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Posts Tagged ‘zucchini’

2Today I am suffering with a terrible case of wanderlust. It’s nearly 100 degrees outside and not a day to go exploring, which is probably why I feel like doing exactly that. Further contributing to my tapping feet I enjoyed a conversation with my son this morning mostly devoted to his upcoming trip to Cancun. The tickets include himself, his wife, and their two children one boy and one girl, eleven and twelve respectfully. Detailing the highlights for me and directing me to a site on-line showing pictures, my skin turned a deeper shade of green the longer we spoke. By the end of the conversation you could have thrown me in the pot with the delicious soup noted below and not been able to tell me from a leaf of spinach.

The resort they’re visiting is all-inclusive, so once you lay down your money for the tickets the food and beverages are included in the overall price. Naturally, if you want to visit the nearby ruins or enjoy other side trips they come at an extra cost, but while in the resort you can order one brightly umbrella bedecked drink after another guilt free. Other than any messages your liver might be sending up. However, as an aside if visiting one of these resorts do not pillage the mini-bar in your room unless you have the cash to cover it. From what I understand the all-inclusive umbrella extends only to restaurants and lounges.

ZipCruises are structured the same way, with the exception of the ones I’ve been on at least charging for alcoholic beverages. Back in the 90’s I took a ship from Miami to Key West and then on to Cozumel. Luckily for us it was spring break and so we shared quarters with hundreds of fun crazed college students bent on consuming as much alcohol as possible on their parent’s dime. One kid who we’d seen vomiting in the potted plants in the pool area the night before was presented with a $700 bill for alcohol from the same night. If I was his mother he’d really be sick by the time he got home.

At any rate my kids are going on several side visits. My son, Steve, is a hands on dad and has provided his kids with a rich background of sports, education, and experiences to take with them into adulthood. Makes me most proud. They swim like fish and both of them snorkel skillfully and havexel-ha-park some minimal scuba training. To be honest I’ve stayed away from scuba equipment as of this writing. Being claustrophobic the ideal atmosphere for me isn’t hundreds of feet below sea level with a mask covering my face. I’d be likely to take a great white on while trying to get out of the water. Watching documentaries on the ocean floor fascinates me but the idea of going down, down, down, not so much.

xelha_011One place he mentioned specifically was Xel-Ha Park. This is a lush park devoted to water lovers with something for everybody. Mayan ruins, jungle trails, bike riding, underwater caves, and swimming with the dolphins are just some of the fabulous attractions in a park touted as being the most beautiful aquarium in the world. I’ve got one flipper on and I’m ready to roll. Swimming with the dolphins is high up on my bucket list. Also walking with the penguins on the beach in New Zealand. The list seems to be growing as my bank account is dwindling.

Bank robbery is an option, but orange washes me out and I don’t like guns. Did you see the bank robber on the news who cleverly disguised himself in a see-through plastic bag? There’s a guy who stood in the stupid line a bit too long.

As delighted as I am that my kids are living the dream, I’m not as enthused about flying these days. Aside from everything in the news I watched a movie with Liam Niessen titled Non-Stop which sealed the deal. To take my mind of of it, and since I was ironing I turned on another movie. This one titled, The Impossible. A true story about a doctor and her family swept away by a tidal wave in Thailand. It’s not beyond the scope of possibility I may never leave the house again. That’s it for me. No more disaster movies.

Company is coming and I haven’t seen any hands when I called for volunteers to peel the eggs for the deviled eggs so I’d better run. Have a safe and happy day.

Even in the heat, this soup got an A+++++ from my other half. To quote him exactly, “I could keep eating this until I throw up”. Not delicately put, but I believe there is a compliment cleverly buried in there somewhere.

Crockpot Italian Sausage, Zucchini, Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup

6 plum tomatoes, halved
1/2 green pepper, seeded
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Italian sausages, hot
2 cups diced zucchini
1 ear of fresh corn or 1/2 cup canned corn
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups water
8 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. basil
1 bay leaf
1 pkg. Sazon Goya (or 1 tsp. hot paprika)
1/2 bag spinach
1 cup cooked ditalini pasta
Parmesan cheese and fresh basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Toss tomatoes and green pepper with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place tomatoes and pepper on foil cut side down. Bake for 15-20 mins. or until charred. Place in plastic bag for 15 mins. and peel off skins. Coarsely chop.

Cook Italian sausage and slice into 3/4″ slices.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over med. heat. Add onion and celery and cook 6 mins. until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 min.

Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Add tomatoes and peppers, sausage, onion/garlic mixture, zucchini, corn, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water, stock, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, basil, bay leaf and Sazon Goya. Mix well.
Cook on high for 1 hr. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 7 hrs. Add spinach (stemmed and broken into large pieces) and ditilini. Cook for an additional hr. Adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve topped with shredded Parmesan and fresh basil if desired.

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hummus final

Today I went shopping for groceries and came home with five bags of groceries and a new pair of sandals.  When I am stressed or feeling uneasy about something two things help to make it better, chocolate and shoes.  Mind you I did not need a new pair of shoes.  In actual fact, like others of my kind I only have two feet. Try as I might these two feet alone, no matter how adept at keeping me erect, could never accommodate the shoes already residing on the floor of my closet waiting to be filled.  However, I’m feeling much better about my world knowing these little bejeweled sandals are mine. They were on sale, so as I explained to my other half, practically free.

My other half does not seem to comprehend fully the “on sale” hypothesis, nor does he view this as a viable reason for purchasing something you do not need.  Several times I have endeavored to explain the concept to him complete with reviewing store brochures, explanation of savings margins, and even factoring in the “fad quotient”,  which in layman’s terms means, “if you bought it twenty minutes ago, it is now outdated”.  Still, he seems to hold to the premise if you already have twenty pairs of shoes and only two feet, this should keep your feet covered for some years to come, unless, naturally, new feet begin to grow then he promised to revisit the discussion along with explore getting me a spot on Letterman.  Try as I might he refuses to see a clear picture when it comes to this subject. So, my work here is done. Even at my most persuasive, I cannot move a rock with an ice cream stick.  I’m just sayin.

