Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Candied Pecans: FAIL

Major FAIL. Bummer. But I think the "sugared pecans" (thanks, Susan B., for referring to them in such a kind way) still taste pretty good.

Next time, I'll try Carl's advice and keep the heat low low low as I wait for the syrup to turn amber.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Speecy Spicy Peanut Brittle

It's Friday evening before Christmas Eve. A Chicago deep-dish pizza for dinner. One glass of Italian red wine. A shot of Jägermeister (don't judge — the bottle was a gift...thx, Eric!). Plus, Meghan told me that her friend Stephanie referred to me as a "hot salt-and-pepper head." So, I'm feeling a little "spicy" myself!

But this isn't about me, it's about peanut brittle. I spotted a recipe a couple of months ago for "Spicy Brittle" in People magazine. The picture was beautiful — perfect peanuts covered in a glossy-drippy-syrupy dark caramel-colored brittle — and the recipe looked super-simple. "Simple" is right up my alley!

I made my first batch last week and went strictly by the recipe, which called for 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I thought it might be a bit much but I wanted to see what it was all about. When the boiling brittle reached the hard crack stage of 300°, I dumped the molten ball of goo onto the oiled cooky sheet and pressed it flat. I was worried it would cool too quickly to finished mashing it with the spatula but my concerns were unfounded; after all, I imagine it takes a long while for molten lead to harden.

The brittle was sweet, salty, and spicy-hot. Harvey thought it was great. I had a few pieces but knew I had to stop when my lips started burning — I guess it's a way to be sure you don't eat too much at once. I must sound like Harvey's dear mother, Gertie, when I say, "Oh, EVERYONE who's tried it LOVES it!" But really, if you like brittle, this is really good. And less than a week later, it's almost all gone.

Tonight I tried the recipe again — one batch with no pepper, another with a reduced amount: about ½ teaspoon. It's already cooled and broken into pieces but we haven't done a taste-test yet. And next time (yep, there WILL be a next time), I'll use dark corn syrup instead of the light syrup I already had in my cupboard. Maybe you'll try this recipe and tell me if you felt the need to vary it.

Oh, and the picture in People magazine? It sure seems to be a case of photographic trickery with food because this brittle did not turn out dark and syrupy looking. So, I'm not going to include the original photo because I don't want you to be misled into thinking you screwed up the final product; instead, I'll include my own unaltered pic.

Spicy Brittle

✔ 2 cup sugar
✔ ½ cup corn syrup
✔ ¼ cup unsalted butter
✔ 1 tsp. salt
✔ 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
✔ 1 tsp. baking soda
✔ 1 12 oz. jar (or 3 cups) salted, dry-roasted peanuts

Spray a large sheet pan with nonstick baking spray. In a large, heavy stockpot over medium heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir until the sugar dissolves. [Note: it never really dissolved for me.]

Clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pot and boil mixture without stirring until temperature reaches 300°. Immediately remove the pot from the heat. Sprinkle baking soda over the syrup and stir. The contents will bubble vigorously. Stir in the peanuts.

Quickly pour [actually, dump] mixture evenly onto prepared sheet pan. Use a small spatula, sprayed with nonstick baking spray, to spread the brittle in the pan while it's still warm. Cool completely and break into pieces. (Makes about 1½ pounds.)

Buon appetito!

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Someday Recipes

I have a HUGE paper grocery bag filled to the breaking point with "Someday" recipes: Someday I will make this, Someday I will sort this, Someday I will file this, Someday I will chuck this whole bag in the trash. So far, Someday hasn't arrived. BUT, I am getting a little closer since I got my new iPhone 4S. (Okay, so I haven't quite figured out my relationship with Siri, have become addicted to playing Mahjong, and stopped carting around my digital camera ever since I heard that Annie Leibovitz recommended the iPhone camera for candid pix.)

My moment of clarity occurred as I flipped through Gayle's über-neatly organized 3-ring binder of collected recipes, complete with clear plastic sleeves. Of course, I saw quite a few recipes that I wanted to try so I began rummaging around in my purse for a pen in order to write them all down. ( I need more recipes.) And there it was — my iPhone — I realized that the Annie Leibovitz-recommended camera was offering me a short-cut...the path to my Someday!!

In particular, I was drooling over a "Pear-Pecan Upside-Down Cake" that is baked in a crockpot. Looking at the page Gayle had pulled out of the November 2009 issue of Food Network Magazine, I could almost smell how delicious this cake would be...pears, butter, brown sugar, pecans, cornmeal?? Yep, I had to try it, thus it became my first Someday Recipe Photo.

And that's my not-so-secret secret for getting rid of stockpiled recipes: photos I can file away via wasted time spent copying, loose papers getting lost, thick folders to store, etc...just *snap* & toss. See if this works for you, too (click on the smaller photo to see the full-size, aka readable, version):

...ripped from the pages...

My instincts were right — this cake smelled wonderful as it slow-baked for 3 hours and it was perfectly timed for our Sunday after-dinner sweet-treat. The pears were juicy, the brown sugar/butter gooey topping was sweet and slightly salty, the cake was moist with a really distinctive texture. I'm absolutely making this again soon!

...the final result...

Buon appetito!

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Monday, August 01, 2011

The peaches are here...the peaches are here!

A dear friend recently wrote on facebook that she was mourning her Aunt Eulene who, by Eileen's account, made the BEST peach cobbler without using a recipe. It was a sad yet loving memory -- a small slice of a niece's love for her beloved aunt.

So, when Gayle and I ran across boxes of luscious, fragrant, fresh peaches at Trader Joe's last week, I couldn't help but think of Eileen's aunt's cobbler and how I wanted to try my hand at it. Initially, Harvey found an online recipe that had all the earmarkings of being fabulous: honey instead of sugar with buttermilk and heavy cream in the doughy part of the dessert. However, not having buttermilk nor cream in the refrigerator, I opted for a recipe I found by Google searching "easy peach cobbler." (Yes, I can be lazy.)

While some may say this is a "buckle" because the dough rises up through the fruit in this recipe, it sure looks like a cobbler to me when I pull it out of the oven. Whatever. All I can tell you is while this is baking, the sweet peachy aroma quickly fills your house and it is absolutely delicious!!


✔ 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
✔ 1 cup all-purpose flour
✔ 2 cups sugar, divided
✔ 1 tablespoon baking powder
✔ pinch of salt
✔ 1 cup milk
✔ 4 cups fresh peach slices (4 nice-sized peaches should do it if you don't sneak any slices!)
✔ 1 tablespoon lemon juice
✔ ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°. Melt butter in a 13"x9" baking dish. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over melted butter (do not stir). Bring remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly (may not thicken); pour over batter (do not stir); sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown (dough will rise to the top). Serve warm or cool, with or without vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Buon appetito!

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Monday, April 18, 2011

More: ripped from the pages...

