Tuesday, July 30, 2013

LEFT BRAIN


Here’s another wonderful graphic I found out there on the web – it’s the cry of Seniors everywhere - 


To explain why I’m feeling this way here’s part of what I wrote last week to my favorite correspondent:

Aaaarrrgg! Major Senior Moment! I told you about our plan to go to Greenville today to see our granddaughter’s swimming meet? We left at 6:15 this morning, got to the aquatic complex – huge, nice! – two hours later. ! I thought it was odd as we pulled into the complex that there were few cars and no busses for the kids. Guess what? The meet is next week Well we went in, used the facilities, and turned around and came home.

You’ve heard the expression “a day late and a dollar short”? Well I usually err on the early side. This has happened with plane trips and doctor’s appointments. I’ve got one thing going for me: at least I don’t miss things entirely.



Monday, July 29, 2013

PAPAS ALIÑAS FOR TWO

As will be my practive until I have them all transferred, here's another recipe from Latelife Recipes. This one is a keeper.



PAPAS ALIÑAS - Adapted from Saveur 9/99

Potatoes & Tuna (aliña means dressed)

This is a tapas bar standard from Sanlúcar de Barrameda and, with three large potatoes and about the same other ingredients along with parsley sprinkled on top, was meant for 6-12 diners as part of a tapas meal. I made two potatoes for the two of us as our whole meal.

2 large white potatoes
1 (milder!)* regular to small yellow onion, coarsely chopped (no scallions!) not too much onion!
¼+ cup olive oil
¼+ cup red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar - no balsamic!)
salt
1 6oz can solid white tuna in water, drained


Boil potatoes until the skins just break and potatoes are very tender. Drain. (Original called for potatoes to be peeled now, but we like the skins) Cut into chunks. Salt the potatoes.

Machine blend or vigorously whisk oil and vinegar. Pour over the potatoes, add the chopped onion, and toss them gently.

Potatoes will absorb the dressing while they are warm. Portion out the potatoes on to two plates.
Arrange flaked tuna on top of the potatoes, and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley if desired. (chopped tomato is good too.)

Note - I've been making this regularly since 1999.
Tuna now comes in 5 oz. cans, not 6 (or even the 7 I remember. Why couldn't they just leave the same size and raise the price?!) The original recipe was for white potatoes, but I have used reds and small russets too. When I say no balsamic vinegar or scallions I mean it! I've tried them at one time and they were not right for the recipe.

* did you know that the flatter the onion the milder it will be? So if you have only a pointy onion be sure, after you have chopped it, to rinse the pieces under water in a sieve.

Friday, July 26, 2013

APPLIANCE NO-NOS

Things tend to come in threes, it’s said, and this has proved true here these last few weeks when we’ve replaced our vacuum cleaner, our toaster oven, and the toaster.

My new vacuum, replacing a 27-pound monster which did a super job but gave my arm fits because it wanted to go only forward not backward, is an 11 pound Dyson DC24. Light, compact, absolutely, positively wonderful. A great deal of thinking went in to its foolproof design. 
The Dyson DC24 - I do recommend it!

There’s the operative word for this essay: foolproof. Too many fools are buying appliances these days. You can tell by the warnings in the instruction booklets: they have to include warnings so that users will not do stupid things with the machine. I’m sure they have include the warnings because they’ve already run into, maybe have already been sued by users who misused the appliance.  The Dyson is so well engineered that there’s only one warning: when vacuuming stairs leave the vacuum at the bottom, not the top of the stairs where you could pull it over on yourself.  That sounds logical to me.

The toaster, on the other hand, has warnings that absolutely amazed me. Users are warned:
        Do not immerse toaster in water or run water into toaster
                (pictured is water running into the toaster from a hose.)

        Do not operate toaster under or around any flammable materials
                (pictured is the toaster near curtains.)

        Do not insert objects into the toaster
                (Pictured is someone digging out the toast with a fork.)

        Do not place the toaster in the dishwasher
                (yep! With a picture to match!)

The toaster oven – we needed a new one because the old one, though it worked just fine, was giving off that ‘electrical’ smell -  has just about the same warnings as the toaster, and adds:
        Do not place on or near a hot gas or electric burner, or in a heated oven





Good grief why would someone immerse a toaster in water? I can guess why they’d place it in the dishwasher or would put the toaster oven in a regular oven: for storage.  Then they forgot the appliance was in there and turned the dishwasher on! And then they probably sued the manufacturer.
                    
 
“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”
                                                        Quote by Douglas Adams

 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

HIDDEN TREASURE

A few days ago one of my regular emails from Houzz featured an article called You Won’t Believe What These Homeowners Found in Their Walls. It got me to recalling the things we found almost 40 years ago when Frank was renovating our new old house on the Mill Pond in Port Washington, New York. 


