Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ice Cream Social on the Coldest Day of the Year!

Today my friend Sue and I went to an ice cream party.  Usually ice cream parties are associated with summer and swimming and sunshine.  Well, we had the sunshine today, despite the fact that it might be the coldest day of the winter so far.

This was a special occasion, and what happier way to celebrate than with ice cream?  This party was planned to ring in a new year of hope and health for our friends Tricia and Mike.  Both in their forties, Mike was diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this year.  His wife Tricia and their three very young children had a lot to cope with.  Not long after getting the news, Tricia was diagnosed with uterine cancer, and this is on top of a dangerous and degenerative heart condition that was diagnosed during her first pregnancy.  Needless to say, these two have had enough to deal with.  So they decided to have a  party.  I didn't know what to expect as we walked in to the familiar surroundings of their warm and friendly home.  Mike greeted us with a huge smile on his face, a warm hug and kiss, and happiness in his eyes.  Tricia just wrapped her arms around each of us and held on, saying how good it was to see us.  We haven't visited in a while, party because we wanted to give them their space, and perhaps partly because we weren't sure what to do.  That's not the case any longer.  We won't stay away.  Sue and I both realized when we entered that house, so full of happy life,  that it's been too long, that we need to see them more, and often.  Sue and I always visit together; the kids think of us as "Sue and Jeannie."  The kids were happy to see us, too, and we vow not to wait so long to visit again.

On this frigid day, they had every kind of ice cream in open coolers.  Hot fudge filled a crock pot.  There was butterscotch, caramel, all kinds of sprinkles, and a cooler labeled in a child's printing, "wipped cream."  Each container had a hand-printed label, adorably made by either Aiden (1st grade) or Lindsey (3rd grade).  Kids and adults made their own individual sundaes.  All I could think of, as friends and relatives filled this house, is how beautifully happy and content this family is.  That is not to say that they don't have a lot to feel sad about, or to fear, or even to be bitter about, but that's not how they operate. These are two of the most positive people I've ever known, and today, they were joyful.  Happiness and gratitude exuded from both Mike and Tricia.  Their children were gleeful.  There was no sign of sickness or sadness.

I am so glad that we were invited to share in such a day of happiness.  And though I don't wear my religion on my sleeve,  I sincerely thank God that my friends are OK.  They're better than OK.  They are fantastic and looking forward, together.

Photo credit:

Friday, January 29, 2010

"Night Before" pancakes, light and fluffy, and just in time for the weekend!

The Night Before Pancake Batter

If you love home-made pancakes and want to try your hand at making your own without the help of the boxed mix, give these a try.  I researched a number of recipes and took the best from each.  An especially helpful tip:  I had heard that allowing the batter to sit overnight really improved the next morning's pancake, and it is because air bubbles are allowed to form over time. Careful scooping of the batter the next morning keeps those air bubbles intact, and the result is a light, fluffy pancake.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!


•    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour , or a combination of AP and whole wheat flour
•    1 tablespoon baking powder
•    1/2 teaspoon salt
•    ¼ cup granulated sugar
•    1 1/4 cups milk
•    1 egg
•    3 tablespoons butter, melted
•    1 tsp. vanilla


The night before serving:  In a large bowl, *sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth. 

*If you don’t have a sifter, shake the flour through a strainer.  This incorporates air and keeps the pancakes fluffy.

Important:  Cover bowl with wrap and let this mixture sit in the refrigerator overnight. This allows more air bubbles to form, insuring a light and fluffy pancake.

Next morning:  Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat, or spray a griddle pan with non-stick spray. Without stirring (which would deflate the air bubbles), scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.  (You can use a ¼ c. (or larger) measuring cup.  I use a levered ice cream scoop).  Brown on both sides and serve hot.

You can embellish these any way you like, by adding blueberries, chocolate chips, nuts, etc. to the pancake batter on the griddle, just before turning it over to brown on the second side. 

Photo credit:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

You say goulash, I say Beef-A-Roni!

