There are times when I reminiscence about childhood memories with one or more of my siblings.  Most of the events we discuss would not have been possible without the people involved in those recollections.  Some folk pass in and out of our lives without much fanfare, but there are others that hold a special place in our hearts.  One of the super special people we have recalled lately is Hazel, a lady that played different roles in our lives.   She was our babysitter and Mom’s household help, but best of all, she was our friend. 

Hazel first began serving our family when she was around fourteen years old.  She was a neighbor to a lady that had “aged out” of the babysitting business.  I can’t remember if she started out helping mom with ironing (in the days before clothing was permanent-press) or if she came first as a child-care provider.  No matter which job it was, Hazel was soon established as Mom’s go-to person for domestic assistance.  Even after Hazel achieved adulthood, got married, and had a child of her own, we were still blessed to have her as part of our lives.  Her daughter often accompanied her, which was more than fine with my parents.

I think my sisters would agree with me when I say that as we grew older, we got more ornery.  Hazel dealt with many pranks that were played on her, especially from the oldest three girls in our family.  As the eldest, I have to admit that I was often the ringleader.  Hazel was never resentful, although we did get in trouble with our parents when they found out what we had done.

Sometimes Hazel babysat for us on nights our parents were out for the evening.  We often begged her to tell us ghost stories after the lights were turned out.   The one I still remember dealt with her telling us that dead people could talk, which we adamantly denied.  Then she told us about a time she went to a graveyard and stood in front of a tombstone.  “Whatcha doin’ down there?” she inquired.  The person answered, “Nothin’ at all.”  My younger sisters didn’t understand and were scared.  Somehow, I figured out what she really meant in spite of the spooky voice she used when speaking as the deceased.   

As I grew older, the relationship between the two of us shifted gears. Hazel allowed me privileges that my younger sisters didn’t receive, like letting me get up after the rest of the girls were asleep.  We would have a gabfest until it was almost time for Mom and Dad to get home.  Then I would creep back to bed without anyone else knowing I had stayed up late.

Recent conversations with my sisters about our special babysitter and friend were initiated when my sister Terri was visiting a lady in an eldercare facility.  She managed to end up on the wrong floor; while there, she spotted Hazel, who is one of the residents there.  Since then, Terri, Melissa, and Cindy have all visited her.  She has forgiven us for all the pranks she endured, even the day we replaced the tobacco in her cigarettes with catnip.  Hazel is, indeed, one of the super people that graced our lives and our memories.

Speaking of super, there is that big game coming up this weekend.  Need something to serve while watching?  This week’s recipes might help.

Sesame-Wheat Breadsticks are the easiest I have ever made; no kneading involved.  The only thing that makes it time-consuming is the rising time.  All-in-all, I was pleased with the way they turned out.  Reuben Turnovers make use of refrigerated crescent rolls, so there is no dough to mix.  Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Fingers are delicious when dipped in a mixture of honey and Dijon mustard.  Try one, or try them all.  It’s a tasty lineup!

Sesame-Wheat Breadsticks

1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

2 teaspoons honey

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (or bread flour)

Non-stick cooking spray

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sesame seeds*

  *Substitutes: Poppy seeds, caraway seeds, or grated Parmesan  cheese

Combine first 3 ingredients in a 1-cup liquid measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.  Combine yeast mixture, butter, and salt in a large bowl.  Combine flours; set aside 1/4 cup.  Gradually stir remaining flour into yeast mixture.  Place dough in well-greased bowl; turn to grease top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1-1/2 hours or until dough is doubled in bulk.

Turn dough out onto surface sprinkled with remaining flour.  Divide dough into 15 equal-sized pieces.  Roll each piece into a 10-inch stick.  If desired, crimp aluminum foil as directed below.  Place on baking sheet; lightly coat with cooking spray.  Place sticks on foil; cover and let rise 1 hour.

Combine egg and salt; brush on each breadstick.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to wire racks to cool. 

Makes 15 breadsticks.

To crimp foil, fold a 30-inch sheet of foil into dividers 1/2-inch high and 3/4-inch apart.

Reuben Turnovers

2 (8-ounce) cans refrigerated crescent rolls

1 (12-ounce) can corned beef, flaked

1 (16-ounce) can sauerkraut, drained

1 (4-ounce) package Swiss cheese, shredded

Commercial Thousand Island dressing

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Poppy seeds (may use caraway seeds)

Separate crescent rolls into 8 rectangles on ungreased baking sheets, pressing perforations to seal.

Layer 3-4 tablespoons corned beef, 2 tablespoons sauerkraut, and 1-2 tablespoons cheese in center of each rectangle; top with 1-2 teaspoons dressing.  Moisten edges with water; fold dough in half, pressing edges with a fork to seal.

Brush tops with butter; sprinkle lightly with poppy seeds.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings.

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Fingers

2 heaping cups pretzel sticks

3 slices bacon, cooked

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup ginger ale, club soda, or beer

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 pounds chicken tenders, or 2 large chicken breasts, cut into strips of desired size

Add first 4 ingredients to food processor bowl.  Process until pretzels resemble fine crumbs.  Place in large zip-top plastic bag; set aside.

Combine flour and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir in choice of liquid and egg.

Dip chicken pieces, one at a time, in batter; place in bag of pretzel mixture, shaking to coat.  Place on lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.  Turn over chicken pieces and return to oven for an additional 12-15 minutes or until done.