Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Sandwich So Simple...

Last night I posted this photo of a tomato sandwich (since devoured) on my facebook page without any real mention of why I love it so much.  Just posted the photo, basically.  The comments that this one photo elicited were so full of recognition, memories, and sentimentality.  It was a lovely thing. 

I remember asking for tomato sandwiches as a little girl.  My mother would take two slices of white Freihofer's bread (everyone ate white bread then), thick slices of tomato, still warm from the sun, a little salt, pepper, and a smathering of mayo,  and send me out into the back yard where I sat on my swing and slowly swayed back and forth, admiring the sandwich and loving every little bite.  Friends Weezie and Chris posted almost immediate responses to the posted photo with memories of their own mothers (I hadn't mentioned mine) which maked me realize that we treasure the simplest of things, that the happiest memories are of of time with our mothers and those quiet, nurturing moments of generosity. 

I had other interesting sandwich requests when I was a young girl.  I loved iceberg lettuce, mayo, and pepper on the same white bread.  It had a nice, cold crunch.  I also liked hot dog rolls with yellow mustard (no hot dog!).  Cream cheese and jelly were family favorites.  My mother could make a whole bunch of sandwiches out of one can of tuna and a little bit of mayo.  We had egg salad sandwiches regularly.  Rounding out our regular sandwich options were pb & j, fried egg, balogna, grilled cheese, and once in a while, cold cuts (but not usually).  When we'd go on road trips, my mother would use a whole loaf of bread, and then stack the finished sandwiches right back in the bag the bread came in (genious!).  Big fat deli pickles and lemonde in that large, plaid metal thermos made lunch for nine of us!

I love remembering the sandwiches of my childhood.  I hope my kids have  happy memories of the sandwiches of theirs as well (which weren't too different!).

Monday, August 29, 2011


There's nothing like an extended power outage to make me appreciate the little things, like popping bread into the toaster, or the quiet whirl of the refrigerator motor, or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth.  I forgot how much I appreciate being able to open a refrigerator or freezer to find food, just ready and waiting to be prepared.  How I've taken advantage of the almost instant ability to have something cold and refreshing, or warm and comforting, just because I could.  A light switch -- such an easy thing, until you flick it and nothing happens.  A shower never seems like a luxury until there's no chance of taking one for a while. 

While a power outage is a major inconvenience, it is nothing compared to the devastation that's occurred with Irene's barging in -- bridges washed out, roads erased, homes swallowed by mudslides, dams compromised, a museum and its historic contents flooded, a car as it tumbled down down a muddy river, a curious onlooker swallowed up and lost in a raging creek -- and all of this happened in our back yard and within an hour or two of my home. Typically, we can take these events in with an empathetic perspective, because it always happens somewhere else, usually in the southern United States.  We would watch such natural disasters, and think "Oh, those poor people," make a donation to the Red Cross, and heave a sigh of relief that, at least, it doesn't happen here, not in "the great northeast."  Neither do earthquakes, and one of those made its presence known here last week.  Maybe we've been a little blissfully ignorant.  It can happen here. It just did.

In the last 29 powerless hours, I learned a lot.  I learned that I don't need constant electronic interaction to feel connected to the world.  I don't need to be plugged in to be entertained.  I learned that my daughter Katie can create a meal from anything, anytime, with any resource available to her, that my grandsons are all the entertainment I need, and that "quiet" is not the absence of sound.  It is the celebration of all the sounds we usually miss because we are so tuned in to an electronic world.  "Quiet" allows us to hear the sounds of nature that were the soundtrack to life for all the generations before us -- the wind through the trees (even angry wind, like Irene brought to us), birds, rain pounding our metal roof, chipmunks scurrying in the woods, even a dog's sigh.  The noise of our electronic world is greedy and takes first chair.  Unplugged, with technology silenced, the sounds of nature resume their primary place, if only for a few hours, or a few days. 

Katie can whip together a dinner
power or no power!
Henry, ready for dinner

Not that I'm ready to be disconnected, not at all -- I'm glad the power is back on.  I missed the connection to the outer world, but at the same time, I'm a little sad.  I liked the quiet, the simplicty, and the inner reflection of life without electricity, though I wouldn't want it to last for very long because it's too hard over too many days.  For 29 hours, I had the opportunity to experience a relfective pause, one that allows a deeper appreciation of the quiet, and the noise, of life.