One of my mother's favorite meals to prepare was a goulash-like concoction that we called Beef-A-Roni, named for the commercial Chef-Boy-Ardee version that inspired her home-made recipe.  My mother used Muller's elbow macaroni, Ragu traditonal spaghetti sauce, ground beef, and a couple of bay leaves.  She browned the ground beef in a large skillet and broke it up finely with a wooden spoon.  Excess fat was drained off.  Spaghetti sauce and bay leaves were stirred in and allowed to simmer for a while, maybe twenty minutes, during which time the elbow macaroni was cooking.  I remember adding the  macaroni to the beef mixture.  I'd take my mother's slotted spoon and scoop out the macaroni, one spoonful at a time, letting it drain over the pot.  I'd artfully arrange the spoonfuls of macaroni in a pattern over the beef and sauce, and then carefully turn over the sauce with the macaroni until it was all incorporated.  That all  hung out over low heat for about another ten or fifteen minutes, and there we were:  dinner for nine from one large skillet!  With Italian bread and butter, and a salad of iceberg lettuce and Good Seasons Italian Dressing, it was a perfect meal!

If I were to make it today, I wouldn't change much.  I'd use a different sauce, maybe Bertoli, and add mushrooms, but I wouldn't want to make it too different.  There's something sacred about replicating Mom's recipes, especially when she didn't have many!  Change it up too much, and you have something entirely different.  I wouldn't want to do that!

Photo image:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Alton Brown's Buffalo Wings

With football comes hot wings, and we're right there, season-wise!  The Super Bowl is right around the corner, and people can't get enough of these savory, saucy treats.  Most are deep-fried, but not this recipe from Alton Brown.  Reviewers RAVED about this recipe (check out reviews at TFN site, linked below).

Alton Brown is the culinary scientist of The Food Network.  Sometimes his processes are more than the average cook or kitchen are equipped for, but reviews of these hot wings say they're easy - just take a little time.  The wings are steamed and then baked at a high heat for a while, and the result is a crispy wing that most would mistake for deep-fried.

I rarely eat wings - maybe once in a while out with my sisters, at Gaffney's in Saratoga Springs, or I'll make my own "mock" version with chicken tenders at home (quick and delish), but I love them.  A little celery and the cool creaminess of blue cheese dressing, and I'm a happy winger.  

Alton Brown's Buffalo Wings


  • 12 whole chicken wings (about 3 pounds)
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • Kosher salt


Place a 6-quart saucepan, with a steamer basket and 1 inch of water in the bottom, over high heat, cover and bring to a boil.

Remove the tips of the wings and discard or save for making stock. Use kitchen shears or a knife to separate the wings at the joint. Place the wings in the steamer basket, cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam 10 minutes. Remove the wings from the basket and carefully pat dry.

Lay out the wings on a cooling rack set in a half sheet pan lined with paper towels and place in the refrigerator to dry, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the paper towels on the pan and replace with parchment paper. Roast on the middle rack of the oven, about 20 minutes. Turn the wings over and cook 20 to 30 more minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown.

While the chicken is roasting, melt the butter in a small bowl with the garlic. Pour this along with the hot sauce and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken and stir to combine. Remove the wings from the oven, transfer to the bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve warm.

Photograph by Con Poulos, credit:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Giada DeLaurentis's Chicken Piccata


Chicken Piccata is one of those dishes I love to order out. I've had it at Pennell's in Saratoga Springs (the best) and even at Olive Garden (pretty good!).  I never make it at home because I don't keep capers in my pantry, and for some reason in the winter I don't always have lemons (though in the summer it seems I buy three at a time, every week).

This recipe is listed as "EASY" on The Food Network Web site. With capers, some chicken stock, and fresh lemons, you can transform that same old boneless chicken breast into something worth staying in for! Serve it with asparagus spears and some of those pretty little red potatoes with just the middle peeled, and you've just created a very elegant dinner!

Recipe courtesy of The Food Netowrk's Giada DeLaurentis
4 servings


2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped


Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

Photo and original recipe found at:,1946,FOOD_9936_22319_RECIPE-PRINT-FULL-PAGE-FORMATTER,00.html

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mocha Mudslides Milkshake Cocktails (or mocktails)

I was looking through the Cooking Light Complete Cookbook that my friend Kristin so generously gave me last year (!) to find something a little less calorie-laden to offer you today.  Looking at cookbooks when you're hungry can be dangerous (though not as dangerous as grocery shopping when you're hungry). All I've had so far today is an egg sandwich, and I'm thinking "What would I go for right now?"  It's mid-afternoon as I write this, and I'm finding myself craving a good cold beverage with a little bit of oomph.  I found this Mocha Mudslide recipe right there on page 106.  It does contain alcohol in the form of Kahlua, so if you don't want to imbibe, substitute cold coffee for the liqueur. 

