Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, Our Dear Mom

Julie Mom Olson,

in gratitude for your talents 
and longsuffering encouragement of our talents,

you are warmly invited to attend 

A Christmas Concert

in your honor.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012
 6 - 7:30 pm 
Hilton Head LDS Chapel

Performances will include
  • "Mary and the Shepherds" by Sarah L. Brinton
  • "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Joseph A. Olson
  • Storytelling by Jacob J. Olson
  • Other Live Performances by Other Olsons and Adopted Olsons
  • Much, Much More!
Simple refreshments will be served.

(Merry, merry Christmas, Juliemom.  We love you so, so much.)

The Olson Favorite Books

Dear Bekaroo, 

You said your secret Christmas dream was to have a list of the favorite books of those in our family.  Turns out, this was a difficult task.  For people like us, favorites can be hard to come by.  But we thought hard, culled our lists, set aside our reservations about ignoring most of the readerly world, and (mostly) made the tough calls in order to make your Christmas dream come true.  We love you so much.  And we're so glad to have you in our family of readers.

With so much love,

Your doting familia

Grandpa Olson: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Dad: Bleak House by Charles Dickens; The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Mom: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

N: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
S: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
C: Socks by Beverly Cleary; The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch; Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

D: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card; Purity of Heart by Soren Kierkegaard; The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A: Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
S: Amazing Pokemon Guide Book by Modern Publishing (Dan: "We tried to encourage him away from this one to something more literary, but alas. . .")
M: My Friend Is Sad by Mo Willems

E: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
A: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card; The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute
I: The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien
A: Nerds by Michael Buckley
E: Nate the Great by Marjorie Sharmat

S: For the Time Being by Annie Dillard; The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
J: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card; The Peacegiver by James L. Ferrell

Jos: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Jac: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin; Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Jacob: "Picking is hard!")
P: The Oxford Book of American Poetry (Favorite poet: A.R. Ammons)
R: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis; Persuasion by Jane Austen; Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chewy Ginger Snaps

I'm always on the lookout for a go-to chewy ginger snap recipe.  These are neither as chewy nor as dark as I want mine to be, but they are delicious (if a little sweet).  They were especially good after I'd refrigerated the dough for five days or so.  I baked them for seven minutes at 350 (my oven runs hot), and they were puffy, toasted, and chewy.  Very nice.

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup additional sugar, for rolling cookies
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar and oil.
  3. Beat in eggs.
  4. Stir in molasses.
  5. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.
  6. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients mixing well.
  7. Place additional sugar in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Shape dough into 1 inches balls and roll into sugar.
  8. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes.
  9. Allow cookies to cool. Store the cookies in a covered container with a slice of bread (to keep the cookies soft and chewy).
Adapted from

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Frog's Eye Salad

A Utah classic that didn't make it into Mom's repertoire until at least 1994, when my second oldest brother left home.  He says that he did not grow up eating this and that it is not part of his understanding of family classics.  It is part of mine.

Cook until thick (1 minute):
1 C sugar
2 T flour
1 3/4 C pineapple juice
2 eggs, beaten

Add 1 T lemon juice.

Cook 1 package frog's eye pasta. 

Drain 2 cans pineapple chunks
3 cans mandarin oranges
1 can crushed pineapple
9 oz. non-dairy cream
1 package small marshmallows

Combine ingredients when pasta is cool.  Chill.

Grandma Olson's Baked Beans

My mom made essentially this recipe for our baked beans for years, and I loved them because they were unusually indulgent (my mom didn't do indulgent all that often).  Now I realize it's because they had so much sugar.  It turns out it's a recipe my mom credits my grandmother, her mother-in-law, with.  My Grandma Olson passed away this Fall.  I record this recipe in her honor and in ours.  If my memory serves, it's rockstar.

2 cans pink beans
3/4 C brown sugar
1 1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 C ketchup
1/4 C molasses
2 medium onions, fried and drained
2 medium green peppers, fried and drained
1 lb bacon, fried and drained

Combine.  Bake 30 minutes at 325.

Creamy Elephant Pie

This recipe is included mostly out of nostalgia.  Once I stumbled on this pie in some cookbook I had, I made it very often, especially my sophomore year, as I forayed into self-sustenance.  I named it "Elephant Pie" for some reason no longer clear to me, but back then, I thought it was so clever.  I was also 19.

2 eggs
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 t finely shredded lime peel (note: I guarantee I did not use this in college; I did not buy fancy fresh produce like limes until at least grad school, if not later)
1/3 C lime juice

Beat eggs till slightly thickened.  Stir in condensed milk, peel, and juice.  Spoon into baked pastry shell.  Cover and chill about four hours or till firm.

Smiths' French Bread

My cousins' cousins moved to Long Island in the 90s, making them our closest "relatives."  Their mother, my essentially Aunt Janeel, bowled us over with her strength of character, her productivity, and her amazing bread.  My mom adopted it quickly in our household.  I've never made it, but I have the recipe should I decide I ever need French Bread pronto.

3 3/8 C water
3 T sugar
3 T yeast
1 1/2 t salt
3 T oil
9 C flour

Beat in mixer with hook 5 times, rest 10 minutes in between each.  Shape into two loaves.  Grease cookie sheets.  Bake (at some unspecified temperature).

Krista's Bread Sticks

I am--and was particularly in college--terrible with yeast, but a friend from my freshman floor made what I thought were the most delicious breadsticks.  I couldn't persuade her to make them nearly as often as I wanted her to, but I did successfully get the recipe.  Here 'tis, for posterity.  Thank you, Krista.

2/3 C warm water
1 T yeast
1 T sugar

Mix.  Let sit 10 minutes.

