This next Saturday afternoon at four o’clock, in the Comcast Arena in Everett, John and I will watch one of our six granddaughters graduate from high school.
The following weekend, thanks to videocam, we’ll view our oldest granddaughter’s graduation from a London college.
Scenes such as that are happening all over the country, to thousands of kids and their families. No big deal, right?
Well, it is a big deal.
Graduation, whether from high school or college, is a milestone, and we all know that milestones carry with them certain expectations.
What are your goals now, graduate? Beyond the celebratory party, that is. You do have goals, don’t you? You do know what you plan to do now that you’ve finished those 12 long, tiresome years, right? Or, now that you have that degree in hand, do you have a job lined up doing what you’ve just spent four or more years studying to do?
Expectations. One of our two June graduates is 18, the other 21 and, oh my yes, do they ever have expectations. At this point, everything is ahead of them and anything is possible. College is next for the high school grad, not without mixed feelings because she’d like to be free of classes and studying for awhile, but knows delaying things is not a good option.
As for the college grad, getting started on her “career” is the immediate goal, but getting even an entry-level job is extremely tough in today’s economy. I suspect she may opt for another year or so in the cocoon of graduate school, if mom and dad are willing, because she can’t handle it all herself financially. Expectations sometimes must be delayed, it seems.
Expectations. Two of one granddaughter’s friends are pregnant, finishing school with many of their previous expectations dashed as they struggle with this unexpected change in their lives. (Sorry, but I find it hard to understand in this day and age, that girls “unexpectedly” find themselves pregnant.)
And a few of the young men she’s known since elementary school expect to be in uniform by the time she heads to college. They’re not sure what to expect then, but she says they talk about the possibility of coming home in a flag-draped coffin. This shouldn’t be among the expectations of a high school grad, but ever so many years ago, when I was wearing a cap and gown, young men faced the same situation. How sad that here we are again, with dying in a foreign place among the unthinkable but possible expectations of young graduates.
There is one overriding thought that will be running through my head as I watch these two young women achieve this milestone. Where did all the years go, so quickly?
It’s not as though I’ve not been seeing them regularly, because we do. They’ve been in and out on a fairly regular basis ever since birth, and we’ve been through a lot together, so why am I suddenly so knocked out by the fact that they’re doing this graduating thing?
I’m aware that they’ve been growing up, at least I thought I was aware it was happening, but they were both little girls just a few months ago, and now? Hard to grasp, but now they’re beautiful young women, full of expectations.
Well, I’m not going to throw a wet blanket over their expectations by telling them how quickly the next few decades will fly by and how often those expectations will be exchanged for new ones.
I will tell them, however, that life is full of surprises, some of which might better be termed shocks, so stay alert, girls, and above all, expect the unexpected.
June is full of many celebratory events besides graduation; engagement parties, bridal showers, weddings, anniversaries, summer solstice, to name but a few. That means it’s party time, which means expectations of one of my favorite food groups, appetizers. Let’s begin with something elegant but easy.
SMOKED SALMON BITES
6 oz. goat cheese
3 T. prepared horseradish
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 oz. smoked salmon, cut into 1-inch wide strips
15 caper berries, drained (they’re packed in oil, look in the pickle/specialty items section), or substitute small green olives
Extra virgin olive oil
Combine the cheese, horseradish and eggs in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper; mix well.
Wrap each salmon strip around 1 T. of the cheese mixture and secure with a toothpick on which you’ve threaded a caperberry (or olive). Arrange on a platter and chill at least 20 min. When ready to serve, drizzle lightly with olive oil.
These little squares of filled puff pastry are well named; they do melt in your mouth. You may want to make double this number.
MELT-IN-YOUR-MOUTH PUFF SQUARES
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (or a shallot)
1 lb. crimini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 T. chopped parsley
1 lb. ricotta cheese
2 cans artichoke hearts (packed in water) drained and chopped
1 cup plus some extra freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided (yes, you can substitute domestic parmesan)
Pinch of nutmeg
Flour for dusting
1 1/2 lbs. frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 egg yolks, beaten
In a skillet (preferably nonstick) over med. heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook for 3 min. Add mushrooms and cook another 6 min. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the parsley and set aside to cool.
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, artichokes, the mushroom mixture and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Adjust seasonings and add the pinch of nutmeg. Mix and set aside.
On a surface dusted with flour, roll out the pastry dough and cut it in half. Place one half in a 12×15-inch baking dish. Add the mushroom mixture, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and cover with the other half of the pastry. Combine the egg yolks with 2 t. of water and brush lightly over the crust. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 min. Remove from the oven and cut into small squares, return to oven and bake for another 6 min. Remove from the oven and serve (these are best served warm). Makes about 24 depending upon size you cut the squares.
Another quick and easy, health food appetizer, but the dipping sauce makes it special. Chilled cooked shrimp are also delicious with this dip, or chunks of crab meat, or a lot of other things you can probably think of.
FRESH VEGGIES WITH HORSERADISH DIP
1 container (8 oz.) plain nonfat yogurt (I prefer Greek style yogurt; more flavor)
3 T. chopped fresh chives (or small green onion tops)
1 T. prepared horseradish
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. chopped fresh dill
Assorted fresh vegetables (whatever is freshest and in supply), such as bell pepper rings or sticks, celery and carrot sticks, cherry or grape tomatoes (red and yellow, if possible), endive spears, broccoli flowerets, etc. etc.
Mix everything but the vegetables in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (can be kept refrigerated up to 2 days). Place the dip in the center of a platter and surround it with the vegetables; serve.