After another hiatus, I'm back!

I had another of my mini cooking frenzies last week—two nights of making full-blown dinners from recipes I ripped out of magazines. I had a treasure trove of possibilities since I powered through a HUGE stockpile of magazines during our recent 25-day driving trip from Akron through Nashville TN; Hot Springs AR; Georgetown, Austin and College Station TX; Baton Rouge and New Orleans LA; Tallahassee and Okeechobee FL; Savannah GA; and Winston-Salem NC—then back to Akron again.

I have to say that the most appealing recipes came from Good Housekeeping—a magazine I ignored for more than 20 years and now find most diverse and useful. (Hmmm, who changed: GH or me?) So for the next day or so, I'll post the recipes I tested.

But as requested, I'm starting with the cake I made the night Debbie and Andy joined us for dinner. Fragrant, moist, and not-too-sweet, this is going to be my go-to cake for a while—perfect for Spring! (Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you away...this goes together easily and is well worth the effort to gather the items.)

Amaretto Apricot Cake

✔ 2½ c. all-purpose flour (note use: 2 cups + then ½ cup)
✔ 1 tsp. baking powder
✔ ¼ tsp. baking soda
✔  ½ tsp. salt
✔  1 7-oz. tube almond paste (not marzipan)
✔  1½ c. granulated sugar
✔ 6 oz. dried apricots
✔  ¾ c. butter (1½ sticks), softened
✔ 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
✔ 2 Tbsp. amaretto -OR- 1 tsp. vanilla extract*
✔ 8 oz. sour cream, at room temperature
✔ 1 c. confectioners' sugar
✔ 1 to 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325°. Coat 10-cup (10") Bundt pan with non-stick baking spray with flour.

In separate bowl, combine remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt—set aside.

In food processor using knife blade, pulse almond paste and sugar until finely ground—transfer to mixing bowl. Add softened butter to mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed for 7 minutes or until pale and fluffy. Then, in same food processor (do not wipe clean), pulse apricots and ½ cup flour until finely chopped.

With mixer on medium speed, gradually add eggs, then the amaretto or extract until incorporated, scraping the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Turn mixer to low and add flour mixture, alternating with sour cream, until batter is smooth. Fold in apricot mixture until blended.

Pour batter in prepared pan and bake 1 hour 15 minutes (check at one hour--cake will be dark so check with toothpick). Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto plate to cool completely.

For icing, stir confectioners' sugar with 1 tablespoon lemon juice until smooth; add more lemon juice as needed to achieve the consistency of honey. Pour over cake to glaze, allowing glaze to set for 5 minutes before slicing.

* Since I didn't have amaretto and LOVE almond flavoring, I used ½ teaspoon each of almond and vanilla extracts—it seemed to be a perfect substitution for the amaretto, although next time I think I'll get the liquor to see if it makes a difference.

Buon appetito!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Nothin sez lovin like sunntin from the oven!

The Carters' main bathroom is currently demolished but when rebuilt it's going to be beautiful! In the meantime, they've been trying to make-do with their closet-like half-bath on the first floor that consists mostly of a toilet and a sink. So for about two weeks, they've been bringing the girls to our house for their every-other-night bathing and it's been fun! But this week has been particularly trying for Gayle...enough said about that...and much to our delight, Gayle offered to make Sunday dinner to say "thanx" for the use of our facilities and some babysitting services.

Gayle's life-long friend, Jess, gave her a recipe for spinach lasagna; the finished dish is too large for the Carters alone so that's what Gayle picked for us to share tonight. With a green salad and buttery garlic bread—Harvey added an asiago sausage with grilled onions—it was DELICIOUS!!

Since Gayle said it was easy to make, here's the girls' recipe, including the tweaks that Jess and Gayle have added after making the dish a couple of times.

Spinach Lasagna ala Jess

✔ 1 - box lasagna noodles
✔ 1 - large jar of (Mids) meatless pasta sauce
✔ 30 oz. ricotta cheese (low fat)
✔ up to 2 lbs. shredded mozzarella cheese
✔ 1 bag fresh baby spinach (pull off stems and rip or cut into pieces

Cook lasagna noodles 8-9 minutes and prepare the spinach. In a large baking dish (approx. 9"x13"), spread a thin amount of pasta sauce on the bottom (this keeps the noodles from sticking). In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, spinach, and the rest of the sauce.

Layer cooked noodles, cover with ricotta mix, sprinkle mozzarella...repeat... (you may end up with 4 layers). Top lasagna with more shredded mozzarella and bake @ 375° for 30 minutes or until it looks done.

Buon appetito!

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Perfect for Gayle's Birthday--or Valentine's Day!

The simplicity of this recipe from singer Ingrid Michaelson (printed in the February 6, 2011, Parade magazine supplement to the Akron Beacon Journal) made it a no-brainer when deciding on a special cake to bake to celebrate Gayle's 34th birthday. And Ingrid was right: this cake looked ugly coming out of the oven but was positively YUMMY! I already have the ingredients to make another one...soon!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

✔ 7 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (45-50% cocoa—I used Baker's [54%])
✔ 3/4 c. butter
✔ 1 c. sugar, divided
✔ 4 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 300°F. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or since I don't have one, I placed a small pot within a larger one half-filled with boiling water—it still worked). Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and 4 yolks; add to melted chocolate/butter.

With an electric mixer, beat the 4 egg whites; slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold mixture into chocolate.

Pour into a greased 9-inch cake pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs on it (don't expect it to come out clean). Cool for 30 minutes before trying to remove it from the pan (I didn't bother). Dust the top with powdered sugar.

Buon appetito!

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Monday, February 07, 2011

10th Annual (11th) Miss America Chili Night!

It all began ten years ago...

Meghan ended her first year of competing in local Ohio pageants --uh, scholarship programs!-- and Miss America was ready to be telecast. Of course, we had to gather to cheer on our Ohio girl who wore that year's coveted crown! Meghan asked whether we'd host a small party for the event and we agreed--deciding on a big pot of "Mom's Chili" and corn bread to feed the fans.

However, on the "day of the pageant," we learned that we had miscalculated and the pageant wasn't until the following weekend. At least we hadn't missed it! Undaunted, we held our first "Not Miss America Chili Night" anyway and then repeated the same menu the very next weekend--because that's how we roll. So, there's our explanation of why this year was our 10th Annual (11th) Miss America Chili Night.

Here's my recipe, which is based on the simple recipe my mom always made; however, she used ground beef and we now use ground turkey so Gayle can enjoy, too. This recipe isn't very scientific but it seems to work--and it's great for feeding large groups during cold weather.

Mom's Chili

In a large stock pot, brown:
2 lbs. ground turkey (or ground beef)

While cooking, liberally sprinkle meat with approx.

1-2 T. taco seasoning
salt and pepper

1 large onion, diced--cook until transparent.

