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Posts Tagged ‘Great potato recipes’

2

I’m sure if I consulted my horoscope for November it would state Scorpios such as myself are having a busy month according to the cosmos. Between my phone, the computer plaguing me with emails with work related requests, and friends and relatives in various states of meltdown it has been a crazy start to the holiday season. Ho, ho, holy cow.

“Take a deep breath”, my subconscious is telling me, “relax”. Being a bit of an A personality, relaxing does not come easily to me. When Rick and I pause to watch a movie I’m usually up and down five times during the first half hour getting or doing something. I believe this trait was passed down to me by my Energizer Bunny of a mother, who has all of her bones intact and not one of them could be described as lazy.

I admire this trait in her. We all have traits to be admired, and those less popular with those around us.  Again, this is what makes us unique in a world of so many like beings. I have certain personality types I know I could not live with. I’m sure there is a list of people out there who have met me and after doing so kept on looking down the line for their perfect match or best friend. Such is life. All of us are flawed in one way or another. This is what makes us human. Those who believe they have no flaws, need to put on their glasses when looking the mirror. I don’t strive for perfection. First, because I have no idea what that encompasses. Secondly, far better people than I have tried to reach such a goal and not succeeded. Instead I aim to be the best version of myself, a task I am not always successful at and is currently a work in progress.

I do have several traits that drive me a bit out of whack. One are people who are always late. I don’t mean five minutes late, or even a half an hour. People who are habitually hours late every single time you plan something with them. According to Dr. Phil (expert or not, your call) being perpetually late is often an indication things in your world tend to revolve around you. When I’m planning a meal, probably including appetizers and a little down time with my guests before getting rolling, I find it extremely irritating when someone arrives hours after the appointed time. Dinner is generally rushed, appetizers cold, and the hostess has lost her rosy glow.

Another personality tic getting on my last nerve is hovering. Once I had a relationship with a guy who followed me so closely I felt like Peter Pan with my shadow sewn to my heels. In retrospect, unless on bright sunny days, my shadow spent less time with me then this man. Every time I turned around I would trip over him, to the point when once I came out of the bathroom I found him sitting outside on a chair reading. This, as one can imagine, was the last encounter I have to recall about the gentleman. Undoubtedly, he is somewhere out there writing a blog about my irritating habits as well as we speak. Smile.

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while the “new car smell” wears off a bit. Couples settle into the business of learning to cohabit with one another on a below the surface level. Tolerance, love, and understanding rather than the original animal attraction come into play. Though you want to retain the animal magnetism while managing the rest for good balance. Our truest selves emerge, I believe, once our relationships progress beyond the first year. The beginning version we display of ourselves is often not the most accurate, at least in my experience.

Perhaps we are afraid to expose the under layers of our being for fear what is found there will not be accepted or loved, if you will. It is stressful to strive to be other than who you are and in the end probably not successful. Sometimes I think we expect so much of one another. Many people expect a partner to make them happy. If you are not happy already, someone else cannot create this for you in my opinion. You must create your own joy. Others can enhance your life but I don’t believe they should be responsible for making it a successful one one way or another. That, most likely, is your job.

My oldest granddaughter, a gifted writer and blogger wrote a very incisive blog recently about labeling. Placing a tag on people such as fat, stupid, black, white. Stopping at the exterior of a being before ever taking the extra step to explore the being itself. She expressed a fear that if she wrote such things people would not want to hear it or find her opinions objectionable. I told her everything you write will not be well accepted. Many times I have written things on this trusty old blog that have put people off or caused readers to stop reading. The point of writing is to be true to who you are. Debates, such as the ones going on in our country as we speak, are about differing opinions and opposing points of view. Without discourse there would be no harmony. Yin and yang. Our world has not been built on everybody agreeing with one another. Wars would not have existed if we all felt the same way about the world around us. Discoveries would not have been made if someone didn’t have the fortitude to dig below the surface despite those telling them telling them there would be nothing to be found there.12190997_10153270100471089_798124156591747940_nSo for today I celebrate diversity. Our differences and our ability to accept differences in others and leave room in our busy minds for ideas other than our own.

Also, I am begging people who habitually text and drive to think about the other drivers on the road. Twice while out yesterday a car drifted in my lane. When I passed both cars I could see the drivers looking down at their laps busily texting with their phones reflected in their windows. I honked and each driver took time off from their keyboard to offer me the universal signal of annoyance. Sorry, this one is a personal irritant. Was I an oyster I could make a pearl out of it.

These yummy potatoes, however, are never irritating.

Hasselback Potatoes

3 Tbsp. bread crumbs
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. salted butter, melted
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper

2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
2 Tsp. salted butter, melted
1/3 cup chicken stock

Sour cream and chives.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, garlic, thyme, lemon zest, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Slice potatoes crosswise in thin slices nearly all the way through. Spray 8 x 8″ baking pan with cooking spray. Place potatoes in pan and gently splay the layers open. Place crumb mixture on top and gently press in between layers. Drizzle butter over top. Pour chicken stock on bottom of baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hr.

Serve with sour cream topped with chives.

