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1

Where to begin, where to begin. Such a year. When the holidays are done and the final day of December has been put to bed I am going to tear the last page off the 2017 calendar and feed it into the paper shredder never to be seen again. OMG.

The last few months have been jam-packed with a whole lot of crazy. Rick, the love of my life and my BFF, contracted meningitis the beginning of August. Leave it to Mr. Rick to have to be a showman when it comes to getting sick. The doctor in charge of his care said he had only seen six such cases in all his years in medicine. Thankfully, we caught it immediately. Not doing so might have resulted in less positive reporting. Once diagnosed the seriousness of the situation dropped over me like a trawler’s net over the catch of the day. The future appeared blurred, the road ahead uncertain.

Funny how one day can alter the course of your life. In the blink of an eye we went from our daily routine to Rick fighting to reach the surface and me praying to find a familiar piece of him in the fiery hot being lying in the bed before me. Awful simply doesn’t describe the feeling when someone you love is threatened in such a way. Helplessness washes over you. Strength is drawn from places you had no idea you had stored it for such an occasion.

While he was in ICU I was at the hospital more than I was home. Once in the house I fed the cat, took a shower and found the bed to attempt to catch an elusive couple of hours of sleep. Each time I laid my shoes out to slip them on the neglected Boo, Queen of Cats, offered me the feline version of the stink eye turning her back as I exited the house. Life, she has discovered over the last sixty days, does not always revolve around her ever spreading white furry behind.

At first the progress was disheartening. Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain and a serious thing to contract. The inflammation causes error messages to be sent out to other parts of the body much like pistons misfiring in the cylinder of a car. For the first two days when asked who I was by the attending physician, Rick would answer “the lady who sits in the chair by the window”. For me the response elicited immediate tears, to Rick is his addled condition it seemed logical indeed. As staff moved in and out he asked me several times why they kept changing their faces. These hallucinations were attributed to both the infection curdling his nerve centers and the heavy drugs being administered to keep the intense pain at bay. All this I’m sure was terrifying for him, and for me immobilizing.

On the third day when I walked in his room I was greeted with “Hi Baby”. Wow. I was so glad to hear those two words.

His daughter flew out for several days and was here with me easing that feeling of total isolation rapidly creeping over me. I was reminded of when I was infected with the norovirus six years ago. Visiting my mother when I fell ill I was admitted to a hospital with unrelenting diarrhea and vomiting. Tucked in a hospital bed in a room marked “isolation” in an unfamiliar hospital I was too sick to be afraid. Hospital personnel dressed in full contagious disease garb cruised in and out of my room checking vitals and seeing to my needs. “ET phone home kept coming to mind.” I had no visitors during that week lest they either get the virus from me or carry it out to others. At the time it was epidemic in the Bay Area and health authorities were beating the drum to slow down the spread.

Thankfully I came up out of that mess a size or two smaller but in tact much as Rick will out of meningitis. He is home now after 21 days in the hospital. Yesterday he insisted that though the virus hadn’t done him in he was fully convinced the kitchen staff at the rehabilitation hospital were doing their best to finish the job.  Ah sarcasm, Rick’s back.

This is such a delicious substitute for potatoes and looks so “fallish” on the plate. Yum.

Cauliflower and Carrot Puree

1 head of cauliflower florets
3 carrots, cut in chunks
2 Tbsp. butter, plus 1 Tbsp. divided
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 of a large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup whole milk (more or less as desired)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook vegetables until tender. Drain well.

Heat butter in medium saucepan over med-low heat. Add celery and onion. Cook for 6 mins. or until vegetables are tender. Add garlic. Cook for 1 min. Add white pepper, chicken bouillon and wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 min. Toss with vegetables. Allow to cool slightly.

Place in food processor or blender and pulse until roughly pureed. Add milk gradually (use more or less to achieve desired consistency of mashed potatoes). Add salt and pepper as desired. Top with additional pat of butter.

Serves 4

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1

It’s official……my brain has given notice. Like so many political figures these days, my gray matter is longer in line with official policy and has decided to move on. This morning I found the leftover watermelon salad from last night’s dinner on the front seat of the car and the GPS in the fridge. Surprisingly I wasn’t shocked. This year hasn’t stopped for a stress break since the calendar turned the page on January 1, 2017. Never have I needed a vacation more and found myself less likely in a position to take one.