Add (including liquid in cans), in no particular order:
1 giant can of dark red kidney beans (or about 4 regular cans)
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 15 oz. can mild chili beans
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
3-4 T. chili powder
1 can of water

Heat until it begins to bubble then reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour, stirring every once in while so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. As with most soups, it tastes even better the next day. And, of course, you can adjust the amount of canned goods to your taste (more beans/tomato sauce/water/whatever).

However, the pièce de résistance is in the building of your bowl. In the style of my sister, Kathy, it's done in layers beginning with Fritos in the bottom of the bowl. So, from the bottom-->up:

    -->Finely chopped onion (opt'l)
      -->Shredded Mexican cheese
        -->A generous dollop of sour cream
          -->and a finishing dash of hot sauce (optional)

Add some warm buttered cornbread (Jiffy Mix!!!), and all's right with the world. Until the gas catches up with you in the morning. Hahaha!

Buon appetito! (It's good to be back...)

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

My confessions...

Okay, I admit it...I slipped a day.

My excuse: we were babysitting our granddaughters a little later than we expected and ended up eating dinner close to midnight even though I had everything prepared in advance. So if you're curious, I made the "Almost Gyros" and related recipes from Saturday's post since being reminded about them made me hungry for the combination. It also gave me an opportunity to take a picture of Harvey's plate to update the posting. Yum, indeed!

Tonight, I am archiving the recipe I have for Monkey Bread. I've had this one for about three decades and it's still memorable: not that long ago, I had to dig the recipe out for Meghan since she wanted to make one. This is clearly one of those 1980s throw-back recipes--during a time when we young enough that we didn't care about gaining weight and used stick margarine like it was butter. Ick. Oh, and you better dust off your old bundt pan--you'll need it.

Monkey Bread

✔ 3 cans of inexpensive buttermilk biscuits
✔ 1 cup chopped walnuts
✔ 1 stick butter (ok, use margarine if you want to be "authentic")
✔ 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
✔ 3 tablespoons milk
✔ 1/2 cup sugar + 2 teaspoons cinnamon, mixed

Preheat oven to 350°. Place chopped nuts in the bottom of an ungreased bundt pan. In a sauce pan, heat and blend butter, brown sugar and milk until butter is melted; set aside. Cut biscuits into quarters and roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture; lightly place on top of nuts in bundt pan--do not pack them in. Pour melted mixture over all. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the bread over onto a serving plate while still hot from the oven and lift pan; cool about 10 minutes and serve warm.

Another admission: since I always wanted extra-gooey pieces, I also squirted a bit of pancake syrup on the top before popping it into the oven so it would drip down through the biscuit pieces. It's up to you--though in retrospect, it may have been overkill!

Ooo, I suddenly feel the need to find some reruns of Dynasty...

Buon appetito!

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Lazy Sunday

It's been a wonderful, lazy Sunday--everyone I know is either nesting, staying in pajamas, visiting, watching TV, etc. Nothing productive seems to be happening today and we've been on that happy bandwagon.

So, I'm counting yesterday's salad as today's recipe.

Hey, it's my blog/my rules. As I jokingly told my Mom and Dad this week: "Ahm GROOWNNN, ahh kin do what ahh want!"

Enjoy your day...see you tomorrow! xo

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Does this count for 3 days worth?

3 recipes/1 day...trying to make up for lost time.

Meghan and Kirk were trying low carb recipes and made these: "Almost Gyros with Cucumber Sauce" and "Addictive Salad." After trying them, we were immediately addicted. While I haven't made these two in tandem lately, I am now reminded and think we'll be having some this week. We made tiny adjustments in the prep of the gyros and, as always, I'm posting my changes along with these recipes.

Almost Gyros

Mix all:
✔ 1 lb. ground turkey (recipe calls for ground lamb)
✔ 2 oz. cream cheese
✔ 1 egg, beaten
✔ 1 teaspoon minced garlic
✔ 1 teaspoon ground cumin
✔ 1 teaspoon dried oregano
✔  salt and pepper to taste

The recipe says to broil or grill the above as patties. In our version, we brown the turkey in a skillet first, drain any liquid, and mix in the rest of the ingredients until heated all the way through, serving it with a large spoon over your choice of bread. The recipe says to serve the gyros on Atkins rolls; however, we really enjoy using flatbread instead--serving it open-face and topped with both the sauce and the salad in one big heaping pile! (NOTE: you may want to double this recipe if you are feeding four people and hope to have any leftovers--and definitely if you have big eaters!)

Cucumber Sauce

✔ 1 cup sour cream
✔ 1 cup diced+seeded cucumber
✔ 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
✔ 3/4 teaspoon salt
✔ 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Mix all as a topping for the gyros.

Addictive Salad

✔ 1/2 lemon
✔ 1/2 cup light olive oil
✔ 3-5 garlic cloves, minced
✔ 1/2 cup Feta cheese (recipe calls for blue cheese but I don't eat moldy stuff!)
✔ 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
✔ 1 bag of prepared Romaine lettuce (or 2 romaine stalks chopped into pieces)

Place minced garlic in olive oil. (The recipe says that you may strain out the garlic when you're ready to finish off the salad but really, why would you?) Add crumbled Feta cheese and half of the Parmesan to the olive oil mixture. Pour over lettuce, add fresh ground pepper to taste, remaining Parmesan, toss and enjoy with the gyros!

Buon appetito!

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Friday, October 01, 2010

Home Sweet Home

After two tearful "see you soons" this morning with dad at the house and mom at the hospital, I drove through a shit-storm of those awful "lovebugs" (Plecia nearctica) from Okeechobee to Orlando in order to catch a flight home. In other news, today is Day 2 of treatment for conjunctivitis (huge thanks to Doc Bermea for calling in a prescription from Akron to Okeechobee!)--I probably picked up the virus at the hospital, despite my excessive use of Purell and lots of handwashing...go figure.

But I'm so tired and need to skip a night of recipe posting. Who knows, maybe I'll post two tomorrow. Or maybe not. It's just that Harvey and the pups are luring me to an early bedtime to which I'm not opposed.

G'night, all, wherever you are... Zzzzzzzzz

My last day in Okeechobee for this visit. I'm exhausted--I want to go home yet I want to stay here. So this recipe (and message) is for my Dad: When your supply runs out, Dad, you may be able to check this posting and make your own. And I love you and Mom so very much.

Salad Crispies

✔ 1 pkg. ramen noodles (discard flavor packet!)
✔ 1 cup shelled pecan halves
✔ 2 tablespoons butter
✔ pinch of salt

Place pecans and dry noodles in a Ziplock gallon bag and break up with a rubber mallet (yes, Dad--you can use the aluminum meat tenderizer). Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat, then add the broken pecans and noodles, stirring to distribute butter. Keep stirring until the noodles begin to turn very light brown. You may add a little sprinkle of salt but it's not necessary. Watch to be sure that noodles and pecans don't burn--it can happen very quickly! Store in an airtight container and use *liberally* on top of your favorite salad!