1 t salt
approx. 2 C flour

Preheat oven to 375.

Knead dough.  Melt butter in 9 x 13 pan.  Roll out dough, cut into long, inch-wide, strips.  Put butter, garlic salt, and Parmesan cheese on top.  Let rise 20 minutes to 1 1/2 hour.  Bake 20 minutes.

Krugers' Taco Pie

I've never made this, but I've eaten it.  The Krugers were some of our best family friends when I was growing up on Long Island, and they would occasionally serve this at their house for dinner or at potluck events.  It was made of so many things we never had at my house.  It was the stuff my adolescent dreams were made of.

3 split chicken breasts
1 pint sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 green pepper
1/2 onion
1 can green chile sauce

Layer with grated cheese, taco chips, and Fritos.  Bake at 325 until done.

Yummy Chocolate Lava Cake

A good friend of mine in college brought this over to my house for a dinner party and baked it in the downstairs oven (not the one I typically used, since I lived on the upper floor) during dinner.  It spilled all over, and my friend the baker promised he'd clean it up.  But in the rush of the fun, he didn't, and that charred pool of chocolate stayed in the oven for the rest of the school year--maybe from August through April.  My downstairs roommates often jokingly complained about the hassle of that burnt chocolate pool cramping their baking style--dramatically ruing the day my baker friend came to dinner--but the truth is they didn't need that oven.  They didn't bake.  That wasn't the downstairs style.  Eventually someone cleaned up it, and I forgot all about it until I found this recipe.  Because the truth was, this cake was amazing.

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix in a 9 x 13 pan

2 C flour
1 1/2 C sugar
4 T baking cocoa
4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

Then add

1 C milk
4 T vegetable oil
2 T vanilla


Sprinkle over top 2 C brown sugar
1/2 C baking cocoa
3 1/2 C hot water

Swirl water up and down.  Bake 40 minutes.  The bottom cake will rise to the top.  Beneath it will be a fudge sauce you can spoon over as you serve it.

Annie's Special K Bars

Annie was one of my three best friends during my college years.  We lived together sophomore year, and she delighted us perpetually with her charming eating habits (e.g., grapes in milk) and charming personality.  I found this recipe for her Special K bars, which I remember being much more decadent than our impoverished student life usually boasted.

To Annie, the first redhead* I ever loved.

Heat only until melted:

1 C white sugar
1 C white Karo Syrup

Add 1 1/2 C chunky peanut butter
6 C Special K cereal

Stir well and pat into greased 9 x 13 pan.

In a pot, melt
1 package chocolate chips
1 package butterscotch chips

Spread the melted chips over the cereal mixture.  Cool.

* Rebecca--you and Annie tied for first. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Carrot Souffle

Velvety, sweet, and so delicious.

1 lb. carrots (approx. 6-8 medium-sized carrots), boiled until tender
3 eggs
1/3 C sugar
3 T flour
1 t vanilla
1 stick butter, melted
dash nutmeg
pinch salt

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Get out 1 1/2- or 2-quart casserole dish.  Spray casserole dish with Pam (note: this may not be necessary as the recipe does not call for it, but I do it precautionarily).
2. Boil carrots, drain, and puree in food processor or high-quality blender.
3. Add sugar, flour, vanilla, butter, nutmeg, and salt to processor/blender.  Blend.
4. Add eggs.  Blend.
5. Pour into casserole dish.  Bake 40 minutes or until firm on top but not dry looking.

Alternative: You can add a topping (1/2 C walnuts ground in food processor, 3 T brown sugar, 2 t butter at room temperature) after casserole has cooked 35ish minutes (or until it begins looking firm but is not fully set) and bake for 10 minutes.  But I haven't yet, since the dish is already (a) fairly sweet, (b) fairly decadent, and (c) awesome.  The nuts might add a nice crunch, however.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Coconut Persimmon Smoothie

A happy find for a night in which we had two overripe persimmons and about one cup of coconut milk waiting in the fridge.  With a lot of ice, very velvety and delicious.

Persimmon Smoothie Recipe


Serves at least 2, maybe 3, small but appropriate glasses


*2 very ripe Hachiya persimmons
*1 cup organic coconut milk
*pinch of ground ginger
*pinch of ground cardamom-optional


Blend all ingredients, preferably in a highspeed blender (like a Blendtec), adding ice or additional water to produce desired consistency.

Anne Marie's Banana Bread

I rediscovered a binder of recipes I put together while in a college home ec class, and it turns out, I saved some really good recipes I'd long since thought I'd forgotten.  But I have them!  And I will now be transcribing them to my blog, for greater utility and longer use.  I start with the recipe for what I recall as some seriously amazing banana bread (at least as made by a former neighbor at Moon Apartments, 2000 - 2001, named Anne Marie, who was smiley and sweet and I cannot for the life of me remember her last name).  Here's to 2000 and to Anne Marie.

Anne Marie's Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 1/4 C sugar (or just less, maybe 1 C, of honey)
1/2 C butter, softened (or applesauce)


Add 2 eggs.


Add 4 mashed medium bananas (1 1/2 C banana mush).
1/2 C milk
1 t vanilla


Add 2 1/2 C flour (can substitute in some, but probably not most, whole wheat flour)
1 t baking soda
1 t salt


Mix in chocolate chips until batter is just moistened.

Pour batter into two loaf pans with bottoms greased.  Bake bread on low racks until it bounces back to touch.  (1 hour or so.)

Note: Today I used this recipe for the chocolate chips, because I made the bread on a day when I wasn't eating sugar (substituted honey for sweeteners in both the chips and the bread):

Note two: Yes, this was just as I remembered it--moist, silky, and delicious.