Next week is the planned move for my mother, the second since the beginning of the year. Although we downsized her cache considerably with the first move, still there are china cabinets packed with family treasures and endless boxes of shoes, miscellaneous household goods, and general household items needing to be wrapped and boxed. Last week was scheduled as the first of several packing days. I drove down in our SUV to get things rolling and bring her up here afterward for a few days. On the way down the car began to pull awkwardly. At first I thought it was the well rutted road but by the time I reached her place I knew definitely it was the vehicle behaving badly. The temperature was moving up. After several hours of filling boxes I decided to wrap things up (no pun intended) and get on the road early in case we encountered trouble.  Normally I might have taken this in stride. Certainly this is not the first car I’ve had that developed a problem. However, our second car, a Ford Fusion, had begun making a noise the day before and was scheduled to go into the shop the following day to be repaired. Should this vehicle need the same that would leave us without wheels.

Murphy’s Law, in my case at least, would be that things malfunction at the time you most need them to work. Murphy was alive and well, seated on my right shoulder getting a real charge out of himself. About thirty-five minutes into the drive with another twenty minutes to go, I began to wonder if we were going to make it. My mother chattered on happily in the passenger seat blissfully unaware of the fact there was a strong possibility we were going to be stranded on the side of the road at any moment thumbs pointed toward the sky.

Murphy or not, we finally reached the safety of our driveway. Once unloaded and inside, Rick and I formulated a plan to get both vehicles to the shop as well as return my mother to her home. Hmmm. Plan A was to get a rental car the following morning. Next to take the car under warranty, the Fusion, in first and get that one running. Then we would use the rental to get around and get my mother home. As an aside on my last trip down to gather my mother a rock hit the window on the Fusion. First a tiny hole, now had spread to a long line stretching across the windshield. Included in Plan A was calling our insurance company to get the windshield replaced. For those familiar with Munch’s oil, The Scream, you get some idea of how I was feeling.

Plan B, should Plan A fall by the wayside, was I would marry a wealthy sultan with a fleet of cars and keep Rick on the side as my driver and confidante. This, might I add, was beginning to work for me.

I scheduled a pick up from the rental car company. The driver arrived early the next day and I signed a contract for three days. Originally I’d ordered an economy car which was all I needed. A sudden surge of renters left the dealer out of economy cars so they offered me an upgrade to a Ford Explorer at no extra cost.  Yea for me. The Explorer is a much larger SUV than ours. Equipped with every bell and whistle from cooled seats to in dash GPS and video capabilities it was quite a technologically sophisticated ride. I used up half the first day trying to figure out how to adjust the side rear view mirrors and use the radio. When you back up there is an excellent in-dash camera system equipped with an alarm when you get too close to an object. John Glenn had less equipment to train on before departing for the moon. Ach.

Yesterday we returned the rental car. It was a sad farewell fraught with shed tears and wrenching of keys from unyielding fingers. Sigh. Despite clever negotiation tactics on our side the Enterprise representatives were in the end unwilling to make an even exchange of our failing SUV for their shiny new Explorer. Such is life.

On our final trip I dropped Rick off at the auto shop and continued home by myself. Pulling into the garage I opened the car door and stepped out. A flash of movement caught my eye. Heart pounding I turned to find a pit bull inside the car. Rick often says you just can’t make up stories such as those that happen to me and I believe there is some merit to this. The large brown and white animal sat panting and drooling in the seat I’d just vacated. Hello? Stepping back I suggested to the animal (politely as I have respect for the breed) he vacate the vehicle. Amazingly he did. Following me to the front door he appeared hot and thin. Pouring him a cold drink of water I went in the house to decide how to proceed. Rick came home shortly after followed by a neighbor curious about the dog. With Boo the Queen of Cats peeking out the window holding a sign “No Canine’s Allowed” after some deliberation our neighbor took him home to post a notice on the Internet looking for his owner. Bless the woman. I could have kissed her direct on the lips. What a day!

Finally having a minute or two to relax, I dropped a couple of slices of bread in the toaster with the intention of using some tomatoes freshly picked from my garden along with some crisp bacon to make us a couple of BLT’s. Our toaster, barely three months old, popped the yet untoasted bread right back up when I depressed the lever and refused to do anything else. Really? Never mind. I’d have a turkey sandwich instead. Opening the refrigerator I found the package of turkey afloat in a sticky pool of pickle juice. On further inspection pickle juice had also leaked into the vegetable bin out of a baggie of pickles I’d placed in there after burgers cooked over the weekend.