Obviously, this is the Before shot.
One of the first changes was to switch a closet with the bathroom, basically to afford more room in the bathroom but esthetically so that you didn’t have to look at the toilet as you walked up the stairs. Are you ‘getting a visual’ on it? That bit had to change.  He and the crew took up floorboards around the toilet and found newspapers stuffed in between the joists. Interesting news from the 30’s, and I think that’s when the toilet was installed because the house was much older. They called me in to see. The headlines about Al Capone and some politicos but the newspapers were very dry and crumbling, just falling apart as they were pulled out. I had the opposite of an “aha!” moment, sort of an “uh-oh!” moment when I realized that they were just about to use the torch to remove the plumbing: suppose the newspapers had caught fire!? Egad! But all went well and they were veeeerry careful!

Other things were found as the work progressed: Pencils and an unopened pack of Gillette Blue Blades, which Frank still has in his treasure box, were found in the closed-over drawer of corner cabinet in the dining room.  A beautiful white stoneware pitcher – missing its washbowl – and a silver-plated fireman’s hailing horn were found in the attic, stuffed in the top of stairway.  The pitcher is still in my sister’s home, but the hailing horn we sold about ten years later for $500.

The best find was cash money. We pulled up the ratty old rug in the smaller bedroom and there were several tin plates, maybe flattened cans, tacked down here and there the room. Frank pulled one up and found it covered a hole, the purpose of which he never knew. Meaning to plug all the holes he pulled up all the tins, and under one – voila! – was $180 in cash. Back in the ‘70’s that was enough for a wonderful vacation weekend at the Can-Am races at Watkins Glen.
 

Our seats at The Glen, grey stands,  right scross from the pits -
Field glasses, camera and the handy stop watch ready for the race.

Why would someone stash that cash there and then rug it over?  Why would anyone stash stuff behind walls, on top of stairways, under the floorboards?
Obviously, so that people like me and the contributors to Houzz would have great stories to tell years later.


After, of course.

Monday, July 22, 2013

PASTA WITH SAUSAGE, PEAS AND MUSHROOMS - FOR TWO


Here's another repost from Latelife Recipes:
Adapted from recipe in Pasta for Pennies in the May 2012 issue of Country Living, I made this for our supper this evening. It was very good, if I do say so myself. I think you could use two sausages if you care to, though one was enough for us. The recipe said to mix the meat mixture with the pasta, but I served it, as you see in the picture, with the mix on top of the pasta.

1 large Italian sweet sausage, casing removed, meat broken up
2 cups – more or less according to appetites
4 or 5 white mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp. white wine
½ tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ cup fresh or frozen peas
2 Tbsp. milk or ½ n ½
1 Tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the sausage meat, breaking it up to have nice crumbly bits. Sauté until it is nicely browned and remove and set aside the drained sausage.

Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Shells work very well, though the original recipe was with rigatoni. When the pasta is done, reserve about 2 tbsp. of the cooking water and drain the pasta and set it aside.

Brown the sliced mushrooms in the sausage fat, adding some olive oil if needed.

Deglaze the pan with the wine – water, if you prefer, scraping up all the burned bits. Add the garlic, thyme, peas, reserved meat, to the pan and stir it up.

Add the reserved pasta water, milk, and butter, and simmer it all until the mixture thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add reserved pasta to the pan, stir and heat through. Serve


Friday, July 19, 2013

A GUSTATORY TOUR OF ITALY - REVISITED...

 

...in honor of Lasagna Awareness Month I am reposting this essay from two years ago.


Funivia from Rapallo to Montallegtro
July is Lasagna Awareness Month? Are they serious? Why should we be ‘aware’ of lasagna? Isn’t everyone? Just who came up with this? The cheese industry? The pasta industry? The tomato industry? No, not the Italians. They’d celebrate all food and wine, not just one tasty dish. Who would own up to wanting to celebrate this in July: this is a dish for the cooler weather. I never had lasagna in Italy, but all this food talk reminds me of what I did have.

I have to admit that I’m partial to Italian food. You will appreciate, of course, that the best pizza I ever had was in Italy: a wonderful Margherita pizza we enjoyed at lunch in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Or was it at that restaurant in Rapallo? So many pizzas, so little time.

The best way to experience any country is to go with a native. We had this luck in Liguria. Liliana, a colleague of our former daughter-in-law, took us on a gustatory tour. In Chiavari we enjoyed farinata, a pizza made with chick-pea flour. Further west on the French Riviera this is called socca. In Santa Margherita we had, among other delights, a salad of fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh anchovies. I’ve come to love certain ‘iffy’ foods like escargot and mussels, when I was embarrassed to admit I’d never tried them before. Not wanting to say that I didn’t like anchovies, I took a bite - heaven! Those fresh fellows were absolutely delicious!

In Portofino Liliana knew everyone. She got our boat a berth right at the harbor master’s dock, and then took us for a tour and a decadent dessert of ice cream covered with berries and other fruit. In Vernazza, in the Cinque Terra, we had Ligurian pasta, trofi al pesto, and an unlabeled bottle of local white wine that was just fabulous.

Pansotti alla Noce
My most memorable meal was in Rapallo. Le Santuario de Nostra Signora di Montallegro (say that three times fast!) is a beautiful church, a place of pilgrimage, reached via funivia, a cable car that takes you up a small mountain. On the way from the car terminus to the church we smelled a wonderful aroma coming from a hotel along the way. Liliana stopped in and ordered our lunch, to be made to order for us, for our later return. That lunch is probably the best one I ever had. The dish was Pansotti alla Noce, and my travel diary says “to die for!” On handkerchief-like squares of pasta they spread a mixture of chopped herbs, including borage, and vegetables. The pasta is folded up around the filling so it stays together in cooking, and there are many layers to each piece. They are served covered in a sauce of walnuts and cream. The aroma of that sauce is what had enticed us on our way. The funivia stops service until two in the afternoon, so we had a long, leisurely lunch. Some wine, some cappuccino, some dessert. I could have rolled down that mountain on my own.

So, back to lasagna. Go on line and check out lasagna and its history. There are northern versions, mainly using béchamel or white sauces, and southern versions using tomato based sauces. Basically, it is sheets of pasta layered with sauce, cheese, perhaps meat, and other ingredients, and all baked in a dish - a lasanum. Google ‘lasagna’ and you come up with hundreds of versions. You really can’t go wrong. Lasagna is on most folks lists of favorite comfort foods - mine too!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

FEBRUARY HATS


I found a gem in the big old ledger where I’ve kept my spending totals  since 1977.  (I’m not about to computerize the whole thing now.) When I finally put in the June totals and added up the half year, I saw this gem I’d clipped from the Sunday New York Times in February 1987. Who knows why I saved it in the first place, but it really is a good one. Part of it reads:

 Besides keeping heads warm, hats are providing a note of needed cheer these dreary winter days. On second thought, perhaps cheer doesn’t quite cover the gamut of what hats are now providing, so let’s add some words like drama, adventure flair, and hoot – as in “that hat’s a hoot.”

 

The whole piece is a hoot – and perfect for a hot day in July,
twenty-six years later.


Monday, July 15, 2013

SEAFOOD AU GRATIN

Here's the third transfer post from my Latelife Recipes. I posted it last May, and I find this recipe especially good for two in the summer when I can use the toaster oven. Again, this is a BY the Numbers recipe.



This is seafood au gratin for two – or one, or three, or eight!

Preheat oven to 400º (can use toaster oven for just two portions)


For each person

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp white wine – or maybe cognac for shrimp
½ tsp minced garlic or some sliced fresh garlic
¼ to ½ pound of seafood: cod, black grouper, mahi mahi, 
         scallops,  shrimp, whatever you have
2 or 3 crackers – depending on size
1 Tbsp grated parmesan or romano



Melt butter in tiny pot, adding wine and garlic.
Butter the au gratin dishes and put in the seafood, then pour sauce over each. Bake for 10 minutes or until seafood is opaque.

Meanwhile, for each person smash 2 or 3 crackers in a plastic bag. Add and mix in the grated cheese. 
When seafood is done, remove dishes from the oven. Turn on the broiler. Sprinkle each dish with its portion of crackers and cheese. Return the dishes to the oven and watch and remove them when the tops are nicely browned.





Today is Syttende Mai - the seventeenth of May, Norwegian Constitution Day - so I had to post a seafood recipe. It's not exactly a Norwegian recipe, but I know one Norwegian-American who loves this. 



Friday, July 12, 2013

WHITE SHOES IN SUMMER




See that bottle of shoe white? Its presence in the shot – just one I took at random in the Depot at Gibson Mill in Concord, NC - wasn’t significant until I just noticed it today and put it together with my memory of white shoes in the summer. 

As she did the rest of the year to keep our school and dress shoes looking good, almost every week in summer Mom would lay out sheets of newspaper and have us bring out our white shoes to be polished. Shake, shake, shaking the bottle, then getting some of the liquid on the little white fuzzy pad used to spread the polish on the shoes. Once hey dried she would polish the chalky finish to a nice shine with a soft rag.  Every once in a while, as she re-shook the bottle during the job, the little pad would be off kilter and the polish would go all over the place.  That was a nasty mess, especially if it got on her clothes.

I’m also reminded of a picture of my cousin and me, both aged about three. In it both of us are wearing brown sandals. I remember my Mother telling me, when we were going through her photo album many years later, that my cousin first had white sandals which were very hard to come by during the war years of the 40’s.  She complained so bitterly that her Mom finally had to get her a pair of brown sandals like mine. See that? I was a fashionista at an early age!

 
 
 
 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

TWO SHAKES OF A LAMB'S TAIL


I really enjoy reading The Writer’s Almanac each day. Day after day, no hiatus over the weekends or holidays as there are with some websites, every day I can learn something new and interesting. This past Sunday it was the anniversary of sliced bread:

 
Sliced bread was sold for the first time on this date in 1928. Up until that time, consumers baked their own bread, or bought it in solid loaves. Otto Frederick Rohwedder, a jeweler from Davenport, Iowa, had been working for years perfecting an eponymous invention, the Rohwedder Bread Slicer. He tried to sell it to bakeries. They scoffed, and told him that pre-sliced bread would get stale and dry long before it could be eaten. He tried sticking the slices together with hatpins, but it didn't work. Finally he hit on the idea of wrapping the bread in waxed paper after it was sliced. Still no sale, until he took a trip to Chillicothe, Missouri, and met a baker who was willing to take a chance. Frank Bench agreed to try the five-foot-long, three-foot-high slicing and wrapping machine in his bakery. The proclamation went out to kitchens all over Chillicothe, via ads in the daily newspaper: "Announcing: The Greatest Forward Step in the Baking Industry Since Bread was Wrapped — Sliced Kleen Maid Bread." Sales went through the roof. Rohwedder not only gave Americans the gift of convenience and perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but he also provided the English language with the saying that expresses the ultimate in innovation: "the greatest thing since sliced bread."

Expressions like that one, and little adages and mottoes color all our daily conversations.  One evening last week, during a family get-together, my seven year old granddaughter was, shall we say, ‘lounging’ at the dinner table. I got her attention and said “Mabel, Mabel, strong and able, keep your elbows off the table.”  Well that perked her up – she thought it was a hoot – and she sat up straight, withdrew her elbows, and smiled. She loves some of the old expressions I spout from time to time.  I’ve got dozens of them, passed down from my mother who probably got them from her own mother: I’ll be there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail; I haven’t seen that since Hector was a pup; She went out looking like Astor’s pet billy goat; I'm off like a herd of turtles. My granddaughter wouldn’t ‘get’ the reference to sliced bread now, but one day she’ll probably use that phrase.
 





Speaking about adages and quotes and such, it was, by coincidence, the birthday of Robert Heinlein.  There are so many memorable lines from Heinlein, and such great, often intermixed stories in his repertoire, that after a while it all becomes, as I once read, “random Heinlein”.  If you read most of his works, as I have, it all becomes a separate compartment or pocket of people, ideas and sensations in your (alleged) mind.  Heinlein said “Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.”  How true, how true.

 

Monday, July 8, 2013

QUICK SATURDAY MORNING WAFFLES OR PANCAKES



Here's the second transfer post from my recipes blog. I use this recipe so often that it is etched in my memory.


This is a recipe I use every Saturday. It’s great for both waffles and pancakes, and takes little time to whip up. Of course, it serves 2. Here goes:

Preheat your waffle iron or griddle, and meanwhile

In a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup or similar thing, add and whisk together well:
½ cup milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Pinch of salt

After mixing that, put in on top of it
½ cup flour, then on top of that
1½ tsp. baking powder –

With your fork or whisk, sort of swirl the baking powder into the top of the flour to mix them a bit, then mix it all into the liquid until it is fairly lump free. Voila: your batter is ready. Just enough for two Seniors. Double or triple as needed.

Don't forget to get creative with any fruit you may have on hand. Add cut up fruit to the pancake batter, or heat the fruit chunks in some maple syrup, with a bit of cinnamon to pour over your waffles.

Friday, July 5, 2013

COUSINS


These are my mother's parents. Their granddaughter can be
seen in reflection, taking a picture of the pictures.
 
I knew I had first cousins once removed here in the United States, but I didn’t know I had second cousins in Germany. One of them, my mother and his mother were cousins, has been collecting the history of our great-grandparents family. My grandfather, my mother’s father, was the youngest of ten, so there are quite a lot of branches on the family tree. 
 
