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Posts Tagged ‘fun’

spinach quicheThe market was a total zoo this morning. Chips, salsa, huge packages of wings and liquor were flying off the shelves at a mind-boggling rate. Rick says soon the aisle the store is naming after me thanks to my continued patronage will be having a ribbon cutting. It is true. I spend a lot of time at the market. Not a high maintenance female in most areas, I have a meltdown if my staples in the pantry are looking poorly or I’m out of toilet paper. I will go to the store in a snow storm if I’m getting low on paper towels or there’s only one egg left in the carton, but wouldn’t bother warming up the car if there was a sale on pink diamonds at the local jeweler. It’s a matter of preferences and good eating is high on my list.

I have an old friend whose husband does all the cooking. Fran’s idea of bringing dinner to the table is actually transporting the dish from the kitchen to the dining room. In her eyes I’m a curiosity, something she studies from afar but has no understanding of how it works. When we met she was a young widow like myself. Alone with three small children on a limited income she was forced to face her fear of the stove. I was invited over often. Looking back I would like to think it was for my charm and sparkling wit, but deep down I know it was in the hopes I’d put on an apron and produce a meal. This I deduced from being handed an apron before setting down my purse, and pointed in the direction of the cooking utensils. I did this without prejudice lest I look forward to something inedible paired with something unrecognizable on the plate. Once she made a chicken dish At least claimed it was chicken…I’m still not convinced. The law suit pressed by the chicken industry for abuse of their product is still pending in civil court. The glutenous sauce was so thick it actually married with the non-stick pan and refused to be removed even with coaxing from an S.O.S. pad. Awful. In the end the pan had to be sacrificed. I’m not lyin here.

Beyond having no talent in this area, Frannie had no interest. If you aren’t humming in the kitchen most likely no one else is going to be, but her children survived with a little help from Kraft and Ronald McDonald.

As good friends do, we grabbed each others collars and took turns keeping each other afloat over those first few years. Learning to be happy again after losing a loved one is an individual quest. The amount of grieving time needed as varied as a fingerprint from one human to another. To my mind, you never really get over losing someone you love, you simply move on as the world is designed for the person left behind to do. After a while we tentatively began to dip our toes back into dating pool, discussing our exploits as we went. Being the first time for both us dating with children in the picture, it was an interesting time indeed.

Dating is an entirely different program when you have children. To begin with, not all men or women are equipped to or have a desire to raise children from a love interest’s prior relationship. It is a subject I did not wait until the third date to discuss trying to pass them off as short housekeepers or my sister’s kids. No point in baking a cake if you’re on a diet. To add to the mix the children aren’t always receptive to mom having a new man in her life. Introductions, in my case, were only initiated after a long period of dating. Perhaps beginning by catching a movie or enjoying an afternoon at the zoo to see how things ran up the flagpole. If fur didn’t fly, and I’m not speaking of the monkey cage, then things progressed slowly from there.

Sometimes there are children on both sides, as was the case in my second marriage. This really muddies the waters. At this point you pour a tall glass of chardonnay (don’t skimp, open the good stuff) and batten down the hatches. Not only does your man need to mesh with your children, and them with him, you have to adapt to a new child in your life and he or she to you. Once you have somehow accomplished this miraculous feat then the children from both sides need to be introduced, smell one another, and decide whether or not they’re going to make your life miserable or take at easy on the old people. To add to this murky bowl the stepchild child has a natural mother or your children a natural father who somehow has to be handed a puzzle piece and fit in somewhere on the board. It can, if you don’t have a natural bent for children and a good sense of humor, quickly become a nightmare.

My stepdaughter, Sara, was not yet four when she came into my life. Her father, a USC graduate and faithful fan, decided a day in the bleachers watching his favorite team was the perfect way to get our little band acquainted. Uh-huh. A glorious Southern California fall day, we loaded up the VW van with my children and headed south to pick up Sara at her mother’s house. I was nervous. This was my first encounter with the opposite team, and I’d heard through the grapevine the players weren’t all that enthusiastic about the upcoming match. Oh-oh.

Although shirt sleeve weather outside, once in the opposition’s house I found myself wishing I’d checked my anti-freeze before arriving. Sara, hiding behind her mother’s legs was not nearly as excited about the game or me as I’d hoped she might be.

Sitting in the red and gold dominated bleachers Sara’s crying for Mom commenced about half way through the first quarter. One fan actually threw a bag popcorn at us when it continued. There is nothing worse than having a screaming child who will not be quieted when you’re in a public arena, or in this case an actual arena. Not only did Sara cry for one full hour while we walked and cajoled before pulling up stakes, she cried the hour and half drive home. Her mother wasn’t happy, my children had taken a thumbs down vote in the back seat on the drive home, and I had decided total celibacy was the only answer by the time we reached our doorstep.

Somehow we stuck it out, ironing out the wrinkles as we went. Slowly, with lots of love, Sara became a part of our family and we hers blurring the dividing lines. Was it ever perfect? Never, would be the honest answer, but it was filled with lots of happy shared times mixed with some elbow grease. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Nothing worth having ever comes without some work. Blended families are rarely a piece of cake, but with the right mix of ingredients can bring you so much joy.

This quiche was delicious, a little work, but also worth the effort.

Three Cheese Spinach Mushroom Quiche

1 9″ deep dish pie shell
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups half and half
1 Tbsp. cooking sherry
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cups Swiss or Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake pie shell for 12 mins. until lightly browned. Cool.

Lower oven to 375 degrees.

In large skillet heat oil over med. heat. Saute mushrooms and onions for 5-7 mins. until soft. Add garlic. Cook 1 min. longer.

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Add spinach to pan and mix well. Remove from heat. Cool.

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Crumble bacon in bottom of pie shell.

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In large mixing bowl beat eggs. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour over bacon in pie shell.

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Bake for 50-60 mins. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 mins. before serving.

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2I’m working on writing my list of New Year’s Resolutions. I have a short list including those I might actually attempt to keep, and a long list of those I would love to fulfill but my chances of doing so are right up there with becoming an aerialist for Barnum and Bailey. I write them anyhow. Having something to attain to is important when embarking on a clean calendar year. Attacking the calendar before the pages are scribbled with activities enjoyed or appointments made or missed, holidays come and gone, and birthdays celebrated. Another year, squeezed through the tube.

I’ve decided to move publishing a book right up there to the short list. It’s been on the long list for years but I feel this year I am ready to take it out, dust it off, and really throw some energy in that direction. Also, I want to travel more. Not necessarily on a plane, as I’m not fully convinced about air travel lately. A train trip might be enjoyable, or perhaps a cruise. Oh, not so fast on a cruise. People seem to go missing on cruises, the ships stop functioning, catch on fire, or become stranded in foreign ports with no toilets. Possibly I’ll rent a horse. I’ve always considered them reliable. Well, there was that one who took me on a mad dash across the desert in Las Vegas or Blackie an Arab steed with an aversion to water who laid down in midstream giving me an unexpected pre-Saturday bath. Maybe I’ll just stay home. Home is good. However, if you allow your pool to grow stagnant for too long, algae will begin to grow and you’ll attract frogs. As I have attracted more than my fair share of frogs over my lifetime, I intend to keep the water fresh in my pool and allow room for new growth. Don’t have any idea what I’m talking about? Can’t say as I blame you. I’m not sure I’m perfectly clear where I’m going myself. I’m sure by the end of this writing I’ll ease you in the direction of what the point is I’m trying to make. If not, I’ll add it to my list. Be concise, resolution number 121.