At that point I went into the closet, shut off the light and stuck my thumb in my mouth. I’m considering having my mail forwarded there.

This is an easy weeknight throw together meal that shows up on the plate looking like a star. The light lemony sauce makes it especially refreshing during the summer months.

Pan Seared Scallops with Fettuccine with Lemon Sauce

10 large sea scallops
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Remove “foot” from each scallop and pat dry. Heat butter and oil over high heat. Place scallops in pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook around 4 mins. per side until golden and crunchy on bottoms.

Fettuccine with Lemon Sauce

8 oz. cooked Fettuccine
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic
Zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped chives
1/2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.

For the sauce

Heat 3 Tbsp, butter in medium saute pan over medium heat until foamy. Add garlic and continue cooking 2-3 mins. or until garlic is fragrant (be careful not to burn. Add lemon zest and juice and continue cooking for one minute. Remove from heat and mix in chives and parsley. Toss with pasta and top with scallops and Parmesan cheese.

Serves 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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final

It’s been a month since I sat down to write a story. Where does the time disappear to these days? I feel like I’m chasing my life as it speeds by me like an express train and I’m not a scheduled stop along the line.

Sensing I was itching to get out of the house last night, Rick suggested a date night. Movie perhaps and a bite to eat afterwards? As going to the Caribbean or boarding a ship for a trip around the world weren’t listed as options, this sounded good to me. Scanning the paper he reminded me it was his turn to pick a movie. The last movie we saw was Beauty and the Beast (my pick obviously). Now, it was my turn to defer to his tastes which lean in a completely different direction. Damn his excellent memory. Giving me a choice between the newest Pirates of the Caribbean or the most recent Alien sequel, I chose the latter. As much as I enjoy a couple of hours of large screen Johnny Depp, I haven’t seen a good alien up close and personal since Arrival. In hindsight should have gone for Pirates I believe. Hear it’s great.

I loved the original Alien movie. Sigourney Weaver facing down a truly fierce and formidable alien. Jam packed with lots of action, a lot of Hollywood magic, plus a great script. What’s not to love? This new one was a bit of a different creature, if you will. There was definitely action but I didn’t find much of a story line. If you’re a fan of gory evisceration scenes, however, this is the film for you. According to Rick I spent two-thirds of the movie with my hoodie pulled over my head (probably a slight exaggeration). The scenes I did see were enough to haunt my dreams for a long while. Ewwww.

Getting out of the movie past our usual feeding time, we followed the herd to the local Cattleman’s Steakhouse. Rick was on a quest for liver and onions one of their menu items, yet another taste belonging only to him. Amazingly for two individuals who are soooooo vastly different we manage to come together beautifully.

The restaurant was humming for a weeknight. The slogan on the server’s aprons read “the restaurant where the big boys go to eat” or something of that nature. They offer generous portions which even for big boys most likely need to be accompanied by a defibrillator if you order dessert. I chose the smallest of their burgers with a side of potato salad. Settling into a conversation about the movie, Rick was a thumbs up while my thumb was pointed toward the floor.

Waiting for our entrees to arrive a lady, perhaps in her early seventies, eating alone at the table behind us got up to use the facilities. Passing our table she stopped. After an uncomfortable pause she commented “this is being taken off tomorrow”. Having not one single idea what the woman was talking about but not wanting to be rude, I replied, “I’m so glad”. As soon as the words left my lips I was hoping she wasn’t discussing an unsightly wart or skin lesion. What? I don’t know. Rick was looking at me as though I’d just taken my shirt off and was working on the hooks on my bra.

As the woman continued I noticed a huge boot on her right leg which I came to understand was what she was referring to. Whew. The story was she had visited a doctor in our area with a sore foot who diagnosed a broken bone. Going to another source for a second opinion it was determined it was not, in fact, broken and the boot was to be removed. Probably more information that I needed but she was friendly and perhaps a bit lonely so I listened attentively nodding my head at the appropriate junctions.

Heading on to her destination she stopped once again on her way back to tell me about the YMCA’s classes in our area. Why I have no clue. Perhaps when she saw Rick’s plate arrive with an entire loaf of white bread perched on one side of a pile of liver and French fries she thought the information might be beneficial. The odd thing, if you wonder why I’m leading you down this convoluted path, is the day before I had been on line searching for a Y in our area. Missing the pool we left behind I thought I might find one at a Y and I want to try my hand (and the rest of my body if they insist) at yoga or Zumba. The closest Y I could locate was at least forty minutes away so to find out there was one closer was the information I needed. Weird.

