Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

I do not know if it is exhaustion or some other condition, but my knitting continues to move slowly, much too slowly.   Today I was all set to knit while I sat on the couch after work, but instead I kept falling into a fitful sleep, waking only long enough to watch the Magic lose to the Atlanta Hawks.  I wish I'd slept through that.

While I finished Kink this past weekend, it seemed to have taken forever, and now I am slogging away on the Cat's Paw Scarf.  This will be the last scarf of the season, as the weather is getting warmer and I usually focus on smaller, cooler items - like socks.  I haven't made any real progress on the Spiral Galaxy Socks in at least a week.  If there is such a thing as knitter's quicksand, I am stuck in it.

I committed the innocent mistake of checking out Ravelry, and almost immediately came across this pattern for Rose Garden socks.  I am in love with them, and if only I could finish the five other pairs of socks I have in various states of completion on needles, I would immediately run out to try to find a yarn that comes close to the one that was used here.  I am absolutely crazy about the colorway, and I am a sucker for lace patterns, and this one is a beauty. 

So many projects, so little time. 

I have been closeted in my office, preparing for a trial for too long, it seems, and I was actually relieved to have a break by going to court for some arraignments.  Maybe it's the weather which is as stormy as Charlie Sheen's love life.  It started to clear a little, but at 4:55 PM the sky turned as black as night and another storm hit.  Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening me, and everyone else, as there was a tornado warning a little north of us.

Fortunately, the whole Bohemian Rhapsody passed rather quickly.  My spider friend was totally washed out, though.  I hope she has the fortitude to rebuild.

Things continue to go from bad to worse in Japan, and the Fukushima plutonium leak is being compared to the Chernobyl disaster.  Low levels of radiation have been detected in milk in the city of Spokane, Washington.  The news is uniformly bad, the one exception being about a poll that was conducted here in Florida which indicates that Rick Scott, aka Governor Voldemort, "may be the most unpopular governor in America."  According to Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas "Scott's numbers are so bad that if there was a do-over of the November election, Alex Sink would win by 19 percentage points. Moammar Gadhafi could beat him at this point, if he's checking out asylum options.  Even 20 percent of Republicans who voted for Scott would vote against him now. He is a dead man governing."  That cheered me up considerably, but he can still do a lot of damage in the three years and nine months he has left in office.

On to happier news ... I was extremely pleased and proud to learn that my Number Two Niece has started her own food blog, Yummy Meals Under $20.  She has been my sous chef in the past, and often posts pictures over on Facebook of some darn delicious looking dishes she has prepared.  Cooking and eating (not necessarily in that order) most definitely runs in our family.

Number Two Niece and Number One Son are introduced, 1987

Number Two Niece and her Auntie, after a cooking marathon, 2009

I have started thinking about chicken francese, clam chowder, corn fritters, creamy tomato soup, and whole roast pig.  But that is most definitely another blog post.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Miss Bill - and I'm going to miss Hillary

Here is your Today's Capricorn Horoscope
A new friend who's particularly enchanting will come along, inspiring you to do something you've always wanted to do. Don't even think about refusing.
Compatibility: Gemini
Mood: Energetic
Lucky Color: Silver
Lucky Number: 6
Lucky Time of Day: 8am

My lucky time of day is going to be here in just 10 minutes.  Maybe I should run out and buy a bunch of lottery tickets.  I have never bought a lottery ticket, though, and wouldn't know how to start.  Nor could I make it to the 7-Eleven in time.  Still, I hate to waste a lucky time of day.  But I never engage in any activity that resembles gambling in any way, shape or form, so I'm sorry to say that the moment ... has ... passed.

Just wanted to jump in here and say that today's horoscope was just so wrong.  I was sequestered in my office all day, tearing apart files and preparing for trials.  I met nobody new, unless one counts the non-English speaking gentleman who graciously offered me a shopping cart in Walmart.  And there wasn't enough coffee in the world to bring my mood to energetic. 

And in the news ... the Legislature wants to "split" the Florida Supreme Court into civil and criminal divisions, which will give Governor Voldemort an opportunity to pack the court in such a manner as to cause FDR to go green with envy.  The Gov wants all state employees to submit to random drug screens, regardless of whether their job has safety issues, or there is probable cause, or it was a condition of employment ... meanwhile, the Secretary of The Agency has announced the creation of Three New Statewide Management positions.  I know I saw the word "liason" in there, and I have no idea what the other two highly paid neophytes are supposed to be doing.  I assume their inflated salaries are offsetting part of the raises us field agent types haven't received in over five years.  And gasoline topped out at $3.55 a gallon for REGULAR ... maybe the Gov can remind me exactly why he rejected the Federal money for the high speed rail ... who needs mass transit when you can run up a gas bill resembling the Iraqi war debt?

(CNN) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN's Wolf Blitzer she does not want to serve a second term as secretary of state or run for president of the United States.
I had such high hopes when Hillary announced her candidacy ... here was a candidate I felt I could support.  In the end, I walked into the voting booth (in a manner of speaking - they don't use booths here) and found myself pained by either choice.  Eight years under the misadministration of George W. Bush, and I was looking forward to a new day in America.  Hillary had the experience and the vision, and the ability to carry through.  I cannot help but think that economic recovery could have started long before this.  The years of Bill Clinton's presidency were good years for our family, and I so wanted to recapture that.  Instead, the majority got behind Barack Obama, a very bright man with good intentions, totally unequipped for the job he sought.  Yes young grasshoppers, Jimmy Carter was once a bright young man, a shining hope for the Democratic party, with a fresh new message for America and a lot of heartfelt ambition.

And we all know how that ended, don't we?

I love Little Rock, Arkansas.  We've been going there the last week in June for the past six or seven years, to attend the American Taekwando Association's World Championships.  Taekwando is a very big deal in my household, and in my family.  I am very proud of both my son and my husband, both of my brothers-in-law, my Number Three Niece and Number Four Niece, all of them black belts of varying ranks.  Both my son and my Number Three Niece are certified taekwando instructors.  My husband was the ATA World Champ in his age group for sparring in 2007, and is currently ranked number two in the world for sparring in his age group, 2nd and 3rd degree black belts.  I happen to be a brown belt, not too shabby even though I do fight like a girl.

