Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together" - peanut butter and chocolate

My sons often ask me those ridiculous questions people (usually boy people) like to ask that force you to choose between two stupid situations.

"Which would you rather do - cut your own leg off or be ripped apart by a grizzly?"


"Who would win in a fight - a pterodactyl or a guy with a jet pack?"

"I refuse to be a part of this conversation," is my usual reply.

But a few years ago, I asked myself an equally stupid question:

If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, what would it be?

I considered this for a while.

 Really, I did

My first thought, of course, was chocolate. But can chocolate count as one food? And I thought I might want something a little more substantial after a while. Say, after a year or two. I finally settled on peanut butter. I was in a peanut butter toast phase at the time. Crunchy peanut butter and whole grain bread. I'd have to forget the bread and eat the peanut butter right from a spoon, but that wasn't a problem. Not like I hadn't done that before.

These days I'd probably choose something different. I 'm not sure what. (Good thing it's not too late, huh?) But I still like peanut butter. And chocolate. Recently I've enjoyed a couple of peanut butter-chocolate desserts that I just love. And a neighbor told me a couple of weeks ago that she likes to make smores using Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for the chocolate. Definitely got to try that.

Peanut Butter Pie is one of our family's favorite desserts. I think a lot of people make something like this. I got this recipe from my mother. Everybody loves it - and here's the important part - even people who think they don't like peanut butter

Peanut Butter Pie

2 chocolate cookie crusts (I don't like the Oreo brand. I prefer Keebler.)

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup milk

12 oz. Cool Whip (thawed)

1 can milk chocolate frosting

Mix together cream cheese and peanut butter. Add sugar. Add milk. Mix in Cool Whip. Pour into the chocolate crusts. Freeze. Frost and refreeze.

A young friend of mine named Kirsten brought over a yummy treat last weekend. They taste a lot like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, only I think these are better. Maybe because you get a whole panful. She gave me the recipe. I've opted to call them Kirsten's Peanut Butter Bites.

Kirsten's Peanut Butter Bites

2 cups peanut butter, divided

 1 ½ sticks butter, softened

 2 cups powdered sugar, divided

 3 cups graham cracker crumbs

 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided

BEAT 1 ¼ cups peanut butter and butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in 1 cup of powdered sugar. With hands or wooden spoon, work in remaining powdered sugar, graham crackers, and ½ cup choco chips. Press evenly into a 9x13 pan. Smooth top with spatula.

MELT remaining peanut butter and remaining choco chips in a saucepan over lowest possible heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Spread over graham cracker crust in pan. Refrigerate for an hour or until firm. Store in fridge.

Kirsten cuts them into little tiny squares and puts them on a plate. That way you can just take a little piece. And then just one more little piece. And then just... You get the idea?

Thanks, Kirsten!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Alphabetical Order or No One Ever Said Life Would Be Fair

When I got married I moved up in the world. I used to be a W. Now I'm a G. Life is good as a G. Only six letters are ahead of G. There are only three letters after W. And they're X,Y, and Z. So really, W is pretty much last.

When I was in high school, they started what was called Arena Scheduling. In order to sign up for the next year's classes, you were forced to enter the Arena, which was set up in the gym. There you would visit a table for each class you wanted to take (or needed to take), and get signed up. When the spaces were filled, the classes were closed. Naturally they couldn't have every student in the school racing around the Arena at the same time, so they opted, just as naturally, to admit us according to alphabetical order. Well, that seemed fair, right? The kids who had been first at everything for their entire lives got first pick. For those of us who had been last our whole lives, Arena Scheduling was an emotional bloodbath. I remember finally just sitting down on the gym floor in exasperation, wanting to cry.

In high school, home rooms were assigned by alphabetical order, too. One year, those of us at the end of the alphabet had Mr. Malloy.

He was an M.

Right in the middle.

"I've read that people whose last names start with letters at the end of the alphabet are usually a little weird," he told us on the first day of school. "Experts say these people develop a complex from always being last."

He chuckled.

 Not one of us was chuckling along with him.

I surreptitiously looked around the room. Okay, I admitted to myself, there could be something to this. There could be. With exceptions, of course. I hoped with all my heart that the other kids (who were also stealthily observing their classmates) were considering me one of the exceptions.

This past spring I was substitute teaching a class of second graders. I was leading them through the hall to the cafeteria. They were in "lunch line order."

"You lucky boy," I said to the first child in line. "Your last name starts with A so you'll always get to be first."

His eyes got really big.

"Is that why?"

A big grin spread across his face. He'd been first for three years of public school and he'd never known the reason.

When the new school year starts up, I think I'm going to petition that "lunch line order" be redefined to mean alphabetical order from Z to A.

The principal at this school is a T.

He just might go for it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stealing Lilacs

The lilacs have been in bloom over the last few weeks - some of my favorite weeks of the year. They were a little late this year due to a very long winter. Everything's been a few weeks behind. But the lilacs finally bloomed, and I began to drive my family crazy everywhere we went.

"Look at that lilac bush!" I'd exclaim.


"It's huge! Look at all those blossoms!"


"I'd like to steal some of those."


I come by it honestly - the tendency to want to steal lilacs. My mother was a lilac thief for years. We had a lilac tree in our yard but it never got many blossoms on it. She didn't want to cut them because then it wouldn't have any. And besides, there would never be enough to fill up the house.

So she stole them instead.

Up behind the dry cleaners and beside the cranberry bog on Route 28 were some giant lilac bushes. Every year they were loaded with flowers. I'm sure what she took was never missed. And I really don't think whoever owned them would have cared anyway. These bushes were out of the way and I bet most people didn't even know they were there. Possibly whoever owned the property didn't know they were there. My mother would come home and fill vases and place them all around the house. I can still smell them, mixed with the damp salt air, if I close my eyes.

Once when we were teenagers, my cousin Lori and I offered to drive the get-away car for my mother's yearly raid. She put on dark clothes and we waited for the sun to go down. We drove her up to Route 28 and let her off in front of the dry cleaners. She quickly disappeared into some foliage. We made a u-turn and pulled off the side of the road to wait, ready to make a smooth get-away. After a while, she re-emerged. So much for stealth, we thought, as she came trotting across the road, a big white garbage bag over her shoulder, clearly visible, bobbing up and down in the dark. She never would have been successful in the world of serious thieving.

I have had the same luck as my mother in growing my own lilacs. They're kind of sparse. Never enough to really pick. But I've never resorted to theft. I just think about it every year. Especially when I go to church. Beautiful lilacs grow all along the fence of the back parking lot of our church. It's a long fence. I don't think it's as long as a football field. Maybe sixty or seventy yards though. That's a lot of lilacs. Every year I think about putting on dark clothes, waiting till the sun goes down, and sneaking over to the church parking lot. I would take a black garbage bag with me. I confessed this yearly urge to a friend of mine at church one recent Sunday. She was all for it.

"When you think about it, it's really kind of a waste to have all those beautiful lilacs there all week," she said. "We get to enjoy them for a few Sundays and that's it."

But I was saved from the temptation to steal from the church (which would be much worse than stealing from the dry cleaners) by my friend Judy. She grows beautiful lilacs.

"I heard that you love lilacs," she said to me one Sunday at church. "I'm going to bring you some."

And she did. I arranged them in a big vase and set it on the front hall table. They looked beautiful and they smelled so good. I could almost smell the ocean right along with them.