January 25, 2010

The Weekend Trifecta 01/24/10

A trifecta is generally described as a type of bet where, in order to win, the bettor must pick the top three finishers in the correct order. Here are the weekend’s top three:

Stuffed appetizers. The appetizers were part of the whole Stuffed Dinner we put together for my oldest brother’s birthday. Making them was made all that much more enjoyable – in fact the entire event was that much more enjoyable - because my nephew Sam helped.

One of the appetizers, tomatoes stuffed with tuna fish, Sam indicated he wasn’t really excited about, because while he really really likes tuna fish, he’s not a big fan of tomatoes.

The second appetizer was stuffed celery. I put my Mom in charge of this one. While Sam wanted to help with, he’s not allowed to use a sharp knife until he’s a little older; right now, he’s a few months away from his seventh birthday. He thought his mom said he could use a sharp knife when he was seven, but his dad said not until he turned ten. Turns out he had the parents backwards, but with a ‘safe’ knife and careful supervision, he cut the pieces to size, putting a tiny mark in the side of the celery, and then lining up the knife to make the cut. He stuffed the ones with peanut butter, Mom did the ones with cream cheese, and a careful count was taken to make sure we had the same number of each, along with a ‘tester’ for each flavor. Peanut butter was a hit, earning a big grin and many mmms and oh boys. The horseradish was a little too much for him, but the adults enjoyed it.

The last appetizer, stuffed potatoes, was almost too much for Sam to believe. I halved and roasted some small red potatoes, then we scooped out the inner potato leaving the skin intact; the innards were combined with some chopped green onion and some cheese, then put back into the potatoes and baked, served warm. Sam couldn’t figure out why I’d want to do this in the first place, but he helped scoop some and then he and Mom did the mashing – by hand – which he thought was pretty cool.

Stuffed Dinner. This is what started us off on the whole mission of stuffing stuff into stuff. My brother requested stuffed peppers for dinner, and we then got carried away. Sam, watching me stir the hamburger, rice, and secret ingredients, thought stuffed peppers was kind of weird. I explained that even Grandpa (my Dad, gone three years now) loved them and not only that; he called them stuffed ‘poopers’. Well, this was almost too much, peals of laughter as Mom and I explained that Grandpa always did the grocery shopping and he’d write down the week’s menu, always putting poopers instead of peppers. We mentioned that we missed little things like that.

Sam said, very honestly, “I miss him too. And I don’t get to have Boost anymore either, because it makes Grandma think about Grandpa and get sad”. Somehow, Mom and I managed to maintain our composure – not really sure how, but we did. I had forgotten that Dad used to share a Boost – called it a milkshake – with Sam, and was amazed that he even remembered. After all, he was three when Dad passed. Mom explained very reasonably to Sam why they don’t buy Boost any more, and that was good enough for him, and we moved on.

In addition to the regular stuffed peppers, we also had stuffed poblano peppers with Mexican corn, into which I had stirred a little hot mustard.

Sam’s job with all of the peppers was to do quality control. Since he couldn’t help (a sharp knife being the key tool), he inspected all of the peppers to make sure there were no seeds left in them. He found a few that I had left behind, fewer that Mom had left behind, and then declared them "ready for stuffing stuff into."

We also had stuffed salad, a delicious fruit salad that Mom put together, then stuffed back into a halved pineapple and two melon halves. A little orange juice, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar on the fruit helped bring out the flavors.

And for Sam and my teenaged niece, we stuffed some hotdogs inside crescent rolls, ensuring that there was something stuffed for all ages.

Stuffed dessert. This one was the silliest of all. I made a rectangular Bundt cake, then we removed most of the cake and stuffed it with a mousse made with Cool Whip, condensed milk, and chopped pineapples and their juice. Getting the mousse into the cake was easy; flipping the cake and mousse onto the platter without making a horrendous mess turned out to be fairly easy as well, once everyone left the kitchen. For Mom, the official family dessert server, it was a little more challenging getting everything served; next time, I think I’ll freeze the mousse.

It’s rare the Weekend Trifecta all occurs on one day, but Saturday had it all – it was a day stuffed to the brim with three generations of family, good food, and lots of fun. And I can’t wait to cook with Sam again!

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