Mocha Mudslides

2 cups low-fat chocolate ice cream, softened
1/2 cup 1% low-fat chocolate milk
1/4 cup Kahlua (coffee flavored liqueur) (or cold coffee for alcohol-free)
1 tablespoon grated semi-sweet or bitter-sweet chocolate (about 1/2 ounce)
1/2 tsp. instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir with a wire whisk just until blended.  Serve immediately.  Makes four 1/2-cup servings or two once-cup servings.

Photo credit:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Muffins

Here's a muffin that can serve as an indulgent breakfast treat or dessert. My inspiration is a memory from a trip my ex-husband and I took to Rockport, Massachusetts to celebrate our anniversary. We stayed at a little sea-side bed-and-breakfast and as we were unpacking our car, the aroma of chocolate wafted from the B&B. When we checked in, I asked the innkeeper what that incredible aroma was. She said it was sour cream chocolate chip coffee cake for the next morning's breakfast.

So often after a divorce, good memories are put away and only the more difficult moments are remembered. Not so here. I have very happy memories of our time in Rockport. It is a beautiful place. The shops were lovely, and the restaurants were great. I remember bringing back lobster lollipops for the kids. Here's my recipe for Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Muffins, a tribute to that happy time.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F -makes 1 dozen regular-sized muffins

1/4 cup soft butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips tossed with 1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons additional sugar, mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon

Beat softened butter with sugar for five minutes (yes). Add vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add sour cream. Beat well.

Mix flour with baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat until very well mixed together. Fold in chocolate chips.

Line muffin cups with paper liners. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes or until centers are dry and spring back when lightly pressed.

Enjoy for breakfast, dessert, or no reason!!!

Photo credit:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mini Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

I served really good food last night to a house-full of friends and relatives. A big hit were the mini chocolate chip almond cookies. There are none left! This is a great cookie - crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. My adaptation of the traditional Toll House recipe has proportionately more brown sugar than white, which makes for a chewier cookie. It also uses half butter/half shortening rather than all butter. You may want to resist shortening, but don't for this. It is key to the perfect texture of this cookie. Slivered almonds give these a nice crunch.

Mini Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup shortening (don't substitute butter, it will change the texture)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Beat sugars with butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract. Toss dry ingredients together with a fork and add to sugar mixture. Mix until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips and slivered almonds.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll teaspoons of dough into balls. Place two inches apart on cookie sheets. Slightly flatten balls with two fingers, just to level them off a bit. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes or until they just begin to brown around edges. Don't let them bake too long!

Photo credit:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winter doldrums? Have a party!

I'm not loving winter. Don't ski, downhill or cross-country, though my kids love to. My favorite part about winter is observing it from a warm, cozy room inside the house! I'm a summer person, through and through. Give me a beach by the lake or ocean. I'll take a hot sunny day over snow and ice every time. Driving with my car's sun roof open on the way to the lake is my idea of heaven!

I do love that days are already beginning to lengthen, making promises of brighter days ahead. I think we're all affected by SAD to some extent. I heard on the radio this morning that yesterday, January 18, is the most depressing day on the calendar, season-wise. But for me, it was a happy day. I drove home from visiting Russ in the Finger Lakes early yesterday morning. I met my friend Sue for lunch at Sutton's in Queensbury, near Lake George. We both ordered the black bean burger with grilled onions, Mexican mayonnaise on grilled cheddar bread! It was outstanding!

Once home, I played with Henry (we chase each other and his gleeful giggle could earn him a million dollars) and then I started preparing for the jewelry party I'm having tonight. Hopefully, it will be an affective antidote to cabin fever! It's an excuse to open my home for the first time to relatives, and at the same time have my son Joe show his beautiful Peruvian silver jewelry. Don't worry friends at work -- I'm having another party next week for you! I'm very excited about sharing my home and food (from blog recipes!) with friends and relatives. Among the offerings tonight (along with the usual suspects) are:

grilled chicken and pineapple skewers with Asian dipping sauce
mini quesadillas
sweet and sour meat balls
savory herb and cheddar scones
falafel with tahini sauce
mini chocolate chip almond cookies

I can't wait to welcome people in to my new home. It's been a long time coming!

Image credit:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Baby, A Black Lab, and a Bloodhound

I have a pan of cinnamon raisin scones in the oven for the next twenty minutes, just enough time to tell you about my exciting Friday night. Katie and Bill went to the movies and I was taking care of little Henry. Added to my responsibilities were Oden the Black Lab and Hayden the Bloodhound. We're dog-sitting Hayden while my son Joe is moving this weekend.

