Friday, October 30, 2009

Easy Halloween Night Dinner: Warm and Creamy Mac and Cheese

I'll be too busy to post anything tomorrow, so I'm posting double-duty today.

If you want an easy dinner for Halloween night, assemble this ahead and bake to serve before (or after) a night of trick-or-treating. It will chase away the chill and just might keep the little goblins from diving immediately into their stash of goodies (maybe not).

To attempt to counter the affects of this candy-laden evening, you can add a bit more nutrition by using whole-grain pasta and lower-fat dairy products. Just as good...

Warm and Creamy Mac & Cheese

350 degrees F
Serves a scary house-full

  • 1 lb. macaroni, cooked al dente and drained(I like Prince's "Elbows for Casseroles")
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded cheddar
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded monterey jack or Mexican blend cheese
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 c. seasoned bread crumbs

Cook macaroni according to package directions, to the al dente stage.

In large saucepan, melt butter. Add 1/2 cup of the milk and the flour, stir until smooth. Whiskin the rest of the milk and ring to a boil over medium-low heat. Let it bubble for one minute. Stir in cheeses and a few grinds of black pepper. Continue to cook, stirring to prevent scorching, on low heat for three minutes more.

Spray a 9x13 glass baking dish (or larger casserole dish). Place drained pasta in baking dish and pour cheese mixture over top. Mix well. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Spray top of bread crumbs with cooking spray or drizzle a little melted butter over top.

Bake for half an hour or until bread crumbs begin to brown and cheese sauce is bubbling. Let it sit for five or ten minutes after removing from oven.

Add a tossed salad and a whole-wheat roll, and dinner's done!

Photo credit:

Cabbage Night

When I was a kid in 1960s Saratoga Springs, the night before Halloween was called Cabbage Night. Older kids and teenagers would leave the house armed with rolls of toilet paper, dozens of eggs, and shaving cream. Parents hesitantly allowed them go, with the diluted warning “Don’t get in to trouble!” The next morning, streamers of toilet paper were draped from the branches of trees. Car windows sported smashed eggs, the shells shattered and glued in runny transparency. Shaving cream, as if whipped graffiti, personalized the transgression. Jack-o-lanterns were violently smashed by the curb. (Smart parents pulled their pumpkins in before the tricksters went out for the night.) I remember, as a kid, seeing the remains of victimized pumpkins, and mourning for them. I tried not to look, to avert my eyes from the grisly reality that people do such things. It was as if someone had entered my home and chopped my Christmas tree in half. It was wrong.
Cabbage Night was something to be gotten through. I am, to this day, relieved when it is over.

Photo image:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Jack"-O-Lanterns and Applesauce Spice Pound Cake

It was a good night last night. We ordered Chinese take-out, Katie and Jeff carved pumpkins, and I baked a spicy cake. Then we watched our very first movie from Netflix. All in all, for a Wednesday night, we had a good time.

These were no ordinary pumpkins like the ones we carved when I was a kid. No, these pumpkins were elaborate, carved from templates and more like artwork than jack-o-lanterns. But jack-o-lanterns they were when lit with real candles and perched under a clouded night sky on the front porch. Katie carved “Jack” from The Nightmare Before Christmas” and Jeff carved a frightening scarecrow silhouetted by the moon. Henry’s pumpkin will be carved when his dad is home this weekend, and it will be something simple like Casper the Ghost, or the standard triangle eyes and nose and jagged mouth. This time of year has always been enjoyable for my family, and I see that the tradition will continue as Henry experiences his second Halloween.

A Halloween birthday is special. My mother-in-law Marylou shares her birthday with this ghoulish holiday, as does our friend, baby Julia. I’m making a special first-birthday cake for little Julia this weekend, and I searched the Internet for a good recipe. Julia’s mom Rebekah grew up in the same neighborhood as my kids, and I am very fond of her. Rebekah and her husband asked me to bake Julia’s first birthday cake (an honor!) and requested something seasonal. Online, I found a number of versions of this recipe for Applesauce Spice Pound Cake and decided to go with it. It’s simple, with a yellow cake mix as its base, but fancified with applesauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. The batter was so pretty and as it baked the warmth of the spices filled the air. It came out beautifully and I can’t wait to bake this again for my own family. It would be great with a cream cheese, butter cream, or browned butter frosting.

This all mixes up in one bowl and you can have it in the oven in ten minutes. I baked layers but the original recipe calls for a bundt or tube pan. Eight-inch layers took about 35 minutes until they tested done. A bundt or tube pan will take about 50 minutes.

Applesauce Spice Pound Cake

  • 1 yellow cake mix

  • 1 box vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ginger

  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 cup applesauce

  • 4 eggs

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil

  • Optional: ½ cup chopped walnuts; ½ cup raisins (I left these out for a baby’s birthday cake).

In large mixing bowl, stir together cake mix, pudding mix, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
Add applesauce, eggs, and vegetable oil to dry mixture. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Stir in nuts and raisins if using. Pour into prepared pans (greased and floured for bundt, greased and lined with parchment or wax paper for layers).

Bake in 350 degree F oven until cake tests done (about 35 minutes for layers or 50 minutes for bundt – test for doneness: toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; middle of cake bounces back when pressed lightly and cake begins to shrink from edge of pan.)

Cool in pans for half an hour. Remove from pans and continue cooling on wire rack. Frost with a complimentary frosting like cream cheese, buttercream, or browned butter.

Photo credit:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Autumn Salad, NPR, and Choosing the Right Apple

It's good to share, and today I share with you one of my favorite food blogs. It comes from NPR's Lynn Rossetto Kasper who hosts a radio show of the same name, "The Splendid Table." Once a week I receive a delicious message via email with a new recipe. This week Lynn offers "Romaine Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Apple, and Spiced Pecans." I immediately thought of you, my sixteen registered readers (and all of you who drop by for a visit) and decided that it is time to share. Note: the beautiful painting of a cranberry bog posted with this entry is by Johanna Bohoy, linked below.

