Recipe Links
Basil Oglio Fra Diavlo Black Pepper and Fennel Shortbread Crackers Bleu Bacon and Italian Burgers Blueberry Almond Crumble Pie Braised Beef Short Ribs Breakfast Sausage Butter Pecan Shortbread Cookies Buttermilk Pancakes California Grilled Artichokes Capressa Fra Diavlo Cherry Garcia Icecream Cherry Sangria Chicken and Polenta Chicken Cacciatore Chicken Vegetable Soup with Broccoli Rabe Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting Chocolate Sparkle Cookies Christmas Shortbreads Classic Hummus Coconut Cake Coq Au Vin Wine Braised Chicken Cranberry Orange Crumb Cake Cream Corn and Lima Bean Succotash Cream of Crab and Corn Soup Devishly Chewy Brownies Eggplant Parmesan Fetticini Alfredo with Bacon and Peas Fusilli a la Vodka Sauce Ginger Chocolate Spice Cookies Gnocci with Broccoli Rabe and Sausange Gramma Daly's Cole Slaw Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Butter Grilled Swordfish Hazelnut Biscotti Cookies Heavenly Blondies Homemade Italian Sausage Homemade Sauerkraut Hot Artichoke Dip Italian Meatballs Lasagna Bolonase with Ragu Sauce Little Sister's BBQ Ribs Molten Chocolate Cake Olio fra diavlo pasta salad Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake Quiche (Sans the Lorraine) Red Velvet Cake Seafood Francaise Shaved Brussel Spouts & Polenta Cake Slow Cooker Thai Pork and Coconut Rice South Florida Fish Stew Spagetti ala Olio Aglio and Pepperoncino Spiced Pear and Cranberry Chutney Steak Braciole Sunday Tomato Sauce Sweet Potato Corned Beef Hash Swordfish Oreganade Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin and Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce The White House Maryland Crab Cakes Tomato Bisque with Chichen and Rice Turkey Paprikash Soup Walnut Shortbread Christmas Cookies White Bean Pasta Fagioli

Better ingredients, better technique, better results.

Saturday
Sep022017

Lavendar Cookies and Designer Chickens

I think this rooster posed for those expensive French Rooster plates I saw on line the other day.  He lives at a place called The Lavendar Pond Farm, in Killingworth, CT where I took Grace and her sister exchange student, Paula for a visit.

He certainly was showing us his best side.  This farm as become a destination for those of us on the Shoreline.  Who knew you could make so many products out of a single plant:  Lavendar soap, Lavendar Lemonade, Lavendar Honey, Lavendar bath salts.  If the electronic point of sale could made a sound it would be "Ching!"

Lovely place and it inspired us to go home and make Lavendar cookies and Lavendar Ice Cream.

 

 

Saturday
Sep032016

Dressed to Grill: Tenderloin for when the IRS comes calling

I work at home.  That might sound glamourous but its really pretty grimy.  There are weeks when I don't leave the house for 3 and 4 days.  Sitting at my desk, in my sweats, no make-up, you get it.  I clean up nice on the weekends, though.

The other morning, I'm sitting at my desk, my phone rings, and when I pick up it up, its the Internal Revenue Service.  

Pre-recorded:  This is the Internal Revenue Service and we are bringing suit against you for non-payment of taxes. Please call this number:  213-590-XXXX.  Click.

Normally, I would have hung up on whatever telemarketer calls my phone.  Not a word, I just hang up.

But a couple years ago, I actually did get a letter from the IRS saying that I owed them money.  It was addressed to a company I had never heard of, but sent to my mailing address.

After staring at this letter most of the day, I finally realized that the FEIN (that's Federal Entity Identification Number) was one digit different than mine.

Someone at the IRS fat-fingered the FEIN number, and sent a letter to a company that presumable does owe them money, but my address came up in their data base when they entered my FEIN to do the lookup.

I dutifully called the IRS (800-TAX-1040, if you don't know), recited the reference number to the agent, and then tried to explain what I thought had happened, but the Agent got a bit terse with me. 

IRS:  I can't give you any tax information if you are not the party of record.  

Me:  I'm not asking for tax information, I'm trying to get the record corrected.

IRS:  Click

After several tries, I gave up.  

Several weeks later, I get a postal notice of a registered letter from the IRS.  Well, not for me, for that poor company who actually does owe the IRS money, and doesn't know it.

I tried the IRS again.  Same thing.  As soon as I tell them I am not the owner of the company, they clam up.

Since then, I get one of those postal notices about every 6 months.  Wonder what the penalties and interest is now?  I Googled the name of the company, but couldn't find them.

Fast forward, I'm sitting at my desk and I get this recorded announcement.  

My first thought is how much of my life is going to now be devoted to straightening out this mess.

I call the number in the recording.  A young man with a heavy accent identified himself as James Jones, Badge Number:  DL13850, and then confirms my name and address.

IRS:  I'm going to give you a reference number and I'm going to read the charges against you.  Do not interrupt me.

Me:  What charges are you talking about?  I haven't been notified of any charges.

IRS:  We have been trying to reach you.  For the years 2010 to 2014 your taxes don't match our records and you owe us $5,906.56.  Did you do this deliberately?

Me:  How have you been trying to reach me?  I haven't any record of the IRS sending me anything.  What documents do you have?

IRS:  We don't have them anymore, they have now gone to the vault in Washington, DC.

Me:  When did you try to reach me?

IRS:  We attempted to reach you at your home last Friday.  The Post Office attempted to deliver the documents to you, but no one was home.

Me:  I work at home.  I was home all day last Friday.  (Quick check of my Outlook Calendar confirms this.)

IRS:  No one came to the door.

Me:  I happen to personally know our mail carrier and if she came to the door, I would have seen her out the window of my office.  No one came to the door.

IRS:  If you don't pay this money, we will take away your license and all of your belongings.

Me:  I have the right to see the documents you have, I have no documents saying I owe you money.

IRS:  Well, then we'll have the Sheriff come to your house and we'll do a background check.