For the most part I am a fairly thrifty being.   Several months after I first met Rick he and I went shopping to fill a grocery list for a party he was planning.  Somewhat of a high roller I thought when it came to his choice in foods. As we walked the aisles the cart was filled with expensive cheeses and high-end olives and appetizers.  By the time we arrived at the check stand he looked down to find several baguettes, a flat of steaks, two boxes of mushrooms, a bunch of fresh asparagus and a bag of red potatoes.  Without even realizing it, used to several years of stringent budgeting, I had unconsciously put all the unnecessary items back on the shelves.  That, he said, was the deciding moment for him.  I was definitely the woman of his dreams. When things were tight for me financially in the years when my children and I were on our own, I had a system which worked beautifully for cutting spending.  If I saw something my heart really desired, I would load it in the cart to enjoy while I did the rest of my shopping.  Before paying for my items I would return the object of my affection to its rightful spot in the store, say my goodbyes, and purchase the things I actually needed.  I guess some of that frugality lingers beneath the surface in my makeup because even now I think a while before tossing something frivolous in the cart.  Rick will report to you, however, under his tutelage I have made great progress in overcoming this handicap over the years, as would be reflected in our monthly grocery bills.

Growing up I can remember my mother being a bit of a spendthrift.  Not entirely her fault really, for she was raised in an affluent household with little denied her.  As she will recall, even during the war years in the 1940’s when luxuries were hard to come by, she felt little in the way of deprivation other than perhaps suffering a shortage of nylons or chocolate.  Although many foodstuffs were rationed, my grandfather was a physician with many farmers listed as patients on his accounts receivable list, so spring lamb, newly butchered poulets, fresh eggs and seasonal vegetables arrived at the doorstep even in the leanest of times.

Born with an innate sense of good taste, Mother really should have pursued a career as an interior designer or personal shopper so she could spend other people’s money.  On our shopping expeditions together these days, I am the one holding up the white flag on behalf of my feet, long before she’s ready to quit and go home. In high school, bags from the mall were smuggled in while my stepfather tended his beloved rose bushes in the back yard. Stashed in the closet or attic crawl space they were reintroduced later as “this old thing” or “that, I bought it last summer”.  Drawn into the subterfuge by blood ties, I remained mum hoping no questions came my direction.  A terrible liar, I literally lose a dress size in perspiration when interrogated, making detection inevitable. Although my parents earning scale would have been considered upper middle class for the time, we lived on the teetering edge of disaster most days, each paycheck accounted for before the ink was dry on the signature.

Mother compensated for her joy of spending by working hard, bringing home a tidy paycheck.  Rarely do I remember her taking a day off, and our house, in her defense, was always beautifully appointed and a pleasure to walk into, our food beautifully prepared and presented, and my closet was never lacking for something to make the hangers feel they still had a job to do.  For my stepfather, keeping up with the expenses meant scrambling every summer, as his principle job was, well, principal. He could choose to have his salary distributed equally over twelve months at a lessor amount each month or get paid more for nine months with no paycheck during the summer. With the spending on full throttle, the latter became the necessary option. The man sold Kirby vacuum cleaners door to door, extension courses, worked in a gas station pumping gas, redeemed tickets at the movie theater, and scanned the papers and magazines every weekend in search of every get rich quick scheme out there or any contest requiring no purchase to enter.

In the end they taught me well with regard to money, in a backwards kind of way.  I learned to respect money, enjoy it, and most certainly learned the work ethic to earn it. I also learned not to keep too tight of an eye on it while at the same time not letting control of it get out of my sight completely. All in all I am certainly not rolling around in bills tossed in the center of my king sized mattress but I’ve formed a friendship with my finances and found I can live well with quite a bit in the bank and equally as well with just enough.

This hummus came to me via a friend’s pool party recently. It is so quick to put together and a lighter touch served with vegetables rather than pita chips or pita pockets, although good with both. When I make tahini for falafels, I freeze the extra tahini in small bags to be used down the road for hummus. Lovely on the patio in the summertime.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Zucchini Hummus

1 1/2 medium zucchini, sliced thin lengthwise
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 can garbonzo beans (chickpeas) rinsed and drained
3 cloves garlic, quartered
3 Tbsp. tahini
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Sliced vegetables or pita chips for dipping

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over med-high heat. Add sliced zucchini to pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown on one side for about 3 mins. Turn over and repeat. Cook until fork tender watching not to burn. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

3

Coarsely chop zucchini. Add chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and zucchini to food processor. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

2

Serve with pita chips or sliced vegetables.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

It’s quarter to three,
There’s no one in the place cept you and me
So set em up joe
I got a little story I think you oughtta know

The above is my statement on turning the clocks back.  Springing ahead works for me, but the fall change always throws me off my feed. Last night my eyelids refused to remain shut. I counted sheep, repeated the number 1 a thousand times, then counted backwards from 200 by 3’s for an hour until finally I gave up, and got up.  In doing so, Boo, the Queen of Cats, was prematurely disturbed from her “catnap” in her new bed. Mostly, I believe more out of her insatiable curiosity rather than a sense of comradery, she deigned to accompany me for a middle of the night cup of coffee and a bit of writing.  Boo is my worst critic, naturally resenting any of my time not devoted meeting her every need, including my time spent on the keyboard.  Not at all shy about showing her displeasure, she ranges from presenting her hindquarters for my inspection while I’m trying to type or taking a nip at my moving fingers if all else fails.  Cats and cockroaches, truly, rule the world.  I read somewhere that if a nuclear holocaust occurred cats would do very well and I do not doubt that for one moment.  Most certainly they would dine on those who had fed them, and if my two are evidence of the average cat’s disposition they should be found high on the pecking order of those remaining in the animal kingdom.

Although there isn’t much going on at 3 a.m., I occasionally like being up in the middle of the night.  No phones ringing, stores and banks closed, as is my kitchen, and the couch with its inviting big puffy pillows and the trio of remotes are mine, all mine.  With all this power at my fingertips you’d think I could find one thing I want to watch.  Infomercials fill the lines on the program guide, alongside reruns of Roseanne.  We’ve cut our premium channels down to the bone because;  a) they’re expensive, and b) there’s nothing on them we want to watch.  My other half is taping his usual million soccer games that populate our DVR. Click, on to something more interesting.

It’s strange to think of life without television, although truthfully I never sit down and watch it for long. For me, it’s like background noise.  I often think of the gadgets and electronics we take for granted that generations preceding us would have stared at in gape mouthed wonder.  I can recall back when the first microwaves came out.  Expensive and cumbersome, they were a miracle of modern technology.  Once the price dropped to a reasonable amount, one came to live at my house. Having not one single idea of the workings of such a device and faced with a large instruction manual, decided to start with a hot dog.  It said 40 seconds on high, but that didn’t seem like enough time.  Obviously knowing far more than the manufacturer I decided to heat the bun and the dog at the same time, and programmed the timer for 2 minutes on high.  After I removed it from the oven I was afraid to throw it in the trash lest somebody find it and use it as a bludgeoning tool in a homicide.  Bun and dog were fused and as one would mulch together in the landfill from that moment on.  Next I tried oregano chicken. This dish came out of the microwave as alabaster in color cooked as when raw, except for addition of the sickening green hue contributed by the oregano.  My children still refer to this as the “infamous green chicken debacle of ’78”.  For many years following, “reheat” and “timer” were the only buttons showing any wear.