Now...a long, warm shower, with gratitude.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

She's Here - Irene Has Arrived

Irene, knocking on my windows...
Well, Irene arrived overnight.  She'd already been here awhile when I awoke early this morning to cold spray hitting my face.  Rain was coming in horizontally through my window screen, and with enough force to wake me up.  We're ready for a power outage, though that hasn't happened yet.  I did hear some kind of thunk on my roof, over my bedroom, and I have a feeling the tall oak nearby lost one of its branches. 

Katie texted me around 7 a.m. to say that if I was up, there was breakfast waiting for me.  I went downstairs to their house to a nice plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast.  Pete was playing on the floor - he crawls now at lightning speed - and headed right for me.  I scooped him up and gave him a great big nuzzle.  Not a bad way to start a stormy day. 

A day like this forces me to sit still and stay put, something I am not used to.  Henry's here upstairs with me now.  We just had yogurt for lunch, and he's drawing in my sketch pad.  He makes two dots or one swipe on a page, and moves on to the next, and the next, and the next.  Even Henry doesn't know what to do with himself on a day like this.  I think we'll pop some popcorn on the stove and watch Nemo for the umpteenth time, as long as we have power!  Can't think of anything I'd rather do, actually!

While she's been downgraded to a tropical storm, Irene is still packing very high winds and a lot of rain as she continues her northward path toward Maine.  We can't relax, just yet. 

Stay safe, my friends. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting to say "Good Night Irene"

Image from National Geographic
We're in that strange mode of "calm before the storm" as Hurricane Irene makes her way north.  She made landfall this morning at Cape Lookout, NC.  To think that we were on North Carolina shores just one week ago, savoring the last day of a beautiful vacation week, so hard to comprehend given the newscasts and weather updates on my television this morning.  I hope that the people and residences of Emerald Isle weather the storm without too much trauma, and that the entire east coast comes out of this OK.  I don't know if such hope is realistic, but I'll hold on to it.

My sister Anne and me, on Emerald Isle.
One week ago today, August 20, 2011

L-R:  Will, Patrick, Anne, John, Jeannie
Jack, Kristin, Megan, Ben

My nephews Jack and Ben headed north to come home to Saratoga Springs (along with Jack's fiancee Kristin, Kristin's sister, and Ben's girlfriend Megan), ahead of any mandatory evacuations of Brooklyn, NY, and Hoboken, NJ.  I am so grateful that they had the wisdom to make that decision.  There has never been a mandatory evacuation of New York City, which is telling in regard to the potential danger from this storm. 

As I look out my living room window, the sun is brightly shining.  Barely a leaf is moving.  Katie and Bill have cleared their yard of lawn furniture and outdoor toys.  There's still a HUGE boat in the driveway, covered by three canopies on poles, and I have to wonder what will happen to that set-up if we get the 40-60 mph winds that are predicted for our specific area.  And then there's the chicken coop and its residents.  Don't even want to think about that.  Meanwhile, we wait for Irene to make her presence known, some time around midnight tonight with pounding rains predicted for all day tomorrow. 

To pass some time today while the sun is still shining, we're heading to the Washington County Fair.  I wonder if all those farm animals have a sense of what is about to come their way.  You often hear of animals being aware long before humans of pending natural storms and disasters.

Best of luck to all of you along the east coast, especially those in Irene's path.  I did hear of one good tip -- fill your bathtubs with water so you will be able to flush your toilets.  That's something I'd never have thought to do, and though it is not the most glamorous helpful-hint, it sure could make life easier if we lose power!

Take good care!

Photo image credit:,r:4,s:0&tx=125&ty=53

Monday, August 22, 2011

About a Book - John Grogan's The Longest Trip Home

It was  "a long trip home" yesterday, starting in Emerald Isle at 7 a.m. with an hour-long cab ride, and then three not-so-consecutive flights from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Charlotte, North Carolina, to Washington, and finally (after delays due to thunderstorms), Albany, New York.  My daughter Katie was at the airport to pick me up, with Henry by her side.  I don't think I've seen anything sweeter in my entire life than that 3-year old's face beaming a huge smile when he saw me, and then his hands flew immediately up to his eyes, still smiling.  Katie said that meant "surprise!" though with him covering his own eyes, I don't know whether it was me or Henry who was expecting something!  I scooped him up and smooched all over his little face until he couldn't stand it, which was almost immediately.