For me this puts a lot of truth in the belief people weave in and out of our lives for a reason. Some come to remain at your side, others stay for a while then move on, and some only visit for a moment or two to provide us with something we might use on our journey. Happens to me so often I’ve dismissed the thought this is mere coincidence. Sometimes I will wish I had a particular item or that a certain person would call and somehow what I needed comes to me or the phone begins to ring with that person on the other end.

In the end the boot lady was lovely. We spent a short time sharing the events of our day and information I needed came my way. On another note both the burger and the potato salad were noteworthy. Thank you to the universe on both counts.

These little nests are so pretty on the table and filled with whatever you might like. I served them with marscapone and strawberries last weekend to rave reviews. Got the idea from a recipe in Cuisine at Home.

Tomato Cheese Tarts

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. water
8 oz. Rondelle garlic and herb cheese
2 Tbsp. milk
16 cherry tomatoes (mixed colors are most appealing visually), halved
2 Tbsp. minced basil
Salt and pepper
Basil leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove pastry from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 mins.

Cut one sheet of pasty into four equal quarters. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper and arrange quarters on top.

Cut second sheet of pastry into 8 3/4″ strips. (You will have pastry left over.) Cut the strips in half.

Place two strips on two sides of each pastry square. Then place two strips on the uncovered sides of each square overlapping the ends.

2

Whisk together egg yolk and water. Brush lightly over the borders and the ends of the squares. Bake for 25 mins. or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool for 5 mins. Using a fork gently pull top of center piece of pasrty out of each square and discard.

Mix together cheese and milk. Divide equally among the squares spreading around the bottom. Top with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide basil among the four and return to oven for 5 mins. Garnish with whole basil leaves.

Makes 4

 

 

 

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asked2

Watching Good Morning America over the brim of my coffee cup yesterday, I listened while Joe Manganiello discussed the history of his romance with then-girlfriend now-wife Sofia Vergara. Sofia, for those of you who have lived on a desert island with no media access since 2009, portrays the curvaceous hot younger wife of Ed O’Neill on Modern Family on prime time ABC.

Manganiello was asked if there was any truth to the rumor he’d written a forty page book dedicated to his lovely lady. He acknowledged in fact he had created such a book to mark the occasion of the anniversary of their first date. Really? No, I mean it, really? First, amazingly he knew what date they first met, and secondly he’d conceived such a personal and lovely way to show his love for her. Insert awwwww right here ladies. Go ahead, I’m right behind you. During that first year he created a photo journal documenting their travels, where they ate, evenings they shared, events they attended and included all these moments in her gift. Wow. I’m seeing a gold star in his future and much, much more.

Women, at least those who populate my life, love a little romance. A continual diet would be delightful but historically, at least in my world, a whiff here and there can get one by. I have found quite often the overtly romantic overtures get tossed out with the wilted flowers following the exchange of wedding vows or linger on in a paler shade until the first diaper is purchased at Walmart. After that day-to-day life tends to insinuate itself and romance often takes a back seat to bills, work, school, rearing children, taking the dog to the vet and generally everything else that fills the average person’s day.

Romance does not have to come with a high price. Surely in the tax bracket Joe Manganiello’s income falls under the man could afford to give his bride an extravagant vehicle or an obscenely large diamond. Instead, he chose to present her with a gift that took time, thought, and creativity. To me, this is a far richer gift to receive. However, if you’ve put a down payment on my metallic silver Porsche I’ll still accept delivery. Who am I to hurt anyone’s feelings.

I consider myself a low maintenance girl. Rick might tell a different tale, but I don’t think so. Many times while writing this blog I’ve talked about missing the princess line when coming into this world. Some women get handed a tiara before heading down the chute. In my case it was a Hoover and a can of furniture spray. Once after I had surgery I took a picture of my ex-husband vacuuming. When on my feet again I had the picture blown up and framed thinking this to be the only way I was ever going to see him doing it again. Turns out my intuition I was spot on.

There are many ways to show your love not involving a trip to the mall or a shopping spree on-line. A happily married neighbor recently commented on weekends her husband brings her coffee and her paper and on Sunday serves her brunch. Small concessions perhaps, but speaking of them made her smile.