So we spend a lot of time attending competitions in Florida and Georgia.  The boys compete, and I have a mini-vacation.  We spend time with friends who have also traveled to compete.  The fall nationals are held here in Orlando, at the Walt Disney World of Sports, while the spring nationals are held in Las Vegas.  We made it one year, but it falls out during Tax Season, and it has been too difficult to manage it again.  I can dream ... about Barry Manilow, returning to Mesa Grill, and checking out a lot of other restaurants.  Every Labor Day weekend we spend in Panama City Beach for the Grand Master's Battle on the Beach.  This past January, we also attended the Black Belt Nationals, which are held in Dallas, Texas.  We freakin' DROVE there, stopping overnight in New Orleans each way. 

But my favorite remains Little Rock.  I feel at home there.  I know my way around, where to shop, where to eat, where to stay.  Little Rock loves the ATA and we visitors are very well treated.

And yes, that is the Clinton Museum Store ... one of my "must do" stops every year.  I have been collecting Socks the Cat  and "I Miss Bill" memorabilia for a while now ... and did I mention Little Rock has some of the best 'cue in the world? 

For the "I'm just here for the food" contingent:  I'm feeling completely turned around backwards, as I got the recipe post done before this chatty blog post.  So the dates don't match, but once you taste the braciole, you won't care.  Cory said it was "really good."

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly on Reese Witherspoon's Rustic Nuptials

To anyone controlling the media in the Western Hemisphere: <RANT> I'm so sorry, but I do not care about the news of Reese Witherspoon's "star-studded wedding details" including the fact that "at her nuptials, the star created a rustic ranch fantasyland for her family and A-list friends."  Yes, that was the top headline on the Yahoo Home Page.  The President's upcoming speech on Libya was only number four.  Well, enough of this.  I just switched to Google News as my home page.  Much better - Britney Spears doesn't show up until number 9 of the listed articles.  I can live with that, although maybe she should have come AFTER the story about the major shift in German politics. </RANT>

I have these cute little note cards I picked up at a dollar sale at Michael's, which have a picture of a fifties' style lady with upswept hair and pearl earrings (I always loved when Gracie Allen wore a hat, pearls, and white gloves to go food shopping) and daintily holding a steaming cuppa.  The saying on the cards is deeply profound, at least for my life:  "I am only as strong as the coffee I drink and the hairspray I use."  Oh, if there was ever a day that typified that expression, Monday was that day.  The weather was incredibly ugly, un-Florida-like in the extreme.  Rainy days and Mondays, what a cliche'.  To make it worst, the weatherpersons over at the local station are predicting that this precipitation nation will prevail for the rest of the week.

The view from my backyard

Chronic drizzle, when it's not raining torrents, definitely something to look forward to.  This storm's arrival woke me up at 4:15 Monday morning, with a house-shaking rumble and noise reminiscent of a shuttle landing.  Totally sonic boom-worthy.  The dogs woke up, ran downstairs and barked for King and Country.  They would not shut up.  Neither Rob nor I got anywhere near enough sleep.  I started my first cup of coffee - hot and black, no kidding around at 7:00 AM, no sweetener or milky stuff, no frou-frou mocha happy macchiato frappucino for me before noon.  If I could have poured it directly into my veins, I would have, but had to be content with shkoffing it down as fast as humanly possible.  My spine stiffened, my eyes opened, and I was able to move forward.  Ah ha ha, but the next step was going to take me out of the house, and this kind of weather is famous for it's bad hair-inducing properties.  So I turned to my other source of strength, hairspray, and a lot of it.  Because the bigger the hair, the closer to God.

Aw, crap, that didn't work.  Thanks to the rain whipping hither and yon, an umbrella was not up to the task of keeping my head dry, so I had to wear a hat, which, despite repeated teasing and liberal applications of Stay-Stiff Hairspray for Country Western singers, left my hair flatter than the President's approval numbers.  Worst of all my feet got wet, a feeling I absolutely despise, and I had no choice but to go forward with my trial when all I really wanted to do was rush home, take off the soggy shoes and icky-foot pantyhose, and pull on a nice, dry, warm pair of handknit socks. 

This weather has made me aware of a Terrible Disturbance in the Force.  The birds are disturbed by it.  As I drove to work, I saw a wild turkey walking unsteadily along the sidewalk.  He looked depressed.  His head was drooping, and he looked like something had been chewing on his feathers.  Then I passed an egret walking right down the middle of the road.  I had to drive around the poor fellow.  When I got to the office, I heard an anguished squawk from the sandhill cranes who live in the mini-marshes around the industrial park.  Finally, the spider who lives in my car's back window wiper has been spinning schizophrenic webs.  She is capable of perfect, intricate designs, but lately ... not so much.  The Dark Side has preempted her creative capabilities.  Either that or down came the rain and washed the spider out. 

For the food portion of today's blog, check this out - Cheerios for grown-ups!

Rold Gold's Everything Bagel Pretzel

I am not cooking today.  First of all, I cut my thumb while chopping onions on Sunday, and it hurts.  I can't properly use my office BlackBerry to answer emails because I am temporarily left thumb challenged.  If I accidentally cut my other thumb, I might as well take a week off.  Secondly, I have enough prepared food to feed a small third world nation.  Maybe by tomorrow the boys will eat enough that I will simply have to cook a couple of pounds of pasta or roast a whole pig, but right now I'm not feeling it. 

We cut into the bread pudding tonight, and it made a lovely slice:

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Just want to brag on my kid, who had a grand time at MegaCon, actually getting to meet one of his (and my) all time favorites:

When it was Cory's turn, he went up to him, said "Hello, Mr. Shatner," shook his hand and wished him a happy birthday (my kid is such a mensch!)  This may not seem like much to you, but I could not have done the same thing, as I am painfully shy and have been so my whole life. 

