Sunday, October 4, 2015


When we were very young, our mother said our prayers with us each night.  Imagine two little tow-headed children, on their knees, heads against their folded hands on the bedspread.  Until we could remember the entire prayer,  our mother would recite each line and we'd repeat it.  We had two prayers; one was Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and the other was The Lord's Prayer.  I wish I had a video of it because I think we must have been too darn cute.

My mother explained The Lord's Prayer, telling us the meaning of hallowed and debtors. I suppose she thought the Now I Lay Me Prayer was clear but I always thought the first word of the prayer was Nowilayme. I don't know what I thought that meant but it was a word to me.

For those that don't know, the prayer is:

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

My mother had us add a few more lines.  They went like this:

God bless Mommy and Daddy,
And Susan and Johnny,
And everybody in the whole wide world.

Isn't that sweet?

My parents got divorced when I as about 7.  We quickly got a step-mother; the first of 3.  Her name was Katie and we did not like her. As an adult, I think back to why I didn't like her.  I'm sure much of it had to do with the fact the my mother didn't like her.  And my father pushed her on us way too quickly.  I also think she just wasn't the easiest person to warm to.  She was loud and brash.  She swore and drank up a storm.  When I was 10 she told me she was a better mother to me than my mother.  I don't know if I'd like her today if I met her but I probably wouldn't have hated her and considered her the Cruella DeVille of my life.

At some point, shortly after the divorce, my brother and I add a new ending to the prayer.  Now it went:

God bless Mommy and Daddy,
And Susan and Johnny,
And everybody in the whole wide world.
Except Katie.

I'm not going to examine why a mother let two children ask God not to bless one person but it worked for us.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Oh, When the Giants Come to Town

When I was a young Southern California girl in high school, I was dating a college guy from Northern California.  He would go home every summer and, in those days, no one made long distance phone calls unless there was a special occasion or an emergency.  And so we wrote letters.  I think we often wrote daily.  And I saved many of those letters because I'm a saver.

At some point, on the back of an envelope, he wrote, "Mailman, Mailman/Do your duty/Take this letter/To my California cutie."  I think that was copied from a popular song. But it started our envelope meme.  From then on, many letters, back and forth, had Mailman, Mailman sayings.  He was a huge Giant fan and I was raised a true, blue Dodger fan.  Consequently many of our little ditties related to the Dodgers or Giants.

So today I share with you some of his baseball envelope writings.  If you don't follow baseball and/or you aren't as old (or easily amused) as I am, you may not find them as fun as I still do.  Sadly my own creative endeavors are lost to eternity and so can't be included here.

Mailman, Mailman / "Ah swhar" I'm not in heaven, / And "Dat Da Ting" the Giants / Aren't ahead by seven

Mailman, Mailman / Vida has gained instant fame / And more than that / He won the all star game!

Mailman, Mailman / Don't be a goon / Dispel this nonsense / About a "June Swoon"

Mailman, Mailman / The Giants aren't made of taffy / (Even though their lead has / Sunk to five-and-a-halfy.)

Mailman, Mailman /  Vida's throwin' tonight / "Dat da ting - / Dat's not a welcome sight

Mailman, Mailman / Sue's so light, she's an airy gal / It's because she spends all her time / Hating Juan Derful  (he noted he couldn't bring himself to actually write the true rhyme)

Mailman, Mailman / I think it's neato / That Leferver and Wells / Are not as good as Speier and Tito

Mailman, Mailnam / He'll knock you off your feets / Good catcher, better hitter and he's named / Dick Dietz

Mailman, Mailman / Well you take this to Sue maybe? / And tell her when the Giants come to town / It's Bye Bye Baby


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sweet and Sour Onions: Inspired by Italy

When we were in Venice, Italy, where you are supposed to enjoy the seafood, we had a dish of Sweet and Sour Sardines  which the recipe in the link identifies as one of the most typical Venice dishes. And it was delicious.  It was one of the first I tried to recreate when I got home.  The recipe I worked from was this one. Unfortunately for me, I had trouble finding fresh sardines.  The first time I tried it, I used canned, skinless, boneless sardines.  And it was good.  But I liked the onions best.  The second time I tried it, the store didn't have sardines but said smelt would be close.  Again, it was good. But I liked the onions best.