Oden was next door in Katie and Bill's part of the house. Hayden and Henry were with me in my apartment. Suddenly there was a symphony of howling and barking. These dogs wanted to hang out together. I was wary of having two dogs and a baby in my apartment, but it was almost heartbreaking hearing the two dogs long for each other from opposite ends of the house. It was like Romeo and Juliet (or Romeo and Romeo) so I brought Hayden downstairs and these star-crossed canines romped outside under the stars and then came in and collapsed on my floor, snoring soundly after a few minutes. Henry and I played with toy tractors and read books and it eventually turned into a peaceful, quiet evening.

One thing about Bloodhounds. They fling. A shake of a head, the jowels go flying, and suddenly sticky things are flung. It's quite disgusting, actually.

After Katie and Bill got home (and dogs' barking woke a sleeping Henry), it was time to go to bed. I said to Hayden, "Come on buddy, we're going to bed." I made no less than three beds for him on the floor, with every blanket I own. Nope, not good enough. Suffering since puppyhood with a severe case of separation anxiety (that has previously sent him through a 2nd story window and, another time, off a 2nd story deck) I know that Hayden can't be exiled from human contact. He was missing Joe, playing detective, dog sniffing every door and window. He finally stopped whining and flopped himself down on the floor next to my bed. Minutes later he was up on my bed (which I covered with a sheet just in case) and he turned himself clockwise, counter-clockwise, and clockwise again and settled himself in a circle, his butt in my face. He relocated himself a number of times throughout the night. I woke at different times to find him across my legs, or with his paw on my shoulder, and the last time sleeping half on and half off my bed.

He's whining now to go play with Oden, and the timer indicates my scones are done. So that means that blogging, for today, is too.

Poster from movie Adventures in Babysitting

Friday, January 15, 2010

Drive-Through (-thru?)

I ran errands on my lunch hour today, and had only a few minutes to eat. I didn't pack a lunch today (first time this week) so I did the drive-through at Wendy's (or is it drive-thru?). Challenging myself to a $3.00 lunch, I ordered a value-sized Diet Coke, a 99-cent burger, and a 99-cent fries. With tax my lunch was $3.18, so I went over budget but really, it's not a bad drive-thru meal for around $3.00.

After I purchased my fast food, I drove my little Mazda 3 into a parking space between two construction vehicles. They had backed in, I was facing forward. There I was, sandwiched between (probably) two triple-bacon-cheeseburgers with over-sized fries and gallon sodas.

I listened to NPR as I ate my 10-minute meal, one little french fry at a time. Somehow, eating my little meal, listening to NPR, tucked anonymously between two big guys in two big trucks made me feel as though I wasn't doing anything so terribly awful, indulging in fast food this way. It's like no one even saw me! (and it was, frankly, delicious!).

Photo credit:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What is a Fortune?

Last night the last thing I wanted to do was make dinner. Katie and Henry and I decided to do something simple. We had Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. It seems wrong, somehow, to plan or expect anything more when images of suffering people in Haiti, who have no clean water available much less food, replay in my mind.

I couldn't help but realize, as I turned on the faucet to run water, or opened my refrigerator to see the options within, that the people of Haiti can't do that. They're living in the streets, waiting. Waiting for medical care. Waiting to honor their dead. Waiting for water. Waiting for food. Waiting for relief. So many times I focus on what is lacking in my life, what I don't have, what I think I need.

Today I am grateful for a roof over my head, for running water and electricity, for the ability to see a doctor when necessary. I consider my whining over not going on a cruise this March silly. I had planned to go, and despite careful planning and optimism, the funds were not ultimately there, so I had to cancel this trip and was feeling sorry for myself. The photo with this post was taken in March 2007 when six of us traveled the western Caribbean on my first cruise. This photo was our first port-of-call, Labadee, Haiti, and it was a beautiful day in a beautiful place. What you don't see in this photo is the reality beyond the resort: the poverty and devastation that already plagued this island nation long before the earthquake ever hit. The earthquake has only magnified the lack of resources in Haiti. I hope it brings the world's attention to Haiti, a place Tracy Kidder refers to as practically a neglected colony of the United States. It seems wrong to ignore the lack of fortune they've suffered for years when we, only 700 miles away, don't even realize how fortunate we are. Kidder asks the world to help restore Haiti to "its former promise."

