Thursday, July 31, 2008

Boo Hoo

I'm very sorry to say that my taters, looking so good before the fourth tire went on the stack- are sickly now. The picture here is right after I put the fourth tire on- looking good. Now the one tire shows no signs of any green growth at all and the other a lone pale green and yellow stalk,barely any leaves- the ones there look eaten by deer. I have taken the fourth tire off and in a desperate attempt to safe my crop. The blue potatoes- from what I can see- are ruined- there is no plant life left, but my red potatoes still have the measly green/yellow stalk.I have cut down watering to every other day. Ill see if that works. I hope so. I was so looking forward to 40 pounds of Giant blue and red potatoes for the fall.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Strawberry dreaming

I just love Strawberry Pie.The classic Testa's Restaurant in Palm Beach, before it changed hands, had THE BEST along with the house salad dressing. Alas, it's no longer the same. If anyone knows their house salad dressing or Mama Gilda's in West Palm , please put it in my blog- they are important childhood tastes that I miss!! My sister Maggie is quite a baker. She has searched for a strawberry pie recipe comparable to Testa's. She makes it even better, with a little help from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book and a homemade crust with a secret ingredient- sugar.Here goes..

Crust: make your favorite crust and add 2 teaspoons of sugar to the recipe or buy a frozen one and sprinkle sugar on top- make sure you bake it .

8 cups fresh strawberries hulled and cut-get organic if you can(don't t me started on berries and how they should be organic)
2/3 cups water
2/3 cups sugar
2 tbls cornstarch
Homemade whipped cream(heavy cream in mixer with either powdered sugar or vanilla and whip it till it looks like whipped cream- but not butter)

Combine 1 cup of strawberries and water . Cover and blend in blender till smooth.Add enough water to mixture to equal 1 1/2 cups. In saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch on medium heat;stir in blended strawberry mixture and cook till thickened and bubbly- cool for 10 minutes.Spread a quarter of glaze on bottom of baked pie shell, add half the berries,then half the glaze over the berries, then more berries and the rest of the glaze.Chill for no more than two hours- after that it gets runny. Serve with whipped cream on top.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Life Lessons

The world has lost another great one. Randy Pausch died yesterday after a brave battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 47 years old. For those of you living under a rock, his Last Lecture has been viewed on the internet over 10 million times.He repeated his lecture on the OPRAH show and wrote a best selling book- The Last Lecture, which has sold over 2.8 million copies. Click here Click to watch his incredible lecture.

He said in the lecture "It's not about how to achieve your dreams, it's about how to lead your life.If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you." Those are words to LIVE by as are these"I don't know how to not have fun. I'm dying and I'm having fun.And I'm going to keep having fun every day I have left.Because there's no other way to play it."

Do yourself a favor- watch the lecture, get the book. It will change your outlook on life.

His 3 children "won the parents lottery" as he said about his own parents. He was a remarkable man.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Roaring Kenyan Friendships ...

Tomorrow is a big day. I finally get to meet in person my dear friend Kate Fletcher, who founded Hekima Place in Kenya, a home for girls who have been orphaned. We met through Divine Intervention- the internet was His tool. I had been trying to get some information about how to expand Mama Tunza's Children's Center orphanage and school located in Kibera (the second largest slum in the world) to a place outside the slum. I came upon Hekima Place and Kate. It turns out that we are both Pittsburghers and had so much in common. She and Mama Gladys at Hekima Place have helped my Tricia and Faces of Kibera with their wisdom .From Tricia's own words, Kate has given these girls a beautiful home for them to live and grow.

The story of Christian the lion and the two men who bought him from Harrods and later set him free in Kenya jut really chokes me up- can't help it.Click here to watch the happy tearjerker video.
Hurray for friendships -old and new..
God Is Good (as they say in Kenya when friends meet or part)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Briny Summertime Delight

I found this great recipe on the Food Network that I wanted to share- Brined Fried Chicken..Anyone who brines their Thanksgiving turkey like me knows the wonders of brining.It's so easy and makes the meat amazingly juicy. It does the same for good ole' friend chicken.This takes only an hour or so to brine instead of the usual 36-48 hours for turkey. There's nothing like fried chicken and potato salad to let you know that summer is here to stay. My mom's potato salad is, in my opinion, the best. Her secret is to add celery salt and cut up hard boiled eggs to the usual potatoes,mayo, celery,salt,pepper and green peppers .

Brined Fried Chicken

2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 chicken cut into 10 pieces
2 eggs
2 tbl cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper(pref coarse)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
Crisco and butter for frying

In a bowl whisk cider and salt till salt dissolves. Add chicken pieces and enough water to cover the chicken completely. Soak in fridge for 1-2 hours.