Me:  What?  What are you talking about?  When is this Sheriff coming to my house?

IRS:  Within 30 minutes of this phone call ending.  So you better get dressed!!

Me:  What is this Sheriff going to do?

IRS:  Take you into custody, so you had better call your family and let them know you are going to jail!!

Me:  Jail?  You can't take me to jail without me seeing your documents!

IRS:  And you better bring your lawyer!

Me:  I don't have a lawyer!

IRS:  Well, don't you think you better get on it?  Click.

I actually broke out into a cold sweat.  I could see myself calling my husband, my hair dresser, and my client and telling them I wasn't going to make my appointments.  Fear had taken over.  And Panic was quickly setting in.

I called my Accountant.  

Me (nearly in tears):  Dean, I just got this horrible call from the IRS saying they were going to send the Sheriff to take me into custody and . . .

Dean:  Before you go any further, let me stop you right there.  Its a SCAM!

Me (now that I can breath again), OMG, really?

Dean:  Yup, its been going on for a couple of years now.  You didnt give them any of your information, did you?

Me:  Thankfully, I did not.

All I could think of was, "How did the IRS know I wasn't dressed?"  Next time, I'll be dressed and have something special for when they come calling.  How about Grilled Tenderloin and Blue Cheese Butter?

Saturday
Aug132016

Christmas in July: Gramma Daly's Crumb Cake

It seems my two family members have a penchant for crumb cake.

Or more to the point: crumb.  Skip the cake.

If I could figure out a way to just bake the crumb, they would be ecsatic.

But something has to go under the crumb, its just about proportion.

Christmas growing up meant this cake, homemade egg nog and cold lobster salad on Christmas morning.  

All kids can't wait to get up and get opening, and our family was no different.  

Except for my brother, who would get up anytime between 1am and 4am, play in the dark with what Santa brought, go back to bed and sleep in.  

After we opened all our gifts, we'd trudge through the snow to my Aunt Gen's house, about 100 feet away, and look at their gifts.  And have crumb cake for breakfast with them.

Next round:  my Aunt Lorraine's house, 100 feet on the other side of the house, look at their gifts, drink eggnog and eat lobster salad.

Finally back to our house, where my brother has finally gotten up.  You could tell by the smell in the house.  His favorite breakfast on Christmas morning was leftover baked stuffed shrimp.

And that was all before heading over to my Aunt Helen's house (yes, there were uncles in the picture but we all knew who ruled the roost), for a simple meal of lasagna and garlic bread, followed by turkey with all of the trimmings.

Not wanting to clock the scales any more than I already do, I thought for Grace's last meal home before heading to Switzerland (for a year!), we'd make some crumb cake together.  A little Christmas in July.

Tuesday
Aug042015

Healthy Eating: Blueberry Almond Crumble Pie

"I lost weight on my vacation"

Like I needed to hear that.

Apparently, it's all about eating blueberries.  Day and night.  

I had this conversation with a client the other day.  She had just gotten back from vacation and we were trying to catch up.  Being an hour behind me, my phone rang just as I was at the point of dinner prep that there was no going back.

Cheryl: Can you talk now?

Me: Well, I just started dinner but I have hands-free headset, so sure!

Cheryl:  Well, I really need to talk the contracts, and I forgot you were an hour ahead of me.

Me:  Are you sure?

Cheryl:  What are you cooking for dinner?

Me:  Frittata with Homemade Sausage and fresh tomatoes

Cheryl:  I'm coming to your house!  

Me:  Where did you go on vacation?

Cheryl:  We went mountain biking in Colorado Springs.  We actually ate really healthy.  I had blueberries every morning for breakfast and then again at night, with yogurt instead of ice cream.  I lost weight!

So that's the secret, huh?

This Blueberry Almond Crumble pie isn't going to be on anyone's healthy list, but as far as dessert goes, you can't beat it with a gallon of ice cream.

Saturday
Mar142015

Deconstruction: The Rueben

This time of year the bars and taverns are really hopping on Saturday afternoons.  March Madness.  St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Hungry Fans.  By I’ve now had enough of Bad Rueben Sandwiches and Green Beer to make it worth staying home.
 
How bad?

Watery sauerkraut out of jar or a bag, makes for soggy bread.

Fatty or thick cuts of corned beef make for tough eating.

Sauce that tastes like “special sauce” makes it taste institutional.

So I set out to perfect The Rueben.
 
It took a lot of research and taste testing on Saturday afternoons to figure out the best of all possible sandwiches, but I finally got it narrowed down and perfected.
 
What’s best?
 
Very lean, very thinly sliced Corned Beef.  Just enough meat on the sandwich, not too much.  About 3 or 4 slices thick.  More than that is just too hard to bite into
.  
Nutty Emanthaler Cheese shredded on top and bottom
.  
Dijionaise Sauce. It’s a more sophisticated thousand island dressing.  On the side.  I don’t like anything with mayonnaise in it cooked.  It just separates into a greasy mess.
  
Gramma Daly's Cole Slaw with black caraway seeds instead of the sauerkraut.   On the side.  Mayo in it, remember?
Sweet Bread and Butter pickle chips.  The kind in the refrigerator section.  Better yet, Jalapeno Pickles.  From Homesick Texan Cookbook.

And the best Rye Bread you can find.  Not likely found in the bread aisle of the grocery store, but at a bakery or farm market.  Grilled like you would make a good grilled cheese sandwich, with a thin spread of soft butter on the outside of the bread.

Grace has an exchange student from France staying with her who is excited about being in the US for St. Patrick’s Day.  Won’t she be surprised to find out our traditional Irish Fare is actually Jewish Deli Food?
Sunday
Mar012015

My Grandmother's Sunday Sauce: A First Time for Everything

No one in my family has ever written down their recipe for tomato sauce.  Not in 4 generations.  Not on my husband's side.  Not on anyone's side.

Why?  Totally not necessary.  Your mother learned from her mother, and you learned from your mother.  It was too simple to bother writing down.