My long travel day was almost welcome because it provided an extension to an amazing vacation and the opportunity to sink, completely, into the second book of the week, The Longest Trip Home, by John Grogan, author of Marley and Me.  My brother Michael had given it to me as a Christmas gift, and it sat next to my bed (along with my copy of The Help) until I finally could make time to read.  That time never came, so as I was franticially packing my vacation bag a week ago Saturday night -- after getting home from a wedding at almost 11 p.m.! -- for the next morning's flight outta here, I decided the books would travel with me.  I read The Help first.  Loved it.  Almost made me an usociable beach-house guest, but I played in the ocean and cooked alot so I made up for it.  I can't wait to see the movie.  As soon as my cab driver, Skinner (4 years running!) dropped me off at Arthur Ellis Airport in Jacsksonville for my return flight, I started reading The Longest Trip Home.  I was about 10 seconds into it when I realized I was reading something that connected me with an uncanny familiarity to the author, his parents, his siblings, and his life.  Perhaps this is why my brother Michael gave me this book - it was so much like our own lives, as if these were cousins of ours, with parents carved from the same stone as our own.  The biggest connection in this book, for me, are the Grogan parents who were blessed, as my parents were, with unquestioning faith.  I say "blessed" because, for so many of my generation, it doesn't come that easy.  We're less trusting, less likely to believe "just because," needing more proof for every big decision in our lives.  I envy that level of faith, and doubt that I will ever experience it, at least not the way both of my parents, and generations before them, did.  I understand when Grogan describes what his father Richard considered "a la carte Catholics," those who pick and choose which aspects of Catholicism to embrace and which to leave behind, something he found highly hypocritical (and something I find absolutely necessary).  It's that unquestioning faith of those generations of Irish Catholics, particularly, that allowed them to swallow their faith, whole kit and kaboodle, in a way that I just can't.  Though I intentionally steer clear, usually, of discussions regarding religion or politics, this memoir allowed me to examine my own feelings about growing up so Catholic, and the decades-long evolution to living an "a la carte" life now.  There are good reasons for that.  It is what it is, but is also, apparently, what "is" for a lot of other people who grew up in the sixties and seventies.  Reading this book was reminiscent of my own growing up, on so many levels, but especially in regard to parents and religion, almost like the Grogans and O'Farrells were living parallel lives!

I could go on and on and on about the wonderful storyteller that John Grogan is, but you probably already know that if you've read anything he's written, or seen Marley and Me.   I recommend his Web site:

Thank you John Grogan, for sharing your memories, and excavating mine.

Photo image credit:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Vacation's Last Day

This is the day no one wants to talk about or acknowledge.  The last day of a vacation is so bitter-sweet.  We still have one full day to enjoy all that this vacation has to offer, but we're too aware of the hours left, of the clock ticking to a close on what has been a great week of relaxation, good food, an amazing natural environment, a beautiful house, and the best company. 

There's a hazy sky this morning.  It's very quiet in the house.  John, Jack, and Kristin left early for a trip to see a light house, about an hour away.  Anne and I stayed at the house to begin the work of closing up -- cleaning out the pantry, doing laundry, making sure nothing will be left behind. Tomorrow morning, very early, Patrick drives from here to finish his last semester at Florida State, his car packed with much of what he needs for his new apartment.  Skinner, my loyal cab driver (4 years now?) will be picking me up at 7 a.m. for my 9 a.m. flight.  Everyone else will pack into their cars and head north, back to New Jersey and New York to resume life-as-usual, though Ben starts his new job on Tuesday (congrats Ben!). 

As I write this, I see three pelicans skimming the surface of a wave, searching for breakfast.  I don't know what it is about Pelicans, but I just love them.  I love their graceful coasting on air, with hardly a flapping of their wings over quite a distance.  There is a timelessness to them, with their pre-historic appearance.  They are large birds to fly with such ease, seemingly care-free as they cruise along the rooftops of the houses lining the beach.  I'll miss them.

