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1
Premarin is a hormone replacement therapy available for women of a certain age or any woman no longer producing estrogens naturally. I called it my “princess pill”. A tiny purple capsule that when introduced into the body creates calm where there was chaos and balance where none existed. Ahhhhh.

At the age of thirty-two I underwent a hysterectomy. There were strong indications at that young age such a surgery was necessary, so I checked myself into the hospital and gave up my reproductive organs to a glass lab jar. There was little talk post surgery about what to expect once these organs were no longer in place. Looking back, any information might have proved helpful during the year following. A year my children refer to with horror as “Mom’s Dark Ages”. At best a hysterectomy is a surgery incorporating both physical loss as well as emotional upheaval. For many women being told they can no longer bear children can make for a difficult transition. A supportive mate and family can help to make this an easier time, but like many journeys in our lives, this  is one traveled by yourself.

During that year my emotions ran the gambit from crying for no reason, lapsing into unexplained bouts of hilarity, or suddenly being angry.  My family, alarmed at the changes in my personality, approached me cautiously in the morning not knowing whether they might be greeted by “The Good Susie” or her evil twin Suselzabub. Most unsettling.

To add to the myriad of emotional issues that befell me that year hot flashes arrived with a vengeance. For men, or ladies not yet there, these fiery episodes send heat crawling like a blanket of lava up your body. Your face approaches melting temperatures causing you to want to rip your clothes off and throw yourself in a bed of ice. Often they are accompanied by profuse sweating leaving you looking for all purposes like an overripe tomato left too long in the sun. Good news, once one eases up you become so chilled you need a parka to warm you up. Lovely.

Doctors, to my mind, often dismiss ailments in women as “emotional” or “imagined”. For nearly a year between fanning myself and losing my mind I explained my symptoms during my doctor’s visits. Usually this was dismissed as either non-existent or unimportant enough to pursue further. Finally, at the end of a frustrating year I went to a woman doctor who immediately wrote me a prescription for Premarin. Three weeks later life as I knew it had returned to nearly normal (or as normal as my life gets).

Once I had no prescription for two months during an out-of-state move. My husband at the time announced that if that ever happened again he would happily crawl across a field of cut glass to get me my meds. Nice.  Thus was born the term “Susie’s princess pills”. Ah yes.

Up until three years ago once  day I took my little pill and life rolled along like a calm sea on a balmy summer day. I went to my doctor for my yearly physical and was told Premarin had too many side effects and that she would no longer be prescribing it. Really? So I’ve been taking it all this time with the side effects and suddenly it’s a problem WHAT?

Sure enough before long the dreaded heat from within began once again to make its presence known followed shortly by my hair molting in the bathroom sink. Then came a bout of dry eyes attributed to the lack of hormones in my system. Thankfully that was three years ago and all but the misery of hot flashes have somewhat abated. Still, I miss my little purple pill with its blessed healing powers. Ah well.

There are pros and cons regarding Premarin. Heated discussions continue in medical circles on whether to or not to prescribe it. On the con side it increases the chance of a stroke. On the plus side a happier patient with stronger bones, higher libido and lusher hair. Certainly your body sings a more joyful song when your hormones are in balance.

Last week I was waiting in line at the prescription counter. A package marked Premarin sat on a shelf behind the counter. I considered scaling the counter, grabbing the goods and running.  After weighing Premarin or jail I picked up my order and left. Looking back I’m not convinced I made the right choice. Ah well. Life is full of hurdles. I will survive this one as well.

This dessert is sinfully easy for how it presents itself and is my Mother’s number one request when she visits.

Cherry Crisp

2 cans cherry pie filling
3 tsp. lemon juice
1 pkg. deluxe yellow cake mix
1 cube butter, melted
1 10 oz. pkg. crushed pecans
Whipped topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 13″ x 9″ pan with cooking spray.

Spread both cans of cherry pie filling along bottom of pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Mix cake mix, butter, and pecans together in large bowl until well blended and crumbly. Sprinkle over cherries.

Bake for 25-30 mins. until browned and bubbly

Serves 6-8

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Friday was “euuuuwwweee” night at our house. Every few months we both man a pan and cook a dish each of us enjoys that the other does not. On such occasions Rick often indulges his passion for organ meats (hence the euuuuwwweee) while I break out the scallops, a seafood not on his list of favorites.

Growing up in Nova Scotia seafood was a mainstay at our house. As a child often I accompanied my grandmother to the fish market. Walking hand in hand along the pier, fishing boats would be lined up one after another many still unloading their catch of the day. Inside the massive market area itself, fish of every color and description lay on beds of ice, some so fresh they still showed signs of life. A huge bank of aquariums lined the back wall housing lobsters of all sizes. Once a selection was made, your purchase was wrapped tightly in butcher paper or newspaper and tied with a piece of string. The overwhelming smell of the sea often lingered in our clothes hours after leaving the building.

