Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!

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The Icing on the Cake

Over the years I’ve made at least 25 wedding cakes for friends and family, and my kids have often helped me. We’ve spent hours together figuring size and servings; and between the two of us, we’ve probably made a few thousand icing roses.

Yes, we’ve made thousands, but most of them we rejected as too flat or lopsided to use. But they were good for laughs.  And they tasted good. Yes, they tasted good – that’s the icing on the cake!

Basic Rose Icing

This icing is easy to work with. It covers well, and it’s easy to squeeze out of a tube to make borders.  And it will harden so completely that you can make flowers on wax paper and pick them up with your fingers as you arrange them on the cake.

1¼ cups Crisco

½ cup water

2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the Crisco and water with electric mixer, and then add confectioners’ sugar a little bit at a time. Finally blend in the lemon juice and vanilla. Keep it covered when you are not actually using it, to prevent a shell from forming on the surface.

Chocolate Rose Icing

This is rich and yummy, even if you’re not a big chocolate lover.  And it’s almost as easy to work with as regular rose icing.

Use the same basic recipe and directions as above, but substitute ½ to 1 cup of cocoa instead of confectioners’ sugar.  It depends on how dark and chocolatey you want it to be.

*Use 4 tablespoon water and no lemon juice


Cream Cheese Icing

This is not easy to work with if you are making traditional roses and leaves, but it’s smooth and esy to swirl. It’s our absolute, hands down, favourite! It’s great for carrot cake, which I always make for John’s birthday.  But it’s also delicious on every other kind of cake.  It was Dan and Monica’s choice for their yellow wedding cake.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature

1/2cup butter (not margarine), softened at room temperature

8 ounces confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla.

Mix all ingredients until smooth.

Try to avoid eating it straight out of the bowl with a big spoon – you won’t be able to stop.


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Sean’s Quilt

Noralee and I met when we were teens.  We went to rival high schools, but we didn’t meet until just after graduation, when we worked together — a first job for both of us — at the grand opening of a local TGY store. It was a temporary job, and only lasted a few weeks, but our friendship has lasted for years.

Noralee’s son, Sean had melanoma surgery for a large birthmark three years ago. The doctors thought they got everything and he didn’t need chemo or radiation.

Like any good mommy, Noralee said she kept bugging him about getting follow up check-ups but he didn’t – until Nov 2011 when he began to experience a lot of pain.

By January the cancer was everywhere. As of the beginning of February Sean could eat and drink only very little, but he kept a positive attitude. He got to see all of his friends that last week of his life, and he passed away on February 22 – one month ago today.

It stuns me. I grieve for my friend and her family. I purpose to remember how fleeting and fragile life is.

Noralee says “You know, it would be easy to ask, ‘Why us?’ But why not us? We all have stuff we need to go through. God doesn’t love us any less because of it. I don’t know how we’d get through it without God. One friend reminded me that as much as I loved Sean, God loves him even more. Every day is a choice to love or hate, to get up or stay in bed, to laugh or cry.”

I have asked Noralee if I may share the following essay she wrote shortly after Sean’s death.

Noralee's son, Sean, with his sister, Cheryl, who created the quilt.

The Quilt

By Noralee Cole

On that deceptively mild January day when she found out that her brother’s cancer had returned and was terminal, my daughter conceived of and began work on the quilt.  It was a patchwork of four-inch, vibrantly hued diamonds representing the colorful and unique life of her brother.  Like him, the fabric displayed an underlying current of motion in the subtle pattern of watered silk on cotton.

Alternating diamonds of black highlighted the boldness and life in the rich jewel tones while reminding us of the darkness and finality of death.  The colors paid homage to the active, humorous, friendly, and charming man he was.  The rainbow pattern affirmed his lifestyle, one that her experience and faith did not normally acknowledge.  The quilt honored the whole person her brother was and quietly blessed him.

Around the central pattern of simple squares was a black banner quilted with words of encouragement that she wanted to express, but couldn’t always verbalize.  Health, happiness, love, and peace were just a few of her wishes for him.  Surrounding that was an orange ribbon of cars, representing the overwhelming passion he had since he was a small child.  She spent days piecing the squares together while our lives were falling apart.

Quilts have always been more than mere objects of warmth.  They represent a woman’s capacity for creation.  They provide a comforting embrace of love.  As the functionality of quilts has been replaced in modern times with less time and labor-intensive blankets and comforters, the quilt still remains a creative expression of beauty and love.  Like this one, they are often works of art.