In 1977 or thereabouts, I went to my very first Star Trek convention, which was held in New York City, and where I worked at the time.  If I remember correctly, Leonard Nimoy was scheduled to appear, but I can't remember if I was able to see him.  I do remember being in one of the large ballrooms, and George Takei was chatting with a group of trekkies, not more than 20 feet from where I was standing, looking very friendly and very approachable.  I did not have the nerve to get any closer, and certainly not to ask for an autograph or a photo.

That hasn't changed, despite the passage of years and the acquisition of a law license which requires me, among other things, to stand up in a roomful of people and argue my case.  Somehow it just isn't the same - ask my husband, who, during the Disney Food and Wine Festival, was chatting with Bobby Flay like they were old friends, while I backed away into the shadows.  Or my son, who posed happily next to Wolfgang Puck, while I only got close enough to take the picture.

I'm trying, I really am ... why, just a year or so after missing my opportunity with Bobby Flay, I actually smiled at Ming Tsai as he handed me a plate of food he had prepared.

Speaking of food preparation, I am trying out a smaller deep dish pizza recipe.  I'm thinking maybe I took the whole stuffed pizza concept to an extreme, because there is cheese oozing up and over the crust.  That pizza could get a guest shot on the SyFy network ... well, as it turns out, the pizza was tasty but unwieldy, so I find myself uninspired to share the recipe.  Better luck next time.  Now I've got to clean the oven.

For no particular reason, my favorite subway map:

With this map, I could go anywhere.  It made such perfect sense, was clear and easy to read.  If only Life was like my subway map ...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

All Over the Place

That's today's post - there are so many ideas bouncing around inside my head, I'm not sure where to start.


Star Trekkies: The Next Generation - MegaCon started on Friday, March 25, 2011, at the Orange County Convention Center.  To say that my son has been looking forward to this for a very long time would be a vast understatement.  Sometimes he annoys me a little with his obsession, but the truth is that his father and I created our junior trekkie, and in fact, we took him to his first Star Trek convention when he was around four years old.  So it should have come as no surprise to me when, having decided to dress as the Captain in the alternate universe of "Mirror, Mirror", he patiently and rather cleverly handcrafted that tunic he is wearing from carefully chosen fabrics, decorations, and insignia.  Both of his parents were hardcore Star Trek fans when we met and stayed Star Trek fans through all the years, so I guess Cory's journey into the Star Trek universe was inevitable.  But now that I think of it, food was not a really big part of Star Trek, at least not until Voyager.  You almost never saw the crew eating, and when you did, it was usually at some kind of a state dinner with a lot of aliens eating some really weird stuff.  With Voyager came Neelix and with Neelix came the ship's kitchen ("galley") and regular discussions regarding the care and feeding of Starfleet officers and crew, and with all that came the Star Trek Cookbook.  Recipes include Gagh, Cardassian Style, with Yamok Sauce, Klingon Skull Stew with Tripe, and Leonard Nimoy's Kasha Varnishkas a la Vulcan.  I am not kidding.  The cookbook was written by Ethan Phillips, the actor who played Neelix, and who has written stuff like: "I couldn't sleep at all last night because of a nightmare - Seven of Nine was lost in a five-and-ten."

"My chicken sandwich and coffee. This is my chicken sandwich and coffee!" 

About five years ago, we found ourselves in Las Vegas for the American Taekwando Association Spring Nationals, and of course we had to check out the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton.  And of course I had to buy the book that had both "Star Trek" and "Cookbook" in it's title.  Fortunately, I'm having trouble obtaining most of the ingredients (where does one find "gagh", or "plomeek"?) so I haven't been able to try any of his recipes.  Sorry, Neelix.
UFOs - Unidentified Frozen Objects -   Over the months, I have carefully frozen extra soups and stews and other cooked foods, which will come in very handy when Rob and I head out to Little Rock this summer.  Cory will be staying home, and the boy's gotta eat.  Unfortunately I forgot to label a lot of the freezer containers, so it will be a happy surprise for dinner once it is all defrosted.  In the meantime, both of my freezers are busting at the seams.  It's a race to see what will implode first: my spice cabinet or my freezer.

I Thought This Was a Food Blog -  Besides my favorite chili and a fruity bread pudding, my trip to Publix inspired me to add two other dishes to this weekend's cooking agenda:  beef braciole and a white vegetable pizza.  I approached the produce section with anticipation, but the eggplants are too small, and the okra is too big, so my mother's chopped eggplant and whole fried okra are (still) off the menu this weekend. 

Foreclosure bus tours? - I saw this sign stuck into the grass while driving into the Publix parking lot today.  I imagined riding around and taking stock of other families' heartbreak and embarrassment and was horrified by the thought.  Whose really cruel and stupid idea was a foreclosure bus tour?  What is wrong with this country?  If I saw a bunch of greedy buzzards riding around my neighborhood in a foreclosure tour bus (complete with window curtains, a karaoke machine, and a disco ball, like the really cool tour bus we rode in Korea), I might be inclined to give them the one-finger New York salute.  A long time ago, my mother told me "you can't build happiness on somebody else's misery."  And she was right.  No one should derive pleasure from another's misfortune.  If greedy turkey buzzards didn't all run to snap up those foreclosures, what would the banks do?  Well, they might think twice about getting stuck with all those houses, which means they might work a little harder at cutting a resonable break for the owners who are going through bad times.  Just saying.

The feminist movement whooshed right over this one's head - although I get along with most people, there are a few with whom I do not sing in the same key.  Whatever the reason, these are people that I would rather not have to exchange polite greetings, and I know they share my feelings.  Unfortunately, they all seem to shop in "my" Publix, making for the occasional awkward moment.  This morning was one of them, although I must admit I never expected to see this dude pushing a cart while trotting obediently behind a lady. This male troglodyte person, who happens to be opposing counsel on a case of mine, several months back committed the unpardonable sin of getting in the face of one of the young female case managers, and when I told him not to speak to her that way, he turned on me.  Well, I may be only half the woman I used to be, but my mouth is still the same size and I do not ever put up with some oversized male ego intruding into my personal space and raising his voice to me.  Since that encounter, he scurries away when I enter a room, giving me a big goofy scowl.  Come to think of it, he had the same goofy scowl on his face when he passed me in the Publix produce section.  Something tells me he's going to be moving his business to Winn-Dixie in the near future. 