I digress (as usual). As I was saying, euuuuwwweee night was on the calendar. I had decided to bake my scallops to make life easier. Company was arriving over the weekend so there was much to do outside of the kitchen. Rick had an appointment in the afternoon but assured me he would arrive home in plenty of time to get his half of the program on the road. Yea.

At around 5:15, the time I expected Rick to roll into the driveway, the phone rang. An unfamiliar number around dinnertime was probably a robocall so I waited  to hear the caller identified. It was Rick. Picking up, he told me he was calling from a massage parlor (a discussion we’d have later) because he’d forgotten his cellphone. The SUV, it seemed, had gotten hung up over a curb in Nevada City. The streets in the historical mining town are narrow and when he’d backed up the rear tires dropped over leaving them spinning. Our insurance company had been alerted and a towing company was on its way.

Shortly after hanging up the towing service called. A snippy sort of woman explained they had been trying to call Rick to have him verify his ability to cover the $80 charge for sending a truck out. I explained he had forgotten his phone and road service is covered under our insurance. Apparently deaf as well as difficult she again asked if we could pay.  Politely (no really) I suggested they send someone out to find Rick and he would straighten out the payment situation on their arrival.

In the interim my potato was cooking in the oven and Rick wasn’t due in for some time. Hmmmmm. Easily a half an hour later the tow company number showed up again. Really? On answering the same woman informed me her driver couldn’t find Rick at the location given. She asked me to call him and get further details. Hello? Once again I explained he’d forgotten his cellphone (a concept she couldn’t seem to process) and I could not call him. Nevada City is a small town with about ten streets in the downtown area. How many irritated looking men pacing in front of a red SUV hanging over the curb could there be? My potato at this point was beginning to look a bit prunish and my stomach was beginning to growl.

Twenty minutes later the woman and I were once again on the phone. One more call and we were going to be picking out china patterns. Still no Rick on the horizon. Outside it was turning to cold and beginning to get late. Hanging up, I pulled on a pair of jeans, grabbed my cell phone and waved goodbye to my potato now completely imploded in the oven. Sigh.

Not having been to this location before I programmed the address in my GPS and headed north. Twenty minutes later I turned up a street to find Rick as expected pacing in front of the SUV obviously listing to one side. “How did he do that?”, I wondered, but decided this along with the massage parlor issue would be a question best left for later.

Finding a parking place outside of the building I noted on the plaque the exact address I’d given to the tow company. Rick explained no tow truck had ever shown up. Grabbing my cell phone to dial the road service number it powered down out of juice before I could complete the call. Are you kidding? Luckily two twenty somethings were walking by. What nice guys they were, though they made me cold in shorts and tank tops. I swear if there’s a hint of spring in California people rub on suntan lotion, pull on flip-flops and throw themselves on the ground waiting for the tan lines to show up. Anyhow they were good enough to loan us a phone. Once again on the line with road service it appeared the original tow truck company had cancelled the call, unable to locate Rick. Now how did I go directly to his location with my GPS if their driver whose business it is to find people couldn’t seem to do so? Another time.

Sure enough a sign reading “Massage Parlor” hung to the left of the building. One question answered. Shortly the proprietor came out and handed Rick his phone. Apparently his was the number Rick had originally called the road service company from and they were calling back. Secretly I hoped nobody was half massaged inside.

Finally just before dark and nearly three hours into the program a tow truck showed up. By this time both twenty somethings had joined us as well as the massage parlor proprietor. A guy with an enormous dog had stopped by to offer suggestions for dislodging the SUV on his way out to walk the beast and on his way back. A myriad of walkers and passersby stopped to chat along their route. It takes a village.

In the end the car got towed, we got home, new friends were made, and the scallops the livers remain untouched and uncooked waiting for tonight.

This was my first attempt at asparagus soup. A friend gave me four bunches of beautiful fresh asparagus. We have seen it in every way but on a burger this past week. This was smooth, creamy deliciousness.

Creamed Asparagus Soup

1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 onion, chopped
2 1/4 cups vegetable broth, divided
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup non-fat milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. lemon juice
Crumbled crisp bacon for garnish (optional)

Add asparagus and onion to deep skillet and pour 3/4 cup vegetable oil over top. Bring to boil and then reduce heat partially covering. Cook for 6-8 mins. or until asparagus is tender (check often and add water if liquid gets to low). Cool slightly and then puree in blender.

Melt butter in same pan. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 mins. stirring constantly (do not brown). Whisk in remaining 1 1/2 cups of broth and bring to boil over med-high heat.

Whisk in asparagus puree, half and half and milk. Add sour cream and lemon juice. Continue cooking 3 mins.

Top with crisped bacon bits if desired.

Serves 4

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Sometimes when I see what is going on in our world I wonder how many steps forward women have actually made in recent years. Yesterday I read a jarring statistic asserting one out of every seven female students at the University of Texas is raped. Factor in the number of unreported sexual assaults due to the stigma attached or fear of not being believed this number could be significantly low. Over and over reports of sexual abuse by those entrusted with our children surface in the news. Just this week a trial is being highlighted involving abuse by a doctor in the Olympic community spanning years and many female athletes.

