Category Archives: Entertaining

Mmm, Mmm, Mashed Motatoes!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Columbia County, NY  I  Monday, 20 November 2017

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, coming up this Thursday! Let’s begin the countdown to America’s favorite holiday.

Mashed potatoes. Let’s talk about creamy, buttery, fluffy, warm mashed potatoes. (“Mmm, mmm, mashed motatoes!” is a direct quote from Thing 1 when he was a little guy.)

I’ve noticed that mashed potatoes take FORever to warm back up. So, how do you keep them warm for your Thanksgiving Day feast, right up until serving time?

I learned this nifty trick from Martha Stewart Living magazine many years ago…

Use this method to create your own double boiler and you can keep the potatoes warm for hours, as long as you periodically check the water level in the bottom of the boiler.

First, get the potatoes all cooked, mashed, and stirred up with milk or sour cream or whatever is the secret spice or ingredient of your choice . My old boss, Trevor, he swears by his mother’s addition of cream cheese and eagerly looks forward to her special mashed potatoes each Thanksgiving.

Second, spoon the mashed potatoes loosely into a heatproof bowl. You could use a Pyrex, Anchor Hocking, or Fire King bowl, but I prefer to use stainless steel, to be extra safe and guard against breakage.

Third, choose a sauce pan which your heatproof bowl will nest on, along with a pan lid that fits snugly on top of the heatproof bowl.

Get some water rapidly boiling in the sauce pan and then turn it down to low and simmer, so it doesn’t evaporate too fast. Make sure the water level is low enough so that it never touches the bottom of the bowl.

To clarify, from burner up, the order goes:

1) 4-quart sauce pan with simmering, NOT boiling, water
2) medium-sized stainless steel bowl with mashed potatoes
(make a well in the center for more thorough and even heating)
3) pan lid from a 10″ frying pan or stock pot.

When it’s finally glorious meal time, you could put the stainless steel bowl right on the table, after carefully wiping off the water’s condensation.

Make sure to place a dishtowel or hot pad such that it’s touching the bowl, to indicate the bowl is hot and to prevent someone from accidentally getting burned.

Also, if you choose this method, it’s the best idea to get everyone’s attention at at once and tell them the bowl is hot and not to touch it, just like they do at restaurants, when your server brings an especially hot entree.

Place the hot bowl on a trivet or dishtowel at the center of the table, where everyone can reach it (for small tables, 4-6 people), or designate one person to serve the potatoes onto your guests’ plates (for larger tables of over six people), so the hot bowl doesn’t have to be touched or passed around.

You could also spoon some of the potatoes into a smaller, cooler, more decorative serving bowl, and then replenish after everyone has taken their first helping of mash.

This method works much better than trying to keep mashed potatoes warm in a Crock-Pot (the top can get kinda caramelized and icky from being in a Crock-Pot too long) or in a regular pan on the stove top.

At the last minute before guests arrive, I want to be relaxing and putting on my lipstick, then attending to the tiny details, like lighting candles on the tables and in the guest bathroom, starting my playlist, giving the salad a final toss, or tweaking the place settings to perfection.

I DO NOT want to be frantically sweating over the stove, draining and mashing the potatoes.

Try this method, you’ll love it, I promise! And it’ll give you one less last-minute task to attend to, which is always a good thing.

And BTW, this year I’m using Yukon Gold potatoes. I’ve discovered they have an inherently buttery flavor and a yellower color than mashed potatoes made with regular Russets.

Now, the only question is, skins on or skins off?

Which do YOU prefer?

 

Thank God for Dirty Dishes

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Columbia County, NY  I
Tuesday, 14 November 2017


What a mess! But I think it actually looks kind of cool with the partial color filter on Black Beauty, my camera.

 

Yesterday I was faced with a mountain of dishes. I’ve never had so many dirty dishes piled up at Valoftten, my little upstairs place with the red kitchen and the views out to all four directions.

Why, you ask? Well, pretty sure it has something to do with the fact my church bag weighs 17 pounds: manuals, notebooks, scriptures, Chromebook, it all adds up!

