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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

No matter your beliefs spring is of itself a time of rebirth. Shoots are pushing up through the soil with the encouragement of the recent rains, and pollen drifts down from the budding trees depositing a fine coat of yellow on everything below. This morning I took a walk in the woods following a trail behind the old mine outside of town. Such a beautiful morning, hardly another soul in the area save an occasional pet owner giving his best friend a walk before breakfast. We moved here for the beauty and peace of the area and I never tire of it. The city, for many comforting with its mass of humanity, easy access to shopping and public transportation, myriad of available restaurants and social activities, long ago lost its luster for me. Somewhere deep in my heart lives a country girl, preferring instead to watch the tall grass bend and sway in the delta breeze on a lazy summer afternoon, see the squirrels scurrying along the telephone lines, or lose myself in the introspection of a deserted beach on a foggy day.

This time of year our thoughts often turn to others and what we can do to benefit those around us rather than ourselves. Family is at the forefront as bowls of eggs are transformed into works of art by small hands and hot crossed buns and clove bedecked hams prepared for an Easter meal. In particular I miss my little ones on Easter, their delighted screams as they discover a brightly dyed egg under a bush or a chocolate bunny wrapped in decorated foil in their Easter basket.

Growing up it always meant shopping for a new dress, hat and shoes to be displayed at church on Sunday. Afterwards there was an egg hunt in the park and then home for one of my grandmother’s incredibly delicious meals served on the lovely bone china plates with the delicate pink roses circling the rim. Being of English heritage, on the center of the table one of the many tea pots in her china cabinet would be perched on a metal rack, kept warm by a colorful tea cozy. Light, flaky biscuits melting on your tongue were served with homemade marmalade and fresh creamy butter. In one of the two pantry’s a rich lineup of desserts were displayed. As a youngster having surveyed what was to come, it was difficult not to wolf down the main meal in order to get to the finale. On Easter each of us was asked to say something by way of thanks for the meal we were to eat. Mine was usually a short statement as being a chubby little girl my growling stomach encouraged brevity.

Closing my eyes I can picture the huge expanse of yard beyond the bank of windows in the formal dining room of the house I grew up on on Ogilvie Street. Beyond the copse of trees to the left the lush green banks swept downward stretching to the Atlantic lapping at the edges below. In the spring bright spots of color decorated the view everywhere you rested your eyes. Plump tulips, welcoming daffodils, purple irises and baby roses gave the yard the look of an English garden.

It was a time to be grateful for your blessings and to remember to give thanks for the faces surrounding the table and the food gracing it. A lot was taught to me as a child about appreciating a cup half full rather than lamenting on not having it filled to the brim. Life lately seems rife with conflict and between the weather and seemingly unrelenting news coverage skipping from one disaster to the next it is sometimes difficult to concentrate on the beauty in our world and still find way to be amazed by what lurks right outside our front door.

When I visit Nova Scotia in the springtime if I see a field of freshly tilled ground I pull over and taking a handful breathe in the familiar smell of rich chocolate earth.

I am missing my family this weekend, but glad I have Rick and Boo, the Queen of Cats, to share space with. My apron is lying over the back of the chair and I plan to put it to good use making a dinner worthy of celebration.

Have a safe and joyous holiday!

2Ham, Turkey and Cheese Brunch Torte

2 8 oz. tubes crescent rolls, divided
1 large red pepper, roasted and sliced into strips
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 small onion sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 6 oz. pkg. baby spinach
6 slices of bacon, crumbled
1/2 lb. deli ham, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. deli turkey, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
7 eggs, divided
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Seed red pepper and cut in half lengthwise. Cover cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Place pepper halves cut side down on prepared cookie sheet. Brush with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning once until skin is charred. Remove from oven and place immediately in resealable plastic bag for 15 mins. Remove skin and slice.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

In bottom of springform pan make a circle of 1 can of crescent triangles pressing seams together. Cover bottom and sides of pan tightly with two layers of tin foil.

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Bake crust 15 mins. Remove and allow to cool.

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In large skillet heat remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil over med. heat. Add onion and mushrooms to pan. Continue cooking for 6 mins. Add spinach. Stir and cook until mushrooms are tender. Drain on paper towels, patting to removed moisture.

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Whisk together 6 eggs, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and pepper.

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Layer 1/2 of cheese, ham, turkey, bacon, spinach mixture, and red peppers.

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Pour 1/2 of egg mixture over top. Repeat layers ending with last half of egg mixture.

Place remaining can of crescent rolls on work surface to form a circle. Press seams together. Place on top of layers in pan. Whisk remaining egg and brush top.

Bake for 1 hr. and 15 mins. or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Cool for 15 mins. Slice and serve.

Serves 8.