Rest in peace, dear lady - Geraldine Ferraro, who in 1984 became the first woman vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket, died Saturday in Boston, a family spokeswoman said.

A three-term congresswoman from the New York City borough of Queens, Ferraro catapulted to national prominence in 1984 when she was chosen by presidential nominee Walter Mondale to join his ticket against incumbents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

In the end, Reagan won 49 of 50 states, the largest landslide since Franklin D. Roosevelt's first-re-election over Alf Landon in 1936. But Ferraro had forever sealed her place as trailblazer for women in national politics, laying the path for Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton's historic presidential bid in 2008 and Republican John McCain's choice of a once obscure Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, as his running mate that year.

And here comes my feminist rant, originally posted over on my Facebook page:  It is unbelievable to me that after the trailblazing efforts of this lady, we still have not elected a female president, or even vice president. We talk about racism and are able to point to the amazing changes that have taken place over the past century, the best evidence being the presidency of Barack Obama. Now somebody needs to give sexism a good, swift kick in the nether regions because, with all due respect to Mr. Obama, Hillary Clinton should have won the Democratic nomination for President. It seems a whole bunch of people are terrified at the thought of women in power.

C'est fini Kink!  And it is bee-yoo-tee-ful!

Restaurant ReviewHot Olives, 601 South New York Avenue, Winter Park, Florida, Telephone:  407-629-1030.  They call their food "simple gourmet" but there was nothing simple about my Fried Green Tomato Napoleon, which was set on top of a spicy marinara sauce, layered with sauteed lump crabmeat and dressed with a remoulade.  Rob had their steak special, and one of our friends ordered the Pear and Brie Pork Tenderloin, a grilled tenderloin of pork topped with candied bartlett pears and brie, and served over butternut squash risotto. We started by sharing their signature Hot Olives appetizer, diced black olives and Asiago cheese, breaded and deep fried, and served with a cheese and sweet chili sauce.  Delicious with a glass of chilled chardonnay.  Everyone really enjoyed their food, and I know we'll be going back.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chili Rules

Perfect.  The weather, the blue skies, the grand old buildings in the Kissimmee Historic District.

Top, the historic Osceola County Courthouse and bottom, the newly restored Carson-Bryan House

At the moment of writing this, there are 311,047,635 people in the United States.  Let us assume that one half are adults, and that three-quarters of those adults cook for self or family on a regular basis.  That brings us down to 116,642,863 people.  And let's assume further that 85 percent of those home cooks have a favorite recipe for chili.  Which means there are, at any one time in the United States, approximately 99,146,434 recipes for chili.  Let's call it 100 million, because that base number keeps going up. Go ahead, wrap your head around that: 100 million chili recipes.  Booyah!

I don't know if there is any other food preparation that evokes the kind of emotional response raised by a discussion of what constitutes the best, or most authentic recipe for chili.  Not even barbecue, and that is, you will excuse the expression, a very hot topic.  But there are a lot less people who practice the art of barbecue at home, in part because of the need for specialized equipment. 

On the other hand, anyone can prepare chili at home, using ingredients from your favorite supermarket, and whatever pots and pans you already own.  The other thing is that chili falls into the comfort food category, and most folks have a very personalized view of what brings them comfort.

I speak from long years of experience in the chili arena.  My ultimate comfort chili is the same chili I have been preparing for close to 35 years.  I got the original recipe from the 1975 Doubleday Cookbook, tweeked it just a bit, and have continued to prepare what is, to my mind and taste, the perfect bowl of chili.  Which has not prevented me from trying other recipes, but in the end I always come back to old faithful.

There is nothing "authentic" about old faithful, by the way.  As we all have been told, ad infinitum, "real" chili was born and raised in Texas, most likely around San Antonio, and NEVER includes beans.  So it seems I do not make "real" chili, and ask me if I care.  I like what I make, and so do my boys, and that is why Cory made a specific request for chili. 

I would like to visit San Antonio someday, not necessarily to taste the chili, but to try out their puffy tacos.

I've never been to San Antonio, although I had family living there for forty years.  My Great-Uncle Max and his wife, my Aunt Ella, relocated there from Brooklyn in the early 1920's.  I suppose he viewed it as a business opportunity - he started the Albert Hat Company there - but, romantic that I am, I like to imagine he moved there to get away from his slightly crazy family.  My Uncle Max was a very fine gentleman, and I always enjoyed his too-infrequent visits.  Somehow, when he was part of a gathering of his slightly off-kilter siblings:  my mother, my Aunt Ceil, Uncle Red, and Uncle Abby, they all seemed a little bit more normal.

Seated, left to right: Aunt Ella, her daughter Aline, Aline's husband Mike, Aunt Mildred, Uncle Red. Standing, left to right: Uncle Max, Aunt Ceil, my Uncle Marty, Cousin Marcia, my Pop, Mom, and Aunt Helen.  The date was February 18, 1967, the event was my brother's bar mitzvah.

As I said, I have tried a number of other chili recipes over the years, and have a small list of favorites in addition to old faithful.  Top of that list is something called Kickin' Chili from Emeril's Potluck Cookbook.  If I didn't already have an absolute favorite, this would be Number One on my list. Four bottles of dark beer go into that recipe (wheeeee!) and when I can get it, I prefer to use Turbodog. I also really like the White Chili recipe from Better Homes and Gardens' Crockery Cookbook (more of a soup than a stew, but really tasty), and Nigella Lawson's Quick Chili from Nigella Express.

Besides the comfort factor, the great thing about chili is that it makes a perfect dish for entertaining.  As a much younger married woman, anytime I planned on feeding a crowd, my menu included chili.  It also included my baked ziti and sausage and peppers.  Kind of an entertaining holy trinity.  I might have a lot of other dishes, variety being the spice of life and all that jazz, but the core menu featured those three. 

