Friday, August 24, 2007

Kansas Dialogue Underway

Kansas Dialogue got off to a good start tonight. Those of us involved with food prep were chopping and dicing and mixing and on and on and on. But, people LOVED the food.

You know how some people are just natural workers? Man, I love those people. Well, here are two of them - Warren and WenDee. Warren and his wife, Sharon, helped last night and did a ton of stuff today too. Warren is a great chopper/dicer. I mean, he's GREAT! Today I discovered WenDee is also fabulous at it. I just LOVE workers. I don't think WenDee stopped all day long.

And it was a good thing none of us stopped because we did all this stuff...

All of my cakes were eaten, I think. There may have been a few pieces left, but not much. All of the Heavenly Hash was gone. I think people didn't realize the other was made from scratch because it didn't look like it. Anyway, it was eaten up, along with dozens of cookies people brought. And the watermelon was fabulous.

Julie made a ton of things and brought them along. Andrea, Lynette and Sean were working hard too. Julie, WenDee, Sean and I were a little slap happy by the end of the night when we were cleaning.

These sorts of things always bring out the workers and the ones who want to be included in the idea of working, but don't really want to do much. Fortunately, everyone on the kitchen crew tonight was working hard - we couldn't have pulled it off otherwise. But, it came off beautifully. And people were appreciative of the food, which was nice.

It's always good to see the people who come to Dialogue every year. Last year we were in Colby where Lon Frahm was our host. Some of these folks I don't see any other time, and then I can bump into them somewhere else throughout the year. When I was in Topeka for a Compeer event in February I bumped in to some folks from dialogue, which is always fun.

Tonight at the Sampler Foundation facility near Inman, our host for the evening, we were favored with a bonus - a beautiful rainbow.

I'm headed to bed very shortly. I went to bed after 3 and got up before 7 for a meeting this morning. The Kansas Health Policy Advisory board was in town and a couple dozen people were invited to attend their "listening session" to discuss health care in the state. I would love to think it will make a big difference. We can only hope.

Kansas Dialogue Preparation

This weekend is Kansas Dialogue. I always enjoy it, but I wish I could just paint this weekend. But, alas, 'tis not to be.

Tonight a bunch of us gathered at Lynette's house to prepare goodies for the weekend. The food at Kansas dialogue is often a real issue - it's either not very good or not very plentiful.

Last year when we knew we were going to host it in Hutchinson Teresa and I started talking about how we could make the food really good. I haven't done anything after the initial conversations, but Teresa has really masterminded the weekend and came up with wonderful ideas. Unfortunately, she had a family emergency and won't even get to come to dialogue this weekend, much less see her plans come to fruition. I'm going to take lots of pix so she can at least see how things looked.

She did such an amazing job of getting everything organized that we just had to do some of the chopping, organizing, etc. And this was all planned from the start, that we would help with this part of the process, so even though she had an emergency, she followed through on everything.

Needless to say, preparing three meals and snacks for 140 people is no easy feat. It requires a tremendous amount of organizing and planning and shopping and cooking and on and on. Lynette's front room was covered with bags and coolers and "stuff," but we still needed a few things at the grocery store.

Lynette's son, Sean, made three trips to the grocery store for us - and I think maybe that was after one before we got there.

He said people at Dillons were starting to laugh at him. Poor guy - the last time he went it was shift change, but both shifts saw him coming in. He said his high school friends were leaving and his college friends were coming on. He was a very good sport about it.

Sean always comes to dialogue and he's always fun to be around. He's a really good guy.

After I left there about 9:30 tonight I came home and made chocolate cakes - one of my tasks for the weekend.

I made two different recipes - one tried and true and one new one. You know, I strongly urge people not to try new recipes when cooking for a crowd, but I don't always take my own advice.

One of my most favorite cooking tips - invest in a Wilton 12 by 18 cake pan. You can then double any recipe that calls for a 9 by 12 pan and cook two at once. I have two of those pans and LOVE them. I seem to often find myself cooking for a large number of people and those pans really simplify the process. I had one pan from when I took cake decorating classes, and asked for an additional one at Christmas one year. I often have both of them full, as I do right now You'll have to increase the cooking time a bit, but not double it.

The recipe below has the measurements for a regular 9 by 12 pan. This is the new recipe. I just topped it with a chocolate buttercream recipe.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

1/2 cup butter

2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 cup sour cream

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup boiling water

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and melted chocolate. Then alternate mixing in the sour cream and flour and soda until it's all incorporated. Add boiling water and mix.

The mixture will look runny - don't worry - it will firm up in the oven.

Pour into a 9 by 12 pan and bake for about 35 minutes in 350 degree oven.

The other recipe is one I've made many, many, many times and I always get requests for the recipe.

Heavenly Hash Brownies

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup margarine, melted

1/3 cup cocoa

1 1/2 cups pecans (optional - I leave out when cooking for a crowd)

1 1/2 cups  mini marshmallows

Combine eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla. Melt margarine and add cocoa. Add that mixture to the flour mixture and beat well. Add nuts. Bake in a 9 by 13 pan at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

When out of the oven, cover with marshmallows and return to oven briefly to melt. Pour over frosting. Let cool before cutting.


1/2 cup margarine, melted

1/3 cup milk

3 T cocoa

1 pound powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix and pour over cake while warm.

These are very messy to eat, but people never seem to mind. You can cut them in very small squares - they're very rich.