 

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

You may have noticed it’s getting expensive to live lately. Hamburger meat is running around the same price as steak used to be, and yesterday they announced a better choice than beef might be lobster. Really? I have to admit I didn’t think I’d ever hear that statement on the air. We’re staying home for Easter this year. Between the price of gas, scheduled road work, and traffic it just isn’t doable. Lamb is on the menu. I was going to serve guacamole but with avocados at a premium, and a bag of limes requiring taking a second against your home, I’ve opted instead for deviled eggs. The chickens, it seems, are still in production and not out for higher wages.

Boo, the Queen of Cats, went to the vet last week for her annual shots. I chose a vet with a free first visit coincidentally touted as the best vet in the area. The ad said the office was in Cedar Ridge, an area I was unfamiliar with. Programming the GPS, Boo and I took a beautiful drive curving around unfamiliar rural roads ending up in a small mountain community. While conducting an examination of my most uncooperative feline, the vet noticed a small nodule about the size of a pea on one of her ears. As familiar as I am with my furry friend, I had not noticed the growth lurking beneath fur of a similar hue. Once the exam was completed the vet suggested the nodule be removed along with a teeth cleaning. Couldn’t we just brush more often? As nice as the doctor seemed to be I sensed there most likely was a charge associated with such happenings. I inquired as to what that charge might be. After some shuffling, hemming, and the necessary hawing she said the teeth cleaning ran around $240. Not bad. Of course, there were additional charges associated such as anesthesia, biopsies, and the like. Uh-huh. It was “the like” charges which concerned me. On exiting she indicated a follow-up email would be forthcoming with a total estimate for the needed work. I told her I’d look forward to the good news.

The following day as promised I found an email in my inbox with a subject line “estimate for Boo Boo”. The $240 charge for the teeth cleaning was buried nicely in between a full page of “the like” charges totalling $989.42. Hmmm, that’s darn close to $240.00 but not quite there. I knew the “the like” charges would be the killers. Good Lord. I had a sun damage spot removed from my face several years back for $120. Perhaps I should take Boo to my dermatologist.

It has been week of estimates. After having a neighbor pass by with his dog informing me I was sitting in a bed of poison oak while weeding, then escaping near ruin by getting a running start down my steep hill out front ending in my repelling off my garbage can, I put out some feelers for a spring clean up person. Several people came by to give me an estimate. Gardeners hereabouts charge $50/hour for their services and don’t seem in the least enthusiastic about providing them. Constantly I scratch my head at contractors who pay to run ads in the newspaper but don’t really appear to want anybody to respond to them. One man seemed annoyed that I would actually call the number provided when he was in the middle of his tuna sandwich and whatever TV show was playing in the background. Bottom line for the job was $200. Sigh.

Feeling in that spring cleanup kind of mood, I also asked several carpet cleaning reps to come out and give us a quote on getting the upstairs carpets cleaned as well as the stairs leading to the second floor. $200 was the going rate here as well. It cost us less than that to cover twice the area in the old house, less than a year and a half ago. Up, up, up, and away we go.

While in the market with other Easter shoppers it seemed no matter what section of the market I found myself in someone was complaining about the prices. Particularly in the produce section where sinister looking men with scars and beady little eyes wearing trench coats were huddled in the corners dickering with customers for the pink slips to their cars in exchange for the bags of limes hidden beneath their jackets. I signed over the SUV. Margaritas sound good with the steaks on Saturday, black market naturally.

Once my items had been rung up I mentioned in conversation I was looking for a gardener. I realize this isn’t exactly an easy segway from “do you want plastic or paper”, but we had been discussing how everything was blooming early this year as sneezing could be heard all over the building. In a conspiratorial tone she wrote something on the back of piece of register paper and looking over one shoulder pushed it in my direction. On the paper was a name and a phone number. “Thank you”, I said, “but I don’t need limes”. Shaking her head she explained this was the name of an excellent gardener in the area who did good work for a reasonable price. What! I promised to guard this secret with my last breath. I was going to ask if by any chance the man moonlighted as a cat surgeon or carpet cleaner but a line was forming behind me.

This is right up there with my favorite salad. Mangoes were on sale today. Yea!

Strawberry Mango Spinach Salad with Lime Poppy Seed Dressing

1 pkg. baby spinach, rinsed and torn into large pieces
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1 mango, peeled and sliced
20 grapes, halved
1 orange, peeled, and sectioned
10 large strawberries, sliced thin
2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper

Distribute spinach on four plates. Top with remaining ingredients distributing 1/4 on each plate. Add a grind or two of black pepper according to taste.

Lime Poppy Seed Dressing

1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp. dried mint
4 Tbsp. key lime juice
2/3 tsp. sesame oil
1/3 cup red wine vinaigrette
1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk together all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use. Pour over salad.