After you’ve cohabited for a while the rules of the game tend to loosen a bit. Once you’re not working anymore these rules become downright loosey goosey. When we first met Rick would show up at my door in a crisply pressed shirt and pants for a night out. In turn, I would open the door wearing perhaps a dress and heels or an outfit appropriate for the occasion and off we would go. Living together day in and day out makes continuing this “dressing up” unless you are going to work every day a bit impractical. No way am I whisking eggs in a silk blouse nor am I chasing dust bunnies from behind the toilet in heels and hose. Not going to happen today, and tomorrow isn’t looking good either.

Don’t misunderstand me I don’t show up at the breakfast table looking as if I have recently been dragged behind a speeding vehicle either. Each morning, unless I’m ill, I put on makeup, do my hair, take a shower, and pull on a clean pair of jeans or shorts and a nice top. Every several weeks we also make a point to go out together and do something fun away from the persistently ringing phone and the household day-to-day. Always when we come home I feel refreshed and our relationship feels refreshed as well.

It’s easy to sink into a rut. Takes some work to keep the bloom on the rose and time to keep a relationship thriving and happy.

When you think about it stopping to pick up on a card when it isn’t a holiday (even better making one yourself), throwing together an unexpected brunch on a weekend, or simply acknowledging how much your appreciate your partner really isn’t asking much.

This fish is moist and delicious.

Baked Tilapia with Cherry Tomatoes

4 Tilapia filets
1/2-1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. butter cut into 12 squares
1 container of heirloom cherry tomatoes, sliced thick or in half
2 zucchini cut lengthwise in thin spears
1 lemon sliced thin
2 tsp. chives
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay out four squares of tin foil large enough to make a taco shaped pocket. Pat filets dry with paper towel. Generously season on both sides with Cajun seasoning (more or less depending on preference), pepper, and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Place one filet in center of each foil square. Place 3 butter squares on top of each filet. Top this with one-quarter of the tomatoes and the zucchini. Place a slice or two of lemon on each pile and sprinkle each with 1/2 tsp. of chopped chives. Drizzle a little olive oil on top of each.

Seal the foil bringing up the edges like a taco making sure to seal edges firmly. Bake in oven for 20 mins. Open carefully and plate.

Serves 4

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2Well the Oscars are in the bag, a Gucci bag I’m sure. Last night was as usual a star filled performance. So many awards shows fill the air this time of year by the time the Oscars show up I am somewhat award show weary. Weary or not, however, I still tune in as I do every year. Not only to see which movie, song, director, etc. gets the nod, but to see the impeccably made up faces, perfectly styled hair and lovely fashions that make the show a much watched event. Sometimes the outfits that show up on the red carpet have me wondering if the wearer is devoid of mirrors in their home. Best dressed or worst they’re always interesting to be on the sidelines for. Surely I have missed my chance to ever wear a $60,000 dress accessorized by $1,000,000 worth of jewelry. Looking back I don’t think I missed my chance, rather it never presented itself.

Many of the movies nominated I have yet to see. Arrival is the only one I can check off the list. Interesting movie. Though the story line kept me involved beginning to end, as the credits ran I was scratching my head wondering what it was I’d just seen. Apparently I’m not alone. A movie reviewer during a critique of the movie said he had to see it several times to get the jist of the film, and still wasn’t sure he’d gotten it right.

I rather enjoy alien movies and I don’t mind a little horror now and again. There are so many gruesome horror films in the theaters of late. Not my favorite. Too much gore or weirdness such as films like Hellraiser, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Pumpkinhead leave me checking my door locks for weeks and silently screaming in my sleep. I prefer a gentler scare, if you will, along the lines of Alien, Contact, Poltergeist or Silver Bullet. Still scary, but not life altering.

La La Land is one film I am looking forward to purchasing a ticket for. Rick, most probably, will not be my date. Rick is more of an action movie or science fiction kind of guy. Guns, detectives, fast-moving cars and cyborgs are right up his alley. Thankfully, I enjoy those types of movies as well (though you can leave the cyborgs at home) or we’d always end up sitting in two separate theaters on date night. Action movies rank among my favorite fare. I remember seeing Bullitt for the first time. According to many critics the footage of Bullitt contains one of the best chase scenes ever filmed. The movie started out running and kept up the frantic pace until the final scene was over. Being young and stupid we choose the movie’s debut week to go and see it. By the time our group of six arrived at the theater long lines had already formed beyond the ticket booth. Wanting to sit together, we were told the front row of the theater was to be our only choice. Fine. To say it was slightly loud would be like saying the Pope is slightly Catholic. As it turned out the volume was not to be our main problem, viewing a movie of that type from that angle was going to be the main problem. Literally during that chase scene through San Francisco it felt as if we were going to exit the theater with tire prints stretched across our faces. Sometimes I had to close my eyes to keep myself rooted in my seat.

