Friday, August 24, 2012

Chicken Piccata, Dining In, and The Carolinas!

Dining Area in "No Regrets" Beach House
One week ago this evening we were rolling into Charleston, the last part of our trip to the Carolinas.  What a wonderful week plus a couple of days we had, me with my sister Anne and her family.  It's even more evident now that fond memories are all that are left of a lovely chunk of August 2012.  While the many-hours-long rides in the car to and from Emerald Isle, to Charleston, and back home were admittedly tough on everyone, I can actually say I enjoyed it.  Of course, I wasn't driving.  I got to sit in the back seat and observe like I never can when I'm the driver -- not just the changing landscape passing by, state by state, but also the interaction and conversations between the front seat and the back seat.  I read two books, and started a third.  I learned a lot about real estate -- Anne's an agent with Prudential in Saratoga Springs -- and a little bit about the car business (John works in the auto industry).  I kept up with my friends on facebook, tracked our routes (and alternate routes) on my Windows phone (really cool!),  and listened to some good music.  We had two cars going down, so I spent part of the time in my nephew Will's car (with my sister Anne) and part of the time in Anne's and John's car (again with Anne).  We headed home in one car leaving Charleston after Will was settled (not an easy good-bye).  Anyway...we spent so much time together that I really missed them just days after we got  home!  So today Anne and I met for lunch at the Olde Bryan Inn in Saratoga (very close to my office), and spent a too-short hour catching up after the four whole days since our trip ended!

Food is always a huge part of our trip to Emerald Isle.  This year, we were there for fewer days and ate out one night, so there were fewer home-cooked meals.  The ones we did have were great, though.  Will told me about a recipe he's made at home (my nephews are really good cooks!).  It was for chicken piccata, and he used Giada DiLaurentis's recipe from The Food Network.  He printed it out for me, and I had to improvise a bit because we didn't have everything the recipe called for, but what we did have created a truly delicious meal.  We bought too many packages (!) of thin-sliced chicken cutlets (no need to pound) which were lightly dredged and sauteed in equal parts olive oil and butter.  After they were removed from the pan, white wine (my addition) and lemon juice were added to create a sincerely delicious sauce.  We had left-over shrimp scampi from the night before, which complimented the piccata beautifully.

Giada's Chicken Piccata
(photo from The Food Network)

Here's a link to Giada's recipe, which is absolutely fine so no need to reiterate, and this is how I improvised with the resources on hand:

  • I didn't have straight up AP flour, and didn't want to buy a whole bag since we were there for such a short time,  so instead I used Light Bisquick (purchased for the blueberry pancakes) with the additions of salt and pepper.  (It worked out beautifully.)
  • I dipped the chicken cutlets in a beaten egg/milk mixture before dredging in the Bisquick.
  • After the first few chicken cutlets were cooked, I placed them on a foil-lined cookie sheet that had been given a quick spray of cooking oil, to keep warm at 250-degrees Farenheit until all the cutlets were done.
  • My olive oil/butter got a little too brown after cooking all the cutlets, so I started fresh.  I took about half that liquid, minus the browned bits, and put it in a fresh sautee pan, with a little more olive oil and butter, and then proceeded to add the wine (a few glugs, and not in the original recipe) and lemon juice to the new pan.  
  • I didn't have parsley, and no one cared!  
  • I served capers on the side, since some people are afraid of capers! 
  • All the cutlets were placed on a large serving platter and the sauce was poured over top.  It was very saucy and sooooo delicious!
I can't believe I didn't take a picture, so Giada's will have to do.

If you want a really delicious and somewhat simple chicken dish, and you love lemon anything like I do, try this!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Week in Pictures

"No Regrets"
Without a laptop for the past 10 days while I was away, this blog's postings came to a screeching halt.  Still, photos were posted on facebook, proof that I was having a wonderful vacation with my sister Anne and her family, first at Emerald Isle, North Carolina, and later three days in Charleston where my nephew Will started classes (today!) at the College of Charleston.

After 18 hours in the car over Sunday and Monday, and then a full work day today, I have barely enough energy to write, so I'll post photos of the past week, and let the images tell the story.  How great is it that this blog serves as a journal of experiences?  All I have to do is look back, and the memories come alive. Here's hoping that this entry proves that to be true as well, when I come back in a month, a year, or five years from now to relive the incredible days that I was so fortunate to spend with my sister and her family.  Thank you Anne and John, for the privilege...

Here we go:

Beach House Photos

The house is named "No Regrets" and there were none!

Emerald Isle Beach Photos

The beach at Spinnaker's Reach, EI, NC

Who's hungry???

Grateful for the abundance...

Storms a brewin'

but just one night, and for just one hour...

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston by day...

Charleston, again night

College of Charleston

A great school for a great kid!!!  Go get 'em, William McGeehan Bishop!