Last night's final "big" dinner was great, and Patrick summed it up when he said "This was the best dinner yet."  We had grilled vegetables (red, green, and yellow peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and yellow squash), marinated and grilled chicken breast, grilled garlic shrimp, and rice with sweet-and-sour sauce.  For dessert, we had two pies, still warm from the oven -- apple and blueberry -- with vanilla ice cream.  It was a magnificent meal.  I'm not sure what we'll be having for dinner tonight, most likely a mish-mash of all the leftovers of meals we've enjoyed throughout the week, or something equally simple.  We're talking about one last happy hour on the beach.  It's so beautiful later in the day.  We just want to make this final day linger...

Here's a collage of yesterday's photos, followed by a recipe for Garlic Shrimp:

Friday's photos - click to enlarge!


(Soak wooden skewers in water while shrimp is marinating)

2 - 3 lbs. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 whole garlic cloves, peeled (these are blanched and then skewered between the shrimp - I didn't do this - we didn't want that much garlic last night)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dry)
4 ounces tomato sauce
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (like Frank's Red Hot) or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Lay shrimp in large, glass baking dish.
Mix all the marinade ingredients together and pour over shrimp.
Let shrimp marinate for 45 minutes.

Skewer shrimp (4-5 to a skewer, through tail and upper part, making a "C").
Grill for 6-8 minutes at the most, just until they're done.  Be careful not to overcook.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Late Afternoon on the Beach

Yesterday was dark and cloudy all day.  It was cool, with a strong breeze, on the beach.  Most of our crew stayed down by the water for a good part of the afternoon, but then we felt raindrops and could see the dark sheet of rain out over the ocean.  It looked like it was coming our way, but the sky above was still dotted with blue among the clouds.  I held out hope that it might blow over, so when everyone packed up and headed back to the house, I stayed on with my chair and my book.  The storm seemed to be moving across the ocean and not inland, so I became engrossed in the next chapter (of The Help) and looked up to see a bright sky and a magnificent rainbow over to the east. 

I stayed there until after 6 p.m., enjoying the warmth of the late afternoon sun, listening to the sounds of the ocean, and watching a young family nearby playing in the sand.  It made me think of my kids, of my grandsons Henry and Peter, and how much they'd enjoy this, too.  I miss those little guys and we talk on the phone every day.  The other day I told Henry (3 years old) that I had a surprise for him, a seashell, and he wasn't impressed apparently!  He said he wanted a car!  (He loves to play with my EI seashells from previous vacations).  Katie held the phone to Pete's ear (almost 10 mo.) and I talked to him, and he giggled.  I don't know why, but little kids sound even cuter over the phone!  So sweet...

Today we're off to visit a light house.  It's my first excursion out, other than to buy groceries, which has been absolutely fine with me, because, why leave paradise?!!!!  Still, we're going to head out.  Not everyone has been as close-to-beach house as me -- my brother-in-law John went for a 45 mile (yes!) bike ride yesterday.  We were all impressed if not worried about him!  I don't think it was his intention starting out to go that far, but he did.  When he got back, a swim in the ocean was just what he needed.  Isn't it just what anyone needs, really?!  I know it works wonders for me!

For dinner last night, we cooked out - hamburgers, hot dogs, andouille sausage.  Earlier in the day, I made a seashell macaroni salad with tuna and egg.  There were baked beans, fresh tomatoes, sliced watermelon - all simple but very good stuff.  Tonight we're having grilled garlic shrimp skewers, jasmine rice, and (special request) my favorite sweet and sour sauce.  We'll probably roast some veggies to go along with it.  It will be our last big dinner since we're all leaving Sunday, so we'll keep it simple tomorrow night.

Here are some photos from yesterday.  I'll be taking more pics today and will post those tomorrow.  Have a great day, everyone!

Thursday on EI, NC - click to enlarge!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Natural Beauty

There is so much natural beauty here in Emerald Isle on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina.  There are no high rises on the horizon, no major shopping malls.  The beaches are lined with houses, some rentals and some belonging to full-year residents.  This particular neighborhood seems to be a mix of rentals and private homes, and the developers were sensititve to maintaining the natural surroundings, leaving an unspoiled habitat for wildlife.  Deer can be seen by the ponds at sundown, and they feel safe enough to continue grazing as cars drive by.  Sea turtle nests line the beach, and while we missed the baby turtles annual migration to the sea this year, we've seen it other years, and it is an amazing natural wonder. 