Serves 2

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final
There’s a lot of talk in our area at the moment about texting and driving. Californians, it seems, particularly the 18-24 age group, are still doing it in record numbers. Even though it is a ticketing offense if caught doing it while behind the wheel, it doesn’t seem to be doing much to deter people from continuing the practice. A man and his eighteen year old son were bicycling in Sacramento over the weekend when hit by a thirty-three year old man distracted by his latest text message. The father was killed and the boy is now fighting for his life. Wow. Really? On some level I could understand if the text read, “Your family is being held captive. Get me a helicopter and a million dollars in an hour or their lives will be in danger”. The reality is, the text he looked down for was probably something far less earth shattering and inane. Couldn’t these social messages wait until you’re parked to read them? My daughter and her family enjoy bike riding on the weekends. Even though they have helmets and are careful I worry a lot about them when they’re on the roads. Truth is they are one unread text away from harm, and that makes me nervous. People charged with driving public transportation are even getting tagged for this, causing accidents because their eyes are distracted instead of focusing on the road. Whew.

Every day I see drivers pass me looking down at their cell phones. Yesterday we were nearly sideswiped by a guy not paying attention who kept coming into our lane. If not reading a text they’re talking with the phone to their ear. For the man who hit these two people, I’m sure this unguarded moment is something he’ll carry with him the rest of his life. I can’t imagine if you asked him, he would feel whatever was in that message was worth the price paid to read it.

Patti Lupone, an actress presently appearing on Broadway, took a stand last week by stealing, if you will, a cellphone from an audience member texting during the show. Really it is rude. Aside from the light emitted, the constant keying it is annoying to people around you. When interviewed she asked, “why do these people buy a ticket”? No kidding. Tickets on Broadway aren’t cheap. Why would you sit and look at your phone during the entire show? I don’t get it.

Not long ago we went to the movies. Two kids in the seats several rows in front of us played video games during the entire first half of the movie. Several times they were asked by people in adjacent seats to stop. Finally, an employee had to come and ask them to leave. Don’t misunderstand me, I have no gripe with cell phones, I have one. However, as with everything there are limits and manners involved with using one. As I used to assure my children, not everyone in the world was put here for the sole purpose of making sure your day goes well.

Sometimes it is good to be disconnected, even not to be entertained. Babies left to their devices, no binky stuck in their mouths to make things better, or no adults clucking and cooing after their every need, will use their minds to entertain themselves. Fingers and toes will become fascinating, the mobile spinning over their crib, or the glistening lights on the ceiling made by the sun’s reflection on the pool water outside the window will become more interesting. Learning to soothe oneself without benefit of outside stimulus is an early lesson and, I believe, an important one.

A friend of mine recently went to a basketball game. He won the tickets on a radio station, but the face value of the ticket was $250.00. People all around him, so he tells it, spent most of the game taking pictures on their cell phones rather than actually watching the game in progress. Now I love to take pictures, as would be obvious by how many of them are peppered throughout this blog. However, the fact remains no photograph of a cup of steaming hot freshly brewed coffee will ever equal the actual aroma emanating from the pot while its brewing. Nor will a picture ever mirror the taste of that first sip. As lovely as a picture might be of your child it will never be as good as the warmth of their small hand tucked in yours, or the “feel” of their small body in your arms as you carry them up to bed. Living virtually, in this humble bloggers opinion, will never surpass actually going through the visceral process yourself.

They were discussing on a talk show the amount of screen time children are logging, some upwards of six hours a day. A psychiatrist speaking to the subject said they are actually considering classifying extreme dependence on devices a mental illness. He suggested putting a power bar in a central room in your house. Before going to bed each person, including the adults, must plug in their devices before turning in for the night. Having the phone in the bedroom while you sleep or whatever else you might be up to in there is distracting and the time after you retire should be time to rest your brain not offer it stimulation.

For me, I think we need to be aware of how much time this is stealing from our lives every day. I can’t imagine it’s going to get better as devices morph and provide more sophisticated options. What you do with your time is your business certainly, but when you are on the road and doing behaviors endangering others around you it becomes the business of the people who’s lives you potentially may affect.

On a lighter subject, these potatoes are an excellent side with a rich Mediterranean flavor. Yum.

Mediterranean Potatoe

5 medium sized red potatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1 small can of drained black olives
1/2 cup Feta cheese

Cover potatoes in water in large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat to med.-low. Simmer until nearly tender. Remove from water and cut in quarters.

Heat oil in large skillet over med. heat. Add onion and green pepper to pan and cook about 6 mins. Add garlic and cook an additional minute.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings to pan. Simmer covered for 6 mins. stirring frequently. Add cooked potatoes and olives and stir well to coat. Continue cooking another 10 mins.

Remove from heat and stir in Feta cheese. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

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I spent a good part of yesterday sitting in the doctor’s office. Well, lying down in the doctor’s office, to be more accurate. In my usual accident prone way I managed to take what should have been a quick look out the front door at a couple of baby deer and stretch it into a major production. Rick knocked on the living room window pointing toward the door. Opening it slightly to see what he needed I was to look to my left. Two very tiny deer were making short work of some recently liberated shoots on my azalea bush. So tiny and dear, or deer, whatever the case, I couldn’t bring myself to be too angry even if they were consuming my landscaping. We stood and watched them for a bit until mother came and moved them along to the next yard. Turning to go back inside, I absently ran my hand down the side of the door. Apparently, there was a long splinter of wood looking for a hand to insert itself in. Mine proved to be the perfect host. Wow, that hurt. Totally surprised to find myself in pain trying to close the door, I was even more surprised to see a large piece of it protruding from my palm.

