Thursday, May 25, 2017

Spring into Summer!

This  has been a most enjoyable Spring!

Having our beautiful Family all together for the Easter Holiday was a wonderful start!

Two weeks after Easter I flew to Florida for five days to visit a gal pal and that was delightful!  The Gulf is gorgeous and they have a boat so I had the immense pleasure of sailing in Sarasota Bay!

Two weeks later I was in New York with the Grands, having a ball!
While in New York I took a Croissant class at Sur la Table (gift from Barby and Sean) and it was such fun!! I will post regarding that in the near future.

Now Memorial Day is here and the start of Summer!!

My daughter, Katie, recently said, "Mom, can you give me some quick meals...I need some new

Summer is the very best time to keep it clean and lean!

Tonight we are having Gulf Garlic Shrimp over Rice with Steamed Fresh Green Beans.  Total time?
28 minutes!

I prefer Gulf Shrimp and wait til they go on sale.  These 16/20 shrimp were purchased yesterday at
A cost of $14.99/lb.  I only bought twelve of them.  (6 for each of us is plenty!)  After peeling and deveining the shrimp, I place them in a baking dish with  2 tablespoons of melted butter and healthy drizzles of olive oil.  I throw in 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves, dash of salt and pepper and sprinkles of Spanish Paprika plus a shake of red pepper.  Into a 425 degree oven for just  enough time for the shrimp to turn opaque.

Meanwhile I sauteed the rice in a tad of butter, turned it to simmer and steamed the green beans and, voila, a tasty dinner in just a few minutes.

(Yes, it is white rice and I know, I know, not good BUT every once in a while, we indulge.)

Katie  is fortunate in that her sweet James has a very educated palate at not even four years!

More quick menus to come.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mother's Day Reflections

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.

To women with children, this is a very important day.

Nearing my 7th decade, I suppose one would say I am "old school".

You know what I mean.....respectful, being courteous, diligent work ethic, yada yada.....

As a woman who is one of the very few in my circle who still has a parent living Mother.....
I feel dutie-bound to provide my Mother with whatever she needs.  At times, I experience extreme
frustration.  She is sharp as a tack and remembers every little thing that ever happened to me!  That said, she also will say one thing and then when I attempt to accommodate her, she will say something
As she is approaching her 90th year, I cannot help but feel that our days with her are surely "numbered".
However, since her health is wonderful, she just may outlive all of us!!

Nonetheless, I have moments of reflection when I think back how I thought my Mother knew everything, was the most wonderful woman and could do anything. As an adult now, I see that not all of that is true.  However, rather than being disappointed in her.....I continue to value her and remember all those times she was there for me.

This brings me to Motherhood in general in my thoughts.

We Mothers spend so much of our lives in Guilt and Fear.

We constantly worry and stress from the moment we are aware of that wonder growing within us.
We worry that the Baby will be "all right".  We worry about their safety.  We worry about their
health.  This continues into their adulthood and does not abate.  (My own girls accuse me of being
a "helicopter" Mother even at their middle age!)

Then there is the Guilt.  Every Mother on this planet has made mistakes.  Almost all Mothers are
well-intentioned but many  have made mis-steps or perhaps a lapse in judgment.  Then when their children have problems, most Mothers shoulder that burden as their own personal fault.  (It can be
such a  "no win situation"!)

Speaking personally as a Mother, there is nothing greater in this life.  When you have an extension of yourself is awe-inspiring!  (despite my many mistakes!) When I look at my three daughters who are each beautiful, brilliant, caring, loving, dedicated women!  When I look at them with their Children and see what wonderful Mothers they are!  Oh my, and then the grandchildren!  Talk about a Life Complete!

I am sure most in my circle of Friends and Acquaintances feel the same!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Spring Planting!

It is finally, officially SPRING!
We all thought it would never arrive!
Now that it is here, we are scampering to collect all the flowers and herbs we can get our hands
Usually in this area, we wait until Mother's Day to plant our precious gems.
However, since we seem not in danger of frost, I am heading out tomorrow to the nursery so
I can "transform" our courtyard.
When we purchased this home, the former owner never attended to the courtyard.
It looked like this:

Pretty dismal, right?  I set about finding hardscape companies to rework this area.
Our former home had a huge deck, under roof with skylights, with an adjacent  open deck with an
arbor of wisteria......oh, I loved that space!  Bob had cable television out there for me and I would
enjoy and savor every moment I could spend there!