My favorite movie genre truly is comedy. Not many great ones are being produced these days. I miss the  older comedies with great comedic men such as Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, John Candy, Chevy Chase, Dan Ackaroyd and Robin Williams. The women back then were standouts as well as far as I’m concerned. Doris Day got things kick started in the 60’s and Goldie Hawn, Gilda Radner, Julia Roberts and a host (or hostess) of others carried the baton down through the decades to follow. The last “laugh out loud” movie I saw was Heat with Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. I keep hoping to see a new crop of gifted comic actors showing up but as yet a good split your gut comedy seems to remain out of my reach.

Jimmy Kimmel stepped into the host shoes easily I thought. My favorite part of the night was when he brought a group of unsuspecting tourists into room. Imagine finding yourself in the middle of the Oscars after getting off your bus for a scheduled stop. Hilarious.

As usual there were unexpected moments. Perhaps the most notable was when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway inadvertently called out La La Land as Best Picture when actually Moonlight had taken home the gold. No small boo-boo that. Someone’s head will be lying across the chopping block I would imagine. Not the stars fault. A case of the wrong card in the wrong envelope at the wrong moment . I’m sure for the La La Land group felt like being thrown in ice water after a warm bath but with live television anything can happen and often does.

All in all another great Hollywood moment put to bed. Thank heavens for movies to take our minds off the unsettling world swirling about us. I was so sorry to hear that Bill Paxton unexpectedly passed at 61. So many fine actors lost last year.

I couldn’t take a picture that seemed to do this flavorful sandwich justice. Pretty or not it delivers on taste. Yum.

Shredded Beef with Horseradish Cheese and Cole Slaw

1 onion sliced
1 4 lb. chuck roast
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 cups beef broth
4 slices Horseradish cheese
4 Kaiser rolls, halved

Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Place onion slices on bottom of cooker. Whisk together salt, pepper, basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes. Rub into all sides of roast. Place roast on top of onion and sprinkle with garlic cloves. Pour broth in pot. Cook on low for 10 hours. Shred pork with forks removing any fatty sections. Return to liquid in pot and continue cooking for 1 hour.

Preheat broiler. Place Kaiser rolls cut side up under broiler and cook until deep golden brown. Take tops out and keep warm. Place 1 slice of cheese on each of the bottom halves and return to broiler until cheese is bubbly and light brown.

Remove meat with slotted spoon from crockpot reserving liquid. Pile meat on the bottom of each roll. Take roll tops and dip face down in liquid. Serve with cole slaw either on top or on the side.

Cole Slaw

1/3 Cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 Cup milk
1/2 Cup mayonnaise
1/4 Cup buttermilk
1 1/2 T white vinegar
2 1/2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 Pkg finely shredded cole slaw mix

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and refrigerate. About an hour before serving toss dressing with chopped onion and coleslaw mix. Serve chilled.

Serves 4

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Rick came into the downstairs bedroom yesterday to find me seated on the floor among a sea of clean laundry watching “Long Island Madam”. Rick is not a believer of such sorcery as he refers to the supernatural, but I keep an open mind about such things. To quote a little Shakespeare, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

This episode had her speaking to audience members who had lost loved ones. As she spoke she discussed contacting people who have passed not being as simple as picking up your phone and placing a really long distance call. Talk about using up your minutes. Rather, she said, noticing them around you in flickering lights or objects moved without explanation would be the more likely form of communication from beyond the grave. Rick rolled his eyes, mumbled something under his breath, and left me to my folding. Turning off the TV when I was done, the woman’s words jostled around in my brain. I thought of my paternal grandmother, Muriel (Gammy to me). Gone since 1988 I write about my grandmother often. Rarely a day passes where I don’t picture her face or remember a time I spent as a child in her company. I was living in California and she in her home in Halifax, Nova Scotia when she died. Though word of her passing hadn’t reached us as yet, I experienced waking up in the middle of that particular night feeling as if someone was giving me a hug. The golden retriever snoring at the base of the bed was an affectionate old sot, but never in our history together had the dog attempted to hug me. Odd.