Knowing there was a branch of the family here because care packages were sent after World War II, our family archivist had been searching for us for years. In his travels here he’d look up the name in the various phone books, but in some places there were so many he didn’t know where to begin. Finally in 2009 he found just one name in the St. Petersburg, Florida, phone book, and she proved to be the connection he needed.  This past May I got a wonderful gift in the mail from Germany: a book about our family published by our archivist. One thing had led to another and he got my name and address from one of my cousins. I’ve kept in touch with only one or two of my many cousins – my grandparents had 35 grandchildren! – so it was a delight to see pictures of so many more of them, and sad to know that a few of them had passed away.
 
Our archivist had very little information about my mother’s small branch of the family, and I’ve been delighted to fill in some of the blanks and provide some family photos. I’ve even been able to make some additions and corrections here and there. My German cousin is keeping the whole history on a nicely
updateable PDF.



My Great-grandmother and Great Aunt


I have a wonderful photo, taken around 1923, of our great-grandmother, a very stern looking woman, and great aunt. I do remember Tante Fini from my childhood. I’d assumed the photo was taken in Ruhrort, the town where the family lived – and where some of them still do – but that isn’t where it is. Now the search is on to find out where that picture was taken. It is a delightful mystery.
 


My mother is sitting on her older sister's lap.
(I'm so glad I didn't have to iron all those clothes!)


 
My mother was a font of family information, and it was because of her that I knew where her father had been born. It turns out that I am the only one from the American branch of the family who has visited there. In 1996 my husband and I were traveling with our daughter-in-law who was in Europe on business. We had to get back to Belgium early that evening and had only a day to make a quick trip to Ruhrort. Once there, we went to the local police station and they were very helpful, given the language barrier. I’d brought along photos of the pictures I had from my mother, and the gentlemen there were delighted to direct us to the churches in the picture. With not much time on our hands, we strolled around town and had a wonderful lunch at the Schifferbörse, the former Marine Exchange, and had to head back to Malmedy. Had I realized I had family there I’d have made arrangements to stay a few days. I’m fairly certain that I won’t get back there, but I am having a wonderful time with all the reminiscing and recollections started by the family search. I’m reminded of the many stories my mother told us over the years, so I’m now in the process of writing down some of them for the family history.
 

St. Maximilianus Church in Ruhrort
where my grandfather was baptized.
This is my picture from 1996


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

TOUCHES OF CHRISTMAS


 
Here we are, a few days before the 4th of July, and I’m thinking about Christmas. My house has touches of Christmas in it all year long. A needlepoint of St. Nicholas and polar bears hangs in my kitchen, the angel I made years ago for our front door now hangs in our guest room along with a shelf full of toys, and for years my living room decor has always been green and red. Christmas touches are all over the house.

 
As usual, I’m almost finished with my Christmas shopping. Books, always, for the granddaughters – I’m supplied ahead with books through 2015 – and little gifts for the adults. We agreed along ago that more expensive gifts just weren’t necessary for us older ones: Christmas is a birthday party for children. It’s a challenge to find inexpensive and appropriate gifts, but I’m lucky at this this year.


In this warm summer month - and it's been a steam bath here these last few days - I just thought I’d tantalize you with a couch of coolth.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, July 1, 2013

BACON AND EGG PASTA FOR TWO

Over a year ago I started a blog about cooking for two seniors. I posted fairly regularly, but gradually I began to forget that blog existed - it's easy to do in this busy world. Rather than maintain the two blogs, I decided to cobine them and gradually repost the originals to this blog, then go on and post new recipes. So here is an installment from May of 2012.

My usual method for recording recipes is to do it as though I was speaking to you. I don't often list all the ingredients at the top of the recipe, but include them as I go along, narrating how to prepare the dish. It is a good idea to read through the entire procedure before you start, making sure you have everything on hand and know what's involved.

INGREDIENTS AND METHOD Read through recipe before starting
¼ lb. linguini - cook, reserve 1/3 cup of the liquid meanwhile...

cook 2 slices thick-cut bacon, diced and cook until crisp.
Remove bacon and dry on paper towels. Save the grease.
To bacon grease in the pan, turned to medium to low heat, add
3T white wine
½ tsp. minced garlic
2 oz. jar chopped pimentos and liquid, and reduce heat to low. (optional)

Whisk 2 eggs with 1/3 cup of half ‘n’ half,
add this mix to the skillet, stir constantly until
the mixture coats a spoon, but don’t scramble the egg!!

Add the mix to the pasta, along with the bacon, a handful of baby spinach (optional),
¼ cup parmesan cheese, 1 Tblsp frozen parsley or basil. Stir in the cooking liquid. Serve topped with more parmesan and a grind or two of fresh pepper.