The beach -- it cures what ails me!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Hello from Emerald Isle, NC.  I'm having real challenges composing new posts on my Windows phone, so I'm saving up details and photos from this great vacation, and will catch up when I'm home.  Thanks!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lemon Curd, prettier than it sounds!

In preparation for baking lemon scones this weekend, I decided to try my hand at making lemon curd, since a not-so-generous jar costs quite a bit in the grocery store, and even more at specialty food markets.  How difficult can it be?  Well, it turns out it is not difficult at all, in fact, it's easy and very inexpensive to make.  Must be the pretty packaging accounts for the steep price these days.  And now that I've made it myself, there's no going back (unless I get fooled again by that pretty jar!  It's been known to happen!).

The recipe I used is from Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, and a woman I've been compared to, in a big way, more than once (that's a fact).   Is it her dark hair and light complexion?  Is it her manner of speech or group of friends?  OR is it that we both love to bake and cook?  Hmmm.  I think it's more that we're both decades away from our former slender selves AND we love to bake and cook.  The subtle differences are not-so-subtle when you get right down to it -- that house in the Hamptons thing, beachfront property, life on the Atlantic...well, I can wish, and if she needs a stand-in for a few days or the better part of a year, I'm willing (as long as I can take my big and little loves along!).

Speaking of which, I am about to set out on a trip to the sand and surf -- the annual Emerald Isle August trip with my sister Anne and her family, in about 3 and a half hours.  I was up so late baking that if I go to sleep, I'll be miserable when I wake up (yes, I can be miserable!).  So I'm thinking it's better to just stay awake and do productive things like write my blog and maybe pack my bag (nope, not done yet, and it's 4:23 am!). Take a shower.  I'm really looking forward to this trip.  It's pretty much the most fun I have all year, and to say I have been looking forward to getting A-WAY  is a major understatement.  But, before I can have fun, relax, and actually 'vacate' things around here, I had to bake up a STORM (hope for no additional storms on vaca)...  Hence, the lemon curd.  I made it last night and it is not only tasty, it's also pretty. Pretty food can always find its place on my table.

Here's Ina's recipe, followed by my photos.

Even the lemon peel is beautiful - look at that texture! (click to enlarge)

Typically, I blog away while I'm down in E.I., but the loaner laptop from work was still out.  Not sure I'll master blogging on my phone (isn't going to happen) but what I can do is post photos on my fb page, and perhaps get my techno-genius nephew Will (on his way to the College of Charleston) to set me and my phone up.  Look for pictures, there are always pictures!

I'll miss you, my readers, while I'm away, but if I see or experience anything spectacular (which will happen) I'll let you know somehow!

Have a GREAT weekend!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Double Chocolate Mint Chip Ice Cream

Double Chocolate Mint Chip Ice Cream

This frozen concoction is adapted from a recipe I found on-line at Eating Well, and I made it last weekend. It uses non-fat sweetened condensed milk in place of heavy cream and sugar.  It's very simple and firms up quickly in the ice cream maker.  Henry and Pete came upstairs to help me make it.  The original recipe is linked here.  It's a very nice ice cream, almost a hybrid between a traditional ice cream and a chocolate sorbet.  I liked it very much, and so did my little helpers.*  (I use the term loosely!)     My changes follow:

  • Instead of gelatin and 3 egg yolks, I used NO gelatin and 4 egg yolks based on a reviewer's recommendation (citing the high nutrient content of egg yolks). 
  • Instead of 2 ounces of chopped chocolate to be added to the mixture and melt away, I used chopped chocolate mint wafers (the smooth, melty kind found in craft stores for candy making).  It gave the chocolate ice cream a light mint flavor.  And in the final 5 minutes of mixing, I added another 2 ounces of chopped chocolate mint wafers, which were the perfect texture for a "chippy" ice cream!
It's coming along!
*  I found myself channeling The Little Red Hen when I asked the boys, "Who wants to pour in the milk?" or "Who wants to help me add the chocolate?"  They had become engrossed in a Winnie the Pooh video (yes, tape, old-school style) and I was on my own, apparently!  I didn't have their full attention again until it was time to say "Who wants to try some ice cream?"  Suddenly, they were right there, ready to pitch in! 

My, em... "helpers"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jette's Corner

Yesterday was a very difficult day.  The time had come to say good-bye to Jette, Russ's little black lab mix.  Jette suffered  from diabetes, and despite their best efforts, Russ's vet Dale and he decided that things were deteriorating too rapidly and it was time.