I finally decided it wasn't the fish, it was the onions.  If you search for sweet and sour sardines or "Sarde in Saor", you'll find plenty of recipes.  I used the one I originally found as my starting point.  Without the sardines. And I changed up the quantities.  I was quadrupling the recipe but I still only used 1/4 C raisins and 1/4 C nuts.  You can adjust to your tastes. I discovered that there was too much oil for me so I cut that way back.  The end result is sweet caramelized onions that have the tang of vinegar with some raisins and pine nuts.  And the longer they sit in your fridge, the better they taste.  My problem is letting them sit at all. They are good all by themselves or with any kind of fish.  Today I had them with baked salmon. I've also had them with sautéed tilapia.   I'm sure you can find other things to serve them with.

Before cooking the onions, soak about 1/4 C raisins in 1/2 C white wine.  And toast about 1/4 C of pine nuts.

I used 4 large sweet onions.  I cut the top of the onion off - the part that sprouts.  Then I cut the onion in half through the root.   I put the halves cut side down, cut off the root, and then sliced them thinly.  If I followed the recipe I would then cook those onions in  3 cups of olive oil. DON'T do that.  I heated about 2 T of olive oil in my 10 inch frying pan and tossed in the onions.  I let them cook down, removing some of the liquid as they cooked. When it seemed like they might stick, I added a little bit more olive oil. Then I just let them cook until they became nice and brown.  I didn't time it but my best guess is 45 minutes.

Add the white wine vinegar, raisins, and nuts and salt to taste.  I also tossed in the wine the raisins were soaking in.  Then cook it a little longer to let some of the juice evaporate.  Put it in a bowl, let it cool and then put it in the refrigerator and try not to eat it until the next day.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Inside Outside Grilled Cheese

Following up on a couple of posts from Facebook friends (you know who you are). I decided to try this method of making a grilled cheese sandwich which results in a crispy cheese outside.

I didn't completely follow the advice though.  First of all I used a nice grainy Rustique Miche loaf from Trader Joe's.  I don't have white bread at home and I wasn't going to buy a whole loaf just for my lunch today.  Since it was a round loaf, I cut two slices and then cut those slices in half so the sides of my sandwich would match.  Then I followed the directions for making the grilled cheese.  I'd absolutely use this grainy bread again.  The texture is great.

The other way I diverged from the video instructions is that I didn't just use cheddar.  The chef in the video suggests there are no other options for a grilled cheese but I beg to differ.  My sandwich had a sharp cheddar cheese and a nice runny Port Salut cheese on the inside and a  grated Mexican Mix on the outside.  I also added some slices of Granny Smith apple and arugula on the inside.

The result was wonderful!  Crispy, gooey, crunchy, and cheesy.  Yum!!  The only change I might make would be to add more apple.  To compensate I took a bite of apple with each bite of sandwich.  And I might just make an arugula side salad with vinaigrette instead of adding the arugula to the sandwich because putting the arugula on the inside is messy - the lettuce keeps falling in the pan.

I have to agree with others that once you've made a grilled cheese this way, you might never want to do it any other way.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Recreating the Food From Italy, Episode 1

We had some amazing, amazing food in Italy and now I'm trying to recreate some of it as best I can.  Most things I enjoyed just require finding the right ingredients, some require looking up recipes, and some, like today's creation, are trial and error.

One of the best things we had was a mushroom dish served at a family restaurant in Montepulciano, a lovely small town in wine country.  The Italian name is I Funghi Porcini con Uovo in Camicia e fonduta di Pecorino al Tartuto Nero.  Translated that is Porcini Mushrooms with Poached Egg and Black Truffle Pecorino fondue. It was SO delicious. A rich mushroom truffle soup - almost a stew - with a poached egg. It was served in a parchment bag which was interesting but I'm not sure if it was baked in the bag or not. I have searched the Internet for a recipe and not found anything so I think maybe it was just a creation of the owner chef.