In another bowl whisk the eggs,pepper and cayenne. Drain chicken . Heat Crisco and butter till it sizzles.Shake the flour and cornstarch in a brown bag . Dip chicken pieces one at a time into egg mixture then brown bag mixture. Let coating sit for 10 minutes.fry the chicken in batches till golden brown-on both sides- about 20 minutes or so depending on the size of the pieces.Remove from pan and drain. Cut up some fresh parsley and sprinkle on top.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Listen While You Work

Do you avoid housework like me or are you like it my sis- in- law "Col" and have your place spotless before you go to bed? I wish I was like her but I'm not. I'm very good at figuring how to not do "it"- then I speed up and run around like a whirling dirlish to get it done quickly. It's not that I don't like a clean home- I do. Martha's show is on my season pass list and I watch often.I think about all the things I'm going to do to the house and yard right before bed or a nap. But I usually don't follow through with all my plans.And then I feel like a failure which traps me in the place of staring at all that needs done.

I have found a perfect solution to my dilemma!!! The iTouch. I am probably behind the times on this. I know people love listening to their music as they walk or jog or write (like me) but I have found that if I have an audiobook on my iTouch I WANT to clean the kitchen, make the bed, pick the berries and weed- because it gives me an excuse to listen to my book. I even want to walk in 90 degree heat- alone. I'm driving my husband as I do my chores or cook with the plugs in my ears, oblivious to the goings on around me, deep in the Congo of Barbara Kingsolver's African novel The Poisonwood Bible.

I have my standards- it can only be unabridged. I have learned from experience to be wary of awful audiobooks even if the actual book is supposedly great. I listened to The Da Vinci Code- the reader's voice (male) trying to be a woman with a french accent was laughable. The reader for The Double Bind was impossible to listen to. I am going to look into websites that rate the audiobooks before chalking over the thirty bucks to purchase it.

My home is going to be sparkling by summer's end...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Madly Deeply for MAD MEN

It's mid July and all I can think about is Season Two of MAD MEN which begins on July 27th . When I think of MAD MEN I think of drinking, clothes and the bad but oh so good Don Draper. Like the "real housewives" of the 1960's, when I have guests over I try to have a special drink , along with the usual beer and wine. One of my favorites for the summer is Fresh Pineapple and Rum Punch that I found in Bon Appetite in 2003. It's hard to have only one. But beware this punch can give you one if you're not careful.
Serves Six generously...

1 Very Ripe pineapple,peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups gold rum
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbls fresh lime juice
pineapple cubes for garnish

-Combine the ingredients in a large pitcher and mash it for awhile.Chill overnight
-Strain the mixture and transfer the leftovers to a food processor.Coarsely chop then strain again,pushing as much juice as you can out of the mixture with a spoon into a pitcher.
-Add more fresh pineapple and ice to the punch and serve- can be made 6 hours beforehand.
Serve in a martini glass, of course.

A fun drink for the kids(and also great for adults too if you add a bit of rum)and guess what- no fake coloring etc like you get when you make the frozen pink lemonade..

Homemade Pink Lemonade
6 cups water
1 cups sugar
2 or 3 cups fresh lemon juice
pint of strawberries

Put the 6 cups of water on the stove and add the sugar-let come to a boil and cool off. In the meantime cut up the berries and puree in the blender. Squeeze the lemons- about 12 or so.
Put all the ingredients together in a pitcher.

Don't forget to watch MAD MEN and if you haven't seen it yet- you are in for a treat- watch a repeat of Season One starting tomorrow on AMC at 10AM.Otherwise buy it from Itunes or rent it from Netflix or get it on demand.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Now onto something completely different and utterly preposterous after having just finished that book of books, but have you seen Helen Mirren in a bikini?? Click here if you haven't seen it yet. It makes me ridiculously jealous,depressed and hopeful-jealous that she looks way better than me and she is 15 years older than me and has talent out the wazoo;depressed after going to buy a bathing suit myself today by my favorite bathing suit designer Karla Coletta, who is terribly expensive but 30% off, but still cant bring myself to buy one after looking in the mirror, AND seeing Helen in all her 60 something year old glory;hopeful that I can start the diet tomorrow, as I always say and salvage something of the old me. Maybe I can get back to bikinis when I hit 60- I only have 11 years to work on it.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

An update on the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly is not for the faint of heart.
It is still brilliant, makes me realize that I'm reading a Picasso when I myself am writing Dick and Jane. It is still well worth reading, and this coming from someone who lost dear friends on that horrible day. It hits all the bases- the Holocaust, Hiroshima and 9/11 with vivid reality, through the eyes of a 9 year old boy. All that said and with that warning, it is spectacular and even with all the pain, there is so much love.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cherry Cherry -Tomato?