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I spent a pre-Easter weekend with my daughter and her family, a lively bunch. Between my daughter, myself, her two daughters and their friends drifting in and out of the house my son-in-law only found peace and quiet once the lights went out. It was a fun and frenetic few days. My oldest granddaughter flew in from Phoenix while I was there to gather up her incredibly neurotic hybrid Yorktese (Yorkie/Maltese blend), Jasper, who’s been boarding with my daughter until my granddaughter got settled.

Jasper lost his mind on seeing his beloved owner for the first time in months. In the thrill of the moment he left a trail of urine from the front door to the kitchen worthy of a St. Bernard. Bladder empty, the dog rolled over on his back passing out cold as a wedge from the excitement. I’ve never seen a dog do that behavior before. Fainting goats, yes, but small dogs not so much. Maybe we humans should quit splicing dog breeds. The results seem to be somewhat left of perfect. Jasper suffers from acute separation anxiety if left alone. Viewed on the nanny cam he looks like a furry pogo stick jumping up and down behind the closed front door until his owners return. The dog seems unable to stand his own company for more than a minute. To be honest, his disposition could use some fine tuning, having felt his teeth at the back of my leg a time or two. He trails along after my daughter as though tied to her ankle by an invisible string. Perhaps the inbreeding makes them odd or high-strung, particularly when you blend two breeds both already known for that particular trait.

My odd sleeping habits, mainly falling asleep early and waking up in the middle of the night, make it difficult for me to spend the night away from home. To add to this, with a full house at my daughters I was assigned the couch on the first floor as my sleeping arrangements. It became obvious later in the night the twenty pound cat received the same notice. I awoke with his furry tail in my face to find my lungs deflated and unable to catch air. The huge tabby circled five times then made quite himself comfortable on my chest. Unable to take a hint with gentle nudging he didn’t seem inclined to move to the other couch anytime soon. Sleep not being an option, I reached my book on the coffee table and rested it on the cat’s back clapping my hands to turn on the lights. The Clapper. Remember that? Probably not. It is an invention whereby clapping of the hands causes the lights to turn on or off. My son-in-law found it at a garage sale. I’m amazed it ever made it beyond the light bulb stage, no pun intended. At one time, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, The Clapper ranked right up there with Pet Rocks, lava lamps, and Silly Putty. My mother gave my stepfather one for Christmas when I was a kid. For days afterward like two pre-schoolers with a new bike they delightedly illuminated and darkened our living room to such an extent it prompted a neighbor to stop by and inquire if everything was all right. Parents, go figure.

There are inventions on the market for everything. The “As Seen on TV” aisle is alive and well in most pharmacies and large discount stores. I have to admit I’ve been caught in the net a few times. Our garage sale featured a few must have items like the Veggetti and Perfect Polly. Not that they’re not great products (ahem). Perfect Polly was a gift for Boo, the Queen of Cats, from my Mother. Our Perfect Polly (a plastic parrot whose head and tail move as it tweets) never quite found her pitch. Polly met an untidy end when the poor bird’s head fell off while Rick was trying to make it work. Boo, the Queen of Cats, was not impressed.

So many inventions over the past decades have made life easier for most of us starved for a moment of free time. Still, with all the peelers on the market I defer to my hand-held potato peeler when the need arises. Once I purchased a tomato slicer, which produced pureed tomatoes seamlessly, but never actually made a thin slice of tomato while in my possession. In the end, I took out my razor sharp knife and it got the job done.

I have noticed with some of these new conveniences the cleanup is far more laborious than with the original item it is replacing. In the example of the tomato slicer by the time I took the machine apart and cleaned it after I used it, I could have washed one knife and been done. As much as I use my food processor, when it comes to grating cheese, which it does very efficiency, cleaning up the processor after you’re done might have made pulling the hand grater out a more expedient option.

Over the weekend I was explaining to my granddaughter and her friends that when I was their age there was a cord attached to the phone, and the phone was often attached to the wall. While using the phone the speaker was limited by the length of the cord attached. Back in the day the phone was well, a phone. I know! The receiver was only that a receiver. A phone contained no visuals, no Internet, no camera, and no keyboard. What! This was too much information apparently for one sitting. If I had told them I’d just run over a baby chick they couldn’t have been more horrified. Further I went on to explain there were no phones in cars. If one needed to speak to someone while on the road you pulled into a gas station and used the pay phone. I caught several of them eying me suspiciously after that revelation as though I was of an alien species. I half expected them to hang a sign on me and call the Smithsonian.

We’re having guests for dinner. Allergies are dogging me this week and keeping me from my usual high energy level. Millions of webs are descending from the trees in the yard draping barely visible filament all over everything. Earlier I got outside to tackle the situation but it became obvious armed with a broom wasn’t going to be enough. As soon as I swiped twenty down, thirty string along behind them. Our first spring here, this is a new phenomenon for us. Webs drape across car windows and paint. This is probably not good. Fortunately, our garage will allow two cars parked inside at once. Unfortunately, if one is an SUV once parked you cannot exit the vehicle. This could be a problem. I like our garage, don’t misunderstand me, but not on a permanent basis. Little snags in an otherwise glorious spring day.