And now ... a Chili Story.  I should make my friend Mark tell this story, but here goes:  I was going to throw a baby shower for my friend Sandy, Mark's wife, who was pregnant with their first child.  At the time, Rob and I lived in a rather nice one bedroom apartment in Howard Beach with our cats Ira and Minerva.  Because this was going to be group of around 10 women, rather than a crowd of 35 (the number we'd invited to our apartment shortly after we married in 1978), I concentrated my menu on the baked ziti and sausage and peppers.  Mark's part in this little surprise was to get Sandy to our apartment, and he did so by telling her they had been invited over to dinner, and I was going to make my famous chili.  He had assumed, based on past experience, that I was going to include chili on the menu, but in another example of  "deviation is treason," I let creativity trump consistency.

The hat was a hit, and I know Sandy enjoyed the shower, but there was always that lingering disappointment over the lack of chili.  Lingered for 30 years or so ... seriously, I have no idea why it took so long, but I finally did make it up to Sandy a few years ago, when she and Mark, and Kathy and Alan, were guests at our house here in Florida.  Chili was very definitely on the menu.

Left to right: Rob, Alan, Sandy, Kathy, me, and Mark

Chili is a glorious enigma.  It is a perfect stand alone dish.  Chili purists can and do enjoy it without fuss, fanfare, or accompaniments.  At the same time, a perfect bowl of chili makes the ideal canvas for presentation of many other flavors.  Rice is nice, but I like to go whole hog with macaroni and cheese, cornbread (or corn casserole), homemade guacamole, and an array of toppings like lettuce, tomato, onion, grated cheese, sour cream, black olives, and a big bottle of Tabasco.

We're going on a chili journey this weekend!  Beans and all.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Take the "A" Train

Interior of Far Rockaway "A" train, 1969

I have never understood my fascination with the New York City Subway.  I started riding the subway in the late sixties, taking a torturous route that involved a three mile walk from North Woodmere to Central Avenue in Cedarhurst, a bus trip from Cedarhurst to the last stop in front of the Queens Borough Public Library, and then walked another few blocks to the Far Rockaway subway station, the last stop on the "A" train.  I didn't ride it often, but it was always a grand adventure.  The "A" train is elevated all along the Rockaway peninsula, and over Jamaica Bay into Broad Channel and Howard Beach, and I stared out the windows the whole way.  I had grown up in a very protected, insular environment and I was beginning to see the rest of the world, or at least, the rest of the city I'd been born in.  Once the train went underground at Grant Avenue, the view was even more fascinating.  Dark, mysterious tunnels, flashing lights, the shrieking of metal on metal, and best of all, the passages through dimly lit abandoned stations.  I never tired of it, even when I started commuting to the city on a daily basis.  Working first on Sixth Avenue near Rockefeller Center, and then later on Wall Street, I had the opportunity to travel on all different lines.  With my subway map in hand and a pocketful of tokens, I was fearless.  I never drove in Manhattan; I always took the subway and then walked.  The last time I rode the subway was in 2002.  We had traveled from Florida to New Jersey for Number Three Niece's Bat Mitzvah, and then headed over to New York and Long Island for a few days.  We rode from midtown down to the IRT Wall Street Station and walked all the way back, drinking in the street sights and the architecture.The subway was as fascinating as it had always been, and I especially enjoyed sharing the ride with my then 15 year old son.  I'm hopeless, I know, but I still spend a lot of internet time perusing sites that celebrate the subway, like nycsubway, and Forgotten NY

My parents never took mass transit; it was a point of honor that they drove their own cars.  Never mind that my mother had no sense of direction and got heart palpitations when she drove.  That was after my brother, then about age six, fell out of her sky-blue Rambler onto busy Flatbush Avenue.  Even before I got my driver's license, she had severely curtailed her driving, and once I was licensed, she never drove again.

According to my Pop, he learned to drive on a two-ton Mac truck, hauling coal for his father's business.  Pop was a character, and the tale may well be apocryphal, as he claimed to have been just 14 years old.  That would have been around 1922, and driver's licenses were not too carefully regulated, so I suppose it could be true.  There is no question that he loved driving, and he loved cars.  He took meticulous care of each and every one of them, spending a relaxing Sunday listening to the radio while hand simonizing one of the 1962 cars my parents owned at the time - a lipstick-red Chevy Impala and a fawn-colored Cadillac with fins that stretch halfway down the block.  He knew his way around Brooklyn "like the back of his hand", and had a well-refined sense of direction which I fortunately inherited.  But in all our discussions about the old days in Brooklyn, he never once mentioned to me riding the subway, or a bus, or even a trolley.  Nor did he ever ride on the Long Island Railroad.  In fact, the only family member of that generation who rode the LIRR was my great-Uncle Red, and that was only when he somehow divined that his little sister, my mother, had made chopped eggplant.  It was my mother's story that he could somehow smell when she prepared it, and she stuck to it.  Since he lived in Brooklyn and we had moved to Long Island, that was a pretty good trick, but my uncle was an interesting man and my mother used very sharp white onions in her eggplant.  Uncle Red - actually his name was Irving - had been born in Russia in 1899, and came to the United States with his older brother, my great-Uncle Max, a sister Rose who died long before I was born, and their mother, Chasie, for whom I am named, sometime around 1904.  He played music by ear, and had the most wonderful sense of humor.  He always called me "Cinderelder" and although we did not see him all that often, my memories of him are sharp and happy.  When I was about seven years old, he gave me a gold Star of David, with the turquoise enamel center, and I have worn it ever since.
Pop and Mom, Uncle Red, Aunt Mildred (his wife) and my Aunt Anna (I'm guessing here). Probably taken sometime during the late forties. 

I haven't made chopped eggplant in years. Although I often think about chopped liver and chopped herring, I hadn't thought about chopped eggplant for a very long time until my cousin Cary contacted me from California, asking if I had the recipe for the chopped eggplant his mother used to make.  Since our mothers were sisters, we assume they both prepared the same recipe, or at least close enough not to matter.  I gave him the recipe, and asked if he had the requisite double blade hand chopper and wooden chopping bowl with which to prepare it.  I was never able to find those very old-fashioned items in any store, and although I faked it over the years using a single blade chopper and a metal bowl, the eggplant never came out as good as Mom's, because I couldn't get the right consistency and degree of emulsification from adding the oil at the end.