Back to the luscious salad: Lynn credits "Cook's Illustrated" and "America's Test Kitchen" with this recipe, and adds her own words (be sure to see her tips for choosing apples at the bottom):

"A tart cranberry dressing, slivers of Granny Smith apples, cheddar with snap, and lots of crunch from the pecans — this is autumn in a bowl. Jockey this salad to suit the moment. For instance, store-bought chicken is just fine, or leave the chicken out entirely. If time isn't there for the spiced pecans, use whatever nut you like and sprinkle a little of the spice over the greens.

Reprinted with permission from More Best Recipes by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen. Copyright © 2009 by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated. Published by America's Test Kitchen, 2009, Brookline, MA.
Serves 4

Raspberry vinegar gives this dressing a distinct fruity flavor; however, red wine vinegar can be substituted. If the dressing seems too thick, thin it out with additional cranberry juice or water. "

Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette:
• 1/4 cup cranberry juice
• 1/4 cup dried cranberries
• 1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
• 1 medium shallot, peeled
• 1 small garlic clove, peeled
• 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• Salt and ground black pepper
• 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
• Salt and ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1 large head romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces (about 10 cups)
• 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced thin
• 1/2 recipe Spiced Pecans (recipe follows)
• 1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
• 1/4 cup dried cranberries

1. For the Vinaigrette: Combine the cranberry juice and dried cranberries in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high power until hot, about 1 minute. Process the hot cranberry mixture, vinegar, shallot, garlic, thyme, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a blender until the shallot and garlic are finely chopped, about 15 seconds. With the blender running, add the oil and continue to process until smooth and emulsified, about 15 seconds.

2. For the Salad: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken and cook until browned on one side, about 3 minutes.

3. Flip the chicken over, add 1/2 cup water, and cover. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until the thickest part of the chicken registers 160 to 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Transfer to a carving board and cool slightly.

4. Toss the lettuce, cheddar, apple, pecans, onion, and dried cranberries with 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Divide the salad among individual plates. Slice the chicken on the bias and arrange over the greens. Spoon the remaining vinaigrette over the chicken or pass separately. Serve immediately.

Makes about 2 cups
These nuts can be stored in a zipper-lock bag at room temperature for up to 1 week. If adding to a salad, be sure to shake off any extra sugar first.

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
• 2 cups pecan halves
• 1 tablespoon sugar

1. Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, then stir in the pecans. Toast the nuts, stirring often, until the color of the nuts deepens slightly, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, toss with the sugar, then spread out on a plate to cool.


• Coarsely crushed salted almonds could be substituted for the pecans.
• Other cheeses can stand in for the cheddar. Experiment. Try crumbled blue cheeses, feta, Sardo, Gouda, or a firm and crumbly chevre.
• A bowl of butternut squash soup would be good with this, too.
• Cider is the best thing to drink with this supper — sweet for the kids, hard cider for the grown ups. With only about 4% alcohol, you'll still be in fine shape to help with homework.


If you have any doubt about how the heirloom movement and it's accompanying concept of "grow for taste, not just looks" has affected what's in the market, take a look at the apple selection. Granted, all the varieties aren't to be found everywhere, but more choices show up each year. To figure out what to do with each kind, see if this guide helps. Each of these varieties has distinctive character.


Firm Apples for Pie, Cobblers, etc: Chestnut Crab (a personal favorite), Connell Red, Fireside, Granny Smith (the great stalwart tart cooking apple), Haralson (another trusty tart pie apple), Keepsake, Liberty, Northern and Prairie Spy (two additional tart stalwarts), Regent, and Rhode Island Greening (another old time tart gem).

Chunky Apples for Pie, Sauce and Baking Whole: Baldwin, Cortland, Fuji, Green Pippin, Honeycrisp (exceptional flavor and texture), Hubbardston Nonesuch, Ida Red, Ozark Gold, Paula Red, Reine des Reinette (extraordinary flavor), Roxbury Russet, State Fair, and Zestar.

Tender Apples for Sauce and Baking Whole: Beacon, Jonathan, King David, MacIntosh, Macoun, Mutsu, Red Baron, Wealthy, and Winesap.

Link to The Splendid Table and Lynn Rossetto Kasper:

Photo credit: painting by Johanna Bohoy '08:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kitchen Disaster Averted

Not all goes well in my kitchen. Baking comes easier to me than cooking. Last night a near mealtime disaster was avoided by some desperate action. I had purchased a small, boneless pork roast from the grocer's butcher, less than three pounds. The butcher (who looked like a teenager) told me to cook it for 20 minutes a pound. I made little slices on the surface of the roast and inserted slivers of garlic. I covered the whole thing in paper-thin rings of onion. I set the roast on a rack of thick apple slices, and poured a balsamic maple glaze over the top. While it was in the oven, I boiled up six red potatoes for mashing. When the potatoes were cooked, I poured some of the potato water into the roasting pan. When the roast came out of the oven, I let it sit for a while while I made the gravy. All sounds good so far, right? Well, it went down hill quickly as the gravy refused to come together and I had to pour it in to the blender and whirl it into oblivion to get it to the right consistency. Then I sliced the roast into 1/2 inch servings only to realize it was far from cooked - very pink inside. I know that they say you can eat rare pork these days, but I still remember the warnings about NOT doing that, so I just can't do it. (Note to self: buy a meat thermometer.) Everyone was ready but my dinner wasn't. So the slices went on to a blazing hot grill pan for a few minutes on each side.

When it came time to plate it all up, I wasn't optimistic. But soon I was hearing "Wow. Ummm. This is good." I was truly surprised at how delicious this dinner was. The pork was still tender and very flavorful. The roasted apples were the perfect compliment. The gravy was very good--savory with hints of apple and maple--but not sweet. With mashed potatoes and green beans, my near-disaster ended up a success. I was so relieved that I didn't really mind the mountain of dishes facing me after dinner!