Last Saturday, at my place, I had a leaf-raking work party for the church group and then a Christmas craft activity. In the afternoon, there was more sitting by the campfire, cider and donuts, and then leaf blowing and weed whacking.

A really nice lady named Diana offered to help with the dishes, but I said no thanks, because I wanted to get some more yard work done before it got dark. That day was bitterly cold, too. Our fingers were numb, even in gloves.

But first, after the other ladies left, Diana and I went to the little local ACE Hardware store I love in Chatham, where they have a resident cat, three dogs, and four turtles. We bought mix and gasoline for her equipment, and then that dear soul, a part-time landscaper, she went to town with her heavy equipment. Shades of Rosie the Riveter!

Later on, after she went home and it was just Thing 2 and me, I was worn out after playing hostess all day, so the dishes, although rinsed and stacked, they sat. And sat.

The next day, Sunday, was chock full of church stuff: three hours of services, I taught the lesson in the ladies’ meeting, then visited the nearby rest home to see two church members.

Later that afternoon, I had a choice. Nap or dishes?

Well, you can guess which won out. THE NAP, of course. (I made the right choice.) But by then it was dark, and my kitchen has less than stellar lighting. It has a main overhead light, but no task lights over the sink and stove. I’ve purchased some little red goose neck lamps to use for task lighting. (Hey, they were red metal and only $6 and match my kitchen, so for now I make do.)

Have I mentioned the kitchen at Valoftten, true to the 50s, has no dishwasher? And that’s okay with me, I actually prefer to wash dishes by hand, since I think they get cleaner that way.

Plus, I’d rather have the extra cupboard space than a dishwasher.

In Salt Lake City, my two-butt kitchen, the original home of My Copper Kitchen, it did have a dishwasher. But I didn’t use it. I stored my big collection of pots and pans in there!

As I started in on attacking the mess on Monday morning, I did so cheerfully, remembering a poem I read as a very young teenager, curled up in the recliner in front of the unicorn wood stove.

It goes like this:

Thank God for dirty dishes,
they have a tale to tell,
while other folks go hungry, we’re eating very well.
With home and health and happiness
we shouldn’t want to fuss
For by this stack of evidence, God’s very good to us.
-Dear Abby column

 


We’ve reached critical mass on the dirty dishes here!

 

We’ve managed to scorch three pans in the process of cooking…

Continue reading

Setting My Table

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Friday, 22 September 2017

The other night, as I was getting ready for dinner, it occurred to me once again how much I love to set the table. That night we were having spaghetti, so it was very simple: just a bowl, fork, napkin, and glass. But still, it seemed so satisfying, making sure each piece was perfectly in place.

Several months ago, I had company over for dinner, my parents and the missionaries from church. I wasn’t sure if my dining room would work for six people, because the most I’ve had seated at this table was four, with it pushed up against the wall on one side. And since most of my dishes are in storage, I wasn’t sure how to set the table nicely, but I figured it out!

I had four basic white Corelle plates and two nice Edward Knowlton plates, antiques from 1922. I had a bunch of plain, clear glasses, and four pretty orange and cobalt blue flecked glasses, a gift from my wonderful friend, Lori.

I decided the fancy plates would be paired with the plain glasses and the plain plates would be grouped with the decorative glasses. I made sure the silverware was spot-free and shiny, my treasured Oneida Northland Musette stainless steel set I got for college graduation.

Might I brag? The centerpiece I made was simple, yet beautiful, I thought. I cut two orange lilies low in the stem and put them in clear glass spice jars, and lit three tea lights, floating them in clear votive holders. It seemed just right to me, elegant, but not overdone or distracting.

Since I had to pull the table out from the wall in order to seat six people, I was concerned the doorway would be blocked once everyone was seated, but there was actually still room to get around, so I was pleasantly surprised!

If you want to have people over for dinner, or even if it’s just a special meal for your family, don’t worry if you don’t have a huge set of fancy dinnerware. It’s fine to mix and match with what you have. Just make sure everything is sparkling clean and you take time in advance to set things up properly, without having to rush around once your guests have arrived.

Enjoy setting your table. People will appreciate your effort, how pretty it looks, and how special and loved it makes them feel.

[RECOMMENDED LINKS]
To see some interesting, elaborate table settings, go to this blog and click on the tablescapes option in the menu bar:
http://betweennapsontheporch.net

http://www.stonegableblog.com/category/tablescapes/

 

The History of Haint Blue

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Monday, 31 July 2017

The haint blue ceiling on our screened-in porch.

This summer my sister painted the ceiling of the front porch a light blue, which was no small feat. The porch ceiling had previously been white, and it was looking a little bit grey and mildewy in spots. So she scrubbed it with bleach water and painted it a pretty color known as haint blue.

Haint blue is a color commonly seen on porch ceilings in the south, but also used in many other areas. “Haint” is another name for haunt, or ghost, and down south the superstition persists that if you paint your porch ceiling haint blue, it will ward off evil spirits.

Haint blue is also rumored to scare away insects, probably stemming from the fact that old-fashioned milk paint used to contain lye. It’s also suggested that insects will avoid landing on a haint blue ceiling, thinking it’s the sky. It hasn’t really been proven, but it’s interesting to think about, right?

A haint blue ceiling is also thought to make the days seem just a little bit longer. I suppose once the real sky has turned to grey or black, you still have a soothing canopy of blue overhead on your porch…

This is a house I pass on my way to church. Look closely at the haint blue ceiling on the little porch. And make sure to admire the fanlights, too!

Anyways, once the porch ceiling was done, we decided to have a party to celebrate! We cooked up a storm: crab rangoon, rumaki, and shrimp cocktail, along with punch, fruit, and mini pudding pies for dessert. Our parents and their favorite neighbor couple had a great time, eating, talking, and relaxing under the new haint blue ceiling.

Punch and pudding pies. This was my first attempt at an ice ring for punch, using raspberries and rose petals.

[SUGGESTED LINKS]
http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/pretty-and-practical-the-history-of-haint-blue-porch-ceilings-206959

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5645263

 

My Copper Kitchen Celebrations!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Philmont, NY  I  Saturday, 26 November 2016

dscf6220

Hi there, fellow Rockets and all my other friends. Would you like to try something new with me? Just say yes! It’ll be so much fun, I promise! I’ve been thinking how great it would be if we all had a place where we could post pictures of our holiday gatherings: the food, table settings, menu ideas, etc.

One of my absolute favorite repeat posts on Martha Stewart’s blog happens at the end of November. A few days before Thanksgiving, she sends out an email to all her staff members, asking them to submit photos of their Thanksgiving holiday celebrations, and boy, do they ever.

I love looking at them. It’s so interesting to me to see how other people live, how they celebrate. Not everyone has the time, budget, or staff to put on a spread which is camera-ready for a magazine. And that’s okay! We all have our own ways of doing things and can learn from each other.

Would you like to give it a try? If so, ask to be added to the Facebook group:

My Copper Kitchen Celebrations!

and then, post away! I’ve already added my Thanksgiving pix, simply by sharing the public album from my Facebook page. You’re welcome to share pix of your family and friends, but I intend it primarily to be about food, table settings, menus, and decorations.

So have at it! I can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to!

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Thing 1’s Graduation Luncheon

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Claverack, New York  I  Sunday, 17 July 2016

DSCF1157PRETTIEST PUNCH

DSCF1043IT GOES BOTH WAYS

Here I am again, at my tiny, beloved, red-brick church. Today we had a luncheon after our meetings to celebrate Thing 1’s high school graduation. Here’s what we served:

SPECIAL CELEBRATION
LUNCHEON MENU

Sliced Deli Chicken
Cashew Cauliflower Pasta Salad
Fruit Salad Baskets with Mint and Sprite
Potato Rolls
Chips with Guacamole and Salsa

Purple Party Punch

Strawberry Lemon Torte
Italian Pastry Platter
Brownie Bites
Japanese Pocky Sticks
Hi-Chew Candies

It was perfect, it really was. I was up in the night, literally, carving fruit baskets: two made of watermelons, four of cantaloupe halves, and three made of pineapples cut the tall way. The fourth one didn’t make it and the green part fell off.

DSCF1083MOSTESS HOSTESSES

I figured why should I spring for table decorations when fruit is so beautiful?

After everyone was sitting down and starting to eat, I stood at the front of the room by the buffet and looked down at the three tables. There was a beautiful and lovely line of jewel-like fruit which seemed to stretch for miles and looked sooo pretty. I decided on the spot to definitely do this again!

I got the idea because of the too-round watermelons, you know. Strangely, the Price Chopper in Ghent didn’t have the oval-shaped watermelons I wanted to make baskets for centerpieces, so in order for the tables to not look so empty, I had to make more baskets, out of cantaloupes and pineapples.

And I’m glad I did. I got the pineapple idea from seeing a photo of Jackie and JFK sitting at their wedding reception table. Not sure if I would do it again though, it was a lot of work for not very much pineapple. I might just replace the pineapples with bowls of strawberries and cherries on ice and banana halves, still in their peels…

DSCF1058WANDERING YOUNG MAN

We ran completely out of chicken (should have gotten three or four instead of just two) and the chips and guacamole were decimated, but we still had plenty of Cashew Cauliflower Pasta Salad and Purple Party Punch and assorted desserts left over. Can I tell you I’ve been dreaming of an Italian Pastry Platter since I saw one last year, right before Thing 2’s Baptism Luncheon?

DSCF1002SCROLLIN’ ALONG

DSCF1004SCROLLIN’ ALONG II

Nothing makes me happier than knowing my sister and I pulled off this party, mainly just the two of us, with some help from Mom, who balled cantaloupe, sliced green onions, cut grapes in half, and broke up cauliflower unto bite-sized chunks. We treated those nice people at my church to a lovely meal before they ventured home that day after services and it felt great.

And, most importantly, Thing 1 knew he was loved by people in two different states, was the star of the party, and ate it all up in typical teenage fashion.

Many of the same people were there who attended Thing 2’s Baptism Luncheon a year ago. D, my mom’s bestfriend, and K and L, who are sisters-in-law. And don’t forget B.

DSCF1100DIPPIN’ FIXER

B, who cheerfully worked on the platform for my new four-poster bed (twice!) and then chatted with us on the screened-in porch for hours. B, who invited Thing 2 to a Boy Scout bike event at the troop of which he is assistant Scout Master, and then (twice!) hauled around a bike he gave us last year in order to get the back tire fixed. Then, he also went out of his way to pick up my boys and me to go bowling with his delightful daughter, C.

They were all there and I loved cooking for them. How I love these people.

Many people complimented my on the spread. But the remark I liked the best was when my dad said he didn’t think anyone had ever seen a Linger Longer quite like that.

The room was indeed, once again, always and forever, small and warm and full of love.

DSCF1066YESTERDAY WAS KINDERGARTEN

 

MORE PHOTOGRAPHS

DSCF1119GRAMPY’S HANDS/PROUD LUCY

 

DSCF1158BEST FRIENDS/CAROL’S HOURGLASS

 

DSCF1016DIPPIN’ LEFT, SETH STYLE

 

DSCF1111MY JUST DESSERTS

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE
This post was completed in West Valley City, UT  I  Thursday, 21 July 2016

REFERENCED POSTS AND RECIPES
Thing 2’s Baptism Luncheon:
Featured 14 July 2015 @ My Copper Kitchen
http://mycopperkitchen.com/thing-2s-baptism-luncheon/

Purple Party Punch:
Featured 14 February 2015 @ My Copper Kitchen’s blog launch
http://mycopperkitchen.com/purple-party-punch/

Easy Guacamole:
Featured 4 May 2015 @ My Copper Kitchen
http://mycopperkitchen.com/easy-guacamole/

Cashew Cauliflower Pasta Salad:
Featured 24 May 2015 @ My Copper Kitchen
http://mycopperkitchen.com/loris-cashew-cauliflower-pasta-salad/