"No, I don't," he wrote back.  "I guess I'll try using the food processor." 

Genius.  My cousin is a genius.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hungarian Rhapsody

Last night, Bizarre Foods Foods visited Hungary.  I was looking forward to Andrew Zimmern discussing the finer points of chicken paprikas, szekely gulyas, and galuska, but instead he spent all but the last 5 minutes of the show scarfing down blood, guts, and reproductive organs.  His last stop was to the Jewish quarter in Budapest, and that was very nice.  Almost worth sitting through the first 55 minutes of his rhapsodizing about pig intestines and bull penis. For me, the episode improved immeasurably when became all misty-eyed about gefilte fish, explaining how after his grandma died it became his responsibility to prepare the gefilte fish for family holiday meals.

I love gefilte fish, but I realized a long time ago that it is an acquired taste.  My mother never made her own gefilte fish, and like blintzes, it is a traditional Jewish dish that I simply never learned to make.  My mother-in- law makes her own blintzes and they are the best I've ever eaten, but to date I have never attempted them myself.  All but the youngest of my nieces have, at one time or another, assisted their grandmother in making those divine blintzes.  I may have to request a cooking lesson sometime in the future.

This year the Jewish holiday of Passover runs from April 18 to April 26, which means the first night of Passover is on Sunday, April 17.  And that means I should be able to manage preparing food for a first night seder.  I have ideas that involve gefilte fish, chopped liver, and brisket.  Perhaps some Cornish hens.  I am a staunch traditionalist when it comes to holiday food.  The best example of this was Thanksgiving of 2000, which we spent at the Buccaneer resort in St. Croix with friends and their children.  All the other adults, and my son Cory, who was thirteen at the time, enjoyed the warm water spiny lobsters.  I ate the turkey dinner, which was pretty darn good.  The thought of not having some turkey on Thanksgiving was mind-blowing to me.  Besides, I ordered the lobster the next night.  So did Cory.  Come to think of it, he ate lobster every night we were there.

Thanksgiving 2000.  The first in a series of spiny lobster-thons.

That was a crazy trip.  We had to fly in a plane, from Puerto Rico to St. Croix, that was so small, I dubbed it a Ford Expedition with wings.  The worst moment of the trip was when the airline employees had to ask us our weight, so as not to overload the Flying Ford.  This inquiry was made in public, and back in those days I never told anyone what I weighed, including my husband.  I was so embarrassed I shaved off a few pounds, and then spent the entire flight terrified that we were going to crash because of my silly vanity.

Of all the Jewish holidays, none is more tradition-bound than Passover.  The entire holiday is about the food.  Everything we eat is deeply symbolic.  So while I do not keep a kosher home, nor do I clear my home of chametz (leavened food) prior to Passover, what I put out on my table is de rigueur.  In addition to gefilte fish and chicken soup with knaidlach and charoses for the matzoh, there has to be a poultry dish as one of the entrees.  Passover is a good time for Cornish hens, since I love them but can't eat them at Thanksgiving.  Gotta have turkey.

Congregation Shalom Aleichem Passover Seder, 1994

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Today I went into Publix for Pupperoni and animal crackers, and came out with a bone-in pork loin, a head of cauliflower, and three baby eggplants.  The pork loins are almost always well priced, and if I don't want to roast the whole piece, I can cut it into four or five nice chops for a lot less than if I bought the chops already cut.  I decided to marinate the loin in a mixture of thick teriyaki glaze, orange juice, orange peel, the orange supremes (here is a really good explanation of how to supreme an orange), garlic (fresh and granulated) and a few other things.  It is in the refrigerator now, and I'm going to let it sit overnight and roast it tomorrow.  Assuming it works out okay, I'll take pictures and share the recipe. (It worked out great, and here's the link for the recipe,)

I love pork loin, both bone-in and boneless.  (I told you I didn't keep kosher.) Not so much the tenderloin, which is a much narrower piece of meat which dries out much too easily, but the wider, meatier loin.  Pork can take on almost any seasoning that works well with chicken, which makes it a lot more versatile than beef or lamb.  Pork works well with fruit, with curry, with Asian flavors, with sauerkraut, with Mediterranean herbs - I love the versatility, and the ease of preparation.  Stuffing a deboned pork loin is deceptively simple.  My favorite version uses dried plums (prunes to us old folk) and dried apricots, soaked in brandy or fruity liquor.  Rob's dad is crazy about that one.  When I see a beautiful cryovac pork loin at one of the warehouses, I'm likely to buy it, halve it, and get two glorious big family meals out of it.

Just not for Passover.

There was also a BOGO on Pepperidge Farm swirl breads, so I picked up two of the raisin swirls and decided to make a bread pudding.  I have a couple of excellent recipes I've made before, but I want to work with some different ingredients, inspired by a noodle kugel recipe which uses fruit cocktail, and a technique my Aunt Ceil used for making a delicious quiche.  Maybe tomorrow evening, maybe this weekend.  I have a couple of big trials coming up, and I'm going to have to plan my cooking around my trial preparation.  And then plan my knitting around my cooking.  That Kink scarf is so close to completion, just in time to put it away for the warm weather.

One other thing I would really like to do this weekend is head over to the AAA office and work on planning Rob's birthday cruise.  No way I could keep it a surprise, so I told him about my plan, and I do believe he was quite pleased.  This is one of those "special" birthdays that deserves celebration.  It is the least I can do for the very best husband in the world.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

No Laughing Matter

Mimi Sheraton, the former food critic for the New York Times came to mind this morning as I was reading the Sunday newspapers - online, of course.  Thank you, Al Gore for inventing the internet, because I surely don't miss newsprint.  About 25 years ago I developed a sensitivity to the ink on newspapers, and if I wanted to read the Times, the New York Daily News, Newsday, or the Orlando Sentinel, I had to turn the pages while holding a piece of paper towel.