Photo image:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Milestone Birthdays and Saltine Toffee Cookies

On Saturday my siblings and I traveled to Danbury, Connecticut to celebrate three birthdays. This joint celebration was a true surprise for my Aunt Jeanne’s 90th birthday as well as her daughter Ginna’s 50th and Ginna’s huband Dave’s 50th. They knew there was a party coming up. Aunt Jeanne thought all the preparations were for Ginna and Dave; Ginna and Dave thought the party was going to be for Aunt Jeanne. Thus the surprise for all! My cousins Jeanne Marie and Jim carried it all off beautifully, though their order for a sunny day never came through. Thank goodness for warmer temperatures that day and for the very large tent that protected us from the deluge of October rain.

I’ve written about my Aunt Jeanne’s special iced tea in an earlier blog. She’s such a lovely lady, and since my mother Virginia (her “Irish twin” sister and life-long best friend) has been gone for seven years now, she serves as matriarch—not only to her own eight grown children, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren—but also to the seven nieces and nephews of my family, and our children and grandchildren as well. You’d think we’d all get lost in that huge DNA gene pool she’s overseeing, but not so. She asks about each and every one of us, keeps track incredibly, and cares for each one individually. The legacy of such a caring woman is that her children are equally good people. Maintaining family ties is important to them, and the party this weekend is an indication of just how much they value these important relationships. I’ve often said that we’re closer, having been raised many miles apart, than many cousins and families who live in the same town. My cousin John said it all when he told us “It means so much that you came.” It does, to all of us. I look forward to the next time, and the next time, and all the next times that we will be fortunate to enjoy with each other.

It turns out Ginna happily made desserts for what turned out to be her own party. In addition to the cake provided by Jeanne Marie and Jim, Ginna made pumpkin cheesecakes and something I’ve never had before: saltine toffee. Before you say “What?” I have to tell you that this stuff is incredible. It’s a home-made version of a heath-bar like confection, covered in chocolate and melts in your mouth. The cracker is interesting: it’s visible but has only a subtle presence, adding a little bit of that sweet-salty ying-yang that works so well. The recipe that follows comes from, a good resource with rated recipes, which I love because it provides a good barometer of success. This one comes very highly rated. They call it “Saltine Toffee Cookies” but don’t be fooled, it’s candy, through and through.

Saltine Toffee Cookies

4 ounces saltine crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

Line cookie sheet with saltine crackers in single layer.
In a saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Immediately pour over saltines and spread t cover crackers completely.

Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 5 to 6 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes.

pread melted chocolate and top with chopped nuts. Cool completely and break into pieces.

Photo and original recipe can be found at :

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pizza in Saratoga Springs

I grew up loving Oma Pizza. Most weekends, my friends and I would go there for a slice. Oma’s was located in the Grand Union Shopping Plaza on Broadway, which was torn down years ago to make way for such stores as The Gap, Banana Republic, Anne Taylor Loft, and Talbots. There’s also a Cold Stone Creamery on the spot. There’s no sign of the old Woolworth’s, Rite Aid, Grand Union, or Pope’s Pizza that once occupied that block.

Oma’s familial cousin, Pope’s Pizza, opened on the corner of Broadway and Division Street. It had the same wonderful New York-style Pizza as Oma’s and occupied the building formerly known as The Red Barn. The Red Barn was a hamburger place before Pope’s took over. If you were downtown around the time of these old pizza places, you’d turn to see Starbuck’s Department Store (no relation to the coffee), Western Auto, Glickman’s, Covkin's, Mr. Jack’s, The Economy Shop, Farmer’s Hardware, Erlanger’s, Patricia’s and many other small town businesses that have long since disappeared. Sometimes I am sadly aware that so much of what was original and unique to our downtown no longer exists, replaced by cookie-cutter chains of stores that are found in every city. Still, Broadway retains its charm despite its homogenized evolution into the 21st century. There’s something special about our downtown that, despite the influx of generic stores, is retained.

Oops, I was talking about pizza, wasn’t I?!...

For pizza today, there are good options. My favorite is Pope’s Pizza, which moved to its Grand Avenue location from the Red Barn a long time ago. (The Red Barn is now a Borders.) Pope’s is consistently good, with the same New York style, thin crusted, great sauced pizza that my friends and I loved as a kid. D’Andrea’s Pizza has been resurrected as well. The original restaurant on Broadway has been replaced by upscale stores, but you can still buy a slice or a pie at their little corner shop on Caroline Street. D’Andrea’s was one of the first to offer barbeque chicken pizza. Another favorite is Marino’s, now on West Circular Street, though formerly housed on Beekman Street where the old Scuderi’s used to be. (Remember the Scudders sandwich?) Marino’s pizza has a thicker crust, tangier sauce, and a great cheese. They use larger rounds of pepperoni and it sits under the cheese, not on top. They cut their round p izzas in squares, not in wedges. And be prepared: when it’s time to pay, they only take cash, something to remember in this day of debit card purchasing.

Another good pizza option is Mama Mia’s in the Price Chopper Plaza on Route 50, headed toward SPAC. They have a sign up that reads something like “voted best pizza in Saratoga Springs.” I like it, but it’s no Pope’s.

So, if you’re looking for a good pizza option for your Friday night dinner, Saratoga has a lot to offer. There are many I haven’t yet tried, but I’ll make a project out of investigating and let you know!

Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saratoga's Olde Bryan Inn and Pumpkin Ravioli

The other night my friend Kate and I had dinner at the Olde Bryan Inn on the corner of Rock Street and Maple Avenue in Saratoga Springs. Known as the OBI to locals, the Inn has a lovely atmosphere, especially the cozy and welcoming front room, warmed by two fireplaces (one on each end). The dimly lit, intimate room hosts large wooden beams, original framed windows and rock-surfaced walls. Generations-old portraits of apparently important people survey the room ( with the rumor that there is, as witnessed by many, a resident ghost who reveals herself in the upstairs ladies room!). Wooden tables are framed by booth seats which are actually antique pews from an old church. In addition to booths that line the front wall, there are tables for two and tables for more. Live plants hang from the ceiling. Vines wrap around poles. Little white lights twinkle. It’s a great place to get away for lunch or dinner.

In addition to the front room, there is seating in the bar area, and two additional dining rooms. In the summer months, the OBI offers outdoor space, often with entertainment.

The menu is always good, and daily specials broaden the abundant choices. I typically order the soup, salad, and muffin combo, with my favorite, onion soup. This night I ordered a special: a small sirloin steak with mashed potatoes and mixed garden beans. It was very good but as I had my dinner, I coveted Kate’s selection: pumpkin ravioli, and vowed to order it next time.

I’ve been thinking about making pumpkin ravioli ever since, which I might have to do if I don’t get back to the OBI anytime soon. The following is how I will prepare this beautiful autumn dish, using wonton wrappers instead of pasta dough, since I don't own a pasta machine and wonton wrappers are used all over the Food Network. If they're good enough for Giada DeLaurentis, they're good enough for me!

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Butter Cream

  • 1 lb. pureed pumpkin, canned is fine (or pureed sweet potatoes, or butternut squash)
  • ½ cup thick Greek yogurt, plain (do NOT use regular yogurt – it’s too thin); or 4 oz. ricotta cheese, thickened by draining in a bowl over folded paper towels for one hour
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup or 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 10-12 grinds fresh black pepper
  • Wonton wrappers
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 bar plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 10 fresh sage leaves
  • ½ cup light cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Mix pumpkin well with yogurt (or cheese), maple syrup or brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Chill mixture for about an hour.

Put on a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tsp. salt and 2 tbsp. olive oil (to prevent ravioli from sticking). Meanwhile, assemble ravioli:

Place about 1 tsp.chilled pumpkin mixture in center of wonton wrapper. Moisten edges and press together to form a filled triangle, like a little pillow. Continue until you use up all of the pumpkin.

In large skillet over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add chopped sage and slowly bring butter to a foaming boil, noting when it just begins to brown. Continue cooking, but watch closely as you stir the butter in the pan with a wooden spoon, and bring it to a golden brown without burning. This happens very quickly. (Be careful to remove the pan from the heat if it shows any sign of burning.) With a wooden spoon or whisk, stir in cream. Heat through. Turn off heat.

Drop ravioli in boiling water and cook until they rise to the top, about two minutes. Remove from pot with a slotted spoon and place on platter that’s been warmed in the oven or with hot water. Cover with foil or lid until all are cooked.

Toss drained ravioli with hot sage butter cream. Plate for individual servings and sprinkle generously with grated or shaved parmesan cheese.

Photo credit and OBI website:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Black & White Brownies courtesy of King Arthur Flour

This recipe comes from one of my favorite company's Web site, King Arthur Flour. The real brick-and-mortar King Arthur is practically upstate New York's neighbor, in Norwich, Vermont, and well worth a visit. Since this recipe comes from K.A., it recommends all their own ingredients, but you can use substitutes, of course (though K.A. ingredients are top quality and you can't go wrong with them). I'm not a fan of the run-of-the-mill blond brownie. Blond and brownie are not synonymous in my mind. These are not blond brownies - they're chocolate through and through in blond brownie clothing. The creamy, light batter is made with melted white chocolate! There's just a hint of spice with a touch of nutmeg and a good dose of vanilla. Not to be ignored, bittersweet chocolate (in the form of substantial chunks) makes its presence well known without overpowering its lighter counterpart.

  • 1 cup chopped white chocolate
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup bittersweet chunks or chopped chocolate


1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" square pan.

2) Place the white chocolate, butter, and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Heat at low power in the microwave at 1-minute intervals, or over simmering water, until the chocolate softens; white chocolate is sensitive to scorching, so be careful.

3) When the butter is melted and the white chocolate looks soft, stir in the vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm.

4) Beat in the eggs.

5) Whisk together the flour and baking powder, and stir into the egg mixture.

6) Stir in 3/4 cup of the chocolate chunks. Spoon the batter into a greased 9" square pan, and sprinkle the remaining chocolate chunks over the top.

7) Bake the brownies for 25 minutes, until they're light golden brown and the edges pull just slightly away from the pan.

8) Remove from the oven, and cool before cutting.

Yield: 16 brownies.

King Arthur Online Web site and photo credit:

Thinking About Thinking About Procrastination

I’m thinking about doing something about this procrastination issue of mine. It’s been a life-long thing, and probably has inspired some of my best work. Under the gun, I can produce. If I have any bit of leisure time, I come to a screeching halt. Don’t know why…that’s just the way it is and has always been.

As long as I can remember, procrastination has been an issue, and I wonder if I’m hard-wired for it. In fourth grade, I lost sleep because of an overdue library book. There was no reason it wasn’t returned on time, yet it wasn’t. I worried about it until the day I finally scooped the book up and returned it before my parents received a notice. It was the first albatross around my neck, a mere chickling compared to the more complex difficulties I’d face later in life as a result of putting things off.

The same feeling descends today as I get notices about tax preparation forms, or when a bill is due, when it’s time to schedule a mammogram (ouch), or when I haven’t communicated with a friend or relative. It’s some strange reaction to accountability that heightens the distress signals. Thinking about doing something is so much more stressful than actually doing it. So what do I do? I magnify the problem, leaving the responsibility behind, to write something other than what I’m supposed to write. I bake (a lot), or knit, or read something just to read it, not anything I need to read. I do something else that completely removes the burden from my mind for a little while, always aware of the neglected responsibility. In my subconscious, I work on it, almost unaware and a bit at a time, so that when I actually put the pedal to the metal, I can work, and work well enough. But gosh, it’s exhausting.