This is a quiet place to vacation.  There are no chain restaurants along the high way.  If you choose to have dinner out, locally-owned and operated restaurants are available, though there isn't an abundance.  We choose to eat in every night, and since I love to cook, and Anne and John are in the process of renovating their kitchen at home, a dinner around the table is especially appreciated right now.  We ordered pizza and wings for dinner last night, just to take a little break, though Anne said it didn't seem the same without me creating in the kitchen!  Something was missing!  Tonight we're going to do a regular cook out, and I'll be making my sea shell macaroni salad with tuna and egg.  We'll have one more big cooking night tomorrow, and then something simple Saturday night before we have to (sadly) leave this amazing place Sunday morning. 

Here are some photos from yesterday's day at the beach, and more.  I know I'll be coming back to these posts again and again, especially in the middle of a northeast winter, to re-live the warmth and sunshine of EI, NC.

Wednesday's photos - click to enlarge!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Casual Comfort and a Recipe for London Broil Marinade

That lived-in look!
We've settled in and become really comfortable in this beach house.  This  morning starts the mid-point of our week here, and I'm still in "we're here" mode and pushing away any thoughts of this ending any time soon.  We have today, Thursday, Friday, and all day Saturday to enjoy, after all.  That's a whole vacation in itself!

Yesterday was a lovely day.  The weather has been perfect.  Though the weather man says it's been unbearably hot in North Carolina, out here along the Crystal Coast, the days have been perfect.  Yesterday we enjoyed a light breeze by the ocean.  Kristin and Will went for a 5-mile walk to the pier and back.  Jack and Patrick ran that distance. John went for another bike ride.  Anne and I relaxed under the canopy in our spot on the sand, and jumped in and out of the waves a few times. 

Early yesterday, while I was making cheesecake swirl brownies, the kids went shopping at Food Lion and brought back two London Broil steaks for last night's dinner.  On the menu was marinated London Broil, ratatouille, and corn-on-the-cob.  My boss, Mary Lou, had shared a number of recipes with me for this trip (she's an excellent gourmet cook) and I was wise enough to bring them with me, especially her recipe for London Broil marinade.  I whirled the ingredients up in the blender, poured it over our two steaks, and let it marinate all afternoon.  After showers and a happy hour on the deck with delicious appetizers made by the kids (Kristin's guacamole and Ben and Megan's Buffalo Chicken Dip) we gathered for dinner around 8:00 p.m., and stayed long at the table, until after 9:00.  It's been so completely casual and comfortable, producing big dinners doesn't seem like a chore, at all.  Tonight we may take a break and order pizza and have a salad - we like to do that to give the cook a little rest (though I love these dinners)! 

I had a little scare with my camera last night before dinner -- the lens wouldn't retract and the camera wouldn't work, which was the fatal blow to my last camera.  I thought, "Oh NO!  I can't take pictures here in this beautiful place!!!"  It really made me sad for a while, and I was so grateful later when John was able to fix it.  I can't imagine being without a camera while I'm here.  Phew, glad that didn't turn out to be the disappointment it could have been...

We ended last night with a game of Cranium, which was so much fun and had us laughing in hysterics. Ben and Megan won, handily, and the night was over, for me (the kids stay up much later!). I'm usually one of the first to turn in, and fall asleep in a matter of seconds, I think!  Just loving every second here.

Here is a collage of photos from yesterday:

A day of delicious sights, sounds, and flavors...

As today gets off to a quiet start, John is doing a little bit of work-away-from-work (conference call), Jack and Will just left for an early run, I'm here blogging at the dining room table, and everyone else is yet to be seen.  I love early mornings here -- the quiet ease of a true vacation.  This morning I read in bed before I got up.  I've had a copy of The Help for a while now, and am finally getting into it.  As someone who enjoys writing, it's a great book for me, a story about a writer and her process, and so much more.  So grateful to find time, here, to settle in to a good book...