In most Southern Italian homes, particularly in the Northeast where the majority of the wave of immigrants from Southern Italy (and their decendents) settled in the early 20th Century, there was always a pot of sauce on the stove.

In our house, and in all my mother's sisters houses as well.  

Then our mothers would do something really foolish.  Like leave the Italian bread meant for dinner out on the counter where hungry kids coming in from school could reach it.

A bowl of sauce, some torn bread, maybe a little grated cheese.  

Who needs Hot Pockets?

So why write it down now?

One of my clients got held up and was late to a conference call.  So I decided to throw a pot sauce together. It was snowing.  It's been doing that a lot lately.  I wasn't going anywhere.  I had 15 minutes and an entire day at home.  

When we finally had a chance to get back to each other, I couldn't let her continue to grovel about being late. (She's the client after all, why should she grovel?) 

Nancy:  I'm so sorry, I called your office instead of the bridge, I've got too much on my desk, and I was on the phone with help desk, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry!

Me:  No problem.  I got my sauce going while I was waiting.

Nancy:  That's what I call multi-tasking!

Me:  Yeah, the beauty of working from home.

Nancy:  What kind of sauce?

Me:  Oh just tomato sauce.  You know, 3 ingredients, simmer all day.  That kind.

Nancy:  Really?  Three ingredients?

Me:  Ok, maybe six.  And water.

If I had been there, I would have taught her.  Just like my mother taught me. But she's in Kansas City and I'm in Connecticut, so I thought I would write it down for her.

Nancy, hope you and your family my Grandmother's Sunday Tomato Sauce.

Saturday
Feb282015

Chicken Soup: Staging is everything in Life

And you thought it was timing. 

We found out everyone already knows this when we went antiquing this past weekend (what we hope to be the last of Winter). 

More accurately, we went searching for crappe. 

And we found some.  In fact, we found a lot of it. 

But not before we hit about six shoppes on the Shoreline that seemed to specialize in strategically staged second-hand stuff. 

You know the kind of place I mean.  You walk in, and they have little rooms or booths with hand-me-down stuff you saw at the dump last week, all beautifully arranged to give the impression you are at Sturbridge Village or Olde Mystic Seaport.

Not our kind of place. 

We like to have to dig through the stuff your relatives never threw away.  When they vacate their homes for whatever reason, someone gets called to take it away in a panel truck.  That’s where the real bargains are. 

I’m on new mission:  Green Glasses for Summer

Those recycled green glasses of all shapes and sizes that came out of Mexico about two decades ago.  At the time, they weren’t expensive (nor were they terribly durable, but you needed something to sip your margarita out of).

Look!  There they are now, staged in my kitchen because my house was on the market and I was moving to California.

 

The first ones I found were in one of my favorite places whose signature color closely resembles the color of these glasses.  I remember these specific ones:  simple thick stems with an enormous bowl set on the top.  Two dollars, max. 

Fifteen years later, though, they’re vintage, collectable and $18 each. 

Pass.

At the end of our afternoon, with the rain and the wind pounding us, and the owner hitting on me again, we start to leave the old car dealership turned antique market, when he points us around back to the flea market. 

What flea market?  That sounded promising. 

To be kind, it was the kind of place “where crap goes to die.”  

I found a green glass with grape impressions in it for $.75.  Just as Chris was about to get change back from his dollar, I found another one.  $.25. 

When we finally got out of there, it was nice to know there was a bowl of hot Chicken Vegetable Soup with Broccoli Rabe waiting for us. 

Monday
Jun162014

Gramma Daly's Cole Slaw: Not your average fruit loop salad

Must be a trend.  I thought my sister was the only cook whose idea of a vegetable included the use of dried ramen noodles.  Sometimes, if the recipe was for a special occasion, she would make dressing out of the packet of dried stuff that came in the box.  Now that’s a smart use of her grocery money. 

(And I know that she knows I hate it.)

Then I saw it on a cooking show.  On television.  In primetime. 

As I start out this food blog adventure, I wonder what makes people watch a cooking show, read a blog or a cookbook.  I’m trying to keep an open mind, because they are on television, and well, I’m not.

(Not that I want to be, but I have always dreamed of publishing a cookbook.)

I was livid the other day watching this one program, and not to get too serious, but there was nearly 6 cups of sugar used in this meal.  Dinner was for six people.  There was two cups of sugar and a cup of honey blended together to pour over ham.  Then there was a stick of butter, and a half cup of brown sugar in another sauce.  Then the salad had a 3/4ths cup of sugar in the dressing.  The dessert had  another 1 ½ cups of sugar. 

For Dinner.  For six people.  Ok, so the ham was intended for 15 or so servings, and the dessert 10 servings, if you made the cuts small.  For a single serving of this meal, I calculated more than one half cup of sugar, but I’m guessing they went back for seconds. 

What do you want to bet they served diet soda with the meal?

No wonder we have obesity running rampant in this country.

Ok, I’m done.

I get a lot of compliments when I make cole slaw (Gramma Daly's).

Like:  “I don’t really like cole slaw, but yours is delicious.”

Let me tell you why they like it:  Because it hasn’t been sitting in a vinegar and sugar dressing for hours.  That’s why.

I won’t tell you it’s low fat.  Not with all of the mayonnaise in it.  Made correctly, however, it can be about the same as any other salad.

Simple.  Five ingredients.

Creamy.  Only about 2 tablespoons of vinegar.

Fresh and Crunchy.  Tossed just before it’s served.

Never any left.

Thursday
May222014

Easter Foods and Easter Outfits: Savory Fennel Shortbread Crackers

 

When we were little kids, Easter meant the Easter Bunny, Easter Baskets, Easter Egg Hunts, the Easter Pagent, and of course, your Easter Outfit.  Because that's what you wore to the Easter Pagent and to church on Easter Sunday.  New dress, new patent leather Mary Jane shoes, and a new hat.  Because girls still had to wear hats to church back then.