(Thanks, Gayle, for sharing this recipe you received from's become my fave! xo)

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sometimes you feel like a nut...

These don't take long to make and they're really wonderful!! A couple of years ago, I made 6 pounds--I put them in small glass jars (the kind with the glass lid and metal wire hinges like canning jars from World Market) and they made great holiday gifts!

Spiced Pecans

✔ 1 pound pecan halves
✔ 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
✔ 1 teaspoon salt
✔ 2 teaspoons sugar
✔ 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
✔ 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
✔ 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
✔ 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Preheat oven to 300°. Place pecans in a mixing bowl. Drizzle oil around sides of bowl and toss thoroughly to coat the nuts evenly. Mix salt, sugar, and spices in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture over the nuts, stirring constantly. Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in oven.

Bake 10 minutes, or until well-toasted. Allow nuts to cool completely. Spiced nuts will keep for over a week in a sealed container.

Buon appetito!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

it's late, but still--for breakfast...

What a rough evening. Mom's back in the hospital as those of you who are on Facebook already know. And as I look at the clock, I realize that morning *is* here. Thus, my thoughts turn to breakfast. Here's a recipe I received from someone...oh, nevermind the story--I don't need to go there.

This takes a "minute" but it's certainly worth it. Also, the dough triangles freeze well and can be defrosted and baked as needed if you want to plan ahead.

Star's Scone Recipe

✔ 2 cups flour
✔ 1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
✔ 1/2 cup sugar
✔ 1 teaspoon salt
✔ 1 stick + 2 tablespoons butter, chilled
✔ 1/2 to 1 cup of whatever you want to put in (I add cinnamon and plumped raisins--other fruits work, too, including dried)
✔ 1 4-to-6 oz. yogurt (I use vanilla) *or* 1/2 cup buttermilk

In a food processor mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until it resembles meal. Place in a bowl and add raisins (+cinnamon) or apricots, cranberries, blueberries...whatever...and mix again.

Add yogurt or buttermilk and mix only until you can form a ball with the dough. Shape the dough into a disc and put on a floured board. Cut the disc into 8 pie-shaped pieces.

Put on greased+floured pan; bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Turn pan and bake another 6-10 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool on pan.

(Hmmm, maybe I'll have to include a recipe for McNab's Lemon Curd to go with the scones...I've never made it but I *have* tried it when we visited a great tea house in Boothbay Maine with Kay!)

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If a tree falls in the forest...

I think you're out there...yes? I'm back in Okeechobee FL, visiting with my parents.

If I could fix everything, I would...but I can' for now, I'm happy to just be here. Mom is fighting very hard to get healthy enough to have radiation for esophageal cancer. Dad is doing all he can to support her, including taking care of their dog Molly and things at the house.

But right now, you're here and I promised you a recipe. My "day" is not quite over so I think I'm still keeping to my one-recipe-per-day mantra. True to my nature, this one's a goody and its aroma while baking makes the whole house smell wonderful. Slightly adapted from, this banana bread is dark, moist and delicious.

I keep overripe bananas in the freezer, either in their skins (that become unappealingly blackened but are still ok to use), or peeled and bagged--3 to 4 in a bag to defrost for use in this particular recipe. Don't be surprised if the peeled bananas get watery after defrosting--just mash it all together anyway!

Banana Nut Bread

✔ 3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
✔ 1/3 cup melted butter
✔ 3/4 cup sugar
✔ 1 egg, beaten
✔ 1 teaspoon vanilla
✔ 1 teaspoon baking soda
✔ pinch of sea salt
✔ 1-1/2 cups flour
✔ 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional--but really, this is banana NUT bread!)

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix butter into the mashed bananas with a wooden spoon. Mix in sugar, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the batter and mix. Mix in the flour, then fold in the walnuts. Pour into a buttered 4"x8" loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack; slice and serve with butter, cream cheese, or by itself. Leftover slices are nice toasted, too!

Buon appetito!

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

What a day for cake!

With tears of joy welling up in our eyes, today we witnessed the wedding ceremony of our dear friends, Debbie and Andy. May they have many happy and healthy years ahead--they deserve everything this life has to give.

So again, no stories today--just shared deliciousness--today, in the form of a wonderful cake/icing recipe I received in the late 1970s when I was involved with Akron's Childbirth Education Association. And again, a recipe that I would be sad to lose, thus worthy of posting here.

Lynn's Moist Pineapple Cake

✔ 2 eggs, beaten
✔ 1-3/4 cups sugar
✔ 2 cups flour
✔ 2 teaspoons baking soda
✔ 1 13.5 oz. can crushed pineapple (in juice is best)
✔ 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix above ingredients together with a spoon or mixer and bake in 9"x13" pan for 45 minutes at 350°. Cool.

✔ 8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
✔ 1 stick butter or margarine, softened to room temperature
✔ 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
✔ 1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat together with mixer, adding more powdered sugar if necessary for proper consistency. Spread on cooled cake.

Mazel Tov, Debbie and Andy!! xoxo

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jamaican Wings--the best wings everrrrr

Sorry, no backstory today: Debbie Smith is getting married tomorrow and we need to get some sleep before the glorious event. We are surrounded by happiness and love!!!

Speaking of love, Harvey loves wings. And this recipe went straight to his heart...but not in a bad way. With some planning ahead and very little effort, you, too, can make the best wings ever...perfect for football season!

Jamaican Wings

✔ 1 cup fresh lime juice (bottled, if you have to)
✔ 1 cup soy sauce
✔ 1 cup rum, heated in a skillet and flambéd so all the alcohol is burned off (volume will decrease by at least 1/2)

Marinate a large pack of chicken wings in the above ingredients for 1-2 days (2 days is best). To prepare the wings for serving, first drain them in a large colander. Dredge wings in flour and then deep fry in oil until crispy-done. My favorite dipping sauce is a dish of soy sauce enhanced with fresh grated ginger and a few drops of garlic hot sauce to add a little spice. Yummmmm...!

(Note: you can adjust the volume of marinade according to the amount of wings you'd like to make, keeping the ratio 1:1:1.)


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Friday, September 24, 2010

...and she told 2 people and he told 2 people...and so on and so on...

I think most people who like to cook will agree that we get some of our best recipes from friends. We try something they make, beg for the recipe, and then pass it on (but not without giving due credit, of course!). That happened with the recipe Faith Orley gave Harvey for her White Chicken Chili. I'm not sure where Faith found this recipe but as far as we're concerned, it originated with her and we have since passed it ourselves--it's THAT good and EASY. See for yourselves:

White Chicken Chili

✔ 1 tablespoon olive oil
✔ 1 medium onion, chopped
✔ 1 - 4 oz. can chopped green chilis
✔ 3 tablespoons flour
✔ 1-1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
✔ 2 teaspoons cumin
✔ 2 cans white beans (Navy or Northern)
✔ 1 - 14-1/2 oz. can chicken broth

In a large skillet, cook onion in oil for 4 minutes or until transparent. Add chilis, flour and cumin; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add beans and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened. Add chicken; cook until hot.