When I saw it completed, I was in awe of the artistic beauty of the quilt.  Then I asked myself a question that I could not express aloud.  “What will happen to the quilt when he passes?”  My sobs were for the anticipation of losing my son to this earthly existence.  I don’t think my daughter understood that they were also in gratitude for her outpouring of love and acceptance for him; something he might not have understood in any other way and sorely needed.

My daughter poured her love into a quilt that was an outward expression of the care she gave him in his illness.  When he went to the hospital it went with him and wrapped him in the comfort of her love when she could not be there.  I did not see it at the funeral home.  Maybe it continues to provide the earthy comfort and love that quilts have always provided to their owners.  Perhaps it is wrapped and put away until grief subsides.

Thank you, my daughter, for the loving tribute of the quilt, a symbolic enmeshing of the patchwork of your life and his.  As your life is about healing, may your hands continue to express your love and emotions through the lovely, homey art of quilting.  And may the recipients know and appreciate the hidden meaning in each piece.

Sean's Quilt, displayed at the celebration of his life.

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Saint Paddy’s Day Pizza – The Eating o’ the Green

Homemade Pizza has been a Thursday Night tradition in our home for as long as we’ve been married. In my pizza night post last May, I told you all three of our kids had jobs at either Round Table or Mountain Mike’s when they were in their teens. And now they all make their own homemade version.

Well David has taken that to a whole new level.

He took a Saint Paddy’s Day Pepper and Pesto Pizza to work today for their office potluck.  Celebrating his true Italian and Irish heritage.

He called us late last night from his “test kitchen” and told us about the project, and we laughed so hard.  The nut…er shamrock…doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

David’s Pesto Pepper Pizza

All you need for the crust is 1 Tablespoon yeast, 1 ½ cup warm water, 2 teaspoon salt, and about 4 cups of flour. And a little oil and green food colouring

David’s toppings were: bell peppers, Anaheim chilis, jalapenos, green onions, and cilantro. He also used grilled chicken breast that had been marinated in pesto to make it green.


Dissolve yeast in warm water and stir in half flour and add salt and foor colouring

Stir in some more flour to make a sticky dough, turn out onto floured surface and knead flour in until the dough is not sticky

Knead for about 5 minutes

Place in buttered or oiled bowl and let it rise a little, then punch it down

Roll out to a circle and place it on a baking screen or metal pizza pan.

Brush the crust with pesto

Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Place chicken and vegetables on top.

Bake in a preheated oven (400°) for about 25 minutes.


Tule Fog Chicken and Dumplings

Tule fog is that thick wet fog that creeps along the ground into Modesto and most of central California. It appears after the first big rainfall of the winter, and sometimes we have it for days on end.  During those bleak and clammy days, few things are as comforting as chicken and dumplings. Tule fog chicken and dumpling!

But this year our weather was historically warm and dry. And lacking in fog…ergo, (I realized yesterday) lacking in chicken and dumplings.

Spring is getting ready to spring, and we’ve moved to daylight savings time, but yesterday brought one of those long lost rainfalls.  I celebrated our surprise winter day by building a fire in the fireplace and making Tule Fog Chicken and Dumplings for dinner.

Chicken broth recipe

1/3 cup olive oil

1 large onion diced

½ cup chopped celery

6 plump chicken thighs, skin removed but with the bone in.

2 tablespoons chicken base or bouillon (I use organic “Better Than Bouillon” chicken base – available at Costco)

fresh or frozen vegetables of your choice

¼ cup fresh parsley, snipped finely

Sauté onion and celery in olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven until they are transparent.

Add chicken, and brown on all sides.

Cover with about 8 cups of water.

Add bouillon

Simmer for one hour.

Add frozen or fresh vegetables.

Add parsley.

Bring the broth to a low regular boil.

Now it’s time to add the dumplings.

Dumpling Recipe

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder

1 cup milk

4 tablespoons melted butter

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Stir the milk and butter together and add to dry ingredients.

Stir completely, but as little as possible – stir just until it is mixed.  The less you handle the dough, the lighter and fluffier your dumplings will be.

Drop dough into the boiling broth by tablespoonfuls.  Then lower heat to a simmer.

Cover tightly and DO NOT LIFT THE LID for 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Mmmm….delicious! Now bring on that tule fog!

