Holiday Gift Giving Guide / Humor / Lifestyle / Recipes / Shopping / Susan's Food and Art

Bundles of joy and Italian String Bean Bundles

"Shopping online for the holidays"I just hit the last “submit order” button for this Christmas season. You can’t see me, but I’m doing the pee pee dance. After spending several days in the stores fighting lines, sitting here in pj’s and fuzzy slippers, sipping coffee and firing gifts out to family members across the country as if we could afford it, is a blessing. I have to admit, the sales are off the charts this year. Free shipping, reduced prices, if the retailers keep this up we’ll get a check from them if we place an order on their site. I like it, I really do.

We’re traveling off and on over the holidays. Since my mother broke her pelvis the first of the year, traveling the four hours to us is not doable for her. Not having her in the house at Christmas until the last-minute is a plus, as keeping a secret from her, when you’re in the same house is nearly impossible. As a kid, I can remember all packages bearing her name had small holes in the bottom where she’d poked a finger in to see if she could determine what was inside. For me, I like to be surprised, or sometimes.

Most of my life I’ve been teased for being kind of skittish person. By this, I mean I’m jumpy. If you walk in the room and I’m unaware you are there, when I do lay eyes on you, I’m liable to thrust my hands up in the air, throw the cat across the room, or attempt to two-step my way to Beijing. It’s a personal problem. I offer no explanation for this odd behavior, other than the possibility I was dropped out of a second story window as a baby and landed on my head. As for my other half, always searching for the silver lining, he views this as a positive trait. In his eyes, in the event a masked intruder should break into the house, upon observing me exhibiting these peculiar behaviors he would assess me to be wired incorrectly and vacate the premises post haste for his own protection. Always nice to be reassured that I’m making a positive contribution to the household.

Before my children moved out on their own, they found this endlessly entertaining, sneaking up me often, thus signficantly reducing my life expectancy. Once, they hid in the closet when I came home from work, specifically, my closet. Calling their names and getting no response, I did what I usually did upon walking in the door at night, kicked off my shoes and headed for the bedroom to get out of my work clothes. Peeling off my jacket and opening the door to hang it up, I found my two potential inmates standing stock still, hands at their sides, looking up at me. Triggering every fight or flight response in me, I first ripped every button off the front of my blouse, and then in a knee-jerk reaction my right foot shot out and nailed my son directly in the crotch bringing him down like a deflated hot-air balloon. Looking back on it, I believe that that defense would have held up in court. It’s amazing we don’t eat our young, like guppies.

It seems that I attract others of my own kind, because our oldest cat, Boo Boo (the name alone would suggest where I’m going), has similar idiosyncracies. If you round a corner and sneak up on her, she will turn sideways and on tiptoe, sidle across the floor Halloween cat style as though she was the lead ballerina in the feline production of Swan Lake. Hysterical.

Socializing the old cat with the new remains an issue. Better these days, they’re still far from perfect. They’ll be alone in the house for four days while we’re gone and we’re entertaining outfitting them in diminutive suits of armor in order to keep them from harming one another. Not really, hold the comments, we’re putting them in separate parts of the house and hiring a pet sitter. Ach. On one trip down to the Bay Area we attempted to bring the older cat. On our way home, we let her freely roam in the back of the car. Ecstatic to be uncrated, she hopped back and forth between the back seat and the tailgate of the SUV, stopping now and then to gaze out the window in the back seat.

After coming to a stop sign and beginning to pick up speed, she climbed up to look out the window resting her paw on the automatic window button. Uh-oh. It is set up in a way that it has to go all the way down before going back up, and in the interim the cat jumped out. I practically dislocated my other half’s neck getting him to pull over to the side of the road. Having apparently all nine lives to spare, she zigzagged across the road between traffic and hid in the meridian under some bushes leaving only her tail showing. My other half did his own pee pee dance behind her dodging cars. Calling her name and getting nothing, and with no other option he got down on his hands and knees and began the humiliating process of coaxing a frightened animal back out of a hiding spot. You animal lovers will recongize this scenario, it’s the one when your voice rises two octaves above normal, and you’re reduced to making empty promises involving lifetime supplies of Greenies and Fancy Feast when they arrive home. At last, the deal sealed apparently, she jumped into his arms and they were back in the car. Note to self: Turn on babylock when cat is in car.

Cats are strange beings. We invite them into our homes and provide food and shelter. In return they use your $4,000.00 designer couch for a scratching post, and the $75.00 scratching post purchased precisely for that particular activity remains pristine and untouched. A litter box is provided and cleaned regularly for their use, and yet they seem to find your potted plants so much more convenient for eliminating all that high-end kibble they’re consuming. We treat them like children, lavishing them with love, affection and gifts and still they view us with indifference and disdain, dispensing affection at their will, for which we are unnaturally grateful. Good Lord, this is sounding like our last family get together.

Try these little bundles, they don’t fight back, and there is no writing of checks involved. I serve these before a pasta dish usually with a dipping sauce of Ranch Dressing. For a holiday party I tie the haystacks in the middle with a length of chive making a bow. Yum.

Italian Green Bean Bundles

1/4 lb. or approx. 64 green beans
8 scallions, halved
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup olive oil for frying
Salt to taste
Ranch dressing or sour cream dill sauce for dipping
Wooden toothpicks

Bring 6 quarts of lightly salted water to boil in large pot. Add trimmed beans to pot and continue cooking on medium boil for about 3 mins. Do not overcook. Beans should be slightly under el dente. Drain beans on a clean kitchen towel on a cookie sheet until cooled.

When cooled line up in fours and cut to the same length, about 5″. At the same time halve your green onion tops and set aside. Place 1/2 onion top in center of each group of green beans. Secure in the center with a toothpick placed horizontally.

Beat two eggs in shallow dish. Mix together dry ingredients in separate shallow dish. Dip each bundle first in egg mixture and then in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Place on paper towel lined cookie sheet in single layer.

Heat oil in large skillet over med. heat to about 360 degrees. In batches add the bundles turning often until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Serve immediately with Ranch dressing or dill yogurt dip.

Speaking of Shopping, check out this year’s Holiday Gift Giving Guide. It’s filled with holiday shopping ideas and more…

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