This is such a pretty salad on the table without much effort from the cook. Perfect for a day warm enough to allow for open windows permitting a hint of a breeze to move through the house. Lovin it. I took the picture before I placed a line of hard boiled egg slices along the top.

Shrimp and Fresh Asparagus Salad with Simple Caesar Dressing

1 lb. asparagus, cooked, drained and chilled
1/2 lb. small cooked shrimp, tails on
1 container of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 button mushrooms, sliced thin
1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced and quartered
1/3 cup yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 hard boiled egg, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

Line plate with a single layer of asparagus. Top with remaining ingredients. Line one sliced hard boil egg on top. Grind freshly ground black pepper over top. Drizzle liberally with dressing.

Caeser Dressing

1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced

Place in food processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate preferably overnight. Shake before pouring.

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson


Last night I had an In-N-Out burger “animal style”. Yum. In high school I contributed a good deal of my allowance money to In-N-Out and never lost the taste for their delicious burgers over the years. To give them all the credit they deserve, they’ve never lowered their standards using fresh ingredients and delivering a terrific product every time. The original stand I frequented was just that, a stand. Basically it was set up for drive through customers, although there was a small window at the front of the small boxlike building, where customers could order if on foot. Music blaring from our stereos, tuck and roll freshly installed from Tijuana, we cruised through after catching a movie at the drive-in or roller skating for a late night cheeseburger with grilled onions and a large fry, washed down with a soda or a suicide (a deadly concoction of coca cola, root beer, 7-up and anything else with a spigot attached to it). No wonder Clearasil did a big business back in the day.

Unbelievably, I can remember getting a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries for about $.30. When I babysat, which I did often during my high school years, parents paid me $.50 an hour for the privilege of watching their little ones. Married not long after I graduated, I could feed my new husband and myself on a budget of about $15 a week, barely covering a loaf of bread and a jug of milk at today’s prices.

I mention this because I went to the grocery store yesterday. This is not unusual as is obvious by this blog, but it certainly is getting more expensive. Handing over $65.82 I got in return two bags, neither containing meat other than a half a pound of deli peppered turkey. Amazing. I wanted turmeric for a recipe I was working on. I found it appropriately in the spice aisle on sale for $7.99. Really? I hope it comes with a steak. Waving a fond farewell to the turmeric I decided instead to do something different with my chicken with the impressive array of spices already found in my cupboard.

It used to be I went to the store and purchased what was written on my list. With the drought pumping up the prices on nearly everything I need, I’ve turned to grocery outlet stores and double coupon days to help bring the cost of food down to a manageable place. Mentioning the soaring prices to the checker as I placed my two bags in the cart he said, “don’t forget the price of gas”. Thanks for reminding me.

Our middle class is fading into the background with jobs flourishing for low-income employees as well a higher paid executive positions. Advancing technology is phasing out many jobs formerly done my middle-income employees with a high school education, or high school plus a few years of college. Many middle-income jobs are being rerouted overseas where products can be produced at a fraction of the price by employees happy to work for pennies on the dollar. It is not unlikely the grocery clerk reminding me about the rising gas prices may someday be replaced by a computerized system at the checkout stand.

Lately there is a lot of buzz about reeling in some of the technology we’ve come to know and love. It is deemed unhealthy for little ones easily addicted to tablets with colorful pictures and animation before pulling on a pair of Dora the Explorer training pants. How do you reel in a revolution so warmly embraced by everyone from the diaper set to their great-grandfather Skypeing his grandchildren from the nursing home? It would be like taking away a pacifier from a crying baby. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Apps are popping up quicker than spring flowers. They range from helping police officers locate the closest donut establishment to capturing a picture of the food on your plate and determining your caloric intake taking into account what you’ve already put away for the day. We’re on the line, the hook is set and we’ve been reeled in. People are tiring of the constant clicking and chattering cluttering up their daily lives, unable to capture a moment of their children’s attention away from the glittering screen in front of them. Technology companies are amassing huge fortunes in their coffers riding on the surge of technology flooding the market devoured by consumers hungry for newer and more advanced products finding the ones just purchased obsolete before reading the user’s manual.

Where will we go from here? It boggles the mind. I watched a story on the news about a device implanted in several spinal injury cases which actually sends pulses to the brain allowing them to walk again and feel their previously inanimate limbs. Wow. Had we seen it in a movie in the 70′s we would have considered this all merely a work of Hollywood fiction. Hal, for me, in 2001 a Space Odyssey, was a bit unnerving but perhaps not so far fetched. What if we create machines so smart they outsmart their inventors? Cue Rod Serling now.