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Idea Basket ABCs (Part 4)

L is for Lettuce Spinning. I have a clean white pillow case I use for spinning lettuce. Yep. I guess that’s right up there with dishwasher fish.  But it works! When I buy lettuce I break it into bite sized pieces and wash it a sink full of cold water.  Then I dump it into the pillow case, close it tightly with a twisty-tie, and place it in the washing machine on the spin cycle.  The extra water spins out of the lettuce so it’s clean and crispy.  It can be used right away, or stored in an airtight container where it will stay fresh for really long time.

M – Memory Camp Dollars

Our kids were always very active in church youth groups, and we were thrilled about it, of course. But it seemed like there was always something coming up that cost money.  Summer camp, mission trips, bowling…

We wanted to let them be part of these things, but we hated the idea of just bankrolling so many activities.  So we came up with the idea of having them earn dollars by memorizing scripture. We thought of it as a “bank account” of scripture they would always have in their hearts.

When I was in first grade at Saint Thomas Moore Catholic School, I participated in some kind of scripture memory contest. I committed John 3:16 to memory long before I even had a clear idea of what the bible was all about. And I’ve never forgotten it. So I knew that there would be benefit in making my own kids learn verses to pay for their church activities.

We gave them a dollar of camp credit for every verse they memorized. They each had a little notebook where they recorded the scriptures and the dates of the event where the spent the dollars.  They memorized literally hundreds of scriptures, some of which, I trust, are hidden in their hearts to this very day.

N – Napkin on the Lap.

I think we first heard this idea on Focus on the Family, but like most of the ideas we picked up, we tweaked it to make it our own.  There was  a penalty for anyone who forgot to place a napkin on his  lap.  That unmannerly individual had to go outside and count aloud to ten.  This applied to all meals at all places.  I can still see David, with totally fake chagrin, walking slowly through our favorite Chinese restaurant. He went outside to the window beside our booth and began counting slowly and emphatically in Spanish, grinning at us through the glass.

At every meal, as we finished saying grace, the kids’ eyes would dart around the table, looking to see if there was anyone they could catch with an un-napkinned lap. And always, when a visitor came for dinner, they fell all over themselves explaining the napkin rule.

It’s been awhile since I visited our idea basket.  I you’re new to Paladini Potpie, you can click these links to read parts, one, two, and three, which cover Alphabet Games to Knitting.


Forward Thinking

Supposedly we’ll SPRING FORWARD this Sunday.  That is to say – our clocks will spring forward.  My friend, Jay, said it should be known as the day we FALL BACK …asleep.  But let’s not confuse the issue.

Daylight Savings time begins this Sunday and we set our clocks forward.

Last week we visited my mom in Arizona, and when we called to give her our ETA, we had to remember to take time zones into account. California is on Pacific Standard Time and Arizona is Mountain Standard. We have to move our watches ahead an hour when we cross the state line.  Except during the summer.

If we were going to visit mom next week we’d be on the same time because Arizona doesn’t use Daylight Savings Time.  (Nor does Hawaii)

Just thinking about it makes my head spin! Who came up with this idea in the first place?  I did some poking around, and found out it was Benjamin Franklin.  Well, duh!  What would you expect of the man who came up with the proverb: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”  And it became a law in 1918.

I think everyone has funny stories about oversleeping or being an hour late or an hour early when the time changes, and I hope you’ll comment on this blog and share some of them.

The funniest experience I’ve ever had was soon after John and I got married.  We had just started going to a little tiny church that didn’t have its own building. They met in a borrowed facility at 1:30 in the afternoon, between that church’s scheduled services.  We were pretty excited about it, because the teaching was good, and the people were friendly and it was pleasantly casual. Plus, it was kind of fun to sleep late on a Sunday, and then meander around and have a leisurely morning schedule.

So there we were puttering around in the yard, planting our garden, and pulling some weeds. We had a nice lunch and then went to clean up for church. We planned to get there about 20 minutes early so we could meet some of the people. (You know where this is going, of course.)  We walked in, and the singing was already well underway. We couldn’t understand it. We looked at our watches. We looked at each other. A couple we had met the previous week motioned for us to come and sit with them. I gave the man a questioning look as we settled down next to them.  He leaned over and quietly grinned, “Time change.”

“That’s weird,” I whispered to John, “they changed the time of the service and they didn’t even announce it last week.”