I have no wealth, no equity in anything. But what I do have is a fortune -- the simple things too often taken for granted. I'll remind myself of that every time it seems something's lacking. I have so, so much.

Photo: Jeannie Eddy, March 2007

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Quesadillas, Jake's Round Up, and a Funky Atmosphere

I love quesadillas. My favorite is at Jake's Round-Up in South Glens Falls where I order the marinated grilled shrimp quesadilla. It comes with refried beans and the most succulent little shrimp. It also comes with Spanish rice and is presented beautifully with a drizzle of sour cream and a flower carved from a carrot. For about $10, it's a plate full of flavorful goodness. The atmosphere is funky, too. In the lowly-lit dining room, cow-hide printed tablecloths, antique books, lava lamps, taxidermied beasts on the wall, and chili-pepper lights make for a festive if not eclectic dinner setting.

I started making quesadillas at home when my kids were in high school. Basically a south-western grilled cheese sandwich, I take two flour (or any type) tortillas. I place one on a hot skillet (prepared with a little bit of cooking spray), sprinkle Monterey Jack cheese or any combination of good melting cheese you have, toss on some cut up grilled chicken and a little bit of drained salsa, a bit more cheese for glue, and top it with the other tortilla. When it's nice and golden on the bottom and the cheese has started to melt, I flip it over and cook it until the other side is nicely golden and the cheese has melted all the way through. I cut it in sixths and serve it with shredded iceberg lettuce (really the best for this), salsa, and sour cream. You can add pickled jalapenos and guacamole if you wish, but sometimes simpler is better. The three toppings I must have are lettuce, salsa, and sour cream. And if the only filling you have is cheese, that's enough too.

The next time you're stumped for dinner, take a trip to Jake's Round-Up and have a wonderful meal, or throw together your own quesadillas. They're easy, quick, inexpensive, and fun.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Banana Cream Pie

This morning I was thinking about what we need, dessert-wise, this time of year. The holiday gorging is behind us (thankfully) but that doesn't mean we don't want a slice of comfort every now and then. Something cool and creamy that hits the spot but won't do too much damage would be perfect. This recipe is adapted from The Food Network's Ellie Krieger's highly-rated banana cream pie. Reviewers loved it but there were consistent suggestions for a few changes to make it spectacular, which I've incorporated here*. Ellie's recipes are always terrific and the bonus is that they are the result of a make-over. As a nutritionist who loves food, she has found a way to duplicate the taste and texture of our favorite recipes using less fat and sugar, and overall healthier ingredients. I'll be writing a lot about my favorite EK recipes which is a good thing as we try to incorporate healthier eating in 2010.

Banana Cream Pie

  • Cooking spray
  • 14 graham cracker squares (7 full sheets)*original recipe called for 6 full sheets
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tbsp. sugar *origindal recipe called for 1/3 cup sugarplus 1 tsp.
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups 1 percent lowfat milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract*original recipe called for 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups sliced banana (3 medium bananas)
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream *use more, according to reviewers, up to 3x more
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. In a food processor, process graham crackers until finely ground. Add butter and 1 tablespoon of water, and process until the crumb clumps together. Press crumb mixture into bottom of pie plate and about 1/2-inch up the sides. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then let cool.

In the meantime, make the filling. Put the gelatin in a small bowl; add 3 tablespoons of boiling water and stir until gelatin is dissolved. In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup of sugar and the flour. In a medium bowl lightly beat the milk and eggs together. Add the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan and whisk so the flour and sugar dissolve. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, until mixture comes to a boil and has thickened. Stir in the vanilla extract and gelatin. Set aside to cool slightly.

Arrange the sliced bananas on the graham cracker crust and pour the pudding on top. Place in the refrigerator until the pudding has set, about 3 hours.

Whip the cream with an electric beater. When it is about halfway done, add 1 tbsp. of sugar, then continue whipping until fully whipped. Put the whipped cream in a plastic bag, concentrating it in 1 corner of the bag. Snip that corner off the bag and squeeze the whipped cream out of the bag in a decorative pattern around the pie.

Photo credit:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Christmas is Over

It was a good weekend to stay inside, and that's what I did. Katie and Bill were working hard all weekend to put the finishing touches on their side of the house. Living in construction is never easy, and this project has been consuming all their weekends for well over a year. I'm fortunate that my apartment is finished and that it offers all of us a place of respite from all the work. It's good, too, that they do have their own space to get away from Grandma when they've had enough!