It is becoming an interesting, frustrating, often dangerous, and unpredictable world we live in. Always filled with incredible beauty and mother nature in the background toying with us playing her incessant games. Hopefully, the prices will level out as I’d like to try that recipe with turmeric down the road I’ve been eying. For today, it is to be in the 80′s, the tulips are blooming in the yard, and I’m headed out for a walk.

Panko Crusted Tilapia with Spinach Salad

Tilapia

4 tilapia filets
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. salt
2 egg whites
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Canola oil
Tartar sauce

Pat tilapia dry. Mix together Cajun seasoning, black pepper, garlic salt and salt. Sprinkle evenly over filets. Whisk together egg whites and Dijon mustard in shallow dish. Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish.

Coat each filets with egg white mixture then thoroughly dredge in bread crumbs.

Heat 1/2″ of Canola oil over high heat until shimmering. Add fish to pan and cook until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve with tartar sauce.

Serves 4

Spinach Salad with Mustard Dressing

1 pkg. baby spinach
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
6 large button mushrooms, sliced thin

Toss all ingredients with dressing or plate decoratively and pour dressing on top.

Mustard Dressing

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients to food processor. Process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson


Today I am behind on my original plans to clean. A friend going through a bad patch in her life needed some time with me on the phone. It is not a new rough spot for her, actually having been in place for several years due to a situation or several situations at home. In my estimation, not being a psychiatrist, though sometimes I feel as if people think I have hung out my shingle, she is stuck. By this I do not mean her feet are cemented to the living room carpet, rather stuck figuratively or emotionally.  This has happened to me a time or two in my life, usually after something traumatic having occurred.  Sometimes it’s difficult to get pointed in the right direction again when you’re thrown completely off course. I always suggest baby steps. If you put a long list of to-do’s in front of someone already overwhelmed with their lives the effect most likely will be self-defeating. As I said, I do not presume to know what is or what is good for someone else, but I do know what works for me.

People often ask me how I maintain a relatively “sunny” outlook on the world. Truthfully, I have no idea. I feel sunny most of the time, and wake up generally looking forward to the 24 hours stretched out before me with unbridled enthusiasm. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not one of those perpetually chirpy humans who only sees rainbows in torrential downpours, but I do try to concentrate of what is going well in my life if possible rather than what is not.

Sometimes when my mind wanders, an event happening about every three seconds, I wonder if we evolve as we move along on our journeys.  Trials and tribulations, tests of our mettle and stamina, seem to fill in the gaps between happy and blissful times we live through. As the years pass I ponder more often if this is our only visit on earth, or if we do, in fact, evolve through a series of life experiences coming back in a new and better version of ourselves each time until we are complete.  This is a lot to chew on on this lovely day, so I shall move on to lighter subjects but the unanswered questions will linger with me for a while as I haven’t had my second cup of coffee which usually makes moving rather than thinking a more likely choice for the day.

I spent most of yesterday doing spring cleaning. Basically, I lugged all the heavier clothes and jackets to the closets downstairs, replacing them with more springlike attire in the upstairs master bedroom closet.  At least I was able to combine my cardio for the day with moving my closet. Second on my list was installing the new box from our satellite provider. My other half, a lovely man by all accounts, hasn’t got a technical bone in his entire body. There’s someone out there running around with extra hardware savvy programmed into his brain having used up the savvy originally targeted for Rick. In other areas he’s genius but give him an unfamiliar computer screen or some software to load and his mind goes to pudding before your very eyes. I’ve often reminded him should anything ever happen to me he’d better rush out and find a computer motivated female who likes to cook or he’s doomed to sit alone staring at a blue screen while the microwave runs through the minutes until his chicken pot pie is ready. I consider it sort of a tenure clause, keeping me around til the end of the run.

Unpacking the new unit to be installed, I set up a stool at the back of the mammoth TV in our family room. Setting the new unit atop the old, I began unplugging the old cords from the back of the malfunctioning unit and transferring them to the back of the new.  Once done, I followed the instructions on the card provided and worked my way to the final screen where it indicated I was to call the service provider to activate the receiver. Yea for me. I got a lovely woman on the phone who began at the beginning. Stopping her, I explained I’d already gotten to the last screen and all I needed was for her to activate it. She asked who was here with me. I said, “the cat” . For some reason this amazed her and she asked if I had technical background. She went on to say most people call her as soon as they exchange the plugs. Really?  Maybe this stems from my single mom days when I could fix everything from the garbage disposal to the Hubble Telescope with a kitchen knife and electrical tape. We went on to hook up the wireless setup and she said she was going to send me a gold star for excellent “techie” performance. Even I was impressed with me at that point.

It does suck, however, even as far as they’ve come technically all the programs you’ve taped up until the receiver starts to fail are all lost when it is replaced.  I don’t have time to watch that much TV but when I do sit down to watch a program it’s nice to find a movie in the DVR I’ve saved for just such an occasion. Having hooked up the wireless connection allows for a lot more choices available so perhaps this will be a great change! Ahhh, the rainbow in the torrential downpour.