I am thrilled with the Ground Cherry "Goldie" Tomato plant that I bought in May for the veggie garden. I only wish I bought more. They look very similar to a tomatillo but smaller and yellow. I tasted my "harvest of three" yesterday thinking they'd be tart, but they were so sweet- very fruity-with a hint of pineapple. It's a very tropical taste. I bet they'd be great in sangria or salsa. They are delicious. I am going to plant more next year. I looked up some info on them(it wasn't easy finding much info) and it says they have abundant fruit in August- I'm hoping thats the case here. I want to share them with my friends and family so they can taste this new treat.I'm thinking most of my f and f have never tasted these or seen them either.

On a very bummer note, some of my potatoes have disappeared. I started with about 4 plants in each tire- now there is only one red potato plant and 2 blue potato plants. I think I shouldn't have put so much hay on them-I must have smothered the rest.Hopefully it's not as bad as it looks in this picture. I had just covered them with the hay. This is the last of the tires to go on top. Now I just have to wait for the potato vine to grow, grow ,grow and then die off, then its time for the taters. I hope there will be some in there!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Extremely Great and Incredibly Brilliant

I have found it. Finally, a book I can love and savour. It has been a long time coming..."Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer. It's not like anything I have ever read before. The prose is just "wow". Describing it does not do it justice. I think I might have to give up writing all together after reading this book- and I'm not even finished.

I actually am listening to it on my Ipod. It is a well done narrative- with different readers taking on the different parts- but I also have the book- which is important to have as a companion- because of the way it is written and laid out- there are pages with drawings,pictures, lists. It is so unconventional- which makes it that much more brilliant.

Very quickly, it is about a 9 year old boy genius Oskar whose dad died on 9/11. His grandmother is a Holocaust survivor, if Im not mistaken (I have tried to not read any reviews )- I know it sounds bleak and horrible- but it's not. Thanks to Tricia for telling me it's her favorite book,buying it for me and gently prodding me to pick it up when I didn't.

It is extremely clever and incredibly moving.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

You bug me

I must say, this killing of the Japanese beetles "organically" which means getting a jar, filling it with soapy water, putting on gloves (so you don't touch them- yuk) picking or shaking the bugs and letting them drown in the mixture- has been oddly rewarding.

I have found that morning and evening are the best times to grab them. During the day they are way too perky. It is a great feeling to maneuver a plant stalk towards the opening of the jar, gently tap the stalk and watch 3 or 4 fall into their death bath. I try not to look at them swimming around in there. That part is awful- but finding them- especially a whole orgy of them on one leaf and getting them in the jar is surprisingly thrilling.

I got to get a life!!!

Potatoes on my mind

Okay so I love potatoes. I'm Irish. What can I say. The most exciting thing in the garden for me this year are my potatoes growing in tires- yes tires. I've never attempted to grow my favorite food- till now. I must say, this tire thing is pretty easy.
All you do is buy seedlings from your nursery- you only need a few spuds for each tire. I have planted blue tators in one tire and red ones in the other- trying to go with NY Giants colors this year.

You cut off a good portion of the seedling and let it sit a day or so to harden. The you put it inside the tire-eyes up and fill the tire with hay ( I like the shredded hay). You have to make sure you get inside the rim of the tires so no water collects. Make sure it is watered well- which has been no problem so far this year in the NY area - there's been a bit of rain almost daily for about a month now. Then when the plant grows about 8 inches out from the tire you add another tire and do the same thing with the hay. Ive taken pictures of the 'tatoes growing in 2 tires . It's now time for me to add the fourth and final tire. Then I will wait till the plant dies and start to harvest.

I will harvest-so they say -20 pounds per tire structure. I cant wait!!!
Did you know that potatoes are one of the veggies you really should buy organic if you can. These spuds are. And so far - no Japanese beetles have come to "bug" them.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Boopy Bop

Tonight will be the second training session for my dog Betty Boop. She is gearing up to be a therapy dog for the Good Dog Foundation. This means that after 10 weeks of training (and hopefully passing the training) she will be a certified therapy dog. We will then volunteer as a "team" and visit patients twice a month in the hospital. It is well documented that dog visits have helped patients a great deal with mood and physical therapy.
Any dog lover knows how they brighten our day. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to guide her through this training. So far she has been excellent, although she takes issue when the other "dogs in training" try to sniff her to say hello. If any of you have a dog that you think has potential, look into the Good Dog Foundation

I tried another fantastic recipe over the weekend. It is the perfect summer dessert and a must try. You will impress your guests and yourself (as I did being not the best baker in the world). It comes from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso- one of my favorite and most used cook books. It's called Pavlova - and when you tell the little ones that it is named after a famous ballerina- they love it. The only pic I have is of the before-before the fruit and whipped cream- it is Very forgiving if you are not the best decorator of desserts. My sister Maggie and her "gals" made and brought over the best looking patriotic sugar cookies which I have posted on July 4th.