Garnish with cheese, sour cream and salsa, if desired.

Buon appetito!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

"...rolly-polly fish heads..."

Disclaimer and Spoiler Alert: okay, today it's gross but it ends with a nice glazed salmon.

I should eat more fish and I know that. But I'm not a fan. It probably comes from spending 2 weeks in Canada on Devil's Lake for the Quattrocchi + Gillis families summer vacation from about the time I was in 6th grade through a couple of early college years. Oh, the vacations were FABULOUS--sun, boating, skiing, bonfires at night--it was the Fish Nights with which I had a hard time dealing.

About 2 times per week, the menfolk would behead, gut and scale the fish that had been caught up to that point, usually large-mouth bass and pike--delivering them to my mom who would hold the raw white fillets up to the kitchen window so she could meticulously cut out the grubs. Yeah, not cool. I guess it didn't help matters that we were kind of gruesome kids and would often line up the newly-removed fish hearts on the cement fish cleaning slab and make bets on which one would beat the longest. PETA, come get me.

Pan-fried to perfection, I'm sure those fishies made for lovely dinners but I opted for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on those nights. So for decades, I said "No, thanks, I don't eat fish." And that was true until we started taking my own children to the Outer Banks for vacations and I began trying things like swordfish, sea bass, halibut, and salmon with varied success since I turn on a dime if something seems even a little bit "fishy." Now I pretty much just stick to salmon if I'm feeling the need for some fish. If I see it on a menu and it sounds like it's prepared in a particularly appealing way, I usually order it.

One evening, when cooking at home for guests who are pescetarians (will eat fish but no meat nor fowl), I decided to glaze and broil some beautiful looking salmon purchased from Sam's Club. I have to admit, Harvey and I thought it was the BEST salmon we'd ever had!! I adapted a turkey-glazing recipe (yes, I'll be posting it as we get closer to Thanksgiving)--adjusting amounts and ingredients by instinct--and came up with the following.

Pomegranate-Honey Glaze for Broiled Salmon

✔ 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
✔ 1/4 cup honey
✔ 2 tablespoons orange juice
✔ 1 tablespoon soy sauce
✔ 1 tablespoon honey mustard or similar (raspberry mustard works, too)

Boil all in a saucepan until the volume is reduced to half (mixture will thicken), about 10-15 minutes. Baste salmon fillet with the syrup a number of times during the broiling process.

(And thanks for sticking with this to the end--sometimes too much information is just that...! LOL)

Buon appetito!

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"I'm gonna give ya till the morning comes..."

Thanks, Neil Young. Love the song.

Those who know me are keenly aware that I'm not a morning person. For me, most mornings are like snow: best seen in lovely photographs. But there are times when being prepared for a morning comes in handy, like when you have a Family Sleepover, overnight guests, or an impromptu breakfast with friends like the Orleys to follow up a New Year's Eve party.

So, how do I pretend to be prepared? I make something in advance that sits in the refrigerator and then pop it in the oven upon awakening. I found this recipe in a magazine ad for Pepperidge Farm® Cinnamon Swirl Bread and it seemed perfect for that purpose. So, when I made it for Mike and Faith, they loved it--and because it's an excellent vehicle for maple syrup, I did, too.

Baked French Swirl Toast
(prep time: 15 min.; chill time: 1 hr. or overnight; cook time: 45 min.)

✔ 1 16 oz. loaf of cinnamon swirl bread, cut into cubes
✔ 3/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins (I chose raisins)
✔ 6 eggs, beaten
✔ 3 cups half-and-half or milk (I used milk because I usually don't have H+H in the 'frig)
✔ 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
✔ cinnamon-sugar or confectioner's sugar (If you've read a couple of my other recipes, guess which one I used. Hint: it's a callback. ☺)

Night before: Place bread cubes and raisins in greased 3-quart shallow baking dish. Mix eggs, milk and vanilla; pour over all. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Morning: Uncover. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until golden brown and set in center. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar and serve with butter and maple syrup. Serves 8.

Buon appetito!

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010


This one recipe a keeper and speaks to my daughters' claims that I am a hoarder. But my real or exaggerated character flaw is not without good reason. You may weigh in...

I pulled this recipe from a Better Homes & Gardens Magazine in April 1980. Yep...kept it all these years. There was something about the ingredients (after all, cinnamon AND garlic salt in a beef dish?!?) that made me want to try this as soon as I found it. Lucky for me--the girls loved it and so did I. Over the next 20 years, this was one of my "go to" casserole dishes--paired with a salad: *VOILA* dinner was served!

Then, there was about a 10 year dry spell where I just didn't even think about making it since I wasn't spending much time in the kitchen except for party prep...until last month when I ran across this yellowed page once again. And still, 30 years later, this recipe stands up to the test of time. Recently resurrected, and reprinted here for posterity, may I present (drum roll, please)...

(thanks to BH&G 5th prize winner, Jane Marasco of Hendersonville TN)

✔ 1 - 17 oz. can of whole kernel corn, drained (I use one bag of frozen corn, slightly defrosted)
✔ 1-1/2 pounds of ground beef (I have switched to ground turkey with little difference)
✔ 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
✔ 1 - 8 oz. can tomato sauce
✔ 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
✔ 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
✔ 2 slightly beaten eggs
✔ 1-1/2 cups cream-style cottage cheese with chives, drained (I use small curd/no chives and rarely think to drain it!)
✔ 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
✔ 1 - 4 oz. package (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese
✔ slivered almonds (optional--and I never add them)

Spread corn in an ungreased shallow 1-1/2 quart casserole or a 10x6x2-inch baking dish. In medium skilled brown ground beef/turkey; drain off excess fat. Add flour; cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in tomato sauce, garlic salt, and cinnamon; pour over corn in dish. Bake in 350° oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine eggs and cottage cheese; spread over meat mixture. Top with both cheeses; sprinkle nuts over if desired. Bake 10-15 minutes more (until top is "toasty"). Makes 6 servings.

Buon appetito!

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Something to "go with"...

Jerk chicken is spicy and I have a slight tolerance for hot spice. But this mango salsa is a perfect complement to jerk spice! I got this recipe from the Akron Beacon Journal food section more than a decade ago and have made it quite a few times (not sure if I have the corresponding recipe for the jerk marinade but there are good jerk sauces/rubs to be found on grocers' shelves). Try it with any spicy marinated meat...I think you'll like it!

Mango Salsa

✔ 1 mango, peeled and finely diced
✔ 2 green onions, chopped
✔ 1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
✔ 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
✔ 1 tablespoon olive oil
✔ 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
✔ fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Chill. I always make tons--at least doubling the recipe and using the mango slices from a jar from Sam's peeling and tastes virtually the same!

Buon appetito!

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sweet Treats: Snickerdoodles!

I've gotten quite a few recipes from my Mom that I cherish, especially sweet treats: nut rolls; boiled chocolate, peanut butter and horseshoe cookies (actually, I think the horseshoe recipe came to Mom from Aunt Helen); pineapple upside-down cake, etc. But this one is special--snickerdoodles. When she made them, we ate a many as we could get, still warm from the oven, until she realized we were being pigs and we got cut off. Dad likes them without the cinnamon-sugar coating; we wouldn't have them without! (Plus, you have a second use for the cinnamon-sugar mix you used for yesterday's Cable Cars. That's a "callback"!)

So here, for posterity, is Mom's time-honored recipe. (I'll take a pic the next time I make them.) xoxo

(from Eileen Quattrocchi)

✔ 1 cup shortening (not butter flavored)
✔ 1-1/2 cups sugar
✔ 2 eggs

✔ 2-3/4 cups flour
✔ 2 teaspoons cream of tarter
✔ 1 teaspoon baking soda
✔ 1/2 teaspoon salt

Roll in balls and then into a cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake at 400° until tops are cracked. Do not let the bottoms brown--the cookies will get hard too fast if you do.

Buon appetito!

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

It's Saturday: CHEERS!

On a trip to California to visit family a number of years ago, Lauri R. served up a batch of these drinks (along with her famous Lemondrops) and woweezowee--I LOVED them! She kindly shared the recipe with me and since then, they've been a staple at many of our own parties.

Cable Cars are sweet, a little tart, cold, and delicious. But be warned--they'll sneak up and slam you into silly before you know it. (Hmmm, I should check the cupboard to see if I have the fixin's so I can make a batch this weekend!)

Cable Car

✔ 1 oz. Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
✔ 1/2 oz. Orange Curacao (or similar orange-based liquor)
✔ 1/2 oz. lime juice (I use Rose's Lime Juice--I think it makes a better drink than unsweetened lime juice)
✔ 1/2 oz. sweet & sour mix

For the glass:
✔ cinnamon/sugar
✔ lime wedge to wet rim of glass

Prepare glass(es) by running a lime wedge around the edge of a martini glass and then dipping the rim into a cinnamon/sugar mixture (like a margarita glass prep but using cinn/sugar instead of salt).

Combine liquids in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into the prepared glass. You can also make a pitcher of the stuff for parties and then shake them over ice as they are needed...that way you're not mixing/measuring all night.

(Original recipe from The Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas, NV)

Bere felice!

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Friday, September 17, 2010

You're old if you remember The Flag Pole!

Grilling season is slowly winding down and it's kinda sad. So I'm going to pretend it's still summer and archive a seasonal recipe that I can't bear to lose!

When we were kids, one of our big summer treats was a family ride to Wooster-Hawkins Shopping Center so we could go to The Flag Pole for foot-long hot dogs with coney sauce and soft serve ice cream. I really LOVED their coney sauce so when the Flag Pole stopped being a "restaurant" (yes, those are Air Quotes), I hoped that I'd find that sauce again someday. And if you're from Akron and you don't know what I'm talking about, go ask your parents.

Then, one day (maybe in the late 1980s? the clipping has yellowed with age but has no date), I saw a tiny recipe in the food section of the Akron Beacon Journal -- Coney Island Hot Dog Sauce! Submitted by Patricia Carleton of Akron, it gave me hope that I could recreate the Flag Pole experience. Once I tried it, I felt I'd found something that equaled the Flag Pole coney sauce.

Amended a little over the years (I now use ground turkey instead of ground beef), this is now a family-favorite recipe. I always make tons more than I need for a cookout because the sauce freezes so well and I have to be sure that there's plenty of extra for Kirk to take home!

Coney Island Hot Dog Sauce
(amended from the original recipe printed in the Akron Beacon Journal)

✔ 1/2 lb. ground beef or turkey
✔ 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
✔ 1-1/2 cups water
✔ 1/4 cup relish
✔ 1 tablespoon instant minced onion
✔ 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
✔ 1 tablespoon chili powder (you may add up to 3 T. if you like it hotter)
✔ 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
✔ 1 teaspoon sugar

Brown meat, stirring to break up pieces. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes about 2 cups, enough for 12 hot dogs. Be sure to have lots of fresh chopped onion to sprinkle on top.

Buon appetito!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You put WHAT in it???

Okay, this one's a little crazy. But once you try it, you'll realize it's crazy GOOD! I found this recipe by following Lexi's Twitter link to Intrigued by the oddity of one of the ingredients, I made it about a week ago during a cooking frenzy. Soon after the dish began baking, the aroma of buttery-sweet-cinnamon-goodness spread through the house. So, here's the recipe and I dare you to make it only once!

Apple Dumplings

✔ 2 whole Granny Smith apples, cored+peeled
✔ 2 cans refrigerator crescent rolls (I use "low fat")
✔ 2 sticks butter (to complement the low fat roll dough!)
✔ 1½ cup white sugar
✔ 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
✔ 1 can (12 oz.) Mountain Dew (YES!)
✔ ground cinnamon (I'm pretty liberal with my "sprinkling")

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut apples into 8 slices each. Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan. Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir. Add vanilla, stir, and pour over apples. Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake for 40 minutes.

Spoon some of the sauce from the pan over the top of the dumplings and serve with whipped cream (my fave) or ice cream.

Buon appetito!

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New place to store recipes. First up: corn chowder!

I hate it when I can't find an old tried-and-true recipe. I have stacks of clippings, magazines, and handwritten recipe cards that haven't yet been filed away properly. Not quite a "hoarder" but in this regard, it sure seems like I have those tendencies.

Anyway, I've decided to begin storing some of my favorite recipes here for safekeeping. If you try anything and have a comment, please let me know...I'd love to hear about it.

I received this recipe from an old friend, Lucille Zarouk, who was my sister-in-law's neighbor. I remember her as being a FABULOUS cook and I've used many of her recipes over the years! I particularly love this one because I'm a fan of corn chowder--actually, corn anything! So after hours of searching for this last month, it's my first for archiving.

Lucille's Corn Chowder

✔ 4 slices of thick bacon--pan-fried, then crumbled (or "grilled+cut" as Lucille said)

In a skillet with some of the bacon grease (your choice--your heart!), add and simmer for 10 minutes:
✔ 4 cups of potatoes, cubed small
✔ 1 medium onion, sliced thin
✔ 1 cup of water

In another large pan, combine and simmer for 10 minutes:
✔ 1 package of frozen corn
✔ 1 stick of margarine (I use butter--hey, fat is fat!)
✔ 1 cup of cream
✔ 1 teaspoon sugar

Combine all in the pan; add:
✔ 2 cups of milk
✔ salt+pepper to taste.
Heat through but do not boil. Feel free to sprinkle some sweet paprika on top when serving.

