Monday, April 25, 2011

Health & Nutrition Information- Things I learned from my grandparents

Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám!   (Happy Birthday!  - Czech)

Today is my grandma's birthday!  I have been very fortunate to grow up only about 10 miles from my maternal grandparents and I have a lot of my domestic skills thanks to my grandma.

My grandma and I at the Signature Room for my 30th birthday.

Millenium Park  - Summer 2010

Seadog at Navy Pier - Summer 2010

When my brother and I were younger our grandparents would watch us one day a week instead of having to go to our babysitter.  Our days were spending doing normal grandparent/grandchild activities like going to the park, trips to the zoo and weekly ice cream runs but we also got to learn a lot from them as well. 

While my brother was off learning woodcraft with my grandpa I could often be found in the kitchen or sewing room with my grandma. 

When I was old enough to learn how to run a sewing machine my grandma taught me how to make doll clothes and several years later was upgraded to a full out garment sewing tutorial.  My first fully constructed item was a blue and white plaid dress complete with a zipper thanks to my grandma!  While I no longer wear the dress I still have it as a remembrance of what I learned.

Other than being a master seamstress my grandma was always a knowledgeable and health conscious cook.  Spending a lot of time at my grandparents house over the years I learned a lot about the importance of good nutrition.  My grandma made sure that everyday started with a a healthy breakfast, usually oatmeal, and ended with a bedtime snack, 9 times out of 10 it was an apple from one of the 3 apple trees they had in their backyard. 

To this day I still feel that my grandparents generation no doubt eats better than mine.  Basic nutrition is as easy as following the examples set in front of us growing up and grandparents are excellent role models.

Baking was one of my favorite past times with my grandma.  Not a week went by that we weren't trying something new.  My grandma had quite a few cookbooks including the one that she used to teach my mom and aunt  to cook and then used to teach me.  It was always fun to see which recipe we would try.  Cooking was a way for my grandma and I to bond, tell stories and enjoy each other's company. 

When I was 8 years old my parents went on a cruise and left my brother and I in the care of both sets of grandparents, each taking half of the week.  This was the first time I had been separated from my parents for an extended period of time and was really upset about it.  I admit looking back on it today that I was quite a bit over dramatic; I had decided that I wasn't going to school because I was so upset.  My grandparents pleaded with me to go but as an 8 year old drama queen I had made up my mind, I was not going. 

I stayed home one day.  The next day they dropped me off and I "came home sick" after a few hours.  Not really sure what else to do my grandma used the best rationing power that she had, cooking.  She promised me that if I went to school and CCD (kind of like catholic Sunday school on a Wednesday night) that she would teach me how to make Blarney Stones, a recipe I had heard my mom talk about many times but had never been privileged enough to learn how to make them.

That was all that I needed.  I dried my tears, checked the recipe to make sure that it was every bit as cool as I had heard and then set off to face the days ahead.  While I think that I still ended up "not feeling well" at least one other time that week I met 90% of our bet and learned how to make Blarney Stones and wow were they awesome!

While over the years my grandma has taught me just about every kitchen skill you can imagine I still look fondly on the blarney stones as one of our greatest recipes.  To this day my grandma always knows what is best, even if it took a little bribing, she knew how to get us to do the right thing. 

So on that note, here is the infamous Blarney Stone Recipe.  Enjoy and Happy Birthday Grandma Lillian!

Blarney Stones:

Peanut Cake Squares Recipe
4 eggs
1-3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted

7-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 cups finely chopped peanuts

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to egg mixture. Beat on low speed just until combined. Beat in milk and butter.

Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares. Cover and freeze overnight.

For frosting, in a small bowl, beat the confectioners' sugar, milk, vanilla and salt until smooth. Frost the top and sides of frozen cake squares; roll in peanuts. Place on wire racks to set. Yield: 2 dozen.

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