up on this dressing - and that was in the '60's - and it's as good today as it was back then! (Mom told me that the original recipe didn't call for fresh sliced white mushrooms or orange slices, but they are now always included.)

orange peel zested from 1 medium orange (about 1/2 - 1 t.)
1/4 or so C. orange juice (from above orange)
1/2 C. grape seed or other mild oil (not olive oil)
2 T. sugar
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. lemon juice
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 T. chopped scallions
1 C. sliced fresh white/button mushrooms
orange sections from 1 - 2 oranges,  (peel through pith; with knife cut out the sections - how-to is here)

fresh baby spinach leaves. 

(As you can see, the O'Hagens put everything in a glass jar. Makes sense.) Mix all ingredients (but the spinach) together. This is better if you make it at least an hour before eating so the mushrooms have some time to absorb the dressing's flavors. I think they made a double recipe of this last night. (Personally, I think adding bacon bits to the salad would put it over the top...just my humble opinion.)

When the time come to serve, Put your spinach in a big bowl, pour on the dressing and toss well. Wish this would keep until the next day whenever there are left-overs, but, alas, it won't.  

(How do you like my floating pitcher over there?)

3 - Cantaloupe that's been cut into bite-size pieces. Cantaloupe can be delicious, and then it can have little to no flavor, and it's a guessing game which one you're buying. The one type of cantaloupe that is guaranteed to always be delicious are the ones that are grown in the Missouri River bottoms/bottom lands. If you can get your hands on one, you will be supremely satisfied when you eat it. I'm sure you can find them here in COMO at the farmer's market - be sure to ask where they were grown, tho. 

4 - Sister Schubert's Yeast Dinner Rolls
For bought dinner rolls, they were good. And I love the name! I'd buy them just for that! You can find the rolls at Sam's Club.

5 - Mom made our dessert, a blackberry crisp. Of course I didn't think to take a photo until after we'd consumed it! I'm sure she'll be making one again before I go home, and then I'll take photos and write down the recipe for it. Her fruit desserts are wonderful!

See you on Sunday!


Gathered 'round: David & Diane O'Hagen, mom & dad, me!