Can't end this post without the recipe for London Broil Marinade.  It's so simple, and made for a very delicious dinner. 

from my boss, Mary Lou, who copied it from one of those old community cookbooks
(I'd credit the cookbook, but all I have is a photocopy of the page and the name of the contributor: Mary S. Grimm)

1 c. soy sauce
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, halved
1/4 c. Gravy Master (we couldn't find any locally, so I didn't use it - used 1/4 c. olive oil, 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar instead)
2 t. Beau Monde seasoning or other salt seasoning (Beau Monde can be hard to find - Wegmann's might have it).

Puree onions, garlic, and soy sauce in blender until smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend.  Use 1/2 cup of this marinade for each steak.  Marinate in glass pan 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.  The rest may be saved in a covered container in the refrigerator.


I hope you are enjoying these posts from EI, NC.  I promise to bring you more good stuff every day!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beach Day

Yesterday was a beach day, and a good one.  We had a relaxing start, and soon we were all ready for a slow, easy day at the beach.  After his bike ride, John went down and set up the cabana/tent.   We made sandwiches, packed a cooler and took the short walkway to the beach where we settled in for the afternoon.  The water was great, not too cold and not too warm, either.  Perfect for bouncing around in the waves.  After the beach we came back and hung out in the pool.  After showers,  Anne and I headed out to the shrimp stand to buy 3 lbs. of large shrimp for our (now annual) shrimp scampi dinner.  It was sooooo delicious.  I made a lot for the nine of us, especially four nephews between 18 and 26 who can eat!  Romaine salad and garlic bread rounded out our meal.  It's so simple to make, and I can't think of anything with more flavor -- butter, lemon, garlic, white wine -- or more satisfying after a day at the beach!

Here's a look at our day in photos, ending with a collage of the spectacular sunset.  Tonight we're serving marinated London Broil, corn on the cob, and ratatouille. I'll share that with you tomorrow!

All set up...


Hot tubbin' it
Chilling in the pool

Jack and Patrick
Kids doing the dishes!

Sunset over Emerald Isle

Monday, August 15, 2011


Here I am, morning 1 of a week-long vacation to Emerald Isle, NC.  After 3 flights and a cab ride to get here, I arrived around 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon.  Nephews Patrick and Will were minutes behind me, and their parents, brother Jack, and Jack's fiance Kristin pulled up just behind them.  I had so much fun discovering yet another beautiful house here in E.I.  This is a repeat visit for the Bishop family but my first time to "Seaside Retreat." This was the first house they ever rented seven years ago, along with my sister Patsy and her family, and Anne has tried since to rent it again and only succeeded six years later.  These houses are first-come, first-served with the occupant that week having priority over any other requests.  So, in the years between they've rented different houses each August, each one unique and beautiful, but perhaps none so special as this house.  Rather than go on and on about every little detail that I LOVE about this house, I'll share it with photos (what would I do without my little Canon camera - it's served me very, very well!).  Here are a few to start.  I have to pace myself!  More photos tomorrow, and more about beach house eating.  Anne and I went to the grocery store, and 2 over-loaded carts later we have the beginnings of some wonderful dinners in the making, including our annual shrimp scampi, london broil, ratatouille.  I say "beginnings" because we will buy the shrimp and other seafood fresh off the boat!!!!

So stay tuned as I share this beautiful week with you ~ and a shout out to my friends and family, and particulary C.O.D., L.D., and W.B. in Admissions at Skidmore College!

OK, I will...
Patrick, me, and Will

A pool with a view!
Livng area
Dining area
So beautiful!
Way cool kitchen...

Signing off - I'll keep you posted.  Off to the beach! 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just peachy, thank you...

Suddenly, our peaches are ready.  The young tree that Katie and Bill planted just last last spring has produced fruit, and not just a little fruit, a whole harvest-full of sweet, juicy peaches!  Yesterday we were happy to pluck a peach off a branch and have at it, but today things got a bit more sophisticated.  This afternoon I got a text message from Katie.  It was a photo of something I couldn't quite identify without my glasses.  It looked like biscuits or shortbread, but underneath I did notice brilliantly-peachy peach slices.  It was beautiful.  The message attached to the photo was short and sweet - "dessert..."  And it was, especially after I stopped at Stewart's for a carton (still a half-gallon!) of Philly Vanilla.  When I arrived home, I walked into Katie's house with the ice cream, and also my camera to snag a photo of the beautiful concoction for my blog.  Curiously, something was missing - one whole serving, to be specific.  Katie and Sydney thought it best to sample the irresistible cobbler, and my photo is evidence!