This courtyard was somewhat daunting!!

I interviewed five various companies.

Some of the companies suggested stamped concrete. I found that cold and boring.
Some suggested tek decking. That proved cost prohibitive and would not work with our existing
exhaust systems with the water heater, furnace, etc. which, unfortunately, vent out onto the courtyard!
Others suggested pavers.  Boring!!!
I chose Details Landscape in Hummelstown, PA.
The owners' son, Michael, dealt with me and he was so accommodating.  He re-purposed the existing
bricks, supplementing what was needed after flower (weed) beds were removed and created steps (where we had rotted wood not in anyone's code enforcement!)
with more bricks and rustic stones.  He really worked magic in that courtyard!
I was able to utilize some of our deck furniture.  I had purchased the Victoria set from Martha Stewart at KMart (remember when she hooked up with them?) and had everything.....the table, 5 chairs,
the umbrella, the chaise lounge, two rockers, the sofa, the glass coffee table.....all with cushions in
a taupe design.
Since the courtyard space is smaller than our previous decks, I gave a childhood friend of one of my daughter's (Hi, Megan!) the chaise and the rockers.
Michael was so very diligent.  I enjoyed watching his process.
Weather intervened and also a trip to Europe was in the offing (mine!!)  so the process took much longer than originally anticipated.  Michael was unflappable....always calm!  It was near October
that we finally were completed!
Here is the transformation:

Many years ago, my oldest daughter, Christina, gave me a strawberry pot she had filled with
fresh herbs for Mother's Day .....such a wonderful, creative idea!
I tried to replicate that last year and had some success. (yay!)
This year I am going to attempt to grow wisteria in a pot!  (don't tell Bob!  He always thought
the wisteria was the most invasive thing he ever encountered!)  I am hoping to have it entwine
itself on our privacy fence....although I don't know if that is in accordance with HOA rules.
Surely the next post will be about my great finds at the nursery!!!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Update on Black Bean Cakes!

The whole family will be together for Easter, 2017 and I am so very excited!
It has been a few years since we have been able to accomplish this.  One recent year there
were work conflicts and two years ago our son-in-law had two heart attacks!!! So, this year
will be such a blessing!

I am preparing foods and sauces for the upcoming holiday and  I am freezing what I can so I can
enjoy my precious angels while they are here (and not be in the kitchen the whole time!).

One of our girls is sort-of, kind-of-like, vegetarian!  (just don't let her near a BLT!)  I had devised
a Black Bean Burger for this daughter,  and did post it on my blog (see Archives, May 20, 2014).  However, I need to update the recipe and my method.

In my previous post, I had listed 1/2 c. romano as an ingredient.

One ingredient change was an asiago blend in lieu of the romano  that I used to get at Garden Gourmet on Broadway in New York City.  Since I am now in Harrisburg, I cannot readily obtain that wonderful cheese.  It was a blend of parmesan, romano and asiago......yum.

Now I put in  whatever I can get!  Any hard cheese, along those lines, will be fine. But if you can get
some asiago, grate it and mix it with some parmesan or romano and it will be wonderful!

Also, I was preparing a quinoa blend that was really wonderful by Earthly Choice.  Again, that is
not readily available to me so I have just been using red and white quinoa.....which is just fine.

And, lastly, I used to cook all the bean cakes and then freeze them.  Now I have been preparing the mixture, letting it rest in the fridge to marry the flavors, and then forming the cakes and layering
them between parchment and freezing them.

It is such a delight to pull one or more out, when in the mood,  and saute with butter and olive oil til nice and crisp and enjoy,  seemingly with no preparation!

I do hope you will try these and, if so, please let me know how you enjoy them!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Two of My Most Valued Kitchen Items

What is the most important utensil or gadget in your kitchen?
Perhaps your costly mixer?  Are you fortunate enough to have a robot coupe?

I have knives that cost $80.00 plus, each.

My boards are the best that money can buy.

But what do I value and use most?

Bet you didn't see that coming!

The masking tape was $1.00 from the Dollar Store.  The marker also $1.00 at the Dollar Store.

I don't set foot into my kitchen that I am not using these two items.

When I return from the food stores and market and am putting foods into the fridge, I mark everything.   I give myself "use by" dates.  That way there is no question as to when the item was purchased.