After my mother passed the spoon to me in my thirties, Thanksgiving was hosted at my house. Three years ago was the last time.  That year, twenty people arriving expecting to be fed and my two kitchen separated by a floor between them, I decided either I don my Nike’s and marathon tee-shirt and hit the stairs running, or cook what I could ahead and utilize the microwave to reheat.  Genius.  Unfortunately, one hour before the first hit on the doorbell my old microwave raised the white flag and admitted defeat.  What!  I got so desperate I began to eye the barbecue as a tool for warming my potatoes.  God bless good old Home Depot, they were open on limited hours so my other half pulled on his cape and his shirt with the big red “S” and in the blink of an eye reappeared with a new microwave and saved the day.  Life was good.

This year we are on our own as everyone is scattering like ants on a hot grill.  In a way, the idea of kicking back and avoiding traffic and the usual mixed bag of family issues often included in holiday gatherings will make for a nice, quiet day with a small turkey and all the trimmings filling the house with delicious smells.  My heart will miss all my beloved family members, but several days after we’re heading down to my Mom’s to another turkey day with them, so in the end the calories will just keep on coming.

This meat was so delicious and so much better than stew meat. As this cut is ideal for stews or stir fry, I froze the remainder for the next time I take out my wok. My other half is not fond of brussel sprouts, but ate every one of them in this dish.

Fabulous Crockpot Beef Stew with Brussel Sprouts

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 lbs. sirloin tip roast, cubed
2 onions, cubed
1 lb. brussel sprouts, halved
3 carrots, cut in chunks
2 celery stalks, sliced in 1″ slices
3 large russet potatoes, large cubed
1 zucchini, cut in 1/2″ slices
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
12 green beans, halved
4 cups beef broth
1/4 red wine
1 1/2 cups prepared au jus
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. beef bouillon crystals
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 15 1/2 oz. can petite diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 Tbsp. Paprika
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 cup chunky salsa (I used hot)
1 pkg. brown gravy mix

Mix together flour, 1/2 tsp, black pepper, and 1 tsp. salt in medium mixing bowl. Dredge meat thoroughly in flour. Heat oil to shimmering in large saucepan. Brown meat well on all sides.

Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Add browned meat to bottom of pot. Top with chopped vegetables. Mix remaining ingredients together through paprika.

Cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 8 hours. Add red pepper flakes, chunky salsa and brown gravy mix. Whisk to blend. Increase heat to high and continue cooking for 1 hour.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

My other half tells me regularly he keeps me around for the entertainment value.  Every day, so he says, is a whole new world, living with me.  I do my best to change out my slapstick routine as often as possible, because watching a grown woman fall over the open dishwasher door which is in the same location since its original installation, or observe her perform a well choreographed two-step at 2 a.m. with the vacuum she forgot to put away before going to bed can wear thin on a man after ten years.  Smile.

Coordination certainly has never been my strong suit, and actually not even so much as a pair of dress pants.  I can remember my mother cautioning me when I held anything that could possibly spill, break, or ignite lest I take the house down to the ground in one clumsy move.  Shrinks might pipe in here and say that if you predict your children will be one way or another it will, in the end, be who they are.  In defense of my mother I think it was more self-preservation on her part having lived with me up until that point and seen the potential hazards of doing just that.  Perils of Pauline had nothing on my life.  Fortunately, as I’ve aged I’ve left most of the day to day things behind me but to my other half’s delight I still keep him entertained on a lessor level day to day.

As we are moving, I sat down last week and ordered several boxes of the vacuum bags that you see advertised on TV.  You know, the ones that flatten a large fluffy pillow down to the size of a piece of writing paper.  We seem to have accumulated an inordinate amount of bedding, etc. over the years as well as clothes, so it seemed to be the ideal solution to shrinking our load.

Typically the boxes arrived and when opened had no instructions enclosed.  Not that it appeared to be brain surgery, but it would have been nice to have some idea how it worked.  After cogitating on this while doing other things around the house, it occurred to me, for obscure some reason (I have no clue how to explain the workings of my mind.  Maybe when I colored by hair blonde back in the eighties it effected my IQ.) that I would have to figure out how to reverse the flow of air from the vacuum in order for this to work. Confidently I walked into the living room and asked my other half how to make this happen.  After realizing that I was serious about this, he started to laugh.  Then he got to laughing to such a point that I felt I should check beneath him as most probably he had left an egg there.  Really?  Yes, yes I realize now in order to work it has to suck, as vacuums do naturally, not the other way around.  I feel I will never hear the end of this.

The rest of the day was spent deflecting “Susie jokes” where he would hold up common household tools like a potato peeler and use them incorrectly, put his reading glasses on backwards and ask me why they wouldn’t work.  Funny, funny, man.

Once when first living with my ex-husband I had a situation with a quilt his grandmother had made for him.  It was a lovely quilt in perfect condition. Each identically sized square contained a geometric design beautifully hand-stitched in a pallet of fall colors.  Large enough for a king sized bed, I decided it would be a shame not to use it when the cooler weather moved in.

Coming home from work, and doing as he habitually did heading for the bedroom to change his work clothes, he immediately noticed the lovely quilt on the bed.  Changed, he came into the kitchen and commented that it looked great but I had put it on the wrong way.  Now to my eye it looked square and symetrical any way you put in on.  Insisting that I was not seeing it, and believing that he was seeing something I did not I adjusted the quilt and he was happy.  The following week when I changed the sheets, I was again faced with the quilt dilemma.  After adjusting it several times I was satisfied I had it on the right way. Sure enough, once again he came home and pointed out it was wrong.  Struggle as I could, I could not see what he was seeing but I diligently rearranged it and voila.  He let me do this for several months until he couldn’t stand it any more and started laughing.  Very funny.  He’s lucky I didn’t use it to wrap his lifeless body in before disposing of it.

I know you may not believe it, but I believe myself not to be without intelligent thought, but sometimes I don’t think, I just do. My body it seems is usually running at full speed with the rest of me scurrying along behind trying to catch up.

Perhaps that puts me in league with our past presidents, who, in truth have put their idiotic statements and actions right out there for public scrutiny.