Here are a few photos of our peach-centric day, followed by Katie's recipe for peach cobbler, adapted from her favorite resource, America's Test Kitchen...

Who knew? Fresh peaches in Middle Grove, NY!

Peach juice running down my chin!

Outta the oven...wait, something's missing!

With Stewart's Philly Vanilla - yum!

Pete loved his peach cobbler!

Peach Cobbler
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen
Servings: 8

ATK NOTE: If the fruit is very juicy, it may need a bit more cornstarch. Just add another 1/2 teaspoon. If using frozen fruit, double the quantity of cornstarch.


2 pounds peaches — peeled, pitted, sliced
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Prepare the fruit and place in a large bowl. Add the cornstarch and sugar, stir well. Pour into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Place it on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet (curl up the foil edges in case of spillover).

3. Bake fruit for about 20-30 minutes until the fruit begins to release liquid.

4. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda. salt, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla together. In a third bowl toss together the topping of sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

5. Remove the peaches from the oven. Then add the buttermilk and butter mixture to the dry mix. Stir just until all the loose flour is incorporated. Using a spoon, make about 8 small globs of biscuit mix. Flatten very slightly, then place them on top of the hot fruit.

6. Sprinkle the tops of the biscuits with the cinnamon-sugar mix, then place the pie plate back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown.

7. Remove from sheet pan and cool. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

ATK Recipe found at:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Breakfast at the Track

Early yesterday morning, before the work week started,  I met my friend Sue and her son Frank by the Big Red Spring at the historic Saratoga Racecourse.  At least once every racing season, which runs from late July through Labor Day, we meet to have breakfast in this gorgeous setting. The buffet is an offering of beautifully displayed hot and cold items, with a price tag of $15 per patron.  More than the food, the atmosphere and sights are the attraction.  We sat at a table overlooking the track and watched the morning workout and the people enjoying it, just as we were.  If you want to have breakfast at the track but prefer something a little less formal, you can bring a brown-bag breakfast with you and sit in the grandstands.  (The $10 parking fee is refunded on your way out if you leave before 10 a.m.).  It's the same "show" but a lot more affordable (no charge, actually), especially if you have a large group or little kids, and that fact that there's no wagering that early in the day means there's nothing to lose!  Either way, breakfast at the track is a Saratoga tradition and a memory in the making!

It was a terrific way to start the day!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Deep Fried Fish from America's Test Kitchen

Last night Katie made quick work of the thirty-plus pound striped bass that her husband Bill caught the night before, on a chartered fishing trip in the Atlantic off the coast of Long Island.  Bill drove home yesterday morning with the bass in a cooler.  The charter boat crew cleaned the fish, so Katie basically had to finish that job to her specifications and then cut the bass into serving-sized pieces.  She cooked it (and the "chips") in her big, blue Le Cruset dutch oven (which I covet).  I have to say, this was one delicious dinner.

Katie got the recipe from her America's Test Kitchen Cookbook.  I found this version of the recipe on-line.  It uses beer, but I think Katie's just used milk or water...  Anyway, you can trust every recipe from America's test kitchen because they do just that - they test the heck out of every recipe until they've got the most successful method to create a dish.  I love the PBS show Cooks Country with Christopher Kimball, a division of America's Test Kitchen. 

Here's the recipe and a few photos to s how you just how great a meal that striped bass provided.  It's work, all the way through, from catching the fish to preparing it, but worth it.  (Bill figured it was about a $150.00/serving after he paid for the charter, gas to and from CT, etc.!)  Well, it tasted like a million bucks, so I'd say we came out ahead!

Before -- Billy and his Bass!

Deep Fried Fish
from Fish 'N Chips from America's Test Kitchen

3 quarts peanut oil (or canola oil), plus 1/4 additional cup
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 pounds 1-inch-thick cod fillet (or other thick white fish, such as hake or haddock) cut into eight 3-ounce pieces  (OR fresh-caught striped sea bass!)
1 1/2 cups beer (12 ounces), cold (any beer except dark stouts or ales)

In heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat (medium-high) 3 quarts oil over medium heat to 375 degrees.