Some say this casts a light on how we are raising our boys. I don’t know if this is the answer. Maybe the problem is fueled by the good old boy mentality prevalent in school governing boards particularly when it comes to the protecting their star athletes. When did eliciting sex from an unwilling partner become the norm or accepted behavior? Why are young women heading off to college campuses not being protected?

Women fight uphill on so many issues. Even after all these years working in the workplace with men women continue to lag behind in compensation when bringing the same credentials and education to the table as their male counterparts. Is it them, or is it us? Somewhere deep in our subconscious do we still believe we are worth less or somehow less deserving? Certainly this message continues to be brought to the fore. A recent picture taken in D.C. depicting a panel of lawmakers discussing women’s issues made it crystal clear this way of thinking still exists. All male faces sat around the table. How does that work? How is a panel fully populated with men likely to come to a reasonable and unbiased conclusion about a subject simply not affecting nor resonating with them? It reminded me of a class I took years ago at the Catholic church before marrying my first husband. The discussion was marriage, with all that entails. The teacher, a priest. Hmmmmm.

When I began my career it was a very male dominated work environment. The company I worked for was a major engineering company employing largely male engineers with women thrown about in supporting roles. The two female engineers with offices in the building both so much men they hardly counted as members of the opposing team. Getting to know them as time passed one explained in order to be taken seriously among her peers it was necessary to dress the part. Again, really? At the time women were expected to make and fetch coffee for their male co-workers. Once I was engaged in a critical phone call with a major client overseas. In the middle of the call one of the engineers came to stand at my desk obviously needing my immediate attention. Excusing myself for a moment I asked what the problem was. The engineer leaned down to explain the coffee pot in the break room was empty.  I had several suggestions for him, both of which I filed away for my own enjoyment.

On another job I was an executive assistant to the plant manager of a metal can manufacturer. I was young, in my mid-twenties. The gentleman I worked for (I’m using this term loosely) recently had celebrated his fortieth birthday. Cresting the hill into mid-life hadn’t settled well with him. To add to his gray hairs his second wife, barely out of diapers, entertained very rich tastes. The man was well paid. I know this because I also did his banking. However, with his first wife siphoning alimony and child support from each check and the second burning rubber on the credit cards every day the man had stress, big stress. Nevertheless, working for him should have come with a larger paycheck on my side. Most of my day, when not making coffee, arranging golf lessons, researching vacation options, or making his children’s doctor or dental appointments was spent running his personal errands. At least once a week I picked up an order at the dry cleaners, took his car to be washed and waxed and stopped for a carton of cigarettes at the smoke shop. Several times I actually gathered his little boy at the soccer field, stopped for a loaf of bread and some lunch meat and dropped both off with the babysitter at home. What exactly did the bride do besides enter a store? Thank God I’d taken the time to get an education so I would be prepared to assume such weighty responsibilities. After enduring nearly two years of such nonsense young or not I’d had enough. Aside from the endless errand running also falling under my job responsibilities was alcohol counselor and facilitator. At least once a week he returned to the office after a serious liquid lunch requiring at least a pot of coffee to finish off the afternoon. Looking back I’m amazed a single can ever made it off the assembly line and onto the truck at the loading gate.

On more than one occasion I’ve been the beneficiary of unsolicited advances from my supervisors or co-workers. One of my bosses took me to lunch on Secretary’s Day. A gesture I thought thoughtful until over coffee he laid his hand suggestively on my knee and indicated we consider getting to know another in the most Biblical sense. He was married as was I. I removed his hand and said I would alert my husband to his proposal and see if he was on board before moving forward. End of conversation. End of job as well. This made for an extremely uncomfortable work day. Not long after the incident I began to look for a new place to work. These days I would have reported such behavior.  Back then you sucked it up and moved on.

Women are amazing creatures to my mind. Multi-tasking their way through their lives maintaining a strong and resilient backbone for their families. I’m not a bra burner, and enjoy all that comes with being a woman, but when it comes to these issues I could easily pen a poster and fall in line behind others of my kind to fight the good fight.

At any rate, there is no debate about how good this chicken is. It looks like you went all out when really there is not much prep required.

Meyer Lemon and Tangelo Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Meyer lemons, 1 juiced, 1 sliced
2 Tangelos, 1 juiced, 1 sliced
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
Juice of 1 tangelo
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray 13 x 9″ pan with cooking spray. Place sliced onion on bottom of dish. Whisk together olive oil, garlic, juices, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, paprika, cilantro, and red pepper flakes. Drop chicken in mixture and turn to coat well. Place chicken on top of onion slices. Pour remaining marinade over chicken. Arrange sliced fruit around and on top of meat. Sprinkle rosemary and basil over top. Place in oven for 40-45 mins. basting twice. If liquid gets too low add a little water.

Serves 4

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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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