Buon appetito!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Secundo!

[This is a couple of days late but still, very heartfelt...]

Wow, I can't believe it...Meghan is 30. Three-zero. Zero-to-thirty in the blink of an eye.

You know, it's funny--I recall the early portions of my labors with Gayle and Liz with relative ease. However, with Meghan, her birth was so outstanding of an event that some of the early moments seemed to have faded. Yes, there are colorful graphic slides of this birthing experience safely tucked away in their special carousel...more slides than anyone should have. But Meghan's arrival was one helluva trip and I'm glad there's some documentation because, frankly, sometimes I have trouble believing that it really happened!

I was due to deliver on September 30, 1979. Yet in August, because of my ballooning belly, the doctor hinted that I "couldn't get much bigger" and that I might deliver sooner than we thought--maybe even in August. Then throughout September, I continued to grow and was told the same thing: "soon, very soon." I had outgrown most of my maternity clothes, which were summer-y, and in the cooler fall, began to put together strange combinations of turtleneck sweaters that barely stretched to the top of my big belly, strappy voluminous maternity sundresses, knee-high cableknit socks, and Dr. Scholl sandals.

I was quite a sight. I clearly remember walking through a mall with Gramma O'Kate who was delighted in noting the stares of people walking by us--"Did you SEE how that person looked at you???" Well, having the appearance of a person who was very likely to drop a monster watermelon from between her legs at any given moment *did* get me out of paying some library fines. (She [looking straight at my huge belly]: "OH! When are you due?" me: "Today." She: "OOHH! OOOHHH!!" me: "I have some fines to pay on these books I'm returning." She: "No, NO--nevermind! Please. You should probably just GO HOME!!")

In mid-October, I was given a "non-stress" test to be sure that all was well with the baby--the verdict: "unbelievable, but still cooking." Late at night, I had visions of scenes from the movie "Alien" in which the creatures came bursting out of the humans' abdomens...I mean, how else was this child going to emerge?? Finally, on the evening of October 17, I felt the welcome labor pains. Woo hoo! We were going to have a baby!!

The details of the labor were a little clouded behind the 3 hour transition--especially since the transition phase is supposed to last about--oh, 45 minutes! But once I was "cleared" to push, it was like the heavens parted and the sun began to shine and I could hear choirs of angels rooting me on: "Push, PUSH!"

Yay, me! FINALLY!! Bloooop--there SHE was: Meghan! (And they told me to expect a boy--HAH! WE don't do boys in this family--at least, not yet!) Meghan with the chubby cheeks--well, chubby everything!--long straight silky black hair and eyes so very dark brown they looked black instead of regular "new-baby-blue." With no signs of being overdue, she weighed ELEVEN pounds THREE-and-a-half ounces--a Booth Women's Hospital (Cleveland) record-breaker! The pediatrician who examined her told me: "Ma'am, you've just given birth to a perfect three-month-old!"

Here is where I should probably explain myself. I had Meghan naturally--no drugs and no anesthetics with the episiotomy. My parents were with us, as was my mother-in-law, dear sister-in-law, a friend who was a midwife and toddler Gayle, who handled the proceedings like a seasoned champ. So when you have an 11# 3.5 oz. baby under those circumstances, you say it just like that: "my largest baby weighed ELEVEN pounds THREE-and-a-half ounces and I had her naturally." That's how I say it. You want credit for every single bit of baby that emerged. Just saying "more than eleven pounds" just doesn't cut it. See, just 11 pounds might've been a bit easier--3.5 oz. easier. But she weighed ELEVEN pounds and THREE-and-a-half ounces!

The day we brought her home, the leaves were in "fall peak" yet it was unseasonably warm and sunny...a perfect golden day to bring home a perfect baby!

We were incredibly lucky that she was so large and healthy at birth because at 3.5 months, she was Ohio's first case of Infantile Botulism, a rare neurological disease. She was in the hospital, paralyzed, for four weeks. For the first week the doctors were stumped--they had never seen such a thing and it wasn't until later that a resident read about it in a medical journal. With no muscle activity, her face dropped like she'd had a stroke, her heart stopped at one point and her lungs collapsed, along with other related problems. All we could do was wait and hope--there were no antibiotics to help Meghan fight it. But she was a fighter! Happily, after 4 weeks of waiting, Meghan began to move and was released to go home soon after she began nursing again.

Following Meghan's illness, she was a bundle of movement. She would wake early in the morning and sing with the birds. Too early, actually, and after singing her jibberish songs, she would fall back to sleep until a more reasonable hour. She walked early--she talked early--and having had quite enough time at home with Mom and Dad--she began preschool early. As we expected, she endeared herself to her preschool teachers--she was the bright, cheerful girl with the open face and deep dimples with pretty black hair that curled uncontrollably around her face as the day went on.

She was my "Little Chairman" who turned into a beautiful woman. Meghan always fights for what she believes is right, she has a sensitive streak that remains close to the surface, she is extremely loyal to her family and friends, and she believes that being 'different' is more-than-okay. I am so proud of her--as I am of her sisters. And truth be told, the three of them helped make me into who I am today. I am always grateful for their company and their love.

So, happy birthday, Maynan--you deserve it. And, of course, I'm so happy you're here...
xo mutti

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Happy Birthday, Tertio

March 5, 1984. Liz's Birthday.

I thought I'd be at work at the Law School that day. I promised to work until my due date, which was that Monday. But on Friday, I was feeling pretty spunky...I felt good...energized. So I told them that I'd probably be in on Monday--whattheheck, right?

At around 7:30am on Monday, I called Joan and admitted, "Uh, I probably won't be in today; I'm kinda busy." I was in labor.

What? Me? On time for something? Especially after being about 3 weeks overdue with Meghan--I couldn't fathom actually being in labor ON my due date. But the contractions, now a familiar feeling after already having two kids, were timeable and increasing to the point where I felt we should saunter off to the hospital to begin the process.

Thankfully, Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital had created a few birthing rooms (instead of going to Cleveland, where they had them years before Akron got the notion) and my doctor agreed to serve as "Johnny Bench"--he'd let me "do my thing" and labor without much interference, only coming in the room to either a) chat if I were in the mood or b) catch a baby.

So, we've already established that I'm in favor of the Group Approach to Supportive Birthing. This time, in attendance (other than the required parties: Mom, Dad and Emergent Child) were Gayle + Meghan, totally ready to add another sibling to the ranks; sisters-in-law Marilyn and Annie (sorry, Anne...maybe I should've prepared you a little better); Gramma + Grandpa Q and Gramma M. Just a small bunch, but each one a much needed presence in that room at that time.