Rick totally freaked out, letting loose of Lecture 47 from his 2014 Lecture Series on why I need to watch what I’m doing lest I do not make it to my next birthday. Directing his attention to my now throbbing hand, he pulled the spear out leaving half still imbedded beneath my skin. OW! Damn, I’m sure that’s not how that was supposed to go. Remind me not to frequent this facility again.

For a person who loathes going to the doctor, I seem to be spending a lot of time there of late. Deciding to ignore the problem and see if the splinter fairy might appear during the night and remove it, I went to bed. Disappointingly in the morning the offending object was still in place and my hand was starting to look upset about the situation. Reluctantly I put a call into my doctor. No same day appointments were available. What do people do anymore when they’re sick? I do suppose my splinter wasn’t exactly the highest priority on their patient list. The receptionist suggested I go to the urgent care clinic down the road from them.

Going to a new doctor’s office is, if possible, more annoying than going to one already familiar with your frailties. A book of paperwork is handed to you on a clipboard and you’re asked to recall your medical history, your families medical history, your allergies, surgeries, affairs, positions you’ve been fired from, and recent felony convictions. By the time you’re done they have more information on you than your mother is privy to.

Urgent care is done on a walk-in basis. A good rule of thumb on figuring how long you’ll be there is to count the heads sitting in the lobby as you enter. Figure at least 15-20 minutes apiece and that is approximately how long you’ll be reading your book before hearing your name called by a nurse. Five people in front of me and two hours later, I was shown to an examination room.

The staff was a lovely group, all very friendly and welcoming. They have such cute scrubs these days. When I was a dental assistant they were white and quite unattractive. They’d just begun to show some colorful uniforms with designs before I left the field.

Shortly, the doctor came in. Ladies I must admit the splinter was worth the floor show. If all doctors looked like this gentleman, the wait would be 6-8 hours minimum. Smile. As nice as he was attractive he said he would have to remove the splinter and give me a tetanus shot. Oh goody.

A nurse followed with enough equipment to do a set up for a heart transplant. It’s a splinter. I don’t need a set-up really. A pair of pliers should suffice. She explained they’d have to numb the area and then perform the removal in a sterile environment lest I contract an infection. Looking for an exit, Dr. Eye Candy returned. Gently taking my hand in his gave me an injection directly in heart of my palm. He became far less attractive as the syringe depressed. With all the advances in technology couldn’t they either knock you out for absolutely everything, or invent something that numbs the area by simply hovering above the spot? Someone get to work on this.

After some maneuvering the splinter came out. Life is good. The doctor told me to hang tight until the nurse came with the tetanus booster and to bandage my hand. Left alone in a prone position with a long week behind me my eyes closed. About an hour and a half later I was awakened by a nurse who was apologizing for forgetting me. Apparently everybody had gone to lunch and left me on the table. That’s fine. I had an excellent nap. I suggested they install a mini-bar for such occasions as I was hungry and was offered a delicious blueberry muffin before being sent on my way.  On the way out I noticed the office plants were doing very well. Always a good sign according to Erma.

So, I have a big bandage for a small incision, and thankfully medical insurance because I’m sure all that prep came dearly. Another day in the life.

In an effort to keep frying at a minimum, I created this delicious alternative to stove top prepared home fries.

Oven Baked Home Fries

3 large red potatoes, sliced in 1/2″ slices
2 medium onions, sliced thin
4 thin slices red bell pepper
4 thin slices green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 cup Mexican style cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray 9″ square pan with cooking spray. Place all ingredients but cheese in large bowl. Cover and toss well to coat.

Line in three rows in pan alternating vegetables as you go.

IMG_6529 - Copy

Seal tightly with tin foil. Bake for 30 mins. Remove cover. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake for 20 mins. Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese over top. Return to oven for 10 mins. or until cheese is melted.

Add additional salt and pepper as desired.

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final

Some outsource centers are providing language classes for their technical support people overseas. Classes designed specifically to refine their speech to sound more Americanized,. This was done in response to complaints from customers finding it difficult to communicate with support personnel with heavy foreign accents particularly on questions of a technical nature. To add another layer to the cake, the classes also provide different nuances in their speech instruction. For example, a y’all or two might be thrown in for those wanting to sound like they hail south of the Maxon Dixon line or some broad “a’s” for the east coast citizens. Could be the gentlemen with the pleasant southern drawl introducing himself as Dwayne actually may sign his checks as Muhammad Singh. At times I have found it extremely difficult myself to get my point across on these phone calls and to understand what are saying in response.

No matter how frustrating, language always fascinates me. English is my only fluent language. I’m saddened to see it fall by the wayside. “Conversing” has been replaced by “conversating”.  “I seen it” has eclipsed “I saw it”.  Ach.  I took four years of Spanish in high school. At one time I was able to speak and understand it quite well. Technical Spanish was taught where I attended school. Conversational would have proved more helpful. Standing on a street corner in Baliz “Donde ala biblioteca?” isn’t going to do you much good unless the man you’re speaking to actually knows where the library is and you are really interested in going there. French came along in college. I took one semester and found it didn’t come as easily for me as Spanish. People assume if you’re from Canada you speak French.  French is the second language of the country, and certainly would be your first if you resided in Quebec I would suspect. I’ve traveled to Quebec on several occasions. Particularly in the country areas if you speak poor French it is not well received by the locals. On several occasions while trying to communicate with a sales clerk I was sure they understood exactly what I was saying but were so appalled by how I was saying it they pretended not to.