My mother called as I was typing with one of many daily “culinary questions”. I never mind the interruption. Some day I will not be able to pick up a phone and hear her voice on the other end, so consider a pleasure (most days anyway) to speak to her when I’m available.  Aside from how long her tortellini soup would last once prepared, she shared with me her cat, Susie, had left the remainder of her lunch on Mother’s pillow. This was something I could easily have finished my day without knowing. I’m just sayin. Once the descriptive phase of the conversation was over Mother concluded by saying, “I don’t like it when she does that.” I pointed out most likely the cat didn’t wake up from her nap and come up with a devious plan to ruin Mother’s afternoon. More likely all the treats my mom insists on giving her when she begs upset the animal’s stomach. Ah well, those treats are not a problem any more.

This garlic cheese bread is the best. Someone gave me a similar recipe a while back at a get together and I took it and ran with it. It’s easy, impressive, and absolutely addictive!

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Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread

1 loaf sliced sourdough cheese bread

1 cup Italian blend cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1/2 cup chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place bread on piece of tin foil large enough to fold up around the sides leaving the top of the loaf exposed.

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Mix cheeses together in small mixing bowl. Sprinkle cheese over top of bread, opening each slice and sprinkling cheese in between each piece.

Melt butter together with garlic and chives in microwave for 1 min. or until completely melted. Pour over the top of the bread. Cover top with tin foil. Bake for 15 mins. Remove cover and continue baking 20 mins.

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

I have a friend with an adult child going through some legal problems. After speaking to her at some length last week, I was reminded of an experience I had about fifteen years ago with another friend going through a similar situation. Her son, just legal age, was in jail for possession of drug paraphernalia. Struggling through high school with his addiction, this was not a new situation for the family. Actually his arrest was by way of a relief because at least if he was behind bars he wouldn’t be using. At least, I believe that’s how our penal system is supposed to function. As with many government agencies and officials, what they’re supposed to be doing and what they’re actually doing are often totally different programs. From what I was told later he managed to locate a supplier inside the jail eliminating the need to shop elsewhere for his drugs. How terribly convenient.

At any rate my friend needing moral support her husband washing his hands of the whole matter, asked if I would accompany her to her first jail visit with her son. Let me preface this by saying being “locked up”, if you will, would be the worst imaginable punishment for me. Besides being totally claustrophobic, from what I’ve heard the people you’d be cohabiting with most possibly wouldn’t have your best interests in mind. I’m a lover not a fighter and I’m sure they’d see powder puff scribbled across my forehead before I’d changed into my orange jumpsuit. Much against my better judgment, I signed up to go with her. You don’t let a friend face a crisis alone simply because you have feathers and a beak. The following Friday she picked me up an hour prior to visiting hours. On the trip she explained what would happen when we got there so we’d have some idea of what to expect. Words like hoosegow, club fed, big house, slammer, and the joint kept floating through my mind. Palms sweating I could picture a warden with a southern drawl telling me “what we have here a failure to communicate”, while shooting a perfect bullseye of chewing tobacco into the spittoon next to his desk.

The jail itself was composed of a number of drab buildings made ominous by being surrounded on all sides by a peripheral gate with barbed wire strung along the top. Guard towers rose above the roofs of the buildings and armed guards could be seen moving behind the glass. Oh-oh. We followed the arrows towards the main lobby. Inside we found four uniformed officers and about twenty people either seated along the wall or standing talking to one another. Some of the women, to reference an old southern quote, looked to have been “rode hard and put up wet”. Life had obviously weighed hard on them and I had a feeling this wasn’t the first time they’d found themselves sitting on the hard lobby benches. Heavy makeup, low cut tee’s and full body tattoos seemed to be the dress of the day. Obviously we hadn’t gotten the memo. We stood out like a red dress in a convent. At the counter we had to fill out some paperwork and show identification. At the visiting time we were instructed to put our belongings in a tray and walk through the metal detector before entering the interior room. Perhaps this was in case we were “carrying”. How exciting. The only thing I was carrying was a tin of Altoids, my wallet, a lipstick and my hair brush. I suppose I could have used the hair brush as a weapon, or perhaps threatened to make them eat the entire box of Altoids at one sitting temporarily reducing their air flow. At any rate, we waited with the others trying not to establish eye contact with anyone. Silently I was wishing I’d worn my “Born to Be Bad” sweatshirt I’d gotten at the Runaways concert. Who knew?

A guard announced it was visiting time and we lined up as told. My friend and I lingered towards the back trying to go unnoticed. One by one people were scanned and passed through the waiting room. I placed my items in the tray and walked under the frame of the metal detector. Lights blinked and buzzers sounded. Everybody turned to look at me. What? It’s a hair brush I swear. Next they pulled me to one side and the wand was waved over me so many times I thought perhaps the pumpkin had turned into a carriage and my prince was waiting outside the palace for me. Removing everything but my clothing and skin, still the buzzers went off.

