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Friday, June 3, 2016

MOPS Dinner

There are times in everyone's life where you really wonder what curve balls are going to be thrown your way next.  In the last month and a half we've dealt with a house fire at a dear friend's.  She's an elderly widow with no kids and her closest relative about an hour away.  She's out of the ICU and in a rehab hospital.  Next step is a furnished apartment until her home is rehabbed.  Then, my mom's best friend was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer and died within about a month of the diagnosis.  Finally, my beloved father-in-law, Donald, died.  He's actually my brother John's father-in-law.  John married the girl down the street many years ago.  We'd grown up with Pam and her sister Debbie.  We'd all gone to the same church too.  So, I've known Donald since I was about six.  Since I didn't have a father-in-law or mother-in-law of my own, I adopted Donald and Pat.  Two of the most wonderful people in the world.  When I married Connie, they adopted him as part of the family too.  We've all always felt very lucky to be related to each other by marriage.  Connie and I had the MOPS (short for our family) Mother's Day and six birthday party on Mother's Day.  I took this photo of Donald sitting in Connie's chair. 

A couple of days after the party, he went into the ICU.  We knew it wasn't good and the odds weren't in his favor.  My brother, John, wrote the coolest memory.  He said not only did he learn how to do things by Donald teaching him but also by Pam saying, "That isn't the way my dad would do that."  He was right. This was a man who could do just about anything.  With a smile on his face and a great attitude.  Because the visitation and the dinner after the service will include others, it felt right to have dinner just for the MOPS.  I knew we'd have at best 90 minutes to cook before everyone got here so I tried to 1)make easy dishes and 2) make old favorites.

Pickle dip for Pat.  This was one I made for an exchange group.  I felt guilty because it's only three ingredients.  It's also fabulous so I got over the guilt REALLY quickly.

Salsa.  My former neighbor Sue's recipe.  She called it Mexicali Scoop.  It's become a family favorite.

Artichoke heart dip.  Sometimes the family does this cold.  I added extra cheese and nuked it.

Pork tenderloin with bourbon soy marinade.  No matter how many recipes I try, this remains my favorite.

Banana chutney.  Years ago I thought, "You know what would be great?  Banana chutney.  And, lo and behold, there was recipe in the Junior League cookbook called Back Home Again.  It's killer.

Lemony tortellini salad. From the Kraft magazine.  Really good even thought I left out the feta.  Partially because I wasn't sure who'd like it and partially because I forgot it...

Corn salad.  Connie really isn't fond of corn.  This, he loves.

Grilled Caesar salad.  If you've never grilled romaine lettuce, you need to start now.  Yes, I mean NOW.  All you do is cut the head of romaine in half lengthwise then brush it lightly with olive oil.  Grill it for just long enough to get some good burn marks.  If you want, you can also grill a basket of grape tomatoes, onion rings and avocado slices.  All of those get tossed with olive oil prior to putting them in the basket.  Then, grill for about five minutes.  Slice the lettuce and toss it with the veggies and your favorite Caesar dressing and you're good to go.

Mom's chocolate upside down cake.  A kidhood favorite.  Chocolatey, gooey, good!  Its
one of those deals that creates cake and sauce as it bakes.  Yummy chocolaty sauce.  I'm not a big sweet eater.  This, is an exception.  Well, except I still wouldn't eat this in the middle of the night!

Banana Chutney


2 c peeled and chopped bananas (about 6)
1/2 lb onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 lb pitted dates, finely chopped
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c apple cider vinegar
2 T finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 t salt
1/2 t curry
1/2 c raisins (golden or regular)


Put all the ingredients in a large and heavy saucepan.  Allow the chutney to simmer until it's thickened.  That'll take about 15 minutes.

from Back Home Again

Mom's Chocolate Upside Down Cake


1 c flour
1 t salt
3/4 c sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 c milk
1 t vanilla
1/2 c chopped nuts (optional - I usually leave them out)
2 T butter
1 square chocolate (is 1 oz of bittersweet chocolate)

for the topping:
4 T cocoa
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar


Mix the dry ingredients.  Melt the butter and chocolate together over very low heat.  Slowly stir in the milk, vanilla and melted chocolate/butter.  Pour into an 8x8 pan.  Mix the topping ingredients together and sprinkle them over the batter.  Pour a cup of water over all.  DO NOT MIX!  Bake at 325 F for 45 minutes.  Best served warm.

Lemony Tortellini Salad


1 9 oz package refrigerated cheese tortellini, cooked, drained and cooled
1 c coarsely chopped fresh spinach
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese
1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c finely chopped red onions
1/4 c Zesty Italian dressing
1/2 t zest and 2 t juice from a lemon
1/4 t dried, crumbled oregano leaves (I used fresh)


Mix the ingredients together gently and serve.