The silver lining to this real problem is that some of my very best work has arisen from the intense pressure resulting from procrastination. It’s an interesting phenomenon. I’m going to think about this some more. Tomorrow.

Photo credit:

Monday, October 19, 2009

MacArthur Drive

You can go home again. I did, this past Friday night. My sister Anne is a local realtor and had sent greetings to families in the neighborhood where we grew up, MacArthur Drive in Saratoga Springs. The gentleman who lives in our old house contacted Anne by letter (yes, a real letter) to say how much he enjoyed receiving her note. He told his daughter about Anne and the O’Farrell family beginnings in the house that’s now his home. Though her father was out of town this weekend, his daughter and her husband were here and called Anne, inviting her and any interested siblings to come by, to meet them, and to see the house today.

I lived in this house from the time I was fifteen months old to age nine. It is the first home I remember and the place where all my first impressions were formed. The house is white now. It was yellow when we lived there. Not much has changed, really. As I walked in the door, the space welcomed me home with the familiarity of an old relative. Yes, these were the same steps I climbed as a little girl. I walked in and looked down at the same oak floors that were original to the house when it was built in 1955. Everything looked smaller, the walls closer, but the essence of our home was still evident despite the stylistic and structural changes that have come in the four decades since we left. Our 1950s kitchen had white metal cabinets and a linoleum floor. This kitchen has beautiful cherry cabinets and hardwood floors. Our refrigerator and their stove traded places. I looked at the space where the refrigerator once stood and remember my tall, lanky father playfully seating me up on top – I must have been three years old, and wasn’t scared.

As we walked through the house, we remembered different things. Danny remembered having his picture taken with Anne by the front door. She responded “We had a picture taken?!” – a common lament among the youngest of large families. I remember the photo—I believe it was Easter morning and they were probably three and four years old—decked out in their holiday finest. I remembered the Christmas tree and its exact location in the small living room, and lying under it looking up at all the lights and shining ornaments. We recalled the day our new color TV, a Zenith, was delivered and set up “right in that corner,” the first color TV in the neighborhood.

The closets were in the same space. I half expected to open them and see our old things, but of course I didn’t. The bedroom hallway seemed narrower, yet still long. The bedrooms looked small. How did our parents ever fit all nine of us in this three-bedroom house with only one bathroom? The basement looked very much the same. It was the venue for all our neighborhood plays, my oldest brother Michael the director. It wasn’t long before our parents had the basement refinished into a rec room, a bathroom, two additional and desperately needed bedrooms, a laundry room, and the “shelter” where our mother crowded us all together whenever there was a thunder storm. The Bilco doors were still there. I walked into the room that had been my basement bedroom, and memories of jumping on the bed in complete delight rushed back. Next door, the empty room that had once belonged to my brother Michael came alive with memories of his scientific collections – the Invisible Head, the Invisible Woman, the Invisible Man, and his rock collection.

We went out to the back yard, and we were asked if we’d ever had an above-ground pool. The new owner is an avid gardener, and found one circular area of the back yard very sandy, and guessed that there’d been a pool. We confirmed that, noting that our family of nine and our cousins’ family of ten used to all get in to this tiny above-ground pool all together, and we have pictures somewhere to prove it! Where we once had a well-tread lawn, a swing set, and a clothes line is beautifully manicured outdoor garden. The young trees that once bent in the wind are now strong, mature residents of this neighborhood, standing guard. I’d like to think these trees knew us, when we came home, that they remember us as the first family to live in this house, and watched over our twilight games of Red Light Green Light, Freeze Tag and Red Rover. Somehow, being the first family in a home allows us to claim it as our own for life, even though a number of families have lived in it since. We were the first. It is ours.

I was too busy Friday night. I had a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it. I thought about passing on this opportunity to see my old home. I’m glad I didn’t give in to the impulse to skip out on this invitation. It was a gift to go back in time, to see once again this home of Christmases and Easters past, of childhood summers and giant snow bank winters, and to share the experience with my sisters and brother. Someone said, that night, “Mom and Dad would have loved this.” I whispered, “They do.”

Photo credit:

Cheddar Herb Scones

This savory scone is inspired from the early morning version I usually bake, which is adapted from the Food Network's Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. It is also pays homage to its cousin, Red Lobster's wonderful Cheddar Bay Biscuit. My family and I often have dinner at Red Lobster in Queensbury, New York. It has a nice sea-faring atmosphere and, for a "chain" restaurant, the food is always affordable and very good. It's a place where my siblings and I can sit for a long time after dinner and laugh like fools!

This scone doubles as a nice side for a hot breakfast or as a welcome replacement for the usual dinner roll or sliced Italian bread. It comes together very easily—no mixer needed. These freeze very well, too. If this recipe makes more than you need for one occasion, simply place in a freezer bag after cutting the dough apart. When you’re ready to bake, take out what you need, let thaw for a few minutes and bake as usual.

Cheddar Herb Scone

Oven 375°F

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
8 tsp. cold butter (1/2 cup plus two tsp.), grated or chopped into small (pea-sized) pieces
¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons fresh, savory herb of your choice (or 1 tbsp. dry) I like dill, parsley, or basil.
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup buttermilk (or milk soured for five minutes with 1.5 tsp. vinegar)
Egg wash (1 additional egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water)

Mix flour with baking powder, salt, and garlic powder. Stir in grated butter, cheddar cheese, and herbs. Make a well in center.

Mix beaten egg with milk and pour into center of well. Pull all dry ingredients into the wet with a fork until all is incorporated.

On floured surface, form into two disks about six inches round. Place on wax paper or parchment paper on cookie sheet and freeze for about 20 minutes. Remove from freezer and cut each disk into sixths.