1st bowl:  Whisk flour, cornstarch, cayenne, paprika, pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt in large mixing bowl; Separate 3/4 cup of flour mixture to another bowl (2nd bowl). Thoroughly dry fish with paper towels and dredge each piece in flour mixture in 2nd bowl, shaking off excess flour.

Add baking powder to 1st bowl and whisk to combine. Then add 1 1/4 cups beer and stir until mixture is just combined (batter will be lumpy). Add remaining beer as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition, until batter falls from whisk in thin, steady stream.

Using tongs, dip 1 piece fish in batter and let excess run off, shaking gently. Place battered fish back onto baking sheet with flour mixture and turn to coat both sides. Repeat with remaining fish, keeping pieces in single layer on baking sheet.

When oil reaches 375 degrees, increase heat to high and add battered fish to oil with tongs, gently shaking off excess flour. Fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer fish to paper towel to drain. Allow oil to return to 375 degrees.

Photos:  Bill and Bass from his I-phone
Dinner:  me

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mini-Raspberry Cheesecakes and Summer's Fast Forward

It's been a week since we said good-bye to Meghan, and I plunged right back into work the next Saturday morning and haven't stopped since.  Maybe it's better that I've been too busy to think straight, because if I had time on my hands I'd just be missing her more, and that'd be a problem!  It has also been a week since my last post, and as much as I've wanted to just STOP and take the time to write, it hasn't happened.  Things are ratcheting up at work and the good news is that my days fly by.  The bad news is that my summer is flying by at the same time, and it's going to take a concerted effort to appreciate every single summer day before they are nothing but a collective fond memory.

One distraction that has literally eaten time over the past few days is a new facebook page, "You might be from Saratoga Springs if..." and I joined the page Thursday afternoon as I babysat for Pete while Katie took Henry to his first dentist's appointment.  It's a good thing Pete slept the whole time because I was completely sucked in with all the memories and nostalgia posted on that page.  I joined when it has somewhere near 700 members.  Just days later, it's approaching 2000 members.  Updates are posted so fast that there's no way to keep up with it! People are posting favorite memories of growing up in Saratoga as well as posting current interests, like favorite places to eat, where they're living now, who their best friends were, etc.  It's really fascinating and I have to deliberately remove myself (now and then) from the conversations or I'd never stop and I'd eventually have to be peeled from this less-than-comfortable chair!  I'd love to gather all the postings and create a book from the rich contributions people have made.

Anyway, I have to stop because there's work to do...

My other project...

In addition to tackling sinks-full of pots and pans, this morning I shopped for the week's baking projects, and then came home to finish cleaning up my kitchen so I can mess it up again!  I have help, though.  Henry's here with me and he is such a good helper (!)...

Lil' Blue Eyes

It will be a busy baking week ahead, with a small wedding cake and an anniversary cake, as well as the typical muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, and coffee cakes that are always on my to-do list.  If there's any point in the summer when I have to work ahead and be prepared, this upcoming week is it.  For my friend Carole, I'm making a dessert for her Monday guests - individual cheesecakes with raspberry topping. 

Expecting that you *might* be looking for a recipe here, I'm posting one for Carole's mini-cheesecakes.  The recipe incorporates a few smart short-cuts, and I'll be making them Sunday night.

with raspberry garnish
by Maria del mar Sacasa and America's Test Kitchen

12 round shortbread cookies, 2" in diameter
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
fresh raspberries for garnish

1.  Prepare crusts:  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.  Line 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.  Place cookies in cupcake liners.  Dollop with 1 teaspoon of jam each.

2.  Make Filling:  With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Greadually beat in sweetened condensed milk, scraping down sides of bowl as  necessary, until incorporated.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.

3.  Bake cheesecakes:  divide batter evenly among cupcake liners.  Bake until set, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 20 minues.  Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

4.  Glaze and garnish:  Remove cheesecakes from muffin tin.   Microwave remaining jam until thinned slightly, about 15 seconds, and use it to glaze cheesecakes.  Top each cheesecake with a fresh raspberry.

Photo Image:  my own