My mother was very proficient in the Needle Arts.  All of them.  Knitting, Crochet, Tapestry, Rug Hooking and Braiding, Embroidery, and Sewing.  She taught me all of them as well, and I am glad to see that some of these arts are coming back into style, because it would be shame to lose them. 

So, the first Easter we were in the new house (the one my Dad built with his bare hands), she made us each coats for Spring, and we wore them to church on Easter Sunday. 

Now I am an accomplished knitter, and I offered to teach Grace the Girl.  Grace is 14 and has School, Art Class, Viola Class, Piano Class, Orchestra Practice, Chinese School, French Class and extra-curricular Math Class.

She said, "Margot, I'd love to learn, but honestly I don't when I would have the time."

But I'm grateful that she loves to get into the kitchen with me.  We've made everything we could think of with Peas and Artichokes, both Italian Rites of Spring. 

There was one dish my Mother used to make for Easter that I have not made, but once I had it, it becames one of the most cherished tradition at Easter.  Apizza Gain.  Sometimes called Pizza Rustica, Italian Easter Pie, Pizzagaina.  It's your basic heart attach in a loaf pan.  My mother's recipe was pretty sketchy and I have found others out there, but essentially it's 4-5 pounds of cured meats, 6 pounds of cheese, more than a dozen eggs, a ton of black pepper and crushed fennel.  It was traditionally made on Good Friday and then chilled and served after noon on Easter Saturday to break the Lenten Fast. 

We would break it up into pieces and share it with family and friends.  Sitting around the kitchen table, eating slice after slice with wine.  The combination of cheese, fennel, a crust, and the black pepper tastes great with nearly any kind of wine. 

These days, however, we limit the amount of cheese and cured meats we eat.  Who can afford the calories?  Who can afford to make the dish?  It costs more than $100 to make this loaf.

But I love the tradition of fennel and the black pepper with wine, so I thought I would try savory shortbread, something that tasted like the black pepper biscuits you can find in Italian delis. I have been working on a savory biscotti, but just haven't gotten the texture the way I want it.   I've tried to replace the sugar in a sweet recipe with cheese but you don't get that crispness or chewyness you get with sugar.  Then it hit me, eliminate the eggs.  That basically leaves shortbread.  The result is these Black Pepper and Fennel Shortbread Crackers.

These are quick to make, and a lovely to serve to friends who drop over on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the Spring, when it's just warm enough to sit on the porch in the sun and migrate to the fireplace when the sun goes down.

Monday
Mar242014

Fast Technology, Slow Cookers: Thai Pork and Coconut Rice

Back in the 80’s, I once had the pleasure of hearing author Tom Wolfe speak at a business conference.  As a newbie in the telecom/datacom world (see MCI Mail and the Days of Corn and Crab Soup), and as a fan of Wolfe’s many works about societal introspection, I couldn’t imagine what he would have to say to a group of techies that would resonate.

But that he did.  While he meandered around a number of subjects keeping the audience in side-splitting hysterics, he eventually found his way to what he considered the newest of technologies at the time:  cable TV and Car Phones.

From his comedic perspective, he lamented that he couldn’t understand why televisions, which you primarily left in your living room, were not connected to anything to get their reception, while telephones, which you needed almost anywhere you were, were plugged into the wall?

Gasp!

He then blatantly predicted that in the next 20 years, these two technologies would flip-flop.  The audience gave him a standing ovation.  I’m sure his research assistants were standing in the wings grinning.

A decade later I’m working at Sprint.  Sadly, their reputation has become somewhat tarnished, but I did spend 12 years there, and I learnt a thing or two.  In fact, they were the first company to build a nationwide cellular network, long before anyone else. 

But I digress. 

At one of our big Corporate Rah Rah events, our CEO spoke at the event.  He made a prediction as well.  He said, “Right now, if you leave your house and you realize you don’t have your wallet and your keys, you go back and get them.  In the not too distant future, we will add to that list our cell phones.”

At the rate of current technology adoption, it was probably by the end the conference.

Fast forward yet another decade.  I get this email in my mailbox this morning:

Dear Family and Friends...at least the ones I had saved to my iPhone,

Do you remember when phones were attached to a wall, post, phone booth or a night stand? Well, for good reason, you could always find them.

Today, in my haste to catch the ever so late 6:15 train, I lost my iPhone.  You know, the typical snoozing with intent to nap and dropped phone on seat. "Stamford, Stamford Station"...snort, snort and I was off.

I have submitted the correct forms and paper work to Metro North (in triplicate) and they assured me that they have an 80% recovery rate...pick up at Grand Central within 5-7 days. I am truly optimistic.

Lucky for me, my company has supplied me with a biz cell phone and that is how you can reach me for the next 7 days.  I feel compelled to share my only vocal contact tool number....XXX-XXX-XXXX with all of you.   You can also reach me by email at forgetmyhead@nocellphone.com.

Now that the Holidays are over, the need to communicate will slow down considerably but we do still have snow and nasty weather to get through, more birthdays, Super Bowl and according to The Weather Channel statistics, 80 days before we're clear to Spring.

Sadly missing my "iConnection" to the world... Naked I tell you,

Susan

Good thing she didn’t have to rush home for dinner.  I had recently shared this recipe with her and she had some ­­­­­­­Slow Cooked Thai Pork in the crock pot to come home to.

Sunday
Mar232014

Sweet Potato Corned Beef Hash: Dad’s Favorite, if he could remember

My dad has dementia.  The doctors say its mild.  That’s because they keep giving him this screening test, and he keeps acing it.  He just can’t remember what he had for lunch.  And that was an hour ago.

Or if he took his medications. 

Or how many glasses of wine he had. 

Me:  Dad, be careful, you’ve had too much wine.

Dad: I only have a half a glass at a time!

He’s an Optimist, though.  His glass is always half full.

Between the Dementia and the wine, the concept of volume is now completely lost on him.  Any glass, no matter how big or small, is only half full if there is even a half inch of space between the wine and the rim.