Gerald Ford, besides giving me a run for my money in the coordination category being a danger to society with a grip on his golf club, said “If Lincoln was alive today, he’d roll over in his grave.”

Bill Clinton added his money to the pot with, “You know the one thing that’s wrong with this country? Everyone gets a chance to have their fair say.”

Exploring further back, Calvin Coolidge is quoted with saying “When a great many people are unable to find work, unemployment results.”

Not to omit my personal favorite contributed by Richard M. Nixon, ” I was under medication when I decided not to burn the tapes.”

Last but not least Jimmy Carter saying, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes that I will do – and I have done it – and God forgives me for it.” This must make Rosalind sleep well at night, and I hope God will be pleased he’s doing a good job.

One thing I have noticed through the years is if I am going to do something incredibly stupid, somebody will be standing right at my elbow recording all the details. Might I mention with regards to my other half that I handed him a small package of soy sauce (not a brain test) for his Chinese food last week and I’m still cleaning it off the upholstery, his shirt, and the pillow cases. Oh, and fair warning you continue to tease me about the vacuum bags you might want to consider employing a food taster in the future.

These were the best.  I liked doing them in the oven and not having to deal with the mess, and the added calories of frying.  We ate them all and it was fun putting them in the glass coffee mugs to serve. I would suggest you double this recipe as this worked for the two of us and we could have eaten more. This makes one large cookie sheet for the four zucchini.

Cheesy Baked Zucchini Fries

4 zucchini
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Lawry’s lemon pepper
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Ranch dressing for dipping

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cover large cookie sheet with tin foil and spray well with cooking spray.

Trim and slice zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut 1/2-3/4″ thin lengthwise slices off each half eliminating the outside slice that is all peel.

Cut into French fry size slices.

Mix together bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and lemon pepper. Place in shallow dish.

In another shallow dish beat eggs until frothy.

Place “fries” in egg mixture first allowing excess to drip off, then in bread crumb mixture. Line up on prepared pan. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 12 mins. Carefully turn fries with spatula. Cook for an additional 12 mins. until brown and crunchy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with ranch dressing for dipping.

On the side – wheel of veggies

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Photo by Susie Nelson

They were discussing the growing concern over obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children on The View the other day.  Contributing facts, to their way of thinking, were that kids don’t devote the hours to play that children in past generations did, as well as being offered little by way of physical education in our schools.  As a child, speaking only for my peer group, once breakfast dishes were done and chores finished we disappeared out into the sunshine to cavort with the bees, stick our toes in the frog pond and generally explore the nooks and crannies of our worlds until our names were called out the back door to come in for a meal.

It was suggested that healthier meals need to be offered in our school cafeterias.  From what I can see between my children and their children, meal selections don’t appear to have changed much since I was in school, not really.  Basically, at break when I was in high school, if funded, I could purchase the most gooey and ridiculously unhealthy cinnamon rolls or a bread loaf sized piece of coffee cake.  Lunch, if not brought from home, ranged from processed cheese and macaroni, pizza slices, chocolate pudding with a glop of whipped cream to an occasional offering of chicken patties or what we referred to as “frisbee burgers” which were guaranteed to sail 50 feet without dropping if you gave them the right twist of the wrist. In my humble and often offered opinion, there’s more to it than that.

In the end, isn’t it our role as guiders and molders of little beings to instill in them healthy eating habits at home first?  Provide them as best we can with a balanced diet to choose from and choose from this ourselves to show them how it’s done. This brings to mind individuals who bring suit against fast food chains because their children eat at these establishments regularly and now find themselves grossly overweight.  Is it just me?  This being true, if I frequent a casino and lose all my rent money can I, in good conscience, sue the casino for drawing me in with their shiny machines and blinking lights and enticing me to deposit my paycheck in the nickel slots?  Seriously?

Let’s say, I got coupons for pizza rolls and purchased a freezer full. If my thighs are now twice the size they were prior to my purchase, can I sue the company that manufactured them because my right toe now no longer fits in my size 4 pants?  Where did we stop taking responsibility for our own behavior?

Not long ago I had occasion to spend a few days with my son and his children.  Watching the feeding program there was eye opening for me.  To preface, they are excellent, doting parents to their two nose miners, yet I was fascinated to watch how meal times went with regards to the kids.  My grandson, for example, was asked what he would like for breakfast.  I’m old school, so usually breakfast was served and thank you’s were said, and there was more cooking and less asking going on. I get that things are different these days.  Oatmeal was his first choice.  Good choice.  Healthy.  After it was served to him and one bite consumed, he determined instead he wanted eggs.  Really?  So, a pan was retrieved from the cupboard, eggs whipped up in a bowl, and in short order (a little play on words here so you won’t get bored) a plate of fluffy scrambled eggs and wheat toast appeared in front of the young prince.  I was still on board at this point.

I watched as the eggs were maneuvered from one side of the plate to other with encouragement to do more than toy with their affection from my son. Then after one bite (this is where I got off the train) this plate was pushed away as well and a request for a waffle and heated maple syrup came in.  As I watched the train leave the station two waffles were dropped in the toaster which would, for the most part, also remain on the plate they were served.  Whew.  I was worn out just watching that procedure.

One full year, in my memory, another of my grandchildren only ate hot dogs because that’s what she liked.  Every time I saw this child she was eating another dog in a bun.  On Thanksgiving she had two in honor of the holiday. This expanded to popcorn (which I was told was her vegetable), then chicken strips, and I believe since then, corn, tacos and French fries have been added to the acceptable list for her discerning palate.

As children my two wild things were served a meal of my choosing for the most part and ate what was presented to them.  By this, I do not mean that I purposely served them food they didn’t like, but that they didn’t lay out the meal plan for me on Sunday so I could be sure to be up to speed once they were seated at the table.  Consequently other than one not liking pickles and the other peas they were never picky eaters.

In my mind children are entitled to like or dislike peas, and not be forced to eat peas. However, they have to at least try the food a time or two and there is no cupcake if your dinner plate was fed to the cocker spaniel.  Once when my son was a little boy my husband totally dug in at the dinner table and insisted my son eat his peas, which, for my son were his kryptonite.  Quietly, I reminded my husband that he loathed ham. That particular cut of pork was never served at our table unless brought into the house by another person, and even then eyed with suspicion lest a piece approach his plate.  Not willing to back down, the peas were reluctantly consumed by the six year old over a half an hour period, but I have to say were returned to us by his stomach in a much more expedient manner.  After cleaning up my little guy I handed my husband the necessary cleaning utensils to handle the rest of the mess.  A lesson was learned by all.