I had just finished making breakfast for my boys.  Boudin, paprika onions and peppers, sunnyside up eggs, and artisinal roasted garlic bread, handsliced and toasted.  The boudin was a new experience, part of my food haul from Walmart, and the boys pronounced it "different, but very good." 

Back at the computer to read the Times, I was saddened beyond words by the headlines, especially these two:

"U.S. and Allies Strike Libya - Qaddafi Pledges ‘Long War’ as Allies Pursue Air Assault on Libya"

"Japan Finds Tainted Food Up to 90 Miles From Nuclear Sites"

I am a child of the sixties, when the war in Vietnam dominated our thoughts and our headlines.  Since September 11, I have watched in horror as our children were sent overseas to fight and to die.  Don't get me started about Iraq.  And as far as Afghanistan, it seems we did not learn from the lessons the Russians had painfully discovered.  I apologize if this offends anyone, but on September 12, 2001, we should have carpet-bombed Afghanistan.  End of Osama bin Ladin, end of Al Qaeda.  End of discussion.

But, in a deja vu dance I'd rather not watch, our country has dragged on fighting in Afghanistan, fighting in Iraq, and poking our nose into other places around the world.  I fear we have been spoiling for a fight the last month or so, since civil wars have broken out in Middle Eastern countries with whom we have a less-than-cordial relationship.  My fear became reality with this morning's headline.  And my concern, my only concern, is for our children, our young men and women who have been and will continue to be deployed to foreign countries to fight and die.

So Mimi Sheraton came to mind when I momentarily flashed back to something she had written in her book "From My Mother's Kitchen", about growing up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn in the 1930's, and how the newspapers were delivered to the door - "and what a pile of newspapers it was, for on Sunday, to get all the comics, we had the Brooklyn Eagle, the Herald Tribune, the Sunday News, the Journal-American, and the Sunday Mirror."  But here is the part of the article that popped up in my head as I read those electronic headlines: "we also had the New York Times, but in those days that was a paper strictly for adults and no laughing matter."

No laughing matter, indeed.  It seems that we have not learned from the past, and that is a tragedy because we are destroying the lives of our best and brightest without good reason or rhyme.  In my line of work, I meet many families that have been torn apart because of a parent's mental illness or drug addiction.  For too many of those parents, the roots of their illness go back to their participation in a war, or time spent in the military.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is no joke.  Losing a limb, or one's eyesight, spending life in a wheelchair or in a burn unit ... why do we let this happen to our children?  Forty years after Richard Nixon brought our troops home from Vietnam, we are still sending them back out.  Why?

This has gotten much too serious ... let me lighten things up a bit.  Today is baking day at Casa de Rothfeld.  I'm not sure how much I'll get done, but I can assure you I will take pictures and post recipes on our companion blog.  Almost forgot to take a picture of the boudin breakfast platter, and was all ready to serve it up to the boys, and Rob says, "aren't you going to take a picture of it?"  Ack!  I had really forgotten.  Great food blogger, eh?  And speaking of food bloggers, I just added the BA (Bon Appetit) Foodist Blog to my blog list (look at the right column of this page for my food blog list, a couple of foodie polls, and other useful gadgets).  All I can say is that Andrew Knowlton does a lot better in print than in his much-too-frequent appearances on Food Network.

Back to Mimi Sheraton - thinking of her book, which is half cookbook and half family reminiscences, reminded me that many of the cookbooks I still love dearly, and from which I learned so much, are out of print!  And not, I might add, available electronically.  I guess that makes my cookbook library, which has somehow expanded to occupy almost every room in this house, a very valuable collection.  Who woulda thunk it?  My very first cookbook was The Joy of Cooking, an engagement present from an adult cousin.  I was thrilled; my mother was miffed as she considered anything other than a tidy check or a complete set of Farberware pots to be "cheap."  Mom was a mercenary.

Betty Crocker's Chinese CookbookFrom My Mother's Kitchen: Recipes and ReminiscencesMaida Heatter's Book of Great CookiesEat This...It'll Make You Feel Better!: Mamma's Italian Home Cooking and Other Favorites of Family and Friends

I realize that celebrity chefs have taken over the cookbook market, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.  On the contrary, I am very happy to place Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Paula Deen, and Ina Garten on the shelves next to my old favorites.  But I'm happier still to keep those oldies safe and sound, because those memories are special.  Emeril's crawfish etouffee' and Bobby's unique tamales are outrageously good, but Mimi Sheraton's mother's recipe for chicken fricassee with meatballs evokes memories of those unscheduled Sunday visits to my Uncle Abby (pronounced "Ah-bee", short for Abraham) and Aunt Rose's apartment in Brooklyn.  We always ate out on the weekend, but afterwards my parents liked to drop in on relatives.    No one called ahead in those days.  My Aunt Rose always had food on the stove, because we were not the only ones to stop by. And she always offered her chicken fricassee, which, I am sorry to say, I never got to taste because we always ate ahead of time.   I can only imagine that Mimi Sheraton's recipe comes close to Aunt Rose's.  Which means it must have been simply wonderful.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cognitive Overload

This is a lovely day.  See how blue the sky is in this view from my backyard:

So lovely that I did not mind leaving the house at 6:30 this morning to head to the Juvenile Justice Center in Orlando.  I did not mind that I had weekend duty.  I did not mind the drive.  I opened the windows and enjoyed the clear air.  I had a very pleasant child protective investigator who had contacted me yesterday and emailed her petition, so we were signed, sealed, delivered and ready to go.  There was a rather nice judge on the bench.  I have no idea who he is.  I looked for him over at the NINJA (Ninth Judicial Circuit) site, but did not see anyone there who looked like him.  Actually, I initially thought he must be the IT guy, checking on the electronics or something behind the bench.  No one called him by name, but no one jumped up and accused him of impersonating a judge, so I'm guessing the order he signed is legal.