Separate into individual scones on cookie sheet.

Brush with egg wash.

Bake for 20 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Photo Credit:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Nights and Chili

My sister Anne never cooked for her family on Friday nights. They always ordered pizza or went out or did something other than cooking, as if Friday was secular holy day, and cooking was forbidden. I admired that and adopted the practice for a while, harkening back in a clearly non-religous way to my early Catholic beginnings, like not eating meat. Fridays were special again. Though I loved that idea and adopted the practice for a while, I acquiesced to the impulse of offering something warm and hearty as a great way to kick off the weekend.

Friday nights, high school football, falling leaves and a nip in the air all scream “bring on the chili!” and here’s a great recipe from the delicious offerings of Food Network’s healthy goddess Ellie Krieger. You’ll find a link to her website at the bottom of this post.



• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, diced (1 cup)
• 1 red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
• 2 carrots, diced (1/2 cup)
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 pound extra-lean ground beef (90 percent lean)
• 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
• 2 cups water
• 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
• 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the can of chipotles
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 (15.5-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 (15.5-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed


Heat the oil in large pot or Dutch oven over moderate heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and carrots, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the ground beef; raise the heat to high and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the tomatoes, water, chipotle and adobo sauce, oregano and salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and continue cooking, partially covered, 20 minutes longer. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Ellie Krieger’s recipe website and chili photo:,1946,FOOD_9936_33901_RECIPE-PRINT-FULL-PAGE-FORMATTER,00.html

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

What do you write about for your 101st post? I have another hundred in me, at least, so I’ll start this new centennial of blogging with last night’s dessert and this morning’s breakfast: pumpkin bread. It’s seasonal, spicy, and pretty, which is something to look forward to any time on a blustery day. The slices are firm enough to withstand a tanning session in the toaster. Toasted pumpkin bread with a little butter, oh boy!

This recipe comes from Joy of Cooking. It’s Katie’s favorite cookbook (she calls it her Bible, though she doesn’t understand why it doesn’t have canning instructions) and it’s on my kitchen counter, there for the grabbing. Joy’s recipe seemed more complicated than it needed to be, adding wet to dry ingredients in thirds, and I knew it could be simpler. I simply mixed the wet ingredients, stirred the dry ingredients together in another bowl, then mixed them all together. That’s it. The ingredients are the same, I’ve just saved a few steps. I was in charge of Henry, who was toddling around while Katie was in the basement searching for my blender. It was chilly in the apartment when the inspiration to make pumpkin bread hit me (to warm up this space waiting for its heat to be hooked up). Henry was about to push “delete” on his Uncle Joe’s computer (yes, Joe lives with us too, for the undefined moment, and his drooly 1-year old hounddog Hayden…it’s beyond cozy). I grabbed the toddling one and asked for his assistance. He helped me stir everything together.

This baked up beautifully in a greased 9x5 glass loaf pan, in just about an hour. It looked like it needed a couple minutes more than the hour called for in the recipe (still a little wet on top), so I turned the oven down and left it in for five minutes more, until it bounced back in the middle when I pressed lightly with my finger. After about half an hour out of the oven, I removed it from the pan to cool on a rack. After a half hour more, we cut in to it, and with a little smear of soft butter, said “Oh my!”.

I shared a slice with friends Sue and Kim at lunch today.

PUMPKIN BREAD (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

This loaf can be made with any cooked mashed squash, yams, or sweet potatoes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Whisk dry ingredients together:

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄2 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves (didn’t use cloves, not a fan)

In a separate, large bowl, beat until fluffy:
6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) butter, softened, or 1⁄3 cup vegetable shortening
1 1⁄3 cups sugar or 1 cup sugar plus 1⁄ 3 cup packed brown sugar

Add to butter mixture, and beat well:
1⁄3 cup water or milk (I used buttermilk because I have it)
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat in one at a time:
2 large eggs

Add and beat on low speed just until blended:
1 cup cooked or canned pumpkin puree (half of my Libby’s can)

Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture, beating on low speed or stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
If desired, fold in:
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1⁄3 cup raisins or chopped dates

Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.

Photo credit:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My 100th Blog Posting and 100 Favorite Things!

Here I am, just over four months and 100 entries into blogging, and it feels great. I promised myself I’d try it for six months to see if blogging and I are compatible, and though there are two months of this trial-run to go, it seems we are.

For this entry, I’m listing 100 of some of my favorite things. (In compiling this list, it became clear that I have WAY more than 100 favorite things!) Heck, Oprah has her favorite things. Rachael Ray does too. Why not a relatively unknown, largely unread blogger? We have our favorite things too!

Here are mine, in alphabetical order:

  1. A book I can’t put down
  2. A warm car on a cold morning
  3. Asparagus, beyond al dente, hot with butter and salt
  4. Baby Boom (Diane Keaton)
  5. Birthday dinners for my siblings
  6. Blogging
  7. Bolton Landing
  8. Butternut squash soup
  9. Cake pans with straight sides
  10. Caribbean cruise
  11. Carly Simon
  12. Carolyn’s kitchen table with a cup of tea
  13. Cheez-its
  14. Christmas Eve
  15. Clean closets
  16. Coconut anything!
  17. Coconut-scented shampoo
  18. Comfortable shoes
  19. Cousins
  20. David Letterman
  21. Diet Coke (12-step program needed)
  22. Dogs, preferably drool-free and well-behaved
  23. Down comforter
  24. Eddie Bauer outlet
  25. Ellie Krieger “The Food You Crave” Cookbook
  26. Flannel sheets
  27. Focastle Farm, Burnt Hills
  28. Funny Farm (Chevy Chase)
  29. Going to the movies
  30. Gold-toe socks
  31. Good sunglasses
  32. Google
  33. Grammy Eddy’s spaghetti
  34. Grandson Henry’s toes
  35. Hats on babies
  36. Henry, all over
  37. HGTV
  38. Honey Crisp apples
  39. Hot fudge
  40. Irish-knit sweaters
  41. It’s a Wonderful Life
  42. Jake’s Round-up in South Glens Falls
  43. James Taylor
  44. Jimmy Stewart
  45. Katherine Hepburn’s brownies
  46. Katie’s Nikon Coolpix camera (I’m coveting it).
  47. Knitting just to knit
  48. Label maker
  49. Lake George
  50. Leave it to Beaver
  51. Lindt truffles
  52. Little Women
  53. Longfellow’s, Saratoga Springs
  54. Lunch with my sisters
  55. Lunch with Sue and Kim
  56. Manchester, Vermont
  57. Martha Stewart Living magazine
  58. Matt Littrell’s chocolate cake
  59. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracey Kidder
  60. My electric toothbrush
  61. My grandmother’s crocheted coat hangers
  62. My kids all together at once
  63. My kids, of course
  64. My Skidmore class ring
  65. No-iron shirts
  66. Non-stop flights
  67. Old photos
  68. Palm trees
  69. Papyrus note paper
  70. Patsy’s fruit salad
  71. Peter, Paul, and Mary
  72. Pfaltzgraff Farmer’s Market dishes
  73. Reunions
  74. Rice pudding
  75. Russ
  76. Saturday morning breakfast with friends
  77. Shops and restaurants in Greenwich, New York
  78. Smitten Kitchen
  79. Socks as slippers
  80. Sun roof
  81. Sutton’s Market in Queensbury, NY
  82. Sweet-and-sour chicken
  83. Taper candles
  84. Thank you notes, to send and receive
  85. Thanksgiving at my ex-husband’s house
  86. The Barefoot Contessa
  87. The Beatles
  88. The Brooklyn Bridge (singing group, 60s)
  89. The Ed Sullivan Show
  90. The Food Network
  91. The Outer Banks of North Carolina
  92. The Today Show
  93. Thick, creamy vanilla yogurt
  94. Trader Joe’s
  95. Traveling anywhere!
  96. WAMC
  97. Washcloths
  98. Wedding cake
  99. Wegman’s grocery stores
  100. Wiawaka

Photo credit:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I can't say no to Butternut Squash Soup,or Henry!

I’ve started some very bad habits with little grandson Henry. I know better, but he’s just so adorable and irresistible, and when he wants ketchup on his toast, I give it to him. (I confess to liking ketchup with my eggs and toast.) When he wants more dressing on his salad, I give in. He doesn’t actually talk yet, except to say “twactah” (tractor) and something like “please” but his intentions are clear. He has a finely articulated pointing finger.

Henry stands next to me when I’m making cream cheese frosting for cinnamon rolls, and I put a little dab on a spoon and he’s in heaven (just a little). I don’t give him batter with raw eggs – I do have some standards, though my own kids ate buckets of it and they’re OK. Henry also loves foods that are actually good for him, that don’t send his glycemic index into the stratosphere, like yogurt with berries, or soup. He loved Katie’s home-made chicken noodle soup, and he devoured the applesauce we made last week. Believe it or not, we’ve gone through almost a bushel (or as my son-in-law reminds us, $50 worth) of Honey Crisp apples! We made one pie, a number of jars of applesauce, two apple crisps, and then there’s the grab-and-go for a straight-up apple snack. For the little guy, I’ve sliced them up, smeared with peanut butter and decorated with raisins. These apples have disappeared! The apple bowl is looking a little meager. We may have to go pick more this weekend.

We’re all sharing space until Katie’s and Bill’s part of the house is done (communal living at its best, but we’re managing), and the best part is that Henry is always nearby. I have to be careful when I’m cooking -- he toddles around the island, happily making many revolutions, with no real destination. He’ll have a turkey baster in one hand and a spatula in the other, which is important because I need his help. He’ll suddenly change directions and squeal in delight that he’s surprised me. His loopy blonde curls bounce as he tries out this new walking thing. Sometimes he walks stiff-legged with his arms forward (for balance?) so Katie says maybe he should be Frankenstein for Halloween!

I’d forgotten how lovely it is to have a baby in the house. There’s nothing like walking in the door and having that little face light up when he sees me. How often does that happen in life? Not often enough, that’s for sure. So, I soak up all this time with gratitude and awareness, telling myself to stop and notice because, as any mother of grown children will tell you, it goes by all too fast and it’s important to remember.

I’m going to try something new on Henry: butternut squash soup. I love it so I think he’ll love it, though it may be a little strong for his yearling taste buds. Whether it’s nature or nurture, he’s already developed a taste for the sweeter things in life. I told Katie we’re going to be cooking very healthfully from now on so Henry doesn’t write a book about obesity stating “It all started in my grandmother’s kitchen…” Yikes. This butternut squash soup is a perfect kick-start to some delicious, healthier, eating. I can’t credit one source – it’s a conglomeration of many recipes honed into one perfect bowl of warm, soothing deliciousness, perfect for a cold autumn day.


2 tablespoons butter

1 butternut squash, about 2 lbs., peeled, cut into 1” cubes (or equivalent in frozen, cubed squash)

2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 yellow or white onion, chopped

3 cups vegetable stock

2 cups apple juice or cider

1 cup light cream

Nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste


In large saucepan on medium/low flame, melt butter and cook onion and apple until soft, about 10 minutes. Add squash, stock, and apple juice or cider. Cook until the squash is tender. If you are lucky enough to have an immersion blender, blend. If not, remove solid pieces from soup and puree in food processor or blender. Return squash to pot, blending well. Stir in cream. Heat thoroughly. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in warm bowls, with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Photo credit:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Autumn Open House and Old Friends

This weekend I attended an open house at the home of a long-time friend, Mary. We work at the same place and she happens to be married to my ex-husband’s cousin. Small town living. I saw many familiar faces, some from work, but more from the extended in-law relatives there, part of the massive Cogan clan. (I am still considered an in-law, rather than out-law, despite the divorce). The great thing about this open house was the opportunity to spend time with people I don’t see enough of, or haven’t seen in years. A number of us expressed regret that our lives have taken us on paths away from each other. Daily distractions and responsibilities have taken the focus away from friends in a way that we wouldn’t have allowed happen when we were younger.

