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
ideas."

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 ...my 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
else!
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 .....it 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
on!
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 correctly......no 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.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Childhood Friends

Today I had a reunion with three gals (and brother of one) from our old City neighborhood.  We all
moved there in 1950, 1952 and 1954.
We are each now approaching our 69th year.
We have drifted in and out of each others' lives over these many years.  Some have had health
issues which were overcome.  All are still married to their original spouse. (this was noted as
being something of an achievement!)  All are now retired from careers and owning businesses.
It was mentioned that it had been twelve years since we had all been together last.

I was overcome by so many memories.

Ruthie had an older sister, Delores, who was in a high school sorority and was always going to proms and dances.  We would sit on the front porch and watch across the street as Delores would come out in yet another beautiful gown.  She was about six years older than us and we viewed her as a movie star!

Susie was the tomboy, always ready for an adventure and always with a big smile on her face.  To
this day she still has that big smile on her face.

Cathy had the big house her father had designed at the beginning of Bellvue Park.  In those days Bellvue Park was a beautiful area with stately homes.  Her father was an architect and had been working on a carriage house for a client.  The client decided to do something else so her father
bought the house for himself.  He was so very ahead of his time with his designs.  I had so many
good times in that house.  When her father re-designed Cathy's bedroom when she approached her
teen years, he designed open shelving, baskets instead of drawers, no furniture.  I thought it the
most innovative and sophisticated!  When we made a bedroom in our basement for our daughter,
Barbara, I replicated that same idea with the open closet and no furniture!

It was with such ease we slipped in and out of topics in our conversation during lunch.....as though all those years had not passed.

And I was struck by how similar we all are.  Some have children, some do not.  I am the only one
with a parent still living.  Yet we all still have the same values, appreciations and expectations as
we did back in the '50's.  We are very much of the same mind.

As I was leaving our delightful luncheon, I was struck by this sameness in our thinking of religion,
politics, the state of the world.  While it gave me a feeling of comfort in my nostalgia, it also made
me think of the next generation.  Will they also be of the same mind in another twenty, thirty years?

When people reflect on the '50's (and most often with a sense of pining for those easier times),
we truly were a different breed.  Today everything is instantaneous.  Technology has overtaken our
lives.

But we were the lucky ones.  We knew what life was like before smart phones, iphones, ipads, etc.
We played jacks, jumped rope, climbed trees and made our own fun.  We would be gone from morning til dinner time playing with our friends and our parents needed never to worry.

I left our luncheon with a sense of unification with my friends, even after all these years.





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Making the Easter Pies

Today was Easter Pie Day!

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I usually have my granddaughter, Madeleine, with me but
it was not looking promising this year with her classes and work schedule.  Since the families
from New York are coming, I didn't think I would be able to make these and also be out and about
with them, so I am going to freeze these pies and hope for the best!

We will have these Easter Sunday before, during and after our Easter Dinner!  Then each family
will also have a pie to take to their own homes.

Yesterday and last night I made the dough, diced the mozzarella, pepperoni, ham, cooked the
sausage and hard-boiled the eggs.








Today was rolling the dough, combining the filling, lining the pans, filling them, topping them with another crust  and baking them off.

Here is the recipe for our Easter Pie:  this makes 4-5 pies, depending on how full you fill them

Dough:
*make in mixer, NOT in processor
6 cups all purpose flour
1 t. salt
1-1/2 c. Crisco (not flavored)
6 eggs, well beaten
4-5 T. cold water to make soft dough

Put flour and salt in mixing bowl and stir.  Add Crisco and mix til blended.  Add half the beaten
eggs and mix.  Add remaining eggs and the water.  The dough should be soft and pliable.  Wrap
in saran and chill.

Roll dough thin and line pie pans.  Brush bottoms with beaten egg white.  Chill.

Filling:

2 lb. ricotta cheese
8 raw eggs, well beaten
12 hard cooked eggs
1-2 lbs. ground sausage, cooked and drained and cooled (I use 2 lbs. as my family likes a lot of sausage)
2-1/2 lbs. cooked ham, small dice
1/2  lb. mozzarella, small dice
1/2 lb. pepperoni (remove casing and dice)
1 c. fresh parmesan, finely grated
fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Mix well and divide among pie plates.  Each pie will probably take about 4 cups filling.  Roll dough
thin and top each pie.  Brush with egg yolk with dash salt.  Make slits for vents in top crust.  Bake
at 375* about one hour.  Pies should be golden brown.
2017 costs:  about $12.00 per pie

Bottom left pie has an S on top to indicate pie with no hard cooked eggs for son-in-law, Sean.




Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dottie's Little Black Book

Growing up, I lived in the City on 20th Street.  The family next door was from the coal regions
with six children.  The father was a state police officer and the mother was a marvel - cooking,
baking, making clothes for her children and helping all the elderly in the neighborhood.  Her name
was Dottie Lonardi.
In those days, neighbors knew each other by name, were in and out of each other's homes and all
looked out for each other.  If an elderly neighbor needed a ride to a doctor, no problem.  If someone
baked cookies, there was a plate set out for the children to sample.  When our neighbor on the other
side, a widow by the name of Mrs. Frain, procured a television set in the early 1950's, I used to go
over to her house every day to watch 'Howdy Doody'.
My Mother was a great cook.  However, she did very little baking.  Dottie, on the other hand, would
start baking her Christmas Cookies in early December.  I remember being in absolute awe at the many tins of different cookies that were stacked, seemingly, up to the ceiling.  My very favorite
cookies were the Meringue Kisses.  Dottie always chuckled over this as she used to refer to them as
her "leftover cookies", utilizing the leftover egg whites and nuts.
If Dottie sewed dresses for her daughters, she made one for me as well.  If she sewed pajamas for her
girls, I would also get a pair.  When her husband, Carlo, lined his daughters up for a trim of their
bangs, I was included in the queue.
We moved out to the suburbs when I was eleven and were not in much contact with this wonderful
family.  Living in a single home was a major adjustment for us.  People seemed more reserved.  You
could go for days without even seeing some of the neighbors.  We did get to know the neighbors close by on the street but not much beyond.
Many years later when I was newly married, I decided I wanted to learn to really sew.....not just that
awful apron in Home Economics class!  I bought a Singer Fashion Mate portable sewing machine from a friend's mother (my own Mother went halves with me as I promised to do all her repairs!).
I then called Dottie and asked her if she would teach me to sew.  She happily obliged, telling me
what to purchase and setting a date.
I went to her house in the morning and she took me through a quick sewing course from ironing the
pattern
to how to hem.  (I had chosen a jumpsuit pattern).  When we ended for the day, she handed
me a cassarole to throw in my oven when I got home so I would have a nice dinner!
About fifteen years later I opened my catering business and was able to cater rehearsal dinners for
this family.
When I was in their home I was asking Dottie for the recipe for the beloved Meringue Kisses and
she reached for her "little black book".  It was a very small looseleaf filled with her cookie, cake,
pie, stews, roasts, and pasta recipes which were written in her own hand.  That is when I got the
idea to re-create Dottie's Little Black Book.
I asked her if I could borrow her book to copy it, promising that I would take great care with it.
In those days, one did not have a personal printer.  I had to go to the convenience store where one
copy cost ten cents.  Since she had six children (I figured I would copy for each of them so
they could have their Mother's recipes as well), I needed seven copies of each page.




I am currently re-organizing recipes from home, catering, our pastry shop and, Dottie's Little
Black Book (which is bringing back such fond memories) with the hopes of including these in
a soon to be written book.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Remodeling Glitches

Since we always had planned to use the carpeting removed from the first floor, when we had switched to hardwood flooring,  I had proceeded to obtain three estimates for the padding and installation.  It was during this time that I learned about alternate flooring for sub-grade areas (LVP). However, after researching the luxury vinyl planks, we decided it was much too expensive for this project.

Then the Bob came up with a thrifty idea.....utilize both the carpeting  and the leftover hardwood flooring from the first floor.   This seemed an economical solution to a rather costly venture.

I had already received three estimates for installing our carpeting and had decided to go with the one
who had seemed to provide the most information and with the most reasonable cost.  I gave the
estimator the measurements of the area where we now wanted the hardwood.  He came back with a price that knocked me off my chair.  His numbers seemed very high for a small space.

So the Bob and our contractor both re-measured the area.  I then had the estimator return to our home
to re-measure.  Again, the estimator's numbers were high.....higher than our measurements and none
of us could figure that out.  A room is a room - isn't it? Or, as they say - it is what it is.  (so how can the numbers vary so much?)

Since we were scheduled for installation, I decided to have the installer re-measure and we would go
with his numbers.  Which is what I did.  And, he came up with numbers also different from the estimator - and us!!!

There was a problem with the carpeting.  When the men unrolled the two pieces of carpeting, there were marks on the one and the head installer was worried there actually would not be enough carpet.
They turned the pieces around, cut out the part with the marks and pieced the two together to do the larger part of the room.  However, now they would not have enough carpeting to do our stairs and landing.

The installer was also concerned there would not be enough hardwood.  However, that turned out to
be a false notion as, not only was there enough hardwood to cover the small area, there was also enough to do the landing as well.  Since we did not have something called a stair nose, he could not
proceed with the landing.

The men had cut the hardwood in our courtyard and there was a big pile of sawdust on a snow mound plus all over the bricks.  The one man swept a little,  which actually spread the sawdust into the areas that lead to the garage.  What a mess.

I told the head installer to please confer with the estimator since they did not install carpeting and padding on the stairs and landing, which I assumed would be reflected in our balance due.

I also noticed exactly where the seam in the carpeting was and mentioned that to the installers.  They assured me that the carpet was tight just then and would relax and the seam would not be noticeable.

A short time later,  the estimator called me.  He was outraged that I assumed there would be a decrease in price since the stairs and landing had not been done.  He explained that the installers had to seam my
carpeting and it caused them more work and it was not their fault the carpet had marks and could not
be used for the stairs.  He told me that with carpeting, once the installer touches anything, we are charged.   I was appalled that he was raising his voice to me and also did not understand why I would be charged for work not completed.  (if this is the way of the carpet industry, I would need to be educated as I had no idea they charge for installation ultimately, for whatever reason, not done)

I ended the conversation and went to tell my husband what had occurred.  He offered to call the estimator and I gave him my blessing as I did not want to deal with someone who had become, in my
opinion, so unprofessional.

My husband told the man to come up with an equitable price as he wanted to be fair but he did not expect to pay for padding for the stairs and landing  which the installers had taken with them, nor did he expect to pay for installation that had not occurred.  The estimator said he would re-figure and call the next day.

There was much debris on the hardwood floor area so I used a soft micro-fiber mop to clean the floor.
Then I saw the gouge!  Right in the middle of the doorway on the transition piece was a large gash.
As I bent down to see this closer, I also noticed one of the planks under a cabinet was "popped" up.





Also, the entire brand new and freshly painted baseboards had a knife mark all the way around the room.....picture a car that had been keyed.  In the center of the one wall of baseboard was a large gouge (what is with these gouges?) and had to be about 1/2 inch deep.






Fast forward to the next morning when the contractor arrived and went downstairs. To say he was displeased to see his pristine work damaged would be an understatement.

When we, as consumers, hire for services to be performed in our home, we are really taking quite a chance.  We are depending on these individuals to be honest, competent - "experts" in their fields.
I have no knowledge whatsoever regarding flooring, carpeting, installation, etc.  That is the exact
reason I was hiring someone to accomplish this!

It took several hours for the contractor's assistant to repair the damage these installers caused on the baseboards.

The estimator called and left a message as to the new balance due him and, again, his numbers do not add up!  (we are still being charged for some installation not done)   However, I am writing a check just so I can be done with this outfit.

I will have to figure out what to do about the popped plank and the gouge in the transition piece as I do not want that company anywhere near my house ever again.

I thought I had done my homework on this phase of the project:  obtaining three different estimates, rather than just one, and  entering into an agreement with a well established company.  My son-in-law told me I should have opted out earlier when I had mis-givings over the measurements......and I do
believe he was right!!!




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SNOWBOUND reflections

I just love snow days!  I savor the slow-down process.....orange olive oil cake  is baking in oven permeating the house with the most delightful aromas!......about to prepare chicken matzo ball soup
with my wonderful homemade chicken stock.......and, finally, homemade bread---which is taking
12 hours to rise!!!

I cannot open my front door~snow is piled against it.  Our courtyard is a "wind -blown fortress" of
snow!

The BOB is taking a nap therefore I am left to my own devices.....

The entire time of the many years that I was catering, I never had a snow day.

I could not "assume" that anyone would cancel an event due to inclement weather.  Therefore, I always had to proceed with the thought that the event was a "go".

I trudged through more snow and slush and ice to obtain ingredients and then to my shop to prepare
said ingredients......it was at times a monumental effort.  I am sure that is why I enjoy "snow days"
to the nth degree now!!!



For a few days, I do not mind being "housebound".....usually it is only one day, however.

And in these wondrous moments of intense pleasure of "staying put".....my mind does wander to recent events......as in, going to several stores and paying for my purchases and not being told, "
Thank You".

Typically, the clerk is a young woman, probably still in her teens.  She hands me the receipt and says nothing.  I usually look her in the eye and say, "You are welcome!".....to which some may reply, quite flustered, "oh, thank you".....whatever happened to the New YOrk, "thank you and have a nice day"??

I do not blame the young clerk at all.  I do blame my peers and those slightly younger.  It is our job to
teach the younger generations.  If I encounter a clerk with no decorum, no professionalism, then that is our fault.

It has happened so very many times of late that I really think this must be addressed.

Another thought.......

every store I enter has music blaring from a PA system.  When was it deemed that music (or any noise) should blare throughout the stores?    It does not matter what store you enter, Home Goods, Pier I, Joanne's Fabrics, etc.   I have discussed this with Giant store employees and they tell me they cannot stand the noise and must make every effort to block it.  When mentioning same to the Giant managers, they say that studies show the blaring of noise will increase afternoon productivity of employees.  Therefore, I assume that Giant stores (along with many other businesses, apparently)  value possible increased productivity (which appears very sketchy) to the comfort and dignity of their customers. (and, actually, their employees when you get down to it).

All I know is that I cannot wait to get out of the grocery store (typically Giant) to get away from the noise!!!  And many times, do not get everything I went into the store to purchase!

BOB is, once again, shoveling the courtyard (note to self:  next time buy integrated garage!) and I am sampling the soup......absolutely to die for!



The contracted snow removal service is now out shoveling....their snow plows seem to have a problem....too much snow for their equipment.

I am heading back to finish Longmire on Netflex.....I am a bit sad....like when you finish a novel that has you enraptured.....I have invested in Walt and Cady and Henry Standing Bear.....I don't want to leave them!  (Thank you Cindy Freed!)

I am on my third "sampling" of the Chicken Matzo Ball Soup.....delish!!!!!

Tomorrow we will all, most likely, be back to our own versions of "normal".  Hopefully, we can all
take with us a sense of peace, a sense of "doing what is right", a courteous manner.....  here's hoping!






Sunday, March 12, 2017

CPR class

Today I attended a CPR class at St. Catherine Laboure School.  It was provided by Holy Spirit and
American Heart Association, in conjunction with St. Catherine's.

When I told the BOB I had signed up for this class, he said, "all you need to know is 'Staying' Alive'.
He told me you compress to the beat..... and, as I attempted to do so, he said, "Well, you have to KEEP the beat!  Or the person will die!"

There were seven attendees total today and the instructor was from Holy Spirit Hospital.  She was
very pleasant and did a wonderful job instructing us.

We learned to do CPR for adults, along with AED (defibrillator) plus CPR and AED for children, and CPR for infants.  We also learned CHOKING for all.  Below is my little peanut.



When I was in New York City caring for little Katie and Mia, I had researched these classes.  In Harrisburg, they were provided by fire companies at a $50=60 cost.  However, they were never on
a day or evening I was in Harrisburg!  I checked into classes in New York City (they were quite costly!) but could never schedule one for an evening that would work for me!  Therefore, I never took a class, much to my regret!

I would so highly recommend taking this course!

I have a 90 year old mother and am with the New York Grands whenever I can and I consider this
an absolute MUST!

And, the cost of this day?  $16.00 for the book!!!!  Can you believe that?  (perhaps the Church picked
up some of the cost?)

My dear, dear friends (Pat and Chet Hickey) recently had an experience where a man collapsed and
Chet, being an Army Medic and having great knowledge and experience, administered CPR  to the man and saved his life!!!

What more can I possibly say?

I urge you to look into and, hopefully, take this course......a few hours of your time could save a
life!!




Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Easter Pie

Many, many years ago I worked at a popular local restaurant.  I became friendly with an Italian family who were regulars at the restaurant.   Through discussions, I learned about Easter Pie from them.

It is an involved savory pie prepared before Easter, usually on Good Friday or Saturday, and enjoyed
on Easter Sunday and thereafter.

This was totally new to me....I had never heard of it. My Mother-in-law did not make it.   Then, once I started making the pies, I would discover that almost every Italian family had their own version of "Easter Pie".

The original recipe given to me by those customers had a yield of 11-12 pies!  That is what I made the first year I attempted these pies.

I then obtained a recipe from a dear family friend.  Her recipe gave a yield of five (5) pies. (It has ham, pepperoni, sausage, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and tons of eggs!)    That was
a bit more reasonable, especially since I was working out of a tiny galley kitchen!

As my daughters grew and acquired husbands, the Easter Pie became a Giordano tradition....with everyone wanting a pie for their family.  My firstborn granddaughter, Madeleine, became my assistant in recent years.

We would work for about three days.  One day would be chopping all of the cheeses and meats.
Another day we would prepare all of the doughs and let them rest in the fridge overnight.  Finally,
we would assemble the pies.  It was wonderful spending the time with her.  We would then color
eggs....not any ordinary coloring, mind you!.....we would color our eggs GOLD!  It was great fun.

Now I am up to about 8-9 pies to make!

This year my dear Madeleine may not be able to help as much as she is quite busy with her college studies and working.  (My second granddaughter would be a great help at only six years of age, but she is in New York!)

These photos are our Easter Pie work-in-progress from two years ago.









I am contemplating making the pies ahead of time and freezing them, since I may be doing them all by myself.   I have never done this before so I don't know if it will compromise the pies or not.

Do I hear anyone volunteering to help??

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New Culinary Adventures





Typically on a Saturday or Sunday, I plan the menus for the week, based on what our social
schedule will be.  As you may recall, recently I have been composing menus based on whatever
is frozen in our two freezers!  (And we have had some surprises!)

From the menus I decide and list what ingredients I may need at the store or farmers market.  (I
confess I even type up these lists!)

Aside from mysteries, I tend to read anything relating to foods.  The combinations and pairings
of many cultures is absolutely fascinating.  Many I am quite familiar with but have perhaps not
attempted a certain recipe.  (I do draw the line at some of Anthony Bourdain's meals and various
insects are not for me!)

With all of this in mind, I am about to embark on a culinary journey.  I have decided not to prepare
any of the tried, true, "go to" recipes in the near future.  Instead we will have shawarma, tagines,
curries and tandooris which are now staples in England.

Proteins with cinnamon, raisins and figs may be a hard sell for BOB, but we will give it a go!

I hope you will enjoy this culinary adventure with me!

Having decided on this, tonight we are having rigatoni and meatballs!!!




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Beloved New York

I have had a love affair with New York City since I was nine years old!

My Mother and I would drive over the George Washington Bridge and up over Bear Mountain to
Massachusetts to see my Grandfather each summer.  I would view the apartment buildings from the
Henry Hudson Parkway and tell my Mother that, "one day I am going to live here!"

There used to be baskets as you entered the George Washington Bridge and the cost was ten cents.
One time, my Mother only had a nickel and five pennies and thought she should get into another lane since she did not have the required dime.  While attempting to get into another lane, she then actually
was blocking two lanes.....amidst much horn blowing and angst of other drivers.  I remember my
Mother becoming quite flustered.  I also remember myself slinking way, way down in my seat!!!

When I turned nineteen years of age, I made my plans to move to New York City.  I did make my
dream a reality.

I also returned home after a year to visit  my parents and regroup, started dating my future husband and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fastforward many years and two of my daughters moved to New York City.  When one of my daughters was going to have a baby I agreed to help out and would drive to New York every Sunday and return to Harrisburg every Thursday or Friday.  It was such a fun time.  I would go to the Harrisburg library every week and choose audio books to enjoy on my travels.  I would become so engrossed in a book that the next thing I knew, I had arrived at my destination!

Of course, the added super BONUS was being with my second granddaughter!  I became a regular
at the NYC Public Library, the City parks and great friends with other grandmothers and Nannies!
What an absolutely lovely time!

I was also able to explore areas of New York City that I had only read about or had visited briefly
as a young woman.  City Island was a special treat!  It was getting a bit down-trodden upon my
re-visit but still a lot of fun.  In fact, we had a Bon Voyage Nanny dinner there, on the water, as I
ended my nanny duties for the summer one year!

There is just something about New York City that is unlike any other!  There is an air of confidence.....I don't know if I can truly identify it......just something special, very special!!

I used to feel so sorry for the tourists who were deposited at Port Authority or Penn Station and then spent the afternoon, evening at the "old" Times Square.  They used to cry out, "Ugh!  I hate New York City!" (no wonder!)

They never had the opportunity to walk around the upper East Side, marveling at the gorgeous
brownstones, tree lined streets, the gentility of it all!

Or the upper West Side with just as wonderful brownstones and that special vibe!  And those
fabulous bakeries!!!!

New Yorkers (especially the born and bred) are a warm, generous, kind people......does this surprise
anyone not familiar with NYC?  It seems they tend to get a very bad reputation and tourists complain how rude they are.

Never have I experienced anything like that.  True New Yorkers are a fun-loving lot, with plenty
of tales to tell and pints to quaff, all with hearty laughter and smiles.

I become so excited each and every time we are planning to go to New York....I know I will have
a wonderful experience!

Conversely, The BOB hates New York City!!!!  I should qualify that.....he hates the 78 traffic to and from New York City and he hates the crowds!  Once there and ensconced with his youngest grandchildren, he is a happy camper!

The Waldorf Astoria just closed yesterday.....for a three year renovation.  This made me quite sad.....
so much of New York City (as with other cities too) is changing.....and I am at an age where change is not so easily accepted!!!


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Possibly Our Last Remodeling Project

When we purchased this house a little over three years ago, we gutted the kitchen, pulled up brand new carpet in living and dining areas and put in hardwood floors.  We designed and created a kitchen
that I am just mad about!  I truly spend most of my time there!  I would not change one thing!  It is perfect for me.

The third bedroom-loft area was designated as a television room.  While it was small, it really fit the bill.  The living room, being open, was neat and tidy since no television was there.  No glasses, papers, books....stuff all strewn about.

However, we had talked about creating a family room in the basement when we moved in but became involved in all the other projects.  Then BOB in his infinite wisdom decided we really didn't need another area.  After a meeting of the minds, we are currently embarked on the re-do!  (It will be a great place for the grandchildren plus the sports-loving sons-in-law the few times they are all here together!)






I wanted to install a gas linear fireplace.....they are so cool!  However it was getting expensive,
complicated and we only have our  creative construction crew for a limited time before they start
a really big project so we decided to shelve that idea for now.  We can always install one at a later
time as they made sure all electrical, etc. is in place.

I want to put cabinets and counter at the base of the steps to have a "craft, wrapping center, buffet,
etc." area.  We had a similar set up at our former home.  Picked out lovely cabinets, they are being
ordered and delivered this week!

Bob thought it would be a good idea to utilize the brand new carpeting from the first floor that we had pulled up for the family room.  However, he wanted to be sure we had a sub-floor over the concrete.  He chose a rubber type that is like tiles that interlock and has a vapor barrier.  We will get a good padding and then should be all set!

The dry wall is up and electrical all in place and we are moving along!


Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Wretched Cold

I have been down and out recently with a wretched cold.  I usually get one really bad cold per year and it settles right into my chest.  Hopefully, this was my yearly malady.

We all talk about how progressive we are technically and men on the moon and all that.  Yet, here we
are, each of us, at some time suffering with a cold virus.  The runny nose, fever, chills, stuffy head and that awful coughing!!!  I swear I bruised a rib this time with the coughing.  I can pretty much go
all day cough-free but the minute the sun goes down and it is time for bed, I start with the hacking.

When they came out with Nyquil, I thought it was the magic elixir.  I would take a dose of the Nyquil
and sleep and not cough, at least not so much.

Then a funny thing happened.....Nyquil stopped working on me.  Instead of lulling me to sleep and
getting my much needed rest, it enervated me to the point that I could not close my eyes!!  I also
continued to cough so much that, not only did I get no sleep, but neither did anyone within hearing!!!

Then I happened upon a cough syrup with codeine.  It was the magic of all cough syrups!  A couple
of doses and I slept like a baby and it suppressed my coughing.  I was better and over my cold in a matter of days.   However, that apparently became a street-drug "gold" and the government clamped down on all prescriptions for this cough syrup.  Where in the past the pharmacy would fill the prescription and it was a large bottle, now you get a few doses in a teeny, tiny bottle.

With this last cold, I had the same thing happen with the magic syrup that had occurred with the Nyquil!  It did not quiet my cough like before.  So, I had to resort to the original, old fashioned
remedy......the Hot Toddy:

One cup hot tea, 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon Honey and One Shot Whiskey.

I was skeptical, but so desperate!  However, lo and behold, it worked!!!!

I was scheduled to go to New York to see the Grands and I think there might have been a wee bit
of mind over matter??.....nevertheless, in just a couple of days I was cough free and able to go about
my business.

So, the old wives' tale overcomes, once again!!!



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Blasts from the Past

Remember all of those cassaroles from the 1950's.  Most of them were awful!  To this
day I cannot abide canned mushroom soup!  That was in almost everything back then.

A dear childhood friend, Rhea Waugaman Clagett, made a cassarole over 40 years ago when
faced with feeding a crowd.  We were in her home in Annapolis, Maryland and since we
were all just married, we did not have a lot of money.

She put on the loveliest buffet and the cassarole she made was Johnny Marzetti.  I just remember
it had ground beef, green olives, lots of cheese and was yummy.

I am in the process of organizing recipe binders and found many I had used in catering for
"1950's retro" themed meals.  I started thinking of this cassarole and searched the internet for the recipe.

Of course as with almost all foods, there are many variations on this dish.  I never did find the
exact one Rhea made (must ask her for the recipe soon) but forged ahead and made one for
dinner tonight.....it's grey, chilly with a snow storm warning in effect so I thought a comfort-
food type meal was called for this evening.  However, where this was mostly noodles with a
little bit of hamburger in the past (a wonderful "stretcher"), I only made about 2 cups of noodles
and had almost 2 lbs. of ground beef! I  also put a combination of mozzarella and muenster on top,
nice and gooey! (The BOB did look at me a bit funny when I served him his plate as this is not
our style of eating).  I thought it very tasty and it brought back great memories!

Johnny Marzetti Recipe

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef (85%)
1/2 c. sliced green olives (optional)
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 c. cooked noodles (elbow macaroni, penne, egg noodles)
25 oz. tomato sauce, jarred or homemade
salt and pepper
dash red pepper flakes
olive oil
4 oz. mozzarella, grated
4 oz. muenster, grated

1.  Heat saute pan and then drizzle with oil.  Saute onions, add green pepper and then garlic,
stirring for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2.   Remove to warm plate and add the ground beef, breaking into small pieces and turning til no red remains.  Add the onion mixture, the olives and tomato sauce.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add dash red pepper flakes, stirring to incorporate.
3.   Boil noodles til al dente and drain.  Place noodles in cassarole dish and mix with 1/4 of the beef mixture. Then top with the remaining beef mixture.
4.   Add cheeses on top of the beef and bake at 350* in oven for 30 minutes.








Another fun, fun food item from the old days was tomato aspic!  In the 14th century, aspic recipes
were found in  Le Viandier, a recipe collection.    Cooks went wild for the next several centuries, encasing anything they could think of in aspic.  Eggs in aspic (not my favorite!), meats, including tongue, in aspic. I resurrected  the tomato aspic several times for catering events, much to everyone's delight.  My Mother used to make this, served on fresh greens as a salad.  She would be quite creative and innovative with our salads.  One of my favorites was pear halves (I think they were canned bartletts) with cream cheese in the center.....yum!

Tomato Aspic

3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
3 c. cold tomato juice (I used V-8 juice)
2 c. cold tomato juice (V-8), heated to boiling
1/4 c. lemon juice, strained
2 T. sugar
1-1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
4-6 dashes Tobasco

1.  In large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1 c. cold juice and let stand 1 minute.

2.  Add hot juice and stir til gelatin is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.

3.  Stir in remaining 2 c. cold juice, lemon juice, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and Tobasco.

4.  Pour into 5-1/2 c. ring mold or bowl and chill til firm, about 4 hours.

5.  To serve, unmold onto bed of greens and garnish with fresh vegetables, or serve as side
with Chicken Salad.

A really nifty take on the aspic was in a Gourmet Magazine many, many years ago incorporating
Prosecco........boy, did I have trouble obtaining that!  Here in Pennsylvania the liquor stores did
not carry Prosecco then!  I made mine in individual small rounded, sloped bowls and it was the
best presentation ever! The berries "floated" in the clear gelatin.   (I probably have a photo somewhere!)  Here is a variation on that recipe, using a terrine.  This is a fabulous dessert to
offer in Summer.

Prosecco and Summer Fruit Terrine

4 c. mixed fruit such as berries, halved seedless grapes and/or peeled and thinly sliced peacahes
2-3/4 t. Knox unflavored gelatin
2 c. Prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine)
1/2 c. sugar
2 t. fresh lemon juice, strained

1.  Arrange fruit in a 1-1/2 quart glass, ceramic or nonstick terrine or loaf pan.

2.  Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 c. Prosecco in a small bowl and let stand 1 minute to soften.  Bring
1 c. Prosecco to a boil with sugar, stirring til sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring til dissolved.  Stir in remaining 3/4 c. Prosecco and lemon juice.  Transfer to a metal
bowl set inside a larger bowl of ice and cold water.  Cool mixture, stirring occasionally, just to
room temperature.

3.  Slowly pour mixture over fruit and chill, covered, at least 6 hours.

4.  To unmold, dip pan in a larger pan of hot water 3-5 seconds to loosen.  Invert serving plate
over terrine and invert terrine onto plate.

And then, of course, there was the 1970's rage:  fondue.  I had the requisite fondue pot with the forks
and was always on the hunt for emmentaler cheese.  In the late 1990's I served cheese fondue as
part of an hors d'oeuvres buffet and it was quite fun seeing people react to this for the very first time!

Fondue

1/2 lb. Emmental cheese, grated
1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 T. corn starch (cornflour)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 c. dry white wine
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. Kirsch, cherry brandy
1/2 t. dry mustard
pinch nutmeg

1.  In small bowl, toss the cheeses with the corn starch and set aside.

2.  In the ceramic fondue pot, rub the inside with the garlic and then discard.

3.  Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to gentle simmer.  Gradually
stir in the cheeses.  Melting the cheeses slowly makes for a smooth fondue.  Once smooth, stir in
the Kirsch, mustard, and nutmeg.

4.  Serve with chunks of bread, apple chunks, blanched vegetables, spearing with fondue forks
or skewers and swirling in the fondue.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Switching Roles with Parents

At some point in our lives we already have, will in the future or currently are caring for
 an elderly parent in some fashion.

I am most fortunate to still have my Mother living, as most in my circle of friends and
acquaintances no longer have their parents.  Since my Mother, at 90,  is in excellent health,
can still drive a vehicle, prepares her own meals and does the crossword puzzle (in ink!),
 I am not yet a healthcare giver, but, rather, a companion and helper.

As I do not have a sibling who can assist me, the responsibilities remain mine alone.

I start each morning with a telephone call to my Mother, to make sure she is preparing for
the day.  We then discuss what errands she may like me to do with her, what needs fixed
or replaced around the house.  Sometimes we will make plans for a breakfast or luncheon,
although that is becoming more rare.  If I have something planned and cannot get over to
visit her, I make sure she knows what I am doing and where I will be.

All of her friends have passed on.  Almost all of the relatives (except her sister and brother in
law) also have passed on.  She has no peers.  At her age she has also seen the most dramatic changes
in our society.

She started first grade with President Roosevelt and he was still the President when she graduated!
She learned to type on an Underwood manual typewriter, made telephone calls through an operator, and went to the "talkies" for a nickel!!!!  (In this day of technology it is hard to fathom any of this!)

She lived in a small town in Chester County, Pennsylvania where every evening she went with her
girlfriend to the drugstore where they sat at the counter and had a soda or malted (milkshake).  Her
world was shaken when World War II began and all the young men she went to school with went
off to fight.  Several of these young boys did not return.  Her idyllic childhood came to an abrupt
end.

Fast forward seventy-two years......

It gives me pause to think what it must be like for her to have outlived all those within her circle.

And while she still holds tight reins on her business matters and oversees the care of my dependent
brother, I find myself becoming the leader or guide now as she would lead and guide me so very many years ago.

I see a bit of a change-over in roles with my own daughters, as well.  Three brilliant, independent,
caring women who are kind and generous and adore each other!  (I am so blessed).  They do not
require guidance or counsel from me.  I do hope as I age, I can be gracious when I slow down and
am not so capable.  Most of my friends voice this same fervent wish.

This life cycle of our children picking up the mantle and carrying on while we begin to step aside is
both heartening and sad.  Particularly sad because most of us still feel quite young mentally!  I know
my Mother feels that way.  It is for this reason that I acquiesce many times in situations where she
is quite authoritative.

It can be frustrating and even exasperating at times when dealing with the elderly, especially when it comes to anything technical in our society!    However, I try to always keep in mind that one day that will be me trying to express myself, my wishes and possibly not understanding.

 Having a parent in a facility can be somewhat cost-prohibitive.  The custom of having the grandparents reside with the family has somewhat changed in this country in the last twenty-five years or so.

When my girls were young they used to say, "We have a place for you at Shady Oaks, Mommy!"
Unfortunately, I think "Shady Oaks" may be just too expensive now!



P.S. One of my daughters just telephoned me asking for my opinion!!  I am on Cloud 9!


 











Monday, January 30, 2017

Knitting

I learned to knit as a child, over fifty years ago.

My Mother was always making sweaters, sleep booties and hats.
I was taught the garter stitch, making little blocks.

Fast forward many years, I was newly married and started making afghans when I was pregnant
with our first daughter.

I got away from knitting after starting our catering business but, some years later,  went to New Orleans with a friend and stopped into a yarn shop and became hooked all over again.  This was back  when they had come out with all the fancy, funky yarns, bamboo needles - so I made my daughter, Tina, a pretty nifty scarf and then went on to make several for my other daughters and friends.

Whenever one of the friends of our daughters was going to have a baby, I would make a baby
blanket.

In recent years I have been knitting blankets,  hats and scarves for our small grandchildren.

I recently came upon a yarn and pattern that I thought was lovely and decided to make it for my
dear friend from my childhood (we have been pals since we were eleven and we are now 68!!).
It was going to be a Christmas present, but time stands still for no one!  I wrapped up the unfinished
project and gave it to her, and then immediately took it back!!!!

It is a shawl and the yarn creates the stripes.  I finally finished it this evening.  I do hope she likes
it.


Knit Triangle Shawl Pattern

2 balls Caron Cakes yarn
measures approximately 60" long x 32" wide at deepest point.
Size U.S. 8 (5mm) or size needed to obtain gauge.
Gauge:  18 sts. and 24 rows = 4" in stocking stitch

Cast on 3 sts.
1st row:  (WS). Knit.
2nd row:  K2, yo, K1, 4 sts.
3rd and alt rows: Knit.
4th row: K2, yo, Knit to end of row, 5 sts.
6th row:  K2, yo, Knit to end of row, 6 sts.
7th row: As 3rd row
Rep last 2 rows, inc 1 st every other row until piece measures approx 32" along straight
edge, ending on a 7th row.

Beg dec: 1st row:  ssk, K1, yo, ssk.  Knit to end of row
2nd row: Knit.
Rep last 2 rows, dec 1 st every other row until there are 4 sts.
Next row: K2, ssk, 3 sts.
Next row:  Knit.
Next row: K1, ssk, 2 sts.
Next row: K2tog.  Fasten off







Martha and her Sugar Cookies, Part II

Today I rolled the Martha dough for the number 4 cookies for our Mia's fourth birthday.

I was going to do this yesterday but became distracted with completing a knitting project
that was for a Christmas present!

I got my cookie board out.  Since I have always made a lot of cookies, both in our businesses
and at home, I have a special board for cookies and pie doughs.  (I also have a huge board
just for sand tarts).  I use this board for nothing else.  I also do not cut on it so the surface is
smooth.  After use, I wash it with hot water and soap and dry it immediately.

Today I rolled the cookies quite a bit thicker than normal.  You know when you go to the store
and see the specialty sugar cookies, how thick they are?  That is what I did today.......for little
four year olds I thought a softer, more sturdy cookie would work best.



When using a cookie cutter, the edges of the cookie can be quite a bit ragged.  After lifting the
cookie to the parchment, I take the straight edge of my small spatula and tap all around the cookie
to smooth out any roughness.



The cookies are placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Then I cover that sheet with a large
piece of saran.  On top of that I lay another piece of parchment to add more cookies.  (This way 
I don't have many cookie sheets going into the fridge.  Just one with several layers.)

I also just received a new cookie cutter and wanted to try it out.  I may write MIA on them and
they can either be for the guests or for decoration.



Also, while I was at it, I cut out some rounds for Linzers.  I have some Black Currant from Ireland
that would be just lovely!!



Tomorrow I will bake the various cookies and make Royal Icing for the decorating.


My Current Addiction!

I must share my current addiction!

What is this addiction you ask?

A fabulous vinaigrette!!!!!  I have no idea where I originally found this recipe.  I would love
to give credit to someone.  Perhaps since I made a slight addition, I can now claim this as mine?

This dressing is fabulous on greens, quinoa, vegetables......I am still discovering new uses!





The Recipe

Place in food processor:

1 C. coarsely chopped Parsley, washed and dried
10-12 very large fresh Basil leaves, washed and dried
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 C. red wine vinegar
3/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and dash of pepper
A small drizzle of honey

I use my small Cuisinart chopper/grinder so I just throw everything in that and pulse chop and then
pulse grind.  Using a rubber flexible spatula, I scrape down the sides and repeat.  I then store this
wonderful vinaigrette in a small jar, however, it does not last long as I am putting it on everything!

Please leave a comment below and let me know how you enjoy this and.....if you too become
addicted!!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Martha and her Sugar Cookies

Back in 1982, I was given  a book called  Entertaining, by Martha Stewart.

The rest is history.....her's and mine.

She went on to become world famous as the Doyenne of Domesticity.

I went on to become a caterer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Nonetheless, I loved her style as it was so similar to what I envisioned.  She was a great inspiration
to me......in attempting recipes, food presentations and styling.

Early on I adopted her sugar cookie recipe.....we ended up always calling it "martha dough".
It was for rolled and cut out cookies and we utilized it in many ways,  for Halloween,
Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day and Easter cut-out cookies. We also used this
dough for our Linzer Cookies!  To this day, Martha Stewart still prints and re-prints this recipe
in her magazines and books.

Next weekend is our darling Mia's 4th birthday!  Many years ago, I purchased cookie cutters
1 through 5 so I could make the appropriate cookie for each grandchild's age.  This week I will
be working on Mia's number 4  cookies.  She told me she would like them to be pink.  I have not narrowed down the  decorating theme yet but I have til mid-week to think about that!

We always made the dough, wrapped it in saran and let it rest overnight in the fridge.

Here is Martha Stewart's Sugar Cookie Dough for Cut-Out Cookies (a/k/a martha dough)

2 C. flour
1/4 t. table salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla

1.  Mix dry ingredients in bowl and set aside.
(**spoon flour into measuring cup and then level off with a straight edge)

2.  Cream butter and sugar in mixer til light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla.
 (**break egg into small bowl or measuring cup and check for shells, then add to butter mixture)

3.  Slowly add dry ingredients. Scrape sides of bowl to incorporate flour mixture often.

4.  Dough will be stiff and mixer may labor a bit.

5.  Wrap dough in saran and chill for minimum of 30 minutes, but preferably overnight.

6.  Roll out with minimal flour, cut out and place cookies on baking sheet.  Chill for minimum
of 30 minutes, but preferably overnight (again!).



I purchased these cookies cutters from www.cheapcookiecutters.com.  They have 3,000 designs
of cookie cutters and are very inexpensive.

So the dough is made and resting in the fridge and tomorrow we start rolling them out!