Today I did my best to recreate it. And I got pretty close.

First I soaked about an ounce of dried Porcini mushrooms in warm water for about 30 minutes. I gently washed the mushrooms first so I could use the resulting liquid later. I chopped and sautéed the Porcini mushrooms along with some chopped Shitaki and Cremini mushrooms in about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil that I'd added a few drops of truffle oil to. I salted and peppered the mushrooms to taste. The mushrooms covered the bottom of my 10" fry pan and I'd guess I had a little more than a cup when they were cooked. I set the mushrooms aside and used the pan to make the soup.

I suppose I could have made my own soup but I'm somewhat lazy. A friend of mine recommended Trader Joe's condensed cream of Portobello mushroom soup so I used that. The instructions call for an equal amount of liquid and I used some of the liquid from soaking the Porcini mushrooms to refill the box half way and then I filled the rest with white wine. I stirred that until it was incorporated and then I stirred in about 2 ounces of truffle cheese from Trader Joe's. This is because I didn't have any of the Pecorino cheese left that we'd brought home from Italy and Trader Joe's didn't have any. Next time I'll search out Pecorino. I did add a little bit of Parmesan to get the saltiness.

While the cheese and soup melded, I poached an egg. I tried a new process I'd read about that calls for putting the egg in 1/3 C of vinegar for 5 minutes before poaching. That is supposed to make the white stick closer to the egg and I do think it helped. Once the egg was poached, I ladled the soup into my bowl and added my egg. I have enough of the soup left to make another dish tomorrow - or later today.

It was delicious. I don't think it was as rich as the soup we had in Italy and I think using Pecorino will help, as well as perhaps adding a bit of heavy cream. But my version was excellent and I'll be making it again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Got Paid To Lose Weight

One day last May I was cruising the internet and saw an ad about being paid to lose weight.  "Right!", I thought but I clicked anyway.  I ended at at the HealthyWage page and I read it pretty throughly.  They have a few different programs but the one that interested me was the challenge to wager on my weight loss.

At that point, I was at least 75 pounds overweight.  I'd tried lots of different programs and sometimes lost up to 25 pounds in the course of dieting.  But I always got discouraged and quit and eventually regained all the weight - and then some.

So I was frustrated and discouraged and pretty much willing to try anything - except maybe surgery.  The way the HealthWage challenge worked was that I input how much I weighed and how much I wanted to lose in what time frame.   I decided I wanted to lose 50 pounds in 6 months. They came back with a challenge: I would pay $50 a month for the 6 months and if I was successful, they would send me my $300 back PLUS another $588.55.  I don't know how they came up with those numbers but I was willing to give it a shot.  I was 90% sure it was a scam and that I'd never see my $300 but I was 10% hopeful I'd get the money and lose the weight.  And even if I didn't get the money, I decided I was willing to pay $300 for yet another diet program.

So I set out on my 6 month challenge. I had to submit a before picture and a video verification of my weight and was accepted to the program.  I decided I wasn't going to "diet" but rather make my new mantra, "Eat Less, Move More" though I was sad ELMM didn't resonate as a fun acronym. I ate whatever I wanted but I limited my calories to 1200 a day.  I wasn't obsessive about the calories but I looked things up and rounded up.  I did limit some things; rice, pasta, potatoes, bread and wine.  It wasn't easy but I do think the money was an excellent motivator.  Every time someone offered me goodies or whenever I thought about cracking open a bottle of wine, I thought about that money and I kept my willpower.

Coincidently, about that same time, our prevention program sent me a notification that because my BMI was too high, I was being sent a Fitbit Flex for free.  Who could say no to that?  That arrived in June and I started my 10K steps a day and have been pretty consistent with that.  As it turns out, I'm a bit more competitive than I ever knew and as soon as I saw my friends' step totals I ramped up my game to catch up with them.

And it worked.  I started losing weight right away and I kept it up for 5 months.  I lost 55 lbs and I'm still losing but just not as quickly, probably because of the holidays and vacations I've been taking.  I allow myself to enjoy the good stuff when I'm out with friends.

Once I met my goal, I made my claim with HealthyWage.  I submitted all the information they requested and got an email that said I was a winner and "the check was in the mail."  And it was!  It arrived last week and I deposited it.  The bank cleared it!

I'm on maintenance until the year end but then I might enter another challenge in January to take some more pounds off.

Here are my before and after photos that HealthyWage required:

I know not professional and all, but not edited either.  I'm wearing clothes that are 2 sizes smaller than before and I've donated a huge pile of things I can't wear any longer.  And I feel great. Thank you, HealthyWage.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pear and Cranberry Compote

I found the Auntie Em's Cookbook at my local library and thought many of the recipes looked interesting.  I also like it because the author's restaurant, Auntie Em's Kitchen,  is located in my old college stomping grounds, Eagle Rock, California.

I kept the book out for a few weeks and copied a few recipes.  Before taking it back to the library today, I skimmed through it again while I had coffee.  I happen to have some luscious pears just ready to eat and decided I should make the Pear and Cranberry compote with a couple of them.  I only needed to pick up some cranberries from Trader Joe's which happens to be right across the street from my library.  When I got home, I realized I'd turned the book in without copying the recipe. So I did an internet search and found this recipe which seems to be identical to the Auntie Em's version as best I could remember.

I only wanted to use a couple of my pears which weighed just about 1 lb so I decided to use 1/3 of all the other ingredients.  I just guessed on the seasonings.  And I cut back on the sugar using less than 1/4 cup.   It is an easy, simple recipe as long as you have the time to cook the fruit down.  

It is delicious!  And, very, very sweet.  Maybe a little too sweet on its own but good with yogurt. And I'm sure it would be good on oatmeal or a biscuit or used in a cobbler.  My pears are particularly sweet and might not need the sugar at all.  Next time, I'll definitely taste before adding sugar.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Roasted Tomatoes and Spaghetti Squash

I had half of a spaghetti squash left over from my spaghetti squash casserole dinner the other night.  I decided to try and recreate a spaghetti squash dinner my daughter made me some time back that I've always remembered.  She just made it up at the time so I had to do the same.

I sprayed the squash with olive oil and seasoned it with some salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.  I roasted it at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

When the squash was done, I let it cool while I roasted a pound of sugar plum tomatoes at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

I chopped up a half sweet onion and a half orange pepper and sautéed them in a pan that I had sprayed with some olive oil. I added a couple minced cloves of garlic, some red pepper flakes and then some sliced mushrooms.  I had a little bit of spinach leftover from breakfast so I tossed that in too.

I let it cook a few minutes until the veggies were soft and then tossed in the roasted tomatoes.

I shredded the spaghetti squash with a fork and then topped it with the cooked veggies.  The squash served as a great bowl.

There were enough veggies left over for at least one more half spaghetti squash and then some.

And it was delicious.

UPDATE: Adding some Parmesan only makes it better.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Spaghetti Squash and Tomato Casserole

Yet another Pinterest inspired dinner.  This is a definite keeper. My version has a few changes even though I'm sure the original is also delicious.

I used one half of a spaghetti squash, sprayed it with olive oil, added salt, pepper and some Italian seasoning and then roasted it cut side down for 50 minutes at 400 degrees.  After it cooled, I scraped out the squash and put it in a small casserole pan (7x7).  I chopped up 15 or so grape tomatoes (about 1 Cup) and stirred them in. I seasoned it with some dried basil, Onion Onion*, and Garlic Garlic*.  I topped it with about 2oz of pepper-jack cheese.  Then I baked it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  It wasn't browned enough so I put it back in for 10 more minutes.

It was totally delicious and I'd make it exactly the same again.  For variety I might add mushrooms and maybe some tomato paste.

Spaghetti squash is tasty and I enjoy it by itself with some butter and salt.  Maybe a little Parmesan.  But it isn't pasta and it will never fool you into thinking it is pasta.  If I really need a pasta fix, I will cook up some spaghetti and add it to the spaghetti squash for that yummy carb taste.  The squash makes a great filler and tastes good with pasta.

*Tastefully Simple seasonings.