Finally, unable to proceed a matron, easily over six feet with a pony tail so tight she appeared to be wearing a perpetual grin, escorted me to a side room and closed the door. I was asked to remove my shirt. At this juncture I began looking for an available escape route. One more scan of my upper torso confirmed the suspicion, not voiced to me, the under wire in my bra was setting off the machine. Really? Just as a thought, perhaps you could have asked me if I was wearing such an item prior to asking me to disrobe. Aside from that I couldn’t believe I was the only female in the entire group with an under wire? Leave it to me. I should have read up on prison chic. When I came out with the woman buttoning my shirt I couldn’t have gotten more attention if I’d been wearing a pig on my head. All eyes turned in my direction. Explaining the situation to my friend she started laughing and continued to laugh through the entire visit with her son. Very un-friendlike behavior if you ask me.

Determining I wasn’t the criminal mastermind they’d originally suspected me to be, I was let in with the others to the meeting room. Shortly the prisoners arrived making their way towards familiar faces, with my friends son waving at us. At one table a man and woman were making out on such a level that a guard came over and separated them with his baton. For the most part though the conversation was low, occasionally accented with laughter and once an argument broke out between a man and his lady necessitating her removal from the area. I kept my head low and listened to the exchange between my friend and her son. He needed money, she said she would leave some for him. Much the same conversation that landed him there in the first place I would guess.

So, that was my close call with incarceration. I was so glad to get outside and in the car. For sure, I’m not destined for a life of crime, aside from the fact I seem to have the look for it.

My other half asked me to experiment with Kataifi, basically shredded filo dough. Having never used it before it was indeed an experiment. It wasn’t as beautiful perhaps as it could have been but the end result was gooey and delicious and how interesting it looked on the plate. Going to try it again to make birds nests on Easter. Yum. I couldn’t find the dough locally but as with most things, I found it on Amazon.

IMG_5941Kataifi me Amigthala

1 lb. Kataifi dough (thawed for 2 hours on counter)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup ground walnuts
2 cups ground almonds
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. brandy
1 egg white
2 cups water
2 cups caster sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
2″ lemon rind strip
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix nuts with 1/2 cup caster sugar, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. ground in medium mixing bowl. Note: If you can’t find caster sugar, place sugar in food processor and pulse until fine consistency. Add brandy and lightly mixed egg white to nut mixture. Mix well to form a paste.

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Separate into eight portions. Roll each portion into cigar shapes about 7″ long.

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Spray a cookie sheet generously with cooking spray.

Lay out pastry strands lengthwise. Taking 1/8 of the strands at a time lay them out in front of you close together facing away from you lengthwise. Brush with melted butter. Place 1 cigar shaped nut piece on the end closest to you and roll up as tightly a possible. Place on cooking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces.

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Once all rolls are on baking sheet brush again with melted butter. Place in oven and bake until golden brown, about 55 mins.

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While rolls are baking place 2 cups water in medium saucepan. Add 2 cups caster sugar and mix well. Stirring constantly over low heat cook until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice, lemon rind, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon to mixture. Bring to boil over med. heat and continue boiling for 10 mins. Remove from heat and add 1 Tbsp. honey. Allow to cool completely.

Immediately on taking browned rolls out of oven pour cooled mixture over top. Allow to cool completely then cut each roll into four pieces.

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

I’ve been quiet for a week, at least on my blog, to help my mother celebrate her birthday. An impressive number of candles were lit on her behalf to mark the occasion. The exact count, when all was said and done, I cannot reveal as she had me sign a non-disclosure form the day I could write my name. Mum has lied about her age for so many years I believe for a period of time in the 80′s I was actually older than she was. Twenty-nine cards arrived from friends and family. Each year she counts her haul and saves every one. I’m thinking of submitting her name to Hoarders, the Greeting Card Episode. One party after another was hosted on her behalf. If she milks this right she could still be celebrating when the next one rolls around.

As usual my mother continues to amaze me. The woman drives like a teenager, not necessarily a good thing, recently resulting in a speeding ticket. Although not a feat worthy of a pat on the back, if you factor in her time on the earth it’s somewhat impressive. As a family we keep an eye on her driving skills from visit to visit. Nothing significant indicating slowing of her reflexes or any glaring reason for considering alternate means of transportation has shown up as yet. There isn’t a day that passes I’m not thankful for her apparent tapping into the Fountain of Youth. I have many friends in less enviable situations with their aging parents and can imagine it can be extremely difficult for both sides involved.