With all the time inside this weekend I put Christmas away. My Balsam Fir Christmas tree dropped about four dust pans worth of needles on its way out the window. Yes, window, not door. My son-in-law Bill seems to find particular enjoyment seeing Christmas trees exit out second-story windows! When I lived on Lake Avenue, I went down the stairs and outside to "spot" the tree and to make sure no pedestrians were nearby as he sent that Christmas tree flying out my apartment window. I located myself directly under the window and against the house, not prepared for the 300 or so pine needles I was showered with. I had pine needles in all of my clothes, between and under layers. I itch just thinking about it. It was not comfortable.

I guess there are practical reasons for Bill's propensity to toss evergreens from second stories: far fewer prickly needles get stuck in carpet this way, and it is quick. When this season's tree took its dive, I looked out the window as if to see a body in chalk lines laying on the pavement. Instead, I saw a still perfect looking tree, the snow-covered ground around it confettied with pine needles. It was all very peaceful and pretty, in a sad kind of way. It forced me to acknowledge that Christmas is indeed over, and all that makes this season so beautiful has been stripped from my abode. My apartment looks almost antiseptic now that the glitter of the season has been removed.

Nothing ever looks quite so plain as a room once the holiday decorations have been put away. How much winter is left? I'm thinking palm trees...

Friday, January 8, 2010

A New Saratoga - I Miss the Old Community Theater

Yesterday's post about the Scudders sandwich has me waxing nostaligic about other blasts from the past. It got me thinking about places we used to go to in Saratoga Springs before the arterial and exit 15 diverted locals to new shopping malls, when downtown was the place to buy whatever was needed.

During my adolescence, in the late sixties and early seventies, Saratoga Springs was a humbler place. Woolworth's and National Auto were the only retail chains on Broadway. Rather than shopping at Gap or Eddie Bauer, we went to Glickman's, Erlanger's, or Starbuck's (NOT the coffee family) for our clothing. Our specialty children's store was Covkin's. For stationary or a little gift, we'd stop at Patricia's. For coffee -- there were no coffee shops -- we'd stop at the diner now owned by Compton's - it's still exactly the same as in the old days. There were drug stores and soda fountains and movie theaters. There were grocery stores -- the Grand Union and the A&P. I miss Farmer's Hardware where you could buy anything AND the only place to pick up a telephone for your house! Oh, it was a wonderful downtown. Now it's pretty and polished and trendy, but it is lacking the authenticity of the downtown I remember.

The Community Theater on Broadway was the weekend place to be. I remember approaching the ticket window with a group of high school friends. It was one of those individual little spaces outside the theater with an attendant inside. Once you entered the building, the stairs were before you, velvet ropes guiding your way. The refreshment counter was to the left. You could go up the curving staircases to the balcony, or find your seat down below. It was a magical space. I saw my first movie ever there -- Sleeping Beauty. Later my siblings and I would go en masse(there were seven of us) to see all the hits. My brother Michael was a movie buff at a very early age, so we went often. My mother used to pack our snack bags with Dum Dum lollipops and we'd walk from MacArthur Drive to the theater, holding hands as we crossed intersections. I remember seeing Pinnochio, Godzilla, and other hits at the Community Theater. In high school, I saw Love Story, and remember thinking I wanted to be just like Ali McGraw. I even learned to crochet just to have a hat like hers!

When the theater closed, so many of us were really sad, and that feeling lingers. I've often said that if I ever won the lottery in a big way, I'd buy it back and restore it to its former presence. To this day, when I walk by the theater, I'm angry at what has become of it. It is now home to a real estate office and retail shops. I never go in. Probably never will. It may sound harsh, but to me, these businesses are poachers, occupying this historic space in a way never intended by those who built the theater. It was built with a purpose -- to provide entertainment and joy for people of the community. The Community Theater. I mourn its passing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Scudders Sandwich - A Walk Down Memory Lane

January brings memories of the winter of 1969, when my family first moved back to Saratoga Springs from Huntington, Long Island. I used to go ice skating at the East Side Rec in the evenings after dinner with my friends and eventually started skating exclusively with my then boyfriend (and future ex-husband) Gene. We'd skate under the lights to blaring music coming from overhead speakers, and I especially remember "Crystal Blue Persuasion" playing as we skated round and round the rink. I was a cautious, inexperienced skater and he was a champion speed skater. He'd rush up behind me and push me in to the snowbanks and then offer me his scaber as a tether to pull me up after showing off, skating figure eights while I couldn't even get back on my feet! Nice guy! We had a lot of fun, though, in those days before computers and the internet, when kids actually did things outside!