I haven't received a call yet for any Sunday shelters, but I have both cellphone ringers on, so if the inevitable happens, I'll be able to hear it.  I normally keep the ringers off because I am in-and-out of court, and when I'm not ... well, I hate the phone and will not willingly use it if I can use email instead.  Right now my office BlackBerry is set for a rather aggressive version of "Fur Elise" (there should be an umlaut over the "u" but I have no idea how to make it happen) while my personal iPhone is set to belt out "Who Are You" by The Who.  I agree, CSI hasn't been the same since William Petersen left.

On the way back, I did something absolutely radical.  I could never do it if my husband or son were around ... I planned my trip back so I would pass the Walmart on Sand Lake Road, then pulled into their parking lot and DID MY SATURDAY FOOD SHOPPING THERE!  I can't remember the last time I did that.  I'm not sure I ever have done that before.  Walking into Walmart usually causes cognitive overload.  The store closest to my office, where I run in on occasional lunch hours to pick up odds and ends, is avoided by the rest of my family.  Too crowded for them, and English is not the primary language.  I speak a sort of fractured Spanish that lets me get by, but my husband and son do not.  Also too touristy for them, as it is on the main road from the Florida Turnpike to Disneyworld.

It was still pretty early in the morning, so the crowds weren't bad, the lines were light, and the shelves were crazy good stocked.  So many choices.  Cans, bottles, boxes in a dazzling display of form and color.  For one brief moment the synapses in my brain flaired from cognitive overload.  Cowabunga, dudes!  I got it under control and began a stately stroll through all of the aisles, the produce section, the seafood counter and freezer, the city block of meats and poultry.  It was grand.  I picked up stuff I needed at better prices than I can get elsewhere, and I also found stuff I haven't seen anywhere else.

Here's the weekend's cooking:  Kielbasa Lentil Soup, Mussels in Wine Sauce, Green Velvet Cupcakes and Hamantaschen.  The soup's on now, and the rest is planned for tomorrow. 

There was one more item that I got at Walmart's that I wouldn't have been able to find at Publix.

Yup, that's a stroller for Teena.  I have been wanting to get one for years, since my beloved Tuffy got too old to keep up with me on our walks.  We've already tested it in the house, and she likes being "driven" around.  I can still walk the boys, Woody and Indy, on separate leashes while pushing my baby girl in the stroller.

Soup's done. The recipe can be found on our companion blog, part of the March 19, 2011 entry.  Please enjoy!

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

I'm Capricorn, I Worry

"Capricorns worry like no other sign. You can literally make yourself sick. Any illness you suffer is probably stress-induced, a result of holding too much inside or being too hard on yourself. Caps are prone to obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and addictions, like Capricorn Kate Moss."

Kate Moss?  What about Richard Nixon?  Mel Gibson, Joseph Stalin, J.D. Salinger?  Hermann Goering?  Mao Tse Tung?  You got addictions?  We've got Elvis Presley.  You want to talk obsessive-compulsive?  How about J. Edgar Hoover?  Howard Hughes?

The nice thing about being a depressed, obsessive-compulsive worrier is that when it turns out that the situation you are worried about is not nearly as dire as anticipated, that sigh of relief is worth all the money in the world.  Until next time, anyway.  Because we Cappies always have something to worry about.  If we don't have something, we find it.  Search it out.  Dig for it.  Imagine it.

So it turns out the auto da fe' was unnecessary, and all my worry with it's accompanying gastric disturbances and eye-piercing headaches, was for naught.  Great!  Let's move on then ...

The Spiral Galaxy sock is coming along nicely, nicely:

. . . and the Kink scarf is almost done.  I've discovered the Donovan Creed crime series, written by John Locke - I'm not making this up, that is his name, or at least his nom de plume.  I've zipped through his first three books, and then veered off into a completely new genre for me - vampire detectives. And I'm thinking about food.  There are still lovely leftovers, including a styrofoam container filled with curried goat.  I did not prepare the curried goat, nor have I tasted it.  My husband has a number of clients from foreign countries, and some of them are unfailingly gracious.  As a result, we are often the lucky recipients of Russian chocolates and wines, hand hooked rugs, and homemade curried goat.  I really would like to try the goat - after all, I got brave enough to try alligator this past year, and then there was the incident with the frog's legs - but my husband has advised me, through the tears streaming down his face, that the curry was hot.  Very hot.  Incendiary.  Which did it for me.  No goat, sadly enough.  At least not the curried goat prepared with loving hands by someone's dear old Bangladeshi mom.  Just for once I wish I had an asbestos palate. 

I still have some of the goat available to photograph.  The smell wafting out from the box is intoxicating.  You can see the rich curry color from the sauce.  Bangladeshi Mom also provided a container of cooked basmati rice, and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.  I know my family has been enjoying it, bones and all.

The incident with the frog's legs took place at the Cock 'n Bull Restaurant in Lahaska, Pennsylvania.  We were with our friends Vicki and Dan, and their daughter Mandy.  My son Cory was a toddler, and Mandy must have been all of 7 or 8 at the time.  We wanted to introduce our friends to the buffet there because we'd had so many wonderful meals over the years, off the menu, at the King Henry Feast, and the weekend buffet.  The food was incredible.  And I thought those were the sweetest, most tender chicken wings I'd ever eaten.  You know where this is going, right?

Incidentally, if anybody has a recipe for the Cock 'n Bull apple dumpling with that incomparable vanilla sauce, please share it with me.  I've been dreaming about them for over 30 years.


Since I brought up Vicki and Dan, I should tell you that Vicki has been one of my best - maybe "the" best - cooking buddy I've had throughout my life.  I met Vicki when we were assigned to be suitemates in DuBois Hall at SUNY New Paltz.  That was 1971, and we've been friends ever since.  We've also been sharing recipes since that time, and have learned a lot from each other.  We both got married at about the same time - Rob and I in 1974 (and 1978), and Vicki and Dan in 1975.  Back then, our favorite form of entertainment was to visit each other's homes and share a meal.  I still think of this as Vicki's signature recipe.  It is so simple, and so good and it never goes out of style.


 Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.