On her birthday day we gathered at her favorite Mexican restaurant for a celebratory Cadillac margarita or two and some fabulous flour tortilla crab enchiladas, a specialty of the house. Presents in the center of the table tipped off the waitress to a birthday in our midst so once the dishes were cleared a group circled the table presenting my mother with a dessert with a candle in it. One waiter predominated, obviously of Italian descent once he began to sing. He belted out “”Happy Ada Berday, toa youa” in such a rich, and incredibly loud baritone my mother had to take her hearing aids out.

Outside my window snow is falling. I know. I pulled out the calendar to reassure myself we were, in fact, on the page marked April with 1the colorful picture of all the lovely spring flowers on top. Hmmmm. Today they predict more snow flurries, thunderstorms, and possibly a tornado or two just to keep it interesting. With the lower half of the state returning items to their shelves after the large quake and myriad of aftershocks, California is a rockin place to be at the moment. All we need are some flying monkeys for effect.

Scientists are saying we should get used to extreme bouts of weather or strange weather patterns. I’d say if this year and last are any indication of what’s to come, we’re in for some interesting years ahead. Today I am tucked inside with the windows between me and the beautiful snow falling but tomorrow is a volunteer day for me so I’ll be aiming the car up the steep driveway and crossing my fingers I’ll go up and not come back down. Life is nothing if not interesting.

Being shut in for the day will give me a chance to tackle my backed up pile of paperwork before it spreads it’s ever growing roots along the countertops until it consumes all life below. For me the perfect horror film scenario would be to be trapped in a huge warehouse filled to the brim with nothing but old mail, magazines and catalogs with a huge mail slot continually feeding in new envelopes. Now that would be terrifying. We shred, shred, shred and yet the pile continues to grow. I’ve signed up on line for automatic bill pay and yet still the number of envelopes I find in the mailbox every day don’t seem to be dwindling significantly. With the price of stamps increasing before the ink has dried on the latest edition, pretty soon it will be cheaper to drive mail to its destination rather than placing it in the mailbox.

Speaking of horror films, or mail, or whatever I was speaking about. Help me out here. Were you listening? Horror films, that was it. The first scary movie I saw was Frankenstein when I was nine. Unable to look away from the screen but needing to lest I wet my pants, I peeked through slightly open fingers as the monster terrorized the village. After that I was hooked. To this day, however, when watching a particularly terrifying scene I still view it through my fingers just in case. For myself, I’m not a fan of slasher movies or anything involving a chain saw. Nightmare on Elm Street gave me, well, nightmares, so I never watched any of the sequels nor did I continue on with the guy in the goalie mask after the first movie came out. All the Hitchcock films captured my full attention, and still seeing a line of birds perched on a telephone wire gives me pause for thought. Stephen King, one of my favorite writers of his genre, provided me with several sleepness nights being pursued by demonic clowns after watching It, and Pet Cemetary, to be literal, scared me to death. I’ve seen every Alien movie and will still sit chewing on the edge of my throw if one appears on the TV schedule over the weekend. The words “Here’s Johnny”, bring to mind Jack Nicholson’s maniacal grin at the bathroom door, and snow on the TV, not possible these days, would remind me of Carol Anne saying “They’re here”, in Poltergeist. The worst of the lot for me were the really gruesome variety such as Pumpkinhead, the 13th Floor, and Hellraisers which I thought I’d have to have erased from my memory banks via electric shock therapy.

I do love to scared, it’s true. Much like life, in a good horror flick you never know what’s going to turn up around the next corner. Smile.

This is great recipe if you have leftover crepes from Sunday brunch. I often make the crepes ahead of time and store in the refrigerator with wax paper in between to eliminate that step the day I make the dish.

Crespelle Ripiene (Stuffed Crepes) with Zucchini Pepperoni Sauce

Crepes

1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

Place all ingredients but 3 Tbsp. of butter in food processor. Blend until smooth.

Heat large non-stick skillet over high heat. Use additional 3 Tbsp. melted butter to brush skillet between each crepe. Pour 1/2 cup of batter in center of skillet and swirl quickly and turn to spread a thin layer on bottom of pan.

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Cook until golden brown, about 1 min. on each side until you have 6 crepes. Stack until ready to use.

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Filling

13 oz. Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley

Mix all ingredients together and set aside.

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Zucchini Pepperoni Sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium zucchini, small cubed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
10 slices pepperoni
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat olive oil in large deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.

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Add zucchini and cook for 5 mins.

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Add tomatoes, basil, marjoram, salt, pepper, bay leaves, sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 40 mins. or until sauce has reduced and thickened.

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Meanwhile line baking sheet with tin foil. Spread out pepperoni and place in oven for 6 mins. Cut in quarters.

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Add to sauce at end with 2 Tbsp. parsley and cook an additional 5 mins.

To assemble:

Place 1 1/2 Tbsp. on top of each crepe. Fold in half.

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Then fold in quarters.

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Line crepes in shallow baking dish. Top with sauce. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 mins.

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