In the end, I don’t have a thought as to the solution.  It’s hard to push our children out the door to an unsafe world, and fast food in our busy lives seems to be a go-to place after a long day at work.  It worries me to see less and less activity and more and more intake of useless calories, but such is the fast paced world we live in I guess. For me it looks like this:

More of this …..

Less of this

This salad not only looks fabulous but offers up such a nice delicate blend of flavors.  It’s a bit of work, but well worth it.

Youth is a perpetual intoxication; it is a fever of the mind. – François Duc de la Rochefoucauld

Shaved Zucchini Salad

4 large zucchini
12 grape tomatoes, thinly sliced and seeded
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tsp. lemon zest
Garlic salt, pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan for garnish

 

Shred the zucchini lengthwise in long ribbons. Discard the pieces with just green as well as seedy centers. Slice tomatoes thinly and seed. Cut thin slices of onion and separate rings. Place all ingredients in bowl (glass is nice for this pretty salad) and toss lightly. Grind once or twice with pepper and sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt and a splash of garlic salt.

Dressing

2 1/2 Tbsp. EV olive oil
2 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dill weed

Whisk together ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use. Toss with salad just prior to serving.

Photo by Susie Nelson – April in Paris

© http://www.susartandfood.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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I often think that we are the cumulative result of those we meet along the way, people in our lives now, and our basic personalities.  In my thirties, I had a roommate whose mantra was “Take the best and leave the rest”.  That worked for me.  If you pull the positives out of a relationship (I realize sometimes this may seem more like trying to drag an elephant through a keyhole) and take those along with you, the baggage you tote along behind you will be much lighter and the message you share down the road far more upbeat.  Ah, the blonde’s view on life again, doesn’t it make you just want to sigh, or lose your lunch? it’s your choice.

What is the saying?  “People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”.  For me that has been quite true, and the lifetime people thus far all share my DNA and I theirs.  Because we shift locations, change, and mature, those relationships of the seasonal kind sluff off like a rattlesnake’s skin after a while and new ones grow in their place.  I store these bits of old friends in my memory box like faded roses from dances long ago, and take them out from time to time to dust them off and revisit the times we spent together.

Moving once again (it must be a karmic thing), I am faced with leaving my friends behind here on my beautiful ridge, at least in the physical sense.  Never do I really lose friends, unless they mistreat me, or wish to go, but from experience I know that distance in the end, has a way of extracting a toll on friendships and relationships. Hopefully never lost, often they often do not remain the same.

This got me thinking, as I often do, what life must have been like back when pioneers were hitching their teams to wagons and bravely forging a path west across the country.  Much different to have your friends and families move forward in their lives armed with cell phones, Skype, and a myriad of other social networks available to maintain contact. Imagine watching them disappear over the horizon not knowing if, or when, you might ever see their faces again.  Sometimes I think I have a fascination for what was, because it got us to what is, and most probably will take us to what will be, if you will.  Please repeat that back three times and then spell it backwards.  There will be a breathalyzer immediately following this exercise.

On pondering the backbone it would have taken to set forth with other like-minded individuals into unknown territory with the knowledge that there unsympathetic Native Americans, rough unbroken trails, heat, and bone chilling cold. If hurt or wounded, most likely no one would be available to tend your wounds, and if pregnant, your child would probably be born with only your husband’s hands to cut the umbilical cord. I can’t help but wonder if I would have signed up for the trip.

Friends, I would guess back in the day, were fairly spread out.  Those that you had might have provided the only lifeline in the event of catastrophe, or perhaps eased the loneliness I can imagine would be your close companion before the states were populated as they are today.  In a way, I think it would exciting to be the first people to settle an area. Challenging and rewarding to build your own home, and to grow the food on your table. However, if you look at the unsmiling faces portrayed in old daguerreotype pictures of early pioneers, they do not depict party hearty, laugh a minute, type folks.

One of my readers responded to a statement I’d made in a previous post about curiosity where I stated that if man had not exercised his curiosity we would still be eating raw meat and no one would have invented hair dye, which for me would have been the worst. My reader responded that if having gray hair was the worst experience I was to have in life I was in pretty good shape, and that people in this country tended to be a little bit short-sighted about what real hardship encompassed.  In response, I said, “yes I suppose in some parts of the world poor cell phone service might not be considered a personal crisis, and that the gray hair was noted as my worst nightmare with much tongue in cheek”.

Friends, as I was saying, are an important part of my life.  Whether it is true or not, in my opinion women seem to form stronger bonds with their female counterparts, or perhaps share with them on a more intimate level than men do.  Not being a guy, I can’t come to this from a personal viewpoint but I have known and been close to quite of few of the big lugs in my lifetime and most of them did not have the same relationship with their close friends, if, in fact, they counted many close friends, that I did.

For the most part, I found the male on male relationships I observed to be more of an exchange of stats.  Who won the series, what chick was hot, how the market was doing.  More surface stuff and far less baring of the soul.  Maybe it’s because their role is the protector, and thus they have to display a chest of armour rather than vulnerability.  Who knows?  As I always say, I have no answers, only endless questions.

Speaking of hot chicks, this is a great tart.  It’s easy to make and I usually serve it with some kind of wonderful sausages and a salad.  Enjoy.

Flakey Zucchini and Three Cheese Tart

1 oz. tube crescent rolls
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 cups thinly sliced zucchini
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 Tbsp. butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup 2% milk
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
3/4 cup Mexican cheese blend
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
2 Tbsp. parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Separate crescent rolls into eight wedges. With points toward the center, press into the bottom and sides of a pre-sprayed 9″ deep dish pie plate, sealing the seams. Spread evenly with mustard.

Melt butter over med. heat in large skillet. Add onions and zucchini and cook until vegetables are tender but zucchini is not mushy. Add garlic and cook for 1 min. until fragrant. Remove from heat.

In large bowl mix together eggs, milk, cheeses and seasonings (if using crisped bacon add now). Pour into prepared crust. To prevent edges of crust from over browning, cover with a thin piece of heavy-duty tin foil half way through cooking or after it is nicely browned.

Bake for 35-40 mins. until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Yum

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I heard a discussion the other day on a talk show about parents who are actually having their offsprings school pictures altered to correct what they perceive to be defects in their children’s looks.  Good God.  Are we truly becoming that obsessed with our physical appearance?  It must be really ego boosting to know that old mom had that mole you’re self-conscious about deleted from your right cheek, or your nose digitally altered.  How on earth would that make a child feel about themselves?

When I was fourteen I got hit full swing with a baseball bat while playing softball in the street.  Up until that day I had a perfectly straight nose but after the ER physician, who I believe slept through his bone setting course, got through with it it was slightly crooked.  My eyes, which are large and dominate my face, are two different colors, hazel and light blue. Often I am stopped in a store and asked about them.  I like that.  These are imperfections that I find make up the character of who I am. I didn’t opt to change them even when I got my first set of contact lenses, choosing untinted over tinted because what happens when you take them off?  What happens when your silicone slips, your fake eyelashes fall in your soup, your hair extensions get eaten by the cat, or you remove your underwear and that perfect little behind you’ve been showing off is sewn into the seat?  What happens?  Do you just yell, “surprise” and hope this guy has a wicked sense of humor? Also, if you don’t like who you are, how can you expect others to, and if they don’t like who you are, why would you want them in your life?

Joan Rivers, I believe I heard her say, has had over two hundred procedures.  Are you kidding me?  When she falls asleep her eyes probably don’t shut.  I’m still going with my original idea of inserting a drawstring under the skin around the face at birth and as you age you can just keep pulling up the skin like you would tighten a hoodie or pull in a corset back in the day.  I’m going to discuss this when I make my way upstairs, and I do not mean to the second floor.  That is, of course, if I actually make my way upstairs, somehow I’m afraid with my track record the elevator might get stalled before it reaches the penthouse. I’m just saying.

As a little girl if someone would comment on my cutitude, my mother would always reply “I wouldn’t have an ugly child”.  Go, Mom.  Can I assume from this statement that unattractive children should be drowned at birth or dropped off by the side of a road with a sign around their neck saying “will work for plastic surgery”?  Really? Who defines the words ugly or homely exactly?  Is there an elite group of people born to this world to delineate who the pretty people are from those who should have a bag dropped over their head as soon as the doctor cleans them up after delivery?

People that we view as different have a rough time in our beauty propelled world.  Let’s face it having Danny Devito leaning against a Ferrari wearing a Speedo isn’t going to boost sales of that fine automobile significantly.  Rail thin models stroll down runways in the world’s fashion meccas wearing heals that are wider then they are and the average woman is asked to emulate them or be found lacking.  What if you weren’t born with a terrific metabolism or choose not to live on four carrot sticks, an olive, two packs of cigarettes, and ten Starbuck’s grandes a day?  Chic nightclubs have bouncers stationed at their doors who select the lovliest people from the line to be allowed to enter their clubs and grace their dance floors. Pretty is in.

Perhaps this is where the bullying is coming from in our schools.  Kids who are not mainstream, perhaps shy or unsure of themselves, too thin, too fat, too short, too geeky, or too whatever to fit in.  I can remember in high school we had a kid who was tormented, truly.  Funny, I can still remember his name, although I won’t share it here, we’ll call him Walter.  He was a tall, gawky kid with pasty white skin and a falsetto voice .  In the school plays he was always chosen to sing the female leads, and performed them better for the most part then his female counterparts .

Although this was well received by the parents in the audience, not so much by the macho guys with letters on their jackets, or a good percentage of the male population of his class in general.  One day while my girl’s gym class was out sweating on the basketball courts, a naked Walter was shoved out the back door of the gym and the door pulled closed behind him.  In full view to us was the entire white visage of Walter, with the exception of his face which was the color of a vine ripened tomato.  To add insult to injury, if indeed possible, they hung his underwear from the flagpole in the quad, and made him walk around to the front door to get back in. Poor Walter.  To add to his miseries, he was brilliant, which in high school standards ranks about as high as a bad case of head lice.  As it turns out, he won a scholarship to an ivy league school and I would hope after much therapy went on to contribute greatly to our world, or be one mean son of a *#@D! In either case I’m sure he does not look back on his high school years as his finest hour.

Bullying makes me mad, any kind of meanness, just for meanness sake gets my Irish up.  As evident by what we’re hearing in the news lately it’s more serious than just hurt feelings.  My rant for the day.

“There is no gesture more devastating than the back turning away.”
Rachel Simmons, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.  ~Kahlil Gibran

I made these for dinner last night and we loved them.  The remoulade recipe is from the restaurant.  Literally, I could eat it with a spoon.  I put it on green beans, eggs, whatever.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  Smiles for today.

Zucchini and Tuna Cakes

2 6 1/2 oz. cans albacore tuna packed in water, drained
2 cups zucchini, shredded and squeezed dry
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Italian blend shredded cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions
1 1/2 cups Italian bread crumbs
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper
4 Tbsp. olive oil for frying
Arugula, or spring greens with a squeeze of lemon for bed if desired

Rinse tuna and flake with fork. Finely grate zucchini and squeeze dry in an old tea towel (this will stain) or use multiple folds of paper towels. Put both in a large bowl and mix well with all remaining ingredients except oil. Form into somewhat flat, oval patties.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium to high heat. Cook patties in batches until golden brown on both sides (about 3-4 mins. per side). Drain on paper towels. Serve over a bed of greens, if desired, with remoulade sauce. (Kids might like these better with Ranch Dressing, but my granddaughter went for the remoulade.)

Zesty Remoulade

1 medium stalk celery
1/2 large onion
1/3 green bell pepper
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 1/2 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup ketchup
1 cup mayonnaise

Pleace the onion, celery and bell pepper in food processor and chop finely. Slightly wring in paper towels to strain. Whisk until well blended in a medium mixing bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Since I first floated out of the womb, I’ve been trying to get back to the water.  Growing up at the southern tip of Halifax harbor in Nova Scotia, the ocean was as much a given in my life as the air I breathed and the sun rising over the horizon.

During the summer, when the window was left open to allow a breeze into my room, I drifted off to sleep with the sound of the waves against the rocks and woke to the screeching of the gulls searching for their morning meal.

Sitting on the rise of the hill I would watch for hours as the ships entered and exited the harbor.  Freighters riding low in the water heavy with their loads, dwarfing the graceful yachts far beneath them seeming to puff up under full sail as if to announce they too commanded space in the sea.

As an adult, I have dipped my toes in the waters of beaches on both coasts, swum in the glorious clear blue waters off Hawaii and seen the Atlantic from the opposite side of the pond.  Lately, my thoughts about finding new living quarters often drift to a houseboat.  The idea of waking up on the water is intoxicating to me in so many ways.  Ever since I first saw Sleepless in Seattle I’ve coveted the houseboat Tom Hanks lived on but in California, although there are a few, houseboat communities are less prevalent than in other areas, and most likely to come at a far dearer cost.  Consequently, I will probably find myself looking into my backyard at a bright blue double tube blow up pool with an inflatable polka dot seahorse floating across it.

My second husband was an excellent water skier.  Shortly after moving from L.A. to the Bay Area we purchased a ski boat. Among our group of friends could be counted many avid sailors. They skied with us and, in turn, we sailed with them. Never having sailed solo, it happens I am considered a fair hand on a sailboat, able to differentiate fore from aft, and if someone yells “prepare to come about” I will duck, not turn and face the opposite direction.

One free-spirited couple in particular we sailed often with.  For three years, at the time we first met them, they had shared quarters on board their 48′ sailboat in a South San Francisco marina.  Before that, they worked together two years restoring the beautiful old craft.  Wood trim was sanded, stained and varnished to regain its former glory and below deck had been completely gutted. Once rebuilt, a spacious galley was installed, as well as a functioning head, and a queen sized bed.  Under full sail she was an impressive vessel and in the San Francisco Bay, which tended toward chop in smaller boats, the old girl moved through the waves as smoothly as a hot knife through butter.

On a clear summer weekend we were invited to join them for a longer sail which was to take us beyond the Golden Gate bridge, a first for us.  Both feeling exhilarated and I must admit a little trepidatious, we accepted.  Sailing on the Bay, even on the warmest of days, you tuck a windbreaker in your backpack.  Anticipating going under the bridge and into the Pacific I packed an anorak. Cold mornings on the Bay with the chilled wind biting at your skin like lasers will teach you early on to dress in layers and never try to out think the capriciousness of the weather out there.  Fog can drift in while you’re eating a sandwich and you can quickly find yourself invisible, and cold, mind numbing cold.  As a child, I was taught to respect the ocean first, appreciate it second, and enjoy it third.

Along with other water enthusiasts enticed by the already hot sun, we parked in the marina parking lot.  According to our friends, choosing a marina that suits you if your plan is to live on your vessel is paramount. Also, making sure you really enjoy the person you’re going to share space with if you are planning on cohabiting, because below deck can become a microcosmic hell if you are not compatible.

Once on board, we stored our gear below deck and put the food from our cooler in the refrigerator.  Under good wind we made our way out into the Bay around 10:00.  Unusually warm, bathing suits and shorts were comfortable attire.  As the marina faded behind us our captain issued instructions from time to time, but we were mainly left to tilt our heads back into the warm sun and allow the sea breeze to run over us.  It was glorious.

As we approached the bridge the water seemed to get rougher, and the temperature definitely dropped.  It was almost surreal to pass beneath the awesome structure of the bridge rather than passing over it.

Out in the Pacific our participation was needed.  At one point I was handed the wheel while others dealt with the sails.  Plowing into that water under full sail gives you such a sense of the power of the sea and how small we humans are in the scale of things.

After a while finding ourselves in calmer waters the ladies went about the business of plating iced shrimp and crab and a fabulous pasta salad with slices of artisan bread. Too nice to stay below, we put some music on the stereo and joined the men up top.

A huge fog bank creeping in signaled it was time for us to head back.  Going under the bridge once again with the fog on our tails felt like something out of a Stephen King novel.  A fabulous day to write in my memory book.  Last I heard of my friends, they’d pulled up anchor and headed for warmer waters.  Whether they made it or not or are still together, I don’t know. Somehow, so well suited for one another, I like to picture them sailing along azure waters silhouetted in the sunset.

On my bucket list is Santorini, Greece with its beautiful stark white buildings framed on a backdrop of aquamarine.  Known for their tomatoes, this recipe or one’s like it, originated there.

Greek Tomato/Zucchini Fritters (Domatokeftethes)

4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped fine
2 medium zucchini, grated fine
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (mostly white with some green)
4 oz. Feta cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/8 tsp. mint
1/8 tsp. dill
1/8 tsp. oregano
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
Olive oil for frying
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt

Mix all ingredients but flour and oil together in a large bowl. Gradually add flour until mixture forms a thick batter. Form into small, flat patties.

Heat 1/2″ of oil in skillet over med-high heat. Add patties (don’t crowd). Brown on both sides (turning just once) until fully cooked, about 4 mins. per side. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Serve with Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Salad) or dill/yogurt sauce.

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Several weeks ago I was taken to jail. Now, before you get busy baking me a cake with a file in it, this was as a visitor and not for an extended stay. As a note, however, should this come up in the future and you already have your apron on, I lean towards red velvet cake and would prefer a nail file to a metal file in case there isn’t a larcenous manicurist in the adjacent cell. I must say I did rather fancy the jumpsuits, although crossing guard orange is not a particularly good shade on me. Too bad they couldn’t come up with something perhaps slightly more fitted in, say, a deep purple or lime green.

Other than my stint in Soledad for forgetting to put the cheese in my spinach Quiche, this was pretty virgin territory for me. The only record I have acquired thus far is the number of consecutive weeks without eating pickled pigs feet, and I believe it’s being contested by a kosher vegetarian in Des Moines. A dear friend of mine has a nephew currently awaiting trial on burglary charges. Having no relatives other than my friend living in the area, his parents asked if she could pay him a visit. Our names were added to a visitors list, and I was dragged along for moral support.

The lobby area where we checked in was nearly full on our arrival. After showing several forms of I.D. and signing our names we sat next to a man with a shaved head showing maybe one square inch of visible skin lacking ink. He had accessorized his paint by numbers look with a silver chain that stretched from his belt loop, which sat about mid shin, through three earrings hooked on his right ear. In both lobes there were huge circular metal discs that looked to be infected. I made a mental note not to get behind him when going through the metal detector and to check my purse for hand sanitizer.

Not to generalize, but this was a pretty well-traveled looking group. Truthfully, the men weren’t nearly as intimidating as the women. Three young women sitting opposite us may have set an all time record for cramming the most expletives possible into a single paragraph. One girl, the most buff of the three, had apparently gotten a hell of a deal on eye makeup and in her excitement, decided to apply it all the first day.  All three women were wearing what I took to be “jailhouse chic” which consisted of hoodies and pajama bottoms with furry boots.  One leaned over and said something, if possible, even more disgusting then what she’d been mouthing previously. Instantly, she was rewarded with such a hearty punch on her arm that it nearly catapulted her out of her seat resulting in a reprimand from the guard. My friend and I were attempting to make ourselves invisible while only managing to find ourselves about as conspicuous as two rabbis at a Ku Klux Klan rally.