Add to that, he can’t remember how many half glasses he had, and now you’ve got yourself a problem.  Especially if that problem is over 80 years old, and still thinks he can drive.

We’ve been trying for more than a year to get his Long Term Care insurance policy to kick in, so we can get him some full time help in his house.  He’s lived alone since my Mother's death.  He was ok for a few years, but once the Dementia started to set it, he really went downhill fast.

We didn’t know what it was at first.  It started with him repeating himself every 15 minutes.  And then we started to notice he was drinking a lot.  More than he ever did his whole life.

Can’t say I blame him.  Dementia is a cruel thing.  The short term memory goes because what the person hears in their ear, can’t quite make it to their short term memory center, so it’s more like 4-5 minutes of memory is all he has. 

Watch TV?  Can’t follow the plot.  Watch Sports?  Can’t understand the plays.  Read a book?  Can’t remember what the last paragraph was.  Socialize?  Can’t follow the conversation thread.

But long term memory is different.  He can still remember how to get pretty much anywhere he wants to go.  So, go to lunch?  Sure thing!  He remembers how to get to Lenny and Joe’s, alright.

He just needs to remember to turn the correct way on Route 1, and Long Term Memory will get him home.  Right?  Well, as long as he makes the right turn.  One wrong turn, and he’ll end up in Rhode Island.

So when we took him into the hospital for what was supposed to be an outpatient procedure, but became an odyssey of two weeks and two days, we were glad to have gotten some home care help for him when he finally did get back home.  She was given instructions to take him wherever he needs to go, and that she is to drive.  So the plan was to have her take him to lunch on Saturdays, so she is driving, he can get out of the house, and have his wine with lunch and the family no longer has to worry about him killing or maiming others, or lawsuits.

His Home Aid made plans with him (and by plans that means she leaves him notes taped to everything in the house) to take him grocery shopping and then lunch the day after he got home.  He didn’t want to go shopping, so she went by herself.  When she got back, he was gone.

In a panic, she called everyone in the family.  Then she calmed down, and called Lenny and Joes.  She managed to convince the manager it was an emergency and got my dad on the phone.  He was there, having his wine and his lunch, just like always.  He just forgot to take his date with him.

Old habits die hard.

Then two days ago she got there at her normal 10am.  She’s quickly learning little tricks to figure out if he has been driving. 

At his age, and with his medical diagnosis (yeah we got some additional bad news as a result of his out-patient procedure), he can do anything he wants, or doesn’t want.  He’s earned it.  Except drive.  That’s the next battle.  How do you tell a man of his prior strength and accomplishments that not only does he need help, he has a terminal disease, and he can’t drive.  So, if he wants to drink his wine, I’m not going to tell him he can’t.  I just have to get him off the road.

Anyway, she gets to his house and notices a bottle of wine on the counter. 

Home Aid:  Ed, did you go out this morning?

Dad: I don’t know.

HA:  How much money do you have in your wallet? (That’s how she keeps track of him.)

Dad:  $153

HA:  Well, you had $170 last night.  Where did you go?

Dad:  I went to get milk.

HA:  Ed, there’s no milk in the refridgerator.  Where did you go?

Dad:  I don’t know.

HA:  Ed, did you go to get wine?

Dad:  No. I had that wine.  (No, there are now two bottles on the counter, and there was only one the night before.)

HA:  Ed, you know you’re not supposed to drive, right?

Dad:  Who said I can’t drive?

HA:  Your doctors told you not to drive.

Dad:  Oh, that’s just something Margot made up!

So if you see my Dad out driving, please call me.  And then get out of his way, because he’s forgotten that I’m going to his house today to bring him is favorite leftovers from St. Patrick’s Day, Corned Beef Hash.

Friday
Jan102014

Fast Technology, Fast Food: Gnocci with Sausage and Rabe

Back in the 80’s, I once had the pleasure of hearing author Tom Wolfe speak at a business conference.  As a newbie in the telecom/datacom world (see MCI Mail and the Days of Corn and Crab Soup), and as a fan of Wolfe’s many works about societal introspection, I couldn’t image what he would have to say to a group of techies that would resonate.

But that he did.  While he meandered around a number of subjects keeping the audience in side-splitting hysterics, he eventually found his way to what he viewed as the emerging technologies of the time:  Cable TV and Car Phones.

From his comedic perspective, he lamented that he couldn’t understand why televisions, which you primarily left in your living room, were not connected to anything to get their reception, while telephones, which you needed almost anywhere you were, were plugged into the wall?

Gasp!

He then blatantly predicted that in the next 20 years, these two technologies would flip-flop.  The audience gave him a standing ovation.  (I’m sure his research assistants were standing in the wings patting themselves on the back.)

A decade later I’m working at Sprint.  Sadly, their reputation has become somewhat tarnished, but I did spend 12 years there, and I learnt a thing or two.  In fact, they were the first company to build a nationwide cellular network, long before anyone else. 

But I digress. 

At one of our big Corporate Rah Rah events, our COO, Len Lauer, spoke at the event.  I had the privilege of spending a bit of one-on-one time with Len.  He was executive sponsor of my accounts, and ever since, he has been top on my list of most admired in Corporate America.  Anyway, Len made a prediction as well.  He said, “Right now, if you leave your house and you realize you don’t have your wallet and your keys, you go back and get them.  In the not too distant future, we will add to that list our cell phones.”

At the rate of current technology adoption, it was probably by the end the conference.

Fast forward yet another decade.  I get this email from my dear friend Susan in my mailbox, subject "iLost":

Dear Family and Friends...at least the ones I had saved to my iPad,

Do you remember when phones were attached to a wall, post, phone booth or a night stand? Well, for good reason, you could always find them.

Today, in my haste to catch the ever so late 6:15 train out, I lost my iPhone. You know, the typical snoozing with intent to nap and dropped phone on seat. "Stamford, Stamford Station"...snort, snort and I was off.

I have submitted the correct forms and paper work to the Metro North (in triplicate) and they assured me that they have an 80% recovery rate...pick up at Grand Central within 5-7 days. I am truly optimistic.

