Sunday, October 11, 2009

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment.

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
Thich Nhat Hanh quotes (Vietnamese Monk, Activist and Writer. b.1926)

When I look at my skin I can see the patterns that remind me of my grandmother Clara Rice. As a young girl I took joy in spending time with my family as we lingered around the dinner table enjoying dessert coffee and especially family stories. Breaking bread, making an environment where people feel comfortable and welcome at my table gives me great joy. Even as a young girl I remember being very present to people with whom I spent time. I looked into their eyes as they speak, carefully listen to their voice paying special attention to the their mannerisms during our time together.
Working with my hands, sharing my abilities of cooking and sewing is the conduit for me to feel connections with my ancestors. I come from many generations of women who did not cooked for their family out of duty alone but took great pride and pleasure to share the fruits of their labor from their kitchens. Now that my children are adults the times we get together to share meals are fewer yet no less important.

In late September Barry flew in from NYC for a weekend visit at home. I always prepare for his visits by asking what he wants special for the weekend meals. That weekend we unanimously agreed to celebrate Oktoberfest with traditional family recipes. Our celebration began with German Spaten Oktoberfest to compliment generous helpings of Weisswurst, Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage, Grated Potato Pancakes with sour cream, fresh Green Beans and my Grandmother Rice's Baked Apple Dumplings.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

one pound very lean bacon, often I use turkey bacon for the taste with less fat
one medium onion thinly sliced
one medium red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 12 cups)
6 Tbsp raw sugar
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

Cook bacon in a large cast iron skillet until cooked, remove from skillet place on paper towels to drain excess drippings from the bacon.
slice one medium onion
add cabbage and sauté until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes,
add sugar, toss to coat evenly. Add vinegar. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover, simmer until cabbage is tender, stirring often, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I usually put the skillet in the oven to keep warm until the rest of the meal is ready to serve.
Serves 8-10 Baked Apple Dumplings

Pastry :2 cups flour(I use half whole wheat, half all purpose)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup nonfat milk
In a large bowl stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
Cut in the shortening until the dough looks uniformly "not together"
Add the milk, and stir until moistened.
Roll out the pastry into a large rectangle...enough to make 6 dumplings. Cut into the squares. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar,if desire Preheat the oven to 375F.The Apples:Most will tell you to PEEL and CORE the apples, but I leave the peel and just remove the core. I use Cortland apples because the tartness complements the sweetness of the rest of the dish.
Before you core them:Make a compound butter with three tbsp sweet cream butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. Do a taste test to decide how sweet you want this.Core the apple, and spoon the compound butter into each core.Place each apple on one of the dumpling squares. Moisten the edge of the pastry with water and fold up to the top and seal the edges.
Place in a Pyrex baking dish

Apple Dumpling Sauce:In a saucepan bring 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, a pinch of cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg to a boil. Stir constantly to create a caramel sauce, add 2tbsp of butter. Mix it thoroughly and then pour on top of the apple dumplings.

Bake the dumplings for 35-40 minutes.

We enjoyed a beautiful Saturday at Niagara Falls then returned home to linger over our Oktoberfest celebration. After a long day of cooking, sun and fresh air I was more than happy to go to sleep when Barry and Kara went out to visit with local friends. Upon returning home in the wee, wee hours of the morning Barry and Kara commented how the house held the aroma and memories of celebration at their Rice Grandparents home when they were young. To give my children a sense of history, a connection with my parents and my childhood home is the greatest compliment they could give me. Make time to share meals, recipes and family traditions with the people you love.

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