When visiting Rick’s Mother in Paris before her passing, she commented people in “the colonies” (French Canadians) don’t speak true French. Canadian French is old French, if memory serves. I wouldn’t have argued that point with Labiba.  Born in Egypt, she was truly a French woman at heart. Paris would have been far more confusing for me without the two of each speaking the language like natives. Labiba had been an interpreter for the U.N. in her younger years, French to English.  Her English was spoken with a hint of French and Arabic as is Rick’s. At her apartment I was introduced to a young Frenchman nicknamed affectionately Ooh-la-la for his penchant for punctuating his sentences with the same. Charm oozed literally out of this boys pores. Had he told me a flock of sea gulls had deposited their lunch all over my rental car I would have been nothing less than enchanted. The French speak with their bodies as well as their mouths, moving their arms and gesturing as the words flow. This is true of the Greeks and Italians as well I believe. My girlfriend who is from a lively Italian family would be unable to communicate if I tied her hands behind her back.

If you are exposed to different types of speech for long periods of time it is likely you will adopt some of the peculiarities in your own speech patterns. After living in Arkansas and Alabama for a year or so the “you’re not from around here’s” came less often as my speech drifted into their speech zone. Looking back I always had trouble with the y’all’s. There are guidelines for saying y’all that never became completely clear to me.

When living in Massachusetts it wasn’t long before their use of the broad “A” became noticeable when I was speaking. My mother kept asking me if I had a cold. I learned that “Chuck Rivah” made reference to the Charles River where I used to stop on my way to work in the morning to watch the rowers glide seamlessly through the glassy water.  “Regulah” coffee meant you liked cream and sugar in yours. If you were going “down sellah” you were likely headed for the basement.  Rain, which came down often in buckets there, might be said to be “coming down like a bastard’. By the time we returned to California after three years on the east coast people here were asking me if I hailed from the east originally. Funny.

Canada is not immune to language differences. Arriving in Southern California I still said serviette when referring to a table napkin and toe-maatoe when asking for one in my salad. To me toe-mayto referred to a woman. Back in Nova Scotia for a wedding some years ago I ran into several men from Newfoundland. At first I thought they were speaking to me in a foreign dialect rather than English. From what I understand their particular manner of speaking is partially attributed to their Gaelic roots. When saying hello they might come up with “Whaddaya at?” “Stay where you’re at ’til I comes where you’re to,” might be translated as “Stay where you are until I arrive.” I just nodded and smiled hoping I wasn’t agreeing to anything I didn’t want to sign up for.

All in all it’s fascinating how we communicate, at least for this writer.

Totally off subject, one of the gentlemen I volunteer with at the food ministry told me in conversation last week he was diabetic. As it happens Rick is as well. However his is well controlled by diet. At any rate, during the conversation this man mentioned using okra water to manage his sugar levels. Really? I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but it was  first for me. Researching a little further I found a number of articles on the Internet discussing the same subject. Who knew? There are as with most discussions people sitting on both sides of the fence but it is an interesting concept and natural at that. Since it certainly couldn’t hurt I will give it a shot.  According to my source he cuts the ends of an okra. Drops it in an 8 oz. glass of water and soaks it overnight. In the morning the vegetable is discarded and you drink the water. Anyhow, my unusual bits of information for the day.

 Garlic and Parmesan Oven Fries

3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/2″ sticks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Spray cookie sheet with cookie spray. Slice potatoes and drop into ice water for 1/2 hour. Remove from water and pat dry with towel.

Toss with oil, garlic, chives, and red pepper flakes. Spread in single layer on cookie sheet. Bake for 25 mins. turning once.

Remove from oven and toss with cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 Tbsp. chives
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. honey
1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Had a fun and busy five days with my Mother. Truly the woman amazes me, never stops. It is generally known in my family Mother has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Probably this is something that should have been addressed years ago as it is undoubtedly equally as frustrating for the sufferer as it is for those around them. Some of this naturally slopped over on me, and I, in turn, passed it on to my daughter. She always says I’m a “giver”. I passed on asthma, allergies, lactose intolerance and several other itis’s to her, somehow leaving my son unscathed. This is something she reminds me of often and with extreme prejudice.

OCD manifests itself in some people with extreme symptoms such as rituals they are compelled to perform before leaving the house, when eating, or performing any manner of life’s day-to-day endeavors for most of us non-threatening. In my earlier years I knew a woman who had to schedule at least a half an hour extra in the morning to get herself to work, just to get out the front door. Each lock, and there were many, had to be tried and retried before she could push herself to leave the house and go to her car. It was agonizing for her, and took a long bout of therapy to help her learn to manage it.

A friend of mine has an adult child who counts food. If potato chips are the choice for a snack, six will be laid out. Not seven, not five, nor twelve, but always six. As a child this same person couldn’t have her food touching. The potatoes stayed on one side of the plate, the meat on another and the vegetable in a third corner. She ate them in a sequence, following the same sequence each time she took a forkful. Potatoes, meat, veggie, potatoes, meat veggie. This, would put me in a padded room. Fortunately, she outgrew the sequential eating but to this day will lay six chips, crackers, or candies on the table and recount them carefully before they go in her mouth.

With my mother it is order. If I set the newspaper on the counter, she will walk by, look at it, and feel moved to have to adjust it one inch in either direction apparently until it’s perfectly centered to her mind’s eye. I tend to mess up this scenario for her preferring actually to read my newspaper rather than admire it from a distance in its perfectly symmetrical environment. Each morning the newspaper is taken apart, folded, and placed in exactly the same spot in exactly the same order it was the day before. The other morning the newspaper delivery person had the effrontery to deliver a paper missing Section C which nearly threw of the entire day. I make fun, but for people dealing with this disorder I’m sure it is less than that.