Lately, as I’ve said in previous blogs, I have been in the process of getting my mother moved and settled in her new surroundings. The move (thank heavens) is behind us but the settling in is still a work in progress. Thinking of my grandmother, I whispered, “Gammy, wish you were around to help right now. I’m having a bit of trouble with your daughter.” Smiling , I went about the rest of my day.

Rick is the go to person in our house for getting the coffee ready each night for the following morning. Every day he washes out the pot and filter unit and returns them to the coffee maker where it rests against the wall t0 the right of our kitchen. Hearing him working in the kitchen last night I spoke to him but got no answer. As I turned to see why he was ignoring me the toilet flushed in the back bedroom. Really? When he walked into the living room I asked him if he’d heard me talking to him. Looking quizzical he explained he’d been cleaning up in the bathroom and hadn’t been in the area for at least ten minutes. Curious. A few minutes later he asked me why I’d moved the coffee pot to the center of counter. Me? I don’t think so. Coming into the kitchen sure enough the small appliance was now placed directly in the center of my tile counter. Gammy? Perhaps. Mentioning this possibility, Rick once again rolled his eyes toward the ceiling but I did catch him casting a curious glance or two in the direction of the coffee maker before returning it to its rightful spot.

As fascinated as I am by the secrets the world holds,  equally am I fascinated by the knowledge civilizations have amassed over the centuries. How far we have come since first discovering rubbing two stones together could generate fire. One has to wonder at the first guy squatting in that fire circle who came up with the idea of tossing a piece of raw meat in to see how that might taste. If there were MVP’s back in those days, I’ll bet his name went to the top of the list.

Forward thinkers have expanded our range of exploration to include standing on the surface of the moon all the way to glimpses of mars sent back by means of a robotic vehicle. As far as I can see we are leaps and bounds ahead of the pack (if you will) when it comes to the other animals populating the planet. Not that I view us as superior mind you. Animals are far more noble and loyal to my mind. Still, with all we have gleaned through the years as yet we have only scratched the surface when it comes to answering the big questions such as where the universe ends or begins or what happens when our souls leave our bodies. These are surfaces I love to pick at with my thoughts. Such mysteries whose answers remain so tantalizingly just beyond our reach. If we knew the answers would that be our end? Another thought to ponder on a day of reflection.

Today I find myself also thinking about those clever people along the way who keep nudging us forward. I would like to take a moment to salute those highly overlooked creative geniuses such as the 14th century Italian chefs who thought to combine cheese and pasta to create macaroni and cheese or whoever realized that the delectable little grape though tasty when eaten, when fermented, could be both delicious and intoxicating. If not for those individuals willing to think outside of the box like the Renaissance athletes who developed the game we now call football or whoever discovered when you planted a small seed in the ground the rain and soil would create vegetables and fruits from that small seed to sustain them. These people were definitely thinking on their feet.

Now for you animal enthusiasts I’m certainly not dissing the animals. I’m just saying that until I see a labradoodle come up with a way to cure the common cold I’m thinking we’re still on top of the pile when it comes to the food chain.

This soup is simply the best on a chilly winter night. Heats you up from the inside out. It leans toward very spicy so if that’s not your thing omit the salsa and half the green chiles to calm things down a bit. I tend to lean in the direction of my Alabama neighbor when it comes to Mexican food, “if it don’t make you sweat, it ain’t worth eatin'”. No comments please about the vernacular. He was a very sharp guy who was fond of his southern expressions that is all.

I would highly recommend an icy margarita to wash this down with.

Rotisserie Chicken Taco Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 each orange, red, and green bell peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 rotisserie chicken cut up (about 2 cups)
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn
1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
2 Tbsp. chunky salsa (I use hot)
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix (I use Lawry’s)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
Mexican blend cheese
Doritos with a hint of lime

Heat olive oil in stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and peppers and cook for 6-8 mins. until peppers are tender. Add remaining ingredients through coriander. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking for 45 mins. stirring occasionally.

Serve topped with cheese and garnished with tortilla chips.

Serves 4

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Valentine’s Day has already eluded me this month. For the first time since starting this blog I had no contribution. What a busy time these past few months have been. My beloved recipes and wonderful new pans from Santa have spent their time gathering dust in the cupboard. Mr. Rick, admittedly somewhat spoiled, has had a rare steady diet of take-out and hastily prepared meals. If a minute did come my way, I couldn’t seem to summon the energy to do much with it but take a deep breath and press forward. A friend told me recently “you need to slow down, girl”. Really? Believe me I would love nothing better than to hand the yoke to someone else and see the rows continue to form in the field. Unfortunately, most of my friends are involved in managing their own lives and don’t have a strong interest in taking on the responsibilities in mine as well. Shame that.