It's never easy to say good-bye to a beloved pet.  Because Russ and Jette lived together, just the two of them, for all of her life, it is hitting  especially hard.  She was more than a pet, more than a companion, more than a dog.  She was more to him in ways that he probably can't even explain. I was an occasional presence in her life, when I'd visit there or he'd bring her here, so I saw Jette for a couple of days every few weeks, but I immediately fell in love with her and she was my part-time dog.  Jette was the litter-mate of my daugther Meghan's dog Apple, both from the only litter of Meghan's first dog, Coda.  They were a great mix of lab and Border Collie.  Coda looked more like a Border Collie (even nipping at your heels in attempts at "herding"), the puppies more like labs.  The father was a big yellow lab from a downstairs apartment.  One fateful day, he broke through the screen door.  Such an unfortunate and unplanned connection resulted in a litter of some of the nicest dogs I've ever known.  Russ had never had a dog, but was so impressed with Coda that he took a chance and he and Jette became best buddies immediately.  Jette was all black with just a hint of white, and Russ used to call us his two "black haired girls" - which was no longer the case as both Jette and I got older.  Still, I think of that phrase fondly...

I drove out to be with Russ for that final night and morning.  When I arrived just before dark, Russ and Jette were on the front porch, enjoying one last sunset over Cayuga Lake. Russ was in  one of the rockers and Jette was lying next to him.  She rose to greet me but was very weak and very wobbly, and couldn't see.  She bumped into me trying to figure out where I was.  Russ and I sat with Jette for a while, and then he decided that she should have some ice cream from Pete's Treats, a stand across the street from his house.  I stayed with Jette and Russ came back with three cups, one for each of us.  Because of Jette's diabetes, she had been on a very strict low-carb diet but since this was her last night, Russ decided it would be fitting for her to enjoy some ice cream, and she sure did.  After that, she went out onto the lawn, and lay in the shadows underneath a giant pine tree.  She seemed happy to stay there, very quietly, for what seemed to be a long time.  I could barely see her there in the dark, and had to strain my eyes to find her.  Out of the shadows, I saw a young cat (feral) come out from the shrubs, and my first instinct was to grab Jette to keep her from running after it, but then I quickly remembered that her running-after days had been over for a while.  Even the little bunny that usually taunted and enticed her into a mad dash had no effect.   Jette was using every bit of her energy just "being" and had nothing left for anything else.

Russ and I spent the night with Jette nearby, deep in thoughts of what the next day would bring, and my awareness of how significant this loss would be to him had me in and out of tears in anticipation.  My heart was breaking for him, and there was nothing I could do.  For his sake, I tried very hard to keep my own emotions under wraps.  He had enough to deal with.

When morning came, I went downstairs and found Russ and Jette outside.  I saw that Russ was already involved in a project, and in amazement at his ability to function on such a day, asked, "What's that you're making?" to which he replied, with purposeful determination,  "Jette's coffin..."  It took me aback.  I hadn't thought that far ahead, but Russ had.  He made a perfect little box, lined with a soft piece of new carpet, with rope handles and a lid.  I stayed with Jette, who fortunately (I believe) had no clue about the project, and rubbed her ears, which to this day are the softest, silkiest patches of fur I've ever felt.  Russ finished up and came to me and Jette, and we spent a few precious minutes together, knowing that we wouldn't have this moment again.

We drove to the vet's office in Russ's truck, Jette on my lap seeming very happy to be going for a ride.  There was soft rock playing on the radio, and I patted Jette to the rhythm  and the beat.  She laid her head back against my arm, and I found comfort in her comfort.  The music might not have had any effect other than to calm me, but I was glad for it.  The staff was just arriving as we got there, and let us in through the back door.  Dale came in and I was so impressed.  He loved Jette, too, and you'd think that after years of treating animals and saying good-bye, he'd be somewhat immune to the emotions that Russ and I were experiencing, but not so.  He spoke about Jette with such affection (she'd been in often in the past few months, trying to control the diabetes) and with tears in his eyes he told us of his own difficulty saying good-bye to one of his dogs after waiting "too long."

When it was over, Russ and I took Jette home, and she rests now in a lovely spot back behind the barn.  Russ calls it "Jette's Corner."

It was impossilby difficult, as anyone who's experienced this knows, and how anyone else might imagine.  I kept saying in my head, "All dogs go to heaven."  Even 4-year old Henry, when Katie told him that Jette was "passing away" didn't quite understand.  He wanted to know who was coming to get her.  I told  him Coda and Judah were (Judah was another sister from the litter who died of cancer when she was only five).  I like to think that what I said was true, that Jette did have a reunion with her mother and sister.  I'd like to  think that such reunions will happen for all of us, and that maybe Jette will be waiting for Russ and me, too, tail wagging, when it's all said and done.  For anyone who might wonder about the extent of grief one experiences after losing a pet, I guess part of it is about the unconditional love a pet provides,  about their innocence, their trust.  I'm not exactly sure what pulls so at the heart-strings, but it definitely does.  I loved Jette and I will miss her, and I know that, for Russ, she was the perfect dog.


RIP, Jette.