I have many happy memories of Saratoga Springs during that time, and one is of an exceptional sandwich we used to get on Beekman Street, the Scudders Sandwich from the Scuderi family deli. Marino's (of great pizza fame) eventually took over the business and continues to make the Scudders sandwich (you have to ask for it), though they've moved from the Beekman Street location to West Circular Street. Every once in a while, I just have to have that sandwich again. Nothing else quite matches it.

The Scudders sandwich was made on a split loaf of Italian bread. Half a sandwich was plenty for two people, though I knew some hearty souls that could eat the whole thing. That means they could eat a whole loaf of Italian bread plus all the meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato within. Here is what I remember my Scudders sandwich was made of:

Italian Bread, split
shredded lettuce
paper-thin slices of tomato
very thin slices ham
cappicola (that delicious hot ham)
american cheese (the real stuff, not processed)

They'd slather both sides of the bread with a lot of mayo, layer the lettuce, tomato, meats and cheeses, and wrap the whole thing up. My mouth waters just thinking about it. It's not so figure friendly, but it just might be worth being the only thing you eat that day -- it's that good!

Photo credit:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Winter Birthday and Sweet-and-Sour Chicken

With my daughter Katie's birthday today, our season of winter celebration comes to a close. It's always a very busy December and January for my family. It starts, for us, with Meghan's birthday on December 20, followed by Christmas, then my son-in-law Bill's birthday on December 26. My oldest son Jeffrey's birthday is January 3, and Katie's birthday is today. In between all that are important days for extended family and friends--anniversaries and birthdays in these two months are abundant. Friends Tina and Kristin's birthdays were yesterday. My father's birthday was January 17, and my parents' anniversary was January 8. My grandmother's birthday was January 13. I have two nephews with end-of-January birthdays, and every year there are more names added to the calendar.

With all of this going on, it's important to make my kids' birthdays (though they are grown) special. For Jeffrey's birthday on Sunday, I made a very chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. It followed a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, italian bread, a salad of spring greens with walnuts, blue cheese, and craisins.

For Katie's birthday tonight, I'm making sweet and sour chicken with green peppers and pineapple, to be served with basmati rice and oriental vegetables. My ex-husband's wife is a vegetarian, so I'm making her sweet and sour tofu. It's a first attempt and I hope it comes out well. The salad will be romaine with mandarin oranges, crispy Chinese noodles, shredded carrots, and a ginger vinaigrette. I baked her cake last night and frosted it this morning before work. It's a lemon layer cake with cream cheese frosting. There are fortune cookies to finish everything off.

My recipe for sweet and sour chicken comes from my neice, Lousie Eddy, who used to make it as a kid and that's when I fell in love with it. She told me she got the recipe from an old Betty Crocker cookbook and made some adaptions. I make it from memory and it always comes out great.

Sweet and Sour Chicken


4 chicken breast halves, pounded lightly

1 cup flour for dredging

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup vinegar (apple cider or white)

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 can pineapple chunks, drained

1 large green pepper, cut in chunks

Make sauce:
Combine sugar, vinegar, ketchup, juice, and soy sauce in medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat.

Prepare chicken:
Place flour on plate. Wash and pat dry chicken. Pound it a bit in a large zip bag using a rolling pin or mallet, just enough to tenderize and to get it to uniform thickness. Cut each piece in half if you prefer smaller pieces. Dredge pounded chicken in flour, both sides. Place in hot oil in large skillet and brown lightly on both sides. Remove to plate while other pieces of chicken are browned. You don't need to cook it all the way through - that happens later in the oven.

Spray rectangular baking dish with oil spray. Place browned chicken pieces in pan. Arrange pineapple and green pepper chunks over and around chicken. Pour sweet and sour sauce over all. Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes or until green pepper just starts to curl and brown around edges. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes. Serve with rice and vegetables. Make sure to spoon extra sauce over everything!

