Summer.

This has been a big mixed bag of a school year for us. We’ve had tremendous fun—lots of regular season hockey, the All-Star Game, and a deep playoff run with accompanying travel and tailgate parties. We had a lot of charitable projects we were thankful to be involved with. The kids all were on teams that provided new friends and activity. Academically, it all ended in resounding success. But we’ve also had challenges. There’s the typical school year drama that you swear you won’t pay attention to, but it takes its toll nonetheless. My grandparents needed attention and made the move to assisted living. We lost Sean’s dad this year, whom all of us miss daily. We are still only 10 days post-op from Matt’s spinal fusion surgery, and that healing is going well, but will be slow.

Throughout this long year, some Fridays felt like victories limping across a survival finish line, while others were euphoric for what was to come.

This one is definitely one of those Fridays.

The stacks of corrected papers that once meant so much came home yesterday wrinkled in meaninglessness in backpacks that had given up weeks ago. Uniforms were tossed and bathing suits thrown on. Even the drama dissolved into a cocktail of peace and unwitting forgiveness. We made baby steps but huge milestones in healing and the summer is lining up to be one of the best.

They are sleeping in right now, and my victory lap for the 2015-2016 school year was less than a half cup of coffee long this morning. The rest tasted of campfires, book pages, Vitamin D and adventure.

Let’s do this, Summer. We are ready.

National Hot Dog Day

Celebrate this important and historic day.

Perfect meal (and excuse) for dinner on the couch in front of the tv.
Perfect meal (and excuse) for dinner on the couch in front of the tv.

Or the next time you want to watch a game on the couch.

Or don’t want to do dishes.

Pair a good hot dog with some Summer’s Not Over Baked Beans in mason jars and cold root beer in bottles and you’re good to go.

(It’s kind of all in the packaging.)

©2014 Tracey Henry

Patriotic Deviled Eggs

Patriotic Deviled Eggs
Patriotic Deviled Eggs

This is either a desperate cry for professional help or a fun way to celebrate Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day cookouts.

Take your favorite Deviled Egg recipe and throw in a little reverse Easter egg dying, and you’ve got the weirdest yet best addition to any potluck.

For my sized large platter, I boiled 18 eggs and then peeled them as they were warm so they came off easily. Cut them in half and reserve the yolk in a separate bowl for your filling.

Count out the number of red and blue halves you need, then prepare the dye according to the package directions of ordinary food coloring. I used a few drops of color, vinegar and boiling water in a cups and then let the colors cool slightly before coloring the whites.

Dying eggs from the inside out
Dying eggs from the inside out

Place the whites in the color for 3-5 minutes each for desired color. It is a much faster and brighter process than shelled eggs, so keep that in mind.

Drain on paper towels, hole-side down until ready to fill with your favorite deviled egg filling. I used my Deviled Eggs Benedict recipe.

Dyed cooked egg whites.
Dyed cooked egg whites.

Arrange on large rectangular platter in the shape of a flag, and start singing the anthem.

Feel free to bring them to therapy.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Top 10 signs school is about to end

Top 10 signs you know the school year is ending:

10. School busses start carrying salve on board for the third degree burns resulting from vinyl seats reaching 37,000 ℃ by 7 am.

9. Too short to be considered “crayons,” you now have a box of wax finger paints. All in Burnt Sienna color.

8. Notes from the teacher are now scrawled on the back of Expedia and Priceline search results printouts.

7. Entrees on the hot lunch menu include candy from the leftovers in the teacher’s lounge and the “You’ll get it back in June” drawer.

6. The only matching pair of socks in the entire fourth grade is between your daughter and the kid who slept over last weekend.

5. Backpacks have deteriorated into back-of-knee packs.

4. The amount of times you hit the snooze button has grown exponentially throughout the year; you now only awake to the alarm of your own sobs when you realize you have to return to school after Memorial Day weekend.

3. Because of #4, your kids have a laminated tardy slip.

2. Car line has become merely a suggestion.

And the number one sign that school is almost out?

Commercials start alternating between Sylvan Learning Centers, Back to School sales and top shelf vodka.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Fresh fig, walnuts and goat cheese pizza

It may seem as though I’m dogging on the South a little bit lately, and I want to set the record straight that this is not the case. There are some things that the South is considerably superior over the geographic North. Namely, grocery stores.

Seriously, North, you don’t know what you’re missing.

And although there are many fine supermarkets to choose from here, Publix is, and has been, my personal favorite for almost 20 years. This is not a sponsored post, (but call me Publix, we’ll talk) but frequently this store, and others, offer excellent, fresh, ingredients and very reasonable prices.

This week, fresh figs, (Brown Turkey, Black Mission, Kadota) are on sale as they are about twice a year. I always want to figure out a way to use them because I just can’t pass them up easily when they are that plentiful and cheap.

So I came up with this recipe using another fine grocery store secret–fresh pizza dough from the bakery section–for a lovely appetizer or light dinner. So easy but it will look and taste as though you’ve hired a personal chef.

Fresh fig, walnuts, and goat cheese pizza
Fresh Fig, Walnut and Goat Cheese Pizza

Pizza dough from the bakery (if you use a tube that’s been sitting in the refrigerator case we’re going to fight.)
Olive Oil
Kosher salt
2-4 fresh figs, sliced thinly
1/4 cup walnuts

2 oz. goat cheese
Honey, enough to drizzle

1.) Preheat the oven to 400°. Divide pizza dough in half, and roll out to desired shape and thickness. (It will rise in the oven.)

2.) Place dough on a pizza stone or baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and lightly salt. Top with sliced figs and walnuts.

3.) Bake for about 15-20 minutes–check frequently so it doesn’t burn. Remove from oven, and sprinkle goat cheese on the warm pizza. Drizzle with honey and enjoy no matter where you live.

©2013 Tracey Henry

Summer’s Not Over Baked Beans

4 Bean Baked Beans
4 Bean Baked Beans

We’ve discussed how they are trying to pretend summer is over for us all by starting school so a-b-c-d-e-effing early, but as long as Labor Day is still weeks ahead, we all know the truth.

Here’s a great baked bean dish to eat every day until September.

Slow-cooker BBQ Beans

(You can also bake these in a 350 degree oven for an hour, but throwing them into a Crock-pot the morning of a cookout is so much easier.)

10 oz of bacon (or more)
1 onion, large diced
1 (15 oz) can of black beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can of garbanzo beans or chick peas, drained
1 (15 oz ) can of red, white or Great Northern beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can of pork and beans with sauce
3/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1.) Saute bacon over medium heat until bacon starts to crisp. Add onion, and cook until tender. Place in slow-cooker along with the drained beans, and pork and beans in sauce.

2.) In a small bowl, mix together ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar. Pour over top of bean mixture and stir well.

3.) Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

4.) Get ready to repeat this recipe over multiple times because people will ask.

©2013 Tracey Henry