Lucky for me, my company has supplied me with a biz cell phone and that is how you can reach me for the next 7 days.  I feel compelled to share my only vocal contact tool number....555-555-1212 with all of you.   You can also reach me by email: forgotmyhead@nocellphone.com.

Now that the Holidays are over, the need to communicate will slow down considerably but we do still have snow and nasty weather to get through, more birthdays, Super Bowl and according to The Weather Channel statistics,  80 days before we're clear to Spring.

Sadly missing my "iConnection" to the world... Naked I tell you,

Susan

Good thing dinner was quick when she got home:  Gnocci with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe.

BTW:  Happy Birthday!

Sunday
Jan052014

Too Many Cooks: Accidental Molten Chocolate Cake

Grace arrived at our house on Saturday and made two requests:  Did we have milk, and did we have dessert?

Milk we had.  We also had company, so it seemed that the right thing to do was to make our guests make their own dessert, right?

Given a short time frame, a three-year old, popcorn on the floor, and five people in the kitchen, I needed a simple recipe that didn’t take a lot of time. 

Chancellor (above) was testing his own recipes, so its a good thing this cake is a snap to make, and doesn’t require more than a bowl or two and a whisk. 

Done in two bowls.  One for the dry ingredients whisked together, and one for the wet ingredients.  Butter melted, sugar, eggs and vanilla whisked in.  Mix the dry, add the coffee, pour into a cake pan and throw it in the oven for 40 minutes. 

Piece of cake.

Almost.

In the confusion of recipe interpretation by all involved, mimosas, and the convenience of reachable pans, I grabbed the 9 inch round cake pan instead.   We got the cake into the oven and set it for 40 minutes.  Grace is learning how to tell if a cake is done, so at the sound of the buzzer, she carefully opened the oven, and tested with a toothpick. 

Very wet.  Back in the oven for 2 minutes. 

Buzzer again.  Very wet again.  Back in the oven for another 2 minutes.

After two more attempts, we decided to just take our chances and pull the cake out of the oven.  Chocolate does tend to bake after the fact and its often very easy end to up with an overbaked, dry result.

Hmmm........ I wondered.  This cake was exhibiting the classic symptoms of having too much batter in the pan.

Math Wiz to the rescue!!

Grace (who at 14 doesn't ask me for help with her homework, thank goodness) did a quick calculation, and sure enough, there is nearly 25% more room in a 9 inch square pan than there is in a 9 inch round pan.  Whodda thunk?

When there is too much batter in the pan, any cake will rise up and dome in the middle.  If you leave it in the oven long enough for the dome to finish baking, you end up with dry, often burnt outside edges.  If you take it out of the oven, the dome will fall, and leave you with a gooey mess in the middle.  Not a good result if you are making a layer cake.

But we weren’t. 

We were making a cake to snack on right out of the pan, hence the name Coffee Cocoa Snack Cake.  We cut the cake just as it was cool enough to handle.  It was very wet.  My instincts told me to pour a little heavy cream into the middle, and serve it warm.   

It has now been renamed Accidental Molten Chocolate Cake, and will forever be timed to get served about 30 minutes after it comes out of the oven.

Monday
Dec302013

Grace's Favorite: Chocolate Sparkle Cookies

  

OMG, she's 14!  The Girl, that is.  My sister walked in at Christmas, and proceeded to blame me for letting her grow up.  Who is she kidding, she did the same thing with her daughter (Broken Promises and Pecan Sandies). 

Back to Grace.  She's still my Kitchen Slave, but now she's wearing my shoes.

And sleeping late on Saturday's like a typical teenager.

She promised she was going to help me make Chocolate Sparkle Cookies for Christmas and for her birthday.  By the time she got out of bed, I had already blanched and skinned the almonds for these cookies.  Which left her with the easy part. 

I got her back, though.  She was still in time to make the 160 Walnut Shortbread Christmas Cookies that are part of the family ritual. 

And also part of my gift giving ritual when I lived out West.  I ran with a rather well-heeled crowd and they were very difficult to buy gifts for.  I eventually ended up baking these and about six other varieties of cookies as gifts.  Couldn't get them at Nordstrom, that's for sure.  My dear friend Barbara and I exchanged gifts this season:  she got these, and I got a box of See's Victoria Toffee.

Thursday
Dec122013

Lasagna Bolagnase: The Way to a Man's Heart

My grandmother, Caroline Martone, who was born in Italy in 1892, made this version of Bolognase Sauce, eminating from the city of Bologna in the Emilia Romagna Region.  Every family in Emilia Romagna has a Ragu recipe, and her family was no different.  Now, our family heritage holds that Caroline wooed Vincent Euzzine with this recipe, using the tried and true method of getting to a man’s heart.

Caroline and Vincent immigrated to America in 1918, and settled in Connecticut, to join other members of the Martone family in Branford.  Caroline died in 1938, and Vincent died in 1940, leaving six daughters, the oldest 20, and my mother Nancy, the youngest, just 8 years old. 

 

All six daughters were wonderful cooks, and a few of their mother’s recipes survived, and were passed along.  My mother fell in love with a handsome Irish hunk, Edward, and used this Ragu recipe to snare him.  When I showed an interest in cooking at an early age, she taught me to make this sauce.  It’s nothing like the canned versions of tomato sauce made popular in the 1950’s and 60’s.  In fact, it has very little tomato in it, which makes it stand apart from the normal, Southern Italian fare popularized in the Northeast.  

   

So, when a certain gentleman came into my life with all the right stuff, I made up my mind to use my family’s love potion to seal the deal.  The first time I made it for him, I thought he was going to cry.  The second time, he showed a particular interest in learning the ingredients.  The third time, which I thought was going to be the charm, he showed up early enough to “help” the cook.  He painstakingly wrote down every ingredient as I added it, and watched the sauce cook slowly to perfection.  Again, tears when the meal was served.  I eagerly awaited his proposal during dessert.  

I never saw him after that night.  I thought he wanted me, but he just wanted this recipe.  So, here it is  Paparadella or Lasagna Bolognasse.  Take your time with it, buy the best ingredients you can find, and be very, very careful who you serve it to.

Sunday
Dec012013

Right Coast Newport and Thanksgiving Leftovers

When I lived in Newport  (the one on the Left Coast), one of the local magazines coined the phrase “Affluenza” which meant visibly (though perhaps not actually) wealthy.  Mercedes and BMW’s aplenty.  Bling everywhere. 

McMansions.  This is actually the neighborhood that become The OC, under construction.

The women wore “short, black and tight.” Surgically enhanced everything.  The men were wealthy.  Or at least highly leveraged.  Shortly thereafter came the rise of “The OC” and “Real Housewives of Orange County” both filmed in my neck of the woods.

That’s nothing compared to Newport, Rhode Island.

What does this have to do with Christmas (you ask?)

We visited the Newport Mansions this past weekend.  In December, three of the largest are open and decorated for Christmas. 

I thought The Hearst Castle was grand, but it’s dwarfed by The Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s weekend cottage. 

Measuring a mere 135,000 square feet, with 70 rooms, it sits on the Cliff Walk, and dares you to compare it to anything but Buckingham Palace.  We also visited The Elms, a cottage built by the coal magnate, Edward Berwind, who supplied the fuel for Vanderbilt’s steamships, then his railroads, Carnegie’s steel mills, and Rockefeller’s oil refineries. 

Cozy arrangement, no?

Not to be outdone by anyone in Paris, Cornelius’s daughter Alva Vanderbilt, built The Marble House.   Modeled after The Petit Trianon, the smaller of King Louis XV’s palace at Versaille, Alva stole architecture (and sometimes other things like mantels and ceilings) from anything French.

Mrs. Vanderbilt:  “If it’s good enough for King Louis, it’s good enough for us.”

Her husband:  “Whatever, dear.”

Well, she did wear the pants in the family, being an heiress and all.

The dining room chairs were made of bronze and covered in gold, to match King Louis' chairs made of silver.  They weighed in at 75 pounds for the guests, and 125 pounds for the armchairs.  A servant behind each chair was required to help each guest pull up a chair to the table.

The estimates of what it would take to build The Breakers today, at $22 Million, seems way off base.  I’d say more like $100 Million.   Not including the furniture and the drapes.

From my perspective, once you have seen one coffered ceiling stolen from a palace in France, you’ve seen them all.  I was more fascinated by the kitchens and butler’s pantries.

But it was not the buildings that most impressed me.  Yes, clearly these were built to portray immense wealth and power.  And they do.  But it was the men who built them that fascinated me.

The Men Who Built America is a very recent documentary from The History Channel. (See the Link at the bottom of the side panel on the Fun Stuff page.)  We happened to catch it while channel surfing over the Thanksgiving Weekend, and we were hooked.

I don‘t remember learning much about these men in school.  It seems history went from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, to the Mexican American War, to the World Wars.  Yeah, we discussed the Industrial Revolution, but that was a cast of thousands.

Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rockefeller, JP Morgan and Ford.  Those names are familiar to all of us.  But did we really understand what they did, and how these five changed the face of America?

Did you know they all knew each other?  Did you know they competed, coerced, spied on, blackmailed, attempted murder and partnered with each other? 

They defied the US Government.  They bought the US Government.  They bought themselves a President.  (Sound familiar?)

By today’s standards, Carnegie and Rockefeller had a combined net worth of more than 3 Trillion dollars.  Today, they would blow past Bill Gates and Rupurt Murdoch as if those two were standing still.

Four episodes, 90 minutes each, covering Vanderbilt’s rise just after the Civil War, through Henry Ford’s defiance of the Automotive industry to produce a car that even the workers making the car could afford.  If you have a chance to see it on the History Channel, don’t miss it.  I just purchased the DVD collection from their web site.   A steal at $29.95 with a 25% coupon.

Perfect to settle in front of a fire with a bowl of Turkey Paprikash Soup, and Cranberry Chutney, my take on Thanksgiving Leftovers. 

Saturday
Aug242013

Houseguests and Hummus

I know you can buy good hummus, but if I have to make one more trip to the grocery store before guests arrive, I'm going to scream.  

Which is why I like to make hummus.  

Its what I call great pantry food.  You can pretty much count on having the ingredients around when you need to make something quick.

Like when guests show up.  Which they are doing again.  Not the sames ones as after the wedding (Bed, Breakfast and Buttermilk Pancakes), this is a different round.  

I will go broke paying for groceries, especially the way I shop.  Most of my guests, however, show up with wine, so I have that to be thankful for.  (They pretty much know not to show up with food as they know I have standards.)

Back to hummus.  

It's fast, its easy (Grace the Kitchen Slave made this batch) you can pull the ingredients out of your freezer and pantry, its pretty healthy, and people can tell the difference when its homemade.

We like Classic Hummus, garlicy and smooth, with lots of tahini, olive oil and lemon, so I keep adding more until it tastes the way we like it, but you can adjust it to you and your family's taste.  

For example, my nephew only eats the grilled Naan bread I serve with it.

Tuesday
Aug202013

Seafood and eat it: Swordfish Oreganade

 

That was my mother's motto.  She was a seafood lover, and she was always trying to get us to eat it as well.  Being a Catholic (reasonably) household, that meant we had fish on Fridays. 

Fridays would usually go something like this:

Us:  What are we having for dinner?

Mom:  Fish sticks

Us:  Ok

Next Friday:

Us:  What are we having for dinner?

Mom:  Baked Fillet of Sole

Us: Eeeewww!

Mom: But you like Sole!  (we didn't)

Next Friday:

Us: What are we having for dinner?

Mom:  Spagetti and Crabs

Us:  Eeeewww! (as we ran out of the house)

Next Friday:

Us:  What are we having for dinner?

Mom:  Baked Stuffed Clams

Us:  Eeeewww!

Following Friday:

Us:  What are we having for dinner?

Mom: Halibut

Us: Hmmmm.  Maybe.

Actually, we did like halibut, it was probably our favorite.  Why?  Because it tasted like chicken, not fish. (So, why not just eat chicken?)  Atlantic Halibut, steaks baked in the oven with parsley and butter. Ugly, but aside from that, pretty kid friendly.

Next Friday:

Us:  What are we having for dinner?

Mom:  Shrimp Marsala

Us:  Really, again?

Next Friday:

Us: What are we having for dinner?

Mom: Daddy's making baked stuffed lobster on the grill

Us:  Will you take it out of the shell for us?

Christmas:

Us:  What are we having for Christmas Eve?

Mom: Baked Stuffed Shrimp

Us:  Make sure there's enough for breakfast on Christmas morning

Me visiting my parents after moving to DC:

Them:  What are you making us for dinner?

Me:  Penne with Lobster and Vodka Sauce

Next visit:

Them:  What are you making us for dinner?

Me:  White House Maryland Crab Cakes

Them visiting me after moving to California:

Me:  Let's get some Alaskan Halibut and I'll cook it on the grill

I guess I have a ways to go with my husband and wicked step-child. 

However, when I described my idea for Swordfish Oreganade to Grace, she said:

"That sounds fantastic!"

There's hope for her, but not for Chris.

Saturday
Jul202013

Eggplant Parmesan: Just Shut Up and Eat It


I grew up with real eggplant parmesan.  The kind you peeled, sliced thinly across into rounds, then battered and fried.  

This recipe was never deviated from, under penalty from the law.

In fact, my aunt taught me this recipe when I was about 12 years old, and seriously into being a vagabond by staying over at all of my aunts houses whenever I as allowed to.  

Auntie Alice, (top row, middle) the oldest of the Euzzine Girls, grew up during the Great Depression, the first child of Vincent and Caroline, who were fresh off the boat.

Not only did she have the Italian Vegetable Gene, but she learned the art of "putting up vegetables" from her parents, and continued that for all of her life.  When she built a new house, it had a second kitchen in the basement, with a tiny Chambers gas stove, a farmhouse sink, a battered wooden table and shelving to the ceiling.  I hate to think what those appliances are now worth.

Days in the kitchen would go something like this:

Auntie Alice:  Margot, you're young, can you reach under there and get that pan?

Or,

Auntie Alice:  Margot, you're tall, can you reach up and get that pan?

One weekend, she was going to pickle peppers, and had me help by having me peel a dozen heads of garlic.  I used a small paring knife, and by the time I was done, my right thumb was, well, imagine pressing raw garlic juice into your thumb with the sharp edge of a knife about 250 times.

She would either plant her own vegetables, or accept harvest from neighbors who had overplanted, and one year we fried a bushel of eggplant.

You understand the concept of a bushel?  It's a dry volume measurement that goes like this:

2 pints to a quart

8 quarts to a peck

4 pecks to a bushel

Roughly translated, we fried somewhere between 50 and 60 eggplants.  It took a dozen dozen eggs, and 12 pounds of lard.  (Because that's what you fried it in, don't ask questions.)  I can't remember how long it took us (My Aunt, My Uncle, My Cousin and Me), but the six that I fried recently took 3 hours, including cleaning up the mess in the kitchen.

Fast forward to somewhere around 1980, and suddenly everyone is trying to make eggplant healthy. Many failed miserably.  

"The skin must be healthy, lets leave it on."  

No.

"Let's broil it instead of frying it."

Nope.  Try again.

"If we cut it thicker, it won't soak up so much grease when we fry it."  

Ok, but you eat it.  Not me.

Anyway, when I was preparing my Eggplant Parmesean for our post Muster party, I mentioned it at my gym, and the subject very quickly turned to "bad eggplant reviews" from most of the class attendees, and specifically from the instructor, Wendy.

"My mother makes eggplant, and it's always green and kind of crunchy.  I never knew what it was supposed to taste like until I had yours. How do I tell her?

The lesson here is, just make it the old fashion way a couple of times a year, shut up about trying to make it healthy, and eat it.

To my Auntie Jo (bottom row, middle), for all of the threads she has weaved for all of us. Hope you enjoyed your send-off, dear.

 

Monday
Jul152013

Hot Artichoke Dip: No need to choke

Artichoke eaters can be very finicky.  Some eat the entire globe.  Some eat only the hearts.  Some eat only the leaves, and leave the hearts.  

Seems a shame.

I once tried my hand at making hot artichoke dip using fresh artichoke hearts that I steamed just for the recipe.  It took a week for my hands to heal.

While I'm on the subject, I looked for recipes all over the Internet, trying to find something that would update this 70's concoction, but nearly every recipe was identical, and all claiming to be the best ever.

Using canned artichoke hearts.  Which frankly bear no resemblance to real artichoke hearts.  I needed to make that point.  I succeeded with Grace, I think.

Me:  Grace, now that you like artichokes, let me give you some words of advice.  If you see stuffed and steamed artichokes on a menu, order them.  You will probably like them.

Grace:  Ok.

Me:  If you see a menu item with artichoke hearts in it, don't order it.  You will probably hate it.

Grace:  Ok.

Back to recipe research.

There were exactly two that used fresh artichoke hearts, but getting to the hearts following their instructions was the same blood drawing exercise I had already gone through.

Stop.  Wait.  (You've probably figured it out at this point)

Use leftover hearts.  Like the ones left over from the California Grilled Artichokes.

If you ever look in my freezer, you will find random bits of things in plastic containers that probably don't make any sense, but I save all little bits of leftovers. Might not be enough to do anything with yet, but next time I make that something, I add the leftovers to the same container until I have enough for something.  Might not know what that is, but it will come to me eventually.

So by July 4th, I had nearly a dozen, already cooked, already grilled, frozen artichoke hearts, from real artichokes.

Next time, I'll take a run at changing the base, but technology has taught me to change only one thing at a time when you are trying to solve a problem.