My dad had become an Old Pro at seeing his grandbabies arrive, having already witnessed Meghan's birth (which is a story I shall save for another time as his prior career as an ambulance driver did not entirely prepare him for a right-in-front-of-you birth). So around late morning, he felt comfortable in announcing that he had to leave to attend a meeting of bowling proprietors, as I recall. He said he would be back at 1:00 pm and he hoped that I'd hold off having the baby and wait for his return. Which, as a good daughter always trying to please, I did.

Liz was my easiest birth. Labor seemed easy, transition was a breeze, delivery was a snap. It was like: "*poot* she's here!" Okay, so maybe it was a little more effort than that--I do seem to recall that I felt I was "too old for this shit"--but after all, she was the smallest of the 3 girls at 8 lbs. 10 oz., which I attributed to working right up to the due date rather than sitting at home with My Soaps and chocolates.

A girl! I worked my checklist: 10 fingers, 10 toes, nice ears. Okay, she was a keeper just like her sisters. What was quite outstanding was her unusually *long* sandy hair! And the big blue eyes.

During the pregnancy, her sisters were permitted to come up with a name: Elizabeth Anne (with a proviso that there would be no "B" nicknames like "beth" or "betsy" as might accompany that particular first name--but later of course, "Lizard" would be perfectly acceptable). Elizabeth 'cause they liked it and Anne 'cause who doesn't love Annie?

Gayle was 5 and Meghan had turned 3 on the very day I returned to full-time employment. So I always felt badly that I had to go back to work more quickly after Liz's arrival than I originally planned. I was supposed to be able to stay at home for 6 months with her but an opportunity for promotion caused me to return to the Law School a month or two earlier than that. Luck for us, we found a sitter who lived just a couple of blocks away from home and would let me come over on my lunch hour to nurse my baby--it was as close to "normal" as I could arrange.

Lizzie's birth marked the end of a very wonderful period for me of healthy pregnancies, monumental deliveries, and happy nursing. I don't think I *ever* felt more accomplished--either before that time or since. I loved the entire process...but not as much as I love the result: my 3 faeries. I believe I lead a charmed life and I've been so happy to know that the girls are right there with me--every step, every misstep, every change, every day.

So have a GREAT 25th Birthday, Liz: you of the wildest hair, the dirty face, the surprising blue eyes, the ready smile -- our "alien sent to test us," a toddler-Capt. Furious, a real dazzler, the last of the bunch, the jewel in the crown. Yes, I'm so glad you're here...

xo mutti

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Primo

Why is this night different than all other nights?

Oh, wait—wrong holiday.

February 13. The Day Before Valentine’s Day. Gayle’s Birthday.

If I could have held on one more day, her middle name would have been “Valentine.” So cliché but I don’t care...and still, I’m a little sorry it didn’t work out that way.

February 13, 1977. In the very early morning hours, I was kept awake by what I thought was gas. And, as those who really know me are aware, farting on purpose is not my forte so I never found relief. I was uncomfortable and moved from bed to the couch. At some point after the sun started coming up, I noticed that my “gas” pains were time-able and started charting my progress. Yep, my gas was really labor. By evening, there SHE was—fueled by pitocin and shooting out with all the force of an Ohio windstorm—my first-born, Gayle Eileen, 8 lbs. 11 oz.

As they sewed up my “exit wounds,” she was swaddled and presented to me with a bunch of multicolored wires sprouting out the top of her head: the tiny screw that connected the wires of the internal monitor (never again!) to her perfect head had gotten tangled in her long hair so the nurses just cut the wires to disconnect her and fished them out later. (Although – NB: the multicolored wires would have been the harbinger of hair colors to come, had I only been looking for the signs.) But, wow, was she ever a “keeper.” Not so tiny as to be fragile, so nothing to be afraid of; long hair and a gorgeous baby-face; 10 fingers, 10 toes, and delicate ears like her dad (for which I was thankful as I have “Grandpa Johnson” ears). My checklist was complete—she was beautiful and everything I had hoped for, maybe even more than that.

In retrospect, I felt a tad lonely giving birth to Gayle with just her dad (his face covered in a mask; hospital rules!), the nurses and the doctor in the room. Cold, sterile, shades of whites and sickly pale greens. It should have been enough. But I wanted everyone to see this feat of strength—the culmination of nine months of germination! Our brand new pink healthy baby with the dark hair and blue eyes! I knew that Mom and Dad Q were held in abeyance in the hospital waiting room – so close and yet nowhere near. I wanted them to know immediately that their oldest daughter, known as a sissy, the one who’s every childhood story ended with “...and then I cried...” had just delivered a major honkin’ newborn without keeling over. And so it began that I decided “nevermore.” Should we have more children, I would invite more of my loved ones when the time came.

(pic: 5 generations of 1st-born girls--Great-Great Grandma Ashbrook, Great-Grandma Ripley, Grandma Quattrocchi, Mom/Dolli, and Baby Gayle, 1977)

I never assumed that my girls would want to emulate what I did back in the late 70s and early 80s: über-natural childbirth, attended by a few family members who would “share in the experience.” My sister-in-law Marilyn was my mentor and my doula. I wanted labor and delivery to feel like a party of support personnel, minus the distracting balloons and streamers. But really, how unfair to think that only one person can provide all the support a heaving gigantus of a laboring woman needs—it’s called labor for a reason, right? Well, give a girl a hand! Plus, if my family were in the room with me, I wouldn’t have to worry about them worrying about me (as it happened during Gayle’s birth). I know, it’s not for everyone – but it certainly was the way I wanted it. And so it was for Meghan and Liz's births with Gayle as a small and well-prepared witness.

Now, my first baby—the perfect infant, toddler, and child – and even as a teenager, with all the darkness, secrets and angst that generally comes with that age – is all grown up and, herself, a Mother of Daughters. The torch passes...

Can you imagine my joy when Gayle invited me to be there for Elliott’s birth?

“Me?? When? There? Really??
Did you check it out with Kris?
Well, if you both want me there...sure...whatever you need...sure...”

[okay, okay – in my head, I only heard my own screams: THEY.WANT.ME.THERE! EEEIIIIIII WOO WOO WOO!]

It’s what every Earth Mother wants to hear. And it replayed for Frankie’s birth – only I didn’t have to travel to L.A. to be there. (My theory: “...once for the experience and the second time to get it right.” Gayle and Kris, you know what I mean.)

And I hope that Gayle hears it from her daughters when the time comes.


She’ll be the perfect next-generation Earth-Mother-Doula — she knows the ropes. It’s a skill that may be passed on from one generation to another – and not-so-coincidentally, it happens on a birthday. So Gayle, for us it didn’t start on your birthday, but it was set into motion because of you!

Happy Birthday, dear daughter.
I’m so glad you’re here.

xo mutti

Monday, November 24, 2008

welcome frankie jane! xoxo (from my phone)