4 egg whotes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 275 F
1.Combine egg whites,salt and cream of tartar in a bowl.
2.Beat till the whites hold a stiff peak.
3.Continue beating as you add the sugar, a few tbsps at a time until egg whites are stiff and glossy.
4.Beat in cornstarch, then the vinegar and vanilla extract.
5.Spoon meringue gently into a buttered 8 -inch cake pan.
6.Bake until firm and lightly browned- about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool slightly and unmold- cool completely.
7. Make whipped cream.
8.Cut up strawberries ( I used peaches too) and sprinkle with sugar and Grand Marnier( I omitted the GM and squeezed half a lemon on the fruit as well).
9. Spread on top of the meringue.
10.Add the whipped cream on top of the fruit. I had some colored decorator sugar and sprinkled that on top to add some color.

You will have no leftovers.

Serves 4-6 but I got 10 small pieces out of it.
This can be easily doubled for a bigger crowd.

Friday, July 4, 2008

God Bless America

Yesterday when I was at a huge party, I overheard someone saying she wasn't sure how she felt about celebrating "July 4th" but she was glad to be there enjoying the food. I thought I must have been hearing things but I wasn't. She looked young-in her early twenties. I guess I'm getting really old. I love America. I love all it stands for. I love our freedom. I love our generosity .We might make mistakes sometimes-but who doesn't?Thanks to all of those who fight to protect our freedom and for the freedom of others who do not share our good fortune. And to those before us,who gave their life so that we may be free- from the early days before our Independence, when our forefathers put everything on the line to start this new country- the greatest in the world, America.

Special thanks to gals Molly and Maggie for the gorgeous-and delicious sugar cookie flag.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Boom Boom

My first attempt at seeing the fireworks with my grand girl ended before they began. Kailee was talking about "Boom Boom" all day but fizzled before the fireworks did. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

I can't stop thinking bout food and most especially starch.Alexis Stewart's blog is chock full of food. She has fantastic recipes on there (and a bit of nip/ tuck and other gossip as well). The art of how she presents her food is just as good as the recipe's- lots of desserts.If you are into lolligagging, like me- go through all her old posts as well- the food never stops. My favorite is starch of course.She calls it "Green Sauce for Rice" and says its "effing amazing". She's right on.

Green Sauce and Rice
Cook Rice and fluff
Add to a blender the following:
1 bunch of green scallions
1 large white onion (I omitted this)
I bunch of cilantro ( I don't like cilantro so I added a handful of cherry tomatoes instead)
3-4 tbs fresh lime juice
2 jalapenos with seeds( I omitted this)
2-3 jalapenos without seeds( I used bottled)
2 tsp salt
1 tbs olive oil
tomatillos( I omitted this and added 1/2 cup of Salsa verde from Trader Joe's)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Summertime, summertime

Is this not the best time of the year- to walk in the tall grass barefoot in just a bathing suit and look at the flowers you planted from seed (or not) growing- not eaten as of yet by deer (Nature's Technologies- thank you!!) and organically grown?Does this not beat sitting in the dark at 4:35 PM in the house while it's freezing cold outside. Wish it could be July 2nd everyday.

Here's a favorite salad for the summer of mine, from Food and Wine Magazine- it's so refreshing.

Arugula Watermelon Salad
3 pounds watermelon cut into cubes
1 small onion thinly sliced
1 bunch arugula
1/3 cup Fresh o.j.
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons rasberry vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup shredded ricotta salata cheese( if you cant find it-omit the cheese)
1 cup coarsley chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. In large bowl combine watermelon and onion, cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or more.
2. Combine the oj,lime juice, rasberry vinegar.
3.Add arugula to the watermelon and onions.Pour dressing over mixture and season with salt and pepper. Top with ricotta salata and walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil, Mix and Serve!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Gotta start somewhere

The Japanese beetles are slowly creeping into the garden, but much slower than last year. Im keeping my fingers crossed that the plague won't arrive.

Waiting to hear from my editor about the second draft of my  essay for Creative Non Fiction . It's my first experience with writing something out of nothing for publication. When I got the corrections ( "multo") and critique from her it was a blow to my ego, but time and reflection helped me get past and improve. Now I know her pattern, and not hearing from her for a week does not mean that I wrote the worst essay ever- it just means she has other things going on besides my essay. As my daughter Tricia always tells me- mom its not about you.

Loved the quote from UCLA Writers website- essay means to try in french.