Mary and Danny have a beautiful new-old home. Danny is a master carpenter, and had a vision for what appeared to be the neighborhood’s ugly duckling. Together with his grown children and Mary, they have transformed this formerly non-descript house into a beautiful home. This house, this home for their future, tells a quiet story of coming home and settling in. Last evening, as the cold weather descended upon us, the warmth from their kitchen threw its arms around all who entered the space.

It was very good to see brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, and kids with babies of their own. It was particularly good to see Betsy, another friend and cousin-in-law. Even though we live in the same town, it’s been over a year since we’ve seen each other. My daughter Katie spent many of her formative years at Betsy’s house, an un-official mother’s helper with Betsy’s then newborn son Corey. Today, as I witness Katie mothering little Henry, I hear “Besty-isms” come from her mouth all the time, and wonder if I had any influence at all! Last night we all expressed that we will make a real plan to deliberately spend some time together, and maybe after that, it won’t take so much intention to enjoy each others’ company. Maybe it will come easier again, like it did when our children were young and growing up with each other -- when we grew up as young mothers together.

I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time yesterday, where in this warm kitchen there were hugs, embraces, and spoken regrets that we don’t make more of an effort to keep in touch, each one of us as guilty or innocent as the other. I noticed my beautiful mother-in-law, Mary Lou, now in her 80s, wisely watching as these re-connections took place, certain she’s more aware than the rest of us how important these relationships are, and how we should hold dear to the people that matter. They may not be the relationships that matter most in our lives, those that take most of our time, but they matter nonetheless.

Now for the food:

There was an abundance of food, and a dessert table that would knock your socks off. Knowing there would be many delicious desserts, I decided to do a "180" and made Artichoke Dip (recipe follows), since Mary suggested an appetizer when I asked what I might bring.

Here's the recipe for my version of Artichoke Dip:


1 12-oz. can artichoke hearts

1. 5 cups mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1.5 cups grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

½ tsp. garlic powder

A few grinds of black pepper

Nice crackers.

Drain artichoke hearts and finely chop.

Mix all the ingredients together, including drained, chopped artichoke hearts.

Spray pie plate or heat-proof serving dish. Spread dip in dish. Bake at 350˚ F until it bubbles and the top is begins to brown.

Serve warm.

Refrigerate if not using and warm in microwave or oven when ready to serve.

Photo Credit:

Friday, October 9, 2009


This morning, as I was pumping gas at the Stewart’s Shop in Middle Grove, New York, I became suddenly aware of how Stewart’s Shops and I have had a long-time, enduring relationship. As a little girl in Saratoga Springs in the late 1950s, I remember going with my father to the one of the earliest Stewart’s on Church Street. It was a wooden, 2-story building, blue, I think. I remember looking way up at the counter, so I must have been pint-sized. My dad was buying a half-gallon of ice cream for our family. (Stewart’s is one of the few companies that still makes half-gallons – check your grocer’s freezer – most are 1.5 or 1.75 quarts now). My first real job, after summers as a day camp counselor, was as a waitress at the Stewart’s at the corner of Broadway and Circular Street in Saratoga Springs. At the time, the shops offered counter and booth service, and even tried a soup and sandwich menu for a while. I remember scrambling eggs in a mug, cooking them in the microwave!

I was hired by manager Bob Hummel, a former construction worker with a Queens accent who’d survived a number of heart attacks, but still smoked devotedly. He was a jovial man with balding red hair and skinny legs, but he had a bit of a pot belly. He loved to play jokes on his staff, once faking a heart attack and laughing hysterically as I called for an ambulance, and another time seating a uniformed mannequin on the toilet seat, her skirt hoisted, to scare the wits out of the milk delivery man who used that bathroom every morning.

Among my specialties as a Stewart’s scooper was the banana split. I never ate them, but I made really pretty splits. (I ate other things – hot fudge sundaes on chocolate buttered almond, or coffee ice cream sodas). For the banana split, I’d take the oblong-shaped glass (real) dish, line it with a split banana, and then place three round scoops of ice cream – vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry – in a little pyramid: vanilla and chocolate side by side, strawberry perched above. I’d pour just enough chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple syrups over the top (one on each scoop) to make it pretty, and then crown it all in a rope of whipped cream, topped with a cherry. Other scoopers envied my creations, though were a little bit perturbed when the customer nodded my way and asked “Can she make mine?”

Eventually my brother Danny got a job there, and then my sister Anne. It became a real family affair. We all got good starts to our working lives in that little shop on Broadway, and later the shop on Railroad Place. I think back to the nights when I’d put together the bank deposit, change my clothes in the bathroom, drop the deposit in the Adirondack Trust’s night depository, and then go out partying with my friends for a few hours only to wake up three hours later to open the store in the morning. I have many fond memories of those early working days at Stewart’s, and every time I go in to a store, I restrain myself from telling the clerk “I used to work at Stewart’s, a long time ago.” Instead, I take my change, and remember that, for a little while, Stewart’s was a very big part of my life.

Here’s a version of the recipe I remember for that delicious

Coffee Ice Cream Soda:

¼ cup melted vanilla ice cream

3 tablespoons coffee syrup (available near the chocolate syrup)

Carbonated water or seltzer, cold

Coffee ice cream

Whipped cream

In large goblet, mix melted vanilla ice cream with coffee syrup. Add enough bubbling water to bring within an inch of the top. Hang the scoop of ice cream half in and half out of the goblet. Give a squirt of whipped cream.


Photo credit: