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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. 

Sunday
Jan112015

Bud Vases

While we are on our clean living program, Champagne Flutes make excellent bud vases.

 

And yes, I picked out all of the red from the Christmas potpourri.  (I have nothing else to do.).  It's nice to having something to light when it's too cold to open the fireplace flu.

I put all of the red in a zip lock bag until next year.  When these are done for the season, I mix all of the potpourri back together for Christmas and zip it until Christmas.

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.