As she’s gotten older, this has become far more pronounced than when I lived under the same roof. Cans are lined up with like cans, labels facing forward, towels hang on the stove reading “Dishes” and “Hands” and by God you better not dry a dish with the “hands” towel or dry your hands on the “dishes” towel or there will be hell to pay. There is a specific fork or utensil designated for everything. If you’re eating grapefruit you will be handed a grapefruit fork. It would unthinkable to spread butter with anything other than the designated butter spreader, even though she has probably seven drawers of silverware available each stocked with butter knives, ahem, suitable of spreading the soft stuff across the bread.

To add to the mix, an old family friend moved in after my stepfather passed away and now rents her spare room. A retired dentist, and a lovely easy-going spirit on the best of days, the man is the exact opposite of my mother in every way. To begin with he’s a mess pot. You don’t need a forensic scientist to determine what his last meal consisted of, because there are usually remnants of it evident on his shirt and/or pants. Having a laissez-faire attitude in the kitchen, what drops on the counter, stays on the counter. What falls to the floor, remains as it has landed. If living alone this chaos would go totally unnoticed by him but at Mother’s, thanks to her diligent kitchen patrol, it will immediately be brought to his attention. Watching the two of them interact could keep me entertained for hours.

From what I’ve read OCD can be inherited. This is good news. It is triggered sometimes by physical ailments, or possibly emotional trauma or stress. Our brains are such amazing organs, it is impossible to know the full extent of the reasons behind why we humans do the strange things we do. I would imagine this will be a question mark poised in the dialog bubble of scientists and researchers for many years to come. It begs the question, do some chimpanzees eat only three bananas at a time, or feel the need to keep a tidy tree while others are content to languish in filth and disarray? Is this only a human specific ailment?

Another common behavior associate with OCD is hand washing or fear of contamination. I cannot count on all my digits how many times I was asked if something was still good in the refrigerator or if it should be thrown out while visiting my mother. A package of bacon which had been in the refrigerator for 4-5 days with a sell by date of two weeks down the road was questioned simply because it had been in the refrigerator for that length of time. For me having to worry about all that 24/7 must be extremely exhausting. I prefer to opt on the side of safety, but not hang my hat on every sell by or use by date as if at midnight on the night indicated I have to rouse myself out of bed and take inventory of my refrigerator discarding anything on the way out.

For someone not going through this every day, it seems silly, but then I have an irrational issue with bees and their kin, that some people might view the same way. As I’ve mentioned I’ve bailed off a moving boat with one buzzing about my head, and gotten out of a car making a right hand turn when finding one sharing my space in the front seat. We all have our little quirks and nuances making up the whole of our being. The quest is to love someone with all their dings and notches, rather than only when they’re picture perfect.

At any rate, I’m home again. Boo, the Queen of Cats, was most delighted to find her treat provider and partner in crime occupying the right side of the bed. I adore my mom and miss her but it was a relief to use any old spoon out of the drawer for my cereal this morning without having to locate a “cereal spoon”. Ach.

These are truly my go to potatoes when I have a nice piece of meat fired on the grill. Yum.

Crispy Broasted Potatoes

8 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp. butter, cubed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. Montreal Chicken Seasoning Mix
1/2 tsp. Lawry’s Garlic Salt
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spray bottom of 13 x 9″ casserole dish.

Cover potatoes with water in large saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low boil and continue cooking about 8 mins. just to take the raw off, not to cook fully. Drain.

Spread potatoes in single layer on bottom of pan. Distribute butter around the pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with seasonings. Toss to coat well.

Place in oven for 1 hr. or until crispy and brown, stirring every 10 mins.

Serves 6

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Memorial Day front and center, tents will be loaded on car racks or in pick up beds, Coleman stoves pulled out of the garage and campers heading for a weekend in the great outdoors. Been there myself many times. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly I spent a year on the road in my misspent youth, traveling the highways and bi-ways of the U.S. and Canada. Free spirits with two small children, my first husband and I camped out sans tent in our sleeping bags three days out of five so I feel I can speak with some knowledge to the joys of sleeping under the stars as well as the disadvantages.

I wouldn’t change much about that year. Communing with nature was glorious, and certainly an adventure. These days my bones would object heartily to piling up on the hard ground. Back then it was all about the experience and living life to the fullest, something I’ve tried to do along the way.

Camping as a vacation choice started in my teens. Yosemite was my first actual camping experience other than a weekend at a Girl Scout jamboree when I was ten. Yosemite, at the time, was less traveled affording ample breathing space in the campgrounds to really enjoy all the beautiful scenery the park has to offer. At the beginning of the trip it was my stepfather, stepbrother and myself, with my mother joining us on the weekend. Mother is not a camper, rather describing herself as a “hot house flower”. Incapable of tanning, if exposed to the sun her pale English skin crimsons up like a lobster tail tossed in a pot of boiling water. A camper was rented for the two weeks for comfort and shade for my parents, and two cots for my stepbrother and my use were set up outside.