When a break shows up, I often turn on the television for a little diversion. Switching channels there is the political lunacy pervading the airways lately or an update on who’s been given the latest rose on The Bachelor. Sometimes while watching the news I feel like the Cheshire Cat peering down from a tree limb observing the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in full maniacal swing.

Since this is the month of l’amour, toujours, l’amour let’s pause for a moment to ponder The Bachelor as well as its female counterpart. What can it be, I can’t help asking, people find so riveting about these shows? Explain this phenomenon to me if you will. The few times I have tuned in, all the hoopla accompanying each episode’s conclusion continues to elude me. For the most part, once the cameras are turned off it doesn’t appear many of these couples continue forward together.Should they actually make it to the altar they don’t seem to last long after arriving there. Six couples remain intact after 30 seasons of both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Not great odds to my mind. Poor odds aside, everyone seems to be lapping up each season like a litter of thirsty kittens hovering over a bowl of warm milk. Amazing.

Truly we humans are besotted by the idea of true love. Beloved fairy tales such as Snow White and Cinderella fuel the desire for finding Prince Charming in fledgling princesses before they even enter elementary school.  Even I (long past the princess phase) tuned in to watch the most recent version of Cinderella over the weekend only to find myself as captivated by the story line as when sporting Mary Jane’s.

Love, perhaps, is the last great embodiment of optimism. Statistics indicating the likelihood nearly half the couples coming together will not remain so, human beings continue to engage in the avid pursuit of the perfect mate. Once a desirable partner has been culled from the herd they stand before an officiate and exchange vows often including “til death do us part”.  Perhaps the vows should be amended to read “til do us part”?  All this effort is expended in the hope of sharing a life with one’s soul mate through the end of  time.

Yet, when you watch an affectionate elderly couple sitting comfortably side by side on a park bench exchanging a word or sharing a laugh it makes your heart hopeful. Living alone was perhaps not the original plan, though many do so successfully either by choice or happenstance. Those of us in the animal kingdom seem to be instinctively paired. Birds such as swans, turtle doves and the bald eagles choose one mate to create a nest with one other for life. A friend of mine had a lovebird by the name of Wilbur. Wilbur was a happy little soul who sang prettily from his cage each day to his lovely bride. Rarely did you see him without his mate at his side. They preened and groomed one another and occasionally produced an egg as a symbol of their union. One day the lady bird was found lying still on the floor of the cage with her faithful Wilbur standing at her side. Wilbur stopped singing, choosing instead to sit sadly on his perch. In an effort to console him a new mate was purchased and placed in the cage. Wilbur eventually began to sing again but never with the same exuberance. The mate, though accepted, was never given the attention the original female enjoyed nor did she ever produce an egg. Even birds can suffer a broken heart it would appear.

Often I ponder whether we are meant to be coupled as a means to perpetuate life, but are not naturally wired to be monogamous beings. This is a deep subject fraught with potholes so for today I will enjoy the lovely relationship I share and be happy to have it. No one can predict what is to come around the corner so it wise to enjoy fully day you find yourself in. Hope it’s a happy one.

This dish will definitely put a smile on your face. I will say if you’re looking for something to “throw together” this is not the recipe for you.  That being said, it makes a lot so I freeze what’s left over for another day when I don’t have the time to devote to it.

Rishta bi Betingan (Pasta and Eggplant)

2 eggplants sliced 1/2″ thick
Salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes with juice
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles with juice
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 lb. rigitoni cooked and drained
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Slice eggplant and place in large deep dish. Cover with water for 30 minutes turning once. (You may have to do this in batches). Rinse well in colander and pat dry.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil until hot in large skillet. Working in batches cook until deep golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook 6 mins. until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 min. until fragrant. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices to pan. Bring to boil. Add eggplant breaking up slightly as you stir it into sauce. Reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking for 10 mins.

Spray bottom of 9 x 13″ pan. Spread small amount on sauce on bottom. Top with one half of the rigitoni. Top with 2/3 of the sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Top with another layer of noodles and finish with remaining sauce. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese on top. Seal tightly with tin foil.

Bake for 45 mins. or until bubbly. Yum.

Serves 6-8

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