Some foods I buy do have dates on and some do not.  And then there is the "use by" until  you open
stamp on some foods and, well, that is for a future posting.  (I remember when a food item had a date
far into the future but it was now opened and this person thought it would still be good for months, til that use by date!)

When I am preparing something and plan to freeze a portion of it, out comes the masking tape and
marker so it can go into the freezer with no questions as to content and date. Everything in my fridge
is dated.  So are my self items.  Whenever I open anything, I put masking tape on it with the date!

When we were catering we had food service labels on which we would write all of this information.
However, they were so very sticky that they would not come off the container!  We would end up
soaking, scraping, so much work and usually leftover sticky residue!  Masking tape is a breeze, costs little and comes right off!

I also use the masking tape to seal my salad greens if I am keeping them in their original bag. (Also, my bags of barley, lentils, beans in their original bags. )  I just express all the air and fold and tuck the bag and put a strip of masking tape on so it will be tight.  Works like a charm and my greens are good for several days.

Sometimes the old fashioned, basic way really can get the job done best!

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Very BEST (and easiest) Lemon Curd!

Many years ago, perhaps in the late 1970's or early 1980's, we would have Princess House Parties.
Princess House sold crystal and bone china.  You would be a hostess, inviting friends and neighbors
into your home and the representative would put on a display.  You would then feed your guests,
usually coffee and pastries, and they would place orders.

When I was hosting one of these Princess House Parties, I wanted to make petite tarts filled with
lemon.  I believe this recipe was from an old Gourmet magazine, but I can't be positive.  The very
interesting fact with this recipe is that it has no butter.  Yes, you read butter.  So,
when you glance over the ingredients, rest assured that I did not omit anything.  Almost all recipes
for lemon curd call for butter, but not this one.

The absolute success for this is the quality of the lemons.  Nice large and very juicy lemons will
yield the loveliest, tartest lemon curd.

When zesting the lemons (or oranges), I prefer the zester tool.  The microplane does not work as well,
in that you don't have total control and may incorporate pith into your zest.

Since I plan to prepare meringues "nests" for Easter, having four egg whites remaining to freeze is perfect.

The Very BEST (and easiest) Lemon Curd

4 egg yolks
6 whole eggs
Beat eggs well and set aside.

zest of 4 large lemons
2 c. granulated sugar
Place in processor and process for 2 minutes

Juice the zested lemons.  The yield should be about 1-1/3 c. juice.  Add the juice to the eggs and
beat well.
Place a pot filled partially with water on stove to boil.
Place metal bowl with egg and sugar mixture that will fit over pot without touching the water.
Reduce the heat to medium.

Whisk constantly til mixture gets very frothy.
Continue whisking til mixture becomes thick.
The classic test is to make sure the curd coats the back of a spoon.
Strain the curd into another bowl, discarding anything remaining in the strainer.

Cool to room temperature.

The curd can be covered and kept in fridge or frozen for future use.

Oranges and limes can also be used to make curd.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A "Lucy" Moment?

The remodeling was completed Friday.
 Saturday I went to the paint store and bought stain for the
steps.  I was so excited!  I put the stain on one step to  test it and was so thrilled that it almost matched the hardwood flooring!
I was so very pleased that I started to stain all the steps, leaving one or two in between so I could
have access to go up.

The new sleeper sofa was going to be delivered early (as in 6:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.!) Monday morning and I was so happy everything was clicking right along.
Sunday I woke and asked Bob how the steps looked this morning and were they dry.  He mumbled
that they looked fine and he assumed they were dry.......a clear indication that he had not checked
them out at all!
I ran downstairs to see my "masterpiece" - and was so dismayed!  The steps were soaking wet!
How in the world were men going to troop in here with new furniture?
Bob was incredulous that the stain had not dried overnight.  He mentioned that today most paints, etc.
dry in one hour!
This was something I really could not deal with just now.  I had to get to Mass and then get to my
Mother and brother for Sunday Lunch.  I checked the can of stain.....which read, to wipe immediately after brushing on stain for a light color and to wait five minutes for a desired darker color before wiping off.
Ooooops!  Ok, so maybe I didn't quite think this through in my excitement.  (I did not wipe.)
I told Bob I would wipe down the steps as soon as I returned.
It is in moments like these that Bob tells me I should have red hair.  I think he is going to start calling
himself Ricky.