Photo credit:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

There's nothing quite like a chicken pot pie when it comes to warm comfort on a cold night. This recipe from the Food Network and Ellie Krieger might just chase the January chill away. It's Ellie's "You and Me Chicken Pot Pies" and is much healthier (as are all of Ellie's recipes) than the standard version. This pot pie has many positive reviews though I've suggested some changes, prompted by FN readers: reduce the thyme by half and feel free to use onions rather than leeks if more convenient. Other reviewers suggested replacing the phyllo dough with pie crust. Some insist on fresh veggies, though frozen peas work well. The nice thing about a pot pie is its versatility. Use what you have.
The general premise is that a concoction of meat and vegetables cooked under a blanket of dough is good stuff. Go ahead and switch things up to suit yourself. Then dig in to a warm and bubbly pot of steamy goodness.

You and Me Chicken Pot Pies from Ellie Krieger (4 servings)


  • Cooking spray

  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 2 leeks, bottom 4 inches only, washed well and chopped (suggestion: or 1/2 cup chopped onion)

  • 2 celery stalks, chopped

  • 2 medium potatoes cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 cup frozen peas

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (suggestion*use half tablespoon fresh, or half teaspoon dried)

  • 3 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 4 individual-sized baking dishes with cooking spray.
Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few turns of pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, turning once. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add 2 more teaspoons of the oil, the leeks, and the celery to the pan and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes, green beans, garlic, and remaining salt and pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add the milk to the pan. Stir the flour into the chicken broth until dissolved and add to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved chicken, peas, parsley, and thyme. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dishes.

Put the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil into a small bowl. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into quarters. Place a quarter sheet on top of each baking dish and brush with olive oil. Repeat with remaining 3 baking dishes. Tuck the edges of the phyllo into the dish rim. Top each pie with Parmesan.

Place on a baking sheet and bake until the filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Photo Credit: Food Network,1946,FOOD_9936_35872_RECIPE-PRINT-FULL-PAGE-FORMATTER,00.html

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

I'm a little slow out of the starting gate wishing you all a Happy New Year! I've been deliberately away from blogging since December 23, though I have been very busy otherwise. With Christmas and everything that goes with it, Meghan moving to California, my nephew Adam's wedding on New Year's Eve, and spending time with family and friends, I chose to leave blogging to the New Year.

But I'm back!

Like many people, I've been bouncing around resolutions in my head -- the standards -- and I could benefit from taking a few seriously. I must say that I HATE being bombarded by diet commercials. There's nothing worse than sitting with my zero-percent-body-fat-boyfriend and a Victoria's Secret commercial comes on followed by Marie Osmond touting her Jenny Craig success. When YOU need to go on a diet, or start exercising to be healthier, no one needs to tell you. You know better than anyone that it's time to get those chubby ducks in a row before they sink to the bottom of the pond. It takes a perfect storm of awareness, discomfort, self-deprication, embarrassment, fed-up-ness and motivation, all converging in unison, to be ready. It doesn't just happen. Finally, I'm there. I woke up in the middle of the night last night wondering if any of the few channels on my digital TV might have a 6 a.m. exercise program I could start following. Then I went back to sleep until 8 a.m. I have to be at work at 8:30 and live 20 minutes away. (By the way, Marie Osmond should get rid of the extensions and cut her hair, don't you think?) Rather than succumbing to the advertisements and catapulting myself into an impossible regimen of restrictive dieting and overly ambitious exercise, I'm going to my favorite Food Network chef/nutritionist Ellie Krieger for sensible, steady guidance. I already love her cookbook and my friend Diane is following her on-line program. We're buddying up to provide each other support.

This morning on NPR I heard a discussion about happiness. It was basically about the power of positive thinking, something that's been reshaped and packaged in many forms over the years. The bottom line is, if you're unhappy, start incorportating more positive thinking and soon the unhappiness will give way to a less-burdened you. Of course, there are life situations that we wish could be overcome just by switching our thought patterns, and that's not always possible, say in the case of a severe illness or a natural disaster. But maybe we can adjust the way we process the difficult information and learn to go forward with better-case-scenarios in mind. As an eternal optimist, I used to be disappointed, alot, when the world didn't go my way. Now, at age 55 and 3/4, I've learned to envision a plan B, C, D and maybe all the way to Z in order to realize a good outcome.

All this musing about resolutions and better selves and coping with life seems timely - it's everywhere around us as a new year begins. As this new year grows older and resolutions inevitably fade, optimism wanes, and coping becomes challenging, I'll try to remember the purpose of such proclomations: to get more out of this one life we're given, to enjoy it more, to realize some abundance, to have better relationships. It's not just about losing weight and having more money. It's about the quality of our lives.

Here's hoping 2010 is a wonderful year for you, in every way.