My drawing pad is sitting on the table. It’s been a while since I faced a blank page head on armed with my No. 2 pencil. Two pages are nearly filled with sketches and I’m working on a third. Logically one would finish one completely before starting a fresh page, but no one has ever accused me of being such a being so I do it my way and in the end it all comes out in the wash. In my drawers I have three “almost stories”. They have been in transition to a complete body of work since my children were in elementary school. This could be either the worst form of procrastination or avoiding the possibility of actually having to submit my manuscripts and join the legion of other writers papering their bathroom walls with rejection letters. The jury is still out on this.

After spending the holidays with my mother in the Bay Area, I am convinced there is a whole book waiting to emerge centered around my family. Probably we would be the only ones slapping down the $6.95 for the paperback, but I’m sure it might provide a laugh, even a tear or two in the reading. Strange attracts strange it would seem as I research my family history. Interesting to uncover who wed who and whom these unions begat. Most interesting to do your own genealogy. It is amazing what crawls out from beneath the family rock pile. It turns out we’re related to Joseph Smith who founded the Latter Day Saints. Who knew? We rise from German, English, Scottish, Welch and Flemish ancestors poking out of the branches. The women in our group tend to be long-lived. More recently, two great-grandmothers and one grandmother nearly achieved the century mark. Even in the earlier generations, for their time, the women seemed to have enjoyed longevity. Perhaps we have some Ecuadorian blood running through our veins, like the people in Vilcabamba who seem to have uncovered the fountain of youth, some living to be one hundred and forty according to their birth records. One hundred and forty. Can you imagine? I’m hardly wet behind the years in their world.

At any rate, I am looking forward to exploring the next 356 days of 2014. There will probably be an increase in work coming my way, or I would like to think this to be true. The money pit keeps exacting its pound of flesh and I don’t have a lot to spare. I have been honing my graphics skills in anticipation of having to flex those muscles again. As with any business in the technology sector, use it or lose it would hold true of logo building or graphics software as well. My other half said computer manufacturers are leaning towards phasing out laptops in favor of tablets and hand-held devices. Fortunately they’re keeping the more cumbersome laptops around for graphic designers because I cannot picturing myself creating an ad campaign or media on a smart phone. These are not new eyes. I’m just sayin.

Ideally my plan for 2014 is to live fully and in the moment. As long as there are new things to learn, new people to meet, and new places to explore life certainly is never dull. I do believe I’ll scratch taking an expedition to Antarctica on a Russian ship right off my short list, however. Although making a helipad in below zero weather might prove interesting, in the end it just didn’t look like that much fun.

I wasn’t sure if peas in pasta was going to work for me, but I had some leftover and so I tossed them in. Yum.

Creamy Grass and Hay Fettucine

12 oz. spinach fettucine
12 oz. regular fettucine
3 Tbsp. EV olive oil
8 oz. sliced button mushrooms
1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
4 oz. Coppa ham, sliced in thin strips
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups cream
3/4 cup peas (frozen or canned)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute for 10 mins. stirring frequently.

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Add ham and sliced tomatoes to skillet. Continue cooking about 5-7 mins. until tomatoes are slightly wilted.

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Whisk in cream, peas, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to low boil. Whisk in grated Parmesan and continue cooking until smooth and bubbly.

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Toss pastas together in large serving bowl with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add sauce and mix well. Serve with shredded cheese.

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final

This morning I woke up motivated. I prep my food for dinner early in the day as quite often I run out of time later or energy. Always I have been a morning person. My favorite time being just before the sun crests the hill. An unfolded day in front of me, no phones ringing, no chores to be accomplished, nothing but blessed peace and quiet and a steaming cup of fresh coffee. Mmmmm.

I digress. Remembering something I needed in the garage refrigerator, I slipped on a coat and well, slippers, and unlocked the outside door. Opening the refrigerator I stared into the gaping maw realizing quickly whatever it was I felt I couldn’t live without five minutes prior had been eliminated by my receptors on the way out to the garage. Straining to see if I could revive the thought, I gave up, closed the door and went back inside. The minute I’d removed my arm from the second sleeve, eggplant popped into my head as clear as “an azure sky of deepest summer” to quote Alex De Large. Sigh. When brains have been around for a few years they seem to develop quirks like refusing to remember that blond guy who was in Rich Man Poor Man or whatever that city was you lived in when you were nine. Most annoying. Rick has taken to using “whatchamacallit or whatshisname” as standard phrases for everything or everyone he’s searching for in his memory but cannot find.

While visiting my mother I noticed she was doing this fairly often. Not enough to be alarming, but enough. What amused me was she commented on a friend saying he repeated himself regularly. This was the third time since I’d arrived she’d told me the same thing.

On the second day of our visit there was a scheduled weekly hair appointment. As I’ve mentioned before my mother has her hair done once and week, has for years, and she will make this appointment if she has to be transported by ambulance. I offered to go with her. It is an old salon reminiscent of the 1970′s. Most of the ladies seated in the chairs are older and the “do’s” pretty much of the assembly line variety, curlers, dryer, and tease, followed by a good coat of shellac.

Deciding to have our nails done while there. Mother said her manicure was set for 10:30 so we should get there a few minutes early because of the holiday. Okay. Getting my mother out the door is a process but somehow we got ourselves there and parked within minutes of the scheduled time.

Approaching the reception desk we were told her stylist, Henry, had gone missing. Apparently there had been a company Christmas party the night before and Henry had disappeared with one of the elves. To add to the mix, it turned out my mother’s appointment wasn’t until 1:00 for her nails with mine following at 2:00. It would seem we had a little time to kill until her hair appointment at 11:30, provided Henry rallied and arrived on the scene. Mother suggested we walk next door and get some lunch. This killed a half an hour.

Henry showed up looking a bit peeked around 11:45. His earlier appointments were backed up at that point so Mother was placed in the queue. The manicurist arriving early and unbooked asked if I’d like to fill the gap. For an hour the manicurist, a lovely Vietnamese woman who at forty-six looked like she was barely old enough to drive, regaled me with stories of her twenty year old son who refuses to go to work and doesn’t respect his parents. Hmmmm. Doesn’t matter where you come from, the story seems to follow the same theme.

I opted for a festive red with a bit of sparkle for my nail color. I have little patience for sitting so squirming usually commences about a half an hour in. Several times she looked up over her glasses as if to say, “really?”. Sorry. Once all coats had been applied, beauty is a process, a small heater was placed in front of me and I was instructed to place my hands inside. I did, both at the same time hitting one hand against the other. Now the glasses were perched at the end of her nose and the look was much intensified. Whoops. “One at a time, Susie”, she said. The “duh” was omitted in case a tip was imminent. Damage repaired, my nails were dried and I was done. I must write that down for next time, “one at a time, one at a time”. Duh.

Mother had progressed to sitting under the dryer, People magazine in hand, and a cup of Henry’s “special coffee” sitting next to her. Asked if I’d like the same, I nodded yes and was shortly handed a latte and offered a hair style magazine to peruse. Since I wasn’t getting my hair done I wondered if this was a hint, but chose another gossip rag instead and settled in the particularly uncomfortable dryer chair to pass the time.

Ladies around me were in all stages of being done. One, whose head was completely covered with tin foil squares looked as if she might be preparing to make a moon landing at any moment. Another had purple dye on red hair, eight earrings crawling up the side of one ear, and 10″ orange nails. She could have explored Cyrano de Bergerac’s nose with ease. Less colorful floats have appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Gossip was flowing like champagne on New Year’s Eve. Bits of it floated my direction allowing me to gather that Janice’s husband was painting outside the lines with a lady at work, and Rene’s son was in rehab again and his mother was supporting his pregnant girlfriend. Some things never change.

Finally at 2:30 with my behind having completely lost feeling and unsure I could stand without assistance, we made our way out the back door and into the Bay Area holiday traffic. Half way home my mother announced she’d forgotten her reading glasses. Back to the salon we went. At home, my other half had unleashed the dogs and alerted the media, but in the end we had a great dinner and a rousing game of trivia which with four people who can’t remember what they ate for breakfast, was memorable. Another day in the life of.

These were just plain finger licking good. I could have eaten four.

Tilapia Baja Tacos with Tangy Slaw

Tilapia Baja Tacos

1 1/2 lbs. tilapia filets, cut in half
1/3 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp. dried coriander
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. Freshly squeezed lime juice
Canola or Grapeseed Oil
Tangy Slaw (recipe below)
8 corn tortillas
Chunky salsa

Slather filets with yellow mustard. In shallow dish whisk together flour, cumin, chili powder, coriander, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. Dredge filets in flour mixture covering all sides. Drizzle lime juice over all. Cover and place in refrigerator for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap tortillas in tin foil, four to a package. Place in oven for 20 mins.

Heat 3″ of oil on high heat in deep heavy skillet. Cook fish in batches until golden brown and floating on top of oil draining each batch on paper towels. Keep batches warm in oven.

Place two pieces of fish on top of warm tortilla. Top with tangy slaw. Serve with salsa.

Tangy Slaw

1 14 oz. bag angel hair coleslaw mix
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Place coleslaw mix and red onion in medium mixing bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients. Add to coleslaw mix. Mix well and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hr. Serve on top of fish.

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1Yesterday was a very Susie kind of day. At one point Rick threatened to lock me in the closet until the clock struck midnight and the madness had passed.

It began quietly enough. I slept in. After hitting the on button the coffee maker I piled on enough clothes to keep me from freezing to death while fetching the paper and trudged up the hill. This snow, it appears, is not planning on going anywhere any time soon.  This presents several problems for us. First, we didn’t realize we should have taken the car to the top of the driveway and parked it on the street prior to the storm. What can I say? Obviously we’re novices when it comes to having a steep driveway in a hard freeze, which occurred last night, and will again for tonight and tomorrow night. Oh-oh. Now, we bought water and flashlights, thought of candles and batteries. We did not, however, think to purchase a snow shovel or any salt to throw on the driveway. Doomed are we. Quite possibly by the time the spring thaw arrives I’ll weigh 88 pounds and be living with Rip Van Winkle.

Not bad enough we are confined to barracks, but Murphy began to toy with me. My plan for dinner was to make this delicious pasta sauce, which I put together earlier in the day without a hitch. I went downstairs to vacuum. We have two in the house, one up and one down. The ironing board was up because I am sewing for Christmas. Plugging in the vacuum I must have overloaded the circuit (Really? Two plugs in one outlet and it overloads, that can’t be good. The money pit deepens.) At any rate this meant retracing my steps, putting on my warm outer garments and back into the garage, which I did. Locating the tripped switch I flipped it back on and went back downstairs. Deciding against plugging it in in the same room, I went into the bedroom and plugged it in an empty plug in that wall. Sneaky. Unfortunately, the space heater was running for the cat. I know, I know. Once again the lights went out. Boo looked up as if to say, “I hope you’re planning on taking care of that”. Insert expletive here. Ach.

Rick settled in to watch the 49er’s, a Sunday tradition. Twenty minutes before the game was to start the cable went out. Perfect. It came back on thankfully minutes before the first play or Rick would have been inconsolable.

Saturday we had no mail delivery because several tree limbs above the mailboxes drooped down making it impossible to access the door to the mailbox. I decided to spend a few minutes removing the offending limbs while Rick watched his beloved football. I mentioned I was going out in passing, but he was busy giving the coaches a lesson on how to properly move the ball up field, so I closed the door, grabbed the clippers and back up the hill I went. The limbs, when giggled, loosened every bit of snow on the higher branches. By the time I’d cut down two large limbs I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy after an unfortunate flour incident. Sigh. Someone went by and honked and laughed. It’s always nice to have an audience when you’re making an ass of yourself.

Freezing, I headed to the house only to find the door locked. I’ve been talking about hiding a key somewhere on the property, but naturally procrastinated until it now became an issue. I knocked. Nothing. I knocked again, loudly. It wasn’t getting any warmer since I was wet from head to toe. Hello? The TV announcers were yelling above the screaming crowds and looking in the window Rick was not in his seat. Swell. Finally, Rick came back from the loo and let me in asking me what I was doing outside. Never mind.

Inside, and beginning to feel my joints thaw, I put the pasta water on to boil. It takes longer at this elevation it seems. From the pantry I retrieved a large box of thin spaghetti I was planning to use with my yummy sauce. Walking towards the kitchen with nothing in my way to impede my progress, I somehow managed to squeeze the box in such a way it sprung open strewing spaghetti all over the floor. What didn’t land on the floor cascaded over the banister littering my freshly vacuumed stairs. I’m sorry, I am not vacuuming again! Rick looked over his shoulder and shook his head. That again.

Loading the nearly full dishwasher with my dinner prep items, Rick announced over the TV, “Oh, I ran the dishwasher so the dishes are clean”. Really?  Were clean would be more accurate. Never mind.

Afraid to touch anything, but getting hungry, I prepared my garlic bread and turned on the broiler. Popping my bread in the oven, my mother called and quickly I became involved searching the Internet for a nightgown for my aunt. Interrupting my searching and the cat’s nap (another of her nine lives was sacrificed in the making of this garlic bread), both smoke alarms simultaneously began screeching. By the time I opened the oven door the bodies were ready for the urns. Good news though, I found a petite medium nightie for my aunt in pink. Somehow we managed to forage together enough food for this meal. I loved this pasta sauce, thick and meaty. Yum.

Photos by Susie Nelson

Meaty Pasta Sauce with Thin Spaghetti

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage links, hot
1 1/4 lbs. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 16 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
1 pkg. thin spaghetti
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Grated Parmesan cheese

Remove the sausage casings and slice into 1/2″ slices. Heat olive oil in large, deep skillet over med. heat. Add sausage and brown on all sides (10 mins.). Drain on paper towels.

Add ground beef, onion, and minced garlic to same skillet. Cook until meat is browned. Add next thirteen ingredients. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for two hours.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup water. Add reserved water to pasta sauce and mix well. Toss pasta with olive oil. Place in pasta bowls and ladle sauce over top. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

I have my first cold of the season. Most probably directly related to my crawling around in the recesses of the chilly garage trying to locate my Christmas decorations.

Prophetically, I made turkey soup yesterday so dinner is ready for tonight as well as a natural cure for the common cold. With a fifteen pound bird to dispose of between the two of us, we’re looking forward to turkey soup, turkey shepherd’s pie, turkey Benedict and a host of other clever ways to disguise leftover yard bird. My eyelids are getting heavy already. Whether turkey makes you sleepy, from what I understand, is based in both myth and fact. There is tryptophan in turkey which can cause drowsiness when taken directly, but most likely the drowsiness following a huge holiday meal is your body trying to process appetizers, alcohol, turkey with all the trimmings, and three pieces of pie with whipped cream. Burp.

Facebook was buzzing with turkey pics, family pics, and updates on family gatherings all day. Facebook is probably a fun outlet, but personally it scares me to death. Bullying is so accessible on this type of site, and particularly attractive to young petty little minds with the destruction of another teens self-esteem at the touch of a well-painted fingertip. Yesterday I read an article about how often Facebook is showing up in the courtrooms. The site itself is not being sued, or not that I know of, but litigants on either side of cases are accusing the other side of maligning or misrepresenting them on the well-populated social media giant. I find it truly fascinating what people casually write on these updates. Often they are things I wouldn’t be comfortable saying on the phone to a person I trusted with my innermost thoughts, much less write openly to an audience of millions. It reminds me of people who adjust their body parts while standing on a street corner, whisper something offensive loud enough for Hellen Keller to hone in on, or explore their nasal cavities at a stop sign. WE CAN SEE AND HEAR YOU!

It is suggested you do not post “Leaving for a week on Maui tomorrow”, for example. Not only might your friends be celebrating your impending departure, but someone casing your house hoping to find it empty might be popping the cork on a champagne bottle as well.

Posting your personal status as “single” when you’ve tucked your wedding band in your pocket for an evening on line might not be the best strategy either. If you are tracking hundreds of people it stands to reason someone most likely is tracking your cheating behind as well.

Employers are looking potential candidates for jobs over on line. That hysterically funny selfie posted of you and your gal pals half-naked showing your latest tattoos in front of a strip club in Vegas, bottle of JD in one hand and joint drooping off one pierced lip, gets a thumbs up from your friends. Possibly, if you’re applying for a teaching position at a local parochial school, not so much.

Email can also be a dangerous tool, and voice mail. Knee jerk reactions to a situation left in either queue can come back to haunt you later. Particularly in the case of email where with no intonation on the words, the words often are left to stand alone and can be misinterpreted.

In a world where we all seem to have so much to say, possibly we need to be more discerning about what we say and where we say it.

Humblebrags, a word it seems actually included in some dictionaries, is another interesting social media offspring. It is a way of saying something seemingly self-effacing when actually patting yourself on the back or apprising people of your successes or recent high-dollar purchases. Hmmmm. Sort of like, “I never knew when I bought this enormous house with twenty-nine bathrooms we’d use so much toilet paper”.

Are we becoming a country hooked on instant gratification? The most results for the least amount of effort expended? Can’t help but wonder. Sometimes the thrill of something comes in the waiting. If you go out on a first date and before desert your date puts a ring on your finger and the waiters start singing “Today I Met the Boy I’m Going to Marry”, wouldn’t that diminish the excitement of your first kiss, your first fight, and all the things filling in the middle? Falling in love is part of the journey, not just the actual act of getting married.

Working hard to achieve a goal is extremely rewarding, at least for me. If you’ve set your sights on something in the distance and climb the hills in between and tough out the rainstorms and the hot dry days to get where you want to go, there is an exhilaration accompanying such an accomplishment that can’t be equaled by having it simply handed to you.

For me it’s “all things in moderation”. I love the Internet and use it regularly. It’s a magical wonderful tool as are all the gadgets and Space Odessy like technology coming our way, but we’re an addictive society as a whole so perhaps using these tools wisely is the key. As usual, I’m full of questions, or full of something.

This soup was a great way to gobble up the leftover turkey. Yum.

Spicy Southwestern Turkey Soup

5 cups rich turkey broth
2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup green pepper, chopped
1 4 oz. can chopped green chiles
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
3/4 cup cooked corn kernels
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 pkg. Lawry’s taco seasoning mix, hot
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Salt (as needed)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 avocados, chunked
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Sour Cream
Lime slices

Place first 12 (through black pepper) ingredients in large stockpot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 mins. on low.

Place 1/4 cup of cooked rice in the bottom of six large soup bowls. Ladle soup over top. Top each bowl with 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, chopped avocado, and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and lime slices.

Turkey Broth

1 turkey carcass, meat left on if possible
5 quarts water
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 celery ribs, quartered with leaves
2 carrots, peeled and chunked
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 cups white wine (I used pinot grigio)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/3 cup parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Place turkey pieces in bottom of large stockpot. Add water, vegetables, garlic, wine, and bay leaves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer over med-low heat for 2 hrs., skimming fat during cooking.

Add thyme, parsley flakes, and black pepper. Continue cooking over med-low heat for 2 hours. Strain large pieces and discard, reserving meat for future use. Cool and refrigerate or freeze.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Stick a fork in me, I’m done. One who prides herself on seamlessly multi-tasking, even I couldn’t make this week wrinkle-free. I traveled from one activity to another like a frog hopping along a path of lily pads trying to reach the safety of the bank. “Rivet.” Where are the weeks going? Santa is out there shaking his naughty or nice finger at me and I haven’t added so much as a notch on my credit card balance to acknowledge his arrival. Ach.

I’m using my creative side for the holidays in 2013, like I have in Christmas’s long past. My sewing machine is sitting at the ready on the work table with piles of fabric in a bag next to it on the floor. There is no possible way my face will show up on any in-store security camera on Black Friday this year or any other year. One time I was coerced by a friend to go with her while living in Boston. Filene’s basement at the best of times was a zoo, but on the day after thThanksgiving you’re lucky to make it out of the store with all body parts in tact. Insanity prevails, with pushing, shoving, swearing and shoplifting all occurring concurrently in the same confined space. Activities all geared to make you want to sing, “Tra, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la”. Trying to make the best of it, I held up a scarf I was admiring to get a better look at it. A lady with bright crimson hair and what appeared to be an entire of tube of red lipstick slathered across her lips walked up to me. Without a word, she whisked the scarf from my hands. Raising one well-defined raised eyebrow she shot me a look I took to mean if I had any issues with this behavior I could take it up with my undertaker. Turning, she flounced off amidst a noxious cloud of Charlie perfume undoubtedly also lifted another part of the store. One last look to ensure a clean escape, she tucked my scarf in her massive bag I’m sure with other items already purchased at a five finger discount. Who am I to argue with success? Besides she looked like she could take me.

I have to admit it creates an atmosphere not unlike a feeding frenzy with people grabbing items they don’t need, or really want, then arguing about who saw it first. From what I understand Filene’s has since closed their doors. Looking back I’m glad I got to add it to my many memorable Boston experiences. The store also hosted an annual “running of the brides”. The bulls at Pamploma pale in comparison to a thousand plus bride to be’s stampeding through the store in search of the perfect designer dress at a drastically reduced price. Sales clerks took their lives in their hands working a shift that day.

The carrot my friend used to get me to accompany her was ice skating at the Frog Pond at the Boston Commons after Filene’s, followed by frog-pond-skatinglunch at the English Tea Room on Newberry Street. Yum. I would even have put up with the rampaging brides if she’d thrown in a dish of spicy Indian Pudding from Durgin Park. If I close my eyes I can still smell the delicious aroma of that pudding.

Truth be known, I’m less than a gifted ice skater. Canadians are supposed to take to skates like ducks to water, but somehow my ankles never got that memo. Most of my time on ice was spent actually on ice. Amazingly I sacrificed no bones in the making of those memories, and other than frostbite came out of the whole experience no worse for wear.

My daughter and her family are heading out to Phoenix on Wednesday night for Thanksgiving with my oldest granddaughter, also their oldest. It worries me to think of them flying. Stories are floating about of pilots inadvertently landing at the wrong airports, passengers losing their sanity mid-flight and announcing a bomb on board, escape chutes inflating inside the cabin, and even on one flight a pilot not realizing the P.A. could be heard in the cabin alarmingly announced “we’re going down”. Passengers began leaving last messages for their loved ones and praying when he realized the switch was in the on position and apologized saying he simply meant they were dropping to a lower level to avoid turbulence. Good Lord. I bet the bathroom line was lengthy after that.

It was also alarming to hear about two pilots on the chubby side who actually went to sleep at the wheel, so to speak, and nearly missed the landing. It seems due to their weight they suffer from sleep apnea and hadn’t been sleeping well. In flight is possibly not the ideal time to catch up, but that’s my opinion. Also airlines are toying with the idea of allowing passengers to use their cell phones during flights. That’s the nail in the coffin for me. In restaurants people talk on the phone, in movies people text…..big sigh.

Over the years I’ve prepared turkey dinner for thirty plus, and this year for two plus one cat. One year I decided to cook dinner on the lower level of our last house which we’d converted to a pool room, both for shooting pool as well as use after swimming in the above ground pool on that level. It was originally tagged for a mother-in-law I think, but as the owners prior to us divorced, it remained unfinished at the time we purchased the house. Built on the side of a steep hill there were two accesses to the lower level, a steep cement ramp to one side or out the sliding glass door on the second floor patio and down a spiral exterior staircase. Neither were optimum for serving guests. There was a smaller kitchen on that level and lots of open room. I set up tables, chairs, a TV for those so inspired, and decorated for the occasion. Not having enough matching plates for thirty, and not a fan of paper plates for special occasions, I purchased six sets of inexpensive dinnerware which would work perfectly.

Unloading the dishes at the house I realized I had to get them to the third floor. Still boxed I decided to stack the boxes on the dolly and take them down the ramp. No flies on me. I’m not blond for nothing, you know. Three boxes loaded, I weighed whether to let them go down before me or pull them down after. I decided after was the ticket. I know. This really confirms all rumors about being dropped on my head before my first birthday.

Slowly I inched down the first third of the steep hill the dolly behind me. Getting heavier it began to push on my arms and pretty soon it pulled over to the left and passed me completely. Oh-oh. Once in front of me I was turned around digging in my heels and the dolly picked up speed. At about the two-thirds point I lost control of it completely and unpiloted it flew down to the end of the ramp, over the ledge and on down the hill onto the empty lot below. By the time I reached the boxes I was sure there were nothing but pieces left to unpack. Not one broke.

In the end it was the most exhausting Thanksgiving I ever lived through. Every time I sat down somebody needed something on the first floor. Only Thanksgiving I actually lost weight after the meal.

This is the best sauce ever! I use it as a base for my peppercorn sauce as well.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed

Steak de Burgo with Mushrooms

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper
Garlic salt
2 4 oz. filet mignons, trimmed

Mushroom Sauce

1 pkg. sliced mushrooms (1 cup)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
14 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup vermouth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

Heat oil and butter in saute pan over med.-high heat until butter is melted and beginning to froth. Season steaks well with salt, pepper, and garlic pan. Add to pan and sear on both sides (about 2 mins. per side for rare). Remove from pan and tent.

Add mushrooms to pan. Saute 3-5 mins. until nicely browned. Add garlic, basil, oregano, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper to pan. Cook 1 minute.

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Whisk together vermouth and cream. Whisk into pan. Reduce by one half.

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Add filets with juices on plate. Heat through. Serve with sauce and garnish with parsley.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Elections were earlier this week.  Current headlines being what they are, I’d prefer a lineup featuring the seven dwarfs, Goofy, and Pluto, but that’s another blog.  This turned my thoughts to laws, in particular those odd laws still written on the books long outdated or those bordering on the ridiculous.

If you go to Pennsylvania, for example, don’t stop a pregnant mother and ask to touch her baby bump. It is now against the law in the Virtue, Liberty and Independence state. Fortunately, I won’t have to control my inner demons with regard to this particular piece of legislature. Touching a strangers baby bump has never really become a habit I’m actively trying to quit.  Apparently in Pennsylvania random baby bump touching has reached epidemic proportions requiring legislation prohibiting such an act.  People should be respectful of pregnant women. When in that condition myself I would not have appreciated a stranger walking up to me on the street and touching my body without first giving me the option to decline. Also, as I approached term during my gestation touching me could actually have proved hazardous to your health. Puffy feet, belly swollen, and patience running thin, at eight months along I was a force to be reckoned with. Let’s face it, if you did such a thing to a non-pregnant female you’d most likely be incarcerated or at the very least decked by her husband.

Still, whether I agree re the baby belly or not, I believe we are over regulated. In this writer’s opinion again, naturally. To refine that statement, I believe we’re over regulated in some areas while under regulated in others such as insurance, airlines and pharmaceuticals. Following this line of thought I was prompted to research some of the ridiculous laws on the books across the nation. In California I found a law in Baldwin Park prohibiting riding your bike in a swimming pool. That is disappointing, and I just attached a brand new waterproof bell to my handlebars. In Blythe, California you cannot wear cowboy boots unless you already own two cows. Damn, and I sold my second Hereford at auction just last week. Are any of these enforced, I wonder?

In Alabama regardless of your age or marital status it is illegal to deflower virgins, and punishable by up to 5 years in jail. My guess is the page hasn’t been turned to this law since the late 60′s. In Connecticut you can be stopped by police if biking over 65 miles an hour. Personally, if you’re pedaling over 65 mph they should only stop you long enough to hand you an Olympics jacket and point you in the direction of Rio. On that subject….. Good news! Olympic uniforms are for the U.S. teams are actually being manufactured in the United States for 2016.

In Minnesota it seems it is against the law to cross the state line with a duck on your head. Also, citizens cannot enter Wisconsin with chickens on their heads. It seems fowl weather gear is a serious problem in Minnesota. Do they not sell hats in this part of the country? Sticking to Minnesota for a moment, hamburgers cannot be eaten on Sundays in St. Cloud, Minnesota. That’s it, I’m definitely not relocating. I’m not moving anywhere I can’t sport a mallard when the spirit moves me, and no burgers on Sunday.

South Carolina law states when approaching a four-way intersection in a non-horse driven vehicle you must stop 100 ft. from the intersection and discharge a firearm into the air. If you’ve watched the news lately, this one seems to working pretty well.

In Texas recent legislature makes it against the law for criminals to commit a crime without notifying their victims either orally or in writing of the nature of the crime at least 24 hours prior to perpetrating it.  Interesting.  Caller ID could really come in handy in this instance, however, picking up the mail might be somewhat less desirable.  Are we actually paying the salaries to these legislators??  Also in the Lone Star State the Bluebonnet is the official song of the state flower.  Very Fantasia.

I found a law in Alaska outlawing pushing a live moose from a moving plane.  The interesting visual on this one is someone actually managing to convince the moose to board the plane in the first place. It is also illegal to provide alcoholic beverages to a moose, so getting him drunk and then dragging him on the plane is totally out of the question. Alaskans are also prohibited from bringing their flamingos in the barber shop while getting their hair cut.  I never realized flamingos were a common problem in Alaska.  I wonder if flamingos can drink?

Along this vein, in Idaho you cannot fish from a camel’s back.  One of the many reasons I’ll never call Boise home.  In Kansas rabbits may not be shot from motorboats.  I wasn’t aware bunnies were big swimmers but keep at eye out for the law if you’re planning on getting one in your sights on your next water skiing trip.

Last, but not least, in Oregon babies may not be carried on running boards of a car.  Now I’ve forgotten my coffee on my roof, and left my purse on my trunk, but almost never did I leave my child on my running board.

With that, I will close with these yummy sweet potato pancakes.  They were absolutely delicious with my pork roast.

Sweet Potato and Apple Pancakes

4 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup grated onion
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and shredded
1 large sweet potato (2 cups), shredded
1/3 cup Canola oil
Salt and pepper
Sour cream and chives

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In large mixing bowl whisk together eggs, flour, onion, nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

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Add shredded onions and mix well.

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Add shredded sweet potatoes and mix well.

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Heat 2 Tbsp. of oil in large skillet over med. heat. When oil is shimmering drop by 1/3 cupfuls into oil and flatten with spatula. Cook until golden brown (2-3 mins.) and turn over cooking 2-3 mins. on opposite side. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in preheated oven and repeat with remaining batches adding oil with each batch.

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Season with salt and pepper and serve with sour cream and chives.

Serves 4.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

After the football game Sunday afternoon, they aired a spot about a Redskins player who is still driving his first car. The car was originally purchased from his pastor for $2 for at the beginning of his career. The car continues to be his drive of choice eschewing the shiny luxury models symbolizing success often chosen by high paid sports figures.  According to the player the car, with just under 200,000 miles logged, reminds him of how many miles he’s traveled to get to where he is in his career.  I like that.

Many cars have come and gone during my lifetime with my name on the title.  The first was a graduation gift from my parents as a display of their unbridled joy that between my avid interest in boys and social activities and total lack of interest in education, I had nonetheless somehow managed to graduate from high school.  As a vehicle it was a junker really, even by the lowest standards.  A 1960 Plymouth Valiant, quite likely a high contender for taking the ribbon in The Ugliest Car Contest for cars thmanufactured in that decade.  White exterior with a flat roof and plump midsection, it was reminiscent in appearance of a pregnant Carmen Ghia.  Included in the $100 asking price, was an interior smelling strongly of old stale tobacco and a right hand turn signal which when turned on honked the horn rather than notifying the driver behind you of an impending turn.   If it wasn’t for the fact it was a modicum of an improvement over my own two feet I would have driven it off a cliff and put the poor thing out of its misery.

The following year I became engaged. Returning from our honeymoon we invested in a brand new car, a Toyota stick shift.  Up until that juncture I was only experienced driving an automatic transmission. The Valiant was to be kept in service until I learned the ins and outs of a stick, a job my new husband had signed up for. This is an endeavor I do not recommend most newlyweds tackle, as it does a great deal to put the “ewwww” in newlywed.  Seated in the driver’s seat in an empty parking lot, I was given explicit instructions on the workings of the internal combustion engine, where each of the gears was located and how to get there, the function of the additional pedal known as the clutch, and how to balance clutch and accelerator to move the car forward.  Easy peasey.  Uh-huh.

Pressing my foot on the accelerator while slowly releasing the clutch, or holding down on the clutch while stepping on the brake.  What did you say again?  The jerking became so pronounced as the car moved forward my right knee bone ended up under my left ear.  My husband, not widely known for patience, was shouting most unflattering things while gesturing frantically for me to stop.  Sensing this was not the smooth ride he’d anticipated, I did as I was told removing both feet from the pedals. One last bone relocating heave and the car came to rest. Silence hung over the car for a few minutes while his Lordship gathered his composure.

We continued the lesson with the engine in the off position.  I nodded my head to everything and hoped the following lesson would go better.  First gear escaped me for some reason.  I think the fact the frustration in the car was palpable wasn’t helping my concentration. The following day tiring of the parking lot, we jerkily made our way out into the flow of traffic.  Between the “air braking”, clutching of door handles, and sucking of air going on on his side, it’s amazing I made it to the first stop light.  In first gear, I chug, chugged us through the intersection horns blaring and my teacher screaming commands like a rabid drill sergeant.  Three quarters of the way through the intersection when I’d killed the car for the third time, my mentor opened the door and got out leaving me alone with my humiliation. Through the open window he said tight lipped he was walking home.  What?  Now?  Somehow I got it in gear again and continued through the intersection with my husband’s back disappearing down a side street. Fine.

After a couple of blocks without nagging I found I was actually able to traverse all the gears somewhat smoothly and caught up with my husband now nearly jogging down the sidewalk in the hot sun.  Waving for me to pull over and pick him up I cheerily waved back as I passed him deciding to meet him at home instead.  Payback is a, well you know.

Several weeks later I was ready for my maiden voyage. Handed the car keys, I set off solo for work. Southern California was home at the time.  L.A. freeways are the worst, but L.A. freeways in rush hour traffic are just painful. Cars back then were sometimes equipped with a manual choke.  It provides a rich mix of fuel when the engine is first started.  I pulled it as instructed.  Managing the gears like a pro I pulled onto the first of three freeways I was to take to work.  Turning on my right hand signal I merged with other commuters onto the single lane connection to the second freeway along my route.  Without warning the car shuddered, then died.  Several attempts to start to no avail, horns began to honk.  Again?  Stuck, the line behind me grew quickly.  Finally, a man several cars back came to the window and asked if he could help. Traffic helicopters began to circle overhead. I had created a traffic alert.  Sitting in the driver’s seat the good samaritan discovered I’d left the choke on, causing the engine to, well, choke.  Whoops.  My husband, meanwhile, stuck impatiently far behind me said he’d entertained a fleeting thought, “I bet that’s Susie”, and then scolded himself for thinking such a thing.

Now driving a stick is second nature to me, although I haven’t owned one since the 1980′s.  It was my dream car, a brand spanking new 1985 300 ZX with all the bells and whistles.  I don’t have a big love affair with cars like many do, preferring a vehicle that will get me from Point A to Point B without requiring a tow truck to heated seats and in-flight movies. However I would have changed my name for this car.  Long gone now, there was an exhilaration driving that sleek powerful machine on the open road, shifting into fifth gear with the t-top open, hair blowing in the wind, and a tape in the tape drive, definitely special.

Garlicy Potato Fans

Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, roasted and squeezed
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 large russet potatoes
1/3 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup Asiago cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp. chives
1 Tbsp. dried crushed rosemary
1/2 Tbsp. parsley flakes
Sour cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove skin from garlic and coat well with olive oil. Allow to sit for 5 mins. Cover each clove with tin foil and bake in oven for 35 mins. or until soft. Squeeze garlic into melted butter. Add salt and pepper.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Slice potatoes in 1/8″ slices making sure not to cut all the way through. Slightly fan and pour butter/garlic mixture over the top of each potato. Bake for 1 hr. and 10 mins. basting with pan drippings every 10 mins.

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Mix together cheeses and seasonings. Sprinkle over tops of potatoes. Return to oven for 10 mins. or until cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

I raked leaves this morning. Mother Nature was definitely not cooperating, continually dropping new ones while I scooped the old ones up with my rake. Chilly in the mornings and warm after lunch, it is hard to decide what to wear. Cold, I slipped on jeans and a hoodie to work in the yard, and by two in the afternoon I was back in shorts and a tee-shirt. A good part of this weekend was eaten up with moving our summer clothes downstairs, and bringing the winter clothes up. By the time I was done relocating everything I believe I lost a dress size.

Company is arriving tomorrow from several fronts, so I have a full afternoon of cooking ahead of me. This in mind, I coerced Rick into taking me to breakfast before his beloved forty niners absorb the rest of his day. Still new to the area, he suggested a familiar chain restaurant we’d seen on the end of town. Having errands to run in that general vicinity, it seemed the perfect choice. There were quite a few cars in the parking lot, usually a good sign. Once inside the door, we realized the cars must have belonged to staff because there were only eight or so tables occupied, this on a Sunday morning. Starving, we sat where instructed and opened the Bible sized menu. I always look at everything, change my mind fifteen times, and order Eggs Benedict. It’s a ritual I cherish.

Our waitress ignored us for at least five minutes, seeming not to notice our existence in her station. I am an only child and not good at being ignored. Doing cartwheels in the center aisle and pulling my cheeks aside with my fingers while sticking out my tongue, she finally nodded disinterestedly in our direction. Recognition at all cost. No coffee pot in hand she asked for our drink order. I notice these things. It’s the ex-restaurant owner in me. If you bring the pot with you, the customer will have the coffee in their cup immediately. We indicated coffee for two, and placed our breakfast order. Rick, like myself, looks at everything and orders either French toast or pancakes. Life on the edge. Today French toast was on the ticket.

It became quickly obvious this was the girl’s first day. The line manager was shooting instructions her way in machine gun fashion, and she had that deer in the headlights look often found on new employees faces the first week on the job. In truth, I don’t believe she had majored in motivation prior to accepting this position as I’ve seen snails working their way towards the safety of the ivy moving at a more aggressive pace. People suffering through the first days of a new job need support, however, and I try my best to exercise patience and be understanding. This girl really pushed the envelope.

There were three line cooks, for eight tables. If all of them were in motion, plates should have been flying out of the kitchen. One chef was leaning against the counter studying his fingernails while a second was giving him a full account of last night’s best pick up lines at the local country western bar. I kept running the lyrics to David Allen Coes, “I was drunk the night my mom got out of prison…”, through my mind. In rhythm, my stomach was doing the two-step and my coffee cup was feeling mighty low, mighty low. Oh-oh, I sense a bit of irritation sneaking in.

A half an hour came and went. Rick, also known as the restaurant Nazi, was beginning to act a little squirrely. I suggested he back away from the coffee cup before things got ugly. I could see his French toast pop up under the warming lights so with food on the way, he relaxed a bit. A large plate of French toast was delivered in front of Rick, no maple syrup or butter on board. Oh-oh. My plate came next. It looked delicious. Starving at this point, I would have dived right in, but unfortunately it was an order of corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy and two eggs over easy. Hmmmm. Pointing out (politely) the missing butter and syrup, I said I appreciated the food but it wasn’t mine. Slightly pinking in the cheeks, she grabbed Rick’s plate and mine and headed back to the kitchen. After some discussion with the line manager she returned with the butter and the syrup but no French toast. Apologizing, it seemed she’d forgotten to order my Eggs Benedict, but had put in a new ticket, and would I like some more coffee? Making mention Rick no longer had anything to put the syrup and butter on she returned to the work station to find the French toast had been tossed by the line manager thinking it returned by the customer. Okay, I am an easy-going person, but REALLY?

In desperation and trying to keep the mood light, I asked for a refill on my coffee. Leaving to retrieve the pot, I never saw her again until our breakfasts were delivered fifteen minutes later. Rick had begun to eat the seat cushion and was eying the catsup. Two undercooked poached eggs sat astride several slices of thin deli ham on an English muffin. Covering all was a huge glob of yellow paste I believe was Hollandaise sauce. This could be a secret formula possibly replacing any future need for mixing cement on construction sites. In their defense, the hash browns weren’t bad. When asked if we wanted to-go boxes, I said yes but please don’t put my food in it. I might need to use it later for a receptacle if things don’t go well in my digestive system. Not really, but I was thinking it.

So, we now have eliminated two restaurants from our list and are forging positively onward. For the first time in years I left a small tip. I’m a big proponent of tipping well for good service. Servers work hard for their money, good ones, and deserve a little recognition. Sometimes, you just have to make a statement.

This soup was perfect with a tuna sandwich after a disappointing breakfast.

Potato, Leek and Brussels Sprout Soup

3 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1/3 cup celery, chopped
3 leeks, white and green, chopped (leaves removed)
6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
7 Brussels sprouts, halved
3 russet potatoes, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup cream
Sour cream and chives

Cut off ends of top of leeks. Remove leaves.

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Cut leeks in half lengthwise and run under water, rinsing between layers to remove dirt.

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Chop and set aside.

Melt butter in large pot on low heat.

Add chopped onion, celery and mushrooms. Simmer 5-6 mins. until tender.

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Add leeks and garlic. Stir and cover; simmer 8 mins. until leeks are softened.

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Add Brussels sprouts and simmer covered an additional 8 mins.

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Add potatoes, broth, parsley, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, pepper, salt and white pepper to pot. Bring to a boil.

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Reduce heat to simmer and cook covered for 45 mins.

Remove from heat. Remove bay leaves. Using an emulsion blender, beat until smooth. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

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Whisk in buttermilk and cream.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Halloween is creeping up on us. Pumpkins are popping up on porches waiting to have their features chiseled into jack o’lanterns. Nights are decidedly cooler and eating slowly into the daylight.  Fall in all it’s glory, is upon us. I really miss my little ones at this time of year and their little ones.  When mine were small the sewing machine usually reamained on the kitchen table for weeks before the 31st. Next to it a pile of costumes half sewn, waited to be finished, tried on and gathered or let out if dogw-bunny-earsthe need arose.  Over the years I’ve created many a mouse, lion, scarecrow, robot, and numerous other alter egos for my pint sized candy mongers.  Trick or treating was fun back in the day.  Neighborhoods decked themselves out in cobwebs, ghosts, pea green witches and grimacing pumpkins.  Garages were transformed into haunted houses, and sounds of creaking doors and clanking chains followed youngsters up candlelit walks perhaps to find Frankenstein or Minnie Mouse at the door waiting to fill their bags or pillow cases with candy apples or sticky popcorn balls.

Like so many things in our world, it’s not a safe practice scavenging for candy anymore.  A caramel apple would most likely be tossed eliminating the possibility someone had laced it with something toxic or inserted a harmful object inside.  No more home-baked cookies, or nut covered brownies.  Even store-bought candies not in their original wrappers often end up in the trash bag.

Often in those years after my children had fleeced our own neighbors, we headed to my parents neighborhood to finish off the pillaging for the night.  One Halloween in particular when they were quite small, my son was a gray mouse, and my daughter a diminutive ballerina.  With my sons exaggerated whiskers, and goodie bag shaped like Swiss cheese, and my tiny little girl’s hot pink tutu, leotard and tights, they got the “Awwwww Award” for the evening, at least from their parents.  My parents, being more well established and older, lived in a neighborhood reflecting this status.  Larger homes, longer walkways, and a higher standard of treats.  Once a gentlemen handed each of my two pirates a $5 as he had run out of candy.  I made them return their ill-gotten gains, and just as happy they settled for a quarter and a Triscuit topped with a piece of ripe cheddar cheese.

At one house, they asked if I would wait at the end of the walkway while they approached the door by themselves.  I had an uninterrupted view so shooed them on their way. Screaming in delight they ran up the walk, excitedly yelling “trick or treat” at the porch while ringing the doorbell.  So little they looked to me silhouetted in the door frame.  A tall woman dressed as a black cat bent down, shared a brief conversation with mouse and ballerina, and nodded. In the blink of an eye, both my children disappeared inside, door closing behind them.  What?  Hansel and Gretel suddenly popped into my mind.  I raced up the stone steps nearly bursting through the large door without stopping to knock.  Gathering myself, I knocked loudly.  A man answered this time.  Explaining quickly who I was and asked about the whereabouts of one mouse and a Pepto Bismol pink ballerina.  Smiling he assured me they were fine and asked me in.  Oh-oh.  These two could be working on a family plan.  Dark basements, chains, torture devices could lurk behind the facade of the lovely middle class home.  Once inside I found my son sitting on an enormous tapestry footstool shoving cookies in his mouth, while at the same time loading several in his Swiss cheese bag for later.  My ballerina, apparently, had asked to use the facilities and was doing just that in their guest bathroom.  Sooooo, after introductions we were invited, and stayed, for a glass of mulled cider with a cinnamon stick for stirring.  Such things don’t happen much anymore, I’d imagine, unless in neighborhoods where everyone is acquainted. Many parents opt for school or community functions. Safer.  It was so much fun.  A shame to lose that.

With my birthday falling on November 1st, a Halloween party was usually on the books for the adults in our circle as well. In my garage an entire area of the rafters stored boxes marked “Halloween”.  In one dusty corner, a full-sized wooden casket stood next to the lawn mower.  Once a year we dragged it out, whisked away the cobwebs, and lined it with plastic.  On party nights it was filled with ice and transformed into the perfect cooler for an All Hallows Eve celebration.  Charlie, a full-sized plastic skeleton,  played the part of the dear departed, sitting at the end of the coffin wearing a cowboy hat and smoking a Marlboro light. You might have found any manner of horror in my Halloween boxes running the gambit from shrunken heads, skeletal hands, to full-sized witches.  Usually we welcomed sixty-five or so people into our home. Guests arriving out of costume, as indicated on our invitations, would get a bucket of ice over their heads if they dared cross the threshold.  All in good fun, of course. People when dressed as Abraham Lincoln or Elton John let down their guards for a while and mingled comfortably with strangers dressed as Goofy and The Cat in the Hat.  All in all it’s my favorite kind of party.  One of these days I’ll do it all again, but this year I’m going to a party instead and helping the hostess rather than being one myself.

A clever idea my daughter shared to spice up your Halloween punch.  Take a plastic glove and fill it either with red punch or green liquid.  Tie it securely at the open end.  Hang it upside down in the freezer.  Before putting your punch out, remove the glove and float the hand in the liquid.

In the spirit of fall colors I am posting this amazingly delicious potato recipe.  These are truly the best.  A bit of a project, but well worth the trouble.

Mashed Potato and Mashed Sweet Potato Casserole

1 large sweet potato, peeled and large cubed
4 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 Tbsp. butter, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup shredded Mexican style cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. chives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place each group of diced potatoes in large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook about 15-20 mins. or until fork tender and cooked. Drain.

For sweet potatoes:

1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup softened cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper

Mash potatoes and 1 Tbsp. butter with fork in large mixing bowl. Add cream cheese and sour cream. Beat on high speed with mixer until smooth and fluffy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For russet potatoes:

1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup softened cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. garlic salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. chives
1/4-1/3 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash potatoes and 1 Tbsp. butter on bottom of large mixing bowl. Add cream cheese, sour cream, onion powder, garlic salt, and chives. Beat on high until potatoes are light and fluffy. Add milk. Whip again adding extra milk to achieve desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spray 9 x 9″ pan with cooking spray. Spoon whipped sweet potatoes into bottom of pan spreading evenly to all sides.

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Spoon whipped russet potatoes on top of sweet potatoes. Spread gently to all sides.

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Dot with slices of butter. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with mixture of 1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese and shredded Parmesan cheese. Top with 1 Tbsp. chives.  Place back in oven and cook for 15 mins. more or until cheese is melted.

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