Bears wander freely about the park. It is after all, their home not ours, leaving us to be the interlopers in the end not the bears themselves. They follow the smell of food many campers leave readily available. Why not? It’s certainly easier than bear tent campchasing  down prey themselves or getting a slippery salmon to cooperate. I can understand the attraction. Nothing smells more intoxicating on a crisp morning in the woods than curling strips of bacon sizzling and popping in a cast iron skillet. Toss a few eggs in the pan, baste them with the hot grease and breakfast, along with campfire toast and a cup of strong coffee, never tasted as good.

The water in Yosemite most of the year is like diving into a refreshing glass of ice water. Quickly your limbs numb to the sensation and once your lips turn the color of the churning river it’s time to take a break. Often during that trip I ate my meals standing in the water. Not because I liked the sensation of freezing water against skin rather I did not like the wasps and hornets attracted to the goodies on my plate. It took us a few trips to find sprays and deterrents to help make this situation better. As I would vote to eliminate wasps and hornets from the insect population leaving the more docile bees to guard the nests, this would be the down side of eating el fresco for me. During that visit I was stung once in my ring finger. It swelled up like a knackwurst and split like I had left it in the pan too long. For as many times as they’ve nailed me it’s fortunate I’m not allergic to the little buggers or I might not be writing this story.

In my twenties I camped along Lake Mojave in Nevada. It you get the opportunity, don’t pass it up. Glassy a.m. waters and craggy colorful rock formations serve to make the area ideal for exploring. AB0C844F-C284-7A85-2680652066E8D4E1Mother Nature spent a little extra time on the landscape adding plentiful wildlife to keep your attention. High on the cliffs you might see huge owls perched on a ledge enjoying an afternoon siesta. Mountain goats climb nimbly up the sides of sheer edifices, and brightly colored birds call from tree branches. At night wild burros hee and haw along the perimeter of campsites, pawing and snorting at the moon. A labyrinth of private coves and inlets offer the perfect location for a boating picnic or private afternoon swim. If you don’t like the heat, stay out of the kitchen (if you will) because afternoons during the summer there will cook your dinner before you build a fire. During the heat of the day we dragged lawn chairs into the water and cracked open something cold and refreshing, settling in until the sun began it’s descent later in the day.P1150654

There is a feeling of peace commingled with vulnerability in communing with nature on such a basic level. With no walls around us we share the animal kingdom on equal footing with, well, the rest of the animals. No matter where I camped I learned early on to watch my feet, wear comfortable hiking boots, and check my sleeping bag before crawling in. Not a fan of slithering reptiles nor stinging insects, in order to cohabit you have to keep your eyes open and the bug spray handy.

Once while camping with my ex-husband and another couple in Arkansas a wild boar, or razorback, wandered into the campsite. Being vegetarian the big pig (I  wouldn’t have called him that to his face) probably wasn’t attracted by the delicious smell of freshly caught catfish cooking over the fire. Curiosity most likely brought him in and he didn’t look happy to see us. Certainly we shared the feeling.  Males of the species can weigh upwards of 300 pounds and if aggravated can be very aggressive. Not a particularly attractive animal on the best of days, snorting and digging at the ground this guy also appeared a bit grumpy.  None of us willing to volunteer to get to know him better, we decided in unison to pile in the truck and wait to see what he had in mind. After foraging through our bags, poking at our gear, and cleaning our breakfast plates, he left a deposit by way of a message on one of our sleeping bags. Scraping both back hooves in the dirt before leaving, he turned and waddled back into the woods. A most distasteful smell lingered in his wake for some time. Looking back I believe we slept with one eye open that night.

These potatoes would make me happy with nothing else on the plate. They’re especially good with prime rib or grilled meat.

1Horseradish Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

1/3 cup butter, divided
4 cups chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 lbs. peeled and cubed russet potatoes
1/2-3/4 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Melt butter in large skillet over med-high heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook for 5 mins. Add brown sugar. Continue cooking for about 10 mins. until onions are caramelized. Remove from heat and add white balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

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Place cubed potatoes in large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil over high heat. Cook for 20 mins. or until fork tender. Drain well.

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In small bowl whisk together mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and salt. Set aside.

In large bowl hand mash potatoes with remaining butter. Add 1/2 cup milk and sour cream and beat with electric mixer until smooth. Add onions and mix in mustard mixture combining thoroughly. Adjust seasoning if necessary. If too thick add additional 1/4 cup milk. Place in microwave on high for 3 mins.

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Serves 8-10

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

A friend of mine shared vacation pictures with me over the weekend from her trip to Disney World last summer. A series of smiling, tanned faces shaded by large dark glasses and floppy hats lounging on the beach or boarding a ride in the park. According to the trip log attached they swam with the dolphins, saw Cirque du Soleil, met Mickey and Minnie, stuck on a pair of illuminated mouse ears and generally got their kid vibe on.

The Matterhorn - Disneyland - Analheim

The Matterhorn – Disneyland – Anaheim

I’ve always wanted to go. Disneyland is no stranger to me but I’ve never visited its east coast cousin. Spending my teen years in Southern California, date night often found me winding in and out of the Matterhorn, or losing my lunch in a tea cup at the Mad Tea Party. At the time none of the highly sophisticated rides you see now were up and running yet, but we made do with the incredible Disney magic already there. I fell in and out of love many times under the 9:00 firework display, or while exploring the caves on Tom Sawyer’s island.

Another date night haunt was Knott’s Berry Farm. As a little girl I loved to go there on Sundays for their delicious chicken and biscuits with boysenberry jam. Chubby little girls are all about the food no matter what the occasion. Once I took my children for a birthday party with friends. There were about nine little people, myself and two other mothers. You could buy an “all day pass” which entitled you to get on all rides and attractions under the umbrella of one purchase price which.

Kids, at least then, always clamored for the petting zoo. It was certainly nothing like a real zoo, but there were goats, sheep and various other people-worn farm critters roaming about lethargically still willing to be petted for a handful of whatever food you were holding in your hand. Certainly the smell was authentic. Goats, I am here to tell you, will eat almost anything. It was explained by the zoo personnel goats are intensely curious, and not particularly selective, so watch your belongings. Unfortunately, I had nine kids to keep track of so did not notice the goat next to me eating my all day pass tied to my purse. He was nice enough to leave a small remnant still attached to the string so on this evidence they issued me a new one.

Over the years I’ve flown screaming, hands waving in the air, over the precipice of the Cyclone Racer at the Pike in Long Beach, dropped from the perilous Cyclone Racer - The Pike - Long Beachheights of The Edge at Great America (leaving my stomach six floors up), and wet my pants on the log ride at Magic Mountain. Not my finest hour, nor my dates sitting directly behind me. In my defense, there was a lot of water, I was saturated with a 16 oz. soda, and he made me laugh. His bad.

The log ride was not my first mishap while on a date at an amusement park. When I was sixteen I went on a blind date as favor for a friend. POP, or Pacific Ocean Park, in Santa Monica was our choice of venue that night. Long since closed, at the time it was a hot spot for kids. Featuring a nautical theme, there were shows with performing dolphins and sea lions. Many of the rides, such as the Scrambler, whisked you out over the ocean and back again at dizzying speeds. Kids being kids, we consumed our fair share of cotton candy, corn dogs, French fries and chocolate covered bananas. One stomach turning ride after another finally found us loading two by two into the cars on the Scrambler. The design of the ride was basically cars propelled by metal arms moving in and out and in circles, squashing the person on the outside smack against the person stuck on the inside, in this case me. As we rode in and out, between the fetid fish smell coming from the adjacent pier combined with the natural briny smell of the ocean, my date began to as green as the night colored Pacific below us. Oh-oh. Sensing this wasn’t going to go well I tried to put a bit of distance between us. Unable  to move, I was trapped as he lost his lunch and what appeared to be breakfast and dinner from the night before all over us and the car we were sitting in. Sorry, hope you weren’t eating. It wasn’t pretty. Once stopped, the ride operator had to put a temporary out-of-order sign up in order to clean up the mess. Politely we were encouraged not to hurry back, and drove home with all windows in the down position.

I draw the line at hanging upside down, whirling through dark places in a wobbly car on a track, and rides so high your nose bleeds. My daughter, however, has no fear when it comes to thrills. She has ridden Insanity at the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas, a spinning ride dangling you way over the edge of the building high above ground. Insanity being the optimum word here.

These days I prefer tamer pursuits. Sea World perhaps or the San Diego Zoo. Vicariously I get pleasure out of thrill seekers such as our amazing Olympic ski jumpers and the human torpedoes riding the luge. What a rush it must be to fly in the air like that and have the skill to land without breaking into pieces. Amazing. Such dedication to devote hours to training for this, the final goal. Play national anthem here. Truly, though, I kid, but it is inspirational.

At any rate, no roller coasters on the docket for today. I’m going for a walk in the woods with a friend. These potatoes taste just like loaded baked potatoes. Yum.

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole with Proscuitto

4 large russet potatoes, peeled, quartered and cooked
6 slices of prosciutto
1/2 cup Carnation 2% Evaporated Milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) Mexican style cheese, divided
1/4 cup green onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Place prosciutto on sheet in single layer. Bake for 10 mins., or until crisp, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Crumble.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Place potatoes in large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce to low boil and continue cooking until fork tender, about 20 mins. Drain. Put in large mixing bowl.

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Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Add evaporated milk, sour cream, salt, peppers, and garlic powder to potatoes and whip with hand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Stir in 3/4 cup cheese and 1/2 of the prosciutto. Pour into casserole dish and bake for 25 mins.

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Remove from oven. Top with remaining cheese and prosciutto and sprinkle with green onions.

Increase heat to boil and cook until cheese is melted. Serves 4.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Well, another Christmas is behind us. New Year’s Eve is twinkling on the horizon. Paper hats, streamers, Alka Seltzer, and ice packs are in the ready as the apple in Times Square is preparing for it’s descent. Over the years I have not made a success out of New Year’s Eve. Not for lack of trying, or even over indulging, although I won’t say I haven’t nursed a heavy head a time or two. The night just refuses to cooperate with me on any level, leaving me without one year I would consider memorable other than the kind of memory you wish to leave behind. I don’t know why. It’s not I bear the holiday any animosity, or have tired of the holidays by the time it arrives on the calendar. I’m the first one willing to loosen up and have a good time. You will find pictures in my photo albums of me wearing festive dresses over the years, waving a noisemaker. Somehow, however, disaster always seems to be standing behind me in the picture, party hat askew, waiting to pounce.

When my children were toddlers, my husband and I were invited to a lavish New Year’s Eve celebration hosted at a hotel in Hollywood. Nothing in my closet grand enough for the occasion, a new dress was in order. I chose a form fitting one in scarlet (according to my grandmother a girl couldn’t have a bad time in a red dress), with shoes to match.  A baby sitter was lined up for the evening. On the big day I spent extra time making myself irresistible before the eight o’clock deadline to pick her up.  With a hint of my favorite cologne dabbed behind each year, I was ready to go. My husband, due home from work around 6:30, was late. No prince in sight and decidedly overdressed for the task, I nonetheless gathered the baby sitter beginning to really worry. At the time there were no cell phones. If someone went missing and was unreachable by land lines, they were truly unreachable. For those of you not around back then I realize this concept must be nearly unfathomable, but I am here to tell you, I speak the truth.

Popping popcorn for the sitter, I turned a video on to entertain the children. Tucking them in a bit later with the baby sitter snoring on the couch, I paced the floor until around 10:00 then began placing calls to family. Once those names were eliminated, calls went out to hospitals and police. Nothing. At 12:00 when I was to be toasting with champagne resplendent in my red gown, I received a call from a hospital in L.A. my husband was in the ER.  Waking my babysitter to ask her to stay the night, I spent the beginning of that new year sitting in the emergency room watching the IV drip, drip, drip into my husband’s right arm.  A car accident, fortunately resulting in nothing more serious than a few stitches and a mild concussion. A red dress,  appropriate for the occasion on some level, never worn again.

Another time, newly engaged, (the dress on this occasion was a lovely aqua blue) tickets were purchased for a New Year’s weekend at a posh hotel on the Monterey Peninsula. The hefty $1,200 price tag included a bottle of champagne and light appetizers in an ocean view room, a gourmet dinner in their four star restaurant on New Year’s Eve, and entertainment by a well-known band. Continental breakfast was also included the following morning. All most exciting. About a week prior I noticed a bit of a sniffle. Not unusual for winter I pooh poohed it, but as the week progressed the sniffling progressed as well, become more more of a snarf with an accompanying red nose. Sigh.  The cough didn’t start until mid-week, and although not rib rattling, people began giving me a wide berth.

As the weekend approached I was making a good stab at looking energetic but my body was definitely giving me a run for my money. With over a thousand dollars on the line I was going to this function and by God I was going to have a good time.  On Friday I felt a bit better. Buoyed by this, I packed and inserted a smile below my red nose for effect.

The hotel was beautifully decorated and the room positively luxurious. A huge bed with six pillows was laid back with a note from the housekeeper introducing herself as Michelle.  Chocolates in gold wrappers sat atop each of the well plumped pillows. Whoopee.  Sneeze.  Below the veranda was the gorgeous Pacific shimmering beneath a wintry California sun. Glorious. Hack, cough.

I felt hot, but attributed this to the crackling fire burning in the fireplace.  Cocktails and appetizers were scheduled for six. Around five I took a bath and dressed for the evening.  Little blush was required. I seemed to be generating enough natural color to suffice.  Teetering between hot and cold my body temperature shot up and down quicker than the elevator in the Space Needle.

On the first floor the lounge filled to capacity with sequined gowned party goers. Champagne corks popping could be heard above the din. Smells emanated from the gorgeously bedecked dining room usually guaranteed to get my stomach growling, but that night it felt more like a churning sea.  Champagne, no matter how light and bubbly, did little to soothe my stomach and my head was pounding like a kettle drum at a pep rally.

We were seated at long tables next to strangers, most well on their way to a splendid evening. On stage the band was tuning up their instruments.  The first course was several bacon wrapped scallops nestled in a delicate wine sauce accented by several red dots of a spicy sauce with a mint leave to make it festive. Hack.  After several attempts to swallow the mollusks I gave them a decent burial in the folds of my lovely red napkin.

Next came a wedge salad, loaded with an unbelievably thick and rich blue cheese dressing. Normally I would have dived into this with two forks. That night I moved it around the plate, hiding the cherry tomato beneath the chunk of lettuce. My fiance was starting to watch me curiously. I’m sure he was not alone. My face, normally a nice shade of light peach was beginning to look like a well ripened Roma tomato. Seeing it in the harsh light of the ladies room it was hard to tell where the crimson colored roses on the brocade wallpaper ended and my skin began.

By the time the prime rib arrived we were sitting alone at one end of the table with our perfectly cooked medium rare slabs of prime rib and people huddled on the other end were wearing surgical masks. As the night progressed I sank lower in my seat until my red nose resting on the side of the table was the only thing standing between me and the floor.

Finally, giving up on the fabulous time I’d looked forward to I excused myself and returned to the room. Shortly thereafter a hotel concierge doctor arrived at the door. After a brief examination he determined I had pneumonia and probably should be in the hospital.  I decided to tough it out instead getting a prescription for strong antibiotics. I spent the rest of the weekend sweating it out under the deliciously thick covers while my fiance slept in two chairs pushed together in the corner. Happy New Year!

Wishing you a safe and sane New Year and a fabulous start to 2014! These potatoes are my favorite with roasts or just on their own the morning after. Yum.

Potatoes in Broth

12 russet potatoes, peeled
1/2 Tbsp. garlic salt
1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. black pepper
6 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 cups of vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Hungarian paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice peeled potatoes in 1/2″ slices keeping slices together. Place in greased 13 x 9″ casserole dish. Mix together garlic salt, onion powder, basil, rosemary, and black pepper. Sprinkle over top of potatoes. Pour vegetable broth over top of potatoes nearly to cover. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and generously dust with Hungarian paprika.

Bake for 1 hr. and 15 mins. basting often, adding broth if needed until potatoes are tender and crunchy golden brown on top.

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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.

IMG_4936

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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