At last they instructed us to place our purses on a conveyor belt and remove all metal and place it in a dish. Ahhh, now this was looking familiar. All I needed was a carry on bag and someone on the P.A. saying “the white zone is for loading and unloading of passengers only”. We straggled towards the end of the line and when it was our turn did as we’d been instructed. My friend went through without issue and was gathering her belongings when it was my turn. Walking through the gates every bell went off. When asked, I removed my belt and walked back through. Still ringing. Damn. Moved to the side, a female officer was summoned who the male guard referred to as Wanda (her parents hit that one on the money), who wanded me so thoroughly I felt like requesting a cigarette. Once again I went through the gate, and once again it went off. Wanda approached me with arms held up, and I said “only if I lead”. Nothing. If this continued Wanda and I would have to pick out china patterns.

After much scratching of heads and hushed discussions it was determined that it was because I was wearing a bra with an underwire. Really? Am I truly the only female to ever pass through those gates who might be wearing such a strange and malevolent device? Finally establishing that despite my sinister outward appearance and penchant for deadly undergarments I was probably harmless and I was allowed into the visiting area.

The inmates were let into the area after being searched by the guards. After a wave from his aunt, a lanky kid looking to be about fourteen sauntered over to our picnic table and straddled the bench. At first glance, not a particularly pretty kid with a gaunt face riddled with acne. If someone demanded a pound of flesh, this boy didn’t have an ounce to spare.  Perhaps down the road, if he continued in his chosen profession, this would work in his favor. It was hard to understand what he was saying because he chewed at his fingernails voraciously, his hand rarely leaving his mouth. Most likely he was terrified, but the bravado was what was showing through. Personally, I can’t think of much worse than losing my freedom. It’s hard for me to grasp why people jeopardize such a privilege, but we all make mistakes, some worse than others so it’s not for me to judge.

A tin of brownies from his aunt was inspected and returned to him to take back to lock up. Before long I’d be spouting things like “rolled up”, “sleeved” and “topped out” and singing “I’ve been working on a chain gang, hu, au”.

Fortunately I was allowed to leave in a timely fashion. I can’t be sure but I believe Wanda winked as I passed her desk.

I want to take a moment to thank the bloggers that have given me awards.  I’ve linked to them on my sidebar.  Forgive me if I didn’t do this in the beginning but I’m dumb as a brick about some of this so still learning.  Please check out their sites when you get a moment, they’re all great!

Tomato Zucchini Bake

1/4 cup EV olive oil
1 onion, sliced thin
6 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
4 small zucchini, sliced thin lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8-10 Basil leaves, chopped
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pour 1/2 the olive oil in the bottom of 12″ oval baking dish or 9 x 13″. Place 1/2 of the sliced onions on bottom of pan. Next place a layer of tomatoes topped with 1/2 of the sliced garlic. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and black pepper. Top with a layer of 1/2 of the zucchini. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Add the other 1/2 sliced tomatoes topped with remaining 1/2 sliced garlic, topped with other 1/2 zucchini. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and pepper. Place other 1/2 sliced onions on top. Evenly distribute chopped bay leaves. Push down with hands. Pour remaining olive oil on top and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake uncovered in oven for 1 hour. Serves 4.

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My other half and I have an interesting pairing of backgrounds being from Canada myself and his roots in Egypt.  Makes for interesting over coffee conversation.  I’ve always had a curiosity for all things Egyptian. If I had one plane ticket left on my bucket list, it would definitely take me in the direction of the Valley of the Kings, and points surrounding.

The desert has always held a certain fascination for me.  Coming from the cold northern regions, the stark landscapes and scruffy foliage are like an alien planet in comparison with the tall pines and craggy rocks of my roots.  I’ve spent many nights camping on the desert floor under the vast panorama of stars overhead, always keeping one eye open for unwelcome company of the reptilian variety joining me in my sleeping bag.

Rick talks of camping trips as a child on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea west of Alexandria with scorpions leaving tracks through the hot sand and heat so intense that even the water of the Mediterranean would cause your skin to sunburn.  The summer months.

From his recollection, the midday meal was served around 2:00 p.m.  After that, most shops and businesses closed their doors for an afternoon nap to avoid the heat, opening again later in the cool of early evening.  Restaurants started dinner service around 9:00 p.m. and stayed open long after those here would have closed their registers and lowered the shades for the night.  We’ve talked of the trip he took by camel to the great pyramids.  That, speaking for myself, would be most incredible experience. 

Mediterranean food, as with many ethnic foods, offers a wide variety of tastes and colors to tempt your palate.  When we were in Paris visiting his mother, we had the opportunity to visit a very fine Tunisian restaurant. I sampled many different flavors and tastes during that evening, bright colors and strange seasonings.  It was wonderful.  His mother shared space with the Parisians for twenty years.  One of the first airline stewardesses and an interpreter for the U.N., she led a very rich and varied life, ending in 2002 in her lovely apartment on the outskirts of Paris, a city that she loved, as did I.

Rick’s Mom and Friend

In Cairo, as Rick tells it, nightlife is vibrant because the heat prohibits a lot of movement during the day.  Coming from a wealthy family, the servants in his house would begin cooking in the cool of the morning.  Breakfast often consisted of fried eggs, falafel, pita or flat bread, accompanied by jams, and heavy cream.  I found it interesting there were no potatoes or side meats as in the states.

Rick’s Home in Cairo

In Cairo itself, there were coffee shops where you could purchase mind jogging shots of Espresso and Shwerma vendors selling fragrant lamb and chicken.  Shwerma, is seasoned meat cooked on a vertical spit.  It is shaved with a sharp knife and served with pita bread and yogurt.  Absolutely delicious.  While in Paris, we walked half the city looking for a restaurant that advertised Shwerma on their menu.  It was a small, unpretentious restaurant, with a mainly ethic patronage.  Towards the back was a table with men reading tea leaves out of overturned cups.  The meal was excellent.  Well worth the wear and tear on my feet.

Cairo, of course, far beyond the perception of Bedouins traversing the desert on camels, is the largest city in Africa, and boasts a population of over 20 million inhabitants.  With its fine hotels, excellent restaurants, and world-renowned museums displaying artifacts from the most ancient of civilizations.  I’m glad I have Rick to allow me see Egypt through his eyes. 

This is recipe that I really enjoy.  Easy and good. 

Zucchini Gratin (Kousa bi Gebna)

2 lbs. zucchini, cut in 1/2″ slices
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1//8 tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Fry onion in oil until translucent. Poach zucchini in boiling water (lightly salted) until just tender but not mushy. Drain well.

In mixing bowl combine eggs, cheese, salt, white pepper, and paprika. Fold in onions and zucchini.

Pour into baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 30-35 mins. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and top is lightly browned. Serve hot with a dollop of plain yogurt (Greek if you can find it!).

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